It has begun… or will begin very soon! i.e. some pre-Ramadan thoughts.

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Ramadan Moo-barak from me, Mr. Rafia and our little baby, Mufia! :)

Ramadan will begin this evening and thus, tomorrow will be the first fast of this lunar year for many Muslims living in North America. I now live in the land of calculations (i.e. ISNA), so I know for a fact my first fast will be tomorrow. But whether one follows the moon- sighting or not, Ramadan begins this weekend for Muslims all over the world.

For the past couple of days, a lot of what I’ve been seeing in my inbox and Facebook feed are “How to prepare for Ramadan” articles. I’ve seen a few on how people who are fasting 17-hour days can still manage to fit in exercise. Normally I’d be like, “You people just need to SHUT.” But I kinda want to continue my yoga routine. I don’t want to lose all the momentum I’ve gained in the past month or so since I started doing yoga. But who knows?

(Yes, I started doing yoga, albeit at home in a relatively judgement-free zone… although sometimes Mr. Rafia will come home earlier than usual and I’ll have to hear him fake-mock me. No, I have not seen the benefits either in flexibility, balance, strength, mental stillness, not to mention my perennial goal of losing those “stubborn few pounds,” but I know I must continue to plow on).

Am I physically and mentally prepared for Ramadan? I guess – it’s inevitable.

Did I prepare? Do I ever?

I know it’s not the “right” thing to say, but I ain’t gonna lie. I had a conversation with a friend recently about our approach to food and as I was reminded again, my entire day is structured around meal time. Up until not too long ago – and I am not exaggerating – I used to go to bed with the thought of breakfast the next day… thus explaining why I was 100+ pounds overweight as a teenager.

Though I am no longer technically even overweight, food still dominates my life and so fasting is difficult for me. I think it’s safe to say that it is difficult for most people. But in addition to the void in rewards I receive in the form of food, Ramadan forces me to change the way I structure my day. And as my life is a testament to, physical changes are much easier to make than mental ones.

Sure, I intend to read more Qur’an, cut down on all forms of entertainment (pictures of cows are not entertainment, BTW, they are like breathing for me), read books that are Islamic in nature… I know there will be an element that is missing this year, like last year. Despite the difficulty in abstaining from food and drink from dawn to sunset, what Muslims look forward to is the communal spirit of this month. I’m going to miss my family even more than I normally do.

No more of trying multiple times to wake up my lion of a father to get him to eat the pre-dawn meal. No more thinking I’ve awaken earlier than others to only find my mother already in the kitchen going on with her day. No more of later reading Qur’an with her until mid-morning. No more of hearing my brother asking “Is it time? Is it time?” right before we break our fast. No more of praying all our salat together as a family. No more of being forced encouraged to attend taraweeh prayers in the mosque with the family.

I mean, I didn’t love it then. But nostalgia, you know?

I am not sure what Ramadan will look like this year for me or for Mr. Rafia. It’s only our second Ramadan together, but I hope it’s one in which our faith in God becomes stronger, that we both worry less (me, especially), and put all our hopes in God alone.

For all of you who are fasting this Ramadan – and even those who aren’t – I pray and hope for the same for you all.

You know what? I think I am ready.

Friday Date Night at the Dairy Farm!

Mr. Rafia and I had a little date night yesterday… at the local dairy farm! It was actually the second time we’ve gone to Traders Point Creamery in the past three weeks, but yesterday was so nice and sunny and I even got to see the cows right before milking time, something I had not witnessed during my previous two visits.

Let me tell ya: IT WAS AMAZING!

Normally, I would never think to update my social media presence with random photos of cows (although if you follow me on Facebook, you’ll notice recently the only thing I do on the site is “like” pictures of cows), but you know what? This blog is named Cake & Cows and I haven’t blogged about cows in a while, so… You’re welcome.

I love cows (obviously), but lately, my love for cows has taken over my life almost completely. Most of my leisurely internet time is spent looking and fawning over pictures of cows. Cows make me happy, like babies make a normal person happy. I’m beyond the point of thinking there’s something wrong with me.

