Settling Into Life in USA

New Rochelle, NY 1994: My parents have left after spending nearly a month with me here in the US. This is not vacation anymore. My new life starts here and now. I wanted this. I planned for this. My then boyfriend; a rock n roll guitarist named James (name changed) and I had devised a grand plan to get out of India, me first – since mine would have to happen with complete parental involvement and support. And here I was. Alone. For the very first time in my life. No one to lean on, no one to turn to except myself. Except I didn’t know how. I had never done it before. Never been completely totally alone. Yes, my parents traveled, without us, but they left us with family, or friends who were closer than family, and there were maids, building people, just people who knew us and would watch out for us. Because that’s how the community was in my world. Everyone was up in each other’s business. Mostly annoying, but then, when stuff happened, it was nice to know there were people out there watching out for you. Even the elevator operators in the building (liftman), and the watchman (security guard) knew me. Growing up in India, this always made me nervous, because they were so loyal to my mom, that I was sure that one of these days they would rat me out to her when she returned from a trip with my dad. “Aapki beti to pura raat bahar rehkar, subaha subaha doodh wale ke sath vapas aati hai!” (your daughter stays out all night and gets back when the milk man arrives) Yep, on a side note, our milk was delivered fresh to our door each morning, as was our produce, meat and even fish. And oh, this was way before home delivery service was ever a thing here in the US! This is the age-old way that housewives got their food – fresh! No grocery stores. Outdoor markets that were not nearly as sexy – perhaps they would have been, if we called them farmers markets – but to us, they were the ‘backward’ way that we lived. No brick and mortar market places, produce, dairy, meat, poultry and fish nearly from the source itself. But I digress; but before I go back to my new life here – it’s important to me to point out, that the going out all night was purely to dance the night away in clubs with friends who I had grown up with. We had this tight knit group of friends, most of us who had known each other since kindergarten, others who had come along and become as close as if we had known them since kinder. Clubs closed at 4am, we’d go get breakfast at an ‘omelette cart’ and then get home ‘with the milkman.’ It was always a wonder that my mom didn’t ever hear of these shenanigans. Never mind that I was well past 18. If she had her way, I would have had 11 pm curfews till I turned 30!

So back to my master plan. I arrived USA in August of 1994, and James was to arrive as soon as he could. His prospects weren’t so good. He was a single guy, a musician, not intending to go to college. Rather, intending to apply for a tourist visa to USA and just never leave. Mind you, even though this was before ICE and DOJ. It was simply INS (Immigration and Naturalization Services) and even though it was tough to get an American visa (lines at the consulate were notorious for running around 2 blocks with people camped out there for a full day or more), he managed to get a visa and made plans to arrive NY in the summer of 1995.

But, here we are, Fall 1994.

I found a job at the local Boston Chicken and also worked as a barista at a coffee shop, long before Starbucks came along. New Rochelle, like most suburbs had terrible public transportation, so either I was waiting a long time, or I was barely making the bus. I dropped my class load to 1 class per semester; both to stretch out the money, but also so that I could work more as I muddled through figuring out how much everything would cost to live. As a tourist or a student in the United States, you don’t have the right to earn too much money. After all, the intention is that you’re there either just to visit, or then to go to school. So while you can work on campus you’re not supposed to really have full time work. I don’t know how I skirted this, or how a company like Boston Chicken hired me with the credentials I had then. But I am so glad they did – and till date, I have a fondness for Boston Market food and Thanksgiving continues to be my absolute favorite holiday. I had a lot of people take chances on me through the years and for this I am truly grateful to them, and to this country that gave me a chance to make a life of my own.

My parents had started me off with 3 months rent, so I didn’t have to worry about that. My biggest expense at the time were phone bills; mainly to James still in India, who I missed terribly. Long distance calling was terribly expensive, and I am still mortified when I remember that I had one phone bill that was nearly $2,500!

I made a friend named Maria who worked in the International Student affairs office, she was from Morocco and was always so chic-ly dressed. Distressed boot cut jeans, white collared button down shirt with the sleeves scruffily folded; which for me added to her allure, a fedora and motorcycle boots; the kind that had the square toe and the round metal buckle on either side of the ankle area. Hers were worn in by years of use and I thought they were the coolest boots ever and resolved to save up enough money to buy a pair for myself someday.

