Posted in Experiences, Family, Kids

Comic relief

The siblings in the house have been rambunctious lately. And tonight, there was above normal bickering. First, it was the whipped cream. “Look, he is pretending not to hear me. I asked him to put the whipped cream away. I set it on the table before dinner, so it’s his turn to put it back.” “I didn’t hear you, okay? Don’t blame me.” “How can you not hear me, you were right here” “I did not hear you because I did not hear you” “Now you are arguing for the sake of arguing.” 

Just as I was about to zone out of this delightful conversation, my gaze rested on the overflowing sink. An inspiration struck. Time for some character building exercise.

 “Enough already you two. Hari, you will rinse the dishes tonight and Ram, you will load them in the dishwasher,” I gave stern instructions. The siblings muttered under their breath and agreed on something for the first time for the whole evening.  “Let’s do what amma says before she gets ticked off.”  Alright, I am the villain in the story.  

 “Cleaning up dishes is disgusting. I feel like vomiting.” said the older one as he scrubbed the stainless steel bowl with oatmeal smeared on it, with an expression that looked like he had just encountered a roadkill. “How many cups of tea do you guys drink? Can you please just drink one cup of tea from tomorrow?” “And all this cheese is so hard to clean. Why don’t we just eat things that are easy to compost and don’t need cleaning?” “And maybe we should start eating on a banana leaf so we will have fewer plates to clean.” “Maybe it is a good idea to get a dishwasher that will do the cleaning by itself rather than us having to clean for it.” 

If only I didn’t have to pretend to be the responsible adult in the kitchen, I would have rolled on the floor laughing. Honestly, who needs Netflix and Hulu when there is comic relief playing right in your kitchen. 

Knowing that he got the lesser unpleasant task, the younger one made no comment and tried to stay unnoticed, randomly loading one spoon after the other in the rack. I reminded him that it will be his turn to clean the dishes the next day. He paused, shut his eyes tight in a vain attempt to summon tears on demand. 

 “Okay guys, I hope you all learnt something valuable today,” I asked the boys.

 “Yes, we know what it is to be appa and cleaning all the gross stuff,” came the response without skipping a beat. 

What? Not only am I the villain in the story, appa gets to be the hero? 

Ah well, the dishwasher was loaded and the rest of the evening was spent in pin drop silence. I can live with being the villain in the story.

Posted in Experiments, Family, Food

20 for 20

20 things that I will be striving to do in 2020. Some of these are stretch goals and some of these are hard to track but I will be striving for them anyway!

