National Anti-Bullying Month – My Story

October is national anti-bullying month in the US. But as most of you know, bullying isn’t restricted by borders, or languages, or culture, or even religions. Bullying is a nasty part of childhood, that for many, persists until adulthood. Swedes, Americans, whatever, bullying is everywhere.
Mobbing
I was bullied in school. A lot. I moved a few times before college, and those were not easy moves. As a result, I often spent my time being the new, different kid in school.

Before I get to the bullying part, let me tell you about my teenage self. I was an over-achiever who enjoyed the attention of teachers. I had to work hard for my grades, they never came easy to me. I participated in several extracurricular activities, none of which were sports. I was short, wasn’t skinny, and wore clothes from middle class stores. My family was educated middle class and worked hard to pay the bills, take vacations, and be awesome parents.

I’m sure people would have considered me precocious, a know it all, and a dork (nerd and geek wasn’t often used at my schools…go figure).

And I was the new kid on the block, literally.

There was one year I spent being the kick bag of the entire class. Even the teacher gave up; or at least didn’t do much to stop it.

It was my year of hell.

I had only two friends in that school during that year. The remaining friends were from outside clubs and groups I was in, and luckily I had some friends.

But going to school that year? It was awful. There’s no one place to start with how or why the bullying began. But I did know it was because of my circumstances in life. I wasn’t rich, I wasn’t Christian or Jewish, I wasn’t tall and skinny, and I most certainly wasn’t white.

All things I could never control about myself, but so easy to weaponize against someone.

When that class started at the beginning of the school year, I though I would make lots of new friends. I was switching classes from the previous year, and as a result, none of my friends would be in this new class. Side note, my school would try to keep each class together in every grade so students would mostly know each other.

So many new faces! And a new teacher to boot! It was going to be an exciting year!

After a few weeks, I realized that the students in this class had been together since kindergarden. Many of them knew each other because their families were already friends too. They took trips together, went to church together, their parents played golf together, the list rambles on.

I didn’t do any of those things with my classmates and their families. My parents were outsiders as well, and they remained so that whole year.

And there weren’t any Invisibility Cloaks in the world to keep me hidden. I had to face it all every day.

I was invited to one birthday party that year. When classmates would discuss their weekend, especially if there was a birthday party, they would make sure to talk around me so I could hear about their fantastic parties.

When I invited my classmates for my birthday, only two showed up, out of a class of 35.

Lists were really popular then. The best singers list, the best movies list, and all that innocuous good stuff. But teenagers, they’re smart, cunning, and evil. Instead of those top 10s, they made the prettiest girls in the school list, the ugliest girl in the school list, the most likely to date, the most unlikely to date, and probably many more.

I remember one afternoon at recess, everyone was gathered around one of the guys in class. They were scheming a list up. It was the “Most Unpretty List.” The list was hand-copied and so passed around like wildfire in the entire school.

I was voted the #2 “ugliest girl.” I was also voted “least likely to date.”

When I found out, I was devastated. I cried the entire night at home. My parents were heartbroken. They spoke to the teacher and the principle the next day. Both the teacher and the principle were appalled and would put an end to this behavior immediately.

Whatever my teacher said to those students, was the wrong thing. Everything backfired. For the next couple days, classmates were “nice” to me, it soon became aware that it was my parents who complained about them.

Retribution was swift. The teasing, the active ignoring, the talking behind my back quadrupled. I was teased about where my clothes came from, why my parents didn’t own a Mercedes like the rest of everyone, why I was fat, why I worshipped “stupid” looking gods, and so much more. I don’t remember most of what they said, but I know the dictionary was their limit.

Soon the teacher told me to essentially stop being a wuss and grow up. That those students were teasing me because they liked me. That everything would be fine.

That teacher? She behaved like an asshole and the queen of bullies. She allowed and tolerated all that under the auspices of her roof. She protected the bullies when I (or others) complained. She encouraged them to talk about their birthday parties, knowing full well I wasn’t invited. She favored others and gave them awards, when I knew I deserved them.

