Sharing the Zen

Want to learn a few habits that can turn your life around and help you become more successful (but at the same time more centered, focused, and PRESENT)?

Then you  must read this blog: ZenHabits by Leo Babuta. It is considered one of the Top 25 blogs, and Top 50 websites in the world. The insights Leo provides are like little gems that can truly change your perspective and help you simplify and improve your life through building good habits.

Today’s post, titled How to Live Well, is a great post in its entirety, however, one point resonated really stronly with me since it’s been a focus area for me the past few weeks:

  • Be happy with what you have and where you are. Too often we want to be somewhere else, doing something else, with other people than whoever we’re with right now, getting things other than what we already have. But where we are is great! Who we’re with (including just ourselves) is already perfect. What we have is enough. What we’re doing already is amazing.

How amazing is that? How often do you find yourself thinking about how much better things would be if we got THAT job, had THAT kind of partner, THAT car, THAT salary, or were going to THAT place instead of being at home cleaning the house?

What a drag.

Join me in practicing how to love just where you are at this moment, and just what you’re doing at this moment, and allowing that to then bring whatever it will bring.

I’m willing to bet that by doing this, we will attract the kind of people and things we truly value and that truly value us.


Just Read: Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?

This past week, I had some alone time that I spent devouring a number of books, blogs, and videos (and trying to up my ranking in search results!).
All of the above taught me stuff that lit my fire – words and advice that caused an internal revolution that’s itching to make its way out.

One of the books I read, which I encourage you to pick up and read RIGHT NOW, was Seth Godin’s Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?

Think about the tagline to this book.


Are you? Do you think that you are giving enough of yourself at whatever it is that you do to render you indispensable to those around you?

You might think that the answer to the above question requires you to be The Expert in your field, or the most technical, or most educated, etc etc.

Read this book and you will realize that it’s much more than having the highest level of education or skill.

Those things contribute, without a doubt. But there is a more human aspect to being indispensable, and it involves being different, standing out, being true to your own voice, and realizing that being ‘very good’ is not good enough anymore.

Reading this book, you will squirm.
You will become uncomfortable at points, and want to give in to the resistance. You will also feel a little (or big, in my case) part of you agreeing with the core message of the book, and knowing that actually, you can do and give so. much. more.

And now I will stop talking so you can start reading!

SLC Half Marathon Round-Up

It’s been a couple of weeks, and the Salt Lake City Half-Marathon is solidly under my belt.

It’s also a distant memory (you guys are like WHY DO I EVEN CARE ABOUT THIS RIGHT NOW???), but I promised to summarize the race for you, so here goes.

The SLC Half-Marathon was a great experience, because:

It. Kicked. My. Butt.

Repeatedly during the actual race, then for a few days afterward.

Ouch. My butt and ego have been aptly humbled. And taught a lesson.

I didn’t train well enough, and allowed life (and a bit of arrogance) to come in between myself and sticking to a good training plan. I thought that since I had done 8 or 9 miles a few weeks before the race, I would be fiiiiine.

Did I feel like a super-hero running machine? NO.

Did I feel AMAZING and proud for having gotten it done and for not dropping out, even though I may have considered it for a brief moment (I’m not saying I did, only that I MIGHT have). YOU BETCHA I DID!

I did it, it’s behind me, I didn’t quit, and I have a much greater appreciation for the value of proper training!

When I got home my little man greeted me, eyes as wide as the full moon from last night, asking:
“Mama, did you win your race?!?!”
I looked him in the eye and said,
“Yes, I did.”
“Were you the fastest one?!”
“No, I wasn’t baby, but I finished, and that made me happy.”
“Wow mama. You run good.”
“Thanks sweetie.”
Smiling, he hopped off to continue driving his little brother crazy “BLA BLA BLA BLA BABY ZEEEEE BABY ZEEE, I LOVE YOU LIKE A KOOOKOOO KOOKEEE!”

Taking into account all of the above, I think this medal is well-deserved


The Road Home

I sit at the gate in JFK, waiting to board the flight, grateful that I will be seeing my family soon.

Grateful for so much.

Grateful to have a family whom I love with all my heart.

Grateful to have experienced this week of learning and connecting with others.

