Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I'm Going to Kick My New Neighbor and the Good News

For the last six months we've enjoyed being one of only three occupied apartments on this 6-apartment floor. The best part is that we had no one living on our side of the hall but us. Until about 4 days ago. And of course the new tenants want to renovate before they actually move in. But in typical Egyptian fashion, they are FRIGGING NIGHT OWLS and I have kids in school who have to get up at 0530 hours every morning and there's not a lot of sleep going on at night around here thanks to these ass-clowns banging on the walls to all hours of the night.  So I may welcome them to our floor by stomping them with my husband's new steel toe boots. WELCOME (stomp) TO (stomp) THE (stomp) NEIGHBORHOOD!

I'll move on to some Good News now.

It's getting colder here in Alexandria. And humid.  And I'm wondering if I'm part labrador or something....my nose is kind of damp and cold lately. Weird.

Anyway, I've been attempting to write a novel...no, SEVERAL novels for the last ten years and I always start out with a bang but then my computer crashes and I've not backed anything up or I lose the notebook I was scrawling in or I develop writer's block or I'm just interrupted by that annoying thing I sometimes call "my life."

So I've completed pretty much about 14 chapters of several stories that add up to bird cage lining.

Until this week.

I've FINALLY got a fantastic idea and it's a subject matter that I know quite well.  My teachers always told me to write what I know. So I finally am doing just that.  I may slow up a bit on blogging for a while, but I'm still writing. Just in a different place. I will try to get something on here every 5 days or so just because I really like others patting me on the back more than doing it myself. Less cramping that way.

May all my Christian friends have a wonderful Christmas.  May my Jewish friends have a Happy Chanukah.  May my African friends have a Blessed Kwanzaa. May the peace, love and force be with you.

Friday, December 16, 2011


My daughter is 12 years old. She's always been relatively helpful, albeit with a little prodding. But eventually she does help out with cooking or dishes or whatever I ask her to do. She's pretty smart, too. Samiya wins at dominoes, chess and any video game EVER. She's a righteous goalie and has a pretty devastating right cross. Lately, she has been involved in about 2/3 of the altercations happening in the house. If she's not fighting with Aiman, then she's fighting with Ismail or crying because Mohamed kicks ass now and takes names later. Most of the fighting (I'd say about 74% of it) she's involved in, is the fault of her big mouth. She IS her mother's daughter. I've been working on the whole "name-calling" thing forever, it seems. We've determined that her Indian love names for her brothers are "Jerk," "Stupid," and "Idiot." We're confused as to whether or not they actually like these names because while they protest them, they still answer to them.

Anyway, after the 4 zillionth fight to be broken up yesterday, I was cooking and  pissed off and slamming things around the kitchen. Samiya was made to wash dishes to keep her away from her brothers who were united in wanting to kill her. So, intelligently she let me cool off for a few minutes before she attempted any conversation. Finally I cracked wise with her about something, and she looked at me and asked, "When we all grow up and get married and move out, God willing, aren't you going to be bored?"

"WHAT?!" I asked in my Barbara Walters meets McCain voice.

"Bored. You know, when you don't have all these teenage fights and arguments to keep you busy. Aren't you and Baba going to be bored when we move out?" I looked at her to see if this was an attempt at humor but her face looked completely serious.

I started to laugh. I laughed one of those hearty, loud laughs that eventually turns to silent laughing facial gestures with a struggle to get oxygen to your lungs as tears stream out of your eyes and urethra simultaneously. She got pissed and slammed the sponge down onto the counter top and stormed out of the kitchen. I regained my composure and called her into the kitchen while I fanned the flush out of my cheeks with a tea towel. "Honey, I apologize if you felt like I was laughing at you when you were asking me a serious question. You just have no idea the hilarity of your question. Your father and I have been patiently surviving your teen age fighting, desperately WAITING to be bored in the silence of you all moving out."
She got mad again and walked out. Guess I'm up for MOTY Award again....in the Sarcasm Genre.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


She was a freshman when I was a senior. I knew who she was. I said hi to her when I saw her in the hallways at school. Her brothers and I were all friends. They lived on the court behind ours. Years go by and I read on the internet that she and her young daughter had died. I sent my condolences to the family. I didn't know how and something inside me kept me from asking about the circumstances. Today I read an article online that detailed the incident and I felt sick to my stomach. She was shot by police after refusing to put down a knife that she was using to repeatedly stab her four year old daughter. Now at first, I thought, "Oh my God! How could she?" but then I read on. She had been suffering from emotional and financial distress, probably not in that order. She'd lost her job and hadn't been able to afford to pay her rent for 5 months or more. The water had been shut off for failure to pay the bill. Apparently the state had been threatening to take her children. No one knows what they will do in such a situation. I mean, it's easy to say, "I know I would never" but how do you know? I would HOPE that I would never feel such hopelessness and fear as to take the lives of my children. I have to hope that my belief that God controls all would get me through.

I have been in some seriously dire situations financially. I lost a house to foreclosure. I had wages garnished for 6 weeks once (not just some...the entire 6 weeks of pay...$zero income.) And were it not for WIC and the kindness of friends and our ability to eat canned beans and bread, we may not have made it. And it was hard, but we did it. A lot of you know that we returned to Texas from Egypt last year to make a go of it there. After four months, I packed the kids back up and came back to Egypt. We just couldn't do it. We applied for food stamps and I was training to go back to work as an interpreter. My husband was working and applying all over the city for more work. But no one was hiring (except illegals) and we didn't have enough money to pay rent. When we finally decided that I was going to move with the children back to Egypt, my mom and sister and various extended relatives all had their opinions and emotions over the issue. But you see, none of those who were angry had been in a desperate place or lost a  home or had stared the inability to feed their kids in the face before. And we listened and tried to explain but they didn't "get it." And we left anyway, with a lot of hurt and angry people in our wake. Some blamed me. Most blamed my husband and assumed that he "sent me away." (Anyone who truly knows me, KNOWS that I am rarely forced to do anything against my will.) Whatever their opinions we had to do what was right for us and our situation. No regrets.

I look at the situation of my former school mate and I wonder what she would have done if she'd had the option we did. If she was able to take "the out" that we were, would she be alive today. God knows. I do know that through my grief for her surviving child and brothers that I again see a lesson reiterated. Judge not that you be not judged. We cannot judge her actions. God knows her heart and the desperate place that she was in. I pray God forgive her her sins and grant her His mercy. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

My Little Sister

She is the third child of four, the youngest girl. She has bright red hair and if you ask her where her daddy is she will wiggle her pinkie and tell you, "wrapped around this finger." And if she's laughing, you're going to laugh, too. She was the tattle-tellingest, teasingest kid I ever knew growing up. She was Dad's favorite. We all knew it. But I think she was our favorite, too...at least out of us girls. I mean, come on. Look at this face:

Who could not love this kid? Monika was born when I was five years old. Denise and I were so close in age that we just referred to her as the little one. When Lloyd was born two years later, they were "the little ones." Sometimes they still are.

Monika flew up to Baltimore to visit me when she was in high school. I took her to Lollipalooza '92. We had a blast. We went to the show in Reston, Virginia with a friend of mine from work. Tony brought some friend of his from his barracks named "Roach." I never did know Roach's real name. It had rained four days straight before the concert and the whole field was covered in mud. Monika lost her shoes in it and partied on barefoot. We bailed when the headline band came on. They were drunk. We decided that they should be called "The Luke Warm Silly Peckers" vice "The Red Hot Chili Peppers." They sucked that night and got outplayed by Pearl Jam and Soundgarden.

Monika flew out and spent a month with me after I had my second baby and I had orders to move to Georgia AND my husband flew to Greece to visit family there. She had been working in Alaska for the Summer, stopped for a week or so in Texas to be in our step-brother's wedding and then flew out to Baltimore to stay with me during my hectic, postpartum pack out. (Say THAT 5 times really fast.) We had such a great visit and she bonded quickly with my kids. And the month flew by so fast, even with a 16  hour road trip to Georgia. She was gone before I knew it. And I missed her terribly.

While in Texas last year, I got to go out to her house a few times and hang with her kids. They are super awesome and she is a fantastic mom. I love how laid back she is with them. Probably not as laid back as I am with mine...but you know, she's only got two. I have five and by now, I just don't give a shit to get involved in every tattling detail. I figure by the time hers are teens her policy may change.

