Thursday, October 26, 2023

A house - when it becomes the home

 I often get calls from parents, especially those with special needs children, inquiring about the best school districts. It seems that the search for the perfect school district has become a remedy for everything. All we really want are excellent services for our children, but is that truly sufficient?

Just the other day, I had a conversation and to my surprise, the father expressed concerns about the commute in Massachusetts. He had a short commute, and relocating to MA seemed like a daunting challenge for that very reason. We discussed how crucial the short commute is for our families as it enables the fathers to be an active part of the family unit.

As I engage with more and more families, I find that our focus on the school system often causes us to overlook some fundamental principles. What truly matters are happy and kind staff, a robust program, a strong inclusion policy, dedicated teachers, engaged parents, and a close-knit community than just a very well written IEP.

A close friend once told me about his upbringing in a less-than-ideal neighborhood. For him, having a vibrant, diverse, and thriving community was the first requirement for raising his children.

So, what do you want for yourself and your children? What is genuinely important to you? Is it a spacious house or a vibrant neighborhood? The answer might not be as straightforward as we think. What is it for your family  that truly transforms a house into a home.

A kosa silk from my home state a meet. 

We moved to Franklin when he was 3. He doesn't know anything else , this town is his Home.His mother is a different story. I dont feel "home" anywhere. 

Saturday, October 21, 2023

A Teacher's Perspective: When Parents Need Help Before Their Children

Today, I spent some time with a special education teacher. We met for a Cranberry bog tour and had no idea that our conversation would take this turn. After our initial introduction, we found ourselves with a lot to discuss, but it wasn't about the group we were a part of or the purpose of our tour. Instead, we delved into the world of special education, families, the struggles, and the ethical dilemmas that teachers face.

Normally, I'm more accustomed to hearing the parents' side of the story, but today was different. I listened as she described how parents often dismiss the concerns that teachers have, how stigma and shame can overshadow the well-being of children, and how parents sometimes refuse to give consent when teachers want to evaluate a student. Red flags are sometimes entirely ignored, and in some cases, disgruntled parents write to school principals, accusing teachers of trying to label their child without cause.

She also shared many stories about Indian parents. They often demand "extra" homework for their children, advanced math and reading materials, without considering the burden of these expectations. She frequently worries about how to support these kids who unquestionably need help but are unable to access it because their parents are unwilling to accept the label of special needs.

I've heard countless stories from parents about their relentless battles for services, how their children don't receive adequate support, and how schools sometimes try to push these children out of the system, even when they aren't ready. I was already aware of the prevailing stigma and state of denial in this field, which was one of the primary motivations behind creating Desi Moms Network. Nevertheless, hearing this teacher's perspective was quite eye-opening.

All of this brings me to a profound question: Would you inform a friend or relative if you noticed red flags in their child's development, or would you choose to remain silent?

A silk saree for a navratri visit. Met some amazing mothers over a delicious meal. Saw a pumpkin patch on the way, had to stop and take a pic. 

and here is my sunshine. someone from my village sent this pic.with a comment - "So proud of him"

Thursday, October 19, 2023

What is Marriage for you? Support? Respect? partnership? or none of the above

Desi Moms Network has brought many wonderful women and families into my life. They have brought joy and fulfillment, satisfaction, pride, and heartache too. It's painful to witness the struggles and disappointments.

Last week was tough; two moms from the group reached out with frustration and outrage. They were dealing with interference from in-laws, their husbands' attitudes towards household chores, responsibilities toward their children, and money management. They are handling school meetings, therapies, medical appointments, dinner, homework, and working full time.

I've been thinking about what marriage means in these households. I am in no position to judge or advise anyone, I am sure the dad's have their side of story too. The fact is that couples with a special needs child experience more stress on their marriage. Some grow apart, while others stick together and become a team. I've come across some very involved dads, and that is such a positive change. But what about those families where women are taking care of the household and children and not getting due respect? Marriage means support, respect, companionship, love, commitment, partnership, and the creation of a family unit regardless of culture, country, or caste. But these families have different stories.

What is marriage for you? Is it partnership? A legal and financial arrangement? A social status? A burden? A responsibility? A mistake?

A Cotton Paithani for a celebration - Hindi Manch an organization I am part of - celebrated a successful show - “Begani shadi me”My first born was my plus one.

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

A place for solace and closure - Where do you turn to?

 I have been asked many times what comforts me given the scenario in our life. Away from family, just the four of us, with an uncertain future for Anand. When you have a child who doesn't fit society's standards, these questions are very common. And when you bring people together, those same people want to know what makes you who you are.

I grew up in a religious household and practiced religion. Once I got married, my husband's thinking certainly influenced me, and slowly "Karma" became my "Dharma."