Maria was as broke as I was, so routinely we would go to the North Way Diner across the street from our college, and make a meal out of a plate of fries perfectly salted and crisp on the outside and soft inside; and endless refills of coffee. This was dinner and it cost us all of $6.50.

In December that year, I got a call from the International Affairs office on campus that my student visa status had been denied. Within days, I received a deportation notice that asked me to leave the country within 30 days. I was devastated. I remember being on a bus with a couple of friends from work at Boston Chicken wondering what I should do. One of them very practically said – just ignore that.

I had just gone from being legally in the United States to being considered an illegal alien (yep, that’s what we were called back then!)

I couldn’t keep my job at Boston Chicken, probably because of the immigration status, but also because it didn’t make me nearly enough money to survive. I remember weeks when all I could spend on groceries was about $20. Frank, the Greek owner/manager at the North Way diner is the reason that I didn’t starve. One of my work friends recommended an Indian restaurant in NYC where all the people who worked there were Indian and that they might be sympathetic to my status. The restaurant turned out to be a fine dining establishment in midtown Manhattan within a 20 minute walk of Grand Central Station. The manager there was indeed sympathetic. He did require me to ‘get a social security number.’

Back to my very resourceful colleague and for $100 he got me a social security number and card to match; no questions asked. Now, I went from making $4.50 an hour at Boston Chicken to making $2,25 an hour, but the tips more than made up for the pitiful hourly rate. The hourly rate check became the little bonus I would look forward to, each week. The pay stub showed all the taxes that were being deducted on my behalf. I was grateful every single day for this opportunity to work; to prove that I could live this life on my terms, in my way and without any help from anyone. My parents were a huge presence in my life; and I knew that they were just a phone call away if I ever needed anything. I was determined not to need anything as best I could. My father’s batch mates in New Jersey kept tabs on me ever so often but again, I worked hard not to need anything.

For the next year, I would leave New Rochelle on a bus by 9:00 am, taking it to the very last possible stop; from there I would get on a subway to Grand Central and walk to the restaurant, getting there by 11:00 am, just in time to set up for the lunch rush. After lunch ended at 2:30 pm, we would clean up and then had to ‘kill time’ till the 5 pm evening session. Since I lived as far as I did, going home wasn’t an option, so I would study there, or nap, or occasionally when I wasn’t exhausted from being on my feet, walk around NYC. Dinner shift would end by 11 pm, and by the time we cleaned up and closed up, it would be after midnight. I would walk to Grand Central and take the last Metro North train back to New Rochelle and take a cab home to my place. The restaurant had slate floors and since we were a fine dining place, wearing sneakers was not an option; even though I was only 21, my back hurt every single day for being on my feet as much as I was. I kept up this grueling schedule 6 days a week, going to school one night a week.

But I loved every minute of it. Yes, there were days where I despaired, and days when I really didn’t want to work so hard, but for the most part, I was grateful and mostly disbelieving that I was actually living here in the United States.

My little attic room on the 3rd floor of a single family home within walking distance of my college was furnished with a bed and a desk. I had to climb a staircase through a hatch in the floor to get in and out of my room. I had a window to the outside, sloping walls which I covered up with pictures of my family and Jon Bon Jovi and oh, a wired telephone.

A New Country, A New Life – part 1

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the day that I entered the United States as a 21 year old (yes, go ahead…do the math! I am 46 years old!) bright-eyed, idealistic and excited to create a life of my own. The story is actually quite interesting…that year…1994 I had spent my birthday with my best friend in her hometown of Bhopal. When I returned from that celebration, my parents introduced me to this guy that they had been looking into for me…a potential husband. Arrange marriages are alive and well in India. However in this case, my parents were progressive enough where they were just making the introduction, with zero pressure to actually marry him, or anyone at that particular point. He lived in the US, was a Stanford graduate and was starting to work for Apple. The company was going to do his immigration papers, and his desire was to have an Indian wife (he was Indian) whose papers could be done at the same time as his. Our families knew each other, and apparently there had been talk for months that perhaps we should meet. So mind you – this is pre-email or cell phone, so we resorted to old fashioned letter writing. In my mind this was a NO-WAY-JOSE situation. BUT, he DID live in the US, and I had known from a very young age, that I wanted to live in the US. I just had no idea how to make it happen, or whether my parents would approve. You see, I grew up in a culture where women at the time went straight from parents’ house to husband’s house with not much opportunity to have a life of one’s own. I imagine its different now, but this WAS 25 years ago.

