Invasive habits of “typical Americans”- an urgent call for Mindfulness.

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Ok, look- I KNOW I’m a naturalist. Ok ok, maybe a hippy. I KNOW I’m different.

I’m not different to be asinine. I’m different because I’m trying to practice more conscious living, which means that I’m thinking both for myself and wellness, and for that of others and the planet.

But let’s be honest- it’s not really a first-world habit to think about people outside of ourselves. We use more water, energy, and meat than other parts of the world. We didn’t really even start caring about Ebola until it came to the US. American’s, as a whole, tend to live in an elitist bubble.

What happens if you live in America and don’t ascribe to those values? What happens if you try to LIVE with someone, or around someone who is DIFFERENT?

Let’s start with awareness. This is an urgent call for mindfulness- community sustainability and collective responsibility to one another.

Here are some invasive habits that you might have and are not aware of how invasive they are. Granted, I know this might sound like a judgmental post. That’s probably pretty accurate. I think we all judge people who tread on the earth in a way that denies ownership. Aside from the fact that hippies get our own fair share of mockery, however, I think this stuff needs to be said.

1. Your air fresheners are literally air pollution.

They can kill small animals. Not only do they contain carcinogens, but they can trigger asthma and allergies. Fresh air and homemade food are the BEST smells for a home.

2. Other smelly stuff about your person is also air pollution and carcinogenic.

Perfume, laundry “soap” (and I use the term loosely), shampoo, body washes…all that crap is carcinogenic air pollution that offgasses into otherwise clean air. They also trigger asthma, allergies, headaches, and eczema. You’re not the only one smelling it- you smell like a walking perfume shop. That INCLUDES patchouli and nag champa. Let’s be considerate, eh?

3. Your plastic bags are SO 1990’s.

The only thing that says “I’m so lazy I can’t grab a bag from my back seat” MORE than, well, not grabbing a bag from your back seat, is someone who SNORTS at the idea and declares it inconvenient. Do you know what is less convenient than bringing your own bag? Dealing with a polluted planet.

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4. You might be processing out loud, but really, you’re unloading, and my peaceful center doesn’t mean I can be your baggage check.

Americans as a whole totally lack stress management. They don’t get enough sleep, they eat crap, they don’t make time for themselves, and they are workaholics (undoubtedly because of a lack of a living wage). But that doesn’t mean you need to leech onto people who DO have healthier lifestyle habits. They are leading by example. If you are stressed to the max and you have a friend who always seems calm, ask them for some tips- but don’t unload. It’s toxic. See a therapist or join a community support group. Local places of worship have them for free and often have childcare.

5. Frying food makes your house, your stuff, and your clothes SMELL.

And it clogs your arteries. Gross. Fry food on occasion. But everyday is overkill. I don’t want to smell like McDonalds, and that smell DOES waif through apartment buildings. It also discolors your drywall and parts of your kitchen.

6. Your idea of cleanliness is not the same as actual cleanliness.

Febreeze anyone? If something smells, clean it. But chemicals aren’t CLEAN. They’re dirty. They’re just a different kind of dirty. There are all sorts of ways you can deodorize a mildewy or dirty smelling environment, from baking soda to lemons. And if it’s your person, WASH. Washing with soap is usually the answer. Perfumey chemicals are not- and that includes “dish detergent”- which is NOT safe to eat. Period. All those chemicals also pollute our drinking water.

7. You use a LOT of electricity.

It seems like a no-brainer to save money, but few actually realize how things add up. Close the fridge. Turn off electronics at night. Turn off the lights. Stop putting things in the dryer. Its not that hard. Using electricity contributes to pollution.

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8. You make a LOT of garbage.

Pretty much everything you’re eating is in a package and we don’t get it. Perhaps even more baffling is that you’ve probably never read an ingredients label. But one thing at a time. If it comes in a package, it’s probably not real food. There are LOTS of ways around packaging, and if you start replacing packaged foods, you’ll notice your health improves.

Also, on that note, stop sending dye laden cupcakes to my kid’s school. If you want to give your kids red 40 and “juice”, that’s fine- but don’t shove it in MY kids face. Use some common sense. You know that stuff is crap. Maybe a “little bit won’t hurt” YOUR cheeto eating kid- but MY kid isn’t used to neurotoxins because we make daily conscious habits to avoid DRUGS. No one’s kids should be used to neurotoxins.

9. Speaking of which, no one litters anymore.

Do you poop where you sleep? Ok. Don’t pollute where you breathe or drink. It’s really that simple. You’re not an animal. If you WERE an animal, this would already be obvious.

