Wednesday, January 4, 2017

You Want What You Want and He Wants What He Wants, but God Does What He Wants

انت تريد وهو يريد والله يفعل ما يريد
(anta turiid wa-howa yuriid wallaah yaf3al ma yuriid)

"You Want What You Want and He Wants What He Wants, but God Does What He Wants"

Faith, Family,  Challenges, and New Beginnings ...

My how time flies and lives change. It's been quite a while since I've posted on the blog, almost 4 years sadly! But it's the start of a new year, and I've always loved to write and share my thoughts. So let's do this!

3 years ago yesterday (03 January),  my two biological sons and I moved into our new house. It was a decision I was nervous of, but one I made for the interest of my children. It was quite the jump - new suburb, new school district and schools, new friends, new financial commitments ... a lot to take on at once. I'm happy to say, thank God, that with all of the changes, it was one of the best decisions I've ever made. There were challenges of course, but life would be boring without difficulties, right?

Here's a quick summary of what's happened in my family since my last post...

☞ I started a new job where I had the opportunity to travel internationally.  Nervousness took over as I was taking on a role that required time away from the children for a week at a time every month in locations halfway across the world. Thankfully, it was one of the best decisions I've ever made. Not only did I get to see parts of the world I've never been to before and was able to feed my passion for travel, but it ultimately led me to meet and marry the love of my life a little over a year ago, alhamdulillah (Thank God). My husband and I's families went from 3 to 6, and our new home in Dallas can comfortably house everyone when my husband and his children visit (we are a long-distance marriage at the moment!). 2016 was overall a wonderful year for us, allowing us to grow together as a couple and getting to know each other's children (we are still learning and growing! there's always growing pains). Unfortunately, my husband lost his mother last year, but I am blessed to have had the opportunity to see her,  spend some time with her, share some stories, hug her, and be a part of her life,  even though it was only for a short period of time. She will always remain within our hearts.  May God bless her soul.

☞ My older son Y started high school, plays on the high school soccer team as well as on a club team, officially became taller than me,  and built his first gaming computer. He's decided he's considering to pursue computer engineering in college (haha, more engineers in the house). The teen years are definitely kicking in - it's weird hearing a deep voice here and there, seeing more and more independence when it comes to school and friendships, and oh boy the attitude! He and I have had our rough patches especially since "sharing his mom" has been difficult to swallow, but I'm proud of his progressing maturity and our continuous developing relationship. Not only am I learning how to be a better parent, but also how to effectively communicate to ensure we as a family are all on the same page.

☞ My younger son Z developed a passion for baseball, started middle school,  and is first chair in band playing the euphonium. My recent marriage has been difficult on him as well as he never really experienced his mom having a husband staying in the same house, even if for a temporary amount of time. Interaction is sometimes awkward, but to my younger son's credit, he's been a trooper, being one of my biggest supporters for my happiness. Anger bouts (shouting, isolating himself in his room) appear here and there, but we're teaching him to express himself constructively.

The new house and job were changes I was afraid to make,  but I prayed for the best, put my faith in God and decided to move forward. I'm thankful for everything that has happened, and blessed to be surrounded by such a strong support system, especially my husband and extended family.

Lesson learned: 

  • Always keep your commitment to your faith and beliefs no matter the tests God gives you. God never burdens a soul more than it can handle.
  • Rise to challenges and don't let them conquer you.
  • Look beyond your comfort zone and try new things.
  • Be thankful for everything,  good and bad. Ultimately, good comes out of the bad, even if you don't see it immediately.

Definitely a busy few years, but we're looking forward to growing more as a family this year, looking beyond our comfort zones, learning new things, exploring the world, and becoming healthier people.

Indeed, it is amazing how God is the best of planners. Because as the saying goes, you want what you want, and he wants what he wants, but God does what he wants.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Monkey in the Eyes of His Mother is a Gazelle

القرد في عين أمه غزال 
(el-qerd fi 3een 2omo ghazaal)
"The Monkey in the Eyes of His Mother is a Gazelle"

Happy New Year's everyone! I know it's been a while and one of my goals this year is to post more to my blog! So let's see how that goes...

2013 has been off to an interesting start - nothing too exciting, more stressful than expected though. I've officially completed my first year at my new job, which I do love. My boys...are growing up. And quickly. And going through a ton of changes that I am not sure how to handle. It's become my biggest stress - feeling lost at how to handle it all. And with nobody to really turn to for advice on how to handle raising sons as a divorced, single mom, I'm at a loss of what's next?

Y is officially a tween - and definitely giving me a very small taste of what I have to look forward to when the teens arrive. Lord help me! Definitely noticing a huge change and struggling with it. There's a lot more anger, a want for independence, fights with his brother, and holding back on information from me. Yes, he's growing up :( I keep looking at him and wondering what happened to my baby? School is becoming harder and I'm noticing he requests a lot more help from me than usual. Not sure if it's laziness or difficulty with a teacher, but I do know he's still a very intelligent child. On the bright side,  Y has also become a lot more sensitive towards me and can sense when I'm stressed, sad, worried, or upset. Last night I had the worst migraine, and I asked him to make me some tea. I went to bed and the next morning as I was getting ready to take the kids to school, he says: "Mom I made you some tea. I hope you're feeling better." *heart melts* And to me, that trumps everything! I love that he has such a sense of compassion!

Z is also showing signs of struggle. Bed-wetting almost every night has become a common occurrence. His doctor says it's normal for boys at this age. Tells me not to worry, but I do. I've tried a reward system, making sure he doesn't drink before bed, using the bathroom before bed, waking him up in the middle in the night. You name it, I've tried it. He says he just sleeps too deeply and can't feel anything. The good news, as soon as it's happened he wakes up. Before, he used to sleep right through it and wake up wet. So some progress there...let's hope for more good news soon. Z is also having a lot more tantrums. Going to school in the morning has become a struggle. This morning's argument was about what he wants to wear to school. Apparently everything in his entire wardrobe isn't enough. I've never seen such a picky child! But I'm sure they do exist ;) Anyhow, after the crazy tantrums we've had the past few days, Z definitely knew I was upset. And last night he came to my room with a note:

"Dear Mama, I'm sorry what I did last night. I sware (sp) I won't do it any more. I'm sorry I did that. Love, Z"

*Heart melts again*. And that too trumps everything!