Grateful for inspiration and the gift of being inquisitive and open to new ideas.

Grateful to be on my way to a weekend filled with giggles, soft brown curls, hugs, and yes, even diapers



Claiming identity

I remembered this post as I walked past the 9/11 memorial here in NYC this week… Hope you enjoy!

“Oh! That’s an interesting name! Where’s it from?”

I used to hestitate. I used to pause, evaluating the tolerance level of my audience before proceeding to what would inevitably in some way or other define the future interactions and relationship between myself and the curious inquirer.

I don’t hesitate anymore. I don’t stop, don’t wait, don’t evaluate. I don’t draw out my response by initially answering “It’s Arabic!”, and waiting to see if the person standing in front of me will push further, asking for more detail, asking the real question they’re trying to get at, which is “But where are YOU from?”

“I’m Palestinian”, I say, looking them straight in the eye, watching first for the flicker of recognition, then for the fizzle of expectation and hope as the imagination that lives behind their eyes quickly kills off or severely maims images of a could-have-been friendship. Because now it’s just all too complicated. Now it’s about more than just the two of us.

“Oh!” Eyes diverted, brain cranking out different excuses for why the conversation should end now, or how to make a clean transition into something completely unrelated.

I can guarantee that in many cases, if not most, people who get that answer were either not expecting it or not prepared for it. Standard answers for this question range from “The Middle East” to “Jordan”, “Egypt”, “Lebanon”, and the occasional “Los Angeles”. After spending the better part of my life dancing around the answer, I now feel entitled to say it like it is. I deserve to be able to lay claim to that part of my identity without shame, without hesitancy, and without apprehension.

Being Palestinian is a part of who I am, (as are being Jordanian, American, female, crazy, a mother, crazy, etc.) and although it does not define me, it is the answer to the question of where the color of my hair and skin, and the shape of my eyes and nose come from. It explains my affinity for dark bitter coffee and the smell/taste of freshly baked pita bread, as well as why I rip my bread up into little pieces and dip it into my food. It explains why I’ve lived in so many different parts of the world, attended 11 schools (before college), and am constantly looking for a place to call home.

To be fair, not everyone who asks is taken aback/turned off by my answer. Some people, you can genuinely tell, just don’t care. Or, alternately, they do care, but not in the wondering how many of my brothers and/or cousins are responsible for global Islamist terrorism kind of way.

Yeah, that again. It’s September, and although I’m not a lingerer, this year I’ve found myself going back in time. Perhaps it is the melange of Quran-burning, Islamic-center building, Middle East “Peace Process” news and debate, all falling on the memory of the day we all got a taste of what humans are capable of in the name of religion.

It saddens me to see people refer to America as having made progress by reassuring us that Muslims will not be “rounded up and placed in Concentration camps” (see Fellow Americans’ Suspicions frustrate US Muslims). The mere fact that this image is one that can still come to mind is disturbing; it’s like telling someone not to think of a Pink Elephant. Trust me, everyone who has read the equivalent of that quote (and I’ve seen variations of it a number of times over the past 9 years) has at one point or another imagined Muslims being rounded up and put in a concentration camp. (You guys are thinking of pink elephants too. RIGHT?!)

I truly hope this country can move forward and move beyond lumping people under one umbrella cause, religion, ethnicity, or color, thereby assigning them the same characteristics, tendencies, and deciding who they are without learning more about them as individuals. I truly do.

However. I am cautious around the hope that people can fundamentally change, and that we can get beyond our differences. Perhaps it’s the fact that I’ve lived through numerous failed regurgitations of the Middle East Peace Process, where the same exact people keep saying the same exact things with the same exact result. Perhaps it was having to personally experience (with my family, my husband’s family even more dramatically, as well as scores of others) separation as we pursue the long and sometimes arduous trail of citizenship. That sacred gift of insurance, that promise of a safe haven that would ensure our rights to life, shelter, and human dignity.

Still, I know hope and faith in humanity deserve a chance. If not for my own lifetime, then for my son’s. And although I will tell him the truth, when the time comes, of the current state of humanity, I will do my best to cultivate tolerance, and instill a sense of hope in him.

