Lesson in Value

I want to tell you a story that is near and dear to my heart.  In it you might find a lesson, or perhaps some inspiration, or maybe you’ll just find it to be an interesting story to read.

In 2008, I went to India to scatter my grandfather’s ashes.  I was very close to my grandfather.  He raised me, he had always been there, and while taking that trip I thought my life could never be the same without him and his gentle way of giving advice.  What would I do without his advice?  What would I do without him?!

It was May when he passed, and we took this trip in December.  That September I met Jayesh and fell in love instantly.  By October we were happily engaged and planning a wedding.  So when December came along and I was getting ready to take this flight I had mixed feelings.  I had not gone a day without talking to Jayesh and this trip to the other side of the world was going to throw a wrench at that.  On the other hand, I was really excited to see my family and a bit apprehensive about scattering the ashes.  I knew it was going to be extremely difficult to let go even though I knew it was necessary.

The day of the flight to India, my dad managed to upgrade my ticket to first class.  I was flying alone and meeting my parents there.  My heart was heavy and taking that flight alone was difficult.  I had so many emotions just floating at the surface waiting to bubble over.  And it happened.  They served a really good shrimp appetizer and I thought, ‘Jayesh should really be here’.  I didn’t think twice I grabbed the phone from the seat and slid my credit card through and dialed Jayesh’s number.  I started crying explaining to him that I felt guilty being in first class for the first time in my life and not next to him.  I wanted to experience new things with him.  I told him about the champagne upon seating, the scented warm towels, the comfortable seats, the food, and how none of it was as good without him.  He reassured me that we would talk often and that we would see each other soon.

The first part of the trip involved scattering my grandfather’s ashes.  We didn’t hire a priest, just a simple thing with my uncle, aunts, mom, dad, and cousin.  We said a few things and then took handfuls of the ashes and threw them into the Holy River.  I dipped my hands into the cool water and watched the ash that was clinging to my hands float away.  I cried.  Like a child.  The feeling of loss was so overwhelming.  Even though it had been 7 months, it felt fresh.  I kept the ID tag they put on the ashes and gripped it tight in my hands.  I couldn’t let go.

I hadn’t been feeling well and I took a turn for the worse that day.  Perhaps my sad heart, drained of any positivity, was making it difficult to recover.  To add to this discomfort, we were scheduled to take a train ride to Agra, then Jaipur.  The train ended up being delayed for 14 hours.  That’s 14 LONG hours at a train station with a dirty bathroom.  My temperature was spiking and after the first few hours I started going crazy.  There was nothing to do and I was tired and hungry.  I decided to call Jayesh since the timing was right.  Of course it goes to voicemail.  So I sit and talk to my cousin, poor guy, I must have talked his head off.  We finally get on the train and take the long journey to Jaipur since the delay forced us to cancel Agra.  It was a day long journey in the train, we mostly slept and ran to the bathroom (my cousin and I were both sick!)  I was a bit disappointed we wouldn’t make it to Agra.  That’s where the Taj Mahal is and that’s the second time my trip was canceled.  There’s a saying in India, that you don’t go to see the Taj Mahal, the Taj Mahal invites you.  So only those fated to go, get to go.  I guess it wasn’t in my fate.  My mother says to me “Maybe you’re supposed to go with your husband.  Don’t worry, you’ll get to go soon.”  I call Jayesh 5 more times and each time it goes to voicemail.  I start to worry.

