“Bank roll”

On Father’s Day a few weeks ago, my Facebook feed, as it is every year, was flooded with “Happy Father’s Day” messages from Facebook friends, lots of father-child photos, and even a few tear-jerker posts. One post really stood out to me a lot. It was from a former high school classmate who I know has been constantly traveling since she was young. The only reason I know this is because she posts occasional photos from her travels on Facebook, and in her posts, she references her constant travel since her youth. Her post was very frank. She mentioned how pissy she was to her dad throughout her years, and she ended it by saying that she was blessed to do all this travel because it was “bank rolled by the savings of a man who lives frugally every day, wakes up at 4:30am for work for the past 20-plus years, and wanted his daughter to see more than he ever can.” I almost started tearing up when I read this.

A lot of people like to say that they want to hear about other people’s experiences particularly around travel so that they can live vicariously through them. But it is the most touching when it comes from someone who has actually sacrificed a lot for you and literally is, every day, living vicariously through you and your experiences because they just never got the chance to. I thought about my own dad as I reflected on this woman’s post, and I thought about all the things I’ve shared with him over the years, whether it was my good and bad moments in college, an experience he never fully got himself, or travel through Asia or Europe. There are things my dad’s taught me through the years, but as I am an adult now living and breathing experiences he will never have, it’s almost like it’s my turn to teach and educate him now.


Work philosophy

Today and tomorrow are long days of our team summit, which includes colleagues of mine flying out from San Francisco and Los Angeles to spend time with our team. At our team dinner tonight, one of my colleagues was sharing that she’ll be leaving for Europe for a two-week vacation, and she mentioned to another colleague that I’ll be spending about 10 days in Japan soon.

“You’re always traveling!” a colleague exclaimed, half jealous and half frustrated. “When do you find time to just take off?”

Mildly annoyed, I responded, “I just make the decision and I go. If you really want something, you just do it.”

This colleague is obsessed with work. I’m honestly not sure if he’s more obsessed with work or making it look like he works all the time. I have a strong feeling it’s the latter.

After dinner, my Europe-bound colleague and I shared a ride home. She expressed her frustration with our workaholic colleague and said, “It’s really not that difficult to take a trip and enjoy life. If you want to do something, you just stop talking about it and just do it. Making it seem like you work all the time isn’t healthy, and the only person who is really losing here is you.”

I agree with her, but at this point in my life, I really don’t spend that much time thinking about people like this guy because I just think they are sad and pathetic and ultimately jealous of what I do and have. If all you want to do is spend time arguing with agency clients and looking at Excel spread sheets, something is terribly wrong with your life, and I don’t have time to talk to you. It’s that simple now.

Dinner follow up

My mom was so desperate to find out who paid for Friday night’s family dinner that she had to call me from the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses during one of her preaching outings with a worshiping friend. She couldn’t even wait until she got home to call me. She tried to delay it a lot by asking things like who actually showed up, what we ordered, how long we were out. And of course, the standard question finally came, “So who paid the bill?” I told her that my cousin paid the majority of it, my cousin’s wife’s sister paid a small portion, and I paid the rest. Then she annoyingly asked, “Russell didn’t pay the whole bill?” And then “Ellen and her husband didn’t even offer?” Notice how those questions are framed: in a negative, why-did-it-end-up-this-way-and-why-did-you-have-to-pay-at-all? – type way. It’s always negative, and it’s always as though she or I have been slighted. I didn’t feel slighted. I expected to pay a portion of the bill. I don’t like visitors paying unless they are staying for an extended time. She still doesn’t seem to understand this concept, so I have to reiterate it to her. Over and over again. My friend suggested to me to not tell her at all the result because it simply just does not matter (which it really doesn’t, and I agree), but I have a feeling that would result in far more nagging than I can tolerate.

Mother-in-law issue

I always knew that at some point, I’d probably butt heads with at least one or both of my parents-in-law. It couldn’t always be so bright and shiny, right? I couldn’t always see them as so great and warm and practically perfect. Something had to go wrong at some point. And how fitting that that “some point” has to be during wedding planning.

My mother-in-law had the brilliant idea to check to see what wedding invitation printing would cost in Chennai during her trip there to visit her mother, and given how expensive it is here overall despite discount codes and even my cousin’s employee credit for a high quality printing company, we decided to take her up on her offer because it would still be pretty expensive. However, doing this required my mother-in-law to be the “middle woman,” and me to write extremely detailed notes regarding what I was looking for regarding everything from font types for certain text, actual invitation and insert card text, envelope and invitation paper colors, to actual design. I wrote instructions on everything from font type for headers versus font type for regular text, to even the actual punctuation marks and how I wanted them to look. I thought I was doing her a favor for being so detail-oriented because that’s what she requested. And somehow, this backfired on me.

