Monday, November 24, 2014

I am happy

Some people have a genuine face, some do not. Some people are genuine, some are not. But when it comes to kids, it is safe to assume that they are as genuine as they look and sound. Think of all the good adjectives that are like ‘genuine’ and you can pretty much use any of them to describe kids - honest, innocent, true, authentic, and so on. Anyone with kids can vouch for the fact that these little cookies are fully capable of shocking us with the how much they can comprehend and digest and reflect. 

My nieces, our friends’ kids, my Sammy & Rehan - they never cease to amaze us with the amount they understand. With or without words.

Just the other day, the four of us were having dinner and suddenly Sammy announces “I am happy.” At first Siddharth and I stared at each other with the expression of “Is she for real? Did she just say that?” And then Sammy repeated “I am very happy.” There are some meaning-of-life moments and this was one such moment for me. The simple act of having dinner together coupled with giggles for no good reason was enough for my almost three year old to realize and tell us that she is happy

The evening dance routine is quintessential to Sammy and Rehan. Sammy brings my phone before bed time and says “I want music.” Every night. Without fail. When we play music, both the kids scream with joy ‘Yeeaahhhh.’  I can see how happy they are.

Siddharth and I went together to pick up the kids at the day care today. Rehan detests sitting in the car seat from the bottom of his heart. And he does not hesitate to make it very clear to us. So he sat in the car seat and started screaming at the top of his voice. Sammy, in her typical big sister fashion asked him “What happened buddy? Are you ok buddy?” We started singing rhymes and songs. Nothing worked. Probably because we were not louder than his screaming cry. Sammy looked at him and she was on the brink of crying. Then we played their favorite song in the car and as soon as the music started, they both were silent. In the next 30 seconds, they went to smiling. And in the next 30 seconds, they went to giggling. Siddharth and I felt very guilty and said “We are bad parents…we had to resort to the media to get our kid to stop crying.” But we very conveniently and quickly got over the guilt when Sammy and Rehan were giggling. We even waited in Walgreens’ prescription drive-through line for about 20 minutes waiting to pick up a prescription. They survived that 20 minute wait with the help of this music. And Sammy announced, “Happy. I am happy.” Sitting in the car. Waiting for 20 minutes in a drive through line. And these kids are happy. Obviously. They have everything they need. Music. Each other. Us. Anticipation of some yummy-yummy in their tummy. Clean diapers. What else do we need?

Such times are the hence-proved moments of the fact that you don't need much in life to be happy. It is the small little things that touch your heart and make the rest of your body & people around you so very happy. 

This thought is not intended to crush aspiration and ambition by any means. We all aspire. We have ambitions. It is what drives us. It is what gives us purpose. Sometimes, it is what gives us meaning. And it is great. To have aspirations and ambitions. To have that thing that makes you wake up every morning with an instinct to conquer the world. To make the day yours. To do the right thing. But while we are on this mission and purpose to make our and others’ lives better, there will be small little moments that are absolutely intended to take your breath away. Allow your breath to be taken away. Allow yourself to be in awe of such moments because while you are on your journey to find the purpose in your life, these small junctions will fuel your engine and give you the horsepower you didn't think you had. 

Most of us get there. To the point at which we realize there is more to life than the obvious. A lot of times that happens through a medium. Kids. Dogs. Paintings. Food. Milestones. Loss. Anything. A medium. But we all get there eventually. Sooner or later. And that is awesome. In a world that is far from perfect, knowing that we will all understand what happy is all about, is powerful. It reinstates my faith in all that is good. All that works.

So when Sammy wakes up in the morning and we hear her on the baby monitor say “Rehaaaaan. Wake up buddy.” And when we rush to get her from her room so she does not wake Rehan up. And when 5 minutes later we realize that Rehan woke up anyway as he walks into our room, standing next to our bed, staring at us, trying to reach for us, waiting to be picked up by us. I know it is all cool. Because the next 15 minutes of the four of us goofing in the bed is happy. It makes Sammy and Rehan happy. It makes us happy to the moon and back. 
In Sammy’s words “I am very very happy.” 

