Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Taking Flight

(Hello friends! I've recently returned from a trip. The next few posts will be excerpts of our experience! Enjoy!)

Longingly gazing into the laptop, sometimes with sleep deprived eyes during motherhood’s early days, for the past fifteen years international travel happened through said crystal portal.TV stars flashing grins over tasty street eats, traipsing down streets with rock star stride, expertly sampling abundant markets transported myself and occasionally attentive kids to another world. Living vicariously through Anthony Bourdain, foods and political climates were tasted. Doldrums of breastfeeding, diapering, cooking, cleaning, were put aside to glean a few minutes of an adult talking to me. My kids grew up watching other shows with me as well like Chef’s Table, Samir Nosrat’s Salt, Fat, Acid Heat and Zumbo’s Desserts.

But no longer are we stuck to experience countries strictly through Netflix streaming. We have been gratefully cleared for travel! So off we are on our first international destination with kids this winter break to cross the waters. Since S & Z could talk they’ve wanted to meet the rest of their extended family. Enviously, they desired to relate to peers in school who annually made trips overseas. One day I listened to the exasperated cries of my child exclaiming, “They say I’m not Indian! If I were Indian then I would have been to India! And if I am only half then I can’t be at all.” So to satiate their desire to see their grandparents’ homeland, prove that the equation of “half meaning zero” is moot, and practice good parenting by giving them talk back steam to the classmates that taunt them, my husband and I made the decision to take flight. It has been too long since we were in India. 15 years actually.

The day the school bell dismissed throngs of happy kids, we set off for the airport, crammed into economy seats and waved good-bye to our parched, burnt-up state. The next 14 hours was a blur of sleeping, watching Chinese movies, playing virtual games and finally landing in Hong Kong for a layover of 12 hours. Eyes open wide, the kids excitedly wanted to exit the airport and set foot for the first time on non-U.S. territory. We found a train that headed out to a touristy spot and booked it.

Myself in front of a British building, Central Hong Kong
Hong Kong, once run by the British up to 1997, is an impressive island of tidiness and rules. Safety signs appear everywhere and you’ll start to assume if there isn’t a sign for something, you could probably do it. Double decker buses zoom at quick speeds skirting corners with such closeness that you are thankful for the three foot high metal bars flanking the sidewalks. Pedestrian bridges rise over busy roads with safety ledges donning each stair to avoid slippage. 

After touring a tropical street garden open to the public, we
Vijay and Z looking at the tea house/dim sum menu.
step into Lock Cha Admiralty tea house to rest our feet and have some amazingly fresh vegan dim sum. Each person has to order a tea unless you are under 6 years of age or have a compassionate waiter who thinks six year olds are five feet tall. We
Lovely koi in the Hong Kong garden we visited.
ordered oolong, jasmine, green, black, and yellow teas with fancy names and enjoyed sampling each other’s teapots.Twelve hours was enough time to take the train, walk near the waters, gaze through it’s clear waves to the minnows below, marvel at the various building architectures, and head back. 

We re-enter Hong Kong’s impressive airport, remodeled in 1998. Flashbacks of its debut in a fashion magazine with six foot tall models posing on their moving sidewalks come to me. Recorded music blasts “You better not pout, you better not cry, you better watch out, I’m telling you why. Santa Claus is coming to town” in a haunting loop that you start to pity the workers who have to hear it all day. 
Waiting for our flight in the Hong Kong airport. 

But our layover was good. A nice taste of a land now in China’s firm grasp. Shuffling through security we board our flight to Bangalore and go back to sleep. 

(To be continued next week!)

Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 Synopsis

Happy 2019! A full year has come to it’s end and I’m doing a little reflecting today. There is a lot to be grateful for in my family! Here’s my year end synopsis of gratitude.

1. These handsome guys. Primarily the tall one. He took on the tough job of committee chair for cub scouts a year ago and has done an awesome job of persevering through it! Vijay has run the meetings, the camps, the activities, mediated conflicts all while looking smart in his uniform.

