Saturday, December 6, 2014

Tentative Parenting : It Don't Matter If You're Black Or...

I have been furious this week (and last week) after what happened in Ferguson I would imagine that the authorities would become "more" sensitive to treating human beings with humanity. Then two days back the Eric Garner jury decision not to indict was taken...I became a citizen here not so long ago (3 years to be precise) and even though I felt sad "renouncing my Indian Citizenship" I was proud being a part of a nation which gave me so much in terms of a feeling of Equality, Opportunities and Belonging.What stood out as I was preparing for my citizenship exam in 2011 was that in this country as a citizen everyone has a very basic personal right which is :

(1) Not to be killed.
(2) Not to be injured or abused.

So what happened to Michael and Eric....? What do I tell my 8 year old boy who is definitely not White or Black...just a different shade but born here in this nation and if you asked him what is his country he would say - USA. He eats Indian food sometimes, doesn't speak any Indian languages and loves Football, Pizza and Skylanders - my son has no sense that he is different because of the shade of his skin. 

Truth be told I will be the first one to confess that due to my late assimilation into the American Culture, stereotypes do hold - I did come into this country with personal biases and proclivities. I was always aware of my accent, my skin tone (I have been called a cookie to someone's milk), used to the underlying attitudes ( asked quite a few times when I will go back to my country, am I an Engineer) BUT in the same breath I have got friendship, acceptance and opportunities I am not using this as a soapbox to rant or vent. 

I am however convinced that I can't turn a blind eye to "colorblindness" -- at some point my son will realize that he is different ( the good news is in his public school - there are a lot of kids from different cultures, so they are learning early about the  differences) - I don't want race & ethnicity to be a taboo subject...he needs to understand, respect and accept these differences. Maybe race shouldn't be such a big deal in this country, but we know it is...too big a deal for me to ask an 8 year old to figure out by I will have the talk with K2 soon....what about you?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Tentative Parenting : To Fail is the first step to success

“It’s failure that gives you the proper perspective on success.”                                                                                   Ellen DeGeneres

K2 : Ma, so remember the class representative thing - I wasn't selected
Working Mom : So who was selected K2?
K2 : R and M...they are more popular. Maybe I shouldn't participate again
Working Mom : All that matters K2 is that you gave it your BEST shot not whether you won or lost. 

There’s an old Chinese saying, “Failure is the mother of success.” You don’t have to look far in this culture to find celebrated examples of this very notion: Einstein is rumored to have flunked math for years; Steve Jobs was fired from the company he started, only to return a few years later and take Apple to new heights; Walt Disney himself was fired early in his career by a newspaper editor who told him that he “had no imagination and no good ideas.”Resilience is actually built through children coping with occasional bumps, not by only experiencing perfectly smooth rides as they travel through childhood. (Source : Huffington Post. Read more here )
Given my background in Psychology -  I know that the parents of the current generation are running ourselves ragged in a herculean effort to do right by our kids—yet the reality is I hear about grown-up versions of my son (and your child) sitting in a school counselor's office saying they feel empty, confused, anxious and not so good about life in general. Is it true that when we  parents are too attuned - we molly coddle our kids into these needy soft patsies...GOD FORBID!
I recorded my son's practice speech for Class Representative - he was sincere and wonderful, Above all I really value the 3 things he talked about : Creativity, Hard Work and Collaboration. I did tell him this - K2 -  focus on those three things you promised to bring to the table and I promise you they will hold you good stead for a long time to come.
Notes for my son and self : Falling down or disappointment is a regular aspect of everyone's life and I am very clear that I don't want to cushion K2 and shield him...he is learning to roll with the punches and bounce back from failure... Early experiences with failure will help him  make tough decisions as he grows older and ultimately guide him to success.
How is your week playing out?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tentative Parenting : For the Love of a Child

  "Some say  the soul of the child looks down at the world,  
Looks at every soul that resides in every woman.   
The child then chooses his/her mother..."

Diwali makes me sad - it reminds me of all the Diwali's that I am going to celebrate without Bapa. So yesterday - I got myself a big bar of chocolate, a box of tissues and a DVD (Fault in our Stars). I had a wonderful pity party after K2 went to bed -- there was chocolate, and there were tears ... I woke up in the morning all stuffed up. 
Work was busy and I was able to put sadness aside and focus on the work at hand. I picked K2 in the evening (K1 is busy at a conference the next couple days) and showed him some beautiful pictures of Diwali Sweets on Facebook (all this as we were waiting for our Fish Tacos at The Grill House). He gave me a solemn look and said - Ma, I remember Aai making this -- why don't you try making it at home?

