Day 12: 2 = 7 + 17 + 31

Guest blogger: Dr. Khala
Since Salma started the 30 days 30 deeds blog last year and the things we are grateful for this Ramadan, I have been thinking a lot about good deeds and gratitude.  The most obvious thing that comes to mind is our children and grand children. What good deeds did we do to have such amazing children, children -in-law and grand children, for whom we are so very grateful. They are smart, kind, fun, and supportive of each other.  They are doing great things in medicine, law, technology, journalism, business, sports, non profit and humanitarian causes. Each in their own way giving back and moving forward. It’s a great feeling for me to be able to ‘sit back relax and enjoy the flight of life’.
The recent Mateen family reunion did not go according to plan. There were deaths of two beloved members of the extended family, lightning and thunder storms, power outages, restaurant closings, flight delays, cancelled trips, and other mishaps. Nevertheless, the weekend played out the good deeds and gratitude scenario perfectly.  Certain family members opened up their home for several cousins to stay,  others got together food, contributed stories – some happy, some sad – but generally there was laughter, gratitude, and lots of hugs and kisses for the grand children who were present  — Sabine and Harris, Naba and Azraf, Sulayman and Yusuf, Jaasim and Zayn [some not present but very much in our thoughts  – Saanya and Zayd, Nameer and Jaazil, Imraan, Aleena, and Omar, Ameer and Nabeel, Zara and Ayza, Adam, Noah and Aidan and the 9 grand children in Karachi Saudi Arabia and Derby [England.]
So the Mateen family,  starting with 2 parents 7 children 17 grand children and 31 great grand children Mashaallah are thriving!  What more could we ask for — Allah ka shukr!

Day 12; Gratitude 12: the Mateen tribe

Day 11: Cars!

Guest blogger: Zayd

I am grateful for cars, because without them what could we do. Barely anything. We couldn’t go to work, we couldn’t go far distances, we couldn’t get groceries, we couldn’t go to friends’ houses, and worst of all, we couldn’t go to the toy store! See what I mean. It would be horrible. Also we couldn’t learn about eco technology. Because cars are the reason we need this technology.

But the main reason I’m grateful for cars is that without them I wouldn’t have my main source of entertainment. Since I was two years old, I’ve loved cars. I knew car symbols even before I could read.  I can still tell a BMW from a mile away by the head lights. I love going to car dealerships with my dad and test driving cars. I look forward to that every month. It is fun to learn about different models of cars and decide which one my mom or dad should get.  My favorite TV show is about cars –Top Gear. Whenever I’m bored on a long drive I look outside and name all the cars on the highway. Ok, I better get back to deciding what car my dad is getting next!

Day 11; Gratitude 11: Cars

Day 10: Every five seconds…

Sixteen hours without food certainly makes you think. But I still can’t imagine what it must feel like for people to go without food day after day after day.   We can count down the hours, the minutes, until we can eat again.  There is no such assurance for so many who face hunger all year round.

An Islamic Relief letter arrived in the mail today. It mentions an unconscionable fact: every five seconds a child dies of hunger related causes.   Every five seconds?! By the time you read this post … Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un.

The kids and I made sandwiches to distribute to three area shelters with our interfaith service group, Capital Area Interfaith Friends at the International Cultural Center. With an efficient system in place and many enthusiastic young helpers, we churned out 350 sandwiches in less than an hour.

We dropped off several trays at a local family shelter in Rockville, the little kids there so happy to see us.  A tiny drop in the bucket in this enormous hunger crisis, but as we’ve said before, every drop counts.

Day 10; Gratitude 10:  Food

Day 9: BFF

On Saturday morning at 3:45am my friend Rebecca pulled up in her red Coexist-bumpered Camry.  She wanted to try a day of fasting and was coming for suhoor — which already says a lot about this amazing woman I have the privilege of calling my best friend.

We met on a walk along the canal, introduced by a mutual friend, about five years ago.  We’ve been walking – and talking – ever since.  On our first walk I was seeking her advice on how to start a freelance writing career; she’s an accomplished writer and has written for The Washington Post and several national parenting magazines.  I told her about a piece I had written about how my family came to America. She later read it, went on and on about it in her usual gracious way, and said to send it to the Washingtonian.  I would never have had the guts to aim that high.  The day the story was published, we took a long walk to celebrate.

