Posts tagged " family "

Feel warmth, it’s there if you let it lure you

December 24th, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

Feel warmth, it’s there if you let it lure you.

Get high on fresh air, it’s all around you.

Smile more, your days are full of moments that beg for laughter.

Love like a child, it’s the only way to do it.

Fear nothing, and there will be nothing to fear.

Hug, kiss, hold hands, be kind to strangers.

Be hopeful, inspire others, be an example for your kids, teach, learn, grow.

Celebrate these holidays as if you are a five-year-old kid, call your friends, stare at the blinking lights on your tree, for they are magical.

And believe, believe, believe.

Happy holidays, people. I’m grateful, today and forever.

On Cultivating Your Own Garden

October 17th, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

I spent most of my 30s buying designer shoes, paying off credit card bills, leafing through Vogue and Elle, and running across town (and oceans) to parties, surrounded by dozens of people I called my friends but barely knew. I dreamed of writing a book, but was too scared to do it, and spent close to a decade wrestling with whether my degree made me a writer or not, whether it mattered that I had little proof of it otherwise, constantly swayed by the opinions of others. Friends started families, I envied them, yet soaked in the sunshine of careless freedom.

Fast-forward to my forty-third birthday just a week ago. I eventually wrote that book. Not because someone told me I had to, but because it got to the point where there was nothing else I wanted to do. My designer shoes rest in cotton bags in the depths of my closet, and I don’t own a credit card. And on my birthday, I held my son close while he vomited all over his bed from a nasty stomach bug, washed sheets, and tried to convince my friends that no, I am not hiding a celebration from them, I am simply not celebrating, because I din’t feel the need to.

We spend so much of our lives following rules, expectations, meeting milestone deadlines, spending ridiculous money on on things we think will get us “there,” that we forget to let go, to take a seat and have a quiet talk with ourselves, as if there is noone else in this world, and give our inner voice time to reply.

I stole the title of this post originally from Voltaire, but also from a piece in the New York Times Magazine about Michelle Obama, and the incredible things she has accomplished as First Lady. She was under the scrutiny of the public eye from a long time before day one, more than any other First Lady in history, for reasons obvious to all, yet she managed to spend eight years in the house that she will soon leave, impeccably unscathed, simply because she chose to not follow the leads of those before her, to cultivate her own garden.

None of us will ever be Michelle, and few of us will accomplish what she has. But shrink it to a smaller scale, to your town, your neighborhood, your social circle, your family. Cultivate your own garden, and the worst thing that can happen, is that you will have goods to share with others.

On When You’re So Over the Family Vacation

August 20th, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

So there I am, legs hanging out the trunk of our car, parked on the shoulder of a national highway, looking for the grapes. I find them and wash them using a plastic bottle of water. I’m wearing normal clothes and shoes for the first time in ten days, not a cold, wet bathing suit, yet the wind and dust raised by the speeding cars disrespect that, covering my legs and feet in stains.

The first few days were magnificent, carefree, happy. For the kids. We’d gone to an island where our fiends and their kids already were. By day six, I was done. I never again wanted to change a wet bathing suit on an excited, giggly, sun-kissed child. Or a cold, tired, whiney one. Our beach towels that were originally, soft and fluffy, but has turned into a salty planks of cotton wood. Sand was everywhere, on the floor, in our beds, in the shower, in my bra. I’d dipped my head into the water a total of two times, the wind had blown and turned my hair into a artful bird nest, I knew it would remain so until my hair mask and I were reunited at home.

At least all children’s palates begged for spaghetti and rice, limiting our time in the kitchen. A few slices of cucumber and tomato, and we no longer felt like a bad parents. Soon, bedtimes became painful, pre-dawn risings even more so. On the last night, I feel asleep in a chair. A feat I had not accomplished in 40-odd years.

So on the shoulder of that highway, a highway which in many countries would be considered a side street, I was happy to wash some tiny village grapes while buses of tourists sped by. My son whined in the back seat, faster mommy, I’m hungry, I miss my friends, I want to go back to our village and swim in the sea. I handed him the fruit, dreaming of its alcohol-infused juice in the fridge at home. We drove off, and I turned back to look at him. His blond hair was blonder, longer, it covered his twinkling eyes, his white skin a light shade of bronze, his little feet kicking my seat to the rhythm of the music, while he swallowed the sweet grapes.

It was his first time, his first real summer vacation, and even though I’m over it and the next ten to come, I only hope he remembers every moment of it, because none of it, was for or about me.

On Letting Go

July 11th, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

During my pregnancy and until a few months after the birth of my son, I kept imagining and planning what kind of parent I was going to be, what norms and customs I’d bring him up with, what our family traditions would be. My biggest obsession was mealtime. At least once a day, my husband, our son and I, would sit down around the kitchen table and eat.

Three years later, I’ve finally let go of this vision. For simple reasons. First of all, we didn’t even have a kitchen table when Stef was born. Second, Dad works late, he always has. Third, babies and toddlers do not want to hang out at the dinner table. Mine doesn’t even want to have dinner. Or lunch. Or breakfast.

I started off by trying to eat breakfast with him, back when he ate. The problem there was that as an early riser, his breakfast was at 7.30am. I was never hungry. Lunch was at noon, so before I knew it, I was wolfing down platefuls of spaghetti; the quickest thing to make, while stuffing organic mushed veggies into his mouth, the mixture of which, I’d slaved over for hours the night before. By dinner and the bedtime ritual, the three family meals that I so longed for, where checked off my must-do list, though I was more exhausted from the stress than I would have been, had I decided to release control.

