Category Archives: Resident Rockstar

It’s spelled like this – and they call me ‘yaznotjaz’ for a reason

Rockstar & sunshine & scribbles
Rockstar & sunshine & scribbles, originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

The past couple of months, I kept getting emails reminding me that the sweepthesunshine.com domain needed to be renewed by February 17. So, I took care of that – on Valentine’s Day, no less, because I really do lowve you, internetS, and especially Blogistan – and we’re covered all through 2009 now. So, I guess this would be a good time to update, yes?

I’ve missed you, Blogistan, but I’m a fickle one and have been spending too much time hitting “refresh” on flickr. (I really should stop with that. It’s killing off my productivity.)

I’m back now, though, and will get started on publishing all those posts sitting around in my Drafts folder. I should tell you about Ottawa (and Philadelphia and DC, and those blue slurpees I found at the airport in Dallas), and Toronto, and why I hated January, and what I’m doing with my life these days. So much to catch you up on, Blogistan. Seriously, you’re totally outta the loop.

First, a couple of things to get out of the way:

1. For the person who found my weblog through a Google search for jussmeen, you make me upset. Why’d you have to go and spell it with a J? Only one beautiful person was ever allowed to pronounce my name like that. She’s not around anymore, and I miss her dearly, but that doesn’t mean you can step into her shoes. Stop it. (Also, it’s pronounced like this: yahss-MEEN. With a Y. I won’t mind too much if you mess up the rest of it, as long as you start it off with a Y. The J is blasphemous. I’m just sayin’.)

2. For the person who found this weblog through a Google search for utilizing nap time, you made me laugh. You might appreciate this old post about my undergrad days. I would have graduated with a degree in napping, if I could have. If you want to get all technical about it, I followed that Google search and found an article entitled, How To Design The Perfect Nap. The author takes six well-timed naps per day, can you believe it?

There were a bunch of other things I was going to discuss with you, but it takes a lot of effort to get back into the swing of updating a weblog after two months of being away. This is tiring stuff, Blogistan. I think I need a nap now.

You’re puttin’ too much on it, your attitude ain’t even wanted

Did you grow up wth scissors like these when you were a kid? Me either
Did you grow up wth scissors like these when you were a kid? Me either, by yaznotjaz.

We haven’t talked about hair in a while, so this would probably be a good time to tell you how, a couple of weeks ago, I decided my sideswept bangs needed to be trimmed. What I had forgotten, unfortunately, was that – as I was explaining to Iffat recently – I should never be trusted with scissors and self-haircut jobs. [Iffat has a great post about hair, too, by the way.]

I sent out an email to some girlfriends. Subject line: My crazy bangs, via Photobooth.

ahhhh, look what i did, yaars!
i was trying to keep my bangs sideswept, but shorter, so i trimmed, but trimmed too fast and cut off a chunk at once, much shorter than i had meant for it to be. so then i had to cut everything the same length. so much for sideswept. HAHAHA now i look *SO EMO*!
good thing my hairS grown back hella fast.
thought you guys could use some laughs, especially those of you who are stuDYING for finals.
hijab was invented for crackheads like me. it is a fact.
-yazzO

My email spawned a GMail thread with 56 replies, many of which were hilarious.

Ayesha1: Yaz, wow. Yeah hijab definitely works for you! =)

rehes: aaaahhahah :) really just laughing cuz i see you about to bust out at yourself in the last photo… your bangs themselves look nice and neat!!

Ayesha2: DUDE! I love you so much!!!
I really didn’t expect you’ll send me not just one, not two but THREE pictures of THE BANGS. haha, AWESOME yaaaar!
you should print and keep it under your yearly album kinda thing (if you don’t have one, make one) and then show it your kids – they’ll certainly enjoy more than you :D
and I love your bluish-black hair colour, it reminded of the time when I tried purplish-black, which looked really nice.
Thanks much for laugh, rockstar!

