Wednesday
Mar222017

Making new friends in a new place 


I was talking to a friend from the US the other day and she expressed concern about how hard it must be to make friends in India.  It actually hasn't been, and I consider myself a huge introvert. Here are the tricks I've picked up along the way.  

1. Be vulnerable. 

Before we moved, I posted on Facebook and said something like "I don't know anyone in Mumbai and I'll be forever grateful if you introduce me to new friends there."  

That simple post led to some of my closest friendships here. It led to being invited for a legit Thanksgiving dinner which really meant a lot since the holidays can be hard.  

The post was inspired by a part of Eat Pray Love that you probably don't remember ... when Elizabeth Gilbert moved to Rome and asked all her friends to introduce her to people. That had an impact on me when I read it, because I'm shy and it would never have occurred to me to do that, but it led to such fun experiences for her.   

2. Be receptive.   

I've been really open about the new people I meet. No one has to be perfect. We don't have to have everything in common. You basically just have to want to hang out and we can take it from there.  

And say yes to EVERYTHING. Get out of the house. Even if it's a stupid waste of time event, just go for one hour and make a new friend. 

I went for a party with Karan when we first arrived and my clothes weren't here yet and he told me in the car on the way over that the theme was "Bollywood Glow"!! I was really not dressed for it, but it didn't matter. 

I went for a lunch with the ladies in my neighborhood this week. They are older, speak Gujurati, have all been friends for years ... I was the odd one out.  But who cares? EVERYTHING is outside my comfort zone in India so even if the lunch is awkward, it's not going to kill me. It was fun though :)  

3. Find the moms groups!! 

Moms groups are amazing. But sometimes you have to dig around for a while to find the good ones. Back in New York, our really good moms group in Manhattan was actually hosted on Meetup of all places. In Mumbai our expat mom group is called Hopping Bunnies :) It's hosted on Yahoo. I had to pay a $40 membership and submit a photocopy of my passport to join!!!!  I've also joined the American Womens Club. I'm on a few Facebook groups for moms in Mumbai. I'm in a whatsapp group for the moms in my neighborhood.  They are so good for friendship but also help with the many, many questions that come up along the way.  That's how I've found my pediatrician, nanny, acupressure guy, and the cat cafe that Leela and I visited this week :)  

If you haven't found a group with a listserve that's an incredibly valuable resource, then keep digging around until you find it ... or start one yourself!  

4. Kids and pets are great conversation starters.  

Bring them everywhere. They will be waving or wagging tails at strangers, helping to break the ice :)  

I also bring Leela for lots of classes in the afternoons where we meet people - My Gym, swimming class, kids yoga, holiday parties, etc.  

Also - Leela is only 2.5 but having her in play school has also been a great way to meet new friends.  

5. Invite people over!! 

We had a housewarming party and a birthday party for Rumi and I invited pretty much everyone in my phone, except my Hindi tutor who I've kind of broken up with and have been ignoring her calls :/  I also didn't invite Rumi's pediatrician because I thought that would be a bit much?  

6. Ask for everyone's number.  

Our whole social life in India runs on whatsapp so you have to have a phone number in order to be friends.  I have gotten so good at this that I asked a bollywood star for her number last week and now we are friends.

7. Don't wait for some magical moment later to make friends. Don't count on your spouse to do it for you.  

When you're brand new in a place, that's the best time to be vulnerable and ask for introductions. Own it! Karan is the more extroverted in our relationship, but he's at work all day and I couldn't sit around waiting for him to make friends for me. That would put unfair pressure on him. So I take initiative.  

8. Get really good childcare that you can trust. 

This was a major top priority for us when we moved and makes all the difference. I like socializing with my kids but sometimes it's nice to go out without them too, and be able to say yes to invitations. 

9. Don't be flaky.     

Show up if you say you're going to. It's good manners!  

I'm extremely grateful for a considerate husband who cares about helping me make friends. A "best of both worlds" marriage that makes it easy to have Indian friends and expat friends. And a flexible health coaching job that allows me to do social stuff during the day. I carve out mornings for work but afternoons are with the girls. 

Now if only I could get better at remembering names!  That part is still a struggle, despite my best intentions!!

