Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Greek Salad and Feta Cheese - A Valuable lesson on dignity of labor

All I remember - my feet were killing me. As I crashed into my bed without even taking a shower, I thought 'Man! I will never do that again'.

It was the summer of 2001 and as graduate students in Virginia we had a few extra hours to do extra work. One of Suresh's roommate brought home a flyer that called for 'Volunteers' for the Greek festival. Me and my roomies decided that it would a good way to make a little extra money. We had no idea what we were signing up for! But I remember that it was the best lesson of my life.

We left early morning to the help at the Greek festival. I think the pay was minimum wages i.e. $5.15. We each had different uses for the money. I was planning to pool it toward money for buying a second hand car. I think one of my roommates wanted to buy a ticket to visit her brother in California and she didn't want her brother to pay for it. I cant remember the other reasons. But the primary reason was - it was summer and most everyone worked 40 hours.
So we reached the Greek orthodox church  and were shown to a dark room that was used for salad preparation! Salad preparation!!!! That had got to be the easiest thing ever. What started out as fun and laughter turned out to be a long dragged day. We stood there for several hours. I cannot remember how long! Boring work - as we dumped lettuce leaves, tomatoes and feta cheese into small plastic boxes. I had seen it been done in videos, I had heard about it and in my life I never thought I would be standing in an assembly line of people putting together a salad. We had to make sure each box had just the right amount of ingredients. As the day went by, maybe we got a little clumsier and feta cheese and lettuce leaves fell on our shoes. At the end of the day our only pair of sport shoes (not the fancy kind - just the simple ones) stunk of feta cheese.

About mid day we were each given a coupon to buy something at the stalls set up for the Greek festival. But the coupons could not be used for some of the special stuff like calamari (squid). Options included more Greek salad (!!!) Souvalaki, Moussaka, Spanakopita, Gyro, Triopita, Baklava, and other things that sounded very interesting to the aching feet. We really didn't want to eat as much as we wanted to sit down.

                                                              Taking a Break at the Greek Festival!

That day when we reached home, none of really had the energy for anything. I remember I didn't even want to take a bath. Just the bed and sleep!
The next day and the day after that we made more Greek Salad! I don't know why I didn't just quit it. After all it was extra money and that to not so much. But by this point we had realized the value of this labor and we had promised to work a certain number of hours to the organizer. Not like they would have cared if we left as they had plenty of other graduate student volunteers who wanted the extra money.  I am glad I didn't quit because I value the lesson in dignity of labor and now I get to brag about it. Yes brag!

One day during the festival we were asked to serve lemonade at the lemonade counter. That day we had sticky shoes and sticky hands and the smell of lemonade stuck so deep in our senses, we would never want to drink lemonade again. You would think! In the heat of the summer, the lemonade came as a welcome break to again sit down and relax.

Then on one day we had to work at the 'drive-thru' stall at the festival. We each were given a sheet of paper and had to run to cars, get the order and then run back and call it out, then run back and deliver the food and collect the money. Essentially an on the run 'waitress'. This was one of the biggest Greek festivals in the East coast I think, because the both the walk-in's and the drive-thru lines were very long. But working at the drive-thru was the most fun because I did not have to stand in a dingy room and smell feta cheese or stand in a humid stall and fill glasses of lemonade.

I think I worked at the Greek festival two years and then went back a year later because I actually missed the food and wanted to eat it. When I worked at these Greek salads, I was already into my Ph.D. Or at least I had made my decision to do one. I cannot remember the thought process for taking up this part time job. But it taught me that no job in the world was too small to do. It also funded my air-tickets to India when I had to come home two years back to back (2002 December to get married)

I now see young people around me who are so picky about their jobs. I wonder if any of them would be willing to work like this for the itty-bitty money! I see young folk who complain about their timing and how tiring and boring things at work can get or how mean their bosses are and I think of the mildly evil looking lady who taught us to make the Greek salad and spoke minimal English and so everything sounded scary.

