Category Archives: Uncategorized
Following two months of zero update and almost a year of chronic hand pain, I’ve finally decided to start video blogging, even if the result is less than perfect. Perfection belongs to Allah alone. Yes, that is my excuse.
So it’s crunch time. The house is being packed and sorted into a bazillion little piles, all bound in invisible string and tied directly to my heart. Every time a little pile- Khalid’s first artworks, Iman’s first story, Musfira’s baby blanket- fails to make the packing priority list, it stings as it’s tugged and let loose.
Every thing sold has a history, good or bad. Some strings were tied too tightly, and feeling them snap and fall away feels like being able to breathe again. Things I’ve wanted to burn are instead given away, things I wanted to keep forever in my hands will be left behind and then kept in my heart instead.
Growing up with a Mormon mother, I was taught to document, treasure, and save all these little piles of things and cherish them from one international move to another. I have carried with me a drawing my little brother made me in 1994 as well as the first tooth that I lost since I first lost it.
But growing into a Muslim, I have come to understand that this frantic need to preserve every last scribble is futile for three reasons.
First of all, Allah has sent angels to record every word, thought, and moment in my life with nothing less than Divinely powered accuracy. They’re doing a much better job of recording my life than I ever could.
Second, I can’t take it with me. Nothing will go with me into my grave except for my good deeds. Not even the doll my mother bought me when I was four. That would be exceptionally creepy.
Third, Allah will take the universe- the entire vast and incomprehensibly big universe- into His right hand and roll it up like a scroll. It’ll be done. Khallas. Finished. Destroyed. Why do I need to preserve what the angels have documented and what Qadr will destroy? Why do I need to preserve that which was intended to be temporary?
I don’t. So I’m not. The only exception to this is my poetry, and now that every dresser and drawer is being dumped out and aggressively sorted, random poems are coming out of the woodwork. So I may be posted random poetry here and there as I find it. And once it’s been typed, I will be throwing it in the garbage.
In parts of the world, like America (where I grew up) there is a tradition of crafting things for no reason other than the fact that you can, yay!
So here is our Ramadan Fanoos How-To, especially useful if you happen to be living in parts of the world where they do sell flat-packed meatballs and Swedish furniture in gravy, but not Ramadan decorations.
You will need:
- Ikea lanterns
- Whatever nail polish your children haven’t painted their teeth with yet
- Sparkly bits
You will then:
- Exercise saintly levels of maternal patience while the children paint the tables, floors, hands, fingers, and glass windows of the lamps.
- Remember to cover the table, so start the craft over on a plastic sheet.
- Tell children to paint the glass as many times as necessary to achieve desired opacity (or the lack thereof) as cheap nail polish can be frustratingly invisible when applied on glass.
You can use:
- random sparkly bits and notions to jazz the lamps up. We used sequins and they stuck well enough on to the wet nail polish.
- caution: The top part of the lamp will heat up once a candle is lit inside, we kinda regret using nail polish on the top section, as it smells. We put crystals there too, and they melted. They’re not there anymore.
- an electric tea-light instead of a real candle in case you don’t want to deal with heat or children burning themselves whenever they see they pretty fanoos and say ooooooooh!
- Ramadan Kareem.
Certain blog posts are composed entirely of angst. This will be one of them.
And now, in alphabetical order, I present to you the causes of my angst.
Arthritis: My everything hurts. But it stopped hurting when I started meds for the arthritis. But then I was having nightmares every night, and going to sleep at night became a source of angst. So then my Dr. changed my meds, and the nightmares stopped but all the pain came back. I followed up with doc, and she said that if my pain isn’t responding to this medicine then it might not even be from arthritis, so now I’m confused (and also, in pain) because if it’s not arthritis then why did everything stop hurting with the last medicine?
Autism: Khalid’s doing amazingly on an academic level, but his social skills are stuck in KG mode. I take him to play and he ends up being by himself regardless of the number of children there, because other nine year olds don’t speak his play language. He gets along best with five year olds. They still play trains and dinosaurs and simple cause & effect games.
Blogging: I feel guilty about neglecting my blog, like properly remorseful. And yet, between the pain involved with writing and the pain of my subject matter, I’m really having a hard time. I’m stressed, so I’m going to end up writing about stress. I don’t want to though, I’m not here to bring myself or other people down. I know that people will find whatever they’re looking for, and I refuse to look for pain. Pain seems to be looking for me though.
EDS: My neck got stuck again a few days ago, and I couldn’t find my phone, husband was out of the country, and the kids needed a blue million things but all they got was peanut butter & jelly. Eventually I found my phone and ordered in fried chicken, Alhamdulillah. Took some painkillers and slathered myself in voltaren gel. Am still stiff but at least I can move my neck. This whole EDS thing is getting more irritating as time passes, even my wrists creak & grind now.
Fever: I had one of those for the last two days. I went to bed at 7:30 pm yesterday, and was up and down all night with bad dreams, drenched in sweat, and disoriented. I’m hoping tonight will be better. HF got home today after being away for a week, and managing the kids and work without him is never a walk in the park.
Finances: So we’re thinking of moving to the US so we can find better help for Khalid, but money makes the world go round. Admittedly, we don’t have all that much. Alhamdulillah, Allah has blessed us with more than most people- that we have a room over our heads and food every day is more than even half the world’s population can claim, but relocating the whole family, setting up a new home, and me being unable to work a full-time job due to health is worrying me.
Hamster: Marty died last week or so. She passed away peacefully in her sleep. The girls buried her in a flower pot in the backyard and put a little marker on her grave and while they seem to be over it, every time I look out the kitchen window and see her resting place it makes me sad again. I don’t actually know if Hamsters go to Jannah, heh.
Husband: Oops! I’ve been caught out of bed. Time to be a grownup and stop blogging in the dark.
There’s this thing in writing where you just make yourself write non-stop for a certain amount of time without the pressure of a desired outcome of the expectation of making any sense. I call it blogging. 😉
So I’m going to be on the radio tomorrow. You can listen here at 10am GMT + 4. It’s not my first radio interview, but it is my first time being in a recording studio with fancy button and knobs and levers. There’s a lot of exciting stuff happening at work – in parallel to the not so exciting stuff – and some of it involves paperwork and stamping stuff but other bits are exciting and may involve golf and me being at a charity tournament.
I don’t know if I’d call this writing. It’s more like failing to write. But I’m going to make myself do it because the only way to strengthen a weak, underused muscle is to gentle torture it back into use again.
(You see? This is why I’m not a physiotherapist)
I got a retainer because my teeth were migrating south for the winter. Well, east actually. To the left. That could be east or west depending on which way I’m facing. I wear it at night and HF calls me Darla. I call him a slurpy, wet word that is produced as a combination of wires, plastic, and sloppy sibilant consonants. I have yet to translate it. Neither has he.
I have arthritis, so my everything hurts. My feet, my knees, my fingers – and Oh Em Gee bang bang my fingers hurt. Typing is a huge challenge and I have started using a dictation software for work emails more often than not. I thought that was going reasonably well until I composed and emailed a proposal for therapy that involved a four letter word that sounded like fork but wasn’t fork. I would have died from embarrassment except the parents have yet to follow through on meeting up. I wonder why.
So this is my free-blogging update. I want to do more of this writing thing and less of this guilting thing, because my blog has been alive for over ten years now and this is the longest any of my pets have ever lived so I’ll try not to let it die of neglect, InshaAllah.
By Abez, The End.
Some people say writing is an art. That’s because they’re silly. Writing is a sport actually- it’s like exercise for parts of your brain that otherwise go soft and floppy without creative stimulation.
The less you write, the weaker your writing muscles become. Eventually they atrophy, and you forget how to put two words together to form half of an incoherent thought. That is why, dear blogistan, lately when I’ve sat down to write the only thing my flabby, out of shape brain can come up with is meh.
Broke my blog layout.
I’ll get it figured out, InshaAllah. Until then, sorry!
So this is where I answer all of the shorter questions that were left last time. Some of you had longer and significantly more important questions, and InshaAllah those will be answered separately. But here we go:
AssalamuAlaikum from Chicago! Did I mention I’m in Chicago? Right, sorry.
