A dash of Pepper…

…with a splash of Mint

This is YUGE! It changes everything – Part 1

Posted by Pepper on July 21, 2017

Anybody who has been reading this blog for a while will know how keen Mint and I were to adopt a baby. We had registered ourselves as prospective parents, completed all the formalities and were just waiting for a baby to be shown to us.

And then life decided to intervene. We were compelled to move back to the US and abandon all our dreams of adopting a child. Immigration issues made adoption impossible. Let me not get into how hard this was for me. It was such a blow. And in order to recover from the blow, I wanted a plan of action. I wanted to move on. I started bugging Mint for a biological baby.

As expected, he wasn’t over excited by the idea. Adoption seemed to appeal to him a lot, but the moment we spoke about having a biological child, he’d keep throwing questions at me and asking me if I am sure. I’d keep hating how unsure he sounded, but thankfully at some point I noticed he was more in line with my thoughts.

We were busy trying to settle down after moving to the US. I knew that in about a month or so, I would have to fly to India for a while to wrap up all the work I had abruptly left behind. We made the most of the holiday season here. We even drove to LA to visit the BFF and brought her back with us to the Bay Area to help us set up our new home. She stayed with us for the entire time until I had to leave for my India trip. Well, except for the last weekend, when she decided we should have some privacy before I flew out and went to visit her sis-in-law in the Bay Area.

Now let’s fast forward a little. It had been a few weeks since I had landed in India and I was late. Having had PCOS all my life, I dismissed it as yet another wacky cycle without much thought. But then as days passed by, I started having these quiet conversations with myself – should I or should I not take a pregnancy test? Mint was in California and I was staying with my parents. I didn’t really want to discuss this with anybody at that point, because in all likelihood I knew it would be nothing. I decided to get done with it and bought myself a home pregnancy test.

You know where this is going, don’t you? It was 4 am and I was wide eyed in my bathroom, staring at the two pink lines on the test. I will never forget the sound of my pounding heart as I gaped at the stick. It took me a few minutes to collect myself and walk out.

Obviously, I called Mint right away. He didn’t answer his phone. It was late afternoon in California and I knew he’d be in the midst of some meeting. I could have waited for him to call back, but since I couldn’t contain myself, I sent him a message on WhatsApp that said ‘I think I’m pregnant’.

After around 5 minutes, I noticed that the message had been seen by him. But there was no response. Wow, really? Okay fine then! I decided to go back to bed and put aside my phone. It’s quite funny when I think of it in hindsight. Like I suspected, he was in an important meeting when he saw my message. The poor guy must have been jolted and yet forced to sit through his meeting before he could respond or connect with me.

Yes, we did manage to speak thereafter. I barely slept that night. It all seemed too overwhelming. But of course, since we’re talking about my life here, there were many more unexpected twists and turns and even shocks lined up for us. To be continued..

PS – So, yes. I am pregnant. If any of you remember this post I had written way back in 2011, let me tell you my thought process has not changed much. I still giggle when I see other pregnant women because I think of them ‘doing it’ and I still can’t bear to let anybody else think of me doing it. So to anybody reading this, I will say that I didn’t have sex. Instead I joined my hands and prayed to the Lord, and that is what resulted in this pregnancy. Okay? Okay.

Posted in This is YUGE | 68 Comments »

Year 7 – Happy Anniversary, Mint

Posted by Pepper on July 15, 2017

Dear Mint,

Let me start by acknowledging the fact that this letter is late by several months. Our anniversary was in the end of March and I am writing this to you in the middle of July. I wonder what the delay implies. Have I stopped attaching significance to the ‘little things’ like the letters I have been writing to you? I hope not. I will attribute the delay to the changes and events that took us by complete surprise, made us sit up and scream ‘Oh My Goddd, is this really happening?’. I know you understand what I am talking about, so you will pardon and overlook the delay.

7 years of this crazy ride. How did we fare in the past year? I’m not quite sure. To start with, the first half of the year was so full of stress, so full of unanswered questions and well, drama. Should we move back to the US? Maybe not. Let’s try finding you another job that lets us stay in India. What? You aren’t able to find a single job that is comparable to your current one? Time is running out. What do we do? Give up on the US job offer too and stay without any job?

Maybe that is stupid. With no other job in hand, maybe we don’t have a choice but to move back to the US. But I don’t want to move. Should we give up on our dream of adopting a baby in order to make the move work? Is it worth it? Where is life headed?  Argghh. I remember being full of tantrums almost all year round, blaming you for our inability to ‘decide’, hating the uncertainty we were going through and feeling totally out of control. I think a lot of our potential moments were lost due to me either sulking or being hysterical.

To add to the issues we faced, I noticed how much you grew this year. And how much I didn’t. Of course, I am not talking about the wretched growing up that we adults have to do. I talk about the growth in your interests, passions and desires. What were just hobbies at one time turned into full blown passions. Your heightened interests in the world of board games and frisbee as a sport left me feeling disconnected.

You joined clubs, became a part of several groups, devoted exclusive time to understanding the subjects of your interest, took these ‘hobbies’ very seriously and reached a whole new level of involvement. Sadly, I didn’t discover any new passions of my own. The very geeky board games that we play will always remain a hobby for me, I doubt they will ever turn into a passion. I blamed you for allowing these activities to eat into our time together. You blamed me for being dispassionate about them.

I suppose these unmatched interests is something we just have to live with and work around. We’ve reached a point where you forgo a lot of your interests in order to spend time with me. But I keep wondering if you are masking the resentment that probably lies beneath? On most days, you seem very spontaneous about what you give up. So I do try to be equally spontaneous about letting you go and pursue your interests when I sense you really want to. Trying to maintain this equilibrium is hard work though, and I keep wishing our preferences were more aligned with each other’s.