I was, all but abandoned.

When that year ended, I was elated but terrified. The next year I would be changing schools again, and who knows what that would hold in stock for me.

As it turned out, the following year wasn’t so bad. And it got better year by year until I was in high school and learned to fight back.

The Lesson

But the over arching lesson here is that bullying takes a toll on your well-being, mentally and physically. It takes a toll on every one of us. As friends, as parents, as victims, bullies take the best parts of a person and crush them into nothingness.

Bullies take away hope.

Bullies take away the security of being a child.

It’s no wonder that in a social and online media driven world today, that bullying has crossed boundaries that literally destroys lives. From the young teens who commit suicide, to the children who take weapons to school, the execution of bullying has become more and more nefarious and destructive.

I wish I had answers on how to combat bullying. I don’t. I don’t know what my parents could have done differently. I don’t know what I could have done differently. But when the students and the teacher become the bullies, there are few options left.

What I can say though, is hang in there. Hang in there because life will get better. Hang in there because these asshole turds rely on bullying to be “better”. You, dear victim, have so much more going; maybe you’re smart, maybe you’re great at music, maybe you love to write, maybe, you are just you.

But hang in there. Share your story as an adult to your children and nieces and nephews. Teach that goodness is better than bullying. Trust that no one can take your self worth, no matter how much people devalue you.

And love; we are all equal.

i can fly

this is what i listen to when feeling a whole of emotion vibrating inside.

i can fly
but i want his wings
i can shine even in the darkness
but i crave the light that he brings
revel in the songs that he sings
my angel gabriel

í can love
but i need his heart
i am strong even on my own
but from him i never want to part
he’s been there since the very start
my angel gabriel

bless the day he came to be
angel’s wings carried him to me
heavenly
i can fly
but i want his wings
i can shine even in the darkness
but i crave the light that he brings
revel in the songs that he sings

gabriel // lamb

Updates & Happenings 6.5.12

I’ve been offline most of the week because my best friend A and I went to Budapest.

Hungry in Hungary!

Bahahahaah…

I love Europe because it is amazingly easy to travel through. There are lots to tell and zillions of photos to share. If I am a good blogger, I’ll put together a couple posts on eats, visits, and the Swedes.

A few weeks ago, since The Swede and I couldn’t get a ticket to Gotland, or anywhere else in Europe by taxi cab carrier RyanAir, we went to Öland. What a sweet island! It is the second largest island in Sweden, after Gotland, and is full of windmills, 300 remain. Lots of photos and posts to come about what to see and do in Småland.

In other news, I will be traveling again this weekend to the United Kingdom for a wedding site launch party. Totally random I know. But the most exciting part? Going to the Design Museum to see the Christian Louboutin exhibition!

Personally, things are up and down as each day is still a struggle of its own. Some days are amazing, some days are terrible. The vacation to Öland and Budapest were so so needed.

It’s been a year since my husband and I went on a vacation that didn’t involve burying someone. And going on a girls trip is always a special experience. A is hilarious and is a great friend to travel with and drink.

When I came back to Sweden this weekend, I had the please of enjoying the bat shit crazy insane weather. I totally wanted to be back in Budapest with +20C weather and eating at the Four Seasons. PS – Eating at the Four Seasons is cheaper than getting a burger and a few beers at a pub in Stockholm.

::Facepalm::

8 Things You Should Never Say To Someone Who’s Grieving

I am taking a break from the usual Swedish madness to get something off my chest. First and foremost though, I have this blog to thank for helping me slowly move forward.

It has been nine months since my mom passed away. I do not miss her any less and I do not feel like I have moved on either.  I may have come out of the dark, winter basket, but my real feelings are in a laundry basket; waiting to be sorted out.

I do not have many friends to talk about this; I doubt many would in this situation. A couple close friends have been a great rock for me. But all in all, most friends that I used to hang out with, I do not anymore.  And I do not feel the need because most of the time I fail at making small talk.

