“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Plenty of olive oil, halal meat and poultry, gentle exercise, sleep, and I try to use organic produce. Joy of joys! I’m back from my annual physical with great news that my C-reactive protein (CRP), which indicates systemic inflammation, is the lowest the doctor had ever seen!
These results are a gift of good genes, but I also attribute them to my lifestyle. As I am self-employed, I have the ability to design my day. Not many people enjoy that luxury, but it certainly can be done with planning. I feel like Superwoman and am charged up!
Another mainstay of my habits is to indulge in quality organic coffee, served black, and I typically keep a filtered water bottle close by. And I share this with you so that you can check your own habits because although the body can compensate for some assaults in dietary choices, it is best not to drive it toward too much acidity. Now that the autumn clouds are rolling in and we are less likely to process vitamin D from sunshine, our immunity typically pulls back. Sweets, processed junk, and too much food take a heavier toll.
Let’s face it, life gets more stressful in these months too, but I have effectively mitigated that with prayer and reading Qur’an. Also, it is important to like what you do, for how you spend your days is how you spend your life. Make it grand! Learn, love, share, and remember the special people in your life.
With one son gone to Italy for a stint teaching English, we have swapped in our nephew who arrived early for our daughter’s August wedding. It promises to be an interesting summer, especially with Ramadan starting next week, as it will have the longest days of the year for fasting.
Due to family—and extended family—obligations, business took a backseat, but I’m back on track. Though I enjoy the benefit of a flexible schedule, sometimes I have to put a hard stop on letting other people map my course. It is one of the banes of working from home; but between the weather (seems like Northern Europe-rainy) thwarting my usual outdoor activities (biking, tennis, golf, and walking) and prioritizing family, I realized that I was neglecting my life design vision and it was time to retrench and do some strategic planning.
My group of entrepreneurial-minded women deserves so much credit for helping to objectively critique, give advice, and share resources. We brainstorm to find answers to a variety of hurdles. Probably the most valuable though, is the accountability it entails. I find myself rushing to do what I’d intended to have done before the next meeting just before deadline. Don’t most of us work this way?
In our last gathering, it seemed to be a common phenomenon to have naysayers, problems with focus, scheduling projects, and keeping family from resenting our business activities. When the efforts result in low returns, it is hard to convince family that the work is worthwhile. Yet, we know that priming the pump is necessary and that solid planning builds a firm foundation. Those who persevere and keep refining their strategies are able to stay in the game.
I recall Maya Angelou revealing that to write she often sought out a motel room and a bottle of bourbon to allow herself the chance to focus and work uninterrupted on her writing. I’ve dreamt of remote artist retreats where I could focus and let my thoughts pour out (without the bourbon) to complete projects long held in mind but unable to nail down due to distractions. However, my family is not ready to cut me loose to that extent yet. I’ll just have to find a way by pushing through with whatever constraints are there. For most people, they have regular routines and set schedules. One of the things I do like about my life though is that schedules change daily, and I resist, or more accurately rebel, against routines. It keeps me fresh.
Discovering technologies, learning new buzz terms, meeting people doing interesting things, these are what excite me and I am lucky to be part of it on a global scale. I’ve always felt that the whole world is home, and that there are many things to explore. With technologies today, I can experience it from the comfort of my home, and stay on top of trends. This is how I can help others as well, and I deliver a wealth of insight to my clients based on these observations.
Fortune has come to me from the wonderful people I have been blessed to meet and work beside. It is a privilege to train, advise, and promote folks doing important work in Education and the Halal industries, and soon you will see a new website for the American Halal Association with a Halal directory. Stay tuned for more, as I have entered into an accelerator program!
The picture you see is my family celebrating an Eid camping trip after Ramadan in 1998. The red, curly haired, very Caucasian peanut just secured his driver’s license today, and he is a towering 6 foot, 2 inch (183 cm) tall Muslim.
When people see him with brown skinned kids at school, they are very surprised to learn that he is indeed Muslim because most people think of Muslims as ‘Other,’ meaning other than ‘Us.’
Typically, the image that comes to American’s minds is that a Muslim is Arab or perhaps Asian, although a large proportion of Muslims are in fact from African descent.
I believe this is significant to how we tend to value the lives of Others, and in particular to the political perspectives and policies toward the Middle East and Central Asia in general.