10. Meat consumption is scary and feels like you’re handling a biohazard.

You’re handling a dead body where I put my food. I think that sums it up, but if you need specifics, most Americans eat factory farmed meat which is LADEN with extremely deadly bacteria. Not only are safe handling practices crucial, they require disinfecting with chemicals strong enough to kill the super bugs, so it’s one unhealthy habit on top of the next. From then on, meat is hazardous because it needs to be cooked properly AND it has to be stored and consumed properly. Very complicated, very mess, and very gross. It makes me sad.

11. You might be closed minded towards trying new things.

You think you’re right because you’re in the majority. But you know what? The Nazis had that mentality once. It just goes to show you that knowledge is VERY important before you make a judgement call. YOUR habits aren’t likely the result of thought and consideration, they’re undoubtedly because you learned them somewhere and everyone around you seemingly does the same thing. That doesn’t make it right or ok. If you think some of our habits are weird, there are ways to investigate why we do things by asking questions. “Hey, why do you wash your plastic bags?” is way more effective than “What the hell is THAT contraption and why are all these BAGS on it?”

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12. Your judgment of other people’s lifestyles is deflection.

We know you feel bad when we point out how your plastic bags are strangling sea turtles. But the answer is to change. Not to continue to be in denial. We’ll try to be tactful, but don’t try to argue with us that you can’t live without bacon. Pigs can’t live without bacon. So don’t mock my dietary habits because I will be ruthless.

13. You consume a LOT of sex and violence.

Everything you watch on tv is pretty much entertainment, including your “news”- fair enough. However, it’s sexist- which hurts women and molds the minds of young people, perpetuating inequality. Watching violence on tv actually perpetuates adrenaline addiction, and for some can trigger fight or flight- which believe it or not, contributes to your stress load- and also passively condones community violence. There’s also a LOT of consumerism on tv, which is a whole other issue. In short, cutting back on sexist and violent media would help you find your center, and make you more conscious of your actual surroundings. It would also save your children from adult content that they are being exposed to. Sex and violence aren’t for children. Go outside, and get some ACTUAL hobbies that don’t include tivo. Come visit your hippy neighbors. They’re not watching tv either. We usually have some home brew going too ;)

14. Your cancer rate is ridiculously higher than ours and it WILL effect us.

We’re afraid you’re going to die a long suffering death. That’s why we’re pushing. And you’re polluting our planet. Please stop.

15. Fashion is stupid.

Caring for your appearance- win. Caring about MY appearance- fail. In fact, it can be argued that fashion crazes contribute to consumerism habits, which increase personal debt (which can effect your partner), and it also objectifies ALL people, not just women. We know the connection to fashion trends, the media, and eating disorders- haven’t we evolved beyond “fashion”? Wear what makes you feel good- not what is “in”.

16. Speaking of consumerism…you have a LOT of stuff.

Ever get off the phone with someone who is coming to visit and have to scramble around to clean up? It’s because you have too much stuff. Even if you have a really clean house, clutter is hard to organize constantly, and even harder to clean around. But a lot of people shop for fun. It’s time we re-define fun. We don’t need that stuff. It doesn’t make us happy. And when we live with clutter bugs trying to fill their emptiness with stuff, it’s stressful and suffocating. I’ve written at length about the benefits about being minimalist but YOU don’t have to be. Just be mindful.

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17. Your poor self-care probably means you get sick easy and you’re exposing us.

Lack of sleep, and a Coke and cigarette diet mean a strained immune system. And while we do the complete opposite, we’re not superhuman. People who practice natural living understand the direct correlation between self care and wellness and we want you to start being an adult and investigate doing it for yourself instead of expecting us to suck it up. Ask for help NOW when you’re WELL :)

18. Let holidays be about something OTHER than plastic crap from China and food.

2/3rds of Americans are obese. And plastic stuff from China is not cruelty free AND it pollutes the planet and our children. Is that really worthy of celebration? No. We’ve got Labor Day cookouts late summer, candy holiday, gorging our face holiday, and then cookies and cocoa holiday. I strongly recommend experience based holidays. Have some health foods. Use moderation. And get thoughtful and sustainable gifts- IN MODERATION.

19. When we invite you to share our values, actually reciprocate or don’t partake.

I’m a HUGE advocate of sharing, pitching in on helping with someone else’s kids, carpooling, or checking in when someone is sick- those are my values as a sense of community. I want you to try giving back too. One person doesn’t make a community. Return my stuff- in good condition. And consider watching my kids every so often if I’ve watched yours for 4wks.

20. Your personal bubble makes me uncomfortable because it is HUGE.

If you’ve lived next door to someone for over a month and haven’t introduced yourself, you might be American. I’m not saying you have to hug me- I’m way into consent culture, but at least SMILE at me when I waive hi. I’m happy to see you. You’re my neighbor. You are part of the reason I choose to live here. We don’t have to be bff’s because you probably think I’m a fruity hippy. But I’ll be deeply hurt if I find out you had to take a taxi to the hospital one day and didn’t think to ask me to help you.

