3 Ways to NaNoWri with this Mo

You may have passed other years without hearing about National Novel Writing Month, but not this one. You may have had a book idea lingering in your mind for years, but November is the time to sit down and write it. I’ve finished two novels this way and can’t recommend it highly enough.

You can sign up for me to be your writing coach all month in an informal, online learning environment.

You could also sit down and write 1667 words a day. Which is pretty much how I’m planning to do it: one chapter at a time.

A Letter to My Son’s Bully

The public conversation about bullying has opened up to include friendship benches at schools and campaigns for inclusiveness. As the Indian child of immigrants who grew up in the southern parts of America, I heartily support both.

Bullies are going to happen, whether on the playground or the workplace; they are a ritual of childhood as much as the joy of a driving license.

When confronted by three four year olds, hands over their ears, laughing when your child enters the room, your mettle will be tested.

When I realized where their glances were going, I let the boys know if that ours was too loud at any point, they could ask him to stop. I asked them to please put their hands down. One out of the three did. The other two carried on.

In that instant, two ideas crystallized:

1. I cannot protect my son from negative events in his life.

2. Not everyone is going to like my child.

I diverted his (and my) attention away from the ones who still had their hands over their ears.

“Who’s excited to see M today?” I asked the class at large, gulping past a lump in my throat that no one would reply. Thankfully two other children raised their hands.

“What’s your name?” I asked a dewy eyed girl who bounced in her chair.

I redirected my guy towards her.

Yet the brief incident stayed with me on my thirty minute drive to the office. I called my husband; we discussed our concerns and also the opportunities.

As an adult I am someone who is comfortable in her skin – even if this means other people are put off by my frankness.

I didn’t have an ideal childhood but that worked in my favor as I grew older: disappointment, hardship, and tragedy did not pull me under as it did some of my other more sheltered friends.

While my heart still twinges when I think back to that moment, I am thankful for this incident. How we react to adversity shapes our character from a very young age. Even as early as 4.

As much as I want to protect them, I want to give our sons resilience even more. What other people think about you is a reflection of them, not you.

I thank those three four years for helping me formulate my parenting strategy toward adversity.

What are your thoughts? Have you had to deal with bullying?

Sunday Supper: Soup’s On – Asian Style

While the rest of the world enjoys the beginnings of autumn, we in the desert celebrate temperatures in the mid 80s. Cool enough for me to bring out the soup pot. This is an easy use-what-you’ve-got soup recipe I adapted from One Perfect Bite’s Asian Style Soup.

I was inspired by dehydrated mushrooms I spied in the grocery store; essentially to cook with them you rehydrate by immersing in boiling water. I threw in eggs, shrimp, edamame, celery, and sprouts, sauteing in Siraracha, ginger, garlic, salt, pepper, and soy sauce.

When you’re ready, pour in broth (I used ready made veggie broth cubes). Hope your table is set because this goes straight from pot to table!


Make your own Asian soup night! I was inspired by a bag of dehydrated mushrooms in the grocery store. #nomnomnom #homemade #instafood #instagood #Octoberunprocessed #weekdaymeals

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Haters Going to Hate …. Especially on 17 Year Old Female Pakistani Nobel Laureates

The whole world was not rejoicing with Malal Yousafzai. In fact, people in her country, Pakistan, were amongst the most virulent opposers. Here’s an example from the Twittersphere: “Many girls out there who suffer/suffered far more than Malala but their fathers aren’t CIA agents like Malala’s. ?#?MalalaNobelPeacePrize?“. I worry about a young person bearing the brunt of so much scrutiny; this is what many in Islamic culture would consider “the evil eye” or bad luck raised from jealousy. Blessings on Malala and her family. If teenagers, like Ms. Britney Spears, found fame difficult to handle in their 20s, then I can’t help but wonder what Malala will encounter in her own 20s (may she live long, as people would say in Islam as a blessing).

The audacity of a teenager, standing up to the Taliban, gaining the international community’s attention, and being undeterred throughout, has brought out the conspiracy theorists in full force.

She’s a puppet of India, America, both, or the CIA. Her father is a salesman; she dances to the tune of the West.

In addition to her long list of accomplishments, Ms. Yousafzai can add exposing the misogyny, fear, and envy to her list.

Sunday Supper: Meatless, Unstuffed Cabbage

You won’t believe how easy this dish is! Instead of cooking the insides, rolling them up in leaves, and baking, you can stir fry all the ingredients, adding them one at a time, until viola! you have a pan full of yummy goodness.