    1. Come up with my 20 for 20 list. If you think this is a low hanging fruit that is an easy one to check off, do not be misled by the seeming simplicity of it. I wanted to do an 18 for 18 list. 2018 came and went but the list never happened. Rinse. Repeat. 2019. So after two attempts of wanting to but not doing, it makes sense that I have it first on my list, don’t you agree? If you do not have a starting point, where do you even begin? 
    2. Read 20 books. Not reading as much was my biggest regret of 2019. Reading does not find a place when there is so much more going on. But not reading is not an option, so have to figure out how to make it happen. Reading at night does not work for me. I will target to read first thing in the morning. If that does not happen, I am just going to drop everything that I am doing, to simply read. All I am targeting is 15 minutes four times per week. 
    3. Weigh 10-15 pounds lighter at the end of the year. This is a moonshot for me. I have done this in the past but every time I attempt to lose the weight I have gained back, it becomes that much more difficult to lose again. Things to remember, I have developed strong inertia for workout and have repeatedly succumbed to temptations this past year.  
    4. 10 baking sessions with Ram. Now that I do less of everything with Ram, this is my attempt to get us more exclusive time with him. Plus all that Sugar Rush watching has us itching to make cupcakes, buttercream and ganache. I know this goal is an irony considering my goal no. 3 but the plan is to abstain from all things sugary and frosty. 
    5. Learn to make one Indian sweet like cashew/badam/milk burfi. The rare times I have attempted to make burfis/cakes they have turned into halwa. It will be kind of cool if I can crack the formula for making it. The whole world seems to be making it in style. I should take interest and make the time.
    6. Settle into a snack routine during the work week. Our breakfast, lunch and dinner during the work week is normally well planned and we have fallen into a rhythm.  It’s snack time that’s the bane of my existence. Without proper snacks, we tend to go overboard with dinner. The goal is come up with few easy grab and go snack options that we can fall back on during the hustle and bustle of evening relay race. 
    7. Get better at making chapathis. I have always wanted to make soft moist chapathis but mine are far from it. I lack the practice it takes to get there. The goal is to make chapatis once per week for dinner and once for lunch (for kids). 
    8. Follow IPL with Hari. Everybody around me watches cricket. I don’t want to be left  out! Plus when sports is such an important part of his life for the first offspring, I should at least try to cultivate some interest in some sport. 
    9. Watch one TV series or movie series or weekly movie session with Da. Again this sounds simple but weekdays are crammed and even if we are able to make time, with more gadgets than people at home, it is so much easier to go solo. I resort to watching a rerurn of Friends and Frasier (which are no longer in Netflix I hear, what blasphemy is this?) while Da does rerun of some alien or sci-fi show. But in the past we have had a good time watching shows together (Killing Eve, Homecoming etc.) so would like to work on this.
    10. Watch one TV series with Hari. We just have one season of Office left. Have to find something that I have not watched and he is eager to watch. 
    11. Learn to operate the TV Projector. Please don’t ask me for how long we have had the projector. Just too many remotes to watch one show. Still… not knowing is not an option. 
    12. Personalize Alexa Show options. I have a tendency to buy and not utilize things. I bought the Alexa for a purpose. There is so much value I can gain out of it. Need to look through options and personalize it.
    13. Set up the underutilized shelves and storage spaces in the house. These underutilized spaces can add so much value to the everyday quality of our lives!
    14. Residual clean up of the yard, remove weeds and plant perennials. I have wanted to do this forever. But I realized that I like the idea of doing it but not actually doing it. Need to find it fixed. 
    15. Internalize dance items that can make up for one margam. Doable but needs consistent efforts. Also, easy to forget the items if not reviewed consistently. The goal is to build muscle memory so with a quick review it will be easy to recall. 
    16. Write 48 blog post for 11 months. I am not counting Thanksgiving month and posts in that month as I have fallen into a routine of a day a post that month. This year, I want to learn to write by showing and not telling, purely for the joy of learning how to do it. 
    17. Learn to do eye make up. Not the eye shadow kind but just learning to use eyeliner. All I can do is Lakme kajal stick. Will be fun to explore other options and see if I can do it. 
    18. Do a Shutterfly album of Hari’s upanayanam. Yes, it will be two years this May and yes, we do not have a single hard copy of the function. 
    19. Learn to recite Vishnu Sahsranamam fluently. The goal is not to memorize but read it fluently. In honesty, I had this as a goal for 2019, made some progress but would like to push it towards completion.
    20. Weekly rituals with the kids – game night with Ram, cuddle and read night with Ram, check in with Hari.
Posted in Experiences, Family, Gratitude, Introspection, Learnings, Loss

Year in Review

That time of the year to introspect, reflect and take stock of the year that has gone by. 

First things first. Let me address the elephant in the room. My word of the year. HABITS. A complete, utter failure to embrace it. I have struggled with simple, foundational habits – eating right, and exercising for a few minutes, and flossing. That extended to the next tier of habits – reading, writing etc. When I started out the year, I thought I would start small, build on my habits over time, and make everyday habits second nature by the end of the year. I started small but all my efforts tapered and evaporated over the course of the year. 

In thinking through what went wrong?  I am a textbook case of spare the rod and spoil the child. If I don’t hold myself to high standards, I just fall apart. I have developed a huge inertia for working out. I simply do not want to sweat it out. Moderation does not work for me. Once I succumb to one bite, it’s million bites after that. My mind has become an expert at wiggling out of discomfort and coaxing me into taking the easy way out. If my own internal barriers aren’t enough, Da’s and my own work schedule have thrown a wrench on our routine and made time even more scarce. 

