Always got your back!

“Sometimes being a brother is even better than being a superhero!”

-Marc Brown

And have I been lucky to grow up with four of them!

A question that my cousins and I are often asked is “How come you are all so close? We are not this close to our cousins.” This always surprised me, I mean how can you not be? Throughout my life, they have been everything to me.

It took me a while to realize that there are a few reasons behind this:

  1. We lived in a joint family for half a decade
  2. I am the only child
  3. Whatever we do, we want the other to be there to witness it
  4. We developed a strong bond which was inspired by the one shared by our parents and their siblings.

Raksha Bandhan, or simply Rakhi is a Hindu festival, celebrated in many parts of the Indian subcontinent, notably India and Nepal. Raksha bandhan means “bond of protection”. It is observed on the full moon day of the Hindu luni-solar calendar month of Shravana, which typically falls in Gregorian calendar month of August. A day dedicated to celebrate the bond between a brother and sister!

Today, to mark this beautiful festival, I want to share why each of them is and will always make a significant difference in my life.

Vijay (Nickname: Viju) 

Superpower: Making Dreams come true 

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The eldest of the cousins, Vijay is the epitome of hard work. He taught me that no matter how big or small my dream, I have to chase it! And in the process I have to make sure to have the right balance of hard work and passion, and once success finds it way to me, being humble is what will help retain it. We haven’t had the chance to spend a lot of time together, but whatever we have spent has always been the most precious. Vijay is a senior chef and whenever he visits India, my only request to him is to cook me something special (I have been so ignorant of the fact that when he is on a holiday, thats one thing he probably doesn’t want to do). This one time, there were no ingredients in the house that he could use to make me the Pasta he had promised, and it was too late to go out and get some. Luckily, there was fusilli and being a top notch chef, he cooked up some white sauce and added some veggies, and by all his Juggad I had the best Pasta till date! He is the brother everyone deserves! Dear Viju, thank you for giving me so much to look up to!

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Vinay (Nickname: Vinu) 

Superpower: Staying Calm, and just making everything better! 

Where do I even begin? Of all the cousins, we have spent the maximum time together. Vinay, is the most kind and understanding soul you will ever come across. Why do I say this? When he was about 9 and I was 5, we lived 5 Kms apart in Pune. As soon as the weekend would approach I would start throwing tantrums that he has to come and stay over. So he would cycle every single weekend to come play with me. To make it worse I made him play with my Barbie dolls. Till date, Vinay has always been just a call away, he has been my confidant, my dance partner, my travel buddy and just everything a girl could ask for in a brother, and so much more. Dear Vinu, thank you for being my best friend! From hanging on to Monkey Bars to Hanging out at Monkey Bar, we have come such a long way, and I am glad that I got to share my childhood and continue to share Adulting with you.

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Pritish (Nickname: Gullu) 

Superpower: Know everything about every automobile in this world! 

Pritish and I have spent most summer vacations together either in Alibag or when he came to Pune and it would be world war 3 because Vinay and him would team up to pull my leg.

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But we have had some of the greatest memories trying to see who gets their hands on these:

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playing WWE cards and mandatory visits to the beach. The thing about Pritish that baffles us all is his immense knowledge about any damm automobile in the world. He has the ability to recognize which car is approaching from a mile away, and has never once been wrong. You will listen to him with envy, because you will want to be that knowledgable about something.

Just like any brother and sister, we have fought over silly things, only making our bond all the more stronger. Dear Pritish, thank you for teaching me how to puncture tyres, pull pranks and for always leaving the orange walla pepsi (popsicle) for me!

Adarsh (Nickname: Adu) 

Superpower: Do anything and everything with SWAG! 

The youngest one, so by default the naughtiest one, Adu in every sense is my best friend. Sometimes all the wisdom he imparts on me makes me wonder if I am the older one.

