A Matter of Heart (broken) and Soul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Greatest Power

Green hummingbirdAmid the horrific headlines bringing distress over Syria, continued subjugation of the Palestinians, vituperation and bullying of immigrants and minorities, and environmental and economic dangers, it is time to acknowledge the greatest power in the universe.

Recently returned from Costa Rica, one of my children shared divinely inspired photos and videos of their adventures to the Pacific Ocean, Arenal Volcano, and the cloud forest of Monteverde. Awareness of the vitality in nature struck a contrast to the fragile, artificial urban environment we call home. The disconnect with the greatest power in the universe has led to greed, arrogance, violence, despair, and predatory injustice. Many people are drowning in depression, drug and alcohol addiction, and mind numbing pastimes in order to cope.

As the NFL draft picks are taking place in Chicago, my husband noted the high degree of commercialization and profiteering he has witnessed. It is with apperception that I find parallels with ancient Rome when corrupt aristocrats led the ignorant and impoverished people to be placated with bread and gladiator events, which were meant to quell potential rebellions. We are being “entertained” so as to not rebel against the sources of our distress, and “others” are being cast as scapegoats to account for the common man’s plights.

Such contrasts are apparent. We try to educate to promote critical thinking; yet, our media feeds us predigested sound bytes and program our expressions. Several pop celebrities debase humanity’s morals and seduce us with false confectionary-like goals of fame, fortune, and public affection. The majority of presidential candidates offer us two-faced lies and demonstrate ill manners with aplomb, while we educators try to promote virtues like honesty, mutual respect, fair play, and honor. It is vexing how convoluted society’s values have become since my youth. Yet, with reference to history, I am not optimistic, but I seek refuge from the greatest power in the universe.

This power has given us capacity to decide and act, and I choose to resist by exemplifying virtue, reliance on my own senses, prayer, and diligence to keep aware of corrupting influences for myself and my family. I believe that if we work as a tribe for goodness, regardless of nationality, religion, or other polarizing divisions, we have a chance to live on our own terms as one identity-Humanity.

“The truth has arrived, and falsehood will vanish, for falsehood always vanishes!”               –Al Isra’, (The Night Journey, 17:81).

Multipotentialite: How I Connect Business and Education

IMG_1473 Multipotentialite: How I Connect Business and Education

They said, “You have to choose between Business and Education.” But they complemented each other, and I always knew it in my gut that I belong comfortably in both realms. Similarly, students are relegated to silos of educational disciplines via courses or major declarations, but reality dictates that integrated knowledge provides greater bases for decisions. That is one of the reasons I created Genius School, Inc.

There is a term for people like me, I am a multipotentialite. That is, I have a lot of knowledge, strengths, and areas of insight and experience. Chalk it up to 50 plus years of living and having a low threshold for boredom. In fact, I have a joie de vie for learning all kinds of things, which I believe garner me the right to crow a bit about them.

With humility, I do have some weaknesses; but at the end of the day I am a teacher. And although my LinkedIn profile chronicles my professional climb, there is much more in my bag of resources and network.

Through my escapades I have designed and sold both residential and commercial security systems. There were also sales ventures of clothing, fine furs, skin care, Native American pottery and jewelry. I’ve mastered a number of eclectic cuisines, created various marketing campaigns, taught myself and made money while staying home with my kids doing medical transcription, taught elementary Arabic, middle and high school social studies courses, homeschooled one of my children, taught standardized test reviews, became a school guidance counselor, managed a diverse staff when I served as a school administrator, provided training to schools, managed a number of professional development events and am an accreditation specialist. I have sourced and shipped container loads of products overseas through one of my companies, counseled business owners, taught entrepreneurship workshops, put together a trade magazine, written articles, promoted other companies and organizations, and designed and managed websites and social media campaigns. On the home front, I have painted, gardened, fixed plumbing, changed countertops, installed ceramic flooring, changed the sump pump, repaired electrical wiring and installed fixtures, and handled basic automotive maintenance. Lately, I am exploring several aspects of visual content creation for another of my businesses. Besides these, I enjoy dabbling in foreign languages, various forms of athletic pursuits, and reading up on the environment, geography, nutrition, and medicine.

In some cultures, one gets shot down for bragging about accomplishments; but I think having done a lot has seasoned and gifted me with wisdom and the capacity to teach and help other people to learn, create, and build.