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And that…is that. Apologies to the child that had a dialogue with my daughter about home birth and the mortified teacher who tried to tell her that “vagina” was not a word she could use at school. Additional apologies to the person who tried to give my son pancakes and had to show him how to eat them. We’re not from planet ‘MERCA :p In fact…we’re real, rebellious, free-thinking AMERICANS! It’s time for change- what part are YOU taking in the revolution?

Recommended Fall Reading for Waldorf Kids

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Ahhh fall. The perfect time to snuggle up with some hot cider, a blanket, and a good story. Literacy and story telling are a huge part of our family life, and we both keep books in the home AND visit the library often. Having greatly minimized my son’s books, we’ve been slowly collecting prize-worthy titles, in the form of rewards and gifts.

I got a few of these title names from The Magic Onions, a blog on family Waldorf homeschooling, and I couldn’t recommend them more as a resource. I also did some independent research, but what I have found is that the library is going to be the best resource because few blogs actually discuss the content of the books in relation to age and comprehension.

Here I am. To do that for you! (just a little…)

Now, I’m aware that most Waldorf kids don’t learn how to read until a little bit later, but my son is 3.5 and reading 3 letter words. He also enjoys being read to. But…he’s 3. He doesn’t like to sit too long for involved stories. That is why I recommend Autumn by Gerad Muller, Pumpkin Pumpkin by Jeanne Titherington, and Every Autumn Comes the Bear by Jim Arnosky.

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This first book, Autumn, is for the child and parent to narrate and storytell together. It shows a variety of children participating in numerous fall and outdoor activities.

The second and third books, Pumpkin Pumpkin and Every Autumn Comes the Bear have one line per page and the story line is not complex. Pumpkin Pumpkin is about a boy who grows, picks, and carves his pumpkin. Every Autumn Comes the Bear is about a bear’s journey to transition into fall and winter. It discusses in basic terms how the bear is in nature with other animals and the environment.

The next book is one my son really likes, but the story line is a little more complex and the wording is lengthy. I wouldn’t typically recommend it for a child who was younger than 5. I think 6-7 would be a more appropriate age for this reading content. The title is The Apple Cake by Nienke Van Hichtum and it’s about a woman who makes a series of barters to eventually get apples to make a cake. Each trade enhances the person’s life substantially, and upon return to her home, she’s rewarded by the happiness of the good she has done in her community and her apple cake.

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The titles Wild Child by Lynn Plourde and Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert have amazing illustrations. Wild Child is a metaphorical story about mother nature putting her autumn child to sleep. The story is rhythmic and compelling, but because it is abstract, it would be too complex for a child under age 7-8. The same is true of Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf, which is about how a child grew his maple tree. The story seems simple enough, but it’s full of facts that are intangible to the intellect of a small child, such as how shoots are gathered by greenhouse workers, and the back is full of tree-harvesting and growing facts. IMG_20141003_155152733

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Lastly, Christopher’s Harvest Time by Elsa Beskow is a beloved and favorite work and author, but the story line is very drawn out, complex, and wordy. The illustrations are also muted and detailed. This is definitely a title for children aged 8 or above, as are most of Beskow’s works. However, this is not to dismiss the story line or heirloom quality graphics.

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Pumpkin Cheesecake Smoothie

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Have you had enough pumpkin yet? Of course not, it’s only the end of September. I, for one, LOVE pumpkin, and when I was pregnant with my son, I couldn’t possibly put it in enough dishes. I’d often eat it straight from the can, or mixed with yogurt and agave.

Well, I wouldn’t say I’m THAT fanatical about it still, but I still love those big orange globes, so this year, I’m indulging in a sensible way.

Who doesn’t love a smoothie?

This is actually an adapted recipe, but feel free to tinker with it on your own as well!

Pumpkin Cheesecake Smoothie:

1 banana cut into medallions and frozen

4-6oz vegan yogurt (depending on how thick you like it, and I use homemade soy yogurt which is unsweetened and unflavored, but other plain yogurt would do)

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1tsp pumpkin pie spice

1/8tsp ginger

1/4c pumpkin puree

splash of non-dairy milk (depending on how thick you like your smoothie, you can actually mix it first and THEN determine if you need milk)
Put all of this in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Add more milk if it is too thick. Enjoy!

 

Pst- In case you’re wondering where I got that sweet mason jar lid, you can buy it here or on Amazon. Their website also supplies glass and stainless steel smoothie straws!

