The Helpers 

 A while ago, I wrote a post discussing how human beings often form bonds through mutual dislikes. Unfortunately, Muslims are still a strong contender for the “Least Desirable Citizens” title, thanks to people who call themselves Muslims, but commit acts that are very much opposed to the teachings of Islam. 

After September 11, 2001, many of us found ourselves on the receiving end of hateful words and angry glares. Fortunately, social media was no more than email chains. I may have known that the people on the subway were displeased with me as a person, but I didn’t know how John from Ireland felt. I didn’t know Yoon from Korea wished he could see all Muslims exterminated.

With the prevalence of social media, it’s hard not to feel as though the whole world is against me because of the way I choose to worship God. Twitter is full of posters who wouldn’t mind seeing us all rounded up and pushed into a hole in the center of the earth. When you are bombarded with these messages, it’s tough not to get discouraged. It’s even harder not to lash out. I want to respond to hateful comments with my own rage-filled vitriol on most days. But then I take a deep breath and remind myself that lashing out accomplishes absolutely nothing.

Fred Rogers said that when he was a boy and would see scary things on the news, his mother would say to him: “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” I find myself applying this method of thinking to my own life a lot lately. Sure, there are people out there (even presidential candidates) who voice their contempt for Muslims at every opportunity. These people tend to be the loudest, and are thus granted the most attention. While the hatred boosts ratings of news networks, folks with beautiful hearts and open minds are combating blanket stereotyping. I have received so many heartfelt messages from friends of all faiths, reminding me that there are people who love me and have my back. 

To each of you who have reached out to me to show your support, to those of you who have prayed for me, to the strangers who have stopped me in the grocery store to offer kind words and smiles, and to those of you who have either loudly or quietly voiced your opposition to prejudice: thank you for being the helpers that I can look for when my heart aches and my hijab feels heavy.


Minecraft, and other random tom foolery

Thing Two: I found your kitchen. There’s a cat in it. How many cats do you even have?
Little Linebacker: I can’t remember. I think four. Leave my cats alone. 
Thing Two: Ha! I just stepped on one. It’s not dead though. At least I don’t think so. 

Little Linebacker: You stupid jerk! I told you not to touch my cats. [Hits Thing Two in the face with a sofa cushion]

Thing Two: It’s just a stupid computer cat. 

[Electronic cat meows in the background]

Little Linebacker: You’re not a cat person. You don’t love cats as much as I do. 

Thing Two: [Highly offended] You don’t even know. I’m the biggest cat lover after mom. 

Little Linebacker: Just get out of my house. You shouldn’t come in people’s houses without asking, anyway. 

Thing Two: I need to eat. Get some food and meet me at the beach for a picnic. 

Thing One: [Looks up from her book] You guys are such idiots. Read a book, or do something constructive. 

[Little Linebacker throws sofa cushion at Thing One.]

The Power of a Kiss

Like most men and women, my husband and I don’t always see eye to eye. We naturally interpret things differently, and life experiences sometimes cause us to form opposing opinions. This is hardly ever a problem because as adults, we understand that our personalities won’t always be in sync. The PMS version of Afsana doesn’t get this, though. She views a difference of opinion as an attack on her character. And yes, I am referring to myself in third person. That’s what PMS Afsana does. Deal with it. 

I can’t remember what I got my drawers in a bunch about most recently, but it was likely something political since that’s where my husband and I disagree the most (despite standing on the same side of the fence). He made a comment that rocked me to my core, and I started to wonder how I managed to stay married for almost ten years to a man I had absolutely nothing in common with. In reality, we have plenty in common. To PMS Afsana, we are as different as night and day.

 After the one-sided spat, I went to our bedroom and flopped down angrily on my side of the bed. I couldn’t recall exactly what I was fuming over but dammit, I was entitled to my anger and I was holding on to it. I turned toward the window, wrapping myself up in a blanket I was determined not to share, no matter how bad my hot flashes got. He could cover up with a pillowcase for all I cared.

 My hands were balled up into fists and I was curled in fetal position. I heard the door creak open and ground my teeth, knowing my husband was the only person who would dare enter without knocking. I cringed as I heard his footsteps come closer. Feigning sleep, I held my breath and waited for him to leave the room. Instead, he stood over me for a few seconds. Then he leaned in and pressed a tender kiss to my temple. Suddenly, holding onto my fury was like trying to catch water in a colander. My body relaxed and against my will, a smile crept onto my face. In that moment, even with my PMS symptoms at their zenith, I was reminded of why I fell in love in the first place. 

