Prisoner Of My Thoughts

It can be comfortable being stuck in one perspective. Believing something to be exactly as I see it, affirming that belief by filtering everything through one lens and having the outcome be exactly as I predicted – it can masquerade as security. Being closed in by one perspective can feel warm and safe; there are walls to protect and blankets to hide under.

But looking at something from a different angle can offer light and oxygen. Just ask someone with a camera. From one point, the view can be murky and shadowy. From another, the subject appears sharp and bright.

Our world can change from despair to hope if we dare to shift.

Maybe it’s scary that we hold that much power to shape our own world. Or perhaps today I can remind you that it’s not.

It’s magical and hopeful.

If you needed this reminder, here it is. This Wayne Dyer quote has stretched my world more times than I can count. So have conversations with my husband and my loved ones. Find the thing, the thought, the support that keeps you creating the beautiful things you deserve in your life.

 

5 Awesome Lessons from @LeadingMoms #LMinspire

Last Friday, I had the opportunity to sit in a room of about 200 women and listen to the stories of other moms who, like you and me, are trying to carve out the best lives for themselves, their families and their communities. I laugh as I write that sentence because ‘sit’ I did not 🙂 Not with my little 9 month old who wasn’t really thrilled about sitting on my lap for 4 hours! If you were at Leading Moms with me, I was the one with the baby in the Ergo, slipping in and out of the theatre…but with a huge smile on my face. I was just so darn happy to be there, soaking in the passion and fire of a group of women actively seeking ways to better the world. Seriously. A great way to spend a Friday morning!

Though I wasn’t able to catch every word, what I did come away with was truly awesome. A special thank you to Natalia Nanton, Christine Pilkington, the entire Leading Moms team and, of course, the speakers who were instrumental in bringing me these 5 lessons:

1. Tell your children your stories. Yes. Thank you, Comfort Ero for this beautiful reminder of the power of the spoken word. Tell your children your stories from the time they are itty-bitty. At first, they’ll have no idea what you’re saying. They’ll just hear your soothing voice – and to a baby, a mama’s voice is like a lifeline…the one sound they know right from birth – they’ll hear how your language sounds and try to make those sounds themselves. Tell your children your stories as they grow. At this point, the stories will be entertainment. Tell your children your stories as they navigate the sometimes icky waters of pre-teen/teenhood. Your stories will be like ‘home’ to them and they may even begin to have an understanding of where you come from, and essentially where they come from. And when they are adults, your children will see the wisdom in your words and whisper the same to your grandbabies.

2. Never back down from who you really are. Possibly my favourite quote of the day, likely due to my obsession with authenticity. Thank you Louise Green of Body Exchange, not only for this quote but for the remarkable story behind your fitness paradigm. This is the year for me when all the parts of who I really am are showing up quite boldly. It’s hitting home that I’ve got 3 human beings who are observing me, listening to how I talk to myself/about myself, watching me act on what I believe in, and living the values I feel are integral for a healthy, happy life. Because I never want them to back down from who they are, I simply must do the same. And learning about the successes and fulfillment that others have achieved by showing up just the way they are is rather encouraging.

3. Because we should. Because we can. Because we care. That’s a whole lotta good reasoning from Andrea Thomas Hill, founder of Run for the Cure, and the Cause We Care Foundation who spoke about the importance of doing something…because even if your gesture seems small or the problem seems big, doing something is better than doing nothing. If doing something can help even one other person, isn’t it worth doing?And chances are, you will never help just one person. Because what you give to that individual will start a ripple, affecting his or her family and community. Ask yourself what you want to see changed in your community – there may be an existing group you can join forces with, or there may be an opportunity to start something new. I have always believed we have the time to do it, and our children are not obstacles but our partners in this.

4. We have the ability to pause, step back and become conscious parents.  Therapist Michele Kambolis, author of Generation Stressed, hit the nail on the head for me. The first few years of motherhood were super challenging for me. Dealing with post-partum issues, my mother’s death, being totally dissatisfied with my vocation (and feeling lost and disappointed because of it), and yadda yadda yadda… didn’t leave a lot of energy for me to be what I consider my ‘optimal mom self’. In my head, I had enough energy to take care of my own physical and emotional needs as well as my kids’ needs, but in reality, there was always something ‘giving’…and there was always something to yell about. (I cringed as I wrote that, by the way). But things are different now. So many things have ironed themselves out, and that energy that I always knew I had is finally starting to align with the energy I’m exuding. I could have looked at those first few years of motherhood and deemed myself unworthy of ever holding a title like ‘conscious parent’ – or I could embrace the fact that ‘that was then, this is now’ and step into my role as mom with the awareness I seem to more easily tap into now. Every moment is an opportunity to take a step back, choose how I want to react to something, and be the best mom I know how to be. Loving myself through it all – the hiccups and the high fives – makes it easier.

