Monday, April 16, 2018


It’s after one am in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, while I have been lying here, trying to get some sleep for the past 3 hours or so. Sleep is elusive tonight. I just completed my second day, working at the HOPE Foundation’s clinic, at the Rohingya refugee camp. I am wide awake, although tired, with thoughts of the day spinning through my head. It was a busy day.... filled with the faces of many refugees, and a few locals, who are in need of medical care for a variety of problems, both acute, and chronic. I saw the faces of those who have been through more adversity in the last year or so, than anyone should go through in a lifetime. From the widow who witnessed the murder of her husband and is struggling to care for her four children alone in a country that is not her own, to the elderly man, whose asthma is so severe that he struggles to take a pause from his coughing..... made all the worse with the dust that is blown up with every step one takes, and the smoke that swirls, since lighting a fire is the only way one can prepare a meal.

Through the sadness and adversity, I also saw hope, an amazing resilience that these folks reflect, in spite of the displacement, the poverty, and disease. There were the faces of children, laughing, playing, just as children should; the rays of sunshine that make the days worthwhile, and bring hope for the future.

I will be sharing photos of these beautiful people soon, and sharing the stories that I can, because it is important for the world to know what they are experiencing. Honestly, my words could never do justice to their plight, and I’m sure my photos won’t be a full reflection of their experience, but I want them to know that they are not forgotten.

I want to have touched the heart of at least one suffering person today, that is all I hope and pray for. Please donate generously to their cause. I can see the amazing work being done here, and there is so much more to be acccomplished. As we go about our day, never ever pausing to wonder where the next meal might come from, please remember that there are many who do have to worry about what might seem mundane to us, just for their survival. The donation link is at the bottom of this post.

Friday, May 12, 2017

This lovely young lady... graduating with her Bachelor's degree at the end of the summer.

She is graduating a semester early, but for the purpose of graduate school, it puts her a whole year ahead. She has made the decision to stay in Auburn, since she has been accepted as a grad student in the Communications Disorders department. That works great for all of us, and she will be able to continue to live with her brother, just off campus.

We are so proud of her, and have faith that she is going to accomplish great things in her life!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The couple that builds together.....

.... stays together.

Zakir and I spent our twenty-third wedding anniversary converting one of our kitchen drawers into a knife holder. It was an idea that evolved after searching for knife storage options on Pinterest and Google. We were tired of our old beaten up wooden knife block, and various other storage options just did not appeal to us, particularly since it would mean trying to match our kitchen decor, with another item on our counters.

So, we were able to clear a drawer that was only being used for overflow silverware, laid a 1/8 inch thick sheet of cork as a liner, cut up several additional pieces of cork, and stacked them side by side as an insert. $7 in supplies, and just under 2 hours later, we were very satisfied with the end result.

And a positive side effect, it freed up some extra counter space for the next gadget Zakir decides to buy for our kitchen!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Spring Break- Beach vacation

Thursday morning we headed out to Destin, Florida, for the last four days of spring break week. Late March and early April may not be the best time to be at the beach if you like to go in the water, but we had done our research ahead of time, and had planned some activities even before we left.

The first stop we made we we made it down to the Gulf Coast, was Stinky's Fish Camp for lunch. The restaurant has been recommended to us in the past, but it was our first time eating there.

We stayed at a hotel that was just across the road from the beach, with its own private access, so we headed to check it out not long after we arrived.

Then Bilal and I let Baba rest for a while, and I took him down to the pool for a swim. It may be an outdoor pool, and it may have only been March, but he thought the water temperature was perfect!

We took a trip to the outlets in the evening, and got stuck in a thunderstorm while we were there, but those couple of hours were the only time the weather wasn't perfect for our vacation.

Another trip to the beach, after finding Bilal the perfect pair of goggles.

Harborwalk Village was another great place to visit, with various activities to keep our guy entertained. Ziplining!

Rock wall climbing!

And lots of quaint shops to browse around the marina.

Lunch was funnel cake. Only on vacation!

In the evening we visited the Village at Baytowne Wharf, which we realized, is actually a lot more enjoyable in the summer even though the crowds are a lot bigger. Still the walk towards the Marina was lovely.

The next day, we ventured out  to a small amusement park called The Track. Go-karts and putt-putt golf, what's not to enjoy?

Another trip to the beach, and another day doing some shopping.

Plus a delicious sashimi dinner; the platter looked almost to pretty to eat!

