Posted in Travel, Parenting, Lifestyle.

Grown-Ups Need Heroes Too

They’re real, all of them. My kids are growing up around superheroes real and made up. ‘In the end, we’re all stories.” Yeah, that’s also a line from a similar hero show. The nerd in me is strong y’all. People argue, they say, “kids need to live in the real world. They need to know how tough it is.” Okay, I understand. That might be true. What about the kids’ mama though? Do I also have to live in the real world? Because I kind of do, every day. I need the escape. I like the thought of being saved from my every day once in a while.

Photo Credit: Marjan Blan

As for the kids; Let me paint you a picture, or write you one, a kid younger than ten years old loves to read. She walks into her neighborhood bookstore. She can’t really afford to buy books, but she thumbs through the books because, of course, she does. One day at the back of the store she spots something magical with lots of pictures. They seem interesting, just out of curiosity she asks the shopkeeper how much they are. He tells her they are 15 rupees each (no one knew the value of comics at that time or read them, so this was the cheapest reading material in the store). That’s like not even enough cents to mention. That right there is a lifesaver. Her being able to buy something resembling a book. Maybe not appropriate for someone that young but no one paid attention those days to little things.

Anyhow, I found my way into a world that was mine. I found my heroes who would help me escape everything that was terrible around me. They would buy me books because they’re super smart. Remember I’m not even ten yet, so yeah that was one of my fantasies. Oh, how badly did I want to be Black Widow? I related to her story so much. Still, do. Don’t ask me why. I don’t know. She’s just someone I admire so very much. Don’t know if she’s a reader though.

I grew up loving these people, these heroes as if they were real. I hid them from my world as if they needed protecting. The comics went under the bed or in my secret drawers because I didn’t stay in one place for too long and I never knew what others around me would feel about it, so that world became just for me. It was easier that way and honestly so much more fun. My heroes, my saviors, always with me ready to jump in to save the day. They never failed me. Not even once. Normal people do that you know, they disappoint. Now that I’m older and it’s not that cool to be a comic fan I’m too old to be one apparently.

So, what’s wrong with keeping this world alive? What’s wrong with wanting a little taste of fantasy in life? I was never a “princess wanting to be saved by a prince” kind of girl. The world is so much more complex and so much more beautiful. A hero is what I wanted to become in real life too. Of course, no one will ever be as cool as Nat, may her soul RIP. That was my ten-year-old self coming out, full bloom. Just kidding, its the 43-year-old me trying to hide behind the ten-year-old.

Now I argue with my kids about who’s smarter; Tony Stark or Bruce Banner. Sometimes they get confused about what exactly Batman’s powers are, but who cares he’s BATMAN! We discuss how T’challa is the humblest, kindest King and how Monarchy is only okay in Wakanda. Yes, I know that’s always a very weird conversation. Also, because Black Panther is one of my kid’s favorite characters, both of them have declared the top story of the house to be their kingdom. One is the king the other is the King’s advisor. They accept their parents as the king and queen of the whole house, they also accept that all decisions have to go through us BUT they do have the right to make most decisions about the “upstairs”.

Backstory: upstairs includes both their rooms and play area. There’s also a guest room but that’s not in use every day. I am kind of strict about not making a mess with toys downstairs since they have so much space “upstairs”. I tell them whenever they want to be loud and crazy to go “upstairs”. Our bedroom is, you guessed it, DOWNSTAIRS. The upstairs is kind of is their territory.

I know there should be an image of our king here but isn’t this Panther just awesome. Photo: Garken de Klerk

Way off track here. Back to Bruce Banner. Uh…super heroes. I could write all day and all night about every single one of them but the point I’m trying to make is I’m hoping is clear. I have been protected by very little. And I know I’m here to protect my kids and they know that but a little extra boost of a fantasy in which they see these mighty heroes saving the day the way no one else can, what’s wrong with that? I know, unrealistic expectations. The world will knock them down plenty to give them doses of reality. I don’t see my job as always being the one to push reality on them. I need to create a balance. That means letting them have and enjoy those moments where we are completely detached from the harshness and the roughness of the world; Where we dive into the gentle arms of our loving (somewhat…completely fake) friends who will always make sure that we are okay. In a world where good always wins. When you work hard you always see positive results. You know why? Because they will wake up tomorrow and will be knocked down a peg or two by none other than, myself. They know it too. I will come down on them for not doing something I asked them to do. They will be prepared to hear whatever I’m dishing out because they will be full of counter-arguments and “I hate you”, “you’re making me miserable”. Just then I know they will seek the comfort of those heroes who would completely understand their struggles and help them calm down. They would make it all better because no one else gets them, especially not their mom.