Harvest Bread (gluten free, vegan, nut free)

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I love fall. It is my FAVORITE season. But this year, it’s my favorite season because I am REALLY exhausted from preserving the harvest. In Maine, usually harvest season begins mid-summer with berries, and ends late fall with apples and pears. But this year, with the exception of the latter, everything came at once- in only 3wks time. We had a very late start to spring, and a very early end to summer. It’s already only 70 degrees here during the day, which are typically late September and early October temps.

In addition to that, we doubled our harvest this year because everything was much cheaper. Last year, green beans were going for around $3.50/lb and this year, they were $.39/lb. That’s an incredible price- so we not only did extra produce this year, but we did double.

This is our harvest this year, with the exception of applesauce. We’ve decided not to do carrots this year because I’ve been ill. We have green beans, tomatoes, pickles, peaches, kale, strawberry jam, blueberry preserve, blackberry jam, beets, piccalilli, squash, zucchini, frozen blueberries, and rhubarb.

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And so, to celebrate, I recreated this old time favorite of mine. It’s traditionally called Harvest Loaf Cake, and contains a myriad of sins, including WALNUTS (*shudder*- my son is TERRIBLY allergic), but I’ve adapted it here to be healthy and allergy/Celiac friendly. Enjoy!

 

Harvest Bread:

1 3/4c all purpose gluten free flour (My pre-mixed blend is made of 1c brown rice flour, 1/2c tapioca flour, 1/2c potato flour, and 1tsp xanthan gum, but 1c brown rice and 3/4c garbanzo flour would work fine if you don’t have an all purpose on hand)

1t baking soda

1t cinnamon

1/2tsp salt

1/2tsp nutmeg

1/4tsp ginger

1/4tsp cloves

1/2c unsweetened applesauce

1c raw sugar or succanat

2 flax eggs (mix 2T flax meal with 6T boiling water and let set 5min.)

3/4c cooked puree pumpkin (canned is ideal)

3/4c dairy free chocolate chips (Rice Dream, Enjoy Life, or Ghiradelli semi-sweet is fine)

3/4c raw pepitas (they are the raw, shelled, green pumpkin seeds, unsalted, but alternatively walnuts can be used)

 

Grease a loaf pan and preheat your oven to 350.

In a large bowl, mix all of your dry ingredients, including spices and sugar. Then add your wet ingredients, including your flax eggs, applesauce, and pumpkin. Then mix in the chips and seeds. Pour into a loaf pan and smooth the top with a spoon. Bake approximately one hour. Cool outside of the loaf  pan to allow the edges to breathe.

This toasts up great in a toaster oven for breakfast!

Your dishes have lead in them.

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I REALLY liked these dishes. My grandmother brought them home to me one day, probably from our camp, and I couldn’t resist them. They’re stoneware, made in Japan, and they are vintage.

I also really liked my other things. Enamel is great for kids and camping, and I bought these enamel things recently. The teacups came from my mom- one is from around 1930, and the set of 2 is from the 1950’s. Then there’s those random coffee mugs, professing my college prowess, love of fiddling, and, well, love of GIANT coffees.

I know, I know, I swore off coffee. I fell off the wagon LOL

Here’s the lead (metal) story.

My mother had a set of dishes from a guy. She was cleaning out our family camp and was planning to bring them there among some other things. When she was cleaning them, she discovered that we had a shortage of mugs. So, we started researching them on the web, looking for more mugs, and discovered that they had lead.

From there, she learned more about lead content in dishes, and discovered that MOST of her dishes at home had lead.

Meanwhile, I suggested she get some Corelle. I have Corelle ware because it’s hard to break and I have young kids, because it is lightweight and doesn’t hurt my back when I stand over the sink to wash it, and it’s made in America (re: not coated in toxins).

Turns out, she had some Corelle already, and now we’re connoisseurs. I myself cleaned out my kitchen from these items after it was brought to my attention! Thank goodness I already owned Rosemarie and Secret Garden Corelle! (A girls gotta brag, right?)

The long and the short of it is, if your dishes have lead, buy Corelle/Pyrex/Corning ware. It’s patriotic ;) Not sure if your dishes have lead? Try looking them up online. A lot of companies actually have a lead policy. When in doubt, go without!

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This is short of shocking, I know, but let me save you a LOT of internet research by explaining the basics.

First off, there ARE regulations in the US. Around 1978, the US started passing legislation prohibiting the use of lead in things like housepaint. It’s currently illegal to have lead in things like dishes, children’s toys, or paint, and it’s illegal to sell them.

Needless to say, the US has better things to do, apparently, than enforce this policy. Therefore, study after study and expose after expose is reporting that indeed, places like The Walmart, small shops, and mart shops like Christmas Tree Shop, dollar stores, and Marden’s, are selling lead-laced kitchen items. The worst of it seems to be found in crock pots, actually.

