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Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas 2013

Every year on Christmas day for the past few years, I have been hosting a non-Christmas Christmas party for a few of our closest friends, family, my students (past and present) and anyone else who wants to join us. Please let me explain. As many of you know, I am a practicing Shia Imami Ismaili Muslim and as such, don't celebrate Christmas in the religious sense.

But I LOVE CHRISTMAS and the entire holiday season. For about 25 years now, we have put up a Christmas tree and decked the outside of the house with beautiful colorful twinkling lights. The wreaths are hung on the front door, the garlands are wrapped on the staircase banister, my santa claus collection  goes up, and the house starts to smell of pinecones. My favorite thing to do is to sit in the darkened room with only the twinkling lights filling the room with the soft glow of the holiday season.

With the lights turned off and only the tree lights on.

On Christmas day, most of us non-Christians do not have the special Christmas mass to attend or presents to open and usually are left hanging out alone at home. But a few years ago, we decided to get together on Christmas evening and the next thing I know, we are hosting a Christmas party.

And last nite was fabulous! We had a smaller group last night with about 20 kids between the ages of 16-10 years and about 10 adults. There was Christmas music at first and then hip hop later. We stood around the large dining table, held hands, said grace (Sura Fatiha with the translation in English) and then sat down to enjoy all the delicious food. 
Plenty of yummy food: nihari, buffalo chicken wings, dum kheema, laal aaloo, samosa, wontons, brownies, red velvet cake, delicious creamy fruit salad, cookies etc.

My heart just expanded with gratitude as I saw all of my young students, some of their parents (who were strangers to me before), and my family and friends, sitting and breaking bread together. And the conversations flowed freely. It was beautiful!!!! 

After dinner, half of the boys went back to playing basketball in the backyard (beautiful Florida weather) and the rest went back to chilling on the couch while checking their Instagram, Snapchat, Vine and Twitter feeds. A few of us adults sat in another part of the house and indulged in some stimulating conversation.

Around 11:45 pm. I decided to get everyone together in the family room to have a discussion, some bonding time. You see, a few months ago, I ordered a couple of these really cool cubes that have about 100 or so questions designed to get a conversation started. They're called Table Topics. I invited them all to join and given that most of them have had me as their teacher, they were used to me so they went along. I started by saying that we would only spend about 15 minutes on this and they all agreed. We started with some simple questions like, "What color makes you happy?" and moved on to questions like "What new thing do you want to try in the coming year?" Everyone of us shared at least once and we went on for about 45 minutes and they loved it.

We started to wrap up around 2 am and all in all, it was an amazing evening.

Thank you to all who came and helped make this Christmas so special!

I'll share some pictures in a day or two!

Love and Light,

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Few Not So Pleasant Lessons To Learn in Life!

Those who know me will tell you that I am a very decent human being. (Please understand that I say this and all that I'm about to say with the utmost humility and only to make a few points.)

So here we go again...I am a very decent human being. I will help if I can and strive to live my life with a few values that guide my every decision and choice that I make. Two of these values are, "Service is the rent we pay for our lives" and "Those to whom much is given, much is expected."

Service to me begins at home and with those closest to you. Being here for my children, raising them, making sure they are fed and their school uniforms are ironed is to me a form of service. Service next extends to those in my inner and outer circle; to my parents, my brother, my sister in law, my closest friends and acquaintances.

I also am transparent and direct to a fault. Naively, I expect those I come in contact with to be transparent and direct as well, but alas, I remain among a few in today's world.

Also, I realize that I cannot make small talk. I cannot discuss the weather or some other non important matter. Now mind you, I don't mind discussing the weather if it has some relevance to my life or the life of the person with whom I am having the conversation. But life is too short and perhaps I am too simple to have, what appear to me, a very superficial conversations. When someone is extremely bubbly in a superficial sense, I literally shut down. I freeze. I am too stunned just observing them. I feel as though my energy is being sucked out of me with every word they speak. I simply cannot breathe and I end up either remaining quite or rather shell-shocked. If I'm able to snap out of it, I politely excuse myself and walk away.

I know who I am and on most days, I do remember but when it comes to those people that I have allowed to be in my innermost circle, I tend to hand over the reigns. I have on more than one occasion, let someone close to me, tell me who they think I am. And as if that wasn't bad enough, I have believed them. But thank God, I am blessed to have enough angels in my life who remind me to think for myself.

So the lessons today are:

1. Know who you are and live your life true to what you value and believe for at the end of your life, I'm pretty sure you won't care whether you lived up to the expectations of other's but you will be glad you lived your life on your own terms.

2. DON'T let anyone tell you who you are...or rather who they think you are! And when they do, which they will, simply pause to reflect on the validity of their statements. Is it true? If not, then shrug it off. So when you know who you are, DON'T LET OTHERS TELL YOU WHO YOU ARE!

And here's another one...