Like the overly awkward conversation from an acquaintance who was “so sorry! but it’s important to discuss our emotions and not bottle them up!” I never saw her again and she never contacted me either.

When all the world feel apart, I somehow had this movie feeling fantasy of how friends would take care of me.   Friends stopping by, bringing ice cream (actually, it did happen once with a very wonderful friend), ensuring I can get myself out of bed and dressed, taking me out to do things, crying with me.

That did not happen. The friends that I expected would be my rock disappeared and couple friends I was close to but not best, became rocks for me.   Still, crying sessions were me hiding the under covers wishing I could see my mom one last time.

In all the grieving, I have heard some amazing things and some incredibly stupid things.  They may not sound stupid at first glance, but to a person who is grieving, these words sound like fingernails scratching a chalkboard.

Here is my pet peeve list of what not to say.  And now that it is written to the Internets, if I do hear a friend say one of the stupid phrases, I will not speak to them again.

 

1. “I’m so sorry I wish I could help.”
The combination of ‘sorry’ and ‘help’ comes off as superficial. You CAN help. Listen to me when I talk, cry with me, call me when you think I’m about to fall off Earth. Your wishing you could help is a way for you to offer false sincerity without needing to follow up.

 

2. “Omg, I’m so sorry!!! I’m so sorry.”
Americans love their clichés and their favorite is “I’m so sorry.” You cannot equate “I’m so sorry, I forgot to help you get the bags out of the car” to “I’m so sorry that your mother died!”

Be a little more creative than the status quo and say something of substance so your friend in grieving understands that you care.

 

3. “I know {exactly} how you feel.”
I have said this as well and until last year, I did not realize how stupid it sound. You are forgiven for saying it but please don’t put the spotlight on you and become the center of attention over your dead goldfish.

No, you do not know how I feel. You are not in my brain and you do not know my family.

 

4. “Let me know if you need anything (or call me if you need to talk).”
I heard this a LOT. Nearly everyone. The fact is, a grieving person does not know what they want and many times, do not have the energy to make that call. We feel an added burden to put someone else directly into our problems. And we are not sure if this is another “I’m sorry” cliché or something a friend meant.

It works both ways that a friend may not know if it is appropriate to call the grieving soul, but let me assure you, call. Call your friend who suffered a tragic loss. Call them and help them. Just do not call them and say anything on this list!

Plus, a grieving person will not call you. A good friend should know that loss is a life changing event and should check up on their grieving friend. Not the other way around. I should not have to call every person on my list to find someone who will talk to me for five minutes today, another person who will talk ten minutes tomorrow, and so on.

 

5. “You’ll get over it; it takes time.”
Thank you Captain Obvious for that idiotic statement. I will never get over “it.” “It” is Death. Death leaves am imprint on everyone it touches and takes away from us.

Of course it takes time to heal. The scars will always be there but they will heal. When, who knows. If those around a grieving person understand, the process moves faster. If not, then the grieving person has to fend for themselves.

 

6. “You’re so lucky you have a loving husband/wife to take care of you.”
Another obvious statement but where the person who says this can shift all responsibility they have as a friend to the spouse. I understand you’re trying to be consoling and point out that if I was alone life would really truly suck. But at least with a husband/wife it is a bit easier.

Sure, I may have a loving husband but that doesn’t mean he can sit all day with me crying. He needs support too. He also lost someone.

Plus, just because a husband/wife is loving doesn’t mean they are experts in grief counseling. They may support a depressed, grieving wife/husband but they may not be able to deal with it either.

 

7. “I love you! Just been thinking about you!” {via email or fly by facebook chat}
Facebook and social networks have turned people into socially incompetent idiots. People write whatever they think without using an inkling of common sense.

I receive a few mails with the above quoted. Nothing else except a bunch of hearts and exclamation points. I know the person was trying to be sweet but one would think a 5-yr-old wrote it, not a 30-yr-old.

Americans are found of the “I love you” phrase. You can have endless debates when you should say the three magical words to someone you actually love but you use it like toilet papper with friends. It serves a purpose for a split second but is quickly flushed away, never to return.

