Why I’m Not Married

Once upon a time, not so long ago, there was a little girl who dreamed of marrying Michael J. Fox. A few years later, she dreamed of marrying Zack Morris, and a few years after that she dreamed of marrying Christian Slater. Then she realized she was just a Palestinian kid who lived in the southwest suburbs of Chicago… That is where her love story begins…

Spoiler alert! That little girl is me.

Growing up wide-eyed and full of aspirations of romance, I knew that I would find the person who “loved me for me,” and would “want me for who I am,” and all that jazz. And even if that person wasn’t a Zack Morris or a Michael J. Fox (notice how all my childhood love interests were young white men. But I’ll save the whole racial normalization conversation for someone who is more passionate about it), I knew it would be someone as gallant and morally sophisticated as the men I grew up with in my family and the ones I watched so dutifully on the silver screen.

Long story, short: I loved, I lost and now I am looking again. Now at the age of 32, I am wiser as I know that love and marriage don’t work for most people, most of the time, well at least not the way it should be working. I also know that I was many times blessed in my previous marriage to have been loved and blessed to have given love so freely and without condition. But as a Muslim, God prescribes marriage for mankind to fulfill half our faith and to protect us from so many ills of society. For this reason, I am back on the meat market and hating every minute of it.

I guess I was lucky the first time around. I didn’t have to endure horrific encounters with less than suitable suitors and “we almost got engaged but it didn’t work out,” stories. At 32, the matrimonial scene is quite different than it was in my early 20’s. And sadly, I have discovered that our community suffers from innate problems that our imams, our teachers and our elders are not addressing. And even worse, they seem to be encouraging the backwardness that seems to exist in communities around the world, communities that allow men, by virtue of being born male, to reject women based on trivial reasons. And communities that have encouraged women to settle for less than what they deserve because “they can’t possibly do any better.”

This is the world that I live in. And the following are the reasons why I am not married.

I am 32 and not 22: When I was 22, people tried to hook me up with other 22-year-old, or maybe 26-year-olds or at the most 30-year-olds. Somehow, now I am asked, without hesitation or shame to consider meeting men in their early 50’s. Wait, what? Uhm, isn’t that like my dad’s age? …Apparently no one cares about that. I have reached the proverbial hill, took a walk around it and have climbed way over it. Last year, It was suggested to me that I meet with someone who is 33. He sounded great on paper, but after I emailed him a “blurb” about myself, our mutual friend called me to tell me that he wasn’t interested because I was ONLY 2 years younger than him. And no one seems to think this is picky on his part (or pricky, but whatever). How young must his future wife be, anyway? Maybe people enjoy enabling what might be a potential pedophile. Who knows?

I am divorced: But what the rest of the world hears is that I am not a virgin… Oh no she didn’t. She did not just pull out the V-card… Yes I did. I am divorced. I am not ashamed of that. Nor does that de-value me. Oh wait, I guess it does. Apparently, “experienced” women don’t make good wives or mothers or friends… Someone else was suggested to me last year and this guy didn’t “mind” my age….gee I am so lucky… But when he found out I was divorced, he immediately said he wasn’t interested. Appalled and once again disgusted by these people, I vented to someone about it. And their response was “well, he has the right to want what he wants.” Uhm, no he doesn’t, not when there is no logic behind it and that the only reason he wants a “new” girl is because of some BS male-privilege thing that was engrained in him since birth. One Imam I interviewed for an article about marriage in the Muslim American community had said he wished more people would consider marrying someone divorced, as those people probably have more insight into relationships and what works and doesn’t work. Our Beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) had no qualms about marrying widowed or divorced women, as they were just as good as “new” women. Can someone explain to me why these punks in this day and age think they are better than the Prophet (PBUH)?

I have an opinion. Yesterday, JUST yesterday, I was speaking to a man, and we had just started to get to know each other. Literally, it was only one day. And he suggested we meet for coffee. I told him that I was not comfortable with that until we got to know each other for like a minute. He said talking on the phone was a waste of time. I explained that I disagree and this is what I am comfortable with. All of a sudden he started accusing me of being “someone who likes to debate and argue a lot,” (classic male rhetoric that spits out when they feel threatened) and being a “control freak,” and wait, this is the best part… “no man is ever going to take you if you don’t change.” Apparently I am waiting to be “taken.” Hmm, that sure is news to me. So to sum up, expressing a feeling is the equivalent to being controlling and an unruly wretch that no man will ever take…. I basically told him to kiss off and that he’s just sad because he didn’t get his way… I wonder who is going to end up taking him?

I am visually impaired. This probably needs its own post because it is quite serious. Sometimes I feel like I live in the 1600’s when women “suffered from hysterics,” and witches were burned at the stake. Growing up I was ridiculed for having a disability and sadly that took a sharper twist when it was used to judge me as a potential partner. People went out of their way to say hurtful things about me to my face and behind my back, even saying things like “I don’t know about Leen for my brother. She has that weird eye thing.” Or when men found out I didn’t drive, they would make me feel like an invalid who needed bed pans changed. I was made to feel like a burden by not just the men I was meeting, but by their mothers, sisters and friends. Making me feel like their loser brothers who couldn’t manage to finish school, get a job or read a book were too good for me because I was born a certain way… Wow reliving this right now is seriously disturbing me…. But the point to be made is that if you aren’t a certain weight, skin tone, height or reach some arbitrary measure of perfection, then you are damaged goods who should just settle. I would like to know why I have yet to hear one scholar or one imam address this in their Friday sermons or at grand conventions or at least on social media… Maybe it is because they would like to perpetuate this type of male-privilege that sadly even women abide by and encourage. And if the deformed and disabled or maybe even the left-handed or the asthmatic have to lay in wait to be “taken” by someone who has pitied them, then so be it. I guess it was her fault for being born with an imperfection that will keep her from being a good wife… By the way, being “broken” rarely affects a man’s eligibility for marriage. Just sayin’ it how it is.

No one is willing to help. Back in the day, people had no problem being matchmakers. Nowadays as our society becomes more and more “me” oriented and everyone’s “gotta watch their own backs,” people have become apathetic to the struggle of their single peers. No one wants “to get involved.” No one wants to “be held responsible if things don’t work out.” In other words, people are self-absorbed and don’t want any type of accountability even if that accountability could be the difference between joy and sadness for someone that they love. I dare you to stop and look around your immediate circle, and you will notice that you do have a single friend or cousin or neighbor who could benefit from your efforts to basically hook them up. Don’t worry if it doesn’t work out, they won’t drag you to court or anything… And remember that you once benefited from someone who thought of you in this way. Every woman deserves to have the chance to bare children and to live happily ever after. And in a lifestyle where we don’t traditionally date, those chances become slimmer and slimmer as you sit idly by.

~~Leen J.

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Vanilla Macchiato: Friend or Foe?

