Friday, July 17, 2015


Today was Eid. One of my very favorite days of the year.

I have been reading people's reflections as Sherullah draws to a close. People are thinking about what they want to carry forward from Ramazaan, what they want to retain. How they've done. Their resolutions, their wins, their shortcomings. 

While I am certainly also thinking about what the past month has meant to me, today I am fully in the present. I am no longer in the routine of the past 30 days. Masjid every night. Rozu every day. Nocturnal schedules, focused ibadat, dehydration headaches, so much Quran, so much satisfaction, so much striving.

I am also not yet in the post-Ramazan days. Withdrawal from the schedule has not yet set in, I have not yet figured out how the past month will affect my next months- spiritually, mentally. I have not yet reestablished a "normal" schedule. I have not yet slept a full night. 

Instead, I am only in the now. The one day, Eid, that is suspended between Ramazan and post-Ramazan. The day we celebrate. The day my community members - the people I have known since infancy - are so, so happy. So dressed up. Exchanging greetings and gifts and laughs with abandon.

I love Eid. I feel love and I feel loved. And whatever happens tomorrow, today is a remarkable day. A magical day. A day out of time, in which I don't have to reflect upon yesterday or decide about tomorrow. 

Side note- Eid 2015 was red-letter for Yusuf. He has been coveting the Xbox One that has sat on the raffle table for the past month, walking by it daily and telling me, "I hope we win that!" I knew that the chances of winning the one thing he wanted were slim, so all month, I have told him, "Yes, that would be cool! But if we don't win, it's ok! Alhamdolillah, right?" And he has dutifully answered, "Yes, alhamdolillah."

Today. The raffle began. They announced some prizes and winners. And then they announced the Xbox and Yusuf looked at me with hope in his eyes. I love that boy and his optimism :) But then. They called my name. I was in disbelief- there was no way this could work out this beautifully. But it was true, and Yusuf was cheering excitedly to prove it. I won the Xbox, and Yusuf got what he had been clearly doing the right kind of dua for all month :)

I am proud of my kids. They participated in the Quran competition and did beautifully. They were so comfortable on stage- they seemed to be enjoying themselves. Nooriya loved being up there. Yusuf was at ease.

All month, they have worked hard at hifzing. They have stretched themselves and they have achieved so much.

I learned from them this month. I decided to not only host family Eid dinner at our house, but to cook for it as well. I don't like to cook, and I don't hide that fact. But it occurred to me - I needed to stretch myself as well. I haven't cooked for my extended family in longer than I can remember. So I cooked. Yesterday and today, I cooked. I took a page from Yusuf and Nooriya's book and I tried something new. 

And my sasu sasra were happy, and proud, and they told me so. They are used to seeing me do interviews and have literary accomplishments, and they say they are proud, but when I cooked for them, they were truly delighted. And I was proud of myself.

So. On this magical day, Yusuf's wish came true, my enchiladas were delicious, I spent the day surrounded by family and friends, and all I can say is this: may my last word always be


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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Touching Base

It has been a while since I blogged. Lots of balls in the air :)

The new house is coming along well. Alhamdolillah. We had another walkthrough last week, and it is very exciting seeing everything framed out. It is becoming so easy to imagine the house being finished, where our furniture will go, what activities we will do where. 

We have had several of our family members come to the house and sign the wooden frame of the house in various rooms. All 4 parents and Yusuf and Nooriya came after Nooriya's ballet recital. Some of the brothers/bhabis/nieces have come, and the rest intend to. 

It's neat, having their signatures and well wishes and funny messages on the walls. When the drywall is up and painted and we live in the home, we will know that right here, inside the wall, this person wrote this, and that person wrote that. 

Built on the foundation of khaki shifa from Karbala, and framed with the love of our family. Alhamdolillah :)

On a different note, I lost a friend on Sunday. She wasn't well for a long time, and her passing wasn't a surprise, but the loss of her has reminded me of how much there is to do shukr for. I am eternally grateful that I got to speak to her on Saturday, the day before she passed. That she heard me and knew I was thinking about her. That her pain is over. 

Onward. We just have to keep spending our days teaching Yusuf and Nooriya to do shukr and to be kind. That's it.


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Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Making a Home

Taher and I started the process of building a home a while ago. Almost two years ago. There were a lot of steps between then and now. We found the right spot. Bought it. Sold our house. Found the right builder. Made plans. Revised them. Waited through the winter for the ground to thaw.

And today, the process of actually constructing the house has finally begun. They demolished the old home that stood on our property and inshallah the digging will start later today.

