Icons and Babes

Image In honor of my daughter’s—my only daughter’s—21st birthday, I recalled Dad and I watching Miss America pageants, NFL football, and movies during my youth. There were numerous lessons and impressions built into me just from spending leisure time together, and I suppose inadvertently those seemingly benign and idle moments somehow molded my character, expectations, and goals in life. The funny thing is that I also perceive the same mechanism guiding my own children.

Where are our youth’s role models of today? Do they hold the values that we cherished from times past? Dad and I (remember we were not Muslim at the time) used to carefully judge contestants from beauty pageants in the 60’s and 70’s. The young women became icons of scholarship, poise, physical perfection, aesthetic fashion style, and personality. I always noted height and weight, size of thighs, posture, and type of build in the swimsuit competitions. Evening gown competitions brought fantasy to life in my young mind, and we were not only critical of the talent performance, but what choice the contestants made to demonstrate talent. Would the contestant play concert piano, sing a song, dance ballet or to modern music, or would she play the harp? These choices reflected a certain pedigree that we perhaps also unconsciously evaluated to determine if the contestant was deserving of the title or just privileged. Typically, the Q&A often was the tie-breaker, as Dad and I pitched out our top 3 choices, and often we were in agreement with each other and in close alignment with the official judges.

In spite of our loyal spectator status to the annual round of pageants, I never aspired to enter one myself nor condoned my own household to watch them when I became married and had my own kids.

Football with Dad typically favored rival teams to our Chicago Bears, like the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings. My youthful training in the rules, positions, and plays of pro football gave me knowledge of the sport that permitted entry to the bastion of college dorm spectatorship, where I could be readily conversant and expand my social network. Those were the days that inspired us with leadership by the “punky QB” Jim McMahon; outstanding feats of Sweetness AKA Walter Payton; the graceful athleticism of Willie Gault; the gladiator drive of Dan Hampton; and massive, lovable “Fridge” William Perry whose versatility kept the opponent guessing, especially surprising everyone with a couple touchdowns!

Coaches too were instructive characters demonstrating leadership styles with varying temperaments. Coach Ditka for the Bears was loud, often annoyed, and unabashedly driven to never be apologetic. Coach Vince Lombardi was disciplined, toughly aggressive, loyal to the essence of “winning is everything.” Then there was Bud Grant, who coached the Vikings using plenty of practice in cold weather to acclimate the team to raw difficulty, and valuing control of one’s emotions, as he led them over his career to four Super Bowls.

These competitive events, pageants, and football, along with several movies all emphasized strength; courage; practice; discipline; planning; teamwork; enduring failure, discomfort, and pain; and perseverance. Specific movies that come to mind were: Bridge on the River Kwai, Where Eagles Dare, Von Ryan’s Express, and Lawrence of Arabia. All had to conquer their fears and execute performance in spite of it, and sometimes had to risk death to do the right thing. These are the elements that heroes are made of.

Yet, we also value compassion, grace, style, and some appreciate education and refinement more than others. These qualities were presented through the 60’s film of Julie Andrews via Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music. As nanny for some boisterous children, Mary Poppins exhibits patience with firm expectations of compliance and decorum, and Maria, the novitiate turned governess, shares her joie de vie, love of music, and sincere heart with the Von Trapp family, who sorely need her cheerful disposition, trust in faith, and respect for wise authority for guidance. Inner strength fortified by outer constructs characterizes the individual who relies on institutional and social support. In retrospect, many people have the same needs as Maria and often consult similar resources.

Lastly, a person who has become a current pop culture icon is Audrey Hepburn. As a girl, my parents took me to see My Fair Lady at the cinema, and I was swept away by Eliza Doolittle’s metamorphosis from a squalid duckling into an elegant, bejeweled swan. So taken by the character, I even sang my first solo for my 4th grade class to “I Could Have Danced All Night” and found my mezzo soprano voice the perfect match to the tune. The value of learning the manners, protocols, and culture of the higher echelon was clear.

