June 12 2019

Peace by Chocolate: Delicious Products With a Delicious Message

And an inspiring bittersweet story…

I was shopping for groceries at our Sobeys the other day, and of course you all know me by now, and know my weakness for chocolates, which in my defense, is a common trait among my family members, from both sides, that we spare no chance to embrace.

So I head to the confectionery aisle to stock up on some yummy sweet goodness. And there it was, a piece of art that was literally staring back at me, the color stood out and the beautiful Arabic calligraphy (another thing I have a soft spot for) just cast an instant spell on me.

Of course I grabbed it, only to see that the word peace, which was written in Arabic (Salam) on the bar that I picked, was written in many other languages on other bars in different bold colors.

 

Next to the ‘Peace Bar Collection’ was another brown themed collection of bars by the same company: Peace by Chocolate, with really cute messages such as: “Bury the Hatchet” or “Forgive & Forget”, which I’ve come to find out is called the ‘Forgiveness Bar Collection’, talk about original creativity.


Under the brand name of these bars by this company it read: A Syrian Family Tradition.
I grabbed only two bars, the one with the Arabic calligraphy, and one of the forgiveness bars, just to test the product and look this company up.

While devouring one of the scrumptious bars, yeah I ate a whole bar by myself (blush blush), with a cup of steaming hot unsweetened coffee  (gotta watch that sugar, wink!), I did a quick search on the company, and boy did I like what I found.

So turns out the family behind this product is a Syrian refugee family, the Hadhad family, who used to own their own chocolate factory back in Syria and ship their products across the Middle East.
After their factory was destroyed in a bombing during the war in Syria, they fled to Lebanon and lived in a refugee camp there for three years.
Then they moved to Nova Scotia, Canada, and with the support of their awesome Antigonish community, they were able to get back on their feet, rebuild their chocolate company, work their magic and share their passion with their new community and now around the world.


[Video Source: CBC]

The Hadhad family vowed to give back to their community (one time they donated their profits to the Red Cross to aid in relief efforts in parts of the country that were hit hard by wild fires), and to help other refugees in Canada rebuild their lives, just like they were offered support by their community.
That’s why, Peace by Chocolate “pledged to hire 50 refugees by 2022 at its facilities across Canada. In addition, they will provide mentorship and guidance to 10 refugee startups to develop their business and help 4 refugee businesses access new markets through their distribution and retailing networks.” [Source: CBC ]

So no one can argue with the product’s originality, artistic touch, bold packaging and awesome message: Peace. But how does it really taste?
Let me just say that once the first piece melted in my mouth, I instantly traveled back in time, to my childhood home, to our big bright kitchen, where my mom used to make us homemade chocolates from scratch on Eid, and the whole house smelled like cocoa and hazelnuts!
Yes, it was as rich, as fresh, as comforting and indulging as homemade chocolate, but with the magical touch of the finest choclatiers. It’s different than other products on the market for reasons you can taste and not say.
All it took was one bite for me to become a loyal customer to this delicious perfection!

Try for yourself and get yourself one of their awesome chocolate products here. Oh, and they even have a clothing line, how cool is that?

May 29 2019

‘P Is for Palestine’ a Book for Children, About Children

UPDATE: I’d like to report that the Highland Park Library Board of Trustees decided to reinstate the reading of the children’s book P is for Palestine. Press release:.

Thanks and all the respect to the Highland Park Library for doing the right thing, and for embracing freedom of speech. Everyone deserves a voice.

 

 

A beautifully written and adorably illustrated children’s book is stirring “controversy” in New Jersey, as the pro-Israel Jewish community there call for it to be banned from the Highland Park Library shelves, causing the library to cave in and postpone the book’s public reading pending a board meeting, open to the public, to be held on June 5th, 2019.

A bestseller and the first of its kind to exist, ‘P Is for Palestine‘, by the lovely Golbarg Bashi, has become the center of attention of many critics, who blasted it as …(drum roll)… anti-Semitic. (Surprise, surprise!).

Why, you may ask? Well, for starters it’s considered to be the first ever English-language ABC story book about Palestine, its culture and historical sites that actually made it to the shelves of public libraries in the US and many other English-speaking countries. That of course goes against Zionists’ efforts in wiping this people and their culture off the face of this planet.
Also, critics argue that the book promotes hate and provokes violence, mainly because of the mention of  the word “Intifada”, in “(I) stands for Intifada”, a word I have realized that many well-educated people in the West don’t understand, or misinterpret as a call for war or “Jihad”, thus accusing the writer of provoking anti-Semitic sentiments.
For the sake of clarifying, Intifada is an Arabic noun that’s derived from the verb nafada, which literally means to shake off something. It was used to describe the many attempts in which Palestinian people tried to shake off occupation, i.e. resist, as in when they were kicked out of their generations-old houses, they tried to get these houses back; when they were thrown in prison for no crime they committed but be the rightful owners of the land, they tried to reclaim their freedom, when their relatives and friends were massacred, they tried to protest and protect the rest.
So for a child born in occupied Palestine, life is a constant display of Intifada, due to the constant oppression they endure, making it an essential part of their culture that cannot be left out just so the feelings of the occupiers wont be hurt!
In a video discussing the reaction to this book, a Rabbi argues that Intifada is a sensitive subject for Israelis, because it brings up very harsh memories of them being targeted and killed by Palestinians, when it was actually the other way around, entirely.
Intifada is a living symbol of the ongoing suffering of Palestinians who were minding their own business, living in peace as Muslims, Christians and Jews, to wake up one day to a brutal occupation massacring them, kicking them out of their homes and throwing them out of their land, denying them the right to return, and suffocating any spark of hope in leading an average normal life for those who stayed behind. So if you don’t want any mention of Intifada, don’t create it, it’s as simple as that: cause and effect.