Monika has introduced me to some of the coolest music ever made and funniest writers ever born. She is an over-achieving, volunteer addict and recovering lawyer. She is a creative, hilarious, spiritual, sensitive, caring
member of MENSA, who will still dress as a super hero in order to attend a friend's costume party and somehow convince her husband to take the kids to Paris on holiday. She loves me with all my flaws and embraces my crazy with hers. She and I have grown so much closer over the last two years. I am truly inspired by her and I look to her as one of my heroes.

I love you, Monika!

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Sad Day

Death is part of life. It is inevitable. We take our first step toward it with our first breath immediately after we're born. Nobody looks forward to it. Nobody escapes it. Some fear it. Some welcome it. Some just don't think about it. Some wait for it.

One of my best friends from high school just lost her big brother to cancer this morning. He was 45 years old. He had flu-like symptoms a year ago and then about 6 months ago was diagnosed with cancer. He had several treatments and operations. But eventually, it was just his time to go. I never knew him well. What I did know of him, I always liked. He was smart and handsome and extremely funny. He and his sister were close; the kind of siblings who could look at one another and say, "Do you remember when I went to the..." and the other would say, "and then you pulled on the...." and crack up laughing at a mutual memory without ever actually saying what it was they were remembering. They had a lot of these moments.

When my father retired from the Army and moved the rest of our family from Maryland to Texas, my sister and I stayed behind. We had an apartment in Laurel about a mile from my friend's house. My sister and I worked several jobs to pay bills while going to school part-time. We rarely saw each other. And when the apartment got too quiet and I missed the hullabaloo that only life in a large family can bring, I would go to visit them and listen as I ate spaghetti at the kitchen table while they joked and laughed and their mom raised hell about the youngest turning off the kitchen faucet and how the pipes would burst since it was snowing outside and my friend and I would crack up while her older brother was mimicking her behind her back. He always made us laugh.

And as close as my brother and I are, I think that she and her brother were closer. I rarely get to see my brother or talk to him. She spoke to her brother nearly every day. I am certain that she and her siblings and mother and his daughter are all devastated that he is gone. I am so grateful that they got to spend his last days together laughing and loving one another and saying their goodbyes. We, the friends, stand on the outer circle looking in to them; waiting patiently for them to need us for support. We await their need of hugs and tears and help in any form. Because that's what we must do. We are there for them as an extension of their family. And now that their time of being strong for him and supporting him is done, they will definitely need us to be strong for them and support them.

God please bless this family with patience and strength during their time of mourning.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Customer Service ... Another OXYMORON

"Customer Service" is a catch-all phrase coined by salespeople and middle management in Corporate America to make customers think that their patronage is actually valued. It really isn't. Now the salespeople will schmooze you and suck up to you long enough to get access to your money and then they never want to hear from you again. I used to think that Customer Service meant something....maybe it actually did. It did when I worked at the customer service desk at Sears Surplus in Laurel, MD. I was such a good customer service rep that I even ran around from behind my counter to hold the door open for a customer carrying out an air conditioner. It took a few seconds before I realized I'd helped him out the "in door" and called security who promptly tackled the shoplifter rendering him unconscious and the air conditioner destroyed. But being the good customer service rep, I promptly slapped a RECONDITIONED/REFURBISHED sticker down the side of it after super-gluing the knobs back on it and discounted it by $10.

Today I've been running nuts with "customer service" issues. At least in the US there's someone with a Stepford Wife-like honey sweet voice to calmly blow smoke up your ass when it comes to "challenges or issues" you have with whatever product that you're dissatisfied with. I mean, eventually you're going to get a refund or an exchange or an apology or a coupon or even just a "customer service survey" where you can say "Your company sucks ass!" and feel better about the whole situation.

Here in Egypt, the customer is always WRONG. No matter what. The school administration secretary misplaced my child's permanent records? It's my fault and I have to replace all SEVEN YEARS of paperwork....myself.....at my expense. A taxi driver plows into my son while we're walking on the side of the street....it's HIS fault for not walking on top of the parked cars on the sidewalk. The ultra-pasteurized milk with a shelf life of 3 months that I purchased 2 months before the expiration date is spoiled and comes out like cheese on the DAY I purchased it......I must have stored it wrong....in the bag that the store owner put it in while I carried it up to my apartment ONE BLOCK AWAY and immediately opened. ???? Those three letters W.T.F. keep popping up in my head today. But these are things that I've come to expect in Egypt. With the exception of ONE place:  the American Embassy in Cairo.

I've had NOTHING but good experiences with the American Embassy in Cairo over the last ten years. (With the exception of the FBI agent in charge there calling me and asking me to drive to Cairo so that he could grill me about my possible involvement in the September 11, 2001 incidents. Asshole. My family and I were inconvenienced as hell that day. Granted, we didn't die or anything but we were supposed to fly out to Greece that day (a permanent move) and we became homeless immediately with all the airports closing and hotels filling up, etc.....and with 5 kids under the age of 7 at that time....the odds of me being involved were slim and none and I know for a fact that it was racial/religious profiling that got them to call me in the first place because you know Arab/Muslim last name MUST mean terrorist. Needless to say, I told him I'd be more than happy to meet with them in my mother-in-law's living room and he could feel free to drive up at anytime but I will NOT repeat NOT go to Cairo. Ahem.....I digress.)

Anyway, so I've been trying for weeks to get an appointment with the Consul when he comes to Alexandria because driving to Cairo (3 hours away) with 5 kids is a bloody nightmare. And of course, their appointment making website (acuity.com) is jacked up for the last 2 weeks and all the appointments are now full for December. So I try for the end of January. And it works fine until you reach the "confirm your appointment by clicking FINISH" step....and then you get the HTTP 500 error.....that means INTERNAL server error for those of you are not in the know. I contacted the embassy via email. They said, as though my clicking abilities are faulty or something, "Sorry for the inconvenience, many other US citizens managed to schedule their appointments.  Please try again."   My response of course is, "WTF?"

I emailed them again and explained what HTTP 500 is. They said the same thing....try again later. So I called the American Cultural Center here in Alexandria and asked if there was something I could do here. She said no that it was via the embassy. I called the embassy, wasting 2.50 pounds hearing that I should call back between 1pm and 3pm. I explained that I really only want to make an appointment but the link is down. She transferred me to a guy who transferred me to another guy's voice mail.....who, as it turns out, doesn't subscribe to voice mail and I was disconnected. "WTF? ...... G.D.S.O.B. M.F. piss ant!
So I fired off another email, taking care to correct the MR. to MRS. which only told me that it's a foreign national worker that I am dealing with and not an American employee. Americans know that the name NIKKI spelled like that is a GIRLS name.  After several email exchanges, I think it got passed to an American employee because the acuity.com link went off line completely and I got actual timely responses asking me what I wanted and they've tentatively scheduled me for the appointment on the day and time that I want but I have to follow up with them later for confirmation. Yay.

But still--- acuity.com is on my shit-list, the gas tank salesman who overcharged me by 15 pounds for a desperately needed gas tank has been handed over to God for revenge, and the guy who sold me rotten milk has permanently lost a customer. No. I'm NOT happy with my long distance company and Customer Service is an oxymoron.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Their Language

English, German, Spanish, Arabic and a little Greek. Those are the languages that I speak. I dabble a bit in French, meaning I've picked up enough to help my son maintain a B average in French class three years running now. But I apparently have lost the ability to speak TEENESE.

I used to be a teen. At one time, I spoke TEENESE fluently. Maybe it's a new dialect that my kids speak. They totally do not understand me. When I was a teen, "Go to bed now," meant walk down the hall, pee, brush my teeth, get my pajamas on, piss off my sister by stepping on her pillow or hiding her jeans that she wanted to wear the next morning, and then getting in my bed and actually going to sleep. Of course, that was 27 years ago.

Language is a constantly evolving thing. New words are born every day and occasionally some old words, while never really dying, will lie dormant for years at a time. At least in English, this is true. My kids speak Arabic and English. I assume they speak TEENESE in both English and Arabic dialects. And while I do speak to my kids in Arabic, I'm the native American so I primarily boss them around in English while my husband, the native Egyptian, bosses them around primarily in Arabic. My husband and I got together and compared notes earlier this week and made some shocking discoveries:

"Go to bed" whether spoken in Arabic or in English to our 16 year old son or 12 year old daughter means "go open up the fridge." To our 13 year old and 11 year old sons, it means giggle and wrestle around the room with no shirts on, causing the entire bedroom to take on that pubescent tube sock/ball sweat odor.

"Go to sleep" to all of the kids, in either language, translates loosely to "make a sandwich."

