Kids, Learnings, Little Moments, Sunday School

Learning

Ram and I went to the local fire station as part of the Cub Scouts activity. I love love being part of guided tours, you get to learn so much as you listen while you see. Under the guise of taking Ram, I had the opportunity to get a glimpse into the behind the screen activities at the fire station. The most amazing part for me was learning that the firefighters will the have to get into their bulky gear and out of the door within a minute of receiving the call for action. The need for being swift is not surprising given what they do, but you develop an appreciation for how meticulously it is practiced.  The boys had a blast climbing into the fire engine, trying the hat, lifting the equipments, and chit chatting with the firefighters. 

Hari is working on his diorama project at Sunday school. He has chosen migration to India as his research topic, and we have been learning some cool facts together. Did you know that Nepal and India share open borders? Unencumbered movement of people between two countries. Did you know Amartya Sen was actually born in Bangladesh? The only China town in India is at West Bengal. George Orwell was actually born in India? The Parsis, the Syrian Christians, the Indian Jews. Truly, India is such a diverse nation.

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Introspection, Learnings, Life, Me, Uncategorized

February reflections and epiphanies

  • When I was in high school, I knew I was a procrastinator. “Thanks to my habit of procrastinating, it has taken me this long to reply….” or something to that effect is how I recall writing letters to my friends. And then life happened and I neither wrote letters nor used the word procrastination as much.  It hit me as I typed the recycling bin post last month that an absence of the said word in my life does not imply the absence of the said trait in my personality. Meaning, I continue to be a procrastinator that I once was. A very useful insight because procrastination with inertia make it difficult to pick up momentum once I lose it.
  • Case in point, I wanted to write the Feb. reflection post on the last day of Feb. I forgot, then I procrastinated, and the post is still swirling in my head. If I don’t write it now, I know it will just remain locked in my head. So here I am tackling procrastination head on.
  • How did Feb. go? Let’s just say, I need a slap on my wrist, a kick on my butt, and a knock on my head. Da returned from India with goodies and I would have been fine had I indulged in just the said goodies. But the break lingered and had a ripple effect. I realized that the time when you know you are slipping is the time you need to double your efforts and bring the habit back on track. Once you don’t act in that phase it becomes too overwhelming with all the self admonition. Also, I realized when I slow down, it does not result in improvement in quality of my life  or an increase in leisure time. It just leads to plain inefficiency. On a positive note, I read quite a bit and that made me so very happy. I don’t feel like a sham when I say I enjoy reading because I know what it is when reading becomes compulsive and takes your life over. Of course, there is the practical difficulty of how to balance it with chores, work and other things, which is why reading has taken a back seat in the first place. As they say, you can have it all, just not at the same time.   I did a solo performance at the temple for Shivarathri. I have performed the dance several times in a group so it was good to compare and make corrections. I learnt that I have to constantly talk myself into relaxing because I get stiff unintentionally due to the focus. Also, it was another exercise in accepting that I may not be excellent in absolute terms but there is immense pleasure in becoming better.
  • What tone do I want to set for March? There is so much important but not urgent stuff to do that I am not doing under the guise of slowing down. Also, one of the important things about building habits is doing the same thing at the same time in the same order. It may not work for everyone but it is something that resonates with me and has worked for me in the past. I need to nail that routine for me. Part of it also would be to come up with tactical actions that would connect to the year of “Us”.

Alright folks, have a good weekend. Thanks for lending me your ear, and I happy to return the favor if you want to let me know how your Feb. went.

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Experiences, Gratitude, Learnings, Little Moments

Bar Mitzvah

Last week Hari’s friend since pre-school had his Bar Mitzvah ceremony.

This was my first time attending one, so I was eager to soak it all in. My very rudimentary knowledge about the ceremony was it was a special occasion, a rite of passage in the Jewish tradition. For the rest, we sought out Google’s guidance – how to dress for Bar Mitzvah? (women, dresses or pantsuits)? Is dressing in black acceptable?  What gifts to give? (multiples of 18). So on and so forth.

Hari was slightly more experienced than I was when it comes to Bar Mitzvah, so of course I had to eat his brain away while driving – is the seating like in church? Do we have assigned seating? Are we allowed to talk? Can we take restroom breaks? What food do they serve? Hari indulged me initially but when he saw that my questions were growing by the second, he put things in perspective and devised an exit strategy, “Mom, I was in second grade when I went to Bar Mitzvah, so I don’t remember all the details.” Smart move child, smart move, I thought to myself.