Vanilla MacchiatoBecause the world has gotten way too serious. Because everyone is really worried about the Ukraine. Because the world is in an uproar over what misogynist said what. And because nothing in this world is better than a cup of coffee…
 

On March 4, 2014, Starbucks launched it’s newest Macchiato drink, the Vanilla Macchiato, adding to an already popular series of macchiato drinks, which includes Hazelnut and the original Caramel Macchiato. What makes a macchiato different from any ordinary latte is how it is “marked” with a shot of espresso (or 2 shots for a grande and venti) on top of the velvety foamed milk. This adds a stronger and richer coffee flavor than an ordinary latte, where the shots sit at the bottom of the cup. What makes the Vanilla Macchiato unique is that the base syrup is vanilla, and… drumroll please… it is topped with a Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla ribbon on top of the luscious milk and rich espresso shots.

My Opinion: As a former Starbucks Barista, I loved making macchiatos. What most people don’t know, and probably could care less about, is that to make the perfect macchiato, you have to pull the shots separately and then pour them over the foamed milk IMMEDIATELY, lest the shots turn black and you are left with one seriously bitter cup of coffee.

But I digress.

I loved the Vanilla Macchiato. It is less sweet than its predecessors and really packs a punch because the Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla drizzle (that by the way does not have bourbon in it) is mildly sweet with a bit of a woody or even spicy flavor. Therefore, if you like really sweet coffees, this is not for you. But if you like vanilla lattes, this may be for you. And if you love the taste and aroma of strong coffee and the warm feeling of vanilla coating your pallet, then this is DEFINITELY for you.

Tips for Ordering a Vanilla Macchiato:If you normally get your lattes nonfat (as I do), you may want to reconsider this time. The combination of the vanilla syrup, the drizzle and the espresso shots on top makes this latte beg for a little sweetness. I have no advice for soy milk drinkers except that I would assume that because they use a vanilla soy that is full fat, you probably won’t run into any “sweetness” issues.

Secondly, if you normally modify your drinks with less syrups, again you may not want to do that. The first time I did that, the drink was very bland. The second time I ordered it with no modifications except that it be extra hot (I had to be a coffee snob) and it tasted much fuller and much bolder.

Finally, if you want to pair this new masterpiece with a pastry, I would suggest the lemon loaf from Starbucks’ new(ish) La Boulange line of pastries and desserts. The tanginess pairs well with the brown sugar and spice in the Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla drizzle and lessens a bit of the intensity of the espresso shots.

So, that’s all folks… And no, I do not do PR for Starbucks. I just think it’s fun to critique coffee as a self-proclaimed coffee connoisseur.

Enjoy!

~~Leen J.

10 Things I can’t Do That You Probably Could

I am visually impaired. I have vision loss. I am disabled… I think those are all the euphemisms I can think of to use in place of “I don’t see like everyone else.”

Now, I can go into a long explanation of why I don’t see well, but let’s save that for a rainy day. And if you are thinking, “Leen, why don’t you just wear glasses,’ I will have to save the answer to that for another time. But for now, I don’t think the “why” is what matters. All that really matters are the facts on the ground. I wanted to give you all a little insight (pun very much intended) into my daily struggles.

So, here it goes. 10 things that you probably do everyday, that I can’t.

PREFACE: This isn’t designed to make you feel bad or guilty. And I am super thankful for the blessings that I do have everyday that outweigh all the trivial stuff you are about to read.

Here we go.

1) Eating at a Fast Food Restaurant I’ve Never Been to Before
“Uhm, excuse me…uhm do you have a handheld menu by any chance?” If I had a
dime for every time I had to ask that question, I’d be able to afford eating
somewhere way better than a fast food restaurant… So if it’s McDonald’s or subway
then it’s all good, but going to a fast food place I’ve never been to before can
be a challenge. The menu on the wall behind the counter is too far away to read,
and most “associates” working the register get fed up with all the menu questions.
I tend to get a lot of exasperated looks from these people and a response like,
“ma’am, it’s all up there behind me,” and I have to say, “I’m sorry I don’t see very well.”  I almost always end up with some kind of chicken sandwich.

2) Using a Laptop on My Actual Lap
Aaah the laptop. Man’s modern-day invention. Making the world of email, word processing and social media a whole lot more accessible… Yeah not for me. Although I use laptops on a daily basis, I can’t put it on my lap while resting my back against my headboard all comfy in my bed. Usually that type of “comfort” requires several pillows on my lap and a whole lot of neck craning.

3) Watching A Movie With Subtitles
The world seems obsessed with Bollywood movies. Sadly, this is not a joy I can partake in. Subtitles are a no-no for me. Unless I want to stay glued 2 inches from the screen the whole time, it’s just not happening. This goes for ALL foreign films. It’s pretty disappointing to because watching foreign films is the one thing missing from my hipster repertoire.

4) Placing My TV Anywhere I want
You move into a place, you look around the living room and think, “I’ll put the TV over there.” Oh the freedom you must have when arranging your living room, knowing that you will be able to see the TV no matter where you put it. Knowing you can come home from work, lay down on the couch and watch your DVRed programming all the way across the room. In my world, the TV MUST be close enough to a couch where I can sit AND watch TV at the same time. Most of the time this is impossible, and I have to end up sitting on the floor in front of the TV. And laying down on the couch and watching TV??? Forget it; that’s just a pipe dream.

5) Crossing a Busy Street on a Sunny Day
I do this all the time, but usually when I do, I am relying on my other senses and common sense. A part of my vision impairment involves high sensitivity to bright sunlight or fluorescent lights. Sometimes a stoplight can turn red or green, and I just have no idea. Thank God I haven’t been hit by a car or anything. And luckily my other senses are pretty sharp, so there you go.

6) Following a Power Point Presentation
Don’t get me started on my college career. If it wasn’t Power Point, then it was that damn overhead projector. Lucky for me I am a beast at dictation, listening and note taking (wow I could be a Girl Friday).

7) Getting Picked Up By A Strange Car
Man does this cause a hell of a lot of anxiety. At times, friends or family pick me up from places driving a car I’ve never seen before or I am not too familiar with. I can’t see the person driving the car, so I rely heavily on recognizing the car. Well this goes out the window if I don’t already KNOW the car. I usually need a lot of description of where the car is parked.

Me: Is that you? Driving up now?… Wait, that’s NOT YOU? Oh crap, ok. … You’re next to that white van? Oh ok….. Oh not that van? oops….. Oh oh okay I see you now.

It all works out fine in the end.

8) Picking Out Clothes and Knowing What Color They Are
For all intents and purposes, I am color blind. I see shades of colors but not tones. Therefore, when buying clothes, I am at a loss when it comes to the colors. You probably don’t realize this, but A LOT of stores have the colors written on the tags. This is very useful to me, especially because I prefer to wear certain colors (hey just because I can’t see them all, doesn’t mean I can’t favor a few over others). Sometimes I take a shirt home and find out it’s neon yellow. I usually return those (but that rarely happens). I’d like to make it clear that I do put all my own outfits together, and think I have a pretty good sense of fashion. You’d be amazed at what you can do even when you are color blind.

