Tag Archives: muslim

Love of Memory

18 Dec

It was a rare shot.mother-and-sonIf photos could sing, this one would drop down into a soulful tune. If they could morph, it would flutter into a worn-out quilt on a lazy afternoon. If they could speak, it would whisper, hold that baby a little bit longer, while you can still do it with one fell swoop. My sister, her feet also emerged behind me, captured the moment. That was the first and last trip to Morocco we ever took together.

I became miserably ill by night fall. We’d ventured into a shady grove of figs, and by the owner’s permission, I had a fateful bite. All night, my sister held my head up over a bowl and remained vigilant, letting my son tangle her hair in knots, as he cried to be nursed. Near an open window, I laid on a thin mattress in the summer night’s heat, boiling with fever, trying to catch a breeze. As dawn approached I was retching and hollow.

When daylight burst, armed with my sister-in-law, she dove deep into the dusty, sun-latticed souk, looking for vegetables, herbs, and a fresh chicken {which she found, literally}, while trying to explain the absolute necessity of this American thing called chicken soup. The miracle broth gave me strength to move around and nurse my son without falling back. Big sisters are very essential people. I wish my daughter had one.

Eventually, we headed off to Marrakesh to do all the touristy things. Having pumped some milk, I was nervous to leave my son behind with my in-laws, even if for one night, but I was determined to show my sister other parts of Morocco besides the live chickens for sale. It started with a wobbling train ride moving south, wherein we sparred with a sweaty French man, then enjoyed a chat with a group of young, Moroccan graduate students, close to our age. They reminded me of every other graduate student of late- completely not like me, completely not mothers.

Not long after settling into Marakesh, my sister and I had a fight. She stormed one way, I stood there, then traipsed off to our hotel room, where I fell on the floor crying in woeful snots. It was a heated, ideological battle – the most useless sort. We’d made up within three hours and then headed out to a fancy dinner. Sister bonds are very sacred, and equally as complex.

Marakesh-with-Sister

She got a kick out of putting our water bottle into the wine chiller of the pretentious couple next to us after they left. We still giggle about it to this day, in one of those: ‘Remember that moments?!,’ not because anything spectacular happened, but precisely because nothing spectacular happened, yet we still managed to have more fun than anyone else in the room, a decidedly Collard Green trait.

The next day, we all headed to a resort pool where my in-laws met up with us. My sister and sister-in-law wore bikinis; in fact, I think my sister even borrowed one from my in-laws assuming that she wouldn’t need a bikini in a Muslim-majority country. Meanwhile, I wore pants and a long shirt, prepared only to keep an eye on my son in the one foot deep kiddie-pool. Soon, the lifeguard was rabidly blowing his important whistle, motioning for me to get out; I stood there, playing possum.

Coming down off his courtly, high stand, leaving all the children in the deep end to fend for themselves, he marched over to strongly impress upon me the importance of removing my feet and ankles from the pool since women in hijab (the Islamic headcovering) were not allowed. My sister got up and demanded to know what was going on. When I explained, she stood close to my ear and declared: “If you get out of this pool, I’ll never respect you again for the rest of my life.”

A double dawg big sister dare- what’s a Muslim girl to do?

I persisted, meanwhile the hotel director arrived to strike a compromise. He said I could come back after dark and stand there, but under no circumstances should I be permitted in the day light hours to stand covered with my feet in the water,  not for safety reasons, but because the hotel had an image to maintain and I was apparently holding up bunny ears. Then, they threatened to call the cops, despite my sister-in-law’s protests. This was getting serious; I was at a cross roads. Between losing the respect of my sister for life and sitting my Collard Green fanny in a Moroccan prison, I knew what I had to do…I skittered away from that pool faster than a crawdaddy can hustle.

A few days later we arrived in the suburbs of Casablanca, where I took her to a mosque – plucky and delighted to usher her into a house of worship in Morocco. We sat side by side with the other women (all elderly) along the perimeter of the sauna-hot walls, waiting for the call to prayer. One of the women asked us where we were from.

“Alwelayet Almoota7eda (The United States),” I replied, loving the sonorous texture of Arabic rolling off my tongue. The woman inquired: “Where’s that?,” after which her friend tried to explain. “Ah! France!,” she brightened, “I know some people who live there.”

Along with her friend, we tried again and again to place the United States on some reference point on her mental map. Then, knowing the final call to prayer was about to cut us off, I gave up. So many fellow Americans I’d encountered back home had no clue where Morocco was, so why should I be flabbergasted that this frail woman couldn’t pin me? The thinness of her wrinkled, weary skin, reminded me of my great-grandmother who hailed from North Carolina. “Yes, we’re French,” I reassured her. Enchantee! Le temps est plus belle au printemps, oui? She was so pleased to meet us.

