Welcome Home, Hero. Rest in Peace.

This was not the first military funeral I had attended.  It was the first time I’d been to any funeral that took place 76 years after the deceased had died.  This young man, a kid the same age as my third of five children, has finally made it home to be put to rest with his family in a hero’s ceremony.  Seaman First Class George Anderson Coke, Jr. came home to Arlington today for the first time since he left for boot camp back in 1941.

My friend, Leslie Dorn Barton, is George Coke’s second cousin once or twice removed.  I’m still unclear on all that genealogy stuff.  While I’d like to be able to trace back my family tree, I’m quite unorganized and tend to think circularly rather than in clear straight lines.  Besides, I’ve got aunts and cousins on both sides of my tree who really dig that sort of thing and they actually journal it all. Anyway, Leslie is one of the Special Education teachers who taught my daughter at Sam Houston High School. We became friends over the last couple of years. So naturally, when she mentioned that this funeral was happening today, I told her I’d come.

It’s been hotter than ever all week and I was so relieved when the thunderstorms hit our city last night and it rained until the wee hours this morning.  I donned my black abaya and a gray and black scarf and then headed over to the First United Methodist Church and tried to “blend in” with the Arlington locals.  I know.  I didn’t. The sole Muslim in a sea of mostly older, white, Christian faces.

I listened to the history of George Coke, Jr., son of George Coke, Sr., who was the Chief of Police in Arlington back in the 1920s.  I learned that of the 3,500 American casualties that day in Pearl Harbor, that Arlington lost 48 souls.  My mind wandered, as is the norm during funerals.  Everyone in some way or another is reminded of their own immortality at a funeral.  With military funerals, you are also reminded of all of your family members and friends who also served in the armed forces.  I felt a few tears escape today as I remembered friends who were killed in foreign wars.  I felt a few more tears escape as I offered prayers of thanks and gratitude for those family and friends who returned safely home.

I followed the funeral procession to Parkdale Cemetary. We were escorted by members of the United States Navy and a large number of the Arlington Police Department.  I watched as the sailors, now pallbearers, respectfully carried the remains of their comrade who fell in the line of duty more than half a century before any of them were born.  And the firing of the three volleys, though I knew they were coming, still caught me off guard and those tears of relief that most of my loved ones returned to me fell from my eyes as a silent salute to Seaman Coke and all of the thousands who didn’t.

My heart stirred as I watched the slow and deliberate movements of the sailors folding the flag and the hand off of that folded flag followed by the final salute from Seaman to Non-Commissioned Officer to Officer to Rear Admiral and finally to George Coke, Jr.’s family members.  The spent shell casings from the three volleys, symbolizing duty, honor, and country, were then placed into the hand of the young descendant of Seaman Coke.

A cool breeze gently blew across my face, air-drying the silent tears and leaving my cheeks a little bit sticky.  I hugged Leslie and shook hands with her son, aunt, and mother.  I looked back to see the final resting place of Seaman Coke, under the Live Oak and the Crepe Myrtle trees, beside his mother and father.  Welcome home, hero.  Rest in peace.

 

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

 

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.

Now That I Can Breathe Without Tears

This was my post on Facebook the day following the tragic and brutal assassination of five police officers just 20 miles east of me in Dallas. I thought I would share it here and then expand:

“I spent the better part of last night with my ear glued to the radio. I feel like a giant rock is on my chest, I am so heartbroken that this happened here. And I am bracing myself to hear what weak attempt to link this cowardly and brutal assassination of our police officers to either the “open carry” side or the “stricter gun restrictions” side of the argument.
Our police force is NOT a means to anyone’s political end. These were good people who were hunted by a sniper’s rifle while they protected peaceful demonstrators who were exercising their 1st Amendment rights to express their solidarity with people of the other communities who lost young black men in violent deaths at the hands of a few bad cops.
That said, I also firmly believe that every one of those black men who were killed by police officers throughout this country were also good men whose lives were taken out of the fear, prejudice, bad judgment, overzealousness, incompetence, or power-drunken arrogance of a select group of police officers. Just as black criminals do not represent the entire black population, those bad cops do not represent law enforcement as a whole.
My heart hurts today and I just do not want to deal with Trump or Clinton or anyone else’s politically motivated soundbites to further their own campaigns on the backs of Blue or Black coffins.
‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬
‪#‎BackTheBlue‬
‪#‎UnitedWeStand‬

I am still “in the feels” about all of this. I have been since Trayvon Martin was shot four years ago. I’ve watched from the sidelines and spoken my peace in support of my fellow citizens from within the African-American community. I cannot ever understand how they must feel, having to worry every time their young men step outside the safety of their own homes.

