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.

My Media Message

Ertugrul   My Media Message

“Resurrection: Ertugrul,” also originally titled “Dirilis: Ertugrul,” is on Netflix. Filmed in the Turkish language with subtitles, it tells a historical rendering of feudal Turkey in the time of the Crusades. I’m not a scholar of Turkish history, but what I like about it is that it is not wretchedly sexualized, indecent, horrifically violent and depraved like “Game of Thrones,” which I discontinued after two seasons. I’d notice how disturbed, agitated, and unsettled I’d felt when watching G of T, but the twists in the tales tended to keep me curious until I just determined that it affected me, costing my peace, at the least.

The Turkish show, though not quite as twisted with multiple story threads, reveals a code of living that we don’t seem to have in many families and social institutions. It nicely demonstrates a life with religious values and customs which relate to Islam. For example, people ask permission to enter the homes of others. This was directly advised in the Qur’an.

“O you who have believed, let those whom your right hands possess and those who have not [yet] reached puberty among you ask permission of you [before entering] at three times: before the dawn prayer and when you put aside your clothing [for rest] at noon and after the night prayer. [These are] three times of privacy for you. There is no blame upon you nor upon them beyond these [periods], for they continually circulate among you – some of you, among others. Thus does Allah make clear to you the verses; and Allah is Knowing and Wise.
And when the children among you reach puberty, let them ask permission [at all times] as those before them have done. Thus does Allah make clear to you His verses; and Allah is Knowing and Wise.” – Quran 24:58-59

Another feature I noticed was the role of the bey’s (leader’s) wife, who wisely is the confidante and counsel to her husband. She has significant power and is intelligently aware, but her husband has the position of tribe leader. Other women too, are respected and use their voice in opinions and yet, they are protected, treasured, and valued for the work they do to contribute to the community. Coincidentally, it also features Cameron Diaz’s doppelganger!

Over my life, I have seen some changes in gender roles and in the lot given to American women; and while I do not advise to go back to 1950’s gender roles in the limits that women endured, I see an erosion of family values and vacuum in teaching good character and ethics. Many mothers are working so hard to provide for their families, that they have little time and energy left for personally guiding their kids and enjoying relationships with spouses and friends.

This brings me to another point about the impact of media.

While driving one of my sons (and his two cats) back to his apartment in the city, he shared an interesting perspective with me. He’d mentioned that it was considered “cool” to be rude and disrespectful to adults when he was a teen. Now he finds it incredible that I had the patience to endure his attitudes and antics.

Reflecting on the past, I do believe the Disney Channel, which we “cool” parents were held ransom to provide via cable TV, was culpable in the shift from what I’d modeled as a kid. My high level of TV consumption was certainly instructive.

As a youngster, I was influenced by reruns of “The Little Rascals”, as was my father. And I gleaned my perspectives of fathers from “Father Knows Best,” “The Lucy Show,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “The Donna Reed Show,” “Bonanza,” “Mayberry RFD,” and “Leave It to Beaver.”

Other shows I enjoyed were “Dobie Gillis,” “Gilligan’s Island,” “Batman,” “Superman,” “Zorro,” “The Lone Ranger,” “The Beverly Hillbillies,” “The Honeymooners,” “Gidget,” “The Flying Nun,” and “I Dream of Jeannie.” My family watched “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “Lawrence Welk” for entertainment. These all bring happy memories to this day.

Then, as I went through my adolescence, I raced through chores to watch “The Brady Bunch,” “Bewitched,” “It Takes a Thief,” “Love American Style,” “Fantasy Island,” and “The Love Boat.” That correlated with the time when I found myself at odds with my parents, especially my mother who did not appreciate my subscription to Cosmopolitan magazine, with its cleavage teasing cover shots. And life was decidedly not so innocent, nor so happy.

Americans are not happy. Maybe it’s more than the unacceptable conduct and rhetoric of our president. I expect our leaders to exemplify the highest of virtues and to be examples of higher quality character. The media influences us in many ways, and the state of the nation may be a result of our poor choices, as I conclude from the outpouring of ignorance and hate in deeds and words. The resurrection of people with morally diseased hearts is apparent, and I thought the messages of brotherhood, liberation and the Age of Aquarius had taken root. The weeds of society are still among us, and they have nasty thorns.

