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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Celebrating meaningful Birthdays

I am into simple and minimalist living, but it sure is a bit more complicated when you have small kids and are surrounded by many consumerist minded family and friends.  Zenguy and I have stopped making a big deal out of our birthdays since kids came along, we still celebrate our birthdays, doing things that each of us really want that, we can not simply go and buy.  For example, I like some alone time, meaning I should be able to take shower without kids knocking on door, writing, reading a book, blog or magazine while sipping hot tea, things that matter most to me. For Zenguy, his passion is nature, music and food. On his special days, either, I cook his favorite food, or sometimes we go out to eat his favorite restaurant and go to easy outdoor hiking or listen to classical music at home.

Kids birthdays are little bigger deals and celebrated with a few friends and family, R is old enough to ask for what he wants to eat, and what he wants as gifts, little P is too young, he is simply happy to be crawling around or play with empty boxes with his brother and us.

Last weekend we had a birthday celebration party for kids, as little P has turned one, and R had turned 5 a few weeks before. We asked everyone to just come, have fun and give blessings to kids, and no gifts. Zenguy and I both believe that R and P have way too many toys and do not need more stuff.  However, at the actual party, everyone came with some type of toys, clothes, and books for gifts. What else could I have done to convince everyone not to bring gifts? Or we as a society, do not know how to stop consumerism even when asked not to buy. I can understand the peer pressure to bring something and not come empty handed, even I would feel the same way many times. However, I would call the host and ask, what do they really want or need and do that and if they still insisted and I felt it was genuine, I would try to honor their wish of no gifts.

Our well meaning friends did not budge so we got so many gifts that we do not need or want. We are going to donate most of these gifts that we got and keep a couple of toys that kids might like, that is the best solution I found that keeps our friends and family happy and us happy too.

I am not against gifts or buying things we may need or want, however, I am against buying so much, more than we could ever use.  Once we went to Christmas party where a 7 year old got about 52 gifts, I saw the kid's eyes light up while opening the first gift, and the second, after the 10th, he was tired, bored and did not care for all the well meant gifts that people gave. I remember growing up with one or two toys, and they were special to me and I remember a doll that I carried everywhere. Now a days, R and P have too many toys, despite our wish to be simple, grandparents, friends and other relatives keep buying stuff for both the kids, thinking we are depriving both our kids by our minimalist approach. My mom who grew up simply, also likes to spoil kids by buying things.  There is a thin balance between your values and other people's emotions.

Some of the gifts that were given to us in past, were not needed, wanted or even useful. One of our friend knows I like cooking, so they gave set of cooking stuff, which included some egg and meat cooking utensils, which were very nice to someone who ate meat or eggs, they were utterly useless to us as life long vegetarians.

While I do not know how to stop others from giving and recycling their unwanted gifts to others; I think most of us will be lot happier if we got useful things as a gifts, such as;

  • Hand written coupon for watching kids for an hour or two
  • Cooked meal, Running an errand for them
  • Lawn mowing (when you are sick or have new baby)
  • Experience gifts such as yearly membership to favorite museum
  • Teaching something you are expert at and they want to learn/know
  • Just one-on-one time : Uninterrupted, talking and listening
  • CD compilation of favorite songs, recorded story telling for kids
  • Book or journal sharing special memory with them

How about you? What do you really want for your birthday that is meaningful and special to you? How do you celebrate? How do you deal with grandparents, relatives or close friends not honoring your wish so all of us can be happy? Finding a balance is sometime tough, but we have to keep working at it until we are living the life we want to.


Photo source: www.webweaver.nu/clipart

Saturday, February 20, 2010

How to stay cool under tense situation

Life is very interesting, it keeps giving us some challenge, one after other to keep us occupy trying to resolve those challenges! Yesterday Zenguy got a ticket for using a cell phone while driving (actually sitting in traffic). A few years ago, California passed a law about using hand free cell phone only while driving. Zenguy generally uses his blue tooth, hand-free device to usually call anyone, if he needs to use a cell phone while driving. Yesterday, however he forgot his blue tooth at home, and he called home while sitting in traffic to see how is little P doing and see if he needs to come home early, as P has been sick with cold and cough and little fever for past few days. Before we could finish the talk, phone was cut off and he was getting a ticket from near by traffic police.

This was first ever cell phone use offense for Zenguy, and he explained the situation to  the traffic officer, nicely that he was sitting in traffic and not driving, he called because his infant child's health issue and his action was not putting in anyone nearby in jeopardy. No matter what he said and nicely he asked, the officer did not budge or let him go with only warning, he got full ticket with court date and all. I am appalled, angry and frustrated at the whole thing, once I found out. How come, it is not okay to use quick cell phone while sitting in traffic and it is okay to eat, drink coffee etc., put on make up, shave and much more things that I have seen some drivers do?

