just my little corner of the internet in which to bare my soul about this bear of a journey

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


I haven't forgotten my little blog.  I just haven't been present.  Not online and not in reality.  When we are absent we neglect things.  Even blogs.  Especially blogs.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Birthday Jesus...I mean Merry Christmas! Musings on holiday celebrations

Yes, Yes, I know that Christmas was almost two months ago at this point.  But I figure that I write this blog mainly for myself and the handful of people who occasionally read it and therefore I can write whatever I want, whenever I want.

Growing up we always "celebrated" Christmas.  I put celebrated in quotes because I'm Muslim and I was raised Muslim; celebrating Christmas as a child was something my family did with my mother's side of the family who are, more or less, culturally Christian.  My mother was raised in the Episcopalian church, the daughter of a Catholic and a Protestant.  Were it not for my maternal aunt, uncles, cousins, and grandparents, I doubt that my own parents would have really done much for the holiday.  As a child I loved Christmas - what kid wouldn't love Santa Claus, the decorations and the tree, the Christmas feast, and ALL the presents?!  Christmas is like crack for kids. 

The pictures above are the Christmas morning scene at my sister-in-law's house after 4 children and 3 adults opened gifts.  I really do not understand the connection between such blatant, vapid consumerism and the birth of the supposed savior (Prophet Jesus, pbuh).  When it is my birthday, I do not get my friends gifts; rather, I am the one to receive gifts on my birthday.  So if December 25th is supposed to be a celebration of Jesus's birthday, shouldn't believers be giving gifts at an alter?  Perhaps a donation to one's church is really the only acceptable Christmas present.

Here is an excellent account of one religious Christian family's journey away from the celebration of this essentially Pagan holiday.  As this family discovered, when you step away from Christmas the other holidays really gain importance.  Growing up, this was the same discovery my own family had.  As my siblings and I grew older, we stopped caring so much about celebrating Christmas.  When we stopped the Christmas celebrations we found that we all had much more time, money, and energy to put in to the truly important holidays - specifically Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha.  This was of course made possible only by the enormous effort that my parents put forth to make Eid just as much "fun" as Christmas. 

Exchanging gifts on either Eid is not necessarily traditional for Muslims, but my mother knew that if Eid ul-Fitr wasn't more fun than Christmas than we kids would like Christmas more.  It's sad that holidays have to be in competition with one another, but really, how does one month of fasting culminating in a special morning trip to the mosque (dressed to the nines) compare with Santa, Christmas carols, the tree and decorations, and ALL THOSE GIFTS?!  So yes, my parents gave in and commercialized Eid ul-Fitr.   And you know what?  It was worth it.  We decorate the house, exchange gifts, and go out to eat after the Eid prayer; it is so much fun!  

I'm writing this post on Valentine's Day, another holiday we do not celebrate.  Mike and I refuse to succumb to societal pressure to buy each other trinkets on the same day as everyone else.  Who wants chocolates when you're trying to lose weight?  And how are flowers which eventually die supposed to symbolize our own undying love?  Another glaring reason to abstain from this holiday is that it is originally the celebration of the martyrdom of a Catholic saint (or at least I've heard anyway).  So to all those Muslims out there who celebrate Valentine's Day but refuse to celebrate or participate in Christmas, St. Patrick's Day, Easter, etc. I say: hypocrisy.  Ditto to the Christians who celebrate Christmas but abstain from Halloween.

Anyway, my birthday is next month and I wouldn't want another holiday to overshadow Sarah Day ;) 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


                                                        Heath Ledger as Ennis Del Mar

In an effort to make this whole blog thing a little more well-rounded, today's post is all about names.  Well, just one name in particular.   Ennis.

Onomastics is my hobby verging on obsession.  I have been making name lists since my teenage years.  I suppose the whole thing might have evolved naturally from my love of language, words, and writing.  Except I know plenty of writer types who don't give a hoot about names and plenty of name nerds who don't like words or writing.

For a long time now our favorite name has been Moses and it still is.  I see Moses as a middle ground between our divergent tastes: Joseph called Joe (his) and Hezekiah (mine).  I tend to get tunnel vision when I think about names.  If a name is hard to categorize it generally doesn't fall under my radar.  So it makes sense that it took me so long to think about Ennis.  And now that I have I'm kind of in love with him.

There are a LOT of reasons for us to love Ennis:

1.  He's uncommon.  I'm not one of those people who is against Top 10 names, but when you're working with a really common last name like Mike's then it becomes an issue.  Mike is one of roughly 2,400 men in the U.S. alone with his same first and last name!  Yes, I looked it up.  As someone who shares her first and last name combo with only one or two distant cousins in the entire world, I think I'd prefer that for any future children.  [Yes we have talked about hyphenating our surnames, but that's a topic for another post altogether]. 
According to the Social Security Administration, Ennis ranked in the Top 1000 off and on from 1881 (the first year records were kept) through 1943.  Yes ladies and gentlemen, Ennis has been out of the Top 1000 for almost 70 years.  And his highest ranking was only #586 in 1910.  He's never even been in the Top 500!  Less than 5 boys were named Ennis in 2010, though 6 received the spelling Enis.  Uncommon?  Double check.

