The Arab/American marriage six years later

It’s difficult for me to believe we’ve been married for six years. And it’s even more difficult for me to refer to us as the ‘Arab/American’ couple.

Life for T and me is pretty much exactly what it was last year at this time… and the year before and the year before. Our cultural differences are quite minimal at this point. We’re a typical married couple living a very American life. If anything has changed it’s how close we’ve become and how much we rely on one another to truly be there and I like to believe we’re not letting one another down in that department.

Last year was a whirlwind of medical issues for me ranging from a medical malpractice issue (anyone knows a good Attorney?) to almost a year of just not feeling like myself. Like literally, I remembered the old me but had no clue how to find her again. I’m still struggling a bit, but have recently been diagnosed with Post Sepsis Syndrome which at least offers answers. My short term memory isn’t what it was before the surgical fiasco and I struggle daily with anxiety, mild depression, and all over muscle aches, but I am slowly getting better. And best of all, I’m not doing this alone. If it weren’t for the patience of my husband and him reminding me I’m not alone, I would have probably had a complete breakdown by now.

A little over a month ago we had to make the painful decision to have our precious Sultana (dog) put to sleep. She was suffering from a severe case of pancreatitis, diabetes, and a suspected long-term endocrine disorder. Her prognosis was poor. From the day she came to us from Kuwait, we had promised her she would never ever feel pain or suffer again as long she lived. In the end, we knew it was right to keep our promise to her. The decision was heartbreaking for both of us and to this day we still cry. However, we’re both slowly healing, focusing on our other pets (3 dogs/3 cats), and giving them all the love we possibly can.

When I first met my husband years ago in Kuwait our ‘dating’ was very brief at best. There was something about us that clicked. Something inside of me knew he was the person I had always hoped to find and I suppose something about me felt the same for him. Within weeks we were married and neither of us has looked back. We’ve gone through major life changes together; international relocation, families intertwining, cultural differences, home buying, businesses, jobs, as well as the things I’ve mentioned above, but we seem to do it with each other’s best interest at heart. I suppose that’s what any relationship should be, and it’s definitely been one of the things that keep us together.

Our marriage today looks absolutely nothing like it did in the first weeks, months, or even years. It’s ever-changing and evolving like everything else in life. But, for now, it appears as though it’s changed for the better. Don’t get me wrong; we’re not perfect. We argue and disagree like everyone else but we don’t hold onto those arguments. Or at least I don’t. He’s not as expressive so while I assume he’s not holding a grudge he might be visiting with the divorce Lawyer and I’m blissfully unaware.

Referring to him as ‘Arab’ and me as ‘American’ feels a bit silly at this point. I can’t look at anything in his life or how he lives and say, “Yes! That’s the Arab in him” and the same goes for me being an American. Our lives have completely meshed, and what might have seemed like different cultures in the past just feels like ‘life’ now.

For now, we’re both looking forward to Fall weather. I’ve started to invest a lot more time in photography as a way to clear my head. Not sure I’m any better at it, but I certainly enjoy it. As the weather gets cooler we seek out outdoor dining options once a week and find new places to walk afterward so I can take photos. I think he understands it’s therapeutic for me and he enjoys the walk.

Our big holiday of the year is Thanksgiving and we’re already planning for that. We host at our home every year and both his family (brothers studying here in America) and mine come for dinner. He always helps me cook and we always make far too much food, but it’s great to have everyone together for the day. Exhausting but wonderful.

I’m not sure when, or if, I’ll blog again. Sometimes I wish I could get back to it regularly, other times I want to make the entire thing private and turn it into my personal journal. Writing has always been my outlet and has allowed me to vent things I might not otherwise discuss. It’s been a method of sharing, growing, and healing when things were painful. Now, while dealing with my personal psychological changes, I don’t feel I can find words the way I once did. It’s almost a chore to put a sentence together and make it appear coherent. I feel as though my writing has become fragmented and without emotion. Stepping away and giving myself more time to overcome this battle might allow me to find me again. Here’s hoping.

Intercultural marriages; where to live?

