Sisterhood

Let me introduce you to my sisters: there’s my animal and plant enthusiast sister with a heart of gold; there’s one who is too smart to get sucked into anything at all, but always lingers on the sidelines, ready to intervene on a moment’s notice; there are my artistic and spiritual geniuses, who understand the depth of life and intricacies of human relationships better than most scientists; there are sisters who astound me to no end with their strength and resilience; there are those sisters who are nothing short of speech magicians, oh! If only that magic would last! There are sisters who can carve hearts made of stone with their insightful altruism; there are those whose courage and determination are unmatched; there are sisters who despite their regimented lives, find meaning and joy in all the important things in life; there are sisters who bind together and forge forward because only unity with compassion can break the odds; there are those whose wits and savvy are only matched by their unflinching strength of character; there are sisters who thankfully are as resilient as they are smart; there are some of the most determined intellectuals I have ever met, who still manage to love beyond bounds; there are some who never cease to amaze me with their insight and thoughtfulness; and then there some, whose desire for meaningful connections informs everything they do, no matter how big or small.

These are the women I most admire, these are my dearest friends, these are the people I have been able to count on, and who have counted on me, at some point. These are the meaningful bonds that I have been fortunate to sew so far. These are the women I learned and continue to learn from. These are the examples I wish to share with you, so that you may reap the fruits of their wisdom. It’s great to have it, but it means so much more when you can share it!

In the coming months I hope to share with you some stories about my dear sisters. What makes them extraordinary people? Why do we have such a meaningful bond? How did, or does their experience impact me, and how can it help you?

I have been privileged to have befriended many extraordinary people, and I would like you to meet some of them, because there’s no reason why their impact on me shouldn’t positively impact others as well. I hope that you will feel inspired, as I continue to be, by these remarkable ladies.

Featured post

Top 5 Style Setters

Recently my favorite fashion YouTuber (Justine Leconte) in her biweekly post answered the most popular questions she gets asked this season. One of them was something along the lines of what are the top five pieces of clothing/apparel that define one’s style (ie: take your look “from decent to noticeably on point”). You can watch her YouTube video to find out hers, but it got me thinking about mine, as I found myself strongly disagreeing with her on about half of them! Unlike her, I grew up with a very personal sense of style from very early on, partly due to the fact that I had only one working parent, living in a fairly expensive part of the world, and had two other siblings. We often had clothes handed down to us, we occasionally made our own clothes, and only sometimes purchased new clothes. Being the middle child, I always felt the need to be louder than my matronly sister and my baby brother, out of fear of disappearing in the middle. My fashion sense followed pretty much the same idea.

I already knew from an early age that I was different from other kids, because of my parents’ provenance, and the language we spoke at home, but fortunately I also believed that this difference was a good one, and one I should proudly display. In other words, my lived experience, my situation outside of myself, and the way I internalized it, needed to be reflected confidently in my personal outer appearance. For example, I favored moccasins and fringed shirts, braids over pony tails, and headbands that ran across my forehead to declare my North American Native heritage, but I also loved skirts and suspenders, and peasant blouses with little flower embroidery and knitted white socks to reflect my Swiss affiliation. I eventually grew out of both, and when I started earning my own income, began buying pretty much anything of quality that would take my personal statements to the next level.

Back in those days Color Me Beautiful was all the rage among mommies, so I was very well aware of which colors suited me, and which I should avoid. I spent an awful lot of time outdoors with my friends, so practicality and comfort were a major component of my wardrobe configuration. As a hijab-observing Muslim I also have further considerations to uphold, which do not conflict with any of my most ardent fashion staples. Now that I am more mature, have four active boys to clothe, a stylish yet classy husband, and as I become more cognizant of the practices of fashion houses, I tend to be a lot more choosy about my clothes, not only because I don’t have the time or the desire to spend hours shopping around for clothes, but also because I hate clutter, and want to make the simplest choices (such as what I’m going to wear on any given day) easy, and quickly resolved. I also don’t want to waste money on items that will ruin the first time I wash them, I don’t want clothes that I need to iron every time I wear or wash them, and I don’t want to fuss with comfort or versatility, so everything must fit with at least 3 or 4 other existing pieces. Having grown up with hand-me-downs, shopping at thrift stores has never been an issue for me, in fact I consider it an honorable expenditure of money, especially when I shop at charitable stores, where I will donate items we no longer fit or use.