Tuesday
Mar072017

Rumi's birth story 

~ Rumi's Birth Story ~ 

In honor of Rumi's first birthday, I'd love to share her birth story <3  

On the afternoon of Thursday, March 10, I finished up a big work project and felt a sense of relief that I could start my maternity leave. That evening, I took Leela for a long long walk in the stroller along the Dumbo waterfront. She was 20 months old. I remember her saying "helicopter" for the first time and being impressed. I felt that bittersweet tug that these were our last days alone together. I held Leela tenderly that night and put her to bed. 

In the evening, I went to the gym in our apartment building and bounced on a yoga ball. I wanted to have the baby before her due date of March 15th because I wanted a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) and I knew the doctors would start breathing down my neck post due date. 

After bouncing on the yoga ball, I went to the pizza shop on the corner. I had heard an old wives tale that eggplant parmesan can bring on labor, so I ordered one. I went home and had my eggplant parm and some very very mild contractions started that night. I gave Karan a heads up but assured him that we were nowhere close.  My sister had a baby the week before and was in the hospital for 24 hours of labor so that was playing on my mind.  I did finish packing up our hospital bag, and Leela's bag for going to grandma and grandpa's house.  


That night I continued to have contractions and mostly slept on the couch. For some reason the couch was my happy place throughout the pregnancy for sleep. It was a fairly restless night of sleep but contractions were very irregular and spaced far apart.  They could have been braxton hicks for all I knew. 

On Friday morning around 7:30am I called our doula to come over. She probably arrived around 8:30. And then our nanny also came around 8:30. Karan went for a dentist appointment in the neighborhood at 9, keeping his phone on. I was still working on the assumption that we had a long day ahead of us. The doula and I went back on the gym to bounce on the yoga ball. I wanted to curl up in bed, but her thought was that we wanted to have this baby.  

I think from this point forward I was delirious and lost track of what was happening, in the sense that my judgement wasn't sound anymore. And things started to move really FAST. We went back home. I was in active labor. Karan was on the phone for a book interview, which we obviously could have interrupted. Leela was around with our nanny. I went to the bathroom and looking back, I think I went through "transition" but I just didn't know to call it that. My water never broke, by the way. I emerged from the bathroom and told everyone - we have to leave NOW.  It was time to GO GO GO.  

We scrambled to grab our belongings, Karan called the hospital to say we were on our way, I was like "CALL THEM FROM THE CAB WE HAVE TO GO!", we got in an cab (or Uber? I don't know. All I know is that Karan has screened the driver to make sure he was up for this adventure of having a very pregnant lady in his car. Which he was.) Now we had to drive across the Brooklyn Bridge to my hospital in lower Manhattan.  

I love the Brooklyn Bridge. I have run across it so many times in my 10 years of living in New York. I never expected to drive across it as the pregnant lady who might be about to have her baby in the back of a cab! It occurred to me - if there's any traffic or an accident and this drive takes more than the 10 minutes it's supposed to, we're in big trouble. But it didn't. We got to the hospital quickly. 

I was in a bit of a panic at this point. The security guy at the hospital entrance asked if I needed a wheelchair and I told him - we don't have time! I threw my insurance card at the lady at the desk. And they checked me in. My doctor came. And I was 10 cm dilated! 10 cm plus 1, to be exact.  She said, "I'm sorry I can't offer you an epidural, it's time to have this baby!" 

Karan cheered me on and made sure everyone in the delivery room knew that I had run marathons and climbed Kilimanjaro and when I complained he reminded me that this was the vbac I had wanted. 

We had arrived at the hospital around noon and Rumi was born within the hour. Sweet, sweet Rumi. 

Rumi had her cord around her neck and wasn't breathing properly when she was born. So the amazing hospital staff swept in. They let me hold her for all of 10 seconds before rushing her off for breathing support. I somehow knew she was going to be ok. (Maybe it was the confident tones of the doctors.) But I was very very grateful to be in the hospital. My doctor assured me three times that I hadn't done anything wrong by coming in so far along, which was really nice to hear.     

After my time in the recovery room, they wanted to get me set up in my hospital room. But I wanted to see Rumi before I got all settled in my bed. So they wheeled me to the NICU to see her. Then they made a fuss that wheelchairs aren't allowed in the NICU. So they had me walk over to see her, and I promptly fainted. Maybe from walking immediately after giving birth, or maybe from seeing her all pale and hooked up to tubes and wires.  


I went back to my hospital room, a little shaken up. For the next two days - I did a LOT of pumping. 12 times a day. And hand expressing colostrum. And I watched a season of House of Cards. And I sent Karan out for burgers and milkshakes from Bareburger. If I recall correctly, Rumi was first on a feeding tube, and then they gave her some formula and my colostrum for feedings. But we weren't breastfeeding yet because of all the tubes and wires. She ripped her breathing tube out of her nose after the first night. She was a little champ.    

