Your Freedom

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There will come a time,

When your eyes will shoot open

With the sting of your heart,

From the thought

of all the moments

When you turned your gaze away.

When you will look back and wish,

You had stopped the tapping,

The chit-chatting,

The game playing.

There will come a time,

When the fog of your mind will settle,

Shaming you to your knees,

When you will wish you had paid attention,

Wish you had given a glance,

A hug,

A moment.

There will come a time,

When as you think of me,

You will wish

For just one glance,

Just one hug,

Just one moment of love.

When you will beg to sacrifice everything,

For just a second

with me.

There will come a time,

It’s on its way,

When the memories will haunt you,

When you will wish you could rewind,

And give love to those who loved you.

When you will wish you could un-do

The hurt you didn’t see,

The pain you never noticed,

The neglect you displayed

so casually.

But when that time comes,

It will be too late.

I will already be gone,

Far out of your reach.

You will be left alone,

Free to tap,

and chit-chat,

and play as you please.

There will come a time…

When you will be free of me.

A Different Language

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You and I,

We don’t speak the same language.

Your mind understands my words,

But it’s not your mind I need to reach.

The words of my heart are clear:

Respect me – honor me – cherish me.

But you don’t understand all that’s left unsaid.

You don’t hear all my soul has screamed.

It calls to you,

It tells you to reach for me,

It tells you to wrap me in the warmth of your safety.

Your mind understands my words,

But it’s not your mind I need to reach.

When you offer me a morsel,

Give it life, then walk away,

I try to untangle what you’ve said,

Try to filter out the pain.

My mind understands your words,

But it’s my heart that feels the hurt.

You continue, in your manner,

With nothing else to say.

Foolishly, I wait for more.

You and I,

We don’t speak the same language.

Writing…As a Team Sport

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November has ended, and with it National Novel Writing Month (NaNo) has also come to a close. For those of you, like me just a few short weeks ago, who are unfamiliar with NaNo, it is a push to encourage storytellers to get their words down. The goal for each participant is to write 50,000 words in 30 short days. There are some prizes for ‘winners,’ but the writers entering this project aren’t in it for the prizes…they just want to write. They want the structure of this project to help them organize their schedules to force them to make time for their novels, for their writing.

This was my first time participating in NaNo, and even though I did not make the 50,000 word goal, I gained so much from this experience. Trying to meet a specific word count each day is challenging, and with the comings and goings of life, sometimes impossible. But just having that goal does something to a writer…it makes us strive harder, squeeze out the time somehow, make up lost days if need be. It’s a great real life model for writing one day at a time.

The best part of NaNo was the overwhelming support from other NaNo-ers.  On the NaNo facebook group I joined, we celebrated each other’s milestones and encouraged our ‘teammates’ through times when either we were failing our writing, or our writing seemed to be failing us. Just Write! was the main theme. ‘No time to edit!’ ‘Editing comes later…Just get the words out!’ we encouraged. As we worked to complete our individual goals, we tried to help our teammates reach their goals as much as we could.

But the cheer-leading aspect wasn’t the only thing that turned writing into a team sport; NaNo even comes with sprints! Many of us depended on word sprinting against others to achieve our daily goal, or just to get the juices flowing. And talking about what we had to do to find the time to write–like escape from our children, hide in closets at work, or re-adjust our sleep schedule–added to the team spirit.

So now it’s over. Until next year, that is. But all of us who participated, whether ‘winners’ or not, have gained so much more than just the number of words we’ve completed: we’ve gained the knowledge that we–each one of us–can do it! it will take time and dedication, but we have it in us to write that novel we’ve been dreaming about. We’ve gained the knowledge that there are thousands of writers out there, gliding their pens across paper and tapping their fingers across keyboards, who know exactly what it’s like. So when the writing gets tough, don’t forget that! We’re out there…just give a holler, and your teammates will appear to cheer you on and help you race to the finish line!

