Archive | January, 2012

Spend Of The Good Things

24 Jan

The weekend before last my children were psyched to watch a performance by Baba Ali. Had I known how much I was about to laugh I would have been just as fired up. If you can attend one of his live performances, don’t miss out.  For my Florida friends, he is scheduled to perform on January 28th in Orlando. Here is the flyer.

My friend and fellow-faster, Nuriman, who directs a boy’s youth group in our area arranged the boys to meet and greet Baba Ali “back stage.”

How often do you meet someone in person who matches up to the positive impression you had beforehand? Baba Ali is that kind of person- the real deal. He is just as nice and down to earth face-to-face as he is on camera. 

That night my family learned about the organization which hosted the event, known as Helping Hands for Relief and Development (HHRD). Its logo bears the statement, “Muslims for Humanity.” In this way, it is shares the ambitious goal of Islamic Relief Worldwide, another worthy cause. HHRD works in the U.S., Japan, Haiti, Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Sierra Leone, and many more areas in the world.

It carries a stellar four-star rating by Charity Navigator. HHRD has created a matching gift program that operates with over sixty companies who will match their employees’ donations. I discovered that HHRD, among its varied relief programs, provides skill development for women, to empower them to provide a sustainable quality of life for their children. HHRD provides physical therapy and artificial limbs to patients in disaster areas. Also, through HHRD you can sponser an orphan for only $1/day.  The organization not only looks after the child’s physical well-being but holistically provides for her education, protects her legal rights and even provides for social uplifting through extracurricular activities.

While I was giddy for my kids to meet Baba Ali, at the same moment, somewhere in the world there are single mothers who cannot find work to feed their children; there are mothers whose children have lost legs and need prosthetics; there are mothers who are not even alive to care for their children.

I have to reconcile with the notion that I am not somehow worthy to be set apart from all of these tragedies. I have to sober to the fact that just because these tears do not gather at my own doorstep, still, they gather. They are  jagged, painful, heavy tears that a mother or her child is enduring at this moment.

At a stop light yesterday I idled near a Toys-R-Us. The sign said “Store Closing. Everything 40% Off.” I thought about my oldest son’s lego collection, that truck my three year old asked for, the doll clothes that my daughter keeps reminding me to buy. The parking lot was packed. My heart palpitated a little thinking about all the good deals inside and about how happy my babies would be to get a surprise (for a fraction of the cost). Maybe I could get even give them something ordinarily out of budget? I’m always inching to get that “good-mama” badge.

Then, I sighed thinking of my kids, with a basement full of toys, and friends, and warm, home-cooked meals at a family table every night. My kids have plenty, and then some.

And if you would count the favors of Allah you will  never be able to number them, Allah is Forgiving, Compassionate. An-Nahl (The Bee), verse 18.

The real challenge is to remember the children who are not sitting at my table or any other table for that matter and to do something, without delay, as easy as making an online donate.

O you who believe! Spend of the good things which you have earned, and of that which We have brought out of the earth for you. And seek not the bad [with intent] to spend of it [in charity]; and know that Allah is Rich, and Worthy of Praise. Al-Baqarah (The Cow), verse 267.

Much Love,

Danette

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Day Three: A Kale High and Diving Deep

19 Jan

I always thought I needed caffeine to stay awake all day long. That was until I discovered the kale-high; this green juice is the fountain of youth. Listen to this, on Tuesday night I went to sleep after midnight and woke up very early Wednesday morning. I enjoyed a busy day with my kids, plus a half hour work-out, and I did not get tired until close to midnight on Wednesday.

Even after the fast, this drink is going to be a daily staple, God willing. It is a must-have, especially, in the last ten days of Ramadan when fasters seek to increase ibadah(worship), most importantly throughout the night. In the past I sipped on coffee after the adthan (call to prayer), but now I hope to grab a glass of kale. Sounds funny, I know, and not something I ever would have said before starting out on this mission. Without the best nutrition, spiritual practices can be difficult to sustain, especially for mothers who have to get up early no matter how late they prayed into the night.

I am loving this juice and the taste grows on me with every sip.

I’ve learned that leafy greens are the key to targeting a host of ailments. The Juicing Bible provides recipes that address specific illnesses and stages of life.

Green leafy vegetables target water retention, depression, skin conditions, ADHD symptoms, indigestion, headaches, hypoglycemia, and is highly recommended for pregnancy, breastfeeding mothers, and menopausal women.

This was my breakfast on day one. I tossed all of it into the juicer.

It was super tasty, as you can imagine; unfortunately, the acidity in the fruit did not bode well for my stomach after last night’s cranberry fest. No matter, the kids slurped it all up and I was thrilled to see them chugging sugar free, homemade juice.

