Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Art of Giving

I am of the few looking forward to Christmas. Not because, to many Christian brothers and sisters, it is a time to remember the birth of Jesus the Christ--our Prophet Isa-- or for many Pagan brothers and sisters it is a time of celebration of the solstice, nor for the Holy celebration of Chanukah for Jewish brothers and sisters. I respect all faith traditions, but the reason I look forward to this season is what most people abhor of the holy days: its heavy reliance on family time and gift giving.

I realize that for many, it is a sad time where they are reminded of what they lack: money or family connection or loved ones now passed away. Many have also made the valid and true point that one should not wait for the holidays to be grateful for that which we *do* have. However, I find that the human mind too often forgets its blessings, so while I am not Christian, Jewish or of any Pagan traditions, and the holidays mean nothing to me religiously, it is still a beautiful time of sharing, giving and being grateful.

I'm blessed to be financially able to give gifts to those I love; however, I found that over the years, I've come to understand the "art of giving", because anyone can give someone 10$ or a coffee shop gift card, but it takes a pure soul to give it to someone who did not expect to receive a gift, who may not have thought they deserved a gift even!

Of course, gift cards and cash may not be financially viable options, still, to this day, nothing has warmed my mother's heart more than a homemade gift and that rings true of most parents but also of many friends and acquaintances. The true art of giving is in knowing what to give: it could be as easy as knitting a headband for the hijabi who's been struggling to put a tuque up top her hijab (HOLLA sisters of the Great White North!), Sharpie-ing a personal message on a white mug for a fellow coffee drinker or making a painting for someone. Yes, some of those homemade gifts require some skills but some honestly only require some creativity!

The truth about gift-giving is that the gift hardly ever matters, what truly matters is the intention.

For those who may not be fortunate enough to have those to share with or who may not be willing to partake in a celebration materialistic belongings, the art of giving is not solely material: your time is by far the most valuable thing you can give, whether by spending time with loved ones who may not receive of your presence so often, by volunteering with those less fortunate or by taking someone's shift so that they can spend the holidays in a manner that is meaningful for them. Most important is to remember to be grateful, for what you have and who you have, and most importantly, who you are.

So for this season, whether you celebrate Channukah, Cheistmas, Yule, Festivus, the Solstice, the year end or if you have no special celebration belonging to the season, I wish you peace of mind and remembrance that you are unique, beautiful and loved, by family, friends and by God.

Peace and blessings everybody!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Living on the wire

I moved to a new town at the beginning of September after a very short notice. Settling oddly into my new town, I expected to use the cyber space as my only link to the world I knew; a world vastly different than the one I moved into. I know this "new" town very well; I moved away from it 6 years ago. In those 6 years, i obtained a university degree, made friends from every corner of the globe and accepted a religion viewed much more negatively than the one I was brought up into. I love this new world in which I got involved; leaving it tore me apart. But I would still be able to "visit" this world virtually, right? Wrong!

Only a few days after arriving at my temporary residence, my access to the world came crashing: Literally! My computer became unusable! With limited data on my Internet-accessible phone, I was able to keep superficial contact with this world. And through my lack of distraction, I was forced to connect with this new world I was thrown into.

Reluctantly but gracefully (or my failed attempts at grace in these circumstances) I learned to integrate to new friends, changes in the town and of the work, I accepted a new pace of life and different activities, I acceptance the distance and sometimes lack of communication between friends I once considered close. I saw my world changing before my very eyes and was "disconnected" enough to really notice the change. 

Some would argue that I got meaner; it seemed I have also somewhat disconnected from myself along with the World Wide Web and my once sarcastic and witty edge has gotten sharper and maybe even cutting. I don't mean it to be but that seems to be my new protection against a world I expected to experience behind a screen. I have also become much more concerned with my own well-being; guarding my body, my heart, my mind and my health against the cold hard world. I discovered a new love for myself I did not always allow myself to hear. 

I re-discovered my love of books and discovered my own idea of comfort food. I elaborated my talents and discovered new passions, new goals and new ambitions.

