Monday, March 27, 2017

When you can finally exhale



As the end of March is upon us it seemed a good time for a blog about women as it is Women's History Month in the US.   

I try and look at the positive in life as a rule, look at the gains, learn from mistakes and hope we are all moving forward as a people.   However, when I start to look at the way that women have been treated and still continue to be so from pretty much the beginning of recorded history it takes a lot to hold on to the optimism and not let anger replace it. 

There are periods of time where women were not only equal to men but actually in charge, history rarely looks at their accomplishment without having to add some sort of terrible character flaw to them though.  Their strength described often negatively and do not get me started on the sexuality part. Women and sex - they should provide it but they should not enjoy it seems to be short version.  

Though even in this day and age women's rights are tentative still and we still discuss things like "when it is acceptable" to beat your wife -- short answer NEVER - in places far (Russia just passed a law that first offenders are not going to be harshly treated for beating their wives) and near (Mississippi on March 2017 voted down a measure to have domestic violence as one of the grounds for divorce - you read that right 2017, March Women's History month).  

Let's not even get started on the vile comments about rape and the fact that women have to debate what they can do with their own bodies.  

What can we do?  We can support other women, we can support men who see us as partners, we can collectively say a big get the hell out of here to anyone who doesn't, we can ask those who claim in the name of religion that women are inferior to look at how that is in direct conflict with the tenets of all religions to be good to your fellow people,.   We can raise women who understand their worth and we can raise men who appreciate those same women, who add to their self-confidence instead of trying to control it.  

In the spirit of supporting other women I wanted to use this blog to highlight someone who I am humbled to call a friend.

My friend Amy works with an organization called Exhale to Inhale.  They provide yoga and meditation services to survivors of partner and sexual abuse.   Yoga - the practice of respecting your body's limits and acknowledging your strength.  These survivors are taking back their bodies and their minds. The organization  "Exhale to Inhale was founded in 2013 by Zoë LePage, while a senior at Barnard College. Zoë named her initiative Exhale to Inhale, the idea being that sometimes we need to let go of that which is holding us back in order to open ourselves up to new possibilities. We need to exhale to inhale. Zoë’s vision: bring the healing power of yoga to survivors of intimate partner violence, especially those who would most benefit from the practice, yet might not otherwise have access to it. "

In an ideal world we would not need places like Exhale to Inhale because it should be as simple and instinctual as breathing - sexual assault and partner violence are not natural and should never be "normalized".   .   

We do not live in an ideal world but we do live by our ideals. We cannot stop it all but we can help in many ways heal those who experience this.  

I will not give you recognition by giving names or publicity to those who seek to harm us through laws or doctrine but instead I will hope to shine the light on those who do heal and selfishly do for others. 

If you want to get more information, donate time, donate money, donate your good will to share this information and just say it is NOT OK ever then you are already doing more than you give yourself credit for.  



How Can You Get Involved?
 Help Exhale to Inhale win $40,000 in the NO MORE Challenge!
Because of the money we were able to raise in 2016, we are now reaching more survivors than ever before. We are on track to more than double the number of people we were able to reach last year. Join us in bringing survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault one step closer to experiencing the power of choice and possibility! http://www.crowdrise.com/exhale-to-inhale-nomorechallenge


Join the MOVEMENT for MEANING

Did you know that every 98 seconds someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted? April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and we are taking this opportunity to help draw national attention to this human rights issue, and to the Exhale to Inhale mission. Join the movement whether you Om, Spin, Box, Dance or Zumba! Ask your home studio to donate the proceeds from a regularly scheduled class, or schedule a special class to benefit Exhale to Inhale. Sign up on our website at http://exhaletoinhale.org/move-for-meaning-in-april

To learn more watch  5 minute documentary


Monday, March 20, 2017

Purple Bags

In the purple plastic bags that I could not see the contents of
Held by small hands with big bright smiles
Was the nourishment of the body that allowed the soul to not feel empty
Inside the purple plastic bags were the screams of hunger being silenced
The smiles on the children holding them made by possible by the
Hope that they held in those purple bags
That someone cared about them and the endless possibility of who they will be
When they are not hungry for food but only for knowledge

That is what went through my mind as I saw kids in my district, the district of Teslas and second hand cars in the parking lot of the school, who qualify for free lunch last week as they carried these plastic purple bags at the end of the day on a Friday.  I was to learn this is food for those kids because sometimes these are the only meals they get so they get it to take for the weekends ... so they DO NOT GO HUNGRY.

