Monday, August 31, 2015

14 Natural Remedies for Stress

It's no secret that there has been a lot of stress in my life with my dad being on/off sick, so it's almost as if the past few years have been a big lesson in stress management for me. When I was a little girl, I used to look at adults like, "WHY are they so stressed ALL the time?!" ....and now being an adult myself, I know why! 

There will always be some kind of external stress in your life - work, family, health, relationships, immigration, financial stress - one stress can easily be replaced by another, and it usually is. Sometimes it places people in a state of chronic stress and anxiety, if they don't know how to manage it and find ways to mute it. Not to mention, stress causes and can worsen so many illnesses - so it's essential to control it for your health.

In the past few years, I feel grateful for the stress because it has taught me a greater life lesson - how to manage it - which I'm sure will help me in upcoming years. All the the stress management techniques that I practice are natural remedies, and the best part is that you can choose what works for you, on any given day.

1. Be in nature
When I feel like I need a break from the busyness of life, I always turn to nature. There is nothing like going to the forest or the beach and feel how grand nature is. Being near centuries-old trees and a vast, deep ocean shows you how small your problems really are. Being in nature has a way of centering you and absorbing negative energy. Nature is so beautiful and calming.

2. Tea Time
There's something about sitting quietly and drinking hot tea or coffee that refreshes and re-energizes you. With a hot beverage, you have no choice but to sip it slowly, or else it will spill. Having a designated daily tea time during the day gives you a moment to catch your breath, and if need be - reset your day. I love drinking a cup of hot tea, first thing in the morning as I look out the window to my neighbourhood. I also do an additional tea time in the mid-afternoon, which gives me a chance to catch my breath and reset my batteries. (You can use caffeine-free tea too!)

3. Develop a hobby
Some of the most chronically stressed people that I know happen to have NO life of their own, outside of work and family obligations. They easily shuttle between one to another, without any time for any activities for themselves. Developing a hobby - that has nothing to do with work or family - simply something you can just enjoy, for you, is a great stress buster. It takes the pressure off of life. Hobbies can be a wide range of things - it can be creative, athletic, etc. And sometimes, you can enjoy your hobbies so much that you may end up changing careers down the road!

4. Kissing and hugging
I love to take a moment in the day just to cuddle with my daughter or husband-ji. It is nice to be near to a loved one and be physically close enough to listen to their heartbeat. It gives them attention and makes them feel supported. Sometimes there are no words to say, but a great hug solves all problems.

5. Watch children playing
Children are such pure spirits and life is so simple for them. If you have children in your family, you can take a time out and play with them. If you don't have children, you can always go to a local park and just watch them, or even volunteer. Being with children is mutually beneficial - to them and you. Turn off all devices, and just watch kids play for 30 minutes. You can even double up by grabbing a cup of coffee and heading to a local park! It is an instant refresher, and you won't think of anything else except how wondrous it is to be a child.

6. Help take care of pets/animals
Animals, much like children, have beautiful spirits. Many household pets require constant care and affection, like feeding, brushing, petting, and dog walking. To look into the eyes of an animal and take care of them is an instant way to feel good. If you don't have pets at home, you can offer to babysit a friend's pet, or go to a local animal shelter and visit or volunteer. The best part about being with animals is that you don't have to talk because it is more of a mental connection. A great stress relief is doing something like walking the dog - which combines exercise, being in nature, and animal therapy.

7. People-watch in a busy place
Even though I like to go to calm places, sometimes it is nice to go sit in a coffee shop, a bookstore, or even a bench right in the middle of the city. I love how in Europe, the cafes have patios where you can just watch everyone go by. Seeing the hustle and bustle of daily life actually brings you down to Earth. Everyone is busy in life, everyone has places to go and things to do, everyone has their own problems. It takes you outside yourself - it makes you notice things. You start to wonder about people, and where they're going. What do you observe? This method is also great if you're stuck in a creative rut.

8. Read something
It's no secret that I love to read. For me, it is not so much about knowledge, but concentrating on someone else's story quiets my mind. Reading a book takes you to another place and time, without even moving anywhere. I love seeing how characters develop and how stories twist and turn. Reading helps me relax, improves my focus, and puts me to sleep like a baby!

