Why this Pope Matters.

Controversial, Outspoken, Radical… no, I’m not talking about Donald Trump! These are some of the words used to describe the 266th pope of the Roman Catholic Church- Pope Francis. Of course, critics of this pope are also quick to point out that he is Humble, Selfless, and a Humanitarian. How can these two polarizing personalities coexist in one man? More importantly, why are people, not just Catholics, flocking towards him?

In the 2 years since his ascension, this pope, in my opinion, has transformed the Catholic Church! Here in his own words, allow me to show you why this pope matters more than anyone before him.

Pope Francis has begun the painful process of rehabilitating the Church by admitting its flaws- acknowledging the sexual abuse scandals. One case “is enough for us to be ashamed of ourselves and do what needs to be done,” he said. Last April, in a public address, he strongly condemned the sexual abuse by Catholic clergy, asking for forgiveness and pledging to impose penalties on “men of the church” who harm children. This alone qualifies him for the most outstanding person of the century!

I see clearly that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful … I see the church as a field hospital after battle.

As a practicing Hindu, I’ve always been open to all religions. All Gods are equal to me, but until now Christianity has felt like an exclusive club, where the price of membership involved proclaiming Jesus Christ as the only Lord and Savior. But, the pope says you don’t even have to believe in God to be a good person. This is the core of ancient Hinduism.

I believe in God, not in a Catholic God, there is no Catholic God, there is .God and I believe in Jesus Christ, his incarnation.

Instead of being just a church that welcomes and receives by keeping the doors open, let us try also to be a church that finds new roads … to those who have quit or are indifferent.

God is not a person. God lives in all of us. When Indians say Namaste, what we are saying is, the divine in me worships the divine in you. And this pope has a very similar view about God and man.

Since many of you do not belong to the Catholic Church and others are non-believers, from the bottom of my heart I give this silent blessing to each and every one of you, respecting the conscience of each one of you but knowing that each one of you is a child of God.

Here are some more of my favorite quotes… As I compiled this list today, I could help but get a little teary eyed. For this man is a real blessing to humanity. Forget his religion and just look at his principles… he stands for everything that is good and decent in this world.

Perhaps you were mad, perhaps plates flew, but please remember this: never let the sun go down without making peace! Never, never, never!

Each of us has a vision of good and of evil. We have to encourage people to move towards what they think is good… Everyone has his own idea of good and evil and must choose to follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them. That would be enough to make the world a better place.

If one has the answers to all the questions – that is the proof that God is not with him. It means that he is a false prophet using religion for himself. The great leaders of the people of God, like Moses, have always left room for doubt. You must leave room for the Lord, not for our certainties; we must be humble.

And this pope is not afraid to get political! His views on immigration reform, climate change, and economic equality are making huge waves among the masses. He even understands the nuances of trickle-down economics and how it has left millions behind…

Pope Francis on tricle down

Every man, every woman who has to take up the service of government, must ask themselves two questions: ‘Do I love my people in order to serve them better? Am I humble and do I listen to everybody, to diverse opinions in order to choose the best path?’ If you don’t ask those questions, your governance will not be good.

If you don’t think the Pope’s visit to the US is a game changer, then I challenge you to wait and see. In this culture of tuning out disagreements and vilifying those who hold opposing beliefs, this pope is going to stand out and make your head spin. He’s likely to inject a dose of kindness and empathy into those discussions that have polarized our society. And, I’m particularly interested to see how the Republican Party with their angry rhetoric against, minorities, gays, females react to his message. If nothing else, His Holiness’ visit changes the conversation from the same old same old and if that’s not a blessing, I don’t know what is!

The Fear of the First Trimester

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Don’t beat yourself up, my doctor said sitting across from me with a look of concern. You didn’t do anything to cause this miscarriage. I felt numb and nodded as if programmed. Women are so hard on themselves, he added. You’re not being punished or anything. Miscarriages are caused internally. There is absolutely nothing you could’ve done to prevent it.

As soon as I left his office, my mind started to wander dangerously into the dark side. Maybe, I shouldn’t have run up the stairs last week to catch that damn train… Maybe this is nature’s way of saying I missed the boat, that I’m too old, I was too reckless when I was young, took things for granted for way too long, valued my career more than having a family… Maybe I made too many bad choices during those years when I was in my maternal prime… Maybe this is a sign that I should just be happy with what I have and stop asking for more… Maybe, I didn’t pray enough… Maybe, maybe… I’d worked myself up into such a frenzy on the ride home that I could barely breathe.