We entered the synagogue right on time, and exchanged hello with the mom. I was dressed in a maroon sweater dress and black leggings, that did not seem over or under dressed. I saw that Hari’s friends were more formally dressed in suits, and tie whereas Hari was dressed in black and checked shirt. I made a mental note to get a khaki pant and a plain neutral colored shirt for the next ceremony. Overall, feeling pleased with myself, and heaving a sigh of relief, I mingled with familiar faces. I got a bit of education, how the ritual, the invitees and the protocol vary  depending on whether you belong to orthodox or reformed sects. In orthodox following, I learned you do not get a Bar Mitzvah unless the mom is a jew. Non-jews are not allowed to the ceremony.

Next we headed to the prayer hall. We were given a prayer book and an agenda of the events. Hari and I were going to leave a little early so I sat in the last row with a couple of other moms. Hari had mentioned that the Rabbi had a good sense of humor and he  lived up to it. The beginning of the ceremony was more spiritual in nature. He set the tone by asking all of us to take a minute to go to our happy place and express gratitude. Then the prayers and singing began. There were readings and taking the Torah in procession. The big moment was when the Bar Mitzvah child read the Aliyah from the Torah – that seemed to be the pivotal moment and the whole point of the ceremony. Although I knew very little about the ceremony, it felt emotional seeing the a child you have known from pre-school to come to this point. I felt fortunate to have been part of this ceremony and the big day of his life.

Hari and I left soon after that. For the kids, the cherry on the cake was the evening party. There was DJ, plenty of food, and what not! All in all, much fun was had. 

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Experiences, Experiments, Learnings, Us

Photo book

Gifts don’t get any more personal than a photo book. The hardest part in making a photo book is the time commitment involved in selecting the pictures.  Most templates allow you to autofill the pages, but I prefer to manually select them in order to be able to sequence them to my liking. I have made three photo books so far. The first two were made through Shutterfly and the one I made today is through CVS. How would I rate the two products?

  • Design, layout and templates – the two are comparable
  • Ease of use – they are similar
  • Price – the cost of photobook by itself is cheaper in Shutterfly (25 pages for $15) but when you add shipping cost ($8), it is more expensive than CVS (20 pages for $20). You can offset some of the cost in Shutterfly through coupons and special deals.
  • Time – Standard shipping can take 5 to 10 days for Shutterfly. In the case of CVS, you can practically pick up the order within two to three hours from the time you place an order. Given that almost every town has a CVS, this option definitely maximises on convenience.
  • Quality – Shutterfly outshines CVS in terms of quality. With Shutterfly, you have more choice in terms of hardcover, the photo sheets are glossier, and the photo book sturdier.   CVS, in absolute terms, is decent. But relative to Shutterfly, it lags.

If you have the luxury of time and have promotions that you could use, Shutterfly is the way to go. On the other hand, if you need a quick turnover, CVS is a not a bad choice at all.

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Experiences, Family, Gratitude, Holidays, Introspection, Learnings, Memories, Us, Wishes

2017 – the year that was

There is pin drop silence in the house. Strike that, I can hear Da snoring his heart away. I can also hear some footsteps headed towards the bathroom, a sign that one child is up for the day. My tummy weighs like a ton of bricks from all the food indulgence last night. It was a cosy gathering. We met, we ate, we laughed and we dispersed with a full stomach and a light heart.

I have a couple of hours before the intensity of the day sets in. A time that I am carving out to reflect on the year that is coming to a close. As I look back on the year that has gone by, these are things that are at the top of my mind.

My paternal grandma, Andu patti, passed away in April. She had a really difficult end of life, with dementia wreaking havoc on her and the ones caring for her. Longevity means very little when it is not paired with quality of life. How our life comes to an end and when it comes to an end are not in our control; we can do all the right things and yet have an undesirable end. So taking proper care of our physical and mental health when it is in our hands seems not only responsible but also sensible.

I pushed myself to give back to the local community. I provided tactical support to a friend who stood for school committee, and played a small role in making our voices heard on a school related issue. I helped organize workshops in the local library and continue to edit the school newsletters. It was gratifying but I also realized, that they are very transactional in nature. Meaning, once it’s done, it’s done. This is an epiphany because it will help me choose where I want to spend my time and energy going forward.

I poured my heart and soul on my dance productions this year. I pushed the limits of what I can do and it was another humbling experience. There was wonder in knowing that I am capable of doing things that was challenging at the outset and there was also acceptance in knowing I come with my own limitations. Talent is something that we are born with, and we have no say in how talented we are. But striving towards our full potential is within our control; it’s not an easy path but one worth trudging on.

