Friday, December 12, 2008

For the Love of Music--Onyeka Onwenu and King Sunny Ade

These two phenomenal Nigerian artists did this song together to promote family planning/discourage premarital sex . . . "If you love life, you go plan am well." They sing in pidgin English which is a form of English similar to patois or African-American vernacular English in structure that is used in Nigeria to bridge the language divide of over 400 different language spoken.

Ms. Onwenu's voice is simply gorgeous and King Sunny Ade was a musical master. I love the song. It's got a decidedly 80s sound, starts off a little corny, but still manages to be distinctly Nigerian. Enjoy.

Tweaking the Beauty Regimen

For me, simple is best. I know the best beauty regimen is eating well, drinking lots of water and getting plenty of sleep. I try to do these things as best I can but, of course, there is always room for improvement.

Anyway . . . I decided a few weeks ago that the facial care routine I'd been using before having kids (and that was working well) just was not cutting it anymore. So I tried honey as a cleanser and that seemed to not work well enough to cleanse my skin, i.e. breakout central. Now I'm trying Noxzema--the old school white stuff. Far from natural, I know but it seems to be doing the trick. I wash with the Noxzema morning and night, tone with diluted apple cider vinegar, wet my hands a little and mix in about 4 drops of jojoba oil for a moisturizer. I wake up with glowing skin. Most of the time blemish free. I'm going to keep it up for a few more weeks to see how it goes. The next thing to try is cleansing with oil. I'm a little nervous to try anything else since what I'm doing now seems to work but I will try it after the jar of Noxzema is done. If it works equally as well, I'll stick with it. I really prefer the natural stuff.

I'm employing another far-from-natural product on my hair: Murray's Pomade. Since my hair is quite short right now there's not that many styling options. So what I've been doing is to wash my hair twice a week and apply Murray's Pomade daily. The stuff is t.h.i.c.k. and it generates serious heat in your hands while you rub them together to make it soft enough to put on your hair. I then brush with a boar bristle brush and put on a silk scarf. This gives my hair a sheen and a soft wave without it being oily and gunky (like with gel). It looks polished and refined, I think. Cute. If I could find a way to achieve the look naturally, that would be fabulous but most folks I know agree that Murray's Pomade is the way to go.

As for my dry winter skin, I have found that Eucerin does not do a darn thing. It kind of just rests on the skin and then gets rubbed off by my clothes. What has been working is mixing body butter (I just mix pure shea butter with a little olive oil to soften it) and Trader Joe's Moisturizing Cream. TJ's stuff is not tested on animals and contains no mineral oil although it does boast a long list of ingredients some of which I don't recognize. What I need to look for now is a really good hand salve because since I use my hands so much and wash them so often, they are cracking and peeling like nobody's business. I think Burt's Bees makes one.

Anyway, as you get to be a grown woman you find that your body (mind and soul, for that matter) need different things. Every part. It's not always fun trying to figure out what it needs but it's very nice and very satisfying once you do.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Setting Up an Altar

I've never really been motivated to set up an altar until now. Every time I meditate or chant recently, it just keeps popping up in my mind, "You need an altar, you need an altar."

So I need an altar. A sacred, consecrated space in my home.

Initially, I was hoping to set up an altar whose focal point was a gohonzon. But I have been trying to get in contact with my local Soka-Gakkai International and it has not been successful. I'm taking this as a sign. Honestly, I don't think I ever want to join any other organizations so even though it would be nice to have the gohonzon, it might be better if I just focus on building the altar with other elements.

I remember in Sacred Woman by Queen Afua there were some suggestions about how to set up the altar. I gave the book to my sister in law but hopefully if she's not using it, she can send it back to me.

I'm learning about the chakras, the color and stones associated with them. I definitely want to have the chakras represented on the altar. Maybe a cloth with all the colors? Maybe purchase a few stones that would sit in a bowl. I'd like to write out the affirmations for each chakra on one side of an index card and the function/qualities of each chakra on the other side, put them in a box of some sort, and have that on the altar.

The altar should definitely have something that represents life. A plant and water. Queen Afua suggests a feather to represent air. Candles, of course. Incense/sage/other herbs for burning, of course. Pictures of ancestors.

I'd like to have books that are important to me and have been influential in my spiritual growth and maturation.

My vision boards (which I have not even started yet) would be somewhere around the altar.

