A Cinderella Mother’s Day, Thanks to Amazon – Part One

MD3A text message streams across my phone like a messenger pigeon landing on my window sill, a prelude to an invitation.

“Sending you an email now with an exciting opportunity. Check it out and let me know.”

I know the sender. He is unlike the weatherman, because he always brings news of blue skies.

The subject of the email is, “Field Trip to NYC,” but I live in New York (Long Island, technically,) so my first reaction is confusion.

The email opens with, “You have been invited…” and it may as well have continued, “To The Royal Ball,” because who doesn’t like to be invited?

Amazon is celebrating 20 years as an IPO, and this Monday, the day after Mother’s Day, the CFO is ringing the Opening Bell on Nasdaq. About 40 people who work with Amazon will join in the festivities. My name made the list.

But it gets better.MD4 (1)

The next email arrives about a week ago, asking if I’m able to arrive timely on Monday morning. I reply with, “What time do I need to be there? There’s a LIRR train not too far from me I can catch. Once I know the time everything starts up, I can decide if there’s an early enough train.”

The response is a cc to a lovely lady named Nikki, telling her that, “Raj is a fantastic author who our team has worked with in the past… She needs a hotel room for Sunday night, please.” Hotel room? In the city? I mean, I won’t say no.

So Nikki graciously makes me a reservation at the Knickerbocker in Times Square.

But wait. Wait. It gets better.MD2

“Do you need ground transport to and from the hotel?”

I’m easy. I’ve been a New Yorker for close to two decades and very comfortable with the LIRR, the Subway, cabbing it. I might not have every inside scoop that true New Yorkers have but I can manage. I say so.

But the response is, “We’ll get you car service for both directions. No problem.” Uh. Okay. That’s thoughtful.

But wait. Wait. Wait. It just keeps getting better.

I run into my first scheduling conflict when I realize that this Sunday is Mother’s Day. I can’t just up and leave my kids on Mother’s Day of all days. I email Nikki and tell her a few different ideas I have, making sure that my goal for Sunday is to maximize my day with my family, feeling guilty for even asking if my kids come to the city with me. I was already so grateful for all the accommodations. Worse case scenario, hubby could drive the family in or I would head the city later on Sunday night. The response is, “Well, it doesn’t hurt to ask.”

Come Monday morning, the plan develops further, with requests for what time to pick up the whole family in a car. What time to drop off the family on Sunday night? And did we want car service to a restaurant in the city as well?

Too much! Too much! But so, so thankful. Overwhelmed with gratitude, because all the gifts—the invitation, the hotel, the car service, including my family—all good things. But the real treat is having my four girls with me to experience this special time with them. For them to know that a woman can be more than just a wife, a mom, a daughter, a sister, and a friend. A woman can move mountains with her dreams, and the topography is shifting, little by little. “Like a Girl” is the new Strong, and Brave, and Talented!

I also love that I get to celebrate this time with my biggest cheerleader—my husband. Sun has been telling every neighbor, co-worker, and person at the grocery store, “Hey, you know what? My wife! She’s gonna ring the bell on Wall Street.” Okay. Not quite. But he makes me laugh. And his confidence fills the gap when I doubt myself and worry if I have what it takes to make it as an author. He along with a constant supply of God’s grace, that is.

MD1So this Mother’s Day, we’re headed to the city. We’re going to pick up some take-out, play cards, and jump on the hotel bed. Well, my nine-year old might test it out for potential sleep satisfaction, of course. And if the rain holds up, we’ll venture out to the rooftop and take a peek at the city all lit up at night. The city that never sleeps never ceases to delight, even after all these years. And maybe we’ll sing the words while dancing to Alicia Keys,

“There’s nothing you can’t do. Now you’re in New York. These streets will make you feel brand new. Big Lights will inspire you. Hear it from New York. New York. New York!”

If I could ring a bell for all the women who have encouraged me along the way, I’d ring it nice and loud for my mother, my second mom, my sister, my grandmothers, and all the female friends who have walked this road of life with me. I love you all. Hope your weekends are filled with grace (and chocolate!) as you make memories with your loved ones.

 

Happy Mother’s Day, All! <3

Latest Reviews, Guest Posts, and Waterfalls

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So I’ve been blogging here and there and feels like everywhere some days, but I didn’t want you to think I quit writing or anything. Here are a few places you can find me, reviews on my books and the occasional interview that was posted in the last couple of months. Thanks, always, for reading and telling your friends about my crazy Masala-marinated YA world.

On USA TODAY, Serena Chase reviewed Swimming Through Clouds, calling it “Must Read YA,” saying, “It is no wonder this novel has received so many award nominations and has garnered praise from critics, bestselling authors, and readers, alike. It is a work of art.” Serena is a YA Author herself so her opinion is valued and valuable!

