new template

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Another Chapter Closes

As our time is Dubai is ending I have been forced to reflect on this journey that i have experienced.  If you want to see an actual tangible object of our time in Dubai, just look at Leighton!  I arrived in the sandpit in my third trimester of my pregnancy with Leighton..... She is literally the physical representation of our Dubai life.  When I look at her I don't know if we have been here forever or just a blink in time.  

This chapter of our lives started with just Jon, me and our two dogs.  Yes, I was super pregnant but we really only had to worry about ourselves.  We are ending this journey with Jon, me, three kids and one dog...... A lot has happened in less than five years for sure!

Doctor Braithwaite, my awesome OBGYN that delivered all three of our munchkins. 
Our pediatrician, Dr. Khan... Pakastani born but went to college at A&M... he is great!

So people have asked me how I feel about this move..... Well, I honestly have mixed emotions!  I love my family and I love my friends back home, don't get me wrong...... But I am leaving the place I have called home for almost five years.  A place I have been 20% longer than my college experience.  A place that has categorically changed me as a person. I am leaving the place where I became a mom and the people that helped me to become the person behind that title. How do you begin to attempt to describe that to someone who hasn't experienced it?  I am in my comfort zone here.... I have a core support group that can lift me up when I need a boost and knock me off my block when I get a little too big for my britches.  Friends who are honest and helpful and there at the drop of a hat.  We love each other and don't judge our life/parenting choices.... Well, we save the judging for behind each others’ backs.... Only joking.

These ladies are pretty awesome!

We sure did make a bunch of kids.... or should I say, Rhonda did!
and let the goodbyes begin....


I remember leaving Texas for Dubai.  My sister dropped me off at the Austin airport and I literally felt like someone had sucker punched me in the stomach...... I couldn't breathe, I couldn't speak, I just sat in the airport with my sunglasses on sobbing like a fool.  I have tried to learn from that experience.  I have tried to keep my head held high and my chin up during this transition home. There are times I have totally broken down.   When Jon and I finally made the decision to move back home to TexasI literally went through an entire box of Kleenex in 15 minuets.   Granted, Axel was only a week old and I had a few hormonal issues going on to say the least.  Life is all about these moment, right?!  These extreme feelings of happiness, sadness, gratitude, anger, love, passion, camaraderie and contentment are what makes life.... well…  If I tried to block these emotions out, I would be doing myself and this experience I have had in Dubai an injustice.  Let's be honest though, I make a freaking ugly cry face.  Seriously, it's bad! So I have tried my darndest to save my blubbering and crying for my car when I am by myself with my own thoughts.  

Life is good for a white and Western expat in Dubai.  I had live-in help..... Gina was my angel who made my life so easy.  Those issues that cause marriages to have a layer of tension were taken away.  We never had to worry about laundry, dirty dishes, sweeping the floor, making our beds, cleaning the toilets.... All that work, all that effort, all that drama was taken away.  When I needed to take Leighton or Corby to school, I could leave a child or two behind.  No worrying about unbuckling and taking in multiple kids for school drop off only to have to re-buckle them back in to cart them home...... Gina took away that stress.  If Jon and I wanted to go on a date night, we had a built in babysitter.  I was only able to train for my marathon because I left Corby with Gina during those long-run mornings.  If I was stressed beyond belief with my kids, I could ditch them with Gina and go grab a solo coffee or meet a friend.  I know how lucky I was and I thank my lucky stars everyday, but I know it was not reality.  That said, it was my Dubai reality and I will miss it dearly.  Saying goodbye to Gina was one of the hardest things I have done in a long time.  I love her for helping me transition into the life of multiple children.  She loved my kids more than I did sometimes and she always helped me to see the good In them, even when I wanted to give them (aka Corby) shaken baby syndrome. 