I can only imagine that it is similar to how I feel every September 11th; how I go about my day with my butt cheeks clenched and acid burning a hole in my stomach as I wait for all my children and my husband to return home at the end of that day. How every time there is a shooting, hostage situation, or explosion within our borders the first thing that pops into my mind is, “Dear God. Please don’t let it be a Muslim that is committing this terrible act.” Only this anxiety for my black friends is one that they must endure in the backs of their minds EVERY day and not just annually or during some heinous event.

I want to cry out for them and I want to hug them and I want to scream. I want to be the one who organizes some sort of training program to run through all of the law enforcement academies from coast to coast and make sure that our police officers can learn to see our human sides and not affiliate skin color with criminal capability that crosses all racial lines. How do we turn off that hate? Is there an app for THAT?

I am the person who sees the good in others. I am excited that at my children’s high school on the lower socio-economic side of town, there is a police academy training program where the local community college and police academy choose from our predominately minority population to eventually protect and serve our community. This is affecting positive change in our city. I want this for all the cities. I want to see communities working together to improve the economy; opening and supporting small businesses within the poorer neighborhoods so that money is put back into the community and helping to cut unemployment rates, increase local spending, create pride.

I am not Pollyanna. I know that these things will not solve prejudicial views of all or fear due to racial misunderstandings by law enforcement agents. I know that there is no magic wand to “fix it” in the short term. But I know that what I would like to see happen would definitely contribute to a long-term fix of what’s broke in our country. I will continue to push for education opportunities within my own community. I will continue to teach my own kids empathy, fairness, and to stand on the side of right. I know that the genuinely good people of the United States will continue to do the same. And we can support our brothers and sisters of all skin colors, backgrounds, religions, cultures, and still support our law enforcement officials. I’m going to keep doing my part.

Never-Ending To-Do Lists

We both had To-Do lists with at least 9 tasks so we cut our phone call short (half an hour as opposed to an hour.) My sister suggested I call her in a few hours to see which of us completed more on our lists. Mine was uber-long today since it’s the last day of Ramadan and I usually spend most of today cleaning house and making cookies for tomorrow’s feast. Except, well…I’m OLD now.

Yeah, I’m no Spring chicken anymore and this whole washing down walls and scrubbing area rugs and beating dust out of the furniture and scrubbing the tiles and shutters routine is a thing of the past, Baby. I did this every holiday for YEARS. But this year I’ve discovered a couple of things.

  1. Delegation of Authority/Responsibility (AKA Make Your Kids Do It)
    I assigned the oldest to sweep the house. The younger girl is mopping. The second son I had to take to work, so he dodged a housework bullet. The youngest boy is about to cry because I’m not only going to make him clean the small bathroom, but I’m going to make him pull the trap from under the sink and clean all the effing hair out of the drain. The older girl is going to be doing her laundry plus towels.
  2. I’m Nearly 48 and No Longer Have Any Fucks to Give
    What this means is that I just do not give a rat’s fat, furry ass if someone thinks I’m a lousy housekeeper anymore; including my family. I keep up with the dishes, cooking, tidying, and I’ll wipe the dust off the walls that the ceiling fan tosses up there, but only about once every 6-13 months and only if I feel like it. I’m not saying we live in filth and squalor and I’m proud. I’m saying that I don’t deep clean on a regular basis but I make sure we take the trash out and don’t have vermin of any kind.
  3. People Are My Priority, and by People, I mean My Husband and Kids
    I am classified as a “Soccer Mom” (although none of my kids plays soccer regularly) and I could define my 3-cylinder Metro as my “home away from home.” I shuttle two of my kids to and from their part time jobs, drag my daughter and her friends home from softball practice and to and from home games. I am a board member for a non-profit organization and I run a lot of errands for fundraising events. I do the shopping, doctors appointments, and take kids to and from school and college. I am currently teaching two of my sons how to drive. One must have studied by way of joy-riding in his friends cars, because it’s far too easy. The other one requires Xanax before and after each lesson….for me, I mean. But all this shit eats up most of my day before I have to race home to meet the special needs kid’s school bus at 3 pm and then start cooking some amazing home-cooked gourmet meal that they’ll snarf down in 15 minutes before belching in my face and announcing, “I need to bring cupcakes to a class party for first period tomorrow.”

