Category Archives: betterment

Soccer Mom

My new title.

I’ve had the Volvo station wagon for a while now.

The nanny share.

The move to the suburbs.

Nail in the coffin, I am literally a soccer mom now.

But today, as I hear her teammates cheer AP on and screech her name out loud (pronouncing it perfectly and not at all as though it’s a foreign name that elicits confusion and tongue tripping) at the top of their reedy voices (first graders, much gangle), my heart lurches and I smile.




Once upon a time, I used to be a stereotypical lawyer: suit, briefcase, motions, yes-your-honor, no-your-honor, I-move-to-dismiss. Not a fan of the courthouse, I moved to corporate housing. My days were filled with contracts, fine print, and malaise. My boss was a good lawyer but a terrible manager. In the end, I left with somewhat ill will towards him and the job. Thankfully, I landed a job that suits me to a T … in that it does not involve suits. Or traditional hours. Or traditional research. Bottom line: I’m happier, more fulfilled, and all around better off now than I was – money aside, that is. The government do take a bite, don’t she?

Today, I ran into one of my old co-workers. After the initial ‘catch up on the last decade’ gup shup, the conversation turned to our past. I asked about our former boss. To my great surprise, I found out he rose in the ranks but then was unceremoniously dismissed not long after I left. INSTANT KARMA! Then I found out his wife divorced him and left with the children. Smile fading. Then I found out that he suffered from a mental breakdown and was institutionalized. Are you kidding me? That’s too much. If it’s true, it’s utterly tragic and now I feel bad. “Be thankful for what you have,” my colleague advised. No doubt. It’s not quite the phenomenal “how things change” WhatsApp story making the rounds today, but my perspective on the past has changed and I’m thankful fate took me where it did and that I can be in a position of pity rather than pain.

Superb Blurb: N.A. Bhatti

I recently came across a letter written by my grandfather to my mother. My grandfather was a writer by trade and by DNA – a trait I have inherited. I’ve heard the stories about how he would slip layers of carbon paper between airmail sheets, chronicle the day’s events, and send the original and carbon copies (you didn’t know that’s what cc stood for, did you, youngsters?) to the family. I, myself, received numerous letters full of amusing anecdotes, inquiries as to my education and health, and words of wisdom. I was overcome with a wave of déjà vu when I read this passage because it is exactly what my mother told/taught us whenever we would thank our parents for all that they did from giving us love, respect, and a good education to taking us around the world to giving us money for everlasting gobstoppers. Here’s a special Thanksgiving Day edition of Superb Blurb to consider as you give thanks next week:

Islamabad, 1st August, 1968
You write that you are always grateful to us for whatever we did for you. You need not say so. As long as you conduct yourself like a Muslim and in a manner such as will bring credit to the household to which you now belong and to the family of which you were a part, we shall consider that as your expression of gratitude.

Competence Porn

I’ve always been drawn to people (fictional and real) who “get the job done” as  Saul Goodman was described in a recent “Talking Bad” interview (“He is good at what he does. That’s why people like Saul… People in America are looking for somebody who can do their job.”). So it’s not just super smart people (Will Hunting, Alan Turing, John Nash, Sherlock, Sheldon Cooper)  but people who work hard, know what they are doing, and get results. Book smarts v. street smarts. Innate genius v. struggled-and-achieved expertise. Whatever the profession, sushi chef, survivor man, fixer, (Winston Wolfe Zindabad!) I dig it.


It’s also the folks who appear not to be able to cope with every day trials and tribulations but if you just give them a chance, put them in their element, they shine. Shy but vocally brilliant Little Voice. Shy but culinarily skilled Big Night. Extrovert but not as dumb as she seems Legally Blonde and My Cousin Vinny.

Especially delicious is when someone has to fake being incompetent – even though they really are intelligent – just to get the job done. The Scarlet PimpernelHis at Night. The Raider (who not only had to play the buffoon but also had to pretend to be obese). Mr. Impossible.

That said, I also love it when someone seemingly “dumb” one-ups the “smart” one. When Dee Dee or Penny wins a contest over Dexter or Sheldon.  When anyone (including super competent in her own field Joan) has to look to Peggy Olson to close the deal. When the Companion solves a problem that The Doctor cannot. The entire premise of Love is a Fallacy (one of my favorite stories from high school).

Who is your favorite competent hero?