Yet, I've been struggling lately with myself. I've been questioning why the boys have been so difficult lately - fighting, arguing, being unappreciative. I keep getting this feeling that I'm not doing enough as a mom or spending enough time with the boys. I feel bad for not providing what I thought was a proper childhood to these kids - a house with a nice backyard, a stay-at-home-mom, a "normal" family according to society. All things I grew up with.   But I've come to learn through experience and my support system that a "proper childhood" is all relative. It's how *I* handle things that makes all the difference. That as long as I am doing everything within my power to the best of my ability and they are for the most part happy, well-behaved (thank God) children, than THAT's what a proper upbringing is. It is to grow up in a loving household - where we have each other's backs. I have their back, and my boys have mine. And I know that because I get tea when Y knows I'm not feeling well and Z writes me a sweet note when he notices I'm sad. I must be doing *something* right :) And it's good to keep reminding myself of that. And for those of you who know soon as you start hearing me complain or vent that I'm feeling like a crappy mom, PLEASE continue to remind me of all the good things. I know I still have a long road ahead, but I'll continue to strive to improve on being a better mom and providing a well-balanced life to my boys.

Indeed, they are two of my greatest blessings. As naughty as they are, as much trouble as they cause, as much as they can make me upset...they are still the best things that have ever happened to me. I hope I've done a good job in raising them - that to me is the most important job that I can ever have.  I love them dearly and pray to God that he protects them, blesses them, and allows me to see them grow up to be responsible, wise, and caring men.

I don't want to turn this into something all sappy - because I generally dislike sappiness, especially public display of it. But I want my boys one day to read this, look back and realize that they gave me the willpower (of course after God) to keep my chin up and be the best mother that I can be.

Y, Z - with all of your imperfections, to me you are PERFECT. 

Yes, only a child's mother can look beyond all his/her negatives and see the beautiful blessing they are. Because as the saying goes, the monkey in the eyes of his mother is a gazelle.

Monday, October 1, 2012

God Does not Burden a Soul Beyond What It Can Bear

لا يكلف الله نفسا إلا وسعها

(la yokalefo allahu nafsan illa wes3aha)

"God Does not Burden a Soul Beyond What It Can Bear"

(The Quran, 2:286)

Have to keep reminding myself of this - over, and over, and over.

God grant me patience and strength.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

He Who Sees the Calamity of Others Finds His Own Calamity Light

من رأى مصائب غيره هانت مصائبه

(man ra2a masa2eb gheero haanet masa2ebo)

"He Who Sees the Calamity of Others Finds His Own Calamity Light"

I can't believe it's been over a year since my last post. For those who do follow, it's been a whirlwind of a year for me. Some major downs, but thank God, I'm still standing. Gotta keep it positive! I know I've slacked with keeping in touch with people, but I really just needed to take care of myself for a bit. 

I've had a rough few weeks - been feeling down. Feeling lost. Feeling out of place. Not sure where in the puzzle of life do I fit. But I have to remember to put things into perspective. Everything happens for a reason. Someone always has it worse off. It's not that my issues are NOT nothing per se, but they are not as bad as what others have to go through. So, my review of the last year and reminder that life goes on:

The last year has brought on major challenges.

I realized over the past two years that my career was going nowhere. I was unhappy at work. I had been up for promotion for three years. Multiple awards later and after every annual review, it was always the same - "you're doing an amazing job. You're a role model for your peers. But we're sorry, we haven't been able to get your promotion through." Always an excuse. Simply frustrating. And considering I have quite a few years left until I can retire (since I fully financially support my children and have two college educations to worry about), it was time to make some major decisions. Time to look outside the company. Spoke with some contacts. Applied for some positions. And thankfully, something came through! (*special thanks to those that assisted - you know who you are!*) The resignation was next. Complete shock from my team, promises that things would get better. But nothing concrete. I had already made my decision that it was time to move on - but the dynamics of seeing how everything played out at my former employer was quite interesting! So early this year, I started my new job! New position, new role, new people. Lots to get used to. Settling in well thankfully!

Then it was the health scare. A year of not knowing what's going on with my body. Finally deciding to go for a second opinion (best decision ever). News I needed surgery. Getting a biopsy on tissue removed. Alhamdulillah (thank God), everything went well. Nothing cancerous. Nothing too serious. Glad I was on top of things!

The kids didn't spend their summer in Egypt with grandma, so keeping two kids occupied while I worked full time was, let's just say, fun? Um ok...not fun. It was C-R-A-Z-Y. How do you explain to your kids while everyone is on vacation, going out and having fun, swimming, etc that I have to work and can't participate? Good question - I still don't know lol. But whatever...we survived :) 

Next challenge - my oldest son Y. He's officially a tween and started middle school. One word. EEKS! I've seen quite the transformation in him. He's become much more independent, which is great - at times. He doesn't like to hug/kiss me in front of his friends. He teases his brother non-stop. Definitely starting to challenge authority. Having issues with me taking some "me" time without the kids. Becoming a lot more aggressive too. We've had many a talk on the behavior. It's been tough, but we're working through it. There have been many sleepless nights trying to figure out how on earth I'm going to survive it. And yes, tears.  I've had nights where I've thought I can't handle it anymore. But thanks to those that are a real support, I realize it's only temporary. Don't get me wrong - he's given me great moments too! Like an amazing handmade Mother's Day card that made my heart melt. Or today - I asked him to empty the dishwasher before school this morning. I honestly didn't expect him to do it, but I was delighted and surprised when indeed I found it emptied! YAY! And he knows exactly when to say/do something to make me smile. When/if he decides to get married, his wife will be one lucky woman :)

