THIS IS ONLY A TEST!

Like most of the “popular vote,” our family mourned the election results on November 9, 2016. My 11 year old niece was in tears, asking my sister, “But how could HE be elected? He’s mean. How could America elect a bully to be our next President?” Indeed.

She wasn’t the only kid to react this way. I have friends in Florida, North Dakota, Wisconsin, California, Maryland, New York, Georgia, Arizona and everywhere in between who held their children on Wednesday morning, wiping away tears of confusion and disappointment that someone who bullies others in public and on television and LIVES the example of what they are NOT supposed to be, could be elected to lead our country.

I gave myself that Wednesday (and honestly, the following Thursday and Friday, too) to grieve Hillary Clinton’s loss of the election. And then I chose happy.

My sister has a sign in her kitchen that says: Happiness is a Choice. Of course, she keeps that sign on the counter right next to the knife block. So, I guess if you can’t choose happiness, you can always choose the butcher knife. Still, it’s a choice. I chose happy.

Am I happy that Donald Trump is our President-elect? Hell, no. But I am happy to have the next four years to find someone better to run against him in 2020. (Sidetrack: Wouldn’t that be an awesome campaign slogan? JOAQUIN CASTRO FOR PRESIDENT- Because hindsight is 20/20. I digress.)

Look, I am an American Muslim of Irish descent, married to a naturalized Egyptian. We have a disabled daughter and we live under the poverty level and we don’t have health insurance because it’s not offered at my husband’s job and we fall through the cracks of ACA because our dumbass state officials in Texas decided to “show them” and not expand Medicaid….EVEN THOUGH Texans are still federally taxed. So we’re paying for Medicaid in other states and not insuring the poor in our own. I had EVERYTHING to lose in this election. But I’m choosing happy.

My faith teaches me that I must be PATIENT. I can be patient for 4  years of a Trump administration. I can USE that patient 4 years to write letters, investigate and research better qualified Democrat candidates and help to promote them. If we move NOW and are patient through the next 4 years, we can help put forth far better qualified candidates to win in 202o. Hey, you third party voters. PLEASE, do the same. If you in the Green Party and in the Libertarian Party work hard at finding a better candidate NOW….start fund-raising NOW….to get better candidates than Stein and Johnson…..get the monies needed to build up a great campaign 4 years from now…..I’ll bet you have a shot. Hell, you guys come up with someone better than the Democrat nominee and I’ll vote for him or her. But
ALL of you, Democrats, Greenies, and Libertarians: Let’s start NOW. Let’s get out in front
of whatever is coming down the 2020 Republican turnpike and make some serious changes in our government. Start finding mid-term candidates for your congressional representatives now. Put some effort in early so that you can all make our Congress more honest; more representative of US, the voters. They work for us. Make them earn their pay.

This is a test. ONLY a test. Somebody wanted a big shake up and change to the status quo. They got their wish. Let’s take their wish for change a step further and use the next 4 years to work toward true greatness. We’ll have a lot of pieces to pick up. Maybe we can build something new instead of just putting it all back together again. It’s not over. It’s a bump in the road. We can do this.

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Our Summer Vacation to Athens

So, this week has been a major ass-kicker for me…mostly in a good way. Sunday we took advantage of the fact that my son and daughter both quit their summer jobs and that my husband finally replaced the compressor in the van giving us air-conditioning. YAY. So we finally got on the road about 2 pm and headed off to Athens. (That’s Athens, Texas, y’all.)
Of course, due to the late start and having to deal with a major autistic meltdown with a pit stop at Dairy Queen to calm nerves all around, we managed to get to this po-dunk town after everything that we wanted to see had closed. So we headed back to the main drag and pulled into the East Texas Arboretum and did a little hiking in 104 degree heat. It was an impressive patch of woods with lots of lovely gardens and fountains and a one-room school house and a bat house. We spent a whopping hour there before piling back into the van and driving home. I think the highlights for me were the photos of my kids and husband playing “slow-mo Ninja” in the gazebo and the fact that I didn’t have to cook. (We bought pizza that night.) My husband was excited about the fact that I had enough fuel points to only have to pay 86 cents per gallon when we filled up the van.