"Stop talking" translates to "start fighting." And "SHUT THE HELL UP BEFORE I POUND YOU" has multiple meanings: 1- roll over and accidentally pull the curtain rod off the wall on your own head, 2- make the peace sign at your brother and say, 'Peace out, Dog' in a Randy Jackson voice and promptly get slapped in the face by the same brother with a dirty handkerchief, 3- giggle so hard that you fart and make your brothers laugh barrel laughs at two in the morning until mother comes in and takes away your privileges for computer for 2 weeks straight.

I'm in the process of compiling our findings into an English-Arabic TEENESE dictionary. I'm hoping that I can get it published before the next generational dialect comes out rendering mine the "new Latin."

Monday, November 28, 2011

This is WHY I Don't Have an Advice Column

Dear Nikki,

My children are the most obnoxious, sassy-mouthed, rude, disobedient spawns of the unholy one that ever set foot on planet Earth. They embarrass me at my in-law's house and talk to me like they are thugs who hang out at the local Greyhound bus station. They sass off to me, their grandparents, their teachers and even total strangers. They steal things, break things, spit on things, pee on things, and lie constantly. How can I get them to behave?


Dear Frazzled,



Dear Nikki,

What is the proper etiquette when one is visiting a neighbor and in the middle of the visit, the neighbor excuses herself to the bathroom where she proceeds to vomit violently?  This situation arose last week while I was visiting with one of my neighbors. But my four children were playing so nicely with her five children that I didn't want to interrupt the play time. What does one do in a situation like this?


Dear Curious,

Are you fucking kidding me??? Not only do you get the hell out of her house, you take her five kids with you. Obviously, she's not up to the task of entertaining you and your four monsters (because I can only assume you're the same insensitive bitch from the first letter above.) Just because you don't want to deal with
your garanimals alone doesn't mean you should dump their hellacious asses on your poor sick neighbor and her five kids.....she MAY be expecting her sixth, what with all the puking and all....OR she may have just been nauseated to that degree by your inadequate parenting skills. My advice? G.T.F.O.


Dear Nikki,

Last week my 76 year old uncle showed up at my house to visit. It so happened that my son's teacher was also there tutoring my oldest son. It is proper etiquette in our country to remove one's shoes upon entering the home. My uncle left before the teacher. When the teacher looked for his shoes when it was time for him to go, all he could find was my uncle's ratty old shoes, two sizes too big and with a hole in the side. I was so upset and embarrassed that my uncle had taken the teacher's brand new leather shoes and worn them home. He didn't return them for three days and claimed that he hadn't noticed that they were not his own.What should I do?

Dear Ashamed,

A good, sharp chisel-fist punch (described here) to the testicles is a sure-fire way to illustrate the anguish and humiliation that you must have felt while trying to explain to your son's teacher why your kleptomaniac uncle lifted his shoes. Of course, I'm guessing that apples don't fall so far from the trees and that this is the sort of behavior that lies ahead of you from those little hellions who keep shouting bad words and insults off the balcony at your puking neighbors kids! Stop writing all these letters to me, get a good leather belt and beat those brats back into the house and make them do push-ups until they fall asleep on the living room rug. Then, when your husband comes home, give him a good, sharp, chisel-fist punch to the testicles, as well. Ensure to make that punch in an upward thrusting motion to attain permanent damage to those puppies so that you two make more really bad kids. While I do not believe that kids are born bad, I know who you are and you just suck at raising kids. So stop having them. Try to fix what you broke in the first four and QUIT SENDING ME LETTERS. I've got a restraining order RIGHT HERE and it includes ANY form of contact, you sick, twisted FREAK.



Friday, November 25, 2011

My Baby Brother

Whenever I think of my sweet face baby brother, I see him as the little blonde-haired, blue-eyed cherub that he was when he was two. He was so ornery growing up but had a soft spot in his heart for his three "guhlies" (girlies) that were me and my two sisters. Mom once told me that when we had gone to spend the night at a friend's house that Lloyd wandered the house crying for his "guhlies" to come home. We dressed him up like a girl and painted his toenails and all sorts of other torturous big sister games that only a little brother would tolerate until his dad came home one day and threatened to beat all three of his daughters if they put one more dress, application of lipstick or hair barrette on HIS boy! Good thing we still have photos, huh?

My brother was always a charming, funny, and ass-kicking machine like I was. He was only eleven when I moved out and I always felt a little guilty leaving him behind. Not because the rest of my family was totally psycho or anything. (Maybe a smidgen of psycho.) But I missed all of his middle school and high school years because I was living and working on the East Coast and he was all the way out in El Paso. (Yeah, the tee-shirt is pretty accurate. El Paso actually IS 10 miles from water and 3 feet from HELL.) And while I got to see him when I went home to visit for holidays every year or two, I missed out on all of his shenanigans and first dates and swim meets and prom and graduation. I wish I could have been there for that....sort of. I wish I could have sheltered him from some of the crazy he had to endure during the years that led to my parents eventual divorce.
By that time, I was working in Greece.

Just before I shipped out to Athens, I drove out to El Paso to drop off a bunch of stuff that I didn't want to take with me for fear it would get lost or destroyed. So I drove for three days with my suitcase of dirty laundry (to keep my sisters from hijacking all my clothes because they CERTAINLY wouldn't wash them before swiping them), a box filled with my high school diploma, awards from work, yearbooks and my mom all packed into my car. (Yeah, Mom only has one leg and I had a 5-speed Ford Escort so she was sort of along for the ride....and to tell me to slow down a lot.) I spent about a week with them and then my brother offered to drive back to Baltimore with me. COOL.

It was a great trip. Except when he got a speeding ticket about 4 miles outside of El Paso city limits. And except for when we stopped to eat cat fish at a truck stop outside of Nashville and they towed my friggin' car basically because it had out of state tags and it cost me about $150.00 to get it back and delayed our arrival to Baltimore by about 6 hours. I still hate Nashville because of that. But my brother and I had the laughing-est, singing-est, fun time during those three days on the road. I haven't seen him but about 5 or 6 times since then. Damn. That was back in 1992.

I'm thankful that we both have Facebook and Skype and email. If it weren't for that, we'd never hear from each other. But thanks to the internets we have an awesome relationship. And the last time I saw him back in May 2010 at a mini-family reunion outside of Austin, I spent several hours just talking to him and it was like we hadn't been apart at all. I love my brother so much. I'm very proud of him. He's a Navy veteran. He's a fantastic chef and butcher and has a plethora of knowledge about cheese. In fact, during the Whole Foods market 2008 "Crack Heard Round the World" attempt to break the Guinness Record for cutting the most wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese open simultaneously, MY brother "cut his cheese" in 1 minute and 36 seconds....which is TOTALLY AWESOME! (Click here to watch Lloyd kick cheesy ass!) (He's the cute guy on the right!)

Lloyd is one of the coolest, smartest, and funniest people I ever had the pleasure to meet. I think he and I would be friends even if we weren't siblings. He's just that great a guy. And I miss him.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Honeymoon's Over

After seventeen years of marriage and the development of a social conscience, I've stopped running the faucet when I'm pooping to cover up any loud and bombastic gastric releases he might hear on the other side of the bathroom door. He KNOWS I fart.
bathroom Pictures, Images and Photos
And we DON'T have a noisy ceiling fan here like we did in our house in Dallas.

So now after leaving the bathroom, I curtsy or bow and he applauds. I've yet to achieve a standing ovation, but I'm working on it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Egypt Update: 22 FEB Tuesday

Well, life for OUR family was more of the same ole, same ole.....BUT the Chief of the Military Council finally came on the air and made a really long-winded statement in which he said that he accepted the resignation of the Cabinet. He's not stepping down. The military has no desire to extend the military rule, etc. and blah blah blah the presidential elections will be completed by July....2012. Yeah. So, people not happy. Whatever.

I can kinda see his point on one hand. I mean, you don't just hand over the country prior to elections and just hope for the best. There is no government here other than the military council. Things seemed to have calmed down a bit in Cairo the last time I checked the news stations a couple of hours ago. My eyes started to get that donut glaze over them and I was hearing Charlie Brown's teachers voice "Wah, wah, wah, wah....wah, wah..."
so I changed the station and let the kids watch Rush Hour while I did the dishes.

