Saturday, October 29, 2016

Sugar and Sunnah

Asalamu Alaykom,

As Muslims, we spend a lot of time attempting to live closer to the way of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).  It isn't only in our devotional times that we need to emulate his ways.  We were given so much authentic information about his daily habits---more than for any other prophet (peace be upon them all).  Therefore, we observe the way he lived, or the sunnah.

He didn't eat refined sugar.  He just didn't.  The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), he lived a much healthier dietary life than we do.  Actually, no one really ate refined sugar until about a thousand years after he passed away.

Does that mean we should not be eating anything he didn't eat?  I'm not going to go that far, but we do have to look at following the sunnah in which the Prophet (pbuh) tasted the sweetness of dates and honey and was satisfied with that.

Is there a chance you could reduce your sugar intake?

That's what I starting asking myself.  I looked into it not as a diet---because "I don't die it, I live it".  I looked into it as a way to be more faithful.

I started researching.

How many teaspoons of sugar is the maximum a woman should consume in a day?

Six.  A woman is only supposed to have six teaspoons in a day.

Each teaspoon is the equivalent of 5 grams, so each day women have 30 grams of sugar as a limit.

Me?  I was putting two and sometimes three teaspoons of sugar in my coffee.  Half of my daily intake was done in the first hour of every day----and you know that I didn't stop there!

Now?  I put only put one teaspoon of sugar in my coffee.  You know how we add a little too much sugar if nobody's looking?  I bought some sugar cubes!  Those sugar cubes are measured to exactly be those 5 grams.  If it's tea, I use honey.  Therefore, I am reducing my sugar intake by at least 5 grams every day.

"A DROP IN THE BUCKET!" shouts the heckler from the nosebleed seats.

He's right, but every good intention for better health has a reward.

Let's do some math...I know, you used to hate math in too!  Somehow, though, it is comforting me in my old middle-age.

If I, in shah allah, give up one teaspoon a day then every six days it's like I've given up a whole extra day of sugar.  That's good!  That's not just a drop; it's the equivalent of giving up a whole day of sugar.

It wasn't just coffee and tea.  Look at this great graphic from Mother Jones:

I started looking into the juice I've been drinking.  Time Magazine looked into the issue as well.  Here in Egypt the sugar content is very high.  The juice is more like a concentrated syrup than a beverage.  I thought that I was buying  "Pure" juice because that's what it said on the label.  I was still bringing 12 to 16 grams of sugar in every juice box I sipped for lunch.

Do the math again!  Ya, so that's 2-3 teaspoons of sugar in every box.  It felt wrong.

The next time I went to the grocery store, I brought my reading glasses and spent some time reading labels in the juice aisle.  Sure enough, I could find a juice that only listed 10-12 grams sugar.  If I was able to eliminate 5 grams, then I stopped me from unwittingly ingesting another teaspoon.


If Yosra drinks a juice box a day during the school week, and she is saving herself from drinking 5 milligrams of sugar with every juice box, how much sugar is she eliminating from her diet every month?


5 x 5 = 25 grams a week or 5 teaspoons a week
5 x 4 weeks = 20 teaspoons
20/6 teaspoons maximum per day = 3 days.

Add that to the amount I'm already giving up in my morning coffee and it's 8 days total.  Could you give up sugar for eight days?  It would be hard, but it's not impossible if you simply view it this way.  You ARE giving the days up, but while only reducing rather than eliminating.

One thing you know that is just horrible is soda pop.  I've asked for my husband to stop buying it.  If we're out at a restaurant (and that's once in a blue moon) then I don't mind if we order it.  However, having it easily accessible every day, means that you simply will drink more of it.  Pop is just too high in sugar content to consume it on a regular basis.

Take a look at Coke and Mountain Dew.  Remember, the maximum is supposed to be SIX sugar cubes.  27??  30???

I tried to explain this in the staff room.  You know how people on a health kick are!  Right away, it was assumed that it was about weight loss.  It isn't!  If I never lose another pound in my life, I'll be fine.  I would like to reduce the strain on my body, however.  I'd like to eliminate thirst that seems unquenchable because I've had too much sugar.