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Adu and I have spent a significant amount of our time deciding which movie to watch, where to eat and taking selfies. We have seen the Nanda Devi and Mont Blanc together, and every minute of our journey from the Himalayas to Alps has been one hell of a ride with countless memories. I am allowed to spam him at 3 am asking for some silly relationship advice (boys perspective and all you know) and he will reply sounding like the most qualified person to answer (they always make so much sense!)

 

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The idea of traveling without the other gets us more stressed than anything in life, because hello? making the other person jealous is too mainstream!

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Sir giving me important life advice on the streets of Sydney.
Dear Adu, thank you for putting up with my endless doubts and anxiety about trivial things, for always sharing yummy food, watching crappy movies and of course traveling the world with me!

A special thanks to my mom for capturing all of the above moments, we love you!

 

To my dear brothers, thank you for always having my back, for your unconditional love and affection, for standing by me, come what may and for making my life worthwhile! Cheers to you all! I love you!

Happy Rakhsha Bandhan! 

 

 

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Live Well, Laugh Often!

“And will you succeed? Yes you will indeed! (98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)”

-Dr.Seuss

Before leaving for India, my parents got me the most thoughtful gift ever.

“500 ways to live in the moment” – Even if we all could just do one of them each day, we would start feeling the ripple effect of positivity in our lives.

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First day in office.

I was off to a great start – Kala uncle being my neighbour , suggested we go together and I was looking forward to finally meeting everyone as my communication with all had been restricted to Skype over the past few months.

Also: I packed my Dabba(s)!

 

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Hopefully soon, I will get to a point where you are interested in my recipes! 😉

Isn’t it wonderful how the minute you are surrounded by some great people, good things follow ? I’m thanking my stars because I get to work with such great people everyday!

Whats amazing about working for a start up that’s run by incredible human beings who do everything to push their employees is the room they create for the growth of every individual. When you start working with them, you realize how far passion and hard work can take you.

Venkat sir, who currently resides in the US, believed in me and hired me based on a Skype call. Thanks to him, I rang in the new year (2016) with a job in hand! I had the chance of meeting him quite recently myself, and it’s an honor to work with someone who is the mind behind our application and so extremely down – to – earth.

A lot of us have the chance to witness a significant impact of a person in our lives, and they make you realize what your true potential is even when you are not aware of it yourself. Manmohan sir has come to be this person in my life. Its amazing how throughout his busy day, he always manages to find time to talk to me, listen to my chattering, and makes sure I leave the room only when I have learnt something new (its subtle, but impactful). A special thanks to him for believing in me and pushing me to do better each day!

An important message I want to convey from the above is ‘go out there and find this person.’ A lot of us move away from our homes to build something; to create an identity for ourselves. This journey can often be overwhelming and challenging, hence making it crucial to find people who can influence your life positively. Constantly seek for a mentor – someone who you can confide in and someone whose happiness comes from seeing you grow, someone who encourages and supports you, and most importantly guides you when you stumble.

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Just a gentle reminder…

The weeks that followed were equivalent to my ride on Formula Rossa. The days were going by too fast, and I wasn’t sure my pace of doing things were at par. But its essential to stop, breath and appreciate yourself once in a while. You are doing the best you can and you are only getting better at it.

Each day, I was making room for new learnings. Hyderabad was giving me so much to look forward to, I had a job I loved, I was a host on Airbnb, Artista was picking up its roots again. I even did a little something for my Munchkin’s first birthday! I cooked my own food, attended a wedding in Bangalore in the midst of it all, and really started to “Live in the Moment”

 

Until Of Course……

Happily Desi

“And suddenly you know: It’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.”

– Meister Eckhart

Jugaad!”

The first time I heard this word was in 2006, when my father used it while traveling from Delhi to Uttrakhand. Our car had broken down in the middle of nowhere and with a few phone calls to someone in a completely different city, we were able to arrange another car.

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Pictured: Jugaad Technology

Jugaad (Hack) has crept into all our lives, and in India especially, we indulge in Jugaad on a daily basis (from fixing clothes with safety pins to carrying fuel in water bottles), Juggad  is a talent that you are born with if you are Indian.