Yes in my, rated most expensive and highest taxed suburb in America, there are towns like mine which are a melting pot of native born citizens, immigrants, mixed parental lineage, heterosexual, homosexual parents.   Our kids play together, play sports on the same teams, they encourage each other at events and overall they do not always know who among their friends are anything other than well their friends.

We are a perfect example how this mix is successful in a school and in creating a community.  Yet as I watched those kids on Friday I cried before I returned to my son's class.  To the many parents who were there like me, taking time off from work or from taking care of their homes, to be there for our kids.  We may not speak the same language but we understood each other through smiles and our commitment to our children.  This on the same day that a cruel budget was put out by the current administration.  It is a not a deficit reduction, not a balanced budget it is just a series of cruel budget that cuts things like free lunches for many, after and before school programs, clean environment, the arts, PBS where many who cannot afford the fancy pre-school classes are getting their preparation and many other things.   Things that make us a great society.

We do not need more bombs, we need to treat our veterans well and make sure that our soldiers are well equipped.

So this is not going to be a long anti anything blog.   It is about what we as individuals define as important and what we want to show our kids as important.   To that end we can all change our world in small ways to make it better and in big ways through our activism with our elected officials.

I am going to do that with small actions.  I am not a wealthy woman but I will be helping those kids with small donations to cover the things in school like pizza parties that maybe their parents do not have $4 to give.

Those purple bags broke my heart but renewed my spirit.   We are not a budget or budget cuts as individuals we are who we choose to be and I choose to be kind.


"...for purple mountains majesty above the fruited plains.. America, America God shed his grace on thee and crown thy hood with brotherhood from sea to shining sea".... America The Beautiful

Monday, March 13, 2017

Adventures in exercising

Image result for dislike exercise I am totally inspired by a friend of mine who wrote of her experience doing yoga to write a blog to all of us who have tried different forms of exercise.  I was inspired to write mind you not to exercise like her .. just to clarify and set some expectations here. 

Now my friend who tried yoga is athletic - I mean like really good shape, runner, biker, cross fitter - yeah you get the picture.  She is fit.  She is tight.  She is really nice so I will not hold that against her.  She like most of my friends who do it regularly actually look forward to work outs that challenge them, I like them so I will not hold that against them either. 

I have never really liked exercise - or what I think of as organized exercise.  I can walk for miles, and I mean miles, particularly in cities at NYC pace which is of course where the whole "power walk" comes from, should just be known as plain old how to get from point A to point B walk for us NYC natives.

We don't just walk, we aggressively walk, we leave people who meander behind.  It took me like 10 blocks once to realize my boyfriend, now my husband, was no longer next to me.  I was talking to myself and of course it's NY no one noticed.  He missed some brilliant conversation during that time, he is not a fast walker.  Not like me who learned to walk at that pace at age 8 when I first got to the States.

Exercise - this is the girl who told her teachers in high school that she had asthma, could not afford a doctor (partially true my parents did not have the coveted Blue Cross Blue Shield that was the insurance at the time - I do not know if there were others), and bought a Primatene mist inhaler to get out of gym.  Worked well for a long time.  What don't judge??? They wanted me to change, do you know what changing is like from panty hose and then getting a possible run into sweaty legs.  Ewww.  Also they wanted me do things like learn the uneven bars and balance beam - listen my fellow Romanian Nadia did enough for that sport so that the rest of us do not need to.

I mean I really did not like it - maybe the square dancing was tolerable - the rest not so much.  This is also the girl that had friends, ok so they were not productive friends but they were fun, from another school miss said school and wait for her in a car to complete the President's Fitness Assessment which meant walking around the outside my high school (big hill -- this is not an exaggeration) timed, in this crappy gym uniform - no thanks.  Go to bottom of hill, get ride, wait a bit 'cause we all know I could not cross finish line in top 10%.   It was all strategic planning - my brain exercised.  Now multi mile walk to hang out with same friends - that I did with no complaint. 

I was not fat then - I thought I was and I look at pictures and realize not so much - but exercise and I were not on friendly terms.

