My darlings

This quote by Aldous Huxley was posted by a good friend a few weeks ago. Besides the fact that we are legit living Brave New World, I’d forgotten how much I loved his writing.

I sent the quote to my kids immediately. They’re used to it. I’m always sending them videos or quotes or things I need to make sure they see and know. Not sure it ever sinks in but I’m calling it an effort and checking my parenting box for the day. Sometimes that’s all I have the energy for.

“Lightly, lightly”…. it is the best advice.

I think about it at work. At home. On social media.

I’m pretty good about not overthinking. Obsessing. I don’t have too many talents but one has always been that I can walk away from anything or anyone that makes me feel bad. I’m not into it.

Someone said to me that I’m always in a good mood. That’s not true. I’m always trying to be in a good mood. I see no point in being miserable. I also think it’s almost always a choice. Unless there’s abuse involved or if you’re a young child – you can choose to not be miserable. At least try.

I know it’s easier said than done. I know there’s a lot of competition for joy out there. Everyone’s got their own definition of what joy looks like. That’s ok. Because there’s enough for everyone. It’s abundant. Your joy may come from hiking a mountain, mine comes from Bravo. Doesn’t make it any less or more joyful.

Don’t let the quick sands drag you in. Don’t scroll Instagram or Facebook and be angry. You’re using it wrong. Don’t blame the game. Use it for what you want it for. Walk away from the rest.

Same goes for people. There are a lot of people in the world. A lot. Like everyone else, I’ve found some good people and I’ve found some duds. The duds have to go. Doesn’t matter if they’re friends or family. It doesn’t mean that they are evil or bad or that they’ve done me wrong in any way. I just can’t carry their weight. Too heavy. Too hard.

I also know that I’m a dud in someone else’s story. I get it. I’m ok with it.

I’ll keep reading this quote. Maybe you will too❤️

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.

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.

Good Time Charlie’s

Do you know what I mean when I say that? Do you know these people? Are you these people?

This past weekend I went on our annual girls weekend – my 7th trip with this group of ladies. On each trip, the number of people joining fluctuates depending on time of year and location. This trip was one of the biggest – with 9 of us. We are married, divorced, and single. We are all different backgrounds and lives. There are city mice and country mice. There are mothers of children and mothers of dogs and cats…and both! Some of us are lactose intolerant and others not (sorry….), you get the idea. Not the same. Except for one thing; we are all good time Charlie’s.

We’re up for it. We’re into it. Mudslides in the rain on Block Island? Sure. Ghost tour in Mystic? Let’s do it. Dueling pianos in Philly? Why not. For one weekend we all go-with-the-flow. Does the flow usually include wine and tequila? Why yes it does. But it’s really not about what we do. We’ve had fun sitting on a NYC stoop at midnight. It doesn’t take much. And trust me, it’s not that all of us agree on everything. We most certainly don’t. But the one thing that no one disagrees with is that we just want to be with each other. Doing whatever. As proof I went to a dog themed restaurant for brunch… willingly. Dogs. Everywhere. Ok they weren’t real but still.

Need more proof? One of these gals took a bad fall which landed her in the ER with two stitches and a chipped tooth. Did she miss the Margarita March the next morning? No way. She rallied. That’s a good time Charlie.

Do yourself a favor and find one or two of your own, or even better – be one 🙂

Yes that’s a Loft bag… part of being a good time Charlie is stopping the bar hopping for a good sale!
Which one of these ladies is a teacher? A therapist? A project manager? Answer? Who cares! They were just good time Charlie’s this weekend.

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.

GoT Speak

Sorry about the acronym. Do you watch Game of Thrones (GoT)? You don’t? Why? Are you reading or parenting or something? You need to watch.

For those of you who do watch, maybe you’ll agree with me here. Not since Breaking Bad has a show had this much impact on my daily language (Yo Mista White…). I basically have either emojis or GoT dialogue in my head all day.

My gut reaction when new people introduce themselves to me is to say ,” a girl has no name.” Or how about when I sneak an extra cookie from the cookie jar and say to myself,” shame…shame…shame…” as I walk back to the couch.  Or when I say, “You know nothing Jon Snow” in my head every time I’m mad at my husband. Seriously. That’s not normal.

Last night my son, who is almost finished with 6th grade, showed me what he got from school that day. He’d won an award for physical fitness. In our house, we show-off all good grades, artwork, etc. on our bulletin board in the kitchen. We’ve done it with both kids since they were little. Usually they both mildly object but deep down I know they love it.

That said, I knew this award meant more to him then a good grade. He prides himself on keeping active and fit and I knew he was so thrilled to get this in front of his friends.

But then I noticed something…

 
A tear. A little corner was ripped off and then taped back.

“What happened to it?” I asked.

“This kid grabbed it from me and tore it.” he said matter-of-factly.

“What? Why? When? Where was the teacher? Who was it? What’s his name?” I could not contain my anger.

In that moment I completely channeled my inner Cersei from GoT. Even though she’s mostly evil and unequivocally messed up – I wished in that moment that I had the The Mountain next to me and I could have said,” I choose violence.”

Because I did. I do.

For those who don’t watch the show – this week, in a pivotal scene, after those lines are uttered – a man’s head is basically popped off like a bottle cap.

Terrible. Awful. Why would that be what pops in my head?

This world is violent enough and it’s the last thing that I should be thinking about, but oh would I love to have a moment with that little twerp. His parents are probably wolves.

This is when my husband would turn to me and say his favorite one liner (his own),” When did you get so angry?”

To which I always say,” You alright! I learned it by watching you!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

A gem

  
I take a lot of pictures of my kids. Like an abnormal amount. I have a ton of albums and suitcases full of loose photos. I take a ton of pics. Still do. How can I not? First of all they are super cute, and I know I’m not supposed to say that, but #truth. Second of all it makes me happy. So there. 

All our relatives make fun of the way we’ve trained our kids. As soon as I take a camera out, they take position and smile. Usually when they don’t want to. But they do it for their crazy mama.

Every year of their lives is fully documented. Even before social media. That’s why I was so surprised when I got this picture. Taken at the home of a sister friend years and years ago. 

A new picture from those days, a picture I had not taken is like finding a treasure. She sent it to me this afternoon and I’ve been staring at it ever since. 

Kera intensely doing a craft – Jack smiling with his chunky cheeks – both of them golden brown. Where they back from the beach? What was that day? Where was I? 

I thought I owned every picture taken of my kids. It’s a sweet surprise to see otherwise. Thank you aunt Katherine! Xoxo

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