Sunday, June 30, 2013

Funny Thing About Egypt

Asalamu Alaykom,

Andrew Pochter, an American college student, has been killed in Alexandria during protests there.  He had come to Egypt to teach English over the summer.   I wish that he hadn't let curiosity get the best of him and put himself at risk.  He was stabbed on the street.  From God we come and to God we return.

There might not seem to be anything "funny" in Egypt when you hear such upsetting news.  Somehow, there always is another moment to bring you out of your current state of mind.  That's the deal with Egypt.  There's always so much happening that you can't stay in one thought or one mood for long.  It is the most manic-depressive country I've ever been.

My husband doesn't watch a lot of TV.  However, when there's a news event in Egypt, he's glued to the screen.  I get pulled into the virtual mayhem.  Then, for hours on end, there's rock throwing, shouting, army troops and (more and more) gun firing, blood and ambulances.  Even if that violence was in Alexandria, it ends up in our home in Giza.  We try to shield our boy from it and send him out of the room if the intensity of the images gets to be too much.

On Friday, I was scared to leave the house.  This was before I even knew about the killing!  When I get scared, I get ornery---just ask my husband.  It's hard with work because you really have to make your appearance.  You can't flake out on a graduation ceremony.  I checked my email once more around 4:00 just to make sure that it was still on.  It was.  I went back to getting ready.

Alhumdulillah, my husband kindly escorted me in my taxi.  We went past the tanks in Remaya and the tanks north of Hadayek Al-Haram.  It's eerie.  I've seen tanks roll out in Egypt before and I'm not as apprehensive as I once was.  It doesn't mean that they will actually see combat.

The hard part for me was trusting that, once I was taking part in a ceremony on stage, that Egypt wasn't imploding upon itself.  It's trusting that when there's distance between my husband and I, I'll still be safe.  It's trusting that the family will keep Mr. Boo (and his most treasured IPad) safe at home while my husband and I are en route.  It's trust.  It's all about trust.

In the end, as people of faith, we have to keep going.  I don't mean that we have to take unnecessary risks, but we can't let our fears rule our lives.  If I had cancelled out on Friday night, as other teachers did, then I would have missed out.

I saw my rug-rat 12th graders transformed into elegant ladies and gentlemen.  Even the scruffiest was cleaned up and dressed up.  They were so excited and nervous.  One of the prettiest girls rushed into where I was, in front of the bathroom mirror, and started to cry.  It was about faith over fear for them too.

The other teachers and I tried valiantly to look good in our gargantuan robes and mortar board hats.  The hats actually work better with hijab than with hair.  The only trick is that, if you have your long hair up in a bun, you need to fix the bun low on the nape of your neck.  Otherwise, the hat will not sit down.

The flags were marched out, then administrators, and finally us teachers.  We stood there, on a breezy night, and heard the first bars of the National Anthem begin.  Chills went down my spine.  I had no idea what was happening in the rest of the country at that moment but I knew that the group surrounding me was determined to make Egypt and the world a better place.

I sat in the front row and clapped along.  As the breezy night air turned windy, I began to hate that dangling tassel which kept lashing me on the right side of my face.  Eventually, I figured out how to surreptitiously tuck it into my hijab.  I smiled.  I listened to the speeches.   I laughed.  I realized how I didn't really know the seniors very well.  I had really only been with them for one term.

The three speakers were all girls.  One wore hijab and two didn't.  All were Egyptian.  One had her whole family there, one had almost lost her mom to cancer, and one had lost her brother.  It was that girl's very brave statement that grabbed me the most.  The day after her brother died, she returned to school because she wanted to be around these people.  Though we all want to feel our workplaces are special, I felt that deeply during the ceremony.

I did my best to show encouragement for every senior with their new diploma as they tried to navigate the stage back to their seat.  The courageous girls teetering in high heels needed the most encouragement.  The crowd was very vocal in showing their support for their graduates.  It was a big turning point for them.

Eventually, it was time to leave the stage.  I was hoping we got off before the flames were sent shooting upward.  Our school has gotten into these fire shows; the anniversary party had it also.  You don't want to be standing there in your flowing polyester robe when the flames shoot up!  Alhumdulillah, we all exited quickly enough.  The fire show took place.  The fireworks were set off!

The party could now begin.  There was mingling and congratulations around linen draped, glass-topped tables.  There were two long buffet lines.  Fresh flowers were everywhere.  I found a beautifully perfect purple orchid lying forgotten on the stairs.  I held it.

I only startled once when a man shot a pistol into the air.  What is it with men and guns?  It's an Arab custom to have an honorary firing during celebrations.  I hear it every weekend when the weddings are in full swing.  Still, I didn't want to be around and found a quick way out of his vicinity.  I never heard any more shots.  Alhumdulillah.

Of course the night was memorable.  It was a time to remember how far I've come and how far my son will have to go.  It's a time to be thankful that every class of students eventually graduates.  I love the word, "eventually".  Yes, eventually you realize it's all good.

Yesterday, my husband got an angry call about that IPad pick-up.  He was told that no one NO ONE! should be addressing him as the  "Abu" of my son.  It had been my brother-in-law's mistake but it didn't need an angry call.  It is the same, tired, old complaint from the man who walked away from his son when he was 15 months old.  The baby at the house is that age now and I feel even more how he was so heartless to leave and how I was so strong to stay.

My husband handled the situation brilliantly.  He immediately went into the bedroom and shut the door so that my son wouldn't hear.  He kept his voice moderated, though AbuBoo kept yelling.  He allowed for the man's crazy rant, " just like letting air out of a balloon."  Even when my former husband brought up my failed, short-lived attempt for a re-configured family in Florida, my husband remained in control.  Alhumdulillah.

Only once did my husband cut off the tirade.  It was when the man I once loved more than anything, astragferallah, tried to put me down.  He stopped him cold.  "That's the mother of your son.  She does for him like nobody else.  You don't need to say anything bad about her."

My husband handled it all but he had to leave the house later last night.  It does get to be too much for him.  It's not in an Egyptian man's mental make-up to deal pleasantly with an ex-husband.  Basically, they never want to think of their woman having been with another man, let alone have him yelling his ear off.

Today, it's D-Day for Egypt.  AbuBoo never thought to ask about this.  No one knows what's going to happen. I look at my recent days.  There is hope.  There are those brave girls and that beautiful orchid on the stairs.  There is anger and resentment with illogical finger-pointing.  There is fear.  For me, there is always hope because I have faith.