B: It looks sultry, I say. Now you’re gonna have to pin or gel your bangs back so you don’t have little pokers on your forehead. But then again, your wrap is on so tight, it might just do the job.

Somayya:
YAZ! i like them! i think you look fabulous! :) i say, let the bangs out! :)

rehes again: oooh bangs hanging outta the hee-jab….now that is scandal in a box!!!! :D me like. hahahah

The Sister: I love it! You look like you’re 3 or 4 again! When I get home I’m pulling out your baby pics so we can compare! haha
EMO!!!!
Straighten the longer bangs on the side and then it’ll look even cooler!

B again: Bangs out? NO, NO!! Then I will have to declare you a hojabi.

Ayesha2: HOJABI! hahahhaha – what a blasphemous oxymoron. Be a sport, B, her bangs would be like tiny tassles of her scarf ;)

B: No, I can’t allow her to let her bangs out… It would ruin her [professional] reputation.

H: She has a reputation???

Anjum: Giiirl, you should not be allowed near scissors again. Thank God for your hijab. I’m sure you’ve heard all this before.

Zana: hahahahahahaha i love you!!!!
your facial expression is a killer! i was laughing so hard and i’m not allowed to laugh hard at the moment in case my ear drum perforates but yaar it was worth it!
you’re so cute and you look so adorable.

Zana again: this fringe (bang) is really ‘in’ in London, hun, seriously. I think it looks so funky. I can’t believe how different you look minus hijaab, i always wondered what your hair would be like under those gorgeous cheereh you wear…. and it’s kinky shinky hawt!

A few days later, I sent Somayya an email with a couple of more photos: This is what it looks like these days. [After a morning spent listening to the brother tease me for looking like the Beatles.]

The response:
“You look like SPOCK!!! from Star Wars!”

I think the Spock look was because of the crazy eyebrow action. I have awesome eyebrows, in case you didn’t know. They’re also supposedly fierce and tyrannical. Must be the Pukhtun in me.

And, then, a [guy] friend caught my bangs references on facebook and messaged me, all amused, with: Did you give yourself a Betty Page hairstyle?

The hell is Betty Page? So I did some research. Err, yeah, they kinda are like Betty Page’s bangs. Good to know.

Moral of the story: Keep scissors away from kids. Especially those who are left-handed.
The end.

Doorway into thanks, & silence in which another voice may speak

Hands in Supplication
Hands in supplication, by yaznotjaz

Last night, the Pakistani satellite channel, ARY-Digital, showed the Hajj pilgrims, a sea of white, at Arafat and Muzdalifah. I watched the television while eating dinner, the volume turned up loudly so that the pilgrims’ invocation echoed throughout the house:

Labayk Allahumma labayk, labayka la shareeka laka labayk. Innal-hamda, wa’naimata, laka wal-mulk, la shareeka lak.

“Here I am at Your service, O Lord, here I am. Here I am at Your service and You have no partners. Yours alone is All Praise and All Bounty, and Yours alone is The Sovereignty. You have no partners.”

For the first time, I felt a little bit of a loss, a sense of regret that I didn’t make it there this year, that I didn’t push to go after all – or, to be honest, even care to – that I ultimately didn’t end up in either of the two places I thought most deeply about this year, neither Sarghodah nor Saudi.

Inspiration for the following post comes from two entries Baraka posted recently – one on authentic prayer – hers is intimate, raw, and powerful – and the other on Mary Oliver’s poem about praying (from which comes my post title). These first ten days of the month of Dhul Hijjah, and particularly the day of Arafat, are about reflection and prayer, so I thought I should work on addressing God less like my co-worker/gossip buddy/He Who Can’t Get the Weather Right and more like, well, God. Serious stuff. Here we go.

