Things I wish my Parents had Taught me About Planning for the Future

So now I’m 40 and it doesn’t make sense to blame my life on my parents, but it does make sense to re-invent myself and teach my children what I wish my parents had taught me. 

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my future and my past.   I’m Forty-Years old, gosh, typing that makes it feel too real.   When you are young, you don’t think about when you’ll be 40.   But now that I am, there are some things that I wished my parents would have told me that maybe could have put me in a different situation.   Maybe I would have listened, possibly not.   When you are young, you think you know everything and most young people live for the day.   That mentality has its pros and cons.

My father, God rest his soul, was a drunk for as long as I can remember.   He and my mother separated when I was still a toddler.   I visited him often and on occasion he gave me money as a young teenager.   At the age of 17, I went to live with him, where I was allowed to do whatever I wanted and he didn’t know anything about parenting.   My mother, was a preschool teacher.   She was a single mother for years but I had a couple of step-fathers too.   She worked two jobs for a long time.   I was much younger than my siblings so I spent a lot of time alone.   When I was 12, she decided to return to her religion and I had to too.   It was a very strict religion, no more holiday celebrations, or friends who weren’t in the same religion.   For a while I was happy, until the later years of high school when the rebel came out and I wanted no parts.   I resented her for taking away the holidays and my childhood friends.   Everything was about the religion with her and college was even discouraged for fear of bad influence and no real need to plan for a future in this current life because there wouldn’t be one.

I’m sure my parents did their best, my childhood wasn’t bad.   I’m grateful to have made it to this age, because I did some really reckless things in my youth and I am not blaming anyone but I really wish my parents had taught me…

The importance of maintaining good credit- Credit saves you money.  The better your credit the less you have to spend up front and in the end.  In the past, I’ve had two repossessions and plenty of small bills that made it to my credit.  Thankfully, they happened early on.  I’ve spent the last two years rebuilding my credit and my credit is pretty good now.

If you get a good job, stick with it and build a retirement fund.  If you get the job while young, stay and retire from it.  You’ll be able to do the job you want without worrying about the pay because you will have money coming in from the job you worked for years.  And you will be one of the youngest people you know, not working so hard at 40.- I’ve been working since I was a teenager.  [My mom did insist on my independence, for that I owe her a great deal of credit.]  I’ve had some good jobs too but I never stayed long, always looking for something else.  Til’ this day, I still have difficulty remaining at any job for more than 4 years.  My mom worked as a teacher until she retired, why didn’t she teach me to do the same? I even worked for the state of PA as a case worker for four years.  The retirement plan was great and I could have retired from there in my early 40’s with a good pension, but no-one told me that.   Instead I left the job to go to college full time, which brings me to my next thought….

Go to college right after high school and get a degree, it gives you options- Had I gone to college right out of high school, perhaps I would not have job-hopped so many times.  I had a full ride scholarship to college but no-one encouraged this, so I got me an apartment instead and a job.  [I got great grades in school.  I was very smart.  My mother stayed on me about those grades too]  I went to college later, after a husband and two kids and with those degrees came so many better opportunities.  At least I went but I could have saved myself a lot of heart ache and pain, had someone, anyone, told me to go early.

Invest, build a portfolio- This is something I’m just educating myself about.  I wish I had invested early, built a portfolio and gave myself future stability.

Marry someone you can grow and build with- Recently I read about a couple that did not marry for love, but for growth instead.  This got me to thinking… this is very smart.  Love fades, but growth keeps moving until you choose to stop it.  I’ve been in relationships where one person is trying to grow and the other is simply content where they are- (Me and my ex-husband)- notice I said ex.  It doesn’t work.  Eventually you grow to resent that person or the two of you grow apart.  It doesn’t feel good.

Budget- So many people live above their means.  Before I moved into my first apartment at age 17, my mom held the money that I saved and my father doubled my total.  It was enough to pay the deposit on my apartment and buy some furniture but I was almost evicted within the first year because no-one taught me to budget.  I still struggle with budgeting but I’ve learned the value of paying my bills on time because the longer I let them go unpaid the more money I have to pay in the long run.  And once you get behind it can be almost impossible to catch up.  Now I save first, pay bills next, purchase what I need, and then decide to save more or enjoy the rest.  Very soon I hope to add invest in there somewhere.

Leave your home and travel- I’ve only ever lived in Philadelphia until I moved to Qatar to teach at age 39.  What a deprived life.  I’ve learned so much since moving abroad about life.   I only remember traveling on the East Coast as a child, and never on a plane.  As an adult, I was scared to death of flying and avoided it until I had no other choice but to fly for job training to take care of my sons while they were young.  I can’t help but to think, if I had been exposed to traveling as a child, that fear would not have engulfed me.  I’m still afraid of flying but I no longer allow that fear to keep me from seeing the world.  And to ensure my sons don’t carry that fear, I’ve taken them on many travels and moved them across the world.  Traveling is the best education anyone can receive, trust me.

