Saturday, August 20, 2011

What I Enjoyed in America

Asalamu Alaykom Readers,

I asked you to vote in a poll over this summer and you did.  Now, I'll tell you how it really went down.  What did I really enjoy in America?

My Mom got the most votes at 9.  She loves the number 9, so I think she'll be happy with this (not that she reads this blog since she doesn't own a computer).  I do love my mom.  It was good to see her however it is  hard to see her older and more fragile. 

We kept our visit working well in the house for weeks and weeks.  Neither one of us wanted it to go badly.  This meant I had to go to bed when she did.  I had to be quiet until 9:30 in the morning.  I had to include her on outings (or at least invite her).  I had to pay for food during our visit.  I had to keep our belongings reasonably reined in.

We fell apart over a visit from friends of hers.  She hadn't asked me first and I didn't want to see them.  She had also scheduled it on the last Friday before Ramadan (when I really wanted to be at the prayer service).  We came to an agreement eventually and God worked it out beautifully. 

Later, we fell apart again over her questioning of my childhood, "Would you have been better living with your father instead?"  It was a long, tense talk that day.  In the end, as a Muslim, I have to remember that "if" is with Shaytan.  The past doesn't have to be forgotten (I think that's bogus) but it does need to be dead and buried or some awfully painful memories awaken in you which are better left alone. 

We prayed together.  We talked almost every day.  We shared honestly about ourselves and our lives.

I left her on good terms.  She knows what I want for her life.  She has a better vision for her life after seeing how I plan and mold my existence as I can.  She had more interactions and life in her home than she'd had in years.  I made the plug for her moving to Egypt in a few years so I could help her at that time, inshahallah.

My Dad  got 8 points.  This was the saddest part of my trip.  As I've written before, my father has Alzheimers.  His current relationship is with a woman who dislikes me.  She has never met me.  She asked my mother not me about the possibility of my father to flying alone to the north and staying in my mother's home.  Before my mother could talk to me about it, the woman had bought a ticket.  The trip would be a week after I arrived.  I decided to wait until I got to the U.S. before trying to figure out just what was going on.

I then learned that my father would have to be met at the airport gate by someone and the woman who made the arrangements chose my mom (not me) to pick up my father.  I got on the phone and asked her if she could change that (I would not be able to, even though I am his only family, since I didn't book the ticket).  She blew up at me and told me that it would be the last time she ever did anything "nice" for me. 

I asked to speak to my father.  She ranted and raved in the background saying loudly , "Who does she think she is?!"

The next day, my father declined the trip.  He wrote me a strange email asking me if we should maybe discuss our different spiritual paths (which he has never considered as different before).  I waited over the weekend to see if he might change his mind.  He did not. 

I did not see my father, though he had a ticket to come see me and my children.

This hurts me more than anything else from my time in the U.S.

May Allah forgive me for my thoughts of sadness and anger.  Alhumdulillah for everything.

My Teens got 8 points also.  These two are really wonderful kids and I'm blessed to have them in my life.  There were lots of times I got to see them. 

For my 17-year-old son, there were too many times as he's all about his friends.  He resisted me in many ways.  He was now too cool.  I hated how he walked ahead of me in public as if I was not really with him.  I laid into him for not holding the door open for the rest of us.  Yet, I know he's better than most and I should not complain.  He's driving around, helping his grandparents with chores, volunteering in the community, and planning for college.  May Allah guide and protect him. 

My almost 14-year-old daughter and I spent more carefree time together.  However, she and I did clash over clothes and friends.  No, she couldn't wear those teen girl clothes around me.  I needed covered skin, nothing see-through, nothing too short or too tight.  She complained but knew I was serious and went out and got some alternative T-shirts.  I also took her clothes shopping for things that only a mom should help a young girl with.

Friends, and one friend in particular, was our biggest upset.  She wanted me to know that her very good friend was getting to know lots of boys.  I told her it was time for a new friend.  She balked and yelled and cried.  She defended the friend who she knew was a bad influence.  I felt how scared my daughter was at this promiscuous behavior, yet she was scared also to loose a friend.  I pushed her as much as I could to see the truth about this behavior. 

If a boy likes your friend, that isn't a good enough reason for her to "make out" with him.  No, it isn't.  Girls are not a commodity to be chosen, used and discarded.  May Allah protect my girlie.

What was great to see is how she blossomed during our time together.  She had on more modest clothes.  She took my advice to wear her hair differently to show off her pretty face (mashahallah).  She started wearing earrings more regularly.  She got her braces off.  She grew more confident from my voice and my love.  I'm glad I was there for her.  Inshahallah, she can thrive in the time we spend away from each other.

It was wonderful to see my kids interacting, playing, joking, laughing, and appreciating their bond.  I took so many pictures of the three of them.

English  got 7 votes.  It was nice to see it on signs; nice to hear it on the TV.  I enjoyed using my English in stores.  I still kept speaking in Arabic every morning when my hub would call on the Magic Jack.