[+]

Dear God, most Merciful, most Compassionate -

On this weblog, I mostly address You as if You’re the rockstar next door, or the buddy I’m planning on hanging out with after work. And the reason for that is because when I think about who You really are – the vast, timeless expanse of Your Being – it hurts my head to reflect on it for too long. I am short, Lord, You know this: Instead of straining my eyes and my mind, I look up only as far as I can crane my neck, look down only as low as I can bend my head, in hopes of remembering You through the things within my limited reach. Let me feel Your presence with clarity, even in the midst of this world that distracts me from worship and remembrance of You, and especially in the midst of the distractions I deliberately create in order to distance myself from you.

Those whom we’ve loved, and lost to death: grant them – grant us all, when our time comes – light and spaciousness in the grave, and another fulfilling life in the Hereafter. May their memories live on within us, and around us. Grant me a reunion, someday, with the grandfathers I never knew and the grandmothers that I only knew in those painful, ailing last years of their lives. Let me find them vibrant and whole, glowing with love and good health. Let me find my ancestors singing those songs and reciting those poems, some of which I heard with my own ears, most of which I didn’t, all of which we never got to write or remember. How is it that You sent us to be born into a tradition of farmers who lived rough lives of poverty and disease, yet sang songs and wrote poetry effortlessly? Let their wisdom and endurance be an example for us.

Give my salaam to Imran. Tell him I said, I thought of you today in the midst of this Hajj season, and I miss you, my friend, even though you’ve now been gone for nearly as long as I knew you. But it feels like longer, and your photos still make my throat tighten, make me catch my breath, remind me of a life lived fully in the service of others, as every life – as my life – should be.

Teach me to be a joy to my parents. No other people probably love me as much as they do; no other people make me gnash my teeth as much as they. For all my frustrations, though, I realize how shattered my life would be without them. Grant me the grace and patience to be the daughter they need me to be. Grant me the wisdom to be the sister I should be. Let us continue forgiving, even after we hurt each other over and over. Instead of silence and tension, may we always find joy with one another.

When the time is right, grant us partners and significant others who are good for us, who are a mercy to us, who are loving and tolerant of our flaws and imperfections. All that is noble in my father (the hugs, the highfives, the singing, the exuberant culinary experiments, the boundless generosity) without the negative (the sulking, the silence, the unyielding “my way or the highway” approach). I ask not for perfection, but for patience, for compromise and compassion, for mutual respect.

I am grateful to have finally found, in these last several years, a Muslim community to belong to – the two masajid I love for different reasons, the people and prayers that make those spaces sacred to me. Thank You for blessing me with halaqa sisters who understand the benefits and struggles of being an American Muslim, who love ice-skating (they drag me along) and synchronized-jumping on the beach (they let me take dozens of photos) and scouting for the next meal while leaving “I <3 FOOD" scribbles in their wake. Every bite is a shared blessing, each milestone is something to celebrate together. I pray they remain in my life forever, and that we hold halaqas in Jannat al-Firdaus.

I am sometimes accused of being aloof and reserved – more often than I would like. It is shyness more than anything else. But allow me to understand and be comfortable with my own vulnerabilities. There is no shame in sharing sadness, a broken heart, tears in front of people, laughing at myself, acknowledging my difficulties, asking for help.

Please teach me to be okay with asking for help.

Often, I nonchalantly shrug off the need for remorse, repentance: I’m not a bad person. I forget the myriad ways in which I have wronged You, others, myself. In my pride, I tell myself I have no regrets. But I do have two. Remind me of them constantly, so that I may learn from them to appreciate the generosity, kindness, and open-hearted forgiveness that has been granted me when I least deserved or reciprocated it.

Grant me focus. I fumble and stumble in decision-making. I make up my mind one day; mutter, “F*ck it,” the next; abandon my plans and curve around into another direction on the third. I start too many things I don’t finish. Worse yet, I stick to things nearly to the finish-line, then abandon them at the last minute.

Help me to pay attention when people are conversing with me. Open not only my ears – and You know my ears need help! – but also my heart. And let words come easily to me, so that I may write about You and myself and people I know – and those I don’t – without fearing I will do us an injustice.

Help me to be just, always.