So, when my sister suggested we compare notes in a few hours, I knew I’d win. Because my kids are older and I’m far bossier. So I took the 17 year old to work, defrosted 2 whole chickens, picked up a few items at the Mexican supermarket near the house, disconnected the Daytime Running Lights on my Metro because they weren’t shutting off AT ALL after shutting off the engine and removing the key, tasked the 21 year old to sweep the entire house, the 16 year old to mop the entire house, pushed the 19 year old into the bathroom to take a shower. The 15 year old thinks he’s avoided it all….He’s so wrong. Hairball, here he comes. Add to this that I’ve just completed pre-enrollment paperwork online for all 4 high school students and two that are participating in athletics this year, contacted the Recreation Softball department and registered my daughter for Fall Ball, and outlined a joint fundraising proposal that I want to sent out to another non-profit, I’m HANDS DOWN the winner.

Today, anyway.

Tomorrow could hold an even bigger list for us both and she has energy, only 2 kids, is 5 years younger than I am, and does yoga. I could spend all day in bed tomorrow recuperating from delegating chores from today’s never-ending to-do list. Whatever.

 

 

 

 

Starry Night Prom 2016

Randa SNP2015
It’s that time of year again! That’s right. It’s Prom Season. And the Starry Night Prom 2016 is coming up on us….fast!

“What’s the Starry Night Prom?” you ask. Let me tell you by including part of our Starry Night Prom donations request letter:

“The Starry Night Prom started in 2008 with a vision to create a once-in-a-lifetime prom experience for Arlington ISD high school students with significant disabilities.

Taking the vision from AISD special education teacher, Sara Mayo, Chase Christensen developed his Eagle Scout project around creating the Starry Night Prom, along with Boy Scout Troop #396 and the Arlington Elks Lodge #2114. Now an annual event, the Starry Night Prom is heading into its NINTH year of throwing an all-inclusive prom! Students with significant disabilities and their chaperones are treated to beautiful invitations to attend prom, a sit down dinner, professional photography, corsages and boutonnieres, dessert fountain, a prom king and queen, goodie bags, and, of course, a huge dance floor with a DJ, all at no cost to the student or their chaperone.”

randa-and-hamo-prom-2014

You see at an average prom, there is little in the way of accommodations for those students who have significant disabilities. Some of these students cannot eat without assistance or the use of a feeding tube. Some need assistance in using the restroom or cannot swallow and must use a suction machine. Then there are those who have dietary restrictions or sensory issues that must be taken into consideration. Add into the mix the peer pressure and “everyone is looking at me” feelings that most high school students are experiencing at this time of their lives, and you have kids with disabilities bowing out and missing out on one of the most memorable nights of their school years.

The Starry Night Prom helps make this night special for these kids. My daughter is a junior this year. She is severely autistic and has sensory issues, mostly related to noise. She wears noise canceling headphones that block 21 of every 23 Db of sound. This is because she has incredibly sensitive hearing and too much sound or too loud sound can cause her head to ache and this hurts and frightens her. So to see my daughter in a formal gown with her bling and sequins veil in a pair of pink headphones is just the norm at Starry Night Prom. The DJ takes these types of sensory issues into consideration of our Prom participants, and never blasts the music too loudly and never uses strobe lights.

Shelby and Randa dancing SNP 2014

Starry Night Prom is a recognized 501-C3 Non Profit Organization and all donations are tax-deductible. Would  you consider donating to the Starry Night Prom 2016, being held Saturday, April 30, 2016? Over 300 people attended Starry Night Prom 2015. In kind donations are needed in every area, from items for our prom “goodie bags” to food to serve 300 guests. Financial donations of any amount are also needed, as 100% of all financial donations go to purchasing items for the Starry Night Prom. A tax deductible receipt will follow your donations, as will a public thank you letter supplied to all prom attendees and donors.

This is a program that I believe with all my heart. I never thought that my daughter would be able to participate in her prom. But Starry Night Prom leveled the playing field and, as you can see from the photos shown here, she just sparkles like a princess and thoroughly enjoys herself in a social setting that she would otherwise have to skip.

Please consider donating to the Starry Night Prom 2016. You may click here to be directed to our fundraiser website—–> STARRY NIGHT PROM 2016 DONATIONS

If you would care to contribute to goodie bag items, please contact us via email:
StarryNightProm@outlook.com or like us on our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/starrynightprom .

