Saturday, October 14, 2017

OMY: 1 September - 12 October (W8-13)

So my weekly blogs became bi-weekly blogs and have now become monthly. Such is the life of a working mom, toward the end of the first trimester of the school year. September was a complete blur, but now we're ensconced in a beautiful fall break. Anything seems possible! More on that for the next post. Below are just a few images from the last six weeks. Most of these are of Chloe -- apologies in advance. 

Sat 2 September

Sometimes monsoon is quite beautiful. I'll really miss this view.

Mon 4 September

Taking a selfie. Chloe's really good at looking possessed, apparently.

Tue 5 September 

Chloe's so advanced -- she's already *digesting* good literature at six months. (I couldn't resist.)

Wed 6 September

This was my last WS Cross Country Day. I ran with the Grade 11 / 12 girls for the last time, representing the Merlins (red shirts). It had been forever since I ran, because of Chloe, so it was good to find out I could still do it.

Thur 7 September

We gave Chloe her first solid food after she turned six months. She was very skeptical of this new taste and texture -- banana. Now she loves them and eats with abandon!

Fri 8 September

It's hard to see in this photo, but this tree was a sign that monsoon was on its way out. Many of the ferns growing on the trunk are yellow.

Mon 11 September

Where's that baby?

Wed 13 September

More first foods -- apples!

Sat 16 September

It's really difficult to keep anything tidy with a baby. I admit I'm a bit OCD about putting things back in their rightful places, so it's been tough to deal with all the physical stuff that goes along with parenting.

Mon 18 September

I swear this is the last "Chloe eating..." photo. But I had to document just how Indian this baby is -- she's munching on chapati here.


Wed 4 October

After a rough night, it was good to see a happy baby. I think she's saying, "Hey mom and dad, I'm seven months old now!"


Mon 9 October

This past week was Activity Week. I'm usually with the older kids, trekking or on a cultural trip, but this year I had to stay closer to home so I could feed Chloe. I was assigned to work with the ECP (like preschool) and Kindergarten kids, and we had a blast. Here we are learning about Korean culture at the Juns' house. 

Saturday, September 2, 2017

OMY: 19-31 August (W6&7)

We somehow made it to September, tripping through the first seven weeks of this academic year! Monsoon is still raging, though the ferns are yellowing -- a sign, I hope, of the waning rains. I wasn't super consistent about taking photos this week... too much sleep deprivation.

Wed 23 August
I call this one "Aftermath of Co-sleeping." Chloe's been sleeping poorly for a bit now, so out of necessity I've returned to co-sleeping with her so I can easily feed her in bed and allow Chris to get some good sleep.

Sat 26 August
At least she's cute -- and getting stronger by the day! Chloe often does these Pilates-style lifts during playtime now.

Sun 27 August
Chris and I toasted the end of his last day at Proofreading Pal with some nice gin and tonics. No more Sat/Sun work shifts!

Tue 29 August
This is a tired momma, getting ready for another night of (maybe) sleep. I'm clinging to the "this too shall pass" comment I hear so often.

Wed 30 August
Chloe is getting better at taking milk from a bottle -- finally! What this means for me, though, is more pumping... Not my favorite, but I'm getting into a rhythm.

Thur 31 August
It was a big football week at WS... We had Interhouse competitions in the AMs twice this week, and Goalathon (a charity tourney) this weekend. More to come...

**

Also, here's a poem I've been tinkering with for a few weeks. Not "finished," perhaps, but a fairly firm draft...

Motherhood
Seeing you --
your skin tightly tired,
the slight thumbprint bruises
beneath each eye --

I grasp for words, pull at “diminished,”
“less than.” You seem a scanty echo
of your previous self.  

But this picture misses out:

the tender gaze you offer your daughter
as she stalks that painted alligator across the room,
clumsy, but determined.

your growing smile as she
pounds indiscriminately on your beat-up piano,
making something only she could call “music.”

that thrill of recognition you feel as she
wraps her plastic doll deep in her arms --

whispering “I love you, baby.”

