Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter 2013 take one

according to the Western calendar, it's Easter Sunday today, many Evangelical and Catholic churches in the MENA region celebrate today. the Orthodox church will celebrate on 5 May according to the Eastern calendar. so Happy Easter to Christians celebrating today, please say a prayer this morning for peace in the Middle East and North Africa, specially Syria...

Friday, March 29, 2013

fragile me, handle with care

how can it be true that women have the ability to be the most mean creatures to sisters in womanhood than any other species? i hate to believe that this is true, but i'm afraid it is, and my recent encounters with women  specifically fellow mothers have supported this theory more than i had hoped...

this made me wonder what it really means to be mean, and the answer has two sides, the side of the receiver and the side of the mean-er. i can speak from both sides of this spectrum even when it's nice to be nice and i should be proud that people see me as a "nice" person, a guy once said to me: "you're too good to be true" because a group was talking about how kind i am and how i jump to help others when in need, but being nice means getting hurt and it's tiring to keep getting hurt over and over again when others are mean to me, and i wonder if it's better to be the doer in this case? so i try to be mean and i fail because this is not who i am

the real definition of being mean is not as important, for me, as the reasons behind people acting in a mean way or saying mean things or simply being mean when you meet them or talk to them. for example, a couple of days ago i talked to a mother of two children, she's the one who called (called me so she can be mean, i doubt it) i couldn't answer so i called her back, i'm the one who was paying so she can tell me what she wanted to tell me, we talked, did i talk more? did i bore her? i don't know, but i ran out of credit in my mobile phone so i sent a message to my mobile company to borrow a few minutes (a cute service they have available) and tried to call her again to say a proper good bye, her phone was off... am i being too sensitive here? or is she really so sick of talking to me that she was afraid i'll be ready to pay even more money to call her again and waste her time so she turned her phone off? it felt as bad as if she hung up on me! a few days later she expressed something that i identified with and i suggested a beautiful article for her to read, her response was: "sorry, i don't have time" again, it might be the over sensitive me who was offended and felt she's being mean to me, but i saw this scenario as simple as this: i reach out with something in my hand that i know for sure will help her but she rejects it.

how can she say that to a fellow warrior in this mamahood battlefield when she knows that i have no family or friend around to rely on for support and she's the one who has all the support in the world from her big family and a circle of friends, the only mother i've known with such a strong and functional support system. it's true we both have two kids, but when SHE tells ME that she doesn't have time, what am i supposed to say? how is this phrase supposed to make me feel? .. isn't she supposed to be the most understanding person of my struggles as a mother of two with no support what so ever? or am i expecting too much of her? maybe i am, she's never been in my shoes, she can't imagine how hard life can be day after day as hours stretch ahead of me when i'm all alone with my children, with the stress of limited resources, a busy husband, tiny apartment, sleep deprivation, and a tight budget... so if a mother's life is relatively comfortable compared to mine does that mean we have to suffer as much as others in order to feel their pain?

so yes, i was hurt, by her simple act of turning off her mobile phone and her simple words of "i have no time", i'd like to believe that she didn't intend to hurt me, she's not a mean person after all, i've known her to be kind, but this got me thinking if i myself act in a mean way to other women, specially mothers, if this hurt should take me a step further on a journey of maturity and kindness towards others, rather than suck me up into a vicious cycle of "i got hurt so i hurt others" like the famous saying "hurt people hurt people". we need to be more sensitive and kind, more gentle and understanding because being mean might reflect that we're insecure in some areas. some people go through life being mean just to get ahead, which is another sign of insecurity as they live a life of hurting others with their meanness. 

this was my facebook status on March 8th:

Glennon wrote in this post that this is how a woman often feels after talking to another woman: "She has it so much easier, better, bigger. At home, at work, in her own skin. I am alone. I am different."
And I, (my name), say: "Today is Women's day, so how about we, women, decide and try to be more gentle, more nice, and more understanding of one another because each one of us, in her unique way, experiences pain, love, tears, and LIFE... nothing is worth being harsh on another woman... Happy Women's Day dear female friends" :) 

i still believe in what i wrote on facebook earlier this month but i wonder, do i have to add to it: "leave your house armed, talk to other women with caution because you don't know when or how they will hurt you and break you down, intentionally or unintentionally, or maybe wear a T-shirt that says: "Fragile me, handle with care".  

