How Ambreen Ali Ruined My Birthday Cake Surprise – A Tragicomedy

The cake that started it all.

Ladies and gentlemen: the story you are about to read is true. The names have not been changed to protect the innocent.

Email to Fahad                                                                                                                         May 9, 2012

I’m planning to make a carrot cake for lubna. (its a surprise!) do you think she would like that?

Reality Check Point                                                                                                               May 13, 2012

Carrot cake is made. Four slices are eaten. A large portion of the cake remains.

Email to Ambreen                                                                                                                  May 13, 2012

You guys have to come help us eat some carrot cake that I made. Please. Thank you.

Email from Ambreen                                                                                                               May 14, 2012

yum, sounds good! we’ve got plans for the next couple nights, but save us some!

Reality Check Point                                                                                                                 May 15, 2012

I ate the rest of the cake.

Email from Ambreen                                                                                                               May 16, 2012

is there still carrot cake left? maybe i can get some when i drop off CSA tomorrow? 🙂

Email to Ambreen                                                                                                                    May 16, 2012

There is no carrot cake left 🙁 I gobbled that thing up so hard.

Email from Ambreen                                                                                                               May 16, 2012


i wanted carrot cake! :'(

now you’ll have to send me the recipe so i can make some. you know, i have collected dozens of carrot cake recipes over the year (because i love it), but i have never, ever actually tried one. 

Photo Break                                                                                                                mid-way through post
Lets get another look at that cake. Safa wanted a piece of that action too.

Facebook Wall Conversation                                                                                                  May 24, 2012
Sumeera: are you coming over tomorrow in the evening? i can throw a carrot cake in the oven in the morning. 

Facebook Wall Conversation                                                                                                  May 25, 2012

Ambreen: Oh yes please. So nonchalant. 🙂 I think we’ll drop off the CSA after your yoga class. Does that work?

Reality Checkpoint                                                                                                                   May 24, 2012

Ambreen replied too late. No carrot cake was made.

Facebook Wall Conversation                                                                                                  May 30, 2012

Ambreen: carrot cake. carrot cake. tomorrow?

Sumeera: I think so! I am pretty sure those carrots are still in the fridge! But you have to promise to take a good deal of it home b/c we are leaving. We will leave some for my yoga teacher who will look after the 
place on Friday too!

Gmail Chat with Feraz                                                                                                            May 30, 2012

Feraz: ….12:44 PM Bent and family will be coming too iA  so we can see Safa before the wedding12:46 PM me: ok, cool Feraz: worrrd12:47 PM and I’ll get some cupcakes!  yummy in my tummy me: i supposed to make the carrot cake!  do we still have carrots?12:48 PM Feraz: that’s OK, I’ll get carrot cake cupcakes!   me: hmm ok janoo  i will ask ambreen if that is ok  it won’t take long to make12:49 PM i’m just going to make it in a flat plan  not that round way Feraz: OK janee-mund

Real Life Chat with Feraz                                                                                                        May 30, 2012

(I am pulling carrots out of the fridge. I am going to make a carrot cake.)

Feraz: Bump it. I will get the carrot cupcakes. 

Sumeera: But Ambreen really wanted to try a homemade one. I told her I would make it.

Feraz: Let me just get the cupcakes. It will be easier.

Sumeera: This is really easy. It will just take me a few minutes. Do you feel bad because you feel like I am making my own birthday cake?

(Feraz looks at me sheepishly.)

Sumeera: I saw you looking at a carrot cake on the internet yesterday. You can just surprise me with it in Michigan.

Feraz: (Lying badly) No, I just want to get cupcakes.

(I stare at Feraz with a look that threatens to start peeling the carrots.)

Feraz: I already ordered the cake for tomorrow. 

Sumeera: I’m really sorry I ruined your surprise. (I give sympathetic hug to Feraz.) But actually its Ambreen’s fault, don’t you think? I’m going to go make her feel bad about it on her wall. Actually, I’ll go blog about it!

(Today I am grateful that Zeena was able to bring a beautiful new life into the world and was able to post blackberry message us throughout her labor!) 

Why I stopped driving.

For a decade, I drove. I drove every day as people in Michigan do. I drove the 16.2 miles between my parent’s house and OU. I drove the 38.4 miles from my house to Dearborn to see Feraz. I drove 30.8 miles to my first real job in Detroit. I drove the 14.5 miles from Canton to go to my law school classes in Ann Arbor.

For years, I drove without thinking twice. There was a time in my life when gas cost $1.13 a gallon and the only way I could quiet my overly active mind was to get in my car, turn on the radio and drive in a direction which I had never gone. I was calmed by the promise that there was so much out there I hadn’t seen or know of. It gave me a great sense of hope.

