The problem with ‘Frozen’

Yes, I went there.

I know that this Disney film has taken on a status as a movie phenomenon mainly due to its song “Let it go” and Queen Elsa’s characterisation as endowed with magical powers that allow her to create sparkly ice/snow. And yes, given the hype of it all, when it came out on DVD I sat and watched it with my (at the time) 3.5 year old daughter, J. After watching it, I admit, I sat in wonderment, enthralled by this simple tale that placed the love between two sisters at its centre (rather than a princess in love with a prince as is so often the case). And of course, the song! I was singing it for days.

And then J requested we watch it every time we went to her grandmother’s house. I left the DVD there, not wanting to bring it home.

After about the second time my English teacher skills of analysis started kicking in, and by the seventh time that we’d been forced to watch it, I was convinced that I needed to ban  it.

For those who have been living under a rock, or don’t have children, ‘Frozen’ is a film that follows two sisters who are princesses. The eldest has magical powers where she can shoot snow and ice from her fingertips, and the second daughter Ana is, well, normal. One day when they are smaller, they spend the night rebelliously playing rather than sleeping, with Elsa creating a magical snow playground for her sister. Things get out of hand and she injures her sister. The parents rush to some magical trolls for advice, who tell them that Elsa’s powers must be controlled, as they will only get stronger as she gets older, and also advise to wipe Ana’s memory of her sisters powers.

The parents taking the troll’s advice literally, by isolating Elsa from her sister Ana, and basically the rest of society, to cover up her secret powers. Elsa, inevitably, grows up feeling very alone, and unable to “be her true self”. The parents die in a shipwreck and the daughters, rather than grow close as a result, are even further isolated.

Elsa is eventually crowned queen, and on her coronation day Ana meets a charming prince from another country and of course, falls in love with him. She rushes to her sister (that evening mind you) to tell her that she is engaged to this prince, upon which Elsa replies, “you cannot fall in love with someone you just met”, essentially turning Disney on itself for the first time. Arguing ensues between the sisters, Elsa loses her temper and shoots icy shards from her fingertips creating a physical barrier between herself and everyone else. Her secret revealed, Elsa flees and Ana is left in shock.

From here, Elsa flees up a snowy mountain and sings her iconic “Let it Go” song. It’s the scene that convinces me more than any other element of the film that this is a problematic movie. She goes from being a prim, proper, closed off Queen, dressed literally up to her neck and to her fingertips (she wears gloves), to an “empowered” woman who casts off her cape, her crown, and re-dresses herself in an undeniably sexy, glittering gown complete with off the shoulder sheer neckline, a thigh-high split, high heels and makeup that would rival a beauty Instagrammer’s before and after shots.

Before… demure, hair up, covered up Queen.

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After… Sexy, makeup, hair loose, wearing sheer clothing with THAT split= EMPOWERED WOMAN

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Oh and here are some of the lyrics to that song that all our children are repeatedly singing:

“don’t let them see
Be the good girl you always have to be
Conceal, don’t feel,
don’t let them know
Well now they know

“It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me,
I’m free!

“Let it go, let it go
Turn away and slam the door
I don’t care
what they’re going to say
Let the storm rage on.
The cold never bothered me anyway”

“Let it go, let it go
And I’ll rise like the break of dawn
Let it go, let it go
That perfect girl is gone”

Basically she’s telling children to disregard rules and limits, to “break free” from them and be who they really want to be. That there is “no right and no wrong”.

Is that really what we want our children to be repeating in their minds? To be singing over and over, day in day out?

I’m pretty sure that as parents, our responsibility is to teach our children that there is a right and there is a wrong. Such as in the way that we treat our elders, our siblings, our parents and our friends. In how we choose to clothe ourselves, the type of food we should be eating, how to treat the environment, in not choosing to become murderers, FOR EXAMPLE.

‘Let it go’ literally sounds like something a teenager would scream to her parents in the height of her angsty phase when they just want to do what they want to do, to “be” who they want to be, and damn, these parents just keep enforcing rules and limits.

Look, forget the weird plot line, and the strange snowman who comes to life, the strange relationship with the parents and the bad parenting tactics, the crux of the problem with ‘Frozen’ is that it is teaching our children that they can “be anything they want to be”, and that they should “disregard rules and established norms” just to get there. It creates a character who was essentially sheltered from society because her parents were “ashamed” of her powers, they were afraid that she could hurt people. And Elsa, frustrated by this, when given the chance, feels the need to break free of everything.

I do not subscribe to this notion that we can “be anything we want to be.” It sets up our children for disappointment that hey, no, you can’t be a fairy or a princess when you grow up. IT’S JUST NOT POSSIBLE. Well, a princess maybe. A fairy? No.

Our children these days suffer from a sense of entitlement, as we parents and teachers have constantly told them that they can be whoever they want to be, and do whatever they want to do, without actually giving them a dose of reality and grounding them to seek careers that reflect their skills, their characters, that will make them useful people. To actually prioritise the development of their characters.

Our children are suffering from the freedom of choice. They have so much to choose from that they ultimately don’t know what to do with themselves. They haven’t experienced hardship or discipline to be real with themselves, to appreciate what they do have to funnel that into a useful role in society for themselves.

