When A Little Girl Playing With Beads Follows Her Heart

Hello, dear Readers! First off, a big welcome to my new subscribers! There’s a whole slew of you – and I’m sure we met on Saturday night at the Heartmind Wisdom Collection 2 book launch! What a fun night that was. Celebrating this amazing collection with my coauthors was one highlight. Watching all 3 of my kids sitting nicely in the crowd was another. When we got home that night, my oldest daughter says to me, “Mommy, I love your job.” Me, too, sweets. Me, too.

Speaking about living an authentic life, delivering a talk that came right from my heart and soul, was invigorating. I think we all have something like that, that does that to us. Something that’s pretty much sewn into our being when we are conceived. When we tap into it, live from it, our soul vibrates at an optimal frequency and things just feel good.

Today I’m shining the spotlight on someone I have known most of my life, but only recently have come to know as an artist. Fatima Sumar is the creator behind Fantabulous Dezigns – a jewelry line with a spiritual twist. If you were at the launch on Saturday, you may have met her as one of our sponsors. She is a great example of someone following her heart and doing what makes her soul sing. I asked her a few questions which she kindly answered for us. Hope you take a few minutes to read her messages about pursuing passions and family traditions.

How did your jewelry making begin? 

My jewelry making started off as a young child. I would always be making the latest trending jewelry piece and then my grandmother and I would sit down and make Tasbihs (they are prayer beads similar to mala beads) together as a way for us to bond and for me to inherit traditional knowledge.

What is your inspiration? 

My grandmother. She and I can be having a simple conversation and all of a sudden she will say something and I create my next line.

How did this passion develop into a business?

After creating trendy pieces as a hobby, I started noticing people were interested in my stuff. That’s when I started to think outside the box! I asked myself, how can impact the world? The answer was simple: educate and inspire others to do good through my Tasbihs and jewelry pieces. As each piece or line was created, my inner fire or passion was aroused. I feel as though I am in the right spot in the right time and that I am fulfilling my life’s purpose.

You come from a family of entrepreneurs. How do you think this has influenced you? 

Yes, I do come from a line of entrepreneurs, and at the age of 5 I knew that I wanted to be a successful business owner. I would say, given my background, that being an entrepreneur is in my blood but more importantly it excites me to my core. I would much rather have a conversation about the business world than a scientific conversation. When I worked at the airport I was very dark  and closed off. Although I had a stable paycheck and was around people, I was empty and bored. Today, I am the very opposite; I am happy and making a difference.

As an entrepreneur, it is not always glamorous and financially freeing in the beginning of your journey. However, the many facets of a business interest me due to the level of creativity involved compared to the black and white aspect of other lines of work. I also have never been one to conform to any role but rather be a leader and stand out.

What are valuable traits to have as an entrepreneur?

As an entrepreneur surround yourself with people who are like minded and have a vision. Never give up on your goal! Patience is a virtue! I have found myself questioning what I do many times especially when things do not go as planned but have come to understand that whatever is happening at this moment is right for me.

Please tell us about the rewards and challenges of your business. 

The rewards are: knowing that I have put a smile on each individual’s face and that I have imparted some knowledge as an ambassador of Islam. Also, I love knowing the piece is spiritually and emotionally what the client needed at that specific time and that I have been able to impact the individual’s life in a positive way. Challenges that I am finding are: ways to break through the clutter of many designers. But that also is exciting as I am confident about my pieces. I find the day to day administrative requirements to be challenging as they does not leave me with what I love which is designing and customer acquisition. Although, these are considered to be challenges I see them as a way to grow and make me stronger both professionally and personally.

Any advice for my readers who have a dream but are afraid to pursue it? 

Do not think about it, but rather get your feet wet and your hands dirty. Find someone that can mentor you and enjoy the journey. Your dream is your reality: own it and enjoy nurturing it to light. Love what you do!

Please check out Fatima’s site by clicking here – have a look at her pretty designs and give her a like and a follow!

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.

 

 

When Creativity Meets Kindness: A Classy Example By Brentwood Mall (@brentwoodinfo)

As a blogger, opening my email can sometimes be surprising. I think it’s great when PR companies reach out to bloggers to be ambassadors for brands or special events – and when a newsworthy item comes along that totally aligns with my blog, I am more than happy to share it.