In other words my style has always attempted to reflect not only my history, but my present situation, my immediate needs, and my wish to project my internally perceived identity outwards. Nevertheless, I am conscious of how distracting multiple statements can be, and thus try to keep my loudest ones small, and do my best to unify larger pieces into one harmonious ensemble. The main things I look for are 1) a scarf of good quality, solid or repeated pattern with one color and 2-3 neutrals maximum; 2) a good quality handbag that holds everything I need, depending on the occasion; 3) either a chunky piece or two of jewelry in turquoise, or a delicate one in pearls, depending on the occasion; 4) a comfortable, well-cut, well stitched, hijab-fitting top (blouse, knit, shirt, and/or cardigan); 5) a solid, comfortable pair of bottoms, be it harem, wide-leg, or boot-leg pants, or a floor-length A-line skirt (flattering on any body type).

You’ll notice I left out shoes, that’s not because I think they’re not important, but because I think this is an item that transcends all fashion considerations as far as I’m concerned: in this department I go for classic comfort, all the time. My shoes need to be comfortable first and foremost, they need to be well made, clean, in good shape, and they have to be in one of my basic colors: black, dark or medium brown, beige or grey. My shoes are always loafers or pumps, with a minute heal, unless it’s a special occasion and I’m not expected to walk for more than a couple hundred meters, or stand for more than a few minutes. My half dozen shoes tend to go with everything I own, so I don’t have to fuss. I choose well made, comfortable, practical, easy to care for, versatile shoes that I could dance or run in if I wanted to, a style that I’ve practiced and loved wearing since my teenage years walking back and forth under the portici with my friends. One thing that shoes can do, that other pieces of clothing under hijab rule don’t, is make you look uncomfortable. If you struggle to walk, or your shoes grab your eye or resonate in your ear each time you take a step, they distract you from being fully present, in whatever you’re doing. Hijab, or modest clothing prevents this, but shoes can become a distracting nuisance even when everything else works seamlessly. So I try to keep them simple and to the point of getting me effortlessly from point A to point B.

Although I enjoy adding a pop of color to my scarves and handbags, I rarely wear color on my staples, and combine them as I please throughout the seasons, often layering. I am at an age where I don’t wish to make fashion forward statements, I’m not interested in trend-setting (not that I ever had an interest) but I have always cherished my ability to look uniquely me, and choose classic designs with a bit of a twist (a high collared white blouse, an asymmetrical knit, a ribboned skirt, a collarless 3/4 length linen jacket). For jewelry I for years chose delicate 18-24K gold pieces with precious stones, but have since opted for stronger silver pieces with turquoise, leaving the delicate pieces for my pearls, I find this allows me to make my statements clearly without screaming.

So here you have it, my rundown of style essentials. Which ones are yours? What do you think of statement shoes? Let me know in the comments below!

Ramadan with kids

Kids are not expected to fast during Ramadan, neither are the elderly, and other weaker or vulnerable people. But they are nevertheless excited about the month, as parents change their routine somewhat to accommodate meals, prayer, and extra charitable acts. Positive behavior is encouraged and all sorts of negative behaviors are discouraged. All the moral aspects of this special month are instilled in children from early on, so although they are not expected to endure the hardships of the physical fast, they are welcome to join in the spiritual aspects of this special month.

Many kids will attempt to join in a few hour long fast, incrementing the hours as they get older. This helps them better appreciate the lessons to be had, such as empathy for the poor and destitute, the frivolity of extras, the significance of our use of time, the importance of health and restraint in matters of behavior and food consumption, and so on and so forth.

In an attempt to break down the various aspects of the fast, many parents opt to read books, retell stories of their first experiences fasting, or arrange special activities around the theme of Ramadan.

bright-chains-colorful-1038179 (1)

One such mom is Fatema, who runs a number of charitable community events, many of which involve teaching kids about the meaning of Ramadan. I asked her to give me her recipe for making Ramadan engaging and fun for kids, no matter what age. She provided me with a series of pointers, and a slew of entertaining packages of activities that she presents to the families with which she works. Below follow the pointers and the jist of the various activity booklets she assembled.

The way one deals with the advent of Ramadan depends a lot on the age of the children. Older kids (teens) will join in the fast and take a lot of the responsibility for their fast, by scheduling their activities, pacing themselves during school days, and participating in food preparation. Younger kids will have half fasts, and gradually work towards full fasts on weekends, and in doing so they begin to understand the implications of the fast, and slowly learn how to pace themselves accordingly. Sometimes they can get overexcited and try to overexert themselves, so it’s up to us as parents to limit them, so they don’t harm themselves, while still asserting their active participation in a variety of aspects.

