Archive for the ‘Personal Reflections’ Category

Many things remind me of fall. Stomping on crunchy leaves as a kid, volleyball practice as a high-schooler, and yams baking in the oven, always. These memories are cozy ones and are reignited as the humidity of summer is replaced with early morning dew. And maybe this one particular memory is so embedded in my mind because baba and I have made it tradition…

Baba walks into my room.  “I think you should put on a shirt that you don’t really like. Or, one you don’t mind staining.”

I rummage through the pile of clothing laying on my desk chair and find an already stained shirt. More stains won’t matter. I make my way into the kitchen where baba has some newspapers laid out, a sharp knife, a bowl and three large pomegranates. He cracks one open and gives me half. We start the long process of picking apart the pomegranates. We’re careful not to throw the rind in with the seeds since it is so tough and sour. The process is relaxing, just baba and I plucking the juicy seeds out of their cocoons, trying not to make a mess. One can’t be in a hurried dash during this time. The pomegranates won’t let you.

After awhile baba reflects, “You know, pomegranates are mentioned in the Qur’an. Not just once, but three times!”

I nod. In my head I wanted to acknowledge that baba told us this every year since we were little, but I didn’t want to take away his teaching moment. I didn’t need a POM commercial to tell me that pomegranates are powerful fruits. These “Chinese Apples” filled our breakfast bowls before school. Soaked in rose water and sweetened with a little sugar, we would eat our morning pomegranate with some sliced bananas. I don’t really remember anyone else in our family liking it, except baba and I.

After my daughter’s check up at the pediatrician, I decided to make a stop at the grocery store. I had my list somewhere in the abyss of the diaper bag. Too much of a hassle to take out, I reassured myself that I would remember the items our family needed and I wouldn’t go overboard with the things not on the list. As I walked towards the produce section, the pomegranates were staged dead center of the aisle. $1.99 each. I remembered the great times with baba- picking the seeds and counting the purple hued stains on our shirts when it was all over.  Most of the pomegranates there were pretty bruised. I managed to find two that were in relatively good shape.

I walked over to the cash register, proud that I hadn’t veered way off course of my list which was still swimming between the wipes and diapers. A free cashier waves for me to come over, cooing at the sleepy baby.

“Ooh, brave woman! Those pomegranates can get messy. I had one for lunch. It took my whole lunch break to pick it apart!” the cashier exclaimed as she eyed the fruit.

I smiled, secretly looking forward to the peaceful moments and continued tradition of picking apart the pomegranates.

When I came home, I took out the bowl, lay some old magazines around the table, and waited for my husband to return from work. As he entered our apartment, I looked at his shirt and said rather matter-of-factly, “I think you should put on a shirt you don’t really like. Or, one you don’t mind staining.”

What traditions have you carried along from your childhood?


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It has been raining for the past three days here in Connecticut. I was starting to get a little stir crazy staying in the apartment, so I had made the intention the night before that Sumster and I would head out and get some groceries.

Big Mistake. Huge.

It wasn’t really because my skirt was dragging along the puddles absorbing water like a sponge, or because Sumi would not stay in the car seat and demanded to be held while shopping (yes, I was maneuvering the shopping cart with one hand). And no, I wasn’t cool enough to be carrying her in a Baby Bjorn or Mei Tai.

It was…okay, to be honest, it was because of the stares. Maybe because Islam has been on the news more-so than ever before, but the stares were piercing. I was joking with my husband that I should make a business card with my photo on it, saying, “Here’s my picture. It’ll last longer. Questions? Email me anytime…”

I think it gets to some people that there is a covered Muslim woman shopping at the same store they frequent and *gasp* she doesn’t have an accent but she does have a child….and it’s a girl 😦 will she be forced to wear that thing around her head too?!

It really throws them off when Sumi is all smiles and Ahmed makes a fool of himself getting her to laugh her head off.

Sigh…I’m allowed one rant post, no? All this so I can buy some baking powder to make banana bread.

Anyway, Sumi finally cried herself to sleep while I was driving home. As I shifted the car into park, the only audible sound was the thudding of the raindrops onto the pavement. I sat there, still,  making dua in the rain, enjoying the quiet moment where no stares existed and it was just me with my Lord.

I sat there thanking Allah that He has given us the opportunity to be like the companions of the Prophet Muhammad (sas). Now, if we can only live up to such amazing role models.

At least the banana bread came out nice 🙂

Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

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I could have thought of a more clever title, but I think that one word really captures the message. After getting married, I tried to get our apartment in order by buying things. Appliances that would make life faster, more convenient, or even more enjoyable- include panini maker here. It’s something that many girls dream about. Conversations with close friends turn into a critique of whether the benefits of Calphalon cookware outweigh their heavy lifting requirement.