9. Bathe with Essential Oils
Having a bath/shower at the end of the day is a great bedtime ritual that helps you unwind and pamper yourself. Instead of using expensive bubble bath, sometimes I just use a few drops of essential oils, sea salt, baking soda, and/or epsom salts. You can even mix the essential oils, based on your mood. The steam from the bath also clears your sinuses, and relaxes tensed muscles. Having a salt bath makes me feel like I'm floating in the ocean.

10. Listening to music
I hate driving and dealing with traffic, so the only thing that saves my sanity in the car is listening to music and singing along. It somehow makes the car ride feel shorter. I also like to put on some kind of classical music on in the home (carnatic, sarod, binaural beats) if I have some down time. Listening to music is a great alternative to screen time and having the TV on.

11. Yoga/meditation/stretching
I make it a point to attend my weekly yoga class, which is basically like going to church for me. I also like to practice the stretches at home in the evening, to strengthen my spine and release tension in my muscles. Meditation is also a great practice that instantly recharges you. These methods really help one thing - your breathing - and oxygen is always a good thing!

12. Cut down on screen time
Yes, the internet is a great place which can help you feel so interconnected and in touch with like individuals. There are lots of articles you can explore with just a click, and it can inspire you too. But, it can also severely stress you out. A bad news article can offset your whole mood, and looking at rude internet comments can make you feel like you've lost all faith in humanity. Plus, screen time can really interfere with your sleep and it is essentially a huge time sucker. If you don't cut down on screen time, it can literally run your life.

13. Keep a private journal
I love keeping private journals or notepads that I can just jot down notes in randomly. If something is really bothering you, then you can just write it down and close the book. There's something about the pencil and paper that makes your writing more honest and personal.

14. Plan a special trip!
Everyone thinks traveling is stressful, but one of my favorite ways to de-stress is actually to plan a special trip. I love researching things to do in different cities, and crossing off things to do for my bucket list. Just the thought of an upcoming vacation brings me a sense of adventure and excitement!


Dear readers, what are your favorite ways to destress? 
How do you incorporate them into your life regularly?


Saturday, August 29, 2015

My Intercultural Love: Vikash & Desiree

This masala military family lives in the Pacific Northwest and have 4 beautiful children!

My name is Desiree. I’m American (of British, Belgian, and German ancestry). I am originally from Southern California. My husband is Vikash. He is Indian, born and raised in Fiji and has never been to India. We have 4 kids and have lived in the Seattle area our entire married life. I also write a blog called Desiree Dabbles.

Three words that describe you...
Creative, Kind, Nerdy!

Favorite childhood memory...
Going to the beach! I love the ocean. I have lived near the water my whole life, and can't imagine anything different.

Where/how do you feel most inspired?
Out in nature. I like to go hiking and camping and just be out in the wild.

Where/how did you meet your spouse?
We were in college together in Hawaii. One of my best friends was dating his friend, and we met hanging out with our friends one night.

How long have you been together?
We knew each other for a little over a year before we got married, and we've been married for 13 years in total.

What qualities do you admire in your spouse?
He is a people person and loves to make friends. He is loyal and loving, even when the military sends him thousands of miles away.

Favorite memory together as a couple...
When we bought our first house. We drove up and just knew it was right. We signed papers the next day!

What did you know about your spouse's culture prior to your relationship?
I knew very little. I had never even had curry before!

How did you tell your friends/family about your intercultural relationship?
I just told them. I was 18 and it hadn't occurred to me that people might have a problem with it. At the college we went to there were lots of intercultural relationships, so it seemed pretty normal. My husband told his parents outright, once we were serious about each other. By the time I met his family in person we'd already been married 2.5 years and had our first child.

How has your relationship enlightened your life? How has it changed you & your outlook on life?
It has been educational to learn how different my husband’s upbringing was from my own. I think I have changed for the better for trying to mesh our cultures and values into one family. I feel like I have grown more open-minded as we go through life and I see things from his point of view as well as my own.

Who proposed and how?
We talked about getting married after knowing each other for 4 months, before we went on our first formal date. He bought a ring about 6 weeks before proposing, and I knew he had it (I was with him when he picked it up but he wouldn't let me see it!). He finally proposed to me on my 19th birthday, at the beach in Hawaii, at sunrise.

