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Ramadan – Day 10 Melatonin & Wheatgrass 


Wow!  There has been a lot going on this last 5 days.  A lot of  stuff publicly, and a lot of stuff at home.  Some that has everything to do with Ramadan, and some that has nothing to do with Ramadan other than being distracting.  :-)  You know how life gets in the way sometimes?

Last week both of my contributions to Interfaith Ramadan were published back to back.  On Tuesday, June 23rd, my post, ‘Fasting for Faith’ was shared.  I knew that it was going to happen, but it was still surprising.  There was quite a lot of positive feedback.  I won’t repost the entire piece here, but here is a sample, and you can click the link.

Since last Ramadan, I’ve been searching for a way to bring that meditative focus into my life. As a non-Muslim, non-practicing Christian, I don’t have a spiritual family to turn to as a guide. I find inspiration from different sources and incorporate them into my daily communion with God.

On June 24th, the second of my contributions was compiled in a panel response to the question, “What can I do if I’m not Fasting?” When Sarah asked for responses to this topic, she suggested 200 – 300 words.  I drafted my response and was well over that range.  I did end up editing quite a bit, but I still had much to say on the topic.

Every year Khaled tells me the same thing. “It doesn’t make sense for you to fast Ramadan. It makes you sick, and you are not required to fast. Take care of yourself so you can take care of us.”
So, that’s what I do now. I am the support staff, the keeper of schedules and maker of meals.

My co-panelists Gayla and Jillian Pikora approached this question quite differently than I did. Gayla told about her monetary donation in place of fasting, and Jillian shared with us her journey of being able to fast, and then not being able to and how she creatively substituted spiritual practice.

I’ve been sharing articles every day over on Facebook at the MyIslamicLife page and through my own page, Kristina ElSayed.  I’m much more active there, so if you like, follow me.  It won’t be stalker-ish. Promise.

Over last weekend, I went to the community iftar with my family.  It was the second one of this Ramadan.  It went fairly well.  No big issues, really.  The first Saturday, we took Watergate Salad (aka Green Fluff) and last weekend, we took Khaled’s newest dessert creation.  It was layered with kunafeh, cheesecake and mango.   

 That plate was clean when we retrieved it to go home!  I also made coconut macaroons.  We sat, both days, with Mrs. Imam and some of my friends.  Its kinda funny and a little sweet/awkward though.  We all want to sit together so we can talk and not feel isolated in a sea of Arabic chatter, but securing enough seats at one table is difficult when you don’t know who is going to be there, and you run the risk of shunning another attendee just because you were trying to include everyone.

Last Saturday, while talking during dinner, I shared with my friend that we had this cooking for Ramadan thing worked out.  One day for take out, one day for breakfast and one day for community iftar.  She had it All Locked Down though!  She only cooks 3 nights a week for Iftar, going to other community meals when we are choosing to stay home.  It’s all good though.  I’m glad she has it worked out that way.  I hope that everyone can figure out a cooking schedule that works well for their family and doesn’t burden any one person too much.

The two tips I have to share with you this week are this.

1-Melatonin tablets are a wonderful way to nudge yourself towards sleep when you would rather be awake.

2-Wheat Grass shots give you an amazing amount of energy.

My contribution for the My Mosque, My Story series this Ramadan sponsored by Side Entrance is ready to be edited.  I can’t remember exactly when it will be published, but I’ll share it on Facebook, Twitter and here!

Talk soon.

Ramadan – Day 5


Its midnight here and I’ve been waiting patiently for Kate and Pea to be ready to go to bed.  Alas, they are not.  Not even close to being sleepy.  They are knee-deep in weaving a rainbow loom bracelet to beat ALL rainbow loom bracelets and if they stop now, they will have to start all over tomorrow.

This is the second day of the rainbow loom marathon.  They watch youtube videos about new patterns and work diligently to recreate the masterpiece.  After I sleep, I’m going to show you the pile of bracelets and rings that have been created in the midst of fasting.

    I’m sitting here reading and wrapping up some loose ends from the day and I thought I’d pop in for a quick Ramadan Check In.

How’s it going?