Rebecca started MoverMoms about six years ago to make it easy for busy families to give back to our community. She’s been at every service project ever since, hundreds and hundreds. She’s in Orlando now on vacation. I spoke to her yesterday and she’s already called area shelters to see if she can volunteer there.

In a town of egos, Rebecca’s the most humble person you’ll meet; in an age of self-indulgence, she’s all about down-to-earth compassion; in a world of ‘what’s in it for me’, she asks ‘how can I help you’.   She’s the real deal.

We ate oatmeal tossed with blueberries and raisins, and a green shake of kale and cucumber. We laughed and shared stories into the early morning – but saved our next walk for post-iftar.

Day 9; Gratitude 9: Rebecca

Day 8: Over the Rainbow

On Fridays during Ramadan, we break fast with a group of wonderful families, each bringing a dish to share, resulting in a profusion of kebabs, curries and khajoors.   While the meal is always satiating, it’s the company and conversations that replenish me the most.

Our children get a chance to meet and share in a bond that’s unique from their school friendships. The teenage girls giggle and chatter — Saanya came home saying these girls will most likely be bridesmaids at one anothers weddings. The boys play soccer, Xbox, and spy games — spying on the girls I’m sure.  The moms share stories — good reads, summer trips, trials with toddlers, teenage dramas, and the constant juggling act that eludes us all.  Mostly, it’s a chance to recharge, relax, reaffirm – and reap from the realization that we’re all in the same boat, trying to raise our kids with faith, tradition, humor and grace.

Just before we broke fast, a rainbow appeared. The kids were awestruck; we rushed out to catch a glimpse – a sign iA for a continued blessed month and for enduring friendships.

Day 8; Gratitude 8: Community

Day 7: Making Every Drop Count

My typical morning routine usually starts with a glass of water.  These days I reach for it automatically, only to catch myself.  A friend posted on Facebook how Ramadan makes us appreciate the simple every day things that we most take for granted.   Like an ice cold glass of water.   How incredible it tastes at 8:28pm.

And how easily we disregard it the rest of the year – long showers, leaving the tap on for brushing or washing dishes, knowing that we’ll always have ready access and unlimited supply.

Sixteen hours without water is long. But days without water is many people’s reality. Three times the number of people that live in the US lack access to safe water – almost one billion people.  Imagine that at 8:28 pm.

I recently came across an inspiring story. Nine-year old Rachel Beckwith wanted to do something to help some of these billion people. She asked family and friends to donate $9 for her 9th birthday to Charity: Water.  Her goal was to raise $300; she raised $220 and told her mom she’d try harder next year. A month later she died in a tragic car accident.  Thousands of people all around the world started donating to her fundraising page.  In a month, Charity: Water had raised over $1.2 million in Rachel’s honor. That money is now providing 60,000 people access to clean water in an Ethiopian village.

I’m grateful for my glass of cold water and the fridge and sink and store that make it easy for me to indulge at any time, and I’m grateful for children like Rachel who know far better than me how to make every drop count.

Day 7; Gratitude 7:  Water

Day 6: Heaven Lies Beneath Their Feet

I am grateful for the mothers in my life – my mom, and my mother-in-law, and my khalas, who love me like a daughter, and all the other mothers in my family, young and old, from whom I continue to hone my own mothering skills.

My mom is amazing, and I’ll write more about her in another post.  My mom-in-law, “Maman”, is larger than life, in the best sense of the word. She’s someone who sees magic in a cloud-filled sky, hears a symphony in a downpour, and dances to the sound of cicadas.   She’s taught me so much about living joyfully, loving unconditionally, and persevering boldly. And her special chicken sandwiches have sustained us through many a hard time.

