Je m’appelle…

Hello world! Or hello 825 followers if I’m being more precise! First post in over a month but who’s counting? Are you counting? I hope so.

A lot has happened since we chatted last. Some work. Some home. Mostly TV. More to come on that later.

Today’s post is about my name. Yep. Mi nombre. A few weeks ago my daughter’s boyfriend (adorable guy), asked if he could interview me about my first generation childhood. He said it’d take an hour and he’d ask me questions about my childhood, adolescence, etc. My answer was yes, of course. An hour to talk about myself as if I was on Oprah (not the new Super Sunday version…the old 4pm talk show version)? Who would say no to this? Not me. Not the gal who literally started a blog thinking people were dying to know crap I did and do and think about. Anyway it was so much fun. He promised to share the final version of it with me and if it’s flattering and makes me out of be some national Indian treasure, I’ll share it with you.

I’m telling you about the interview for two reasons. 1) to show off, obviously 2) because it got me thinking about my childhood. I don’t think I’ve ever spent that much time talking about how I grew up since…well since I started dating my husband and he grilled me like the FBI. But lately, something has been coming up. For some reason, in the past year, maybe 2 years – I’ve gotten a lot of questions about my name. Specifically…how my name is pronounced. Even more specifically – how I’m letting people mispronounce my name.

My name is Neha.

It’s an old-school Indian name derived from the Sanskrit version (Sneha). It means love and tenderness – which will come as a big surprise to those who usually use other words to describe me. You know who you are. In the proper Indian dialect (choose your favorite), it’s pronounced Neigh-Ha. Neigh…like what horses say, and a very soft ha. Not like a karate chop HA! That’s how my very young, wonderful parents imagined my name being said all over India.

Except my young, wonderful parents didn’t stay in India. They hauled ass to the USA. Jackson Heights, Queens to be exact – in 1979ish. To get the exact date I’d have to call my mother and disclose why I need this info, to which she’d say I’m giving super personal info to strangers on the internet who want to kill me. True story. My mother thinks the internet is out to get me. She’s right of course.

Let me set the stage. Jackson Heights today is not what Jackson Heights of the late 70s/early 80s was. Today, there’s so many Indian immigrants that have settled there, they call parts of it Little India. Back then it was still mostly immigrants, but there was a broader mix – Chinese, African, Puerto Rican, and some Italian and Irish to balance it out. In today’s Jackson Heights – my young self would have had other Nehas to mix and mingle with. My young self would have gone to a school full of other people that looked, talked, lived like me. But that’s not how it was.

My dad was a pharmacist – the reason we came to the US was for his job. My mom was a teacher in India but her certifications weren’t accepted here, so she got some random part-time work. My parents did one thing. They worked. They didn’t socialize. They didn’t have hobbies. They worked. I had a job too. One job. School. That’s all I had to do. My entire focus was school (and TV. Indians love TV. It’s a stereotype I know, but it’s also true). As was the case for most of my elementary and middle school life, I was the only Indian in my classes – and sometimes in the school.

I don’t remember the first time I said my name to someone outside my family. I wish I did. I wish I could remember how and why my name began being pronounced like Leah…as if it was spelled Neah…Knee-ya. It all makes sense. I’m sure I wanted to fit in. I’m sure I wanted to not be different, but I don’t remember making a calculated effort to change how people pronounce my name. But maybe I did. I definitely wanted to assimilate. I wanted to dress like everyone else, eat like everyone else (lost cause), date like everyone else. My idea of a perfect boy was a blonde, blue-eyed dude with a one syllable name. Speaking of names, I would have given up a limb to be called Kelly, Jane or some other really white name, so maybe this was the closest fix. I just wish I could remember that happening. I probably need some deep therapy to remember, but the irony is that I remember other things really well from that time. The Saturday night line-up…. Dance Fever followed by Love Boat and ending with Fantasy Island. I remember the slice of pizza my mom got me every Friday after school – this was early 80s NYC pizza. Big. Flat. Foldable. I remember getting a Rubix’s Cube. It was my parent’s favorite kind of toy. Quiet, cheap, and portable. I remember all kinds of useless info. The moment that changed the way people said my name? Not so much.

I’m going to interrupt this line of thought for a quick moment. One of the things I get asked often when i’m trying to explain why my name is pronounced the way it is, is this question,” well how does your family say your name? Do they use the wrong version too?” No. No they don’t use the “wrong” version. They don’t use any version. My family almost never, and I mean literally almost never, calls me by my given name. For the majority of my childhood I was known by a pet name – a loving moniker – Bittu. And it’s pronounced how it looks. Bit-To. It means “little one” or “little thing” or something like that. That’s what my parents, aunts and uncles called me. Once I had cousins old enough to talk, they called me Didi. Which means “big sister”. I know what you’re thinking…I’m a cousin, so why call me a sister? It gets even better. Now every member of the family calls me Didi, including my parents. Confusing, right? Listen – I can’t explain why all Indians are confusing – I can only explain the ways I’m confusing. Are you still with me? Are you over it? Bored? How many times have you checked your insta? Tell the truth. I just needed you to have some background since I assume you’re making a case in your head about why I’m a psycho.