I know this was abrupt and seems out of nowhere. These days I’m kind of needing a lot of help from my imaginary world (which is totally real). We are moving into a new house. Even though it’s a small move, just one house to another in the same area, however, it’s not something I look forward to. You’d think someone who has moved around so much would be used to it. Nope, the exact opposite actually. I’m hiding away right now, in my happy place while the kids pack away excited about their new rooms.

Here’s another good reason for Superheroes: one of my boys has found a stick while packing and is threatening to hit the other one with it. Looks like I have to pause this totally awesome real world and jump into the one where my heroes are threatening each other with sticks.

Yeah! This is pretty much all of my lives.

Don’t you wish we could all be Groot? Photo by: Azmathullah Shaikh
Posted in Travel, Parenting, Lifestyle.

I Have Lived

When I finally lay my head down, I will have no regrets because I have lived. I lived, loved, lost, and lived some more. I just wished there was more time to sleep in between. There’s absolutely no purpose for this writing, today I was reminded of death. I don’t really forget about it. It’s coming, I know it. I wish I wouldn’t be caught by surprise. You know how there’s this prophetic sense some people have? I don’t have it. Recently I’ve been getting more and more real about this issue with my kids. I’ve been feeling like we create this vacuum when we avoid this topic, the discussion of death, pain and physical hurt in a real way.

My kids love watching Finding Nemo but they always make me forward the beginning when Nemo’s mother and siblings get killed. Today, I decided was the day. They might not have a shark eat their family but they will face death and they will not be able to fast forward the pain. It’s not reasonable to compare real life to a kid’s movie but I was having one of those days. Days where the kids’ say, ”mommy can you forward that scene please?” and you say, ”you know what babies, dying is a fact. Also, this scene is going to take place whether you watch it or not. It is sad, but it happens, you know that. It’s okay to feel it. They did, we watched it together. They were sad but they dealt with it.

Every-time they pretend-shoot each other or make a gun out of something (we’ve never bought them any toy weapons. If they’ve gotten any as gifts we’ve returned or given them away) they get a factual, age-appropriate lecture on how bullets damage a body and how painful it would be for any human or animal to deal with that kind of situation.

I’m seriously contemplating showing them visuals. Every-time I hear about people being killed I feel more of an urgency to explain to them how real this is, and how much these things are not to be toyed with.

Life is sacred. Death is inevitable. However, we need to be the protectors of life keeping in mind that death will eventually catch up to us. We don’t chase death. We don’t become those who cause people pain and suffering.

Life is sacred.

I want people to be able to take one safe breathe or at least imagine that they can when they see my boys. The kind of people who help others to find life while keeping their own lives in focus.

Death is inevitable. Life is sacred.

That is the whole lesson I want to teach them.

Posted in Travel, Parenting, Lifestyle.

The River

The tossing and turning of the waves, the unsettled rocks giving way to the water yearning to keep flowing. Keep on leaping. It desires something, the water. Everything in its path has to yield to whatever it wants. A little way away my kids playing next to me in calmer waters. Rocks under our feet still submitting to the demands of the water. I have always had a love/hate relationship with it. I have been in awe of seas, rivers, and lakes even. Now it’s just damaging, and it sweeps away what we want to keep. I realize that’s a childlike perspective but being an adult is really overrated when you’re standing over a roaring river and the guards are telling you to get your kids away from the water because it may not be deep but it is really fast. They slip once and no one can pull them back. ”They can’t be pulled back.” That’s what happened to him, to them. The water is not our friend. I keep my mouth shut and my brain even shutter, and sit far far away from where the boys are playing because I don’t want to hear these whispers. They have to go on living in this crazy world where the rivers are allowed to roam free. They can’t know about all the things that are not going to be their friend. Right now they need to make islands with stones, they don’t need to remember what the river took from them. I remember. That’s enough.

I can keep them from being swept up. After all, I’ve done it before. I kept him from being swept up for as long as I could. Everyone has to let go sometime. Water, land, the sky, it’s all a matter of time. I remember that day like today. The moment I got the news my youngest son was about to go under for a minor procedure. I had lost my nephew, and my son was about to be put under. No, I had to hold him down as they did. I told someone this, they said you should write this down. This is a class piece of writing. It really is, I thought.

Year’s later the river is still rolling, roaring, nothing did stand in its way. All I have accomplished is; I’m still here to write down our stories.

