Month: August 2011

Somalian mothers lose thier children, we feed ours twinkies….

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The African Famine Statistics :  “More than 12.4 million people suffering from the famine, drought and lack of food in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and Djibouti…Today, more than 400,000 refugees are in Dadaab, Kenya, where the world’s largest refugee camps are located. Up to 1,500 people arriving at the camps every day — 80 percent of them are women and children who are exhausted, weak and extremely hungry from their long trek. Almost half the children arriving to the camps from southern Somalia are malnourished, and increasing numbers of children are reported to be on the verge of death as they reach refugee camps….”

The conditions are  heartbreaking. The images soul grabbing. But in the end, we always manage to forget, change the channel, take a sigh of relief that this is not our circumstance . How long does the reality of a tragic situation thousands of miles away impact us?

Well, if you have not heard, the consumer industries in the US are on the rise again. Yes, people are buying again – cars, household goods and yes even food. In fact the US is fighting a disease on the other side of the spectrum- obesity.  The CDC reports “During the past 20 years, there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States and rates remain high. In 2010, no state had a prevalence of obesity less than 20%. Thirty-six states had a prevalence of 25% or more; 12 of these states (Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia) had a prevalence of 30% or more.”

Obesity is also a problem we have created ourselves. What do I mean by that? Well simply put we agreed to buy fast food, we agreed to demand fast food, we agreed to demand sugary drinks and snacks for our kids, we agreed to the skittles and nerds over the strawberries and blueberries. we introduced our kids to convenient food- chicken nuggets, fish fingers and m&ms , instead of fish, baked chicken and grapes. AND we chose to sit on the couch, let our kids play video games instead of pushing them to run, jump, sweat, be a monkey on the monkey bars and climb trees. When did this happen? When did we as women and as mothers allow others to tell us what tastes good?

I remember ordering a small coke at a movie theater one night with my husband. When the girl behind the register gave me my coke. I asked her “Is this a small?” It was.I was so shocked. It was a huge big paper cup with free refills. I could not help myself so I muttered under my breath ” Are they trying to give kids diabetes?”  Then I looked around and realized that nobody had a problem with it. Thousands of theaters across America in every town up to 50 shows a day, hundreds of people in a theater all buying this size of soda. So why am I upset with the young girl handing me this soda? WE are buying this. WE are the consumers setting the standard.

I have traveled a lot throughout my life. I have been fortunate enough to visit different cultures and see how people around the world live. I can say a lot about my observations, but just to remain consistent in not making my blog more academic….. I will sum it up in one sentence. Black, Brown, White, Poor, Rich but all around the world and outside the United States, you will not find FAT.  In fact, all these countries have less than us, but on the whole they are happier and thinner. There is no science behind it besides common sense. They eat less, laugh more, walk more , move more, and fall sick less.

On a more serious note to still validate my observation. Is this not a tragedy? Is the tragedy really thousands of miles away? Our children are falling sick to childhood diabetes, our adults are dying of hypertension , heart disease and high blood pressure.

The contrast if one ponders, is sickening. Somalia has extreme poverty, their children are dying of hunger. The United States is abundant in natural resources and the capitalist giant of the world…and we are sick and in many cases dying of eating.

There is also a paradigm at play in our neighborhoods that is worthy of mention. How many of you have heard of Food Deserts?  These are the areas in our inner cities that do not have access to grocery stores. There are actually people living in the United States who actually only eat twinkie bars, potato chips and soda because they do not have access to fruits and vegetables. In fact, this is one place where people are not choosing junk food, but are actually being supplied  it.  What is tragic that all the victims of food deserts are minorities living in low-income areas. They have less money, less opportunities, life threatening diseases and junk food.

Here is what sums up the reality that we live in. Every woman should read it. Alexandra Lopoukhin, CARE emergency media officer at the refugee camps, shares her observations: “Some families have walked two weeks. Two weeks. Sleeping where they could, pushing on to get to this camp. The children are much smaller than they should be. One story I heard was devastating: a mother walking, arrives at the clinic, takes her baby off her back and finds it has died without her knowing. I can’t even imagine the pain this causes her. ”

I know I have laid out a dismal image of where we are headed with our obsession with food, but I am still very hopeful.  I wrote this to encourage you to have a personal rant about a serious subject. We can turn this around. Women always have taken dire situations and made them surprisingly pleasant. We do it every day when faced with toddlers throwing green veggies back at us while we respond with a hair sweep, kiss on the forehead and a manipulative bribe of extra play time.

