Beautiful

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She is beautiful.

No wrinkles, no grey hairs.

Satin skin and velvet hair,

Reflections of sun kissed youth.

Her locks frame an ageless face.

There, that reflection in the mirror.

How did I not see her?

How was I focused on the wrinkles,

The blotches, the unruly hair?

How did I not see her softness, her feminine poise?

How did I not see the way her features dovetail,

Fit together perfectly by the Creator.

 

Oh, the lights return.

Now the blatant truth stares back at me.

Grey hairs, just where I’d left them,

Wrinkles, getting deeper by the day,

Puffy eyes, whiskers, pores the size of planets.

Unmanageable, frizzy hair.

There I am again, that’s right.

Huh. Beautiful? Yeah, right.

Sun spots, rolls of skin, flat chest, large behind.

Thighs outlined by unmerciful stretchmarks.

Rough hands,

Cuticle covered nails,

Collar bones piercing the skin,

Sunken cheeks,

Spider-veins webbing my legs,

Misshaped nostrils,

Mismatched eyes.

Head to toe

Saturated with flaws.

 

But with all these imperfections,

With my unbeautiful wrinkles,

My unbeautiful skin spots,

The unbeautiful whiskers and pores.

With my unbeautiful rolls,

The unbeautiful stretchmarks,

I

Am beautiful.

My softness, my feminine poise,

The perfect way my features match,

I

Am a masterpiece.

 

In all we’ve been trained to see as ugly,

I have grown to see my beauty.

Scars adorn adult knees and elbows?

Marks of a happy childhood.

Rounded middle and filled out thighs?

Marks of delicious chocolate indulgences.

Dark spots freckle the skin?

Marks of beach adolescence and innocent heartbreaks.

Wrinkles dancing ‘round my lips?

Marks of happy days filled with laughter.

 

All the beautiful marks of life,

Blessings disguised as blemishes.

I remain

A masterpiece of the Creator.

 

I

Am beautiful.

© Hend Hegazi 2016

 

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Search By Voice

baby with computer

Sometime last year, my brother was in his room when he heard his son say something down the hall. He opened the door and the words became more clear, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” A few seconds of silence followed, then my nephew repeated his request, only louder, “TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES.” My brother just chuckled to himself and closed the door. Several minutes later, when my brother came out of his room, there was his son, spread out on the floor, propped up on his elbows watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles right on his tablet. My nephew’s experience was actually my first exposure to Google search by voice. I mean, I had seen the little microphone icon at the end of the search bar, I just never really had any faith it would give reliable results. I am still reluctant to use it. Some people, on the other hand, have complete confidence that voice searches will give them exactly what they want…

Recently, my daughter, who is only five, has gotten into the habit of watching Frozen themed YouTube skits on my laptop. She comes home, pops open the device, scrolls through the tabs or asks me to search for her, and commences to watch her shows. They’re really strange, actually, with Elsa and Spiderman and the wicked witch from some Disney fairytale that I can’t keep straight. Wicked strange really, with no spoken words at all in order to reach a global audience. The only sound any of the characters make is the evil laugh by the witch. “Mwahh… haaa… haaa,” she says. But it’s clean, so I let my daughter watch. Just last week, she started searching them using Google voice search. Sitting on her knees on the chair to position her mouth as close to the mic as possible, she directs her voice at the computer, “Frozen, real.” She thinks that’s what it’s called…because are ‘real’ people playing the parts and not cartoons. But because I myself don’t really know what this type of skit would be called on a google search, I don’t correct her. When the Google lady tells her to try again, she raises her voice a bit, and again, out come her accented words, “Frozen, real.” This goes on and on, with her raising her voice gradually until she’s basically screaming, at which point either miraculously what she wants pops up, or I put myself out of my misery and go help her.

But the other day, she did something unprecedented. She sat down in front of the laptop, and instead of asking Google to locate ‘Frozen, real’ or any of the other children’s programs she watches, she started to say something else. I was unsure of what I’d heard at first, because I was in the kitchen. Could she have really said what I thought she said? I paused my chopping for a minute and listened. And sure enough, she was saying my name! She wasn’t saying ‘Mom.’ No…she was saying ‘Hend Hegazi.’ My daughter was actually googling me using search by voice! I couldn’t stop laughing! Especially since she just kept raising her voice, thinking the problem was that the application couldn’t ‘hear’ her. She kept screaming my name at the computer, until finally, the Google lady said to her, “Kid, no one here knows your mom. She’s in the kitchen; go ask her whatever you want.”

Ok, so maybe that’s not what the Google lady said verbatim, but it’s pretty close. At any rate, I don’t think my daughter will be googling me again any time soon.

Order of Operations to Achieve Happiness

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I sit here trying to organize my thoughts so that I can have a productive day. By productive I don’t mean that the house is maintained, the laundry put away, and dinner taken care of; all these only make for a normal day. To have a productive day, I must write. It would be great to be able to complete a piece, but even a first draft is something.

