Caring isn't sharing (anxiety)Wed, 18th Jan '23, 2:30 am::

This week I had a number of things stress me out all at once - work projects, home construction, paperwork. I felt pretty overwhelmed trying to manage everything but in the midst of it all, I had a minor epiphany that instantly calmed me down. While discussing with Juliet how stressed I was, I blurted out that "it is not even my own anxiety! It's other people's!"

And that was true. I wasn't the one who was really anxious about a new system going live, a coworker was. I didn't have to figure out the solution to the electrical issue, the contractor did. Sure, when working in a team, the successes and failures are shared. When hiring people for projects, if they mess up, you suffer too. But that's not what I'm talking about.

I'm talking about not letting others' worries, worry you. It's true that other people will have genuine concerns about new projects or upcoming tasks. But no matter how much you care about the people, their concerns are theirs, not yours. Repeat after me kids — You can care about a person without sharing their anxiety.

Even as I wrote the above carefully selected words, advocating for this "not-my-problem" stance sounds brutally callous to me. So let me explain with a simple example: If my close friend loses their job, it's normal for me to be concerned for them and worry about their well-being. Totally ok to worry here. Next, if they apply for a job and are super stressed about the interview process, I don't need to be worried with them.

It is ridiculous for me to worry about their job interview. Yet I often do. I guess once I start caring about their job loss, I start to care about all of their job-related anxieties too. And that just stresses me out for no reason. So now I've started to ask myself - is this my anxiety or someone else's?

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Tue, 10th Jan '23, 2:15 am::

Juliet and I watched Avatar - The Way of the Water in Cinemark XD RealD 3D tonight and my mind is still stuck in the magical realm of Pandora. This was my first movie theater visit in 3 years and I am so glad I picked this movie. It was an absolutely breathtaking experience and I cannot wait to see the next one in 2024.

I have been busy as always last few months and I don't foresee my schedule getting any lighter the rest of the year. I hope to travel more this year than last few years, especially since Leela is starting to enjoy attractions more now. Naveen is turning 8 in a few weeks and I have a dream of setting up a full computer workstation for him and installing older versions of different programs for him to play with - 3D Studio Max, Photoshop, Blender etc. He is extremely interested in programming and loved the few short lessons in Python I gave.

Juliet is doing well and keeping my spirits up while I slog through stressful work projects. She is going to take another pottery class at the local community college and it really helps her work on her fine motor skills as well as build a social circle here. Last semester she made a set of really pretty cube-shaped containers that we now keep in our kitchen to store Taco Bell sauce packets.

It's pretty cold outside these days and there's still some snow on the ground. Last year around Jan-Feb, I saw snowdrops growing unexpectedly all over my front-yard and I am really hoping they come back again soon.

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Hello 2023Sun, 1st Jan '23, 5:45 pm::

We ushered in the new year last night with fireworks and champagne (well, sparkling juice for the kids). I couldn't believe it but both Naveen and Leela stayed up and were super excited. Today our au pair Josi took them both on a play date with another local au pair who takes care of two kids, about the same age as Naveen and Leela. Juliet and I had a relaxing New Year's Day and started season 3 of Emily in Paris on Netflix.

Yesterday our new neighbors Blaire and Mike left us a small gift basket for celebrations, along with ingredients for what they said was a Danish celebration tradition — rye bread, boiled eggs, and herring with onions — for Smørrebrød. Apparently it tasted great though I was barely able to stand the smell, still being vegetarian and all. We miss our wonderful neighbors Bevv, Brian, and Mike in Florida and it felt good to be welcomed here in Woodstock.

In just a little over a year, Juliet has made so many friends here and I have reconnected with so many of my family and relatives. The kids are thoroughly loving the school and daycare here. Of course the cold winter weather can't hold a candle to the wonderful sunny days Florida's having right now but this just feels home to me. I love snuggling up in bed with a warm cup of coffee and catching up on the phone with friends, watching cartoons with kids, or just talking with Juliet.

Last year I didn't make any specific resolutions but instead tried to form new habits. I started reading a lot more and I drastically improved my diet. This year I'm hoping to continue those and add routine exercise to the list. We spent 9 out of the 12 months under construction last year and I am hoping this year we will get to enjoy the fruits of our labor of dust and noise.

As I've grown older, I've noticed I have become a lot more accepting of things as they happen instead of doing everything to stick to plans and freaking out when they don't. Of course I'm always going to plan to the best of my abilities but life throws so many curve balls, it's best to just accept when unexpected things happen. Here's to a new year for all of us to learn and grow, love and forgive, live and cherish!