 Sugar really isn't harmless Click to read some easy to understand research.

Am I noticing any effects?  I am more mindful of what I'm buying and eating.  I like that because that's who I strive to be.  I ate a creme-filled cookie last week and it was waaaaaaaay too sweet for me.  I hated it.  That's a good thing!  I'm less thirsty.  My jeans fit a little better this week than last---that's good because even though I'm not doing this to lose weight, I do want to reduce the belly fat that slows down insulin production (and leads to diabetes).

Maybe you didn't think of any of this before.  Now that you have, it's up to you to either look into your own sugar consumption or not.  The problem is that once you realize you could do better, you can't ever claim that you never knew.

No food that has been made lawful to us can be declared "haram" or unlawful by us.  I'm not saying that sugar is haram.  Eat and drink it bismallah (in the name of Allah).  Only, realize that we are supposed to be people who live by moderation in all things. Obviously, we, as a society,  have not been moderate in our sugar intake.

Maybe you have battled and won---good on ya!  Maybe you're like me and you're in the throes of the struggle---keep going!  If you haven't ever given it a thought and now you're thinking about it differently----let me know!  I'd like to know if this post has a positive impact on your life.  I hope it has.

Love and Light!

UPDATE:  While talking to a co-worker, she helped me realize that the sugar content listed is really deceiving the consumer.  For example, the drink in my hand was 250 ml but the nutritional information was only for a 100 ml serving.  Therefore, the 12 grams of sugar listed needed some math.

12 x 2 = 24 (to change sugar grams from 100 ml to 200 ml)

12/2   =   6 (the additional 50 ml)

24 + 6 = 30 grams of sugar

All of a sudden what seemed like a good deal was horrible.  Instead of imbibing 2 teaspoons of sugar, I had been drinking 6 teaspoons of sugar!  Even though I was reading labels, I was misreading---and I'm an educated woman who is really investigating.  Imagine someone with less ability trying to figure it out.  It's almost as if the beverage industry has something to hide...

Therefore, take a second look at those labels!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

May I Not Be of Service?

Asalamu Alaykom,

I sat there waiting my turn while watching everyone else have theirs.  They were all yelling so the employee could help them.  He was wearing his earphones while servicing customers.


Yes, really.

Once again, Vodafone Egypt was surprising me in a bad way.

This was a couple of weeks after I complained at a different Vodafone over the disgustingly dirty seating area for the customers.  I wasn't too happy about the thug life advertisement either.

Ya, I went so far as to take photos and post them on line.  I'm funny that way.  One follower on Twitter said that it must be hard to be living in the "third world" but I really don't feel Egypt is.  I refuse to treat it as such.  If I allow my standards to go down, then everyone will let theirs go down around me as well.   
 I took a picture of the staff member with the stuffed up ears too, however, I won't post it.  I took it in case he gave me any trouble.  No one else made any stink.

Every single customer put up with this behavior, even though, on some level, everyone must have known it was not polite in any circumstance and probably worth firing in any professional setting.  They put up with it because they felt at the mercy of  someone allowing them to use their phones and computers.

I'm different.  I'll always be different.  Many lifetimes ago, I used to be married to a man who told me (towards the end of our marriage) that he was always afraid I would embarrass him in public.  He was not the man for me.

There I sat between my son and my understanding husband (of six years) and our turn was coming up.  I leaned over to my husband and whispered to him, "Don't be mad at me for what I'm going to do.  I won't do business with him wearing those earphones."

My husband then handed the receipt over to me.  I could do as I pleased but he wasn't along for the ride.  I can respect that!  Although, it would be that much harder for me.

I looked back over to the customer service desk.  The men were done and the music-loving man at the computer looked my way.  I stood up and did the only thing I could.

From across the small waiting room, I mouthed words and gestured to my ears.  No sound came out.  I was putting my years of acting experience to use.  His eyebrows went up since he didn't hear anything.  I mimed again.  He still couldn't hear me (of course) so he took off his headphones and I spoke loudly and clearly with a big, friendly smile.  My act had worked!  Without saying a word of admonition, I had gotten those earphones out.  I walked forward to be serviced like a customer rather than an intruder into his "me" time.

