July 23, 2014

Summary

Tomorrow, Celeste (aka Average Jane) and I are heading to San Jose for BlogHer 14.  We both attended the first one in 05 and have attended many more after that (although, I missed 07, 12, and 13).  BlogHer 05 appealed to me because I was 7 months pregnant with my oldest child at the time and I saw the conference as a fun trip to take with Celeste before I became shackled with the duties of a parenthood.  Little did I know that BlogHer would end up launching some amazing friendships and connections for me over the next 9 years.

Anyway, I'm stealing Celeste's idea of "getting to know to me" since I have not been posting regularly for a long time.

I'm the one standing in the back.  This is dinner with a group of mothers from my kids' school -- so happy to have found a nice, laidback group of ladies.  We have a GREAT school and neighborhood -- I am so proud to be a part of it.

First and foremost, these days, I am a parent with my husband Manoj-- my son Arun is 8.5 and my daughter Anjali is 7 (aka Team Chaos).  They are at the age where they still take a lot of my time.  HOWEVER, they are also at the age where they are so much freaking FUN to hang out with that I am trying to enjoy every moment I can before they become teenagers and realize what an impossibly boring dork I am.  Besides, who else will watch the Powerpuff Girls and play the WiiU with me?


Speaking of my husband, Manoj is a serial entrepreneur -- we are always working on a business idea of his.  I do not really have the personality of an entrepreneur but I am grateful that his tenacity, work ethic and awesome ideas have pulled our life in this direction.  It is exciting to be on the fringes of whatever he is working on and fortunately, my skillset often allows me to help him in a variety of ways.   When Manoj isn't working, he is always hanging out with our kids.


When I am not being a parent or a wife, I am usually sucked into one of my million hobbies -- I am addicted to hobbies and learning new things.  My favorite hobbies are reading, knitting and arachnids. I am pretty serious about my reading and try to get through at least 50 books a year (Yes, I'm on Goodreads -- friend me up, yo!)   In the past year, I have been learning how to sew and have been dabbling in photography.  I also love cooking, but I consider that a lifeskill, not a hobby.

Besides two kids, Manoj and I have are crazy about our pets.   We have 3 cats (Pearson, Harry and Sam), 2 tarantulas (Nya and Little Celeste -- yes, named after my friend Celeste, with her permission, natch), a fish (Alex), a gecko (Gordon), and a dog (Lucy).  We do take our pets very seriously and responsible pet ownership is a pet peeve of mine (pardon the pun!).  I wrote a post about things to consider when making the decision to get a pet, particularly exotics.

I have mostly been a SAHM with a bit of WAHM here and there.  However, a few years ago when Arun started Kindergarten, I began freelance contracting work -- mostly in IT audit, Sarbanes-Oxley and internal audit projects, process documentation and improvement, and some systems development.   I have loads of opinions on the topics of working mothers since I have literally DONE IT ALL.  However, I have found that no matter what I say, someone is offended and mostly, I just keep quiet these days.  Suffice it to say, I am so glad that I was able to stay home with my babies and those early years with them are some of the happiest memories of my life.  I am very grateful that Manoj and I are in a situation where I can do freelancing and have the ability to take on projects with flexibility so that I can be home in time to pick up the Team from school.

To wrap this up, I would like to say that I really miss writing.  I lost my direction and I am hoping to find some inspiration at this year's BlogHer.    I have always been my own Audience of One and I do not see that changing.  While I do hope that my kids will get a kick out it of one day, I have always written this blog for ME.

June 25, 2014

Here.

I could go into details as to why I have not written for so long.  Most of the details are boring and simply boil down to “Kelli is too damn lazy.”  It is odd that I did not share much from 2013 because Manoj and I realized some long-held dreams and it was truly an inspiring year for us.   We sold our stock in Manoj’s business, did so many house projects that my head spun, and I ventured out into freelancing full-time.  I even picked up two new hobbies that I had wanted to try for a long, long time – photography and sewing.  Although truthfully, the sewing was put on hold a bit when I started working, but I am going to pick it back up in July.  As a Serial Hobbyist, it was exciting to challenge myself and I am always on the hunt for learning something new (Zentangle, you are officially on notice).

