Regrets!

I had a dinner with the Regional Director of WHO. Nothing special, all new interns get to do this. During the dinner, the RD mentioned that I was the oldest intern he ever met. I wasn’t sure how to view that particular statement. Should I be ashamed of being old? Of course, I know the old saying ” you are never too old”. However, his comment did unsettle me.

Few days later, I had dinner with my boss and his wife. When I saw her name on the dinner invitation, I though it looked very familiar.

During the course of our dinner, I asked her if she was the person I am thinking of and she was surprised that I knew her name. About 20 years ago, I read few of the journal articles she had written. At that time, she was a pioneer in Virology. But her husband was working for WHO in Geneva and she was working somewhere else and the kids wanted to stay in Geneva. So she quit her job and never went back to work. A decision she regrets to this day.

I know my path ahead is not going to be smooth. I know I am old.. there is no denying that. But I also know, if I stop now, I will be in the exact same position as my boss’s wife in 20 years. I can’t let that happen. I won’t let that happen.

So this is the march of the old woman.. and onwards I go…

What do I want

There comes a time when you need to ask yourself
What you really want to do with your life?”

At each decade of my life, I had different goals.

My oldest goal was to leave home. Then I wanted to study, Then I wanted to marry, Then I wanted kids, Then I wanted to be the best mother one could ever be.. I did all of those.. Yet somehow I always felt something missing. (kind of like the song I came to sing still remains unsung)

This re-evaluation started with a colleague of mine who casually mentioned that she admired the fact that I gave up my career for my kids. “That was a sacrifice”, she said.

The truth is, it wasn’t a sacrifice. It was a choice. A choice you make consciously after evaluating the pros and the cons shouldn’t be considered a sacrifice. When you sacrifice something you change the balance of things and make the other person bear the guilt. I do not want my children to grow up and think that they somehow have to bear the cross for my decision to stay at home and compensate me… I actually had the best 2 decades of my life when I was staying at home and raising them.

So, that brings back to the question what I want to do with my life.. beyond the reading, travelling, sailing etc..

I guess the answer is simple. I want to have both power and money. There, I said it… and guess what, I never ever thought I would re evaluate my life and come up with that..

Awareness

Last Saturday I had dinner with the staff from my Dept and as usual the conversation revolved around children. When I mentioned that I am a mother of three teenagers, every single group member commented about how hard it is to raise teenagers..

It is true that I dreaded raising teenagers.. It wasn’t always an easy ride, but I honestly think that raising teenagers is much easier than raising pre-adolescents.

Few days ago, When I got back to my apt, I noticed my youngest is online on FB. Spain is 6 hours behind my time and I knew she was online during school. So I asked her

“Muthey, What boring class are you in right now?”

She replied “Maths, I completed the assignment already and am bored” and we continued to chat.

Yes, I am aware that as a parent I should have scolded/advised my child as it is wrong to be on the phone during class time. However,  Since I read novels during class whenever I was bored, what right do I have to tell my child not to do something, when she is bored? I refuse to be hypocrite.

Couple of minutes later, my child mentioned

“Mom, I love the fact that you didn’t scold me even when you knew I was on the phone during class time”

I think one of the key thing with being a parent who is actively involved in their children’s life is not to be judgemental and at the same time, let your children know that you are aware of what they are doing..

My son told me that almost all of his Asian classmates have 2 different FB accounts, one that their parent’s monitor and another one that they post/write whatever they want without having to worry about their parents knowing.

If I go after my daughter for using the phone while she is in class, she is just going to selectively block me on FB, or create another FB account.. She is not going to sit and twiddle her thumb just because I told her not to use her phone during class. Besides, she is only doing it when she thinks she is not going to get caught.. and even if she gets caught, she has to face the consequences herself..

So, we chatted.. while I knew she broke the no phone during class rule..

Independence

After being on the road for well over three weeks, I arrived back home from US, exhausted and a bit depressed. After all, I won’t see my oldest daughter for another couple of months. By the time I arrived home, it was around 11 AM, I was tired and hungry.

Years ago, I wrote about the time Amma left us alone in the Bangalore house and went to Kerala and the day before she was due, I cleaned the whole house. I even carried her mattress to the balcony to rejuvenate the cotton stuffing in the sun ! Amma got home around 6.30 AM and the first thing she said as soon as she got inside the house and switched on the light was “Why is the light switch sticky?”

I didn’t want to be like Amma, but at the same time I kind of wanted my house to be clean and expected my kids to keep it clean.

Leaving a 16 year old, a 14 year old and a 14 month old dog alone at home without adult supervision was a risky business. I expected the worst.

My house looked exactly as I left it. Except for two pot plants in the living room which the dog  ate..or attempted to eat.. I guess she thought  she is helping me by checking the roots.

But more than the state of the house, what really made me happy was what was on the dining table.

