Punctuate Life

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A Heart Full of Gratitude

It is with utmost joy that I write (and now type) this post. A long awaited dream of mine has come true. Roll back to the second post I wrote (The Work Saga –http://www.punctuatelife.com/2012/02/13/the-work-saga/) and you’ll know what I’m talking about. I got a job! A real job! One that pays!

It’s been less than a month but I can’t keep it from the world any longer. No it’s not a writing job. It’s not even a full time job. But it’s just what I need. Part of me was always apprehensive about going to work and leaving the kids in daycare. I’m so used to being there for them when they get back from school that it was inconceivable to me to hand that responsibility to someone else.

Yet part of me craved for a job, for independence and even the companionship of colleagues. This I partially fulfilled by doing volunteer work at the school. The volunteer work (200 something hours spent cutting and gluing, helping with centers, buying supplies) finally paid off and landed me this job.

So at this job, I get to keep the kids with me, the hours work for me and my volunteer work helped me snag this job. I’ll keep you guessing while I go over my long list of things I’m immensely grateful for in my life. It goes without saying that I’m infinitely grateful for this job. I’m blessed to have two little angels for kids. They make each waking day a joy for me. From whiny, cranky, needy babies they have grown to be solid, sound and responsible little kids. I’m in awe of these little wonders that I helped bring into the world.

I’m thankful for an awesome husband who has made my life comfortable and easy. I live an almost stress-free lifestyle thanks to him – he bears the burden of providing for the family, paying the bills, planning for the future. I know he will take care of even the tiniest detail and that we are safe and secure under his wing.

I’m thankful for my family – my parents, brother, in-laws and my adopted Grandma (Ganga). We had the good fortune of celebrating my father-in-law’s 80th birthday with him. Thank you for all your prayers, support and good wishes over the years. A special thank you to my awesome brother who keeps giving me feedback about my blog and doing a lot of PR for me.

I’m thankful for my friends who swoop down to my rescue when family cannot. Without you guys I wouldn’t be writing this blog. Your support and encouragement over the years has built my confidence, has reminded me when I have forgotten who I am and what I am capable of. A special thank you to my bosom friend N for always finding time to comfort me, praying incessantly for me and my family (like her own) and above all for believing in me when I did not believe in myself.

My dear friend S tied the knot this year and I’m so happy for her. When you have a friend you have known from the cradle, you can’t help but want her to be happy and settled (not just money-wise or career-wise but also partner-wise). So I’m thankful that she finally found her soul mate and is starting to live her happily ever after.

I’m thankful that we finally got our green card (this summer) after years of waiting. I’m also very thankful that I got to see fall colors this year after a long time. I’m thankful for good weather out here in Florida (snow is really not my thing). Thankful for food on our table. Thankful for good people in my life. Thankful for every reader (secret ones too) and subscribers. Thankful for my blog. Thankful for my pet fish. Thankful for miles and miles of beaches. Thankful for my little garden and the flowers blooming outside. Thankful for electricity and running water. Thankful for a warm and cozy home. Thankful for Mother Earth. Thankful for sunshine and rain. Thankful for laughter, good health and joy and I wish you all the same. Have a happy Thanksgiving y’all.


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The Hills are Alive…

In the last week of October we drove up to the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. It was a 11-hour drive, mostly on I-95 North. A straight highway with regular cars making their way up North somewhere. Towards the end of day I dozed off for what must have been thirty minutes. I woke up suddenly and found myself in the colorful mountains. The winding road had bursts of color popping up at every bend, the evening sun throwing spotlights on the mountain slopes. Breathtaking, enchanting are merely feeble words to describe what I saw. Whoever included “great” when naming these mountains knew exactly what they were doing.

I was ecstatic and I broke into a song –  The Hills are Alive. For four years I hadn’t set foot on the mountains. For four years I hadn’t filled my lungs with the crisp and fragrant autumn air. For four years I hadn’t witnessed the awe-inspiring season that is fall. Unquestionably, my most favorite season of all. We stopped by a river right by the road, walked over the pebbled and rocky banks and touched the freezing water. My son picked up some rocks to add to our river rock collection. It reminded us of summers spent by the Deerfield river in Mohawk Trail, Massachusetts.

