Saturday, December 28, 2013

Finally finished The Alchemist

I finally picked up The Alchemist and got past the boy getting robbed at the bar in Tangiers.
I don’t know what conspired with the universe to get me to push forth this time. Honestly I could have finished the book ages ago, but for some reason there was no chemistry before this time.

Why is it that each previous reading felt cumbersome and contrived, but now it felt fluid and relevant? The irony is that lately I feel more spiritually disconnected than ever before. Or maybe that’s the reason why I connected to the book as a sort of spiritual glue to heal my fractured spirit. Or maybe being aware of spiritual disconnection is actually a higher state of spirituality, forcing you to address your inner status.

The experience of reading the book reflects one of the ideas of the book, which is that the journey is often better than the destination. But this is something I’ve always believed, journeys yield more unexpected fruit than the end of the road.

The main idea, which is so relevant to me at this juncture in my life, is that change hurts. But change is also productive, teaches you to trust your voice. And often, the treasure you seek may be right under your derrière but you have to get up and walk around to find it.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Depth, perception, and Halloween.

October 31, 2013
By 11:00pm Jourie had fallen asleep. She and Leyanne had school earlier today, they came home at 3:00pm excited, jumped in the shower and started dressing up for the Halloween party. We headed over to the compound, set up my cousin's house to welcome trick-or-treaters, then embarked on a 2-hour door-to-door journey through Jeddah’s humidity.

Afterwards, my girls and their 3 cousins continued the party at home. It was no surprise that I would be carrying Jourie up the stairs when we got home. Leyanne on the other hand said her stomach felt funny and she needed to eat some real food.

She and I sat across from each other at the kitchen table, eating and making conversation. At some point, this happened:

Me: Today I had to make a difficult decision, whether to take you girls trick-or-treating with my friends and their kids or to go with cousins…

Leyanne: That’s easy mom. Family comes first. That’s all you need to say.

Me: How did you get so smart?

Leyanne: At night my brain is able to think of things in the back of my head, like the things here and here and here (as she points to different areas of her head). I’m just able to think about them better, its like my brain turns around in my head but not the actual brain because that would make my head look funny. So basically the information in my brain switches places at night.

I just stared blankly at her sublime, beautiful face as she continued to eat through this explanation.
It’s now 11:40pm. She’s watching Spongebob Squarepants with heavy eyelids. I’m giving her brain a chance to relax.

Monday, September 09, 2013

What do you think?

I don’t care what everybody thinks of me. But I am aware that everybody thinks something of everybody else.

If I have a message to send, and the flecks of bias and judgment in people’s eyes would obstruct my message, I would take into consideration what these people may think of me and—by extension—my message.

For example, if I want to influence mothers on parenting issues, and this group of mothers would be completely distracted by red nail polish, I would skip the red nails to ensure my point gets across.

Is this hypocrisy? I’d never condemn red nail polish, I wouldn’t agree with people who wag their fingers disapprovingly, and I may even defend it in theory. But if my red nails would cause my intended audience to “throw the baby with the bathwater” then I don’t need it.

I’d never do something I disagree with or drop something I strongly believe in just to deliver a message. But there are a few things that undermine a person’s legitimacy in certain circles that aren’t essential to who I am. So yes, I do think of what others may think of my message, and I always care to get my message across.

That is why I am at the most peace with people who’ve managed to clear their eyes of the flecks of bias and judgment. Or when I’m not trying to send a message.

So yeah, I’m rarely at peace.

(This leads me to think, am I my message? I hope not, I hope there’s a part of me that just laughs, eats, sleeps, looks at the sky… but I’m too tired to answer these questions now.)

Monday, June 17, 2013

Talking to myself as I walk through Firenze

I wear sneakers daily but rarely step foot in a gym. I refuse to break a sweat or get short of breath, but I wear sneakers daily nevertheless.

The Comedy of Life is my daily workout. Not comedy haha but in the elizabethan sense that no one dies in the end and there's usually a wedding. Exercising my patience, balancing the weight of each word to get the desired results, developing the emotional flexibility required not to have a nervous breakdown... These all burn. But don't look for changes on the scale or in jeans size, just look at your face to find evidence of the Comedy Workout.

There are women who do this and more in heels, ballerina flats, espadrilles, toms, flip flops... For me it's sneakers or if I'm feeling bold, doc martens. And definitely jeans and a water bottle. Possibly mascara. The bare minimum time/effort on the costume and stage design. I'm not good with audiovisuals and props. 

I'll never be that girl. Or any kind of girl or lady or label. I'm a mix, I'm a mess, I'm not completely unimpressed with pretty shiny things but I won't go the extra mile for vanity. Simplicity is sanity. 

And if I'm planning to go insane, it won't be in pursuit of pretty...

Friday, June 14, 2013


After 3 exhausting eye-opening days in Rome, my family and I enjoyed a 4 hour train ride to Mestre, a mainland suburb of Venice. We never thought Mestre would distract us from actually going into Venice, but it did.