2. 19 years of marriage. He is the peanut to my butter. The marshmallow in my smores. Am i getting too mushy in this post? Here’s to making that 20 mark my love!

3. Over the summer Zachary had a scary foot injury. You know how you can tell when your kid’s in true pain? It was that kind of cry which I heard followed by a frantic daughter racing to get me out of the kitchen. During the kids’ outdoor play an old loose board was turned over. A rusty screw shot up into Zachary’s foot which he quickly dislodged on his own with a scream. By God’s grace I didn’t faint with all the blood and Sara helped me get him inside and clean him up. It placed  him on crutches for a week and we are tthankful for his good spirits and quick healing!
4. This year Sara’s height surpassed mine! This is a bittersweer feat. How can I reprimand someone towering over me? But there is gratitude here as I have someone to help me reach for those items up high at the grocery store now!

5. After years of closure Yosemite’s Mariposa grove reopened! This was a refreshing change for our frequent Yosemite visits.

6. We said good-bye to our beloved guinea pig Pearl. This was a sad day of tears for us. As she heard Vijay pull into the garage she let out her last breath and died. We are thankful she got to live a full life and the joy she brought. 

7. I lost some weight! A friend connected me to a new doctor who is so WONDERFUL. Thankful!
Here’s a before face at the start of 2018:

And here’s a selfie I took a few days ago:


8. Lastly, we took a trip of a life-time! Where? You will have to stay tuned to my blog. 😉
Happy New Years! Wishing you a wonderful celebration with loved ones.❤️

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

What's to be Grateful For?

Picture of the smoky haze coming over our hills last week during a sunset.
Picture by Sara Gadad.
After the Paradise fires, what do we have to be grateful for in California? 

While I wasn't in Paradise when the fires broke out on November 8, I nevertheless became a witness to one that same day. With a keyboard tucked underarm to be put away, a flicker of orange dancing across the main road of my church's parking lot caught my eye. A dry grassy path between the adjacent freeway and a walking trail had lit up. Within minutes those small flames jumped a few feet setting more of the trail ablaze in a quick rapid line. Pedestrians froze to watch. Some moved their cars away from the blaze. Others (like myself) called 9-1-1. In half an hour our local fire department successfully put it all out. Little did we know that a fiercer fire was going on that we would feel the effects of for weeks.

Being Thanksgiving week, my thoughts and prayers are bent on those who have traumatically lost their homes in the biggest fire our state has known. While our city didn't suffer in flames, we choked on poisonous smoke to the point that schools closed down. Sequestered indoors our family of four has hunkered down to board games, reading books, deep cleaning the house, cooking meals together and certainly making use of our Netflix account. Instead of being snowed in like other states, we are smoked in!

The busy fast-track of school, clubs, extracurricular activities, and work came to an abrupt halt. Plans of driving about this Thanksgiving week and seeing local sights have been canceled. After driving to the grocery store yesterday and back I regretted the outing as my throat nearly closed up. Maybe it's all in my head, but I could feel the inhaled ashes taking residence in my body!

I am sad but not dismayed. This tragedy engulfing us proves our Golden state isn't immune to the natural disasters taking over our world. We cannot escape it through expensive houses and Starbucks drinks. It serves as a wake-up call that nothing can be taken for granted. Our families and those precious to us become the immediate focus. Personally, it reminds me not to make materials an obsession. 

Wherever you may be right now this week, I hope you are with loved ones. Let us not forget the people around us who are in desperate need physically and emotionally. Reach out if it be through charities, conversation, or prayer. Talk to those who look lonely. Invite a family for dinner. Meet up with friends. Make new friends. Join a church. Be in community. When tragedy strikes, it's going to be us that can make a difference.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Becoming Untangled from the Excess

Big pink Hello Kitty blanket in my living room.
Stacks of children's artwork, piles of books I mean to read, knickknacks that have a story, a collection of scarves I don't wear but have sentimental value, boxes that are too pretty to throw out, stuffed animals from my kids' baby days.... I wouldn't categorize myself as a hoarder worthy of a TV show, but I certainly collect. Trying to beautify my mess in piles around my house is beginning to wear on me. Taking a hard look around this weekend I suddenly wonder how pink started to take over my living room. It's not a favorite color. Yet pink IKEA heart rugs litter the floor. Artificial pink flowers fill vases. And a giant Pepto Bismal pink Hello Kitty blanket drapes a sofa. And why is there a giant picture of Winnie the Pooh on our main wall? When did stickers of leaves come in? How did this living room become so juvenile? Despite my pre-teen's love for my youthful decor the listed above has been pitched out. Like the fall debris getting raked and scooped out of my yard each week, my house is also getting a purging. 

Speaking of house purging, time purging is also happening. Time where precious hours were wasted not honing my talents -- soul callings -- but on other commitments. There is so much "good" to be involved in, but feeling stretched thin, a summer purging was done of volunteering in the fall --that while helped people last year-- had to be canceled so that slots of time could be set free for piano and writing. The past few years taught me that not releasing my creative passions at least a few hours a week was going to make me feel underwhelmed, discouraged, oppressed. 

Out goes fall foliage, pretty boxes, pink flowers and time zappers. Here's to hopes of a "harvest" that proves my  talents were well invested. Whatever the outcome, there is fulfillment in the process of doing what one's soul feels called for. Like taking in a breath of fresh air. Clearing away the fallen leaves and branches, the house clutter, the time clutter, so far has set me free to fulfill what I feel called to do. I hope to do it well, but most importantly, to at least spend some time on it.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Freebies and Discounts

Photo by Franky Van Bever on Unsplash
The fun part of parenting is seeing your traits being reflected back at you. With two children of different personalities, snippets of my husband and I surface like little mirrors voicing "aha! this is what it looks like to outsiders". Like one child's introverted personality being challenged into conversation. Another child's endless guffaws at slapstick humor. One's social excitement welled up to such fullness that they're running about the place grinning ear to ear. Another making such comments causing us to lecture "just because it's witty, doesn't mean it's appropriate." 

Recently an old personality trait, toned down over the years because it began to feel wrong, surfaced with my youngest. In the beginning I just thought, oh it's because he's four years old and cute. But he's ten now and arms still extend out to us with cake pops,
Recent free loot.
slices of lemon cake, cookies and brownies wrapped up, free of charge. Flashbacks of myself walking out of cafes with free coffee, a clothing store with a couple of freebies, and discounted sandwiches came to me. Ohhh... perhaps this is where it comes from! The apple hasn't fallen far from the tree

If you wouldn't feel a twinge of guilt that accompanies myself when I win over extras and discounts, here was my secret to it: Niceness and desperation. Striking up a conversation with workers to make them smile or laugh was part of my persona. As for the desperate part, being broke probably helped me achieve that look naturally. My no make-up, simple wardrobe, and thin frame probably already spoke volumes to people. Now, in a comfortable lifestyle, I don't look the part and have toned down my conversation skills.

So you wonder, what is my child saying? Not much. It's mostly the look of innocent want because his mom doesn't have cakes and cookies in the house and this is his one chance to score some loot. Part of myself wants to refuse the freebies, yet there is still the old that remembers struggling times. I smile a thank you and refrain from saying to my child that they could develop this skill further. Not trying to raise a con artist here! If the need should rise, it will probably happen naturally. 

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Front Row Dweller

Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash
It's daring and unpopular but a risk well worth it. Friends notice from afar but often won't cross the line of comfort to join. Doing it anyways, rationalizing to be an "all in" kind of gal, my body is firmly planted at its favorite roost.

