Friday, May 27, 2011


It's kinda funny.

But living in America you grow accustomed to feeling that disasters, mass deaths and chaos are things that happen in 'other places', that is minus the random occurrences.

They're things we associate with third world countries, or countries across the sea.
Natural disaster in America?
You think Katrina. And that's pretty much it. And even that feels usually feels like eons ago.

Then again, maybe it's just where I live that our world feels like a bubble. While I'm sure there are plenty of people across our country that don't live in this bubble, there definitely are many more of us that do.
It's this bubble of...Should I call it the feeling of invincibility?

It's kinda funny. But this year, I feel like some force is causing all our bubbles to pop or deflate a little.
And some of us are poking our heads out of our bubbles and going like, "..woah"

Lately I've been feeling the fragility of my bubble like life. Death, like death actually happening because of some crazy force of nature or otherwise, sometimes is starting to feel very much real.

I never gave storms a second thought other than that they were scary or cool. But I never truly feared them.
Tornado siren? Okay. Yeah. Like I'm going to go run to whatever part of the house I need to and take shelter. That only happens at school, when they force you.

But then a week or two ago, when a thunderstorm took out our power, I found myself actually praying to God and asking for forgiveness, a part of me battling away any floating thoughts carrying the previous news headlines.

It probably began with everything the Tsunami and earthquake in Japan. We saw a country, so much more advanced and maybe even more organized than us, being brought to its knees.

Then there were the nuclear power plant fears.

Yahoo's front page in America starting showing articles on what to stock up on in case of a disaster.
Then the tornadoes started to hit.

And we've heard about tornadoes, they come to places like Kansas, whip some trees around, sometimes damage people's houses, but everyone takes cover and they're usually fine.

But the tornadoes this year I guess decided they wanted to try something different.

And now our country sits every week and hears or watches about a slew of tornadoes that killed another X number of people that are living just across the state from us or in the same area as where our family lives.

And the bubble feels thinner every time.

I guess it could be kinda funny. But it's more sad than funny no matter how I think about it.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Goodbye Oprah!

Oprah Winfrey said goodbye to The Oprah Winfrey Show yesterday, May 25. It was a bittersweet moment for fans, but not for her she said. "No bitter, just sweet."

I've been watching Oprah since I was in high school. The controversial subjects rang a bell in my heart, as she discussed everything from polygamy in the U.S. to the effects of child molestation. She reminded us to be aware, be alert.

I also enjoyed the celebrity episodes including the one with Bollywood movie stars Aishwariya and Abhishek Bachan after their wedding.

Yesterday I watched the last show with devotion. There was the usual environment: my nephew whining for the remote and my curious niece asking questions. My son and his toddler cousin were putting on the grown-up's shoes and fighting over toys. I barely moved. Oprah was leaving TV as we know it.

I remember a few years ago I would think of ways to get on her show. I knew it had to be something wonderful and well-thought out. Oprah was good at showing people who they really were.

As a minority figure on television, she marked an era of changing people's lives by leading by example and opening up topics for discussion. She had Muslims, gays, murders, rapers, reporters and survivors on her show. She spoke to celebrities and everyday people about everything from fighting and overcoming abuse, education, fashion, strength, and giving back to the world.

From free giveaways to sharing inspirational messages, Oprah dedicated 25 years of her life to TV and being the change she wants to see in others (Gandhi would be proud).

In her farewell speech to the audience she gave a quick reminder for people to believe in God, and to listen for those whispers in your mind that tell you to move forward and to do what you're meant to do. "I only made mistakes when I didn't listen," she said. "Your life is always speaking to you. First in whispers... If you don't listen to the whisper it gets louder and louder."

The outcome of your life depends on you. "Nobody but you is responsible for your life," she said, "Doesn't matter what you’re momma did, what your father didn’t do."

She said all of her 30,000 guests had one thing in common: the need for validation. "Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say mean anything to you?" 

I'm going to miss the 4 p.m. talk show hostess who showed us how to overcome our differences and share humanity; laughter, tears, hugs, and plenty of smiles. 

You can email her at

Comment with your favorite episodes!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

My grandmother

I used to think my grandmother didn't love me. She liked my cousins more and I could tell she liked my little sister, who didn't talk much. My grandmother is a tough-lover. She doesn't show affection easily. Her way of "loving us" is feeding us. She wouldn't nag and say, "Oh please eat," rather she'd say, "The food is good (because she cooked it)," to entice us.

When I was in high school I yelled at her once. I still regret that til this day. This particular incident was an argument between my parents. She listened, but as usual, didn't butt-in. I on the other hand expected her to say something and say what was right. If that day she was planning on doing it, I didn't give her the chance. Rather I said some mean things. I was frustrated. She never brought it up again. I didn't think she cared.

About two years ago I discovered an album at my parent's house. It had pictures of all my grandmother's grandchildren, including my 6th grade school picture. She carried the album in her bag. I was shocked! She did love me after all.

