Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Just an FYI...

I was away on vacation- again. Just got back and school started for both my daughter and I and I am royally "swamped"; until the long weekend that is. So the news at my end speaks to the piles of laundry (one load which was so full of horse smell and dirt that when washed it just re-accumulated itself on the clothes again and had to be redone!).

So... anyway, just in case you folks were wondering new posts and responses to comments will be forthcoming once I get into the groove again.

There is much to tell regarding the bug situation, the dude ranch, angry and irritating comments, life, lemonade and idiosyncrasies I face all in Life a la Shahnaz...

Thursday, August 14, 2008

14th August...

Belatedly I write to commemorate.

PAKISTAN- The land of the pure...

Sista asked me about my thoughts on her commemorative post...I could not divulge the sentiments that her post generated without finding myself so far in disagreement with her that it would be useless to even comment.

I am a believer and an idealist. I am someone who sees the silver lining no matter what. I make lemonade when life gives me lemons. I cannot say what Jinnah was thinking or who he was. I did not know him. I do, however, know of him.

He was man I admire. He was a man true to himself. Sista believes he could never be who/what he wanted to be... I disagree. To achieve greatness you have to follow your heart- fearlessly. Only those who are themselves and fearlessly so, are truly great. Jinnah was great in my humble opinion. He accomplished what very few can. And behind greatness lies a PASSION. It is the driving force. That and belief... faith and discipline. Jinnah demonstrated all...

She claimed he was unhappy. I cannot say either way. I did not know him.

Secularism/Islamism/Faith.... Why play on words? To generate debate and create rifts is easy... It is the inspiring of Unity that is a challenge. Anyone can throw in a controversy, sprinkle on some fancy pseudo-intellectual political debate and bash most anything to pieces, all from the relative safety and comfort of a drawing room (or blog).

Where is the nobility in that?

I LOVE the land that my parents originate from. I admire the man who made that country possible. Who cares whether or not Jinnah "left us all a legacy of ambiguity on what he wanted Pakistan to be"....

The more important question to ME is what do WE want it to be. It is pitiful to sit halfway across the world and nit pick about it.... what, I ask have YOU done about it?

To criticize and generate criticism is simple... and useless unless you also generate an alternative solution ... otherwise it is mere whining. I despise whining. I seek to solve problems, not sit back and point them out only.

It is the PASSION of UNITY that is difficult to rustle up.

So dear people... I sit halfway across the world from you- it is not for me to criticize the conception of that country or to judge the motives and person-hood of its founders...

I have a hope for a land that was created by the blood of people who believed. In honor and respect of that sacrifice I stand at attention to a flag. I believe in my creator in whose name the nation came to be. I have felt HIS presence much too often to doubt.

Pakistan is an IDENTITY. It is YOUR IDENTITY. If you don't stand up for it.... who will? If YOU don't fight for it, who will? If YOU don't respect it, who will? If YOU don't care, who will?

My dear people- this country, this land, this idea.... this is YOU. Remove yourselves from the petty squabbles of secularism, ambiguity, Jinnah's religiosity... and most of all nit picking.

Rise above mere criticism. Rise above pettiness. Find solutions instead. Let there be a purpose to all the debate, otherwise it is all talk and talk is cheap.

Rise and make of yourselves the best YOU you can be.

That is what Pakistan means to me.


Love letters...

The first one I ever wrote was in 1st grade! It was to Mr. Andrews- my 1st grade teacher. He was a Brit. He had green eyes. I have a weakness for green eyed men! He was so elegant. He always wore crisp collared Oxford shirts with a tie and he smelled so good- like freshness I remember telling my mom. "Mr. Andrews smells like freshness".

"And what does freshness smell like?" my mother had inquired.

"Freshness smells like pine trees and mornings!" I had replied.

I am still reminded of that descriptor by my mom. On occasion she will tell me about that simile that I had come up with. Freshness smells like pine trees and mornings.

So Mr. Andrews always smelled of pine trees and mornings. He had beautiful shiny white teeth. A mouthful of the straightest ones. And he smiled a lot. His shoes were always equally shiny. That is my other weakness- sharply dressed men!

