Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Another Year Gone! Welcome 2015

 Life is what we make it...we can sit back and ponder a glass half-empty or rejoice that the glass is half-full...the perspective and state of mind is of our choosing. 2013 was a foggy year filled with pain and some of that pain and sadness of losing my father spilled into 2014...yet it is but a perspective and that perspective shifts gradually (the love remains, the pain slowly ebbs).  I have chosen to live most of 2014 with a few simple tenets :
  • Carpe Diem or Seize the Day - I am living each day as if it is the last one I have - Kungfu Panda  (yeah! a cartoon movie I know) was where I heard this saying - Yesterday is history, Tomorrow is a mystery but today is a gift, that’s why it’s called the present.Be present to enjoy the moment. I watched sunsets and sunrises (sometimes!), watched the playful seals in the bay, climbed mountains and trails and told my loved ones I loved them... (yes, I even climbed the little hill in the picture and have every intent of climbing the Mission Peak either today or tomorrow!)

  • Eat what you want Diet Plan - I will be the first to admit that I love food (just like my Bapa did)...for the first few months at the beginning of 2014, I tried to restrict what I ate and then reality sunk in - I was unhappy...I shucked that plan to oblivion and decided to live life queen what I want (not regret it later)...I followed it with a lot of didn't really lose weight and didn't really gain weight and felt great eating what I wanted to eat
  • Be Flexible - This applies to mind, body and spirit -- Accept change as a positive thing in life. At times, go with the flow that is before me vs. trying hard to change the outcome to something else. I have accepted myself as I am and have stopped devising ways to improve what already exists. I have rediscovered  balance and peace with Yoga and have been consistent with Zumba. I take long walks with the 2K's in my life. Everyday is not perfect...there are days when all we do is fight, squabble or whine...yet, accepting that  is the way it shall be for today is key to moving on and finding equilibrium.
  • Keep my To-Do List -  I chucked my to-do list for a while and really suffered mentally feeling like there was something missing. My to-do list is an integral part of making me feel positive, balanced and healthy and so I am back to my to-do list with a vengeance. Guess what - we purged for the new year. There are about 10 trash bags of un-necessaries that we have ruthlessly discarded and I feel great about it. I have cooked for the next couple days and everything seems planned and organized
 I am a little sad to see 2014 go and am excited about the upcoming year...let's make it count! Happy New Year !!!

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!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Dissecting the She-conomy

“You don’t have to be anti-man to be pro-woman.” ~Jane Galvin Lewis 

I was at a  conference last week where I heard about the power of the she-conomy. The reality is that there are two sides to this coin...wonderful is the fact that -
  • Globally, about 870 million women who have not previously participated in the mainstream economy will gain employment or start their own business by 2020. Most of these women – 822 million – will come from non-industrialized countries, while roughly 47 million will come from North America,Western Europe and Japan.
  • Women will be responsible for 19 Trillion in spending and 13 Tr in Earnings in 2016 in the US
  • Senior women age 50 and older control net worth of $19 trillion and own more than three-fourths of the US financial wealth
At the same time it is perturbing to see that :
  • In developing economies women are 20 percent less likely than men to have an account at a formal financial institution and 17 percent less likely to have borrowed formally in the past year.
  • A study in India showed that, although accounts might be opened in the name of a woman, the decision-making authority around the use of those funds often lies with a male relative. The World Bank’s Gender at Work report (2014) asserts: “On virtually every global measure, women are more economically excluded than men.
I see this behavior in my Ma who was totally like an "ostrich with her head stuck in the sand" as far as her finances are concerned ...She was a housewife and in the past she let my father deal with all things taxes, finance and investing. Trying to learn a new skill (now that Bapa is gone) is hard for her.  However, I see the same behavior from my mother-in-law  who has worked all her life as a doctor - yet when it comes to banking, finances and investing -- she leaves it all to the man of the house. I remember her telling me, she just asks Baba for money when she needed it and he gave it to her the point above by World Bank on the male having the decision making authority seems to ring true.
I believe there are 4 key barriers to women engaging more fully with finance and investing :
  • lack of time 
  • fear of numbers
  • lack of basic  financial education
  • off-putting attitudes and biases of  family members and society in general
I believe to overcome these barriers women need to :
  • Get Educated About Money - Take the time to learn about how money works, and about how different investments work. You can learn in bite sized bits, tackling a concept a day, until you feel comfortable with money, and with making money decisions. 
  • Fund your own retirement (take control)  If you have a job, make sure some of that money goes into a retirement account. If you do not have a job, talk to your partner about a spousal IRA - plan your retirement
  • Don't be Afraid -  Framing financial challenges as 'lessons learned' and planning for expected and unexpected life milestones can help build strength and confidence.
  • Frugality is not a cuss-word - It's Not About Being Cheap or being a cheapskate, a miser or a tightwad.  It's about having security and peace of mind by spending less than you make.  It's about knowing where you stand financially on a daily basis so you can make intelligent fiscal decisions. I budget, I coupon and I forecast our savings and spending at home just like I do at work. 
At the end of the day She-conomy is about empowerment and true financial freedom. It's about building the know-how to walk that walk towards independence (vs. talking it) which is an alien concept for so many women. So what is your financial strategy...if you could change one thing  today what would you change?