I have banned my kids from watching ‘Frozen’, and I’m not apologising for it. I do not want my daughters to be subliminally told that they need to ‘break free of rules’, that they can be who they want to be, and yet what this ultimately looks like is a skinny, blond-haired, blue-eyed, white-skinned girl with tons of makeup in a sheer, sexy gown.

Thanks, but no thanks Disney.

Another issue I have with ‘Frozen’? The scary way that children, boys and girls, become addicted to this film, the way in which they idolise the characters, particularly Elsa, and the ensuing madness of purchasing merchandise with anything ‘Frozen’ slapped onto it. Go to the playground and you will see both boys and girls wearing t-shirts, shoes, dresses, hats, bags with Elsa’s face across it. I think it conditions children to idolise ‘celebrity’ figures. Today it’s Elsa, tomorrow its Miley Cyrus.

I do not want my daughter to idolise a Disney character. I do not want her self to be shaped by this character. I want her mind to be stimulated by intelligent and strong women of all backgrounds,  women who contribute to society, who dedicate themselves to serving the less fortunate, women who prioritise their intellect, their firmness, their character above their appearance. Women who strive to nurture their relationship with their Creator.

Not Elsa.

No thanks.

 

Best on the Net

It’s an exciting week for me as I’m going overseas on Thursday! We are taking our eldest daughter with us, J, but leaving our little one, Z, behind. She’s just over one and a half and does not sit in a pram, and struggles with sitting in a car for more than an hour. As our destination is literally on the other side of the world (Turkey) and we are also planning to go to a few cities whilst there, I know it would simply be much too difficult for her, and for us, if we brought her along. My justification is that, “she won’t remember it anyway!” right? RIGHT?!! Anxiety over leaving her aside, I am very much excited to be going on this trip, as we haven’t travelled much in the past 7 years of our marriage.

So today’s “Best on the Net”will have some of the best travel tips on the net, amongst a few other inspiring stories this week… Here goes:

  1. Travelling should not just be in the form of leisurely holidays, even these holidays should be set in intentions that align with pleasing, or drawing close to Allah. Our guest contributor this week outlines how to establish your intentions for travel, amongst many other practical ways to make the most out of your travels.
  2. And on that note, what is the definition of a traveller (under Islamic Fiqh) anyway?
  3. The best activity book to take when flying with kids.
  4. Tips for surviving those ghastly 20 hour long flights.
  5. These pretty crayon rolls are the perfect way to store crayons whilst travelling.
  6. Before I leave, I need to give my house a big spring clean and this is a great checklist to guide me. 
  7. A ‘dating app’ for ugly fruits and veggies has already save 20,000 pound of produce. Definitely something that we should have in Australia.
  8. I used to use Rob Gonsalves mind-twisting drawings in my English classes, and I still love them.
  9. Alicia Keys is spot on while discussing motherhood, respect and valuing time.

There you have it! I am humbly asking that you keep us in your duas (prayers) while we travel. Hopefully we will still continue posting here while I am gone. See you all soon!

Featured image via Eventide.

Practical ways to make the most out of your travels

 

I am travelling overseas later in the week with my family, minus Z (yes, I KNOW! How am I going to do it?! But I also can’t do it WITH her, so…). I haven’t actually been overseas since my honeymoon, which was SEVEN years ago, and am feeling slightly anxious about it. We’ll be gone for just over a month so I knew I needed to seek advice from a more experienced traveller. Who better to ask than writer/creator of Wayfarer’s Compass, dear friend and all-round knowledgable and lovely person, Sana Gillani. I wanted some tips on how to best to plan and navigate one’s travels to get the most of it, spiritually and practically. 

If you are travelling any time soon, and even if you are not but interested in travelling at some point, this is a must read. Thank you Sana for your wise advice!

Written by Sana Gillani.

Sometimes amidst the stress and multiple commitments of our daily routines, our planned travel tends to creep up on us and we aren’t as well prepared for the trip as we’d like to be. We find ourselves making rushed bookings, paying extra where we could have saved and trying to jumble a myriad of tasks on the way to the airport. Somehow suitcase locks and dry socks are always a part of that last minute to-do list. Although no trip will be completely free from trials, there are ways for you to eliminate unnecessary risks and make the most out of your travels. As a seasoned traveller, I have picked up a few useful practices from my own experience and research.

Set your Intentions

It’s often the case that our decision to travel is made with a considerable amount of thought and deliberation. We are influenced by conflicting schedules, monetary concerns, doubt over the benefits of the trip and managing competing priorities at home. Use your faith in God to divert any anxiety in such affairs and utilise prayer as a compass towards seeking conviction. It is recommended to perform the Istikharah prayer before travelling, and also to consult those known for their piety and religious wisdom. This is where the setting of intentions come into play. Know the purpose behind your travels and what benefit will arise. Will you be strengthening family ties? Will you be fulfilling your fard, such as Hajj? Will you be seeking knowledge, retreating or engaging in wholesome rejuvenation through leisure? Will you incorporate ethics, sustainability and social consciousness in your plans? Decide this and self-affirm and evaluate accordingly throughout your journey.
Other Sunnan associated with setting out on a journey include reciting two rakat of prayers, particular invocations and informing loved ones of intended travel. Such acts invite khayr (goodness) and protection in your journey. A useful guide to the etiquettes of travel is detailed in Shaykh Umar Husayn al-Khatib’s book, “Prophetic Guidance”.