5. Take a second for yourself and connect with your inner girl. See what she’s got for you. I bet it’s pretty awesome. I actually missed Madeleine Shaw‘s talk which was unfortunate – I have been following her work for some time and enjoyed a little chit-chat with her when I caught her in the hallway. But thanks to Twitter and #LMinspire, I was able to follow along while bouncing the baby outside the theatre 🙂 What a fantastic quote. The other day, I pulled out the journal I wrote in during high school. Page after page, my eyes kept welling up, reading the thoughts of this beautiful young girl who so badly wanted to right the wrongs of the world. There were times I actually caressed the words and whispered, “I love you” without even realizing I was doing it. It was such a powerful way to reconnect, to really remember who I was before I became someone’s wife and mother. If you don’t have a journal to refer to, sit by yourself in the quiet, conjure up some memories and see what comes about. Take yourself out on a little date – somewhere you don’t have to be a grown up. Plunk yourself down on the swings at the school playground. Remember your awesome Self.

I just had a fabulous time reliving that day, and I’m already stoked about next year! Take a second to check out the ladies I mentioned in my post. Maybe you can join me next year?

 

 

The Last Seven Years

Exactly 7 years ago today, I became a mother.

Wait, what?! It’s only been 7 years?

How is that possible when such a huge part of my identity is being a mom? I have to strain my brain really hard to remember what life was like before becoming a mother…visions of me with my feet up on the couch, watching movies come to mind. There was also the marathon reading I did on lazy Sunday mornings. But I digress.

In the last 7 years I have learned more about myself than in the 29 other years I have lived. Definitely, hands-down, I have never been held up in front of a mirror like I have since becoming a mother. And it’s been awesome. Every bit of it. Because out of the challenging pregnancies, the post-partum issues, the hard work that comes with babies, then toddlers then children…I was re-born. Me. And all the things that were important to me, that I came here wanting to do and try and see and change, became known to me once more. This time I couldn’t squash my purpose. I couldn’t say I was too scared to do what I cared so deeply about. Because that’s not who I want to be for my children. And it’s not who I want my children to be.

If I were to pick 7 insights gained in 7 years, they would be:

1. No matter how much I swore this would never happen, it seems like too many times than I care to admit, when I open my mouth to speak to my children, my mother falls out. She just makes a lot more sense to me this time ’round.

2. There’s only one mother I judge severely – and that’s me. Other women can do all kinds of things, make all sorts of decisions around their children, and I likely won’t blink an eye. But heaven help me, if I decide that something I did or said was sub-par (against some ridiculous measuring stick). I consider this to be my cha-cha. I take one step forward – like when I take full advantage of a teachable moment – and then one step back when I shove more of my daughter’s artwork in the back of the closet rather than display it in coordinating frames on our walls, and then another step forward again when I put the baby down for a nap, fold a load of laundry, register my kids for soccer camp and schedule a play date. But hey, at least I’m dancing! Seriously, though, this is not fun and something I’m working on all the time.

3. I like my space. Motherhood doesn’t really afford that. Especially not when the kids are home and you are, too. I’m not sure if it’s my introversion or just another personality quirk, but I really like long periods of isolation – and silence. This was something I didn’t realize I needed until it no longer came easily to me. It’s not really like, oh I’d love a 20 minute soak in the tub. It’s more like, I’d love to not have to say anything out loud for like a day or two. There’s enough of a gap between child #2 and child #3 that I got to experience going away for the weekend and that came when child #2 was 18 months. Some days I hold on to that more tightly than others.

4. The moments when you catch yourself in your children’s actions are second to none. When my older daughter writes in her diary by lamplight before bed or when my son…um…when he…*pause* ok, he’s nothing like me. And when my baby girl…at 6 months old…ok, she doesn’t do much. Well, she sucks her thumb. Ok, but I didn’t suck my thumb. So, what I’m saying is, 1 out of 3 times when you see a reflection of you in your children, it rocks.