We have a lot of discussions at home about fasting and those in need around the world. They also compete with who can read more Quran. So we work together towards an ever deepening of our understanding of the purpose of fasting, and constantly reinforce these lessons through our behavior, activities, exercises, readings, and active involvement with the community and beyond.

We prepare special iftaar meals to help them appreciate Ramadhan and they enjoy being involved with meals. This also includes special meals to be taken to the mosque, as well as food drives and other charitable drives for the needy in the neighborhood.

During the last ten days they start getting excited for Eid, make lists of gifts that they wish for, and begin to organize parties with their friends.

architecture-backlit-brown-1001437

As far as the educational and entertaining packages that she shared with me, they vary according to comprehension level, gearing each booklet towards a specific age group. What each packet has in common with the others, however, is the invitation to participate actively in a variety of ways, either by answering questions, reflecting on a particular aspect, discussing one’s own take on a variety of methods to implement some of the lessons learned, and suggesting improvement or additional ways in which to take full advantage of this special time for self improvement and active involvement in our environment.

From an educational point of view, it tackles a wide range of learning styles and fosters active learning. Expanding on this last point, it encourages the development of a close bond between parents and children, not only by bridging the knowledge gap (also by reminding parents of how children see the world), but also by creating an atmosphere of cooperation and mutual understanding that comes with sharing such a particular time.

This is not only a time for each individual to turn inward and improve oneself, but also to reach out and connect meaningfully with the people around us, both within the family and outside of it. It becomes a sort of team effort to help each other succeed and improve, by giving of time, expertise, empathy, and compassion.

abstract-art-blur-1038178.jpg

Although it might look like a terrible chore and hardship from the outside, the dynamic connections that are forged during this month are uniquely harmonious and set the stage for a more united and caring family atmosphere than any other activity, which is why so many kids are not only curious, but eager to challenge themselves to participate in every way possible.

They say that a family that eats together, stays together; well, I’d like to add that a family that fasts together also not only stays together, but thrives together.

Enjoy your Ramadan with your precious ones! May it bring joy and unity to your family and its benefits carry into the rest of the year.

IMG_20180516_150222727

Keto friendly loaf

IMG_20180518_141647761.jpg

I’m on a ketogenic diet, if you’d like to learn more about it you can watch The Magic Pill Movie on Netflix, and if you’re interested in adding in some intermittent fasting and exercise (Steady Slate and HIIT) with an online coach, then check out Mubaraka Ibrahim’s mR40 program. I am therefore constantly on the lookout for recipes that include keto friendly ingredients, so I don’t have to deprive myself too much, and can trick my brain into thinking I’m having bread, or a delicious loaf, although there are no grains in it!

I took my queue from Mubaraka Ibrahim’s suggestions, and searched the net for complementaries. Finally I came up with a recipe for a loaf that tastes rich, is wonderfully moist, and deliciously neutral, so you could use it simply with butter, or with ricotta cheese and harissa (pictures below).

Preheat oven to 350F, or 180C.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 c almond flour
1/3 c psyllium husk flour
1/2 c coconut flour
1/2 c hemp flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp each of sesame, caraway and cumin seeds
Mix all dry ingredients

6 whole eggs
1/4 c melted salted butter
3/4 c unsweetened almond milk
Mix all wet ingredients separately from dry ones.

Combine the two mixes

Slowly add 2 c boiling water, 1/2 c at a time, mix constantly until the water is absorbed.

IMG_20180518_141551215.jpg
Pour into buttered loaf pan and bake for 40-45 minutes. Let cool and serve in slices.
IMG_20180518_141801747.jpg

I loved mine with ricotta cheese and harissa, pictured here


Enjoy!

Perspectives on intermittent fasting

IMG_20180516_150222727.jpg

Finally, Ramadan is here. They say that the first ten days are for Allah’s Mercy, the second ten are for forgiveness, and the last 10 are for protection. This is believed to be a saying of weak derivation, but I can understand why it is often repeated and held up as a model for managing Ramadan fatigue. This can be helpful for Muslims and non-Muslims undertaking a cleansing intermittent fast of a month.

