Eating McDonald’s, or catching our flight

I’m lovin’ it!

Every year, I visit my family in Russia for three months in the summer.  This year, I made the cross-Atlantic journey with my mom and 5-year old niece.  We were flying from CLT (Charlotte) to JFK, and JFK to VKO (Moscow).  The morning of our flights, I prayed to myself for everything to go smoothly.  I made sure to repeat the prayer multiple times, and I did this not because I’m paranoid, but because I know that when I fly with my mom, things hardly ever go down without some sort of adventure.  I prayed, nonetheless.

When we landed in JFK at around 12:45 p.m., we knew that we didn’t have much time before our next flight at 2:20 p.m.  However, my niece kept yelling, nonstop, “I’m hungry!  I’m HUNGRY!  I’m H.U.N.G.R.Y!” Mom desperately needed coffee, and when I checked our boarding pass, it said, “Boarding at 1:30 p.m.”  I figured that, my goodness, we had plenty of time to stop for a quick bite!  So we took some time tracking down a McDonalds and placed a big order.  My niece started to crave pretzels after JetBlue offered her a small bag on the flight from Charlotte to New York, so her and my mom went shopping for pretzels while I waited for our order.  Nonchalantly, and out of pure boredom, I glanced down at my boarding pass.  Humming to myself, I skimmed through our seat numbers, airline name, and destination, before my eyes glided over the boarding time again.  My heart stopped beating for a second, and I reread the fine print, which clearly said, “Boarding until 1:30 p.m.”  I glanced down on my phone, on which, in bold, bright numbers, it read, “1:45 p.m.”

Now let me tell you that in my 20 years, I have never stepped away from a McDonalds order.  There are very few things in this life that are more important than my large fries and iced coffee.  However, if anything can top that list of priorities, it is missing a trans-Atlantic flight that cost us thousands of dollars with a hungry 5 year old, my wild mom (more on her later), and $20 in my bank account (I tend to shop a lot for these trips to Russia) in, of all places, New York.

So I drop everything, grab my bag, and begin to run around the airport like a half-baked fool.  Worst of all, Mom was no where in sight, and I had no idea where she went to buy the damn pretzels!  I run up to the nearest security guard, look her dead in the eye, and say “Idon’tknowwheremymomisandIammissingmyflightpleasehelpmetrackherdownortelltheplanetowaitorkillmecallsomeoneforhelppleaseIamdying.”  To which she, of course, replies, “Okay, do you know where they went?”

Ummm…

I didn’t even bother replying and continued running around the McDonald’s in circles with frantic eyes.  I finally spot a lanky child digging her hands into a large bag of pretzels, and run up to my mom and niece.  I thought of how to quickly explain the whole situation, but the only words that came out of my mouth were, “Hurry!  Late!”  I grabbed my niece and ran towards Gate B31 which was, naturally, located on the other end of the airport.  My mom was 20 feet behind, and I kept yelling at her to hurry, but all I saw was her muttering words under her breath (nothing good, I’m sure) before she completely disappeared from my view.  I just remember thinking, “Aw, hell!  This ship is sinking and I’m not going down with it! Sorry, Mom!”

At around 1:55 pm, we ran up to Gate B31, my mom coming up behind me a few minutes later, only to see a huge line going around the gate. The passengers had not even boarded yet.  While the flight was running a little behind, I knew that boarding would start any minute!  I turn to Mom, who swears one more time, and says, “What about the food?!”

Wait, what?  She can’t seriously be worrying about the McDonald’s order…

“The food!” She yells again, “We left our food!”

I look at her wild-eyed as she goes up to one of those airport golf-cart cabs, and asks the driver to drive her back to McDonald’s so she could pick up her order.  I stood there, watching her and not knowing whether I wanted to laugh or cry, until she got onto the taxi and drove off into the crowd.

Forget the flight, my mom wasn’t going to let anything stop her from getting McDonald’s.

Part of me wanted the flight to depart just so I could say, “That’s what happens when you choose a Happy Meal over boarding your plane!”  But then I thought about the aftermath of such a catastrophe, and figured, “Eh, maybe I don’t want that after all.”

Twenty minutes later, before boarding ever even begins, Mom pulls up in a golf cart cab like the Queen that she is, towing a large paper bag filled with fast food.

Thankfully, we boarded the flight and safely arrived in Moscow, but we couldn’t have done it without some swear words, a golf-cart cab, and McDonald’s (which was delicious as always).

All is well that ends well.  I hope you have an awesome Thursday.