All the while being his Palestinian, Jordanian, American, yoga-loving, running at the crack of dawn, semi-vegitarian, crazy mom.

Driving to Kill

(Ok this post is a new one I just couldn’t hold back – my gift to you! ;)

It’s bound to happen.

You’re in the car with at least one other Arab or Arab-American, maybe practicing your tabla (Middle Eastern drum) beat on the dashboard as you listen to the latest Haifa Wahby/Najwa Karam/Rami Ayyash, or maybe flexing your vocal cords to some serious Fairuz or Sabah Fakhry, or maybe even punctuating the air with explosive, pointy hand gestures as you shout out the words to the latest Arabic rap that you got from your cousin who just flew in from Amman.

Point is, you’re loud.

It’s ok, I understand. We can’t help it.

At one point along your journey, a pedestrian will start to cross the road at a walkway, and you automatically find yourself stopping and giving them the right of way.

0.0976 of a second passes by, then you and your companion(s) in the car erupt in an unstoppable barrage of words that sounds a little like this:

“HAH You know what would happen to that sucker back home
He’d be flattened in a split second if he tried to pull that stunt in the middle of a busy road
Who do you think would even SEE him
People don’t even stop for the traffic light
You know police officers get BEAT UP when they try to stop people
Oh but you haven’t seen DUBAI No no no have you even TRIED to drive in Damascus
ARE YOU KIDDING ME in Beirut people don’t even see the traffic lights anymore
SAY WHAT!!! Amman is like a zoo
But my cousin told me Saudi Arabia is even WORSE it’s like drivers are TRYING to kill pedestrians
Whatever The pedestrians are even worse than the drivers
I saw a woman one time crossing with her FIVE kids right in the middle of that big roundabout she almost got her whole family killed
People are so CRAZY
What is UP with that….”

The conversation starts to die down, then somebody asks the real question.

“What is it that makes people back home* have no respect whatsoever for rules, laws, or even their fellow human being? Why do we come here and feel (for the most part) respected, and why are people so much more willing to do the “right” thing, follow the rules, stand in line, take turns, stop for pedestrians?”

I’ve wondered about these very questions myself FOR YEARS.

The answer was always more of a justification than a real reason. A set of excuses, if you will, that explained away the phenomenon, but didn’t really explain it.

“People have no reason to believe in laws, rules, or even common decency. If you have a “waasta” (waasta roughly translates to having an “in”, either you know someone or are related to someone from the right family), then you don’t HAVE to follow the rules, and can get away with murder. So what’s the motivation for anyone else to follow the rules?”

And so on and so forth.

The other day, I had an epiphany.

The real reason is about a lot more than just losing faith in the judiciary system or in the ability to be treated equally regardless of who your uncle or father is.

The real reason is about not ever having had faith in yourself and in those around you.

It’s about not ever having been told, or ever having been led to believe that YOU, ME, each one of us individually, could actually make a difference.

That is a lousy way to live.

If you’ve lived a number of years in the United States, you’ve inevitably heard some variation of the following:
“YOU can make a difference.”
“YOU can make a change.”
“YOU can do it.”
“YOU can.”

Children are brought up with this mentality that even ONE person can make a change. They are taught that they each have the power to make the world a better place.

Conversely, at least in my experience, the message I’ve heard when I’ve been in the Middle East has been:
“Why would I even try? It’s not like I can change anything!”
“Who cares? Nothing I do is ever going to make a difference anyway.”
“Who am I to try and do things a different way? My father is minister of nothing!”
“Forget about it! Trying to change things is just a recipe for a headache.”

Defeatism at its best.

No, at its worst, because there’s NOTHING good that will ever come out of that kind of attitude.

I know things can change for us, they already are!

I just hope that in addition to evolving our political landscape and seeking out the types of leaders we want to represent us in the global arena, we also find the time to cultivate the leader in each of ourselves.

Because we can become a society that cares and does the right thing.

And hey, we get to do it while rocking out to some MAD tabla dance music.

Away for a few days and Blast from the Past

For the next five days, I will be caught in a whirlwind of training sessions, meetings, ferry rides between New York and New Jersey, and hopefully some good food in the middle of it all somewhere.