Without faith, I could never have gotten through the last year, or, in fact, any year of my life.  God has seen me through and has brought me through all the challenges until I am here.  Alhumdulillah.  I am in Egypt and I pray that Egypt keeps the faith.  Please pray for that as well.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Panic at the Cairo

Asalamu Alaykom,

It was the last day of school, yet I left at 9:00 rather than stay.  I had wanted children to sign my yearbook but I wanted cash more.  The school bus was leaving for the bank and if I wanted any hope of stocking up money for the June 30 mayhem, I had to leave.

Remember that we don't have a car.  If we want to go somewhere badly enough, we can plan it out.  My husband wanted to go to an ATM yesterday, so he walked to six of them.  There wasn't any money.  The closer we get to Sunday, the less likely it is that banks will keep giving money out.  I grabbed a couple of co-workers who speak Arabic and English to come along with me.

We passed the long lines outside the gas stations.  Every gas station is packed with people wanting and needing gas to survive.  It's sad.  It's at times like this that I'm grateful I never felt the need to have a car in Egypt.  Truly, it is more trouble than it's worth here.

Subhanallah, if you hear about Egypt's troubles, please remember that it could be worse.  People are patient.  I know that you'll see horrible things on video; it's bound to happen.  On the whole, the majority wait for their turn, give to others what they can and fear Allah.  How else can you explain a country still functioning without police presence for years?

My female co-worker made the astute observation, "When the electricity goes off in New York there's mass looting and crime.  Here?  It happens many times a week to many more and yet people take it in stride."

When we arrived at Dandy Mall, I could see long lines outside ATMs.  There wasn't any money in them.  There hasn't been any money in them for days.  Funny how you couldn't convince anyone of that fact as everyone had to try it themselves.  I was going to withdraw from the teller window and so was everyone else.

I reached the line and asked for my money.  I was stupid---really, really stupid.  I had thought that I just needed my school-issued visa card.  NOPE!  I needed ID.  I didn't have any!  I hadn't known I was going to the bank that morning.  I knew I couldn't leave without my money.  I thought quickly (with a whole room full of people wanting me to hurry up and get done).

Remember that yearbook?  I grabbed it out of my bag and opened up the page to my face on the English Department picture.  The man laughed, said, "You're famous," and gave me my money.  No one behind me could believe it but I could because life really does work that way.  Subhanallah.

I was scared to leave with my money.  The trick about walking around with a wad of cash is that you have to forget about it.  I did put it in the bottom of my bag.  I did carry the bag closely but I didn't act like I had it.

The other thing I was carrying was a brand new IPad.  I hate it.  It's from AbuBoo.  If you've been reading this blog for awhile then you know this is my soon-to-be-eight-years old son's father.  Shout out to Long-Time Readers!  The IPad was something we fought about.  We fought about it to the point where I had to lie down with high blood pressure.  Astragferallah.  I said it was too advanced for my Boo.  If my little guy couldn't figure out how to turn off the TV when I ask, or pick up his toys off the floor, then he wasn't ready for such an expensive toy.

What I didn't say is, "You, Jerk!  How is it that you don't pay a thing for years and rebuke my attempts for you to pay a portion of his yearly tuition, only to magically appear as the savior on his birthday?!  How can you write over all your real estate to your wife, thus negating your son, and then pretend you love him so much with a pricey present?!  How could you come to Egypt and only give him 120 LE?  How could you talk to him first about this without consulting me?  Don't you know that I'm going to be the one monitoring his IPad usage and therefore the Bad Guy while you ride off into the sunset on the white horse?"

The other issue was how the IPad was getting here.  His first-and-current wife was coming with his kids to Giza.  Yep!  Giza has two of his ex wives and only one of us was stupid enough to remarry him.  Thank God it wasn't me.  Somehow I had to deal with her to get the goods.  I hate that too.  It's very upsetting to me.  I didn't want my husband anywhere near her.  I already lost one man to her through some kind of strange means so there was no need to put another in danger.

We sent the older brother.  "She's very beautiful like a dancer but she's dangerous like a snake," was his very well phrased response to meeting the first-and-current wife.  He's exactly right.  If in 2005, that woman could have reached inside me and physically yanked out my unborn child, she would have.

"I came from AbuBoo," said my brother-in-law.  Of course, he spoke in Arabic and he didn't say that exactly.  I use "Boo" as my son's name on this blog.

The first-and-current suddenly flashed fire, as she is wont to do.  "Don't call him that!  He is the stepfather!"

My brother-in-law, who never let on that he was family (and not just a dude picking up the stuff), hadn't meant any harm.  He loaded up the suitcase and left.  It wasn't just the IPad.

It was also a load of old hand-me-down clothes.  There's nothing new.  The first-and-current works at Target.  There's a great discount there but it's not used for my son; it's only used for her son.  My son is the miscene; the poor guy.  Whatever.  I did have to control my anger when I saw the jeans with the hole in the knee.  No, you didn't have to send those.  No, you really didn't.  And since my son is turning eight,  inshahallah, he didn't need the size 5/6 clothes.  Alhumdulillah.  I had to say a lot of "Alhumdulillah."

So, there I was at the mall getting money and now I needed to get that stupid IPad initiated.  It requied Wifi AS IF AL-HARAM HAS WIFI!  It really could have been started and loaded up in the U.S. but it wasn't.  So, there I was hurrying through the mall looking for the Apple Store.

Funny how a woman with a lot of money can find the H&M and the Marks and Spencer.  I was zeroing in on my radar for everything I wish I could buy BUT I needed to be a good mom---and a quick one at that!  I found the store, spoke in my best Arablish and got the stupid thing started up.

I ran upstairs to where the Playmobil store used to be.  Ahhh, but that was before the revolution.  It isn't there now.  One of Mr. Boo's wishes had been to get a Playmobil pyramid complete with pharaoh and mummy.  No such luck, Duck!

My phone buzzed.  I had a message coming in.  I knew what that meant.  The bus was leaving!   I had to book it down the escalator while texting my co-worker to wait.  You know what's scarier than being in a mall with lots of money?  Being in a mall with lots of money and no way to get back to school!  I went quickly and hoped that  security wouldn't stop me for looking suspicious.

There was the bus!  I did my best gestures to indicate, "I'm a pedestrian.  Get out of my way!" while crossing the roads around the mall to reach the bus.  Whew!  I thanked my co-worker profusely.  We still had to wait for two more.