When my husband and I were first married 4 years ago the question of where to live came up… a lot. No, not which city, or which neighborhood. We had to decide which side of the world we were going to call home, settle, and plan our future in. This meant one of us was going to spend much of the year away from the country and culture where we spent our childhood and made a number of memories.

By the time we were married I had already lived in the Middle East for a decade, so in a lot of ways it too was my home. However, all of my family was still in America. All of my memories and childhood friends as well. But, my family is quite small, consisting of only 4 immediate family members. While my husband, on the other hand, has about 25 immediate family members. Then of course there’s the cousins, the aunts, uncles, etc. I don’t have any of those in my family. So staying in Kuwait seemed like the logical choice. But, it wasn’t the the choice we made.

After a couple of years of marriage I started longing for life in America. We visited several times a year, but it just wasn’t the same. And with each visit I was reminded of so many things I truly missed a lot more than I had previously thought. My husband, being one who never meshed with his culture, also started missing things from America. So, we packed up most of our belongings and our beloved cats and made the move.

Should all women married to Arab men expect he’ll be willing to do the same? Probably not. That culture is deeply rooted in family. And for a man to make the decision to move to the other side of the world with his Western wife is a pretty big decision. But, over the past several years I have met a number of American/Kuwaiti couples of have relocated to America together. I’ll admit, I was surprised.

So, how is life now that we’ve been here a couple of years? Well, we’re completely acclimated, have a large group of awesome friends, invest a great deal of time into the happiness of our furry family members, have our favorite coffee shops, restaurants, and a solid schedule. We live what most people would consider the ‘typical American life’ and we couldn’t be happier. I’ll occasionally ask my husband how he feels about the possibility of moving back to Kuwait one day and he doesn’t seem to be to keen on the idea. Right now he’s perfectly happy with a few visits a year to spend quality time with the family. And I suppose I’m OK with that too.

The year of me; getting healthy, getting strong, feeling great

At some point last year it dawned on me my entire adult life has been dedicated to others in some manner. This hadn’t been an issue or even a topic of conversation while living abroad because I still found time to travel, spend days at the salon, and submerge myself in luxurious comforts anytime I saw fit. Since getting married, starting a business, adopting 20 additional legs, moving to America, and acquiring a variety of livestock that must be fed on a daily basis, ‘me time’ seems to have gotten lost. Don’t get me wrong, I look around at my current life and wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’m genuinely happy beyond measure and fully realize how fortunate I am to be afforded this life. But it doesn’t mean the selfish little girl who has always resided within has moved away. She’s still here and she sometimes screams, “Hey, isn’t it pedicure day?”

Several months ago, before the end of 2014, I made the announcement to my husband; the ‘year of me’ announcement. I simply explained I felt it would be a good idea if all of 2015 was dedicated to me, my well being, and the simple pleasures I truly enjoy in life. Of course my plan was to do this without requiring anyone else to sacrifice and without neglecting my responsibilities. I mean, I am still an adult after all. Perhaps not by choice… but, well. My husband, being the kind understanding guy he is, welcomed the idea with open arms which really translated to, “I don’t have a clue what you’re talking about but yeah, sure, OK.” Fortunately I had a pretty strong grasp on my plan and felt comfortable with the idea of investing an entire year to me.

Since January I’ve made a number of positive (in my opinion) changes in my life which not only help to boost my self esteem but also play a role in my overall health. I’ve gone on a very healthy diet, lost a significant amount of weight, incorporated regular exercise into my days, and pay very close attention to what goes into my body, ie. vitamins, proteins, etc. I’ve cut out all sodas (including diet drinks) and only drink water with lemon or green tea with lemon and mint when I’m not downing a protein shake. My energy level has increased so much I find that I don’t even miss coffee/espresso. I’ve also decided since I’m working on the inside I also deserve to work on the outside; self esteem purposes. I accept that I’m aging, it’s part of life. But it doesn’t mean I have to look worn out or diminished in any way. So, I’ve opted for monthly IPL laser treatments, chemical peels, micro-needling, and after the summer I’ll possibly do a bit of fillers and Botox. My goal is simply to be a healthier version of myself, not to alter my current appearance.

More recently I’ve also been viewing a few travel options and contemplating some places I haven’t been yet. But, planning travel always leaves us with the question of pet care — a stressful topic — so for now I’ll postpone lengthy vacations and embrace my mini-staycations.