I am excited. I am grateful to have the support of our family. I am grateful to be starting this journey with Taher, whose presence and involvement make everything fun for me. 

We have been picking brick and stone and roof colors and bathroom fixtures over the past 2 weeks. Ahead of us lie many many more decisions. And although the prospect of making 1,000 decisions, one after another, is daunting, the reality of making them hasn't been all that stressful. 

Instead, it's been cool. I feel like we are on a shopping spree. In a sense, I guess we are. We find ourselves calling each other throughout the day and talking about the differences between wrought iron and flat black finishes. 

Then we convene at the computer after the kids are in bed and try to finalize some of our choices. When we get tired, we call it a night and go continue binge-watching The Office ;)

I know the idea is to get these choices made and to move this process along, but I hope it doesn't go by too quickly :)

More updates will follow. In the meantime, alhamdolillah!


Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Moula TUS in LA!

We had an incredible weekend. Deedar, qadmbosi, sharaf for the kids, sharaf for us, reuniting with old friends, spending time with dear ones.
Moula TUS brings us together. 

Later: more on the mini-miracle in the way Nooriya's mysteriously remembering my cell phone number led to not only her qadmbosi, but mine as well. And the green pass that magically appeared when I needed it to.

For now, alhamdolillah barely covers it :)

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Friday, January 16, 2015

Morning Routine, Winter 2015

Sometimes I like to write a post about our morning routine, just so I can see how much it has changed.

It represents how much the kids have changed. 

And it reminds me that the changes are good- they may be moving further and further away from chubby babyhood, but that's ok. They are relying on us in different ways than they used to, and they are closer to us in ways that wouldn't have been possible when they were still infants.

So. Nowadays, Nooriya wakes up first, around 6am, and goes potty and brushes her teeth. Then she changes into the clothes that I laid out the night before. Then she goes downstairs and grabs the cereal bowl and spoon and cereal off the counter, and puts them on the table, and then opens the fridge and grabs one of the two cups of milk that are on the lower shelf. She has her breakfast - sometimes early enough where Taher gets to have breakfast with her - and by this time, Yusuf is usually up. He goes through the same potty/teeth/change/breakfast routine that Nooriya just completed.

At this point, I am wide awake but trying to stay in bed until 7am. I usually accomplish this. I then walk out of my room and call Nooriya upstairs so I can brush and braid her hair, and I remind both kids to make their beds. If Nooriya doesn't have her glasses on yet, I remind her to put them on.

While I am getting ready for the day, the kids are either playing together or reading side by side. When I come downstairs and I see them sitting next to each other, noses buried in books, I am reminded of how different life is now. When they were babies, the morning meant crying and milk and diapers and wrangling and juggling - and I rarely got to shower in the morning. 

But alhamdolillah, although we have left the wrangling behind, they are still so cuddly. This morning they don't have school, so they came into my bed and we just hung out for 20 minutes before starting our day. 

Alhamdolillah. Did I say that? Is it even possible to say it enough?

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On Tuesday, I began my new position as Adjunct Professor of English at Elgin Community College.
I am only teaching one class per semester until Nooriya is in school full time- the flexibility associated with teaching is awesome. I am so glad I finally got around to applying to do this.

Tuesday was my first day teaching- there so much anticipation leading up to this day! I wanted to just get in there and meet my students.

I don't think they knew quite what to make of me when I walked in. How old is this girl? What in the world is she wearing? Why does she talk like a surfer?

I have never been a formal person, and although I can be professional, I can't pretend. So when I walked into this class of 20 freshmen/sophomores, I was being myself. And I knew that that was the only way I would make connections with these kids, the only way they would learn to enjoy writing, the only way I would enjoy teaching.

Tuesday went ok. I liked the experience, but I didn't feel a connection to any of the kids yet. However, since it was only the first day, I wasn't too worried about that.

And then yesterday, Thursday, was my second day. And it went so wonderfully that I am now not only "not worried" about this semester, I am looking forward to it and very, very happy.

I got a chance to walk around to every student and read what they were typing and chat with them and impart to them the idea that writing should not be torture. I told them that my job this semester would be to show them how to look at a blank Word document as an opportunity, not an intimidation. I spoke to them about writer's block. I encouraged them to choose topics for their Formal Research Paper that they actually felt passionate about or interested in. How that would make the difference between researching and writing this paper feel like a job versus a joy. 

I think I got through to them. They opened up. They told me about their difficult stepfather, their drug-addicted parents, their chameleons, their future plans, their poodle, their lives.


