Things I’ve learned from the failure of my marriage

It’s over. You’re hurt, and you’ve been dragged through the mud. You’ve probably lost friends, and maybe lost half of your 401k and half of your earthly possessions. You have bags under your eyes, you can’t listen to the radio in public anymore, and you’ve resigned yourself to being forever alone because the risk of being hurt just isn’t worth the reward of being loved anymore. Breakups suck.

But despite all the sucking, things get better, I swear. You pick yourself up, you dust yourself off, you find someone new and life is exciting again, and suddenly, you find yourself being sincerely thankful for all the shit you’ve been through. Because smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.

Even though I’ve reached the point in my breakup where I am SO DONE and mentally planning the divorce party of the century on the day this thing finally screeches to a hault, it has sucked for me too. We’re going on 3 1/2 years of being in breakup purgatory, but thankfully, this ridiculously long process has taught some priceless lessons on life and love. So I’m sharing them with you today.

I’ve learned more about what I want, and more importantly, what I don’t want
When I met The Mr. I wanted one thing: excitement. I was fresh out of a long term relationship and living in a new city, and having a cute guy to spend time with was great. But I didn’t think beyond a mutual attraction until I was already in way over my head. Now I know what kind of qualities I’d like the man in my life to have and which ones are absolute deal breakers. I know the man in my life must be kind, considerate, and that he must view me as his equal. I know that he must not be arrogant, materialistic, or someone who would ever call me bad names. I know those things because…

I’ve learned to love & respect myself
The difference between knowing what I want and being comfortable enough to say what I want is due to the fact that I love and respect myself. Completely and without shame. I’m my own best friend, my own biggest fan, and therefore, I’m my own advocate. I’ve found it to be absolutely true that I cannot expect anyone else to love and respect me unless I do those things for myself first. If you haven’t learned to love yourself, do it immediately. I’m not kidding. Right now.

I’ve learned to recognize my faults and shortcomings as a partner in a relationship
I’m an expert at recognizing the faults of others. Aren’t we all? But how much attention do you honestly pay to your own assholery in a relationship? I’m a nag. Like, a die-hard, on your ass 24/7 until you do what you said you’d do nag. You don’t come home when you said you’d come home? Expect an unnecessary number of phone calls. Said you’d fix the TV every Saturday for a month and still didn’t fix it? I’ll never let it go. I’m sorry. It all stems from my trust issues. I would have never admitted that 10 years ago, but it is what it is, so it’s only fair that I’m honest about it, right?

I’ve learned to give personal space, and how to ask for it and enjoy it for myself
In addition to being a nag, I used to be emotionally needy. I’d need your undivided attention and complete adoration at all times when sharing the same space or I’d be convinced that something is wrong with our relationship and then move right on to nagging about it until I created an actual problem in our relationship. Thankfully, my time in Saudi has forced me to knock that shit off. I no longer require someone else to fill emotional voids and cater to my insecurities. Once in a while I think it would be nice to have someone to fill actual, physical voids…someone to watch TV with or eat dinner with, but still, I’ve learned to enjoy time to myself now. Sometimes I wonder if I enjoy it too much and I worry that adding a person to my space on a full-time, permanent basis would be something I couldn’t handle. I’ll let you know how it goes when that happens.

I’ve learned that when relationships end, life goes on
Hello, I’m living proof! Love is wonderful. Relationships can be fulfilling. But they’re not something that should make or break your life. Love unconditionally and let go gracefully when you need to.

I’ve learned the importance of loving without attachment
I don’t have it down pat. When you love someone, and when someone is an every day part of your life, you will inevitably become somewhat attached to them. But I can more easily recognize attachment and separate it from love. I know that love does not equal possession and that knowledge has made letting go of and moving on from relationships easier for me. It’s also made being alone much more enjoyable as well.

I’ve learned that failing means you’ve tried
Those of you who have been reading from the start know that I fought tooth and nail for my marriage, especially during the times when I was the one who’d messed it up. It failed in the end, and that’s ok with me. I know that I did what I could to try and make it work. After I’d tried everything I could try, I learned the lessons above: Let go, and life moves on.

