A Matter of Heart (broken) and Soul

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Who can deny the favors of your Lord? Qur’an: Surah Al-Rahman

Insomnia rarely affects me, but I’d worked at an outdoor summer market, napped, and then drank too much coffee in the evening. Catching up on news regarding the over 11,400 children separated from their parents and guardians by government and accomplice profiteers, I just could not stop ruminating grief.

Adding to and compounding lament, members of my social media community are split over if engaging in dialogue and seeking to understand opponents’ resolve regarding the occupation of Palestine is conducive to peace or just succumbing to their propaganda. I recall that once when reading an English translation of the Torah, I concluded that it is understandable that opponents’ motivations could seem justified if only based on the belief that the tome was legitimate and not altered. Therein lies what may be one significant factor in the conflict.

Are the scriptures authentic and uncorrupted or not? Because if each side contends that their scripture is divinely inspired, and yet they conflict, someone bears the onerous guilt of causing generations of huge suffering.

Lately, I’ve been making analogies between our corrupt, unrepentant, arrogant, cruel, and chronically adulterous political leadership and ancient Egypt’s Pharaoh, who was abased by God. I pray for those suffering the scourge to be relieved and given justice.

Yesterday, at the market where a Latino family was perusing our wares, a cute, little two-year-old wearing Minnie Mouse ears, peered at me and waved bye-bye. She was scrumptiously adorable, so of course I reciprocated with a gentle twinkle in my eye, secret-like smile, and baby waved back. She melted me.

As I’d read and saw videos about the abducted immigrant children, heard their cries and pathetic wailing, glimpsed at toddlers’ images behind tinted glass, and read about some being possibly trafficked, I thought about who could condone and fuel such horrible acts? Have we, as a nation, lost our hearts? How could I sleep?

At the end of Ramadan Eid al-Fitr prayer recently, the imam reminded the congregation, “If you sleep in your home tonight feeling safe and secure, you are among the lucky few in the world.” He was so right.

And yet, when all seems hopeless, I look for what may be the Creator’s plan. Perhaps it is for good people of faith or no faith to recognize the need to see ourselves not as different, but unified. Even those Muslims who are dividing over the willingness to dialogue with those associated with the prosecution of the Palestinian people are maybe following the right course.

For as long as people perceive each other as less than equal humans, we can “other” the other and deny them respect or even consideration. We will remain divided and not see the reality that we are all humans sharing our destiny on earth.

It was narrated that al-Nu’man ibn Basheer said: The Messenger of Allah said: “The likeness of the believers in their mutual love, mercy, and compassion is that of the body; when one part of it is in pain, the rest of the body joins it in restlessness and fever.” This hadith was verified by both scholars, al-Bukhari and Muslim.

There are members of humanity able to correct those living in poverty, political instability, and in unsafe environments that are NOT doing what they can to alleviate the suffering of other souls. This too will be a testimony against them, and we will remember.

The Rat Pack

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Photo: Rogelio A. Galaviz C.