So, when Mr. Rafia asked me whether we should go to Traders Point Creamery, I was like, “Ummm, yeah.” It’s the only time I am totally okay with last-minute decisions on what to do/where to go. I can always use more cows in my life!

But when we got to the farm, there were none in sight where they normally lounge around. It’s hard being a cow, OK? They eat grass and poop all day. In their stead were a nasty runt of little oinkers (As a practicing Muslim, I do not like oinkers and I will not apologize for this, no). So you can imagine the smile I had all the way through our drive to the farm instantly turning into silent rage.

But then I noticed some movement way out in the fields. There were the cows! They were walking the trail back to the milking station. Aww, cows do exercise! I ran as close to the metal fence as I could get. I was eating ice cream at the time, so I wasn’t able to get a photo of it, but one cow even mooed at me and Mr. Rafia. We both got a bit of a fright – it was glorious.

Of course, I can’t leave y’all hanging. We did get some photos. I actually have more, but I realize going through 20 photos of cows is probably only interesting to me and people like me. So here are just a few highlights:

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The cows “cooling down” from their workout
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Waiting to be milked. A couple of them peed, just like that. It was pretty funny. I am 6 years old.
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A new mommy and one of her calves.
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This one was quite the bully, pushing the others to get grass. I was literally 5 feet away from her. I wanted to pet her, but I was slightly afraid she’d attempt to eat the grass I was standing on.
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Other than the sun in my eyes and Mr. Rafia’s shadow completely ruining the picture, this is me and my new friend, whom I shall name “Glutton.” We bonded over our mutual insatiable appetites.

Fellas, looking to take your own woman on a nice date? Look no further than a dairy farm… and you’ll probably get dumped. But not me, no. Other than a bakery and library/book store, no place makes me happier!

I am, like, the luckiest woman on the planet.

I got 99 problems – and dishes are number one

Before I begin, I’d like to preface by adding that I dreamed I wrote this post.

Well, actually, it was more along the lines of: I had just prayed fajr and wanted to go back to sleep; but in between that wanting-to-sleep and unfortunately-I’m-awake zone we all tussle with each morning, I started writing out my anxieties in my head.

I practically dreamed it, okay?

Lately, my number of volunteer commitments has gone up – and along with it, my level of anxiety. I love it when people ask me if I’m stressed. I’m like, “You should be more concerned if I said I was not stressed about something.” It’s not that my life is any busier than an average North American living in the 21st century, but I do have anxieties that I would guess most do not.

Since we’ve moved into our house late last year, it’s been on my mind the number of couples Mr. Rafia and I MUST have over for dinner. I feel like I’ve leached off of our friends’ kindness for far too long. I’m starting to think that our friends may be thinking we’re holding someone hostage in our non-existent attic and basement (Richard Simmons? No, sadly, I do not have him).

But the truth is, I’m stressed as heck at the prospect of hosting a dinner party. Hosting is so not my personality. The only reason I’m having this conversation with myself is because of guilt. My parents taught me by example that it’s better to give than to take. The problem is: What if what you have to give just plain sucks? To cook for others and have to be all host-y? How would I even go about doing that?

I always dreaded my parents’ what-seemed-like weekly dinner parties. My parents were such good hosts, too, and it was expected that their children would put on a face and not bring the family name down by being their usual selves. My brother and me anyway. I suppose it wasn’t such a stretch for my sister, who has followed in my parents’ footsteps – in fact, rivaling their hosting skills. My mom was/is a great cook. But my sister is an artiste.

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Granted, my sister did this for my bridal shower and not just any dinner party. But her usual dinner party arrangements aren’t that much different.

I like to marvel at nice decor, but I am happy with just marveling. I don’t care enough to actually do it myself. Further evidence can be found in our house, which is as bare bones as you can imagine. And I’m honestly okay with that. I really, really hate dusting.

