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).

First Snow and Family

IMG_1529 First Snow and Family
When the first snow of the season arrives, we pause to take in the beauty, and reflect on happy memories; then we remember how much we dread driving, shoveling, and tramping through its aftermath

I realized my kids were adults when they too matched my pattern of thinking. Now that the long driveway is shoveled, I recognize another habit of mind. It is gratitude for a warm house and someone to share it with, ample food, indoor plumbing-even though the water is initially very cold now—and appropriate clothing for this weather. My mind wanders to refugees and homeless folk who are suffering from the elements and so much more.

The world has been in a frenzy, which rose to an especially high pitch with events in Beirut and Paris, and my work has been cathartic and distracting me from depression over blatant hatred, ignorance, and violence. I’ve been immersed in research, editing, writing proposals, working on websites for a variety of clients in business and education sectors.

This snow made me pause, regroup, reflect, and commit to getting the people in my life back to top priority status. I feel bad to have had to delay visiting a small relative to celebrate a birthday, but first I need to schedule some parent time with my husband and our children because like the first snow, they don’t last for long.

Hangin’ On Through Ups and Downs

Misty

Misty

Hangin’ On Through Ups and Downs

Crazy, never boring, always challenging…these are apt descriptors of life with my family. Especially as my children become adults, my empathy seems to magnify in amplitude. Each has their own set of dramas, and with gravely sad news of deaths of people connected to my acquaintances, I find solace in reading the Qur’an. Of particular timeliness was today’s surah Al-Jathiya, of which I did not recall its meaning, so I read it silently in English before attempting my practice aloud in Arabic. Coincidentally—or not—came the welcome news that another acquaintance had received a legal reprieve that is most fortuitous.

I’d mentioned dramas…one is getting married, another is going to Italy for the summer, one is worried about health issues, and another is hoping to graduate early, yet has much coursework to complete without definite future plans. Oh, and we’re between visits of overseas relatives for a short spell, so we are getting a new roof. When the dumpster comes to do that, we hope to purge the house of 19 years worth of clutter so that we can sell it, hopefully.

Actually, that roof job was scheduled for this weekend, but the forecast of rain has it rescheduled so that we can have more time and flexibility to fete my youngest who is about to cross his 18th milestone in life. That is, he is my youngest child, for we have recently acquired a new member to our family, a bearded dragon, as in lizard, named Misty.

I suppose I’ve been a sucker for feeling badly that my son finds his siblings all moving out of our home in close succession, and so a pet seems to compensate some for that void. Now I get to start each day with initiating the heating lamp and find myself feeding collard greens, crickets, and wax worms by hand to this companion while I write curriculum and work on various projects from home. In a weird way, she’s kind of cute, and I never thought I would ever take a liking, much less own, a lizard. However, one of the benefits of having her is that we are selling my son’s video games to pay for her; therefore, I have started to declutter the house. Next, will be separation from years old clothes.

A friend shared a video with me about Marie Kondo, author of
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.
The gist of it is that we pile and sort each item, while holding it in our hands, to introspect if it gives us a “Spark Joy” feeling. I’m willing to try it for I really must be aggressive in lightening my load in anticipation that I may be anywhere within the next year, as we have no solid direction about where to relocate. We just have that sense that it is time to unload the house, be flexible and free to go. We may stay in the area in a townhome until our kids are more stable, but at least for winters a Mediterranean climate sounds divine!

Reminders about our age keep surfacing; and although we enjoy good health now, the efforts toward organic, gluten-free, minimizing sugars, and increasing exercise are becoming more heightened in our thoughts. Moderating stress, getting enough sleep, and reducing inflammation are all part of our goals that will play into the decision about where to go next. Because while reading Qur’an may assuage my mind and soul, I still have to be aware of what the ups and downs in life are doing to my body. A votre sante!