There was Avial, Dhal, rice and pappadam for me and taco mince for them. And there was even a pineapple cake for desert. My kids cooked it and even though the cake didn’t look like a pineapple, it tasted just as good.

I remember reading somewhere about an Indian American woman’s comment about her son. She said very proudly “My son doesn’t even know how to toast a slice of bread” and when I read it, I thought what an ignorant woman she is! I promised myself that I will teach my kids how to cook, because it is an essential skill they need to develop to survive .

It is not that I am not worried about the kids being careless and leaving the stove unattended or getting injured/burned etc. I am terrified of all that can go wrong. But I also know that I must have faith in them and believe in them.

Until end of Oct, my son will be alone at home with Kirra. Youngest is in Spain on student exchange. And then the two of them will be alone till I get home end of Nov.

The only difficult part for the kids would be that they have to take the bus to the shops to buy grocery. I did tell them to buy online. But they don’t want to pay for the delivery charges..they think it is a waste of money.(According to my son, he can buy two pizzas for the same money)

So here I am, in Manila. I miss my kids..

 

Spoiled brat

That is me..

Sometimes, one needs a bit of reality check to actually take a deep look at themselves..

So, I arrived in Manila to work with the WHO. My flight was delayed, most of the travellators at the airport were not working and it felt like the walk to immigration counter was never ending.

WHO office staff were waiting at the airport to collect me and take me to my apt. Although it was late in the evening, traffic was heavy and the 10 km travel took more than an hour.

My apt is smaller than a shoe box. (I swear) It even comes with a pull out couch instead of a bed.

I was crabby as hell..

Then the owner of the apt came and gave me her wifi dongle.. because she knew I have kids and would like to talk to them and it was too late for me to go and get phone and wifi sorted.

Then it occurred to me..that I am really a spoiled brat.. and that there is so much I take for granted..

So, it is a shoe box apt.. but it is still so much better than not having a place to sleep.. and I promised myself that I will stop getting annoyed with the small things..

 

 

Soft..

My mother always used to say ‘wait till you grow up, then you learn’ whenever she felt that I was irresponsible.

I had promised myself never to be like my mother when I had children of my own, but there were many times I almost said to my children “wait till you grow up”

One big issue at home was with bananas. I am obsessed with feeding my children healthy meals and fruits is a major part of their diet. I don’t buy the normal bananas(robusta/cavendish) because I had to eat bread and robusta/cavendish  bananas when my father stopped financially supporting, I just can’t eat those bananas any more and buy expensive Ladies finger bananas which cost  an average of 6$/kg( as compared to 1$/Kg for robusta.

My children, especially Yaya would never eat a banana if the skin has a little blemish.. It is too soft is what she used to stay. I used to get so annoyed with her for wasting food like that, often a full bunch of bananas. ( there is only so much banana cake you could bake!)

When we went to Churchill, we had to carry a lot of food with us. Churchill has no road network. Nearest town where the road ends is Thompson. From there it is another 12 hours of train ride to get to Churchill, which means everything in Churchill is really expensive. I bought a bunch of banana in Thompson and forgot to take it out of the plastic bag. By the time we reached Churchill, it was disgustingly ripe. I was going to throw them and Yaya stopped me. “You paid good money for the bananas mom and you are not going to throw it”

I watched my child eating really really , soft, yucky over ripe bananas. I never once told her that “wait till you grow up”.. but that didn’t mean that she never learned. When children grow up and earn their own money, they learn the value of money. You don’t have to nag them about it when they are young..

Churchill

When I was growing up, my father had a running subscription of a construction magazine. I don’t remember the name of the magazine. Although I couldn’t really read English in those days, I remember going through the magazine and looking at the photographs. (Probably the reason why I am still curious about heavy construction equipment, big rigs etc) In one such issue there was a photograph of a white bear. and underneath that there was one word I could read.. Churchill.. and I knew as a Malayalee what it meant in Malayalam. Pallikkunu.. In those days, you learned by translating anything and everything. I used to attend Ascension Church service and had friends living in Baker hill.. and pallikkunnu made so much sense to me.

Years later, I read about Polar bears and the pallikkunnu of my childhood and I promised myself that I will visit this place.

So Yaya and I went to Toronto and from there took the Via train to Churchill. It took 2 days to get to Winnipeg with an overnight stop there and another two days to get to Churchill. Being the smart people that we are, we booked and paid for the train ticket before finding the accommodation. We were in full panic mode  when all the google search for accommodation came up with no vacancy. Eventually I called the visitor information in Churchill and got them to help me find accommodation.

We arrived in Churchill in the morning and I really wanted to go for a walk. So, I went. 5 minutes after I started my walk, I found a signboard that said “Stop, do not walk here, Polar bears”. Suffice to say that I didn’t walk back to where I was staying, I ran.