So, as part of the unexpected life changes in our lives we’re in Chicago at the moment. Don’t worry, I still live in Dubai, but we’re here to see an Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome specialist, and by we I mean me, myself, and all three of my kids. ALL of them. On an airplane (are we there yet?) in those tiny seats (can we go home now?) with those tiny TV’s (issa iPad inna seat?) and those messy easily-spillable servings of kid-unfriendly food that were actually very tasty, thank you Turkish Airlines!
It was like the fight that wouldn’t end. We got onto a plane. We slept, we woke up, we were still on a plane. The kids cried to get off the plane, but we were still on the plane. Khalid asked where the bedrooms in the plane were. I hadn’t the heart to tell him they were less than a hundred feet away physically but a million miles away financially, so I told him there weren’t any and everyone slept in their seats.
Iman had a proper sobbing meltdown and needed to be cradled to sleep like a 30 pound infant, so she and I napped together in my seat in one big heap on exhaustion and flannel blankets.
HF won the pillow of the flight award, for sleeping bolt upright with not one, but two people sleeping with heads in his lap. One of those heads was mine. The other was usually Musfira’s.
Khalid’s only rest came during the three hours Iman spent sleeping on top of me, when he was able to turn sideways across her chair and simply shut down from exhaustion. He woke up with a bruised shoulder.
So how was the flight? Alhamdulillah, very well considering how many things could have gone wrong but didn’t. No one got hurt, sick, or lost. Everyone made it to the bathroom on time. Yes, there were LOTS of tears and sighing and yawning and requests to go home already, but it was a learning experience: we learned that we don’t like flying.
But we do like cousins. My kids have five cousins here in the US that they met for the first time yesterday, and they spent the day in gleeful somersaults, toy exploration, cereal-eating and exploring things like “grass” and “clouds” in the great suburban outdoors. My poor little desert-dwellers, they kicked their shoes off in glee expecting to be running on the soft, yellow sand that cushions the ground beneath play equipment in Dubai. Instead, they found piles of pokey, scratchy wood and ran gingerly back for their shoes.
“Momma, iss rocks?” Musfira asked, holding out piece of a wood-chip.
“No dear, it’s wood-chip.”
“Because it’s softer than the ground. It’s like what Marty has in the bottom of his cage.”
Musfira looked unconvinced. I pressed on.
“Hey, it’s like we’re giant hamsters and the park is a hamster cage… yay?”
Musfira blinks and the gears start turning. “HAMSTOS??” she squeals, and runs off to collect piles of woodchamp. “YAY!”
Khalid is slightly less impressed with America so far. I took him to use the bathroom in my elder brother’s house for the first time, and gave him an orientation on how to use the lota.
“See Khalid, this is called a lota. You need to fill it up before you use the bathroom, otherwise if you sit down to go pee first then you might find the lota empty and how will you wash yourself then?”
“Why is this here?” Khalid asks, with genuine concern, “Have water pipes not yet been invented in North America?”
“I was wondering the same thing dear, but most people don’t use water here, so they’re not usually installed in bathrooms.”
“That’s a discussion for another time dear.”
Speaking of bathroom culture shock, Iman had to use a porta-potty at the park yesterday, and it was a new and amazing and awful experience for her. “MOMMA!” She called out from across the park, “That tiny room has a little toilet in it! But it has no water, no sink, and nothing but hand sanitizer. So I cleaned myself with sanitizer, is that ok?”
“It’s good enough for now dear, let’s wash you when you get home.”
Oops, it’s almost six am now. Time to pray Fajr and start rousing my tired lil world travellers.
So, until I can get my head around the new and exciting challenges in my life and blog about it, let’s think of something to do while we’re waiting!
I’m not very good at writing sometimes, but I can answer questions like a boss. Seeing as how I’m the director, technically even the most poorly worded question will be answered like a boss. Cuz I am a boss, albeit a poorly-worded one, hehe.
So, who’s got a question? And would you like to address it to me, or my acute asthmatic bronchitis?
The Boss, Applesauce.
So I haven’t updated in a while. I understand that, for people who don’t follow me on twitter, that could mean that I’ve gone and died. Fair enough. My twitter handle is @zebasez. In case you want to see if I haven’t died yet.
I’ve been meaning to write but the problem with writing is that you have to take big, abstract, lumpy concepts like uncertainty, fear, fatigue, pain, and try to fit them neatly into paragraph-sized boxes. Writing is a hands-on thing, but my hands hurt. My back hurts. My legs hurt. My head hurts. And now that I’ve been told that all three of my children are likely to have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome too, my heart hurts.
Ouch, right in the feels!
Once upon a time I begged Allah for Khalid to not have autism, but he did, and that’s been a blessing for us all. Now, I pray for my children’s health, but if they have Ehlers-Danlos, let it be the focal point around their remembrance of Allah and a daily reminder of their own mortality whether they wanted one or not. Cuz they’re certainly going to need one. We all do.
Allah loves my children more than I do, so if He should decide that Khalid will have low muscle tone and Iman will have elbows that can be wrung like a wet towel and Musfira- my tiniest cupcake- should have a heart murmur, then He has decided that for them out of love, not in spite of it.
I don’t want to give too much away but there are some major life changes coming up for us that I’m not done grieving yet. So until then, silence is golden.
And maybe I’ll post some memes so no one thinks I’ve died. hehe.
Seven months ago my lil sister of DeGrouchyOwl fame was diagnosed with a time bomb in her head, AKA an inter cranial aneurysm. In her brain. Yeah. Really. I know right. How rude. Here I am being all dramatic and in mortal medical danger and she comes along with her upstart aneurysm to steal my medical thunder. Cheeky McSqueaky.
So she has finally found a doctor that can remember whether it’s the red wire or the blue wire, and on July 2nd, her head will be the scene of an exciting medical action adventure where he holds a pair of wirecutters and waits for an oversized LED countdown to reach 1 before snipping the right one. InshaAllah, once the procedure is successful, Owlie-bird can ride off into the sunset, hand in hand with her on-screen love interest (AKA husband) so that the credits can roll and we can all live happily ever after. InshaAllah.
In other family news, Musfira has now turned free. Khalid said he felt like a velociraptor, and Iman hosted a ladies only dance party with daff-only nasheed today. By ladies only, I mean I was the only lady. Iman and Musfira were there too. We beat on an upside-down pencil box and Iman twirled in the ambient glow of the night-light. It was fun.
HF’s busy winning medals to hang around his Husband of The Year trophy. I sprained my left wrist doing pretty much nothing, and since my hand is in a brace, he’s taken over nearly all the housework and even most of the cooking, MashaAllah. He makes awesome nihari. ***heart***
I dedicate this post to a friend, whose current state of perpetual war against invisible blood-sucking enemies not only qualifies her as a vampire-huntress, but also takes me back to the good ole days when I too had… bedbugs.
It was the year 2009, and we had bedbugs. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t relax, couldn’t stop itching- and most frustrating of all- I couldn’t see them. I was being held psychological hostage by a legion of invisibugs, and the only proof I had of their existence was a chronic itch and spotty bedsheets.
I say I had bed bugs. What I really mean is that bed bugs had me. In the beginning, they were definitely winning.
We called a pest control service. Pest control promised they could get rid of the bugs- money back guaranteed- and came to hose down our home with oily, smelly, probably mutagenic toxins that killed everything in our house except for us. Oh, and the bedbugs. It did nothing to the bedbugs.
We called the pest control guy back, and he demanded to see evidence of our bugs. Because ghosts are hard to catch, we had nothing to show him, but the man grudgingly sprayed again.
The bugs survived. We called pest control again, this time with a tiny jar of living bedbugs. Yes, we actually found some. It turns out they weren’t ghosts, they were ninjas. We found where they were hiding- in the walls.
How did we know to look in the walls? Through simple process of elimination, of course! Because after we had thrown away every piece of furniture in the house except for the sofas and the dining table, there was nowhere for them to hide except the walls.
Realizing that pest control wasn’t helping and didn’t like us anymore, we decided to pull out all the stops and unleash the greatest weapon in our our anti-bedbug arsenal: the internet.