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A letter from a daughter to her father...(Happy Father's Day!)

Dear Bapa,

Even though we were close and we talked, in the early days- you didn't share emotions much, you kept me grounded but guided me wordlessly down a path that somehow was the right one for me - always proud of my achievements...I wish I had asked you more "How are you?" had been my ideal clawing your way out of nothing to achieve so much (yet you were a practical person, not letting the power get to your head...maintaining your simplicity). It was only after you found out you were sick that you let that facade of "playing poker face" let me be the strong one for you (and you made that easy -  you were so positive and cheerful). It's been two father's days, one birthday (yours) and two wedding anniversaries (yours) where the emptiness was acute. 

Miss you Bapa and Happy Father's Day,

Your Daughter

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Tentative Parenting : What my 7 yr old teaches me about Management?

By the time my son came along, I had spent over 10 years in product management living life big : shipping products that people used everyday, solving problems for gigantic customers, flying across the globe to meet said customers and working with really smart development and sales people. I thought a baby shouldn't be a big deal...boy! was I wrong. My son (K2) was a blessing and a "handful" from the word go. Over the years I have watched him do things naturally that took me a long time to learn and internalize -
#1 Prioritize : K2 is ruthless about what matters in his life - it is his playtime, his iPad time and then time with parents... what I have learnt from K2 is that time will expand to fit what is a priority for you...I can sit down and say it's too hard and I can't get to things or get to first things first...sometimes I am amazed at how much I can fit into a day (and conversely how little).
#2 Communicate : whether it is a "small" question to letting us know he needs to use the bathroom, to he is hungry, sleepy or grumpy...K2 is annoying at times but useful most times...I would rather he tell me he has a tummy ache to me second guessing it. At work I have learnt - it is critical to communicate with the team about most things - how large-scale decisions are made, what goals they’re working towards, and empower them to track their progress - this helps avoid confusion, alienation and helps keep everyone engaged and involved.
#3 Simplify : Man tends to over complicate, over-think life...K2 breaks things down to the basics (classic Maslow) - "When you learn how to say yes to the things you want in your life and no to the things you don't want in your life – your life becomes simpler."
#4 Visualize : K2 has to memorize poems every week for his public speaking class. The poems initially were itty bitty ones...the last one was a whopping 20 lines. I saw him getting frustrated and angry and nearly in tears. I sat him down and gave him a clue : visualize words ( the tree house, the robin, the stars and make them your anchor words). He had the poem memorized in 25 minutes. I had a mini-aha moment then - if he can apply it to memorizing a poem why can't I apply it to my a moment that I am stressed why can't I close my eyes and visualize how peace looks like at that moment...sounds kooky but seems to work for me just fine.

#5 Authenticity : K2 is loud and laughs a lot...shy sometimes and sometimes not...he doesn't think about his actions much...his laughs, love and tears are from the heart - he is unconditional with his affections and emotions. I have learnt from him that it is important to be "true to yourself" and the approach of WYSIWG (what you see is what you get) works best here.

#6 Do it your way : I was trying to teach K2 how to do fractions...I was impressed that he came up with an alternate way to do the fractions which worked for him better. An important lesson I learnt then was - there is no right way or wrong way...the best way is "the doing it your way"...think out of the box...think about solving the problem or coming up with a kick-ass solution. This however doesn't equate to "my way or the highway" !!!