But let’s pretend I know nothing about the reality of the conflict, let’s say I’m a media-brainwashed US citizen, would I buy your claims that this word should not be mentioned because it evokes memories of hardships and suffering of your people? What about the word “HOLOCAUST”?
I’m sure we all agree, even us Palestinians, that it’s a stain in the history of humanity, an absolutely horrible inhumane thing Jews had to endure and live through, but I don’t see you sabotaging its occurrence anywhere, in fact, you’re embracing it and wasting no opportunity to bring it up in fiction and non-fiction, stressing its importance as part of your history that should not go unnoticed… Why aren’t Palestinians allowed to mention Intifada then?

In that same video by the way, you can see that the bookstore selling “P is for Palestine”: Book Culture, was threatened, we’re talking death threats to owner and staff, pushing them to clear the book off their shelves and boycott it… And that is, ladies and gentlemen, bullying at its best!

The Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) issued a statement commenting on the cancellation of the book reading saying that: “Our event, meant to promote tolerance, was canceled due to intolerance and the promulgation of proven falsehoods about Palestinians.” Very true. Full statement available here.

Critics claim the book  introduces youngsters to violence, teaching them to hate and… wait for it… “it’s used to teach little children about how great the Palestinians are, and we should murder the Jews… that’s the bottom line” and I’m quoting Rabbi Bernhard Rosenberg here (video available below), yes a Rabbi, a man of religion who should be calling for peace, promoting coexistence and tolerance, but no, he said it loud and clear: It bothers him _and those who share his views_  that the book acknowledges the existence of the Palestinian people, their rich culture, their history, their never-ending attempts at leading normal lives despite the constant crimes the oppressive Israeli occupation commits against them.
There’s not a word of hate in this book, not one invitation to bloodshed or killing, it teaches pride in a culture that’s struggling to survive, it teaches empathy with people who are forgotten and who Zionists claim don’t even exist. It’s a cultural children’s book celebrating Palestine and its people, period. Don’t call it anything but what it really is.

[Video source: abc7NY]

Authors, bookstores and libraries that support freedom of speech and give a voice to everyone regardless of personal views are civil, open-minded, tolerant and professional; these people and entities should be celebrated, supported and empowered, not attacked, threatened and bullied… Live and let live!

Every bookstore has something this reader will object to and that reader will see unfit. If bookstores in countries that support freedom speech cave in to the demands of every community, our bookstores will literally be empty of books. If I don’t want my children exposed to a certain book, and there are so many I tell you, then I’d simply not allow it in my house, I wont go to its public readings and definitely won’t buy it. If I was very offended, I might blog about it, or discuss it with my community so they can be warned and not have their children read it, but I will not go bullying owners and public libraries into not allowing it on their shelves, this is just ridiculous and seriously childish!

I will end this blog posting with a question that I hope you, readers, would take some time to contemplate: If this author, who is not Palestinian by the way, and who is not living in Palestine, and if these bookstores and libraries, who are also not Palestinian nor in Palestine, are getting death threats and being pressured, attacked and bullied over a children’s book, how do you think a Palestinian, living in Palestine, under Israeli occupation, is being treated for speaking their mind and trying to lead a normal life?

Please support the book and its author by:

November 29 2018

Hassan Al Kontar; The Syrian Viktor Navorski

Many of you may be familiar with the name Hassan Al Kontar, a name which has been repeatedly hashtagged and mentioned in the news and on social media portals over the past _not very few_ months.

For those of you who aren’t, Hassan Al Kontar is a 37-year-old Syrian, who used to live and work in the UAE, and whose life took a turn for the worse following the eruption of the Syrian conflict.
When his Syrian passport expired and he couldn’t renew it, he lost his work visa and was deported from the country.
Afraid of getting arrested upon landing in Syria, because he’s wanted for military service there (and refuses to serve), he tried to go anywhere else, with no luck.
After being denied entry to multiple countries, he was finally sent to Malaysia, where he was trapped in the Malaysian airport for more than seven months.