So, I did communicate with this guy, lets call him Samir (not his real name!). I remember thinking that he was a bit arrogant (He probably thought that his just having graduated from a top Ivy League school, and a job at a top company should have impressed me…it didn’t!). That summer, I suggested to my parents that we go visit said potential beau in California. We decided to make a vacation of it, never having been to the west coast of United States. When I let Samir know we were coming to Los Angeles, he offered for me to go stay at his place for a few days in San Francisco. Well, this was perfect, because I knew my parents would NEVER allow me to ‘go off on my own’ and it in fact showed significant disrespect that he hadn’t extended the invite to my parents. So, they didn’t resist too much when I said I didn’t want to meet the guy and that I didn’t think he was for me. Phew, thank goodness that one died in the water.

Funny story about our visit to LA. Never having visited this coast before, and being used to East Coast cities where ‘downtown’ is the place you want to hang out – when the travel agent was booking us, she asked where in LA we wanted to stay, we shrugged our shoulders and said ‘downtown.’ Imagine our surprise when we pulled into our Holiday Inn downtown LA just after dark when everything was deserted and there was no festive activity, no restaurants or culture or really anything to do. This of course is pre-LA Live, pre-Staples Center etc. Downtown was NOT where you hung out after dark, downtown was not where you touristed either. Needless to say my parents never let me out of their sight. Not that I can blame them. We did touristy things like the Beverly Hills celebrity house tour, (the OJ Simpson trial was going on so the tour guide had to take us via the courthouse too!), Universal Studios, Disneyland, Santa Monica (realizing that THIS is where we should have been staying). And then one day decided to go check out Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. So yes, we DROVE to San Francisco, had fish and chips at the Wharf, walked around that area (also so significantly different than it is today!) and DROVE BACK to Los Angeles! All in one day. hahahah! We still laugh about that one.

After our vacation on the West Coast, we made our way to New York. My parents had extended family here; my desire to stay back and convert this vacation to permanent residence was known to my parents and so we settled on this small town of New Rochelle, NY; 20 minutes on the Metro North red line to New Haven from Grand Central Station. They enrolled me in school at Iona College (even though I had a B.Sc in Economics from a college in Bombay, the US system required one more year worth of classes to get an equivalent B.A. in Economics. We rented me a small finished attic room in a home within walking distance of Iona College. They paid for 3-4 months rent, 1-2 semesters tuition and then we said our final goodbyes. For the very first time, in my life at the age of 21, I was truly alone. Yes they were always just a phone call away, but I had NEVER lived alone, never paid a bill, gone out to eat, cooked for myself, run a household or done any adulting. Now I had to figure this all out for myself, in a new country.

More later…stay tuned.

Your Kids Are Watching Put On A Good Show

So both my kids are swimming now. My 11yo is on the local swim team and swims 3x a week for 45min and my 7yo is still going through the levels classes for stroke development etc. Needless to say, their swim times DO NOT overlap and so yes, I either get to spend 3 hours at the pool or do two visits to the pool. I choose the latter. Luckily the pool is 8 minutes from home.

My 7yo has 3 more levels to go before he can try out for swim team, and then the times should overlaps and my time spent at the pool will drop drastically.

So last week was the end of level 3 and we waited eagerly to see if he graduated to level 4. I was sitting poolside reading (The Art of Happiness by HH Dalai Lama— highly recommend btw!) and I observed a couple sitting a couple seats over from me. He was immersed in his phone, she– absolutely gorgeous with beautiful poker straight long hair looked practically angry. Her little 6yo adorable girl was in the same class as my 7yo.

Class ended and I asked if he graduated. He didn’t know yet. I quickly toweled him off, and he and I both skipped our way to the coach to get the verdict. “He’s really close!” She said somewhat apologetically. “Yay babe, did you hear that, you’re almost there!” Was my response. “We need to re do level 3 one more time. It’ll be done in no time!”