Water got 7 votes.  Yes, it was nice not to boil my water in order to drink it.  I kept feeling I was forgetting to do something!  Drinking it out of the tap was so easy!

Relaxing got 6 votes.  I don't feel I relaxed really.  I feel like I hit the ground running.  I had a limited time and a lot to accomplish.  The deal with my dad took up over a week of my time and energy.  I really needed to jump in and clear out my mom's basement.  I had to pack a lot of life into four bags (which later became four bags and two boxes).

Familiar Places got 6 votes.  Some of those familiar places were good and of course some were bad.  I saw the homes I used to live in.  I saw places of employment where I used to go everyday. 

The Fourth of July had me celebrating with all my former nursery school playmates.  I wore a red galabiya with a red, white and blue hejab wrap.  I stood out.  I wanted to stand out.  I wanted to shout it out, "I'm here!"  And I sought out former friends and gave hugs and took pictures and lived life to the fullest without fear of what they might think or say.  It felt great!  I broke a burden of shame that day.  I had nothing to be ashamed of in my journey.  I was living proof that it all had been worth it.

My Friends got 5 votes.  I loved seeing my friends!  I miss them.  We had visits and outings and time to talk and laugh.  My friends have kept me sane many a time over here and it was so great to get some hugs from them.

One friend had been avoiding me but I bumped into her on the Fourth of July---subhanallah.  She was ashamed that the hijrah she made hadn't lasted very long.  She couldn't keep staying in her husband's family house.  There had been a big blow-up between her and his family and she got in really depressed... and had to leave to save herself.  She didn't want me to know this.  "You're a stronger person than me," she told me.

I wish that she had taken up my offers later to get together and talk...or not talk.  I love this lady so much.  Her hijrah hurt her and I can understand that.  There are times when mine has too.  I wish we could have shared our experiences but she never allowed for that.  She compared us and thought of me as being better somehow and really I'm not.  I'm not stronger.  Sometimes, it is the stronger person to say, "STOP!  I can't handle this any more."

Another friend used to teach with me and I hadn't seen her since we were both uncermoniously let go from an Islamic school (which would have sucked all the deen out of us if we had stayed).  She is no longer covering and is further away from Islam than ever.  It was very hard for me to see her without hejab.  She saved each one and handed a big bag of them. That really touched me.  She no longer wanted them for herself but she still saw the value of them belonging to someone else.  God bless her.

Peace and Quiet got 5 votes.  I didn't like peace and quiet!  It felt weird.  I missed the street vendors calling.  I missed the neighbors calling for their kids.  I missed the tuk-tuks.  Mom's neighborhood was creepy quiet.

Shopping got 5 votes.  I did a TON of shopping.  I spent a lot of money on things I needed and wanted and couldn't live with out.  I had really planned ahead of time for what I needed.  I did go to the thrift stores, craft and sewing stores, Walgreens, Target, Party City and malls.  I am not a materialistic person but I feel how deprived from cheap, quality goods we are here.

Freedom got 5 votes.  I didn't really have any more freedom there than here.  I felt scared to walk the streets alone; scared at night.  I missed having a family surrounding me and protecting me.  The craziness of news stories made me hate the "freedoms" of America. 

Weather got 5 votes.  Actually, the weather sucked.  It was freezing cold the day I arrived.  I was under three blankets and shivering.  Two weeks of rain and severe storms followed.  The mosquitos were awful after that and Mr. Boo's bites triggered frightening swelling.  Then, the sauna-like summer began with high humidity.  I actually missed Egypt's weather! 

I felt too like I was out of touch with the weather from all the air-conditioning my mom was using.  I would be enjoying some pleasant sunshine and warmth when I would be told to close the windows.  We would then be chilled to uncomfortableness.  I was sad to be without the sun and actually felt somewhat depressed from missing the bright sun of Egypt.  I am very glad that I didn't make the trip in the winter!

Books got 4 votes.  I did do a lot of reading---though never as much as I'd like. 

One of the most amazing moments on the trip came when I opened up my super-enormous Mohammed Asad Quran.  I had left it behind two years ago, even though I treasure it.  I'm guessing it weighs over ten pounds. 

So, there I am cracking it up where the ribbon has been patiently waiting for me to return.  And I look.  And I think.  And I look again.  Nooooo...couldn't be...

I wait until my husband's morning call before I jump to any crazy thinking.  I's too crazy to think what I'm thinking.  When first I got my Mohammed Asad Quran, I started reading it from the beginning to the end.  Unlike my Ahmed Ali translation, I didn't make it all the way through since I had been reading the Tafsir (Islamic footnotes) as well.  So, I stopped at Luqman back in August, 2009.

When I got to Egypt, I didn't have a Quran with me in paper form.  I thought I could just read the Quran I had on my computer.  That didn't work out.  It wasn't the book sitting on the table to coax me every morning to be a better person by reading some wisdom.  So, one night, when my hub-to-be took me to Khan Khalili, we bought an Al-Azhar translation of the Quran.  I thankfully started reading it again in the morning.

