Archive for the ‘life’ 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.

the new house!

June 11, 2012

Just updating.
We signed papers and now have the keys to the house. Check it out Front side of the house. We still have lots of packing and moving to do. I hate packing. but, the downside of having people help is that they randomly throw away things that you don’t want them to. I’ll probably have to buy a new beeping frizby and basketball with bells in it. And, who knows what else. Sure, I wanted to purge, but we all have different concepts of what this really means. And, once it is in the throw away box, who sees it again? OK, I have tried going through “throwaway boxes” periodically to minimize the hazzard of throwing away something that I want, but I am sure that many things have escaped my grasp. Besides, the fact is that when people help you, they get tired and I think they get “trash happy.” And, I want all of the “donate” boxes coming to my house, (even if it is more to move and sort) because I don’t want them accidently going to the landfill: “Whoops, so sorry!!!”
And, there is another thing. I don’t want things thrown away that could possibly be used by another person. I don’t feel that it is good stuardship of the land — ditto on landfills. But, when you have people helping you pack, you are kind of at their mercy. Now, I could go onto my soapbox about issues of control and respecting one’s values when we talk about the relationship between the “helped” and the “helper.” But, that is for a different post.
for now, despite the fact that we will have to buy some new items because they got thrown into the dustbin — Trashcan; (and people think that I won’t even notice that they are gone), I am still excited about our new house. I want to put a swing or glider on the front portch, grow something (a bit uncommon, but not hard to grow) in the side yard, put a play yard in our fenced-in yard etc. Our office will be much larger and we will have an extra room for guests. Actually, we will have two extra rooms because it will be a while before Azaan actually “uses” the room that we have for him. any suggestions on play yard or plants????