I’ve learned how to let myself be loved again
The hardest thing I’ve had to teach myself to do is how to let someone love me again. I came out of my marriage fighting and trying to make myself into someone who The Mr. would love and accept again. I was hurt and I was afraid that accepting love would only invite more hurt. It wasn’t until I learned that who I am at any given moment is someone who is, by default, worthy of love. And that if someone decided to love me, that was ok.I don’t have to do anything, I don’t have to be anyone else, I don’t have to look a certain way, I don’t have to cover up my flaws, I don’t have to fancy myself up, I don’t have to patch up my broken pieces. I am worthy of love because I exist, and it is ok to accept that love.

We’ve all been through breakups, big and small, and sometimes life changing. What are some lessons you’ve learned along the way?

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Abuse in Saudi Schools

School will be back in session here in Saudi in just a few days and my fellow parents and I are knee-deep in uniforms, backpacks, school supplies, and of course, tuition fees. I’m always nervous at the beginning of a school year here. Despite paying exorbitant amounts of money for what is supposed to be quality education, we haven’t had the greatest experiences in the Saudi school system. My friends and I think it’s high time someone talked about those experiences, and it is our hope to draw the attention of those who have the power to change the way things are done here.

For many parents the start of a new school year brings a rush of mixed emotions. We feel pride as we watch our children take another step toward becoming successful young adults. We feel excited at the possibility of new friendships, important lessons, and academic achievement.

For many of us, there are also fears. We fear that our children may be bullied or left out, that they not make any friends, or that they may experience peer pressure. In some ways these negative experiences are necessary to teach our children valuable lessons, so we accept them and we are always there with a reassuring smile and a warm hug, teaching our children how to handle them. But what happens when the things you fear for your child are not only perpetrated by fellow students, but by teachers as well?

How do you answer your sweet child when you ask him where the bruises on him came from and he says from his teacher? What are the reassuring words you can say when your daughter writes in her diary that she hates herself and wants to die because her teacher called her names? What are your options after several complaints have been made to the teacher and the school administration, and the physical and verbal abuse continues?

In addition to problems such as outdated methods of instruction, the insistence upon rote learning, and the lack of qualified teachers holding the education system back in Saudi Arabia, abuse is still commonplace among even the most popular and well-known schools.

Abuse comes in many forms: physical, emotional, verbal, and more. Every form of abuse is detrimental to the victim and often leaves emotional and psychological scars long after bruises fade.

One Saudi father, Abu Muhammad, took the day off work to tour nearby government schools for his son who will be entering the first grade. His aim was to drop in unannounced, meet the teachers and administration, observe the students’ behavior, and make sure the facilities were up to his standards. As he approached the administration office, he heard strange noises which he recognized to be the sounds of a struggle. Much to his surprise, when he turned the corner to the principal’s office, he found the principal towering over three children who were huddled together on the floor, trying to protect themselves from the beating they were receiving from this vile man. The principal noticed the arrival of Abu Muhammad, straightened his thobe, replaced his shumagh and igal, and rushed the boys out of the office as though nothing had happened. Needless to say Abu Muhammad did not choose that school for his son.

An expatriate mother whose children go to a well known Islamic school reports that it is normal for the students to be hit with rulers, but she accepts this abuse because she wants them to benefit from the Islamic teachings of the school. Maybe someone can enlighten me on what part of Islam allows this sort of “teaching”.

When a Canadian mother noticed bruising on her son’s body, her husband took immediate action and visited the school. “My husband went to the school to complain. The school said they would investigate, but still had the teacher continue working with the children during the investigation. They gave my son a gift. The teacher later called us to apologize and also say the kids were fighting and he didn’t know what to do so he hit them. He was not taught how to deal with normal child behavior, and he’s been my son’s teacher for 3 years.” When she confided in friends about the abuse her son had received, she was told that since she’s living in the land of Islam, she should take the good with the bad and let the abuse go.

A Saudi mother whose children have all attended the same famous international school was shocked to find out that her grade 4 son had been struck on the head by a teacher for giggling during prayer time. This abuse made the boy afraid of attending prayers.

An American mother reports that her daughter has experienced migraines, stomach problems, and emotional disturbances due to the constant verbal abuse endured, despite repeated calls and complaints to administration, at the international school she attends.

A mother by the name of HH reports that her son has been the victim of abuse from both students and teachers. Pushed down the stairs, stabbed with a pencil, and hit so hard on the back of the head that the front of his head hit his desk. When she noticed that her son was not eating his lunch at school, although she took care to pack him his favorite foods, she asked why he wasn’t eating. Her son replied “I can’t sit down and eat. I always need to be on my guard.” When HH visited the school to inquire about possible bullying, the school administration advised her to tell her son not to go to the Saudi teachers because they won’t help him and that Saudi teachers could not effectively be disciplined for their abusive behavior.