As he started documenting and reporting his day-to-day life in the Malaysian airport through his Twitter feed, his plight garnered international attention, especially that of Canadian Laurie Cooper, resident of Whistler B.C.
Touched by the predicament, she got in touch with Al Kontar and set up a GoFundMe page for him with the goal of buying him a ticket to a safe country. She also coordinated with travelers from around the world to bring Al Kontar cash and supplies.
Shortly after, Cooper and a group of Whistler B.C. residents raised the money required to sponsor him, and set him up with a job and accommodations in Whistler. [Source: CBC]

Al Kontar was granted Asylum in Canada and has landed safely in Vancouver, Canada in November 2018, thanks to the help of the exceptional Laurie Cooper, the amazing group of Whistler residents and the wonderful B.C. Muslim Association, who worked together to sponsor him and lobbied for months to get him to Canada.

I would like to clarify a very important point here; many Malaysians think that Al Kontar never thanked the Malaysian government for taking him in, and are accusing him of being ungrateful for not accepting to stay there and preferring to leave to Canada.
Al Kontar did in fact thank Malaysia for accepting him in when no other country did, and for providing him with a three month tourist visa, and offering him to stay in Malaysia under a local Syrian Refugee program, which is the maximum they could offer within their internal laws and regulations, as per Al Kontar. (a link to the video where he says that is provided in the comments, in Arabic).
But his decision is based on the fact that Malaysia is not party to the 1951 Refugee Convention nor its Protocol, and doesn’t have an asylum system regulating the status and rights of refugees. Accepting to stay without any legal or internationally recognized documentation means that Al Kontar will not be granted a legal work permit and will not be able to legally travel or leave Malaysia for the rest of his life, which is not the freedom he was seeking. So it’s all about the lack of a legal protection framework and the weakness of the administrative structure for asylum being currently provided, and nothing to do with the lovely Malaysian people or their hospitality. It’s as simple as that.
And here’s a beautiful, non-biased and very objective explanation to why Al Kontar came to this decision.

Welcome to Canada Hassan Al Kontar.

 

September 25 2018

The Man with the Flyers

Last week, on my way out for an appointment, I heard a sound of paper shuffling from the house next door.
I took a quick look and saw the back of a man, elegantly dressed, holding a stack of what looked like flyers, and was waiting for someone to answer the door.

Since I was in a rush, and since it was really really hot that day, I tried to quickly sneak into the car without him noticing me, because the last thing I wanted was to listen to a marketing person endlessly brag about some product or service, or to answer an infinite number of questions of a boring survey.

But the minute I pressed the “unlock” button, the man turned to me, with the biggest, warmest and friendliest smile ever, that I couldn’t even get upset he saw me.
He looked so familiar for some reason.
” I don’t think there’s anyone in there” he said, looking at the neighbors’ door.
“I think they’re out” I replied, still trying to figure where I’d seen his face.
“Yeah, most people work these days and come home late” he commented, while trying to hang a flyer on the neighbor’s door.
I was still trying to squeeze that brain of mine in search of an answer.
“Well, since you’re heading out, would you mind if I gave you this, instead of leaving it at your doorstep?” he asked, “yes, sure” I replied, and started walking towards him.
He gently  walked down the stairs, towards me, with that big smile still on his face, and handed me a flyer.
One look at the flyer, and my face turned all red, I was so embarrassed for not recognizing him right away, but in my defense, it’s not every day that a Regional Councillor shows up in front of you out of nowhere!
As it turns out, I was talking to The Allan Elgar, Ward 4 Regional and Town Councillor… no wonder his face looked so familiar.

I was so happy and proud to be standing next to him, talking to him as if he was my neighbor, someone I’d known for a while.
After a very brief and general conversation, in which he didn’t try to know who I was going to vote for, and didn’t even try to win my vote, I wished him good luck, and watched him walk away to hand-deliver the rest of the election flyers… by himself, with no helpers, no security, no fancy cars or anything. (Respect…)

Allan Elgar’s achievements in the region are very well known, and are more than enough a reason to re-elect him, but the fact that I got a chance to have this quick chat with him, see how comfortable he is to talk to, how humble and down-to-earth he actually is, made it even easier for me to have no doubts in voting for  him.

Mr. Elgar, you’re such an impressive individual, it was a pleasure talking to you in person, and I wish you the best of luck in the upcoming elections.

June 26 2018

My Heart… On a Plate

This year I got the most beautiful Mother’s Day treat ever: a bouquet of stunning Tulips, my absolute favorite, and a very yummy, freshly made breakfast.
That would’ve been more than enough to make me very happy, but there was a very lovely surprise waiting for me.

Later that day an amazon package with my name on it was delivered to our doorstep.
You know that moment when you’re sure you didn’t order anything but you start doubting yourself and questioning your memory?
Well, after  a few attempts at guessing what’s in the box, I finally opened it, and in it was a gift note from my husband, wishing me a Happy Mother’s Day.
I peeked in to find a very special gift that made my day even more beautiful; a gift that checks four boxes of things I absolutely love: books, food, influential people and… (drum roll)… Palestine.
It was a cookbook about delicious Palestinian dishes by a person I really really admire.

The book is “Palestine on a Plate” by the awesome Joudie Kalla.