So I listened enraptured, as Mr. Andrews would read from the "Adventures of Winnie the Pooh" and I was enchanted. I would make it a point to sit on the chair next to him and then I would enjoy the morning smell of him all day long. Mr Andrews always brought a Crunchie bar for an after lunch treat. (Crunchies are a yummy chocolate. It is a British brand and comes in golden wrapping paper). He would always slip it into my book bag with a wink and I enjoyed nibbling on it at the end of the day while I watched my brother play football (and it is football NOT soccer!!) and waited for the ride back home.

I wrote him a love letter one night before bed. It went like this,

Dear Mr. Andews

I love yu. You smel nis. I lik yur shus. They ar shiny. I lik yur smily tith.
I love yu very mush.


I colored red hearts on it and lots of suns and rainbows. And then I sneaked out of my room and peeped over the staircase. I could hear Frank Sinatra lilting in the hallway. After putting us to bed, my parents always danced to Frank's tunes in the kitchen. I peeked over the bannister and saw them swaying to the music in each other's arms. My dad is a great dancer and he held her close with his hand against my mom's back.(My brother and I would sneak out of our beds often and sit and giggle on the stairs as we watched them dance in the kitchen, unaware that we were spying on them).

I tippy toed into my mother's room to borrow her Estee Lauder Opium and sprayed some on my letter. It made an oily patch! I was a little horrified so I returned to my room and colored the whole patch red. And then it had an oily red patch on it! Sigh....

I went to bed and gave it to Mr. Andrews in the morning anyway. I was very excited as I handed it to him. He opened it and read it and he smiled. Then he looked at me and smiled again.

"Smell it." I told him. "It smells nice!"

He obliged. "It does smell nice." he said and then he put it in his pocket.

I was on cloud nine!

On parent-teacher meeting day while I squirmed about on my bright red plastic chair and my parents tried to keep their long legs in some semblance of dignity on matching blue and yellow ones as we sat with Mr. Andrews, he pulled out my letter.... with the red hearts and suns and rainbows and a big red oily patch!

Uh oh! I thought....

"You have quite a literary young lady here. I would encourage her writing even more...." is what that gracious man said. And then he handed me my letter.

I recall wondering what lite...litery(??)....lite(something).... meant. I smelled the letter. It smelled of Mom's Opium... and fresh mornings. I opened it. Mr. Andrews had made corrections. In his neat writing he had corrected my spelling errors in a shiny green gel pen! Mom and Dad peeked over my head. I think my dad chuckled out loud and mom hushed him.

I sighed....and hugged my dad and hid my face in his smell.(He smelled of cigars and aramis... he smelled of comfort.... he smelled of dad).

Mr. Andrews tapped my shoulder and I looked at him. "You write very well. Keep it up!"

He then went on to my other school work and talked with my parents about stuff.... and that was the end of that.

After the weekend as I sheepishly took my seat next to him in the red plastic chair, he gave me a brand new notebook. "To write my ideas in....." is what he said. "Just whatever comes into my head..."

And that is exactly what I have been doing ever since- writing my ideas- just whatever comes into my head!

(My mother still has that letter- by the way!)
(My Dad actually made a slide of it and on family gatherings it was projected onto the white screen in the den, for all assembled, to view the neat green handwriting that corrected my childish pencil scrawls on a background of red hearts and suns and rainbows and a big red oily patch!- The attempt that was my first love letter.
Of course this mortification was interspersed with other mortification's such as a close up shot of my brother and I as toddlers in the bath tub! And shots of me with my foot in my mouth and my bum in the air as I did a tumble and many such..... Oh, and another equally mortifying letter that I had penned as well- but that is a tale for another day!)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A rat's tale... part deux! (which is actually a cat's tale...)

So the rat was not exterminated via the glue trap as we last heard...

We were still living out of the Elsayed's flat and it had been two days since the glue trap incident. On the third day mom and I were returning home and outside the building we saw a stray cat. AHA! That was the key to the rat problem! We had been eating shwarmas (lamb meat gyros) so we lured the cat up the stairs via the smell of the left overs.

Once at the apartment we unlocked the door and let the cat in and shut the door behind it. We then proceeded to the ElSayed's to commiserate over this turn of affairs. All were in agreement that this seemed like a good turn of fortune. We scrounged around for an old cardboard box to use as a litter box and Nabeela pulled out an old shawl and large fruit basket to use for a bed. Some plastic bowls were procured for food and water and then we proceeded into out flat next door to welcome "Whiskers" a unisex name (the gender of the cat was at this point in time unknown!)

