Archive for the ‘intermarriage’ 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.

Eid mubarak! — and other thoughts about the mosque — all rolled up into one.

August 30, 2011

There are many complex variables to worship. Of course, worship should be a time when you do, say or sing to get closer to God/Allah. But, there is a communal part to worship and somehow, (and I think that most people have this expectation or hope) you also want to develop relationships with those who share your spiritual beliefs and are worshipping along side of you. I’ll admit, I was never one for “collective prayer,” it seemed so conscribed. Yet, I do understand the sense of communal oneness in such an act.
I wonder, did I fool myself or is it a myth somewhere: the thought that Muslims are, somehow, quite close knit in their communities and relationships – almost as close as those Amish. (smile) We have attended two different mosques on a regular basis. I wish that I could tell you that I was openly greeted and embraced. I can’t. Now, I need to admit here that I always feel a bit timid and shy and vulnerable when going to the mosque. Sure, you wonderfully assertive people will tell me to get over it and stop being so emotional. Quit whining, you will say. Bla bla bla: it has went through my mind several times. But, it is really a combination of a few things which makes me feel vulnerable.
1. It is still taking me some time to get use to this male/female segregation worship. It is not that I don’t enjoy the company of women. I am “sisterhood,” all the way! It is that I feel that my guide is leaving me at a crucial moment. In churches, I can take his hand, lean over and whisper something in his ear, ask “Tum Theek ho” to gage his comfort level. All this is missing at the mosque. When we have Muslim taxi drivers, they drop me off at the “women’s entrance,” and DH at the Men’s entrance. So, I have to enter alone.
2. All mosques are a bit different and it is hard as a blind person to understand what is expected of me. Where do my shoes actually go? (If I have not taken them off yet, it is not because I am unaware of the rule, it is just that I am not sure where the shoes are being put); I think that the headscarf knows that I am not Muslim, thus, resists my efforts to keep it on; how conservative is the dress of other women in this mosque; during Ramadan, some people are strict about only eating dates and drinking water between the call to prayer and the actual prayer and some include fruit and snacks; someone has to help me with the food because I don’t know “what” is there or “where” it is (consequently, someone always has to serve me which makes me feel a bit uncomfortable);
3. I am not Muslim. I don’t want the sisters to think that I am “playing Muslim” when I am not. Yet, I don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb and/or disrespect anyone in the process. There are some discussions – some acts – that I am precluded from because of my religious affiliation. Yet, I am never quite sure where the line is. And, I wonder, does my Non-muslim-ness make it more difficult for sisters to bond with me? This is not an ethnographic study and I am not an observationist – or at least, I don’t want to be or to be seen that way. There is a certain objectivity that an observationist gives to the experience and I would rather be more participatory than that. Yet, obviously, there is a line to my participation.
4. I have a guide dog. I don’t take him to the mosque, but if the same friends take us places or want to expand our relationship, they have to be comfortable with the dog — — which many are not. Actually, we rarely get that far. But, I know that many are not comfortable with my dog and this causes all of us some discomfort. There is a limit to how much I can leave him at home and honestly, if I leave him at home too much, it kind of defeats the purpose of having one. However, when we have to depend on rides, I have to put their comfort first.
My hope was that we could knit together a community of brothers and sisters (both from the church and the mosque), as well as some work colleagues — maybe — to be like close family. What church, you ask. And, I must agree, because I have not made much headway there, either. While I admit that the mosque is a bit more accepting than most churches that I have attended, there still feels like a disconnect. Sure, men at the mosque are more willing (than men at a church) to drive us to and from the mosque. They do seem to be “more helpful.” But, I was not just looking for “help” I was looking for a community to belong to – a community of interaction and the sharing of ideas and ultimately ourselves.
[side note: I think that is also what my daughter is looking for and one of the reasons (certainly not the only one, because he seems to be a much better guy than the others), that she wants to marry her ex-morman boyfriend who has tons of sibs and cousins]. The “Ex” is on the “mormon” part, not on the “boyfriend” part.
Anyway, at first, We began attending a very small mosque. The Imam would drive us to and from the mosque. Sometimes, I would talk to his wife. I thought that we wre developing a relationship with the couple. The man went off to study Arabic for three months in DC. I called the wife a couple of times to see if she needed anything. I got no response. The imam did not even call us when he returned. We had expressed excitement about his trip and were generally interested in his progress & experiences. Since we were one of the main families who would worship (and I use that term loosely in my case) at the mosque where he gave lectures, I kind of expected a closer relationship with the members. The second mosque is quite a bit larger. The one thing that I do like about this mosque is that there are lots of different nationalities present. We know men from Somalia, Gambia, Senegal, Lebanon, Pakistan, India and some American born&raised Muslims. The men of the mosque are willing to pick up DH and I and return us to our homes. Our Gambian friend has a Christian wife, but she never comes to the Mosque. There is one bright spot. One Auntie, Shaaesta, does sit and talk with me. I realize that she could very well sit and pray/talk with the other Aunties. But, this pashton woman will sit and talk with me every time I see her at the Mosque. Sure, sometimes, she can be opinionated and she usually worries that I will fall down and/or trip over something on the floor. I wonder how much more intense this preoccupation with my falling will become when I have the baby and need to carry him around. ? Yet, she is kind and when we sit and talk, she really listens to what I have to say. I have not seen her outside the Mosque, however. It is a promising start. And, I must understand that *one* person can make a difference.
Now, DH is celebrating Eid with our Gambian friend and his Christian wife. That is where he was invited. And, I am stuck here at work. Dh has many more personal days than I do. When he works over, he gets comp time and he has been working at the company longer. Besides, whenever we have doctor appointments, I have to take off 30mins before my work day ends. He does not because his work starts 30mins before mine does and ends 30mins before mine does. So, He had the time to take off and still get paid. I don’t. and, frankly, I am a bit emotional about not getting to celebrate Eid with him. So, I’ll stop here with the future hope that next year, we all will celebrate Eid together.