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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Changing it Up

Farida mentioned to me this morning that the past two months have brought about a lot of changes and transitions in my life. She said, why don't you write about it? Post to your blog! And she was right. 

So. taking a moment here to process the changes whirling around me. In the midst of Sherullah I haven't been reflecting much- I have been doing, going, preparing, helping, caring, fasting, praying... but not much reflecting. It hasn't been a quiet month for me, as it can be for some.

Six weeks ago, we moved from our house into the masjid house, and put our house up for sale. The house that we moved into when I was pregnant with Yusuf - the house in which both Yusuf and Nooriya were babies, took their first steps, spoke their first words, made countless memories with us. I did take a moment to say goodbye to that house, but even as I was doing so, I was looking forward. Stripped of furniture, with new carpet and new paint, ready for sale, the house looks so different. The house is still there, but the home we made within it in not there anymore. 

For now, it's here. Masjid house. New, large, filled with people much of the time- it's our temporary stop on our journey to Home. We moved and unpacked and settled in within a day. One long day. And now we have set up our routines and our habits here, and I am trying not to think about the fact that inshallah, next year, we will do this all again. In the meantime, though, I can only do shukr. For this house and the family support that this house represents. And for the family itself. Alhamdolillah, we are blessed people.

More on this later. Someone is calling Mummy :)


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Little Science Guy

Yusuf loves science and experiments. Yesterday he was asking Taher about evaporation (pronouncing it EV-aporation instead of EVE-aporation, which was adorable- and he set up an experiment with two glasses of water. He placed one by the sunny window and another on the counter and he wants to see which evaporates faster. He even made a little chart to note times.

I love the things they come up with.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Women's Ijtema in India

A couple days ago I returned from a week-long trip to India. I was there because I was asked to speak at a Muminaat Ijtema (a women's educational forum) that was taking place in Mumbai. 

The ijtema was organized by Zaenab Bhensaheb, the wife of Moula's (tus) oldest son. Over 300 women attended. The event primarily consisted of a moderated panel discussion, but also included videos, visual presentations, and a couple of poetry readings/speeches.

The point of this ijtema was to open up a dialogue and reach out to the young women of our community- to create a space in which these women could gain perspective, ask their questions, and be heard. Not too different from the mission of ISFM :)

I was proud to be a part of this ijtema. I think honest dialogue is powerful, and in widening an individual's perspective, you are giving him/her the tools to affect positive change in this world. We all have so much to learn from one another, and united in our desire to carry out Moula's (tus) khushi, we embody potential in the very best sense of the word. I have never been so proud to be a muminah as when I looked out at the audience and realized that I can count myself one of this group of strong, intelligent, curious, beautiful, caring women. It was a powerful moment for me.

I was supported by many people as I endeavored to go on this trip. My mom came with me, so that I had her company and her solid presence with me throughout; Taher gave me immense peace of mind as he beautifully handled the kids, his job, and the house while I was far away; my dad told me he was proud of me- praise that continually ranks higher than any other I have ever been given. Thanks to the women who attended the ijtema and to those who have been sending in their feedback- thanks especially to the lovely young ladies who approached me during and after the event to tell me they were inspired by what was discussed and that they gained fresh perspective.

Alhamdolillah- a great experience :)

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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Madrasa big girl

Nooriya starts madrasa today. Another milestone. She is so excited and I am excited for her. I am also sad that my baby is already 4! 


Friday, November 15, 2013

Morning Routine

Our morning routine is constantly evolving as the kids get older and able to do more things independently. 
I was thinking about that this morning as I told Yusuf to get ready for school. When he was a tiny infant, I used to dread mornings. Taher would leave and I would be nursing Yusuf and mentally willing Taher not to leave me alone with this colicky, demanding baby. He would start the day by wailing and would continue the wailing all day long.
As he grew out of the colic, the wailing stopped but mornings were still plenty demanding. He needed changing and feeding and entertaining and often getting myself fed and changed was low on the list of priorities. I hit the ground running every single day. Of course, all of it was lovely and I cherished- and I still do - my time with Yusuf. 
Nowadays, mornings are very different. Both kids come into my bed for some cuddling and I love that. So much. And then as I begin helping Nooriya through her morning routine I simply tell Yusuf, "Get ready, Janoo" and he proceeds to use the bathroom, change into the clothes I've laid out, fold his pjs, make his bed, brush his teeth, and eat his breakfast. All on his own. I step in to wet comb his cowlick and he is done. It's a far cry from the crying of 6 years ago. 
And by now I'm smart enough to wish the days would go by more slowly. 


