Archive for the ‘in-laws’ Category

Another post about Ramadan — from a Christian in an interfaith family

August 13, 2012

I wrote a lengthy Post about ramadan, but I think DH accidentally deleted it. So now I have to do it all again. That’s frustrating. But, here we go and know that it will probably be twice as long as the original post.
Honestly, my thoughts and plans, rather fantasy, about celebrating Ramadan was very different than reality. I imagined that my husband and I would listen to Quranic messages together. He would get more generous and more understanding and closer to God as Ramadan progressed And I would take the messages that were most like the Biblical messages and remember to apply them. After all, we could all use some reminding of our fundamentals…. and I must admit, my prayer life could be better. Muslims pray five times a day and I probably could increase my prayer life which is always a good idea. There’s nothing saying a Christian can’t pray five times a day. I would pray my prayers when my husband prayed his prayers. At the end of Ramadan I would cook something special. We would have a meaningful holiday and pass this tradition down to our LO(Smile). We would Celebrate Ramadan in our own special way. We would have wonderful Eid traditions that we handed down to our little baby. Everything would be full of meaning and reflection and family connections. That however is not how it is happening.
I seem to be on the peripheral of Ramadan. We don’t share messages together we rarely talk about any message that is given. And I admit that I am readily willing to listen to any scholarly message in English about the Quran or Ramadan. But I want to do it together. I want to listen and discuss. My husband does not like discussing. I suppose my approach might be a bit American in nature it’s kind of like the Bible study approach. But I thought it would have some value.
There’re many reasons I am on the fringes of Ramadan but I’m going to name one here right now. I don’t go to the mosque much. So, I take my responsibility for that one. I should insist on going to the Mosque with DH, if I want a full meaningful experience. This Ramadan my husband has gone to two specific mosques. one mosque is very diverse. This is the mosque that has the aggressive headscarf policewomen. yes I felt as if they were policing my headscarf which by the way never wanted to obey my commands. However we have went one other time to this mosque and I didn’t find the women nearly as aggressive. The only time my headscarf was pulled into submission by some African women who were sitting next to me, was when a man came into the women’s quarters. — twice… but I am ok with that because I saw it as a way to protect my respectability — or something similar. . the other mosque that my husband goes to periodically especially when I don’t go, is an exclusive Desi mosque, AKA “the men’s Mosque.” Of course, women are not exactly forbidden to come but they are certainly not welcomed and there is no place for them to pray. “After all,” DH reminds me, ” it is not mandatory for women to come at all.” What disturbs me most is that my wonderful husband is okay with this logic. he does not see a problem if women want to go to the mosque, He says, ” they can go to at least seven other ones around the city…” … I think there’s more mosques springing up all of the time, now … the Exclusive Desi one was not even listed on the Google Search. . In any case, DH has no problem with the fact that it is all men. And, they have (according to DH) some awesome food. Which probably means that, women are at home, cooking for the men to go to a mosque that they are not even welcome to attend. And… … DH has no problem with this. He won’t even offer an objection, and this is America(the land of opposition and objections), not Pakistan.
obviously and unfortunately, he doesn’t see us celebrating Ramadan together. My participation is not mandatory. and it seems to make no difference to him whether I go to the Mosque or not. now of course it will make a difference with the baby so for that reason he might want me to go but not for my specific support.
So, I ask him to put the question to his mother: Would she attend “Mosque,” if one gave her a space to pray? his mother and father live in Pindi. This is not a village, but mosques still don’t openly welcome women. His mother said that she would certainly go, if there was a place for her to pray. Her daughter, R, (DH’s youngest sister) goes to the mosque in Lahore with her new husband. His mother asked if I would go with her and I gave her a definite “yes.” I understand that attending a mosque is manditory and this is seen as a gift to the women since they have household duties and/or children to care for. But, there are many women who have neither of these responsibilities. Besides, by “not” giving women a space to pray at a mosque (we haven’t even gotten to the equal space argument) aren’t we saying that women’s spirituality is less important than men’s? furthermore, I wonder if this “men’s mosque,” is so conservative about women’s participation, what else are they conservative on? and: why was it even built? Apparently, it was only built two years ago, yet there were many other mosques quite close in proximity already in full swing.
It strikes me that one of the reasons my husband says it’s not a big deal for women to attend the mosque, is because he says women tend to socialize more than they should. He says they are loud and they tend to want to socialize instead of listening to the message. But I have to point out, it wasn’t two days ago that he was saying to me how wonderful it was that he was making some contacts at the mosque. Hello, socialization. It’s just done in a different way. I also pointed out that if they have a imam right in front of them or have the speaker right in front of them, they probably would be more likely to be more quiet.
And there’s a considerable amount of women who are frustrated with those loud social women and who does want to hear the message. I know because when I was at the mosque there were quite a few African women and American women who voiced their stern opposition to those loud talkers.
I talk about “sex discrimination,” which I am sorry to say doesn’t even seem to touch DH. The men are quite friendly, the prayers and messages are dynamic and the food is awesome!
