There’s a Bow on This Blog Post – by Hetal

Saved the best guest post for last! BTW – who knew that these guest bloggers would write about me?? Had I known earlier, this would be a regular thing. Seriously. Anyway – here’s my little, bitty sister’s post…my basic take-away from this was that I taught her everything she knows….so…..anyway….enjoy!

I spent some time this past weekend thinking about what to get Neha for her birthday.

But “itty bitty sister,” you may be thinking, Neha’s birthday was last week. I know, okay? Sheesh. We’re all doing the best we can out here.

Anyway, my presents to her have varied in years in form and function. Some years I really knock it out of the park–I get texts from her on a later date about how much she loves the thing I got her. Some years I get her a card sometime in June. I wonder if she notices how inconsistent I am (that’s a lie–I know she does).

Although it may seem to her that I simply forgot to get her anything, the years I showed up with nothing really meant that I spent painstaking hours thinking about what to get her, got angry, and finally gave up. Is there a way to bottle up that trauma and put a bow on it? Because that shit should count for something.

Unlike many of the people I buy books for, Neha actually likes to read, so when I heard an interview with an Indian American cookbook author who had a new book coming out, I tucked it away. Then, over the weekend, a food blogger I know she also follows on Instagram posted about the book. She raved over it, featured several pages and recipes, and I thought, damn it. Because even though I didn’t ask her, I know Neha saw it. And tucked it away. I know that cookbook is being Amazon Primed to her house as we speak, and that there is a 60% chance that I’ll be unwrapping it for my birthday this month.

Because that’s the thing. If you’ve ever met me, you’ve probably thought about how different I am from Neha. And you’re right in a lot of ways. We’re over a decade apart in age, chose very different career paths, and kinda different life paths. Neha left for New York City when I was six, and really didn’t look back. I don’t blame her. In fact, as someone who spends her days with countless 18-22 year olds, I’m impressed at her bravery and independence at that age. You’ve probably heard some of her wacky stories from college. I’ve heard them all at least twice. And the truth is, I could never have done half those things.

She also knows way more than I do about the important things in life: makeup, wine, and reality tv.

But in other ways, we’re weirdly similar. Same sarcastic humor. Same love for food. Once we showed up with the same-ish housewarming gift for our cousin Sweta and her hubby Wendell. For a while we had the exact same iPhone case–bought separately. I know what Neha is thinking right now: she’s thinking that these ways we’re similar–that’s me taking after her. I’ve wondered about that myself over the years, though I’d never admit it to her face. Has she really had that much of an influence on me? Maybe, maybe not. But if saying so gets me out of having to think about her birthday present anymore, well, pass the bow, please.

Behind the Scenes: Lessons Learned from Neha

Guest Post! This is from Sarah. Let me tell you all something about Sarah. She could run a small country if she wanted to, that’s how smart she is. I’m not sure what serendipity led her to the same company as me, but I am forever grateful. During my first few weeks at this job, I felt like an alien. I was “one of these things does not belong with the other” material. Then I found Sarah. And Jeanette (another lucky strike). I don’t know why I trusted them both immediately – but I did. And it made everything ok. These are the people I hope will start their own blogs, because people need to have them in their lives, like I’ve been lucky to have them in mine.

Guest blogger here – I’m Neha’s friend, Sarah. She assigned me to write a blog post “by Friday. Not draft. Final copy.” I asked her for a topic or a word count and she said “no rules.” So I decided that to share the lessons I have learned from her over the past 5+ years with you, dear readers.


“No Rules” I brought my two and a half year old to her house with one request — please tell him that to hang at your house that you have to use the potty. We arrived, I tried to start the show with her about the potty… and she blatantly ignored me. “Um, there are no rules at my house” and then proceeded to feed my son chocolate, French fries, cake, flavored seltzer, and any TV show he asked for in a reoccurring loop. I secretly hoped he would pee his pants on her couch while he was under her spell. Another time she whipped out a big toy truck on a random Saturday to buy his affection. It worked. Lesson learned, visits to her house may only be about indulgence.

Earlier this week, I asked my little guy what is his favorite thing. He answered “Tia Neha” and then “cocktails.” 🤦🏻‍♀️ He is two and a half.

Friendship with Neha means telling her everything big and small In jlooking at the history of our texts, it’s everything from “please help me, I’m in a bind” to “Is this crazy or normal?” to “are you aware of how many orange cars there are in PA?” I feel like I must tell her all of my big and small thoughts. After her blog post last week about the Revlon hair dryer, I had to confess and apologize to her that I’ve had that for two years and never told her about it. Then to atone for my sin of omission, I sent her approximately 17 texts, including links, of my most important hair products, tools, and why. Yesterday I texted her a play by play about how I got and now have pink eye.

