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.

carlin

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)

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

The drill.

I live in central Maine. I moved here in February from the coast. The city I live in is the second largest in all of Maine and has a population of approximately 36,500.

Yes, you read that right. 36,500.

The neighborhood I live in is an apartment complex with 300 apartments. Half of the families here are Somali and other African refugees. The other half are predominantly of European heritages, such as French, Irish, German, Scott, and others. It’s a fairly even mix, and for the most part, people just mind their own business. Our city school system is divided by less than a half dozen elementary schools.
Recently, I was going to a meeting at my daughter’s school mid-morning when something vaguely terrifying happened. This school has about 600 kids and was built about 5yrs ago. Outside of this brand spanky new school…was a police SUV. Most of our elementary schools in Maine do not have on-duty police officers. As far as I know, this one does not either. In fact, at my daughter’s last elementary school, a child brought a small kitchen knife in her backpack to school and it made front page news all over the state.

Understanding that things happen, especially in regards to programs like D.A.R.E., I didn’t hesitate to go in. But immediately upon entering, every alarm in the school went off, and I was immersed with flashing lights and sirens. The school has locked doors inside the school, requiring check-in’s with ID through sliding glass doors at the reception desk, and the woman sitting there opened the glass long enough to tell me that the person I was meeting would have to meet me OUTSIDE the school, and that I had to evacuate. Do you know what was happening? It was a bomb drill.

A bomb drill. In an elementary school. Because here in America, schools are shot up, set fire, and bombed. By our own citizens.

As quiet and orderly as ants on pavement, one by one, classrooms of silent children filtered out of emergency exits single file, and without prompting, lined up like soldiers on an adjacent lawn. (a lawn that was far too close to the building to protect the students in the event of ANY act of arson or violence, let alone a BOMB)

The silence was so deafening that my son sneezed and half of them looked up.

SILENCE. Children ages 5 through 13 SILENT. OUTDOORS. IN LINES.

Have you seen this happen? I’ve worked at 8 different schools and I’ve never seen this happen. I couldn’t help myself- I asked my cohort, “Why are they behaving so well? Why are they so still and silent?”She laughed (insert my disdain here) and replied, “They’re supposed to be. In case of an emergency. And some of them are scared.” Scared children- I don’t know about you, but I TOO find that HILARIOUS. <sarcasm> Without missing a beat and feeling the blood pool in my face, I retorted, “Don’t you think this is unhealthy?” Taken aback, she asked why I felt that way. “Because you’re teaching them to be fearful, you’re teaching them to be like small soldiers, and you’re making them afraid and dominated.” Folks- that’s as articulate as I could be in the moment.

Here’s the deal. These indoctrinated, brainwashed, fear aligned children were being taught that this was normal and necessary. The equivalency of telling women not to wear revealing clothing on their way to their car at night, our children were being taught to be fearful and compliant in case white male privilege crossed the path with untreated mental illness and decided to victimize their school. Because eradicating white male privilege and lack of access to mental healthcare coupled with gun control IS TOO DIFFICULT. We must instead  teach our children to be on the ready- and to do it quietly and without thinking. We are not thinking. None of these preparations make ANY sense. They are the same as hiding under your desk in the event of a nuclear attack.

Just like when you watch the news. Lock your doors, cover your legs, and don’t question the latest war on EVERYTHING. Don’t question who the bad guy is, just BOMB BOMB BOMB!

It really begs the question- HOW AT RISK ARE WE?angry-mob

I read recently an article indicating that the new steady stream of information via the internet and social media is exacerbating the idea that our culture is far less safe than it actually is because we have more access to information and alerts. In fact, it says that crime has gone down substantially in the last 30yrs. More so, just in the paper, it was published with statistics straight from our local police department, that in this VERY TOWN, crime has gone down HALF in just TWENTY YEARS! Violent crimes are down 66%.

And yet…this is happening. Well, just as the article states- people are “still fearful despite data.”