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

ISFM volume 4!

"A woman's destiny, they say, is not fulfilled until she holds in her arms her own little book." 

The ISFM series welcomes it's 4th book! I am proud of what we have accomplished and hope to see the dialogue continue. We are putting it out there and encouraging others to do the same :)


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Speaking gigs

Since the first ISFM book came out, I have been asked to do speaking events around the country. Usually at universities but sometimes other venues as well. Lately I have been doing more of these- including the ones during last year's State Department trip, I have done maybe 20 in the last couple of years. 
I am really enjoying these trips. They do unfortunately take me away from my family for a night, but they are so rewarding that I do not mind. Especially since Taher has everything taken care of on the home front :)
The audiences at these events vary- sometimes there are more non-Muslims, sometimes less, sometimes mostly college students, other times more adults from the local community.
But every time, I am met with open minds, challenging questions, and a feeling of gratitude that I get to connect with people and learn from them and give my perspective and affect change on this small grassroots level. 
Sometimes people are encouraging. Sometimes they are contentious. But they are always there because they want to be part of a conversation, and I am thrilled that I get to use my brain and answer questions and think on my feet. I remain informal and make sure the audience knows they can approach me. And when they do indeed approach me after the event and tell me their own stories, I am struck by how unique and wonderful it is that in a room full of strangers, I am having genuine moments with people and walking away feeling supported, thankful... and successful. 


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Yusuf's big week

This week Yusuf has had a lot of cool moments. He got a trophy in taekwondo for Most Dedicated Student, he graduated from Minnow to Turtle 1 in swim class and got a ribbon, and he lost his first tooth on Lalitul Qadr! His milestones keep coming and now that he is older, he shares in the excitement with us. We are proud of our little man. 


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Book quote

"Your life must be an open city, with all sorts of ways to wander in."  

(from "Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore")

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


Nooriya, wiping her nose with a wipe: "I need wipes to get my body all strong and clean so I can have much less energy!"

Me: "What does energy have to do with being clean?"

Nooriya: "Shhh, Mummy. I'll teach you everything you need to know, ok? Don't worry."


Thursday, May 16, 2013


In three months, Yusuf behind KG. I can't fathom that he will be away from 8:45am until 3:20pm every day. It's so strange. And he is such a pleasure to be around that I know I will miss him. It feels like the beginning of a new stage- it is, I know - and I feel a little nostalgic.
When he was a colicky baby I bet I would have been mighty pleased if someone had just taken him off my hands until 3:20pm every day. But as I realize more and more every day, he is not a colicky little baby anymore. Far, far from it. 
Yusuf of the fancy vocabulary ("I certainly prefer the aquarium to the museum", "If you have no teeth, chewing would be problematic") and the lengthy explanations ("Mummy let me tell you all about invertebrates/hurricanes/condensation") and the inquisitive mind and the responsible instincts and the noble-mindedness- he is growing up. 
So when he does have a cranky moment, even in the midst of my exasperation, I am pleased. Because he is still my little boy. Don't grow up too quickly.


Thursday, March 14, 2013


We went to a Leonard Cohen concert last night. Taher came home and surprised me - he basically told me we had a sitter and we would be leaving shortly, and I didn't know where we were going.
And when we got to the city, I still had no idea what we were doing- and in fact I was busy staring at this huge new Walgreens on the corner and how it was big enough to have a deli inside when suddenly I saw the marquee- Leonard Cohen!
Leonard is such an amazing poet and artist and his lyrics - to his older songs - they affect me deeply. They move me.
I got to watch him sing Suzanne and Hallejulah and I'm Your Man and a couple dozen others. It was FUN.
Thank you Taher :)

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

No more unneccesary chemicals!

Been doing a lot of reading about the chemicals in our daily body and household products, decided to purge the toxic chemicals throughout the house. Here are my new recipes:

all ingredients i am using get a low (good) rating on the EWG's skin deep website and a good rating on as well. which means they are not toxic, not cancerous, safe for humans, etc.

toothpaste: dr bronner's castile liquid soap in peppermint, mixed with baking soda to create a paste. this tastes soapy though so i need to add xylitol in next time. otherwise it feels good and leaves my teeth feeling clean and smooth.
***UPDATE: this toothpaste was not a hit with the kids, plus it was expensive to add in enough xylitol to make it taste less soapy. So now using Nature's Gate toothpaste in aniseed flavor. Harmless, ewg rating of 1.

hand soap: 1 part dr bronner's to 10 parts water. this has replaced all hand soap in the house.
***UPDATE: also using diluted alaffia African black soap for hand soap, same ratio. Seems less drying than the Bronner's.

body lotion: we are using straight up cold pressed organic coconut oil all over our bodies after a bath or shower. for all 4 of us.

