Category Archives: Inspiration
Hard to believe, that I have reached the end of my pregnancy. I am 5 (FIVE!!) days away from my due date and haven’t popped on here to tell you anything about how it has gone. So – here are the highlights:
1-I have LOVED being pregnant! Not only has it been an absolute privilege and honour to carry around this little miracle in my womb, but I have felt so uplifted and encouraged by the way people respond to pregnant ladies. My experience has been nothing but positive. I have experienced people slowing down their cars and rolling down their windows to tell me I look great, a stranger on the street giving me his umbrella in a storm, as well as random smiles and encouraging words on the streets. I don’t know about you, but I really didn’t expect this. Every day when I open the newspapers, I read about all the horrible things that people do to one another, and yet, pregnancy, and the excitement of an unborn child really seems to bring out the best in everyone.
2-The past 9 months have been a true journey of personal discovery for me. J and I took a wonderful birth preparation class called ‘Your power, your birth’. Along with learning a whole lot about the birthing process (which I knew virtually nothing about before!), I also learned to see my pregnancy as a journey to motherhood. My daily experiences began to be framed through this lens. I’ll give you an example. I had an unfortunate situation in my workplace where I faced a fork in the road. In short: fight for my rights or put my head down and allow others to walk all over me. When I put it this way, the choice seems obvious, however in the moment, making the right choice was not so obvious. I had people tell me that the best thing to do was to avoid any sort of stress on my baby – which was good advice, but which ultimately, was not what I needed to do. After some thought, I realised that if I was going to bring a little girl (oh yeah – it’s a girl!) into this world, I needed to be able to show her how to stand up for herself. And if I couldn’t do that for myself, then I would have no credibility when it came time for me to teach her that lesson. And so – that growing little spaghetti squash in my stomach became the inspiration and the lens through which I made that decision and many others over the last few months.
So – when it came time to create a ‘birthing bundle’ in our pre-natal class, here is what I did:
The assignment was to put together 3 objects: one that symbolizes the women in your family and the power that they bring to your upcoming birthing process, one that symbolizes your partner (if applicable), and one that symbolizes you and your baby working together. Here is my bundle:
For the strength from the women in my family, I selected this cross, given to me by my mother, symbolizing the Christian faith held by my mother, my mother in law, my sister and my grandmother, all of which have been inspiring to me throughout my life.
To symbolize my husband, I selected his wedding ring. If you look closely, you will see that the inside layer of his ring is made of rose gold, surrounded by a tough layer of titanium. When he had this ring made, he was thinking that the delicate rose gold layer symbolized me, while the second layer hugging and protecting it, while being exposed to the elements, would symbolize him and his role in our lives. The two layers in the ring symbolize a marriage union of us as two separate, yet combined layers. I could not think of a better partner and source of support for what is to come.
Last, but not least, to symbolize my baby and I working together, I selected the wooden salad fork and spoon set that I brought back from South Africa a few years ago. If you look closely, the spoon is more weathered than the fork. So, the spoon is me, and the fork is baby girl. I viewed us a separate, but still working together. As the ‘womb’ I ‘spoon’ feed her and our nutritional intake is one and the same. As the newer and less weathered fork, baby ‘prods’ me, and impacts my decisions and outlook on life.
3-Throughout this journey I’ve read some great books, here are my top two recommendations:
1) Birthing from Within by Pam England and Robert Horowitz
2) Great with Child by Beth Ann Fennely
And before I go, here is one of my many favourite quotes from Great with Child:
On becoming a mother:
“You understand yourself as lodged in history in a way you didn’t before. Your beliefs will be tested, your hypotheses put into action, so you’ll consider them in a new way. Whether you’re explaining where pets go when they die or teaching your child to recycle, your philosophies have ramifications. For the rest of history, echoes of your voice will be heard”.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! How was your week-end? J and I had a lovely couple of days relaxing here in Halifax. This was probably the first time ever that we spent a long week-end and home, so it was definitely different for us, but really nice. It felt like all of a sudden, time was nicely wrapped up and handed to me as a gift – it made me realise how much of our long week-ends we normally spend on the plane or in the car. So, with our nicely wrapped time, we did a hot yoga class together on Friday (J’s first! He survived and loved it!), and we also went shopping and out for dinner here on Saturday. On Sunday, we combined our efforts to make our first ever pumpkin pie and it turned out delicious!
I was going to just share the pictures with you, but then I thought it wouldn’t be very nice to do that without sharing the recipe, so here you go!
Martha Stewart’s Pumpkin Pie
The original recipe said that this recipe would yield one 9-inch pie, but we were able to make 2.
