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.

Advertisements
Standard
Detox, Experiences, Experiments, Family, Food, Gratitude, Inspiration, Intentions, Introspection, Kids, Life, Me, Us

Word of the Year

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?

Standard
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!

Standard
Now, Us

My Now

I am sitting in the home office, the pendant lamps giving the much needed focused lighting on my laptop, the orangish brown accent wall providing a vibrant contrast to the wooden bench that was built so all of us can huddle together, sans any distractions, for some productive time.

Next to me, is an empty Ninja Turtle cup and a green straw, the one from which Ram was sipping his Bournvita as he worked on his comic book – Adventures of The Star Man. Apparently, he is going to write sequels to this book. So he is calling it, Adventures of The Star Man – Book 1. He has drawn stars and many speech bubbles. I am tempted to ask for the story line but he has lost himself in the world of Dragonbreath. May be later? Just before pivoting to reading, he and I had a discussion around arranging the books in his room. He wanted to order them in a series, I want him to focus on books he will read often so he will have easy access. The child put the discussion to an end by declaring that he reads all his books many times over so it doesn’t matter. Sigh! 13 years of parenting has taught me to sense a losing battle a mile away and to gracefully let it go before it escalates and swallows your morning.

Hari is sitting next to me working on his english assignment. He is required to write a 450-550 words personal narrative. I quite like what he has written. He has chosen a small moment from our visit to the Arkansas zoo when a lion pee splashed on his ipad and has expanded on it.  The essay needs some fine tuning and he is suffering from a severe case of writer’s’ block. “Amma, can you help me?” he asked. “Of course, tell me what can I do?” “Just sit next to me and do some work so I will get motivated” And that’s exactly why this post came to be.

The child is doing all sorts of antics – pulling his hair out, checking out thesaurus, lovingly glance at his younger brother… looks like the mojo will return in its sweet time..!

Standard
Experiences, Family, Gratitude, Us

Team work

Another thank you coming in the way of the renovation project.

One of the things that our house lacked prior to the renovation was closets and storage space. We didn’t have enough wardrobe space, so the clothes were spilling all over the bedroom. We didn’t have a closet where the kids could store their sports related stuff, as a result the living room doubled up as mud room. We couldn’t carve out a space for working, so the dining table conveniently became a catch all place for all of us to work.

This is not a bad situation to be in and one could argue that it builds character and presents an opportunity to embrace simple living. Except that in our household, it resulted in  frustration, fiery glances and endless finger pointing. After many failed attempts to declutter and simplify, it became clear that we had to rethink our ways. The renovation project presented a golden opportunity.

Da and I spent hours designing our closets, home office, and mudroom. Initially, I felt like an impostor using the word design. “Us and design?” is what I thought to myself. But turns out that we and only we are the experts at knowing our needs and wants. Once we zeroed in on that,  designing a space came naturally. Spending time with Da figuring out our needs, brainstorming ideas, browsing over pages of Pinterest images and Houzz articles, working around our constraints and ultimately committing the design to paper has definitely been one of my favorite parts of this initiative. It put the focus on the process rather than the end result.

I would not be surprised if we continue to go on with our careless ways even after the home improvement but I am immensely thankful for the hours spent working together with Da. It is one of the things that makes this house a home. Our home.

Standard
Gratitude, Us

Happy Thanksgiving

It’s about 9:20 P.M. I open the kitchen cabinets, one by one, and smile to myself with satisfaction. Since the time I woke up this morning, I poured myself into micro cleaning the kitchen and the dining room. A place for everything and everything in its place, a statement from my 11th standard commerce book comes to mind. It was a statement meant to explain one of the management principles. I think today I earned the right to say that my kitchen and dining room bear some semblance of order. It feels good. It feels like home.

I would like to think that we have been dealing with renovation related disruption gracefully, understanding for the most part that this temporary inconvenience and disruption is the price we pay for living in a house that we are renovating. However, there have been days, especially this month when we have felt disoriented from having to scramble around for essentials. Luckily, we see the end of the tunnel plus everyday the progress made is tangible.  So even when it feels like we are in a rudderless boat, there is a sense of calmness in seeing the shore is within our eyesight.. If temporary disruptions that is expected to have a happy ending can be this challenging, I can’t imagine what it must be to not have a guaranteed home to come to.

This Thanksgiving, I am deeply grateful for the roof over our head and for our cosy little nest. I am thankful that we were able to take the renovation project on and run with it. I am thankful that we are working with someone we quite like. I am thankful that the kids were troopers, accommodating the multiple trips to the tile store and not letting this project come in the way of their learning. I am thankful that Da and I spent a ton of time together figuring out the nitty gritties. Much gratitude indeed!

Happy Thanksgiving from ours to yours.

Standard
Experiences, Family, Gratitude, Us

Travel Musings

I am writing this post in the South Carolina airport waiting area. There is a good one hour for boarding and seven long hours to reach home. In spite of the lingering headache, I feel relief.  A relief from knowing that my work for today went well and I can get back to my routine work tomorrow. I feel a wave of gratitude fill my heart.

Although I have not gone around the city, Charlestown seems to be a nice place. It’s brisk and sunny outside. People are consistently warm, polite and kind. My cab driver, who was on the elderly side, is one of the friendliest persons I have met. As he said good bye to me, he shared the rules he lives by – “Be thankful, be courteous, and be on time” I nodded with a smile, his good nature rubbing on to me.

I parade the airport up and down for Panthers t-shirt for Hari. He had asked for one, “It’s ok if you don’t get it, but look for one amma” I don’t like the price tag, I am not impressed with the quality, but I overlook and grab the black t-shirt. The memory of the incessant text message from him yesterday cheers me up. I confess, when I am the one receiving the text messages, I am less judgmental and have more tolerance for teens with cell phones. “I wish I have all the cool gifs that you have,” I texted him. “When you come home, I will show the app to you” he replied instantly. This is how role reversal creeps in, an advice here, a teaching moment there, and reassurances thrown in the mix.

What to buy for Ram? Can’t make myself get another set of color pencils. The Hudson store has very limited options and I don’t want to spend too much. I manage to find a travel Snake and Ladders board game. When I spoke to Ram this morning he seem to have had a rough night with the coughing. Poor little one. I think of all the giggles that the dad and son had over Pinky and the Brain, and the innocence of it all makes my spirits soar.

I buy an apple turnover Nutella pastry for Da from the gourmet bakery. “Ram eat your breakfast”, “Hari did you pack your snack?”, “Did you book the taxi Maha?” He managed to squeeze all these questions in one conversation to three different people during my call this morning. It’s a crazy week to single handedly hold down the fort. The painters and the flooring guys are at home to do what they need to do. We have limited access to essentials and over 2/3 of the house is off-limits. Being the uncomplicated guy that he is, he takes it in stride. He does what he can, is content with very little, gives his all to his family and has no qualms about saying no when he cannot.

Another day. Another adventure. Thankful that we thrived.

Standard