Mothering Mondays: Maybe It’s A Convert Thing or How Brooke Got Her Sparkle Back

Carnelian, turquoise, fine and sterling silver charmed bracelet.

Have you heard the one about the convert who accepted a recited surah for her marriage? Or a promise of hajj or a complete set of Sahih Bukhari? If you know me, then you know how disinclined I am to make generalizations, however in this instance it is only converts to Islam who I know waive decent mahrs or accept token 14k gold sets from Macy’s or maybe a Ben Franklin (100 US dollars) as their complete mahr. Here is where I will caveat that this post is about me, me, me- another reflection for the #motherhoodproject, so while he is entangled in my mothering mess- this is not meant to be a reflection on my husband.

I was one of those converts. I got a Gucci watch and a 15-speed bicycle for my mahr. My teen now rides that bike and my tween is coveting the watch. Back then, I (haughtily) didn’t even wear gold, so silver didn’t make much sense for a wedding gift anyway, but then a strange thing happened on the way from the marriage negotiations to the onset of motherhood less than a year later- NO jewelry was bought by or for me. None. This is especially odd considering I worked in a boutique that sold lovely handmade/designer jewelry. And I did use to wear jewelry all the time. I’m sure I had no less than four earrings in my head when I met my husband. So what happened?

I don’t know. I can’t go back and ask my newlywed self, though I suspect she expected her new husband to buy her shiny things (and he likely assumed she would get her own since she was so picky and did work in that boutique). And then while she had picked up some new, more feminine clothes, after being married, she also almost immediately began buying maternity clothes and then ridiculously adorable things for her first born. Of course not only did my mommy-martyr gene activate during pregnancy, but honestly, mobile babies and delicate jewelry are a bad mix. I have had earrings snatched from my lobes and necklaces ripped off my neck by the teeniest of hands. And I couldn’t even find a groove to regularly wear bracelets: get dressed, put on bracelet, take off bracelet to make wudu for thuhr, get distracted by toddler attempting to climb on toilet or crying at the bathroom door and forget bracelet…  I hear this giving up adornment is a common mommy problem.

But then again, I know other Muslimah moms (not converts) who I visited after they gave birth and several where decked out in sparkly and shimmer- some newly gifted to them for having said baby. Again, I can imagine my husband offering me a bit of jewelry after one, two or three births, but I can also see myself waving off the suggestion, “No, no. The baby needs a dresser. And a carseat. And…” Or a jogging stroller, which I have had a few worth the cost of some decent jewelry and would have preferred anyway to something sitting untouched in my non-existent jewelry box.

And then, finally, I recall an offer! I stopped working when my third child was barely a toddler and my husband took up extra work selling Indian-style silver jewelry at a weekend summer market. He was going to get me a little something, he said. I was long overdue, and this was just my kind of thing, so I eagerly waited. And waited. And then I got tired of waiting and decided to get myself something, like I used to do.

Somehow, while searching through Ebay, I found myself staggering the isles of “loose beads” and instantly in LOVE with a strand of faceted Chalcedony briolettes in a daydreamy shade of fairest sky blue. Not only had I not made any jewelry in several years, I also had no idea what one did with a briolette and I didn’t even like blue. Still, 3-5 days later I sent a child out to my roadside mailbox to retrieve my new, not-quite jewelry.

Then the weirdness got weirder. By the end of the summer I had set up a little studio for myself, mastered basic wire-wrapping techniques (I had made jewelry when I was younger), and read through dozens and dozens of resources about how to sell on Ebay- and I was selling- but still, I had zero new jewelry! Of course the husband didn’t bother to bring anything home after I filled the house with strands and strands of precious and semi-precious gemstones, and I was making fabulous one-of-a-kind things, but I didn’t keep any for me. Nothing!

This I blame on some kind of warped sense of humbled aesthesis mis-based in Islam. Have you heard the one about the ungrateful women who were shamed and tore their jewelry from their bodies, throwing it all into a collection for charity? Even with all the contradictory advices to beautify, beautify, beautify one’s self for one’s husband, I just could not bring myself to be one of those greedy, wasteful women who lavishes upon herself.

