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!
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Inspiration, Intentions, Introspection, Us

Word of the Year

My word of the year for 2018 is US. The goal was to be more engaged with Da, Hari, and Ram and to prioritize the family over other pursuits. If you ask them, they probably can’t tell the difference nor do I have anything tangible to report. Mostly, I have been working on my mindset, observing myself, making mental notes when I lapse, and learning from folks who do it so naturally. In that sense, I do feel like I have grown. I pay more attention, I consciously prioritize and set intentions.  I still can be very clueless about what’s happening at school, but we are constantly talking about dreams, challenges, little discoveries, and other silly banter. I have checked relatively more things in our household projects and have learnt that it’s a bottomless pit. As far not taking out on Da, that has been the toughest to work on. When you are married to someone for years, there is so much wear and tear to the relationship, so many things taken for granted, so much sense of entitlement. And  even when you think there is space, mutual respect, and love,  it is crowded with preconceived notions, and unconscious expectations. I am trying to do better and be nicer. There is always room for improvement, and it will happen over time. Today, I am celebrating the learnings, the journey and the practice.

For 2019, I am picking HABITS as the word of the year. I will work on my own  habits, and help the kids build their daily habits. What we do every day matters, it compounds over time (thanks to James Clear for drilling this in my head). Sticking to everyday routine with discipline is important because it frees up time and mindspace to do the finer things in life. Eating right, getting enough sleep, staying physically active, every single day, whether you like it or not, whether you are in the mood for it or not, is worth striving for. Then of course, there is habit of dance, practicing trumpet, reading, so on and so forth. We will work on them. One habit at a time.

Do you have a word of the year?

 

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Experiences, Family, Gratitude, Intentions, Introspection, Learnings, Little Moments, Milestones, Us

2018 Year end report

Time for year end review post. What were the mile markers in this year’s journey? How did we do as a family?

The year started with all of us settling down in our renovated house. It was a humongous relief getting the house to ourselves after living with the construction noise, clutter, dust, uncertainty, and intrusion for close to six months. We hosted our immediate and extended family for Hari’s poonal function, our neighbors for thanksgiving, and are hosting the weekly Destination Imagination meetings. Many evenings, we are huddled together in the home office to finish up on commitments related to school, work and others. Weekends are spent watching movies as a family cosying up in the media portion of the attic.  The day is not complete without Da and Hari chilling out in the attic tossing a few balls and hitting a few shots in the attic. Ram has made use of every inch of his room, and has been royally kicking us out should we not honor the rules that he has set. All in all, incredibly thankful for the big and little moments that the renovation had made it possible for us.

Soon after that we got knee deep in poonal preparations. It was a ton of work, money and planning. It was an enjoyable and learning experience. It was a very humbling one too because you realize it takes many hands and all stars to align to make it happen. Lucky for us, our friends and family were such troopers! Loved loved having all the little humans gathered under our roof. Every once in a while, we, meaning I, guilt Hari into doing his sandhi or atleast the Gayathri mantram. Other than that, post poonal life has been business as usual for the chap.

We had Aaru and family stay with us for an additional month, and my parents for the next few months. T.H.A.N.K.F.U.L for the joy, for the bonding, and for the opportunity. And oh, our yard saw some pruning, trimming and planting, all credit goes to amma and Da. They made my dream of having rose bushes in the front yard happen. We did local stuff and celebrated festivals with appa and amma. Hari and Da went to San Francisco and Washington DC for cricket tournaments.

Fall went by in a blur with back to school, navratri, diwali, halloween and thanksgiving. A ton of stuff packed in these months, there was hardly any time to breathe.

Hari and Ram have lapped up all the affection they got from the family during their stay and have lavished them in return. They have been working hard on school and other activities. Private baseball did not work out for Hari this year but he has channeled all that energy towards cricket. School is keeping him on his toes. He has taken advanced math course and that’s been the training ground for him and us as a family for high school. Ram’s academics has ramped up too. His sole mission is to do all things required of him, so he can just relax and get bored. And I can tell you, there is no better motivator than that! Da has done well, and the highlight for him is taking up managing the Destination Imagination for a small group of kids. It is not easy work and I proud of him for doing it with enthusiasm, without an iota of resentment. As far me, the year was a mixed bag. Worked on a really interesting project at work during the first six months. I could not take up dance class due to schedule conflicts. I helped organize the diwali event for the town this year. I embraced a little bit more of technology in Sunday school. I have languished on my eating and workout habits. Going easy on myself is not an approach that works for me. Lesson learnt!

How did your 2018 go? What are you proud of? What are some lessons your learnt? 

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Inspiration, Intentions, Introspection, Kids, Life, Uncategorized

Of goals and intentions for the school year

They are growing up fast and furious right under our noses. Ram is in 2nd grade, and Hari is in 8th grade. The highlight of this summer for them was spending time with my parents. The kids have basked in the love of their grandparents for the past few months.

Before the first day of school, we set intentions for the school year. For Ram, the only goal is to build daily habits. The more and more I read about habit forming, the more and more I am convinced that what we do on a daily basis matters. So much more than what we think. That’s the mantra I have been chanting all this summer, especially to the older one. With Ram, setting expectations and getting him on board with the expectations, is the crucial step. Once that is done, with some enforcement from our end, the child is generally good. He is a true Upholder at heart. The big caveat is the“some enforcement” part, which falls on yours truly lap, who is quite the slacker.