With this in mind, I suppose I unconsciously indoctrinated my daughter in such awareness. When she was in elementary school, I bought the VHS tapes of Mary Poppins and My Fair Lady. What I find amazing is that she has chosen to post a Facebook profile picture (seen above) of herself reminiscent of Audrey Hepburn, and some of her crowd has assumed wannabe photos…but of course my daughter is the best! Come to think of it, she has probably influenced her own affect by watching Fran Drescher in reruns of The Nanny, that brash, hilarious, ding-dong, come-what-may character who gets lucky in entry to the wealthy class while maintaining her Bronx roots.

Now my daughter is 21, an elegant, accomplished, most confident and regal swan of whom I am very proud. By intuitive design, I have found my wish come true to have a daughter who is part Spartan, like an Amazon, with wry humor and a heart of gold, who possesses her own sense of style, leadership, and power; and she has brains, wisdom beyond her years, and savvy to survive the future challenges that we know life will bring. As her mother, I know that we will still butt heads at times, but I will always love her and would wish for no other to be my daughter, my legacy.

With the conclusion of this, I am about to make this blog readership expand to my family, and feel it especially winsome to note that my sister just delivered her first daughter, an addition to her 3 sons…on my daughter’s 21st birthday!

True Life Through Golf

It has been liberating to not open a laptop for 5 days! Able to monitor emails and posts via my phone gave the chance to really enjoy our friends and family gathering at a popular campground in Merrimac, WI. Also, miraculously, was the lack of drama and sincere enjoyment of the venue and camaraderie as 6 families went on this first-ever attempt to celebrate Eid al Fitr this way. Although we were there for 3 days, it took me nearly 3 additional days to catch up in opening mail, cleaning and storing all the gear, doing laundry, and restocking the groceries to a moderate level. There have been a few attempts to read the backlog of email, even after I purged myself off several newsletters before the trip, but I’m still behind a few days and did not even attempt to view the 73 notifications from Facebook.

Part of the delay in getting back on track is because my two youngest started a new term in high school, literally within 7 hours of our return, and the second reason is my priority to accept my husband’s invitations to play golf. He is quite the birdie-par-bogie player, while I am still in training.

We managed to play the beautiful Glacier course at Devil’s Head Resort, and I found it truly gorgeous! Hopefully, we will try to get back one more time before the end of this season http://www.devilsheadresort.com/dhr/info/s.golf.aspx Yesterday’s 18 holes were at Maple Meadows, which is in our area, and for which I have acquired a discount card with intent to play the 3 associated courses with more frequency http://www.dupagegolf.com/course3/ However, Friday twilight was my first attempt, and it was fraught with frustration. We walked and sweated, for it was 93 degrees, but I also like to shoot and run for the ball because I find it fun and it usually gets a chuckle out of my partner. My first hole was a disaster, par 5, and I shot 10. Then I recalled excellent wisdom that was shared with me to not read the results of the first hole toward the whole game. I persevered only to come to the conclusion that my first 9 holes were a wash, since I am in training mode, especially not having practiced much in Ramadan. Unfortunately, the second 9 also resulted in a not much better score, but I did have more fun.

The problem as best as I can analyze is that strategically I know what to do, and I can even “see the movie in my head” before taking the shot. But there is a disconnect between my vision and my execution for which I can only surmise indicates that I need more practice. Teeing off, I can get great distance, but I’m vacillating between slicing and keeping it straight. I’m trying new things with my stance for that. Also, I either top the ball or hit too far behind, creating a divot before “bouncing” into my iron shots. Although I attempt to “hit down” on the ball to get loft, I top or ground it, so I’m struggling with consistency and learning where I meet the ball with various placements.

Golf truly registers a person’s character, just as my father always said. I was very disgusted with my performance on the front 9, and battled my own head to keep my focus in check before resolving the “rebirth” on the second 9. It didn’t help either that Riad accidentally lost our score card after the first couple of holes, because I had to tally my entire round mentally, counting up each shot while realizing the end score would seem astronomical. Ugh!

