About shivam04

Unexplained phenomenon

The week so far

Some days you just know it’s not going to be enough to roll with the punches. You will need to stop. Put your feet up. Fill up that glass of wine. Put on a mindless sitcom. And tune out. Or rather – tune in. In to your mind.

It’s just Tuesday. But I’ve written the week off. You don’t recover such week. You just let them go.

Not human

When justice is served, there is still sadness. Somehow I have the heart to empathize even with those involved with the darkest moments of my professional life. That’s what an emotional fool I am.

It’s a strangest day ever lived. I believed in something but no one believed in me. I was questioned, judged, embarrassed, humiliated. When I should be happy that I was right, I am sad that I was indeed right. I still wish I could have done something.

I need to get over this to get to the other side. But oh boy I wish I was not human today.

a restful pause

As you grow old, you seek your kin. I uttered the phrase casually in a conversation, and it has stuck a note with me. Isn’t it true though? Unless, you are me, and you seek kin in every corner, all the time. Definitely something to mull more on. But for now, the world is going back to work tomorrow, while this pandemic rages on. I have an extra day off, and I am going to put it to some good use.

This has been a good break for all of us. We could not travel as we had planned. There were fewer outings, and social engagements. And hence more time for home, and at home. We sorted out schedules, made good goals, and removed some clutter around the house. I took a solid break from work and didn’t cave in to the temptation of getting some work wrapped up while things were slow.

It’s a well rested start to the year, and I like it this way. It wasn’t by choice. But it ended up being a good one. So I am thankful for all the forces of nature that led to it being so.

Heard it on This is Us – Don’t make your dreams smaller to compensate for your circumstances. Raise your self higher to the meet the purpose you set for yourself.

About that show – it might have just ended up saving me some money on therapy actually. But that’s for another day.

2021 – a recap

I/Me/Myself

  1. I put myself up for some tough professional challenges this year. I failed at one, and succeeded at two. My strike rate of 2/3 induced a lot of confidence in me to soar above my self made glass ceiling. There were times where I felt stupid subjecting myself to these challenges, but the journey made my gritty. And grit is my super power.
  2. I was mindful about my routines. I attempted a lot more routines and with reasonable short term success. Nothing stuck for the long term. But I have appreciation for those who follow routines. And I am striving to get better at them myself.
  3. There was a good stretch of 4 weeks in 2021 when I did not have a car insurance, a license, and a passport. I learnt patience, deliberate planning, and giving into the flow as part of this experience. It was not easy, but what made it easy was the old cliche – “one step at a time”.

Family

  1. Tara started reading, can tie a knot, and she made large lego sets (with help). She also started sleepovers this year. She is an engaging kid to converse with, who has a very sharp sense of humor and wit. She is a happy and wise child and I am a happier person around her. We spent many moments this year that made me realize that the labor of love is all so worth it. I took some days off to spend with Tara and we did a fun Stanford campus exploration and enjoyed the empty campus and the art exhibits. We made memories.
  2. Agam and I took a fair bunch of lunch/coffee walks together. We chatted about his work, my work, our lives, the world around us. We made time for these walks, and enjoyed moments together that were not quite possible pre-pandemic. We also watched Dune together, by ourselves, in the theater.
  3. My family back in India, survived COVID. Kudos to my sister who got us through the wave, and continues to do that as I type.
  4. We lost a few of the family’s old guard – Agam lost his Nana, and his Dad’s Mama. We were both very fond of both of them. And we will miss the 4G (4 generation) pictures that became a norm for us when we visit Delhi. I lost a maternal uncle, and my parents and in-laws lost several friends and distant family in the pandemic. But the silver lining was that my cousin brother who was given no hope to survive, fought for his life against all odds, and is still amongst us. I am thankful for his life, and so proud of my sister-in-law who held the family together for what will be the toughest phase of their lives.
  5. Mani, my baby sis-in-law, and Kuval, my bro-in-law, moved to the US, and Bay area respectively. I am always worried about Tara not having enough family in the US. So having these kids closer to us, makes me feel warm.
  6. My uncle in NY and I are becoming close buddies who discuss books, recipes, world affairs, travel destinations. We are alike, akin. It shouldn’t be a surprise since he was my father’s most favorite cousin. But this newfound kinship is warming. I don’t have family in the US. He is closest to me in terms of any blood relations. It warms my heart knowing that I share a past with someone who also lives in this country, and has the time to be my buddy.

