Tuesday, December 18, 2012

It was the worst of times

This is the story that I have been dreading to write but I think it is time. I don’t know if anyone will want to read it, because unlike the others on this blog, this isn’t inspiring or happy. It is sad. But it is our story and these words needed to be written.

On Dec 13th of last year I arrived in Islamabad, first time with my baby girl and the first time that Papa wasn’t there to pick me up at the airport. Instead he was lying in a hospital nearby recovering from serious brain surgery and getting ready for some severe treatments for his brain cancer. Mama and Waliya (my baby sister) came to pick me up and even though we were all smiling and enjoying Anya’s reactions to meeting everyone, underneath it all was a huge burden. Our beautiful little world was shattering in front of our eyes and all we could do was ask for strength to breathe, be strong in these difficult days and hope against hope that Papa (and us) would get through this.

Before this on the night of Nov 26th, only around 36 hours before Papa’s surgery, a doctor’s panel sat and told mama about the severity of papa’s situation. Their words, ‘we are not expecting a miracle’ hung in the air as Mama drove through pouring rain and tears, the 40 minutes back from the hospital to their home, where Waliya waited, all the while thinking how she will break the news to her. Even now when I imagine that time and what my baby sister and mom must have gone through, I cant stop my tears. I will wish forever that in those heart wrenching days, before, during and after Papa’s surgery, we were all together. To be a strength for each other and for Papa.

After the surgery on Nov 28th, as Nadiya (my sister who lives in the UK) and I waited miles across for any kind of good news, Mama and Waliya were ecstatic to see Papa through the Intensive Care Unit window as he tried to wave at them. They thought this was tremendous after brain surgery and thought that definitely the worst was behind them. Later on, Waliya couldn’t stop crying as she remembered those early days after surgery. How hard Papa use to try to get up initially and as he gained strength tried to walk a little further every day in the hospital hallway, because the doctors had told him that the sooner he’s able to get back on his feet, the sooner he’d be able to go home and he really really wanted to go home.

This progress continued for a few days. Nadiya and I were even able to talk to Papa on the phone and even though his speech was slurred, we were beyond relieved and thinking he’ll be better really soon. Meanwhile we all tried to swallow the dreaded C word. No one close to us had ever had cancer before. Nadiya and I kept reading things online to get more information, alternative therapy for cancer, diets for cancer patients, recovery from brain surgery, cancer survivor stories etc etc, all the while thinking that even though this would be the hardest battle we had fought in our lives, we all will get through this. We made plans of how to spend the most time with our family and how to be of most use. It was set, I would be with my family in the initial months and then when Papa gets back home from hospital, Nadiya would join us and help Papa in his recovery as she has always been very good in this way.

Anyways when I arrived and went to visit him the day of, it was the worst I have ever seen him. It is still very hard to remember him like that, but I will never be able to get that vision out of my head. I hid in my grandparents room on returning and tears streamed down my face as I called a cousin who is a doctor to ask her why he was in so much torture. Despite knowing the truth of the situation and understanding it better than any of us did, she told me the words I wanted to hear and I felt better.

In my research online, while still in Seattle, I had found out about the different types of brain cancers and GBM4 stayed with me because of the terrible prognosis. In my heart I continuously prayed that that wouldn’t be the one that Papa has. Little did I know that across the world, my mom was holding Papa’s reports that spelled out the exact words. But, she had no idea what it meant, except for that the doctors ‘weren’t expecting a miracle.’ Maybe it is in our culture, that we think the family cant take the truth, maybe we fear saying the words, the reactions. I still don’t know what is better, not telling it clearly enough, or telling it too clearly. I will always wonder. But all I know is that in those moments, the mixed signals, infuriated us like anything. We felt like the hospital, the doctors, weren’t doing enough. When we would ask about any symptoms that we were worrying us, all they would say is 'bas aap ko pata hee hai na iss disease ka' you know how (bad) this disease is. Sometimes we were told how great the surgery had been, then another doctor who'd visit would tell us how the tumor has already grown again. In retrospect, it was terrible and frustrating at the moment but maybe we wouldn't have wanted to believe even if we had been told clearly. Till the last day we believed that there would be a miracle and he would recover.