That evening, we reached our hotel, nestled in the mountains. The next day we headed off to the Great Smoky Mountains known for their permanently cloud-capped peaks. God bless the visionaries who fought hard to preserve these scenic places as National Parks for future generations. We drove all the way to Clingman’s Dome which is the highest point in the Smoky Mountains at about 6,600 feet.  Shrouded in fog and freezing cold (at least for us Floridians), we skipped the 30 minute hike to the observatory/dome for the warm and toasty gift shop. After warming up by the fire we headed off to the Cherokee Indian Reservation on the North Carolina side of the park. It boasted the biggest waterfall in the area and it was a short hike to reach it. Doable by our family of kids, elderly parents and us – middle-aged adults. The Mingo falls could be reached after climbing 170 steps and a small stretch of rocky mountain path. It was well worth the hike to see it.

On the way back my husband was compelled to stop at an Indian gift shop to buy a dream catcher. The one we got from Mohawk Trail years ago was falling apart and he wanted to replace it. Dream catcher in hand we headed off for lunch and some more tree ogling, oohing and aahing, and trying to take pictures of tunnels and trickling rivers. On the way we were forced to stop on a narrow road as cars in front of us slowed down and came to a stop. People were jumping out of the cars and heading to the edge of the road overlooking the forest. We were wondering what all the fuss was about and found a big group of people gazing up at the treetops, cameras and phones clicking away furiously. We too looked up in the trees and saw a black bear climbing up a tree.

Now in all my years in the U.S. I had never seen a black bear in the wild. I had always wanted to see one (hop across the road while we were driving or take a drink in the river while we watched from yonder!) My husband (the ever practical one) warned me of the dangers of encountering a bear in the wild. So this was just perfect. We were far enough to be safe but not too far to miss all the action. We simply had to get off and take pictures. One excited person yelled – there’s four of them. But we only spotted three and they looked like cubs. My husband joked that we should be on our way before “Mama Bear” made a grisly appearance.

Next day we packed up and checked out of our beautiful hotel and made our way to Ober, Gatlinburg to board the aerial tramway for a view from way above. It was like seeing the mountains for the first time ever. We took the tramway up and down four times and each time the mountains and the colors looked different because of the light and the position of the sun. We then took a chair lift to a ride called the Alpine slide where you squat in a little car with a hand pedal to go forward or slow down. Our little cars took us down a winding concrete track. The kids loved it and wanted to do it again and again but we had to leave. I wished we could have spent another day in the mountains but we had to say goodbye and reach Atlanta, Georgia by 4.30 p.m.

P’s Dad loves elephants. When he was a young boy growing up in Kerala, many families owned elephants and some used to turn up in his backyard for a treat of bananas by the bunches. He loves telling my kids about elephants and stories from when he was a child. But in his 80 years he had never seen an African Elephant. So P and I were determined to show him one on this trip. Zoo Atlanta boasted not one but two such elephants. But we had to get there in time for the last admission which was at 4.30.

We drove for 3 hours without a break. Not stopping for food or drink. We made it in time to see these magnificent elephants. One was swaying away happily and the other was moving around. We also saw a very restless lion that was growling and pacing around and two hungry pandas munching on bamboo shoots. In an hour the zoo closed and we headed off to our hotel for much needed R & R.

The next day we left early to see Martin Luther King’s house and the Freedom Walkway. We then stopped by the Georgia Aquarium and spent the morning there before heading back to Florida. The sights of the city and aquarium held no magic for me for my heart was still in the mountains. I simply had to close my eyes and I was there in the midst of the trees in their glorious hues, feeling alive, feeling surprisingly healthy and happy, the melody in my heart rising to my lips until I could hold it in no more and I burst into song…The Hills are Alive.