As I got older I tried aerobics, home and in classes.  I am not meant for classes - the other participants always seem to know which side the instructor is referring to and I always seem to go the other way.   I do not want to sweat and get red faced with other people.  I also do not particularly feel anything other than an annoyance for the bouncy haired instructors who are yelling at me with a smile on their face.  Please if you want to be the drill sergeant from Platoon do it without the perky boobs, hair and with some sweat looking like you enjoy being the sadistic control freak you are.   I tried doing it at home - Tae Bo anyone ?  That lasted a whopping month at which point I realized I could leave the VHS tape in my VCR and get exercise when I had to switch it out to a Blockbuster movie rental.

I tried belly dancing - ok so you would think the aerobics directionally challenged experience would have taught me that this would not be a good idea, but hey I figured I had the belly for this.  Finally my less than bounce a quarter off my abs section was good for -- well not sure what it was good for but I looked a bit like I had a disorder or a muscle condition which released my arms in spasms and I tripped over the veiled skirt they gave me.  I lied to all and said I loved it -- I stopped going when they put bells on my waist and even those were out of sync w rest of class.

Yoga was next - I mean really yoga - every one freaking loves yoga right?  I liked it most of the time but I never took to it as much as my friends.  I wanted to but when my favorite part was the nap at the end and I realized that they were pointing out to me that I did not breathe correctly, seriously I am pretty sure I can breathe otherwise I would have not made it to write this blog so much for yoga not being judgmental.   I just never got past the point where I was not judging myself against the people in my classes who seemed to look like the positions were named - locust, downward dog -- they did not have wobbly woman as one of them, I would have rocked it.

I went back to walking and pretty soon I had this brilliant idea that I could run.  Like run in my 40s. My knees laughed, then groaned and then reminded me with their friend the heel spur that yeah if you did not run all of your life then chances are you are not a runner.   I also saw that I did not even like it, my favorite activity to do in the fresh air (ok not so fresh in NYC is really my favorite) walking was not pleasurable anymore when it turned to running and breathing after a while felt like stabbing and knees wanted you to bend them and just sit my ass down.  No -- not a runner, except when I am walking in the 'burbs or near woods.  I pick up speed because I am more likely to be afraid and freaked out there than anywhere in a city, I know how to navigate a city, woods and unpopulated areas - yeah those are in horror films for a reason.   I mean you never see Jason or Freddy chasing down subway riders now do you ?  If you do it is a shitty as sequel done by someone pissed off that it really only happens in the 'burbs or rural areas. 

I tried weights and I always like them for like a month, then I get some delusion that I am bulking up too much (I am not) and then I stop based on that reason, I stop because I do not enjoy it, but hey that sounds lame even to me.

I will not try spin - do I need to fall off a bike to know I will not do it well ?  -- or Crossfit, I am not jumping on box unless it is to get a glimpse of Idris Elba in his pool in the buff.  I will not Spartan race, mud on my face is for facials at best, or I can go back to Astoria to get in touch with my inner ancient civilization collective unconsciousness via a frappe or a good souvlaki. 

I know it is good for you and I battle weight so it is really not just good but needed for me.  However, I loved dancing in clubs when I was younger and that is not something I could replicate though it helped with weight (the limited funds that made me choose booze/cigarettes or real meal am sure were part of it).

About 2 1/2 years ago I decided I wanted to try tennis, a friend of mine told me he also started much older did not mention at the time that he was a natural athlete all his life. My family's reaction, polite smile and asking me if I was going to mention my relationship with them at the gym as it may not be a good idea for their reputation.  I liked the outfits.

I went to a beginner clinic - that is what it said Beginner Tennis Clinic.  My reading skills are fine, far outpace my exercise ability, but apparently the people who signed up with me took beginner to mean far advanced and need a cheaper option than individual lessons.

I did not know how to hold a racket, though in typical me fashion I had purchased a lovely tennis skirt and the little socks (so far BEST exercise outfit of anything I had ever tried - those skirts are soo awesome).   I borrowed a tennis racket and at the end the instructor politely took me aside and told me that he would find a class for my level.  That was code for holy cow you do not even know how to hold a racket level.

The club did just that and I spent a few months learning things like how to hold a racket (trust me there is way to do it so you do not get hurt), how to stand, how to return a ball and not hit it like a home run.  This sport looks much easier and like it requires less coordination on TV than it actually does.