Anyway!   You read that correctly, I have been …..“working”.  While I have always been sarcastic about  about my “working” or “not working” status, it has been interesting to have been 100% billable the past 11 months.  I am winding down my current contract and will be “not working” for awhile.  Mostly, I feel very gratefully humbled that I had two awesome clients who provided me with steady income and challenging projects.  I am also very happy with the contracting life and appreciate that we have the sort of flexibility that allows for it.  Contracting and consulting can be risky and scary at times, but Manoj and I have been very fortunate to have found some great clients. We both have had wiggle room in our schedules so the kids didn’t have to do after-school programs at all, which made things so much simpler (the kids were very vocal about not wanting to do after-care programs. )   Now that they are out of school, it has gotten much more complicated.  When I roll off this project,   I am going to take the rest of the summer off and just enjoy my kiddos.  In the fall, Manoj and I will consider what my next steps should be.  

Ah, Team Chaos!  Yes, they are eagerly anticipating the end of this client so that I can be home with them this summer.  The hodge-podge of childcare solutions has grown tiresome and they are ready for me to be home during the day.  Interestingly, my  change in “working” status means pretty much nothing to them – all they care about it is whether they have to go to daycare or not(both are adamant about NOT going to daycare because they would rather be home in the summer so that they don’t miss out on playing with their friends, trips to the zoo, etc.)  I always chuckle at the statements from working moms who say their kids “respect them more” because they hold an outside job.    Frankly?  My children’s respect isn’t based upon my work status – it is whether I am a good parent and a good role model.

Speaking of Team Chaos – they are still going strong!  Arun is 8.5yo and looking forward to 3rd grade in the fall.  Like many boys his age, he is obsessed with his pets, Minecraft, Clash of Clans, and Legos.   Unlike many boys his age, he still loves to snuggle in our laps and give hugs. 



Anjali will be 7yo in a few weeks and is excited about 2nd grade.  Like many girls her age, she is obsessed with her pets, Legos, her friends, and her art/crafts.


Mostly with these two, I sit around and feel undeservedly lucky.  They are both extremely social with tons of friends and are doing well in school.

Speaking of school, I am so grateful for our small neighborhood school – each grade has 2-3 sections and because I have been able to be involved with the school, I know so many folks associated with the school – teachers, parents, students, etc.  We have a good school and a GREAT neighborhood.  When we bought our house, we were not even thinking of those things – so what a happy surprise this has all been.

Anyway, I am SO excited about the rest of this summer – I have some fun things planned and hopefully, this post will be impetus I needed to get writing again. 

Overall, I will always regret not having written more last year but there is something to be said for a fresh start.


July 19, 2013

Using All The Crayons

I asked Arun to draw a picture of his dream vacation.  Apparently, Disney World can suck it because my kid wants to go to India with his daddy to catch cobras and pit vipers.

I have not said much regarding the Trayvon Martin case yet because frankly, I was too damned busy listening (per Kelly Wickham's request).  I've also been pondering Te-Nehisi Coates' observations.  I have been following Slate's coverage (and felt my heart sink when the uncomfortable prediction was offered that we would see an acquittal of Zimmerman.)  And then, I click on more links. Which lead me to yet MORE links.

And then I listen some more.

You would think that my being married to a person of color grants me some Special Pass, a unique revocation of my White Privilege, but it does not quite work that way.  Oh sure, I gain some perspective when I hear folks compliment his English.  I gain insight when I hear him take calls with patients and the patients question his use of the name "George" as if it was his lame attempt to Anglicize himself.   Things certainly begin to click for me when I hear folks ask his location and express disbelief that he is truly in Kansas and instead, would rather belief he is huddled in a stifling cubicle deep in the heart of Bangalore.

Nope.  There are no Special Passes.

When I first heard of this notion called White Privilege, it rankled me.  Seriously, What. The. Hell.  White Privilege? Meaning the results of all of my hard work was actually based upon the color of my skin?   After all, I did not feel very privileged growing up in crummy, small Kansas towns with a father still deep in the throes of PTSD from his stint in Vietnam (not to mention my parents' incessant fighting and eventual divorce). Oh, and I can definitely report that my pasty, pale skin did not feel privileged working through college and later, still paying off student loans (certainly, there were no Moaning Myrtle scholarships to be had.)  Furthermore, the machine that graded my CPA exam probably did not care that I am white. Indeed.

And yet.