Last year my grandmother decided to go to Bangladesh all of a sudden. She loves her country. The whole family tried to talk her out of it. She wouldn't listen. That's how she is; she does what she puts her mind to. Our family gathered like a magnet at my youngest uncle's house, with whom she lives. As the luggage were being weighed, and my grandmother napped we made jokes about her.

All of us talked late into the night. We shared giggles, and watched each other nearly doze off. We wondered if she wanted us all to go to the airport the next morning. My cousin and I tip-toed into her room to ask her. With my grandmother you never know what would please or displease her. "You ask you ask her," we said back and forth. We were scared.

The next morning we exchanged looks. "What are you guys standing around for. Get in the car," my grandmother said. "I guess we are going," I said to my cousin.Things had changed for both of us. We were both in our second year of marriage (at the time) and it had been ages since the family stayed over and spent time together.

Everyone was thinking: what if this is the last time we'd see my grandmother. At the airport we took family pictures (my grandmother doesn't always take pics). My cousin and I escorted my grandmother to the bathroom. I held her arm. "Oh don't do that," grandmother said. "Why not? What will happen if I hold you?" I asked. "It doesn't feel comfortable," she said casually. I let out a loud laugh. Just a thing she would say.

We gently put her in a wheelchair, hugged her and bid her goodbye. And everyone went back to normal again.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Mother Effer

(Guest Post)

I type this... as tears stream out of my eyes and my heart clenches in a way that can only be the product of utter exasperation and irritation.

I walked around campus today, and heard and heard and heard the repetition of the word "mother effer..." but you know, the full word. Now, as a woman, mother anything strikes a sense of anger within me, but a word that is so saturated with racist history... well, that hurts.
It hurts me so much, that I could help but start crying when I turned to this boy standing by me. And I said.... "do you know what the word you just said means?" and the one who had made the moronic statement said "what?" As though he was unsure of what I was saying, or maybe that I even spoke at all. Given that my voice was shaking, we were in a room full of people, and well I was the only person who really looked "different" I gathered up my courage, threw a silent prayer to the skies and said "It is the term used, in which slave owners referred to their slaves, because they would force them to breed with their mothers"..... And the boy looked at me... I say boy, but he may have been my age, who knows. But he looked at me as though I was the ignorant one, as though I was the rude one, as though I was the one who spent the last 5 minutes cussing up a storm.
And he said, nothing. Actually, it was more of a "gasp" but not in that "oh my God" kind of way. But you know....

So, I walk away, to pick up my order from taco bell, and he turns to his friend and he's like "I have plenty of black friends, and I've never heard that before".... and then starts cussing me out, like I wasn't 2 feet away, or that he was pretending like I should pretend not to hear him. Now, if you were wondering about his race, I guess his statement makes his distinction clear.... So, moving from that point of distinction, his friend, who happened to be black, was so beautifully eloquent, that I just wanted to hug him on the spot, but resisted the urge. Anyway, the one who used the poopy statement, just went on and on about how I should have not spoken. But from the looks of everyone in the room, I think they all stood on me with this issue, and his friend said "she's just educating you about history".... and they just went on and on.

So, I moved on. Sat down at the first secluded table as I tend to do. And began writing. I decided, that I will write a poem about those words, about this encounter, but I am not quite ready to do so yet. Some things are better left unsaid, and sometimes the messenger gets shot, but someone needs to 'deliver the message'. I think he was upset that a small little quiet girl had the audacity to say something to him. I'm sorry for verbally castrating you stranger, but sometimes things are worth saying. Some things, like those words, are better left unsaid....

Now, why the post? Well, it hurts that people are so naively ignorant. Just because you never heard something before, doesn't mean there is no history to it. Science is the discovery of preexisting things, moments, times, experiences, and/or all of the above, and giving it a name or label. Not that I am reducing science to that meaning only, but in this instance I will stand by that definition. I instantaneously started crying when I heard this young man. Tears just poured out of my eyes, as though I was actually standing outside in the rain, rather within the shelter of a building. I hope that people become more aware about the words they use. Or willing to accept advice from a stranger, who has nothing to gain and everything to lose when giving their thoughts to someone they may never see again.

I don't know where I am going with this. But I know this, I am too sensitive when it comes to words. Maybe it's a product of being a student of philosophy, but I hope that people just develop a tiny bit more understanding and respect to their surroundings.

I don't know. I guess I'll never know. Thoughts anyone?

Some posts I'd like to share:

(I came across this amazing post today and was surprised by what I had just learned. I just had to feature this post and help spread the word. The author is the amazing, talented writer, Supreem and you can find the original post and her blog here here:
You won't regret clicking that link. Unless you hate the color green...Thenn you might regret it a little
-Symphonic Discord author)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

If only it were that simple..

The other day my students and I were playing SPARKLE, a spelling game I introduced to them a couple of months ago. For some reason, they loveee this game. And I really appreciate playing it with them and seeing them get enthusiastic about it, because it's educational and they practice lots of spelling with it and they eagerly anticipate the days when we play it. The object of the game is to be the last one standing when all the words have been spelled and all is said and done.