How do you know if your kitchen items contain lead? Well, they probably contain lead if they are made in China (or any other country, for that matter, including Japan, Germany, France, and Mexico), if they are stoneware or pottery, if they have red tint, design, or glaze, if they’re porcelain or ceramic, if they are enamel, if they are older (like vintage or close to the time that lead awareness began), or if they are tempered or lead crystal.

This includes, but is not limited to: Designed kitchen settings, coffee mugs, teacups and sauces, camping gear, pots, storage containers, mixing bowls, tea pots, and even decorative items like ice cream bowls. I found a muffin pan with questionable glaze- pottery is at a particular risk of containing lead because the lead content isn’t limited to the glaze, it’s also found in the clay.

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Enamel items from China

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Vintage teacups

Vintage teacups

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Random coffee cups from China

Random coffee cups from China

Pottery that can't be sourced

Pottery that can’t be sourced

The second thing you should know is that you probably eat entirely off of possible lead contamination, but the government doesn’t see it as the leading cause of lead poisoning- that is reserved for paint. Lead is leached into your food through worn glazes, cracked glazes, as surface decoration, airborne particles that come off, and through leaching from hot and/or high acidic foods (like tomatoes, tea, coffee, or citrus for example)

To me, lead poisoning is a serious issue- it’s a heavy metal associated with neurological disorders in children. (Arsenic is also something I look out for, which is why I buy imported organic rice instead of American- let THAT noodle your caboodle!)

Don’t worry, though. Corelle sets are tested and available in many locations, and even vintage is safe! Happy Ebay and Etsy hunting! GOOOO RETRO!

 

My religion was cutting me.

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If you’re not a Muslim and you follow this blog, you’re in luck- I’m done pushing that propaganda as the path to enlightenment. The story is long, and I’m not interested in explaining my personal reasons, nor am I interested in demonizing Islam, but I will offer up these 100 reasons how my life will improve without it.

Just a P.S. here, Christian camps can hold their applause because I wasn’t raised in a Christian household, and while I remain a monotheist, I’m not joining any organized religion anytime soon. Muslims of all walks can still do as they please with my support and without my judgement, though it is definitely not what I am experiencing from other Muslims in light of my recent choice (understandably- point out a religion that doesn’t condemn you to hell for leaving….).

So without further adieu, here are 100 reasons my life will change for the better (Fox News, rejoice):

1. I can take out the trash without putting on an entire other outfit.

2. I can check the mail without putting on an entire outfit.

3. I can load things into the car for charity or a trip without putting on an entire outfit. And sweating my nuts off. (noticing a theme here?)

4. I can answer the door when someone knocks on it, not 5min later after putting on an entire outfit. (Fed Ex guy- take note)

5. I don’t have to pre-cool the car to go somewhere because I’m dressed inappropriately for the weather. (The REAL Saudi oil deal, if you catch my drift)

6. I can shop for clothes for my daughter and I in a regular store instead of the internet or relying on what people drag to America from the East.

7. I can paint my nails. (Can we all just pause for a moment and declare henna for the tacky orange fingernails that it is?)

8. I can style AND DYE my hair. And someone other than my kids will appreciate it.

9. I can date (re: I can justifiably and without permission or shame leave my EXTREMELY ABUSIVE MISOGYNIST RELATIONSHIP)

10. I can visit my family on holidays and exchange gifts.

11. I can have holidays (of my choosing) with family and friends, instead of alone and without so much as an “Eid Mubarak” from the racist Somali, Arab, and Pakistani communities that have perpetually ostracized me for over a decade. Reverse racism- it exists.

12. I can sleep through the night instead of getting up at 4am to worship God, who evidently takes attendance 5 times a day.

13. I can wear earrings.

14. I can get a tattoo or more piercings.

15. I don’t have to memorize things in a second language.

16. I can wear high heels. (Despite popular belief, being sexy or attractive is NOT a crime. But being a pervert is.)

17. I can kill spiders without giving them a 3 day eviction notice.

18. I can say no to sex simply because I don’t want it. (There is a LOT about sex in Islamic documents, which imo is kind of sorted if you ask me…)

19. I can choose never to marry.

20. I can choose not to have more children.

21. I can justifiably take antidepressants if I feel I need them (without criticism even).

22. I can listen to music. Even terrible music.

23. I can MAKE music. (22yrs of violin weren’t for not!)

24. I can hang pictures of my children in my house.

25. I can draw figures. Shit, I could draw NUDE figures ;)

26. I could be in a performance.

27. My daughter can take dance or gymnastics or swim lessons.

28. I can wear a bathing suit to the beach.

29. I can go camping or hiking with ease.

30. I don’t have to be hot in 70 degree weather. (Hijab IS the ideal accessory, but…. It’s a pain in the ass.)

31. I can be friends with Jews and Christians. Contrary to what the Qur’an says, they’re not actually out to get us. They just want us to stop being jerks.