There is nothing a good cry or a good laugh won’t cure. That night I ordered Indian takeout and resigned myself to the inevitable. Make sure you’re comfortable tonight, the nurse had cautioned. You might bleed a lot. But, I was not ready for what came after… and I won’t burden you with the bloody details, pun intended. Everyone’s experience is different and there is absolutely nothing pleasant about it. As my body continued to purge the remains of what would’ve been a joyful presence in our lives, I felt more alone than ever before. Sure, my doting boyfriend was by my side, tending to my every need, reassuring me that everything would be okay, but still, I couldn’t shake the feeling that perhaps I had failed at the single most important job as a female.

When the two pink lines showed up on the home pregnancy test a couple of weeks earlier, the immediate reaction from the two most important people in my life- my boyfriend and sister- was, don’t tell anyone until the first trimester is over. But, that advice instantly felt wrong on so many levels… This was supposed to be the happiest time of our lives. I wasn’t planning to post on Facebook or anything, just a few close friends and family… But no, the fear of the first trimester had been invoked and going against it felt like tempting fate. And, in my case, sadly, that fear had manifested into reality by the 6th week. When I called my dad to tell him what was happening, he calmly said. Don’t worry, you’ll be fine. You’re following in your mom’s footsteps. She had a miscarriage before we had you. The words hit me like a brick. It was the first time in my life that I’d heard that news. And, the days following my miscarriage, I wondered how many of my friends and family had actually gone through this ordeal but felt compelled to grieve quietly?

Why is talking about miscarriage still taboo?

According to the American Pregnancy Association, 10-25% of clinically recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage. That’s conservatively 1 in every 10 pregnancies! Most experts believe that number is even higher. What?! All around me, people were getting pregnant and having babies with little to no effort, could this fact be true? Turns out, I wasn’t alone in my ignorance… A recent survey of more than 1,000 men and women showed people massively underestimate the frequency of miscarriage. Fifty-five percent of participants believed that it impacted fewer than 6 percent of pregnancies.

Almost all miscarriages happen during the first 13 weeks typically due to chromosomal abnormalities. And, as you get older the number of eggs you have decrease, thereby increasing the odds of having a bad egg. So, my doctor was right after all. There was nothing I could’ve done to prevent the miscarriage. And, many women go on to have perfectly healthy pregnancies after a miscarriage. That’s something I’m hoping for… But, it is when I finally found the courage to tell my close friends, that something incredible happened. They all shared their own stories with me… about a sister, or a coworker or a family member or even themselves who had gone through this ugly ordeal. And, in each of their stories, I found a common thread of lonliness, shame and grief from losing something intangible… a piece of your heart maybe?! But, in their courage, I was able to find strength and a teeny bit of reassurance that this was not some sort of punishment for my choices. Miscarriages happen!

Here’s a thought, what if we abandoned all the shoulds when it comes to pregnancy? We, as a society, have built such a convenient box where we only share the good about this life changing experience. What if we allowed the good, the bad and the ugly to co exist without judgment? I’m not advocating for casually announcing your first trimester experiences on social media. There are a hundred reasons why you shouldn’t, starting with your job and privacy. But, what if we shared the news of a pregnancy immediately with those close to us, the ones who can support us if, God forbid, something goes wrong? Making a human is incredibly hard work, our bodies go through so much from the very beginning. What if we overcame the fear of the first trimester by creating a support group of loved ones around us?

My hope is for someone reading this to find the courage to pick up the phone and call their mom or sister or a friend to share their news, whatever it may be. There is no need to wait 12 weeks to tell your close friends and family. These are the folks who will take care of you in your need. Talking about miscarriage doesn’t have to be a conversation downer either, though it can be a very painful and emotional experience. Instead, let us allow it to be an acknowledgement of loss for a much wanted life; an understanding that it happens more often than we think, and most importantly, an acceptance that it is not anyone’s fault!

Honey Honey Hot Honey!

The weather is changing rapidly around here. I saw a tree today that was almost bare… it’s barely September! C’mon! Where did Summer go? My boyfriend spent most of the day yesterday doing yard work, blowing off leaves and getting the yard ready for Fall. I spent the day huddled up in a ball under a blanket nursing a cold. I had been feeling “out of it” towards the end of the week and I’d chalked it up to laziness. But, when Saturday came around, I just didn’t want to get out of bed. Luckily, the weather was gloomy to match my mood, so I didn’t feel too bad. But, on Sunday, when my throat started to hurt, I knew I was in big trouble.