I’ve also decided this is the year I’ll invest more time into my friends. We often assume our long time (or new) friends will always be there when we need them. But if we’re not doing our part as a friend, then perhaps they won’t be. I like to believe I’m a good friend but there’s always more I could do to maintain those truly important friendships.

Then there’s blogging; a hobby I’ve enjoyed for more than a decade. Sadly, it just doesn’t seem I have the time I once had though sometimes the desire is certainly still there. But, as much as blogging has been a part of my life, it’s changed. The format has changed, the ideas behind it, and even the audience. Blogging was once a form of expression and a way to vent for many of us. Sadly most of those blogs are long since gone and we’re left with pages of paid advertisements or dishonest reviews where the effort invested is directly aligned with the money they were paid to write it. Most bloggers have moved on to Instagram, Snap Chat, and other forms of social media. For me… even those became tedious.

I digress…

I’m so fortunate to have a life which allows me to embrace this ‘year of me’ and a husband who supports it… even if he really has no idea what he’s supporting. But one thing I’ve learned these past few months is that regardless of my adult responsibilities genuinely taking some time to invest in my personal well-being is priceless, and well deserved. Sometimes, in everyone’s life, we tend to focus on the here and now and kinda forget that being a little selfish from time to time isn’t a crime. If anything, it’s often that extra oomph we need to get through some of those hectic days. So yeah, I guess we could say my inner child is the healing power my outer adult has always needed.

Different cultures = new traditions

My grave lack of interest in Christmas this year recently prompted a very serious conversation between me and myself. Not out loud, though I have been known to talk to myself.

“Wanna go shopping?”

“Nah. It’s too hot.”

“Wanna decorate and start a fire in the fireplace?”

“Nah. It’s too hot.”

I think I was trying to convince myself the two days of unseasonably warm weather we were having was stripping away any sign of Christmas spirit I could have possibly felt — the way I did in previous years. But, the more I contemplated and talked myself out of doing anything holiday related, the more I realized it was because it lacked the same emotional relevance it did as I was growing up. Or even as I was living overseas for so very long.

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My husband, on the other hand, goes out of his way every holiday season to make it as special as he possibly can for me which was very appreciated before moving home to the U.S. However, it recently dawned on me that his idea of a ‘special Christmas’ is doing what he’s seen in movies and on television. He never grew up celebrating the holiday and really has no clue the significance of certain things… like the ‘build up’ of excitement as the holiday season approaches. Or why things such as ‘Black Friday’ make many of us insane with joy. Cookie exchanges, gift wrapping parties, or matching pajamas on Christmas Eve. Of course when I suggest these things he’s totally on board, but it made me realize he’s just going through the motions for my benefit. 

That being said, during my intimate conversation with myself about this overall detachment from the holidays I was experiencing, I had an epiphany — new traditions!

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My husband and I genuinely love one another dearly and would go out of our way to make each other happy. He pretends his way through the holiday season while I detach from it as a way to prevent him from experiencing any inconvenience. So, as a way to bring us closer together and connect on a more significant level this year, we opted to create some new traditions of our own. Such as a romantic dinner at a very exclusive (and decked out for Christmas in terms of decor) restaurant the first week of December. Black Friday shopping on Saturday at local businesses only. Christmas Eve breakfast at Cracker Barrel, and Christmas Eve night at the local Jazz club with great friends and family. Just a few small modifications that allow us to enjoy the holiday season in a way that defines ‘us’ a bit better than any Christmas movie we’ve ever seen.

So yeah, after almost 4 years of marriage we still occasionally face cultural differences. But chances of us defining them as such is pretty rare. I suppose we often just overcome challenges like any other married couple; compromise, love, and respect.

Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season filled with happiness and perhaps even some new traditions of your own.

Supporting one another…

The other day I was talking to a wonderful woman who, like everyone else, is facing some unique challenges. She has a lot on her shoulders but is handling it all like a champ. She doesn’t quite realize how well she’s doing and I get the sense the stress is starting to affect her self esteem. She had mentioned to me something she’s become involved in and really invests a great deal of time and talent into doing the best she can. And she’s doing awesome! However, she’s feeling a bit hurt by the lack of support from her friends. She’s not asking people to spend money, invest their time, or lift a finger. She’s simply asking people she considers friends to show a little emotional support. It’s shameful she even has to ask.

