Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Rest Camp


Phew, what a journey this is turning out to be. Exhausting, sometimes depressing, yet occasionally a little exhilarating. I find myself drifting into the past more frequently. Wondering about friends from another time, how they are. Reminiscing some of my better moments and steering clear of the lousy ones.


I've even had the opportunity of surviving my first hate mail. And how poisonous it was. For the record, I thought about it for an hour in total. And decided that I am not, like the sender claims, a 'hipocrit'.

I forgot to mention. Round about the time that Atyllah spoke of her sassy, saucy sounding muse, I lost mine. She vanished. Gone! Just like that. And since then I have written very little aside from the odd poem or two – which I suspect I will look at again in time to come and be staggered by just how awful they are.

So I’m waiting – patiently for once - for her to return. She has to. She has helped me find joy even when things were lousy. She made me smile through some awful moments. She taught me how to rid myself of the ‘difficult’ stuff by putting it onto the computer's hard drive. In honour of Muse Mine who is somewhere right now, inspiring some other lucky soul, I’ve gone into the archives and found this. Was I ever really this hopeful?


A Healthy Dose of HOPE

It’s official! Spring is here!

As the once bare branches become adorned with a profusion of pastel coloured blossoms, the days gradually grow longer and warmer and a sense of intense expectancy – of wonderful things to come fills the air. I am filled with a wondrous feeling that soon the tide will turn – that miraculous things are just waiting to happen.

So what if I’m staring another birthday in the face and I’m growing (yes, say it) older, and I suspect, no wiser? So what if my already crowded house is going to have to expand to make room for one more little being and my already overflowing cupboards are going to be called upon to accommodate one more winter and summer wardrobe? So what if my bathroom is crying for a makeover and accomplishing it in time seems as likely to occur as does my summiting Everest? So what if the gloom of winter seems determined to cling to me with tenacious obstinacy and drag me back into it’s cold?

I’m more determined! Determined to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Determined to continue to hope.

Invariably there are times when the light dims and my problems seem insurmountable, I take consolation from verse 155 Chapter 2 of the noble Quraan where Allah says, “And we shall indeed test you with a little bit of fear and hunger and a reduction of wealth and souls and fruit – and give glad tidings to the patient ones. Those who, when difficulty afflicts them say – Verily to Allah do we belong and to him is our return”

So when hardship strikes, I accept it as nothing more or less than a test from my Lord. And after reading through verses 5 & 6 Chapter 94, appropriately located in the last Juz of the Quraan where Allah says, not once, but twice, verily after one hardship comes much ease, surely after hardship comes much ease,” is it ever possible for hope not to emerge the victor?

Indeed where there is life, there is hope – hope for a change for the better. It helps when one remembers that, while Paradise has eight doors, Hell has only seven, and Allah has informed us that His mercy exceeds His wrath.

So your creditors may be beating down your door, your mother-in-law may be nothing short of impossible; your children may be demanding and stubborn; your neighbours may be mean and nosy and their dog may consider your front lawn to be the perfect shade of green for utilisation as a toilet, in the face of all this, one thing remains and that is HOPE!!

You could win a crossword grand prize, settle the debts and have enough change left over to treat yourself to that aromatherapy massage you so richly deserve. Your mother-in-law’s heart may soften, or better still she could become senile and forget who you are altogether. It isn’t inconceivable that your children could outgrow their stubbornness and learn to value your love more than the latest toy craze.

Your neighbour could get a transfer to Katmandu and once your lawn has turned and ugly brown their dog might just move to the patch of lawn two doors away, where he might just get shot, so keep the hope alive by nurturing it with abundant remembrance of Allah and prayer.

Speak to Allah like a trusted friend and make Him your counsellor, after all He does say in Chapter 50 Verse 16, “And we are closer to him (man) than his jugular vein”. Strive to shut out the clamour from without and listen to the gentle voice within- the voice that will continue to remind you of precisely who you are.

That may seem a mammoth task with your brood tearing around the house at breakneck speeds and working up a din that could drown out the roar of a bulldozer – but with a bit of perseverance it can be achieved. So no matter what your problem, remember, the solution lies within, so don’t give up the search and whatever you do ….just keep HOPING!!

This article first appeared in The Muslim Woman Magazine. It was written when I was expecting my fourth child. She is now two and a half and has just reached the potty training milestone.

How life seems to replay itself. Though it is well and truly Autumn here, I am now well into my pregnancy with baby number five. We are currently renovating another bathroom in the house we plan on calling home once and for all. I hope we will be done in time for baby. My house is in boxes stacked up against walls for now. Only this time, I’m struggling to be as hopeful. But somewhere, deep inside, I know, it can only get better.