We made dear old whiskers comfy and played with her for a while. Then after packing some more clothes an sundries retired once more to the Elsayed's for the night. We stayed with them for a couple of days more to ensure that Whiskers had her space to whack the rat. We returned periodically to play and feed and change her box but pretty much let her have the run of the place for a few days.

We returned at the end of the time period to a rat free house and a new pet! We never saw nor heard of Rat again and Whiskers never made any mention of him. Whiskers (a female) was held in VERY high regard by members of both the Elsayed as well as the Khan family and very soon niched out a comfy spot for herself in our lives.

She lived with us for a year (my seventh grade year in Yemen!) until I was going to be leaving for boarding school. My mother was going to be accompanying me to Pakistan for a month of vacation before returning and a new home had to be procured for the cherished feline. Sofia Saleem (Habib's twin sister) offered to take her in until my mother came back. Whiskers was delivered and there she remained for about a week until- Alas! Shameem Hilaly's home was taken hostage by (you guessed it) a rat!

After one day's griping on the phone with my mother, Auntie Shamim was made privy to the qualifications of Whiskers as a hit woman for a rat whack job, by my mom. Auntie Shamim immediately sent a driver for the cat and a very surprised Sofia called me shortly to inform me that my cat was now being Transported to the Pakistani Ambassador's residence in the official Mercedes Benz with flags and all....

Much perplexed and with still a month before I was to leave I was a little concerned how poor Whiskers was taking to all the sudden changes. In a week I decided to go and visit her. Mom and I went over for dinner one night after hearing that Whiskers had again successfully completed her designated mission and eliminated the "mark" (aka the Hilaly's rat!).

A most perplexing spectacle met our eyes when we walked in. We were shown into their corner sitting room and had barely sat down when with a rather loud caterwaul Whiskers streaked past dripping wet in what could only be described as an escape attempt. In close pursuit were Haider Ali (son) armed with a hair dryer and Auntie with a brush. To prepare Whiskers for our visit and to appear worthy care takers the Hilaly's had decided to give her a bath. It being winter they worried about her health and so decided to dry her off- with a hair dryer! The chase ended shortly when the length of the extension cord at the end of the dryer gave out. Whiskers had vanished. Orders were given by Auntie to turn the heating in the house up high so that she (Whiskers) wouldn't freeze to death.

A very frazzled Auntie came in and apologized profusely for the turn of events. Mom and I just chuckled. We told her it was normal for cats to air dry and assured her that the sound of the dryer was probably terrifying to her anyway. Auntie now asked if Whiskers could just live with her instead of Sofia until Mom's return. It was settled and after an hour or so Whiskers herself showed up all fluffy and smelling of jojoba shampoo. She looked perfectly cute and I enjoyed playing with her until it was time to head back home.

I returned to Auntie's house for one last visit with her before leaving the country a few weeks later and was completely blown away by what I saw. Whiskers ruled the household! With an iron feline paw moreover. She barely glanced my way. And when his Excellency, Zafar uncle returned home that evening and sat on his favorite chair, he was made to move by a most haughty and indignant Whiskers who apparently had a liking for the same spot also. I looked on enchanted as the evening unfolded.

The cook came in to inform Antie,

"Begum Sahiba- Mano khanna nahi kha rahin hain."

"Kiyun bhai, kya banaya that un kay liyai?"

"Begam sahiba machi banai thee dopayhar main..."

Zafar uncle interjects:

"Bhai pata jo hai, jo din main khateen hain raat main nahin pasand karti!"

"Kuch aur bana kay do"

"Sir jee kiya banay?"

"Keema hai freezer main?" (Auntie)

"Jee begum sahiba"

"Woh bhun kay do chaldi say.... ziyada der say khati hain to phir hazam nahi hota unhain..."

I was floored! Wow I thought, what pampering. I was a little jealous I admit. I wanted to be a the Hilaly's pet and have my digestion and preference's catered to in this manner. Haider Ali came in and asked about what we were having for dinner.

Auntie had made Dal chawwal.

"Dal chawwal? Is there something else?" (Haider Ali)

"You eat what was made. I worked hard to make that" (Antie)

"How come the cat doesn't have to eat what was made? (Haider Ali)

I was thinking the exact same thing myself..... hmmmmmm....