And who said youngest son Z isn't a challenge? Z is finally understanding what it means to come from a divorced family. Not that it's something bad - just that it's different and can be frustrating for a child his age. He never really knew his dad since we divorced when he was 5 months old and dad went overseas for a year. So it's only been in the past couple of years that Z has finally realized who his dad is and what it means to have a dad. The hard part is explaining to him why his dad doesn't live at home like his cousins' dad. However, the good thing is I've made sure he maintains a good and strong relationship with his dad. And I'm proud to say that he does. In fact, both of my boys do, and really, that's all that matters. Never let your issues/past with an ex get in the way of your ex's relationship with his/her kids (provided they aren't harming the children in any way). We've dealt with morning tantrums refusing to go to school - where I've had to literally carry Z through the school doors. I've had to continue dealing with his bed-wetting. Doctor says it's normal for his age - but I know it affects him. I know he feels bad and gets embarrassed, and it breaks my heart when he wakes up the next morning knowing he's had an accident and doesn't want me to know. I know he doesn't mean it, and I never punish him for it. But we do talk about it and try to do whatever it takes to lessen the chances of an accident. But even with all those challenges - it takes one hug and kiss from his precious self and I forget all the rough times.

I know I am lucky alhamdulillah. Yes, it may be tough not having a dream job/career. Yes, I don't have the opportunity to travel the world like I'd love to. Yes, I don't have the social life I wish I had. Yes, it's hard raising two children pretty much on my own. Yes, they can be difficult, but they are kids. And mashaAllah for the most part they're pretty good kids in general. All in all, they seem pretty "normal" to me - at least in my definition of "normal" :) So I can't complain. I'll let none of the challenges I'm facing stop me from pursuing whatever I want. It may take me some time but, but eventually things will fall into place.

Every day I read the news, review statuses on Facebook and hear stories from people about others, mainly parents, going through much more challenging things than me - health issues, financial difficulties, relationship issues, children with terminal diseases, children with autism, homes being destroyed, family members being killed, not being able to put food on the table, families broken apart... the list goes on. And it's a good reminder to be thankful for what I *DO* have. And of course, all thanks goes to the One and only - God.

Don't get me wrong - I do have to constantly remind myself of that. That's exactly what I am doing now. Identifying what stresses me and remembering what others are going through. And that's exactly what I'm reminding you of. We all have issues, but some have it worse than others. I'm not downplaying mine or anyone's issues - remember that everything is relative. So instead of focusing on how everything is going wrong and how others have it better than you, identify and tackle your own issues and remember there are those that have it worse than you. 

Because as the saying goes, "He Who Sees the Calamity of Others Finds His Own Calamity Light".

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Live with Us and Then Judge Us

عاشرنا و أخبرنا 
(3asherna wi akhberna)

"Live with Us and Then Judge Us"

Sometimes it really bothers me. Like seriously bothers me... There are times when people tell me to "lighten up" over a minor occurrence that I might get upset about. This usually happens especially after I've had a horrible day or I'm completely stressed out. 

I'm generally not a grump (although my mother, grandmother, and my 7th grade gifted and talented teacher would tell you I often complained as a child), and I generally am not in a bad mood. Plus, I rarely complain as an adult. But I have my moments - definitely not an angel. But I say... let me have them. When you live my life, and I hope you never have to, you'd understand where I'm coming from. Of course, the same goes for me with anyone else. I just say, think things through before making a snide comment or remark - you could be hurting someone else's feelings or making their day that much worse.

So let me give you an idea of what I mean. Ever sat down and thought about exactly what roles you play? And how much you spend with each of those roles? Well, all single moms out there, hear me out - this is your opportunity to take a look at yourself and evaluate what you need to do to make your life better. I take that back - thats for EVERYONE - single moms, married moms, single dads, married dads, wives, husbands, not in a relationship, etc. You get what I mean :)

So here's the task: 

List every single one of your roles that you play. Assign the number of hours per day that you play that role (on average, and when you're awake), determine the percentage and then evaluate and determine what you need to adjust (where it can be adjusted).

So here's mine six months ago, living on 6 hours of sleep a night (I know I've forgotten some roles but I don't have time to think!):

- Mother to two boys : 4 hours (22%)
- Employee (full-time): 8 hours (44%)
- Driver: 2 hours (11%)
- Soccer team manager: 0.5 hours (3%)
- Friend: 0.5 (3%)
- Daughter: 0.5 (3%)
- Sister: 0.5 (3%)
- Mentor:  0.5 (3%)
- Ex-wife: 0.5 (yeah I still have to play this role whether I like to or not - school updates, soccer coordination, visitation coordination, crazy things like "Did Y leave his blue soccer socks at your house?") (3%)
- Me: 1 (5.5%)

(Note: the "Mother" role is a 24 hour role, but this is pure hours spent doing "motherly stuff". I can guarantee you I spend a lot more time being a mother than anything else)

It then screamed out at me. Where's your YOU TIME? When are you taking care of you? It just wasn't enough. I was stressed, miserable, and never felt that I was ahead of the game. So that's when I took a decision that I no longer could handle being a soccer team manager. I decided to give that 3% back to myself and my children. I had enough things I needed to manage. I made several other adjustments too, but I'm still trying to get there. 

So now that you've had a little deeper look into my life, you may understand why sometimes my grumpiness or bad mood is on a Level Red. So give me, or any other person in my similar shoes, a break every once in a while. I don't need to be called selfish, self-centered, grumpy, annoying, etc. I definitely don't have time to be one of those all the time ;)

Having said all this, I will take this as an opportunity to apply all of the above in my own life, with those that I interact regularly with. I'll do better to let it go (of course within limits :P). After all, there's a reason the Prophet said to give your brother (sister) 70 excuses ... you don't know what circumstances other people may currently be in.

Because as the saying goes, "Live with Us and Then Judge Us."

Thursday, September 1, 2011

He Who Perseveres Finds and He Who Sows Harvests

من جد وجد ومن زرعة حصد
(mann gadda wagad wa man zara3a 7assad)

He Who Perseveres Finds and He Who Sows Harvests

(Today's post is dedicated to someone close to my heart. You know who you are.)