I also want to make a shawl that I would wear while meditating. The pattern I think I'll go with is the Serafina Shawl. I want to use a natural fiber such as wool or cotton. Maybe organic. Beautiful to look at and touch.

The challenge now is finding time to complete this project--getting the stuff, a little table, etc. The second challenge is finding a good place for the altar. I generally meditate and chant in the office but the office is small and I'm not sure what I could move around to accommodate the altar. Our master bedroom is not quite set up yet (and is actually being used as a storage space) and since the hubby sleeps later than I do, I don't want it in there because it may bother him. So I have to think.

In the meanwhile, I'm looking on the net, reading stuff. I've already found some great suggestions. I don't expect to find many pictures as I personally wouldn't feel all that comfortable photographing my own altar. But maybe I'll find some.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Home is where the Heart Is

Just the other day, I was reading on Holistic Parenting from an Afrikan Perspective a blog entitled "Changing the environment in your home can change your child's attitude and temperament". Of course, I wholeheartedly agree.

I think one of the most significant benefits being a stay-at-home mother affords me is that I can create a home for my children that is inviting, warm and filled with love. It makes me happy to note that for my family, it is not a special event when the house is filled with the scent of freshly baked bread or muffins.

But aside from that, I realized a while ago that a neat, tidy, uncluttered house is actually a house where the house's youngest residents spirits and minds are generally neat, tidy and uncluttered. You see, children are very receptive. In fact, I think they have one foot in the concrete world that adults inhabit and one foot in the spirit world. They are open to everything and this is why it so important to guard their senses. [ Before I had children, I was staunchly anti-tv for kids and had it been up to me alone, I still would be. But for DH, t.v. was a cherished part of his childhood and so the compromise has been DVDs (i.e. no live t.v.). Even so, it's interesting at times to note how quickly kids pick things up. Z1 got a Diego DVD from the library and has been talking about humpback whales, jaguars and macaws and saying things in Spanish. All in all, I guess this is not a bad thing.] In Meditations to Heal Your Life, Louise Hay says that children's negative behavior is often in mimicry of adults' own negative beliefs--so we to have to extremely scrupulous about what we let in to our heavens. I avoid listening to or watching the news. I go to BBC.com to read about world events once a day and that is it. Read negative stories? Through reading blogs I get exposed to stories that make me sad. I immediately offer up a chant and prayer for those suffering. I really make an effort to avoid stories that offer no hope or redemption (although I slipped up with one of my recent Octavia Butler reads). Gossip? I try hard to keep my speaking honorable, differentiating when it is talking about someone to bring them down and when it is talking about someone only as it relates to me. Harbor negative thoughts? Well, it is a daily work. Stabilizing and organizing my own life and mind as a parent stabilizes and organizes my children's lives and minds.

My house is a simple and humble house. It is a work in slow progress. But I try very hard to keep it uncluttered and neat. I posted my housekeeping schedule a while back. I keep that schedule because, yes, it's nice to have a clean house but I just notice how much more relaxed and orderly everything and everyone feels when the house is put together. Even teaching Z1 goes more smoothly if he's put his puzzles back on the shelf and returned all toys to the toy bin. I encourage him to pick up his clothes and put them in the hamper. To put his winter clothes in the bins and on the hooks where they belong. Everything has a place and so I just really try to keep everything in it's place.

I notice how airing the house out and lighting incense and candles changes the atmosphere. How smudging the house with sage really does purify. How making the beds every morning and making sure to never leave a room without putting something in order just leads to an overall positive and warm energy. I chuckle because every time my sister visits, she immediately feels comfortable enough to fall asleep. I enjoy making my house a home.

I grew up in a house that was very cluttered and not the cleanest. My mother, a clean and meticulous person by nature, just couldn't keep up with the house, a job and her severe asthma. My father, messy and organized only in his own mind by nature, usually had papers strewn around everywhere in the house, stacks of books everywhere. To use the dining room table involved almost an hour of moving stuff from the table and stacking them on the floor. I can attest to how crazy living in the house made me feel. I definitely made up my mind that my household would be the opposite.

So there are things here in my house that I'm working on getting in order and every time I accomplish something, I feel the energy of the house lift. It is encouraging, yes, but also drives me to want to make the house better and better.

Because, after all it really is true, Home is Where the Heart Is. Doesn't the Heart deserve to be housed well?

