While you are dozing,
Dreaming of me, I hope,
Sweet are your dreams,
Peaceful are your features;
My world is painful...
I ache for you
I long to hold you
To look at you
To touch your face
To kiss your lips
I ache from loneliness
I ache from coldness
In your dreams I wish to blossom
I pray to live
I die to fly
Will you hold me?
Will you kiss me?
Will you love me?
I’m burning on a sweet fire of bliss...
Love... is such a noble feeling
Enjoy it together
Soar in its skies
Free... Free... Free...
What exactly is dignity? How do you define it for yourself? Here’s what the official Oxford dictionary says:
The state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect.
A composed or serious manner or style.
A sense of pride in oneself; self-respect.
Here we are, in the Middle East, surrounded by wars and occupation and every atrocity that comes with both. Diasporas, ever expanding refugee camps, people drowning in the Mediterranean and these questions which continuously come to the surface:
Who owns your dignity?
If you had a job, a home, a social status from which you derived your dignity and this was taken away as a result of war, and you become a refugee, do you still own your dignity? Or if you are in a small strip of land under siege for years and your life is reduced to basic needs and survival, can you still live with dignity? If your life reduced to begging, stealing or breaking the law to feed yourself or your family, have you lost your dignity?
Is dignity the way others judge your decisions though they cannot conceive what it was like to be in your shoes when you made that decision? Is your dignity influenced by the whims of social rules and standards?
Is dignity related to your priorities at that precise point in time in which you make a decision that may later on put your dignity under “question”?
If a woman is raped, does she lose her dignity?
Is dignity a luxury afforded only by those with enough money to support their living? Thus making dignity a very capitalist concept?
If the government provides you with free education, healthcare and social security, are you leading a dignified life? What if the government can no longer provide these services, do you lose your sense of dignity? And so begging the question is socialism really the answer?
Is dignity about how you see, feel and treat yourself or how other see, feel and treat you? Is teaching mutual dignity and respect beyond social status enough? Or is dignity an attitude you can learn to carry no matter what circumstances you find yourself in? Can dignity be taught? Is it easier to teach dignity than to create circumstances where this question would not arise?
Dignity another loaded word. The only conclusion I can think of right now is that we are too quick to judge and blame, and to say things like :
“Oh my God! I would never do that.”
Do you have any thoughts on dignity? Any answers? I’d love to hear them in the comments below.
How many times have you heard the parent of a teenager say to the parent of a toddler: “enjoy it as much as you can now! if you think this is challenging, wait until your child becomes a teenager!”
Parents of teens often talk about the new challenges they face as their teen starts to develop their own social networks, belief systems and values, and start to push for more independence.
Parents may feel a sense of loss, feeling like they have no control anymore. Their instinct is to keep on protecting their child and shelter them from the external world while their teen’s instinct is to spread their wings and go off exploring the world. This can create conflicts as parents and teens struggle with the dance of dependence and independence, hanging on and letting go.
Below are some suggestions to help smooth out the transition:
Involve your teen in figuring out a solution
It can be very empowering for your teen to know that they can be a part of the solution to a problem. When you are both calm and free, approach your teen and tell them that you would like to discuss with them a challenge that you are both facing. Discuss the challenge and ask for their feedback and opinion then ask them to brainstorm with you a list of possible solutions. An example of a challenge you both face could be related to homework, you feeling like you are constantly nagging at them and your teen feeling smothered. As you go over the possible solutions suggested by both of you, agree on one that you both feel comfortable with. For example, you can agree with your teen that you will no longer constantly remind them about their homework as soon as they arrive home but instead give them time to relax, eat, and chill first. Once they are recharged, your teen will be starting their homework by themselves around 1.5 hours after they have first arrived home from school. Then agree with your teen about possible consequences should they fail to observe your agreement. For example, if they fail to finish their work before dinner time, then your teen might decide with you that a possible consequence could be cancelling any plans they have the next day, or waking up extra early the next day to finish up their work.
Once you both reach an agreement, Be consistent
In line with the above suggestion, it is important for both you and your teen to remain consistent to the terms of your agreement. This will help your teen feel that the world is predictable which will help them feel safe and secure. For example, if you agreed that the consequence for your teen coming back home later than the set curfew would be no outing the next week, stick to your decision. The same goes with the above consequences related to homework. This consistency will help your teen develop into a mature adult who assumes the consequences of their actions.
Give your teen more responsibility
Children are often ready to push their boundaries and take on more responsibility long before parents are ready to give them more, and that also includes teens. Giving your teen more responsibility is an important part of their growth and development and will help them develop vital decision making skills for the future. You can discuss with your teen some areas where you are willing to give them more freedom and discuss the associated expectations. For example, if your teen is asking for a phone, you can encourage them to assume more responsibility by asking them to contribute towards the cost of the phone. They could earn extra money by carrying out extra chores around the house for example, cutting down on their expenditure, or getting a summer job in a trusted place (if you have a friend or a colleague who is willing to hire them for the summer). Once they earn their phone, you can also agree with your teen on the rules of usage. For example, when they are out with their friends, they are expected to give you a call and update you on their whereabouts and the time when they will get home.