Alexandria is a mess. Not where we live....but across the city mainly in Samouha district (where my cardiologist is.) The police vans were firing huge tear gas cans into the crowds in a downward angle from the mount on the roof of the vans. People are being shot in the head and eyes with rubber covered bullets. It's been pretty bad according to the reports. Camera-wise in Alex, they seemingly only have one street covered (Al-Jazeera International.) They announced on State TV that a curfew is in effect and no one can be on the streets after 6 pm but you know how much anyone is respecting the police right now. It's 11:34 pm and I just got home from grocery shopping. My husband and one of my son's went to the gym to work out. S.S.D.D.

Ultimately, you can't go from a dictatorship to a democracy in a relatively short amount of time. It requires a lot of building and change and trust. At present, the supreme high court has announced that the announcement by the military last week that they will not be overseen by civilian leadership and that the military funds are not going to be accounted for by civilians, etc is either constitutional or unconstitutional. I don't know. You have a neighbor who doesn't have television but does have 4 kids under the age of 10 stop by to catch up on the news and the whole house goes nuts and you end up missing a word here and there. I'll let you know when I play catch up. Also, elections are still scheduled for 28 November. We shall see. I'm tired and need to go make a late supper for my weight-lifters before they get home. Peace out.

Monday, November 21, 2011

URGENT Update on Egypt Situation

Hey. I don't know what's being covered in the US right now as far as the 
demonstrations and clashes starting up again here.....but it's true. Tomorrow
they are calling for a "Million Man March" and there are already thousands in
Tahrir Square in Cairo and all across the country gearing up. 

The people are protesting that we're still under military regime (Mubarak's
leftovers) and the elections that were supposed to be held back in September
were pushed back until October (because of Mubarak's trials that never happened)
and then again to November 28. My kids are taking exams this week for mid-terms
but it looks like the schools are preparing for the "fit to hit the proverbial shan", as
it has been rumored that those exams may end up being their mid-year exam
grades. Samiya and Aiman are scheduled to get out of school at 11am tomorrow
morning. I'm planning, God willing, to meet them at the gate with a buttload of 
groceries for them to help me carry home and then we're hunkering down to ride
out the storm. The really good part in this, Mohamed is at home right now so it
won't be as scary.

We are still living on the outskirts of the city of Alexandria in the beach community.
While there will probably be some demonstrations here, it probably will not reach
where we live. We don't live near any military or police installations or government 
offices, so we're probably safe. Mom, you met my friend Sarah when you were here.
She lives next to a prison and police station. Keep her family in your prayers, please.
They had a lot of violence by their house last time. 

I just wanted to touch base and let you know what's going on right now---- It's currently
9:30pm (Egyptian Standard Time) Monday, 21 November. The last report on Al-Jazeera
English (International) and the BBC Arabic news channels, the military council has 
accepted the resignations of the Interim Cabinet members but nobody cares. The cabinet
ministers are really just puppet heads for the military council at this point and have done
virtually NOTHING since being appointed. They're all Mubarak-leftovers as well. The 
people are calling for the resignation of the Head of the military council. 

What you ARE seeing on tv (if you're watching) is probably the people in Tahrir Square.
There are thousands of people milling about and shouting. Also, there are makeshift
hospitals within the square set up by volunteer doctors helping the injured and so far, there
have been over 33 dead reported and thousands injured. They've made an assembly line 
to carry the injured from the side streets into the middle of the square for treatment. The
more serious injuries are being carried back out and put into ambulances for hospitalization.

What you ARE NOT seeing on tv is the attacks by the internal security forces, police and
military against peaceful demonstrators. They are firing a plastic bullets, shot gun shells full 
of bird shot and now they are using a more powerful tear gas (per the 
correspondents on both channels who've been reporting since Jan) than in the 25 Jan rev-
olution and in the demonstrations last month. Here in Alexandria (specifically in Samouha
district), the cops are up on roof tops firing plastic bullets and bird shot into crowds of 
unarmed people. I haven't heard about what's going on down in the Upper Egypt areas and 
in Suez....but it's probably the same as here and Cairo.

At any rate, as long as the internet is up, I'll give you all updates every day to let you know
that we are okay. If you want to call, that's fine, too. I probably won't be calling out because
if this goes to shit again like earlier this year, phone cards to refill balances on prepaids are
going to be impossible to get ahold of. So I'll be saving for emergencies.

Nikki, Mohamed and kids

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Becca's Right...I Have Stress-Induced Gas

So a while back I was experiencing chest pains so strong that I couldn't breathe. I blogged about it a few times here.  Then I spent hundreds (thankfully, not thousands) of pounds paying for tests and cardiograms and ekgs and yada, yada, yada. At the end of the month of two hour bus rides across the city to the International Cardiac Center, my heart had been declared 100% healthy and I was prescribed fat-blockers for my high cholesterol. Really? So why is my chest still hurting like a MOFO?!

I talked it over with my phlebotomist and she said that I should do the bloodwork to eliminate thyroid issues that my cousin, Heather, suggested may be causing it. I'm probably going to do that today. My good friend, Becca, thinks it's just gas. (She knows my family FAR too well to be able to make such a diagnosis.) I wondered if it was a digestion issue and opted to try a vegetarian diet for about 6 weeks. I'd have been able to last longer if it weren't for the autistic kid who has to have only crunchy  food and the 10 year old who hates everything and then the husband and 3 kids who eat whatever I cook but really like meat and chicken and fish.....and that's like 4 different dinners to cook for each meal. So, I just gave up and went back to forcing all 7 of  us to eat the same thing. Yeah, I'm "lazy" like that. (And so over it.)

So now that I'm cholesterol meds, I'm regular........WAYYYYYY regular. (Please don't block the door to the bathroom when you see me running for it. It could prove messy for both of us.) The chest pains eased up for a while. And today came back with a vengeance. My husband and 13 yr old have been doing a weight-lifting program the last few weeks. And my husband's trainer mentioned that they should eat a lot more protein, including a lot of legumes. So we had lentils two nights ago. And yesterday I made Greek chicken in the oven with rice and a large pot of white beans and marinated cucumber and onion salad. While I only had one bowl of beans (for the sake of my family), my husband and sons tore up the pot. All.THREE. pounds. of. beans. Maybe they fart vicariously through me?!  Or it could be that I'm stressed out from the constant fighting between the teens. I'm going to find the Egyptian equivalent of Xanax and try that. And see if that helps at all. But ultimately I think that Becca is right. It's gas.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Spaghetti and Eggplant Night

My husband's cousin is having an engagement ceremony tonight. It's pouring down rain outside and as much as I like his cousin and his aunt, the kids and I aren't going. We weren't really invited anyway. The bride had a death in her family recently so it's bad manners to have a big celebration when there are family members still in mourning. I like the respect aspect of this. So no hurt feelings here. My husband went to stand by his cousin while they recite the Fatiha (the first verse of the Holy Quran) and discuss the wedding contract, etc and when the wedding will take place.

For me and for the kids, this is culinary specialty night: We get to eat SPAGHETTI and EGGPLANT! Woo hoo. See my husband loathes spaghetti and eggplant. We NEVER get to eat it when he's home. Sure, we have pasta and occasionally I'll make a small tray of mousaka when I want to eat it....but I always make pastitsio for him because of his chronic case of nausea brought on by the mention of the word eggplant. I love him. So I'm okay with it. But on night's when he eats at a relative's house (like tonight), I hand the boys a 10-pound note and send them off to the nearest grocer for 2 packages of spaghetti noodles and a jar of tomato paste!

And tonight, we'll be slurping up big ole long noodles of spaghetti heaven and chowing on pickled eggplant stuffed with cilantro, garlic and hot peppers. YUMMMYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!

And when he comes home late tonight, I'll have a nice supper of fava beans, felafel and boiled eggs and cheese waiting for him. And he won't be grossed out and we'll have scratched our spaghetti itch. Win, win!

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Weather Has Changed, but Has the Climate?

There was patience and grumbling under breath for more than thirty years. Everyone knew that the sunshine was killed by a dark and shadowing cloud. That cloud gathered smaller gray clouds around it, becoming one huge black sky that had no silver lining. Occasionally when it would line itself with the silver of freer climates from across the globe, the rays of a distant hopeful sun would shine through, but only for brief moments. And when the freer, warmer climates breezed their attentions elsewhere, the black sky would deposit the silver lining into offshore accounts and then release more acid rain onto the dry, parched ground of the land beneath it.

The product of thirty years of acid rain and very little nourishing moisture is a hard and rugged land. It still gives vegetation, but for every one pure and wholesome fruit produced there are five that are full of worms and as blackened on the inside as they are red and beautiful on the outside. These plants are mostly rootless. If they have roots, they are not hard-fastened to the sandy soil and are therefore, lazy and useless. They cannot provide for the starving plant, and the germination process seemingly stopped.

