"Let's Be Gay" writes Hala Deeb Jabbour in today's post on her awesome literary blog, MySeventyYearOldEyes --where this modern-day Scheherazade tells the best true stories connecting modern history/culture with current global social issues through the eyes of an Anglo-Leventine and decades-wise woman. I introduced Hala to Broo readers in a previous post, titled "3 Sisters in Blogging,"
With her permission, and hopefully with regularity, I'll be re-posting some of her essays here because I think they're such a treat.
Cecile was the first lesbian I met. She
was a tall and beautiful Lebanese woman who spoke only French as many
Christian people did owing to the fact that Lebanon was colonized by
France for many years, and it had become a classy feature to associate
with the colonizer’s language and disassociate from one’s mother tongue.
Cecile was my manager at the newly established FM department of the
Lebanese Broadcasting Station. One afternoon, as we were working, she
suddenly got weepy and told me how men had always taken advantage of
her, cheated on her and how her marriage of some years ago had failed
because of a scoundrel of a husband. She had, as a result of all her
heartaches, made a rational choice to love women only. The fascinating
revelation for me – I was twenty-one years old and quite naïve – was
that I had come to know a lesbian for the first time, a woman I happened
to admire and like, and that her sexual nature did not affect our
relationship in any way; did not affect her job; did not cause the
Lebanese Broadcasting Station to explode or Lebanon to go up in flames!!
And no one, though many in that building knew, treated Cecile in any
way that was different. Later on in my life, I came to know a few women
of my generation who were also lesbians. Now that does not mean that
every member of society condoned this behavior. Most, though, considered
it a benign infraction, or a subject for gossip mongering.
Next door to our office was the Classical Music Division of which
Paul was the manager. Paul had taken it upon himself to look out for me
from the many wolves roaming around in the building. One day, he called
me into his office and very gently told me that I should watch out for
our programmer and avoid being alone with him in the studio. It turned
out that the programmer had let it be known that he was quite interested
in getting me into his bed! That was Paul: soft, intelligent and
caring. Paul was homosexual. I learnt that from Cecile. He was born that
way. Again, most knew. No one treated him any different. The sky didn’t
And, yes, we all heard in those days of Afif who was found shot to
death at his seaside villa. His male lover had done that in a fit of
jealousy. You see the Sixties had brought out of the closets many
societal issues that were hidden but that had been going on for
thousands of years. It happened in the US, in Europe and – Surprise! –
in Lebanon, too! I remember Tucker Carlson* getting all excited as he
was reporting from Beirut during some upheaval or another, and literally
shouting into the camera that Lebanon should be protected because it
had a gay nightclub for God’s sakes! I mean, imagine! An Arab country
with an openly gay establishment!! However, if one just reads the social
scene described by poets and the intelligentsia of the region
throughout time one wouldn’t really find that to be such a surprising
revelation! Though gay liaisons weren’t explicitly overt, they were,
historically, throughout the Arab and Middle Eastern Worlds a fact of
life. Some gay individuals were royalty, others were just ordinary folk;
they might be likeable or obnoxious; highly successful and educated or
not at all. They were, and are, no different from heterosexual people
worldwide. Believe it or not, Aleppo and Istanbul were once the gay hubs
of the Middle East.
Since meeting and knowing Cecile, who had made a choice, and Paul,
who was born that way, and so many others in Lebanon and the US, I
cannot for the life of me understand why anyone should twist their
knickers because of Anyone’s sexual expressions. Not the Ayatollahs in
Iran and not US Conservatives! (And pray, are they that different on
some of these issues, after all?) This planet of ours has many more dire
and pressing matters than people’s sexual expressions! Or is it that
our politicians are good at riling us up about these private issues as
they weave their mischief away in the afterhours and far from the public
eye and pass Bills and Laws that profoundly affect each and every one
of us in much more weighty ways than our sexuality ever will; Rules and
Regulations that we’ll never even realize the dangerous extent of until
it is much too late? Grow up everybody! Chill!
*Tucker Carlson is a well known political news correspondent.
