The Essence of… Monique

Woman ~ Strong ~ Persevering ~ Kind ~ Stubborn ~ Risk-taker

I’ve known Monique for her whole life.  She is a cousin of mine, but in reality, is almost like a sister.   

We were amicable at first, my relationship was more with her mother Mona and her dad Mounir, my uncle. He was dad’s younger brother, and we had an amazing bond.  After all, he’s the one that would take me to the ice cream parlour and buy me the vanilla shake when I was six and seven years old in Egypt.  

During my teen years while still in high school, I would go by train to Montreal and stay with them as a home base. Then I would visit other cousins who were closer to my age.  Monique was there as the youngest of the cousins one who craved attention, unfortunately, I didn’t give her much attention at the time – but we’ve sure caught and made up for some of that by how close we’ve gotten. 

She mentions Cambridge – they lived on the way to our head office at the time and I used any excuse to visit her and her husband Larry.  We first met Larry when I photographed their wedding in Edmonton.  He and I became fast friends, while Monique and I really started to bond.  There are a number of stories that I can share to tell you about Monique, but three come to mind.

Barcelona & France

We decided to go to Barcelona and France on a trip together. She and I planned the trip, I volunteered Larry to be our chauffeur. It was a once in a lifetime trip and we had a blast.  We travelled together and did things separately as well. It was so comfortable and fun.  We had many memorable activities such as the cooking class in the hills above Nice.  You should ask her and her British GPS who didn’t speak with the necessary French accent. 

Kerba Reunion

A second significant ten day long event is how she and some cousins started a two city Kerba reunion trip. It was like a ten-day party that no one wanted to leave. Thanks to that reunion I engaged with other Kerba’s for the first time.  It was a tremendous success and was truly a magical thing that came together over a Facebook chat.  Thank you, Anna Maria and Monique, for that truly memorable ten days.

Mounir’s Funeral

But nothing will ever endear Monique to me like the week I went to Edmonton for Monique’s father Mounir’s funeral.  She was the epitome of grace under fire as Mona had to be hospitalized during the funeral preparation and was released to attend the funeral.  Monique was a rock! The biggest and most burning image I have of the week was her holding a phone to each ear trying to negotiate some of the plans.

We’ve also had great times and our entire family loves her and her family – we always feel welcome at their place or with her family.  There is always room at the Inn. We will always manage.  She’s a Kerba and getting the last word in is a must; in this case, I’m letting her have the last word. (Until she responds to this 😉 here are Monique’s answers to my essence questions. 

AND NOW. The rest of the story…meet Moinque’s journey, its trials and successes

1) At some time or another, you reached a fork in the road. At that time, it didn’t feel like it, but in looking back you realize that really was a big moment. One that that changed your life. Describe yours. 

We were expecting our second child and had recently moved back to Edmonton after living overseas for 16 months when my husband, Larry, was told that budgets for the international office of the engineering firm he worked for had to be cut. This meant that he would be laid off, unless he was willing to apply and move to their newly acquired branch office in Cambridge, Ontario. My own employment contract had yet to be renewed. We faced an uncertain financial future with a growing family. A decision needed to be made. Do we move far from our parents, or do we go on unemployment and risk not being able to make ends meet? We chose to move. Being young and foolish, we didn’t realise the impact such a move would have on our lives. It seemed like another adventure. This adventure turned out to be quite challenging. But, as a result of not having our parents to turn to whenever things became difficult, we learned to be very independent. It also gave me the opportunity to make a career dream come true, I had studied acting in Edmonton, but it wasn’t a booming location for that profession. I took the plunge and dove headfirst into the movie, television, and theatre scene in Ontario.

What an incredible experience it was! I met fascinating people, pushed myself outside of my comfort zone, and took risks. I learned a lot about who I was and what I could accomplish. My self-esteem and attitude towards life changed. My family and I also got to better know our extended relatives who lived in Ontario. New and old friendships were carved. After 5 years, we moved back to Alberta. Looking back, had we not chosen the Ontario option, I never would have had these life-changing experiences. I would not be the person that I am today.


2) What has been your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it? 

My biggest challenge has been my health. I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia at 19. Not much was known about it back then. Over the years, I tried many drug treatments, joined support groups, and read everything that I could get my hands on. Nothing helped, all I found out was how debilitating this disease was, that people couldn’t live their lives fully, often ending up in wheelchairs, not participating in daily activities, staying home most of the time. This was quite upsetting to a young person, especially one who had children. My mother, who was a diabetic, told me that only I could decide how this “life sentence” would affect my life. That only I could choose how to live my life. I took her words to heart. One’s mental outlook makes an enormous difference. I chose to not let Fibromyalgia stop me from doing everything that I want to. It’s not a mind over matter situation, I still suffer greatly. I still have the disease. I just choose to live with the pain, not let it stop me. I know that if I go for a hike in the Rockies, I will be in bed for a week or two recuperating, but damn it, I am going to go on that hike and enjoy every moment. I have been on hot air balloon rides, gone horseback riding, even climbed up Botticelli’s El Duomo in Florence. It all hurt but I felt alive. There is a price, I pay it everyday. But I lead the dance, not Fibromyalgia.

What one gem that you’ve learned on your journey that you would love to share?

“All things happen for a reason. You might not see it that way at the time it happens, but when you look back, you’ll see the positive results it leads to.”

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