A blog post about nothing and yet everything!

It’s been a busy week. I went to Atlanta for the first time last Thursday for The American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute (didn’t have time to pretend to be Scarlett O’Hara as Savannah is a 4 hour drive, but I did pass the Margaret Mitchell house two times! Notwithstanding Mitchell, the film adaptation was a running theme of my childhood due to my older sister’s obsession in the late 90s. SHE WAS OBSESSED, I tell you), I dressed up as a cow on Halloween (just for work; I’ve never been trick-or-treating or have been involved in that process. Since I wasn’t allowed to go as a child, I never wanted to pass out candy later to those spoiled little kids that did. Also, strangers ringing the doorbell is scary), I launched the first issue of the Journal on Muslim Philanthropy and Civil Society that I’ve been working on since August, and the two-day Board meeting where I was scheduled to present (I ended up not saying much) concluded yesterday afternoon.

(BTW, I’m sorry for all the parenthetical notes in the above paragraph and I guess for this one too. I have these little tangents always running in my head and since I have no intention of making my blog post as long as a thesis, I must defer to parenthetical notes. I don’t think WordPress allows the use of footnotes, unfortunately. Thanks for reading my tangents. It means a lot. I find my tangents to be the best part of my blog)

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I have to admit: the udders hanging out like that kinda felt haraaaaam, but hey, I’m fully covered! And if that turns you on, that’s on you, buddy!

And yet, here I am blogging on a Saturday morning, wearing my cow costume/night-suit because a) I can’t sleep after the rooster cockle-doodle-doos (i.e. the alarm for fajr) and b) I need a break from work-type things.

Oh but hey, the countdown to my 31st birthday has officially begun today. Each year, I start counting down 3 months before. Some might say that I’m too old for this, but I say, “Birthdays are fun!” I love when I actually have a valid reason to eat cake (I get it, the food police need to die, but I eat way too much cake for my own good). Also, everyone’s usually much nicer to me, wishing me that I have an amazing day and telling me to eat lots of cake. So, it’s just great!

Honestly, people who think they’re “too old” for birthdays are just being pretentious and illogical. You’re not too old. You’re perfectly the right age as long as you are ALIVE. Birthdays don’t stop after 21! If you’re gonna use that argument, find a better word or phrase! {end angry rant against imaginary people}

Also, I don’t fear getting old. I look forward to it. Of course, I’m at the age where the body is not quite at the point where it really begins the inevitable process of deterioration (I can, however, start to blame my metabolism – and I will). I may feel differently when I’m 40 or 50. But I honestly hope that I can accept whatever changes come with age. I just look at old people and I’m in awe. Not only are y’all way cuter than the rest of us, you’re also so wise and funny and you finally have earned the right to say whatever the heck you want (well, maybe not everything) and we love it. I love it, anyway.

Where was I?

I don’t know. I’ve been up for a while and have yet to eat. BREAKFAST TIME. Catch y’all later.

New Layout, Cake & Cows Turns 1, and Questions I Must Answer

First of all, Cake & Cows has a brand-spanking new layout! Like the last one, the header of this layout was also illustrated by my amazingly talented older sister, who you should follow on Instagram, if you’re on.

The occasion is not just because I needed some colour on my blog – or to translate from this Bollywood song of yore: “Gimme colour, Gimme colour, Gimme colour, Gimme colour, Gimme colour.”

I wanted a new layout because Cake & Cows will be celebrating a milestone – its one year anniversary (or birthday ?) next week – Friday, March 24th to be exact.

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I just Googled “first year birthday” or whatever and this is the first thing I see. If I ever have a baby, he better look like this. Source

I know it’s not a big deal considering some blogs have been around for much longer and a one-year anniversary is nothing. But it’s big for me. I’ve been blogging since 2003 and I don’t think I’ve ever stuck with a blog name longer than a few months (other than Whimsical – but with the exception of perhaps one person, no one would know that). Cake & Cows seems like my first real blog; it’s almost like my baby. I have people come up to me and even before they ask how I’m doing (or perhaps they already know because they’ve read it), they make some reference to my blog. Frankly, nothing makes me happier to know I’m not the only person who reads this stuff. I’d like to say I’d continue to blog even if I knew I was the only one reading, but the truth is, I probably wouldn’t. So, if you’re reading this, I want to thank you for helping me get to this point. Because of you, I’ve learned that I do not have commitment issues!