Don’t Only Drop the Ball, Through It Out the WindowAnd Neha has become the place I bring my confessions and guilt… and most of the time, she tells me that I am too uptight and let it (whatever “it” is) go. After hearing this for five years, during which time I became a parent, I have fully embraced not only dropping the ball, but throwing it out the window.
A few months ago, my husband asked me if we have a nice Easter outfit for our son the day before. Nope! Can you try and get one today? Probably not because it’s second on my list after my top priority of taking a nap. Little guy wore his “fanciest” sweatshirt. While playing in his sandbox today, our little guy decided to take off his shorts and underwear. Sure dude, now we have a “nudie beach.” Sand got in every possible crevice. I sprayed him down with the hose afterward like a dog.
Let’s forgot the “should haves” or niceties. Friendship with Neha is getting permission to tell someone who is being crazy that they are crazy, or declining an invitation no reason given.
So I leave you with that — don’t just drop the ball, throw it out the window. It feels great. And if you need permission…email Neha, send her your confession, and she will tell you to stop being so uptight.

Pardon the interruption…

But had to share this. I love my husband. I’ve loved him on and off for 23 years of marriage and 27 years together. He’s a creature of habit. Once he likes something he sticks with it.

Can you guess what he likes currently?

Rao’s, we have a problem.

I think I’ve told you all before that growing up we only had Ragu Traditional. I had Saturday morning spaghetti while watching cartoons – The Smurf’s usually. Why breakfast? I dunno. My Indian mother didn’t know too much about pasta hours I guess.

But this is where we are now. Rao’s for the whole town. You want to try another type of sauce? Too bad. This is what you’re having at our house.

Also – I didn’t line them up like little soldiers for this photo. This is how I found the cabinet.

Send help, or maybe a nice pesto we can have for a change.

Greek dump dip

  1. It doesn’t need refrigeration
  2. You can make the topping the night before or 5 min before
  3. It’s 100% store bought ingredients because I love you
  4. It’s vegetarian for all those people in your life pretending to not eat bacon this year
  5. You could remove the cheese and the joy and make it vegan
  6. Someone’s already bringing the chicken buffalo dip so you might as well make this

It’s as easy as:

  • One large tub of hummus, I used Sabra – or make your own (show-off)
  • One large English cucumber
  • One bunch mint
  • One bunch regular old parsley
  • Olive, feta mix from grocery store salad bar (or just buy black, green olives and feta)
  • Salt
  • Good olive oil (like Martha Stewart good, not Guy Fieri good)

Chop everything but the hummus into a small dice. I like to remove the middle of the cucumbers, because even the English ones have some seeds in it.

Grab a platter you’ll leave at the bbq and pick up months later, put a thick layer of hummus on and dump the topping on top.

Drizzle with olive oil

Ina Garten and Smitten Kitchen both have versions of this recipe (incase you are overly impressed at my creativity).

Enjoy and happy weekend!

Hairy Scary

What if I told you that sometimes I know if I’ll have a good day or not by about 6:30 am? It doesn’t matter what I’m doing, who I’m seeing, what day it is, nothing. It doesn’t matter if the big meeting went well, if my kid got an A on the test, or if I finished a big project – although all those things happening would be great! The thing that can make or break my day is….get ready….my hair. That’s right. My hair. If it looks good, I’m good. I spend a lot of quality time thinking about my hair. One of the happiest days of my life (besides the birth of kids, marriage, etc) was the day I found a hairstylist that blows out my hair the way I like it. Lydia Esteban, you complete me. Lydia knows that although I don’t have one Southern bone in my body, I like big hair. She knows I don’t want a flat, sleek look. I want girth. I want body. She’s my hair soulmate – and I’m never telling you where to find her.

Hair takes up a lot of brain space. When I travel for work to a hot, humid place, I spend at least half my packing time thinking about what impact the local weather will have on my hair. Will I be able to wear it down? Will I need extra headbands? Should I even go on this trip based on the high humidity levels? These are real conversations I have with myself.

Last year I discovered dry shampoo. LIFE ALTERING dry shampoo. It was the biggest thing to happen to me since….blow-outs. I’m not sure who invented it – but I hope they get whatever the hair equivalent to a Pulitzer is.

I know I’m not alone in this obsession. Most of the women in my life care/worry/think about their hair all the time. I only know one freaky friend who has such good hair she can literally wash and go….literally. No Brazilian treatments in her hair, no expensive straightening products, no crazy tools. A brush and sometimes a hair dryer. I’ve even seen her hair naturally dry straight and with no frizz! WTF. I’ve seen it. It’s natural but it’s not normal. It’s not fair. I’m talking to you Julie! If you weren’t such an amazing person I’d be bitter about it. Ok who am I kidding, I’m still bitter about it.

