Sunday, April 9, 2017

Doctor! Doctor!

Asalamu Alaykom,

This is a combo of both a health update and reiteration that life in Egypt is often crazy.  If you haven't read the previous post about my problems with my ear, read Without Sujud.

Problems are like a swim out into the open water.  As long as you swam out, is how long you will have to swim back.  Health problems that took weeks, months, or years to accumulate won't be fixed in a day.  My Eustachian tube issues have been a long swim back.

The last time I wrote about what was going on, it was that I had missed a doctor's appointment.  Rather, I had been there, but he had already left.  I hadn't just missed the appointment, I had missed the entire person being there!  It's Egypt and workers on all levels do as they feel.  He had felt like leaving after 15 minutes, so he did.

For our next appointment, after another week on (unprescribed) antibiotics, I showed up plenty early.  We were shown to a dark waiting area and sat listening to the nurse on her mobile talking to her man.  I got to know her home life pretty intimately, and it was a bit embarrassing.  She had thought that if she were crouched behind the receptionist desk, I wouldn't hear her.  It's was a little like how small children cover their own face and say, "You can't see me!"

The doctor came out twice to get help.  First, he needed an examination instrument.  Next, it was a prescription pad.  Each time, Chatty had to get up, tell her beloved to wait a minute, shuffle off to find what he needed and shuffle back.  While the mobile has improved the lives of Egyptians, it hasn't exactly improved productivity.

By the third time the doctor stuck his head out of the door, and she wasn't available, he lost it.  He made a loud declaration that he couldn't work in such a place and stormed out.  I had been watching the whole show and now needed to jump into action if I wanted an ear examination.

"Doctor!  Doctor!"  I was yelling out to him as I ran after him through the small hospitals's corridor.  He either didn't hear me or was completely disregarding me.  I kept after him and now we were in the street.

"Doctor, don't you remember me?"  I was speaking in English and he was ignoring me in defiance.  He had now jumped in his car and I was standing there.

"Please, Doctor.  My ear!  You have to look at my ear!"

If I had stood in front of his car, he would have run me over.  He was that determined to get the hell out of there.  In hindsight, whatever problems the lackadaisical nurse might have been, the doctor had many more problems of his own.

Now his inability to treat his patients, meant that I had no answers on my ear.  I still had too much of a blockage that made it harder to hear than I wanted to admit.  If I didn't have a qualified doctor to diagnose me, then I was back to treating myself without a license.

I slowly walked back from the street scene to the hospital.  Upon returning, my husband, thankfully, was not mad at me, despite the fact that I, as his hijabi wife, had chased after a man.  There was another scene inside the reception area.  The rotund owner of the hospital, a friend of my husband's brother, was now involved.

I laid into him, "Do you want patients to come and pay money at this hospital?"

He answered the only way any health care administrator could ever answer, "Of course."

"Because I have money and I want to pay you money, but I can't if there's no doctor.  It is not professional here."  I looked at the crowd listening to us.  There was Chatty, so I switched to Arabic and took my frustrations out on her.

"It's her fault!  She is the one who didn't help the doctor. She was on her phone talking to her love and it was weird for us in the waiting area.  Unprofessional!  She should be fired to show everyone how to work correctly!"

The nurse was one cool customer and didn't bat an eyelash.

The hospital administrator told me that he could get me another doctor that same day to see me.  I would have to come back in a couple of hours.  Our appointment had been 4:30 and now we would return at 6:30.  There went my time correcting papers!

What was I going to do?  My husband kept laughing over my dash with the doc.  I was less enthused.  Who was this next doctor going to be, and was I ever going to get relief?

At 6:15, again we walked, just the two of us, to our local hospital.  I hate a lot of aspects to living in our neighborhood, but I love much more.  Being able to walk to the hospital is such a blessing.  I'll never forget when we had to run El Kid over to get stitches when he lost a fight with the corner of the wall.

Again, we waited.  I don't wait very well.  I always think of Mr. Roger's song, "Let's think of something to do while we're waiting."  I cleaned out my purse of all the stupid accumulations.