The thing that can be a blessing about Dubai is also its biggest curse.  Meeting friends is easy since 80% of the population are expats. Everyone is in the same boat.... Everyone comes here with a pretty empty friend bank and you get to fill up that bank as you go. Sometimes people leave or move and you aren't too upset and other times people go and you have a massive hole to fill.  I really fell into a very happy place over the past few years.  I had surrounded myself with friends that I genuinely loved and cared about.... My friend bank was full and I was fulfilled, but now I have to start all over again.  Yes, I am from Austin and I already have a support group with friends and family, but I really haven't been around them since acquiring this new role as an international mom.  Living abroad changes you and I hope when I move home I don't come off and an arrogant, know-it-all!  

The last 7 years of my life have changed me in more ways then I can ever explain in a simple blog post.  My way of thinking will forever be influenced by the variety of cultures I have experienced and places I have been.  I grew up an upper middle classes white girl in America..... I basically won the lottery just by my birth right. My short time teaching middle school in the inner city of Houston started the ball rolling and then living in a city and culture in the Middle East with such haves and have nots changed me and my perspective.  In some ways that you would expect and in others that you cannot even imagine.  

Looking back on everything I think I have learned two main lessons and have only one regret.  Let's get the regret out of the way….it is that we didn't visit Petra and until we eventually go, I will always kick myself for that.  The first realization was that we are all more alike in this world and people seem to have no clue! Just look at the Humans of New York posts over this past summer from Iran and Pakistan...... We are all chugging through life with ups and downs striving to be the best we can be for ourselves, our families, ours friends and our society.  People are inherently good no matter where you call home or what your religion is or who your family is.  Second, I have learned through this whole metamorphosis that no matter what you have or you don't have, no matter your situation or you trials, your successes or defeats, your wealth or your lack there of..... You determine your own attitude and your own outlook on life and path forward.  I have seen people with so little share the very little they do have.  People with circumstances that should break even a strong person, keep pushing forward with a smile!  So I have learned you get to choose and I have decided that I choose happiness!  This process of leaving the world behind where I became a mom and surrounded myself with people that made me better was awful..... I could have locked myself in my room and cried for weeks or held a grudge against my husband for making me leave my comfort zone, but I didn't.  I chose happiness!  Whenever I feel anxiety, resentment, fear, sadness or loneliness I think of the positive that is coming out of this move and I choose to be happy.  

This transition back to Texas is going to be a hard one, I know.  I have changed so much but I weirdly feel like home has been frozen in time.  Obviously it hasn't..... My nieces are 5 years older, my siblings have made 4 new cousins for my kids to play with, my friends have gotten married and had babies, and the city I love and was raised in has morphed into something that is partially unrecognizable to me. 

I am sad that this will realistically be the only time we will live abroad for an extended time.  I will miss seeing, hearing and experiencing so many cultures everyday (even though some days it will drive you crazy and you crave being home). Now we are moving into a homogenized bubble and that scares me.  I was not ready to leave Dubai, but I am making the best of the situation..... 

But seriously I am being a brat..... The "situation" is an awesome one! My kids are all healthy and happy, Jon and I have a ridiculously great relationship (we actually like each other), I get to stay at home and raise my kids (I actually don't know if that's a good thing or a bad one for them;) and Jon has a new job he is excited about.  We are in a great place and I need to keep reminding myself of that.  It's all going to be overwhelming and stressful, but I am ready for this new adventure.
As long as I have these guys, I am good!

So to my Dubai friends..... I know I will see yall again, inshallah....Don't be strangers! And to my friends and family at home.... I can't wait to experience life with y’all again!

Thank the Lord above we don't have to do this again anytime soon! 

Until later.....

Saturday, August 15, 2015

My Million Dollar Idea

I figured out how I am going to make it big... I have an idea for one of those books they sell at Urban Outfitters.... The kind you put in your bathroom to humor your guests.  Well, maybe I won't make it big, but it might give me some extra pocket change
.  So here is the title, 101 uses for......

