Date Night

Every Thursday night, my husband and I go out to dinner.

I don’t remember when or how it started. Our kids got older. Weekends were busy with family and friend stuff. But Thursday was a “free” day to sneak in a date night. Before Covid when I was still commuting, it was also the last day of my commute. Friday I worked from home and didn’t have the 5:30 am alarm (remember commuting? I kinda miss it. Just a little)

Sometimes we go fancy, but more times we keep it low key. I put on some make-up and he wears his dress crocs (yes).

Sometimes we go with other people, double date night!

Where we go depends on weather, mood, and our last good meal. We’ve been known to go to the same place for months if things go well. Sometimes we go locally, sometimes we go far. A lot of couples go out to try new places, try new food. That’s not a priority for us.

Before Covid our favorite way to have Thursday date night was to sit at the bar for dinner. Yes, we are those people.

Once or twice a year we make it an overnight and sneak into New York City. Treat ourselves to a hotel.

Unless we’re sick, the rule is you can’t miss it. Does it have to be magical? Hells no.

We’ve had plenty of good fights on date night. Lots of driving home in silence. But guess what? It’s fine. We can try again next week.

Sometimes we talk about work or kids or family. Sometimes we talk about money or vacations or bills. Most often we talk about the day. We keep it light. This isn’t the night to solve major problems or make big decisions.

When things started shutting down last March, our date nights came to an abrupt halt. We spent the next few months eating at home and sheltering in. Which was nice too. Then, in early summer, things started slowly opening up. We were back in business… kind of. But it was better than nothing.

This pic is one of our earliest dates. Look at those young, care-free kids with the good hair.

Here’s the years since…

Pre-masks!

Why does be make faces?? I dunno. That’s for another post.

It’s a conspiracy stupid

This is not a political post.

This is a post about the hundreds of thousands of people who believe deeply in conspiracy theories.

Remember The X-Files? Mulder and Scully traveling the country to solve mysteries and fall in love?

The truth is out there!

One of my childhood favorites. I was a believer like Mulder. Scully was annoying and didn’t smile enough, but I liked that she went along with things. My point is – I get it. I’m into this notion that we may not know the truth about everything.

This year I’ve read and heard a lot about conspiracies. But those are just the big ones – pizza gate, etc. Those are the stories that made the news channels and headlines. For every crazy story that made it through – there’s 10 that didn’t.

Let me digress here for one second. I’m not on Twitter. I love social media, I always have. I love Instagram and Facebook. This year TikTok came into my life, and China be damned, I’m loving it. And I consider YouTube an essential learning tool. But Twitter? I don’t get it. No pictures? No videos? I’m like a toddler, I’m out. Seems like just a cesspool of angry words. No thank you. Take me back to the synchronized dancing family on TikTok.

People love Twitter. My kids spend the majority of their time on it. And truth be told, with all the news about Facebook, maybe it’s better? Maybe not. You know who else loves Twitter? Conspiracy theorists. On Twitter, something even Breitbart rejected as shady, gets lifeblood.

Here are two stories that raged on Twitter this year…

The Mole Children of NYC

Back in April when New York City hospitals were worried about capacity to care for Covid patients, they put some large white tents. Some of these hospitals are near Central Park, so the tents went up near or in the park itself. So all of this is real. Another nugget of truth are the underground tunnels. They exist. You can take a tour at Halloween. So these are the factual parts.

Here’s the kookoo bird part. There are thousand of people on Twitter that believe that those tents were a part of a Pentagon rescue mission. A department called The Pentagon Pedofile Taskforce rescued 35,000 children that were enslaved in underground tunnels in Central Park. Mole children who had lived their whole life underground after being abducted and captured. Some children, they claimed, were born underground so deformed and malnourished that they looked like little moles. This particular theory is unusual also because it’s a happy tale. The task force not only saved the children, but also killed and blew up all the captors (who apparently lived down there too).

This story had over 14,000 shares on Twitter. Thousands of comments about where to send money to help these mole children. There was no video, no photos, nothing.

Let me put my Scully cap on for a bit, since the Mulder in me wants to atleast give this a moment of thought.

