Posts Tagged ‘humor


So who is it gonna be?

My daughters and my husband have a very special relationship. For each one of their births he was there to say “Marhaba” and whisper the Shahadah like he had done for his son. But the girls added another texture to his life. These were daddy’s girls. And boy did they wrap him around their tiny pinkies early on.  

Oh, don’t get me wrong- there have been a few door slamming sessions! Some “go to you room”, and the Yemeni silent treatment accompanied by the stare that says “now would be a good time for you to disappear”. You know, “Your lucky I love you so much, because right now I’m not liking you one bit” kind of moment…  

But on the whole they have great days. Always teasing each other, tickling, and general horsing around with lots of hugs and kisses. Today as I was sitting at the computer linked to my office, I hear them laughing hysterically in another room down the hall. A few mock screams of horror punctuating the words too far and too low to hear.  

They’re at it again, I think…  Another set of squeals, “Dad, you can’t be serious!”, “What? It’s perfectly acceptable!”  

A few minutes later they all barge into the room with another laptop in hand. They place it next to mine and point, “So! Who is it gonna be?”  


“Mom, we were hunting for the ideal men in our lives. Dad had some ideas of his own. So now you have to pick who is it gonna be!”  

I blink a few times before I dare look… I am staring at few rows of pictures…I take a deep breath about to answer…  

“Choose well ya habibti”. I don’t like that tone…  

I look again at the pictures. Look up at the expectant faces. Gauge the height of the floor to ceiling. The length of the desk to the door. Can I make it out the window? Nah, hijab will get caught on something – hung by indecision! I can’t breathe…  

Safest thing is to keep looking at the pictures. I strike a pensive pose. “Well let’s see…the prospects are – er, em, well interesting. And it all depends on where you are in you life at that moment.” Bull, I’m stalling…”I mean, every thing really…well is in the eye of the beholder.”  

“Yeah, yeah mom! We know all that! Just tell us who is it gonna be?”  

“Choose wisely habibti”… I still don’t like the tone of that…I’ve heard it before somewhere and the memory of it…well let’s not go there. Another deep breath…here we go…  

“Well since I’m suppose to be so “all American”, I think it best to Plead the Five on this one.” Chicken!!!  

So there you have it ladies and gentlemen…Who would you pick? Go ahead you’re all safe…Choose…  

Then I can always blame on it you!  

The nominees are…  

Victim # 1


Victim # 2


Victim # 3


Victim #4


Victim # 5


Victim # 6


Victim # 7


Victim # 8


Victim # 9


Victim # 10


Victim # 11


Victim # 12


Victim # 13


Victim # 14


Victim # 15


Victim # 16


Listen, listen, listen…

A while back my husband had made a trip to Yemen. Every night I would call him using those very economical phone cards. They may be economical, but calling Yemen sometimes is a hit or miss ordeal. In this case, the phones were behaving, and I got through without a hitch. My husband was in his usual midnight insomnia mode, so he was relaxing as best he could hearing music.

We talked and laughed over the day’s occurrences, here and in Yemen. I had an early day the next day, so we kept the conversation to a half hour. My husband and I, Alhamdulillah, can talk for hours and hours. We always have something to say to each other…its never ending.

I hang up.

A about an hour later as I am getting comfortable and ready to cross over to the other blissful side, the phone rings. It’s my husband.

“Listen, listen, listen…”

I hear him click what sounded like the old tape player we have in our bedroom back home. I wait for the music to play.

On the other end comes this very drunk like sounding Najwa Karam singing, “Ismak bi Sharifni“. I could almost see the tape winding in uncoordinated whirl. I start laughing uncontrollably!

“Kiiiiffff??” My husband’s astonished voice questions the uncooperative player, with a string of Yemeni highland curses!

“Ya rohi! Leave Najwa for another time, I think she’s had enough for today…” Laughingly we both said good bye again.

I settle back into bed and pull the covers.

The phone rings again.

“Listen, listen, listen…”

I sighed with a smile. Najwa Karam was going to sing me “Ismak bi Sharifni“, if it killed her that night!


Which phone?