Anyway, we did go to the diverse mosque, once. And actually it was a nice gathering. Now of course I couldn’t follow those prayers. No I don’t speak Arabic but it wasn’t just that. Every time I thought the prayer was over because there was a little interlude where people began to discuss and talk then , it would start back again. I didn’t know whether the prayer had ended or just … … took a little break — for some unknown reason. And yes my obstinant headscarf never tends to stay in place. I wonder if there is an elastic version of this headscarf that just encompasses the entire head like a showercap. Ok, that doesn’t sound very attractive, but it would get the job done. Maybe that would be better for me. It doesn’t help that my little guy loves to yank the headscarves off of myself and any other woman in close proximity. Yes, that is exactly what we got when we went to the mosque. He decided that he would be a bit more social than usual and yank women’s headscarves off their heads. This did not amuse the African woman sitting next to me. I think it was the fact that she was dressed in a very colorful outfit and headscarf and he was fascinated by it. Yet they weren’t amused. They were however enamored by my baby because he was so good we ended up staying until 1230 at night. Know that it certainly did mess up my sleeping schedule for the next two days. But my baby was not cranky at all. He wanted to get down and blow bubbles and crawl around on the floor which by the way I restricted his movement because I didn’t want him wondering off without me. Also we know that he has a fascination with people’s iPhones and there were a few women who plugged in their iPhones to be charged while they were praying. I was somehow surprised that women brought their iPhone chargers and plugged in their iPhones while they were playing. OK, I admit that I was a little bit India’s that I hadn’t thought of it myself. I thought somehow it would have been a bit disrespectful to do so. I don’t know why. I just did.
My little guy was very social. Much more social than I thought he would be. He seemed to be quite comfortable there. I think one of the reasons is because everybody was sitting on the floor. He likes people sitting on the floor. and, most women didn’t try to get him to come to them. they just waited until he was comfortable. he likes people sitting on the floor because They are his height and somehow they seem more personable down there. If they’re standing or sitting in a chair they just don’t seem to be as inviting for him.
I think the women like me more if I have a baby. Strangely enough it was unlike our Pakistani picnic experience. I didn’t really know what to expect when I went to the mosque. One woman actually remembered me and sat down and talk to me all night.
Now here is one of my dilemmas. I was called sister. I have no problem with this. I am, after all, a person of the book, Which means that I believe in the Bible so I am actually a believer in one of the three Abrahamic faiths. So maybe sister is not out of the realm of possibilities for me. However I don’t want them to think that I am Muslim and feel betrayed when they find out I am not. I don’t want to act as if I’m something I’m not. But I don’t want to brandish the big C on my chest and every time someone says something I retort ” did you know I’m a Christian?” I don’t want to make a big deal about it. But there isn’t anything that distinguishes me as a Christian from them as Muslims. I wear my headscarf. I don’t fast because I’m nursing. I sit in a chair instead of getting down on the floor to pray but that could be for a number of reasons. Maybe it doesn’t even matter. I just don’t want the women to think that I have somehow fooled them. That would be counterproductive to what I’m trying to do which is to Forge good relationships between them and myself.
Another thing I did like about Our Mosque experience was the five minute English message that talked about being gentle and kind with your children especially since school is starting and while we certainly want our children to succeed, we also don’t want to make it so difficult that they feel the stress. I thought it was a very good message. And I found out that they’re having a celebration for the children. No my baby will not be able to enjoy the celebration yet. But I think my husband is getting excited just thinking about the time when he will be able to. And I’m glad they’re doing a celebration for eat. And of course we realize that many children won’t get to celebrate Christmas and Easter and that our baby is special in that he will celebrate all the holidays. The be plenty of time to spoil him with gifts and other things. Not that I necessarily want to spoil him but you know what happens. I also remind myself that there are probably a number of children who do celebrate at least Christmas because many families are interfaith now. many times there is a brother or a sister or a cousin or a mother and father who are still Christian after the Muslim converts. Therefore it is likely that they could celebrate Christmas. Maybe. And any case I wanted to give money for the eve celebration. And my husband reflected on how he could be more patient with our baby.
We were invited over to a doctor’s house after E was over to enjoy their hospitality. They also have a son who is about fifteen days older than our baby. Of course I’m certain that there is going to be comparisons made… Etc. But it will be nice to meet another couple. With a baby at the same age. And his wife is from the US, as well. I don’t know if she’s Muslim or not. But I do know she’s from the US.
any case, one thing I have learned this Ramadan, is that if I wanted to be special I have to make it so. My husband is not inclined to make Ramadan a family affair. It just was never done. His mother was just fine with not going to the mosque and hearing the messages. It just was not an option for his mother, so her role was to cook. If I want Ramadan to mean more than just cooking, I need to seek out those meanings for myself. I’m also fully aware that there will come a time, when my baby will not be experiencing Ramadan in the way that I am experiencing Ramadan. He will be with the men and I will be again on my own to experience Ramadan by myself. But hopefully by then I will have lots of women friends.
To top it off, I invited my daughter to the eve celebration. Now I invited her because there’re many Christians to go to eat celebrations. We have an interchurch and interfaith organizations to go to eat celebrations. Not only do they learn about Islam or Ramadan, but, many christians celebrate with Muslim friends. So I didn’t think it was out of the question to invite my daughter, after all her little brother will be experiencing his first eat. However she forcefully declined. She was almost apald that I would invite her to a mosque. Now I understand the fundamentalist Christians who feel very adamant about not stepping foot in the mosque. But this woman in her Christianity will go to a gay karaoke bar, tattoo parlor and redneck tailgating concerts; but, she has a problem with a Muslim place of worship??? So, she is totally comfortable with obssessive drinking, dressing in drag, all types of drama on the stage; but she is not comfortable with a different form of prayer?
Anyway, I am very much disappointed by her close mindedness.
This year it is me and my baby. We will make Ramadan and eid the best we can. And, I’ll have to start early to try to make the next Eid even better for LO.

