Dream – 2

Kanaa kandenadi thozhi…

I last wrote a wild “Dream” post in May 2013 (https://momto2cuddlebugs.wordpress.com/2013/05/23/dream/). But more on that later.

I am here to tell you about last night’s crazy dream.

So. In my dream, it turns out the family is on vacation (good start, no?). For some reason, little A and I decide to go off to check out some scenic views, just the two of us. We decide to set up on a narrow ledge with no walls on three sides. The view is breathtaking, not just because of the beautiful valleys and mountains in the distance, but also because our ledge is sitting at a very great height. I decide to lean close to the edge to see how the view is from there. And little A, inexplicably, decides to jump onto my back. Now, she has not done this since she was 2 years old (and she was not amused when I told her my dream this morning). But here we were. Me hanging from the side of the ledge holding on with one hand, and she on my back. I am about to let go of my grip and fall. Note that I am surreally calm, like I am Caillou’s mom or something (should have realized that it’s a dream right then). I pleasantly say something to little A like “oh, I am going lose my grip, baby” and I jump back onto the ledge in one swooping movement (sort of like Bahubali). Little A jumps on my back again. We repeat the whole drill. We (thankfully) decide that we’ve had enough of the scenic views, fold up our beige picnic blanket, and head back to our car.

Except. I don’t remember where we parked. I ask little A to call Dad (as though he’s supposed to know where we parked). I don’t hear her calling him. I look in little A’s direction and see her texting Dad a picture of a snake and a couple of emojis. I am still surreally calm. I ask little A what she thinks she is doing. She says to chill, there’s enough information in there for Dad to text us back with the location of the car. It all makes sense to me when she puts it like that.

We walk on past a Hindu Temple where there are hundreds of people standing outside looking in and only a handful of people actually inside the temple praying. I briefly consider visiting but little A and I keep walking on by and I don’t say a thing.

A few minutes later, I am still walking. Alone now, and looking for a bathroom (surprisingly, not wondering where little A went). I see a bathroom, not far away. But alas, there is a dinosaur waiting for me outside (watched too much Jurassic Park in my day!). Well. You gotta do what you gotta do. I deftly duck past the irate dinosaur and enter only to find the bathroom crowded with several families with young children. I warn them to be careful stepping outside since there are dinosaurs waiting for them. Nobody even looks in my direction. “Well, ignore me at your own peril”, I think, with a superior air. And look around for an open bathroom stall. Except the stalls have all morphed into office cubicles with desks and computers and everything.

I am stumped.

At this suspense-ridden moment, I am happy to report that I woke up before I subjected myself to further “crap”. 😉

I told you earlier that I wrote a crazy Dream post back in May 2013. It crosses my (analytical) mind that back then was allergy season too, and like now, I was likely medicated up to my eyeballs with Zyrtec. And get this – that dream involved heights and jumping off from heights too. What in the world?!! Listed side effects of Zyrtec don’t seem to include crazy-ass dreams. Perhaps they should.

Johnson & Johnson – Tsk. Tsk. 😊

To Wish or not to Wish

Blessed is he who doesn’t expect, for he shall never be disappointed

Today would have been my parents’ 52nd anniversary. One of my younger cousins shares the same anniversary date. I was the first to wish my cousin and his wife on the extended family group chat. I also mentioned that I was remembering Appa and Amma’s anniversary day. The rest of the group joined me in wishing my cousin and his wife every happiness. But I did not hear an echo for that second part – the one where I was remembering my parents’ special day.

I get it. I really do. People don’t throw anniversary celebrations for the departed.

But it got me thinking.

The anniversary is as much a special day for the surviving spouse. Memories of a special day don’t vanish with the passing of a loved one. Continuing to celebrate my parents’ anniversary says to my Amma, “I see you and I share your remembrance of someone who was so dear to you.”

