Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Fresh start

This past two weeks have not been the nice and comfortable routine I've come to love.  The kids are off from school, I'm home with Zahra and the kids most of these last two weeks of the year.  I had been making plans to spend lots and lots of family time; just the four of us.  My world has become so sharply focused on the four of us lately.

The surprise of dad's heart condition changed those plans.  Family and friends descended upon him.  The circumstances weren't great, but a lifetime of connections were reestablished.  I saw familiar faces of those I see often and those I haven't seen for some time.  Even many faces that were new to me.  I was asked to pass on salaams from so many people; I even can't remember how many.

I was so pleased with the family response.  And with the support I got to be there; thanks Zahra:) It is tiring, but so much easier not being in it alone.  Alhamdolillah, dad has come through with flying colors and in a few weeks he'll feel like he has a new lease on life.

Last night, he came home after 11 nights in the hospital.  He came home to a full house of sons, daughters and grandkids.  Looking around and taking it in, dad took my hand and cried some tears of joy and told me how he's so happy and he wants our family to continue together for generations to come.  I absorbed what I can only guess is a fraction of the perspective he was sharing.  It was a beautiful moment.

It's sometimes challenging being an adult and having parents.  My dad did something right for a long time though.  I had this unconscious desire (probably instilled over a long time) to be around and help however I could.  Strong enough that I believe it's Zahra's desire too.  It's got me thinking about what I have to do to have the same thing many years from now.  I want to be able to look around years from now and be surrounded by my people.  Minus the heart surgery:P

At 74, dad is still teaching me.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Let me fix that for you

I was drawing with Nooriya.  Mostly I was sitting with her and just spending time with her while trying to block out the rest of the world.  We do this all the time; it's awesome.  This time she had me draw a bird.  I did.  She proceeded to erase it completely and say to me, "let me fix that for you".  And then later she said, "you just sit there and I'll take care of it".

Then later Yusuf did something all by himself that I'm used to helping him with.  It's been happening over time, but today it hit me all of a sudden.  Yusuf and Nooriya aren't little anymore.  I know that'll be a ridiculous thing to read when I come back in years when they're actually big.

All of a sudden it was them trying to take care of me when I'm so used to trying to take care of them.  I gather I'll never stop trying.  I'm not sure what my point is, but I do want to write down this memory and come back to read this.

My family is somehow getting even better.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Tortoise and the hare

I've heard this story many many times over the years. It's pretty simple and I've absorbed the message a little bit more every time. It's a nice reminder, but there's really nothing new. "Slow and steady wins the race". Pretty simple. 

I heard another telling recently that has given the story a deeper meaning  for me. The story continues after the race. The hare is in the hospital disgruntled and upset. He's just been diagnosed with cancer. The tortoise visits the hare in the hospital. Old friends talking about the race. The hare can't accept that he could be dying; he is a racer and just ran a race. Their conversation is great and it ends with the tortoise blowing the hare's mind letting him know "it was never a race".

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Close call

I had a very close call this morning. A possibly life ending moment. It's a couple hours later and my heart is still racing. 

The details are irrelevant now. I'm of two minds even writing this. I'd just as soon forget or pretend like it didn't really happen. 

I had a rare second-chance moment.  Everything important came into focus and everything else faded. I was jarred into realizing most of the stuff on my mind faded away. 

I'm sooooooo lucky to have a second chance. I'm pretty sure third chances are much more rare. I'll just come back and read this. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Awesomeness Factor

I've been reading up about positive illusions after hearing about it.  It basically means having a really good attitude about something....unreasonably so.  It's thinking that somethings are disproportionately above average.  I come across this at work all the time.  My math and economics background tell me to take this optimism with a grain of salt.  I am quick to discount when I hear rose-colored predictions at work.

Apparently, there's more to this.  Some psychology study concluded thinking someone is great is a predictor of a good relationship.  And this is a poem I want to come back and read

Love to faults is always blind,
Always is to joy inclin'd,
Lawless, wing'd, and unconfin'd,
And breaks all chains from every mind.
--William Blake

AND like some cool Yoda-mind-trick if you think something is awesome it will be even  more awesome.  That's kind of amazing at first, but then...duh.  All that's required is thinking something is awesome.

Zahra you're awesome and you'll somehow be awesome-er tomorrow.  Thank you and you're welcome:P

Friday, October 17, 2014

Giving Tree

I recently heard about a kids book called 'The Giving Tree'.  This is the Wikipidea entry.