32. I could choose not to breastfeed. I wouldn’t. But I could.

33. I could take a trip alone.

34. I can wear short sleeve, shorts, skirts, jeans, or tank tops out of my house and *maybe*…just *MAYBE* give a toss what latest fashion is.

35. I can leave my shades and curtains open on a sunny day without wearing extra clothing to cover in case someone looks in.

36. I can ride a bike in jeans. Skinny jeans.

37. I can drive down the coast with the wind in my hair.

38. I don’t ever have to kill an animal as long as I live.

39. I could take a mortgage. (if I had a credit score)

40. I could get a credit card. (if I were that stupid)

41. I can watch a sexy movie. (I *might* have already watched the entire Twilight series….)

42. I can have just one wardrobe. Or like. 4 instead of 8. Definitely less dirty laundry.

43. I could go for a cocktail.

44. I could soak in a hot tub.

45. I don’t have to spend my life savings on a trip to the mid-east- instead I could buy a tiny house.

46. I can garden in the heat of the day in weather appropriate clothing.

47. I can put a regular profile picture on Facebook.

48. I can put pictures of me in my house uncovered online.

49. I could carve pumpkins with my kids.

50. I can shop at Victoria Secret without getting stared at.

51. I can go places and quite possibly never get discriminated against again.

52. I will probably stop getting so much hate mail.

53. I don’t ever have to be in a chauvinist relationship again. I live in American, so it’s unlikely, but a girl can dream.

54. I don’t have to put up with my neighbor’s bullshit anymore simply because we’re Muslim. Seriously. Clean up your yard.

55. I can swear. Openly. A lot. (notice I’ve mastered this technique prematurely….)

56. I can admit that other spiritual ideas are thought provoking and maybe even right.

57. I can follow cultural traditions that might have spiritual roots, like celebrating my birthday.

58. I can buy regular marshmallows, candy, fruit snacks, and vanilla extract at the store.

59. I can openly support homosexuality and marriage equality. And I do.

60. I don’t have to participate in gender roles or gender grooming. And I don’t.

61. I can read my horoscope.

62. I can believe that my pets will go to heaven when they die.

63. I can openly admit that the Palestinian conflict is wrong on both sides. Because murder is wrong.

64. I can condemn slavery. AND THE HOLOCAUST.

65. I can condemn marriage before adulthood.

66. I don’t have to make my 12yo do anything. Including praying at the aforementioned 4am and wearing weather inappropriate clothing in 90 degrees. (we’re 10 days in and she’s already banished that nonsense to a tote in the basement)

67. I don’t have to have spend my only 2 holidays driving across town early in the morning to sit at a prayer service alone, that’s in a language I don’t understand

68. People will no longer constantly tell me “You don’t know anything about x” based on a million different manuscripts defining how to live.

69. When someone asks me where my son’s father is, I can officially tell them to FUCK OFF because it’s none of their business.

70. I don’t have to explain why my kids are two different colors. Seriously, why do these people care so much about who I slept with?

71. I don’t have to have a third person ordaining who I can be in a relationship with- I can make my own decision.

72. I can tell people they’re wrong for eating meat because meat is murder and murder is wrong.

73. I can do yoga and call it spiritual practice.

74. I can get a pet and get it fixed. Which is the responsible thing to do, ask Bob Barker.

75. I can spend my money without asking for anyone’s permission.

76. I don’t have to wash my body with dust or water five times a day.

77. I can cut my hair in layers.

78. I can stop explaining jihad and 911. (pst- they were assholes, end of story)

79. I could be a spiritual leader, even though I’m a woman.

80. I can wear perfume outside of the house.

81. I can interpret my dreams.

82. I don’t have to teach my kids the entire daunting ideology of Islam or how to pray and memorize Qur’an in two languages.

83. I can go dancing.

84. I can stop shaving my armpit hairs if I want to.

85. I can be the only person in a decision to take birth control or not.

86. If I ever decide to eat meat again, I could go out to eat or buy my meat at the regular grocery store.

87. I can be ok with my culture as an American, wearing American clothes, speaking English, and eating American foods.

88. I can make friends that have the same lifestyle habits as I do (which are not common in the Islamic community, because if you think the world is going to shit, there’s really no sense in trying to save it).

89. I can give in charity simply because I want to, not because I have to.

90. I could have a pet pig. Or snake. Or giant spider.

91. I can wear makeup without having to wash it off.

92. I don’t have to buy any more Islamic curriculum that my kids cannot follow.

93. I can drink kombucha without speculation.

94. I can accept that I was just born hypoglycemic and I don’t have to “compensate” for not being able to go 19hrs without eating.