Work

  1. I built a team, again. A very very powerful, accomplished, and diverse team. I am so happy with the end results of some deliberate hiring, curation of portfolios, and skills, and some coaxing. As a team, we did wonderful things. All of these things seemed daunting at the beginning of the year. But today, I have the confidence to take on the toughest of the challenges, knowing the team I have built, and their caliber to deliver impact and value to our organization.
  2. I slipped, almost. But I had a safety net that caught me – my manager, mentors, friends, and my family. Tara made the decision easy in the end. She said, Mommy stays, because this is where her friends are. So I renewed my vows to G, and charted a path for myself that will keep me challenged, and thereby fulfilled for the years to come. I am valued, and loved. I’ve earned my stripes with a lot hard work, and loyalty. And to me that is all I seek in my employment – friends, value, love, and growth.
  3. I took on some G-wide initiatives that are being shaped by my leadership, and initiative. This portfolio of programs I am steering, gives me sleepless nights, and yet puts me back in my feet every morning. I love it. But most importantly, I love that I can give my teams the opportunity to lead these programs.
  4. From a weak moment in February when I did not know what I was running for, and why I was in a race where if I win, I will actually loose, to this day today where I have a roadmap ahead of what I want to do and where I want to be, and why, clearly spelled out, I have come a long way in accepting my path, tweaking it to my liking, and recommitting to it, with the blessings and fond wishes of a select few who are on this path with me, at least for some time.
  5. I achieved the pinnacle of performance in my role this year. Yes it’s just a rating. Yet it matters to me to be recognized for my craft. I pour a lot of love and effort into it.
  6. I spent some time back on campus, working at my desk, taking meetings in conference rooms. It felt normal.

Hobbies

  1. I blogged less, wrote ~45 Haikus, but actively posted on LinkedIn.
  2. I took upon myself a backyard makeover project. It was a lot of fun and our backyard is just the little haven we always wanted. Project was completed between April – July; and within budget. Jesus my gardener/contractor gets a lot of the credit. But as he says, we are a good team. Between my vision, and his execution, we had the backyard project well covered. I like home projects, and I will take on another one in 2022. I now have roses in my garden, and dahlias, camelias, and lavender. And the icing on the cake is that Boogie (my bougainvillea) came back. We also have a “hammock”. Now all I want is for Agam to start drinking chai, with me in our “bageecha”.
  3. I cooked quite a lot, but we did a lot of take out as well. My recipe of the year was Besan Ladoos. I loved the experiments, and the final outcome. We also made a lot of sweets and savory dishes and shared them with our friends as Diwali presents. I made my first lemon pickle – from the lemons in our backyard.
  4. I completed 10 books; and diversified my reading content.
  5. We did some noteworthy hikes across California – Long Ridge Trail, Stanford Loop, and my most ambitious hike till date, the PG&E trail.
  6. I binge watched a LOT of shows, and watched a FEW good movies. Suitable Boy, Harry Potter, The Hobbit, Money Heist, This is Us, Manifest, Ann with an E , Encanto, Sing2, Dune, Don’t Look Up are worthy of mention.
  7. I started going back to the Farmer’s Market.
  8. I started to make ice creams at home. The family relishes it and we save on the cartons.
  9. We bought a foosball table, played a lot of board games, and card games, and have also picked up chess again, more recently.
  10. We hatched butterflies. Tara brought home a few cocoons and we hatched 2 butterflies. One of them was Grace, she was my underdog who survived (or got eaten by the cat, I will never know).

World

  1. We swore in a decent President for this country, and the first ever woman Vice President. History was made. But most importantly, a calamity of Trump’s second term, thwarted. But before that on Jan 6th, America witnessed a tragedy.
  2. Mental Health took centre stage – Naomi Osaka made it happen.
  3. The world got vaccinated, and some of us even got the boosters. Science wins.
  4. Crypto, Log4J, NFTS, and other random noise cluttered our lives.

Friends

  1. One of very good friends from past life, is undergoing a divorce. I was sad for him, but more so sad for the state of marriage, and the impact of it on kids. I find myself tugging at that string a lot this year.
  2. Lori my friend, and mentor lost her husband, Doug, to cancer.
  3. My first coach, mentor, a favorite teacher of many, Pallavi Rao, died young.
  4. Papa’s friend, and our neighbor in Gurgaon, Mehra uncle passed away, silently, in his sleep. A big loss for my in-laws.
  5. Tara and her friends graduated from Kindergarten. A lot of her batch mates moved outside of the bay area, including Noah.
  6. We discovered Vive Sol, and Kakaroto shared it with our close friends.
  7. We hosted a send off for one of my work friend, and hosted our friends over for meals and tea. Some sort of normalcy returned to the social scene.
  8. A friend I had not met for 17 years visited us from Seattle. Agam’s friend and his family also visited us from Seattle earlier in the year. Memories were made.
  9. We attended a few Diwali parties, and also celebrated Tara’s 7th birthday at Safari Run! IRL!