Describe your wedding...
We had a small ceremony with just my family and a few old friends in our friends backyard. His family couldn't afford to come. It was a typical basic western-style Christian wedding (we were both raised Christian). I wore a white dress, and he wore a dark green suit (the only one he owned at the time). I had a bouquet of daisies (my favorite flower). My mom made a small cake vanilla/chocolate swirl cake for us to cut, and we had cupcakes for everyone else.

What does being married mean to you?
We got married young, so being married has meant growing up together. It means I have someone who is always willing to take a road trip with me (and be the driver!), and make ridiculous pit stops so I can take photos. It means supporting someone else’s dreams, and knowing yours are also supported.

What are your dreams for your future together as a married couple?
We hope to keep traveling and seeing the world with our kids. We both want to go out and see things and experience different places and cultures.

What's the best marital advice that you received from elder family/friends?
Imagine what it’s like to be married to you, and adjust accordingly”.

What positive cultural values do you bring to your relationship?
Family comes first. In my family and our religion, I have always been taught about the importance of family. I also think a positive value I bring is being charitable. I love to serve and help people, and to give people the benefit of the doubt as well.

What do you do to keep your relationship alive? What kinds of things do you do to connect with your spouse?
We squeeze in a date night every so often when my parents can babysit. We take time to talk to each other, especially when apart (thank goodness for skype and facebook!).

In what ways have you adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?
I have learned to cook and eat the Indian foods that my husband likes. I have learned to tie a sari, and we sometimes celebrate Indian holidays. We make a point of teaching our kids about Indian history and some Hindi words/phrases. Indians in Fiji tend to be more relaxed than those from India, so my husband isn't even always that into the ‘culture’.

Has your family adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?
Not really, but they have eaten Indian foods and sweets, which we never did growing up.

What aspects of your spouse's culture do you find difficult to embrace?
My husband doesn't ask for things - he demands them and expects to be obeyed. It’s like he has never learned the words please and thank you! I find it difficult with the kids, especially because I am trying to teach them to always be polite but dad doesn't say it.

What was the most challenging time in your intercultural relationship?
When his parents came and stayed with us for a month. Partly it was tough because his parents are divorced and they came at the same time (awkward!). But mostly it was hard to deal with their expectations and my reality. My husband had figured out how to adapt to American life, and couldn't understand why his parents and I had a hard time dealing with each other.

What's the best and the worst part of being in an intercultural relationship?
The best part is getting an up close and personal view of a different culture than your own, and getting to share two cultures with our kids. The worst part is when our different cultural ideas clash (like saying please and thank you to a child).

What do you think are the biggest misconceptions that people have about intercultural relationships?
People think that being in an intercultural relationship is more difficult than other relationships. But, I don't think everyone realizes that every family has a culture, and when you get married each culture will clash and you have to work through it. Just because my marriage is more outwardly intercultural doesn't make it more difficult than any other. I have actually found our relationship to be fairly easy compared to many!

What are the biggest misconceptions about American women?
I think one of the biggest misconceptions about American women is that we are promiscuous or have no family values. I fully disagree with this idea. I have also heard that American women can't cook or don't like to cook. I love to cook, and think I do a pretty good job of it!

Have you come across people who disapprove of your intercultural union? If so, how do you deal with them?
I haven't noticed too many people disapproving of us. But every so often we see some older Indian ladies staring at us (sometimes disapprovingly). We get a chuckle out of it when they look surprised that we are together or when they see our kids. We've been pretty lucky I guess!

Take-away advice for other intercultural couples...
Relationships are hard, but they are worth it. If both partners work on it, learn to compromise and be humble, and genuinely want to make the other happy you can work through just about any cultural difference and make a happy life together!


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Our second honeymoon

It has been many years since we went on our honeymoon vacation post-wedding (we went to Ajanta-Ellora, New Delhi & Agra) but we haven't had a chance to take a second honeymoon together after experiencing the second biggest milestone in our lives - becoming parents!

A lot of couples put their marriage aside when they have kids, which is something I never wanted to happen to us. First and foremost, we are a couple, and there would be no children without our love. Plus, we owe it to them and to our lifelong commitment to each other to keep it strong. That is why I have always made a conscious decision to venture out on date nights, find a babysitter, and ask my parents to watch our daughter for overnight stays. Now that my parents have offered to watch Maya overnight regularly, I asked them a big favor if they could possibly watch her for 2 nights so that we could go on a special weekend trip. They agreed! So, I planned a special, super-romantic weekend nearby - a second honeymoon of sorts....