Logistics. 35,000 children is a lot. That’s a college. Now, add to this that most are blind and weak. Probably can’t walk fast or run. Have you ever seen a concert let out? Or a sports event? People and chaos everywhere. It’s organized chaos, but it’s not quiet. How did they do it? Even if the media was told not to cover it – wasn’t there some nosy dude walking by with a camera? It’s New York City, you’re never alone!

But that’s the story. What happened to the kids? Why didn’t anyone hear the explosions underground? No answers.

There was so much noise on Twitter that Reuters did a whole fact check article on it. Can you guess what it said? Ok good.

Here is one more… this one is scarier to me because it’s not just internet yammer. It’s a believer who took action.

Train derailed by engineer in Port of Los Angeles

In April, apparently a big month for kookoo birds, Eduardo Moreno derailed a train in the Port of Los Angeles.

Eduardo was an engineer for the Pacific Harbor Line. A well liked and hardworking guy, according to the company. A “normal” guy that was convinced that a ship called Mercy that had just pulled into the port was up to no good. Specifically- it was being used to either spread Covid or cover-up the truth about Covid.

He detailed the train off the tracks, went through a concrete barrier, then through a parking lot – which was luckily empty- and came to a stop before it got near the docks. He jumped out with a flare in his hand and ran toward the ship.

Trains are big and he wasn’t going that fast. When he derailed it, it slowed to a speed that allowed nearby police to arrive on the scene. They arrested Eduardo standing there with the flare, yelling at the ship.

He told the arresting officer that he couldn’t just stand by and do nothing. He had to try and “save us all”.

He told the officers that the flare was for them – to get their attention so they could help him. He cried when he told them adamantly that he had “one shot to do this and failed.”

The ship Mercy was a cargo vessel that was carrying steel and stone to Canada.

Eduardo Morena is waiting trial so I’m sure we will hear a lot more details soon. I want to know how he heard about the ship? What started this all?

I don’t really care about the people who sit in their basements and believe in mole children. I really care about the Eduardo’s of the world. The ones who are crazy enough to put their plan into action. And there is still a part of me, my Mulder part, that wants to know the truth.

Is he just crazy? Is he just caught up in our world of too much content? Maybe neither, maybe both. Or maybe the Cigarette Smoking Man got a hold of him (Google it).

*cue closing music*

Gobbled 2020

Happy Sunday night! I hope you all had a good/weird Thanksgiving. Doesn’t it feel like it was a year ago? Tomorrow it’s back to work. Which isn’t so bad, but it’s not as good as sleeping, let’s be honest.

You know that line from Elf? The one where he says, “smiling is my favorite.” Well for me, sleeping is my favorite. Oh I love it so much. My bed. My pillow. My very unsexy pjs. Love it all.

Two friends of mine both just recently recommended CBD to me. Independently. They just started taking it at night and now they sleep like a baby. Lucky for me, I’ve always been a big baby. No sleep issues here.

I’m always worried when I hear that excessive sleeping is a sign of depression. I mean… what’s excessive? That’s a very broad word. Like when they say, “that’s an excessive amount of wine.” Tomato, tOEmato.

This blog wasn’t supposed to be about sleeping. I digressed.

Anyway, our turkey day was great – I started it by digging into the apple pie, which I had with my morning coffee watching the Macy’s Parade (sad spectacle). I decided since it was 2020 and we need to do literally anything to makes ourselves happy right now, that I could cut right into the store bought pie with no feelings of guilt or weirdness. I was wrong ofcourse. Guilt and weirdness are like my home-base. I end up there whether I like it or not. Pie was still delicious.

The rest of the day was a blur of activity – not as quiet as I thought it would be. But Kera and I squeezed in a walk. We live in one of the most beautiful parts of the country, Bucks County. It’s got the best of all worlds all around it. Philadelphia, New York City, the beach and everything in between. You wanna go to Target, go left. You wanna go to the Delaware Canal, go right. It’s amazing. So we walked. Never in a million years – pre-covid years – could I take a walk on Thanksgiving day. So I guess thanks Covid? It was great.

It was just the four of us that night at dinner but it felt full and complete. I missed our other family, but sitting at a candle lit table with just our little humans was just as good. Food wise? Let’s see – I ran out of turkey for reasons to be explained at another time. The mac and cheese and stuffing both were over cooked and dried out. But my husband crunched his way through dinner and the kids were sweet about it. It’s fine. It wasn’t our last meal.