Confessions of an Economic Hitman

I am having a heck of a time enjoying or even getting into this book. It sounds like it's written by someone who deeply regrets everything he's ever done in his life. It sounds contrived, basically like he's making stuff up as he goes along. It reads like a fictional spy novel instead of the truth. And honestly, for me, it doesn't present any information that I didn't already know either by reading or just by observing.

He is also trying to say the common American citizen is basically responsible for this country's greed and avarice. Uh, no sir. That is the lie that most folks in foreign countries think as well. The common American citizen is as much at the mercy of the "corporatocracy" and the government as third world countries are. This country, however, is "wealthy" and so everyone who is here benefits. Poverty here in the U.S. looks very different than poverty in Nigeria. But in this economic crisis, we are coming to see that the wealth of the common man and woman was never real in the first place. Furthermore, what would be the first step that the average citizen would take to dismantle the corporatocracy? Maybe as I get to the end of the book he'll have some suggestions.

But maybe I'm jumping the gun with my assessment. I just read the part about a "beautiful [Indonesian] English major" who predicted to the author that the next object of U.S. conquest would be the Muslim world. Oooo-kay.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Do you care what others think?

Not only do I love and adore my husband completely, I also admire him tremendously. I'm not going to wax poetic about all his wonderful attributes but something he did impacted me in a way that I can't altogether describe.

Yesterday to go to work, the hubby put on a wool sweater (that we had purchased at the thrift store where we purchase most of our clothes) over a button-up dress shirt. The only problem was that he had cut off the sleeves of the sweater! It was felted so it didn't unravel. Here's how the dialog went.

Me: Why are you wearing a sweater with cut off sleeves?
Him: Because the sleeves were chewed up so I took them off.
Me: Don't you think it's time to get rid of the sweater then?
Him: No, I like the sweater.
Me: Well, it looks bummy.
Him: To who?
Me: Well, to whoever is looking at a sweater with cut off sleeves!
Him: Do you still love me? Are you still proud of me and happy to be with me?
Me: Yes.
Him: Well, then I'm wearing my sweater. You already know I don't care what people think.
I was dressed pretty wack myself so I asked him
Me: You don't mind what I have on right now?
Him: No.
Me: It doesn't embarrass you?
Him: (Throws his arm around my shoulder) Should it?


I have never met anyone so true to himself. He does things and *never* gives a single thought to what others aside from those closest to him (me and the children) think. He specifically chose a job where he could wear his locks past waist length (and a crown to cover them), grow his beard out, wear jeans and occasionally rock a sweater with cut off sleeves. In every aspect of his life, he is all about doing things in a manner that sits correctly in his mind and in his spirit. He does his job well not because of his supervisor but because he believes in excellence. Whenever he crochets or sews something, he *knows* it's the bomb and doesn't give one iota of thought to what someone has to say about his creation.

This is seriously admirable to me. I grew up with parents who compared me to everyone and wanted me, in all my doings, to make sure I knew that I was being watched and represented the family. To a certain extent, it is cultural, I know but I always wanted to measure up, to be seen a certain way by folks--even if it meant repressing myself or changing myself. I see my mother still operating under this yoke of trying to be what others want her to be. And I know I don't want that to be me.

Right now is a tough time in my life. I mean, I have lots of blessings and I'm generally living a comfortable life in terms of having food, clothes and shelter and even luxuries like high speed internet and a stand mixer. We are working hard though with DH pulling lots of overtime so we can stay ahead of the game. The reality is that my clothes are not really what I'd like to see myself in but I don't have the extra money floating around to purchase what I want. Aside from that, I don't have the time right now with such young children to spend a day shopping for the perfect outfit or perfect accessory like I used to pre-kids. Shopping with them is a special kind of hell reserved for the worst of sinners. And now I have a different body so it certainly would take time to find what works for me. I have weight to lose. As an adult, I still struggle with acne and the dark marks that are their remnant. Add to that the fact that I try to do things naturally and well, doing things naturally takes time and effort that right now, and well, I can't seem to find it. (I look forward to when Z2 can sleep through the night and I can get a full night's sleep . . . at that point I know that I'll be able to do a whole lot more!) Interestingly enough, though, at this particular time in my life is when I am becoming more and more comfortable and pleased with who I am. Nothing to hide behind. Not even hair.