Besides all the gushing, how am I doing? I have more clarity of mind and enough energy to tire my kids out instead of the other way around. Unfortunately, I still have painful salt cravings. I dream of tearing off a piece of white, crusty french bread and sopping up the juices of my favorite mediterranean chicken dish- pre-marinated in garlic, lemon, oregano and plenty of SALT! Even though I haven’t had a Star Crunch in years, I want to eat one, or two…or three!

A dear friend of mine in Texas, who recently gave up sugar, told me that her husband brought home boxes of Girl Scout cookies. She said it best: There is a certain sweetness to beating the temptation though. Stay strong! 

I am not just giving up food that is bad for my body as well as my psychology, I am struggling to break my strong emotional attachments to things that don’t bring me any closer to As-Salam (The Giver of Peace), Al Mu’Id, (The Restorer to Life), As-Samad (The Eternally Besought), An-Nur (The Light).

Today I am so grateful for a bag of crunchy apples that my friend, and fellow homeschooler, Aasma, left on my door and on the door of my fellow faster, Nuriman. It was a special gesture that speaks to the intangible, enduring value of sisterhood, and it sweetened my broco-carrot juice sublimely.

My plan from here is to use the next seven days to strengthen my resolve further. Besides one post that I am inspired to share about a worthwhile charity, God willing, I will sign off for the rest of my juice-fasting journey. I have miles to dive deep in order to serve my ultimate purpose for the fast. My Big Girl voice is telling me to savor this time in as many joyful, quiet moments as a mother of three can manage. I look forward to recounting my experience and telling ya’ll about my Big Girl journey after the fast.

Much Love,

Danette

Day Two: I Will Survive!

18 Jan

Day two and I’m already over my vegetable grudge. That wasn’t so bad! My friend and fellow faster, Jacqueline, gave me a recipe called green juice which was featured in the film Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. It consist of kale, apples, celery, cucumber, lemon and ginger. I was afraid to drink it at first, it is slime green after all, but hunger got the best of me.

After two swigs of the drink I was sold. I even got a kale-stache with no hard feelings. The apples give it sweetness while the lemon and ginger make it tart. It helped me to endure the deep muscle aches that I experienced over a seven hour period – the result of toxins fleeing my body. Yeaaaah!! I finally succumbed to two Advil to cope with the aches in the afternoon. After three child labors, you’d think I could handle a little detox. Thank God, by night, the aches completely subsided.

In the early evening hours I tried a vitamin C mix, consisting of grapefruit, orange, lime, and cranberry.

It was ubber tart and refreshing.

The zing of it gave me courage to watch my family eat puttanesca sauce over a bed of steaming penne pasta, without having a fit.

I chased the drink down with a tall glass of water and a hot cup of detox herbal tea. I’ve even started cutting out the teaspoons of honey. I have to pinch myself since last week I was consuming cups of sugary, creamy coffee, and this week I’m sipping on unsweetened herbal tea. Can ya’ll believe it?! I’m impressed by my tastebuds’ ability to switch over in such a short amount of time, or at least endure with minimal whining. Someone is making du’a (prayer) for me, I can tell! Keep doing it, pretty please.

Conversations with three of my fellow-fasters is helping tremendously. Whilst in the vegetable market today I got a call from my buddy Kim. I dropped everything to talk to her, even though it required letting my daughter stand up in the cart and do a booty-shake to the store’s background music. Just chatting about our journeys gives me energy to keep going. I was there looking for coconut water that my friend Jacqeuline recommended earlier. Hearing about her success and challenges gives me strength and pause to make du’a for her along with my other fellow fasters. Calls and texts from supportive friends is also a saving grace. I am convinced that embarking on this challenge with a team is key to enduring the rough and tumble first 48 hours.

As for my husband, he’s in a little hot water right now. He thinks juice fasting is so funny; the extent of his support system is in chugging down the vegetable juice I make for him nightly. Since he is not even feigning support, it is giving me a little bit of selfish joy to watch him try to camouflage his own gag reflex.

If he makes one more joke about putting fried chicken in the juicer I am going to…going to….umm….actually, I’m not going to do anything. This juice fasting has had a surprising sedative effect on my nervous system. I am calmer and more optimistic than ever.

Can ya’ll believe that just 24-hours ago I was personifying vegetables as villains? After day two I can say that, God willing, I will survive! I am even giddy about the next eight days. I’m relieved that something as simple as dietary changes is making such a dramatic, positive shift in my feelings of well-being and in my ability to concentrate and be mindful in my daily prayers.

I still have strong cravings. I won’t bore you with the details of how I wanted to snort a bag of tater chips. Even still, the siren call of snacky food and dairy products is loosening its grip on me just a little. I expect that in the coming days my defenses will be even stronger. After the fasting period, I have plans to continue my de-tox program with a free, personalized Reboot Your Life plan.

Stay tuned ya’ll for more on my Be a Big Girl inner-make over. If you are on the same track, please be in touch. I want to hear all about it.

