Sunday, December 26, 2010

Food For The Heart, From The Heart!

Sometimes, the best fun you could have is unplanned. The plan yesterday was to go with the Kanoun's to a dine-in theater, but the kids could not agree on the movie. And Christmas day is usually so boring here with everything, I mean everything, is closed, except for the movies and gas stations. So out of the blue came the idea of let's get  together in our place and do Emgatta' (homemade Libyan noodles).

It was interesting how it turned out and what coordinated teamwork it took to pull it together.

- Dough recipe consultation with Fairouz live on Skype from Cairo
- Making the dough by Sol
- Cutting the noodles by Tala
- Dry Gideed sent to us by mail from Sara and Adel in Cleveland
- Gideed oil leftover from some gideed I made a while back
- Fenugreek that my mother-in-law brought with her from Libya in 2000
- Cooking the whole thing together by Suhir
- The yeast for the bread came from the middle eastern store that was open but only had bulk yeast. The owner gave Sol enough to use for free

Since stores were closed we had to find a solution for the bread. It was not my problem, so I went for a nap and left Sol to start making the dough. I woke up just about when the Kanouns were expected to arrive. I found Tala helping Sol with the noodles; bread dough is done and set aside to rise... I felt really good. Everything got taken care of without me lol

The Kanouns arrived and Suhir was assigned the task of cooking the emgatta'. I relaxed on the sofa in the family room watching the busy bees in the kitchen and chatting away. It was fun not to have to do anything! After dinner, we had herbal tea with delicious magrood and ghrayba made by Sara, our niece, in Cleveland.

The emgatta' was out of this world... all gone!

All in all, it was indeed a Merry Christmas :)

The blessing of having family and friends... Priceless, for everything else, there's the plastic!

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Comings and Goings of Years!

Monday was the annual Christmas caroling party at the Rigney's. It has become a family tradition of ours for 12 years now. We started Sol and I alone, then Moody joined followed by Tala 2 years later. This year, again, it coincided with the boy scouts super game. So Tala and I went to the Rigney's, while Moody and Sol went to the super games. I did not feel up to going, but did it for Tala who really wanted to dress up in her fancy dress and go. Later on, Ahmed and Sol surprised us by showing up at the party. Ahmed wanted to come so he split hi time between the 2 events. He even participated in the acting of Twelve Days to Christmas song.

I was not feeling well, so I decided to go home and they continue the party. Sol wanted to us all to leave, but I insisted. I arrived home and few minutes later they walk in behind me. Ahmed would not stay while "Mom is not here and might need our help!" Tender, caring Ahmed.

At the super games, he had to make a poster showing examples of a good citizen example is. He made one with four examples of being a good citizen: Toy Drive, Recycling, Being Fair, and Registering to Vote. They were all his ideas and activities he actually participated in, except for registering to vote, but he did go to me when I voted and I explained to him the registration and voting process and let hi push the voting buttons for me.

On Wednesday, Adel, Sol's Nephew, who is a grad student in Cleveland came to visit with his wife and four kids, Owayss, Mariam, Omar, and Aisha (cute Aisha). We wanted them to spend the night, but they were hesitant. It was the first time they visit and we meet, so we let them be. The kids had a lot of fun, playing and exchanging gifts. We had makaroona mbawkha that I made and magrood and ghrayba that they brought us. Mariam was crying and did not want to leave, and Tala wanted her to have a sleepover. Next time, we promised!

Afterward, I lied on the sofa to get some rest. Ahmed and Tala came and sat with me playing their DSi's to "keep me company" and "get me what I need". So sweet!

Yesterday, I got up at 6 am, had breakfast, then took a nice nap. Later the kids and I went out, put gas and air in the car--freezing my hands with thermal gloves, my feet, my nose and ears-- and went into the car wash. Off to the movies, we indulged in lunch and watched Tron in 3D... It was OK, but not great. The kids picked it and I didnot mind, just wanted to do it for them. I did not have a good day. I was so emotional, crying most of the time for no reason, looking around me and wondering how much longer is this going to last... I will miss my life when I go even though I'm not sure how could I "miss it" when I'm no longer there?! It is hard for others to understand what I'm going through, and it is hard for me to make them understand... It seems Tala and Ahmed are the closest to that--I take it as a blessing.