Not all of what the internet had to say about fighting bedbugs was relevant to the UAE though- many of the products effective against bugs simply aren’t sold here. So information about the diatomaceous earth, thermal heating bags, and even full-room heating equipment that people have access to in other parts of the internet wasn’t as useful as it was frustrating. We were, however, able to figure out the general method behind the madness, and it goes like this:
Do: Contain the Bugs
No bug is unkillable, but some bugs can be inaccessible, and despite the nightly urge to personally murder all the bugs keeping you up, you may find you’re not able to because they’re ninjas. And while it would be far more emotionally satisfying to somehow kill all the bugs in your mattress rather than contain them, there’s no way you can do so short of setting your mattress on fire. Nine out of ten experts agree, a flaming mattress can be less than conducive to a restful sleep.
Yes, you could freak out and throw all of your worldly possessions away, but unless you replaced them with plastic lawn chairs and a tarp on the floor, you’d probably just have to throw those away too. An unprotected mattress is essentially a padded fortress with free food, because the bugs can actually be living inside of the mattress- crawling out to bite you by night and then hiding inside to perplex you by day.
You need to encase your mattresses and pillows with something made specifically for containing bedbugs. I’m sure there’s more than one company, but the only one I’ve found in the UAE so far is Protect-A-Bed. They make more than one kind of cover, be sure to buy the one that specifically has Bug Lock. Homes R Us carries them. So does Homestead in Karama, but Homes R Us frequently has sales and you can find the covers discounted sometimes.
The covers can be expensive- a king size cover is around AED 400ish and pillow covers nearly sixty each. Think of this though- it’s still cheaper than replacing your mattress and pillows multiple times.
A covered mattress means none of the “in” bugs can get out, and none of the “out” bugs can get in. However, don’t be lulled by the false sense of security that the bugs want you to have. It takes 18 months for bedbugs to starve to death, and until then, they will continue to fall in love, get married, have kids, and poop inside of the mattress cover. None of this will reach you as long as the cover is closed, but you may start to see faint black or brown stains showing from within. Ignore them.
Oh, and while you’re out shopping in Homes R Us, pick up white bedsheets and pillow cases, as well as a lightweight cotton duvet that can be washed and dried with high heat often. Forget the fancy satin set with tassels and sixteen decorative pillows you got from Dragon Mart. Right now, you just want to be able to wash your bedding often as well as easily spot any new bugs or bug poop.
Other ways to contain the bugs include:
- Taping over places where bugs could be hiding. Think about the corners on the back of nightstands, the place where the wall meets the floor- around light switches, AC controls, electric sockets- bugs are looking for dark cracks and corners to hide in. Your goal is to trap the bugs and make them rue the day they moved in. Use duct tape for long term, or painting/paper tape for short term taping. Use colored electrical tape for color-coordinated giggles.
- Painting over the bugs- if you have a room partition made from plywood or an old villa where the tiles on the floor don’t line up with the wall, paint it over. Use a thick, light-colored paint that will essentially glue the bug and their eggs in place. They won’t be dead. But they certainly won’t be going anywhere.
- Painting over wooden furniture- If you have furniture that you either can’t or don’t want to replace immediately, paint that too. You can turn your infestation into that Pinterest project you’ve always wanted, and give your bed, dressers & shelves a bright, cheerful coat of paint that the bugs can’t escape through. You can also- less conspicuously- paint the backs and bottoms of some furniture items (dining & coffee tables) white to seal in old bugs and make living there harder for new bugs. Also, they’re easier to see on a white background. Please Note: if you’ve painted things together properly you will not be able to take them apart again. Doing so may unleash bugs or drop eggs.
- Put the legs of your bed into little bowls of vaseline or oil. No, it’s not good for your furniture. But it’s not good for the bugs either. While this method doesn’t guarantee that bugs can’t fall off your bed or hitch a ride into bed with you, it does make life a little harder for any bug with ambitions of world travel.
Don’t: Spread the bugs around
Don’t call pest control: Chemicals don’t work. If standard pest control chemicals worked on bedbugs, we wouldn’t be having a standard worldwide bedbug epidemic.
Don’t use bug spray. You won’t kill the bugs, you’ll only irritate them and like all fickle UAE expats, they’ll simply break their lease and take out a new one- moving from your bed to your bedside table, or your dresser, or the electrical socket closest to you. They’re not interested in going new places or seeing new things, they just want a safe, dark place to hide where they are as close to their source of food as possible.
Don’t move: Don’t go and sleep in another room. While this may be the first thing that comes to mind when you discover you have bugs, don’t do it. If the bugs wake up and discover there’s no food at home, they go out to eat and the infestation will move and grow throughout your house. So unless you want bedbugs in every room of your house, stay put.
Don’t give bugs a lift: Bedbugs are spread from room to room by their own legs, but from house to house and office to office by your legs. And even wheels. People have been known to have bedbug infestations in their cars. These people probably don’t live in the UAE where the heat in a parked car could kill bedbugs and bake cookies too, but it’s not always summer here and wherever you picked up a bedbug from, someone else gave it a lift halfway there.
- Isolate dirty clothing, protect clean clothing. You will need some light colored plastic buckets/storage boxes with airtight lids. Use them for storing clothes (or whatever) with the desired outcome of not letting bugs leave dirty clothes or infest clean clothes.
- When you wake up in the morning, take off your pajamas and put them into the airtight bin. Walk your nekkid self to the bathroom and take a shower to make sure there aren’t any bugs there either. Then, when you get dressed, walk out the room and don’t come back unless you must. If you must, don’t sit on the bed or any piece of furniture that may have bugs on it.
How can I find them?
Bedbugs hide in the tiniest, darkest, closest places possible to your warm, tasty body. Telltale signs include brown or blackish spots on furniture. This is bedbug debris from their wild partying habits. You may not always see this unless you have a decent number of bugs.
Other signs are eggs- bedbug eggs are about the size of regular- not kosher- salt grains. Their six-legged mommas glue them to the back of your furniture for safe keeping.
Check for bugs and their eggs around the places where people sleep, and don’t limit yourself to only the bed. Make sure to check:
- Where the floor meets the wall, or along baseboards or wainscotting
- Inside (yes, inside) or electrical outlets, light switches, AC control boxes mounted inside of the wall
- Beneath the edges of carpets or rugs
- Along any crack of your bed or bedside tables. Remember, you bed has a bottom as well as a top, and bedbugs have as much respect for gravity as they do personal space. Turn things upside down and inside out.
- Within the holes where your furniture is screwed together.
- Around light fixtures
- Behind picture frames, posters, mirrors, etc
Can I kill them already?
- Dry heat in excess of 120 degrees
- Water heated to boiling
- Rubbing alcohol
Good news, the UAE is full of dry heat, so if you get infested during the summer, you can put furniture outside for a few days to properly roast it. Yes, that may ruin your furniture. Or it may not. After having thrown away enough wooden furniture, I now only buy beds with metal frames which can be easily dismantled and set outside to bake.
I’m not going to go into the details on rubbing alcohol, because I’m not sure if the proof of pharmacy grade isopropyl in the UAE is high enough to kill bugs. If you have info about this, please feel free to share.
Your two best weapons against the bedbugs are a steam machine and a hot air dryer.
I bought my steam machine from Ace Hardware, and it’s a Karcher. When I bought it, Ace only carried two models. I bought the cheaper one, and I wish I had spent a bit more to get one specific feature- the continuous refill. With the machine I have, you have to wait until the machine cools before being able to open the tank and refill it, and you only have 20 mins of steam time between refills with 20 mins of cooling. With the other model, you can add more water and keep on steaming.
Don’t be tempted to buy a clothes steamer or a tiny kettle steamer. You need steam plus pressure to force the steam into cracks and hard to reach places. The max steam pressure a machine can generate is measured in bar. If the machine doesn’t have a bar rating, then it doesn’t shoot, and your precious steam will just waft away into the air instead of forming a lethal, bug-killing blast.
Dryers in the UAE come in two kinds- useless and not. The standard dryer is useless- it works with condensation. Assume most dryers are condensation dryers, and ignore them. They don’t get hot enough to kill the bugs. If you wash and dry your bugs without enough heat you will only get cleaner bugs. You need very hot, very dry heat. You need a convection dryer.
You don’t see these in the UAE very often because they work by creating lots of hot, dry air- something we’ve already got enough of. If you’re not sure whether the dryer you’re looking at is a convection dryer or not, check the back. If it has a big hole that blasts hot air and need a long bendy pipe to be poked out of a window so your house doesn’t turn into an oven, then you’ve got the right one. I bought mine used off of Dubizzle.