A woman arrived in some state of shock or spasms.  Not sure what was going on, but she looked frozen with apoplexy.  Her family was surrounding her.  If you've never seen a person in need of medical attention in Egypt, then let me tell you:  a crowd of unhelpful people gather and make the situation worse every time.  My husband kept invoking God next to me as we had a view to the whole sad situation.

Some car accident victims walked in, the walking wounded.  They were fixed up and sent back.

In the midst of all these troubles, I saw Chatty, the nurse from before.  She hadn't gotten fired.  Silly me!  We don't fire people in Egypt for incompetency, or no one would be left holding a job.  She was fine, so I sent a loud greeting of "Asalamu Alaykom" her way.  She turned and answered back.  We faced each other in a kind of détente.  Islam helps us through those awkward moments when we really have a lot of things we could say, but there isn't time or there isn't the ability.

The new doctor arrived!  Up until this point, I hadn't been 100% sure that another doctor existed.  There he was.  He was younger and, for a change, he was headed into the hospital not out.  Basically, that was all I needed.

There was more!  He was fluent in English---although all doctors are supposed to be, they are not always keeping conversational since there aren't so many English speakers here now.  He listened to me and my descriptions of a crackling in my ear.  He then showed me his laptop and his camera.  He would be taking a video of my ear.

Say what?!

Yes, I was zooming from the 20th Century with the previous doctor to the 21st Century with this doctor.  I was trading up for sure!  How incredible technology is---and how strange.  To see what's going on inside your own body?!  It's slightly miraculous.  I'm glad that I had cleaned out any wax beforehand as that would have been tantamount to having not cleaned the apartment before guests arrived.

The tricky part, as always, with wearing a hijab and seeing a doctor is that the hijab often has to be removed.  It feels as strange to me as if I were removing all my clothes.  It just does.  The saving grace is that I never am asked to remove it completely.  I simply pull up whichever side or area that needs examination.  I retain as much privacy and modesty as I can.  My husband has no problem with this.

Sure enough, there was the problem.  I could see it on the video he took.  There was water behind my ear drum.  Everything else was fine.  I simply needed to clear that water out.  It sounded simple, but it would be a barrage of medicines and chewing gum.  Chewing gum??  Yep.

"What about the antibiotics?"  I asked.

"You don't need those.  You probably never needed those, "answered the doctor.

I thought of those four rump shots from which I had only now recovered.

After thanking him, and agreeing to return in two weeks, we left the hospital.  This time, at the pharmacy, my husband had more patience.  We returned home together (instead of him walking away) and we were a little more hopeful.  We had gotten a better doctor, a more insightful diagnosis, and inshahallah better medicine.

We are told that when God takes away, we are given better.  It's absolutely true!  It really is.  I was ready to run after a man who couldn't help me.  What if he had acquiesced to my imploring?  I would have been the loser.  It was right---even though it felt wrong at the time---for him to drive off.  He didn't have the ability to help me and the other doctor did.


After two weeks, my ear is better.  It's not completely cured.  I don't know why.  We will return to the hospital another time to try to pinpoint why.  It's a problem that was left without proper treatment for too long, so inshahallah, it will get better over time, as I swim back to shore.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Future You

Asalamu Alaykom,

It's a new term at school and it's the last term of the year.  The third term is very important, yet the students can't visualize how to start it because they are tired.  They're still recovering from Term two exams.  I gave my pep talk.

"Nobody is taking down these notes, but it's going to be really hard to remember all this information in June when you're taking your finals.  You're in March!  June is a long time from now.  The you in March or the "March You" is going to need to help the "June You" now."

What I told my students is of course true for all of us as well.

One of my favorite mottos is "Make hay while the sun shines" however it probably doesn't resonant with as many as it used to.  I actually have been on a farm helping a single mother with hay baling.  That hard work was needed and every time it seemed too hard it was best to remember that the winter without food for the animals would be impossible.