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
As we approach winter, the time between nail salon visits for a pedicure stretches a little more as the ladies ditch the sandals and open shoes for warmer, closed shoes. For the winter, most people's toes go into hiding. I used to be like that too, until yoga came into my life. Now I have to keep the toes trimmed and pretty through the winters too, mostly because if my toenails aren't kept short. it's painful to roll over them when transitioning from upward facing dog to downward facing dog pose in a vinyasa. And since yoga is a practice that is done barefoot, everyone in the studio (well...at least my immediate mat neighbors) can see my feet and I can see theirs. In yoga, we don't have sneakers or special gear to show off as in other sports, so you see a lot of nicely pained toes on those mats. I don't think I've even seen any guy yogis with grubby feet, either.
Most of all, I have to stare a lot at my own feet, especially in my favorite forward folding poses like Uttanasana, Paschimottanasana, and such poses. Oh, those folds are so tension releasing I can hold them forever. Click on the links for easy instructions if you want to try.
So, I need to keep the little piggies groomed, and today, I decided to keep these points in mind when I got my pedicure. I figured if I'm going to stare at my toes all the time, might as well put some 'happy' in the colors and designs, in the spirit of color psychology.
Luckily the nail technician at the salon had a bit of a sense of humor (if that's at all possible with these serious nail gals) and she accepted my request.
This took me back to past years when I used to paint seashells with these awesome nail art pens. It was a creative and contagious hobby that everyone who watched me do it, ended up with several painted shells of their own creations. I missed that. It was a creative and calming activity that everyone enjoyed, young and old. I think I need some more of those pens and should start using them on my toes to bring back some of that fun.
The best part was my 4-year-old's reaction when he noticed, "Mama, that's so cool. Rainbow toes." Then he proceeded to chase my toes around like a kitten going after a ball of yarn.
Monday, October 28, 2013
Folks, the time has come to completely turn off the TV for our youngest son. Although his TV viewership has been extremely limited, and posed a huge moral dilemma for us, he didn't start watching until well after he turned two. But now that he is in a Waldorf preschool program, I have a deep desire to abide by the school's strict no-media policy. Deep in my heart I've always known that what little TV he watched was doing him more harm than good. An excellent article by Thomas Poplawski, "Taming the Media Monster," helped seal my conviction to entirely ban TV from my young son's life until at least the age of ten-- if I can help it. And I know it won't be easy, but I also know it's worthwhile.
So a few days ago, I covered the TV with an old crib sheet of his and I told my 4-year-old that the TV was going to sleep for a long time, and I packed away all his DVDs out of sight (except for yoga). He seemed to get it right away. As the days passed, he asked to watch a show only on two occasions, and simply telling him that the set was asleep was enough to move him on to another activity. From observing him in the last few days and from past times when he had gone on a "TV diet," I am convinced that TV is probably one of the most damaging things we can do to our young kids. There is a stark contrast between my son's behavior, attitude, and mood when he has been exposed to media, and when he's not. Although he is obviously zoned-out and well-behaved WHILE he is watching, TV definitely brings out a hint of "autistiky" ADHD type behaviors in him as soon as it's turned off.
In a book I'm currently reading, Back To Normal: Why Ordinary Childhood Behavior is Mistaken for ADHD, Bipolar Disorder, and Autism Spectrum Disorder, the author Enrico Gnaulati says that most children (especially boys) are born with a predisposition to autism or ADHD--some more than others, and to different degrees. I fully agree, as I've witnessed this in my own son and in other 'normal' children I've known and worked with. As to what causes full-blown autism, the jury is still out on that one.
I want to talk a little more about autism because it's a subject that has deeply interested and mystified me since I was working closely with a group of autistic kids from 2006-2008 when I was "Language Acquisition Specialist" at a public elementary school. It was an education for me to watch their professionally trained teachers work with them, and I got an insider's view on how these kids function and how they learn. In investigating this topic over the past few years, I found several theories about what causes autism. I investigated all the common explanations. Is it vaccines? Is it genetic? Is it older parents? Birth trauma? Early umbilical cord clamping? There were no hard answers to be found.