95. I can be an organ donor.

96. No more random TSA searches.

97. My spirituality will be personal and not evident by my clothing.

98. I don’t have to think eating on the floor with my hands is a better idea than eating at a table with silverware.

99. I could have a pet dog. And let it sleep in the bed.

100. I can focus my time and energy on perpetuating good and peace in the world instead of being afraid of going to hell.

 

SO if you’re in shock or disbelief that those things are actual principles of Islam or things that happen to me as a Muslim, I urge you to research it.

And the Muslims are screaming “BUT THESE ARE ALL THINGS FOR THIS LIFE (dunya), THINK ABOUT YOUR NEXT LIFE!”

Um, well, I am. And frankly, the pieces are just no longer fitting together anymore AND I have to actually survive THIS life first. Hello, I’m not currently surviving this. And also, this is true to Islam- this is solid, supported evidence, and you know it. Many things that are abhorrent are permitted in Islam and they’re always justified with “ah, but that doesn’t happen NOW.” But there’s also a convenient argument that is used to explain archaic enforced practices, which is, “Islam is timeless and all Islamic principles are for all times,” but whether or not it’s practiced, it’s STILL PERMITTED (re: How come men can marry 4 women but women cannot even marry outside of Islam? Because…misogyny. I’m supposed to believe in misogyny). No, I cannot explain all the miracles in Islam, nor can I explain them away with any other religion. The best I have to offer is that THESE things are not the truth. They’re not MY truth. They make me feel like crap. And THAT is not how you get closer to God.

My father’s entire family rejected and abandoned me because of my faith as a Muslim, and I’ve lost many many friends for the same reason. Now I am losing even more friends because I am leaving Islam. But I will never take my old friends and family back, because all of those people who turned their back on me are extremely judgmental and will not enrich my life. Islam is a losing battle. We were born imperfect and are supposed to strive for perfection, but if we sin, we are wrong, and are supposed to make perpetual repentance. Imagine what that does to a person’s self-esteem. But what if imperfection is the dance of life? What if we just try really hard to do good and survive in this world and THAT’S GOOD ENOUGH?

What if I’m good enough?

In closing, I’ll say this: If something is making you perpetually unhappy, or someone or something is constantly telling you that you’re not good enough or that you can’t be yourself (not hurting others), it’s time to reconsider. And it doesn’t matter what is at stake, or what other people think, because in the BIG PICTURE, your happiness DOES matter. It doesn’t make you a bad person if you cannot find happiness in something that you desperately want to make you happy, or make sense of something that is SUPPOSED to make sense- what matters is that you sleep at night. We don’t have to have all the answers, but we do have to listen to our hearts and put into our hands what we belief is right and good.

Thank you all for reading- COMMENCE WITH THE APARTMENTSTEADING!!!!!!

The most important reason to grow things (Go Green)

garden

Well well, it’s been a bit, hasn’t it? It’s probably no surprise to you that I’ve been off in the gardens- after all, planting season in Maine falls somewhere after Memorial Day. This year proved to be most difficult because I moved here in February. Typically, it takes at least 2 seasons in one location to fully understand an ecosystem where you live, and one must observe phenomena such as water flow, rainfall, sun light concentration, and local wildlife. Here, I’ve avoided the slug issue that I had at my last location (and ticks as well), but I’ve got my hands full with a whole new issue.

Meet my friend.

groundhog

Oh, have I tried everything. But this little one doesn’t have a pot because he’s been going hungry. No, he’s eaten everything from my onions, to my marigolds, my flowers, and every single seed I’ve planted. What’s worse, I was invited to tend a plot in our community garden, and another of these little buggers ate LITERALLY everything I planted except some cukes and squash. It was terribly embarrassing.

How on EARTH do you deter groundhogs (humanely)?

Of course, you can trap them to your hearts content, but I’m being serious here- we both know how ineffective that proves to be. I mean, they mate like rabbits.

Sure, pinwheels and reflectors seem to work for rural groundhogs, but on city groundhogs? This little bugger EATS OUT OF MY HAND.

And THAT my friend, is how you deter groundhogs from eating your plants. You set them a dish every night. I kid you not. I have the kale and spinach shoots to prove it.

But I digress.

window boxes 2

Why, you might ask, do I go through all this trouble? Am I SO POOR that I have to grow my own food from seed? Am I so GMO and pesticide phobic? Do I lack produce availability?

No. The answer is no to all of those questions.

The reason I garden is for the spiritual benefit.

I used to have a black thumb. Last year, for the first time ever, I decided that I was going to garden on my own without assistance. I studied up and got all the supplies. Unfortunately, despite my scholarly and laborious efforts, we got torrential rain last year and even seasoned gardeners lost their crops. All I harvested last year was a giant geranium, some marigolds, and some lettuce. Boy did that lettuce grow, though.