Finally, and most importantly, maintain an open line of communication with your teen. This will help them feel safe and secure knowing that they can come to you with their questions, concerns, and problems. This in turn will reinforce their sense of responsibility as they learn appropriate ways of seeking help by turning to an adult and having an open discussion about their issues, rather than engaging in maladaptive coping strategies.
Mona Merhej Moussa
You can read more about involving your teen in the decision making process and generating a solution in “Positive Discipline for Teenagers, Empowering Your Teens and Yourself Through Kind and Firm Parenting” by Jane Nelson and Lynn Lott (2012)
If you were to ask any caregiver, teacher, parent, or family member about the “Terrible Two’s”, they are likely to shudder in fear, visualizing a supermarket scenario where a two year old is in full tantrum mode, lying on the floor screaming and kicking, or a toy store scenario where a disheveled parent is hopelessly trying to whisk their child away from the myriad of toys they are trying to grab on, and shushing their child who is screaming at the top of their lungs.
The Terrible Twos is defined as “a period in a child's social development (typically around the age of two years) which is associated with very defiant or unruly behaviour” according to the Oxford Dictionary.
But it need NOT be the case. It’s just a question of changing your perception and equipping yourself with a few tricks.
Ask yourself: what’s behind the anger?
When a child gets angry, their anger is likely to push your buttons too causing you to react immediately. One trick to avoid getting your anger button triggered is to ask yourself, what’s behind the anger? It could be hunger, sleepiness, tiredness, shame, embarrassment, jealousy, worry, or fear. The trick is to look beyond the anger and address the underlying feeling.
Get down to the child’s level
Another trick is to get down to the child’s level, look them in the eye, and remain calm while talking slowly to them. You can help yourself remain calm by focusing on your breathing for a few seconds beforehand. As soon as you start to talk slowly and in a calm manner, this is likely to evoke a surprise effect in the child who will try to stop shouting and screaming in order to hear what you are saying. Getting down to their level and establishing eye contact can also make the child feel more connected with you and understood.
Give the child a hug
A final trick is to give them a hug and tell them “ I love you” instead of telling them to stop shouting. When a two-year old feels angry, they might also feel scared by the overwhelming emotion taking ahold of them. With the feeling of anger growing inside of them, the increased heart rate, and the heat generated by the emotion, a two-year is likely to feel frightened by the anger taking control of them. When an adult shouts at them, they are likely to feel worse, shouting and crying even more. When you give them a hug instead, you give them the message that you are here for them, and that they can count on you no matter what. This can be very comforting and soothing for a two-year old who is only just learning the ropes of appropriate social behavior.
Your efforts and patience in this developmental stage will pave the way in turn for the child to learn to regulate their emotions and behaviors and assume responsibility for their actions as they grow older.
Mona Merhej Moussa
Artwork Fadwa Al Qasem
1) Amsterdam – Winter
He enters a pharmacy. He has a severe cold. Nose blocked, eyes watery, fever raging.
“May I help you, sir?” a beaming pharmacist inquires.
“Clarinase pills, please.”
“Do you have a doctor’s prescription, sir?”
“No,” he sneezes.
“I’m afraid you need a doctor’s prescription.”
“May I have an antihistamine?”
“Do you have a doctor’s prescription, sir?”
“No,” he coughs.
“I’m afraid you need a doctor’s prescription.”
“OK then, Panadol Cold & Flu will do,” cough and sneeze and sniff.
“You need a doctor’s prescription for that too, sir.”
He is bewildered: “How come I can legally buy weed right now and I cannot get Panadol?”
“It is the law, sir. Weed is legal in Amsterdam, but you need a doctor’s prescription for medicine.”
2) Leicester – Summer
A couple enters a pharmacy in the evening. Thick-rimmed reading glasses ride the man’s nose.
He approaches the pharmacist: “I would like to buy contact lenses.”
“Do you have a prescription, sir?”
“No, I don’t.”
“I’m afraid you need a prescription.”
“Look, I’m wearing eyeglasses. I lost my contact lenses and I would like to wear lenses for my graduation tomorrow morning.”
“I can’t sell you contact lenses without a prescription.”
“Can’t you see he wears eyeglasses and needs lenses? He is not faking it, for sure!” his wife intervenes.
“I’m sorry my lady, but he needs a prescription. It’s illegal to sell contact lenses without a prescription.”
Diala Arslan Talhouk
Artwork Fadwa Al Qasem
When life is chaotic,
Flying across continents to give a lecture,
Moving back home after living abroad for 5 years,
Finding new schools, friends, re-visiting old friends, understanding yourself,
Writing takes two ways…. either a whirlpool of ideas and overflowing notebooks, or a complete stop! Talk about notebooks, we come to the ultimate challenge of deciphering notes-code
I am often asked the question: How do you come up with the book’s idea?