And cooking. I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it either. I did get into the whole “I’m going to cook for my husband” thing for about a month or so after we first got married. But now that I’m no longer on Instagram, I see no point.

For serious though, I’ve figured out how to bake boneless chicken and with one or two exceptions, that’s all I’ve made for Mr. Rafia in the past few months. To be fair, he’s not eating carbs on purpose. But like, if I can’t make carb-laden dishes, there’s no joy in cooking.

Furthermore, cooking is still new for me. I never really cooked until I got married. I’m not confident in my ability to even microwave leftovers without some kind of mishap. I can’t in good faith (attempt to) make multiple dishes for people when I cannot guarantee they will even be edible. It’s bad enough when the one dish I do make for Mr. Rafia is all red with hot sauce by time it’s on his plate and ready to be eaten.

Whenever my parents would have anyone over, they’d always make a point to say “no formalities” to their guests. But I knew that’s because it’s the gracious thing to say. The truth of the matter is, the house would be vacuumed twice, mopped, and broomed, two bottles of bleach would be used (instead of my dad’s usual one) to clean all the bathrooms and kitchen. My mom would start cooking days before, because each Hyderabadi dish she’d make would require at least one full day to prepare and cook. I’m pretty sure my dad had to give me a pep talk a few times beforehand that when people come over, I should smile and talk, offer to take their coats, be sure to help my mom and sister in the kitchen, and ask if the guests want chai after dinner. Pep talk might be putting it lightly. I was a very anti-social kid.

The fact is: these “no formality” dinners were the very epitome of formality. And I feel like I must follow in my parents’ footsteps, because I am after all, their daughter. To do any less would be dishonoring their good name. I would be dishonoring all of Hyderabad!!!!

It’s funny. Before marriage, I never thought along these lines. In many ways, I know I won’t be continuing many of the traditions that my parents followed and still do follow. But being a good host is one way in which I can continue their legacy – okay, they’re still alive, but you know what I mean. I want to take after the very many positive traits and characteristics of my parents, but I’m fighting this personal inertia. I guess what makes it even more of an existential crisis I’ve turned it into is that Mr. Rafia thinks I’m being very unnecessarily perfectionist about it all. No big deal. We should have them over sometime. We don’t need to buy more plates. We could use paper plates! 

Help me out, folks: Do you think hosting dinner parties is a rite of marriage? Is this a legitimate worry of mine? Is it okay that I’ve been married for 15 months and still have not had anyone over for dinner? Do you know of any pro bono therapists looking for new patients?

2016, i.e. my first year of being married to a man I found on the internet

Since my track record seems to be 2 blog posts per month, this will most likely be my last blog post of the year. I wanted to make sure that I got a good “2016: Year in Review” post in before 2017 barges her way in and makes any attempt to do so a futile endeavour, so here goes:

2016 has been a life-changing year for me.

  • I started blogging again and have seen the most success this time around than I ever had in my 13+ years of blogging. So much so, I bought a domain! And now I tell people I am a writer whether they ask or not! ;)
  • I permanently moved away from my parents’ home
  • I traveled by myself (twice) to a destination that was not an immediate family member’s house. Sure, it was within the U.S. and the first time was to see a friend who my family knows. But still, this is me we’re talking about.
  • Oh, and yeah, I got married

Technically, it was in 2015. So that’s why I forgot ;)

In less than 5 days, it will be my FIRST year anniversary. My husband and I will be visiting my home country of Canadia to celebrate. 4 days in Montreal, a city I’ve been to for a few hours, and Toronto, the city that I was born in and later forced to leave when I was a child (okay, my entire family immigrated to the States in 1998, but it wasn’t my decision).

While I am certainly looking forward to having a second honeymoon, I’ve been in reflective mode for the past few days. I cannot offer a reflection here on all that has transpired in the past 12 months, mostly because it would be an infringement of privacy. But I have found myself in new territory many, many times and I was sure to make a note of it, somewhere. Those who follow me on social media have seen all the silly antics of Mr. Rafia and I – and there have been many great moments – but none of you have seen the many tears I’ve also cried.