And then there was the move. If I thought the act of moving was stressful and tiring, coping with the move has been far worse. Time and again I have compared my present life to the life I had back in Mumbai and each time I end up feeling like I’m getting a raw deal now. I know most others feel differently so let’s not debate that. But the massive changes and the associated discomforts made sure I wasn’t at my best behaviour. And you smilingly put up with it all.

I have to say, I have only been able to tide through the madness because of your reassuring presence. I love the way you hold me. It calms me down magically. The coming year is going to be very intense for us, probably the most intense and overwhelming one we’ve experienced so far. If we continue to hold on to each other and take one step at a time, I think we’ll be okay.

Here’s a picture one of our friends took of us when we were cuddling up. I love candid pictures. No pretense. No posing. No being self conscious. Pretty much like our relationship.

b12

Thank you for being there. Always.

All my love,

— Pepper

Posted in Splashes of Mint | 8 Comments »

The sister visits..

Posted by Pepper on June 23, 2017

I hardly write here but this is something that I have to put down on the blog. The sister is visiting and I really can’t be more excited.

You see, we’ve been planning this trip forever. In fact, we really wanted her to visit even when we were living in the Bay Area several years ago. But back then, she always had some reason not to. She even cancelled her trip because of a silly college assignment at one time. Talk about being nerdy!

This time she seemed very enthusiastic about visiting us. She had almost two months off from school. The summer break is one of the few perks of working as a teacher, I suppose. So plans were made and tickets were booked. I had a mental countdown going on.

Of course, I always have to find some reason to worry. This time, I was worried about her traveling alone, since it is something she has never done before. I sent her detailed instructions about the process she had to follow to get through all the formalities at the various airports she would pass through. A part of me knew she would be fine, yet I was anxiously pacing around at the airport waiting for her to step out. I breathed such a sigh of relief when I saw her finally emerge.

She spent the first few days combating a bad jet lag. We started venturing out only after her sleep cycle was regularised to a small extent. What do I say about her experiences so far? Let me just say that as of now, the sister hasn’t been that enamoured by the US.

We usually spend weekdays at home, watching some show or the other. I still don’t drive (despite having driven in this country for years, and despite having a valid California license. Sigh.. somebody shoot me!), so we are usually dependent on Mint to take us around. We go for long walks by the lake in the evenings. The lake side is something she really appreciates. It’s so beautiful. Who wouldn’t?

Weekends are a burst of activity. We’re usually out all day and you’d be a little horrified if I showed you my tan. But who cares? So far, we’ve done the typical touristy stuff. We took her to the Golden Gate bridge, and despite the heat, she felt too ‘cold’ because of the constantly lashing wind. Honestly, I don’t blame her.

We also did the customary Pier 39, Lombard Street and other touristy spots and while she seemed to be having fun, there was nothing in particular that she was really wowed by. We’re definitely taking her to Lake Tahoe and Yosemite but other than all of that, do any of you Bay Area folks have any recommendations for us? Any favourite hang out spots, food joints, up coming events that you can point us to? Any information will be much appreciated.

Other than all of this, visiting this country has given her a reality check of sorts. The sister has been so utterly spoilt, always having lived under the care of my parents. She is disgusted by how quickly the dishes pile up in the sink and that they don’t actually self clean, that you got to work to put every single meal in front of you and that food doesn’t self cook, that vacuuming and laundry can really tire you out.

She is still getting used to the fact that you got to step out to buy something as basic as milk or carry the trash out yourself. There is no ‘milkman’ delivering a bag at your door step or somebody knocking on your door to collect the trash. She now agrees that just fending for yourself is a full time job. I’m glad this visit is proving to be such an eye opening experience for her.

Posted in Meet the family, Uncategorized | 33 Comments »

Name game

Posted by Pepper on April 28, 2017

There are several things that annoy me about Mint. The one thing that tops the list is how he has saved my name on his phone. Assuming Pepper is my first name and Mill is my last name, my name in his contacts reads ‘Pepper Mill’.

Like I said, this annoys me. It makes our relationship sound so official. I am all about adding a personal touch. Fine! You don’t want to use the so called cute names, but why can’t you use my first name and leave it at that? Maybe he could call me just Pepper?Why add the surname? It’s not like he knows a million Peppers anyway. And even if he did, I’d expect him to suffix their names with whatever he wants. Not mine. I am supposed to be the primary Pepper in his life. Okay, that does sound a bit hysterical, but you get the point.

In his defense, that’s how he saves all names in his phone. All his contacts have the same format, first name followed by last name. The same holds true even for his parents. There is no mom and dad. Just official first and last name. I wish he’d make an exception for me though. He has his contacts synced to his Gmail and he doesn’t want to mess with that. *Rolls eye*

Me? I have all sorts of names for people. Mint’s name was once saved as Makkhan Singh on my phone. We’re done though. I get irked every time I see my name on his screen. When I was saving Mint’s US number after we moved here, I decided he deserved to be only called by his official name too. So first and last name it was. Hmph..

 

Posted in Splashes of Mint | 26 Comments »

Settling down

Posted by Pepper on April 26, 2017

I spent a large part of Feb and March in India. We moved to the Bay Area in such a rush, I knew I would have to make a trip back home to close some open tasks, sign off and wrap some things at work. But other than work, what did I really do in India? Get spoilt. That is all.

Life in India is so, I’m not sure what word to use, convenient? I have been used to getting things in hand. Let’s not get into how good or bad that pampering is for an adult. Suffice to say I was used to it.