IMG_20180514_115755436.jpg

All the psychological and physical benefits of intermittent fasting notwithstanding, Muslims fast for spiritual reasons, predominantly because it is one of the five foundational pillars of Islam, and as such is called upon directly and unequivocally in the Qur’an, as a duty and a mercy, simultaneously. Science has repeatedly shown that this type of fasting is great physiological benefit, and as such, many non-Muslims attempt to join one and a half billion Muslims each year for the camaraderie, out of curiosity, or to enjoy the “worldly” benefits of the fast. With this in mind, I’d like to share some of the common wisdom accrued over a millennium and a half (give or take a century) of intermittent fasting on a yearly basis by Muslims. So you too can reap all the benefits associated with this month.

IMG_20180514_115755436

The first ten days we are normally eager to challenge ourselves and set a pace that we hope to maintain throughout the month, but soon we inevitably run into fatigue and various hardships. Reminding ourselves that there is good to be had by working through these hardships is a welcomed way to surmount said challenges. The good to be had is the mercy aspect of the struggle.

abstract-art-blur-1038178.jpg

As we decide to pace ourselves around the middle of the month, and perhaps begin to feel that we’re falling short of our initial expectations, we are reminded that God is merciful and we should be kind to ourselves as we would be to others. So forgiveness comes into play, to be patient with ourselves, and not fall into the bottomless pit of self-condemnation and recrimination. This is when the physical cleansing really starts as well, as the body becomes adjusted to the new rhythm.

 

decoration-lamps-lanterns-67568 (1).jpg

Nearing the end of the month we try to push ourselves to the finish line, putting our whole selves into the last sprint. At this juncture it is hoped that our efforts will pay off in the long run, establishing habits (which we know from research take about a month to set in), that we carry out throughout the year. This is where we remember that good habits are established over a month of devoted practice, and this is the beginning of a new lease on life.

art-blur-bokeh-236043 (1).jpg

Ultimately, this is our yearly reminder that it’s never too late to become a better version of ourselves, and that we are capable of much more than we give ourselves credit for. At the same time, it’s a reminder that we are not perfect, and that we need to listen to our kinder, gentler voices, and not be hypercritical of ourselves. As we work through our individual hardships, we also empathize with others more readily, and are more willing to share their burden, helping people in need, giving to charity and being kinder and more compassionate overall with all those around us. With this in mind, we are cleansed from the inside out in hopes to be able to start anew, with a revived commitment to healthy, long lasting habits. We then make a commitment to fasting every Monday and Thursday of the week as a smaller reminder to keep up the positive practices and good vibes experienced as a collective in the month of Ramadan.

abstract-art-backlight-186847 (1).jpg

Ramadan is a challenge, in other words, to achieve balance in all aspects of our lives. I wish all of you out there doing this, or contemplating this, balance, wherein to obtain peace (Salam)!

Peace be upon you and happy renewal!

Value of Minimalism.

Rebloging, because it’s that good!

Author: Sadaf Siddiqi

Over the growing years, one keeps on hearing that maximum surpasses minimum, and addition holds greater value than subtraction, atleast that is so in the case of marks and grades. Hearing it over and over again, it somehow gets registered in one’s mind. Unconsciously, the need to have more then gets accepted as something vital.

In today’s world, gluttony has become such a natural sign that its presence doesn’t surprise more than its mere absence. The human mind drives the urge for people to crave for more and more, to attain more of everything. People tend to give too much meaning to things, thus often forsaking health, relationships, growth, passions, and desires.

Based on personal choice and the style of living, there are basically two kinds of people- the minimalist and the maximalist based on two interesting theories- Maximalism, while being completely opposite to minimalism, is more about clutter…

View original post 913 more words

Ramadhan Diaries: Welcoming Ramadhan…

Love this! Just had to share.

Welcome.....to me

Ramadhan, common to all as the month of Fasting (temporary abstinence from food and drink during the day) is prescribed upon all Muslims as an act to build self-discipline and piety, compulsory in the Holy Month of Ramadan and highly encouraged elsewhere in the year.

Fasting encourages/requires us to step aside from our normal routines, and humble ourselves by experiencing hunger pangs of the poor and underprivileged, hence reflecting on what life would be like if we didn’t have enough to eat and drink.

Fasting also increases our self-discipline, helping us to break free from our daily addictions and indulgences and giving us the opportunity to focus on something bigger than  our next meal. Fasting therefore combines various  benefits, physical and spiritual for  both to individuals and society.