I’ve been wanting to get my hands on this book for a very long while, but swamped with a series of many unfortunate events, I just forgot all about it.
I’d never expected, in a million years, that my husband would be the one to get it for me, because I recall mentioning it to him only once, a long while back, and well, because I know for a fact he’s not into cookbooks. 😉

Where do I start?
I love this mouthwatering book, love its hard elegant cover, love the design, photos, the choice of colors, plates and cutlery. You can sense the book’s originality and creative style in every single bit of it really, even in the dish names.
I absolutely love how chef and author Joudie Kalla made sure to provide the Arabic dish names before their English translation.
I also found it very unusual for a cook to name many dishes after people who passed on the recipe, which adds a very pleasant personal and original touch in my opinion; and I like it because this is very much how my mom does it; in her small recipe book, you’d find many recipes named after their creators not the dish itself, and I find this very impressive, reflecting a very strong personality and a sense of confidence many women lack.
I mean how many women would actually tell you, that the meal you just went crazy over was not their original recipe? not so many, but a few including my mom (me and my two lovely sisters), and Joudie Kalla would.

The dishes themselves are fantastic, each page I turned took me to places and times I long for.
And although the same dish has many versions depending on what region of Palestine you’re from, which means different cooking techniques and slightly different flavors, but all resulting dishes are scrumptious and carry this distinctive Palestinian touch that makes every single dish stand out in a special way. So even if the recipe on the book differs from how you’re used  to making it yourself, don’t be afraid to try it out.

Another thing I absolutely adored was Kalla’s original Palestinian- Western fusion dishes, such as: ‘Figs with Labneh & Honey’, ‘Za’atar Scones’, ‘Freekeh, Fig & Pistachio Cake with Lemon Zest’ and ‘Medjool Date Scones’ to name a few.
And needless to say, my absolute favorite section was the “Vibrant Vegetarian”, which is really an amazing display of the best and most delicious Palestinian Vegetarian _and Vegan_ dishes that made their way to many other cultures, and that, to me, resemble vegetarian cooking at its absolute best.

Besides all of this, I couldn’t have picked a more perfect timing for this gift, for there’s no better way to celebrate Mother’s Day than being immersed in pages of meals from your home country, not only that, but it also happened to be a few days before the start of Ramadan, a month that brings the best out of people’s culinary skills (and their experimental urges) in creating the perfect meals to gather loved ones for breaking fast; it was also a couple of days before the Palestinian Nakba Day, and what better way to commemorate a culture than reviving its heritage and its cuisine that’s being robbed away by its occupier.

As for the author, I’m one of her biggest fans. I’ve been following her on social media for years now, sharing her videos and tweets, and I’m just impressed with her pride in her Palestinian descent and identity, and her persistence to preserve the Palestinian cuisine, heritage and culture.
From insisting on publishing a book with the word “Palestine” in its title, to hosting public dinners showcasing Palestinian culinary masterpieces, to never failing to mention her love for the Palestine that runs in her blood, Kalla succeeded in planting her name, her work and her beautiful spirit not only in our kitchens, but also in our hearts.

I love “Palestine on a Plate”, and highly recommend buying it. An awesome gift idea, and a great way to treat yourself, while supporting Palestine and reserving its culture and cuisine.

It is worth mentioning that Kalla is expecting the release of her second ccokbook BALADI: A Celebration of Food from Land and Sea, in October 2018.

May 28 2018

Apraxia of Speech: The Struggle To Get Timely Diagnosis

I’ve recently learnt, that May is Apraxia Awareness Month.
For those of you who are not familiar with the term, Apraxia of Speech (AOS) is an uncommon neurological disorder that affects the brain pathways involved in planning the sequence of movements involved in producing speech. The brain knows what it wants to say, but cannot properly plan and sequence the required speech sound movements.
[source: National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)].
It could be congenital or acquired and could affect children as well as adults. It’s also known as Verbal Apraxia, Verbal Dyspraxia, Developmental Apraxia and Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS) when present in children.
—> More info can be found here: Apraxia Kids, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), 

When I started investigating my younger son’s speech delay, I did a lot of research and my research led me to suspect that my son could be suffering from CAS, but neither our family physician nor our pediatrician would help me with the diagnosis, saying that a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) would be the person to diagnose Apraxia… But as it turns out, of all the provinces in Canada, the one I live in, Ontario, restricts speech language pathologists from communicating the diagnosis of CAS. (Yep, and the doctors I’ve been to weren’t even aware of this fact).
I’m not sure if there is any other Canadian province that limits the SLP’s authority as is the case in Ontario, but as far as I know (and please enlighten me if I’m wrong), it seems like Ontario is the only one. Continue reading