We ventured up the British Columbia coast to a beautiful hotel called Rockwater Secret Cove Resort, which is located on the Sunshine Coast. From Vancouver, you have to take the ferry for 40 minutes through all the little coastal islands (gorgeous) and then you have to drive up the coast for about an hour. 

The thing I really loved about staying here was that it reminded me that so much of my own country is uninhabited. Sometimes I forget that, because we live in such a busy city. We saw blue herons, seals, eagles, salmon, and got a taste of the natural wildlife that seems so much more permanent and outlasting than us city folk in our concrete jungles!

Our accommodation was very unique, as we stayed in the resort's luxury "tent house suites", which is like "glam-ping" (glamorous camping). The tent house suites are much more isolated from the main resort, and to get to them, you have to take a 10 minute wooden board walk through the trees. The tent houses are spread out, each giving each other privacy. Many are located right on the side of the cliffs so that each have an unobstructed view of the ocean.

The ocean was so fresh that you could see the rocks below from our tent house. I got a chance to swim in it amongst the fish, and it was one of the freshest, crispest waters I have ever experienced. 

We also went out on a fabulous sunset kayaking trip up the coast for a few hours, which was the closest husband-ji had ever come to a body of water. Husband-ji is very afraid of water and has never swam, so it was an absolute miracle to get him in a kayak! He did amazing and as soon as he saw the landscape from the water, he wasn't scared any more - and I think he understood why we swim. I think it was a big milestone in getting over his fear of water.

Besides the kayaking & swimming, our tent house was so nice that we hardly left the room the entire time! The resort offered room service, so we just ordered all our meals to the room and ate it on our gorgeous private patio. The sunsets were simply amazing. I think we must have sat together on our patio for hours on end. There was no TV or internet, so it was great to completely unplug.

There was also this notebook in the room, filled with journal entries from other couples who had stayed there - the first entry was 2010. It was mesmerizing reading all these other people's handwriting and words - it was so personal. It made me think of their love, and our love following in their footsteps.

The trip gave us a chance to reconnect with each other, experience nature, and it also really made me appreciate what we have together.

When the weekend was over, we arrived back to Vancouver totally relaxed, refreshed and rejuvenated! I hope I can make this an annual honeymoon! Wouldn't that be grand!

(My dresses are from Anthropologie)


Saturday, August 22, 2015

My Intercultural Love: Nicole & Vijay

(Img via Liz West)

This couple lives in the American midwest and have been together for 5 years and are planning to move to Europe in the near future!

My name is Nicole. I was born in Georgia and have lived all over the US. Right now we are living in Kansas, and planning a move to the east coast soon. In the next few years, we are getting ready to emigrate out of the U.S. completely to Europe. I am a second generation American - my mother's side is from Germany coming here after the war. Genetically, I am a varied mix of mostly European nationalities, but I grew up with a strong German culture. 
My husband is from a Hindu family in Varanasi. We have been married for almost 5 years and we have a 3 year old daughter.

Three words that describe you...
Introvert, redhead, sentimental.

Favorite childhood memory...
My dad brushing my hair, getting me ready for school.

Where/how do you feel most inspired?
Being alone in nature.

Where/how did you meet your spouse?
We were neighbors during our last year in college.We had been living in 2 big old houses that the owners separated into small apartments. When the owners of the house decided to demolish the house he was living in, he moved in to the house I was in. He lived in the room next to mine. In fact, if I looked under my bed I could see into his room from the vent! The funny this is that he almost moved into the house behind to live with his friends, but he felt lazy. He moved into my building because it was about 10 steps closer. He likes to reference this fact to support his claim that laziness does indeed pay off!

How long have you been together?
While we had seen each other in passing and on friendly, neighborly terms since the summer of 2010, it didn't take a romantic turn until November of 2010. We got married New Years Day of 2011. Yes, it was quite a short courtship!

What qualities do you admire in your spouse?
He treats everyone with the utmost respect and kindness. He is very laid back and open-minded. He is a critical thinker, but he doesn't believe that his thoughts and opinions reign supreme. He is thoughtful, generous, caring, and devoted. As a husband and father he goes above and beyond on a daily basis. I could not have dreamed up a better man.