In the midst of playing SPARKLE, and waiting for the students to spell the word tornado, a little hand goes up in the air and seeks my attention.

"Yes, N. What do you need?"

"I just wanted to say that yesterday in Alabama there was a really, really bad tornado."

"Yeah, it's very, very, very sad because a lot of people lost their lives."

"I also just wanted to say that my grandmother died in that tornado."

Left speechless, after a minute or two and not knowing how to react properly, I said the first thing that came to my mind.

" Wow. I dont know what to say. I'm so, so, so, incredibly sorry......"

"...... Would you like a hug?"

"Yes, please"

And I put my arms around her and I give her a tight squeeze which she returned with a bigger squeeze.

"You alright?"

"Yes. I feel better."

And so, as silly as it may sound, I wish I could reach out to the people in Alabama, in Japan, in New Zealand, in Haiti, in Syria, in Egypt, in Yemen, in Palestine, in any part of the world, high, low, where tragedy and misfortune has befallen, and just give them a huge hug. And tell them that I am so sorry for their pain and for their loss. And tell them that somehow, someway, everything is going to be okay.

God willing.

And as Controlled Chaos said before, May God grant peace, mercy, strength, and guidance to all those that are suffering and enduring such difficult times.


Monday, May 2, 2011

Mohamed's Journey

Sometimes we meet people in our lives that don't strike us as amazing or anything special. Perhaps we just run into them, have a conversation or two, and then we go about our lives. Sometimes its not until we look back at our experience with them that we realize they left an imprint on our souls. 

Three years ago while I was in Egypt I traveled to a tourist city in Sinai along the Red Sea. Tourists from all over the world flock this city to bask in the sun, enjoy all sorts of water activities, explore mountainous regions, and most all party all night. 

There was a restaurant that all of us went to as a chill place when you just want to watch the water while sipping on some amazing drink. There was a waiter at this place whose name was Mohamed. He was young, very fit, and pretty easy on the eyes; the young European and American girls thought he was adorable. 

See, Mohamed was from a good and religious family from a relatively low class in Cairo. He moved to this city after high school to make good money to support his family. He used to love hearing the athan (call to prayer) five times a day out loud from the hundreds of mosques in the city and he would be so excited to go to his mosque everyday with his father in the evening. 

When he moved to Sinai, he experienced a culture shock. His entire world changed. The city was filled with tourists and locals who didn't dress or behave as those did in his hometown. The Muslim men who worked in the city were infamous for partying at night with the American/European/Australian women at bars and clubs. They were even more infamous for having a new country represented in their beds every other night. 

At first Mohamed was disgusted and promised himself that he wouldn't fall into this life of sin. But slowly, as he continue to work and stay there, this culture became quite normalized to him until he too was engaging in similar activities. There was one woman vacationing from Switzerland that fell madly in love with Mohamed. They enjoyed their time together so much so that quite randomly they got married in the city and the girl decided to stay with him there. 

Several years later Mohamed finally saved enough to buy himself and his wife a one way ticket to Canada. He was so excited to start his new life with his wife in the Western world, a place he had come to know so well through his customers at the restaurant. 

He found something so strange in Canada, very different than what he expected. He came to know of a mosque near his home and so he decided to visit; perhaps he would find people like himself. At the mosque he found Muslims from all over the world praying together and creating a beautiful community for their families. They didn't go out partying all night as many Western tourists would do so in the tourist city back in Sinai. They were simple people, contemplative on life and their purpose. They took out time to pray to their Lord five times a day, even though their work schedules were busy and rigorous from 9-5. They convened every month at their mosque to eat and catch up with one another. And most surprising, they actually read their Holy book the Quran. 

Mohamed started attending at least 2-3 prayers out of the day at the mosque. He hadn't prayed consistently in many many years. His wife started seeing a side of him she had never come to know. She didn't know much about Islam, nor had she even been very interested in it before. 

I messaged Mohamed about a week ago when I randomly found him on Facebook. I had barely spoken to him or gotten to know him at all when I was in Egypt. It was so beautiful hearing his story and seeing him grow so much. He now worries about what he'll do when they have children, how he wants them to be Muslims of unwavering faith and consistent good deeds. 

Mohamed's story inspired me. Sometimes we get so lost in our environments. We make the wrong friends and make some bad decisions. And sometimes when we've strayed so far from our values and beliefs we begin to think we can never make it back by moving forward. So instead we get trapped in a delusion. Mohamed's life reminds me that God is there and when you're ready to turn to Him, He will be there with open arms ready to forgive you and help you change your ways, help you to find a better environment in which you can cultivate your faith and be rooted in true morals. 

*FYI: Mohamed's name was changed for this post.

In our thoughts

A prayer for all those who were affected by the crazy weather and tornados right here in America.

May God grant strength, mercy and guidance to those suffering and to those who lost loved ones. And I hope no stupid politics take away from the help that is needed.