Interfaith Watch (What is in the News)

June 22, 2011

i have tried to be low profile about interfaith. sometimes, it feels that interfaith subjects are taking over my life and emotions. … [how much to give, when to give, the boundaries of modesty, rules on cleanliness and eating, …] sometimes we reach for a balance, sometimes we honor the other’s beliefs, and sometimes, we say we will — but we fall short….
Just being real, here!

But, i must admit: differences&compromises in tenaments and expressions of faith do seem to overwhelm me at times!
It is a large part of our existance — Whether DH wants to acknowledge it or not.

anyway, we joined that Naiff (National of Interchurch and Interfaith Families) board as a Muslim/christian couple — a position that “I” (if no one else does) take seriously.
Since our wedding didn’t quite work out like I had planned or hoped (long boring story that I don’t want to rehash — at least, not now) ,
I was thrilled when someone else called looking for an imam to do an interfaith ceremony.
…. … maybe they can have that ceremony that I just couldn’t manage to get together!!!
(how exciting).
So, I sent them a questionnaire to verify exactly what kind of ceremony they were wanting,
[blended, alcohol? pork? kissing? dancing? mehr? and more] went on a search for Imams in their area and generally started looking at Interfaith articles, again.
i have already posted many links to Interfaith resources, so I won’t bore you with that again.
But: Here is an article that got lots of attention.
http://www.northjersey.com/news/123548299_Christian_Muslim_service_prompts_hate_mail_to_pastor.html?c=y&page=1
Now, i ask: What business is it to a person living in New Zealand, if a minister wants to hold an interfaith service? I understand wanting to be “globally aware,” but this is going overboard.
And, the most exciting moment – the hated Pastor admitted that he welcomes “interfaith couples,” at his perish! WOOHOO!
check it out!

updating: OUR secret expansion! “mayray oomeed bachchi laRki hai !