“The Rat Pack” came to be known as the team of five well-known entertainers: Frank Sinatra; Dean Martin; Sammy Davis, Jr.; Peter Lawford; and Joey Bishop. Many of today’s young people have no clue of who they were, except perhaps for Sinatra, but to me they represented an era of the mellow early 60’s.
Although I was a child and recall civil rights struggles of those times, I associate The Rat Pack with my beloved maternal uncles. They were medical professionals and successful entrepreneurs who gave me a sense of belonging and security. Each had their work, but also leisure time to appreciate the bonds of family.
I’m musing as I wait for a flight to Dallas where I will present “Learning by Choice and Discovery”, and The Rat Pack remind me that we have forgotten the value of play. Self-care is a popular term, but we’re usually too busy to do it!
My uncles’ lives seemed to have a balance of golf, flying planes, playing cards, family time, and work; and I don’t know if they had less stress or just managed it better, but times seemed easier, at least to my young mind.
Have our stressed-out lives killed the benefits of play? If we examine the Finnish schools, they give “brain breaks” to students every 45 minutes. They don’t seem to have issues with hyperactive and disruptive students. Finns give 5-week modules in a variety of skills and have recently dropped the silos of “subjects”; instead, they have opted for more thematic and interdisciplinary approaches to education.
Becoming a teacher in Finland is considered an honor, as they tend to be in the top 10% of their class, and upon deciding that they wish to teach, must study their subject specialty at least to achieve a master’s degree. The students attend school starting at a later age and are at school only 20 hours, so there is more time given for collaboration and evaluation of each student. They only subscribe to ONE standardized exam at the completion of their formal education; that is, ONCE in their compulsory education. Yet, as a nation, the Finns do quite well relative to international competition.
Becoming a teacher involves perpetuating the ethics and trust of the community to help each student discover-through experiences-where their strengths and preferences lie.
Maybe it is the long-delayed ascent of spring, but play seems correlated with happiness, and we have a lot of unhappy, very overstressed adults and young people. It seems that a pill is prescribed for every malady, but it does not provide a cure. Maybe we should give play a turn. Before we forget how.
This weekend is the first halal lifestyle event in America; it is the I Heart Halal Festival at Navy Pier. If you can, check it out and see the many vendors representing food, fashion, finance, personal care products, and travel. After I indulge in the cuisine there of many cultures and collect coupons for brands I’d like to try, I’m taking time to play for 3 days in Wisconsin before buckling myself into new projects. Recharge, reset, and realize the healing that only a connection to nature and its Creator can give.

 

The Year That Dreams Come True

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Sunrise-St. Thomas, USVI

Amid the many sad headlines, I have found a means to fortify my resilience by manipulating mindset through the mantra that this is “the year that dreams come true.”


In retrospect, it started when a one-way flight to Phoenix to find an auction deal on a car for our son resulted in a powder-blue Ford Mustang, which I drove back to Chicago. It sparked a recollection that I’d naively hoped that I’d find a Mustang on my driveway on my 16th birthday. The reality though was that I was the eldest of six in a middle-class family, and I was not even allowed to test for my driver’s license until I was 17 and ready for college. Yet, I enjoyed that ride from Phoenix because the car, the engine, the handling was everything I’d expected. Since then, I repeated that trip to acquire for myself a Mercedes SUV. Chicago winters are particularly caustic to cars, and now mine has no rust.
It occurred to me that through much of my life, I’d put off and delayed many wants and dreams. Whether due to finances, work obligations, or family responsibilities, I realized this year that my mortality could be approaching and I had better start knocking things off my bucket list before I no longer could. Nagging little reminders of my physical limitations were becoming evident too, even with attempts to be athletic. Rust can take many forms.
Realizing that it is through small, consistent habits that great changes are made, I have for over a year, almost daily, been using the Duolingo app to learn Spanish. Granted, I could invest more time and effort to expedite progress, but I have progressed and retained a degree of written comprehension that has benefited my work, and it has advanced my expectation of myself to be somewhat competent in several languages. I admire polyglots and was particularly impressed when my husband and I took our first cruise this year to the Caribbean. The assistant cruise director was completely fluent in English, Italian, French, Spanish, German, and Portuguese. The Caribbean has been on my wish list since I was a teenager, and I’m glad that we chose this time after the islands suffered from hurricane damage because one of the excursion vendors said, “Thank you; we haven’t worked in 2 ½ months.”
A cruise was something our son was pushing us to try for over a year. Not sure if I would be an unlucky victim of seasickness, and haunting anxiety of disaster, as influenced by the movies Jaws, The Poseidon Adventure, and Titanic, I delayed making the commitment until we could book the trip with points. During the first 5 minutes of sensing that the ship was moving out of the Port of Miami, I gripped the edge of the dining table, trying to look demure as I struggled to keep down a few bites of salad while listening to my giddy spouse, but I was fine for the entire 7 days.
Even my daughter and her husband joined the bandwagon, and they reserved a shorter cruise; but since their itinerary began before ours, we met them in Fort Lauderdale the day of their return which was also the day of our departure. It was our best adventure and we look forward to more.