A friend of mine had posted a recipe about a natural cure for the common cold in which she claimed that it had dramatically slowed down an impending attack. The way I was feeling, I was ready to try anything… even if it meant eating raw garlic. Yes, you heard it right. Here’s the recipe for Hot Honey! Not for the faint of heart… but definitely for the sick and weary. And of course, guaranteed protection from vampires! (It’s necessary)

Fact: The active component in garlic is the sulfur compound called allicin. Allicin is the chemical produced when garlic is chopped, chewed, or bruised. Allicin is quite powerful as an antibiotic and a potent agent that helps the body to inhibit the ability of germs to grow and reproduce. In fact, it’s said that 1 milligram of allicin has a potency of 15 standard units ofpenicillin.

Fact: Consumption of honey promotes an increase is beneficial antioxidant agents, stimulates antibodies and combats harmful microbial activity. 

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4 cloves of garlic, Minced
1-4 Tablespoons of Honey
1/8-1/2 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper

Stir ingredients all together in a small bowl.  Take about 1/2 a teaspoon ever half hour or as desired. For sore throats be sure to let the mixture sit for a few minutes on the back of the throat, do not wash down with liquid. The Cayenne helps bring blood to the area for healing and the garlic helps heal quickly. The honey holds it all together and makes it go down easy.

I’ve had 3 doses since last night and my throat is definitely starting to feel better. The honey forms a nice coating on the back of my throat. It is very soothing and the pain is all but gone, but the scratchiness is still there. I’m not completely out of the woods yet, but I definitely feel like I stopped this cold dead in its tracks! As for my breath, there is no immediate cure, sorry honey…

Disclaimer: This post is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your medical provider if you’re sick.

The Book of Mormon

Do you remember when we almost became Mormons?

My sister asked me during a recent family trip. We both exchanged a knowing glance and busted out laughing. This isn’t some kind of inside family joke… I swear this is 100% true! For the better part of two years, we, as a family, attended the The Church of Latter Day Saints, every Sunday.

It all stared when two handsome boys from Utah came knocking on our door one fine afternoon. My dad, who happened to be home that day, got his first introduction to LDS. My parents are devoutly religious… to them all Gods are equal. Even though my dad is a practicing Hindu, practically a priest, he’s been known to fast for Ramadan or attend service at a church. Growing up in India, we were the only Hindu family who celebrated Christmas, with a gigantic tree and star to boot! If invited to participate in anything God-related, bless his heart, my dad was is always game.

I attended a Christian convent school from kindergarten until 9th grade. Sitting through moral 226726_7846905051_1079_nscience classes every morning in school, singing hymns, hearing bible stories and then coming home to join your father for evening prayer at the altar can be really confusing to a fourth grader! Yet, when I approached my dad about this seemingly complicated subject, he had a simple answer that still resonates with me… Think of God as the ocean and all the rivers that lead into the ocean as religion. It doesn’t matter which one you choose, as long as you follow it through. Eventually they all end up in the ocean!

So, naturally when the Mormons came calling, he was his usual self- open and ready. When my sisters and I came home that evening, he informed us that we will have Family Time with 2 elders from the Church of Latter Day Saints every Thursday. I don’t know about you, but when I heard the word ELDER I pictured an old man with wise eyes. Behold my surprise, when 2 extremely attractive 20-something year old boys show up at our door wearing matching outfits!!! Needless to say, I never missed a single Family Time! They mostly read from the book of Mormon, which is quite different from the Holy Bible, watched videos about the church and discussed whether its teachings were right for us. I mostly stared at them. My dad was honest from the start and explained that we will not be choosing one religion over another, but they were welcome in our home as long as they wanted to come.

Those sessions weren’t entirely lost on me… For all my raging teenage hormones, some things remain true. Family is the pillar of the LDS community and that is something we had in common with them. I suspect that was the hook that caught my dad! We were also impressed with the service aspects of the Mormon religion. My parents have always been big on this point, never missing an opportunity to serve. Love All, Serve All was out family motto. When I was cleaning out my parents library recently, I came across several dvds that the church had given us… which my mom had kept. One in particular, “Family First” is about a loving family that stays together through thick and thin, never losing faith in each other and in God. We watched it often during those days!