March 25 2018

تبّا لكم، اتركوها ترحل بسلام

لن أدّعي أنّي من متابعي ريم بنّا منذ بداياتها، فقد تعرّفت عليها منذ بضع سنوات فقط وبمحض الصدفة، عندما قامت إحدى صديقاتي على الفيسبوك بمشاركة أغنية لها، وعلى الفور أُعجبت بهذه الفنانة، أعجبت بصوتها وأدائها وشغفها الواضح في كل أغنية تغنيها.
بدأت أقرأ عنها وأبحث عن أخبارها، وكلّما تعرّفت عليها أكثر، زاد إعجابي بها أكثر فأكثر، فانضممت لمتابعيها وسرعان ما تحوّل إعجابي بها كفنانة ملتزمة إلى انبهار بها كامرأة صاحبة قضية، وكشخصية  قوية ثائرة عنيدة وصرت أنتظر بفارغ الصبر ما ستكتبه كل يوم.
بعد فترة وجيزة ذهلت عندما رأيت صورها وهي حليقة الرأس تملأ شبكات التواصل الاجتماعي، فعرفت أنّ هذه الريم البريئة الجميلة التي لا تغيب الابتسامة عن وجهها، تخوض حربا ضروس مع أشرس الأمراض، مرض السرطان.
ومع أنّ السرطان منعها من الغناء لفترة، فهو لم يمنعها من الاستمرار في العطاء، فأبت أن تكون فريسة ضعيفة للمرض وآثرت أن تكون مصدر إلهام وأمل لآلاف المرضى، واستمرّت في مسيرتها كناشطة في حقوق الإنسان وحقوق المرأة، واستمرت في نضالها لشعب فلسطين، حاملة رسالة وطنها وقضيته في كل عمل تعمله وفي كل كلمة تكتبها أو صورة تنشرها.

مع كل أسف، كانت رحلتها في هذه الدنيا قصيرة، لكنها في هذه الرحلة القصيرة أنجزت الكثير، وحققت العديد من الانتصارات على العديد من المستويات وفي العديد من المجالات.
ومع كل هذا ومع أنّها عانت الكثير في حياتها، فلم يرحمها أشباه البشر بعد رحيلها، ولست أصدّق لهذه اللحظة ما يتجرّأ العديد على كتابته عن هكذا شخصية، لا أدري هل هو جهل أو غيرة، حمق أو لؤم، غباء أم شر، ما أعلمه أنّها ناضلت على طريقتها، فحاربت الاستعمار بصوتها، ونشرت الوعي بالقضية الفلسطينية على نطاق عالمي بموسيقاها، وزرعت الأمل في نفس كل مريض ومريضة بكلماتها الصادقة المؤثرة، فماذا فعلتم أنتم؟ ما هي إنجازاتكم؟ كيف حاربتم الاستعمار؟ بغيبتكم ونميمتكم على شبكات التواصل الاجتماعي؟ أم بسمومكم التي تبثوها بين أبناء شعوبكم وكرهكم الذي تغذوه في كل كلمة تنشروها؟
من أنتم لتحللوا وتحرّموا رحمة الله على عباده؟ من أنتم لتقيّموا حياة إنسانة فريدة من نوعها مثل ريم بنّا؟
إن لم يعجبكم تغريدها، فعل تعتقدون أنّ جعيركم يعجبنا؟ إن كان أسلوب نضالها لا يوافق ذوقكم، فلتناضلوا كما يحلوا لكم يا جبناء بدل الاختباء وراء شاشاتكم، ولكن اعلموا أنّ حبّها للحياة وتفاؤلها أقوى من خبثكم وترويجكم للكره والموت، وأنّ نضالها الذي تنتقدوه جعلها رمزا جميلا لفلسطين رغم أنوفكم التي تدسّوها فيما لا يعنيكم، وأنّها يكفيها شرفا أنّ رسالتها كانت نشر الحب والسلام  حتى وهي تواجه الموت، أمّا أنتم، فأنتم وأمراضكم النفسية  وحقدكم هو السرطان نفسه.

بين احتلال ظالم ومرض لا يرحم، لم تنعم ريم بنّا بالسلام يوما في حياتها، فاتركوها ترحل بسلام.
ريم، سنشتاق لفنجان القهوة الذي كنت تشاركينا إياه من شرفتك في فلسطين، سنشتاق للورود التي كنتي تنشري عبيرها في صور بسيطة التقطتها لترسمي البسمة على وجوهنا، سنشتاق لابتسامتك، لوجهك، لصوتك، لروحك الحرّة الجميلة الثائرة… ريم بنّا،  لروحك السلام!

ريم بنا

شُيعت الفنانة الفلسطينية ريم بنا بالعلم الفلسطيني في مدينة الناصرة في فلسطين المحتلة. ريم قاومت سرطان الاحتلال لبلدها واحتلال السرطان لجسدها#ريم_بناRim Banna

Posted by ‎عربي +AJ‎ on Saturday, March 24, 2018

January 5 2018

Arkan, Our Brave Warrior

Three years ago we were blessed with the birth of our long-awaited second child; our handsome, smart and very charismatic baby boy Arkan.