What should be known is that anyone can be Muslim. It is not an ethnic or nationalistic reference; rather it is simply a comprehensive religion on the continuum antecedent from Judaism and Christianity that guides the lives and identity of about 1.6 billion people (23% of the world’s population), according to a 2012 Global Religious Landscape report from the Pew Research Center.
Most disconcerting though is a more recent Pew Research Study referencing How Americans Feel About Religious Groups. The study was conducted May 30-June 30, 2014, and cites feelings towards religious groups on a scale of 0 as cold to 100 as warm. A 50 would reflect no particular positive or negative feeling about a religious group. In this report, prior to the Gaza spectacle, Muslims were dead last compared to all other groups, including Atheists. Forty-One percent of respondents placed scores of 33 or below for Muslims, which I find pretty sad and perhaps not representative of where I live.
Fortunately for my family, we live in a relatively affluent suburban Chicago setting with an abundance of educational institutions, houses of worship for many religions, and a fairly large non-segregated population of Muslims. Many of them hold advanced degrees and professional employment.
In retrospect, I noted that when the U.S. economy took a hard pullback a few years ago, it seemed that store clerks were friendlier than they’d been in the past. Looking around the malls, I found a greater percentage of Muslim patrons making purchases than other shoppers. Maybe the cashiers were the first ones to realize the value of Muslim purchasing power.
Even yesterday, I was acknowledged with a smile and friendly “Hi there!” initiated by non-Muslim women in two separate incidents while walking through parking lots at the local community college and at Whole Foods Market. I felt hopeful that the gloomy implications informed by the Pew reports were not representative of every part of the United States.
With this data though, I am asking everyone to help make ‘The Strangers’ documentary a reality. My friends, Abdalhamid Evans and Salama Evans, who are also on the founding team of the American Halal Association, have been working on a film project which is critical to changing erroneous perceptions about Muslims. Their story about a misfit group of hippies who stumbled upon Islam, converted, and created a community about 40 years ago in the town of Norwich, UK, is a story which needs to be told. Please read about their amazing story and see them in the film trailer. Then give a bit of help to this project and share with your friends. It could make a positive move toward reigniting compassion, illuminate hearts, and dispel the ignorance out there. At least get a T-shirt and warm things up for the next Pew report. http://halalfocus.net/the-strangers-documentary-essential-viewing/
Ramadan typically entails much reflection about one’s life and deeds, and this one has focus, sadness, and frustration over the increasingly dangerous situation in the Middle East.
From my memories of living under occupation in the West Bank of Palestine in segmented episodes over the 80s and 90s, recollections on the uprising in Tahrir Square and subsequent coup in Egypt, the massacres of civilians in Syria and Iraq, famine in Sudan, and smoldering discontent of citizens in Saudi Arabia and Jordan, there is a heaviness to this Ramadan like none other.
Fasting seventeen hours a day has not been as fearsome as anticipated, but neither has it been very productive. Mercifully, the cooler than normal temperatures are interpreted as a favor. I have many tasks to do, but I am not burdened with the worry of deadlines. My days typically start at 11 a.m. and end at 5 a.m., with an hour nap sometime between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. The disruption in normal working schedule gives me the night to attend taraweeh prayers at the mosque where I hear the recitation of Qur’an, and I have the chance to read, put time into my social media assignments, and write.
Listening to Qur’an is like putting salve on the heart’s wounds, and making supplication for the ease of people’s suffering may seem shallow in power. Yet, I am reminded of the Qur’anic ayah, “…Allah is the best of planners…” (8:30).
Though the situation may at times seem hopeless, I am also reminded that God gives the hateful people ample opportunity to rectify their deeds. When they eschew choosing compassion and are blinded by base desires, they set judgment against their souls.
A range of criticisms and areas of misunderstanding about Islam are explained quite well by a blogger I reference here. I hope it is useful.
Meanwhile, I highly recommend an hour long panel session from the Aspen Ideas conference, titled “What Will The Map of the Middle East Look Like?” In it, one of the experts cited our collective angst when our own government sanctioned the murder of 4, only 4, Kent State demonstrators. Think how people in other countries feel when whole groups of innocents are murdered by armed authorities?