The devotees were not about to give up on my sister – suddenly the spiritual tourist. Instead of focusing on her own prayers, the woman to my sister’s left, physically choreographed all her devotional movements, as the sweat dripped from our chins. She pressed down on her back when it was time to prostrate, and moved her right index finger to the call of la illaha illallah (there is no God but God), the way Muslims pray. My sister was gracious, and obliged their enthusiasm like a good Collard Green daughter, but secretly couldn’t wait to get out of there. So,when one of the women followed me out and insisted that we come to her house for dinner, my sister said she would kill me if I accepted; and the thought of her rendering bodily damage seemed plausible by the look on her face.

The woman insisted in the way that Arabs are known to persist in offering hospitality. At length I explained that I could not oblige her request; I could feel my sister’s pulse quickening beneath my own skin. Finally, feeling backed into a corner with no way out, I said: “Someone in my husband’s family has just died, and we have obligations back home.” She bid us farewell and promised to make du’a for the deceased, calling out prayers for all to hear. I felt wretched for having concocted two false stories in just under an hour, and frightened by my performance.

I left my sister at the airport, with seven days more clinging to my own itinerary, and no affordable way to change my ticket date. I’d already been there two weeks before she arrived, and I was homesick in that lonesome, collard green way- when you want to stick your nose into the warm neck of your birthplace, and exhale. As eager as I am to go to Morocco, in the end, I always claw my way back. My Collard Green daddy, chided me once: “You don’t leave the country very well.”

Transporting myself back in time to all of these moments brings me abiding, almost mystical pleasure. Memory is such a miraculous thing; again and again, we go back to past lives, basking in both subtle and bold, emotional shades. The colors swirl, within them voices arching high and low….sniffles and wailing, giggles and guffaws. Sometimes when I am lying in bed at night, I comb through these stories as if running broadly through a meadow of colorful spring flowers – weeds actually; the ones that rise up in the fields without any planning or forethought.

Then, exhausted, I lay down in them and drift further away from the clear colors and voices, deeper into the murky underworld, which drags me more rapidly until it lifts me back up to the place where I left off, only more crystalline than before, to a place where I can see and touch the whole periphery of my memory. Yet, we are in the most bizarre fashion, often out of costume and context – not entirely as I remembered. My feelings flicker in images and emotions, much stronger than the currents that sent me to this familiar, yet foreign place.

The love of memory is the backbone of life, for even when men and women deteriorate in old age, when they can scarcely recognize their own children and spouses, they can remember their lives.

Memory is the conduit that, by God’s grace, delivers us beyond worldly confines…the friend of the prisoner and slave. Our bodies will become fertilizer for the earth, then one day the mountains will blow away like dust. Yet, our memories will live on, delivering us to our final reawakening, when we will startle for the last time, and swear that this, all of this, was certainly a dream.

Mountain Climbing in Dollar Store Flip-Flops

9 Feb

 Mamahood can feel like climbing an icy mountain wearing dollar store flip-flops. On a recent weekday during a trip to a big box store, with two of my young’uns, I felt like I was wearing those flip-flops. I planned to buy just one simple rug. Before leaving the house, I went through the rigmarole: lunches, check, clean change of clothes, check, bathroom break (even for the one who claims he doesn’t need to go), check, money and cell phone, check, hairbow, check, matching socks, never mind!

Next comes the difficult part – the eternity it takes to get both of my kids strapped down into carseats. My daughter insists that I take off down the road with her door open, and let her shut it when we get to full-speed because, “Mama, I know what I’m doing,” and “Why don’t you ever trust me!” Meanwhile, I’m cold. It’s February. I just want to slip behind the wheel, and thaw out behind the heater vents, on my way to buy this rug. Why so complicated?!

We arrive at the store and I can’t find the rugs anywhere, which I’m sure is a scheme. I have to pass by every Euro-trashy trinket in primary colors, made in China. This store feels like a destination for the self-righteous consumer who balks at a Wal-Mart shopping experience- which is by the way, much closer to where I live. My kids are loving it. Suddenly, they need everything in the store and the prefix to my name becomes: oooooooohhhhhh, as in: “Oooooooohhhhhh Mama, can I have this?!”

Soon, they are bored with sitting in the cart. It is more fun to drive it into objects…and people! My youngest son gets a sharp jab after backing into one of the corner displays and begins to scream loudly. I have to somehow translate my inner-freak out into a sympathetic hug and medicinal kiss. Where are the rugs!? Thank God for my health-nut makeover; otherwise my low blood sugar would have driven me to the cafe for a sugary, refined, Euro- inspired pastry and coffee to go.  