 As we waited, we chatted.  I'm awful at chatting because I divulge too much.  I give away too much of my life.  I feel too comfortable to share.  I don't realize who to trust and who not to.  Astragferallah.

The male co-worker I'd asked along, showed up and sat down next to us.  He was listening in to us talking and then adding his own thoughts.  Soon he was asking his own questions.  He asked why my husband doesn't have his own computer.  He asked if my husband read the newspaper.  I could see where this was going.  My life was getting pigeonholed.

I've felt so alone in Egypt.  I've really never developed a long-lasting friendship here.  It's more like a train station than a place to settle down for any like-minded friend of mine.  It happened again this year with a teacher who said she was staying for years but only stayed months.  It's a lonely gig.  I miss friends.  I miss people who understand me and don't try to make me conform to some standard of conduct which is acceptable to the majority.

I prayed my last prayer of the school year and I cried.  I cried for many things.  I cried for a school year which began in high hopes at an Islamic school teaching KG and ended SUBHANALLAH at an international school teaching high school.  I cried for people I thought I knew, for a country I wish could be simpler, and for hard times that seem to never end.  I cried for opening up too much to people.  I cried for that moment in sujud when I wish I never had to get up again.  To be with Allah is the one moment when you don't have to worry about what you think or feel.  To be quiet and tearful while you are prayerful is like a wudu to the soul.

I had to make it to the stadium.  It was time for the senior's graduation rehearsal.  It was funny how one of the girls I loved the most was emotional.  She was feeling a lot like me!  I knew it.  She left the room with tears.  When she came back, I asked if I could give her some words of wisdom.  She nodded.

"What you're going through isn't sad or happy; it's a transition and it's really overwhelming.  It's filling you up with all kinds of emotions because it's a big change.  I understand.  Just like a caterpillar, you have to keep going into becoming a butterfly.  You can't stop it!  So, just let it happen."

She smiled.  She had started the school year in Syria.  Imagine that?  God bless her.

My name was left off the list of those teachers participating.  Sigh.  Really?  LOL!  If ever I wanted to feel unwanted and unloved, then this was a good way to help that feeling along!  They found me a spot and I marched along with the others to the stage.

As I stood there, I saw a senior boy I'd had in class.  Actually, I hadn't had him in class because he always skipped.  He was funny and fun and he failed.  He wasn't graduating.  He watched from the doorway and it was sad.  Astragferallah for missed opportunities.  There was another boy who was missing and he too had failed.  Both of them were unable or unwilling to make the effort before and thus relegated to the sidelines of life.  Astragferallah.  Both of them are extremely likable people and I wish better for both of them.

I clapped for the seniors as they practiced walking to the podium.  I graduated early from high school so I was really out of the loop when I came back for the ceremony.  It wasn't the big fun for me.  I was already working, doing theatre and dating my first serious boyfriend.  I felt a full circle moment.  I was one of those adults on stage now.  I was an authority figure.  I caught the eye of the girl from Syria and we smiled at each other.  Subhanallah, it's a moment like that you feel blessed.

Alhumdulillah, I got to leave a little after 2:00 so I could pick up Mr. Boo from his last day and go home on the early bus.  I was hot.  It was not a good idea to be up on a black stage at 1:00 in Egypt.  I had a headache.  Some of the pain in my head was from crying but a lot of it was from being in the blazing sun.

I turned the corner and found two girls cooling off in the shade.  "Hi, Girls."

"Ms. Yosra, are you going to teach seventh grade next year?"

"It looks like I will," I tried to say with a smile.

"I hope I'm lucky enough to get you."

Wow.  Then I really did smile and I told her that was very nice to hear.  It was.

That male co-worker apologized before leaving for the summer.  That was nice to hear as well.  It didn't erase what happened but it did help.

I made it home.  I had a huge headache.  I had my boy and he had his IPad.  I ate, slept and put ice on my head.  Eventually the pain subsided.

Today it's the graduation.  I'll then have one day after that before the trouble hits...inshahallah.

Somehow, it all works out.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

My Country "Biladi"

Asalamu Alaykom,

Please stand for the National Anthem.

"Oh! Oh! Say can you see?""

Why aren't you standing?  Why aren't you singing with me?

I don't know all the words.  It's a long complicated poem that Francis Scott Key wrote during that bombardment of Fort Henry in the War of 1812.  I actually love The Star Spangled Banner.  My eyes tear up singing it.

Do you remember when Whitney Houston sang the American National Anthem during the Super Bowl?  It was during the Gulf War.

Mashallah what an incredible gift from God she had in that voice!  May Allah forgive Whitney Houston any of her faults and receive her into Paradise.

That Superbowl was 1991.  Now I'm in another country.  I'm in Egypt.  For almost four years I've been here and for three of those years I had not learned Egypt's National Anthem.  It wasn't a conscious decision necessarily.  It's not like I hid when the music started.  The deal was that, as a KG teacher, I was inside my class with little children while the older students lined up at the morning assembly to salute the flag.

Saluting the flag is mandatory in every school in Egypt.  You must.  It must be part of your routine.

Yet, it didn't have to be part of my routine.  In many ways, I was fine with that.  It wasn't my country, right?

Now, I feel differently.  I've been here from the end of the Mubarak era, through the Revolution and into the new Islamic Age.  I'm more in touch with Egyptian politics than with my home state.  I feel like I'm home here (and my rooms of furniture would seem to agree).

This year, I've been a middle and high school English teacher with a line of teenagers behind me as we stand together facing the flag every morning.  It's the Egyptian flag and I have had a choice to sing or not.

I'm singing.  I'm finding that I want to sing.  I want to be proud of this country and my part in it.

At first, I didn't know all the words.  It's a really short, easy song!  One line actually repeats three times!  So, I only had to learn four lines.  I didn't have to...I wanted to.  I really want to sing my black, white and red heart out.

I copied out the words on a little slip of paper. The kids saw my determination to learn.  Teachers need to show how they are learners too.  None of us should ever stop learning.  There's so much to learn!

Do you want to learn Egypt's National Anthem too?

Here is a FREE pdf of the sheet music.

You can listen and download a midi of the song here.

This video has the Arabic, the transliterated Arabic and the English meaning.

Here's a powerful video of Revolution images set to a very contemplative "Biladi".

I feel the power of those images.  Don't you?  So many people had so much hope.