I have never had reason to be scared of a cop.  I freely wear hoodies.  I have never been followed by security in a department store.  I have a HUGE temper, but no one has ever referred to me as an Angry White Woman (complete with predefined character attributions). In fact, I can only remember one time I have felt discriminated based upon color (let's leave misogyny out of this for now-- that is for another time entirely).  Manoj and I were out for dinner in Maine about 11 years ago and the waitress was extremely rude and curt with us. Manoj and I tend to give long leashes for our waitstaff because we respect how hard they work.  So, we simply thought we had gotten a server who was having a bad day.  Until I noticed her 2 tables over laughing, small-talking and offering up some really good customer service.  And then, I watched her come to OUR table and her demeanor did a 180.

However, honestly? The experience wasn't horrifying for me.  Because it was isolated.   It gave me some acumen, to be sure, but I did not leave the restaurant scarred for life.  And besides, the waitress was being crappy to me only because I was with a person of color.  I walked out of that restaurant still WHITE.  My husband was still BROWN.

Oh, and here is the real kicker -- because of my WHITE skin, my kids are now so ethnically ambiguous that I may never have to worry about them wearing hoodies on a rainy night as they dash to the store to buy Skittles.

Now that I have reconsidered this White Privilege gig I have going on, what am I going to do about it?  What can any of us do about it?  Yes, we need to listen, but then we need to talk about it.  And we need to quit pretending that kids do not see color.  Ever since my kids have grasped a crayon in their grubby paws, they have always been conscientious of coloring their family members the correct, corresponding shade (and as I have written before, we are very frank about color with our kids.)

Quit chirping brightly "my kids are colorblind!"  Your kids are not colorblind, they just don't care! Do what you can to keep it that way.  Encourage questions!  The other day, my son's friend was asking who Arun's mama was and who Anjali's daddy simply because he was confused by all the shades we have going on in our family.  And this kid is African-American!  At one point, he thought he shouldn't be asking the questions, but I encouraged him to finish his question.  And then, I gently explained to him what happens with mixed-race kids.

I can't change any laws, but I can keep a careful eye on who I vote for.

I can't change others' racist views but I can discourage the conversation or call out racist views.

I am in charge of two small humans who have the potential to positively influence others.  And when their friends come to visit and are in my home, I have those moments as well to reflect a positive attitude.

In the meantime, I need to get back to listening.




July 9, 2013

Her Special Ingredient is Chemical X

This morning, I told Anjali that I would be writing a blog post for her 6th birthday.  She insisted that she be the one to choose all the pictures...........

Anjali and The Black Elephant
She is going to start taking piano lessons this fall.  I have been waiting for this moment since the day she was born so that I may live vicariously through her ..... as is my destiny.  Because this is all about ME, right?

After her first dance recital, she declared she was ready for something new.  First swimming, and then piano.  I wasn't much of a Stage Mom, but I could be a Music Lessons Mom in a quarter note.  Totally.

The Butterfly Palace in Branson MO is a yearly tradition for us and each visit is a 3+ hour affair that ends with me begging to leave.  This was Manoj's first visit with us and I think he was shocked at the tenacity our kids have for butterfly wrangling. 

I cannot express how impressed I was with her bravery at her recital-- not only did she perform onstage on the huge, professional stage at the Lied Center at the University of Kansas, but she SMILED the entire time.  She is so shy and reserved in school settings, this was a shock to see her so comfortable on stage.

I love this snap because in her hand are pieces of salt water taffy.  We go to Branson every year and she begins talking about the candy store months before the trip.  It reminds me of the time when she was so, so small and she declared emphatically to Manoj, "Daddy, food is my FAVORITE."

Speaking of "favortie"..... Her favorite TV shows are the Wild Kratts and the Powerpuff Girls.  Her favorite Powerpuff Girl is Bubbles because "she is the creative one."  When she grows up, she wants to be "an artistic veterinarian".  However, according to her, "you have to go to school to be a veterinarian, but you can't go to school to be an artist.  You are either born with it... or you are not". (Captain Subtext guesses she thinks she was born with it.)   Her favorite books are Fancy Nancy and Curious George.  Her favorite restaurants are Wei-Wei Thai Place and Taco Bueno.  For breakfast, she likes to eat waffles or an organic veggie burrito with Cholula sauce.  She has a crazy sweet tooth which her father is more than happy to indulge.  Her favorite song is Taylor Swift's "I Knew You Were Trouble".  She is in complete charge of her hair, her wardrobe and her fingernail polish (and if it were her choice, she would be in charge of some makeup, too.  Argh.)  She mostly thinks boys are stinky, except for her brother who is either her best friend or her worst enemy, depending on the hour of the day. She spends hours upon hours in our dining room creating elaborate construction paper masterpieces (and complementary elaborate messes.....)