Which is exactly why it is always good to be back in India! Its the people. No matter where you go, you always have someone to look out for you.

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Once again, it was time for a Goodbye…..

The minute I stepped on the desi land, I was reminded of the hospitality that comes with returning to your country (I know, I know, I wasn’t even gone that long!)

Every decision has a driving force, and one of mine was Mr.Kala Satyanarayana (I will refer to him as uncle from here on). I must have done something right in my past to deserve him as my mentor. He is the most patient, kind and passionate person I have met. He has dedicated his life to helping others grow; he has such a significant impact on anyone who works with him, and all you really want to do is make him proud. I am one of those lucky people who gets to be on the receiving end of his ideals and work ethics and learn something new each day for which I am beyond grateful.

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Seen in picture: Uncle, my closest friend Sushmitha and the lovely Malathi aunty

The first time I met them was in 2006 when we had moved into the same apartments. Sushmitha and I have been thick as thieves since. But little did I know that someday I would be working with her dad. My very first day back in India started with uncle and aunty, because being the extremely benevolent people that they are, they had come to pick me up at the airport, got me to my home sweet home, followed by a feast that aunty had prepared for me! (You can see why my parents were so confident to send me back)

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Change in View

The next day was Independence day, so I had enough time to settle in, unpack and get ready before starting work (which obviously had to be used for catching up with my friends instead)

And just as expected my friends were checking up on me, and ensuring that there was no such thing as “lonely” when living alone.

I am not sure what amount of gratitude will be enough for this next one, but I am going to try to do justice to it.

If F.R.I.E.N.D.S did a version with families, we would fit right into it. This incredible family had moved in about a month before we left for Abu Dhabi, so we hardly got the chance to spend time together; but I think within a week we had made up for it. Preethi, Mohit, Ajji and Mitakshi(my Munchkin) live right across from me.

Preethi is the reason I know what its like to have a sister. She is such a beautiful and positive soul that you can’t even go a day without seeing her! (To this also add: Amazing chef and baker; Goodbye Diet Plans!) Every morning at 8 am Preethi would be at the doorstep with breakfast – because she can never come to terms with why someone would take all the effort to cook only for oneself!  She is my confidant, my partner in crime and my fellow TV show binge watcher, but above all I am so blessed that I have someone who goes out of their way to look out for me, always!

Mohit and Ajji instantly welcomed me into the family. I have honestly attended more of their family events than my own. Ajji would check up on me every couple of hours and she continues to do it even now. The icing on the cake is our little ball of sunshine: Munchkin. I can go on for days about her, but to sum it up – she truly, in every way possible lights up all of our lives.

And just like that within seconds all of them completely made me forget that I was going to be staying alone.

It was time for a big reality check though: Was I going to be able to prepare all of my 6-8 meals everyday and work out and make it on time for work? Well, I sure as hell was about to find out!

This post is dedicated to every single person who has played a role in my journey so far, I thank you for changing my life just by being such a precious part of it. A special thanks to my parents who spend every minute of their day believing in me and doing everything in their capacity to make my dreams come true. 

 

 

Begin, Again

Time you Enjoy Wasting, Was not Wasted. 

– John Lenon 

Rachna Ramesh – BBA Honors Class of 2015 – Christ University, Bangalore.

I was a graduate! It was official. I had always considered myself to be someone who knew where she was headed. But for the first time in my life, I did not know what I was going to do.

We all often find ourselves wishing for a longer break, a longer holiday away from everything; but when this opportunity is really given to you, the monotony of it will break you. Once again, I was confined to my room, but since my physiotherapy was over, and I was able to move around and walk more comfortably, I started catching up with my friends  and often they would come home.

