Wednesday, November 21, 2012

thats what i want

the best things in life are free
but you can give them to the birds and bees
I want money

-- That's What I Want -- Written by Berry Gordy and Janie Bradford, 1959

So, lately people (friends and coworkers) have been asking me about my finances, in sum, how do I handle them?

It is an interesting question. I mean, look at me, I have been (until recently) single, living in my parents home (with sporadic living on campus for work/school), with not too many financial obligations, given that I have no dependents nor real responsibilities. Yet, for some reason, people always from all walks of life, ask me about handling finances as though I am some sort of expert.

So, I'll give you my top five hints and maybe a bit of explanation as well. This isn't really in a planned order, just whatever pops into my head in whatever order.

(1) Start Young

Its not really a hint... but it was part of my experience. The first allowance I had (mind you was like $20/month), my dad taught me to budget it. I think I was roughly 10 years old at the time, maybe even younger. Now, you may think, this is a heavy topic for a little kid, but its not. Really, it comes down to simple adding and subtracting. But what you learn is how to look at your wants and needs and plan for them both. Because trust me, 15 years later, you no longer plan, you just know.

(2) Differentiate between Wants and Needs

This is a major, major, major, major thing for me. In our commercialized society we are seriously condition to think we desperately need something, especially when it first comes out. For example, all those rushing to get the iphone 5... DESPERATELY NEED IT! But, really, YOU DON'T! You know that saying 'If it's not broke, don't fix it' -- well, personally I add a 'and don't replace it until unfixable' --- which is ironic since one of the cellphone ads this year is of all these people breaking and sabotaging their phones in order to buy a "better and newer" one. But the reality is "newer is not necessarily better".

So, basically, you need to learn: A need is something that is crucial to living during your day-to-day life. A want is anything else.

Think of it this way: You need food to live -- you want twizzlers because you want a sugar rush. --> You buy a bag of apples $1.99 --> you buy a pack of twizzlers $1.99 --> you end up buying a bag of apples anyway, because you're still hungry and your body still needs nutrition.

This doesn't mean cut out the wants from your life, but it means only consider a want after you have fulfilled your needs, put some money on the side for future needs (i.e. savings), and then revisit if you still want that thing.

(3) Use only what you have, not more and always less

One major detail that my close friends know about me is that I have never had a credit card. I don't believe in using imaginary money. EVER. I like to use only what I have. So, say for the month I have $20 dollars and I need to fill some gas, get a formal shirt to wear for a panel presentation, and pay my electricity bill. I know, random, but sometimes our needs are a bit random...

For most people this is what happens:

(A) Pay electricity bill
(B) Buy shirt on credit card
(C) Fill gas on credit card
(D) Hope to God that next month we can make the monthly payment for the credit card dues.
(E) If remaining money is about $10, buy lunch for that day since we've exhausted ourselves mentally for worrying about finances.

So, in my mind:

(A) Pay my electricity bill in full (say about $10)
(B) Fill enough gas to make it until my next paycheck and walk A LOT. If anywhere is within a 3 mile radius, I sure as heck walk there. --> which usually keeps my gas pretty much unused.
(C) Take one hour to shop for a shirt within the remain cash that I have left over, assuming its about $10. If I don't find anything in that 1 hour, I put that money in my savings and find a shirt that is suitable in my closet, my mom's closet, my sister's closet, and then I move on to friend's closets. And since the females in my family as well as most of my friends work as teachers or are professionals, I can come up with something. If someone ever wants to do the same, let them. Don't think twice.

--- One thing that is important to note is you NEED to save. Consider it part of your Needs and not a Want.

(4) Budget in categories with margins of error

There are things that can be grouped together, for me it usually looks like this:

Monthly bills - car payments, insurance, rent (or mortgage), electricity, water,phone, heat ect (these thing are typically fixed and to be expected)
Day-to-Day expenses - groceries, gas, etc (these things fluctuate based on need, aren't as fixed, so sometimes you can go over and others you can go under)
Leisurely - Fun with family and friends, maybe a gym membership (your wants) - things that you can do, but you will always have some sort of free or cheaper alternative --> i.e. going out for coffee, even though you can invite a friend over at home and brew them a cup, go jogging in your neighborhood, borrow a book from the library instead of buying it, etc.

Say your paycheck is $175 a month (I am using small amounts on purpose, but you can imagine it is 2 times that amount or even 10 times, but this is to keep it simple, so that if you are a high schooler wanting to handle finances or a doctor with 3 clinics). I would allocate to each category only what I can afford:

Monthly bills ($75) ---- ($70)
Savings ($25) ---- ($20)
Day-today expenses ($25) ---- ($22)
Leisurely ($10) ---- ($7)
TOTAL - $135 ----- ($119)

So, where are those last $40? They are your margin of error. We always have some sort of emergency or day-to-day payment we couldn't account for. This covers for that. If nothing comes up: roll it into your savings or if you want to be adventurous use it for some fun family outing. BUT ONLY after the whole month has passed and nothing came up.

Also, if you noticed, a second column there is a $16 difference. You should aim to use the lower end of your allocated funds. This is because, again, your payments won't always be a certain fixed amount, and if don't account for these things, then you may totally financially screw yourself over.

(5) Constantly, Constantly, Constantly be appreciative for what you have and NEVER EVER ask for more.