I thank You for the sunshine, for California, for my beautiful, beloved, open-armed Bay Area – my first home, and now, after all those years of packing and moving, still my favorite home. I think “they’ve” got it all wrong; there must be some mistake – Hell must be icy cold, bone-chilling cold, not fire and flames. I would rather not be in a hell of ice. If heaven has snow, let me, at least, feel like it’s 70F. This weather thing – I just can’t stop bothering You about it, I know. I’m not a bossy person, but weather always brings out the dictator in me. You know how the hills and the sky looked on this day? Something like that would be nice.

Thank You for good health, for feet that enjoy meandering walks lacking destination, for eyes that crinkle when they smile. Let my hearing remain stable. More than blindness, I fear complete deafness, but I would preferably have neither. Yet I thank You for the humility and empathy – and the rockstar-red hearing aids and superhero lip-reading skills! – that the moderately severe loss has given me. If there is one thing I am to be tested by in life, this one is easy – let this remain it.

Teach me to be comfortable with who I am. Compliments catch me off guard. Who are they talking to? I duck my head, shuffle my feet, change the subject. You, of anyone, remember who I used to be, who I still am. Years later, it’s the same shyness, awkwardness, and insecurity, just hidden under a more stylish wardrobe and straighter teeth. There are days I feel like a fraud. I am not as pretty, smart, sociable, accomplished as people think I am. But I thank You for always reminding me where I come from, who I come from, who I used to be.

What I am so far, let that be good enough.

And then let me seek to improve myself in the things that matter. Make it easier for me to read the Quran regularly and to perform the prayers on time and with concentration. Grant us all the best of this world and the next, and keep from us all things which will not benefit us. On the Day of Reckoning, let the Prophet recognize us as part of his Ummah, his community, and the general community of Believers. May our parched mouths drink water from his hands.

I thank You, over and over, for the beautiful people You have allowed me to know, the smiling strangers with whom I’ve momentarily crossed paths, the individuals who have moved me through unexpected conversations, those who have trusted me with their stories, the friends You have brought into my life, the family and relatives with which You have blessed me. Be compassionate and loving to them as they have been to me, be merciful to them as You have shown mercy to me.

Hold us all in Your Hands. Permit us to sit at the foot of Your throne. Let the light of Your presence blaze in our eyes, cleanse our hearts, purify our souls.

Help us see in one another what we see in You – perfection and beauty beyond telling.

Once again: Numbered lists & lots of things in Threes

This way down
This way down, originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

Four years of blogging, and up ’til now I’d managed to dodge completing any memes thrown my way (I’ve been tagged for my share, though, you can be sure; I still owe you one, Maliha!), and I still don’t even know how to pronounce the word “meme,” so why don’t you rockstars help me out here?

Meanwhile, brimful tagged me for this “Three Things” drama, and then had the audacity to retort in response to my whining, “Yasmine, I knew immediately that I was going to tag you. I’m evil like that.” Luckily, I love brimful’s writing and her fantastic taste in music (don’t let her self-deprecation about either of those things fool you!), so I’m going to man up and do this.

So much for trying to step away from numerical-lists and bullet-point posts, though. And, really, I am so boring that there’s absolutely no reason why you needed to know any of the following about me. But, here we go!

Three things that scare me:
1. Car crashes
2. Getting water up my nose
3. Thinking that, one day, I’m going to raise my arm too quickly and chip my front teeth while drinking from a glass

Three people who make me laugh:
1. ummm, EVERYONE. I am so easily amused, it’s not even…funny
2. 2Scoops, for his emails/IMs/facebook wall posts/5+ minute long voicemessages where he gets cuts off/weblog comments/shared love for the Pearls Before Swine comic strip
3. Z when he uses “MUTHAFUCKLE!” in IM conversations (I can’t remember if we made this up together, or if he did singlehandedly, but it hella makes me laugh, regardless)

Three things I love:
1. My sister, and our amused, knowing glances shared across a crowded room
2. The smell of citrus, particularly tangerines and oranges
3. Punjabi songs, because they remind me a little bit of my dialect, Hindku, and thus always make me laugh in recognition

Three things I hate:
1. People who micro-manage
2. People who drive under 80mph in the fast lane
3. WINTER. &*$#($%#@!