A Month of Thankfulness

This Ramadan, I updated my Facebook status with something I was thankful for every day. It was a good, peaceful exercise that helped me remember the important (and less important in the grand scheme of things but still appreciated) things in my life. I tried not to duplicate my once-an-hour Thanksgiving 2012 thankfulness updates (which included things like “Joss Whedon,” “public libraries,” “wasabi and soy sauce,” “good cannolis,” and “you” but which I can’t access anymore). So to keep it handy for the next time I’m gloomy, here they are in one place:

  1. my family
  2. tolerance in all its different flavors
  3. flexible hours and getting to work from home
  4. caffeine
  5. the opportunities and ability to host guests from far and wide, overnight or otherwise
  6. tp. Happy birthday!
  7. every time she can walk down the street free of suggestion the times she had with the dearly departed
  8. sleep, initial and going back to
  9. homegrown fruits and veggies and, now, honey!
  10. summer camp
  11. vitamin “c”: carbs, cheese, coffee, chocolate
  12. closure
  13. foolproof recipes
  14. free concerts
  15. books: hardcover, paperback, electronic, audio, comic, note, board,
  16. picture, pop-up, interactive, bought, borrowed, used
  17. the sweet spot (when your kids are old enough to xyz but still young enough to abc)
  18. sunny, 80s temp, 50s dew point days
  19. peace, love, and understanding
  20. drama-free relationships
  21. humility
  22. the opportunity to give charity. zakat reminder 2013.
  23. the homestretch
  24. that she was able to spend her second july ramadan with nani and babu
  25. inside jokes and the people who get them
  26. respites
  27. brunch. This whole “breakfast” thing never really caught on for me. Looking forward to a possible double happiness moment next Sunday: brunch and nap/sleeping in
  28. the reminder that life is short. Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un
  29. travel plans
  30. comedy, scrabble, subtitles, subtexts, good cafes, blood orange soda, root beer floats and fries, limonata, people who enjoy my cooking, people who cook for me, mental and physical health, wealth, happiness, photography, t-shirts, warm sweaters, salted caramel, jasmine flowers woven into bracelets, henna, GPS, ipads, pads with wings, a heated bucky, breaking bad, the wire, sherlock, colbert, proper grammar, Scottish accents, sci fi, romance, mystery, benign tumors, distance, freedom of speech, freedom from stupidity, my parents choices, gelato, public libraries, sustained electricity, potable water, meds, good children with bright futures, and so much more


thankful for being able to swipe friends’ entries too!

sassy women and gallant men and children that are seen but not heard; antibiotics and antihistamines; toothpaste and deodorant; pasta and sushi and haleem; massages and scrubs and waxes; Dr. Who and Coke Studio; glass bangles; WiFi and smart Apps; crisp cool days and warm sultry nights; dishwashers and washing machines; Eatzi’s; yoga and salsa; dogs and horses; planes, trains and automobiles; museums and botanic gardens; French love songs and Urdu ghazals; Italian men; US citizenship; being who I am, warts and all. [hat tip: saadia]

popcorn with real butter. comfy pajamas. a husband who tolerates books piled on every surface of the house, and a kid who cheerfully contributes to the problem. free museums. steak frites. people and places with rich histories. the ability to tolerate lactose. waterproof mascara (being blonde with two different colored eyelashes, this should probably be at the top of the list!). family who are, admittedly, a tad nutty, but they’re my nuts, and I’ll defend them to the death, and they’d do the same for me. dry British wit. dark Italian coffee. dark Swiss chocolate. Earl Grey. cute comfy flats. modern medicine. Netflix streaming. a decided lack of trumped-up drama in my life. homemade pasta. warm, generous in-laws. walkable neighborhoods. a job I love that also allows me to enjoy other pursuits and people I love. friends who don’t mind that my house is a tad cramped and cluttered, as long as there’s food and drink and good conversation. and, of course, food and drink and good conversation. [hat tip: jill]

Eid Mubarak, All Y’all!

Friday Afternoon Music Jam: Lady Gaga

This song simultaneously lifts me up and makes me want to cry.

Divorce Mix

I remember going to court to provide emotional support for my friend when she finalized her divorce and then going out to celebrate afterwards.  She was so dizzy with relief, so overwhelmed with emotion, so excited for her brighter future.  She made me listen to Cher on repeat through the rest of the day.  I will spare you from that and instead present this divorce mix for you! [eds note: I’m not getting divorced. This is for a friend of mine. Apologies for any misunderstandings and/or freak-outs].

Track 1. Cee Lo (seriously, watch this version)

Track 2. Liz Phair

Track 3. Morphine

Track 4. Ben Folds Five

Track 5. Foo Fighters

Track 6. Cat Power

Track 7. Dinosaur Jr.

Track 8. Kelly Clarkson (sorry, it just fits!)

Track 9. Des’ree

and to cap it off: Track 10. Steve Martin 

Congrats and best o’ luck to ye!