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 Talal 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.

The Arab/American Marriage; many years later

My initial ‘Arab/American Marriage‘ post was in August 2012 and I’ve tried to provide an update each year since.

While reading over my original post I realize not a lot has changed other than our geographical location. We move to America in 2013 and haven’t looked back. For the first several months I’m sure I experienced far more culture shock and missed Kuwait much more than my husband did. I looked forward to the visits back and had even continued to remind him we should probably consider moving back one day. Well, that’s no longer the case.

After overcoming my missing of Kuwait (which didn’t take too very long) I genuinely started to embrace life here in America. Probably as much as my husband embraced it from the beginning. We’re both fully committed to being here for the rest of our lives and enjoying our Kuwait visits with family when possible.

At this point I don’t think we have any cultural differences to overcome — we’ve already done that on so many levels. I do still get a giggle when he occasionally mistakes the B for a P and ‘barks the car’. Otherwise, I sometimes forget he wasn’t born and raised here.

Some people have asked if my husband has changed since moving to America. I suppose we both have to some degree. I can say his love for animals, while it always existed, has really intensified. We started a nonprofit together to assist rescue animals abroad and he’s just as dedicated as I am to making a difference. He loves our pets (4 dogs and 2 cats) as if they’re our children and treats them as such. Anytime we’re out shopping together he’ll grab little toys or treats he thinks the pets might enjoy. On the other hand shopping, while one of my favorite things, is not on his list of pleasures.

In many ways I guess we’re simply the boring couple now. We spend weekends doing home improvement projects and weekdays working on business projects. We travel only if it’s convenient for our pets. He hates grocery shopping yet gladly carries all the bags into the house. We have mutual ‘couple’ friends as well as a handful of friends we hang out with independent of one another. I enjoy waking early and going out for coffee, he likes to sleep in and grab a quality brunch later in the day. We watch the same television programs, like the same movies, and have similar taste in music. Yeah, we’re just the typical married couple at this point. Best friends, one another’s biggest fan, and always displaying a mutual respect.

For those who continue to ask for advice regarding their Arab boyfriend/fiance, I would have to say the most important thing is to like one another. Forget about culture, background, religion, etc. Look at that person and ask yourself if you really like them enough to spend the rest of your life with them. If the answer is yes, then everything else is simple stuff. But if you’re with someone and think, “Oh I can change him/her down the road” get out of that relationship. Don’t disrespect yourself or someone else with such immature thoughts. Find someone you share a true common bond with and embrace them for who they are.

My husband and I were very fortunate that we both had a deep understanding of one another’s culture from the beginning. I respected his and he respected mine. There were no games or nonsense which resulted in hurt feelings. We were both honest, up front, dependable, loyal, and real. That’s what makes any marriage a strong one.

Failing or ageing?

Note: I realize I’ve spelled ‘ageing’ the British way though I’m American. And while I like to say us Americans have perfected their language (as a joke of course), I still have to suck it up on occasion and accept their written grammar/spelling is far more proper than ours.

Before I plunge into my innermost thoughts on failing and/or ageing, I would like to preface this post with sincere gratitude. During the extended ‘pauses’ in my blog I often receive emails from readers who want to know where I am, why I’m not blogging, and when or if I will start again. So appreciated. However, this time I received an email not only asking those questions, but genuinely expressing their appreciation for my words and explaining how my experiences have been motivating on many levels. You have no idea how much this means to me. Thank you.

So yeah, failing or ageing?

This morning I was reading through some of my previous posts in hopes of finding some ‘blogspiration’ (was that cute or what?) and found myself motivated by my own words; I was lively, alive, embracing the world, and doing stuff! Regardless of how small that stuff was, I was doing it. And from what I read, doing it rather well.

So what’s changed?

Recently I’ve discovered a lack of motivation due to frustration. Not so long ago I didn’t even require an alarm clock. I told myself what time I needed to wake up and regardless of how few hours of sleep I would get I always seemed to be awake right on time. Also, for as long as I can remember I never required ‘lists’ for anything. I could do a week’s worth of grocery shopping and never once walk aimlessly up and down an aisle thinking, “Now what exactly am I here for?”. I might have a dozen tasks lined up for the day and not only did I remember every one of them but I was well prepared and organized. Now I almost forget where I’m going while on the road to get there and inevitably always left something behind at home. What’s happening to me? Am I simply becoming lazy? Am I not the successful person I once believed myself to be? Or is age taking its toll?