So. Amma and I will celebrate today with some super yummy payasam (that I will make soon, I promise) and by sharing stories of Appa (that we both know in their entirety and still don’t tire of repeating). 🙂

Anniversary

Self-Care

Loving yourself isn’t vanity, it’s sanity.” ~ Katrina Mayer

It started in 8th grade, I think, when I suddenly realized that hard work produces amazing results. I studied and studied some more and reveled in the wildly positive feedback of moving to the top of the class and staying there all through high school. Having fun, attending weddings, and family gatherings all came a distant second to the addiction that was academic success. Being productive and organized and at the top of my game (every game that I played, and you know I don’t mean sports) became my thing.

You know that I am in my (ahem!) upper forties. So. This productivity dance has been going on for decades now. Which, face it, can become a bit tiring. I realized over the years that I have a tendency to put everyone else’s needs over mine. I am so hesitant to relax that I’d rather chop and prep vegetables for a distant meal later in the week than sit down and watch a chick flick on my own. Well. Awareness is the first step (isn’t it?). As I watch this tendency of mine, I can clearly see that I try to pamper everyone around me while I swat away at any pampering that does come my way.

When little N was home for winter break, during one of our long walks with W, the conversation steered to my Pattu Patti, who is the most hardworking person that I have known in all my life. Patti started helping out her Amma when she was around 8 years old by taking care of her younger siblings. She got married at age 10 (eeeek!) and seems to have just worked nonstop since then till the end of her life at age 82. During our college years, V and I could show up at Thatha and Patti’s house at any time of the day with no prior notice, correctly expecting to find Patti in the kitchen – prepping or cooking the next meal and greeting us with a steaming cup of coffee and a plateful of fresh homemade snacks. I mentioned to little N that Patti was an amazing person who worked so hard every day. I proudly noted that even on the day that she passed away, she cooked and fed my cousin his lunch and finished her daily chores before succumbing to a heart attack.

What little N said in reply has somehow stayed with me. “Why would you say that it’s so great, Mommy?”, she asked. “Hearing this just makes me so sad. Nobody comes into this world wanting to do so much work all the time. The fact that Pattu Patti worked so hard till her last breath is just so very sad to hear.” When I think back happily to all those laddoos that Patti used to send for me in grad school, this was a woman in her late 70s who spent hours laboring over the stove to make it happen. It was a labor of love, for sure. But labor, nevertheless.

As N works on his latest LEGO project or catches up on Black List, and Amma watches her Super Singer music shows or plays games on her iPad, I wonder whose permission I am looking for to do something fun for myself at the end of a long work day. These days, since that conversation with little N, I actively resist the “temptation” to load the dishwasher (yet again) or do another round of laundry. I put my feet up and read a book, practice drawing kolams, or – like today – I blog.

I remind myself that much as I adored and admired my Patti and was in awe of her hardworking nature, that is not the legacy that I would choose or want for myself.

I remember little N’s wise words and remind myself that it’s ok to put on my own oxygen mask first.

Well. At least sometimes. 😉

My Word for 2022

I have been coming up with “my word for the year” for the past few years. In 2020 and 2021, years when many days were Groundhog Days for most people (including me), I enjoyed shaking things up where I could. Like changing my word mid-year.

My word for 2021 was first Hope, and then Abundance. As it turns out, I am going to kick off 2022 with two words also. Why two words right at the beginning of the year, you ask?

Well.

You may remember that I like to write my word on beach sand. That little act somehow makes it official for me (yes, I am quirky like that). Little N and her friends, all back home from college, headed to the beach this morning (at 5 am, God bless them!) to watch the sunrise. They did this last year too. Little N wrote “Hope” on the sand for me then and formalized it. She agreed to do the honors again this year.

So. I told her my word.

Nourish.

It turns out (and I didn’t quite process this in real time), as I was telling little N about my word, N joined our conversation and said something in passing about Flourish. Little N heard both words, but somehow retained Flourish. She brought me back the promised picture. My (slightly altered) word, the word that chose me, witnessed by the spectacular sunrise.