We didn't have Leela come visit us in the hospital, because it was too far from New Jersey for my carsick toddler and because of the NICU situation. 

I got to hold Rumi a bunch on Saturday and I think we did a little bit of breastfeeding. But honestly we all rested most of the day. 


On Sunday, they told us Rumi was likely going to get checked out from the NICU. We had hardly interacted with this baby who was under such intensive care for 3 days ... and they were sending us all home!  It seemed like there should be an intermediate step between getting released from the NICU and getting discharged from the hospital, but there wasn't.  

We took another cab home with our precious cargo and settled in. My parents brought Leela home on Monday and that was really the sweetest moment ever to see Leela's response to the baby. She was that little bit young to really explain to her about a baby coming, but it was like all of the pieces clicked together when she saw Rumi.  


Rumi has been the sweetest most cherubic delightful easy baby in the whole world. (Aside from those first weeks of no sleep which I've sort of glossed over in my memory but were very real!) When she was 3 months old we took a 2-week family vacation to the beach, something we would have never done with Leela when she was a baby. When she was 4 months old she got her first passport. When she was 7 months old she took her first flight - which was 14 hours long - and she got to fly in style business class for our move to India! She has transitioned so well to India - some coughs and colds and sniffles but she is a strong, happy baby.       

Rumi, lots of love and blessings to you on your first birthday. We love you! 

"Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you yet they belong not to you."

- Kahlil Gibran 

Thursday
Feb162017

FAQ: What exactly does quitting sugar mean?  

There are some different interpretations of quitting sugar. When I quit sugar myself, I had to get clear what this meant.  Was I going to be paleo, keto, avoid refined sugar only, cut all carbs, cut all fruit? Could I have honey, maple syrup or stevia? Was I going to make ANY exceptions? Here's my thinking on these questions ...   

Paleo diet - this is a great eating plan. However, I follow a mostly-vegetarian diet, and I have found that I do best eating some grains. Therefore, paleo diet is not for me at this time. 

Ketogentic diet - a ketogenic diet is a low-carb high-fat diet. It's good for significant weight loss, I've heard of it being used for treatment of epilepsy and other medical conditions. Given my goals, it's too extreme for me. 

Cutting all carbs and fruit - I didn't go this route either. I use the "magic" container system that is used with many Beachbody fitness programs. In this plan, I have 2 portions of carbs and 2 portions of fruits a day. So basically - a reasonable amount. I'm not drinking fruit juice or eating dried fruit, which are sugar bombs. I'm not having a mountain of brown rice and sweet potatoes for dinner. I eat lots of veggies and track my protein to make sure I have enough. 

Note: in the first 2 or 3 weeks when I was quitting sugar, I let myself have as much fruit as I wanted. It was summer, and watermelon and apriocts helped me get over the hump with cravings!  

Honey, maple syrup, stevia - I decided that honey and maple syrup are off limits, and that organic stevia would be my only allowed sweetener. As the months went by and my cravings went way down, I allowed a teaspoon here or there of honey and maple syrup. Now that I'm out of the "cookie monster" phase of my life, I don't feel I have to be as rigid.  

Would I make any exceptions? I put a lot of thought into this at the beginning. I realized that quitting sugar FOR-EVER filled me with dread. It just didn't sound joyful or realistic. Yet, I knew that if I made exceptions for "special" occasions it would be a very slippery slope. I needed a good boundary. That's when I came up with the idea to quit sugar from Monday to Friday. Genius! It was really the perfect solution for me. 

The way this played out: the first few weeks, I would white-knuckle my way through till Friday, then eat a bunch of sugar on the weekends. Then, I started to feel side effects from my weekend treats. I would get headaches and feel puffy. My interest in the weekend treats naturally decreased. Now I'm still open to a weekend treat, but it's just not such a big deal for me. I'd rather feel good. 

In summary: 

The plan that I recommend to people is no refined white sugar. Carbs from veggies and grains are allowed. Fruit is allowed. No fruit juice or dried fruits. Organic stevia is the only allowed sweetener. And strict no sugar from Monday-Friday. 

If any part of this doesn't work for you, then you can certainly modify. But it's good to make your plan from the outset, answer these tough questions so you are clear about your boundaries, and then go kick sugar's butt!  