 


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Driving Miss DC…

How some of us take driving for granted! An article in Reader’s Digest about a Saudi woman who couldn’t drive (like all women in Saudi) got me thinking of the time I couldn’t drive. No, I didn’t ever set foot in Saudi Arabia. I lived most of my life in India, where my grandma’s driver drove me to school and back or I carpooled with my best friend G. When I got older my Dad took over. He used to drop me off at my office and then head to work. In the evening I simply walked, took a bus or an auto ( a 3-wheeled vehicle with a hood and a meter – cheaper option than a taxi). Driving was never a necessity. My mom never learnt to drive and my grandma had a driver. But my grandma wanted me to learn to drive. I scoffed at her saying I didn’t own a car.(Vanity! What else can I say?) She insisted that I should but I never heeded her advice. Oh how I regretted it! Not when I was in India, but when I got married and moved to the U.S. of A.

In the U.S. unless you live in a big city, you can’t really rely on public transportation. One is pretty much homebound without a driver’s license. Add kids and biting cold winters to the equation and the picture gets pretty bleak! Most brides from India get busy getting their licenses or applying for jobs. I couldn’t apply for a license without an SSN and my visa did not permit me to work in the U.S. It was a dependent visa and that pretty much described my situation. Three months after I got to the U.S. I was pregnant with my first child. Severe nausea kept me in bed most of the day. I couldn’t step out of the house. I was afraid to go grocery shopping (what if I threw up all over the meat section?). I was afraid to go to my neighbor’s apartment (what if I threw up all over her carpet?). Driving was the last thing on my mind. My husband did the grocery shopping and took me to my doctor’s appointments.

This continued after my daughter was born. My husband had to take off when our baby girl got sick or had a doctor’s appointment. We shopped for groceries over the weekend. If it was too cold he went alone. I pretty much gave up on the idea that I would ever get a license. The only time I regretted not having a license was when my husband had a kidney stone. He was in excruciating pain and had to drive himself to the emergency room.

After we celebrated my daughter’s first birthday, I found out I was pregnant. The nausea wasn’t as bad as the first time around but I barely had any energy to take care of A and myself. After my son was born we had so much going on with him that another couple of years went by. When I was finally ready to get my permit, the DMV insisted that I didn’t have enough documents to be granted one. A few frustrating years later, which saw my husband skip around his work schedule trying to accommodate doctor’s appointments (times 2!), trips to the preschool and everything else in between, I finally got my employment authorization. Now I had enough documents to get my learner’s permit.

In India depending on age and marital status, either dads or husbands teach their daughters or wives driving. Typically early in the morning when the roads are deserted or in the outskirts of the city where traffic is negligible. My husband’s Dad taught him driving when he was old enough to apply for a license. So my husband took me to a parking lot for my first lesson. By then my kids were older and we had wonderful friends who volunteered to baby sit. After driving around in a few parking lots at 5 m.p.h. I realized this was not a good idea. My husband was afraid I’d dent the car (hence the 5 m.p.h. speed limit). Every lesson saw us getting more and more stressed out. Finally we both agreed that I should just go to a driving school.

In 2009, after my grandma passed away I was determined to get my license. It was my tribute to her. But just after I finished my first lesson we got news from my husband’s company that we had to move to Florida. After a break of several months (as we settled down in Florida) I had to get my license and get it fast. Work pressure was high, my husband’s office was far away from home and working from home was not an option. I signed up for weekend lessons. My instructor (whom I will never forget) was a grandma with a great sense of humor. She teased and poked fun at me to get me relaxed. A few lessons later I was ready to take the test. After two attempts I finally got my license. It sits in my purse along with a picture of my grandma. I’m sure she’s saying – finally that girl got some sense in her and got her license!

I’m not one of those people who enjoy driving. I’d rather be driven around so I can take in all the sights around me. But I realize what a blessing it is to have a license (and a car) as I pass the bus stop on rainy days. It’s a blessing to be able to drive and it’s a blessing to have people to drive you around when you can’t. So thank you Papa, Dadima (and all her drivers) and my husband who still loves to drive me around sometimes!