Harking back to days at the university, a habit formed is residing in one of the seats up front. Don't mistake it for a secret crush on the speaker. Neither is it a grab for attention. An introvert inclined to blending in, the back row would be of better comfort. But at 4 feet and ten inches, shortness puts me at a disadvantage and anyone above 5 feet is going to be a hindrance. A couple of inches prevents me from fully experiencing the speaker's message read in their expressions, gestures, even attire. Sometimes there's also an object lesson or chart to pay attention to and if a head is in my way I am left to playing hangman with sentences. 

Admittedly, there is some risk to front seat dwelling. Twice objects have been flung towards me. First time I caught the ball and threw it back. Second time, as it was timber, I ducked! At a conference the speaker came right up to me, without asking, and demonstrated a move she made on an attacker in her story!

Early this summer an encounter from a person admittedly watching me left me unsettled. Taking a hiatus, I traveled the back rows, dwelling with the majority, and being less visible. It was calming for a while but confirmed my previous notion that front row seating is really, still the best. Sparkling jewelry, couples over-snuggling, and gamers thwarted my focus. The inability to see caused me to feel left out. 

Though it occasionally makes me step out of my introvert zone, I've returned to my front row roost. Bring on the awkward peopling. In this internet age we've become accustomed to hiding behind a screen, our vehicle doors, and rising services that promise less human interaction that perhaps it's healthy to step forward and sit at the fringe of the stage. Just don't fall asleep.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Letting Go in the Season of Pre-teens

Photo by Jacalyn Beales on Unsplash
Over mid-week salmon, drizzled with olive oil, s & p, and baked just right with a side of roasted green beans shriveled and crispy, we sit at the rectangular table that has endured most of our intimate family conversations. Sticky kid fingers, tears, tantrums, hopes and struggles would be the story our table would tell if it had a voice. With leftover wedding gift money from Macy's, Vijay and I purchased it having to only spend $3.16 out of pocket. It is probably the only piece of furniture kept from the beginning of our marriage until now. Other pieces came in as extended families down-sized homes and we upgraded from garage sale findings to their former treasures. 

And in this special ordinary evening my twelve year old daughter has declared her desire for independence, of sorts. An independence funded by us, on a trip with her Spanish teacher to a foreign country. And just like that, the feeling of letting go, a loosening of apron strings as she voices not wanting our accompaniment but her own freedom.

Forking the green beans into my mouth I withhold saying the words I want to hastily speak and chew on the words spoken with willful determination: "I want to be on my own. I don't want you sleep-stalking me, mom." The seeds that had begun sprouting in my mind of going to Costa Rica with her got plucked out of the ground as my heart digested the translation of her words. What?? Where on earth did that kind of sentence come from? As if I were a bat hanging out in her room at night watching her doze. Is this some kind of new junior high school phrase strung together by old Twilight books? Or is she thinking about my old stories of watching her sleep soundly in her crib (because I was afraid of SIDS)? However the sentence came about, it translated to this: She wants to let go of me. Salmon and beans eaten, I rise and start to clear the table and prepare the dishwasher. Vijay takes over the conversation. I enter my usual habit of sending my thoughts to God. 

If only life had a freeze button. So that no one could grow up and loved ones could always stay near. Maybe life's theme is "letting go". It always stuns me. As if friends and favorite uncles were suppose to be forever. As if weekends were always meant for hanging out with your besties and having parties till Monday. Furry friends were for keeps. Illnesses were just fables.

This week I pruned the branches off of the magnolia bush in our front yard. Perhaps I did too much pruning as the trunk was soon left bare and only a couple of leafy branches remained. Leaves I figure would soon be on the ground for me to rake as the autumn season approaches. My heart is getting pruned as I enter a season of slowly letting go of my oldest. Though she has years before truly becoming independent, I need to ready myself for the day she takes off on her own. Thankfully spring will eventually arrive. One day she is going to bloom and become a beautiful young lady. I just need to keep that in mind while I'm being pruned.