We’ve traveled quite a bit all over the US, Europe, Middle East and North Africa. But since moving to the US and making our home in Texas, we’ve decided to spend some time seeing all of the major European cities within Texas state lines. We have now gone to Paris, Dublin, and Athens. Not bad for day trips, huh?

Fam in Athens

And Now What You’ve All Been Waiting For…..

I know I promised full disclosure as to the details of our trip from Egypt to the U.S.   And yeah, it’s been three weeks since we got back so I can’t blame jet-lag any longer.  The truth is, nothing really happened.  I know, right?  Who the hell’s life am I living and when will the chaos begin again?!

Okay, so back in late April or early May, I contacted my travel agent and tried to book us on Lufthansa to Dallas because there would only be one layover and the Germans are usually extremely efficient and keep to schedules. Also, because I avoid New York like the friggin’ plague because I think it’s stupid that all international flights are IN to JFK and then we have to claim all our luggage and go through customs and all that noise just to find a cab (yeah, right!) who can haul all five of us and our 10 suitcases 5 carry-on bags and whatever crap we purchased at Duty-Free all the way over to LaGuardia in Queens and then have to check in again and wait for a flight (that isn’t free, by the way) to Dallas. NO THANKS. It’s hard enough to travel with kids internationally. I don’t want to have to do the whole intracontinental thing, too.

So my travel agent told me that she could book me on Lufthansa for 30, 800 EGP but that Emirates Air had a better price. So I rolled my eyes and asked how many layovers that one had. She said just one but it’s in
Dubai. I asked what the price was and she said, “20,000 EGP.”

Say WHAT?! “What’s the catch?” I asked.

“Well, the transit is in Dubai. So you would have to fly 5 hours from Cairo to Dubai and then you have a 3 hour layover and fly directly from Dubai to DFW. The flight time would be 15 hours from Dubai instead of only 9 hours from Frankfurt to Dallas.”

“Girl, we’ve GOT time. It’s money that we seem to always be short on.  Book the Emirates flight.”

So that is how we got to fly over Iraq and Russia and the North Pole and Canada and Minneapolis and all the way over Oklahoma and land in Dallas. Yeah, really. I’ve flown over the North Pole.

I have flown my entire life….and NO, I’m not embellishing.  My dad was military and we traveled back and forth from Europe my entire life. I flew a lot in the US to visit family and then started traveling overseas for my job. I am just as comfortable in the air as I am on a road trip. Maybe more so. I’ve never endorsed an
airline before.  But I will right now.

EMIRATES AIR RULES!

From the time that we checked in at the desk in Cairo, we were whisked away on a bus by ourselves just as soon as I notified the attendant that we had a special needs child and explained that Autism can sometimes cause my daughter to become overwhelmed and freak out a little but that I can get her to calm down again provided the flight attendants do not try to restrain her. (That happened on the Lufthansa flight last time we traveled to the US and I was nearly at the point of knocking out the woman who was attempting to force Randa into her seat while yelling in her face to keep  calm.) They boarded us in the back of the plane at the same time the first and business class passengers were boarding int he front.

This is a great spot as far as I’m concerned. We’re close to the back where the drink carts are stored. We’re close to the restrooms. AND most importantly, we’re located close to the jet engines where argumentative teenagers and their noise gets drowned out. YES.  The flight attendants were SO very nice to us.  Honestly, they were nice to everyone.

When we arrived in Dubai, the kids were a little hungry and Mohamed had asked me to buy cigarettes at the duty-free store. So, we bought the cigarettes and then wandered to a food court and I decided that it was just too damn expensive. But I did buy them each a coke and got myself a Snapple and we wandered back over to our gate and sat and snarfed down all the cookies and chips and snacks that their uncles had purchased for their backpacks before we left Egypt.

We still had another hour before we were supposed to leave which meant another half hour before boarding started and Randa started to have a meltdown. She was bored and tired and hadn’t had her internet fix in more than a day. A gate attendant called Ismail over and asked if we would be able to control her on the flight and Ismail said yes and tried to explain what autism is to him. Finally, he decided that the guy was kind of a rock and called me over to explain. I could barely understand his broken English so I spoke to him in Arabic and explained that my daughter is just extremely tired and bored and that once we were on the plane I could settle her down.  He recognized my dialect as Egyptian. Turns out, HE was Egyptian.