First let me tell you the story of how I got this idea in my head.  At the end of my sophomore year of university I had the opportunity to interview to become a Student Ambassador.  The job mainly consisted of giving campus tours to future students and their parents, visiting professors and benefactors to the school.  Now this was the highest paying job on campus at $25 per hour, while most students were making minimum wage... So needless to say it was a good gig!  The people who were going to interview me were the Head of Admissions, an Admissions Counselor and three current student ambassadors.  One of these students was Jon’s fraternity brother and another was my older sorority sister.  I do fine talking to people I don't know in an interview/professional setting, but talking to my peers.... that makes me nervous.  So the day of the interview comes and I put on my most professional Ann Taylor red button down with white pinstripes and black slacks.  As I was drying my hair I noticed sweat stains starting to appear in the armpits of my shirt.  (Personal background…. I sweat from my armpits when I am extremely cold or nervous).  I thought to myself, this is my only ironed shirt so let's make this work.  I took it off, dried the armpits with my hairdryer and put on a white undershirt hoping that would divert the sweat a smidge.  Everything was fine and it was getting close to the time for me to head across campus for the interview.  I was finishing my makeup when I lifted my arm to find a HUGE spot under my right arm now.... Shit shit shit....  I don't have another option to change into.  What to do?! So I took the shirt off and started hair drying the armpits again when the solution came to me.  So I walked to the water closet, grabbed two panty liners and slapped those babies in the armpits of my shirt.  I then threw it on, ran across campus and made it in perfect time for my interview.  I actually think those panty liners helped me get the job seeing as it totally relaxed me during the interview.  I was internally laughing the entire time knowing those people in front of me had no idea there were absorbent miracle workers discreetly hidden under a layer of fabric.

So the book’s title would be, “101 Uses for Panty Liners.”  There are so many more functions for them than meets the eye.  You know when your windshield gets that weird iridescent film on the inside?  Yep, wipe it off with a panty liner.  Don't have a cotton swab to use with your makeup remover to take your mascara off?  Yep, use part of a panty liner.  Don't have a bandage but your kid has a cut that's bleeding?  Just use a panty liner to clean that baby up.  Need to separate your toes to paint those piggies?  Wined a panty liner through them.  Middle of summer and you leave home with a cold diet coke and no koozie?   Slap a big bad panty liner around that sucker.  The adhesive back will stick to itself when wrapped around the can and leaves your hand dry and your coke cold!  Genius, right?!  These are the Universe’s little hidden secret!

That initial alternative experience with these flat, cottony sheets of absorbent heaven was over 13 years ago and since then, panty liners and I have had more fun-filled experiences than I can count.  Panty liners and I have become good friends after three kids..... An unexpected sneeze or laugh, running or doing jumping jacks, or just simply breathing.... Panty liners have earned a special place in my heart.   I honestly think if I would have bought stock in a panty liner company back in college, I would have singled handedly helped to double my own investment.  However, since I didn't, maybe I can get these little ladies the 15 minutes of fame they deserve!

Until later....

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Iftar in Naif

A while ago I went on a food tour in Dubai with Frying Pan Adventures.  The owner, Arva, took us around some of the original areas (aka less Western areas) of Dubai, to introduce and expand our knowledge of Middle Eastern cuisine.  We ate food from all over; Palestine, Syria, Iran, Egypt and the UAE.  It was a great and educational experience and I would recommend any of her food tours to everyone!  Arva is a tiny, little, loud, and outgoing thing and she was just recently on "Bizarre Foods" with Andrew Zimmerman.  Anyways, I follow frying pan adventures on Instagram to see what is going on with the successes of the company and to see interesting food found from around this region.  Recently, I saw a post about an upcoming food/photography tour in conjunction with Gulf Photo Plus, exploring Ramadan Iftars in an area of town that few Westerners venture to called, Naif...  as part of their #unseenDXB series.

A little refresher course.... Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar and during this month Muslim men and women fast from sunrise to sunset.  Dubai changes during this month.....things get much quieter during the days, but after sunset, well that's a different story.  Fasting during Ramadan means different things to different people.  Some believe that through this sacrifice they become closer to God, others think that fasting makes them better understand the plight of those less fortunate than themselves, while others believe that it teaches you patience above all else.  Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars in the Islamic faith and I think people's dedication to their beliefs during this month is fascinating and remarkable.  The other four are pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj), giving a portion of your yearly savings to the poor, five daily prayers and believing that there is one true God and that Mohammad is his messenger.  Islam also teaches about Adam, Noah, Abraham, Jesus and so on, but that Mohammad is the true messenger of God.  Now I don't claim to be an expert and I am not nearly as knowledgeable about any religion as I should be, but similarities and parallels between the major world religions are crazy to me...... It's all becomes messed up when oppressive cultures and governments get involved.... But I digress....

