Remembering Those Who Have Passed

I love when I can find old pictures! They make me so happy and I love getting a glimpse into a time when I was not even born. Lately I have been devouring many boxes at my parent’s house because I am putting together a special project for my wedding. As we get older, we all know that many of our dear relatives pass on. My Nani (Grandmother) was a very big part of my upbringing and she passed a few years ago.

Nani would have loved this upcoming wedding of mine. She was one of the feistiest women I knew. She didn’t speak a lick of English but would happily go for walks in our neighborhood when she came to visit and, when people would exchange a friendly greeting, she would raise her hand and say “Hi!” and that was that.

Growing up as a first-generation American, I did not get the same experience as many of my friends did with grandparents living here. I knew of them as distant relatives but did not have a close bond with them. I remember one year it was “Take a Grandparent to School Day.” Thanks Dad for being my pseudo Grandfather!

All that changed the moment Nani came to visit. She wore a bright green velvet pantsuit and greeted me at the door one day after school. I felt like I had known her my whole life! Nani was fearless and did not let anything stand in her way. I learned so much about tackling my own fears from her. How could this tiny woman who spoke no English travel all over the world visiting her kids? She didn’t care what people thought of her and she never let her language barrier hold her back.

I will miss Nani greatly at my wedding.

However, I do have a way to honor her and it will be with a very special tribute video that I am putting together. I have found so many pictures of her and cannot wait to have her be part of my special day.

I know that she will be with me in spirit and crying tears of joy for her granddaughter.

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The Story of a Simple Sticker

Isn’t it funny how we can get so attached to our cars? They have no emotions or feelings, yet we treat them like family. Who knew a twisted mess of metal could bring out so many feelings and experiences. I am no exception and I am still driving my car 12 years after buying it! I still remember vividly going into the lot to investigate cars. I was in Alaska, of all places, and I had just arrived there had nothing to my name except two suitcases, filled with clothing mementos and a few kitchen supplies. to start my career as a news anchor. I literally rebuilt my life from scratch.

My dad had come with me to make the adjustment easier. I could tell he was nervous for leaving his little girl alone in the vastness that is Alaska and we went over to the lot to buy my very first car. I had saved the money to put down a substantial amount but I needed to find the right fit for me. We looked at a lot of cars and none of them really felt like the right fit. I was getting nervous because time was of the essence. I had to start my new job within a matter of days and I was driving a rental car as my means of transportation. It was a Toyota RAV 4 that caught my eye that day. It was white and looked like a zippy little SUV for me. I liked all the room it provided and I was pretty sure I had found my ride! I remember clearly the whole negotiation process and writing the biggest check that I had ever written in my life!

I remember driving off the lot feeling so grown up and like a real adult! I had bought my first car with my own money! I wanted to scream it from the rooftops and I felt a special connection to my automobile. As I drove off the lot I thought of a name for my car! He would be “Jinah” after the founder of the country of Pakistan. Sure it was cheesy but it represented my culture and lineage and it seemed to be a perfect fit.

The next day my dad had a little surprise for me. He got some stick on letters and taped them on my car with the name of my car. They were lopsided and crooked but I didn’t care because it was from my dad and it was special; now my car had an identity all its own.

Fast forward a few years and I was a news anchor in Oregon. One night I was leaving a friend’s house and I backed into a pole. It was one of those silly moments that you have where you are just not paying attention. The “Jinah” sign was still there but now I had a dent in my back bumper that was unsightly. I decided to not even bother getting it fixed and decided to just live with it instead. Oh well!

Fast forward a few more years and I was engaged to my fiancé! He has always been so great about fixing things for me and making my life easier and he decided I needed to get that back bumper fixed no matter what. He took matters into his own hands and bought a whole new door for my car. In no time my car looked brand new again but the “Jinah” sign was gone with the old back door.

I was so sad about it that I made the kind repair man show me the back door so I could at least get a picture of my beloved sign that had truly been a labor of love from my dad and it meant so much to me. My car just wasn’t the same without it.

My fiancé was acting suspicious about a week ago and kept making me go check my mailbox. He was insistent that I not throw away ANYTHING even if it looked like junk mail. I wondered what on earth he was up to! Well the answer soon came…

He had found a site and sticker company that made specially designed images. He wanted to surprise me so he sent them a picture of the “Jinah” sign my dad had put on my car and made it into a sticker for my vehicle! I could not believe his thoughtfulness and I almost started to cry. I now have a perfect replica of the sign my dad had put on my car more than a decade ago!