We walk back to our things, I start to change him. Gorgeous long haired girl has report in hand for her 6yo and I’m dying to ask her whether she moved up. But something holds me back from being my usual social self. It’s that look.

She still hasn’t softened her look. Uh oh, the 6yo mustn’t have graduated either. She still looks mad! Husband is still immersed in his phone.

So after changing, we go to the entrance to register for another round of level 3. I had already registered him for level 4 in anticipation of him moving up, so I just have to move him back down to 3. Gorgeous lady is in front of me. She lets the front desk people know that she wants to register her daughter for level 4, as she has just graduated.

WHAT??

Your daughter moved up, but you haven’t smiled once?

Yes i know I’m being judgy here — I don’t know what’s going on in their lives and I ought not to make assumptions.

I practically high-fived my boy for a job well done.

He has come SO FAR!

He was so intimidated by the pool. And now he’s doing dives and jumps off the diving board and even attempted the big curly slide. Something he would have NEVER done ordinarily.

So much progress!

I don’t care that he will redo level 3.

It just means that he’ll excel when he gets to the next level and the next after that.

But honestly lady!

Smile at your kid.

At least when you’re interacting with her.

And definitely when she just graduated to the higher level of swim.

This really got the wheels turning for me.

Our kids are hyper-observant about what we do and say.

It’s not do as I say, it’s do as I do.

So what do you do?

  • Are they seeing/hearing you bicker a lot?
  • Do they hear you talk abruptly or rudely frequently?
  • Do you talk to your friends around them as if they aren’t there?
  • Do you complain a lot?
  • Do you cut people off or flip them off or rant in traffic?
  • How do you treat service staff?
  • Do you open doors?
  • Help little old ladies?
  • Ignore the homeless person who’s panhandling? Or use it as a point of conversation to teach them a life lesson?
  • How much do they see you on your phone? I think of this a lot– if they see me on my phone constantly- then when they do get their own phones – how can I ask them to minimize time on theirs?
  • Do they see you smile or frown a lot?

You get the picture?

Nature vs. Nurture here right? And in this case a little bit of both.

If you are constantly a certain way- especially if it’s habitual – how can you expect your kids to be different?

Kindness, smiling, managing our emotions, making good choices are all traits that can be learned. Leadership starts with leading ourselves.

These are hard to focus on when we’re constantly tired, when we’re working long hours, when work deadlines are piling up.

It’s easy to zone out and do what comes easiest- which is to possibly be short fused or snap or be irritable when they’re annoying you.

But it’s in those moments in particular that we need to push past the pain of discipline and become super aware of our thoughts, words, actions and beliefs.

After all we aren’t raising kids.

We are raising our next generation political leaders, business owners, community advocates and professionals.

But most of all, hopefully we are raising kind, compassionate and gentle men and women with a heart for their community and a commitment to do good in the world.

Your kids are watching more than you know.

Put on a good show.

6 Words That Rocked My World

  My husband Jason is a scientist and someone who has a very intense filing system for a mind. His mind never shuts down. If the average person has over 20,000 thoughts a day, he probably has more like 10x! 

For 13 years that we’ve been together I’ve suggested, pleaded, begged, implored, recommended and pretty much done everything I could to ask him to develop a meditation practice. I’ve sent him articles from journals that he respects that espouse the benefits of a meditation and mindfulness practice; all to no avail. 

This past week was extraordinarily stressful. Both our kids had birthdays and instead of parties we settled on a weekend at Legoland which while a lot of fun is exhausting if you’re not under 12! The drive to Carlsbad which is usually 2.5hrs took 4+hrs on a Friday afternoon after school. The bonus there was  seeing friends we hadn’t seen in over 4 years and dinner with my best friend!! 

Later in the week, other things happened to us which threw us off kilter and by Wednesday we were not our best selves. We got into a big argument which ended in a 4 hour must-needed conversation about many unspoken things– things that got put on the back burner when kids and life happened. By now it was 11pm and my husband with the filing system of a mind the size of a museum was in overdrive. And then he said the words I’ve waited all these years to hear him say…

Will You Teach Me To Meditate?