I’ve been toying with the idea of guest bloggers on my site while I’m away, and decided Yes! This is a grand idea! Let’s do it!

Then, the genius idea developed even more as I thought to myself, Wait, I can be my own guest blogger!


Huh, you say?

This week, you will have the immense pleasure and privilege (ahem) to RE-READ posts I wrote long, long ago, and in return I promise promise promise to take a few pictures and show them to you once I’m back home.


Please take care of yourselves, love each other, and join me as I ask the universe to be gentle to my boys and their dad while I am away from them and unable to kiss them good night.

Here is a post from almost 2 years ago – hard to believe my boy has grown so much since then!


Preschooler Car Talk II

“Mama! Today we learn about crops.”

Looking in rearview mirror, brow furrowed, POSITIVE that I had heard him wrong, “Huh? Crocs?!?!”

“NO! Croooooops!”
“Oh! Crops!” Eyebrows raised, thinking he must’ve heard the word and have NO idea what it means.

“Well, then, who picks the crops from the field?” (Hah! Take that, Mr. Think-You’re-So-Smart! I threw in an extra word, too!)

“Pffffffffft.” Impatiently, and MUCH too prematurely for his age, blowing air out of his mouth and rolling his eyes.

“Mama! Crops, FARMER! You know???”

“Um. Ooookaaay.”


“Mama?” Calmer now, after having contemplated the reasons for his mama’s sorry state of ignorance.


“You go’ed to school today?”

*sigh* He’s already worried about what to fill in for ‘Mother’s Highest Level of Education’

Recap of What Motivates You

A few posts ago, I asked you What Motivates You.

This was your answer.

Overall, the most votes went to Contribution and making a difference, which indicates that about two-thirds of you (67%) are out there doing what you’re doing in order to make the world a better place!

Are you?

If not, why aren’t you?

Is it because you “don’t have enough time”, or you “don’t know where to start”, or you “just don’t know enough” about something to make a difference?

Because all of that, all of the above, is untrue.

You are remarkable, you do have what it takes, and you can make a difference. Start by being true to who you are, and letting your true self shine through in everything that you do. That, in and of itself, will make a difference.

Set a goal, and achieve it. Do you find it hard to make time to achieve your personal goals after setting them? Then tell someone else about them. Be accountable.

Do you know who Bassam Tarazi is? He is the creator of a movement that has, at its core, accountability to others as the driver to achieving your goals. A fabulous concept that I highly recommend learning more about.

Read more about it here. It’s a fast read, I PROMISE.

Want to feel better about yourself? Read on!

Have you ever felt a little bit isolated from the rest of the world?

Have you ever felt, oh, maybe just a little bit too caught up in your own daily grind?

Have you ever started to wonder about how to deliver on the promise you made to yourself to make a difference in the world, then proceeded to put that plan on the back burner once more because you simply have no clue how or where to start?

I’m here to help.

Friends, meet Kiva.

If you don’t already know about this amazing social entrepreneurship venture, take a couple of minutes to watch this video. You won’t regret it.

Need I say more? Genius.

These days, it’s hard to let go of your precious, hard-earned dollars. I know how that feels.

But isn’t it worth it to be a part of something bigger than yourself, something that will actually drive someone’s livelihood, enable them to become self-sustaining, and potentially give you your investment back?

When you do get your money back, what will you do with that it? You could withdraw it, effectively ensuring a $0 loss.

Or, you could become a serial investor, re-investing that money again, and again, and again, and watching your investment help people all around the world, effectively ensuring a much, much richer life than you could have imagined possible with just $25 and an internet connection.

Spread the love.

Keeping it classy

I am on my way to recovery from a nasty bout of food poisoning which left me doubled over in pain in my bathroom, not sure which end my lunch was going to come out of, and trying to strategize on how to cause the least damage to the bathroom floor and my pride.

Not so cute.

So, I’ve had a couple of posts in mind for you all, including a roundup of my half marathon experience (I finished! You were all so supportive!), as well as a food/recipe post and a post about a great website I found that helps teach Arabic to children through games.

Please come back and visit, as I will be back in business soon, and can’t wait to connect with you all again!

Hoping you are keeping your lunch where it’s supposed to be! Eat safe!

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