As expected, having an eight year age gap between him and his brother Adam wasn’t the easiest ride, mainly the two not having much in common, each belonging to a different world of interests. So although they actually love being around each other, they don’t really play together that much.
One would be reading, while the other watches cartoons, one would be writing his homework, while the other scribbles all over the walls, one would be singing, while the other screams his lungs out; but they still managed to find a few things they actually enjoy doing together. They love playing hide and seek, having foam sword fights, and of course, they like playing video games together. But I must say, the one thing they enjoy the most is wrestling! Yep, you read that right, they do wrestle, a LOT, and don’t be fooled by Arkan’s little body and young age, he has one hell of a headlock that even mom & dad find hard to escape from.

What I’m trying to say I guess, is although we would’ve loved to see our sons having more in common, spending more quality time together and not just around each other, and although our experience might not be an ideal one to many, but to us, it is definitely a very exciting and a very rewarding one, despite all challenges that make it overwhelming at times, and looking at the bright side, the best part about such an age gap for us as parents is not having to deal with siblings’ jealousy or rivalry… almost! 😉

And as my baby boy grew, so did his struggle… and ours.
See, Arkan was hitting all milestones he was supposed to, until the age of 8 months, that’s when he started showing difficulties in feeding. I started talking to doctors about my concerns, but was asked to be patient and wait.
With every passing day, his feeding would regress, and on top of that, he started showing signs of speech delay. Then the problems kept adding up: balance problems, being in pain most of the time, having mood swings and getting really cranky and not being able to express himself in words.
To make a long story short, my son’s situation was worsening by the day, and all my trips to doctors were in vain. I was considered an over-protective paranoid mom, and was constantly asked to be patient and wait it out… because my son looked “perfectly healthy”.
But I didn’t wait, and I’m glad I didn’t, I felt something was off, so I followed my gut, put my life on hold and started educating myself in every aspect of child development; I read, researched, investigated here and there, I consulted a number of physicians, I had my son assessed _physically & developmentally_ by every specialist you could think of,  and every time I’d get a diagnosis, I would go and read about it, if I felt the diagnosis didn’t fit my son’s condition, I’d simply ignore it and keep looking.

I kept doing this, until finally, last summer _yeah, it took me two whole years to get the right help_  August 22nd, 2017, we got a proper diagnosis for my son’s condition. That day I realized that all my son’s tantrums were not those of the terrible twos, but those related to pain and frustration caused by: Chiari Type I Malformation, a congenital structural defect in the base of the skull and cerebellum that causes a brain herniation, where part of the brain (cerebellar tonsils) descends into the spinal area.
Many refer to it as a rare condition, but it’s not actually (about 1 in every thousand people have it), it’s just hard to diagnose, and is commonly misdiagnosed as migraines in adults.

In October, Arkan had a brain decompression surgery (not just a bone decompression, but also a duraplasty and the whole nine yards really) it was a nightmare to make the decision whether or not to operate on him, given the risks and his young age, but we made our decision after extensive research and consulting, and we pray to God every day that we made the right choice.

We were told that it’d take an average of 6 months for any significant improvement to show.
It’s been only two months since the surgery, we had a few set backs, unfortunately, but his health is now stable, thank God.
As for any significant improvements in his preoperative symptoms, there aren’t any yet, except for the fact that he seems to be in a lot less pain.
Till today, he’s still struggling with feeding, and he’s still completely non-verbal.
And as hard as it is, we’re trying to be as patient and as optimistic as possible.
We’ll never give up hope, and we’ll keep supporting him every way possible, and we’ll do all we could to hear his voice and see him devouring one of his favorite meals as kids his age do.

We love you our little Chiarian, our strong brave warrior, Arkan.

 

P.s. For more info. about Chiari Malformations, also check Conquer Chiari.

 

 

January 3 2018

“يوم لك ويوم عليك”

وأخيراً انتهت سنة 2017 ، أسوأ سنوات حياتي على الإطلاق.

سنة كانت أشبه بكابوس، جعلتني أعيد التفكير في كل جوانب حياتي. فيها تعلّمت المعنى الحقيقي للإرادة والإصرار، فيها عرفت معادن الناس من حولي (للأسف أغلبها طلع مصدّي).
علّمتني 2017 أن العديد من الناس التي كنت أعتقد أنها متفتّحة و خلوقة هي أبعد ما تكون عن ذلك، وأن كل ما تحتاجه هو إختلاف صغير في الرأي، إنتقاد بسيط، لترى الناس على حقيقتها، ولتكتشف أن الاختلاف في الرأي يفسد للود ألف قضية.
سنة قررت فيها أن أعيد ترتيب أولوياتي، وأن لا أضيع وقتي ومجهودي على أناس لا تستحق، همّها الوحيد الاستغلال. قرّرت أن لا أكترث لأي شيء، تعبت من زيف الناس، تعبت من لعبة التظاهر التي باتت هي سبر العلاقات.

