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DIY Not For The Faint Of Heart

If you love DIY and are good at it, don’t read this post. I don’t want you to feel insulted. If you don’t like DIY, what are you doing reading a post with “DIY” in the title? Seriously . . .

If, like me, you love DIY and are terrible at it, I have just got the thing for you to practice your art.

Before I divulge my secret weapon, let me just set the standard on how bad one needs to be, to qualify as my target audience:

  1. If your husband has hidden the drill because your first (and last) attempt at putting curtain poles ended up in a full house renovation, due to some bits of wall missing – Man, that stuff’s not very strong, is it?
  2. Or, if the last time you power washed your deck, it had to be re-stained, and ditto for the house
  3. Or, if the shower wall that you tiled meowed, due to stupid cat being plastered in said-wall
  4. Or, if your art on the wall only looks straight when you are doing a yoga pose, upside down, after a few bottles of wine
  5. Or, if you have done all of the above,

Then, this post is for you.

Over the years, I had to give up drilling, hammering, sealing, tiling, because the cost of fixing my mistakes was just too high – pff, whatever. So my husband locked all his tools, somewhere, I don’t even know where, swallowed the key, and that’s that. All I am left with is a paint brush. I do like painting and I could still inflict a fair amount of damage by doing so, but I have no patience, so I’m unlikely to tackle a painting project. At least I was. Until . . . I discovered chalk paint!

Chalk paint is absolutely magic! It paints any surface, without the need to sand, prep, or even clean. Nothing. You just show up with your big tub of paint and Bob’s your uncle. And, as if that wasn’t good enough news, it makes hard projects super simple. Take distressing for example. Before chalk paint, you needed to paint one coat, let it dry for a million hours, paint another coat, let it dry for another million hours (have I lost you yet?), then sand the thing, making a mess in the process. When you were done, a week had gone by. That’s if you finished what you started. But with chalk paint, none of that shenanigan. You just paint one coat, and try to do a really bad job at it. Kaboom! Done! Distressed and ready to go! AND, it dries in no time. Well, at least I hope so, otherwise some books are gonna get an unwilling makeover. . .

So guess what I did last week? I bought myself a truck load of chalk paint. My husband has been telling me for years that I cannot paint our furniture because NO WAY. And also, it’s varnished so no can do. You should have seen his face when I told him I was gonna chalk-paint those wooden chests. He looked like a combination of these two emojis,

 

 

 

 

Except, worse.

I haven’t given him the best news yet. With chalk paint, you can paint anything. And I mean, anything: wood, plastic, glass, fabric. Even though it doesn’t say on the directions, I discovered that it adheres really well to stones, after I dropped a can on my patio. And it does a pretty decent job with leather as well, like my shoes can attest to. I wonder what it would look like on clothes. I suppose I could always tell you tomorrow. . .

 

 

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It’s a woman thing . . .

Yesterday, I was cleaning up my closet, putting away my winter clothes, in the overly optimistic hope that temperatures are going to stay warm from now on. It would have been wise to check the weather forecast for the upcoming week before I started such a daunting task, but too late for that. Oh well, I guess I’ll just be cold for a few weeks.

Anyway, as I was emptying my drawer, I came across these . . .

WHAT THE ?@$%?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Know what they are?

No, they aren’t just tights, they are high waist tights.

Same difference, I hear you say. Tsk, tsk, tsk. Just goes to show you never wore high waist tights. High waist tights are for connoisseurs. And by that I mean, once you tried them, you know to never wear them again.

So in order to save you unnecessary torture and misery, here’s the one reason why high waist tights exist (pros), and the many reasons why they are a bad idea (cons):

PROS: completely flat stomach. Baby fat, nutella fat, any type of fat: all invisible. You know that layer of wrapping under which your rock solid abs rest? All gone. Just a super flat, sleek stomach, like you never had. But in order to achieve this, you have to put up with a few cons:
1. Blood circulation totally cut off, from waist all the way down
2. Pressure on bladder means need to run to the bathroom every 15 minutes, which is a problem because of 3.
3. Tights take 20 minutes to wiggle out of, and same amount of time to pull back up. So basically, if you wear these, you should plan to spend a big chunk of your day in the bathroom.
4. Impossible to drive. Forget it, you cannot sit in your car with high waist tights and not pee your pants.
5. Even if you didn’t mind 4, you wouldn’t be able to press the pedals, due to completely numb feet caused by absence of blood – see point 1

One more noticeable aspect of wearing these: it’s not possible to eat. The stomach cannot expand at all, as you will realize when trying to breathe too often. Not sure whether it’s a pro or con . . .