One week after I reached, Nadiya reached too. She decided that it was too much to be so far away and she just had to be with our dad. She gave Papa, Mama and Waliya exactly what they needed, what I wasn't able to give with a little baby to take care of. She gave Papa all her attention from morning till night, when we would come back home to rest for a few hours. She would remind him of funny moments we’ve had together and entertain him with her sense of humor. She would clean and organize Papa’s hospital room. She helped Mama manage all financial issues and she was with Waliya when they had to take Papa for the terrible radiation treatments. In the days after she reached, Papa would keep asking for his 'Nadu' all the time.

Weeks kept passing. Our days was spent at the hospital. Our nights were spent praying and trying to cheer ourselves up so we are ready for the next day with Papa. We did our best to arrive at the hospital with a smile on our face and no tears in our eyes for Papa to see. We wanted him to see us and instantly feel better, we wanted him to smile and be able to cheer him up. We would remember funny stories to tell to Papa to cheer him up.  Even in those terrible days, instead of looking like the gloom our hearts felt, we tried to dress up for Papa, so he feels good when he sees us and he would always notice.

There were many days when Papa was better, he would tell stories about his air force days. He remembered all the names of his friends and even teachers of his school/college days. He would discuss technology ideas with Bilal (my husband) when he reached. He would ask us to bring him particular foods and sweets. And he would ask about Anya a lot, 'where is the little traveller' with a twinkle in his eye.

On the other hand their were days when Papa would forget where he was, would ask for the same things repeatedly throughout the day, felt very restless and would keep changing his beds or chairs and not be able to find a comfortable place to rest, where he hardly talked or opened his eyes, and just kept thinking something, what? My heart will always ache to think of that.

In those one and a half month in the hospital, Papa had more visitors than we could possibly imagine. News of his illness travelled among his lifelong friends and colleagues and it was a huge shock to everyone. Papa was not yet 59, and had always kept very good health and he was the last person any of us could even imagine lying in bed in the condition he was in. Day in and day out, people visited, from all across the country. We have no count of them because they were far too many. It is truly in bad times that you realize your worth and of those around you and we truly realized how loved and respected our dad was. Except for one or two, Papa greeted them all by their names, always shaking their hands firmly and telling them he would be well soon.

Through all of this, through brain surgery, through the terrible recovery and the cancer treatments, through the endless discomfort, there was never a time that Papa complained about what he was facing. He was more brave than anyone I have seen and in that courage he left a huge example for us. He showed us how to stand tall in front of the toughest battles. He would talk about God a lot. He would recite verses from the Quran. One of the last things he said to us before he went into coma was ‘meri betiyan kitni bahadur hain’, my daughters are so brave.

And all this above, was only half the battle we were facing. The other was more painful in ways because it came from those we had always trusted and hit where it hurt the most. It is true that you find out the reality of people in hard times, and as this tragedy unfolded, many in our family turned their backs on us. Not stopping there even, they went to all extents to hurt us. We arrived at the hospital every morning, with our stomachs turning hoping that this would be the day we wont have to see their faces. They pained us like nobody ever can, their words stung, their hatred burned and in those days when we needed all the support we could, they kicked us where it hurt the most. The worst is that they did it all in front of Papa who was already so helpless at that point. He would try to calm them down, but when evil starts, it is hard to stop it. Their plans were only beginning to unfold but at that point all we could think of was Papa and it hurt us the most that they were hurting him when he needed to be given the most peace.

On Jan 12th, 2012, Papa had seizures since the morning, doctors didn't arrive till much later in the day and it wasn't until the night that he was shifted to a room near the Intensive Care. They told us he was in coma, but we saw him open his eyes a few times in the 5 days that followed, we thought he wanted to say something, we felt his hands tighten on ours, and we truly believed, or in retrospect wanted to believe, that he would get out of it. In those 5 days we literally started living at the hospital in my mama's little car, along with Anya as there was no one at home who could take care of her. I would nurse her in the freezing little car, and one of us would take care of her while the rest of us would take turns sitting at Papa's side. At Papa's side, we held his swollen hands and we read the Quran, we read Ayat ul Kursi, we read duas endlessly, we cried, we talked to those that came to see him and we hoped against hope.

Jan 17th, 2012, started like any other day, bright and sunny. Papa had had a temperature since the morning and we scolded the attendants that stayed with him for the night on why they didn't inform us so we could've come right then to be with Papa. We were sitting outside as Nadiya took her turn with Papa inside and her phone call to Mama from inside didn't feel normal. The rest of the memories all play in slow motion in my head but I still cannot put them in words, we waited outside, we cried, we prayed, they told us to stand outside, doctors nurses went in and out, and then just as suddenly as it had came upon us, it was over. Papa left us too fast and too soon, with so much that had to be said, and so much that he still had to finish, so much that we had to ask from him and tell him and show him, and so much that he had to tell us.