The first time I heard about doing kind things for others just because as a thing was in high school when the student council announced Random Acts of Kindness Week. I’m glad that the trend hasn’t died down and in fact, has been played out on a huge scale by individuals, small grassroots organizations and big corporations alike. Brentwood Mall in Burnaby, B.C. is no exception.

Take a look at the official press release and video below; this is a great example of when Creativity and Kindness intersect. If you are close enough to Brentwood to get down there on a Friday for a free massage, a dance break or a chance to win free lunch then go for it! But also, I’m sending this out because it may inspire you to start a Feel Good campaign wherever you are! When we use our creativity to do good for others, we are tapping into the best part of ourselves! (Tweet that!)

Brentwood surprises and delights guests with
Feel Good Fridays

Shopping centre picks up the lunch tab, kicks up the beat and soothes sore muscles every Friday afternoon

Burnaby, BC, April 23, 2014 – Thank goodness for Fridays! Shoppers are flocking to Brentwood for Feel Good Fridays in hopes of getting lunch on the house – literally. Every Friday between 12PM and 2PM, up to 10 lucky guests will learn thereis such a thing as a free lunch when Brentwood’s guest services team swoops in and surprises them by picking up the tab, no strings attached.

 

Feel Good Fridays at Brentwood from Brentwood on Vimeo.

“Nothing feels better than putting smiles on people’s faces, and Feel Good Fridays are the perfect way to do so,” said Samia Massoud, marketing director for Brentwood. “Surprising guests with a free meal or coffee never fails to brighten their day.”

Not satisfied with gratis grub? Feel Good Fridays take the positive vibes to new heights with complimentary shoulder and neck massages for guests on the upper level by the food court. Those in need of a dance break can get their groove on at centre court, thanks to old-school R&B, hip-hop and pop favourites courtesy of DJ Juice.

“Feel Good Fridays are all about our guests and showing them our appreciation in a fun, unique way,” added Massoud. “It’s a great feeling to give back to our community.”

About Brentwood: With stores ranging from American Eagle Outfitters to DAVIDsTEA, to Sears and London Drugs, Brentwood is the Lower Mainland’s answer to convenient shopping and excellent guest services. Located at the intersection of Lougheed and Willingdon with a dedicated SkyTrain stop and bus station, Brentwood is accessible and welcoming to all. Stay up to date on news and special promotions offered to valued guests at www.brentwoodtowncentre.com.

#BeAHero: Walk So Kids Can Talk

I remember the jingle and the commercials; a boy dialing the number in a payphone 1-800-668-6868. (You have the tune in your head now, right?) The message I got from the ad as a child was that there was always someone to turn to for any kind of help, a non-judgemental sounding board was at the other end of this number 24/7.

Thankfully, there still is.

We hear so much about the kinds of problems kids are facing these days, and though I’m sure every generation looks to the next and feels the problems are getting worse, I have to say that the fears I have for my children are different from the fears my parents had for theirs.

Sometimes children don’t have a trusted adult in their lives they can turn to for help; writing out their feelings in a journal or opening up to a peer may not always be enough. Sometimes it’s the dedication and concern of a volunteer counsellor on the other end of the phone that can mean the difference between a life of emotional/physical pain, and a happier ending.

When I was asked for my support to spread the news about the Walk So Kids Can Talk, I whole-heartedly suggested I write a blog post. Presented by Bank of Monteal, this walk is the largest fundraiser of the year for Kids Help Phone and deserves a lot of attention. Having a voice is important for all of us. It’s why I write and why I encourage my daughter to come to me with her thoughts, if not out loud then at least in writing. But sometimes it’s not that simple, and that’s where Kids Help Phone is invaluable.

Kids Help Phone cannot provide the necessary services and meet the growing needs of our children without the public’s support. If you are able to help out with a donation or get to the walk itself, please do and take some friends with you. If you would like to share about this cause, please feel free to copy and paste the information below:

Date: Sunday, May 4, 2014

Check-in: 9:30 AM

Walk start: 11:00 AM

Address: David Lam Park, 1300 Pacific Boulevard, Vancouver, British Columbia

Website: http://www.walksokidscantalk.ca/walk-locations/vancouver/

Join The Conversation On Twitter: #WSKCT14 #BeAHero

About the Walk so Kids Can Talk presented by BMO

The Walk so Kids Can Talk presented by BMO (#BeAHero) is a fun and inspirational 5K walk where thousands of kids, adults, families, schools, community organizations, and corporations across Canada join together to support kids’ potential by raising funds for Kids Help Phone. It’s a terrific way to build community and enjoy a great experience outdoors while supporting an important cause: young people’s well-being.