Winter is the hardship and after hardship there is ease.  During times of ease---and most of us have FAR more times of ease than the single-mom farmer---we need to push ourselves to prepare for the times of hardship.  God has promised us that life is full of cycles:  day and night, life and death, hardship and ease.  We shouldn't be surprised that life has times of both.  We should push ourselves in times when we can to get work done that will help keep us going through the future's challenges.

It could be something that needs your mind:

  • finishing a project for work
  • studying for school
  • sending THAT email
  • writing your story
  • applying for next year

It might be actual physical labor:

  • washing the dishes
  • doing laundry
  • cleaning 
  • putting away last season's clothes
  • sorting through clutter

 It could be spiritual work:
  • praying 
  • reading deep wisdom
  • memorizing Quran
  • making amends
  • having a quiet time in nature

All of our actions break through the inactive downfall of procrastination.  When I'm playing a game like Candy Crush, I see how any action is better than inaction.  Moves must be made in order to win.  We all see this, but we hope to somehow avoid making moves in our lives.

Then, the future sneaks up on us and it's not pretty.  

  • the supervisor didn't like the excuse given 
  • dishes that sat in the sink didn't wash themselves  
  • no clean clothes to wear
  • undone prayers added up quickly
  • you're stuck in sameness

It's an ugly realization that we've wasted time and that's the resource we never get back again.  This is going to be especially true as Ramadan approaches.

For me, I know that I do not want another Ramadan without me having finished studying the Quran with my son.  I do not want to leave this world without that effort having come to completion.  On the weekends, I am pushing that agenda with enthusiasm and, if need be, some seriousness.  Wallahi, I can only get it done envisioning the happiness and relief I will feel inshahallah this Ramadan having done what I set out to do almost three years ago.

Maybe there are others of you who can't imagine HOW the Quran gets read in one month.  It's doable because it happens---it's just never happened to me.  I know that if it is done in small chunks, combined as part of the process of five prayers it is easier.  Maybe this year...but if you doubt that you can make it happen, then start NOW in reading Quran and, even if it isn't what everyone does, make it work for YOU.  There are many ways to start now in making the journey for Ramadan easier.

Get Ready for Ramadan

  • make up fasting days
  • give up a nasty habit which is incompatible with Islam
  • cook up and try out new healthy recipes
  • reconnect with family
  • give or ask for forgiveness

There is a "Future You" and a "Future Me".  We need to help them out now.  Even without having ever met them, I am sure they will be thankful for our efforts saying "Alhumdulillah."

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Without Sujud

Asalamu Alaykom,

Sujud, that moment of resting my forehead on the prayer rug in total submission to Allah, is the best place I ever go.  It is when I wish time could stand still and I could stay in that peace forever.  Too soon, I feel that the blood is rushing to my head and I have to rise up and join the rest of the world.  I have to continue on with my prayer and my day.

Yesterday, I got to make sujud on the prayer rug after an absence of a week and it felt like a homecoming.

It started with...well, that's the problem with a story.  When did it all start?  I was going to say that it started with a cold, but it didn't.  It started with a field trip on a day when I knew I was getting sick, but I was too committed to my job.  I went.

I went all over Cairo with kids and visited mosques and bazaars.  I was tired, but content that I saw more of the land I've adopted as my home.

The next week was the stress of final rehearsals for my show about the Chinese calendar legend of the twelve guardian animals.

It had been more fraught than usual.  Thirteen students had come and gone from the project.

"I don't like my part.  I only have one solo."

"It's taking too long and has too many rehearsals."

"Now that I wear hijab, my parents say I can't be in the show."

"I couldn't find the rehearsals, so I just walked around."

"I really want to be an actress so please let me in the show.  I only need the script and then I'll learn all my lines, so I don't need rehearsals."

"I don't want to be the pig.  Kids will make fun of me."

That last one caused a major re-write.  After a days of wondering what to do, I wrote a play within a play; had all the actors on stage go from being characters to being themselves to deal with the issue of pig-hating Egyptians not wanting to play the part.  The actor who didn't want to be the pig would then be changed, with the audience watching the whole (fake) debate, to a poisonous tree frog and then to a panda.  It was actually a GREAT re-write and I was so pleased with the effort that everyone made to find a solution.