But there was a bright light. And the smaller, younger shoots caught a glimpse of it and were inspired. They pushed through the topsoil. They blossomed and rooted deep strong roots in the soil that was deep down in the earth of old. Their blossoms, bright and colorful, shouted to the lazy and complacent foiliage in the gardens across the land. They encouraged them out of their sleep and brought their pride to the tips of their leaves, forcing them to rise up against the artificial climate of the controlled greenhouse built around them by the black sky. They, too, shouted out their colors and burst through the glass ceiling that had held them down so long. They grew tall and strong. They reached the sky united and broke through its blackness and it crumbled to the ground. The warmth of the hope of a new sun was so warm around them that they felt no fear nor cowardice. The wetness of true rain with its nutrients was real and inspiring on their hungry petals and they grew stronger and overcame the blackness.

But the black sky left its residue of corruption in the very chlorophyll of the vegetation throughout the land. Some of the plants, who only knew life under the black sky, continued to live as parasite plants, choking the very life out of the smaller and younger plants. Only a new sun can provide a focal point for the lazy and corrupt plants. Can the smaller clouds gathering in the sky along with a  new sun wash away this dirt and filthy stench of thirty oppressive years of darkness? Hope is here. We'll see.

Chocolate Rice Cereals VERBODEN

THIS is a picture of rat poop that I found on Photobucket.com.
rat poop in basement Pictures, Images and Photos

THIS is a picture of Kellogg's Cocoa Krispies (R).

My kids tend to walk around while they eat and sometimes they spill. Do you want to know the meaning of the word PANIC ATTACK?? That would be ME seeing spilled Cocoa Krispies on the floor of my kitchen and thinking it's a bunch of rat turds.

And because of this similarity.....my kids have been forbidden to eat Cocoa Krispies or even bring them into my house. EVER.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Cold Weather Helps Show Age

snow Pictures, Images and Photos Ever notice how the older you get, the deeper you find yourself buried under the covers in cold weather? My husband is hiding under a sheet, a cotton and linen bedspread, an acrylic double-thick blanket and a giant handmade comforter made of brocade and stuffed with cotton batting. Yes, cotton batting...not polyester fiber filling. It's heavy and awesome unless someone barfs or poops on it because it CANNOT go in the washing machine. It's a nightmare to clean. I'm a little off-point now. Where was I? Oh, yes. The cold.

So, each year I notice new little aches and pains and inability to jump out of bed to face the morning. Now I sort of sling my legs out of bed one at a time after forcing the ton of above-mentioned bed coverings. I half suspect that next year I'll be lifting my legs off the bed and setting them on the floor one at a time with my hands and maybe the year after that I'll need one of those handy dandy hand grip triangle things that dangle above my pillows from the ceiling by a chain. I used to wash the hand prints and foot prints and "Lord knows what" prints off of my walls about once a month a few years ago. Then I noticed it was like once every 3 months by the time I turned 40. Now I delegate either to the kids who are in super deep doo-doo with me to wash....or I tell my husband, "Hey, I think we need to paint the house."

It's not that we get lazier as we age. I think it's a combination of "I just don't have the time anymore" and "I don't give a shit that much anymore." I figure at this point in my life, if someone comes over and judges me to be a slob because I've got kids who are freakin' normal and don't believe that gravity actually works and therefore find it necessary to walk down the hallways of our home with both arms extended, hands open and dragged along each wall, then PISS ON THEM. I don't want them visiting me and my grubby walls anyway.

And the colder it gets, the louder my bed calls me. I try to ignore it. I usually make it until around 8pm sometimes later. But if all the stuff on t.v. is stuff I've seen before or if one of the kids decides that it's not "my turn" on the computer...then I usually give in and answer my bed and all 78,000 covers on it. I dive in....as carefully as I can so as not to accidentally smush my already-hibernating husband with my very muscular body that is now well-insulated under about 60 pounds of warm fat. Also, I don't want to puncture a boob on his really bony hips. Oh, yeah. He's THAT guy with the never-ending metabolism. (Mine hit a brick wall right after I got married.)

I love the winter weekends when I can sleep in. Hell, I'm actually turning into one of those bad mothers who decides, "Oh, they're not learning shit in school anyway," and slaps off the alarm clock and keeps the kids home for a nice sleep in followed by a day of resented home-schooling. But that's okay. As long as I'm rested and they pass all their exams we're good. But I need to start closing my bedroom door so that I don't hear that bed calling more and more frequently. Because honestly, once the rainy season comes, all bets are off.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

My Life's Work

Raising children has got to be the most rewarding, difficult job that doesn't involve hazard pay. It's loud and screamy and a little head-achy and sometimes poopy and vomity. But a lot of the time it isn't. A lot of the time it's funny and laughing and giggly and loving. Today is one of those really good days where I feel like I've succeeded at the "mom gig."

While I'm nowhere near finished with my "job," I know that I'm on the right track. There are some members of my extended family who have criticized my kids and the way I raise them. Do I care about those opinions? Not enough to change what I'm doing. Did those opinions hurt? Hell yes. But here's the thing. I. know. that. I. have. great. kids. Not good. GREAT!

Yes, they fight. There are FIVE of them and they are all extremely close in age and in a less than 1000 square foot 3-bedroom apartment. They have 5 extremely different personalities and interests and tolerance levels. They are all pretty vocal and equal on the teasing playing field. They all have great senses of humor complete with sarcastic rapier wit. They fight over the t.v., the computer and whose turn it is to do dishes. What kids don't? Do they fist fight? Yes. Do I allow it? No. Do they do it anyway? Yes. But I break it up and hand out punishments by taking away privileges.

For whatever fighting, teasing or tattling that they do, they are also extraordinarily helpful. My kids are the ones that see a woman struggling with bags of groceries and walk up and take the bags from her hands so that she can get out her keys to open the front door. They won't carry the groceries upstairs to her apartment because they aren't allowed to. But they will set them inside the door of the building. Unless it's someone that we know or unless they yell up to our balcony and let me know what they're doing first. My kids help with dishes...some of them without being told. Others help on the threat of no computer time. One actually gets bored and cleans out closets. Another will clean the stove top (a job that I abhor.) And one got sick of the handprints in the hallway and actually scrubbed down the walls for me 2 nights ago.

I still have to yell to get anyone to get the dirty laundry INTO the hamper as opposed to under the beds, but I never said they were perfect. My youngest buys me little things that he thinks I might like. If he gets 5 pounds spending money from his father, he immediately asks one of his older brothers to take him to the corner shop to "buy stuff." He almost always comes back with a can of diet soda or a  piece of gum or a package of ramen noodles for me. I don't have the heart to tell him that I cannot stand the thought of ramen noodles after living on them for nearly two semesters of college. I get love notes from them. My 13-yr old leaves me "I'm sorry" and "I love you" notes when I'm having a bad day. My oldest likes to text his love notes to me...usually after we have one of those "teenage angst" days together. My younger daughter will just go make my bed or wash a load of dishes if she's attempting to apologize. And my youngest is just a big hugger. My older daughter will tell me "Sorry, Mommy. Give me a hug." For an autistic kid, she's starting to learn empathy.

I know that I have put a lot on here about the OMG they're running me nuts times....but I guess that's because I use this blog as a sort of creative outlet to my own stress to keep from having an aneurysm or ripping out all of my eyebrows which are both inconvenient and terribly unattractive....especially when I get that nervous twitch in my face. But all in all, I have great kids who are learning to deal with other personality types in small spaces on a daily basis. And if they fight well, they make up better. And that's something that a lot of adults STILL need to learn how to do. Clearly, I'm doing something right.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Hollywood's Actually Got Me Thinking

Apple. Pictures, Images and Photos
As an Army brat, I attended 15 schools in 12 years. (16 schools if you include the night classes that I took at the local community college during my senior year in high school.) Most of the teachers that I had were pretty good but most never left any major impressions on me. Weirdly, I remember most of my teachers names from the Department of Defense Dependents Schools (DODDS) that I attended. But the teachers that I had in the U.S. are a mere blur. With the exception of Sister Carita Ulm, my kindergarten teacher from Rosenburg, Texas, who taught me to read, and Sister Mary Katherine, my 2nd grade teacher, from El Paso, Texas, who I really only remember because she nearly clawed my arms off from the elbows down because I kicked some boy named Raul off of the top of the slide for looking up my skirt while I was in line in front of him.  I don't know why I remember all of my DODDS teachers so much better than the civilian school teachers. I remember Mrs. Ball, 8th grade Social Studies teacher from Ozark, Alabama because she smelled like cigarettes and Dentyne gum. And Mr. Ken Korn, my 7th grade speech teacher from El Paso, Texas. I liked Mr. Korn because he was actually a good teacher and demanded our respect in his class. He also said that the word was not BECUZZZZZ but "beCAUSE...rhymes with JAWS."  Oh, and Mr. Whitaker, from my 7th grade Talented and Gifted class in El Paso. Mr. Whitaker made an impression because he worked us do death mathematically and because we got to design cool bridges made mostly out of toothpicks which we then destroyed by hanging weights off of them. Mine, of course, was the first one to snap in half. Most of the other teachers in El Paso were known only as "Mees" and "Meester", even by us anglo kids. I always wondered if any of them had surnames.