Coming back to Bay Area has been hard. When we moved here at the end of last year, we were still settling in. It seemed like the onset of a new holiday. We visited friends in LA. My friend came back to spend a few weeks with me. We were in the process of setting up our home. There was Christmas and New Year and so much excitement. And before I knew it, I was off to India. Returning to regular life here has already made me feel utterly drained out.

On another note, I *finally* got my EAD. For those who don’t know, EAD stands for Employment Authorization Document, more popularly known as a ‘work permit’. I can finally work in this country without being trapped by a million visa restrictions. How liberating that mere thought is! Anyway, due to some personal reasons, both Mint and I have decided that it is best that I do not look out for jobs right away and instead stay back home and give myself a little break.

Unfortunately, I’m not entirely sure of what I want to do with my life. I’m not used to staying home all day. The idea of being by myself and being caught in a whirlwind of cooking and cleaning continues to be depressing. This issue stands tall whether or not I choose to work. Living in this country ensures you learn to survive by yourself. And I’m not very good at that.

I keep telling myself I don’t *have* to take a decade to cook a simple meal. I will get efficient and faster with time. Sadly, that hasn’t been the case so far. So the simplest meal will take a few years to whip up. I stand in the kitchen at times, staring at the onion in my hand and wondering how it can possibly take me a lifetime to dice this innocent looking thing? How can I be so slow? How did I unlearn so much in our few years in India?

If it isn’t cooking, it is the washing that takes up all my time. And let me tell you, this is despite all the help I get from Mint. On some days, I feel totally demotivated to cook or fix myself something because the thought of washing up puts me off. Just yesterday, I thought I should make myself some hot chocolate, and later decided against it cos I had just finished the dishes and who wanted to face the prospects of washing a mug once again?

For those of you who swear by your dishwashers, can you tell me how you do it? I usually rinse the dishes so thoroughly before I toss them in the dishwasher that I believe the purpose of the dishwasher is lost. I have already scrubbed the dishes clean before putting them in. Maybe putting the dishes in with some grime is okay? Am I missing something here?

I will find my rhythm some time. I’m known to pick things up at my own pace. Until then I will trudge along. One day at a time.

Posted in Uncategorized | 21 Comments »

Hello

Posted by Pepper on April 25, 2017

Some days ago, I got a notification from WordPress that told me my blog stats were booming. This left me confused, because I haven’t posted anything new in ages. What could have led to the surge? I logged on to my account and took a look at the stats to find out what was going on. Now, I have no idea after how long I was glancing at my stats. When you post this infrequently, the last thing you are interested in is tracking the number of hits you get.

So it looked like my stats were booming because of one single visitor. He/she spent a significant time in my world and seemed to be diving in to old posts. Along with him/her, I began to read all my old posts too. It is something I haven’t done in a long time, and I can’t really put in words the kind of nostalgia I was hit by.

Hello there, visitor! Whoever you are, thank you for pushing me to tour my past. It was a refreshing experience, to say the least. I also got wishful thinking of how often I used to update my life here. I’m not sure I will ever go back to posting that regularly, so there is no point writing another ‘I’m back’ post. I end up feeling stupid after each of those. But I will drop by every now and then to at least write an update post and share a part of my life here.

Posted in The black hole | 16 Comments »

Love, cheese and corn

Posted by Pepper on February 3, 2017

I’m taking a little break from chronicling the move. To talk about, you guessed it. Good ol’ love. One evening, the BFF and I were walking around downtown San Francisco. We had no agenda. We were just strolling along the streets, because the city has such a happy vibe. It was lovely, except that it was a typical December evening. Chilly. Very chilly.

And as we passed by Union Square, we noticed an ice skating rink and decided to watch from the sidelines for a bit. And that’s where I saw them. A young couple. And as I focussed on them, I noticed they were dancing. Ball dancing on the rink. Their strides were effortless and they seeemed to share a remarkable rhythm. They were gliding on ice, holding on to each other, swirling and twirling in each other’s arms. It was simply perfect. That’s a picture for you.

icerink

They weren’t the least bit conscious of the world around them. All they did was smile at each other and dance. I couldn’t stop grinning. What a charming display of love. I noticed the BFF also staring at the same couple. Sure, they seemed to be garnering a lot of attention.

And then I thought to myself. People love watching such exhibits. It is a common trate in most humans. Of course, there are a lot of people out there who would think of such acts as nothing more than cheesy or corny. They probably are, to an extent. But my theory still holds. I think majority of us enjoy our share of cheese and corn, atleast when we get to watch it for free.

Talking about love, cheese and corn, I must also mention the most popular post on my blog. And it falls in line with my theory of people enjoying cheese. I wrote this post during the blogathon last January and the stats almost made me dizzy that day. It received thousands of hits.

The post has a picture of me leaping into Mint’s arm as he enters home. To date, that particular post is what gets me the maximum number of hits. It looks like people keep going back there to read it. Or maybe new people find a way to it. I’m not sure, but that post has given my stats a high.

So does the idea of love make you happy?

 

Posted in Small joys | 4 Comments »

Of friends who’ve been family

Posted by Pepper on January 24, 2017

We landed in San Francisco on a cold, cold morning. We were going to be staying with a friend until we found an apartment of our own. As our shuttle drove us from the airport to the said friend’s house, I tried taking in the familiar sights. This was going to be home for some time now. How long, I wasn’t sure. I might as well warm up to this place as soon as I can, I told myself. But that freezing morning made it exceptionally hard to ‘warm up’ to it.