An Unexplored Angle

Thanks to the prevalence of social media, our news feeds are filled to the brim with videos of police committing acts of injustice. Recently, a video surfaced showing a police officer slamming a female student on the floor. Many people defended the officer’s actions, stating that had she just complied with his request to leave the classroom, this never would have happened. I am by no means a person who can be convinced that snatching a student out of their desk and slamming them on the floor is acceptable. I may be going out on a limb here, but I think the problem is larger than anyone considered. 

When someone commits a mass shooting, say in a church or movie theater, there is an automatic assumption that the perpetrator was plagued by mental health problems. Yet, this girl who sat stubbornly in her chair and refused to leave the classroom was automatically considered to be a problem child. No thought was given to the possibility that a behavioral disorder makes it difficult for her to conform.

 I am not trying to turn this into a racial debate, but we would be fools if we didn’t acknowledge the racial disparity when it comes to the way noncompliance or crime is handled. I’m not implying that the only people of color who commit crimes are the mentally challenged. There are plenty of folks (of all colors) who simply suck at being decent. But there are also many who are plagued by mental health disorders.

 Let’s look at Autism as an example. Anyone who parents an autistic child knows the challenges involved with getting their child to function in a society with little tolerance for anything not considered normal. There are many degrees of autism from highly functioning, to requiring care around the clock. It’s hard to say how many people are truly affected by the disorder, though. It is proven that white children are much more likely to be properly diagnosed than black children. This is not information I am pulling out of my behind, I can assure you. This is a documented fact. Black children who probably should be classified are often cast aside as problem children in general, or slow learners. They are placed in a “normal” classroom setting and expected to function without additional assistance. White children are more likely to be classified and have an EDP (educational development plan) in place. Can you guess what happens to the child who was never classified, barely making it through school? There’s a strong possibility that they don’t grow up to become productive adults.

 Take a moment to think of how education has evolved over the past few decades. Kindergarten is no longer a place to learn by way of playing and singing songs. Instead of learning about geology by playing in a sandbox, children now have research projects to complete. Human brains haven’t evolved enough to keep up with the evolution in education (in my opinion), but we expect our children to perform in a way that we wouldn’t have been capable of performing at their age. Throw in a learning disability, and you have a recipe for disaster.

 The disparity between blacks and whites doesn’t stop at medical diagnoses. It leaks over into the media. Pay attention to the way these kinds of situations are covered. I won’t bother to elaborate any further, but I’m sure you are all smart enough to figure out where I’m going with this. Obviously, we can’t blame all of our problems on mental health. But we can’t continue to turn a blind eye to the lack of/misdiagnosis of behavioral and mental disorders when it comes to minority groups.



My ex-husband was a substance abuser. I don’t think I have ever openly shared that. It’s not a secret, so I’m not exactly slandering him. I could never understand why he wasn’t able to just quit. “Dude,” I wanted to say, and shake the hell out of him, slap him across his face a few times, and knock him upside the head with something hard for good measure. “You see how this stuff screws your life up. It’s killing you. It turns you into an ass. And it’s eroding any love I’ve ever had for you. You know all these things, but you still won’t quit.” It just seems like when you know something’s bad for you, when you know it’s capable of ending your existence, you should be able to put it down. No matter how addictive it is, you should be able to say: “You know what? I love my life more than I love this shit. That’s enough.” I felt so much contempt when I looked at him, hating everything that his drug of choice turned him into. It’s easy to see such a glaringly obvious fault in someone and focus on it until everything else is obscured, like the application of a vignette filter. 

It’s not always easy to find your own faults. Sure, we can find our surface faults, but how easy is it for us to dig down to the root of it and locate the ultimate fault? It’s extremely difficult. Not only is it difficult but when you do find it, but acknowledging and owning that fault is a sometimes impossible. 