Who is benefiting from this fear?

More curious is the observation that if we DON’T think our schools are safe, then why aren’t we doing different things about it (like higher security systems instead of simple bomb drills), or all together homeschooling our children. No one is in the streets rallying that we should home-school our kids- instead, they’re rallying for gun control. No no no- we do not want freethinking hippy home-schooled kids who are taught to fear God and love their neighbor- after all, that’s what happened to the pilgrims, and LOOK, they formed their own damned NATION.

Control.

I’m not saying our kids shouldn’t know what to do in the event of a school shooting- I’m questioning the legitimacy of the modality of preparedness, the mentality of fear mongering, the legitimacy of the fear, and it’s impact on a child’s identity, free thinking, and perception of safety. These are not children raised with whimsy and wonderment, these are children being taught that THEY’RE UNSAFE even at SCHOOL, which is a place that is supposed to nourish their mind!

We’re all unsafe- that’s why we’re bombing Afghanistan, right? In Afghanistan, one reason we claimed was worthy of “accidentally” repeatedly bombing civilians, was that the dreaded Taliban was throwing acid on girls’ faces on their way to school and locking the doors so no one may enter. How is it any different than white American male terrorists abducting, shooting, and bombing children in our own schools?

It’s not. The answer, my friends, is not fear mongering and ignorant modalities of preparedness. It’s addressing white male privilege, poor healthcare, access to assault rifles and realistic perceptions of crime rates.

That is my two cents on my perception as an educator, mother, Muslim, and American citizen on fear mongering in our schools.

An anecdote here-  I strongly recommend THIS article on gun control reasoning.

Soothing Molokhia and Spiced Rice

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My significant other is um. Not really open to broaden his horizons in the matter of food. And let’s be real- I eat some pretty different things. In other parts of the world, bean burgers are felafels, and almost everything is meat based. An example of this would be his home country of Egypt.

Don’t get me wrong- he gets an A for effort when it comes to eating gluten free vegan noms. But the man can only take so much. So every so often, he cooks.

He’s actually a really skilled cook, and it’s obvious that someone along the line, probably his mother, taught him well. He even is pretty creative when it comes to accommodating our eating habits. The hardest milestone has been involving oil. I don’t consume oil as a rule because it’s bad for your heart. The middle east is known for it’s fried food and olive oil.

One day, I was not feeling well. I don’t usually feel well. So he told me to go take a nap and he would make dinner. I’m not going to lie- this sounded like one helluva deal, especially since he cleans up after.

When I woke up, he made this. Molokhia is a very popular Egyptian vegetable which is otherwise known as jute in the US. It’s a green leafy vegetable that you can find in the freezer section of your middle eastern or halal market. He paired it with rice, but he tells me that the broth is traditionally made by boiling chicken, and then you add the chicken as a side to the rice.

To make this dish, first begin by chopping up an onion and sauteing it until it’s slightly brown.

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Then add 3 cardamom pods that have been cracked open.

 

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Add a couple teaspoons of cumin,  liberal salt and pepper, and about 1/8c dried parsley. Then add 4c water and bring it to a boil. When the water is boiling, add your 2 cups basmati rice and bring it to a boil. Turn down your heat to low and put a lid on it. Leave it alone.

Sometimes a chopped tomato is added to this.

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See this? Add 3 teaspoons of it to 8c water in a large pot. If you’re using Edward and Son’s boullion, add 2-3 cubes. You want 6c broth and 2c water. Bring it to a boil.

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In a separate small skillet, saute an ENTIRE HEAD OF GARLIC that has been grated.

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It should be this color. Scoop some of the broth you’ve made in the 8c water, into this skillet to get the oil and garlic from the pan. Make sure it all goes into the broth.

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When the water is boiling, add the molokhia. Stir until completely thawed and evenly in the broth.

 

IMG_7383Add a teaspoon or so coriander.