**All photographs are property of Nikki Mohamed-Fawzy and Sara Mayo and are used with permission.**

 

 

 

 

 

Respect for Elders

Elderly Hands Pictures, Images and Photos
So, yesterday was another scorcher and I opted to send two of my kids down to the corner store to pick up a bunch of stuff we were missing. They spent about 35 Pounds buying me groceries and complained that the owner was really crabby.  I blew it off and went about making breakfast (it’s Ramadan and we’re fasting until sunset) when I realized that I forgot to have the kids buy salt. I sent Ismail back down to the corner store to get me a bag of salt. He came home really angry but not raging (which is good for a 13 yr old boy who is learning to control his emotions.) He said that the dude gave him a bag of salt and he paid and then asked for a plastic sack to put it in. The owner of the store yelled at him, “It comes in a bag!” Ismail thought he was just clowning with him and said, “No, really. I want a bag.”  The owner yelled at him again and got in his face this time, “I TOLD YOU IT COMES IN A BAG!”  So Ismail handed the salt back to him and said, “Then I don’t want anything from you. I would like my money back.” So the guy jerks the salt out of his hand and stuffs the money into it and says, “That’s even better. Now get out!” (And here’s where I got pissed.) He shoved him toward the door.

Ismail went to his biggest competitor across the street and bought the salt there. When he came home he told me that he was so mad and he wanted to hit him but he didn’t. And he insisted that I go downstairs immediately and tell him what’s what. I told him I’d do it later but that I needed to make fitar (breakfast) first and that I would handle it later that night or the next day. Ismail wanted to come along and I told him I didn’t think it was a good idea. He was livid. He swore he’d never buy anything from that big jerk ever again. I told him that we’re not going to call names because it’s haram (forbidden) and this is a guy who is in his late 50’s or early 60’s. We need to calm down. I got him busy making juice and talking about other things and so it went. I didn’t go talk to the man last night. I waited until today.

I decided to take Ismail with me. As we were walking, we passed the masjid on our street where many people were praying the Taraweeh prayers (extra prayers said each night during Ramadan) and we noticed that the store owner was praying from a seated position near the door. He usually stands and bows and kneels with the younger men in the masjid. We kept walking and I told Ismail that maybe it would be best if we just go to the store and talk to the owner’s brother who also works there. That way he can act as an intermediary and present the issue to his brother with our concerns voiced but without the older man feeling as though he is being attacked. But his brother was not there. His son was. I spoke calmly and explained to the young man what had happened and he apologized for his father. I explained that I understand that the weather is so very hot and that the temperature inside the store is hotter than in the street. This combined with fasting can make for short tempers. However, as sassy and rotten as my kids are to me and each other at home, I know without a doubt that they do not get sassy and rude with elders. I have been complimented on this fact many times, even by the store owner. And if my son was out of line in any way, I will address the issue with him. But under no circumstances was the owner right in shoving him or touching him in any way.

The young man kissed Ismail on his forehead and apologized for his father’s behavior. “Tont (Aunt), I am so sorry. But my father is under great stress right now. You see, he took my uncle and niece and grandmother to a cousin’s wedding on the first of this month. I stayed here and ran the store overnight. They were in an accident on the way home and my father rolled the car 3 times. I left straight from here to the hospital and he didn’t even know that my grandmother, Allah bestow her His mercy, didn’t make it. I had to tell him when I arrived. My father has permanent damage to his spine and has broken ribs. My uncle broke his shoulder and my niece was cut across her lip and chin. My father went straight back to work and refuses to take any time off and if I suggest it, he yells at me or slaps me. But what can I do? He is my father. But if you would just forgive him. He is very angry and hurt and his nerves are not the same. And all that I can do is ask that Allah forgive him and give me patience to wait until my father is able to deal with this grief. You know that I love Ismail like my little brother and all of your children are always very respectful in this store. I’m so sorry.”

I told him that I understand and said “May Allah bless him with patience” and then bought a few cookies and things that we really didn’t need but as a gesture that we understand and are not taking our business elsewhere.  When we left the store, I asked Ismail if he understood what all was happening in the store owner’s world.  He said, “Wow. He has had a lot to deal with in just a few weeks. I wonder if he has cried yet.” I told him probably not or he wouldn’t be so angry and grouchy. We talked about PTSD and grief and rage and how sometimes people blame themselves for things that were destined to happen. I asked Ismail if he was upset that I didn’t go in yelling and screaming and that I bought from them. He said no. And that he understood that the best way to handle the situation was as I had done because it showed respect for everyone involved.