I have not only stuck to it but have looked to play more and more.  I never thought I would say this but I actually miss it when I am not playing.   My family now is pretty happy to say I play and they ask me for pointers - they do not play - because they have seen me and they are more than mildly shocked that I am playing as well as I do. 

Exercising is not a competitive sport - yet it is treated as such.  It is meant to find whatever you like and do it and when you do, you will actually seek time to pursue it.   It is meant to challenge you not break you.

Now it is time to be off to play in my weekly league, my 2nd year, last year the ladies I played with told me I was the most improved player they had seen (nice way of saying we were not sure when we first saw you but guess you proved us wrong).   I want to get better and yes I still love the outfits.   I seek my friend's advice on technique and still take clinics.  I am pretty sure Venus nor Serena would ever play with me but if they did -- well I would lose but one return and this girl would be over the moon.

Here is my friend's blog on her yoga experience - trying things is not only about finding the fit it is also about eliminating the things you do not want to do.
http://hamptonpaperdesignsblog.com/BLOG/2017/03/12/yoga-simple-easy/


Monday, February 27, 2017

We are not a nation of OR we are a nation of AND - Uniting the United States

Related imageThese days in the US it is near impossible not to be aware of and have an opinion on the current political climate. 

It is actually difficult these days to find ways to not be angry or dismayed on both sides of the aisle when you see how divided the country is.  

There is no blame in that statement for there are ways we can all do better to reach across the aisle and then there are people we have to let go of because longevity does not make a friendship if there is no shared moral compass, no shared vision of any kind, no shared goals.   

What I will not give up on though is my belief that we are a country as the US that is not made of "or" but we are made of "and".

We are the wealthiest nation on the planet by many standards.  We are the nation who was created by  people who left someplace to seek a better future or were dragged here via vile means and still believed that there is a place here for them.  A nation whose contributions and innovative spirit is oddly optimistic and has driven our success.  A nation that can be breached by the very thing it invented, technology, and saved by the thing that makes all feel the greatest parts of our humanity.  A nation that needs to rebuild or damns and walls and roads - without needing to damn ourselves with walls on the road to hate.  We are nation that has the right to secure our borders and ask for immigrants to bring with them their culture while asking them to accept the one we have built.  We are nation that can be mighty and fair.   We can ask for great trade deals and offer them in return without forgetting that our success and the success of nations who work with us are not two separate things.  We are nation that should help our hungry and lead to end world hunger. 

We have money to help veterans AND refugees.  We can screen people who apply to come to our nation for a visit, for residence, for a new life AND still welcome them to add to the fabric of this nation.

We have money to have a good military AND still have a lot of money to help our civilian population - isn't that what we protect and fight for?  We can fund social programs, healthcare benefits, arts AND expect that funding to be handled effectively and not squandered through bureaucracy. 

We have the ability to allow people to worship whatever deity they choose AND we do not have to pick one as better.  We do not have to pick a religion at all AND we can still work toward humanitarian goals of charity, kindness, caring, lawfulness.  

We can love and love and love and make that love legal AND we can choose who that is for ourselves because the OR to love is hate.  

We can teach all of our children in public schools AND demand those schools are funded and brought up to the standards all of our children deserve not just those in a certain zip code.  We can have private schools AND still improve our public ones. 

We can establish laws and jails AND make sure that is not to create a business for those who run the prisons instead of a place to truly protect us from those who mean to do all harm. 

We can have religious instruction in religious institutions AND we can laws made in courts and government offices.   Our laws mean you can practice your religion without fear AND we can practice our personal beliefs without imposing them on one another. 

We can have rules and laws that keep industries in line to protect our environment AND those companies can still make A LOT of profit.  OR they can choose to make it seem not so AND we can choose to not believe their greed. 

We can have people who hunt or want to own guns AND have common sense regulations that at least match those we ask of people to get a driving license.

We can rely on science and it's results AND we can say it is hard for us to understand scientists without saying we don't believe because of that. 

We can use birth control AND we can opt not to.  We can have an abortion AND we can choose not to.  We can adopt children AND we can choose place children up for adoption.

We can have equal rights for all AND embrace the differences in people.  

