Nature vs. Nurture

As a child, I loved to study math and science through story. They were never esoteric subjects for eggheads. They were exciting realities all around me. Math, science, language and art were one, in my eyes. It was always odd to me when people embraced one of these subjects as if the others didn’t exist in it, as if they could block the other subjects off as separate terrain.

Lately, I’ve been reading books by behavioral science writers Dan Pink and Dan Ariely. They and other authors reference Daniel Goleman and his book Social Intelligence quite a bit. Social Intelligence is one of the most fascinating books I’ve ever read. To me, it brings everything in life together. Systemic thinking and relational thinking. Genetics and environment. Everything in life is about this big thermostat and a seed. The seed (our nature) has its own wirings and tendencies, but the thermostat (our nurture) heightens or represses certain tendencies based on cues from the environment.

I can see this in my own children through the opportunities they have. My oldest fits the older sibling profile – she nurtures and leads – but I’ve seen how she has been conditioned to be that way through the opportunity to be that way with her little brother.


As much as I write, record and string words together, it is oddly true that I would characterize much of my life as feeling, experiencing or believing things while struggling to find the language to express them.

Part of this is a result of the immigrant experience and reconciling conflicting eastern and western taken-for-granted assumptions and forms of thought. Code switching depending on the environment.

But that’s another post that I will probably save as a WordPress draft and be too chicken to hit publish. (I have drafts from as far back as 7 years ago.)

The other day I came across a word that made me feel more secure, or, you could say, validated.


Which is a person who is trying to eat less meat.

I’m not a vegetarian. I’m not a guilt-free meat eater either.

I have no problem eating animals. But I’m sickened by their inhumane treatment and mass production and the impact on the environment and our bodies.

Plus more vegetables are a good thing.

So when I have the will power, I will pass on the meat. This is not very often, mind you.

But it gave me pleasure to see there is a word for me.

The student and the sensei

A 30-something-year-old student once asked the oracle, “O great oracle, sometimes when everything is going well, why does it feel like life sucks?”

The oracle knew immediately what was in the student’s heart.

“Well that is because you were born with remarkable drive and a specific purpose. When you are out of alignment with your purpose and potential, even a great life can seem incomplete.

“But this isn’t what you really wanted to know. You want to know how to live into your purpose and potential.

“Start talking to people who are doing what you feel called to do. Get insight on how they got there.

“Write it down. Write down every golden nugget and read it before you go to bed so you can dream about it at night.

“There is no formula. Your spirit has to meet with a revelation, something that rings inside of you and propels you forward at the ordained moment.

“Before you come into alignment, you will experience frustration and restlessness that can easily cause mental anguish and a breakdown in your communication with others.

“You’ll have a hard time projecting a warm and positive demeanor when on the inside you are pregnant and uncomfortable and you worry if your baby will come out alive. Which is to say, you worry if your path of alignment will come to be.

“This is where persistence and endurance come in. You must believe without a doubt that alignment is on its way and is your destiny.

“You must also keep dreaming and taking steps to reach your path of alignment. Do not do what you’ve done before because it won’t work. Don’t be afraid to try new things just because the old things didn’t work. Those who keep learning and doing are those who prevail.

“Position yourself to handle the discomfort of moving into a new phase of life. It is not without labor pains and the labor pains pale in comparison to being in disalignment and inertia a year from now or 5 years from now.

“Don’t forget to stop, reflect and take account of your life. Otherwise your alignment will arrive and you will have completely missed it, like a ship blowing its horn at the shore when you were too busy crying in the sand, leaving the ship to finally set sail without you.

“Now go have a drink on a patio somewhere.”

The Green Foresty Mountain

It was really a hill. A terrace. A terraced hill.

Every time we visited my mom’s oldest sister in Naranganam, I saw it across the little dirt road and on the other side of the field or whatever that greenery was.

You can see it in the photo below. My dream was to climb this hill, to just walk through it and see it up close after seeing it from afar for so long.

In 2009, the day came. My cousin Sabuchan took Sajan and me through it.

naranganam kerala

We trekked through the flat part first. There was chukka, papaya, kappa, plantain and rubber trees. We even got to slosh our feet through this little muddy stream as we crossed over. It felt so good.

naranganam kerala

This is Sajan after he rolled up his pants and sloshed through.

naranganam kerala

We started to get higher and higher. You can kind of tell from this picture.

naranganam kerala

This is a zoomed in shot of my uncle and cousin from their house watching us climb the hill.

naranganam kerala

This is my cousin Hebel waving at them! You can see the littler orange house in the distance.

naranganam kerala

I was so happy to finally make it up there!! We soaked in the intense humidity and the tropical air and a dream fulfilled.

The Mathi Man (Fish Delivered to Your Door)

When I was a kid on trips to India, we would get so excited every time the mathi man came around on his bike with the latest catch of little fish. We would hear a distinct vocal sound echoing from down the road, then the ring of his bicycle, alerting potential customers.

These photos are from 2009, the first time Sajan and I went to India together.

mathi man kerala

mathi man kerala

This photo is from a year later, 2010. My mom, her sister and my uncle are checking out the goods.

mathi man kerala

My mom went and got a pot to put the purchased fish in.

mathi man kerala

Then we had it for dinner.

mathi man kerala

We sat under the sunlit sky

finally, the moment came. I pulled out a Peruvian blanket and lay it on the backyard grass. Layla and I lay down. Our faces met with the sky. It was an almost blinding blue and white for a second. 

Then our eyes focused. We watched the clouds float by. We wondered where they were going. India, maybe?

We closed our eyes in silence. We relayed all the sounds that came to our ears. Cars. Birds. The wind in the trees. The low hum of the a/c unit. 

We talked about our day.

It had been a typical start to a weekend morning. Sajan and I drank chaya and ate some eggs. 

Then we took the kids for haircuts. It was Ezra’s first. He was so curious about everything, listening to the scissors clip-clipping and the clipper buzz-buzzing as he sat in his chair.


   Layla loved the glitter finish they sprayed on her hair after her trim.

For amusement we walked through Whole Foods next door. It was too cold for Layla, so we didn’t stay too long. I remember the discomfort of grocery store cooler/frozen sections as a kid.

The morning was young. We headed to the farmers market. I splurged on natural soap and cashew milk. I think our favorite part is talking to the vendors and gleaning golden nuggets about running their business. 

Later we went to Blesson and Jolly’s house for gumbo. Their interior decorating is great!


And their gumbo is just as good. They are masters of making a salad even salad haters can devour to the last bite.


After lunch and conversation, the kids fell asleep in the car.

And later Layla and I were out in that blanket.

The air was fresh, the sky serene.