Bilal enjoyed having Mama and Baba's undivided attention, without his older siblings around. But he admitted that it would have been more fun with them! Sadly, vacations as a family of five are becoming quite infrequent, since Safa is at school all this summer, and spring/fall breaks all fall on different weeks. In fact, for the five of us to all be under the same roof is not too common anymore. Such is life, when our children grow up.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Spring Break- the staycation

Spring Break was staggered this year; Safa and Hamza were back in college before Bilal even had a day off. That puts a damper in things when you're trying to plan a family vacation. However, this year we decided to go out of town for a few days, even if it would just be with Bilal. We decided to split the week, and stay home for the first half. I worked Monday and took the rest of the week off to hang out with the little guy.

On Tuesday, we put the dog and the bike into the car, and headed to Railroad Park. The weather was perfect!

As you can see, Atlas loves his occasional car rides (as long as he's not headed to the vet's office!) At the park I enjoyed a stroll with the dog, while Bilal zoomed ahead on his bike.

 We paused to watch the freight trains go by.

After the park, we stopped off for special treats on the way home. Oreo cheesecake milkshake for B!

Wednesday was spent packing, and mostly around the house. We dropped Atlas off at the kennel in the afternoon, and spent the evening walking around the neighborhood. Part 2 of Spring Break soon to come!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Out with a bang!

2017 is Bilal's third year doing GaTE marketplace, the fundraiser for Trussville City Schools' Gifted and Talented Education program. And by now, he's a pro. In third grade his waffle business turned a $77 profit for the program, but was a lot of hard work (especially for the moms). The fourth grade guitar pick jewelry was a lot less work during the day of Marketplace, but the $68 profit (after donating the cost of supplies) was a little more modest. This year's product was a bit of a hybrid, some at-home prep and on-site cooking. But quite a successful one. We again capitalized on the human olfactory sense, and it didn't fail us. The business, called 'Wacky Wings', was another hit!  This is one of the ads posted as we entered the lunchroom, where the businesses were set up.

Bilal worked in a partnership with two other classmates, selling chicken wings. The wings were baked at home and transported to the school, along with an induction hotplate, serving supplies, and three different types of sauces: honey barbecue, honey mustard and teriyaki.

Here are the business owners, just before the customers started lining up:

Each sauce was heated in a separate pot, and the wings were tossed in the heated up sauce before being served to the customers. The moms were able to stand behind, while the boys got to work, with minimal supervision.

As soon as the honey barbecue sauce aroma started wafting through the lunchroom, the customers started lining up. Less than one hour later, (including a bidding war for the last two chicken wings, which resulted in them selling for $4 each instead of $1 each), the wings were sold out, with a $82.75 profit to show for it.

So Bilal's third, and final, marketplace came to an end in a good way. Next up, preparing for middle school!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Growing fast, but holding on

So sweet that my ten year old still asks me to come to school to eat lunch with him. I'm not sure how long it will last, but I plan to enjoy it while I can. I met this guy for Valentine's Day lunch today:

Bilal will be headed to middle school next year, and I'm pretty sure parents don't typically show up for lunch with their child in sixth grade or above. So I don't have many more opportunities left. I will certainly be back before the end of the school year!

Next week is curriculum night at the middle school, the first step towards the transition to a new school. It seems hard to believe that, effective June 2017, I will no longer have a child left in elementary school. Despite the adversities we have faced with his health (open heart surgery at two months of age, followed by two surgeries to treat his chronic sinusitis, and dealing with his asthma), it seems as if the years have flown by. Each milestone is bittersweet; losing my baby, but gaining a respectful, maturing young man as a son instead.

Love you sweet baby boy!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016


I don't think I have ever felt so singled out in my adult life as I did today. Ironically, it was because of a very well intended comment.

As a Muslim woman, I recently started covering (Hijab). Great timing, right? Right. It was the right time in my life, so that's all that mattered to me. I didn't think of the looming Islamophobia, which has been the undertone in the United States, but has come into the forefront after the most recent presidential election. The stories we hear in the media about citizens being harassed and attacked due to Muslim clothing have been unnerving, to say the least. But within the past few of months, hijab has become a part of me and who I am. Every time I leave the house, I throw a scarf over my head without even a second thought.

