Around here (02/2016)

There’s so much going on around here. First and Fearmost (OOPS!) Foremost! –

  • Exams!!!- It feels like it’s MY Final Exam or something! The amount of work that I need to put in- to drag Medha to her table, bribe her with candies and jolly rides if she learns just a bit more, prepare worksheets for her to practice and learn the basics of English grammar or look up Hindi letters and words online so that I don’t forget what I know as I try to teach her! Phew!

I just can’t wait for them to be over!

Check out the syllabus the poor 5 year-olds of her batch need to prepare for-

Syllabus for exam

  • Medha’s Reading Challenge- Remember the resolution I made for my daughter for 2016? About making her read a book each day? It’s been over a month and she has managed to read more than 20 books! They are simple, beginner-level books that have about a line or two in each page and run 10-12 pages long. But we’ve come very VERY far from our days of struggling to recognize letters to being able to decipher complex words through phonics. Phonics! What can I say, this magic word has helped her tremendously! We are at the end of our collection of Bob books- Sight Words for Kindergarten and First Grade readers and we can’t wait to read other books. More about it and her progress in another post.
  • Madhav’s Learning Challenge- Whenever life gets busy, my little one’s learning gets pushed aside! I resolved to teach him one concept(letter/number/color)  a week this year and over a month into our resolution, we’ve covered just 2- letter A and color Red and we are still working on Green. But he enjoyed every bit of the activities we did and the books we read as part of this exercise. And I loved working on kiddo crafts. Such stress-busters! Instead of being too harsh on myself for neglecting his learning, I tell myself (not as often as I should!) that had it not been for the resolution, we wouldn’t have done even the little bit that we did.
  • Blogging Funk!- I’m in a rut right now. I’m not sure what to write, when to write or whether what I write matters at all. It doesn’t mean I’ll give up writing for good! Not anytime soon (I want to continue torturing YOU, my favorite reader!). We all experience this kind of feeling, don’t we?At school, home, in our jobs etc. I’ve gone through this a number of times before. And I have emerged from the dark tunnel unscathed. This time too I will come out stronger and happier. But right now, I’ll just be taking it slow, immersing myself in reading, talking to my loved ones and learning the ropes of blogging.
  • Pomodoro Method– Everyday I set my timer for 25 minutes and just scribble away in my journal. For those 25 minutes I do nothing but write. This activity is helping me get out of my funk, sort through the muddle in my head and straighten myself out. In fact, as I write, I find myself brainstorming ideas for posts I’d like to write in future. Isn’t that great?!
  • Finished Spark E-course– Yay! Another thing crossed off my list! This course helped me a lot (I learnt about Pomodoro technique right here)  as I struggled to get out of my blogging rut. More about it in another post.
  • Farm Fresh Produce- We are receiving a ton of veggies from our farm than we know what to do with them! Our friends and family are happy, of course. Still, I’m thinking I’ll become a vegetable vendor soon.. What say?

Vegetables from the farm

  • Exhaustion!- You must have realized by now that I need to take a break, relax and get some sleep. And that’s what I will do…

I hope you get some rest too. Waiting to meet you at the end of the tunnel…

Love,

Manasa.

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30 things to do in 2016

30 is going to be my number soon. That’s because I’ll turn 30 next year! And I feel…. nothing, actually. Not happy, not sad. It is just going to be another birthday, another year. But I love new beginnings- a new day, a new year,  a budding love,  the start of a journey of parenthood etc. And (you may be totally aware of this!) I love drawing up lists, goals and resolutions. Oh no, not again, did you say? I know I have done this before and I have failed to keep up with most goals. But this time I have a plan. I’ll tell you how I’ll tackle my list (in a different post) and post monthly updates too. So please, pretty please, bear with me and read my goals, will ya? And keep me on the right track; I know my sister will!
1. Buy a sewing machine
2. Learn basic stitches
3. Sew a summer dress/ skirt for Medha
4. Paint a wall hanging for our hall
5. Scrapbook with Medha of her cousin’s visit
6. Make a photobook with Medha’s pictures.
7. Make a photobook with Madhav’ s pictures
8. Turn the spare room into craft/reading room
9. Post before/after pictures of craft/reading room project
10. Bake a cake and decorate it with Medha
11. Throw a handmade birthday party at home for Medha and Madhav
12. Read “Big magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert
13. Read a kannada book
14. Read the photography book Prasad gifted me
15. Complete Spark ecourse
16. Complete Onward and Upward ecourse
17. Have pictures taken with my sister for the blog
18. Write thank-you letters to the most important people in my life ( I know who they are)
19. Volunteer at Madhav’s playschool
20. Write to a magazine/ newspaper.
21. Visit a National park
22. Learn to drape a saree beautifully
23. Watch a play
24. Add 10 new followers to the blog ( to make the count 90)
25. Change the blog’s “about” page
26. A weaving project with Medha
27. A plush doll with Medha
28. A garland with Medha
29. Visit a historical monument/palace with the kids
30. 365 days of journaling

Wish me luck!