Now I have a confession to make - I love to eat, to cook -- not so much. But when my child was asking me for Diwali sweets, it shall be so. I donned my virtual apron and whipped up some goodies in the next two hours. He ate 2 of each of the Laddus  ( I made Besan Laddu, Rava Laddu and Kajju Peda ) - I am sure it's sugar overload but Diwali comes but once a year! 

# 1  I am A-ok  walking down unfamiliar paths  for my child (I made Besan Laddu and Kajju Peda for the first time ever)
#2 I appreciated his honesty - he didn't want me to outsource making the sweets -- he wasn't pushy but he made his point well
#3 I want K2 to experience Diwali like I experienced it - the excitement of new clothes, crackers, sugar overload and just being surrounded by family
#4 I want K2 to remember Bapa - we sat down and looked through our India/Diwali Album and talked about the fun one month in Pune. This was not a melancholic time for us but rather a time to revisit good memories...
Love you Bapa...Happy Diwali - K2 and I remembered you today and I ate a couple Laddus for you!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Simple Living : Seven Steps to being more Productive!

I have a confession to make - I am addicted to my To-Do Lists. For a while, just to be spontaneous and prove a point (because a close someone called me a four lettered word beginning with A...) I threw out my list and I can unhappily report back that those 2 weeks were a disaster - I didn't feel like I had accomplished much, we ate out 4 days because I hadn't planned our meals and I felt kinda sort of incomplete and unhappy. To be honest what works for me might not work for you -- you might still want to be the smell the roses, experience the experiences, dance in the rain & let the planning be damned...
Here are the seven things that have worked for me -
  1. Flaunt your To-Do List - more importantly nurture you not-to-do list. I think we get knee deep in non-critical activities ( too much Facebook time, coffee room gossip, constantly checking our phone or email, etc. etc.). I give small buckets of time in a day to these non-critical activities and don't flog myself later on time wasted on it.
  2. Embrace Single-Tasking - I abhor the term multi-tasking, it is pure sheer escapism, I would much rather dedicate my focus and attention on getting a single task completed well. This is different from being multi-threaded -- I can get multiple tasks done in a day and check them off my list.
  3. Establish a ritual - Rituals help us compose ourselves and make difficult processes easier because we can start on auto-pilot. I love to use the example of Pavlovian Dogs (shows my background in Psychology) - we attach a certain thought process to a stimuli. For me the smell of cardamom chai is one that signifies - all is well (my mother always gave me cardamom chai in the morning...I have established a morning ritual where I just sit and breathe for 5 minutes - no thoughts just focusing on the and out. Followed by my morning email, chit-chat with the husband or TV is allowed to intrude into my first 15 minutes of welcoming the new day.
  4. Serenade the  Pomodaro Technique - ok if today is confession time, I will admit to being an ardent follower of the Pomodaro Technique. No silly! it's not the mother sauce created by Pasta Pomodaro (admittedly a source of great plebeian pleasure for my son). This is a time management technique I adapted and made my own many years back...I break down my time slots (not to 25 minutes) but more like an hour slot with a 10 minute "get up and clear the mind time between"...I give myself internal deadlines for these tasks both work and personal.  It has been a game changer and has really made me focus on the work on hand and really embrace Single Tasking.
  5. I heart Exercise - I really advocate exercise as one of the top tools for productivity. Before I started exercising I really wimped out and used Fatigue as an excuse very easily for sliding out of a lot of things. I see that Exercise has made me more mindful of my health and  diet (I increased my visits to the farmer's market and make meal plans and  have embraced crock pot meals). According to MSNBC, researchers at Leeds Metropolitan University in the U.K. found that professionals who spent 30-60 minutes on their lunch break working out experienced an overall performance boost of about 15%. 
  6. Trouble Shooting the Bad Days - To be honest it's not as easy as I make it sound - some days I am just plain pissed and get out of the house feeling victimized and the door mat -- I am packing the lunch box and snack box, making the bed, hollering at K2 to get ready, working on the computer and then distracted because K2 has a permission slip for me to fill out. K1 asks me if I could please do XYZ for him before he leaves the house...I am so spitting mad by the time I leave the house !!! I really do dissect those days and try to understand the pitfalls and how I can avoid them...sometimes I can't fix it and I am ok with it (other days I vent and take it out on the boys!).
  7. Ditch the comparisons - Truth of the matter is I get intimidated every time I see these perfect looking mothers show up at the school...especially when K2 was in kindergarten...there was this mother who was a news reporter and she dropped off her child every day in school...she looked perfect...make up in place, clothes impeccable --- her daughter had the perfect lunch box- healthy and balanced, homework always done on time, nothing forgotten... I always felt a little inadequate around her (there I said it!)...around that time someone gave me a book to read (almost like cosmic intervention!) - The Gifts of Imperfection - this book explores how we can cultivate the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, "No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough," And to tell you the truth I have really tried to ditch comparisons...they ain't serving any purpose. It's better to do the best we can under the circumstances.
How is your week turning out? Did any of my Productivity Hacks resonate for you...what are the other things that you have embraced in your life that has made you feel at your productive best?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Tentative Parenting : Shempa, two pokes & a curry undone !