There’s a digital sticky note on my screen that says ‘To Do.’ All six of the tasks are either directly related to writing (write a blog post, finish character interviews, do writing course) or are marketing related for my upcoming release. I try to get things done before my kids come home because once they get here, no matter how hard I try, I simply cannot work. Is it the fact that they demand too much attention, so I simply can’t concentrate? Is it that even if they aren’t demanding attention, we live in an apartment, so their playing is always too loud and too close for me to concentrate? I think it’s a combination of those factors. But the truth remains – once they get here, I don’t get anything done.

This fact started me to wonder how my life would have been different if I had chosen – like the majority of my high school and college friends – to focus on my career right out of college. If I had had the encouragement and discipline then to begin my writing career, where would I be today? Would my name be known? Would I have more than two books published? Most of my friends focused on their careers directly after college and are now in impressive, advanced positions. Some have married and started families, and their oldest children are in the range of seven to eight years old. I took a different path; my oldest is thirteen.

So, which is better? Which of the two paths leads to the highest level of success? Can someone who has surpassed thirty start at the bottom while their peers are all in managerial positions? At that age, will they have the necessary drive to prove themselves and fight to get ahead? Or will it become too overwhelming? And on the flip side, can a thirty-five year old woman have the same patience and energy to raise a child as a twenty-something year old? Is one path better for the overall happiness of a person?

I’ve come to this conclusion: none of those questions even matter. The truth is that if you want to succeed professionally and have a family life, you’ll find a way to do it. Life is about give and take, and this is a perfect example. Yes, it will be challenging to start raising kids at thirty-five or forty. But you know what? It’s challenging raising kids in your twenties, too. Yes, it will be challenging to realize suitable career opportunities and ambitions. But you know what? That remains true no matter what your age.

We build lives that best suit us. Sometimes we can prioritize and sometimes life has a way of screwing up our plans. Honestly, if I had continued with a career after graduating, it would not have been writing. Although it has been my dream ever since elementary school, I didn’t find the encouragement I needed from my folks to pursue writing as a career. I was enrolled in optometry school when my younger brother passed away suddenly, a tragedy that forced me and my parents to reevaluate the plans for my future. As I was already engaged at the time, we decided starting a family was more important than spending four extra years just to earn the title ‘doctor.’ Although I am sure my father wishes I had earned that title (and it saddens me that I have – at least on some level – disappointed him), I have never regretted that decision. And I’ll bet most of my friends who chose to begin their careers early on never regretted their decisions either.

The keys to achieving success and happiness have nothing to do with age. The keys to achieving success and happiness are accepting where we’ve been, embracing where we are, and acknowledging that goals have no expiration date. As long as we are blessed with life, whether we are twenty years old or one hundred, we must continue to dream new dreams, and strive to fulfill them.

Skipping School

hiding

When we were younger, my brothers and I had no choice but to be studious. We were not allowed to play outside until our homework had been completed. Our homework, though, unlike that of most children, was not simply the exercises assigned to us from school; in addition to our school homework, my father made it a point to have us practice math problems regularly. I remember once, I was in kindergarten or first grade, and my dad said we couldn’t go out until we’d finished the pages he had marked. Mohamed is two years my senior, but in my dad’s mind a two year difference meant nothing; he taught both of us my brother’s curriculum. That day, I couldn’t figure it out and I was on the brink of an outburst, but Mohamed hushed me quickly. He knew that if my dad found out I was having difficulty solving the problems, we could kiss our chances of playing outside goodbye for the rest of the weekend. My brother quietly helped me and we eventually rollicked in the freedom of our front yard.

Back then, if you were lucky enough to be a kid coming to the Hegazi household for a fun visit with your friends, you had better make sure you studied first! My father quizzed all of our friends.

“Kerri!” I’m pretty sure he raised his voice just to scare the crap out of them. “What’s nine times seven?!”

If you were unfortunate enough to answer correctly, the equations gradually progressed until you were faced with something like “What’s the cubed root of seventy-two times eighty-three?” Our childhood friends are all in their late thirties/early forties now…and they remember these quizzes fondly.

Mohamed has always been intelligent. He wasn’t as studious as I was…he didn’t have to be. Here’s a story to prove it:

One day when he was in the eighth or ninth grade, he and his friends agreed to play hooky the following day. There were all still too young to drive, so I guess they were just going to hang around the neighborhood. The next morning came and he ‘left’ for school. My dad was still getting dressed, preparing to leave for work, when he heard a noise come from the bathroom. Was it a sneeze? An unexplained shuffling? A loud thud? I’m not sure, but something made him open the shower door, and there was Genius with his backpack in hand.

Why in the world he hadn’t waited in the back yard – where he would have been completely hidden from view! – until my dad had left, was (and continues to be) beyond me! But even though I thought he was a degenerate [that’s his favorite word…quite fitting, don’t you think?] I felt sorry for him…he was in for the beating of his life.

Funny, though…I don’t remember the beating. My dad had to get to work so he told Genius he’d deal with him later. But for the life of me, I can’t remember what happened that night. It’s possible that, despite my dad’s high regard of education, he remembered his own days of skipping school. It’s possible he let it slide on the premise of ‘boys will be boys.’ Maybe Genius remembers more clearly…but at this point, would you trust his judgement?

* Disclaimer: Despite the clearly unintelligent actions of my brother as a youth, he grew up to be a respected, successful dentist, masha’ Allah. Apparently it pays to have to do calculus mentally.