the saga of the hunt

May 8, 2012

In the post, title=”Gori desi rishta” href=”https://goridesirishta.wordpress.com/2012/05/02/the-dinner-the-dig-and-the-discovery/”> “the Dinner, the dig and the discovery, ” I talked (at length) about this house that DH and I wanted to buy. It was uncharacteristically a “steal” for that neighborhood. The price fit DH’s budget and the sqft fit my liking. In that post, I describe the house in detail and list all the reasons why we liked it. So, we made an offer, April 29th, the exact day that his sister delivered her little baby boy. Our realtor drew up the papers, but we could not sign them until DH returned from Chicago: (after visiting his sister), which was on Friday. There were complications because the documents were photo image files which were very difficult to read. So, my daughter had to come over Sunday to read them and show us where to initial/sign. she dropped the papers off to the realtor first thing Monday morning. And, guess what????? The company reported to the realtor that the exact week that we made an offer, there were supposedly three other offers made on the property. They can’t tell us what the house went for or who bought it. the only thing that they can tell us is that “we don’t get the house.”
What is the proper amount of grieving time when you don’t get the house that you desire???? (still in mourning, and I don’t mean the A.M. — although it is 7:00 A.M. when I am writing this post).
Now, we are looking again. and, the difficult thing is that: I want a house with more than 1500sqft (the one we lost was 1600sqft), a fenced-in backyard and at least 3bdrms; and DH wants a house under $100k, quick and easy access to work and more than one bath. We don’t want a house built after 2000, only because we don’t like the factory builds. the wood seems flimsey and the walls seem thin. The tile is cheap and the paint is flat.
DH wanted to buy the house (the one we missed out on) as soon as we saw it. I languished because I wanted to make sure that it fit our needs. Honestly, it did not allow DH to take the public bus to work — which would have saved him money. But, as we do our search, we are finding out that none of the houses have “easy access” to that busline. Even when they are close in proximity, there are no sidewalks and no lights at the crossings. DH is one hundred times better than I am in mobility and was trained by a blind mobility instructor. He can walk anywhere downtown and he has completed drop-off lessons successfully. Besides, there are now accessible GPS systems from your IPhone. Yet, the City bus seems to elude us. My point is that it was “I” who dragged my feet: “What about the Well?” “what can we do with those little nooks?” “if it hasn’t sold in three months, we can take our time to be sure!” Now, I am kicking myself. DH has not blamed me. He has not said: “If you would have gotten on board sooner…..” And the house was listed (don’t know if they paid above listing price) at least twenty-seven thousand (and I am spelling it out in case anyone thinks that I made a type-o) les than bought in 2005 — and that did not take into consideration the new furnace, new hot water heater, fence around the backyard, fenced in area for an above-ground pool, newly built garage, additional back room, new carpet, all appliances (Washer, dryer, dishwasher, garbage disposal, built in microwave) included . The more I write about it, the sicker I become. Honestly, that house could have went for **at least** twice the asking price in a good market — or even “just ok” market. And, we could have had it.
Part of me does not want to even look for a house. After all, we will probably never find that good of a deal ever! ever! ever! again!! We are seeing houses for $90k and 1400sqft. Our realtor is telling us that this is actually a good buy and we will probably never find a house that meets both DH and my qualifications. One of us needs to compromise.It will probably be me …. … (esp since I was the one who dragged my feet on the last one) but:
I really wanted more than 1500sqft. The house I am renting now has 1500sqft. OK, there is 750sqft living space and 750sqft basement. But, we actually use our basement. DH points out that it is not a finished basement. You can’t have a game center down there or a bedroom and there is no bathroom. But, actually, we do have a bed down there and my children have come to stay a few times. There is a kitchen table, a microwave, a couch, small fridge, space to hang clothes, nightstand, rocking chair and lots of space. My children have brought their TVs and it was their own private space. the laundry room is down there and we do store lots of DH’s books. My daughter and her husband point out that the basement is not actual “living space,” so we would be getting more “living space.” DH says that although the basement did not flood, it was not finished — and by “finished” and “acceptable” he means, carpeted, plumming and a door to the place where the bed would be. He didn’t like our basement anyway. But, I just can’t wrap my head around the logic that the basement wasn’t good living space. I just don’t feel it! and, I feel like I am moving “backward,” if I move into a smaller house.
Yet, we can’t afford something larger — without compromising quality. Sure, I found a house for 2400sqft and only $92k, but it was in need of major repairs. DH is not a DIY kind of guy. And, I don’t know what I am doing. Remember, he has withdrawals when parting with cash, so misc repairs will be difficult for him. thus, (just being real) the repairs probably wouldn’t get done.
And, I can’t just “get over it.” It is amazing! You’d think that DH would be more angry about the house selling. It was such a great deal!!!!! But, he is so relaxed about the entire thing. I am the one who wakes him up in the middle of the night (even though he has to work the next morning) and say: “…. What is the likelyhood that there would be **three** — I mean, **THREE** offers during that same week we wanted to put in an offer?” “did the owner or your boss want someone else in the house and when they found out that we were going to make an offer, make sure that their preference was met?” “What kind of conspiracy is this?” “If I only had moved quicker…” “We will never find something that meets our needs like that house again …. and for such a deal…. the market is recovering and, well, we just lost— lost — I mean, really lost!!!” OK, I didn’t actually wake him up, he got up to go to the restroom and made the mistake of asking me why I wasn’t asleep. And, it is not like he hasn’t heard this at least twenty times before — and probably will hear it twenty more. Although, to him, it is over and time to move on. I just can’t let it go.
I am off to see more houses tomorrow, but this one will always be the comparison house and maybe none will actually match up.