Then there was the 14th where my competitive, risk taking aspect of personality became evident. Envisioning a strategically safe tee shot toward the left of a right dog leg, my shot sliced right into the first of a string of 5 chained sand traps between me and an elevated green. Instead of taking the safe route, and potentially wasting a shot or more to get to the fairway, I risked the play to land successfully on little strips of grass while shooting a projectile out of the trap. The first landed safely on the turf, but the next shot just missed the green and I settled into the trap nearest the green. All in all, I’ve had great coaching on how to play sand, and the pulverant grit on my skin post-game proved it. Now I need Putting University, as it is literally half the game!

With that, I hope to return to more driving range and executive 9 hole courses for training, as I really want to master this…another telling sign of personality.

My husband says, “You shouldn’t be so stubborn,” but I contend that it is not so much stubbornness as a belief that the necessary skills are within reach and that the glory and satisfaction of their accomplishment is worth the effort. After all, isn’t that what we educators try to teach our students? Persevere, even through difficulty; apply consistent discipline, through adversity; and anticipate a just reward whether tangible or intangible for the effort. We have to walk the talk.

Perplexing Parenting

It seems that every year, since our kids were tots, the eve of Eid is an exhausting ordeal. When they were small, I’d wait for my little darlings to be tucked into bed so that I could have time to secretly wrap numerous presents and prepare the house for their eagerly anticipated awakening where they’d each find their own carefully arranged pile of Eid gifts.

Then, after slurping Turkish coffee until we were no longer catatonic from fatigue, we’d dress them up in nice new clothes; drive to the mosque while chanting “Here I am O Lord” in Arabic for Eid prayers; pick up doughnuts on the way home so we could indulge in sweets for breakfast; and feel satisfied that we survived the challenges of fasting, self-denial, and giving extra effort in prayers and charity in Ramadan.

The rest of the morning and early afternoon would be spent in calling relatives around the country and overseas to wish them Happy Eid. Later in the day, we would typically gather with friends and relatives at a restaurant for the end of their lunch buffet, which would suffice as our early dinner, and eventually end up at someone’s home to share desserts, catch up on visiting, and let the kids play. When the kiddies started to grow up, they would sometimes leave us to play basketball, laser tag, or go to a movie.

This Eid eve is proving to be another endurance Olympiad, as we had to rise early for more home improvement painting, and I’ve spent the past 10 hours in the kitchen in preparing today’s and tomorrow’s dinners. Presently, it is 3:00 a.m., and I am cooking a second large pot of stuffed grape leaves which we will haul out of state to our favorite Wisconsin getaway locale. It should be quite the event, as we may have more than forty humans from six or seven families converging on this place for the first out-of-state Eid gathering, but we still need to be at Eid prayers by 9:00 a.m. I’m really going to need a double dose of coffee in a few hours.

While waiting for my Halal lamb and beef stuffed grape leaves to cook, I had a flashback of how last weekend resulted in late hours and exhaustion affiliated with parenting. Riad and I were blissfully watching the end of a TV series that we’d been following via Netflix for the past few weeks. We were around episodes 81-82, just before the end of the series, when we could no longer get contact from our high school senior. It was getting unreasonably late, past his curfew of 11:00 p.m., and we’d not heard from him since about 8:45 p.m. when he informed us that he was going to an unidentified friend’s house to wrap up an AP Biology project that was due that night by midnight. He’d been working on this project for weeks, and we trusted that he was working with a classmate with the same course. However, after not responding to texts and phone calls and it was 1:15 a.m., I called my super sleuth daughter, who was driving back with friends and another responsible adult from a wedding in Iowa. She became immediately concerned when she too could not reach her brother by phone. However, resourceful as she is—should be considered for espionage—she found the phone number of a female friend of my son’s. Pretending to be another mutual friend, she called the girl. Apparently, the girl had been sleeping, and categorically denied seeing my son, but then my daughter heard him in the vicinity. Immediately, the ruse was up, and she demanded to talk to him. The girl became flustered and hung up. Then my enraged daughter phoned her brother again, to which he sheepishly admitted to falling asleep on the couch. Skeptical, she phoned me to alert me to her findings, and informed me that he was on his way home. Needless to say, he was grounded for several days and still has limited use of the car so that he is deterred from being so careless again.

