The Nightmare of Death Elevator

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elevatorI have been having a lot of nightmares recently. I wake up with cold sweats half way through the night after a frightening episode. Some times I wake up early enough in the new day, to just stay away and start my day in an effort to chase the monsters of sleep away. Last night, though, I was not so fortunate. I forced myself to go back to sleep at 2:00 in the morning hoping to find some refuge only to be taken over by another nightmare. The first one is vivid, while the other has since faded away.

I was in an elevator with two other persons. My instincts portray them as men, but they could have very well been women. Let’s just say they were men. We all went in at the same time, and pushed our call buttons respectively. I was going down to the bottom floor, one was going two floors down and the last one pushed two floor numbers, including floor number 10 as he apologized “I am sorry but I am not going to 10.”

His statement sounded strange but I thought nothing of it. Then suddenly the lights in the elevator went out, and the sound of a single gun shot rang between the walls as the doors of the elevator opened and then closed at floor number 10. No one stepped on board, and no one left. The lights returned. And the elevator continued its journey down.

Someone had died in that instant. One of the three was dead. Was it me? Was it the person who had fired the gun? Was it the third by stander? Which of the other two had fired the gun? And why? We were all still standing in the same spots we had taken just minutes ago. No one was bleeding. No one was faltering. And yet someone was no longer living. Did that person know they were dead? How does one know that they had died? Would I know it if I was the dead person? How can I tell? Does a dead person know they died? Do they realize they no longer are? That they have vanished from existence? That they are past? That they are not breathing, their blood not flowing? Or do they carry on like before? Do they keep walking amongst the living, going out their business like those who live on?

When I die, how would I know I died? How do I grasp that my heart has stopped beating? That my suffering has ended? That my brain has rested? How do I know to leave this world? Do I get summoned? Do I get a message? Do I actually leave this world when I die? Do I transcend it and watch from above at what is happening below? Is it all a “let’s play pretend” game? A myth? A tale? A lie?

The living know the dead are dead, do the dead know it?

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Islamophobia

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Last week I had the opportunity to speak to Catholic reporter about our experience in being a Muslim family in a Catholic school.

 

 

 

The benefits of interfaith relationships can have spiritual repercussions, contends Duffner in her 2017 book, “Finding Jesus Among Muslims: How Loving Islam Makes Me a Better Catholic.”

“Through our exposure to Muslims’ religion, Islam, we realize that God can be found in many beautiful aspects of a religion that is not our own,” she writes. “And in revisiting our own religion with fresh eyes, we find that God is waiting for us at home, in our own faith tradition, challenging us to live out our Christianity in new ways.”

Two Portland moms would likely agree.

Sarah Lax and Ranya Mike both send their children to St. Agatha School in Southeast Portland.

“It was a natural, easy friendship from the beginning,” said Lax, a lifelong Catholic. Mike, originally from Lebanon, is Muslim.

St. Agatha appealed to Mike because of its strong academics, focus on building character, and the individualized attention children receive. She found a community that was “so loving, every last person in it.”

The differences between Catholicism and Islam give her and her husband an entry point to discuss and deepen their two children’s understanding of Islam, said Mike, who also points to the faiths’ similarities.

“There are similarities about God, respect, loving thy neighbor and helping others,” Mike said.

A commitment to charity is an overlap that especially stands out for her.

Islam stipulates that Muslims must donate 2.5 percent of their wealth once a year to help the poor and needy. “At St. Agatha we see a lot of focus on charity,” said Mike, describing how her children join classmates as they deliver items to a food bank near Christian holidays.

Lax said her friend “personifies the best in a school parent,” volunteering for committees, showing up for school events. “Ranya knows how to truly be of service,” said Lax.

She said Mike has inspired her in other ways, too. Lax recalled how during Ramadan Mike stopped by for a few hours to chat while the children played. Mike hadn’t eaten all day — the Ramadan fast lasts from dawn to sunset — and Lax was moved by the challenge of the commitment. “As kids we would give up TV for Lent, fish on Friday — but that kind of intensity of diving deeper into her faith, it was moving,” said Lax.

She said it prompted her to consider how she might “dig a bit more into Lent and create some daily intentionality that didn’t exist before.”

Read the full article here.

Taking Stock of Right Now ~ September 2018

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Right now I am:

Reading … Biographies written for children;Map of Salt and Stars; The Music Shop; food labels.

Watching … the days go by; summer almost over; the kids growing; the cat sleeping;  my parents aging; Olive dying; Yousef in swim class; Jannah-Rae in basketball.

Cooking … three times a day, every day; Whole30 compliant meals: lots of seafood, not so much red meat; new recipes from Oman.

