Thursday, June 25, 2015

Tentative Parenting : The little things in life...

"Enjoy the little things in life, for someday you will realize they were the big things."

Today feels like any other day...not that special or a one-off...I got up in the morning, feeling no different, made lunch for K2, got on a couple calls, went to a Yoga class...walked to lunch...attended meetings, picked K2 and spent time with the 3 boys (the 2K's and my brother "A")...yet it was so much more. It was a Birthday...and it was an incredibly memorable one...
# 1 My Ma face timed me to wish me 
# 2 Aura's wonderful message on FB
#3 K1 wishing me  in the AM
#4 Me talking to my grandma in Orissa
#5 The kids in the bus wishing me Happy Birthday
#6 Birthday wishes galore from my family and friends - whatsapp, fb, txt messages, voice messages (feeling so special and loved!)
#7 My Yoga teacher  Keith threw in 2 of my favorite poses - Kapothasana (Pigeon) and Gomukha Asana 
#8 I got myself vanilla cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and Mango Sorbet (that's what I wanted to eat today not the whole wheat carrot cupcakes :-) )
#9 Rashmi took me for an impromptu lunch at the Oracle Cafe
#10 On my way back to my office I saw this elegant bird fearlessly watching and waiting


#11 Dinner with the 3 Boys was wonderful...it was at my favorite Malaysian place....shaved mango ice (yum!)
#12 Wrapping up with a stroll around the lake... 

Someone once asked me - why do you love these birds so much...and K2 told them - it reminds her of Bapa (my father). I think these birds symbolized the life he wanted to lead - free unencumbered by worries, doubts, criticisms, dislikes and judgement.For my 21st Birthday he had brought me back this beautiful "Kiwi" pendant from New Zealand...and every time I wear it, I remember - it's the little things in  the life that count...

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Simple Living : Keen on Quinoa


“When you think yours is the only true path you forever chain yourself to judging others and narrow your perspective. The road to righteousness and arrogance is a parallel road that can intersect each other several times throughout a person's life. It’s often hard to recognize one road from another. What makes them different is the road to righteousness is paved with the love of humanity. The road to arrogance is paved with the love of self.” 
                                                     ----A Wise Woman


I was in the Oracle Building 200 Cafe waiting patiently all of 15 minutes for my small bowl of beans and cheese -- sounds unexciting -- well let me correct your misconception -- my lunch is something I look forward to in my mostly uneventful (read: unexciting!) day. I go downstairs and get this bowl of perfection - black beans, quinoa, lettuce, pico de gallo, salsa and cheese and it's a wonderful half hour at my desk with my plate/bowl of goodness.

OK...so I digress -- today was not like most other days -- I usually time my trip to the cafe between 11.00-11.15 AM when I am the only one in line and it's a quick in and out and off to my desk to eat. But today -- I stood in the line virtually counting sheep and people watching...I saw this really interesting Indian Woman standing in front of me - soft voice, soft demeanor (and big gold hoops) and I paid particular attention to what she was ordering...she ordered the brown rice instead of the quinoa...and after I ordered my bowl  -- we started talking and me in my usual steam rollering fashion extolled the virtues of quinoa over rice...in her soft voice - she told me - she is off quinoa. She told me it was because of environmental reasons...I was like is it harmful to the land (clueless! that's me!) -- she goes no - we are stealing the food literally from the mouths of the indigenous people in Peru/Bolivia. It made me feel guilty enough to go and google the issue. Am I going to give up eating Quinoa? Don't know yet -- love me my quinoa way too much to make that decision right this minute (and there's 5 lbs of Quinoa in my pantry that I am not tossing away!)...*head*hurts*

So putting the ethical aspects of  eating quinoa aside I made us for dinner a quick 15 minute Tofu Scramble.


Serves: 4 servings
ACTIVE TIME: 15 minutes
TOTAL TIME: 15 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon Vegetable Oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped Tomato
  • 1 Pack of Shelled Edamame (Trader Joes)
  • 1 Pack of any brand of Organic Extra Firm Tofu (scramble it)
  • 2 teaspoons masala powder - I used Roopak's  Aloo Kadhai Masala
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

PREPARATION

 Heat oil in large wok over medium heat. Add  onions and sauté until golden brown. Now add the tomatoes and sauté till it's all mushy .  Add the Masala Powder and then add the Edamame and the tofu.  stir  for 5 minutes.  Season with Salt, Cinnamon and Paprika (to your taste, the last 2 are purely optional, I use them). Stir in cilantro. Enjoy with a helping of cooked Quinoa (or brown rice!)
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A simple belief  that has been further strengthened by this interaction with woman unknown is : everything that we do and everyone that we meet are put in our path for a purpose. There are no accidents; we're all teachers and we are being taught - if we're willing to pay attention to the lessons we learn, trust our positive instincts and keep ourselves open to suggestions and new ideas - we evolve and grow