Wiki describes the plot
The book follows the life of a female [apple] tree and a boy who are able to communicate with each other; the tree addresses the human as "Boy" his entire life. In his childhood, the boy enjoys playing with the tree, climbing her trunk, swinging from her branches, and eating her apples. However, as time passes he starts to make requests of the tree.
After entering adolescence, the boy wants money; the tree suggests that he pick and sell her apples,he does and sells them. After reaching adulthood, the boy wants a house; the tree suggests he cut her branches to build a house, which he does. After reaching middle age, the boy wants a boat; the tree suggests he cut her trunk to make a boat, which he does, leaving only a stump.
In the final pages, the boy (now a shriveled old man) wants only "a quiet place to sit and rest," which the stump provides. The story ends with the sentence "And the tree was happy."
The story can be interpreted many ways.  It can be interpreted simply as good or bad.  It can be interpreted as a metaphor for many things I think.

The story is simple in a way.  It reminds me that it's my decision to interpret this however I choose.  The story reminds me more generally that the way I see things is in my control.  

It's easy for me to see this as story between a parent and a child.  I think of Yusuf and Nooriya and how I get to be with them everyday.  I'm not in a hurry to skip forward, but I'm sure the story ends with me being matter what.  I plan to come back for this reminder over the years when it might not be so clear.

This post happens to coincide closely with Nooriya's birthday.  Five!  I remember when it was JUST four.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Hurry up and slow down

Today I had an especially busy morning and I let myself get caught up in the busyness.  I rushed from here to there and back many times both physically and mentally.  It was exhausting, but I had some time planned to slow down and relax.  It's Friday and I had my class to relax just after lunch.

My morning continued to be busy and of course bled into lunch.  I had just enough time to shovel from food into my face so I could get down to relaxing.  I just needed to hurry up and eat.

It was mid-way through my lunch that I realized how ridiculous this was.  I was kind of stressing out about my relaxing time.  I still couldn't snap out of it, but at least I was self-aware.  I hope I can come back to this memory and snap out of it when I need to in the future.

I was doing today in a very small way what I don't ever want to do...I was just trying to get to [Fill in the blank].  I don't want to miss what's happening now because I'm waiting to get past some milestone or whatever.

I did make it to class on time:P.  The class wasn't as good as it would have been if I'd been a little more mellow to start with.  You get what you give:P

Friday, September 19, 2014

One more hour

The other day Yusuf asked me why there aren't 25 hours in a day.  I explained some stuff about the sun rising and the earth spinning.  I'm sure it wasn't very satisfying to hear.  I wasn't very satisfied explaining.

His question was less about science and more him wondering why he couldn't stay up past bedtime and do more fun stuff.  This has stayed with me for a couple days.

And last night I was about an hour late getting home.  It was due to a combination of meetings and traffic.  I got home later than usual and I couldn't participate like normal.  The kids had already eaten and were already winding down from their day.  I felt robbed.  I felt like my night was stolen.

I thought about Yusuf's question again and I asked myself another one.  Why aren't there 23 hours in a day?  It would suck if the day was shorter.  I have 24 hours a day to spend however.  I'll be home on time tonight!

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Meditation class

Work offers a meditation class.  It's more of a close-your-eyes-and-relax class.  I was going for a few months and then I took the summer off.  I re-joined the class and the first class was great.  I felt as if I hadn't truly relaxed for a while afterwards.

The class is pretty simple.  Sit, close your eyes, and breathe deeply.  There is an "instructor".  He basically just repeats, "be aware of..." over and over.  It sounds silly as I write about it, but it's actually a really fantastic half hour every week.

The class is relaxing because it is about being aware of right now.  I can't help but think about the all the good things right now.  I shouldn't need a class or an 'instructor' for that:P

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


Every Ramadan without fail several people say to me some variation of, 'Fasting is so hard.  I could never...aren't you hungry?'  My usual response is something along the lines of, 'it's really not so much about food' or 'the not eating part really isn't that hard'.

Each year I try to focus on something during Ramadan.  One or two things that I want to improve or at least be more aware of.  In past years, this has been mostly mental.  This year my focus is mostly physical; my focus is food.  So much of what the things I listen to are about how to balance deen and dunya.  Food is both.

I tell people every year that Ramadan is not really about food, but this year it's a big part of it for me.

I waste a lot of food.  I want to waste less.  Every meal that I don't finish my food, I waste it.  The wastefulness is pervasive and affects so many aspects of life.  In me, wastefulness breeds an undeserved attitude of entitlement and privilege.  I want every time I eat to be a reminder that I have so much.  Rather, I have just the right amount; the amount I am supposed to have.  No more.  No less.  It's up to me to take the right amount.