A woman whose husband works in a hospital reports that a student had come in for treatment because a teacher pulled his ear so hard that it needed to be stitched back on.

As a teacher at a top 10 Saudi private school in Riyadh, I personally witnessed the principal of the school slap a 6th grade student across the face in the hallway just outside my classroom. At the age of seven my own child, who we brought to this country to be surrounded by people who we assumed would share our values, was called a dog by her Arabic teacher in this same school.

Many parents find these abuses unacceptable, but many still do not know that they are illegal. Especially for expat parents, communication can sometimes be a problem due to a language barrier. Even when complaints are successfully made, school administrations are quick to try to cover up the problems and make excuses for them, rather than to deal with them directly.

Many parents wish to make official complaints at the Ministry of Education, but phones are never answered and without access to reliable transportation, this can be difficult for many mothers to do. Administrators, when they do recognize the problem, often times do not have acceptable ways to deal with it. Either they don’t want to offend a teacher who has been working for them for years, they’re afraid of retribution from people with connections, or they’re simply at a loss for what to do. They may try to appease parents and children by gift-giving and excuse-making, but a long term and permanent solution is needed for this problem.

How much longer are we willing to let this continue? These are not isolated incidents; it is a widespread problem affecting even the most elite schools in the Kingdom.

I challenge any parent, any citizen of this country, any expat, any unannounced government official to walk down the halls of our schools during instruction time. Listen to the teachers yelling, hurling insults, and handing out threats. It is a well known problem that needs to be solved. We send our children to school with the hope that they will be shaped and molded into better human beings who will one day be valuable assets to this country and the world. Instead we end up with children who are experiencing stress levels that even we as adults couldn’t tolerate. Our children are being scarred for life. How can we expect them to love Islam, to love this country, and to respect their elders when the last things they are receiving at school are love and respect?

We as parents are doing our part. We are outspoken advocates for our children, we are involved and invested in our children’s education, and we take great care to make sure our children are afforded the best education available in this country, but more needs to be done by schools and the government.

School administrations need to have clearly outlined policies on abuse, mistreatment, and bullying for students and teachers, and they need to follow those policies and clearly document the steps taken for every incident. The Ministry of Education needs to be more available to parents, to answer the phone, to follow up with reports of abuse, and to make unannounced visits to schools to ensure that abuse is not happening. This is a problem that is long overdue for a solution.

Hijab: What to say and what not to say to a Muslim woman.

Some Muslim women wear hijab. Some don’t. Whatever we as Muslim women decide to wear, and for whatever reasons, we have all had to deal with endless questions regarding our decision to cover or not to cover. We realize that not everyone around us will understand our decision to wear hijab or to remove it, so we are usually prepared to happily answer genuine curiosities. We are not, however, always prepared to deal with some of the craziness that comes our way. From Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Can you imagine that every day when leaving your house having to mentally prepare yourself for the barrage of questions and dirty looks that will inevitably come your way because of the way you’re dressed? What if every single day someone said “Oh my God, I can’t believe you wore those shoes! This is America!” or “Did you husband make you wear those earrings?” or “You removed your nail polish? Aren’t you afraid of going to Hell?”  or “Have some shame, put some socks on those naked feet!” It becomes exhausting to say the least.

In an effort to educate and entertain my readers, my friends and I have come up with a list of things (things we have actually heard, btw) that you should and should not say to Muslim women regarding the ways they choose to dress.

 

Things not to say to a woman who wears hijab:

Do you have hair under that?
What color is your hair?
Can I see your hair?
Aren’t you hot?
Ugh, I could NEVER wear that.
Do you shower with that on?
Do you sleep with that on?
Are you ever allowed to take that off?
When will you make your daughter(s) wear that thing?
I really miss seeing your beautiful hair.
When are you going to take that thing off?
You know you don’t have to wear that here. This is a free country.
Did your husband make you wear that?
Sister, your hijab is not correct.
You know you can’t wear makeup/tight clothes/pants/earrings/etc and call it hijab.
Do you cover in front of your dad/husband/etc?
Did you have to shave your head?
Are you bald?
Do you have cancer?
Go back to where you came from.
Terrorist.
Wow, you speak really good English!