Back to the point of this blog.  I signed up to go on a Photo Walk where we would explore Naïf, an area of town close to the Gold and Spice souks.  We visited different mosques and food stands in anticipation of Iftar.  First, we visited the oldest known mosque in Dubai which was over 100 year old.  We spoke about lighting and camera settings (which mostly went over my head) while getting used to our surroundings and anticipating what was to come.



Iftar is the breaking of your fast after sunset during Ramadan.  Once the call to prayer is over, your fast can be broken and then you can proceed to mosque to do your evening prayers.  Every culture has an item that they break their fast with, but most traditionally it is done with a date.  Men start heading to mosques well before the call to prayer and some even hours before actual Iftar. The community at these mosques was fantastic. Friendships were evident, respect was apparent and the anticipation was palpable.
This was our first stop:

And our Second stop:



We then ended up making our way through the streets of Naif to a mosque that supplied meals to hundreds and hundreds of people.  Iftars at these mosques are supplied by the family that sponsors that mosque or other individuals.  We arrived right before the call to prayer and the stillness was off-putting.  These streets are usually busy....they have a heart beat that makes Dubai what it is to me.  Now it was calm and quiet like a deep, slow exhale.  Some men sat with their hands upward facing in prayers, others unpeeled their oranges in anticipation of the first bite, while still others spoke quietly to those sitting around them.

 Then the call to prayer rang out...... There were two things that surprised me about this Iftar, the "real man's Iftar"..... First, it was quick!  As a non Muslim, an Iftar to me consists of a typical Dubai all you can eat buffet at a five star hotel.  To these men it was substance, fuel, and life after a long day's work.  The second thing that got me was their thirst!  I have thought about the act of fasting but I had never contemplated what it would look like to drink something after working in 100+ temps without food or water for over 14 hours...... I wish I had taken more pictures of this moment but literally lids were tossed off and liquid was poured down throats.... Chugged and guzzled was more like it.  I got lost in the moment for a few minutes just looking around and taking it all in with my own eyes versus with the lens of my camera and before you knew it, the Iftar was over.  Men were dispersing and all signs of this event were vanishing from the sidewalks of Naif.


We finished our photo tour with a walk through the streets of Naif and had dinner at an Afghani restaurant were we enjoyed lamb, chicken, rice, Dahl, "trotter" soup, one of my favorite breads and the most amazing mantu dumplings.



After seeing the pictures of the other people on this photo tour I feel extremely amateur... I can humbly say my pictures pale in comparison to theirs... but this was my first ever real experience with photography, so kudos to me ;0) .  I mean, I have had an SLR camera for a while, but I haven't used it like I should and usually only ever use the auto setting.  Also, I have never asked a stranger if I can take their picture for my own use.  Y'all know me and know I am not in any way afraid to talk to a stranger, but I felt like this was a very personal moment for some of these men and I did not want to interrupt.  I spoke with many of them and shared countless smiles when language barriers would get in our way.  However, looking back at these pictures I wish I would have pushed in more and taken more chances.  The opportunities were there, but I didn't want to overstep, which I realize now would have been very very hard to do.  Almost all of these men were willing and wanting to share their stories with us and some even seeking out our camera lenses!  Guess I'll just have to grab my camera and go out exploring with the rest of the time I have in Dubai!

This was an amazing experience that I feel very fortunate to have had.  Like I told our photographer guide, Alex, I feel as if this opened a door to a moment I would not feel comfortable entering on my own for the first time.  Now that this door has been opened, I am excited to explore and see what it will bring!

To wrap up this serious post, here is a joke.....
Thinking of going on a diet? Well I hear there is a new one out there.... Try one month of Mu-Slim Fast.

Booooo, I know, it was awful....

Until later...