I immediately burst into tears…relief, joy, gratitude and a feeing of closeness to him in a way that has been sadly missing between us for a while. We sat on our living room floor, across from each other, candles lit, mantra music barely discernible in the background and I led him through a Black and White breathing meditation. I emerged from meditation before him, and as I sat there in silence watching him with his head looking down, he never looked more beautiful to me. His face, usually wears the weight of our life that he’s chosen to bear, and in those few moments he looked so serene, so at peace, so reminiscent of how he looked to me when we first met. The light of the candles caused his rugged features (which I adore) to be softer, almost fluid. My eyes welled up again. I was never more in love with him than I was at that moment. I was transported to our wedding day and how I loved staring into his handsome face on Hearst State beach as we said our self-written vows to each other 10 years ago. 

It’s only been two days but he’s asked that we do this every night together as a new ritual for us. 

It’s been 13 years in the making and I never lost hope that one day we would sit in silence together and allow our energies to dance in the candlelight together. Yes indeed, dreams, even seemingly impossible ones can come true. 

Next up, couples yoga and (dare I say it) couples spa day. 

Maybe.

I’m patient.

I can hope.

I got pulled over by a policeman today

Yes I did. I was driving home with my 7yo after dropping my 3yo off to school so we could have a ‘girls’ day off’ while on Spring Break. I turned down a street, just one turn away from my home, doing a California Roll (barely stopping) at the stop sign and in the microsecond that I made that turn and saw him, I just knew he was going to stop me. I looked him squarely in the eyes as I drove by, watching my rear view mirror to see if he would turn his car around…he did.

Now first off – in the past, whenever I have been stopped (just about 3-4 times in my life) my heart would race and I would get really nervous – this time, I was calm. Curious!

Anyway, he probably ran my plate then came up to me and I was handing him my license and registration before he asked. He said what I knew he would say, that I didn’t stop; (I did tap the brakes, I just didn’t stop long enough) – I looked at him and said that I knew the moment that I saw him that he would be pulling me up for this. He took my stuff back to his car to do whatever it is they do. And in that moment, as I waited to receive the ticket (I saw him pull out a pad and start to write something) I remembered my meditation class from last week. It had been such a good teaching that I pulled out my iPhone and started taking notes, making sure to tell the teacher after the fact, that that’s what I was doing, lest she think I was texting in the middle of her teaching.

What she said was profound yet so simple as profound statements tend to be. She was talking about the effort that it takes to train your mind and that it is as important to clean our mind as we clean our bodies, our homes and our cars. The statement that I went to, in that moment waiting for the policeman to come back and give me a ticket for the California roll was that of finding a spiritual practice in every mundane act that we do. In my case sitting there, I thought of this: ‘thank you Universe for one more sign that I should slow down. I receive this message with humility and a sense of acceptance of whatever the consequence is for my action.” And I actually found myself smiling at that moment.

So Mr. Policeman with a very sweet Eastern European accent returns to my side and asks me for my home or cell phone number. (is that usual? Don’t remember that from my last pull over from over a decade ago) He asks me what I do – I tell him I am self employed. He asks in what? I say I am a Wellness Coach. I am figuring he’s filling out details on his triplicate ticket that he’s about to rip out and give me. He then says he isn’t going to give me a ticket this time…rather let me off with a warning – that I have a child in the car and that I am in a residential area and that I should be more careful. I thank him out loud, bless him in my heart and make my way home basking in the love that has just been shown to me by The Universe, by way of a very thoughtful police officer.

So my invitation to you is to consider what ordinary activities do you engage in everyday that you can transform into a spiritual practice. Here are some thoughts to ponder:

  1. Food cooked with love and consciousness is an expression of love and kindness.
  2. See the potential in every activity you engage in – whether that be cleaning your bathroom or doing your taxes
  3. Develop a mind of compassion in everything you do
  4. Recognize that even an intention to control your mind and develop peace causes a karmic event. No action is ever wasted.
  5. You’ve created the cause, you will experience the effect.

Think of negative thoughts as ‘bad weather in the blue sky of your mind’ turbulence is momentary – blue skies ahead!