Furthermore, as I’ve mentioned on the blog, I had been working towards my MBA. Not for any particular reason as it wouldn’t have made a difference in my career, but it was a personal goal of mine. So no real pressure other than what I placed on myself. I found that I was enjoying the challenge of studying again — been a while since I was a student. Feeling my brain actually function on a different level, while sometimes painful, was quite fun. However, this summer I’m not enrolled in courses. Initially I blamed it on a recent medical procedure gone wrong which resulted in me being hospitalized for an extended period of time, but I’m better now… for the most part. Only now I seem to experience ‘brain fog’ tenfold.

I walk from one room to the next forgetting my purpose. I get dressed and prepared to go to the store and find myself standing in my living room wondering exactly where I was planning to go… and why! It’s frustrating beyond words and I genuinely have no answers. But beyond frustration is the toll it’s taking on my every day life. Because I find myself so flustered with confusion I simply quit. So that trip to the store, or the classes I intended to take, or the business meeting I arranged all end up cancelled, postponed, or simply missed. I can’t help but to think I’m caving into the ageing process and allowing myself to fail miserably. Where I once experienced a great deal of joy in my life I now find to be painful. I dread making plans as I am terrified I’ll forget them and even worse, let people down. It’s embarrassing. How do I explain to people my age and older that I’m ‘just getting forgetful’? Especially when they all seem to function as we did in our 20’s. Even now, I had a follow up sentence in my mind and as quickly as I read the previous sentence to ensure it was fitting… I forgot. So yeah, here’s a paragraph with no real summary attached.

My husband tells me to start relying more on my phone. And I have. Fortunately I have a phone which just allows me to talk as it takes notes and stores them away chronologically. Imagine my surprise when it says, “You have a meeting in 30 minutes” and I realize it’s a 45 minute drive and I haven’t even showered. I’ve learned to add notifications 24 hours in advance as well as 2 hours in advance on every reminder.

This coming from the woman who not so long ago didn’t even depend on an alarm clock.

Changes…

Though I rarely blog anymore, it’s still something I would love to get back to doing regularly again. About a year ago I made the decision to give it up all together and then soon returned only to post a handful of times. I had also once decided to close this blog and start a new one covering topics I felt passionate about in hopes of raising awareness or meeting like minded local bloggers. But starting all over from scratch almost felt daunting. I found myself spending hours thinking of names, looking up domains, etc. It was just too much for something I may not be as invested in as I hoped.

Over the years blogging has been replaced by micro-blogging, insta-bloggers, and other social media forums. People don’t often reach out to blogs for information or insight the way they once did. Which leaves us bloggers feeling as though we’re just typing away without a real purpose. Especially if we’re hoping to reach a target audience or share some insights into topics we’re passionate about.

For the past few days I’ve been reviewing some new themes. Simple and clean. Nothing fancy, nothing that stands out. I like clean lines. I prefer to have a point and make it without all the distractions. Which is what I suppose I’ll continue to do. I’ll do my best to share more often, even if it’s topics which may not be so interesting to my current readers. Perhaps I can start over without completely starting over? Here’s hoping!

Happy Birthday, America! [2014]

July 4th is one of my favorite holidays and I look forward to creating some kind of little celebration every year; whether it be with friends, family, or just partaking in some public event. This year has required a bit of creativity since it’s Ramadan — a futoor cook-out.

*All rights reserved

*All rights reserved

Last night we experienced the first hurricane of the season (another one of my favorite things during the year) but today the weather is absolute perfection. Even a bit chilly with no humidity. Perfect for the evening’s fireworks events.

Remember, if you have pets, keep them safe tonight! Fireworks are very scary for animals and more pets get lost on July 4th than any other day of the year. Best to keep them indoors.

Wishing you all a fabulous holiday with loved ones. Enjoy! Stay safe, be smart, and don’t drink and drive.