Three things I don’t understand:
1. People who are such drama
2. People who think that wearing socks with sandals/open-toed shoes is perfectly okay
3. High school

Three things on my desk:
1. (Hiding under my keyboard:) Lots of yellow post-its, with scribbled song and book recommendations
2. An empty paper plate that used to contain a piece of pistachio baklava
3. The phone I refuse to answer, unless someone calls specifically for me, and then B has to tell me to get Line One (or Four, or whichever one it is)

Three things I’m doing right now:
1. Holding a BOYCOTT TODAY campaign, because I am annoyed with various things about today
2. Looking forward to this evening’s dinner with the lovely A!
3. Telling everyone I know that they have to join me at Suheir Hammad’s poetry session in San Francisco next week! (And, look! She’s going to be performing in Berkeley the evening before!)

Three things I want to do before I die:
1. Visit Spain
2. Drive on a cross-country roadtrip
3. Something constructive, helpful, and occasionally selfless with my life

Three things I can do:
1. Remember all the lyrics to every single Savage Garden song
2. Figure out all the places where people are missing commas in material they give me to edit (last week, it was an architect’s design portfolio in PowerPoint)
3. Ignore/reject phone calls from anyone without feeling a twinge of guilt

Three things you should listen to:
1. HijabMan singing on your voicemail, especially when it’s ’80s songs! Freakin’ awesome
2. Your heart – because, your brain? It doesn’t know jack. (…Or is it the other way around? I never listen to anything, clearly)
3. People who encourage you to buy books. Those are the friends worth keeping

Three things I’d like to learn:
1. Sign language
2. Praying the five daily ritual Islamic prayers with regularity
3. Dancing

Three favorite foods:
1. Potatoes, in pretty much any form (Samosas, masala dosas, boulani, biryani, aloo parathha, french fries, mashed potatoes…)
2. Hot apple pie with ice cream (or cold apple pie, alone)
3. Dessert of any sort – so, basically, sugar

Three beverages I drink regularly:
1. Cold water. The end. (I am so boring, really.) Irregularly now, I also drink the following:
2. Cranberry juice
3. (I wish I could say blue raspberry slurpees, but, really, it’s:) Pulp-free, organic orange juice that I take – along with fresh doughnuts – to halaqa every Sunday morning

Three TV shows/books I watched/read as a child:
1. MacGyver!
2. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
3. All the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books I could get my hands on

Three people I would like to tag: (Uh, dude, who and his/her mother hasn’t filled this out yet?)
1. Arafat
2. HijabMan
3. Uzi
And some more for good measure!
4. Knicq
5. Momo
6. DeGrouchyOwl

I don’t need nobody flyin’ in my jet stream/Take the bus, go on and get yourself your own dream

Underfoot
Originally uploaded by yaznotjaz

“Everyone’s a critic, yaar,” said my friend over IM. “Let’s just call ‘em all biatches.”

I started laughing, which was a good thing, because I had just spent most of the morning cursing a stranger I knew nothing about. This was two Fridays ago. It started with an email: GMail automatically refreshed my open window, I clicked over and saw a subject line I found vaguely but not unduly interesting, and clicked further to read the email. Two lines in, I sucked in a shocked breath…and expelled some expletives while making the rest of my way through the succinct, two-paragraph note. What the F*CK is THIS drama?

The irony, of course, is that I am famous amongst friends for constantly gloating about the fact that “my life is gorgeously drama-free.” And it is, dammit. I still stand by my smug assertion. Just a few minutes earlier that morning, I had been reminding my friend about the very same fact, until I checked my emails and then interrupted my cursing long enough to IM him with, “I gotta reply to an email some stupid biatch just sent me. Freakin’ drama, yaar.”