Sometimes, some traffic officers have quota to meet, and traffic violations are big income generator for the state government. It has been really long time since we got any ticket so this was a shocker, while this was only cell phone usage ticket issue, (and not a speeding, or missing a red light or stop sign, Zenguy is careful and law abiding driver) it can affect some insurance carrier's price and ticket fees can go up to $150-$200 with assortment of various fees. I am starting to think how in world, some one who is unemployed or poor can afford this price? This is outrageous, to get an ticket like this and first timer should be given a warning and not the actual ticket, while there are real dangerous or drunk drivers are out there on the road. It is not about the price but also principle as well.

But getting upset, will not change the outcome, so we had to think about the whole situation in calmer manner. I am not sure, but I guess we are going to have to state our case to a judge and see how it goes. Do you have suggestion or story to tell?

Here are few tips to follow, whenever you are pulled over; Even if think, you are NOT at the fault.

1. If you see a police car flashing behind your car, pull over to a safe area. If you think safe, lighted area is little further, motion the police before driving slowly further until you find safer place, but not too far.
2. Some experts suggest to turn off the car and get keys out, so the officer won't think you will start driving all of sudden.
3. Leave your hands on wheels, where it can be seen.
4. Stay in car, don't search of license and registration until you are asked to do so.
5. Answer only what you are asked and not more.
6. Do not beg but ask politely for a warning only, explain situation.
7. If the officer, still gives you ticket and you think it is unfair, do not blast off, take the ticket. You can fight it in court later, fighting with officer will make things worse.
8. Write on blog and ask others, learn from others.

This is serious stuff, so counter balance I am sharing a traffic funny story that I found on the web! Enjoy and Drive safely.

A police officer pulls a guy over for speeding and has the following exchange:
Officer: May I see your driver's license?  Driver: I don't have one. I had it suspended when I got my 5th DUI. 

Officer: May I see the owner's card for this vehicle? Driver: It's not my car. I stole it. 

Officer: The car is stolen? Driver: That's right. But come to think of it, I think I saw the owner's card in the glove box when I was putting my gun in there. 

Officer: There's a gun in the glove box? Driver: Yes sir. That's where I put it after I shot and killed the woman who owns this car and stuffed her in the trunk. 

Officer: There's a BODY in the TRUNK?!?!? Driver: Yes, sir. 

Hearing this, the officer immediately called his captain. The car was quickly surrounded by police, and the captain approached the driver to handle the tense situation: 

Captain: Sir, can I see your license? Driver: Sure. Here it is. It was valid.
Captain: Who's car is this? Driver: It's mine, officer. Here's the owner's card. The driver owned the car. 

Captain: Could you slowly open your glove box so I can see if there's a gun in it? Driver: Yes, sir, but there's no gun in it. Sure enough, there was nothing in the glove box. 

Captain: Would you mind opening your trunk? I was told you said there's a body in it. Driver: No problem. Trunk is opened; no body. 

Captain: I don't understand it. The officer who stopped you said you told him you didn't have a license, stole the car, had a gun in the glove box, and that there was a dead body in the trunk. 

Driver: Yeah, I'll bet that lying officer told you I was speeding, too. 

Source: Superlaugh.com


Friday, February 19, 2010

101 Small changes: change 1 - Reduce drinking Soda

I am starting a series of posts about small changes we can make it our life to make our daily living and health improve tenfold. If we try to make huge changes, it is often difficult sustaining it and we have sense of  failure but small changes made slowly becomes habits if done over and over again for 21 days.

These are changes I have made or working on it. Would you like to join with me in this journey?

If you are heavy soda drinker (drinking 2 can or more per day), let's reduce soda drinking by 1/2 can only.
Soda without sugar is tiny bit better, not a best solution though, so I would not recommend to drink sugarless soda instead, unless your sugar is high.

If you are occasional and social soda drinker (once in a while) you can reduce by smaller amount, or 100% juice instead. You can replace Juice with water slowly.

Key is to do without feeling deprivation, if you really really want go ahead  and drink it but reduce amount for 1/4 or 1/2. With every step, it will become easier and you may never feel deprived of it.

How do I know? I have been soda free for past 8 years now. As a college student, I was heavy soda drinker, for caffeine to keep me awake to study and work during those hectic days. After college, I slowed down, not by choice but some how looking for job first and working/learning new things at work kept me busy to really think about soda everyday. I became social soda drinker, when I met with friends and I could not eat Pizza without soda, yep I got duped by advertisements. I got cavities and weight gain to prove it, however it did not stop me. I got heartburn often, I did research and try to do cold tofurky to quit soda all at once. I would not recommend it anyone but it has to be done as my digestive system was in such a shot condition. I am in better health condition now than when I was in my early 20s.