Its one thing to need help to meet your needs, I am not saying don't ask a family member or friend for some help to meet your basic needs. But what I am saying is, don't constantly strive to get the newer and better or more of something. You have a computer at home to do your work, you can't quite afford that laptop yet, then don't get it until you've actually saved enough cash to buy it... don't buy it on credit card.

The thing is, often times people have wants and needs that don't match up with other's wants and needs. I, personally, am a minimalist. I don't like having more than I ever need. But many people are not like that. Don't be ashamed, but don't throw yourself into an ocean of debt just to fulfill your wants.

Say, you've been buying a cup of coffee daily and your finances are being stretched thin, well start brewing it at home (assuming you already have it), and save yourself $1 a day. It may seem like nothing, but over time, that $1/day will be helpful, especially when you have $365 at the end of the year and decide to use it on buying a new laptop... and yes, you can actually buy really great laptops for under $400... that will last you about 3-4 years.

Okay I'm going to add a 6th, a 7th, and an 8th... but I'll try to be brief.

(6) Donate

Don't treat money like its easily dispensable. Treat it with care. I'm not asking you to be stingy. DONATE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE DONATE something. No matter how tight you are with your cash, donate something, $1 a month, more, less, but something. Money isn't yours forever, it circulates and moves, so be part of that movement, but rather in a selfish way, move it in a selfless and loving way. You don't have to go broke donating money, but you have to give something...

(7) Be Humble

Now, I'm writing a post about finances... makes me feel like a mighty person... but reality is, I'm not. I don't know jack about life, so I'm sorry I wasted 20 minutes of your time while you read this post.

But, really, being humble doesn't mean putting yourself down, or dressing like you haven't showered in 2 months. Or never buying yourself that little pick-me-up. Being humble, for me, means two things:
1- Recognizing that this stuff is beyond yourself. You are just one person in millions. Or your money, is only yours temporarily. That ownership is in flux and the only thing we own are our actions. So, its not about the money, but our actions when dealing with money.

2- Treating everyone and everything as valuable. Abuse comes when things are treated as though they lack value. Just because we may not consider something valuable, doesn't mean another feels the same. For me, my most valuable possessions are really worthless in the eyes of others. They hold much sentimental value. But what I am trying to say is, people, money, things, the world, they all have value and they should be treated with care and respect, just as you would like to be treated with care and respect. Yes, so treat a cup of coffee, as you would like to be treated. That is what I am saying, appreciate it, savor it, love it, all while you drink it.



(8) Just be thankful.

I know I said this repeatedly in different ways, but you can never understand how much gratitude and thankfulness plays a huge roll in your outlook on life and how to deal with finances. So, just be thankful.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

You don't say...

We always talk about how our words can cause reactions around us. We may say something silly, it elicits a chuckle. Something stupid, it also, elicits a chuckle. We may say something with gut-wrenching seriousness, and it may cause the listener to become nervous, uncomfortable, and outright disturbed... and so on a so forth.

This post is, however, about what we don't say.

I am a person, who will respond if I feel the environment will not respond. First, I will take 10 seconds to wait for someone to say something.... and then I will speak. Especially while I am teaching.

An interesting thing occurred about a year ago, I even posted a status about it. A student, who happened to be Arab, made one of the most discriminatory statements I had ever heard in my life, about homosexuals. I was, at first, stunned into shocked silence. Then, after about 10 seconds, I had chastised the student and asked the class that if one was to express their opinion in class, they must do with so with respect. However, the tension in the classroom escalated to a point that I almost considered calling campus security. People argued with physical distress, hands pounding on the table. I even had 3 students who were on sports teams, volunteer to stay in the room until tensions reduced. Within 10 minutes, the topic at hand was resolved and the class resumed.

However, one thing occurred. During those 10 minutes, a student slipped out of the classroom out of anger and frustration. The student returned after 10-15 minutes, until they cooled off, but never returned to future classes. Immediately after class, I spoke to the student who made the statement, and discussed the need to be culturally sensitive as well as understand that there is no one way to live one's life. People live the way they choose, and we must be tolerant regardless of our personal biases. This student gave me trouble the rest of the semester, in terms of respecting the rights of others, not only in terms of sexuality, but class, race and religion (including my own).

The other student, who I had known was openly gay, had asked with polite frustration in his voice, that we be more respectful when we discuss such issues in the future. Before, I could speak with them in person, they left classroom. So, I followed up with an email, apologizing for my inability to adequately handle the situation. Despite the fact that I had handled it to the best of my abilities.

Later that day, I had spoke to my advisor on how to handle such situations, and my advisor had stated that the way I handled it was the most efficient. Who knows, you never really know, until the situation arises.

This occurred about a year ago, yesterday my student (the one who left my class to never return), emailed me in a very impersonal email. They stated that they had dropped out of school because of my lack of immediate response. I will do everything in my power to get this student back and active in school again. However, a lesson must be learned for anyone who is reading this.

I'd like to point out, some people take time to respond to things, I am one of those people. But what you don't say, can seem like the worst kind of indictment to another. Silence is equally as painful as an insult, especially when misunderstood. I wish wish wish, I had instantaneously spoken, but 10 seconds can sometimes feel like 10 years for a person. Those 10 seconds of silence, felt like half of a second for me, but felt like a decade for my student.