9) Playing Laser Tag
Ok so I am assuming this isn’t an everyday occurrence for you. You probably haven’t played laser tag since like the 8th grade, but I’ve never played it EVER. If I can’t see colors on a piece of fabric, forget about seeing different colored lights in the dark that I am supposed to zap with my laser gun (that’s how you play, right?)
When I was in the 9th grade, we took a field trip to a laser tag place. I hung out at the restaurant, playing Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know” on the juke box over and over again, and eating fries.

10) Sitting Anywhere in the Movie Theatre
So I guess this is sorta similar to putting the TV anywhere I want in my living room. But having this challenge in the theatre takes it to a whole new level. I Just paid like 15 bucks to watch the second Hunger Games movie, I sure as hell better
be able to see the freaking movie. And going with people who “have to sit in the back row” is a special kind of personal hell for me. I do have to say though that my friends are pretty chill about where we sit, and I try my best to accommodate then as they try to accommodate me. We usually end up seated in the middle of the theatre. That works.

~~Leen J.

Introducing Leen Jaber Singing with a Microphone

When I was about four years old, I used to love to sing. I have distinct memories of singing “How Will I Know” by Whitney Houston in my grandmother’s kitchen. On field trips, as I got older, I would sing hair band songs to myself to help pass the time. It really didn’t matter what the song was, whether it was a sitcom theme song or Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” or the Arabic song I heard at the wedding I went to the weekend before, I would sing it… all—day—long…

But what I remember most was how much my mom would put up with. No matter how loud or how long or how off tune I sometimes I got, my mother never told me to shut up. And because of this, I became a fierce little four-year-old who thought it was everyone’s obligation to sit down and watch me sing. I loved a faithful audience. And so many afternoons, after my mother would pour her afternoon cup of coffee, I would ask her to sit down at the kitchen table and watch me perform. And she would. I would then proceed to grab the biggest spoon I could find in the kitchen drawer and prepare myself for a big crowd pleaser. My poor mother. I was quite ballsy, so I asked my mom to introduce me, and when she did, to make sure that she introduced the fact that I would be singing with a microphone; hence, the spoon. My mom would then announce, “Introducing Leen Jaber singing with a microphone!!!”

Man, I loved the way that felt. I would then saunter into the middle of the kitchen and bring that spoon up to my lips and just start belting it out. I specifically remember singing “Borderline” by Madonna on one occasion. But most of the time I remember just making my own songs, the kind that went on for at least 10 minutes that had no ending in sight. At some point, halfway through my stellar show, my mother would turn to the empty chair next to her and say, “Isn’t she wonderful?!?” And the air person next to her would respond, “Yes. She is great!” And although I know my mom was just talking to our kitchen chairs, and I knew that I was not performing on stage at an amphitheater, and I knew that I was really just dancing around my kitchen with a huge ladle, I felt so special like maybe I was just as cool as Cyndi Lauper or Tiffany or even dare I say it…Madonna! Gasp!

Every now and then, my mom and I look back at that and laugh. She always says that our childhood was the best time of her life. I don’t know if my mom knows this, but her always being willing to hear me butcher 80’s pop songs and live through my long-winded originals, is what made me proud of my skill and what made me hone it as I got older. I always knew that singing in school or in public places like the train or staying up for hours singing made me a bit of a freak. I am sure my classmates from high school who might be reading this now will remember how I would get in trouble for singing in class or in the hall or at gym or on class trips. It was my thing. Well that and writing, but I think being able to sing AND write go hand in hand many times. But I am sure that if my mother did not tolerate my kitchen concerts or ALL the singing I would do on the way home from school (I would seriously recite the Pledge of Allegiance and then end with either “America the Beautiful” or the National Anthem) I don’t think I would have had the confidence and love of music and singing that I do today. I wouldn’t have performed, for real, throughout my childhood at religious and community events or school functions. I wouldn’t have entered talent shows in college, and I wouldn’t have learned how to play the guitar.

These are things that I like to remember and the stories that I like to tell.

~~Leen J.

Settlers and the Men Who Love Them

Standards. Yes, I said it… standards. So many women in this day and age are foregoing their standards. They are trading in their standards for a white dress and the opportunity to use the phrase, “My husband said…” Women as young as 21 are settling for men who fall way below their standards. Why are so many talented and intelligent women willing to sell themselves for marriage? Why are so many women “settlers,” and yet so many men are reaching higher than what they can grasp?

I’ve seen it all. They have forsaken their single freedom and personal growth for men who are too old or too young for them; men who are jobless, education-less, emotion-less, and are just all together LESS. They are so afraid that if they don’t accept the suitor at their doorstep, they might end up alone. But little do these wide-eyed and naive girls know, that the real tragedy they are creating is a life filled with empty promises and anti-climactic endings. Will they be miserable? Maybe or maybe not. Will they be happy? Probably not. Sacrificing your dignity and self-respect can never really end well.

Listen, I am not advocating greediness or pickiness or not being realistic. No woman is ever going to find everything she is looking for in one man. And, God, if she thinks so then she really has got another thing coming.  But I think there are way too many women marrying below them and finding that they and their children are suffering because of it.

Mostly, people can adjust and accommodate one another when it comes to the little things. Jobs and be had, degrees can be earned, and even language can be learned. But how about values? How about ethics? And FYI, having the same religion or even being born and raised in the same neighborhood does not guarantee value and ethics compatibility. These are the kinda things you can only learn about a person after spending a considerable amount of time with them. You can hear it through the type of language they use, the way they interact with others and the way they deal with hostile situations.

Age. Whoever said “age ain’t nothin’ but a number”‘ must have been high or just completely overcompensating for the fact that they are getting old. Men mature later than women. We all know this. Of course there are exceptions, but overall, marrying men that are too young can be problematic. Maybe not today and maybe not tomorrow but someday and soon… Seriously, men of all ages have a difficult time accepting their emotional and financial responsibility as a husband, and SO many of them fold under the pressure. Marriage is hard, and it’s even harder when you are not mentally and emotionally ready for the responsibility.

 One complaint I hear from women who marry men that are considerably OLDER  is that they have nothing in common. Another complaint I hear is that they are treated like children by their significant others, which means that there is a lack of respect. Opposites DO NOT attract. The expression shouldn’t be “opposites attract,” but rather “opposites are exciting at first but really lead to divorce and family dysfunction.”

I am sure so many settlers out there are reading this thinking that I have no idea what I am talking about. But I only need my observations to form my opinions… and of course my cockiness.

Disclaimer. I do wish all these women I know happiness, and for their sake, I hope I am wrong. But I found that my cynicism has gotten me much further than the gullible wishful thinking of women who settle. You know, this topic really hits home for me because I have seen so many friends and family members suffer because of the decisions they have made when choosing a spouse. Many stick with the relationship because they are scared to be alone or to change or that other people will look at them and think they’re pathetic. So they continue to live with, procreate with, and feign happiness in order to try to convince themselves that they didn’t make a mistake. 

So for those women still unmarried and still unattached, please choose carefully. Please don’t sell yourself short. You deserve a lot more than you give yourself credit for.