Planning is half the enjoyment

I don’t see trip planning as a chore. There’s something so psychologically satisfying about allowing your mind to wander with the possibilities when constructing your travel itinerary. The truth is that there are so many variables involved in your travel, many you have little control over, that will shape the nature of it. A million and one different experiences can be had in one trip, and the decisions you make while planning form a kind of “choose your own adventure” scenario.

Especially for more complex itineraries, I would start by creating a timeline of milestones that need to be achieved within months in advance for the trip. I did this recently when having to balance more than one complicated visa application for a trip and arranging an itinerary for visiting five different countries over 6 weeks, and it really helped. Keep a sleeved-folder for all your travel bookings, itineraries, maps, directions, contact numbers and copies of ID docs etc., filed in chronological order. An electronic copy of such documents is also a must.

Apart from the usual research you undertake, find out useful details like opening and closing times for places of interest as well as any costs associated. Download travel guides onto your e-reader or tablet. Travel guides such as Lonely Planet and Bradt travel guides are all-inclusive resources you can carry around to find restaurants, transport and detailed historical/cultural information, all without needing wifi to look things up. Read up on your traveller’s fiqh (you can see here and here). Be sure to keep a record of prayer times of the places you are flying to/from and over, as this assists in determining when you may need to pray in the aircraft.

Some other important advice I have gathered on planning your trip is that its ok to plan a meticulous schedule, as long as you remain flexible to changes and unexpected opportunities. You don’t want to miss out on the festival you’ve just come to learn of, or reject a kind invitation by newly-made local friends. Weigh things up. Another great tactic is to devise, as a good friend of mine calls it, “planned spontaneity”. Oxymoronic? Maybe. But it’s a great concept! Plan for periods of time in your itinerary to be spontaneous and free yourself of the rigid schedule. You can visit a favourite place for a second time, meet with locals (I like to do this via the couchsurfing website), or simply allow yourself to get lost in a city’s streets. Try to make it a rule to wake up early, as you don’t want to have any regrets about how you used your precious time in all these special locations.

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Downloading particular travel-related apps can be a very effective use of technology. HalalTrip and Have Halal Will Travel have launched excellent apps directed at the Muslim travel market which include location guides, halal food information and prayer times.

 The essential rules of travel packing

  • Roll rather than fold your clothes. This helps with creating more space and also minimises creasing.
  • On that note, invest in a mini travel-iron. Ironing in hotels can be a very inconvenient and costly exercise.
  • There are innumerable, wondrous uses for wet wipes. Always pack them.
  • Zip lock bags will always come in handy.
  • Invest in a good quality portable phone charger and don’t forget to charge it overnight. These have saved us a lot in a world where we rely so heavily on phone battery.
  • Pack multi-purpose shoes. Footwear that can be durable, comfy walking shoes but also act as wudu sandals while you’re on the go.
  • Empty plastic bottles with “wudu only” labelled on them, you don’t want to confuse them with drinking bottles!
  • Keep emergency money in a secret hiding place. This will help you in any unfortunate circumstance where you lose your wallet or handbag.
  • This is common advice, but easy to forget: Pack a change of clothing for your carry-on luggage. Also take on board moisturiser (I like Argan oil for long flights) as flying will make your skin incredibly dry. Teeth cleaning products are always essential too.
  • I always make sure I pack presents for people I will be meeting overseas or staying with. I usually pack gifts such as Tim Tams (as long as they don’t melt!) or Australiana themed candles, lotions and teas. I also keep a few spare on hand if I can, for unexpected friendships made.

Safety first

It’s almost a given that I experience travel-sickness in many countries I travel to. I’ve become an expert in sensing which street food I can take a risk with and when not to. Most important things to note are to stay away from ice in areas where drinking water is not safe, and eat cooked food or sealed fruits. I also carry Travelan medication with me, as it is a preventative tablet you can take before a meal where there is a higher risk of the food making you ill. You can also include in your travel First Aid kit a water sterilising pen, a nifty device available at camping stores or online.

Traveller’s intuition is real. Remain conscious of your surroundings, read up on the culture you are entering and respect it. Choose your companions wisely. Due too particular fiqh rulings, we often hear about the need for women not to travel solo. What we don’t hear as much about, is how the Prophet (s.a.w) recommended travelling with company for males as well. The prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) said, “If people knew what I know about travelling alone, no rider would travel alone by night” (Al Bukhari). Of course, the hadith needs to be contextualised, but it highlights that one is generally at an advantage when they are travelling with others. We are recommended to choose companions who are students of knowledge so that they be sources of guidance on our journey. We are also urged to be considerate and of service to our companions during travel. The fruits of this is that the one you travel with, is the one you will come to know very well, trust and secure a strong friendship with.

My final morsels of advice for the traveller is to learn from mistakes made in previous journeys, and to document your travels in all kinds of interesting ways, so that you can savour the memories and build your knowledge. Try new types of travel over time and continue to challenge yourself. Don’t just opt for an easy vacation in a serene location, but dare yourself to go off the beaten track and also test your strength, physically. Try travelling whilst maintaining an internet detox as well. The more detached you are from home, the more immersed you will be in your new surroundings.