The Neglectful Mom

I can hear it in her unspoken words. I can hear it in the ‘innocent’ way she urges my daughter, R, to repeat every word, every sound. She thinks I’m neglecting R’s speech ‘problem.’ She thinks my daughter has a speech problem and she thinks I don’t care enough to do anything about it.

But I can also tell by the way she deals with my kids that she doesn’t have any children of her own. I can just tell. She says things, the WAY she says things. She’s not mean….just inexperienced. A mom can just tell.

Her inexperience may be why she thinks R has a problem. Yes, R mispronounces most of her letters. She can’t say D, S, R, SH and a few Arabic sounds as well. But she’s 4. And I’ve done my research. I know that some children who have no developmental or speech impediments are unable to properly pronounce some sounds until the age of 7. I’ve done my research and know that harping on the issue may cause her to be self-conscious and have a negative effect on her. I know that the best way to help her at this stage, is to make sure I pronounce the words correctly, even if she doesn’t then repeat them.

So, Mrs. Quran Teacher, I do feel your concern. I do appreciate it. But I’m not neglecting her because I’m ‘allowing’ her to just mispronounce her sounds. I’m giving her the time and space she needs to learn those sounds at her own pace without any pressure. I’ve already seen improvements in her, so if you don’t mind (and quite frankly even if you do!), I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing.

Brothers

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I grew up the only girl between two brothers. My husband was the only boy between two sisters. He often says that having a brother is a must, while I argue that something is always missing without a sister. We just each missed that sibling growing up, and there’s merit to both our points of view, but I do have to admit how very thankful I am that God surrounded me with boys from a very young age. Just our sibling dynamic has taught me so much.

For example, I learned that when it comes to older brothers, you should always ‘do as they say, not as they do.’ Picture a young girl, about 10, with her best friend standing at the top of the stairs. It’s night time and the best friend is sleeping over. Parents and younger brother are finally asleep, so older brother, about 12, decides to put on his leadership cap. “Shshshsh…,” he whispers to the already quiet girls as they all start to descend the stairs, “we have to be super quiet so we don’t wake up my parents.” No sooner had the words escaped his mouth than he proceeded to stumble as loudly and noisily as humanly possible down the steps! Do as they say, my friends!! Pay no attention to what they do!

Having an older brother also taught me the very important concept of sharing. He came to me one day–we may have been in high school–and said, “You have to lend me some money. I have this insider tip on a stock, but I have no money. Front me for this; we’re GUARANTEED a hefty payback! We’ll split the profit!”

It was an insider tip, people, why would I refuse? My brother just wanted to share the wealth…how thoughtful that he wanted to share this coming good fortune with me!

So I gave him the money. And I was so excited about the investment I’d made–WE’D MADE–that I counted the days til our big payoff. Twenty some odd years later, I’m convinced there’s no such thing as an ‘insider tip,’ and I wonder if maybe sharing is overrated, too.

No, but seriously, over the years he’s proven to me that he’ll always be there for me. Like, for example, this past summer when we were all over his house. The kids were jumping on the trampoline in his backyard, and I hadn’t been on a trampoline in…forever, so I decided to join them. After I stepped on the trampoline, I noticed my brother came outside, onto the balcony, and was watching. I jumped and jumped and laughed with the kids, then a short while later, my body made me admit that a trampoline is no place for a 30-something, and I took my butt back inside. As I walked into the house my brother says, “I couldn’t help watching you. I was just waiting for you to fall straight through it to the ground!” See people, he’s always there for me!!

Okay, for real this time. Over the summer my kids and I spent lots of time with my brother and his family. And he made it a point to show my kids things they wouldn’t otherwise see. And he never thought of how much it would cost him, or how maybe his money might be better spent elsewhere…he just wanted us to enjoy ourselves. No matter how many thank you’s I say, they will never be enough.

In this day and age, I know that he is one in a million. I Praise God and Thank Him everyday for blessing me with him, and I pray that he and his family enjoy health, happiness, strength of faith and all the prosperity of this life and of the Hereafter. Ameen.