~~Leen J.

The Top 10 Things I’d Like to Do Before I Turn Thirty

About a month and a half ago, I published a post regarding my soon-to-be thirtieth birthday. I posted The Top 10 Accomplishments of My 20\’s . But in the last few days, as the day approaches closer and closer, I started thinking about the things I would LIKE to accomplish before I start my middle-aged life (yuck). However, unfortunately, I probably won’t have enough time to achieve these miraculous accomplishments (but I promise you I will one day soon, God willing). Yet, I thought it would be fun to share them with you anyhow :)

Here it goes…

10) Have my tell-all book become a bestseller.

9) Own an awesomely comfortable, pillow top, queen-sized bed

8) Visit Australia and maybe hop with the kangaroos

7) Read Hamlet from cover to cover

6)  Buy a Gibson electric guitar with amp

5) Be totally and undoubtedly in shape… You see, once upon a time in my mid-twenties, I had a 25 inch waste and wore Express Jeans, but after marriage, living in the fattest city in the Middle East (that’s a fact), and losing an entire thyroid gland (seriously, it was not fun), I somehow went from being in shape to being… just average… gasp! End of story.

4) Be rich enough to buy a BMW. I don’t need to drive it, just keep it in front of my house and look at it everyday.

3) Publish an article in a nationally respected and recognized newspaper/magazine (i.e. New York Times, Newsweek, The New Yorker, etc.) And I am not talking about a “letter to an editor” or an opinion piece, but a 2,000 word news piece.

2) Cut my own album, all with my own original lyrics, music, and vocals. Oh and for it to be number 1, even if it’s for just a week.

1) TO SEE MY NAME IN LIGHTS… I had an employer once tell me that I shouldn’t be sitting behind a desk or working for anyone. She told me that I was the kind of person who was destined to see my name in lights one day. I don’t know if that’s true, but that would be just awesome…

I have so many dreams and just so little time.

~~Leen J.

Thinking about Perspective

As my oh-so-subtle title suggests, I’ve been doing some thinking about perspective. I’m afraid we are a little guilty of living in our own boxes, completely oblivious to the world of suffering around us. I mean, we are “aware” of the bad things that happen to others (i.e. famine, death, war, oppression) but unfortunately we don’t know how to apply this type of information. We tend to lack perspective.

So, yesterday I was just going about my day, doing my “Leen-type” things: cleaning, blogging, watching True Blood, playing with my cat, when I learned some troubling news. I heard about an old classmate who was going through a divorce, an acquaintance’s 6-year-old daughter with cancer, and a startling sad story about a family killed in a car crash. Needless to say, I was shocked and dismayed by the news. Immediately, I began praying for these people, and in the middle of my prayer, it dawned on me. I mean, it seriously hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt like the most selfish person in the world. I started balling, thinking about how I have been living in this “Leen-centric” universe where my problems and my disappointments were the center of the universe. And although I have always been aware of other people’s misfortunes and have always sympathized and prayed for them, I don’t think I EMPATHIZED–that is really feel with other people’s pain. And although that can be difficult, I think we can do it if we really gain perspective.

You know, we all have problems. And there is no denying how debilitating some of our problems can be. I would never judge the type of struggles that other people have to deal with or how they react to them. And I, too, have had my share of heartache and true misery and regret and pain and trouble and so on. But when you begin to think about your own life with a little more perspective, you begin to stop feeling so bad. We always say “Thank God for everything.” But how many of us really mean it? Yes, we are grateful for our families, our homes, our sanity and health, but are we grateful enough? I heard once that there are three things in the world that if you have them, then there is nothing you should ever be that upset about. If you can go to sleep at night feeling safe, if you can always put food on the table, and if you are overall healthy, then there is nothing you should ever really fret about. Having these three things should give us enough peace to enjoy our lives. I think very few of us know what it is like to have to worry about any of those three things, thank God. I think true gratefulness is being able to look at your own problems with the perspective that “everyone suffers.” The world is filled with one disturbing story after another. And there is always something to smile about, as corny as that may sound.

When I really started thinking about this, I began to feel more and more guilty. This is mostly because I just felt like a brat, always worried about some of the “calamities” that had befallen me in my life and some of the choices I made. Once I collected myself, I did start to remember that God created us weak. We are but human beings, and it is completely natural to sink into our own worlds of despair at times. And we all have the right to react to bad news and failures and disappointments in our lives. We were given the ability to feel and to cry because God wants us to use these emotions. So, it is ok to feel sad or angry about our own conditions at times. It is only natural. But here is where the perspective part comes in. We have also been given the emotions of compassion, mercy, love, and the ability to think and to know how to use these types of feelings and how NOT to let our own stress and depression and anger get the best of us. We are each just a spec on this earth. Standing on the outside, looking in, detaching from our own lives for just a few minutes, you realize that there isn’t anything God has given you that you can’t handle, and believe it or not, there is even room in those big old hearts of ours to feel and handle other people’s misfortunes and heartache as well…

~~Leen J.

Not ALL Muslims Know Each Other

While at the mall today, carousing my usual hot spots and passing the time while fasting, I decided to stop in at T-Mobile (NOTE: Their service is very suckish, so I would avoid using them for your cellular phone needs). Nevermind the fact that the place was super crowded and that, as usual, the salespeople ignored my presence. And although this is typical for T-Mobile customer service, I decided to wait until someone dealt with me.

Waiting patiently (well as patiently as I could whilst falling fast from caffeine withdrawal) I looked around the store to notice lots of Muslim customers: some couples, others teenagers, and a few single older men and women. Of course this isn’t surprising, considering the fact that I live in the middle of “Muslim Central.” Anyway, noticing that one of the salespeople was free, I watched him walk over to a workstation and motion to the guy who came in 10 minutes after me to come forward, so he can service him. Of course, I jumped in and told Mr. Salesguy that I was there first and needed to be assisted before the gentleman behind me. And to that he looked at me confused and looked over at the older Muslim couple already being helped, standing next to me, and he says with a defensive snicker, “Oh, I thought you guys were together. You aren’t with them?” and he pointed, once again, at the older Muslim couple. Already frustrated from having to wait so long for assistance, I snapped back, “No I am NOT with them. Not ALL Muslims know each other.” I then proceeded to roll my eyes.

Before you judge me for my not so patent response, especially in Ramadan, understand that I know this. But I suppose I was just so sick of people thinking that if two Muslims happen to exist within five yards of each other, then they MUST know each other. Seriously, did this guy see me talk to them? Did he see me stand near them? Did he NOT see me looking at my watch, tapping my foot, and staring down all the T-Mobile employees until someone helped me? What makes it worse, is that this guy isn’t some redneck cowboy living in Noweheresville, America, where he has never seen a Muslim before. I must remind you here that he works in Muslim Central, USA. ALL of his co-workers are Arab Muslims. The store was filled with 75% Muslim customers. Could he be so stupid to think that ALL of us know each other? I mean, does he think that there is like this giant club for Muslims in the US and every one of us know each other? I mean, it’s like saying that all the guys in the store wearing red shirts must know each other because they all like the color red. Well, just because us Muslims all like Allah, that does not mean we all know each other.