You can also boil bugs to death if you have a fancy enough washing machine. They water temperature needs to be higher than 120F or 48.8C.
There are lots of other little tips and tricks, but for the most part this is what you need to know. Contain and kill. Use dry heat, alcohol, boiling water or steam. Do not panic. Do not spray, and DO NOT GO OVER TO OTHER PEOPLES’ HOUSES IF YOU KNOW YOU HAVE BUGS.
Just don’t. It’s mean. That’s how they get around.
Lots of people won’t admit to having bedbugs because hey- who wants to admit to having bedbugs? but bedbugs don’t live in your house because you’re dirty and inferior. They live in your house because the world is a global community, Dubai a revolving door of expats, and bedbugs love to travel. Enough said.
Someone asked me about Musfira. Here you go.
She’s almost three.
Last week she painted her hair pink. That was… fun.
She got into some makeup and did a fairly decent job. I wasn’t even mad.
When she wakes up it’s morning o’clock. When she goes to bed it’s night o’clock.
She knows how to use google but she doesn’t know how to spell.
She argues with my phone. Navigation says, “In 100 meters turn left.” Musfira indignantly answers, “No left! Straight!” Google maps insists “Turn left.” Musfira shrieks- NO LEFT!
She always wants to push the button on the alligator.
She does not like kwakawoaches. To be fair, neither does momma.
She taught Meow-Meow how to give people kisses.
Alhamdulillah, Alhamdulillah, HF has agreed to wrangle the kids on his own and let me zoom off to Ilm Fest! I’m going to Malaaaaaaysiaaaaaa!
And also? I’m too busy to write properly. Away!
Our lil family has a favorite game, and the way it’s won is by preserving momma’s sanity with three children and no volume control. We stick to animals to keep it simple, and a turn always starts with the phrase “I’m thinking of an animal,” followed by three clues.
We play the guessing game during long drives and boring waits, and I am working to slowly introduce concepts like animal families (Is it a primate? A reptile?) and habitats- does it live on land? Underwater? Underground?
Khalid, almost inevitably- is thinking of a dinosaur of some sort. This is useful- because that’s how we introduced the concept of extinction. Now, some kids know five or six dinosaurs. Khalid, on the other hand, knows almost all of them. Really. MashaAllah- all of them. He has memorized almost three encyclopaedias of dinosaurs, so when he’s thinking of an animal with four legs, a tail, and a long neck- he’s not thinking of a giraffe. He’s thinking of a dipolodocus. Or a mamenchisaurus. Or an argentinosaurus. Or a camarosaurus, which is also known as a morosaurus. I believe there are HUNDREDS of -sauruses that serve no current purpose other than to confuse and bewilder anyone trying to guess Khalid’s animal. Such is the universe.
He takes pity on us, and tells us the first letter of the dinosaur’s name when we’ve gotten stumped. Then, he tells us the second. Then the third. Sometimes he will spell out the whole name and I will be no more clued in to what dinosaur he’s talking about- just because he can spell it doesn’t mean I can say it, or know what the heck it looks like. Case in point: Do you know what this dinosaur is called?
It’s a parasaurolophus. I spent almost twenty minutes once, wracking my brain and trying to figure this dinosaur out before asking Khalid to finally spell it for me, and even then- I still didn’t know what he was talking about.
Iman’s MO for the guessing game is adorable. She doesn’t pick animals that are difficult, or get upset when her animal is discovered. For the most part she isn’t even picking animals, she’s actually picking people.
Iman is acutely aware of who hasn’t had a turn in a while, and when she successfully guesses an animal and gets her turn, she will tailor her choice of animal to the person that she feels needs one. She will direct her clues right to the person she has in mind. For HF, she will usually be thinking of a shark. For Khalid, she will be thinking of a dinosaur. For me, she will be thinking of a lion or giraffe, and for Musfira- she is always, ALWAYS thinking of a cat. Why? Because Musfira is always thinking of a cat too.
Musfira’s ability to participate in the guessing game has been increasing step by adorable step. In the beginning, she was struggling with the concept, and would just repeat the last clue that she heard. If Iman said, “I’m thinking of an animal with two legs,” then Musfira would ask, “Is it two legs?”
When she realized that we were looking for answers instead of echoes, she started guessing as well.
Iman: “Musfira, I’m thinking of an animal with four legs, with brown spots, that says moo.”
Musfira: “Izzit the sun?”
Momma: “No dear, the sun is not an animal. We’re only thinking about animals.”
Musfira: “Oh, ok! Izzit Lighting McKeen!”
Musfira had an epiphany one day, and she correctly guessed the lion that Iman was directing towards me. That was her first chance for a real turn, and she started out pretty good:
“I’m thinking of a animo-”
“It has four legs…”
“And, it’s a cat!”
Musfira grins expectantly, anticipating all the exciting questions we should now be asking her. Iman raises an eyebrow and says, “Musfira, are you thinking of a cat?”
“Guj-job Iman!” Musfira cheers, “Your turn!”
We’ve played this game hundreds of times since, and Musfira’s ability to sort and label is getting better, and so her turns are getting more interesting. However, they have yet to move beyond cat.
Once Musfira said to me, “Momma, I’m thinking of a animo. It has four legs, two ears, and iss bigger than a cat.”
“How interesting!” I said, excited that Musfira could finally be breaking free from her cat-only streak. “Is it a dog?”
“Is it a cow?”
“Does it eat grass?”
I tried a few angles and eventually I gave up.
“Alright Musfira, you were thinking of an animal with four legs and two ears that was bigger than a cat. What was it?”
Musfira beamed. “A bigger cat.”
We have since thought of smaller cats, as well as a pink cat, specifically Musfira’s long-time crib companion, Meow-Meow.The only time we’ve ever thought of anything other than cat was on the way home from the Dubai Mall after we had surprised the children with a trip to see the dinosaur fossil being exhibited there. It was a diplodocus. Khalid knew this within seconds of seeing it, even before he was within range of the exhibit information. He looked at the fossil- suspended from the ceiling in all its fossilized awesomeness- and he smiled and said, “It’s a North-American dipolodocus.”
We oohed and aahed, marvelled at the hugeness of its legs and the tinyness of it’s really tiny head. Later, there was ice-cream, and on the way home Musfira suddenly announced, “I’m thinking of an animo!”
Iman interrupted, “It’s a cat.”
Musfira snarked back. “I didn’t finish my clues.” She has learned this phrase verbatim from Khalid and Iman and their tendency to start guessing before the clues are even given.
“I’m thinking of an animo, ” Musfira continued, “It has four legs, a long… long… long…. neck. And, a tiny, small head.”
“Is it a diplodocus?” Khalid piped up excitedly from the back of the van.
I felt I should translate. “Musfira, Khalid is asking if it’s a dinosaur.”
Iman tried again, “Musfira are you sure it’s not Meow-Meow?”
“Is your animal pink?” Iman pushed.
“Yes!” Musfira said.
A few seconds of silence passed. “Musfira,” I said slowly, “Are you thinking of… a pink dinosaur?”
“Hooray Momma! You did it!”
The game has only gotten better and more interesting since Musfira has started participating actively. HF was playing with her at bath-time the other day, and as he pulled her pajamas off he said, “Musfira, I’m thinking of an animal with four legs, a long neck, and it lives in the desert.”
“Oh! Izzit a chicken?”
“Musfira,” HF said, “This animal gives milk!”
(Musfira- who has a bovine milk allergy- has been raised on camel milk.)
“Izzit a milk?”
“Milk is not an animal dear.”
“Izzit a tannasaurus!”
And so, the awesomeness continues. Alhamdulillah.
Frazzled. That’s a great word. I like it. I will now use it.
I don’t have a housekeeper again.
My sister is leaving for Singapore for neurosurgery and three weeks in hospital in two days.
Work is work. Enough said.
My mother is moving apartments. That means I am helping my mother move apartments.
I have all these thoughts in my head and not enough time or mental wherewithal to extract or organize them.
So this will have to do.
Musfira asks Momma for a cookie.
Momma gives Musfira a cookie.
Musfira receives the cookie and folds it carefully into a tissue.
Then, she takes her tiny first and begins pounding it into crumbs.
Momma is taken aback.
“Musfira! What are you doing to your cookie?”
Musfira is reassuring.
“Iss okay momma. I making a puzzle. Hee you go!”