May 26, 2011

I know that it has been about two to three months since I have written *anything. There is a reason for this and it is not because I have been too busy to write. Although, I have been quite tired lately!
Both, myself and my family is expanding and – yes, exactly in the way one might predict considering a marriage has not taken place too long ago. Now, I know that, we probably should have waited. But, the truth is that the longer I wait, the more likely either myself or the baby would have some type of complication. So, Yes, within the first year of marriage: He moved to a new city, We both found jobs and I have become pregnant.
WOOH. That is a lot and we still aren’t factoring in the first-year-married types of adjustments.
And, I still have to admit that it is amazing how a community of bloggers can unknowingly blog about something that is quite pertinent to another blogger. I am talking about the Gori Wife’s post concerning pregnancy and Pakistanis.
Check it out:

I just could not understand DH’s reluctance to talk about such issues. I talk about it all the time. Yes, I have been pregnant before, but there have been many changes in the world of babies and pregnancy in … … over 18 years. And, DH knows “NOTHING” about babies and pregnancy so I thought that he might be curious to know every little detail. I was wrong. OK, so I get the point that “pregnancy” confirms that indeed the couple have been engaging in … … “coupling.” But, Pakistanis have no problem celebrating marriages and … … if pregnancy confirms that you “have” been having relations, then a marriage is saying: WOOHOO, “I will be soon!!!” Both of our cultures certainly do spend lots of time thinking about sex, just in different ways. For example: when someone tells me that they are pregnant, the last thing I think of is their bedroom habits. That is just a given – in most circumstances – now, let’s move on to the real exciting stuff – the pregnancy! So, while I admit that we, Americans, seem to use sex to sell anything and seem to be quite sexually liberal; Pakistanis seem to be so afraid of eluding to it that they make the subject a sweet taboo. Some societies seem to be so bent on eradicating such topics from public discourse that they are actually thinking about it at least as much as the sexually liberal societies and seem to find it in places where we don’t even think to look. I think that Azadeh Moaveni’s first book and even “Sensoring an Iranian LoveStory,” a novel by Sharier Mandanipur does an adequate job at highlighting some of these issues. … sorry for the soapbox.
I think since I was so offended that Dh did not want to know a single thing about his own child, he has relented a bit and does find the conversation mildly interesting – as long as I get to the point and don’t drag it out. I am not saying that he ignores my pregnancy entirely. He doesn’t want me lifting and worries about my nausea and stress and he is concerned about my food intake. He will ask: “So how big is the baby now?” “Can you feel it inside you?” “How much of the brain is developed?” “when will it start kicking?” “I wish that I could feel/hear it moving around.” “I think you are getting bigger already!” (I can still fit quite nicely into my clothes: it must be his imagination – thank you very much). But, he almost left the house (never to return) when I mentioned videoing the birth. OK, granted, it seems that we argue at least once a day – (where is that concern about my stress?). But, I just went too far with that video suggestion! I tried to explain that my private parts would not be shown. He says, “who wants to see a bloody baby? Why would you want to video tape you being in so much pain?” …. … Still, it is definitely beyond his comprehension and comfort level. We will have to stick to photos and maybe an audio recording of the baby’s first cry. – Aren’t I compromising???? (SMILE)