My weight is an obvious flaw. I’ve struggled with it all my life and eventually got to a point where I was sick of being fat. I worked out, ate well, and lost a lot. I felt better than I had since high school. But I’m still struggling with the behaviors that made me fat in the first place and for the first time, I think I understand why an addict can’t just stop. Sugar is my culprit. It always has been; I just didn’t realize it until I caught myself in the act one day. I remember the almost orgasmic feeling I had when scarfing down a chocolate cupcake, and then almost choking because I forgot to stop and breathe. Although there was no one around to witness this exhibition of gluttony, I was embarrassed and ashamed. And despite having lost weight, I don’t feel as good as I did when I ate well. My joints feel achy and my brain is in a constant state of fogginess. I finally understand that sugar isn’t something I’m capable of consuming in moderation. Even a small taste results in the crashing open of the floodgates, unleashing a tidal wave of craving.

I’d managed to wean myself off of sugar once. That was when weight loss became nearly effortless for me. Then I had a relapse and now, losing weight is as demanding as swimming in a pool of chocolate pudding. It’s exhausting, and I have so many days when I just feeling giving up and giving in. I know that a sugar detox is the only way I can change that pudding to water and swim through like I did before. It’s tiresome to think about though, and sometimes too overwhelming to even consider attempting. In my moments of self-pity, I realize that I’m not much different from a substance abuser who just doesn’t stop. I can think of a multitude of excuses about why it’s such an impossible feat. I know that cutting out sugar is the key to everything, so why can’t I just stop eating it? I don’t know. I really don’t.

I don’t have a reason for sharing this. Maybe because I haven’t written a fitness post in a long time. Maybe so those of you on your own journeys understand that the process not all smooth sailing. Sometimes you have to swim through pudding to reach your destination.

Carl’s Cake

Summertime in Florida can be deceiving when you work in an office building. Most offices keep the air conditioner set to “Arctic Chill”, so the view outside the window of the sunny, cloudless sky almost looks like a mirage. There’s no way it could be all that warm outside when your toes are frozen solid, right? 

Having lived in Florida for over nine years, you’d think I would know better. You’d think I’d remember the last time I was fooled by the air conditioned office space and use better judgement before venturing outside, but I quickly forget. 

On my lunch break today, I decided that today would be a beautiful day to walk next door to Race Trac for a frozen yogurt cone. When I stepped outside of the door, I sighed in relief. I could feel the telltale tingling in my toes, letting me know that they were beginning to thaw. The fact that they were beginning to thaw as soon as I set foot outside should have served as an alarm. It should have said to me: “Stop! Are you crazy? It’s a million degrees outside. The walk across the parking lot could kill you.” I ignored that silly voice shouting at me because frozen yogurt was a mere 50 yards away. Half a football field stood between me and a waffle cone full of Carl’s Cake for the low price of $1.49. So I pushed on. 

A few more yards into my journey, I remembered that I hadn’t been transported to a comfortable 80 degrees as I had mistakenly thought only three short minutes ago. I was still in Florida, and the gates of Hades were still wide open. My hijab was soaked in minutes, and I cursed myself for choosing today of all days to wear a navy blue abaya. Who does that in the summertime in Orlando? I could feel rivulets of sweat travelling down my back and at that moment, it dawned on me that I still had to come back across the parking lot after acquiring my frozen yogurt. 

Here’s something you may not know about me: I have always had problems following through with commitments. My closet was stuffed with sewing projects I’d begun, but never got around to completing. Ingredients for recipes sat in my pantry collecting dust because I couldn’t bring myself to actually begin the cooking process. I think a part of me was afraid of failing. Not finishing didn’t sound quite as bad as failing did in my twisted brain. 

I know I went off on a complete tangent, but stay with me. Finishing a half marathon let me know that if I stuck with something and gave it my all, I could finish it. So I’ve gotten much better at following through. And maintaining my new attitude, I was going to accomplish my goal of buying a frozen yogurt waffle cone. After what felt like hours (but was really less than 5 minutes), I flung the door of Race Trac open to obnoxiously announce my arrival. The nonexistent greeting I received from other customers was far less than I thought I deserved for braving the midday sun to fulfill a commitment. 

I sauntered over to the frozen yogurt section, taking in the pastel display of machines and giving myself a metaphorical pat on the back for my triumph. I’d made it, y’all. Grabbing a cone wrapped in flag-printed paper, I decided to treat myself to a blend. Not only was I going to enjoy a helping of Carl’s Cake, but double chocolate swirl as well. 

I walked more quickly back to the office. Not only did I not spend enough time in Race Trac to cool off from the walk over, but my yogurt was already running down the side of my hand. I finished off the last of it as I walked past the gym, feeling a sense of solidarity with its patrons. We were all a hot, sweaty mess. The how’s and why’s are irrelevant. 

