Sunday, November 1, 2015

"Empowered mother" is the only solution !!

With Autism things are not routine or traditional in our life. As I always say every thing is custom made so we keep learning and adjusting and trying.

After many years with so many workshops, seminars, doctors’ visits and books and everything in between we equipped us with knowledge but there is so much more to learn. Sometimes it is frustrating but at the same time it inspires to do more.

One of these seminar one speaker mentioned the program Federation runs for advocates (federation of children with special needs

Lucky for me the class was about to start in two week. It is course of 9 classes for 6 hours and was to run for 10 weeks. I decided it was time to get into advocacy world not for profession per se but to know more. I started the class 4 weeks ago, a drive of 40 miles from home. It’s been a journey full of a heart aches, inspiration, hope, worries, motivation, togetherness, compassion and passion.

35 of us, parents, teachers, professional and attorneys we all are in this together. Passion to do more for our kids, students and clients. We want to educate people around us.

I heard they are having tough time reaching out to many parents in Asian community because of culture and attitude. They don’t even have Indian volunteers to talk to parents. I offered Federation that I will volunteer with them and try to help them in anyways I can. Because I know how it is to be a mom, a special INDIAN mom. I know how easy and comforting denial can be. How lonely and dark the path can be when you have no support and information around and shutting down all the doors seems the best option. I know how scary it is to think of future but at the same time I know how knowledge can empower any mother. A well-informed mother is what we need for our children..

the unuasal 70F weather in Oct made me celebrate the festive season and inspired me to wear a saree . My first Crepe from Mysore Silk Udyog, first taste of commercial street world. A quick selfie before I head out.. 

The fantastic coordinator with me – pic in the comment. Her daughter inspired her to learn more, connect, support and unite people and now educating others is her mission. I so wish to follow her footstep.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Gratitude and friendships


This Saree is a tribute to "friendship" .Well this story has so many sub stories in it. But today its all about "friendship" So be ready for a long read please.
Last Saturday I hosted a "chai ka Adda for cancer'. I met Viji on Saree Pact and loved her work. Her initiative "Chai for Cancer" saves many lives and won over many hearts. 
As you all know "Autism" is my cause but this friendship made me look beyond my life and be a part of something else. Friendship widened my world and I decided to host another adda at my home. 
My son decided to make it his graduation party and donate his gifts to Max Foundation. Motherly pride has no limit as I write this.
I called and posted on Facebook and my friends rushed in to support me and Ajey.
Finally the day came. Viji wore a blue to honor my cause "Autism" and I wore the color of "Max Foundation". We never talked about or decided but were amazed and happy to see each other in our colors. My friends Sent from my iPhone
Whoever was not I knew they so wanted to be here but couldn't. They called, texted and donated. A fellow Pact-er Lakshmi drove from New Jersey to be part of it.

I couldn't be prouder and happier. It was not just the money it was the gesture behind the whole thing. . I am still in awe of the whole thing. How fortunate we are to have such wonderful and generous people around us. 
My friends - please know you define me in various ways, You make life what is it today for Pandeys. I feel very lucky to have you in my life. Your friendship is a treasure. The adda was very successful in every term and please know I am just proud and blessed and thankful. 
Now its your time to see all the pictures and read Ajey's thought why he felt he should be part of it.

Ajey: -
Thank you all for coming to this Chai for Cancer adda, a project by the Max Foundation to help people in India battling chronic myeloid leukemia and gastrointestinal stromal tumors. Thank you to Viji Venkatesh for spearheading this wonderful effort, and thank you to my mother, Jaya Pandey, for hosting this adda. We should do this more often. I do drink a lot of chai.
You may have heard that is a replacement for my graduation party--I think I should explain myself. When I heard about Chai for Cancer, I was thinking about planning my own graduation party. But then I realized: I don’t need graduation gifts. I have a comfortable life, I have a wonderful family, and I’m going to college. What more do I need? What more do I want? 

Meanwhile, there are so many people struggling with cancer, fighting to keep their strength between rounds of chemotherapy, hoping the next treatment works better than the last one, questioning whether they’ll see their next birthday. They need help from their community more than I ever did and possibly more than I ever will. I’m not doing anything noble--I’m just telling the truth.