Then, that boy still quit.  We were left without a pig or a panda.  That part never got replaced.  In the end, I had the same set up for someone wanting to quit the show, but one of the other characters on stage reported the events that were supposedly happening off stage.  We got our play-within-a-play without having that actor.

We also didn't have a horse.  I slapped some wooden shelves for the horse's entrance.  Oh, yes, I did.

The next week was the show and I was sick, sick, sick with the cold.  Alhumdulillah, I didn't lose my voice.  I sounded bad as I would introduce the show at the start of each performance, but I did what I could.  The kids were great; the best thing about them is that they had staying power and commitment to making the show happen.  God bless!  How we ever limped along from September to February with all those cast members quitting, I'll never know.

Stubbornness. That's what got us through the hard times of quitters telling us that the show wasn't coming together.  I did get some Mandarian Chinese to come out of the mouths of Egyptian students.  I got an angry rap from the Tiger in a black leather jacket from the most respectful boy you'll ever meet.  I got a studious boy to be superhero cool as the Dragon.  The boy who gets bullied was a great prince and two of the smartest kids in sixth grade got to be imperial stars as the Emperor and Empress.  All together, fourteen students had the chance to be the dreamers of the dream and to create a world that we shared with others.  I didn't give up.  They didn't give up.  Forget any theatrical skills they learned because what they really learned was perseverance.

One of the best moments for me was to look out into the audience and see many of those who used to be in the cast.  They wanted to see what they used to be a part of and gave up.  They had said it couldn't be done and truly it couldn't---with THEM.  The dream was bigger (or weirder) than they were able to envision. 

The show for parents, done on a rainy Thursday afternoon, meant the end of the months of stress.  Like any end to stress at work, that meant that my body fell apart at home during the weekend.  My cold had been with me for two weeks and I was so tired from pushing myself.  I didn't see a doctor because it was only a cold.

Another week and I thought I was feeling better that following weekend.  I pushed myself those days to really get things done around the house.  It had been hard on my husband to do so much around the house in order to pick up my slack.  I was going to clean and organize and manage my life again.  I was also going to pray istakarah on what I should be doing for next year's employment (since I wanted to switch to an Islamic international school, but it wasn't panning out).

The very next day, I was hit by my second cold.  Was that the answer to my prayers?  Within a week, I had lost the hearing in my right ear.  I had read up on the reasons for blocked Eustachian tubes and the cures and tried all the home remedies---even had a fight with my husband over the necessity of buying a hot water bottle.

"I need it."

"You need a doctor."

"No, it's not what I want.  I want that hot water bottle!"

"I don't know where to get it."

"Look!  Here's how you say it in Arabic and here's a picture on the 'net."

"I don't need a picture."

"Yes, you do!  Come back here!  Take a picture of this!"

 None of it helped and I headed off to work through days of revision to make sure everything was covered.

That Wednesday was the first day of exams, I didn't have any proctoring, so I took off work for the only time this year.  It went horribly wrong.  I didn't go to the doctor because I thought I only needed rest.  I couldn't rest; couldn't sleep.  The kids were screaming downstairs all day.  We had another fight.  I cried which made my ear hurt worse, but at least I had that hot water bottle!  Back to work for Friday, and then there was another weekend.  All I needed was rest, right?

No.  I had a severe ear infection which was diagnosed when I finally went to the doctor on Tuesday.  

One good thing about Egypt, I basically got home from a terrible, pressure-filled bus ride, and got an appointment right away for 4:30 pm.  The doctors said that I needed a course of four (rump) shots and two weeks of pills.  The pharmacy didn't have any females on staff so it's been visits to the hospital to have a series of young women tell me that my Arabic is good and ask me where I'm from.  I say I'm from here on hijrah and I don't remember any country before this one.  They jab me with a needle and then I pay them five pounds in thanks, although they all said that I didn't have to.

Still, my ear is closed to sound as if there's frequency on TV.  It's a bit of being in a prison within my head; a taste of what deafness feels like.  Alhumdulillah for this (inshahallah) short-term situation.  I've felt what's it's like to not correctly hear an order from my boss, to smile when I didn't really get what someone said, and to hate big rooms, like the staff room, with lots of voices.  