When will people realize that we are one human family? Compassion is the weapon against hatred, and it is slipping from society.
It strikes me that the only solution is to stop the financing of war machines and mediate grassroots parties into a semblance of democracy or shurah, which is recognized Islamically as dialogue and collective decision making between relevant parties. Even the historic Iroquois League set the example of this model’s value, and the forefathers of our Constitution saw its utility.
This is my humble contribution to suggest that violence and military intervention are ill advised, but a framework of society building could best resolve the mess.
In tandem with this understanding, I learned of the death of one of my elder cousins. Over the years, he’d been what could be described as down and out, and he became typically inebriated and had failing health. Not many of the relatives cared to maintain contact, and he quietly lived out his days downstate until he peacefully passed away in his sleep.
What I consider his greatest achievement was that he patiently endured his problems and maintained a heart of gold. In spite of the cynics around him, through our occasional conversations I could tell that he stayed compassionate; and he leaves an adult daughter with the same quality.
Success has many definitions, but I think the greatest success is when one leaves this life Pure. Ultimately, the rites of Islam aim to purify us, and a soft heart is a good reflection of the quality of purity in a person.
May our hearts stay soft, our supplications answered, and may we endure our trials with dignity and with steadfast faith. Amen.
As printed in ISNA’s Islamic Horizons May/June 2014
It was April 2013 in southern California, and no one wanted to leave the secret venue which gathered entrepreneurs, investors, and other business people who would serve as mentors. The air was charged with mutual admiration as over $200,000 was secured by some people who had presented their business plans for a mere 6 minutes. Afterward, networking gave critical connections, solutions, and encouragement to several attendees who traveled from all over the nation. This was a solution to resolve an economy in a tailspin–a breakthrough to mend something long broken.
Income inequality in the U.S. was minimal in the 1970s, as Harvard economist Larry Katz described, “Americans grew together.” Since then a world-wide growing disparity has shifted, fueled by globalization, to affect U.S. wealth distribution, whereby in 2011 Michael Norton and Dan Ariely of Harvard Business School noted that the top 20 percent own 84 percent of total wealth.
Following the 2008 financial crisis, The Great Recession saw 9 million American jobs eliminated and cited an income recovery reported for 2009-2010 of 2.3 percent; however, economist Emmanuel Saez corrected that perception by revealing that for 99 percent of Americans, there really was no recovery at all. In fact, most people’s incomes only rose a scant 0.2 percent, while the upper crust–the 1 percent–experienced a recovery of 11.6 percent, as discussed in Chrystia Freeland’s Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else (Penguin, 2013).
Freeland writes about Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) who in his address, “The American Idea,” at the Heritage Foundation in 2011 said, “[the] true sources of inequality in our country [are] corporate welfare that enriches the powerful and empty promises that betray the powerless.” He disparages “a class of bureaucrats and connected crony capitalists trying to rise above the rest of us, call the shots, rig the rules, and preserve their place atop society.”
The 2008-09 recession left an estimated 24 million Americans unemployed or underemployed, and a lethargy economy threatening a global scale collapse, which can only theoretically be avoided if our mindset is refocused toward entrepreneurship, new business. Gone are the days when one could aspire to a protected job with benefits and comfortable pension. Education–initially conceived to prepare disciplined Prussian soldiers and then corporate workers–has broadened its scope to embrace innovators, creative designers, and problem solvers across a range of integrated disciplines capable of working collaboratively and willing to pursue lifelong knowledge and skills acquisition. It is the new reality, as massive challenges such as global warming, fresh water shortages, nuclear waste, and world hunger call upon us to offer solutions in order to survive. A crippled economy greatly contracts conventional practices, and ambitious initiatives are required.
Luigi Zingales, author of A Capitalism for the People: Recapturing the Last Genius of American Prosperity (2012), wrote, “When the pilgrims planned their trip, they did not ask the government for money; they asked private investors. When Abraham Lincoln’s family left Kentucky in search of new pastures in Illinois, they did not ask the government for money. When more than 300,000 people rushed to California in search of gold, they were not subsidized by the government.” The reality is that we can only rely on Allah’s guidance and need to step up, take responsibility, and help each other toward prosperity and protection for the common good.