I guess my “details” weren’t received very well because there were mistakes made from missing or added punctuation, wrong header font, to even a missing word, which ended up driving me crazy today when I saw the finished (and fully printed – all 105 of them) product. I went back three times to look at the final wording I sent, and I just couldn’t understand how it was not printed like what I wrote to the T. It was very explicit — how did this go wrong? The most frustrating part about it was I actually caught a typo on the actual invitation days ago, and I pointed it out over Whatsapp to her. She got defensive and was very hesitant to call the printer to ask them to make that one small adjustment. I kept going on and on about it, insisting it needed to be fixed, and finally she relented on that one change. With the new typo I discovered today, not only did she say it was not possible at this point to change, but she actually went ahead and said that the text on the insert was exactly as I wrote in the e-mail — I was flabbergasted. Now, I was a liar?

Since the mistake is on the insert card, I’m not as concerned about it and will very likely let it go, but it’s more the principle of it that annoys me. I was asked to give very detailed instructions on what I wanted. I did that. And in the end, not only is it not followed, but I’m told it *was* followed and there are insinuations around my being overly anal and accusatory. And this is coming from someone who I thought was anal (this is someone who followed me around her kitchen every Christmas the last three years, wiping up tiny droplets of water or batter bits I’d leave behind on her kitchen counter within seconds after they’d appeared. Hey, I was going to wipe them up at the end of my cooking, but what can I do when someone else is hell-bent on it being done straight away?). Chris’s dad was not helping in this matter as he insisted the errors were not a big deal, but he only brought up the errors that I had already stated I was willing to gloss over.

Anyone who knows me at all knows I am extremely attentive to detail, and when I give instructions, I want it followed exactly. I’d do the same if I had a job as important as writing out someone’s wedding invitations. In fact, when I created my best friend’s bridal shower invitations, I re-read the text over 15 times before I actually hit “Submit” and purchased them. I read the text forwards, backwards, then forwards again, and finally caught a mistake probably the tenth or eleventh time I re-read it. That’s the kind of personality I am when I am dealing with anything writing related. I need someone who is almost as diligent as I am in that regard, otherwise, I rather just do all this myself, which I’ve mostly been doing since the beginning of wedding planning.

And the rest of the stationery for our wedding, whether it’s ceremony programs or menus or even the seating cards — I will be doing all of that myself. If I really want it done right, I will need to do this myself.



Disjointed family dinner

Tonight, Chris and I went down to Chinatown for dinner to meet and eat with my cousins’ cousin, her husband, four kids, and friend, as well as my actual cousin and his wife, who have a dysfunctional relationship (and an even more dysfunctional one around their almost three-year-old son. My cousin’s cousin and her family are visiting New York from Montreal, and they reached out to us a few days ago to arrange a meal to see us. It’s actually pretty amusing (and dysfunctional to outsiders, I’m sure) that I won’t see my cousin and his wife in Brooklyn unless there is a visitor, or to celebrate one of their son’s birthdays. They have a marriage that no one would approve of in which they are constantly arguing and threatening to leave each other and take the kid with them, they can’t stand each others’ in-laws, and they don’t agree on anything regarding how to raise their son. So you can imagine why I want to be near that as little as possible.

I was actually looking forward to seeing our visiting cousin because from what I remember when I had last seen her four years ago at a wedding, she, unlike all of her siblings, has a personality and is fun to talk to. The funny thing about it is that I probably wanted to see her more than her own cousin did, and they’re technically the related ones, not me. My cousin made it clear he didn’t really want to be at the dinner and was just there out of obligation. He used his phone for a lot of the meal, barely said anything to the visiting cousin, and made little effort to talk to his wife’s sister, who also joined, or me or Chris. They also arrived late and left early because their son was at home with a fever, and of course, it’s a rush to get back to the child because who knows what could happen in the grandma’s care.

That’s what my family is — a lot of obligation and guilt and not a lot of actual desire to see each other. It’s sad, but it’s also comforting to know that those obligatory meetings don’t have to happen that often. And at least my cousin’s cousin is an interesting, seemingly normal person with a normal marriage and family life. Or maybe we can really just attribute that to their being Canadian and not American.


Chris just came back from his work trip to Cannes today, and unfortunately, it looks like the security at Heathrow en route back to New York caught him with the Dijon mustard he got for me that was over 100 ml. I was so bummed when I woke up this morning to see that text from him. No French mustard will be coming back to our apartment today.

I’ve been reading about brands like Maille and Amora mustard and how superior they are to the mustards here in the U.S. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve really started developing a taste for mustard, especially the really spicy, complex ones, and the whole-grain, seedy ones (these require flossing after enjoying). These brands are just everyday brands in France, yet they make our everyday mustard brands look sad, pathetic and lacking real mustard flavor. They are supposed to be extremely strong to the point of clearing your blocked nose and also far spicier than the average mustards here.

It’s on my list of things to buy when we travel to France this October for Chris’s cousin’s wedding. When other people travel to Paris, they get excited for the fashion and make lists of clothing pieces or handbags they wish to purchase that would be cheaper in France than back home in the U.S. When I go to Paris, I start salivating over all things edible. Mmmmm, French mustard and butter and croissants and baguettes and macarons.