However, acquiring these benefits requires that one prepare adequately for the month of Ramadhan. It is important to understand WHY we fast…

View original post 906 more words

Salma’s Ramadan

Back home in Libya normally kids don’t go to school during Ramadan, that makes it a lot easier to be able to enjoy the month all together as a family, because we can stay up later and go back to sleep after fajr. But here (and in some Muslim countries now) kids go to school, and our work schedules don’t change much during Ramadan, so instead of adjusting life to our fasting, we have to adjust our fasting to the rest. So many kids don’t fast, it’s too hard for them, especially when they see everyone else around them eating and having their usual energy, there’s little support for them to fast outside of the home. My oldest doesn’t have to fast yet, but I encourage him to complete a couple of days during the week, and the weekend, to get used to it, but I don’t push for it, I realize his challenges are much greater than the ones I faced growing up in a Muslim country. It is important for him to feel that he is growing up and participating in what his parents are doing, so I don’t want to deny him this, but it’s a balancing act. To encourage him I cook the foods he loves for iftar (the breaking of the fast). I certainly am glad that Ramadan is moving closer to winter each year, so he will learn to fast on shorter days, insha Allah (God willing).

The younger kids love the idea of fasting, they try to fast in the morning, but I always pack their snack and lunch just in case they get tired or hungry and want to break their fast. My parents used to tell us that if we fast half a day here and there they add up to full days, and they count as such. We tell our kids the same, and they really try to get in as much as they can.

Libyan Iftar

I try to make special foods for iftar, and the kids love to be able to partake of the dates and milk, it’s a warm ritual that they cherish, and we enjoy it together. In Libya we traditionally serve dates with Bsisa, especially for Ramadan, but also when we fast on other days, and this is something we’re able to get here every year, so that’s a nice little reminder of home, and something special we do. What I cook for Ramadan isn’t what I normally make throughout the year, for example, we have Libyan soup, which we normally don’t eat outside of this month, and I make all kinds of other finger foods that really make the iftar feel like a feast. The younger kids who aren’t fasting also join in for suhoor, but they normally make up for missed sleep after school, when they take a little nap.

bsisa

Socially we take great care in maintaining close ties with our kids’ friends, our neighbors, and we have some other close friends that we meet throughout the month of Ramadan, sometimes they come over for iftar, other times we go to their place, and sometimes we meet outside and make a zarda (like a picnic social) out of it. Ramadan has been in the summer the last few year, so we can meet at a park, a farm, or a field, and have a barbeque, or a potluck. I personally don’t like potlucks at the mosque, because it can get the mosque very dirty, I don’t like to mix food around the prayer space, but if they have a separate, well organized space for it, I’d be more inclined. So far I’ve enjoyed our potlucks outdoors; it’s very social, and the kids enjoy it too, but I do realize we won’t be able to hold them as Ramadan moves further into colder weather. We’ll have to cross that bridge when we get there!

libyan market

When I make something special I always send something to our neighbors, who are Christian, and for Eid I make sure to invite them over to share in the celebration, and that they get some of our specially made sweets to take home with them. We normally don’t invite them for iftar, because it’s very late, and they don’t usually eat at that time, but for Eid, they come in the afternoon, and it works out. I also send food with my husband to the mosque for when they organize iftar for students who live far from their families, my husband breaks his fast with the students, but it’s not a family event. A group of us also does it within our building, once a week we each make something to take to the social room of our building, and the young men who don’t have family to break their fast with, go there and eat together. For families I prefer to keep things at home as much as possible, I find it more manageable that way.

 

pexels-photo-733881.jpeg

I feel that Ramadan should be an occasion to clear our hearts, and make a clean start for the coming year. It’s nice to have good food, decorations, and social events, and I do take care of all of that, but ideally these should be only complements to what’s going on spiritually. So along with all the practical aspects, we try to instill the virtues of charity, kindness, and respect for everyone, regardless of any differences or disagreements. For this we do regular collections of coins in a charity jar at home, but also at the mosque, where we collect non-perishable food items, clothes, household items and money to distribute among needy families in the neighborhood.