I will say that there's one image I don't like.  There is a man standing to pray and about to prostrate over his makeshift prayer mat.  He uses an Egyptian flag for his prayer mat.  I don't like that.  It isn't that I care so much about flags on the ground---though I'm sure it isn't proper flag ettiquette.  I'm concerned that bowing down to a flag is akin to shirk; worshipping other than Our Creator.

I don't want to worship a country.  I want to live in a country which allows me the freedom to worship Allah.

Alhumdulillah, Egypt, "The Mother of All Lands," has allowed me this.

There's a lot of talk about June 30 being the next wave of the revolution.  We're preparing for next week like we would for a storm.  We make sure to have money, food, and the internet paid up.  We think about any appointments downtown getting done before next Friday hits.

Yesterday, was a show of support for President Morsi and the current administration.  There were a lot of people and it was inspiring to see a peaceful display.  I didn't hear any reports of violence.

Everyone wants to know where I stand.  Do I support Morsi?  What do I think of the Muslim Brotherhood?

Truly, I support Egypt's ability to govern itself.  Whoever can help Egypt regain its stature has my support.  I have watched the Ikwan; the Brotherhood, finding a way to help those in need.  I won't say they are angels (as people are only human) but they have been good to so many people.  Are they good governors?  Maybe this first year in office was bound to be difficult for whomever took power after 30 years of a dictatorship.

I lived through 12 years of the Bush Dynasty.  I didn't vote for them or like their policies.  I did, however, respect that millions of people voted for them.  I couldn't deny their right to the Executive Office.  So, I lived through the years and eventually the U.S. voted in someone else.  That's democracy.

I support democracy.  We need to go through a process and not throw out the results when they differ with our personal opinions.  If we can't respect the process of one citizen having one vote, then Egypt dissolves into a farcical game of "King of the Hill."  We can't knock down whoever we don't like.

I remain hopeful.  Inshahallah, the 30th will come and go without destroying Egypt.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Anne Frank in Egypt

Asalamu Alaykom,

I teach teenage girls but I never taught this girl in the picture.  On the contrary, she taught me.  I read Anne Frank when I myself was a young girl.  I admired that anyone could keep writing despite losing so much around her.  She never lost what was inside her; she never lost hope.

Later, in 2008, when I was in Florida, I saw that our anthology had a scene from the Anne Frank play.  I broached the subject with my 8th graders.  We had already acted out, "A Christmas Carol".  Were they interested in this too?


No, they weren't.  They were Muslim.  This was a play with Jews.  That's what they told me.

I was soon leaving and I had a lot on my mind.  I really didn't tackle that issue like I could have.  I let it go.

Speed ahead five years and it's 2013 and I'm in Egypt teaching English classes once more.  Though Anne Frank wasn't in our anthology, she still found a way into our classroom.  Subhanallah.

One of my co-workers had the movie, "Freedom Writers," which she wanted to show to her kids.  She was going to do some journal writing with them.  I wasn't.  I delayed showing the movie until we had covered our material.

It took some time for the kids to get into the movie.  I had to stop it a couple of times and make sure they understood what the emotionally charged scenes meant.  The plot, which revolves around an inner-city teacher and her low achievers, was a little hard to follow.  Remember, my class is using English as a second language.  Yet, my class stuck with it and they kept watching as the teacher struggled to reach those kids.  Whenever we had a little extra time in our week, I'd bribe them with watching another scene.

The year was drawing to a close.  I had three more lessons with them and then we'd be into review sessions.  We still had the movie to finish.  I weighed teaching "Personal Response to Literature" with "Freedom Writers".  I needed to balance my need with their want.  I tightly scheduled it out.  On Tuesday, we would do our lesson so that on Wednesday we could do a little writing and then watch some of the movie.

Tuesday, I taught them how it isn't enough to simply read a book and distill facts.  We don't just learn about others when we read literature; we learn new ways of seeing ourselves and our world.  Giving a personal response means drawing parallels between the story and our reality.  There aren't rights or wrongs with how we compare and contrast as long as we can support our thoughts.

Wednesday, I reviewed quickly and then we watched as Erin Gruwell's American students started to read "Anne Frank" on our Smartboard screen.  My class of Egypt's elite watched a class of delinquents, gang members and homeless.  My students watched how modern day kids in California could become connected to that girl somewhere in Europe who died before their parents (or maybe even their grandparents) were born.  Those students on the screen heard her wish that life could be better and it resonated with them; they had a personal response.

The young students in that class were given an assignment to write to the woman who had helped hide Anne Frank's family, Miep Gies.  They were to write a personal response to her and many thanked her for saving the diary.  She had been unable to save the young girl but she could save the young girl's thoughts.

Remember, "Freedom Writers," is a true story.  Those American teenagers really did write to an elderly lady in Europe.  They not only thanked her; they also asked her to come visit them.  They did fundraising to enable her visit.  In the movie, Pat Carroll as Miep Gies makes an appearance.

"That's the woman who hid the family," I told my class.

"When was this movie made?"  a girl in my class asked.

"I'm not sure.  I'd have to look it up," I answered.  I've since learned it was made in 2007.

"Is she still alive?" a boy wanted to know.

"I'm not sure about that either.  We'd have to google her."

"Can I look her up now?" he asked as he pulled out his Blackberry.

"Sure," I smiled.  "Google the picture when she was younger too.  She was really pretty."

The class ended and I felt good about my efforts to share with my students.  This was me really teaching and I felt it.  Yet, once I was home, I started to feel that I could have done more.

Did the school library have a copy of Anne Frank's Diary?  I wished that I had my copy from when I visited The Anne Frank Museum, where she once hid in the Amsterdam annex.

Could I bring in some pictures?

Why hadn't I done more?

Actually, good teachers are never totally satisfied with their efforts.  There will be good lessons but you always wish they'd been great.  I still had one more chance since I had one more lesson.

My morning was going to be full of grading papers and I delayed going to the library until the last moment.  This wasn't a good move.  When I got to the library, I still had to find out if they even had the book.  Did they?  Yes, they did!

Could I check it out?  No, I couldn't.

"I can't?" I was in total disbelief.  "But I'm a teacher.  I need it for class.  I need it for my next class."

"No, sorry Ms. Yosra, but we need it for inventory," the Assistant Librarian apologized.

I'm American so I don't easily give up.  "I just need it for one lesson and then I can return it."

"No, I really can't," but then she hesitated, "unless I call for permission."

She called.  I got the book.  I ran to class.  Alhumdulillah.

Not everyone had arrived yet.  My way of teaching starts the learning process with whomever is there.  I don't wait.  I began showing the book and its photos around.