Much Love,

Danette

Day One: A Vegetable Grudge

17 Jan

I am writing on day one of my juice fast. I was glowing about it last week here, but I’m not glowing anymore. I crave bread and butter, salty chips, and mocha ice cream, and I discovered in just 24-hours that I don’t really like vegetables; I love the stuff that you sprinkle on vegetables – plenty of salt! This is how I want to eat vegetables.

Even better is the stuff you can smear on vegetables -butter!

I’m writing on day three of my life without coffee. Pouring a cup was always a worthy excuse to consume sugar and cream. I can’t believe how much my life has changed since last Friday, when I comfortably sat in a friend’s kitchen, mopping up a tomato and feta love story with fluffy pita bread, and digging into a heavenly omelet. It paired perfectly with my piping hot, sweet and creamy coffee.

Why did I give it all up for tepid glasses of beet, kale and spinach  juice? Come to think of it, beet, kale and spinach should never be used as adjectives to describe a beverage! Beet juice is so conniving. It looks so sprightly with its dazzling red color; it begs to be gulped. Do you know what beet juice actually taste like? A mouthful of dirt.

You may be wondering what keeps me from quitting. Well, for one, I’m stubborn and when I decide to do something like this I am compelled to finish. Another reason I keep going is because I’ve joined a Dead Poet’s Society of kindred juicers – women who have vowed to detox like me and keep the health-nut momentum going even after the fast. The foundation for my detox is to strengthen my body, and dilute my nafs (ego), in order to strengthen my resolve to Be a Big Girl. I’m making a lot of du’a (prayers) lately.

Our first meeting, the night before Day One, took place at a local buffet which serves only halal food. I haven’t been to a buffet in ages, but it seemed fitting to swear off naughty food at a naughty place.

Here is a naughty moment courtesy of my friend and mother of four. I told her I was going to post this photo online. She just smiled and said, “Go ahead,” followed by more poses. That is just one of the reasons I love her. No big girl should ever take herself  seriously at a buffet.

Isn’t that the grossest thing you’ve ever seen, and yet, it did not give me half the trauma of raw, liquified kale and beet juice?

This is my new buffet – our local fresh food market. These vegetables look so innocent. They’re not.

I prefer to loiter in the fruit section; and of course, with a juicing fast one is not allowed to consume too many of the naturally sweet fruits. I want a “Vegetables are Bullies” bumper sticker.

I had such romantic visions of purifying my body with clean vegetable juices. After day one, in all honestly, I have a vicious vegetable grudge. My fellow juice-faster and friend coached me to visualize nutrition flooding my cells with each sip, but all that responds is my gag-reflex.

I did not realize how much comfort I derived from food and coffee; indeed, how tethered I remained to meal times and rituals. This is probably one of the most uncomfortable things I’ve ever done. Others who have tried this path and conquered it tell me that everything gets better at some point in the first week. I left a pitiful voicemail on my friend’s phone just to be sure. She called me back and reassured me again, as did my brother-in-law. They say that you will even start to crave vegelicious foods. Crave raw kale? Really?! I’m dubious on the veges.

In regards to coffee, I am a believer. After just 48 hours off the caffeine I felt more calm, and slept more peacefully. I even woke up without the customary fogginess. Regrettably, though, I did suffer considerably during the initial 24-hour haze and even ended up attending a fundraising event wearing my red house shoes. I forgot to change into my black pumps on the way out the door and did not realize the mistake until well after leaving home. I was so delirious I did not go to any length to hide my fashion hiccup.

As for the juicing, here I am, chugging along – literally. I hope to fully recover from my vegetable grudge. At this point, I feel that the only antidote is a warm, buttery croissant.

Much Love,

Danette

A Double Dawg Dare

12 Jan

Last week before I caught the stomach bug, Old Woman in the Shoe, mentioned a documentary called Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. Then, another mom recommended the film through a homeschooling listserve. I intended to watch the movie when I found the time. As it turns out, the next day I was hung over the toilet vomiting up all those collard greens. If you did not read about that adventure it is here.

Once in a blue moon when I get sick on a week day and my husband’s work schedule permits, I can actually take a day off from the young’uns to recuperate. Last Friday was one of those days. No one ever told me before kids that I might be a little giddy about getting a stomach virus one day, if only, to be able to stay in bed. Had I known that, I might have elected to be in a corner office by now. Fortunately for the human race, moms find out later.

So what did I do on my barfing-sick day off? Well, for one, I wrote a blog post. I also listened to some excellent lectures from a deen-intensive retreat which had been held in Bursa, Turkey last year and is now available with a online subscription.  Finally, I watched Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. It features two men with chronic diseases who were able to rid themselves of powerful pharmaceutical drugs by radically changing their diets and becoming more physically active. They started out with sixty days of a detoxing juice fast, whereby they only consumed fruits and vegetables prepared with a juicer.

