The Great Eat Down of 2017

This summer has been flying faster than a bald eagle hopped up on 'Merican spirit. I mean, seriously, breakneck speed. And you know what that leaves? No room. No room for planning. It's all been fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants, go against with the flow, etc. I'm talking POOR EATING HABITS, people! I've eaten more hotdogs this summer than I would like to admit. Also: too many small grocery trips. Which, inevitably, leads to toooooooo much spending.

Now, with most of that stress in the rearview mirror, my husband and I have made the command decision to hit the breaks, slow down and initiate an eat down. What is an eat-down you ask? It's a term that comes to us from my mother's ex-boyfriend, Bob. He was always a thrifty kind of guy, and when he wanted to save a little extra he would say, "you know, an eat-down, where you eat down all the food in the house."

Now, because we have a child and are trying to REALLY stretch this sucker out, but also not starve her or make her eat things that are too super weird. So we are doing a planned eat down. It has steps.

Step 1)- MEAL PLAN 
Hell to the yes. The first thing to go when I am busy is my meal planning, but let me tell you something, meal planning FOR. THE. WIN. It saves money, time, and headaches. So I put together an epically long meal plan....14 meals, including two crockpot meals. Notice, the ones with the stars, which are vegetarian meals. We are trying to be a wee more meat conscious.

Step 2)- Grocery Shop with coupons and list. 
So with meal plan in hand, I went to the grocery and I shopped the list. It's hard not to buy impulsively, but it is a link in the chain of success with saving money. I had my coupons, I used them, and came in at just over $100. Then, for round two in shopping, I sent my husband to the BJ's Wholesale Club, and he finished it off with items like coffee, seltzer, and bulk bananas (because, toddlers.) We are all in for under $200. 

One important note here: we set aside an additional $20 for fresh produce. Less than half a mile down the road is East View Farms, a non-GMO farm that we love. And her stuff is VERY reasonably priced! So it will be our source of fresh, in-season vegetables during our eat-down to the tune of $20. 

Step 3)- Stick to the plan and then some... 
So we 14 planned meals, and then we will enter uncharted territory. But we are hoping to last at least 15 days without another store trip. I think maybe we can make it 20. This is the challenge. We want to save money, eat well, and stretch our creative minds to eat down all (or at least most) of the food in the house for as long as we can! 

You can play along with us at home! Follow our eat-down journey. We are starting tonight with beer can chicken, using my webber poetry roaster (on the grill!). Or maybe you have some advice/word of encouragement for us as we embark on this crazy journey? I'll keep you all updated on how we are doing. So here we go: LET THE EAT DOWN BEGIN! 


My Secret To "Time-Out" Success

I will put a troll in time out like a mo-fo.
My daughter recently turned three, and can I just say "DAMN. Three can be hard." Between her saying she is "scared" of everything, to just flat out bolting away from me in defiance, and a lovely array of other toddler behaviors (um, hey mom, I just trashed your plants!) sometimes I feel like I am living in someone else's version of a joke. Or maybe they call that "parenting a spirited child?" Whatever. It's obnoxious, but she's awfully cute and I'm attached.

Lately, I feel it is my societal duty to really crack down because at three years old, she's old enough to know what I am saying, and pretty capable of obeying the rules (most of the time), it just that she...doesn't? So we had to start really being sticklers. Pay now or pay later, amiright?

I don't know about the rest of you, but I am ALWAYS in awe of parents whose children stay in timeout. I tried to put her in her room last year for bad behavior and she bested me by--get this--peeing on her bed.  Oh the horror. For me, time out just. Doesn't. Work. After some trial and error and changed bed sheets, I found something that works. You know what it is? Putting her TOYS in time-out.

REALLY.

I don't like to bribe her to do things...like help me clean up. And I don't have that much patience. So when I am trying to get her to do something, or I need her to understand the seriousness of something I am saying, and she's not listening, I simply say, "I'm going to count to three and if you don't do it, I'm going to put your toy in timeout." There is usually a toy somewhere near me (or in her hand) and them being in time out drives her up the wall.

And if she doesn't listen still? More toy time outs. Side note: I have never had to put more than one toy in time out, it's just a contingency plan.)

It's been a couple of weeks of using toy time out and cracking down on nonsense behavior and not listening, and I am happy to report that things are improving all the time. So, if time out doesn't work for you, either,  put your game face on, grab that toy and put it out of reach!! 

Reviving Puffy Sticker Packs


Is anyone else's kid obsessed with Melissa & Doug's Puffy Sticker Packs? I rave about them to everyone I know. Like, I literally told the guy in charge of ordering of the grocery store how awesome they were and could he please order *all the puffy sticker packs* and then I proceeded to chew his ear off about how my daughter once sat and played with one for two hours. TWO HOURS PEOPLE!!! 