Live for today but plan for tomorrow, because before you know it, you’ll be 40

So now I’m 40 and it doesn’t make sense to blame my life on my parents, but it does make sense to re-invent myself and teach my children what I wish my parents had taught me. 

 

What do you wish you had learned earlier in life?

 

A Review of The Spa at the Warwick Doha

Today was my first time using the Spa at the Warwick hotel. I usually start with a 5 * rating and then delete and add stars according to my experience.

When I entered the hotel, I was instantly overtaken by the smell of smoke. I felt like I was in a casino in America before they added smoke rooms. For someone with Asthma, I automatically made up my mind that I would never stay here. Minus 1*. (not the spa’s fault but still a part of the hotel)

When I arrived to the 7th floor which is where the spa is located, there was no-one there to greet me. I had a 5:00 appointment and I was on-time and there was no-one there. So I took a seat and waited. Five minutes later, a gentlemen arrived and walked passed me on his mobile phone and just nodded. Less than a minute later he walked back passed again and I asked him if anybody was working. He told me that he was calling someone. (He must have been someone in charge) Someone did come about a minute later, handed me paperwork to fill out and confirmed my appointment. Seven minutes later I was in room. This is unacceptable- Minus 2 **

My masseuse was very nice. She said she was from Thailand and apologized that she did not check back at the desk at 5 to see if her appointment had arrived. (valid but why is there no hostess or receptionist on duty).

After being taken to my room, she (my masseuse) had to set up because she was late. So while I tried to undress she was busy lighting candles and had to go and get me disposable underwear because there was none in the cabinet. Minus 1* star

My massage was nice– 90 minute full body massage. She adjusted the temperature when I was feeling cold. I asked her to write her name down so I would remember it. Plus 1* star for the nice massage.

The price was great and I used the entertainer app, so I get one free massage to use another day. Plus 1*.

After the massage I went back to the front to pay and complete a survey. Several male customers were there talking too loud for a spa but whatever. My masseuse neglected to write her name down for me for which she probably forgot. No stars taken away for that.

All together 3 stars for this spa. I will be back for my free massage but I wasn’t impressed by the service or the smoky hotel. Do better Warwick.

**My review is based on my experience and mine alone**

**Update: I recently revisited this Spa for my free massage and I must say I was impressed by the improvement in service. There were 2 receptionist on duty when my girlfriend and I arrived. We were warmly greeted with a beverage, a warm towel to freshen up and our masseuse’s names. The lemongrass smell was so intoxicating that I bought some of the oil. Our rooms were ready and again the massage was awesome. When our massage was over, we were given tea and a survey.  This time the Warwick received 5 stars from me. They really listened to their customer reviews and up’d their game. They have a new special for February, massage and chocolate Wrap, I will be back for mine and I’ll be back monthly from now on!

Your Perceptions Could be Wrong

With only a few days left of winter break, I decided to call one of my new coworkers and invite her to lunch.  It is amazing to me how ignorant we show ourselves to be before we get to know people.  Let me first give you some background: I think that many Indian women are beautiful, have long dark hair, brown coffee skin, and of medium build.  There are many natives from India here in Qatar but the ones I’ve noticed, bobble their heads when speaking, have a recognizable body odor, and are mostly low income.  This was my impression until I met Omaimah.  Omaimah is from the northern part of India and when I first met her, Indian did not come to mind.  When she told me she was from India and I responded with, “Really, I would have never suspected”, she said, “Why, is it because I don’t bobble my head?”  I was so embarrassed, as I should have been.  Which leaves me to question: How often do we judge people or a group of  people before we get to know them?

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This is Omaimah, fair skinned, big eyes, long dark hair (got that right), smells nice, does not bobble her head, is pretty well off and a teacher from India.  She’s beautiful and thoughtful and she has taught me, and she doesn’t even know it, not to judge a group of people before I get to know at least one of them.  Everyone from one country do not all fit in the same box.  I want to apologize to the universe and say thank you Omaimah.

Has something similar ever happened to you?

Read my next post to find out how lunch went, with a real Indian, at a real Indian restaurant…

Go Bananas!

On the weekend of 11/11/17, my husband and I celebrated our 6th year wedding anniversary.  I surprised him with a trip to Banana Island!  Yes, that is the real name of the island.  Take a look at this video:

It’s actually a resort by Anantara, just a 25 minute catamaran ferry ride away from Doha, Qatar or a private helicopter ride.  It’s a luxury, dry (alcohol free- out of respect for the local Islamic culture) resort.  The resort features 2 & 3 bedroom villas with private swimming pools and 1 bedroom hotel rooms.  It also offers over-water bungalows. We stayed in the hotel since it was just us.