I hope you had a good day and a good weekend. Now, it’s time to take some CBD, have a piece of pie or give yourself a heavy pour of vino. This holiday is a wrap, but no worries, there’s another one right around the corner.

Goodnight.

Yesterday

Here’s what I did in an effort to not watch the news…

I baked a cake. Alison Roman’s Sticky Apple cake. Google the recipe – it’s so good. I know lots of people don’t like her now. She was a popular NYT food writer and had a ton of cooking demos on YouTube. Then she started getting popular and said something snarky about Chrissy Teigen in a magazine article. Chrissy responded. The internet blew up and long social media story short – Alison was “cancelled”. She lost followers. Lost her job. Had to write a public apology. Then had to write another because the first was deemed not sorry enough. Then people started accusing her of appropriating recipes, for example her very popular The Stew, which people thought was really just an Americanized version of an Indian dish called Chana Masala. Was it? Kind of. But I didn’t agree completely. There’s no coconut milk in Chana Masala. And her recipe didn’t have the one main thing that makes Chana Masala Chana Masala – garam masala! The combo of spices that makes it smell and taste like the Indian dish. It did have turmeric – but so what? Do Indians own turmeric? Don’t answer that. So now she’s a pariah and had to work her way back quietly into the world. It’s all too much. I like her. I like her chickpea stew. And I really love this apple cake so apologies for spending so much time on Chana Masala.

Then I got my hair did.

I had taken half the day off from work just so I could be trapped in a salon, covering my greys for two hours. This is the first time in my adult life that I have a hair dresser. A woman who I consistently go to and who I can call my own. For years I bopped from one salon to the next. There were also years were I went to one of those fast food type hair places – you know what I mean. $18 cut. You might get Shirly who has done hair for 20 years, or you might get Wendy who just got her license last night. I’ve also gone to the places in NYC where no less than 5 people “work” on different parts of your haircut. I’m happy to never go to either of those places ever again. All in all it was a good visit until the end. She said, in her cute Mexican accent, “I’m going to put a little extra hairspray at the back because you have fine hair”. Fine hair? Excuse me? Ummm no. No I don’t. I have thick, healthy hair. All my life hair dressers have commented on how very thick and healthy my hair is. I’m from a culture that sells hair to the entire world. That’s what I wanted to say, but I didn’t. I just smiled and died inside. Fine hair. Ok ok, it’s just a comment. Nothing to obsesses about. No big deal. I immediately drove from the salon to CVS to get these hair vitamins. Sigh.

At least I’m predictable. I’ll let you know if they work. Good news – during all that time I was getting my hair done and getting emotionally wounded by my hair dresser, I was…..drumroll…not watching the news!

I worked the polls! It was my first ever civic-minded volunteerism. I liked it. I didn’t love it. I mean it was a bit….disorganized…they could have used a project manager or an admin or something. I was there for 3 hours trying to help people who were actually just fine. They just wanted to get in and out and back to their lives. But I tried right? More importantly, it was 3 hours that I wasn’t watching the news!

After all that – at the end of the day, I did watch the news. We went to a neighbor’s house (someone we’ve been in a quarantine pod with) and watched some of the live action, ate some food and had some booze. It was just what the doctor ordered. I did want to share something funny I noticed as we were watching the results.

Do you know the app Calm? It’s pretty cool. It’s a meditation and stress relief app that I’ve been using since last year. It has everything from quick breathing techniques to bedtime stories that are peaceful and…for lack of a better word, calming. Anyway as I was watching the “countdown” to our country’s finale, I caught this. Calm sponsored that portion of the night. Genius! Give that marketing department a raise.

We didn’t stay long. That night my husband sent me this picture he’d taken earlier of the sun setting behind our house. I had spent the whole day avoiding being here because I thought it would cause me stress and anxiety. But looking at this picture gave me the most peaceful feeling I’d had all day. Dorky but true.

So that’s what I did yesterday.

Today was another day. Back to work. Back to life. Back to stress, and back to the news.

Something bad…and then something good

This past weekend my daughter went into New York City to visit a friend. On the way back, on the train, there was an incident. She texted me that the train had stopped about 50 miles from our station with no message from the conductor on what happened or how long it would be.

“Wait it out”, I said, “I’m sure you’ll be moving soon.”