I worship at the alter of anything that can hold my child's attention. Extra points if the item doesn't make noise, and isn't an iPad.  I love these sticker packs because they are non-messy, creative play that is essentially self contained. Five dollars buys me a few moments of peace and that is something that you just can't put a price on! (But if you were to put a price on it, five bucks isn't bad, right?) 

Now I don't know about the rest of you, but my kid loves to stick them on the scene provided, and then, like EVERYWHERE else. On the carpet. On the wall. On her legs. Which is cool. I'm not here to tell her how to play, but once that happens, they lose their "sticky." Or that's what I thought until my mother in law--in her infinite patience-- discovered how to revamp the sticky and it's SO EASY!

Simply take a damp paper towel and wipe the backs of the stickers. I use a little swirly motion and then, BAM, your kid can use them all over again!

You're welcome.


**THIS WAS NOT A PAID ENDORSEMENT. I genuinely love these things. 

Perspectives: Finding the Beauty in My Black



By Trinity L. Hall

“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”- Marcus Garvey

I love being Black, however, that love didn’t always exist. When you grow up with as much melanin in your skin as I have, you notice early on that you are different and find that your skin complexion is often the butt of cruel jokes. The ‘you so Black’ puns and references to tar and charcoal became repetitive in my daily young life. To their credit, my parents attempted to reaffirm that I was beautiful, smart, and worthy. My dad would call me his doll baby, but I often wondered who would want to play with a doll that looked like me. Their attempts to shine light on the darkest parts of my conscience were rebuffed by the jokes and the heartache they brought.

My heartache was intensified by the fact that I was often one of few minorities in my classes. I got along great with my classmates and our interactions were positive and fun; however, I noticed that I was different and took that difference to have a negative connotation. Add to that the extreme lack of diversity in beauty magazines, books, and movies I enjoyed as an adolescent and it’s safe to say that I struggled with self-esteem issues. I felt less than, and that feeling was reinforced by society and its visual standards of beauty and worth. It was difficult to see my Black as being beautiful when everything around me stated otherwise. This was painful in and of itself, but include the accusations of “acting White” that were constantly hurled at me, and it became too much to bear.

People would often ask me why I was so different from my siblings. It was discouraging because my siblings were cool and popular, so naturally I wanted to be more like them, but wasn’t. I was often asked how I could be so dark yet “talk so White.” Questions like these highlighted my differences; too dark to be comfortable around my White peers and “acted too White” to be comfortable around my Black ones. I was never quite sure who I was or whom I was supposed to be. I assume most youngsters go through some version of this during adolescence, and can relate to the loneliness and despair it can have on a young mind. I thought of bleaching my skin, though never tried it for fear of the unknown. Instead, I prayed about it, which is what I was taught to do when faced with a situation too great to bear.

When I was 12, I began saying a nightly prayer in the bathroom mirror, “God, please make me a couple shades lighter by morning.” I prayed to be normal and not stand out so much. Obviously, He never granted those requests, He often doesn’t when I ask for something that I think I want,  but He has something better in store. Instead, He sent me on a journey. I was tired of being different, feeling alone and less than. I needed a lifestyle change. So when the time came to choose a college, I knew I wanted to attend a Historically Black College or University (HBCU).

My college choice shocked a lot of people, including my family. But I needed to be around people who I thought were more like me. I wanted to learn from them and their experiences. I wanted to know what it meant to be Black by studying not only the Black race but the Black culture, in hopes of ultimately discovering who I was. My new classmates were extremely diverse. Each class included people from all over the nation, as well as several different countries in Africa, the Caribbean, and Europe. Though we had much in common, our ways of thinking often differed. Our views were shaped by our life experiences and upbringings.

I had to learn to listen to the experiences of my peers who grew up in the northern inner cities, the southern states, and from other parts of the world. Some of their experiences were vastly different from my upbringing in the most rural part of the second smallest state. But we listened and learned from one another, even if we couldn’t relate or understand.  Some of my views developed as a result of those conversations. And while I may have still disagreed with others’ viewpoints, I continued to listen, never negating their beliefs or views, as that would be nullifying their personal truth. The campus was a safe space to hold open and honest conversations. These conversations challenged me to think beyond myself, but also helped me find my voice and speak my mind. As a result I gained confidence. I learned a great deal from my peers but also about myself and my culture. I received an education that went beyond the contents of a textbook.

