Cultural Glimpse

Enjoying diversity

Month: February, 2013

The Beauty of Women

The Beauty of Women

One of my poems was published a few days ago. I wrote it in honor of a woman who played a big role in my life last year. When I saw it published, I realized the number of women who have played mentors over the years, beginning with my mom, sisters, relatives, friends and teachers.

Today I was at the library with my children. I and the woman sitting beside me watched our sons play together at the train table and making small conversation like, how old are you? What’s your name? Her son said to my son, “My name is Crocodile.” My son started calling him “Croc” for short.

She and I laughed. We began talking and I discovered at forty years old, she had five children that ranged between the ages of 22 and 5. She has been taking care of people since she was eleven years old, when her parents separated and she, the oldest of seven siblings, had to take on the role of a second parent. A year ago, this woman twisted her foot stepping down only one step. Her ankle broke, and she had to have surgery and screws put in. Soon, she’ll have to have another surgery to remove the screws.

“A few days after the surgery,” she said, “I sat in my office chair and rolled from one room to the other in the house, cleaning.”

She was the typical mom that gives, gives, gives. One positive outcome of the accident is that since she can’t go, go, go all the time anymore, she has turned to reading and she love sit.

“I haven’t read so much since I was a kid,” she said. As for the housework, she has learned to say, “Fuck it!”

Link to recently published poem: http://peariverjournal.com/2013/02/26/a-new-poem-from-weam-namou-a-mentor/

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Daddy Daughter Dance

Last year, a woman in Cranston, Rhode Island filed a complaint about the Daddy Daughter dance, feeling her daughter was being discriminated against since she did not have a male figure in her life. This was followed up with the local ACLU sending a letter to the superintendent of the school threatening a lawsuit, saying they [the school district] were in violation of the law – whatever law that is.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is a non-profit oraganization whose stated mission is “to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.” Founded in 1920, in the beginning its focus was on freedom of speech, primarily for anti-war protesters.

These days, it’s almost impossible to get innocent people out of prison or off death row, yet the ACLU has taken on an issue, raised by one single-mom, to ban the father/daughter and mother/son dance? This is mind-boggling, having just returned from a father/daughter dance which my husband and daughter attended, along with my brother and his girls. I had watched as they, and all the little girls who came out of that dance, floated with delight about their one-on-one experience with their fathers, almost every single one of them saying, “That was so much fun!”

Instead of taking such drastic actions, perhaps someone from the ACLU should’ve simply sat this single mom down and explained that rather than banning the joy of hundreds of other parents and children, she ought to find a way to fulfill her daughter’s emptiness – not necessarily through a male figure but through confidence, love, prayer and faith. But I guess that’s just too old fashioned a solution.

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The Feminine Art

The Feminine Art

After a visit to the gym, we stopped at the Barnes & Noble bookstore. My kids played in the youth services, near the Thomas the Train area, and I just sat there drinking my non-fat strawberry crème, dazing off into space. I was tired, after having walked on the treadmill and done yoga. Soon afterwards, I got up and took a little stroll. My eyes fell on a book, my book, The Feminine Art, which was published nearly ten years ago in 2004.

I became alert again, went and picked up the book. There were three copies on the shelves. I scanned its surroundings. Books by authors like Vladimir Nabokov (Lolita) and Anais Nin were alongside The Feminine Art, my first novel. I’d finished writing this story when I was twenty-six years old. For years prior to that, I’d walked alongside these same shelves imagining that one day I’d see my book on these shelves. It’d happened, not half as easily as I had imagined, but it did happen.

I walked away from the shelves, wondering if people generally have the tendency to forget their accomplishments and focus on their setbacks. Or if it’s just me.

The Feminine Art_1

Partying Arab Style


Dancing the Depka

In celebration of finishing the first-draft of my book and as a belated Valentine’s Day outing, I wanted to go to Lazeez, a Middle Eastern nightclub. My sister’s husband operates Lazeez, which is in Livonia. It’s a chic table-seating nightclub with a live band, great food and the wonderful smell of nerguila (water pipes).

We were a large group of siblings and their spouses, but no one knew about me finishing the first draft of my book. I didn’t want to talk or think about books last night. I just wanted to have fun. And it was fun. We enjoyed heart-felt music, we laughed, we danced, and we got home later than we’re accustomed to.

Middle Eastern music influenced (and has been influenced by) the music of Greece and India, as well as Central Asia, Spain, Southern Italy, the Caucasus and the Balkans, as in Byzantine music and Chalga. As for dancing, there’s a growing body of evidence that the thousands year old belly dance moves date back to Neolithic times and the Goddess-based cultures that existed then.