Momma accepts puzzle.
Glowing with pride, Momma eats it.
Alhamdulillah, we acquired a lovely new sister in law this weekend as HF’s younger brother got married. Family wedding preparations were a team effort, and Alhamdulillah, everyone did their part to ensure things went smoothly- even Musfira, who took the initiative to do her own hair and makeup with a pair of scissors and a blue marker. And she did it an entire day before the party, making her not only helpful, but also forward thinking.
A proper stylist was commissioned to neaten up the asymmetrical bangs Musfira cut for herself, and I followed that with a cleansing baby-oil and rubbing alcohol facial.
The Behavioural Analyst
Musfira likes to play limit-testing games- as toddlers often do- and they follow a pretty simple format. Momma says to do something. Musfira refuses to do it, and she smiles and waits to see what will happen.
One of these more recent games is a jolly round of “I’m not leaving the car.” This game takes two people to play and is usually initiated at the end of a long drive, after a long day, when Momma would much rather be bathing children and putting them to bed. Musfira’s car seat is unbuckled. Momma says let’s go inside. Musfira makes a run for the back of the van- a cramped space that Momma is not a fan of climbing in to chase a wiggly and wilful toddler.
So in a recent round of the game, I unbuckled Musfira and she made a successful break for the back of the minivan. Rather than engage in a Tom & Jerry style chase, I stood outside and said, “Musfira, it’s time to go home. You need to come out of the van now.”
In response to which, she did her best imitation of a stern face and said, “No momma. I stay inna van. One… Two… Three… I hit you!”
Now, I would like to make three things clear:
- Iman does get a count to three, but when three comes, it isn’t with a smack, it’s with a physical prompt. If, by the count of three she’s not walking to the bath I will take her by the arm and walk her there myself.
- I may not be the best mother in the world, but I don’t threaten my children with “I hit you!” anymore than “I will cut you.”
- Musfira is a squeaky two-foot nothing and has all the authoritative presence as a rubber duck.
I was so impressed that she had made, and then used her own assumptions about what would happen when 3 came that my toughest battle was suppressing a laugh.
Besides, in accordance with the cardinal parenting rule of No-No-Prompt, the thing to do when Musfira had disregarded my instructions twice already was to climb in and just take her inside the house, not argue with a grumpy two and a half year old.
At the end of the valima of same said family wedding, Musfira kept trying to steal the limelight from the bride & groom’s photos by dancing on stage with no shoes and only half of her party ensemble on. When I went and physically removed her from the stage, she wailed and pleaded, “Momma wait! I wanna photo!”
I put her down and handed her my phone with the camera open. “Alright then. Go take photos.”
I don’t think she quite caught the grammatical trickery that got her from the front of the camera to behind it, but it worked. She took my phone and stood behind the other amateur photographer. She returned with around 30 fuzzy, poorly composed pictures of the stage- with and without bride and groom- and proudly showed me her work. Alhamdulillah.
We were driving home on E311 after a long day in Ajman, and the children were riding in tired silence. Suddenly, Musfira sat straight up in her seat and squeaked “Momma! Look! Issa crown! Issa crown!”
“A crown? I don’t see any crown…” I scanned the traffic and tried to figure out what Musfira was getting all excited about.
“A crown! A magic crown! Iss fwying away!”
“Musfira, do you mean the light on top of that car?”
“Notta car!” she angrily insisted, “A crown! Iss going!”
I sped the car up and chased down Musfira’s magic flying crown. I matched its speed and pointed, “Musfira, is that your magic flying crown?”
“Oooh! Iss bootiful! A crown!”
“That’s called a taxi dear.”
“A kaksi! Iss so pretty!”
Why yes, I am blogging about Batman. Excuse me, I think my geek is showing.
In this day and age superheroes have their own sort of mythology, and they are the modern equivalent of demi-gods in our shared popcultural experience. They have devoted followers, fanatics even, and people can have stronger beliefs about which school of comic book thought they adhere to than to which religion they identify with.
I think it’s safe to say that the top three monoheroistic religious are Supermanism, Spidermanism, and Batmanology. Personally, I have leanings towards Batmonology. HF is a devotee of Spidermanism. Despite our differences, we are united through a common belief in Islam. Alhamdulillah.
In traditional Batmanological texts, Batman could crash your car through a brick wall and land it upside down in a ravine, but you were guaranteed a background shot of leaping to safety or at least moaning from within the wreckage in order to be taken into custody later, injured but definitely alive.
Remember the A-Team? And GI Joe? All those bad guys leaping out of exploding jeeps at the very last second to viewer-established safety? Yeah. Heroes seem to share this amazing ability to inflict city-destroying amounts of damage upon cars and buildings without giving the baddies anything worse than a dramatic concussion. In fact, it is actually safer for you to be a henchman than a good guy, because family members, friends, and love interests are more likely to be killed as plot devices than henchmen are to be critically injured.
This refusal to kill is an integral part of mainstream Superhero Lore- and it is the central moral lesson in traditional Batmanology. In the awesome animated movie Under the Red Hood, Batman’s refusal to kill is tested in the most brutal way possible. The movie opens with this:
Joker tortures and kills Robin. Batman arrives seconds too late to save him, and digs Robin’s brutalized remains out of burning rubble. Fast forward a few years and one well-written story later, and then this happens:
The video says it all. Batman wishes every day that he could kill the Joker, but he won’t. He can’t kill, because killing would be too easy and if he went down that path, he would inevitably spiral down into the same murderous darkness that his foes live in.
Batmonology is not the only superhero religion that adheres to this principle- Supermanism, Spidermanism- so the bad guy never dies, unless he is actually a robot (Braniac, Metallo) or he somehow kills himself so that Superman or Spiderman don’t have to. The monoheroistic concept bears striking similarity to the distinctly Bibilical concept of “Thou shalt not kill,” as well as the concept of Ahinsa that is shared by Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism. Ahinsa literally means “No Harm.”
(I will make no assumptions on what Judaism may say about killing or capital punishment, because like all well-informed first world citizens of the twenty first century, I know more about Batman than I do about Jewish Scripture.)
We get it. Real heroes don’t kill. It’s not right. It would be too easy. That would make them just as bad as the villains they fight. We wouldn’t want the good guys killing the bad guys. That’s why our police aren’t armed with- WAIT A MINNIT!
The police do have guns!
And so do soldiers!
And when an old lady manages to shoot the guy who breaks into her house and tries to beat her death, we cheer for the old lady! When a Texas mother ran over a knife-wielding carjacker that had hidden in the back seat with her children, the newscasters were gloating on her behalf, even if she looked quite shaken by the experience.
So why are superheroes held to such unrealistic standards? Thou shalt battle vicious, inhumane killers who will use lethal force against you without provocation, whose continued presence in the community guarantees that more innocent people will be killed, raped, and crippled- but whatever you do, don’t kill them, not even by accident, because otherwise you’ll be as bad as they are?
Batman killing the Joker during the course of an epic, long-time battle to protect Gotham from a psychopath whose kill-count is in quadruple digits would not make him as bad as the Joker. It would not make Batman a murdering psychopath anymore than you fighting off and killing a rapist would make you as bad as a murdering rapist. Like the old lady with the shotgun and the mother with the minivan, it would make you… a hero.
I believe that it’s ok for good guys to kill the bad guys to protect the rest of us, and the people who don’t honor the sanctity of life have no right to claim it when it comes to their own. The sanctity of human life didn’t apply to their victims, so why should it apply to them? And when killers get out on parole and kill again, I don’t think the sanctity of life will protect their next victims either.
If a police officer shot a known murderer to protect a child in imminent danger, he would be a hero, but we’re still not so sure that good guys are allowed to kill bad guys? We have some serious double standards about this, and the gross over-simplification of “good guys don’t kill” is hurting lots of imaginary victims and by-standers in the comic book world.
There is another, lesser-known school of thought in Batmonology, and its disciples made The Dark Knight Returns. No, not rises- he returns in another brilliant two-part animated movie. Gotham has gone to hell in a handbasket after ten years of forced retirement for Batman, and one day Bruce Wayne snaps. Finally, we’re allowed the PG-13 satisfaction of a bad guy disappearing down the same blood-stained hallway he was about to drag a mother into, and we don’t see him walk out. Another rapist/murderer is thrown into electrical wiring and he is electrocuted, screaming off screen. The screaming stops, but we do not see his body drop. The electrical sparking continues meaningfully.