We have enough money for conflicts AND we should have enough for rebuilding in a Marshall plan way because without an after plan we will just have more conflicts.

We can streamline government and regulations that are redundant AND still have government and regulations. 

We can dislike a person AND not be prejudiced against the ethnicity, race, religion, sex, orientation they identify with. 

We can have voted for someone AND acknowledge what they do poorly just as easily as the things they do well without having to become oddly cultish about it the people we vote for.  

We can pee next to one another in different stalls in the same bathroom AND still enforce laws if anyone breaks them and tries to harm someone in those places. 

We can protest AND be patriotic. 

We can believe in each other and not hold our politicians accountable AND we do not have to like the same politicians to do so. 

We are a nation of ANDs - not ORs.  We want a better future for ourselves AND our children, we want fair play for ourselves AND others, we are fallible and flawed AND we balance each other and make those flaws into opportunities. 

If you are not on board with wanting all of these things AND more for each of us who are Americans by choice or by birth then really you have to decide if you are just not willing to imagine such greatness OR that you have embraced your prejudices instead of your possibilities. 

We really a small blue dot of a planet AND across it we all hope for these things regardless of where we live or what language we say it in.   The people who want to do us harm, who choose to make us feel divided, who foster hate can only win if we allow them to OR we could just stop listening to them AND start listening to each other. 



Monday, February 13, 2017

Loving you is easy cause you're beautiful

Love, love, love .. every year I find myself defending the St Valentine's Day holiday when all I want to do is expand it to a monthly event.  

Let's get the commercial aspect out of the way - cute, over priced for the most part, seems bit of a push if you haven't been all that great to think a card better written than any feelings you have will fix it, did I mention over priced?  Yet there are the occasional musings on a card that say just what you are thinking, there is something in getting a small token that makes the recipient smile and really save the cash on the flowers for much better quality ones throughout the year.   

Now that that's over - a random gift means a lot to me, price not even a thought, but one that says hey I walked by a place and you were with me in my thoughts.  

Aside from the cynics need to push back why are there so many people so annoyed with this holiday? Could the world really not use a more than one day to just stop and say you matter to someone?  A day where you send a note telling people those things you may have not, "well they know how I feel" so what if they do, think anyone tires of being told they are important?

If I had to get rid of a holiday I would say I would get rid of groundhog day - I mean seriously let the rodent alone and let's use something slightly more scientific than his shadow to worry about winter. 

What is wrong with a day dedicated to listening to the ridiculous songs that make you roll your eyes but you know every lyric to, to being grabbed for an impromptu spin while your partner croons in their best voice to you and off key or not it makes you smile, a hand held while you cross a street or just maybe something done for you that you normally do for yourself. 

You know what's wrong with all of this ? NOTHING.  The people who want to complain am sure can find something to complain about on any day.  There is nothing wrong with this and no every kiss does not begin with Kay's (actually let's face it, takes more than kissing usually to get the bling but am pretty sure that's not gonna fly as a commercial - often sex ends with Kay ??) but good kissing is as good as any gem.  

So on this day go out, write that bad Roses are Red poem, get a little naughty in the card, tell someone they mean something to you, say the love word to anyone you do and haven't told enough.  They may know how you feel but they may not always understand their importance to you. 

It is good to add a special holiday to a short month but maybe you add some special to every month... love should also start with you, love yourself first and expect only the best for you much like you give to everyone else. 

Happy ❤️  -- happy loving - happy kissing and most of all smile and put it out there, the world could sure use it seems.  

Monday, February 6, 2017

And then some days you are just not sure

Image result for parenting confusionIf you have read any of the blogs I have written in the past, if you have not you can from this link, I often use this space to process my own parenting skills.

There are days when I get the "you are the greatest mom ever" from my boys and then there are moments where I just know, sigh, that I have no real definitive clue on what I am doing but I do know I could have done it better.

You have to add in, if you are trying to be self-aware like I am, those things you carry from your own childhood, the projections you place on your child and admit there will be times when you do something exactly like your parents.  Both good things and yes some things you cringe and think f^&k why did I just do that when I hated it ?!

I am a person who struggles with weight.  I do not know when this struggle started because as a young child, could be living in a Communist bloc country and the lack of variety of food had a lot to do with it, I was not an overweight kid.  Actually I was an underweight kid for a long time because I suffered with tonsils until 3 and could eat very little.