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Tentative Parenting : Sometimes Prioritization is a 4-lettered cuss word!

 pri·or·i·tize - To arrange or deal with in order of importance
Dealing with Engineers and Sales  it had been pretty uncomplicated to negotiate product priorities with the teams. We agreed on some basic tenets (revenue/customer requests, competitive differentiation, architectural improvements etc.)  and the team allowed one person (the product manager) to set those priorities based on those tenets and trusted them to do it right. I tried to apply those same rules to my parenting and it usually works when I am dealing with K2 (alone) and I give him options to pick from -- initially he rebelled and as time passed he understood the importance of options and priorities. Tried to apply the same principle today in the afternoon when I tried to get K1 and K2 to decide on the flavor of cake they wanted baked : K2 loves Vanilla and K1 loves Chocolate...after 1/2 hr of negotiation and them still being at an impasse  - Epic Failure !!!

I gave up and took out my baking mitts and ended up baking both a Vanilla and  Chocolate Cake...with help from the 2 K's - K1 got to the Chocolate Cake before I took my pictures :-(


Serves: 16
ACTIVE TIME: 5 minutes
TOTAL TIME: 35 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 Cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
  • Handful of chopped nuts & dried fruits (raisins, hazelnuts, almonds)
  • 1 Cup Mango/Pineapple Puree (or any fruit you wish to add)
  • 2 Egg Whites
  • 1/2 Cup of Fat free Milk
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 Cup of Sugar (I used Stevia)
  • 2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 Cup Cocoa Powder (unsweetened)  -- for the Chocolate Cake
  • Pinch of Salt to Taste
PREPARATION
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  I stick all the ingredients in my Food Processor and blend to cake consistency. Pour into a round well greased cake pan. Bake 30-35 minutes till  toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Nutritional Insights : Calories per Serving - 120, Carbs - 10 g, Fat - 5 g, Protein - 8 g, Fiber - 3 g 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Leading as a Woman

Source : 2014 Leading Women. Research study: Closing the Leadership Gender Gap

I heard an insightful presentation from my manager (who is a woman and the first woman that I have worked for in about 18 years in the tech field & an awesome one at that!) and it had me thinking about Women as leaders especially in the tech industry. Here are some perturbing statistics :

  • 4.6% of the Fortune 1000 CEOs are women 
  • Women earn 30% lesser on an average than a man for the same job ( it applies to executives too)
  • In a study of 25,000 Harvard Business School graduates designed to understand why the gender gap in leadership is so persistent, the one factor that stood out was mismatched expectations between men and women about who was going to be responsible for the home front. Even among the Millennials, men were much more likely to say that they expected to be in a traditional relationship, where their career was primary (don't let me get on a soapbox on this topic, you will beg for mercy I promise you :-) )

The reality from my perspective is re-thinking Leadership as it exists in all it's glory today. Leadership at work is usually seen as a "zero-sum game". You don't always have to put work first in order to rise to the top. It is alright to be "dual centric" -- you sometimes prioritize personal life over work and sometimes prioritize work over personal life. You are not just successful at work but don't feel the pressure or guilt of not being available at home. Reality is there is no such thing as work-life balance - some weeks priorities at work take precedence - an Ops Review, a customer summit or a deliverable with  a deadline AND other weeks your 8 yr old's SAT's (State Administered Tests) or Diorama projects become all consuming...it is just letting go and being alright with just tackling what is a priority then.
  
My advice to women (and men alike) is lessons I have learnt sometimes by observing but mostly by living and working in the Silicon Valley :

# Be Authentic - I don't believe specific traits define a leader, in fact I will go ahead and make the statement - your leadership emerges from your life story. Your life story provides the context for your experiences and through it you can find the inspiration to make an impact. Discovering your leadership requires a certain degree of commitment to develop/discover yourself. 
# Be Aware of your blind spots - Every single person has blind spots aka weak points. Being self-aware and brutally honest with yourself is key here. You are in denial if you don't see yourself as other's see you. And this perception gap is something you have to fix if you want to see yourself grow as a leader.
# Competency - I had watched a Ted Talk by Susan Colantuono - Closing the Leadership Gender Gap (the missing 33%). 