A 17 year old henchman sent to kill Commissioner Gordon is shot dead, and when the Joker attempts to use a woman as a human shield, without pause Batman throws three of those little bat-shaped knives at Joker- landing one in each shoulder and one in his right eye.
(The Joker’s shocked reply: “Are you out of your mind?!?!” See? Even he’s been accustomed to Batman trying to protect the world with kid gloves on.)
The knife stays lodged in the Joker’s eye throughout the final fight scene, and ultimately until his death at the hands of Batman. And I have to say, as a long-time fan, it was so good to see the Joker final get what was coming to him that I actually did a little happy-dance in my chair.
Some people might shake their heads disapprovingly at this madhab’s darker, grittier version of Batman, but I give two thumbs up for the Joker finally no longer being allowed to threaten and kill in Gotham. In killing Joker, Batman has saved countless other imaginary lives without compromising his own morality or becoming a villain himself. Finally killing Joker made him more of a hero than he already was.
By Abez, the end.
DPO, my former boss, asked me an interesting question yesterday. He asked me whether I could consider the creation of another version of myself, one that had my existing strengths, none of my existing weaknesses, and all of the skills she needed to get what she needed done. He called her Abez 2.0.
We assigned her an empty chair at our table, and allowed ourselves to speak of her in present tense. Here is what we have decided. Abez 2.0 is able to:
- Aggressively pursue business development without guilt, because the profit motive is not inherently evil. In this case, the profit motive behind non-essential services is what facilitates growth of the company as well as our ability to subsidise services for children who can’t afford them.
- Reserve feelings of guilt for things that actually warrant them. At present, Abez 1.0 bastes herself in an unhealthy coating of guilt every day- whether it be about time spent at work, or elaborate cupcakes not baked, or sofas not looking as immaculate eight years on and three children later… Abez 1.0 has mommy guilt about taking time off, spending on herself, or allowing herself to have social outings. No one in their right mind should feel guilty about resting in between work, caring for themselves, or seeing friends. Needless to say, Abez 1.0 is not in her right mind about these things, but Abez 2.0 is.
- Not grant destructive criticism an audience. Constructive criticism will be taken objectively and from sources that are trusted. It will not be taken as a sign of failure, and it will be taken as an opportunity for improvement, rather than a cause for feelings of guilt about one’s professional inadequacy. (see above)
- Not allow the desire to please everyone all the time to dictate what policies are enforced at work. No one can please everyone, all the time. My responsibility is to help our kids, take care of my staff, and use the minuscule amount of “celebrity” status I have to further autism awareness and opportunities for kids on the spectrum. If that doesn’t make people happy, that’s ok. Making them happy is not my job.
- Maintain a locus of control that is as internal as possible, and take action to change situations rather than lament how difficult they are to change.
- Explore multiple plans and challenge limiting beliefs about what is possible for me to accomplish, personally and professionally. There is a voice in my head that pours water on the the fire of exciting new project ideas by saying “Oh, but I would never be able to do that…” Abez 2.0 tells that voice to shut up and wait to see whether we actually fail before making that assumption.
- Delegate without panicking by accepting that outsourcing can bring projects up to 80% of the way, and that my involvement can be withheld until the final 20%, allowing me to accomplish more, panic less, and have deliverables created to my standard of perfectionism without waiting to hire a perfectionist clone of myself.
- Assemble a group of trusted advisors to keep me honest- not because I am dishonest, but because the danger of being your own boss is that when you start projects, there isn’t anyone around to make sure you finish them. I need accountability and follow-up, and rather than expect myself to develop a multiple personality disorder, it would be better to seek outside help.
- Give myself deadlines and share status reports with above advisors.
- Create a workspace that is respectful of the role I am expected to play- in other words- set up a desk and keep the laundry off of it.
- Not allow myself to feel like an imposter, but accept that people play different roles and adjust their behaviours accordingly to get the job done. Being no-nonsense at work shouldn’t make me feel guilty, because being silly is a behaviour I reserve for playing with my children. Being sympathetic and completely trusting is something reserved only for my husband, not for the well-off clients who try to guilt me into discounts from already zero-profit, at-cost services.
- Accept that fear is actually F.E.A.R- False Evidence Appearing Real- that there is no truth to failure until it happens, and living in fear is allowing myself to be dictated to by the lie of perpetual failure.
There. That’s the beginning of what Abez 2.0 is going to accomplish. It’s a tall order, and we’re breaking the stages down into 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, etc. I’m actually excited- and this is all going to sound vague I’m afraid- because I’ve been living in fear of failure in spite of being a reasonably successful person, and it’s tiring. I live dangerously close to the fight or flight response, where I feel at any moment, someone is likely to yell at me, or discover that I am an impostor and in order to avoid being found it, I hide and avoid doing anything that would attract attention.
(Funny that I should avoid attention in the real world when I’ve been inviting the whole dang internet into my personal world for over ten years now, but maybe the two are directly connected. Maybe it’s my withdrawal from the world that motivates me to connect with people from behind the safety of pseudonym and an avatar?)
I’m looking forward to meeting Abez 2.0. I think she’s going to be confident, comfortable in her own skin, and more likely to take the risks that lead to success rather than hide from an immobilising fear of failure. InshaAllah. Please remember us both in your duas.
Two cows are standing in a field. One turns to the other and says, “Hey, aren’t you worried about that whole mad cow disease thing?”
“Why should I?” the other cow replies, “I’m a helicopter.”
Sometimes I wonder how much longer that I -writer, doodler, talker, teacher, dreamer- will be able to continue working as a director. Managing people, services, cashflow, and strategy- these all rub against my Muslim-hippie nature like a hair shirt.
But since I don’t have a choice, the only thing I can do is suck it up, dig my heels in, and take it like a brave round peg in an irritating square hole. Somebody get me that tiny hammer. POW! Back to my inbox.
AssalamuAlaikum Blogistan, hope you’re doing well! It’s been a while since I’ve written, and like most of my letters, this one starts off with an apology for being late too. So yeah. Here’s an update.
Alhamdulillah, my children are gorgeous and amazing. Check!
Alhamdulillah, HF is the perfect trophy-husband as usual. Check!
Alhamdulillah, we are all safe, well-fed, and reasonably within the limits for health. Check!
The bad news is, I’ve discovered that I’m a crazy person. Seriously. It’s taken me so long to realize it that I don’t even feel like sugar-coating it. I run a business where I feel guilty about taking a salary, but I wouldn’t expect other people to work without salaries. Then, I get tired of getting no return from my hard work and I get annoyed with my job. I make investments of my time with little thanks and zero financial return. So then I think about getting a “real” job as someone’s personal assistant instead of the director of my own organisation, because at least someone would say thank you and I would have some pocket money at the end of the month. As a business strategy, I call this: Crazy.
I count the hours down between when the kids wake up (6am) to when they’re all in bed (8pm) while turning over projects in my head- things I’d like to write, emails I’d like to send, presentations I want to design, an online course that I am excited about launching- but once their little heads hit the pillows- I rush to my computer and open- crap.com, or a wasteoftime.bla, or internetaddiction.meh and three hours later, I hate myself for missing opportunities to be creative and to PRAY ON TIME and I wake up the next day and guess what? I DO IT ALL AGAIN. Crazy.
I make it a point to eat healthy during the day and limit myself to fruit salad and salad and the kid’s dinner leftovers, but once they’re asleep all bets are off and I eat whatever sort of junk I can get my hands on. As a health strategy- to exercise effortless discipline over my food in the day and then throw it all to hell in a chocolate-covered handbasket at night is illogical as well as… crazy.
I feel like I am pretending to be a productive, disciplined, and professional adult, and as long as there is someone watching, keeping up the act is effortless. Once people turn away though, I revert to the wicked sloth-monkey that my momma used to complain about, and I cancel out all the “good” I did during the day- setting myself up for a cycle of failure, guilt, overcompensation, and burnout. I am, frankly speaking, disappointed with myself, and my first impulse is to lament how I want to change but don’t have the ability to, but then I remembered a conversation I had with my former boss just last week or so.
He asked me whether I knew what a “Locus of Control” was. I told him the only locusts I knew flew around and ate crops. He’s a nice man, he laughs at my jokes.