Phones, mobile or land lines, they are what our lives are made of lately. Got a smart phone- a Droid, or iPhone, maybe a BlackBerry? Remember when…those days you could actually get off the phone and stay off? Ever have the phone taken off the jack and locked away in a closet, just to curb your talking?

Nowadays, we not only yap all day long; we keep our lives in a phone. The schedules, the music, the reminders, the groceries lists always make it into mine! My husband and I have an extra appendage called the text beeper that the hospitals we work for supply us with. At one point I saw my husband in scrubs looking like a cowboy from the wild west. Around his waist was his blackberry, his text beeper, the on-call beeper, and a small digital camera they use to take pictures of surgical procedures, with stethoscope rounding out the now very low riding scrub pants in his back pocket. “Armed and ready, huh?”

Our household is mobile with mobile phones. The land line phone at home was disconnected, we never made use of it. We leave, our phones go with us. Caesar is smart but he can’t maneuver a phone!

My husband the other day had me in stitches. He had called one of his brothers, a normal occurrence. First he dialed one number, then another, then a third, and a fourth. On the fifth phone he finally caught up with his brother.

“Can you tell me how many phones you have? I think I’ve called half of Yemen trying to reach you!” This is younger brother calling an older one, by the way.

“What you mean how many do I have? The usual…”

“You usually have five phones?!”

“Well I have to talk with different people you know.”

“So instead of different ring tones, you have different phones!”



we’re going Swiss

Recently my husband and I duked it out in the bedroom. For hours we plummeted the pillows into some semblance of comfort, tugged mercilessly at the comforter, and cursed every coiled spring in our mattress! I even took out the body pillows we use when one of us is sick and needs some added cuddle. Those got repositioned every-which-way, then one got tossed to the floor, ‘they’re useless’!

To make matters worse insomnia seems to amplify every single sound. The faucet doing chinese torture on the aluminum sink, one freaking drop at a time! The car outside that just had to clear its pipes as the alarm blared to kingdom come. The late dog walker with a mutt that can’t tell night from day, barking at any license plate! The kids someone forgot to give a curfew. The couple that walked and yelled at each other in a synchronized rhythm. The ambulance picking up the twilighting, elderly woman hollering at the top of her voice her preference of hospitals. The cars that continuously kept hitting the pot hole our tax-payer money won’t fix! The old wood floors that believe themselves to be nightingale Japanese versions creaking at the slightest breath. The fridge humming away white noise on a clocked schedule. The door slamming of a disgruntled being shaking all the others in proximity…

At one point my husband staring at the ceiling and speaking to no one in particular states, ‘we are going Swiss’. I’m in the middle of getting back into bed after the umpteenth trip to the bathroom.

I stop, ‘I beg your pardon’?

‘We are going Swiss’. And what’s that suppose to mean, I ask myself ready to do another round with my pillow.

‘We are going Swiss tomorrow’. Ah, we’re qualifying the statement, he’s making progress. I pull at the comforter, the damn thing is king size- when did it shrink?

‘Yep, we are going Swiss tomorrow, if it’s the last thing I do’! We’re getting there, give him some room.

‘Yep, we’re going Swiss tomorrow, if it’s the last thing I do. I’m calling that Tempr Pedic company and ordering a “memory” mattress’!

I stare up at the ceiling. Eureka! Alhamdullilah! My husband has discovered America- Christopher Columbus would be proud…I settle in the comforting knowledge that relief is on the way.

‘Yes dear’. It only took you a quarter of century and a farewell to a millennium to come to your senses!

Morpheus, I’m here awaiting your arms… ah… blissful sleep with a knowing smile of having won the battle…


so…do you dance?

So…today as I’m on the train after two doctor appointments; I plug into my iTouch and listen to what I call my commuter favorites (below I give a listing so you get an idea of what flows through my mind as I hear the songs). What came to mind was our dancing lessons (my husband and I) through out the years- as I was exposed to Yemeni music and he to my very eclectic collection.