I am disappointed with myself but determined to pick up my slackness and get better. Now that the most difficult part of introspection has been addressed moving on to what else was happening in our lives. 

In terms of life events, my maternal patti passed away in the beginning of the year. End of life is a hard phase, some have it harder than others. My grandma was surrounded by love and prayers in her deathbed. Thankful that her suffering was not prolonged. 

Da moved on to a new company. The commute is less but the work day is longer, all worth it as there is fulfillment coming from the work. Hari is thriving in high school, taking responsibility for his learning, charting his course. Ram is dabbling in a lot of stuff with scouts and Destination Imagination being good fit for his personality, sports done for movement and socializing, and Sunday school because his mom insists. 

It was tumultuous couple of weeks when appa was sick and the reality of staying so far away and the enormity of role reversal hit me like a ton of bricks. Visiting India, spending time with my parents, going around on my own, reconnecting with friends and life in India are most certainly the highlights of my year. 

We have gone green this year. We have been composting since the beginning of the year, carrying bags for grocery trips and minimizing the use of paper goods. Did I mention that we will be installing solar panels next year? The motivation for that though is the tax benefits rather than the environmental benefits coming from it. While our day to day choices still tilt in favor of convenience, we are more thoughtful about the use of plastics in our lives. 

My work has had several twists and turns this year. I miss my old team but I am happy to be part of my new team. I am learning new things, taking on new challenges and working with new team members. I have also become disciplined about going to office for three days per week and not using my work devices for personal purposes. It feels like some sanctity in my work life has been restored with these simple measures.  

After a break of over a year, got back to dancing, wherein we as students are steering the direction of our classes and making thoughtful choices. I feel good about this because I missed dancing and I took ownership to bring dance back into my life. 

I spent a lot of time listening to interviews and podcasts by Eckhart Tolle. I have read his works but somehow the podcasts took my understanding to the next level and the teachings resonated at a deeper level. For the first few days, I wanted to scream at the top of the mountain. I felt like I had found a treasure. An instruction manual on how to live life.

I leave you with my biggest learning for this year.  The present moment is all that matters. That is all there is to life. Surrender to it. Take refuge in it. Accept it willingly.

Posted in Experiences, Family, Gratitude, Holidays, Little Moments, Milestones, Uncategorized

Game nights, Christmas songs, Cookies (LMT post)

I am spying Ram across the hall. His face is intense, the kind of expression you see on someone who is lost in what he or she is doing. He has been working diligently on the word search and trivia that Hari had made for him on his favorite video game, Brawl Stars, for Christmas. I then shift my gaze to our picture from Costa Rica on the mantle. I have forgotten the name of the specific location but remember the gratitude I felt when we clicked that picture last year. Hari has photoshopped and presented it to me as his handmade Christmas present. Then I see the hand painted cards (with coffee powder) that Da had made for all of us. 

As we inched towards Christmas, I declared that this year we will make handmade presents for each other. Ram was first in line, he rolled up his sleeves, and galvanized into action right away. Paper made football creations for Hari, a story for his mom in which there is a Muffin-man superhero who runs a shop called Muff muff muffin store with his superpower being to catapult humans with licorice and lollipop, and a personalized set of Pokemon cards for his dad. Hari outdid himself with his creations, putting in a lot of thought and time into each of them.  Da, in addition to playing santa’s helper and ensuring that there are presents under the tree, made handmade cards for us. For my part, I have committed to gift of time and acts of service for each of them over the course of the next year – cuddle an read, baking sessions, follow TV shows, assume positive intent, so on and so forth.

This year has been less about Santa and more about Family. Less about presents and more about togetherness. It has been about game nights, Christmas songs, and baking peanut butter cookies together. 