I turn a corner and instead of arriving at a polyester blend, Persian knock-off, I run into something else. There is a box spring on a red-tag sale, it’s down from $100 to $50.00. I actually need two box springs for my kids. Heck ya! However, one problem- I don’t have a large enough vehicle to make the trip back home. I drove our four door sedan with room for five only. No problem, the store clerk assures me. That’s what “the man” is for downstairs. She explains that it is his job to load the merchandise (which can be placed on the top of my car) and rope it down for easy passage. Sweet! I was starting to like this store. They even have Rent-A-Daddies! She congratulates me on getting a good deal, because, “At these prices, they won’t last long.”

Not long before the inventory warehouse and exit, I spot the rugs and pick up not just one simple rug for my daughter, but two more….on sale, of course! Then, giddy, I make our way to the aisle where my box springs wait. An intercom recording informs shoppers that in order to keep the prices low, the company has the customer do their own work. Huh, I thought to myself, I thought it was because it outsourced all of its manufacturing labor overseas to countries without labor attorneys and lax safety standerds. On a flat bed cart I manage to load the beds and then steer both carts and kids to the check out line. Behind me are two strapping, store employees, talking up a storm; neither man offers to help with my loot. Never mind, I just have to make it past the check-out line, and there will be my Rent-A-Daddy, ready for the rescue. Maybe he’d even take the young’uns out for ice cream and give me a chance to catch my breath.

All check-out lanes are self-service, so after man-handling the scanner-gun from my kids I contort my body around the merchandise to find the bar codes. I am dutifully playing my part in this big-box scheme like a good customer. I had to call my kids back from every direction. They are like frantic bees in the late fall, knowing that soon they will be strapped back into car seats. Keeping an eye on them, as they peak to spend the last ounce of energy, makes it difficult for me to multi-task both scanning and entering my payment information. Finally, I yank my receipt from the feeder and head off to Rent-A-Daddy. In the distance I can see him, clad in a neon, sleeveless smock. Now, I’m picking up my pace, trailing the kids behind me. As I come closer I can see his form better. Huh? Is that him?! A scrawny, teenager (early twenties at best), and pale to boot. This isn’t Rent-A-Daddy! This is Baby’s Daddy. He comes, however, with an endearing Collard Green accent and explains that it is the store’s policy to only assist in loading merchandise, not to rope it down, “for liability reasons.”

“But, the lady upstairs told me ya’ll would rope the beds down,” I explain.

“What lady?,” he asks.

“I don’t remember,” I say, flustered, “One of the sale’s clerks.”

“I know,” he shrugs, “It happens all the time.”

In that case, I say, I’d like to put the merchandise on hold until my husband can arrange for it to be picked up. He lets me in on another one of the store’s policies which is that it does not hold paid-for merchandise, which makes me, in effect, stranded unless I want to pay the hefty transportation fee. Heck no! There’s a reason I just bought all these items on clearance in the first place. The fee for the transportation costs more than the total sales amount of my purchase.

Sensing my alarm and frustration, baby’s daddy drops his voice down low, while scanning the horizon, “I’ll tell you how to rope it, then I’ll come back and pull a rope from the hood of the car to the trunk of the car to keep it steady,” he assures me. “This never happened,” he warns. Turns out Baby’s Daddy is even better than Rent-A-Daddy, who would have been too frightened over the prospect of losing job benefits to plot an escape. I was a bit intimidated by doing the first part of the roping myself, but got my Big Girl courage up and set to work. It turns out to be very difficult because every time I make another loop my daughter opens that door just to say: “Hi mama!,” thereby loosening the loops I’m making. There’s a real able-boddied daddy parked next to my car. He never offers to help. I’m thinking that I need to move out of the North and head back to Collard Green country, where a real man would feel awkward just to idle there without offering assistance.

It was awhile before Baby’s Daddy comes back. Again, he scans the surroundings carefully then quickly sets down to work, sliding rope, like a master weaver, in and out of my front grill. He’s amused all the while: “My sister had a car just like this,” he recalls and smiles. I like this kid and think he’d do well in the real world where a cool head under pressure and a sure-footed gait, takes the cake. He obviously enjoyed the thrill of rule-breaking; meanwhile, I stood on the look-out – as scared as a schizophrenic squirrel.

Suddenly, a voice calls out from inside the car. “Mama, he’s voooooomiting! You better hurry up!” It’s my daughter’s voice. I rush to the rear passenger seat, and sure enough, my youngest is vomiting up his afternoon snack, in heaping chunks.