My car may not have the dent in the back anymore but it’s still beautifully “flawed” with a crooked sticker that means more to me than most people would ever know.

 

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Wedding Planning

Wedding planning is part scary beast with fangs and a scowl on his face and part joyful child shrieking with excitement over a new kitten. It can bring out a range of emotions as well as tons of stress to tons of excitement and anticipation! There are days I just want the wedding to be over and other days where I am excited about all the fun details and creative things we are trying to do.

Bring on the FUN!

 

We finally decided on a wedding date of August 4th and 5th of this year! There were lots of things to decide including if we wanted to go more traditional Pakistani or make it more of a blending of two cultures. Traditional Pakistani weddings can go for 3-4 days with tons of fanfare and details. Day one is usually a henna ceremony. The bride and groom wear yellow and are adorned with a red paste of henna and turmeric! The turmeric is put on the face to give the bride a glow on her actual wedding day. Guests take turns coming up to wave money around the bride and grooms head which is a sign of luck and well wishes. All the ladies sit around and play a huge drum while singing traditional wedding songs. This is my favorite part and I love the cultural aspect of it. There is also usually always a jolly-natured rotund Uncle that is making bad jokes during the whole affair.

All of that in mind, we needed to figure out if we were going to go all out cultural or try to do a fusion wedding. Me and my fiancé are both Pakistani but we are first generation as I was born in Minnesota and he was born in England. After some hemming and hawing we are paying homage to both cultures we are proud of.

Day one is going to be a fun dance party! I have decided to wear a white wedding dress, heck why not?! I have always been enamored with the gorgeous gals in white and tons of lace and I figure if we are not going totally traditional let’s go all out! BUT I do want to keep some aspects that are Pakistani so we will probably still do the drum singing and also have a grand entrance for both the bride and grooms families. There is still the question of food to serve? Taco bar and Curry? I will keep you posted on that! Even things like an open bar had to be considered. Most Pakistanis don’t really drink because of religious reasons but I will have tons of friends coming in from all over the United States and wanted to have the option for them. The solution? A cash bar or drink tickets for them!

The second day will be more traditional. I plan to wear a Pakistani wedding dress but not in the traditional color of red. I am considering several options including maroon and teal together. The DJ will play some traditional music and we will follow many customs that are common to this day. One of those customs is the “Rukhsati”. At the end of the night the bride departs for her life with her new husband and in what can be a somber moment she says goodbye to the life she used to have with her parents. It dates back to when girls would truly leave from one home to another to start a new life. Usually they had never lived without their parents before this and were venturing into an unknown world with a man they barely knew as arranged marriages were common back then. Things have changed greatly over the years and many times it’s now more tradition than it is anything else.

It’s so fun trying to incorporate two cultures into one wedding! Check back on my blog as I continue to navigate the never-ending maze of wedding planning!

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Me? Married?

It took me 36 years to find the right guy and I still have to pinch myself when I think about the fact that I am actually engaged to be married! Bouncing from state to state, I was always so focused on my career that love was not really something I even thought much about. Sure, I dated here and there and have enough horror stories to fill a novella three times over, but as far as an actual real relationship that just was not in the cards.

When I moved to Alabama I started thinking again about possibly trying to meet someone. I had great friends and a great job, but something was obviously missing in my life. I had just gotten out of a rocky relationship and was not sure I wanted anything too serious to happen (Plot twist-that is always when it DOES seem to happen)

So I did what any other 30 something woman in a small town would do, I went online.

Next came the prospects of various men. Some were too old, some were too young, some lived as far away as India and others were just plain too weird.

I was trying to narrow my search to Atlanta which was just about four hours away from me. I figured that would be the easiest way to meet someone without it being terribly far away.

Sohail messaged me one day, and quite honestly, I didn’t think too much about it. I accepted his request and moved on with my life. True he checked the box as far as living in Atlanta but there were many guys who were messaging me from there and at the time he just seemed to be another one!

But there was something different from the get go. One night after going out with my friends I happened to log on to the dating site and there he was online! He asked if we could Skype and we did. I thought he was cute and funny.  We had a great, relaxed conversation and I ended up giving him my phone number. He started texting me after that and I looked forward to hearing from him daily.

This was one of our fist official dates!
This was one of our fist official dates!

We finally arranged to meet and I didn’t think too much of it. I wasn’t nervous in the slightest and I was in the process of moving to a new place so I had a ton going on! Boxes were everywhere and I was scrambling to get everything done in one weekend. I guess that is what happens, right? When you are busy with your life is when life happens to you!