There’s also the depka, a line dance that forms from right to left. The leader of the dabke heads the line, alternating between facing the audience and the other dancers.

Yes, it was a very fun Saturday night, except the party when on the way home someone vomited in the car, my car.

Reading to an Irish Wolfhound

“Paws for Reading” is a special program once a week at the Sterling Heights Public Library. My children love going in the youth services area, where in a special room in the corner, they read to a different “therapy” dog each time. A therapy dog is a dog trained to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, hospices, people with learning difficulties, and stressful situations, such as disaster areas. The dogs at the library, which are accompanied by an adult, are so friendly you never hear a single bark out of them – no matter what size they may be.

One day it may be a greyhound, another time a saluki or a golden retriever. We never know which breed to expect until we get there and the dog’s name is written on a sign besides the entrance door. My kids take a number and wait in line. This Tuesday it was a white-smoke hair colored Irish wolfhound by the name of Hooligan with huge friendly eyes that looked at me with a gentle expression, like, “Hey, I’m just doing my job. Thanks for coming.” The children were then given a sticker and bookmark that had Hooligan’s name and picture printed on it.

Irish wolfhounds are soft-natured, easy-going and are the tallest of dog breeds, thought to have been brought into Ireland as far back as 7000 BC. The breed almost disappeared, but was successfully revived by efforts of the captain of the British Army D E Graham to recreate it. He drew the line related to wolfhounds, and as a result developed a modern breed, Irish wolfhounds, which are today well established as companions and guards.

I learned today that the Sterling Heights Library first opened in 1971 in the basement of the City Hall on Utica Road. In 1974, it moved to a ranch house that was where the library parking lot now sits. In 1979, the library that is up today was built on farm land that was part of the Upton House across the street. The Upton is the oldest house in the city, and now houses public offices.
In 2000, the large Youth Services that exists today was added to the building, and thank God for that. I come here often to work on the computer while my kids, just feet away from me, play, pick out books and movies, read to a dog, and ask the librarian questions like, “Do you have any books that teach something?”

Building an Igloo for Our Penguin

The reason I crack up during the fight is because when my niece/goddaughter asked me to film her earlier, I told her the iPhone battery was dying. But I had to catch this “little” fight on camera! It was my only highlight, given I was too scared to sled down the hill. 

Saleem & Huggie

A few weeks ago, my cousin brought over her daughter’s and son’s clothes for my kids, who are younger than hers, to try on. In the bags was a cute stuffed penguin which my son fell in love with. He named him “Huggie” and since then, Huggie has been a part of our family. He goes almost everywhere with us. For example, yesterday he came along sledding.

At the park, the kids decided to build an igloo for “Huggie” to make him feel more at home. There are three traditional types of igloos.

•The smallest was constructed as a temporary shelter, usually only used for one or two nights. These were built and used during hunting trips, often on open sea ice.

•Intermediate-sized igloos were for semi-permanent, family dwelling. This was usually a single room dwelling that housed one or two families. Often there were several of these in a small area, which formed an Inuit village.

•The largest igloos were normally built in groups of two. One of the buildings was a temporary structure built for special occasions, the other built nearby for living. These might have had up to five rooms and housed up to 20 people. A large igloo might have been constructed from several smaller igloos attached by their tunnels, giving common access to the outside. These were used to hold community feasts and traditional dances.

I’m not sure if Huggie’s igloo falls into any one of those categories.

Huggie in his igloo

Family Sled Race

Watch the race!!!

The first sleds, or toboggans, were used by native tribes of North America. In regions covered for months at a time by snow, a snow sled was the most efficient way of transporting heavy loads across long distances. A snow sled designed specifically to transport people, called the cariole, appeared around 1800.

In 1883 in Davos, Switzerland, an Australian student named George Robertson won what is reputed to be the world’s first international sled race. In 1892, the original “Davos” style sled was transformed by an Englishman named L. P. Child. Many thought the newly designed “bare-bones” sled resembled a skeleton. For this reason the sport of individual “head-first” sledding eventually became known as “Skeleton” racing. “Bobsledding”, with multiple riders, was also developed in Switzerland in the late 1800’s.