I enjoyed the documentary so much I watched it again last weekend with my husband, and then I announced my intention to embark on a mini version of this detoxing program for ten days to see if it would help alleviate my  hypoglycemia and caffeine dependence. I have another health condition; it occurs when dinner is on the stove, and the house needs picking up, and the kids are getting cranky, and my husband isn’t home from work yet to help out, and my son reminds me that he needs materials for a science project, due soon, and I want to run like Forest Gump- far, far away. I’m sure there is a multi-syllable medical term for that illness, but I call it: Totally-Want-to-Freak-Out!

My husband snidely congratulated me, and when I prodded him to see if we might partner on this project, he said he’d drink the juice as long as he could eat his fried chicken with it. Never mind, I consoled myself, that’s what girlfriends are for. So, my friend and I are scheduled to go out this Sunday night for a last meal before going cold turkey on Monday, God Willing.

I needed a juicer, of course, to start the detox which I did not have, and soon found out that a swank Breville juicer like the one featured in the film can run upwards of $300. The last pair of never worn name-brand shoes I bought cost $3.50, thanks to my thrifting-swagger, so the thought of paying $300 for something that was intended to make me healthy actually made me feel a little bit sick. We’ve got orthodontics and tuition to blow our money on, we can’t afford to party on juicers.

So, armed with a recommendation from a subscription to a consumer reporting agency, I discovered that a $70 juicer ranked just a little bit higher than some of the ubber-expensive elite brands. Hamilton Beach, Baby!! When it finally arrives in the mail, it’ll go right next to my chichi Oster Blender.

As ecstatic as I am to start plunging my system with juice, I know, the minute a cold glass of kale hits my taste buds I’m probably going to have convulsions and beg one of my small children to inject a cup of coffee into my veins, ANY VEIN!!

As hard as mamahood is I have to go and do crazy stuff like this. That is true, but I feel that I need a jumpstart on my health. I don’t have weight problems, but having a high metabolism is not synonymous with being healthy. I have an active lifestyle, especially in the warmer months when I live outside, which is great. I even consume mostly a Mediterranean diet, sans the alcohol and with liberal helpings of collard greens. Still, I consume plenty – too much -sugar, salt and caffeine. 

I came across this hadith recently which increased by desire to rid my diet of creature-comfort food and my beverage of choice:

The family of Muhammad did not eat two meals on one day, but one of the two was of dates.” (Narrated Aisha, Sahih Al-Bukhari, Hadith No. 462, Vol. 8).

This statement stands in contrast to the amount of preservatives and artificial fuel we feed our bodies. Many of us, absent Ramadan, are constantly feeding ourselves and our children a constant flow of meals, snacks, and beverages. It is as if we are depriving ourselves of something if we go hungry between meals. This cycle makes supererogatory fasting more difficult and muddled with brain-fog.

I pray that this detox works to cleanse my physical state, with which I hope to climb more mountains in my spiritual life. In short, as part of my Be a Big Girl challenge, I hope it will be a catalyst to de-clutter my body and soul.

I hope to blog more on this in the upcoming days and weeks. If you are detoxing yourself, or if you have detoxed before, I’d love to hear your comments. Please tell me there is life after coffee. If you’ve never detoxed before then I double dawg dare ya’ to try it out with me. I don’t know about you, but when someone double dawg dares me to do anything it usually means I’m going to live to tell about it. How about you?

Much Love,

Danette

The Oil Lamp

10 Jan

“A person who teaches goodness to others while neglecting his own soul is like an oil lamp, which illumines others while burning itself out.” – Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) At Tirmidhi

Giving ourselves personal space to develop God-consciousness and self-awareness is a very Big Girl thing to do. Ironically, once we resolve to become grown up we have acquired so many duties, however joyful they may be, that personal space is deemed a luxury instead of a nutrient. Just a few months ago personal space was not part of my life. I was homeschooling my ten-year old son alongside my kindergartener, plus chasing after my two year old and keeping house. I was resentful which was not very big girlish of me. 

The story goes like this: when a mama raises children it is called motherhood, but when a mama homeschools her children it is called motherhood on steroids. (It’s just a joke, and I’m covered by the “unorthodox humor” disclaimer on my About page.)

Folks who find out that I homeschool my kids say roughly the same thing: “I just don’t know how you do it! I know I couldn’t do THAT.” This can mean one of two things.

If another mama gives you this line with her hand on her hip that is code for: I don’t believe anyone can do it, including you! This is true, especially if the next declaration concerns how anointed her kids are because they’ve all tested into elite classes and how much she just, “loves, LOVES, their school!!!”  Meanwhile I’d be saying to myself (hand on hip), that thar’ is a bonafide smarty pants! Then, I’d feel so pitiful and petty for fussing up my emotions like that instead of feeling plain old tickled-pink for her brood.