And my response is a habit that I formed back in my first year of university. Note-keeping.
This habit was nurtured by friends and family who keep on gifting me more and more notebooks. Butterfly ones, leather ones, fancy ones, and my personal favorite is pocket sized notebooks. Although A5 notebooks are what I have been investing in for the past 3 years now, nothing beats a pocket sized notebook that fits perfectly in my purse.
This is how it goes, the smell of a swimming pool, the color of a friend’s gem-stoned ring, a butterfly standing on my 6 year old’s hand...form major thought-provoking, idea-stirring book themes. The downside to this situation, is collecting numerous ideas, and having a tangled up yarn ball of ideas!
Come to decipher the notes, and be able to make sense of it all I have found to be time-consuming. Some of the ideas, were in my head but I didn’t write it as a whole. Therefore, my 2015 way of note-keeping is subject based. Work-related, Parenting-related, Children’s stories, so on and so forth.
So my pocket sized one in my bag, would have the original fresh ideas, and they are plotted. Once I reach home, and I see I am still pondering on that idea, I would jot it down in the designated notebook. Be it an advert for a parenting class, or a meeting that I need to prepare to. My pocket-note book is the mastermind, code book for all the rest.
What’s your way of catching your thread of thoughts?
Reem Al Gurg
Artwork by Fadwa Al Qasem
I like to guess people’s stories and their backgrounds. How they got here? Do they live here? Have they suffered? Are they happy? Why is that boy sad? Or is it just his look? Is that couple fighting or are they so used to each other they don’t need to talk? It’s a world of possibilities.
As a graduate of humanities and social sciences from Zayed University, a lot of my university studies included observation of people and social settings. In my psychology courses we learned about reading body language in order to understand others’ psyche. In another course we were asked to choose a public spot and show up for a few hours every day and observe people and social happenings for a period of time. These were my favorite projects and they subconsciously fed and tamed an existing desire and love for people-watching. I can say it made me learn to observe people better and make my analysis deeper. On the other hand, it fed my need as a writer. It gave me a base where I can be inspired by my surroundings, and then make my own analysis and my own creation. It helped me imagine, something I never thought I could do.
So when I decided that a career in the humanities would be put on hold, I turned to writing. And what a decision that was! I didn’t know where to start, what should a write about, who were my audience, etc. Until I participated in my first “Made in UAE” project with Rainer Wekwerth by UAEBBY and Geothe Institue during the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair in 2013. From that day onwards I had the proper tools to embark on my journey with writing. And it stared with a novel —pending— and a blog. Soon after that I joined the newly found group of dynamic female writers, my Hunna Ladies. And the rest is history.
With the proper tools I began writing, and I realized that my writing is very character oriented. The most important element I have in my stories are the people, and it is because I see them. My characters are as real to me as the old lady holding her husband’s hand beside me in the elevator. My characters are as real as the boy having a tantrum at a Starbucks’ line. My characters are as real as the couple trying to hide their red, rage filled faces. My characters are real because they are inspired by reality and they tell real stories. And I owe all my inspiration to my people-watching.
So if you are a writer —even if you’re not— go ahead and do it. Bring along a novel and have a latte somewhere public. Keep your ears ready and let your mind go wild. Keep a notebook nearby to record your findings. Because someone out there has a story, and their story could be you next inspiration. Sometimes you might get to even initiate conversation with those strangers, and they might love it. Maybe they’ll even let you take a photograph. Maybe they will tell you their story. Or maybe they’ll think you’re weird and call security on you. Either way, you got fed something that you can use in your next character. Something you took from reality, and hid in a book.
Artwork by Fadwa Al Qasem
In the competitive world of innovation and creativity, inspiration is a very common word, and often overrated. It might even drag excuses for procrastinating: ‘I am waiting for inspiration.’ ‘Nothing is inspiring.’ ‘I have to find a new source of inspiration.’ ‘No light bulbs this morning!’ ‘When will that Eureka moment strike?’
Do you often find that you are waiting for inspiration to arrive so that your creative juices start running? There is a shortcut to that seemingly long and endless wait! How about you invite inspiration to come and jumpstart your mind into a creative journey? You can in fact do this as often as you like!
Here are a dozen tips that I have collected from my readings and humble experiences, feel free to pick whatever suits you. They are listed in no order of importance, only as my inspiration intended them to come out!
I keep six honest serving-men
They taught me all I knew
Their names were What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who..
I might want to add an extra ‘W’ here: what if. That can be a wild diversion!
(artwork Fadwa Al Qasem)
Check out some of the latest books authored and published by some of the Hunna ladies:
Art to me is a perspective; it is the filter through which I sift my actions and decisions. It’s not about absolutes, negativity or optimism, wrong or right. It’s about choosing how my days would slide off my skin, and how I would remember them. Thus was born I Am What I Art — an open life manifesto of sorts.
Read the full article here!
Hunna Blog, a peek into the pages of our notebooks and our minds. Not a literacy area rather a jungle of thoughts.