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Les Miserables

in February 2000 i wen to New York city for the first time when my brother and his wife invited me to visit them all the way from the Middle East. i remember fighting with my brother on top of the WTC when he said: "i don't know how to impress you, i keep taking you to places and you show no gratitude or interest in anything"... my reply was simple: "i can't conceive of it all, the city is beyond my comprehension, and when i'm amazed, astonished, excited, and in awe, all at the same time, my system shuts down" and it was true, the city was too crazy to be true for the 21 year-old-girl i was then.

one of the major things my brother and i did was attend Les Miserables, the musical, and it was a piece of heaven, the music, the lights, the stage, the theater... everything was marvelous and beyond, i counted it as one of the top 10 experiences of my life. at the end of the show my brother bought me the music book written for the flute. and when i flew back home i bought the two cassettes (CD's existed back then, but i only had a cassette player) and i memorized my favorite songs by heart, the best three for me were: "Castle on a Cloud", "Do You Hear the People Sing", and "On My Own".

a few days ago i had the chance to watch the Les Miserables, the movie, and i had mixed feelings. i missed the theater atmosphere that came to me with the songs, but the movie gives you a chance to dig deeper into characters and feel their suffering in a way that only a movie can do, especially that the camera focused on the faces of actors/singers with every last bit of details available for you to savor. it was also too much for me to take in at one shot and from a single watching time. but it got me thinking for days about this old, yet new, story of "the revolution"

so much has changed since 2000, the last 3 years of these "thirteen winters" witnessed a number of revolutions in the MENA region. starting with Tunisia, then Egypt, then Syria, and none of these revolutions was less brutal and bloody than the French one documented in this novel. "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" is a sad song, but for me it was even sadder to hear today in 2013. why did all these Egyptians and Syrians die and are still dying? is what happened really a "revolution"? how does such a story end happily ever after? can it ever end this way? "Who Am I" in all of this? do i have a role? does it make any difference?....

an endless number of questions that give birth to new ones leaving me without a single satisfying answer. i'm still sitting in my chair, sitting still, in the observer's seat, i don't know if i'll live long enough to see the change that comes from a revolution, right now i'm watching bloodshed, death, destruction, lack of security, suffering economy, and no light at the end of this tunnel... at least not for me using my current eyeglasses, but i'll keep "observing" as it seems to be the best thing i can do well, until i find another way to "join the people sing" to be part of "the revolution" to give what i can give so that the banner may advance and that life will start when tomorrow comes...

Friday, March 22, 2013

bffs defined

today's post is inspired by yesterday's stressful mother's day celebrations, or non-celebrations. I got very frustrated by the end of the day because of unreasonable expectations, but i have to clarify that what's reasonable and unreasonable is relative. what is sure is that i needed time alone ASAP, and today i have the whole day to myself, and this is happening for the first time in almost four years.

until the last minute when i shut our apartment door behind me, i was still ready to turn down my husbands offer to take a day off and he will look after the kids. it has never happened before, even in November when i had barely three hours to celebrate my birthday alone.

driving to the destination i selected was a great experience, we had a windy night and in the morning wind was still strong creating high waves and waking me up from within as i drove along the highway by the sea. i didn't want to feel lonely and alone (will discuss the difference later), so i brought two books, a notebook, a pencil, yellow highlighter and the iPad along with me. Selecting these items made me think, are these my real best friends? do bffs exist? I have lived in three different capitals then moved to this current city within the past 13 years, during which other major events took place in my life. i graduated, got married, and recieved two kids. so these 12 years were basically the most important years in my life with chances of forming strong and lasting friendships, but i moved a lot... so you can say that i have no close friends here in this city which adds to my loneliness and "aloneness". any mother of two little children can testifies of how lonely life is for her as she struggles to find the room and time for her friends as she juggles so many responsibilities, let alone not having close friends to start with.

