Tag Archives: Life

An Idea of Home

The more, and further, that I have gone from home the more I’ve realized exactly what home means for me; what being “Minnesotan” means for me, what being “Minnesotan” actually means, and how that has shaped me.

Until I left to finish my studies at Arizona State University I had always lived in the Upper Midwest. I was born in Minnesota, moved to Wisconsin at 10 (but went back to MN every summer), and then moved back to Minnesota at 15. While a rivalry does exist between the states, major differences in culture really do not. Maybe Wisconsin’s a little more Polish Catholic and Minnesota is a little more Norwegian Lutheran, but mostly they are the same mix of stoic Scandahoovians who’d give you the shirt off their backs but never they key to their emotions.

I truly do not think the culture that exists here is that far removed from the culture that exists in today’s Northern Europe, at least not from what I’ve seen both being there or on TV/in movies. We don’t ask questions, we accept the differences between people (at least outwardly- even if it makes us intensely uncomfortable), and we would rather set ourselves on fire than openly tell someone that we think they are a backwards heathen that will surely burn in hell- even if we actually believe it. Even among families negative emotions are not shared except between those who are closest to you. For me it is easier to cry when I am alone than it is to cry even in front of my husband (which is purely my quirk as my husband is the sweetest shoulder to cry on in the history of shoulders to cry on,) and I haven’t had a fight with any member of my family since the last time my cousin and I fought over dolls in elementary school. Dr. Phil could devote an entire year to all of the problems and messed-up dynamics that exist in my extended family but no one talks about any of them. Ever. Maybe it’s not entirely healthy but we love each other and we would rather forget that there was/is a problem than cause a rift or strife.

It is comfortable for me, but not so comfortable for Mr. MM who can never tell whether members of my family are happy, sad, excited, or angry and therefor, conversely, upset with him about anything. He’s not sure how to deal with that as, for him in his culture, there are a million nuances to read from Egyptians based on a million more body-language cues that direct how all social interactions go. Interacting then with my family is like trying to read a book filled with blank pages. Thank God my mother is more effusive, and from her I am as well, compared to the more stoic members of my family.

But, when I was younger I was drawn to the passionate interactions of Hispanic culture; I sought the intense interpersonal relationships and dynamics of immigrant friends. I embraced my Mexican friends, my Desi “adopted family”, and my loud Arab in-laws. Everything was brighter, louder, and more filled with color. I loved it.

But now, as I get older, it kind of exhausts me. I love the quiet, the silence, the lack of drama that I find with my Upper Midwestern friends and family. Of course I still adore my Egyptian family and the vibrant Muslim community, but I find myself craving peace and quiet. And I just CAN’T with drama. Nope.

And as I have embraced that quiet, Scandinavian part of myself I’ve thought back to my childhood and how much a part of me this culture is. And I have come to treasure it.

Especially now, in the fall. Something about the falling leaves, the crisp air, and the gradual approach of winter seems so very Minnesotan to me. I read an article online that said that Denmark has an actual word for the warm, fuzzy, cozy nostalgic feeling that you get and is attached to fall and winter: hygge.

When I was younger I wanted to leave behind the Scandinavian part of me because I was bored by it. Bored by the simplicity and the quiet, the sameness. And so I traveled, I cultured, I explored.

Now I’m older. And I like the quiet again. And I hope that no matter where I ultimately end up in the world, that I can still impart into my children the concept and love of hygge.

Completely Re-Learning How to Cook and Other Adventures

For years Mr. MM had dealt with crippling stomach issues that often left him curled up on the floor in pain. As you can imagine this was extremely distressing for me; I couldn’t bear to see him hurt but didn’t know how to fix it. Being the only one who knows how to cook chef of the family I had formed a somewhat tenuous link in my head between what foods I cooked and his resulting stomach pains so I consulted Dr. Google and what I found there matched what I was already thinking. I believed that he was gluten-intolerant as anything involving bread or pasta left him in pain almost immediately however I was thrown off because it seemed that rice did the same thing. But rice is gluten-free so I was hesitant and confused. It also didn’t help that Egyptian food is built on a three-fold foundation: rice, bread, and pasta, and as such Mr. MM had never gone without eating one of those three for more than a day, if that. I was at a loss and Mr. MM himself was no real help in that every time I brought up the idea that he stop eating them he balked, add into that the fact that I had no idea what I would feed him and that meant that he continued to suffer while I dithered. *sigh* 

Finally it got to the point that I could no longer handle watching him in pain and he could no longer handle being in pain and we made an appointment with a gastroenterologist. As usual there wasn’t a GI doctor appointment to be had sooner than two months out, but we plugged along while I began serious research into what I would do if he did, in fact, turn out to be gluten-intolerant. I read, I researched, and then I did what I had never really done before: I planned out weekly menus.

Armed with this, and a test-run with quinoa that turned out much better than I expected, I approached Mr. MM with the suggestion that while we wait for the GI appointment we put him on an elimination diet. It took a bit of persuasion, me pointing out that the GI doc is going to suggest it anyway, and a promise that it would only be for two weeks, and he finally agreed.