In seeking to identify Leadership traits, according to her (and I agree) there are 3 pillars.One of the key pillars is skills and competencies with running the business - strategic value, execution and financial acumen. It has to do with aligning your own or your group goals with the vision and mission of your organization and helping achieve the goals of the organization. That is the missing 33% of the career success equation for women - it doesn't mean that women are not capable enough or mathematically inclined or strategic. It just means that most of the career advice we are given is conventional and built around soft skills like networking, personal brand, self awareness (guilty as charged but I believe its critical), assertiveness, confidence, empathy and people skills). The reality is  the advice that is usually missed is equally critical (if not more critical) - Competency. I define it as the ability to have

  •  the strategic ability to have a vision of what is required for your market (that will get you the revenue and market share
  • Executing to that vision 
  • Looping back on how your group's  accomplishments are helping the organization realize it's vision and mission. 

I do believe at the end of the day your work and reputation does speak for itself.

I want to leave you with this quote by John Quincy Adams

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Tentative Parenting : Changing Courses


K2 is very set in his way and is very unhappy if he has to change course midway even if he knows his previous plan is either (a) not yielding the results he was expecting (b) failing miserably. He gets this stubborn look on his face and keeps going at it (wonder who he gets it from ;-))

Over the years I have learnt to change course with the resources I have on hand, whether it's at work, in life and with my cooking. What I am trying to teach him is the following:

# It ain't easy - I am not saying it's easy and maybe you start of making the changes with baby steps and that's ok
# It's never too late to change course
# Look at your resource and time constraints and make a realistic change decision
# Always have a good idea of where you are trying to get (final product or destination)
# Enjoy the journey

Today for example I was planning  for a dinner party and had every intention of making chicken meatballs from scratch, with quinoa pasta and a homemade pasta sauce (with cauliflower, carrots and tomatoes). A brief phone conversation with N changed the course for me and I made instead smooth, creamy, spicy and satisfying Haleem. I know a lot of folks think Haleem is a labor of love - well not in my kitchen.Here's the dibs and I promise you it's a no-fail recipe



Serves: 8 servings
ACTIVE TIME: 10 minutes
TOTAL TIME: 50 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
  • 1/2 Finger chopped Ginger
  • 1 packet Shaan's Haleem Masala
  • 750 gms (1.5 lbs) of Organic Ground Chicken 
  • Soaked Pulses and Grains - I used 1/4 cup of Toor Dal, Urad Dal, Chana Dal, Barley and Wheat Bran (soaked 2 hrs+)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 Lemon

PREPARATION

 Heat oil in large pressure cooker over medium heat. Add  ginger and the ground chicken and the Haleem Masala sauté for 5 minutes. Now add the soaked pulses & grains and sauté for another 5 minutes. Add Chicken Broth or Water, I added water (about 8 cups) and pressure cook for 10+ whistles on medium
Add chopped Cilantro and  then use an immersion blender to blend to a paste. I added the lemon juice last and checked the seasoning.
 A delicious and spicy Haleem is ready (without any unhealthy implications -- I used lean meat and used no ghee, just organic safflower oil)
Nutritional Insights : Calories per Serving - 220, Carbs - 17 g, Fat - 10 g, Protein - 17 g, Sodium - 400 mg, Fiber - 8 g

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Tentative Parenting : You are what you eat!

I love the weekends - the time to slow down a tad bit, get over the week's madness and regroup - walks with  the 2K's and catch up on my DVRed  TV shows (what's up with The Good Wife, Scandal and Grimm -- why so many twists and turns), cook a little bit -- I absolutely adore Sundays - I make breakfast  for the boys and me and enjoy it with a cup of Chai (hot chocolate for K2)  (here's what we had today - Waffle Omelette with a slice of multi-grain toast) and then head out to the Farmer's Market.



K2 and I have been watching a documentary Fed Up the past week and it's been very educating for us - it showed K2 that calories in fruit are not the same as those in soda  --it included  touching video self-portraits by some young people who belong to the almost 17 percent of children and adolescents, 2 to 19, who are considered obese. K2 learnt that - at this rate, in twenty years, 95 % of the population will be obese, a crisis that affects every aspect of our country's stability from health care spending to national defense. What struck me was :  40 percent of thin people are also fat, their internal organs padded with enough damaging blubber that they may as well be clinically obese. Behold, our new national paranoia: TOFI or Thin Outside, Fat Inside.