At Saturday school we managed to have the kids’ graduation just before Ramadan, and this year we’re gifting them with a Qur’an reader pen with Qur’an and Hadith books that go along with it, to help the students improve their reading of Arabic and enjoyment of Qur’an studies. We also organized a Qur’an competition to be held right after Ramadan, to encourage all the families who have their kids in the Saturday school to study Qur’an throughout Ramadan together. I also volunteer at the Bereavement Committee of our local hospital, and we do cards during Ramadan for the Muslim families that have used our services, we invite them over for an event on the last Sunday of April to commemorate the children that they lost. They’ll also send volunteers to them during Ramadan to help them deal with their loss during this important month.

pexels-photo.jpg

Lastly, I just want to mention that there’s good and bad everywhere. Back home everyone is fasting, you can see it on tv, all life revolves around the fact that everybody is fasting, so it all kind of comes together naturally. But here because we’re the odd ones out, we try extra hard to connect with our children and make them appreciate and enjoy the beauty of Islam, and that’s a good thing, because I don’t think we’d be as connected with our children if we could just use the extended family and society as a crutch. I know I talked a lot about cooking, because that’s what we concentrated on back home, and it does make iftar extra special, but I find that here we do things much more purposefully, we spend time preparing ahead to be able to have enjoyable activities that explain the spiritual benefits, and get the kids to fully partake of this holy month. We can’t depend on schools, tv, or society around us to teach our kids about Islam, so we have to take it upon ourselves to convey the spirit and meaning of Ramadan to our kids, and that benefits not only them, but us too, because we become more mindful, appreciative, and create closer bonds with our children through the Deen of Allah, Alhamdulillah.

Simone

Simone and I first met in grade five, when her family moved to Ticino from Geneve. We immediately hit it off, and remained tight friends until she moved to another city after Jr. High School. She studied tourism and worked for Cross Air until its dissolution into Swiss, and then in a Tourist Information Center until she became a mom.

Simone 1Wanting to be completely engaged and present for her children, she took a break from work until they were in school, a period in which she began experimenting with her passion for baking. When they went back to school she continued to work part time, while the kids were in school, and tirelessly laboured to improve her baking skills at home. As she learned more via YouTube she became more intrepid in the types of cakes she would attempt, until she started being asked about her cakes by the kids’ teachers, her friends, and family. Once her friends’ friends started requesting cakes, she began seriously considering getting certification to be able to expand on this business opportunity. She immediately started a facebook page to be able to share pictures and become more accessible. Meanwhile she took an extensive course covering all the essentials of baking professionally, and started working from her atelier, making cakes on demand, gradually incrementing her knowledge about a variety of cake design techniques.

As the culture of team-building at her eight year long part-time job shifted, she decided it was time to make of her passion a full time occupation. It just so happened that as she was considering her options, an intensive master class was being offered, and the perfect spot for a tea room opened up, so she grabbed the opportunity, and ran with it!

As a Swiss momtreneur she is big on using local products, supporting Swiss small businesses, and creating a unique experience, where everything is either handpicked or handmade by her, including the drinks (such as juices by Opaline, syrups by Sirupier de Berne, coffee Chicco d’Oro from Ticino, and organic Swiss teas), the décor (shabby-chic handmade by her), the comfortable atmosphere (warm and inviting), the tailor-made classes and parties she organizes on a monthly basis, and every treat you find in her tea room. She even offers demonstrations at the yearly market in Saint Croix (VD), where families can try their hand at decorating cupcakes and get a taste of her sweet delights! Although she is quite successful and the services she provides and products are of a uniqueness and quality that could easily cost a premium, her main objective is to do something she loves for the people she loves, at a price that is accessible.

She is a shining model for women entrepreneurs, and she is living proof that if you believe in your ideas with passion and in line with your principles, you can run a successful business and thrive! Because she is personally invested in her work, she has complete control over what types of ingredients and processes she uses, and is able to cater to specialized needs, such as gluten-free, lactose-free, and so forth.

I asked her if she thought this was a model that can be applied across the board, and she replied emphatically that, unless other life circumstances prevent you from having this flexibility, with today’s access to technology and social media, probably about 90% of women would be able to do this. If you are passionate about something, and you have the skills, it not only makes sense for you to pursue it for your own satisfaction, but for the benefit of your community as well. If we all applied ourselves to succeed in our individual fields, we would certainly have a lot more disposable income and time to spend doing the things we love with the people we love. As Confucius famously said, and she believes wholeheartedly (you’ll see this affixed at the front of her shop): “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Small businesses simply make sense all the way around!

Simone 11Simone 12You can read the interview in the original Italian below. Her tea room is called Deco Cake by Simo, and you can find more information about it on her FB Page and her website.