Let me tell you how apprehensive I had been by the idea of staying with a friend. She is a close friend of Mint and had generously offered to host us till we found a home. But my mind panicked by the thought. Would it be too intrusive? Would we be invading their space too much with all our luggage? Would they feel obliged to cook for us? I certainly didn’t want to eat all our meals at their place. I kept telling Mint we would insist on eating out.

The stay at the friend’s house turned to be delightful and I can’t be more grateful to them for opening up their home to us. Of course, I still didn’t want to overstay our welcome, so I would keep insisting to Mint to pick an apartment soon. But if you know him, you will know how difficult a task it is to make him choose.

We needed the apartment to be close to a BART station, since Mint works in the city. I wanted to make sure the apartment had a washer and dryer, plenty of natural light and central heating. And of course, we had a budget to adhere to. Given all our requirements and conditions, finding the right apartment wasn’t an easy task. Every evening we would spend hours visiting different apartment complexes and leasing offices.

Before I talk about our home, let me talk about our other friend who helped us by lending us her car. She was vacationing in India for a month and without a second thought, told us we could use her car in her absence. We knew it would take us a while to buy our own car, so having one handy as soon as we landed was nothing short of a blessing. Had she not lent us a car, we would have gone ahead and rented one on weekends and our search for an apartment would have been that much slower. Did I already mention I feel grateful for having such friends?

After almost 2 weeks of searching (both extensively and intensively), we finally zeroed in on an apartment. Now we had to go through the pains of finding appropriate furniture to buy. Most apartments in the US do not even come with light fixtures, so we needed to buy a ton of things before we could move in.

On hearing that we had found an apartment, another friend of Mint told us we could have ALL his furniture. He was moving to the city, to an apartment that was much smaller than his current 3 bedroom home. He didn’t know what to do with all the furniture he had. He didn’t care enough to sell it, even though that would have gotten him a good chunk of money.

We offered several times to pay for it, but he was adamant and said he only wanted to give it to us, not sell it to us. And just like that, we were all set to move in. He gave us his couch (all seats are recliners, we love how comfortable they are), the center table, a futon, a king sized bed, a side table for the bed and a 4 seater dining table.

We only had to pay the movers and managed to bring in all furniture in under $500 (And that too only because the pick up place was an hour away from us and because all the furniture had to be hauled up to our 3rd floor apartment). Once we had the furniture in place, we went on to personalize the house by adding bits and pieces to it. Here is a sneak peak. This is one side of our living room.

living room 1.jpg

Mint usually doesn’t like the idea of a table runner on the center table, but there were a few faint stains on it that we wanted to camouflage, so the runner was put. We’re still in the process of doing up our house, making changes and adding some personality to it. Once I think it is close to complete, I can probably put up some more pics.

The point of this post was to remark on our wonderful friendships. Right from offering us a home for our initial stay, to lending us a car, to generously gifting us with furniture, they’ve done it all. We can’t be more thankful.

Posted in Friends | 20 Comments »

Packing up our life in Mumbai – Part 2

Posted by Pepper on January 19, 2017

After we cleared out our apartment and handed over the keys to our tenant, everything moved at a crazy speed. We had around 6 more days left before we were set out to fly. And in those 6 days, we were hoping to pack in a zillion things.

Because we like to add drama to our lives, Mint had a terrible fall around then and was declared unfit to move. There was no way I could cope with our million commitments all by myself, so he was forced to limp his way to glory.

We had a long list of pending tasks that we had to cater to. The priority was selling our car. Between Mint and I, we had two cars. We decided to leave behind one car with my parents and sell the other one. We realised at the very end moment that my parents would not be able to sell the car on our behalf in our absence, because the sale would need our signatures.

We had quite an awful experience when one prospective buyer seemed to love the car and promised to complete the transaction the next day. Mint and I considered taking some advance amount from him, but he seemed so sincere in his desire to purchase the car that we let go without insisting for an advance amount. After which, we stupidly declined offers from other buyers. Sadly, at the very last moment, the buyer who had committed to us backed out of the deal. We wanted to kick ourselves for trusting him so much and letting go of other offers too.

We decided to leave it to fate. We would sign the required form for sale and leave it with my parents. If the sale worked with those pre signed forms, great. Else we would figure out the next steps later. Because our car was in such great condition, we didn’t want to turn this into a distress sale. And then during Mint’s farewell party with his MBA batch mates, his friend found out that we were looking to sell our car. And just like that, he said he would buy it. He transferred the money to us the very next day, without even seeing the car once. I suppose Mint’s reputation of obsessively taking care of his possessions worked in our favour.

We had so much of documentation work to go over in the last minute. We had decided to give my parents the power of attorney for our apartment so that they would be in a position to rent it out for us, extend the lease or even sell it without us having to come down. Creating these documents took up some time. A limping Mint, a frenzied me and my overworked parents were looking for a notary who would complete the job for us. I wish getting these documents together was easier.

We also needed make a separate power of attorney for our home loan so that we had the option of prepaying a part of our loan if and when we wanted to. I still find it ridiculous that HDFC does not allow you to make online payments towards your loans. If we want to make a prepayment or even sign up for a rate change, we need to personally go to the office and hand over the cheque. I have no idea why HDFC still hasn’t awakened to technology. Anyway, so we made a separate power of attorney for my dad to enable him to make prepayments and loan changes on our behalf.

Because of all the uncertainty this move involved, we had kept it secret from most people. So when we finally announced to our friends that we were moving out of the country, most of them were taken aback. Of course, we had to set aside time for farewells, but our schedules were nothing short of crazy. When people asked us when we were leaving, our response would stump them even more. We were leaving in 3 days. Despite that, we spent all out last 3 days meeting people.