but the day was good, i went back home earlier that expected because i got cold, yes, i wasn't wearing warm enough clothes, but it was also good to be back after some time of reflection and decision making, i had to make sure that my husband was on the same page as me, not that we were able to discuss the things we needed to discuss so urgently, but the promise we made to re-visit many issues was comforting enough for me.

so if you ask me what's the definition of a bff, i don't have an answer because the dear friends i have, i can't see anymore, we live miles away, in some cases we are in completely different continents and time zones, we're only in touch now via facebook and sometimes e-mail. the friends i do see now are new and they can't count me as a bff because that spot is already occupied with their other old-er friends. what i do know about a bff is that the definition HAS to be mutual, i can't think of somebody as a bff when she doesn't consider me as a bff to her. that's why, for the time being, my books (which change over the course of time), my blog, and the blessing of reading and writing are my bff... when anyone is added to the list, and hopefully somebody will be, i'll let you know.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

mother's day

it's mother's day today in the MENA region, on the 1st day of spring. a friend shared this photo on her fb timeline a few days ago and i just couldn't but add my own touches...

sleep in: using a children-free bed (preferably house)
eat (full stop, i won't even dare to mention the temperature of food, just a real tasty healthy meal) as for the other half i'd say "type with two hands" all 10 fingers no living creatures on lap
alone time: it's confusing, i no longer know how to handle such a luxury but a shower, a book, and a hot drink would do
audience-free: should i laugh or cry? i'd write that in bold letters and underline it twice

one more thing: an outing with girlfriends, no kids or husbands allowed

just imagining it makes me smile, and already miss the kids!!! If these gifts were granted by a good fairy godmother, they have to be for FREE, i'm NOT ready to pay for them (suggested prices: messy home, cranky or injured kids, and air full of "guilt" vibes... just to name a few)

happy mother's day to all mothers in the Middle East and North Africa... mothers' who lost their children to the stupid bloody wars in this region... happy mother's day to refugee mothers who live in inhuman camps after surviving the war now they have to keep surviving... happy mother's day to orphans who will think of their mothers today with an even more powerful sting of pain...

spring of 2013 is here, weather wise, we hope it will arrive on the political level soon ending this whole nightmare so my people can start the endless process of re-building their lives and country...

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

birds and church bells

"we can hear birds singing in the morning more clearly now" said my aunt. it's a sentence that if taken out of context gives you the impression that this person lives in a town or even a village and has peaceful mornings every day where she listens to birds sing and now she noticed that the sound is more clear.

unfortunately this is not the case. i was talking to my aunt via skype a couple of weeks ago when she said that to me, and what she meant was that the sound of shelling and bombs is quite in the early hours of the morning after a long night of horror. people can't leave their home, even to go to work or school, very early anymore for safety reasons, so the streets are more quite than usual in the morning, hens the clear sound of bird songs.

my aunt still lives in my city, the oldest continuously inhabited capital in the world, i'll leave it to you to guess or google the name if you're interested in politics, but this beautiful city is under attack, i don't care anymore about labels and names, about who is with and who is against, about the regime and the opposition. war in my country has become too complicated and bloody that no explanation can suffice.

i live in another country, it was struck by the Arab Spring a bit earlier and is relatively more stable, but has its own major problems which are only a tip of the huge iceberg. there is a clear tension between the two major religions and bloody clashes take place every now and then in this country. feel free to guess where i live, no prize for the winner though.