Favorite memory together as a couple...
When I told him I was pregnant. He is usually so composed and careful with his emotions, it was a real treat to see him let loose with such exuberant joy.

What did you know about your spouse's culture prior to your relationship?
I love culture in general, having wanted a career in archaeology and anthropology. I had always loved learning about India since I was a small child. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was my favorite movie growing up. In 3rd grade, we spent half a year studying about India and I was completely enraptured by it. When I was about 11, I became a Buddhist. In high school, I liked foreign music and film as well as learning to cook different cuisines. I was sure glad to have been regularly cooking Indian food for 10 years by the time I met my husband! I remember sneaking out of bed in the middle of a school night to watch Dil Chahta Hai on the foreign film channel, and borrowing CDs from a Bangladeshi friend. I'd picked Indian topics as the basis for several school projects and shopped frequently at the Indian market in town. In the 90's I lived on the West coast, when yoga became a big thing. So I read into that and Ayurveda. Even in pop culture, India became kind of hip at that time - loving No Doubt, Gwen Stefani brought on bindi, henna, and nose rings. For years I rocked bangles on both arms. I'd even attempted to learn Hindi on my own in high school (failed miserably!). I'd always said that if I could only visit 1 other country in my lifetime that I'd want it to be India. 

How did you tell your friends/family about your intercultural relationship? 
Our relationship was such a whirlwind that we were already engaged before I even had a chance to mention to anyone that I was dating someone. In my family, no one bats an eye at "intercultural relationships" - most people have one themselves. They would be more surprised to see me bring home a white American named Brad. I had dated guys from lots of different places and as I mentioned, my closest family is from another country, so xenophobia is not something I had to deal with from either of our families, thankfully.

Since we had decided on getting married at such an early date, and given the timing, we thought it best to just take a road trip during winter break at school to visit our relatives, introduce each other, and let them know of our plans. We just made a big loop, stopping to see everyone and getting married along the way. It was wonderful. My family was only shocked at how soon we were getting married. 

His family was totally shocked. He was in his 30's and sort of ......ahem......past his prime, marriage-wise! He had previously said that he did not want them looking for a wife for him. So it was sort of a given that marriage, for him, was unlikely to happen. The good thing about this is that after the initial shock wore off, they were so thrilled he was getting married that they didn't seem to care too much who he was even marrying.

How has your relationship enlightened your life? How has it changed you & your outlook on life?
I had planned on being the eternal bachelorette my whole life, and was quite looking forward to it! My husband knew he wanted to get married and have a family but knew he couldn't get married to just anyone. He said he knew the odds of finding a woman he would want to live with were quite small, not to mention he put about zero effort into looking (have I mentioned the "laziness pays" philosophy he ascribes to?), so he had resigned himself to being forever single as well. So really, being married in general has been such a weird thing to wrap my brain around. This was definitely not the life I had imagined living. To be honest, reminding myself that I am someone's wife and mother still makes me laugh! They are not roles I ever grew up envisioning myself in. As a staunch introvert in particular, having a kid and a husband that works from home has just been a really monumental thing to adjust to. Seriously, I am never alone!

I do know that having a child has changed my outlook on life - I used to be afraid of nothing and now I am afraid of pretty much everything. Even with a relationship, there are a lot of things I worry and watch out for that would just not be an issue if I had realized that bachelorette dream. But really it's just sort of a trade off. There are things a single person has to worry about too, that I now find I don't really have to fret about. Finally I will say that being married and having kids has - for better or worse - really diminished the nihilist mindset I was prone to beforehand. Lame in its cliche, but true!

(Img via Sonja Lovas)

Who proposed and how?
He proposed. Since our whole dating life was weirdly short, I will have to just start at the beginning....

