The Green Foresty Mountain

It was really a hill. A terrace. A terraced hill.

Every time we visited my mom’s oldest sister in Naranganam, I saw it across the little dirt road and on the other side of the field or whatever that greenery was.

You can see it in the photo below. My dream was to climb this hill, to just walk through it and see it up close after seeing it from afar for so long.

In 2009, the day came. My cousin Sabuchan took Sajan and me through it.

naranganam kerala

We trekked through the flat part first. There was chukka, papaya, kappa, plantain and rubber trees. We even got to slosh our feet through this little muddy stream as we crossed over. It felt so good.

naranganam kerala

This is Sajan after he rolled up his pants and sloshed through.

naranganam kerala

We started to get higher and higher. You can kind of tell from this picture.

naranganam kerala

This is a zoomed in shot of my uncle and cousin from their house watching us climb the hill.

naranganam kerala

This is my cousin Hebel waving at them! You can see the littler orange house in the distance.

naranganam kerala

I was so happy to finally make it up there!! We soaked in the intense humidity and the tropical air and a dream fulfilled.

The Mathi Man (Fish Delivered to Your Door)

When I was a kid on trips to India, we would get so excited every time the mathi man came around on his bike with the latest catch of little fish. We would hear a distinct vocal sound echoing from down the road, then the ring of his bicycle, alerting potential customers.

These photos are from 2009, the first time Sajan and I went to India together.

mathi man kerala

mathi man kerala

This photo is from a year later, 2010. My mom, her sister and my uncle are checking out the goods.

mathi man kerala

My mom went and got a pot to put the purchased fish in.

mathi man kerala

Then we had it for dinner.

mathi man kerala

We sat under the sunlit sky

finally, the moment came. I pulled out a Peruvian blanket and lay it on the backyard grass. Layla and I lay down. Our faces met with the sky. It was an almost blinding blue and white for a second. 

 
Then our eyes focused. We watched the clouds float by. We wondered where they were going. India, maybe?

We closed our eyes in silence. We relayed all the sounds that came to our ears. Cars. Birds. The wind in the trees. The low hum of the a/c unit. 

We talked about our day.

It had been a typical start to a weekend morning. Sajan and I drank chaya and ate some eggs. 

Then we took the kids for haircuts. It was Ezra’s first. He was so curious about everything, listening to the scissors clip-clipping and the clipper buzz-buzzing as he sat in his chair.

  

   Layla loved the glitter finish they sprayed on her hair after her trim.

For amusement we walked through Whole Foods next door. It was too cold for Layla, so we didn’t stay too long. I remember the discomfort of grocery store cooler/frozen sections as a kid.

The morning was young. We headed to the farmers market. I splurged on natural soap and cashew milk. I think our favorite part is talking to the vendors and gleaning golden nuggets about running their business. 

Later we went to Blesson and Jolly’s house for gumbo. Their interior decorating is great!

 
   

And their gumbo is just as good. They are masters of making a salad even salad haters can devour to the last bite.

 
     

After lunch and conversation, the kids fell asleep in the car.

And later Layla and I were out in that blanket.

 
The air was fresh, the sky serene.

I cut my daughter’s hair

There’s a word Sajan and I use a lot. I don’t know how to spell it.

Bougie. A derivative of bourgeois.

We make fun of people who do bougie things. We do these ourselves. Like the times we’ve gone as a family to La Madeleine or Starbucks for tea and pastries.

My parents would never have done that. What a freakin waste of money for something you could do cheaper at home.

Or when we buy Layla her own meal instead of sharing ours with her at a restaurant. She’s barely 3 and isn’t a voracious eater.

There’s a phrase we love to use on each other:

“You ain’t been broke enough.”

We were watching an interview with a sweet lady who became a couponing queen after she hit a terrible financial situation. To her, the Sunday circulars were now gold. She saved tons of money with coupons. The interviewer asked, “But what about all the time that it takes to clip and organize coupons; it’s very time intensive.”

The lady’s reply was golden: You ain’t been broke enough.

So when Sajan and I are debating about decisions that involve affordability vs. convenience/luxury, that’s the line we use on each other.

All this leads me to something I did this week.

I cut Layla’s hair myself.

kid haircut

When I was growing up, I felt like it was the norm for parents to cut their kids’ hair. Why would you waste money at the hair cut place? Hair grows back. That very same reasoning actually keeps me away from the salon. But I digress.

I think Sajan and I have turned bougie. Maybe you all knew it before we did. For Layla’s first three haircuts we went to snip-its. I never thought I would be that mom. There’s nothing wrong with getting a proper haircut for your toddler. I just thought I would be too cheap to pay $20 for a little kid’s haircut.

Well, anyway, Layla’s hair has been getting long. My mom kept bugging me to cut it myself. I don’t even notice when her hair gets long. I have this lifelong blindness to proper physical appearance. Layla goes to school with orange polka dot kitty cat socks showing through pink sequin shoes. She likes it, so it works for me.

So finally, after her bath the other day, I took out the shears. I tried to cut at a 45-degree angle and make subtle V shape with her hair. It was actually a little exhilarating and empowering. I meant to take just an inch off, but the inevitable happened, as piles of hair delicately made their way to the floor. It might have been closer to two or three inches. One side ended up shorter than the other.

Maybe it looks more edgy this way.

Or maybe next time snip-its is in the cards.