Monday, March 19, 2007

A break

See, this is what I wish I was doing




but my days feel like this instead:




There are times when I feel pretty much like this:






Though I try in vain to cling to these in my head


I'll be leaving you all for a bit, tring to summit my personal mountain. You'll be thinking of me, I'm sure. Look real close, maybe you'll see me waving. Cos' I sure as Hell won't be crying...





Oh, and I'll try to visit you all at each rest camp along the way. Internet connectivity might be a problem, but no trouble is too great if it means I can still let you know that I haven't quite fallen off mountain.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Pick me ups

When it looks like this outside:

as I know it does right now in parts of the northern hemisphere, then I feel that I need to do something to cheer up all my friends who feel a little grey. There's nothing that brings warmth to a cosy kitchen, like the spicy aroma of freshly syruped koeksusters, or a generous helping of warm, fluffy Buttermilk Pudding topped with a dollop of softly whipped cream and a generous drizzle of golden syrup. These are the recipes for both. Enjoy!

Buttermilk Pudding
This is a wonderful, light pudding, perfect for chilly winter days. Serve with softly whipped cream, a generous drizzle of golden syrup and a sprinkle of cinnamon for good measure.

Ingredients

50 g butter
½ - ¾ cup castor sugar
4 jumbo – XL eggs
500 ml buttermilk
15 ml Vanilla essence
60 ml flour
1 ml salt
250 ml fresh cream (whipped)

Method
Preheat oven to 160 C. Combine the butter and sugar in a bowl. Beat until fluffy. Separate the eggs and add the yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. Fold in the buttermilk alternately with the sifted flour. Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold in. Fold in the softly whipped fresh cream. Grease a baking dish (rectangular). Pour in the batter. Bake until a golden brown. Dust with powdered cinnamon. Serve with more sweetened whipped cream and golden syrup.

Koeksusters

Ingredients

4 - 6 cups flour
2 tsp powdered cinnamon
1 tsp powdered ginger
½ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp cloves
¼ tsp ground cardamom (optional)
¼ sup sugar
1 sachet instant dried yeast (10g)
2 eggs
1 cup milk warmed
2 tab condensed milk
1 large or two small potatoes boiled and mashed
2 tab butter


Syrup
Combine 2 cups sugar and 2 cups water in a saucepan. Stir over low heat to dissolve the sugar. Boil until a slightly sticky syrup is formed.

Method
Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix the mashed potato (no lumps must remain in the potato), butter, condensed milk, eggs and warm milk. Add this to the dry ingredients. Mix to combine, adding extra warm water if necessary. Form into a soft dough and knead thoroughly. Transfer into an oiled plastic container with a tight fitting lid. Place in a warm place until doubled in bulk. Divide dough into 30 balls (if using 6 cups, you will get approx two dozen more). Shape into ovals and flatten between your hands. Place on oiled or floured trays. Leave to rise once more, covered under a sheet of plastic. Heat oil and fry each to a dark brown. Drain on kitchen towels. Dip in the warm syrup and sprinkle generously with desiccated coconut. Serve warm.

Note : Leftover koeksusters can be frozen or kept for later. To serve, sprinkle with a bit of water, wrap in foil and heat in the oven. Syrup them as explained, and enjoy.

Friday, March 02, 2007

This makes me sick

The nasheed that follows- that's a term referring to Islamic music - is a response to the following very nasty e-mail that has been doing the rounds:

Subject: Can a Muslim be a good American???????????????

Good question. The answer may surprise you. Certainly food for thought IF it's true.

Make your own decision -- pass it on, do more research, or Delete it

Can a good Muslim be a good American?

I forwarded that question to a friend that worked in Saudi Arabia for 20 years. >>> The following is his forwarded reply:

Theologically - no. Because his allegiance is to Allah, the moon God of Arabia.

Religiously - no. Because no other religion is accepted by his Allah except Islam (Q! ! uran, 2 :256)

Scripturally - no. Because his allegiance is to the five Pillars of Islam and the Quran (Koran).

Geographically - no. Because his allegiance is to Mecca, to which he turns in prayer five times a day.

Socially - no. Because his allegiance to Islam forbids him to make friends with Christians or Jews.

Politically - no. Because he must submit to the mullah (spiritual leaders), who teach annihilation of Israel and Destruction of America, the great Satan.

Domestically - no. Because he is instructed to marry four women and beat and scourge his wife when she disobeys him (Quran 4:34).

Intellectually - no. Because he cannot accept the American Constitution since it is based on Biblical principles and he believes the Bible to be corrupt.

Philosophically - no. Because Islam, Muhammad, and the Quran do not allow freedom of religion and expression. Democracy and Islam cannot co-exist. Every Muslim government is either dictatorial or autocratic.

Spiritually - no. Because when we declare "one nation under God," the Christian's God is loving and kind, while Allah is NEVER referred to as heavenly father, nor is he ever called love in The Quran's 99 excellent names.