I kept bugging Mint and reminding him that we had to start packing. We only had 3 days left and we were moving out of the country, remember? He kept shutting me up saying we had all of the last night that we would dedicate to packing. I mean, seriously? *Rolls eyes*

In between trying to complete all our pending tasks, I decided to get on with my own packing. Mint be damned. I would be utterly exhausted on the last night and would rather catch some sleep. So I skipped the last few farewells so I could pack and Mint went ahead with them without me.

When it came to packing, I was blanking out completely. What do I carry with me other than the obvious clothes and essentials? What would we be needing to set up our life there? Due to my past experience of living in the US, I knew for a fact that we would we able to buy everything we need, including all Indian supplies. So I decided to carry nothing other than my personal items. I carefully packed some household accessories that I had collected over the years, and that was it. Everything else we would buy there. It was going to be a saga of building life afresh, from scratch.

Time was passing at jet speed and everything was such a blur, I don’t have much memory of how we got to the day we were supposed to leave. We had given strict instructions to my family to not come to the airport to drop us off. I wanted this departure to be as casual as possible. I was worried it would hit me like a ton of bricks and weaken my insides. Thankfully, I felt stoic and surprisingly indifferent.

As our cab sped towards the airport, I still couldn’t believe we were moving out of the place we loved so much. It felt like how it usually feels before we embark on a vacation or travel for a short duration. I could not connect with the idea of this being an indefinite exit. Had the feeling sunk in, I would have viewed the city, the roads, the dusty flyovers and even the traffic with a little more nostalgia.

I glanced down at my beloved city one final time as our flight took off. I felt oddly at peace knowing that my connection with this place will live forever, no matter where I am.

Posted in Slices of life, Uncategorized | 9 Comments »

Packing up our life in Mumbai

Posted by Pepper on January 15, 2017

Since our decision to move back to the US was burdening us with so much of doubt and fear, we decided to consider this move to be not more than an experiment. We told ourselves we would move back to India at any point if we believed we would be happier there. Even if it meant staying without a job for a while.

The problem with trying to keep one foot in India and one foot in the US was that it was hugely impacting our decision making process and making everything far too complex. We had our entire life set up in Mumbai and carrying all our belongings with us to California did not make sense. The shipping costs far exceeded the worth of the items. Neither did we want to dispose our stuff, because what if we decide to move back to India soon?

We knew we needed to rent out our apartment, so leaving our stuff in there was not an option. We had not started preparing for our move until the very last second, hoping that through some miracle we would be able to avoid the move. Our idea of miracles included Mint getting an awesome job in Mumbai at the very last moment, or our US visa getting rejected through some unlikely stroke of luck. Because then his company would not be able to force us to move. Hah, seriously, we seemed to be the only two people at the embassy who appeared disappointed when the visas were approved.

Once our visas were approved, we decided to look out for a tenant and told ourselves we will begin packing after we find one. To our luck, we found a tenant almost immediately. He wanted the house in a week. And so began the mammoth task of emptying out the apartment.

The plan was to discard some stuff, set aside some stuff that we wanted to carry with us and pack the rest in boxes that we would keep in my parents house until we figured what to do with them. We knew my parents were being very generous by allowing us to clutter their house with our stuff and turn it into a warehouse. So we thought we would *try* to minimise the stuff we had to store.I know, sometimes my ambitions are amusing.

Before I knew it, I was getting traumatised by our worldly possessions. How much stuff did we own! And why? I started with the clothes and gave away bag fulls. That was not too hard. But then came the books and the DVDs that we had painstakingly collected over the years. We had over 8 shelves of those. No, I didn’t want to just give them away. Neither could we carry them. And what about our electronics? Home theater system, Play Station, X-box kinect? Since we couldn’t come up with a plan for all those items, they went in boxes whose fate is still unknown.

Then came the miscellaneous items! We already had boxes that had been lying unopened from the time we had moved from the US. God, I feel embarrassed even saying that. But really, we chose to not unpack those old boxes because our Mumbai apartment was too small to accommodate those things. I had so many candles and candle stands, accessories for the house, digital photo frames, unused dinner sets, colourful scarves, vases, etc. It really was an endless list of things we didn’t know what to do with. Ultimately, my mom helped us put them in boxes and cartons that have been dumped in her home.

Mint and I were getting exhausted with all the sorting, packing and taping. My dad completely took over the task of clearing out the kitchen. He separated the steel, the nonstick, the glassware and labeled each box accordingly. I realised at that point how much more organised than us he was. My parents have been our saviours. Running errands for us, taking over certain jobs, helping us pack, keeping meals ready for us, what would we have done without their help and support?

One evening as the sister and I were bubble wrapping all our magnets, I paused for a moment to take it all in. Was this really happening? Were we packing up our wonderful life here and moving to the other end of the world. Apparently, we were. But it certainly hadn’t sunk in for any of us.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 15 Comments »

A recap

Posted by Pepper on January 12, 2017

I remember entering 2016 with a high. I was full of hopes and dreams. There was so much to look forward to. My work life would no longer require me to gallop at a frenzied pace. I finally had the reigns in my hands and I believed I could trotter at an even and enjoyable pace. We were hoping to adopt a child. And most importantly, we had gained clarity and taken a stand when it came to this hugely complicated decision.

Should we move back to the US or not? The question had been presented to us in October 2015 and by January 2016 we had made our choice. We wanted to stay put in India. Choosing wasn’t an easy process and we were so glad to have that dilemma out of the way. If only I knew what was in store..

Early in 2016, shortly after we had made our choice to not move to the US, Mint’s company announced to us that they were dissolving his team in Mumbai. He had no choice but to move to the US, unless he was willing to give up this job. This announcement completely jolted us.