Baby life is awesome. (for him, I mean)

BabyEzra-31

Last week was Ezra’s six-week birthday. There were no fireworks, but he did celebrate with a poop explosion. I don’t have a photo to commemorate this, but this dad was lucky enough to, so I’ll share his.

At any given moment, he’s thinking: How can I be as comfortable as possible? And he will do anything to achieve this. If he is in someone’s arms, he will immediately nuzzle his face into their elbow. His face is expressionless.

Well not really.

The expression is usually a grunt coupled with a look that says, “Mmm that’s better.” Not a sweet smiley “Mmm that’s better thank you” but more of a crinkled nose furrowed eyebrows and Jeeves-lower-lip-slightly-pursed “I demand satisfaction” type of “Mmm that’s better.”

Ezra sleeps

He fake sleeps.

If you hold him just right, he leans his head back, stretches his right arm around his head like he’s laying out at the beach and closes his eyes 90 percent of the way.

If you disturb or talk to him, you’ll see he wasn’t in any kind of deep sleep.

He looks funny in all these cute baby clothes with elephants and giraffes. A football jersey may be more fitting. I don’t even like football. But he just looks like a little football player. This kid drinks 4 ounces every 2 or 3 hours. With my first I’m lucky if she drinks that much now.

ezra and layla

This is Layla’s scheming face. “Which princess dress should I put on him when Mom’s not looking?”

He likes to be rocked or to sit in his swing during the day. He is good about sleeping in his crib at night. I hope this lasts. Our bed is at maximum capacity right now with his sister.

He used to talk with his eyes. You could see an eagerness when he wanted something. Then he started using his mouth, sticking his little tongue out. Now he smiles, moves his mouth and seems more comfortable with people. It’s like he’s saying, “I think I could get used to you guys.”

He likes to do impressions. This is his “Clark Kent taking a dump” pose.

ezra or clark kent

Distractions.

I love distractions.

Sometimes I have a mountain of work to do. I might work on the less urgent, more comfortable stuff first. And then someone comes and asks me to do something else. And I grab that lifeline because it’s one more excuse not to do the hard, most pressing stuff!

One of my goals this year needs to be to focus more. To have a laser sharp focus on the 20 percent of my work that will produce 80 percent of the results.

I was inspired by this Seth Godin post about focusing.

“You will care more about the things that aren’t working yet, you’ll push through the dip, you’ll expend effort and expose yourself to fear.

“When you have a lot of balls in the air, it’s easy to just ignore the ones that make you uncomfortable or that might fall.”

Three things that have helped me so far are:

1) Filling up my Outlook calendar with top priorities a day or even a week before.

2) Sneaking away to Starbucks to clear my head and get side projects done!

3) Jotting down ideas and thoughts and next steps in Evernote, so I can flesh them out later and get things done more quickly.

Traditional Credentials Are So 10 Years Ago

Vanessa Chase at The Storytelling Nonprofit recently made a confession.

She has her own business with three part-time employees and has fundraised more than $10 million for different causes.

And she just turned 26.

She says:

“…no one put up a job posting for what I currently do. I just did it. Because you are never too young or too old to say, “yes” to what you really want to do.

“…We are too often told in Western society that there is a proper way of moving into certain professions and that we are well advised to follow the beaten path.The reality is that you don’t need this validation or certification to do what it is you want to do in life. Only you need to say yes to your dreams and desires. “

In my early 20s, I had a complex about being young. I was frustrated at the things I didn’t know. I thought you had to have years of experience or letters behind your name and pay your dues before you could achieve your dreams.

Years later, that changed as I started to see people in college or barely out of college crushing this mentality.

Now, 20-somethings are starting businesses left and right. They realize they can gain the skills to succeed more quickly by venturing on their own, rather than pushing paper as a junior at a company and waiting years to use even a tenth of their true potential.

And enterprising people in their 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond are realizing they can start a new chapter and take control of their career, without waiting for validation by a boss or industry peers.

More people are finding a need in the market and doing something about it.

Personal finance/”rich life” expert Ramit Sethi knew that tips like “stop buying lattes” or “pinch more pennies” or “use your willpower” did little to produce real results. So he spent years perfecting techniques and processes that helped people get rich.

After building a huge following, getting results for his clients and making big bank, he still gets asked about his financial planning and counseling credentials.

He wonders if this might be the most annoying question in the world.

What does he offer up in response? Evidence of helping people. And content that shows years of research and testing.

He’s not a certified career counselor or financial planner, but his results certainly speak for themselves.

“If you believe experience and credentials are the only ways to land a dream job, you’re missing out on the entire world of people who are simply sidestepping you.   …

“The truth is, we don’t need magical credentials to get ahead. Yes, experience matters, and in some jobs, credentials really matter.

“But we all know people who defer finding a dream job until they have “all their ducks in a row” — typically $100K of grad school, maybe some worthless certification, only to find out that nobody really cares.

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked to that scoffed at hiring MBAs, preferring people who can show they’ve got the experience, guts and endurance to meet business goals, regardless of their degrees.

So if you’re waiting for permission to put your strengths to work and start making things happen for yourself, it’s time to kick yourself in the butt and start moving!

It’s about not waiting for permission, but taking action. You’re not a clone. You’re not a slave to systems.

You find the market. You find the challenge. You offer the solution.

Sethi says:

“Just remember this: We don’t need to wait for years, praying and hoping for our boss to swoop down and grace us with ‘success.'”