What is in soda? The average cola contains carbonated water, caramel color, natural and artificial flavors, caffeine, phosphoric acid and high-fructose corn syrup. Many of these ingredients not to mention high-fructose corn syrup is very unhealthy sweetner.

Reasons to reduce and stop drinking soda:

1. Soda is never "cool", even though it might be advertised by your favorite sports person, singer, actor.
2. Soda has addictive. Makes you crave more.
3. Can cause weight gain, cavities, diabetes, heart burn.
4. May cause, kidney damage, high BP, liver damage
5. It can cause dehydration, as sugar and caffeine has diuretic effect making one more thirsty.
6. It has no nutrients value, and there are other healthier choices for drinks.

How much soda are you drinking now? Are you willing to reduce a little and make small change in your life to make you feel better?


Friday, February 12, 2010

Simplifying your Valentine day: Free e-book

Valentine day is second most greeting cards sending holiday, just after Christmas. Americans alone spent approx 14.7 Billion dollars on 2009 alone for Valentine day gifts. Men spent lot more about $147 per person and Women were not too far behind with $87 per person on Valentine day gifts.

Valentine day is supposed to show your care and love, everyone you love including, your friends, kids, parents, spouse, girlfriend/boyfriend, all people you know and care for. Please be kind to single friends or recently single person in your life, as no holiday should exclude any group or any one.

Why does anyone have to wait for February 14th, to express thier love? Why it can not to be today, tomorrow, or everyday?

Before we had kids, Zenguy one valentine day surprised me by cleaning up computer room mess that was bothering me a lot. That gift meant a lot to me and I still remember it after many years while all sweaters and perfumes gifts are long forgotten. Now as a family, we celebrate it together, this year we are planning to visit a local museum that we all enjoy as a family, un-traditional maybe!, we may have whole museum to enjoy by our self that day who knows.

If you do celebrate this holiday, please take our consumerism out of it and do it from heart and handmade by simply following next few tips for more meaningful holiday.

1. Wish and show love to everyone you know, not only your spouse, or girlfriend/boyfriend.
2. Instead of flowers, give plants or seed packets to your loved one.
3. Cook something together instead of going out to eat.
4. Make handmade coupons to redeem later such as special uninterrupted time together doing something you both or all enjoy.
5. Tell or write 10 reasons why you love them.

Please download free ebook Simplify your Valentine day from New American Dream a group that promotes sustainability and avoiding consumerism. This free e-book has traditional and alternative ways of celebrating this holiday and if you do buy gifts, be a conscious consumer.

Make everyday Valentine day. Wish valentine day to everyone, specially someone who is alone, your single friends, elderly neighbors, your parents, kids. Wishing you all happy and meaningful valentine day. 


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Re-connect with community around you

Have you ever watched "It is wonderful life", 1946 movie with James Stewart and Donna Reed? Many of us watch it during Christmas holidays as a holiday tradition. Why am I talking about a holiday movie in February time?

What I love about the movie, is not only uplifting and inspiring story, but also a sense of community in the movie, where everyone knew each other by name and were friends. I would like to live where everyone knows us, and we know them and are friendly with each other too. Our older generation used to know people around them such as neighbors and other everyday folks they met during the course of the day.

Now a days, we have lost that connection with people, a sense of community is hardly there. Many of us live in Apartments, Condo or house for months or years, yet we do not know many of our neighbors! I mean really know them as a friends not just by face or car they drive only. We no longer know people we deal with often such our bankers, bakers, gas station workers, mail man as they keep changing jobs often and due to lack of time on our part. And not many knows "real" us either, as we seemed to busier than ever.

We go to work, office, business, school, college or work at home, busy making money and paying bills, running errands, yet hardly we take time out to connect with people whom we meet. Take an example of us, Zenguy and I have lived in same place for many years yet we both used to work crazy hours till late evening. We used to eat out or crash in front of the TV eating take out food, we did not have energy for people who lived around us. Now, that I am home and we have 2 little ones, we are just beginning to know some of our neighbors truly. However, there are still some neighbors who are busy working long hours or as soon as they come home, they close garage doors, so no one gets to know them.

R loves to say hello to our mail man and garbage man, he genuinely  is interested in them and want to know their truck and how do they deliver mails or how the garbage truck picks up the big trash cans. If they are rushing, R still likes to wave at them and smile. And thanks to him, I am also getting to know people and  helpers around me.

Sometimes when we go to grocery store, we say hello to people in line with us, chatting up with cashier as well.  Once Zenguy saw one couple ahead of us in checkout line, and gave them our extra coupon that he saw they were buying, so they can save few bucks. They were surprised and very thankful. Little P was restless and crying so I wanted to rush home, like I used to, but that act of Zenguy made me not only proud of him but reminded me to connect with others, even though we may or may not see them again.

