A Life Worth Living

As a sincere seeker of truth, I seem to have been gifted with advances in understanding in bits over time, as I became ready for them.  I had to live “in the dark” in order to choose “the light.” It is clear to me that I have been given ample gifts:  education, family, beautiful and good children, a wonderfully kind husband, overall excellent health and faculties, and very interesting experiences in life. It occurred to me a couple days ago that I felt that I had not done enough “good” with my life. I needed a respite from projects, stress, and stuff. Then BAM! Two days ago, I suddenly had opportunity to write 3 articles that require investigation, making new informational contacts, and that should hopefully result in more learning for me and progress in the drive to move the Halal Movement forward. Two articles will be in HalalConnect, one about animal by-products in feed, and another about gassing poultry and its effect on health and determination of Halal certification. The other article will be for Islamic Horizons about a marketing company on the East Coast that applies H decals on ShopRite stores to indicate that they sell Halal certified products. The company also does consumer education and promotes food sampling of Halal products to the mainstream public, emphasizing the health benefits of Halal foods.

Sometimes it becomes discouraging to be associated with the Muslims solely because there are many Muslims who are really messed up, and Christians—if we could judge—that are much better “Muslims” than the Muslims. Some people of other faiths have greater consciousness of our Creator than some people who claim to be Muslims. With this, I bear in mind that Allah has His reasons, and only He can judge. If we were all the same, there would be no impetus for inquiry. I believe in His genius; He plans this deliberately, but I also do know that Islam gives more guidance to the human than any other religion I have ever known. In this is great comfort.

It appears that people generally look at this life as the Waiting Room, a place to indulge, seek greater material gains and power, and generally wallow in the stuff of this world while waiting for their time to be up. Nothing could be farther from the truth though in how to perceive and act on the time given on Earth. This life is a grand opportunity to live as large or as small as one chooses. Most people are fearful of exploring new things, stretching and reaching beyond what they have known others in their crowd to adhere to. This applies to beliefs, political parties, social, and economic circles. Why people tend to act like a herd is beyond me. It represents small thinking, and does not do justice to the grand prospects possible for humans. We have choice, the ability to learn, the potential to organize and build upon the efforts of others. Why do we not break free into the highest heights of our capacities? It is such a loss, a product of complacency in a time when the world can ill afford such benign neglect. We need leaders, leaders who inspire others to follow. It also requires many dimensions of heart. And each dimension has its qualities, elements, and nuances to savor, to protect, and to develop.

At this time also, in the history of the world, we have transitioned from the lesser signs to the greater signs, I think, toward the end to come. Each day is a precious gift, and amidst the storms and challenges, the toils of life, the best guidance and advice is Trust Allah. This has been my mantra when times are rough, when we suffer and do not understand why we have difficulties and anxieties. We strive to do right, keeping in mind that the more we are given, the greater is our responsibility to give and be grateful to Allah.

One day the time runs out, and I hope I have enough deposits of “good” in my account when it does. I’m reminded of my mother who succumbed to ALS, also known as Lou Gerhrig’s disease. In retrospect, although it seemed tragic at the time, we were all given the time to prepare and positive things were derived that may not have been had she lived a longer term. Either way, I live with the prospect that I may have some genetic propensity to have the same disease, and I am keen to note any numbness, muscle weakness, and other signs I noted in my mother’s convalescence. Mentally, I am prepared—though not wishing for—the same to happen to me. If it were to be, I believe that I would handle the inevitable with dignity and would focus on preparing my family for it. We all go sometime, and I hope to have patience and strong faith that whatever happens is what is best, as I have sincerely tried to live with deliberate consciousness in balancing my life with enjoyment, appreciation, and good works. Naturally, I have fallen from the highest degree of virtue, as most; but I am hopeful that in correcting my ways, I may be redeemed. Meanwhile, I’ll leave it to the Judge of all mankind.

I continue to feel like I’m dragging from my lowered thyroid meds and irritated knee, but I have been able to run across a parking lot from a deluge of rain, and biked on an easy gear for 8 miles! It just pains me under the knee cap when bending it going down stairs. Time heals all wounds? It seems to be so, but scars are reminders of the life lived. Live it well…each day…enjoying the unfolding of revelation and favors.

Why is it so Hard?

Ahhh! Back to doing everything I like to do, with little of the have to do. Writing, I discovered, is the outlet that I use for creative expression. Whether for helping a friend, ranting about pet peeves, or capturing a feeling, words in fabulous flow bring me joy.

Last weekend, Riad and I went to inspect a stash of Home Shopping Network clothing for resale from a woman who invested in overstock and was unable to sell. Although the deal was great, we thought that we might get stuck with the merchandise, beautiful and inexpensive as it was. While in that area, we stopped by a restaurant owned by a dear friend’s daughter, and discovered that she found it very difficult to resource quality Halal food ingredients. That situation prompted a blog and newsletter broadcast titled “Why is it Hard to Get Halal Food in America?” where the situation is like gridlock now. With Ramadan starting July 20th, it should be a good time to prompt more of a push from consumers. Beside the difficulties in getting consensus from certifiers on unified standards, there is a lack of funding, and a seemingly complacent community who is not vocal or assertive in even requesting Halal products. We only have ourselves to blame, but I hope that I can contribute to the effort for progress.

