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

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

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…..so 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 Photobucket.com and are not my own personal property.)

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.