Travel

  1. We did eight trips this year – 7 in California and one trip to Maui. It was good to be back on the road again this year. We also enjoyed a very very cozy AirBnB in Mendocino in July.
  2. Hawaii was a very welcome respite from the COVID climate that has plagued our lives for two years. The island was warm, welcoming and relaxing. We spent most of our time in the pool or on the beaches.
  3. We traveled to quite a few state and county parks, and reserves –
    1. Van Damme State Park – Fern Canyon Trail
    2. Sanborn County park
    3. Pt Lobos National Park – twice!
    4. Mendocino Headlands reserve
    5. Bluff Trails in Gualala
    6. Gualala River Regional Park
    7. Russian Gulch State Park
    8. Novo Headlands
    9. Coastal trails along Half Moon Bay
  4. Best Beaches
    1. Rio Del Mar – Aptos
    2. Fish Rock – Gualala
    3. Walk On – Sea Ranch
    4. Glass Beach – Fort Bragg

48 Hours in Aptos

When driving from the Peninsula, right after the Monterey exit, take the left to the beaches and get yourself a cup of coffee and some delicious pastries at the Buttery, on Soquel Avenue, Santa Cruz. We enjoyed a slice of tiramisu, an apricot pastry, coconut macaroons and drip coffee, on a chilled winter afternoon with bright sunshine stealing the moments from an unrelenting rain storm. Me, and my companions enjoyed sugar, butter, flour and some coffee, not to forget the sunshine at The Buttery. Side note, it has ample outdoor space, that is perfect for social distancing.

E5FC4842-21D8-4B32-885A-78BBB4A5184E.jpeg

Post our break, we drove to the Seascape Beach Resort in Aptos. We frequent this property a lot, and it has become our pandemic favorite for a day spend at the beach, or just a quick getaway. You can get good rates if you book in advance.

0BCF2EC8-2F94-40B0-B263-DFA1A6911BEC.jpeg
326FE82F-3EE4-42ED-90DD-7E7DC5B81FDB.jpeg

A nice evening stroll around the property, with panoramic views of the Monterey bay, and we had built an appetite for a light diner.

Cafe Sparrow, in historic Aptos Village was our find for the evening. A delightful little French cafe with steep prices, excellent service and delicious food. We enjoyed Lamb Chops, Smoked chicken fettuccine pasta, bread pudding, crème brûlée and some great Cabernet and Pinot with our meal. This place gets busy, so come early around 5-5:30pm and enjoy a relaxing meal.

All we needed was a peaceful night of sleep with no chores to do in the morning. I think I just sleep better knowing that.

Next morning started with two rounds of sub standard drip coffee in the room, and we were off for our gourmet adventure to Carmel. Basil Seasonal Italian has become our favorite there. You can always (famous last words) find a reservation and they have gluten free pasta and a delicious menu to binge on. Not to forget the brioche bread pudding that is to die for.

869E81CD-BC35-443A-B460-D19BCF18B7FF.jpeg
E5FAD0B3-021C-4070-A8B9-9066185904FB.jpeg

Our next adventure was Point Lobos. Now this place has become a favorite with our little family as well. It is dawning on me that we were off to the coast checking off our favorites list.

Pt Lobos has plenty of trails to get lost on, while walking along cliffs that are hugging the ocean tight. The weather was kind, and it didn’t rain. The trails were muddy but so what! We criss crossed across North Shore Trail, Pine Ridge, and Granite Trail. A total of 3 miles and 1.5 hours of adventure. Just enough for the tiny feet to get some action, and yet not whine as much.

Breathing the forest air feels magical. And the spirit of finding our way, feels so inspiring. We are fortunate to have so many options around where we live.

389C362D-C3B5-4B8F-A4C3-68CA406C96D9.jpeg
BAAF5021-7F67-425A-95CD-518888ACEDB1.jpeg
4CC446D3-5DC0-4B8B-A4F7-D1E48B44A63C.jpeg
4828BB32-C833-4943-9F91-6E5CA5788A50.jpeg
F4D91143-47E9-480E-93A3-CCE31D3E156A.jpeg
AC43CEE1-C5D7-4527-8C47-3431AC191265.jpeg
B9B3BBD5-E07C-477B-A7DE-D693C80C5117.jpeg
455F4BA9-4B34-4676-A5A7-F9441594C885.jpeg

On our way back to Aptos, we stopped by at The Hideout for Cucumber Mule, Spicy Hibiscus Margarita, and fried chicken sandwich. Pretty cool place, good service, and cool vibes. The little one was not so impressed by their creme brûlée. She has fine taste, ahem like the mother.

On our last day at the resort, we chillaxed in the morning and did some coloring, reading, and planning. And then we headed to Henry Cowell State Park for a short walk amongst the mighty redwoods. The rain did not support our plans and so we re routed back to Hwy 17 that was extremely foggy and scenic.