In this marriage, I have learned a lot about myself but I think the most important lesson I've learned is to first and foremost be happy with myself. Having flyy outfits and perfectly arched eyebrows is nice but when it comes down to the knitty-gritty, it is more important to be okay with being blessed with clothes and having eyebrows. Not everyone has eyebrows. The hubby is not concerned about what others outside of this marriage think about me. He says to me, "if we had more money, we'd have more." So we stay humble. Happy in our love and with our family.

But even though I know this is the reality, I still find myself worrying from time to time about what people will think when they see me.
Why is her skin so jacked up? What happened to her hair? Why is she so fat? What the hell is up with that "outfit"? What assumptions will they make? It actually makes me nervous to go see my mother because she is my toughest critic. I'm not always thrilled to see folks I grew up with and went to school with.

I've never been too interested in putting on but I have spent way too much time in this life thinking about what others think about me--even when I was actively "rebelling" against society. I've needed folks to have a high opinion of me, to accept me, validate me. But I'm working hard on really (I mean to my core) not caring what others think. [People will always make assumptions about me whether I'm dressed to the nines or rocking my chullo hat and one of my two jean skirts (the fact is I love my chullo).] This is important to me on many levels especially as it relates to the kind of example I want to set for my kids. In my study and meditation on the root chakra, this point has been driven home and I am finally ready to accept the challenge of liberating myself. I needed to write this blog to hold myself accountable. Now this is not to say that you stop having integrity, stop being a person of character because you don't care what others think. But you do these things because of what you think and the acceptance, honor and appreciation is sure to come but not just from anyone. No, it comes from those who truly matter.

Do you care what others think? I do. But I'm working diligently on not giving one good damn. :) I want to reach a place where, like my husband, what matters most to me is what I think about me. Period.

Off to go play Cleva again. ;)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Delicious Vegan Mac & Cheese

Yes. I used the words "delicious" "Vegan" and "mac & cheese" in the same phrase. I thought I'd never ever be able to do that. I can't tell you how many different vegan recipes I've tried for mac & cheese and they have all been terribly gross. Most use nutritional yeast. A lot of nutritional yeast. I can only tolerate the taste of nutritional yeast in very, very small quantities. Only then does it have a "cheesiness" to it. Anything more than a little, it tastes like, well, nutritional yeast! Anyway, I tried this recipe for Vegan Mac and Cheese for Thanksgiving. As soon as I tasted it, I knew, with a bit of tweaking, we had a winning dish. And it is indeed stellar. I tried the recipe for the second time tonight, doubling the "cheese sauce" and reducing the amount of bread crumbs that go one the top. And it was excellent. But for it being a tad too salty, I'd say it was perfect. And I am a very picky eater. Countless experimental dishes get left for the hubby to finish.

I'm still thinking of main dishes this could go with (we ate it solo tonight). I know barbecue tofu would be good but . . . which others? Anyway, I'm highly recommending this recipe and leaving ya'll some bootleg, "trying to hold Z2 while taking these" pictures of the dish. :lol

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A Little Hat

I first learned to crochet for the specific purpose of making hats. Crocheting hats is quite enjoyable to me and I think allows me to be very creative. I rarely follow patterns for crocheting hats but I saw this one on one of my boards and I had all I needed to do it so I decided to give it a whirl. And I'm so happy I did. This was a very quick and easy project with, I think, really stunning results. A similar hat that was knit would have taken me double the time but I was able to finish in a couple of days. Had I focused, I would have been able to finish it in one night. Anyway, I can't wait to make this one again especially since last time I went to the store to get gloves, I saw similar ones for $6 and $7.

Here is the free pattern I used. The only change I made was on line 10, namely I didn't increase. Initially, I had followed the pattern verbatim but that increase to 80 stitches made the hat decidedly too big and I have a pretty small head. Staying at 64 stitches was perfect especially since the stitch pattern is very stretchy (who said crochet doesn't give?).

I used yarn I got for free at my local needlework circle. It is called Plymouth Encore and the colorway is Black. I used about half of the skein which means that I could probably get another one of these hats with the remaining yarn. I achieved gauge using the the J hook for the body and the H hook for the brim (the hooks which the pattern called for).

Anyway, it was a fun and quick project which got me back into crocheting. I just borrowed Confessions of an Economic Hit Man for the 35th time. Hopefully I can finish it this time. Oh boy, trying to find a minute to do the things I like to do is such a huge challenge!! Even as I write this, I'm hurrying up because the hubby has to be at work by 8. Whew!!
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