So now that the timing is all thrown off we get to Jaipur a bit early and so our car rental isn’t quite ready.  We spend another hour just lounging around.  A van takes us to the resort, and by this time I am so exhausted I can’t take it.  We walk around the resort, which is beautiful beyond words, but I can’t quite enjoy it because I just want to lay down and rest.  As we approach the lobby I imagine just collapsing into the bed and sleeping for the whole day.  I sit on a sofa and wait for my dad to get the check in sorted.  My mom leans over and says “Who is that movie star over there, he looks familiar.”  I look up to see some fat man standing there.  “Mom, it’s just some fat guy, I don’t know who that-” and then the fat man moved and behind his giant silhouette I see the most beautiful man I’ve ever laid eyes on.  Jayesh!  My brain short circuits and I just run to him and throw my arms around his neck.  I’m crying and delirious.  I couldn’t wrap my brain around him being there.  What was he doing there?  How did he get there?  How did he know we were here?  What is going on?  My head was spinning with questions.  I hear everyone around me cheering and clapping and I suddenly realize I’m in the middle of my family in the resort lobby….in INDIA.  I settle down and stand next to Jayesh in a state of shock.

Later, Jayesh explains to me that the trip had been planned by my father, him and my father in law.  To surprise me and turn the trip into something positive.  Everyone was thinking of me.  I felt so special in that moment and so important and loved.  I can’t describe it, it was overwhelming.  The following morning we took a car to Agra and saw the Taj Mahal.  Jayesh asked me to marry him once more, his final proposal, at the biggest symbol of love in the world.  It was romantic and the perfect start to our fairy tale.  For several days it just seemed like I was dreaming.  That moment, where I reacted based on impulse, being totally caught off guard, proved to me I was in real love.  He’s my soul mate, it’s why I felt so empty without him and why my heart overflowed when I saw him in Jaipur.  I will never forget that.

What I realized at the end of this trip was this; relationships are everlasting.  My grandfather took care of me, protected me, guided me, loved me, and was always there for me no matter what.  When he passed I thought I had lost all of that and it felt like a giant void just sucking my happiness out of me.  Then Jayesh came along and I learned that the relationship I had with my grandfather never ended, it just took a new form.  Jayesh loves me, protects me, guides me, and is there for me no matter what.  The only difference is that my grandfather was like a father figure and Jayesh is my partner.  Much like the Hindu belief of reincarnation, I believe that our relationships are reincarnated as well.  They only seem to end, but they continue on in a different form.  So instead of continuing to mourn, I celebrated the renewal of one of the most important relationships in my life.  I was meant to meet Jayesh when I did, he saved my life.  He breathed new air into me and I was transformed.  I’m not sure if he knows just what he’s done for me and how much I value him, our relationship, and everything we’ve built together.  The day we met was a turning point in my life.  I could spend the rest of my life thanking him, it wouldn’t be enough.

So I hope what you’ve taken from this story is a lesson in value, faith, and purpose.  Value because each relationship in our life has value and meaning.  There is a reason for it, a purpose.  Identify the purpose and you will find the value.  Faith, because you must have faith in yourself and others.  Faith allows us to put aside insecurity and distraction and really focus on what’s important.

I wish you love, happiness, and valuable relationships.

Time is Love.


Isn’t he just a button?!

My life is HECTIC.  I only work a part time job, I only go to school part time, I only usually do weekend clients for makeup…sounds like it’s sort of easy right?  Here’s the reality of it: From 8:45 am till 9:30 pm I’m not home on Mon, Tue, and Thur.  On Wednesday I’m home until 5 pm but then I go to class until about 9 pm.  I have Friday off and sometimes I take clients on that day.  Every other Saturday I’m in class from 10-5.  So really I’m home Wed during the day and Fridays and every other Saturday.  I spend some of my time on the off days working on my business and marketing.  What I’m getting at is that I’m BUSY.  I have a small child and more often then not I’m feeling guilty about how little time I actually spend with him.  I have to remind myself it’ll only be like this until I’m done with school next year, but so much happens in that first few years of life.  I know what I’m doing is for the better of my family and I’m following my dream and after all that’s what I want to teach my child, to follow his heart, to be happy, to sacrifice a little to gain a lot, to work hard, and to earn that happiness.

I’m writing about quality time today.  How do we squeeze it in, and what’s the best way to spend quality time with your child?  Here is my thought.  This is my opinion and what works for me.