On our way back home we stopped by Desi, in Campbell for a quick desi bite. It was umm..disappointing. The flavors weren’t balanced. Between the lack of freshness in the ingredients, and the shallow flavors, the meal failed to deliver. We ordered the Delhi Belly which is a combination of kalmi kebab, tandoori chicken and galouti kebab. I’d give 3/5 to the galouti kebab. Which is as good (or bad) as I rate the ones I make at home. I honestly think this place has potential and some good ideas. They need a flavor and ingredient refresh and they can be a hot spot in town. That’s just my 2 cents anyways. And I have several 2 cents in my pockets 😇

And that’s how spent our 48 hours by the coast. Lots of together time, walks, ocean, some rain, and lots of yummy food (except for the last bit at Desi)

0EDBCB75-6D93-47D6-A33A-5B40581E0E66.jpeg
0D9A0D3B-C21F-43D6-A3AF-AF43355A4C43.jpeg

With that, we wrapped up our last trip of the year! Now we kick back, relax, and with gratitude, joy, and hope, look forward to 2022!

AAB90065-5612-48DA-B264-942C29CBD586.jpeg

Wounds

Yesterday I was with a father who cried just thinking of how proud he is of his daughter. Knowing that no one will ever think of me in that way made me so sad. But I smiled my way through the day, simply pushing my feelings away.

All those feelings came gushing, watching This is Us. Fathers and daughters are special. I see them every day. I miss mine everyday. This wound ain’t healing.

Anywhere

I wish I was in London. Under the lit up sky, meandering in the lanes of Christmas markets. Drinking hot chocolate, or rather mulled wine, with a cozy cap, a muffler, mittens and an over coat that goes all the way to the knees.

I wish I was in Munich. Walking in the English gardens, with a waffle in one hand, a freshly brewed lavazza in the other. Steam from my coffee cup and my mouth – mix in air and vanish in front of me.

I wish I was in Delhi. Cozying up next to my Mom in a chenille quilt, with her shelling peanuts and pistachios and feeding me while I cuddle up like a cat.

I wish I was in Maui, watching the sunset, bidding goodbye to yet another day, holding my stare long enough until the ball of fire turns into a sliver of sheen over the clouds.

I wish I was anywhere but here. But there is no escape. Sit tight, breathe deep, and be resolute!

London, Munich, Delhi, Maui – I will come. But first I have this winter to tackle.

Happy Birthday 🎈 Tara

It finally dawned on me as I said good night to Tara that she won’t be six ever again. As she turns 7, so do we, as parents. We have grown up with her through these years. And soon, very soon, her growth will out pace us.

I put myself in the category of an observant parent. I don’t helicopter and I don’t let her slack. I simply observe her natural dispositions. And she is almost always right, and sensible about her choices. But soon, that won’t be the case. My observant parenting style has led me this far. I adapt to her style. She takes the lead, I follow, course correct.

When she started graduating towards dolls, I bought the Rebel Girls series to read to her. When she started to gravitate towards cooking, I started playing with legos with her. When she started to talk about money, I started to tell what things cost and how much effort goes into earning a pay check. To the extent that she reacts to a $100 expense more gravely than a $1 expense. I hope I can keep pace with these observations and course corrections.

As she grows, she is becoming more conscientious about her celiac. On this trip I tried to tell her that we can always be upset about things we don’t have, and there will always be a list of things we want but cannot have. Rather we should focus on what we do have, and how best to use it. A wheat intolerance is better than a dairy intolerance. She understands. But she is a child.

I worry that just like Agam and me, she will be the grow up in her group. She will mature before her age. But that’s ok. I’d rather have it this way.

She was just a little baby when we brought her home – and she is a fine little girl already. She will be a big girl, and a fine young woman one day. And I will be here, observing her, and course correcting myself. And hopefully, she will one day realize that this mom’s love is tough. She won’t carry you on her back when the trail is rough, but she will shine the light on the path you should walk on, if you choose to do so. And she will tell you how it should be told, without sugar coating or sandwiching- that life is not fair. And you need to get used to it.

Tara – May you be blessed with the guiding light from the angels and elders who came and went before you. And may your light touch hearts, heal wounds, bring smiles and make this world a better place.

Happy 7th birthday, Tara! You are and will always be my guiding star.

Aloha!

We are going to Hawaii after two years. I am very nervous and anxious.

A 12 day break from work. To reflect, recount, and revisit. Very soon this year will also come to an end. Time to evaluate.

But most importantly – time to soak in the vibes of an island that is like home. Spend time with Tara and Agam. And finally, learn to relax. The pandemic has made me wiser. I am not looking at the coffee shops open at 6am in Lahaina anymore.

Here’s hoping for a wonderful trip. Lots of memories await.