Bring to a simmer, stirring often. Stir before ladeling out to serve.

And by now your rice should be done. You’ll know it’s done because it will be moist but not sticky. Stir it to evenly distribute the spice and onion, then serve alongside the molokhia.

Alternatively, you can mix the two dishes.

Enjoy!

Meet Sparkie

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This. Is Sparkie. He also goes by Bunbun, and if you’re feeling fancy, Le Bunbun- both of which are frequently heard in this house since I have a TBI and can’t remember anything. My guinea pig’s name eventually became Piggy, though her name was always Harriet. Pretty sad when you have to write your pet’s name on the fridge for the first year.

Sparkie is a hybrid German Angora. He came from a woman who raises angora rabbits for their fur. When I first set out to get an angora rabbit, I was completely unaware of the controversy surrounding angora harvest. This was because I had done actual research, and every rabbit breeder I spoke with simply harvested the angora fur by cutting or combing it. No one plucked the fur, and certainly no one harvested it like the PETA version of angora harvest in China, which will literally give you nightmares and leave you clutching your children.

Speaking of clutching your children, before you go any further, you should know that sometimes bunnies sleep so hard that they seem dead. Example A:

dead bunny

This experience nearly gave me a heart attach, but a few strokes of my Android later, I soon learned that this was the “dead bunny” pose, and that rabbits sleep with their eyes open and do not wiggle their noses while sleeping. Weird.

Angora seemed like a fine hobby for me, since I cannot have livestock, and I’m into fiber arts. The hair that can be combed from the angora can be spun, and drop spinning is a very common art among breeders. Additionally, their hair can be carded once cut, and then be felted or blended for spinning. The fur itself is not very elastic, so mixing it with roving is quite typical.

Do the rabbits mind? Not at all. In fact, they have to be trimmed every 3-4mos because they get too furry and even hot. Some areas have to be trimmed year round to prevent matting, like behind the ears.

It’s surprisingly difficult to find angora information online, but I’m fortunate enough to live in a state where fiber arts are common, and I was able to find many breeders, festivals, guilds, and maine-based online resources.

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Are they work? Well, they’re not chickens. They DO need to be groomed once a week, and the quarterly haircut, but for the most part, they’re fun. Their cage has to be wire so the droppings go through onto a tray to prevent getting tangled in their fur, so I simply pull out the tray, empty it, wipe it down, and lay more newspaper. Since rabbits are vegan, their poop is valuable compost, and can be put in with redworms or right into your garden. I trim his nails on occasion, and if you give your rabbit plenty to chew on, you shouldn’t have to tend to their teeth. They DO require at least a 2’x3′ wire cage, which is safer on the floor in a climate controlled room.

Their food is cheap- rabbits eat hay, pellets, sunflower seeds, and papaya (mine gets it dried). All but the papaya can be acquired at the farmer’s union, and I get unsweetened papaya at the healthfood store.

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There’s one thing that angora owners have to worry about, and that is wool block. It’s a breed specific condition that basically entails a hairball that they’re not equip to pass. The enzymes in papaya and frequent brushing prevent it, but it’s deadly. Angoras also cannot be in hot temperatures.

Sparkie is a giant bunny. He’s like a dog- he follows me around the house, comes when he’s called, jumps up on the sofa, and climbs in my lap. Unlike most pets, they like to be held like babies. They also play, and mine has a love affair with the cat.

bunny lovers

Angoras make nice pets, but they’re not for children really, because they have fragile spines. Therefore, they must be supervised with all children and other pets to prevent injury. For this reason and also because they chew (which can cause destruction and electrocution), I recommend against having them as “house rabbits”. Rabbits are much safer in their cages, and if you take them out for supervised exercise every day, they will be fine.