my aunt's words made me more alert to sounds around me, our new apartment (we moved almost 5 months ago) we live on the 11th floor yet can still hear a variety of sounds including some street noise. a few days ago i noticed that i can hear the church bells twice a day, at 7 am (when i'm awake at that very moment to feed my toddler or agree to my preschooler's pleads to come to our bed) and at 5:30 pm unless my two kids take their nape at the same time so i too can have some rest. there is also the 10:30 am on Sunday mornings even though the weekend here is on Fridays and Saturdays, churches still hold morning mass and services.

so the sound of church bells now make me realize how thankful i am to still be able to hear them. some churches were attacked in this country including bombing one church here in this city on New Year's Eve killing tens of innocent people among the crowds of Christians praying there. this guessing game is getting easier for you to join.

the fact that church bells are still allowed  to ring and sing is in itself a blessing. people around the church, regardless of their religious background, can hear this call for prayer and a few more people who live in the buildings nearby can too enjoy the sound (or maybe not, i can only speak for myself).

bells only remind us to pray, but it's up to us to actually do that, and when we do, most probably our prayer goes first to our wounded countries, even though suffering comes in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors, the pain is one and it directs our prayers towards peace, harmony, stability, and prosperity. who doesn't want that for their country, their loved ones, and eventually all human kind.

those of you who guessed the name of the two countries correctly, might have as well expected me to end my post with Miss Congeniality's famous phrase: "World Peace"

Saturday, March 16, 2013

as small as a mustard seed

yesterday i was reading about the NYC brunch where amazing women bloggers gathered, some of them are authors of books nominated for the Books For A Better Life award. all of them had big lives, huge accomplishments, nice families, unique writing skills, and a story of pain mixed with success. i couldn't but see myself so small, microscopic in fact, not in a negative sense as putting myself down or having a low self esteem, but the first thought that crossed my mind was: "how can i be like them?" i went to bed with this thought.

this morning before i got out of bed i realized that I AM like them, aren't i? if this wonderful bible verse says that faith as small as a mustard seed can move mountains, then my small life can have a big impact on someone else's, every little piece in my life, including this baby blog can move mountains, or at least one mountain or a handful of sand.

for years i've been wondering what can i do with my life, i need something big, significant  important, different, unique, and carries my name on it, something that says "me" all over it. it sounds narcissistic, but it's not, it was a humble and honest search for identity and meaning, to know who i am, do something, and be good at it.

so far i've been identifying myself in relation to others, my family, then my husband, and now my children which is the most powerful "identification tool" that can just cross out who you really are as you dissolve yourself into your kid's lives, needs, demands, and even characters.

maybe the fact that these women are writers, or became writers made me feel a bit jealous, i've always wanted to be a writer, i read a lot and wrote a lot, but recently i realized that Arabic speaking people are growing less and less interested in reading and even worse, they are getting less and less interested and proud of their language. don't get me started on how difficult, deep, rich, and inspiring the Arabic language is because i'm simply in LOVE with it, its alphabet, its roots of forming verbs and words, its structure. so to be a good writer i have to write in my mother tongue, who will read me then? my English will never bee as good as these women's English, and that's why i envy them, they are almost perfect in the language that a vast majority of people can read around the world and they put their words and ideas out there on the web for the whole wide world to read with such ease and beauty that i doubt i'd ever master one day.

so for now i'll keep loving myself for who i am, doing what i have to do and love my responsibilities and fun with my children and everyone around me, i'll keep reading books and blogs (and occasionally envying the writer!) hoping that one day my mustard seed will do what it's supposed to do, and who knows, maybe it IS already doing all of that and all i need to do is change my eyeglasses!