This rest period, living off--or less--on the wire was truly therapeutic. I can thankfully say that this otherwise unfortunate situation has brought about some much-needed changes in myself and I my behaviour.

I now have a computer once again and I am confident that the interwebz won't suck me back in; I am looking forward to re-connecting with friends and to sharing my new insight with my fans, friends and followers but I now have new priorities which take precedence on all the other "things" the Internet has to offer.

Thank you for your continued support! I'm looking forward to more regular posts  on this bright new life I'm now living. Do not worry: I am still my God and Diversity-loving self and I will continue to write slightly controversial but hopefully inspiring posts about spirituality, relationships and diversity. Hopefully, over time these posts will become notes and insight rather than angry rants but beware--anger's still got to come out somehow, so how about in a healthy, non-violent way!?

I love you all for the sake of humanity and of it's Creator. Peace and blessings everybody!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

K for Kiss

"Voila! In view humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of fate. This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is a vestige of the “vox populi” now vacant, vanished. However, this valorous visitation of a bygone vexation stands vivified, and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin, van guarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition.
The only verdict is vengeance; a vendetta, held as a votive not in vain, for the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the virtuous.
Verily this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose, so let me simply add that it’s my very good honour to meet you and you may call me V." -Hugo Weaving as V, V for Vendetta

While V for Vendetta, a wonderful piece of graphic novel/cinematic art, discusses everything from social attitudes towards government to political control of the population to the role of fear in genocide and other crimes against humanity, that is not the theme that captured my interest tonight. It is not either the beautifully juxtaposed cameos of classical music, classic cinema, alliteration and beautiful vocabulary. It's not even the subtle but noted praise of the Holy Quran in a post 9/11 Hollywood movie. What struck me tonight is a kiss. A single kiss between Evey (Natalie Portman) and Guy Fawks mask worn by V (Hugo Weaving).

In this one kiss, Evey reveals an undeniable love for 'V', a man or thing she has never seen in the flesh. She later reveals that 'V' is a bit of everyone; V is an ideal. I've seen this movie several times so it may be with a tainted outlook that I see this kiss as a bleak portrayal of vulnerability *and* strength through an ideal... An ideal that could never reciprocate the love and dedication she offers him.

I understand far too well this dedication; as a queer-activist and a Muslim, I realize that I am "married" to ideals that can be seen as quite "unpopular" by the mainstream. Moreover, I know that both these beliefs are often seen as opposite one another, antagonistic even. I ammetaphorically  sleeping with both enemies of mainstream Christian-right Noth American society. In many ways,  my wife and mistress of sorts have kept me safe and comfortable. Safe and comfortable  in the sense that I have clear conscience in the knowledge that I am doing my best to do what I truly and honestly believe to be morally right.

Without the added dilemma of juggling two arch nemesis, everyone who is married to their ideals will understand this struggle; finding the worth in the sacrifices required to remain dedicated to a cause. Because as much as I hate to say it, I sleep comfortably with a clear conscience every night, alone and in an empty bed.

Struggling for a cause does not always keep you warm but remember the people who do, remember the friends supporting you,remember the cause you are serving. And one day, I hope, we'll all find lips that kiss us back... Inshallah!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Follow the yellow brick road...

It is with the deepest regret that I announce that I will be leaving Canada's capital city, my home for the past 5 years. I had dreamed of moving to Ottawa since I was 12 and I still consider Ottawa to be my dream city. So why am I leaving? Because I have to follow the yellow brick road, of course!

Let me explain: in the past months my relationship has completely broken apart, I lost my job for the 2nd times in a year and my employment insurance was withheld far beyond the 3 weeks it should have taken. While under all of these stresses, I asked God for a good, permanent, full-time job that would allow me the security I needed to build a good life for myself and my mother.

Recently, I was offered a job that I didn't apply for. I was given a full-time, permanent position... only an hour away from my mother. If I had a job, I would probably refuse the position. If I had a boyfriend, I would probably refuse the position. If I had the assurance that I would find a position before my employment insurance ran out, I would refuse the position. But all of these things have been put in place so that I am in no position to refuse the job. I believe God has lined up this yellow brick road and I am not arrogant enough not to follow it.