My knowledge expanded beyond the ideological debates between Martin Luther King, Jr and Malcolm X, to include Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Dubois. I studied the philosophies of Frederick Douglas and Marcus Garvey. I read works by Ms. Angela Davis and Mr. Huey Newton. I marveled at the courage and strength of Ms. Claudette Colvin, Ms. Rosa Parks, Ms. Mamie Till and Ms. Ruby Bridges. My knowledge about Black entrepreneurs, inventors, history-makers, and even my ancestry had significantly developed. I found that my culture was much too vast and great to be contained in a 28-day celebration. I gained an abundance of pride for my culture. My education ignited a passion and shed light on who I am.

I graduated with not just a degree but a deep and genuine appreciation of the Black race and culture. I know who I am and I love myself. I know my worth and am confident and secure enough to be the only person like me in a room. I no longer feel less than. I see my being different as a positive feature. I’ve embraced my dark skin, as it carries generations of persistence and greatness that deserves to be celebrated every time I look in a mirror. Am I ever discriminated against, stereotyped, or made fun of? Yes. But regardless of what others or society continue to believe, I know I am magical and that I rock. The journey He sent me on allowed me to find the beauty in my Black, and I am sincerely grateful He did not answer my earlier prayers. If you don’t understand or cannot relate, that’s okay, but don’t discredit my experience because it is different from your own. Instead, let’s have a conversation. 

Perspectives: Being Muslim in America Today


By Aisha Choudhri 

There is a lot going on in America right now, and I do not have the luxury to ignore it. I cannot simply change a channel, avoid a political conversation, or turn a blind eye to what has been happening around me for the last several months. I am a Muslim American who was born and raised in this country.  I grew up in Southern Delaware, and belonged to one of two Muslim families in my town. My family successfully established themselves in this country, and we effectively played our roles to advance society and our communities with our education and abilities. 

Even though I was only one of two Muslim kids who attended my high school (my sister was the other), I always felt like an important part of my school and group of friends. Sure, I voluntarily excluded myself from activities that went against my faith and beliefs, but that never made me feel like less of a member in my circle of friends. I never once felt out of place, or like someone who didn’t belong in this country. I never felt like someone whose contributions to this country were overshadowed by her faith, or her place of worship and choice of dress. That is, until now.

Based on what we witnessed during this presidential election, and the Islamophobic rhetoric that Donald Trump and his cabinet have normalized, anti-Muslim sentiment has reached an all time high in this country. The floodgates have been opened for people to express their hatred and bigotry toward Muslims openly. It has allowed me, and the entire Muslim community in America, to be demonized by a political regime and their followers of white supremacists, misogynists, and bigots. Muslims are constantly and consistently shown as somehow un-American because of our faith. It has made us feel extremely unsafe in a country that is supposed to protect our right to practice our religion freely.

Since the presidential campaign began, Muslims have been the target of numerous hate crimes, and the large majority of these have not even been covered in the media. The majority of Americans are probably unaware that a Trump supporting Christian man walked into a mosque and killed 6 Muslims while they were praying in Canada just two weeks ago. When we aren’t preoccupied defending our religion and condemning attacks that have nothing to do with our beliefs, we sit and grieve alone within our community. We grieve for the mosques that are burned down in the name of hate, or the child who gets bullied at school for his beliefs, or the woman who gets attacked because she chooses to wear a hijab. Yet, we must always defend ourselves. Defend our right to be here, live here, and worship here.  To feel like an outsider in a country you were born and raised in is not something that can easily be expressed. It’s a profound sadness combined with fury and frustration that often cannot be articulated.  It’s a poignant awareness we carry with us in our day to day lives.

Muslims are not the first group to endure this type of bigotry, and they certainly won’t be the last. Racism and bigotry are deep rooted evils in our country; evils we choose to ignore because they don’t fit our narrative of the great United States. As Americans, we flatter ourselves as citizens of a “land of liberty” where religious freedom is sacrosanct. Yet, the United States has a long history of religious bigotry towards different groups which have manifested in discriminatory laws, social practices, and criminal behavior aimed at different populations at various times in history. We are not unaware of the trials that those before us and those among us have endured; however, you do not truly realize the pain of this discrimination until you spend your entire adult life defending who you are and what you believe in.

It is hard to know how to position yourself in a country that can elect a man with such staggering ineptitude; who promotes and supports hate and instills fear against you and your religion. It makes you doubt whatever faith you had in the leadership of this country. The country where your children will grow up. You wonder what kind of hardships they will endure. Will all of this hatred, animosity, and bigotry just be a part of their daily lives? Will they find a way to keep their heads up, when on a day to day basis someone is trying to demonize them because of their religion, way of dressing, or way or worshipping?