As you can imagine, I’m always on the hunt for hair products to help make my days better. Like dry shampoo, I’ve also discovered clay shampoo and hair masks to help tame my ‘fro. I know there are a bunch of #womenrule people out there who think I should make nice with my semi-kinky, wavy, sometimes frizzy hair. But as I’ve said about my fight against wrinkles – why go natural when there are chemicals that can help? Poetic right?

Last week, as we were in the midst of a week-long event and I was on day 3 of my dry shampoo run, with no Lydia in sight…I found out about this amazing tool. This is not an ad!

The Revlon One Step Hair Dryer and Volumizer

It was an innocent conversation that one of the mom-planners was having about how this hairbrush/hair dryer combo had helped her teen. Before she even ended her story, I was on Amazon having one delivered to my hotel room. There were still 4 days left to the conference and with Prime I could have it the next day! Done done done. Would it be as good as she described? I was willing to take the bet.

And guess what? It was. It is. Let me begin by saying it’s cheap. Under $50. And, this is the best part, you don’t have to pre-dry your hair. It’s all one step!! It’s a one-handed miracle. There are over 6,000 plus reviews online. Are they all good? Nah – but did I tell you it was cheap? Even if it only lasts a few months, I’m in. I even debated posting about this because I’ll be buying these as gifts for the rest of the year, but I needed to tell you.

Below is a closer look. Don’t mind the Spanish, I accidentally changed my Amazon language settings and can’t figure out how to change them back.

Here’s what my hair looked like from wet to dry with this brush… not bad right? Who needs Lydia?! Kidding! I do…

Anyway – this post is dedicated to all my fellow hair obsessed gals. Remember when all I talked about was my Dyson hairdryer? Well mamas got a new favorite. You’re welcome.

ilife

On a flight back from Texas last Friday night I listened to a couple of good podcasts. The first was about murder, of course. But the other one was Arianna Huffington talking about sleep and bedtime, not that I have issues with either – I usually have pj’s on by 7pm if I’m home. My bed is one of my all-time favorite places to visit, and insomnia has never ever been an issue for me. But there was a part of her talk that completely got to me. She said, “Wouldn’t it be great if we took care of ourselves half as much as we take care of our phones. We are obsessed with our phones being on full-charge, not running out to battery life. We make sure our phones have the latest updates, apps, etc. and are in constant fear of losing our phones. How many times have you had a moment of panic thinking you left it somewhere or forgot it at home? Wouldn’t it be a revelation if you cared about yourself like this? Are you running on empty? Are you protected from viruses? Are you updating yourself with what you need to keep current?”

That was pretty mind blowing for me to hear. Do I take care of myself that well? Ummm that would be an N to the O, No. I treat myself more like an old burner phone. I’m useful, but not meant to coddle and protect. Nice.

Last week, at the end of a big event, we had a speaker who challenged us to make a bucket list. He asked us to take a moment and write down all the things we would aim to do before we died. He called them “moonbeam” goals. Things like, climb the Alps, write a book, meet your childhood idol… you get the point. Big things. People around me started filling up their page, it was as if they’d been waiting their whole lives to be asked this question. What do you want to do before you die? I drew a blank. It was hard. Why couldn’t I come up with one thing? What’s my dream? I put down 1) volunteer more. Ok. That’s something, it’s not nothing, but I already volunteer. And that didn’t seem “bucket listy” . Then I thought of number 2) go to the doctor more often. Seriously. That’s what I thought of. WTF? I had to have at least 3 before we were asked to share with our neighbors. I panicked and put down 3) run a 3K. Run a 3K?? Running 1.8 miles was my moonbeam activity? So lame. Who knew I was so lame? Don’t I have dreams? Ambitions? And let’s be honest here, I’ve never even run for a train before. All of sudden my dream is to run? This was a sad state of affairs. I always joke that I’m dead inside, but maybe I really am. How is it possible that I can have a longer discussion about the TV shows that I watch than my dreams and ambitions?? This was no bueno.

Just for fun/to mentally torture myself, I decided to ask a couple of friends what their list would look like. One said she’d like to be the keynote speaker at a big event. Another said he’d like to learn how to farm, real farming with cows and dirt and shit (his words). But others were stumped like me – which made me feel a lot better. Someone also reminded me that I’m constantly saying that I want to be a detective and solve a mystery. I reminded them back that I was kidding. It was a joke. I mean I think it was a joke. Although I really do think I could solve a crime if I put my mind to it. So maybe that’s on my list… 4) be a Private Investigator (danger free crime-solving, ala Jessica Fletcher please). Do you have a bucket list? Have you ever tried to write it down? Tell me please, I now need to know everyone’s bucket list! Maybe I’ll get some good ideas.