Here is the interview in the original Italian:

Cosa puoi dirci del tuo background?
Ho fatto degli studi superiori nel turismo ed ho lavorato per diversi anni nel turismo sia in agenzia di viaggio che all’aeroporto. Ma dopo aver fondato una famiglia il lavoro è andato in secondo piano e dopo una pausa maternità di quattro anni e mezzo ho ripreso un lavoro in ufficio dove ero molto libera di gestire il mio tempo e ho potuto adattarlo alla vita famigliare. Avevo molta indipendenza. Poi è arrivata un po’ per caso la mia passione per il cake design e ora ho la mia propria piccola impresa: un tea-room cupcakerie dove do anche corsi per bambini e adulti e dove realizzo le mie torte.

Che mete ti sei fissata, le hai raggiunte, sono come te le eri immaginate, o ne hai cambiato alcune?
La mia meta era di fondare una famiglia, ed essere realizzata. Le ho realizzate entrambe. L’unica cosa che e forse cambiata e che pensavo di dedicarmi interamente alla mia famiglia, ma dopo qualche anno il contatto con altri adulti mi mancava e così ho iniziato a lavorare, e ora che le bimbe sono grandi ho sempre più tempo per me, senza intaccare il tempo dedicato a loro e così riesco a realizzarmi.

Cos’hai imparato che non avresti imparato neanche se qualcuno te l’avesse detto?
Il cake design. Ho sempre amato la pasticceria, ma non ho mai pensato che da una mia passione avrei potuto creare una piccola impresa. Ne sono fiera.

Che aspetti della vita ti hanno sopreso di piu?
Devo dire che mi sorprende la velocità con la quale il tempo passa, e che le cose che mi diceva mia madre, quando aveva l’età che ho io ora erano vere, e mi ritrovo a dire le stesse cose alle mie figlie.

C’e qualcosa che ti ripeti, o che fai regolarmente, per mantenerti motivata?
La motivazione mi viene con il fatto che voglio essere realizzata, fare di ogni giorno un giorno speciale, di non subire la vita, ma di esserne il conducente. Mi motiva avere dei progetti per il futuro, una volta che le bimbe saranno fuori casa, avere ancora tanti anni da passare con mio marito.

Qual’era il consiglio piu utile che hai mai ricevuto?
Sii indipendente e fai sempre quello che vuoi. Non abbatterti alla prima caduta, ma rialzati e ricomincia.

Cos’e la tua definizione di amicizia?
L’amicizia è per me importante ed è rivedere una persona che forse non hai visto da tanto, ma parlarle come se l’avessi vista ieri, un’amica ti capisce e non ti giudica, non ti rimprovera ed è qui per te nei momenti belli ma anche nei momenti brutti. Poter parlare di tutto senza tabù.

Potresti dire quali furono I momenti piu decisivi della tua vita, e perche pensi che siano cosi importanti?
Un momento decisivo è stato quello quando ho deciso di restare in Ticino per continuare gli studi, mentre il resto della mia famiglia era ritornato in Svizzera francese. Ho deciso che volevo fare un’altra cosa che quella che era “prevista” per me. Lì che ho deciso di prendere il mio destino nelle mie mani.

Hai una ricetta segreta per il tuo successo?
Il mio segreto è fare quello che vuoi, e non quello che gli altri vorrebbero che tu facessi. Vivere pienamente la vita. Rendersi conto che ognuno ha delle capacità e usare queste capacità per migliorare la propria vita, uscendo dagli schemi e non semplicemente seguire un tracciato già pronto.

Se dovessi nominare una persona come quella che ti ha ispirato di piu, chi sarebbe e perche?
Mio marito: mi ispira ogni giorno per la volontà che ha, per la perseveranza, e per i suoi sogni che sa che un giorno si realizzeranno. Per la sua forza di volontà e la sua dedicazione in quel che fa. Quando decide che vuole una cosa fa di tutto per raggiungerla e ci riesce.

Quali sono stati i maggiori ostacoli che hai dovuto sormontare, e come li hai affrontati?
Gli ostacoli sono stati quando ho scelto di non andare all’università, una parte della mia famiglia, mia madre, non era d’accordo, ma li ho sormontati impuntandomi e dimostrando che la via che avevo scelto era quella giusta per me.

Se potessi trovare la combinazione perfetta per il benessere, come sarebbe?
Il benessere è svegliarti ed essere felice per la giornata che ti aspetta, essere piena di energia e aperta agli incontri e alle possibilita che la giornata ti possa portare. Andare a dormire serena essendo soddisfatta della giornata che hai passato.