I can be patient while this heals inshahallah.

What hurt me more than the pain in my ear, or the lack of hearing, was the fact that I couldn't make sujud down to the floor.  I couldn't make sudden movements up and down or I'd experience a big fluctuation in inner ear pressure.  It was too painful and possibly dangerous. I started praying in a chair and making my sujud going down only to my lap.  It was what I could do.

It didn't feel the same.  I couldn't stay down for long.  I had to come up quickly.  Normally, I stay down so long---especially for fajr---in order to pray for those I love.  I pray for my mind, body and soul, and for the same in my husband, my parents, my father's woman friend, my mother-in-law, and my children.  I couldn't stay down in sujud for any of this over the last week.

In the middle of all of this feeling of loss, I gained a huge blessing.  This was when I was wondering why I had been sick for so long, what I had done wrong, and if this was a sign from God in answer to my istakarah prayer.  I had been thinking about changes I needed to make in my life to be healthier mentally and physically; to reduce stress.  I was lost in pain and isolation---really.  I kept going, but I was needing something and I didn't know what.

That's when my daughter emailed me.  It was a couple of weeks after I'd overshared in the staff room about how my relationship with my daughter was strained.  We have loved each other from a distance that often was more emotional than physical.  My tumultuous life had caused a rift between us that neither time nor two visits to the States had mended.  Stupid me for sharing too much;  don't give a report if you don't want a report card.  No, nothing they could tell me would really be the answer that I didn't ask for.  It had me thinking about what I had said and what I had lived through.

It was then that she emailed me that she had a surprise.  She had been taking Arabic classes at university.  She had a project to do on an Arabic country and she had chosen Egypt.  That meant THE WORLD to me.  I would've cried except it would've caused more pressure in my head.

All those years ago, the little four-year-old blondie learning Al-Fatiha had matured into a young woman making choices for herself and she had chosen to learn Arabic.  She had once done a project in elementary school, in the years when she would wear a hijab every Friday, naming Egypt as a place she wanted to visit and now in a university course she was doing a project on Egypt.

She was reaching out to what I had given her long ago.  She was being the girl I knew and loved and letting me know that that girl wasn't lost to me.  She was connected to me and to my life and my choices and that there was respect for what I had done---not because it made her life easier (it hadn't) but because it made me into ME and she could see more of that now that she was older, out of her father's house, and making decisions for who SHE wanted to be.

Okay, she didn't say all that.  She only emailed that she was in her second semester of learning Arabic, that she wanted to surprise me, and that she was doing a project on Egypt.  Like I said, it meant the world to me.

I don't know what everything else in my life means.  I don't know why I'm not supposed to hear well these days, or why I can't get hired easily by an Islamic school.  I'm not sure why I am still married to the same man who drives me crazy even after seven years.  I don't know if this is the country I am destined to live and die in even if I can barely navigate a doctor visit.

I don't know.

What I do know is that seeds that were planted years ago, have grown into something beautiful today.  It was something that I did in this life and if I hadn't been the person with the belief that growth was possible, then it never would have happened.  Good things are happening in this world because of what I have done.

I lost sight of that.

I lost sight because I was looking down at my own feet wondering where I was going.  I forgot that you can't really go forward while looking at the spot beneath your feet.  You've got to look ahead and believe that it's all good.

This year, especially with the election and the aftermath of the election, has been super negative.  It's been a depressing downer.  My illness "coincidentally" coincided with the first month in the White House.  It has felt horrible to be a Muslim-American in the world.  It's easy to think that the world is what is happening politically, but the world is what we make of it.  Our worlds need to be smaller when the big problems weigh us down.

It's been a long time away from the blog---and from readers.  I have many thoughts of what to say in the time I'm not writing.  I wait.  I wait until what I want to say makes more sense.  That's been a while for me.  Thanks to those of you who hoped I was OK.  I wasn't, but I am on the mend now. 