Now, if a mama gives you this line with her hand on her heart, then she really does think you are a saint and she only wishes you the very best. In that case, I’d wish to pour my heart out: tell her how strung out I felt, how exhausted I was, how insecure, and how scared I was to choose otherwise. I wanted to confess that it really is miserable to be potty-training one minute, critiquing a writing assignment the next minute, only to turn around and pretend to eat ‘princess cupcakes.’ Yuck! I’d want to fess up that the thought of waking up in the morning to be mama/teacher for the long haul depressed me to no end. I just wanted to tell her how friggin’ resentful I was. But, instead, I’d just give her some feeble, self-depreciating line like a good, little girl does and go about my day.

I wasn’t always resentful; most of the time, in fact, I was not. More often the satisfaction of being able to provide personalized lessons in a wholesome environment was highly motivating. In addition, I was learning along side my eldest on a wide array of subject matter so it was intellectually stimulating. What is even better, I live in an area where there are a plethora of resources and organizations to support homeschoolers, and homeschooling is not exactly the third rail. There are museums galore and it seems that all of them have a special event set aside for homeschoolers, or a series of classes catered to providing them with a hands-on multi-sensory experience.

Not only that, but I participate in a well-organized homeschool co-op with other families where my children take classes that indulge a range of their extracurricular interests. Even better, the co-op mothers are some of my closest friends and our children share a deep bond. That’s not all; a parent where I live need not strictly homeschool every subject. From science to history to writing courses – there are many series advertised at community colleges and centers which cater to homeschoolers. Minus the end of school year burn-out, homeschooling is mostly a sweet life. 

The crisis I encountered was not homeschooling, per se, but balancing my  eldest son’s educational foot-path with that of his younger brother and sister. Complicating life further was the fact that I was not using a prefab curriculum; rather, I was tailoring every subject with a special set of resources to try to offer the best mix. Everyday was an obstacle course, but not a course that one could study ahead of time; rather, it was a surprise obstacle course every day – no fail.

Younger children are less predictable in terms of their health and emotions which is why I never knew when I’d get surprised with a feverish child, one throwing a temper-tantrum, or simply one just wanting to squat down and play blocks with me for a while, just for the heck of it. While on one hand my adolescent excelled on structure, on the other hand, my younger children needed me to be more flexible. I was succeeding only by waking up everyday and performing lunatic acrobatics. As a result, my oil lamp was extinguished. For the first time in my life the only thing I could passionately identify with was the common phrase: going through the motions.

Strangely (and clearly a symptom of my condition) it wasn’t the fact that I was miserable that caused me to quit, it was the fact that my son was no longer motivated to study. School was drudgery. He started making careless mistakes on his work and the only clever edge he demonstrated was in trying to get out of assignments. 

 In retrospect I realize that the reason my son was no longer motivated to study was that I was no longer motivated to teach. My attitude had become infectious and malignant. The obstacle course I was running was stunting my spiritual growth because all of my resources were going just to running it. At the point when my light extinguished, and every day thereafter, I was of no benefit to my family besides taking care of their physical needs. Though I wanted to impart goodness; indeed, the very idea of it kept me on this blistering course, I simply could not succeed because I hadn’t been feeding my soul.

However terminal my condition, in the thickness of it I couldn’t sober up to the reality that no amount of tinkering was going to fix the problem. I felt guilty that I just couldn’t make it work and my guilt was shrinking my sense of empowerment to try something different and trust in Allah (SWT). It did not occur to me that my oil lamp had burned out. Didn’t it have some kind of auto-burn option!? Didn’t good intentions light it? If my ideas and my goals were so right, why did it feel so wrong? Why was it so unfair?! How come some women could do it and I couldn’t? Why couldn’t I just be more like sister so and so? How come my kids couldn’t just be more like her kids?! Maybe this is really my test in life; I need to keep a positive attitude and all will be well. Why can’t I keep a positive attitude for more than one stinkin’ hour!!??

I could only answer these questions after lightening some of my load and looking back on my circumstance. At the point when my oil lamp ceased to incandesce, I could scarcely remember that it once functioned, much less locate the means to light it again. My condition was so severe that it was not the loss of light which caused me to initiate a radical change, rather it was an event which happened outside of me to cause that shift. 

The fact that my son was no longer motivated to learn, of which I had tangible proof in the form of his written work- indeed, something out side of myself, made me sober up to the reality that would ultimately save myself. I picked up the phone, called my husband at work, blind with tears and said: “Baby, it’s time to outsource one of the kids.”

He immediately went into daddy-mode- enumerating the means and logistical steps to execute the outsource. Meanwhile, my alarm and skepticism grew under the impression that we were about to ship our eldest off to Kathmandu. What made it especially hard were the pleas of my son who was adamant that he wanted to continue homeschooling with his friends.

Armed with conviction, I steam-rolled the process of getting him enrolled. I made my first stop at a private school run out of our local mosque. I already knew mothers there, and best of all, my friend and former homeschool mom taught at the school. My heart sank when they told me there were no spots available. No mind, I got back in the car determined to go to the public school, which boasts a very good reputation. Two of our neighbors send their children there and since they are all sweet-natured, I was hopeful.