Mint tried hard to find another job that would let us stay in India. Sadly, there was nothing that met our requirements. I waded through all of 2016 not knowing where we were headed. It was quite a hellish experience for a person who hates loss of control. The year was full of perennial anxiety and the mere thought of it exhausts me.

I was always accompanied by bad health. It seemed to follow me. First it was the diagnosis of tachycardia. Just when I thought I could live with the high heart rate, I was attacked by other vicious ailments. Something that seemed as innocuous as an eye infection turned out to be a nasty disease. For the first time in my life, I was terrified of my failing health and the potential toxic treatments.

I was hospitalised not once but twice. Since I grew distant from the blog, I didn’t really talk about it here. But if you happened to message me on WhatsApp around that time, I’m sure I shared images of me lying in a hospital bed with numerous tubes running through me.

You see, these things were new to me. At one time, I couldn’t image being knocked out by general anesthesia. The idea used to make me extremely nervous. Again, it probably comes with the fear of being out of control. Heck, let’s forget GA, I couldn’t even imagine a simple IV line being inserted in my hand. It all sounded so painful.

And then I went through all of it, the anesthesia, losing consciousness, the IV line, oxygen tube being shoved down my throat, the tubes that reached my nose. Okay, I know I make it sound like I was dying but they were all part of very simple procedures and all that I described above are standard precautionary measures they adhere to when they put you out.

But who was to snatch away this attention seeking opportunity from me? I loved reactions like, ‘Oh My God! What happened? That looks bad’. So I not only made Mint take pictures of me in that condition, I even shared them with a handful of people. And then I was honest enough to tell them that it all appeared far worse than what it was. Of course, seeking attention for such things seems so immature and silly in hindsight, but when did I deny being all of that?

Simple procedures or not, the point is I had to go throw that crap. Twice. Did I already mention 2016 was not a favourable year? It was also the year in which I struggled to accept that I was no longer thin. Being thin has almost been a part of my identity since the time I can remember. People have often referred to me as the ‘thin girl’. And then came the steroids and the medication.

In a span of a few months, I had gained more weight than I imagined I ever would. I’m still getting used to my new body and I try to not react when people comment on the change.Since I was very thin to begin with, the sudden weight gain still hasn’t made me fat. I’m not sure how much more weight gain is in store for me. As long as I am healthy, I won’t complain.

After torturing ourselves with our indecisiveness all year, we finally chose to take up the offer to move to the US. Since Mint had not found a comparable job, we realised it would be too risky to stay without his income when we had such a big mortgage. Like I have mentioned before, my income doesn’t come close to his and would in no way be enough to tide us through. We started preparing for our move just 3 weeks before we were set out to fly. We finally moved in December 2016.

The eyes got better. I have been weaning off the steroids and have still remained flare free for the past 3 months. Touch wood. Those of you who have been checking on me, thank you so much.

That was 2016 in a nutshell. There were happy moments too. Plenty of them in fact. But the lingering sounds of chaos continued to echo in the background. What do I expect from 2017? I’m not sure. I don’t necessarily believe it will be a fabulous year that will bowl us over. It may be a very happy year, or it may be a year full of challenges. I am walking in to 2017 with no expectations. A blank slate it is. Let’s see what lies in store!

 

Posted in Slices of life, Uncategorized | 28 Comments »

So much has happened..

Posted by Pepper on December 19, 2016

It has been close to 2 months since I last posted. At one time, my blog used to be one of my closest companions. That sadly doesn’t hold true anymore. My blog and I seem to be friends who’ve drifted apart over time.

I’m not going to talk about why that has happened. Instead, let me talk about the biggest change that has taken place in our life. A lot of you know this already, but a lot of you don’t. So here we go. We have moved back to California. We knew it was coming for a whole year, but I barely spoke about all that was going on in our lives. I did write a password protected post that some of you had access to, but even that was only a partial capture of the events that have been rattling our lives. Like I said, this blog didn’t feel like a close friend anymore. One I didn’t care enough to share my sorrows and joys with. Let’s hope we can rekindle that friendship in the coming year? Because truth be told, I miss this space and the warmth and camaraderie I shared with it. So here is yet another attempt to get back to regular blogging.

Meanwhile, Bay Area peeps, say Hello!

Posted in Slices of life | 51 Comments »

Making it count

Posted by Pepper on October 26, 2016

After all the gloom and doom of my last few posts, I must write about all that has been making me happy. And truth be told, there is so much of joy around me, it’s hard to not let it soak and consume you.

I feel it every night as Mint and I walk back after dinner from my parents building to our own.  The air is infused with the sweetest scent of Raat Rani, also known as blooming jasmine, night blooming cestrum, lady of the night and so on. I take deep breaths, so I can take some more of that sweet, woody scent with me as I pass by. I feel so grateful our apartment complex has such beautiful and heady blooms.

I can smell Diwali in the air. The weather is cool and pleasant, making my spirits soar. Taking a walk in the evening is such a pleasure. The cool breeze is like a soft balm. People have begun to drape strings of lights around their windows. The atmosphere is festive. I’m so excited. Every year we have a huge family get together during Diwali. It has been a tradition that none of my family members miss. This year, I actually hand picked the fabric I wanted to get stitched. I now have a pretty pink and gold  salwar kameez that I am waiting to wear. I’m looking forward to the sweets, the ranglolis and the clay lamps.