If I was super cool like some other bloggers, I’d have some kind of giveaway. But if you’re a regular reader, you know I’m the farthest thing from cool. So I won’t be doing that.

Instead, I’ll answer some questions about myself (I needed a segue, okay?). Suma Fiore nominated me for a Sunshine Blogger Award. This award comes with no gold statues, but much better – a set of questions I get to answer! I’ve always loved pretending to interview myself. Now I don’t have to pretend!

  1. What do you struggle with mostly in life? I wish I had a more sophisticated answer, but it’s body image for me. My other struggles come and go, but this one has been ceaseless – and frankly useless – for the past 8 years. Some struggles are good, or at least good can be learned from them. But no good has come from this obsession of wishing I could look a certain way. 
  2. What are you wearing right now? Khakis, a black shirt, and an old-lady-looking purple-flowered sweater blouse on top. I went to a masjid open house and thought I should be dressed semi-professionally today.
  3. Have you ever colored your hair? What color? Do you want to? What color? I wasn’t allowed to colour my hair when I was younger. I read somewhere though that you could dye your hair naturally using berries, so I attempted to dye my hair red one time with raspberries. I was in middle school then. It did not work. I only wasted a bunch of raspberries that someone could have used to bastardize an otherwise delicious chocolate cake. Oh well. Now that I can dye my hair, I have no desire to. I believe that God gave us the hair colour He did for a reason. There is wisdom behind this and I agree with it. I like my black hair.
  4. What’s your favorite and least favorite ‘ism’? (activism, narcissism, feminism, racism…) My favourite ‘ism’ is either monotheism or socialism – I admit, I struggled with this and had to look for ideas. Narcissism and racism suck, but nationalism needs some hating too. 
  5. What’s your favorite kind of grub? Anything with sugar and chocolate in it, let’s be honest. But chocolate cake is definitely on the top of the list. Does that count as grub? It’s also never a wrong time for pizza, or anything with bread and cheese together, basically.
  6. Give me some pet-peeves Lack of symmetry, not putting things in their designated place (Mr. Rafia!), most Instagram posts – I’ll be kind and not name specifics, impromptu decisions, the list can go on.
  7. Do you like any celebrities? Dislike any? Give me some names and tell me why. RICHARD SIMMONS – read my post, people! I dislike all others.
  8. What makes the world go round? God. I’m not trying to be a pompous zealot with this answer, either. My belief in God is what allows me to take it all in and wake up each morning, even when I don’t want to. I mean, literally. It’s tough getting up for the fajr prayer, but knowing that I must is what gets me to do it.
  9. What did you do last night? I attended an event called “How can Muslim women be allies?” and then I read in bed until I fell asleep. Fun!
  10. What kind of chips are your favorite? Chocolate chips ;)
  11. Best moment of 2017 thus far? Turning 30 was great the day of, but not so great the few weeks after when it finally hit me. I am 30 and I still have no clue what I am doing with my life.

Okay, this post has been long enough for now. Happy belated St. Patrick’s Day, Happy early Nowruz, and I don’t know what else. Oh yeah, happy belated 311 Day. Okay, I really need to end this thing now.

The Richard Simmons Saga – A True Story

I am an obsessive person. And I can be an elitist about the things I love.

Only very recently have I been able to publicly admit that I like the movies better than the books.

You know what I’m talking about.

Okay, fine. It’s been a while.

The real reason I read The Lord of the Rings in high school was to prove to myself and other Tolkienites that I was indeed a true fan and not some peon of a moviegoer who will like any commercial success just because it is a commercial success. Remember that part about being an elitist? I’m not proud of it; but we all have our vices. This one doesn’t hurt anyone, so it’s okay.

Well, another one of my ~*retro*~ loves is Richard Simmons. Richard has been in the news of late. Even the Indy Star reported on him 6 hours ago – this is a big deal, folks! We can thank the new viral podcast, Missing Richard Simmons, for this sudden interest. To see Richard’s face in the news again is a sheer delight. But the fact that Richard has not made a public appearance in over 2 years is not a new discovery for Richard Simmons enthusiasts, such as myself.