Stamina has been an issue lately, as my doctor has lowered the meds that replace the function of my thyroid. Never mind that I felt great, energetic, and was working out effectively with weights and lots of cardio as I enjoyed summer. We even biked 23 miles in 87 degrees the previous Saturday. It’s been a week now since reducing my dosage, and I perpetually feel like sleeping, gained 3 pounds, my skin is breaking out, and I somehow did something weird to my knee as I knelt down to prostrate in prayer yesterday. However, as a glutton for pushing the envelope, I will attempt an 8 mile bike ride this evening to test it out with hope that I may correct what may have slid off track. Also, I don’t want fatigue and my bum knee to mess up my golf game. Still a newbie, I already felt gypped because on our recent business trip to Kentucky earlier this week, we bailed out of town without playing since our truck loaded later than expected, and it was a muggy 96 degrees. The doctor has scheduled me for blood work to verify my levels in 4 more weeks. Hope he kicks me back up to my previous perky level, or I will have to find a way to compensate. All this will be in time for my article scheduled to publish in Islamic Horizons about how to stay fit in Ramadan. Wouldn’t it be nice to be fit again in time for it?

Father’s Day was a reminder that my formerly fit father, who was once a soccer team captain, and is 84, is slowing down too. He complained that he can only hit the golf ball 100 yards; and Riad reminisced that when he was just starting to play golf 30 years ago, Dad used to hit over 200 yard drives. It prompted me to muse that as we get older, we will have to find things to still excel at. After all, one has to find something to always grow and develop in order to feel content. Somehow I envision us sitting in La-Z-Boy rocking chairs playing video games when we are not so physically adept. Perhaps we will corrupt our grandchildren, assuming that our kids allow their offspring to play video games. In a surprising comment, one of my teenagers stated that he was considering not allowing his children access to TV. Wow, I thought. Is it because I was permissive that the pendulum will swing the other way for the next generation? Have I sired control freaks?! Time will tell.

With the crummy choices given to Independent voters like me, I am also frustrated by politics. Chagrined by the Senate vote to not label GMO products, it seems like every politician is on the payroll of big agribusiness and not on the side of consumers. California still holds hope for me, and Ron Paul seems to be the only guy who makes any sense. Will it be worthwhile to launch a protest vote, or will that pitch advantage to an unacceptable candidate? It would be nice to see Obama successful and taking charge to rectify some of the incongruities from his original platform, but let’s not be naïve.

Leadership then is a worthy topic to address, and I hope to read Chris Matthews’ book, Elusive Hero, to add a perspective to insights I’ve accumulated since initiating the prospect of writing about the topic…hopefully, next time.

Ode To Summer

May and June are exemplary months in Chicago with longer days, comfortable temperatures, and low humidity. That is why I have enjoyed casting off the pressure to complete my “to do” list most days, and am indulging in biking, kayaking, taking long walks, and getting serious about building strength and muscle through using weights at the gym.

With the kids out of school now, new emphasis has been placed on being available to share activities and time with each of them. And, as always, time is spent with Riad each day when we encourage each other to work out, work on home improvement projects, and dream about moving to California.

At this point, our kitchen has demonstrated the most improvement with new countertops, range/oven, and range hood.  My kitchen now features peach walls with an accent wall of milk chocolate brown, maple wainscoting, golden oak cabinets, mahogany dyed bamboo window shade, and appliances are black and stainless. Small appliances are mostly stainless finished Cuisinart. The new countertop blends all together in perfectly professional decorator quality. Pity that I fully expect, should we be able to sell this home, that the next dwelling will probably be a bland, eggshell, sterile, neutral apartment. With two kids committed to college in this locale for a couple more years, we may have to pay for two living spaces of some diminished status. However, the call for a better climate and hopefully more business prospects have us convinced that we really want to venture out toward the Pacific. We will see….

Each day begins with an hour to an hour and a half walk listening to the beautiful Qur’an, or an equally long bike ride. I feel that the rhythm of it is therapeutic and calming. If all things in the universe could be reduced to frequencies, I think the Qur’an has the dominant, guiding frequencies that promote health, and my preferred recitation is from Ghamadi. When I return home, breakfast is made for anyone still home.

Lately, my two youngest sons, one a high school senior and the other a freshman, have tennis scheduled from 9-11 a.m. So as soon as I finish breakfast, and clean the kitchen, it is time to fetch food for them. I am considering that they should just refer to me as “the Cook” because I am spending so much time in the kitchen and do not rate to claim the status of a chef. Although I have four hungry males to feed each day, I do not really feel my time is spent productively in cooking all day. Yet, I acknowledge their current need to be well fed, and I somehow picked the short straw and have become expected, perhaps from my own upbringing and norm expectations, that I am the one cooking. In a few hours, after visiting my doctor for a checkup, shopping for groceries, and checking my email, I will begin the dinner cooking project. Then it will be time to work out with Riad (we may bike or go to the golf range), eat my cuisine, and once again lament that I did not get the chance to steam the wallpaper from my bedroom walls in the slow process of fixing the house for eventual sale. That is okay though, because Riad is still earning the money to pay for a new roof, so I have some time to work on the interior. If lucky, I will get the chance to organize receipts and clutter from our export business, and sort through papers from other projects recently completed… just in time for summer.

Don’t lose the chance. Each day counts so much in these preciously beautiful days. Take time to enjoy!