“Oh sweetie,” I start, “It’s o.k., calm down, you’re alright. Take a deep breath. Mama’s here. Drink some water.” You know the routine. I reach in to hold his head, clean him up, and ease off his top-layer sweater. Within ten minutes he’s fast asleep and reeking of stomach acids. In my quest to buy just one simple rug, I’d left his spare clothes at home.

Baby’s daddy was still fast at work- he doesn’t let the panic and putrid smells from the car deter him from this 007 task. Before long he’s done and standing near the hood to examine his handy work.

“Do you think this will hold?” I ask him.

“Yeah,” he says as he tests it by jerking the beds every which way to see if they will give, “It ain’t goin’ no where.”

I look around, and not seeing any other store employees in sight, reach into my purse and grab the wad of cash on hand, and hold it out. He hesitates, but I stay steady. After another quick scan of the premises, he says: “Well, I can take that.” Baby’s Daddy winks and swipes it without another word, then takes off like Spiderman. I imagine him springing to assist another stranded, jilted mom from the bedding section.

I set down in my car, relieved, tap down on the hazard lights and set off. Just before turning onto the highway a State Trooper pulls up behind me. My grip strains over the steering wheel. Then, apparently, slowed down by my speed, the officer jerks around and takes off. Whew!

On the highway I stay in the far right lane and try to keep my speed slow enough to be safe, but fast enough to beat the angry onslaught of rush hour traffic. My GPS takes me through a long underwater tunnel. At some point in the middle of the dark tunnel, the top box spring starts to slump forward over my front window. I start to panic for lack of a smarty-pants solution. This is not the way I’d come at all. My GPS was going off script, as if it had a personality to enjoy a good laugh at my expense. Finally out of the tunnel, I drive off on the margin of the highway, and look back at the kids. They are still asleep – at least I’ve got that going for me. I slip out of my car, pull myself onto the hood (no easy trick in a long skirt) and proceed to shove and shift the top box spring back in place. Here I am in a hijab and long skirt wrestling with box springs on the top of my car. That must have been a sight. I made du’a (prayer) and coaxed my inner soldier-girl the whole time.

After that, I decide to slow down which indeed brings me into rush hour traffic and under the wrath of all those drivers, who I sympathize with more than myself. I feel like that guy in Morocco, trolling on his mo-ped with a sheep carcass saddled over the ride- holding up all the smokier engines behind him. People are peering in and likely thinking, what is THAT?! 

Just as I turn the corner to my street, I tally the days humiliating events. I glance my sons’ sleeping face in the rear-view mirror. Hopefully, I’ll be able to inch into my driveway without getting heckled by any of the neighborhood kids. I say this because during the last mile the top bed had started to lung forward, again, making my loot look pathetically flotsam as if I’d just robbed the Bed Barn.

As I turn the corner, my elderly neighbors inch from the opposite direction. Just as my bed lunges, they lunge forward to see my car’s freakish top-hat. I want to slide down under my steering wheel, but instead I manage a hearty wave as if I was steering the premiere float in a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

Once parked, I abandon the box springs on my car to wake my son up and ease him into a warm bath. All was well in the world. If anyone looked out from their window, they now question my sanity, and maybe wonder if I really did rob a Bed Barn. I certainly climbed to the icy peak in my flip-flops that day, and I either earned another resiliency badge or killed a few brain cells. Whichever, my box springs are not just any box springs. They tell a story and they make me laugh, whenever I want to- for no particular reason.

Post-Fast: Brand Spankin’ New

1 Feb

Its been five days since crossing the finish line on my ten-day juice fast. Since then, I’ve made radical dietary changes along with my family. Yes, it takes some bribing (and culinary tigress) to get my kids hooked on plates of green leafy vegetables, but like any seasoned mom I’ve got a doctorate in bribery and a gazillion continuing education hours in the art of negotiation. And of course, I go undercover; over the weekend I simply nodded when my daughter assumed that (“YUMMY!”) tofu was eggs. When my ten-year old asked about the seared, white chunky blocks on his salad I said (non-nonchalantly) that it was croutons, of course! From the corner of my eye I glimpsed him stealing his little brother’s “croutons.” A fourth grader sneaking tofu! Who would have thunk it?

How did I celebrate after the finish line? With friends, of course.


Nuriman, my fellow-faster, threw a girly-girl party complete with green-juice,

one of her famous salads,

and home baked kale chips. I whipped up a mango salsa for added fun.

Its been five days and I feel brand spankin’ new! Here comes the bragging part; brace yourselves! (My smarty pants are about to un-leash, ya’ll).

