Archive for August, 2013

Review of a Must-Read: “From Iran to America – Mahnaz and Shirin, A Love Story”

Sunday, August 25th, 2013

From Iran Cover Paperback FrontReaders hooked on romance, memoirs, and foreign culture and history will love From Iran to America – Mahnaz and Shirin, A Love Story, a novel which cleverly combines all three. Recounting stories from his childhood in Iran and subsequent emigration to the United States, author Reza Mashayekhi paints a picture of day-to-day life growing up within a close, supportive family and community in his homeland under the Shah. Written through the eyes of a boy and later a young man, Reza’s experiences – at times funny, at times poignant – give the reader insight into an educated individual’s life in the Middle East. Adding to this are his harrowing lessons in love at the hands of the two Iranian women who give this book its title.

Mahnaz and Shirin, A Love Story is a touching reminder that no matter how various ethnicities are labeled or criticized, all people have the same needs and feelings as human beings. As such, it has invaluable potential for changing superficial and often media-influenced beliefs about Middle Easterners.

Romantics will appreciate how Mahnaz and Shirin, A Love Story describes in ecstatic and excruciating detail, the narrator’s  journey of falling in love with two beautiful, but very different women – one wicked and deceitful, the other honest and sweet. Is love ever simple? And why do the most scathing and ill-fated affairs captivate their victims against all will and reason? These are questions that transcend time, place, and nationality!

Those who start this book will have to finish it to see how the love triangle is finally resolved for its protagonist, whom the reader has readily befriended by the end of chapter one.

From Iran to America – Mahnaz and Shirin, A Love Story is available in print or e-book format through Amazon.com, BarnesAndNoble.com, or through the author’s website, RezaMashayekhi.com.

It’s Here! YA Science Fantasy… “Water Tower”

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

 

Water Tower (Three Kingdoms, #2)

Water Tower

Book Two of the Trilogy “Three Kingdoms”

The Water Nation is in chaos.

Citizens of the Water Nation are not quite themselves these days. Madness is everywhere and the residents are split into violent factions. Brother turns on brother and the Hubs they call their homes are being destroyed. What is going on?

Fifteen-year-old Sam Cutter has every intention of finding out. It doesn’t matter that it hasn’t been more than a day since Sam fought against the New Power in their assault against the Sky Nation. When one of the world’s five eternal royals asks you for a favor, you don’t turn them down.

Besides, when has Sam ever avoided a fight? His friends know all too well that when he’s around, crazy things just seem to happen. But in a world of forces struggling for control and domination, a trouble-magnet like Sam might be exactly what’s needed.

Join Sam again as he heads to the Water Nation on the bottom of the ocean. Sometimes all it takes is one brave, determined, and somewhat awkward kid to stand up to powers far beyond the ordinary, whether they be good or evil.

Good and evil is just a matter of opinion anyway.

Download your copy today!

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18281337-water-tower

Sea Caves, Suess, and Seven Hundred Kayaks

Saturday, August 10th, 2013

My boyfriend John and I both love the outdoors, and we have taken in some amazing natural beauty over the past few years. Whether biking on the wet sand at the beach in San Clemente or exploring the nature trails scattered throughout San Diego County, we share our attraction to wilderness experiences and seek them out during our free time together.

Therefore, when I saw an offer for discounted admission vouchers for a sea cave kayaking tour in La Jolla, I jumped on it. In all the years I’ve lived in San Diego, I have never seen these caves up close. Carved into the cliffs by the pounding Pacific over decades, they promised to be an incredible sight. According to the tour description, because we were kayaking to the caves, we would also experience all kinds of tidal zone sea life. I pictured John and me paddling around inside a mystical cathedral of carved rock studded with glittering shells and pebbles, then staring down through crystal-clear water to see a variety of fish, including large leopard sharks known to breed in these waters. This was sure to be awesome.

But when I called to make reservations, I found out from the water-sports shop that “voucher people” were only booked into the 7 am, 9 am, or 11 am tours. I thought of how my boyfriend and I were usually lucky if we made it out the door by 1 pm on Sundays… When I heard we’d have to get up early, I have to admit, I was ready to chuck the whole idea and ask for a refund! John and I love outdoor adventures, but at our own pace. After talking about it, however, we decided to push ourselves that morning to get from north county San Diego down to La Jolla.

So at 10:15 am (we had to be there 45 minutes early), we arrived at the shop, after finally finding a parking spot several blocks away. It wasn’t a sunny morning, unfortunately, and there were only a few glimpses of blue sky through the coastal cloud-cover. Around the area where the shop was located were at least six other sports shops offering sea cave kayaking tours, in addition to snorkeling, diving, surfing trips, and of course, any kind of gear you can imagine for ocean enthusiasts. Besides this, there were plenty of small restaurants for all the people coming from the ocean, ravenous and ready to buy a big snack. I checked my wallet.

Because John and I were punctual for probably the first time in our lives, we were quickly signed in and given our life vests and plastic safety helmets. After all, there was liability involved here! What if our kayak got grounded on an underwater rock formation, and we happened to bounce out and hit our heads? Or what if one of the centuries-old stalactites inside a sea cave suddenly became dislodged and crashed down upon us? The life vests were wet and smelled a little funky, but I thought John looked very cute in his shiny, yellow helmet. God knows how I looked, but I was destined for a bad hair day.

We assembled in a group on a nearby lawn, among probably 50 to 70 people. Turns out several different excursions were scheduled at the same time, from a bunch of different shops. Eventually three tour guides – none of whom looked a day over 16 – led us yellow-helmet people down the street to the beach.