In memory of those, we will never forget.

In memory of those, we will always remember.

In memory of those that are, and always will be greater than any great wild…

In memory of shattered dreams and love that is unquestionably true.

In memory of us.

In memory of my sweet boys.

In memory of mine and yours.

Posted in Travel, Parenting, Lifestyle.

I know we have been hearing and reading the news.  All these killings, shootings, destroying lives. Hurt. People say where’s the heart? Why are the humans? Why are governments and our people heartless and lacking empathy? That may all be absolutely true. We can only speak from our hearts. Feels as though we only have our hearts left to give right now.

However, we’ve lost too much to not use our hearts. We’ve also lost too much to not be logical and calculated going ahead. We’ve just lost way too much. Every time something happens I surely some person with logic and a sane mind will see the tragedy and realize something needs to change. No one ever does.  We need understanding that taking away what people love does not make them complicit. Surely someone, somewhere understands this. Then boom! I realize people who should see it, don’t. I mean literally…boom.

I am not just writing about one place; I am writing about all of our homes. I don’t have to give you the exact location. How many people who look like you, think like you, believe like you are dead because of people who didn’t think they deserved to be where they were, because of people who still think you and I are not important enough.

I hear people say things like, “these governments, these tyrants are just like Hitler” They are using the same tactics and their end goal is the same. Genocide.” Don’t use his example so casually. We don’t know. I’m not saying it’s not true, I’m just saying we don’t know. I’ve known people amongst my people who were massacred for merely wanting to survive. Just like the Jews. We don’t quote history because we are angry, and it gives our anger some direction to make these comparisons. We learn from those awful parts of human existence and move in a completely different direction.  Everyone has a legacy; I want ours to be greater than just surviving.

Let me also say that when I say “my people” that definition is really wide. If there’s anything my friends and readers have learned about me, I hope it’s this. I am not just Muslim, Pakistani, American. I am also an immigrant (in more than one place), I also come from a long line of what people define as “terrorist” these days. I am brown. My descendants were forced to leave their homes, killed, burned and slaughtered for merely being all of that. I am all of us.   At times like these my identity, it seems to melt away into dust, and smoke. The one thing that has always been the most center-point of my core all of a sudden isn’t.

collin-armstrong-zpbpB4edB70-unsplash

I have been sitting on these thoughts for days. Haven’t uttered a word to anyone. Can you believe it?

I don’t like to have these discussions on my dinner table with acquaintances in a casual manner. I do however, like to avoid ignoring the issue as though it’s not my problem. It becomes my problem when the site of an armed guard at a mall has me instinctively pushing my kid behind me as though that would protect them from anything. My mental armor is always up as is for everyone around me, but the sad truth is that we all know we are exposed, we are already bleeding. We are gasping for every breath.

Our lives now are just about finding moments to escape the pain because we feel there’s nothing, we can do about the condition of the world we live in. All this hurts is so much that we want to imagine that it’s not happening if only for a moment. We can do that you see because no one is holding a gun to our head at this very moment. In this moment the nozzle is invisible, so we take advantage of it because the excruciating reality of what is to come is too unbearable. The helplessness is crippling.

I close my eyes and escape into whatever frivolous activity is nearest for that moment. Playing with my boys. Making forts under the blanket. Hiding under the covers with the kids and a sudden bang, and then a shake. I’m startle out of the state of comatose bliss. Was it just my kids dropping a toy? Was it something bigger? A bigger toy? A gun? A bomb? Nothing, absolutely nothing. Something definitely shook. I didn’t imagine that. There was a loud thud, I didn’t imagine that. I know I didn’t.

Whatever it is, it’s still invisible so I guess we’re safe. I hear it but I don’t see it. There has been so much that I have seen that’s pierced through me as has been the case for most of us on an individual level. I don’t think any of us is ready to accept it on a collective level for ourselves or for others. It’s here, right in front of me.

When I get out from under those covers will I be helpless? Will my kids be helpless to deal with whatever is waiting for them out there? Hopelessness is definitely crippling; however, I don’t think we are helpless. In fact, we are in the position to help. I know I have a responsibility to my children to not raise them to be blind to the truths of the world. Who am I if I don’t show them how to get out from in front of a bullet? What kind of a parent am I if I don’t teach them how to help a few people in the process?

There’s no revolution. No changing the world. There’s today, no one knows about tomorrow. Today, I don’t want to know  that people died, and I didn’t try. Today, I want my kids to be proud of themselves knowing that somewhere something good happened, no matter how small, because of them. They might not be ready to change the world today, who knows where tomorrow is taking us though.