Ok, the end.

~~Leen J.

Ramadan: A Month of Healthy Change, Not Hypocrisy

Ramadan has begun. This is always such a magical time of year. Fasting all day, breaking your fast with family and friends, praying all night. It’s amazing. And although, and I am sure everyone can admit to this, it can be difficult at times, it is so beautiful and it brings us all much closer to God… But what happens when it’s over?

I think we all have a tendency to begin the month trying to eliminate the “evils” from our life: TV, music, Facebook, etc. But as the month progresses, our faith tends to wither. I mean, we are still trying to stick to our resolve to become better Muslims and worshipers, but the momentum begins to fade a bit. And as soon as we hear it’s Eid, and our month long fast is over, we reach for our morning cups of coffee right along with the addictions we tried to avoid throughout Ramadan. 

Many years, I spent Ramadan without music, movies, TV, novels and others forms of entertainment. And this is great! But what I am afraid of is that we spend 30 days without our personal vices, only to rejoin them full force when Ramadan is over. I can’t help but wonder, are we only ditching these devices of destruction during Ramadan, just to dive back into them even deeper, afterwards?

I’ve heard so many people say thing like “Oh I can’t go to see that movie during Ramadan because it wouldn’t be right,” or “It’s haram (forbidden) to listen to music during Ramadan,” or “I don’t want to waste time on Facebook in Ramadan.” And although I commend all of these people’s efforts to get closer to God, and I totally agree that during Ramadan, we should spend more time reading Quran and making duaa (supplication prayers) than cruising Facebook News Feeds, we need to also do these things with the intention of adapting these habits to our everyday lives. If something is “haram” in Ramadan, then it is probably haram throughout the rest of the year as well. I think we should try to break unhealthy habits with the goal to break them permanently. I know we are all human, so we may fall off the wagon, so to speak, but we can always get back on.

So, the last few years, I’ve tried something new. I stopped making ridiculous goals and resolutions to halt TV watching and music listening completely because I know I am not going to follow through the rest of the year. Instead, I make a sincere intention to lessen and slow down the listening of music and watching of TV in order to replace these pastimes with more prayers and reflection. With the sustaining from food, I work very hard at sustaining from unsavory music and television shows. Because I know that if a habit is unhealthy, it is unhealthy all the time. God is not a hypocrite, nor is He inconsistent. So, He wouldn’t make something permissible sometimes and forbidden other times. I also know that any good habit doesn’t begin cold turkey. Dieting, beginning good sleeping habits, studying, and other good habits always begin gradually. So, shouldn’t it be that way as far as our spirituality and religiosity is concerned?

I always remind people that the Quran is the only Holy book of God that was sent down in pieces. It wasn’t sent down as an entire book ready for mankind to read and follow at once. I think that there is an amazing wisdom to this. I think that perhaps because God knew that mankind needs to change in steps and needs to reform through a gradual process, He gave the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) and his companions time to adapt to it.

 

Hey, this is just one woman’s opinion. But I think that by sincerely doing good and avoiding bad in our entire lives, and not just in Ramadan, makes us better Muslims and helps us avoid hypocrisy, one of the traits of a human that God hates the most.

~~Leen J. 

 

A Cold Housewarming

It’s been two weeks since I’ve moved into my new place. It’s great. It’s over 1100 square feet, AC, and the best roommate I could ever ask for, my sister :) And, to help cozy up the place, my sister and I threw a small party at our place a few nights ago. We might have invited 20 people, and about half showed up. All of them were my sister’s guests, with exception to one. I had one guest show up. Well, unless you include my older sister who technically is both our guest. So, yeah I only had one show up.

I know this isn’t a reflection of me or the wonderful person I am :) But it is a reflection of how selfish people really are. SOME of them, JUST some have plausible and legitimate excuses (of course those are the ones who actually provided excuses). Some of them do make a sincere effort to come to things they are invited to. And if this is the one event they couldn’t come to, I totally understand. And I think those wonderful people know who they are. But in most cases, the excuses people provide are just that, excuses. I think it’s really sad when people use their kids, their husbands, or distance to cover up the real reasons they “can’t” come to your party….they really just don’t care enough.

Yeah well these individuals would argue that saying the above statement is unfair or just not true. But the truth of the matter is, if they really were interested in coming, they would show it. they would make an effort, at least. You know what kills me? I don’t drive. In fact, I CAN’T drive. But no matter what, I always make an effort to attend parties, go to meetings, be there at people’s weddings, etc. I don’t flake out just because “I’m too scared to drive on the highway,” or “because you live too far,” or “because I have the sniffles,” or “because I don’t like the other people you invited.” And what’s even worse are the people who don’t even respond to your invitation as if they are too busy to give a damn.

Man, if you even knew the parties I attended when I was sick or when I needed to study for an exam or lived an hour away and needed to take 2 busses and a train to get there or when I was freshly divorced and frankly DIDN’T want to go to any stupid celebration. But the thing is, people don’t try to even understand your valid reasons nor do they understand your sacrifice to support them. But I guess this is something I learned in my 20’s.

So to those who use everything under the sun to explain away why you can’t be there for me: I don’t care. I reject your “reason.’ Oh and don’t be surprised when I don’t show up to your next shin dig or whatever. I’m not angry or unmerciful. I love these people and always will, but I am just going to start getting my priorities straight. That’s all.

Ok, great. Thanks.

~~Leen J.

Facebook Displays of Affection or FDA’s…

Oh My God! Seriously, how much more can I take? Are some people just that much in shock that someone loves them that they have to display their affection in public? Must they swap spit at the zoo? Is it necessary to grab each others’ asses in line at the theater? Do they really have to cuddle on one side of a booth that is clearly only made for one person? I don’t think so. But you know what? I can deal with the physical stuff these people do because I am sure it’s fleeting and meaningless. But there is another type of Public Display of Affection (PDA) that bothers me far more because it is an obvious attempt to tell people that they are “loved.” They are clearly overcompensating for a lack of inner-strength and security. And they are trying to assert themselves, whilst trying to make me puke. What is it that these people are doing? They are putting up Facebook statuses about how much they “love” their hubbies/BF’s/fiances/partners or whatever, they are putting up mobile pics of them, changing their FB last names to the last name of this significant other before they are even married, and tagging ME in a picture of THEM, just to make sure I see it. You know in case I miss it. I call this phenomenon “FDAing,” which stands for Facebook Displays of Affection.

Ok so I know I sound bitter or jealous or jaded or cynical or whatever these “in love” people want to call me. But the truth of the matter is that I am NOT any of those things. I am just a simple human being trying to keep my freakin’ lunch down while surfing Facebook. What I DON’T need is 16 statuses by you that tags your significant other saying that you love him. Seriously, can’t you just text him privately? I DON’T need a tweet about how much you miss your husband or boyfriend when he goes out-of-town. I DON’T need a stenciled drawing of you and your boyfriend’s names in a heart. I REALLY don’t need a picture of you kissing him with a caption that says “I just <3 him.” In fact, not only do I not need these things, NO ONE does. I know we all seem like we think it’s cute or whatever that you are so open about how you feel, but we don’t. We think your shameless display of puke-worthy affection is just sad.