I have learned that when in a position of authority, you must MUST MUST, respond immediately, with care and wisdom. 10 seconds can completely turn into a year for someone, and they may lose many opportunities along that time frame.

My student emailed me yesterday, I cried. I could not believe that my belated response could have taken such a toll. That event, until this day, has been a story I had openly shared with many of my co-workers and friends, because of how fast everything transpired. I always tell them, you need to try and dismantle escalating tensions as quickly as possible. I use this incident to explain how bigotry, biases and ignorance are detrimental to the stability of humanity. I have recalled this story maybe 20 to 30 times to people, so that I can share my experiences on how to handle high-stress situations in the classroom.

But, losing one student, a sincere and honest student, that is the biggest heartbreak of my life.

I wish I could turn back time, to that morning in the first couple of weeks of class, and just harshly chastise that student who made the comment. But at the time, I wanted to ensure that my students could openly express themselves, while maintaining respect. So, I sought to respond respectfully, while chastising. Maybe I should have been harsher.... I don't know. All I know is things unfold the way they do.

But now... I have learned that silence... is equally as dangerous as words, especially when silence is misinterpreted.

Pray for me.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Teaching vs. Research

If you have met me before, you'd know that I love teaching... with every fiber of my being. Co-workers in my department usually give me an odd look when I make such statements. Professors and advisors tell me that I need to have a healthy balance of both research and teaching. Well, I will discuss a brief comparison.
Warning: Humor may or may not be involved...


While teaching you may develop a "hero complex" in which you take command and lead the class into a victorious and glorious discussion. Where as in research, well you just stare at the hole in the wall in which you work, bouncing ideas off said walls, and then realize... if walls could speak, they'd tell you, "you are nuts."

While teaching, you interact with human beings... young, old, male, female and all those dichotomies in between. Working with so many different types of people is a humbling experience. You discover yourself through others. You learn how to deal with different types of people. You essentially realize that you are just one more piece in a wonderful puzzle. In research, you interact (depending on the field) with old books that might as well be called tombs, because they are so dusty that you may need an inhaler after opening them. Furthermore, you develop attachment to the aforementioned books, that may or may not be older than your grandmother, that you start to treat them like a human being... cajoling them into compliance, telling them to share their secrets, whispering sweet nothings into their I mean.... binding...

Am I starting to worry you?

While teaching, you discover a piece of information and share it with the classroom... reflect on what it means, and come out with a healthy a viable research project... yes, teaching gets you to work on your research... In research, you discover a piece of information, horde it to yourself, and treat it like it is your last meal... ensuring that not one atom slips out of your grasp out of a sense of fear and paranoia that someone may or may not steal your ideas....

While teaching, you live life above ground. In research, you live like a rat, scurrying back to its hole in the wall. I'm starting to think of that story we read in Lit class back in my undergrad days "Yellow Wallpaper". o.O

While teaching, you eat normal food... In research, you also eat normal food.... GOT YOU THERE!! ----> PLUG IN! --> Never let your food, sleep, and exercise habits suffer!!

Teaching --- the most challenging job on the planet, but the most fulfilling job on the planet... Research --- the other most challenging job on the planet, but the least fulfilling job on the planet, unless you get some sort of International Academic Award like a Nobel Prize.... Can you buy one off ebay?


Okay, I'll stop there. Six, that is enough. Have I mentioned that research is torture for people like me... You turn from alive, vivacious human being --> into a croaking, old machine that needs some oiling. o.O

Good luck Academics and research fellows...

Thursday, September 27, 2012


"So which of the favors of your Lord would you deny?" (55: Repeated Verse)

Nothing really out of the ordinary has happened... but over all, I've been feeling so blessed and content with life I just couldn't help recall some verses from the Quran that discuss recognizing blessings/favors.


“[...] and if you should count the blessings of God, you could not enumerate them,” (14:34).

There is something about attempting to count your blessings. It is true... it is absolutely impossible to count them all. Sure, we can be like "Thank God for my sight, my hearing, my ability to move, my ability to communicate....ect" but will we be able to list them all? I don't think so. I think about the incidents that may seem horrible on the spot, but turn out to be a huge blessing later on.

For example, one time my friends and I (yes, you know who you are) went on a road trip... we drove for about 30-45 minutes in the wrong direction... when we finally realized, we started heading the right direction and found a massive accident. One, that without a doubt, would have killed at least one of us (god forbid). But at the time, not of us were bothered by the delay, we kind of just laughed it off, like "silly girls," but it was a serious blessing, because it really protected us from a harm that we could not account for.

Now, I think about all those times where something didn't quite go the way that I wanted it to, could those have been blessings in disguise? Maybe, I don't know.

This post is not about religion or blessings in a scriptural sense, although I do cite some religious scripture. It is about contentment.

Contentment is not about being passive about what one has. Rather, it is recognizing what you have in life and making progress based on those things. Rather than desperately wanting something that you realistically cannot have (maybe at that moment in time), which allows resentment, discontent and anger to fester within you.

The thing about "counting your blessings" is that you are forced to have a paradigm shift, one that makes you think optimistically, positively, and realistically. You do not have to be blinded from reality to be happy or content with life. You just need to understand how "things work for you".

