This article about the rise of Dhivya Suryadevara is doing the rounds in FaceBook. I didn’t know her before reading this article. It especially struck a chord because she is about my age, grew up in the part of India where I grew up in, and chose my field of study. Her journey is quite remarkable and is the story of realizing the American dream. I can only imagine the amount of hard and smart work, and perseverance it would have taken for her to arrive here. Hats off to her for not only thriving but also making her mark in a relatively short span of time. I am in deep awe and respect!
How did I do? Is it worth continuing with the word of the year? Is it a meaningful exercise?
I did ok with Mindfulness although I forgot it was THE word a few times. Setting intentions in the beginning of the year did unintentionally influence my everyday actions. I am able to sense tension, tightness and panic when things don’t go my way. I don’t become zen or calm about the situation right away. But I have learnt that the place to start is relaxing my jaws and facial muscles. Paying attention to that tactical action, settles me a bit even when there is restlessness raging within. I talk myself into getting some alone time and engage in some productive work so I am not being disruptive to the ones around me. It works a few times even if not always. I have also learnt to drift back to sleeping when I wake up in the morning. This is worth a mention because it is part of my effort to not to be a slave to my To Do or routine.
Mindfulness like Discipline and Detox (my Word for the prior years) is a lifelong practice. So this year was just the beginning. I did not move mountains or boil the ocean but I have made incremental progress as a person. So I see value in pursuing this practice.
For this year, I am choosing the word “Us”. Hari has five to six years with us before he takes full responsibility for himself. There are so many interesting things to do with him. There are so many things that he needs guidance on. I want to be fully present for him in this critical phase of growing up. Ram is still young and he needs me differently. I want to do all the things that I enjoy doing with him – reading, cooking, playing, coloring and what not. And with Da, I will be a little nicer, kinder and compassionate instead of using him as my punching bag. As rudimentary all these aspects sound to you or may come naturally to many of the moms that I know of, they are hard for me. I tend to oversee these finer aspects as there are so many things I want to dip my tips in.
While the “Us” does not preclude my parents, siblings and families, I am doing pretty ok on that front, which is why I am narrowing the focus to the immediate concentric circle around me.
This does not mean I will abandon pursuits outside home. Far from it, I want to do my bit, so they are not going away. But I will be deliberate about what I take on and make sure that I balance between what gives me intrinsic and extrinsic joys. I missed out on reading, writing, cooking experiments, and connecting with friends this year and I hope to pick up the slackness there. I will strive to be more consistent with eating clean and healthy and working out.
These are the intentions I am setting for the year. What are yours?
The kids lined up to board the school bus like they always do. Ram got in and had a conversation with the driver, which was unusual for him. Just as I was wondering what it could be about, the little chat we had that morning hit me.
Ram had misplaced his mittens a week back. He was nonchalant about looking for it. Over the course of the week, we had a number of conversations around the curious case of missing mittens. “I don’t need an extra pair of gloves amma. I have another pair.” “I don’t want to look for it mommy.” I explained to him that we all lose stuff. It happens. It means we need to get better at taking care of our things and it starts by searching for what we lost. So check in the Lost and Found box at school, check in the Lost and Found box in the bus, I had advised.
He checked at school. No luck. When I asked him about checking in the bus, he confessed, “I am feeling shy to ask the driver amma. I don’t want to ask amma. I am ok with just one pair of mittens.” I told him it made sense, I too feel shy about talking to people sometimes. I then tried to reframe the situation for him. “Think of it as something that you need to do to find your mittens instead of thinking of it as having to talk to the driver.” I was not sure if he understood, but he nodded and asked me to remind him to ask at the bus stop.
Needless to say, I had forgotten all about it. But he had remembered. He had mustered all his courage to go up to the driver and talk about his missing mittens. It was not easy but he did it anyway. And guess what? The mittens were sitting snugly in the Lost and Found box! Quickly grabbing them, he waved at me, his heart puffing with pride and his eyes shining with confidence.
Ram joined Boy Scouts this year. The much dreaded popcorn sales was upon on us sooner than we thought. As part of that effort, Boy Scouts are expected to dress in their uniforms, explain their mission, and sell popcorn to random passersby.
One fine hot Fall afternoon, Ram went with his dad to sell popcorn. I went for a brief few minutes to see the child in action. For the first few times, it was hard for me to watch him get rejected. How could someone reject a little child’s plea for buying popcorn? Soon the mommy bias faded and good sense prevailed. Not everyone likes popcorn. Not everyone believes in Boy Scouts. Not everyone has money to indulge a child that’s not theirs. And rejections build character, it’s good for him in the long run. As I was building these stories in my head, Ram and his scout buddy did not let rejections deter them from going to the next person. They did what they had to do. Ram took the rejections in stride, in spite of the inhibitions he was feeling within. It was not easy, but he did it anyway.