Next day, I hired a car, which turned out to be a truck that was massive in size. Yaya looked at the truck and at me with a kind of look that said “Jeez., should I trust mom driving a massive truck?” Couple of minutes after I started driving the truck, Yaya started to scream.. apparently  I was driving on the wrong side of the road 🙂 Fortunately the town is really small and there were not many cars on the road.

Yaya and I saw hundreds of Beluga whales in close proximity(as in we could almost touch them), we saw the northern lights dancing in the night sky, we saw a polar bear mother and a cub and Krumholz effect.

So, I went to pallikkunnu.. and had a really good time.

Changes

I said goodbye to a teenager and picked up a woman.. I know the previous statement makes not much sense..so let me explain.

Yaya left home a week after she turned 18. Until the moment she left home, she was still a little girl who was still under my protection and relied on me to help her make decisions for her. And then she had to do everything by herself.

She booked her own flights, read reviews and booked accommodations, figured out the must see places. She had to choose where to go and what to eat.

I arrived a day ahead of her in US and went to pick her up the next day. Then I saw her walking out, carrying a rather small backpack and thought ‘My goodness, she is so tiny’ She had bought her backpack from Aldi’s for 30$ and it held enough clothes etc that had to last her 6 weeks trip.

She gave me a hug and told me “I missed you mom” and the next question was “Where are we staying” and I told her the hotel address. I watched her looking it up on google maps and said to me “Let’s go”

I was expecting myself to get lost in the maze of American road networks and never thought there be a day where my child will be the navigator and I could actually get somewhere without getting lost. As many of you know by now, I have no sense of direction and I tend to get loss regularly.

When we got to the Hotel, I noticed her checking the currency exchange rate on her phone and then she told me, “Mom, I forgot to fill up water in my water bottle and had to buy a bottle of water in Reykjavik and because I didn’t have any Icelandic Krona with me and had to pay in Euro, the cashier charged me extra 25cents. I never thought there would be a day my child will worry about 25 cents.

She visited all the places she wanted to visit. Most of the people she met at the backpacker’s hostel were surprised that her mother allowed her to travel alone at the age of 18. ( most of them were in 2nd or 3rd year uni students who were taking a gap year) She only spent half of the money she budgeted for the trip. Except for a pendant for me, a marble pen for her brother and a small tin of handmade chocolate for her sister, she didn’t buy anything else.

I am glad she did this trip. Now I can rest easy knowing that she is capable of making sensible decisions and can find her way using google map..( both of which her mother is incapable of doing)

 

 

Hmm

“You’ll learn, as you get older, that rules are made to be broken. Be bold enough to live life on your terms, and never, ever apologize for it. Go against the grain, refuse to conform, take the road less traveled instead of the well-beaten path. Laugh in the face of adversity, and leap before you look. Dance as though EVERYBODY is watching. March to the beat of your own drummer. And stubbornly refuse to fit in.”
? Mandy Hale, The Single Woman: Life, Love, and a Dash of Sass

As usual, I am leaving for a trip with absolutely no clue as to the places to visit. I was meant to look up the places and read about them.. I didn’t have the time. I am leaping before looking..travelling the road less travelled.

Visiting Churchill in Mannitoba has always been a dream. Ever since I read about Krumholz effect, I have been wanting to visit Churchill.. So I intend to do that.. Honestly speaking after getting to NY , I will have to figure out the best way to get to Churchill..

The woods are dark and lovely ..  I have places to go and promises to keep..

until then

adios..

 

Happy

I have been exceptionally busy the past few weeks trying to finish my work, cook enough food for the kids, sort the house and garden to make it less demanding on the kids etc.

Today much as I am exhausted, I am also really happy. I doubled my investment(almost).. As the kids get older, I am very careful with my money..my expenses will be exponential in 4 years when I have all three of my kids in Uni.. I wanted to travel without feeling guilty of spending money that I should be keeping aside for the kids.. I thought  and thought as to the best way to make some quick bucks.. I decided to invest in shares.

Now, my first lesson about share market  was from one of the Jeffrey Archer’s books. He had written, you buy when everyone is selling and you sell when everyone is buying. I know people who lost their homes when the share market tanked in 1997…. but just for this time, I thought I would play the market.

I researched all the companies that have stocks less than 1$/share on ASX. It took me weeks to narrow it down to the few I felt happy about.

One was a Zinc mining company. If you are in Australia, then you would know our mining boom is very much over.. I was a bit weary about investing in mining industries.. but Zinc on the other hand has market value.. it is required for Pharmaceutical/Cosmetic industry.. I read every article available online about zinc mining and decided to invest in in a company called Red river resources 6 weeks ago. I bought their shares at 0.14 and today sold it for 0.25/share. I could have waited couple of more days till it reached 0.28 then it really would have perfectly doubled.. but I got a bit scared of being too greedy.. I sold enough shares that will pay for my trip to US/Canada..

Not bad eh..