Among my peers, the noble thing to do is to “go cure cancer.” The height of honor is enshrined in glass laboratories, in cell research, DNA analysis, and drug manufacturing. That’s critical. But it’s not everything. Because cancer doesn’t simply exist in petri dishes--it affects people. We must also honor the doctors, caregivers, and community leaders who help those people, who give strength to patients and support for their loved ones. 
Let’s drink to these wonderful people and all they do for cancer patients.
Pictures below

Thursday, June 18, 2015

I love my Village

Original post from Saree Pact

“It takes a village is a proverb that leverages the cultural context and belief that it takes an entire community to raise a child. A child has the best ability to become healthy adults if the entire community takes an active role in contributing to the rearing of the child.”

I have considered myself a lucky woman when it comes to great friends and relationships. This blue saree is a tribute to my village. Today I want to write about some very special mothers who are part of my village.

Anand was 8 when we finally got a name for that puzzle. I tried to deny, refuse, wish and pray that one fine day I will get up and it will all be gone. I was just numb and in a very dark place. Being mother is hard in itself, seeing your child struggle, feeling helpless is even worse. You don’t know whom you should turn to.

This is the time Autism Resource Center extends a helping hand. The special moms hold your hand and help you navigate the unknown territory. Sue, Cid and many more do the wonderful job paving the path for new moms.

So it was 2013, I signed up Anand for a camp and while navigating the site I got to know about “mother’s retreat”. All I knew it’s a 21 hours stay and fun for moms. I remember driving over an hour and when I reached the hotel I sat in the parking lot thinking if I should go in or just go back home. I had never met those mom’s, didn’t know anything about any of them, and knew nothing about mother’s retreat. Finally went in and after an hour or so I forgot that I didn’t know anyone. That is one funny thing about “this village” no one knows you but they are the one who get you without saying anything.

The evening and night progressed and I got to know some incredible mothers. They had lot more than my plate but they are the first ones to offer you help, suggestions. They inspire me with their strength, they amaze me with their kindness, and they motivate me to fight more for my son, they encourage me to learn more, they persuade me to keep going and never give up. They hold your hand when you get tired, they cheer you up, and they cry with you and offer you their shoulder. And one day if I decide to run away from everything, they promised they would drive the car for me.

They have lived Autism when there was no Internet, no support, no help. But they made sure others get it. They teach, support, breath, live, learn, coach, talk Autism and I cannot find any adjectives to explain what they do and again I wonder – “how do they do it”.

This was my third mother’s retreat. Every year I reconnect old friends and make some new and comeback rejuvenated. We eat, talk, drink, laugh, cry and dance (except this year) together. Cid DeLeo, please make sure they get better DJ next year.

My Saree is tribute to Sue's energy, passion and knowledge, Cid’s willingness to do more for us,Cheryl's knowledge and spirit and Hope-Marie's enthusiasm to do more for her kids. And each and every mother in that village who keeps working for a better life for her kids.
My village - please know i cannot express my gratitude in words.. Love and hugs to all of you..

And a special thanks to Becky for this sign.

PS. Sue was very kind to put my blog on the Center's blog page -

Franklin Sepac

Another post from Saree Pact

We all do we need to do, ought to, should and have to and sometimes we wish to do.

But sometimes we just get tired, feel like giving up. This is the time you hold on to goodness around you. That simple joy “you are not alone” keeps you going and help you get through the day.

My this saree is a tribute to one of those set of people. Franklin SEPAC, Special Education parents advisory council. These are the ladies who volunteer to put many things together. They have everything to keep them busy what each of us do plus some more but still they spend their time organizing activities to educate special parents. They are the one to whisper in your ears - " you are not alone".

I went to a workshop last Wednesday night. I do wear saree often but wouldn’t have draped one for SEPAC meeting if not for Saree Pact. That evening I was thinking what would be a better “thank you” than writing about these ladies. I have met them just couple of times but know that they understand me more than many of people who meet me often. They understand and listen and listen without any judgment.

Hats off to you – Sara, Sarah, Holly, Caryn, Jennifer, Jen, Nancy and anyone I missed.

About the Saree - a simple saree Bought by my sister Varsha from Surat. very easy to drap. after getting the dinner ready for the boys I had to leave in 15 minutes. So this saree was a perfect pick with touch of blue for Autism Awareness. Thanks to Saree Pact Pandey boys know that Saree means a picture. So when I got out of the room Anand offered he would take a pic. The first picture outside of our house is from Anand, The second is selfie in SEPAC office and third one is taken by my man when I got back home that night (who was still awake wink emoticon. 3 shades of Jaya in one frame - Mother, Jaya and a Wife..