Posted in Experiences, Family, Gratitude, Little Moments, Milestones, Uncategorized

Regular programming resumes

Between jet lag, and transitioning to routine here, I couldn’t prioritize the writing of my daily gratitude posts although the sentiment was very much alive and kicking within me. 

Nov. 14 – Thankful that I reached safe and sound, with relatively small hiccups, to my ultimate sanctuary, my home, my family. Those tight hugs, loud kisses, the craving to be together, that feeling of being loved, cared for, and wanted. Deep deep gratitude for my Jing Bang gang. 

Nov. 15 – While it is full steam ahead with new challenges, grateful that the first day back to work was just about catching up with hundreds of emails that had come in. 

Nov. 16 – Thankful for the intellectual and spiritual high I experienced today. The intellectual high was from judging three rounds of debating tournament. It was my first time, I was a bundle of nerves. I knew I would like the experience but I didn’t quite expect how very intellectually stimulating it would be. Love that parenting gives me learning experiences and opportunities that I would not have had otherwise. The spiritual high was from watching a bharatanatyam recital by none other than Rama Vaidyanathan. It was soul nourishing! A class of her own, and I saw her at such proximity – how very lucky I am! 

Nov. 17 –   Grateful for : 

  • Two hours of much needed nap in the afternoon for my jet lagged body that is still very much operating at India time zone leaving me with fragmented sleep and an aching body. 
  • A quality evening with the family. After all the hugging and rejoicing the day I landed, we had to move on – school, work, cricket practice, birthday party, scouts, debating, Sunday school. It was therapeutic to finally sit down together in the same room and have a shared experience even if it was just watching T.V..
Posted in Dance, Family, Gratitude, Inspiration, Intentions, Introspection, Life, Little Moments, Wishes

The journey

Unbeknownst to me, tears were streaming down my face as the recital came to a conclusion. They were not tears of joy or sorrow; they were the culmination of an experience that was so profound that it brought the vastness and depth within me to the forefront.  The guru, holding the hands of his sishaya, bowing to the audience in reverence, in humility. The audience, drenched in the experience, elevated and humbled by it.  Perhaps, this is what they mean by the soul in me bows to the soul in you?  

**************

The recital was also tinged by a pang. One that comes from the knowledge that I can only be a rasika. The one that is dazzled but not the one to dazzle. The one that tried but the one that did not go much further. 

*************

Hari, Ram and I headed to the attic, our weekend sleeping arrangment. We exchanged notes on the day’s happenings. It was a milestone day for Hari. He played in adult cricket league with a red ball (that’s a milestone for wannabe cricketers).  He got two wickets, gave more runs than he would like, which was partly attributable to the size of the field, and he ended up umpiring as well.  Ram naarated his deed for the day – how he helped appa with yard work and shopping for pavers for the patio. Then, I told him about the evening, how I wished that all the people that I loved could experience what I did – something that was bigger than the self.  

I drifted off to sleep reliving the dance. The concept of yathi that I learnt in the workshop last week so beautifully articulated in the dance. The geometric patterns of the yathi shown gracefully in the mridangam, damuru, nandi’s tail, and the waves of ganga. Bharathiyar’s poem gnyayiru – are you the sun that gives light to darkness or are you the one to kill it? – narrated through dance. One form of art blending with the other. Then came the story of the Ganges – her origin, her role as sustainer of life (birth, maturity, and death all found in the river), and her current plight. A dance item that made me reflect on the sanctity of life forms and natural resources. Then came Rama’s virakthi at losing Sita. Shringara is pervasive in Bharatanatyam but more often than not, it is the heroine pining for the hero. This one was unique portrayal of a heartbroken hero. A sweet reminder that shringara is not exclusive to women. The finale was fitting with Krishna mukunda murari – we are born alone, we die alone, but we live together. Why criticise, why blame, why not treat each other well? 

****************

I woke up this morning earlier than I wanted to. Ram drifting to me, his arms instinctively reaching out to my body for the warmth. The recital from last evening still fresh in my mind. The brilliance of portraying the cow’s tail for gopucha yathi. The way the night that was described as a kadhali, shown elegantly. The eyes darting left and right in all speeds for mrignayani. The swaying and dancing of Krishna.