May Allah bless him and may that life be a source of eternal happiness and peace for him IA. And May we be blessed to be able to meet him again one day and hug him and tell him all that was left to say. Ameen.

FYI: Islamabad is the capital of Pakistan; Ayat ul Kursi: Verses from the Quran that are read for protection from all sort of worries; Dua: Prayer 

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Thanks for reading this blog and for stopping by!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

This season <3

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We don’t officially celebrate thanksgiving or Christmas. For us the closest thing to these celebrations are our Eids. However living in the US, there is something about this time of the year that does resonate with us. The magic all around might be to blame for it partly, but add the shopping deals, the twinkly lights shining through the grey everywhere, the holiday songs echoing all around, and how can you not fall in love with the season!

But seriously more than any of that, I love the concept behind some of these traditions. Like how thanksgiving is a day to give thanks, a day to celebrate the special people in our life. To give thanks for all that we are blessed with, material as well as immaterial. And then the tradition of buying gifts for everyone around you for Christmas. I especially love how both these holidays are all about family and togetherness!

Since I’m a big believer in taking the best from both worlds, me and my husband like to celebrate the holidays in our own way. We buy holiday gifts for each other and our family back home, we try to make a trip back to Pakistan to spend some time with loved ones, we enjoy a lovely thanksgiving lunch at some friends’ house, we celebrate snow days and we try to bring some of the magic into our lives.

Now that we are parents of a little one that will possibly feel more American than Pakistani, it is important to me that we find a way to connect these two worlds and bring the best of both of them in our lives. My dream for her always is that she feels lucky for her multicultural upbringing. That she feels connected to these two cultures so easily that this difference, instead of a challenge becomes a beautiful advantage.  

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So through all the craziness of packing and shopping for my Pakistan trip, I wanted to bring some holiday cheer into the house. I saw this via pinterest and had been wanting to try it. Above is my version and even though they looked much pretty in my mind than in real, I think they will do:). Added a little washi tape bunting over our chalkboard along with a joyful message and our little house is ready:)

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How do you try to balance the culture you come from, and the one your kids are growing up into? I would love to hear your ideas.

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Thanks so much for stopping by!

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Friday, December 7, 2012

Toddler Activity: Homemade push/pull toy

Since Pakistan is hardly giving me any time to work on the posts in my head, I thought I’d share some pictures from before we came here. Remember when we tried this activity? We tried a bigger version of that, actually big enough for Anya to take a ride in it too.

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This version ended up being a huge hit with her, and even though these are pictures from the same day, she played with it up till the day of our flight. Check her out giving all her favorite teddy bears a ride around the house.

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And this is how most of these rides end. ‘Dh-aa’ (which in Anya language is used for whenever you throw something on the floor) go all the poor furry things at the end. Most times to make space for herself, and then we drag her around the house, no pictures of that sorry:)

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Next time you have an empty box, I suggest you give this one a try. No mess, no fuss. You can even pretty up the box with neon duct tape as was our plan but travel preps made that hard to do.

Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

We are with the ones we love <3

We are in Pakistan, surrounded by family and good food and lots of gupshup. Our little girl is happier than ever, getting endless hugs and kisses. And dadi, nani, khala, phupo, phupo, bhai are becoming every day words for our little girl. Just another reminder, that there is nothing in the world like being with your loved ones.

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Watching cartoons with her little khala

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Early morning tea parties with her nani

As kids, I remember how it felt with our nani and nana. With them we always felt more special than we had ever felt with anyone else. They loved us with all of their hearts and there wasn’t a second that we didn’t feel it.

And now I see Anya surrounded by love like that. Our baby is lucky enough to experience that same intensity from all around! Her nani, dadi, taya, khalas, phupos etc love her like she’s theirs and my heart swells at the sight of it. We are lucky, our baby is lucky. To experience love like this as a child, it grounds you, it makes you want to go back again and again to experience it. She is blessed and so are we.

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visiting her great nani and nana

It tells more about these people than anything else.Through the difficulties that have crossed our paths and through the tears we have cried, we have been together. These are the ones that have cried with us, these are the ones that have helped us stand up. And these are the ones we come back to.

Even though we do not have the luxury to be with them every chance we get, I want my little one to know their importance in our lives. Our biggest investments are in our family and the ones we love and that is something we need to be reminded of again and again specially today.