We all have things that please or displease us. Do we focus on the displeasure of life, constant fixation on the negative? I have witnessed so many people figuratively screw themselves over, when they stress on the negative. They set themselves up for failure, psyche themselves out, and create this cycle of discontent.

I have been told that I am annoying, bubbly, too optimistic, too perky, too happy, but honestly, I am not. I have challenges, difficulties, stresses and so forth, just like anyone else. However, I was taught by my father, as the saying go "honey catches more flies than vinegar". My dad used to always tell me, "You are, for the most part, what people perceive of you". He also used to tell me to "turn every challenge/difficulty into an advantage/opportunity" even when they are flaws in myself or character. For example, I have a sucky memory, REALLY BAD, but that forced me to look at that aspect of my life and become very organized in terms of time. I rarely am late anywhere or unprepared for work. That is because I forced myself to organize my schedule, my tasks, and my life in a way that forces me to confront my forgetfulness, not use it as a hinderance. I use stickies, reminders, to-do lists, I engage all of my senses in this process of remembrance. I even tell stories to myself, in order to remember facts and details.

So, if you think I'm too optimistic... then I'm sorry, I don't give a snap, crackle or pop. Not my problem, it is yours. You find a way to turn your pessimism into an opportunity. My emotional outlet is writing... poetry, blogs, short stories, and the like. Find yours. It may be, as one of my friends recently discovered, through the guitar and music.

One simple tactic that was recommended about a year or two ago was starting a gratitude journal. Every night, at the end of the day (and trust me, you won't be consistent every night... sometimes you'll just fall asleep for 2 weeks), write something you are grateful for. Sometimes, you'll be feeling the typical, "I love my friends and family," sometimes it'll be a particular incident, others you may appreciate something you discovered about yourself or someone close to you.

To finish, I'll end with something that I didn't expect... I woke up at 2am... and it took me a while to fall back asleep... then by the time I woke up again at 4am... I had a series of nightmares, one bleeding into the next. The details will not be provided, because in my religious tradition we are not supposed to divulge about our nightmares. So, basically, I woke up at 4am. I recited some supplications for the morning, I prayed a few cycles of prayer, I did tons of yoga stretches, and then I sat down to do some work...

Close to 2 hours later, I got all the work I needed to get done ---- Done. Now, I can start to tackle other items that were straggling along on my old to-do lists that I haven't had the opportunity to attack with fervor. It is only 5:45am, this is why reality is always better than dreams.

Good Morning.

Monday, September 17, 2012

10 things you suffer from

I will just be jumping right in... No introduction, just this post...

10 Things You Will Suffer From Having Fallen In Love:

1) You get no work done... trust me... None, none what so ever. You start something, stare at it for like an hour, blush at something your loved one said... and then try and get back to work, realizing that 2 hours had passed since you first sat down to work.

2) You will be relentlessly teased. Not only by your loved one, if he/she is the teasing type.... but by your friends and family. Soon, you will walk around in a constant state of embarrassment... If one more person says something teasing towards you, you may or may not be responsible for throwing them in a lake...

3) You do not have enough clothes. At least if you are me. Suddenly, you realize, OH SNAP, I am a SCRUB. And you desperately try to look good for this one person in your life... when before, it didn't matter how much you loved your friends or family, you could persist to be a walking mismatch with them.

4) You may constantly start gasping for air. Yes, they were right... that stereotype, of being unable to breath. Its true. When Maroon 5 sang "Its getting Harder and Harder to breath" --> It does. Why, I don't know. All you know is that you have a flood of emotions wash over you, and you're drowning in it blissfully.

5) You can no longer turn to certain friends for advice. Yes, this may sound harsh. But it is without connotation, neither positive nor negative. It is a matter of fact. You suddenly realize that there are friends you can ask certain questions and others you cannot. Some who will sympathize with your worries, and some who will completely disregard your concerns. Some who will give you what you want to hear, and others who will give you what you need to hear. And there is no one person who can give you all those answers.

6) You do indeed... lose your appetite. My friends and I have discussed the scientific implications of this concept... But in short... expect, at least in the beginning stages to drop quite a bit of weight. For someone like me who has, quite frankly, a hefty appetite, well apparently with certain emotions I lose all ability to eat. In the last few weeks... I have dropped a total of 15 pounds... unhealthy, right? At least, I still hit the gym. Thats the good news... I don't want to be reduced to an empty sack of bones.... o.O

7) Your time is no longer your own. This is particular for serious relationships, at least, I am assuming so. A friend of mine told me this a couple of years ago, that the biggest change when she got married was that her time was no longer hers, alone. And I feel that 100%. No one has to tell you I want to see you at a certain time or be home at..., maybe it is just among women, maybe its both men and women... but when you are out and about without your loved one, you want to come back to them at the end of the day. You feel worried if you stay out too late without seeing them. I mean, really, 3 weeks ago, I would have come home at midnight and thought, well I hope mama and baba don't mind that I came home so late, enh its all good. But now its more of a, I need to be home! I need to be home! I need to be home! Just so I can make that one phone call!