When I put my Ebay shop on vacation mode so that I could pack up my beads and relocate to Morocco, finally I allowed myself to keep a few things from my stock. Just a few, and still I rarely wore them since I have had a sparkle-snatching infant or toddler in my position for the last 15.5 years.  I do find it… interesting that while I hadn’t been acquiring and wearing much adornment over the years I still found a way to be close to all the pretty, pretty things. And did, in some sense, manage to build up a wealth worth of gold and silver, but on a very practical level- something I blame on my culture of ingenuity and productiveness.

Recently while preparing to reopen my shop, which I had moved to Etsy soon after our move to Morocco, but then took another vacation after the birth of baby #6… I came across some large, angular silver pieces in my stock that I realized I had really been hoarding, why else hadn’t I used them in the nearly ten years that I have had them? Because I wanted them! So I made myself a not-so-little something. And I wore it! Sometimes it ends up in my pocket after wudu sessions, but this latest toddler is a master pick-pocket and she often pulls it back out for me.

While I post pics of works-in-progess and drool-inducing beads on my facebook page, I have heard from a few moms who similarly eschewed the sparkle, perhaps for practical reasons, perhaps as another inherent aspect of mommy-martyrdom. All are converts. So I’m curious Mamas, how is does your jewelry collection grow? Or does it not?

Please follow byBrookoli on facebook for updates on my pretty, pretty handmade things. And never, ever deny yourself 😉

14 Ways To Identify If You Are A Bad Muslim Mom

In my sixteen years of mothering I have let the pendulum swing a bit from attempting to be the Ideal Muslim Mom to… well, I’m not going to cop to how many of these items I have done/do. Inspired by this Salon article on ‘bad, slacker moms’ here are the top 14 things that some would have you believe make a Bad Muslim Mom:

14) She doesn’t feed her children exclusively halal certified. Heck, sometimes she doesn’t even double check the labels to see if the ingredients on their favorite junk foods have been recently haramified.

13) Her kids don’t just listen to nasheeds and watch Adam’s World.

12) She bars her teen sons’ friends from coming into the house any old time, because no she doesn’t want to wear full hijab while doing the million things she needs to do so that some kids can play Xbox and/or she simply wants to be comfortable chilling in her home.

11) Not only does she hide special treats just for her; sometimes she foregoes eating sunnah-style with the family and instead eats all by herself.

10) She eats standing up. Ok, we have never seen her walking around the house eating, but she has been known to lean on the kitchen counter and have a snack and/or quick meal.

9) She drinks first whenever the kids ask for a sip of her water/beverage. Drinking children’s nasty, floaty-filled backwash is not purported to be of any benefit.

8) Not only are the children not clean and perfect-looking when father gets home, but she allows her husband to change diapers, give baths and do laundry. That’s right, the Bad Muslim Mom has a j-o-b. Or she just doesn’t feel the need to do every freaking thing for every freaking person in the house.

7) She isn’t always so clean or perfect-looking herself in front of hubby. Please, the man saw her give birth. Several times.

6) When she can, she sleeps after Fajr and naps after Asr.

5) She isn’t always ready for or even welcoming to unexpected guests. Actually, she has been known to corral the children into a back bedroom and make them hush until the blessing-filled opportunity of feeding and entertaining a guest has passed by.

4) She doesn’t hide that fact that she’s on her period. That means she eats in front of family members during Ramadan and she doesn’t ever pretend to pray in front of anyone. Shoot, she doesn’t even bother to wake the kids for Fajr or suhoor during those days.

3) She doesn’t take the kids to weekend madrassa because, seriously, she can’t deal with you all.

2) She doesn’t speak Arabic.

1) She says “no” to the Good Muslim Father when he is being unreasonable or she simply cannot accommodate him cuz she’s a MOM with MOM stuff to do.

Let she who has never savored her own family-sized bag of Doritos cast first.

Mothering Mondays II: Yeah, Yeah, Yeah Mumbling About Self-Care

Spring? Are ya coming? ~pic by Badier G.
Spring? Are ya coming? ~pic by Badier G.