Today, I was shopping for some office essentials at Sam's Club (a store I typically avoid like the plague, as my husband will affirm!).  As I stopped to snag a free sample of dish washing detergent (a brand I regularly use; nifty, huh?) an elderly gentleman came up to wait his turn. I was grumbling that the freebie machine was making me watch a video before dispensing the sample. The elderly, and I have to say, very loud gentleman, greeted me with "Hi, how are you doing?" and continued with "Good to see you!" For a moment I was taken aback with what sounded like a tone of familiarity. Was this someone I actually knew? Surely not a neighbor, or acquaintance, or (gasp) a patient I see in my medical practice and just didn't recognize? Then his next comment dispelled that notion. With his booming voice he then said "Don't you stop wearing that thing!" (pointing to the scarf I was covering my hair with). "I just wanted to tell you I'm an American. And I think you should wear whatever you want." I responded with a rather hesitant but pleasant, "Thank you, I'm an American too." Then he continued, in his very loud, almost shouting voice, "Don't you ever forget I'm telling you that! You wear whatever you want!" By then I had started backing away, although was able to smile at him, and get out a very polite, "I appreciate your support," before moving on to another part of the store. I understand, in his own way, he was trying to make me feel welcome; heck, it might just be his crude way of showing respect. But for those few minutes I wanted a hole to open up in the concrete floor of the store, and for me to disappear into it. I nervously glanced around the store, hoping that no other customers had stopped to listen to what this very loud gentleman was saying.  Thankfully, there aren't many other folks shopping at Sam's Club on a Tuesday morning, but I did see a couple of people glancing my way. And I'm pretty sure that some shoppers were definitely listening, because as I was checking out at the register, another elderly, but much softer spoken gentleman paused to say, "I like your scarf." A rather out of place comment, I thought.

Yes, I am Muslim, and I am very proud of that. But it doesn't make me fundamentally different from another customer shopping at Sam's Club, on a dull, rainy Tuesday morning (unless that other customer actually enjoys shopping at Sam's!).  I walk the same aisles, browse the same items, and probably make some of the same purchases too! I have kids and pets at home, I have a job and pay my taxes. I celebrate most of the same holidays, and send my kid to the same schools. The list of the mundane that we have in common, can go on and on. But in addition to the cozy sweater I wear to keep myself warm, I just happen to cover my hair with a scarf. Granted, the religion I practice is different from many, but that's a private thing for me, as it is for most practicing Christians, Jews, Hindus, and people of other faiths.

I'm a social person; I am quite comfortable making small talk with people I bump into while standing in line at the grocery store, the post office, the bank, etc. I greet strangers with a smile and a nod. But today's rather one-sided chat made me a little uncomfortable. It was almost as if he intended to make me feel different. I know I should feel grateful that the gentleman was 'supportive,' and not an Islamophobic citizen spewing expletives at me, or calling me 'ISIS', or even worse. But then, why did I feel that he was doing me a favor, allowing me to wear what I wanted? Could it not just be taken for granted? Wearing a scarf on my head should be as acceptable as wearing a hat. Or pink socks. Or a trench coat. Or any other item of clothing that serves a purpose. Or heck, even if it doesn't serve a purpose, who are we to just each other based on our appearances?

So, the next time you bump into me while shopping at the grocery store, let's chat about the weather. It has been raining almost non-stop in Central Alabama for the past four days. A much needed reprieve from the 2-3 months of extreme drought and wildfires, and 300 percent water usage surcharges. It's been so dry for so long, that no-one can seem to find their umbrellas. That's worth some friendly discourse for sure!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Our kids and our money...

... both go to Auburn University.

Who cares if Auburn lost the Iron Bowl?

War eagle!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Playing catch up

I'm so far behind on blogging, so I thought I'd just share a few photos of the past month or two, in (somewhat) chronological order. How far behind? The boys haven't been in the pool for several weeks, but here you go, this is the last dip before the start of fall:

Although, honestly, the pool is probably still not too cold, considering we hit a record high of 86 degrees yesterday!

Hat day at school in support of the United Way. Bilal is sporting his squid hat:

A weekend trek down to the Cahaba River:

Can you tell how low the water is in the river? The kids are actually walking on the river bed. Currently we are dealing with a severe drought in Alabama. In fact, I don't think it has rained in our area, in about 2 months, at least, not enough to be detectable. There is a ban on outdoor burns and there have been several wildfires in the area. We have also given up on watering our lawn.

Just about a week ago, this is unseasonably warm, even for Alabama!

Morning game of Lego Star Wars and a delicious cup of tea:

A lunch time treat with the nephews, on the way back home from Sunday School last week:

On Monday we attended the Open House at Paine Elementary School; the new construction is finally complete. This is Bilal standing in front of the new centralized office, linking the North and South Campuses of the school:

And with our awesome fifth grade tour guides, inside the new library:

Annual costume party at the dojo. If you can identify my kid in the group, you'll see that he wore the most creative costume (NOT!), his karate gi. He decided to go to the karate costume party as a black belt:

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