I also had a visit by my cute little sister – Vaishnavi. We went out (Walking Stick, Vaishnavi and me) and relished some good Mexican food. And much to my delight, following her visit was my best friend Prerana who was coming home from the US for the summer and the icing on the cake was when both my cousins – Adarsh and Vinay decided to surprise me!

By  June, I was allowed to travel, so I made trips with my family to Kotagiri and Coorg in June and July respectively.

P.S. If you are looking for a place to Holiday – the Villa on the left is an ideal destination – https://goo.gl/2Mpf3k (Sorry, the marketer in me couldn’t resist) 

Other significant happenings included – my Chaddi Buddy Sushmitha coming home from UK, attending a show by my favorite Stand Up comedian – Biswa Kalyan and Revamping my room!

Being back in Hyderabad meant facing reality. I was ready for it in full swing. My leg was much better, not fully recovered but I could move around a lot more now, so I decided to begin my Job hunt. It was a slow process and I had to be choosy to not take something that required a lot of traveling because of my leg. (And companies are choosy too, of course!) But having specialized in marketing, I had to beat the odds to find something that allowed me to sit at one place.

Finally, in September I got a job in a design automation company as a Marketing Executive.  I had to make cold calls, and generate leads. My time there was short – lived (something I am thankful about) but over the 5 months that I worked there I made three really great friends – Ankita, Naveen and Mani who were the reasons I would even turn up because every morning I would find an excuse to not go. (This wasn’t school, or college – this was a real job that paid – not in Monopoly money).

Now during this period my Thatha (aka my James Bond) unfortunately fell ill. My thatha  was a civil engineer and to me he was the epitome of Will Power and he could literally fix anything and everything! Everyday, after our lunch, he would cut a banana into two – one half for himself and the other for me – this was our thing, I used to be in awe of how much precision he followed even to cut a fruit.

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He would do anything for me – As you can see from the costume I forced him to put on! I miss him, deeply.

Thatha soon had to be admitted, and my entire family flew down and stayed with us for 2 months. These two months were the most life changing experience for every member of our family. My thatha was such an incredible human that even before his final days, he managed to bring us all to one place and helped us realize what “emotional support” every minute of the day can feel like. We lost him on 29th November 2015 and let me tell you my Patti (grandma) is the real Iron Lady of the house.

The year ended on a painful note, but in that too our family found the silver lining. We did not want to look back at it as bittersweet,  but instead wanted to celebrate the most wonderful and lively person in our lives, and that is what we did!

And as December came – dad took up a project in Abu Dhabi and thats where my real journey of transformation began. (Yes, finally I am going to talk about it! Or Maybe….)

 

The Road to Recovery – Part 2

“Fun is Good”

– Dr.Seuss

When I was about 10 years old, my father would tell me – “Go downstairs and play, go break some bones.” I took it too literally, sadly a decade later.

When you injure your hand (I have experienced this too, and that was pretty serious as well!) you can still move around and do things, but when its your leg – you are immobile, and you need help for every little thing. For someone, who needs to constantly move around, this got extremely frustrating. I was bound to my bed the entire day, and I absolutely resented the thought of putting my entire weight on one leg, to hop to the restroom  and to think that I used to love playing hop scotch at one point in time!

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Mobility Aid – My New Saathi (observe how I respected it by keeping the bubble wrap on) 

My physiotherapy started about 10 days later. Again, I was blessed with a wonderful doctor – Dr.Kiran. He would come home at 7 am and we would do strengthening exercises which I felt were more painful than  Jumping Jacks and pilates put together, why you ask? The aim was to get my New Leg to bend and I couldn’t move it – even a slight push would feel like someone was trying to dismantle my leg. And I had a big target already set in my mind.

When you get an ACL reconstruction – the doctors tell you – you need 9 – 12 months to get back to your prior activity levels. (No Dance, No basketball, No Adventure – SIGH!)

But, I had my convocation coming up on May 23rd 2015, and I had made it very clear that the doctors need to ensure I can go on stage to receive my degree without a walking stick. My father would tell me ‘why don’t you just go on stage with the stick? Set a style statement’, and trust me – I do wish I had listened – it would have made a better story!