I was invited for a Path (Prayers) in a local Gurudwara (a worship place for the Sikh community). I had been there before. For me  the prasad (the food offerings) is always a big plus :) But more than that, I am in awe of the concept of "sewa" in the Gurudwara. Many friends showed up to cook, serve, and even clean. I come back with a feeling of calm and happiness. I'm not sure if it is the path, the place, or something beyond words.

What does religion mean to you? What keeps you going? What works for you to keep your head on your shoulders?

A simple cotton for a perfect fall day. 

My fav sight of the day, mom trying to teach the daughters to keep the head covered.

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Discovery Museum Gala- a fun evening

 Last Saturday was a night to remember as Discovery Museum in Action celebrated its significant role in the community. Like any nonprofit organization, the museum cannot sustain itself without the generous support of its donors. The fundraiser gala was aimed at raising funds for its various programs.

The staff displayed great creativity in planning this event. To encourage guests to learn more about the museum and its exhibits, ten different stations were set up where guests could discover more about the programs the museum runs. To enter the raffle, attendees needed to collect stamps from all these stations, adding an exciting element to the event. Guests had the chance to win prizes while supporting the museum's cause. I wish I could have won the “night in the outdoor treehouse.”

The theme of the gala was “Make the Connection,” emphasizing the museum's goal of connecting people. I attended with one of the moms from our group, and we had a great time.

One of the highlights of the Gala Night was the food and drinks that were served. I loved how the staff managed everything flawlessly. People in attendance had a fantastic time, enjoying the festivities and socializing with fellow supporters of the museum.

The families from Desi Moms Networks have been part of “Especially for Me” nights, and we are grateful to the museum for making our kids feel welcome. I had the opportunity to spend some time with the CEO, the future CEO and a few donors, and I conveyed to them how grateful the familes are.

Please visit their page and consider donating. They need your support to continue their valuable work in the community.

A beautiful Bengal Kantha to celebrate the museum and handloom. 

The future CEO, I know museum will reach another height in your leadership Marie. 
my plus one for the night has roots in Bengal so a Bengali Kantha was the perfect handloom for the night

 The best apple crisp 

Monday, October 2, 2023

Revisiting the Past - The past connects to present

 I taught high school in my previous life. Twenty-eight years ago, I left that behind and decided to marry Mr. Husband. I loved teaching, but building a life with him was more appealing than anything else. Then, kids and two big moves across continents happened, and that life became a distant memory.

A fun trip to Maryland turned into a journey down memory lane in the strangest way. Two of my former students came to meet me. After 28 years, we spent our time talking about that chapter of my life. I had only known my side of the story -  how those students had shaped my life. But I learned how I had made a difference in some lives. My students were not much younger than me, so we could share and relate to our life experiences. We had all come from a small town in the central part of India, lived away from home and family for half of our lives.

This time, I wasn't just teaching chemistry to them; we shared our notes on life, marriage, parenting, womanhood, and career. These two women brought so much joy into my life, and of course, some food too.

Do you reminisce about your previous life? Do you meet people from those days? Does it bring joy or regrets?

A black cotton for a quick meet

Once a Strangers ? Are they your future friends?

 Writing, talking, and saree-ing have brought many people into my life. But one of the biggest contributors is my passion for Autism Awareness and Desi Moms Network. I have got to know many people from across the world, made connections, and formed long-lasting friendships.

Every time I travel, I try to meet moms from the group if possible. I get to meet incredible human beings, to say the least. Meeting the moms and families makes it all worth it.

My Maryland trip was no exception. When I decided on my dates, I reached out to a couple of moms I had been connected with in that area. One of them offered to host me. She did it all - a long rainy drive to pick me up, taking me to meet two other moms, hosting me for the night, serving appetizing and sumptuous breakfast. And, of course, a beautiful saree, because my saree stories were the initiators of our friendship. Our kids came later in our friendship. Our kids are of the same age and have similar profiles, so we had many things to talk about.

One of the most interesting parts was meeting her mom (who is visiting her this week from CA). When they both came to pick me up, she genuinely asked where I was from. The mere mention of the town brought the whole world closer. One of her friends in California was from that town, and the conversation became more interesting with the mention of the last name. A few text messages, a FaceTime call, and, interestingly, the person who was picking me up the next morning was that friend's daughter. So my visit could connect two daughters in Virginia whose mothers are friends living in California. One is my Saree Friend, and the other one grew up in my hometown and was my former student. 

The whole Saga bring smile every time I think of it. Everything just worked out in my packed schedule. Some time it’s wonderful to be curious and inquisitive, I kept thinking if Auntie has not come to pick me up or not asked questions about my life.

 Do you open up to strangers? Do you ask questions?

A kanchi silk cotton. 

The Moms Who were strangers when we walked in - by the end of the dinner - it was a different story- 

My trip became the reason these two met. I didnt feel guilty that she came to pick me up. She got to meet her mom's friend :)