An hour later she texted me, “They made us get off the train. There was a jumper.”

A jumper. I got a pit in my stomach. A jumper. I wrote back some words of encouragement and she said she’d write me with what she was planning on doing. A few minutes later she’d found someone to share an Uber with to our station.

Usually I wouldn’t think twice about this and I’d be happy she had a solve. But it’s Covid and everything is skewed in my brain. Who are they? Is it safe? Blah blah blah…. on and on and on. But I know her. She’s been so careful and she’s so smart – I told myself to back off (backing off is NOT in my DNA btw) and let her figure it out.

Another hour later she texted me her ETA and I said I’d be there to pick her up. I got there early and sat in the car. While I waited in the car I started thinking about the sad soul that died. And, as per usual, instead of thinking a happy thought or distracting myself – I went down a deep rabbit hole. It’s like my superpower.

Those of us that take mass transit often are used to the signs on the platform. They usually say something like, “You are not alone” or “If you need to talk, we are here.”

I started googling statistics and learned that more than half of train accidents involve a suicide. And that over 60% of engineers will have an incident during their careers. Heartbreaking all around.

By the time Kera got there I was totally wound up.

She texted me that she was here and that she saw my car and was headed over. I got my shit together. Put on Pop2K on the radio and opened the window to get some fresh air. My only saving grace during my sad deep dive was that I hadn’t cried. Points for that! No red eyes to cover up.

Although her catching me crying would have been nothing new. My kids and husband have both walked in on me many times in the middle of a good cry about, you name it, Syria, childhood hunger, poverty and said,”uhhhh are you ok?” What a silly question. When have I been ok??

Here’s the good part.

As she walked to the car I noticed that she wasn’t alone. There were two older ladies with her. Kera said,” Mom the two women I rode with want to meet you.”

Then these two, sweet women proceeded to tell me that they wanted, needed, to meet the mother of this wonder girl that had helped them. They were going to Philadelphia – hadn’t traveled this way before – and had no idea of what to do when the train shut down. They said there were just standing on the platform in a daze when Kera approached them. They had never Uber’d before. They didn’t know how that worked but knew instantly that they could trust this girl. They called her a blessing. Called her an answer to a prayer and many other gushy things. And I did what I think any respectable mother would do. I started sobbing uncontrollably. From the look on their faces – they weren’t expecting that.

None of what they said was a surprise and Kera was probably mortified by the scene I caused – but here’s the thing. I was in my hole of sadness and they pulled me right out. Catapulted me right out. I told them how grateful I was for their kind words and how much I had needed to hear something good and positive. We said our goodbyes and I asked Kera what their story was.

Two sisters, part of a big family from Belize. They’d just had a death in the family and were traveling from New York City to Philly to be with everyone.

I took a deep breath as we drove home.

I’m so glad for them that Kera found them. And I’m so glad for Kera that she has another story to tell from that day. The story that has some bad, but also some good.

Kera and her new pals

High highs and low lows

August. You crazy, nutty bitch. You’ve given and you’ve taken away. You’ve made me insanely happy and insanely sad. At the end of this year, when I think about all the best times and the worst times – I’ll think of you.

I’ll think of my daughter finishing up a summer in New York City doing an internship. She loved the work. She loved the city. She loved her roommate. Every time I spoke to her I heard excitement and confidence. I don’t know what I would have done if a child of mine hadn’t loved the city that I love. I would have gotten over it, sure. But I would have held a grudge, truthfully. I would have looked at her with a raised eyebrow…. what’s there not to love? But thankfully she felt exactly the same way I feel. Her exit interview with the CEO included an offer for her to come back and work there. Ofcourse it did. Who wouldn’t want her? A high high for sure. This is her below – one in from the left..the one with the big smile on her face.

When she finished with that internship and finally came home, we all went away for our annual summer vacation. This year, to Iceland. It seemed more like a week on the moon. Beautiful. Striking. Gorgeous. Everywhere you turned looked like a green screen version of reality. Even now, when we look at photos – they look fake. And the country is as friendly as is it beautiful. We spent a week exploring, climbing, hiking, swimming, eating and sometimes fighting (let’s be honest). But it was still perfect. Another high high.