In any case, he has agreed to be in the birthing room with me, as well as a friend/doula and my daughter … … oh, and a midwife, of course.
DH did tell one of his friends in Pakistan and the friend said absolutely “NOTHING.” I was amazed that he didn’t even say a profunctory “Congratulations,” after all, this was suppose to be a very close friend and even American acquaintances say: “Congratulations,” or something similar. Then, there was that one time when DH told a coworker that we both knew. They were both running/walking the mini marathon and she had a horribly painful cramp. His excuse: “that is all I could think of to get her mind off the pain!” He even said it worked for about five minutes. (smile) But, this damages his firm stance and logic behind such a stance.
His stance — ? First, DH says that he doesn’t think that I should broadcast it because others would be jealous. I don’t think that he was as upset at his sister when she told her work colleagues. But, I’ll let that one go, even if I shouldn’t. “GRRRR!”
I have one friend who just lost a baby. We were quite close growing up and although my marriage caused some rifts between us, we have since mended our relationship and are working on remaining close while respecting our differences. Her and her husband have four and she wanted another. DH thought that I should not tell her. But, I tried to explain that true friends aren’t “jealous of each other.” We never were like that. I am just not the jealous kind when it comes to what others have that I don’t and she has been the same way. In fact, twice she has brought over things that I might need to curb the nausea and calls all of the time to get a baby update. She has wanted a baby for so long: her youngest is nine-yo, that she is a baby encyclopedia! But, Dh was worried that she would be jealous and send bad thoughts our way. I say that Bad thoughts can’t hurt us or the baby. He worries lots about what people will think and making them feel bad and what consequences their bad feelings might have for us. I say, We are not responsible for other people’s feelings. And, if they were true friends, they would be happy for us. But, this logic sometimes falls on deaf ears.I don’t know what he is thinking. I will admit that several times during the last 2-3 months, I have seriously wished that I had the authority to prescribe psychotropic meds for his paranoia. (smile) But, I need to admit, he probably has had the same desire since I seem to be quite grumpy!
There are so many things that I could blog about: new baby carriers and how to see which is right for me, my food preferences and intake, Pakistani baby traditions, new and necessary baby stuff (like a nursing blanket that goes around your neck for optimum discretion), tips on baby learning language when I only have an elementary grasp, how it seems that DH’s hormones fluxuate as much as mine do, family issues (both mine and his), finding lories/lullabies from Pakistan and other places to play/sing for the baby, new developments like water births and progesterone shots, postponed trip to Pakistan and when would be the best time to go with a baby, baby names and cord banks. There are also other blog posts that I have written, but have not submitted because, somehow, in each one of them I find a way to work in some part of the pregnancy and DH did not want me to tell many people until … … at least after twelve weeks.
… … Not that he looks at this blog, but just in case.
We have a Dr. APT tomorrow. He, his sister (who will be visiting) my daughter and I will go. Hopefully, we will hear the heartbeat!!! And, it is actually “officially” at the 12week mark. So, there you go. This is an update!