Ramadan is over, Eid has passed, and now we're back to "reality." I'm a bit sad in fact - I really enjoy the month of Ramadan - everything just seems so peaceful. It's an opportunity to just concentrate on my relationship with God. Cleanse my soul. Start a new page. Everything just seems so easy. And for some reason, this was one of those Ramadans that truly was a blessing in disguise. I know you may not see it now, but I'm confident that it will be.

Indeed, it was one of my most difficult Ramadan's ever. And probably one I will never forget. And one day, I will look back at it and probably realize it was one of the best Ramadan's ever inshaAllah (God willing). I hope that during this blessed month, the prayers that we prayed, the du3a2 we made, and the fasting we persevered with is accepted by God (inshaAllah). And that all of these events that happened during Ramadan happened for a reason - for those prayers to be multiplied.

To those of you going through difficult times, some of my thoughts that I hope will help get you through your trials and tribulations:

Things in this life don't come easy. In fact, God tests those he loves the most. So see it as a test from God. And hopefully, we all pass these tests with flying colors. I've come to appreciate, especially in the almost six years since my divorce, that indeed "with every difficulty there is relief. Verily, with every difficulty there is relief" (The Quran, Surah 94, Ayahs 5-6). My favorite Quran'ic ayahs...even used them as I gave the benediction at my high school graduation from a public school, in front of an audience of about 10,000 people. 

It's been an absolute roller coaster - ups and downs, time and time again. Every time I feel like I've hit the lowest part, something happens to bring me lower. But somehow, God puts this inner strength in me that helps me pull out. The trick is to stay grounded. 

Don't lose focus. 
Don't give up. 
Don't back down. 
Don't forget who you are.
Be the good person you know you are. 
Do what makes you feel comfortable.

Remember the more effort you make to get closer to Him, the more He'll move closer to you.
And most of all, as a believer, remember that God never gives you more than you can handle.

It's ok to feel helpless, lost, and scared at times. But you will find that inner strength. You will make it. You can do it. And one day, you will see the fruits of your labor. I see it every time I look at my two beautiful boys Y and Z, mashaAllah. May Allah protect them and continue to shower them with His blessings.

You can do it too.

Because as the saying goes, "he who perseveres finds, and he who sows harvests."

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Wonders Don't Please Him, Nor Does Fasting in the Month of Ragab

ما ييعجيبووش العجب ولا الصيام في رجب
(ma ye3geboosh il 3agab walla il seyaam fi ragab)

Wonders Don't Please Him, Nor Does Fasting in the Month of Ragab

Oh how time flies! Didn't realize it's been over a month since I've posted...and summer is almost gone. And wow, Ramadan is upon us! A full year has gone by...I simply can't believe it...

Now I know this "saying" of today's post mentions the month of Ragab, but it does mention fasting and we are in the month of fasting, Ramadan. But, really, my true intention behind this post is for us to realize how thankful we should really be. I look all around me, the comforts that I have alhamdulillah, and sometimes I still manage to complain. We're all guilty of it - we're all human of course. But sometimes we need to step back and put things into perspective. And that's what I'm going to try to do this Ramadan inshaAllah - let's realize how many blessings we truly have and think about what we can do for others who are less fortunate. And let's make this a habit, not just in Ramadan, but everyday, in all aspects of our lives.

For those of us in the USA, we've been complaining of triple digit heat waves (its been 29 days straight of 100+ temperatures where I live), 15-hour fasting days, increasing prices in everything, etc, etc, etc. And then I think about .... the people in Egypt who are living in just as extreme heat on less than $2/day. Or the people in Syria and Libya who are getting slaughtered by their dictators for wanting basic human rights. Or the people in Africa, specifically Somalia, who instead of having to deal with 15 hour fasting days are having to fast for 15 months. People are starving around the world, and we complain about our extreme heat and long days while we sit comfortably in our air-conditioned cars and homes. Thank God for everything - let's use these blessings that have been bestowed upon us and use them in constructive ways to help others.

And for all my readers who observe Ramadan, may this month be a month full of blessings ISA. May God accept our fasting, prayers, and du3a2 inshaAllah. May He continue to shower His blessings upon us all. And before we start complaining about how horrible our lives are, or how long our fasting days are, or how hungry we are, let's take a step back and remember those that are truly in need. Let's not be one of those people who is never happy with what he/she has. Because as the saying goes...wonders don't please him, nor does fasting in the month of Ragab.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Man Thinks, and God Takes Care of Things

العبد فل تفكير والرب فل تدبير 
("el 3abd fil-tafkir wel rab fil-tadbir")
It's been ages, I know. Life has just, well, been busy. I guess that's a good thing...sometimes. School is out, summer has started, and oh the wonderful joys of making summer plans. It's one of my least favorite things about the summer, especially as a single mom. 

Well 2011 has been an interesting year to say the least. But the one thing that has probably impacted my life the most: the revolution in Egypt which started Jan 25th. All I can say, I still don't believe it ever happened. It's a great thing for the Egyptian people, to finally have a voice. To stand up and no longer be afraid. I'm loving the new page the Egyptians have turned, and I can't wait to see how Egypt blossoms, even though it may take a long time. The trick is to stay positive - we have to stop continuously thinking about all of the challenges Egypt will face, and just take things a day at a time. Haha, don't worry, I'm not going to go into politics...

So you ask what does Egypt have to do with my post today? Well, lots :) At least as it relates to my summer plans! Summer plans - it's one of the joys of being a single mom. And unfortunately, this year, I admit, I am so not organized when it came to summer plans for the kids. Of course it applies to any working mother (especially the ones where dad is around as well and is also working)...but making summer plans is a pain in the A$$ (sorry ;) ). Growing up, it was such a blessing to have mom at home. Mom didn't work until I was in my high school years, and when she did return to the work force, she had decided against working in her field of engineering and decided to pursue education on the side. And that was convenient for the summer - that meant mom was home, no summer camps required, and Egypt in the summer for 3 months was on the agenda!