There is a concept in Buddhism known as “Shempa” and next to Anomie is one of my favorite words -  a Shempa is a place where we are “hooked.” It’s something that gets under our skin, that works its way into our mind and we find after a while we can’t stop thinking about it and letting it go is difficult.  ---Meenakshi 

                                                                                                                                          Art Credit : VasuKi M.
I was a hungry grouch today - I was fasting and went over to the hospital for a blood draw...the  serene looking lady poked my left hand searching for the vein...moving the needle around...the vein collapsed and she had to poke me again on my right hand to draw blood...yes! if you saw a tired looking person walking around with two band-aids at the Oracle campus today...that was probably me. I had ten thousand uncharitable thoughts go through my head
# she hurt me
#let me give her a dirty look
And then I took a deep breath as she poked me the second time and I let that feeling of disgruntlement and ire course through me, not trying to hide it or smother it with false platitude.  Once I had felt that feeling fully I let it go completely without getting attached to it...the result was I was able to give the lady a smile and have a normal conversation with her around mundane nothings. I was also able to go about the rest of  the day *without* thinking about that unnecessary poke (which is now a large bruise). But as we should allow those negative moments to pass through us, we should also let the good little moments linger – like that energizing Zumba class, the hug from K2, or how good that coconut burfi tasted --- we typically hold on to the negative exchanges and fail to notice the sweet moments. We can minimize the bourgeois suffering (our self-creation in the end) by practicing -negative --pass through, positive--imprint!

I have been pretty full of myself the past 2 cooking has been on a roll and I have been dishing out Dals, Curries, Pastas, Soups and even exotic things like Haleem... which all turned out fabulous, however this week I got Guvar from the farmer's market which is my favorite vegetable and which I normally would simply saute with onions and eat by itself...delicious, known and simple. Not this week - I found a reasonably different recipe that I ventured to try and let me tell you the end-result wasn't was mostly inedible and I ended up throwing out most of was a humbling experience. To soothe my frugality at the waste of my absolute favorite (and rare to find in the farmer's market) vegetable I made some soul soothing coconut burfis. Here is the recipe I used

I swapped the order of the shredded coconut ( I used Bob Mill's Shredded Organic Coconut - unsweetened) and Condensed Milk (Trader Joe's Organic Condensed Milk)'s how it looked

And it tasted even better than it looked and I was ok with the curry that came undone. So to K2 I offered these words today as he cried a little bit over complex multiplication tables 
#Don't get attached to the results
#Enjoy the process

Dedicating this post to all those 9/11 mothers who loved and lost....

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Simple Living : Of Dings, Dents and Life's Other Unseemlies!

I had a wonderful experience last week - I had 3 people stop me in the elevator at work and ask me why I haven't posted in a long time...for giving me the motivation to write this week I thank you...