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Family matters

May 1, 2012

what makes a family bond tight? How do you keep that familial bond from loosening or breaking altogether?
Often DH will tell me that “his family is much more close than mine.” My children (the adult ones, obviously) don’t call me nearly as much as he calls his parents. He reports that they don’t give me the same level of “respect” that he gives his parents. Of course, he’ll never put his parents into an old folks home. He sends his family money from time to time out of gratitude. And, when an elder speaks, children obey…. well, kind of…. and this is where the rub comes in.

for all of DH’s “strong familial bonds,” his family knows very little about our “real life.” His family doesn’t know when we have an argument and what we fight about. His family doesn’t know when/if we have any financial problems. His family doesn’t know when we are frustrated by transportation, social issues, etc. If he feels belittled or disrespected by his family, he can’t approach the subject with them. Any disagreeable circumstance: an illness, a bad decision, encounters with a scammer, feelings of anger at someone in the family, a possible crisis, etc are all left out of their daily conversations. Now, of course, I can’t be for sure, I don’t speak Urdu enough or fluently enough to understand all that they are saying. But, I do believe DH when he says that he just doesn’t tell his family because …. (get this) “My mother would worry and get sick from all of the worry.” What? really????
In contrast, I talk to my mother about three times a week (and that is a serious upgrade from what it use to be). We don’t talk nearly as long as DH does to his own parents — “what are they talking about????? — who knows). But, I can tell my mother:
“Although it seems strange to us, I still shaved LO’s head.”
“yes, we argue about the lack of housework that he does.”
“OK, dh is a better saver than I am.”
“Last night we went to a Pakistani picnic and…..”
“No, DH has not changed another diaper yet.”
“Once I was careless and the baby fell and hit his head.”
“We’re discussing birth control, but don’t be surprised if Baby Boy has a brother or sister.”
“We had to pay taxes this year and the amount was ….”
“I love my daughter, but I worry about her spending so much time with that All-guy band.”
You get the picture. These are conversations that DH will not have with his family. So, I ask: how close are they really? It seems that they are “faking a strong family bond.” I have told DH, I want to know what my children are doing, even if I don’t agree with it. I’ll tell my son that I don’t agree with his loyalty to the military…. or my daughter for living together before marriage, or Mr. Basketball for sluffing off his classes and expecting to get a good grade by whatever means necessary … or the Drum Diddler (last son) for engaging in the consumption of illegal substances. I want to know the “real person,” not who they pretend to be for my benefit. I might not like their choices, but I at least know the truth. My mother asks my opinion: “Am I being selfish because I don’t want to bring one of my grandchildren along???” Now, I don’t use a “we are just friends” tone with my mother. I don’t chide her or berate her. But, I have a much more free conversation with her than DH does with his mother….. and I was just under the assumption that if he and his mother talked every day — sometimes for an hour or two — they must be bonded as mother and son. He must be able to share with her lots of things about his life and so on. …. … not true.
I think that our son will have the best of both worlds. We, … … or I, won’t shy away from him when discussions of social justice, sex, drugs, etc need to be had. Yet, we will raise him with enough respect not to use foul language when talking to us and never to think about putting us in a nursing home.
Still, just because a family talks on the phone two or three times a day does not automatically mean that they are actually “close.” There is so much more to discuss on this subject: levels of observing familial duties, familial roles, patterns of manipulation within families,and many more.

Precautions and preparation: traveling with an infant to Pakistan!

August 19, 2011

As I was browsing through my emails, I received a mail from my SIL. I am amazed and certainly touched. You see, we were suppose to go to Pakistan in November. With the baby coming, we have postponed our trip. My SIL was also suppose to get married in November and … … you guessed it, she postponed her wedding until we could be there. Who would do that? Who would just decide (after some arrangements had been made) to postpone the wedding until your brother, his new wife and the baby could come? I don’t think that people in my family would. I am truly in awe that she would postpone her day and want to share the commotion with us and the new baby.
Needless to say, I have to get a visa quickly. I have a passport, but must start applying for my visa. If the birth and things go well, (remember ED is December 14—15), we are thinking about going at the end of February. I wanted to wait until the 3month mark, until about march 15th, But, I don’t want his sister to have to wait that long for the wedding. But, I don’t want to compromise baby’s health and that is more important. So, I do have some questions for you who have traveled to Pakistan with an infant. Of course, I am looking on the CDC website. And, yes, I know that there is a forum in Gorigirl related to this topic, but I lost my password! So here goes:
1. Does the infant have to have a passport and visa?
2. Do I have to wait 3months for the first round of infant vaccinations and what about malaria?
3. Are there certain things that I should take for emergencies? The website mentions “ORS,.” Should I bring some, even if I am nursing? Is pedialite the same thing? What else for my “firstaid kit?”
4. DH’s family often drinks bottled water. The website says that sometimes it is safe and sometimes not. Has anyone had experience with bottled water in Pakistan?
5. Like I said earlier, I will be nursing. If I eat something that causes me to have diareah, is it likely that the baby will also have diareah?
6. What if the baby does have to go to the hospital? Should I get travelers insurance? Has anyone had to take their child to the hospital? What are the differences between a Pakistani hospital and an American one? I know that DH’s uncle is a doctor. But, still, there are differences, I am sure.
7. DH says that car seats are quite uncommon in Pakistan. Now, it would just be easier for me not to take one on the plane and I had planned to hold my baby in a carrier/wrap. Sometimes, less stuff is just better. But, that would mean that I would not have a car seat to put in DH’s father’s car on the drive from Islamabad to Rawal Pindi. I am not even sure that it will fit. But, I have visions of my baby crashing through the windshield. Nourotic, maybe! How did you handle it?
Thanks for any help.
I know that this is months away, but I want to know in advance what is involved. And, if we should wait until the 3month mark, I want to at least know this for sure and get things set. So, if we say that we are traveling March 18th then I want to make a sincere effort to do so. And, I know that I am going to be nervous and worried about the baby, the closer it gets to the travel date; so being prepared is the best course. Then, my “WHAT Ifs “ will be all taken care of. My biggest worry is that the baby will get sick and everyone else will minimize the worry: “children get sick all of the time, not a big deal.” And it is a big deal to me!!!! You know? when Dh came to the USA, (like many of his friends — no matter at what age they came) he had no problem adjusting to food, water, etc. So, he thinks that it will be the same for our baby. But, i think that this is a good reason to go when I am exclusively nursing. Maybe no one will try to feed the baby scrumptious food, which we would unsuccessfully decline and maybe a problem occur afterwords. and, I do admit that I do *want* to taste all of the street food, in all of its delicious glory. i just know that what might be good on the tongue, might not be good in the stomach. And, maybe there are other things that I have not even thought about. Please share your experiences of traveling with an infant. DH does live in RawalPindi (use to be Lahore) so not in a village. But, he his family is not super rich/wealthy either. Actually, I don’t know their money situation – who discusses money, anyway? But, I know; they are not in poverty. They have one American Style bathroom. They have a small brick house with marble floors. His father has a business. They have someone to help with laundry, but no other servants; DH’s mother cooks/cleans/does everything. And, they probably will be spending large amounts on Sil’s wedding. But, I am not sure how much precaution to take. And, I am not trying to offend DH with another conversation. I tread lightly because I understand that loyalty is quite prevalent when talking about family and country. I am not trying to degrade Pakistan or say that his family does not know how to take care of children or that they are unsafe. But, we all know that there are different values, sometimes. Heck, there are different values within my own family. I just feel more able to express my opinion with my own family. Of course, it helps that there are no language/cultural barriers. Actually, DH did say that if we go during the wedding time, there will be too many people wanting to touch and pick up the baby. That is just too many germs. I suggested “hand sanitizer,” (the alcohol free kind of course). He laughed! (point taken) DH is more specific about contact with animals than I am. I am more fervent about car seats than he. I want to be respectful. But, I think that I will be seen as a hypochondriac on some issues, you know? And, maybe on others, I will be seen as “too lax.” Like with the hair cutting thing.
Suggestions?