I explained that our wi-fi wasn't working.  He tried to explain something to me in Arabic.  It was then that my husband stood up and made his way to my side.  We smiled at each other, knowing that I had gotten my way without making a scene or embarrassing anyone.

I had to suppress a couple of laughs during the transaction.  Turns out that our wi-fi account needed five more pounds.  We paid and left without me cracking up ----until after I was safely out the door.

Subhanallah!  I've had a couple of chuckles about it even now!  

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Vegetable Seller's Boy

Asalamu Alaykom,

UmAhmed sits like a guardian at the entrance to our street.  Her vegetables are displayed around her and she waits with them all day, hoping that someone buys a kilo or two.  I always greet her as I come and go.

"Asalamu Alaykom!"

"Wa Alaykom Asalam."

While she sells, her husband cleans sewers.  The two of them scrape out an existence in Egypt because they have to.  They have boys to raise and a life that needs money.

One time, I missed seeing UmAhmed.  She was gone for days and then weeks.  When she came back, I was as happy to see her again as if I was seeing a long lost friend.

"Where were you?" I asked in Arabic.

"I was sick, alhumdulillah.  I had a baby," she answered.

"Congratulations!  I didn't even know you were pregnant, " I said cheerfully.

"She died."

I didn't understand what she told me at first so I had to clarify.  Even though I know enough Arabic to get by, I can't follow surprises very well.  The baby had died.  UmAhmed had been gone from my life because of the tragedy in hers.

"Alhumdulillah," I finally replied.

"Alhumdulillah," she repeated.

That's what you do when you're Muslim.  You end every sadness with thanking God.  Maybe it was a blessing, actually, that they didn't have another mouth to feed.  It would just be the four of them and not five.

Imagine my surprise when I saw another young boy hanging around her little table-top store.  He was wearing my son's old cast-off sweatsuit (they call them "trainers" here).  We have been giving  UmAhmed bags of used but wearable clothing for her youngest son Mohammed.  Yet, here in the street was a different boy playing with Mohammed.  I hadn't known that she had another son.

The back of his head showed some scars from some earlier injury.  That is all I glimpsed of him as we greeted UmAhmed and continued on our way home from the school bus.  She looked tired.

When I arrived home, I saw that my husband had bought vegetables that day so I asked if he had gotten any from UmAhmed.  He doesn't like to buy food from her since her husband deals with the sewer.  My husband is worried that food might get contaminated somehow.  No, he told me that he hadn't bought anything from her.

"She looks so tired.  We should give her some money again," I suggested.

"I already did.  I gave her some this week," he told me, but he would never tell anyone else since charity is best kept private between the giver and Allah.

"Ahmed, " I remembered to ask him what I had been wondering, "who is the boy with her?  He has something wrong with the back of his head.  I don't remember seeing him before."

"He's obelisk," which obviously wasn't the right word so he tried again.  "No.  I mean, he's homeless.  Homeless, right?  No home.  He was at the bus station with no mom and no dad; an orphan.  Nobody wanted him.  UmAhmed took him to her home."

I was struck at that the moment by this revelation.  I now realized why she had looked so tired.  Slowly it dawned on me how much she was doing with her life; she wasn't just selling vegetables. With some humility, I saw how little our charity to her was in comparison to how much her charity was to this young boy.

"What's his name?"


"Mashahallah," I said because that's what Muslims say when they are in awe of the Greatness of God at work in the world.

Please say a prayer for this working mom who has very little and has decided to share her home.

If you can do for those who are less fortunate than yourself, then do it.

If you can't do more, then please give to those who can.

May Allah reward everyone doing and giving to the best of their abilities.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Not Someone to Drive By

Asalamu Alaykom,

This week, there was a problem inside one of my classrooms.  Kids!  They don't always do the right thing.  Except, there was one boy who stood there trying to stop the melee.  He was the only one.  For his effort, I gave him the certificate for "Student of the Week" the following day on Thursday.

For all my students, I had them write in their journals for five minutes about how a friend has helped them.  It related to our problem the day before and to the story we were reading that day.