But our fear will not paralyze us. With the hatred that has been directed towards us, there is also so much kindness and compassion that is being spread. There is growing social awareness, and nationwide protests are taking place to ensure that the people of this country are given their inalienable rights. We have been reminded again of what we stand for as a country, and by working together against those who try to take away our rights and values, we come out stronger and better.

During these challenging times, there are those who have stood shoulder to shoulder with the Muslim community, and that support means everything to us. It’s a beautiful thing to see that there are still many people who will fight alongside you and defend your right to practice your religion and live your life without discrimination and hate. Americans cannot let the ignorance of those in power define what our country should look like. Our resilience is renewed by our common pursuit of values along with equality for all. These principles are what make us a democracy to be proud of.

I have not lost hope in humanity thanks to the support, love and resistance of my fellow Americans, who stand with me and the Muslims of this country to fight bigotry, racism, and hatred.

From Glasgow, Scotland: Trump is a Pure Fanny

A snapshot from the protest in Glasgow, Scotland

By Rob Huggett 

If you ask anyone [from Scotland] their thoughts, their first reaction is usually a laugh or at least a smile. I mean, how could the U.S. have voted for THAT guy?! The guy from The Apprentice, the guy from Home Alone 2, the guy who looks like that--as president?! But then the initial smile fades, as if the realization of what has actually happened sinks in, and the conversation usually turns a little darker as we start to wonder what the hell is going to happen over the next four years. 

Throughout his campaign, and even after he won the election, there was always this expectation that he wouldn’t actually follow through on any of the policies he threw around. He wasn’t actually going to build a wall between the US and Mexico, he couldn’t just put a blanket ban on all Muslims entering the states, surely he wouldn’t put a stop to the so-called Obamacare. Once he got in office, his policies would become diluted, or conveniently forgotten about like so many other politicians before him. It’s a well worn path; promise the voters what they want to hear, get into office then give them a watered down version, just enough to keep them happy and not severe enough to upset too many of those who didn’t vote for you. 

With Trump, it now appears that he is actually going to go ahead with some of the most divisive, hate filled and frankly, racist policies that anyone has heard of for a long time. And not only that, but this is in America, the so-called land of the free. 

I heard that there was a planned protest in Glasgow, where I live, against Trump’s ban on Muslims entering the U.S. I walked down to the meeting point after work. At least 800 people all stood around as various speakers took to the mic to give their thoughts on Trump and his policies. Unfortunately, I was a little too far away I be able to hear what was being said clearly, but from all the signs and banners which were being waved around, they certainly were not being complementary about the new president. The atmosphere though was one of hope and positivity. People were cheered as they made their speeches and in typical Glasgow humour, someone had brought their dog along wearing a t-shirt with ‘I wouldn’t dump on Trump if he was on fire,’ written down the back. 

Of all the policies which Trump has promised, it is perhaps this ban and extreme vetting of Muslims which has struck a chord with the people of Glasgow the most. Glasgow has traditionally being the most left leaning and welcoming city in Scotland. There is a proud history of immigrants being made welcome here going back generations to Irish peasants fleeing poverty, Italian families at the end of the 19th century and many Hindu and Muslim families in the 1960s and 1970s. Glasgow was also one of the first cities in the UK to welcome refugees from war torn Syria last year. They even welcomed this Englishman with open arms eight years ago! There is a saying which has been coined by the local Council and tourism board which has been used extensively over the past few years to promote Glasgow as a place to visit; ‘People Make Glasgow’, and it is so true--all people. So when we hear how the new president wants to put a blanket ban on Muslims entering the country, then we get a little upset. 

Further afield, Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party, has issued a petition over the weekend calling on the Prime Minister to rescind the invitation she made to Trump last week and to deny him a state visit. At the time of writing there were over 1.5 million signatures and this was growing all the time. Although I want Donald Trump nowhere near this country, I would be a little uncomfortable with the hypocrisy of denying someone entry to the UK because of their own immigration policies. I say let him come over and let’s make it as uncomfortable for him as possible throughout his stay. Show him that it is not just the people of America who are unhappy with him. 

It is not all anti-Trump though over here, though. I was scrolling through Facebook earlier this evening and saw a Facebook Live post by the right wing ‘political’ party UKIP, which was asking whether or not we should welcome Trump to the UK. You may recall their leader Nigel Farage was paraded by Donald Trump at some of his rallies leading up to the election. Although I think Donald slightly exaggerated Farage’s standing in the UK political spectrum, (having failed on at least three occasions to be even voted as an MP for his own constituency.) Unsurprisingly, the vote was overwhelmingly in favour of allowing him to visit. What was most upsetting though was some of the comments on the page from people who clearly don’t see any problem with banning an entire group of people from entering the country because of their religious beliefs. “Wish he was in charge over here”, “Someone has to stand up to the Muslims”, “He is only saying it like it is” were some of the more legible comments. 