So after Jackson Heights my parents moved us to the hub of diversity and inclusiveness known as Albany, NY. No offense if it’s gone through some major change and my sarcasm no longer applies. Remember when I said I was the only Indian in the school growing up? Well in Albany I was the only person of color in the entire school! And it was middle school to boot. Good times. Actually they were good times. I have been incredibly lucky in my life and have always met friends who helped me through. In 7th grade something amazing happened. Two Pakistani girls moved to town. Twins. Huma and Asma. We immediately became friends. They were my first ethnic friends! I mean I tried being friends with a girl named Chang back in Queens but she was allowed to hang out less than I was so it didn’t work. I enjoyed my white friends whose parents let them come to my house for hours with no issue. Anyway – back to my first brown friends. They had just moved here from London. Dad was a doctor and divorced (scandal!). They came to the US to be closer to his sister. They all had these amazing accents which somehow cancelled out their “otherness” and made them hugely popular. It didn’t hurt that they were loaded and had a house with a pool (a rare jewel in Albany). Their dad worked crazy hours and the girls were mostly home alone – another bonus. I loved their house. It was the opposite of my house. No one cooked. My house smelled of ginger and garlic all day. Their house smelled of…nothing. Heaven. The twins’ dad was the first person to tell me that I was mispronouncing my name. Lucky for me his daughters were mortified and told him to never to talk to me again and I moved on.

Actually my family moved on. We moved from Albany to Harrisburg, PA. Again, Harrisburg today has a full, lively Indian culture. Back then? Nada.

My dad believed any religion was good religion – so I went to a Catholic High School. It was diverse”ish”….but guess which population there was only one of? That’s right people. Still me representing all Indians. Dot. Not feather.

It wasn’t until I went to college in NYC, where I minored in religion (by mistake) and had to join a club as part of my Religions of the World class, that I met a whole bunch of Indians. I joined The South Asian Club for two long months. They were a nice bunch – most of them had grown-up in Queens, in the exact neighborhood that I’d started out in. Turns out Queens went full-on Indian soon after we moved out. On another side note – by this time I was dating a half Irish/half Ukrainian New Yorker. That’s right people, he’s blonde, blue-eyed and most of the time has a one syllable name. All my dreams really did come true. Anyway this new bunch of friends all tried to educate me on the correct way to say my name. I left soon after. Not just because I didn’t want to be lectured to, in all honesty, I left because they met on Friday mornings at 8am – which didn’t work with my Thursday night at Terminal Bar schedule.

I’ll speed up. The 90s were vapid. No one really cared what the origins of my name were or how to say it correctly. Easy peasy. Even the early 2,000s were a non-issue. It wasn’t really until the last few years when people started getting “woke” that it came up again.

The 20 year old intern who asked me gently if I knew how to correctly pronounce my name. Yes, thank you. Next. The well meaning friends who have other friends who pronounce the same name differently. Yes, I know. I get it. You feel like you’ve been doing me wrong. But you haven’t! I swear. It’s not you. It’s me. Well, technically it’s not me, it’s my name.

You know I even went through a real immersion-into-my-culture phase in high school. We would go to India every year at that time to visit relatives (relatives who also never ever called me by my formal name). I was way into the culture, the movies, the food, the language – all of it. I was a Junior in high school and all I wanted to do was be different. I was thrilled to show-off my funky jewelry and henna’d hand. But even during that time – I never thought about changing the way people say my name. What does that mean? What does that say about me? I dunno. I’m sure there’s a million ways to dissect it. To “help me”. I’ll have to find a therapist and have them give me an answer. Or maybe I’ll Google it.

My point is this…aren’t you glad you made it to the point! Mazel. You’re almost done. My point is that however it started, and whatever reason I did it or maybe someone just started calling me that and I went with it – whatever – it’s how I’d like you to pronounce my name. Yes, the wrong way.

Trust me – it’s a daily struggle. People say my name in all different ways. Correct, incorrect, messed up, etc. I don’t mind any of it. I met a wonderful friend last year through work who is French. We had a long discussion about this. She told me that in French – the direct translation of Je m’appelle isn’t “what is your name?”. The meaning is “what do you want to be called?”. I love that. Je m’appelle Neha (knee-ya).