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Deira- Old Dubai

It seems like I am cheating winter this year. Shortly after the cruise, I booked a business trip to Dubai to attend the world’s largest halal food trade show along with a colleague. We packed the week with meetings and only had the last day to be tourists whereby we visited a beautiful mosque in neighboring Abu Dhabi and my niece, who also lives in Dubai.

 

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Abu Dhabi, Sh. Zayed Mosque

Our meetings took us to all parts of the city; we fulfilled the dream-come-true-desire to eat camel milk ice cream and drink some deliciously flavored camel milk products, but we did not have time to check out the beach. Regardless, it was a successful trip, and it reconfirmed the value of mindset.

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The Vice President, Prime Minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who is greatly admired by the populace, has embarked on a mission to counter the depressive state of the region. The approach is reminiscent of how we educators value positive expectations. He has articulated and set in motion initiatives to bring happiness to the people. And as about 97% of the population are expats, the need for harmony is necessary. As one person told me, “Bad attitudes are not tolerated here.” Even my niece confirmed that she and her husband love living in Dubai. People work hard there, but it is safe. Several stories were shared by various individuals that related how no one steals, even when wallets, phones, and briefcases are left unattended. Doors are not locked, and women and children are given priority seating on public transportation. If men transgress to those seats, they are subject to fines. Women feel safe even at night. Also, I was impressed with the cleanliness of all public areas and noted a robust economy. Eating, drinking, smoking, and chewing gum is not permitted on public transportation. On a Tuesday evening, a mall was bustling with families shopping and dining out. Most malls and restaurants are open quite late, and they do seem to have happy people. It reminded me of the 1970’s when we had a middle class with expendable income.
Before leaving for Dubai, I’d went to Macy’s to buy shoes. To my surprise, only some sizes were available, and the signage indicated that other sizes were only available online. JC Penney only had a limited supply of shoes as well. It was opposite to when Gorbachev was amazed to see the quality and quantity of produce in our grocery stores under the Reagan regime. That was a time of prosperity, and no one can convince me that what was then is now. No one seems to be calling it, especially since the 1% is doing so marvelously, but the rest I believe are struggling. Even our young people who may be doing well if they are gainfully employed may have anvils of debt that will burden them and prevent their progress for a very long time.
The headlines are troubling here, but Asia is rising and the global economy is growing. Isolationism and protectionism have never benefited anyone long term. History students know that, but our leadership apparently never studied or retained such lessons.
Positive mindset and people working toward a better global society, albeit with certain challenges, give hope. Read this pdf! Government in 2071: Guidebook It is a guide by which educators and policymaker should study.
A reason we chose to attend the Dubai Gulfood trade show was that although we see data reflecting prospering halal industries abroad, particularly in Europe and Asia, there is scant evidence of it here. Yet at this trade show, there were 163 U.S. exhibitors. When we spoke with them, it was clear that they were there to solicit business for export, but some of the largest expressed no interest to produce halal products or label them here in the U.S. We found it sad and felt a bit angry.

Since we were among trusted locals, we asked them about how they perceived the U.S. under the current administration. Frankly, they said, “Well, we feel that since you voted for him, you deserve him” (though I did not). For although they follow our news, we are just too far and removed to even care about. Bigger and better news is happening elsewhere. We have lost our former status and influence.

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A reflective moment…

Meanwhile, I’m going back to making this the year that dreams come true, as I’ll be sharing my vision for education and steps that teachers can take to help students prepare for the future this April in Dallas and Chicago.

