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.

Are you planning a really cool reveal? If yes, read this first.

Here’s my advice…ready?

Don’t plan a f@@king reveal!

Please. For the love of all things normal, don’t do it. I’m sorry. Can we just stop? I know what you’re thinking after the last post: “Aren’t you a good time gal?” “You said you’re up for anything?” “Why do you hate America?”. I am a good time gal. Yes, I’m up for most things. And I love America. I also love a good announcement, a good overshare. I’ll look at your baby/wedding/engagement/prom/vacation photos all day. I think people who plan elaborate surprises for their loved ones are amazing. Good for them! But I’m done with the “reveals”.

It all started with the baby gender reveals. I get it. It’s a big deal. You’re bringing a human into the world. Go ahead and order some helium balloons to release into the environment. Feel free to ruin a perfectly good cake by stuffing it with pink or blue m&ms. I’m not judging.

But my feed is filling up with other reveals. The prom”posal” reveal, the vacation location reveal, and now, the where-I’m-going-to-college reveal. Seriously, it’s a thing.

I know we want to celebrate life. I’m down for that. And you all know I’m nosey. I love hearing personal details…but must we make everything a thing? Can’t somethings just happen? BTW – this is not an anti-social media post. I have zero hate for social media. Has it made us a more insanely self-consumed world? 100%. That said, would I give up make-up tutorials I can watch at 2am? 100% no. This is also not an anti-Millennial post, I love Imagine Dragons and Twitter! And I’m not even offended you all think you can do my job better than me, you’re probably right!

Im not trying to be a partypooper. I’m all for posting on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, wherever! Post your kid’s acceptance letter, post them wearing their new college shirt, etc. I love it all. I’m just not sure I need learn about your kid’s college decision through a bakery reveal, is that fair?

I can’t believe I’m saying anything negative about cake. Cake is never a bad idea. Now I want cake. Ok, rant over.

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.

My favorite night out…

Is in. Bed. Ya dig?

Aperol spritz+tv+bed= unbeatable evening of fun.

Where are you? At a club? A bar? Vegas? Good for you! Now don’t get me wrong, I love a good night out. I love being with friends and family. I’m all about it.

But a good night in is a beautiful thing. And when you’re in for the evening you have choices. What will you do? Where will you sit? The living room is a nice, solid choice. It’s got the biggest tv, it’s near snacks… it’s a no brainer. Maybe you watch in your den or basement, we have neither so that’s out. We do have a family room, but it’s near the laundry room and sitting in there sometimes reminds me of, you know, laundry. And other things I’m avoiding.

My go-to place is always the same – it’s my bed. And it’s not even a King. I still love it. I could rule the world from here.

So I’ll raise my glass, send you good wishes. Here’s to you, out in the world, in real clothes. I applaud you. Have one for me. I’ll have one for you too. If you need me, you know where to find me.

Some people.

In general – I’d say about 95% of time – I run into nice people. Decent people. People who like people. Yeah there are some roadragers (is that a word?) and cranky people out there – but one on one, face to face, you usually get nice. Am I right? Am I delusional? I don’t think so. That’s why I was so shocked at a little episode we had yesterday. Let me share.

Because my husband and I are 90 and can’t stay up too late, we tend to go to a Sunday morning matinée to get our movie on. This also works because my teen and tween sleep the morning away and we make it home in time to all have an early lunch together. I love an early lunch. There are lots of other pluses to this scenario. Less crowds. Cheaper tickets. Older audiences. We love it all.

So yesterday we decided to sneak away and see Birdman. We made it there in the nick of time, got our tickets and ran to the theater. To our shock and awe – it was packed. Really packed. Friday night showing packed. My husband spotted two seats and we made our way. There were two couples separated by the open spots we wanted. We asked both couples if the seats were taken and one of them said instantly,”nope all yours.” The husband in the other couple said nothing, but the wife said,”they’re taken.” Okey dokey then. We moved on. We found seats a couple of rows behind them.