I spent a month after college trying to walk again. It was like an infant trying to learn. I had to hold onto something , in this case it was my saathi. There was a particular way I had to do it, first I put the mobility aid down, then put most of the pressure on my left leg (this leg will play a greater role in the stories to follow) and then slowly try to move my operated leg.

Once I had learnt how to walk, my exercises were upgraded too! They got more intense, but I had a goal – No crutch on Convocation Day!

I remember making a list of movies and TV shows I wanted to watch and books I wanted to read to kill my time, but unfortunately I spent a major chunk of time overthinking and wondering how on earth would I ever get my previous life back. Everyone from my class was already working or on a job hunt, and here I was – bound to the four walls of my room.

My grandparents had also flown down to be with me because my parents were both working. Having them around was the biggest blessing and  that was when I got really close to my Thatha and Patti (grandparents).

The very first miracle:

My mom is an artist, she even has an art studio and conducts classes for over 50 students. So, I just got lucky to inherit some of her genes. In college I really wanted to open a personalized gift shop because I love making cards and making people happy!  In fact, my roommate and I had already decided the name and the B- Plan but never got around to it. But everything has its time – and so did Artista(My personalized gift store). So in the month of April the complex that I live in Hyderabad was hosting a Mela(fair) where the residents can put up stalls, and this was my golden opportunity. And my grandmother(Patti) had been a constant motivation for me. She would often ask me what was the latest craft I had made. So with my Brace and a special set up for my leg by my parents I sat and made 40 cards over two nights and put up a stall with my mom’s products as well. We were not sold out, but people seemed to enjoy what I had made and the appreciations received were a major boost that I had been craving for.

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Getting the art right with my Amma since 95
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First batch of Artista

To keep myself further occupied I made a 20 page scrapbook for my best friend Cynthia – because her birthday was coming up right before our convocation. I also got a surprise visit from my school friends in Hyderabad, which was just the thing I needed!

May 23rd was only a week away. I had gone from Mobility Aid and Brace to Walking Stick and Knee Band. But on that day it had to be ONLY Knee Band.

Dr. Kiran made it happen, did I play a role in it? Yes, I did the exercises diligently. Its human nature to work harder when there is a reward attached to it.

So, we decided to travel via road to Bangalore as this would also allow me to comfortably place my leg – however I wanted. Thankfully, I was able to get passes for my grandparents to attend the convocation as well.

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Can you see me beaming? I was for sure, at that moment just those few seconds, I completely forgot about my pain. Dr. Kiran had a very interesting way to teach climbing up and going down the stairs. He said while going down – you are going to hell – use your operated leg first, and while climbing up use your good leg because you are going to heaven. So before I got onto stage, I had help from my classmate Sanskriti and while getting off I had help from my classmate Nikita.

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(Left) My Appa’s Graduation – National University of Singapore (2007) and (Right) Rachna’s graduation – Christ University – 2015.

I was so exhausted by the end of it , that I just wanted a place to sit, and never get up again. I returned my robe to the college, meanwhile, my mom and dad were both trying to find me but on different floors. That day, I realized that when you are tired and worn out , anything can cloud your judgement of right and wrong. I hadn’t  got a picture with my dad, and if it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t have the coolest dad – daughter picture in the history of photographs. He insisted that I go back and get the robe(which required me to climb two floors), because only then we would have the above collage. And as always, my parents had saved the day and gave me another story to talk about.

After what felt like the longest and most overwhelming day of my life, I came home to a surprise (extended celebration) by my wonderful aunt, uncle and cousin! Since I couldn’t go anywhere, they brought the party home!

Start the day with a smile, and finish it with Champagne!

 

The Road to Recovery – Part 1

I have divided my life into two categories – Before Surgery and Post Surgery. This has a greater significance than those five hours where I was under General Anaesthesia and have no clue whatsoever about what happened, but I was a different person before that, and some one else after it (and so was my leg, obviously!)