family expectations: the objective view

April 1, 2011

everyone talks about the added stress put on women when they meet their southAsian in-laws. This is a challenging issue and I am not trying to minimize any experience of any woman. In fact, as I plan my trip to Pakistan, I know that it is quite possible that I will be in the throws (all emotions included) of a similar situation. Yet, I am trying to be objective!
I do need to point out that there are certain pressures on the southAsian men that they might not otherwise have, had they married a southAsian woman and lived in their native country.
1. Financial responsibility. DH’s brother was married about two months after we got married. His family’s wealth is his own. N’s bride, N2, came to live within a family structure of a mil and fil and N’s younger sister. And, this, they admit, is a small family according to the members who could be present. In any case, N2 has yet to make a meal by herself, do a load of laundry or take note of the family finances. N, himself has never read his electric bill, haggled with AT&T over phone charges, searched for the best bargain for a specific product, contemplated the financial consequences of a purchase, reconciled receipts with his bank statement, filled out “head of household tax forms,” analyzed Health and life insurance plans, or comprehended and absorbed the specific tax deductions that are taken from the paycheck every two weeks. These activities and the worries that seem to accompany him has eluded N and is certainly not a part of his marriage experience. Yet, DH and I have to take on these responsibilities. These tasks are not optional and failure to take them seriously will have swift and heavy consequences. In addition, he has to deal with landlords, immigration, immigration lawyers and other government entities, filling out more forms in one week than he has ever had to do for his entire life.
2. DH must go to work everyday and he must be prompt. He also must arrange transportation. OK, now, of course, the transportation arranging part is not his responsibility alone. But, N’s work schedule is fluid and much more forgiving. Some of this is because N works for his father, so the work environment can be much more relaxed. N does not have to worry about time schedules or work policies.
3. There are certain cultural norms concerning expressions of LOVE and maintaining the relationship. This might not be cultural, but then again, who knows. I ask DH one day: “Did your Father ever bring your Mother flowers?” “did they ever want “date night” or some time for themselves?” “What about Valentine’s Day?” To DH and many of his friends and family, marriage maintenance is ridiculous. Sure, husbands should bring a gift to the wife upon return of their travels. But, in many cases, they didn’t date before the marriage, why would they do such things after? Furthermore, these “couples quizzes,” and “relationship checklists,” are just “Bukwas,” – “nonsense.” Early in our relationship, I wanted to subject DH to any “couples quiz,” that I could find and compare our answers. After twice indulging me (and he felt that he was being quite compliant) , DH put his foot down and committed never to do another. I guess, there is no “newlywed game” for us, although I would find it quite fun. In a strange turn of events, “preparing for our immigration interview” is working quite nicely as a stand-in for a “Couple’s quiz.” It does seem that the public wants to know all about your relationship and they want to evaluate it against their preconceived notions of what they feel a relationship should be.
4. In addition to DH’s work, my family (and I) expect him to pitch in with the housework. I admit that my family (like most Americans) sometimes scrutinize men’s (particularly SouthAsian men’s) actions to make sure that they are treating their women with respect and giving their 50% to the relationship. To some women, Not including myself in this statement, equity and equality are synonomous terms. Sometimes Americans (even Americans who are not close to our family) feel the need to sternly advise dh to cook, clean and sometimes (give her everything she wants). They are already under the assumption that he does not do these things and he is berated for what they assume he does not do. Is their any parcel of truth in their assumption? Sure. But, that is for he and I to work out. Before I started work, my mother would routinely ask me three questions.
A. Is he still working? My sister, the successful nurse who is going back to get her Masters Degree (even though she is pulling down a serious chunk of change, already) has four children from the ages 6-12 and a husband who finds working at home much more appealing than putting his degree to use; And my younger blue collar working sister who finds working a necessity (yet, is finally attending a technical college to get an office job) and who has four children from ages 16-3 and a husband who won’t remain employed for more than three months at a time; both must be the breadwinners of their family. Both husbands have the same first name and both husbands also inhail illegal substances which seems to enhance their laziness. My sisters are more alike then either of them want to admit, but I keep silent on this one. My mother was, herself, employed for most of her life either as a factory worker or a truck driver. For the most part, she doesn’t respect those who are able to work, but choose not to do so… … especially when they have a family to support.
B. Who’s doing the cooking and cleaning? Before I started working, my mother would constantly remind me that it was my duty to have everything in tiptop shape for Dh because he was working. Now that I, also, have a job,, she asks: “Is he cooking?” “Is he cleaning?” “What is HE doing to help?” My mother likes to be the boss, so she almost orders me to “make him cook and clean.” Actually, DH is helping out. I am certainly not giving him any excuses. But, since he is male, it does feel foreign for him to “consistently” do housework. I say “consistently,” because his father will cook and clean “occasionally.” But, certainly not on a regular basis. And, since he is blind, he feels like he isn’t sure what is involved in such tasks and these tasks just seem daunting. Admittedly, none of his blind male friends (especially Pakistani blind males – even if they do live in London) do any type of housework at all. Yet, he is learning to do more and more around the house. The key is that “we” work together. And, we both benefit when the housework is finished quickly. But, I do recognize that DH has pressure that his other blind friends don’t even experience. Our marriage and situation provokes DH to be responsible in ways that his Pakistani counterparts (brother or friends) are oblivious to and if they do understand such responsibilities, it will be much later in their marriage.
C. Are you pregnant? …. … different topic entirely, but while both of our mothers might request this particular piece of information on an equally frequent basis, their desired responses to this specific question are polar opposites. As of the last conversation, my mother has been quite content (almost gitty) with my routinely accurate response. It has only been six months, hardly enough time for DH’s mother to claim “patience” as a long standing virtue. Yet, it could happen.