It all really started at our wedding (seems eons ago but so fresh in my mind)- and like most Muslim weddings- segregated events and bantering to the laughs of guests but to the discomfort of bride and groom (sometimes bawdy in nature)! Well, you may know that many foreign-born Muslims here in the USA have a tendency of saying how ‘haram’ music is, dancing in public, and all that- but in their home countries they have rich collections of music of all genre and for all events- go figure! So, of course, you come in baffling contact with this almost schizophrenic mentality of a convert- not sure of what to make of your life surrounded by such pious people, only to encounter, when you travel to their home countries, what a load of crap some pronouncements really are!

My wedding was an eye opener into Yemeni culture. I found that there were special songs, poems, and a very Yemeni version of stanza ‘out doing’ that can only be described as sword play with words- cutting even- depending on who the recipients are. Steven C. Caton has a book called ‘Peaks of Yemen I Summon’ that is a literary journey through ‘Poetry as Cultural practice’ describing the balah and zamil, as well as other forms. My husband, as Americanized as he is, is still considered by his tribe as a sha’ir (poet) who can create verse “min ras-ah” (off the top of his head) and a great mediator for his tribe, albeit from afar (can’t tell you how many midnights calls have come in from home needing his intervention) because he is sharaf (honorable)wa gabili (and a man of his word) and because ‘kull(a) had yishti yi’tamid kala nafs-ah (everyone wants to rely on himself). You can take the Yemeni out of Yemen, but you can’t take Yemen out of the Yemeni!

women dancing

The women at my wedding sang the traditional songs of the bride that leaves her home, of the anguish of being in a new household, of that first night, etc., in the same balah and zamil format. Many of these songs are accompanied by dances that look very familiar to the song and dances of India during the pre-wedding parties traditional Sangits that my husband would enjoy so much when colleagues would invite us to join in celebration with Banghra music that husband and son both enjoy tremendously. I some times think they must have been Punjabi in a previous life!!!

Some songs were accompanied by drums; and other make shift instruments from gourd, empty containers of plastic and cans (very inventive)- and most every woman participated especially the married ones. My mother-in-law danced a song of welcome to her new daughter similar to the male balah version of father with his son. As is tradition I was asked to join her mid song and dance to represent my acceptance of my duties within the household. The steps were simple enough for me to follow, so I had blast! LOL

Then came the zamil- verbal sword play stanzas, where one would “make a statement”, in this case about the bride, though it can be, and is used for debates and political encounters; and around the room the participants would try to out do the previous stanza. They had me in tears of laughter, since I was not the ‘virginal’ bride (I had been briefly married before) and they could “let it rip”! From great-grandmother down the line, everyone that was married got a stab at it. Then came the younger set to dance and sing songs to remind the bride what she would be missing as she stepped away from girlhood. My sister-in-laws are great dancers, so they showed their stuff,  but no hair tossing like in the Khaleeji area or Saudi. They actually brought tears of sadness because indeed I was putting my independence aside and being cuddled by maternal and paternal family.

The same was happening in another area for the men- with their sword dances, poems and verbal sword play. I got to see the pictures and movies- but of course there were no pictures or videos from the women’s side. That is all written in my journals for later recollection and reminiscing.

So during the 30 day honeymoon- I was not allowed to do anything that would fade the henna and nakash (black henna that in Yemen is mixed with a particular salt that with repeated use can become permanent or close enough) with intricate designs on my hands, arms, back, and legs. Shower was the only thing I could do. It was like in many cultures that use bridal henna, to prolong the deep colors that meant how much and for how long my husband would love me and how much my new family wanted to or did accept me.

It was during this time that the question came up between my husband and I – ‘so…do you dance?’

I learned with my husband some traditional dances, I taught my husband dances from Jordan and most of the Levant region, but what would cause the most hilarious moments were when I started teaching my husband how to dance merengue, salsa, cumbia, boleros, tango, and samba! He was a quick study for sure- I had with me tape recordings (at that time it was vinyl and tape for you youngins) to accompany our steps. He would swoon at the boleros, sort of hyperventilate on the samba and cumbia; and see the beautiful dance lines of the traditional Trujillo-Military style ‘merengue’ (Dominicans know your social status by how little your upper body moves while dancing merengue- the less the better), salsa, and tango. The latter would thrill my husband when we saw ‘Forever Tango’ on Broadway.