I am newly in love with spring. Watching my neighbors shoveling the dung out of their barns and folding it into the fields in preparation for planting has surely been part of the fine tuning of my appreciation for the natural order and cycles of life. I have been a city folk most of my life and the advent of spring, to me, was hallmarked by things like St. Patrick’s Day decorations and the availability of Peeps- are they making them halal yet?!? I have always appreciated as much nature as I could get, but living in the countryside has really ahmazed me all anew. I used to be a fall kind of gal, you know plenty of layers to show off my vintage finds, especially retro leather and suede jackets. And colors that make my green eyes really pop. But nowadays it’s all about spring for me- promising dew, delicate sprouts, surprise findings of wild bulbs, blossoms, early strawberries, dirty-footed sockless children… oh right, these posts are supposed to be about mothering, so let me get to tying it all together: Breaking Bad Cycles and Motherhood or How I Am Learning To Do Self-Care.

I don’t know why self-care is so hard for many/most of us Mamas. For me I think it’s a combination of not having learned how to take care of myself (raised in a culture of reliance of medical authorities) and also conflating self-care with luxury. My mother had never outright said that spending on oneself was frivolous or similar, but as a single mom she definitely wasn’t able to take care of herself as well as one wants their mama to.*

I grew up regularly, like 3-4 times a year having respiratory and sinus infections. I didn’t learned how to manage these issues, other than to treat them or suffer through the sick periods, including having walking pneumonia. After my second child was born I was finally diagnosed as having bronchitis (a relief because I just thought I was a mess!) and learned how to better handle the flare ups, but I was really nowhere near to taking care of myself.

Self-care has been something I have been hearing about since my first pregnancy. And recently I realised that it is only when I am pregnant that I truly take great care of myself, of course for the baby’s sake. After the baby is out… ‘self-care’ was like a buzz word I ignored like holiday hype. I do think ‘self-care’ is on a sort of cusp of being marketed, but it wasn’t being sold to me then. I heard about the importance of being a well-rounded, healthy mother in parenting and homeschooling resources, I heard about it in nursing circles, among Muslims I heard about the obligation to care about my vessel as it is on loan from Allah, I heard about it in various recovery and self-help circles… but really the concept was unattainable to me until this year, this passing winter actually.

I think I can attribute the breakthrough to two things: one being fed up with suffering with a chronic condition that I had a vague idea that I could manage a little better if I invested a little time and money into it, and two having good friends with similar problems and ideals (I blame Sumayyah, Aaminah, Mai’a and Chasity . I remember last year a couple of friends swore on this tonic/remedy, so I tried it and found it effective for curtailing onsets. That was a good start for me. Then just before this winter my friends and I were discussing herbs, vitamins and similar, and I realized how I only take vitamins when I am pregnant even though I know I could use them regularly and similarly I drink oodles of beneficial teas during pregnancy, but not beyond… while we were discussing various things we would individually like to do to take care of ourselves, I decided to try to fight back this winter, the season I am always sick for at least 3-6 weeks, often twice. Let me see, I told myself, if I can avoid weeks of hacking, pain, and misery with just a little pre-emptive self-love.

I began by having a cup of herbal tea every day, infused with various beneficial herbs and spices, sweetened with honey (my medicinal honey that I do not readily share with greedy children!), often with wedges of lemon and fresh ginger in the bottom (lemons and ginger are not always locally available, but I have made an effort to get them up here to me), and with a fun-filled, fizzy vitamin-C dropped in for extra loving self-care. And it worked.

I have big plans to keep going with this self-care stuff and am beginning to understand how devaluing myself affects my life in a multitude of ways. For instance. I am really blessed to do a few different kinds of work (paid and not) that I love doing, however, I think that because I enjoy my work I devalue it- as if work should be pure drudgery and so my enjoyment should be as little as possible or something. In some ways (such as carving out work specific time or investing) this blocks me from advancing in my work.

For one of my many jobs over the decades, I worked in a bakery (several actually) while putting myself through college (the first time, sort of) and in that first bakery there was a handwritten sign posted over my manager’s desk. It said “We pay for the things we need to run this business.” My manager was a man who also enjoyed his work and taught me so much (thanks Scot!). I never asked what that sign was about and I can see several interpretations of it, but some sort of essence of it has stuck with me through the years, even if I didn’t always take the advice.