All Images via 8 Rue Caffarelli.

The day my identity was reshaped

I believe I was around 5 years old, maybe 4. It was my first day of school and the teacher was going through the roll, calling out names and asking us to raise our hand if we heard our name. At this tender age I had no idea to expect that the teacher could possibly mispronounce my name, or have any difficulty with it. So when she finally did come to my name, “Saltanat Hasan”, she balked.

In front of her class of teeny tiny children, wide-eyed and innocent, she could not pronounce my name. So she instantaneously said to me (and the class),

“I am going to call you ‘Sally’ from now on.”

And she (presumably) crossed out my name on the roll and replaced it with ‘Sally’.

She crossed out the name that my parents had given me, endearingly chosen and endowed upon me, she stripped away my cultural and racial heritage, and re-Christianised (yes, CHRISTIANISED)me as…Sally.

This was the name written on my primary school reports. My PARENTS even went along with it. It made life easier. As migrants who arrived on Australian shores 5 years prior, they were trying their best to assimilate into White Australia. Why not allow your daughter’s teacher to call her by a name that was easier?

Looking back, this was a defining moment in my life, because believe it or not, it wasn’t until I started university and had just begun to think for myself that I consciously decided to leave ‘Sally’ behind and embrace ‘Saltanat’.

So yes, a teacher mispronouncing a student’s name CAN have lasting impacts. Think about what impact a teacher RENAMING a child can have.

For God’s sake, the name is pronounced phonetically. If you are a teacher you should be able to READ!

“Ok children, if we come across a word that is difficult, we simply break it down into syllables…”

SAL-TA-NAT

Easy!

Apparently not for her. All her teaching training and her English proficiency did not equip her with the challenge of reading a name that she had never seen before. Did her Anglo background blind her and make her dumb to her superior knowledge and education she’d received when she saw the unusual name staring up at her from the roll?

Over the years I have seen many of my friends from varying ethnic backgrounds encounter the same problem. At school, at the bank, at the GP, over the phone.

They might even have simple names, but names that were not English, and so the person who had to call out the name simply buckled, and was left confused.

Take my sister’s name- Subhi. Pronounced SUE-BEE.

Her name has been mistaken for:

Susie. Suvi. Sue.

Take my father-in-law’s name, which is Naim. NA-YEEM. It’s a Turkish name. He was at some official government office and the lady at the register asked him what his name was. He replied, “Naim”, which sounds very much like the word, ‘name’. To which she responded, “yes that’s what I asked, what is your name?”, To which he responded “NAIM!” And so they went back and forth for a while until she finally understood what his name was, upon which she promptly responded, “Ok, let’s change your name to something easier, something English.” My father-in-law was horrified and replied by saying, “I didn’t ask you to change YOUR name so it’s easier for ME to say.”

It was an absolutely hilarious anecdote, but also so telling of how anyone of ethnic background was expected to CHANGE THEIR NAMES to assimilate. To make it easier for the rest of Australia to call on them.

WHY?!!

So many people, relatives and friends that I know have Anglicised their names. They have their own official names with an ‘English option’. So ‘Mohammad’ becomes ‘Moey’. Or ‘Dawud’ becomes ‘David’. Or ‘Jian’ became ‘Joanne’.

From the day that that first grade teacher baptised me ‘Sally’ in front of all of my peers, I would introduce myself as ‘Sally’ to everyone I met, to every new school I enrolled in henceforth. EVEN when I went to a private high school whose origins were Turkish and Muslim, with the majority of students from this background, I STILL stuck with this name. Because get this, even THEY, the students and teachers, couldn’t be bothered to learn my wildly unusual name that they had never heard of.

My shyness regarding my name reflected a deeply entrenched shame I had about my racial origins, because when I told people my name, the next inevitable question was “Oh that’s an interesting name, where is it from?”. I am UYGHUR. Try saying that people. Oh and who even are the Uyghurs? WHERE ARE YOU FROM ANYWAY? Why couldn’t I just have been born Turkish (which is a closely related ethnicity) so I didn’t have to explain where I was from, or even have to utter the strange word “UYGHUR”???!!!

Many times throughout my childhood and adolescence I would simply pretend that I was Turkish. Then I decided to go with my father’s heritage, Uzbek, because at least they were an independent country that you could point out on a map.

But my Uyghur side was totally neglected. The “Uyghurs” by the way are a Turkic ethnic minority group who reside in China. Although ethnically, religiously, linguistically and culturally different to the Chinese, politically we remain under Chinese rule and authority, despite legally having an ‘Autonomous region’.

Point is, nobody knows about Uyghurs because the Chinese don’t even officially recognise them. They are not on the map. The autonomous region is named ‘Xinjiang Autonomous region’; ‘Xinjiang’ is a Chinese word meaning ‘New Frontier’. Go figure.

So when my first grade teacher renamed me ‘Sally’, it set me on a path for the rest of my schooling years, a path that would make me ultimately deny my very cultural heritage, instil a sense of shame about my identity, which only contributed to my lack of confidence well into high school. And a kid that enters high school with a lack of confidence in their values, their identity and heritage is a kid that will inevitably do some messed up sh*! just to “fit in” and feel accepted.

And that was exactly my trajectory.