Let me know how I can assist you on your journey. I’m in your service and sending you light & love

Day 6

I went for a 6.5mile power walk with a friend yesterday. I could have run 4-5 miles alone but I really enjoy her company. She matches my pace perfectly, we think alike about a lot of things and I always come away with a nugget of wisdom from her whether it’s about decorating, organizing, kids or just life! What a great way to start the day! Thank you Kristina for your friendship.

20140112-113754.jpg The picture above is the first dish my husband and I ordered on our impromptu date night last night. Uni (sea urchin) and albacore sashimi — YUM! It was a date – and we were at sushi…and it had been over six months since our last sushi experience- and so there was no way I was going to NOT eat what I wanted. I enjoyed a roll or two, complete with rice and seaweed as well as a glass of wine’s worth of unfiltered sake! Yum!!

I didn’t feel guilty about getting off the program for the evening…I really wanted to savor every bite and I did. What was interesting however is that in 5 days my mental shift was strong enough that I was aware that I’d eaten this, that I was going to enjoy it, and that I wasn’t going to go for a third or fourth roll or an extra bottle of sake. I could have- because we can practically walk home from this restaurant – but I didn’t. And I’m proud of me for that.

This morning after making ham omelets for the kids, I settled down to a delicious brunch of gluten free oatmeal (thank you Trader Joes) and a decaf almond milk latté!

20140112-114646.jpg It was delicious. I added crumbled almonds and walnuts, a light drizzle of raw agave, a dusting of cinnamon and for a change, I sat down and savored every bite instead of rushing through my breakfast mindlessly. Let me just tell you- oatmeal never tasted this good.

I’m excited about the rest of the day, the house is clean, the groceries are bought and apart for a two hour self defense lesson and party that I will take my daughter to later – I’ve got nothing going on. I plan to go up to my barely used sunroom and read! Ahhhhhh!

Do you take time to decompress on the weekend? What are some of the things you do to help you do a complete reset?

Days 3, 4 and 5 – there are no shortcuts

RisottoSo ends the first five days of my cleanse. I fared well. I had a couple slips– a bite of bread when we went to Daphne’s Grill for dinner tonight, the most delectable chocolate ball by Lindt… Hazelnut truffle! but other than that I did rather well. I treated myself to a gluten free lemon scented risotto with seared scallops and green beans At the Blue Stove in the Thousand Oaks Nordstrom- possibly my favorite restaurant in the Conejo Valley.

All week I managed to create some rather delicious gluten free dishes for my family, thanks to the amazing support of the Facebook group thats supporting this program. Yesterday I ran out of time to cook, and resorted to an old standard– linguini with vodka cream sauce…something that needs 5 ingredients and can be cooked in 20min. But luckily I had quinoa, sautéed spinach and mushrooms and pan-seared chicken breast finished in the oven- but of course like any cook, I had to taste the food I cooked and holy cow it was delicious! But my meal was awesome too.

Seared Ahi Tuna salad
Seared Ahi Tuna salad

Today my friend Deanne took me to lunch to celebrate my transition from W2 to 1099! I had the most delicious seared Ahi tuna salad with mixed greens, daikon sprouts, carrots and tomatoes. I made sure to eat all the tuna first and sure enough it was so filling that I couldn’t finish the salad. A-ha! My stomach is shrinking already. A week or two ago, I’d have no trouble eating the whole thing. The cleanse is working, my stomach is shrinking.

Today an interesting thing happened — I was on my way to meet with a friend in Malibu at the Starbucks in my old stomping grounds– I got my MBA at Pepperdine 13 years ago. There’s a traffic light by the school entrance where you can take a short cut to the mart by turning left but you can’t do that till after 9am. It was 8:56am, and the memory of the ticket I got for not paying attention to the time as a sleep deprived MBA student is still fresh Even 13 years later. So I crossed the light, and for not taking that shortcut I was rewarded with the beautiful vision of 6-7 deer grazing on the grass at Alumni Park. I was in the wrong lane to pull over, nevertheless I said a silent prayer of gratitude at the vision that started my morning well– my reward today for not taking a shortcut. The entire day went amazingly well. I spent time with good friends, then with my little girl alone, then with both my kids at Daphne’s. We laughed a lot today! Now I’m snuggled near my husband with the fireplace candles, watching a movie with half an eye as I write this. Life is Perfect!