I think I’ll leave frozen yogurt for the fall, when the walk across the parking lot will be more bearable. Of course, that’s easy to say when I have my desk fan angled to dry my armpits. I’ll probably forget all about this uncomfortable experience the same way that mothers forget birth pains once they see their beautiful babies. The truth of the matter is that I’ll probably brave the parking lot again next week for a taste of coconut frozen yogurt. 

Afsana’s Favorite Things

It has been many moons since I have celebrated a name day. Can you tell I am working my way through the Game of Thrones books? Anyway, I think the last birthday I celebrated was over 20 years ago. I don’t have any plans of starting back up, but I will happily accept gifts from any reader who may be feeling philanthropic this month. Since I haven’t done an “Afsana’s Favorite Things Post”, I figured now would be a good time. 

I have a confession to make: I’ve been bitten by the DIY bug. The problem is that I have no tools. The contents of my tool box consist of a hammer, an electric screwdriver, several manual screwdrivers, a tape measure, and random screws that have fallen out of pieces of furniture that my children have destroyed over the years. Seriously, there’s not even a hand saw in my collection. You can imagine how far I’ll get trying to build a set of bunk beds. So here’s my wish list: 

HomeCraft 14-Amp 10 Inch Miter Saw with Laser


This saw received pretty high reviews, and is cheaper than many of the other models I looked at. The laser will assist with cutting straight lines and let me tell you, I need all the help I can get. This product sells at Home Depot for $109.

Ryobi Miter Saw Stand

I know it’s not the same brand as the actual miter saw, but work with me here. They appear to be compatible and at $99, this was the cheapest I could go without getting something that looked like it had been constructed from Legos.

DeWalt 18 Volt Ni-Cad ½ Inch Compact Drill/Driver Kit

I’m all over the place with the brands here. This drill appeared to be a decent price at $99, but what do I know about drill prices? See the description of my toolbox above. The biggest selling point for me is the fact that it’s cordless. With my level of coordination, I would probably trip over a cord and drill a hole into the side of the washing machine by accident. 

Kreg Jig Master System

Sure, I could probably just use a drill with a countersink bit for the projects I have in mind, but isn’t this impressive? Just think, the person who owns this system would be the envy of all their DIY friends and Pinterest followers. At $139, it’s not a top priority for me. It would be nice to have, though.

DeWalt 5 Inch Random Orbit Sander

Because I can’t have the kids getting splinters on their new bunk beds, can I? It sells for $59 at Home Depot, and got pretty good reviews. AND it comes with a dust collection bag, so Linebacker won’t need his rescue inhaler while I’m using it. 

Brother CS6000i Feature Rich Sewing Machine

This isn’t tool related, but I am itching to replace the awful Shark sewing machine I have currently. Why is Shark making sewing machines, anyway? Please leave that to the professionals, Shark. Stick with steam mops. Anyway, I learned about this sewing machine from Mimi G’s blog and when I did some research, it seemed to be exactly what I needed. It’s basic enough for me to be able to work without getting to frustrated, but is capable of sewing more than the straight and zig zag lines I am currently limited to. The best part? Automatic buttonholes, y’all. And this baby is less than $150 on Amazon.

Gingher 8-Inch Knife Edge Dressmaker’s Shears

I’m a little embarrassed to say this, but I’m still using the shears that came in the sewing kit my mom bought me a really, really long time ago. And since my kids have gotten their grubby hands on them, they’ve been used to cut way more than just fabric. I’m talking robots made from cardboard boxes. They don’t cut fabric very well anymore. And when I say they don’t cut fabric very well, I mean that I’d get better results from a steak knife. Lately, I’ve taken to using a pair of all-purpose scissors that I usually reserve for coupons. That’s how desperate my situation is. These come with a hefty price tag of $23 but Mimi G said I should get them, so I shall. 

Dritz St. Jane Sewing Basket

This is incredibly adorable, and would store all my sewing notions perfectly. Right now, I am using an old container that used to house organic baby spinach. It’s flimsy, and doesn’t hold everything I need it to hold. That’s how my kids got ahold of my sewing shears in the first place.

That concludes this year’s edition of Afsana’s Favorite Things, unless I can think of more things to add to the list. In that event, there will be a sequel.