Category Archives: life lessons

A is for Anticipation

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The air is thick and perspires with anticipation. It’s 5 am and I am checking in as 2 and hoping to leave 2 days later as 3.

This time around I tried not to post any obvious pictures these last 9 months. I used to blog more about personal matters and journeys such as these. But I’ve learned you really can’t take anything for granted. After a health issue a couple years ago it was a blessing to make it to this point, to be able to give birth, to watch my family grow a little bit more.

I have so much respect for those that go through child birth, but even more silent respect for those who want to be mothers and quietly witness those around them becoming moms. For those who stoically witness adorable newborn pictures and blossoming baby bumps on social media all the while diligently praying to become mothers and strive to start a new chapter of their lives. For some reason, sigh, not everyone who wants to be a biological mother gets to. And for those who do, I really hope even in the tough sleepless nights we get to savor it.

Prayers for those mothers- to- be, those who want to be mothers, and those in the throes of motherhood in which day and night blends a little too easily in which sleep becomes broken, and yet everything becomes whole again.

On a side note, I always thought my children’s ages would be all squished together. A one or two year gap perhaps. Z and A are sort of squished together. But baby H is 7 years younger than Z and 4 years younger than A!
My 3 brothers and I are all born within 5 years so I just assumed I too would have children also spaced closely together just so. I loved how we were all in college around the same time just a few miles apart in Atlanta and how friends were easily shared.

You can plan as much as you want and circle as many dates in the calendar, but God has His own plan for you.

We live in a world where everything is so instant. Instant results for tests, Uber delivery within a few minutes, digital pictures that no longer need developing. (Does anyone else remember the anticipation of dropping of refrigerated film hoping and praying your photos came out just so?!) You can’t plan your exact date on if you will conceive, when that would happen, and on when you will deliver. Something so primal and basic yet God knows the answers to those.

In the Quran, it says during trials to pray and be patient. I heard somewhere the praying part is easier, but the patience part is so much harder. Because patience is passive and impatience gnaws at you while instilling doubt. But still we hope and pray and wait because sometimes that’s all you can do.

And seek help through patience and prayer, and indeed, it is difficult except for the humbly submissive.” (Quran 2:45)

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A Rare Braid

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My fingers are clumsier as they form a braid in Z’s hair. The hair lifts and folds as I tighten the braid and I realize I am rusty at braiding. I will typically make a quick braid when Z goes to school, but the benefit of summer is that our routine softens while we take it slow. Meaning not many braids. I step back to admire the neatness that the braid brings to Z’s face.

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I thought this summer that we would have pancakes and eggs often for breakfast, and at the beginning we may have, but now Froot Loops and Apple Jacks welcome little hands in the pantry.

One of the beauty of summers is that is appears so Endless. Summer days are long and lazily stretch.

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So that when August does come around, and pencils, erasers, and notebooks grace the aisles of Target, it is easy to walk around wide-eyed, wondering Where did the summer go?

I read this article about how it’s good to take a leap when you’re almost ready. Reality is that you may never feel ready and you need a push to do things. Ready to go to college? Ready to walk across the stage to pick up your diploma? Ready to stand in front of a classroom of twenty students and teach? Ready to get settled and married?  Ready to give birth while in the painful throes of labor? Ready to nurse, rock, diaper your baby? Ready to sweep grimy floors, wipe sticky counters, and raise children? Ready to now send Z off to second grade and A to pre-K?

Sigh. But a Grateful Sigh.

We have a few more days before school officially starts, a few more opportunities to make French Toast/pancakes, to swim in cool, blue water, to practice easing back in a routine and sleeping earlier! A few more moments to savor time. Until then…

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pre-Eid mehndi

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scent of childhood

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When you have a box of crayons and nice paper

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biking into August…

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Rice Bubbling happens a lot here

Enjoying Cam Jansen books!