Am I mad? I’ve paid some $60 in potting soil and seeds, and even more in supplies I’ve used a second year, and now I’m feeding a groundhog. Here’s how it works.

You go learn about how to plant seeds. Perhaps you’re starting small- perhaps you’re fool-hearty and starting big (re: yours truly), but never the matter, you’re stimulating your brain and putting your best foot forward to learn an ANCIENT skill set that brings you closer to independence (and dirty feet).

How enticing! Now you’re dreaming of heirloom tomatoes and exotic fruits just growing ripe in your window for the picking- and you’ve suddenly got an excuse to shop. You might be signing up for seed catalogs, going to seed swaps, or browsing the garden center for the first time. I, myself, was flat broke when I started. I was scavenging seeds and empty milk jugs and fashioning seed cups from toilet paper tubes, and starting seedlings in my bedroom with a grow light that I saved $4 for. Whatever it is, it’s a journey. An exciting journey.

Then you start those seeds. Of course, you need to know WHEN to start them (unless you’re weak in the knees and decide to buy seedlings from your local greenhouse), and that, my friend, is a process. A wise gardener (which is none of us) mixes that potting soil with a bit of compost or fertilizer, remembers to put stones or pot shards in the holes of our planters, and makes sure we space those seeds just right if they’re going in the ground. Rest assured, this probably won’t happen for you. You’re likely to overwater your soil and plant your seeds too deep.

window box

But God has a plan, and it is to grow things. Invariably those seeds will pop up. Yes they will, after days and days of waiting and pacing and careful misting (re: dropping the watering can and drowning them all), the THINGS YOU PLANTED WILL ERUPT from the soil, peeking their sleepy baby heads up slowly…

And then you will understand.

You’ve planted those seeds, and they came up. You waited and waited, and they came.

seedlings

It gets better. When the fruits of your labor, which you’ve been careful enough to make sure have adequate light and water and don’t get too hot in pots on pavement (elevate those pots!), begin to yield ANY sort of harvest (that meager cuke spared by the groundhog), you will understand how rewarding it truly is to toil over those silly pots on your balcony or those sad little rows in your garden.

Slowly but surely, year after year, you will have better and better results. You will learn how to harvest your herbs and dry them, how to plant things next to each other, and maybe even natural pest control (that isn’t plucking billions of slugs every morning).

Are you skittish? Don’t worry- here are some simple ideas that as a beginner, I recommend you begin with:

1. Save your chives. Cut down to the white part, then stick them in a glass with some water that covers the rounder part of the stem. Continue to replenish the water as it is used/evaporates. When the chives get tall, say 6-12in, cut them in the same manner and continue to replenish the water. Keep the jar on a window sill that gets plenty of light (such as a south facing window).

chives1

chives2

2. Herbs are incredibly easy to grow. I grew basil in a 4″ pot this year. The trick to basil is knowing how to harvest it. Here is a youtube video demonstrating how to do it. Herbs like a lot of air circulation, so they’re better grown in a common area in which a door is often open and closed or near a window sill. Basil is both beautiful and fragrant, and dries nicely in a dehydrator. This year I also grew german chamomile (it’s a smaller variety) in a hanging planter.

chamomile

3. Lettuce can be colorful and easy as well. It grows in small pots and places, and grows easily in a hanging planter hung in a window. You can grow more than one variety in a pot, and it doesn’t mind being cramped. Lettuce, however, likes to be cooler, so placing it in a south facing window is a bad idea- put it on the side of your house that gets MORNING sun (re: north/east facing). If you’re planting outside, it does well UNDER big plants, such as in the shade.

planters

4. Mint spreads everywhere, so it’s best in a pot as well, and it is also incredibly fragrant, useful, and easy to harvest. Like basil, it can also be grown in a small or large pot. Here’s a video on how to harvest it.

mint

5. Cukes, squash, or tomatoes are ideal for big 3-5 gallon buckets or pots, but are also easy to get sprouted already. Due to this climate, one really must buy tomatoes started, but I started my own cukes and squash as soon as the last frost broke. These plants yield big results, and while they require a lot of water, they’re a fun thing to have on a patio.

Now, if you’re nervous about growing anything just yet, consider trying to keep a simple plant alive that you’ve purchased- herbs, especially, can be bought at the grocery store in pots, and geraniums are very hard to kill. With flowers, there’s an important technique you should learn in which you simply pluck off the dead blooms, which encourages the flowers to produce more. Remember that every plant requires certain light, and no plant likes to be too dry nor too wet. Stick your finger in the soil, and it should be no less moist than a cake.

How exciting, am I right? Just have faith.