The Walk provides help and hope to kids everywhere, sending them the message that we walk together to make our world a more supportive place for them.

Held on the first Sunday in May since 2002, the Walk is Canada’s largest for child and youth mental health and well-being and kicks off Mental Health Week in Canada each year. The Walk is Kids Help Phone’s largest fundraising event of the year and raises a significant portion of the revenue needed to keep Kids Help Phone’s day and night counselling service available.

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.

 

 

 

 

Pinned In A Space Between Two Cultures

I’d like to take credit for the title of this blog post, but it originally sat boldly atop an article written by Anne Bains, published in the Toronto Star on January 3, 1994.  Her descriptions of being a hyphenated Canadian university student mirrored my own experiences and up until that point, I had felt there was not a single soul who knew what it felt like to be caught between two worlds with such vastly different value systems.  At least, I hadn’t ‘met’ anyone brave enough to try to grasp the issue with both hands and blurt it all out on paper.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My adolescence was a lonely time during which I didn’t feel I fit in with my friends at school or with my friends at the mosque.  I no longer felt like my parents were the ones I could turn to for understanding.  It’s not an exaggeration or an attempt at being dramatic when I say that my journal was my best friend, without which I’m not sure how I would have made it to the other side of my teen years.  The article written by Anne Bains sits on the table beside me now as I type this, taking a short breather from its home between the pages of one of the journals I kept in high school. Pulling it out today has evoked the same feelings of isolation and sadness I felt at that time my dad placed it on my study desk some 20 years ago.

I can go further in my personal history and pull out stories of being Indian in Victoria, B.C. in the early ‘80s.  By the way, at that time, not only people who were from India were called Indian, but also First Nations people.  That was confusing as a child, I can tell you that!  I knew from the get-go in Kindergarten that I was different from the other kids.  For one thing, because English was my second language, there were still several words for which I didn’t know the English word.  I became painfully aware that my skin was a different colour than the other kids’ when a group of older boys threw dog poop at me on the playground because I was ‘brown like it.’  (They stopped laughing when my best friend, Leah, got her older brother to have a word with them.)

Experiences like that followed me to the mainland when I was told in Grade 3 to “Go back to Pakistan, you Paki!”  Well, that really threw me because as far as I knew, no one in my family had even visited Pakistan on a holiday.  My roots are in the state of Gujarat in India and we had a three generation stopover in Kenya before making Canada our permanent home.  My parents and I came to Canada when I was less than a year old so it really was the only home I’d ever known.  So when someone left a note at our front door telling us we weren’t wanted in Canada with our devil-worshipping ways I began to wonder where I truly belonged.

In the tween years, that gulf between my Canadian and South Asian identities widened as my ‘Canadian’ peers (those whose parents were born and raised here) were enjoying sleepovers, co-ed parties and hanging out at the mall or going to the movies unchaperoned.  The few Indian families I knew who allowed that kind of behaviour were categorized as trying to be ‘too Canadian.’  Within my home, there wasn’t just a generational gap anymore, but also a cultural one.  This gap only grew in my teen years.

What was difficult for me was that I truly identified with both cultures.  I could wear either hat and feel the part.  I have always held in high esteem particular values from each system and felt they fit me.  But neither side seemed to accept me as one of them.  And that’s because, as Anne so eloquently put it, I was pinned in a space, dangling sometimes by a sad, lonely thread, between the two cultures.

I’m bringing all this up now because of an inaugural event coming to Vancouver on April 28, 2014 known as G Day for Girls.  This modern day rite of passage is for girls between the ages of 10-12; it’s a day to celebrate their individuality as well as arm them with wisdom about how to thrive in their uniqueness.  I could have used a day like that, a group of women mentoring me, making me feel like I could navigate the years ahead with support and understanding.  If you love a girl in that age group, please check out their website for more details.

I’m going to tuck this article away now – maybe I will even try to find Anne Bains and tell her that her words made a huge difference to me when it really mattered, and that I looked up to her without having ever laid eyes on her.  I was lucky.  I had a strong connection to my Self through my writing and found hope in hers.  Let’s all work consciously to be that connection for our girls.