 

3 1/2 Catalysts for Energy to Serve

Copyright: <a href='https://www.123rf.com/profile_olegdudko'>olegdudko / 123RF Stock Photo</a> 3 ½ Catalysts for Energy to Serve
Ah, the marriage of handwriting to paper! The powerful impact, potential, and pleasure derived from it will never die. Writing, that is, inspired writing takes a certain energy that comes from one’s creative core.
My writing serves in various forms. There is the technical, research-based type that I reserve for Halal, Education, and Entrepreneurial publications, and the introspective form which taps wisdom and fancies of my own grey matter preserved here in my blog. Through these, I share knowledge of the sacred and sometimes profane.
Yet, with the daily routines, work projects, and hiccups that disrupt the calm–often involving family–energy reserves are easily depleted. Even with the best intentions, sometimes it feels like one is hauling a bag of cinder blocks just to get over the finish line each day.
Energy management became a focus from when I was a school administrator, and there were three main catalysts I found to be effective:
1a) Get enough sleep – My husband is a confirmed night owl, and I like to stay awake to share time with him. Whether we have our noses glued to our phones or iPads, watching Netflix, or preparing merchandise for sale, we are either working or relaxing together most evenings. I’m blessed to start and finish most days with him.
1b) Catch a reset nap – On days when fasting, when my fitness tracker confirms that I have had less than 6 ½ hours of sleep, or when I’m dragging and need to “reset” and refresh my brain, it is frankly good time management to nap a bit. Normally, I’ll average around 7 hours most nights that power me through a whole day; but on days when I can reboot with a nap, I move and think much faster and efficiently. That compensates for the time to nap.
2) Do something “Fun” – Knocking out a quick win on a game app, doing a few deep breaths while lifting dumbbells (strong women stay young, right?), getting outside for fresh air, listening to a few upbeat dance tunes, or drawing a line through the easiest thing on my ubiquitous list of “to do” activities is “fun” for me.
What do you do if you must do something that’s not “fun”? Just chip away at it until it’s complete, even if it means doing a bit each day so that you maintain focus through its execution.
3) Check your intentions – Last spring, when I was knocked down with a bout of the flu, I just didn’t feel my energy to be strong enough to want to get out of bed. My symptoms had mostly resolved; yet, I simply did not feel like I was ready to jump back into life. Then I saw a vision board I’d made that reminded me of the “me” I aspired to be, and miraculously that sparked my “why.” The reasons I needed to be athletic, healthy, strong, skilled, giving, loving, and available to serve were what set me back on my course.
It is easy to forget that we are destined to be great. We are given opportunities to grow and share; we enjoy blessings and endure sorrows and challenges. We are human, with all the faults and chances to experience the regeneration of our compassion, to celebrate our lives.

Share some of your energy hacks.