Really, I'm trying to be mindful of food.  This hopefully translates into being mindful about other things.  Be mindful year round Taher.

I believe that I'll get what is coming to me.  No more, no less.  It's up to me to be happy with whatever that is.  Taher, let every time you eat be a reminder.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Acceptable Costs

I've trained myself to think in economic terms about many things.  At work, I almost reflexively think about things in terms of their utility and the acceptable costs.  Basically, I look at most things in terms trying to make them better.

At work...

But I want to put this thinking into more of my life.  At work I've come to realize that perfect is the enemy of better.  I don't spend too much time trying to get something just right and have that stand in the way of things getting better.  It's natural for me to use this "economic" thinking at work, but for some reason this kind of approach doesn't kick in automatically when it's not work.

I have what I expect to be a stressful day coming up.  There are lots of things to keep track of, lists and lists:P  I've had many stressful days before and hopefully many still to come.  I'm already anticipating being a bit stressed out.  I'm trying to remember that's ok.  I want to be stressed out a little less than last time I had a stressful day.  As long as I'm better than the last time, that's a victory.

I'll come back in a couple days and read this in the morning.  Hopefully, I'll come back for this reminder the next stressful day after that...

The goal for today isn't perfection; it's better than yesterday.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

starless sky

I heard a physicist talk about the universe expanding.  It was a pretty cool and a little bit geeky, but still accessible to me.  It was fascinating.  I read more about the work that is the basis for the talk.  A couple guys won a nobel prize a couple years ago for showing that universe is not only getting bigger, but that things the universe is accelerating away from itself.

The force moving stars apart is stronger than the gravity holding them close.  This means that eventually that stars will be moving away from us so fast that they will be going the speed of light (or faster even?).  If stars in the sky are going away from us at the speed of light then their light will never reach us.  The sky will eventually just be dark!  This might not be news, but I read it with gravitas.

It's pretty amazing to be here NOW.  There are countless cliches about living right now and in the moment.  They're sometimes inspirational and often overused and ineffective.  I read about this discovery and found it pretty inspirational.  One day the world will be different.  One day we actually won't be able to see stars in the sky.  I'm glad that's not today.  Things are pretty good today.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

throw up memory

This was one of the first things I wrote ten years ago.  This memory is still vivid.  I still remember how I felt when I wrote this.  I had no idea then.

Yesterday at masjid Yusuf got sick in the middle of Ishaa.  It was the second raqaat and I immediately broke my namaz to take care of him.  Fortunately, he was feeling much better in a matter of moments.  I ran around and cleaned him up and assured him that everything was ok.  Luckily, the mess was almost entirely on our masallas.  I cleaned it up and was pretty immune to the grossness that the person next to me in namaz probably saw and smelled.  But phew, Yusuf was feeling good and eventually everything was rinsed and less smelly.

Fast forward to a few hours later on our way home and he got sick again in the car still about 10 minutes from home.  Fortunately again, he seemed to feel much better within moments.  The car though, is not a great place to be sick.  We got home way after bedtime with a bunch stuff that we had to do all of a sudden.  The kids now needed a bath and a bunch of laundry to do.

Zahra and I got the kids all cleaned up and put to bed and then had to deal with the car.  The mess was everywhere and it was now raining outside.  Great.  I took the car apart and cleaned for what seemed like a pretty long time.  Again, I was seemingly immune to the grossness.  A neighbor walked passed and observed me cleaning vomit out with lots and lots of wet wipes.  I can only imagine what he must have been thinking.

Last night was pure love.  Taking care of Yusuf is so instinctual for us.

Yesterday was a day I that I will remember for a long time I imagine.  When Yusuf is older it's going to be one of those stories I tell over and over.  I expect people will indulge me and act as if it's a story they've never heard before just because I'm so fond of telling it.  They'll listen just the way I have patiently listened to a few people I love tell the same stories over and over because I love watching them remember fondly.

I've got some idea now, but probably still just an inkling.  I've learned something over and over the last ten reward for love is more love.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

What are we going to do today?

Zahra has been gone this week and it's been me and the kids for six days so far. I'm a little exhausted, but in the most fulfilling way. I've been keeping the kids so busy with fun stuff that they've hopefully been distracted a bit from the fact the person most important to them is away for a week. I'll count it a victory if they were even a little bit distracted. 

Today I was rushing around trying to get the kids to madrasa. After dropping them I stopped to finally eat something today. 