An entrepreneurial dynamism is rising and adaptability is the order. John Dearie and Courtney Geduldig, authors of Where the Jobs Are: Entrepreneurship and the Soul of the American Economy (2013), met over 200 of America’s entrepreneurs one summer on a cross country road trip, and they found that, although not always stable, new businesses could expand employment rapidly; their policy needs are different from established, larger corporations; and that they need help, which policies could provide as nurturance to start-ups. This spirit is fueling a trend which holds much promise for economic recovery, hopefully of a sustainable sort.
Known to many fans as Baba Ali from Ummahfilms.com, Ali Ardekani loved watching Shark Tank on television, and he had gone to family and friends to fund his idea to create a boxed game product for Muslims. It was successful on a small scale, and he enjoyed meeting new people and making connections. Ultimately, he decided that he could leverage his growing popularity to help other budding entrepreneurs. And so, the California meeting was promoted through a YouTube video by Ardekani using his style of video production and ebullient personality.
On the operational side of Ardekani’s celebrated gathering was Victoria Caldwell, an international online marketing consultant and founder of Barakah Biz Network, who promoted, organized, and supported this event (http://youtu.be/MXhtogWhsX0), and who continues to do so around the country in order to help people make resourceful connections that can take their businesses to the next level. Both Ardekani and Caldwell explain that often times once businesses have a successful start, they run short of resources, both financial and experiential. It becomes imperative to have guidance and to access connectors who have the capacity to make their businesses grow in an ever changing global landscape.
What Ardekani and Caldwell cultivate comes down to a climate of trust. By providing the opportunity for people who are seriously seeking mentors, connections, and investment, they help fuel the growth of an economic shift to self-sufficiency, the type that brings true wealth building and greater employment.
Ardekani says that many people don’t know how to brand their businesses and need advice on legal aspects. They also need help with online marketing and use of media. When asked about what types of businesses usually receive funding, he explained, “Whatever makes money; ideas that are novel are not as likely.” Successful models which are already functional that need growth revenue are mostly selected for investment.
Terms of funding are not overseen by the organizers of these events, as they are privately arranged between parties, but they could provide an opportunity for Islamic financial instruments to be a guide for the design of those terms. Rather than eroding the foundations of equity through charging interest (riba), a prospect of shared ownership with shared risk can be created to cement investor support to those businesses seeking funding and mentorship.
On a larger scale, another system proposed for economic robustness is evolving from LaunchPosse. Known for his founding success at Zabihah.com, Shahed Amanullah and his Georgetown colleague, Richard Ambrose, are partnering to create a model that can leverage social networks to provide resources for knowledge, money, and even moral support. It is the reality of necessity that propelled its inception.
Amanullah explained, “From this point on, there will never be enough jobs for people. How do we as a society address this issue? Either we accept the new reality of a permanent underclass, or we try to get people to start their own businesses, to employ themselves.” He refined his vision, “From those thoughts came the initial concept of LaunchPosse, which will be a platform where ordinary people can take an idea and leverage their social network to turn it into a functioning business or social enterprise.”
Meeting the global perspective of investors and entrepreneurs of the day, Amanullah is thinking big. When asked about if there were a relative age category or demographic he is seeking to work with, he stated, “We’re hoping to launch our new venture globally—we see no distinction between new businesses here or in places like Egypt, Honduras, Uganda, or Bangladesh. We are designing LaunchPosse to appeal to any age, class, or educational background. We are tired of seeing the benefits of technology roll solely to the digital elites.”
Regarding mentors in his system, he has met quite a few through his entrepreneurial and international work with the State Department. “We’ve found the ones that really motivate you, keep you on track, make you believe in yourself are the most important stakeholders in your success. The number one thing most budding entrepreneurs lack is confidence.”
A believer that aspirations can become reality, Amanullah expounds energy and a convincing argument, “We wanted to build a platform that every day, ordinary people could use to make their dreams come true. Entrepreneurship is a right that all people should enjoy, and we intend to make a successful business catering to the 99 percent of those who are not being pursued by VC’s and incubators.”
Many people are familiar with Robert Kiyosaki’s bestseller Rich Dad, Poor Dad which references a quadrant model that suggests the way to get out of the “rat race” and achieve financial independence is through business ownership or investment. Given the current economics, these networking models may be effective strategies to maintain a decent standard of living. If we continue to slide toward increasing unemployment, we will have to adapt to preserve stability and hope to thrive. Never before have common people had such access to the world; the question is how quickly can we prepare and serve it?