Love and Home

Doorway to English class

Love and Home
Is home the familiar place you land each night, or is home where your family gathers? I’d questioned this after being away from my home to attend the very successful and gratifying West Coast ISNA Education Forum recently in Anaheim, California, and also pursuant to shuffling several consecutive days between my home to cook the daily dinner, sleeping at my elderly father’s home to care for his needs, and working a temporary teaching assignment at my former school.
There are the comforting aspects of my home, like my own bed, my routines, seeing my husband and kids in our identified abode, known as home. Somehow, checking in over the telephone was not the same as face-to-face verification that they were healthy and happy.
Yet, while I evaluate, again, the prospect of getting the house ready for sale, I ponder if changing the familiar place in exchange for another is risking the setting that bonds us. If I move, will I disrupt that feeling of being home? Will I regret my decision? Or could it be that home is wherever the people I love are?
My extra few days to enjoy the companionship of friends in Redondo Beach and Glendale, California were enjoyable. Spending time with my dad in the home where I was raised was equally comfortable. Going back to teach in my former school, but in the new building addition, has also been touching a familiar chord. These clues may indicate that home is wherever the people I love are. The adage “home is where the heart is” comes to mind.
Could it be that with every place we go we may leave some favored aspects behind, but we can also create or design new niceties? I believe so; as life is full of change, the adaptable are those who thrive.
Fear may hold us back from opportunity if we are not open to new experiences, and that may mean that happiness may be unrealized. Yet, we never know. I recall many people who have left Chicago only to return because they tried some place new and did not find it to be better for them. Often times, they cited the fact that they missed their family and friends. Therefore, perhaps the strategy when relocating is to meet new people, contribute to the community, and grow new roots. Nice people can be found everywhere, and each new place needs leaders who can help.
Instructive to this point, my son mentioned that he likes community-based video games. He was chatting with three guys from Brazil yesterday, and he truly found satisfaction in connecting with them. He and his friends love this, and it is where he finds his community. Knowing this, I think that relocation will not be disruptive to him, as long as we still have the ability to physically be present to debrief each day. That will be the ultimate challenge though if we are distant from our other children. As a wife and mother, I realize that that is what defines home to me. It is not so much the place, because even meeting at a coffee shop to chat about the day can work; it is seeing those I love and knowing that they are doing well that brings me satisfaction. Home is wherever those I love are, and I want to enjoy my “home” everyday.

Sunday Morning Musings

2015-01-11_10-24-58_167 Sunday Morning Musings — As I peer out my living room window, a lady in a black maxi-length parka walks her little dog, the species unknown, encased in a pea soup green dog sweater. They gingerly cruise over the shoveled sidewalk and become yet another moment of this peaceful Sunday morning.

My Turkish coffee has no sugar, but I’ve grown used to it, while I ration my quota of sweets for the day. I’ve become more cognizant of what foods yield inflammation in my body, and I’ve limited gluten and foods that process into higher blood sugar. Not that I have diabetes, but in trying to avoid that becoming reality for my husband, we have modified our dietary choices. He reportedly feels better, and he starts each day with about 16 ounces of filtered water before breakfast.

The quiet morning is disrupted by the sizzle of the gluten-free steel cut oats boiling over onto the stove top and I hasten to switch burners because the first was doused out by the overflow. We’ll put walnuts, cinnamon, butter, and use monk fruit or stevia to sweeten it, in lieu of sugar.

The house remains still at 9:38, although we are now five in our family sharing this abode. One son has moved out and is working in the city as a nurse, and one has come home to visit before returning to his studies and job at college in Chicago. There is a lot to do before splitting my time this week between my home, my work at school, my father’s house, and a trip to LA scheduled for later this week.

For now though, I take in the white view and once again the lady with the dog appears, but this time she is on the opposite sidewalk allowing her dog to make his deposit by the red fire hydrant. She turns squarely to face me, but her focus is on her dog’s duty and her own trained hand to retrieve his waste in a doggie baggie.

The temperatures have risen to the mid 20’s Fahrenheit since last night when my youngest son and I trekked nearly 3 miles while listening to tunes on our phones and breathing the fresh air while most neighbors either were asleep or watching TV. I hope that today someone from my clan will join me for a hike in the woods nearby. We may even be lucky enough to see deer, as we did last time.

Next, I’ll need to write lesson plans for the temporary high school English teacher position I assumed at my former school. It’s great to see the kids!

Cookin’ & Scramblin’

2014-12-19_17-26-46_396 Since Dad fell Thanksgiving morn, life has been more race and juggle–with three different hospitals and encore stay at the rehab facility– instead of lithe and symphonic. The words don’t flow, although thoughts cascade from my mind and dissipate through the ether. Surely, there is a correlation between being outdoors reveling in nature and the fluidity of creating prose, but I’m blocked and choked inside by deadlines, dinner times, Dad’s physical therapy, and bed alarm chimes.

Yet, my favorite way to start the day is to have a cup of Turkish coffee in my pajamas while looking out my living room window in a quiet house. There I assemble my thoughts, check the weather, email, calendar, and task list from my phone. Then it’s time to dress, prepare breakfast for my clan, and start the day’s calculated plan.