Marriage, I have learned, is not for everyone. It’s not because I think some people aren’t capable of being married, but I do think that many have difficulty extending beyond their previous limits of sacrifice. It’s different for every couple, so I could never think to offer wholesale advice. I can say this though: no matter how prepared you think you are, you will be shocked. But you must learn to adapt. You may question your decision sometimes, but if you married someone with a good heart, you will find your cake at the end of the tunnel.

Compatibility is great – Mr. Rafia and I are both silly billies – but our personalities are different. I’m more quiet and like to write my feelings. Mr. Rafia, on the other hand, likes to talk his feelings and he’s very good at talking to pretty much anyone. I wasn’t used to this. In fact, Mr. Rafia is probably the first man I ever had a deep conversation with. It was a trait I secretly yearned for in my future husband, but I clearly wasn’t prepared for it. I’ve had to learn on the job, if you will, and I am still learning.

I know I could have just said that I married my soulmate and post a lovey-dovey photo montage of us, and though it’s true and I will, this is my blog, i.e. it is NOT Facebook. The truth is, no marriage is perfect. It’s the union of two imperfect individuals. If we are successful, we become a little less imperfect, but we never achieve perfection. If that’s what you’re looking for, let me ask you: DO YOU NOT LIVE ON THIS PLANET? Your life wasn’t perfect before you got married and it ain’t gonna get perfect after! Still, reminding myself that Mr. Rafia has and will continue to support my efforts in being a better Rafia (and I, vice versa – I’ve got my work cut out for me, folks ;) is what I shall take with me in 2017, as we enter our second year of marriage, God-willing.

 

Happy New Year! :)

Moving On

Tonight is the last night I will sleep in the room I have been sleeping in for the past 10 months.

Others live in their homes for years before they move. Some never move. Ten months is but a speck in the continuum that is life, but these 10 months have been significant for me.

Ten months ago, I said good bye to my mom and dad and brother (my sister moved out years before, but I’m sure I said good bye to her as well somehow) as I moved to Indiana to be with my husband.

That’s a big change for any person, as you can imagine. But for a Hyderabadi-Muslim woman who had always lived with an immediate family member, it was also a scary change. My family was my life. Now that I was moving away, who would I be? What would I do?

The first few months were a difficult adjustment. I missed my family so much. It’s not that I don’t miss them anymore, but just thinking of my parents brought me to tears in the beginning. Sure, I loved Mr. Rafia, but he was (is!) so different from me. I had to adjust to a new routine, a new way of doing things. The freedom actually felt threatening. Was I going to lose who I was for the past 29 years? I didn’t have any friends. I couldn’t cook (I had my fair share of mishaps). I didn’t know what I was doing with my life. I felt like a hapless mess.

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Mr. Rafia on our then new couch in our then new apartment. Models are supposed to make products look appealing. But, it’s okay, because we had already bought the sofa by then.

But then a few months later, the end of March to be exact, I started blogging again – and that seemed to herald the beginning of a new life I was happy to call my own.

As I sit to type this, attempting to ignore the physical disarray surrounding me, I can honestly say that I am looking forward to the changes ahead. I’ve slowly come to welcome the freedom I now have, though I’m still learning to fully accept it.

I hope in the years ahead, when these 10 months seem like a mere moment in time, I will look back with fondness and gratitude.

Okay, so it’s not quite the last episode of Growing Pains, but being the melodramatic drama queen that I am, I thought of that moment earlier today, when Maggie comes back into the house one last time and finds Mike’s carving on the wall. I did something similar in my parents’ home in Chicago. And who knows, maybe I’ll be a senator one day too? No, I won’t. But it’s fun to say that I might (Apologies to my readers who weren’t alive in the 80s and therefore don’t know what Growing Pains is – I only know the show because I watched the re-runs on the Disney Channel over a decade later).

Bye, folks. The next time I blog, I’ll (hopefully) have a REAL desk! Well, I’ll at least be writing in a different room.