5. There is a special kind of frustration I had never experienced until becoming a mother. And also a fierce kind of love. The dichotomy can be exhausting and amazing and probably the greatest lesson I will ever undergo in this lifetime.

6. I’m still grossed out by certain bodily fluids, but I am 100% more likely now than before motherhood to catch these fluids in my bare hands before they make a mess on the floor. I NEVER thought I would ever do that.

7. I have worked with children since I was a pre-teen. Junior Beaver leader, then regular Beaver leader, then Scout leader, babysitter, autism interventionist and then speech-language pathologist for preschool and school-aged children. People said, “Oh you must be so patient to work with children.” And yes. Yes, I was. And then I had my first baby and out with the placenta, I delivered every last ounce of my patience. I don’t know where it went. To this day I have not been able to find it. Or rather, I should say, it comes and goes. I mean, I have calmly coaxed children off the walls from which they were bouncing. I have stood on my head and spat nickels from my mouth to get a child to make a sound correctly three times in a row. I have taken children camping into the woods where somebody peed in their sleeping bag and then woke up 20 other now scared, homesick boys and girls. Before motherhood I did it all with grace, and bucket loads of patience. But Lord help the person to whom the Lego I just stepped on belongs.

These are just a few things I have learned – mostly about myself – during my motherhood journey. What about you? What has being a parent taught you about the person you thought you knew best?

This teeny tiny person brought with her my greatest gifts.
This teeny tiny person brought with her my greatest gifts.

The Classic Lemonade Stand Gets A Twist #Stir4ACure

With Summer officially here, there’s nothing more reminiscent of our childhood, or more symbolic of a young child’s inner entrepreneur, than the classic lemonade stand. And what a perfect opportunity to pull out multiple teaching moments from this one endeavour.

Of course there’s the creative side of things:

1. How to make lemonade: Whether you are doing this from scratch or from a can, children learn how to follow simple directions, plus how to set up and clean up as needed.

2. How to attract customers: Marketing tools like a BIG, colourful sign with all the right information on it is a project in and of itself. You may also want to create several smaller signs to post around the neighbourhood. Allow your child to pipe in with suggestions – they will probably have some great ideas on how to let people know they are ready for business! Things can get as ‘pinteresting’ as you want them to. Check out this site for some ideas if you think this kind of thing is ‘easy peasy lemon squeezey’ (Sorry, couldn’t resist).

Then there’s the business side of things:

1. Location, location, location: Pick a premium spot that is visible to passing cars or people walking by, but allows for cars to safely pull over.

2. The operations crew: Is there an adult operations manager required? This would depend on the age of the child(ren) and/or the location of the stand. How many other people are on the team? It might be fun to partner up with some neighbourhood kids!

3. How much to charge for a cup: I’ve stopped at stands and paid anything from $0.25 to $2.00 for a cup. By donation with a suggested minimum is also a good way to do things. Sometimes all people have on them is a $5 bill. Score!

4. Simple math: If you do charge a set amount, simple math skills come into play when figuring out what change to give back.

And last but definitely NOT least, there’s the charity side of things! Because every business should be charitable, and there’s no better time to learn that than as a young person, this is the twist part that adds a dimension to the classic lemonade stand that will hopefully carry over into other areas of your child’s life.

1. Select a charity to donate to: Do this in the way you feel best. I like to offer two options to keep things simple, that reflect the child’s interests.

2. Figure out the percentage of sales you wish to donate. This fosters more math skills and of course, don’t forget to include this information in the marketing! Wouldn’t you be more inclined to stop for a cup of (sometimes luke-warm…let’s be honest) lemonade if you knew 50% of your donation was going to a good cause?

3. Go one step further with the donation by personally delivering or somehow involving your child in learning more about the organization you are supporting. See here for an example of how we did this with our local food bank.

Photo Credit: sixtyminutehousewife.com
Photo Credit: sixtyminutehousewife.com

Think it’s far-fetched to make a lemonade stand a charitable operation? Check out this 3 minute video of a brave little girl named Alex who left behind a legacy of hope through her lemonade stands. She lost her fight to cancer but she did amazing work with the lemons she was handed.

So, go on, grab some kids and turn this into a project you can enjoy from start to finish!

I Am Not Too Different From Beyonce

“You have the same amount of hours in a day as Beyonce” a coffee mug shouted at me from the shop window of Brick & Mortar Living a few weeks ago.