So as I mentioned, we were neighbors. We'd talked - normal pleasantries, introductions, "Hey you want to go in halfsies on WiFi?", that kind of thing. He used to smoke, and would go sit on the front porch to do so as smoking was not allowed in the building. I remember one day I had come home and he was sitting on the porch talking to another girl, and I felt myself getting irrationally pissed about it. It was kind of funny too, because he stopped talking to her in mid sentence and turned to watch me, and he seemed embarrassed to be caught talking to her. He was staring hard at me, I was staring hard at the door ahead of me, and this girl's head is going back and forth looking at both of us wondering what is going on. I see him trying to find something to say to me. He manages to finally blurt out a nervous, "Hi!" after I'd walked past and was going through the door. When I am safely out of view and heading up the staircase, I thought to myself, "What the hell was that all about?" My cheeks were burning and I was so astounded at this weird reaction we had. I couldn't really rationalize it other than realizing that I was more interested in him than I thought. A week later. I am about to open up a bottle of wine in my room and debating which is worse-- would it be sad/alarming to drink a whole bottle of wine alone in your room in the middle of the week? However, drinking half just seems wasteful and trying to save some for later is just not ideal (oh, single people problems!). While I am trying to put on an internal show of temperance, I hear his door open and him go downstairs for a smoke. I started thinking about my weird reaction to him the other day. I wanted to get to the bottom of that. Not to mention, it'd sure solve this pesky problem of what to do with the other half of this bottle of wine! I worked up the courage to go downstairs with my bottle, 2 glasses, and ask him if he drinks. He was pleasantly surprised and said yes. I pour us some wine and we spend the whole night on the porch talking. We didn't want the evening to come to an end. Eventually, we had to go in because it turned too cold outside. We make plans the next day to get together and I offered to cook him dinner. 

The next day, while I am shopping for things for our dinner, he is (unbeknownst to me) letting all of his friends know that he is going to ask me to marry him! We started dinner by talking and having a few drinks. Apparently he was nervous to ask me to marry him so he had a few drinks beforehand out of nervousness. He was feeling queasy, and excused himself. I had no idea what was going on.

Hours later, I am staring at my cold dinner on the stove, still waiting for his return but eventually hear him snoring through the wall. I marvel at what an awesome date I must be to actually put the other person to sleep! At some point in the night he texts me, apologizing that he fell asleep. "No big deal, we can hang out another time", I said. 

We text the next couple of days and he comes over again. After about 15 minutes of chatting he says, "I think we should get married." Maybe some of you have had that experience where you're talking to someone and you suddenly realize they are out of their mind?! (Louis CK knows what I'm talking about!) And that is exactly what I thought, "Ah. Looks like I'm on a date with a crazy person. And oh, look, we're alone in my room!!!" He then pitched the deal - laid out exactly how and why we were the perfect match, and to be honest, he did a very good job. 

I was still not going for it, but my perception changed from thinking he was crazy to thinking that he was just sweet, naive, and inexperienced. He also explained that he is not from a dating culture and that dating for years is completely unnecessary, which I didn't disagree with. We kept hanging out, and it soon became clear that he really did knew what he was talking about. We had so much in common and similar mindsets.

Two weeks later, it was my birthday. As always, we spent the evening on the porch together. He took me out to dinner that night and then explained why we should get married because we were so great together. It was beautiful and insightful. I excused myself to the restroom, because I was starting to tear up. Inside, I was alone and began pacing around. This time I knew I really needed to consider this proposal. This was genuine. In those 2 weeks we had been together, I had seen his ability to size up a person in mere minutes. He has a real gift of observation and it made a big impression on me, the tiny details and nuances that never seemed to escape him. I knew what he was saying was true and that he really had thought this out. I don't know how long I was in there. I gave myself one last look in the mirror, took a deep breath, and went back to the table, confident in my choice. Deciding to put my faith in his judgement, and mine, I sat down and said "Yes". It has absolutely been the best decision I ever made.

(Img via Doug Kerr)

Describe your wedding...
Oh goodness. It would not be hardly anyone's cup of tea, but to me, it was so perfect. I know most people view a marriage as a social affair, but to me it always felt like such a personal, private, and intimate thing. I would have been embarrassed to get married in front of other people. And luckily it all happened so fast, it was a good excuse not to have to have a huge ordeal. We road tripped to meet family and tell them the news, and on the road trip we got married at a drive thru chapel. We had left that morning from his sister's house. We'd had a nice stay there and she took me out to get mehendi done on my hands. It was New Year's day, and we were driving West through the Smoky mountains. There was snow out and the water that normally pours out of the mountainsides was frozen. Nothing hard to drive through, but it was a beautiful scenic drive through a veritable wintry wonderland. We had a fun drive - we were so giddy with excitement. By the time we reached the chapel, a heavy rainstorm came upon us. The officiant told us that due to the weather, he couldn't do the drive thru ceremony, so we'd have to use the chapel. 