We got this. Finding happy in this crazy, imperfect, sometimes nonsensical world. We have a hypothetical yet valuable Master’s degree in that. 

Carlin Ma Photography

My Positivity

Rehan has started saying more and more and he just got the cutest of the lot. He started saying Sammy’s name. He calls her “Tammy.”  When I pick Rehan up at day care and he doesn't see Sammy, he runs out of his class room shouting "Tammy". When I ask him where Sammy is, he points to her classroom and runs to the door to get her.

Ah. My breath away! 

Monday, November 17, 2014


My siblings and I grew up in a very humble and loving environment. My parents loved the three of us like crazy. We never felt like they loved one of us more than the other. Even though the three of us are very different people. We give and receive love very differently. But my parents never let that affect how they loved us. It was equal love. Always. I talk so much about love because that is probably the most prominent sentiment, thing, object, or, artifact I remember from my childhood. We were a typical middle class family growing up. We ate good food at home. We indulged in sweets/chocolates, maybe, once a month. Sometimes once in two months. And whenever we did, it was such a treat. We ate out, maybe, once in 1-2 months. We did not grow up drinking soda. I don’t remember ever bringing soda into our home. We only had it when we ate out, if at all. We received new clothes on our birthdays and all major Indian festivals. It was our thing. We celebrated all Indian festivals in all their glory. I still hold on to those memories very dearly. I continue to celebrate some of the important festivals even today. Not for their religious significance, because most Indian festivals do have some sort of religious background behind it, but for my childhood memories. I valued every thing we purchased - toys, stationary, outfits, shoes, bike, school bags. Everything. I did not take these things for granted. I felt like I had a sufficient amount of everything I needed. But not excess.

Contrasting that with how we are today. I buy clothes, shoes, sweets, soda, stuff in general - without giving it a second thought. I buy things when I think I like something. I don’t think I am extravagant or careless. I am always looking for something new. For myself. For the kids. Sometimes for Siddharth. I am very careful when I buy something for Siddhu because buying something for him totally stresses him out and he questions the new purchase till eternity. According to him, he never needs anything new. Pretty much ever. Anyway. The point is, I do this thing. My kids are growing up in an environment in which they get clothes, shoes, toys, gifts, goodies, everything - anytime, all the time, on no special occasion. We have a room full of toys, a closet full of clothes, a stand full of shoes, a pantry full of snacks and food. I was a little hesitant in writing this post. Because I did not want to sound braggy. By no means is this a brag. Definitely not a brag. In fact there is a little hint of feeling what-am-I-doing-with-all-this involved in this.

The point is also not that former is better than the latter. It is not that I promote living with less, or sufficient or more.

But I wonder. I wonder, how best to provide an environment where my kids appreciate what they have, and know that they will have to work very hard to get most things in life. How do we teach them to not take things for granted? How do we tell them that abundance is not the norm. It is an exception. And that we need to value things that we have. We have to earn everything in life. And in spite of that we may not get everything we worked for. Because life isn’t always fair. I am not really sure where I am going with all this. But I am just hoping Samaira and Rehan will not develop a sense of entitlement. As of right now, I don't know how I will prevent that from happening. I don’t know how I will inculcate gratitude and wonderment for things. I really want them to be able to appreciate what they have. Not take it for granted. Work hard for every new thing they want.

I want to make sure we are raising kids minus the entitlement. And if they ever fall into the trap of the evil-entitlement, then how do we bring them back? I am fully aware of how little we can control and govern what our kids will do, or be like, or  aspire to be, or dream of. We come with our own destiny. We write and re-write our own destiny. Samira and Rehan will own their actions, reactions, destiny and paths. But a sense of entitlement is not something I want to impart to them. So, God help me in doing the right thing. And if anyone, ever, has any ideas - please let me know. I need to know. I need to do. Do the right thing. In this one case for sure.

Minus the entitlement.