I substituted ground beef with ready made veggie meatballs which I had stacks of in the freezer and no real plan on how to use. Once you roast your ‘meat’, then you can add the rest of the ingredients, one at time, until tender. So yummy, even the herbivores in my circle chowed down.



Unstuffed cabbage! Instead of ground beef, meatless meatballs crumbled as substitute. #nomnomnom #homemade #veggie #vegan #instafood #instagood

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Writer Wednesday: Truth is Relative by @Jensenborger6

TisR-SALE-TOUR-ADI’m finishing (or hoping to) revisions on my next novel, a historical tale set in the Southeast Asian country of Laos in 1975. On the back burner is an idea for a detective story, the first in a series, and my first foray into crime.

That’s why I’m pleased to host J.J. Lyon, the author of the Truth Inducer crime series. You’ll see an excerpt below to the first book and can follow a few links to get more information about J.J., her books, or the giveaway.

Do you read mysteries, suspense, crime? What are your genre favorites as a reader? The flawed investigator or comedic sidekick? All ideas welcome.

Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win a $25 Amazon.com gift card.

Chapter One from Truth is Relative (an excerpt)

The Monday before Thanksgiving, my car disappeared. Or it might have been late Sunday night. The day was half over before I even looked outside. Instead I focused on an ugly painting until I realized I was hungry. I was out of bread and low on groceries in general. I cleaned my brushes, grabbed my keys, opened the front door, and stared at gray asphalt where my Mazda used to be. A few dead cottonwood leaves swirled there before the wind swept them off.
I didn’t bother calling the police. My car hadn’t been stolen, it had been repossessed.
My cell phone buzzed. It was my brother, Bart. “Hey,” I said.
“Hey, Bro. How’s life in the Big City?” Bart wasn’t being ironic. Compared to our hometown of Jersey, Cheyenne was enormous.
“It’s good!” I stepped back into Sam’s Café and tried to think of something else to say. Something that would back up my lie.J-J-Lyon
“Great. When are you coming for Thanksgiving?” Bart asked.
My brain scrambled, too busy to pay attention. I didn’t need a car. The abandoned café was a great studio, with north-facing windows and indirect natural light. My work happened right at home.
My work was also stacked against the walls, waiting for a gallery to accept it. The art that was already in a gallery had hung there for months. I needed a day job. A car would help.
“Tony? Hello?”
“What about Thanksgiving?”
“I don’t know yet.”
“Whaddaya mean? I thought you were your own boss.”
“Yeah, but I’m pretty …” I glanced out at the empty parking place. “It’s hard to get away right now.”
Bart was quiet, and when he spoke again he sounded unusually hesitant. “So how are you really?”
“Fine. I’m doing great.”
“Yeah, okay. You know what you need? A night out.”
“No, I don’t.”
“Yes, you do. I can tell you’re depressed.”
“I’m not depressed.”
“C’mon, Tony. Think of everything we could learn about the beautiful women of Cheyenne.” Bart could afford to be fascinated by my new ability. He didn’t have to live with it.
“I’ve got to go get some groceries,” I said.
“Fine.” Bart sounded annoyed, but he didn’t argue. “Fine, I’ll talk to you later.”
I turned away from the café window and walked to my bedroom, which was actually a converted storage area in the back of the café. A walk-in cooler had once taken up most of the space, but it had been ripped out and sold the last time the place went out of business. There was room for a twin bed and a battered dresser from Goodwill Industries. I pulled my wallet from the top drawer and retrieved my old bike from the back of the building.
It was a cold ride to the store. Cheyenne’s legendary wind pushed against my side and cut across my hands. I’d forgotten my gloves. I zipped my jacket all the way up, stuffed my hands in my pockets, and kept pedaling, glad I had at least one useful talent. God gave me excellent balance.
My mind whirled as fast as my bike wheels, tallying my other useful abilities. I was decent at hanging Sheetrock, and I could tape and texture as long as the customer didn’t mind it a little antique and heavy. As for roofs, I’d done it all—patch, replace, steel, asphalt. If I had a truck I could rent myself out as a handyman. I could work in blissful isolation most of the time.
A gust of wind broadsided me. I went down in slow motion, shifted my weight, scuffed on the pavement with my feet. In the end my shoulder hit the road before I could pull my hands out of my pockets. The car behind me screeched to a stop and a woman got out.