Before getting married, my roommate and I had two knives and no curtains. They worked fine, we didn’t starve, and the blinds provided us with enough privacy. So what sparked the change from simple single to materialistically overburdened spouse?

Is it because of the fact that we don’t have this picture perfect image of the way things should be when we’re single? We definitely do have a an idea of how we want our married life to look like, which includes the curtains, bedroom set, and kitchen-aid. I guess there is also no bridal registry when you’re single. None of this really bothered me until I had my lovely little daughter. Swamped with diapers that didn’t fit, hand me down strollers that didn’t work, a revamping was in order. I was slowly suffocating and found myself too preoccupied with the clutter.

Bit by bit my husband and I have been going through each room of our 2 bedroom apartment and decluttering. Why do I physically feel lighter? Recently, I listened to a lecture by Sheikh Abdul Sattar who said that every item comes with its own taqdir. As in, the shoes in my closet come with their own story- who will wear them, how many steps they will take, where they will go, and what will bring about their ultimate demise. Now imagine all the things we privileged Americans own. Do we really want to carry the baggage of every item’s taqdir? I don’t.

My husband and I have an 8×11 inch piece of paper taped on the wall next to our treadmill. On it is a handwritten graph to document our running distance and time. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and stare at that graph knowing that today is a day where I must fill it in. Approaching the end of my run, my motivation is to finish strong so I can write on that piece of paper a respectable number.

It cost about five cents, if that, but is one of the most valuable things we own.

I leave you with this beautiful saying of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, that we may all strive towards, “If you renounce the things that people love, people will love you.” Ameen.

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Sumi is a little over two months old now. She is a cute, cuddly, lovable 12.5 pounder with smiling half moon eyes. I try to take in the moment, knowing that these days are precious and she is already growing up so fast. My father told me that the one thing he regretted was the fact that he didn’t get to enjoy us while we were children. He was too worried about work, buying a house, providing us with an education. Alhamdulillah, we came out alright thanks to his emphasis on hard work. He would always tell us that practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes improvement and, “Success is beautiful.” He usually said that after Pete Sampras won a Wimbledon or U.S. Open.

Now that I’m on the other side of the fence, I try to think of what would make the biggest impact on my child. I can overwhelm myself with thoughts of responsibility, how I have the potential to provide her with a great start or seriously dampen her chances, or I can concentrate on myself and my own improvement.

We all know the adage, “Do as I say, don’t do as I do.” We know that that’s never the case with children. I want Sumi to do as I do, but that means:

a) I need to always be mindful of what I’m doing. Am I raising my voice because the bathroom sink is filled with remnants of shaven beard hair? 🙂

b) I actually need to do, setting projects for my own self development. Alhamdulillah, with the encouragement of good sisters and my husband, I started running and getting back into shape. I hate running. I would much rather play volleyball, but it feels good not to always succumb to what I want. I had gained 63 pounds during my pregnancy and thus far have lost 53, alhamdulillah.

c) Prioritize what’s important. Am I instilling values and principles as opposed to pushing her to accomplish milestones and essentially creating an award based environment?

d) I need to surround her with people that also do. This is a huge worry for me. Not so much now, but when she is older. Will there be a good Muslim community for her to thrive in, where she doesn’t feel self conscious about being herself, and yet is motivated and inspired by the characters of others?

e) I need to trust in Allah. Trust so much in Allah that it is contagious in our household.

Allah has given me the immeasurable blessing of nurturing one of His servants. It’s time for me to buckle down, work on myself, and, here it comes…stay consistent. For if I can do that, then I am assured that Allah will help me with the rest.

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Sumi in the Sun

Enjoying the car ride to the park.