Logic will prevail.

One day at a time.

All people at a time.

All kids at a time.

#myworldmyresponsibility #istandwithkashmir #stopgunviolence #bondedinbrotherhood #tomorrowbelongstothem

 

 

Posted in Travel, Parenting, Lifestyle.

#Metoo

Have you heard? The #metoo movement is over-done. At least according to some fancy female makeup artist here in Pakistan. She was asked this question out of the blue during questions about what is her favorite makeup product, and which actor she loves dolling up. The interviewer quickly went from “which celeb needs a better makeup artist” to “what do you think about the #metoo movement?” The switch was abrupt, and I’m pretty sure, not unintentional.

So, here I am completely damaged by my own thoughts right now. I’m not sure what is happening to our world that we have to stab each other in the back so brutally. There’s absolutely no room for doubt as to what happens at that moment. The decisions made during that interview, before that interview rather, we’re criminal. That being said I’m more concerned about the bigger questions that this raises in our country. How easy it is to dismiss a hurting soul. How easy it is to quiet a wave of pain, and suffering by calling the struggle overrated.

I grew up pretty independent, that was pretty much thanks to my big brother’s laziness. He was too spoiled to do anything so I just ended up taking care of stuff. I joke, but it’s true. It taught me a lot because he never treating me like I was not capable because of my gender. Anything he could do, it was just kind of understood that I could do it too. Love you, bro.

However, the world was not so easily accepting of a girl who liked to live life on her own terms. You’ve all heard the stories, mine isn’t unique or new. I’m sure you’ve also heard that when a female goes out in the world asking for her place there’s no way in hell she doesn’t experience a brush of a hand in places she doesn’t want. A touch here, a sentence there. An invitation shes not to keen on. I didn’t face anything more than that but how many did and didn’t say anything, I can’t even begin to imagine. My struggle began at a very young age. Every time someone touched me the wrong way I spoke up. I screamed, yelled and told anyone who would even look in my way because no one was really ready to listen. I always got in trouble for that.

I know I said I wasn’t going to go in detail but here we are. What I’m trying to say is that after nearly 30 years of, “just stop, that’s how things are. You screaming it all the time isn’t going to do any good.” Finally, someone made it okay to say something. It’s still not as okay as it should be but better than nothing. Here, where it’s hard. Women have to work hard. No. Harder. Women go through mansplaining of their own jobs by men who are a few levels below them because, what else? That’s the world right now and fighting it takes too much effort. Sometimes the only way to get my driver to actually follow my direction is to call my husband and tell him to call the driver and explain because he just doesn’t want to take directions from a woman, keeps telling me, “no ma’am, this is the way”, while we are completely lost. Moments like these I don’t have time to lecture him because I’m late. I just need to get where I need to go. So, we find ways. Oh, and if I did lecture him or get angry it would be me making a big deal about something tiny and “overreacting”. Again, most of us have been there.

Not all men but a lot of them are assholes. It turns out a lot of women are assholes too. Yes, I’m in that kind of mood right now.

In this extremely fragile country, where speaking the truth about sexual harassment for women is always met with doubt and blame the victim vibes, there are women who are sabotaging the cause.

My mind is blown. I can give you a rundown on why we do this to each other. I can try and understand the politics behind it and try to understand the psyche of these women. I can even present the case for how it benefits these big businesses and these women’s magazines are run by men so they gotta keep the status quo. But I don’t want to do any of that today.

I just want to say that if you are the kind of person who minimizes another person’s experience. If you’re the kind of person who chips away at someone’s truth for whatever reason; you’re a shit person.

I hope no one ever does that to you.

Posted in Travel, Parenting, Lifestyle.

Name

I got to talking about names the other day. I’m very particular about my name, spellings and all. I have my father’s last name. People are surprised to hear that. I had a chance to change it, but I didn’t. I know my husband thinks it’s some feminist agenda to prove something to the world. It really isn’t. The issue is much simpler and much more complicated than that.

Photo Credit: Jayson Hinrichsen

For the first 14 years of my life, I didn’t have a last name. Literally, none. Whenever I was asked to put down my last name, I would simply say I don’t have one. Questions like, “what’s your dad’s name?” or “what’s your mom’s name?” Would follow and I don’t know what they ended up writing most times because I really didn’t want to concern myself with it.