Shocks and Jolts from the Unplugging experience

May 7, 2012

After reading Sleeping Mom’s blog post about geing “unplugged” on “Sleeping should be easy,” I, too, thought that it would be a nice change to unplug. Actually, I admit that this is not the first time I thought of such an idea. A few months ago, I was listening to the BBC’s podcast and a Rabai and a Christian were teling how they unplugged every Sabbath to keep it Holy and family oriented. I mentioned it to DH and got a slight negative reaction. So, when I read “Sleeping Mom’s” post, I thought that this would be a good time. After all, I now have a baby and this will give us the opportunity to spend extra time with him. I don’t think that I am too addicted to my computer/IPhone, but I catch myself thinking: “I wish he’d just go to sleep so I could check my mail or write a blog.” I find myself wishing he would be quiet and still on my lap so I could get some web surfing done. My mind wanders off to my next research project instead of engaging with my Little one. I thought that DH would warm up to the idea, after all, his response pre-baby was only “slightly” negative. So, I asked him to join me.
*Shock1: Expect the type A computer geek person in your life to refuse the challenge, deem it the worst stupidest thing ever and in some extreme circumstances, try to sabbatage (ok, don’t want to look the word up b/c my LO should be up soon and just don’t have time) your efforts.
*Shock2: I sent an text message to all family members and told DH of my plans. The plan was only to be unplugged from 6:00 AM 05/06/2011 until 6:00 AM 05/07/2011. Not only would DH “not join me” but he described it as “paghal,” “Bakwaz,” (crazy and nonsense). when my mother called to ask me the meaning of the text, they both commiserated on the follies of such an action. They had different stances, actually, but the same resulting opinion. DH is a technology addict (yes, mistake 2 was calling him one) and my mother has no computer in her home. DH thought it was nonsense because I would have to turn off the stove, refridgerator, microwave and breastpump; for this to be truly authentic. Otherwise, it was nothing more than a nonsensical fad — and — “Who suggested such a stupid thing anyway, Your friend J?” [Don’t worry Sleeping Mom, I didn’t rat you out ]. and, obviously, he does not know J very well. she could not survive too long without TV or phone or book player to keep her company. My mother, on the other hand, said that it was like taking a short break from smoking. When it is over, you can pat yourself on the back and then return to your normal “plugged in and charged up,” state. She would know, she still has not kicked the tabacco monkey, even though she has been hospitalized several times: so she is just imparting her own experiences. So, for that reason, she saw no point in unplugging.
*Shock3: When you tell certain family members, they will accuse you of trying to exclude yourself from the “real world,” and “family.” Do I have an odd family or what? When I bring up the point that my goal is to spend “more” time with family and not “less,” they remind me that they are not in physical proximity, so, the only family member who will benefit is the baby — and, Aren’t I spending all day/ every day with him anyway??? and, DH chimes in that technology is allowing him to spend time with his family via skype video chat.
*shock4: I miss BBC documentaries that I never even saw and usually don’t have time to check: but now that my Iphone and computer are out of order, I nostalgically do want to see what good documentaries are on the site: as well as finding out all the educational kids stuff that I can get online that actually might be of some benefit.

As far as my “unplugging experience” actually went, I did rather well. I do need to get a braille watch, though. I lost track of time because I could not turn on my phone to check the time. And, while this might not be a big issue for most (and wouldn’t have been for me either, except) I have to time my pumping; [every four hours, for twenty minutes on each side]. I sang my own songs, instead of having Pandora accompany me. I thought about our soon-to-be new house and talked to my baby while I pumped, instead of listening to Stitcher. Twice I wondered about the discussion on certain Facebook message boards. I didn’t have a strong desire to “just check my messages,” or “check other’s facebook status.” Ironically, I caught myself several times thinking: “Oh, I’ll have to remember that so I can blog about it.” It made me think of how we approach experiences, nowadays. I am probably not alone when I say that we approach experiences as 1/2 participant and 1/2 observer. Sometimes, we are more focussed on “how we will blog about this experience,” than actually “having it.”
I did learn a few things from my experience, though:
*JOLT1: Keep it quiet. don’t tell people. Just tel the blogging community: who actually can’t encourage you anyway, because to reap such encouragement, you will need to “log on,” and isn’t that counterproductive???? Make it your own personal journey.
*JOLT2: Be specific about “what you will unplug from. I found myself vacilating about the book player. On one hand, it is electronic. Yet, it allows me to read books that others can read in print.
*JOLT3: Plan out some fun things to do so that you are not thinking about connecting and so that you might be making the most of your unplugged time. DH said that it was crazy, decided to try it with me for a couple of hours and then resumed his prior position with more zeal than before. I think that this happened because he is use to the thrill that technology gives him and … … well, he just got bored and didn’t know what to do without it. I had planned on taking the stroler (with the baby in it, obviously) out for a walk, but by 10:00 AM. DH had bounced bakc to his normal stage of paranoia and disgust.
*JOLT4: It might be a good idea to organize your internet using so that you get the most out of it in the least amount of time. I need to find a good accessible blog reader, only put in it the blogs that I will certainly read, maybe be able to export it to my IPhone and simplify the information/news that I want to read. some articles are interesting, but their content is not relevant or beneficial to my life.