After four days of shots, I could go down in sujud onto the prayer rug.  It was scary to submit fully again because I didn't know how it would feel.  The pain wasn't there, but I didn't risk staying longer than needed.  It wasn't the same sujud as before, when I was in the depth of prayer for as long as I could stand it.  It was a quicker sujud, but it was more meaningful because I had lost it for that time.  Alhumdulillah.

Everything is more meaningful once we've lost it.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Why Janet Jackson Named Her Baby Eissa

Asalamu Alaykom,

Mashallah!  Mashallah!  Mashahallah!

Arabic people often praise God in threes for emphasis.  "Mashahallah" means that I'm acknowledging that something has come from God.  In this case, I'm soooooo happy for Janet Jackson and her husband Wissam Al Mana on the birth of their baby boy Eissa.

Why name him "Eissa"?

First of all, naming a child in the Arabic culture is VERY important.  Muslims believe that on the Day of Judgement believers will be called by their first name and father's name.  There are cases from the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) when names with negative connotations were changed.  An example from modern times might be a girl named Brandy (an alcohol) would be better to have her name changed as people will always associate something lascivious about her.

Janet has not said that she wants an Arabic name herself and she does not have to change her name ever.  I changed my name because I just felt done with who I had been before as if that time had been used up.  I didn't hate my birth name and it didn't have any bad meaning.

We don't know if Janet Jackson has come to Islam like her older brother Jermaine.  There had been talk of Michael Jackson (May God give him a rest in peace) coming to Islam, but that never was confirmed.  Janet does not have to come to Islam to be married to a Muslim man.  She was raised Christian and can stay Christian.

I see that at least one UK paper has announced that Janet Jackson converted (or "reverted" as I say).   Unless Janet Jackson comes out publicly to state that this has happened, I will not assume that she has.  It is not necessary to come to Islam in order to raise a Muslim child.  If she is accepting enough of her husband and his ways, then she will do just fine as Um Eissa.  This is her new honorary title meaning "Mother of Eissa" and her husband becomes Abu Eissa or "Father of Eissa".

Often times, women who marry Arabic speakers gravitate to a name in Arabic---maybe a translation of their name in English, such as Mary liking the name Maryam.  Maryam is actually the name for Jesus' mother (respect to her) and there is a chapter in the Quran named after her "Surah Maryam".

It is often a surprise to Christians that Isa Ibn Maryam (Jesus, son of Mary) is so revered by Muslims.  No, we don't believe he is son of God.  I never believed that so I wasn't a very good Christian.  However, we all respect him as one of the great messengers along with twenty-four others mentioned in Quran.  These men brought new laws from God to the people.  They are "Rasul" in Arabic.    

  1. Adam
  2. Idris (Enoch)
  3. Nuh (Noah)
  4. Hud (Eber)
  5. Saleh
  6. Ibrahim (Abraham)
  7. Lut (Lot)
  8. Ismail (Ishmael)
  9. Ishaq (Isaac)
  10. Ya'akub (Jacob)
  11. Yusuf (Joseph)
  12. Ayub (Job)
  13. Syu'aib
  14. Musa (Moses)
  15. Harun (Aaron)
  16. Daud (David)
  17. Sulaiman (Solomon)
  18. Ilyas (Elijah)
  19. Ilyasa' (Elisha)
  20. Yunus (Jonah)
  21. Zulkifli (Ezekiel)
  22. Zakaria (Zachariah)
  23. Yahya (John the Baptist)
  24. Isa (Jesus)
  25. Muhammad (mentioned by Jesus as coming after him)

You can read more about the list of messengers (peace be upon them all) here.   Most names in Quran have another pronunciation in the Bible.  Notice that "Adam" does not.  Obviously, these names are very popular with Muslim parents.  They do fall in and out of fashion like anything in this world.  Here in Egypt, I see a LOT of boys named Mohamed and Yussef but I've never met a Yunus.

Many Western moms who are married to Arabic men like to chose a name that still connects them to their world that they knew before.  Popular American names like David, John, and Zack become  Daud, Yahya and Zackaria.