In the past few weeks, Mint and I often head out to an early morning breakfast at different cafes before we start our day. It helps immensely that we’re both in a position to work from home often. The week day breakfasts are awesome. For starters, we have fabulous food and I love tucking in. The avocado and feta stuffed crepes, the dark chocolate and banana smoothies, the chia seed puddings, the egg coquettes and benedicts, the warm rye breads, the croissants, waffles, granola parfaits, muffins,  dips and cheeses, aah. I love breakfast dates. So far, Le Pain Quotiden, Indigo and Suzette are our top favourite breakfast destinations. I feel so blessed when Mint and I start the day with laid back conversation and terrific food. Here are some pics of our recent breakfast plates ..

breakfast1

breakfast2

I know I lead a spoilt life. I have so many people to pamper me. As long as I am living right next door to my mama and papa, I know I will not truly grow up. Which of course, suits me fine. They indulge me beyond words. And if that wasn’t enough, I have Mint to contribute. I had just walked out of a head bath the other day and as he was drying my hair for me, I thought of how much a of lazy bum I was. Surely, I could dry my hair on my own. But the fact that I have him and that he willing does these things for me is so awesome. I took this very quick blurry pick as he was drying my hair so that I would remember and feel thankful for these moments of my every day life.

dryer

My eyes. They’ve behaved so far even as I tapered my drops to 3 times a day. So much to be grateful! From this Friday, I lower the dosage to 2 times a day. We’ll see how it goes, but irrespective of the outcome, I know good things happen to me.

Posted in Small joys | 31 Comments »

Walking with the Lord..

Posted by Pepper on October 18, 2016

I stayed away from the blog, my piling emails and other media platforms for a few days, but today, I had to come back here to say a big Thank you! I have gotten so much of love and support, I am overwhelmed. I will reply to every comment and mail I’ve received in a few days time. For now, I just wanted to let you know how much it means to me.

Since I didn’t want to talk about my problem and then leave behind a suspenseful silence, here is a short update. When I last posted, I was using steroid eye drops around 6 times a day. This past week, we moved it to 4 times a day and my eyes haven’t flared. For this, I am extremely grateful, but I have to keep in mind that while the doctors tapered my eye drops, they added an oral steroid to my treatment plan. I have to take this 3 times a day. Prednisone, in case you care to know. The taste of these tablets is extremely bitter and makes me go bleigh every time I force them down. I am currently tripping on Prednisone but that is keeping my eyes quiet.

The plan is to taper my eye drops to 3 times a day in the next few days and let it stay that way for another week. We basically taper every week until I finally stop the drops. The oral steroids will however continue for a another month and a half atleast. Constant use of this awful steroid makes you gain weight and gives you what is popularly called a ‘moon face’. But you know what? I don’t care. I don’t mind being fat and droopy faced as long as I am healthy otherwise. And hopefully, I won’t get fat or droopy faced either.

What does the future hold? I still don’t know. I’ve spent a lot of time reading up about this disease and with the progress we’ve made in the field of medicine, thankfully very few people lose their sight because of this. What it takes in order to preserve your sight is however, another story. There are several people who are able to stay flare free ONLY as long as they are on the steroids. The moment they stop the steroids, they flare. Like we all know, living on steroids is not sustainable. So they put you on other heavy medication that suppresses your immune system for a few years.

In India, if you are unable to wean off the steroids and stay flare free, they put you on Methotrexate directly. If you don’t know this, Methotrexate is the most common drug used in Chemotherapy and comes with many side effects. It is also the drug they use to induce abortions. I think I started feeling depressed when my doctors told me what was in store for me if the steroids didn’t work. They said I’d have to be on the Methotrexate for years on end. A cold fear gripped my heart and I was unable to feel any kind of joy. My thoughts followed the same trail on a loop. How could I be affected by an illness as horrible as this? I mean, people fall sick. They catch a cold and develop a fever. Some have it worse and go on to get diseases like Jaundice and Typhoid and Malaria. They’re sick for a few weeks but they come out of it. Nobody I know was facing the probability of being on a chemo drug for years. Not at my age.

And then finally I felt the fog lift one day. I felt totally ashamed for thinking the way I did. MANY people have it worse. How could I be so blind? Heck, I have Oregano in my own family to learn from. He’s suffered such a great setback and has yet managed to turn around his life.Even after his transplant he lives on a cocktail of deadly meds, and he is still happy and well. Why was my situation so terrible? I figured my biggest fear was the mere idea of being put on Methotrexate. So I decided to educate myself further about its usage in treating Uveitis. From what I read, they put you on a very low dose of the drug. Nothing like the dose they use to treat cancer. So the side effects are far fewer. Moreover, you take a small dose every week and most people are able to live a very normal life.

How bad does that sound? Not very, right? I mean, that is the worst case scenario and if that is the chosen plan for me, I will bow down to it with dignity. For now, I still have reason to hope that I will NEVER need it. I just have to wait for the moment of truth though. If I am able to stop the steroids and stay flare free for 3 months, then they will consider me to be in ‘remission’. I have no way of knowing until I crawl to the end. Here is to quiet eyes for me.

PS – The title is a famous song we used to sing in our school assembly. I find myself humming it in my head a lot these days. Lift up your hearts, for you are walking with God..

Posted in Lessons I learn | 15 Comments »

When shit happens..

Posted by Pepper on October 7, 2016

I’m not sure from where to begin. I might not make sense, but I know I need to write. The past few weeks have been such a roller coaster.  I had mentioned an eye infection in my previous post. Sadly, what we thought was an infection is actually a disease called Uveitis. I ended up having recurrent inflammation in my eyes just as I tried reducing my dosage of the steroid drops. The moment I try to taper my dosage, my problem is back!  I’ve seen several ophthalmologists in this time, and while my diagnosis has been confirmed, the approach to treatment seems to differ slightly. I’m still trying to grapple with what has happened to me and cope with my fears. Before I talk about other things, let me present some fun facts about this disease.