I do not remember noticing my weight in first grade in Romania and it is not because we did not notice, as I also distinctly remember the mean jibes the three kids in my class got from other kids and worse from the teacher for being slightly more padded.  I do not recall them being severely overweight and the horror of these memories revolve around the teacher in particular that we had calling them out on it.  I am glad times have changed because that sucked for them and I am sure had some impact on the rest of us, knowing that it was not something you wanted to get attention for.

There are numerous pictures of me when I first arrived in the States and while I would have described myself a chubby if you asked, when I look at them I wonder why did I think that.  I am not a skinny kid but I am not overweight.

By high school it was something I hated and again I found my graduation picture and where is that heavy girl I swore I would see?  I did have friends who were teeny, tiny sizes but there were plenty of girls my size (and hey these size D boobs did nothing to help with the "skinny" look) or bigger who were not fat either.  Yet I know it was a big deal to be thin, to be a certain size - but I have also always liked good food and diet food has yet to seem appealing.

By college I lost weight on the I have money for cigarettes and going out diet, not much left for actual food  - not recommending.   You are thin but your health and your lungs are giving you the finger.

I have struggled with body image, with how much I weigh, lose, look like.  I have gotten to a better place with it in the last year, where I am looking to lose some weight but not obsessing about it.  I cannot tell you how often I have changed before I left the house because something showed more of fat area than I was comfortable with.  I cringe at the image of me without my clothes, I am glad I do not have to date new people and have that added burden to contend with (you know is he going to make a face when I take it off, mood lighting is code for I do not want you to see me).  The only way you know the number on my pants would be if I told you and who cares, better to be my size and fit than the smaller size and I look like they are a torturous device.  I am working on my own cringe.  

I who do not like classes, tolerate the gym in small doses and miss walking through the city because walking through the 'burbs is snoozville have found one activity I love - tennis.  Of note this city girl also finds empty streets and wooded areas much more frightening than anything the city has to offer.  Tennis I love, I found a coordination I would have sworn did not exist, I look forward to it - I actually make plans to play and miss it.  It could be the outfits, it could be the people I play with, it could be the fun times I associate with the times I get to play with a friend who coaches me.  It is awesome and yes it took being in my 40s to find it. 

Is it any wonder that I do not know how to approach my son who is gaining weight in a way that concerns me ?  Who has no affinity for the gym or exercise for the most part ?

I mean how do I do it without all the negative stigma I associate with the comments my own parents had for me.  My mother thought she was helpful, my father thought he could point out the shame and difficulty it would bring me.  I heard none of that - I heard you are fat.

So here we are, the long road to this blog topic, how do I parent a child who needs it in a way that it is at 80% well received?  I want him not to be the one laughing at his weight when others tease him because that is the way he can control the hurtful situation.  I want him to want to lose the excess weight because it is better for him.  I want to help him understand before his teens that changes that he makes do not mean deprivations.

He was not blessed with those metabolism genes, you know the ones that some people have where they eat and eat and oh yeah eat and I listen to them tell that story and gain weight.  

Some days I am the "greatest mom" but many others I am the I am trying my best mom.   I decided to approach it as a health and lifestyle choice.   I am hoping those who read this who know him understand that he would not want to hear "advice" on the subject unless he approached them for it.

I am going to work with him as I work with this for my own issues,  with getting into better shape.  He knows I started weight watchers and I love that he said he has no idea why I need it.  

The struggle with body image is real for boys and girls.  The struggle with parenting to make it better is real for all of us who want to do this parenting thing as well as possible.   I do not know if others have kids in this predicament but any ideas are welcome.  I have these amazingly confident kids who just seem to want to keep being great - I just want to give them the tools to do that.  I wish for my son not to have this be such a big part of his life, the way it was for mine, while never losing the fact that it is important to manage it well.  I guess I want him to manage his weight not have his weight manage him. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The pink coat

About 17 years ago I had a job at the Hospital for Special Surgery helping a new physician set up his practice.   He was a really nice guy and he understood that his expertise was in surgery and helping patients and the other "stuff", and there is lots of it, was mine.  

I had been there just setting up his insurance participation and starting a schedule for office visits when he came in and told me, on a Friday, that in a week a physician from Pakistan would be using the desk behind mine and he would be there during his time in the States.  