So if you are a teacher, please make the utmost effort to pronounce your student’s names properly. Don’t rename them without even asking the child. Or the parents. If you haven’t heard of the child’s cultural background, do some research. Make the effort to respect and uphold the child’s heritage. Because if you, simply out of ignorance, or arrogance, or laziness, or convenience “can’t be bothered” to  give that child due respect and dignity by uttering their NAME properly, know that you are significantly impacting that child’s sense of self, possibly for a very, VERY long time.

Were you that kid who dreaded his/her name being called out in a new class? What experiences have you had with people mispronouncing your name? How did you deal with it? We’d love to hear about your experiences in the comment section below!

An Open Letter to All My Concerned Aunties

I am so excited today to bring to you all our first contributor post. This is a stunningly honest and  poetically written piece addressed to all the aunties who are “concerned” about your marital status.

Written by Sevgi Yildiz.

Recently, my sister four years my junior got married and at 28 in a community of 19 and married, I found myself subjected to the oh’s and aww’s of every single one of my mother’s friends or ‘Aunties’ as they are known to me. They expressed such concern for my singledom, from serving advice to offering their sons and the sons of others looking for a ‘good girl’ like me. But all offerings came with warning. ‘Don’t be too picky- you’re older now.’ ‘If you just lost a few kilos, who could resist you!’, ‘He’d never let you dress like that, he’s very jealous.’ And my very favourites ‘Don’t be so ‘talkative’, he’s a quiet boy’ and ‘He earns good money so you won’t have to work anymore!’ Yay me!

I smile and nod graciously and tell them I’m fine, only to their disbelief and silent ‘yeah right’s’. But with my being so expressive and having opinions and all, much to the dismay of all my potential suitors, I decided to write an open letter to all my worrying Aunties from myself and on behalf of all my sisters subjected to the same rhetoric. This is not directed at my beautiful aunties who take my hand and make a little prayer from the kindness of their hearts so that I may find my soulmate, no. This is to the whispering, the side-glancing, the judgemental aunties. The ‘change yourself or perish alone’ aunties…

FRANCE-10126, France, 1989

I’m tired. Of all the sighing aunties who say ’28 and single, oh my!’ And the thoughtless girls asking me ‘Not him? No? but why!?’ I’m sick of being looked at like I’ve lost a limb or lost my mind when I tell them I’m happy and just fine.

Aunty, is he really that wondrous, this boy you speak of? ‘He owns a house!’ ‘He owns a car!’ ‘He was chosen at birth!’ Oh what a charmer! He prays to a god and gives his alms, doesn’t gamble oh and how well he treats his mother! That’s great, I get it, he’s unlike any other… He’s nothing like ‘N’ who promised me the world. Nothing like ‘D’ who ‘cherished’ my every word. Nothing like ‘M’ who took my heart and soul and nothing like the rest of them who leave women weak and cold.

I’m tired. Of being told I’m fussy or too picky because I refuse to be whelmed, neither over nor under, by the simpletons I am presented. I’m tired of being called weird or odd because I don’t fit their mould. You see, I am the brights in a sea of fashioned nudes. I am the bookworm who’s heard it all before you’ve said a word. I am the know-it-all who knows it all before you have a clue. Do you dare try pulling the wool over my eyes, to try and block my soul? By God there is more life there than you could ever hold.

I refuse to be taken or kept, by neither man nor woman. I refuse to shy away from being unapologetically human. I refuse to pretend I need him, this boy, this man, this son of yours. Is he art? Is he music? Is he the whisper of my soul? Is his the voice I’ve heard, over and over, in the stillness of my core? Telling me ‘I’m here, always have been, it’s just not time for me to be your all.’

I get it. I’m older now. My body ain’t as tight. The twinkle in my eye ain’t as bright. The crows are landing on the sides of my eyes, a little more love hugging my thighs. My hands a little tougher now, my voice a little deeper. A girl like me could never compete or be considered a keeper.

Aunty, you want me to find a husband, but are you not the one who deemed me bygone? Put me in your pickle jar and placed me on a shelf, now a little too bitter, a little too tart, a little too sharp to be your precious boy’s wife?

Aunty, is it not you who fed your boy like a prince and washed his feet like a king? Telling him he’s the best looking boy whilst keeping him under your wing? Did you not laugh it off as he broke toys at three and played rough at four; chanted ‘boys will be boys!’ as he flashed the girls at school his pee-pee and threw tantrums on the floor?

Now he breaks hearts like he did toys. Expects to be showered with praise for every anniversary he happens to remember. Expects reward for existing and all the cheating he’s resisting and a pat on the back for not committing whatever heinous act he is thinking and foregoing all the horrible things he didn’t end up saying.

Oh Aunty, don’t cry for me in my lonesome state for I am more than enough for me. I’ve learnt to heal my wounds and guard my heart without a Mr. I’ve learnt to earn my keep, work for my bread and build my little empire. I’ve learnt to sleep humble and sound with a smile and peace of mind.

Cry for the betrothed yet lonely, the oh so phoney, the cheated on, the beat, the voiceless but so sweet. Cry for the aged and never loved, never travelled, never romanced, never hugged. Cry for the tired, the withered, the weathered, the unappreciated wife, the with-child and retired from passion and from life.