I was really out of it this morning, but I was able to eek out my hour of cathartic exercise today.

The days are long and the nights are short and I would love to flip-flop the whole thing, but that would make Ramadan too easy.  Its supposed to be work right?

Our iftar menu for the first 5 days of fasting.

Thursday – Rotisserie Chicken (from my grill, not Costco) Rice, Molokheia, Fresh Fruit, Gatorade

Friday – Red Robin Restaurant.  We broke our fast on Chili Cheese Fries and Diet Coke.  Burgers and Fries

Saturday – Community Iftar. Kafta, Egg, Lemon & Rice Soup, Chicken, Rice, Salad. Watergate Salad (I brought it!)

Sunday – Chicken Panini, Arugula Salad, Fresh Fruit and Watergate Salad, Water

Monday – Tuna Melts with Tomato, Salsa and Chips, Fresh Fruit, Ice Cream, Water

We have approached menu planning for this Ramadan with the plan to have 1 night of take out, 1 night of brupper (breakfast for supper) and 1 night of community iftar a week.  That leaves more time to tend to the care of my family, keeping them occupied, getting them where they need to be, supporting their fast and helping them to stay comfortable.  It also leaves more time for reflection, prayer, reading and giving back.

Happy Tuesday!

Ho Hum Life Goes On


Hi Friends!  I’ve missed you.

Truly.  But I’ve not had much to say these last few months since my post about my 40 Days of Prayer.  Everything here was kinda quiet.  The school year was wrapping up, I was working more and trying to plan for summer.  It was BORING.

I started ordering Eid clothes and gifts already.  In fact, some have already arrived!  I’m kinda proud of myself for that.  It seems like I’m in the midst of a shift in my thinking about Ramadan.

Y’no how the whole world keeps a countdown of the shopping days until Christmas?  AND you can’t Not think about buying presents and how much longer until you run out of time?  Well, last month, I started this internal countdown.  Not to the Eid, because you know if you wait until Ramadan begins, Forget about finding anything remotely Islamic to buy.  But I started counting down to the Beginning of Ramadan.  June 18.  Then, I started looking.  We found new Abayas for the ladies and matching hijabs for the Eid Prayer.  I placed a pretty big order at RedBubble for some cute t-shirts for my three people.  I’m planning a few smaller things for them, but not much more in the way of gifts.

Remember I told you back when we were talking about streamlining the holidays?  I mentioned that we love to take family trips together instead of focusing on lots of packages.  So, that’s what we are doing.  Planning a getaway.  All the people are involved this year.  They are old enough to help with the decision, and we want them to have as much fun as possible.  They are getting to the point where they have very distinct preferences about things, and I’m not often a great predictor of what they want and what they won’t love.  So, we asked them.

Now, Ramadan begins in 2 days.

Did you miss the memo?  2 DAYS.

I’m making my grocery shopping list.  Cleaning up the house.  Unplanning our days. /snark


I’m going to print out that Quran Checklist from last year.  Here’s the link to the NoorJanan Homeschool website.  If you go there and print out their resources, leave them a note and tell them Thank You!

I’m going to get out our lantern collection.  I may take the ladies over to Pier One and see if we can add a new lantern this year. I bought some crescent and star lights to decorate with from Amazon.

I was invited to contribute to Interfaith Ramadan this year during their 30 day Ramadan series.  What is Interfaith Ramadan?

the Interfaith Ramadan blog series aims to extend that sense of community to people of all faiths and none. The series provides an inclusive platform where people from around the world share their experiences and offer their perspectives on interfaith issues. While recognizing the deep connections among the Abrahamic traditions, this series seeks to include a range of faith traditions, including groups often marginalized, overlooked, or ignored by society, the media, and perhaps even the interfaith community itself.

That was super exciting.  I couldn’t believe it at first, then I was struck with a touch of Imposter Syndrome.  You will understand when you see the whole lineup.  I’m still stunned.  I’ve already submitted my pieces, so I’ll make sure I share them with you when they are published.  If you have never read the website, you owe it to yourself to take a look.  Seriously, every day.  Just like you follow Imam Khalid Latif’s series in HuffPo.