Egypt was all about family, friends, and fun. I don't think I ever had to worry about a thing except of course for hilarious Arabic lesson sessions with Teacher Saber who managed to eat the entire plate of brownies before our very eyes without sharing ONE (I guess brownies weren't very well known in Egypt yet, because he sure did enjoy them!). But back to the post...summer meant sleeping in and being lazy and just having fun.

Previous summers were a blessing - my mom goes to Egypt every year and took my kids with her. Along with my younger sister's help, she managed to organize Arabic lessons, swimming lessons, tours of famous places in Egypt, and of course, BEACH TIME at our chalet. It worked out perfectly - the kids get a chance to learn more about their origins, they learn a little bit more Arabic, they actually have a "real" summer vacation and an exotic place to talk about once school resumes, and of course, mommy (me) gets a nice break :)

So back to the revolution in Egypt...

Summer in Egypt + Revolution in Egypt + kids who need to stay busy = not a very good combination :) 

It just wasn't a viable option this summer, which meant, mommy (me) has to make summer plans for kiddoes. And mommy (me) doesn't get her annual break. Eeeeeks....You're probably asking where dad (ex) is in all of this - I'm not going to vent or talk much about it, but let's just say, dad (ex) isn't taking his one month summer rights. End of story. Which means mom (me) has to do all of the planning. And planning for me = a ton of thinking. I spent months looking at camps, calculating how much it was going to cost me (Egypt tickets suddenly started looking so cheap!), writing dates down on papers, losing the papers I wrote the camp dates on, and then started all over again. Endless cycle. I was not organized. At all. How was I going to make sure my kids had a proper summer where they weren't waking up every morning at 7 am just like school to get ready to go to wherever they were going? How will I set it up so that they are actually getting a break or getting to sleep in or me not worrying about packing lunches or getting to the daycare on time? I know it sounds crazy, but my sons told me at the end of school: "Do we have to go to camp? Can't we just sit at home and sleep in and just get to be lazy? Why do we have to wake up early? We just want to stay home!" Boy, that made me feel so guilty, but what choice do I have? I have to fully financially support these kids, which means I have to work! So what to do? 



Had no idea what to do.

And the stress kicked in - along with all of the other wonderful stressful things going on in my life. And that's when I decided, you know what, I'm going to just take it one week at a time and go from there. I'll do what I can and leave the rest up to God. And wow, what a difference that has made. What a relief. And, on it's own, the June and July schedule worked itself out. Between camps, grandma/grandpa (rabbina yekhaleehom), friends, working from home, and an occasional babysitter, it has all worked out. Alhamdulillah (thank God). And all that's left is August - and you know what - I'll worry about that when we get there :) I'm sure God will open the needed doors, inshaAllah (God Willing). And you ask what mommy (me) will be doing to get her annual break? Let's just say I've planned a nice weekend trip on my own somewhere, hopefully a few more will come, just to keep my sanity :) But I'll stop thinking about it and just let things happen! And it just doesn't apply to summer plans - applies to everything else in life too. Now, if only, I can get myself to believe that....

Because as the saying goes..."Man thinks, and God Takes Care of Things"

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Ask One Who Has Experience Rather than a Physician - Part 2

أسأل مجرب ولا تسأل طبيب 

(2es2al megarab walla tes2al tabeeb)
"Ask one who has experience rather than a physician"

As promised, part 2. Let's focus this time on some of the positives I've experienced of being a single parent. I know, I know. Many of you are probably are there any? Well it really depends on what angle you decide to look at things. It definitely isn't the easiest task in the world, but at the end of the day, the most important thing is that you've raised wonderful children (we hope!). 

It's definitely not as easy writing about the positives of single parenting...sometimes I feel like I'm grasping at anything to make it positive. But you take the best of what you have, even if it means looking at it with a bit of humor :)

(Disclaimer: I am by no means encouraging or suggesting divorce to anyone. I still maintain it as being a last resort decision after ALL steps have been taken to attempt to resolve any issues. And yes, that includes some sort of marital counseling - unfortunately something MANY people - especially men - refuse! And that's another topic in itself...but again, I digress...)

1. Weekend / Mid-Week breaks

YAY to free babysitting! That is, of course, if the other parent is cooperative and actually takes the children for visitation times! And luckily, for the most part, I've had that luxury in the past couple of years. Let's hope it stays that way. I love my weekends off - it's a chance for me to catch up on everything I can't do with the kids. And no it's not always fun, but every once in a while - I make it fun! I've done weekend getaways to cities in other states, weekend hotel getaways in my own city, whatever it takes. Anything to recharge.

I hear a lot of my married friends complain that they never have time for themselves. My question is...WHY NOT? Is it really that hard to arrange for hubby to watch the kids, and if that doesn't work, hire a babysitter? Many people from our culture are so against this hiring a babysitter concept. I just don't understand it. So what - you spend 50 bucks on a babysitter for a few hours of relaxation and rejuvenation. You get some much needed time for yourself, you re-charge your battery, and you come back a happier parent for your children! Last year, I actually started a Girl's Night Out (GNO) group with a few of my girl friends (majority of them married) and they LOVE it! Unfortunately with life's busy schedules, it's hard to find a time that suits everyone. But once every couple of months doesn't hurt. And for the married couples out there...time without the kids is a MUST! Send the kids to grandma, or hire a babysitter, and get some quality time with your spouse. It helps keep the spark in any relationship.

2. Happier Parents (or at least we hope so)

When two people just don't click in the marriage and things start to get rocky at home, the children notice. Children can sense the tension in the house. They can feel the anger, and it can definitely impact them in a negative way. And in more cases than not, I've noticed that my own kids are happier now, in general. They see me happy at home. They see their dad happy at home. Of course it's not always perfect, but, for me, it's better more times than not. Plus, I'm a lot more comfortable with me now than I ever was before. And there's a lot less in the disappointment arena.