Friday, March 15, 2013

thieves of potential blog posts

good morning, it's almost noon honestly but on weekends who cares. actually i woke up very early this morning and wanted to start my day and have my quite time but then a simple calculation took me back to bed. my husband is out of town and the kids are not awake yet, by the time they wake up i'd be dead tired and we'll all have a difficult day since we're staying at home (the car is with my husband). so i decided wait for the kids wake me up :) a couple of hours later i heard my son ask from the shared room: "are we done sleeping?" my daughter spent the night in our bed and she's still asleep so it's a good idea to start the day with my son and a freshly squeezed orange juice.

now getting my coffee machine started i thought of writing a new blog post. it has been a long time since i wrote a post or an e-mail in the morning. this got me thinking: i'm a morning person, so i function at my best during the first hours of the day so what is it that has been preventing me from writing in the morning?

here's a list of what i think are the thieves of potential blog posts (for me) and i'll try to put them in order of their impact starting with big thieves down to pickpockets:

  1. my part-time job: this is the first thing i do when i turn on the laptop in the morning. i have a part-time translation job, i work for a newspaper and i translate the headlines every morning. so the first thing i do is try to open the newspapers i need, online, and make sure there are no problems with the internet connection or the newspapers' sites then i start translating (Ara-Eng) and typing
  2. facebook: when i'm done translating i treat myself to a few minutes, which turn into an hour sometimes, of facebooking. not that it's a total waste of time but it consumes one of the best hours i have in my day, a morning hour. i've decided a few years ago right after facebook appeared that for me fb is to stay in touch with friends and family via words and photos so i was one of the first people who stopped playing games and doing other non-social activities on fb, but even with this noble cause i still spend more than the intended time on fb.
  3. breakfast (when i have one): after i wake up, i try to drink water, which i find is more difficult than i thought but i encourage myself by thinking about all the promised benefits water has if drunk first thing in the morning. what's usually easier is eating a piece of fruit. when i have my translation done and the work e-mail sent then when the fb moments' delight is gone i think of breakfast. i do eat every morning but i can't always call it "breakfast" the most important item on the menu is the coffee cup with some milk, no sugar. 
  4. kids and house chores: this duty call is never silent so it takes priority over many other things in my head and during my day and the first victim is usually my blog and the book i'm reading, sometimes having a shower also falls off the to-do list as another victim. 
  5. technology: the laptop i'm using right now is new, we've been planning on buying a laptop since... i can't remember when, since before planning to have children, because i remember that we first had a different kind of "lap top" the mobile kind that needs feeding and changing diapers. but this last December there was a discount on certain brands and we got one, specially that budget was super tight after we had the second special kind of "lap tops" two years after the arrival of her brother. what i discovered is that when you have a good computer and speedy internet connection (the second important technological factor) then your appetite is bigger for blogs and posting ideas and sharing photos. 
so, my coffee is ready and my daughter should get up, it's all i could think of right now, i might re-visit this post if more ideas that will pop up in my head as my kids and i get into our daily activities and games. have a nice day and a great weekend everyone. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

kairos moments in a chronos world

as for what the words Kairos and Chronos mean, i'll leave that for you to google and find out... but what was on my heart and mind to write today was about our world and the way we live in it...

the geographical location of your country, the place you were born at, decides a pretty huge chunk of who you are. even if you travel "abroad" later on in your life, study elsewhere, get married (a cross-cultural marriage) or you emigrate... you'll keep carrying your country inside of you, and notice things surfacing throu your words and actions every now and then with the colors, smells, sounds, images and tastes of your motherland. of course if you grew up and still live in the same country where you were born, then the effect is maximized. the reason i say this is because i'm more aware these days of the effect of politics in the MENA region on me, thus on the way i'm raising my children up and interacting with them on a daily basis.

wars in the past, occupation armies that spent decades on our land, and now the Arab Spring with the "revolutions" that have more bloodshed and chaos than any classic war or civil war... all affect our lives as we hear the same disturbing news day in and day out, with no signs of hope. we all know how war doesn't only affect the political life, but the social, psychological and physical being of each citizen.

there's so much anger, anxiety, and unrest in me that stems from the outside atmosphere. when we have days no electricity for hours, when streets are not safe for me to take my son to the nursery or go out on weekends, when Christians are persecuted because they've become a minority, how can i have a normal day with my kids moving from one fun activity to the other? i tried detaching myself from news for a while, but it kept appearing in my face on facebook and news headlines, so i tried to block even that but i felt guilty for not knowing the update and latest events so i follow the news again and the cycle starts all over again: my daily routine started to take a shape of a vicious cycle: struggle, survive, make the best out of it, protect the children, which brings us back to the struggle... the outside war echoed inside with a mini war at home as i started fighting with myself, my depression and my guilt feeling that i should do better, be a better mom, i majored in Elementary Education so i should know better.... constantly beating myself up for not living up to my own expectations of my part in mamahood.