Of course, because the names in English are transliterated from Arabic, it is the sound of the name that is being approximated.  That means that three boys with the same name in Arabic could have it spelled three different ways: Daud, Dawud, Dawood or Yahya, Yahia, Yehya.  

This is true with Janet Jackson's son too.  She chose the spelling Eissa, but it also gets spelled Eesa and Isa.  Which way is best?  I like how she spelled it and I'm pretty sure it was chosen after consultation with someone knowledgeable.  The way his name in Arabic


starts with the Arabic letter "ayn" which a diphthong, or a two-vowel combination that works together.  I can barely say it!  I basically cop out and say a  one-vowel "ah" for names that start with "ayn" like Umar/Omar, or Aisha.  Truly, it is supposed to be more of an "ah-ee" sound.  Therefore, writing the name as "Eissa" is the most correct, although all the news reports still seem to cop out on pronunciation as they have been saying "Isa".  

What I find interesting is that Janet Jackson could have named her baby "Yasu", 


that's the name for Jesus according to the Arabic Christians, but she didn't.  This signals a very real bonding to her Muslim man and a respect for his religion.  Her religion?  I don't know, but in the Muslim faith a child is the religion of the father, so her son is Muslim.  Janet Jackson is now out numbered by two Muslim males---thankfully, she's had lots of practice being outnumbered in her famous family.

The Jacksons had that naming convention of "J" names and in a way her son continues that with being "Jesus".  In America, a son could NEVER be named the English name "Jesus", even though the Spanish name spelled the same way "Jesus" but pronounced "Hay-sus" is given.  She got to be both very different and original, yet traditional at the same time.

Eissa (peace be upon him) brought light to the earth at a time of darkness.  His teachings helped guide the people back to the path they had already be shown by prophets before him.  I am sure that his example has helped both the Jackson family and the Mana family.

Now, Baby Eissa is uniting his mother Janet and father Wissam in a beautiful new relationship as parents that will bond them together as a family.

Please join me as I make du'a (supplication) for this new family.

May Allah protect Janet, Wissam, and Eissa and help them as they learn and grow together.  May Eissa be a healthy and strong child who becomes a leader in the world for better understandings between people and nations.



Sunday, January 1, 2017

My 2016 Images

Asalamu Alaykom,

2016 was a lot of what you're going to see in this post.

It was me trying to be all zen---but picking the wrong place to do it.

2016 also was spending a lot of time on the bus and being too tired.  This square has a large tower above it with the word TIRING actually written on it.  Yes, it is always tiring to go to Cairo.  I like how the billboard man just laughs at it.  I tried to laugh off a lot of 2016.

Some of the year, I forgot to look around me and catch what was really going on.  When I did stop myself from being mundane, I would realize how blessed I am to be where I am and doing what I'm doing.

One of the things I'm most proud about is that I could envision the 100-Acre Wood in this grove of trees and perform "Winnie-the-Pooh" here for the kindergartners.  Every performance, we were missing an actor.  It was crazy---yet, I continued with my commitment to produce theatre at the school with the motto, "The show must go on!"  


No, I didn't become a truck driver.  If you look beyond the rig, there are trees and in the trees are some white things.  Those are birds that flock to this spot on our way to school.  It is in the part of Giza we have named, "Funky Town" because it just reeks of sewer.  Jokes abound!  The two of us sit next to each other every day and that's a blessing because my son is my favorite person on earth. 

 Those birds in their wilderness sit on the other side of a little rivulet. They create a balance between the beautiful and the grotesque as we sit in the middle.  METAPHOR!

Of course, El-Kid isn't the only middle-schooler in my life.  I have so many and I love them all.  This year, I have given more than ever, in part because one of our fifth graders died over the summer.  I will never have another chance with him, so I have felt more of  a need to do more for those who are still here.

Having said that, it's been a very tough year and I declared that I'm not coming back next year.  I've had one job interview so far.  

This decorated wall is from last years's fifth graders.  I hate charts, but these are chart of sorts.  The top one is for a book on Hatchepsut.  The bottom one is for a book on Crazy Horse.