"This is her father.  He was the only member of the family to survive."  I then turned the page and showed a picture of Anne.

"Oh," said the girl in hijab.  She visibly recoiled as she took a step back.  "She's Jewish.  I'm not reading the book."

I then realized that I had never said Anne Frank was Jewish.  This very bright student of mine has had such little exposure to The Holocaust that she wasn't aware of what we all take for granted.  Anne Frank was a Jewish victim of The Holocaust in WWII.  The sad part, of course is that, upon learning that fact, the rest of the learning process, for her at least, was all done.  Her mind and heart were shut off.

It wasn't the first time I'd heard such reasoning but it still hit me hard.  Moments like this remind me of that song from the musical, "South Pacific"

You've Got to Be Carefully Taught

          You've got to be taught
          To hate and to fear,
          You've got to be taught
          From year to year,
          It's got to be drummed
          In your dear little ear
          You've got to be carefully taught.

          You've got to be taught to be afraid
          Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
          And of people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,
          You've got to be carefully taught.

          You've got to be taught before it's too late,
          Before you're six or seven or eight,
          To hate all the people your relatives hate,
          You've got to be carefully taught!

However, I was bouncing back with logic.  "If you take a look at your picture, you'll see that she's just a girl. She was just like you.  She was going to school, having crushes on boys, thinking of the future, and wondering what she was going to be when she grew up.  There's a connection between the two of you on that level; the two of you have something in common, right?  You are both just two girls."

Another girl in the class walked up and asked to see the book.  I handed it to her and explained a little bit about the bookcase that was really a door.  She was more receptive.

"I'm going to read the book this summer," she promised without me asking her so I gave her a hug.  God bless open minds and forgive the ones that are closed.

The rest of the class started filing in.  I knew I'd have an extremely short lesson time since I had promised we'd be seeing the rest of the movie.  I felt like I wanted to read something from her writings so I perused the pages looking for June 13.  I couldn't find it at the back of the book so I looked in the beginning and found it.  

I stared at the date and turned to double-check my board.  I had written June 13, 2013.  She had begun writing in her diary on June 14, 1942.  I felt a chill go up my spin.  I felt God's presence.  I held up the book.

"This is the Anne Frank book that the "Freedom Writer" students were reading.  Our library has a copy which you can check out this summer.  I know some of you might not want to read it because it's about a Jewish girl..."

"Ms. Yosra," one of my favorite girls piped up, "nobody thinks like that."

"Okay," I resisted outing the girl in class who actually did think exactly like that. "That's good to hear.  I don't think we have any Jewish students in our class but still we need to find ways to respect those who are different from us, even if it's in a book."

"You said we were going to watch the movie!"

"We are.  The faster I say all this, the sooner you'll see it.  Hold on a minute.  Show some respect."

Some in the class tried quieting the others.

"I wanted you to hear a little from her diary, so I opened it up and discovered that she began writing it on June 14; that's tomorrow.  71 years ago tomorrow is when she began.  I wanted you to hear what she wrote."

I handed it over to the girl who was planning to read it over the summer.  She read the June 14th entry.  It was one paragraph about receiving the diary for her birthday.  The class was quiet and respectful.  Anne Frank's voice was alive in our class.  That's the beauty of literature.  We never really die and become forgotten as long as we are read and remembered.  Subhanallah.

I thought about the girl who had read aloud.  "I remember your research paper topic.  Do you all remember what she wrote about for her research report?  She wrote about Nic Vuljicic, a motivational speaker who was born without arms or legs.  She's nothing like him, but she gained from his viewpoint.  His ability to conquer his problems helped her think positively.

 If all we do is read books from people exactly like ourselves, then we'll have a hard time finding any books."

"Can we watch the movie now?"  

"Not yet," I fought for a little more time.  "In a minute, I'm going to tell you something about Justin Bieber."

"We've been watching "Freedom Writers.  We're not exactly like them.  None of us are Latino or black.  None of us have been gang members.  But still, we're finding a way to relate to them just how they found a way to relate to Anne Frank.  We can appreciate their challenges and how they overcame them."

"Did she know she was going into hiding?"  

They answered, "No."

Did she know that she was going to be captured?

Did she know she was going to die?

"Did she die?"

"Yes, she did.  She died when she was only a teenager."

"Where is the real diary?"

 "It's in Amsterdam.  That's where she had been living and where she had been hiding.  There's a museum there now.  

I've been to it.  Justin Bieber has been to it too."  I looked over at The Number One Belieber in our class and she beamed.

"He wrote in the guest book that he thought Anne Frank would have been a Belieber.  Some people found that disrespectful," his fan started to protest, "but I don't," and she quieted again.  "I think he meant that she was an ordinary girl.  Her diary starts off in such an ordinary way.  She was a girl just like you and the amazing thing is that she kept hoping.  

When I toured the museum, I walked through in the doorway hidden by the bookcase.  

I got to be where she and her family had to hide.  One of the things that struck me was the pictures she'd placed on the wall.  I did that too when I was her age.  I'd find pictures to cut out of celebrities, dresses I liked, and beautiful places.  Maybe some of you do it too.  

It's like she was wishing for..."

I trailed off and had a student finish my thoughts, "Something better."

"Yes," I acknowledged, "no matter what else was going on, she didn't lose hope.  We're going to watch the movie and thank you for listening.  I just have one last question.  How many of you would like to read the book over the summer?"

Hands went up.  

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury,  I want you to know why I am a teacher.  I am a teacher for moments like that.  I have spent some tough times with those students.  I've cried over their rudeness twice.  I've prayed over them when they were studying WWII and took to drawing swastikas.  Yet, there we were, at the end of our lessons, and at least some were raising their hands.  I won't reach all, but I will reach some.  That's why I'm a teacher.  Alhumdulillah.

“How lovely to think that no one need wait a moment, we can start now, start slowly changing the world! How lovely that everyone, great and small, can make their contribution toward introducing justice straightaway... And you can always, always give something, even if it is only kindness!” 
― Anne Frank

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Seven Habits of a Highly Effective Ramadan

Asalamu Alaykom,

Stephen R. Covey (Allah yerhamo) wrote "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People."  He was not Muslim.  To my knowledge, this business guru never wrote any advice on how to better your month of fasting and devotion.  Let's, therefore, take his beneficial way of organizing our lives into healthy habits and apply them to this Pillar of Islam.