My Positivity

Earlier this week, Siddharth thought it is a good idea to have a dance off with kids before going to bed every night. Until they are totally tired. They kind of dig this routine now. The four of us dance to the latest Hindi songs for 15-20 min every night before hitting the bed. After our dance offs, kids pretty much walk to their beds on their own and are happy to fall asleep. Hubs' idea is a genius. My favorite part is Sammy asking for it on her own now. For the last two nights, after we have changed the kids into their jammies, Sammy says “I want to dance.” Oh well. So we dance. Mostly jump. Or run after each other.

Thankful. For the husband. For the daughter. For the son. Who are full time entertainment. They plaster a smile on my face. Most of the times, anyway.

Monday, November 10, 2014

That Middle

“Everything is fine in the end. If it is not fine, it is not the end.”

I came across this phrase over a decade ago and it has since then stuck with me. I am impressed with both, the idea and the optimism, in this phrase. The possibility of eternity in the hope for that perfect ending is quite wistful. On face value, it seems like the mental place to be, the thought to hold on to, the wish to wish for.

It is only recently that I have started to look beyond the face value of this favorite quote of mine. The more I think about it, the more I realize the futility of overly sticking to it. The underlying mentality revealed in this simple expression highlights a certain affinity to the destination. To the goal. I do think that this affinity is much needed for our effective existence in this corporal world. But I have also noticed how I tend overlook the essence of the tiny little moments while I am on my way, very focused toward that destination.

We meticulously plan our first impression so that it is as perfect as it is memorable. We careful strategize our perfect ending so it is as perfect as it will be happy. The beginning and the end tend to be so important that “the middle” is all about “how to get there” as opposed to just “being in the middle.” I know middle doesn’t sound half as fancy as the beginning or the end. But the fact is that we spend most of our time in the middle. So treating middle as a means to an end, as opposed to a whole entity in and of itself, is a tad bit unfair.

I have a strong feeling that I, for one, will be much happier if I didn’t worry as much about the perfect beginning or the perfect ending, and instead focused on the middle. I didn’t use the word “perfect” to describe “middle” because it isn’t about the middle being perfect. It is about us being present while in the middle of something. It could be perfect. It could be imperfect. It could be terrible for all we know. But it is about being there. In the middle.

Talking about middle may seem rather pointless. But given the amount of time we spend in the middle, it doesn’t only make philosophical and emotional sense, but also logical and mathematical sense. It is directly proportional to the amount of time we spend in a specific phase. Being present in the middle will optimize our satisfaction and happiness curve just because we decide to be a little bit more present in the middle. Kind of cool, it is.

I am writing about it just today, but I have been thinking about this slightly obscure concept for the last several months now. I have pondered over my need to start things well and my obsession for the destination, but have somewhat struggled with understanding what “being present in the middle” even means for me. I feel like figuring this out would be like cracking the code of life for me. My hypothesis is that there is an objective definition for “being present in the middle” that means the same things for anyone and everyone. Even if it is applied to very different situations. For my situation, it could mean certain specific things.

Like -

Enjoying the process of cooking as much as I enjoy eating.

Enjoying the process of quilting as much as I enjoy the warmth of the quilt.

Enjoying the process of putting kids to sleep as I enjoy falling asleep myself afterward. This one is a little hard, especially when I am drop dead tired. But there is something to be said about enjoying the mischief and cuteness that emerges from Samaira and Rehan as we get closer to bed times.

Enjoying a workout as much as I feel relieved when it is done.

Enjoying a drive as much as I enjoy getting to my destination.

So this is what it may mean for me. I think. I am still figuring it out. Don’t have it nailed yet. It might take a while before I nail it. But in the meantime, I am going to enjoy the process of getting there. Enjoying its imperfections, its frustrations, its joys, its achievements, its sadness, the whole jabang. That Middle. I am going to get you some day.

...A part of my middle...that was easy :)

My Positivity
This week had way too many. But I will stick to two.

I made my first quilt.

I took my first photography class. Friends, Family - you have been warned. I might bug you forever and ever.