I’m not asking you to ride the pity wagon for DH. I am just reminding everyone that when two different cultures come together, there are bound to be adjustments made from both individuals. Furthermore, family members who are firmly planted in either culture have expectations that feel strange to the spouse and in some cases seem harsh or frivolace.

our first holiday as a married couple and familial growing pains

December 29, 2010

Before reading, remember:

I have four grown (18+) children,

Imran and I are blind and have no transportation (some blind people buy their own car and look for drivers)

And imran is not a big fan of dogs. 

My family does not make plans until the last minute. I guess, I have inherited some of it because I am a procrastinator. But, they did not make plans for
Christmas until a few days before the day. Imran continued to ask about my family’s plans. It was not that he was overly excited about the day, but he
wanted to have a plan in case we needed transportation. His sister was also suppose to come down, but she is blind too, and could not find anyone to drive
her from Rockford to Chicago so that she could take the bus to Indy.

Anyway, my daughter wants to stay three or four days, but I am not sure this is such a good idea.

She does not have a car, either. So, my father drives the 60miles on a Thursday, the 23rd to pick her up. She stays until late on the 25th, but told me
that she wanted to stay until the 26th. She asked if I wanted to go.

I want to see my family.

But, I don’t want to spend that length of time with them.

list of 6 items
1. Imran is not too impressed with my father’s dogs. Yes, there is more than one and no, they are not very well behaved. He lets them up on the kitchen
table (when there is no food on it) and on the chairs. Imran is just not comfortable with this. And, YES, I feel that I should take his comfort level into
account. After all, even on short visits, they will not keep the dogs away from him and it seems that I have to vigilantly be prepared to run interference.
Now, they say that the dogs are like their family and it feels cruel to tie them up or shut them in a room.   But, these dogs do sometimes bark and growl
and jump up on the furniture. My father tries to make them mind, but it is clear that they run the household and even my father admits it with a little
laugh. They think that if they make Imran touch the dog that he will instantly change his mind and love the creatures, just as they do. I had this problem
with Jackie (A BF) when she was afraid of dogs and came to stay at my house and/or accompanied me when I went to visit my father. I have tried explaining
it, but it is no use.
2. There was not much room to sleep. Now, I have not been to my fathers for a night trip since I have been married. And, honestly, imran and I would probably
sleep co-ed style….. … just for the comfort level. But, there was not  many places to sleep. Three out of my four children were at my father’s house. Dj
could not be there because he was in Japan – (I did not say “is” because he is now taking a small trip to Australia with military friends). So, laTroi
from Bloomington, Kyler and my daughter. LaTroi slept in the recliner. Maybe there was a blow-up mattress. I don’t know. What I do know is that I was a
bit hesitant to approach the issue.
3. My father’s girlfriend (live in) and Kyler both smoke. It smells horrible and gets into my clothes. I try not to say much about it. It is their house,
not mine. But, it bothers me. And, it does not bother Imran as much. I have never let people smoke in my house. And, even most people at work are not real
big smokers – at least, you can’t smell it on them, like you can my family.
4. My eating habits change when I am at my father’s. I do watch more TV and eat too many snacks and lots of food. There probably would be lots of pork served:
not that we could not get around it, with some more accommodating on their part and after accommodating about the dogs (if they had done so) they would
not want to accommodate with this pork thing.
5. I would miss being in my own home; cooking our own food; and if I admit it, getting on the computer to check emails and things.
6. Sometimes I feel like my family still wants to treat me as a child. Even, if my father does not do this as much as he use to; there is still a hierarchy
and it seems that my daughter is above me in such a hierarchy. That makes me feel odd. I also know that imran must feel as if he is truly at the bottom
of that hierarchy, if he analyzes it at all.
list end

We just (my family and I) live differently.  Yes, I miss them and continue to miss them, sometimes.

Imran suggested that I go alone. I stood firm. “NO.” I don’t want to go to visit without him, especially since it would mean that I would be staying overnight
through the holidays and be without him.

We offered to pay (Actually imran offered without me knowing until it was done) for the gas, if my father would come back up to Indy and get us the day
of Christmas, or even the 24th. The only  catch was that we come home the same day. My father has a very old truck. Gas is expensive, I do admit that.
But, we offered to pay for the gas. Yet, my father would not come.

And, my father brought my daughter back to Indy on the evening of the 25th. But, no one stopped at my house. 

So, visiting family is strenuous, but I am not making things difficult for them, they are making things a bit more difficult for all.

Imran is sympathetic and does not like conflict. But, I am more firm on this point.  
 

adjusting expectations

November 27, 2010

When I heard: “interfaith celebration,” I was excited. Imran had gotten a message from a Muslim email mailing list and when he passed it on to me, I was definitely thrilled that such an opportunity was happening righht here in our city. My mind was swirling with possible scenarios.
I wondered if there would be a good mixture of Muslims and
Christians(of varying faiths) and Jewish people and Hindus ….etc? Would the dinner have meat and if so, would it be Halal? Would the people be open and want to meet others of differing faiths? Would the speeches be interwoven together? Would the clergy support one another? What type of music would be presented? Would the prayers be
“interfaith,” as well? … … Just too many questions!