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.

Paying tribute to oryza Sativa

March 18, 2011

There are some things that you *think* you will not mind, …. …. Until you marry. For me, it was my elevated consumption of RICE. To DH, a meal is not a meal unless it contains either rice or bread. Actually flatbread (or more specifically NAAN) is one of my favorites, but I am not nearly good enough in the kitchen (much less have the time) to make Naan. And, just in case you didn’t know, Flat bread is expensive, running about $2.50 for four pieces of flat bread. Tortilla shellls are a pathetic substitute. I can eat pasta, but its lack of nutrician usually makes it less appealing. Sure, I have cooked meals with Couscous and Quinoa (also expensive) trying to have something “similar in texture,” yet “a bit different in taste.” But, when it is all said and done; It is all about Rice. I even (since marriage) make a pot of rice when I make chilli. Certainly, I don’t necessarily have to consume and many times, I don’t. But, it is still there. Rice&meat, Rice pudding, Rice&peas, Rice&corn, Rice stuffed cabbage leaves, Rice&mixed vegetables, Rice&Broccoli, stuffed peppers with Rice, Rice&Lentils, Rice & fruit salad, Rice&beans and Rice&potatoes. The latter seem to break the codes of good nutrician by offering too much starch during one meal setting, yet somehow, rice sprouts its way into every meal. I have washed, soaked, boiled, baked, fried, steamed and fluffed the rice. We have eaten long grained, basmati, ttexmati, wehani, parboiled, glutenous, sticky, fluffy, sweet, spicy, white, brown and golden rice.
three weeks ago, as head chef (only chef) in our household, I decided to put a ban on cooking rice in my kitchen. I welcomed flat or fluffy bread, pasta, potatoes, couscous, quinoa or any substitute and/or impostor, but resolved that the authentic small grain was not permitted to drop or roll anywhere near my dinner table for at least two weeks. It was time for a “purifying” of sorts.
Then, I got sick. I rarely get sick. On the off chance that I do, it usually consists of a fever and headache. This time, however, I had a horribly inconvenient case of the stomach flu which made me declare the bathroom as the most important room in the entire house. I am surprised that Dh didn’t get jealous of the time and attention that I seemed to lavish on my household toilet. The common standard advice was to go on the “BRAT diet.” This consists of Bananas, rice, applesauce and toast. Crackers can be substituted for toast, but them it changes the acronym. (smile) . Although I was physically weak, I did not want to be seen as noncommittal, thus, I was fervently prepared to continue the ban on that wonderful most flexible grain. I followed this strange diet (excluding the rice, of course) and gulped pills and chugged medicine every four hours. DH didn’t need the latest fad of the BRAT DIET to tell him that rice is a staple food for when you are sick. While we, American children, were making “Campbell’s chicken noodle soup,” a common household medicine for the flu, his mother was feeding her children a kind of rice mixture that was even better. I will abashedly confess that nothing improved until I relented. When I yielded to RICE, My health improved. All hail to the rice deity!
STATISTICS:
• More than 90 percent of the world’s rice is grown and consumed in Asia, where people typically eat rice two or three times a day. Rice is the staple diet of half the world’s population.
• It takes 5,000 liters (almost 1321 gallons) of water to produce 1 kg(Roughly 2.2 pounds) of irrigated rice. Rice can grow from two to five feet long and can grow under water and in flooding areas.
• More than 40,000 varieties of cultivated rice are thought to exist. more than 100 grow world-wide, but only around 10% are marketed and sold.
• Three of the world’s four most populous nations are rice-based societies: People’s Republic of China, India, and Indonesia. Together, they have nearly 2.5 billion people almost half of the world’s population. Hmmm, is rice linked to fertility??? I have heard about celebrations in Bali where they believe just that and apparently have some ground for their beliefs. (smile)
• The average Asian consumer eats 150 kg(330.7 pounds) of rice annually compared to the average European who eats 5 kg (11.2pounds).
• Rice provides 20% (that’s one fifth) of the world’s dietary energy supply.
• The Chinese devote an entire day of their New Year to the celebration of Rice and punctuate the New year by giving wishes of “May your rice never burn.”
• In Japan, people do not think in terms of breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but rather morning rice (asa gohan), afternoon rice (hiru gohan), and evening rice (ban gohan). Also, Japanese auto titans are even rooted in the rice fields: Toyota means bountiful rice field and Honda means main rice field.
• In Singapore, a good job is an iron rice bowl, and being out of a job, a broken rice bowl.
• The Korean term “bap 밥” and the Japanese term “meshi めし” as well as the Chinese word “fan 飯” all have the double meaning of “meals,” and “rice,” demonstrating how significant “rice” is to eating.
• rice is a good source of insoluble fiber.
1 cup of white has about the same amount of calories as brown, but far less fat. (.8 grams per serving vs. 2.4 grams per serving) However, brown rice is much higher in fiber than the white variety, with 2.8 grams of dietary fiber per serving versus .6 grams. Most other nutritional values are similar.