Yes, I started with “So.” Every day, for weeks now, I’ve been itching to write with funny thoughts, literary lines, and odd ramblings flowing from my brain. I’m the only one who gets to enjoy them.
I’ve struggled to settle on a single topic, and the possibilities range from humorous, reminiscent poetic, didactic, and even exasperated vents. Yet, I rarely sit with nothing to do, as I manage my household of 6, each day slips by without a word etched to my blog.
Want to Be Part of an Experiment? –in a few days I’ll tell you why
While starting my day with the usual morning bathroom routine (ahem), I contrived a strategy for keeping the writing skills juiced, as well as a potential method for those who think they can’t write or have writer’s block. Instead of formally composing, why not simply journal my odd observations and mental tangents to see what would be the result…?
…Looking at my face in the mirror, why do I have creases on both brow bones? I’m a side-sleeper, but should it really take 15 minutes to dissipate that evidence?!
…Why do I have grown children who leave their clothes, even after I remind them countless times, for a week on our bathroom floor (sigh)!?
…Breakfast is my favorite meal. Today, we have tea, bread, olive oil with zaatar (Greek oregano, sesame seeds, sumac), scrambled eggs, and fried sheep cheese from Palestine, which I share with my husband, Riad. Over breakfast, we review happenings on the stock market, the 60-some degree weather this morning, the fact that one of our adult children is leaving for college in one week, and the bank account. Oh, and the prospects of going to a water park, as Riad has never been initiated.
Over a robust cup of freshly ground coffee while enjoying my view from the patio, I calculate and negotiate the options for my schedule. Among them are the following:
Capture the chance for a morning bike ride
Grocery shop because it must be done today
Tackle the long “to do” list for developing my professional work
Visit a relative whose mother came recently and deliver to her my Eid gift
Pack a box of books from my basement and run them to the Book Rescue
As a former assistant principal, I’m trained to prioritize, constantly reevaluate and prioritize again. However, first I’ll choose to read two pages from Qur’an. It’s better than vitamins, and keeps my Arabic skills intact.
Decided. Pack a box of books, drive in a loop to the next town to drop off, after a bank deposit, and pick up groceries at 3 stores en route before returning home. I have an appointment with my Dad at a wound clinic in 2 hours. The race is on!
…On 2nd thought, the van is still a mess from the Eid weekend camping trip and needs a wash and vacuum. With Dad about 40 minutes away, who am I kidding?! Pack books, jump in van and plan to shop after Dad’s appointment.
While power washing the van to blast off the sticky residue of blackberries—or was it raccoon scat with blackberries?—I recollected the monumental blackberry tree we had in our village in the occupied West Bank. One of the nephews cleared it in order to build some market stalls on the property, which enraged the family, but that led my mind (incredible what thoughts come while washing your car for 3 minutes) to a little flashback.
I had baby #3 in Jerusalem and lived with my sister-in-law and my other two youngsters in the West Bank, while my husband went to explore business prospects in Saudi Arabia, staying with his brother for 6 months. One night, Israeli soldiers came banging on our porch door wanting to take a population survey, a sort of census. In our nighties, we covered in prayer dresses and felt vulnerable because they had rifles, but my sister-in-law stayed calm. She said that the “man of the house” was on a business trip. There was tension in the air. Even the soldier interviewing us seemed a bit uptight. Just then, my 4 year old daughter came to the door, sleepy-eyed; I spoke to her in English to go back inside the house.
The soldier asked in Arabic, “Do you have a car?” At that, my dearly clever sister-in-law covered her mouth with the hem of her headcovering and giggled, Wallah ciara, walla tiara!” (Not a car, not an airplane!). The rhyme gave ease to the situation and the soldier smiled and ended his intrusion, but the realization of potential alternative outcomes stayed with me.
Done with the bank; going to Dad’s– a 30 minute trip from here. The books are in the back of the van. I’m not planning on bringing the wheel chair. He uses a walker now, but we may opt to dose him with a bit of hydrocodone after debriding his heel and Achilles wounds. Today marks 3 months since the tumbling incident that started this.