(In a future post I’ll tell you all about how he taught me to ride a bike by steering me into the woods, and how, when we were a bit older, he hid in the shower once in an attempt to skip school! Clearly not the brightest teenager you’ve ever met!)

Stupid Woman!

Over the summer I was blessed to be able to spend time with my sister-in-law, K. She’s one of my best friends–definitely WAY too good for my brother! Anyway, so one day I go with her to pick out a bed for one of her monkeys. It comes in two boxes, one kind-of-heavy and the other HEAVY.

We get back to her house and we need to carry the boxes up the stairs. We take the first kind-of-heavy box up together, and as she opens it and starts to assemble, I go off to keep myself busy, figuring she’ll give me a holler when she wants to take up the other box.

So I’m off in another room, probably checking my Facebook or doing something equally mindless, when I begin to hear “Bump.” A few seconds pass. “Bump.” Another few seconds. “Bump.” And it goes on a few more times. There are lots of kids in the house, so at first I don’t think anything of it. But when it keeps going, I figure I should check it out.

I follow the “bumps,” and what do I find? K, panting lightly, dragging that HEAVY box up the stairs.

“What are you doing?? Why didn’t you tell me to come carry it with you?!?”

As I grab the box and help her with it the few remaining steps, I say, “You know when people say, ‘stupid woman!’? This is what they mean! You! Right here!”

And we both laughed. I was kicking myself for leaving her while she was assembling. But another part of me just couldn’t understand why in the world she hadn’t just called out to me to come carry it with her? I didn’t get it.

I’m not the type of person who feels she needs to prove anything…to anyone. Even myself. If I know that I can do something, then I KNOW it…I’m confident in that knowledge. So if I’m doing something and someone offers to help, I have no problem accepting their help. I know that I wouldn’t be lost without them, but I appreciate their assistance. And if I CAN’T do something and someone offers to help, then I am very grateful that God sent them to give me a hand.

Fast forward a few weeks to my journey back home. I’m on the last leg of the trip, making my way from the airport to the stairs which will take us up into the airplane that will bring us home. I’m traveling alone with my four monkeys, the two eldest are each carrying their backpacks, and I’ve got a backpack and two handbags. Yes, that’s THREE bags I’m carrying…and they were heavy. But we had made it so far and it was just a few steps left…

At that point a very respectable young man in his early twenties politely offered to help me. He had a light backpack on and both of his hands were empty, as he pointed out. So when he offered to help me, I….refused. I said no. I thanked him for his kindness and said no. By the look on his face I could tell he, too, couldn’t understand why I would decline such a reasonable offer. I mean, he wasn’t a sleazy guy being inappropriate. There wasn’t even the possibility that he could run off with my stuff…we were on the runway! Where would he go?! But I said no, all the same. And even as I was saying it, it felt strange to me. Why? Why had I refused?

I thought about it for a while. A long while. And I’ve come up with two theories:

Theory #1. I had already been carrying the bags, so just then, when that polite young man offered to help, it seemed worthless to accept. I mean, I had just a few steps to go; there was no point in putting someone out at this stage. I’d been doing it all day already, I might as well just keep going.

OR

Theory #2. Stupid woman!

I’m torn…you decide.

Supermarket Adventures

Over the summer I went back home, to the USA, to visit my family. I hadn’t been back in five years, and we all enjoyed ourselves so much, Alhamdulillah (Praise God). Before I share some of our adventures, let me just tell you about two things that I noticed during our visit, which I think are kind of significant.

First, no one seems to believe in cash anymore. Everyone pays with a credit card…for EVERYTHING. I even saw a woman at The Dollar Store put two dollars on her credit card to buy balloons. TWO DOLLARS!! I find it kind of weird, to be honest. I don’t understand anything about economy, but the fact that no one actually has any cold, hard cash can’t be good, right? And what about just logistically…I mean, what if you see the Girl Scouts and want to donate? There was a too-cute-for-words little girl whose curly black hair was tied up into two pom-poms on either side of her head standing outside of Dunkin’ Donuts collecting donations for her cheerleading squad. I think her little red tin can must have remained empty…forevever!