While, we may not be friends with neighbors like in movie "It is a wonderful life", but we are improving and getting better. We have have made friendship with single old woman in her late 60s and have shared some meals with her, we were there when her mom passed away and she in turns shares her stories with us, and helps us when we least expecting it.

There is always a first step to every journey and these are our conscious choices to smile and say hello to everyone we meet such as neighbors, grocery cashiers, Bankers, farmer market sellers, garbage truck driver, mail man and even those who solicited selling things at our door. It does not cost us anything to smile and be friendly and in return we get good energy that uplifts us.

Do you know people around you? Are you always rushing from one place to another? If so, slow down a little and get to know your community around you, slowly. It may do wonders for you.

If you are friendly with people around you, I would sure like hear your story.


Friday, February 5, 2010

Some Asked Questions: Person behind the blog

I thought of answering a few asked questions and other possible questions you may have for the person behind the blog. It is not needed, but I always think it makes it personable when we know each other. I always like personal tidbits on blogs; so here it goes for those curious minds that want to know more!

And for those, who are fine without such details, I want to know how do you come to such a Zen mind? :-)

1. Are you on Twitter, Face book, other social media?

I am not currently on any of these social media. I do not want to be too much networked right now with 2 little ones at home. I may seem to be behind in technology but this is a conscious choice to keep little sanity in my life.

I still try to response to each comments posted here or sent via email as they are important to me. So far it has been easy as blog and email comments are small and manageable. If anything changes in future, I will sure to update information on the blog.

2. Why do you write anonymously?
It is matter of personal choice and comfort level. However, whatever I write everything here about life, kids and Zenguy are 100% truth.

3. Where are you located?
I live in SF bay area, in Northern California.

4. You say one of your passion is cooking, will we see food post here on the blog?
Yes, one of my passion is cooking along other things. I may post some healthy recipes occasionally here. My main focus here is personal and life improvement though. Meanwhile, you can check out many wonderful cooking blogs, one of my favorite is Holy Cow, Earth Vegan Blog , check out for yummy, healthy vegan recipes that will be liked by vegans, vegetarians and meat-eaters alike.

5. How do you make money?
First, I thought of ignoring this question but after some pondering, I thought of answering it here. I have made so far (about 6 months of blogging) $0.00 on this blog. While I would like to earn some pocket change someday, this blog is almost advertisement free (except small amazon bar). My goal is to help others get a better, more fun and stress free life and get more balanced view between what heart wishes and mind wants.

6. Why name Zengirl?
I answered this in my earlier post here, please check it out.

7. Why name: Happy heart and mind?
Please check out here for details.

8. How often you update, post on your blog?
I post about 4-6 posts every month. I post when I get free time between 2 kids, home and being preschool teacher (volunteer post) among other things in life.

Also, if you want to know more about the person behind the blog, please check it out here .

Got more questions?
While, I do not claim to be expert, if you have questions, please feel free to ask them in comments here or email, I will answer to my best ability.

Question for you all.
Now, let me ask you, how can I make this blog more useful to you? You like what you read here? I am simple girl, with simple goal, let's make each other better person, shall we?

Thanks for reading and learning journey with me.


Monday, February 1, 2010

You are richer than you think!

You may have heard these, "Misery loves company", "When it rains, it pours!". Sometimes, when one trouble comes, other troubles/problems seemed to be right behind it. "When life give you a lemon, make lemonade", strategy works sometimes, but other times, it is just too much effort to be cheerful or see positive side. I fall in to this trap often. Zenguy is natural at being positive and optimistic even in bad situation, while I learn from him a lot, seeing innocent smiles on my kids also lifts my spirits up.

Most people's worry and concern seemed to be money related now a days. No matter how poor we think we are, we are still rich, because we have roof over our heads, health, family and friends and food to eat, clean water to drink. We have lot more compared to many folks in the world.

If you still feeling bit down about your financial outlook, here are a few ways to make you little bit more happy and content with yourself.

1. Help others in need.
2. Do one thing you really love, everyday at least for 10 minutes.
3. Get close to nature, be outside, gardening, walking in park, looking at birds.
4. Spend/give time each day to your 6 area for balanced life as seen 6 critical areas for life balance.
5. Practice silence everyday for 10 minutes: or meditate.
6. Be optimistic and positive.
7. Don't dwell on decision making. Making wrong one is far better than indecision.

Don't believe me? Check out Global Rich list calculator. Just type in your salary, it has choices of currency in Dollar, Pound, Yen etc., and see yourself in top percentage of world population. Your perspective will change!!!

How did you financially rate among the world's population? How did it make you feel? Did your perspective change?


Photo source: Long Beach city college Newsletter at http://fina.lbcc.edu