Here are some of the summer jobs Suresh and I took up
1. Greek festival Volunteer
2. University Gymnasium identity card swipe: This is where I realized I was a morning person. I took up the 5:30 am shift. Suresh took up the 9:30 am shift. Job responsibilities included: swiping id card of everyone who walked in, putting dirty and sweaty towels for wash in the washing machine and when they were dry, folding them and stacking them up. In addition, we would have to take rounds about and make sure things were in order.
3. Dog sitter: This was more of Suresh than me! He got to hang out and walk dogs while he made some extra money.
4. Call center person: I would have to call the university Alumini and ask them for money! It was really embarrassing when I called an Alumini who was pissed about not getting a job after graduation.

Last week as we were driving through HSR BDA, I saw a sign at the McDonalds for a part/ full time job. I wondered – If I needed – would I work there. I wondered if I would see any of the young folks I know, work there. I wondered if I would be OK with letting Isaac or Ziva work there. I wonder if Isaac or Ziva would be willing to give any job the DIGNITY DESERVED!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Marriage, miracles, mistakes and many returns!

16 years since we met ... 13.5 years being married..

Yet everyday we figure out something new about each other. That's what keeps a marriage going. I am glad for this union of ours (and I hope Suresh is glad too.)

Do we fight? Yes of course! Are there days I want to strangle Suresh? Yes there are!  And I bet there are days when he would like to give me a slap and say 'grow up'.
But we are still together. No its not because we are madly in love with it each other. Well there are days we think we will go mad. That, however, has more to do with the byproducts of this Union than either of us.

Whats keeps us together? What keeps a couple together?
We had a wonderful couples meeting in the summer 0f 2010 at our annual Church retreat in  Summit Grove, Pennsylvania. Led by Bill and Claudia Teubl, we got great advice and confirmation on some ways of life.

Here is my little tit-bit for those who want to take it.
Have a common goals -
Before we even got together or decided we wanted to get married - we had discussed some of our life's goals or desires. Somehow neither of us talked about what we wanted our career path to be or how much money we wanted to make. The only thing that seemed to come out strong was 'We wanted to move back to India at some point of time'. Sitting on my couch in pleasant and cool Bangalore, I am glad of that conversation. Talking about going back 'home' sometime. I put in a bid - 'No Chennai' and Suresh topped it off with a 'No Mumbai' - God's plan could not be more perfect than to put us here in Bangalore!

Sane Finances:
Try not to get into debt. If you are in debt, get out of it as soon as possible. You don't have to have a ton of money in your savings account. But you will have a lot of peace knowing that you don't owe anybody anything!
The Teubl's took it a notch higher for us and said - no house loans - no car loans. They didn't mean that you need to have a down payment for the entire sum your house would have. Just make it a goal to pay off the house as soon as possible. We had the pleasure of spending some time with Becky Teubl the third child of the Teubl's. She mentioned how her mother had divided a picture of the house into neat bricks each representing the payment for a month for the house. Coloring out a brick a month indicated they owned that portion when they paid the mortgage. A lovely way to involve children in finances. Becky said that one month the children brought money together and gave it to their dad to pay the months mortgage and had the pleasure of being 'involved' in the coloring.
Dave Ramsey 'finance Guru' says that finances is a big reason couples split -- so stay out of debt.

Witnessing those miracles and trials together.
Life will throw all kinds of stuff at you. Big rocks, small stones. They all hurt - but stick together - because when those miracles happen, its no fun sitting alone and enjoying it. Its means much more when there is someone joining in the happiness.
Isaac and Ziva are our miracles and trials all in one bundle. We have enjoyed every minute of them. I can think of no other man who would sit by me day after day as I cried for a child. I can think of no other man to give me those IVF shots and  I can think of no other man who would wake up in the middle of the night to put a new born to sleep.
Losing parents has also been something that kept us together. When folks ask us why we moved back to India - my first reason is losing 3 parents in 3 years was not easy and we needed family around to overcome the grief.

Plenty of difference in opinions:
Are we different? As different as North and South pole. Isn't that what they say - poles apart! But even at these two poles the climate is kind of chilly and icy and the same. So poles apart and yet so much in common. That's what keeps things interesting.