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If you think you’d like to try having an angora, I recommend doing as I did by researching online and in the library, and then contacting a breeder. We got a buck that was being culled because he was low-producing for fur. He had already been handled, and is a good learning experience before considering getting more rabbits. If you’re just interested in getting one for a little felting and having a great pet, even better!

baby sparkie

Understanding the basics of minimalism

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Minimalism is a new buzz word, isn’t it? It used to be about architecture and design, but recently it’s become a new fad in which privileged bachelors denounce their worldly goods- and in some cases, even their high paying jobs- and hit the road to do as they please.

I’ve come across quite a few camps of thinking on minimalism and what it means. There are those who count their possessions- 100 or less, and there are those who are not happy unless they live in a pristine white environment. But if one thing were constantly true about minimalism, it’s that it is personal.

I think we get hung up on the wrong values in minimalism. For example, instead of counting how many objects we own, shouldn’t we be counting how many hours we spend on Facebook instead of with our family? I always feel really sad when I happen across an ex-minimalist, professing their love of possessions and “freedom to relax”, but I’m also equally saddened when I read about someone ejecting a pen from their apartment to justify buying a new dress that they really loved.

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Do you know what *I* think minimalism is?

Minimalism- love it or use it.

Minimalism is anti-consumerist. That is, minimalists are anti-consumers. They think objectively about what they purchase and why. Most also think about sourcing- the production of what they buy. This applies to their hard goods for the household, their food, and even their services. Some try to support small businesses, and some are locovores. But at the end of the day, minimalists are not impulse or leisure shoppers. They do not care about labels or brand names, or keeping up appearances. They don’t pay homage to commercials. They are not brand-loyal. Minimalists look The Man in the face, tell him to go F himself, and laugh at the threat of poverty. We say, “We don’t need your useless crap. I am good enough. I can be happy.”

Minimalism is a form of higher thinking. It is realizing that material gain is not what makes us happy- experience does. It is realizing that our attachment to this world is limited to this existence. It is having a higher consciousness of our carbon footprint. It is also about realizing and acting against global inequality. It is refusing to bow down to marketing that tells us we cannot live without something. It is excepting our unique selves and imperfections.

Minimalism is a form of freedom. Without excessive services or belongings, we no longer have to account for so much, spend weekends cleaning or decluttering, constantly clean our home, or worry about storage. Minimalists don’t pay for storage bins. They do not concern themselves with holiday shopping. Minimalists are self-assured- they make choices in the face of adversity that suit their needs. Minimalism is always being ready for company. Minimalism is release from a society that tells you that you are perpetually dissatisfied with what you have.

Minimalism is a world reality and first world privilege. People in other countries do not have the privilege of practicing minimalism- they are forced to practice it. It is practiced intentionally by people who have escaped consumerist culture. Minimalism can also mean buying higher quality goods because money is being funneled in a single direction instead of multiple directions. Minimalism often leads to emergency savings funds and leisure trips or vacations.

I do not know how many of each item I possess, but I have only been to the mall twice in five years. I do not buy new clothing unless it’s underwear or socks. I do not know what brand my shoes are. But I know they are vegan.

In short, my lifestyle is in line with my values. Instead of cleaning constantly, I can garden to make flowers for our dwindling bee populations and grow safe organic food. Instead of stockpiling supplies in my home, I think about where packaging goes once I’ve used a product. I make super meaningful and useful gifts. I frequent the library. I don’t overload my schedule because it means I would be compromising my personal care and happiness. I make choices that make me happy instead of what people say or think I should do.

Minimalizing simplifies your life in every area, not just material possessions.

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Some hard questions that you might ask yourself while purging your crap that is ruining your happiness are these:

  • Are these books that I like my identity, or are my own thoughts and reflections of their material my identity?

Your books are not your identity. I’m a total Potter Head. I am not the Potter series. No one cares if I own the series. I am not less of a Potter head.

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Have some books.

  • Do I love this thing or do I feel afraid to live without it?

