I love shopping for school supplies. I do. I love new paper, new folders, cute binder clips, gel pens, colored pencils and the perfect #2 pencil. I love new lunch boxes and new locker locks. I love it all, just as long as I can shop when no one is in the store, and by myself. This year school shopping was a GIANT headache. I took the children to the store without Khaled this time because I knew it was going to take several days to get everything. We had 3 different schools, 2 different school lists and a guesstimation of what the third list might contain…but if you want the supplies when they are available and at a good price, you guess and buy a bunch of stuff and then return what you don’t need.
I need to figure out a different way to do this. Kate has a specific way of shopping, Pea wants her own choices and Mr. Fox could care less. The problem is that they love to choose without paying attention to what things cost. They took their lists and started chucking stuff into the cart without any consultation. Mr. Fox was enjoying the free WiFi. I had to rein them in and make sure we weren’t paying full price for anything while getting all the stuff on their long lists.
Next year, I think I will take them out individually. Kate gets her day for shopping and Pea gets her day.
Last year, we came across a Groupon for custom Agendas from May Designs. I love Custom. I loved that we could choose the color and pattern of the cover, I loved that we could decide to put our name on the front or something else. I loved that we could make the inside with a Student Agenda, A yearly Calender or a Notebook. Each one of us chose the perfect design for us. I especially loved the part where we could put our names on them.
This is what my design looked like. I loved that there was a design that incorporated the Islamic Star and a Cross motif. So Interfaith. Plus, I could choose color that compliment my logo. The one thing I did not love about the May Designs agenda was that I couldn’t specify what holidays I wanted to appear inside. The only holidays that were included were US Customary holidays, Christian and Jewish holidays. I contacted customer service and requested that they offer the option to include holidays of other religions. I thought that since the outside cover was customizable, the inside should be also. Not so much. I placed my order anyway because it was much more custom than anything I could find at an office supply store and it was so cute.
I used the agenda to track my work orders for VianneFere and MyIslamicLife. It worked very well, for a year. When I went shopping for school supplies this year, I knew it was time to replace my agenda.
I immediately went to the May Designs website and searched the new patterns and colors. I got all the way through the design process to choosing what the inside of my agenda would include. There wasn’t any place for holiday options. I searched the website and could not find any answers. So, I went to twitter and found @MayDesigns there. I asked them about including Islamic Holidays.
I was so disappointed that they did not include the Islamic holidays again this year that I decided not to purchase.
I went online and started to search around. Every option I found didn’t include Islamic holidays. Even on Etsy.
I went to my online community and asked them if they knew of a place where I could find a fully custom agenda.
They had many suggestions, but what it all came down to was that to get the type of agenda I was looking for, I’d have to design one myself.
So, I searched for some templates for the software I already own and couldn’t find what I wanted.
Then I looked for other programs.
And then I decided that creating my own agenda did not solve the immediate problem of needing a way to track my orders and my work schedule. I needed to figure out something now.
Then I came across the Vera Bradley Agenda. It is pretty. It is colorful. It is not customizable, but it does recognize the beginning of Ramadan.
That’s a start. Right? Its pretty. Its Colorful. It includes Christian, Jewish, African, US Customary, Silly, AND Islamic Holidays. This is as close to perfect as I could find. Until I create the PERFECT Calender, this will do.
When the girls started praying, I started making them prayer outfits. In the beginning, we had one outfit for each girl and a bag to store them in.
I didn’t have to put too much thought into the storage options because they had just one outfit a piece. I would make them a new one each year and we would store the old ones away.
Then, they started wearing hijabs with their Eid outfits and for school. So, I thought we’d get a cute drawer unit to put in their closets for organized storage.
And it worked, for a while. But as you can see, its not currently working. The first drawer was for the few 2 piece hijabs they had, the middle drawer was for the prayer hijabs (long, finger tip length) and the bottom was for skirts. These days, the prayer hijabs look like this:
In a big heap in the corner of the living room. No matter how often I fold them and tuck them away in the bag I have set aside for their containment…this is what ends up happening.
And the drawer unit is stuffed to the brim.
Because not only do we need to buy new hijabs for each Eid outfit, but when we go to the shop, we collect new hijabs in the colors that coordinate with their favorite outfits. So, when we go to the mosque for whatever reason, they will be fashionably coordinated.