**

Have a beautiful Labor Day weekend, America-friends!
love, mel

Saturday, August 19, 2017

OMY: 5-18 August (W4&5)

Due to some technological issues, I couldn't post last week. Here's what we've been up to!

Sat 5 August
Chris spends most of his weekend days proofreading, so this is a common sight on a Saturday. However, soon he'll be all done with his required editing shifts, so we'll have more fun family time on the weekend. Yay!

Sun 6 August
Monsoon days... At least I didn't have to go to school...

Mon 7 August
I go a little nuts on amazon.in, especially since we now have a baby. What a random order this was: toy box for Chloe's growing pile of crap, real vinegar, and chocolate-flavored creamer.

Tue 8 August

We've been cleaning out some drawers with a look to the future, but for some reason every time I find these temporary tattoos of our friends' faces, I can't throw them out... :)

Wed 9 August
One perk of coming home to feed Chloe midday is access to fresh food from our ayah, Shanti. Here are some of her amazing aloo paranthe. So yum.
Thur 10 August
Now that she's into month 5, Chloe's been rolling from back to front like a boss. Unfortunately she still often gets stuck in this position and begins to cry, but she's getting better at rolling out of it.

Sat 12 August
Chloe's been more and more interested in Sadie these days. It's pretty cute.

Tue 15 August
It's my last Indian (and Korean) Independence Day, and Chloe's first. We got dressed up for a day on the town...

Tue 15 August
I spent a lot of the ceremony pacing around with Chloe near the table tennis area; parenting certainly changes my perspective on different events - literally and figuratively.

Tue 15 August
In honor of Korean Independence, our Korean staff/students shared this terrifying but fun game!

Tue 15 August
An unfortunately blurry photo of Grade 11, the class I advise.

Wed 16 August
Character diagramming with A Passage to India with my Grade 12 students. I have a lot of fun unpacking literature with these guys and gals.

***

Some other stuff happened, but I clearly didn't document it. It's amazing how quickly this school year is going...

Have a beautiful week,
love, mel 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

OMY: 29 July to 4 August (W3)

We survived another week of work and parenting -- phew! Here are a few photo highlights...

Sat 29 July
Chloe looking hipster-ish for our walk around the chakkar! I really feel she looks like the captain from Jaws in this hat, for some unknown reason...

Sun 30 July
Chloe loves hanging out and squirming around in her diaper. Clothes are for losers!

Mon 31 July
I finally made one of those cheesy inspirational walls in my classroom out of abandoned student art. It helps brighten up our windowless room...

Thur 3 August
Chloe turned five months old today, and celebrated with a bit of flight.

Fri 4 August
Friday was advisor night. My ten advisees came up for dinner and some hanging out. As you can see, at my place, advisor night = junk food... 

***

Hope all is well out in the world beyond...
love, mel

Sunday, July 30, 2017

one more year: 19-28 July (W1&2)

Many of you know that Chris, Chloe, and I are saying goodbye to Woodstock School and India at the end of this academic year. We're returning to the U.S. for a number of reasons, but mainly because we want Chloe to be closer to her extended family. Though we're excited for this transition, it's also bittersweet. I love teaching at Woodstock, and we've built a home here that will be difficult to unravel.

Because there's a lot we hope to remember about this place and our lives here, I promised myself that I would take a photo each day, and then post the results in a short blog post. I'm already sure that I can't maintain this goal, since I didn't even meet it for the first week! Oh well. Here's what I did snap: "issue" #1.

Wed 19 July
On the first day of school, we took Chloe to day care, a service we hope to use 2-3 times per week so Chris gets a break and can get more work done. It did not go well, to say the least. She was happy when Daddy was there, but after he left, she freaked out and screamed so much she gave herself hiccups for most of the day! We'll try again soon, but for now we're trying to get her through her first cold...

Thur 20 July
Prepping to teach In Cold Blood by Truman Capote and The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga. Re-reading the books I teach is a pleasurable part of the process!