Education is the common denominator; business is the instrument to actualize that knowledge for the benefit of mankind. I have been truly blessed that I can indulge my curiosity on a number of fronts. That diversity is what characterizes a multipotentialite. If you want to know more about this topic, visit puttylike.com. Who wants to join me?

Health is Wealth

Picture1 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.

For those near Chicago, Whipping Up An Income (for Entrepreneurial Women) may be for you. It will feature Yvonne Maffei of My Halal Kitchen and Susan Labadi of Genius School, Inc. It happens this weekend, so get your tickets now.

Space, Time, and Zilzar

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Pause at the vastness of space, and ponder our place in the universe. We all have a role to play, though we may seem insignificant compared to the magnitude of Creation.

The film, Interstellar, starring Matthew McConaughey, is a must-see because it allowed me to ponder Creation and the Creator. The movie will find favor from physicists, mathematicians, and astronomers because it validates these sciences relative to the impending threats to our collective existence.

The story takes place a bit into the future when fertile America has become a dust bowl and startlingly suffers from volatile weather all over our fragile planet. It presents deception perpetrated by governments and the fabrication of events to maintain social order.

The film has a poignant scene whereby a school teacher contends that federally sanctioned history books inform that the Apollo missions were all a hoax designed to bankrupt the Soviet Union into spending on space research; yet, she is unaware that NASA really does exist on a covert basis under an alias so as not to upset people who struggle to find food and staple crops not yet extinct.

It would be pivotal if this movie sparks more students to study physics, math, and computer science, as well as agriculture, botany, and environmental studies because the scenario graphically revealed in this film could be a catalyst to a generation of scientists motivated and inspired like we were in the 1960s.

There are also concepts of time relative in distance and the transcendence of love. As the protagonist, played by McConaughey, leaves his family for outer space, the phenomena of time travel and parallelism are well rendered. The story had deeper significance for me too because as he understands the gravity (pun) of his decision, I am also considering a potential solo travel to a school principalship in Malaysia for at least two years. The thoughts of separation from my family arose as I watched the film. We are awaiting bureaucratic progress (an oxymoron) before finalizing the decision to purchase tickets to explore the prospects firsthand, and there are many factors to weigh.

The school is striving to open for the January term, but that adds more conflict to my decision since I am slated to present on the topic of teacher and principal evaluations at the West Coast ISNA Education Forum in that month, and I am serving on another forum planning team for their spring conference.

Adding to the time/distance hyper awareness are the facts that my spouse has been in Jordan and the West Bank for three weeks (+8 hours), I tackled an extensive editing job for Thomson Reuters’ Dubai office (+9 hours), a friend in the UK (+7 hours) has been giving me counsel about Malaysia (+14 hours), and members of my education forums are in California (-2 hours); so that, combined with my kids’ late night schedules, has me mentally flexing a lot. It makes for a cerebral time warp, and I feel compelled to get up and work after 4 hours of sleep. I do force myself to stay under the covers though, even if I’d spent the past hour sending messages from bed on my smartphone.

The saying, “Like ships that pass in the night,” comes to mind as my husband will land just 45 minutes after my son and I fly to New Jersey for the American Muslim Consumer Conference where I will once again be the emcee. It is an event that I am greatly looking forward to because the folks there are dynamic, and they are doing great things for the world via commerce.

Also relating to commerce are two more things, DHL and Zilzar. DHL Express hosted a luncheon meeting this past week and featured a speaker who stated that 87 percent of global commerce and 90 percent of consumers are outside the U.S. He essentially made the point to the representatives of companies in the audience that they had better be doing business outside the U.S. With significant numbers of people unemployed or underemployed, and many of my generation considered obsolete and out of touch with the global economy, this brings me to appreciate Zilzar.

Zilzar could be the next eBay or Alibaba, in that it levels the playing field to benefit small to mid-size enterprises (SMEs) through an online platform intended to facilitate trade, communication, and provide access to an evolving global community who do not really perceive national borderlines. This is my world!

Subscribers can register with no charge and are welcome to just read content, access and participate in the information exchange, or they can have free virtual storefronts to do business with the world. MasterCard has signed on to securely handle transactions.