I’d love to hear other experiences. these are just mine and I do admit that I have a very wacky family. I probably will do this again and heed my own advice!

The raw truth: to stay or not to stay

October 10, 2011

acronyms, offenses, Identity, culture and language

September 15, 2011

Am i being a bit too sensitive: or is this really offensive?
Learning the slang and acronyms of someone’s culture is just a part of understanding their world. It was probably about two years ago that I learned the term: “A B C D.” sure, it is cute and catchy… … but, is anyone else struck with the “not-so-subtle” message?
I think that it goes back to the assumption that people who are either of two worlds or are of mixed heritage, must, invariably, be mixed up/ confused / and fit in “no where” in society. This is also a common misconception when talking about those in families of multiple faiths. To make society feel more comfortable, culture asks them to choose one “culture” or “identity” because “biracial” or “intercultural” is just not understood as a valid option. How long did it actually take us to get “multiracial” on the census form????
the Days and stereotypes of Dorothy Dandridge are/should be gone. I agree that identity development is an intricate and ongoing process. And, culture certainly does play a part in that development. However, traversing the many “worlds” of society (if you will) is not just a skill that people of two or more cultures or races must learn. It is present whenever someone steps out of their prescribed “box” of familial background. And, “who” was the person who deemed this “understanding” and “traversion” a negative thing? Who automatically assumes that the bicultured or biracial person won’t be accepted in either culture: just because they are not 100% of that culture? Isn’t this a self fulfilling prophesy and a vitious circle? Furthermore, who deemed the “c” in “A B C D” to stand for “confused?” Is this a case of someone not having a very extensive vocabulary and not knowing how to use the dictionary to find a more affirming word? Or, has this come from the notion that I have discussed above? Additionally, why are so many people accepting this term and using it for themselves? I don’t agree with the concept of taking a word with negative connotations and using it for one’s self in a positive manner. JMHO, the infamous “N Word” is offensive no matter who uses it. i have never referred to myself as a “B**ch.” We could delve deep into the connections between language and identity. We could talk about the paralells of Americans born or assemilating to other cultures and why there are less stereotypes about their emotional well being. . We could discuss how our identity changes with each stage of our lives and how that might effect us. However, all i wanted to point out is that …. maybe passively accepting and/or using such a label (no matter how trendy and catchy it is) might have negative consequences and should be critically examined before doing so. And, it is disheartening that many people are readily willing to accept such non-affirming language to describe themselves.