The group agreed to be in the picture with me. some of them are my FB friends and have seen those colorful Saree pictures. so were not very surprised when I told them about why I was wearing a saree, Thank you ladies.. You all rock. #Gratitude

The Last day of school and inclusion in MY class room.

The orginal post on facebook -
Today's saree is nothing more than a simple Georgette saree bought in Bangalore.
It is blue saree I couldn't remember last week and I had to cheat and you all helped - oh yes, a big thank you for that.
Today I had my presentation - a last class of this course and my subject was - "Let's see the world".
my favorite thing on earth - Talk about various cultures and customs and rituals. it makes me happy.
So I decided to wear a saree, a simpe blue saree, and you all know now - Blue for Anand ,Blue for Autism in April.
So I wore the saree and first thing I hear from my son how pretty I looked.
Autism limits our life in many ways but it doesn't stop my son in showing his love and appreciation. I got a big nice hug, a warm smile and a promise to be in the picture.
Here I am in frame with both my boys, OK Ajey just joined to have fun with selfie stick. So did my classmates. who can say NO to a farewell picture smile emoticon

And a big thank you to all of you - I could wear all that red with blue just because #100SareePact showed me to mix and match.. a mix and match blouse some day very soon…

Any blue is a blue :) bcoz you said so.

The Original post is here on Facebook.

I cheated today and you have to help me out here because you are my friend.
So this morning after a gym trip I had only 25 minutes to get ready with shower, breakfast and leave home. We were to see Dr. A. I decided to wear a Saree, a BLUE Chiffon with some work on it. After I draped the saree I felt it was "Too Much" with that work. Somehow it just didnt make me feel happy. Now imagine the chaos, I have 3 more blue sarees right there in closet but they all are not "wore because just felt like" sarees. and I found this simple cotton Ma Papa bought from a weaver in Mehandiwada couple of years ago. I know it is NOT blue but somewhat close to it right? Please please say yes because I really wanted to wear a blue. Wore it with a very blue necklace, a great friend Jayanthi got me. and the day was made because boys agreed to be in the frame with me.
Read more about Anand and us

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

100 Saree Pact - Blue and Autism Acceptance and opening your world and heart..

Some time you just wonder how mysteriously things workout or don’t work out in our life. We meet people to love them or just regret meeting them. Some things even make sense after years and may be decades.
I am putting together an invitee list for an upcoming event and the thought came to my mind. I have never done anything like on my own before but here I am doing it not for a cause, doing it for a friend whom I hardly know. Yes that’s what Saree Pact did that to many of us. Thrown together in a strange relationships – friendship, mentor, support, strength and sometime nothing more than some smiles.  Some jokes made us laugh, some comments made us think and some of them send us soul-searching.
We question our beliefs, we support the causes close to our heart, we hold each other’s hand and we laugh together.
On top of everything what stood out to me what how we opened our heart and world to others. I have been writing about Autism and our life and Anand. Never thought that I will make any impact someone else’s life other than ours. I wanted to make awareness and acceptance part of our and everyone’s life. But at some point I just stopped, was thinking is it really making sense to anyone or is it really making any difference. I wondered if I am putting my family out there too much. But then Saree Pact happened and it was April and all of sudden the April, Autism and Bluesarees were out there. I got some new audience and new people who started walking with me without knowing me, they were there to hold my hand, cheer me up when I was down, supported me without knowing I needed one, encouraged my sons and even better -learnt more about Autism and opened their heart and mind to some more differences. When someone posted picture of her kids volunteering in school for special need children, that where I thought- some time it is needed to put your thought in words for someone to read it, listen to it. It is OK to "expose" my family our struggles so someone somewhere might benefit from that.
Many of them just didnt wear blue they opened their world to some people who really need the goodness. some more acceptance and some more acknowledgement and some more thoughtfulness.
So even if it is not your cause, open your heart to something new, someone new.. thats what the Saree Pact taught me.
Amen to a better world..Thank you my friend, your thoughtfulness is whats that count..

Friday, May 1, 2015

Hindi Manch Sahitya Sammelan and Blue Saree - something for me something for Anand.