The gifts for friends and teachers are done finally and gone their way. The family New Year's gifts are boxed but still need to be wrapped and put under the tree. Maybe today. I think we are supposed to visit friends tonight, but my chemo brain is confusing me! I'll have to call Fatma.

The last 2 weeks I have reconnected with very old friends of more than 25 years ago through Face Book. It's been very nice to catch up with them and pick up from where we left. I hope we keep the connection as they were part of my life as a child, tween, teen and beyond.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Years of Milk and Degla

Friday, December 10th, was the twelfth anniversary of our wedding party، which actually took place on a Thursday back in 1998. Hana's family drove from Benghazi and Derna, mine from Tripoli and Misrata. I left Columbus on the 8th, and we all met in Djerba, a Tunisian island near the border with Libya. Many details had to be arranged, and most were done in advance, thanks to the internet, the phone and credit cards! It turned out to be a nice party. It was unconventional in some ways, which means the guests focused most of their attention on us, not on each other. So there were no fights! In fact, everyone seemed to be having a good time. A lot of the people had not met one another before, that might have provided a little cover of anonymity... and a little inhibition went out the door. lol lol OK, this was a party that had my father-in-law on stage with the dance band, in the presence of my mother. That could never happen in the conventional setting. It is fun to reflect on our anniversary and look all the way back from the perspective of the present.

What about milk and Degla? Milk is clear enough. Degla is a date grown in North Africa and usually harvested in late fall. It has a delicate taste and texture and it appears translucent. Let me tell you a little background story that happened to me, also in Tunisia but on a different occasion. I was returning to my hotel one pre-noon, and I ran into a bus load of African tourists crowding the lobby. They appeared to be francophone tourists from sub-Saharan Africa, or as some Tunisians say, from "Afriqia el-Kahla"--black Africa. The receptionist, call him Hamza, was very busy trying to serve many people at once. As I wiggled my way through to the elevator, I greeted him with my usual (in Arabic) "Your day is milk, Hamza!" He glanced my way and swiftly replied, "No, today, it's Degla!"

How do you take Hamza's statement? Some might think it is a sort of racist statement. The metaphor could be variously interpreted, depending on the eye of the observer. But think of how it might be interpreted if I said (in English) "Your day is ivory," and he replied, "No, today it's ebony" There is no implied superiority or hierarchy of value, and that's how I now think of Hamza's statement now.

Life is not either black or white. It deals out light days and dark days, but even the dark ones can carry moments to be savored, moments when some light comes through. Those are the days of Degla. The others are the days of milk. The two complement one another very well! That's how I like to look at my years with Hannu, especially now as she fights cancer. Some days are bright like milk, some are dark, but like Degla they let some light through. Life is easier to swallow, if it can be viewed not as black and white, but as gratitude and hope, milk and degla.

Hana and I stayed at the Hasdrubal Hotel in Djerba. They put a nice basket of seasonal fruits for us to enjoy. What sticks in my memory the most is what we had for our very first breakfast: milk and degla.

The following is a little poem that I transcribed from an old tape I've had for many years. I don't know the name of the poet, I just know his voice! It hits on very traditional themes, and I hope it brings a smile to you, Hannu. May your darkest days be as sweet as degla.

نشبح طفلة بشناشنها، دبالج ومحابيب
جت تدرج بشناشنها، دبالج ومحابيب
نفسي مرضت بمحاينها، تلقوليش طبيب؟

عينك عين اجدي الفالي يقطّف في النوار
يتريّع في البر الخالي وما يطيقش لحفار
وغثيثك مهدود أحمالي فوق الصدر أسطار
هيف قدامك وإلتالي كيد اللي ظفار
والشفة كيف الفيلالي تحمار وتصفار
ونياب مراصيف مجالي كاينهم جمار
حبك في المكنون لجالي وقص الكبد اشطار
مرضني وبهدل باحوالي وزاد عليا جار
وحبك مايطيقوه رجالي غير أني صبار
نشبح في الزين العلّالي اللي عمره ما صار
ماتلبسش اللي عوالي ولا ناقص لسعار
تلبس في اللي سومه غالي، شكشاك وماجار
حوليها ماهوش جبالي، فضة من البازار
وبلغتها من طبع العالي، فجرة بالمسمار
لوكان تاخد واحد زوالي يستغنى في نهار
تقول لوزة في عقاب ليالي حفلت بالنوار
وتداعى تقول بنت الوالي في سوق العطار
حاجة طابت في لظلالي لا صهدتها نار
ولا صهدوها رياح قبالي وما ظهرت من دار
وياما صور فيك العالي، شفة تقول زبيب
طعمة ولذة للوكالي: دقلة إعداها حليب