"Sheesh! I'd rather be the cat in this house...." muttered Haider Ali as he went to the bathroom to wash his hands for dinner.

I was thinking the same thing myself....

After dinner Whiskers, (now known as Mano Begam) came and made herself comfortable on Uncle's chair. The grown up's talked as Haider Ali and I played on his Sega Game Boy. Mano began to get restless.

"Turn that thing down" (Uncle Zafar) "You know it upsets Mano..."

Haider looked at me and rolled his eyes. "This house has gone to the cats" he muttered. I couldn't help but agree.

Mano lived with them until the end of their tenure in Yemen. When they moved back to Pakistan she went with them. I recall visiting them at the foreign office appartments in Islamabad- where they were staying until their next posting. Mano was still around....

Monday, August 11, 2008


Manan wanted to know how I got to the point where I stopped being a pack rat.... well I'm not quite sure how exactly it happened. I got disillusioned I guess. I used to save everything- cards, presents, wrapping paper that the presents came in, flowers (I dried them or pressed them...) but now stuff just inevitably ends up in the trash.

I guess it wasn't stuff I was saving really- but parts of my life and pieces of the people in my life because those people meant so much to me. I stopped saving when I started to lose people in my life. I stopped saving when I started to see the hollowness of those people. I stopped saving when the people just did not mean that much to me anymore and it wasn't worth the effort to save parts of them....

Yup. That is how I stopped.

I also used to save stuff from my life. Pieces of me... writing, poems, diaries, photos, drawings- I still save that stuff. I also saved mementos of meaningful times and places. I don't do that as much. Only if the experience was particularly poignant, do mementos get saved.

The oldest memento that I have with me, here, at home is an old watch. It was given to me by Habib Saleem. He was a boy in my seventh grade class who was in love with me. He had carried the torch for me for several years... since fourth grade to be exact.

I was a fickle one then (perhaps as I am still...). I had no clue what "love" was. I played with this chap called Zuhair Ikram in 4th grade- he was so beautiful. He had green eyes. I do believe I was quite enamored by him.I remember he was the son of our principal! He used to talk about me at home all the time. The first time I met his mom was so embarrassing. It was at a dinner party. They were staying with the Pakistani Ambassador, Zafar Hilaly, and Shameem Hilaly his wife introduced me. Shameem Hilaly used to be my English teacher.... but I wander away from my tale. Zuhair's mom upon hearing my name said, "So this is the great Shahnaz my son cannot seem to stop talking about. He's quite in love with you my dear!" The grown ups laughed and thought it was funny. I remember blushing to high heaven.... Zuhair left after one year.

Then there was Sajid Fakir- he was half Yemeni and half American. The epitome of the bad boy, he came along in 5th grade. He was a seriously bad ass dude and could drive his older brother's motorbike! He wore his uniform (yes we had uniforms) tricked out with fancy patches and his shirt hanging out. He smoked and cursed..... He was sooooooooo cool. He was constantly in trouble and very bad news and I was in love with him! Head over heels crushing! My parents detested the chap. My mom could not imagine what I saw in him. But I gushed on and on about him anyway and they rolled their eyes.

And all along Habib was constant in his affection. If I had not been so busy making eyes at the other two I would have seen that behind all of Habib's caring and kindness lay a ton of affection. Anyway, it was in sixth grade that Habib finally made his feelings known to me. I was not used to having someone be in love with me. I usually did the crushing- often secretly. I did not quite know how to react to his blatant declaration of love. So I did the next best thing. I avoided him completely. I was very nice but I just became very awkward in my interactions with him- I broke his heart I think, when that happened.

I was supposed to leave the country to go to boarding school after seventh grade and on my last day, after the farewell party, as I was leaving the building he ran after me to give me this watch. I remember seeing the package and being very nervous. I remember being aware of all the eyes of our friends watching covertly from classrooms and around the hallway- holding their breath to see what would happen. I remember that he said nothing as he handed it to me. I remember my hands trembling as I opened the gift. I was clumsy. I dropped the watch. It was beautiful. It was gray with a braided leather strap. The dial was swarovski crystals in a heart shape. When I dropped it one of the crystals came loose.