Every single theory had much evidence to support it, but it could never stand alone exclusively because none of the possible causes can singly be applied to all cases of autism. You will find some unvaccinated autistic children out there, and you will find some who had perfectly natural births, etc. So what explains it? There are conflicting opinions about this among professionals, my friends, and former colleagues alike.
Through everything I have seen and read for myself, I've personally concluded that Autism is a result of a perfect storm of events, as described by this brave mother of an autistic child who is convinced enough to write "How I Gave My Son Autism" on the Thinking Moms' Revolution site. This is a courageous and scary article in which she blames her son's autism on a combination of "triggers" she might have pulled while pregnant, birthing, or nursing. Her particular "perfect storm" consisted of:
1. Ultra sounds while pregnant
2. High Fructose Corn Syrup in the diet
3) Lortab/Acetaminophen while pregnant3. Taking the drug Lortab while pregnant
4. The drug Pitocin during childbirth
5. C-section and the drugs/recovery this major surgery involves
6. Antibiotics while breast-feeding
8. Flouride poisoning
9. Giving Acetaminophen to the child
Luckily, I've suspected all these things for a while now and I've stayed away from this entire list of possible triggers in order to protect my son, to the best of my knowledge, from this modern epidemic. We also let him spend lots of time outdoors and we give him extra doses of vitamin D3 because a deficiency in this hormone has also been linked to autism.
As I see it, what connects all these things is that they are all interferences and interruptions in the mental, physical, and/or emotional processes of human development. Too much and too many of such "interruptions" with our biology and natural environments might result in some of us reaching a certain limit in capacity causing our sensory system to ultimately malfunction as we withdraw into the world of autism.
But what about TV?
In seeing how TV affects children, I started to think, what if exposing children to TV and media beginning at infancy could also be one of the culprits in triggering autism? As I did my research to try to answer this question or to see if it has even been asked, I found that there actually are solid theories and studies looking into the possibility that autism might also be triggered by excessive TV exposure at infancy. In Amish communities, by the way, the incidence of ADHD and autism are almost nil. It's worth noting that these communities neither vaccinate their children nor watch TV in their homes. For the most obvious reasons, nobody in the mainstream media is talking about this burning question about media exposure in any intellectual manner.
In the US, it has been clearly established that the sharp rise in rates of autism happened at the same time when cable television and children's programming were introduced. Since the late 80s and early 90s, parents have been bombarded with baby and child educational products promising geniuses, which turn out to be unscientific scams like the Baby Einstein products. Also, let it be noted that the rates of autism are highest in states with the highest amount of cable TV viewing (rainy states such as Washington, Oregon and California top the list). Even the American Academy of Pediatrics admits that media exposure causes attention problems in children. Although the AAP strictly cautions against exposing young children to TV, you won't find them telling us how terrible the consequences might be, nor will you find them banning -or even speaking out against- children's TV programming that specifically targets infants under 2.
Nobody can say for sure how autism happens exactly, but my fine-tuned maternal instincts and average observation skills tell me that TV certainly contributes to MY own son's ADHD/autistic-type behaviors (repetitiveness, communication difficulty, transition tantrums, extreme restlessness). Luckily he hasn't been exposed for very long, and it's a good thing we're stopping it sooner than later.
I'm glad that the Waldorf schools take this no-media commitment seriously. It makes perfect sense. In the past few days alone, my son's imaginative play and creativity have occupied much more of his time. He has rediscovered his toys and has come up with new ways of combining them to build new concepts. He's drawing more, looking at more books, and he's much more focused on activities and in his communication. He's mostly in a harmonious mood, and we're already seeing a dramatic decrease in his resistant responses. It's absolutely crazy! Please continue to collectively knock on wood.
Turn off the TV, and transform your child.
Over and out...
3) Lortab/Acetaminophen while pregnant
3) Lortab/Acetaminophen while pregnant
Thursday, October 24, 2013
Last week I enrolled my son in a 3-day preschool program that runs from 8:30am until 12:00 noon at the local Waldorf school, a ten minute drive from where we live. At first, I was so hesitant and worried about our decision, that I couldn't even wrap my head around blogging the entire week. As some of you might already know, the last time we tried school was a huge disappointment. But thankfully, all seems to be going very smoothly so far. My son attended from last Monday until yesterday, and has had an excellent experience from start to finish. Please knock on wood.