“By time, indeed, mankind is in loss, Except for those who have believed and done righteous deeds and advised each other to truth and advised each other to patience.” (Quran 103:1-3)

 

I is for Immigrant

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You look out the window and spot the howling trees and the sunlight that is waning slowly but swiftly, the way wintery days go.

You scroll mindlessly through Facebook and view all sorts of depressing articles on Trump, a Muslim ban, and more.

But there is hope. You know there’s a protest going on at the airport, a protest to welcome refugees and immigrants. A way to take a stand.

You are not just the daughter of an immigrant.

You are an immigrant.

You know what it feels like to be neither here nor there.

You know what it feels like to reach a new country where even the air smells different, the birds sound different, the water tastes different.

You know what it feels like to feel painfully out of place.

You know what it feels like to slowly grow roots in a new country. To slowly unfurl and blossom once more.

You feel for all the people hurting in this topsy turvy world right now.

But right now it’s not your turn to go to the protest because there are two little ones who need you right now at home. There is hair that is wet. There is outside wind that is chilly.

There is a simmering daal that is stubbornly cooking on the stove, angry and refusing to become tender soon enough.

There are people protesting outside, angry and refusing the ways of the hard world, begging for tenderness to come now.

You look at the faces of your children who know bits and pieces of the world around them, but who do not know that the world is hardening around them. They do not know about the deep and dark struggles that people are undergoing around them. They do not ask the questions of worriers yet.

You need to ground yourself and find peace.

You know what to do.

You preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

You pray with them when sunset seeps in around you.

You melt butter, mix in sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder, a smidge of salt. You accidentally forget the vanilla.

Your daughters’ smiles are sugary. Their fingers buttery. Their cheeks floury. One of their hair braids is floury. Or salty. Or sugary. You can’t decipher yet.

Later, you will show them a picture of their grandmother and grandfather protesting and tell them how we welcome people. No matter who they are. No matter where they are from.

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Your heart will warm when you see the protest photos, the numbers of people who care. People of all kinds taking a stand.

You will read your daughters this book and talk about the tumultuous journey of a Syrian refugee boy, a boy who misses his pet birds he left behind.

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The boy will befriend new wild birds at his camp.

The world will befriend immigrants and refugees.

You will hope and pray that for now it is enough.

O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of God is the most righteous of you. Indeed, God is Knowing and Acquainted. (Quran 49:13)

 

 

Faces of my Neighborhood

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We should all do what, in the long run, gives us joy, even if it is only picking grapes or sorting the laundry. E. B. White

I am in line at the post office. A cheerful older gentleman who works there greets me and double checks that all is ready to be mailed.

As I wait in the line and my turn pops up, I am directed to a lady behind the counter. I ask her a question to which she barely answers with a mumble. The jovial gentleman looks at her and teases her, “I don’t even know why you’re up here – you can barely answer the customer’s questions!”

Visibly annoyed at him, she continues to scan my packages. I refrain from asking her questions. Maybe she’s having a bad day. Maybe she’s tired of me.

I wish that I had been served by the jovial postal worker instead.

It’s only at the end when I’m all done and I thank her, she hoarsely whispers “You’re Welcome.” I realize abashedly that her voice is gone.

 

***

After dropping off Z and A in the morning, I am driving home to see the big, yellow school bus pull up earlier than usual. No students are waiting. As I drive into the neighborhood, I see a sleepy looking middle schooler ambling along. I feel like I should warn him. I slide down the window and yell, “The bus is here!” Panic awakens the sleepy features on his face and he is off running.

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The dryer churns clothes but refuses to dry them. Round and Round. Damp and Damp. At the laundromat, I am able to focus on one thing. Laundry. That in itself is a mild treat. The row of gleaming metallic dryers, the finicky machine that will sometimes give you coins for a dollar, the spacious tables to fold clothes, the wheeling trolleys to push your clothes around all greet you.

The day is grey and a bleak cold outside, but inside there are two women folding dozens of sunny yellow shirts. The perk to the laundromat is that next door is Figo’s Pasta so we find ourselves doing laundry and savoring pasta coated in spicy tomato sauce. Instead of spending a few quarters for laundry, we end up spending more for laundry, dinner, and memories.

 

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Book Review: You Will Not Have My Hate

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I was approached by Penguin to review You Will Not Have My Hate, written by Antoine Leiris.

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I reviewed the advance copy of the story. It’s available for pre-order here on Amazon, and is set for debut in 4 days, on October 25th.

The memoir is a short 129 page read, but gripping. In the story, Antoine’s wife Helene is killed in a terrorist attack in France. Suddenly, Antoine is left a widower. Their seventeen-month-old baby son Melvil cries for his mother, but never gets back. In the light of such tragedy, Antoine writes a powerful letter to the terrorists, “You will not have my hate.” His letter went viral. In his letter, he also says, “There are only two of us -my son and myself- but we are stronger than all the armies of the world.”

“We were like two little Lego bricks that fitted together perfectly,” he says about his wife.

Antoine has to deal with being alone and navigating the left over reality as a single papa. At his son’s daycare, the other mothers rotate making him and his baby homemade soup. Soup that his son does not like to eat. As a result, Antoine simply discards the soup each week.

I love how Antoine writes, “I didn’t have the courage to tell them that Melvil never tasted their homemade meals, and that the little pots could not stay in our house. Maybe this is because, even while still full, sitting on the dresser, these pots nourished our hearts with a sweet, maternal tenderness.”

Antoine’s paragraphs are short but full of emotion. The story is touching but inspiring. It’s a read that makes you yearn for a world full of peace and wish that everyone had Antoine’s courage.

 

 

A Sealed Book

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I was driving through my neighborhood when I saw a couple of other mothers strolling with their toddlers in the neighborhood. Meantime, I was rushing home from the drop off of my now mostly school-aged little ones. The sunlight was just spilling over onto the road and I couldn’t help missing my days that were slower paced, more rush-free. Less Car. More Home. Less Drives. More Strolls.

I drove back home where the sunlight hadn’t reached my kitchen yet, where the eggshells were still on the counter.

Reading blogger and author Kelle Hampton’s blog, I found her words resonated with me. Kelle talks about being in the Middle Stage of Childhood where she says,

“The introduction of my parenting book is over, and the relentless work of the middle place is here where rewards aren’t as shimmery as feeling newborn baby breath on my neck. And yet, they’re here…

I have similar answers for all the “Do you miss?” questions.

“Do you miss teaching?”

I miss the first day of school. Pencil boxes. Memorizing all my students’ names in one day. Making them feel loved. Writing lessons. Taping great vocabulary words to the wall and seeing them pop up in the kids’ stories. After lunch read alouds.

But…I look for, find and create what I miss: the homework corner in my office with the jar of freshly sharpened pencils that smell like September. Tucking my kids in bed at night, nailing all the character voices from another chapter of Ramona Quimby, Age 8. Tagging along for field trips. Guest speaking about memoir in my friend’s 8th grade writing class.

“Do you miss when they were babies?

I miss fingers curled around mine, snug sleepers, nursing in the middle of the night, walking into their rooms to check on them sleeping only to find them peeping through the crib slats. I miss sandwich bags stashed with Cheerios and peach puffs, tiny bodies glued to my hip, heavy heads resting on my shoulder as they fight their naps.

But…I look for, find and create what I miss: tickling their faces to put them to sleep, big-kid sleepers that still fit snug, catching occasional pincher grasps for goldfish crackers and pretzel stick snacks, nose-to-nose bedtime snuggles, holding little hands as I lead them into classrooms, mispronounced words, so many firsts still to come.

I too am like Kelle where I am in this middle stage where my little children are not-so-little. Where frantic school-drop-offs replace late morning walks on weekdays. Where Z’s teeth are all sorts of wobbly and it’s amazing how with one tooth missing, the faces of children all of a sudden look so big!

Sometimes I miss the old stages where my children’s cheeks were softer and fuller and where their first footsteps were still wobbly and unsure. I can see an old photo or watch a video of their first steps, but I can never go back.

And as much as I want to skim the pages forward in these chapters of life to get a sneak peek of what’s to come, I can’t. The past pages are glued together, and no matter how much I pry to get back, I can’t. The future pages are blank and I hope full of promise. I don’t know how many pages or chapters I will get though. It’s like life is a sealed book and the only pages we are on are today.

A Sealed Book. A reminder to me to focus on today. Sometimes so hard when emails are flurrying back and forth, meat is defrosting in the microwave, saucy pots await you in the sink, and laundry likes to take its company quietly with other likeminded items slowly piling on the floor. Hard to focus on today when children need to be picked up, dropped off, homework checked,

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and so much more!

But trying to find a little bit of peace here and there …

img_7663leaves that beg to be picked up!

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a broken winged, yet beautiful, butterfly enjoying its lunch on our deck! Harsh sunlight forced me to try different angles to capture more compelling images.img_7462img_7455img_7435img_7384Post Eid-Mehndi-Fingers!img_7382img_7381img_7274

my brother’s homemade eclairs on Eid!img_7275img_7221img_7223img_7222img_7225

The $3.29 for pre-rolled-out-Publix-Dough is worth the price as the effort is cut in half! Just bought it yesterday and was much quicker!img_7241img_7251img_7254img_7218img_7210img_7194img_7186img_7159img_7154Peekaboo dolls in my bowls cabinet!

More later!

“And with Him are the keys of the unseen treasures– none knows them but He; and He knows what is in the land and the sea, and there falls not a leaf but He knows it, nor a grain in the darkness of the earth, nor anything green nor dry but (it is all) in a clear book.” – Quran 6:59

 

 

 

 

 

Assortments of -ing

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Appreciating–
the golden ray of sunlight that reaches the exact spot in the room where I am sitting. Golden Ray that makes the room look special all of a sudden.
Wondering—
on the phone, I am telling someone about what everyone in my acquired little family is doing tomorrow. I realize with a numb surprise as I pack my husband’s lunch, Z’s little lunch, and A’s littler lunch, that I don’t have a packed lunch. Where’s my lunch? Who makes my lunch? What am doing tomorrow?  Where am I in the picture? Am I to always remain behind-the-scenes?
Adjusting —
to children who are bigger, yet still so small. Adjusting to a here-and-there preschool routine of A and trying to find smidges of time to get writing done, or to just sit and stare out the window and try to avert my eyes from the smattering of things everywhere.
Feeling—
the tingly warm feeling return to sore fingers as I rub an ice cube chip over my wrists, fingers, and joints. Note to self to do wrist circles and wrist bends and general exercise. Must avoid Carpal Tunnel Syndrome!
Welcoming–
hummingbirds and butterflies (a monarch even!) to a couple of finicky zinnia blooms. Further welcoming the upcoming weekend in which aforementioned lunches do not have to be thermosed, foiled, and refrigerated.
Reading–
Claire Bidwell’s memoir, The Rules of Inheritance, about losing her mother (and then her father!) is raw and real and her words strung together are like little treasures.
Reminiscing—
on Hajj. I still remember my mother telling us that Hajj would fall in December and that my brothers and I wouldn’t have to miss work, that this was an opportunity to go. I thought I would perform Hajj in my 40’s, not 20’s. Shrugging a “Sure, why not?” in response. The uncertainty of applying for visas and being told that there wasn’t space for us in the Hajj group to go. Then by chance, the person on the phone happened to ask my mother our ages. We were in our early 20’s.
Then to be told they always encouraged young people to go, were we still interested? Yes. Yes. We Were. Then being swept on the journey of a lifetime. Being one minute person in the midst of millions of people, but being in exactly the right place to be.

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