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Pet storyMon, 8th Aug '22, 12:15 pm::

My cats Giga and Tera were born 18 years ago today. Happy Birthday Giga! I miss Tera so much and I know Giga does too because after her passing, he has been so much more affectionate with our Chihuahua Lady Bug. In cat years, Giga's a spry 126 years old, though he is jumping and running less these days. Lady Bug is probably 15-17 years old and more docile too. We adopted her in 2010 from someone who didn't know her age but despite a ton of health issues years ago, she has recovered well.

We left Florida last winter after rehoming most of our pets that we could not bring to Illinois - our goats, chickens, tortoises etc. It has been a lot less stress for me but like Juliet and the kids, I do miss walking into the yard to pet them. And now with only aging Giga and Lady Bug, when at one time we had 4 devious cats and 2 loud dogs on top of the rest of the petting zoo, things are a lot calmer, quieter, maybe even a bit morose.

You read about life in books. You watch movies and shows about characters living their lives. But you never step back and think of your own life as just another story in the encyclopedia of homo-sapiens. While everyone sees themselves as the main character in their own lives and some even talk and write about themselves in depth, we rarely see ourselves as simply another tiny human going about our short lives doing typical human things. But the more I think about our pets, especially the ones no longer with us, the more I realize how much I am fulfilling my role as a standard-issue human-being. I pet the cat, I feed the dog, I throw a ball towards my child, I move heavy things for my wife. I am human adult.

In a world where people are hustling for fame and fortune, struggling to make a name for themselves, and striving to achieve productivity goals, I am patting myself on my back having taken a single celebratory cat photo earlier today. Not because I can't be productive or am done with goals but rather because thinking about my pets connects me to the saga of humanity while inventorying my achievements and failures singles me out and makes me feel isolated, unique.

Thinking of myself as unique and special with the agency to determine my destiny is exhausting. Accepting that I am human #106,839,249,965 going about my silly little life is relaxing and frankly, cute in a metaphysical way. There's no checklist of activities humans need to do to qualify as valid human and getting 100% in some exam or making $X of money would definitely not be on that list. But if there was such a list, getting nuzzled by a fuzzy cat should be on it, along with burning your tongue because you bit into food that was still too hot and staying up way past your bedtime because you enjoy the present company. These are human things, these little incidents, events, and activities weave the narrative of our lives. Pets, friends, family, love, kids, breeze, rain, that little bit of dirt still left over no matter how many times you try to sweep it into the pan with the broom — these tell the tale of our lives.

We love to read stories, play stories, watch stories, hear stories, and make up stories. And every single story is about life. There are no stories of rivers just flowing, molecules just colliding, and numbers just incrementing. Stories are about life. And life, when viewed through the eyes of a master storyteller with a penchant for small wonders, becomes ever so fulfilling. The passage of time, the grief of losing loved ones, the ennui of navigating human institutions — these hurt, stress, and aggravate me on an individual level but they make me feel like I am checking all the items on the being-human to-do list when I take a step back and observe.

Today I took a step back to observe. Tomorrow I have a ton of meetings and chores. C’est la vie.

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Fourteen yearsWed, 27th Jul '22, 9:30 am::

Fourteen years ago on this day Juliet and I said our vows in front of the Undine Falls in Yellowstone Park. Yesterday as I was driving with her, I remarked that had known our future that day and everything that was about to unfold, I would have done exactly the same things and made the same choices. I cannot imagine a better life, a life full of love, teeming with special moments, grounded in trust and mutual respect. On second thought, maybe I would have changed a few things, like saying “I love you” to her more often.

I love you, Juliet. Happy 14th anniversary!

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Making timeSun, 12th Jun '22, 4:50 pm::

This past week I promised myself that I will start making time for myself again. Over two decades ago when I started this blog, I was in the midst of college exams, homework, and projects and barely had time for anything other than studies, chores, and some work. And yet I always had time to write an update here. But last few years have been so exhaustively busy and stressful for me that while I made time to play with the kids and go out with Juliet, I pushed off my personal "me time" aside.

Add to that the long list of paperwork I have had to do and still haven't done, being alone in my office became the most opportune time to check things off the to-do list rather than relax, share my thoughts, or be creative like I used to. I don't even comment online anymore because if I have time to type paragraphs for strangers, I have time to update our Au Pair family profile so that we can find Adele's replacement once she leaves in early September. But thankfully, old tasks are getting done now and new todos aren't piling up like they did a year ago. The Au Pair family profile has been updated. I filled out the claim forms for moving damages from last year. I have the documents I need to register our cars here in Illinois and sign up Leela for day care. And soon my parents room downstairs will be ready.

Maybe then I can write down some of the thoughts that I've been itching to share for quite some time now. So next up will be my treatise on... love.