I have to admit, my first thought upon reading the mug’s message was the grammar was off; I desperately wished I could wave a wand and change the word ‘amount’ to ‘number’. (My husband is shaking his head while reading this and saying, “Don’t be that person.” I know he is, because when I told him my reaction to the mug he shook his head and said, “Don’t be that person.”)

After being tripped up by the grammar, I read the quote again and felt a mixture of: motivation, celebration, amusement and curiosity. I was motivated by the simple reminder to use the hours we have wisely. I felt like dancing (maybe not quite like Queen Bey) because I felt content about what I was accomplishing on any given day with the children, my work and the other bits that make up my life. The amusement came from the way the author pieced this message together, figuring it would be a great start to someone’s day as they sipped their morning coffee. Curious…because I wondered how others would react.

What I’ve come to know from working in the blogosphere is that one situation can trigger a multitude of reactions. And the humans to which those emotional responses are attached can get very verbal. You can read my thoughts on public shaming here. That’s not the point of this post.

The point is: the way you react to this quote, or anything, speaks volumes. And that’s a good thing, if you’re willing to listen to what your emotions are trying to tell you. Whether you feel resentment (“Of course Beyonce can do what she does – she has all the money in the world”), encouragement (“If she can reach her dreams, I can too!”), jealousy (“I am not even close to where I want to be in life”) etc – these feelings are like THE SIGN you wish for to give you direction. There is no good or bad emotional response, but the way you follow through will determine whether something that’s being handed to you is a gift or an obstacle. You get to decide.

If your reaction hovers around what might be perceived as the negative end of the emotional spectrum, then just ask yourself, “Why am I feeling this way?” and follow that up with “What can I do about it?” Unless you want to be a singer/songwriter/performer/superstar (like really want to) then you don’t actually want the lifestyle that Beyonce has. But if after reading that coffee mug quote you are thinking, “I haven’t accomplished any of my dreams,” then work with that.

Or you can stew in it. Your choice.

I love the idea that I can be in a crappy mood and it can turn into something positive if I am willing to take a step back into that ‘perspective’ zone. This is neither easy nor instantaneous. But I am convinced it is the healthier road.

Now go on – enjoy the hours in your day 🙂

 

P.S. If you have ever been to New Westminster and not visited this store, you need to make it a point to do so next time. If you have been to New West and stepped through their doors, I don’t need to tell you to go back – you already have that noted! Check out their Facebook page here and see all the pretty things that dwelleth within!

P.P.S. A fond farewell to a great poet, the beautiful Maya Angelou, who passed away at the age of 86. She leaves quite a legacy. She recites a favourite poem here.

 

I Made My Grandma Cry

When people victimize themselves, it really bothers me. Like, really, really bothers me. I want to bang my head on the wall when people say things like they are the way they are because such and such happened to them 30 years ago. I am a big believer in making choices. We can choose to be stuck in past events and allow them to make us miserable in the present or we can let go of crappy things that happen and treat them as gifts to make our present that much better. So when someone blames an external factor for their inability to make friends, or be in a relationship, or in general be happy, it really bothers me. (Did I mention that?)

So, that’s why I had to squash my own pity party last week. Yup, guilty as charged.

Ever since my mom died, I have had this inner dialogue about how unlucky my children are to have missed out on her because she really and truly would have been the Best. Grandma. Ever (as my oldest daughter would say). For 5 years now, I have allowed myself to fan the flames of a rage inside me that, at the best of times, made me sad to see a grandmother pick up her grandchild at school…and at the worst of times, made me spew angry thoughts at the people I wish would step up and do ‘the job’ I think they should do.

On Friday May 16, 2014, it got a little out of hand. The days leading up to what would have been my mom’s 61st birthday, I felt the familiar sadness settle over my shoulders. And by Thursday night I was a mess – crying in child’s pose on the rug in my studio, blowing snot and wiping tears with the tissues I swiped from the box beside me. Anger. Pain. Pounding through my body. My poor kids. They don’t know. She would have loved them with food and time and concern and after-school pickups and blah blah blah, into the night I carried on. Climbing into bed that night, I was spent. But apparently, I wasn’t done because the next morning the pity party was in full swing. I even invited my grandma to join me in my misery. Yup, not a proud moment as I admit this: I made my grandma cry. But misery loves company, right? We exchanged memories and would-haves, could-haves like a couple of drunks pounding back the tequila. Ok, that might be being a little dramatic.