 

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Syrian Families: When Achievements Start Rolling In

Very much the same as there are no small good deeds, every achievement deserves a platform. As we continue to support the Syrian families to the best of our abilities, we are so proud of everything they do, every stride they take, and every hurdle they climb. God knows these guys have been through much and yet, they keep surpassing themselves, ploughing through the obstacle course, knocking walls down, one by one.

With this post, I want to celebrate their victories. No matter how small some might look, they are another step toward greater things. So in no particular order, I am very happy to report that over the past few weeks:

  1. A kid was honored by the school district for his academic achievement. Which in itself is quite fantastic given that a year ago, that child didn’t know much English, but it’s also the second time this honor is granted to him.
  2. A dad passed his driver’s license with flying colors. If that feels like nothing to you, try and get yours in Arabic and let me know how that goes . . .
  3. Everybody’s English has progressed so much that we are now able to communicate basic things without any translators.
  4. Another kid is applying for college. She wants to be a doctor, no less!

As we get to communicate more now that language barriers are falling down, we hear the stories of these families in transit, for years, sometimes with no education for the children. I lie awake at night, and try to imagine what it would feel like if a rocket hit my house. How would I find the strength to keep smiling? How would I retain some sense of humor? I don’t know that I could, but these guys do.

To all of them,  you have embellished the world in so many ways. You keep touching every one of us with your grace.  You and your kids deserve to be showered with goodness.
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Syria: Someone Extraordinary lives Near You . . .

And I am lucky that I get to meet a lot of them!

This week, I want to put the spotlight on Laila Extraordinaire! That’s not her last name, but it might as well be.

I don’t remember how Laila heard about our work with the Syrian families. I just remember her email, modestly asking what she could do to help. She came to a tutoring session to meet everybody,  and let me tell you this: inside her petite frame with a sweet voice lies a hurricane of kindness. Storm Laila had been unleashed and life was never gonna be the same for a lot of us.

Within a few days, she was tutoring a whole family, advocating for the kids in school, talking to the teachers. Thanks to her, a little girl was able to celebrate her birthday with her classmates, like all the other children. Another was able to practice and take a test. A guy needed help to start his job? No worries, Laila was there with her contacts to make that happen. Funds needed to be raised to pay for tutoring? Bam! Done!

Which makes me wonder: how many Lailas are there?

I must admit I am a little envious of her stream of positive energy. And I wish that the world had more Lailas.  All the work she does is having a major impact on the people she is supporting. And what’s more, she does all this selflessly, doesn’t expect acknowledgment, or reward, AND she always has a smile on her face. I am not even exaggerating one bit. Such person exists.  If there ever is someone who is sent by the Gods, this is as close as we are going to get.

You know the saying that goes something along the lines of, if you change the life of ten people, you can change the world. Well, Laila has revolutionized the world, over and over. And she is not done!

I could never find the right words to tell Laila how grateful I am that our path have crossed, so I just want to say, from the bottom of my heart: thank you for being you.

 

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When You Know Someone Just Doesn’t Care . . .

This is a true story. I like to exaggerate facts in my writing sometimes – as in always. But I wouldn’t have the creativity to invent what follows.

My son forgot his bag on a bus. So far, nothing out of the ordinary. Everyday he comes home with no coat, no computer charger, sometimes one shoe missing . So the bag had it coming for a while.

I called the bus company and asked if they had found it, and it turned out they did! Pretty easy so far: bag lost in the bus. Bag found in the bus.

All that’s left to do is get bag back in the bus for my son to pick up. Which I thought sounded like a reasonable request, given that he is on the same bus everyday, driven by the same person. He even sits at the same seat, so how hard can it be? Well, impossible, it would seem, as I experienced this surreal conversation with the bus company, after the bag had been identified,

” Could you please put the bag back in the bus for my son to pick up tomorrow?”

“Which bus does he take?”

“The one that goes to his school”

“Which bus is that?”

I wasn’t going to question why the bus company who is responsible for the routes was asking ME about bus routes. All I wanted was the bag back. So I volunteered to go and pick it up the next day.