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That being said, where do we draw the line in showing emotional support for one another? Just because someone isn’t one of my dearest, best, closest friends doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be happy for them or support them in something they have an interest in. Heck, I would do that for a stranger. 

So why is it so many people (especially women) seem to be so bitter and hateful towards one another? Isn’t the goal to share the limelight with someone equally deserving? Or even step aside and let someone else shine every now and then? What’s the harm in saying a few kind words? What are women so afraid of?

I was raised in a family of incredibly classy women who had a great deal of self esteem. I can’t recall ever hearing my mother, grandmother, or aunts being malicious or nasty to anyone — even if they were given reason. I was taught to ‘take the high road’ and it’s always worked out rather well for me. And by ‘taking the high road’ I mean either completely eliminating negative forces from my life or just outright ignoring the source. I have a theory — if you don’t pay my bills or feed my pets then how important is your opinion of me? Eh. Not at all.

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Of course ignoring those filled with hatred and negativity doesn’t always take me out of their line of fire. It simply means I rarely know about it, and when I do I certainly don’t allow it to affect me emotionally. After all, when someone feels negatively about us then obviously their opinions are skewed as well. And sometimes, well, they’re outright delusional.

But the question still remains; where do we draw the line when it comes to supporting one another? At what age do women stop cheering one another on and start attacking their peer? And what prompts the lack of support?

It’s often said ‘if someone hates you it’s because they can’t have you or can’t be you’. Is it really that simple?

I’m truly blessed to be surrounded by a group of great friends who happen to be very strong, confident women. We empower one another. Support each other’s ideas. And always reach out to offer a hand, a smile, or a word of encouragement. And I like to think we do the same for random strangers. Like me, they avoid negativity.

Some would say the ability to remove yourself from shallow, petty, bitterness comes with maturity. I happen to think it comes from a good upbringing by self assured, successful women.

“Girls compete with one another. Women empower one another.”

My ex-husband abducted the children and took them to Saudi Arabia [Saudi Gazette]

I stumbled across this article in the Saudi Gazette today and felt it imperative I share it with my readers. Especially since I get so many emails from young American women who have fallen in love with, and considering marriage to Saudi students studying in America.

In the beginning of any relationship we all think our love is unique from others. Where other women might have suffered with their husband, we never will because our husband is so different and our love is so much stronger than others. Being in love is a fabulous feeling, but being realistic is equally important. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the words and feelings and forget about protecting ourselves while believing our husbands will always be our protector. But that’s a terrible mistake. What if your husband doesn’t end up being the Prince Charming you once thought he was? What harm is there in taking steps to protect yourself ‘just in case’?

As much as I love my husband and as wonderful as he’s always been… I’m still very protected by the steps I took. Yes, I love him dearly and trust him more than I’ve ever trusted anyone. But that’s not a guarantee of ‘forever’. Should anything happen and our marriage doesn’t last sure I’ll be heartbroken just like anyone would be at the end of a marriage. But I’ll take great comfort in knowing the only challenges I’ll need to overcome will be emotional. I’ll still own homes, cars, businesses, and be financially compensated. It’s a heck of a lot easier to get over a broken heart while you have a roof over your head and money in the bank.

So, for all of you young women considering marriage to a foreigner, please read the article below. Her situation is not uncommon. As a matter of fact, I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard similar stories… and we’ve all seen the movies.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Jessica and we hope her children are returned to her soon. I can’t imagine the loss and emptiness she must be feeling.

[Saudi Gazette]

“My three children, all under the age of eight, were abducted by my Saudi ex-husband on Nov. 24, 2013 and were taken to Saudi Arabia. When I’m asked in America why I married a man from Saudi Arabia, my response is always the same: “You can’t help who you fall in love with.” But my advice to anyone wishing to marry someone from a different country, a different culture, is to really think about how these differences will impact your marriage.

I always tried to look at the positives. Our children had a unique and beautiful opportunity to get the best of both worlds, expand their horizons and be exposed to the rich cultures of their parents’ heritage.