In fact, the only reason I am not risking staying in Ottawa even with uncertain financial risks, single and jobless is because I believe that this is God handing me an opportunity greater than what I could possibly perceive it to be. The advantages such as money or closeness to family mean absolutely *nothing* to me. What means something to me is the fact that the stars aligned perfectly. I believe in following God's signs. It's what lead me to Islam, it's what got me through the tough nights, it's what gets me through every single day.

God has a plan.

I am extremely angry with God right now. I am angry at His plans. I am angry that His plans including losing the person I loved and perhaps losing even more friends once I move. I am angry that his plans include moving to a city that I already know to be homophobic, islamophobic and racist. I am angry that I am angry at His plan, because I never want to be angry at God. But I am. Regardless of my anger, I am trying to be the bigger person and trust. I trust that no matter how angry His plan makes me, He has planned to my best interest.

I am following the path God has lined up for me. I am following His yellow brick road even though I don't expect the Emerald City by any stretch of the imagination. I am following the yellow brick road kicking and screaming rather singing pretty songs, but I am following the yellow brick road wherever it leads me.

God has a plan.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Guilt tripping, shame and honesty!

Some people have had at me for being "shameless". Shamelessness is usually a derogatory term used to guilt people into silence. I don't understand this concept. I don't understand living in regrets: life happens, we make mistakes, we ask for forgiveness and we move on -- hopefully with the intention not to repeat our mistakes.

I am not going to say that I have absolutely no regret and I am not particularly proud of some moments of my life. However, there is no use to denying that it is, indeed, my life and while it was not all glitter and glory, I am proud of where I am today. I know there is always means for me to get better, but I will not deny the past. Because ignoring the past only further ensures that history will repeat itself. I wholeheartedly believe this. 

Denying the existence of our faults allows us to play judge to those around us. Whereas "coming clean" about your flaws, your faults, your shortcomings, to others, keeps you accountable. I came across a beautiful line recently which read "I prefer to be an honest sinner than a lying hypocrite". Someone took great offence to this line -- probably because of a previous conversation where I had tagged this person as the latter -- and instead tagged me as "shameless" for my past sins. It's annoying.

Let me enlighten you further on my theory on honest sinning: I commit sin, we all do. We are flawed in our humanity. That's a "duh" thing for me. I could live everyday without telling anyone of the sins I have committed and my repentance of those sins. Perhaps it would make me appear as a better Muslim, a better woman, a better person... but it wouldn't make it so. Moreover, if I lied about my sins, I would feel the guilt of not only committing the sin, but committing an extra sin to cover it up. 

I feel more guilty about covering up my sins, than I do about my sins themselves. The truth is, no one is deceived by lies except yourself. You get to live an existence of more pious precondition but your soul is still just as guilty of the sins you commit. The way I see it, I can tell people of the sins I committed and the lessons I learned, in the hopes that my experience will suffice to steer them away from repeating my mistakes. Don't try to guilt-trip me into being a "good little Muslim" who doesn't speak of her shortcomings, don't even try to make my ashamed of my past! God and I have had this discussion before, and while He did not respond, I've already settled with him: asked repentance and for the strength not to recede.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Muslim men make my hijab haraam

I've talked a few posts back about the experience of being female and being subjected to hoot, hollers and howling: it bothers me... a lot! More recently, a friend discussed her desire to stop wearing hijab. Her reason? She has received more unsolicited comments on her appearance from men, in the form of cat calling and overt sexual interest, since wearing it than she has without.

Some people were quick to blame her attitude, stating that she must be giving signs, opening herself up to it; others told her that hijab did in fact bring more attention on her than would not wearing it. I hate these attitudes: this victim-blaming crap that makes women responsible for every bit of sexual attention she gets.

No, her attitude is NOT the problem, neither is her scarf. The problem is that the types of guys who notice her and other hijabis don't know how to live! In fact, a majority of those who notice hijabis are MUSLIM MEN! That's what drives me insane!