My Khalas are wonderful, each in their unique way. I don’t know anyone kinder, more giving, or more compassionate than Dr. Khala.  I can’t remember a milestone in my life, either joyous or painful, where she hasn’t been by my side.  And I don’t dare say thank you – that would just upset her.  Bari Khala exudes a serenity and peace that makes you feel so calm and comforted and ensconced in her presence. It stems from her strong faith and her gentle disposition.  Khala Jani epitomizes determination against all odds, and a resoluteness that’s both caring and spirited.  She’s the matriarch of our sprawling DC/MD/VA clan and makes sure we’re all looked after.

We lost two beautiful mothers last month. My sister-in-law’s mother – a gentle soul with a huge heart, who would make sure everyone was well fed, even strangers in far off villages to whom she would send money without anyone ever knowing.  She knitted little sweaters and caps for both my babies, even for Saanya’s favorite doll.  And my cousin’s mother-in-law – such a graceful woman, quiet and cultured with the sweetest smile. Her son told me, “some people lead with their intelligence or their looks or their position, for me it was always my mom. She was the coolest person I knew, and the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen.”  May Allah look after them both. Ameen.

Day 6; Gratitude 6: Mothers

My Khalas and Mom

Maman and Saanya

Day 5: Luna LOVE-good

 Guest blogger: Zayd

I am grateful for Luna, our mini golden doodle, because she is the cutest most playful animal on the planet. I love everything about her – how she sits there with her paws crossed, how she wags her tail like it will fly away, those big black eyes looking at me, and when she pounces on me that’s… awesome. Whenever she is in her playful mode she comes right at me and we wrestle to the finish. She always beats me.  Ummm, wait … I mean I always beat her!  When my sister or me are feeling down she is always there to cheer us up. I love chasing her around the yard. She goes this way and that way; then she taunts me. She sits down, waits till I get almost in grabbing range, then sprints off!  When I have to lure her in with a bone, she calls it a victory, and bounds around the house a few times. I also love how curious she is. When I take her for walks she must sniff every blade of grass and every leaf till we get back home. I adore Luna, and I am so glad she is ours.

Day 5; Gratitude 5: Luna

Day 4: We are FAMILY

Guest blogger: Saanya

Family:  it may be a cliché thing to be grateful for, but it’s also a pretty simple thing to take for granted. I have an amazing immediate family but I am also blessed to be part of a huge and extraordinarily close extended family. Whether I need help with my math homework at 1:00 am, or someone to teach me baseball, or to scour through pages of Urban Outfitters online while I’m sick in bed, or to listen to me complain about school or friends, I always have a mammo, mamee, khala or khalo by my side. Baba and Choka are like my little brothers; Zoid and Ruffy are my cousins and best friends wrapped into one, no matter if they are minutes or oceans away; and my new baby cousins never fail to make me smile. My extended family is always there for me, and for that I am eternally grateful.

Day 4; Gratitude 4:  Family

Day 3: Mighty Woman with a Torch

We traveled to NY/NJ this weekend to show Saanya’s visiting host-sister from Spain a glimpse of the Big Apple and to try to convince my parents to drive back to DC with us for Ramadan.

We spent the day at the Statue of Liberty. I hadn’t seen her up close since I was a child, and she held a whole new meaning for me.  To think of all the millions of people from all the distant lands whose deepest desires she holds tight against her chest, stretching one arm high to provide encouragement and strength.

My family’s port of entry to the American dream was not NY harbor but JFK airport.  I was seven, my brother nine, when we arrived in this country, leaving behind our family, our home and any sense of belonging.  “Where you wanna’ go”, the airport cabbie shouted at my father, as he tossed our suitcases in the trunk.  “Take us to a neighborhood that you think would be suitable for my family,” my father said. And so the journey began, almost 40 years ago. (Our full story here: Pakistan on the Potomac)

I thank God for the opportunities this country has provided my family, myself, and my children, the most profound of which is the possibility to dream our destiny, and then set out to make it happen.

As we stood in line, parched and hot, inching our way closer, with hundreds of others all speaking different tongues, to add our own whisper of thanks to this ‘mighty woman with a torch’, an old bearded homeless man crouched on the sidewalk was playing a sonorous ‘Star Spangled Banner’ on his flute — a poignant reminder that the promise has not been kept for all.

Day 3; Gratitude 3: Opportunity