i never intended to discuss or even mention politics on this blog, but it's so much intertwined in my life that i couldn't resist but wonder if i'm doing the right thing given the current situation, or should i and can i do better? we live in a Chronos world, time goes by quickly but what my kids need and what i too need is as many Kronos moments as possible in the middle of this chaos and turmoil to be able to handle my toddler's tantrums and answer my pre-schooler's questions... i need to shush my mind up every once in a while, get focused, relax, re-charge my energy... and have fun... these things might come as a byproduct of "normal life" for people who have one, but for me, i've realized that these things will come with hard work, awareness, and constant decision making... instead of waiting for kairos moments to pop up easily during my days is an illusion, i have to WORK hard to CREATE these moments and to RECOGNIZE one when i see it and to ENJOY it to the MAXIMUM 

Saturday, March 9, 2013

to blog or not to blog

yesterday i renewed vows with this little space of mine, my blog. i've had doubts about it for months, maybe years now, ever since i started blogging (i mean my other blog, which is very personal with lots of family news and photos) i've been in love with the idea of blogs and blogging. then recently i got addicted to a couple of amazing blogs and the wonderful women behind the words, ideas, and photos in these blogs (the list of links is available on my blog). then on my 33rd birthday i decided to activate this "public" blog as my birthday gift to myself, i changed the name and took it seriously as my own space to share my thoughts with the world.

just like everything else i do, i lost interest in a few weeks, mostly because i couldn't find the time for it in the midst of my many responsibilities with the children, at home and at church. but i've always wanted to be a writer and my big dream is to write a novel (if this is a real dream) publish it and have it translated into a few, all right, many languages. to become a good writer i knew that i have to be a good reader first, just like being a good follower is a pre-requisite for becoming a good leader. so i started attacking books, i'm an introvert which made reading an easy thing to do and love as a teenager and now as an adult.

with two children under 4, reading has become a luxury rarely accessible to me, so for a while, my writing was "gone with the wind". this blog breathed life into my bestest hobby everest, then why did i ever think twice about blogging? the answer is mostly because of the language barrier. English is not my mother tongue which makes me hesitate even more, should i blog in Arabic then? It's my first language in the first place, it's a very difficult one, and i'm really good at it, but then this puts limits on my blog. what about blogging in both languages, as many other "younger" bloggers do? why not? so don't get mad if a post appeared in Arabic soon. but after giving it much though i've decided to blog, and to do it in English.

what happened yesterday is that for the first time in many months i wasn't dead tired when my two children took their nap, so i treated myself to a movie, i mean watching a DVD at home, maybe next time i'll actually and litterally go to the movies, but it was good enough that i had the chance to watch "Julie&Julia" yesterday and i LOVED it. my husband and i had bought the DVD a while ago and my friend gave me the book "My Life in France" as a birthday gift last year or the year before. i tried several times to read it but never had the chance to finish the first chapter, each time i held the book in my hands i felt the urge to read other books on education or religion or books in Arabic. that's why i postponed watching the movie because i believe in my eldest brother's theory which he shared with me many years ago: "whenever you have the chance, read the book before watching the movie, this way you develope your own characters and scenes, then you can see what the movie directer has to offer". so i thought if i wasn't going to finish the book anyway then i can watch the movie so i did and i met Julie who started blogging in 2002 and committed herself to a one year journey of cooking through Julia Child's cook book and blogging about it.

that was it, i didn't need more hints and signs and voices to remind me of my dear space here, of you my readers (if there's anyone out there anyway, the same doubt Julie had) so here i am again...