Anyway, after I made my grandma cry (it doesn’t sound any better the second time I say it), an unsuspecting friend texted “Hello, how’s your day?” Well, I told her ALL about my day, and my night. Within half an hour, she was at my doorstep. Lucky for me, she had a day off and she spent a chunk of it listening to my woes of being a motherless mother with three kids who would never have a connection to their grandparents’ generation. Oh, it was ugly. But she just listened. And by the time she left, I felt lighter.

And then it hit me.

Oh. My. God. I sounded like the ‘victims’ that drive me crazy. I sank into a chair. No! How could this happen? I’m so big on choices and here I was, feeling helpless and cheated by Fate. How many times a week do I ask of my children, “How are you going to fix this problem?” I needed to ask this of myself. Big time.

The question itself offers some freedom. It implies that I actually can fix the problem. I could finally see the choice before me: Continue to feel sorry for my kids (who by the way, don’t actually need to be pitied for lack of love!) and whine about them missing out on a ‘village’, OR roll up my sleeves and build a darn village.

Over the next couple of hours, this idea marinated and I actually began to feel excitement at the prospect of a new project. Right on cue, my mom’s eldest sister called to check in on me. A couple of hours later, my mom’s other sister called for the same reason. By the end of the night, I was feeling confident that building a village for my littles was going to be easier than I thought. In fact, I wouldn’t be building from scratch. The foundation was already there; it was simply a matter of a little more effort on my part.

So, if you find yourself throwing a pity party and it’s working for you, then by all means, party on. But when you are tired of listening to yourself go on about how sucky something is, when you know it doesn’t actually have to be, then ask yourself, “How can I fix this problem?” Because you can.

My Name Is Submission: Take 2

This post was originally published on April 27, 2012. I am re-posting it today because I’ve been thinking a lot about names again. I have three children with Arabic names that I thought were easy to pronounce, but clearly are not. Inaya (Ih-NAH-yah) becomes Ih-NAY-yah. Aariz (AH-reez) becomes Aries or even just Ari. And poor Alyzeh (uh-LEE-zay)…we get asked if we were drunk when she was conceived, thanks to Alize. These mispronunciations don’t really bother me. I think part of that is because I wouldn’t change their names for the world (Empathy, Respectable Man and Persian Wind, respectively), and the other part is that I have gone through my own process with my own mis-pronounceable one.  And I trust that they will each do the same.

*******

I can’t say I was always proud of my name.

My stomach would tie itself in knots when a substitute teacher would walk into the classroom. The other students reveled in a day of trickery and games, but I knew it would be a day of  my name being butchered to bits, beginning with the dreaded roll call.

To non-Arabic speakers, Taslim is a tricky word to pronounce correctly. I should know. Even I don’t pronounce it the way it is meant to be pronounced; it just isn’t natural to me. Still, my watered down version of it is what I prefer to some of the other well-intentioned attempts. But I wasn’t going to correct anybody in elementary school. When my name was next in roll call, there would be the inevitable pause…a slight contortion of the teacher’s mouth…and then out it would come. My name, sounding not quite like my name and then…wait for it…the chorus of the entire class “correcting” the teacher with another name, not quite like my name, but one that I went by as it seemed easier for everyone else.

I liked making things easier for everyone else. It seemed to make things easier for me. (For awhile.)

I made a vow to change my name once I was legally allowed to do so and spent much time trying to figure out the perfect name for me. When I was 5, I told all the kids in my new neighbourhood my name was Rosemary. Later ideas of a new name were Melanie, Jenna, Jenny, and Phaedra.

Not only was my name difficult to pronounce, it has this incredible heavy meaning:  Submission (to the will of God). I never wanted to tell people that. I mean, submitting to anything sounded so weak. And then the whole God part…it just felt too much for me to have such a religious name.

And then something happened by the time I was legally old enough to do anything about it. I grew into my name. I didn’t want to change it anymore; I wanted to change the way I carried it. When I started college, I introduced myself to people as Taslim (THUH-slim) and helped people pronounce it when they had trouble, even resorting to using the International Phonetic Alphabet in a Linguistics class. It turns out, it’s not as difficult as it looks!

A couple years later, I took a candle making class for fun. Of course, that led me to think of ways to turn this into a viable business. Well, I needed a name. I knew the perfect one:  Submission Products. Since that first sign of acceptance, I have been growing into the Arabic meaning of my name. (This business didn’t go beyond selling a handful at my now mother-in-law’s candle store, by the way, but it was fun while it lasted).