So far, I'm cautiously embracing this school like a young girl approaching new love after a broken heart. I like the teacher, who is a male, and the warm and gentle assistant who works with him. She seems very experienced and patient. I love the fact that there are a maximum of 15 children in the class at any given time, as opposed to the 23 students in the Montessori fiasco of last year. But most of all, I love the fact that it's a Waldorf school and I know for sure that first and foremost, the teachers in this kind of system are trained to love the children and treat them gently. Academics and technology are not a priority and in fact, they are shunned and highly discouraged for children of young ages. In Waldorf schools, mother nature takes the lead. I always knew in my heart that when the time came to put my son in a school, it would likely be a Waldorf school, at least in the primary years. So I was elated to find him a spot in this little school so late in the year.
You see, when I first met my husband, his two children were attending a Waldorf school in Maryland. The girl was in 3rd grade and the boy was just starting Kindergarden. I was very intrigued by the methods in which they were taught, and at the time, I felt utterly embarrassed to have an MEd in education from a respectable university, yet I had no idea who Rudolf Steiner was or what Waldorf education was all about. Mr. Steiner is also the father of biodynamic farming for heaven's sake!! Needless to say, in order to redeem myself, I spent the next two years reading everything I could about Steiner and Waldorf education, and I enrolled myself in a Foundations of Waldorf Education course to learn even more.
To say I had a complete paradigm shift in my thinking about pedagogy would be an understatement. Throughout my 17 years of public school teaching, I had a reputation of being the rebel child advocate, often standing alone against popular decisions made after months of mental grooming of the staff by the administration. But now, I wanted to learn more about everything I wasn't taught about in college about alternative methods of education that actually work. I became deeply interested in the historical big thinkers of education and child development, because today's educational "thinkers" didn't seem to know anything at all anymore beyond testing, testing, and testing! I spent the next two years after this time of revelation and study, teaching in a public elementary school, where I successfully applied many of the best methods I learned to teaching my students with "language disabilities."
At the time, I worked as a "language acquisition specialist," working mostly with about 10 foreign adopted kids who came to the USA from various places and at various times of their lives. Some came at infancy, one came at the late age of 7, yet they all seemed to struggle with language issues and presented themselves as mysterious puzzles to their homeroom teachers. This was really a unique group of kids, and no education or psychology textbook ever taught me about their unique needs. So I spent a lot of time teaching myself how to teach them. I found out that what they mostly needed was TIME, love, and security. And here we were throwing tests, labels, and standards at them, while expecting them to miraculously catch up with their peers in all areas of academics, as if everything else in their lives were perfectly standardized and hunky dory.
Applying some of my new-found Waldorf, yoga, and Brain Gym ideas to these special children worked magically to open their minds and hearts a little more to learning, when nothing else seemed to work. I was so sold on the Waldorf philosophy that my work email byline for the next two years, was a beautiful quote by Rudolf Steiner. “Receive the children with reverence, educate them with love, send them forth in freedom.”
So yes, I have a good trust that the Waldorf system will be appropriate for my son, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed, and even daring to hope, that I could slowly increase his attendance and perhaps even the length of his days there. Though I struggle with releasing my son, home-schooling an only child has proven to be a tough business. I feel a little less guilty about the idea of sharing his schooling with outsiders now. I hope to be writing more about this school journey as time reveals more experiences.
So what does this have to do with bread pudding?
Well, one thing about the Waldorf schools is that they're very "festive"in nature-- on so many levels. They celebrate the mornings with a good morning song, and the end of the day with a goodbye song, and meals with a song, and so many larger festivities are celebrated throughout the year. So the school is having its Fall Festival this coming Saturday, and I signed up to make a dessert. Since I'm making my favorite super-easy dessert and it always seems to please everyone who ever tasted it, I thought I'd share it with the Broo readers while I'm at it. A two-for-one, for those of you who couldn't care less about the school stuff and are only here for the food. One of my mottoes, "Feed them and they will come!"