Let us not forget that modesty was first demanded of men before it was demanded of women and that similar obligations of dress are "required" of men (for those believe hijab is a requirement): men should wear shirts to their elbows, pants below their knees and their heads should be covered. That's right, your sexist bs that I'm "not wearing hijab properly" because you can see my neck doesn't stand next to the fact that I can see your elbows!!!

Dear Muslim men,

Stop gawking at us. Stop making comments at how we do or do not wear proper hijab. Your "MashaAllah"s are gross and univited. It is NOT our responsibility to look unsexy it is YOUR responsibility to LOOK AWAY!. 

And sisters, please stop denying the systemic patriarchy taught to our men. They are already given the better prayer spaces, the better food, the better rights, the upper hand in both employments and search for a mate, more leeway when acting outside the fold of Islam -- please, we don't need you to make excuses for them on top of it.

There are some wonderful brothers out there, and yes, it's unfair that they are judged on the same standard as the low-lives who call themselves Muslim brothers but in fact are just olive-skinned skirt chasers. There is NOTHING WRONG in brothers having to prove that they are decent men. Wouldn't the entire world be a better place if we held everyone to a higher standard?!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

You know you don't have to do that!

Peace and blessings.
So Ramadan is right around the corner and I am, I must admit, dreading the long hours of fasting in the warmest weather of the year. Ramadan in Canada will be taking place during some of the longest days of summer averaging 17.5 hours between dawn and dusk. Yet, Ramadan was --and is-- a large contributing factor to why I am a Muslim. After my first 30-day fast, I was in awe of  the insight it gave me on my body, on the greatness of God's power of creation, and God's ability to instill a will into my soul that is greater than the needs, even the biological ones. 

So I complain, but only in the same sense that one complains about having to go to work, or to get up in the morning: I complain about something I know I must do --if not a social/religious obligation, at least a personal one. Not that it is always pleasant, just like my headscarf is not always pleasant: sure it is warm and sometimes muggy and can be limiting in certain respects, but then there's is this greater sense of self-respect, of self-love and pride which I feel while wearing it which completely outweighs even the worst aspects of it.

What troubles me, is the comments I receive of "well, you know you don't have to do it". Honestly, it bothers me as much if not more than it bothers me when I receive it as an answer to my complaining about working out. The sharing of the complaint in the first place means a certain bond between myself and the person I am speaking to, at least a superficial one. An answer so critical and cynical tells me that the person with whom I am dialogue does not understand me, does not understand my purpose, the purpose of my actions. More importantly, it refers to a lack of consideration and a lack of respect for what I am doing.

I have free will over everything I do, just like anyone else. If you are going to be technical, no one "has" to work, no one "has" to follow the law, no one "has" to wake up in the morning, eat, sleep, take care of each other... but we do --and not always because we want to. Sometimes, we do things because they make us a better human being, because it makes the world around us a better place, because it allows us greater freedom in achieving greater wants in life. For example, many of us will do some unpleasant chores in order to feel comfortable in our homes --not because we like the cleaning process. 

A better, kinder question, when lacking the understanding of a subject is not to state matter-of-fact-ly that "I do not *have* to do it" but perhaps to ask why I do. So why do I fast 30 days, from sunrise to sunset, making myself quite uncomfortable in the process? Because there is comfort in this discomfort: a comfort which lasts much longer than 30 days and much longer than 17.5 hrs/day: the comfort that I can control my body, my needs, my wants, and I can achieve whatever I put my mind to. The comfort of knowing that I *will* be eating 3 times a day for the remaining 335 days of the year. The comfort of knowing that I have been giving by God the ability to feel this comfort as part of a test of will and not through circumstances which do not allow otherwise.