We decided to grab a bite to eat before venturing through the Venetian canals and found this building while looking for Piazza Ferretto. My husband also made friends with a Chinese student from Canada who also strayed from Venice to explore the mainland.

At Piazza Ferretto the kids (who normally complain that their legs can no longer carry them) started running around, posing for and taking pictures while I lamented the shops being closed so early.

Of course, the hunger, after being ignored and denied, gathered all it's force and attacked. My younger daughter practically threw herself on the ground crying and the older one just lagged behind slurring her speech. Captain Dad however cannot just eat anywhere, so we charged onwards until we found found il Palco. 

I'm usually a disbeliever when the kids are hungry and my husband acts like there's a holy grail of pizza... I mean it's pizza and we are in Italy so it will always be good, right?

But this place was at another level. First of all, the smiling face behind the bar that kept on smiling through my 6 year old's indecision with the menu, spilling her juice, and insistence that she needed to change her chair. 

Second, the chairs... Can I just say here that if a place has unmatched chairs I automatically think its avant-garde or hipster or chic or whatever word you use for über-awesome. So I don't blame Jourie for wanting to try out different chairs.

The decor and ambiance in general was very to my taste. I can't explain it, but this place is just "me".

And the music was 80s...

And this...

And oh yeah... THIS...

We also had Ace (pronounced acha i think, juice of carrot, lemon, and orange) which we had already fallen in love with at a pizzeria in Rome. The food was so good, I felt it would be a betrayal to have the requisite dessert and coffee. And that says a lot coming from me (please refer to name of blog).

I'm looking forward to Venice tomorrow, but I'm elated that we took this detour into Mestre.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Delicious Destruction

You know you've been living in Saudi Arabia too long when Delicious is how you describe sleeping in a room akin to a meat freezer with a warm, squishy blanket covering all of you except the toe that sticks out to gauge the temperature.

I'm not as bad as my kids though, whom I now have to hide the air con remote from to make sure they don't lower the temperature further. 

But who can blame them? 

The weather here is conducive to behaviors that are planet-unfriendly: using air conditioners all day, electrical appliances and gadgets to entertain ourselves indoors, shopping malls that also use air conditioners and electricity to help us shop with reckless capitalist consumerist hedonistic abandon, the gas guzzling cars that take us between each air conditioned location.

What's a mom with an earth conscience to do? Add this to the list of guilt, pop a Panadol and wash it down with a double shot macchiato?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Working Moms in Saudi Arabia

This label annoys me because all mothers by definition work:
  •  worrying about ultrasounds and vitamins during pregnancy
  • nursing or sterilizing bottles
  • diaper duty
  • doctor appointments

…and the list goes on

But wait, who am I to define motherhood? Maybe motherhood is defined by the act of delivering a child from your womb into this world.
So let’s get back to the main issue raised by @kyeslam on Twitter: moms working outside the home.

It’s not so much about the right to work, but how to balance working, mothering, being a wife and managing the home in general. The simplest answer is to say this is a universal issue and we should look at Europe’s best practices, aspire to them and apply them.

Back to Saudi Arabia circa 2013… we have to address our own unique situation. I don’t claim to have the magic potion of motherhood, but I think there are 3 main issues we should take into account when discussing Saudi mothers in the workplace.

1. Traditional Gender Roles…need a shake up.

We can’t expect today’s mammas and pappas to be like our parents and their parents. Society no longer falls neatly into hunters and gatherers, and gender roles are constantly morphing (usually adding more responsibility to mothers and reducing that of the fathers…).

When a couple gets married, they have to be flexible about what each person is bringing to the table.

If the wife works and offers financial contribution to the family, what can the husband contribute?

Does this change the power dynamic at home? Should it?

If a man seeks more than a pretty baby-maker and a woman seeks more than a breadwinner, how does this shift the marriage paradigm?

(There are more questions but I’m trying to finish writing this before going to work tomorrow.)

2. Drop the labels!

When we talk about working Saudi moms, we have to remove the division line between working moms and stay at home moms. This type of labeling is misleading because it assumes the stay at home mother is doing more for her children than the mother working outside the home.

This assumption is prejudicial and unfair and automatically puts the working mother on the defensive while giving an undeserved nod of approval to moms who don’t work. 

What happened to “Quality > Quantity”???

The true division line falls between the various parenting ideologies: hands-on, hands-off, and the many types in between. And even then, mothers should not be judged or condemned because no one knows what happens inside 4 walls.

3. It takes a village to raise a baby.

Children once had whole tribes or networks of people working towards their education and development. With modern societies leaning towards nuclear family models and individualism, mothers have lost the support of extended families and the community.

The village has been decimated, leaving mothers battling against media, consumerism and unhealthy lifestyle choices bombarding their children. Instead of a village, mothers now rely on nannies, daycares, housekeepers, after-school programs and digital babysitters (tv, laptop, ipad, etc).

And when they do rely on this modern network, husbands and mother-in-laws throw their arms in the air and scream NEGLECT!!!??

Like I said, I don’t have answers, just new ways to look at the issue that may help us lurch closer to the more successful practices in other countries.

Bloggers with some answers (or at least humor):