So...this basic bread pudding has been called many "Ims" (mother of..in Arabic). Some call it "Im Khaled" (mother of Khaled), some call it "Im Ali" (mother of Ali), etc. After doing a little Google research, it turns out that the Egyptians have a similar version with its own history, too. Here's our family recipe.
Immi's Bread Pudding
1 quart half and half cream
1 cup sliced raw almonds
1 cup raisins
(1/4 cup of milk or water if needed)
Note: The original family recipe is made with Greek Tsureiki bread, which is made with mahlab. The Jewish Challah doesn't have this extra flavorful ingredient. So if you can get your hands on the Greek Easter bread, use that instead.
For the syrup:
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup orange blossom water
1/2 cup water
Preheat oven to 375.
Place the pan in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the top looks dry and slightly browned, and the surface almonds look roasted.
While he pudding bakes, put the water, sugar, and orange blossom water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, then remove from heat.
When the bread pudding is ready, pour half the syrup on top and let it all cool for a few minutes.
Use the remaining syrup to pour on individual servings for those who like it sweeter.
Sunday, October 13, 2013
In one of my previous posts about the benefits of turmeric, I mentioned and included a demo video about the recipe for the ayurvedic "Golden Milk." I hope some of you might have tried it by now.
Since then, my husband has discovered a new brand of turmeric drinks on the market, sold for about $6 a bottle at our local organic store. I instantly loved it when I tasted it, but $6 a bottle? That seemed a little over-priced for a bit of spiced tea.
So, I decided that the simple pantry ingredients these drinks were made of had to make it easy to replicate the recipe at home. So I did. In about 3 minutes flat! The taste isn't exactly the same as the bottled version, but it comes very close and can be just as good, if not better. I prefer my recipe, in fact, because it's slightly less sweet and I like the fact that I'm using my own brands of organic spices and other ingredients. You can adjust your recipe to your own individual tastes, too.
In the first couple of attempts, I used fresh ginger root, but it somehow it changed the overall flavor. Then I tried powdered Chinese ginger root instead, and that result was much better, and easier! So here's my recipe for a most refreshing cool drink that beats any soda and gives you tonnes of health benefits. It takes so little time to prepare, that you can make it fresh each time. You can also double, triple, or quadruple the recipe and bottle it up in the fridge where it can stay fresh for a couple of weeks. Make sure you always shake it up before you drink it.
BITCHES' TURMERIC BROO
12 fl oz filtered water
4 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp honey
1/2 heaping tsp turmeric powder
1/4 tsp Chinese ginger powder
a pinch of Himalayan sea salt
Heat 2 oz of the water. In a glass jar or shaker mix the warm water with the honey, turmeric, ginger, lemon and salt. Stir well. Add two ice cubes and the remaining 10 oz of water. Close the lid and shake the contents for about a minute until all the ingredients are well blended. Serve on more ice.
Thursday, October 10, 2013
Who's not talking about this? Around where I live, many many are directly affected by this. So I won't say much here. I just want to share my favorite original quote I've seen on the subject , which comes from Karen Kwiatkoski, Phd, who is a regular columnist on LewRockwell.com . It truly spoke to me in every way.
"When we begin to understand that we don’t really need a big fat nanny state, and begin to mentally and spiritually wake up to the mathematical fact that more government means less freedom and prosperity, less joy, less happiness – we accomplish much more than is immediately visible."
And here's the rest of it. Nanny's Big Fat Revenge.
You say you want a revolution, well, you know...we all want to change the world.
Monday, October 7, 2013
Lately, I've had a little cloud of hopelessness following me around because of the stories I keep reading in the news. The news stories I refer to are not the ones about stalkers, rapists, and child predators which saturate the media. I'm referring to the ones where government agents and employees barbarically treat parent citizens with such impunity, with no regard for "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," and snatch away their children. I'm pretty sure I'm quoting our Declaration of Independence from tyranny here! Maybe I'm just lost and confused in these times of truly amazing stories, where the reality is that our rights have long since expired along with my American illusion.