pregnancy, disability and culture

September 15, 2011

Before you read this next post, know that all is fine with baby. My Ultrasounds have went well and things seem to be going smoothly.
However, this does bring up a subject that I have written many draft posts about and have to consolidate them into one thought provoking post. As if I just can’t get off of these three topics: it is about pregnancy, babies and disability.
During this pregnancy, we have been confronted several times with the possibility of having a disabled child. First, let me say that my blindness is not hereditary (although who would know unless they asked) and DH’s blindness comes from a recessive gene that both parents must carry. [Which means that his two sighted parents both carried the gene that caused their blindness: but I am not blaming, just making a point]. But, everyone wondered what we would do if the child was blind. Or, worse: what if the child had Downs Syndrome?
[Sidenote: t the BBC presented a documentary called “the education of….” (sorry can’t remember his name) which is about a man who has Downs Syndrom and who is going to college. i have conflicting views on this, but it is an interesting documentary, if you are so inclined].
Anyway, After all, I am an older parent and the likelyhood of a child with a disability increases with the parent’s age (specifically the mother’s).
DH and I talked about it several times. Neither of us even considered abortion. What I did not ask him was: “Would you have considered abortion if I was younger and the possibility of me having non-disabled children was likely?” I didn’t think of it then, but it is kind a “what if,” question and he really couldn’t answer it because it would never happen. Already he does not like playing the “What if,” game, especially when there is no way that it will happen. He said that if the child was disabled, he would definitely want to raise it here in the USA.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I would certainly go through the stages that every parent must go through when they are faced with a child that has more challenges than most. I would probably deny, grieve, accept and finally advocate. I don’t know how long i would be in each stage and know that it is certainly an individual experience.
But, When I talked about having the child and then meeting the family for SIL’s wedding, DH felt quite uncomfortable. Although he would want to show off a non-disabled child, he would have a problem feeling the same type of pride toward his disabled child. (my thoughts) He says that it is not a pride issue. He just would not want to deal with everyone’s comments and pity. He also says that other children are not very nice to disabled children. So, I guess you have lots of people who are either afraid of disabilities and/or say stupid things. And, you have unrelenting children whose parents don’t teach them how to behave. Yet, this does not match with the stories about his and his sister’s childhood.
Hearing stories from DH, I find out that he was quite the mischief maker. When they were little, DH and his sister, who is also blind, loved telephones and radios. OK, it was probably more of DH than his sister’s love; but his sister was dragged in by association. DH would not hesitate to scope out a neighbor’s or relative’s house looking for a telephone to call his friends. “permission” and “telephone charges” were not words in his vocabulary. He talks about exploring everyone’s rooftops and jumping/swinging from one house to the next. Before (and even after) he knew about blind cricket, he and his cousins would modify the game so that he could also play. He was fascinated with the light and bright colors surrounding fireworks and on several occasions despite his mother’s protests, burned holes in his clothes because he was not careful while playing with them. Often, he would go out with his cousins or neighborhood friends to the market and with his father to the Mosque. DH felt that many times, his father was more strict on him than on his younger brother. As a result, Dh feels that he is much more disciplined and mature than his brother. His sister, the one who is blind, is the first born. There are family legends about how proud his father was to have a baby girl: so much so that he carried her “everywhere he went.” Their father was not satisfied with the Government run blind schools and continued to search for better educational opportunities for his blind children. And, of course, the two children that received the opportunity to study in America happened to be the two blind children. Yes, there are discrepancies in how his father treats his sighted children, verses how he treats his blind children. Yes, they, his parents, were worried that we would surely pass “blindness” to our child and wondered how we might tackle the challenges of parenthood. And, yes, I agree that society is not very welcoming. But, all in all, his family seemed to rise to the challenge of having blind children. His family did not hide them away in a room or an institution. Yes, there was the many “faqirs,” “healers,” that people would suggest to Abu so that they could heal DH and his sister. yes, blind beggars are not uncommon in Pakistan. I think that there were some family members who blamed the mother for their blindness. (don’t quote me on that one, I am not sure). And, certainly, there is an overwhelming focus on the medicalization of the disability instead of more of an acceptance/independence approach. But, honestly, I see it here, in America, also.
Interesting fact: when I was a child, I was stopped many times on the street and without warning, people (Pastors or preachers or all types of religious folk) would place their hands on my head and/or face and begin to pray for me. They were sure that God would heal me, right then! When a healing was not forthcoming, they either took one of two approaches. 1. Encouraged me to continue to pray for my sight because it would happen in God’s time. Or 2. Chastised myself or a member of my family for having little faith. (what a way to bring souls to God)! Interestingly enough, DH reports that there are times when people have stopped him on the street and asked “HIM” to pray for “THEM” because prayers from a blind person are suppose to be more effective. And Lest we think that America is superior in the disability department, a friend of mine reports that a pastor of a church that she (still miraculously) attends has told her on more than one occasion that she will not regain her sight until she stops sinning and becomes serious about her faith.
Alright, honestly, I admit that many (especially those in smaller villages) Pakistani parents are probably ashamed of their disabled children. Many don’t know about Braille and/or how to teach their blind children. There are not as many services for blind (or other disabled) individuals. There are not that many employment opportunities for blind or disabled people. Remember, Dh still wants to start that Braille library: so obviously, Braille material is not as easy to obtain. Yet, hope still abounds. And, it seems that the challenges center around the lack of information more than anything else. And, honestly, maybe DH wold just have to go through those stages listed above and “right after birth” is just too soon for him to be in the “acceptance” stage. But, we will not really know unless it actually happens.
But, i still ask:
1. Would you/ Did you get any genetic tests to identify an unborn child’s disability? If so, would you have terminated the pregnancy? Do you and your DH have different views on the subject?
2. What are your family’s views about people with disabilities? Is there a hierarchy between physical and mental? Do they differ from your DH’s family’s views?
3. Would you be hesitant to bring your disabled child to your DH’s country?
4. Has your or your DH’s views on disability changed over time? How?