At Brown Girl Magazine, I did a little ditty on my writerly life and the crazy Cinderella life I lead.

On MasalaMommas, I wrote about a special moment when my seven year old blew me away with her celebration of the family. Through a fashion show. :)

And Masalamommas shared the recent blog with HUFF-POST Canada Living on Top Ten Ways to be a Contagious Parent. Thanks to my seven year old who keeps giving me material!

At The Write Conversation, I guest-posted a Ten Step, Crash Course on how to navigate Instagram, hoping to trend #MaryPoppinsLeap by the end of the week, so pop on over and post yours!

My young blogger friend, Saloni of My Fantabulous Bookshelf, who I met at YAFest, recently posted an author interview and fun VLOG-review of her May Reads which included a sweet shout-out to Talia, Jesse, and Lagan!

Oh, another little Instagram post for authors and readers over at Kim Vandel’s blog.

This Girl Reads A Lot (aka Jazmen) wrote up a pretty dizzying review on Swimming Through Clouds and added a fun little Instagram love too.

AND there are more, but I thought this would suffice for now.

What else? I’ve been enjoying a book club chat here and there and I love having the face to face about my books with readers. The conversation invariably starts with the daring first question, “How did you come up with such a cu-razy story?”

To which I answer, “Yeah. I’m still taking meds to recover from chapter two of Swimming Through Clouds. Kidding. But ya know, sometimes I wonder if I should get my head checked out.”

AND… kinda fun, okay BLOW-MY-MIND-AWAY fun to have two interactions this week with people of influence. For someone who feels like I’ve been one or two degrees of separation from someone famous for the last couple of years, it’s nice to make real contact with real people. The first came from a surprise email from a gentleman who works for Amazon. Sure, no big deal, right. Except that he was searching for a success story of a self-pub’d author and the reviews on Swimming Through Clouds made him stop and skim. Then he kept reading. And reading. And finished the book! Next he emailed me to chat and at first, I wasn’t sure if he was legit or just a salesman trying to get me to buy some expensive marketing product. To my surprise, he was legit. And we’ll see what comes of that.

The second was a shot in the air. Like a fishergirl, I throw out my line here and there and everywhere and wonder if anyone will bite. Yep. I’m the girl that mailed First Lady Michelle Obama my book. Ya never know, right? And she actually sent me a post card to say, “Thank you for the gift.” I hope she reads it. But the fun news of today was a tweet from the Executive Assistant to the Editor-in-Chief (say that five times fast) of Seventeen Magazine, requesting a copy of my book. Yes, I asked. A week or so ago. But when I didn’t hear back, I assumed my request got swallowed in the Bermuda Triangle of tweets. So I popped it into the mail and, once again, we’ll see what will come of that.

Little by Little. That’s how it seems to work. Like so much of life, and I’m okay with that. More than okay.

Happy Swimming, all. And Seeing too.

Best,
Raj

First Day of School Must Knows

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The sound of Family Force5 on my iPhone jars me out of a really good dream. Darn that alarm just when I’m getting to the part where I fly across an ocean with wings made of see-through glass. So what if Wonder Woman was my favorite super hero growing up. I see no connection.

My now two middle-schoolers are already changed, and my oldest is crossing things off a list—her new go-to way of being organized. One day down, only 300ish to go. Time to make the pancakes.  Continue reading

Mommy, What’s Twerk Mean?

AMC_8259Read the tweets and Facebook statuses of millions for the last two days if you’re confused by the Blog Title. And to be honest, I have no intention of rehashing the general schools of thought circulating, but I will tell you that they tend to side with shock and embarrassment; wow, you go girl; or same old, same bold.

I find it interesting that Miley Cyrus’ twerking got labeled tasteless by some, because Robin Thicke, the artist performing while Miley did her thang, is a dad and a husband. Last I heard, Miley’s still engaged to Liam Hemsworth. And according to those oh so reliable Hollywood reporters, Paula Patton, Robin’s wife, barely batted an eyelash.

So what’s my point, you might ask? Continue reading

Hats… The Invisible Ones

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“I need water, Mommy.” Sarah, my precocious five-year old tugs at my black dress. I’m running late. To a funeral.

“Here.” I put the green cup in front of her on the kitchen table as I debate with the mirror. Eye make-up or not. Chances are I’ll cry. I’m a crier. And the make-up will just end up making me look like I have two black eyes. Skip the eye-liner.

“Mommy, here.” Sarah pushes a stapled paper book she made in school into my lap as I pull on my boots. “You forgot to read this to me.”