“Okay, the lady said, it will be here for you to pick up”

When I realized that a trip to pick up the bag would cost an hour of my time, I decided I should try to get the bag to me, as opposed to me to the bag. So I called again, and got another lady, called Linda who said,

“I don’t know anything about a bag. We don’t have your bag here”

“But the lady I spoke to yesterday said she did”  What if I drove an hour for them to tell me they didn’t have the bag?

“Well, who did you speak to?” Ouch, silly me, I couldn’t remember the name.

“I don’t know, it was a lady”

“Who though?” I could feel their tone had changed form neutral to get-out-of-my-hair. But I really wanted my bag back. Now, it was a matter of principle!

“I don’t know her name. I admit it’s not helpful, but how many ladies are in your office?”

“There is only me and another lady”

“So if it wasn’t you, it must be the other one then!”

Silence on the other end of the line. So I volunteered,
“What’s her name?”

“Wanda”

“Well, could I speak to Wanda, please?”

“She is not here today, you gotta call tomorrow”

The next morning came,
“Hi, may I speak to Wanda, please?”

And I kid you not, the lady on the phone went, “Wanda who?”

“The only Wanda. The one who is not Linda”

Silence . . .  So I went,

“Are you Wanda?”

“………….yes”

As I felt I had the upper hand, I demanded that the bag be put on the bus. I gave the name of the town it picks up from, the name of the school. And Wanda-who-is-not-Linda asked,

“What’s the route number?”

“You mean, you don’t know? There is only one bus who does that route”

“I need the route number” So I give it to not-Linda who then went, “Are you sure?”

The morale of this story is, when you are caught giving bad attitude for no good reason, don’t give up, keep up the good work. Or maybe, “Never admit that you are wrong, that could make you right in the end” I am not sure, I’m still trying to make sense of this crazy conversation. . .

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Syria: Someone extraordinary lives near you . . .

And you probably don’t even know it! Because extraordinary people, who do amazing stuff, don’t think of themselves as such. Which makes them even more extraordinary.

Meet Lori. A mom, living in the neighborhood, raising her family.

A few months ago, when we first started to help the Syrian families rebuild their lives, we tried to prioritize what needed to be done. Through the course of that process, we identified a high school senior with big dreams: become a doctor. She wants a bright future, and she deserves every single bit of it. So quite naturally, she wants to go to college.

Here’s the thing though: I have been in this country for nine years, I speak fluent English and am well surrounded by Americans who have been living here all their life, and yet, the college process is daunting to me. I can’t make sense of many things, and I’m stressing up just thinking about how I will get through this. So I can’t even begin to imagine what it would feel like if I didn’t master the language, didn’t know anyone who could explain it to me, and had to do it by yesterday.

Lori wasn’t going to let that young lady with a promising future fall through the crack. So she grabbed her hand, and together, they are working their way through college applications , dealing with deadlines, essays, and the myriads of other things that need taken care of.

What’s extraordinary about this situation is not just how this young girl gets a fair chance at building her life, all thanks to Lori. what is beyond extraordinary is everything else it represents: hopefully, she will go to college, be successful, marry and have children. She will teach her kids that a while back, a lady  who didn’t know her stepped into her life. Despite wars going on, despite a fear climate that taints good deeds with political colors, Lori,  from a different background, culture, religion and language gave her opportunities.

And that, people, is how you spread tolerance and compassion in a world that desperately needs more of it.  That’s what’s extraordinary about Lori.

 

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Doing Laundry: Las Vegas Or Russian Roulette

Who could have thought that washing a few dirty clothes could trigger such high emotions! I don’t know about you, but for me, on occasions, doing the laundry is more exciting that winning the lottery. Likewise, I can fall into the depth of dark thoughts and full blown depression just by opening the washing machine. And here is why . . .

I never bother checking pants pockets before I wash them. I hear some of you screaming, “Are you crazy?”, and I get it now. Believe me, I do. But up until yesterday, I thought you were the crazy one: why would anyone want to waste more time with such a boring chore? Sure, I have washed my fair share of candies, and gums. But fortunately, they stay well wrapped so that never caused any major drama. I also don’t bother asking anyone to check their pockets before throwing clothes in the dirty basket. For starters, nobody listens to what I say anyway, so what’s the point? More importantly, I have a rule, which is, “Whatever I find in your pockets when I do the laundry belongs to me”. This rule is supposed to be an incentive for my kids (and husband) to make sure they don’t leave any valuables. But of course, it doesn’t work, because like I said, nobody cares. For once, I couldn’t be any happier that nobody listens to me. So far, I have washed, ironed and kept a good two hundred dollars that had been left  inside pockets. Repeatedly. Clean, free money. That’s not quite as good as having money growing on trees, but close enough!