I am blessed to have the opportunity to fast Ramadan, and while I might whine and complain, the successes I will achieve internally will far outweigh the external discomfort. So yes, I "need" to fast. I need to fast because nothing else has ever brought me this close to peace -- and even if nothing happens to me if I don't... nothing happens to me if I don't... and that in itself is the gravest of all the consequences!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Les tomates mûres | Ripe tomatoes

Je n'ai jamais été une enfant difficile à nourrir  Comme la plupart, j'ai essayer d'éviter les croûtes de pain à une certaine époque et je ne suis toujours pas amatrice de macaroni au fromage -- que voulez-vous je suis une enfant bizarre. Mes aliments favoris ont toujours été et seront toujours les légumes et les fruits, de préférence frais du jardin, sauf les tomates. Je haie les tomates. Ou devrais-je dire j'haissais les tomates?

Ma grand-mère avait l'habitude de faire pousser des tomates dans des pots sur son balcon. Ses tomates, elle nous les apportaient lors de visites. J'aime énormément ma grand-mêre et ferais n'importe quoi pour la rendre heureuse. Alors quand elle me suggérait de manger deux tranches de tomate à chaque repas, je le faisais, à contre coeur, mais je les mangeais. À une certaine époque, je me souviens ne pas vouloir la visite de ma grand-mère aux heures des repas car il s'agirait sans doute d'un autre repas à saveur de tomate. Ma mère s'est aussi ajouté au réjouissance, me rappelant à chaque repas que ma grand-mère demandait que je mange deux tranches de tomates par repas.

Tant bien que mal, au fil des années, plusieurs centaines de repas plus tard, mon goût pour les tomates s'est développé. Je ne déteste plus les tomates, je n'en mange plus à chaque repas, mais je ne les détestes plus.

À un repas familiale il y a quelques années, ma grand-mère, ma mère et moi nous sommes retrouver autour d'une merveilleuse tablée. Bien sûr, des tomates mûres y furent servis. Lorsque mon assiette fût vidée de celles-ci, je demandai une deuxième ration de tomates juteuses. Ma grand-mère répondit aussitôt: "Ah oui, manges-en des tomates! Je hais les tomates!"

I've never been a picky eater as a child. Like most, I tried to avoid bread crust for a time and I'm still not a fan of macaroni and cheese -- I know, I'm a strange child. My favourite food growing up were fruits and vegetables, garden fresh if possible... except for tomatoes. I hate tomatoes. Or should I say, I hated tomatoes?

My grand-mother had the habit of growing potted tomatoes on her balcony. She would bring her tomatoes to us every visit. I love my grand-mother very dearly and I would do anything to please her. Thus, when she would advise that I should eat two slices of tomatoes per meal, I would reluctantly do so. I even remember, at one point, hoping my grand-mother would avoid visiting us at meal hours because I knew she would bring some of her ripe tomatoes along. My mother joined in by reminding me, when my grand-mother was not around, that I was to eat two slices of tomatoes per meal as per her directions.

Through the years, I eventually grew out of hating tomatoes. I don't eat them with every meal but I don't dislike them.

At a family dinner, a couple of years ago, my grand-mother, my mother and myself found ourselves before a beautiful spread. Of course, amongst this spread were beautiful, juicy, ripe tomatoes. When I cleared my plate, I asked my grand-mother for seconds on the fresh vegetables, including tomatoes. My grand-mother quickly said: "oh yes, please, eat as many tomatoes as you would like. I hate those things!"

Monday, May 6, 2013

Ain't No Hollaback Girl!

The sexual harrassment of females at the hand of males is nothing new and far too often, women are told that they are to the ones with the ability to control the harassment. Even worst, women are recurrently told that they should take harassment as a form of flatery. That is unnacceptable!

Would you accept that your mother, sister or wife be harassed, touched our catcalled in your presence? Of course not! Then why is it implied that we should take it as a compliment when the comments are turned towards us?

Luckily, the Qu'ran and multiple hadiths speak of modesty, of lowering one's gaze and keeping from commenting on each other's allure. Unfortunately, cultural subjugaison and maintenance of the male status quo puts once again the burden of modesty on women and far too often, the men disregard the similar verses that apply to them.