One of the reasons why rice is enjoyed internationally is that it is easy to prepare, it’s inexpensive, and it possesses significant vitamins and minerals. Examples of rice include: Basmati – which is aromatic in smell, is grown in south Asian countries and is DH’s favorite; and glutinous rice, which is a sticky, yet sweet rice typically used for dessert. Brown rice is another example — which has a nutty taste to it – while Jasmine rice is pleasantly aromatic and grows only in Thailand.
Currently, there are five national rice foundations (NRFs), one each in Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Philippines, and Thailand.
The largest collection of rice cultivars is at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines and there is actually a World Rice Museum, but my computer could not read the web page. There are also several rice cultivating organizations in the USA; usually distinguished by state.
And, I Dh’s favorite dish is Biriyani which consists of spiced long grained rice and either vegetables or chicken or both. In any case, I am feeling better and my battle with rice is over. The nonstick long grain is actually pretty good. I’ll not be purchasing rice flour, rice milk or rice wine anytime soon. i don’t even eat “Rice crispy treats,” or “Rice cakes,” which probably have a very minimum amount of rice in them. (smile) And, i most definitely draw the line at chocolate covered rice, no matter its nutritional superiority! .

Hear the Call of III (International Interfaith Initiative)

January 25, 2011

For the last year, I had tried to find interfaith resources and people in interfaith marriages. I found a wonderful group of Muslim/Christian couples. The problem is that their meetings are in Southall, London. Obviously, that is not going to work. I have written on interfaith issues in previous posts and if I was more technically savvy like most of you, I would point you to their links. SORRY! I just don’t know how! And, dh is not interested. (smile)
I even thought about starting a “meetup group” or something similar for
‘intercultural’ couples. This came from a desire for both of us to feel strong in our faith. I wanted a place where we could unabashedly explore and express our faith with others who held similar desires, yet were open to their partner’s faith. But, I had to “find” the couples, first.
There were a few problems with finding interfaith couples that live in Indianapolis or the surrounding areas.
I could not find any interfaith couples at all. Now, I found the Dovetail magazine which talked about interfaith families. But, there was no ‘interfaith family’ in Indiana that I could talk with. And, even if there were: it is most likely one might be catholic or agnostic or atheist. In this case, they don’t have the same challenges as a Muslim and a Christian might have. I have also discovered that
1. just because one is a part of a minority faith, does not necessarily mean that they will accept others from less prominent faiths. Now, I say this, but I know that there are more than six million Muslims (maybe 8 million, my reporting might be off; but at least, six), in the USA. [So, i guess “minority faith status” might be kind of relative], Yet, as I have reported, imran and I have not made lasting connections with either the people at a mosque or at a church. Is some of this disconnectedness due to our status as an “interfaith family?” I don’t have enough experiences with mosque going individuals to make a definitive guess, but I do know that in the case of church going people, the word “interfaith,” is rarely spoken and definitely somehow not applied to Christian/Muslim couples.
2. this is the Midwest, people don’t really like to talk about their faith, unless they are certain that they will be supported. Interfaith is kind of a taboo subject.
3. did I mention that we have trouble with transportation? so searching the state is just not an option for us.
4. ‘faith’ is so subjective. What might be important to me in my faith, might not be as important to you in yours.
5. We are talking about “Muslim” here. At best, his religion is ignored and at worst, it is criticized.
So, here we sit!
And, when Rev Michael and Barb Slater from editors of the “Together magazine and who are CoChairs of the National Association of InterChurch and Interfaith Families
http://www.NAIIFOnline.org
Posted a desire for a Muslim/Christian couple to join the board, I was thrilled.
Now, of course, DH and I are newly married, so I did not suggest us, specifically. But, the thought of another couple bringing their wisdom to bear on such a sensitive subject and the fact that they actually were open to such a Christian/Muslim couple frankly, thrills me to no end. Before now, they had focused more on varying cultures and traditions within more similar faiths. Some will argue that Christianity and Islam are similar, but let’s not get into that debate.
And, to my Hindu, Buddhist and other faith friends (I can’t spell sorry), I realize that, as of yet, Hinduism and other such faiths are not included. I am not sure of the reason, but as of now, the farthest I have seen “interfaith initiatives” go is to Judiism.
So, here’s my Q:
Is there any interfaith couple “Specifically Muslim/Christian,” who would be willing to serve on their board? I have just received information about membership and specifically board membership. We (due to our zealousness concerning interfaith issues and probably because they don’t know any other Muslim/christian couple [passionate or not]), have been extended an invitation to be a board couple. It sounds quite intriguing (to me) and not too burdensome (to DH). yet, I still wonder if “we” are “qualified” to do so.
Whether it be “US” or “SOMEONE ELSE,” , this is an opportunity for the Christian/Muslim couple to be heard. Hey, why not throw a bit of culture (Pakistani) and disability (Blindness) into the mix. I am all for diversity. And it would be a great learning experience and opportunity for us! But, honestly, I admit that another couple might be more qualified for the position and might do a better job at being an effective mouthpiece to show the positive side of an interfaith(Christian/Muslim) marriage, present an objective viewpoint concerning the struggles that an interfaith family faces and give suggestions and tips for those contemplating such an endeavor. They also might be able to dispell the myth of the spiritually stunted confused child; similar to the stereotypes you hear about when people talk about bicultural or multicultural or biracial children. The myth lives on despite the many who can prove its obsurdity!
… …. …
And, just as I was about to post this, DH sends me an email detailing plans from the International Interfaith Initiative to host some seminars at our Indiana Interchurch Center.
What????
We have an Indiana Interchurch Center?
There are five upcoming events in Februrary, alone. Hmmm, maybe February is “interfaith month,” which also happens to be the month in which DH has a birthday. (smile) He received this information from a Muslim email list that he belongs to. It seems that the members of the Muslim Email listserv are a bit more open to interfaith initiatives than their Christian counterparts. Now, I am under no illusions. “interfaith,” does not always mean “interfaith families.” And, I remember how much “interfaith dialog,” and “interfaith celebrating,” went on at the last “interfaith event” that was held close to the Thanksgiving holiday. But, it is a start!

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.