Oddly enough, surrendering, submitting, giving up…to the will of God…is now my way of life. When I resist it, I find I am pitted against more than I can handle.  When I do my part and I send out my intentions, I am much more at peace now with the “wait and see” part. What a relief.

Surrendering in other ways, letting go of the things I don’t need in my life – toxic relationships, fear-based thoughts, anger – well, that’s a work in progress. But I find the more I do of that, the more space I make for joy and pleasure.

The word submit has come to me in a new way in the last couple years. Submitting to calls for magazines, anthologies, and guest posts has been rewarding to no end. It’s a kind of release that I can only get from being who I truly am, doing what I am meant to do. Even typing in a comment on someone’s blog and clicking Submit is a reminder of just how powerful this word is. There is no weakness in it at all.

In fact, sometimes it takes all the strength I have to surrender.

Whether you’re Suzy, Amrit, Sean, Trang, or Boitumelo, be yourself. Don’t suffocate who you are to make things easier for other people. Don’t twist and contort and change yourself to fit some sort of mold that really doesn’t exist anyway.

Surrender. Submit. Release. Make Space. See what happens in exchange. 

 

Not A Bad Way To Turn 36

I’m taking a break from cleaning up last night’s dishes to write this post; I can hear the baby sucking her thumb through the monitor which means she is either on the cusp of soothing herself deeper into sleep, or on the brink of stirring awake. Dishes can wait. Writing cannot.

This morning, I woke up to my husband singing the Hindi version of Happy Birthday. It’s cute when he sings it because half the words are totally made up, but it’s become a tradition in my home to sing this on birthdays as it was a tradition in my family’s home growing up. My dear friend posted the song on my Facebook wall as well – have a listen. I can pretty much guarantee it will put a smile on your face (or make you lol for real):

Such a simple gesture by my husband and my friend, but their thoughtfulness is not lost on me. Of course I would think of my mom today. She loved celebrating our birthdays; my brother’s is tomorrow and hers is 3 days after. Throw in Mother’s Day and this week was a pretty festive one growing up. That feeling for me is wrapped up in this song. I know my brother understands this, and sharing this time with him is a blessing. When we were kids, people used to ask me, “Don’t you hate that your brother’s birthday is right after yours? You always have to celebrate it together?” I never thought of it that way. I always thought it was cool that I had an almost twin born three years and a day later.

After getting the two older kids ready on this beautiful morning, we piled into the car and drove the short distance to school. I received a birthday hug from a friend who I met in September of 2012 as our daughters began Kindergarten together. This is how we met:

Me: Hi, I’m Taslim. I just had a miscarriage.

She: Hi. I’m so sorry. It’s hard. I’ve had two.

Ok, so it wasn’t totally like that, but yeah, this pretty much happened in our first conversation. Who starts a friendship like that? We do, I guess! Since then we have weathered the firsts of everything ‘elementary school’ together and now she cares for my son on Mondays so I can have a day of just me and baby. Driving home from school, I thought about this and said a little thank you to the Universe for always sending me who and what I need, right on time.

Came home and got another birthday hug from my hubby who then left for work. I emptied the kitchen garbage and rolled the big monster garbage and organic waste bins to the curb, crinkling my nose at the smell. Not a glamorous moment, but an important one today. In that one hold-my-breath instant I was grateful for: sanitation, the physical ability to do the job, the sun shining on me as I stood at the end of the driveway, my home, my sleeping baby, clean water, my shoes, the birds chirping, my garden, and my neighbours. Not bad for a split second standing over rotting garbage.

Came back in to a dirty kitchen. This doesn’t happen often because after dinner clean-up is usually taken care of by the hubs. But this morning, the dishwasher needed emptying so that I could load up the dirty dishes, some bigger dishes needed washing and the island needed a good wipe. I surveyed the scene before me and saw the hand-me-down dishes from my grandmother and parents – a hodgepodge of reminders that meals with my family are the tastiest. I am thankful for the dinners past and look forward to planning more.

And that’s when I heard the sucking through the monitor. And here we are. I’m writing because it’s what I love. And while I would welcome the time to write more, I’m not going to complain about that. Being passionate about my work is hardly something to whine about. And besides, when I’m not writing, I’m spending a great deal of time with our third miracle baby. I wiggle her toes every day, I place my nose in her neck and take a deep whiff, I blow on her cheek to make her giggle, I stare at her toothless gums and marvel at the changes she has already undergone in just 5 months. I don’t want to forget.