I've actually had the opportunity to re-evaluate myself as a person - review my positive and negative qualities. I've made attempts to improve my shortcomings and use my strengths to become a better person. I'm more in touch with me. 

3. Decision Making

Now that I'm in control of my own life (of course everything is in God's hands), and I am the one making all of the decisions for my children and I, new doors have opened. I can better define who I am, what I stand for. I can actually be me without having somebody else judge me. Of course, there are ALWAYS people who judge you no matter what, but at least it's not someone directly involved in my life on a daily basis. Plus, when I'm free (with no kids), I can go out almost wherever I want, whenever I want, etc. Nobody to make me feel guilty for not staying at home :)

4. Easy Dinners!

Haha, ok this is one of my faves actually. I don't have to cook dinner every night! Woohoo :)  This is probably the same for most working moms, even married ones. But I think I get a little bit of an extra edge - if I don't feel like cooking, it's cereal, nuggets, mac and cheese, watermelon and cheese (a favorite Egyptian meal), or eating out!

5. Miscellaneous Fun Stuff

OK, so now I'm having some fun :) But hey, it's some sort of a plus! 

- I get to decorate the house the way *I* want it
- No having to share a bed, and nobody to steal the covers from me
- An opportunity for a "second" chance @ a relationship

*** UPDATED ***
So I missed a few of the miscellaneous fun stuff! haha
- no sharing of closet space. ITS ALL MINE! (and boy do I need it *ahem*)
- no sharing of garage space - I can park diagonally if I want to! (that is if I every get my garage cleaned out)
- no hogging of the remote control!
*** END UPDATE ***

I know some of this may sound a bit selfish, but in all honesty, sometimes you have to be selfish to realize how important it is to take care of yourself. Because when you take care of yourself, you become a better person to those around you, including your children. My mom always reminds me - "khalee balek min nafsek 3ashan khater weladek" - take care of yourself for the sake of your kids. And boy, is she right.

There you go...just some quick positives that I myself have experienced since my own divorce. There's probably a lot more that I haven't recognized right now at this moment. I write these posts on the fly - as the thoughts come to me - so anything I remember later, will just be in a new post :)

So if you're in the same position as me - keep your head up. There's ups and there's downs. Just remember that everything is a learning experience and to try to see the good even out of something that may seem bad (that's a lesson to myself - one of the hardest things for me to recognize). And if you ever need to know whether what you're experiencing is normal or not, I find the best thing to do is to talk to someone in my same shoes. Because as the saying goes, "Ask one who has experience rather than a physician."

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Ask One Who Has Experience Rather than a Physician - Part 1

أسأل مجرب ولا تسأل طبيب 
(2es2al megarab walla tes2al tabeeb)
"Ask one who has experience rather than a physician"

I know it's been a while since I've put up a post, but things have been absolutely crazy. Between eye issues (I still can't see very well, but luckily my eyes have adjusted to the awkward vision), craziness at work, the school year wrapping up, and everything else, I've barely had time to breathe! So I've finally gotten a few quiet moments to myself to put something together!

So a lot of people ask me what it's like being a single mom. Do I enjoy it? What's it like? Is it hard? Would I rather be married? The list of questions can go on, so here's some interesting tidbits of info that I thought I'd share - some insights to my daily life.  Today's post focuses on the more difficult aspects, but please don't think it's all "difficult" or "negative" per se. Perhaps it may put some things into perspective...

Here goes...

1. Roadtrips

I miss being a passenger. I miss not having to drive myself (and the kids) everywhere. I just got back from a five hour roadtrip to see my parents and I couldn't WAIT to get home! When you have two kids who are asleep in the backseat, there's not much you can do to keep yourself can't blast the music to keep yourself awake. You can't check Facebook or tweet or text or Whatsapp in your chatroom (although I'm guilty of all of the above - but I'm working on that!). You can't call a friend to chat because you don't want the conversation blasting via bluetooth on your speakers to wake up the kids (and of course with my luck most of my friends are busy with their own lives and can't chat for hours). You can't stop at a gas station while the kids are asleep to run in by yourself and grab some snacks and coffee (we really need more drive thru Starbucks). And my biggest fear - getting a flat tire! I have absolutely no clue how to change one and would absolutely panic if that happened to me in the middle of nowhere! Thank God that hasn't happened and I hope it never does!

2. Grocery store runs

How many times have you opened the fridge at 10 pm, after the kids have fallen asleep, and realized you don't have milk for tomorrow's breakfast? Yeah that's right - I'm sure most of you have. Single moms with younger children don't have the luxury of telling hubby to keep an eye on the kids while you run to the grocery store to pick something up. And we all know what grocery shopping with kids is like...absolute hell. Running in to grab milk with two cranky kids can make for some fun experiences..I can't tell you how many times I've had to sit in the car begging my kids to come in with me to the grocery store so I can pick some things up for dinner. Sometimes though I can't blame them - spending 10 hours at school is not the most fun thing. Just like me...I can't wait to get home after a long day at work. They too can't wait to get home after a long day at school.

3. Outings with married friends

I love my married friends to death but going out with them can often be awkward. I definitely feel out of place when every one of my friends is either sitting next to her husband or across from him, while I am either sitting in front of / next to a child or nobody at all. Thank goodness most of our outings end up naturally splitting with men on one side of the table and women on the other. But the oddest feeling (and can be a good feeling too) - when the waiter/waitress hands every man his family's check, and you're the only female being handed a check :)

4. Nighttime loneliness

Apart from the obvious, nighttime as a single mom can often times be extremely lonely. Yes, I do watch tv, watch a movie, read a book, surf the net, etc after the kids get to bed. But sometimes I just want to have a conversation with another adult. And phone conversations and chats don't always do the trick. After a full day dealing with two kids on your own, there's nothing like having a live conversation with another adult!