  • Uveitis is an auto-immune disease. I think I know enough about ‘auto immune’ problems thanks to Oregano’s kidney failure, which like you can guess was also caused by an auto immune problem. Auto immune disorders occur when your own immune system begins to attack and destroy healthy cells and tissues by MISTAKE because it stupidly believes the tissue is foreign or infected. If I could, I’d scream at my very idiotic immune system and ask it to behave itself. Like seriously dude, can’t you learn to distinguish between good and bad cells? Please stop attacking my eyes for no reason. Leave them alone.
  • I have bilateral Uveitis. Which means, it has struck both my eyes. This is bad news.
  • I have Anterior Uveitis. Which means, it affects only the front of my eyes. Yet. This is good news. Posterior Uveitis comes with many more complications.
  • In about half of the cases, Uveitis is not an isolated disease. It is commonly associated with the presence of a gene called HLA B 27. Diseases that are associated with Uveitis include ankylosing spondylitis, rheumatoid arthritis, Behcet’s disease, sarcoidosis, amongst others. Which means, I have to accept I am vulnerable to a host of nasty illnesses and be very vigilant. Fun, right? As of now I am praying to the Gods that my Uveitis is idiopathic.
  • Even the treatment for Uveitis comes with it’s own complications. The first step in treatment is the use of steroid drops that go into the eye. However, constant usage of steroid drops is not a sustainable long term solution. Persistent usage of steroids in the eyes leads to glaucoma and cataracts. As of now, my eyes are heavily dependent on the steroids and I am using them 6 times a day! Have been doing so for the past several weeks. When I tried reducing my dosage earlier, my attack was back with a vengeance and I went back to using the steroids 6 times a day. I am going to start tapering it *very slowly* from next week again and I pray that I don’t get hit by the problem again.
  • In some cases, the steroids are unable to control the problem. You then move on to immunosuppressive drugs that have to be taken life long or for years on end before you go into remission. And in some stubborn cases of Uveitis, even these drugs don’t work, in which case you welcome the beautiful methotrexate. Methotrexate is a common drug used in chemotherapy to treat cancers. We all know the side effects chemo drugs come with. I know I am talking about the worst case scenarios, but since I have not been able to break out of the steroid cycle so far, who is to stop my mind from running away to these lousy possibilities.
  • Even if you manage to treat one episode of Uveitis., odds of it reoccurring are very high. In most cases, it does reoccur. Sometimes after 2 months. Sometimes after 2 years.
  • And finally, the stats that give me sleepless nights. “It has been estimated that uveitis accounts for about 10% of the visual handicaps in the western world and up to 15% of all cases of total blindness in the United States. Legal blindness develops in at least 1 eye in 22% of all uveitis patients and in about 23% of all who require intraocular surgery. Visual acuity (VA) loss to worse than 6/18 in at least 1 eye occurs in 35% of patients with uveitis”

Okay, so now do you hear me say WHAT THE HELL? A QUARTER of the people go blind?? ONE THIRD go partially blind?! Dear Lord, please help me. I know I have been acting like a complete idiot. I’ve been paranoid to the extent of being insane. I always considered myself to be a laid back person when it came to dealing with illnesses that struck me. But I guess it all changes when you consider the possibility of sight loss. I’ve been waking Mint up in the middle of the night and telling him I don’t want to go blind.

My zen and calm statistician husband tells me he doesn’t agree with those stats. He says there are too many variables they may not have accounted for. What was the purpose of the research? What was the sample size? At what stage of the disease did those people get treatment. Etc. Etc. In short, he thinks stats can be twisted to suit your agenda. He thinks I am being silly by worrying about sight loss at this stage. For all we know, I might even be able to wean off the steroids this time (3rd time’s the charm?) and never have to face this nasty problem again.

On the other hand. I may not recover and may be stuck with this dreadful thing for a long time. I mean, I don’t really trust my luck to be honest. This is a rare disease and affects only about 0.38% people in the world. That means the odds of it happening to people are less than 1%. And of course, I had to fall in that 1%. I told Mint I want to scream and say ‘Why me?’. He asked me who the question was directed at. Um. Good question. The truth of the matter is that there is no explanation for such things. The universe is governed by randomness.

Like I have mentioned, this isn’t fun to live with. When my eye is ‘Active’, I hide from all possible sources of light. I feel rather silly to be wearing my sunglasses at home and other closed spaces. I go about telling people I have an eye problem even when they don’t ask. Just because I feel stupid wearing sun glasses in an already dark room and feel like I owe the world an explanation. Using the drops every 2 hours is a pain. There are days when I pray for nightfall because the sunlight during the day is too unbearable. Yes, a lot of vampire jokes have been made by Mint and Oregano.

What lies ahead? Well, I have blood tests lined up for tomorrow. I will have the reports by Monday. I will also step down from using the steroid drops 6 times a day to 4 or 5 times a day from the next week. I hope to be able to taper the steroids every week. If I am unable to wean off without a flare this time, then my ophthalmologist is going to refer me to a rheumatologist and we will consider other oral immunomodulation therapy. I hope I don’t need something strong to shut my immune system up.

Meanwhile, until I know what’s going on on, I repeat to myself. I will be able to wean off the steroids this time.  I will be able to wean off the steroids this time. I will not have a recurrence. I will not have complications. Deep breathe. Repeat.

PS – If you would like to read another patient’s personal account of Uveitis, go here. I could relate to a lot of what has been said there. He/she has really voiced my fears and emotions well.

Posted in Health, Uncategorized | Tagged: , | 89 Comments »

 
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