#7 Think Win-Win : I grew up in India and resources were scarce (college admissions etc) and our lives were intensely competitive -- we learnt to base our self-worth on comparisons and competition. I thought about succeeding in terms of someone else failing–i.e., if I win, you lose; or if you win, I lose. Life became a zero-sum game.-- however, with K2 I see that he is in a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions -- he wants to share, his attitude is "there is plenty for all"...he has made me change my thinking's collaborative and focused on the team vs. just myself.

As one of my mentors said to me in the past - “Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them” ...I am glad I am not sticking to stereotype here!

Friday, June 6, 2014

A date with an American Masala

For a self-proclaimed foodie, my knowledge about foods that I eat seems to be surprisingly sparse. You must have heard me raving about this amazing grilled cheese sandwich that my mother used to make for me that I kinda sorta modified to make my own...what? you haven't -- then I insist that you read the recipe here
What I didn't know was that this killer sandwich is called a toastie : a toasted sandwich made in a special machine, usually containing cheese combined with some other foodstuff.
I ran into Suvir Saran, an amazing chef and the author of the book American Masala. He inspired me to get out his book and my toastie maker and combine two of his recipes to make one killer toastie.
First things first - just in case you were wondering this is a toastie maker

I used the recipe for the warm pepper dip from the book American Masala (modified to my taste of course)
  • 2 Sprays of High Heat Spectrum Canola Spray 
  • 1 medium red onion - chopped
  • 10 Baby Red Bell Peppers  - That's what I had on hand
  • 2 medium tomatoes - chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic - peeled
  • 2 Serrano - increase for more heat
  • 1 tsp  Sea Salt
  • 1/4 Cup Reduced Fat Feta Cheese
  • Milk to make the dip (To consistency)
Toss all the ingredients, except milk & cheese, together. Spread on a greased baking dish. Roast in a pre-heated 450 degree F oven for 1 hr, stirring every 15 mins. Blend and make the dip. Here is how my beautiful dip looks (even Buddha approved!)

How I make my toastie?
  • 4 Slices High Fiber Whole Grain Bread
  • Spread the bread with the Red Pepper dip (thick coat)
  • Take a Amul Cheese Cube or whatever cheese rocks your boat (tear and spread across the bread)
  • Cover with another slice of bread
  • Close the toastie maker and let the magic begin!
Here is how the Toasties looked -

K2 absolutely adores this version of the Toastie -- he will have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner!
Sending this recipe to :
  1. Nandoo's Kitchen for her event Healthy Diet : Healthy Breakfast (brainchild of Priya's Versatile Recipes)
  2. Cooking 4 all Season's event - Come Join us for Breakfast
  3. Food Better be Good's event - Kid's Delight : Lunch Box Series
Thanks Suvir for your wonderful book that has so many lovely recipes (most kid-approved, at least my kid approved :) )

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

If I were 22...

I will hit a birthday milestone which ends with a "zero" this month and such a milestone does put one in an introspective mood - there are lessons learnt (and re-learnt)...priorities set and experiences gained. Some lessons I learnt in the last 18 years that I would love to share with my 22 yr old self are below (but as I tell myself you live and you learn!)
#1 Don't Hold Grudges - It is better to forgive and forget than to let negative feelings crowd out my positive feelings. Holding a grudge has a lot of detrimental effects on my well being, including increased depression, anxiety, and stress. For all I know the person who has done me wrong might be totally unaware of my feelings -- so I let myself feel strongly for that instance, express my emotions if it makes sense and then just let it go...makes me feel a whole lot lighter and better.
# 2 Eat Well and Exercise- I didn't start exercising till I was 30 (yikes!) and filled my body with a lot of junk food. The last 10 years have taught me good habits of eating organic, whole foods and making exercise a part of my daily routine. I feel this has a huge positive impact on my mental health, my productivity at work and my ability to spend more energy and time with my young son.
#3 Don't sweat the small stuff (so hard!) - This is so hard for an eternal planner like me - I am anal with To-Do Lists and Organizing stuff -- I have learnt that sometimes things just resolve themselves...things that seemed huge problems a month back seem non-trivial now.
#4 Express Gratitude - There are so many things going right in my life...I would rather take the time to appreciate all that is going right with my life vs. lament the things that don't seem to be working out.
#5 See Problems as Challenges - A problem is viewed as a drawback, a struggle, or an unstable situation while a challenge is viewed as something positive like an opportunity, a task, or a dare. Whenever you face an obstacle, try looking at it as a challenge. I won't say the path forward has been the easiest however once I changed my mindset - that things were not being put in my path to create roadblocks but were opportunities -- I was able to achieve more success
#6 Never seek approval from others - I used to be so "needy" of approval from my parents and close friends. What I realized over time is that it is impossible to please everyone. My mother still feels I should stay at home and take care of my family vs. have a career. I do listen to what the people who matter in my life have to say, but I always forge my own path forward...seeking approval from one source and one source alone - myself.
#7 Live in the Present - I don’t dwell on the past much or worry about the future. Losing my father taught me one important lesson - Life is fleeting, savor the present. I have let myself get absorbed in what I am doing at the moment. I do plan for the future but with broad brush strokes...I know I have a path mapped out but I am enjoying what I have "right now" vs. thinking of what "I can have tomorrow to enjoy" father told me something in Jan 2013 which rings true every day after - You live only once, don't make the mistake I made of waiting for retirement for all the vacations and relaxation to happen...enjoy every day like it is the last one that you have on this earth...then you will really live!" Living life for me today was about standing in my backyard for 10 minutes enjoying the antics of a squirrel...made me ready for any curve-ball or challenge that this day had to throw at me!
As Lao Tzu said it - If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Tentative Parenting : Dealing with Grief & Uncertainity

K2 : Ma, why does the brain suddenly bleed?
Working Mom : I don't know, sometimes it just happens. 
K2 : Ma, will he be alright?
Working Mom : Let's pray for him tonight? Is that ok?
K2 : Ma, was the ICU scary?
Working Mom : It's late...why don't we save some questions for tomorrow.

I am mentally exhausted ...I never imagined being in the pediatric ICU watching K2's 8 year old friend on life support...harder still was internalizing the grief of the parents and trying to explain the situation to K2. Based on my recent devastating loss here is my meager attempt to get K2 to understand and deal with the situation 

  1. Face Reality and let out the pain - it's OK to talk about feelings and fears. Cry, Grieve, Ask Questions and deal with reality vs. being an ostrich with it's head stuck in the sand
  2. Talk it out - I am glad K2 is asking questions and trying to understand the prognosis for his friend. 
  3. Harbor no regrets - one interesting thing K2 asked about his friend falling sick was - whose fault was it? And my answer was - sometimes K2 it isn't anyone's fault it just is
  4. Shift the focus away from sadness - it is so easy to fall into a rut...get miserable and wallow in that misery...however it is important to snap out of it
  5. There is no one way or right way - I dealt with my grief through work and exercise and my life lesson that I offer to K2 is that - that well might not work for him. He will have to find what helps him counteract that feeling of hopelessness and helplessness
  6. Most importantly remembering that grieving/dealing with uncertainty  is a personal process that has no time limit. 
  7. Pray and prayer are the vitamins of the soul
I am praying really hard ....

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Tentative Parenting : Respect Women

The country is making a big mistake not teaching our boys to cook & raise a garden &  do household chores.           --Loretta Lynn
For the first 23 years of my life...traditionalism stared me in the face - a father who held a job and a mother who took care of the house. I won't say it was the happiest of mergers but it worked (or they sorta made it work). I am sure those key formative years had a great deal to do with my schizophrenic personality today where I am a feminist during the day (taking my fair share of the work, performing, questioning, contributing) and a traditionalist at the night (think all house hold chores minus taking the garbage out once weekly).

The truth of the matter is we (women) can be fabulous, brilliant, creative -- have tangible impact and yet at some point there is a mental brake that we apply to our own psyche - because unlike most men women with children are still expected to work the second shift at home (and no! not all of us have the model husbands who actually do their fair share of the household chores). Just as work has expanded to require me to be present all the time, I have realized that being a good mom also requires my attention 24*7. Parenting has become a full-time job: school meetings, doctor's appointments,enrichment activities, homework and projects, organic school lunches... It's hard enough managing one 24/7 job. No one can survive two of them. 

So every time I hear talks about Women's Emancipation the one thing that sticks out for me is this one simple fact - as long as women are the ones doing more of the housework and childcare, women will be disproportionately hurt when both workplace expectations and parenting expectations requires them to be present 24*7. They'll continue to do what too many talented women already do: Just as they're on the verge of achieving workplace leadership positions, they'll start dropping out.  Beyond stats and doom & gloom, the way I am fixing this at home is I am teaching my 7 year old boy to cook, do chores and above all respect women (hard for me to fix 25 years of Socialization that went into K1 but K2 is my blank canvas).