Therefore after much study and deliberation....perhaps we should be very suspicious ! of ALL ! MUSLIMS in this country. They obviously cannot be both "good" Muslims and good Americans. Call it what you wish....it's still the truth.

If you find yourself intellectually in agreement with the above statements, perhaps you will share this with your friends. The more who understand this, the better it will be for our country and our future.

Pass it on Fellow Americans. The religious war is bigger than we know or understand.

I feel I should respond to it, but then ask myself, can one dignify such utter rubbish with a response? But then again, this carper may have done his job. He may have got people to wonder. So my answer to each of his allegations is as follows:

1) Theologically - Muslims do not believe in the moon God of Arabia. They believe in God - full stop. The God of Abraham, Moses, Jesus (peace be upon them all). In fact, many would be surprised to discover that the Islamic Festival of Eidul Adha is commemoration/celebration of the sacrifice of the Prophet Abraham, when - as is told in the Bible - he was told to sacrifice his son in God's way. All the rites of Hajj follow in his footsteps or those of his wife Hagar (peace be upon them). Also, if you were to open a Bible in Arabic, you would find that the word used for God is the same one Muslims use - Allah.

2) Religiously - Islam literally means 'Surrender to the Will of God'. Any person who believes in the one God and surrenders to His will can be defined as a Muslims. In fact, the Prophets were all Muslims. They all believed in One God.

3) Scripturally - A Muslim's allegiance is to God. He believes in God and in ALL his past messengers. And yes, this includes Jesus.

4) Geographically - The Ka'bah is seen as The House of God. All Muslims turning to it at the time of prayer is symbolic of all Muslims belonging to one Ummah, or nation, regardless of ethnic, racial, cultural, devisions. It is a Holy Shrine in Islam as are some Churches in Jerusalem for Christians.

5) Socially - I'm not even going here. It's totally silly.

6)Spiritually - Again, utter drivel. Though interesting to note how Israel and America are seen as one.

7) Domestically - Again, rubbish! A Muslim man has an option of marrying upto four wives, but the conditions for these are very strict. And a man must exercise absolute justice between all. Not to do so is seen as a major sin. If a man fears that he cannot be just, then he is encouraged to have one wife only. And no, Muslim men are not encouraged to beat their wives in the Quraan. The Quraan describes marriage beautifully, "They (your wives) are garments unto you and you are garments unto them."

8) Intellectually - Biblical principles, Islamic, Judaic, they're really all the same, being rays of the same light.

9) Philosophically - A verse in the Quraan reads, "There is no compulsion in faith." If anyone can present evidence of a single church or synagogue that was harmed in any way during the life of the Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him), I'll... okay, I don't know what I'll do, but I'd stake my life on the fact that this never happened.

10) Spiritually - When Muslims begin reciting the Quraan, they read, "In the Name of God, the Beneficient, The Merciful." Of the 99 Names, some that show Mercy are: Al Wadud - The Loving; Al Lateef - The Affectionate; Al Gaffar - The Most Forgiving; Al Haleem - the Tolerant...I'm sure you get the picture.

Enough of my rant. Relax and enjoy Yusuf Islam aka Cat Stevens. He does have the most amazing voice, don't you think?



Thursday, March 01, 2007

Memories captured in smell




Memories. They hide in recesses in our minds and jump out at us when we least need them to. They taunt, mock, beguile, chide. They make us feel joy, sadness, misery. Their hold is all pervasive.

We may run away from much in life, but never from memories. They’re inside of us. Parasites that sap our strength at the very moment when we need every last ounce. The defeat us. We are powerless under the influence of memory.

What is it about the smell of damp earth that I love so much? That faintly musty, faintly sweet smell that clings to you; seeps into your mind. Stirs…memories…

It was the tap that had been left open that roused from the bone dry cement the smell of damp earth. The water, relentless in its journey, seeped into cracks between the walls and the concrete slab. It released the smell, the one I love so much.

I want to stand there, in that store room, with its dust and rats, and keep my mouth open and allow the smell to enter me. To eat it almost. Yet I can’t. I can’t quite taste it. Like the darkness that I long to hold, it slips out of reach each time I think it is tantalisingly close.

What does it remind me of? This smell. I could almost call it a perfume. But not quite.

Is it my roots, my beginnings, like the Quraan tells, from a lump of clay? Is it perhaps the grave that I will someday lie in my grave? Is this the smell that will filter through to me when my children wet the hump shaped mound atop my grave to help it keep its shape? Will they come to wet the mound, to stand there and say a prayer for me?

My question remins unanswered. Why wet earth? Why do I feel pleasure when I smell it? A near sensuous pleasure.

What smells are pleasurable for you? And what do they remind you of?

note: I am writing these random thoughts at a time when I feel ill equipped to write anything at all. Regular readers, I'll dig through my archives and come up with something better - soon. I promise. But for now, humour me. Tell me about your smells and what you associate them with.