I noticed a group of retired guys having a leisurely breakfast. I remember seeing the same older guys last week and remember thinking, "That's so nice. I hope I have a nice regular get together with some friends when I'm retired."

This morning I sat within earshot of them.  Feeling a bit ragged from the week, I shoved breakfast in my mouth so I could get to the next place on time. 

These guys were clearly taking their time and one of them said' "Well, what are we going to do today?"  He said it with such wonder. He said it open to the huge potential of what today and right now could bring. He wasn't talking about next summer or next month or next weekend or even tomorrow. 

I was jealous of how in the present they were and also keenly aware at that moment that I wasn't. 

Theres so much to learn from all around. Keep your ears open Taher. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

One percenter

I am looking around at my house which is mostly packed up at this point. We are almost all ready to move in a couple weeks. I'm taking a moment to take it in. We have a beautiful house. In a few weeks we GET to move into an even more beautiful house. In another year and some change we GET to move into a different beautiful house. 

I often look around me and feel I've won a lottery. I GET so much. In this moment I'm remembering that I GET so much more than I WANT. I think I've  won the lottery because I already have all that I want. And I still get more. 

I recently was solicited for some work. It's nothing now, but it could become something. The potential is great, but I will do well to remember that I have all I want already. 

I'm ALREADY in the top 0.1% of happy people. 

Nooriya's ballet teacher is made an exception to the usual "no parents" rule and letting me watch today!  I even got to do the silly dance😍

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Teaching goes both ways

Over pancakes this morning Yusuf suggested putting whip cream all over the floor and then going sledding.  And I didn't answer, but he asked 'why not?' in response to my instinctual facial reaction. 

I LOVE that Yusuf and Nooriya think fun first and practical later or not at all😄. I'm jealous. 

They have lots to teach. 

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Waiting for the memories

I just finished driving up route 1 with the family and it was BEAUTIFUL.  Every few minutes there seemed to be a vista to stop and take in the views.  Vistas a few minutes apart weren't even enough.  It was wondrous and so beautiful...and so easy to appreciate on vacation.  That last part is kind of sad.

I wrote this almost a decade ago.  It was when Zahra and I first moved to Bangkok.  We visited a bunch of the sites and there was one memory that so vividly returned as we drove along the coast. 

We saw a flower market.  It was beautiful just like this drive was beautiful.  There were thousands upon thousand of flowers and all different colors.  The flowers were overflowing and there were so many petals that some fell in the gutter and were floating to the sewer.

The market was bustling and people were going from here to there doing their work.  They seemingly had become immune to this explosion of color and beauty.  I also vividly remember how I felt.  I had my new camera and resolved then to not stop noticing and trying to capture the wonder around me.

A LOT of great stuff has happened for me this last decade; most of the stuff wasn't on vacation.  I re-resolve to have my proverbial camera ready (and my phone camera) to capture the memories and beauty right in front of me everyday.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Random hug

I picked up a random book from the bookshelf.  After reading a few pages that seemed oddly familiar I realized that I had read this back in my school days and it was one of my contributions to the library.  It's a mathy book so it didn't take long to realize:P

The book has some interesting analogies about different ways to think about randomness.  I've learned and thought a lot about the random nature of things since I last read this.  All sorts of things happen from the everyday to the unthinkable.  Some things are expected and some things are a complete surprise.  There are all sorts of adjectives that could apply like beautiful, horrible, catastrophic, wondrous, and the list could just go on.

Thinking about randomness and expectation occupies much of my workday.  At work, I mostly spend my time thinking about bad things that could happen.  I make sure that I spend more time in the day thinking about good things that have happened.

I've come to the conclusion that there's really two main views - thinking things are just random or thinking things happen for a reason.  The first thinking is based in part that stuff just happens and there's little to no relationship or meaning.  The other end of the spectrum is thinking there's a plan and an order.  Things that happen follow a pattern and they are predictable.

No matter what the view the same things happen.

The book has a very illustrative story that helped me to see just how much where a person falls on this spectrum is a matter of choice.

A person walks past a wall with seemingly random holes in the wall and thinks nothing of it.  Another person comes by and draws a target around each hole with each hole as a perfect bulls-eye and then marvels at the wall.

I find myself drifting on this spectrum.

When it comes to Zahra, Yusuf, and Nooriya I'm usually the giver of hugs. Today I got random hugs from all of them!  That's a bulls-eye.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Where is everyone?

At work and in my statistics education I am asked a lot to think about what will happen.  This is mostly math-y and a lot of scribbling on paper.  It's all pretty nerdy and uninteresting to most, at least when I talk about it.