While my girl was spending her summer bulking up her LinkedIn profile, my son spent the summer learning how to surf. He never took a formal lesson (to my chagrin), he just learned from friends. He fell in love with it. Which made total sense. He’s a great swimmer, he loves his skateboard….ofcourse he’d love surfing! It all added up. Once he’d had his fill of beach trips he started looking for a job. I suggested he take a lifeguard class, and miraculously, he agreed. He passed the class and got a job as a lifeguard at a local cougar haunt..errr I mean gym. My little baby boy was going to save lives! Ok…not really. But he was going to watch little brats while their parents got drunk at the pool bar – that’s something to be proud of right? The kid who I have to sometimes remind to brush his teeth, got a job. He had to fill out a W9! What is happening here??!! A high for sure.

I have one more little high. My work team got together for an offsite. We met for a day of eating and drinking and swimming. No agenda. No work talk (that wasn’t juicy gossip). Just fun. It’s a humbling, lucky thing to get along with the people you work with. It’s a miracle to like them. Maybe even love them! This group of people that I work with makes the job feel like fun. And we’ve been through some ugly times. I mean…ugly. But at the end of the day – we stick together. I can’t imagine my time at this company without them. High high! This pic isn’t from this year but I love it.

So that leaves the low. The low low.

And it really was the lowest low.

About a year and a half ago, my husband’s aunt was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.

Let me back up.

Mary Ohl was born Mary Dahill – we all called her Dee Dee. Sister to Terry and Peggy. Mother to her boys. Wife to Dennis and then Walter (or Teddy, as we know him).

Fiery redhead and New York City hellraiser, she spent her early years drinking, working and causing overall havoc. Eventually she settled down – had her boys – and became a nurse.

By the time I met her, she had already retired. She was no longer a nurse. She no longer drank. No longer raised havoc – atleast not in the bars in the city. By the time I met her – she was a devoted mother to her son Dennis. Dennis was born with a form of retardation that she never actually explained to any of us. All we knew was that he was special needs, but I’m not sure we could ever verbalize what he had. Which is exactly how she liked it. She told me once that during Dennis’ early years, she tried to ignore his disability. She pretended it didn’t exist. She ignored it. She had a ton of guilt about those fuzzy years that were drowned in alcoholism and dysfunction.

It wasn’t until she got sober that she found her true calling. To give Dennis a life. A big, full, complete life. She spent over two decades researching every resource avialable to him, every opportunity due him. She joined national organizations, gave speeches, helped find programs to help him – anything she could do to solidify his independance, she did. She even helped other parents find the same resources she found.

Today, Dennis is a happy, nurtured man. He has a job. He lives on his own (with some angels who take care of him). He makes his own decisions and choices. He loves music and he loves to dance, like his momma.

As a mother, I think I’m doing all I can to make my kid’s lives better. I usually feel pretty good about it – until I compare it to what Dee Dee did. The cold, hard focus she had to make sure he had everything owed to him was and is a lesson.

She was amazing. She had a wicked sense of humor, she was overly generous but at the same time – she held a mean grudge. She laughed hard. She yelled hard. She was a dycotomy, like all amazing people are.

We found out about her Cancer from other people. She never called or told anyone. In fact she was pretty pissed when we all showed up to her hospital room before her surgery. Even then she pretended all was well, annoyed that we were making such a big fuss about it.

The day she came out of her surgery, she started planning Dennis’ 50th Birthday party. And boy was it a party!

12 months after that, a few weeks after Dennis’ 51st birthday party, she took a downturn. There’s a Tom Petty song that I think of whenever I think of her….it’s called “Swingin”. The line in the song is, “..and she went down….swinging”. That’s Dee Dee. Swinging.

We came back from Iceland on Saturday. We went to go see her on Sunday. She passed a day later. The lowest low. The bottom of the lows. An angry low. I didn’t realize how angry I’d be. I hated them all. The hospital. The doctors. The oncologist. The social workers. The nurses. I felt like they all betrayed her. Betrayed all of us. Why didn’t they prepare us for how quickly things would go downhill? Why didn’t they tell us how drastic the road would be? It was a low low low.

But, in all honesty, I think if you would ask her, she wouldn’t agree. She lived on her own terms. She did exactly what she wanted to do. She never ever followed advice or listened to anyone – stubborn to the end. She lived every day after her diagnosis by her own terms. Her rules. She was a force of nature. And nature is beautiful and destructive and unpredictable. It all makes sense. It’s probably exactly as she planned it.