I remember the DODDS teachers most, I think, because they actually challenged us to think and to problem solve. Even the really crappy teachers still had an edge over most of the ones that I had in the civilian world. (With the exception of 3rd grade on Fort Bliss...if I had had an orangutan for a teacher in that class I couldn't tell you, it was THAT memorable a school.) Anyway, what got me thinking about teachers vs. GREAT teachers was that movie from 1988, "Stand and Deliver" starring Edward James Olmos as a math teacher, Jaime Escalante, who decided to challenge the kids in his Garfield High School class to learn calculus and take the Advanced Placement exam. It was like a lot of the "based on a true story" movies showing how disadvantaged kids in East Los Angeles, when given a teacher who gives a damn and works to get and keep their attention while still earning their respect, can overcome all odds and get themselves on the right educational track. Other examples are "Freedom Writers" with Hillary Swank, "Race the Sun" with Halle Berry and James Belushi, and "Dangerous Minds" with Michelle Pfeiffer. All are loosely based on true stories. All seem to indicate only one teacher in an entire high school full of teachers gives a damn. Wow. Our public education system must REALLY suck.

At Stuttgart American High School, which was located in Ludwigsburg, Germany just outside of Stuttgart, the opposite was true. For every average teacher I had in a 6-period day, I had 4 really good ones and one who stood out among the rest. My freshman year, my favorite teacher was Mr. Pike in Biology. He was corny and funny and smart and challenged us and made us laugh and think and expected 150% in all of his classes. My sophomore year, my favorite teacher was Dr. S.E. Lewis, Honors English. He was a little flighty and we could play some whopper practical jokes on him. But he challenged us with reading assignments and made us dig deep into Shakespeare and I swear I read more than 30 books that  year alone in his class. My junior year, I had two favorite teachers. Mrs. Bourland was my Honors English teacher and she was tough with her reading lists and composition assignments. She inspired my love of the American authrs like Hemingway, Steinbeck, and Poe. She was 10 times stricter about the term papers she assigned than Dr. Lewis was the year before. But she was compassionate toward me when I almost lost my mom to cancer that year. Mr. Mazzei was also a favorite that year. In his humanities class, I was introduced to art and architecture in history and it made all of those boring old history classes that I'd had for years make sense to me. I fell in love with the flying buttresses of Gothic architecture and did two term papers for him on two different cathedrals in the town I where I lived. My overseas education in DODDS schools really made me a deeply cultured person.

When we returned to the US, my dad was stationed at an airfield on Fort Meade, Maryland and my sister and I were enrolled in Meade Senior High School. This is actually a county school that happens to be on post. But I think we lucked out and ended up with some  pretty good teachers there, too. My absolute favorite teacher there was Ms. Patty Diaz (she married after I graduated but I don't know her new last name.) She was my dance teacher and introduced us to contemporary/modern dance. It was a great release for me with all the stress I was going through at home. Ms. Diaz was laid back and creative and cool, but still demanded our attention and respect. As for academics, I had a few favorites. Mr. Bill Shepard was my speech teacher and he was also the faculty adviser for the school newspaper. When Mr. Shepard heard about my mom being terminal with cancer, he asked me to write an article about it for the school paper. I did, but anonymously. Being in high school is hard enough without everyone staring at you for the added reason of your mom dying in order to point and call you a freak. Then there was Mrs. Sharp, my Algebra II teacher who was very good at explaining the tougher points while still keeping a little sarcastic wit for those who were not paying attention. And then there was Mr. Pelham. I was in his Advanced Placement English class for seemingly 5 minutes before I got moved to a different class because my dad insisted that I drop Sociology and re-take Algebra II that I'd passed in Germany with a 'C'. (Dad's reasoning was that if I'd made a 'C' the first time around, that I could easily make a 'B' or even an 'A' the second time around. That's how I met Mrs. Sharp. And as great a teacher as she was, I still made another 'C' in Algebra II. I think I just didn't want to be there....I digress.)

Mr. Pelham seemed to be going through some changes in 1985. I didn't know him before that class. So, I guess I'm the last to judge. But he seemed sort of disillusioned with American youth. In my first week in his class he said something that didn't sit right with me. He said that "Americans have no culture at all." Of course, most of the class took issue with this statement and began calling out various things that they thought made them "cultured." Sadly, I began to see what he was talking about. Pretty much, most of the stuff that my classmates used as examples were things from Elvis Presley's era until present...well, present-day 1985. I guess those of us who had gone to school overseas and visited places like the Colosseum in Rome, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, skied the Alps of Bavaria and Switzerland, visited  Anne Frank's hiding place in Amsterdam, and touched the walls of the shower rooms and smelled the stench of the crematorium still present at the Dachau concentration camp in Germany could be the exception to his rule. I still liked Elvis Presley and Jazz and hamburgers and pizza, though. So maybe Mr. Pelham was right and I was uncultured. Whatever. He made an impression on me. He was an excellent English teacher, even if I was only in his class a brief time. Honestly, I wish I hadn't dropped his class. The nameless, faceless English teacher I ended up with now falls into the "blur pit" of other civilian world teachers that I had throughout my years in school.

But I'd like to take this opportunity to thank those teachers who have made a difference in the lives of their students. Teachers who challenge their students to think, to take that nearly but not absolutely impossible first step toward self-improvement, to go further than they thought possible, and to THINK for themselves....these are our true heroes. Thank you, Sister Carita, Mr. Korn, Mr. Whitaker, Mr. Pike, Dr. Lewis, Mrs. Bourland, Mr. Mazzei, Ms. Diaz, Mr. Shepard, and Mr. Pelham. You helped shape me.

Monday, October 31, 2011


I used to think that this was a pretty good picture of me. Apparently, this is not how most people see me.

tool Pictures, Images and Photos
Yeah, THIS is what they actually see when they look at me. Just another TOOL to be used. I know that a lot of the time I come off as a kind of crusty, hardshell exterior to a hard ass interior wrapped around the semblance of a Liberal heart. I guess that is sometimes true.  But I try really hard to live my life as a constant example to the young minds God blessed me with to mold and shape into true, good and productive humans; humans who have empathy for others and will, without a second thought, offer help to those in need, provided it does not leave their own family destitute. After all, charity DOES begin at home.

We do what we can to help families in need. And this is not a "please pat me on the back for being so generous" request. I don't think that this is anything to brag about. In fact, I don't really want to put that on here because I feel it now has taken away from any blessings that we may later be entitled to from God in the Hereafter. But without that statement, I can't explain why I feel like such a tool. When I help someone with either food, handed-down clothes that my kids can no longer fit, or money, etc, it is because I see that there is a need and we have the means to fill that need. It makes us more grateful to God for the things that He has blessed us with. I know that I'm more grateful every day that my husband is the one that God chose for me because he works hard and makes sacrifices for me and our kids; because he is grateful to God for all that we've earned and have been given.

But when one of the recipients of your generosity sends his/her kids over to your house to ask for a "spare curtain rod" that they noticed in your bedroom on one of their visits to your house where they wandered around nosing through stuff.............I'm left with the thought:  Really?! A spare curtain rod? I pay for those things by the meter and you want I should send one over to you? What's next? My curtains? My t.v.? Get the hell out of here!

I told her kids that I don't have a spare curtain rod and sent them home. But you know, after a day of the usual "usage" by my own kids with their constant barrage of "get me" and "I need" and "I want" and a huge dose of "he said" followed by "she hit," THIS was not a needed request at all. Ungrateful and greedy people make it difficult to be generous. This is probably going to be viewed by a lot of my readers as snarky on my part...and maybe they're right. But feelings are not right or wrong. They just ARE. And I'm feeling a little on the stabby side now so I'm hoping that this  person doesn't send her kids back over here. They don't know what Halloween is here, so I can't explain away the butcher knife. Can I?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Be Careful What You Wish For...