I've learned over time in work and study the truism that something doesn't happen until it happens.  At work the unthinkable storm or earthquake or fire or event happens and it happens often.  It happens every couple years unfortunately and is still a surprise to most people.

Another truism that I often hear comes to mind, we don't know until we know.  I believe we can get so used to something that we are unaware of what's around us on so many levels.  Someone once explained a sort of complicated physics concept with a parable of a fish in the ocean.  The fish is in the middle of the ocean.  It never sees the shore or the sky or the ground.  All the fish knows is water; it doesn't know there is a world it doesn't know...until it knows.


The difference between a theory, a law, an axiom, a hypothesis, a conjecture is sometimes very slight and things fit in these categories.  The things in those categories can change over time as they have over time in many math areas of study and probably physics too.  Being one or the other is a matter of knowing or not knowing.  Sometimes we just don't know yet.

Statistics is used to argue for and sometimes simultaneously against many things.  For example, arguments of scale are often made.  The existence or not of aliens is one of those things where this logic is used.  Earth is so small and there is so much out there.  As a result, there is this overwhelming probability that there's something somewhere.  This last sentence is sound and so full of holes at the same time.  A long time ago, a bunch of smart scientists basically on their lunch hour equivalent talked about this very thing.  A great scientist responded with something like, then where are they?

These are some random thoughts that come together for me.  They all are about wonder.  I forget that there is a wonder here that is the reason I love math and am pretty sure it's why I've always been drawn to it.

The statistics part of me reminds me that we just haven't seen it yet.  I love being Yusuf and Nooriya's parent.  They've renewed a sense of wonder in me the same sense of wonder that motivated me to study in the first place.  Now I wonder what they will see.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

A different world

The last few days in Mumbai have been eye opening in many ways.  

There are soooo many people. It's amazing!  They all go about their business seemingly independent of one and other. 

Things here are so different than what I know and I'm so glad to be reminded of that. The people dress differently, eat different foods, and are concerned with different things it seems. Everything looks and feels just different. 

It's shocking at first and seems strange. There's traffic and an energy and I don't see any order...and then I do. There's an energy here and a harmony that's now unmistakable. Everything works. Not like I expect, but it works. 

One reason I'm glad I'm here is that it's opened my mind in a way I had thought it was always open, but really it wasn't. I thought I appreciated different points of view (or at least that there are many of them) and assumed some things universal. I appreciate now that I don't and can't really appreciate how different things can be...and still be in harmony. 

I want Yusuf and Nooriya to be here again and again and understand at a much earlier age what I've just now begun to understand. 

My mind is thousands of miles away from what I'm used to, both figuratively and literally. And I'm the better for it. 

The next generation

I've heard countless stories and recountings of the past from my parents and their generation. Always with some liberties and a little bit of rose colored misremembering I'm sure.  

I heard more stories about humble beginnings and "how things used to be". I usually nod my head and listen and maybe roll my eyes a bit if I'm being honest. This time was different. It was made quite clear for me that I can't TRULY know. I might be able to acknowledge or try to appreciate or something other than those words, but I can't know. 

Usually, I reject the need to have experience in order to have perspective. In this case, I'm rethinking that. I had a way different starting point in my life, mostly because of my parents. Yusuf and Nooriya have a different starting point and a long long long time from now hopefully a much better end too. And that's the dream. I'm pretty sure that's been the dream for generations. 

I can't know what I don't know. I can try to though. I benefit so much from listening to those stories, that history. I think I would be doing Yusuf and Nooriya a disservice if I don't repeat and repeat what a "simpler" and tougher time their parents had.  Even if I get a bit of eye rolling in response.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Business books

I have a growing section of "business" books in the library. The books are full of what seem to me to be a couple simple ideas said over and over in different ways.

I love reading these books. However, they are never about work or business for me. The books always instruct me to figure out what's important and focus on that.  And the books are full of catch phrases and various ways to "be the best".

I've read so many of these books over the years. Each time I read one I stop to think about what's important. And what's important really hasn't changed and it probably never will...that's a sign that it's important. 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Sun through the clouds

I read about this guy who is 88 and made this commitment to walk every day. It's been 18 years. And counting. 

I love his spirit.

"Life is about a series of habits, and you can have bad habits that are hard to break and you could also have good habits that are hard to break. If you fill your life with good habits, you should lead a better life," said Gentile

I hope I can have this perspective often and for many many years to come. Habits are made over time...and it's never too late to start another. 

Today I tried to teach Yusuf about Inshallah and that we never know what will happen tomorrow. It was a great lesson for me to think about and attempt to articulate.