Signs You are Discriminating

Last week, the sports world was left scratching our collective heads when the Asian Games authorities in South Korea asked the female Qatari basketball team to remove their headscarves. Hijab is not like earrings or other headgear which is prohibited under the rules of professional basketball matches.

Covering your hair is a religious obligation. Those who ask a woman to take off her veil are as bad as those who would force her to wear one. They are two sides of the same coin of domination and have been since colonialism, when European governments thought to unveil women as a sign of progress (read: Westernization).

Let women choose what they want to wear. Whether abaya-less in the Amazon or scarved in Seoul, let’s give Qatari women enough credit to decide what they want to wear. That’s the only position that makes any sense. Right?



Sunday Supper: Chocolate Peanut Butter CHICKPEA Brownies

I like to take photos of the “before” in my cooking because often we don’t think about the ingredients that go into what we are eating. Also, most of the things I make are so scrumptious, they go straight from the plate into the belly so after photos are quite rare in our house.

These brownies made from chickpea flour are no exception! You don’t see any sugar or flour on the table, making them one of the healthiest treats around. Believe me when I say they are 100% delicious.

Grind up a can of chickpeas in your food processor for the base. I substituted honey for maple syrup the second time (yes they were that good) and the consistency was a bit softer and the color browner. Every bit as yummy as the first time!

What are you easy, healthy, go-to snacks?


3 Creative Ways to Overcome Road Rage

IMG_6081 I’m a working mother. Well, all mothers work, but some have two jobs. My professional life is squeezed in between primary school and after bedtime. I wouldn’t change having kids for a second; they are what ground me and remind me that overdue article isn’t as important as a human who needs a hug.

The intersection of my two jobs also means that I’m on the road with everyone else in Qatar’s early morning traffic grid. A fifteen minute takes about 45, depending on the time you leave. This photo is the scene outside the gate of my compound at 6:45 a.m. The gridlock is representative of any day of the work week from 6:30-9.

Traffic has given me a chance to work on my attitude. I breathe, every time I want to ram someone’s car. I call friends (using the car’s Bluetooth audio system). After 8 a.m. I can listen to the BBC World Service educate myself (most days I’m at my desk by 7:30). I am resolved to get more audiobooks on my phone.

This daily challenge reminds me that we can control one major aspect of life: our attitude. As for everyone or everyone else, well, those drivers better hope the deep breathing is working.

How do you stay cool on the road? Or keep your sanity doing mindless tasks?




1 Smart Strategy to Stop Rehashing

Angry Talk (Comic Style)

Angry Talk (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On my way to the car, I was stopped the look on my friend’s face. We were drenched in sweat after sixty minutes of non-stop movement, led by her enthusiastic Zumba alter ego. A few minutes after class, however, her face reflected a heavy heart.

As we chatted, I was reminded of my journey through the irritating hurdles of daily life abroad: Streets clogged with traffic, nonsensical rules for businesses, exorbitant taxes to fly the national airline.

My way around these pesky, debilitating-to-happiness moments, was discovered the hard way. I had to stop dwelling on them.

Sounds logical, but the simplest solutions are the most complicated to implement.

Try this with me the next time you’re telling that flesh peeling angry story (or in howler monkey mode as my tirades have been nicknamed).

Be 100% indignant. As right as right you can be. For 3 minutes. Okay, 10 if you really need it. And then, as made immortal to the chagrin of parents (maybe people) everywhere: let it go.

I’m convinced that half (or more) of our misery comes from rehashing and rehearsing our anger, disappointment, betrayal, or fear. When we talk about the negative moment, the tentacles of residue reach into our minds to take us emotionally back to the moment of distress.

Our body reacts as if it were happening again. We are insulted, offended, wronged: our foreheads crinkle, our lips frown. Whatever resolve we may have had evaporates.

Next time you, or a friend, are being hijacked by the blues, halt the rehearsal train. Switch tracks to a new task or a happy memory.

If ever you see me talking to myself in the car, it’s because that’s my mentally most vulnerable moment when I’m stuck in traffic and my defenses are down.

Bored because BBC World Service isn’t working, my brain ranges for something to chew over. My thoughts bend towards negative memories because they are stronger than positive ones. To halt the downward spiral, I say out loud, sometimes at full volume: STOP.

Here’s to stopping the negativity so the sun can come in.

What strategies do you use to regain focus? Here’s to happiness.





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