I mumbled my apology and we both stooped to pick it up and bumped our heads. He retrieved it and saw that a crystal had come loose. He said, "It broke. Just like my heart." I remember looking into his eyes then, after such a long time of awkward avoidance. It was a long look that lasted what seemed like ages at that time. My heart was thumping and something inside me ached so much. We communicated a whole lot in that moment of eye contact. "I am so sorry" I said again. And I was. Sorry for being immature and awkward. Sorry for the loss of his friendship which I would miss when I left. Sorry for the ending of one phase of life and the beginning of another. Sorry for a love that was going to be lost to me- one so selfless and pure.... I did not know it at that time- (the young never do!) but it seldom comes around after that age....that sort of selfless love. Sorry most of all for not knowing how to tell him that I cared for him, very much.

He hugged me then. "Don't be sorry", he said. "I'll always love you". He kissed me on the cheek and I walked away, with a lump in my throat and a heavy heart, to the end of the hallway where my mom waited. She too had seen the whole incident unfold.
In the car, I broke into a sob. My mother reached out and patted my leg. "He is such a nice boy. Always a gentleman..... I hope some day you'll find someone like him".

I remember thinking that I had the greatest mom in the world. She understood so much, without my havng to say a lot. I showed her the watch and we drove home in silence.....

Many years later, she watched me pack for a completely different trip. I had just gotten married and was flying out for my honeymoon and to my new home. She sat with me late into the night as I rummaged through my room for things that I absolutely had to bring with me. I pulled out the watch and looked at it a while...before carefully packing it away.

"He was such a nice boy..." was all my Mum said. I looked at her with grateful eyes.
"Thanks for being a great mother!" I said.

I still have that watch. And the autograph book that all my friends wrote in, in 4th grade. They were all the craze back when I was little.

Pictured here is the page that Habib scribbled in.... And the watch he gave me. Pictured here is a piece of my life..... Immortalized.
Pictured here is a growing pain..... A sharp twinge- I still feel it the same way as I did then....
Pictured here is a moment.... A moment frozen in time.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Memories... And the sound of silence...

This one brings back a ton of memories... what did it remind you of?

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Monday, August 4, 2008

Clean House!

I have, for the past week, been de-cluttering my house (much to my daughters chagrin...)(it makes for a dull summer for her to sit by and play fetch for me...). Anyhow I cannot imagine where the dickens I have been keeping "stuff". I pulled out nearly an entire household out of my closets! How have I survived with such a clutter? No wonder my head was all jumbly.

Finally, I had the stuff moved out of my house and just spent the last couple of hours tidying up before the cleaning lady comes by tomorrow. There is still more that can be done but I am content to do that at a leisurely pace. I happen to be a neat freak and I just hit my high.....

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh............................ BLISS!


Sunday, August 3, 2008

Coffee Anyone???

So folks here's an idea....

Mouse mentioned how much he loves talking to us... and sista and I had talked about meeting up sometime. Mohican lives down the road from me so to speak (or is it up the road?), and SAM.... well sam's in england!


What say we plan a meet sometime?

Comments- YAY!!! or Nay :(

Give me your thoughts.

Oh and FYI- I love my blogger Peeps! You guys are the best.

Au Revoir

Saturday, August 2, 2008

A rat's tale...

Some of the comments left on "Bug Motel" reminded me of this incident.... Mouse was telling of the rat traps with glue... which are the "humane" way of destroying these nasty creatures..... and well this came to mind:

Let me tell you of a Rat's tale. Well actually it is more like the story of Stripes, my cat, but let me proceed with the telling anyway and I shall make an addendum to this post to elaborate on old Stripes.

So regarding the rat.....
This was when I lived in Sana'a- Yemen. We somehow had a rather mean old rat take residence in our apartment on Sharah Jamal (Jamal Street....) one summer when it was just mom and I living there. Dad was in Uganda and Shahamat- my brother was in boarding school in Lawrence College, Murree. Anyway we were these two hapless women and rat living in that sweet little apartment. We did everything we could to survive it. I mean we were away from the hose all day long and at night would scurry into the house and jump into our beds and sleep.

The language barrier (Arabic) made it difficult to go to a store and ask for a wire mouse trap. There was no option of looking in the phonebook for a pest exterminator and most of the friends we spoke to never had pest trouble because Sana'a is a cold place and therefore there are hardly any pests. The said rodent was an exception to say the least.