Man I sound mean. I just realized that. But you know what? Someone needs to speak the truth. Especially when these individuals begin to see that relationships are hard and not all fun and games. And the sadder part is, many of these people already know that, but they don’t want anyone else to know that they know that, so they overdo the lovey dovey crap to make you think that they are living in a fantasy world. But, uhm, yeah no one believes it. So try the following instead:

DON”T SAY ANYTHING AT ALL … What I mean is, if you don’t status the good OR the bad, then no one will think anything GOOD or BAD about you. I know this is a big shocker, but people aren’t thinking about you day and night. It isn’t until you give them a reason to think about you that they do. And when they see that you need to publicize every time you and your husband go out for dinner or he gets you flowers or buys you a birthday present, that is when they will start to think that you must be incredibly unhappy that you find every act of generosity (or peacemaking) on his part to be a big deal. It looks like you are trying to prove something. And that is just truly pathetic.

I know I just made a lot of enemies. Think what you will about me and my opinion but I guarantee you that I am not alone in thinking this; I’m just the only one willing to say anything.

~~Leen J.

Combating Ignorance… A Lost Cause???

Today, during my jog around the neighborhood, I started thinking about ignorance. It’s such a common disease with yet such a simple cure… knowledge. The thing is, people think of knowledge as “education,” “degrees,” “schooling,” “classes,” etc. And although all those things contribute to the cure of ignorance, there are still even simpler antidotes for ignorance. 

Some of the ugliest forms of ignorance are racism, discrimination, and oppression. Most days, for me, people are really nice and don’t seem to treat me any differently because of my religion, race, or ethnicity. Most people seem to understand that judging a group by an individual’s actions is wrong, but there other days where I get dirty looks, under-the-breath comments, and assumptions that I am “an oppressed Muslim woman, forced to cover.” But the truth of the matter is that all of those people suffer from a fatal disease called “ignorance.” I say “fatal” because thinking like that will only kill their minds, spirits, relationships with God, and even society. And as infuriated as I get at these idiotic and ignorant individuals, I remember that their diseases are curable. And that even MY actions can be medicinal and cure this intolerable disease.

What I mean is that I don’t find it helpful to hide out and live in a box away from anyone “different from me. As a Muslim woman who is so proud of my religion and my heritage, I feel like I have to do justice to my religion and help combat the ignorance of other people. As the Prophet Muhammad (the final Messenger in a long line of Prophets including Adam, Moses, David, and Jesus) has taught us to lead and teach through example. Sometimes the things you DON’T do and say make a bigger impact than the constant things we DO to try and talk sense into others. 

When I was jogging through my Caucasian populated neighborhood wearing hijab and long sleeves and listening to my iPod, I thought, “wow, this is really the kind of image of Muslims I am proud to be putting out there.” When I hear about Muslim men and women taking part in their community clean-up or exceling as doctors and nurses in advanced hospitals or writing novels or just helping an elderly woman cross the street or give money to a homeless man and so on, I feel so incredibly joyful. Because it is just being yourself, giving a human face to your people, which really makes the biggest difference. That smile on your face can say a thousand words if you are just willing to give it.

It is hard to hate someone who is just like you. When ignorant people see that you are just human, it becomes more and more increasingly difficult to hate you. Seeing a Muslim family picnicking together or a bunch of Muslim girls shopping at the mall or a Muslim father hug his daughter on her college graduation, people begin to gain knowledge, knowledge that people of all races and religions and ethnicities are so similar.

I think as Muslims, we do ourselves a great injustice when we continually separate ourselves from mainstream culture. We become alienated and “creatures” to be scared of. And it is the same with all minorities. Breaking the barriers and building bridges begins with the individual, in your home, in your community, at school, in the workplace, and in your heart.

I guess none of this is ground-breaking thinking. But it was something that I was thinking about. And I hope more people think about it more often.

~~Leen J.

The Top 10 Accomplishments of my 20’s

It’s no secret that I am turning 30 this year. In fact, in just 2 months and 10 days, I will be the big 3-0. And it is no secret that I am sick about it. I know, I know, women are like a fine wine; we get better with age. But as I was telling my cousin this afternoon, I am afraid we might just be like milk, the longer you let us sit on a shelf, the more sour we become. But either way, as I approach this horrible number, I find that my only consolation is to look back at my 20’s and reminisce. I started thinking back to all the things I’ve accomplished in the last decade, and I actually felt lucky. I guess sometimes we take for granted the things that seemed to come easy for us. We tend to concentrate on the things that were hard to accomplish and the things we still don’t have.

So, the following is my TOP 10 list of accomplishments of my 20’s.

10) I finally got to see London. I walked on Abbey road, beheld the beauty of St. Paul’s Cathedral, and dined on fish and chips. It was amazing and am so thankful that I got to do it all with my wonderful older sister.

9) I lived in a foreign country for a whole year, and even better, I lived to talk about it!

8) I was so lucky to live in the Capitol: Yes, good old  Washington, DC. I loved it. And I think there is something really special about living in DC, that NO place in the United States can replace.

7) I have been to a Bon Jovi concert…. Enough said

6) I got married… No matter how it ended, I don’t care. I still married the most beautiful man I knew. I loved him and that’s what mattered.

5) I got divorced… Some people think that isn’t an accomplishment. But believe me, it is. I wish more people knew how much of an accomplishment this REALLY is.

4) I graduated from college with a degree in International Studies.

3) At 24 I published my first news article. After that, I became a published writer with numerous news, lifestyle, and entertainment articles.

2) I learned to play guitar AND had my first LIVE performance with both vocals (my true love) and guitar. It was the single best moment of my life. I have yet to find anyone who loves to sing more than me. And I am not through yet. I am writing my own songs now and will be posting new performances soon.

1) I survived my 20’s, and lived to see 30…. well, I hope :)

 

What I really feel like I have to say here, right now is that I hope more girls in their 20’s don’t take for granted these amazing years. I know you are going to undoubtedly screw up, live in crappy places, take jobs that are way below your skills, have kids before you are really ready, forgive people who don’t deserve it, and hold grudges against people who truly deserve your love. But please remember that this decade of your life is amazing. I am sure the 30’s will also be wonderful. But nothing compares to being a bright-eyed 20-year-old, straight out of college and starting your new life and embarking on a destiny you will never forget. 

Good luck.

~~Leen J.

Top 10 Reasons Why I Hate Going to Weddings!

Don’t get me wrong. I totally understand and condone the reasons people have weddings. They are meant to be celebratory, and in many cases, these weddings are important to make vows to the Lord, and in this way, they are very significant. Hey, I loved my wedding 4 years ago. I even loved the man I married that day. But regardless, I HATE attending these types of events NOW.