I've been donning hijab as a form of modesty and I've simply had it with pseudo-Alpha males who in a show of machismo to their dimwit buddies decide that yellow, hollering or cat calling will win them any form of favour or amusement on my part. If you are a Muslim man reading this, be warned: the next man to howl or holler at me, will get a very vulgar piece of my mind!

Keep your hands, eyes and thoughts to yourself! Astagfurillah!

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Power of a Smile

Prophet Mohammed (peace and blessings upon him) very famously said that charity could be done in a number of manners, including bearing a smile to a stranger. Smiles have mysterious effects on people.
Even from the lips of a stranger, a smile can change a day. As I call it, a smile is the curve that makes the world go round.

Because smiles are contagious! And I'm not just talking about the social construct that smiles must be returned but also about the fact that happiness spreads from one person to the next like wildfire.

In this world where too many tears are shed, a smile brings hope of better days, of a better world. A world that spreads love instead of hate, compassion instead of fear, charity instead of spite.

Does this sound oddly idealistic? Yet it is the power of a smile I encountered on my way to work from a stranger, a much older woman with eyes full of kindness and a slight smile that carried a deep love of others.

As Muslims, we are told of this charity, and too many times we forget to do so. We keep our smiles the way keep our money in the face of those in needs. But why? A smile does not cost a thing, it doesn't remove from the one who gives and adds to the one who receives. It cannot be taken away and it can multiply upon sharing. A smile is the simplest of charity. Do not be too selfish to forget your Creator and give, in His name, the simplest of charities.

A smile can brighten up a day, aleviate pains and turn a week around, so I ask you: have *YOU* donated today?

Friday, March 22, 2013

On rights and wrong...

Ever since I've begin wearing a head scarf, I've been receiving the looks of friends and strangers alike: looks of admiration, looks of curiosity, looks of reprisals. Those looks are, in most situation, reinforcement of the purpose of my hijab. I feel protected and empowered, but, more importantly, I feel closer to God than ever.

The comments I receive also range from extremely positive to negative. Some, however, are meant as neutral and they can cause me the most pause. One of those comments came through a conversation about my scarf: "what about our right to feel safe?" The reality is that my headscarf is not a weapon or a threat, it does not propagate hate speech or discrimination of any kind.  What it does threaten is the ability for others to see and judge my body.

In North American societies in this age of information, people seem to assume they have a right to all information including information about my body and hair: it's shape, look, feel...

How is that a right? If anything, it should be my right to allow that information to go out! As a woman, I have seen men appropriate "rights" to my body: At bars, when they consider my dancing in public an invitation to touch, on the street when they consider my wearing heels to be an invitation to cat-call, on the internet, where having a picture of myself is an invitation for men I do not know to befriend me or at the very least comment on my appearance. If I refute their rights by pushing them away, telling them to back of refuting their "rights" in any way, I receive comments and get name called. Names that are reseved for women when they refuse to provide "information" which men expect to be their "right".

Everytime I put on my veil, I am reminded that information about my body is my right to disclose or to cover. For now, I choose to cover, but if one day, I chose to disclose my body, it would by no means change ownership to that right.

I respect that you may not feel safe when you see a Muslim in a hijab, but if you do perhaps it would be better to look at your own islamophobia rather than at my right to cover my hair and body because the only "right" you have is over your own actions and emotions!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Picture perfect memories

Shortly after returning from my grandmother's funerals, I received news that a wonderful woman, a woman I called "Mom #2" most of my life was terminally ill. I turned around and travelled back to my family to spend time with her. This woman... is the picture perfect of the wife, mother, friend and neighbour that one can hope to become. I know many of you think you know people like her, but I have never, in my life, heard anyone speak about a woman the way everyone around speaks of her.

She was my age when she married a hard-working man from a neighbouring town. Even then she was head strong and told him that regardless of tradition, she had no intention of changing her political inclination for her husbands'. They may not have agreed, but her husband soon found out there was no point arguing with her on that matter, she was a strong woman! They had four beautiful children together, one of which was a girl, I called her my sister, who had a severe physical and mental disability. Mom #2 spent all of her time at home from that moment on and took care of my sister.