Why I didn’t have a last name? My mom didn’t want me to have my dad’s name. She didn’t give me hers either. I was just kind of left nameless in their struggle to gain control and power over each other.

Finally, at the age of 18, I added my paternal last name. Nobody understood why I would do that either. At that point, I had not seen my father in years, and it seemed like that’s how it was going to be for a long time to come. I couldn’t explain to people that having a name you probably are not completely comfortable with is better than not having one at all. It’s better than no one recognizing you or knowing where you come from. There are a lot of people on my father’s side I deeply care for and love. However, this was the most important reason. Everyone wants to belong, right? Where did I belong if not with my parents? My mom had a chance to share her name with me and she didn’t so obviously I only had one option. Maybe it’s not that deep, or just maybe for a child growing up without being able to proudly say I belong to one family or the other, it is that deep.

Back to today; my kids ask why they are all Mustafas but I’m not. You are our family too why isn’t your last name the same? I give them the simple answer, which is also true.

I tell them, even though they don’t share my last name there is no stronger bond.

The complicated answer? My Parents may not have been the one to give me the name, or maybe they were. I don’t know what my birth certificate says honestly. I understand though that this is where my identity and my legacy is found, and my kids will know that they have a family in my family.

So yeah, we are a family. We are the Mustafas, we’re also the Akhtars.

Photo Credit: Jake Thacker

My boys need to know that. They need to create relationships and loyalties to that family and that name too. It will not happen if one of their parents doesn’t say it all the time. So maybe, that’s why I kept the name? Or maybe I’m just lazy?

Posted in Uncategorized

A New Day

Hey guys, so I was going to just hit record and say all of this but I didn’t feel like washing my face this morning because its a Sunday, besides typing things without showing my face seems much easier for me. My face has so much that gets hidden behind the words that the camera just bares all to see. That precisely why I’m here typing/ talking right now to all of you. I’ve had a lot of asks to start writing about ”how to” kind of blog. People tell me to write about how to lose weight. Write about overcoming depression, and anxiety and living the life I do now.

They tell me to write about not being able to have kids for so long in a society where a woman primary function is to reproduce. I hear, ”give other people hope”. I really want to give people hope. In the process I also want to keep it real. I struggle with this every day of my life. The problem has always been that I don’t think hope is that simple, just like the struggle; it doesn’t just end one day. The fight doesn’t just stop. You don’t magically come out of your problems, and become this new person. If I say I tried this new wonderful exercise and lost weight and look how great I am now I give hope to many but it’s a false hope. I know the struggles, and fears I still have related to weight. It is far from over. Probably never will be. Worrying about weight, worrying about how people saw me, still see me, how their perception changes with each pound that goes up and down.

My Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a roller coaster. I have not conquered it. I don’t hide from it. I don’t run from it. Talking about it makes me vulnerable, and it sucks to be this exposed. I am fighting every day. I have not ”overcome” anything. When I’m asked to write about what I’ve ”accomplished” it feels like the false hope that’s going around social media with those smiling faces, smoke screens, if you will. We have enough of those. I don’t want to add to that. Let’s not even get started on the mental health issues.

Let’s be clear. There are some people who have been a very positive message of health an positive change, without them maybe I would not be able to get out of bed in the morning. However, those are very few. As a mom we need real. We need a call, a hug, we need a person we trust telling us we are doing great today and its okay to not have a perfect day.

Despite all that you can be honestly, truly happy. Sometimes not being that, just taking it moment by moment, day by day, week by week is completely normal.

Sometimes my messages may come out a bit too cynical but this is the intention. I’m just trying to tell people its okay to be normal. We don’t have to be overachiever every day.

Some days achieving is overachieving. We don’t all have to move mountains. Little pebbles is just as great. My pebble is my mountain. Appreciate.

Here is what I want to do: I want to be that person who creates the safe space. I want to be that person who shows people that their ”before” and ”after” picture will vary every day.

I’ve lost 120 pounds and I look like so many health guru’s before pic. It is heartbreaking at times but then most days I LOVE that I got myself here.

You will be beautiful one day and ugly the next. That doesn’t diminish you. It’s okay to want to sleep all day and want to change the world at the same time. Be human. Be you. Forgive yourself every day.

Updates coming soon.

#skindeep #asfarasclichesgo #iseeyou #beseen #justme #justus #allofus #afterall #lifeinanutshell #loveyourself #loveforall #unconditional #momproblems #momsofinstagram #parentsofinstagram #instagrammom #letsworktogether #beauty #smokescreen #professionalscribbler