This is all I have for you tonight. Just some random musings on a Tuesday. Are you treating yourself as well as you treat your phone? Are you on low battery? Do you have a good screen protector? Ok that doesn’t make sense, sorry. Went too far 🙂

Mother Mercy

A letter to all those I love,

Thanks to dear friends for understanding when I missed your birthday and forgot about your dinner party. Thanks to my kids when they were younger for letting me take calls while you watched TV in the other room on a sick day. To my husband, thanks for letting me be distracted during date night, movie night, any night. To my mother, I know I’ve been away for every Mother’s Day in the last few years, but I love you and we’ll do something together when I get back.

Thanks to the stay-at-home moms who always picked up my kids and chaperoned a field trip. I’m so grateful that you didn’t judge me, or if you did – that you still helped me.

To my hardcore friends who never make me feel bad for falling out of touch. I know I missed your call and just sent a quick text, but I miss you and I’ll call you back when I stop traveling so much….soon….maybe.

Love, your barely-keeping-it-together-mother-daughter-wife-friend

***************************************

Today was May 12, 2019, Mother’s Day and my 23rd wedding anniversary. I’m not with my children, my mother, or my husband. I’m onsite working an event as I’ve been doing the last few years. And it’s ok. I’m spending it with other people who are also not with the ones they love. It’s not awesome, but we do it. We do it because we love our job. This job makes us happy. And our families get it….they may not be happy about it, but they get it. I hope. We hope.

Everyone is having a different kind of day. Doing a different thing. And we all make it work.

I know a strong woman who gave birth this year but never got a chance to take the baby home – but she’s still a proud mama and refuses to hide that she had a tiny soul for too short a time.

I know other people who spent the day with no mom this year – or last year or the year before. It hurts their heart to see all the posts and think about what they don’t have anymore. This is a pic of my husband, his sister and their lovely mother Terry. She will forever be missed.

You make it work. Even when your adorable twin boys send you photos counting down the days till you come back like my friend Patty.

Or how about my friend Ev, the life of the party, especially for her kids. She’s not a regular mom, she’s a cool mom (name that movie).

Sometimes you don’t make it work – like when you’ve been married 23 years and you completely and utterly forget about it.

I missed something else today, I missed my little baby girl moving to NYC to start a summer internship. I couldn’t be there to help pack or get her ready. I couldn’t get her first Metro card, or help her figure out how to get to her new job. I missed it.

And I missed this guy too. Sometimes I feel like the Grubhub delivery man sees him more than I do…

It’s ok. It’s all ok. I read something first thing this morning that stayed with me all day and made me feel better from Elizabeth Gilbert….

Dear Ones:

Recently I was at a conference where the question was asked, “HOW MANY OF YOU ARE AFRAID OF TURNING INTO YOUR MOTHER?” Nearly everyone in the room stood up.

This made my heart ache.

My heart ached not only for the people in the room—who were all beautiful, creative, imaginative, and wonderful human beings. It made my heart hurt for their mothers—who will never stop being judged as failures.

Because, my God, we never stop blaming the mothers, do we? How many years, how many dollars, how much energy have we all spent as a culture, talking about how mothers have failed us?

What I want to say today is: Can we take a break—just for one day —and show some mercy to the mothers? Because being a mother is impossible. I don’t mean that it’s difficult. I mean: IT IS IMPOSSIBLE.

What we, as a culture, expect from our mothers is merely that they not be human. Mothers are meant to be some combination of Mother Mary, Mother Theresa, Superwoman, and Gaia. It’s a merciless standard of perfection. Merciless!

God help your mother, if she ever fell short. God help your mother, if she was exhausted & overwhelmed. God help her if she didn’t understand her kids. God help her if she no gift for raising children. God help her if she had desires and longings. God help her if she was ever terrified, suicidal, hopeless, bored, confused, furious. God help her if life had disappointed her. God help her if she had an addiction, or a mental illness. God help her if she ever broke down. God help her, if couldn’t control her rage. God help her, because if she fucked up in any way, she will be forever branded: BAD MOTHER. And we will never forgive her for this.

So this is my question: Can we take a break today from judging the mothers, and show them mercy, instead?

This doesn’t mean that what happened to you at the hands of your mother was OK. This doesn’t mean that your pain is not real…it just means that maybe her pain was real, too.

And if you are yourself a mother, and you never stop judging yourself for how you are failing…can you let it go for one day? Just for one day, can you drop the knife that you are holding to your own throat? Mercy. Just for one day. Let us find mercy.

Mercy on you.
Mercy on everyone. 
Mercy on the mothers.

LG

So with that, I want to wish my strong, loving, dedicated mother a very Happy Mother’s Day. I hope I turn into to you and I hope we all show each other some mercy.

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