Locus of control is a theory in personality psychology referring to the extent to which individuals believe that they can control events that affect them. Understanding of the concept was developed by Julian B. Rotter in 1954, and has since become an aspect of personality studies. A person’s “locus” (Latin for “place” or “location”) is conceptualised as either internal (the person believes they can control their life) or external (meaning they believe that their decisions and life are controlled by environmental factors which they cannot influence).
Individuals with a high internal locus of control believe that events in their life derive primarily from their own actions; for example, if a person with an internal locus of control does not perform as well as they wanted to on a test, they would blame it on lack of preparedness on their part. If they performed well on a test, they would attribute this to ability to study. In the test-performance example, if a person with a high external locus of control does poorly on a test, they might attribute this to the difficulty of the test questions. If they performed well on a test, they might think the teacher was lenient or that they were lucky.
Thank you, wikipedia.
My boss, or DPO as he is known, introduced me to the Locus of Control as such: people who have an internal locus of control take ownership of the situation around them. People with an external locus of control are victims of the circumstances around them. Which would you like to be?
I was embarrassed that he asked me, because I realized right away that I was talking about higher-level issues with work that were due to allowing the locus of business control be external vs internal, and it was a bit of a kick to the organizational teef. I was messing up the business by letting other people dictate what the business did and did not do.
Now, moving that observation forward, it’s nice that having other people around makes me more productive, but once their presence is removed, my productivity is out the window. My locus of control is so crazily external that without other people pushing me- to email something on time, to complete a sheet in excel, or to make dinner before their homework is finished- that when they’re not there, I do nothing. Absolutely. Completely. Nothing. If- on the odd occasion HF has all three children out to give me some time off, I do absolutely, completely, nothing. I won’t even feed myself properly. I’ll plop some peanut butter and marshmallow fluff on an old piece of pita (true story!) and call it dinner while I watch anime until my eyes crust over. This might be ok if what I really wanted was to eat peanutbutter on pita while watching Fullmetal Alchemist, but that’s not what I wanted to do. I wanted to feel accomplished- like I had four hours to write a week of activities in a subject that I love writing about- I wanted to feel renewed, and accomplishing something creative does that for me- but instead, I did wasted my time, ate unhealthy, and resented myself for it later.
My locus of control is stupid. It needs to be internal. If I accomplish something, it needs to be for my own sense of productivity, self-respect, accomplishment, and personal pride in what I do. If I eat right, it should be because I care about my health even if there’s no one there to scoff at the marshmallow fluff jar. If I make a decision for the business, I should stick with it and push it forward, because what the parents want* is not enough to grow the business and give their children what they need instead.
*(customer wants can be broadly defined as: everything. free. yesterday.)
I need to make a decision and stick with it. Now, my mind is saying- oh no, but I don’t have enough self-discipline for that! Well, that’s a statement reflecting an external locus- that I would blame someone or something else for my lack of action rather than saying Ok, I know I have weak self discipline, so how do I make it stronger?
Once upon a time, I didn’t have the self-discipline to pray regularly. I would pray maybe once or twice a day, and make excuses for it- I don’t have time, can’t get out of class, there’s no prayer room in my highschool, I’m not dressed properly, etc- I made myself a victim of the circumstances I lived in (American public highschool) and it wasn’t until I made the choice to pray five times a day that I was able to change the factors around me. I was still in exactly the same environment- same school, same friends, same me- but I made the changes necessary to accomplish what I wanted to and disciplined myself to stick with it.
I started with keeping a chart of how many prayers a day I missed. The goal was zero. I started off missing three and four prayers a day though. Over time, and with forcing myself to update the chart daily, I built prayers into my daily routine and there’s been no looking back since, Alhamdulillah. Yes, my Fajr shifts around, and that’s a failure on my part- but I don’t see it as being out of my control. It’s my fault, and I’ll fix it. I’ve fixed it before, and I can fix it again.
The same needs to happen with my personal standards of what a productive Muslim and grownup does with their time, their resources, and their health. I need to stop victimising myself in all three areas and take control of a situation that is well within my power to do so, InshaAllah.
For my next act, I will activate the TinyFilter feature in Chrome that HF kindly installed for me. It’s a Chrome plugin that blocks URL’s completely and puts a custom message in their place. It can be password protected as well, and I’m going to enter a list of time-wasting websites in there and ask HF to lock it down for me. He’s done that to me before, but because I hadn’t asked him to do it, I resented him for it and badgered him until he gave me the password. This time, I’m making the decision myself, and I will maintain the self-discipline to not beg HF to unlock it.
That’s going to be my first step. My second step is to start taking measurements again- for eating healthy, for working out, for keeping my inbox at zero and my house running smoothly. Please make dua for me, because I know my self-discipline muscles are weak and my locus of control has been external my whole life- this is going to be hard for me, but I want to do this. I want to take back my locus of control from the rest of the world and make it my own again, because the alternative is not acceptable- I start hating myself for falling short of my expectations and I lose respect for my own self.
So here we go. Updating blog. Activating TinyFilter. Now.
By Abez, The End.
Click here- I couldn’t figure out how to embed, but it’s well worth the watch.
I got this in my work email today. Normally spam makes me angry, but today, it made my day. In fact, it made me feel sociable, and…fluffy?
Subject: Whatsup Bro:
You have drawn my attention to a site of acquaintances. I hope, as I shall like you. How I to you in a photo? The truth – pretty? But in a life I more nice!!!
And as I cheerful, kind, sociable and fluffy! I like to go in for sports, read books, to listen to music. I love winter and summer. I do not love spring and slush.
If I have interested you, with pleasure I shall tell about myself more in the following letter.
I wait for the answer on (evil link removed)
My only sunshine,
You make me happeeee!
When skies are grey!
You’ll never know dear,
How much I looooooove Yooooooooooou!
So please don’t take my sunshine away.
For my next act, I will sit down and write. I will write about writing. I will write about the internet. And then, I will post my writing on the internet.
It begins with a physiotherapist named Miffy. Miffy has been twisting me into knots for over two years now, and Alhamdulillah, her multi-disciplinary pretzel-making skills have been keeping my wonky right leg and my wobbly back in working order. It has taken me two years, however, to learn one amazing thing about Miffy: Miffy does not have internets at home. Not a single one.
I learned this two days ago, and if I hadn’t been mashed face-down into the therapy table, I think my jaw would have dropped off and hit the floor. Miffy doesn’t have an internet connection at her house.
She doesn’t use the internet recreationally.
When she wants to get in touch, she calls.
When she is bored, she goes somewhere.
When she wants to read, she picks up a book. A real one, with pages and everything!
Instead of LOLcats and Reddit, she fills her time with tennis, friends, and the obsolete cultural artifact known as a “Life.”
I was awed.
Then, I was embarrassed. Here is a woman who lives without the internet, and here is me beginning every topic www and ending with dot com. I saw an interesting documentary… on youtube. I read an article I wanted to share- on whatever.com. Some cat in a sock made me laugh. Then there was this video and they were all like “Windmill cookies!” This whole time Miffy has been listening and laughing politely, but I now know she has zero intention of going home and looking up Tard the Grumpy Cat. Why? because she has zero internet at home. And she is not going to be getting any anytime soon. Why? Because Miffy is smarter than I am.
Now, we get to writing.
In the past, people have asked me why I haven’t written any new stories since I have been married. I’ve always said that with the kids, I don’t have enough time to write. However, I think the answer may not be the addition of children as much as it was the addition of unlimited internet when I moved in with HF. I have three children and a job, but I have no lack of ideas and no lack of the desire to write. What I lack is the willpower to free myself from living in the internet.
I know this because I seem to have about two hours a day after the kids go to bed during which I find lots of time to do things like Reddit. If I wrote for two hours a day for just a month, I’d be halfway done with the behavior analysis book for Muslim parents that I’ve mentally written a few times already.
Once upon a time, I didn’t live on the internet. I spent my time doing other things- blogging. Writing. Gaming. Stories. Articles. Poems. Reading Qur’an. Exercising. Cooking. Sewing. Friends. You know. Life?