Anyway, we did the best we could to manage him. One afternoon we walked into the store around the corner, and well.... I acted out a cat

"meowwww..." I said

Then I scurried around, and said meaowwww again and pounced to help the man understand mouse, but for some reason he kept thinking I was a cat!

Time for plan B.

Mom and I commiserated and came up with a two person skit. She was mouse. I was cat. I meaowed- she scurried and I pounced on her.... by now a crowd was beginning to gather. The said shopkeeper had waved over some more people and was looking at us rather bemused and perplexed. He even invited the the shawarma (gyro) guy from around the corner while mom and I enacted the skit over and over in hopes that someone would understand. Alas! No such luck.

Now, the said shopkeeper knew we were not kooks or batty! He was the corner store guy and therefore our twice a week friend for groceries and sundries. He knew we were in need of something (sigh.... we always were) and was always very patient and kind. It did however make for some rather interesting (read embarrassing) interactions (on more than one occasion).

Anyway, the whole cat and mouse deal was not working.
Plan C.

I pulled out paper and pencil and proceeded to draw some likeness of a rat. Then I meaoowed again. Then I pointed to rat and proceeded to demonstrate- Me cat. This drawing.... eaten by cat (ME!). This drawing rat!

BINGO! He understood the general gist of cat and mouse. Now, step too.
I acted out "scared".

"EEK!" I said and jumped on his chair. Then again. I pointed to the mouse. I said "EEK!" and I jumped on chair and all the while Mom was mimicking the same actions and we were in constant communication making eye contact and laughing at ourselves and our sorry predicament with that blasted rat and the poor shopkeeper (I shall, for clarity, in following posts refer to him as "Shopkeeper") (There will be other posts of more incidents involving him!)

Somehow the man understood rat. Understood we were afraid of a rat.
Step Three.

Mom and I commiserated again. How to explain we wanted the rat gone. Suddenly it hit me!
The universal gesture.
I made a very straight and serious face. And then very solemnly ran the first finger of my right hand across my throat in a slitting motion.... and then I nodded three times very slowly... and then I stopped.

Mom and I looked at each other. She nodded very slowly three times. And then we looked at the man expectantly. The crowd and he all understood. They all nodded very slowly three times. And then they burst into animated conversation and laughter. The man beckoned us to follow him. He led us to a shelf and picked out- you guessed it, the humane rat trap! We had never seen it before. I opened the box. Out fell a cardboard square and a tube of glue!

Mom and I exchanged troubled glances. Quite good actors by now, our skeptical expressions gave us away. He proceeded to convince us.

"It works. Wallahi, it works!" he says....

He proceeded to act out the steps:
1. After you pray salat isha put glue on cardboard.
2. Put a piece of cheese (he pointed to a can of cheese) on cardboard in center of glue.
3.Put cardboard in corner of room.
4. Go to bed and sleep.
5. Rat comes and sniffs.
6. Rat steps on glue to eat cheese.
7.Rat gets stuck in glue.
8. You wake up.
9. You see rat.
10.You smile, clap and toss him outside.

There was some trouble. How do we toss him outside. I had to go eek! and jump on the chair to explain.

"Ahhh..." says he in understanding...
He fetches a plastic bin with a lid. He proceeds to open the bin and place lid upside down on counter. Then he places cardboard on the lid. Then he places the tin of cheese (to symbolize the rat) on the cardboard. Then (to my mortification....) he delivers an "EEK!" (identical to mine.... ) and proceeds to slam the bin into the lid until it snaps and-

Voila! He turns the bin over, and hands it to me. I shuddered involuntarily. He laughs. We pay him and we leave.

At home.

We stay out as long as we can. After dark, mom and I sneak back home, quiet as a mouse and scuttle on into her room. We say our isha namaz... we squeeze the glue out of the tube onto the cardboard. We place the cardboard onto the lid and in the corner. We put the bin on the nightstand in readiness for the capture. And we go to bed.

How it unfolds.