Thank God. I am doing something right. 

Ramadan Kareem

Today was the first day of Ramadan! And I had doubted whether or not I could handle fasting in all this heat this year. But SOBHAN ALLAH! (Glory to God!) I did it. So did my kids! Even Randa did pretty well. She started drinking water around 2 pm and then asked me to make her dinner around 5. She ate her breakfast about half an hour before us. But she’s starting to understand that Ramadan is about more than just pretty lights and lanterns and watching her favorite clay-mation shows about QUSAS ALANBIAA (Stories of the Prophets.) She has walked up to me and told me, “Mommy, Ramadan. It’s no drinking and no eating. Food at the MAGHRIB (sunset)!  Apparently, her brothers and sister have been trying to explain it to her.
For those of you who are new to my blog or unfamiliar with Islam, Ramadan is the month when the Holy Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him.  We fast from food, drink, smoking, and sexual intercourse from dawn until sunset.  We also try very hard to reflect on our lives, on our faith; to read the Quran in its entirety and to not give in to the temptation to backbite, use bad language or argue or fight.  We also practice charity even more than usual during this month.

I am asked frequently about our fasting by my non-Muslim friends about whether or not children or elderly are exempt. Of course, children are not required to fast.  People who are very old or sick, pregnant women, women who are menstruating, are all exempt from fasting.  Because Allah is the Most Merciful, He instructs us in the Quran that if we are unable to fast, that we should feed an indigent person for the days that we are unable to fast.

My children fast because they want to.  My youngest has been fasting since he was about 5 years old. I told him that he didn’t have to but he is so competitive by nature that he told me, “Mommy, Nada (his cousin who is a year older than he is) said that I’m a baby and I can’t fast.  So I am going to fast so I can show her I’m NOT a baby!”  And he did it, too. He only broke his fast three times that first Ramadan. He then took to taunting Nada because she broke her fast five times that year. (Okay, so the reasons were wrong but he is now able to fast for the entire month regularly now and he’s only 11.)

All throughout Ramadan, people practice charity. There are many who will set up tents in streets filled with tables and chairs and cook huge meals and serve the poor or homeless. It is not uncommon for people to buy bags of food, usually containing several kilograms of rice, dried beans or peas, tea, oil, dried dates, raisins, ghee, and salt and give them to poor families so that they have food for breaking fast during Ramadan. A lot of the larger grocers here in Egypt offer pre-packaged bags for around 30 Egyptian Pounds each (about $5.00.)

Also, you’ll find a lot more extended family dinner get-togethers. Ramadan is a time of gathering and sharing meals. It is a time when we learn to go without; to be grateful for the fact that we have food and drink when so many do not. It also teaches us to be charitable.

At the end of Ramadan, we celebrate, at least in Egypt, by baking cookies and sharing them with family. I make a mean date-stuffed cookie that is covered in powdered sugar. But there are a lot of different types.

May you all be blessed during this Holy month of Ramadan.

Customer Service … Another OXYMORON

“Customer Service” is a catch-all phrase coined by salespeople and middle management in Corporate America to make customers think that their patronage is actually valued. It really isn’t. Now the salespeople will schmooze you and suck up to you long enough to get access to your money and then they never want to hear from you again. I used to think that Customer Service meant something….maybe it actually did. It did when I worked at the customer service desk at Sears Surplus in Laurel, MD. I was such a good customer service rep that I even ran around from behind my counter to hold the door open for a customer carrying out an air conditioner. It took a few seconds before I realized I’d helped him out the “in door” and called security who promptly tackled the shoplifter rendering him unconscious and the air conditioner destroyed. But being the good customer service rep, I promptly slapped a RECONDITIONED/REFURBISHED sticker down the side of it after super-gluing the knobs back on it and discounted it by $10.

Today I’ve been running nuts with “customer service” issues. At least in the US there’s someone with a Stepford Wife-like honey sweet voice to calmly blow smoke up your ass when it comes to “challenges or issues” you have with whatever product that you’re dissatisfied with. I mean, eventually you’re going to get a refund or an exchange or an apology or a coupon or even just a “customer service survey” where you can say “Your company sucks ass!” and feel better about the whole situation.