The songs we danced to, were etched in our minds forever. In later years they would become the ring tones on our mobile phones. And the food for conversation, debate topics, and teaching opportunities for our kids.

Thank God my husband was not double left footed- or as they say in Spanish, ‘no lo saltaron cuando chico’ meaning you weren’t shook to the beat of music when you were little. Me, I was taught to dance just about everything from both parents while they were still married and by the countless aunts and uncles as they traveled back and forth. So I had a good handle on rhythm and steps. My son to this day says ‘I’m tinkle toes’ because it seems my feet don’t touch the floor as I dance. And he is always proud to say that I can dance salsa with sari and stiletto heels! Picture that!

So today these were the favorites I heard: Ricardo Arjona the very interesting writer/singer who has metaphors down pat- ‘Si el Norte fuera Sur’, ‘El y Ella’ (which my husband has as my ring tone)- singing from social protest to ballads and danceable music (got himself in a heap of trouble right after 911 for one of his songs- but he’s made out of Teflon). Tito Rodriguez and his ‘Inolvidable’ voice and my husband’s favorite -don’t know if its because I can sing it acapella or because of the words of shared sorrow in ‘A mi me pasa lo mismo que a usted’- the voice that would be the cause of Tito’s death. The ever popular Juan Luis Guerra with his ‘440’ band. His equally metaphorical use of ideas in his ballads, boleros, bachatas, and merengues: like his very international ‘Guavaberry’, ‘La Bilirubina’, ‘Burbujas de Amor, ‘Que Llueva Cafe’, and ‘Como Aveja al Panal’ about old fashion courtship in Dominican villages.

Bachata would be something my son would introduce into our repertoire in the last few years- contagious enough that even my boss has an enviable collection (courtesy of my son) that he blasts when he is working with intensity or driving. The man is Jewish!

There’s Brazil 66 with Sergio Mendes’ ‘Mais Que Nada’ and ‘Usted Abuso’ all in Portuguese- plus the now ever popular ‘Capeira Do Brasil’ (don’t know who sings it)that you’d have to be dead to not want to dance to it! The english songs of Michael Buble with his rendition of ‘Sway’, ‘I’m your man’, ‘Home’ -and my ring tone for my husband: ‘Everything’.

The oldies but goodies – Marvin Gaye (the first go around), the Supremes, the Fifth Dimension with the popular ‘One less…’ and ‘Last Night- I didn’t get to sleep’, Motown favorites like ‘Tears of a Clown’, ‘Love on a Two way Street’, and ‘Uptight, Out of sight’; Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac and who can forget Robert Flack with ‘Killing me Softly’? Finished off with the newer pop songs of Shakira, Cristina Aguilera with ‘Hurt’ that when my daughter and her friend Nadia sing it- it brings tears to my eyes- those girls have some set of pipes! Boyz 2 men, Faith Evans, U be 40 (if you like jazz), Alejandro Sanz, Savage Garden, Paul Simon, John Mayer, my two favorite Italians -Eros Ramazotti and Andrea Bocelli.

Plus my arab favorites- Abu Bakr Salem with ‘Ya Dunya’ in his deep voice using a mixture of Yemeni and Khaleeji rhythms, Mohammed Abdu, Fairouz, Najwa Karam, and Fares Karam. The classical music -that would fill another three pages! But you get the idea. Its Vivaldi and his ‘Four Seasons’ when I’m on a dead line; and the Brandenburg Conciertos and Yo-Yo Ma with his special cello (uses real gut not synthetics) when on a good pace or mood.

All of these songs and music fill my mind as I travel or work; creating a shock absorbing barrier to New York life on the run. Its a reminder of the universality of music and the memories of shared and hilarious moments with my husband and kids. My son still can’t dance salsa even if his life depended on it!!!