I decided to read it from the end to the beginning.  No Tafsir.  It was good to get back to my routine, though I did miss my favorite translation.  I read it one last time the morning this June, before I went to the airport.

I had to ask my husband to check my Quran.  I needed him to tell me.  "Tell me where the bookmark is."


Subhanallah!  The first page of Luqman in both copies of Quran.  Whether from front to back or back to front, I had come full circle.  I was in the place I needed to be and God was with me.  I felt that.


I also read:

"The 7 Habits of Effective Teens," since I'm a little immature and can't handle the corporate mumbo-jumbo of the Covey book for adults.

"Just Kids," a heart-felt and disturbing memoir from Patti Smith about her time with Robert Mapplethorp

"Suporting Love," by Bert Hellinger which was gifted to me by the only woman (apart from my mother) who loved my father and me.  It's a pyscho-drama way of getting rid of old family constellation baggage.

And I bought my Kindle!!!  I really like it.  I bought the 3G wireless network one and that's what I would recommend.  You can browse the net with it and it saved me during my stay.  I could check the 'net and not go cold turkey.  I plan on doing a lot of reading on it now that I'm back.

Driving also got 4 votes.  I DIDN'T DRIVE!!!  I can't believe how long it's been.  My license had expired.  My state went belly-up while I was back and couldn't renew it for a long time.  No one was offering their car anyway and I just let it go.  I have no driver's license now.

Making Dawa  got 3 votes.  I did actually talk to lots of people from my past about my decision to move to Egypt.  Making hijrah has been a positive for me so inshahallah those who have wanted the best for me can be at peace knowing that I've found the best with Islam.  Alhumdulillah.

TV and Movies  got 2 votes.  Netflix made it possible for me to catch up on a lot of movies I had missed.

  • The Queen
  • The King's Speech
  • Social Network
  • Memoirs of a Geisha
  • Darjeeling Ltmd.
  • Into the Arms of Strangers-a documentary of the Kindertransport
  • Sex and the City 2
 I also popped in the tape of "Singing in the Rain," because it is too awesome.

I did watch some TV. 

I watched REGRETTABLY "The Bachlorette" because it's one of my mom's favorite shows.  I was cheering on Ben but in the end, the whole thing was a sickening mess of haram.  Astragferallah, that I wasted hours which I'll never get back again.

Mom's other favorite show is "So You Think You Can Dance" and that was worthwhile. 

I watched the Extreme Make-over Show for people who were grossly obese.  That was interesting and inspirational.  So was seeing some of the last Oprah shows. 

Mr. Boo watched a lot of TV.  In fact, I wanted him to watch a lot of PBS so his strong Arablish accent would go away a bit.  It worked!  He loved, "Martha Speaks," "Wild Kratts," and "Dinosaur Train." 

Working got no votes.  I didn't work to earn money but I sure did work to free myself from years of hoarding collecting.  Many bags went to friends, schools and Goodwill.  I worked organizing my photos and even if I didn't bring all the albums with me, it felt good to sort through my life and get some perspective once again with who I have been and who I will always be.

Next, I'll tell you "What I Missed in Egypt".


Kaighla said...

MashaAllah sister. It made me so happy to read about your time in America. What an experience you had! I really can't wait to read more about it. I do have one question, though: where are your children when you are not in America? Do they stay with their father?
And , I LOVE the Extreme Makeover show, many of your movies listed (darjeeling limited, memoirs f a geisha, king's speech...all amazing choices) and my son is an addict of PBS, especially martha speaks, dinosaur train and super why. ha ha ha. Ramadan Mubarak to you, insha Allah.

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Umm Aaminah said...

A'salaamu alaikum sis. I guess I was most surprised that, while you did seem to enjoy parts, how acclimated you had became to Egypt, maybe without even realizing it? :-)

Subhanallah.... the blessings we receive!

♥●• Izdiher·•●♥ said...

Its so amazing to see your love for your parents .You kids are cool .don't worry much about them Looking forward for your post What you Missed in Egypt.

MarieHarmony said...

It's great after all to read about your trip - looks like you had a nice trip and could spend quality time with your friends and family.

I imagine it is hard for your relationship with your dad - may God help you.

Have a great week and looking forward reading the next chapter!

Salma @ Chasing Rainbow said...

I re-read the part about your teens...I can so relate to the daughter's issue with the friend.
It felt like a deja vu,lol.

Yosra said...

Asalamu Alaykom Salma,

Tough teenage years, right?

Man! I'm really glad that girl didn't continue with my girlie through high school. I'm happy that my sweetie is with another friend who ISN'T boy crazy.

I feel sorry for a girl who has been taught by society to be "chosen by a boy". If my girl had a stronger personality, then I wouldn't mind if my girl could influence her friend to make better choices. However, this isn't the case. May Allah protect this particular friend and all teenage girls like her.