In conclusion, I’m moving to France. Au revoir.

Who moved my happiness??

I feel like I can be personal with you. I feel I should be honest when big, monumental changes happen in my life. Marriage. Divorce. Death. Birth. Etc.

This is none of those. But it’s important.

I’ve already shared this news with some loved ones, whether they wanted the info or not. Family, friends, co-workers that I eat the majority of my meals with and Uber drivers have all heard my tale of woe. You should know too.

About a month ago, I joined the ranks of millions of people, sad people, who are lactose intolerant. Yep. That’s right. Even though for most of my very happy life I have had zero issues with dairy – my body has turned on me.

I noticed it happening before the holidays but I blamed other things. Bad food. Too much wine. My kids. But then, one night, after a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (white bread, grape jelly, smooth pb) I had a big glass of milk. That was a night to remember, if you know what I mean.

The morning after it all clicked. Dairy. Milk. Cheese. CHEESE. That was the problem. I mean being wine intolerant would have been worse, but this is pretty bad. Anyone that knows me, even for a hot second, knows how much I love cheese. All cheese. My go-to hotel meal after a hard event was also a grilled cheese. Goat cheese….remember all my good times with goat cheese? And Brie! Brie holds as big a place in my heart as my husband. Just kidding. I would never compare my love for my husband with my love for Brie. A good Comté maybe…

Yogurt! Why didn’t I appreciate you when I had the chance? And ice cream. Will there even be a summer without ice cream?

I’m disgusted with myself. And yes, I know I can take those lactose pills but that’s not living man. I already color my hair, wear reading glasses and avoid acidic food at night….how much more can I take?

I guess it’s just me and hummus now.

Thanks for listening.

I’ve been away from home too long…

No matter where I go… if I’m away for work or fun too long I start coming apart. I can always tell when it’s time to come home when instead of packing up my stuff, I want to throw out every outfit I brought with me.

And this….

Time to get home.

We’ve had some busy weeks and some sadness in between. Our family lost Lexi, short for Lexington, as in avenue in NYC.

I’m happy she’s at peace now.

About 8 years ago, we took the kids to Mexico for vacation. It rained one afternoon and the resort had the kids do a clay paint activity. My son found a little kitten and told us he wanted to paint it for Lexi.

This little statue has sat next to her food bowls ever since. And this is where it will stay.

I’ll leave you with something funny. Here’s the best thing I found in Austin,TX…

I’ll be thinking this in all my meetings at work this week. They’re not kidding when they say,” Keep Austin Weird”. I’m definitely in.

I was promised a snow storm

I’m here on the couch moping with the cat. Where is my storm?? I really wanted it. I am so ready for it. I mean I didn’t buy bread or milk or anything, but mentally I’m ready for it. I’m ready to cancel plans. Ready to not leave the house for the next 48 hours. Ready to not shower, stay in my pjs, and take intermittent naps all day long. I had planned on making my husband feel guilty for not getting firewood. I was looking forward to that all week. Now I got nothing.

And it’s almost 40 degrees outside. WTF. I think I just saw a peek of sun. So frustrating.

Now I’ll be expected to do things. Empty the dishwasher. Put my contacts in. Get off the couch. This isn’t what America is about! I can’t even depend on weather I was promised.

My daughter drove back to school yesterday so she’d beat the storm up in New York. I bet they’ll get a foot. Or two. Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania, you make me sad. I’m not mad at you. Just really disappointed.

Dear 2018

Thanks for being you. You weren’t like the best ever or anything – but you were pretty pretty good (in the words of Larry David).  It was the year of the Dog. The year for loyalty, consistency and dependability. But it started off with anything but consistency. It started off with a bang.

Bang….my sister’s married! Bang….I had to go to India for work! Bang….a headhunter called with a big job offer! Bang…my sister was pregnant! In between those things were other big things. A beautiful wedding (Jon and Amy!), a beautiful baby cousin born (Norah!), a bestie turned 50 (April!), and so did the heart of our family (Dennis!) – and it went on and on.

Work took me from India, to Aruba, to Ireland – with a pit stops in-between. Work was good. Sometimes it wasn’t good. As it should be.

My kids kept growing. Doing good. Doing some not good. Doing it all. As it should be.

You threw us some curve balls 2018, I won’t lie.

I got distracted by a shiny offer, thought about it for too long – but decided to stay loyal in the spirit of the Dog. Not loyal to a company – but loyal to the people. My people. Shiny and new can’t compete with solid and true. Who knows what the future holds – but for now, it was the right turn.

It also brought some worries. Some sadness. When loved ones get sick – you get sick too. But then you see family coming together, you see all the love, and somehow it gets better. Even when it’s not actually getting better.