I obsess over cleanliness to the point where -  I have had people visit us for the first time and ask us if we just moved in...I have got better over the years but I think I have passed on some of my quirks (not so lovable) to my 7 year old. We definitely want
  • To have order and organization
  • To have our way most of the time and are tenacious with our demands
  • To do things a certain way at a certain time
The reality is life is not always "made-to-order" and things are often out of our control. An apt example just happened to me a couple weeks back - K2 and I were alone for the weekend and wanted to use our time to get K1 a birthday present...ironically we took K1's car (or rather his baby) to the mall with us, parked it in the parking garage and then went into the mall for our purchases. When we came out the rear bumper of K1's car had been badly dented by an older gentleman who was trying to back out his car. The look of horror on K2's face made me almost laugh (not quite!). The old man had left us his information and his insurance is taking care of the car yet the lesson I learnt that day is one that I will be applying to my life for a long time to come --- I share my learnings here (rather selfishly) because I am hoping that I can come back and re-learn a thing or two from time to time

#1 Start accepting things when they are less than perfect – One of the biggest challenges for people who want "it perfect" ...people like me and K2 is learning to accept things as they are. Sometimes it’s better to accept and appreciate the world as it is, and people as they are, rather than to trying to make everything and everyone conform to a perceived ideal of right. No, you shouldn't accept a life of mediocrity, but learn to love and value things as you have it.
#2 Start being attentive to your stress level and take short breaks – Slow down. Breathe. Giving myself  the permission to pause, regroup and move forward with clarity and purpose. I take my breaks for quick walks, 1/2 hr visits to the Chiropractor or a Zumba class and this really gives me the opportunity to be more productive at home and work
#3 Start looking for the silver lining in tough situations – When things are hard, and you feel down, take a few deep breaths and look for the silver lining – the small glimmers of hope. Remind yourself that you can and will grow stronger from these hard times. And remain conscious of your blessings and victories – all the things in your life that are right. Focus on what you have, not on what you haven’t. Being  Pollyanna was something I learnt very early as a child and life hasn't yet proved me wrong - I really do believe that everything happens for a purpose and good things will eventually happen.
#4 Start noticing and living in the present – Right now is a miracle. Right now is the only moment guaranteed to you. Right now is life. So stop thinking about how great things will be in the future. Stop dwelling on what did or didn't happen in the past. Learn to be in the ‘here and now’ and experience life as it’s happening. Appreciate the world for the beauty that it holds, right now.

Our life has been filled with plumbing issues, guests, car body shop visits and fixing things around the house the past 4 weeks...yet we have taken the time for walks every night, dinners cooked together and time spent together before school starts (in less than a week !!!) ...How has your summer been playing out?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tentative Parenting : All that's going right with me!

This weekend while -- I was working furiously on a spreadsheet...suddenly I saw an old picture in Picasa...this picture
and it put me in a funky reminded my of the joke I was cracking  as the parakeets were pecking away at my Bapa's head at the Santa Barbara Zoo...I will never joke with him...never see him smile at me again and the pain in my heart was a tangible thing...and I wallowed in my misery just a little bit.
Fast forward to today : My wrist is aching  (damn! tendinitis)but not as much as the pounding in my brain which is way lesser than the gut wrenching cramps in my stomach -- today hasn't been a good day. Yet,the perspective I learnt from Bapa (my father) on Feb 27th, 2013 was to focus on gratitude and "All that's going right in my life". He taught me this lesson while in ICU and in hindsight with a mere dozen days left...(read it here)

I haven't been writing much this past month because there hasn't been much to say...yet there has been quite a bit of activity in my life  work wise and in kitchen. I have recreated time and again my favorite Kale Salad 

and I have cooked a few dinners for the boys...
And I have filled a part of my soul with happiness from just walking down the farmer's market every Sunday chatting with Mr.Lee about the water situation and buying baby onions and Guvar (cluster beans) from his stand, talking to Ron about his duck, geese and hen while he picked out his biggest eggs for his favorite customer K2, the heirloom tomatoes from Justin just waiting to be used in my spicy Kheema Curry and the wonderful samosas from Salim at Sukhi's corner...K2 reluctantly gets dragged to the Farmer's Market but has made his friends there  and learnt his fruits and vegetables...Gratitude that I live in such a wonderful neighborhood where I am exposed to these kind people who let me live my dream of "Farm to Table". Beyond home I have encountered this gentleness and kindness at work in the past year and it has been a wonderful's been about authenticity, working together and collaboration.

The effects of my pain-killer have settled in..the discomfort a distant memory...dinner is done and I can either settle down with my spreadsheet for the next two hours or read the book on my night stand - Power Cues but then maybe again I will indulge and read a chick-lit tonight...
Whatever I do, I know I will focus on all that's going right with tell me about all that's going right with friend!