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 cups fresh Pumpkin Puree Pumpkin Puree, or canned
3 large eggs, lightly beaten, plus 1 egg for glaze
1 1/2 cups evaporated milk
Pie Dough (we used this recipe)
1 tablespoon heavy cream
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. In a large bowl, combine sugar, cornstarch, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, pumpkin puree, and 3 eggs. Beat well. Add evaporated milk, and combine. Set aside.
Between two pieces of plastic wrap, roll the pie dough into a 12-inch circle. Fit pastry into a 9-inch glass pie plate; trim dough evenly along edge, leaving about a 1/2-inch overhang. Pinch to form a decorative edge. If the dough begins to soften, chill for 15 minutes.
Make the glaze: Beat the remaining egg, and combine with heavy cream. Brush glaze very lightly on edges of pie shell. Fill pie shell with pumpkin mixture. Transfer to prepared baking sheet.
Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue baking for 30 minutes more. Cool on a wire rack.
Source: Martha Stewart Living, November 2000
I am sure some of you will be able to relate to the kind of extended family i am about to describe. My parents immigrated from Egypt in the late 60s with a handful of other Coptic Egyptians. It was not long after that they along with a priest from Egypt formed the first Coptic Orthodox Church in North America…meeting in a small chapel on the second floor of a church that is still nestled behind the Eaton Center in downtown Toronto. Slowly more friends and families immigrated and congregated…and so, by the time I was born in the late 70s I was born into a community that was tightly knit by its roots of the home they left, the experience of immigration to North America and by their deep faith.
I was born into an extended family that knew me from the moment i came to be until this moment today. Going to church every Sunday throughout my upbringing i would see the same familiar faces, bond with the same friends i had since before i was consciousness of my own being and sense the many people loving me and watching over me and caring for me. Although i have been absent from Toronto throughout much of my 20s and into my 30s these connections were always there and this family would always care for me in my absence. They knew when i was overseas teaching in Southeast Asia, they knew when i was working in Yemen, they knew when I was living out East and through conversation with my parents were always thinking of and loving me.
The gift of this community and family is that it meant there were so many mother mothering each child. So many caring, smart, intuitive, passionate, warm mothers looking out for this flock of Egyptian youth making their way through an upbringing quite different than their own. We were all so lucky to have these moms lovings us in all directions…innately enveloping us.
And so, another such mother, just like my mom, passed away this weekend. It is not that i spoke with her very often but i knew she loved me and cared for me and always asked about me. She visited us in the hospital frequently when mom was sick. And she too has daughters who adore her because there is nothing not to adore. And she too has a congregation of children who grew up with her love wrapped round them.
It is the nature of life. It is inevitable. Our mothers are being taken. And it is juxtaposed by new mothers being given. Many of my Egyptian friends have children but it is only in the past couple of years and particularly this last year and in the coming months that so many of my dear friends from all different nooks of my life have become or are to become mothers. It is such an amazing time to see these sisters of mine become transformed…to see them born as moms.
And so, as always it is strange to feel as though i am watching something unfold beyond myself, beyond any of us. To see this great shift in life take form, where it feels as though changes are being made in order for new spaces to be created, where one things is making room for another without particular question or reason or qualifying manner as good or bad but rather simply being.
And so, much gratitude to mothers for all they have done and all they will do. To the moms that have mothered for so long and to those that are in their first moments. What a precious gift to be a mom and to be mothered be it by one or many.
I recently checked out the movie “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”. Have you seen it? It is about a little boy who loses his dad on 9/11 and his journey through the grief that follows. Near the beginning of the movie, he made what I thought to be an excellent analogy. He said that if the sun were to explode, it would take us 8 minutes to notice because that is how long it would take for the light and heat to go away (based on the speed at which light travels). The boy in the movie says that after his dad passed away, he still felt as though he was in that 8 minute period in which he still felt his dad’s light and heat so to speak. He finds a key that belonged to his dad and spends most of the movie searching for the lock for the key. He says that he feels that finding this lock would help him to extend his eight minutes with his dad.
This analogy really helps put into words a lot of what I have been feeling since my mom’s passing. A few weeks ago I wrote about how I still feel her presence in our home through all the little touches that she left behind. Now that I think about it, I realise that this is me in my 8 minutes. Like the little boy in the movie, I fear what comes after 8 minutes and I find myself trying to elongate it as much as I can. There are a few things in my mother’s belongings that I have wanted to go through and look at, but have decided instead to “save” them for later, because I feel as though that will draw out my 8 minutes with her a little longer.