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I chose this picture, because he’s wearing purple and also, he’s the closest thing to an angel we in the 21st century will ever know.

If you suspect that I am trying to cash in on Richard’s sudden popularity because I’ve never made reference to him in my blog before… well, I’ll have you know that I did have a category titled “The Female Richard Simmons.” It didn’t last for long because sadly I could never be.

But I have pretended to be the Female Richard Simmons for some time now, even if it was a running joke between me and myself. Like my love for cows, I can’t really pinpoint an exact time when this love blossomed, but also like my love for cows, it became more pronounced after my weight loss. Actually, my cow and Richard Simmons obsession might go hand-in-hand.

I’ve always admired Richard’s exuberance in public appearances. I never watched Whose Line is it Anyway, but you best believe I’ve watched this clip multiple times.

In my generation, there was only one man… no, human being like Richard. Cher? Madonna? Oprah? No. For me, it remains Richard. He’s all of them and more – and boy can he work those dolphin shorts! He was always his unabashed crazy-self in a world where being prim and proper was the way we were taught to be. He inspired me to be my crazy self. In fact, whenever I do outlandish things, I think of Richard.

In a way, it’s good that a new generation will get to know and love this beautiful human being. Love trumps hate, y’all.

But more than Richard’s fabulousness, it was our similar stories that solidified my love.

Richard and I both were severely overweight when we were younger –  and we both lost that weight as adults. Going through such dramatic weight transformations like that instantly bonds you to another human being, whether you’ve met that person or not. My LOVE for cake and the GUILT I feel for eating it, only “former fatties” (you, my friend, are not allowed to use this term – unless of course, you too are a former fatty. Then in that case, email me! Let’s be friends, okay?) can truly understand the masochism of it all. But unlike Oprah or Ricki Lake, Richard was just a ball of fun. It was infectious. You could tell he genuinely cared about helping people, too. He has given hope and inspiration to countless individuals like myself who had convinced themselves that “fat” was all they were ever going to be.

Since I believe in doing good with one’s blessings, I decided that as a gesture of gratitude for being able to successfully lose weight, I would be the Female Version of Richard in my own very limited way. I even thought about getting a Master’s degree in Nutrition. I am not kidding! But then again, I also considered getting a Master’s degree in Teaching and Writing at one point, so I guess that doesn’t mean anything.

But back to the facts. Do I think his housekeeper is holding him hostage? No, but it sure does make the ordeal all the more interesting. I’m thinking that Richard may have gained a few pounds. I am not trying to be mean-spirited here, but hear me out. For someone who’s been as big as he was, I know it’s a struggle to maintain. You don’t all of a sudden get a new metabolism or disinterest in food with a new, smaller body. You carry all the vestiges of your past, even if the world thinks you’re past it all. You can’t erase your history! Those who claim otherwise are either a) lying or b) robots. The scrutiny we get from the world for not being Kate Moss is bad enough, but to have been overweight and then be seen as a weight-loss success story? It puts on a kind of pressure that no one can ever truly understand, unless they’re walking in those same running shoes. It’s what I think of every time I look in the mirror, anyway. Each pound I’ve put on since my lowest weight has a voice of its own that likes to taunt me.

And although I do think Richard is ~timeless,~ let’s face it: he’s not as young as he once was… although, always young-at-heart :)

If my theory is correct, Richard honey, let me say this to you: take all the time you need, baby. I will always love you, no matter what!

 

The pants that got away… and an email to remind me

First of all, new layout! I know the previous one was only up for a month, but my amazingly talented sister (FOLLOW HER ON INSTAGRAM!) drew this beautiful illustration at just the right time. I fell out of love with the last layout rather quickly; it lacked personality and made my site look a little too drab, I later realized. So when Baaj emailed me this adorable and Rafia-esque illustration, I didn’t care that I physically felt like death, the new layout was going up ASAP!

Look at it. It’s beautiful, isn’t it? I am not ashamed to say that because I did not make it ;)

So, what’s this whole business about pants, you ask? I guess you could say that I change my layouts as often as I change my pants. Har-dee-har-dee-har.