I chose “Nourish” for its life-giving, nurturing aspect. Yes, I could do things to nourish myself but my intent in choosing the word was a distinctly outward focus – cooking nourishing meals for the family, nourishing my indoor plants, nourishing my relationships, etc.

“Flourish”, on the other hand, has more of an emphasis on the self – to grow, to develop, to thrive. I have told you before that self-care has always been quite the struggle for me. I often wear myself (and my temper) out doing things for others (whether or not they want me to) and then catch myself feeling overwhelmed and resentful.

I believe in signs (you know that I do). Nourish is a fabulous word that will keep important priorities on the top of my mind. The added Flourish will remind me that my growth and well-being are just as important, and that it is ok to take up space and put myself first sometimes.

Here’s to much nourishing and flourishing in 2022! 😊

Middle Age

Middle age is when you realize, rather abruptly, that you have stopped fantasizing that you and Jo March of Little Women are kindred spirits.

Instead, you catch yourself marveling at how your two munchkins seem so much like Jo and Amy (including the writing and art talents, their frugality and abundance loving natures, even their temperaments – if you want to put a broad brush on it).

But, most importantly, you realize that (holy cow!), you have actually started thinking of yourself as wise old Marmee.

Minus the wisdom, of course.

Ruff. 😉

Potato Curry

It’s an emotion.

I wrote about my idli love story, well, not so recently (https://momto2cuddlebugs.wordpress.com/2021/07/12/idli-a-love-story/). I love idlies. I really do. But my connection with potato curry is something more deep, more visceral.

Good lord, what is this now, you ask?

Well. As I was saying. It’s visceral.

Amma used to make a delicious potato curry just for me and V when we were little. She would cut up a few small potatoes at a time and roast them with curry leaves until they turned golden brown. In a large joint family, numerous other items would usually be on the daily menu. Making huge quantities of special indulgences was simply out of the question. But the couple of potatoes that she would roast up would taste absolutely divine (“great things come in small packages”). Which prompted B chittappa to taste them unbidden, smack his lips, and nickname them “ponvandu”. That potato curry stuck in my mind as something comforting, super special, and just for me.

When I arrived in Newfoundland for grad school (barely two years older than my little N is now), I had no culinary skills to speak of. But I had brought my spices from home, and potatoes were easy to spot in the grocery store. I lived on thayir sadam and potato curry for months. When everything around me was new and unfamiliar, the consistent taste of that potato curry made it feel like things were never too out of control.

After I graduated from my (other) grad school in Atlanta, I moved to Northampton, Massachusetts for a year while N stayed behind in Atlanta. N and I had been married for two years at this point. There was much work to be done – two jobs to be secured and “real grown-up life” to be got on with. So here I was, moving a 1,000 miles away from N with limited money in our pockets, and not much certainty of what was coming next (beyond plans to visit each other at least once every month). N and I took a week driving me and my possessions from Atlanta to Northampton. At the end of that week, once we had set up my apartment, N flew back to Atlanta promising to come back in three weeks. I returned from the airport teary and forlorn to my empty apartment and stood around in my little kitchen feeling completely unmoored and lost. I instinctively decided to make my potato curry and some fresh hot rice. Shallow as it sounds, that solo dinner of thayir sadam and potato curry anchored me once again. I counted out the three weeks on my calendar, and got my head sorted and ready to get on with this next phase of our life.

There have been numerous times over the years when I have repeatedly turned to my potato curry for a little extra comfort. I could go for months without thinking about this curry. But whenever I am out of sorts – cranky and unhappy with things big or small – this potato curry never fails to put a spring in my step and helps me pull it all back together again.

We picked up little N from college today for Christmas break and reached home late in the evening. Famished after the long day of driving, I was really looking forward to dinner. I knew there were delicious leftovers from last night. But (alas!), for some reason, the leftovers had aged badly and looked suspicious and totally unappetizing. As I stood there tired and stupefied, and stared into my fridge for inspiration, little N walked by.