Without spoiling the movie for you, the boy does end off by saying that he never thought that he would be able to live without his father, and that making it to the end of the 8 minutes taught him that he could and would survive. Though I don’t think I have quite reached the end of my 8 minutes, this experience has indeed been life changing for me. There are people who say that life can be described as “life before losing a parent” and “life after losing a parent”. I think that is such an accurate description. Life will never be the same, but life will continue. This I now know.
Before my mom passed away, I had the honour of spending a diffucult yet wonderful and memorable ten days with her. I am still processing everything I thought, saw, and experienced during that time. One of those events is a visit paid to my family by a very lovely and kind palliative care doctor. Up to this point, I have been fortunate enough not to have had very much interaction with the health care system. However, during the time I spent at home with my mom, I got a small glimpse into her relationship with the health care system, both good and bad. I think that this particular visit was probably one of the best experiences she has had with the system. This doctor provided her not only with medical care and attention, but with the emotional support that one needs as they prepare to end their life on this earth. The doctor gave my mom some advice that I know I will remember for a long time to come. Here’s what he said:
1. You are not a burden until they say you are.
For whatever reason, my mom felt like she was a burden on us while she was sick. No matter how much we told her that we wanted to take care of her, she just kept repeating it. She even mentioned it to the doctor when he came to see her. I loved what he said in response. It was so powerful for an external party to tell her that she was not the one who could decide whether she was a burden on us: we were.
2. You cannot deny them the righ to take care of you.
To follow up with the above piece of advice, the doctor also asked my mom if we were a burden on her while we were growing up, or when we got would get sick. She answered “Never! It was a joy to take care of them!”. He then very wisely said “well then, in the same way that you had that right to take care of them, you cannot take away their right to take care of you”. I had never thought of caring for someone as a right, but I really liked the way he put it. It was a privilege to take care of her. One that I will always remember. I’m glad that was not taken away from me.
3. Even though the definition of your quality of life will change, you can still have quality of life.
This one was particularly special. It’s true. When one is sick, everything changes. Answers to questions like “how are you?” or “how is your mom doing” start to become very relative. The answer “good” has a very different meaning than it does coming from someone else. In the same way, how one defines good quality of life must also change. The doctor said that even if one could only lie down with their eyes closed on a bed, they could still have quality of life simply by having a close relative by their side.
4. You are not the only one suffering. This cancer belongs to this entire family, and everyone is suffering; albeit very differenly than you are.
This was another good one. People do not realize that in the same way couple’s say “we’re pregnant”, families can be thought of saying “we have cancer”. Though the family physically does not have the illness just as the husband does not physically experience pregnancy, the other members of the family are still very much affected, and the doctor was right to point out that we were all suffering. During my mom’s illness, I sometimes felt guilty for being sad and making it about myself, when it was clearly about my mom. It was comforting and reassuring for someone to say that it was actually about all of us.
It was amazing how often these insights stayed with me during the days that followed. They motived me to care for my mom as best as I could, as well as to make her quality of life the best that it could have been. I’m grateful to this doctor who came into our lives at such a critical juncture.
One day, during the week before my mom passed away, we were all sitting at the table having dinner. At the end of the meal, a whole bunch of us got up to put dinner away. My mom was too weak and tired to help but she expressed that we were all doing so much and that she felt badly that she could not get up and join us. My brother responded with what I thought was the perfect answer. He said: “Mom, this just goes to show how many of us it takes to do what you have been doing alone your whole life”. So true. In the days leading up to my mom’s departure to heaven, it took so many of us to try to keep the house running semi-normally. As the days continued to pass, I could not help but think of my brother’s comment. It was so true and so fitting for the situation. Now that mom has passed away, I find myself thinking about this even more. I think about how despite her physical absence, we still benefit so much from all the work she has done for our home. It goes beyond saying that we have benefitted enormously from her raising us, but the little things have begun to stick out to me more in the last couple of days. I look at how she has lovingly decorated the house with pretty paintings and framed family pictures, how she has organized the medicine cabinet and how her kitchen is fully stocked with all the kitchen tools a family could ever need. It never occurred to me that even after her passing, we would continue to benefit from the household that she had put together and kept up for us.
Noticing these little details reminded me of a Proverb from the Bible that my mom loved to read. It’s the passage she read to me at my bridal shower. It is also the passage that my grandfather would often read to my grandmother every so often. The entire chapter is about the “virtuous woman”. It was so sweet when my grandfather would read it and then lovingly gaze at my grandmother and say to her “that’s you”. What a blessing it was to witness such love (you’ll understand what I mean after you read the passage below). Whenever I would come across this chapter I would always think about my grandparents, but this week as I looked around our family home I could not help but think of how fitting this chapter is for the legacy that mom has left behind:
An excellent wife who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life.