A couple of weeks ago, a book arrived at my work. I’ve worked with this woman for several years and she had just heard about my mom’s accident. So, the sweetheart that she is, she sent me a book about a women who survived a horrific accident similar to my mom’s. Maybe this book might give you some peace and understanding, the lovely handwritten note read. From the moment I picked up the book I couldn’t put it down. I was captivated by this incredible woman- Stephanie Nielson- a young mother of four five, who was burned up to 70% of her body, including her face in a horrific plane crash. To make matters worse, her husband was piloting the plane and he too suffered major injuries! This book, Heaven is Here, is about her journey from hell and back, literally, and how with the unconditional love of her husband and support of her siblings, she not only survives against all odds, but triumphs! Sound familiar? She puts her life back together piece by piece, hour by hour and day by day and reading about it allowed me a glimpse into my own mother’s life. It’s not an easy read, there were times I had to put it down for fear of bursting into tears on the evening train, but I assure you that this book will stay with you for years to come!

u32_Stephanie-NielsonStephanie is a Mormon. She had has unshakable faith in the Lord and believes without a shadow of a doubt that He has a purpose for her now and beyond. I know that deep down, my mom & dad believe the same, though some days it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. For all my spirituality, I don’t have faith like Stephanie’s, but her words have inspired me like nothing ever before. Maybe this is reminder from the Universe that there is a plan for each of us. All we need is an open heart and a loving family to support us through whatever life has in store… and we can get through anything. I can’t imagine what my life would’ve been like had my siblings not been there these last few months… We may not agree on everything, we may not even like each other at times, but their mere presence has given me strength to get through this ordeal. Our family is closer now than at any time before and we’re truly functioning as a unit! We’ve committed to our new roles, trusting each other in ways that we were incapable of doing prior to this tragedy… Family First! We’ve grown in every which way, and I’m sure mom will be proud! Happier times are just around the bend for all of us, I can just feel it in my bones!

You.Are.Amazing.

In less than 24 hours, this incredibly strong and resilient woman will be coming home! I can’t be more proud of my mom than I am today. You did it, woman!!! You beat the odds! You’re a survivor! You’re an amazing human being!

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As. you. are.
Stronger than you know.
More beautiful than you think.
Worthier than you believe.
More loved than you can ever imagine.
Passionate about making a difference.
Fiery when protecting those you love.
Learning. Growing. Not alone.
Warm. Giving. Generous.
Quirky. Sexy. Funny. Smart.
Flawed. Whole. Scared. Brave.
And so, so, so.much.more.
Be Strong. Be Confident. Be You. 

~ Copyright: Tia Sparkles Singh, 2011.

Happily Ever After!

RingA couple of weeks ago, on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon, my boyfriend proposed to me on the beach. It wasn’t an elaborate proposal, but it was thoughtful and sincere. He didn’t get down on one knee or prepare a speech professing his eternal love for me, but he had bought a ring and he asked me quietly if I wanted to be his partner for life. Of course, I said yes!

When are you getting married?

This single question, followed by a confused concerned stare was enough to send me on my high horse about the institution of marriage. Still, when well meaning people, my loved ones, asked this question, I found myself clamoring for the right answer. “We’ll get married when my mom can walk again” I said to some. “Maybe this time next year,” I said to others. But, the truth was/is I’m not entirely convinced that I want to be someone’s wife again. (Yes, I was married before!) I’m not sure that marriage is necessary for me to have a happy life. I don’t think I want a husband.

But, society tells me that I need to get married first. Fall in love, get married, have a baby, maybe if you have any money left, buy a house! That is the eternal order handed down by Moses himself and I needed to follow suit! Hollywood & Disney movies brainwash us into thinking that being married somehow means we are “complete” as if we are half empty vessels wandering through life waiting to be filled again. We falsely believe that any life decision we make once we’re married will carry extra weight, even though the piece of paper weighs nothing. We convince ourselves that marriage is a safety net, a lifetime contract that promises unconditional love and security, when nothing in this life is guaranteed. Oh and don’t forget the tax breaks- mostly in death benefits, how utterly romantic is that? Still, we spend a good chunk of our youth searching for our “better half” and rush to the altar only to spend thousands of dollars to make one day count for the rest of our lives.

It’s not that I don’t love my partner, or that I don’t want to build a life with him. I do. I already am. Maybe for some young people, marriage is a spring board into adulthood. A right of passage. But, I feel old differently. I’m not sure when it happened but, sometime between the time we decided to get serious to the time when we actually moved in together, I made a conscious decision to start a life with this man. Every decision we’ve made as a couple since then has been a deliberate and rational step towards our future. We moved in together to start saving up for a house. And, when we thought we were ready, we took the step to becoming home owners. We choose a neighborhood close to family- another sensible decision even though it added extra hours to our commute! The peace of mind and daily assistance we get from being close to (his) mom more than makes up for this inconvenience. Not to mention what it will mean when we decide to start a family soon one day. Again, sound decisions! We bring different strengths to this partnership. He enjoys cleaning, I enjoy cooking, decorating, reorganizing. He cuts the grass and takes the trash out without 11954797_10100917481252295_6242153303725842974_nbeing asked. We’re Team RobSen! It’s never 50-50. It’s always 100-100! If ours isn’t a marriage I don’t know what is…

It’s not that I’m some kind of evolved feminist or that I’m trying to take a stand against a sacred institution. I know lots of married couples, including my parents, who are genuinely happy. Sadly, I know even more who are not. I know couples who have broken up on the way to the altar, just from the stress of it all. I know couples who didn’t last more than the first year. I could go on… And, I personally witnessed what happens when two people who start out loving each other, change due to circumstances and choices that they make and run out of love. Not even divorce could’ve saved them from each other.

Why do I need a husband when I have such a wonderful partner?

He is my equal in every way. He makes me laugh every single day. Our life is wonderful as it is and YES, I will be his partner for life! (And, if he wants to say vows and exchange rings in front of a crowd, I will happily go along with it), but NO, I won’t be needing a piece of paper to remind me how lucky I am!

Stop Trying to Change (Insert Name Here)

catsI recently found myself in a stressful situation involving strong personalities. I watched the drama unfold from the sidelines, as the conversation had nothing to do with me… or so I thought. As it turned out, it was learning opportunity for me.

Most of our disagreements are about something someone said which was taken the wrong way, isn’t it? When we feel insulted, we react poorly. We assume the worst about our attacker. We retaliate, trying to inflict the same amount of pain that they’ve caused us. We unravel because of our own actions. And, before we know it, we’ve lost control of the entire situation. Friendships are destroyed. Families are broken. And, our own inner peace is damaged irrevocably.

What if there was a way to end every situation before it gets out of control? What if you could hear and also BE HEARD at the same time?

I read a book called “Crucial Conversations- Tools for Talking When Stakes are High” It has, in many ways, improved the way I communicate, though I’m a work in progress. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking to communicate better or simply develop their people skills.

“A crucial conversation is a discussion between two or more people where stakes are high, opinions vary, and emotions run strong. When we face crucial conversations, we can do one of three things: We can avoid them, we can face them and handle them poorly, or we can face them and handle them well. Ironically, the more crucial the conversation, the less likely we are to handle it well. We often hold things inside by going silent until we can take it no longer—and then we drop a bomb. In short, we move between silence and violence—we either don’t handle the conversation, or don’t handle it well. We may not become physically violent, but we do attack others’ ideas and feelings. When we fail a crucial conversation, every aspect of our lives can be affected—from our careers, to our communities, to our relationships, to our personal health.”

How many of us have failed at a crucial conversation? I’m guilty as charged… As I watched my friends argue, I realized a basic thing. Neither of them were speaking from the heart. They were speaking around the issue, but they did not acknowledge to each other, and maybe even to themselves, the root of their hurt. Maybe there are underlying issues; years of miscommunication, culminating into this very argument? I don’t know. But, the pain was very real and neither of them wanted to share in it.

“The key to how we feel lies in the stories we tell. These stories consist of our guess as to why people do what they do. As we become emotional, our story seems to be “What is the worst and most hurtful way I can take this?” This negative spin escalates our emotions and causes us to do the worst when it matters the most. To break away from your volatile emotions, you must rethink the conclusions you drew and the judgments you made. That requires you to tell the rest of the story. New (more accurate and complete) stories create new feelings and support new and healthier actions. Better still, new stories often encourage you to return to dialogue.”

ANY RELATIONSHIP CAN BE FIXED. That may seem like a bold statement, but, if you start from the heart, with a genuine desire to improve the situation, to understand where the other person is coming from, then any relationship can be mended over time. The next time someone says something insulting, instead of reacting, why not say to them calmly “Your words are hurting me, but I know YOU are not trying to hurt me.” Watch their reaction. If they don’t hear you the first time, repeat again. And, if they don’t hear you the second time, just disengage. You cannot change anyone. THE ONLY PERSON YOU CAN CHANGE IS YOURSELF!