Cultural Glimpse

Enjoying diversity

Tag: Family

Family Constellations

Family Constellations

A friend invited me to join her to a lecture series by the Metropolitan Detroit A.R.E. (Association of Research and Enlightenment) Community, a non-profit organization which was founded in 1931 by Edgar Cayce. The subject was Family Constellations and the presenters were Vince Anthony Pitre and Robert Auerbach.

These men described how unconscious limits to success often stem initially from the unresolved and many times unspoken traumas, tragedies and transgressions that weave themselves into the energy, “fabric” and conversations of our family.

“We hold many of our histories in our bodies, in our flesh,” said Auerbach. “Family Constellations is a different way to heal resistant, stubborn patterns that might not be ours, or it might be an issue that goes back into past family generation trauma or transgressions that was never healed or resolved. This energy sticks from generation to generation because it’s an unconscious process.”

So they offer workshops to help detox from family pain and/or drama.

“It’s done without making anyone wrong, or putting blame on anyone,” said Pitre. “It’s about seeing where issues came from so we can find a resolution. You don’t heal by chasing light all day. You have to face the dark side as well.”

Through movement and unspoken words, people in the room get psychologically reconfigured. Not only is the person with the problem being healed but so are their family members, even if they are not in the room.

“In this process, new images come up that counters what the person thought of themselves growing up,” said Pitre. “The person leaves behind their old story. This allows their brain to rewire to this new image which they step into and move on with their life.”

Bert Hellinger founded this therapeutic method, which draws on elements of family systems therapy, existential phenomenology and Zulu attitudes to family. Hellinger was a priest whose travels to Africa led him to gain fascination of how the natives honored their ancestors, and the way in which they helped each other heal.

Although I am familiar with similar teachings, being myself an apprentice of Lynn Andrew’s shamanic school, I loved that this type of healing was evidently growing to where you can find them in local cities. For years, I have believed that holistic health is going to be as popular as yoga classes and I see it happening now. Such workshops, teachings and healings are especially beneficial for those who grew up in very old tribal mentalities that limit them from their full potential.

For more information, contact the Center for Healing Arts and Massage

Happy Belated Thanksgiving

I tried so hard to write a post on Thanksgiving Day, but after marinating and roasting the turkey, cooking a pot of biryani, chicken with fresh dill leaves, making four kinds of salads, and cleaning the house before the company arrived, while they were here and after they left, I was tired. Then the next day, because I had a lot of extra food and some of my sisters were not able to show up on Thanksgiving Day, I had yet another gathering.

Although it was work, it was also wonderful. My children helped bathe our turkey in butter – well, my son started to help but soon after he raised his sleeves up and rubbed the turkey’s belly, he said, ‘Oooh, this is gross!’ and took off. The work was left to me and my daughter and I think we did a pretty darn good job.

Other than cooking a nice meal for my family, I enjoyed seeing and reading about people that really made Thanksgiving what it’s meant to be. For instance, Ram’s Horn in Rochester provided free meals for those in need. Scott Macaulay hosted Thanksgiving for people who have no other place to go. He started this tradition 28 years ago when he put an ad that anyone who did not have someone to spend Thanksgiving with, to come to his house. Well, over the years, the number of people has expanded to nearly 70, and so he had to start holding the gather at a Baptist Church in Melrose. Macaulay pays for the whole thing. Now that’s a spirit of Thanksgiving that is hard to beat.

Thanksgiving 2013(2)

A Proud Aunt

The Nieces

My nieces have grown up to be wonderful women, wives and mothers – most of whom also juggle work. The other day one of them invited us over her house and she proved, once again, to be a great hostess. Watching them do what they do, I am proud to be their aunt, and to have played a role in their lives. I’m a godmother to a few of them, have at one point or another babysat all of them, as well as tutored some, put others to work, gave them quite a bit of advice, and of course, engaged in arguments with them.

Stepping back and observing their lives, I’m once again reminded how sacred family life really is. In the end, the work we put towards our loved ones does pay off.