While I am in a me-me-me-forgetabout-the-children kind of mode, it is impossible not to recognize the trickledown/cyclical effects of self-care. Of course I strive to take optimal care of my kids, but I see now how I send a mixed-message to them, as well as having difficulties discerning luxury and necessity (therein is another post about materialism ;). But as persistent and cute as they may be, I’m still not sharing my tea with healthy little beans.


* When I was a teen I used to spend my money on fairly expensive shoes, over a hundred dollars a pair was like gold way back then, and ironically matched them with cheap Goodwill finds. My mom, in her discounted work pumps, did little more than roll her eyes at this extravagance. Well, this last fall my mom visited me up here in the hills, bringing with her some shoes I had ordered online and sent to her house. And amazingly, she was actually wearing shoes that cost more than mine! She even acknowledged that she will never go back to cheap shoes, and alhumdulillah she doesn’t have to nowadays. And I stole the green felted clogs she rode in on… what? I have issues.

These Monday posts are my contributions to the Motherhood Project. Check it out here.

Mothering Mondays: Starting In The Embers With The Motherhood Project

Lovely little tiny green things growing in a seemingly inhospitable space. Taken by my eldest child.
Lovely little tiny green things growing in a seemingly inhospitable space. Taken by my eldest child.

In an attempt to better understand what it is I am doing, I have been wanting to dedicate some time to writing about parenting, but you know… writing vs doing. Well, Ke’lona Hamilton, the force behind the awesomeness that is Creative Motivations, has dedicated a snippet of everyday in 2014 (insha Allah) to creating a personal reflection centered on mothering. Ke’lona has invited others to join her in the Motherhood Project, where participants can create any form of writing, media or art on their own feelings around the subject, and she has fleshed out some pretty worthy areas to delve into: the good and bad, step-mothering, thoughts about her own mother and so on. I think I am going to go ahead and try to do this project too, at least on Mondays (when I eat meat, cuz someone else is around to do the cooking). Click these linkies to read more about the project and Ke’lona’s posts to date.

Here’s my first Mothering Mondays post:

Feeling Burnt

I told Ke’lona that I don’t exactly have shiny-happy feelings to write about mothering right now and she said something like that’s great, because the project is supposed to cover it all. So. My current stage of mothering feels something like that guy on YouTube stuck on a treadmill that just keeps going faster and faster, but he’s determined not to be violently thrown from the thing so he keeps running and running. He hollers a lot too, which is something else we have in common.

I have six kids, the first one is firmly rooted in the chemically-challenged throws of teenhood and the last is a couple months shy of her two years worth of breastfeeding. In May, if we live, I will have completed twelve years of breastfeeding. Remind me to award myself something spectacular since no other family member is yet at any stage to appreciate my accomplishment. Although I will likely get a little tiny bit more sleep, I’m not looking forward to weaning my baby who I am hoping will remain The Baby. As one friend always (painfully) reminds me, “Little kids, little problems. Big kids, big problems.” And I sure am getting whiffs of that.

My kids are home-educated, which I would not trade for anything currently available on the market, and that means that I spend more than average time with them. Of course I know I am supposed to GET AWAY from them time to time, rejuvenate me and all that, but you know theory is one thing and escape capabilities are another. My working from home is a mixed blessing in that I am always here for my kids and I am always here for my kids. For the last year and a half my husband spends half his time with us here in the countryside and the other half in the city. There is no solution presenting itself to this… lifestyle we have carved out. It sucks. For me.

As I type this I think about all the great craft supplies we have that I don’t have time or energy to do with my kids, or the access to glorious hikes that I don’t have ti… and all the many, many parenting, mothering and pedagogy books, articles and resources I have imbibed yet find myself acting contrary to… And I know, I know that I have done so much for my children and blah, blah, blah… yet I am in that burnt out space that I hope is a sort of rocky bottom because I fear to think how this could get worse.

Sometimes I feel like I am being mocked. I thought that I was laying out a nice little plan and made adjustments when necessary, but right now I feel overextended, like I have adjusted too much and the gears can’t take the pressure.

Maybe next week I will feel shinier and share some of the solutions I am trying. Or maybe I’ll drag myself out for a walk and share a picture. At least my treadmill is… as wide as I can make it.

Thanks Ke’lona for inviting me along on the ride.