Children in America are fast-losing their natural-born right to the care of a parent, and instead they are being tossed into child-care institutions at infancy while the government dictates their education, vaccination, place of residence, "wellbeing," and what have you. It seems that our children have become the property of the government. I admit I am a little extra jaded about this topic because of past experiences I've been through with my husband in a classic custody battle which put out the light in our eyes for a year. There aren't too many feelings of helplessness that compare to standing before a judge who decides the fate of your own children. This has happened to us and has marked us forever. But folks, I'm not talking about custody battles here. Today, we see kids who are being snatched away from peaceful homes and from their loving happily married parents, too. I'm actually starting to seriously worry that one day this government will have the right to snatch away our own son from us for whatever reason it sees fit. Maybe the government will decide it doesn't like my home-schooling, or the food and medicine I feed my son, or the medical decisions we make for him, or the style of haircuts he gets, or even the content of my blog?
Where does it end, when there's a draft to war?
What tipped me over the edge today was reading about the Amish family that had their 10-year-old sick child taken away by an Ohio court because the parents wanted to give their cancer-stricken daughter a break from cancer-causing toxic chemotherapy! The already ill and traumatized child, who begs not to have any more chemo and whose days are already sadly numbered, is further traumatized by her separation and placement in the care of a complete stranger! Is this really necessary? Are these parents so dangerous to their child that they need to be kept away from her? This Amish mother and father never refused to treat or heal their daughter, they just disagreed with the hospital's prescription-- a prescription which automatically became the law? Of course, nobody knows the full context of the story, but still this outcome truly scares me and adds to the examples of cases that prove that American parents have lost the right to freely raise their own children. Will home-birthing soon follow to become a criminal act in America because some judge has been given the all-knowing power to "protect the wellbeing of a child." Will the government one day mandate that all babies be born on operating tables for their "protection?" The language below, used by the appellate court in this case, is disturbing, and it sets a most dangerous precedent which ought to alarm every parent in America:
"While we have no doubt that the parents are acting in accordance with their principles, beliefs and honest convictions and that their goal may be a laudable one, it does not justify or nullify the right of the state and the probate court to protect the health and wellbeing of a child."
Tuesday, October 1, 2013
After our teenage daughter decided to abandon ship last week and return to her old ways living with her mother, you'd think the trauma would have left me popping pills. And it's been a trauma, believe me. Not just for me, but for every other member of the household, and mostly for the remaining teenage brother who is working so hard at wrapping his head around the events. But no, I'm not popping any pills beyond the extra dose of turmeric added to my daily bunch of vitamins and supplements, and of course, lots and lots of yoga. It's been a tough ride to say the least, but with those tools, I have my seat belt on, and I think I'm riding it out pretty well.
Which brings us back to popping pills...
When my son was younger, it was always a challenge to find children's vitamin supplements that didn't come in sweet and flavored liquid forms. My husband and I always went out of our way to find clean cough medicines and fever reducers for him, too. When he had a slight fever, we always favored piercing an adult liquid ibuprofen and mixing it with honey and tahini. By the way, tahini is the BEST cough suppressant out there, and our kids don't mind it at all. It's quite soothing for the throat, actually.
The one thing our youngest son did mind a lot, no matter how flavored it was, was cod fish oil, and who can blame him? So one day, I decided to try to teach him how to swallow my pills instead. He was just three years old at the time, and to my utter surprise and joy, he got it down from the first try! It brought him so much pride to be able to do that, and since then, he's been taking his vitamins in the form of 8-10 pills every day, and his ibuprofen in pills when needed. I know some adults who can't do that. Maybe they were given sweet syrups as kids, too...?
My point is, we really wouldn't need all the colorful sugar-laden garbage-filled kids' medicines and supplements that are out there, if we simply teach kids to swallow pills. Whoda thunk it, huh?
Behold, my now 4-year-old son's demo for you --slamming his pills in less than a minute and a half. I'm a proud mama!
If you're getting this post in email, you'll have to visit the blog site to see this video.