Much love,

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A few of my favorite things

When we first moved to America in 2003, my family did not own a VHS or DVD player (back then DVD players were the hot new thing), and we only had the basic few channels you could watch when you broke a sweat twisting the antenna in all directions before finding an awkward position that removed the static.  I did not start watching Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel until years later, and as I look back now, this was a true blessing.  Instead, I watched the only movies that were offered on the basic channels — the classics.  The original Annie left me with such an impression that right afterwards I put on a skit for my parents in which I played Miss Hannigan (I always loved being the villain) and my brother tackled the role of Annie.  I felt the same way about Little House on the Prairie, Mary Poppins, and, of course, the Sound of Music.

I hum along tunes from my favorite movies throughout the day, singing “Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you tomorrow!” when I’m having a bad day, and “So long! Farewell! To you, and you, and you!” when I am leaving my shift at work.  Diane Sawyer did a 20/20 special with Julie Andrews on the Sound of Music, and I was reminded of another one of my favorite musical hits.

“Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes
Silver white winters that melt into springs
These are a few of my favorite things”

Here are a few of MY favorite things (in no particular order).

1. Drinking coffee in the mornings with my mother.

2.  Watering flowers on a warm spring day.

3.  Sleeping-in on Sundays.

4.  Driving with my windows down, belting out One Direction.

5.  Long car rides and road-trips with Katie and Brenda.

6.  Having black bread with butter and a slice of deli meat along with a hot cup of coffee.

7.  Cannolis from Bella Fresco.

8.  Landing at the JFK airport in New York and Grozny airport in Russia.

9.  Preparing pasta dishes.

10.  Hot bread.

11.  My niece Aiyana.

12.  My few dear, close friends.

13.  My family.

14.  Writing.

15.  The beach in July.

16.  Laughing until I get tears in my eyes.

17.  Reading a paranormal romance novel.

18. Kneading dough.

19.  Singing (even though I am really bad).

20.  Truly believing that great things are ahead.

“When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad

I wish for you to have many favorite things to remember when you are not feeling so well.

All my love,

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My Grandmother, the Great.

There’s no place like home… except Grandma’s. ~Author Unknown

There are times in all of our lives when we feel that a gloomy fog has settled around us.  We’re confused, and we’re lost, and we are often not sure where we are going.  We sometimes know what has caused the fog to settle, and sometimes we do not.

My grandmother passed away three weeks ago.  It’s not something I like to tell people, because I know they won’t understand. There are only a handful of people that I trust enough to open up about her death to, just a few people that I am willing to share the sacred memory of my grandmother with.

I spent many evenings with my grandmother in Russia.  We would watch late night television together, and we would lay in our beds talking to each other until she would slowly doze off to sleep.  In the mornings, she always got up before I did, and would have the best breakfast waiting for me.  It would usually be black bread, farmer’s cheese, and home churned butter. I loved to pair that with a hot cup of coffee with milk and sugar.  We would sit together, eating our breakfast and discussing the latest family news, with the sun rays pouring in from her white kitchen windows.  Afterwards, I would fight her to let me do the dishes.  She always won.  And when she would wash the dishes, she would hum to herself, with her little blue apron tied around her waist.   I’ll never have a breakfast like that again.  Of course I could go out and buy each ingredient like she had (although I could never pick out farmer’s cheese as masterfully as she did), but without my grandmother it won’t be that breakfast.   With her passing, I feel as if an era of my life has gone.  Like I will never run home from school again to her house, where she had baked potato-filled pastries ready just for me.  I can’t imagine that I won’t do that! How I took that time for granted! It’s so hard to let go of that part of my life…the school years in Russia I spent with my grandmother.  Her house was truly a sanctuary for me.

I spend a lot of nights lately laying in bed thinking about her, trying to remember the smallest, most insignificant days, and fixate them into my memory.  I think back to every little detail of every moment — how the sun was shining that day, the blue dress with small flowers she was wearing, and her sassy little remarks.  I try to remember as much as I can, because I am so afraid of forgetting.

I’m afraid to forget that, despite her simple life, she was the greatest woman I could ever imagine meeting.  She had pride running through every organ in her body, and she handled all hardships life threw at her with dignity and class.

She would always worry if I was hungry.  Even she was very sick, and had a hard time speaking, she would still ask, “Are you hungry?  There is food in the kitchen.”  But those are the memories I try to forget.  I don’t want to remember her when she was sick.  I want to remember her when she was laughing, and smiling, and happy, and sad, and angry…but not when she was sick.

My grandmother would always tell me, “Indira, every person chooses his own destiny.”

That was the most important thing she taught me.  And in my daily hardships, when I’m struggling with College Algebra, or when I’m afraid to apply to Journalism school because I fear I’ll get denied, or when I’m late to class and the traffic light has been red for the past ten minutes…I want to throw my hands up in the air, and cry, cry, cry.  I want to holler, “I give up!”

But I hear her voice, loud and clear, “Indira, every person chooses his own destiny.”

I refuse to have a quitter’s destiny.  That’s not what my strong, Russian grandmother taught me.  That is not the blood that runs through my veins.