This portal recently launched on October 29, so don’t be put off by some sparsity. Get in on the ground floor. Leaders will be more visible on this site compared to eBay or Amazon where it is hard to get noticed and where sellers are paying increasingly higher fees for listing and transactions. I am going to be promoting Zilzar over the next year because I believe in it, but I would encourage everyone to sign on for at least an account to see where this company goes. The world is not flat and potential is enormous!

You can get a better sense of it from this YouTube video http://youtu.be/1fh3gTZykCo

It’s About Love & Gifts

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Appreciation notes from my students were gratifying aspects of my career as a teacher. If only I’d kept more of them. I found this one as I was cleaning out a dresser, and I love it when former students—now adults—care to “friend” me on Facebook and when I see them succeed various milestones of life.

After all, I always felt that each of them was my kid, and even though the boys and girls are now fully adult men and women, some married and some with children, I remember just about all of them. I guess that I must have done something right.

As we approach the start of another school year, I’m missing the classroom a bit, and have genuine appreciation for the gifts given to me. I am a teacher.

For this reason, if the reader will permit, I want to share and highly recommend a book I received from my daughter, who was gifted with it by her cousin prior to her two month journey to teach, tour, and connect with family in Turkey and Jordan.

Reclaim Your HeartReclaim Your Heart by Yasmin Mogahed taught me that all we tend to put in our heart—our relationships, the value of our intellect, looks, health, wealth, position, and possessions—are actually gifts. Such gifts should be kept in the hand though, not the heart. For the heart is only for the Creator, and gifts bestowed to us are eventually taken away.

If such valuable gifts reside in the heart, they become objects of coveting and obsession; and when removed, they create such deep pain from their loss. We miscalculate that they were given by The One, and we may not realize that the Creator gives what is best for us. Sometimes the revocation of a gift is meant to remind and draw us back to The One.

My daughter, despondent over the genocide in Gaza, asked her aunt if such a horrific situation—one of the most densely populated, essentially trapped and defenseless populations being killed like ‘fish in a bucket’—if it depressed her? Her wise aunt stated, “Allah created mankind to be forgetful, and it is a gift.” Those of us who have lost mothers never forget the strength of our bond; yet, we are able to function because we are able to forget, accept, and continue.

In Islam, families mourn for three days; then they are expected to accept God’s Will and people move on. The loss of a spouse is certainly more disruptive, and two months is acceptable before re-engaging with the world. The point is to realize that we must accept; and we trust that The One gives what is best, no matter how seemingly tragic on the surface.

Given the circumstances in Gaza, I surmise that the haters and malevolent perpetrators will determine their eternal justice. Yet how humanity can generally ignore or misconstrue the situation, in spite of obvious media manipulation, I cannot fathom.

The Palestinians have transcended this world; their faith so solid as to recognize that this existence is fleeting, and so they greet their fate with resolve and capitulation to The One who can best serve justice. When people no longer fear death and accept it, they cannot be vanquished.

Our gifts, our blessings are to be cherished and preserved, but keep them in hand, not in the heart. Hope for their return, and better, as destiny proceeds.

We are members of the human family, and those who remember, care, serve, and educate others will find themselves in rank just under the prophets.

Be glad, patient, and share.

Nips & Glugs

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Nips & Glugs
Long time since my last post; and this update is just a sampling of “this n’ that”, which is why it’s titled Nips n’ Glugs. For the first nip, winter stunts outdoor recreation, and it reminds me of the story of Persephone. This mythological character was one of my favorites as a child, and although I may better resemble her mother Demeter, strongly identified as Mother Nature, the blithe image of Persephone is who I fantasize to be. If you are unfamiliar with the tale, Persephone was youthful, feminine, and beautiful. One day though, she happened to eat six seeds from a pomegranate and was abducted by Hades, the god of the Underworld, who captured her and made her his wife. Because of this, Persephone stays with him for a time each year, and Demeter in her grief covers the land with a blanket of white until her daughter’s spirited return when Demeter celebrates her arrival with the graces of spring. But while it is not spring yet, I try to endure the long stretch from December until nearly April when I can once again revel in the outdoors without suffering from the elements that restrict my favorite sports.