He knows not my roar, my power, my strength, my hunger or the passion for life I’ve drawn. I was crafted upon the Lord’s example; I am no bite, no tester, no sample. I am the mouthful of words he could never conjure, the strength he could never muster, the earth that grounds me, whole, complete and wonderfully full of wonder.

If he is to be my half, then let him be full. Let him place his glass beside mine and we can sing and dine and share our breath and our time. We can dance in the aether, sing in the rain, and when our time is up, we can go at it again.

So Aunty when you see me head high and happy, think not I am too fussy or too picky. Cry not for my state at 28 or for my sisters at 39. We refuse to settle for your son’s car, his house, his ride, his unillustrated mind. Don’t judge me for not accepting his expenses at the expense of all of mine.

Oh Aunty, perhaps in me you see the woman you could never be. Look in the mirror and ask yourself when the last time was you were happy? With all your hopes and dreams placed in the pocket of a man at 19, perhaps unkind, unloving, narcissistic and perhaps blind? Perhaps I choose every day to be happy, hopes and dreams not left behind. I live. Day by day, I live. I create, I play, I grow. And with every day passed, I need him less and less, less than you’ll ever know.

I’m sorry I haven’t joined your club of married bliss, I’m doing all I can. I’m sorry you think this bothers me and that it’s a reflection of who I am. Don’t get me wrong, I truly hope one day I do; I’d love to find my man. But he won’t come until I’m whole as I know I wouldn’t accept or have him broken and only when I’m absolute will our ‘I love you’s and I do’s’ be spoken.

Please don’t sell me short, dear Aunty, with offerings of half-baked men. Their weak will and half-cast minds aren’t worth my life well spent. I’ve learnt that some meat is best served well-done and when he is good and ready, I’ll sharpen my knives and feast as he will upon me, a relationship soulful, a relationship carved in God’s name, a relationship true and healthy.

But thank you for your concern, I’ll take it and keep smiling. I just wish for just one second, you’d see what your focus on my life is hiding. How about you do you and I do me and we wish each other well. Let’s celebrate my wins, my career, my successes and the crazy in my whims. I’m more than just my surname. More than that ring. Look me in my eyes, read between my lines, tell me now if I really need that bling. Don’t cry for me, don’t sigh for me, don’t pitch your easy buy for me. I won’t rummage through your clearance sale bin so keep it far away from me. I’ll travel the earth far and wide to find my treasure; well-polished, well-kept, slightly rugged and most importantly, free.

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*click images for sources.

Featured image source.

How to respond in these difficult times

2016 has been a particularly testing year. There has been tragic event after tragic event of mass killings, police brutality, domestic violence, civil war and the ever increasing growth of displaced peoples receiving very little compassion. How does one cope with such harrowing trauma? How do we not descend into a depressive spiral, where we lose hope in humanity and the world?

This is exactly the question a Facebook friend asked on her page yesterday, presumably in response to Sonia Kruger’s controversial remarks, to the Nice attack etc, specifically whether people were feeling increasingly depressed as a result of the state the world was in. Usually I don’t engage in online dialogue, of any kind. There’s too much that can be mistaken, misunderstood, plus the wealth of keyboard warriors, and even my hesitance at expressing my “opinions” because somehow I feel like I have something to say that is worth listening to.

But when I saw this last night (at around 2am after my little one woke up and I put her back to sleep), I was compelled to respond, not out of feeling like I had some unique understanding, but because I owed it to everything that I have been learning lately to respond. To act.

This was my response:

” (I’m) Not feeling increasingly depressed. It’s frustrating, to be sure, but given the reality of our times, not entirely unexpected. Does this mean we should excuse people’s racism? No of course not. But I think it’s important to keep at the forefront of our minds that all, the good and the bad, has been decreed by Allah. As Muslims we should be centred in the circle of life, the circle where we sometimes end up on top, or sometimes on the bottom. As a Muslim, we should be in the centre of that circle. Where the cycle of being at the top or bottom does not shake us too significantly, but we see these times as signs from Allah to reflect, to change our own selves, to draw closer to Allah. So, rather than become depressed, which can make us respond to these difficult times out of emotion, we should reflect that these are but signs of the times, and the best way to respond is through exemplifying Prophetic character. By engaging in positive action. In making sincere effort to do our part right. By being active community members and Australian citizens. To do more as a Muslim community to support one another and rectify the real, damaging issues we currently face. To support our scholars and leaders who do get it right, who work tirelessly for their community. This response is not based on feeling, but what I’ve learnt from my own teacher, Imam Afroz Ali, who constantly reminds me of how to orient ourselves in relation to such trying times. Honestly, I would be depressed too. Especially me! I’m totally prone to dealing with things in such a manner. But now, learning what I’m still trying to learn, anything I see simply cements what I said above. All has been decreed by Allah. We should not live in fear or anxiety. Our response to such vilification has been modelled for us by the best example, our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). We should be doing our utmost best to seek out his (pbuh) example and emulate it.”

Then today I saw Waleed Aly’s #sendforgiveness appeal on The Project in response to Sonia Kruger’s recent comments, and it was literally a real life, in action example of what I was talking about last night. He quite literally emulated Prophetic example by:

  1. Accepting and seeing reality for what it is i.e. that we are ALL scared by the current events of the world.
  2. By calling for forgiveness, by responding to Sonia Kruger’s divisive and heavy comments with compassion and understanding and
  3. By calling for positive action in response by trying to start a #sendforgiveness movement out into the world.