I wake up and instead of wishing that someone could hook me up to a sweet, smoky java-infused IV drip, I’m ready to start my day. I don’t have to commit to faux-joy in front of my dewy-eyed young’uns in the morning. Now, I’m  bright-eyed –  ready at the starting-gate, and yet unflinchingly calm. I enjoy my mornings like I did as a kid and I enjoy my kids in the morning for a change.

In the past, after my morning cup of coffee I was good to go until….until….my second cup of coffee. Now, instead of quivering, make-shift energy, I’m charting my days on natural energy! Even though I’m off the juice fast, I’m still juicing at least once a day, and mostly with carrots and green leafy vegetables. My symptoms of hypoglycemia (one of my principal motivations for going on the juice fast) have vanished. I am now able to perform supererogatory, religious fasting (no food or water from sun up to sun down), as I did last Monday, without getting the shakes, vomiting, and sharp headaches suffered in the past.

I’ve also switched to preparing meat for my family just one night a week and on those nights only chicken – no red meat or cheese. My husband is acting as a very good sport; which, if you are a modern-day Moroccan, or are married to a Moroccan, you can appreciate this switch-over even more. This is one of those moves that is making me fall in love with him all over again.

I’m off refined sugars and onto small amounts of raw honey, maple syrup and organic cane sugar for baking and sweetening my herbal tea. I’m off cartons of bargain-brand pasteurized milk and onto spoonfuls of homemade organic yogurt (with fresh berries).

I’m off flavoring my savory dishes with vats of salt and too much olive oil and onto finding creative ways to make a saneful (not sinful), whole-foods plant-based meal.

I assumed my diet was healthy. After all, I ate salads, preferably looming with salty cheeses and buried under a scattering of lip-smacking olives. I poured olive oil on anything that would stand still, plus served up lots of piping hot home cooked meals, saddled with plentiful helpings of white basmati rice. Whilst living in my insular fantasy of good health I was forgoing a lot of brightly-colored, robust fruits and vegetables.

I was lulling my sweet tooth to sleep on late-night dark chocolate bars flavored with sea salt, and anything as moist and dense as a warm brownie. I had a decadent diet that made me feel fatigued and tethered to a cycle of sugar, caffeine, and salt (my terrible trio), and I too-often confused fine eating with healthy eating. What can I say, I’m a product of a few too many Food Network shows in my college days when I was taking off my training wheels and learning to become a “good” home-cook.

Going cold turkey on that toxic trio was easily the best move of my mamahood career and a fabulous starting-gate for my Big Girl Life.

In fact, I haven’t had an ah-ha moment this sunny since my conversion to Islam the decade before last! The best part is that the solution was so self-managing and so darn easy. After the initial detox from the terrible trio, I was able to easily forego a store-bought sweet or an extra crunchy bag of potato chips. I’ve made peace and bid farewell to those fried mac n’ cheese balls at the Philly’s Reading Terminal Market, Cajun station over the Thanksgiving weekend. The Italian Market can keep her cheesesteak too (gasp!). A healthy dose of heresy  is very good for my arteries.

I simply don’t want those “treats,” anymore. In fact, I imagine them draining my energy reserves and zapping the vitamin contents of my new sun-drenched, wholesome good eats.

A little imagery and a hearty mantra go a long way to paving the way for sustainable lifestyle changes. The equation is simple – the more good you eat, the more good you want; the more crud you eat, the more crud you want. I’m following that guide and reaping the benefits.

My dear friend, Pauline, walked into my kitchen last Saturday and saw me stirring a pot of shaved soap – the makings of homemade laundry detergent. She gasped, then laughed, and cried: “I’m not sure if I like the new Danette! I liked the old Danette who used to eat fried chicken and not think twice about it.” “Don’t get too serious,” she cautioned me. I might mention – this girlfriend just got herself a brand-spankin’ new juicer to start her own juicing fast and was a special source of encouragement for me while I overcame my bad-food addiction. She watched her aunt make a stunning recovery from cancer, using as part of her alternative regime, juicing. She’s a bonafide friend, so she’s entitled to want to hold on to some relics of the old me.

Alright, Pauline, I shall try to temper my ye-haw! As for now, I’m a friggin’ zealot! I feel good and I don’t ever want to feel haggard again, if I can do something about it. I’m not burning my bra, but I am burning a TV star’s chili recipe (which involves Frito Lays and Cheddar Cheese).

That’s where I am folks. Thanks a billion for all of your support along the way. Pretty please keep your comments coming. I’m eager to hear about your own journeys, in your own ways, or ways that are similar to my ten-day, detox juice fast.

Much Love,

Danette

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

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