I’m no better. The only scarves I grew up with were the ones you wore around your neck in the winter. When I started working (before children) I owned a few scarves that were easily contained in my delicates drawer. Now, I’ve collected a modest number of scarves and hijab-like items for when they are necessary, but I just stuff them into this closet organizer.
It works, somewhat. It is fine for my knitted head warmer hijabs, but for the long scarves…they come out wrinkly.
What do you do? How do you store your scarves? Send me photos of your storage options! (Share them on twitter @MyIslamicLife, on Instagram or email them to me MyIslamicLife *At* Yahoo.com I want to see what works and what isn’t working. I need some ideas on how to fix this.
One year ago today started the year of mourning. In Islam, we are permitted 3 days of mourning outwardly. Privately, the mourning never ends.
An Egyptian doctor who was shot and killed by security forces while volunteering at a field hospital during the Aug. 14 massacre in Cairo was remembered as a quiet hero by friends and relatives, including a brother in Toledo. – Aya Khalil, ToledoFavs.com
The fighting continues on even today in Egypt as the world looks elsewhere. Families are destroyed every day, and the occupation continues. Egyptians continue to have hope that democracy will prevail, but with so many countries giving money to support the oppression and violence that violates Egypt and its people, it is difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
We will never forget. We miss you brother.
There are times that I question my reasoning for writing this blog. I wonder if anyone reads? I wonder if it is serving a purpose? I wonder if I’m being vain …who do I think I am? Who cares about my life? Am I tempting fate by telling you about it?
Then, I received this email. I’ve gotten similar emails before, and they usually arrive just when I’ve started to second guess myself.
This time, I asked the writer’s permission to share her letter with you.
I wanted to tell you how refreshing it is to see something on the internet that isn’t automatically against Muslim men, the Muslim community, or anything like that in general.
I had terrible relationships in the past. All with men who treated me just as a prize to be won – and hated myself for it. Now I’ve found this amazing man, who happens to be Muslim. No one has ever treated me the way he treats me, no one has ever made me feel the way he does.
But of course, as a non-Muslim raised in America, you have your wonders. So when I googled, EVERYTHING was designed to convince a non-Muslim that the man they were seeing was a devil – often times, it seems, basing it on a terrible relationship in the first place, but using the religion as the fault. So I stopped googling. Sure that the people that have successful relationships just don’t share. That maybe there’s not a community. And then, on chance, I found you this morning!
I haven’t read much of your blog yet. Just a few entries, as I’ve only just stumbled across it. But I will definitely be reading more, whether it be for advice, a sense that someone out there was in a similar boat and that it CAN work, or just to enjoy your writing. – Coda C.
Its been just under 2 weeks since Ramadan ended. School supply lists have arrived, calendars are being updated, extra-curriculars are being arranged and I need to wrap up last month before I can focus on looking ahead.
We need to talk about the stuff. Right? How did it go for you? New this year was that Kate now joined us for suhoor. She’s still learning and practicing. Last year she did a more abbreviated fast, from lunchtime to iftar and this year she decided to attempt full days. I gave her suggestions from time to time, but she was in the driver’s seat and she did so well. She didn’t skip any full days, and only did a handful of abbreviated days. This was a big step for her to take and while I’m so proud of her, its another reminder that she is growing so fast.
This was Pea’s second year waking for suhoor and she was such a role model for Kate. Helping her decide what to eat, reminding her that protein was important for the whole day and spending many hours together playing and keeping each other occupied. Pea was excited to be able to fast. She takes immense pride in her fasting and loved the schedule of waking early in the morning…and listening to The Quran throughout the house.
I watched the two of them together and wished that Khaled’s mother was able to see them. She was always soo delighted to talk to them and listen to their stories. It was very important to me that she see my girls growing up to be good Muslims. It is a constant worry of mine that I’m going to miss something that they should know. Something a Muslim mother would know that I don’t. Something that is essential…I wanted her to be proud of the job I’m doing with them.