When I am nervous - I cannot control my laughter - and I was so nervous about this! My brain just kept saying, "Am I really doing this? I can't believe I'm doing this!" It took every iota of strength inside of me to keep from bursting out in laughter at the surrealness of it all. I knew I looked like an absolute loon, standing there chewing my face from the inside, trying to keep my mouth shut. I felt so much adrenaline, that I kept vacillating between passing out and sprinting out of the building. Picturing myself suddenly leaping through the chapel window and running across the country, running so long I was sporting a Forrest Gump beard, mustache, and trucker hat while Jackson Browne's "Running on Empty" played in my mind did nothing to quell my giggles. And that's all I have to say about that!

(Img via)

What does being married mean to you?
Despite my unabating inner fits of laughter during our marriage ceremony (I luckily did manage to not laugh out loud), my husband and I take our marriage very seriously. Although maybe it is better to say we take our marriage vows very seriously, but that our marriage actually feels quite relaxed and effortless. "Partners" and "team effort" are not exactly a very romantic way to view it, but I think it's an accurate depiction. I was a real commitment-phobe, but our relationship has always felt so comfy, never once restrictive. We both feel we could never have been married to anyone else. I think in the West, we believe that the basis of a marriage ought to be love. In India, the basis of a marriage is respect. I feel first and foremost that my husband has utmost respect for me. Love too - of course - but on some days when loving each other is hard, it doesn't matter much because the respect, care, and devotion are constant.

I left home when I was 17. While I have family (as in they are living) for all intents and purposes, my family has never helped me. If I have any problems, I have always been on my own - no matter the situation. Getting married has been a real relief, knowing that we have each others' backs, look out for one another, and actively help each other to reach our goals. 

What are your dreams for your future together as a married couple?
We have a lot of dreams and goals-- business dreams (starting our own businesses), personal dreams (traveling to every country together), dreams for our children (emigrating from the U.S.). For ourselves though, we really just hope we can stay in good health and get to enjoy a long, serene, life together. Yep, we are pretty boring people! We like to talk about what we'll do for our 50th anniversary party!

What's the best marital advice that you received from elder family/friends?
I don't think I received any advice. Maybe people knew I was unlikely to follow it!

What positive cultural values do you bring to your relationship?
My German side brings a sense of punctuality that is my husband completely lacks any sense of urgency! I am a perfectionist and I strive for the utmost efficiency in things. When this is applied to running the household, it impresses that Indian admiration of frugality. We both value education above most everything and my husband loves my logical nature. 

In what ways have you adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?
To be honest, my husband is not a "stereotypical" Indian nor am I a "stereotypical" American. We are both unconventional for either of our respective countries and we have never felt a strong attachment to any group. 

What aspects of your spouse's culture do you find difficult to embrace?
My husband's family is very progressive and liberal. However, I do find the presence of so many taboos to be quite annoying. I hate having to monitor my speech so much, or worry about accidentally holding my husband's hand in front of family, or calling him some term of endearment. I would love to have a drink with my mother in law, or take her swimming in a private pool, but that is not going to happen. I really hate having to pretend I never dated anyone before, or pretending like random dumb things never happened, like being forbidden from mentioning that my husband smoked (even though his father smokes) and his whole family KNOWS that he himself smoked. It is so bizarre, nonsensical, and melodramatic to me!!! I agree that not everything needs to be talked about, but being so serious about covering up benign truths is just frustrating and phony to me. I wish we could talk about how life actually is instead of trying to always paint a rosy, delusional, picture.

Name some cultural faux-pas that you have unknowingly committed...
Ok, I of course know about the beef thing (who doesn't know about the beef thing?) and I don't even remember this but apparently when we were at his sister's place, my husband and I had some pizza somewhere that we didn't finish and brought home to have later. I guess it had pepperoni and they got very upset that we brought it in the house. My husband only told me this like 3 years later, so I don't remember it all. But it seems like I was the only one in that house who didn't know that pepperoni had beef in it (my father doesn't eat pork and also avoids pepperoni, so I thought it was pork-- never considered it has both). Now if my husband knew, why the heck did he not say anything beforehand but instead just went ahead and took it in there?! Sheesh!!! Oh and the real kicker? The next time we visit, she has a whole bag of pepperoni in her fridge, she said that the kids love it, and she fed it to them in front of her parents even (who I'm sure had no idea what it was...)