Things not to say to a woman who has removed her hijab:

Oh, you look so much more beautiful without that!
Oh my goodness, I can see your hair now!
Are you still a Muslim?
Are you getting divorced?
What does your husband/father think?
Did you remove your hijab so you can date/sleep around?
If you’re not a Muslim anymore, it’s ok. You don’t have to fake it.
Sister, you know Allah commands that we wear hijab.
Aren’t you afraid of going to Hell?
May Allah guide you back to the straight path.

Things that are ok/helpful to say or ask a Muslim, covered or not:

I really like your scarf/hijab!
I really admire the way you’re dressed.
I love your style!
Why do some Muslim women cover their hair?
I support your choice to cover/not cover.
Where can I learn more about hijab?

How to make a hijabi woman feel normal, welcomed, and respected:

Hold the door open for her
Say good morning or good afternoon
Smile at her. You won’t turn to stone!
Ask her where she bought her scarf
Ask her how her day is going

Basically, folks, Muslim women, whether covered or not, just want to be treated like human beings. Treat us like you’d treat any other woman in your life. It’s ok to ask questions, that’s how we learn, but please try to make sure they’re not offensive. And consider researching the subject of hijab for yourself to better understand the motivations behind putting it on or taking it off.

Men

On Sunday, July 27th, 2014, while living vicariously thought the story of a friend’s latest love affair, I had a revelation. Here’s how the conversation went:

Friend: He parked by a mud puddle last night, so he picked my fat ass up and carried me over it.
Me: You’re like Cinderella
Friend: I have never had a guy treat me like that.
Me: I think I figured it out, dude. It’s because men are different than boys. And when we met our husbands they were boys. So they never learned to be men that sweep women off their feet. They didn’t have to.
Friend: Yes! Agreed!

How is it that we are just now figuring this out, you guys?

All these years we’d been experiencing boys. Now, finally, in our 30s, each with a marriage under the belt and each having been through breakups and breakdowns, we had each had the chance to experience what it is like to be in the company of a man. Apparently when you’ve experienced a man, boys become intolerable. Who knew. So that was the day that I realized I don’t hate men. I haven’t sworn men off. I love men. It’s boys that are the problem.

I’ve always hated those posts that are shared on Facebook about what it means to be a “real” man or a “real” woman. I don’t want to insinuate that anyone who identifies as a male is anything other than a male, but I do think there is a marked difference in the maturity levels of men and boys and, in particular, someone who I’d consider man enough for me.

Until very recently all I’ve ever experienced in the world of romance was boys. The Boy (my high school/college sweetheart who I’ve written about many times) was obviously a boy when we met. The Mr. was too. And I was a girl, of course, so there was nothing wrong with those boys when they were center stage in my love life. But I’ve just recently realized that I’m a woman now, so boys just won’t do anymore.

I can’t get over the fact that now, at nearly 32 years of age, I realize that there are MEN in the world. I’m not joking when I say that for the longest time, I had no idea.

There are men who open doors and place a hand on the small of your back. Men who know who they are and what they want out of life. Men who take you out because they want to see you have a good time, not because they want to get laid. Men who have careers and life insurance policies and cars in their name. Men who own things. Men who don’t play games with your emotions or waste your time. Men who are fathers and take care of their children. Men who want to have children and become fathers. Men who appreciate and understand the value of women. Men who make time for you and ask how your day was. Men who know when to give you time to yourself. Men who get to know you before expecting you to take your clothes off. Men who appreciate and admire your body without objectifying it. Men who know what to do with your body when you present it to them. Men who aren’t afraid to admit to their weaknesses, who know that there is strength in those weaknesses. Men who aren’t afraid to cry. Men.

As for boys, I’m swearing you all off for good. It’s men only from here on out because I love men. I think I’m finally opening up to the possibility of making room in my life for one someday.

Mother may I?

Today’s post is a short one. Mostly because my cat is sitting on my shoulder and every time I touch the keyboard she wants to help out.

I have a lot of answers for the women who write to me in search of solutions to their relationships with Saudis. I can tell these women if they’re wasting their time, if their Saudi boyfriend is lying through his teeth, if they’re playing with fire and about to get burned, and if it’s time to let go and move on.

But there are some questions I can’t answer. I have questions too. This one in particular has been on my mind for the past decade or so. I’m hoping Saudi men will chime in here and help us all out.