Wednesday
Feb152017

What's sugar costing you? 

Cinnamon bun - are you worth it? 

Imagine … you’re at a holiday celebration and it’s time for dessert. There’s a whole spread of goodies: cookies, cake, pie. The old you would have sampled one of each, negotiating with yourself about how many desserts you’re “allowed” to try, going back for extra nibbles, nervously joking with relatives about how your diet starts tomorrow. But this time is different. You are different. When dessert is served, you fill a dish with berries and continue talking to Aunt Betty, who is eating pecan pie and telling you how great you look. All afternoon you’ve been getting compliments, about your dress, your skin, your weight loss. You don’t give the dessert spread a second thought – you’re totally neutral, unbothered.
 
Or imagine this … you step into a coffee shop with a friend and pass the pastry display, without giving it a second glance. You order your drink and continue chatting with your friend, not comparing the calorie counts of all the muffins or drooling over the lemon frosting on a slice of cake and agonizing about whether you should splurge. It's simply not taking up mind-space for you.  
 
Ask yourself honestly:

What is sugar costing you?

I know that eating sugar is built into your daily habits, and that cutting it out may feel impossible. I know it’s giving you some immediate relief and release of the happy chemicals, serotonin and dopamine.

But at what cost? When I got serious about quitting sugar, here’s what my list of “cons” looked like:
 
- makes my skin break out
- puts me in a horrible mood
- makes me tired
- makes me feel like a hypocrite as a health coach
- if I eat a little, I want a lot more
- messes up my concentration, makes brain fuzzy
- not setting a good example for my kids 

Once I learned how sugar was “working” on my brain – giving an instant surge of serotonin and dopamine, I researched how ELSE I could boost my happy chemicals. It turns out, there are plenty of other ways, all of which I'm excited to share with you in the #QuittingSugarStrong challenge. 

You don’t have to be a victim. You don’t have to feel guilty every day. You DO have to be realistic that quitting sugar requires a plan, but it IS possible.

The #QuittingSugarStrong 21-Day challenge starts on March 6th. When you sign up, you'll have immediate access to the challenge group and can kick off with a "preseason" to get you ready. 

The decision is yours. Make your own pros/ cons list. Get clear about what sugar is costing you. It IS possible to go an entire day without cravings, out-of-control eating and regret. It IS possible to claim the freedom, energy, ease at maintaining your ideal weight, mental clarity, clear skin you deserve. I want that for you! Ask yourself: do you want it? 

--> Join our community group here

Monday
Feb132017

But quitting sugar sounds scary! 

It's scary to think about life without sugar. I've been there! Will your friends think that you're a stick-in-the-mud? Will you be sitting in the corner with your salad at holiday parties, feeling sad and alone? Will you really not eat cake at office birthday celebrations? 

These are the "real-life" concerns we all have when we think about quitting sugar. Trust me - I've been there! Here's what my friend Cortney had to say: 

“I was terrified to reduce my sugar intake because I have quite a sweet tooth and was sure I was addicted..." 

We've been eating sugar for a long time, everyone else is doing it, and the food industry has drummed a message into our heads that "sugar is in everything" implying that it's impossible to quit. In the past when I tried to quit, I gathered meal plans, but didn't address these emotional and social aspects of quitting sugar. It's no wonder I failed every time! When I started to dig deep, I realized that I was afraid that quitting sugar would be a socially isolating choice. 

Here's what I can promise. In the #QuittingSugarStrong challenge we will address your fears, and the social and emotional impact of quitting sugar. To make a lasting change, you'll need to be fully convinced that your life will be better without sugar in it. That's why making a pros and cons list can be so helpful! Once you do this, my friends, you can finally break free.  

Here's what Cortney went on to share with me: 


"...After giving up sweets for a week, I had no withdrawal, but it helped me lose another couple of pounds of the pregnancy weight, so that was a plus!” 

I've found that the hardest choices I've made in life have also been the most rewarding. That's why I truly think of quitting sugar as a "hero's journey." In a hero's journey, there's a call for adventure, then the hero "crosses the threshold" and leaves the Ordinary World. The hero is tested, but also meets allies, and ultimately wins the treasure and returns home transformed. Are you ready to embark on this journey? 

The #QuittingSugarStrong 21-Day challenge starts on March 6th. When you sign up, you'll have immediate access to the challenge group and can kick off with a "preseason" to get you ready. 

--> Join our community group here