At night when we snuggle in bed, I tell her the story of how madly I had wanted a little girl ever since I was a little girl myself and how I had wanted a little girl just.... like.... her.  

And it is true.  She is exactly who I had always dreamed of.

Anjali Lilly
Bug Eyed #2
I am sneaking this picture in, despite her Lack of Approval.  I love this picture -- she is just a day old and it reminds me of how in awe I was of her.  Since she was my 2nd baby, I was completely at ease with her and co-sleeping and breastfeeding.... ALL of it.   I remember relishing the fact  that I had a baby boy AND a baby girl.  I felt like the luckiest mama in the world.

And I still do.

May 7, 2013

Having All the Things

The alarm goes off at 5:15am.  I blearily wander to the bathroom and hop into the shower.  As I gradually wake up, I mentally run through a list of all the things that must be accomplished for the day.  I finish my shower, get dressed and stumble downstairs. I put the tea kettle on, feed the cats, mist tarantula cages, let the dog out, let various cats in and out (and inevitably, in again).  By 6:30am, I am headed out the door to work where I bury myself in an exciting extravaganza of process documentation and identifying the associated risks and controls. My client, a giant packaging provider in the consumer products and foodservice industries, is a dream to work with and one of the best clients I have ever had.  Everyone is very agreeable! and organized! and forthcoming! and has made this project go so, so smoothly.  At 3pm, I will hurriedly pack up my laptop and dash to the school to retrieve Team Chaos. Sometimes, there is work to be finished.  Sometimes, there is not.

Yes, I am working.  While it has never seemed to me there was a time where I was not working, society demands the distinction.  Last year while on another contract, I wrote a post titled “On Working” that detailed my hazy, mixed feelings on this so-called “working thing” and that ambivalence has still not cleared.   I love making money (along with the rest of humanity?) I like relieving Manoj of some of our fiscal responsibilities.  I enjoy getting dressed up every day.  I appreciate that I am working with intelligent professionals.  I relish pulling out Big School Words mixed with Business Clich├ęs.  I love digging deep into a Visio diagram and even deeper into my brain as I recall past knowledge and experiences.  I like hanging out with men for a change and talking sports and politics and pop culture all in my favorite sarcastic, cynical sense of humor (I always had a difficult time finding my Sarcastic, Cynical Tribe of SAHMs. Where were they??!!)

I feel the tide turning with a slow, creeping ascent.  When my kids were little, I was not conflicted about “just staying home” with them.  Not ever once. My self-esteem remained intact, I was never bored and I certainly never thought that I had tossed some feminist agenda to the wind!  However, this current school year has introduced a subtle shift to our lives.  Anjali is in afternoon Kindergarten and I cherished our mornings together while appreciating my afternoons all to myself.  I was able to do quick errands, visit my grandma, volunteer at the school and sneak in some reading or gym time.   I suddenly found myself with a luxurious abundance of free time and unapologetically, I was enjoying it. 

Obviously, accepting this current project ended all of that and frankly, the transition was painful.  Anjali has missed me terribly and has expressed herself in extremes – either with sadness or anger.  One day, she might sob uncontrollably at how she misses me.  The next day, she might completely reject me and drift toward Manoj.  I rarely cook these days.  The house is a complete disaster.  And the worst part is oh, how I miss my kids.  They are asleep when I leave the house and not seeing them until 3:40pm each day is difficult.

I don’t know what our new life will hold for us this fall when both kids are in school full-time.  I hope to find a solution that will allow me the flexibility to be home with them after they get out of school since rushed, frantic evenings are not a lifestyle I ever want. However, I also know that I simply cannot drop my children off at school, and then sit around all day just waiting for them to come home. The days of gin-soaked afternoons playing canasta with bland snacks served on melamine plates belong to the likes of Betty Draper.

Yes, I love Staying Home but only when my children are actually home with me.