Waiting at the Wound Clinic for the doctor, Dad came early and is ahead of schedule. After this, he wants to shop for produce; I may shoot two birds with one stone and do some of my own errands this way! His spirits are good and he said that sometimes he forgets his walker when moving about the kitchen. I can tell how active he’s been by how many sticky spots I clean off the floor each visit. Previously, I had to attend to change his bandages each day, except when his home health care nurse would come. Now, my sisters can also schedule in time using a Google Doc we share for that purpose.
The Wound Clinic doctor and main nurse are Irish-American; Dad chose to don his kelly green St. Pat’s sweatshirt. Tick Tock…even though we came twenty minutes early for our 1:00 p.m. appointment, it is 1:05…thinking of all the other things I could be doing. Surprisingly, Dad is not cantankerous yet at the delay. Perhaps he is listening to the court update on Jesse Jackson, Jr. and wife, or the chit chat between an elderly Chinese lady and her attending son, in Chinese. The world has changed a lot since he was a boy in Brighton Park, a neighborhood in Chicago.
1:10 Dad is funny. We have a new nurse today, Elizabeth, who is not Irish. He asked about Kelly, the Irish one, and mentions that he wore his sweatshirt just for her. Kelly is at lunch and may not see him today. For the millionth time over 3 months, he is asked about if he has pain, on a scale of 1-10… He looks at me and rolls his eyes at this point.
Alright, wound doc was optimistic and cited progress. That is only in millimeters, but still positive. He pulled the perimeter scabbing, hurting Dad. Better him than me doing it. Wound dressed and ready to go grocery shopping with hopes to get him back on the golf course by the end of September, if even only on the practice putting green. I had my own first foray of the year on Monday; 9 holes and wishing for more, but the short game killed me. Practice…
2:00 We are on the road again toward the produce market.
3:10 I’m running a tune-up on Dad’s computer because he complained that it was horribly slow. While waiting, knowing he has eaten nothing but a banana, coffee, and orange juice all day, I offer to make him lunch. What does he choose? Corn! “Where’s the wound healing, body building protein in that?” I ask him. We agreed he add some Greek yogurt to that order. Sugar/carb addiction runs in my genes, but fortunately we have no diabetes.
Two of my kids and a friend send texts to me about dinner, my whereabouts, and evening plans. I’d check in with Riad, but assume he is busy now.
Decide to email my siblings about Dad’s doctor visit. We will go to every other day bandaging since his drainage is decreasing. Computer is still in tune-up mode.
3:45 Done! Need to run to buy my Halal chicken and specialty items from the Mediterranean Market close to home and get cooking. Checked in with Riad; business was good today. Whew!
Remembering the books in the back of the van and the folding chairs we packed to see Perseid meteorites a couple days ago by our relatives in the boondocks, exurbs of Chicago.
4:05 Very sleepy, I have 2 more miles till the next tollway exit.
Yay! The Book Rescue was still open to take my donation. Next, I’m going to the health food store to buy some Redmond (UT) salt and coconut oil, then to the Mediterranean Market.
Upon exiting the health food store, I saw a man I recognized as a parent from my former school. “Assalamu alaikum,” he greeted me kindly. It’s nice to see people in my town that recognize each other. We have a rather large population of Muslims of diverse backgrounds. This man I recalled worked at McDonald’s headquarters nearby.
If you’ve been following this blog, you might ask, “What happened to California?” Well, we would still love to relocate, but the reality is that 3 kids in college and their still unstable, dependent statuses have us pigeonholed here awhile. We also have a teenager who has decent friends, and is still at an impressionable age. It is sensible to keep that support for him. Truth be known, there are many positive aspects to living near Chicago, but I do take exception to the weather, especially the long cold season that inhibits our love of doing things outdoors. For now, if we can afford to escape a few times during that long spell, I would be satisfied. However, I do hold visions of relocating in the future when parental obligations lighten.
Also, this past Ramadan, a segment of my community started a new mosque. Lacking a building for worship though, they contracted the local high school gym during the month long evening Taraweeh prayers and hired a wonderful reciter (Qari) of the Qur’an. There, I saw many former students and teachers that just made me feel wonderful to be in their company. Even a former teacher is First Violin of the DuPage Symphony Orchestra; she was so kind to offer me tickets to their October Tchaikovsy concert. I have invited my nephew, a young cellist, to join me, and I am so much looking forward to that!