Halal Food, Farm, and Family

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Qi House

Halal Food, Farm, and Family
Formerly, if I ever set a vegetarian entrée as our main course, I’d get a lot of grief from my tribe. We have always had the blessing of being able to afford halal meat and poultry. And with being somewhat landlocked, relative to the oceans, by Chicago, and concerned about pollution, I prepare limited amounts of wild caught fish and seafood. However, my nest is nearly empty now and my last residing child often eats out, so my husband has become more open-minded about choosing lighter fare.
Additionally, recent years’ marketing campaigns have pushed consuming protein into consumers’ minds. We’ve convinced ourselves that with more protein, we would magically transform into muscle abundant, toned, and tanned models of physical perfection. Not. True. Overconsumption seems to promote aging and cancers, and through reading Dr. Steven R. Gundry’s book, The Plant Paradox, that I only require a mere 21 grams of protein on average per day. That may be found in a can of sardines, not at each meal.IMG_1367
I’d first learned of Dr. Gundry and his position on lectins through a YouTube video, and his work is also mentioned by Dr. Mercola. Lectins are large proteins (gluten is one of them) which are described by him as “sticky” in that they bind with other sugars, acids, viruses, and fungi, and may create inflammation and weight gain. I’ll admit that I’m having some aches indicative of leaky gut, and although avoiding lectins entails many restrictions initially in food choices, at least his protocol is temporary. Phase 1 is merely three days to jump-start a break from lectins, and the science seems to back it up. He also wrote of things that resonated with my own attitudes about eating foods in season and ideally local.
Did you know that many over the counter painkillers destroy the gut lining and the microbiome? Fortunately, I try hard to avoid any medication, unless the suffering warrants it. At first, the Plant Paradox Protocol seemed very restrictive, but I’d learned which foods are high in lectins and decided that although I tend to eat many of them regularly, I could listen to my body to determine if it was able to take the risk. Apparently, cooking lectin-foods greatly reduces the impact of them, so I can still enjoy eating legumes and vegetables with lectins weakened through cooking. There is a wealth of information in his book, but let it suffice that it makes sense to me.
Also, I realized that in the autumn we tend to carb-load; and in the winter, we should deplete these extra fat stores. Like bears, when the first dreary, cloudy, cold weather struck, I felt like hibernating and I told my family to wake me in April. Yes, I just want to crawl under a heavy, warm comforter-unless escaping to California or Arizona-until spring.
Of course, I can’t do that because there is much work to do; I work every day and rarely take time off. Be it something for pay, or something to help friends, family, organizations I volunteer to assist, or my house (old houses need work!), I always have things to do. Last week though was an adventure to visit an Organic Valley coop member’s dairy farm in Reedsburg, Wisconsin with my friend Yvonne Maffei of My Halal Kitchen. Organic Valley was so kind to put us up for the night in the hilly terrain of La Farge, Wisconsin at the Qi House, designed by local legend Theresa Marquez, and she has thought of every detail. Even the kitchen chairs had seat cushions with bees embroidered on them! Theresa is a leading activist in the organic movement and is committed to connecting research to our health. That was what we’d talked extensively about in a previous visit for which she was so generous to share her time and insights.IMG_1408
I’ve been blessed to have lived many lives, in a sense, because I have lived in urban Chicago as a young child, was raised in an affluent suburb of Chicago, moved to the city’s Gold Coast after earning my bachelor’s degree, lived in the Middle East at one point, and returned to suburban living while raising children, working full-time, and earning a graduate degree, but I’ve longed to experience what life on a rural farm would be like—at least for a while. I wish to have spent more time, but Amy and Marques of Jumping Jersey Dairy Farm were inspiring to me.IMG_1406.JPG
They have both Holstein and Jersey cows, but in reading Dr. Gundry’s book and from other sources, I have learned that although Holstein cows offer the most (7-8 gallons) milk per day, and are preferred by dairy farmers for this reason, they have the A-1 casein protein that seems related to allergic symptoms in people who have such sensitivities. I have noticed some joint pain at times when I’ve had dairy products, but perhaps foolishly still indulge in them. Jersey cows, the brown ones whose origins are from southern Europe, tend to have A-2. But don’t be fooled because some brown cows may not be pure bred and have both A-1 and A-2 genes. Remember biology class genetics? A-2, A-2 is what these farmers are testing for and would like to raise because they know the science.
In our discussions, we also realized that meat from their organic, grass-fed cattle could easily be certified Halal with a bit of guidance.
I’m looking forward to returning to their area for a conference early next year, and hope to acquire more knowledge and insights on organic farming and farming culture. Apparently, the Sociology major I was in my youth is still studying subcultures.
And now, time to cook broccoli and sautéed onions.
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The Influence

All the Light The Influence When my editor in Dubai posted a Tweet that she’d read All the Light We Cannot See, I decided that it appeared to be an interesting read. While I typically favor non-fiction, occasionally it is refreshing to delve into literature, especially if it is vivid in descriptive prose, as is this book.