These two images are etched in my memory. They remind me of how the child pushed himself beyond his comfort zone and did what it took, not without inhibitions but in spite of his inhibitions. They inspire me to reach out when the easier thing would be to hold myself back.
Last night’s mental list of things to do.
- Dust kitchen counter
- Make dinner
- Unload and load dishwasher
- Iron Da’s clothes
- Research on renovation related stuff
- Plan meals for next two days
Guess what took priority instead? The thing that was not in the list to begin with – the BFG costume for Ram!
There was a lot of moaning and groaning in my head. Why can’t the school just do a Halloween parade instead of creating a Story Book Character Day*? Why can’t Ram just pick a more readily available costume such as an astronaut or the Ninja Turtle? Why can’t Da return the tile sample tomorrow and work on this costume instead? Why me?
Ram had thought through and had his heart set on being the BFG (Big Friendly Giant) based on a book by Road Dahl. He already had a vision of how he wanted to look. There was no turning back at this point. Well, the small problem was, errr…. the only person who could help him last night, yours truly, is not exactly an artsy craftsy creative person. How are we going to pull off a last minute BFG costume when we are spending an hour looking for socks and bath towels?
Let’s just say, necessity is the more of creativity. Ram and I teamed up and raided our Halloween pile to do our own costume – a vampire cape for BFG’s night time cloak, a Nehru vest for BFG’s waist coat, a regular pant and an army t shirt. Now what do we do for giant ears? What about Sophie? Ram borrowed an idea from Hari’s Halloween costume – we were going to use a headband to attach two giant cardboard ears so he could wear them with ease. After some drawing, cutting, taping, the giant ears were ready. For Sophie, we took a little girl toy from the Candyland board game, and stuck it to one of the giant’s ears. We emptied the K’nex box and made it into the giant’s suitcase. The only thing that was missing was the trumpet. We conveniently agreed that the BFG was not going to be in a particularly musical mood the following day.
As I waved Ram at the parade this morning, I was so proud of what we had pulled together. Cute little Sophie peeking out of his “ears”, one of his hands clasping the suitcase, and the other holding on to the BFG book.
I am thankful that Ram stretches my imagination, squeezes my non-existent creative juices and makes me do things that I would never try on my own. When he sees you doing things for him, you can sense his gratitude welling up for you. His eyes sparkling with excitement and anticipation.
There are very few things that are rocket science, isn’t it? With some imagination, a lot of willingness to try and fail, and some patience, more often than not, you find a way to make it work!
* The goal, as the name implies, is to dress up like a character from a book. It could be any book!
I am giving a gold star to our builder today for going above and beyond the call of duty. We had requested him to spruce up the entrance a bit for the safety of little trick or treaters. He did more than just sprucing. He installed the rails, the lights and even put up a temporary calling bell. Not only that, the leaves in the driveway and the rubble in the walkway were cleared.
Always a treat to be at the receiving end of a job well done! It enhanced the quality of our evening manifold and inspired us to strive for excellence in our pursuits.
Eats – bad. I had a planned lapse (meaning the lapse was not due to temptation or craving but it was something I had budgeted for) so I don’t feel bad about it. What I do feel bad about is the four pieces of dark chocolate I had. Dark chocolate is allowed in the workshop but only one piece. I definitely need to work on my portions, will specifically focus on it this week. Otherwise the regular meals were ok. Raagi dosai with sambar for breakfast, pongal sambar for lunch, dinner sambar rice. Aarachu vitta sambar is a rare treat in our house, so when I make it I don’t miss an opportunity to devour it.
Workout – 17 mins of jogging with the first born. It was so hard to pull myself out of the house. I had to keep reminding myself that the future me would regret if I let the workout slip by. And I am so glad I pushed myself. It was an absolute treat to get out early in the morning with the fresh cool air caressing my face. Hari thought so too!
Meditation – 9 mins. I did not do any nostril breathing.
Hydration – so so. I think I nearly made it but did not pay particular attention to it.
Sleep – bad, slept only for six hours. I see the repeat of the story tomorrow. I don’t like that but unfortunately that’s the reality now.
A day filled with gratitude.