At the Mediterranean Market, I saw another lady who referred me to her brother-in-law in Ohio. He was my expert consultant on an article I wrote about keeping fit in Ramadan last year. I noticed through Facebook that he has been having some health issues requiring surgeries, so we had a chance to catch up and I learned more details on his struggles.
I thought about squeezing in a bike ride as I drove home, but Riad greeted me and did not feel like biking. Quickly, I pray the last few minutes possible for Thuhr, the mid-day prayer, and also catch the starting time for Asr, the mid-afternoon prayer. Finding the best way to acquire good habits is to tag on to existing habits, I do 15 push-ups and 30 squats for exercise. We have yet to return to the gym schedule after Ramadan.
Throw the folding chairs from the van into the garage and replace 3 broken slabs of jalousie glass panes before making dinner.
5:00 Time to Cook!
Cooking time usually is when my kids know that they can get my ear when I’m in the kitchen. I really don’t love cooking, to tell the truth, but sometimes I can get into it. During Ramadan, it was not unusual to be stuck there for 5 hours at a time, but my family is spoiled to an extent. The kids generally don’t eat breakfast, but they do want a hearty dinner. That is where I put effort and often about 3 hours of my day, but I have plans for 7:00 p.m. so I have to rush.
Why did the recipe state that 3-4 minutes on each side would brown chicken thighs?! It took 30 minutes! I had Moroccan Chicken Stew (magazine recipe) and a steamed kale, turkey bacon, and apple combo as a side dish. Sure enough, two of my sons take time to brief me on their day while I cook, and one acquiesced to take the picture of me cooking for a new Facebook profile pic.
Wolfing down dinner, it is 6:50 and I have to race to mid-town to see my friend, Yvonne of My Halal Kitchen, present at 7:00 at our local library. My daughter, her friend, and fiancé will attend too.
Presented by Yvonne Maffei, she outlined the basics of Islam, the wide array of Muslims representing many cultures and nations, aspects of the lunar month of Ramadan, understandings of Halal and Tayeb (Wholesomeness), fasting rituals in a typical day, the growth of fusion cuisine in America, Eid traditions, and my favorite…dessert demo: Stuffed Dates with Crème Fraish!
Back Home Again and Still Crankin’
9:00 Home again after Yvonne’s presentation, and I have to perform the sunset prayer. The kitchen needs post-dinner clean up, since I ran out the door with my husband still eating.
9:45 It’s time for a 4 mile walk with Riad, whereby we talk and listen to background tunes on Pandora via our phones.
11:00 Back from our walk; one of my sisters calls with news of a conference she recently attended for promotional products professionals, and we trade opinions on Dad’s care. I’m snacking on grape tomatoes and Gouda cheese. My eldest son comes home from a camping and fishing trip, and he debriefs with me by the kitchen table.
12:15 Time to pray, shower, and then my daughter visits us in the bedroom to re-cap on Yvonne’s presentation and how pictures of samosas inspired her and her fiancé to go to an Indian restaurant for late dinner. I’m really tired, but now everyone has touched base with “Mom” and one kid is still out running a nighttime neighborhood blitz type of game with friends. I decide to finally check in on Facebook, as I’d not had a chance to do so yet in the day.
12:50 My last kid is in and I’m signing off with plans to be up at 4:00 for my thyroid medicine, 5:00 for fajr, the dawn prayer, and start a new day by 8:30. Love the summer schedule!
There never was time to write a formal blog, per se, but time to write throughout the day. Somehow it gave me relief to purge out the extension I wished to make and document what seems like a crazed existence, but a happy one. Would you consider this a valid exercise for getting students/writers to express themselves and practice editing?
School’s out, but there are plenty of opportunities for learning. With Ramadan coinciding with summer break, I have plenty of thoughts toward trying out some new things. After all, life-long learning is what it is all about, and these ideas are not just for kids.
Why not begin with expanding culinary skills? The reality of Ramadan is that we do spend a lot of time thinking about food, cooking extra special feasts, and breaking our very long fasts with family and friends. To inspire you, Yvonne Maffei of My Halal Kitchen has published Summer Ramadan Cooking. She hails from a Sicilian and Puerto Rican parentage; and she has such fondness for many cuisines that her cookbook features many traditional and fusion dishes. Yvonne is very much in demand as a blogger, is often interviewed by the media, teaches cooking classes, and is an advocate of a Halal lifestyle. She is also a talented food photographer, and you will enjoy drooling over her pictures even if you don’t lift a spoon!