Monday, November 29, 2010

Prophets and Gender... Question of the Week!

Yesterday we went to the Columbus Museum of Art (CMA). The kids were handed fragments of paintings had fun trying to identify the paintings the fragments belong to. We did some puzzles of paintings, read some, played some, and then off to Barnes and Nobles to check out some books.

Sol cooked bazeen for dinner. It was delicious. I have never tasted any bazeen like Sol's. The conversation around the dinner table was how Islam came about and how prophet Mohamed received the word of Allah and became so. We came to the part when Mohamed was greeted in Madina with the song "Tala'a al-badru", so I looked it up on you tube and played it. The kids liked it and listened to it many times.

Tala asked, "Are there any women prophets?" Ahmed was quick to answer, "Even if there were not, it does not mean that women do not do courageous things to our world!"

Late at night, Ahmed came to us and said that he could not fall asleep and wanted me to sing him that song again, Tala'a al-badru. I did and he went back to sleep.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Wonderful Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving was here on Thursday, and we're still enjoying the long Holiday. This year, we shared it with the Kanouns at our place. It was peaceful and nice. Everyone contributed something. The best contributions were from 3-year-old Yaseen, and Ahmed.

We went around the table for everyone to say what they're thankful for. Yaseen said, "I'm thankful for marshmallows!" Ahmed's contribution was a pie of his own creation. He formulated the recipe and made it from scratch (except for the pie crust which I made for him).

The food was delicious; the ducks out of this world... I'm still craving more, but there was hardly any leftovers--glad to say! Here's a snapshot of the menu--recipes coming soon to Chez Hannu:

Fruit and Nut Salad
Cranberry Relish
Pumpkin Relish
Pomegranate Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Madras Cauliflower
Rice with Nuts
Roasted Ducks; Corn; Potatoes Casserole
Pecan Tart
Moody's Pie

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Stuffing Season!

This year has gone by so fast! The Holidays are here already and that means the year is over. Eid al-Adha (meat Eid), in which most muslims stuff themselves with meat, just passed. And now we are getting ready for Thanksgiving in which most Americans stuff themselves with turkey. We are lucky that we observe both, though not the stuffing part!

We didn't do anything special this Eid. It was during the week with school and work as usual. Eid day, Moody dressed up in his dress shirt, ties dress pants, farmella (Libyan traditional jacket) and shanna (Libyan hat). I thought it was cute, but then he changed into a regular jacket to go to school with. Once he entered school, he took the hat off since they are not allowed in schools. The principal saw him and told him that he could keep it on for the occasion. He appreciated that.

The week before Eid was the end of the first school period and report cards were out and time for the teacher-parent conferences. We were pleasantly surprised, especially with Tala's, the quiet one. Her teacher started by saying, "Let me put it this way: Tala is always right!" Wow! Moody's teachers had a lot to say about him and how they love having him in the class. His home-room teacher said she enjoys the most having conversations with Moody in the hallway outside the classroom. Way to go kiddos! I am one very proud parent.

Planning and preparations started for Thanksgiving. At the same time, we're contemplating going for a second opinion on my case. It was recommended that we either go to New York or Houston. I'm hesitant... I'm just tired and want to be done. The nausea, fatigue and other side effects are interfering with my life and causing me to lose more weight (as if I have much left)... I just want to be done. This time I'm getting a 3-week break from chemo because of the holidays. Next visit, the doctor will look at the CT-Scan and recommend a way forward. I hope it is no more chemo for a while, though I doubt it.