So, what does one Egyptian do for another Egyptian? They “hook a sister up”and he called some Scottish dude who was in charge of security and told him to board us early. He didn’t want to but the Egyptian dude told him, “Special needs child” and the Scottish dude asked me what was up and I explained that Randa is Autistic and gets overwhelmed when she is overstimulated and can freak out a bit. He said, “My niece is autistic. I know how that goes.”

The Scottish dude said, “Follow me.” So we did. And he introduced us to Faris who was the head porter on our flight. Faris introduced us to Mario aka Mex (which apparently was short for Mexican) and they shook hands with Randa and were very polite and asked if she would like anything.

Randa said, “Chocolate.” And then she laughed. So they laughed.

Damn if they didn’t bring her a mini-Toblerone and a Mars bar just for her from first class. And they sent a color book and a fake Etch-A-Sketch thing. She was just stoked that they had Toy Story 3 on the in-flight movie and they’re all high-tech so you can even rewind over and over again like she enjoys doing on the touch screen that was on the back of the head rest in front of her seat.

The only “incident”so to speak, was about 9 hours into the flight when Randa started shouting, “Butt hurts! Back hurts! Go faster. FLY FASTER!” The whole time she was pretending to row (yeah like in a boat) as if air- rowing was going to get us there quicker. They were handing out drinks at the time and the flight attendant sort of giggled but then told Randa, “I will tell the pilot to fly faster, dear.”

Once we were over Oklahoma, we hit every air pocket that we DIDN’T hit flying all over the rest of the globe. All I could think of was TORNADOES. But thankfully, we weren’t in any tornadoes. But the air pockets DEFINITELY did a number on my stomach, as well as Randa’s. Because then she decided that she didn’t want him to fly faster any more. And she started to stomp on her imaginary air brakes and shouted, “Slow down. Fly slower.” This of course, delighted the two men sitting on the other side of her and they tried to hide their amusement but failed miserably.

Good thing she doesn’t give a shit what other people think.

Anyway, a few hours later we landed and even though it took us about 2 hours to get through immigration and customs, we did it fairly quickly and uneventfully. It was awesome. Boring and uneventful almost NEVER happens to us. So this was amazing to me and my family.

I cannot emphasize enough how awesome Emirates Air was on both legs of the trip and at all three airports and if you ever have a need to fly anywhere in the world that they service, TAKE THEM. It is an awesome experience.

Also….it was amazing to see my husband, my son, my mom and my sisters and their kids waiting for us at the  airport. These are my favorite people in the world. (My brother, too, of course but he had to work that day and he lives in Austin.) And here’s a photo of Randa hugging her grandmother at the airport upon our arrival while her father looks on:

T Minus 2 Days and Counting…

So, it’s 8:30 in the morning here in Alexandria, Egypt (we’re at my brother-in-law’s house) and I’m up alone drinking coffee since 7 and wondering “What in the hell is it with getting older that you start waking up earlier and earlier and going to sleep earlier and earlier?” And all of a sudden it hit me:  Preparation for early-bird dinner specials for seniors in Boca Raton when we are in our 60’s and 70’s.

Who knew?

Okay, I’m out of my apartment in the beach community of Hanovil, El-Agamy, Egypt. The kids, 10 suitcases, 5 carry on bags and 2 loads of dirty laundry arrived at my in-law’s house yesterday around noon. Good thing we’re only staying for 3 days, huh? (What’s that expression?  House guests and fish…? Yeah, that.)

I am realizing daily how extremely blessed I have been. I have made so many wonderful friends over the years here. Experiences, knowledge, friendships, love and laughter that I never would have encountered had it not been for that decision 12 years ago to just quit my job and move to Egypt and be a SAHM. I guess, if I look back further, it was 18 years and 7 months ago…when I married the love of my life:  Mohamed. I became part of his family here (and of course, he mine in the U.S.) and the laughter and love and  tears and joy and pain and fun that we have experienced together, on both sides of the globe, are things that neither of us would trade for the world.