Any tips to keep up with New Year’s Resolutions will be much appreciated!

Love,

Manasa.

Around here

Around here-

  1. I’ve been feeling kinda down lately, like I have a ton of things and thoughts swirling in my head needing my immediate attention and weighing me down.
  2. I’ve not been able to read anything for a longer stretch of time, except browse other blogs and recipes online. I picked up my favorite “The Happiness Project” and couldn’t read further than a couple of chapters. I started “Gilead”, another bestseller, and I had to toss it aside as I could not focus.
  3. I’m trying to get Medha to learn the parts of Body in words for a test without much success.
  4. We’re figuring out how to use my brand-new Morphy Richards Convection Oven: Butter Naan came out hard while Whole-Wheat Pizza came out doughy. No more Baking for a while!
  5. Rains have been few and far between, and Mosquitoes have swarmed the place.
  6. I tried a lot of new recipes I found online; None tasted as good as I hoped.
  7. I haven’t finished a Birthday Project I began with Medha.
  8. I feel like I need a change, but not sure what sort of.

Sounds depressing, right? Don’t worry (especially you, mother). I’ll be fine. Everyone feels this way- confused, scattered, down, sad, worried- now and then. It’s mostly due to exhaustion and less sleep. It also happens when you do not take things light and slow.

I need to do one thing at a time, work on one thought at a time. And forget the rest… until it is time to focus on the next.  And smile, and laugh a lot, even though sulking and complaining comes easily. And, of course, be grateful for all the big and small joys and an ordinary, uneventful life.

Yeah. I get it!

So let me have another go…

Around here-

  1. I’m trying to be mindful of what I eat- fruits instead of desserts, dry fruits instead of biscuits.
  2. We’ve been cooking and eating a lot of bottle-gourds, colocasia leaves, drum-sticks, and banana flowers fresh from our Farm lately.
  3. I’m meeting and befriending new Moms at Medha’s Tennis lessons- Very accomplished and down-to-earth Women.
  4. We’re looking forward to our next weekend getaway to the Black-buck Resort in Bidar.
  5. I met Medha’s teacher, Subhashini Ma’am, at the Parents-Teachers-Meeting and learnt that Medha is doing just fine at school. She just needs to overcome her shyness towards her Teachers and practice a few words everyday.
  6. I just began reading Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s “An Autobiography”. The description of his childhood and his Voice (I can almost hear it!), that sounds as if it is dripping with honey, have kept me engrossed for now. I want to read this to learn a bit of Indian History and also in honor of the upcoming Independence Day.
  7. Medha and Madhav know the appropriate use of words like “Thank you”, “Please” and “Sorry”. Their gesture, coupled with their gentle voice (especially Medha’s),  just melt my heart down and make me feel like I have the sweetest kids in the whole world (Not always, but very often).
  8. I’m coming up with ideas to write blog posts even when nothing much is going on or my mind is a blank space, like right now!

See… I feel so better already. Like I say, Writing everything down is a sort of conversation I have with Prasad or my Sister. It helps me clear out the fog in my brain, make sense of what’s going on and come up with solution. It cheers me up and makes me feel like myself again.

If you’re reading this, it means you’ve taken the time out of your busy schedule to learn what’s going on in my life. My most humble, heartfelt gratitude to you. Thanks for letting me share my stories, my life with you…. I hope YOU don’t forget to write  and share yours too.

Love,

Manasa.

Summer and the City

Summer and the CityThis book (written by Candace Bushnell) was the perfect pick-me-up I needed this sweaty, sweltering summer after the giddy excitement of my sister’s Wedding. It made me zoom through chores and kids’ story-time so that I could curl up and read (“Why are YOU reading for so long?”, my daughter kept accusing me as I read the night away, a tiny book-light attached to my book!). The famed sitcom, “Sex and the City”‘s prequel, “Summer and the City” is the story of how Carrie Bradshaw, a high-school graduate, begins her life in New York. She is here for the summer and is enrolled in the New School in order to pursue Writing.

Carrie is in awe of the Emerald city and nothing, not even her bossy landlady or the blackout, when there’s a power outage for a long time, will make her want to go back home. All the crazy parties that she attends, the vintage shops where she buys used goodies at throwaway prices, new friends, new love and her love for the city itself compel her to stay. But first she has to prove to her family, and to herself, that she can make it on her own. And she has about 60 days to do that. This book is Carrie’s journal of her adventures during those 2 months.