Some people fail to realize that we are of different races, ethnicities, and cultures as a benefit to our humanity. Exploration of languages, cultures, handiwork, and cuisines is sustenance for our intellect, and I believe diversity in America is our strength. In these are clues for appreciation of our Creator.

“O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.” –Quran 49:13

Knowing that we all bleed red, I find the current culture of rudeness unacceptable, and I call upon our schools, media, and parents to promote justice, manners, tolerance, industriousness, and civility. In short, let’s resurrect a conscious humanity, find our joie de vivre, and choose leaders who will work for the benefit of all citizens. We’ve been duped, sold out, but our system has the capacity to correct this mess. I’m counting on it.

But when people are too busy slaving to survive, the fox can get in the hen house. That’s where he is now and we should learn from this. Democracy needs whistleblowers and watch dogs, and this is where media can be a force for goodness and virtue. We just have to choose wisely so they get the message.

Ready, Set, Go!

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Ready, Set, Go!

Believe me, every day I blog….in my head, but never get to writing. With the end of Ramadan, my chance to regenerate, I need to charge ahead to something I’ve been eager to pursue—besides breakfast and coffee in daylight.

Ramadan commenced with a very different start than my norm. As our son was unable to take time off work to drive a 2007 powder blue Mustang he’d purchased from an auction through a relative in Phoenix, my husband and I flew one-way to make an epic trip back to Chicago. Also, a long-held dream was fulfilled when we visited a dear girlfriend I’ve known since 5th grade. We stopped by to see her briefly for lunch in Ruidoso, NM. Since we were traveling, we suspended our Ramadan fasting but plan to make up the days. Yet, these being the longest days of the year, we’ll defer them until shorter, cooler days reappear. In Chicago, that should be in about two months.

Naturally, since I live in “flatland,” I love mountains, dry heat, forests, and bodies of water. Everywhere I go, I try to envision if it could become “home,” but although I can get along well in many places, the decision always includes consideration of where my children could live and work. Also, I reminded myself today that as Ramadan invariably puts athletic activities into dormancy, I value having decent biking trails and cheap golf nearby. It was great to pedal over to the library to pick up a book on negotiation skills today. And as we’ve not golfed in a very long time, and only visited the golf range once this year, it’s time to schedule some outings because there are only four months left to the season.

Yet, as Ramadan has multiple spiritual and physical benefits of bringing one closer to the Creator, improving the body’s metabolic efficiency, and vastly increasing socializing through multiple iftars (dinner invitations), it causes one to pause and prioritize how one wishes to become better and more on course with the vision of one’s life. Think of it as a time to make resolutions.

Typically, I would sleep after the dawn; many nights I’d be re-evaluating my choices and mapping new possibilities. Now, transitioning back to daytime work hours, coffee, and focus-enabling hydration, I’m juggling what Curly from City Slickers said, “…just one thing.” I’m READY to commit, SET with a plan, and it’s time to GO!

Somewhere in Nowhere

Somewhere in Nowhere Kentucky

It’s been a rough few weeks whereby I’d travelled to Maryland, New Jersey, and Kentucky. Then presented at the ISNA Education Forum and International Nanny Association conference, attended and wrote about the IFANCA conference and Pakistan’s Halal accreditation progress (those were positive experiences), but also suffered the loss of one of my brothers-in-law, and the near fatal infection that necessitated my son’s fiancée to be in the ICU at Loyola Medical Center for nearly two weeks. With my husband overseas for his sibling’s funeral and mourning, the rest of us stayed at the ICU with the family of our son’s fiancée until her release to home a couple days ago.

It was a lot of life, death, and near death to deal with, and at times all I could do was remember what my mother once told me. “There will come a time when you will need your religion.” My family has just endured one of those times when even though you muster all you can to battle against threats, fear, and fatigue, ultimately you realize that you can only rely on God’s mercy to make it all right. And thankfully, it will be again.