8)Jealousy, in a good way, takes a hold of you. I can come off as not the most expressive person. Actually, people have told me "You are cold!" but that is because I am OVERLY expressive. I have learned from a young age to really really really control my emotions in public. So, you can pretty much say anything to me, and you may or may not see any change in my body language. So, when it comes to jealousy, I don't know what to think... since, well, I am discovering that it hurts. I am jealous of a cell phone, a water bottle, a car... not people, but things. God save us all. I pray my sanity is maintained. X_x

9) Internal dialogue. Okay, honestly though, I did this before. But now, its 10 times more frequent. I will undergo debates in my head, full on conversations involving said loved one. Throwing around emotions, hesitations, excitement, love, frustration, wants, needs, concerns, all of the above. Am I starting to sound crazy...? Now, I think I know why people say that love makes you crazy.

10) You discover something new every moment of interaction. You learn more about yourself than you do of your loved one.... So, then you start to feel jealous towards yourself, since you aren't learning enough about your loved one in comparison! Okay, that was a joke... maybe ;). Anyway, every moment is a new discovery. It could be tentative or full-blown epiphany. It could be a minute detail or a paradigm shift. My friends and family members who have been married for quite a while have repeatedly assured me that this continues to happen, up until the day you die. Not in as much frequency, per se. But you will continuously discover something new about you, your loved one, and the world we live in. I can't wait for 50 years from now (inshaAllah!/God Willing!) when I discover something I didn't know, despite knowing the person for half a century. That would be mind-blowing. At least for me. ^___^


Okay, that is my list of 10.... I could go on forever and ever. But I will control myself. A few people have asked me, When are you going to write a 'love poem'? Expecting that I would have, as a poet, pulled out a paper and a pen to record these emotions. I don't know when that poem will emerge, it may one day, it may never. So, all I have to offer to the world is this.

Enjoy it.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Just for Niqabs and Giggles

This is a few days late. But I have been thinking about how I wanted to share this story, without feeling weird about it. It is not a bad story, good story, or neutral story. It is, for the most part, just a daily part of my existence.

So, I'll jump right in.

I was at the library checking out this giant stack of books for research. Until I turned around a saw a friend. She (if happens to be reading this) will remain unnamed, because I prefer a level of discretion in my online life.

This friend happens to be a niqabi (she wears the face veil, but her eyes are exposed). I happen to be a hijabi (I wear a head covering, but my whole face is exposed). She called my name, I turned around and we greeted each other. Simple, right? I mean, one would assume so.

Anyway, I turned back to the librarian to say thank you and walk away. But she said "How do you guys even recognize each other?". My friend's facial expression was "did she just ask that?" But it wasn't a loaded with anger or frustration, but patient complacency. It was an inquisitive look, asking me silently, "reem, do you answer or do i?". Now, you may be wondering, How in the heck are these two girls communicating through facial expressions, when one of their faces is covered. And the answer is simple, its all in the body language. And that is exactly the answer I gave the librarian.

I said, with one of my GIANT grins, "Oh, its the body language. and of course our sense of clothing, we're friends so you get used to seeing how the other moves or carries themselves." Now, this isn't an exact quote, but overall, what was being said.

That was it. Encounter over. My friend left, I left, the librarian stayed to work.

So, why blog about this? I will have to use on of my infamous lists....

1) The librarian had no clue. I respect her question, she was curious. And Curiosity is a good feeling. I think that this woman probably thought this before, but never really said anything. I mean, there are tons of niqabis who roam campus, who check out books, who have conversations. I would like to think, it is because my friend's eyes were welcoming.

2) Niqabis have it even worse in America than hijabis. I always talk about how hijabis are completely misunderstood. Well Niqabis are 10x more. I remember once I gave this random monologue at an event regarding muslim women 4-5 years ago, about how Niqabis should be more vocal and in the public sphere. I know some of the brightest minds behind those niqabs, and I hate to think that they are written off because of a measly stereotype. This particular friend is one of the smartest, hard working, people I know. And people always remember her from classes, not because of the way she looks, but because of her voice, that holds conviction. I've talked to people who have taken classes with her, and they'll ask me, "Reem, do you know so and so" (because, yes every muslim knows every other muslim), and in this instance I do! They'll describe her words and voice and I know, right away that it is my friend, because she speaks her mind unapologetically.

3)Its all in the body language. You don't need to hear people say something, to understand them. Maybe, I could have made a mistake and thought she was someone else. Maybe, our non-verbal communication was wrong, and I projected onto her emotions that she may not necessarily have had. But, what I am trying to say is, body language makes a difference. We live in a day and age when our faces are glued to our laptops and phones. We read conversations a lot more than verbally express them. In fact, we watch people online at insane amounts of frequency. But there is something to said about non-verbal communication. It can tell you years and years of information by just one glance. A person's tone (and yes, now I am lumping tone with the non-verbal because it is not the actual words but the sound of the words) can completely give away a person's thought processes, principles in life, and general outlook on the world. I think we need to study cues of non-verbal communication of our loved ones.

4) Remember that you may be TOTALLY WRONG! Say, what?!?!! I'm wrong?!?! huh?! Yes, wrong. This is about #3, which I kind of alluded to, but didn't really unpack. So, now I am unpacking. Everyone has a unique body language that is completely different based on their individual personalities, their family norms, their culture and society, and contemporary world trends. Yes, all four of these things. For the most part, we pick up on the latter two, because they are easier to figure out. If someone frowns, usually in means they are displeased with something. If someone laughs, they find something funny, ect. But different people, do different things. I'll give you two scenarios from my personal life.