The grounds of the school were very tidy; as soon as I walked into the building on the left was a large, colorful display of a world map with a fanciful marker on every country to note all the places in the wide world where the attending students come from. A quick scan put my heart at ease that my son would not be the only Muslim there. Then, I walked into the front office and proceeded to wait in line. Naturally, no one gave me the familiar, warm welcome of “Asalaamu’Alaikum,” peace be upon you. Actually, I didn’t even get a hello, which is understandable given the busy mass in the office. As time passed it did feel a bit like the DMV, only much cleaner and without any Mountain Dew.

While waiting our turn, my two-year old started flailing because he thought we were in a pediatrician’s office and said he didn’t “want to get shots!” This scene, however embarrassing, did invite them to process me faster. They gave me a shiny stack of papers to fill out and sent me on my way. I asked if there was anyone I could talk to just to answer a couple of questions about the school’s pedagogy and policies, but they reminded me that I would need to first fill out those shiny papers. 

I left and went home to do what any aspiring Big Girl would do. I set my kids down to a kid-flick in the basement, proceeded to my bedroom, called a good girlfriend, sat on the edge of my bed and loudly sobbed over the phone. She said she’d come over later, but in the meantime I needed to chill out. The next morning I received a call from the private school that they would be able to squeeze our son in after all. After a prayer of istikhara (special prayer when facing indecisiveness) my husband and I decided to enroll our son in the private school. On the first day, we were all restless and scared, but it did have the edge of making us feel like we were merely outsourcing him to his cousin’s house for the day.

Our son made a relatively easy transition to school and, academically, he has excelled so far. Even better, I see his old ways coming back to him – that of getting excited about his subjects and crafting his own questions. He claims that he wants to return to homeschooling next fall, but he is just as likely to look forward to an upcoming project or period at school. I am still teaching my kindergartener and find that I enjoy homeschooling as much as before. I feel my lamp rekindling a little more each day.

A major life lesson I learned on my way to becoming a Big Girl, was to never wed myself to an idea so passionately that I starve my soul in the process. It is not that I must put my needs before others; it is that I need to prioritize my missions. 

When duty calls, I must interrogate my own persuasions to determine what relevancy they have juxtaposed to my daily pursuit to live courageously and authentically as a true servant of my Creator, and in proximity to my Lord. If I cannot truly seep into the pursuit of closeness to The Most Loving (Al-Wadud); if I can only speak of it to my children, whilst hibernating in the cloistered cave of my lofty ideas, then I am useless to them. My light will have gone out and they will, eventually, find no place near me to keep warm and seek sustenance for their own journey.  

The resolve to Be a Big Girl is a stranger odyssey than I ever imagined. It is sprinkled with mirages, no doubt. When I’ve mastered my thirst to the point that I no longer cry out for water…when I should be forgotten, at once, large founts of crystal clear liquid burst out, and I am brought back to my center. I remember the spiking, levitating stabs of thirst, which are remarkably more comforting than the narcotic of my former state.

Alhamdulilah. All Praise Be to God.

Much Love,

Danette

 

Sick as a Dawg

6 Jan

I hate malls and I try never to go to them. I prefer to be outdoors and when I have to shop I enjoy the thrill of finding a cry-good deal at a thrift store. Malls take all the gritty, scavenging-fun out of shopping. If I have to be indoors I’d prefer it to feel more like outdoors. Plus, when I shop at thrift stores and my three-year-old picks up a nifty Goodwrench tool box filled with lots of kiddified tools and begs me for it, that will only set me back two bucks.

My dear friend who also prefers thrifting to strolling the malls invited me to have morning coffee at a cafe in the mall. My intial reaction was: No thank you. Then, she said on Thursdays the kids get a free carousel ride. You don’t have to twist my arm. My babies would squeel for that. So, I went but didn’t last long at the cafe because I had my kids with me, of course. What was I thinking?! I regret that I did not get to chat longer with a very nice fellow-mom who my friend introduced me to. My kids wanted to speed right to the carousel, which is where we journeyed just after watching a free magic show which was actually corny, except for the dove trick at the end. These mall people work really hard to get moms to spend money during the weekday. I’d like to sit in on one of their strategy meetings with a bullhorn.

The Carousel was a hit, naturally, and very crowded which made it even more fun.

Pure fun

I couldn’t very well take the kids home after a carousel ride. I needed a tapering activity. I hadn’t been to one of those rubbery, foam play places in the mall in several years, and my cousin recently reminded me how nice it is to read something while the kids play. I didn’t have anything to read, but I thought the kids would get a kick out of  it, so away we went. I did make a stop over at Claire’s Boutique to get a couple of hairbows for my daughter. I’m such a sucker!