What was the most challenging time in your intercultural relationship?
I often feel like my husband looks down upon a lot of things which he ascribes to as "my" culture. I feel like a lot of things he just misunderstands or won't accept my explanation of why people do X behavior. I feel like he often approaches it with a presumption that "my" group operates solely out of maliciousness or mean-spiritedness. I think a lot of people can fall into this wrong way of thinking when they approach another group, especially when they have very opposing ways of handling things. 

What's the best and the worst part of being in an intercultural relationship?
I like that people in an intercultural relationship are generally forced to examine their own beliefs and actions, and why they think, feel, and react the way they do. I like that you can learn new, possibly better, ways of doing things. You're opened up to so many experiences.

The worst part? It is relatively infrequent - the nasty, backhanded, and presumptuous comments are disgusting when you go out.

What do you think are the biggest misconceptions that people have about intercultural relationships?
That most annoying one is having people say things like, "What? You couldn't find a _____ person to marry?" With the blank being the listener's "group", or the suggestion that no one in your group wanted you so you had to go solicit a spouse from another culture. 

Another one is that each member of the couple is with the other for ulterior motives (using to immigrate, using as a "status symbol", has some kind of fetish, hates their own group, wants to "conquer" another group, only with them for their money, wants their children to have certain traits, etc). 

What are the biggest misconceptions about Indian men?
I keep having people assume that my husband must be some kind of macho chauvinist who thinks women should be submissive to men. Even by people who know that I am a feminist and have never tolerated that kind of attitude by any person, be it a partner or total stranger. My husband is the most feminist guy I know. And light-years ahead of the people who actually make these comments!
I also hate people thinking the only reason my husband wanted to be with me was either my skin color or to get into the country (which he was already in and neither of us have any interest in staying in). I also get the feeling that people think that Indian men are some kind of sex maniacs. Luckily no one has dared to ask me about this.

Have you come across people who disapprove of your intercultural union? If so, how do you deal with them?
I prefer to rip someone a new one...while my husband prefers to just ignore them! 

Take-away advice for other intercultural couples...
I don't really like to give generalized advice - every couple is different. (Plus it makes me feel like a fortune cookie!)


Thursday, August 20, 2015

30 Things that only a Firangi Bahu would understand

A little bit of humor for today...

1. Going to a desi wedding and getting stared at more than the bride...

2. Visiting India's national monuments and having random strangers want to take photos with you like you're an actual celebrity...

3. Forgetting which hand is left...and then proceeding to accidentally eat with your left hand in front of relatives...

4. The exact meditative precision it takes to put on the bindi/sindoor placement....

5. And how annoying it is when Westerners think you've cut your head open...

6. Feeling left out in family gatherings when everyone is talking in their native language...

7. Until you overhear your name being mentioned...

8. When somebody asks you, "Do you like India?"...

9. The grocery store clerk asking if you're "together"...

10. Or that disapproving look random aunties give you when they realized you married a desi...

11. Automatically expected to know everything about Indian cooking/family dynamics...

12. Or when your Indian family *attempts* to explain things to you in the most confusing way ever...

13. You still startle at the sound of that pesky pressure cooker...

14. When the spice jars have no labels on them (and you can't tell the difference between chilli powder and rasam powder)...

15. When your husband asks you whether you want RICE OR ROTI for dinner...(when you're really craving non-Indian food)...

16. When your inlaws camp out for a 3 month stay, or longer...

17. And then random buckets end up near your toilets...

18. You're the resident Indian culture expert and designated saree draper to all your non-Indian friends...

19...Even though that saree you wore for Diwali took 90 minutes to drape properly...

20...And BTW where the heck did I put my dupatta???

21. When Westerners assume you married a Punjabi (because those are the only Indians that they know of)...

22. Cringing when you hear people attempt to pronounce your marital surname...

23. People assume he married you for a "green card"...

24. Until they find out that you're not even American...

25. Your Indian family always worries that you might not fully adapt to Indian culture...

26. Meanwhile you are way more "Indian" than a lot of desi's...

27. Especially that moment when you realize you're doing the infamous "head wobble"...

28. When you see another Firangi Bahu carrying Indian attire so well...

29. And that special moment when you see other masala couples like you...

30. And if you see MORE than two masala couples per day you're like...


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