In the middle of the night, I hear blood curdling screams from my moms room. I rush in and turn on the light (I had forgotten all about the blasted rat!) There is a commotion going on. My mom is standing on her bed in her nightie. RAT is animatedly jumping around the room carrying the cardboard with him in an effort to free himself. (Now how could we not have figured that out? It's a piece of cardboard! It's light enough for the rat to lift!!!!). I scream and jump on the bed too. Mom picks up the bin and in a rather pathetically gallant gesture, embraces me with one arm in protection, and with the other throws the bin at the athletic rat- she misses... and the rat makes another leap at attempted freedom. More screams..... In one final leap Rat is loose and scurries out of sight. Another set of screams....I shudder... mom shudders... I shudder some more, and then mom shudders some more. We survey our surroundings. In one corner is the lid- still sitting neatly where we placed it last night. In the middle of the room is the bin which mom had heroically flung at the enemy (and missed!). In the far corner is the sorry little piece of cardboard lying overturned, glue side down, on the carpet. Of RAT there is no trace!

The doorbell rings. We look at each other. It rings again. We are afraid to get off the bed. It rings a third time... and then the phone rings. Still standing on the bed, mom answers. It is Nabeela.... from next door. She wants to know if we are okay? She heard screams and then, when Muhammed rang the doorbell no one answered. They are Egyptian- the sweetest people ever. Mom drops her composure and bawls into the phone narrating the tale of the stupid rat.

Yes we are safe. We did not answer because we are afraid to step onto the floor. We are in her bedroom. No we are standing on her bed. Yes I am okay. I am standing on her bed with her also. No we cannot come and open the front door. Because we are afraid to step on the floor. Yes it is okay for Muhammed to use our spare key to come in.

In a couple of minutes we hear the door open. We hear Muhammed. He comes in. So does Nabeela. And Amr.... and Amira (their kids>>).

We look at them. They look at us. We are on the bed. Mom in her nightie. Me in my nickers and tank. They are in their night gowns. Our faces are tear streaked and we are TRAUMATIZED! They just woke up from sleep and they are concerned and somewhat bemused but in a kind way. They look at us. And we look at them....

Nabeela helps my mom down. And Muhhamed carries me off the bed. They offer us their guest room. Muhhamed gets the broom and goes in search of RAT. We follow the rest of the ElSayyed's to their place. We sit at their kitchen table and we all drink hot Ovaltine and nibble on stuffed grape leaves and laugh (and cry a little) over the whole stupid RAT situation. Shortly, Muhammed returns to inform us that the elusive RAT has evaded capture and/or death... AGAIN.

We sleep in their guest room that night. And in the morning we return, only to pack a suitcase each, with Muhammed to supervise and protect from any further RAT attacks. And we move in with them for a week. Muhammed sets up several wire rat traps in the house for us.

RAT was not captured by a wire trap either.

Tune in soon to learn what happened next.

PS: Those dratted glue traps suck!

PPS: Bug Motel Update-
There doesn't seem to be much going on in the bug motels... I picked them up and shook them a little but nothing happens. No site of the ants either. Dunno if they die in the Bug motel.... or if they go back to the colony to die. Perhaps back to the colony.... even an ant needs familiar surroundings to say farewell to life. Plus it is better that way. Death in the Bug motel would not be good for business!

Stay posted for more in Life a la Shahnaz>

Friday, August 1, 2008


I should be in bed and sleeping... unfortunately sleep is elusive these days. I have had very poor sleep hygiene- staying up 'till all hours and sleeping when I want, for the last month or so and therefore now my sleep schedule is all messed up. Plus I have been a lazy bum and have not been working out so that is no good. Anyway, as I was saying I am an insomniac tonight.

I just ate some chocolate, and cereal and some toast with butter. I had hoped the carbs and sugar would help. They haven't kicked in as yet. But I can feel the love handles starting to grow. If there is anything I hate, it is being out of shape. I am morbidly terrified of being anything but toned. So the love handle thought is actually causing me much angst right now (probably should have just munched on some carrots instead... Must work out!!).

Hmmmm... I mustn't ramble on endlessly. Sleep deprivation makes for a loose tongue. For me it is like being on truth serum. A lot of stuff just tumbles out unchecked and uncensored. I always thought that was just my imagination- sleep deprivation=truth but there is something to it as a matter of fact. Tavistock Group Therapy actually calls for extended hours at a time simply because extended hours tend to make one tired and when tired we lower our defenses....

So this is me here with all my guards down, in my most real state. Fortunately for me there are no questions and no discussions, merely loud thinking. That way, at least, I know that I am not giving too much away......