One of my friends commented on Facebook how leaving Egypt would be so bittersweet for me.  She was right. I’ve become “bint al-balad” (“daughter of the country” = an Egyptian woman) and now I have two homes. I am going to miss this place and it’s sights and sounds (really, LOUD sounds….this is by far the LOUDEST country in the entire Middle East) and well, SOME of the smells. hahahhahahah.

Sights:  Buses, trucks, cars, motorcycles, tuk-tuks, donkey-driven carts and Vespa’s carrying families of 5, date-palm trees, the colorful fruit and vegetable markets, people praying together in the streets, the generosity and hospitality of people helping others, no matter what.

Sounds:  The azan (call to prayer), the street vendors yelling out what they’re selling from their rolling push carts in the street, bird-chirping doorbells, bus drivers yelling out the name of their destination while trying to collect enough passengers to fill the vehicle before departure “Mahata, Mahata, Mahata!” (station, station, station!,) and the cow bell ringing that announces the foul mudammas (fava beans) vendor at  night during Ramadan (and I mistook him for the ice cream man my first year here.)

Smells:  Mangoes, tomatoes, felafel cooking, string pastry made in front of your eyes, the cotton candy vendor who made his cotton candy in a rented store under our apartment, and the sea breeze coming in off of the Mediterranean, the bread from the bread factory next door to our house and the pastry shop we used to walk past on our way home from the bus stop (mostly because it reminds me of my days in Greece with Mohamed when we we were first engaged – he’s a pastry chef.)

All these things I’ll miss. But I’m ready. I’m ready to move forward and experience all the wonderful things that Texas will have to offer us. And maybe it doesn’t sound as exciting as “Egypt,” but you know what? It will be. Because I will be with my entire family and that will make it HOME.

Now I’m off to finish my last few errands in Egypt. We leave the day after tomorrow, insha Allah (God willing.)

6 Days and a Wake Up

Things are rolling along. Managed to sell off the last of the big ticket items and people are coming by and picking up their purchases….at the oddest of hours. BUT….who cares? As long as I have money in hand and they take the stuff with them when they go.

My glasses broke in half (at the bridge of the nose) yesterday and it’s hard to deal with life peering through Scotch tape and bent frames. I got an exam last night and ordered my new glasses. Only 24 hours more of headaches and then I’ll be fashionably…dorky…again. Okay, so they’re not the awesome frames I wanted but I had an 12 yr old and 13 yr old with me who were more interested in trying glasses on themselves than to help me find a pair that doesn’t make me look like I’m a new recruit on her first day at boot camp when issued a set of BCG’s. (That’s Birth Control Goggles, for you civilian folk.)

I’ve got most of my to-do list, to-done. Just a few more items to tick off before we leave this apartment and spend our last 3 days in Egypt with my husband’s brother and family. I’m so excited. A friend mentioned that this would be a bittersweet move, and truthfully it is. On the other hand, I’m READY for a new chapter and this is the right move for us. If it weren’t, then things wouldn’t be just falling into place the way they are. (Thanks, God.)

Our internet service should be disconnected any second now so I will have to post once we arrive in the US and I come out of the jet-lag coma. Thanks for following our story. I should have mega-stories about the travels. 😉

PANIC

I was having coffee this morning and checking the notifications on my Facebook, when I noticed a status update from a girlfriend who is also moving to Texas soon. She posted that she has only 11 days and a wake-up before she hits the road.  At first I thought, “How exciting for them! They’re about to start the next chapter of their lives in a week and a half and we’re not too far behind.”

Then all of a sudden, about the time that first caffeine boost kicks in, I realized that her timetable is only 4 days ahead of mine.  HOLY ANXIETY ATTACKS, BATMAN! I couldn’t think. I got that “someone-just-hit-me-in-the-stomach-with-a-metropolitan-yellow-pages” feeling and my breathing got quick and shallow and my palms got clammy. My chest tightened and I ran to the bathroom.