Oh my gosh! The “park” was crowded. I’ve never seen so many children in such a small space. In less than a half hour I saw five kids get whacked in the face by five other kids, followed by their bashful parents admonishing them, and then a thousand apologies. One accompanying dad was trying very diligently to look cross and study something on his Blackberry. It must be hard to be surrounded by so much estrogen and still feel like a macho man. My kids lasted only a short time before leading me out by the hand.

Within a few hours my youngest came down with a stomach virus, followed by his sister that evening, and followed by me at 3:45 a.m. I kid you not- I ate collard greens and kale, again, last night for dinner, and it all came back up. I love my husband, he always holds my head up and my hair back, but I didn’t appreciate him telling me something along the lines of, “gross.” That is what Collard Green people call being sick as a dawg.

I think the worst is over. I’m blaming it on the mall’s cootie kiddie park and I vouch never to return to one, at least not in the winter months.

The kids sprung back after the last vomit tour. I’m still recuperating with a cup of herbal tea. May Allah (SWT) make it an expiation for my sins and bring me to a full recovery.

Judge a Book by Its Cover

4 Jan

I’m somebody’s mama so when I go to the library I spend a lot of time in the children’s section. By the time we’ve had a sit down with Fancy Nancy, Harry Potter, all the kids at Magic Tree House, Pooh and Piglet, my kids are ready to go home. I have a few minutes to skim the adult section before my offspring start talking to random strangers, or my wandering ten-year old traipses upon a book which claims to inject more intimacy into your sex life. Time to GO!

In this predicament I’m a repeat offender of the sagely rule: DON’T JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER! I’ve judged oodles of books by their covers and most of the time I hit the jackpot.

By this method, three years ago, I discovered the culinary prowess of Alice Waters. My eyes caught the contrast of the cover’s mustard yellow and red with orange hues. My photo doesn’t even do justice to the loveliness of this cover’s outward form.

Because of this book I can now roast the perfect chicken and make a comforting, hot pot of carrot soup with tarragon. Her method for preparing pouring custard is divine.

I hit the jackpot again when I glimpsed a white-lettered arial font set against a deep mahogany backdrop. It read: “An Everlasting Meal,” by Tamar Adler. I quickly pulled it out and looked at its face. The subtitle read: “Cooking with Economy and Grace,” and beneath that lay a scattering of leafy greens and cream-colored turnips with sassy, upturned tails.

I slipped it into my designated library sack and headed for the check out line, my five year old daughter hop-scotched behind in my footsteps, and told me to take her to Tutti Frutti – her favorite frozen yogurt shop.

After I paid my dues at Tutti Frutti, where she ordered a giant bowl of frozen sugar topped with a splattering of pomegranate seeds and Fruity Pebbles, I went home, ordered the kids to bed, and sunk down into my reading chair.

What a beautiful book, I thought to myself, and studied its cover more closely than I had a chance to do earlier. At the very end of the front-cover was a notation that the book included a foreword by none other than Alice Waters- the author of “The Art of Simple Food,” whose cover I also judged, and by that virtue learned to roast chickens.

Hitting the jackpot is an under-statement. This book has revolutionized the way I think of ingredients, cooking tools and food preparation. This book is more than a collection of recipes, it is a book about life. Adler encourages home cooks to get the most out of a single ingredient and to use instinct to light our path. This reading paired perfectly with my resolve to Be a Big Girl.

She warns readers not to follow recipes to a fault; rather she encourages us to : ….simply pay attention, trust yourself, and decide.

She says: We’re so often told cooking is an obstacle that we miss this. When we cook things, we transform them. And any small acts of transformation are among the most human things we do.

And this advice deserves to be hung on the wall:

…..there is a great dignity in allowing oneself to keep clear about what is good, and it is what I think of when I hear the term ‘good taste.’ Whether things were ever simpler than they are now, or better if they were, we can’t know. We do know that people have always found ways to eat and live well, whether on boiling water or bread or beans, and that some of our best eating hasn’t been our most foreign or expensive or elaborate, but quite plain and quite familiar. And knowing that is probably the best way to cook, and certainly the best way to live.

I’m pleased to have judged this book by its cover. It is very Big Girl material, and I will now have to purchase my own copy to refer back to every now and then.

I think one of the biggest obstacles to living a Big Girl life comes from so-called expert advice. We are bullied into detaching from the big girls who came before us. Their hard-won, simple advice is supplanted with expert “wisdom,” which teaches us to mimic rather than to live courageously and authentically. I realize it’s ironic that I would advise myself to take expert advice with caution considering the fact that to “Judge a Book by Its Cover” is total heresy to sagely scripture. I feel confident, however, that if my great-grandmother could sit down and have a nice motherly chat with me she would tell me it’s alright to judge a book by its cover- if that is what drives you to choose and if it has worked out so far so good.