The internet was something I sat down and did with a purpose- I needed a recipe, or I needed to email a friend, or I needed to find a handout to teach plosive consonants, or I wanted to find out more information about a hadith I read somewhere. That was all once upon a time. Now, I don’t even use the internet for personal email. I am in touch with almost no friends. I spend my day working and being Momma, and my nights drowning in youtube and the next funniest thing in the world for five whole minutes. Admittedly, I watch a lot of documentaries, but just because they’re a “smart” waste of time doesn’t make them less of a waste of time.
In the past I have cut back my internet usage. I officially did tawbah from websitewithprofanitylacedbutfascinatingarticles.com. I also swore off that website where people write their secrets on postcards. I’ve restricted what websited I go to by content, but I’ve never tried to make myself stop using the internet recreationally. Or rather, purposelessly. I think I need to try that. I don’t think I’ll be able to live without the internet entirely, but I know I would lead a much richer, realer life if I spent my time with purpose.
On the plus side, I don’t need to worry about Miffy ever reading this. You know, because she doesn’t do internet?
In any case, three cheers for Miffy, who can make my spine snap crackle and pop more than a bowl of rice crispies, and whose mature use of her time has opened my eyes. You guys can thank her for this blog entry too. And thank Allah for every minute we’re alive, and ask for His help in spending it wisely. Ameen.
I have the bad habit of using my desktop to keep unsorted files in view until they can be assigned to a file in my vast, over-sorted dropbox. Some things though, aren’t like to find a home, and fit into the category of: Stuff I’d like to read again. Tonight though, my beloved lappy is scheduled to be
brainwashed formatted, so it’s time to move some of the miscellaneous desktop stuff to a new home- this blog.
Unfinished Blog: Highway Hifz Program
You may be one of those people who sings in the shower, hums in the kitchen, and has every infernal lyric to every song you’ve ever heard- good or bad- written in stone in your head. Bad news- you are a human mp3 player. Good news- you’re a prime candidate for a highway Hifz program.
Good news for human mp3 players- I used to commute 120 miles, 4 days a week for my son’s therapy program in Dubai from Abu Dhabi, and I learned lots of things from the drive. One is that the best shawarma in the UAE is at Baraka Grills, near exit 366 on theDubai-Abu Dhabi Highway. The other is that time spent in the car can be time invested in your deen, via your own personal Highway Hifz program. All you need is a good CD or mp3 of Juz Amma, and the desire to memorize more Qur’an, and pretty soon, not only will you have revised and fine-tuned recitation of verses you already knew, but you’ll begin adding more and more slowly to the playlist in your heart.
Other benefits include:
1. Using your commute for Ibada, and not just getting from point A to point B.
2. Reprogramming your mental jukebox by converting more of your mental tracks that benefit you and increase your status on the Day of Judgment instead of bring you down. We all suffer from a certain song that pops into our head uninvited and escapes from our mouths unintentionally. Having Qur’an on the brain means you’re more likely to be reciting Qur’an than singing, and the amazing thing is, it’s guilt-free, it’s refreshing to the soul, and the more you beautify your recitation, the more it penetrates you heart and the more you increase in love for recitation. I never enjoyed listening to the Qur’an until I started reciting it myself.
3. (Crash into the gates of Jannah?) Increasing the likelihood of dying with Zhikr on your lips in case of a car accident. If you’re going to crash and die, wouldn’t you rather be reciting Qur’an from the depth of your heart rather than singing Lady Ga-Ga at the top of your lungs? Or worse, screaming four-letter words about excrement? Increasing the likelihood of dying with Zhikr on your lips in case of a car accident.
Inspiring Hadith: 70,000 without Reckoning
Narrated Ibn ‘Abbas: Allah’s Apostle said, ‘Nations were displayed before me; one or two prophets would pass by along with a few followers. A prophet would pass by accompanied by nobody. Then a big crowd of people passed in front of me and I asked, Who are they Are they my followers?” It was said, ‘No. It is Moses and his followers It was said to me, ‘Look at the horizon.” Behold! There was a multitude of people filling the horizon. Then it was said to me, ‘Look there and there about the stretching sky! Behold! There was a multitude filling the horizon,’ It was said to me, ‘This is your nation out of whom seventy thousand shall enter Paradise without reckoning.’ “Then the Prophet entered his house without telling his companions who they (the 70,000) were. So the people started talking about the issue and said, “It is we who have believed in Allah and followed His Apostle; therefore those people are either ourselves or our children who are born m the Islamic era, for we were born in the Pre-lslamic Period of Ignorance.” When the Prophet heard of that, he came out and said. “Those people are those who do not treat themselves with Ruqya, nor do they believe in bad or good omen (from birds etc.) nor do they get themselves branded (Cauterized). but they put their trust (only) in their Lord ” On that ‘Ukasha bin Muhsin said. “Am I one of them, O Allah’s Apostle?’ The Prophet said, “Yes.” Then another person got up and said, “Am I one of them?” The Prophet said, ‘Ukasha has anticipated you.”
Is anyone else not seeing the white background behind older posts?
Take that, demotivation! Ha! KAPOW!
(I forgot how much I love Photoshop)
Iman: Momma look! Do you see that car? It’s white!
Me: Yes, I do, it’s a convertible.
Iman: It has two eyes, and a mouth! It’s like a happy face! It’s like a toy! I like it!
Musfira- aka Tiny Toes- has a new nickname. Tiny Teef. Because she has two. teeny. tiny. teef. And they are the cutest. teef. ever.
MashaAllah, SubhanAllah. Alhamdulillah.
Also, in the last month alone, she’s been to Manila, Doha, and Ras Al Khaimah. Her stroller should be getting frequent flier miles or something.
Is it possible to be both over and underwhelmed simultaneously? Because I think I am. Work is overwhelming. Life is underwhelming. The daily grind is… grinding. The kids are beautiful. Life is busy. Feed the baby. Lather, rinse, repeat.
I’m having the thirty-one year itch. I perform meaningful roles out of duty and habit. I’m not jealous of anyone else’s life, I’m just not sure what to make of mine at the moment. I live from the fulfillment of one person’s needs to next, never succeeding in the impossible quest to fulfill them all, constantly being reminded of the 20% I fail and never being credited for the 80% where I don’t.
I want to simplify, downsize, and prune it all back to the essentials. I want to throw away everything in my storage room. I want to throw out the clothes in my closet that are twenty pounds too small and stop feeling guilty for not being the same size I was before three kids. I want to launch the pretty shoes I bought that hurt my feet over the boundary wall of the house, because it’s not like keeping them around will remove some of the guilt I feel for not being a better kept wife for my husband.
I’m not sure if I live in my pajamas or sleep in my clothes anymore.
I only have two hairstyles, up or asleep.
I’m too tired to socialize and too busy to want to.
I heard once that the best way to tell if someone is depressed is to spend an hour talking to them, and if, after that hour, you feel depressed, then they’re depressed.
I doubt if this post is making anyone happy. Least of all myself, and now I’m annoyed at myself for being annoyed with things that perhaps should not be found annoying. I need to scream into a cave, but my cave is full of people and the baby is sleeping and I don’t want to disturb anyone.
I’m not a good mother, a good wife, or a good director. My house is disorganized, my children are bored, and my business is sloppy. I’m a barely passable Muslim, and that is probably what’s bugging me the most. When my Iman is high (my faith, not my three year old) I feel alive, I feel free, I feel empowered, I feel humbled, I feel real. When it’s low, I feel worthless, useless, and failed. My heart withers and verges on death until I pour the life-giving water of zhikr on it- and it comes back to life briefly but then I get busy and forget to water it again, and the cycle of chronic spiritual deprivation versus occasional resuscitation continues, but it continues unevenly. I had an African Violet once. A friend left it for me when she moved away from the UAE. I was only supposed to water it with one teaspoon every two weeks. I would forget for six weeks and then inundate it out of guilt. Naturally, it died. Naturally, I feel guilty.
Am I complaining? No, there are two reasons why I’m not complaining. 1.) I have no reason to complain. Allah has blessed me with more mercies and gifts than I could ever count, let alone thank Him for, even in an eternity.
2.) If I say I’m tired then they say I don’t have enough energy. If I say I’m overwhelmed they say I’m in over my head. If I say I’m stressed they say it’s my own fault. If I say I feel anxious then they say I’m always panicking. The problem with sharing your feelings is that sometimes they’re held against you. Complaining is shooting myself in the foot, because then people think I am an incompetent idiot versus an overwhelmed idiot. So I’m not complaining.