So knock yourselves out, people! My husband doesn’t want to take me to Vegas (explanatory note: he thinks I have an addictive personality and will gamble until I lose the house . . . pfff . . . who cares about the house . . . ) but I don’t need to.  Every time I put a load in the washing, it’s like winning a (small) jackpot.

Except, yesterday. Yesterday was a turning point as far as laundry goes.

It started like a pretty normal day: screaming match to get the kids at school on time, walking around bedrooms and picking up dirty clothes from the floor while swearing under my breadth that nobody cares, loading the washing machine, and getting on with the rest of the day. WAKE UP!! I am done with the boring bit. Now it’s two hours later, the washing is done and the dryer has just called me, “Ding! Come and get your surprise! What will you find today? 50 bucks? candies?”

Nope. Instead, what I found is this:

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And not just on my kid’s pants, but all over my nice, light colored, clean yet trashed load of laundry. And let’s not forget the dryer: beautifully lined with red ink that cannot be removed. Trust me, I tried!

I did chew my son’s ear off when he came back home. All he said was, “If you were not forcing me to go to school, this wouldn’t happen!” I have nothing to say to that . . .

 

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Women Are From Earth, Men Are From … Wherever

Women are generally a lot more practical than men. When presented with a situation, we don’t tend to procrastinate over the whys and hows, and what ifs. We just get down to business and deal with whatever needs dealing with.

Don’t believe me? Try to do your tax return with your husband next time around. And you’ll see. While you are rummaging through the house drawers to gather all necessary paperwork, your husband will be updating his softwares, ordering whatever it is that he has always, always wanted but never had time to buy. While he is at it, he will check how much the neighborhood houses are on the market for. Oh, and why not skype the whole family, parents, long lost aunts, uncles and their kids?

Modern technology brought a lot of good things, like an alarm clock that reminds the kids to brush their teeth and get dressed . . . Only kidding, kids will never remember to brush their teeth and put two shoes on. No technology can ever change that. But other than that, technology is pretty helpful, especially ipads, when it comes to taming unruly kids – not speaking from experience or anything. But there is one thing that technology has made worse, and that’s men total lack of practical sense, which peaks when it comes to navigation systems. If you live with a guy, you know: nothing beats the craziness of directions.

I think the problem comes from a superiority complex that men have built up over the past decades, or centuries even. Yes, they are better wired to read maps. If my husband ever wants to make me feel completely useless, he just needs to give me a map. Then he sits back, relaxes and enjoys the show. Maps were probably invented by men to confuse women, and job well done, guys!

But then, GPS came, and with that, no more reason to brag. Because who cares if you can read a map or not, a computer is doing it for you. It’s not perfect, far from for it, but it’s definitely better than driving around in circles, with a map on your lap, crying hysterically and biting everybody who dares talking. Now all you do is follow the instructions of the annoying lady with a nagging voice. Sometimes, you have no choice, you have to listen to her b*tchy comment, “Make a U-turn!” Yeah, whatever. . .  But like I said, better to arrive somewhere than to never make it and collect a nervous breakdown in the process of not achieving anything. So in a nutshell, I like GPS. Easy, life-saver, and practical.

My husband? Well, that’s a different story. When he wants to go somewhere, here’s what happens”

  • He researches what’s the best route to take on the internet. One route is not enough. He needs at least two or three different options.
  • He puts the address in the GPS and fiddles with the thing for fifteen minutes, God knows why…
  • He gets his phone and puts the address in his google map. I don’t pretend I understand, because I just don’t.

So now, we have two annoying voices giving instructions. And funnily enough, although they are supposed to take us to the same place, they never agree on anything.

  • Finally, he inputs his destination in Waze. Because “That’s the best way to avoid traffic”. And still quite  surprisingly, Waze disagrees with both the GPS and google map.