It is completely sensible to do this, since Ramadan itself is all about improving ourselves and establishing better habits.  Many Muslims make resolutions to quit self-defeating behavior and adapt healthier lifestyles during the month.  That dream of being a better Muslim needs a plan; it can't just stay as a lofty aspiration.  Stephen R. Covey's "Seven Habits" can be a step-by-step plan for us this Ramadan.

He believed that first we have to work inwardly on three issues; without them as our base, we can't continue upward and achieve all that we want.

Habit 1

Be Proactive

We plan so much of our lives, yet we resist planning our religious life.  We tend to feel as if our thirsty spirit will be replenished when God intervenes; much like a waiter ready with a pitcher of ice water for the moment our glass of iman is half empty.  Astragferallah.  We are not helpless consumers.  We need to be hopeful and active participants in our lives.  We can be proactive.

Let's plan our Ramadan!  Stop finding reasons why our Ramadan can't be a success.  Be stronger than your excuses.  

Don't tell me that Ramadan would be better if only...

I was back home.
I lived in a Muslim country.
I didn't have so many responsibilities.
I had a more supportive family.
I wasn't a new Muslim.
I was a better Muslim.
I wasn't pregnant.
I wasn't nursing.
I wasn't on that medication.
I wasn't so alone.

Those are all excuses and  predetermined failures.  To be highly effective, you need to envision a successful environment for your iman to take root and grow.  Islam can flourish in any soul and in any country so ask Allah to make it possible in you, as you are and exactly where you are.  No, you won't have 100% success. You will fall short because we all do.  Will you achieve better results if you set goals and concrete steps to avoid the usual setbacks?  Of course!

Look around you.  What is it that clutters up your life?  This could be the tangible, such as disorganized piles of papers, or intangible, such as sadness over what can't be.  Be realistic right now.  Admit that we reap what we sow, or in other words we need to put time and effort into the planning.

Here's an example from my own life:  In Egypt, we've been having more than our fair share of power failures.    I've been feeling fearful of how that's going to affect fasting this summer.  It's going to make it harder.  It's going to be be a even more difficult task without electricity (and water since we rely on an electric pump).  We will be suffering.  Those are all the negative messages I've been compounding inside me.  I'm a victim of Egypt's unstable infrastructure!  What can I do?

As a reader, you can see my problem from a detached distance.  That's a good place to view problems and remember that for every problem there is a solution.  No, I can't control electricity.  I can, however, schedule my activities better so that the power cuts affect me less.  I can set up systems (such as demanding Mr. Boo's floor and bed be cleared off before dinner) to lessen the impact of suddenly being without light.  I can guard against being without water by having means to store it (and to keep my clothes and dishes clean a little at a time rather than waiting for some magically perfect time to do them all).

There will be problems this Ramadan.  Some of those problems seem to happen every year.  Those old problems are what hold us back from looking forward to a new chance of connecting to our blessings.  Likewise, the new challenges we are imagining are allowing fear to stop us from moving forward.  Being proactive means that you admit your Ramadan will never be perfect but you can make it the best you can by identifying issues and addressing them beforehand.

Habit 2

Begin with the End in Mind

Let's not talk about Ramadan.  Let's talk about Eid.  Who do you want to by this Eid Al-Fitr?  Which Ramadan accomplishments do you want to look back on?  Is there a memory you want to hold dear?  Go ahead and ask yourself those questions now.  You cannot know the sweetest of success on Eid without identifying  how you define success before Ramadan even begins.

Stop planning the first day of Ramadan and plan the last instead.  Stop assuming that there is only one way to handle the month.  Stop allowing others to dictate to you what your Ramadan will be.  Remember that this Habit 2 is inward.  You decide who you want to be by the end of Ramadan.  Don't discuss this with anyone or ask permission from anyone.  You keep this private between you and Allah.

Admit to Allah that you are not where you want to be in your deen.  No one is.  Visualize the Muslim you want to be and who you are now.  There's a gap.  Use the journey of Ramadan to lessen that gap.  What are the steps you'd need to get closer to your ideal self?  Maybe you'll have to rethink preconceived notions of what your Ramadan is.

There isn't really one "right" Ramadan.  Some years, we need to focus on family life but during others we need to focus on ourselves.  Many advocate reading Quran many times over during Ramadan but there is much to be said about slowly savoring each Surah.  Which way is right?  It really depends on what you need to reach your goals.  If you feel closed in and out of touch with the community, then this might be the year to investigate helping others.  For someone who is constantly learning about Islam, maybe Ramadan can be a time to balance that knowledge with doing.

Life is often about maintaining a balance.  In what way can Ramadan re-right your equilibrium?  If you've been going too far in one direction, think of what would bring you back to center.  The calm core of our center is where we find our peace and that is where Islam dwells within us.  How can you find your peace this Ramadan?

Habit 3

Put First Things First

What is first in our life?  As Muslims, there is no other answer but Allah.  There is no god but God.  We cannot do anything in Ramadan which robs us of our chance to connect to Allah.  Our time is so precious and our wish is so sincere.  We really need to fight against the temptation to be with the world when we can be with Our Lord.

Sometimes, we willingly walk away from God.  Other times, we are pulled away.  Either way, we have to remain steadfast this Ramadan that our most important relationship is with Ar-Rahman, Ar-Raheem.

The next set of habits cannot be done alone.  You have to reach out and to gain from outside sources.  Subhanallah, our Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him) couldn't stay alone in the Cave of Hira.  We too need interactions to stay dynamic as Muslims.

Habit 4

Think Win-Win

Though I've written a lot about doing what's good for you and your iman, don't think that all others in your life are going to suffer.  They don't have to.  You can truly figure out compromises which take into account everyone's needs.  Some days are more about you and your needs and some days are more about someone else.  Though this month is about connecting you to your faith, it probably won't be a 30-day lone retreat in the wilderness.  Most of us live and work with others and need to be realistic about our connections and responsibilities.  Over the course of a month, though, everyone can have their time and their needs met.

Moms need to think about the ways to raise children during Ramadan which produce the best results.  How can I observe the month-long fast and still be an effective mother?  For me, I really need to involve Mr. Boo in the suhour, the fasting, the iftars, the memorization, the prayers and the charity.  I also want to build in some scheduled days for activity (like going to the school's library once a week).  If I help him, then the days will go smoother than him vegetating in front of the television.  He will be weakened from a fast until asr but this will benefit him (as he prepares to be a man) and me (as I can't handle him at full strength while I'm feeling depleted).  We both win. He gets attention and time from me at set times and then I get peace when I need to rest.