Monday, November 3, 2014


Sammy and Rehan have a story book called Zen Shorts. One of the stories in that book is about an old farmer who has a son and a horse. One day, his horse runs away and his neighbors come to console him saying “this was too bad.” The farmer responds with “maybe.” The next day his horse comes back with another horse and the neighbors say “this is great.” The farmer responds with “maybe.” The next day the farmer’s son was riding the new untamed horse and he fell down and broke his leg. The neighbors said “this was too bad.” The farmer said “maybe.” The next day army folks came into the farmer’s village to draft soldiers. They did not select the farmer’s son because his leg was broken. The neighbors told the farmer “this was great.” Farmer again responded saying “maybe.” The moral of the story is that you never know what is going to happen next and it is always good to stay humble in your ups and downs. While I don’t endorse being a saint by any means, I think there is strong merit in this philosophy. To not be overly affected by the good and the bad. The philosophy to be calm and humble through extreme successes and extreme failures. As much as humanly possible anyway.  

Now here is the ironical part. I was thinking of writing on this topic last week. But I decided to swap the topic literally as I started to type and wrote on something else last week, pushing this topic to now. It is ironical because little did I know that it will come in quite handy for me this week. My company announced a bunch of lay-offs and my position was eliminated as a part of it mid last week. I asked them exactly two questions. The first question was if I was the only one being eliminated that day or if there were others. I normally hate to be singled out, even if it is for a good reason, so definitely not for something like a lay-off. They obviously could not comment on my question for legal reasons, but I later learned that there were more jobs cut the same day. Phew. Relief. My second question was obviously about where and when to return my laptop, badge, etc. I did not have any other clarifying question. While it is always better to dump than be dumped, I handled it quite well, I think. It seemed like quite devastating news on the face value, but it didn’t hit me like one. I did confuse myself at first, but I figured that maybe because I wasn’t too attached to what I was doing. I am still trying to find my calling. The point is I am a silver lining person. Maybe a little too much for my own good. So something like this made me a little sad for some time, but then it made me very happy shortly after. Maybe because I didn’t think this was that bad a thing. Or maybe because I thought something better is in store for me. For now that ‘something better’ involves sleeping a whole lot, shopping, making baby quilts, working out, writing, and maybe more shopping. I am definitely not complaining. I haven’t not worked in the last 10 years, but this took me no time at all to get used to. So I might actually continue to do this for at least the next several weeks, if not months. That is my no-plan plan, and I am kind of digging it.

Here is another interesting thing about this whole experience. I got the news of my lay off on Wednesday morning. I picked up my belongings and left the building within 5 minutes because I did not want to spend any more time there. I am a little impulsive and not at all practical that way. I came home and cooked something, folded the laundry, had lunch with Siddhu, and cleaned the house a little. And then it was time to pick up the kids from the day care. The routine was just the usual once the kids came home. They were running around, screaming, playing, hungry, fighting, reading, drawing, and creating a mess. Nothing out of ordinary. It sort of puts things in perspective. About what is really important in life. It could be different things for different people. And I know what it is for me. It is my family. Funny enough, Siddhu, My bro\Amz (wifey) & my sis\Sudh (hubby) were all rather happy to hear about my news. Kind of weird, but they were. My mom was a little upset, but she is an overly emotional being. So it was just fascinating to see what my family brought to the table and it was quite a spectacular combo, I must say.

So maybe, bad isn’t that bad. Maybe, good isn’t that good. The point is not to highlight this as a grim reality or even boast about a positive attitude, but to highlight what is truly important. Highlight the game of perspective, yet again.

Throw back Monday - because I can. But more importantly - because there is sun, there is family, and there is all things important.

My Positivity

Normally we are not that big into Halloween. We are not that creative or crazy about it. We do stuff because we have kids and because we have company. We never took Sammy & Rehan for trick or treating so far. But we did this year. Rehan definitely enjoyed the idea of grabbing candies and putting them in his stash. Sammy wasn’t terribly thrilled, but maybe she will be next year. I was super thrilled that we took our kids for trick or treat first time ever. Hung out with awesome people. Ate fabulous food. And had fun while at it. What more could one ask for? And just in case you were wondering, Sammy dressed as a University of Washington cheerleader & Rehan dressed as a homeless guy.