It is a testament to my friend-choosing skills that his first reaction was, “HAHAHA YOU SAID BIATCH!” Reaction number two, when I shared the contents of the hateful little email: “HOLY SHIT.”

Thus followed a mainly-one-sided discussion about the best way in which to respond. I was still on a roll with the profanity, but my friend presented thoughtful justifications for why someone would be driven to compose a note like that. “Be nice when you respond,” he suggested. “Kill her with kindness, you have the word skills.”

“BASTID!” I fumed. I stared at my computer screen, seething. “What the f*ck is this woman ON?”

I was feeling rattled and caught off-guard and seriously just plain pissed off. But I couldn’t dismiss the friend’s approach of looking at this situation from a different angle; it made too much sense. So I sighed and buckled up and wrote a sweet, rambling yet pointed response that covered all the key details in question. I used big, important words like ANATHEMA, and sent a draft of my response to the friend, to look it over.

“Anathema!” he cheered. “Ten point word. New record! Crowd goes wild!

“I am so essmahrt, yaar,” I acknowledged, adding with malicious satisfaction, “Maybe she’ll have to look it up in the dictionary. Oh, and is it wrong to call her ‘stupid biatch’ still?”

I sent off my reply, then straightaway began to feel both relieved and amused: “I’ve never had so much drama! This is kinda exciting. No wonder people feed off this sort of stuff.”

I thanked my friend for his amusement and advice (but mainly the amusement), then left for Friday congregational prayers – in Berkeley that week – to repent for my blasphemous profanity (except I wasn’t really feeling remorseful about it, not one damn bit. But I’m sure God understood. He and I understand each other quite well). At the YWCA on Bancroft, where the UC Berkeley MSA holds Friday prayers, I listened intently to a sermon on setting long-term goals but using the short-term to accomplish them. It was just the sort of motivation I’d been needing for months. Afterward, while meeting and greeting all the people I knew, the lovely H touched me with her comment, “I like your blog and your writing style,” and then made me laugh when she admitted that she had been reading the weblog instead of her physiology textbook. Don’t I know that feeling very well myself.

I declined the traditional lunch at Julie’s for reasons I can’t recall at the moment, and mentioned I’d just stop by Cafe Milano for a frozen drink. “Try the chocolate chip cookies from Milano,” suggested my sister. “They’re even better than the ones from Julie’s.”

“Yeah?” I said interestedly. You know our family well enough by now – we’re constantly on a chocolate chip cookie quest. So I stopped by Milano and bought a cookie as advised, as well as a blended frozen mocha – the only kind of coffee I can handle, except this one wasn’t a smart choice either, since I took two sips while walking down Telegraph to my car and immediately felt the sick, anxious feeling I get from caffeinated beverages (like all those endless energy drinks I downed in college).

I drove from Berkeley back to my hometown and still felt sick, so I continued straight on Ygnacio Valley Road with the sunroof wide open, blasting music. There’s not much that an extra-loud mixture of Niyaz, Outlandish, and DEBU can’t fix on an icky day. [I love DEBU's song Lautan Hatiku/The Sea of my Heart, by the way. Watch the video/listen to it here.] I drove twenty miles out of my way, hoping the drive would clear my head, and it did a well enough job of it.

I got home and immediately made a beeline for my computer, only to be disappointed that there was no reply from “the stupid biatch.” (There still has not been, even two weeks later. Somayya remarked yesterday, “I think she probably read your email and just felt really, really stupid.”)

While I was busy making faces at the lack of an acknowledgment/reply, my lovely partner-in-crime, Somayya, called to share exciting news: “Yazzo! Just wanted to let you know the 7-Eleven in San Mateo has blue slurpees! Come visit!”

The local Target carries blue icees, too, I realized just a few days ago. I knew I loved that place for a reason, and not just for the fact that I spend too much money every time I’m there. And, seriously, who gives a freakin’ damn about stupid biatches when my year-long quest for blue raspberry-flavored slurpees is over?