So, yes, the challenges we face are heavy, they hurt our souls, they throw us into internal chaos and confusion, but it doesn’t have to be this way. We have the most beautiful compass to guide us. And yes, it is hard work to get to the centre of that circle. But let’s try, at the very least to try, to espouse his (peace be upon him) teachings and example. I have absolutely no doubt that if we do, not only will we be able to cope better, not only will we become better Muslims, better people, but that the world will also change for the better. For surely, the world will not change, until we change ourselves.

Featured image entitled ‘Reach’ via Eventide.

My co-sleeping experience

Parenting is one of those things that can spectacularly divide people, like Pokemon Go, or the colour of some dress.

Ok, maybe the parenting divides can be a bit weightier than those.

The nature of parenting is so personal that the moment you begin to discuss some aspect of it, such as food, or television, or discipline, or breastfeeding, people become immediately emotional, even if they themselves are not parents.

Co-sleeping is one of those things. In a country like Australia, it is not accepted practice, what with all those warnings by doctors, midwives, nurses, hospitals, government sponsored ads and so on about SIDs.

So when people start to ask me about my own children, and how they sleep, and where they sleep, I take a minute to decide whether I should bother being truthful, or if I should just answer with a simple, “they sleep well”, or “they don’t sleep very well”, depending on how the month of sleeping has gone with them. (Every month, hell every week, every night, can be different before kids finally settle into a set sleeping pattern. Don’t ask me at what age this happens. It’s different with every kid.)

With my eldest, of course I tried resolutely, at first, then desperately as the weeks of disrupted sleep become months, to force her into her bassinet next to my bed. I didn’t even consider putting her in a separate room. That seemed totally unnatural to me.

The first night we brought her home from the hospital was sheer hell, where she slept for ten minute intervals, then would wake up screaming for what I assumed was a feed (I was breastfeeding her) then she’d promptly fall asleep within a minute and I’d painstakingly put her back in the bassinet.

Fifteen minutes later, as my husband and I began to drift off to sleep, she’d wake up screaming again.

It was torture. We woke up like zombies the next morning. We swore at 3am that we’d never have any more children, and wondered why ANYBODY had more than one child. Surely you had to be insane to put yourself through this all over again right?

RIGHT?

Fast forward 2-3 months and I was still battling to put J back in her bassinet. Often I simply could not stay awake while feeding her, and when I got the whole side-lying and feeding down pat, and Bob’s your uncle, she’d fall asleep next to me, I’d fall asleep next to her, and she STAYED ASLEEP for more than 30 minutes. Then more than an hour, then we had two hour stretches which felt like heaven. And slowly she started to sleep for longer periods at a time.

The reality, although it took me about 6 months to accept it, was that having her lie next to me was the easiest way to keep her sleeping, and therefore I could sleep. My husband could sleep. EVERYONE WAS SLEEPING.

J slept in our bed for almost 3 years. Throughout this time I attempted to move her into the cot by trying the ‘cry it out’ method (when she was around 1 years old), which was, well, not my finest parenting moment. I persevered for FIVE WHOLE DAYS, by which time she’d cry for shorter periods and eventually fall asleep. Then she hit a round of teething and everything went out the window. She was back in my bed.

An important lesson that I learnt in hindsight, which was applicable to weaning and toilet training as well, was that I could not push her to do something if she was not ready. And she showed that she wasn’t ready by resisting. And I’d keep pushing. And we’d all end up in a puddle of tears and guilt.

But when she was ready, it was easy. At 18  months I weaned her. Easy. At 2 years old I stopped giving her a bottle before sleeping so I could toilet train her (so she wouldn’t need a nappy at night). Easy. When she conquered this, I started to toilet train her. Which had its challenges, but again, she proved she was ready for it, and within a week she understood the concept of using the toilet. To be balanced though, this was all done with strategy and firmness on my behalf. And she proved she was ready by responding.

By 3, she literally told me one night that she was going to sleep in her own room, in her own bed, on her own. No need for me to sit by her, or read her a story, or snuggle her. As I was preparing to lie next to her to snuggle her to sleep (which is how we’d been putting her to sleep) she literally asked me, “Mum, what are you doing here? I’m going to go to sleep on my own.”

Of course, I should have been celebrating the fact that my daughter had just chosen to put herself to sleep, instead I was crying because she no longer needed me to put her to sleep, which meant she was growing up.

With my second daughter, I didn’t even bother trying to put her in a cot. She slept in my bed from day one. In fact she forced the nurses at the hospital (who insisted that she not co-sleep) to let her sleep with me because every time they tried to put her down into the bassinet, she’d wake up screaming. For reals.

The thing about co-sleeping is that it is so innately natural that it is just weird that it has been so stigmatised to be seen as something unnatural. When I tell people that both my children slept in my bed they respond with shock. With fear. They ask me all the questions about where my husband sleeps, or doesn’t the baby get squashed, or suffocate, or they tell me that I’m raising children who will become overly attached, and that they’ll never leave my bed etc. etc.

The fact of the matter is, this is what works for our family. Baby is happy because her natural instinct is to stay close to mum. Maybe its because she spent the first ten months of her life baking away INSIDE her mother’s body, and the only thing she knew was the sound of her heart beat, the smell of her skin, the sound of her blood rushing around her.