Internal Revenue Service Webinar [US Embassy Kuwait]

The US Embassy Kuwait will be conducting a webinar to provide information to US Citizens regarding their IRS (Internal Revenue Service) and tax filing requirements. It seems the reporting of foreign income for dual citizens seems a bit intimidating and has many reaching out for professional services. The most important thing to remember is that Foreign Earned Income is tax free up to $92,000 (possibly more this year). A US CItizen earning their income abroad only pays taxes on the income earned after that amount. And depending upon the deductions and tax credits, many will end up owing nothing to the IRS. So before you pay someone claiming to be a ‘tax professional’ who’s really just plugging numbers into Turbo Tax, check out the webinar and get sound advice coupled with facts.

US Embassy message and webinar information below:

To assist all taxpayers in meeting their foreign bank account reporting requirements, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is hosting a webinar regarding the Reporting of Foreign Financial Accounts on the Electronic FBAR (Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts).
Date: June 4, 2014
Time: 2:00 pm (ET); 1:00 pm (CT); 12:00 pm (MT); 11:00 a.m. (PT)
Location: Your Office or Home
Contact: SB/SE Webinars; Email: sbse.webinars@irs.gov
Event Information: This FREE one-hour broadcast is for:

  • All Tax Professionals
  • FBAR filers

Topics include:

  • FBAR legal authorities
  • FBAR mandatory e-filing overview
  • Using FinCEN Form 114; and Form 114a
  • FBAR filing requirements
  • FBAR filing exceptions
  • Special filing rules
  • Recordkeeping
  • Administrative guidance
  • Live Q&A session with Subject Matter Experts

 

Please click here for more information

 

The Internal Revenue Service reminds U.S. citizens and resident aliens, including those with dual citizenship who have lived or worked abroad during all or part of 2013, that they may have a U.S. tax liability and a filing requirement in 2014.

The filing deadline is Monday, June 16, 2014, for U.S. citizens and resident aliens living overseas, or serving in the military outside the U.S. on the regular due date of their tax return. Eligible taxpayers get one additional day because the normal June 15 extended due date falls on Sunday this year. To use this automatic two-month extension, taxpayers must attach a statement to their return explaining which of these two situations applies. See U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad for details.

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.”

US Airways tweet gone very wrong

By now I’m sure everyone has heard about, or worse, seen the tweet sent out by US Airways in response to a customer complaint.

USAir

 

USAir2

(Note: You’ll have to Google the image yourself. It’s out there but I won’t link it to the blog)

The one with the rather graphic pornography and possibly the most hilarious thing to hit Twitter since, well, the day before when a 15 year old girl made a terrorist threat to American Airlines via Twitter. OK, that wasn’t necessarily ‘funny’ but it definitely had some entertainment value. US Airways tweet, on the other hand, is outright hilarious. And even more valuable are the 38 Priceless Reactions (tweets). I literally laughed myself into tears. Below are just a few of my faves.

USAirTweetReplies

 

Happy Valentine’s Day! [2014]

Every year men all over the world (or at least in countries that celebrate Valentine’s day) are running around, making plans, ordering flowers, picking up the chocolates, and purchasing jewelry. All in the name of Valentine’s Day.

My husband is no exception.

*Google Images

*Google Images

Our first V-Day together was still ‘honeymoon’ phase of our marriage so it was quite traditional; flowers, chocolate, diamonds, dinner at our favorite restaurant, and the ever so romantic card with the handwritten love letter. The next two years consisted of pretty much the same thing with the addition of a new car each year. This year we’ve been snowed in for several days but my husband still managed to make this yet another special day. And though I certainly didn’t need another car this year, I have become a huge Harry Winston fan. Classy, exquisite, elegant.

There are times when I find myself stressed, upset, bothered, or just outright confused and I immediately get a sense of relief knowing I have my husband to lean on. I often think of how my life would be so different without him. How he really is my knight in shining armor, He’s the calm in my storm so to speak. There’s no gift he could give me that could even compare to the value of his unconditional love.

Wishing you all a day of romance, happiness, and fulfillment.