When I want something that smells lovely I use a Shea Moisture brand body lotion. The coconut hibiscus one with the orange label smells amazing. Very good ewg rating.

face wash: oil cleansing method using jojoba oil, castor oil, and a few drops of rosehip seed oil and sea buckthorn berry oil. For full instructions on the Oil Cleansing Method, getting started, benefits, etc, see this link:
***UPDATE: using benzonite clay as a spot treatment for a potential zit also works very well. 

For my daily facial moisturizing and sunblock in one, I LOVE the suntegrity 5-in-1. It's SPF 30, awesome ewg rating, and feels like a tinted bb cream. It's pricey but lasts easily 5 months. 

body wash in shower: none needed. no soap to dry out my skin, and water is more cleansing than people realize, once you break the cycle of removing natural oils and then replacing with synthetic ones, which dry you out, causing you to replace with synthetic ins again, etc.

for washing the kids in the bath: using a solution of dr bronners diluted with water.

hair care: putting coconut oil on kids and my own hair once a week. after the oiling, we use dr Bronner's (diluted with water) to wash it out, for two days. other 5 days a week, NO shampoo on the hair. i have been doing the no-shampoo method for days and my scalp has adjusted now so not getting greasy, and water making my hair feel clean. my curls are bouncy, not weighed down.
***UPDATE: I wasn't enjoying the experience of not having shampoo in the shower. So I'm now using a DIY shampoo of Dr Bronner's plus coconut milk. About 1:1. It lathers and smells good.
***UPDATE 2: the coconut milk had a very short shelf life in the shower and then kept going bad. Now using diluted alaffia African black soap and I like the feel and smell and it keeps my curls defined. No need for conditioner. I use the alaffia about 2-3 times a week. 
***UPDATE 3: I found a brand called hugo naturals which gets a good rating on EWG. I use the shampoo and conditioner together about 1-2 times a week. Rest of the week just water. Hair is behaving nicely. Curls look fluffy and defined. Also it's nice to use the hugo bc it has a scent!

I have been using the Shea Moisture brand for their curl & style milk for my hair when I want a little more definition. The coconut hibiscus one smells like heaven. Very good ewg rating. 

also using apple cider vinegar to rinse hair every week or so, but not more than that because very acidic, don't want to do this too much.
***UPDATE: I don't need the acv rinse anymore since using the diluted alaffia African black soap. My hair has no buildup with the alaffia. 
***UPDATE 2: see above- I'm just using the hugo products on my hair.

some say baking soda works for them but it can be drying, so if your hair is oily, try this, but if dry, maybe not.

face scrub: sugar mixed with coconut oil makes a nice face scrub. not too often though for me because my skin is dry, not oily.

household cleaning:

countertops, etc using 1/2 vinegar and 1/2 water. if dirty and soap is needed, using 1 part bronners to 10 parts water.

for scrubbing in sinks and tubs, using baking soda mixed with bronners.

for toilets, baking soda.

for spraying on fruits and veggies (the ones where the skin is consumed), using 1 part bronner to 10 parts water.

for dishwasher, using a paste made of equal parts bronner's and baking soda. using vinegar in the rinse-aid box of the dishwasher. this is working well- just unloaded the dishwasher and no residue, no dirty dishes. everything is nice and clean.
***UPDATE: the paste was really difficult to get out of the container. Very hard after a few days. So now I'm using the recipe below after much research and trial and error. It is wonderful:

for laundry, instead of dryer sheets (respiratory impairment and also sometimes gelatin), using two pieces of cloth that each have a safety pin in them, using these two cloths in every dryer cycle to eradicate static. Using science, not chemicals!
***UPDATE: I am now making my own laundry detergent also. See the recipe below. It works beautifully:

Candles are as polluting to the air as air fresheners, so use essential oil on cotton balls in the house, or potpourri.

i think that's it for now! in the next few months as certain foods and cosmetics run out, i will think hard about what i replace them with, and eventually i can be more comfortable with what we eat, now that i am happy with what products we use on our bodies!


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Not a Kindle

"The owners of the book were born and died; what remained was the physical book itself. It needed to be handled with increasing delicacy and care as the binding grew loose with age, but you knew that it was the exact same book that others had read before you, and that you had read in the years before. Would the words have inspired Mom the same way if they had been flashing on a screen? She didn't think so."