Sohail showed up with flowers and a present. He had driven the four hours from Atlanta and dressed to impress. In the meantime I had thrown on some lipstick and threw on the only clothes I could find that were not in a box. What I noticed before anything was how easy he was to talk to. He had me laughing the entire time. We had a few glasses of wine and got to know each other. He was a Software Developer and seemed like he had a lot of his life together (ladies we all have dated those guys who don’t!).

I could have sat there for hours talking to him but I had moving to do. The poor guy drove back to Atlanta another four hours at the end of our date. From then on we set another meeting and another. He always showed up with flowers and a present and it was always him coming to meet me. I appreciated that he was such a gentleman and I started to learn more about his caring nature. He had that old fashioned way about him where he always opened doors and texted me to make sure I was home safe.

Soon I knew I didn’t want to be dating anyone else. I took my profile down and focused on him. We had the BEST time together. After a few months I decided it was my turn to drive to Atlanta to see his life and he planned the most amazing weekend for us with a stay at a beautiful hotel in Downtown. We started taking weekend getaways together and life was amazing! I felt safe with him and I was falling for him hard.

We had been together only a few months when I was offered the job at Evine. My how crazy life can be?! There I was with a man I could see myself with forever and here was this job I had dreamed about for years. What would I do? I thought long and hard about the decision and knew that I had to move forward with my life. If me and Sohail were going to work then we would find a way to be together. When I finally told him I was moving I braced myself for his reaction. He was silent for several minutes before he said very matter of fact, “Well, we will have to work this out won’t we? Because I can’t be without you.”

Just what I needed to hear.

After I moved I worried so much about our connection staying strong and it has beyond my wildest expectations. He came to see me in Minnesota several times and eventually even met my family!

He asked me to marry him!
He asked me to marry him!

We decided to take a magical cruise vacation together and to my complete and utter shock he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him!

I will never forget the date: May 21st!

Now we are planning a wedding and Sohail is moving to Minnesota next summer. I never would have thought my life could have gone in this direction. I truly thought for many years that I would never find someone to spend my life with, but life always seems to surprise us, doesn’t it!

Life may not happen how you thought it would but it always seems to happen just how it should.

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Much Younger Siblings

Having a much younger sibling can be an ‘interesting experience’ to say the least.  Imagine my surprise as a rebellious teen to find out one day that my mom was pregnant with another baby? I couldn’t believe it.  I was 14 and had little interest in another baby coming into household.  I mean, “what was my mom thinking?” as I rolled my eyes and teased my hair even further up on my head.  My sister and I were aghast (but secretly kind of excited too).

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Blurry but here he is!

Robby Chughtai came into the world kicking and screaming, and nothing has ever been the same since.  Instead of going out with my friends on the weekends, now I was having to play babysitter much of the time and change many dirty diapers.  I learned all sorts of things about raising a child that I never knew about: how to heat bottles, rock a baby to sleep and give him a bath in the sink. There were nights that I went to high school with red, puffy eyes because Robby had stayed up crying the entire night and nobody in the house got any rest.

Before I knew it, the time had come for him to start Kindergarten, and I was right there with my parents dropping him off for his first day of school.  Something really strange happens when you have a much younger sibling. You really do start to feel like a second mom.  As he grew up, I got to know all his teachers and they would even call me or my sister if he had any issues.  I even remember going to several parent/teacher conferences for him!  The “baby” was growing up fast!

Mornings I would fix him breakfast and search in vain for his school uniform. I would also pack him a lunch and make sure he got to school in a timely fashion. Thinking back on it the whole time seems like such a blur!

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Here we are taking another infamous selfie

Then, shortly after I finished college, when he was busy with friends and life, I got the call to move to Alaska for my first television job!  I was so excited to start this new life and got busy saying my goodbyes to everyone.  Who knew when I would be back?  The world was my oyster!  As I got ready to head to the airport I gave every family member a quick hug and got in the car chock full of every emotion you can imagine.

As I backed out of the driveway – I saw Robby coming out the front door. Big crocodile tears running down his face as I left.  I will never forget that sight.  It was just how I had felt when I dropped him off for his very first day of school.  I may not be a parent to any children of my own, but I do get the feeling that parents have when kids grow up.

Now I am 36 and Robby is 22!  We are closer than ever before.  Our relationship has changed in the most amazing way where he is my best friend and advice giver.  Anytime I need someone to vent to, I can call my little bro and he is always there to lend a listening ear.  I am so blessed to have a younger sibling who I once thought was going to ruin my life entirely (teenage angst and drama)!