On February 13, 2007, I left Ann Arbor to do my nightly drive to Canton. It had been snowing but it looked like it was slowing down. What I didn’t realize was that the temperature had also gone down and the roads had become sheets of ice. I was already on the freeway when I began to feel how slick the road was beneath me. I pulled into the left lane and didn’t worry too much since the roads wasn’t very full. I was driving slow and I noticed that there was a semi coming up on my right. The semi truck was drifting into my lane and pretty soon I realized that it was not pulling back into its lane. If I didn’t speed up, it was going to smash my car into the median. I hit the gas and was able to get out just in time as the back of the semi crashed into the median and the front swung out to the right.

As the truck veered out of control, it crashed into the front of my car sending it into a tailspin. Six more cars hit me head-on sending my car crashing from the median back into one car after another. I kept saying my prayers as fast as I could, pleading for God to forgive my sins and preparing myself for the angel of death. But as quickly as it started, everything went still and was quiet. I looked down at myself. I was completely fine. My car was completely destroyed, all around me were smashed up cars. I got out of my car and stood in the freezing cold waiting for the police and tow trucks. It would take them ages because the roads were so bad. I stood there in shock. They shut down the freeway. An hour later, Feraz was finally able to get to me. He took me home. I closed my eyes too afraid to look at the road. My body didn’t stop shaking that whole night.

I went back to school the next day and life carried on. I went right back to driving and for the next two years, it was almost as if nothing had happened. And then one day it started. Every time I got in a car, all I could see were cars crashing into each other. Every time I got in a car, I would imagine someone hitting me head-on, I would imagine my neck snapping and it all ending. In a fifteen minute car drive, I might see this image 20 or 30 times. It is an irrational fear. It doesn’t go away. I don’t know if it was because of the accident. I don’t know why it took so long to manifest. Not being able to control these thoughts, I became worried about my ability to be on the road. So, I stopped driving. I didn’t want to hurt myself. But I especially did not want to hurt anyone else.

I can understand why I am afraid of getting in a car. But I miss the independence of driving. And I don’t like being scared. So, when I made my list of goals for this year, I aimed to drive alone three times. This past week, I drove by myself for the first time this year. Without fear. I took a deep breath. I pulled the car out of the driveway and I said to myself, It is ok. And it was. Alhumduhlillah.

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear. (Nelson Mandela)

(Today I am grateful that nothing has to stay the same forever.)

After the Fall

After the Fall was one of Arthur Miller’s more poorly received plays. It was criticized for too closely mirroring his real life and particularly his relationship with Marilyn Monroe. In my eyes, Arthur Miller can do no wrong and despite the criticisms, I love this play. I re-read it over dinner this past week and hope you will pick it up. Here are some of my favorite excerpts to whet your appetite.
“A couple of weeks ago I suddenly become aware of a strange fact. With all this darkness, the truth is that every morning when I awake, I’m full of hope! With everything I know- I open my eyes, I’m like a boy! For an instants there’s some- unformed promise in the air. I jump pout of bed, I shave, I can’t wait to finish my breakfast- and then, it seeps in my room, my life and its pointlessness. And I thought- if I could corner that hope, find what it consists of and either kill it for a lie, or really make it mine…”

“And yet I may stand in her mind like some important corner she turned in life. And she meant so little to me. I feel like a mirror in which she somehow saw herself as glorious.”
“Or maybe I don’t believe that grief is grief unless it kills you.”
“She did, she offered me some… love, I guess. And if I don’t return it- its like owing for a gift that you didn’t ask for.”
“I left out many things I saw. I lied. For a good cause, I thought, but all that lasts is the lie.”
“That’s the point! Yes- now, now! Its innocence, isn’t it? The innocent are always better, aren’t they? Then why can’t I be innocent?”
How few the days are that hold the mind in place; like a tapestry hung on four or five hooks. Especially the day you stop becoming; the day you merely are. I suppose its when the principles dissolve, and instead of the general gray of what ought to be you being to see what is. Even the bench by the park seems alive, having held so many actual men. The word “now” is like a bomb through the window, and it ticks.”
“And I saw that we are killing one another with abstractions. I’m defending Lou because I loved him, yet the society transforms that love into a kind of treason, what they call an issue, and I end up suspect and hated. Why can’t we speak with the voice that speaks below the “issues”- with our real uncertainty?
“Don’t you ever doubt yourself? Is it enough to prove a case, to even win it, when we are dying?”
“It was dreadful because I was not his friend either, and he knew it… he saw through my faithfulness; and he was not telling me what a friend I was, he was praying I would be – “Please be my friend, Quentin” is what he was saying to me, ‘I am drowning, throw me a rope!'”
And yet, I must not forget the way I wake; I open up my eyes each morning like a boy, even now; even now. That ‘s as true as anything I know, but where’s the evidence? Or is it simply that my heart sill beats?”
“I tell you there were times when she looked into the mirror and I saw she didn’t like her face and I wanted to step between her and her suffering.
“You know how to see it with your own eyes. That’s more important than all the books.”
“Yes! – that we conspired to violate the past, and the past is holy and its horrors are holiest of all!”
(Today I am grateful for daily talks wtih my Auntie Rani who has wisdom that I greatly need!)