Here in Egypt, the customer is always WRONG. No matter what. The school administration secretary misplaced my child’s permanent records? It’s my fault and I have to replace all SEVEN YEARS of paperwork….myself…..at my expense. A taxi driver plows into my son while we’re walking on the side of the street….it’s HIS fault for not walking on top of the parked cars on the sidewalk. The ultra-pasteurized milk with a shelf life of 3 months that I purchased 2 months before the expiration date is spoiled and comes out like cheese on the DAY I purchased it……I must have stored it wrong….in the bag that the store owner put it in while I carried it up to my apartment ONE BLOCK AWAY and immediately opened. ???? Those three letters W.T.F. keep popping up in my head today. But these are things that I’ve come to expect in Egypt. With the exception of ONE place:  the American Embassy in Cairo.

I’ve had NOTHING but good experiences with the American Embassy in Cairo over the last ten years. (With the exception of the FBI agent in charge there calling me and asking me to drive to Cairo so that he could grill me about my possible involvement in the September 11, 2001 incidents. Asshole. My family and I were inconvenienced as hell that day. Granted, we didn’t die or anything but we were supposed to fly out to Greece that day (a permanent move) and we became homeless immediately with all the airports closing and hotels filling up, etc…..and with 5 kids under the age of 7 at that time….the odds of me being involved were slim and none and I know for a fact that it was racial/religious profiling that got them to call me in the first place because you know Arab/Muslim last name MUST mean terrorist. Needless to say, I told him I’d be more than happy to meet with them in my mother-in-law’s living room and he could feel free to drive up at anytime but I will NOT repeat NOT go to Cairo. Ahem…..I digress.)

Anyway, so I’ve been trying for weeks to get an appointment with the Consul when he comes to Alexandria because driving to Cairo (3 hours away) with 5 kids is a bloody nightmare. And of course, their appointment making website (acuity.com) is jacked up for the last 2 weeks and all the appointments are now full for December. So I try for the end of January. And it works fine until you reach the “confirm your appointment by clicking FINISH” step….and then you get the HTTP 500 error…..that means INTERNAL server error for those of you are not in the know. I contacted the embassy via email. They said, as though my clicking abilities are faulty or something, “Sorry for the inconvenience, many other US citizens managed to schedule their appointments.  Please try again.”   My response of course is, “WTF?”


I emailed them again and explained what HTTP 500 is. They said the same thing….try again later. So I called the American Cultural Center here in Alexandria and asked if there was something I could do here. She said no that it was via the embassy. I called the embassy, wasting 2.50 pounds hearing that I should call back between 1pm and 3pm. I explained that I really only want to make an appointment but the link is down. She transferred me to a guy who transferred me to another guy’s voice mail…..who, as it turns out, doesn’t subscribe to voice mail and I was disconnected. “WTF? …… G.D.S.O.B. M.F. piss ant!
So I fired off another email, taking care to correct the MR. to MRS. which only told me that it’s a foreign national worker that I am dealing with and not an American employee. Americans know that the name NIKKI spelled like that is a GIRLS name.  After several email exchanges, I think it got passed to an American employee because the acuity.com link went off line completely and I got actual timely responses asking me what I wanted and they’ve tentatively scheduled me for the appointment on the day and time that I want but I have to follow up with them later for confirmation. Yay.


But still— acuity.com is on my shit-list, the gas tank salesman who overcharged me by 15 pounds for a desperately needed gas tank has been handed over to God for revenge, and the guy who sold me rotten milk has permanently lost a customer. No. I’m NOT happy with my long distance company and Customer Service is an oxymoron.

Eid al-Fitr Mubarak!

Today is the first day of the Celebration of Eid al-Fitr. It is a 3-day feast following
the end of Ramadan, our month of fasting.

I’ve not written anything in a few days but I’m hoping to change that as soon as
things settle back down to merely chaotic around here. Should be soon. School is
scheduled to start on 17 September and I’ve managed to get……NOTHING…..
ready yet. I’m going to get on that in a couple of days.

But for now, I’m going to just focus on my kids and take them to the beach and
shopping and visiting relatives they’ve not seen all month. Maybe there’s a trip to
an amusement park in our near future. We’ll see if I can find Egyptian Xanax at
the local  pharmacy. Amusement parks freak me out.

And may Allah accept our good deeds and prayers and bless us all with His
Mercy, and He is Most Merciful.