Some muslims out there will say ‘Haram, Haram’- but you know what?… I could care two hoots. Allah will judge me- not ‘nas’. I wouldn’t trade one moment of laughter, of synchronized movements, demonstrations of ability or lack thereof, lovely boleros enunciating a love only songs can sing, nor family parties consisting of son, daughters, husband and yours truly, nor those cultural moments shared with in-laws and women I would otherwise never have known- for anything. A taste of my version of paradise with the ones I love.

Muslims will quote hadith and just about anything to prove their point- but even the Prophet (SAW) had his moments shared with others- music or otherwise accompanied. And for those that know- Music is Math in melody. For the first years of my children’s lives they were ‘Bach Babies’. Mother’s pride- they’re brilliant! LOL

So.. my friends…do you dance? Love to hear your stories!


Train ride humor

The other day I went and splurged on an iPod Touch (someone with sticky fingers got it attached  to their hand and walked away with the iPod my daughters had given me for Mother’s Day; hope it fell in a sewer opening, the perp!)

I love hearing various things during my morning commute other than other people’s conversations, other people’s music, and the train’s annoying “overhead” messages. From Qur’an, to Chants, to Bach, Hindi songs, to Luis Miguel (the Spanish in me melts at his voice crooning old love songs I grew up hearing, what could I say). It also sets a tone for the day for me and it allows me to read in peace! LOL

Yep, totally disconnected from the world! Give a girl a break; delay tactics work when you know some of the meetings on your agenda for the day are about to give you angina or make some already raw nerves just a tad more sensitive! My idea of being mindful; mindful of the landmines ahead!

So on the train ride today, I opened up “More” magazine and I literally chuckled all the way to work (had I been at home I would have laughed myself to tears, but you’re in public- what would people think?)

In New York? As one of our esteemed doctors would say, “Oh, just another bozone layer added to the mix!”

I tried checking the website to see if they had these tidbits to share as a link- but didn’t find them so I am reprinting them here… I got a weird sense of humor- I tell ya!



“You know you have reached middle age when all you do is exercise caution.” -Unknown

Last week I survived the wrong exercise class. All around me, sweaty twenty-somethings clapped each other on the back while I made my exit one painful step at a time. Although I’m no slouch when it comes to the physical, the sit-ups in that class were not just military- they were Iraq ready. The mere fact that I did not die on the spot seemed worthy of applause. I did note, however, that when the reggae tape stopped, these young things were groaning with effort too.

Oh, what I could’ve done when I was 20! Not that I tried. I dodged gym in high school, took meditation in college to get out of phys ed and bided my time for decades before storming the gym at the intersection of Gravity and Vanity. For a while, I step-classed, yoga twisted and kept up until last week.

I imagined the girls in this class noting my every half push-up, my wavering plank, my shivering chicken arms and shaking their heads at my incompetence, not giving me any breaks because of course this will never happen to them. My friend Molly says that when you do leg lifts and all the flesh comes down at you, you know it’s time to leave that leg alone. But what do I want to take two at a time: stairs or pills? Besides, there are all these muscles I never knew I had- I know because it takes me a week to forget them. So I read the class descriptions and pick my battles. Middle-aged and cautious? I prefer to see my self as wise.

-Terese Svoboda



Midlife Stress-Stuffed Cabbage


1 couple, until they go completely mad


  • 2 sets of aging parents, rapidly deteriorating
  • 1 to 3 wiseass teenagers, or more in blended families, growing up alarmingly fast
  • Escalating auto insurance rates
  • Way too many college applications at any given time
  • Inadequate college savings accounts
  • Enough wisdom to recognize all the mistakes you’ve made over the years
  • Not enough wisdom to correct them
  • Large cabbage leaves, as needed
  • Olives, peppers, debt and despair, for topping


1-Combine the first 8 problems (and you can use up any others that are rotting in your pantry). Pulverize into a pounding headache.

2-Stuff the cabbage leaves and, while performing this tedious task, think about doing rebellious things you did when you yourself were a wiseass teenager, like getting some extra piercings or hitching a ride to Guatemala.

 3-Top with olives, peppers, debt, and despair and bake until everything and everyone has a complete meltdown. Serve with a flaming temper.



Secret Recipes for the Modern Wife (Fireside). Copyright © 2009 by Nava Atlas.

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