The long month was difficult on Mr. Fox. Not soo much because of the fasting, because he’s been doing full days for a few years now, but because a lot of his friends had busy schedules and they didn’t coincide with his energy level. Many of them were volunteering; working or playing sports and I didn’t want to put him in the position of using up all of his energy, tasking himself too much or getting sick, so I didn’t sign him up for any activities. His closest Muslim friend was travelling overseas this summer. They sent random messages but that did little to occupy the long hours. I tried to keep him busy, but quite a lot of his time was spent alone. I have so few years with him home left…I feel like any time not spent engaging him is wasted.
Next year, I’ll do better.
Prior to the start of Ramadan, I was working on tearing down wallpaper and washing down walls so I could paint. I wanted to have the foyer painted so I could invite a few families over for Iftar. My idea was this: each one of us could choose a friend we wanted to invite, so every weekend we would have guests. I had asked JJ and her family, I thought we might invite some Christian friends to join us this year…Khaled’s friend, friends of the ladies.
I talked to my people about those plans in anticipation of them giving me names, building the excitement. They didn’t want to invite any non-Muslims. They said it would be too weird and they wouldn’t understand. The friend that Kate wanted to invite, well, I never got around to asking…and the friend that Pea wanted to invite was away visiting family. We did have Aunty Anne over and JJ. We made plans with Khaled’s friend but they ended up cancelling. The neighbors that have lived behind us for so many years were not home during Ramadan this year, so we didn’t exchange many plates with them. When they returned, there were new people in the house. I don’t know what happened to our friends.
We attended every community iftar at our home mosque. After the first success of the month, we thought that maybe it would be okay this year. After that first time, the Aunties and the nieces recognized me and didn’t question if I belonged. They just gave me jobs to do and let me help set up the tables. Each Saturday night, more people I knew were there and we ended up saving seats for friends to eat together. To be honest, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. I kept my eyes open for something to go sideways. I kept my guard so just in case, I’d be ready. But nothing really happened.
One weekend after the tables had been cleaned up and we were passing out cupcakes to the children, one Aunty from Saudi Arabia cornered me with her two daughters. Inquiring where I was from…and telling me that her son was studying engineering at the university. No sooner did that leave her lips and I pointed out to her my husband, and my children.
She quickly moved away.
I also got the ‘when did you become Muslim?’ question. I’m sure it is because I wear my hair mostly covered when I’m inside the mosque. I dodged the question. I didn’t want to go there. It would only have led to more questions and I just didn’t want to make myself an outsider when I was finally being included.
We took the family on a short trip last weekend for Eid, and they had gifts to open after we returned from the Eid prayer. We are trying to get back to a normal sleeping schedule, but often I find myself reminding the children to eat during the day. They forget that they can eat freely again.
And now that I’ve shared with you my Ramadan, I can focus on the weeks ahead. I can start preparing for new schools and riding buses. I can focus on new schedules and work assignments. I can begin preparing for Hajj Day Outfits and the next holiday.
When I married Khaled, I searched everywhere for resources for interfaith couples. The only books and websites I could find back then were for Christian/Jewish relationships. Online, the only resources I could find for Christian/Muslim couples were horror stories of abuse, neglect, disillusionment. Others were how the women successfully converted their husbands to Christianity. Nothing I found focused on a happy, healthy relationship. Nothing I found supported the life I was building with Khaled, and later our 3 children.
I was inspired to share my life with you so that women, living lives similar to mine, wouldn’t feel soo alone. We could share our tips, tricks, trials, and triumphs with each other all over the world.
Along the way, many non-muslims have read and learned that Muslim families are not soo much the ‘other’ that you see on television and movies. We are normal, everyday people.
I don’t share every little bit of my life here, but I do share the most Islamic portions with the hope that I can help someone, in some way.
The Eleventh Annual Brass Crescent Nominations are underway! 10 Days left. If you have learned anything from my blog, please consider a nomination. http://www.brasscrescent.org/
I guess during all of my preparations for Ramadan, there was this nagging doubt. This anxiety that wouldn’t go away. I had attributed it to the fact that during Ramadan, we seldom leave the house. I passed it off as concern about the long days that my people would be fasting. I told myself that it was me, being worried about my ability to take care of them – in the way I wanted to do so.
Ramadan began, for our family, as a slow crawl. I printed out the Quran Schedule from Noor-Janan that I found by way of Karima’s Crafts. (I follow Karima’s page on Facebook.) We ate tacos for the first 3 days of Ramadan, and listened to the Quran using this handy chart. We made smoothies and talked about stories of the prophets. The work week began and we settled into a routine. Everything was going fairly easily.