This is full confession time I was not thrilled, ok I was eye rolling.  Really it was a small space, the extra desk was perfect for all the insurance forms and xrays I needed to spread out and did I mention it was a small space?  I just pictured this middle aged guy, who would think I worked for him (which I was not asked to do), from a country not exactly known for it's women as equal stance sitting behind me.  My space on the desk was gone and so was my personal space.   I got over myself by the afternoon and cleaned up the area.  Maybe he would be cute, maybe I was wrong about him by the end of the day he was Omar Shariff to my Lara .. ok minus the part were Lara was a woman who slept with gross men to get things.   If you have no idea of the reference Google "Dr. Zhivago"... ahh now you get it.  

Monday I walked in and settled myself, it was cold as in New York cold.  That is the kind of cold that seeps through your jacket, that makes your face freeze as you run from subway to office.  We New Yorkers pretty much complain about the weather but the seriously cold and the seriously hot and humid bring out the New York angst that you picture from every bad movie about us that you have ever seen.  

There I was when a young man, glasses, smile plastered on walked in and I thought maybe he was a patient, it was the Pediatric surgical section which saw people in college even, but what struck me the most was his coat,   It was a pink woman's coat.   Now many places this may have raised an eyebrow but in New York hey one more gay guy in a pink coat gets no attention.   

He introduced himself - my Omar Shariff not so much maybe his grandson at best  - and with his smile I knew I liked this guy.   He is handsome don't get me wrong.  Though why he stood there in said pink coat was a bit baffling.  I asked him to hang it and I may have made him a little nervous since he could not master hanging it up on the hook.  Maybe a blonde woman, in a new culture was not exactly all he expected.  I was no Lara either. 

Everything I had thought was WRONG!!!  I had the pleasure of knowing him and then some of his friends.   He made me laugh and wanted to be a great office mate and even more than that he wanted to bring his intelligence and medical skills while getting what the US promised - opportunity.   I can think of many times when we laughed together, when he left me in the middle of sentence on a street while he followed a pretty girl never approaching her, when he and I chatted about what a Muslim was, where he shared his family's devotion to education ( PhDs for both parents - ehem not doctor doctors - yeah I gave him grief for that).   He and his friend Nabil taught me to appreciate their culture while being open to experiencing the many NY had to offer.   

No one who met Nabil and Saf could do anything but like them, my friends wanted to be their friends.   

I introduced them to the beach and was impressed that considering they had come from a culture that demands modesty in dress they never once said we should be like them.  I tried to teach Saf how to swim, I still am apologetic for almost drowning him.  We learned from each other because there is much to Pakistani culture to admire as well as I had to pepper them with Romanian drops.  After all we New Yorkers the tossed salad of the world, flavor in each individual ingredient but really best when tossed together. 

Saf and I have kept in touch all these years, via email, text, FaceBook and his multiple stops on his way to his current head of orthopedic surgery gig.  He is not in NY.  Along the way he found a great woman to marry and they have 4 amazingly cute boys.  

I am often tempted to send him a pink coat because it symbolizes not only his beginning here, or our meeting but rather who he is.   A young man who came a little ill prepared for the weather here whose landlady gave him a coat and he took it gratefully despite the fact that it was obviously a mismatch.  

I turn to Saf without any hesitation for medical advice in his field of expertise and I am humbled by how he will be there for anything I have ever needed.  He is my Pakistani brother and I would open a can of whoop ass on anyone who ever treated him with anything less than the respect he deserves. 

On 9/11 as the world fell apart for those of us in NY I worried for my friends' safety, for my city's future and I worried that maybe someone would look at Saf and Nabil and not see them but instead see a place to hurt someone who they connect with the terrorists.    I worried for them as New Yorkers who were experiencing the same pain.  I worried for them as doctors who express such compassion for human beings and to see this was devastating.  We all fell apart that day, some never came back and we mourn them, and others were the spirit and goodness that always are bigger than the hate in those planes. 

As immigrants we share a special gratitude for this new beginning we found in the US, where we worked hard to add to the country, where we had our children who we trust will do great things.   You cannot ban immigrants based on random, discriminatory criteria you should only ban those who want to spread their hate both native born and from other places.  A nation has to secure it's borders but it should never close it's heart.