As you might have read in my previous post, I was taking my final semester – final exams in college with a Brace on to protect my now ACL and Meniscus torn knee. On March 31st, I headed back to Hyderabad after a very grand farewell from my wonderful friends and also a special drop off at the airport!

Farewell, Me trying to own the Brace and Walking Stick look and the Grand drop off at Kempegowda International Airport

What was next? That one dreaded word: SURGERY.

I will be very honest with you, I wanted the surgery so desperately and I didn’t at the same time. I knew surgery was the ultimate solution, but I also constantly lived in the fear that my leg would never be the same again, because there would be some external particles taking over it. One cannot really put into words how much mental preparation it takes to say “YES” to a surgery – when they are also given a choice to say no.

Right before I went into the operation theatre my dad told me “Go in and have some fun”, and I did; I asked the doctor who was about to give me the Anaesthesia “Is this the Magic Potion that will fix the pain?”, after which I blanked out, only to be woken up in a different room , by a woman who I believe had been asking for water for a long time. This was the observation room – and I pray that no one ever has to undergo the torture of being “Observed”. I have never felt that ignored in my entire life. My parents, who had been waiting to get a glimpse of how I was doing, were allowed only once for about 2 mins each. The irony is that one is protected from loved ones to prevent the patients from catching infections.

Now before I tell you about post surgery, let me rewind a little to talk about my Doctor. Do you believe that everything that happens , happens for a reason? Because I do.

My mom had taken an appointment with a Doctor recommended by my aunt. So on the 1st of April, my mom and me went to Apollo Hospital, a day after I landed in Hyderabad. I got VIP treatment, from my car to the Orthopedic department, I was taken in a wheelchair by not one, but multiple people (whoever was available). We were trying to find the cabin of the doctor that we had an appointment with. Guess what? We couldn’t and no one had an idea about who she is. Yes, I am serious. We asked 5 different staff members at Apollo Hospital, and all looked at my mom with a bigger surprise than the one taking over our faces, but by now my mom and me had become experts in trying to hide our Panic. My mom has always had a great presence of mind, and she really believes in doing things in the moment. So she decided, she will take an appointment with the doctor who was available at that time. Turns out, I was going to get one of the Best Doctors who has also been a doctor for Mumbai Indians and a few football leagues in England(Pretty cool huh?). The fact that the same person who might have checked Sachin Tendulkar will be operating on my leg, was very satisfying. Dr.Sharath Kumar, is such a passionate and positive human being, that anyone would instantly feel at ease with him and might even forget the pain for those few minutes, I didn’t fear visiting the doctor anymore, in fact I quite enjoyed it!

But no matter how well its put across to you, the word “Surgery” will still pierce through your heart.

So exactly a week later – 8th April 2015 is when the great and much awaited surgery took place. You would want to think that when you are in unbearable pain and have a surgery, the pain would reduce right? I mean, isn’t that the whole point? Well, I was wrong, the pain just amplified by about a 100 times (I swear I am not exaggerating) and it remained for about one week.

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I matched my outfit to my brace to stay positive about the operation ahead of me!

You know what is the worst thing about having your leg operated? Well two actually, the first is – finding the right position to sleep in and second is getting to the restroom, I won’t get into the details, but you get the idea.

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Seen in picture: The amazing Dr. Sharath Kumar, Operated Ligaments, and My darling aunt Dr.Reeta who decided to surprise me (and we hoped to reduce my pain over some LIT’s) . Do excuse me for not having the strength to pose for better pictures.

I think through out this entire process there were two very prominent traumatizing incidents. First, getting me into our car after my discharge, and second, finding the right level of elevation for my leg on the bed. And hats off to my mom, dad and aunt, they mastered it (After about 20 tries, and multiple loud shrieks from me).

The operation is just one hurdle. What came next was really what transformed me into the person I am today. Stay Tuned…