“Looks like a potato curry moment”, she said.

I perked up.

“Indeed”, I smiled back. 😊

My Word for 2021 – Part 2

I told you before that my word for 2021 is “Hope”. Hope has served me well so far this year, no complaints. But I feel ready for an upgrade. In July 2020, I switched my word for the year from “Tranquility” to “Faith”.  As you well know, I had good reason to switch. Tranquility felt out of place and unattainable in a world gripped by Covid-19. Faith felt more accessible. Faith, I could muster on my own.

I am realizing that I really like the idea of switching to a new word in July. Which fool said that you shouldn’t switch horses in mid-stream? Far better to switch horses than to keep flogging a dead horse, no? 😉

Anyway. It is July again. And we. are. switching.

You ready?

“Abundance”

As in (prayers for) an abundance of good health, wealth (why the he!! not), love, peace, friendship, and happiness in 2021.

A little lofty (and greedy), you say? Yeah, me too.

N and I went to the beach this morning to watch the sunrise. We really should do this more often. After all, we are both bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at the crack of dawn on most days.

The beach was quiet. The sunrise was spectacular, the sand cool and inviting.

I made it official.

Idli – A Love Story

Ek idli ko dekha to aisa laga…

It would not be an exaggeration to say that idli is one of my first loves (sorry N).  And my earliest and fondest memories of idlies are not homemade (sorry Patti). My first memory of those lovely fluffies is from when Thatha used to get them from Hotel Shantha Bhavan, which was a short jaunt down Mandavelli Market from our home. Thatha, ever the disciplined gentleman, would buy exactly four idlies for his breakfast – two of which he would consume, one and a half would be saved for V, and one half would be saved for me. I never resented being the younger sibling more than in that moment. I mean, how much younger was I that Thatha figured I couldn’t handle a full idli! Anyway. It was what it was, and it didn’t occur to me to ask for a half more. I would dunk my share in the kara chutney that would come wrapped in banana leaves and savor each bite – oh, so slowly. Man, I have not tasted kara chutney like that before or since. A simple, sublime recipe that continues to elude me (and, apparently, also eludes the numerous other South Indian restaurants that I have eaten in – smh, do better dudes!). Patti highly disapproved of us eating out and was very vocal about it. So, as we got older, our outings to Shantha Bhavan were mostly surreptitious – guilt greatly enhancing the flavors of the already flavorful mallipoo idli and kara chutney.

I made sure to pack Gits idli mix packs when I headed to Newfoundland for grad school. And was horrified to discover that Gits was really blech, and tasted nothing like the piece of heaven that it was supposed to be. I remember being invited to a Deepavali party at Professor M’s house and seeing the trays of (surprise!!) idlies, sambar, and chutneys gloriously arranged on their dinner table. The food was fabulous, I recall. After three months of living on my own, with limited culinary skills that resulted in rasam or thayir sadam with potato roast almost daily (not to mention the vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce that added on 15 pounds), I was swimming in seventh heaven. Even more fabulous was when Mrs. M (God bless her!) pulled out two large containers at the end of the party, and packed a dozen idlies and sambar just for me. Let the record show that I did (reluctantly) share my bounty with other greedy and needy grad students who weren’t lucky enough to get invited to Dr. M’s dinner in the first place.

I remember sitting in N’s room when I was a grad student in Atlanta (let’s say, doing homework 😉). N’s roommate, A, who had a car, walked in and asked if anyone wanted to join him for lunch at Madras Café. I jumped out of my seat and screamed, “yes, me, me!” with an enthusiasm that startled both N and A. Madras Café did not disappoint. N and I became frequent visitors there (lack of a car, notwithstanding). We would go on a minor pilgrimage on weekends, sometimes switching multiple buses and walking for a while, to get to the idlies and vadais that patiently waited for us there (I would learn later in life that N was merely being indulgent, and that he is actually an idli-hater, hmph!!)