Noticing … my moods; my blood pressure; the beating of my heart; my voice when it gets louder; my temper when it gets shorter; my anger; my rage. The love around me for me; the tenderness of my family; the kindness of my friends.

Drinking … water with added electrolytes; coffee: black; macadamia milk to replace dairy; smoothies made in my new blender; freshly squeezed juices made in my old juicer; homemade kumbocha.

Wondering … how I can get a small break; how to make money; if I should spend the money on this or that; what makes people the way they are; why is this the state of things; why do people rape, kill and steal.

Loving … Jeff for all he is and all he has been to me; the kids; my life as it is right here, right now; the fact that I do not have to work, that I could chose to work; that I have choices; that I could leave the kids at home and go for a walk if I want to; that I speak a different language; that I have friends around the world; that I have friends around the neighborhood.

Thinking about … death; the war; why things are the way they are; people suffering; poverty; famine; fires; disasters; human nature.

Missing … Nutella crepes with bananas and almonds by the pool on the beach in Lebanon with my parents and friends; sweet in my coffee; quick, easy, convenient meals; knefeh for sure, manakeesh maybe; kibbeh nayyih definitely, skewers of chunks of lamb  and entire half chickens grilled on an open fire; big family gatherings; time with my Teta; kleenex smelling of body powder pulled from inside a bra.

Deciding … to stay focused; not to reach for the phone; not to lose it with the kids; to be gentle; to be loving; to observe and enjoy; to keep going, six more days till Whole30 ends.

Wishing … I had more time before summer is over and school started again.

Enjoying … summer with the kids; mornings at home; free lunches around town.

Liking …  myself, my life, the state of my being; my clothes, my shoes, my new pillow. my meditation corner, my new meditation bench; morning cuddles; warm embraces; kisses at night.

Smelling … incense sticks burning next to my bed; chamomile in the eye pillow my dad made for me; chlorine in Yousef’s hair;dirty hands, stinky feet, the kids morning breath; marijuana on the street; rotten fish in the dumpster on the corner; freshly made waffle cones.

Wearing …  Birkenstock sandals; Athleta tops; long sleeves in the mornings and short sleeves mid-day, and sports bra to bed; my hair up, my shoes off.

Following … Allah.

Sorting Out … toys, toys, toys, and more toys; books to sell to Powells; clothes to consign; things to give away; reasons for my lack of sleep; causes for my high blood pressure.

Marveling … at how much my kids have; the abundance I have been blessed with; the cool water running through the pipes; electricity around the clock; relative peace and predictability.

Wanting … a different childhood for my kids; a better future for our family; more time with Jeff; less time alone; another bathroom; a door to my bedroom; taller shelves for my books; another drawer for my things; new stationary for my letters.

Looking … for things to do on the cheap, deals I may have missed; for a hobby to have, a passion to foster; at a clean floor, a cleared coffee table; a full fridge, a full heart.

Listening … to the sirens in the distance; the blue jay outside; the cat meowing; the crows croaking; little feet coming down the stairs; to the cars passing by; the trash truck stopping outside; to the water boiling; the water running; the water being drunk; to requests all day long, “Mama, can I?” “Mama, can you?” “Mama, I want?” “Mama, please.” “I do not want to,” “It is not fair,” “You cheated.”

My last Taking Stock of Right Now was published here.

This was Forty

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As the sun rises one last time on my fortieth year I reflect on what it meant to live a milestone age.

Forty was when I gave up on drinking more coffee because I needed something to do. Now, the extra cup of coffee is reserved for special occasions like brunch dates with my mom friends, or early morning coffee dates with Jeff.

Forty is when I decided that my sanity was more important that any other activity I could be engaging in. I set personal limits, prioritized where I want to invest my energy, and made my decision publicly known. I got more comfortable saying “no,” and better at dealing with my children’s reactions to that answer to their requests.

Forty is when I let go of the war mentality, the victim mentality, the “I do not have enough” mentality, the “I am not enough” mentality. It is  is when I stopped a lot of the chatter in my mind, the self doubt, the self questioning.

Forty is when I accepted taking financial hits rather than taking personal ones. I finally learned that, at times, forfeiting the deposit is better than undertaking the course and paying for it with my time and health. It is when I realized that is it ok to keep paying the recurring monthly fees in order to keep my options open.

Forty was when I noticed how nice clothes feel on my skin and my soul. I noticed that people notice. They notice my new purse, my black pants, my stylish shirt. I noticed that I how I am looked at, both by my self and by others, is dependent on what I am wearing. I thus stopped rummaging the sale racks at department stores and outlets. I stopped hunting for deals, and buying cheap. I stopped trying to find out how low can I go.

Forty is when I upgraded my person and my life. I bought better food, and cooked better meals. I ate at better restaurants, and shopped at better stores. I bought expensive shoes, and expensive clothes. I invested in better lotions and potions, and added new gadgets and appliances to my kitchen.

Forty is when I cleaned out my relationships folder. Friends who had been draining, toxic or manipulative. Pseudo friends who took more than they gave. Relationships I had been trying too hard to maintain. Those that were overwhelming and drowning me rather energizing and uplifting me. I cleaned my docket and became lighter, and free.

Forty is when I created space for my person. I reclaimed my position at front and center, and did away with feelings of guilt at doing so. I took time for yoga, for massages, for facials. I took time to read, to write, and to sit. I took trips alone and with Jeff. I took breaks, and naps. I focused on self care. 

Forty is when I put a price tag on my time, effort, and energy. It is when I learned my true value. It is when I saw clearly that, sometimes, the money I was making was not worth what I was investing. It is when I recognized that doing nothing could be worth more than doing something unfulfilling. 

Forty is when I stopped defending my choices. My opinions are my own. My feelings are my own. My decisions are my own. I do not owe anybody anything, especially not an explanation. 

Forty is when I both expanded, and then retracted, my sphere. It is when I stepped out and helped out wherever and whenever needed. I volunteered at almost every opportunity. I stood out as the “go-to” person. I was available, always. I was engaged, always. Then, I was not. I became scarce. I became reserved. I became guarded. I became focused, centered, nuclear. 

Forty was fragrant with incense sticks and essential oils.
Forty was fabulous with good food and good company.
Forty was feisty with shouting matches and doors slamming.
Forty was frantic with too many schedules to manage.
Forty was fortuitous with life happening as it should.
Forty was fantastic with new places visited and new people met.
Forty was formidable with all the decisions made.
Forty was feeble with my never being in control.
Forty was fallible with old ways blown to the wind.
Forty was fundamental with new habits established.
Forty is finished, over, done.
Forty is history.
Forty is the past.
Bring on FORTY ONE.

 

Shaping My First Forty Years

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Here I am. I am here and nowhere else, and that is okay. On the cusp of ending one year, and beginning another. Having wrapped up four decades on this earth, I look ahead to, God willing, one more set of four decades. I have amassed much in the past year, and years: things, memories, experiences. Some I expected, and some beyond my expectations and dreams. I lived through situations, times, and places. I have laughed, loved, wept, and wondered. So many moments, way too many to count and list. And so, I decided to ponder and shortlist forty things that I have loved, and enjoyed so far; one for each year although not each reflective of a year.

In no particular order, here is what has made my days so far:

1. Praying, especially Fajr.
2. Early morning quiet when it is still dark before anyone else is up.
3. The first cup of coffee with non-dairy creamer.
4. Losing myself in the kitchen, cooking.
5. Fasting, during Ramadan and outside of it.
6. Giving to charity, any chance I get.
7. People watching, anywhere.
8. Birthdays, especially mine!
9. Whole30, or as close to it as possible.
10. The smell of clothes dried on the line.
11. Down comforters, oversized and fluffy.
12. Nursing, for what it provided me and the kids.
13. Water, because what else does what it does?
14. Taking photos of my kids, trying to make time stop.
15. Morning snuggles, sweet and warm.
16. Jasmine, its scent wafting through my window up from my Jeddo’s garden.
17. Playing hostess, opportunities that are few and far in between.
18. Tea shops, to sit and connect with Jannah-Rae.
19. Hotel rooms, especially those with a bathtub.
20. September, my favorite month of the year.
21. Yoga, a practice I go back to even after long breaks.
22. Walking, because I have always hated driving.
23. My meditation corner, even if my practice is not regular.
24. Eye pillows, the darkness is all engulfing.
25. Books, to read, to keep, to return.
26. Deep sea diving, my exit from the world above.
27. The beach, my happy place.
28. French, because speaking a different language is something else.
29. Bargains, because that is the best way to shop.
30. Old Arabic songs, my connection to the past.
31. Apricot jam, made on Teta’s balcony from fruit picked from her tree below.
32. Karen Maezen Miller.
33. Letters, to send and receive.
34. Stretching out on the couch, looking out the window.
35. Writing, for therein lies my sanity.
36. Travelling with or without Jeff, but more with, with or without the kids.
37. Friends, people who make a difference in my life.
38. My family, for I have no one else in the world.
39. My life, for it is a gift and a blessing.
40. Allah, cause He is the Beginning and the End.