Why is it ok to disobey God by having a girlfriend, maybe even a live-in girlfriend, but the idea of disobeying Mama by marrying said girlfriend is unthinkable?

Discuss!

A peek at my vacation

I had so much fun on vacation, you guys. Life changing fun. I wish I could tell you all the details, but highlights will have to suffice for now.

I’ve been feeling a little bit better for the past couple of days. As much as I don’t like to talk about the bad stuff, it helps when I do. So today, instead of being pissy about being back in the Kingdom, and in celebration of my two days of no tears, I’m going to share some pictures of what may well have been the best 3 weeks of my adult life.

I’m sharing because none of it would have happened if you didn’t make it happen. I can’t explain how grateful I am, but I can show you pictures, and maybe that will be enough.

For some reason the only time I took out my actual camera on this trip was to take my baby sister’s engagement pictures…because OMG my baby sister got ENGAGED, so most of them are crappy phone pics. Crappy and fantastic. Craptastic. For those of you who follow me on Instagram, you’ll see some repeats here, but also some new stuff too. Enjoy!

My trip home started with an 8 1/2 hour layover in freezing cold (to me) Paris. When the plane touched down and I noticed that it was a gloomy, rainy day, I began to cry tears of joy. Since I was too chicken to leave the airport and explore on my own, I spent $22 on a sort of crappy Parisian breakfast at the airport and enjoyed it while wrapped up in my daughter’s pink zebra striped One Direction blanket. This tea got cold really fast, but I was in PARIS.

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For the first few days of my trip I went to my Daddy’s house. That’s him manning the grill. He used to do all the cooking when we were growing up, but ever since my amazing step mom slash bff came into the picture 9 years ago, he’s happily passed the reins on over to her for everything except the actual grilling. She’s vegan but somehow makes the most amazing burgers and pot roast in the world. That’s her behind my dad…sorry Sonia. This picture was from the 4th of July.

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What kind of Americans would we be if we celebrated our independence without fire and explosives?

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When I go home the list of things I want to eat is usually longer than the list of people I want to see, but this year people won and I didn’t eat a lot. Except for Mexican food. I ate a LOT of Mexican food. Four times in three weeks, I believe. I have a problem.

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I combined my love of people and eating one afternoon with my friend and ex cubicle mate Connie at the famous DeBrand Fine Chocolates. I consumed this chai latte float without shame or regret.

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No shame or regret, because this is what I was faced with and I still only ordered a chai latte float.

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Many other things happened during that couple of days at my dad’s house, including things so scandalous I couldn’t photograph them. But onto the next leg of my trip…10 days in Wild, Wonderful West Virginia.

I’m usually bored to tears when I go to visit my mom’s place. She’s usually working and most of my old friends have either moved away or moved on with their lives, so I’m usually counting down the days until I can head back to Indiana. But these 10 days…I didn’t want them to end. Most of the awesome happened in those 10 days.

For starters I did lots of driving! No word on whether or not my reproductive system has survived the damage I surely subjected it to, but it was fantastic either way. Don’t worry, I was parked for this picture.

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Remember me telling you there were babies I had yet to meet? This is one of them. I finally got to meet this little dude, named Corbin, the newest member of my friend Chris’s family. You’ll hear more about Chris in a bit, but first things first…Corbin. Snot and drool and all.

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I love my mom’s house because it’s peaceful and surrounded by nature. I also don’t love it because my mom is always remodeling something. Currently it’s the 160 year old house that she bought mid reconstruction. But this year her projects are tolerable and even inspiring in some ways. This is the bedroom floor, midway through its refurbishment. There’s something magical about the layers of time being sanded away to reveal beautiful wood underneath.

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I got to spend a LOT of time with a special friend. You know those friends who, no matter how hard time and distance and circumstance try to tear you apart, you pick right back up where you left off? I mean, most of my friends back home fit into that definition because very few people have stuck this whole situation out with me. But this one is extra special. And while hanging out each day, I got to take in this view. We’re sitting in Ohio, and that tree covered hill in the distance is West Virginia.

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My mom and I spent a lot of time together during that 10 days too. She’s thankfully (is it ok to say thankfully here?) not working so every day we got up, got dressed, and went on an adventure.

The little town I grew up in is home of the best fish sandwich in the world. I know it’s the best because I don’t eat fish and I love this sandwich. I was fortunate enough to meet with one of my readers and her husband as they passed through Wheeling and I recommended they have a fish sandwich. You’re welcome, Coleman’s. Feast your eyes, folks. That’s a famous Coleman’s fish sandwich on a bun with mayo and a side of jojo fries. My mouth is watering.