Think positive, change the tone... Moody wrote this song and he's waiting for his cousins, Loui and Shatha, to bring sounds to it.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Beggars Night... Beggars Week!

I stayed home another week after Ayman's left, but then could not take it anymore and returned to work. People are puzzled why I go to work when I could rightfully take paid medical leave and stay home. They don't understand it or me. I need to be around people, I need to feel I'm useful accomplishing something and contributing something... That's all part of dealing with cancer, not let it alter your life tremendously though it's very inevitable!

Yesterday, I had chemo, so the day was shut. We made it home around 6 pm just as Trick-or-Treat was starting. And the kids were ready, anxious, frustrated, and driving dear Nicole crazy. Moody was a werewolf and Tala a vampire. Moody went one direction to catch up with his friends and Sol had to go with him. Tala wanted to go the other direction so I had to go with her. I set the candy by the front door for beggars to help themselves and took off. It was cold...! And with gloves and all, my fingers were still cold and tingly. Cold sensitivity in the peripheries is one of the side effect to the chemo drug I'm taking. I'm wearing gloves at home with the heater on... Not complaining, just saying.

This is the second Halloween since my parents were here and observed it with us. Halloween time is so dear to my heart now because it reminds me of the time Mama and Baba were here.

Two weekends ago, the kids had a garage sale organized by Nicole. They made more than $70. Ahmed pledged all his proceeds to the James Cancer Hospital. He's also participating in a school project called Project 100, in which students are encouraged to get sponsored by local businesses to collect at least $100. For example, if a restaurant sells a certain dish, the student is proposing they donate 0.25c to Project 100. All proceeds will go to the James Cancer Hospital. How nice and enriching for the kids' development! That's building a civil society 101!

Parents' observation at Generations was last week, I think. Walking out of the studio, we ran into one of Moody's teachers from school. Moody immediately told him "No one in school should know about this!" lol Although he's in all-boys classes, Boys Hip-Hop and Boys Tap, it is still a taboo to dance... Boys!

Things are getting to be a routine in a way, but other things are popping up to cause some chaos and throw us off the routine. I've been cooking diligently for the last 2 weekends and we've been eating a decent variety of meals all week. Check Chez Hannu for my recipes.

The kids are doing well in school. Moody is liking to use "Ahmed" on all his assignments and where he needs to write his name, and likes to be called that, which is nice. Actually, I call him Hamood, Mood, Ahmed more than Moody.

Tonight, Tala is performing with Generation in Midnight Madness in Uptown Westerville. Tomorrow, Ahmed has tryouts for the basketball Bantam League; Tala has the girls' group with Jan; Later, she has Big Sister, Li'l Sister at Generation; Moody has to sell more popcorn for the boy scouts; I have to return a pair of boots and make a hair appointment. And this weekend, I have to pay the bills... hate'm!

Now I have to go sort through piles of paper from school, dance, and the community! Where the heck did all the candy go? I just need a piece, but there's none to be found from what the little beggars brought!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ayman's Clan Gonzo!

Ayman and family left almost a month ago now. It took us all a while to adjust to not having them here, especially li'l calbooz 3amo 3asem! Just love him. Of course sweet Safoo too, who did her best to learn English and communicate--she did a good job of that. It is sad that they left and we don't know when we'll meet again. But hey, this was the first time the families met... so it's a huge accomplishment.

I met Ayman's first in September of 2009 during a business trip to Europe. The kids now run to the phone when they see Ayman's number in the caller ID. Before they met them, they wouldn't and sometimes they would refuse to talk to them. I didn't blame them; they didn't know them or relate to them in any way. But now, they talk about them fondly; they keep bringing up things that was said or done with them, they talk joyously about them--That alone makes me ecstatic!

We miss you guys, come back soon... Puhulease!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Snippets - 1


At long last, Ayman et. al. are here. It's been a long awaited visit. Here I was waiting for them anxiously at the airport. Everyone is warming up gradually. Rahimo is the one who held a strong front the longest. He would only deal with Moody, no one else. But today, the smiles and naughtiness is being spread to everyone.