****************

Downstairs, I can hear Da. The man, who loves his glory sleep, is up bright and early, making tea and breakfast. He has a full day of chauffeuring the boys to towns far away for sports practice. He takes it in stride, without complaints, without expecting me to ease the load for him. Ram is mildly upset that we did not wake him early. You still have plenty of time, don’t stuff scrambled eggs in your mouth, drink some water, I remind him while I am sipping my morning tea without a hurry in the world. Hari comes down with a super stuffy nose, “I had the worst night with my allergies amma.” He was sleeping right next to me, and I had no clue. Why can’t I be that kind of mom that turns the world upside down to make her child’s life easier? I don’t say that to him but chide myself in my head. I just tell him I wish I was awake with him so I could have done something to make him feel better. “Don’t worry amma, if it was unmanageable I would have woken you up.”  

Seeing the morning play out in front of me hits me that I am not needed, I am wanted. That I am loved for who I am, with my imperfections, without any conditions. How lucky am I? 

**********************

Being loved by my family unconditionally reminds me to be gentle on myself. Self compassion trickles in.

It’s true. Life is not a level playing field. We are born with our uniques abilities, strenghts, weaknesses and circumstances. There are some things that are not within our control. There are some things that are within our control that we do little about. It’s ok. It’s ok to be the one that tried. It’s ok to be human. And I remind myself again – it’s not a means to an end, it’s an end by itself. It’s the practice. It’s all about the journey. 

Posted in Experiences, Family, Gratitude, Little Moments, Ram Leela

Primal

With a throbbing headache and incessant coughing, the child woke up feeling miserable. “Amma, take my temperature. I know I have a fever.” I placed my hand on his forehead and then his neck, and knew that he did not have a temperature. “You are feeling feverish kanna, but you don’t have a fever,” I tried to convince Ram.

We did the usual things that we do when we have a coughing child at home – two pillows stacked on top of each other, the third one resting on the two so the child can sleep in elevated position, and a mug and a bottle of water next to his bed for possible throwing up scenario. “Amma, can you sleep next to me?” the child asked. Of course, anything to make you feel better, I responded and settled down on his twin bed.

The child while still coughing, relaxed a bit.  His head resting on my chest, as I wrapped my hand against his body. My belly rising and falling, his hand rising and falling with it. His breathing in synch with mine, we slipped into a rhythm, and the child drifted off to sleep. This is what primal feels like.

Posted in Experiences, Family, Us

Taking the high road

I can feel it. The anger. Simmering, boiling, waiting to erupt, to only leave a trail of destruction. I hate that it has such a hold on me. But I am also thankful that I am aware. That I am feeling angry. That it is a fleeting emotion. Of the sullen faces at home if I succumb to it.

The very simple, enormously difficult, and the only sensible thing to do is to not react. Give anger the time and space it needs to pass. To just sit tight. The damage is done, what good comes out of fighting over spoilt milk?

Somehow writing these few lines has magically calmed me down and allowed the intensity of the emotion to pass. Da, who is blissfully unaware of what’s brewing in my head and is snoring away to glory, must thank his lucky stars that a domestic disaster has been averted (or has it? Only time will tell!).

In case you are wondering what this hullabulla is about. I warned about icy driveway and walkway last night. But according to the facts he had in front of him (warmer temperature), there was no need to rush to the store to get salt because the chances of having black ice is unlikely given the temperature. Not only that he asked me to check if my shoes have worn out. Grrr….!!! Poor Hari had to pay the price by slipping and sliding in the walkaway when he returned from cricket practice late last night.

That’s  my friday morning quota of much ado about nothing. Thanks for reading people. 

Posted in Experiences, Family, Gratitude, Life, Loss, Memories

A full life

In the company of her children, Raji patti passed away yesterday. Amma said she witnessed her last breath, rising from her belly, traveling through her chest, escaping out of her mouth. The next  moment she was lifeless.