Love, Greece and the Movies


I was nineteen years old when I first watched Shirley Valentine, a comedy about a 42 year old bored housewife in England who takes a trip to Greece and while on holiday, decides to change her life forever. As a result of the beautiful scenery of the Greek islands in this film and the message it gave, that we should love ourselves and go after what we really love before it’s too late, I began following my desire to travel – first and foremost to Greece.

Today I went to the Main Arts Theater and enjoyed watching an intelligent and mesmerizing film. Before Midnight is an American romance drama film and the sequel to Before Sunrise (1995) and Before Sunset (2004). It takes place in Greece and it’s about a couple who ironically are in their early forties (guess I have this thing for the 40s). This couple gets a little time off from their twin daughters and end up confronting each other with some interesting conversation that challenges the questions of commitment and acceptance.

It was exciting to see that such wholesome smart stories still get created, even though they are put in one theater. It’s unfortunate that only certain types of people go to see them. Today, for instance, the majority of the twenty audience members watching this film had grey hair. Still, all that really matters is that they are being made and there is an audience for them!

I Don’t Speak Your Language, But Let’s Talk!

Today two of my nieces, who are also sisters, each baptized her baby son. After church, we gathered at a lovely restaurant in downtown Rochester. Neither of my nieces’ husbands is of Middle Eastern backgrounds. One of them is originally from Central America. Well, he decided to have a little chat with my mom. Mind you, he does not speak Arabic or Chaldean. My mother does not speak Spanish or English.

They talked about totally different subjects. My mother raved about what a good person her granddaughter is and how much she loves her and he accused my mother of knowing more English than she leads on (probably doesn’t help that his wife, my niece, always felt like my mother is an undercover FBI agent who understands more than she has everyone believe). Yet even though their words hit in various directions, the two enjoyed some nice communication. And believe me when I tell you, it is not easy to get my mother to talk!

Goes to show, one need not know the same language in order to enjoy each other’s company or have a good conversation. One need only have a big heart.

With her grand-daughter's husbands
My mother with my nieces’ husbands

Stories that Hurt Our Hearts

The Mansour Family

A week ago today three children rode a tube behind their father as he towed them with his jet ski on Sylvan Lake. Another man, 56, driving a boat did not see the kids and hit them. The 11 year old boy died shortly afterwards, his six year old sister died the next day, and their 10 year old sister is still in critical condition.

I first heard this story on Monday night, one day late of everyone else. I was washing dishes and talking on the phone with my friend when she asked, “Haven’t you heard what happened to this one Chaldean family yesterday? It’s all over the news!”

I had heard nothing. I’d spent a nice quiet Sunday reading and writing – half the day alone, since my kids were at their cousins’. My friend filled me on the details and ever since then, I and the majority of the Chaldean community – given we are all somehow or another related – cannot get them off our minds. Whether we’re at a gathering, a birthday party, we bring them up, unable to imagine the horror of a nice Sunday afternoon having turned into a nightmare.

A vigil at St. Thomas Church in West Bloomfield was held for them. Over 1200 people showed up to pray. Other vigils were held in other churches, one even in San Diego. The lake, which used to have a marine patrol that was stopped due to budget cuts, will soon reinstate a marine patrol.

I spoke to another friend, told her that my heart keeps aching for this family, that I can’t help but wonder, again and again, why such a tragedy would occur.

She said, “In the Bible, it is written that there’s a time to laugh and a time to cry. There’s a time to live and there’s a time to die.”

She told me a story of when her cousin whom she was very close to had cancer. She prayed for Jesus to save her. Her cousin ended up dying and she asked Jesus, “Why didn’t you save her?”

He responded to her, “I saved all these other people you read about in the Bible, yet are they still here today?”

Death is inevitable, and some things, like the way in which death comes, are just way beyond our grasp. We can only pray that here on earth, God take care of the 10 year old girl, and her mom and dad. And from heaven, the loving and pure energy of the two beautiful children forever fill and guide their parents’ and sister’s hearts.