Read Interfaith Ramadan.  Read Imam Latif and then Tweet Me.  Tell me what you think.  I’m @MyIslamicLife.

Happy Tuesday!

The Lenten Prayer Experiment


How was Lent for you?  Did you participate in the Eid.Pray.Love Muslims 4 Lent Interfaith movement at all?  Remember back on March 5th when I told you about my plan to not really give anything up, but to focus on meaningful prayer and dialogue with God?

Well, this is where I tell you how it went.

I noticed a marked difference in my conversations with God.  Instead of praying randomly in the car or in the shower whenever I felt the pull to communicate, I began each morning thanking God for my restful sleep, thanking him for the health and happiness of my family.  I thanked him for the day that I had before and the day that I will have today.

Then I after the thanking was completed, I began the asking.

I asked for Strength, Wisdom, Courage and Patience for the day.  To meet every challenge wisely and to stay centered.  I asked for Peace in my heart and in my mind.  I also asked for the ability to find some Joy in each day.  I wanted to be able to laugh.

Then, I named each of the people on my list.  I asked for God to hold them in a bath of warm, loving light and to give them strength, wisdom, courage and patience.  I asked for them to have peace in their hearts and joy in their lives.

I don’t have active communication with most of the people on my list.  There is only one person who I communicate with on a personal level.  The others are acquaintances.  So, I don’t know how this time has effected them, if at all.  I guess time will tell. I read the responses on the 40 Days of Prayer and they seem so huge, so life-changing.  I don’t know if my prayer is powerful enough to help someone that way.  But, I did this small thing.  Maybe my small thing will join with other people’s small thing and make a bigger difference.  Its still too soon to tell.

I never was able to figure out my Big Ask.  The Big Ask was something that you were afraid to voice out-loud.  Something that was so big, so scary and so huge that you had never been able to tell someone else.  I don’t have something that big.  I have big visions.  Dreams about how I want my life to change, things I want to be able to accomplish someday.  But I’ve not been afraid to tell someone.  I feel like my life is in God’s hands.  I listen very carefully to what I’m being told and make every effort to DO what it is that I’m being told to do.  I feel like, if I do what God is telling me to do…then I must be doing God’s work.  If I’m doing God’s work, then I am fulfilling my purpose here.  I will not stop talking and asking because if I talk and ask…then someone who hears me might be in a position to help me fulfill my purpose.

The thing that I had the most difficulty with was keeping my journal.  I’ve never been very good at keeping a daily journal.  I am not good at keeping a writing schedule.  That’s why my posts here are soo erratic.  I’ve read all the books on how to be a great writer.  They all say you must write something every day.  I cannot.  I go along with my life and when something gets stuck in my head, I can’t let it go until I write about it.  And after 25 or so days, I started skipping the journal entries.  I’d skip a few days and then feel guilty.  Then I’d write a catch-up entry.  After I did this a few times, I realized that this was detracting from the purpose of my commitment.  I was still praying every day.  I was still thanking and asking and focusing and remembering.  I was being deliberate in my praying for those people on my list, but the guilt I was feeling about the journal entries was taking away from the peace and joy that I was working towards during my 40 Days of Prayer.  It was negating my efforts.

So, I let it go.

I’ve not completely given up on the idea of writing prayers down in a journal, in my super-special faux leather Hogwarts journal with the really pretty paper, using my heirloom fountain pen.  But I will continue to approach it much like I do here.  When I get something stuck in my mind.  Something I really need to focus in on and pray about that is more than my usual.  Its more than just a deep heartfelt conversation between me and God, but something that I need to write down to be able to fully communicate, I will write it down and commit it to paper.

I think about this sometimes.  Y’no, when you die and people go through your stuff.  Do I want my kids to read my mental wanderings and my prayers?  I don’t know.  I guess I’ll keep writing and then decide later.

I did this during my highschool years.  I kept journals of my angst.  The tumultuous times of my teenage rollercoaster life filled with big emotions and big decisions; the happiness and the tears.  I wrote and wrote because there was just So Much.  Then at about age 25, I took those journals and shredded them.  Those big emotions were too raw and too painful to keep around.  I never wanted anyone to stumble across them.  Without me there to explain what I was writing about, it was just, well…it was no ones business.  I made peace with all of that stuff that I never wanted to relive and let it all go.