أعرف العديد من الناس الذين مرّوا بظروف أصعب بكثير من ظروفي في السنة الفائتة، أشخاص تعبوا وعملوا بكل إجتهاد، ولكن لم يحالفهم الحظ في تحقيق الحد الأدنى مما يطمحون إليه، يرون غيرهم يصل لكل ما يريد، إما بإستحقاق أو بدون أي تعب، فتثبط عزيمتهم ويشعرون باليأس و الإحباط، ولكن علينا جميعاً أن نتّفق أن سنوات حياتنا متقلّبة، منها الجميل ومنها السيئ، وأنّ معادلة السعادة  التي كنّا _ولازلنا_ نتلقّنها ليست دقيقة ولا واقعية 100% .
فلطالما ردّدنا أنّ “من جدّ وجد”، وأنّ “من طلب العلا سهر الليالي”…حتى بيت الشعر الشهير :”ما كل ما يتمنى المرء يدركه ..تجري الرياح بما لا تشتهي السفنُ” صار في نظر الناس اليوم سلبياً مرادفاً للانهزام والتّهاون، مع  أنه أكثر ما تعلّمنا واقعية، فهو لا يدعو للانهزام كما يعتقد الكثير، بل يدعو للرضا وتقبّل الواقع، أهم بندين لمواجهة العقبات وتخطّيها، وبدأ الناس يتسابقون في نشر الأبيات التالية كبديل:
” تجري الرياح كما تجري سفينتنا ..
نحن الرياح و نحن البحر و السفن ُ
إن الذي يرتجي شيئاً بهمّتهِ ..
يلقاهُ لو حاربَتْهُ الانسُ والجنُ ..
ُّفاقصد الى قمم الاشياءِ تدركها
تجري الرياح كما رادت لها السفنُ”

التي لا أتفق معها شخصياً، مع أنني أحب الهدف منها: تشجيع الناس وإقناعهم أنهم الوحيدون الذين يصنعون واقعهم، ولكنه كلام غير دقيق، ومحبط لكل من يعمل ويجد دون أن يلقى أي نتيجه، والسبب أن هذه الأبيات تلغي إرادة الله، لا مكان فيها للحظ والتوفيق ولا إعتبار لما ليس للإنسان أي سيطرة عليه.
التركيز كان ولايزال على الجهد الذي نبذله وعلى ثقتنا بنفسنا وقدراتنا، ولا يمكن التقليل من أهمية هذه الأشياء، ولكن هناك العديد من الأمور التي هي خارج نطاق سيطرتنا، أمور تقلب موازين حياتنا وتزلزل كياننا: المرض والموت، الحروب والكوارث الطبيعية، غدر الناس…

 لا تكتمل معادلة السعادة  بالعمل وحده، ولا بالثقة بالنفس وحدها، ولا بالحظ وحده، بل تحتاج لهم كلّهم لتكتمل، تحتاج للتفاؤل والإيجابية، تحتاج للثقة بالله قبل الثقة بالنفس، تحتاج لتقبّل الواقع ومعاندته في آن واحد، تحتاج لأن نتطلع لغد أفضل وأيام أجمل وسنوات أحلى.
فلا تلقوا باللوم على أنفسكم إن قمتم بالمستحيل ولم تنجحوا، لا تحزنوا و لا تيأسوا من مخطّطات لم تكتمل أو قرارات لم تنفّذ، واصلوا العمل بجدّ وتفاءلوا، و كونوا على يقين، أنّ عدم تحقيق ما نطمح إليه ليس هزيمة، بل عثرة مؤقتة، تقوّينا وتشجّعنا على المثابرة.

مع كل الصفعات التي تلقيتها في 2017، لازلت شاكرة ممتنّة لكل ما وهبني الله، لا زلت أرى وأقدّر النّعم العديدة التي أنعم بها علي، وبدل أن أنكسر أصبحت أكثر عناداً وأشد إصراراً على الوقوف بشموخ، أقوى وأثبت من كل السنين التي مرّت.

أتمنى لكم جميعاً سنة أسعد وأحلى وأجمل من التي سبقتها، وأن يمنّ الله عليكم بحياة مديدة ملؤها الخير والصحة وسعة الرزق والحظ الوفير و الأصدقاء الأوفياء … سنة سلام وحرّيّة وعدل.
ورغم كل شيء تفاءلوا، تفاءلوا بالخير، تجدوه بإذن الله.

May 14 2017

“وبالوالدين إحساناً”

قبل بضعة أيام شارك أخ عزيز فيديو مؤثر جداً  على صفحة الفيسبوك  الخاصة به، وهو عن إمرأة أجنبية تخلت عن حياتها لتتفرغ لرعاية أمها المسنة، ومهما كتبت، لن أستطيع أن أفي هذه المرأة حقها ولن أستطيع أن أصف ما شعرت به وأنا أشاهد الفيديو لأنه أرجعني إلى ليلة حزينة، ولكن قبل أن أقص عليكم حكاية هذه الليلة، أود أن تشاهدوا الفيديو أولاً:

"I have given up my life to care for my mum" – A daughter's moving story about looking after her mother.(via Victoria Derbyshire)