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We also walked around Centre Market and checked out a few antique stores and passed by the coolest used bookstore I’ve ever seen. The sign reads as follows: “When the store is closed, please feel free to borrow them or keep them and pay me later. Anytime: if you don’t have money to buy books and need or want to read, help yourself.” The store was indeed closed, and books were hanging out on the porch, waiting for new homes.

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Mom and I took an impromptu trip up to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as well. We visited the strip district, home of quirky stores galore, including a coffee shop slash cigar lounge called The Leaf and Bean where the cigar-smoking hipster barista reignited my love of small talk with strangers. We had lunch at the famous Primanti Bros. where we ate the most gigantic sandwiches I’ve ever seen. I can still taste that sandwich, you guys. It was amazing. Yes, that’s fries AND coleslaw on the sandwich.

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After lunch mom and I accidentally drove to the top of Mount Washington, saving ourselves 10 bucks on a ticket to ride the Incline. We snapped a few pictures…well, I did while my mom stood a few feet back so that she wouldn’t fall off the edge. Here’s a view of the city from the top of Mount Washington. My friends and I used to ride the train to Pittsburgh in high school and college, and I thought it was such a huge city. Compared to Riyadh, it’s teeny!

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I did make my mom join me for a picture as well. Despite the fence that prevents you from plummeting to your death, she was terrified. This was a bad hair day. I don’t care.

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In Wheeling I also got to hang out with the coolest 3 year old around, my niece Chloe. I’ll admit that until this summer Chloe and I did not click. But this year she and I became the best of friends and selfie takers. Here we are checking out the flowers at Oglebay Park.

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I also got to spend some time with my Grandma! She and I have always had a special bond. I was her first grandchild, after all, and she’s always offered her unconditional love, even when I was a mouthy teenager and when I grew up to make some downright crazy life decisions. She is priceless to me. My mom says this is where I get my nose. I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank her for my booty. Junk in the trunk began right here, folks.

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The trip with my mom to Pittsburgh was only one of THREE times I went there. On an otherwise ordinary Thursday evening my high school best friend Chris and I went for dinner and dancing. We started out at station square, a part of the city’s waterfront.

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We had a delicious dinner at a place that I can’t for the life of me remember the name of because the rest of the night was that amazing. I discovered at that dinner that I apparently like asparagus. The only thing that prevented me from saying can I have fries instead of asparagus at that fancy-dancy restaurant was my pride. This was one time my fear of the judgement of others won, because asparagus is delish.

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After dinner we walked around for a bit and checked out a cool water fountain music show. Here we are looking like two mothers who haven’t had a night out since they can remember and are so excited they’re not pushing strollers or saying no to ice cream for the 57th time today. This is Chris. She calls me Moo. I accidentally laughed at her when she was in the throes of brain surgery recovery. She accidentally laughed at me when I was in labor. Thick as thieves.

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After dinner, Chris and I went in search of a place to dance at which point I was shocked to realize that things had changed quite a bit since my dancing days were in full swing. The first place we went had a pool on the roof. And a really cool garden on the walls. I don’t know those people and I’m sure they were wondering why I was taking their picture.

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A pool on the roof with barely enough room to scoot past the other club-goers, with women wearing dangerously high heels, and copious amounts of alcohol being consumed. I’m sure if we would have stuck around long enough, we would have seen the perfect accident. But we did stick around long enough for me to decide that I could totally walk across that wall down the middle of the pool and not have to fight the crowd to get a beverage. It’s a crap picture, but it’s proof of my feat. I’m so happy I didn’t fall in.

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The rest of my Pittsburgh experience will be committed to memory and/or a book someday. It was crazyawesome. And it ended with these.

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I headed back to Indiana to spend the last week of my trip at my dad’s place. I spent a lot of time with my brother who had just moved back to town and I can’t explain how thankful I was for that time with him. Addiction had sadly taken him far away and made him into a person that I no longer recognized, so the time that I had with him this summer was priceless. We ate lots, he proved himself to be the perfect shopping buddy, and we even spent a night parked at the shadiest hookah lounge you’ve seen since that guy’s basement your freshman year of college. There’s never been a cooler and more inspiring little brother.