So, maybe my prayer book will be like that.  Maybe it won’t.

I’m glad I participated in Muslims 4 Lent this year.  I’m glad I participated in the 40 Days of Prayer because now it will give me another meaningful way to connect with God.  I don’t know that I will change my prayer now that Easter has come and gone. Easter was the story of Jesus’ death and that is a whole other issue to ponder.  I’m choosing to continue to pray each day just like I have for the last 40. I’m choosing to be quiet and still and listen.

I hope you have learned something new this Lent.  I have.

The First 14 Days of Lent


I always wanted the comfort of routine tradition.  Not the tradition that locks you into a power struggle, but the tradition that comes from loving something so much that you do it regularly.

I would look at the people in my life growing up and see them having a routine tradition.  I would be invited to sample their lives and when immersed in the activity, I could feel that thing that I really wanted.  But that thing that I was searching for wasn’t the routine.  It wasn’t the tradition.  It was the feeling you get from being in an environment where everyone gets it.  They love each other, they like each other, they just get each other and they share the love of the thing that they are doing so much, they do it together in a routine way.

I look at the routine tradition of Ramadan and I really want that thing that I see happening in my family.  I can see it in my children and I can see it in my husband as he shares Ramadan with them.  It’s that peaceful, knowing, “we are in this together” kind of thing.  They look forward to Ramadan.  They do!  I don’t understand how they do it, but when Ramadan is approaching, they get all excited and start talking about their plans.  During the fasting, they don’t complain often.  They know that they are in solidarity with millions of other people doing the exact same thing.

I think I was in high school when I started realizing that people did something in the months leading up to Easter.  My family didn’t.  The only thing we did was color eggs and my mom would buy a truckload of candy.  We would get new clothes and go to my grandma’s house.  Sometimes we would go to the Lutheran church down the block, but most often not.

My cousins are Catholic, just like my grandparents and my aunts and uncles.  I don’t know if they ever did anything different during Lent.

One year when we were still traveling to Egypt, we went in the Spring.  We took stuff to color eggs and some jelly beans.  A small bit of chocolate and some Easter grass.  Khaled lived near some Coptic Christians and while he was growing up, he would color eggs like the neighbors.  So, when we were at Naina’s house coloring eggs, it was no big deal.  But then they turned on the tv for me so I could see the head of the Coptic church wish everyone a Happy Easter and I cried.  It was so meaningful to me that Naina made sure to let me know that she accepted this part of my life.  Maged wished me a Happy Easter.  I cried because I soo wanted a deep emotional connection with this event in Christianity but it was a hollow, empty tradition filled with egg colors and candy baskets.

The last few years, I’ve learned more about the routine traditions that take place in the lives of my friends.  Also, because I have a teenage boy in my house, when paczki are being sold during February, we buy the boxes in triplicate every trip to the grocery store.  This year, my friend did an experiment and asked people if they ate something special before Ash Wednesday.  A lot of people ate pancakes on the Tuesday before.  Some traditionally ate paczki.  We found that it was a regional thing that centered around nationality.

About that same time, when everyone was talking about Lent starting, that same friend invited us to participate in an observation of the 40 days.  It was more than just giving up chocolate or swearing, it was a mindful, routine prayer.  Every day, for the next 40 days, you would pray for 5 people.  Morning, Afternoon and Evening, you would pray for these same 5 people.  It didn’t have to be someone you were close to, or someone particularly religious.  You also would pray for something that was inconceivable, but something you dared to dream.  It had to be so big that you were afraid to voice it in prayer.  She said that it was a modified version of the 40 Days of Prayer that she participated in at her church in New York. I immediately thought that this was something I could do.