And then, shock of all shocks, he went on a hunger strike, eating nothing but bananas for six months. I still refused to let go. And the delusional behavior went on, until I recently realized that my obsession is just an illusion. I was raised in a household obsessed with rigid family meals. I hated them.

Everything we imagine as new parents is an illusion. Ninety nine percent of it flies out the window the minute they start to crawl/walk/talk. It’s like planning for the unknown. The last one percent, we continue to hold onto, as if it’s our last chance at survival, when all it really is, is our natural desire to have some form of control in this new world disorder.

I let it go. What he eats, how much he eats, how many times he eats, who he eats with. He knows that there’s a lunchtime, he knows pasta and rice aren’t to be eaten exclusively forever, he knows Daddy isn’t home at lunchtime, and he knows that he can bring Teddy, monster trucks, and Legos to the table on Saturday and Sunday, climb into his high chair and eat spaghetti with his hands. I’ve done all that. And now he’s free. And so am I.

On Dough

July 8th, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

When I was a kid, every month or so, on a designated morning, my mom and aunts would gather in the kitchen, clear the table, sprinkle it with thick, white dust, form a couple of volcanoes in the middle, add stuff to the craters, and begin to knead.

Later, rolling pins and wine glasses would join the setting, while they stood over their dough balls and rolled them out to the desired perfect thin. Using the wine glass rims, they’d cut out perfect circles, throw perfect teaspoonfuls of minced beef and onions, maybe garlic, I don’t remember, and tie them into perfect pelmeni (

I remember their white-goo-covered hands holding cigarettes while they took a break, their obsessive counting of how many pelmeni they’d made, as if it was a competition with last month, the bags full of the frozen dumplings in our freezer, but most of all, their sweat and the hours this activity consumed. And then, how little time it took everyone to eat their efforts.

I must have been around 10 when I silently swore to myself I would never do anything like this, especially not for any man. Plus, I hated the stuff. Eventually, I was forced to join this sacred ritual, though I was only ever entrusted with the wine glass cutting part. My lack of enthusiasm and no thirst to learn were soon accepted, though with frowns and head shakes.

Fast forward yourself to an odd three decades later. I’m in my mid-forties.

Picture me in my kitchen, a few minutes after I’ve finally put my toddler to bed. There’s flour, there’s a volcano, there’s olive oil, salt, and sugar. And I’m kneading. Only my mission is to create the perfect pizza dough ball. And this is no sisterly social event, it’s just me.

The memories above came like fireworks during the second or third time I picked up that rolling pin. I’d rummaged through my mom’s kitchen to find it, we obviously did not have one in the house. I think it’s the same on she used back then, and I will never give it back because she has not used it since she left that house. I could suddenly hear their chatter, smell the mushroom soup that was simmering on the stove behind them, smell their smoke, feel their pain, listen to their thoughts.

I stand and knead, drops of sweat bounce of my perfect dough ball, its a hot summer night and no matter how many years go by, my Russian makeup just can’t stand the heat. I know it’s just water and salt, I smile as I picture my family and friends nibbling on a slice tomorrow, and I gloat about my history, my past, the women and men that have kneaded me into what I am right now; a stay-at-home mom making dough. For we are all one perfect recipe of our past.

On the Mandatory Loss of my Pillar

April 12th, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

Two months after my son was born, hair in a knot, eye bags melting into my cheeks, and constant fear on level red, I hired a babysitter. Her name is Maria, I knew her from before, she’d taken care of a friend’s kids, nevertheless, the first few times I left the house for an hour and then two, I cried from separation anxiety. Eventually, she became the person who I turned to when he has a weird rash, didn’t sleep on time, had a nightmare, refused to wash his hair, got his first tooth, took his first step.

And now she’s leaving.

I barely use her anymore, but the comfort of knowing that the woman who spent the most important years of my life by my side was just a phone call away, was priceless.

We’re a modern, nuclear family, mom, dad, kid, we don’t have grandparents that live next door, cook our meals, impose or babysit at the sound of a bell. Even though I wouldn’t have it any other way, I’ve had plenty moments when I resented that, and found solace in Maria.

But now she’s leaving. Though I’m not as scared as I was when she first came, my son is no longer a newborn and killing him by mistake is no longer a possibility, showers and hairbrushes are readily available, and I’ve grasped the fact that going to bed early will make 6am risings easier, I’m petrified at the thought of having no help when I most need it.

The people we choose to help raise our kids become a strange kind of family, one that we choose, one that we pay, one that can disappear at any moment, no questions asked. Maria came only three times a week for two-and-a-half years, much of what she did drove me crazy, but the thought of finding a replacement seems equal to just being alone. Will I hear him laugh as he does when she makes her noises and faces? Will he run and hug the next one, drag her by her finger to his play area, ask her to sing the songs only they know? I know he probably will. But I’ll always be crippled by the lack of my pillar, its knowledge, its strength, its balance, its presence. It was family.

Pieces: a novel

“Pieces” is the winner of the silver medal at the 2017 Independent Publishers Awards (IPPY), and a finalist at the USA Best Book Awards and International Book Awards.

When Clouds Embrace: a children's book

All proceeds from the sales of "When Clouds Embrace" will go to Giving for Greece, a foundation that works to help the hundreds of unaccompanied refugee minors in Greece.