This entry is a part of #100SareePact blogseries on facebook.

Saree no-#12
So this saree is a tribute to the love of family. I was in India in 2012 and was in love with auqa blue and so wanted a peacock saree. Offcourse I couldn’t find one. Later my sister Seema bought this saree in Chennai. It was not the aqua I was looking for but the whole saree was just right for me.

This saree is blue and I am wearing it in the month of April for Autism Awareness and acceptance month and that makes it special.

Anand was eight when we finally got the diagnosis. His comprehension wasn’t up to his age and it took us really long time to figure out. He was interested in art and music but language was just not his thing. It was a tough year for all us. We all were learning to deal with his strengths and weakness and trying to figure out the best for him. My sister Seema wrote to me – “this world needs artist and musician and good human being, we don’t need only doctors or engineer”.

My sisters Seema Varsha and Smita are my biggest strength. They learnt and read all about Autism and shower my son with their unconditional love.

Last Sunday I wore this saree to an event I was part of. I love being part of Hindi Manch. I was mcing and suddenly thought of my son. I got the love for literature from my parents and coulnot pass it on to my son. Made me sad for a bit but then this blue saree held me together.

So this saree didn’t come with the memory but made a memory.

My love for my son is beyond any color but here it is - A blue Saree in April for him.

This entry is a part of #100SareePact blogseries on facebook.

Saree No 14
The Saree itself doesn't have any story, simple synthetic saree from my sister's closet.
But the story is - it is a BLUE saree.
Many of you know that my younger son is on Autism Spectrum. he is a great kid with his share of strength and weakness like all of us.
Words and emotion and social norm dont come easy to him but music and art are his thing. He could play piano by ears when he was young. He decided he doesnt want to bothered by practice everyday and the piano lesson stoped that day. But still he is my to go person for artist and songs and albums. you want to know anything about any Pink Floyd song, he is your guy.
I decided to wear all blue sarees in the month of April to raise awareness and accept him the way he is..
The Saree pact gave me a reason to take all the blue sarees out of my closet. I was in Hindi Manch Program last weekend and some one asked about Saree pact and many asked about my son. I have been wearing blue sarees and people start to notice it. If I wore blue shirt or Salwar Kurta I don't think anyone would have cared.
I took out this blue saree to go to a Musical Gathering last night and someone again said -ahha, another blue. How is Anand doing?
So ladies here is a big shout out to you all - thank you for sharing this journey with us.. with much love and gratitude.

Anand wearing Dad's glasses and having fun..

Story about Samta - a last blue saree for the Autism month - April

This entry is a part of #100SareePact blogseries on facebook.

Saree No - 18
A blue and yellow combination for today.
This saree is a gift from my Chachi – Samta. She married papa’s youngest brother but for us she is just Samta Darling. She came to our family in a very dark time.
Papa’s younger brother was killed in an accident in 1986. He was in his thirties, left two daughters 5 and 1.The next year Chhote Chacha got married but our home wasn’t the same. It was a sad house; But Chhoti Chachi soon made it better and became our darling, always happy and smiling. She is a good chhoti bahu for family and a great friend and advisor for us. Even now when I go to India, her home is my adda in MP. She loves me, my boys and my husband just the way we are.. She still fulfils my wishes with mouthwatering Khaza, Gujhia, Hara chana or any leafy vegetables, the food I love. My chacha is a lucky man.Chachi darling I love u.
This is my last blue saree for Autism month. I am thankful to have you all in this journey with me.
Thank you very much to all of you for all your love.
Your unconditional love means a lot to us.
Anand was 8 when we formally got the diagnosis in 2008. Feb 2009 we went to India for my sister’s wedding and the reality struck me. No one in the family understood what Anand and we were going through. My sisters read and learnt a lot but Autism is a spectrum, so wide that there is no explanation for so many things. I was shocked to hear the suggestions and reasoning from many of our own families for his behavior and limitations.
So when I came back I started a blog to write about our life, to educate family and friends, to let them know that he is a kid with different skill set and thinking. His abilities are different than other kids in the family, his own brother. I needed to talk about our strength, happiness and struggles, good days and bad days. Please take time to read about him, us and Autism. You might be more considerate to others that would be the best thing.
I wore this saree to office today,and Anand took my pic after I came from work.