So basically, we are in the car, with three nagging voices, shouting at the same time different instructions “Turn right!” ‘Turn left”, “Don’t turn!”, which makes everybody very confused. You’d think it’s a good thing. After all, regardless of what you decide to do, you cannot be wrong. But you would under-estimate my husband’s impractical character. After hearing instructions from Mrs GPS, google and Waze, he ends up not listening to any of them because “I know the way anyway”. And I’m sure you don’t believe me, but it is true.

Never go on a road trip with my husband. You will lose your sanity.

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We Are A Voice, Kids Are Listening

Children observe the world they grow in. They learn good, bad, and later shades of gray, through the role models they identify with, and the actions they are exposed to. As parents, this is probably the biggest pressure we should feel. If we want our children to be kind, to not discriminate, to be open-minded, we must lead by example. Life is a cycle, and more often than none, it keeps repeating itself, for better or for worse.

For this reason, and this reason alone, we must not, never, absolutely not at any time, promote hatred, disrespect and undermine others. It’s okay to disagree, to feel anger, but we must always be mindful of how we express it.

As cheesy as it sounds, we must also put forward the good deeds, and show children that we are all empowered to do great things. Great doesn’t mean to change the world. We don’t need to become Nobel Prizes, or fight a war, cure diseases or solve poverty in the world to be worthy of a role model. In fact, if that’s what we teach our kids, they’ll never feel they can do enough and as a result, might not bother trying.

Doing good is not about the size of what you are doing, it’s about feeling enough empathy to lend a helping hand. Even if all that hand does is give a hug, steady some feet. There are no small good deeds.

Even when kids are little and don’t know that much,  they understand that good is better than bad. When they grow older, they are looking up to us to prove it. So that’s what we did.

Last week, a local middle school invited us to talk about the work we are doing with ten Syrian families, in order to help them rebuild their lives. We showed them pictures of us surprising the kids with Halloween candies, teaching them how to use the resources of the public library. We shared all the little things we do to try and help them settle here. In the face of the enormous Syrian crisis, we are not doing much. But to these ten families, our actions matter. They won’t change the world, and we know it. But they’ll help a few people and that’s something.

The kids were amazing and asked so many relevant questions. We answered, to the best of our ability, but got stuck when a voice piped, “Why are they fighting?”.

That’s another thing, adults don’t have all the answers. Sometimes, stuff just don’t make sense.

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Popularity Contest: Mom Vs Dad

One of our kids is accusing us of liking the others more when it comes to buying presents. And he is outsmarting us every single time we try to reason with him. If we argue that they are getting the same thing at the same age, he argues that it’s not about age, it’s about grades. And vice-versa. Basically, we never win. Parents: 0 – Kid: 1 million points. These arguments usually end up with him slamming a door, screaming, “It’s not fair!”, my husband rolling his eyes, and me, sitting on the sofa, replaying the last decade to see what on earth gave him the idea that we have preferences. These “events” usually happen around Christmas or birthdays.

This year, kids have been writing their Christmas lists early, because it would seem that demands are very specific and require some planning – Well, good luck with that! The only one who’s really supposed to write a list is my daughter, but we ask her brothers to do one as well in order to encourage her. Normally, whenever we ask them to do something for their sister (like dress up for Halloween, go to bed early, read a book), we are met with much resistance and defiance. But when it comes to Christmas lists, nobody complains.

Once they were done with their lists, they checked out one another’s list. My “least favorite child” (it even hurts to write it) as he has labelled himself, had some major issues with what his brother had written, and started along the lines of, “It’s not fair, why should he get the latest electronic gadget when I didn’t get it when I was in his grade?”

I am never ready for that, so I always try to use logic and common sense to diffuse the argument. This time it ended up with him stomping to his bedroom with a, “You’re a horrible mom”, so I suppose I didn’t win that one. Yet again.

My husband called foul mouth tween back in the room and decided it was time to get a few things straight. So he explained to him that one  needs to look at the big picture,

“Maybe your brother will get something earlier than you did. But let’s not forget that I have been spending most of my week ends with you only, whereas your siblings are with Mom. So if you are looking for fairness in each individual action, maybe I should split my time equally between the three of you”

In essence, what my husband said to him was, “Spending time with Dad is a rewarding experience.  Spending time with Mom is lame and boring. And as of now, it is officially used as punishment: stop being so annoying or you’ll spend your week end with Mom.

I am literally speechless . . .

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