Thursday, February 21, 2008

Being Muslim

I don't think being Muslim is a bad thing. On the contrary Islam teaches compassion and understanding, tolerance and recognizing peoples differences. Islam does not discriminate on the color of skin or one's ethnic background. In Islam, people are all the same.

According to the latest American presidential election, however, being Muslim is a very bad thing. Barack Obama is trying to distance himself far from Islam even though his father was Muslim and he still has family in Africa that is Muslim.

So what is wrong with the recent photos of Barack Obama being shown wearing Arab-style garb or Hilary Clinton in a hijb-style scarf? Nothing at all. I see it as being used against Muslims rather than showing tolerance, understanding and respect.

This has really been bothering me lately, especially with Hilary Clinton being on the talk-show circuit on the American news channels saying that Barack Obama is in fact a Christian. So what? Does it matter if one is a Christian, Muslim or Jew? I guess it does matter if the candidate is trying to win the votes of the American majority to gain the Democratic party's nominee.

I can't help but think how many Muslim Americans are looking for the best candidate that shares their values and wants their children to grow up in a country and world that understands and respects their religion -- Islam.

It doesn't matter whether one is Republican or Democrat because I think that Islam covers both areas. Muslims are socially democratic at the base, but at the same time have a lot of Republican qualities, which leaves them somewhere in the middle.

In a world that is shrinking by the hour in terms of communicating with people from all over the world, it would do the candidates a world and universe of good to cater to ALL people; not just singling out one's Muslim family and trying to band-aid it.



The Benefits of Not Smoking

The following is an article from the American Lung Association. It is almost impossible not to smoke in Egypt. The majority of Egyptian men smoke either cigarettes or sheesha, and a lot of women smoke in private (in their homes, salons, etc.).

When smokers quit, within twenty minutes of smoking that last cigarette the body begins a series of changes.

At 20 minutes after quitting:

blood pressure decreases
pulse rate drops
body temperature of hands and feet increases

At 8 hours:

carbon monoxide level in blood drops to normal
oxygen level in blood increases to normal

At 24 hours:

chance of a heart attack decreases

At 48 hours:

nerve endings start regrowing
ability to smell and taste is enhanced

The first year after quitting:

At 2 weeks to 3 months:

circulation improves
walking becomes easier
lung function increases

1 to 9 months:

coughing, sinus congestion, fatigue, shortness of breath decreases

1 year:

excess risk of coronary heart disease is decreased to half that of a smoker

Long-term Benefits of Quitting

At 5 years:

from 5 to 15 years after quitting, stroke risk is reduced to that of people who have never smoked.

For more information please visit



Wednesday, February 13, 2008

February 11, 1963

Yep, you guessed it. It was my birthday. While I look forward to my birthday, I was dreading this day in particular. I didn't dread it when I turned 30, 35, or even 40; but 45 -- this one was difficult for me to face probably because of the number -- nothing else.

I really didn't want to celebrate it.

Let's face it - in the US February is the coldest month of the year which falls in line that I was born during a snowstorm in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Even though the hospital wasn't far at all from my parents' home, it doesn't matter -- the "hills" are really mountains - and sometimes even going a mile could take forever.

OK so I lived with that great story most of my life. I found it exciting and exhilerating - although I know my parents didn't see it that way. That story probably lead to my adventurous personality -- let me stop here on this topic.

Being the third of five children, I loved celebrating birthdays in my family. It was always "your" day. What do you want for your birthday? What do you want for your birthday dinner? What do you want for your birthday cake? My answer was always for dinner I usually wanted pierogi or chicken or beef soup w/ pollina (dumpings); and for dessert the almight yellow cake with white icing and coconut. Yum! Mom always made each child's birthday so special - with five children it had to be.

It wasn't until February 10, 1990 that my birthday took a turn. It was early in the morning, when my parents got a call from the nursing home where my maternal grandmother was living that she had passed away. But after all the crying and sobbing and packing to go to Johnstown, Mom had it in her to celebrate my birthday with not a cake cause maybe that would have taken too long, she made cupcake instead - cupcakes!? What determination my mother had to make it still seem special. Oh it was special alright. Something I could never forget. My parents, brothers and sisters were there gathered around the kitchen table, with me on the end as the official birthday seat with the cupcakes lit in front of me. Everyone started singing "Happy Birthday" which quickly turned into a teary, crying rendition of the song that I will never forget. For as sad as it was - it was so special and so loving forever remaining in my heart.

This year, I woke up on my birthday and one of my sisters had sent me a beautiful birthday sms. She even stayed up to send me the message. We were together last year and the cake was fantastic from a small bakery in her western PA town. I'll tell you birthday cakes are a gift in themselves especially since I do not go out of my way to eat sweets of any kind.

I told my dear friend Lisa about the history of my birthday. One thing too is that since Hassan and I have been married, he has always made my birthday special and since we're not together this birthday it seemed even more of a bummer. She said "You are coming to my house for dinner if I have to drag you." OK, I know Lisa. She will do it. She's tougher than I am - after all she was raised in Philadelphia and went to the Jersey Shore for vacations every summer. I know what this woman is made of. So I grudgingly agreed. In the meantime, Mira had a surprise of her own up her sleeves. Her friend Gretelin, and Gretelin's mother and father wanted to plan a surprise of their own for me. They brought me a the strawberry topped birthday cake layered with REAL whipped cream. Unfortunately they couldn't join us because Gretelin's mom, Maris, was very sick with a cold.

So we went to Lisa's house for dinner. Lisa's husband is visiting from the US for a few weeks so he joined us. Lisa's 3 kids (15, 13 and 10) were so quiet and subdued. After he excused himself to go out and take care of some things around Cairo, the party began. We laughed, danced, and had a blast.

Needless to say I still have half a cake in my fridge.

Alhamdulillah for everything.