The Interfaith celebration was Wednesday, the day before
Thanksgiving. We did not get much information. We found a Pakistani family who said that they would take us. Their daughter had come down with food poisoning, so they would not be able to bring us home. Now, I was worried about going. But, Imran said that we would find someone to take us home, so it would be ok. Still, I was apprehensive. But, Imran knows me well. Had we not gone, I would still be wondering what we missed and my imagination would run wild.
The night was wet and a bit cold. It had been raining for a good while. Thanks to the Muslim family that took us, We finally got there. We missed the call to prayer, the reading from the Quran and the Rabbi’s message. When we came in, there were a couple of speakers intermingled with a few songs. But, Imran and I had no program. We did not know who was speaking and which faiths they represented. The person who drove us had to leave because her daughter was sick. The person who helped us find a seat was an usher/greeter, so he was not able to sit with us.
We listened to the music. Unfortunately, I did not know any of the hymns being sung. That also was disappointing. I noted that Imran took my hand during the songs and prayer. This is always a source of comfort and reassurance. I remembered that I thought that had he been closer in the Mosque, I might have wanted to reach for the same comfort. There was a call for money, as the presbyterian church that held this celebration, also supports interfaith hunger initiatives/ both in Kenya and here in Indianapolis. I gave some change. I had to jingle some change and kind of display it to make sure that the collection plate is passed to me. That is our way (a blind person’s way) of letting people know that you do intend to put something in the collection plate. Otherwise, people will not pass you the plate. There are two reasons:
1. They may just assume that WE, as blind persons, have nothing to contribute. 2. They may not want to make us feel uncomfortable by passing us the plate, if we truly have nothing to give. It does put one on the spot. Usually, a sighted person can wave it away if they have nothing to contribute. But, with a blind person, there has to be some conversation.
After the service, I had to strike up a conversation with a woman behind me. She was polite, but not too personable. (Was it the blind thing; or the obvious intercultural couple thing)? There was a small reception afterwords while they served cookies and drinks. We met the pastor of the church briefly.
we did find someone to take us home. It was raining when we got home. The conversation did not go past the stage of small talk and it took our drivers (a father and son) a while to get warmed up. But, I am glad that I went. I realize that this is only their second attempt at such an event. I have some suggestions, though. And, if they don’t listen, maybe I will pitch them to the mosque who has hopes of hosting something similar when they get the space.
Suggestions for planning an interfaith event:
1. provide a united front. All of the clergy should join together both at the beginning and end of the service to show unity and genuine companionship.
2. Allow each faith to have an important part of the planning and time in the service.
3. Whenever a speaker gets up to speak, announce again who you are, where you are from, and give a small welcome/introduction message. It would also be polite to thank the speaker who spoke before you.
4. Whenever the choir gets up to do a song, announce who they are, where they are from and the selections that they will be singing. (It was not very disability friendly). The songs were in a hymnbook, but I did not know the words or who was speaking. They didn’t even tell us when to kneel, sit or stand. So, sometimes, we felt quite odd because we weren’t sure what people were doing…. and, we did not want to get into someone else’s space by standing/sitting too close as to know what their body was doing. Sighted people [not trying to generalize, here] seem to not have a problem with being the only few people in a row and seem to require lots of space between them and the next group; especially if that next group is a group of strangers.
5. Imran and I had to find people to help us. People did not come up to us and introduce themselves. It was obvious that we were new. But, all around us, we heard people greeting old friends and talking with people about: “/What are you going to do tomorrow? Want to come over?”
6,. Share a meal together. If you can’t share a meal or don’t feel comfortable consuming so much food when you are trying to fund raise for people who are hungry: then, have snacks, but let each church/mosque/synagogue/temple bring some snacks from people in their congregation. And, have them help serve it. this would also give people a chance to mingle with other faiths, more.
7. The Imam did not stay for long. Imran wanted to talk with him. It really did not seem like people were that desirous of forming new friendships or getting to know those outside of their own clique. To be honest, it felt as “interfaith” was just something to talk about. It did not seem that people really wanted to “mingle” with those of other faiths. When I mentioned to the family behind me that we were in an Interfaith marriage, the response was to change the subject.
Yet, the eternal optimist says that it is a start. And: I did hear some good prayers and some good songs and, at least we got out and were introduced to more of the community. We had a pleasant
conversation with the Pakistani family who took us to the celebration. And, just before we were dropped off, the atmosphere began to warm up. Who knows. And, now, at least, I know what this celebration is and can give suggestions on how to make it better.
We went to see my father on Saturday. My father, was at first, kind of chilly. And, I was a bit disgusted. The meat was ham. I think that my father was a bit put off because Imran did not eat Turkey, either. The first time, he did eat the turkey out of politeness. But, he just is not a fan of turkey. I keep saying,” Chicken or fish!”
But, I thought ahead and made some chicken patties. My father even let me cook on his stove without any hastle which is not normal because he usually is a bit nervous when I cook on a gas stove(blind thing). And, no one put up the three small barking dogs. Actually, they did at first, but as the evening wore on, the rules became less strengent until the little dogs and puppy were sitting on the kitchen chairs. I couldn’t believe that they kept letting them out of the room and just roam around. I felt as if I had to be a shield to make sure that they did not get to Imran. And, I shouldn’t have had to do this. They should have been more respectful. I kept mentioning it, but it fell on deaf ears.
My older sister’s children argue incessantly. I kept thinking: “At this rate, Imran will never want children.”
The eternal optimist says that things went well. My older sister opened up a bit more (she had virtually no one else to talk to) and he says that things will get better and better as we continue to see family. Besides, the optimist had some conversations concerning insurance and was able to engage my sister and father in a few topics. And, I got to see Kyler. I often feel like I don’t see him enough. So, all in all, I was glad that we went.