Today, I am exhilarated to have done a little cross country skiing—alone in a local park—before being pummeled by the next blast of super cold. Expecting a high temperature for the day of -12 on Monday, I was pleased when finally my youngest son acquiesced to shop for a winter coat…on sale. God bless my kids, for doing all they can to keep costs low in some areas like textbooks and shopping clearance sales.

Skiing brought a burst of energy unexpected. The folks at the post office were chatting and informed me that this is the most snow we’ve had in 20 years, and it is reminiscent of the snows of my childhood, though that was more than 2x twenty years. Upon my return from trail blazing and working up a sweat, I tidied up the breakfast dishes— left behind leftovers for my sleepy gang—did some laundry, and made pickled turnips with beets that dye the concoction a lovely magenta color. One can’t underestimate the value of their probiotics. Soon I aspire to make a homemade giardiniera with cauliflower, celery, garlic, jalapeno pepper, and carrots, an exquisite condiment to many dishes. For you see, while believing in hibernating as much as possible in winter, I also succumb to my instinct to eat well.

As I trade apples, salads and spinach-protein shakes for heavier fare and dessert (eating caramel gourmet popcorn from my sister now) in this season, I have coined the term “winter body.” Provided I stay within about 5 pounds, I’m going to enjoy the holiday trimmings and indulge. Strong faith in the “set point” and years of knowing that I just have to contend with “winter skin,” allay stress. For the first time I am treating dry limbs with grape seed oil after the shower. My only hesitation is that I recently thought about what happens to all grapes…eventually. Well, can’t win either way!

Some days just make one feel strong, and this is mine. After skiing, I went with my daughter to the gym. The glute buster program on the stepper machine was a breeze, and I lifted like Wonder Woman. Examining callouses on the joints adjacent to my palms, I feel younger and optimistic.

Getting my driver’s license renewed recently brought a certain excitement, like getting it for the first time. Along with the fee, I had to take a vision test to be recertified. Mind you that I’ve had slight myopia for about 30 years, and I did tell the middle-aged lady behind the counter that some days my vision is better and some days a bit worse. That particular day was not my best, buy somehow even though I stated that the last letter in the second set was “a C, or maybe it’s a D.” And for the last letter of the third set, “Ugh…I think it’s an O, but it could be a C.” She said brightly, “You passed! You don’t need your glasses to drive!” I thought she was insane, but I was grateful for deleting the restriction I’ve held like a bit of shame on my license for so long. Now, I keep my glasses with me and usually wear them; but on a clear vision day, I drive around my town with no problem without their glare. Hopefully, I can resume wearing my circa 1980’s Vuarnet sunglasses this summer…while playing golf. Now that’s a happy thought.

Lately, hounding thoughts about my children becoming too spoiled and used to me being home have prompted me to look at local college employment ads; and while there were a few prospects, I usually found something disagreeable that made me hesitant to apply. With three children in college, the strain has been significant as we—and they—sacrifice in order to help them succeed. Often I have recited to myself and in my prayers from the Qur’an, “With every difficulty comes relief.” (94:5)

Even though I am constantly busy either with family, self-care, or professional activities, I really have not had a stable income for over 4 years. Furthermore, there are always goals I keep to self-improve. My last blog was about speed reading, and I leveled around 475 words per minute at 90% comprehension at final testing. A few of the books I intended to read have been completed; but then I found a new one to add and realized that another book was part of a trilogy, so I chose to start Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz.

Also, along the area of self-improvement, I became aware that it had been a few years since I attended a local conference featuring education professionals who are adept at technology. The ICE Conference has always provided me with new tools to make teaching more interesting and interactive. Staying on top of trends in Education, even in international settings, interests me. That is why I was invited to reconnect to an education institution this week.

Now for the “Glug”: Beginning Monday, I will commence a new project—while still developing my own company and volunteering with the American Halal Association—as director of admissions and administration for Northwest Suburban College. A critical accreditation visit comes in two weeks which could qualify this young institution for FAFSA. It offers 7 allied health curriculums and 3 in basic sciences. One of its unique features is that successful completion of its pre-med program guarantees acceptance to Avalon University Medical School in Curacao. As with any new job I have a lot to learn, but the school’s list of needs matches well to my qualifications. Although initially it will be only on a part-time basis until enrollment grows, it is perfect and flexible to allow my personal businesses to continue as well. The only caveat though is that now my kids have to at least do the dishes!

Not a bad New Year’s resolution!