While that may seem to be enough for most parents though, there really was much more to learn about the next day. My eldest son, who has been struggling from several debts and limited ability to earn, devised a ploy to get a free seafood dinner to share with his friend. He learned several years ago, when we’d visited a relative out West, that casinos have lavish feasts for a pittance. Wise to follow in his relative’s footsteps, he discovered a similar “deal” whereby he could get his favorite food, seafood, through coming to a riverboat casino about 20 miles from our home. Ohhh! The frustrations to keeping on the straight and narrow path! I suppose that I should be thrilled that my son told me of his brilliant plan, gloating the next day; and he was sure to add that he hadn’t really indulged in gambling but just was really interested in the free food!

I know that as a parent I should be grateful, but the icing on the cake, so to speak, came also the next day when my youngest son inquired if I knew that my daughter, the super sleuth, was in a car accident on the way back from Iowa?! Apparently, when I’d called her, she was petrified because she thought I’d known something via mother’s intuition. However, when she determined that I was very deeply concerned about my missing son, she withheld the situation she’d just survived.

She was in a two-car caravan, about two hours away between Chicago and Iowa, when her car blew a tire and careened out of control swaying repeatedly across lanes until the car was stopped in a ditch. Police and paramedics were there, and miraculously no one was severely hurt beyond bruises and sore muscles. They were deposited by a hotel by the paramedics while the driver called parents to pick them up. The other responsible adult also waited and resumed the caravan with the newly arrived parents until they were all safely home. My daughter informed me that the wedding was causing their very late arrival and that she was going to simply sleep at the home of my trusted friend for safety sake. How apropos!

Within a single night, three out of four of my precious darlings were all in danger, and I was lucky to have them all back safe. This Eid is one which I will hold with special thanks and hope that we all live to see the next Ramadan. It seems that threats to our safety are swelling.

This afternoon, my neighbor told me that while she was away from home, about seven local thugs broke into her home, at 2:15 p.m.! Amazingly, nothing seemed to be taken; but the fact that some neighbors saw the intruders and yelled at them, and that the police were essentially ineffective was concerning. Last night, I was awoken about 3:15 a.m. when I heard siren after siren, and saw several series of flashing lights illuminate my bedroom wall. Peeking out the window, I spied a block long double row of assorted police vehicles from up the road to my driveway. Cops were opening their trunks and hauling out assault rifles, and there was tumult for at least twenty minutes while we flipped on all our exterior lights, verified that our doors were locked and children safely home. In fact, one was still out and en-route to home after staying out to chat with a friend after a movie. I commandeered the logistics of safe passage from car to kitchen door so not to provoke a potential hostage situation. Assistant Principal emergency training came in handy!

Seriously though, I cannot emphasize my hope to be able to relocate fast enough. And I am taking extra precautions with current plans to celebrate Eid away this time, as something is telling me that it is time to move on, treasure precious life and people I am blessed to know, and stay close to my Creator for protection.

Solutions From Solitude

Jesus secluded himself, they say, for 40 days, and the Prophet Mohammed regularly retreated to the mountain Hira for solitude and reflection. Ramadan’s final 10 days are also noted to be the time when many people actually live within the mosque to devote themselves more wholly to prayer, reflection, and worship. Those who cannot pull away to that extent from their daily duties do at least hold the final days in highest regard. Among these final nights is one special event known as the Night of Power, for which it states in the Qur’an that it is greater than 1000 months! Calculating the magnitude, one not only understands that this night is valued more than 83 years of prayer, it is known to be able to change the nature of individuals who are the most sincere. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laylat_al-Qadr

It is said that the first third of the lunar month of Ramadan, which lasts 29-30 days, is for Mercy; the second third is for Forgiveness; and the later third for Salvation. My own reflection and critical analysis of the past year resulted in some realization of turpitude on my part; and although it was not my conscious intent, I should have made some better choices. With that, I sincerely ask for forgiveness from anyone who has felt suffering from my deeds. No decisions of anyone’s need be acknowledged or are necessary, but I hope for kind regard.