It was shortly after that that my mother (the 1st one) got employed by Mom#2 to help out with my sister. I was not even a thought at the time, my parents were not married, their 3 boys were still in school. My mom would help keep an eye on my sister as well as help out with cleaning and cooking. There was a lot to be done. Mom #2 and my own mom grew close.

When my parents got married, it is partly thanks to Mom #2 that they were able to rent out the neighbouring house. This home is where I would grow up. That is where my mom would spend her 9 months of pregnancy, with Dad #2 always worrying that my mom would take cold as she was barely able to close her coat. Their home would be my dad's first stop returning from the hospital after my birth. He was supposed to stop home to get clothes and shower, but first, he stopped by mom and dad #2's home to announce that my mother had given birth to a beautiful baby girl. Mom#2 has described to me many times the look on my dad's face when explaining to them my face, my feet, my hands... My dad was a proud dad!

When my parents divorced 6 months later, it was mom #2 who comforted my mother and told her to be kind to my dad. She told my mother to accept his homosexuality for my sake. Because, as she said, God made him this way!

Mom #2 played such an important role in my life, and I could never in any one article ever do her justice. She fed me when I was hungry, she hid me when I was playing hide and seek from my mother (my mom didn't always know we were playing), she gave me to drink, she held me, hugged me, listened to me and watched countless hours of "pestacles" (spectacles in kid-speak) in her living room. She made me bread, her bread, the only bread in the world which can magically heal hearts and raise spirits. Her home always smelled of fresh homemade bread. Even after my mother and I changed home, we spent every Sunday, after church, with mom & dad#2 and their family. Their children became my uncles (it doesn't have to make sense when you're a child) and their grandchildren became my cousins.

My sister passed away when I was 12. I remember my mother picking me up from school with their middle boy. We spent an hour on my sister's dead bed, praying. I couldn't cry. I didn't seem to know how to cry. I remember returning to school and burrying myself in books. The first book I read was about unicorns, my sister had a unicorn windchime in her room; from then on I started literally a unicorn obsession. My first tattoo at 17, was a unicorn. My obsession with unicorn diminished after that: I had my unicorn with me at all times. I did not have to worry.

Mom & dad #2 went on living. Mom #2 became heavily involved with her grandchildren and me. I would go have lunch with my friends at their home during my school lunch breaks. Everyone was always welcome in their home, and everyone was served bread and water and other comfort foods if they had some.

I moved away in 2002 to live with my father. I know this was hard on mom & dad #2, to see me leave my mother's home. My mom understood what was happening but I don't think anyone else could understand. Regardless, I never missed a chance to see them each time I visited my hometown. They met each and every boy I dated and each boy was heavily warned that mom & dad #2's opinion of them could make or break our relationships.

When I graduated high school in 2006, few people came to see me: my paternal grand-mother and paternal uncle, my mother's younger sister... and mom#2 and her daughter-in-law and her grandchildren. Mom #2 even insisted on paying for the fabric of my prom dress.

Few weeks ago, I was told Mom #2 was terminally ill. I didn't think for a moment, and went to see her, 14 hours away in my hometown. I had a chance to talk with her and say my goodbyes. She even ask me to forgive her for having been mad at me initially after I moved away. There was nothing to forgive, I never resented her for it. Today was her funeral, and as a tribute to her, I wanted to find all of the pictures from the numerous memories I have of her and post them onto this page. To my surprise, I could only find one picture of her, and I was not on it. This woman has defined me as a woman, as the friend, wife and mother I want to become. She has inspired me and helped me grow. few pictures of her remain but to me, she will always be picture perfect in my memories.

From God we become and to Him is our return.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

White Canadians are Racist

I've always believed that white Canadians were not racist: we were, in my mind, well-intentionned dumbasses who tried to be as welcoming as possible but did so awkwardly and stupidly. I figured this was sometimes due to our own biases but mostly due to our inheritant lack of understanding of being "an other". After less than a year in a hijab, I've now understood one thing very clearly: not only are white Canadians racist, but we are also conveniently lying to ourselves about it. I say 'we' because I am cannot legitimately excuse myself of my own priviledge just because I wear a veil or even because I identify with the Queer community. I am white, Canadian-born. My priviledge is with me, regardless of what I do, and what 'else' I am.