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Busy exploring her taya’s beautiful house.

Hope you will excuse my irregular posting in the coming weeks. We are a little caught up with these lovely people. But I have many exciting posts brewing. Be back soon :)

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Thanks so much for stopping by!

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FYI: Gupshup: chit chat. Nani: maternal grandmother, Dadi: paternal grandmother, Khala: mom’s sister, Phupo: dad’s sister, Taya: dad’s elder brother, Bhai: elder brother/cousin, Apa: elder sister/cousin. Urdu is a beautiful language in the sense that is has specific words for all our relations.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Oh sunshine

Oh sunshine, streaming through the house, you used to be nice. We quite miss you!

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I love natural light and first thing I do when I get out of bed is open all the blinds/curtains. I get that from my mom who used to try to choose her houses based on the views from the windows.

So for me the best thing about our little rambler has always been the amount of natural light we get. Whenever we get some sun, late afternoons are just so cozy in the house. Sunlight streaming all around, and it is just perfect for some couch time. Now when sunny days are scarce, I cant help but miss those days. BUT like I said, I have a plan:p and I wont let it get to me.

Doesn’t mean I am not waiting for those sunny days to return. Because I am :)

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Also sharing these pictures reminded me of another thing, have you noticed how different a room can look at different times of the day? Every room has a time of day when it looks its best. When taking pictures of your house, make sure you notice this slight detail because it makes a world of difference!  Beautiful light makes for beautiful subjects. Both people and places:)

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Thanks so much for stopping by!

PS: I just noticed something on the floor infront of the front door in the first picture. Probably Anya's doing in her escapades around the house:p. It never is perfect i guess. hehe

Monday, November 12, 2012

A little peek

Remember when I shared Anya’s room and how it looked like in the first few months of her life? And how I said I would share her room soon? Yes, sigh. I still haven’t gotten round to that because I have a few projects to finish before I want to do that.

But I thought I could at least let you guys have a peek. Here is a glimpse of the two art walls, probably my favorite parts:) (Those of you who follow my facebook have probably seen some of these).

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Thank you guys for stopping by.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

To embrace it

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With cozy boots and patterned leggings and lots of new sweaters, with photo shoots in the rain with friends trying to convince our toddlers to pose, with neighborhood walks with a baby on my hip under a see-through umbrella, with Anya’s outstretched hands trying to touch the pani every time we are outside in the rain, with walks on trails surrounded by fall, with impromptu coffee plans with friends, with windy day drives through leaves just floating all around - we are trying to make the most of this season!

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After six years in Seattle, I think I have finally found a cure for the rainy winter blues. To embrace the weather! Yes, that is my new plan! With colorful rain boots and jackets and umbrellas. With the right gear and the right frame of mind. With good friends always ready to meet up on short notice . With not staying at home when you feel the blues coming. With lots of plans (diy/décor/other) to get through.

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Because, what follows after these rainy months? Is what makes it all worthwhile! The endless pinks and whites of spring, followed by the most perfect summer you can imagine. It is all worth it. And I have to remember that on those never-seem-to-end rainy days.

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How do you plan to spend your winters?

Thanks for stopping by!

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PS: Will have to tell you in a few months how the plan is working, haha!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Celebrating Eid

Hey you guys. So glad you guys enjoyed posts by the beautiful people I had guest post for Eid. I wanted to answer the same questions I had asked them but its been a bit busy in our house the past week or so. I thought I’d share some pictures from our Eid instead. This time we celebrated all three days because of the weekend that followed and it was lovely.

Here are some little glimpses into what it was like.

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Anya enjoyed the growing bangle collection she has thanks to our family.

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I did manage to put up some last minute decorations. Haven’t been feeling too creative lately because of lots going on, but wanted to put something up at least!

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A beautiful dinner with friends on Eid day with yummy food, lots of stair climbing for Anya (her favorite kind of activity) and Eid gifts for all the kiddies thanks to this new tradition some of our friends have started (I love the idea).

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A visit from an old friend who was in town. We were meeting after more than 10 years! It was nostalgic and lovely to say the least!

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A darling little handmade Eid card for Anya along with her very own abacus, sitting in Anya’s room thanks to some lovely friends!

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And our Eid celebrations ended with a cozy dinner with some beautiful friends!

Perfect mA!

How was your Eid like? Hope it was extra special. Will be back to posting very soon!

Thanks for stopping by!