And here is why….

10) Wedding Food

9) Hideous bridesmaid dresses

8) Wedding singers/DJ’s

7) People saying things like “I hope you’re next.”

6) Knowing that 50% of all marriages end in divorce and knowing that the couple getting married is hoping to be part of the “successful” 50%.

5) Super corny speeches — I know from personal experiences that what people say at your wedding can be completely contrary to how they REALLY feel about your nuptials. Unfortunately, I had to learn this lesson the hard way.

4) Bridezilla’s. Just because you are the effin bride, that doesn’t mean you have the right to treat everyone like crap.

3) The constant silent ridicule you get when you walk into the room. Your dress, hair/scarf, make-up, and marital status are ALL up for criticism.

2) Naughty children – and even naughtier parents. I HATE when parents let their 3-year-old monster get a seat while an adult is still looking around for an empty chair.

1) Forcing, faking a smile of happiness when you know that this entire wedding was just put on as a show; a braggy way to tell their guests “hey we are better than you. We have money and love, so we beat you in all facets of life.” From close friends to family members to people I hardly even know, I have seen this showy display of immodesty that disgusts me! Hence, I will not be attending anymore of these parties. But good luck to all the couples!

Leen J.

What I did on My Summer Vacation

Me overlooking the beautiful villiage of Deir Ghassana, which is currently a part of the governate of Ramallah.

When people asked me what I’m doing on my summer vacation, I told them that I am going to Palestine. I told them that I am going to Palestine to visit my grandmother, my aunt, and my cousins…

But after visiting “Palestine” for a month this past May, I realized that I wasn’t visiting “Palestine.” I was visiting a beautiful piece of land occupied by a foreign, aggressive force. It’s a land filled with millions of people who are displaced and living under the constant fear of violence and corruption by their illegal occupier: Israel.

Growing up in America all my life, I never truly realized how free I actually am. I’m not under the constant fear of unjustified imprisonment without benefit of Due Process. I am not afraid to be denied medical treatment because the hospital is not in “the allowed territory,” and I am definitely not afraid to go to work or school or the mall because I might be illegally stopped, searched, and potentially physically or sexually abused. For most Palestinians, these are legitimate concerns. And as an American, I was disgusted by what I witnessed in my short time in the beautiful and historic land of Palestine…. And as a Palestinian, I am hurt, dismayed, and shamed by the humiliation and abuse my people face in their own land.

To give a brief history (mind you, I am not a historian or claiming to be), Palestine was obtained after a bloody massacre and hostile take over by Israel in 1948. In 1967, the West Bank and Gaza were illegally seized and occupied by Israel and is still occupied to this day, even after numerous resolutions and treaties demanding that Israel withdraw from these Palestinian territories. But still, Palestinian women, children, and men are still living under debilitating and inhumane circumstances inflicted upon them by Israel.

Upon entering Israel, as an American citizen, my sister and me were subjected to hours of waiting and incessant questioning. If I was white or really anything other than Muslim or Arab, I would have not been treated with such hostility or injustice. But because I am an Arab and because my parents were born and raised in the Holy Land, I was forced to sit on plastic chairs in an obscenely cold room surrounded by other American citizens of Arab descent and/or who practice Islam, waiting for hours to be given permission to be entered into “Israel” to visit my grandmother, my sick aunt, and my beloved cousins. Within the 3 hours we sat waiting, I was asked the same questions over and over and over again: “Why are you here?” “Who are you staying with?” What is your aunt’s Palestinian visa number?” And of course my personal favorite, “What is your father’s and grandfather’s names?” After being asked these questions numerous times, we were then asked to fill out a piece of paper asking the same exact questions.

And even though I watched my Australian, Caucasian counterparts enter immediately without harassment or discouragement, my mother, sister, and I entered hours later.

But of course, Israeli abuse didn’t stop there. Approximately 2 weeks later, my cousins and I went to Ramallah to get our hair and make-up done for my cousin’s engagement party. This should be a fun time. But coming home from the city after getting all glammed up, we were stopped by Israeli solders and asked to go back. When it was clear that the van full of young women in evening gowns and the bride sitting in the backseat were only heading home to celebrate an engagement and are clearly not a threat to anyone, the fully and dangerously armed solder forced us to turn around. We had to take an alternative route through mountains and dangerous unpaved roads, leading us an hour out of our way. Sadly, most Palestinians are used to this torture and oppression, and have become numb.

A week before our vacation was over, we decided to go into Jerusalem to pray at the Holy Muslim sites: a right that should be guaranteed to all people of all faiths. First of all, we didn’t enter Jerusalem the same way White Europeans/Americans do. Because we are Arabs, we entered through a checkpoint that requires us to be searched and our purses to be put through metal detectors. Thankfully, my mother and I were sent right through, but my younger sister was detained for a half an hour for questioning. Of course, you can’t ask why you are being held. So she was asked to sit in a room alone and wait. Finally she was asked her father’s and grandfather’s names. They put it through a computer (making sure my 24-year-old Social Worker sister isn’t a big bad terrorist). She was then released. Apparently Israel doesn’t like it if your middle name ISN”T your father’s name, as they have become accustomed to with Arabs. But may I remind you again, we are American citizens and our fathers’ names shouldn’t be any of their concern.

The Aqsa Mosque: The 3rd holiest prayer site for all Muslims. It is located in East Jerusalem.

Two days later, on the way home from an amazing dinner at my great uncle’s house, we were stopped, once again, by two armed Israeli solders. We were asked were we were going and why we were out to begin with. My uncle (who is in his late 60’s by the way) was asked what he does for a living and where he lives. The solder proceeded to open the van door to peer inside at me and my family and our shopping bags. They then let us go. It felt so stifling and violating for someone to just stop you for no reason, to ask you questions, and to have that much control over you when you aren’t guilty of anything, but just existing. The only purpose for stopping us was to remind us that we are not free and that we never will be. It’s just all very disgusting.

Overall, my experiences dealing with Israelis was not pretty. And to be honest, my experiences are considered mild and routine compared to the hell most Palestinians endure. Abuse ranges from murder to rape to illegal searches and detention, and just about everything else the civilized world would frown upon.

I’m glad I got to spend quality time with my grandmother and my aunt and all of my awesome and resilient cousins. But I am not glad that they are all forced to live under Israel’s state-sponsered terrorism. May God protect them and give them the land that is rightfully and legally theirs.  

~~ Leen J.

A Ramen Noodle Lifestyle

Today, while eating my Ramen Noodles Instant Lunch, I realized something. I realized that what and how we eat really represents how we live. Sure I have a home cooked meal a few times a week, but how many of my meals are instant? How many corners am I cutting when it comes to how I eat? Whether the dinner was frozen or from a fast food restaurant or from a package that says “just add water,” it is clear that my hurried nature and apathetic attitude has caused me to cut out the important things in life, thereby living a life without substance. I am living a Ramen Noodle lifestyle.