3. Be selective of who you let in your inner circle. There are plenty of really good people out there, but they are humans and as such, flawed.
Maya Angelou said, "When people show you who they are, believe them the first time". Thus, when people show you sides of them that are incongruent with who you are and strive to be, simple remove them from your lives or at the least distance yourself from them as much as possible. Yes, easier said than done, but not as difficult as you may think. Don't you owe it to yourself to be surrounded by people who are positive and have values that are congruent to your's.

I hope and pray that you all have a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS! and if I don't get back on here in the next few, have yourself a WONDERFUL, SAFE AND JOYOUS NEW YEAR!!!

Love and Light,


ps: I am soooo glad 2013 is ending...I have been ardently looking forward to 2014!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Taj Mahal

This post is only about two years late. We went to India for my cousin's wedding in Dec. 2011 and in Jan of 2012, we took a 7 day trip to see Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. Some of you might remember my earlier posts on Delhi.  I really wanted this post on Agra and the Taj Mahal to be perfect but in my need for perfection, I haven't done anything more to it than type the next sentence and upload a bunch of pics. So instead of procrastinating any longer, I decided to just go ahead and publish this post. Maybe I'll add more details later.
So here goes....I hope you enjoy the pics.

Next stop was The Taj Mahal. One of the nine wonders of the world.

love and light

Friday, December 13, 2013

Taking Stock and Dreaming Bigger!

The end of a year is a time of great celebration and festivities. The holiday season sneak up on us and before we know it, we are right smack in the middle of it.

- The Christmas carols and music playing in all the stores.

- The christmas trees and decorations and the long lines at the register of people buying gifts for their family and friends.

- Holiday band concerts at schools and last minute bake sales and teacher's gifts fund.

- Decorating the house with our gorgeous 11 feet long tree with hand made decorations from when the kids were in preschool and ornaments we've picked up during our travels over the years.

And somewhere in this busyness, I like to pause and take stock of how the year went and sometime before the year ends, I like to set some goals for the next year.  Now I admit that I haven't exactly done this in the formal pen and paper way like I used to but somehow this year feels different. How is it different you ask? Well for beginners, I turned 40. And although it's suppose to be one of those big birthdays, it just came and went. In fact, it was probably one of the worst birthdays in terms of the lack of festivities that usually accompany birthdays.

But the highlight or rather the game changer for me this year was going to Liz's Be Present Retreat. I came back realizing that I am okay just the crazy, weird, creative way that I am. I slowly eased into my self as the artist that I am. Now understand that I was absolutely okay being called a writer but in Indian families, artists are not encouraged let alone celebrated.  But suddenly at 40, it's almost like I'm halfway done with my life being a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, an ex wife, a social worker, a therapist, a volunteer religious education teacher and a blogger. And now it's time to step into the role of an artist.

So this year, I invite you to join me in taking some time to reflect on the year and set some goals for 2014. I recently saw an interview that Oprah did on her show Super Soul Sunday with the owner of Starbucks and he said something, in fact, he said many things that were inspiring and thought provoking. But the one thing he said that sticks out is, "Dream Big! But then Dream Bigger!"

So this year, I invite you to join me in DREAMING BIG but then step back and take another shot at it and  DREAM A BIGGER DREAM for your life.

Love and Light

Salgirah Mubarak to all my Ismaili brothers and sisters!!!!

Everyday Is A New Day!

My second day into the countdown to 2014 and I didn't post as I said I would but in yesterday was a emotionally taxing day and I just couldn't get myself to write so I decided to wait until it passed.

When someone calls me to vent after having had a rough day, my advice is among other things to get to bed early and sleep it off becuase tomorrow is a brand new day and a whole new opportunity to do things right.
And here I am 24 hours later and it did pass.

So that's it for tonite!

Love and Light

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Countdown to 2014.

As many of you know, I have started on a new path over these past couple of months. Your encouragement, positive and constructive feedback is the fuel that keeps me going. Therefore, please keep it coming. Whether its a quick note on facebook or a text message, I would love to hear from you regarding my many pieces from ANITA LADHANI DESIGNS.

I am sooo humbled and grateful for being able to live a creative life. But I realize that I have been ignoring my blog and what better time to reconnect than in this holiday season!!!
So my goal is that every day for the next few weeks, I will send out a quick little note helping you pause, breathe and reconnect with yourself. It may be simple suggestions on how to simplify life and get things done while still enjoying this beautiful time with our family and friends or how to prepare ourselves for 2014!  

So here goes Day 1:

Everything is ENERGY!!! Many of us, including myself, have way too many things. We hold on to them for sentimental value or for practical reasons thinking we might need a book, or a pair of shoes we haven't worn in a while or old sunglasses or old telephone get the idea. 
So I invite you to consider unloading some of these things that are just taking up physical space and blocking energy flow in your life and living spaces.

Today's suggestion is to go ahead and take 10 - 15 minutes to clean out one shelf of your bookshelf or one drawer.  You might even take this time to discard or donate shoes or clothing you haven't worn in over a year. Don't hesitate! Just do it! Think about this...if you really needed this item, how easy would it be to replace it with another. For most things, the answer is yes. We can very easily access it or replace it. So be courageous and let it go!!!! I know I am.