Each tribe's buffalo is for getting the top score; the teepees are for reaching 90 and above; and the horses are for getting 80 and above.  This year, I initiated the same project, but NOTHING has been placed on the paper I taped up on the wall.  With all their apps and instant gratification from them, I wonder if coloring, cutting, and pasting have left from my classrooms.

I am still going to create.  I do define myself as creative, and these projects need to flow out of me or I burst.  This year, I decided that I didn't want clip art on my wall representing the Lakota people.  I researched, and printed out actual photos and then incorporated them into the Black Hills which surround the narrator's cabin.  I'm so happy with the result---or, I was after I changed the one rock on the shore to gray.  The last lines of the book are written in the waves and were my inspiration for this poster.  

This blog is another example of what I create.  My tweets, some of them reaching tens of thousands this year, are another outlet.  

One way my creativity gets re-charged is from seeing incredible sites.  Egypt is good for that!  Here is the Nilometer, the oldest Islamic building in Egypt.  

My son complained today that, "We always go see places from history!"  Maybe he'll thank me later.

On the last day of the year, we went to Mosque Sayeda Zainab (ra).  She was the granddaughter of the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh).  Egyptians say that she was buried here, but Syrians say she was buried there.  I don't know the truth---God only knows.

It was a bit chaotic at the entrance, 

but once inside it was very welcoming.  Unlike many of the other beautiful mosques, which have a glorious section for the men and a decrepit area for the women, this had a BEAUTIFUL and spacious area for the sisters to pray.

A lot of 2016 has been keeping the faith, finding the ways that my faith can grow, and instilling my son with knowledge of our faith.  That is a full-time job in and of itself.  Being a person of faith is not a side-line hobby.  2017, inshahallah, is going to see more of me building upon my foundation of faith and creating a better life.

Part of really living is not listening to what others say and following what you believe is true for you.

This next picture to represent 2017 was taken when I headed down a driveway.  There were amazing murals on both sides!  I kept shooting pictures as my husband stood on the sidewalk telling me to stop.  I didn't stop.  Why would anyone put up murals if they didn't want them to be admired?!

I'm going to keep on being me and doing what makes sense at the time. 

Having said that I have been independent from my husband's mind, doesn't mean that I don't need him.  I do.  This next picture isn't us, but it represents us pretty well.  We are going down the highway of life together with each one of us holding on for dear life.  In many ways, it's been easier to be married to him this year since he made positive changes in his life.  Yet, it's still a tricky deal to be so close to ANYONE ...let alone an Egyptian man. 

Inshahallah, it will seven years of marriage this month.  Subhanallah for that! 

I also need to include a photo of me on a beach at the Red Sea.  I loved this beach.  I loved floating in utter calmness.  It's my new happy place.

That's not to say that it was all happy.  The whole year wasn't happy.  NOTHING can be all about happiness.  We wish "Happy New Year" but we know that there are going to be problems.  

When we first got married, my husband was shocked that we had problems.  He felt that we always had problems.  We didn't.  He simply misunderstood how life worked.  Now, we both know how to minimize the daily difficulties and move on to what we enjoy more.  Doesn't mean we always do it very well, but we strive towards this more and more.  Alhumdulillah.

Thank God.

For me, it really is all about God.  I took this picture after I stumbled across some tourists who had gotten a little lost looking for the Pizza Hut.  Our family helped them and we ended up eating together.  It was a blessing.  The year has been full of blessings.  Alhumdulillah.

Speaking of blessing, we've been watching "Little House on the Prairie" on DVD and they always say a table blessing.  I decided to re-institute that back into my life.  We now hold onto each other---hands, pinkies, wrists---and create a little circle before saying, "God is great.  God is good.  Let us thank God for our food.  Ameen.  Bismallah."  It's part of my identity as a believer from before I accepted Islam.  It helps me to feel connected to who I was and who I will always be.

I see my signs ---not on Paul Simon's subway walls and tenement halls---but on Arablish T-shirts.

It's a miracle I'm still here.

I truly pray for a better 2017 for everyone.