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She makes a lot of mistakes and gets into trouble, like many kids at 17 do, but she dusts herself off and gets on with life. Nothing will deter her from her dream of becoming a Writer in New York. I loved her attitude, but parts of the book made me cringe at the thought of how MY kids might behave at that age.

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Normally I don’t pick a chick-lit (literature that appeals to young women, according to Google) and consider it beneath me (no rolling eyes, please!) to read and even if I do, it bores or grosses me out. But this one kept me going and in less than a week, I ended it with a big smile and a deep desire to make the best use of these long, summer days.

I guess I need to let go of my reservations about what kind of books I should be reading or what kind of mom I need to be or what kind of life I should be living and just go with my instincts. It might make me seem naive or stupid, but who cares. As long as it makes me happy…

Go with the flow, baby.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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I loved reading it. It is not a thriller or a mystery, yet I found myself speeding through it, yearning to know what happens to the central characters in the end.

It is about a girl, Cather, a year in her life, starting College, her family, her new friends and her love for writing fan-fiction…. just the very sort of book I love to read, and hopefully, write someday.

I wonder why I’m hooked on YA (Young Adult) Fiction these days. In my young-adult years I was full of disdain towards them. I probably thought I was beyond their level, never having been told what was appropriate to read for my age. As my sister and I were growing up, we read what we found at home, and they were books written by Sidney Sheldon, Arthur Hailey and John Grisham. But now I’m always found hovering around the Children’s or Teens’ sections of my library (Justbooks)! Still not age-appropriate… But who cares!

Coming back to the book… Cather (who likes to be called Cath) has been her twin sister, Wren’s best friend and room-mate all her life. Now , in College, Wren wants new experiences, new friends and even a new room-mate. Cath feels lost without her sister.  Writing Simon/ Baz fan-fiction (I didn’t know anything about fan-fiction until I started reading this book. According to Urban Dictionary, “Fan-fiction is when someone takes either the story or characters (or both) of a certain piece of work, whether it be a novel, TV show, movie, etc, and create their own story based on it”) brings solace to her as she struggles with her fears. Of making new friends. Of not knowing where the canteen is. Of how her dad will manage without the 2 of them at home.

In swaggers Levi, the ever-smiling, helpful, charming, chivalrous Levi, with a razor-sharp memory. I fell in love with him long before Cath did. I kept waiting for their romance to blossom. Will they? Will they not? I wondered. I feared Cath might shut herself off from him. But she doesn’t, Thank God.

I love the falling-in-love part in a story. Any story. There’s such nervous excitement around it. But staying-in-love? I admit I find it boring, listening or reading about it, unless it is super-exciting 🙂 or the 2 people have remained in love for a very long time. I wish the author, Rainbow Rowell, hadn’t spent much time and words on their romance, as she did.

I perked up whenever I came across ‘writing’ or ‘fan-fiction’. Cath is so proficient at taking someone else’s story, here, “Simon Snow” series written by Gemma T Leslie (based on J K Rowling, I suppose), and writing her version, that it is hard for her to write a story of her own. She just doesn’t know where to start. Her Professor helps her come up with a “starting point”. She says “Just start from somewhere in your life and see where it leads you”… But where exactly? Her past is bleak. Her mother abandoned her and her sister, Wren, when they were too young. When they had needed a mother the most. Cath finds it hard to dig into her past. She doesn’t want to face her mother, who now wants to come back into their lives. She has trouble trusting people, even Levi.

Relax, there’s a light at the end of the proverbial “tunnel”. Of course there has to be, when Levi is around. He helps Cath figure out that she doesn’t have to have one thing at the cost of everything else – fan-fiction writing over fiction writing, her family over Levi, Wren over her room-mate Reagan. Only then does she make room for so much more in her life.

We are all capable of so much more than we give ourselves credit for.

No big life lessons in this book. No wise characters (except, maybe, Levi). Every character had flaws, even my favorite, Levi (You can see how much I adore him), which made them real, endearing. I looked forward to reading it every night just before sleeping. I felt a sense of deep contentment as I read this book.  I felt joy. My dreams felt attainable. My goals, reachable.

Good books have such power over me.

Blogathon 2015

I dozed off as I read a book to Medha. Prasad couldn’t believe I was sleeping without publishing my post for the day. He tried waking me up, but I found it hard to keep my eyes open. It felt good to be sleeping. Really good. Nothing else mattered … Even the Blogathon. The Blogathon? The LAST DAY OF THE BLOGATHON? I awoke with a jolt of understanding that I HAD to finish the race, I HAD to publish the last post of this marathon blogging. I had come so far…Now I had to see it through.

When Seema asked me whether I’d be interested in participating in the Blogathon, I agreed without giving much thought to it, although I was slightly scared, and excited too.