I have so much to do. My two youngest start final exams this Saturday and Sunday and won’t complete them until next Thursday.  I have 2 suitcases and a ton of shopping to do. I still have paintings on the wall and books on the shelves to go through. I have a master bedroom set, a queen-sized mattress, a set of bunk beds, and a wardrobe to sell and 15 days ain’t a lot of time to get rid of big-ticket items. I have to meet the landlord next Friday to get back my deposit and I have to have the gas and light bills paid up before then. Still need to cancel the phone and internet service and arrange for the people who bought all of the furniture and appliances to pick up their crap before the 28th of the month. THEN I get to move all these (still not packed up) suitcases and kids over to my brother-in-law’s house where we can get on their nerves for a final 3 days before riding down to the airport in Cairo to start our trip home.

Crap. I need to confirm the ride to the airport one final time, too.  I’ll get right on that after I dig out my English to Arabic dictionary and find out how to say Xanax in Arabic.

28 Days and a Wake Up!

We are SHORT TIMERS!

Most of you who didn’t grow up in a military background probably don’t understand that. So, I’ll explain.
We are 29 days away from leaving Egypt. I’ve got all our appliances and furniture sold and I’m in the middle of packing up the stuff we’re taking with us and getting rid of the stuff we’re not. Plus screaming “QUIT FIGHTING!” and “GO STUDY YOUR HISTORY!” and “DON’T FART ON YOUR BROTHER’S HEAD!” or whatever usual shout-out I have to yell regularly to keep this house a home.

So this is why I’ve been so lax in my writing lately. I’ve just been too busy. (Between all of that stuff and keeping up with my Criminal Case game on Facebook, you understand.) But really mostly the busy stuff.

I’m hoping to make the time to do a brief photo-mentary and upload that before we leave, so that I can share the beauty of Egypt as we know it.  Not the touristy crap that everyone sees…but the day to day people stuff and how we live. It’s a lot earthier and real.

Anyway, I guess this isn’t really as much a post as it is an apology for not being more prolific in my writing. But I will post a few more times before we leave here and hopefully once I get into my rhythm after we get back to the People’s Republic of Texas, I’ll get all regular on here again.

In the mean time, thanks for reading my stuff.

Conversations with My Kids – Study!

“Mom! I want a turn on the computer.”

     “You had a turn. Leave me alone.”

“I want another turn.”

     “Uhm, did that whole ‘You’re grounded from your second turn’ thing slip your mind?”

“But I’m BORED!”

     “Do I LOOK like Julie from the Love Boat?”

“What’s a love boat?”

     “Never mind.”

“But I’m still BORED!”

     “You’re still grounded from your second turn today. Go study.”

“I don’t want to study. Today is Friday. I don’t study on Friday.”
 
     “You don’t really study any other day of the week either.”

“Mommy!!!!! Come on. I want my turn back. I don’t have anything else to do.”

     “Read a book. Draw some pictures. Watch TV. Go to sleep.”

“Boring, boring, boring. I’m going to get a job at the cyber cafe.”

     “No, you’re not.”

“Why not?”

     “It smells like smoke in there because the owner is always smoking and won’t even turn on the fan.”

“So what? If I work there it will be on Friday and Saturday when I don’t have school and I will work when he is upstairs eating dinner.”

     “I’m considering banning you from going there again. Besides, you can’t get a job a month before final
exams and we’re moving next month. You need to focus on your studies.”

“But I can’t work in the States unless I’m 16 and that’s another 4 years away! That’s a third of my LIFE!”

     “See? You totally own fractions! Go work on geometry.”

“You NEVER let me do anything fun.”

     

The Countdown Begins

We did it. We finally bought a house. My husband went to closing last week and he and the oldest son have moved in. YES! I finally feel like we’re making progress. And while he’s busy setting things up there, I’m busy taking things apart here. I’ve finally got my list of household goods, furniture and appliances made with prices so that I can hock all our crap and get the hell out of dodge just as soon as the kids complete their final exams at the end of next month. Am I excited??

HELL YES!

And while I’m still spinning my wheels in some aspects of this move, I’m actually moving forward in others. Like I’ve already got a customer to buy my washing machine and refrigerator, my desk and shoe cabinet, and yes, even THIS very computer I’m using to type up this blog post. Randa’s been running around the house putting “SOLD” stickers (made out of white electrical tape and a ballpoint pen) all over our stuff. She can’t wait to get out of here and see her best friend in the world (her big brother) whom she hasn’t seen in six months.