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Goodbye TeraFri, 10th Jun '22, 8:10 pm::

It was long time coming but I finally laid down my dear little Tera cat to eternal sleep today. I got her and Giga in 2004 and they have been as much a part of my life as any person. She was a shy, quiet cat who used to only come to me for many years. Over time some others charmed her and she started to run away from me because I was the only one to take her to the vet. But last few weeks she started to come up to me for back rubs. I had a feeling it was her time and gave her extra treats and rubs. I am sad she is gone but I am grateful she was there for me on days I needed a warm fuzzy nuzzle.

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SpringtimeThu, 28th Apr '22, 2:05 pm::

My parents just arrived from India last night and finally got to see the kids again after over two years! The last two years changed all of our lives so much and it feels great to be reunited as a family. I've been insanely busy last few months but hopefully now that they're here, I can get some free time to work on my projects, relax, and spend time with family.

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Settled in Fri, 31st Dec '21, 1:15 pm::

We've been in Woodstock, IL for just over a month and I'm glad to share that it feels like home. The main floor of the house is pretty much all setup and the downstairs has a week or two worth of organizing before we can call it done. After we put away the Christmas decorations and clear out the guest rooms, we will be ready for the next phase - construction!

The two big projects we have in the house are (1) installing an elevator between the upstairs kitchen and the gym below and (2) adding a en-suite bathroom to the guest rooms downstairs. Things got way too hectic last few months for us to start these but I'm hoping to have both projects done before my parents visit us in summer 2022. I'm sure there will be a number of smaller projects all year but even without anything major, the house is comfortable, safe, and organized.

I myself have been spending my hobby hours working on automating the house. I didn't want a traditional "smart" home system like Amazon Alexa or Apple HomeKit so I setup Home Assistant by myself. The nice thing is once it is all set, it will not rely on any external system in the cloud to manage my home. Already the Christmas Tree lights turn on/off on a schedule and my office electric candle starts warming up an hour before I start working. In a few weeks, most of the lights upstairs will be connected to the home automation system.

I have a TON of paperwork to do next week, from Juliet's medical to our drivers license and kids' passports. Naveen starts school this Monday and that's going to be a huge change for us too. All in all, looking forward to 2022 and whatever it brings us.

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Thank you AdeleSat, 11th Dec '21, 8:50 am::

After Juliet was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2020, we were struggling to just take care of her medical treatments, let alone raise an infant and a preschool kid during the COVID-19 pandemic. At a friend's advice, I contacted Cultural Care Au Pair and we came across Adele's profile on their site. We reached out to her with our story and she said she was more than excited to be a part of our lives. It's been over a year since we first talked to Adele and today I'd like to thank her for everything she has done for us and beyond.

It is so easy for us to start listing off the wonderful things about Adele - she is kind, always helpful, trustworthy, reliable, and so much more. But simple adjectives cannot capture the extent to which she has positively impacted our life in these few short months. She brought us wonderful gifts and candies from her home in South Africa and got into our family's routine almost instantly. Naveen absolutely adores her and Leela snuggles up to her all day. She took over the day-to-day childcare responsibilities, giving Juliet and I the opportunity to find a new home in a cooler climate that would help with her recovery. Adele absolutely surprised us by saying she would love to help us relocate and would extend her stay to make sure we're fully settled in!

We knew Adele always went the extra mile to take care of our kids but this went above and beyond our expectations of what anyone would do for us. She could have taken the easy route and looked for a new family since we were leaving sunny Florida but instead she chose to sign up for extended cross-country trips, uncomfortable road-side hotel rooms, living out of carry-on luggage, and unpredictable schedule, all while taking care of the kids as gently and calmly as she did before.

I am not exaggerating when I say without Adele, Juliet would still be struggling daily from MS side-effects due to Florida's high humidity. We could not have found our new house near in Woodstock, IL and moved here without Adele's help and for that, we will be eternally grateful to her.

Adele is definitely the big sister for both our kids. They look up to her for advise, assistance, and activities. It didn't take us long to know that she was such an amazing person. The first week she was here, we went out as a family and before I even got out of the car, she was assisting Juliet with her walking cane. It was not much but it showed us her values, upbringing, and morals. That is exactly the person we want our kids to emulate.

She told us early on that one of her goals was to explore US and make new friends so we have always encouraged her to take time off, travel, and meet new people. In that spirit, we took her to all the places she wanted to visit and then some - Florida's Space Coast to watch SpaceX launch at 4am, kayaking in Weekiwachee Springs, long weekend in Disney, NASA Rocket Center in Huntsville, underground tour in Mammoth Cave, Kentucky, and explored a number of parks and museums like Selby Gardens, Georgia Aquarium, and Clearwater Aquarium. She has already been to California, Arizona, and Nevada with friends from Cultural Care and she is going to NYC next week with friends.

Adele has already done so much for us, our goal now is to make sure she has a million great memories of her 18-months in the US.

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