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.

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?

the shackles of innocence and restraint

August 11, 2011

first,
I apologize for no categorizations, I am writing from my email.

It seems like most people have a desire to rid children and those with strict morals of the shackles of innocence so that they can taste all of the bitter sweet delicies that the “real word” has to offer. I am not sure “why” this is, but let me give you two separate situations to illustrate my point.
**Situation #1:
I am on a listserv for blind parents. We were discussing the virtues of Stephen King novels and *if* they were appropriate for 9-12 year old audiences. To my surprise, many parents agreed that they definitely “would allow their child to read a Stephen king Novel.”… … after all, “at least they are reading!” Now, I am no prude… Wait, maybe people think I am, but these books are not depicting real life. there are vivid gritty sex scenes, candid descriptions of violence and inappropriate vulgar language amd actions that I would not want my child to be exposed to at the ages of 9-12. Most people extol the virtues of “exposing the child to the real world,” and argue, “they are going to do it anyway, so, we might as well know about it.” I have always found this argument problematic. If we permit such behavior, aren’t we silently (or at least tacidly) condoning it? I think it says more about people’s parenting style and maybe their willingness to be confrontational. Have we taken freedom too far? should we not be surprised when a 12-year-old girl sues her father because he punished her for visiting porn sites on the internet? (Yes, this really happened last year). Again, I am lamenting that I am not more tech savvy, so that I might post the exact link. Call me a “lazy poster,” but don’t accuse me of being a “lazy parent.” (smile) I had a more elloquent response in my subsequent emails, but I won’t bore you with all of the details. I do understand that others might have a different view; after all, most thought that “lolita,” by Nabokov was a masterpiece and I thought it to be a piece of crap. (and I rarely use that word, but could not find any other word without using profanity which adequately describes the book).
**Situation #2:
Last Saturday, I attended a Beepball banquet with DH. We were pretty disappointed that he only played 4 innings out of 96. The other older team mates weren’t that good, they just wanted to selfishly play. Strangely enough, the coach is actually a fulltime player and regardless of his stats, he plays constantly. I am not sure how he can coach from that advantage, but I don’t want to discuss the team, right now. I would digress too far from my point.
So, I wanted to support DH and go to the banquet with him. After all, he was fasting. He gave me his ticket. In a strange turn of events, the food did not come until 8:20, so I ate half and saved half of the meal for fast breaking time: about 30mins later.
the “world Series,” which is the largest tournament for the
beepballers (much like the world Series in Baseball), was held in our city. DH had the option to stay in a hotel room with two other guys. He would be installed on the pull out sofa; compliments of his low seniority. The guys were real partyers. Each night, they could not wait to end play so that they could drink large amounts of alcohol and smoke a bit of weed. DH stayed home. Honestly, that was a “no brainer.” I did not have to twist his arm. But, in at least one conversation between DH and a team mate, they commented “your wife has you on lock down.” Similarly, while we were at the banquet, a different team mate remarked that next year, DH would have to stay in a hotel with them because the “world series” was in a different city. So, they would initiate him into the ways of real partying. the team mate understood me wanting DH to stay at home this time — with the baby and all. But, (and especially since DH has never touched alcohol before), next year, DH would be able to experience the good life. It bothered me that DH did not object — neither to the stereotype that had been thrust upon me, nor to the much anticipated initiation. UGGG! Some might take that as a sign that he felt (at least a twinge of) agreement. But, DH has had ample opone team member realized or cared that this special time was even upon them. portunity to do these things. And,
If he wanted to stay at the hotel, I would have supported him. DH does not want to drink and he does not want to smoke weed — especially not during the time of Ramadan. Not and, he has seen him team mates get drunk and frankly, they don’t make alcohol look appealing. I know that there are some differences, but there are some parallels to these two stories. why do people think that “exposure,” is always a good thing? why do people feel that innocence or restraint is always a bad thing? Must everyone “want” to be corrupted? Why is it that people always want to champion for the “freedom “to *do something” but rarely support others in their decision to exercise their freedom “*not to *do it?”
And, to the Muslim women in France and Belgium, I feel you on the burqa ban.