Yesterday, they all accompanied me to get my treatment. I spent the whole day dozing being drugged. But for some reason I feel good today. It's true, emotional state plays a lot if fighting cancer. I noticed the day they were supposed to arrive good things have  been coming our way, including money :) I'm holding my breath for a miracle :)

Pictures I love:

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Eid, Come Back!

Eid was wonderful. The kids stayed home and didn't go to school. They went to the mosque instead with Sol; their first time. I went and had coffee with Nadia and Eman. Sol had a couple of black hens roaming around him in the morning, but we managed to shush them away before noon.

The rest of the day was spent with the Kanouns. So the kids agreed to do the Toys'R'Us trip on Saturday. Happy with the iMac, I made a slideshow of the Eid, actually 2. I'll stop here as they tell the whole story.

Blame it on Nicole!

Nicole, or Jennifer officially, has been with us for years. We've probably known her for more than 5 years now. She's become part of our family, witnessed our ups and downs, cried with us, laughed with us, cared with us... You name it. She knows our friends and even family from Libya she has not met yet.

Lately, she's become the scapegoat for anything and everything that goes wrong or goes missing in the house. If Sol asks about his keys, the answer would be "Nicole must have hidden them." If I question a misplaced or disorganized thing, the answer would be "Nicole made me do it." So now I don't bother asking the kids, even on weekends, I would text or call Nicole to ask her directly. I do but jokingly, and she takes it well.

Now let's dissect Nicole a little further.

Her strongest point is finding valuable coupons and good deals. She would take the kids out for a hearty, delicious lunch for free or for $2.99 all tops! What tops that is her ability to plan activities and keep the kids busy. She is awesome when it comes to that. Very creative and talented. and does it at little cost. The outings and activities she usually plans are very educational as well as fun, to name a few, museums, baseball games, putt-putt, beach, COSI, ZOO, parks, etc.

Her weakest point is talking. She is so quiet lol Actually, "motor mouth" is a good way to describe her. Ask her a question or just say hi and you could be in a conversation that might take 20 minutes or so. Everyone that meets her, that's the first thing they notice about her. But hey, that's what makes her Nicole, right? Funny, Tala lately has been questioning my quietness as if she just noticed it. She's another motor mouth in our house. She's been asking me, "Why are you always quiet? Why don't you talk much? Are you OK? Do you have a headache?" I told her, I've always been a person with few words since my youth, but I don't think she comprehends that some people could be quiet by nature.

The kids enjoy a very unique relation with Nicole. It's a I-love-you-but-don't-love-everything-you-make-me-do kind of relation. One day they'll be pushing her to leave as soon as we come home, the other thay'll be asking if she can come on the weekend. It's like can't be with you, can't be without you kind of thing.

From our perspective whatever little organization and peace of mind we have at home we owe a big deal of it to lovely, caring Nicole! So here goes a tribute to Nicole Jennifer Briggs. (snicker)

Monday, September 13, 2010

رسائل لبابا، 5

خيرات يا بابا،

مرت فترة على آخر رسالة، ومهما كان البركة في التلفون ولكن الرسائل لها طعم آخر. في السنوات الأخيرة أصبح تمكني من الإنجليزية أحسن من العربية وأجد الكتابة بها أسلس و أسهل. ولكن أكتب هذه الرسالة بالعربي حتى تقرأها ماما أيضاً فهي لكما الإثنين.

بدأت أمس بتصفح بعض الصور من زيارتكم لنا في 2008 أنتهيت بمشروع ترتيبها في ألبوم. بدأت هذا بالبكاء لإشتياقي إليكم ولأن زيارتكم كانت مقرونة بمرضي وتلك الفترة العصيبة. ولكن بعد فترة وجيزة بدأت بالإبتسام مع كل ذكرى أو موقف تمثله هذه الصور. كان تمرين جد شيق ومشحون عاطفياً--بطريقة جميلة. أخذ من وقتي على الأقل 7 ساعات... تلهية كنت بحاجة ماسة إليها.