Fri 21 July
Chloe's been pretty squirmy these days; it's hard to capture our active little girl!

Sat 22 July
I'm sure when we're back in the U.S. I'll miss grocery shopping like this! Each week I make a meal plan and then draw up a list that I call into a local shop. Later that day, my groceries magically appear at my house courtesy of a coolie. Though we can't get everything we like, it's certainly less stressful than battling the crowds at large U.S. stores like Wegman's and Stop & Shop.

Sun 23 July
Happy anniversary to us: six years of marriage and thirteen years together (we think). Celebrating has changed a lot since we had a kid. Instead of going out, we spent some time enjoying chai and banana cake.

Mon 24 July
Monsoon views from my office window. Since my classroom this year is window-less, my colleagues were nice enough to give me some window space in our shared office.

Wed 25 July (?)
Chloe looks like a possessed stay-puff marshmallow kiddo in her sleep suit. We shot this as we got her ready for bed. 

**

Have a beautiful week, xoxo, mel

Sunday, February 19, 2017

dharamshala round 2: peace & compassion

Each morning my spirits fall as I scroll through the news articles on my FB feed: travel restrictions on Muslims from abroad, a scarily unqualified set of cabinet members, an oil spill in the Dakotas, attempts to defund Planned Parenthood.

I feel distanced from all that’s happening in my country. I feel powerless. I feel cold.

Of course, one silver lining of this awful administration is that we’ve seen a surge in protest and political involvement. People refuse to sit idly by as our nation and its values disintegrate around them. I teared up scanning images from the Women’s March on Washington, reading poetry from friends, and watching videos of the recent protests at airports around the nation. Some paint this uproar and reaction as pointless time-wasting from a group of petulant babies, and others say it’s a sign of the power of the people. Both narratives force dynamic action into static black-and-white paper cuttings, beautiful but flawed.

All of this political turmoil has me thinking a lot about compassion.

This past October 2016, I had the privilege to chaperone one of Woodstock’s Activity Week trips to Dharamshala, a small city in Northern India. Though the bus ride was 14 hours of pure hell and my anxiety at shepherding seniors around was distracting, the trip afforded us some amazing opportunities.

One such opportunity was meeting His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, and then hearing him address a group of Chinese pilgrims – all of whom had to conceal their real reason for being in India due to the tenuous relationship between Tibet and China.


This wasn’t my first time seeing HHDL speak; he had addressed the Woodstock community several years ago. But I was again reminded of what an amazing person and leader he is. HHDL has a certain irrepressible spark and spirit. He glows with joy and love, even when he speaks of the terrible ills in this world.

As many know, one of HHDL’s main messages is to show compassion to all those around us. When we visited HHDL’s temple in Dharamshala, I spent some time meditating on this idea a bit:

“He says we must live with compassion – not just claim it as a belief, but actually make it true within our hearts. He asks a lot of us.

It is easy indeed to think we are compassionate people. But consider who it is we show our (often inconsistent) compassion to: our family, our friends, our pets, our colleagues, those who share our belief systems. How much harder it is to show compassion to those beyond the small circles ringing our own private worlds…”

**

I had scrawled these notes in a small notebook amid the clamor of other visitors and pilgrims, in a completely different headspace than the one I occupy now. But my reflection seems to me linked to a major problem in America these days: we’ve lost sight of compassion.

The root of the word compassion, from compati, is “to suffer with” (Oxford English Dictionary). It would be easy for me to demonize Trump and his supporters by arguing that they don’t “suffer with” or have sympathy for those in need. Indeed, some scholars, like George Lakoff, have divided the left and the right into two camps: liberals who follow the nurturing parent model and conservatives who follow the strict father model (Lakoff). Liberals, then, might seem more compassionate than conservatives, more willing to support high taxes and government welfare programs, to welcome refugees, to protect freedoms for all people.