 

8. ” … ” {Not saying anything at all}
There were a few friends I saw a few months after my mom’s passing. They never said anything. I felt so awkward because I was pretty sure they knew but there were no condolences given.

But the problem was, some of them asked bizarre questions like “Oh how was your summer?!” or “It’s been a while, so good to see you, what’s new?”

I was perplexed. Did they know? Not know? Everyone else at that party, knew. What about them?

To say the least, don’t make a grieving person feel more self conscious and out of place if you know about their loss but fail to mention it. The best thing to do would be to pull the person aside and say something along the lines of, “I know this isn’t appropriate to say at a party but since I have not seen you since your mom’s passing I want to give you my condolences.”

In my situation, the only thing I could say was “Summer was nice.”

 

There were many friends whom despite me having little contact with them over the past decades, sent me beautiful emails and messages. There were so many stories of my mom shared to me. I had either not known or forgotten the stories that I was swept away. She had an impact on many people and they cared for the ‘friend’s mom’.

And I had a couple special friends who found out immediately and helped us with packing, traveling, and coming home. They are rocks.

There are ways to comfort a grieving a friend/family member. Please take this seriously if you are a friend/family of a grieving person. We need a lot of love at this time and believe it or not, you, the friend, are probably much more important person in your grieving friend’s life than you may think.

Love. love. love.

I will try to think of a list of things to say for next time.

10 Kilos of Chili Later

I am exhausted. Dead-tired beat. Beat dead-tired. Deadbeat tired. Something like that.

After a full day of cooking with A on Saturday (epic photos below), we went to rock the Chili Experiment cook-off yesterday.

That included four kilos of onions (that’s ten pounds), 12 cans of kidney beans, 25 chilis, 15 cans of tomatoes, and four kilos of venison.

The great tower of food
The tower of food

Onions – please don’t cry…
Four kilos of onions

To say the least, it was awesome! Brooklyn Brewery stuffed us with enough beers to not remember why you were really competing but that you just kept giving out little cups of stuff for people to try. Yum!

The competition was intense: 22 teams. We didn’t win, which was a bummer because I was looking forward to some Riedel glasses and a beer book but we did get a little beer making kit and a special 1 beer from the brewery. {Thanks guys!}

Nearly everyone cooked something delicious and chili related. There was one yellow soupy, veganish-chili that was weird but everything else I could eat over and over and over again.

Not many people dressed up but one team dressed up as giant chilis. They were epic funny. We dressed up as Indians with Viking helmets.

Yes, we looked nuts.

Chili men – indeed hot.
chili men

Setting up our table – go team Northern Lights & Fire!
Our table

Presenting to the judges. That’s Edward Bloom. I think he really liked our candied chili idea.
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Photo op with Theo, who ran the shindig. I especially love him because he went all Brookly nuts at one point. And Brooklyn crazy means speaking louder than indoor voice and using a lot of four letter words. Love him!
with T

All in all, this was just the event I needed to get back to having more fun in life. Thanks awesome friends for showing up and The Swede for rallying the troops. And of course, partner in crime who chopped all those onions and didn’t cry!

Come See Me Compete in The Great Chili Experiment Competition – Stockholm

OMG, OMG, OMG! I have some super exciting news!

I have been invited to participate in the food competition called The Food Experiments – The National Tour. This event is sponsored by Brooklyn Brewery and run by Theo at The Food Experiments.

And if you’re wondering why a US national tour is in Sweden, it’s because Brooklyn Brewery’s largest market outside the US is Sweden. Go American beer! And many of you think American beer is terrible, tisk tisk.

Tomorrow, Sunday, March 25th, Andrew and I will be competing in the Swedish leg calle the Great Chili Experiment – Stockholm. You can meet us, taste the food, and of course vote for us! The Swede is helping to organize and rally the troops. We’ll be in costume (can’t say what in case an enemy is reading…hehehe).

We are called team Northern Lights & Fire and will have a table set up and will be sharing lots of tastings.