Tonight i send to you my wish — I wish for you the complete peace I felt today. I wish for you the chance to stop and smell the roses or see the deer as the case may be!

Sending you you all love and light from a heart filled with love

Niki

Hug Therapy

A hug is like a boomerang, you get it back right away. – Bill Keane

So anyone with kids knows that the smaller they are the bigger tantrums they can throw! I’ve been blessed with fairly good kids for the most part but they can certainly hold their own in the tantrum department when they need to.

My 6yo has been at Y camp most of the summer- including multiple weeks of Splash camp with a lot of time spent in the sun. The energy of swimming most of the day combined with hot sun on many days made her pretty tired and well…cranky! The perfect storm of ingredients for a super storm tantrum! Sure enough toward the end of that first week of Splash camp – I pick her up and instead of her usually daily sunny disposition she’s whiny and complaining about everything! Uh oh!

We get home and she’s still whiny. She knows that whiny doesn’t live in our house so I ask her to take it upstairs to her ‘special place’ (a corner in her room full of plush toys where she goes to snuggle, read or just have quiet time) she says No! Uh oh– saying No to mommy doesn’t fly in our home much either. It’s been one of those nights with my 2yo up multiple times so I’m not at my best either…I move away to the other room to breathe and regroup before talking to her again– all while my 2yo is on a constant litany of ‘up mommy, up mommy, up mommy, up mommy…’ (If you want to learn persistence hang out with a toddler! They are like a dog with a bone who just won’t let go!)

6yo comes in to my quiet space and is whiny– once more I ask her not to be– and she won’t quit. I insist she go upstairs and again NO! And now she’s beginning to melt down– I’m trying to gently take her upstairs and its not happening! Finally with the intention of carrying her I pick up her fighting body in a bear hug and the more she struggles the tighter I hug her until finally she melts into my arms sobbing. We have a very specific way that she likes to be calmed down- my hand on her heart and we breathe deeply together – at least 3-5 times. Within moments I realized we had diffused a potentially long tantrum and it worked wonders for my tired mind as well.

So the next time your toddler, youngster or even partner is ‘throwing a tantrum’ surprise them by hugging them instead of fighting back and just imagine how quickly that situation will diffuse. Oftentimes it’s the grudge we carry that makes things worse than it is– or our ego gets in the way of us being the bigger person…however if your actions are ‘for the greater good’ then you know very well that all that’s called for is a hug!

Sending all of you a big {{{{{HUG}}}}}

Day 16: 30 days to fit- chicken two ways

I feel a recipe is only a theme, which an intelligent cook can play each time with a variation.
Madam Benoit

I didn’t post yesterday because my 2yo wouldn’t sleep till 11pm! He then decided to wake up at 4:15am – back to bed in 15 min thankfully but then 5:30am he’s opening his bedroom door again. Ugh! I’m exhausted and groggy so I grab my blanket and go lay down on the floor of his room- so as not to get him too used to being in bed with me (and we have a strict no kids in our bed policy!). He’s asleep and now it’s 7am and it’s time to wake – but I just don’t want to!! I’m wiped out and the day has barely begun! My back and neck are sore from sleeping on the floor.

Thank goodness for my pick me up Arbonne protein smoothie breakfast complete with Almond/Coconut blended milk, almond butter, celery, spinach, green beans, strawberries, blueberries, lime and ginger. Extra strong decaf coffee (ha) rounds out my breakfast with my usual assortment of vitamins!

Lunch is Indian chicken and lentils (thanks ma!)

Two Arbonne mango chews and a chocolate nutrition bar helped tide me over till dinner which was chicken teriyaki including a teriyaki sauce made from scratch! I got the recipe from Mark Bittman’s cooking app and improved upon it!

Here’s the recipe:
1 1/2lb skinless chicken (I used drumsticks but feel free to use whatever!)

1/3 cup each of mirin, water, soy sauce, 1T sugar, 1T black bean paste.

If you can marinate the chicken in the sauce overnight awesome- if not – don’t worry.

