Choosing My Happy

“Happiness is a choice.”

That’s what the sign says on my sister’s kitchen counter.  My eyes are drawn to it every time I climb up on one of her tall kitchen bar stools when I visit.  It’s placement is perfect.  It’s right next to the coffee pot, just seemingly taunting me and asking me if I’ve made the right choice today.  Well, duh.  Of course, I have.  I see the sign in my sister’s kitchen next to the coffee pot.  Obviously, I chose to come see her AND have a cup of coffee; two things that really get my happy on.

But there are days when I don’t.  There are days– okay, EVERY day– when my neighbor opens her front door to let her dog “walk” himself down to poop in front of my mailbox that I really want to choose rage and cursing.  And this is usually the same day that I find an empty fast food drink cup that my son’s best friend tossed out of his car window the night before in front of my house while he was waiting to pick him up.  And this is after I realize that the kids have drunk up the last of the coffee before I have a second cup.  And all I see is red.

And I remember to breathe in and out.  And I imagine that sign in my sister’s kitchen.  And I remember that it speaks truth.  “Happiness is a choice.”  And I breathe in and out again.  And I relax my throwing arm and put my favorite coffee cup in the sink.  I put on my hijab and grab my purse and car keys and head out to put my things in my car.  I walk down to the curb in front of my house and pick up the empty cup from the gutter. I walk over to the mailbox and scoop up the neighbor’s misplaced dog poop and walk two doors up and return it to its rightful place:  In front of HER mailbox.  Then I toss the empty cup over the fence to my backyard for proper disposal later.  And I realize that I AM happy.  I have chosen my happy.  I reach into my glove box and pull out my hand sanitizer and clean any garbage/fecal germs from my hands.  Then I start my car and head happily to the supermarket to buy more coffee.




The Little Things

He wakes me gently to let me know he’s leaving for work, because he knows that I have a little panic attack when I wake up and he’s not there.  He covers me up with the crocheted afghan, because he knows that I get cold even though I insist on sleeping with one foot poking out from under the covers to regulate my body temperature.  He leaves my coffee cup on the counter next to the pot, because he knows that while I can function in the morning without coffee, that I do so with only one eye open and it sometimes scares the kids when their mother looks like Popeye.  He calls me around lunch time, because he wants to check in and see how my day is going.  He always laughs and says “too much” when I ask him how much he loves me on the phone, and I know it’s true.  And when I teased him last night at dinner about how lucky he is that his wife is such a fabulous cook and gorgeous to boot, he laughed and agreed.  And today I will go about my regular errands to the bank and the grocery store and I will drive to west Dallas to the junk yard to pull a seat belt fastener from a van like his and surprise him with it, because I know he needs one as his doesn’t work properly.  And I’ll probably make lentils tonight because I know how much he loves them.

It really is the little things that make us happy.  And that’s a big thing.

XX Year Anniversary of XXIX


I woke up to that awesome “wall of guitars” this morning.  I was intrigued, yet slightly annoyed, that someone was in my bedroom playing a hauntingly echoing version of Metallica‘s “Enter Sandman” while I slept.  Then I remembered that I had changed my ringtone on my cellphone the other day.  So I pulled my phone out of the trash can by my bed where it had fallen last night when I tried to put it on the night table and attempted to say hello.  I heard my brother-in-law’s cheerful voice saying, “Happy birthday.”  I tried to say,  “Thanks.” It sounded more like a grunt, but he interpreted it as “Congratulations! You won the ‘I got to say Happy Birthday first’ game.”  His linguistic skills were spot on.

After he handed the phone of to my sister to claim her second-place finish, and I checked my text message from my brother who technically was first since he texted at 12:18 a.m., I reflected on some things.  Today  is the twentieth anniversary of my twenty-ninth birthday. That’s a lot of 29s.  And I am nowhere close to the goals I’d set for myself when I was a young teenager.  But that’s good. At this point, my career as a “medical examiner who moonlights as a hot bathing suit model” would probably be washed up.  I’ve got a mom-body, complete with extra padding for warm, sincere hugs and my cooking skills are A+ since my food doesn’t taste like medical hand soap and formaldehyde.  I’m good.

Unlike me at the original 29 year mark, I have built my patience up to tolerate early morning phone calls with honest laughter.  I left my not-so lucrative career of seventeen years to become a broke, stay-at-home-mom who blogs and over-volunteers at the school and with a favorite non-profit organization.  On the “How Tidy is My Home” scale, I still only rank about a 6 on average, maybe a 7.5 if I have more than 15 minutes notice that someone is en route to see us.  But as long as we’re not wallowing in filth (read: I’ve mopped once this month but forced the kids to vacuum a few times) and we aren’t qualified to be featured on “Hoarders,” I’m okay with it.