We also had a chance to scoop out the competition last night. There are a lot of teams. But we’re still excited and ready to kick chili ass!
Meet the Competitors night at Akkurat – with teammate Andrew, enemy err competitor, friend D

Meet the Competitors night at Akkurat – with friend D and host Theo – not the best shot but we had a blast

Say hi and meet us at the Great Chili Experiment!
Where: Hornstull Strand
When: March 25th, 13-16hr
Cost: Tickets are 100kr and can be bought at the door or online. Entry gives you tasting to all competitors (22!) and a free beer (I think).
Why: Because you know you want to see me and taste epic delicious Indo-fi’ed chili!

Bunny – One Year Later

Dear Bunny,

One year ago today you left us. It was so sad after you left. I cried nearly everyday.

You were my little best friend. I never grew up with anyone else at home besides a couple of parakeets (who were super awesome by the way) and my parents. You were a real cool and sometimes asshole-y little friend. But I always loved you.

Since you left us, a lot has changed for us. As you probably know, Mom also left us. When she passed away, I stopped crying because I was in so much shock.

I’m still in shock everyday.

After Mom passed, I couldn’t handle all the death so we did the only thing we could think of doing: find a new bunny friend. His name is Bubbles and he was 12.5 weeks old when he came home. He was small and scared of being alone (still is). I think you would like him because he’s super loving. Bubbles sometimes loves to get a nose rub, which is something I think he learned from you in bunny heaven.

I turned 30 a few months back. It was a great party with friends but for me, I feel 100 years old.

There’s a lot more to say, but I’ll save for another day.

Love,
Sapphire

Our Indian-America-Swedish Wedding Photos – Finally!

For the past year, I left you all in suspense regarding our wedding photos. They’ve been around for a while, but I was too lazy to share them. You did get a sneak peek to the madness but now here’s the real deal.

There are boatload of photos, so be ready for a long fika!

Being glamourous

madness

my new ears

back in the days

phone time

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haldi ceremony - before i become yellow

Haldi Ceremony Collage

haldi on my hands and head!

discussing bridal mehndi - oh, how much to do...

waiting hand and foot

white man + indian mehndi = epic

Indian Bride getting ready for the Sangeet

a couple's hands

the man is popular

the guys & I

L1006027 2

DSC_0365

is it okay to stab the cake?

sneaking a bite of cake - i didn't do it!

rangoli flower

IMG_0508

praying

dare you to get the garland on!

the sacred fire

the bride's family gives her away

crazy eyes

see my panetar!

Photographs are by Christopher and Andrew. Also thanks to Kate, Sabina, Tinna, and many more for contributing.

Goodbye Year of the Rabbit – Hello Year of the Dragon

The Year of the Rabbit is finally over. When the year started, I was expecting an amazing one. We got married during the first week and considering our love for bunnies, it shouldn’t be anything less than stellar.

Drawing by aquineth.

Not true. It’s turned out to be the worst year of my life. We lost our rabbit, Bunny, during the year. It was a no bunny policy evidently.

Then I lost my mom. And really when you lose 40% of your family in one year, the year couldn’t be any crappier. There is so much gone from our lives that we will never recover.

  • There was neither a honeymoon period in our marriage nor first year follies and funnies. Reality hit us hard from the start and all we could do was put up a great wall and wait the year out.
  • There was no first year anniversary celebration with my parents.
  • There was no joint birthday for Mom and Bunny (they shared the same birthday – ironic).
  • There was no 30th birthday with my whole family (but at least with Dad and some great friends).
  • There was no Mom to introduce our new bunny to.
  • There were no feelings for several months of the year.
  • There was no one to take care of us when we needed taking care of.
  • There was no giant fuzzball to paper shred our documents.
  • There was no fuzzball to squeeze and hold for many months.

2011 was full of heartbreak. On the positive side, it started beautifully with a wedding I can never forget. Friends who came from everywhere to be with us and celebrate. And parents who put in endless hours to make it happen. For that, I am eternally grateful.