It doesn’t require me to attend church.  It doesn’t require me to inconvenience my family in any way.  Basically its a win-win.  I could attend church if I had a church to go to, but I don’t. If I needed to do something that was really important but inconvenient, my family would figure it out. But this is more private, so if I screwed it up my kids wouldn’t notice.  I like to screw up as little as possible in front of them. The thing is, I needed to make myself accountable.  So, when I stumbled across the Eid.Pray.Love community on twitter, I knew that was the way to make a promise to myself and something bigger.  That way, if it got difficult and didn’t feel good, I wouldn’t give up.

I went to #Muslims4Lent on Facebook and posted my pledge on February 19th.

I was a day late to the game, but I wanted to make sure I was committed.  I invited everyone on my Facebook to pledge, and I shared it on twitter.  Now that this was out there in the world and I was holding myself accountable, I had to figure out a way to make this happen.  Kind of like how I have to make myself leave the house to exercise and I have to force myself to get to know the instructor of my class.  So, I feel accountable.  Otherwise, I’ll take the easy path and do something that feels good at the moment.  Like reading a book, or vacuuming.  I got out the super special “leather” journal I bought last year at Hogwarts (Universal Studios) that I had been saving for something really important and my heirloom fountain pen and made a plan.

I would write in this journal at least 1 time a day.  I would write down my prayer each day so I had something physical to do to feel more grounded to this…it would feel more special, and I wouldn’t forget to do it.

That first day, I listened for the names of the people who I needed to pray for and I had 3 names.  The second day I added the 4th.  It wasn’t until the 6th day I had all 4 names of the people I needed, and now I’m not sure if I have the correct last names, but I know I have the right first names.  Odd isn’t it?  I also still don’t know my Big Ask.  I asked for some guidance and my friend said that she chooses something that will set off a domino effect.  I’m not sure what mine will be yet.  I’m still listening.

Today makes the 14th day of my commitment.  I don’t know how long you need to do something before it becomes an ingrained part of your life, but I can tell you that I already feel different.

This week in my islamic life.

still mourning

On Tuesday this week, I was planning for my meeting with Mr. Fox’s school counselor.  Its time to make the schedule for next year.  I was looking up information on what he should take for his field of study.  I looked at the admission guidelines for the Top Colleges in the US.  I also looked at the admission guidelines for his first choice school.  We’d been discussing all of this since last week.

And then when I woke up on Wednesday, I had found that 3 bright, hopeful college students had been executed in a hate crime because they were Muslim.

Ever since then, I have been swinging in and out of sobbing.  I AM TERRIFIED that my children are Muslim.  I’m trying to keep everything going but I am so scared.  I talked to Mr. Fox about what had happened, and I share with him the updated info as I have it because I don’t want him to be caught off guard if someone asks him about it.

No one ever makes a big deal about him being Muslim.  His friends are all cool with it.  He has Muslim friends in his circle.  He tells me everything is all good.

And then today, the Islamic Center in Houston is up in flames.  It may be just a coincidence.  I doubt it.

After the last year and a half I was hoping and praying things would take a turn for the better.  I was hoping for some respite from the death and destruction of Muslims.  I was praying that there would be some sort of enlightenment.  People would stop seeing All Muslims as the Evil Other.  I was praying that goodness would prevail.  But it’s not happening.  Not yet.

I tried to take a break yesterday and just tune out from the news, turn on my music and get stuff done.  This song came on my playlist a few times, and now its playing a loop in my head.  I know the song is about twisted relationships and drugs, but today it’s describing my relationship with God and Islam.

“Just Like A Pill”

By Pink

I’m lyin’ here on the floor where you left me
I think I took too much
I’m crying here, what have you done?
I thought it would be fun

I can’t stay on your life support,
There’s a shortage in the switch,
I can’t stay on your morphine,
‘Cause it’s making me itch
I said I tried to call the nurse again
But she’s being a little bitch,
I think I’ll get outta here, where I can

Run just as fast as I can
To the middle of nowhere
To the middle of my frustrated fears
And I swear you’re just like a pill
Instead of makin’ me better,
You keep makin’ me ill
You keep makin’ me ill

I haven’t moved from the spot where you left me
This must be a bad trip
All of the other pills, they were different
Maybe I should get some help