- Just when I woke up this morning, Ram who was sleeping right next to me, kissed and put his arms around me with such warmth that it melted my heart and rendered it into a pot of mush. Ironically, what the love bug told me next left me feeling like the most apathatic and horrible mom in the whole wide world – “I am so excited amma. I wonder how much money the Tooth Fairy has left for me. I am tempted to look under my pillow.” Oh no, how could I? Last night a certain someone had signaled to certain someone else to take care of it and that someone else conveniently forgot it the very next moment it was told to her. Aiyoo.!! After chiding myself and catastrophizing the whole situation in my head, I woke up my knight in shining armour, who was snoring blissfully, and muttered to the clueless soul in broken hindi “mein dhanth keliyo jho rakna hai, woh bhool gayee” (as you may have guessed, the child does not know hindi but it did not matter because he was mentally lost in counting his treasury… if I get $1, I will have $32 pocket money, if I get $5, I will have…) The knight in shining armour woke up laughing heartily, went out of the room under the guise of having to use the restroom.. Long story short, five minutes later, the child’s eye lit up as he pulled out a crumpled $5 note. I heaved a sigh of relief and made the best cup of tea to my knight in shining armour who saved the day for this forgetful mommy. Thank you, thank you and thank you.
- Hari slept undisturbed the whole night last night. The child has had fragmented sleep for the past several weeks due to allergies. We think the trigger is construction related dust. Poor child, poor child, wakes up two to three times with a congested nose, and terrible sneezes. So every night he catches good sleep, I offer my gratitude from the bottom of my heart.
- Sunday school started today. Yesterday, I was overwhelmed with how thinly I have stretched myself and was convinced that I should think twice before committing next year. It’s too much preparation and too much time commitment. But this morning when I went to school, my heart was full with gratitude. This the place where I get my ix of India every week. Where I get to sing Vande Mataram and Hum Honge Khamiyaap loudly and proudly. Where as much as my kids want to make fun of the accent, in a strange sense feel like they belong. It was such a treat to see kids from last year come up to me and catch up. I am assisting Hari’s class in the first hour, I had taught some kids in this class five years back, my very first batch and there was a certain ease and friendliness in the air. I was also thrilled to see my new kids this year, can’t wait to see where they will take me on this journey this year.
We were resting in the tent indulging in the leisure that a beach trip rewards you with. I looked up from my book and declared to nobody in particular, “Poor Mr. Darcy. All because he was an introvert!” My unintentional and sudden outburst elicited uncontrollable giggles from my offsprings. After the amusement settled down, the first born quizzed, “Who is Mr. Darcy”, the second born questioned, “What does an introvert mean?” Their questions were lost on me, as I had long delved back into the world of Lizzy, Darcy, Jane and Bingley, oblivious to my curious boys. They gave up and ran back to the waves.
It felt so good to be lost in this world that Jane Austen had built that it was a sweet burden to pull the mind back to where the body was. What fine writing!
The reading experience was reassuring because I was beginning to wonder if my love for reading was just a figment of my imagination; something that I made up in my mind. Perhaps I liked the idea of reading more than reading itself? I felt like an imposter when I borrowed books from the library. Finally, I feel liberated from those self-doubts! For sure, I can say, I too love reading!
A couple of weeks back during our road trip, the conversation meandered to reading styles and habits. I told the family how I tend to take a long time to warm up to characters and story plot. That I read the first few pages very very slowly, and at some point, there is a flip of the switch and the pace picks up. Hari, who likes to read books in one sitting, said he has a different style. “I love reading the first portion of any book. It is so exciting to get introduced to all the characters and see the story unfold. It is in the middle that I slow down.” Da, who is a very fast reader, commented that for him it is the last part of any story that slows him down. And not wanting to be left out, the voracious reader of the family, our Ram, piped in, “I don’t slow down at all. I like reading the first, the second and the last part” Atta boy! I thought to myself. Not necessarily for what he said on his reading style but that he made his opinion matter. A lot of times, may be because he is small relative to the rest of us, we overlook him on subjects that involve deeper discussion but he always stands tall, makes his voice heard, and weighs in with his thoughts. Never ceases to surprise me. Anyway, I digress.
This discussion was a revelation to me. It made me cognizant of my reading style and helped me figure out why I have been reading less. The first few chapters requires that I stick to the book, so it can grip me. Without understanding that piece, I have been expecting to instantly immerse myself in the story and have ended up feeling utterly disappointed. I am not sure I got my reading mojo back but it is good to know that there is some mojo left.
What is your reading style? Do you ever suffer from a reading block? What are you reading? What is next on your list?