Love and Light,
From Your Humble Servant,

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Power of a Retreat!

As many of you know, I recently attended a "Be Present" retreat offered by Liz Lamoreux along with her friends Kelly Barton and Jen Lee on the beautiful West coast, seaside town of Gearhart, Oregon from September 11-14, 2014.

It was a struggle coordinating my boy's schedules and actually being gone for 4 days. I didn't know until I actually got on the plane if I was actually going to go. I kept feeling so guilty about leaving my younger eleven year old son whom I have grown very close to in the past few months. He even came to drop me off at the airport for my early morning flight before school. We hugged and I cried as I held him close...not wanting to leave him but knowing deep within me that I really needed to be at this retreat.
Also, the fact that I was flying all the way cross country on Sep. 11 was not comforting but I took a deep breath and surrendered to HIM.  About 10 hours later, I made it to Portland, Oregon. I picked up my rental car at the airport and started my what was suppose to be, one and a half hour drive to Gearhart. But after stopping for food and coffee, I started on my way to this dreamy seaside town. Now I have to first tell you how absolutely BEAUTIFUL Oregon is.

I live in Florida because I love the ocean and the warm, sunny weather year round but being on the West coast, flying over the mountains and then driving through them simply feeds my soul. I've come to realize that I just LOVE the mountains. They whisper to my soul and my soul responds with tears of joy! The feeling I experience is as though my heart and my soul are jumping with joy and skipping with delight at "coming home."
I took my own sweet time driving through the mountainous curves of the road. Being from Florida and used to flat lands, this experience was both scary and exhilarating at the same time.

I spent a wonderful four days with this group of 19 brave, beautiful women who came together literally from all around the world and the USA. And our fearless, authentic role-models and leaders. I won't give away too much just in case you plan on attending one of Liz's retreats.

I flew back to Florida on Sunday morning and for the first few days and even weeks after returning, I had still not processed the retreat in my mind and soul. When asked, "How was the retreat?" I simply responded with either "It was okay" or "It was good."
But exactly a month later, I can tell you that this retreat was definitely a game changer for me.
It took a few weeks to process and internalize and assimilate all the different but important lessons and observations that my soul was making from the moment of pulling up to the yellow lodge.

Our backyard...the view from the Lodge. 

The Lodge

Steven Pressfield, best selling author of "The Art of War" and recent guest on Oprah's Super Soul Sunday, has written many books on the subject of living a life of purpose. He believes that every single person on this earth has a purpose to why they were born.  In simplifying the message of the book in one line, Oprah describes that book as being a book that teaches us how to navigate the roadblocks that keep us from fulfilling our creative potential.

That was a timely interview for me to watch with information and messages that I was finally ready to hear. One of the things that he speaks about is that our resistance is strongest right as we're about to make a breakthrough and boy was that true for me.  I resisted even going to this retreat...but I am so very grateful that I did.

 a few pics from the beautiful beach at Gearhart, Oregon.

The Smash book that we personalized!

And now that I've had a little over a month to reflect on my personal growth and the amazing power of being in a circle of women, I feel sooo strongly that
#1. Every woman should have the opportunity to experience this.
#2  There are quite a few of these retreats available but not nearly enough. Also, they seem to be mainly on the West coast of the United States of America.
#3 Also, being an Indian, Muslim, divorced single mother affords me a unique identity and perspective not available in the market. I believe that the women who are in my inner and outer circle might not necessarily attend an "art retreat" offered on the West coast but perhaps they might attend something closer to home.
#4 Either way, I very strongly feel that I need to make this experience easily accessible for women on the East coast who might not necessarily consider themselves "artsy craftsy".
#5 Thus I am sooo pleased to announce that I am in the works of planning a women's retreat in the Spring of 2014. I'm thinking of calling it either "Inner Child" Retreat or "Living your Joy" Retreat...would love some feedback or suggestions on the name.
I am looking to rent a cottage on the West coast of Florida in the gorgeous Sanibel and Captiva Islands.
I just love the response and buzz so far on Facebook...Women are already excited about it. Being able to play through art, painting, sewing, doodling, photography, singing, dancing, meditating, group time, individual quiet reflection time etc is simply MAGICAL!

I was thinking of a small group of 10-15 women. The average costs of these retreats run between $1300 - $1800 which include lodging, all meals and all supplies needed for the various art activities.
I am hoping to keep it under $1000 if not even lower.  Will keep you all posted as soon as I finalize the cottage etc.
Please do message me on Facebook or here if you or someone you know, might be interested in attending. This will help me plan accordingly.

Also, I am hoping to have a summer retreat for girls under the age of 18 years. I am actually thinking about having a Mothers/Daughters retreat. Any thoughts?

Love and Light,

I will forever be indebted to Liz, Kelly and Jen for being brave enough to be authentic!!!