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I also got to spend time with my friend Candi, who coincidentally, despite having no connection to Chris, also calls me Moo. We’ve been coworkers and have navigated affairs and surprise babies and breakups and the death of her husband together. At one point our friendship ended, but thankfully we’re back in business. We ate, went on drives, drank lots of Mountain Dew, went dancing, had a photo session, and too many other shenanigans to mention here. Please excuse my hoodie. I was cold for pretty much the entire trip.

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My trip came to an end much too quickly. I spent a lot of time those last few days enjoying the weather and cherishing my family. I can’t tell you how much I miss grass….the smell of it, the beautiful deep green, and the feeling of it beneath my toes. And dandelions. Don’t kill them off, you guys. They’re so pretty.

And that green dress I am wearing in the picture is my favorite dress. I had to leave that favorite dress behind when the lady working the Delta check-in counter decided 52 pounds of luggage was acceptable, but 55 pounds was not. I’ll see you again next year, green dress.

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Remember me mentioning that my baby sister got engaged?! Here’s a couple shots of her and her fiance. I hope to make it back for their wedding next year so I can show you all those pictures too.

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Of course leaving is the worst part about going home, but looking back at these pictures and taking the time to share them with all of you is a great way to remember the sweetness. Remembering is the only thing that keeps me going sometimes. I’m usually pretty quiet here when it comes to the parts of my life that happen outside of my head, but it feels good to open up and share a part of my life that so many people came together to make happen.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you all so much for sending me home. I love you all.

The Bubble

B, Dania, and Amelie, this one’s for you.

There’s a lot of talk about what happens to Saudi men when they return to their homeland after extended periods abroad. In the West, your Saudi guy is just one of the guys. He might drink beer with his buddies, you might go dancing together, he gets along well with your gay best friend, and you’ve never heard him say astaghfirullah.  But if you’re a woman involved with a Saudi I’m sure you’ve heard (maybe even from me) the warning about how he’ll change once he takes you back home. (Despite the joking nature of this post, that’s a legit warning.)

But it goes deeper than Saudi men. This place changes people. All people. Something happens to you. You feel it as soon as your plane lands, I swear. You may not necessarily notice it the first time you ever arrive here, but if you’ve lived here for some time, and you leave for vacation, you can feel it when you get back. I call it The Bubble.

The Bubble is my idea of an invisible force field that surrounds this country. It causes a drastic change in personality and the complete loss of characteristics such as patience, logic, happiness, reasoning, open mindedness, and the ability to wait in a line. And the religious changes…I’m not even going to go there in this post. But wow.

No one is immune from the bubble, even those who are aware of it. Even my very normal friends and I, who are quite happy and carefree in our “regular” lives, become angry, bitter, raging bitches because of The Bubble.

You will think you’ve boarded a plane with seemingly normal people, both locals and expats, heading for Saudi Arabia. They’re polite, they wait their turn to board the aircraft, and they smile in your direction. They eat their meals on the plane without tossing their garbage into the airplane aisles. They address the flight crew with kindness…no finger snapping or shrieks of “EG-A-CUSE-ME”  to be heard. Women sit next to men and men sit next to women and adultery does not take place. Then you touch down in the Kingdom and the squeaky click-clacking of seat belts being prematurely unfastened against the warnings of the flight attendants is your first clue that The Bubble has begun to have an affect on your fellow passengers. A woman rolls her suitcase over your toes. A guy drops his backpack on your head. No big deal. Get used to it. We’re back in Saudi.

How does this happen? Why does it happen? Does this place break everyone’s give a damn?

While on vacation I watched a documentary about how other people around you, knowingly or not, can pick up on and be affected by your energy, or mood, if you will. Is this a thing? Could this place be so full of negative energy that it affects the basic personality and behavior of people who live here? I think it’s a thing. We’ve all gotten a “bad vibe” from someone at least once. We’ve all had a perfectly good mood ruined just by entering the same room as someone who’s not in such a good mood. It must explain The Bubble.

Whatever the explanation, it continues to baffle me that a nation of Muslims living in what they consider to be the holiest of holy grounds for Muslims can’t manage to remember basic manners. Suddenly people can’t find trash cans, recognize traffic lanes, their children don’t need carseats, and the faces of women become forbidden.

I know this sounds totally generalized and I know there are many, many exceptions to the rule , but there is no denying the effects of The Bubble. Please help me understand this, you guys. Especially those of you who live here. And most definitely my Saudi readers. What gives?