Patti had been steadily deteriorating and all signs of end of life was there. And it was getting clearer last morning that it was just a question of time. Everybody surrendered to the ultimate reality and was by patti’s bedside reciting Vishnu Sahasranamam  when I spoke to appa and amma last.. Barely clinging to her life, and with likely some suffering from within, she seemed to have acknowledged everyone and even faintly smiled.

I am grateful that she is not in pain anymore. I am grateful that she lived a full life and that my children, especially Hari, has memories of her.  I am grateful for all the love she showered and the prayers she offered for us. I am grateful that my mama provided top notch care for her. I am grateful that my parents visited her whenever they could, and were fully present for her.

I was not as close to my maternal patti as I was to my paternal patti. But there was love, affection, blessings, well wishes, food and a childhood filled with indulgences. Last time I visited, which was several years back, I remember enjoying every morsel of the meal she had cooked, and I made sure I told how much I relished her cooking, although I did not quite appreciate it as a child.  I brought with me her exquisite bead work, which will always have a place in my gollu and in my heart. Amma told me how people have been pouring in with high praise for her generosity. She had truly won many hearts. 

Rest in Peace patti. Love you and miss you.

With none of my grandparents surviving anymore, I  feel like a layer of my safety net has been pulled from under my feet. And I tell myself, I will carry each of them with me in my own way.  Lord Rama and bakshanam will always remind me of Nana thatha.  I will work on green corner, and our yard thinking of Babu thatha’s love for plants.  I will put in a little more effort to be in touch with my extended family just like Andu patti did. Raji patti always expressed love through the food she served, and she inspires me to put in more love in my cooking. 

I feel so lucky to have had a rich childhood filled with memories and indulgences from my grandparents.

Posted in Experiences, Family, Introspection, Learnings, Little Moments, Memories, People, Research, Travel, Trying, Us

Goldstars

Gretchen Rubin and her sister Elizabeth in Happier with Gretchen podcast have a segment called Goldstar and Demerit. Think of Goldstar as a pat on the shoulder or a smiley face 🙂 and a Demerit as a kick on the bottom or a frowning face 🙁. In a fit of silliness, I started doling out Goldstars and Demerits to the kids during the trip and somehow it has caught on. Every now and then, the boys now come up to me and ask , “Do I get a Goldstar for cleaning up?” “Do I get a Goldstar for doing my homework on time?” I think it is beginning to mean something to them, I can see their eyes shining at the mention of Goldstar. Funny, what started of as a joke is evolving into something more meaningful. 

Why not some travel related Goldstars to all of us?

  • Goldstar to Da, for taking the plunge, and booking the tickets. I kept dilly dallying, procrastinating and feeling utterly overwhelmed. Not knowing where to begin, I conveniently resorted to inaction. Also, Goldstar to Da for constantly making conversations with the Ticos to get local knowledge on places to visit. Thanks to him, we visited the botanical garden and learnt about the artisans shops, which we would not have uncovered otherwise.
  • Goldstar to Hari, for carrying us through this trip with his spanish. He has had only two years of training at school, so is not an expert by any stretch of imagination. Yet, he conversed with the driver, the shopkeepers, and the restaurant folks. Thanks to him, we did not feel the pinch of visiting a country that spoke an unfamiliar language. Mighty proud of him!
  • Goldstar to Ram, for being a trooper. The child had ear infection, bronchitis, and was coughing throughout the trip. But he held on, did not complain, and was eager to take in the travel.  
  • Goldstar to yours truly, for ensuring the house was in order before we left and that our routine would be seamless following our return. I also read up a lot and familiarised myself with the Costa Rican culture prior to the trip.
  • Goldstar to my friends, P and V. We went to Costa Rica from New Jersey. P’s place in NJ is like a second home for us. We go there without even packing our toiletries. Not only did we have a good time there, P helped us with all things that we would need before and after travel. My childhood friend V, did the housekeeping for us here, and welcomed us with home cooked meals and groceries for this week. Truly, I have the best of friends!