But this oversimplifies and skews the narrative, and my summary of Lakoff’s research is another example of that. Lakoff found that conservatives do feel they are showing compassion through a “tough love” approach that they hope will allow citizens to build independence from the government. Nothing is as simple as it seems.**

We all must learn to feel the sufferings of one another, which are varied and complicated but always there. As many political pundits have noted, Trump’s base is full of people suffering from job / wage stagnation and a melting-away of the values they hold dear.

I unfortunately don’t have any real suggestions to solve the divisive politics in America, and at this point my frustration with the Trump administration makes me want to fight its every decision tooth and nail. However, it would be wise for us to remember HHDL’s challenge and remain sensitive to the unique sufferings of those around us. We’re all human, after all.  

love, mel

PS -- If you'd like to see more photos from our trip, check out FB. 

Works Cited

“Compassion.” Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford University, 2017.  En.oxforddictionaries.com, https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/compassion. Accessed 7 Feb. 2017.


Lakoff, George. “Metaphor, Morality, and Politics, Or, Why Conservatives Have Left Liberals in the Dust.” Social Research, vol. 62, no. 2, 1995. http://www.wwcd.org/issues/Lakoff.html. Accessed 17 Feb. 2017. **Thanks to my poli sci-trained husband for his help with Lakoff’s work!**

Thursday, January 19, 2017

eden in the punjab

India used to feel overwhelming, its normal street life a constant tangle of overstimulation. But it was our fourth year here, and so I wandered the hot, dusty streets of Chandigarh unimpressed with the tinny beeps of rickshaws, the vivid sarees, the cacophony of smells -- burning garbage, ripened mangoes, frying onion and garlic. It was just another Indian city, comparable to Jaipur or parts of Delhi.

When we first entered the Rock Garden -- pretty much the city’s main tourist attraction -- we didn’t expect much.

smallest ticket window ever!

We wandered through a few interesting courtyards divided by low sandstone walls. The walls themselves were adorned with broken tiles, bits of ceramic, pieces of electrical outlets, wires -- all sorts of castoff garbage made beautiful again when they were united in the space. We wound past tall stacks of red clay pots and groupings of disintegrating human figurines placed in symmetrical lines across tiled expanses.




“This is cool,” I said to fellow explorers Chris, Sydney, and Rachel. “But it’s much smaller than I thought. The article I read made it seem like this garden is huge.”

The crowds of tourists, too, diminished my experience. I silently judged people taking what seemed like thousands of selfies against the patterned walls -- even as I took my fair share of photos.




But further explorations extinguished my doubts. A few bends brought us to the more expansive sections of the garden. Soon, the squat, man-made walls gave way to large, moss-covered rock faces and a dramatic waterfall that sprayed its refreshing mist on passers-by.



With each turn came new delights. One brought us to crowds of animals -- (thankfully) docile monkeys, elegant peacocks, proud, white horses.







Another ushered us into a huge open area with an amphitheater and undulating rows of columns hosting swings. Visitors of all ages and backgrounds swung with abandon, marveled at the scope, or picnicked in the shade.



I couldn’t stop smiling. Nowhere else in India had I witnessed such pure joy -- joy for joy’s sake. Though some might judge the statues rough or crude, they were such an outpouring of pure creativity. This was a place we were meant to revel in, one that felt distanced from the city and its business. Stop, the garden commanded. Look around, forget your worries.

Visitors to and residents of Chandigarh owe the pleasure of its famed garden to Nek Chand (1924-2015). Chand spent his days working as a roads inspector in the newly forming Chandigarh, which sprung up in the 1950s as India’s first planned city (Britannica par. 2). While Le Corbusier worked to design and build a modern city with spacious roads and cleanly defined sections, Chand secretly built a meandering world of statues on protected forests in the outskirts of the city (Economist par. 4-5). When the city discovered the hidden garden, they decided to help Chand complete his work, rather than razing the place (Britannica par. 3). We’re lucky they did.


Works Cited


Blumberg, Naomi. “Nek Chand: Indian Artist.” Brittanica, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Nek-Chand. Accessed 21 October 2016.

“From Rubbish, Beauty.” The Economist, 27 June 2015. Print.