The Detroit Zoo

A few weeks ago my daughter’s school took the first graders on a field trip to the Detroit Zoo. My family and I figured we’d go along since none of us had ever been to the Detroit zoo before.

Although it was a great experience and I look forward to going there again, hopefully soon, it was kind of sad to see some of the animals in the lonely states they were in. For instance, the tiger was in this underground spiral habitat. He just lay there, looking bored and well… tamed. The same with the lions and the bear and the buffalo.

Once upon a time, animals were more a normal part of our lives. Thousands of years later, we’ve managed to switch the natural way of things and put animals, even insects like birds and butterflies (in some cases even plants and flowers) in cages where they await occasional visits.

Well, people have kind of done the same with a lot of human beings, so why should animals receive a better treatment?


Meeting Little Sarah in Germany
Video of my cousin Ayad with his daughter Sarah and his niece – talking in Aramaic, he shows them a church in Germany

The Frankfurt Book Fair held in Frankfurt, Germany in 2004 welcomed the Arab League as Guest of Honor. I attended the book fair, which was an interesting ten day experience. But what I remember most about Germany is my cousin Ayad, his wife Furrat, and their little daughter Sarah, who at that time was about a year old.

I stayed at my cousin’s home, and I’ll never forget what great hosts Ayad and his wife were. I’ll also never forget how much my cousin loved his daughter. I was engaged at the time and when I returned to the United States, I kept in contact with him and his family. I ended up getting married shortly afterwards and having my first child and he had a son and then another daughter. Then suddenly, one day I heard he was diagnosed with cancer. He died within weeks. I couldn’t believe it and I couldn’t stop thinking about Sarah. His last request was that she be well taken care of, given how much she was accustomed to him pampering her. In the above link to the video, her cousin calls her “Sarah, the pampered one.”

Well, I know that his little family had one hell of a time after he passed away. But today I got news that Sarah, who has since moved with her mother and siblings to the United States, woke up this morning unable to see. She was taken to the hospital, and they discovered she has brain cancer. She is now in critical condition and doctors are not sure if she will make it.

Her aunts, uncles and cousins have posted pictures of her, praying for God to save her. It has been nearly nine years since I saw Sarah, but I remember her enough for my heart to go out to her and her family and to pray for her well being.


A Message from a Roach

My daughter had half-a-day of school today. After picking her up, I dropped off my son at nursery and she and I went to a café for lunch. While I worked on my computer, she ate a bowl of soup. Suddenly, she said, “Mom, there’s a bug here!”

I looked at the roach lying on its back on the windowsill. Its legs struggled to move in the air as it gave its last few breaths. The sight of it saddened me, reminding me how petty our problems often are. Last night, for instance, a lot of tension arose between me and my three-year-old son when he threw a one-hour tantrum over chocolate ice cream. We didn’t have chocolate ice cream. I ended up yelling at him, and feeling guilty about it. Seeing the roach grasp for life made me realize how ridiculous it is to dwell on the negative. I decided to put my computer aside and enjoy my lunch with my daughter. At that moment, I looked up and saw a bird flipping its wings and flying high.

“Mom, it’s not dead!”

The roach had flipped itself over onto its legs and was now moving. I smiled.

“Let’s take it outside when we leave,” I said.

Using a paper receipt, my daughter placed it on the cafe menu, after she’d said to it, “I survived you” meaning she saved it. We dropped it off at a circle of dirt, bushes and trees, where it belongs. In her excitement, my daughter forgot her Ipod inside the cafe. She hurriedly went back to get it. Thank God it was still there. Otherwise, I would have paid too much to save a roach’s life.  

When I picked up my son from school, he had made a maraca out of a plastic bottle. It was stuffed with variously paint-colored corn kernels. It was exactly what I was looking for, for reasons I cannot yet explain in this post.

I handed my son his bag of snacks (chocolate milk and potato chips) which he always ate in the car after a hard two-hour day at nursery.

“You got me potato chips,” he said smiling and crunching. “So I’m not mad at you today.”


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February 11, 2013

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).