So let’s do it again…lets stop eating more than we need and start feeding those who really need it in our world, even if its thousands of miles away.


Confessions of a Closet Oprah Fan – The Romance Of it All

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Confessions of a Closet Oprah Fan – The Romance Of it All

I, as well as millions of women around the world watched Oprah bid farewell to daytime television.  I have to admit that I never saw myself as an Oprah fan. I was of course proud to be a non-conformist.  I had my own ideas and views that were well developed beyond your basic hype of tv talk show hysteria.  I, like many who have great belief in their intellect felt that I was above anything that masses could fall in love with.   As I graduated from college I was on my way to become who I planned to be.  I was an activist for social justice, a soon to be lawyer, a lover of solutions and pragmatism and did not have time to tune in or credit a person who gives out free cars and trips to her staff when people were starving around the world.

    In between my meetings for advocacy campaigns, law school exam(S) and all that was serious, I would find myself periodically flipping through channels and staying on the Oprah Show.  I watched one episode, another and another and found time to even check out her book list.  Of course, I  thought I was too busy to read any fiction, but thought I would skim it anyway.  Soon, I  ( a workoutaholic) realized that along with my very busy and so called very busy purposeful life —my metabolism was also changing. In turn, in between my engagement to my now husband, change of residence planning from Illinois to Atlanta and preparing for the new chapter to begin I would go on the Oprah website to look for ways to make fitness more fun, accessible and even ended up making a contract with myself to stay healthy. How Odd- I am now actually turning to Oprahish stuff for television viewing, book lists and fitness??
In conjunction with my new life chapter I was to take the bar exam to finally become an attorney. I was not the best exam taker. Thus I took it more than once. Frustrated and not having time for anything else, I was buried in practice exams, barbri books, neglecting my supportive husband, special help classes and a few rare times of pity me sessions.
One afternoon I got a call from my brother saying
“ There is a professor at Carnegie Melon with an incredible story, he is dying of prostate cancer…and he stated that obstacles are put in front of you so that you may prove to the world how much you want something. Check his lecture out on Youtube.” I did. I took every word to heart. AND a few weeks later I saw him give his speech on Oprah and I watched it with tears in my eyes. He has since passed.   Oprah shared this gift with her audience – Professor Randy Pausch. His book, which includes the last lecture, sits in my guest room on the bedside table.
Once I settled into my new life, marriage and career—things got even busier. I did not have deadlines for exams or papers. BUT I did need to know how to organize my closet to make it more peaceful for me, I did need to know how to prepare three meals in one day, and I did need to know how to balance my career aspirations with my love and passion for my husband and new family. Once again, I am on the Oprah website looking for recipes and techniques to balance my life. In fact, I was practically giddy watching an Oprah episode about the Container Store. The following week, I am in the aisles of the Container Store buying a bright red “don’t forget me” key and cell phone holder for our front door doorknob. Yes, there was an eye roll from my husband.  I guess this relationship with the Oprah show  and myself is gaining more consistency.
I was satisfied with my reputation as being a dedicated professional. But I wanted more. I wanted to shower a little baby with kisses and hugs and help him/her face things like holding a crayon and riding a tricycle. I wanted to be a mother.  I turned to God and prayed that I have a happy and healthy family for years to come. One afternoon, I found myself watching the Oprah show and saw Oprah interviewing a woman who had gone through numerous fertility treatments and was not able to conceive. My heart went out to her and I felt sincere pain for her yearning.  I was blessed with my angel and daughter in 2009 and have always remembered that woman and cherished my own gift.
Motherhood is a lot of work. But it is pure joy.  In between sleepless nights and a tired body I always remember the Oprah episode where she had a guest who was a new mom. She had, along with becoming a new mom, had also lost her arms and legs to a horrible surgery. I remembered images of her holding her child with her chest and wanting to hug her. Her bravery and positive attitude humbles me to the core.  There will never be a day in my life that I will complain.
I am now a mother, professional , a wife , a home maker and I am more and more fascinated with growing my internal inner soul. I want to enlighten myself every day in simple ways. How Odd. I look at my selection of books and I see The Power of Now, a book I heard about on one of the Oprah episodes.  It has taught me so much.
Yes, It seems I have tuned into Oprah through the years and indeed implemented many things I have learned from her show. But was I ok giving her credit for my inspiration in whatever area of my life?  I was not.  I was still pretty conflicted you see. After all, I was a serious, pragmatic, strategic person.  Why would I turn to a talk show for advice?
Yes, I am a social justice advocate. Yes I love charity of all sorts. Yes I read books to enlighten my soul and have even started a gratitude journal thanks to her.  BUT, I am above all a religious person. I am a  devout Muslim. I point to God for all my gifts and motivations. So Why do I or HOW could I find so much peace and enlightenment from this woman’s efforts? She is after all a corporate giant, a media mogul.  It does not make sense. Her success has given her attention, money and power – which only disrupts the humility of the soul and an internal connection with God. I can enjoy her advice, implement it but can I actually credit it publicly?
My conflict finally resolved itself as I watched Oprah’s last show this week. And, this is why I have decided to come out of the closet as a fan.  I am a  fan of Oprah’s growth to find herself. You see as we grew, Oprah was also growing. She was fighting the ego, looking for a purpose and reaching out to the world to find it. She changed her regular run of the mill style talk show from the 80’s and exchanged it for a dialogue for love and spiritual connection. She switched the focus from celebrity gossip to international causes and human tragedy. In her last show it finally made sense to me. She stated “Amazing Grace has been the story of my life.”  She parted words of experience and walked down memory lane, making fun of her own hilarious fashion tragedies but kept the theme of her last show simple. It was a simple, undeniable recognition of God.  She stated   “God is with you all the time and He is love and He is light. “  Like Oprah, I only credit God for all my success and struggles and the gifts they have brought me. Oprah has evolved as we have evolved. This corporate giant is not thanking ABC, she is not thanking only the viewers, she is not thanking the countless celebrities who have shared her success or the guests who have made shows compelling and ratings rise. She is in the end, indeed saluting God.  And for that I salute her and thank her without hesitation.