Still bittersweet.

I read on another blog about how this girl’s 2012 started miserably. She fell sick, needed to change antibiotics twice, had her period, was sick. You know, really tragic stuff (sarcastic). I did not have the audacity to write something caustic and say, “Awww, you’re PMSing and mad. Perhaps the next 356 days will suck too!”

And then my friend told me something vexing. “I’m so proud of you. You’ve kept yourself together during all this time. I would be a total mess. Crying hysterically everyday.” Even though she meant well, her comments pissed me off. It felt that my loss wasn’t that big of a deal since I ‘controlled my feelings to the public world.’

I have not posted much about how I feel, unlike the above whiner with her PMS issues. That’s because sharing my real feelings makes me sick to my stomach. It sucks the life out of you when confronted with real emotions. I wrote a poem but haven’t brought myself to sharing it (maybe one day) with anyone.

Most people, including family, don’t know how I really feel partly because no one asks me (they do ask about Dad) and also that I don’t offer. Why confront the elephant in the room?

On top of everything, I don’t feel as social anymore. What do you talk about with people? A friend came to my birthday party and started talking about how sorry she was about my loss and I was not in the mood to discuss it. But she harped on for another five minutes before I was intercepted on a crisis with the beer cans. Everything feels awkward.

And like the whiney blogger I mentioned above, right now I have less patience for people who post petty status messages and expect others to feel sorry for them. “Omg, I broke my nail.” Or people who brag about their lives: “Omg, I have to show you all my champagne and my seat in business class. It’s the 5th time this month!” Awwww, aren’t you special.

Moving on.

For those of you who lost a mom or dad this past year, this is a toast to us. We survived the year and we will slowly make it back to reality once again. We will learn to laugh and smile, and feel the goodness within.

And for those of you who shared your stories on LiS, thank so you much. You guys are awesome. And to my friends who have checked on me and made sure I still had a pulse, I love you.

I’m going to bid the year of the rabbit farewell with relief and expect better from the year of the dragon.

Huggies,
/Sapphire

Ten Reasons Why I Love The Swede

This is going to be an incredibly sappy post but as it is about Swedish men, love, and bunnies, I have to write it.

I love my husband for a zillion reasons. Some of them are related to being a Swede, and many are just because who he is. Cue, sappiness. Let’s all say it together, “Awwwwwwwwww.”

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Photograph by Christopher Grant.

1. He gives the look. I feel like the only person in the world that matters.

2. Everyday before he leaves for work, I get a kiss and everyday when he returns from work, I get a kiss. Unless we’re actually apart in different time zones, there hasn’t been a day without a kiss.

3. We can fight and argue, only to have the next day where all is forgotten.

4. Important discussions about life and love are discussed with seriousness. Before we were engaged and before we even moved in together, we discussed marriage. It was matter of fact and a great way to know where we both stood on the issue.

5. When I’m sad, he gives me a hug and says, “let’s beat those fuckers!” in an amusing voice. I always laugh.

When Dad would cry after Mom died, he would hug him and hold his hand. He also learned to make the perfect cup of coffee for Dad.

6. He relinquishes the bedroom to my mom and dad when they visit us. He also survived, happily, with his mother-in-law for two months under the same roof without being rude or causing trouble ever. {There was also plenty of wonderful home cooking and evenings spent teaching Swedish and drinking wine with mom. And with dad: a lot of dorking.}

7. He loves that I am a nut for rabbits and love our little precious beans. He was so good to Bunny who was at times, an asinine cable-eating monster to his belongings.

8. Who can resist the Swedish accent? But he no longer says gym as ‘Jyyym.’ Perhaps as I become more Swedish, he is becoming too American.

9. He thinks Americans are too conservative and need to lighten up a bit when it comes to social restrictions.
“You American are so cute. Scared of men walking around in their underwear at home.”

10. No dream of mine is too big or crazy. It’s not to say my ideas are not crazy but rather, he listens and supports the ones that come to fruition.

Oh, and he speaks Sweeeeedish! :-)