Posted by BBC Family & Education News on Saturday, April 29, 2017

كانت الساعة الواحدة بعد منتصف الليل، وكان المستشفى هادئاً جداً، لا تسمع فيه إلا وقع خطوات الممرضات والأطباء المناوبين. كانت أمي نائمة بعد أن أخذت كماً هائلاً من الأدوية، كنت أقرأ كتاباً وأشرب القهوة لتساعدني على السهر، وفي كل هذا الهدوء لم أسمع سوى أنين المريضة التي تشارك أمي الغرفة. أنين متواصل، دون توقف، ثم شخير، يليه أنين، ثم شخير. ساد بعدها الهدوء وبدأت أشعر بالنعاس، وإذ بالمرأة فجأةً تصرخ: “أشهد أن لا إله إلا الله، وأشهد أن محمداً رسول الله”…  كانت اللكنة أبعد ما تكون عن العربية، وكان صوت المرأة المرتعش الخائف المستنجد هو ما دفعني لرفع الستار بيني وبينها في تلك الليلة. كل مافكرت فيه عندها أنها تنازع، تموت، وأن من القسوة والظلم أن لا تجد إنساناً واحداً يشاركها آخر لحظات حياتها. فما كان مني إلا أن ضغطت على زر الطوارئ ووقفت إلى جانبها وأمسكت يديها المتعرقتين، كانت تهذي من إرتفاع درجة الحرارة، ولا أعرف ماذا حصل ولكنها توقفت عن الأنين والارتجاف للحظة وبدأت تتأمل وجهي ثم رتبت على شعري، وابتسمت، فعلمت أنها ظنت أني شخص تعرفه، وتأكد شكي عندما بدأت تكلمني بلغتها التي لا أفهم منها شيئاً.
وهي تكلمني كنت أنا أتأمل تجاعيد وجهها، عينيها الزرقاوين الواسعتين، خصلات هربت من تحت منديل يغطي شعرها الأبيض المجعد الطويل… كم أنت جميلة أيتها العجوز!
جاءت الممرضات وسيطروا على وضعها. سألت إحداهم عنها فقالوا لي أن ليس لها أحد و أنها ككثير غيرها جاءت برفقة أحد أفراد عائلتها لإدخالها للمستشفى و بعدها لم يسأل عنها أحد. يتصل بهم المستشفى ولا يجاوبوا و كأنهم إختفوا عن وجه الأرض. شرحت لي أن العديد يلجأ لهذه الطريقة للتخلص من ذويهم بأقل خسائر مادية، بدل تكلفة دار المسنين.
أحسست بقلبي ينفطر، هذه العجوز المسكينة تنام وتقوم في نفس الركن لمدة أشهر، وهي في آخر أيامها، ستموت دون أن تتذوق أكلة تشتهيها، ستموت دون أن تسمع لغتها، دون أن ترى عائلتها، ستموت وحيدة. ما أقسى هذه الحياة.

المستشفى لا يسمح بمشاركة معلومات المرضى، فأخذت بطاقة كانت موجودة على طبق غذائها، وعرفت اسمها، وأنها تبلغ من العمر 93 عاماً وعرفت لغتها. فبحثت عن ممرضة تحكي لغتها وترجمتلي ما قالت السيدة خديجة، وأنها باتت عبء على عائلتها الذين استغلوا مرضها يوماً ليدخلوها إلى المستشفى ويتركوها فيه إلى أن تموت. سألت إذا كان بإمكاني الاتصال بهم أو بعنوانهم فأخبرتني أنهم غيروا مكان سكنهم وكل أرقام هواتفهم. سألت إذا كانت تشتهي شيئاً فحضنتني وطبعت قبلةً على وجهي  وطلبت شاياً بالحليب والتوابل. فجلبت لها ما طلبت. وحاولت الاعتناء بها قدر المستطاع ولكن كان قلبي لا يحتمل دموعها وأنينها ووحدتها. كم تمنيت أن أعثر على عائلتها وأبرحهم ضرباً، فرداً فرداً، كم تمنيت لو أني أعرف لغتها، لو كنت ممرضة…

دوماً أفكر بمن يستغلوا آباءهم في الغربة ليقبضوا ضرائب من الحكومة تعينهم على الاعتناء بذويهم، ولكنهم يصرفوها على منفعة أنفسهم ويهملوا أهاليهم شر إهمال. كم من عربي ومسلم يرمي أهله بهذه الطريقة، ولو كانت هناك عوائق مادية أو كان المسن بحاجة لرعاية على مدار الساعة، فهل يعني هذا أن لا يتسع الوقت لزيارتهم حتى؟ كيف يسمح لنا ضميرنا برمي من اعتنوا بنا حتى كبرنا ووقفنا على قدمينا؟ كيف نستطيع أن نتنازع من منا الأنسب لرعاية أهلنا لنتهرب من المسؤولية؟ كيف نستطيع خلق آلاف المبررات لرميهم براحة ضمير عجيبة؟

الأبناء إما ملائكة رحمة أو وحوش كاسرة . أتمنى أن نرجع لعاداتنا الجميلة وأن نخاف الله في تعاملنا مع المسنين، فيوماً ما سنكون نحن مكانهم  وكما تدين تدان!