Last night I was in a really shitty mood. I know. Language, language. But I don't know that there is a better adjective to use than 'shitty.' So I'm not editing.

So you know how when everything in your life as a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) becomes rote and goes on in a sort of "autopilot" mode and you wake up the same everyday and brush your teeth the same everyday and buy bread the same everyday and take the kids to school the same everyday and yell about watching cartoons before homework the same everyday and you're late with dinner the same everyday and you consider jumping from the balcony the same everyday only to argue yourself out of it the same everyday because let's face it a dive off the first floor balcony is only gonna get you into a cast and not into a dirt nap and then life would be the same everyday only in a friggin' cast which would just complicate shit and not really solve anything or give the same selfish result that ultimately you want anyway and that would be that the people in your life THINK ABOUT YOU more than just to locate some lost random item like a backpack, cigarette lighter, or adapter to charge a mobile phone. And it would be really itchy and hard to walk.

So you just suck it up day after day thinking "it's going to get better...it has to....I chose the SAHM life and I love my kids and my family and I wouldn't trade it for the world." And you know that deep down you never would trade your husband or children for one of those hot firemen calendar poster guys on a big red fire engine with his ropes and hoses....oh my! Although there would probably be a big long 'pros' and 'cons' list, if only mentally. But in the end, the SAHM-gig would still win out. Because after all, you ARE making a difference in the world by repopulating the planet with intelligent, kind and productive people. And you love them and they love you. And that husband, even after all these years, is still really hot. And he's seen you in the throws of childbirth and helped you during a really messy miscarriage and helped change the poopy diapers and made you dark-chocolate covered baklava for your birthday and he's seen you in bad flourescent lighting with all your stretchmarks and 'still planning on losing this' pregnancy fat and hasn't run screaming down the street in search of a younger, hotter version of you....AND STILL WANTS YOU.

But from time to time that overwhelming, 'oh dear God help me not to puke from boredom' feeling  hits you. And this is how I felt last night. And I told my husband that I was bored. And his answer was, "Go to bed."
NOT what I was hoping for. But men aren't intuitive like women. We have to lay it on the line with them. No hints-dropping because they're not designed to pick up on that sort of stuff. If we want flowers, then we have to say: "Hey, Honey. My birthday is Saturday and I want red roses with daisies mixed in and I want a gold bracelet and if you get me another kitchen gadget that plugs in, you can also hire me a divorce lawyer."
That's how you get what you want from men. Telling them stuff like, "I am bored with my life and I need a change," is NOT going to get you a hired babysitter and a night out on the town. I know this. But I hoped for a fleeting moment. And instead of living up to my weird female expectations, he lived up to the reality that is male. So I went to bed.
Roses and Daisies Pictures, Images and Photos

This morning I decided to wash the curtains in the foyer for a change of pace. So, I climbed up on the four foot wooden painter's ladder and took the curtains down. Randa was complaining because her brother farted next to her and it stunk. (The computer is in the foyer and she was playing on the computer.) So I told her to turn on the ceiling fan judging that I was at least a foot or more out of reach of the blades. She told me, "Be careful, Mommy." I thought, "How sweet. My little girl has overcome the autism speech issues enough to worry about my concern." And then I noticed that the curtain was stuck to the wooden splinters on the ladder so I lifted my arm out to pull the fabric away and stuck my damn hand right in the path of the metal ceiling fan that was on high.

I don't know about you, but five stitches in my index finger before noon definitely counts as a change in my regular routine. Think I'll keep my mouth shut from now on and just count my blessings.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Chest Pains, Homeschool and Housework, OhMy!

Saturday I posted on Facebook that I was again experiencing serious chest pains and that my husband took me to the emergency room and of course, no cardiologist was on duty. That was on Friday night. We paid for an appointment for Sunday night. And I went Sunday night with his cousin (because he had an appointment with the dentist to complete some dental work already started.) And the stupid cardiologist called in sick and we proceeded to walk about 8 miles in circles through about 4 hospitals in the area looking for one with a cardiologist. And of course, NO JOY.

I got home sweaty and hot and really pissed off, wondering if I were to drop dead of a heart attack would anyone in the Egyptian medical community give a crap. Probably not. I decided to contact my best friend, Sara, who I had neglected to bother with all of this because she just had her third baby and has enough crap on her plate with getting used to having 3 kids, going back to work as a surgical nurse after maternity leave, school for her oldest son just starting within the last few weeks and her mother-in-law living upstairs from her. But the whole "surgical nurse" thing and a plethora of knowledge as to where to find specialists in this city trumped all of her problems. So she told me to call the "heart center" downtown Alexandria. I did. And I have an appointment tomorrow at 5:30pm YAY. But what to do with the rest of my day?

So, while I was trying to track down the "heart center" phone numbers online today, Aiman started yelping and howling about ants "eating" his legs. Apparently one ant climbed on his foot and he freaked out. He IS my bug-fearing germophobe. I sent him to shower and then found out what the problem was. Aiman was charged with sweeping the living room last night after dinner and Mohamed was charged with wiping down the coffee table. (Our place is too small to have a dining room unless we want to lose a bedroom....so we opted to just eat in the living room at the coffee table.) Mohamed got his usual case of TWC's (Table-washing cramps) and had to go poop for about an hour or so. Of course, by the time he got out of the john, he'd lost 2 pounds, was light-headed and completely forgot about the task he'd been assigned. Aiman just said, "I don't want to" and went to bed. I was pretty much in pain and had already gone to sleep so it didn't get done. At any rate, I pushed furniture around, swept the house and mopped the house with kerosene water (kills bugs and as long as I don't smoke while I'm doing it, it's not dangerous provided the house is well-ventilated.) I swept off all the area rugs and put them back, returned the furniture and then made my phone calls to the hospital while sucking down the coffee I hadn't had due to Mop-mania Ant-Killing Mission.

I did three loads of laundry, "homeschooled" for math because no one went to school today because my husband was afraid that the ongoing in-fighting had reached our outskirt area of town. WHAT DID I EVER DO TO HIM TO DESERVE THAT??? Truth be told he thought he had it on good authority that it was unsafe to send the kids to school today. When I found out that his source was one of his cousins who barely understands the evening news, I reminded him that she was the same one who dragged his nieces down to my apartment when she was babysitting them and had all of them terrified that Israel had attacked Alexandria and were currently bombing our neighborhood. Why? Because the people on the block behind ours were having a wedding and shot off about 30 bottle rockets all at once. They'd never seen this type of fireworks before (they're illegal here) and freaked out and ran downstairs terrified and crying while my kids were staring out the bedroom window going, "Ooooh!....Aaaaaah!" So, while I shifted gears between 5th, 6th, 7th and 9th grade levels of geometry and algebra, I managed to fold and put away another 2 loads of laundry, solve a Rubik's cube (by popping all of the pieces out and putting it back together so that the kids all think I'm a genius), pick all the pubic hair off of the bar of soap in the shower (far too many males in this household) and get the dishes washed up. I sent the boys out to pick up the stuff I needed for dinner and got the kids fed and MOST of the homework done before my husband got out of bed at 2.

I try to keep busy because activity actually makes my chest hurt less. So, it's not exercise-induced. I'm thinking it's stress. But with the high-cholesterol levels and this houseful of teenagers, I really need to have it checked. Here's to my health.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

I'm Going to be Bald by 2012

I woke up feeling like someone had pounded the snot out of me with a Louisville Slugger this morning. I guess it's time to pull the blankets out of the closet. Or maybe just turn the ceiling fan off at night. But that hyperactive ovary has me doing the pre-menopausal night sweat dance. You know the one. Where you are hot as hell and feeling like your clothes are choking all the oxygen out of you even though you're only wearing a thin cotton nightshirt and going commando in case your husband decides to wake you up for a zesty session once the kids finally fall asleep. And then after about 10 minutes of comfortable sleep once you've kicked the covers off your sweaty body, the ceiling fan cools you off from comfortable to "damn, I feel like someone jammed an icicle through my spine" and then of course, you can't find the bedspread that you kicked across the room only moments earlier. And the mad vicious circle continues all night.