No matter how you choose to parent your child, whether you hover over their every action, or let them figure things out on their own, one thing is true.  Your children need to spend meaningful time with you. They need to see how you live your life and who you are. This will, in turn, help you to better see who you are.

So how do we find this magical time, and more importantly, how do we make it meaningful?  What I find is that filling up the schedule with activities is meaningful time, but it doesn’t have to be planned like that.  Movies, dinner, lunch, zoo, park, etc is a lot of fun and yes you are spending time with your child, but is it really necessary?  Those meaningful moments happen whether you have something planned or not.  It happens when you least expect it: in the car, during bath time, or even just when you’re sitting there looking out the window together.

What I’m trying to say is, readjust your thinking.

If you work full time like we do, you look forward to the weekends for that precious quality time.  Think about this: there are only 940 weekends from birth to starting college.  Sounds like a bunch at first, but at 5 years, 260 weekends are gone.  Just like that, gone forever.  So obviously doing fun things is great, kids always remember that fun trip to the zoo that one time.  What I really want is for my kid to look back and remember ME.  Not so much the stuff.  I want him to remember how much we’ve loved him, and how much we care about his interests and passions.  I want him to look back fondly and also to have gathered knowledge about his dad and me.  I want him to cherish our family unit and really grow to understand the minutiae of how we all work together so well.  So each time I’m with him I think forward.  I remind myself these moments are fleeting.  I think 20 years from now, the house will be neat and clean, laundry will always be done, it will be quiet and I will nap, life will slow.  So I cherish the chaos now.  I laugh with my son, I don’t worry so much about the little things, and I focus on teaching him the things he needs to be successful.  Even at just 13 months, he watches us and picks up everything.  I set an example for him.  I talk to him about things that are important to me, whether he understands me or not, one day he will, and it won’t seem so foreign because we’ve always had these talks.  We sing and dance together.  Because eventually this will turn into a lesson on being active and fit.  We eat healthy foods and go grocery shopping together, because one day I want him to just know how to pick out a good cantaloupe.  I show affection to my husband and my husband does the same, we do kind and thoughtful things for each other, because one day my son will have a relationship and we hope that he’ll just know from watching us, how to nurture a healthy one and how to express love without relying on the words.  We talk about how we feel all the time and right away because we don’t believe in bottling things in.  One day my son will have a need to express himself and, hopefully, thanks to us, he will know exactly how to talk about what’s going on with him.

So let us appreciate the nuances of childhood and make every moment count.  Kids aren’t perfect and there will be off days but let your kid be a kid and try to laugh off the small things.  Teach them not to sweat the small stuff.  And enjoy every little moment…I love to sneak in when my son is sound asleep and just tuck him in and look at his peaceful face.  That will certainly not be there forever.  Some folks think time is money, but I think time is love.  Each second should be filled to the brim with everything your heart can muster.

Throwing Starfish

One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean.

Approaching the boy, he asked,
“What are you doing?”

The youth replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out.  If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.”

“Son,” the man said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish?
You can’t make much of a difference.”

After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf.  Then, smiling at the man, he said…
“I made a difference for that one.”


I heard this some time ago and have held it close to my heart ever since.  It’s a nice philosophy to apply to one’s life.  Each one of us wants to make a difference, but where do we start?  It’s so overwhelming to think about ending world hunger or finding shelter for the homeless.  But we are all compelled to try and do something.  Not everyone has the time to start an organization, raise funds, and go build houses in a third world.  Many of us can hardly make ends meet ourselves so how could we possibly spare a donation to a charity?

This is only my opinion, but I think it starts on a smaller scale.  Think of the tiny pebble that creates giant ripples in water.

Here’s my idea, it’s not a new one, but perhaps a forgotten one:

Be kind.  Just be kind to people.  It puts them in a good mood, which in turn allows them to be kind to another person.  Passing it forward in a way.  Just like gossip spreads as fast as the flu, so can kindness, if people did it.