And I’m super anxious to get started with the next chapter of our lives in Texas; to be near MY parents and siblings for a while. But I can’t help feeling this giant hole ripping in my heart when I look at the waves of the Mediterranean rolling into the fishing boats of Al-Maks while we drive past on the city bus, or when I see the   date palm trees blowing in the breeze and hear the fakahany (fruit-man) yelling out, “Oranges, apples, cantaloupe!” as he pushes his heavy wooden cart through the streets.

Egypt has been good to us over the last 12 years. We have enjoyed the safety of our neighborhoods, where our kids could  play soccer in the streets and run to the store five or six blocks away to buy a specific type of candy that they wanted or rent bicycles by the hour. We have fresh vegetables, fruit, dairy, bread and meats
within a block from our home. We  pick which chickens we want for dinner, and they are slaughtered and cleaned for us while we wait. Living on the coast, we pick out our fresh fish while they are still flipping around in the water-filled bins in the market. Our kids wear plastic flip-flops (known as shib-shib) all summer long because it’s too hot to wear sneakers.

Soon we will be buying our foods in supermarkets and wearing shoes and driving everywhere instead of walking or catching the bus. We’ll  be living the suburban dream on a much tighter budget. I’ll be able to buy ketchup and mayonnaise instead of having to make it at home because it’s cheaper. I’ll be happy that we are together as a family; that we are near my parents; that if we want to go away for the weekend and have a full tank of gas that we can just jump in the car and go for 2 hours in any direction and stay with any one of my amazing cousins, aunts, or uncles….and without having to watch the news or call around to find out if there are any political demonstrations scheduled first.

I will miss Egypt terribly. I will miss my friends and my family here. I will miss the natural beauty here and the light-hearted and generous people that I now consider to be my own.

But I’m ready for Texas again…Yee-ha, y’all. Here I come.

Mid-terms, Classics, and Falling Concrete

Where do I begin?

I have been intermittent at best with posting since the new year began.  I’ve been incredibly busy.  My two youngest are in the middle of mid-year exams at school and it’s been a nightmare for me running one up in the morning to school and hanging out for an hour and a half for him to get out and then running him home, grabbing the girl and running her up to the same school (it’s a junior high for girls in the afternoons and an elementary for both sexes in the mornings.) At any rate, our house is a half hour walk from the school and who the hell wants to walk all the way home and have to turn around and walk all the way back just a few minutes later.

So, yeah, waiting really blows. It’s exhausting. Probably more exhausting than housecleaning, rug-scrubbing, or jogging (HA! Like I even remember how to do that thanks to the embarrassment that is post-pregnancies incontinence.) I’m making the best of it by sitting in the outdoor cafe catching up on my reading though. I’m nearly done with Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens.  I started reading it a couple of chapters before bed last week and in the last two days I’ve devoured more than twenty chapters waiting for the kids. I truly love to read the classics.

So, we had a pretty freaky scary incident today. About ten minutes after Samiya and I had passed by the front of our building and come inside, we heard a thunderous boom and I asked, “What the hell was that?”
We heard people on the street making a commotion and ran out to the balcony where we saw that the
vertical wall that edges the roof of our building had crashed down to the street below where we had just been and where our doorman’s granddaughters and our neighbor’s daughter had been playing. It came fairly close and the neighbor’s daughter, age 8, came tearing into the doorman’s apartment with her hair covered in dust.  The doorman’s sons raced upstairs to the fourth floor to warn the man in that apartment to stay off of his balconies as the  wall hit his balcony ledge on its way down and may have weakened the cement. Thankfully, no one was hurt.

The doorman sent his sons back up to the roof with sledgehammers to knock the rest of the damaged wall down before it fell on its own while the youngest of them stayed downstairs to prevent cars and foot traffic from entering our street.

We only have a few more days of exams left and then Thursday night, God willing, we will attend an engagement party for my husband’s niece. Maybe I’ll remember to buy batteries for my camera and I can post some photos.  More when I can stop to catch my breath.