Cosa da sapore alla vita?
L’amore, le gioie, le soddisfazioni. Anche i loro diretti contrari, altrimenti non sapremmo che siamo felici se non abbiamo mai provato l’infelicità.

Cosa vorresti che la gente ricordasse di te?
Vorrei che ricordassero la mia allegria e il mio positivismo.

Cosa pensi che sarebbe la contribuzione piu importante che si possa fare oggi nel mondo?
Ognuno dovrebbe fare attenzione a piccole cose, come lo spreco degli alimenti, la pulizia del nostro piccolo habitat, e il rispetto gli uni per gli altri, e per gli animali. Se tutti mettessero una piccola goccia nell’oceano di queste cose, il mondo sarebbe migliore.

Solidarity

I will share with you a couple of thoughts that have been running through my mind a lot lately: one has to do with the need for minorities (class, racial, religious, etc.) to stick together, and the other with the need for us to listen to each other.

Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) said we should help our brothers and sisters whether they do good or bad, and when asked why anyone would want to help someone doing something bad, he replied that you help them by stopping them from doing that bad deed.

They say that people who hurt, hurt people. You will find some of the worst abusers of power are people desperately clinging to the little bit of pride they get from exercising authority over someone they consider inferior, basically strategically positioning themselves in the service of “power” at the expense of their colleagues, or “rivals.” Sometimes they’ll even invoke their own status of minority to justify their right to exercise force over other groups. You see it in the smallest things, and the most horrific historic events. This is how slavery flourished (and still continues to exert itself), this is how colonialism functioned, this is how apartheid worked, this is how genocides become realities, this is how abusive relationships become normalized.

Some times we build armours around ourselves to protect us from any perceived attack, and  some of us will retaliate if we feel the threat to be serious enough. The problem with this is that we can become hypervigilant and suspect threats where there aren’t any. This limits our ability to interact effectively, and can cause rifts where there should be unity instead.

We need to recognize that we can achieve a lot more by working together, than we can as separate entities. I know it can be hard at times to bypass our super sensitive warning signals, but sometimes we really do loose out on significant opportunities for allegiance, because of our fears. We can choose to look beyond differences, and allow for a common cause to unite us, rather than allow for differences to destroy each one of us in turn. Obviously, it’s easier said than done, but I do believe it’s worth the struggle.

I know for a fact that most people want many of the same things: safety, health, and a decent chance at happiness. And yet, I’ve seen people trying to “protect” themselves (their image, their status, their affiliations, their feelings) at the expense of other less fortunate ones, who were in real, immediate need. What did they gain from this? They are simply strengthening walls where there should be none to begin with. It’s a strange feeling being caught in such a situation, it’s almost as though you can sense the inner workings of a pain competition to determine who is suffering the most. Instead of alleviating distress, they inflict more suffering on others, to make themselves feel better.

Two of my favorite poems continue to do the rounds in my head:

[…]

Y lo peor no fueron los ridiculos gestos de las matronas, torpes animales domesticos,

ni el parloteo de los intrascendentes animalillos partidarios del orden y la compostura,

sino el distinguir, debajo de la pacotilla y de las flores de plastico,

su buena fe de gansos sonolientos.

(Guillermo Carnero, “El movimiento continuo”)

[…]

Vosotros, mientras en la noche resuena

la rutilante musica de circo,

decidme si merecia la pena haber vivido para esto,

para seguir girando en el suave chirrido de las tablas alquitranadas,

para seguir girando hasta la muerte 

(Guillermo Carnero, “Dibujo de la muerte”)

Sometimes we get so caught up in our own little struggles, that we forget that there’s a bigger world out there, filled with people who are struggling in one way or another. At times they may be facing much greater challenges than we could even imagine. Instead of dwelling on our own obstacles, perhaps it would help to extend ourselves outward and lend a helping hand, then we might find that life doesn’t have to be that difficult, that we’re not alone, and that contentment can be found by striving for good, not just our own good, but more generalized, more altruistic good. I think Mother Theresa said something to this effect.

The thoughts that I am trying to manage here have to do with the knowledge of suffering, with the actual experience of having felt that pain, and being willing to take the risk of feeling it again, for the sake of a greater good. That takes a tremendous amount of courage, and a determination that goes beyond imagination. Knowing fully well that there is the possibility of hardship accompanying your journey, and still going ahead with it, allows for endless possibilities, but you need to trust that you have the strength to endure the pain, and work through it. You need to believe in a goal that is worth the hardships you’ll encounter, and take the plunge.

 

 

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: