Monday, June 26, 2017

The Self Care Series : Different Strokes

"Nearly six million die and another five million are left permanently disabled. Stroke is the second leading cause of disability, after dementia. ... In the developing world, however, the incidence of stroke is increasing."

I lost a 59 yr. old uncle yesterday to a stroke. This was my mother's younger sister's husband. He had the symptoms of a stroke - Sudden numbness of his leg on the left side, trouble walking & loss of balance and severe headache. He ignored it for 2 days...he was rushed to the ICU on the third day and they found a large brain clot on the 5th day and did a brain surgery to remove the clot on the 7th day...he spent the next 30 days in a hospital, half the time on a ventilator and finally drew his last breath yesterday at 4.30 AM.

Did you know?
  • Nearly 800,000 (approximately 795,000) people in the United States have a stroke every year, with about three in four being first-time strokes.
  • Someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds.
  • Every four minutes, someone dies of stroke.
  • Stroke is a leading cause of long-term disability and the leading preventable cause of disability.
  • More women than men have strokes each year
  • South-East Asians are more at risk than other races
Who is more at risk?
  • People with high Blood Pressure
  • People with Type 2 Diabetes
  • High Cholestrol (especially high LDL)
  • Obese or Overweight People
  • Desk Jobs or leading a sedentary lifestyle
  • Bad Food Habits - red meat, eating too much carbs & sugar to your diet
What can you do about it?
  • Sleep Well - 7-8 hours every day
  • Manage your stress - meditation, yoga, read books, take quiet walks, listen to music, practice gratitude
  • Managing your weight - ensure your BMI is in the healthy range
  • Diet - this is a topic I am very passionate about - making sure you eat healthy is No.1 to keeping a lot of these diseases at bay. Eat more fruits and vegetables, Eat legumes and lentils (sprouted if you can sprout them at home), Limit Dairy & Meats, Eat more nuts and seeds, Consciously add more fiber to your diet, Cut down on fat, carbs and sugar in your diet.
  • Regular Exercise - Try Shruthi's Bolly X Class in the Oracle Gym!
  • Smoking & Alcohol - No smoking and either no alcohol (or alcohol in moderation!)
  • Recognize the symptoms of a stroke and go immedietely to a doctor if you suspect that you are having stroke symptoms
                                                                                             circa 2002
I know it's easier to give advice and very hard to follow in real life...it has taken me years to get disciplined about exercise, sleep and food...it's second nature now. I am putting a picture up from 15 years back...I loved...no love... food ( fried food, chips, cookies and indian sweets)....and I didn't really like exercising and it shows in this picture of mine. I don't believe in "before and after pictures"...the reality is the After is "Work in Progress"...it's still a journey and the key is I am learning to live life happier, healthier...sharing this information with the hope that you do something positive for your health today!



Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Tanishq's Diamonds NOT a girl's best friend!

Tanishq the Indian's say is what Tiffany's is to the USA. Hear my story and you will definitely know that "Diamonds can be a girl's best friend but avoid Tanishq at all costs"

My 40th birthday which happened a couple years ago also marked the 1st year anniversary to losing my father and getting a promotion. Having lived a very minimalistic life until that point (and because my Dad was always urging me to do something special for myself) I was ready to  treat myself to something special to mark the milestone. I ended up buying myself a solitare diamond ring. It made me feel wonderful - a gift I bought for myself...no other person involved (almost like coming of age...). My ring was a great companion for 3 years. Two weeks back with normal use, my entire solitaire with it's cushion fell out of the ring setting. I thought the diamond was lost but with the help of some wonderful people I located the diamond (after 15 panicky minutes....can't imagine next steps if the stone was lost !!!)




 I contacted Tanishq hoping to understand next steps...the first tenet of their mission is - Total Customer Orientation... or so I thought. I was so wrong...

I sent my first email to a senior executive at Tanishq and heard nothing back and sent a follow-up email...NOTHING !!!

I am now getting my ring reset at a reputed local jeweller in San Francisco  and paying $300 ( ~ Rs. 20,000) for fixing poor quality issues of the manufacturer. The jeweller concluded that the workmanship on the ring was really shabby ( 2 solders where the ring needed 6 solders if we are getting technical) and hence the solitaire had fallen out...When I read forums on Tanishq, I saw this as a complaint that a lot of people had about stones falling out of the setting.

I want to highlight this as an example of not just NOT standing behind the quality of your work and brand but also of a total customer disorientation and apathy to what a customer is going through. If you are thinking of buying from Tanishq for brand name and reputation - take my advise look locally and pay lesser elsewhere...

Diamonds may well be a girl's best friend but as I have sadly discovered...not a Tanishq Diamond !!!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

In Loving Memory...


Dear Theresa,
I am sitting in your warm sunlit office space in Building 300,
When you moved to the warmth of Arizona,
You gave me the gift of a wonderful office space.
We met a couple times before you moved,
You were always so helpful and warm...
I really appreciated the camaraderie and the sense of belonging you made me feel from Day 1
It was a shock to learn about your health issues,
You were so brave and positive...
It left a lasting impression on me.
And 10 days later you are no more...

I hope that you have found yourself a warm sunlit place up above,
You will be missed.


I lost a colleague Theresa yesterday - what I remember about her is her beautiful smile and warm personality and her absolute willingness to help her team mates. She has left behind a young daughter. A fund to help with the education of her young daughter Rachel has been set up, please help if you are able to - Theresa you will be missed !!!

FUND FOR RACHEL'S EDUCATION
DONATE NOW

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The truth about School Lunches!

I am angry and upset about the state of affairs with our school lunches specifically in our school district. For years I shut out the angst of my son recieving cold, burnt lunches and sometimes a lunch where he was supposed to get a "chicken dish" but got it sans the chicken and told myself that maybe I was the only parent feeling the pinch of paying between $5.50-$6.50 for my son's lunch - for a not so good lunch. Here's a picture of the california rolls that my son's school lunch advertises vs. what the kids get in reality...you can guess which is which...



 My son patiently ate the food I ordered for him in 3rd and 4th grade and finally told me in 5th grade - Ma, please start packing my lunch for me (or I will do it myself) - I would rather eat a PBJ to what they are giving us at the hot lunch. I have been packing school lunches for most of this school year (except for the time when I went to India)...no matter if I had a critical deliverable or an early morning meeting - my evening ends with my planning a packed lunch for my boy. Reality is it is not that hard once you have a plan of what you want to pack and I am able to give my son a "reasonably  healthy and nutritious" lunch for < $1.50/ day. Here's one of the sample meal plans I built (what can I say - I am a planner!)


But this blog isn't about my ability to plan and pack school lunches for my son. It's about the fact that 

(A) Food at my son's Public school runs to about $5.50-$6.50 for a school lunch that includes an entree, a choice of drink (milk/water) and a choice of fruit. School Lunch prices for our school district are way "out of whack" when compared to neighboring districts (these graphs are self-explanatory!) - in case you are wondering my child falls under the BRSSD umbrella. If I as a part of a double income family am feeling the pinch - can you imagine how hard this would be for a single income family ( about half the families in our school district comprise of single income households)




Here is a Yelp Review that I pulled up on our lunch provider on the topic 

The response of the vendor was particularly enlightening but I won't add it in here, I am hoping you would actually go to Yelp and read their response (gist of it is they say - they don't get the $5.50-$6.50 - apparently the district sets the price to cover "other" costs). 

I have started a conversation with the School District but the answers I have had from their Chief Business Officer have been very "officially correct" but not particularly enlightening.

(B) The quality of food is sub-par and the vendor usually gets away with it.  I will give you an example that had me all riled up this week - my son was signed up in advance for the spaghetti with chicken meatballs ( we don't eat beef or pork)...a week before the lunch was due I am sent a message saying chicken meatballs were not available, so they were substituting it for spaghetti with meat sauce (beef) WITHOUT consulting me- I went in and changed the order to cheese ravioli very reluctantly (it's not a very nutritious meal!)  - but honestly seeing my son's sad face in the AM when I told him he had a hot lunch was just a "cherry on top of that indignity". The reality of WHY I ordered a few school lunches this week is  - I am frugal and I had a balance sitting in choice lunch and I didn't have the patience or time to ask them to refund it, so instead ordered a few lunches to close it out to zero balance  and my son's expression made me wish I had gone thro' the pain of getting that balance back vs. order him a hot lunch. Read an example of the travails a parent faced - I had a similar conversation with a parent at our school. 


From a parent’s perspective School Lunches are successful when (a) their kids are happy eating the food – no complaints (b) the food specs are reasonably healthy (c) the food is consistently affordable. From my perspective school lunches for us have been bombing on all three levels . A good school lunch strategy is if we had a simpler lunch menu  vs. complex choices that are very poorly executed and a pricing structure that is reasonable ( reasonable for me is comparable to other school districts and something that doesn't feel pricy to parents)

My son moves to middle school next year and my strategy for school lunches is - Status Quo aka pack my son healthy school lunches from home. What are your thoughts on school lunches?

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Self Care Series & A Recipe!

“if you want to live an authentic, meaningful life, you need to master the art of disappointing and upsetting others, hurting feelings, and living with the reality that some people just won’t like you. It may not be easy, but it’s essential if you want your life to reflect your deepest desires, values, and needs.”
                                                  ---The Art of Extreme Self-Care, Cheryl Richardson

The truth is I am still so far from it, beating myself up for errors both real and perceived and caring too much about what "everyone" thinks of my actions, words....here are a few examples just from this week

  1. I sent my son PBJ for lunch...I am a bad mom
  2. I missed my personal training (my arms were aching & I had a meeting), I am a loser who will gain weight
  3. I said no I can't get this project complete this week given my workload, it will take another week...I am such a shirker...why not pull a few all-nighters.
  4. Omigod...I just ate that dessert....now it's going to hit my hip real time
  5. I ate my dinner at 6.30 pm instead of waiting for my husband and eating at 8.30 PM...ergo bad wife
In my 10's I looked to my parents for positive reinforcements, in my 20's I looked to my peers for positive reinforcements, in my 30's I looked for positive reinforcements from family, friends, co-workers and the world....in my 40's I have realized that to feel good about myself, the positive reinforcement needs to come from inside...so starts my self-care series. Follow my journey and if it helps you along the way - awesome! If not - I am sure you will find another blog, article or book that will point you in the right direction :-)

Here are some of the topics I will cover :
  1. Managing Stress
  2. Exercise
  3. What in the world is "Me-Time"?
  4. Peeling the Onion - Physical, Emotional, Spiritual Fitness
  5. Eating Right
  6. Work-Life Balance - is it a conundrum?
  7. Losing Weight not your Mind
  8. Detox - mind, body & spirit
  9. Sleep

Here's how I took care of an important aspect of self-care this week. Food makes me happy and there is a feeling of contentment (in sanskrit : Santosha) in cooking something just right !!!
I had eaten this wonderful, homey subzi at my friend AB's house and I absolutely loved it and so did the two boys. So this week I tried to recreate AB's  UP-wala Aloo  and my son was asking for seconds and thirds of this dish.

Uttar PrADESH WALA ALOO MATAR BHAJi 
Servings: 4  Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 45  minutes

INGREDIENTS

  1. Bhuna Masala ( see recipe here, I make this by the pint(s) and freeze it, makes my meal planning so much easier for desi khana). Skip the Habanero if you can live without the kick, my 10 yr old seems to be ok with the spice level
  2. Frozen Peas
  3. Cinnamon Powder, Turmeric Powder,  Dhania-Jeera Powder/Garam Masala
  4.  4-5 medium Boiled Potatoes ( my method for making a batch in my instant pot) 
  5. Hing (Asofetida) , Jeera (Cumin Seeds)
  6. Coriander Leaves for garnish
Boiling Potatoes in your Instant Pot

Boil Potatoes in your instant pot for  3 minutes High Pressure ( I used medium potatoes and I usually keep a big lot, and keep them in the fridge and use them as needed)



DIRECTIONS:

  1. Add a tsp of oil to the pan, add the hing and jeera. When the jeera splutters add the turmeric and then the bhuna masala and the broken up pieces of aloo/potatoes (I break it up with my hand)
  2. Fry for about 5 minutes...till the mixture becomes drier and there is a nice smell
  3. Now add water (around 2 cups), turn the stove to slow and simmer for 10 minutes
  4. Add the frozen peas. Cook for another 5 minutes (add some more water if the mixture is too thick)
  5. Now add the dhania-jeera powder/Garam Masala and cinnamon powder, Salt to taste
  6. Garnish with the Coriander leaves
  7. The Curry is ready for Prime Time


I wanted to leave you with a thought that crossed my mind today - Taking care of yourself doesn't mean me first, it means me too.  To all you wonderful people out there who are burning the candle on both ends...take a deep breath, you are not alone!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Flying the Unfriendly Skies

Travel, in the young, is a part of education; in the older (maybe wiser), a part of experience.

--Some Wise Person



I woke up early and as I was drinking my AM concoction of ACV and Honey with hot water, a piece of news caught my eyes and I watched this video appalled & horrified at the treatment meted out to a United Passenger...

https://twitter.com/JayseDavid/status/851223662976004096/video/1

I used to be one of those people who used to consider my Premier 1K/Star Alliance Gold as a proud badge...every week saw me on a different continent and I absolutely loved flying the "friendly skies" ahem! United being my carrier of choice...a child later, I have to admit I am happy to be off any premier list and usually will get on a flight very reluctantly. Honestly flying has become more cramped, crowded and delayed than ever…seat sizes have shrunk, your baggage allowances have shrunk and the snacks and drinks offered have shrunk…or no longer free, and à la carte pricing at 30,000 feet has become the in thing…a tapas plate with a drink will be $15…thank you very much! Also most times having to deal with grumpy airline staff, rude concierge service and non-existent traveller support systems...and sometimes your fellow travellers make the journey even more tedious...here are some of my observations on travel behaviors (you can add your own in the comments section) -

  • Air Seat Kickers - this is the worst especially on a long haul flight
  • Air Line Talkers - these are the people who just want to keep talking thro' the flight. I usually wear my noise cancelling headset and play some music...this keeps them at bay
  • Air Seat Recliners - this is especially bad if the person in front of you reclines but the person behind you has strategically stuck his knee into the seat, thereby not allowing you to recline
  • Getting stuck in the middle seat even though your initial ticket said Aisle and worse getting stuck between two big people ( happened to me on a flight to Helsinki...15 hrs and counting...ja!)
  • Air Seat Groomers - I have had a woman sit next to me and do a pedicure and manicure...imagine all that action happening in an economy seat...yikes!
  • Air Seat Squatters - they not only hog the armseats, they get their shoes and socks off and are stretching their legs and hands in every direction available
  • Air Seat Alcoholics - yep! I had a person next to me have 5 double shots of whiskey on a long haul before the stewardess very politely cut him off and didn't give him another one...I moved my seats (thankfully, the airline wasn't full)
Above all, jokes and tongue in the cheek remarks aside,  I hope that the older gentleman in the video gets the justice he deserves...



Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Cinderella Revamped...

“Women are like tea bags — you don’t know their strength until they get into hot water.”
6.45 AM : The prodigal son walks into the room and whispers rather loudly - Ma, I am awake what about you (well! now I am...awake and a little 😩...fighting a stomach bug!)
6.48 AM : Read my work emails and by the time I get to my personal mail , I see an email that my credit card had a $2000 charge at XXXX (hint : one of those retailers that had a huge data breach) which the credit card co. thought looked wrong and they flagged for me....hell yeah! that ain't me....a couple minutes later the credit card co. assured me I was covered and thanking the Artificial Intelligence Gods that ensured that these credit card co. were able to detect anomalies in patterns...I tried to bolster my inner goddess to get ready for the conference that was happening 30 miles away ( the stomach was still not cooperating...)
7.15 AM : Go downstairs and make my son a PBJ (with almond butter and homemade strawberry jam) for lunch and make his hot chocolate and my chai.
7.55 AM : work upstairs and give a time warning shout to the boys downstairs.
8.25 AM : Boys are out of the house, its a mad rush every.single.day...wonder why?
8.45 AM : Ready and out of the house  on the way to the AI conference and then I see the dreaded sign below on my car - more on my car woes in a separate blog 😞


9.00 AM : Retrace my steps back home and call the car service center  (mentally rationalize...I was feeling sick anyway!)

The rest of the morning and afternoon was a blur of activity when all the body wanted to do was rest...calls, emails, work, a zumba class and a trip out to the service center to drop off the car and pick the loaner car, the dinner run...my stomach still fighting it's own battle of will with my mind...

Ironically, it's International Women's Day today and the reality is its no different from any other day -  I would rather have every day be a day where I strive to be a better version of myself, where I would be bold and question stereotypes and status-quo. I will  be "strong" and rescue myself from proverbial hot situations and stretch myself and teach myself something new. In the wise words of the Cheetah Girls in the song "Cinderella" -
I can slay my own dragon
I can dream my own dreams
My knight in shining armor is me
So I'm gonna set me free, yeah
I don't want to be like Cinderella
Sittin' in a dark cold dusty cellar
Waitin' for somebody to come and set me free...

I'd rather rescue myself!


Right now  I am resting my weary self with some "me-TV time" and a  glass of wine (Ice Wine is my libation of choice - thank you very much!) and a slice of cake ( Red Velvet...not vanilla which is Prodigal Son's choice or chocolate which is what Dear Husband demands BUT Red Velvet for the lady of the house!)...and the stomach is feeling a little better (thank you for asking 😎 )...How is your week going?

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Sunshine in my Bowl!


"The greater your storm, the brighter your rainbow" 

Our area has been blessed with rain, gusts of winds, hailstorm and lightening all week and then suddenly there were rainbows galore. Nothing comforts more than cozying up in the evening to watch my TV shows with a hot bowl of stew. Moreover, the stews that I have been cooking up have been nutritionally kickass. I am following my year end manifesto and one of the fringe benefits has been that I have lost 7 lbs in less than 20 days and no! I am not dieting. Without much ado, here is the recipe.



Smoky Chicken Chili (Kid Approved)
Serves: 4 servings
ACTIVE TIME: 5 minutes
TOTAL TIME: 25 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon Vegetable Oil
  • 1 Lb Ground Chicken
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can organic no-salt kidney beans
  • 1 Pack Grandma's Chili Seasoning

PREPARATION

Brown the chicken in 1 tsp oil directly in the Instant Pot or Pressure Cooker, then add in the chili powder and stir for a bit, add in the the can of tomatoes (or in a pinch pasta sauce), after which you can add in the can of kidney beans -  In the Instant Pot Manual High Pressure 20 minutes, In a regular Pressure Cooker 3 to 4 whistles...Taste for salt and adjust as needed. Garnished with cheese, onions and tomatoes - would have also garnished with cilantro if I had it! Really kid friendly - my son had a big bowl of this and sour dough bread for dinner!

Nutrition Specs :  20 grams of Protein and 15 grams of Fiber

How are your healthy resolutions holding up in the new year?