For Hari, the child has a lot going on. So the goal is to commit to those things that he is truly interested in. We will also work on basic life survival skills – daily habits, keeping a good attitude, building support system, making choices etc. The child will be in college in five years, and taking responsibility, practicing grit and becoming resilient do not happen one fine day. It has to built, cultivated and nurtured over the years with some tender, love and care.

I too have a goal for the school year. I am not by any stretch of imagination a Helicopter mom, let alone a Tiger mom. Mainly because it’s a lot of hard work and requires you to put your child’s need ahead of yours . For many many moms or all the moms that I know, this comes naturally. Unfortunately, that is not my instinct. I put my own pursuits and needs ahead of my kids. The good news is it works for us. The bad news is I am missing out. So I am setting a goal of being involved and engaged with my children’s learning experience this year. 

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Holidays, Introspection, Life, Me

Intangible connection

I open the calculator on my computer and type in 2018 minus 2001 and the answer pops out as 17. Of course, I knew the answer and didn’t need a calculator to do the math that my second grader can do in his sleep. But one feels the need for validation when the brain tells one thing but the heart feels something else. It simply cannot be 17 years, says my good old heart. But of course, it is, refutes my sassy brain. God, 17 years is a long long time, it does not feel that long ago. It absolutely does not! So goes my heart, utterly in denial, that I have been away from my home country for 17 years.

In the initial years, I remember meeting an Indian who was away from the country for a long time and  did not know about Sachin Tendulkar when I spoke of him. I fell off my chair. How could you not? He is practically a God for a nation of over billion?

Fast forward 17 years…

I am very much that person today. I know very little about what is happening in India. Having lived most of my adult life outside of India, I feel disconnected to the dynamics of day to day living in India. The excitement of visiting India is overshadowed by the anxiety over logistics and practical difficulties. The India of today feels so alien to me. 

And yet…

I go an extra mile to go to sunday school to be on time for special assembly to sing the Indian national anthem. I tear up every time I sing Jana Gana Mana. Yes, Every. Single. Time. No rhyme or reason, no exaggeration. I hang out with the desi moms from Hari’s cricket group, and can’t help but notice that the conversation feels intuitive and effortless. I swell with pride when Hari quizzes me on Indian states and capitals and knows more than what I do or when Ram sings, oodi vilayadu papa. I go out of the way to stay involved in the local Indian American organization so we can bring exposure to all things Indian to the broader community. When conversations on Whatsapp revolve around how NRIs, and non-citizens, do not have the eligibility to complain or comment about  the Indian state of affairs, it stings. All I I want to say is, I still care. Is that not reason enough?

Being an Indian has become that intangible feeling that does not scream out loud but a subtle and comforting presence that I carry with me at all times. 

Happy Independence Day India. 

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Gratitude, Intentions, Introspection, Life, Little Moments, Now

Reflections on a Sunday morning

I can hear the vibration of the washing machine, the tumbling of the clothes in the drier, the white noise from the refrigerator, the sound of my tapping on the keyboard, and Hari sneezing as he is waking up. Sans that, the house is quiet. Ha, solitude, sweet solitude!

  • My mind is wandering to the past and the future even as I train it to stay in the present. To be HERE and NOW, the simplest, the most logical, and perhaps the hardest thing to do. It is worth striving, I tell myself. Make room for what you feel, don’t get lost in the stories in your head, I remind myself.  
  • Last week, I drove irresponsibly and got reprimanded by a complete stranger. As much as I felt ashamed and embarrassed, and wanted the earth to split open and swallow me, I felt a certain calmness in realizing that sometimes it takes a knock on our heads from a stranger to get us grounded in HERE and NOW.
  • A friend posted a video of her sweet family on the second death anniversary of her husband. My heart sank. Why does it always take tragedies and hardships that are bigger than what we face to remind us to make the most of HERE and NOW?
  • Have you ever noticed that when the big picture of our lives get shaky, we don’t sweat the small stuff. The everyday annoyances and frustrations are dwarfed and we are more tolerant and accepting of them. On the other hand, when the big picture is gleaming, the small stuff takes monumental proportions, they are so hard in the moment, and we are intolerant. The HERE and NOW is a tricky place to be in although that is the only place we all should be in.

Gotta go, my HERE and NOW beckons!

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Intentions, Introspection, Uncategorized

I care a whole awful lot!

Presidents come and go. What one president does, the other undoes. It’s only natural and common knowledge. Nothing wrong with that. What is wrong is when the undoing is lacking in ideologies, ethics, and is driven by personal agenda, is myopic, thoughtless and destructive in nature. Innocent lives get affected with irreparable loss just by virtue of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. 

The rose tinted glasses with which I viewed the country that I have to come love has shattered to pieces over the past couple of years.  What have we gotten ourselves into? How do we get out of it? What can I do? My head is reeling and I am not able to keep up with what’s going on. I am not able to separate the noise from the issue. I don’t know where to start. I am afraid I am getting desensitized.

This 4th of July, I remind myself of what the Lorax said, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” 

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