Okay, that analogy was a forced attempt to string together what will be a rather haphazard post. But bear with me. The layout and pants do have some sort of connection, which I will attempt to explain presently. Because along with this new and beautiful header image, my sister also sent me this pic from July 2012.

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Me and my little nephew – The Nizmaster – at Gairloch Gardens in Oakville, Ontario.

This must have been a few months before I stopped wearing pants completely, a three-year period of my past that still haunts me.

If this is not the first blog post of mine you’ve read, then you’d know that I’ve started wearing pants again. “Whoop-dee-doo! Rafia, you really weren’t exaggerating when you say you always make a mountain out of a molehill. But this is a bit much, even for you,” I can hear your thoughts loud and clear.

See, my decision to stop wearing pants was made out of fear and being pants-shamed (it’s a thing, at least among Muslims). One comment from a parent at the Islamic School I used to work at is what triggered, what I can finally call in retrospect, an entire negation of my sense of self. I stopped wearing pants – that was the external. But I also stopped listening to music, I stopped singing, I stopped eating sugar around this time, too. In essence, I stopped being myself.

I look at this photo now and am angry at myself for allowing that woman to enter my mind and convince me that I ever dressed immodestly. Her actual words were “Haraam dressing,” which made me feel like I was committing a sin for wearing pants.

Though thankfully I eventually left that toxic environment – it literally took a seizure for me to make that much-needed change in my life – I still encounter this warped kind of thinking occasionally. Her words have stayed with me unconsciously ever since.

No more. It’s been about a year since I’ve started wearing pants again, but it’s been a slow process. This photo emboldens me to start wearing them metaphorically as well. In a mad dash, I made it my Whatsapp profile, uploaded it on IG. It moved me so much that I had to blog about it.

So, yes. Thanks, Baaj – for this new layout and for the photo. My sister is a catalyst for positive change! See? It all came together ;)

To Cowtown and Back

It’s been over a week since I’ve blogged. I’ve read “advice” that you should not go more than a few days between posts, because then people will lose interest. And I’m like, “So you should write crap, even if you have nothing to say? You really think people are gonna keep coming back?”

Not that my intermittent posts are Pulitzer-worthy. But I feel that a heart-felt post when the author actually has something to share with her readers that they might either a) benefit from or b) be thankful about for not being the loser whose life-story they are reading is more effective. Or do I mean, affective? Yes, the latter.

Are you still with me?

But there is a reason for this lull. I went to Kansas City this past weekend. KC, if you don’t know, is also known as Cowtown and so naturally I’d have to visit.

Actually, the reason behind the visit was to attend a wedding of a friend of Mr. Rafia’s. It was my first ever non-Desi wedding. And I gotta say, I really missed my Desi weddings. The music they played was fun and Mr. Rafia and I did dance, which we didn’t do at our own wedding, but no one makes wedding music like India, okay? It’s weird that as I get older, I become more and more unapologetically Indian. How would emo teenage Rafia deal with this fact? I will spare you the details.

Unfortunately, I didn’t see any real cows. But I did see this in the Children’s section of the Public Library!

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I think they placed that “Do not touch” sign specifically for me :(

OMG THE KANSAS CITY PUBLIC LIBRARY IS THE GREATEST THING EVER.

I could have spent the entire weekend there just admiring the place like the idiot I am.

But fortunately, the rest of my weekend was super amazing that I didn’t have a chance to be angry for only being in the library for an hour or so.

I am not going to bore y’all with all the details, because that is what a diary is for. But have you personally experienced the phenomenon of meeting a person for the first time and instantly connecting with them? Well, I had that this weekend with two people! A mother and daughter. The mother became like an older sister, whether she wants this designation or not, and the daughter, pretty much my twin. I stayed up until way past 1 AM talking to the daughter about our INFJ personalities (dude, we even drive the same car!) and books and writing and life. It was awesome. I can count the number of times I’ve connected with another human being like that on one hand. It’s a rarity for me, an introverted AND shy person. So when it happens, it’s a big deal.

The fact that I had three different types of cake (and not just bites, this is me we’re talking about) in a single day has been dwarfed by the love and inspiration I’ve felt from the people I met this past weekend. I now have a better understanding of how tough it must have been for Mr. Rafia to have to say Goodbye to the city that become home for almost five years.

I am definitely going back to Cowtown. I need to see those cows!