Here's an interesting video clip that got mixed reviews in India, but in my mind it hit a home run in terms of messaging :

This week saw me at PWBC's 25th Conference - Rising Above! It was fabulous and gave me a lot of food for thought! 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Au contraire mon cheri !

"Food is not rational. Food is culture, habit, craving and identity"
My son  broke my heart yesterday. Truth be told I was setting myself up for's how it played out

Working Mom : K2 how is your dinner?
K2  (mumbles  in a whiny voice) : Ma can I eat the cheese and garlic bread now
Working Mom : K2 the deal was you finish 3/4th of your healthy stew first.
K2 ( whiny voice going shrill ) : Don't like it
Working Mom : K2 it is good for you...its super foods - Kale, Shitake Mushrooms, Black Beans
K2  ( whiny voice) : it doesn't look good (buddy had a point there!)

Let's just say I  lost my case but forced my son to eat his bowl of the black bean stoup (stew or soup...I wasn't too sure) if he wanted the buttery garlic bread and the ricotta goat cheese he had picked up at Harley Farms . In case you were wondering it was wonderful - fragrant with cumin and cayenne pepper and the shitake mushrooms tasted like butter...but to my precocious 7 year old it probably tasted like mud!

I have been re-reading this book " Eat to Live" by Dr. Joel Fuhrman (mostly because the health fervor of a work colleague has me suitably intimidated to lift my chocolate ganache and coffee cake eating tushy off the floor and get a little more disciplined about my eating habits). Hence, the need to create something incredibly healthy but insanely simple...try this recipe  but remember I warned you that it might not be kid friendly. You might try to brighten the one-tone color with cilantro, a splash of lemon and some chopped onions...enjoy by itself or with a crusty piece of whole grain bread.

Ingredient List

  • 2 Cups of un-soaked black beans
  • 5 cloves of Garlic
  • Homemade or Store Bought Vegetable Broth ( I used this )
  • 1/2 pound Shitake Mushrooms (chopped)
  • 3 Oz Kale (1/2 packet of the Organic Girl Baby Kale Box)
  • 1 medium Onion (chopped fine)
  • 2 Medium Sized Tomatoes (chopped fine)
  • Salt, Turmeric, Cayenne Pepper powder and Cumin powder to taste
Step 1 : Take first 3 ingredients and place in the crock pot on high for 8 hours
Step 2 : In a large skillet, put 1 tsp Olive Oil, add the turmeric and cayenne pepper powder. When it sizzles add the Onion brown, add the tomatoes and brown for 3 minutes. Now add the Shitake Mushrooms and cook for another 5-10 minutes. Add Salt and Cumin Powder (strictly to taste...I eyeball it)
Step 3 : Add this mixture to the Crock pot. Cook on high for 4 hours.
Step 4 : Adjust Salt, Add a splash of fresh lemon juice...taste and then adjust more if needed

You get 7-8 servings of the stoup and contrary to what my darling son says it is delicious!

Especially when you know it is all of 200 calories, 2 gms of Fat, 22 gms of Carbs, 15 gms of Protein and a whopping 9 gms of fiber! Here's me with my bowl and a glass of kefir...Salut to your health!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Infographics & a song stuck in my head!

“There's no limit to how complicated things can get, on account of one thing always leading to another.” 
                                                                                             ― E.B. White

I am in love with infographics - Isn't it way cooler to explain complex things using visual aids. I got hooked on to infographics last year with the pretty compelling Infographic Charts on Happiness from  Happify. So here's me dabbling on an Infographic on Child Obesity : Not Earth Shattering statistics but wholly my own super-excited about it.

When I was in India last month I got to see two movies (and two movies only!) with a feminist bend - Gulaab Gang and Queen. The latter appealed to me a lot more than the former - the character of Rani (Queen) was endearing and the metamorphosis of a naive girl to woman was totally heart tugging - "her life wasn't going as planned and yet it all worked out". This entire week there has been a song "stuck in my head" - playing on my headset in the office, in the car and anyplace else I cared to listen to it...and the video was shot in one of my favorite cities - Amsterdam (TDC  how I miss thee!)

Dinner today was on the fast lane (15 minutes to table) - EVOL Breakfast Sandwich, Fresh Mangoes and Oranges, Cucumber and Feta Cheese and Noosa Yogurt

Helped K2 prepare and practice for a presentation on "Gemstones", packed my office in less than an hour for my move later this week and  made my weekly to-do list. How is your week looking?