As the previews started we noticed more couples trying to find seats. They went through the same interaction with those couples as we did – and they were both turned away the same way.

The movie started. My husband leaned over and said,”there’s no one sitting in those seats. No one is coming. She lied.”

He was right. She basically just didn’t want anyone sitting there. Not a big deal right? Wrong. It takes me about two seconds to go through my emotions when this stuff happens. Disgust, anger, annoyance, and then finally, acceptance of the fact that they are not nice people. Or maybe they have some sitting-next-to-strangers disorder. Whatever. This is not the case with my husband, who is bothered to his very core, his very soul about the injustice. He grapples with their entitlement, he struggles with their complete lack of empathy for other movie goers. He’s upset. And he stays upset.

It doesn’t help that the movie is dark and sad. It doesn’t help that we have a clear sight view of this selfish couple, or that he knows the other folks turned away had to sit in the very front. Their movie going experience all but destroyed (not really).

The movie ends. He turns to me and says,” What did you think? That was great right? Oh, I’m going to say something to that couple. They should know that we know.”

In the early stages of my marriage I would have tried to talk him out of this, explained that we needed to be the bigger person etc. All that talk would have incited him even more. The other thing the talk would have done is to get him angry at me too, how could I not understand how horrible these people were? How could I not see he was right? Now, 18 years in, I say nothing. I say not one word. If he wants to say something, by all means, go for it. He is right. Some people should be called out, no matter how much of a scene it would make.

So I watched him go down the aisle, pass the couple and keep moving. When we got outside I asked him why he changed his mind, he said,” eh, some people.”

Some people indeed.

Hope you had a good weekend!

Come on!

How could all of these people have left work exactly the same time as me? Don’t they know I wanted to get home early today?
People. They’re a bitch sometimes.

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Comedy of Errors without the Comedy

It was a simple plan.

Friday night my son had soccer practice at 6:30. I was going to drop him off, watch a bit of practice and leave.

My daughter and a friend had to go to a dance at 7:00. And by had to I mean they would have LITERALLY died without going to this dance.

My husband planned to get home from work by 6:30, join me at the soccer field so I could take off and he could take him home.

We were meeting some friends for dinner at 7:30.

We can do this. We’ve done this before, like, a million times. I’ll drop off the boy. My husband will pick him up, buy him dinner, bring him to a friend’s for a sleepover, and go straight to the restaurant. I will drop off the girls  (another mom was doing pick-up) and meet at the restaurant. All’s well.

Then here’s what happened.

When I got to the soccer field I couldn’t find our team. I know that sounds insane – but it’s a sea of 9 year boys running around a football field. And they don’t wear their uniforms for practice – thanks for asking. It also turned out that they moved from our usual spot to the back field. Anyhoo, we didn’t get there till 6:45.

At 6:50 my husband called to say there is terrible traffic. He’s not making it to the field by 7:15.

No worries, I say. I’ll stay at the field and take him back, you (I’m looking at you husband), take the girls to the dance.

Small caveat that I had to fill him in on. On the way to the dance, you have to stop by another kid’s house and pick him up too.

Another small caveat I had to fill him in on. The dance was in the next town over.

As every wife and mother out there knows, there are certain details of how we get our day done which are on a “Need to Know” basis.

“Why didn’t I know that this dance wasn’t in our town?” he asks.

“What? Who are we picking up? Where?” he shouts.

Need to know baby. As in up until now, you didn’t need to know.

I’ll spare you the “spirited” discussion and “colorful” language that flowed like water from both of us. Did I mention that we never remembered to call our friends and say we’d be late?

We did make it to dinner – at 7:45. Not bad for a total breakdown of plans and routine.

Thankfully our dinner companions laughed off the lateness when we told them our tale of woe. You see, they have grown kids, and I’m sure they were thinking,” you think it’s bad now…wait until next year.”

But they didn’t tell us that. It’s on a “Need to Know” basis.

 

 

 

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