Two weeks, and many new dishes later, Mr. MM was feeling great, while I was a bit kitchen-burnt-out. But whatevs, stomach-pain GONE. The next day after the Great Elimination Diet of 2012, Mr. MM had himself a sandwich and was curled up in pain after a few hours. A few more days without gluten or rice and he was fine again, and then a dish with rice and the same pain began.

My poor husband is not only gluten-intolerant but he is also rice-intolerant. I honestly can’t imagine anything worse for an Egyptian trying to eat Egyptian food than this. Our appointment with the GI brought the same diagnosis, especially as there really isn’t any way to test for gluten-intolerance other than an elimination diet. We could test for Celiac’s, but I don’t believe he has that, and we could test for a gluten allergy except he doesn’t exhibit any allergic reactions like hives, itchy anything, or swelling.

So, poor Mr. MM. And poor me!; poor, poor me. Because almost every gluten-free substitute for sale in the market uses rice flour as its base. So buying gf bread is out of the question, gf cookies almost as hard, and definitely no gf brownies or gf cake mix.

What’s a girl to do?

This last week I finally took the bull by the horns and mixed up my own gluten-free all-purpose flour mix and began baking with it, but that’s a story for another post later.

For now I can say that we are eating really healthy and I am very happy about it. I don’t think I’d go back to cooking rice and eating bread now, even if we could. Post gastric-bypass I shouldn’t be eating rice, bread, or pasta anyways so not keeping it around the house isn’t hard. I’ve had to become a little adventurous in my cooking, yes, but it keeps things interesting. And thank God – seriously alhumdulillah – for quinoa because having that as an option has made all the difference. I can still make most Egyptian main dishes, simply using quinoa instead of rice, so not too much has changed.

I have to say though that molokhia over quinoa really isn’t the same. *sigh*

Still, we both feel healthier and happier, and I’ve been looking into ways to further clean up our food through reading my friend Rehaam’s blog Steak and Sass.

Now, she’s gone Paleo and that’s a bit lot further than I care to go, but some of the principles of cleaning up what we eat make sense, especially working in Cancer Care, as I do.

I’m going to start blogging some recipes in the future as I can’t imagine that Mr. MM and I are the only Muslims and Arabs dealing with how to cook ethnic gluten-free food.

Maybe I can help a sister/brother out.

And if you, or someone you know, is dealing with gluten-intolerance AND rice-intolerance let me know in the comments. I feel like there are many more people dealing with that than just us.

Giving blogging another go ’round

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Hello friends, I’m sorry I’ve been away but frankly my life has been a little boring, and the good bits (the interesting ones at least) were not things I felt prudent to put online. I guess that as I have gotten older I’ve become wiser about the information I put out for public consumption, especially now that I am (somewhat) more widely known than before. Not that I got famous by being published or anything; no big sunglasses and floppy hats to hide from the paparazzi. But I found my need to be heard and validated fulfilled by twitter where I can rant to my heart’s content and have it be seen by only those I want it to. My twitter is locked down and I am very specific about who I let in so it is the perfect mixture between private and public. I’ve missed you though, blogging friends, so I’m going to try again to get back in the saddle and write.

To catch you up on the specifics: Mr. MM and I are still in Minnesota. Mr. MM is currently a 2L law student and I am working with cancer patients. I didn’t get into the MFA program, which has actually turned out to be alright, but I may go back to school in the future for something else. Right now I’m just focusing on working, playing, and writing.

I hadn’t been writing as much as I used to and I think that my lack of desire to blog was tied up in the reasons for that. However, I’ve recently begun writing again, thanks to some workshops through Mizna (check them out, they are amazing) and the reawakening of my need to express myself- a need that 140 characters cannot begin to fill.

Last year, 2012, was an intense year that exhausts me when I think about it. Let’s just say that I was glad to welcome 2013 when it came, even if it does mean I’m going to be turning 30 in a month!

I can’t promise to blog daily, my work schedule may not always allow for that. But I do promise to start blogging more. How about that? Sound Good?

Ok.

The Last Hurrah

I’ve been so focused on other things recently that I really have neglected this blog. I feel uninspired and uninspiring so I didn’t know what there was to blog about.

I’m focusing on writing and reading and searching for jobs and as of tomorrow I will be gainfully employed- thank GOD! It is only a temp job doing the same thing I was doing when I started this blog two years ago- so that kind of sucks. However its work and its money and I can always continue looking for a professional job. InshAllah.

I have so much on my mind, so much that I’m holding my breath for, that there is not much room left.

I’m taking a continuing ed class in writing. Its actually too easy- meant for those who have never written before- but its something to do.

I’m still studying for the GREs but that’s fallen a bit off to the side.

The man is studying all of his stuff and I’m trying to be there to support him in that.

What am I doing? I don’t know. Its not that I’m depressed really cuz I’m not. Its more that I’m so anxious… no. Not that either.