So what do the two visits have in common? Well, if everything is not planned out in advance, sometimes, I am a bit apprehensive. But, the Optimist (usually, not all the time) finds the good, the hope, the things that make outings worth while. And, I must admit that he is a bit more flexible than I am. He finds something to eat and does not say a word when family is so obviously pork centered. (two types of cheeseball with ham, as well as a whole cooked ham and sometimes even bacon in the veggies). And, he had to put up with barking growling territorial yappers. I have to admit that my father’s dogs are…. …. Well, …. …. Not well behaved! We have not even discussed how their political views are different than ours, etc. Yet, Imran goes and finds the good. This reminds me that I should not complain if someone has a problem taking my dog in their car. I need to be more flexible, sometimes!

I want to say that it is not that I don’t like going places. In fact, I want to go and to socialize. But, I do get upset when people don’t observe and respect other people’s differences. But, the Optimist just seems to forget the offense quite easily.
Hmm, I could be a bit less rigid and relax. Point taken.

humari shaadi kahani (1)

November 27, 2010

Imran and I married on September 24, 2010.
We had a courthouse wedding. His sister and friend S came and my sister and her soon to be husband (although they didn’t know it then, they would decide to marry at their respective courthouse a week later) also came. I think that there are pics on facebook. Check out my facebook page because I have a hard time inserting pictures and such into my blog. This is why it probably looks kind of plain, etc. I am not sure which pic is which, so I will wait for others to post them for me and hopefully, they will label them also. But, sorry pics don’t accompany this post.
(note: if/when I ever go to Pakistan, I think that I am going to have to HIRE someone just to take pics) [smile].

First, I had to lay to rest some dreams. I must admit that I am a dreamer. I already think about what will happen when I go to Pakistan. I conjure up many different situations in my mind. Although, I know that these are purely hypothetical and most definitely in my fantasy. I just think too much.
My dream wedding begins on a clear warm day. We marry in a church where I found a commited clergy to officiate. The Nikka is right before the wedding in a mosque of his choosing. My father and family goes to the mosque and we have Muslim friends, also. The horse and carriage will pick us up at the mosque and take us to the church. Now, we have incorporated the white horse concept into our own wedding. OK, that sounds extravagant. But, we have to get from one place to another and I am trying to incorporate both traditions into one ceremony. Why not. It is my dream, after all. (smile)
Sure, why not mendi? I think that the others in my bridal party will actually like it and it will feel festive: even if I can’t see the colors. And, hey, I want one of those drums … … (Can’t remember off the top of my head the name of the drum) that the women play. The music and decorations are a tasteful blend of American and Pakistani. Maybe: a tabla player as percussion to some piano selections or selections from both a brass quartet as well as a bansuri. It is not a huge wedding, but our friends and family are there. I like the roses and Jasmine and other flowers from Pakistan blended with lillies and American flowers. I am not a “color person,” but Dominika or someone would help me coordinate. I have succeeded in finding a modest American dress with a Pakistani veil. I (WE) pronounce our vows in both English and Urdu. (I have already written my vows). We have a reception with Pakistani food and American food.
I never did like the separation of the bride and the groom’s relatives. So, all would sit and eat together.
We pass out favors of small cloth bags: (one side with an American flag and the other has an embroidered Pakistani flag on it). The small bags have a drawstring and inside is a blend of Pakistani nuts and candy and American candy. Each bag will have supari and dark chocolate.
OK, dark chocolate is not “American,” But, it is my favorite. And, the bag should remind people of Imran and I. I don’t necessarily like supari. I thought about the chilli millies. But, I found that I like shahi Maywa and kabli maywa and thought about stuffed dates. And, we could put print “humari shaadi kahani,”(or something similar) on one side and the braille embroidered equivalent on the other.
I do like to take pictures, just as mementos and to show others. The ceremony and reception will be video taped. This is just in case his family can’t come. This is a sketch with different variations, as I think of them.
Back to reality:
there are so many challenges. Finding clergy to do the ceremony posed a huge problem. Then, we weren’t sure where to have the ceremony. Maybe we should have it at a nutral place: instead of at a church. Besides, many churches have a bit of a problem with marrying a Muslim to a Christian.
Then, there was the issue of money! Should we spend so much on a wedding ceremony, or should we save for us to go to Pakistan to meet his family. Well, with all of this: besides the fact that there were still those who weren’t supportive, the stress was immense. it is very difficult to blend two cultures. His family is not here. My family still has reservations. Friends still have reservations as well. Actually, the only ones who are a bit more understanding were his Muslim friends who are in wisconsin.
In the end, I love Imran and he me. We knew that we wanted to be together. He has a job here (so, even if I don’t) we can still pay the bills. It made no sense for him to rent an apartment for six months until we figured things out. With transportation and the difficulties from moving from one place to another, etc; it was just less stressful and easier to have the courthouse wedding now. We could still, if we both wanted, have a ceremony later: when family and others were 1. around and 2. more accepting. And, it would give us some time to plan a “waleema,” where we might just take a trip to Chicago or Milwaukee. I enjoyed our small courthouse wedding. My sister and her (now) husband came and was there for me. Hina and S was also there. Hina and S stayed the weekend. I dressed in the outfit that Imran bought me. I made him dress nicely in American clothes. If I had the bangles, I would have worn them. They were given to me a bit later from a dear friend as a wedding gift. But, I did find a necklace and looked quite nice in my outfit. Imran and I filled out lots of forms. We talked about it and I decided to change my name. It will be difficult for my family to get use to: but my last name is now “Ahmed.” The good news is now I am an “A.”
It took us four hours to actually get married. I thought beforehand and could not think of one thing to do that would make it a bit more special. Well, I thought of saying somethings in Urdu to him, during the ceremony. Actually, truth be told, I practiced over and over. But, I am more shy than ever to speak it especially in front of others such as his sister and S. I was afraid to get something wrong. In hindsight, I should have. In any case, the judge was almost bubly. She did help us relax and also feel special. We were the sixth couple to marry. We spent five hours at the courthouse before being pronounced “man and Wife.” We spent another hour and a half enjoying company and a meal.
My sister had to get back to her own family, so we ate at “golden Chorale,” My sister’s husband was our driver since Imran, Hina, S and I are all blind. Actually, her husband is blind in one eye. He was playing with a stick, when he was small and the stick pierced his eye. He has an artificial eye. He has normal sight in the other eye, so he can drive with no problem.
Anyway, we ate where everyone could find their favorites. From Hina’s favorite of fried fish to Nikki’s meatloaf; everyone enjoyed themselves. Then, we went home and could finally say that we are husband and wife. We felt at peace knowing that now we are together as close as two can be.
Imran and I didn’t really have a honeymoon. The next day, he had to work at the vision expo and we all (Hina, Imran, S and I) went after a breakfast of potatoes and eggs. We also had an unpleasant experience with Open door (Paratransit) when they had record of my ride scheduling, but not Imran’s. This would be the first of many challenges with paratransit. Soon, we were all on our way.
We are talking about having a ceremony in June or July. We would like to find a way to blend our cultures together in a ceremony. Hopefully DJ will be able to get leave from Japan and Imran’s family will come, also. Although, I do realize that there will be lots of stress in the planning. And, honestly, that “stress” and “feeling green with fear,” and the reality that I was alone in the planning; was one of the reasons that I opted for the courthouse wedding. But, his parents might come and it would be nice to have a bit of a ceremony/celebration…. …. Hmmm, who can help me plan a small intercultural wedding on a very tight budget? (which will include taking and posting pics)