If I look ahead to the end of Ramadan (Habit 2), I will feel better about myself, my son, and our family if I've put in places ways to care for his needs.  Ignoring what others need means that I am setting myself up for failure.  There is time now to set up win-win situations so that everyone has a meaningful Ramadan.

Habit 5

Seek First to Understand, 
Then to Be Understood

I need to understand more about Quran, Sunnah, Hadith and the history of Islam and so do you.  I can say that without ever meeting you. I can say that because it's true for all of us.  Knowledge during Ramadan doesn't have to be limited.  You can study anything which helps you understand The Creator or the creation better.  Every new realization moves you closer.

What is on your reading list?  Have you ever read a biography of The Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him)?  Ramadan is a great time to get closer to The Messenger.  For women especially, it's good for us to learn about the early women in Islam---like the first follower of Islam, Khadija (ra) and the first martyr of Islam, Sumaya (ra).

I've been teaching about the Ummayads in Al-Andalus and I'd highly recommend learning about Abdur-Rahman Ibn Muwiaya.  His grandfather Hisham had been a Caliph and he narrowly escaped to Spain in order to establish a unified nation.  Subhanallah.

If the idea of "The 7 Habits" intrigues you, then consider learning more about it.  I like that there's a book for teens and for school-aged children as well.  The whole family could start using this model!

Where is your curiosity?  That is the core of your being nudging you to learn more so follow where your curiosity leads you.  Every bit of knowledge is a gain this Ramadan.

Habit 6


Who is on your Ramadan team?  Think of the people you want around you; your dream team.  How can you share and support each other during the month?  They don't have to be Muslim.  They simply have to love you and want the best for you.

If you're married, then think of you and your spouse can share moments together.  One thing I really like is that first kiss after breaking the fast.  It's sweet!  It's sweet because you could have smooched earlier but you didn't because you're Muslim.  Other couples like to go out for a short walk between finishing their tea and going to Taraweah prayers.

Is there someone with whom you have been out of touch?  If you miss them, then consider arranging a meet up during Ramadan.  Share food together and pray together.

There are some people you need to avoid.  Be realistic.  You can't move ahead if you have someone who pulls you back or pulls you down.  It's worth mentioning that if you can't rely on that person during Ramadan, you might not want them in your life as a close ally during the other times of the year either.

Lastly, the Seventh Habit is a way to maintain the previous six.

Habit 7  
Sharpen the Saw

There is less energy in Ramadan so you have to be careful with your reserves.  How are you going to stay balanced?  "Sharpening the saw," means that while you do all the work towards success,  you cannot get depleted to nothingness.  You have to maintain yourself and sense of self.

One example from my life is how I couldn't listen to Quran non-stop.  I couldn't!  Years ago, I made the commitment to not listen to music during Ramadan.  That feels better to me to cut out all songs during the day.  However, I found myself needing something so I turned to nasheeds.  RadioIslam has some great programs I would listen to.  Another person would say that's wrong but I knew that it improved my mood and kept me going through the month.

We know what we need better than someone else.  Don't let anyone "should" on you.  A month is a long time to pretend so don't pretend that you don't have needs that aren't being met.

Another example might be the revert who doesn't feel connected to Ramadan the way she used to with Christmas time.  She decides to do some baking and share it with others.  Some Muslims feel that baking cookies during Ramadan is mimicking the Christians and therefore is wrong.  That's fine for them to think so for themselves, but it might actually save a new Muslim from leaving Islam.  To each his or her own.  All of us need to get through Ramadan our own way.

 By the same token, we need to be kind about how others are getting through their days and nights.  It's not our job to judge how our brothers and sisters handle their Ramadan.  I can't tell you the number of times a sister has been made fun of because she wore hijab during the month, though she doesn't normally.  Whatever!  Leave her alone!  She is doing her life the best she can.  Be gracious. Be loving.  Love and accept others the way that you hope God will love and accept you and your fasting.

As I write this, I'm hearing Quran being recited from down the street.  An elderly neighborhood man passed away today.  It was just last week he sat with my husband; they talked and laughed together.  He was a friend of the father-in-law I never met.  From Allah we come, and to Allah we return.  Men die.  People die.  We all die.

This Ramadan could be our last.  Let's be sober enough to realize how finite life is.  Ramadan is a chance to purify ourselves and our lives.  It's a beautiful chance; it's a gift from God.  Don't waste it.  Don't have regrets.  Use it to get closer to The Truth and to understand deeper how you can serve Allah.  Find a way to join with others in this purpose and to remain hopeful that one month can make a difference.  Yes, this Ramadan could be our last but it could also be the first in a glorious fresh start.



Friday, June 7, 2013

The Sisterhood of '68

Asalamu Alaykom,

Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein of Jordan is part of The Sisterhood but you don't have to wear a hat.  There isn't any dress code.  It's all about the year you were born.  I'm in The Sisterhood because I was born in 1968.  Were you?

Bethany Hughes, the coolest historian there is, was born in 1968.  You've got to see her documentary, "When The Moors Ruled Europe."

Let's meet some more Sisters!

Singer Carnie Wilson is someone I thought of blackballing from The Sisterhood because she is too outspoken and flawed and especially outspoken about her flaws.  Then I realized that I needed to own my shadow and embrace her within the circle too.

Dancer and critic Carrie Ann Inaba proves there is also a refined grace among us.

I was never a big fan of Celin Dion yet I can't argue that she's a superstar.  She is!  I used to want to be a star.  I used to want to be famous.  I don't now.  I'm OK simply being me.  It's working better than way.

Chynna Phillips was one of the singers of my high school years who was too perfect yet she's aged along with me.  I see her face as proof that time passes.  Time didn't stand still for either one of us.

Funny lady Debra Messing is known for "Will and Grace."  She recently divorced and has said that she wished her life had gone differently.  She's definitely a '68 Sister.  None of us wanted to screw it up like our "Me Generation" parents but somehow we did.  Look at her!  She's so talented and beautiful.  She's also sad.  We can be many things at once.

Jeri Ryan is another Sister I didn't know I had.  She had this incredibly lithe body on Star Trek.  You almost didn't recognize her face from how amazing her figure was in that skintight bodysuit.  She's physically so different from me.  I don't envy her.  I don't need to.  There's room for both of us in The Sisterhood.

