Twas' the day after Thanksgiving: reflections on what it means to be an American . . .

A few days before Thanksgiving, I took a train from San Francisco to the suburb of Pleasanton.  It was one of those mornings that signal Thanksgiving is near—a cloudless sky, temperatures bracing enough to warrant diving into the coat closet to locate a scarf and gloves, and the sight of fallen leaves swirling in a neighborhood park as I walked to the Bart station.  A billboard loomed above me, advertising a turkey dinner for only $39.99 at Marie Callender's.

I love the week leading up to Thanksgiving because of the anticipation of my family coming together again.  I love the reminders on T.V., on radio, and on social media to be grateful for what you have and hold because it allows me a moment to close my eyes and thank the Universe that my house echoes with laughter and joy again.

However, this year as my family gathered around the Thanksgiving table our mood was somber. In what has become an eagerly awaited tradition, every sibling, every aunt, every uncle, every parent, every grandma, every kid articulates what “I’m thankful for this year." We sat down to dinner, the room full of the smell of curry and cinnamon pumpkin and around the big oak table we went, each taking turns to remember the year’s blessing.

“We are all blessed to have a home and a warm bed tonight, our families together, “ began my brother, clearing his throat. “Let us remember the people in Paradise, who lost their homes and their loved ones,” he continued gravely.

Does Hypnotherapy Work?

Imagine you’re seated in a big, deep, velvet-upholstered antique purple armchair. You look out the window across the street where the wind is blowing in gusts, whipping dead leaves around the parked cars, shaking store signs and rocking the streetlights high on their poles. You sit back in the chair and lift your feet to make yourself comfortable. Your eyelids grow heavy and your body slumps into the chair, eyes wide open, gazing into nowhere as you hear the gong: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

Your subconscious takes over and suddenly you’re in a tropical paradise, basking in the sunshine, lying on your stomach in a teeny-weeny yellow polka dot bikini on a white sandy beach. You’re relaxed, filled with happiness and peace. A soft lilting voice penetrates the trance-like state you’re in, “Anoop, your mind is at peace like a lake with no ripples. Feel the warmth of your bed cocoon you into a restful state of mind.”

Inside Edition to Iceland: The Mystique of the Blue Lagoon

Let me begin by saying that I did not expect to fall in love with the blue lagoon. Given that 1), it is heavily marketed to international tourists, 2), all celebrity visits to Iceland feature the blue lagoon as a top Instagrammable moment and, 3), it was artificially created from wastewater pumped out by a neighboring geothermal power station, I was prepared to shudder delicately and turn up my highbrow nose at such an obvious touristy attraction. Since I’m not a spa aficionado, I expected to spend no more than fifteen-twenty minutes in testing the waters and finding it too crowded or too cold (the outside temperature being a bone-chilling 38°) I would deign it to be “done.” I would clap my gloved hands briskly together as if to say, “checked off the bucket list” and stride off to find the next big adventure.

I ended up frolicking in the blue waters of the lagoon for two hours without getting bored with the experience. Despite its popularity, the blue lagoon remains an eerie, mystical destination. Here are the top reasons why the blue lagoon is a must-see-must-relish experience:

The Inside Edition to Iceland; Part 1

When you first land in Reykjavik, you think you’ve landed on Mars. All you see is a dark, rock-strewn landscape and black lava mountains under angry grey skies. As you drive downtown from the airport, a strong smell of sulphur assaults your nose. What comes to mind is the volcanic eruption of 2010 which disrupted air travel across Western and Northern Europe. But two days into your trip and you begin to see the appeal of Iceland: there aren’t many countries where you can visit thermal springs with a boiling temperature of 100°F and icy glaciers in the same afternoon.

It’s no wonder Iceland’s tourism is booming.

Ford v. Kavanaugh

Two weeks ago, I wore a fictional piece about the #MeToo movement (http://www.anoopjudge.com/blog/me-too-) and last week social media exploded with Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh having to face his own #Metoo moment.

The handling of sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is more than a conservative vs. liberal fight over a high court seat. The chorus of doubt accuser Christine Blasey Ford, has faced shines a light on how sexual assault claims are minimized, and victims’ trauma misunderstood even in the post #MeToo Age.

The Palo Alto University professor claims that Kavanaugh, and a friend took her into a room where he pinned her to a bed, groped her, tried to remove her clothes and put his hands over her mouth to muffle her screams at a house party in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., in the early 1980s, when he was 17 and she 15. Kavanaugh denies the allegations. Yesterday, she agreed on Thursday as the date she is willing to testify. It's going down at a public hearing.

#Me Too . . .

He was her boss, the one whose bold signature was stamped on the checks she stood in line to collect from the cashier's office at 425 Locust Street. Twice a month, like clockwork. On the 15th and the 30th.

She drove straight to the bank after she tucked it securely in the inner pocket of the logo-embossed Coach handbag that had been a birthday gift from her husband two years ago. The first time she received her paycheck her eyes kept straying from the road ahead to peek into the pocket, once, twice, thrice to make sure, yes, it's still there. By the time she handed it over to the teller for direct deposit, her fingers were clammy from the effort of keeping it safe. 

She was grateful for the job. Yes, she was. She'd sent out 50 resumes just like her college counselor advised her to do. "Keep trying," Mrs. Gomez said kindly, letting her wizened hand rest lightly on Anika's tightly clenched fist. Anika felt bereft when Mrs. Gomez removed her hand and forced herself to concentrate. "It's the bad economy, the recession, dear. Nobody's hiring." Especially, not anybody with an accent. Anika could hear her inner critic chiming in.

Minding your cell-phone manners . . .

It was a blisteringly hot day in August. I waved to my son who had shimmied to the top of the diving board and was preparing to leap into the area of the pool where the 7-8 year-olds were collected. After a moment of cheering him on enthusiastically, as he was led away by the instructor of the beginner's swimming class at Livermore Aquatic Center, I let my shoulders sag. The next thirty minutes stretched in front of me in sheer monotony. I wish I had thought to grab a book or magazine to keep me company while I waited for my son's class to finish. 

Tring, Tring. The number that flashed on my cell phone screen was that of my best friend and neighbor. The welcome distraction of a gossip-infused exchange of Who Wore What at last night's shindig beckoned. I glanced around furtively. An older balding man with a tanned face and large piercing eyes slouched on a bench behind me.

A Thousand Splendid Suns; the journey from the page to the stage . . .

"One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs; 

Or the thousand Splendid suns that hide behind her walls.”

(-Josephine Davis’ translation of Saib Tabrizi’s poem ‘Kabul’ written in the 17th century)

Last autumn, the #MeToo movement began in Hollywood and spread across the world, shining a light on sexual harassment and assault, and dominating the social-political scene ever since. In this climate comes a play which tells the story of three generations of Afgan women who are bound together by marriage, family and a secret past amid the war-torn streets of modern-day Kabul. Hosseini has stated that he was inspired to write A Thousand Splendid Suns after visiting Afganistan and speaking with the strong women who live in a country where their rights are often oppressed.