The Lessons of Kung Fu Panda

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Now, I am indeed taking a chance here. I use this blog to deviate from the usual stiff intellectual discourse that I am blessed to be a part of in my law practice. Developing policy and mediating personal disputes  is exciting  but it gives me little time to have a light-hearted conversation. So here it is. My thoughts on Kung Fu Panda.

I got to know this adorable creature through the eyes of my two year old. Her eyes lit up when he was on the screen and she giggled with her hands covering her mouth when he would do a clumsy fall. It was her first television experience. She really had not watched TV before then. So indeed she would keep watching it again and again. She knew all the words, even though she could not really speak. We finally surprised her and took her to Kung Fu panda 2 in the theater. She was overwhelmed. She was only 2, and as soon as she saw Panda she focused on the screen and felt like she was right back in our living room. She yelled out “What you doing Pannnaaaa??” It was adorable.

Now I cannot deny,  I loved watching the cartoon.  The many times I was forced to watch it had me memorizing the lines as well. Slowly I started really appreciating the story, the characters and the lessons. In fact I started relating to Panda (POH) myself.

Now, who in their life has not ever felt that they were not good enough?  Chubby Panda trying to do the splits and a karate chop while huffing and puffing reminded me of me on the Junior Varsity basketball team. I was put on only because I did track ( so I could run  forever), but had no basketball skills. I tried and tried but even handling the ball made me so nervous. My lay ups looked something like a acrobat act somewhere in between a breakdance move and a ballet leap.  The most hilarious was when I shared the bronze medal with the team at the local junior high tournament and my little sister came up to me in front of my coach and said “You suck!”. Comedy. How about when  when everyone in Math class was understanding the equations on the chalkboard and all I saw were digits dancing low and high. I would pretend I knew what was happening, but even the teacher knew I was lost. Thats probably why I was never asked to do a problem on the board. Walking into that classroom made my stomach hurt. Needless to say, there were many times I have not felt good enough.

Ok here are a few of my favorite lessons in Kung Fu Panda :

1) Yesterday is history, Tomorrow is a mystery and Today is a gift, that is why it is called “present”.Wow.