-heat 2T olive oil in cast iron skillet on med-high heat
-add chicken and cook both sides till slightly brown – couple minutes per side
-add all the marinade, lower heat to medium, cover and cook till chicken is done (175F on instant read thermometer) turn chicken every few minutes to get an even browning.
-once chicken reaches 175F remove lid and let the sauce thicken a bit – just a few minutes longer. Serve over basmati white rice! YUM! My kids and hubby each devoured two legs – leaving me with just one! Such a great feeling!

Ok so not only did I cook this but while this was cooking I also made Indian spinach chicken to be had for lunch tomorrow. I’d marinated the chicken in ginger garlic paste the night before.

– 1 pressure cooker
-1 diced onion
-1 diced tomato
– 1/2 diced jalapeño
– 1 t cumin seeds
-2 t coriander powder
-1 t cumin powder
-1 t turmeric powder
-1 t salt
1 t ground garam masala (or whole – 4-5 cloves, 4-5 cardamom, 1 small stick cinnamon, 3-4 black peppercorn)
– chopped cilantro leaves for garnish

Heat oil in pressure cooker, add cumin seeds – they should sputter
Sauté onions till dark golden brown
Add tomatoes and all spices
Add little water at a time to make a nice paste – let the tomatoes breakdown till they’re not lumpy.

Add chicken stir to coat gently add about a cup of water and cook under pressure for 5 minutes. Release pressure, open lid, lower flame to simmer and let the gravy thicken and flavors meld together. About 15 min. Toward the very end, add spinach and let it cook till fully blended into curry…3-4min. Garnish with cilantro- serve hot over basmati rice!

It’s 9:50pm– my 2 yo is fighting sleep re-training! I’m standing outside his door- hand on the knob so he can’t turn and open it. I’ve a timer set that’s going up in minutes from 2 to 5 to 7 to 10…I go in at each interval, soothe him, put him down (he starts crying again) and leave. I’m at the 15 min interval and although he’s turned the big light on– all is quiet. I’m going to wait till 20min before going in to check on him.

Give me patience and strength!

Day 14: 30 days to fit

Poor health is not caused by something you don’t have; it’s caused by disturbing something that you already have. Healthy is not something that you need to get, it’s something you have already if you don’t disturb it. ~Dean Ornish

Today was my idea of a perfect recovery day! My son deigned to sleep till 8am!!! Hallelujah!

We hung out in pajamas till nearly 10am -kids played – I organized their closets!

After a late breakfast for them they went off to our playroom – (our living room- converted to playroom) while I sat in the kitchen drinking coffee (décaf with soy creamer and turbinado) and read an entire book!! A short one – granted– but an entire book– all 100 pages. Can you say luxury?

Lunch for me was a protein shake because I was in a cooking frenzy- both to prepare for dinner with my parents as well as to prepare for the week ahead! I cooked Indian style potatoes, cucumber (from our garden) raita, a milk chocolate tart with crème fraiche, black-eyed peas with chicken – Indian style and then also a separate chicken and potatoes as back up for the kids incase that Tandoori chicken I’d marinated the night before didn’t fly! My 6yo devoured two drumsticks of tandoori- my usually more open to Indian food 2yo didn’t care for it too much! I actually think that it was too bland for him. He prefers more spice and we had scaled down the spice on a few drumsticks to make it ‘kid-friendly.’ I made rotis, sliced up raw onions sprinkled with lime juice, salt and pepper and white basmati rice to finish the meal! I had a bit of everything except the rice. Yes– including a roti! It was too hard to pass up!

So after seriously standing and cooking for nearly 5 hours– I was ready to take a load off and hung out in the backyard under an overcast sky with a cool breeze and blew bubbles with the kids!

After the kids were asleep it was me time! Sundays are typically the day when I prepare for the week ahead anyway – however with the new executive management challenge I’ve just signed up for with my company — and I’m committed to my success – which means creating and following a roadmap! I’m less than 5 months away from getting my free white Mercedes Benz from the company! This challenge is going to expedite it! I’M ALL IN!

The discipline of this 30 day health program has helped me discipline my mind more- I feel very ready to do whatever it takes to achieve success! My sharing it here is an added level of accountability!

I believe Napoleon Hill said it best–

What the mind of (wo)man can believe, the mind of (wo)man can conceive and achieve.

GAME ON!