The second most significant difference was the increase in the Muslim population in and around my hometown. Whereas back in the day, it was just us and one other family in the area, now there are so many, that I never went out without spotting one or two families. Alhamdulillah. Praise God. Alhamdulillah that the new Muslim generations growing up there now won’t feel quite so isolated.

It was kind of funny to see how my kids reacted to that, actually. To them, normal is everyone around being Muslim. So when we were in the USA, although I was finding it ‘strange’ that there were so many women covered up, to them it was completely normal. But for some reason–and to this day I don’t really understand why–I felt like I stood out more this visit than I ever did before. There is no logical explanation for why I felt this way: I was born and raised in the USA, and I went through all of high school and college covered up. But for some reason, despite the increase in the Muslim population, I felt like I stood out, like I didn’t fit quite the way I had before. One trip to the supermarket just intensified this feeling….

We just needed a few items, so once we had grabbed them, I surveyed the cashier lanes. Although the lines weren’t super crowded, I decided to go through the self-check out. How hard could it be?

So I swiped the first couple of items,then decided I should just bag as I scan…that would save some time.

“No, mom. Don’t put it in the bag,” my eleven year old said to me.

“Why, not?”

“I don’t know. Just wait till you’re all done.”

“Why? I’ve already scanned it. I’m just gonna bag as I go.”

“It’s not a good idea, mom,” he gave me one final warning.

But, unfortunately, I didn’t listen. As soon as I put that first item into the bag, a loud electronic voice screamed out, “Unexpected item in bagging area.” And it was just down hill from there.

I followed the directions of the electric voice, and managed to clear up whatever mistake I’d made, but the problem was that it kept happening with EVERY SINGLE ITEM! And after the first few, it stopped letting me clear it…so the voice just kept screaming out, relentlessly, “Unexpected item in bagging area. Unexpected item in bagging area! UNEXPECTED ITEM IN BAGGING AREA!!” It might as well have been screaming, “Foreigners need help in lane 10! Someone please help out the foreigners in lane 10!” My son suggested we just take the things over to another self-check out, but I was fairly certain that would just make matters worse. I fully expected someone to come over and relieve me of the embarrassment, but they never did.

Now, this was the same supermarket that i worked at while I was in high school. And back then (ok, so a long time ago, but still!) the manager was always out front, waiting to head off issues, checking IDs for customers purchasing cigarettes, all that stuff. But that day this summer, there was no manager around.

So I went over to the nearest cashier and told her (as if she didn’t know!) that I was having some trouble at the self-check out and needed some help. She came over right away and cleared the issue so that I could continue where I had left off. And as soon as I thanked her and she walked back to her lane, off that voice rang again, “Unexpected item in bagging area! UNEXPECTED ITEM IN BAGGING AREA!”

I just wanted to leave everything and book it out of there as fast as I could. I looked up to see the light above the cash register, which had been flashing green at the start of our issues, was now flashing red. So now the “Unexpected item in bagging area” was code for “Foreigners trying to steal stuff in lane 10! Alert! Thief-Foreigners in lane 10! Alert! Alert!”

A different cashier came over and helped me out till we finished. I didn’t use the self-checkout for the rest of my stay, and I have no intention of doing so EVER!!!

What had my head spinning (besides the embarrassment, which sent me into a laughing fit, of course) was the fact that my son knew.

“How did you know? What made you tell me not to bag?”

“I saw aunt K use the self-check out and she bags at the end to avoid those issues.”

Okay, so two lessons here:

1. NEVER use the self-check out at the supermarket, especially if you look like you may be someone visiting from another country. (Which is a huge percentage of the American population, so people…just don’t do it!) The alerts you get will end up sounding like, “Someone come save this foreigner from the predicament she’s put herself into!” Not fun. (Definitely funny, now…but…not fun when it’s happening.)

and 2. When your kids give you advice, listen to it, even if you’re not quite sure why.