How often do we waste time thinking about the  “what if” and “if Ihad only done that”. Like Panda becoming a kung fu expert by concentrating, I have learned to sieze the day in front of me. I have  slowed down, reflected,  and tried to be grateful. In the end I have executed all of my tasks with so much more clarity.

Much like  when the Turtle Master says in the movie:

” Your mind is like this water, when its troubled its hard to see. But if you allow it to settle, the answer becomes clear.” All of a sudden my days are soo long. Every interaction is a gift of every single day. I am no longer bored with long conversations from strangers, or repeating myself to the operator …..its amazing. OF course, I cannot get enough of my daughter’s giggles.

2) There is no secret formula! My eyes widened much like Panda when his father told him that there is no secret ingredient in his secret ingredient soup.  This bird who adopted a panda is completely right.

“To be special you have to believe something is special.” All the times that I felt or was told I was not good enough….I always went back to try my best, and most of the time have been blessed to prove others wrong. The truth is no matter what task you begin, everyone will tell you that certain prerequisites are required : looks, , money, name, intellect, degrees.  But if you are a person who has struggled to achieve a goal and come out on the other side ; you realize the naysayers do not know what they are talking about. I have learned that there is no real secret formula for anything – except for maybe our mothers’ recipes. We all can achieve something if we put their own slant to it and believe in ourselves. Indeed success is truly hidden in the spaces where people have looked away or avoided due to fear. It is in these spaces that we create our own formulas and charter our own roadmaps.  I have met a lot of smart people and I confidently say,  I would take someone who reaches for the stars and is resilient over someone who simply followed the steps of life and achieved what they always new was attainable any day. Now that would be a person I would invite to Kung Fu Panda 3!

Libya, The World of Women Watch

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We as women have a lot on our plate. We are domestic engineers, household janitors, cooks, CEOs, physicians, lawyers every profession you can imagine and indeed political activists and news watchers. This has been an amazing year for the Middle east. Leaders fought for their rights to stay, they dramatically fell from their posts and the streets of the bustling Middle East  have been crowded with revolutionaries.

We saw footage of Cairo, Libya, Yemen, Jordan, Bahrain and even Saudi Arabia.  All around the world viewers have been watching people fight for their own destinies. No matter what side you sit on : pro revolution, a cynic to revolution or a realist who knows political systems all suffer through a cycle of evolution, one thing is truly remarkable in these revolutions  : The women.

The women in these countries are at the forefront of these political movements. They are holding flags, marching side by side with men and at many times leading the protests and carrying out politically sophisticated campaigns with the use of cutting edge social media. What a beauty to watch for women around the world. The stereotypical understanding of what a woman is in the middle east has been shattered by recent political events. She is a revolutionary in her own right. She is not only  protesting a political system, but is defining for future generations of women what civic responsibility means.

I can also guess to lighten up the mood here ( that much like women all around the world), the same woman is putting food on the table, changing diapers, picking out the linens, taking her children to the dentist while protesting, blogging and marching. How does she do it all?  Well, we women know the answer. We are natural multi-taskers.

The reason I chose to write a short piece saluting the women of revolutions is to salute a unifying theme  for all women : freedom. Freedom to say what we need to say and live our life on our own terms.  A woman in the United States, Australia, Senegal,  or Malaysia may not have a personal stake on whether Libya has reached freedom but they sure do have a personal stake on how women in their countries would be treated if they took the front seat in bringing  political change.

All women who have ever taken a stand that has been difficult, caused backlash or caused personal and financial damage : We salute you. We know the price of freedom is paid every day. As mothers making sure that our child gets the best healthcare, as a daughter who demands her elderly mother be cared for with love and responsibility , as a wife who cannot tolerate her husband’s unrelenting employer, as a professional who strives to make her professional contributions be appreciated for their substantive worth….we are fighting for what we want everyday.  As we perform our mini revolutions every day, we  thank  the women of  large political revolutions.   We all garner our strength from the same place….the belief that we should be who we were made to be, without apologies. As Libyan women and others around the world reach freedom : we , the women of the world are  watching.

Hello world!

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I will be posting on various topics that I am interested in. So be ready!