To be a Big Girl, I think, we have to more often decide for ourselves, no matter the pulse and sway of expert advice. We have to decide for ourselves even if the expert bears a slew of lower case letters behind h/er name. We have to ask ourselves, What is my perspective? What does hand-me-down advice have to say on the matter? We have to give that the same or better degree of attention before considering which steps to take. I’ll leave you with a favorite quote from Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren which increased my resolve to live life authentically.

In this scene Pippi answers a shop keeper trying to peddle a freckle-remover potion:

“No, I don’t suffer from freckles,” said Pippi.

“But, my dear child, your whole face is covered with freckles!”

I know it,” said Pippi, “but I don’t suffer from them. I love them. Good morning.”

She turned to leave, but when she got to the door she looked back and cried, “But if you should happen to get in any salve that gives people more freckles, then you can send me seven or eight jars.” 

Much Love,

Danette

Be a Big Girl

3 Jan

2012. It’s got a ring to it. It sounds a heck of a lot better than 2011. 2012 is downright musical to the ear. I trust the optimism of a melodious sounding year. In fact, I felt so darn rallied by it, that I took to the task of redesigning Collard Green Muslim. You like?

Last week I visited my cousins in the Shenandoah Valley, along with my parents and 90-year-old Georgia-grandma. What is her secret for a long life, you wonder? Corn flakes and fried chicken. She eats plenty of both. She told me stories that I already heard, but asked her to tell me again, and some stories I heard for the first time.

I never knew that her daddy died just two weeks after her wedding or that she delivered her first-born at home. I never knew that as newlyweds my grandfather mortgaged their car to be able to grow fields of watermelons in Georgia and transport all their crops to market in Florida. They grew so many watermelons that year, they saved up enough money to buy a house in Winter Garden, Florida. I had no idea that my grandmother refused to be a farmer’s wife; that she insisted on living in-town. Or that her mother, my great-grandmother, was drop dead gorgeous with jet-black hair and spent most of her life with a sack around her neck, picking cotton. Or that my grandfather had a mentally handicapped brother who he looked after, as an adult, and I didn’t know that my grandfather and all his brothers were raised by a single father.

My cousin, Andy, shared some photos with me that I will treasure always. Here is my great-grandfather Jack Goodwyne on his Georgia farm. He fathered eight children, all girls. My grandmother was the youngest.

Great Grandfather Jack Goodwyne and (unnamed) Cousin

And, here is my grandfather, John “Shorty” Mask in front of a packing house where he worked as the foreman in Winter Garden, FL.

He was sixteen years her senior. Even though they grew up just five miles from each other, on different Georgia farms, they never knew eachother. It took a citrus packing house in Florida to seal their fate.

I feel grateful to be starting the year off with a little more knowledge of the past.

As for my New Year’s Resolution, I’ve resolved to be a big girl. I’ve settled into my thirties. It’s a good time. I’m over many of the insecurities and diaper changes of my past. By now, I’ve tapped the bitter-sweet serum of my ego enough times to at least know the various subtleties on my palette. I’ve wrestled with some of my demons and lost more battles than I can count. I’ve been whipped, and wrung out, and out of breath. I’ve been too big for my britches and other times not big enough. I’ve been around the block enough times to know a friend when I see one and sniff out an enemy, both within myself and outside myself.

I often don’t know which road to choose when I’m faced with a myriad of choices; I won’t say I’m sure-footed, but I know the lay of the land better and I’m ready to be a big girl. I’m ready to sober to realities, and stop fiddling with ideas.

Death is not a perception; it’s a promise. I’m going to face it just like all of my ancestors did before me. I’m ready to be a big girl. I don’t have enough time to spill over nurturing the image of myself -making it lovely and just so. I have to nurture the true soul within me. The one that keeps on surging, paying no mind to the shackles of this bridge called life; the true me that yearns to walk through fire to return to the Creator of me. I’m ready to be a big girl. I’m ready to love myself, not merely the idea of myself. I’m ready to love other souls, not just the idea of them. I’m ready to cast off the tidy packages I used to put people in to present them to my ego so that I could play mightly with them. I’m ready to leave off making assumptions about myself, and other people, so that I can love with a salve more distilled.

Now, with my big girl self, I’ve been very busy lately. We stayed up almost to 12 midnight on New Year’s Eve. Whoo-hoo! We didn’t even have the energy to clean up before laying down to 2012.

The next day I felt like making something uppity, so I chopped up a batch of collard greens, mixed them with a handful of shallots, a lot more garlic and some accents of kale, then threw it all into my wok:

Not tired yet- I threw my collards into this bed of bow-tie pasta with a marinade of salsa verde which I whipped up:

It was deeee-licious and made me get over all the traitorous feelings from cooking my collards that way.

The collards did me good. The next day I woke up with enough energy to tackle some organizational challenges. Thanks to a facebook friend, I borrowed this idea to keep my hijabs in one tidy space:

Just looking at them in a wide array- their cacophony and brilliant colors – puts me in a cheerful mood.

That’s all for now. I look forward to writing more about my big girl life.

Much love,

Danette