So make it a habit to be kind, stop judging, lend a helping hand, and put the people around you in a good mood.  Spread that positive energy and eventually it will reach the people who do have the money or platform to do something huge.  And then, you will have made a difference at a larger scale.  Even at a smaller scale, you can brighten a person’s day and change their whole day around.  It could be the worst day possible for them, maybe they got some bad news, and then your bright smile and kind attitude just flipped that right around.

If you could imagine love and kindness as a way to communicate, it is a language that all can understand, the deaf can hear it, the blind can see it.

Being kind is infectious and so good for you.  Studies have shown that being positive and happy significantly improves health.  Kindness breeds more kindness.  So get out there and spread that love that you have inside of you.

Be forgiving and understanding at the times when people really test you.  This isn’t an easy task, people can be skeptics and sometimes they question kindness.  They wonder, what’s the catch?  Are there strings attached?  It is a sad thing to admit, but we immediately jump to the negative or cynical answer.  There will also be the people who get defensive when you are thoughtful towards them.  Say you give them some helpful advice or just offer your help in some way and they jump to a defense and treat you as if you were questioning their decisions or beliefs, don’t fret, their problem is deeper than you need to worry about. Just continue on your path.  There’s a fine line.  You do what you can to spread positivity-you are responsible for your actions, not the other person’s perception.

If any of this happens on your quest to kindness, don’t be discouraged.  Be persistent.  Ignore the people who want to bring you down or hold you back and continue on your goal.  Remember to love these people no matter what, and with consistency comes belief.  They will believe in you once you prove that this kindness and love is real and honest.  And really, you can’t win them all, but you can try your hardest!

I encourage all of you to think back to a time when a stranger was really nice to you.  Think about when someone helped you out and to no benefit of their own.  How did that make you feel?  Special?  Loved?  Happy?  Do that for someone else.  It’s time to make a difference, one starfish at a time.


Baklava Cheesecake – Say WHAT?!

I am about to blow your mind, are you ready?  This recipe is super easy and sure to please.  I have to thank my friend Norman for posting a picture of this on Facebook.  He had it at a pizza joint in Baltimore, and it got my gears going!  Baklava Cheesecake?!  Hello?!!!  Why haven’t I made this yet?  So I thought…I know how to make a good cheesecake, and I know how to make a good baklava…BRING IT!  I didn’t have everything in my pantry, so I modified the baklava part, but if you’re lucky I’ll give you my baklava recipe sometime.

I encourage you to tweak the recipe if you want.  I tried to give you measurements this time, but I really eye balled everything and I’m not too sure how much.  I just kind of think…yea I love to taste cinnamon in the crust, let’s add a little more!  I go a lot off what it smells like once I mix it, or I try some.

Another thing I changed is the cheesecake part – I just halved the recipe that I normally use.  I didn’t want to make such a thick cheesecake.  You could do either!

Here is what you will need:

graham crackers, finely crumbled

2-3 tablespoons sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

Few Tablespoons butter, softened

4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 eggs

1 cup walnuts, chopped

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter, melted

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

15 sheets Athens 9 x 14 Fillo Dough, thawed

1/2 cup butter, melted

1/2 cup light corn syrup, heated

Preheat your oven to 325.

First you want to take your graham crackers and mash them up, mix in the sugar, cinnamon, and butter.

Then take a fork or your fingers and press the  crumbs on the bottom and up the sides of 9″ springform pan.  Bake it for about 8 minutes so that it sets.

To prepare the cheesecake, beat cream cheese and sugar until fluffy. Add lemon juice, vanilla and eggs, one at a time. Beat until smooth. Pour into springform pan over your crust.

To prepare baklava, combine walnuts, sugar, butter and cinnamon in bowl.

So for the fun part!  You could cut the pastry so that it fits exactly over your baking pan perfectly or your could just fold it and make it fit as a rectangle.  I chose the latter because it’s easier and creates no waste!