What this has shown me, though, is that there is still not only a huge gulf between those who are for and against Trump, but also that there are many, many thousands--maybe even millions--of people who think he is perfectly within his right to do some of the things that he is doing. They fail to see the racism, xenophobia, hatred, sexism and bigotry of what he is saying and see his policies as a legitimate way to solve a problem which doesn’t really exist. All the bombast and jingoism about how he can make America great again, echoes the rhetoric of Nigel Farage who talks about turning back the clock in the UK to a time when everything was great. And even though these are hollow and vague statements, it still manages to capture the beliefs of so many people that it cannot and should not be ignored. 

Going back to how I started this piece, I mentioned how there is always a hint of the absurd and comedy about this whole affair. People will joke about his hair, his permanently tanned features, his small hands, etc. And while I accept that comedy and politics go hand in hand, and he should rightly be ridiculed for some of the things he is saying and doing, this should not allow people to take their eyes off the fact that this guy is the president of the world’s only super power. This guy has the nuclear codes. This guy thinks climate change is made up. This guy believes that women are below him. This guy thinks that torture should be brought back. This guy thinks all Muslims are terrorists in waiting. And he is now in charge. 

So when I see protests like the one I attended tonight in Glasgow, and see coverage on the news of other cities in the UK doing the same, and I see the millions of people in America taking to the streets to make their voices heard, it gives me hope for the future. Keep it up America, we are with you all the way.


Why Religion & Science Are Compatible

Image Credit: The Odyssey Online 

Over the last several years, the relationship between religion and science has grown more adversarial. Lately it’s become especially polarized, and I’ve often pondered why. I was recently listening to talk by Manly P. Hall, wherein he talked about the relationship between Darwinism and creationism. Hall didn’t believe that science should be at war with religion—a sentiment echoed by the Catholic Church for many generations, and upheld by our current Pope. I cannot say that I have been particularly kind to religion in this regard, but the talk I listened to bent my ear in a new way…

In the forefront of my mind was global warming and how the scientific community has spoken at length about the realities facing our world. The time is ripe for us to do something about it. Global warming is a real danger to us, and I’m here to tell you—yes you!—Christian, Muslim, Jew, or Buddhist, or any other person for that matter: there is a philosophical basis for uniting the science of global warming with the religious ideals. They are not opposed. 

 If you are religious, global warming should be important to you. 

We are stewards of the earth as people, but also, or even especially as children of God. If we believe that God granted us this earth we should also be invested in taking care of it. If you believe that God makes miracles, what about you? Are we not ALL miracles in God’s eyes? Could it be that we the people we have waited for? If God gave us the ability to discover and reason through science, isn’t science, therefore, another form of divine intervention?

For some, it may be a radical suggestion. I know some people believe God will help save us from catastrophe (like global warming) but if He endowed us with our own answers and the ability to fix this ourselves, isn’t that the same thing? Wouldn’t that be His will as well? If you put your faith in God, doesn’t he also put his faith in you, and for that matter, our fellow men and women? And if that is the case, cannot we not put our faith in science meant to help the world?

Something my mother used to say to me when I was a child was, “Science can give us a lot of answers, but there are always mysteries.” Indeed, we live in a mysterious world, and the older I get, the more mysterious it seems. Hall speaks about how neither science nor religion can fully answer this question: how-- and more importantly WHY-- did we come to be as a human species? Both can speculate, and both can guess. But these are only hypotheses. Will there be such time when we can truly come to know our purpose as human beings (either through religion and/or science?) I don’t know. One thing that I know for certain is I hope my children and grandchildren are here to see it if indeed we ever can.

If we want the answers to our true purpose, we may have to survive a few more thousand years—and in order to do that, we may have to place our faith in one another. That is so say, perhaps religion and science only work when they are seen as two keys to the same door—one cannot fully realize itself without the other in that way that we can make intellectual decisions, but the heart accounts for a lot as well. Or, as my friend Derek Dutton says, "Science and religion are completely compatible, but mutually exclusive. Don't use religion to explain science and don't use science to deny religion."

Science doesn’t have to deny religion and religion doesn’t have to deny science. Maybe the best question we can ask ourselves is whether either one is ultimately bringing about benevolent outcomes. If I ask myself whether or not the things we could do to help our planet’s temperature regulate are good for humanity, I have to conclude, “yes.” And if that prolongs life here on earth, I have to assume that’s good for religion as well.

What do you think?