The year ended with a bang too. My sister-in-law got engaged a few days before Christmas!

There were also some breakthroughs. For those of you who don’t know me that well, I have been a vegetarian for my entire life. Like the whole thing. No meat, poultry or fish has ever crossed my lips knowingly. I may or may not have had a month in 2004 of eating Pad Thai without knowing it had fish sauce in it, but that’s it. So now, for the first time ever…hold on to something….I am eating Caesar salad with abandon. Anchovies? Who cares! Salt of the sea I say! We’ve even been to restaurants that I know put actual anchovies on their salad (not paste) and I still eat it. Like a champ. And then, last week, my husband and I went to a diner to have breakfast. I ordered my usual omelet. Egg whites, spinach, onions, peppers and American cheese. Side of rye toast and homefries. As I was eating, from the corner of my eye, I spotted it. It could have been mistaken for a piece of well done potato, but I knew better. I’m no amateur. A little piece of ham was hidden under the homefries. Now if this was 2001, or even 2010 let’s say – I would have freaked out. I would have stopped eating and never gone to that place again. You know what I did in 2018? I carefully lifted it with my finger and put it on a napkin and continued my meal. CONTINUED MY MEAL. With ham. Granted I never touched the homefries again but still…there was no scene at the diner. I’m like a new person.

I don’t know if photos help you when you’re reading a rant like this – but they help me. I’ve always been partial to books with pictures. I included some below.

2018, you are free to go. I was never a dog person anyway. Year of the pig! That’s where it’s at now.

 

 

Remember me?

I wrote my first blog post in 2012. It was called Nosey, Nosey, Nosey. You can still find it on here if you look. My kids were 9 and 14. I was working from home and needed to do something in the day for just myself. I decided the posts would have no rules. Some were super short with just a picture. Some were longer. Once in a while I’d throw in a cooking post (that’s when I cooked almost every night….who was I?). I would write daily, weekly, monthly. No pressure. Just when I felt like it. It was so much fun.

5 years and 486 posts later I stopped. May, 2017. What happened? What went down? Nothing! Not one thing. I mean our lives are different now for sure. Things are hectic – but things were always hectic. I just didn’t feel like writing (if you could even call what I was doing writing!). So I stopped. I didn’t force myself to do it. And I didn’t miss it.

Until now.

Guess what people? I’m going to start writing again. You may not know it, but you’re my public! And I’m going to give you what you haven’t asked for and don’t think you need. You’re welcome! Enough with the New York Times. You need something less meaty. Less thought provoking. You need a mental break. And I’m just the person for the job. The last thing I’m going to get you to do is think. But you knew that.

Ok. Now that we’re on the same page let’s catch up quickly:

  • Wife – yep still married
  • Mother – my babies are 20 and 15
  • Event planner – 23 years and counting

Now you’re caught up! Haven’t you missed reading posts that abuse exclamation mark usage? No need to fret. Even though I’ve gotten older, my writing is still 8th grade level (regular, not honors track).

I’m excited to be with you all again. Or with you 3 again. Anyway I’m excited.

See you tomorrow – or worst case in 2020!

Divorce? Never. Murder? Maybe.

Today is 21 years married for Joe and I. Our marriage is finally of legal age. It’s not the awkward, shaky, unstable thing it was when it first started. Don’t get me wrong, it was never in danger. That’s the little miracle about me and Joe. We’ve never doubted that we were supposed to be with each other. He’s the most honest person I’ve ever met and he’s said the same thing to me since I was 19 and he was 21, “there’s no one else for me” – and I believe him.

But loving him all the time and liking him all the time are not the same things. I was away this week for a work trip and when I got back he said,” I really missed you this time. This one was hard.” And I totally got it. I really missed him too. There are some work weeks that I’m skipping out of this house. Excited to have some alone time. Excited to not hear about his day. Excited to have a big, fat bed all to myself at night. And I’m sure he’s equally excited to not to have me around. Doesn’t mean the marriage is ending. It just means we’re human.

This past year I started going through some…..let’s say hormonal transitions. Although I didn’t have the usual signs and signals. Mine came in the form of exploding as soon as he told the same joke he’s been telling for 21 years. Or losing my patience and my mind as he used 50,000 words to tell a 500 word story, get to the point for God’s sake!  Also, if I have to hear about the grass on his lawn or the ill-managed roads in our township one more time I’m going to go postal. 

But I’m no gem either, lucky for me  he doesn’t have a blog so you’ll never know why!

All that said, I wouldn’t want to celebrate this anniversary with anyone else. Death – by each other’s hand or nature – will be the only way we leave each other. Romantic right?

Here’s to many many more years of our perfectly imperfect marriage. xoxo.
 


 

 

 

 

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