Our main guide was Blain. Or maybe it’s “Blane” or even “Blayne” (this must be one of those Generation Z names). Blain was the epitome of the San Diego surfer dude – tall, slim, tan, and obviously right at home in the ocean. Clever and very witty, he made some cute jokes about kayaking and first-timers, somehow managing to slip into his introductory spiel the fact that he has a girlfriend. I figured he probably found this necessary to ward off all the young, female tourists doubtlessly hitting on him all the time.

The beach was crowded, and I almost lost John among the dozens of kayaks, surfers, snorkelers, and pairs of flip-flops waiting to be reclaimed by their owners. Somehow we managed to get kayaks from the right shop (like the helmets, they were color-coded), and we headed out to the open ocean with the rest of our group. I found the swells and breakers far less hazardous than avoiding all the other kayakers launching at the same time.

Once out in the ocean, we “coagulated” (Blain speak) as a group, and listened as Blain told us about the five-foot leopard shark he had seen that very morning, and the abundance of fish usually hanging out in the offshore kelp bed. However, with this many boats, fins, and divers in the water, I didn’t really understand how any fish would have the nerve to be anywhere within miles of this spot. John must’ve figured the same thing, because he vigorously paddled us ahead of everyone else, trying to be ahead of the group in case any sea life might still be in the area. I, being the virtuous, rule-abiding, Catholic-school girl, was frustrated at his speeding ahead and separating us from the group, but finally I surrendered and stopped rowing altogether. John was doing fine without my help.

Nonetheless, ne’er a fish was spotted by either of us that morning, unless you include the brief flash of an orange Garibaldi in the water near the sea caves. Blain gave us the 4-1-1 on those, though. According to him, their color is caused by the fact that they excrete waste through the entire area of their skin, instead of from one opening. Lovely. I don’t think I’ll ever think about the Garibaldi – the state marine fish of California, by the way – in the same way.

We did learn lots of interesting trivia about such things as Dr. Suess’ former home being located right along the shoreline near the caves, and the major fault-line a few hundred feet south of this, an off-shoot of the famous San Andreas fault which promises major land-gulping destruction once “the big one” hits. And how some ridiculously wealthy banker is building a multimillion-dollar home right there along the cliffs, despite the fact that after 25 years, his master bedroom will likely be in the ocean.

As far as the sea caves themselves, we came within about 20 feet of their entrances. They looked pretty much like what you would expect, only not as colorful. As we dodged local snorkelers and bumped into the hulls of other kayaks, our guides told stories about particular caves. But with all the people, noise, and ruckus, John and I were never able to get our kayaks close enough to actually hear the stories, so we were left to our own imaginations. I was disappointed that we didn’t get to actually enter any of the caves…something about the tide not being right. I guess I was wearing the hair-smashing helmet for nothing after all.

My favorite part of the trip was seeing the large populations of birds and sea lions, which still carried on as if they didn’t have 1,000 people staring at their daily activities. I couldn’t help wondering why they didn’t wise up and move on, as crowded by pesky humans as they are. As if reading my thoughts, Blain informed us that the local mayor is currently involved in a huge campaign to displace the birds, since the smell from the huge quantity of bird-poo is offending visitors.

And so it goes, man versus nature…maybe more specifically, man exploiting nature for profit until they ruin it altogether. As far as wilderness experiences, I think John and I will lay off the vouchers for a while and stick with trails and beaches as far away from humans as possible. This way, we might actually get to see an undisturbed tree, or maybe even a rogue offshore fish. One thing’s for sure, though: we’ll sleep later before heading out.

Encouragement, A Gift You Can Give For Free

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

IMG_0894Encouragement is something given for free, but nevertheless in short supply at times. Understanding the reasons for this may help us to share it more abundantly. Could it be that we are so caught up in our own problems and issues that we’re unaware of the needs of those around us? Or are we so focused on ourselves that we are afraid to approach someone suffering a crisis, because we might say or do the “wrong” thing. Perhaps we find ways to avoid feeling our own pain, and are thus unaware or incapable of understanding what others feel. Instead, we rush around, running from difficult emotions, but the effort leaves us with no resources to help our fellows.

Sometimes we may even want others to fail, as this puts us in a superior position. We can then congratulate ourselves on how well we’ve handled things and thereby avoided being in a similar dire state. Perhaps we have secretly envied certain other people, so when they’re suffering we actually feel a sense of satisfaction.

If someone close to us shares that they are having a problem, the inclination seems to be to figure it out for them, to solve the issue and thus rid them of their discomfort. What we fail to see is that by giving them solutions, we are detracting even further from their self-esteem by telling them, in effect, that we don’t believe they are able to solve their own problems. It is not our job to fix other people, but trying to understand and encourage them can go a long way toward restoring some of their positive feelings about themselves.

Encouragement can be as simple as giving a smile or a hug to someone you know who is going through a hard time. It can take the form of validating their feelings, but even better, suggesting a new and more productive way of looking at the problem. Focusing on that person’s qualities – such as inner strength, faith, intelligence, good judgment, sensitivity, practicality – sheds the light of positivity and demonstrates appreciation of people for who they are, in spite of their troubles. This is a surer recipe for healing their battered spirit than discussing what they did wrong that caused their difficulties, or how they could improve. Chances are, we all do the best we can – and make the wisest choices we can – at any given moment. If our best turned out to backfire or be insufficient, it is hard enough to face this without the sharp edge of criticism. Lessons learned from failure take time…patience and gentleness with ourselves and others are invaluable.

Judgment and having expectations are the opposites of encouragement. If we detect these two characteristics in ourselves, it is easy to understand why condescension or indifference might be our reaction to another in trouble. To the best of your ability, try to imagine yourself in the same situation and consider what reaction from others would comfort you the most. If we can do this, and practice at it, we will learn to give encouragement in a weary world, where truly, there can never be enough of this precious commodity.