Are you afraid that living with a microwave will be too inconvenient? Have you TRIED to live without certain objects? One method to minimalism is to box up everything you own, and gradually pull it out as you need it over a set period of time. This obviously doesn’t apply to seasonal items.

  • Do I use this, or am I afraid I will need it?

How many sewing machines do you own in case one breaks? Cell phones? If you’re afraid you’ll need a replacement of something, consider putting money in a savings account.

  • How many hobbies do I think I need?

Go through your hobby supplies and make a list of the projects that each supply demands. You might be surprised to see yourself pulled in so many directions that you couldn’t possibly choose one. Choose a few, and let the rest go. Be realistic about your time restraints.

art supplies

  • Is it realistic that I’m going to sell this, and will the money be worth my time?

The other name for Ebay is “Pain In The Ass”. The other name for Freecycle is “I left this on my doorstep for you.”

  • Is this object something I appreciate it, or am I equating it with the person who gave it to me?

Your great aunt’s china is not your great aunt. If you hate it, get rid of it or offer it back.

  • Will someone else use or love this? Need it?

Are you seriously going to wear those maternity clothes again, or will a teen mother’s shelter use them with gratitude? Who is going without shoes so you can have 12 pair?

  • Who can I benefit by passing this into the community?

Animal shelters need a surprising variety of weird things. They recently got all of my mascara stained washcloths.

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  • If I suddenly need one of these, how much will it cost to replace it, or who can I borrow/trade from?

My mom got rid of all her drills. Then I needed one. It didn’t cost much to replace. Yet all of those drills took up an entire box in her storage space.

  • When was the last time I needed this?

Also known as, “Why do I still own a breast pump and art supplies from a class I took in 2004?”

  • If I get rid of these baby items or art work, will I retain their memories?

Yes. Especially if you take pictures of them and/or get a digital picture frame. Unless your child has passed on, consider appreciating them at their current life stage instead of living for the days that you had no sleep and they kept pooping. Oh ya, those memories, right?

  • Do I even like to use this item?

Do you like those generic candle holders? Probably not. Most decorations have zero meaning. So get rid of them and either do without (re: no dusting) or replace them with something meaningful that inspires you.

  • Can I replace this item I use everyday with a quality item that better suits my needs?

I assure you that it is probably time to replace your socks and towels. And maybe even your sheets. And teflon cookware. You get the idea.

  • Am I going to actually fix this?

That answer usually depends on how long it’s been broken. If it’s been awhile, you probably don’t even need it.

  • Is this organized in a way that is functional?

Is your kitchen organized in a way that makes it easy to cook? Is your family area designed for people to gather together?

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  • Does this furniture work for my body?

Also known as, “Why am I sleeping on a bed frame when I’m 4’10″?”

  • Do I have this because society tells me I should?

Like holiday decorations, curtains, picture frames, coffee tables, etc.

  • What will people think if I….”

“…..only get my kids 2 presents for the holidays, stop shaving my armpits, get rid of the sofa, and trade in my car for a bike?” Who cares? Do they pay your bills? No. When they pay your bills, you can care what they think. Or not.

  • Will I wear this again?

Does it fit? Is it flattering? Does it need mending? Is it in style? Is it functional? Take out the items from your closet that you can remember wearing recently OR that you absolutely LOVE. If you hesitate, you don’t love it. Then put things with them that are mix and match or that compliment them. If you don’t have anything, put it back or get something that will compliment it and other outfits. Then get rid of the rest of that stuff in your closet. It’s mocking you. If you lose weight, you’ll want new clothes. If you gain weight, you’ll need something more flattering. Don’t let it stare you in the face every morning, telling you that you’re imperfect and dissatisfied. Love your body TODAY.

So now that you’ve got all this crap out of your house, what are you going to do, right? You’re going to sit down and write down real life goals that have nothing to do with acquiring “things” and you’re going to find a way to go after them. You’re going to go do things that make you happy instead of getting “things” to fill that void. That’s how it works.