Gretchen Carlson!  She was Miss America once upon a time.  I was proud of her because she haled from Minnesota.  She ended up on Fox News hating me---or at least people like me.  Funny how we hate people we don't even know.  She has nooooooooooooo idea that she's in my Sisterhood.  It's OK.  She doesn't know so many things.  Maybe some day she'll learn.

You gotta love Kristen Chenoweth!  I wanted to be in theatre but I didn't want the lifestyle.  I wanted to have a normal life.  Yes, somehow I thought I could have a normal life.  Ridiculous!  So, Kristen Chenoweth took my place instead as the Theatre Queen.  She can have it!

Kylie Minogue looks so old in this picture.  She's been through so much!  I love that she looks older...until I remember we're basically the same age.  She looks older so I have to wonder if I do too.  I make excuses and conjure up ideas of Australian women getting more wrinkles in The Outback than me here in Egypt.

The lovely Lisa Marie Presley is among the members. I remember when her father Elvis died.  I identified with her since we were the same age.  Neither one of us had our fathers the way we wanted.  She tried to find the right man but didn't...until now...I hope.  I hope that's true for both of us.

Warrior Princess Lucy Lawless doesn't look like Xena here.  I love that she looks so gorgeous without looking sleazy.  Not very many of our Sisterhood reverted to sleaze.  We are too old mature for that.  We don't need to put on airs.  We seem like a very down-to-earth bunch.  We have spent our time pretending long enough to know that the best person to play is ourselves.

Lucy Liu is another effortless beauty.  She shines.  Doesn't she?  That glow is not from make-up or lights shining on her.  She has an inner glow.

Margaret Cho!  I didn't know she was one of us!  She seemed older somehow.  She seemed to have an agenda for longer and gotten under more skin than most.  I'm proud to call this gutsy gal a Sister!

Molly Ringwald is no longer celebrating her sixteenth birthday.  Do you know how many times I watched Jake lean over the 16 birthday candle flames to give her that kiss?  Ahhhhh, Jake!  You were such a honey. Molly...or whoever you were in the were so innocent.  When I rewatched "16 Candles" after coming to Islam, I was shocked to realize that it wasn't a movie about getting your first kiss; it was a movie about losing your virginity.  How did that escape me?!  Molly, you were the ideal John Hughes teenage girl.  You were truly pretty in pink.  You are a Sister of '68.

I'm including Neelem Kothari because I love used to love Bollywood.  I really framed my life around Bollywood for a year.  I regained my existence, to a large degree, by remembering what I loved in Bollywood movies.  I loved music and dance, colors, romance, laughter, family, children, exotic food, travel to beautiful places and faith.  Eventually, my faith would become such a focus that it pushed a lot of the other essentials to be secondary, tertiary or even caused them to  fall from my mind.  Subhanallah.  She just married.  She married late.  May God bless her new life.

Patricia Arquette was the ditz.  Weren't we all at one time?  I hope we have moved on from that place.  I hope we laugh at ourselves when we goof up but that we don't remain stuck there.  Patricia is the sister of one of my 80s icons Roseanna Arquette of "Desperately Seeking Susan."

I loved Patsy Kensit in "Absolute Beginners," back in 1986.  It was this great date with my first big love (that's both figuratively and literally since he was 6'3 and close to 300 lbs).  We went out to this expensive Italian restaurant with his brother and his fiancee and then the four of us went to The Cedar The Cooper.  I had to look it up.  Here's some photos.  It was this big life experience of dating like adults (even though I was still a teenager).  I had graduated high school and I was now in college.  I bought the soundtrack and listened to it on my Walkman when I'd do my brisk walk to catch the bus.  David Bowie sang the title track.  Ray Davies is on it too.  Awesome stuff.     

Sarah Mclachan is someone I don't really know but I know her voice has been there on my life soundtrack.  She's lovely and she's looking older too.  No one looks younger oddly enough.  We have all aged.  Alhumdulillah the majority have aged well.

I loved Tisha Campbell on "Martin".  She was so sassy and silly.  I've been that too.  Sometimes I still am but only when it's safe.

Yasmine Bleeth was a Baywatch babe.  Remember her?  She has a famous mugshot from drinking and driving.  It's made her into a joke and that's too bad.  Remember:  men only put women on a pedestal to look up their dresses.  We need to keep our feet on the ground and stop asking men if we look good enough.  Obviously, Yasmine is a beautiful woman.  Let's hope she's a sober one as well.

Alhumdulillah.  I'm glad for many things.  I'm glad I'm about to be (inshahallah) another year older.  I hope I will be better.  I'm going to be 45.  I'm not shying away from it.  I'm not pretending I hate the number.  I don't.  45 is truth.  There is truth in my age.  There is truth in The Sisterhood of '68.

1968.  None of us knew who we were going to be that year we were born.  It was the year Laugh-In premiered.  The musical "Hair" opened on Broadway. The musical "Oliver!" is released in movie theaters and eventually won Best Picture.  Zeferelli's "Romeo and Juliet" set the movie screens on fire.  The soap opera, "One Life to Live," the crime drama, "Hawaii 5-0", and the news show "60 Minutes all debuted on TV.

The Tet Offensive began and the My Lai Massacre was covered up.   "2001" and "Planet of the Apes," hit movie theaters days before Martin Luther King Jr. was hit with bullets.  Saddam Hussein grabbed power in Iraq after a coup.  Bobby Kennedy was shot and his memorial service was held on the day I was born.  Jacqueline Kennedy married Aristotle Onassis.

Charlie Chaplin died.  Helen Keller died.  John Steinbeck died too.  I know I could have lumped them together but somehow each life deserved his or her own sentence out of respect for their greatness.  Each one of us has our chance at our own greatness.

NASA sent astronauts for the first time into outer space on Apollo 7.

Matchbox cars were introduced.  The Intel company was formed.  The Beatles formed Apple Productions and released "The White Album".   Led Zeppelin performed live for the first time.  Brendan Fraser, Owen Wilson, Will Smith Tony Hawk and Ziggy Marley were some of The Brothers of '68.  Both terrorists Mohammed Atta and Timothy McVeigh were born then too.

We have all been through a lot----45 years of a lot!  That's an amazing amount of time to live through and still keep smiling.  I don't just mean that we have kept our teeth but that we've kept our spirit light enough to remain resilient.  We can be proud of who we are even if we're not perfect.  We're not  immune to failure, flops, wrinkles or sags.  We're The Sisterhood of '68.  Let's celebrate that bond of age, beauty and inshahallah wisdom.