A little screaming and yelling
We were not big fighters. Then we attended a marriage seminar by George and Pooja Cherian, where they  spoke about 'How to fight good!'. It brought out a lot of hidden resentment. I used to pride myself on fighting about silly stuff and keeping the big stuff within. But now I like that we fight good and sort our differences and anxieties! It builds the relationship on stronger ground!

Union in thinking
We have a lot of common ideas about parenting and finance. I like that when I think of something and make an eye connection with hubby dear across the room, I know he is thinking the same. You can say the same strings hit a rhythm within us! How did we get there? Talking lots and lots of talking.

Last and the most important the big guys upstairs!
I would be insane not to mention the big Guy upstairs who brought us together and has kept us so far.
If it was not for our faith in Jesus and constantly keeping Him in the center of our relationship ... things would have surely been a mess

Union of Suresh Emmanuel Joel and Rohini George:  13.5 years

30 December 2002 -- to Present

By products : Isaac George Joel
                      Ziva Esther Joel

And knowing I wanted to be with you for the rest of my life : 14 years on January 27 2001

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Dear Grace

Hi Grace ... wrote this one 3 years ago.... never published it :) I guess everything under heaven has a perfect time!

February is a month for birthdays in our family and for at least the reason of not being able to eat cake ... I am sad I am not in Mumbai ... where most of the celebration is happening. I want to write something for each of those who have a birthday this month. I may not complete it by your birth date - but hope to get it posted by  your the end of the month

Here is to my favorite person

Grace; Happy Birthday - I know you are 14 --- but to me your are still the little girl who I held 14 years ago - one fine Saturday morning. Or was it close to noon. I think it was close to noon.

I always want you to remember these things about your birth -
1. Your mother went through over 36 hours of labour before you were born - Always value and appreciate her (I always give advice --- sometimes you see me not praticising it -- I am working on that skill)
2. You were really lucky to have so many people waiting to see you - Here is the list
   Appacha (Baby)
   Pappa (Santosh)
   Ammachi (Molu ammachi)
   Ammachi ( ponnu ammachi)
   I think Appu appacha and Chinnama ammachi were also around but probably just arrived or left before you came into the world.
  And of course ME

3. You were very lucky to be cuddled by your Great-grand mother (maternal) a few hours of being born!
4. You were called Kuttappi (named by Baby Appacha) a nickname forgotten -- but apt for you!
5. Your parents spent days looking for the perfect name for you! It is perfect!
6. Your mother and father spent days arguing who you looked like (him or her). I think you are a perfect mixture - Good from both sides - be thankful for that
7. Your father counted your fingers and toes to ensure you had the correct number (Too funny)

There are lots more I can go on about --- but to end all of this

I am so thankful that you were born into our family and I am so thankful that I got to be your aunt!

Happy Birthday - May the Lord bless you and may he make his face shine upon you!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Why did I leave my job!

The question has repeated and this time it was asked by the younger of my two munchkins.

Ziva: Amma are you a cook?
I am glad she didn't call me a 'cooker'! I had just finished instructing the cook something when this question came up.

I was just about to answer when Isaac chimed it.

Isaac: No! She is a doctor.
I was shocked at how clear he was about my educational qualification.

Me: Isaac! Who told you... How did you know?
Isaac (sheepish smile because I still had an expression of shock):  I saw it on your laser pointer. It was written 'Dr. Rohini George'

Then he turned to Ziva and said.
Isaac: She is not a doctor who gives medicine. She is a doctor who fixes big machines.

I then remembered that I had showed Isaac pictures of me working on linear accelerators.

Ziva: Amma you don't go to GE?

GE is where Appa works and I think the current assumption is if I were to work... I would be going to GE! Yea right like they would hire me!

Isaac: No only Appa goes to GE
And Munchkin # 1 has his basics right!

Me: Isaac why did I stop working?
My curiosity got the better of me and I just had to know why he thought I was not out there with Dad

Isaac: You stopped working to have children.

Tada - simple and clear
Me: No Isaac - I stopped working because I had children and I wanted to be with my children.