She seeks wool and flax,
and works with willing hands.
She is like the ships of the merchant;
she brings her food from afar.
She rises while it is yet night
and provides food for her household
and portions for her maidens.
She considers a field and buys it;
with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
She dresses herself with strength
and makes her arms strong.
She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
Her lamp does not go out at night.
She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her hands hold the spindle.
She opens her hand to the poor
and reaches out her hands to the needy.
She is not afraid of snow for her household,
for all her household are clothed in scarlet.
She makes bed coverings for herself;
her clothing is fine linen and purple.
Her husband is known in the gates
when he sits among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them;
she delivers sashes to the merchant.
Strength and dignity are her clothing,
and she laughs at the time to come.
She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women have done excellently,
but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands,
and let her works praise her in the gates.
(Proverbs 31:10-31 ESV)
It’s been a long time coming. I’ve been wanting to write about my mother’s illness, but felt that I could not for a number of reasons, one of which was that my mother loved to read my blog. Though I am sure she would have appreciated reading my thoughts on this topic, I did not want to burden her with my fears and concerns about her. She was also quite private about her illness and so I did not feel that it was appropriate. Now that she has passed and that certain things have become public, I feel as though the time has come for me to share this story. I do not feel like I can do it all in one post, so you will be getting little snip-its over the next little while.
Today’s post is about the outpouring of support that we have received over the past little while. I’ve decided to tell you about it through something that I’ve seen others do called “Five Senses Friday” (FSF). Basically, FSF is a way to reflect on the past few days by thinking about what you have experienced through each of your senses. When I sat down to think about it, I realised that the flood of love and support has actually been expressed through all five!
Everyone I know. In the past couple of weeks (almost two weeks) since mom passed away, I think I must’ve seen almost everyone I know who lives in this city, and then some from outside. Funerals and visitations are interesting because you never know who is going to walk through the door. Its sort of like your wedding, but it’s not just the special people from your life, it’s the special people from your life, and all those who are special to every single member of your family. We feel so blessed to be surrounded by so much love.
A fridge full of food made for us by others. I’ve loved tasting the food that people brought us. It is my first time being on this side of things and I find it so interesting to see what has come into our fridge. Given that we are an Egyptian family, we have naturally received a lot of Egyptian dishes from family and friends. It is so neat for me to see little twists on dishes that I grew up eating. Everybody makes the same dish just a little differently. I could taste love in every bite and yet it was also sort of sad because some of those dishes are nostalgic for me and it was strange to think that I would never eat my mom’s “—” again. Just one of the many things I am processing right now.
If I have seen everyone we know who lives in this city, then I have definitely heard from everyone we know in the world. Literally. My family and I have started many conversations in the past week with “you’ll never believe who called me today”. The answer would often be someone who we hadn’t spoken to in over 15 years (especially in my dad’s case).
So many different and beautiful flowers have filled our home. As you might know, I have a horrible sense of smell and can actually rarely smell anything. But this week the flowers overpowered and I got to smell some of the support.
Hugs, hugs, and more hugs!
Thank you so much for all your love – we feel it in so many ways!
I just got back from a fabulous business trip to Ottawa which I extended to go hang out and visit some friends in Montreal. I had a wonderful time but also feel very happy to be back to my Halifax routine.
Although I was only gone for a week, I feel as though I’ve just come back from three or may even four trips.
Chapter 1 of my trip was spent in Ottawa attending business meetings and also attending a great conference. I learned so much in just 3 days and met so many great people. I even met a few people from Halifax. Yay – new friends! While in Ottawa, my parents came to see me from Toronto, so I was able to spend my evenings catching up and spending some quality time with them.
Chapter 2 was spent with my good friend MC. As former roommates, I always find it neat how when we visit each other, we like to slip into our old roommate habits. We planned to spend our Sunday afternoon the same way we did when we lived together: lounging around in our pj’s with our laptops and the TV on, playing music and chatting periodically. When we visit each other we also have a traditional meal that we like to cook for old times sake. I will save that recipe for another post, but I can tell you this: it is one GOOD pasta dish!