What? What?

I don’t know.

THAT’s my problem. I just don’t know.

I think its that I don’t know if I’m going to get into the program.

And if I don’t get into the program I just don’t know what I’m going to do.

I don’t know if I’m going to find a professional job. And if I do I don’t know if I’m going to like it.

I don’t know if Mr. MM is going to get into the program he’s going to be applying for and if he doesn’t I don’t know what we’re going to do.

Its so huge. They’re so monstrous.

I DON’T KNOW.

Its a huge chasm that I can’t get around.

I can just pray through it.

Shopping Shmopping

I’m not a huge fan of shopping. I know, shocking right? I’m a girl therefore I must like shopping, but in truth I find it exhausting.

So today I’m going to spend all day at Citystars!!!! Wait.. wha? I’m doing it for the Englyptian who really wanted to spend a whole girl day there so I do think it will be fun because she’s a hoot to hang out with. But I will not be spending any money except that which I can eat with because 1- I get less pay now than when I was working full time and 2- we’re trying to save for returning to the states.

Shopping sprees are not conducive to saving money.

Also since my birthday is coming up next week the plan is for Mr. MM to meet us in the evening for a birthday dinner at On The Border. Mmmmmm Tex-Mex.

Its crazy hot here, its only a quarter after nine and if I were not sitting in front of a fan I would be uncomfortable. How much does that suck? I can only pray that everything works out and we can return to the US before the real heat hits in mid-June.

Yes, newbies to Egypt, it does get hotter than this.

107? tip of the iceberg baby.

A very hot iceberg.

A hotberg.

ya ummi!

spontaneous and probably not thought out randoms

1.) Thank God for being an American citizen. I am not banging on anyone else’s country either, I’m sure its great to be a British citizen or an Australian citizen or a French citizen or [insert your country here] citizen. I am just so thankful for being an American. I love checking the little “I am an American citizen” boxes on the applications. It gives me a thrill. Also it makes everything SUPER easy. Alhumdulillah.

2.) I love being able to use words like alhumdulillah and inshAllah with my mom. I love it even more that SHE sometimes uses them too. My mom ROCKS. She’s the best mom ever. Alhumdulillah.

3.) I love Alexandria. Me and the Mister spent yesterday on the coast and it was A-mazing. I want to move there for REAL. If I’m here this summer I just might. I spent the afternoon studying for my GRE in the Alexandria Library. So here’s how it breaks down:
-bought my Kaplan from a Fulbright Scholar
-studied in one of the most historical and oldest established libraries in the world.

The omens are good right? …right?! Alhumdulillah. I’ll probably.. maybe… well we’re hoping I will… blog about the Alex trip a little more cuz it was a really cool overnight getaway.

Uhm… yeah… not thought out. Did I have a number four?

….

ok.. I’ll post that one IF I remember it and IF I actually had a number four.

I need to do my taxes now.

!!!!

edit: I sound cracked out. I’m not. My apologies.

Also, I hate that gmail doesn’t have folders. If you can hear me google, please make folders! it would be so much easier for searching that way.

Tex-Mex and Movies

Mr. MM and I went to Citystars yesterday and ate Tex-Mex at On the Border and then watched two, yes TWO, movies. It was delightful.

We watched 7 Pounds first, with Will Smith. It was an awesome movie, of course, I mean c’mon Will Smith is in it, can it be anything else? I commented to Mr. MM afterwards that I really want to watch a movie where Will plays a complete ass-hat, a character that everyone hates because he’s so evil. I think Will is an amazing actor (and nice to look at) and he’s made some really awesome character and movie choices in the past. But I think its time for him to step out and take his acting in a different level. Of course it will be disturbing cuz everyone just wants to love him, but I think it will prove once and for all that he is a well-rounded and amazing actor.

The movie, 7 Pounds, was great. I recommend watching it if you can, but keep some tissues next to you.

The second movie that we watched was Benjamin Button. Man, I’ve been waiting for this movie for AGES, and it was worth it. It wasn’t as touching as 7 Pounds in terms of emotionality, but it was such an epic life-story movie that at the end you feel like you just lived an entire lifetime in it, and not a boring one. My one and only complaint is the juxtaposition of Hurricane Katrina. I think it added nothing whatsoever to the movie but detracted from the storyline. Yes the story takes place in New Orleans and yes Katrina was a tragedy, but what on earth did it add to the movie? Nothing. Also I’d like to hear what people have to say about Cate Blanchett’s accent, how accurate was it? Umm Abdo? DP?

Benjamin Button is going to be a classic one; of those movies I watch with my kids and grandkids. I certainly want to buy it.

In the taxi home from the mall last night I was again struck by how much I am obsessed with Cairo and yet despise it. I want to see, feel, and touch all of the textures and history here and yet the whole place gives me a sour taste in the back of my throat. I hate living here so much and yet I know how much I’m going to miss this accursed place. Its frustrating, I know I’ll find myself here again whether or not I want to.

But right now all I want is to be far, far away.