During one of their visits, Amma and Appa bought us a “wet grinder” from India, which I received with a lot more appreciation and gratitude than when they bought me gold and diamond jewelry (priorities!). Over the years, I have perfected the art of making super-duper soft idlies (if I say so myself), and several yummy chutneys and other sides as well (though, not that precious Shantha Bhavan kara chutney, sigh!). I send obnoxious pictures of my idlies and chutneys to my cousin, S, every time I make them, and demand that he show the pictures to my aunt, K. Chitti, who is an excellent cook. K. Chitti and S are both indulgent and supportive, and they congratulate me every time on my excellent idlies (thank you Chitti and S). Which just prompts me to send them even more of my idli pictures.

I do have one idli-related regret. For how much I rave about idlies (and perhaps that’s why), no one else in the family cares for idlies one bit. I mean, they will eat the idlies (rather ungraciously, I might add), if absolutely nothing else is available in the house. But, idlies are never anyone’s first (or second or third) choice. Mildly disappointed that I did not pass along the idli-gene to the munchkins (and N’s parents didn’t either, from the looks of it). Oh well. More for me, then.

What can I say, I am a plate-half-full kinda girl. 😊

Seven (More) for 2021

I came up with goals for the new year, My 15 for 2021, back in January. Here I am, half-way through the year, to report that goals are coming along fabulously.

Well. Except for the “Eat at least one fruit daily” bit (but we already knew that one was a stretch goal).

Anyway. Feeling super accomplished (and ambitious), I came up with six more to get to 21 for 2021. And threw in an extra one for luck (truth be told, I came up with seven because I initially thought 15 + 7 = 21). But, bad addition notwithstanding, why chumma throw out a good goal, you know?

So, here goes, my 6 + 1 more for 2021:

  • Do something just for myself at least once every week
  • Make sure that all (well, most) of my indoor plants make it intact to 2022
  • Start using the air fryer that has been sitting around gathering moss since May 2020
  • Bike as much as weather and (ahem!) health permit throughout the summer
  • Do at least one fun thing with little A every week (sushi and boba tea, here we come!)
  • Create photo books from the pictures on my phone (especially, the 100s of food photos taken over the past year)
  • Floss (the mother of all resolutions, ever)

Wish me luck!

Thing 3

When I count my blessings, I count you twice.

My Thing 3 turned 3 today. Or maybe he has graduated to Thing 1 now, since he is 21 in human years (is that how it works?).

I finally agreed to get a puppy for our family after seeing handsome, well-behaved dogs casually wandering the streets in Bariloche over Christmas 2017. “Seems easy enough, I can do this”, I thought. Little A conducted Ph.D. level research on dogs for several months, and after much debate, we landed on the loudest little corgi on the planet. At that point, all I knew about corgis was that the Queen had owned 30+ corgis over the course of her life. Which I found strangely reassuring for some reason (it did not cross my mind until much later that the Queen had a huge staff too, not just 30+ corgis).

While researching corgi pups available in our part of the world, we came across this precious litter of six. All born on the day that my MIL passed away. That really stopped me in my tracks. I felt like it was meant to be (I’ve told you before that I believe in signs). So we went to visit the pups and picked up the friskiest of the lot. Cosmo, they said his name was. Although, they only called all puppies “puppy” to avoid confusing them (clever, no?). So. In July 2018, that three month old Cosmo came home with us, sweet and achingly vulnerable, with big brown eyes that looked trustingly straight back into mine. Little Cosmo became our little Winston.

It’s been three delightful years filled with Winston’s special brand of unconditional love. He makes us better people, and better together as a family. It’s hard to put in words, but I think you know what I mean (especially, if you have ever had a pup yourself).

We celebrated his third birthday with a yummy pup cake for him, and tres leches (with his name misspelt) for the rest of us.

Happy birthday, my little one! What a blessing you are!