So after little to no real sleep, I awoke to a vicious headache and pretzel-like muscles. Then my kids started the  "he was supposed to be third today on the computer and I was supposed to be first"--"No, you're a butthole liar" routine not only before coffee...but before I'd had my morning pee. This was my first clue to Suckfest 2011. I asked the kids to please be merciful and quiet since I had all the signs of an oncoming migraine and they promised they would just before the youngest two decided to host an indoor soccer match in the boys' room. The two older boys engaged in mortal combat for the remainder of the day and well into the evening. (As a matter of fact, they only called a truce about 20  minutes ago when "Hancock" came on tv and sat down on opposite ends of the couch to watch it together.)

I was supposed to take Randa back to the dentist tonight. He tried like hell to get her broken molar out yesterday but he made a mistake and let her see the needle before I got her sunglasses with the electrical tape on the outside lenses on her. And she said, "Dentist is jackass! No way, Jose! Wanna go home!" and  proceeded to argue with him for the next half hour as he tried to coax her into opening her mouth. He started to come at her with the needle and she actually yelled, "No. No. I love you." at him. At which point all he could do was crack up laughing and ask me to try and bring her back tonight. I tried to prepare her all day for it. I poked her in the gums with my fingernail several times and said, "See? 2 small needles here and here and then the dentist will pull out your tooth." And she answered each time differently. "No way," turned into "Uhm, no thanks," and then "Maybe later, Dear," and then finally, "Okay." Then she went to sleep about 7:30pm. I went in to wake her at 8:15 so we could be at the dentists by 8:30. I asked her one more time, "Are you going to let the dentist give you a needle here and here and then pull out your broke tooth so it won't hurt anymore?" And she said, "No way, Jose! It's sleepy time."

Screw it. If she finally gets sick of it hurting, she'll let him do it. Or we'll wait until it comes loose and falls out on its own. Either way, I'm tired of pulling my hair out over it...and everything else.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Coffee Poser

Coffee Cup Pictures, Images and Photos

For lack of youth and natural energy, there is caffeine. This is a well known fact for mothers. (And I mean  'mothers,' not 'Muthas.') I started drinking coffee long before I became a mother. I started drinking coffee regularly and in huge quantities while working the night shifts when I was 18. Quality was not even an optional vocabulary word at that job. Coffee was not something that we had an actual taste for. It was merely another tool for the job. We used pens to log information in a log book. We used computers to store pertinent information. We used air conditioners to keep the computers cold. We used coffee to stay awake all night.

If a more accurate word to describe the shit we drank was to be chosen, I'd probably use something like
"swill," or "jet fuel," or "motor oil," or perhaps "mud." But we called it coffee simply because it was easily understood that we meant that really thick, hot, black liquid that tasted like cigarette smoke smells. It did the job. I stayed awake. Even.when.I.didn't.want.to. Honestly, I am quite certain that I still have trace amounts of that stuff in my body now....twenty-five years later. It may be the secret to my insomnia.

Since then I've developed a taste for GOOD coffee...the kind that doesn't make you close your eyes and think happy thoughts in order to choke it down. I mean, that's not the only criteria for my definition of "good coffee" but it is the first. So I tried a variety of the canned brands and decided that I preferred Folgers over Maxwell House, Dunkin' Donuts over Starbucks, store brands over all because they were good and cheaper (at least in the world of choose the beans, grind them yourself and you can even choose flavors.) Personally, I think that Starbucks tastes like cat pee smells. I guess it's personal preference. I have one sister who agrees and shares Dunkin' Donuts coffee with me. My other sister is a total Starbucks fan. Who knew?
I hear Tim Hortons is good but I think travelling to Canada is a bit extreme for a good cup of coffee. I know that they have American franchises now but not in Texas. Really, what difference does it make? I live in Egypt now.

I started drinking German coffee in Georgia because I worked with a Coffee-nazi . It was fantastic. I re-entered the world of cappuccino and espresso and frappe slowly, as I could afford. Then when we moved to Greece, we bought an automatic drip coffee maker and German coffee. I loved it. Then we moved to Egypt. And it became increasingly difficult to find good coffee. Arabs seemingly prefer not just dark roasted coffee beans but burned coffee beans. So I packed away my coffee pot and went with the only available option that was not Turkish: instant. I know. I know. GROSS! EWWW! What a sacrilege to the coffee world. Well, here's the thing: It.ain't. tea.

So Nescafe has been my main means of caffeine intake over the last 10 years. Except when my sweet and wonderful husband brings me a kilo of German coffee back from Greece or a couple of pounds of Dunkin' Donuts coffee beans from the US. I am a miserly sort. I store the bags in the freezer and only make drip coffee on special occasions so as not to suck it all down and be forced to go back to the instant with no other options. Recently, I discovered a store that sells instant Maxwell House. YES! Score. It's soooo much better than Nescafe rock gut that brings all those midnight watch coffee horror memories flooding back with the overly acidic aftertaste. Is it still instant? Yes. Is it still not up to par with the stuff I've got stashed in the freezer? You betcha. BUT it's NOT Nescafe and it's not making me shut my eyes and think happy thoughts in order to choke it down.

p.s. This is not a whine page in an effort to "beat-around-the-bush" begging for sympathy coffee mailed to me. It is what it is. My thoughts on caffeine and my means to getting it short of a melt-proof plastic bag and IV drip. Thank you for your well-intended thoughts about mailing me some. God willing we'll get back to the US in the next couple of years and then you can meet me and buy me a cup at the local coffee house!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

My Love of Irish Actors

I've always had a love for Irish actors. Maybe it's my Irish roots (details of my heritage here.) While the love of my life is the Egyptian man that I married, on screen the likes of Colin Farrell, Ralph Fiennes, Brendan Gleeson, Liam Neeson, Gabriel Byrne, Patrick Dempsey and Colm Meaney grab my attention. I love the coarse language and dry humor and hilarity of such dire situations in comical tones that usually fill Irish movies. "In Bruges" was right up my alley. Where else would you have two stoned Irish hitmen, a Dutch hooker, and a racist American little person getting high in a Belgian hotel room? F-bombs a-plenty.

I think I got hooked when I first watched "The General" with Brendan Gleeson. I wonder if the Irish were the original "black comedians." After seeing "Billy Elliot", "In America," "The Commitments," and "Waking Ned," I felt reconnected to my Irish comedic gene...you know, "me funny bone." I love the dramatic films, too. "Veronica Guerin", "Michael Collins," and even "The Crying Game," are movies I've seen at least three times each. But I think that my favorites are still the comedies. I just read about "The Guard" online tonight and I'm waiting impatiently for it to be released to satellite tv so I can see it. In the mean time, I'll just keep watching my faves without dropping my own f-bombs so my kids don't ask me if I'm feeling Irish.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Weird = Me

Okay, I knew this. Hell, YOU knew this. You've read my blogs, so I'm not letting any new cats out of bags here. But I'll let you in on a little weird secret about me: I.like.math.

And I don't mean balancing my checkbook or converting grams into ounces. I mean ratios and percentages and quadratic equations. Solving for 'x' makes me giggle. I love algebra and statistics. I have been out of high school for *cough*25 years*cough* and haven't taken a college course in math in almost as long. I actually miss it.

All around me, mothers are clutching their hearts and heads and fretting about where they're going to find the money to pay for private math tutors for their kids. They complain bout how difficult the maths are this year. Personally, I think that they're making much ado about nothing. I don't mean that in a conceited "I'm smarter than they are" kind of way. What I mean is that these women don't even TRY to sit down and read the book that their kid is learning from. And I'm not talking about college age kids....I mean third and fourth grade. I just smile and nod and they think I'm the stupid foreigner. They ask me who is tutoring my kids in math and think I'm irresponsible and doing my kids a huge disservice when I tell them that I am. Truth be told, I'm cheap. Not frugal. C-H-to the EAP, cheap. I refuse to pay someone else to do something that I can do myself. Also, I have that whole "love invested" thing going on with my kids so I think I have more to lose than money if my kid fails.

I've been told on many occasions by teachers and other mothers that I am cheating my kids by not hiring tutors or teachers to help them with their math. My question is this: Why do we as women "dumb ourselves down" when it comes to math? Why do we leave it to the men to do? Since when is having testicles a requirement to knowing that the cubed root of 64 is 4? Are we not the primary caregivers/shoppers and home economists within our own households? Don't we know which detergent is a better buy because it costs less per ounce with the added bonus of working so well that we don't need to buy bleach?

Encourage your daughters in the math and science fields, Ladies. All it can do is raise their self-confidence AND the glass ceiling that might hold them back in future jobs.