I’m trying hard to stick to my commitment of saving versus traveling but last year was our 5th anniversary and we spent it on two different continents so I wanted this one to be special.  Is a weekend on banana Island expensive?  Yes, but still cheaper than paying for a flight, hotel and food someplace away from Qatar and wasting time on a plane ride for a quick getaway.  I called Darryl on the phone three hours before I left from work and instructed him to pack for a weekend.  It wasn’t until we were on the Corniche, being dropped off by our good friends Jennifer and JD, that he realized where we were going.

You check in to the resort while still in Qatar and as soon as you enter this small building, you’re treated with royalty.  The banana island check-in is located near the MIA on the Corniche.  As soon as we walked under the arch, someone greeted us and took our bags.  We were offered dates and water.  Ten minutes later we boarded the ferry.  In less than thirty minutes we arrived to the sounds of beating drums.  Our preferences were reviewed and we were escorted to our room. Our bags met us shortly there after.

The room was huge, featuring a full bathroom including a large rain shower head, dual sink vanities an attached sitting area and closet.  The bedroom had a sitting area, mini bar, small refrigerator, Keurig machine, king-size bed, and a large spa tub in front of the balcony overlooking the ocean.  We turned on the t.v. to check the channels and was surprised by the Boss surround sound that followed into the bathroom.

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The island is beautiful.  It has several restaurants, a public pool, large play area for the kids, surrounded by beach of course, golf carts that will take you around with one call, a cinema, bowling and more.  I was actually surprised by how cold the beach water was, but we still enjoyed it.

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What about the food? Well, they did not disappoint.  You know if the food is good, than you got me.  They were very aware of my vegan diet and at each restaurant the Manager came over to greet me and consult with me about what I wanted to eat so that they could prepare it fresh for me.  He even asked what I would want the next day, so that they could prepare it.  I mean top shelve service, even down to room service.

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There were only 3 things, I had a problem with: no villas for single couples, no alcohol, and the pillows, where your head sunk right to the bed.  So take your pillow and the other thing with you (if you know where I am coming from) and enjoy a 5 star vacation 25 minutes away from Doha.

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Footprints in the Sand

So my head is famous and now so is my face, a little bit. 

I love being in front of the camera.  That sounds really arrogant, right?  I know but it’s the truth.  No, I don’t think I’m the most beautiful person in the world, not even close but I’ve learned to love myself and that was a journey.   I also think the camera and I have a pretty good relationship.  I would love to be a model, but when I google types of models, I don’t fit into any of the categories.

I am not tall; I’m actually pretty short, 5’2 to be exact.  I’m not thin or plus sized; I’m somewhere in the middle with a pouch.  I’m not glamorous, fit, a child or mature.  But I do have pretty nice skin, a caramel complexion, a pretty smile, a nice shaped BALD head, I’m smart and I’m confident.  So I’ll probably never end up in Vogue or on someone’s catwalk but for some reason I always end up in front of a camera.

It could have started with my baby pictures.  I was a cute, chunky baby.  Or perhaps it was nude photos I had taken years ago.  Where are those anyway?  Or maybe it started with this….

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That was a picture taken at my graduation from Cabrini College for my Master’s degree 4 years ago.  I remember a photographer coming around and snagging pictures but the real shocker came when I received a phone call from a friend saying that they just saw me on the L-train.  I knew I hadn’t been on the L-train that day so I was confused.  Then they told me, my picture was on a billboard advertisement for Cabrini.  I contacted the school and had them send me a copy.  That picture was on their billboards and on pamphlets.  For months, people would call me saying that they saw my picture.

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine passed on some information about a tv channel that was looking to interview some people of Qatar.  So of course I responded and a few days later the crew was at my flat conducting the interview.  The interviewer asked me questions about my life in Qatar and allowed me to speak about Alopecia and my blog.  The interview went well, but I beat myself up afterwards because there was so many other things I wanted to say.  Isn’t this always the case; you think of things you coulda woulda shoulda said afterwards?  But it was too late and well, what’s the point of crying over spilled milk.  He said he would contact me once all the editing was completed and the interview was posted.

Today on my 6th wedding anniversary I got the message.  The interview is posted.  Please check it out using this link.  QatarnaTV

Everything that was said was my exact words, but it comes off a little different than my intentions especially at the end, when I said “I don’t plan to return to the U.S. anytime soon.”  It is true that I don’t intend on moving back to live in the U.S.A any time soon, , but it’s not because I plan on living in Qatar forever either.  I plan on exploring other places.  And when the time is right to leave here, I’ll move someplace else.  I’ve learned so much from living abroad, I want more experiences like this.  I will always love my home country of the U.S.A and will always visit.

My friend Nazma, the Henna artist, did an interview for Society magazine November 2017 edition (The First Family Magazine in Qatar) a few days ago and she posted a copy of the article on facebook.  And who’s big head took up a whole page, MINE!  Here it is in all it’s glory.