2.  He's a literary babe.  Ennis Del Mar is the main protagonist in Annie Proulx's beautiful, haunting, short story Brokeback Mountain.  Yes he's a tragic figure but I really don't think it's the same as naming your child Jocasta or Ophelia.  A literary tie lends the name a sense of distinguish and pedigree.  Plus, as a friend of mine aptly put it, this is one of the few books where the film adaptation didn't "rape" the original material.

3.  He's a movie star.  The character transitioned from the page to the big screen in the form of cowboy cool Heath Ledger.  Mike is a screenwriter, so giving our child a name from a movie would be meaningful for us.  Furthermore, it would be a tribute to both the now-deceased amazing actor Heath Ledger and the great filmmaker Ang Lee.  It would also be a tribute to Bill Cosby's son Ennis who was tragically murdered in his prime.

4.  He's got sentiment.  Brokeback Mountain is a sentimental film for Mike and I.  One reason is that we shared our first New Years Eve kiss as a couple when we saw the movie together in January 2006, since we hadn't been able to spend Dec.31st together.  Partly because of this we chose the song "A Love that Will Never Grow Old" by Emmylou Harris as our wedding song.  Also, the film is about two men whose same-sex relationship isn't accepted by the world around them.  Both Mike and I consider ourselves champions of LGBT rights.  This name is in some small part a nod to that.

5.  He's a Muslim name AND an Arabic name.  Sort of.  More like Ennis is a valid variant transcription of the Arabic name Anas.  I won't go there, but suffice it to say I would never saddle a child in America with a name spelled A-n-a-s.  The parents of the 94 boys named Anas in 2010 clearly do not share my views. 
Anyway, Anas was one of the Companions of Prophet Mohammed, pbuh.  This makes Anas and all transcriptions of Anas, bonafide Muslim names.  The name in Arabic means something along the lines of friendship or friendliness.  The important thing is that Ennis is a name that will be recognizable and pronouncable to all of my Arabic speaking family.  The same cannot be said for a name like Peregrine *sniffle*. 

6.  He's an Irish name.  According to that bastion of truth, Wikipedia, Ennis is a place name in Ireland and is a mis/respelling of the word 'inis' meaning "island".  I'm not wild about place names or surnames as first names so I think I'll stick with the meaning "friendship".  I'm actually uncertain about just how much Irish heritage Mike or I have, but Irish names are all the rage.  Thus, Ennis might be uncommon but he's still kind of on trend.

7.  He's a family name.  Again, sort of.  This one is the biggest stretch.  Nameberry lists Ennis as an Irish variant of the name Angus.  Angus MacL---- was my great-great-great uncle on my mother's side.

As you can see, Ennis is quite the shapeshifter.  He's really two names, for us anyways.  I don't know how much it matters that he's not a big red flag screaming "I'm a Muslim!" like the name Mohammed.  The bottom line is I think Ennis is a wearable name on the Islamic school and secular school playgrounds and he ages well. 

Drawbacks?  I worry that he doesn't have enough pizzaz in those two syllables.  I tend to prefer longer, more romantic and masculine boys names.  Names like Raphael, Tiberius, Solomon, Peregrine, Alisdair.  You get the picture.  Moreover, Ennis is not an Old Testament name.  It's difficult to convey the connection I have with OT names, but I've been in love with so many of them for so long that I don't know if I could bring myself to not use one on a real child.  I can be a bit biased and snobbish in my thinking that if a name isn't in one of the Good Books, then it kind of lacks validity as a name. 

I subscribe to the idea that names of siblings should "match".  Example of a mismatched sibling set: sisters called Esther and Mackenzie.  The former is a clearly feminine OT name with centuries of use, while Mackenzie is a gender neutral nouveau surname in the Top 100 that has only ranked for the last 35 years.  The point is, how does Ennis sound if his brother is Solomon and his sister is Zipporah/Sephora?  Maybe I just need to learn more about the historical Anas and focus on that connection.

**DISCLAIMER**  Discussion of baby names should NOT be extrapolated to mean that children (biological or otherwise) are on anyone's horizon.  While we would be thrilled for God to bless us with any children that He might see fit in the future, that time is most likely not near.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The happiest time in my life

The other day I was asked to identify the happiest time in my life.  I thought for a few minutes and then it dawned on me and I blurted out "2008".  The whole year?  Well, ok, not December.  But for the most part the other 11 months of 2008 were probably the happiest times of my life.  Why? 

Well, there are many reasons.  First and foremost is that it was a low stress year.  2008 (excluding December and part of November of course) was the only year in the past 6 or 7 years that hasn't been dominated by something terribly Big and Important.  I didn't have to worry about a thesis, graduation, scholarships, moving, weddings, etc.  I was secure, content, and really happy.  There were also a few incredibly fun events that year, such as a long visit from my wonderful friend Mohammed, a family trip to Saudi Arabia, the sand dunes, Beaver Island, and a friend's wedding in Chicago.  I liked my classes but I didn't have to live and breathe school.  I was also a couple of pounds lighter, but whatever.