The funny thing about that is most people living in the city or suburbs are probably doing the same thing. We are always in such a hurry to get to some goal or rushing to reach the end that we neglect the essentials. And it’s not just with food. In fact, food is probably the least of our problems. Our friendships, time with our children, reading a book, etc are just a few things that suffer when we live our Ramen Noodle lifestyles. If we watch a movie with our kids, then that qualifies as “quality time.” But really, in those 2 hours what did your child really learn about you, and what did you learn about them? Have you really grown any closer? Probably not. But popping in a DVD and sitting on your couch is the Ramen Noodle solution to making your kid happy. It fills them up for the time being, but what have they really benefited? What have you?

Now don’t get me wrong. I am not trying to rip on busy parents. In fact, I really think watching a movie from time to time is a good time, and fun for children too. And it was just an example. But we do this with everything. For example. We hear about a good book. So, we say we want to read it, but we just can’t seem to find the time. So, we go out and buy an audio version and stick it into our cd players in the car on the way to work. After a week or so, the cd is done and we say we have read this “good book.” But have we really read it? Sure, we can recall some details and the ending and maybe even the vague themes the book presents, but have we really read it? In a month or so, do we remember those details? Did the book touch us the same way it would have if we had actually read it? Did we learn anything from hearing the words read to us by an actor as opposed to reading it in our own voice? Did we catch the subtle nuances of the book while we were switching lanes, having road rage, and worrying about getting to work on time? So, yes we can say we have read this fantastic book, but did we really get its substance? I doubt it.

Excercise. Everyone says they would like to work out more. We have a million excuses for why we haven’t yet, but we all want to do it. Running/jogging is a great way to stay in shape. Running a few miles around your neighborhood or through the park is not only healthy for the body, but great for the spirit. No one can tell you it’s not invigorating. Oh but wait, we don’t have time for that either. So instead, we’ll buy ourselves a few hundred dollars worth of equipment to simulate running. So we put our treadmills in our basements, and we run miles without actually going anywhere. We don’t have the wind blowing through our hair, we don’t see other people, and we don’t get any sun. Granted, we lose the calories, and we shape up, but did we really get the full experience of excercise? Do we release as many endorphins?

And there are so many examples of how we do this in our daily lives, but I think I’ve gotten my point across. We sacrifice so much because of time. We never seem to have any time for anything, especially the things that are worth having time for. We are all guilty of this. But maybe if we stopped to smell the roses every once in a while, we may find that life is truly worth living. And living it to its fullest.

~~Leen J.

My NPR Debut

Leen Jaber - November, 2010.

Hello everyone!

In January, NPR National interviewed me regarding my decision to stop wearing hijab (a modest form of dress for Muslim women) 3 years ago, and my subsequent decision to put it back on a year ago. Please click on the link below to listen to the story that was broadcast this morning. Feel free to ask me any questions regarding my statements or about hijab in general. Because unfortunately, I don’t think this article describes hijab and the beauty and necessity behind it. And the article tends to present hijab as a “cultural” phenomenon as opposed to a mandate from God that liberates women.

Here’s the link!

NPR Interview

~~Leen J.

My First Live Show!!!

Hi everyone! Check out the  video of my first live guitar performance with vocals! I performed a cover of “The First Cut is the Deepest” (Sheryl Crow version) written and originally performed by Cat Stevens. This song holds personal feelings for me. It’s just a very true song that I believe anyone can relate to :)

My video was taken on December 8, 2010, in Palos Hills, Illinois.

Your feedback is welcomed!

Thanks for watching! 

~~Leen J.

Who is the ‘Bad Guy’?

We have been brainwashed to believe that good always wins out over evil. This problem stems from television and storybook fairy tales and movies and just about any form of entertainment media. We are told that karma always finds its target, what goes around comes around, and the good guy will always get their happy ending.

This may make for good storytelling, but not a very practical guide to the way the world works. I think growing up in this world where children tend to watch television and movies more than play outside, we grow up with this notion that the universe somehow evens things out to make them fair, to make the good guy win. The princess always gets saved and the evil witch is destroyed and the ‘good guy’ lives happily ever after. And of course, in our own personal tales, we are always the ‘good guy.’

 

Don’t get me wrong, no one wants to be entertained by books and movies that don’t have a happy ending. No wants to see the ‘bad guy’ win and the virtuous fail. But the truth of the matter is that sometimes the bad guy does win and the rest of us have to just accept that. This doesn’t mean that God isn’t fair. I believe that He does even things out, and if not in this lifetime then in the next: in the hereafter. This is why He asks us to be patient and to have faith in Him. Because things are not always fair in THIS life, and we will just have to accept our loses sometimes. These loses tend to teach us so many lessons, and again many of us never learn those lessons. But I digress.

Really, it just pains me that everything we’ve been forced fed growing up has told us that the ‘bad guy’ always gets his comeuppance, and you will always be vindicated somehow. But my question is, what if we don’t get our happy ending? What if the antagonist wins and keeps winning and never sees the error of his ways? What if he continues living happily and stubborn and never sees the bad things he’s done, never seeing the effect it has had on you, the ‘good guy?’ And what if his pride is too great, that he can never say he was wrong or never feels guilt, and even worse, never suffers any punishment or repercussion of any kind for the mistreatment of you or others? And even worse still, if we the ‘good guys’ don’t get our happy endings, if we don’t see justice for the mistreatment we endured, or are never vindicated, what does that say about us? If everything we have been indoctrinated with through TV and movies has told us the ‘good guy’ wins, and we don’t win, then are we really the ‘good guy?’

Or are we the ‘bad guy?’

~~Leen J.

A Rhyme, For You

A Rhyme, For You – A Poem Written March 15, 2011, by Leen Jaber

I still feel like it’s my fault
The verbal assault
My memories in a vault
Tucked away in my mind
A place you can never find
To erase
Your disgrace
Or your face
Or the ant and rat-filled place
You made me live
Where I learned how to give
And never receive
My life unretrieved
My heart never sealed
Layer by layer pealed
Not one vein healed

A love without condition
And not one suspicion
Never mind my predisposition
Or my family’s tradition
But, that could never be
And of your prison I can’t be free
Your weathered hand upon my head
Sleeping in another bed
Your insults heavy like lead
A necessary punishment, you said
A natural consequence
Your voice still makes me tense
Telling you how I feel makes no sense
Aaah, but your MP3’s
More important than my tears
No matter how many beers
My hair pulled out in strands
Making fun of my favorite bands
How much more could I stand?
The holiday you wouldn’t let me celebrate
The clumsy me you’d berate
A sad seal of my fate
Your eyes filled with hate
But yet later filled with remorse
Your anger not finding its source
The wailing making my voice hoarse
And the damning e-mails
And of course your self-pitying tales
God, it never fails
All the cowardly excuses
Hiding all my bruises
All the religious abuses
But you’re the victim, and yet everyone else around you loses

So here’s to the memories that won’t die
Our snapshots in time
With no reason or rhyme

But, hey, I’ll be fine!