We renovated our house this year. We moved into this house a decade back and have worked our lifestyle around what was given to us, which worked well. The renovation gave us a chance to think about our needs and wants and how we want to customize the house to our personal preferences. For the most part, the project was enjoyable and I am proud of us for having taken the discomfort and inconveniences in stride. This project also gave me a newfound appreciation for all the details that go into the making of a house.

It feels like the outside world is filled with pain, suffering and destruction. My very liberal neighborhood was in the news for hate crime, there have been several break ins, and a life was gone too soon. This is within the short circumference of my neighborhood. Beyond that, if at all anything, the magnitude of the events happening are confusing, nerve wracking, and overwhelming. Yet, I am trying hard to not get hopeless. If we give up hope and faith, what else can we hold on to? We need to stay informed, be aware and push ourselves to do what little we can. If not anything else, be kind. I like to believe that kindness goes a long way in counter balancing the negativity around us even if we are not able to directly impact the events.  

I wish you a very happy 2018.  I wish you the freedom and courage to be who you want to be, relationships and friendships that matter, deliberation in thought and action, unshakable faith in your effort and values, compassion towards the self and others, grace and wisdom to handle the unknowns, bountiful little moments and happy surprises, unconditional love and acceptance, uncluttered mind, full presence and focused work, and a strong body and sound intellect. I wish you the best that life has to offer. In 2018 and always!

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Hari Katha, Humor, Learnings, Little Moments, Memories, Writing

With Hari’s permission, I am posting the personal narrative that he has been working on. I love how writing is taught here, right from elementary grade. In this narrative, he is required to check for transition words, sensory language, zooming in, zooming out, grammar and spelling.

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Bad Kitty!

When I encountered a lion, things weren’t pretty. It did not bite me. It did not scratch me. Instead, it peed on me. That’s right, I was a john for a lion, a once in a lifetime experience.

While visiting my uncle’s family in Bentonville, Arkansas, we decided to visit a famous zoo located 25 miles south of where we were staying.  Although the drive only took 30 minutes, it felt like eternity as my eight year old brain processed the fact that I would see animals which were uncommon in New England.

“Bang!” slammed the passenger door, arousing me.  Not missing a beat, I hopped out of the car and headed towards the zoo, thrilled about what experience awaited me. When we entered the zoo, I gasped. I was astonished at the chimpanzee swinging in its cage like a trapeze artist, a bear expertly balancing on a tiny red ball, and an iguana blending with its surroundings. The warm delicious scent of popcorn from a nearby food cart welcomed me with its lovely aroma.

“Come on Hari,” my mom instructed. “You should take a look at these majestic lions. If you need me, I’ll be in the reptile section.”

“Sounds fine mom,” I replied. I trotted towards the lions, and halted when I spotted them, their orange manes flowing in the cool wind. Standing a mere inch away from the smooth, black cage was a kid about my age, staring at the lion. Turning around, he beckoned me to come sit next to him. Immediately, I started sweating. I felt that standing that close to the cage would likely come back to bite me. However, my undying curiosity to see the lion prompted me to crouch next to the kid and face the lion. I looked in awe at the humongous lion which peered back at me as if saying, who are you, and why are you in my territory?

“This lion is awesome!” I whooped, expecting the kid to respond. Instead, the kid, whose gaze was getting more alarmed by the second screamed “Look out!” and quickly dove to the side. I however, did not have quick enough reflexes. A yellow spray of liquid washed over me, sizzling all over my arm. Embarrassed I scampered away, avoiding as many people as I could, only to bump into my mom.

“What happened to you?” My mom cried, her face turning pale as milk seeing me wet.

“Ummmmmmmmm,” I mumbled, feverishly debating in my mind on whether or not to tell my mom.

“Spit it out, what happened?” She insisted, pushing me to the brink of telling the truth.

“Oh fine!” I sputtered, “A lion leaked on me.” Instantly, my mom put a hand to her mouth.

“Come on, we’ll get you cleaned up,” she replied, extracting a bag of tissues from her purse.

As you can see, I have survived that traumatic experience, but am still trying to live down the fact that I was a urinal for a lion. Now, I always stand far away from the cages of animals knowing well not to repeat the same mistake twice. Nevertheless, I still have nightmares, imagining that yellow substance submerging over me. Most of all, I have learned to accept the facts, and laugh along with my family when they make a joke about that incident – I’m Hari, I was a potty for the king of the jungle, and I am proud of it!

 

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Inspiration, Introspection, Learnings, Little Moments, Me, Reading, Uncategorized, Us

On reading

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?

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