Then,  I told them that since they had gotten to tell a story, that I got to tell them a story too.  I told them this.

It happened way back when my oldest kids were little---my big son was in pre-k and my daughter was only a year old.  It was a cold November morning in the Midwest; the first really chilly morning and there was a mist in the air that was almost turning into a rain.  Everyone had their headlights turned on along one of the main arteries that ran through a residential area.  That's when I saw the boy.

The boy was as old as my youngest son is now.  He was a middle school student, but he wasn't ready for school, or for the weather.  He was standing there, on the sidewalk in shorts and a short-sleeved shirt.  I wondered why.

The light changed and I kept on rushing to drop off my boy at the nursery school.  I was a busy mom and had things to do---like everybody.  On the way back, he was still standing there, so I pulled over.

I got out of the car, leaving my baby in her carseat.  "Are you OK?  Do you need some help?"

"My aunt locked me out," he told me.

She wasn't home and he didn't know when she'd be coming back.  He only knew she was mad and he was being punished by being left standing out in the cold without the right clothes.  I then realized that he didn't have any shoes on either.

I offered to take him to our house.  What I didn't say to the kids is that this was me before I took shahaddah.  My beliefs of doing for others---especially for children---have always been a part of me.

I took him home, had him wash his feet in warm water, and gave him some slip-on tennies.  I donated a sweatshirt from my then-husband's closet.  I made some waffles, since he hadn't eaten.  We sat there; me, my baby girl and this boy trying to warm up.

I called his school and notified them of his whereabouts.  They arranged for the aunt to give me a call.  I brought him home.  I didn't tell the kids how I sat with the exasperated aunt and explained that I didn't want any problem to separate the two of them again.  Having worked in an emergency shelter before, I knew that removing children from a family's care happens all too often.

The point of the story is not that I helped.  The point is that so many didn't.  Between the time I saw the boy and the time I came back was twenty minutes.  No one else stopped in that time.  No one.

I asked the class to decide who they want to be:  the one who helps or the one who drives on past?  I once again thanked the boy I'd awarded for being someone who helps.

A hand raised up.  Another boy wanted to know if I had ever seen that boy again.  I was going to answer that I hadn't, but then  a thought occurred to me.

"I don't know!  He would be close to thirty years old now so maybe I have actually seen him, but not even realized it was him.  Maybe he is a dad himself now!  What I hope, when I think of him or anyone else that I've ever helped over the years is that he is OK now.  I can send some good thoughts or a kind of prayer that he's doing well.  If he ever remembers that day that he stood out in the cold, then I'm glad that he can also remember that someone cared and didn't just drive past."

Saturday, October 8, 2016


Asalamu Alaykom,

In 1984, I was on the school debate team.  On the way home from our first meet, all of us squished into one car, I fought off a groper.

I had known him by name only.  Paul was someone I'd lived near when I was in elementary school.  I moved away and then moved back, but it didn't mean any kind of closeness for us.  I honestly didn't know him---ever.

Suddenly, in my plaid, pleated skirt, I was trying to move away from his hand which was trying to go under that skirt.  He was persistent---again and again.  I didn't say a thing.  I was the only girl in that car---the only girl on the debate team.  I liked the cool team captain.  I didn't want to ruin my chances for either the team or the guy.

I was silent.  He was defeated.  Yet, he won.  He won because I quit the debate team.  I never went to another meeting.  I never went to another debate.  I never had to ride in the backseat with the groper.

Could debate team experience have helped me in life?  Probably.  I'll never know.

Years later, I realized that he was on my university campus.  When I saw him from a distance, I had a kind of panic attack as I froze on the spot.  He had the freedom to walk around without fear and I didn't.  I reverted back to being a scared and confused high school sophomore instead of the college freshman that I was.

It didn't help that I had already gone through sexual abuse as a child.  One out of every six girls in America have experienced some kind of attempted sexual assault.  The experience lays down a kind of framework which makes the next attempt seem almost normal.

It isn't normal.

It isn't a joke.

I have NO idea where Paul is today.  I wonder if he's been a good person---especially in how he treats girls and women.

I do know the whereabouts of another groper---he's running for president.