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Fifty years ago thoughts of community would have been images of people gathering together maybe for a townhall meeting, neighbors breaking bread, or simply waiting at the bus stop alongside other parents.  Now, different communities abound that have the potential to isolate us from our neighbors. With the computer as our medium, we slice through physical obstacles establishing relationships with people we may never meet. There is an unspoken sense of unity when we join a google group or receive responses on forums we check as religiously as our email.
This is good. I video chat with my aunt abroad whereas fifty years ago and a thousand dollars later I would have had to fly to see her. I can ask like-minded moms why my two month old is constantly spitting up. I even receive encouragement to remain consistent in my running program, if you can call it “running.” Yet feelings of isolation remain.
I have been wanting to write a blog post for a long time. However, every time I thought about what was going on in my life, it was laced with a tinge of negativity. Should I just vent about how difficult it is to breastfeed that I simply have become a voluntary prisoner in my home? Or, how tired I am from lack of sleep that I sometimes wish I was hooked up to an IV pushing caffeine?  No one would like that. Maybe some would commiserate. Others may think of me as a wimp. After all, how many mothers before me survived the first couple of months with a newborn without assistance and are looking forward to their next bundle of joy? And, anyway, isn’t this much better than being pregnant? The little voice inside me tells me to count my blessings.
And finally two days ago, it happened. I finally had something positive that I wanted to share. For one beautiful day, that feeling of isolation had disappeared. I was with the local community, sharing my first experience at a Farmer’s Market about five minutes away from home. I spoke to vendors asking them about their farms and fruits. We bought bread and if my husband wasn’t there, I would have splurged all my money on cheese. Maybe the advocates of buying local prioritize their reasoning based on the smaller ecological impact it has on our environment. I wonder if they realize the huge social impact it has on our community that no Stop n Shop or Wal-Mart can ever compete with. At the market, my dream of one day owning a farm was reignited.
“I can make due with just a couple of acres. I think one of those farmers would sell a couple of acres to us.”
“Okay, but where would we live?”
“Oh yea, we’d have to build a house.”

My husband has a good way of bringing me back to reality.
After the Farmer’s Market, we went home, had lunch, and then made our way to the beautiful local park. Ice cream cones in hand, baby snug on daddy’s chest, we walked and walked and walked. We cut through the grazing geese, gazed at the flowers, and watched as three different brides posed behind the backdrop of cherry blossoms and rose bushes all the while discussing the various things I can do on my imaginary farm.
We walked and smiled and people smiled back.
It was a good day.

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Pregnancy is hard. It is physically and emotionally draining.  I played volleyball in high school and before school began, our team went to a camp in Pennsylvania to train. We’d wake up at six to run up and down a hill at least ten consecutive times. We would then do body strengthening. We didn’t touch a volleyball those first two hours of the early morning. Then it was eight and we’d be able to eat. After that grueling week was over, I felt so fit. I was sore, but knew my body would recuperate.

Pregnancy is a lot different. You definitely see physical changes. You definitely feel sore. You run out of breath, not because you just climbed a mountain, but because you had to go up the stairs to use the bathroom….for the fourth time.

I always thought that pregnancy was going to be so easy for me, after all, I’m not a light-weight. I was wrong. The first four and a half months were the toughest I ever had to endure. Being an over-achiever, it was never good enough to just “be.” I had to be better. Those 4.5 months, I was struggling to just exist. Between the constant throwing up, visits to the E.R. and migraine headaches, I wondered why any woman would voluntarily do this again. It was difficult to remain spiritually inclined when I felt like I was being punished with this tribulation.

Then the ease started to peak its little head. Slowly but surely, I wasn’t throwing up five times a day, only once in the morning. The migraines weren’t as intense, I only had to deal with swollen feet and intense heartburn. I gratefully waddle to work now, instead of being bed-ridden unable to even consider going into the kitchen. I was so happy that those days were behind me and embraced every other physical ailment as a blessing from Allah.

It’s easy to complain when you’re pregnant. It’s hard to be conscious of the fact that you’re complaining. The day to day, “How are you feeling?” questions come with a mental list of obstacles I face day in and day out. I have to make a very conscious effort not to rattle them off.

So instead, here is the list of what I’m grateful for:

– I’m grateful that Allah has given me the opportunity to experience something that many women are unable to.

– I’m grateful for my husband who has been so patient with me through this whole ordeal and makes sure the fridge is stocked with milk, baby carrots, and popsicles 🙂

-I’m grateful for my family and friends who encouraged me and were there to drop off food and lend a supportive ear and hand when we needed it.

– I’m grateful for my students and supervisor who were so understanding during the difficult times.

– I’m so grateful to be a Muslim. I’m so grateful that Allah protected me from being a pregnant teenager potentially getting kicked out of the house, not having anywhere to go. (This happens so much today 😦 ).

– At Dunkin Donuts, the cashier told me “I hope you’re having a boy.” I told her, “It’s going to be a girl.” Her friend said to her, “What’s wrong with a girl? Girls are nice.” The cashier replied, “Wait until she becomes a teenager and she goes out “poppin.”‘ I replied by answering, “She won’t be poppin,” (Please Allah let her be righteous and not “poppin” (whatever that means)). Her friend whispers to her, “Nooo….her girl won’t be “poppin.” She’s traditional, they don’t do that stuff.”

I’m grateful for being “traditional.” Alhamdulillah.

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