I can’t stay on your life support,
There’s a shortage in the switch,
I can’t stay on your morphine,
‘Cause it’s making me itch
I said I tried to call the nurse again
But she’s being a little bitch,
I think I’ll get outta here, where I can

Run just as fast as I can
To the middle of nowhere
To the middle of my frustrated fears
And I swear you’re just like a pill
Instead of makin’ me better,
You keep makin’ me ill
You keep makin’ me ill

Run just as fast as I can
To the middle of nowhere
To the middle of my frustrated fears
And I swear you’re just like a pill
Instead of makin’ me better,
You keep makin’ me ill
You keep makin’ me ill

I can’t stay on your life support,
There’s a shortage in the switch,
I can’t stay on your morphine,
‘Cause it’s making me itch
I said I tried to call the nurse again
But she’s being a little bitch,
I think I’ll get outta here, where I can

Run just as fast as I can
To the middle of nowhere
To the middle of my frustrated fears
And I swear you’re just like a pill
Instead of makin’ me better,
You keep makin’ me ill
You keep makin’ me ill

Tending Babies During Prayer


Did I tell you about that time when a mom asked me to watch her baby during prayer?

When my children were very young, we didn’t go to the mosque.  When Mr. Fox was 3, Khaled began taking him to the Eid prayers, but not to Jummah.  Then, as he got older, they would go to Jummah when Khaled had time to come and pick him up beforehand.  The ladies didn’t really start going to the mosque for Jummah until they started doing it at school.  I didn’t go regularly until Mr. Fox reached the age of requirement.  Now, we go every Friday.

When we started attending Jummah on a fairly regular basis, I noticed that during the prayer part of the service, the babies and toddlers were almost community property. At first, I thought that all the women must know each other so, when one lady’s baby is crying while their mama was in prayer, then the friend who wasn’t praying would take care of the child.  But then I noticed that the mom often didn’t know who was holding their child.  They would approach the woman, and thank them, introduce themselves and then retrieve their baby.  I would watch this in awe.  It happened over and over again.

Living in America my whole life, personal space and privacy is something I take for granted.  Having strangers touch my child was something that would cause me great anxiety.  I remember the first time we went to Egypt.  Random people would come up to Mr. Fox and touch his hair, tweak his cheek and tell me how handsome and smart he was, they would often whisper something in his ears.  Khaled didn’t think anything about it.  I would freak out.  After the first time it happened and the person walked away, I was in a panic and Khaled explained to me that it was something normal in Egypt.  People didn’t want to cause harm to the children, they just wanted to enjoy the tiny life and offer blessings to us for his life.  I never really got used to it, but I understood that it was a cultural thing.

When we would go to the mosque for weekend school or for Eid, it would happen there, but to a lesser extent.  Usually it would be people we knew, but sometimes it would be people who knew Khaled and I hadn’t met them before.  They would come up to the car carrier and look at the baby.  They would touch without asking.  They would exclaim at the beauty or the intelligence of the baby.  I would tense up and even though I tried to relax because there wasn’t anything I could do to prevent this exchange.  It would happen when I wore the ladies in the front carrier, someone would touch their hand, their foot or their head. I tried to relax, but often I came across as standoffish.

So, when I would watch these women at the mosque, who clearly didn’t know each other, tending to a crying baby or a wandering toddler, I thought it was just a cultural thing.  I would not try to calm a fussy child.  Not because I didn’t think I could, and not because I didn’t care, but because I was the thing that didn’t belong.  Like one of those children’s games of same and different.  I was the thing that was different.  I never wanted to cause the mother distress by touching their child.  I didn’t want to risk being ostracized further by taking liberties, under the guise of help.

So, I was stunned when we were at English Jummah one Friday and I was asked to watch an infant during prayer.  Of course I said yes.  How could I not?  I wasn’t doing anything except waiting for the ladies to finish praying, tweeting about the subject of #EnglishJummah.  I sat with the little man in his car carrier next to me.  He was silent the entire time, eyes wide and sucking on his tongue.  I talked to him a little but his expression never wavered.  At the end, his mother told me that she has seen me at Jummah many times, and she thanked me over and over for looking after her child.

I told her I was happy to help, but I felt like I should have thanked her.


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