Then Khaled mentioned a community Iftar.
And the doubt, that fierce anxiety grew bigger.
I hoped he would change his mind.
I worried that he wouldn’t.
Even up until Saturday morning, I thought he would change his mind again, knowing how traumatizing it was for us last year.
Then he mentioned it again…and went to take a nap.
I knew then that I needed to gird myself with a plan of action. I gathered up the people and talked to them about going. I took a survey of their feelings on the matter without revealing any of my own. Then I asked their opinion on what we should take to the dinner. Usually, with the community Iftars the main foods are provided and the community members that can contribute, bring a dessert. I also know that at this mosque, there is a woman’s buffet table and a men’s buffet table.
So, we made brownies. Two big pans. From scratch. This was my easy go-to dessert. I always have the ingredients on hand because you never know when one of the children will drop a bomb on you at bedtime – telling you they need 24 brownies by 3rd period tomorrow.
And when Khaled woke up, we talked about my anxiety and made contingency plans. If *sh!+* hit the fan, I could leave. We took 2 cars, I had cold water in my car so that if we needed to drive home, at least the ladies would have water to drink until we got to the food. There was leftovers in the fridge.
I decided to wear one of my abayas. I thought that if I dressed the part, I wouldn’t stand out as much. LOL THEN I did my fancy business makeup. (When I started going to networking events, my fantastic Mary Kay DIVA taught me about wearing business makeup. Its like the battle gear for me because it gives me confidence to talk to people I feel intimidated by.)
So, brownies in hand, wearing abaya and business makeup; we went to the mosque.
I walked into the women’s entrance, and found the posse of aunties and cousins working to set up the room. I found a familiar face to give the brownies to, and offered to help. I was told ‘No.’ I could attend the lecture or I could sit at a table.
My daughters had gone off and found their friends. Khaled looked into the room from the men’s side…asking if I wanted to come with him. But the lecture was being given in Arabic. So, I wouldn’t understand anything…and I would be hiding. So, I stayed.
I made a few attempts at helping to set out water bottles, and one lady welcomed me to the mosque like I was a stranger there…even though I was wearing abaya and had my hair covered, AND I clearly knew my way around the building.
UNTIL my friend arrived. She is the wife of the Imam. She speaks just enough English – just like Naina – that we can work through conversations. We greeted each other with big, big hugs; not the kind of ‘in the club’ busses that are de rigeur in Muslim circles. I asked her how she was doing…and when she gave me the pat answer…I asked again. She laughed and hugged me again, because she knows I can see that she isn’t totally O.K. but doesn’t have all the words to really answer me. We talked about her girls and about an abaya she gave me.
Then the Mother & Mother in Law of my friends walked in. (This is confusing. She is the mother of one of my friends…the mother in law of my other friend.) She’s a gramma. She is Egyptian, and every time I see her she reminds me of our Naina. So, when I greet her, I greet her as if she was MY Mother in Law. I give her big hugs, and the busses on each cheek….and I tell her, ‘Naina – its soo good to see you!’ I call her Naina out of respect. I think she understands this, but she always gets a big kick out of it and smiles widely, while telling anyone around her in Arabic that I called her Naina.
After this, the aunties give me a job to do.
The tables are being set with a family style service. There isn’t a buffet. The men will sit here…and the women and children will sit here.
And more and more people arrive that I know…
And I sit with my friend, the wife. And I sit with my other friend, the mother of my student. And I sit with Kate and Pea.
We eat, we talk, we laugh. The hour passes and the husbands are ready. The tables are cleared by the men in the community and the room is cleared and set up for Taraweeh prayers. (The women use the multi-purpose room for Taraweeh prayers.)
The ladies and I clear our plates and I carry the piece of Bassboussa I’ve saved for Khaled towards the door. We are leaving.
He meets me at the door to check on me. He needs to see, with his eyes – close up, that I’m okay. He mentions that he couldn’t find any Bassboussa. I laugh and hand him the piece I’ve saved for him. The aunties notice, and smile. I smile and let him know I’m okay.
It was good.
It was a success.
I’m not anxious.