In Ramadan, we don’t merely dwell on food, we also seek to improve our knowledge of the Holy Qur’an and the Arabic language. The Qur’an is recited each of the 29-30 days of Ramadan, and hearing a beautiful recitation is one of the best aspects of the month. We usually finish our sunset meal, known as iftar, and quickly clean up the kitchen to ready ourselves for the evening and night prayers, isha and taraweeh. Taraweeh involves reciting 1/30th of the Qur’an each night, and it recharges one’s spirit, commitment, and relationship to Allah. However, I can attest that the benefits of Ramadan are proportional to the efforts one applies to it, and we all could use some supportive reminders to use time well because the holy month features bonuses not received at other times.
The Prophet Mohammad said, “Whoever reads a letter from the Book of Allah will receive a hasanah (good deed) from it, and the hasanah is multiplied by ten. I do not say that Alif Lam Meem is (considered) a letter, rather, Alif is a letter, Laam is a letter, and Meem is a letter.” [At-Tirmidhi, Ad-Darimi]
In Ramadan, good deeds are multiplied by 70 or more. The Prophet said, “Whoever draws near to Allah during it (Ramadan) with a single characteristic from the characteristics of (voluntary) goodness, he is like whoever performs an obligatory act in other times. And whoever performs an obligatory act during it, he is like whoever performed seventy obligatory acts in other times.” [Sahih Ibn Khuzaymah, no. 1877]
While for non-native Arabic speakers, the task of reading the Qur’an in Arabic is a significant challenge, take heart. Aisha, who was the youngest wife and frequent transmitter of testimony about the Prophet’s daily life, quoted him, “Verily the one who recites the Qur’an beautifully, smoothly, and precisely, he will be in the company of the noble and obedient angels. And as for the one who recites with difficulty, stammering or stumbling through its verses, then he will have twice that reward.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim] –Nice to know that I’ll get a generous recompense for my efforts!
Although the mainstay identifier of Ramadan is the fasting, it should be acknowledged that relationships are a priority to reflect upon and improve. Tahera Ahmad, another wonderful soul I have had the pleasure of knowing, wrote about the importance of Relationships to Ramadan, and I was very pleased when the deeper essence of Ramadan and our understanding of it came up in conversation within my home.
My daughter has a friend who recently took a break from college to complete a ten month program in Texas at Bayyinah Institute, and she gained great insights from the esteemed founder Nouman Ali Khan. The girls’ discussions and subsequent study of online resources produced by him evolved in an initial gathering of moms and their kids to open a number of topics related to being Muslim in America, wearing hijab, studying the Qur’an, nuances of the Arabic language, and we hope to continue these meetings with husbands included. We’ll see how it goes; but it occurred to me that this type of gathering, featuring multiple generations and perspectives, may also provide a venue to transmit oral histories and wisdom to be passed to our progeny. It is said that the Devil is locked away in Ramadan, and I hope topics can be discussed with mutual respect, devoid of discord.
Technology & Arts
With these unstructured days of summer, it is my hope that we can all explore some new applications of technology. Whether we are teachers, students, or just casual dabblers in nascent apps, there could be no loss in acquiring practice in something new. This video presents possibilities and features links to further resources.
On a concluding note, it has been nearly two months since my father fell in his yard, and although he has suffered and continues to convalesce at home with me and my siblings rotating constant supervision, our relationships have greatly improved and I have treasured the fortification of our family bonds.
Thoughts of death, and preparation for the eventual absence of my life, have helped the depth of my worship (ibadah) and connection to Allah. I am reminded of my responsibility to prepare myself and those around me for the inevitable journey, and I greatly appreciate the time, people, and experiences that have been gifted to me. I am optimistic that soon my father and children will be able to be more independent by the end of this summer, and I have many things I wish to pursue with a renewed sense of mission and energy. This time of reflection, course correction, salutations from distant souls, and chance to gain exponential good deeds (barakat) and warm memories with those close to me is precious.