And while I complain about the little things that annoy the crap out of me, like being the chauffeur of shame hauling young adults to and from work, college, high school, and various volunteer and social engagements, I know that I have a great life.  I genuinely LOVE my family and my friends.  (Thanks, Venetia, Sara, and Cindy, by the way.  The three of you have been my first truly best friends (who don’t share a mom with me) in many years and you have no idea how great that feels or how much I appreciate it.)  I have a home that is large enough to house us all comfortably.  My husband works a job where he is home every evening around the same time and no longer has to travel for extended periods.  And we sit down to dinner every single night together. Yes, we eat as a family every day. I have a great life. And I’m so grateful to Allah for providing this.

I have decided to carpe the crap out of this diem.  I’m going to make a B.A.B.B. (that’s Big Ass Birthday Brisket) for dinner and maybe let my daughter help me choose a birthday cake. (It’ll be chocolate so the masses will be happy. I may get myself a lime popsicle or something, so that I will be happy.)  And I will sit back and allow them to do all of the chores for my big, fat celebration of ME.

**The dirty little garden gnome? No. He has no real significance to this story. I just like him and decided he’d make a lovely thumbnail for this blog post.


Today Should be an International Holiday

So, the solar eclipse of 2017 here in North Texas sort of resembled a greenish-brown pre-tornado overcast sky.  I was not impressed. Of course, I would have been had I lived in Oregon.  But you know.  I don’t.  I live near Six Flags and Globe Life Park where the Texas Rangers play…oh, and that stupid-looking stadium that looks like the Dallas Cowboy’s Gargantuan White Nipple that can be seen on the horizon from 12-miles away.

The coolest thing about today has NOTHING to do with making solar glasses out of cereal boxes.  MY HIGH SCHOOLERS WENT BACK TO SCHOOL TODAY!!!  I’m enjoying the quiet of my 3 college-age kids and my husband.  I caught up on laundry, made my bed, downloaded some apps onto my computer and took care of some health care stuff online for several of us.  This is HUGE, y’all.  I was only interrupted once to help my husband trim his beard…and then he decided to just shave it all off so I was dismissed back to my solitude of peace, with no having to break up fights about whose turn it is to play on the laptop. WOOOOHOOOOO!

The first day of school should literally be an International Holiday.  And all mom’s who show up at any diner or coffee shop or convenience store with a stupid grin and looking slightly frazzled from getting those students off to school on that first day, should receive a big cup of coffee, tea, or whatever they want for free.

I’m going to live it up for the next hour before they lumber off the bus and raise the decibel levels up in here.  It’s party time.

Ramadan 1438 (2017)

Well, in sticking with my usual Ramadan traditions, breakfast was LATE on the first night this year, too. I had big plans, people. BIG plans. We had the dates soaking in milk for about 13 hours. We had freshly made mango juice. We had hummous and baba ghanouj and I even remembered to have my husband bring bread home with him…because I always forget it. We had the coffee pot set up and ready to brew. I had found a recipe for making spiral-cut parmesan baked potatoes and had them ready to go. I had pulled the ribeyes out of the freezer before noon to thaw and since it was 40 billion degrees outside, I decided we’d grill them in the oven instead of any of that charcoal grill nonsense. And I made Brussels sprouts. I should have gone with the charcoal grill.

The stupid meat would not freaking cook. They’re steaks. I’ve made them at least 4000 times in my life time. WHY? What gives? The physics in my oven just decided to go on strike? AUGH! I don’t know what was going on there….but it was terrible. We had all the sides and juices and salads. But no meat until 9:00 when they finally finished cooking. And they were terrible. I was so sad that, of all the traditions, being late with dinner on the first night of Ramadan was the one that I managed to keep. *sigh* Oh, well.

Today I took the meat out of the freezer at 10 a.m. I’m going to start cooking at 3 p.m. And all I’ll have left 40 minutes or so before the sundown is to make a pot of rice and to turn the coffeepot on. Now if I could just remember this lesson on the first night of Ramadan 1439, I’ll be in good shape.

Ramadan Mubarak.

رمضان مبارك


Oh, I Like This

I just tried this Chobani Coffee Blended Greek Yogurt.
I licked the plastic container clean and I don’t care who knows it.


And I’ll do it again. That is all.

Lumpy Brownish Milk Ain’t Half-Bad in Coffee

Shuffling into the kitchen at 6:30 in the morning, I tend to do things in a rather rote way:  Grab coffee mug, pour coffee (that is ONLY made because I set it up to go off by itself the night before…GOD bless the inventor of THAT TRULY MOST AWESOME INVENTION EVER!) and then grab the gallon of milk out of the fridge and pour it into the mug, then drink delicious, caffeinated goodness that is my ante meridiem nectar.