Cited with accolades, it took a while for it to become available from my library near Chicago because four other patrons thought to reserve it as well before it was my turn. And I happened to be in a severe time crunch with six freelance projects locking me down, whereby the only exercise I caught was fetching groceries, running upstairs to use my printer, or dragging the laundry basket to the basement.

When I finally brought the book home, I kept it perched on my glass table in the living room, opposite the couch where I have set up a comfortable workstation with a bright daylight view out the picture window. I tired from staying stuck with my laptop on my kitchen table for many years, as I spend enough time in the kitchen.

One day, my daughter came to visit. She saw the book and lit up. “Ah! I’m reading the same book!” She’d seen it at our local book store, where she sometimes likes to go and lose herself in the imaginary world that only reading can reveal.

At hearing that from her, although I’d considered just returning it, unread, due to my workload, I committed to find time enough to push through about 100 pages per day. I’m about half way through, and am seriously considering gifting a copy to a favored nephew. And that chain of events triggered the realization of the power of influence. Manipulating this can be a useful tool or a nemesis.

My Fitbit, which has heightened my awareness about sleep and activity levels, has prompted former students, friends, and relatives to connect with me, and it has influenced my desire to strive harder for more activity and to defend my need for more sleep…though I am still working on improvement.

Granted, in times like the present when I have a ton of work or even when I have had some overuse injuries, I can’t match my own goals; however, though I set my daily step goal for 12,000 on average, I have the influence of my students, some 30 years younger, achieving 140,000 steps weekly. That has some degree of motivation for me because at my core is a bit of competitive drive, and that’s a treasure.

Do you deliberately fuel yourself with things that can influence you toward success in your health, work, and relationships? There are benefits to immersing yourself with art, music, spiritual nurturing, science discoveries, nature, literature, and reminders which yield your gratitude.

Especially in these times when much disruption, disorder, and disgusting behavior is seen, these are salves which help keep us driving forward for our aspirations to not be obliterated. This innate ability to mirror higher ordered conduct and elements associated with civilization can be used for our benefit or our detriment. It depends on our choices, so be sure to feed your body, mind, and soul with better content and use influence to help others as well.

Eclipse Day 2017

IMG_1088 Eclipse Day 2017 With My Besties

Before the euphoria fades, Eclipse Day 2017 goes down as one of the best days with my girlfriends, my Besties. We indulged ourselves with a precious day on the shore of Lake Michigan by the Michigan Dunes.

In our forties and fifties, we are a congruous squad who have raised children, now adults, and are fully engaged in work and family matters. We go full force, typically seven days a week with responsibility, but occasionally we do outings like this to commune and recharge. And this trip with its adventures, laughs, sunshine, sand, and the restorative powers of swimming, relaxing, and enjoying nature by the lake was entirely satisfying.

Being Eclipse Day made it even more special. We shunned the circuses and crowds but chose to observe how the sun dialed down its intensity, as though it was nearing sunset, albeit it was mid-day. The gulls soared in flight making circles by the outcrop of trees where they nest, and the temperature and waves calmed some as we intuited that the eclipse had begun, for we had not purchased special glasses.IMG_1090 (480x640)

Instead, we briefly shot indirect pictures of the sun behind our heads using camera phones with no filters trying to see any changes. We really didn’t get more than some diffuse clouds, rainbow and orbital rings around the sun in our images; but as some people did offer to share with us a glimpse through their poster board framed eclipse glasses, we saw the amazing image of the dark moon’s shadow overlapping the brilliant sun.

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We appreciated the power of that celestial body, and it gave us a greater perspective to realize that while our retinas could easily be damaged by directly gazing at the sun, our skins are so very protective of that same amount of exposure to radiation. All creation is truly a miracle.

In connecting with the universe and acknowledging its Creator, I am healed, renewed; and after posting this as a reminder of the true reality, I will go back to racing through my work projects because tomorrow I head off to learn about a halal dairy brand in Wisconsin.