Cool Runnings, made in 1993, told the story (loosely based on true events) of the attempt of the four Jamaican men to bring home the most unlikely of medals – for the winter sport of bobsledding.
In today’s family sled race, I have no clue who in the won as they were mostly bumping into each other, falling or jumping off the sled, or I was busy fidgeting with my camera’s iPhone as the winner crossed the line (as I’m too scared to go down the hill, I’m appointed to be the camera person, the one who pulls kids out of the way, and the judge in a race).

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Loving India

India

My first spiritual teacher was from India. He was a customer at my place of work, a video store. We talked about God and religion and little by little, I joined his group of pupils who meditated and prayed together. He once recommended I read a book called “Daughter of Fire” about a British woman who goes to India to meet her guru. The book was over 800 pages and I read it twice, hoping to one day find my own guru.

I have since had a strong attraction for India, and although I’ve wanted to visit the country several times, it just never worked out. So I console myself by cooking a lot of Indian food and watching movies my director Mira Nair. My friend Elisabeth has a much stronger connection to that country. Elisabeth is from Belgium. Her mother is French. Her husband is from India. Recently, she built a home in India where she will one day soon move into.

She and her husband came over for dinner this evening. All was wonderful, except for my children who, to my surprise, tried to get the couple’s attention as if they’d never seen people in their lives. My son especially was not okay with his mother giving attention to anyone but himself and so showed off with super-duper shouts as he zoomed into the kitchen on his scooter. Thank God, my friends laughed off the crazy behavior.

I met Elisabeth years ago through the Rochester Writer’s Group. I’ll never forget the beautiful accent as she read a scene from her novel. Her poems are just as mesmerizing, and years ago when our poetry women’s group was active, we would alternate between homes once a month, on a Sunday, to recite poetry. Elisabeth went on to be the editor-in-chief of the Gazette van Detroit, a Belgian newspaper which began in 1914. She is no longer with them, but I remember when she gave me a few assignments and I got to know the community, which mostly lived in East Detroit until the Detroit riots of 1967, a little.

Elisabeth still has that accent, but I haven’t heard her read anything in a while. She said she might hold a poetry meeting at her home one day soon. Yes, before she leaves us to live in her adopted world, where I suspect she will have such an extraordinary experience, she will end up writing a best seller about it.

Well, my son is once again calling for my attention. When I tell him I’m trying to finish up something, he begs that I come beside him. “It’ll just be for an hour, mom,” he says. Now he’s looking for his penguin, named “Huggie.” More on that another day.

Oh Deer!

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When my friend Linda was a little girl, she loved spending time in her grandmother’s farm in Michigan. She helped out a lot by going out in the field to feed the cows and pigs. These days, she’s feeding deer in her backyard – ten deer to be exact. She fills a five-gallon bucket with apples, carrots, sweet beets and corn and leaves it out at night for the deer to eat. She sent me pictures of her new pets – she already has two dogs, and other animals like bunnies and squirrels that have the tendency of visiting her home for food.

Linda’s desire to feed others is not restricted only to animals. She cooks and bakes for family members, co-workers and friends. The other day she came over with a large bowl of spinach salad, a tupper wear of tomato rice soup, another tupper wear of egg salad and a bottle of wine. Imagine what you get when you end up at her house! She’s full of that authentic and rare hospitality that is still present in the hearts of the Arab Bedouins, the type that many people have surrendered away for being busy bodies. And yet, she is not a Bedouin but of German and Irish heritage. And she is one hell of a busy woman! She just knows how to give – give simply and fully.

The Bible, Snow and Blueberry Coffee

Holy Bible

I’ve been really enjoying the church sermons on Sundays. Today I thought this verse particularly interesting.

2 Timothy 3:1-5
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

Before the Super Bowl, I took a half hour walk outside even though it was snowing. The air was crisp, the sky was grey and there were small lanterns placed in some of the neighbors’ front yards. There were distant dog barks, but no animals or people were in sight. I later went to Kinko’s to get files for classes I’m enrolled in printed and afterwards walked to the next door Seven Eleven. A large coffee maker marked blueberry caught my eye. It was empty. The cashier said he could make a new pot for me, it would only take a minute. Then he offered to sell me a bag of Arabica blueberry flavored coffee, which makes at least a pot or more, for 99 cents.

“Can I have two?” I asked.

He easily agreed and I returned home. My husband wanted to bet on the Super Bowl. He’d made a comment earlier that Baltimore would win, so I asked, “Which uniform color is that?”

“The white and navy,” he said.

“Then I pick Baltimore.” He picked the other team. I won $500. But I’m going to ask for an exchange. I want to have three days off from doing housework.

It was a pleasant day. Amen.