Yesterday, I noted to myself that this jug is already at the halfway point and that maybe I need to pick up another gallon before the end of my day. And as I thought this, I began pour the milk into my coffee and it fell into my mug like white stew. “What, WHA????”

me:  “Oh, crap!”

Ismail:  “What?”

me:  “I can’t believe this! I just bought this milk yesterday and now I have to return it to the grocery store because it’s bad.”

Ismail:  “It’s not bad.”

me:  “Son, it’s pouring out in chunks . My coffee looks like it has quark floating in it. OH, THE HUMANITY!”

Ismail (audibly annoyed – remember I hadn’t had coffee yet and could barely see past the mug) : “MOMMY! The milk is NOT bad.”


Ismail:  “Because Randa squeezed an entire bottle of chocolate syrup into it and then  poked marshmallows through the opening and shook it up.”

me:  “Cool. Rocky Road coffee.”

Coffee IS My Xanax

As I’ve mentioned, I’m fasting. Today is the 10th day of Ramadan. And so far, it’s been fairly easy. We thought that it was going to be a bear with it beginning in the middle of July this year. But all in all, it’s been fine. I guess that with the heatwave hitting in June, we’ve grown accustomed to not sleeping until around 4 or 5 in the morning because it’s too hot. And then we get up around noon. I had someone remark to me that we aren’t “really fasting” if we sleep all day…but we aren’t “sleeping all day.”  We’re actually sleeping less. And
we aren’t “eating all night.” We eat at sunset (around 7 pm) and then again around 2:30 am so that we have something in our bellies before we sleep. The really hard part for the kids is water. And so as soon as the call to prayer at sunset goes off, they start walking around the house with a 1.5 liter water bottle in their hands and drink and refill and drink refill.

For me, the hard part as usual is the coffee. I am admittedly a coffee addict. And before anyone starts with the whole “you could start drinking decaf and eliminate caffeine completely” ideas or offering of 12-step programs (is there one for caffeine addiction?) I LIKE MY DRUG OF CHOICE. You have no  idea what it’s like. I’m raising five kids in a foreign country with my husband working overseas and I am doing this stone-cold sober and without the assistance of SSRI’s. Look. When I got pregnant with the first one 17+ years ago, I stopped smoking. I stopped drinking. (This made becoming a Muslim easy later.)  I cut back on coffee to only 2 cups a day while pregnant and 3 cups a day while nursing. (Damn. That kind of explains the ADD issues, doesn’t it? Oh well.)
So, here’s the truth that I tell my kids:  I drink coffee for YOUR protection! I do. It’s true. I don’t think that they ever believed that until today. I usually serve several types of juice at breakfast before I hand out plates. They get their choice of carob juice, tamarind juice, mango juice or Tang. Then they can switch it up and have another type. Whatever. The important thing is that they get that blood sugar up after fasting all day and juice is the quickest way to do that. Then we eat. While I’m serving plates, I’m usually making a cup of coffee at the same time. I drink coffee WITH my breakfast. Only tonight, the milk was disgustingly chunky… I dumped the cup down the sink after a swig. And then….OMG, is it possible?…..I forgot to make another cup.
I finished eating and then a little while later announced that I was going to nap for about an hour. I awoke three hours later with a throbbing headache from hell and feeling panicky and sick. I didn’t even get off the bed. I handed my purse to the youngest and told him to go buy me a liter of milk ASAP. The oldest came in to check on me and I told him to go make me a cup of coffee. I’m on my third cup now and no longer resemble the pulsating swollen bruise on Tom’s head after Jerry smacks him with a hammer.
So, you may ask, am I ready to give up my last addiction? NEVER!
But I am ready to make sure that we have fresh milk in the house before sunset!
(By the way, all of the above images are courtesy of user uploads to and are not my own personal property.)

Funky Errands

Here is a journaled out version of what I did this morning. I’m telling you, I am exhausted just re-reading it. And I have a serious impulse to take another shower. But for any of you who don’t believe that I’m as busy as I am, here’s proof:

‎0800 Egypt Local Time (ELT) – Answered phone (wake up call from neighbor)
0830 ELT- Finally got my arse out of bed, showered, made coffee, got dressed and left.
0930 ELT- Arrived at school and picked up Mohamed’s administrative records.
1000 ELT- Went to the high school to find out he’s 4 points shy of being able to register there and unless the grade curve drops in the next couple of weeks, he’ll have to go to trade school. This is not good.
1030 ELT- Arrived at bank, got number, found an empty seat right under the air conditioner vent. Very glad I brought my book.
1045 ELT- Smelly, disgusting guy takes empty seat next to me and proceeds to clear his throat and cough a lot. Begin to wonder if he has tuberculosis or just smoked too much hash last night.
1049 ELT- Smelly, coughing dude REMOVES HIS SHOES AND OH DEAR LORD WHY DID I LOOK? He hasn’t cut his toenails in 6 years apparently. I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.
1055 ELT- Smelly, coughing brain surgeon wants to know how the number thing works…specifically, “How do the tellers know what number I have in my hand?” (Uhm, because you hand them the fucking ticket after the computerized number board announces that they’re serving your number.)
1059 ELT- Wondering how Mubarak was so successful with his evil plan to make the majority of Egyptians morons.
1115 ELT- Smelly, coughing, toenails dude is now aggravating some young man to his right. Thank God. He’ll now be coughing somewhere other than on my shoulder.
1138 ELT- Number 117 is called. I’m number 118 so I get up and run to the open space between the only two teller windows open waiting for my numer to be called.
1145 ELT- EFF-word. Apparently, numbers don’t mean shit around here. 6 customers who’ve already been at the teller windows have been called back by name. What gives people? Whatever. At least the gnarly toed dude is hacking his lungs on me.
1150 ELT- Still waiting. What is that smell? OMG. It’s me. I was sweating so bad outside that my sweat under all these layers of clothes (that are still soaked from while I was outside) all smell like Fritos. Wondering if the smelly, guy was really smelly or if it was just me smelling me.
1155 ELT- Really self-conscious now. OMG. Did I really forget to put deodorant on?
1202 ELT- NOW SERVING 118…..Oh, thank God.
1204 ELT- Exit bank and go directly to buy garbage bags, ground beef and cookies.
1217 ELT- Start pulling clothes off as soon as the front door slams shut. Shower. Dress. PUT DEODORANT ON….twice.

1300 ELT- NAP

Lazy, Hot Summer

It’s about 4,000,000 degrees F outside (that’s 2,222,204.44 degrees C, in case you were wondering.)  I melted four days ago.  But then I guess someone scooped up my big, ole puddle of body fat into a Nikki-shaped mold and stuck me back in the freezer.  Because here I am again….all corporeal and able to type.  Maybe there’s something to this whole cryogenics thing, after all. Who knew?

So along with all the heat and humidity of Summer, comes the weird sleeping hours and laziness to a degree you would be flabbergasted over in the Winter.  It’s just too hot to sleep or eat or cook or clean or hell, breathe, even.  The energy required to towel off after a cold shower just makes you get all sweaty again. So I’m thinking of waterproofing my computer somehow and just sort of staying in the bathroom until September.  Fortunately for my kids, who are concerned about privacy issues with me turning the bathroom into an office and it’s the only bathroom in the house, I haven’t figured the whole CPU waterproofing thing.  But let me tell you….as soon as I do, they’re peeing across the street at the neighbors’ house.

For about 9 months out of the year, I’m a “get ‘er done” kinda gal, to borrow from Larry, the Cable Guy.  I get up early and get some laundry hung while I pound back coffee after waking kids up one at a time to utilize the aforementioned one bathroom in a sort of assembly line fashion, get ’em off to school, buy produce and carry it all the 2-mile walk back home.  I have more coffee while I write on this blog or work on my novel or just screw around and catch up on email or Facebook. I always have laundry going and manage to get something started for lunch and the wash hung again before running out the door to pick the kids up from school.  I carry the dish-washing throughout the school year but during the Summer I delegate to the kids. This year, they’ve been pretty substandard (read: SUCKY) at completing their tasks.  Anyway, I am one well-oiled machine running this household until about mid-June. And then you can hear my gears grinding to a halt.

I don’t sleep at night anymore. I wish I could.  It’s just too damn hot. I sleep around dawn when the mosquitoes have backed off enough that I can open the windows so that the ceiling fans aren’t just blowing hot air around. And I have so many things that I want to get done before noon…but unless I literally pull an all-nighter/morning-er I will never get them done. Sleeping from 6-12:30 isn’t conducive to my errand list.

And that  perpetual lie I tell myself daily, “I’ll just take a quick nap and get up at 9” isn’t even fooling me anymore. Apparently, my subconscious has checked out with a quick “yeah, right!” retort and somehow the alarm never goes off.

So, what do I do? I may get off of here now and take a quick nap so that I can get up at dawn and “get ‘er done” but that’s not bloody likely. My youngest has sort of pushed my hand at making him an apple  pie by peeling and cutting 2 lbs of apples and if I don’t do it now then they’ll go bad and I’ll feel guilty for wasting food.  And then Ismail has the clippers all set up for me to give him the mohawk I’ve been promising to give him since Summer started. *sigh*

I wonder if  Pinterest has any computer waterproofing pins.