But the design of the events, the coincidences and timings, could hardly have been accidental. For when I study how benefits were oddly derived, albeit through suffering loss and the threat of loss, do I find myself amazed. For out of the metaphorical ashes do I perceive bonds forged, appreciation for what is essential, and a determination to hold tightly to what gifts I have been given from above.

There is also the reminder to live for now and avoid putting off enjoyment of what life can offer before I cannot see, travel, and do. For one never knows when one may be somewhere in nowhere again.

The Future of Education Includes Self-Care

Education is what other people do to you. Learning is what you do to yourself.” (p. 167).

The future of education must address the unmet needs of companies who seek employees with both math and social skills, and the struggle of teachers to care for their selves.

Responding to educators’ needs in juggling their students’ job market preparation and their own self-care, I will be presenting at the upcoming ISNA Education Forum.

Based on books and articles, and apps I have used, my session is backed by research and my own experiences. As an experienced educator and administrator in a parochial school, I know the struggle between keeping tuition rates low, to accommodate middle and lower socioeconomic families, and teachers not being able to afford healthcare, domestic help, and niceties like new clothes, shoes, restaurants, and vacations, unless their salaries are supplemented with additional income. It is also a problem when teachers and administrators give many years of service to their community and then have no capitalization for retirement. That is why it is imperative to invest in self-care.

Exploring the topic from spiritual, physical, intellectual, and emotional perspectives, we will examine priorities and craft a plan to realize that as givers, we have to give ourselves permission to be responsible and designate our boundaries in the interest of self-preservation.

My business has opened new glimpses into what education, optimized entrepreneurship, and investment opportunities will be in the future, and it is only beginning.

That is why we will explore how teachers can start a paradigm shift to meet that future in a wholistic capacity to serve while not depleting themselves in the process.

“Education is what other people do to you. Learning is what you do to yourself.” –From Whiplash: How to survive our faster future by Joi Ito (MIT Lab) and Jeff Howe

March On, March

credit-flickr-wm-horsburgh March On, March

“It’s a good day.” “I’m on this side of the grass.” That’s what Dad would say, even though the grass is more like a soggy brown mat with snow flurries presently gracing it. I miss my father, and it is the month he died two years ago.
While I try to stay positive, in what characteristically has been my least favored month, I’m pleased to see the return of the daffodils at Trader Joe’s. To me, that is one of the hallmarks of springtime coming soon.
This year has been largely void of the usual amount of snow, and wouldn’t you know it was the year we finally acquired a snow blower. Joke’s on us! With a very long driveway, I will keep it ready to blow until mid-April, because snow blizzards have still been known to dump on us then.
Various work projects get me through this arduous season, as I develop creative presentations using new audio and visual technologies for myself and my clients. Along with some writing and editing, I have a healthy balance of interesting prospects to carry me toward May, for which I am grateful.
My take on the current political situation is best illustrated by my husband’s experience today. About a month ago, we were invited to meet our son’s fiancee’s family at her graduation party. We were in our car, standing still at the entry to a small cul-de-sac, looking for a place to park, when another car reversed out of a driveway and collided with our rear panel. Fortunately, no one was injured, and we felt pity for the young driver. Wanting to help him, we’d suggested that we’d settle without police or insurance company intervention. But the boy’s uncle, who owned the home and who did not witness the accident, insisted that we call the police, so I did. The result was that the officer saw the evidence and issued the young man a citation. (Lesson: don’t always listen to your old uncle.)
As expected, the other insurance company sent us a check for damages, but then a court summons arrived in the mail for my husband’s appearance today. Not going to work was a burden, but it seemed that the young man took the advice of his uncle and wanted his day in court.
The judge asked him, “How do you plea?” The young man replied, “Wait!” “I want to tell you what happened.” His Honor stated, “No, you don’t.” “How do you plea?” “Guilty or not guilty?”
Not only did he have to pay the ticket, he also earned court fees. The judge profusely thanked my husband for his attendance and the case was closed.
I hope the young man learned what I want everyone to remember. We have systems. They guide and preserve us, and I am ever more pleased that Americans are once again taking an interest in their civic duties.
Ignorance, hubris, and apathy are the enemies. As long as we don’t indulge them, we will march on. March on, March!