5. Weekend breaks

You'd be surprised how many people I interact with that are so envious of the weekends that I have off when the kids are with their dad. My message to them - if you lived in my shoes, you wouldn't be so envious. You try dealing non-stop with your kids for 12 days in a row without any other adult interaction at home and maintain your sanity! And no, my weekends aren't filled with late night outings, travels, and utter freedom. Heck, I use my weekends to catch up on much needed sleep, running errands that I can't do with the kids (like grocery shopping), and an occasional self-paid pampering session at the spa.

6. Special Occasions / Holidays

Special occasions and holidays are often an uncomfortable time for anyone who's divorced. For single parents, especially if the kids are with the other parent, it can often be an awkward/depressing time. Thoughts of past anniversaries or memories can often put you in a funk. And all these commercialized holidays - Mother's Day, Father's Day, Valentine's Day - don't really help. I spent the last Mother's Day without my kids and even though mother's day should be every day, I will admit I woke up a little sad - nobody to make me breakfast in bed, no flowers next to my bedside table to say thank you, no gift card to the local spa for some much-needed pampering. And birthdays - well it never was much of a celebrated day in my family in general - but when the conversation for the day with all of your girl-friends happens to be about what amazing gift your husband bought for you for your birthday, you sort of sit there and have have nothing to share but silence. A tip for you women who have single friends - be aware of who is with you and a little sensitive to others feelings :)

7. Fears

Sometimes fears are the hardest to face, but here's a few. I just need to remember to keep my faith in God and everything will be OK (inshaAllah):
- I'm afraid of dying in my sleep and my kids waking up to finding me dead.
- I'm afraid of dying (in general) while my kids are still young.
- I'm afraid of being "alone" for the rest of my life.
- I'm afraid that my kids may get busy in their own lives once they become adults and forget about me.
- I'm afraid of my kids resenting me for the divorce.
- I'm afraid of not being able to afford to send my kids to college.
- I'm afraid of losing my job and not being able to support my kids (I'm their sole financial support, although I know my family will automatically assume that role, no questions asked - may God reward them always)

So that's just a start to some of my "experiences" as a single mom. There's plenty more that I can write about, especially the positive aspects, so stay tuned for part 2 of this post!

Because as the saying goes...ask one who has experience rather than a physician!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Place the Pot Upside Down, and the Girl Will Take After her Mother

أقف القدرة على فمها، تطلع البنت لامها
(ekfi el-edrah 3ala fummaha, tetla3 el-bent le 2umaha)
"Place the Pot Upside Down, and the Girl Will Take After her Mother"

It's been a while since I've posted, but things have been quite rocky lately. And unfortunately the one thing I really couldn't do (and still shouldn't be doing) is sit in front of a laptop and type. Because everything right now in front of me is a bit blurry (literally). Thankfully, it's nothing serious and will just take time to heal, but it's been quite an emotional roller coaster dealing with doctors, the ER, the kids, my own inner feelings. 

It was so hard going through this mini health crisis and trying to be a mom at the same time. There were moments where I just felt helpless - I didn't know what to do or say, and my kids would just look at me and ask if I was OK. I could barely help with homework, and my patience was lacking. I felt horrible. But I have to give credit to my beautiful boys Y and Z. Y would see me crying, and come up to me with a big hug and kisses, and say..."mommy, it's going to be OK inshaAllah. Salamtek (arabic for get better soon). Rabbina Yustor." And Z would just come up and snuggle and hug and kiss me. I have never felt so helpless, or vulnerable. I didn't know what was next, what the future was holding. All I could think about was, am I going to be able to see my kids grow up? Will I be able to see what they look like? Am I going to be able to get through this?

But the one thing that I missed most was having my own mommy around - she has the best hugs, and prayers, and always makes me feel better. And I know she didn't want me to worry...she was staying strong for me, but I know that she was worried sick and praying to God that everything was ok. And as soon as I got the good news about my eyes and I spoke to my mom, I heard her burst into tears telling me that she was on her way driving up to see me (even though she was scheduled to fly up to my sister who just recently became a mom to son #2) and that she's just been wanting to reach out and hug me. I was sitting in the middle of the doctor's office trying to maintain my composure, fighting back the tears. I've never felt so loved.  

Which is why I dedicate today's posting to her. Perfect timing that tomorrow is Mother's Day :) I love you Mom :)

I still don't know how she did it while my sisters and I were growing up - dad was traveling the world for work. There were years where he was gone 9 months of the year, and mom would be the one to hold the fort down - she was the one taking care of us (5 children mashaAllah), handling most of the household duties, and at one point working full time. She's been through so many trials and tribulations, but she's always remained strong. I admire that in my mom - I don't know how she does it. 

My mom is an amazing woman (mashaAllah). Her beauty, strength, and resolve never cease to amaze me. May God protect you always Mom and give you the health and happiness always inshaAllah. May He protect you from other's envy and evil thoughts and deeds. I only hope that I can be half the woman that you are. I sure hope the saying is right, that I will take after you, especially in all of your wonderful qualities (mashaAllah). You inspire me to become a better woman, sister, friend, and above all mother. I hope that when my children are adults,  they are as proud of me as I am of you.

And a Happy Mother's Day to all of the moms out there, especially the hard-working, single mothers who have so much weight on their shoulders. I'm sure your mothers are/would be proud of you. They must have been amazing women, because they taught you so well - to stand tall under pressure. Because as the saying goes..."Place the Pot Upside Down, and the Girl Will Take After her Mother"

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Be Contrary and Be Known

خالف تعرف 
(Khaalef tu3raf)
"Be Contrary and Be Known"

I am not a victim. 

I refuse to be seen as the victim. I may have been the victim of someone else's actions, but that doesn't make me a victim. I just happen to have experienced extraordinary circumstances. Life changing ones. Tests from God.

And I won't fall for other's expectations. I will fall for God's expectations. I will take care of my family to the best of my abilities. And I will survive (ISA).  And any human who attempts to bring me down, let it be known you won't be on my favorable side :)

True stories:

No, I will not bow down to society's expectations that I am a helpless, needy woman because I'm a single mom and that I don't have a man. Sorry lady, there's a reason God put me through this, and I will embrace it. I will accept it and work with what I have. I only need Him to guide me, not a man.