When a baby comes screaming into the world, crying, the moment they are placed in their mother’s arms, they stop. They stop crying. They stop screaming. They rest their fragile selves against their equally fragile vessels and they settle.

They settle because they are home. They are back with the only thing that they have ever known. They are safe.

And instead of rushing to cut this bond as early as possible because “we need to have our own space”, I see co-sleeping as allowing a child to cement their bond with their mother. To instil in them a sense of safety, of trust. A way of saying, “I will hold your hand until you are ready to let go.” 

And they will let go. And it will be all too soon, relative to the span of an entire lifetime. And when they do, you will feel grief, and sadness over the separation, but also pride and  confidence that your child is taking steps on their own. Steps that are taken gently, steps that borne out of love, not forced detachment.

To read a more scholarly article by actual professionals on co-sleeping, take read of this.

Featured image source.

Best on the Net

It’s been a big week of harrowing incidents, from Turkey to France, Pakistan to Sudan. I think doing our best to be positive, to take time to reflect on what we could be doing better in our own lives and worlds, to engage in actions that focus changing our own flaws and of course to make dua, to pray to Allah for relief and ease for those suffering, are ways to respond to such overwhelming challenges. For truly the state of the world will not be changed until we change ourselves.

And here are some funny, incredible, inspiring and beautiful stories, inventions, and actions from around the world to make your week that much  better.

  1. Hilarious attempts to recreate Pinterest baby photos.
  2. Oh my. 50 beautiful sentences from literature.
  3. Delectable breakfast ideas that I can’t wait to try.
  4. A couch that becomes a bunk bed? I promise it’s real.
  5. If Witchery keeps designing clothes like this, I’m going to label it a #modestfashion brand. For reals.
  6. A revolutionary school that does things differently- by listening to their students.
  7. This Muslim woman is responding to hate with positivity.
  8. This ute full of dahlias is making the rounds on Instagram, and its not hard to see why #beauty.
  9. Incredible images from the failed coup attempt in Turkey, displaying the power of the people.

Featured image source here.

How to: DIY Bouquet

Today in our “How to” series we’re featuring how you can put together a cheerful bouquet, with sunflowers, peonies and roses. I’d recommend heading down to your grocery store to keep it super simple and on budget. Here’s what to look for:

  1. Foliage
  2. Focal flowers
  3. Accent flowers

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When choosing flowers, think about your colour scheme. You could either choose flowers in varying shades of this colour or you could mix it up with some contrasting brights. Get your creative juices flowing! Always buy more than you think you need. This way when you get home and arrange the bouquet, you can see what works and what doesn’t from your selection. Ensure the flowers are in good condition, don’t buy flowers that are browning around the petals, or look sad and droopy.

You’ll also need tape (floral tape is of course the best, and can be sourced from your local florist) or even twine could work, ribbon of your choice and scissors.

Today we went for a very simple but cheery selection of flowers. I couldn’t go past the sunflowers, and the peonies were just heavenly. The delicate wax made for a perfect accent flower, and the spray roses added a touch of elegance. The foliage was foraged from my parent’s yard.

Here’s how we did it…

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Step 1: First clean the stems of your flowers, removing all leaves. These will only get in the way of arranging the bouquet.

Step 2: Start with the foundation of your bouquet with foliage. I used some leaves that I found from a tree in my parent’s backyard. Build the shape by fanning out the foliage so it forms an even shape.

Step 3: Add the focal flowers. You can use as many as you like. Since we were using a sunflower in this bouquet, we used the fluffy pink peonies to frame it. When adding the focal blooms take a step back to ensure that the bouquet is retaining its balanced shape, but keep it slightly asymmetrical to avoid creating a tight look.

Step 4: Add the accent flowers. I used spray roses and wax. These will help to add height to your bouquet.

Step 5: Trim your stems as evenly as possible.  I love long stemmed bouquets, but for this one we kept it quite short.

Step 6: Wrap the stem with floral tape just at the base of the flowers. Ensure that you don’t bind the tape too close to the flowers or too tightly as it will compromise the natural shape of the bouquet.

Step 7: Tie a ribbon of your choice around the floral tape and create a simple bow.

*TIP: Always view the bouquet from afar at each step to see how the shape is forming. You’ll be able to see where the balance is off and then insert a flower to fill up the space. You can either hold the bouquet in front of you and take a look in the mirror, or have someone else hold it for you and take a step back to look at it. Most importantly, let your creative juices flow and don’t be afraid to be bold in your choice of flowers.

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Photography: Subhi Bora

Flowers: Sourced from Coles

This post was originally featured on our partner site The Modest Bride.

All the ways you can wear all black

Wearing all black can actually feel like a difficult thing to do. One craves to add a dash of colour, or to break up the outfit somehow. Despite this, all black can be an easy go-to formula for everyday and evening.

Take a look at some ways one can wear all black…

*click images for source.

Tailored suit/full skirted gown

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Winter knits

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The long vest

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Classic with wide brimmed hats

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Layering different textures

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Tunic over wide leg pants

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The Statement floor length coat

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Embellished suiting

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The perfect jumpsuit

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Office chic

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Casual cool

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Dramatic evening wear

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