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You can also read the article here. Society Magazine

So my head is famous and now so is my face, a little bit.  I have another interview coming up this week with Nazma on Al Jazeera. Wish me luck!

Honestly I would love to be the first internationally recognized alopecia model and travel the world as an activist and a bold, fierce model.  I would love to be the face of alopecia all over the world, to encourage other women to not let a lack of hair define them, but to recognize their natural beauty inside out.

Who knows, maybe one day, I will create a new type of model.  For now, I’m leaving my footprints in the middle eastern sand.

Arabic 101: Lesson 3- Honestly Teachers Make the Worst Students

It has been 5 weeks since I began taking Arabic course and every week I have to drag myself to go.

Most of the time it’s because I’m lazy but I also run an after school activity where I am cooking healthy snacks with a group of 17 excited first-third grade girls on Wednesday which is one of the days I attend class. -And after working all day and doing an additional duty, all I want to do is chill.  But it is also because the class is not fun, at all.  I don’t know why I thought it would be fun learning another language.  It is so hard and I am kind of in a place in my life where I just want easy.  I’m also used to being one of the brightest crayons in the box, but in this class, I’m just slow, dull ass gray.

Most of these people seem to know more Arabic than me and seem to be catching on faster too.  Or maybe, they just study and read the book.  I’m not big on studying either.  Did I mention I’m lazy?  I haven’t always been lazy but my current life is the cause.

However, I am not giving up.  For one, I paid way too much money to just give up.  Secondly, I really am learning and want to learn more.  Finally, I am not used to giving up.  I’m not a quitter.

Now that, that is out the way, here is some Arabic for you…(please keep in mind that I am spelling these words phonetically so that you can say them almost right)

Some colors:

Abiyad- White,   Akdar- green,    Aswad- black,   Ahmar- red

Some phrases:

Heya tashraboo shy bedoon haleeb- She drinks tea without milk

Kitabi akbar- my book is green

Ma Lahwn al column- What color is the pen?

Zawjee oheeboo an yadros- My spouse likes to study

Ana Asifa- I’m sorry (f)

I’ve also learned 17 letters out of 28 and have done some writing with most of the others.  Inshallah, I will make it 7 more weeks.

Masaa al-khayr- Good night.

 

 

Seeing the Beauty in my Imperfection

When I first decided to blog, I knew I did not want to focus on my disease but then something wonderful recently happened.  More on that in a minute…

I have alopecia totalis, hence the bald head.  Alopecia is a skin condition in which my immune system attacks my hair follicles, mistaking them for foreign.  It started out as alopecia areata, hair loss in small patches, then I would get needles in my head with a cortisone to make it come back.  To make a long story short, after years of getting this done I got tired of it, so one day I shaved it all off knowing that without the shots it wouldn’t grow back.  It also spread to my legs (a blessing in disguise), eyebrows and eyelashes.  The summer before I moved to Qatar I had microblading done for my eyebrows.  They’re like tattoos.  Learn more about alopecia by clicking here.  There is even a national agency, National Alopecia Areata Foundation.  To learn more about microblading, click here.  I also have a Facebook group called ‘Women Living with Alopecia‘.  It is a support group for women like me.

…on to the something wonderful that recently happened.  A little over a week ago I happened upon an article on Dohanews, about a women here in Qatar who does henna on bald heads for free, for women who have suffered hair loss from cancer. You can read it by clicking here.  I contacted her and asked would she do the same for a women living with alopecia.  Her answer was a resounding “YES!”  Then she asked me if I’d be willing to do a photoshoot.  And my answer was “YES, of course.”  [In my former life, when I was taller, I dreamed of being a model, so I was super excited.]  It took less than a day for her to set up a Whatsapp group between me, herself, a make-up artist and the photographer and two days later they were all at my flat.  For a day I felt like a runway model and didn’t I look like one.

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All three of these lovely Sri Lankan women provided their services to me free of charge.  They have renewed my faith in the good in people.  I feel so blessed.  Thank you Nazma, Lucky and Nadeesha with all my heart!

the gang that made me beautiful for a day

Henna by Nazma Mazhar.  https://www.facebook.com/qatarihennastudio/  http://instagram.com/qatarihennastudio

Makeup by Lucky Allure  https://www.facebook.com/luckyallure1/

Photography by Nadeesha Rathnayake  http://www.instagram.com/nadrat_photos

Even almost a week later, my henna is still beautiful. [unedited picture below]

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I have a brief interview coming up on a Qatar TV show in a week focusing on “People of Qatar”.  I plan to rock my bald head with a henna crown, thanks to Nazma, and speak about my activism.  And for all my fellow women living with alopecia, I leave you with this quote.

Don’t ever let your imperfections make you weak, instead use them to give you strength!˜Me