I don’t want to forget the beautiful feeling of turning thirty six this way.

For the past few birthdays, I have heard the Aga Khan’s words in my head, “This life is but a blink of an eye in all of eternity.” When I was a pre-teen and couldn’t wait to be ‘older’, this made no sense to me. It was taking forever to graduate high school. And besides, if I was going to live till 90-something then life was really looooooong.

And then I blinked. And I’m 36. And I’m going to blink again, but before I do I’m hitting pause on this moment. I invite you to join me in doing so. (I mean, for heaven’s sakes, we can actually pause a T.V. show – which I still cannot get over – we can certainly stop life for a second). Take a moment and look around. Survey the scene. Listen to your thoughts. Notice your breath and make it deeper. And that’s it. That’s all it takes to remember you are alive.

I hope you have a day filled with many moments of gratitude and a lifetime of feeling alive.

P.S. She’s still sleeping – I’m off to finish those dishes! 🙂

A Letter To The ‘Me’ Sitting On My Parents’ Deck Six Years Ago

The early mornings sometimes remind me of the huge gulf that exists between the ‘me’ of today and the ‘me’ of 6 years ago; lately I’ve been taking trips back in time to when meeting a new day was a struggle, emotionally and sometimes physically. The me that sat on my parents’ deck, escaping for brief moments my mom’s tireless cough, would raise an eyebrow if I were to tell her that one day I’d be thankful to be woken up by the baby at 5:30 am, knowing that the end of this dawn feed would be followed by a writing session. It’s perfect timing. In fact, it has all been perfect timing. Some of the deepest pain I have known, the greatest fears, the darkest moments – from where I sit now – when chiseled away and polished up, have been some of my brightest gifts.

I share this journey in the upcoming Heartmind Wisdom Collection 2, an anthology of 21 authors who have penned their triumphs over experiences like sexual abuse, depression, grief, and other things that you and I have lived through. My chapter begins on the cherry laminate living room floor of my old house, with 10 month old Inaya crawling in and out of my lap, tears streaming down my face, and my concerned husband trying to piece me together with suggestions of where I might find help. All the while, inside, I knew that if I could just put my finger on what – or who – it is I was missing, I might be able to look forward to the sun sneaking its way into my bedroom. I might even be able to look past a grey sky and know there is still light.

Writing this chapter was like jumping on a boat and crossing the gulf, back and forth, many times. I felt it all again. Saw it, smelled it, breathed it, tasted it, lived it again. This morning, as the clouds promise to spill on my garden beds, I remember looking out on a different garden. And with the news that Heartmind Wisdom Collection 2 will be launched on May 31, 2014, I celebrate with a letter to myself 6 years ago – to the me sitting beside the creeping forget-me-nots of my parents’ backyard tapestry, listening to the soothing sounds of water cascading over the water feature my dad built for my mom to enjoy in her final years.

Dear Taslim,

I see you sitting on the tan-coloured planks of Mom and Dad’s deck of that home that we all knew would be Mom’s last. I can hear the water trickling over the carefully lain stones that Dad surprised us all by placing, one at a time, this way and that, until a perfectly formed water feature graced the corner of the yard. There are the bees buzzing by the lamb’s ear that you keep eyeing. You must really need some reprieve if you are sharing space with the only insects that scare the daylights out of you. I know, Mom’s cough and her failing body are pinning you down to these planks. And on the other side of the sliding door is your little girl who showed up quickly and purposefully, but whose needs can sometimes be too much for you when you are consumed by your angry thoughts. It’s ok. You are not a bad mother. God did not make a mistake giving you a child. It’s hard to see it now, I know, but soon you will understand that she is the catalyst to your new life. This new life is already being built, but like the water feature, it will take a great deal of strength and faith and time.

Can I sit beside you here beside the pink forget-me-nots you love? What is it about this groundcover that make them your favourite part of the garden? Seasoned gardeners know that these plants need careful tending or they will take over the entire space. Seeing you sitting here, your fingers caressing the tiny petals, the word ‘resilient’ passes through me. Rest assured, you are not too different from this hardy plant. Soft and delicate-looking, you possess a strength to create the reality you dream of – and when an idea of yours takes root, you will reach and reach and reach and cover whatever ground you need to to achieve what it is you want. Maybe it’s the Taurus in you, or maybe the unshakeable spiritual beliefs that pulse within you. Whatever it is, it’s your greatest asset. And it will get you off this deck.