first family reunion: first intercultural marriage, (more firsts)

November 12, 2010

My mother’s side of our family: (My mother’s mother’s side) decided to have their first family reunion, ever. We had never had one before. and, I would be bringing my new husband to the first one ever.
dominika took pics and I am not savvy enough to link the album that is on facebook to the blog page.
[Sorry, but if you find me on facebook, you can see them].
I must admit that I was a little anxious.
But, my mother was quite supportive.
It is worth noting that she was not very supportive of my first marriage and I think that she wants to make up for her bad behavior (even though it was more than a decade ago).

so, she calls and asks questions — naive ones, but with an inquisitive nature.
“does he have to pay your father to have you as his wife?”
“Are you allowed to touch his Holy Book, the Quran?”
“What if he wants more than one wife?”
“When you marry, will he let you work?”
“Will you start wearing the head scarf?”
Ok, I have had to field lots, but they were asked because she honestly “did” not know.
But, she has also been supportive of him:
“you should move closer to his work.”
did she forget that I just moved in March?
and, does she forget the hastle involved in packing????!!
anyway, sorry for the digression.

my daughter was there (she is also intercultural: African-American and white), but her and my dh were the only two brown folk.
and, it was in quite a remote setting: small country town (hard to find) with small fire station.
But, when we get there, we are greeted by many family members.
they are anxious to see my dh, just to say “hello.”
There were some who came around to talk.
My cousin M had some interesting stories about coal mining and DH and he talked a bit about the minars in Chile.
Sounds like we need to take a field trip to the mine to see first hand.
(smile)

[this is one of the perks of being in an intercultural relationship — all the things that you have not done as a child, you can do under the presumption of “letting him experience it for the first time. — We are doing it in the name of cultural expansion.”]

My cousin, the prison guard, also had some interesting stories to tell.
He assures me that “yes, blind people are just like anyone else!” He knows because some have ended up in prison, as well.
(smile)
… Way to get a prospective.
and, what did my dh eat?
Well, he doesn’t like turkey. He won’t eat ham. (I didn’t either). But, there was chicken which was spiced with basil and garlic. I thought that he would not like it, but he did.
I found out that he does like sweet potatoes.
He ate corn.
And, HE, like everyone else, thinks that my mother’s banana strawberry creamy dessert is the bomb.
Now, I think my mother likes my dh because… …. well, he has a job. — and a pretty good one, acording to my family’s standard of living.
My older sister’s husband just got a job as a maintenance man because my sister has decided to go back and get her masters.
He has not worked for 10 years.
And, my younger sister’s (as of October 1, an exact week after my own) husband does not like to work much.
My mother’s husband worked for quite a long time doing many things. they eventually owned a trucking business with about four trucks, but had to give it up to care for a grand child.
(not mine)
He, her husband, retired early and she still works part time at Walmart. She is a hard worker but has a problem with “lazy” guys. my dh has proven that he is not lazy and will provide….. big points with my mother.
So: a guy who has a job is pretty important and sometimes “rare” in our immediate family.
(smile)
My older sister, who is a bit exclusive, anyway, only said: “I know many doctors named Ahmed.”
(she is a highly paid nurse).
[it is strange that her associates degree in nursing pays her more than my BS in social work and probably more than a Masters in this field would pay me].
My younger sister is much more chatty.
All in all, it was a good first and we were invited back.
They had a sale to pay for the use of the fire station. i decided to get a $2 fondu (don’t know how to spell it) set. My DH likes to collect radios. So, he paid $10 for an alarm clock radio.
[one which we have not even sat the alarm on, yet because it is digital and blind people can’t set the alarm].
He just had to have that radio. So, ok.
I am thinking about getting him xm radio for christmas to put in our room so he can listen to cricket on the xm radio and not his laptop. We don’t have and don’t need TV, necessarily.
But, I know that he really likes listening to the cricket matches.
[It takes the same amount of time to listen to cricket highlights, as it does to watch an entire basketball game].
……[I am just sayin’].
So, any good suggestions about a great “cricket” gift, let me know.
We will be celebrating Christmas; but I do wish that I could have got it in time for the upcoming EID.
[He mostlikely won’t read the blog unless I ask him to, so we are good].

Keeping on track; It was, for the most part, “normal.”
— or as normal as it can be.
No one made any remarks about terrorism, Islam or any other controversial subject.
Granted, there was no alcohol.
That always helps instigate snide remarks.
But, all in all, it was good.

We came home with two pieces of chicken, some cheesy potatoes and some mac&cheese. We had a small piece of cake: — remember he is trying to get in shape for the mini marathon?
Dominika ate the mac&cheese.
We had the rest for the next day’s dinner.