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Time sure does fly!

Tell me about your younger sibling?

 

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The Journey Home

Long ago and far away I left home and never looked back. I was young and the world seemed to be my oyster.  Of all the places in the world to get a TV job – my life plan involved me going to Alaska!  I wanted adventure and, boy, did I get it.  From the land of moose and bear I went to Eugene, Oregon.  I have to admit that was one of my favorite places ever!  Something about the people in Oregon really resonated with me and I enjoyed 5 blissful years as the 10pm anchor there!  But alas, my journey was not done and then I headed to Iowa, then Alabama, and now I’m finally back to my home state of Minnesota.

I won’t say it was easy adjusting after all those years to being back home again. I was so used to being independent and on my own, and yet I was back reconnecting with all those friends I had left so long ago!

Now that I’ve been here at Evine (a true blessing) for almost a year, I’m really starting to love living back in Minnesota.  As I was growing up, I was luckily surrounded by a huge group of Pakistani “aunties” and “uncles” who were truly like family to me.

While we were not related by birth, these were the very same people that pretty much raised me.  I remember getting decked out in Pakistani traditional clothing and heading over to one of their homes almost every single weekend.  The parents would laugh and joke, and all of us kids would huddle together having a blast!

Now many of those “kids” are married with kids of their own!  One of those kids that I grew up with got married this past weekend in Chicago, and it was so nice that I did not have to miss another wedding from not living home. The entire Chughtai family packed into one car and off we went, and I must say that it was a total blast!

Pakistani weddings are usually multiple days long and this was no exception.  We danced, we ate, we sang and most of all we just bonded.  In the middle of one of the festivities, I remember thinking about how happy I was to be there and how glad I was to have made the decision to move back home.  What’s been surprising is how, even though I missed out on many memories with the Pakistani community here, it still feels like I just picked up right where I left it 13 years ago. I just fit right back in and that feeling is an amazing one!  I would never trade the adventures I had jetting across the country as a News Anchor but I wouldn’t trade being home now for anything!

Here are a few pictures from the lovely wedding in Chicago!  Congrats to the happy couple!

Natasha blog 2 Happy couple

 

Congrats to the happy couple! I remember when this kid was born . . . !

 

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My sister and I on the first day of the wedding

 

Natasha blog 2 familyMy family on Day two of the wedding

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Summer in Minnesota!

Ahh Summertime! The sun is out, coffee drinks turn to cold brews and people just seem to smile more. I moved back to Minnesota after getting my DREAM job at EVINE Live in the dead of winter. I will tell you that was a doozy. I was coming from what felt like one of the hottest locations on earth – sunny Dothan, Alabama!

I spent a glorious amount of time in the South when I worked as a News Anchor. It’s amazing how quickly you can get used to the temperature of a place. It seemed to never really get cold. I tossed all my long sleeved shirts and pared down my wardrobe to shorts and tanks. On blissful weekends I would hop in my car and fill my beach bag singing at the top of my lungs as I drove the short distance to the beach. I was in the very lowermost corner of Alabama, which meant in a mere two hours I could be at Panama City Beach, Florida. There I would lay in the white sand beaches and it seemed all my cares melted away.

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Enjoying the evening at Panama City Beach, Florida!

One day as I was laying on a beach chair feeling I might just literally burn to a crisp with the hot sun beating down something crazy happened. My phone rang! Wow shocker you may be thinking! It was a Minnesota number and it was EVINE Live trying to schedule an interview! Yep, your life can really change that quickly.

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Before I came back home to Minnesota I decided to take a solo adventure to the beach. It was pure bliss. I spent the entire weekend enjoying my own company and reflecting on the past several years of my life. This is my view of the lovely waters of Panama City Beach at dusk.

 I said a bittersweet goodbye to the beach weekends and hot summer sun for a cold, misty day in October. It was the kind of cold that gets in your bones and shakes and rattles you. I am FROM Minnesota but have lived away from home for so many years I had forgotten how brazen that biting cold can get. For the first few months I never left my space heater and drank copious amounts of coffee for internal warmth.

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Enjoying a hot sunny day with my friends in Atlanta . . . love when sunshine and friendship comes together . . . it’s magic!

But nothing lasts for long and now it’s summer in Minnesota!  I am reminded why I love having four seasons and the warmer temperatures remind me again of times in good old Dothan, Alabama. I still have to remind myself I don’t have to grab a jacket when I head out to get in my car. Summer makes us all sing a little louder and play a bit harder. I hope you enjoy your summer and cannot wait to connect again soon!

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