But first, several things need to happen: Mom has to leave you physically and several more people have to enter and re-enter your life. The first of which will be a pain I can’t protect you from or even prepare you for, but I will love you through it all. And I will wait patiently for you to become acquainted and re-acquainted with old friends, new friends, mother-figures, other creatives who share your vision. But most importantly, I will breathe a huge sigh of happiness when you get to know someone – the only one – who has been travelling with you this whole time: You/Me.

That white butterfly that visits Mom and Dad’s garden daily, the one flitting over the stones right now? She is the subject of the first poem you will read publicly – the first of many – and she becomes the totem that carries you into a life where sharing your stories is your work, and raising three children with this wonderful man who never left your side is the sweetest icing on the cake. (We do love our cake!)

As this letter comes to a close, so does that gulf between you and me. All this back and forth is tiring 😉 So, just join me here and enjoy the life you have worked hard to build. With God by our side, nothing has been, or will ever be, impossible.

Love, 

Taslim

Celebrate Heartmind Wisdom Collection 2 with me and my co-authors on Saturday May 31, 2014 at the Aston Pacific Inn Resort & Conference Centre in South Surrey, B.C. It’s a free evening with the official book launch and inspirational sharing taking place from 7-9 pm and a live concert happening from 9-11 pm. There will also be vendors with their beautiful wares and a cash bar. For more information, please join our event page here.

 

 

A Tribute To Dr. Roshan Thomas: From The Hurt Comes Inspiration

It’s 6:47 am and I have been up since the baby’s 5 am feed. As the early morning light pushes through the fog, finally, the tears are flowing. I have crept downstairs wrapped in a sweater and heartache, and am honouring the people who lost their lives in the Serena Hotel in Kabul on Navroz.

I knew Dr. Roshan Thomas and her family as a young girl growing up in the same jamatkhana (Ismaili house of congregational worship). And I had known bits and pieces of the work she and her husband have done in Pakistan and Afghanistan as eye doctors. In the last 48 hours I have come to learn more about the depths of their work and passion for bettering the lives of the Afghan community – a community that is living on a shred of hope after nearly 3 decades of turmoil. Please read here for details about Dr. Thomas and Sparks Academy. It will give you a glimpse into a life of someone who acted on her convictions while raising three respectable children.

With the news of Dr. Thomas’ passing came the news of the other casualties: Zeenab Kassam of Calgary who was serving as a nurse for the past year and a half in Kabul; a journalist, his wife and their two young children. The four gunmen who managed to slip through Serena security and open fire in a packed restaurant also were killed. They are called gunmen because of their actions; I am realizing as I glance at the dewy fog outside my window, these gunmen were boys. Therein lies the despair of a country. Boys who are recruited because of a lack of education by people who are blinded by a rage that stems from another lack…and so on the ripples flow. Dr. Thomas was working hard to stop this tragic cycle by providing culturally-sensitive early childhood education; she believed that children should be allowed to be children. And during that Navroz celebration when those boys opened fire and killed two innocent children, childhood was robbed from both sides.

From the hurt, anger, and sadness there must come inspiration. There will always be a pang in my chest when I think of Dr. Thomas and her family; there should be something else too if I am to honour someone who serves as a role model for Canadian Ismaili women – all of humanity, for that matter.

I cannot promise to be selfless every day. I cannot promise I won’t have days when I feel burdened by earthly work. But I can take each day as it comes and ask myself, what am I doing today that will contribute to my legacy? And, equally important, how am I involving my family in creating this legacy so that we may share it and be bound by it?

When looking to the future, my husband and I dream of projects that we can initiate or in which we can be involved at some level. One day, we say, we will volunteer together, show our children what’s truly important. Another glance out the window brings an awareness: the clock keeps ticking. It is now completely daylight. In the 45 minutes that I have been sitting here, kept company by the hum of the baby monitor, the earth has rotated slightly. Time isn’t waiting for me to start living my convictions.

My heart and prayers go out to everyone affected by the loss of their loved ones, and my deep gratitude and respect to Dr. Roshan Thomas for what she has done, and for what her legacy will continue to do, for the global community. Navroz has a new meaning now as I will always remember the extra nudge I received this year to turn hurt into hope and act today.