Take your fillo sheets and you can do this one at a time or you can take like 5 at a time.  Lay it on the cheesecake filling and brush it with butter.

Once you have a few down spread the walnut mixture over the top.

Keep doing that for as long as you like.  I did about three layers.  This doesn’t have to be exact or beautiful.  Just slap it down, really.  When you do the final layer of fillo, make sure you score the slices, this will make it much easier to cut once it’s baked.  To make it look pretty just ruffle up the top sheet, it will fold a little during baking so just leave it messy, it’ll look good, don’t worry.  Now brush an ample amount of butter over the top of it.

Also notice how I lined the bottom of my springform with foil.  That’s because I always put water in the cookie sheet to create moisture in the oven so the top of the cheesecake doesn’t crack and dry out.  I don’t want the water to seep into the pan for any reason so I just protect it this way.

See water!

Now bake it for an hour and a half or longer, just make sure the top is golden brown.  It took mine about an hour and 50 minutes.  Just start looking at it after an hour and keep an eye on it.  Every oven is different!

Slowly spoon warm syrup over that bad boy and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until chilled before slicing.

I skipped the syrup this time, and we ate it at room temperature.  Oh well.  Maybe after it’s chilled in the fridge I’ll pour some syrup over the top.

YUM!!  If you tweak the recipe please tell me what you did and how it turned out!  Enjoy!

Henna, Henna, Bo, Benna!

I got married over 3 years ago and it was one of the best days of my life.  Right up there with the birth of my son.  My culture is so rich and there is so much symbolism involved with weddings and the preparations.  I wanted to show you one little part of the preparations.  Henna!!

Henna is now commercially cultivated in western India, Pakistan, Morocco, Yemen, Iran, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, Egypt, and Bangladesh. Though henna has been used for body art and hair dye since the Bronze Age, henna has had a recent renaissance in body art due to improvements in cultivation, processing, and the emigration of people from traditional henna using regions.

The history is rich and complex, but basically many cultures used it as adornment for many occasions.  The most popular or well known is for the wedding.  I had mine done for my wedding and it was a big production.  A few days before the wedding I went to the artist’s house and spent about 3 hours getting my hands, up to almost my elbow, done.  Mind you, you have to keep the henna on for quite some time so you basically can’t use your hands. This means a really wonderful sibling or best friend has to take you to the bathroom, feed you, pull your hair back, and scratch itches.  And of course I had to pee as soon as both hands were done!

Here’s my husband feeding me:


There is great symbolism involved here.  I was told by my elders on my wedding day that we were waiting to see what color showed up on my hands.  Rather, HOW MUCH color showed up.  The darker the henna, the deeper my husband’s love for me.  Wouldn’t you know it, it was near black 🙂  I’m not sure how true this is…scientifically speaking I think it shows how deep my love is because the turning of the color is probably catalyzed by body heat.  The symbols that are drawn on to the body also have meaning.  For example they can represent prosperity, fertility, good fortune.  The placement also has great meaning.  The palm of the hand is open and offering.  The back of the hand acts as a shield-closing, defending, clenching-symbolizing protection.  The feet are recognized as a point of divine contact, considered a holy junction, where Human being and Earth meet.  The right hand represents the male/protection and the left hand represents the female or receptiveness.  I just love these parts of my culture…the history, symbolism, and deep meaning of everything you do.  I will post my wedding program so that you guys can read about the meanings of each little step.  You’ll be amazed at how much each little move of the body has meaning.

Anyway, whether foretold by the henna or not, our love is strong and everlasting.

Here are some pictures of my henna:

Here it is being applied:


Here it is once applied:


Now after a whole day and keeping it soaked in lime juice and sugar…and sleeping with grocery bags wrapped on my hands….here it is:

(There’s not a lot of close ups of my hands, but you can tell just from the darkness that the color turned really well!)


What a fun night!