Chapter 3 of my trip was spent visiting my friend Kristin who I met last year, but who I feel like I have known for so much longer. Kristin and I had the good fortune of working with a group of wonderful women (there were about 5 guys in our group of 30 clerks), whom I feel so blessed to have gotten to know. Anyhow, visiting Kristin and her roommate Kia was a lot of fun. I spent my days working in coffee shops around Montreal (Kristin made a very detailed walking tour of the city’s coffee shops for me, which I absolutely LOVED). In the evenings, we would visit with friends or just hang out in their charming Plateau apartment. Before going to bed, we chatted over a scoop of Kristin’s delicious coffee ice cream with a cup of tea on the side. That is a bedtime routine I could definitely get used to! A highlight of this chapter was visiting the new Bota Bota, which is a posh Scandinavian spa built into an old boat! If you are planning on making a trip to Montreal anytime soon, you MUST save som time for this activity!
Chapter 4 was my trip back to Ottawa where I spent the day catching up with my in-laws before taking a flight back to Halifax.
Overall, it was a perfect trip! Thanks to all of my wonderful and gracious hostesses!
Thought it was only a week, this is the longest trip I’ve taken alone since getting married. Coming from a very traditional background, I have to be honest, I was a bit unsure as to whether it was ok for me to leave my husband and go gallivanting by myself. Since J is toiling his way though exam season right now, he really encouraged me to go. We agreed that this time would be good for both of us.
Funnily enough, the day after I got to Montreal, MC and I watched a season 4 Sex and the City Episode where Carrie ponders the question “to be in a couple, do you have to put your single self on a shelf?”. In that episode, Carrie is engaged to Aidan and finds herself missing her single life. A few episodes later, they are broken up. Though my situation is different, I can definitely relate to Carrie’s question. In fact, I pondered it a lot myself while travelling last week.
I think everyone’s answer to this question is probably slightly different depending on who they are, who they are with, and what exactly it is about their single life that they miss. For me though, I think the answer is definitely no. I’ve learned (in my ever so long 1.5 years of marriage), that having time to “my single self” can make me into a better partner. Taking trips like the one I just took, allow me to re-connect with myself and with my friends, which I think is very healthy for me. Before I got married, I got to do my share of travelling and one of the things I loved most was exploring a new city on my own. I also love hanging out with my girlfriends and having sleepovers. When you get married, of course you get to do a lot of amazing things with your partner, and one of the best things about it is that you no longer HAVE to do stuff alone! Despite this, I think it is always important to make time, when you can (obviously don’t abandon your partner and kids!), to check-up on how your ‘single self’ is doing.
What do you think?
Yesterday I turned 29.
More than other years, it seems that there is so much to reflect on since this is the last year of my 20s.
I’m the type of person who reacts to birthday milestones a little prematurely. Turning 24 was a big year for me because I was almost 25 but turning 25 wasn’t such a big event because I had already internalized it the year before. Now, since 29 is proving to be a big year for me, I anticipate that next year will not be too much of a shock.
Though I’m not a huge birthday person, I do feel the need to mark each passing year of my life in some way. This year, I entered my 30th year in a big hug with my husband. As we hugged and the clock turned to midnight, I thanked God for all he has brought me in my life in general, but especially in the past year and the past decade. As I begin a new chapter, I am conscious of all the wonderful things that I am blessed with.
In this past decade I started and finished 3 university degrees; I started and ended a relationship, which was probably one of the biggest journeys into self-discovery that I have ever experienced; I met and married my husband and wonderful life partner, which has been an incredibly intense and rewarding experience; and I held a number of jobs which all contributed both to my personal and professional development and through which I have met some of the people who are today my best friends (you know who you are!). I’ve also been blessed to have traveled and seen so much of the world while also meeting new people and experiencing different perspectives on life. Among the many travel highlights were the time I swam in the bioluminescent bay in Puerto Rico, meeting my sponsored child and going on safari in South Africa, as well as our 1 month honeymoon in a beautiful and remote Italian mountain-top village. Oh, there have been so many memories. I’ve also taken up new hobbies, one of which is writing this blog (thank you for joining me on that one).
Thinking back on all of these experiences makes me realise that what I take from them are not only the memories, but how they have helped me to discover so much about myself and the world around me. This decade has taught me above all to become comfortable with and excited about who I am and where I want to go. I have learned to face my fears and bounce back from pain and heartache. I have learned the importance of having fun while also being wise and intentional.
This morning, J told me that 29 was a wonderful age because I have the knowledge of who I am while still being young and being able to do all of the things that young people do. I think he’s right and I intend on enjoying and taking in every minute of this year (the good and the bad).
20s, you’ve given me a lot and I’ve really enjoyed you; I’m going to miss you when we part ways next year but I’m almost starting to be ready to meet 30s. Here’s to our last year together – I know it will be special.