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Love is in the Air!

Look at the date… yep, that’s right, it’s almost Valentine’s Day! and you better believe that the reminder to be in love is everywhere! It’s on the radio, in the grocery store, on magazine covers, and pretty much where ever you look! Well, I happen to like Valentine’s Day. I think my husband sold me on it eight years ago, when he bought me a great movie (My Big Fat Greek Wedding), a bouquet or red and pink roses, and of course, chocolate! I was impressed! He even took the initiative to buy all of those things himself and surprise me with them.

So even though it wasn’t an expensive dinner or jewelry, that Valentine’s Day has stayed in my mind throughout our relationship. Needless to say, I have harrassed him every year since when the holiday approaches to let him know what I might like… if say, he was in the mood to surprise me. 😉 So, as the romantic holiday approaches, I thought I would write about how I fell in love with my husband, who brought me into the world of all things Moroccan.

Dressed in a leather mini-skirt and a black halter top, I was dancing at a hot club in H-Town in the summer of 2002. I had been forced to change my plans of staying in Baton Rouge, LA (where I went to school at LSU) and had moved in with my parents for the summer. Nothing could keep me in the house for very long and I was highly unwilling to give up my partying or my freedom during the summer. So, there I was looking good and feeling sexy while dancing with my high school friends when I met eyes with a man across the room who was coming towards me on the dance floor. Now I may have looked the part, but sadly I was nothing like the woman that I was portraying. In truth, that scantily dressed 18 year old was a virginal prude who had learned all there was to know about men and how to interact with them by means of alcohol induced flirting throughout my first year of college.

This man coming towards me didn’t know that, and after realizing that he was coming to dance with me, I immediately turned around and gave him my back. In reality I was trying to save myself from the confusing possibilty that a man might me really be interested in me; an idea that my low level of self-esteem wouldn’t allow my brain to process. Ironically, rather than sending the signal I intended, my actions had the opposite effect and lured in my potential admirer who thought that I was playing hard to get. Needless to say this man continued on his journey toward me until he encircled me so that I would have no other choice but to dance with him. So, I gave in and did my best to come off as confident and attractive. We danced, we talked, I learned that he spoke French (huge turn-on for a French major), and ultimately I gave him my cell phone number – not a big shocker since I was giving it away to anyone who asked for it. Of course I never expected a phone call since no one before him had every called before. But around noon the next day an unknown number popped up on my caller id. Ignoring it the first time, I finally picked up on the second phone call (made within 10 minutes of the first). Side note: yeah, these men really dont play the games that American men play.

I think the conversation probably went something like this: Me: “Hello?” Him: “Hi! How are you today?” Me: “Huh, who is this?” Him: “It’s Sebastien, from the Spy Club.” Me: “Who?” Him: “Sebastien. We met last night at the club. Don’t you remember me!” Me: “Uh, who?” Him: “Sebastien! You gave me your number last night.” Me: Oh, ok. Why are you calling me?” Him: (finally) “I want to see you today”. Me: “what?!” Him: “Come over to my apartment.” Me: “Are you serious?” Him: “Yes, come on a date with me.” Me: “Uh, I am not coming over to your house. I don’t even know you. How do I know you aren’t like a serial killer?” Him: “You can trust me. Just bring a friend with you.” Me: um…. I’ll think about it. Call me back in a little while. Bye.”

Real smooth right? Like I said, I was Ms. Confident. Anyway, I ended up going to meet him with my best friend. I wanted a reality check. I wanted to see if this guy was really into me. Plus, my best friend was a really beautiful brunette: slender and chic and always the center of attention. If I was going to enter the dating world with this man he had better pass the “he doesn’t prefer my friends over me” test. So, we go meet him and his friend at Starbucks. This time I was sober and in a well lit cafe… and he was skinny! and tall (yay!) and had the most gorgeous plump lips I had EVER seen! Wowza! My friend immediately asked who was for who and was ever so slightly disappointed (and probably shocked) to see that he was for me. This realization was probably too much for me at the time. Not only was a man attracted to me, but he was also attractive, and he was NOT into my much more attractive friend. I probably would have agreed to have his children right then and there!  🙂

We immediately started a whirlwind romance, in which I fell head over heels in love with him. Within 2 months, I had practically moved in with him. I met his family who were on vacation from Morocco and I was smitten with them as well. I know now that I was soo emotionally involved that I couldn’t see straight. I was awed by his charisma, by his “bad boy-ness”. I was attracted to the idea of him. He fit my plans – French speaking boy to be passionate about and with, to enthrall me, to take me away on adventures, to BE my adventure. I know that he was not expecting me. He thought that he was getting a silly girl who just wanted fun and didn’t expect the innocent and naive child who was really there.

The summer flew by. There were night time escapades (too daring to talk about here – no NOT just that kind!), and days filled with waiting tables. Before I knew it, I had to move back to Louisiana and start school again. So, we had one last romantic night together. Then I left and we promised to try out our long distance relationship. He visited me in Baton Rouge. I came back to Houston. We spent two months apart and working new jobs and living separate lives. But I couldn’t concentrate. This boy had stolen my heart. He had encased me in his essence and I couldn’t be or breathe without him. I cried watching Alladin for crying out loud! Ridiculous, but true. 🙂 and by this time I had learned that my “Sebastien” was to be traded in for a much more Arab name that was actually his.

So, what did I do? Well first I dropped out of that semester at LSU. I moved in with him in Houston and we got married a little under six months after we first met that night in late May of 2002. We did not have a wedding. I did not tell my parents for almost a year (in my defense my mom almost died at the news that I had dropped out for a boyfriend). We survived the next couple of crazy months. Then in January of 2003 we moved to Louisiana. I went back to school and got a new job. We learned a lot more about each other and in the next two and a half years we fought and I cried and we laughed and loved and we made it work. When I graduated, got a job and six months later got pregnant, we made it work again. Before having my first daughter, I took my first trip to Morocco. My mother came along as well – I’m pretty sure she was afraid I might never come back otherwise. I loved it! I was fat and pregnant and miserable but we went all over the country. The beauty was astounding! The purity was … purifying! I loved not only the country but my husband more for seeing it and understanding it and him in it.

I have been back 3 more times since that first trip to Morocco. My husband and I have made it to almost 10 years together and 2 children later. There have been bumps in the road – BIG ones most recently – and we’re still here. Through it all, I have always felt that God had a plan for us when we met so long ago. Sometimes I am grateful for that and sometimes I am resentful. But, that’s life. There’s happiness and bitterness and all the emotions in between.

 

My love story is one in which I have come to accept that Valentine’s Day will not always be as happy as it was once or twice in my life. It is a love story that has taught me that it is ok to say to my spouse not only do I love you but I hate you. It has made me into an adult and into a person who sees a little clearer and without glasses that are so darkly shaded  pink. I can understand now and try to reconcile myself with phrases like “The opposite of love is not hate but apathy” and “never lose sight of who YOU are”. For all those reasons I can say “alhumdulillah” (thank God)! and be amused by the approaching holiday and the love in the air.

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Eid al Mawlid an Nabi…

Living in America, you can bet that this holiday does NOT make the nightly news. Well, most Muslim holidays dont…  But, even though Muslims all over the world are celebrating this holiday, the Muslims where I live are not. Some may fast on Monday as a remembrance of the Prophet’s birthday and others may have small family get togethers marking the holiday that they grew up celebrating in their own countries, but the mosques are not having a large congregational prayer, the Islamic schools are not organizing celebrations, and facebook is not filled with Eid greetings. So why not here? Are we not also Muslim? We have plenty of Muslims who take part in Christmas celebrations because they appreciate the idea of recognizing the birth of one of the Prophets of Islam. However, we are in a way, forbidden from celebrating the birthday of the Prophet who brought us Islam.

Why forbidden? Well, to understand this you need to understand the theology of the movers and shakers of my community. Sure it changes from region to region, so I’ll try not to overgeneralize. In Houston (where I live and was born and raised), the actively practicing Muslims are pretty conservative. For example, if you celebrate your children’s birthday you are doing something “haram”. If you do not wear hijab you might as well be a “kafir”. These words are filled with negative connotations and they are thrown around like salt and pepper in a red-neck kitchen. (hehe!) The reason behind this is largely cultural however, it effects large numbers of people – young and old. More importantly, the conservatism of the people in power forces the majority to outwardly practice only what the minority want.

Sadly, because of this reality, we are missing out on some very rich Islamic practices. Ones that are allowed by some major theologians around the world – all because a very few people in our community subscribe to a very strict interpretation of Islam and implement it in the mosques and schools. We are not allowed to bring up Sufism or any form of spiritual mysticism and possibly grow in our own understanding of God. We are not supposed to celebrate any holiday except the two major Eids. There are so many restrictions that it would be hard to list them all here. Suffice it to say that most Muslims just withdraw and dont participate at all. Moroccans especially – which makes sense since the culture is so infused with spirituality and somewhat with mysticim.

Following this strict interpretation of Islam is supposed to bring us closer to our Creator and farther away from the tempations of Satan, but in my experience, it only ever made me feel really withdrawn from my family (both American and Moroccan), and very very very judgemental of others. Something that led me down the path that eventually hit a bump in the road… (see previous post – a reality check). So, thankfully, I feel that I am DONE with conservative Islam. I have seen more love, and understanding, and a closer relationship with God from many many more people who do not stick to this hard line. I have seen and been a victim of so much evil behavior and nastiness in people’s hearts, that I am never going back to that place again. I will try more to embody the women of Morocco who are truly spiritual: who pray, all the time, on time and with love and eagerness, not just obligation. I will remember that a piece of cloth does not mean a better Muslim. I will remember that we all fall down, we all sin, we all can become slaves to our own desires, but to remember that we must let those things go and ask for forgiveness is what is wanted of us by our Creator. Recently I posted this on facebook: ‎”If you don’t have the ability to compete with the pious in righteous deeds, compete with sinners in seeking Allaah’s forgiveness”-Ibn Rajab. Insh’Allah!

So, I’ll leave you with a beautiful nasheed posted by a relative in Morocco as a remembrance of our Prophet on this occasion. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDvMbKq9op8&feature=share

and a biography of a beloved Prophet… http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/396226/Muhammad

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Un poeme – comment trouver “la joie de vivre”

Marche doucement sur la terre

chaque vie a son rhythme fragile

le savoir, c’est comprendre

l’ignorer, c’est s’abandonner a la tristesse

c’est chercher en vain l’integrite

atteinte seulement avec l’abandon du present

 

Marche doucement sur la terre

trop de serieux obscurcit la beaute

l’intensite aveugle et fausse notre but

une ambition excessive detruit la vraie perception

ce n’est ni le travail, ni la souffrance que debilite

mais ne pas se connaitre

 

marche doucement sur la terre

la colere voile la vision, la rage abrege la vie

le rire est le plus beau cadeau de l’esprit libre

rire de bon coeur et souvent, c’est comprendre

rire de soi, rire de la vie

et ainsi voir clairement

 

marche doucement sur la terre

l’amour attend de se reveler en son temps

et ne peut etre cree malgre la meilleure intention

l’amour c’est se decouvrir dans un autre etre

et n’importe quel autre amour en depit du temps

sera fatal et douloureux

surtout, surtout, marche doucement sur la terre!

 

 

C’est un poeme que j’ai fait apprendre a mes eleves… je l’aime bien et j’espere que vous le trouvez beau aussi.

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

C’mon, everybody is doing it!

So I mentioned before that I am dieting… and I mentioned how much I hate dieting. Well, what really got me off my lazy bum this time, is that it really is no fun being the only one left out of your group: not participating in the activities that all others are busy talking about and working on. Yes, I’m a follower… but that’s ok, so are most of us. 😉

Anyway, all of my friends started on this diet kick several months ago. Well, I was kind of in the middle of a breakdown so I couldn’t jump on the bandwagon when they did. But, when things finally started coming together, I up and joined a website for calorie counting, bought some new gym clothes, and went straight back into a 3 times a week workout schedule. I stopped buying coca-cola and sweets, and I started buying those stupid 100 calorie packs of everything. Well, then I heard of the movie, “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead”, and I read the blog of another American married to Moroccan who was jumping in (head first) into a juice fast. Read her blog here: http://collardgreenmuslim.com/.

Well, a week or two of calorie counting and 100 calorie snacking, I decided to watch the documentary mentioned above. Let’s just say, I get it. I’ll drink the Koolaid, or in this circumstance, the JUICE and try my hand at this. The whole micro -nutrient vs. macro-nutrient explanation really just made sense. We need to stop fattening ourselves up, when there is no immediate starvation in our future! Anyway, I’m not a head first kind of girl – I’m more like a dip your toe in and try the water and then shwiya be shwiya (little by little) get deeper and deeper and start swimming in the water. (Did you like my Moroccanism inserted there?)

I have also been trying to get my girls to eat vegetables that I pack for them in their lunches. They’re not biting – if you get my drift – and have decided to just stay hungry or wait for me to cave and give them some carbohydrates. We moms have to be sneaky and these children are not going to come off of years of poor eating in just a day or two. So, after watching the movie, and with no luck of my children eating veggies, I decided to make a kale/fruit blend smoothie for us. I wanted to see how much energy it would give us and sneak in a couple of servings of veggies. Everyone liked it and we started the first 2 days of our week with a kale smoothie. Sadly, today I am in a sinus induced fog so we havent had our daily helping.

I am now determined that we will stop eating (so much) processed food. That I can get them to eat WAY MORE veggies than they ever did and that everyone will benefit from this lifestyle change. As a side note, can I just say that I am astounded that it really is in MY CONTROL as the mother to be the only one to change our way of life. I mean, I didn’t even realize how much power I had!

First step of the process is complete, in that I tried out how I am going to get us to eat more veggies. Second step of the process is complete – I bought a ton of fruits and veggies to make juice (and even salads) with. Third step is next – I need a juicer ASAP!  Wish me luck as I try to become truly healthier, physically and spirtitually, and facilitate my family’s health and development.

 

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Shwiya be shwiya… (little by little)

I am writing this post as I am leaning over a mountain of work at my desk. I am thinking that I feel overwhelmed – that I would give anything to escape the routine that I am currently prisoner to. I am overwhelmed by my diet, by exercise, by keeping my house running and my kids eating healthy food. I am overwhelmed by grading French work and teaching it every day in an interesting and exciting and effective way. The only thing that I am not overwhelmed with is the one task that I WANT to be busy taking care of … and that is planning and organizing a new start.

Yesterday, I spoke with my husband about our plans for a big change and in his Moroccan way (of course), he let me know that everything would fall into place and we would act on it as time progressed. SO MOROCCAN OF HIM! As a control freak, and an American my mind is obsessed with what to do first, how to do it, when to do it, will it be effective, etc.etc. That I often times forget to just sit back and remember that everything does happen and will happen but one thing at a time.

So, I give this as a reminder to myself – shwiya be shwiya Elizabeth. InshAllah koolshyee aikoon baerkhair! (little by little, Elizabeth, inshAllah everything will be ok). 🙂

 
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Posted by on January 24, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

A reality check…

A little over three months ago, my life was progressing as normal. It was the middle of fall, the middle of the first semester at school, and everything was just kind of acceptable. I teach French at a middle school and I was happy with my student’s progress, happy with my children’s work at their Islamic school, and generally happy with my life and my friends.

I’m not a person who reflects too much on how my life is not what I planned it to be. I know that God has led me to where I am, that it is best to be happy and grateful for what I have, and to make the most and try to be the best person in the situation that I am given. Of course, I’m not perfect and teaching at public school along with two little princesses and a house full of work can lead someone to complain and feel drained from time to time. And so, I thought that while I could have pictured a better situation, that I was happy in mine and that my family was happy as well. Koolshee mmzyen.

Well, God is in control of all things and sometimes he has plans for us that are unexpected. I spoke with a  friend of mine about the power of dreams recently and it was a very deep philosophical conversation. The gist of it was something life this: humans are given these gifts called dreams. Dreams are messages from our subconscious (in my mind that means that God is relaying this message to us through ourselves) that are telling us what we really desire and what we need to change in our lives. We should all try to study and contemplate our dreams because if we did, then we might really understand how to be happy and fulfilled in this life. Sadly, we dont. We forget our dreams (both meanings intended), we ignore them, we continue on with our everyday lives because we don’t have time to think about what we should be doing or what we want to be doing… or we have too many responsibilities to act on them.

So, three months ago, this inaction came back to bite me in the butt. As I said, I thought that everything was good – in Moroccan “koolshee mmzyen”. Apparently, though, I had been unhappy for quite a while, and even though I was trying to be a zen master, a good wife, a good mother, a good teacher, a good friend, and even just a good me… I was complaining to everyone that came within 10 feet of me. I was pouring out discontent in gallons and beating people down with my frustration. The effect: my personal and professional life were falling apart and I felt like I was being torn into shreds. I was a hot mess. WOW! The realization that it was my fault took a lot of tears, lonely nights, and phone calls to my really truly patient and wise friend before I could understand. Thankfully, this realization has led to a transformation of me (or at least I’m on my way there).

Here’s what I am working on and have worked on… letting go of old habits that encourage you to judge others and that suffocate the real you into a person who is just drudging through the day. This includes a new diet (and something I have dreaded all my life – calorie counting) and regular exercise. It includes a new physical appearance – one that has been noted as uplifting by some and is taboo to others. That’s ok, though… it’s what I need right now. It also includes letting things go that I can’t control (because I am a bit of a control freak) – like other people’s behavior. It is my job to work on my children and students; but even as a mom there are some days that I just have to realize I can’t stop my child from being who she is.

… and finally, it includes a plan to return to a place where I have found peace, and beauty, and simplicity. A place where maybe I can become the me that I always wanted to be. The me who studied French not because she wanted to teach it and take all the beauty out of it, but wanted to learn about new people, new cultures, new lifestyles and seek happiness in another place (because she couldn’t find it where she was from). The me that saw herself as a person who couldn’t change the whole world but could try to do good in as many people’s lives as possible. The me who saw herself as a loving caring selfless mother and wife who would be loved by her family and not become a crazy stamp of their lives.

Insh’Allah, this is what was planned when that huge bump in the road turned everything upside down. Insh’Allah this was an answer to one of my prayers for peace and to be a better Muslim. InshAllah this will be the right path and now I can get up and dust off my clothes, clean the scrapes off my knees and continue on my journey.  Insh’Allah!

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

a little goes a long way…

So tonight is the night that I started my blog. I used to think that blogs were such a weird new tool of wasting time introduced by the internet… however, lately reading blogs has given me something to hold on to. Tonight before I came across my blog I was making a tagine (a Moroccan stew) with beef, olives, and french fries as well as an American stew with beef and blackeyed peas. I even had enough beef to set aside for a third dish. I used 1 lb. of beef for all of this… In American cooking 1 lb of anything would never make 3 meals, however, I have learned from Moroccan culture (and sometimes from the clash of that culture with my own) that a little goes a long way.

I also found it important to note in one of my first blogs, that I am sometimes overly explanatory and verbose while not always making my way directly to what I want to say. So I guess I’m not a great writer – whatever, I still reserve the right to ramble, babble and otherwise overly explain (something that gets me into trouble in my real life). I come by this naturally – you should meet my mom. So, once again, I’ll just say a little goes a long way – and leave it at that.

p.s. I put too much salt in the tagine, ahh well, better late than never to live by a new motto. 🙂

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2012 in Uncategorized