But I never thought about what would happen if our marriage didn’t work out. When you are in love, it’s hard to think: “What will happen to the children if we get divorced?” No one wants to think of divorce.

I became a Muslim in the summer of 2001. I then met and fell in love with a young Saudi student, and we married early in 2002. I thought, as many young women who are in love thought, that we would be able to handle any conflicts together. We discussed the differences in our backgrounds, but I dismissed any idea that I wouldn’t be able to live with him anywhere, as long as we were together.

I thought I was prepared when I moved to Jeddah in the summer of 2003. I was Muslim, it was a Muslim country. I was committed to my husband and to Islam. But the culture shock crept up on me, as I’m sure it has crept up on many. I became increasingly isolated and lonely.  I felt that I was letting down my husband with my unhappiness, and he acted like he agreed.

Our lives progressed and in the summer of 2012, my husband resigned from his job to accept a scholarship for his master’s degree in the US. I was content. I settled into homeschooling our older two sons. Our youngest son, developmentally delayed due to a congenital defect, was getting all the therapy he needed. I was close to my family. My husband was doing well in school. Our children were shining beacons of beautiful, open, friendly Muslims, better dawah (call to Islam) than I could ever give on my own.

But then, late in October of 2012, my world shattered. My husband came to me with an announcement. He had decided to take a second wife. I was shocked and then outraged when he told me the wedding would take place in five days, to a young woman who had become a Muslim only weeks earlier. I begged, pleaded with my husband not to rush into this marriage. We had been married for nearly 10 years and I did not believe I could live in a polygamous marriage.

We ended up separating. Through the pain of the destruction of my marriage, I wanted only what was best for our children. He assured me that he would always take care of them, that he would stay in America with his new American wife.

But things became increasingly strained between us. I felt that he became more controlling, irrational, and erratic as time went by. It was after I didn’t have enough money to buy groceries for our children and I became fearful of his actions towards me that I sought relief through the courts for child support and an official custody agreement.

We shared custody in the US, and negotiated the terms of an Islamic parenting plan, a contract, that scheduled travel to Saudi Arabia during the school holidays. This custody agreement was nearly done by the fall of 2013. He made every indication that he agreed with the arrangements. And then the worst night of my life happened. The children were supposed be dropped off at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 24, after a regular visit to their father and new stepmother. But he never showed up. I texted, called, desperate to find the boys, with no response. I called hospitals, police, as I was worried about an accident. It was hours later that I found out that my children had left on a Saudi Airlines flight at 5:55 p.m. I literally fell to the floor in fear and grief. My children, who had never spent more than a night away from me, were gone. I had loved them and cared for them before they were even born. I had only ever wanted to do what was right for them. And they were stolen from me.

No one wants to think about divorce, about what will happen if their partner doesn’t honor the mother of his children and doesn’t respect the right of young children to remain with their mother. My children have been kept from me for six months. I have been trying, from the day they were taken, to either get them back, or get to them in Saudi Arabia. My ex-husband has refused mediation attempts. I have been trying to find help in any way possible.

The US government has filed kidnapping charges against my ex-husband and his new wife, who was recently arrested and charged with assisting in the kidnapping while traveling back to the US. Even more recently, I had a meeting with the Saudi Consulate in the US and I’m hoping for the best.

But meanwhile, the children live without their mother. They do not wake up to me making them breakfast. We do not take walks through the yard and learn about the things that live there. We do not sit together and read stories of the Prophets and Islamic poetry. We do not snuggle up at night before bed, reading and talking about our days. My house, once full of love and laughter, is quiet and empty.”

‘Tis the season for new traditions

For the past several years, especially since getting married, I couldn’t wait to be home for Christmas. Holiday parties, tree decorating, huge meals, and of course, endless shopping for gifts. And though I’m still excited about those things, it’s on a completely different level than I could have ever imagined.

As life has taken on a deeper meaning for us we find the things which once brought us happiness don’t quite cut it anymore. I can no longer find genuine serenity in a day at the mall followed by a meal at some overpriced franchise restaurant. Just as the idea of purchasing a lot of ‘stuff’ for the man who has everything doesn’t feel like the way Christmas should be spent. Yes, of course we’ll exchange gifts, but it certainly won’t be our priority.

After Sultana (the rescue dog from Kuwait) came to us in late October, it was a stark reminder that some things are far more important than material items. She’s certainly come a long way from where she must have been a year ago, but we still see signs of senseless abuse. Cowering her head when we reach to pet her, the obvious break in her tail, and the worn broken teeth. Yet with all of that she’s the most kind, soft, loving dog ever. The look in her eyes is that of a dog whose spirit has been broken over and over. Yet her ability to show us such unconditional love and trust is a true lesson. She keeps us grounded. And, well, she’s given me a totally unexpected Christmas present. Puppies!

Cuteness

Cuteness

So, this year around our house won’t look like a picture on a postcard. No extensive decorations, no tree with hundreds of gifts, and maybe not even a big turkey dinner (trying to convince hubby to do a movie and Chinese food). Instead we’ve decided to attend charity galas and dinners, purchase gifts for those in need (from local small businesses), and donate time and items to our local animal shelter. It actually feels like Christmas is supposed to feel. We’ve even encouraged the family and some friends to get involved so we’ll be doing what we love with those we love.

Yeah, it sounds a bit crazy, even to me. I couldn’t wait to get home for Christmas! I was so excited for my husband to experience a typical American Christmas. But as the months have passed and we’ve embraced the more simple (yet more valuable) things in life I knew that idea of a ‘typical Christmas’ was slowly changing. Eventually you get to a point where you realize there’s not much else your spouse can buy for you (though I am hinting at another house built on our land), and there’s really nothing material that your spouse needs. Love becomes deeper and more meaningful than a wrapped box. And what better year to start new traditions than our first one living in America together? So here’s to a great year of giving while managing to incorporate a little commercial style Christmas in the mix!

I haven’t uploaded any holiday appropriate photos for this post, so… puppies!

Happy Thanksgiving 2013

This Thanksgiving is really special for us since it’s the first time we’re spending it in America together. I put a lot of effort into planning the menu and hubby has agreed to help out in the kitchen (he’s a great cook). We did all the pies, cakes, cookies, and brownies yesterday and the turkey has been in the oven since 5am this morning. I already need a nap!

*Google Images

*Google Images

Wishing you all a safe, happy, healthy holiday!

‘Muslim boyfriend’ is an oxymoron [re-post]

It’s fairly common for me to write about living overseas and marrying an Arab man since that’s my experience. But what I haven’t discussed is the far more common scenario of the couple meeting while in her home country. He’s generally overseas studying at some fabulous Western university and the lifestyle is new and exciting. Chances are this is his first time away from home.

I came across this really interesting post on Maritime Muslimah‘s blog this morning and thought I would share. She points out a few ways for a woman to know he’s just never going to marry her. I’ve only added her list of 5 things a woman should look out for, but her entire post is definitely worth reading.

1. The Parents

First things first – if he is hiding you from mommy and daddy then get out while you can. He will make excuses and tell you again and again that it’s not the right time. He will keep delaying it until he leaves. You will never meet them on skype or hear him mention you to them.

 

2. Justifies all the Haram

If you convert to Islam and he keeps convincing you to party, drink and have sex then he’s a dud. Often times he’ll be aggressive about it and call you ‘extreme’ . When you come to Islam he should support you and you both should grow and become better together.

 

3. My ‘friend’

If he calls you just a friend in front of his friends and other people and later makes excuses for it then call him out on it and if he doesn’t change – you’ll end in heart break.

 

4. False Nikah

Beware of him convincing to marry him ‘Islamically’ with the local Mosque without informing his parents or having any of his friends as witnesses. He is trying to make your relationship ‘halal’ while still committing haram (If you’re still partying and having sex).

 

5. Convinces you Not to become Muslim

He’s scared that if you become Muslim that you will ruin his experience and fun in the West. He came to escape  the laws of his country not have another mother telling him what to do.

The Arab/American Marriage — Al-Juz’a Al-Thaani

A little over a year ago I wrote about my experience as an American married to an Arab man. The post has gotten a lot of attention from women in similar situations and men looking to marry American women. But, I’ve also received over 100 emails asking for an update; changes we might have experienced as a couple since moving to the US.

So here goes…

Christmas of 2011 my husband had agreed to move to America. It was one of many gifts he had given me that year but definitely the best. I didn’t ask for it though he could certainly see how depressed I was over the holidays. I’m not Christian, have never been Christian, but have always celebrated Christmas… it’s a commercial thing. Of course I was excited and ready to start packing; it had been a very long time since I had actually lived in my home country. But his agreement to move came with stipulations (good ones, not bad), a requirement to be prepared, and took us about a year to meet the goals we had set.

It’s almost unheard of for a man from my husband’s culture to move away from his family unless it’s to study. But, from the time my husband was a teenager he was very independent. He worked when he didn’t have to, he maintained a place of his own outside of the family home (to take women? eh, don’t know, don’t care), and made clear he wasn’t interested in a traditional marriage. Yet he managed to do this without disrespecting his family. Not sure how he did it, but he did. The fact that he’s a middle son probably helps a lot as well.

Long story short, in January 2013 we were on the plane headed to our new life in the United States. We were both beyond excited and it almost felt surreal. My husband, his brothers, and his dad handled all of our bags and I managed the cats. Every single man in the family took us to the airport in 4 cars. As nervous as I was they made it feel so simple.

Upon arriving at our destination in North Carolina my husband handled everything. I believe at that point he was not only carrying the cat bags but also my handbag. I was utterly exhausted and surely not a lot of fun to be around. He slept on the flight, I didn’t. Enough said.

For the first several weeks we organized, unpacked, and made our new house a true home. It was interesting to see my husband learn new ‘American tasks’ such as hanging curtains. Yet he was more than willing and I believe it was even fun for him. Soon after we arrived he went on a power tool buying frenzy. Spring came and we planted a garden. Another first for him but he was truly enthusiastic.

Another thing I believe we both enjoyed without even realizing it was the lack of people staring. No odd questions, no funny looks. We just do our thing while everyone around us does theirs. My husband has been mistaken for Mexican more than once and our Waiter in a Mexican restaurant even spoke to him in Spanish while seating us. He replied with, “Hi Amigo” (the only Spanish word he knows) and we laughed.

Since moving to America my husband has experienced a lot of things he hadn’t before. Different people, a new lifestyle, food, weather, and even pumping our gas. Yet he’s adapted without hesitation. He’s remained the same kind soul I married. He remains patient when I’m not. And he has a way of being a calming force in my life. He’s still attentive, caring, and thoughtful. He never leaves the house without coming home with some ‘surprise’ for me. To this day he makes sure I have everything I need without asking. He really is the reason I sleep so well and wake up so happy.

If I had to list any complaint about him it would be his addiction to thrift stores. No, not antique stores — those are acceptable. I’m talking Goodwill. If we pass one while driving I cringe, knowing he’s making a u-turn. “Whyyyyyy” I ask. What is the attraction to buying used books (his primary purchase)? I think he’s just amazed people would discard so many items and he can purchase them at a 99% discount. I’m not nearly as amused. Fortunately most of our Goodwill stores are near a coffee shop or a mall… where I disappear to.

I suppose our life in America resembles anyone else’s. But I believe we’ve both grown as people. We’re more grounded emotionally and probably deeper in love than ever before. We appreciate life in a way we didn’t while living in Kuwait. We can sit outside, watch the sunset, admire the puffy clouds and green trees, and be perfectly satisfied. Nothing here is showy, shallow, or superficial and I think we embrace that. I guess we’ve become what some would call ‘boring’ but we’re definitely not bored.

While relaxing at home my husband will sometimes still wear dishdasha (I think that’s for my benefit) but he has a closet full of Eddie Bauer. I gladly cook machboos though it’s only once a week. We burn bukhoor and have Arabesque decor all throughout the house, but we also have 2 cats and a dog living in here with us — a Persian, an Arabian Mau, and a Yellow Lab (the all American dog).

Overall our lives have changed dramatically yet almost not at all. In Kuwait we lived the Kuwaiti life every day while throwing in hints of America. And in America we live the American life every day with little hints of Kuwait. It’s a nice balance and we’re happy.