At the start of a new year I’m always looking for new challenges, new goals for myself. I accepted this one as a personal challenge, without realizing how big a challenge and what a learning and transformative experience it was going to be.

I wasn’t posting regularly before this marathon began. I only posted once, or maybe twice, a week, which itself felt like a lot of work. I knew not how I’d be posting everyday, for 31 days, even on Sundays. SUNDAYS! When all I do on that day is eat a hearty meal at a restaurant, sleep the whole afternoon, shop for the next week’s grocery and spend time with Prasad reminiscing about the ‘American life’ we left behind, over a big cup of Cafe Latte at Cafe Coffee Day. Who has the time to publish a post on Sunday?? I wondered.

But I did. This exercise of posting regularly pushed me beyond what I thought I am capable of. It stretched my limits. I didn’t know I had it in me to come up with something to write everyday. I always thought I wasn’t imaginative enough, that I wasn’t capable of generating ideas. But I managed to, sometimes in the nick of time.

For a month, I put on a new “lens” and saw my life differently. Everything about it was examined to see whether it could be used to churn out a fresh post. I took on new experiences with gusto; I read through my journals to see if anything could be turned into a post during a busy day; I tried new recipes to post my experience preparing them. In order to post something each day, I tried to make my life a bit more interesting and exciting than it already is.

Is that bad?

I always assumed my brain couldn’t function late at night. When I realized I only had a chunk of time between 10 pm to midnight, that was not interrupted by the kids or chores that needed my attention, I decided to work on my posts at night, after the kids went to bed. It was hard in the beginning, but, gradually, my brain became habituated to working at those hours. Like I said, this challenge broke my own perceptions about myself. I began thinking,”If I can do THIS, why not try ‘y'”?, the ‘y’ being anything from trying a new recipe everyday and posting my experience, for a month, to, writing a book by typing a 500 words each day, for about 6 months.

I’m big on projects and goals. I start off with zest, putting a lot of time into their planning and preparation. But somewhere along the way my enthusiasm fizzles and all I’m doing is trying to find the nearest way out. But something about this challenge made me want to stick it out, through thick and thin. I think it was because I wasn’t attempting to do this in a vacuum, all by myself. It felt like I was doing this with a bunch of friends, friends who took time from their busy schedules to leave a comment (or two) for everything I posted, friends who gave me that little nudge of encouragement to continue posting when the going got tough. It felt like I finally found a community of like-minded people.

Thank you all… YOU made this journey worthwhile.

Thank you Seema for letting me join the ride!

And before I forget, I want to thank my husband and my little sis for being my cheerleaders and in my husband’s case, a harsh critic as well. Thank you! I wouldn’t have been able to do this without your support, encouragement, ideas, enthusiasm and love.

Now I’m off to have a good night’s sleep.(I hope the little one doesn’t wake me up early in the morning, like he usually does!)

The purpose of my blog.

I’ve been blogging for more than 5 years now. I began and killed a couple of blogs before I started this one. Pretty soon I’ll be celebrating the 3rd anniversary of “These Fleeting Days” `( a tentative title until I find the right one!). This is the longest I’ve stuck around in a project even if I’ve been posting intermittently.

I didn’t have a goal in mind for any of those other blogs. I didn’t begin this one with a goal either. I didn’t make a list of key areas my blog would focus on. My only purpose was to record my daughter’s activities. Then the boundary shifted to contain all my other interests as well, like books read, places traveled, recipes tried, special moments lived and also my thoughts on writing in particular and life in general. When I felt like I had something interesting to say, like after a trip to Hawaii or after devouring a good book, I posted. When we faced a setback- a flooded house- or when I simply got busy rearing a couple of kids, I didn’t.

Whenever I read some of the niche blogs I follow, that each focus on something specific like small-business development, crafting, photography or memory-keeping, I felt inspired. But as I sat to ponder what I was really doing here and what I wished to achieve with my blog, my enthusiasm fizzled out and I ceased to post for a while. At times like these I felt like I didn’t belong in the Blogosphere.

No matter what, I never gave up, unlike what I did with the other blogs. This time I really wanted to keep at it. A few months ago, as I introduced my blog to a blogging instructor, Kam , it struck me like MAGIC. “These Fleeting Days” needn’t be a niche blog; It is a personal blog; It is MY story as I see it. And, currently, my goal for this blog is to produce good writing on a regular basis. Simple. Yet it made a huge difference to me.

This is going to be my resume when I begin applying for a job as a freelance writer.

I have no control over how many likes my posts will get, or, if any at all. I can only control what I put out here. And if I continue to post honest, interesting (to me) writing about the things I’m passionate about, Someday I’ll get noticed. Even if I don’t, who cares; I’ll still have a treasure trove of tales to share with my kids and grand-kids. Now that’s a good enough motive to keep on blogging. 🙂