No, I will not quit my professional job, move in with my parents, stay at home and expect them to support my children and I as I sit around being a bum. Sure, if I ever lose my job or cannot financially support my children, I will turn to my family who would accept me with open arms. But that doesn't mean I should just give up on my life, my own dreams, my goals.

No, I will not let myself shrivel into an ugly, old woman who refuses to take the time to take care of myself. Sweetheart, if you don't like the fact that I'm taking care of myself (mentally, emotionally, and physically), then go fly a kite. Maybe think about taking care of yourself?

No, I will not listen to you tell me that the only things I should do should be for my kids and to forget about having a life because they are the most important things now. Sorry, but I hate to break the news to you. The only way I can take care of my kids is if I take care of me. You call it selfish. I call it keeping my sanity. End of story.

No, I will not spend every single second of my life with my kids. That's just not practical or realistic. And before you jump to conclusions and label me as a bad mom, think for a second. My kids are with me practically 24/7 for 12 days every 2 weeks. On. My. Own. If I go on a mini vacation for two days so I can rejuvenate and recharge myself or spend a few hours with my girl friends over a cup of joe, that's a GOOD thing. Not bad. That doesn't make me a bad mom. That makes me a better mom who is happier, healthier, and more able to take care of my kids. So don't judge me. Single mom or married mom, I suggest it for you too!

The list goes on and on...but there's a moral to the story. I love helping people. With the blessings and grace of God (all thanks goes to Him), I have been able to support my children throughout these trying times, in all aspects - mentally, emotionally, financially. And I have had the honor to help others going through similar serve as a mentor and guide.  I am truly humbled that they have even chosen to turn to me. I only hope my experiences and advice are an inspiration to them, to remember to keep their heads high, make a realistic goal, and to keep on going.

I refuse to be categorized as a hapless, divorced mom. And if you are or have been in my shoes, don't listen to other's BS aimed at bringing you down. Stand tall and strong. Refute people's and society's low expectations of you...remember, there are others looking up to you for being different and strong. Hold your ground because as the saying goes, "be contrary and be known." 

Monday, April 18, 2011

No Smoke Without Fire

لا دخان بدون نار
"No Smoke Without Fire"

What you may not know about me is that I'm a young, divorced, single mother to two young boys. In my posts, I'll call them Y (10 yrs old) and Z (5.5 yrs old). I've been divorced for over five years now, and it has definitely been a struggle adjusting to my new life. Being divorced is a challenge, being a divorced mother is a bigger challenge, and being a divorced, Muslim mother of two has been the biggest challenge. Divorce is such a taboo topic in our Muslim community and unfortunately women who are divorced are always looked down upon. We're always pointed at, credited with being the "cause" of why "he left her." Well I won't get into that topic (believe me I could talk for ages about that), but all I have to say is just be courteous and leave it up to God to be the judge. It's been such a struggle dealing with this because I know very few women that are in my shoes that I can relate to, and I hope one day I can form a single Muslim moms support group to help others get through the good, the bad, and the ugly. I thank God for giving me the strength, patience, and will to be able to raise my two young sons on my own, and I thank him for blessing me with all of the amazing happenings in my life that have made this struggle so much easier. But I digress...

Given that background, last night was a tough night. One of the bonuses bestowed upon us single moms is dealing with the oh-so-wonderful behavior change in our kids when they come home from the "other" parents house. Oh how fun it is! So last night's chain of events:

- Y rings the doorbell about a hundred times (as he customarily does). C'mon, we all know mom should be ready immediately and no delays!
- Yours truly attempts to say salam (hello) to Y, who so nicely ignores me and storms right past me as he
walks in with a boatload of crap - from clothes left at dad's house, to backpacks to papers to soccer gear. Whatever, you name it!
- Z walks in half asleep complaining that he's tired, and already whining that he wants to go to bed
- Y screams at Z because Z isn't helping him with bringing all of the stuff from the car (um, where is dad in all of this?). It takes two trips for Y to bring all the stuff...
- Y and Z have finally trekked into the house and I customarily walk up the stairs right behind them to tuck them into bed.

And the conversation (or lack thereof) between Y and me continues:

Me (to Y, as I climb up the side of the bunk-bed to give him a kiss and hug and say evening prayers): "Good night habibi"
 (Y squirms to the far side of the bed straight up against the wall, and doesn't respond)
Me (to Y again): "Y, I said goodnight. Are you going to even say anything to me?"
Y: "NO. I'm mad"
Me: "At me?"
Y: "NO. At Z"
Me: "Um ok...So what does that have to do with me?"
Me: "OK, so am I going to get a kiss or not?"
(silence, and more squirming against the wall)
Me (to Z, who has since managed to fall asleep in two minutes flat): "Good night habibi"
(one last attempt with Y)
Me: "OK, I guess you don't want to talk to me. Mashi."

So the questions begin to pop into my head. Hmm, I wonder why he's behaving like this? I don't get it. They've had a good weekend...Y was in the soccer championship in his league, but unfortunately lost. Z had a soccer game. The weather was gorgeous. I'm in a good mood after having a time to re-charge myself so I can be a good mom, especially after an extremely rough, stressful few weeks. 

And of course, the devil starts playing with my mind. Did I say or do something wrong? I welcomed them home with open, loving arms. Why is it I always get the difficult end? Maybe his dad said something to him about me? 

And then I realize, at least part of it is just because of the change. Dad's house is full of fun, no schoolwork, no discipline. It's all about the park, playing outside, playing computer games, watching tv. And Y and Z are back to mom's house - the evil house where we have to do our homework, go to bed on time, have limited tv time, limited DSi time. It's back to the nitty gritty. The wonderful rules. Police mom.


But I'm not convinced that's the only reason why Y was behaving that way. There's got to be a reason why he refused to even say hello to me, much less kiss me goodnight. And you bet, I'm going to find out...

Because, as the saying goes...there is "no smoke without fire".