August is over. September is here. This weekend our family will celebrate new babies coming this fall and spend time planning a happy wedding next summer. The weekend after that we continue the celebration with another family wedding, and the happy times continue. Just like Dee Dee would want them to.

Here’s to the high highs and even the low lows. I hope they never end.

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.

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.

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.

And when they met….it was Murdah….

Only kids who grew up in the 80s with no outside hobbies will know that reference. It’s the opening line from Hart to Hart, said by the butler with a very strong New York City accent. Here’s the IMDB blurb:

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Self-made millionaire Jonathan and freelance writer Jennifer are the Harts – a globetrotting married couple with a talent for finding mysteries wherever they go. And even when they’re uncovering thefts, espionage and assorted skullduggery, they still find time for romance.

I mean what’s there not to like? Thefts, espionage, skullduggery (really?), and romance!  Welcome to the 80s. Pretend you’re a young Indian gal in Harrisburg, PA with a really bad haircut watching upstairs in her parent’s bedroom. Or pretend you’re a not-so-young Indian gal in Yardley, PA watching reruns on the Hallmark Network on her phone so no one sees – either way – set the scene.

Side note – I was also completely unaware of the whole Robert Wagner/Natalie Wood thing. Which takes the whole murder thing in another direction.

Anyway I have always enjoyed a murder mystery. In all honesty there doesn’t even need to be a mystery. I’ve just always enjoyed….murder. Let that sink in. I did start out lightheartedly. Hart to Hart. Remington Steele. Murder, she Wrote. But it went downhill fast. I blame Law and Order. I just love a gruesome tale.

Turns out, I’m not the only one. Michelle McNamara was obsessed with The Golden State Killer case for years. The notorious unsolved crime of someone who had committed upward of 50 sexual assaults and at least 10 murders in California in the 1970s and 1980s, was left untouched until her book (published posthumously), I’ll be Gone in the Dark, came out.

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The book and her research fueled blogs, podcasts, etc. and relaunched the search. The killer was captured within a year using a DNA website. I read the book. Listened to the podcasts. Read all the blogs. I couldn’t get enough. And neither could a million other people. Just sayin’, I’m not the only weirdo.

Now here’s where my interest takes a turn…so maybe I am a weirdo.

I don’t remember if I’ve shared this with you before. If I’ve already talked about my massive crush on Frances Glessner Lee, I’m sorry to repeat myself. But she is so freaking cool. Or was so freaking cool. She grew up in the 30’s and 40’s in a wealthy family. Her passion was police work from an early age, a profession that was considered both beneath her class and out of her league as a woman. She tried to join the police force, but her family objected. Instead she started spending time volunteering in police stations. She noticed that during murder investigations, there was no way to re-create the crime scene. Because most of her leisure time was spent on sewing, painting, etc., she started recreating crime scenes using dollhouse miniatures. Genius. And weird. And useful. All things I love in a person.

Long morbid story short, she became the “mother of forensic science”, eventually joining the police force and also becoming the first female police captain in the country. The techniques she developed helped revolutionize the way police reports were created. She was bad-ass.

You’re probably wondering how I found out about her? You’re not? I’ll tell you anyway. I decided last year that in the near future, say 10 or 15 years from now, I’m going to start working on a dollhouse. Obviously I plan to get creepier with age. As I was researching dollhouses and the weirdos who work on them, I found a podcast called,”Murder is Her Hobby”. It had me at hello. It might as well have been called,”Listen to this Neha, you’ll love it”.

I think you’ll love it too. What’s not to love about a crocheted crime scene?

Another podcast that speaks my name is, My Favorite Murder. 

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Until some years ago I had no people named April in my life. Now I have two. The first one is like family and lives a few houses down. She introduced me to the second one during a girl’s weekend. The second one introduced me to this podcast – and that’s when I knew I’d found a friend for life. That and her love for tequila.

Tonight, both my Aprils and I are heading into Philadelphia (which is sometimes called Killadelphia by smart alecks but really fits with everything we’re talking about here, don’t you think?).

We are going to see that podcast, My Favorite Murder, live! In person. Geeky and edgy all at the same time.

A night of murdah…what could be better? Don’t answer that.

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