Reality is this applies to us working moms, executives, product managers and managers too - it isn't about grabbing a quick bite to satisfy the hunger - we are athletes at work - confronting challenging mental tasks and dealing with stress -- our brain and bodies need the right nutrition and hydration. I don't just believe it - I live it -- it definitely is not easy but once it is a habit, you usually are more mindful and aware of what you put into your body. Every weekend , I do an inventory of my refrigerator  (after shopping in the Farmer's Market) and come up with a loose meal plan. Here's a view of what's in my fridge 
( Flat of Organic ) Strawberries, 2 lbs of Organic Super Greens, Milk, Coconut Water, Organic Apple Sauce, Blue Moon (gotta have the beer right K1), Lotus Elixirs, Coconut Yogurt, Noosa, Home made Wheat Bran/Vanilla Cake, Grated Beets, Cooked Lentils, Eggs, Bread, Cashew Butter, Ravioli (stuffed with shrimp & asparagus); Produce Section : Beet Tops ( I add them to my lentils), Beets, Carrots, Eggplant, Brussel Sprouts, Fresh Corn, Tomatoes, Lemon, Mandarins, Pears, Blood Orange, Raspberries, Apples; Condiments, Wines (got to have my Prosecco!) 
 What's in your Fridge?

Here are some of things I do to take care of our family's health -
# Hydrate Hydrate Hydrate - I begin the day with 1/2 a liter of water followed by a warm cup of water with Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV). 
# Dish out the healthy Fats - a handful of almonds and walnuts for snacking is a GREAT idea. Omega-3 fatty acids--found in salmon, walnuts, and flaxseed are the perfect brain and heart food.
# Think Anti Oxidants - berries, green tea, kombucha, apples, black beans,greens should be a constant in your diet
# Add natural caffeine to your diet - preferably in the afternoon when you need a pick me up - Green Tea, Runa Tea or Pink Lotus Elixirs are my libations of choice
#Cut out Fatty Foods - Chips, Fries and fried desserts may taste good for just a second and harm you in the long run. Science bears this out. According to a Cambridge University study, after five days on a high-fat diet, the treadmill performance of lab rats declined by half. Moreover, the rats eating fatty chow began to falter on a maze test they had been trained on--finding only five treats before making a mistake. The healthier rats were able to find six or more treats. 
Sugar = Bad  - A recent UCLA study found that a diet high in fructose slows the brain, hampering memory and learning. 
I want to leave you with a thought -

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Waiting for Godot





I had the strangest conversation with someone I was mentoring last month. Here is how it went -
Friend: So, I have been in this role for 4 years and I am bored - there has been no promotion, interesting stretches in the job or monetary uplift
Working Mom : So what did you do about it?
Friend (surprised look) : Whaaaat? I am waiting for my manager to offer me the position of  Lead ?
Working Mom : Have you had a conversation with him letting him know of your interest?
Friend : Well I am working so hard , my work should speak for itself
Working Mom : So the reality is ...managers are not mind readers. You need to have a candid conversation with them around your career aspirations and interests. If  (a) the conversation does not yield a milestone map with them on your progress (b) status quo....it is your cue to stretch yourself and explore other opportunities. Yes it's hard and in situations inconceivable given the comfort level and security in your current job but the decision is yours to make.

How many times have you followed your dream....said damn the consequences this is what I want to do and I bloody well will do it come hell or high water

I was watching Shark Tank yesterday and one of things the Shark Robert Herjavec said was - the worst thing you can do is nothing. It resonated with me because ...It is very easy for  a person to get into a state of “Anomie”…a mindless state of just being …reminds me of a play I had read ages back in a literature class. The play was titled Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett. It was about two sad men – Estragon and Vladimir and it follows two days in their lives while they wait expectantly and unsuccessfully for someone named Godot to arrive. They claim him as an acquaintance but in fact hardly know him, admitting that they would not recognize him were they to see him. To occupy themselves, they eat, sleep, converse, argue, sing, play games, exercise, swap hats, and contemplate suicide — yet they are afraid to even take that final step of suicide…what if the belt or the rope broke…they were plain afraid…still waiting for Godot. It was a simple play which our English teacher had us enact and dissect and yet what remained twenty five years later were memories of those two sad men…waiting, afraid and in limbo…

Action is better than inaction any day...you have to try, fail, learn and do it over in order to grow. By failing you are setting yourself up to savor the successes that come by small or big. The best advise I have ever received was from my father who is no longer with me - He definitely lived it...he transformed himself from a child who lived in an orphanage all through middle school and high school to a full scholarship student (oh!so hard) to passing the IAS Exams at age 22 and he ended up the Head of a State.

He said Get out there and do something, Take Action. Don't take action because your neighbor did it ....but take it because there is this fire in your belly (I read that as Passion) that is forcing you to take action. You have one life -- Live it -- GET OUT THERE & DO SOMETHING