A) One time, I was being interviewed for something and the interviewer was sitting directly across from me. He asked me questions, he jotted down answers. But he also, because I could read his notepad from my position, in which he noted, does not make eye contact. I'll have to say that as an American, not making eye contact is the biggest faux pas a person could entertain in social life. But in Arab culture, it is totally normal to look away. So, for me based on cultural cues (of my culture within a culture), I tend to make 100% eye contact when someone is speaking to me. When I speak, I make limited eye contact, lets say an average percentage of 20. So, for him as an interviewer he barely spoke, which would mean that I made very little eye contact.

B) Another time, I was being interviewed by a classmate for our oral history class. We were sitting in my office, which is comfortable. I was sitting on my chair, with my knees folded to my chest, talking freely. For him, I was nervous. For me, I was comfortable. Actually, I noticed all my maternal aunts sit like this, and a few of my cousins as well. But anyway, at that moment, when I realized --- wow, he thinks I am nervous, I explained to him that this is just how I sit. Then, he realized later on... its true. She sits in class, this same way, everyday. HEY!!! DON'T JUDGE ME!! I LIKE TO BE COMFORTABLE IN CLASS!

--- what are these stories saying? That sometimes the dominant cultural and social trends don't apply for individuals. They may do something different, you need to be able to recognize those nuances.


So let me wrap up, because this post is getting quite lengthy. Embrace life, be curious, ask questions, read people, but don't make assumptions. Plus, she some verbal love, or at least a smile with the niqabis in your area. They are truly misunderstood in American society.


Friday, August 24, 2012

beautiful eyes and undying hope

I am not vain. I promise I am not. I hope I'm not arrogant or stuck up... I try not to be. But sometimes you need to blog about incidents that occur, because they are significant to your day.

It is still relatively early... I mean, it is only 10:30am.

Anyway, as I was purchasing my cup of coffee, a person in line turned towards me and told me.... "wow. You have really beautiful eyes."

And if you know me, like REALLY know me, I am HORRIBLE with compliments. For a long time, I would just stand in shock. Others, I would deny it because I sincerely believed they were wrong and it was just flatter. But after living with two really great friends, who will not be named for the purpose of anonymity, they daily complimented me until I could finally just smile and say "thank you".

Well, this time, I did just that. I smiled to this absolute stranger and said "Thank you"... except he said "you probably get that all the time..." and all I could do was say "i guess...." ---> I don't... get it all the time. Yes, by people who are close enough, literally physically close enough, but not all the time.

Any how, this post isn't to tell the world I have beautiful eyes, because beauty is in the eye of the beholder. For example, I love LOVE LOVE, chocolate brown eyes. There is something about them. But, that is besides the point. This post is about connecting one experience to thousands of others.

1) There is so much hate in the world, so much violence -- take a look at Syria, Burma, NYC (THIS MORNING AT THE EMPIRE STATE BUILDING!), Norway, and so forth. I think, that when confronting so much negativity, find something in someone, a quality (not necessarily a physical feature) that you find beautiful. For me, that person's compliment reminded me about the amazing dedication and sweetness of my two friends to build my self-esteem (as well as get over much awkwardness).

2) Be sincere. Sincerity, I believe, reflects passion. Sincerity of a word, a smile, an action, a commitment is no simple matter. The person from this morning reminded me of my mother, whom like all others, can drive me up the wall crazy. But the sincerity she has towards helping me move forward, will (hopefully) always be clear to me. That she is sincere in loving me. I mean, she spent so many days over the last month, making my favorite types of sweets, dinners, and so forth. And when I was being picky, she just laughed it off and offered me what was available. I don't know why, but I feel like sincerity can stir the world into empathy, passion, and action towards the betterment of society.

3) Awkwardness is okay. I mean, think about how awkward we are. I used to think I was super weird, super awkward, an oddball really; mostly because people always told me that I was, and supplemented it with some statement I had just uttered. But one day, I realized, everyone is weird. Who cares. Just do what you do and in the end, you'll be okay. Because, ultimately, I can awkwardly smile at the man this morning, or I could be nonchalant about it, but in the end, you are going to take your experiences (normal as they may seem) and turn it into a moment of mind-boggling discovery.

4) Sometimes, you just need a pick me up, the little things that make you feel "bubbly" (and no I am not talking about drinking the bubbly), and appreciate the simplicity of contentment. For me, I got four. I had breakfast with the parentals. I went to the gym. Stood in line to get a coffee (you know how I am about my coffee). And got a nice compliment. I'd like to point out that I've been having these really bad stomach pains all morning... and these four 'pick me ups' got be bustling with energy. Pushed me back into motion. I've been stuck in transition, in neutral, at a moment of stagnation, and now I've been propelled forward. Accept the 'pick me ups' no matter how random they may seem, or mundane. You need to see these seemingly normal activities as something that makes you happy. If you are forever cynical, critical, and down -- the most beautiful of experiences, may be lost on you, because you've forgotten how to appreciate the little things.

5) I could go on forever. I tend to interpret and reinterpret things, fold them, cut them up in my mind, and re-piece them together. Anyway, this last one is share with the world. Share your thoughts, your sincerity, your awkwardness, your bubbliness (and your downs in order to get all the frustration out), your love, your fears... really, just share your essence. I think we all have something to offer to someone else. Whether it is a smile or a fat check. This morning, I felt like I was blessed by someone's words. It changed my mood from heart ache to hope. I thought about the destruction in Syria and felt only despair. But now, my hope is back and brighter than ever. I felt anger towards the shooters in NYC, and now I feel potential for change. I felt frustration towards the massacres in Burma, and now I feel the excitement of raising awareness, of activism. This morning rekindled my buoyancy, my faith, my energy in sharing myself with the world.

I pray that I can try to try.

Really, I think that man had beautiful eyes, not me. Because he was able to see a person who was holding onto a lifeline of pessimism. It was like he looked back into the past to the beginning of humanity, and looked far into the future of mankind and saw undying hope.


Thursday, June 7, 2012

24 years of something or another

Good Morning,

Yes... Yes, indeed. It has been quite a while.

Anyhow. Today, I am sitting at my office, with all these books surrounding me... Most of them revolving around political identity, which tend to be written by sociologists or anthropologists... rather than authors in my primary field of political science.... makes me feel angsty....


So, basically... I have been experiencing a severe case of "Senioritis" --> Maybe all graduate students go through this... but it really gets tough at some point, when you feel like you are on this never ending stream of work... which is odd... because you do have some breaks in between...

My question is this... does it mean that everyone undergoes "senioritis" the rest of their lives, because they will be doing exactly what they are doing for the rest of their lives --- hence it being called a "career"? I love my career, but I feel like I need a time off from it all. Yet, it is in this pivotal moment, that if I leave it, even in a brief separation, it will haunt me... for the rest of my life. o.O

Plus, I don't think I could ever separate from it.... My brain would just run around in circles of what research projects 'could have been completed' while undergoing such a separation from work. So, maybe people just need to take short but meaningful vacations... A day away from life, 2 days, 5 days, maybe a week.

But when you do that, don't you feel guilty? I mean, I do... Imagine telling your parents or your spouse (not that I am married to my career or anything) that you need time away from "Reality"... It is as though you are choosing fantasy over the real world. Even temporally. So, even when I go on vacations... I take my books with me. Or I have to take a family member with me... I can't just go alone, because separating from reality seems to be daunting, intimidating, and possibly a bridge to insanity.

I went off on a tangent from my intended purpose for this post...

This is for all you people in the world... This may sound SUPER CLICHE... but I am going to say it, because after 24 years (yes a short span of life) of a BUSY BUSY LIFE STYLE.... these are my 5 tips:

1- CELEBRATE YOUR SUCCESSES, no matter how minuscule they may seem, because all of that hard work comes together in baby steps.... These miniature celebrations are a breath of relief.

----- For example, in the last 5 years, I have been working on a PhD in Political Theory -- but along the way, I took 2 series of comprehensive exams and (as of this month) will have completed 2 masters, one in Polisci and the other in Near Eastern Studies --- and I never celebrated these things along the way... so, embrace your jovial side and celebrate your successes.

2- Don't ever think you need to be separated from your family in order to succeed. Yes, family can be annoying and drive you crazy.... but you do the same thing to your family. My family has put up with my mood swings, my tantrums, my deadlines, my conferences, and so forth.... Even though you think you may be more effective away from them, and in many instances this may be true, but your family also changes your pace so that you are never bored, sick of it completely, or drowning in self-inflicted solitary confinement of your research.

3- Just do it. --- sorry nike, I stole your tag line --- but really, if there is something you want to do... just do it. Be impulsive once in a while (or like me, frequently). You want to become a rapper, just do it and record a song. You want to sew an outfit, do it and realize 'oh snap, I stink at this'. You want to cook an incredible meal, just do it. You want to go on a day long vacation, just do it. You want to start a business venture, just do it.... Sometimes, being impulsive, is the best way to experience life outside of the office. Its also a good way to discover your hidden talents and weaknesses; thereby, making you a more well-rounded individual.

4- Take in advice and make your own decisions. Maybe this is something that has to do with my personality. But usually, I seek the advice of people, both strangers and close ones, on a scenario both directly and indirectly. Just because you listen to what people have to offer doesn't mean you are going to do what they tell you to do. And just because you do something that someone suggested, doesn't mean you can lay blame on the person if it doesn't succeed. Essentially, the choice is yours in the end, but hearing different perspectives may give you that edge to make a final decision on complicated and simple decisions. BUT AGAIN, THE DECISION IS ULTIMATELY YOUR OWN, so don't go around accusing others of giving your bad advice. You are seeking their perspectives, they aren't prophets or sages.

5- Find your stress reliever and make sure it is a balanced approach. For me, I go on long winded walks, maybe for 6-7 miles (2-4 hours), or a run (in which I RARELY invite anyone). Sometimes, I meet up with friends to play a game of basketball or soccer, just to burn off steam. I don't know if people have noticed how I am in sports, but I seem a little out of it, like the game is mechanical, but my brain is analyzing something totally outside the scope of my current reality. It is because, in order to think things through, my body has to be physically engaged, in order to be mentally productive. That is just how I am. So, if you are the type who needs to be alone, then go off on your own for a while. But come back to the world in which you are situated.

I guess that is what I have to say.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Do your parents know

Sometimes it can be fun to look 14.... sometimes it can be fun to look 35.... sometimes, usually, when you are in your mid-twenties, people never get your age right...

I've been offered "drinks" when I was 14.... I've been carded to get into rated R movies, when I was 23.

I don't know if it is good or bad....


I looked up at the shadow over my table... I was sitting alone... but something was blocking the lighting... and I saw a relatively young man... He wore his EMU t-shirt... I wore what I usually wear out, jeans, a knee length t-shirt dress, and a cardigan type of thing. Clearly, he was 19 or 20. Me, I am 24. However, at that moment he asked me... "Do your parents know you are not at school?" and I gave him a look that said... "really, little boy, really?"

I told him... "no, actually they do..."

He said to me... (sorry for the horrible dialogue stuff, I am not good with those transitions)...
"I thought there was still another 2 months till High Schools let out...?"

I responded with "High schools are not out yet, you are right... there is still a couple of months." (Keep in mind how I get when I am annoyed... you may hear the sarcasm and dryness in my voice.)

He said, "are you ditching school?" --> which, I guess, is the only reason I could be at biggby with a pile of papers in front of me... o.O

I said, "No." and he quickly responded with "no lying... you are clearly not sick... and the high schools are not out"

and I gave him a *are you on drugs* look... and said... "ummmm.... yeah.... did you need something?"

I guess this is when college boys think that they can flirt with high school girls, but don't realize they are flirting with someone who might as well be their college professor.... He *smiles mischievously* then continues on to say, "well, I live in nearby, just wanted to let you know..."

and I gave him a look that said *GEE GOLLY WHIZZ (PUMPED UP WITH SARCASM)* stating "listen, boy... (yes, I said boy)... I might as well be your mother... to me... you are a baby... yes, a baby.... I teach boys like you, everyday..." --> *points to the stack of papers that I am grading with rubrics and everything involved* then, I go on to say "clearly, I am not in high school... I am beyond high school, I am even beyond college..." *points at his t-shirt*...

"So, please... let me get back to my grading... because I have to submit my college students' grades before the week ends..."

He gives me a *bewildered* look... I give him *you've already wasted too much of my time, now go run along* look....

that was it...

Sometimes, I throw my hands to the heavens and thank God that I've got my mamma's genes... but sometimes, I shake my fist at the world and curse these creepy college boys for hitting on girls who they think are younger than them...

All I have to say is this...

Please... please... please... if you are a guy reading this, interested in engaging in a little bit of flirtation... please take in the context clues of the environment...

Stack of papers, rubrics, GIANT coffee (not even latte'd or anything), laptop open with "grade sheet", stack of books clearly delineating an age beyond high school... and last, but not least, the headphones that say "don't bother me... I'm in my work groove"

thats it...


Monday, March 12, 2012

Just unlock the door

People always talk about "where're the muslim women at?"

Really, often times, men within the muslim tradition (or men/women of other faith traditions) are those who ask "where are the muslim women?" Muslim women rarely ask this question, because we know where we are.... we're out doing things...

Whether you notice or not, whether we wear hijab or not, we are out there doing things. Personally, I work... a lot. I may not be on television, but I face a college classroom weekly. I face my co-workers weekly. I see neighbors and people from my town at the voting booth, at the local grocery stores, at the bank and so forth.

So, really... does it matter?

Are muslim women, suddenly the manifestation of Islam, and by thrusting her into the forefront, have we further burdened her with the chains of your expectations? So, if I happen to get interviewed for something.... am I suddenly or magically going to represent Islam? or represent myself? Are they mutually exclusive or not?

Essentially, do I have to represent a community, that may not necessarily align with my views? And when we never stated our position of "representation," of being the model muslim women, we are criticized for falling "short" of the expectations of society. Why does the "muslim world" (I use this loosely) expect us to "represent" them, when we never were given a choice in the matter?

Then... men will ask, "where are the muslim women at?" and just as they speak these words, they don't realize that doors have been locked and chains have been secured. This morning, I went to the mosque at fajr (dawn) prayer... and the women's entrance was locked.... ALL doors that allow me to pray in the women's area.... were locked... about 10 men passed, before I realized that they have not noticed that the door was locked... One man said, under his breath, "why is she just standing there?" with a tone of voice that exuded criticism... No, I am not trying to pick up men, by standing at the mens entrance, but I am waiting for someone to open the door. It wasn't until I asked someone to open the door for me that the door was opened...

I felt like, this experience, physical and real, was a manifestation of an abstract idea... We are heavily criticized by people, who are essentially leaving the doors closed in our faces.

Now, this rarely happens. I go to the mosque almost daily (or at least 4 times a week) at that time and the door has been locked only maybe 4 times in the last 5 years. But, it was frustrating to experience because the man who whispered under his breath, just criticized, without even considering my contextual reality.

So, this post is about unlocking doors... Maybe, physical... but even more so, unlocking mental doors... unhinging assumptions... and being genuinely considerate and empathetic, before you expect someone to live up to your standards... Maybe, just maybe, your standards are a load of BS to someone else... or just plain, outside of their scope of reality...

Muslim women don't want to represent Islam... don't want to be anyone's banner... UNLESS they choose to be. So, do not use them as your bargaining chip without even consulting them. I will never represent certain groups of people, because their ideology does not represent me... just because I may "look" like them... does not mean, I represent them.

That's all I have to say...