Like a swarm of bees, the priorities shift within a menu of options…

  • Preparing to substitute for an English teacher who starts maternity leave in January, and I will get to teach Gatsby!
  • Working on a short-term accreditation project for a school in GA
  • Participating on two planning committees for Education Forums with a presentation in January
  • Completing design of a new iteration of a non-profit website with a Halal directory and discussion threads; plus the usual social media work I do for them
  • Posting and monitoring social media for a local college
  • Researching and writing another 1500 word magazine article
  • Promoting Zilzar.com. Zilzar should be a great platform to facilitate Halal trade globally
  • And several people have requested me to do presentations on entrepreneurial topics

Somehow a sense of balance is achieved by occasional relief activities like adding a few pieces to a jigsaw puzzle, catching a brief recovery nap, reading a magazine during a haircut, and taking time for a few YouTube clips.

It may seem a bit crazy, but I love the autonomy and variety in my life. Caring for people dear to me brings the best fulfillment. Here’s hoping 2015 provides the chance to keep what I like, learn and earn more, and keep health, happiness, and my loved ones on a solid track of success.

The Mad Scientist in Me

msc50cvr Before the regular football season games begin, I scurried to book activities into my schedule. For starters, after waiting about 30-some years for my parenting responsibilities to decrease, I’ve finally committed to a Motorcycling Basics and Licensure course along with my daughter and her fiancé. It has simply been one of those things, probably since watching James Bond films in my youth that hung on my bucketlist.

Another commitment has been to coordinate with my youngest son and his sister for an intermediate sign language course with our local park district. She has had two courses at university level and my son took the introductory course awhile back. I used to know at least the alphabet back in 7th grade when my girlfriend taught it to me so that we could have covert communications while our teacher’s back was turned! Wanting to keep the knowledge intact for my kids, I thought that I could bone up with some flashcards and join them in the advanced level class. You never know, as hearing is fading within some of our household bunch, it may come in handy one day!

We also have several MacBooks among us, and we have never taken any formal training. Fortunately, the Apple store offers free workshops in our area, so I’ve scheduled a suite of them over the next couple of weeks just to facilitate my use. I typically use a PC laptop and am entirely familiar with it, but there are certain features available to Mac users that I’d like to explore. Additionally, I have prospects of working with a colleague to coach teachers in the use of iPads, and I determined that I would benefit from picking up more tech skills that I can share.

Lastly, there are prospects to venture toward in open courseware. I am ready to make some decisions on what to schedule and in what order. While having some familiarity with several Learning Management Systems (LMS), I would certainly enjoy experiencing from a student’s perspective what notable professors are doing with online learning.

In the near term, I’m very excited about a photo shoot scheduled for tomorrow. My cronies have convinced me that I should consolidate my diverse businesses into a branded site. I envision a single portal which branches into each of my sectors that I am known for and for which I have already established some websites. We’ll see how that evolves. This is one for which I would appreciate any constructive feedback, www.geniusschoolonline.com. I’m aware that it still needs some edits.

My thoughts have been spanning space and time lately—while biking and weeding the garden—to my longtime friend Sheila, whom I met in 5th grade. To this day, we correspond twice a year, in the middle of winter and middle of summer. I was reminded of her today when a friend challenged me to cite 10 books that had somehow influenced my life. That list included the following:
The Holy Qur’an
The Mad Scientists Club
Siddhartha
The Road to Mecca
Rich Dad, Poor Dad
Fit For Life
The Jungle
Fahrenheit 451
See You At the Top
The Boy Who Sailed Around the World Alone

Sheila became my friend about the time I’d read The Mad Scientist Club, and that set my interest in science, skepticism of authority, and problem solving. I found a loyal friend in Sheila who was intelligent, industrious, and kind; while I was a bit of a tomboy, and found humor and novelty to be amenable to my personality–kind of like the boys of the book. Sheila was the voice of reason; I was the voice of “why not?” To this day, when we talk we find that we are still the same, and time and distance have not changed anything in our relationship and feelings are the same. In fact, we cry a bit at the conclusion of our calls. Writing is easier on the heart, and there is always so much to share.

Life has its struggles, and I suppose it is somewhat Freudian to be defensively impersonal while we course through each day mindful of how things are with each other. Work is cathartic and aspirations are running high for the means to be free and able to play like kids once more.