ثم تذكرت أنكم لم تأخذوا معكم أي صور، وخطر لي حينها أن زيارتكم مربوطة في ذهنكم أيضاً بتلك الفترة العصيبة، صورة تطغى على ما كان جميل فيها. لذا قررت أن أرتب كل الصور في ألبوم وأبعثها لكم، حتى تعوا ما أثر زيارتكم لنا في حياتنا وكم كانت مهمة وثرية بذكريات لا تعوض ولا يجب أن تنسى أو تحجب. صورجميلة للحظات أجمل. كفاية جمعتنا على مائدة العشاء التي كانت بالكاد تسعنا وتسع مالذ وطاب من إيدين ماما، الله ما يحرمنا منها ولا من إيديها ولا من نفسها الطيب في الطبخ. وكذلك سهرتنا على الشاهي ولعب الورق وغيرها مع الأحفاد.

ختاماً، ترقبوا الألبوم وتأكدوا أنه سيجلب لكم الفرحة والبهجة والسرور... وراحة البال والهناء. وكما أتمنى أن يكون حافز لتعيدوا الكرة.

والسلام للجميع،
13سبتمبر، 2010

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Sweet Loli, Sweet Life!

Last week Tala started talking about having a slumber party for her birthday on Friday the 3rd. Finally I made the invitations using her picture with the hibiscus flowers for the card. That was Tuesday. On Wednesday, I called Sheri from Delicacies by Sheri and shared the card with her for ideas on cupcakes instead of a cake. She suggested to make hibiscus flower cup cakes and some iced cookies. On Friday, I went to the party store to get some goodies and decorations. Guess what! I found a whole theme of hibiscus flower. Lucky Loli; that was not even planned.

She invited 5 girls; 4 showed up. They had fun. We watched Camp Rock 2. All 5 of us girls cramped on the sofa! And when the song "It's On" started, all girls and Moody stood in front of the TV singing along and dancing along. It was amazing; they knew all the lyrics and the dance moves... Kids of the 3rd millennium!

After the movie, they decided to have a round of nail polishing. And I joined them :) I have one hand silver, the other glittery pink, one foot red, the other glittery burgundy. When they had their fill of that, we went back to the basement and watched Princess Diaries. I went to bed at around midnight and woke up later after 2 am to find them still chattering and playing in the basement. The girls liked having Moody around. Well, they know him from school. They kept saying that he made the party more fun!

On Thursday, I went for my 3rd round of chemo. It did affect me terribly this time. My fingers get numb, even my throat does when I have a cold drink. I was drowsy, disoriented and hated it. The doc switched me from Zoloft to another anti depressant that has dual action. It treats depression and helps with the early onset of menopause caused by chemo.

Friday morning I took the kids to the bus stop. That made them and me happy. It's a new year. I'm impressed with Tala and her organization of her school belongings. And Moody is on top with his homework and doing well. I hope they keep it up the whole year.


When is it going to be Wednesday?!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Oh, The Fun!

Butterfly @ the Dregias
I started today by paying the bills... a painful chore no matter what! After that, the plan was to tidy up Tala's room, the kids' bathroom, and the guest room. I told Sol that it would not take long; it's basically just organizing the closets. Could I have been any wronger--if there's such an expression?! By the time we finished, I was so depressed and still am. Oh, the junk, the trash, the mess... My goodness--I still can't get over it! I don't think I was that messy or that destructive when I was the kids' age. But, of course, that's for my parents to attest to. Part of the mess is because I have not laid a hand in those areas since I got sick--two freaking years!

Straightening the linen closet, I could not figure out what was clean and what was not. So, I'm in my umpteen laundry load now! Oh, what fun!

To add fuel to the fire, I finally got to make a round on my garden yesterday. What a disappointment. We had long hot dry period that coincided with my treatment, which prevented me from tending to the garden. The cucumbers are all on the ground, about 10 or so, rotten; the basil is all dead; the mint is all dry;  most of the flowers are not doing well at all; my beautiful double-stud rose bush is dry and not blooming anymore! And to add more fuel... Sol decided to spray the weed and it happened to be just the weed near my plants and flowers... Ugh!

I worked on the garden yesterday and today. I cut down a lot of the dry, dead stuff and fed the plants. Not sure if things will revive, but it's a try.

The only thing that makes me feel a little better is the photo above that I took on Friday. While driving into the garage from work, I spotted this beautiful butterfly fluttering by the flower pot by the front door. I managed this snapshot. Just beautiful!