Now? I’m thinking? You need me to read this to you, right-now? Zip up my second shoe and prop my princess in my lap. Ten pages. I can do this. Continue reading

Star of Wonder

I’ve been contemplating presents lately. How much I’m not really into the whole frenzy of gifts and wrapping and shopping. Even on-line. And how I think it’s rather interesting how a tradition that began in days of old had nothing to do with gift exchange between friends and family, but rather the act of bringing precious items of worth to the feet of one who might not seem to even understand their worth. A baby. The baby Jesus.  And I’ve been thinking about how this child came into the world to tell us a story. His story and ours. Wrapped up in a gift too huge for any Fedex box and yet simple enough to tell year after year, every Christmas. A story that many continue to write songs about. A moment significant enough to divide history into the letters of B.C. and A.D.

I sat in Friendly’s, across from my five-year old Sunday afternoon, and while she spooned frigid spoonful after spoonful of vanilla ice cream with sprinkles into her numbing mouth, I told her the story. Because, the funny thing is, she doesn’t know it. When you’re a parent of multiple children, I think you easily forget that the last, often coined “the baby” far beyond her diaper years, is often overlooked when it comes to details. I joke about how she’s raised by a house of four moms. Because her older sisters really dive in and help her with just about everything. And that really helps this tired mommy out. :) Continue reading

My Thanksgiving Crafty Girl

So while all my girls love the holidays, Princess #2, Nitha who we like to call “Nee-Nee,” goes into each calendar celebration with the enthusiasm of a Wedding Planner. One who loves her job, of course. 

Nitha has always been artistic, and if you give her a bunch of anythings, she sees the potential, and turns them into something. Some kind of art. 

As my first middle child, she and I relate on many levels. We’re both easy-going. Take quick showers. Love the colors red and purple. And move on quickly from conflict or life’s troubles. For a middle child, I feel like she has a pretty good sense of who she is, her tastes, and her interests. 

And although I’m not the most artsy person, it’s fun to watch Nitha create, and even more fun to receive a gift she’s spend many minutes putting together. Because each piece she works on, she gives away. And she really thinks about the recipient of her gifts: their personality, favorites, and interests. Art is Nitha’s love language, but she molds her creations to reflect her future owners of her art work. I think that’s pretty cool. 

The above gallery is a little reflection of her collection. She worked on this for a few days as a gift for her teacher. Because she’s thankful for a lot this Thanksgiving, and most definitely for her teacher. Enjoy! 

**And you? Do you get into decorating the house for the Holidays? Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving dish you’re looking forward to? What are you thankful for this November?

Confessions of a Leaf Thief… One Year Later

I talked to my mom today. A sort of confession if you will. I told her how it all started. Five years ago. I was a crazed mom of four kids under the age of seven, desperate for one good photograph of her princesses.

She asked all the right questions. The ones a mom is supposed to ask.

“Did your neighbor mind?”

“Did she get mad?”

Does she even know?

And “Don’t you think you could have just asked her?”

And then Mom concluded with the words that soothed my guilty soul. “Well, I suppose she probably didn’t want those leaves.”

And “I guess if she was planning to rake them in the end, you were probably doing her a favor.” “Yeah, it wasn’t that bad of a thing.”
But just as quickly as she sided with me, she put her Mom hat back on.

“But don’t do it again!”

And “You need to knock on her door and ask first from now on. Okay!?!”

“Yes, Mom. I promise.” Continue reading

Bus Stop Waterfalls…

 

So my fourth and final princess boarded the Big Yellow Bus today. She’s off to her first day of Kindergarten. And I did what all good moms and dads do on that first day of school. I smiled. And breathed deeply. And held back the tears till her little legs ascended the steps and her little hand waved at record speed out the window she could barely see out of. I don’t even know if she waved actually. I think she was too busy looking at her backpack on the floor. But her little friend Sienna waved. With a smile that said, “I’m ready world! Bring it on!” Continue reading

What’s in Your Treasure Chest?

 Returned from vacation to find my parents in my living room. They called while we were on route from Acadia National Park, and when your mom asks where your house key is, the first thought is “Yeah!” immediately followed by, “Yikes! Did I leave any dishes in the sink? Did I make my bed? Oh shnappity shnap! I think the clean laundry we didn’t pack is still covering the living room carpet!” Sigh. What can you do? 


I warned mom that the house was not perfect, and she just laughed. This is a good thing. There was a time when my spoons’ drawer [where a fork or two slip into the spoons’ slot while I’m sleeping] frazzled my mother. In fact, after one visit, I found all my spices in a totally different cabinet. The one Mom felt was more conducive to cooking. And she was right. She often is. Continue reading