'We' are racist. For centuries we have conquered, corrupted and cheated to be the best. And by our own standards, we are! The saddest part is that now that we've claimed the top spots for wealth and health we turned to minorities so we could become 'the best at including others'. The problem is that for us to include others, they have to REMAIN others. If 'they' become a majority, then 'we' are not the best: they are!

So while minority groups struggle to become equals we continue to ensure that they maintain minority status while we show them meaningless attempts at inclusion. As minorities become a greater part of Canada, white Canadians are slowly growing more conservative. We can claim to not see colour all we want, so long as we are unwilling to accept that our racism CANNOT and SHOULD NOT be excused by our ignorance we are allowing racism to continue. Take a stance against racism and teach your child or force local schools to teach about other races, other cultures, other traditions and other beliefs! And stop thinking 'others' need saving; 'they' can save themselves if we let them!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Broken hearts can love too!

Jumping on a trampoline
"Hate is only a form of love that hasn't found a way to express itself logically". -Lil' Wayne

My family's love for one another is both dysfunctional and unconditional. Those you love the most can also hurt you the most and you can hurt most those that you love. That is a sad reality of life. However, at this tender moment, I would like to focus on the love that I showed to and was shown by my paternal grand-mother. This strong woman with a tender heart and life-consuming problems.

Playing with my cousins and myself
I can never understand my father's or his siblings' relationship with my grand-mother, troubled with both alcoholism and deeper emotional issues. I was lucky enough to never witness these moments when I was old enough to remember them. I was given the opportunity time and time again to build great memories with my grand-mother. I spent many afternoons playing teacher to her and my grand-father. I remember trying to give her stickers after she correctly counted to ten and her laughing and telling me to keep my precious little stickers. She was 5ft something, cramming herself in a children's desk, because there was no way I would accept a "student" who did not sit at "her desk" properly. My poor grand-mother.

Grand-parents visiting me after
 my tonsels were removed
As the moments of sobriety were scarce, so were the opportunities to spend time with her. Regardless, she made time when she could to attend events, when we could invite her based on the events' attendance. For the child me, it was not always easy to accept that my grand-parents were not invited to family gatherings. Our parents tried to explain as well as they could but in the short moments we were given to spend with our grand-parents, they had nothing to do with the images painted by them. They were, for all intents and purposes, the best grand-parents children could ask for.

Picture taken at my confirmation
As we grew up, we caught glimpses of our grand-parents' inability to show love in healthy ways. Our relationships with them became difficult, choosing to side with our parents in most matters. We loved our grand-parents, and we never doubted their love, we simply knew that the route to healthy relationships with them meant one where we cherished our memories, rather than attempt at making new ones. On my grand-mother's death bed, I had a chance to re-tell and re-live some of those memories. We were given the chance to see old wounds heal before our eyes. True love transcends even from broken hearts. May God reunites these broken hearts and allow them to waltz the ever lasting dance in his home of eternal love.

May she rest in peace.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A mother's love

Witnessing my father holding his mother's hand at the hospital as she suffered multiple organ failure, I couldn't help but think of the love family members have for one another. Love, even with family, it's messy, it's hard, it's up and it's down. There is no way to avoid it, with great love comes great emotions of every kind. Regardless of the words we speak or the actions we do in anger and in hate, that love is unconditional. It may be awkward, it may be silent, it may be difficult and painful, but it is love.

This unadulterated love I see my father and his siblings giving their mother is love that comes from hardship and hurt. I also see that love in my grandmother's eyes. Love that comes from painful memories and heartfelt regrets.

"From God we become and to God is our return"

My father's relationship with his mother and my grandmother's relationship with her children was not one of sunshine and fuzzies, but it is one of love. As I sit by my grandmother's side while she sleeps, I pray and hope that the family can find healing in these last moments of love.