                                                                 Beaver Island, MI

This doesn't mean that I'm unhappy now.  On the contrary, this has been an exciting three years since 2008 ended.  Mike and I moved East, expanded our horizons, got addicted to Indian food, really lived on our own, and developed friendships with some amazing people.  Our journeys now, although separated by three continents, are also exciting.  But was I happier in 2008 than I am now?  Yes.  And it's up to me and only me to do all that I can to make 2012 as good as or better than 2008.  Wish me luck!

I think this is a really good exercise.  Too often we think about being happy in the future.  We think to ourselves, 'well, I'll be happy when it's summer break, when I get that raise, when my kid is potty-trained, etc.'  But we rarely think back on past years and identify our happiest times, whether to just count our blessings or try to get back what once was.  Thinking about the past might seem counterproductive to living in the moment but it needn't be.  It can prod us to get in touch with old friends, make time for that morning walk again, appreciate how far we've come.  I was also inspired by this article, which reminded me that so often happiness is a choice

And because I love quotes, I leave you with two that I've been thinking about as I've reflected on 2008 being the happiest time for me.  The first is from one of my favorite poems and the second is from a song I really like.  If you only click on one link, make it the first.  Szymborska is so profound it hurts.

"As far as you've come can't be undone" ~ Wislawa Szymborska, from "On Death, Without Exaggeration"

"What I never did is done" ~ The Band Perry, from "If I Die Young"

Silver Lake, MI


The end of the year is upon us.  For most Americans (and I guess Christians worldwide), this is a festive time of year with Thanksgiving, snow, Christmas trees, Santa Claus, decorations, gifts, parties, baking, etc.  But for those of us who live according to an academic calendar, December is hell.  Even if one isn't a procrastinator and has all their ducks in a row, this isn't a fun time.  Exams, papers, projects, presentations, grading; it's overwhelming.

This year, I've decided against being bitter about the end of the semester intruding on the holiday season.  I am instead looking forward, with a happy heart, to a time in the future when I can truly enjoy all that this time of year brings.  I'm not certain what that will look like or when it will be, but I'm excited nonetheless. 

I will save a discussion of my mixed feelings about celebrating Christmas (as a Muslim) and participating in America's civil religion for another blog post. 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Black Friday

I participated in Black Friday for the very first time this year.  I only went to one store but it was definitely an Event for me.  I had very mixed feelings about this, especially as I've been thinking/praying a lot lately about really trying to live a simpler way of life.  Competing with hundreds of others for the chance to spend a little less money on stuff doesn't really fit the bill of "simple living".  But my parents needed to take advantage of the half priced washer and dryer; their current units are on their last leg.  And I needed a new computer.  Because I earn my living as a student I would definitely categorize a new laptop as a need and not just a want.  The DVDs are another story.

I unfortunately don't have a picture to share of the absurdly long line at Best Buy because frankly a video is the only thing that would have done it justice.  I was too darn shy to walk or drive around the line to capture it on video. 

Oh, and lest you think me insane I did NOT get up at 3 or 4 in the morning to go shopping.  Best Buy opened at midnight and we were only in line for two hours.  Crazy, but not insane. 

Friday, December 2, 2011


Wow, it's been over a month since my last blog post.  Oops!

Last week I got to go back to my family house for Thanksgiving for the first time in 3 years.  It is unbelievable how time flies so fast.  Anyway, Fatima, Dhuzer, Raison, and I made the 11 hour drive on Wednesday and mom picked us up at Fatima's.  The next 4 days were a blur of food, family, and shopping.  With a little study time thrown in of course :)

Thanksgiving really makes me scratch my head about and feel bad for vegetarians.  I mean, I guess I feel bad for the turkeys too, but it's not like EVERY day is Turkey Day, ha!  I am an unabashed and unapologetic omnivore.  I don't have a wide repertoire but I do love my animals roasted, grilled, fried, baked...um, I think I must be hungry.  Oh well veggie people, more protein for me!

At our Thanksgiving table we had yours truly, mom, dad, Nuha, Tiara, Dhuzer, Hannah, Maryam, Roman, Roman's Babushka, Dhuzer, Ben, and Nana.  The three furbabies tried desperately to stay, but we kept them on the other side of the duplex while we ate (don't worry, they still got lots of turkey!)  Mike was sorely missed, as was Peepa.  It's still odd not to have Aunt Deb with us on Thanksgiving but it doesn't feel bitter anymore.  Peepa could have come down from the VA Home with Nana, but it wouldn't have meant anything to him and we can't really take care of him on our own for two days.  Nana is the only person who Peepa still really knows.  But we were lucky to have Nana spend the night at Aunt Deb's so we got to see her for awhile.  It was so lovely having Nana with us on Thanksgiving because at 86 we truly don't know how many more Thanksgivings she's got in her.  I am so thankful that at 27 years old I still have all four of my grandparents alive, alhumduliAllah. 

Nana and me