Wedding invitations

Our wedding isn’t until next March, but because my future mother-in-law had the brilliant idea of getting wedding invitations printed in India during her trip there to save money, we decided to have her see what was available. After seeing the quality of the paper and the printing type availability, and particularly the low costs, it was too difficult to say no to it. We are literally paying about 10 percent or less of what we would have paid if we had our invitations made here by really any company, whether it was Wedding Paper Divas, Invitations by Dawn, or Minted, even after discount codes or using my cousin’s employee credit at Wedding Paper Divas!

I’m a little bit sad because I won’t have letterpress invitations like I had always dreamed of, but the reality hit me multiple times that pretty much no one would save those beautiful and extremely costly invitations other than my in-laws, my parents, my bridesmaids, and me. I can’t justify the cost for paper that will just be thrown away, even if they are my own cherished wedding invitations. People in general just don’t value these things the way I do. Maybe I can just have letterpress at my future child’s first birthday, or indulge myself in buying letterpress cards for myself to touch.

This is just further proof that the wedding industry is out to get everyone here and wants to rip us all off just for wanting to say “I do.” Well, take that, wedding industry, because “I don’t” to your overpriced American wedding invitations.

“So generous”

My cousin’s cousin who lives in Montreal contacted me today and let me know that she and her family (she has four kids and a husband) are all coming down for vacation to New York beginning tomorrow through Sunday, and they’d like to see me and my cousin in Brooklyn for a meal. I was happy to hear from her even though she’s quite distant family, and I wasn’t able to see her when I was in Montreal last summer. I told my mom she was coming, and as is the typical way my mother reacts when she hears someone is in town, she starts freaking out immediately over the possibility that I could be paying for the dinner bill. How is it that this is the very first thing she has to comment on when I tell her my cousin’s cousin is in town?! She also made sure to ask why she was even coming to town. Well, this may be hard to believe, but they want to actually… vacation in New York City. Is that so shocking?

“I don’t know if you realize this, but you have a wedding coming up, and it’s going to be very expensive, so you shouldn’t be paying for her and her entire family to eat, especially if your cousin and his wife come,” my mom admonished me for the second time (yes, she called me a second time later this evening to tell me again, because clearly I wasn’t really listening the first time we spoke when I left work). “I know you. You’re always so generous. So generous. You always want to pay for everyone.” I do? I didn’t realize that…

“I’m not going to pay for everyone!” I tried to control the volume of my voice. “Stop acting crazy and worrying about something so dumb.”

I also didn’t realize I had a wedding coming up. That is mine. That I have to pay for. Well, that just completely slipped my mind.

So all those thoughts I had yesterday of missing my parents, well, those are gone now. Can you guess why?


The feeling of missing

I’m going to admit this out loud: I actually miss my parents today. I saw them for five days in San Francisco and came back here, and well, they aren’t here. I go through a lot of complicated emotions when it comes to my parents. I love them dearly and know that they’ve done a lot for me to have the life I am so fortunate and privileged to have today. But I also grapple with the way they chose to treat Ed, in life and in death, and I struggle with the individuals that they are.

As loving and affectionate as my mother is, she can be extremely controlling and manipulative, much to the detriment of our relationship and the relationships she shares with everyone else, even including my dad. And as goofy and cute as my dad can be, he’s emotionally removed, childish and holds grudges like there’s no tomorrow, which drives me mad when I am with him for extended periods of time. I realized this past weekend that whenever I leave my dad now, I always hug him, and he actually hugs me back. And I realized that “now” means after Ed has passed. When Ed was still here, my dad never hugged me. The most he’d never do is pat me on the back when I tried to hug him. It’s a little different now, though, between us, I guess.

Sometimes, I wish I could see them more often, just in shorter bouts of time. I wish I could see them a little bit more than just two to four times a year when I fly home, usually for about a week and a half at a time. But then I remember how tense it can be when we’re together for too long, and I think that maybe we see each other just enough. I don’t know. Maybe I’m not sure what I want.


Super visits

After Chris left for Cannes this afternoon (well, isn’t he all fancy for work), I took a long walk and came back to the apartment to find our bedroom AC unit leaking. The water got everywhere and destroyed a lot of accumulated theater tickets I had saved in a box for scrapbooking purposes. Needless to say, I was not happy about this and was frustrated I had to do extra cleaning on what was supposed to be a quiet, relaxing afternoon.

Our super came to inspect the AC unit and said that he would need to remove it to fully examine it tomorrow. He’s always been so quick to respond to all of our requests and so friendly, so I decided to give him most of our leftover baklava that a friend had brought over the night before for our dinner party at home. He was so excited — I’d never seen his face light up like that before. I warned him that it had pistachios just in case anyone in his family had a nut allergy, and he said they loved nuts, and it wouldn’t be a problem.

Supers do a lot of hard, dirty work, literally, for our apartments. I wonder how often anyone gives him anything nice or edible in the time he’s worked in this building. Maybe I should feed him more often when I see him so that he knows we are grateful for his work.