The thought of suspending my blog posts occurred to me, but then I reconsidered that my words may be of actual benefit to others, and not for my selfish gain. When my desire to write swells, I can easily just keep a private journal, since I do not exchange correspondence with any reader; but in the chance that something I share can be of value, it does make sense to continue. The writings of other souls enrich my life, and I would like to reciprocate, if possible.

My favorite blogger posed the question: “Do our solutions derive from our institutional structures, from our own perceived values, or a combination of both?”

I lean toward a combined approach, but that is only relevant if the individual subscribes to the values of the institutional structure. There has to be a congruence or acceptable rationalization, or else a real solution is not possible.

An example of rationalization is from when I worked in an Islamic school. Pubescent female students and Muslim teachers were expected to wear hijab and modest clothing while at school or in the adjacent mosque. The hijab is a requirement for formal prayers. The institution dictated the expectation through an official dress code policy. However, at home and in the streets, several females shed their head coverings, sometimes while still in the school parking lot. Their solution, without apparent discord, was to differentiate between attire at school/mosque versus their secular lives. For other women and girls, there was no breach in appearance, as they saw no need for amendment in attire outside of the school. They more deeply internalized the value of the institutionalized structure as their own. The merits of hijab are numerous.

First, it identifies the female as Muslim, a woman who is generally identified as committed to her religious values and identity. However, I must acknowledge that such values cannot be exclusively determined solely by a person wearing hijab. We see plenty of examples these days whereby women are increasingly fashion conscious and are merging more figure revealing styles. My interpretation of this is that either they are asserting their desire to be viewed as beautiful women, or they are making a statement that they are capable women even though they are Muslims who wear hijab. Allah knows best, and we do not have the right to judge. Yet many women are naïve to not realize how males perceive them because women generally do not think of physical attraction so readily as men.

Second, the hijab serves as a reminder to the women themselves of their commitment to higher values of purity, honesty, compassion, service, and mindfulness of God.

On a more secular perspective, I again choose to think that solutions are derived from a combination of institutional input and personal values.

A friend communicated to the world about his “friend” who seemed to be going through the torture of endless analytical medical procedures to determine a diagnosis of a chronic condition. By the way, the true identity of the “friend” was always obvious to me. So my friend was cast with the lesser of potential maladies, but nonetheless it is serious enough that I advised exploring the Mayo Clinic for guidance. In doing so, the institutional structure of Mayo offers expertise beyond the present knowledge set of the individual. His personal values can then be considered for a potential solution.

Application of a very costly protocol involving IVIG does not align with his personal values. Steroid therapy is a better choice in the near term, but it can be very problematic over longer applications. For that reason, I would suggest an initial exploration with his medical team of an enzymatic protocol with Wobenzym N.

Wobenzym N is a German formulation that has existed for over 40 years, and it utilizes pancreatin from porcine origin. It does have some potential for allergic reactions and is incompatible with some other medications, so always consult with medical professionals http://www.wobenzymnreviews.info/

Now normally I would completely avoid consuming anything that comes from a pig; but in this case, the medical need warrants it. I believe there is a Halal Malaysian formula that does not have porcine properties, but I do not know its name or source.

Even I have the option to utilize what many consider to be a superior replacement for the major pharmaceutical company thyroid medication I use, but I presently choose not to because it comes from dessicated pig thyroid. However, my condition is not threatening, unlike my friend’s is to the extent that I think it wise to consider Wobenzym N.

Beyond medication though, avoidance of neurotoxins like MSG, prions from commercially factory farmed beef, and certainly pork should no longer be part of his diet. I hope to do further research and will blog about pork in the future. In spite of numerous allergies, which indicate imbalances in gut flora, some probiotics and raw vegetables that can be tolerated are alkalinizing can help stamina.

Content to be like a blade of grass, I am subdued as we approach the end of Ramadan. Existence is enough, and I have purged my demons. Yet, ignorance is around me; there have been many incidents of attacks on mosques in my region, and I ponder if I should take up the gauntlet to address Islamophobia. With a deadline for submissions to a peacebuilding conference only two days away, many resources I have to share, I believe that will be the topic of my next blog.

Till then…peace until dawn.