The blood that runs through my veins is hers, and I, too, will face life’s trails with pride, dignity, and class…just like she taught me to.
With all my love,

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A glance back at summer.

“By all these lovely tokens September days are here, With summer’s best of weather And autumn’s best of cheer.”

 — Helen Hunt Jackson

It hit me today that summer has come to an end when I had to wear a jacket outside.  It was, to my surprise, chilly.  It is interesting how the sun shines differently in the summer, as opposed to in the fall and winter.  You can just see that it is cold, even before you step outdoors.

As I bid a farewell to the summer of 2014, I can’t help but remember all of the great memories.  I was in Russia visiting family from the end of May until the beginning of August.  Before returning back to the States, we decided to take a family vacation to Antalya, Turkey.   We spent two years in Turkey when I was a baby, and my parents have always reminisced what a beautiful country Turkey is.  I have been dying to go back, and was very excited for this trip.

It was one of the best vacations of my life.

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This shot was taken on the drive up to our hotel. The mountains are breathtaking!

We were greeted at the airport by our tour company’s bus, and driven directly to our hotel.  We stayed at the Vogue Avantgarde, a 5 star resort.   The view of the mountains is amazing, and it was interesting to drive through Turkish towns.  I could sense the beautiful culture even out of the car window.

The view from our room.
The view from our room.

After checking into reception, we dropped our bags in our room.  Everything was very luxurious, although we did have issues with the air conditioner and shower not working properly.  The problems were immediately fixed when we called the front desk.  It was, however, very amusing when my mom was attempting to explain in Turkish what the issues were.  I always joke that Mom thinks she speaks Turkish from the two years she lived in Istanbul almost eighteen years ago… but she really doesn’t…

I’m just kidding, Mom!

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Dinner on the patio.

Oh, my goodness, I can not talk enough about the food.  The resort we stayed at was all-inclusive, but I have never experienced such high quality food in my life.  First off, there were so many choices,  I didn’t know where to start.  My eyes would get really big, and I felt like a deer caught in headlights.  After the first day I quickly adjusted, and there was NO STOPPING ME.  Everything was set up lavishly, and there was everything ranging from fish to chicken, to lamb and beef.   You had table after table of vegetables and salad bars, dressings and spices.  My favorite part were the desserts.  I have never eaten so much baklava in my life!

The servers work hard to make your stay pleasant by adding sweet touches like this dolphin.  I didn't want to drink the smoothie! It was too pretty!
The servers work hard to make your stay pleasant by adding sweet touches like this dolphin. I didn’t want to drink the smoothie! It was too pretty!

The ocean water was so warm and clean.  I’m usually not a big fan of salt water, but I couldn’t make myself come out!  The best part was that the waves were very gentle the whole time we were there, and it felt as if you were floating around.

THEY HAD FLAMINGOS AT THE RESORT!
THEY HAD FLAMINGOS AT THE RESORT!

Another great thing was that they had a lot of activities for kids.   Every night we would take my niece to the children’s disco party.  It was so fun, even I joined in and danced!  They also had a petting zoo, and a lot of kiddie slides and pools.

Our last night in Antalya.  The moon took my breath away.
Our last night in Antalya. The moon took my breath away.

I don’t get to spend a lot of time with my mom and sisters, because we live on opposite sides of the planet.  This can be very hard, as I am very close to them.  My favorite part of the vacation was the many laughs we shared, and the memories we created.  I will carry those with me forever.

I hope you had a great summer as well.

All my love,

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Life and writing… as I know it.

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My best friend, Katie, has been pushing me to start blogging again for what seems like forever.  It’s something that I loved doing for a long time.  But you know how sometimes you change, and your life circumstances change?  Well, shifts like this affect writing.  And I’ve been in a two-year funk that I wasn’t sure how to snap out of.

This week, Katie started her first year at college, and after spending the last three months in Russia, I went up to visit her.  It was a “reunited and it feels so good..” sort of moment, since whenever I’m in Russia, I miss my friend terribly.  We stayed up late into the night catching up (as we do after every trip) on everything that had happened to us this summer, and after we were all talked out, and it grew quiet in her college dorm room, she asked, “Why don’t you write anymore?”

In this honest, raw moment with my dearest friend, whom I often trust more than I trust myself .. I did not know what to say.  I did miss writing, but when you stop, it can be so hard to start again.

She made me admit something that I never admitted to myself, let alone accepted that it was the truth.

“I don’t know, Katie…I just don’t want to…fail.”

She made me promise that I would start writing again.  So here I am, typing up my first blog post in almost two years with the prime-time Emmy’s playing on the TV in the background.

I’m writing again, and I couldn’t be happier.

“Reunited and it feels so good…”

With all my love,

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