Embracing The Journey

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Sugar coating my story may make it more comfortable to read and digest, but then what point would there be in sharing it?

Like many girls, I grew up in a home that idealized the “model” body and so perpetuated that as what was beautiful. This meant that from a very young age, when I hit puberty to be exact, I began to hate my body. This hate created a cycle of criticism and degradation.

I’m sure I’m not the only girl who stood in front of the mirror and said to herself,
“You’re fat.
“You’re ugly.
“You look like a boy.
“You should starve yourself.
“Or throw up your food.
“Your thighs are too big.
“Your hips are too wide.
“Your arms are too flabby.
“People are disgusted by your presence.
“I’m sure they can’t even look at you.
“Or they make fun of you behind your back.
“Why don’t you look like her?” and the list of criticism never ends.

My family perpetuated it. I remember my mother telling my sister she couldn’t have any new clothes until she lost weight. And when we would workout, the family would stick around and poke jokes at us and make fun of us. Laughing at how we jiggled as we exercised or making running commentary and criticism at whether or not we were following the video workouts correctly.

It’s no surprise, I developed a very bad relationship with my body that resulted in no self-esteem to speak of and a total of zero on the self worth scale.

At the age of nineteen, I moved out on my own. I developed the vicious cycle of dieting, working out and binging.

The goal was always to become skinny.

Oct 2016

My relationship with food was one of reward and then punishment. I’d look at people who were skinny because they had eating disorders and wished I was one of them, not realizing the severity of those disorders or the fact that I may already have one.

To top it all off the self degradation continued around the clock. It led me to date a man seventeen years older than me- who I had no attraction to- just because I believed I didn’t deserve better. It led to wearing clothing I hated because they covered all the body parts I despised. It led me to seclude myself from others because I was sure they saw me through my eyes as well.

Shopping focused on how much the outfit covered because I didn’t want people to look at me and gawk at my fatness and my cellulite. I’d wear pants with a knee length dress over it because I hated my knees and thighs. Shopping led to more binge eating because it was such a miserable experience and I’d go home thinking there was never an end to this misery and so who cares anymore?

I considered suicide multiple times. Often while driving I would think to myself that I could just drive off the ramp, or into that tree at top speed.

Oct 2016

The degradation didn’t stop at my physical appearance, but seeped into my emotional and mental state as well. My life felt pointless. I mean, who feels purposeful when they can’t stand the body they are born in; they can’t stand the mind they have; they can’t handle the emotions they feel? All of which put them in a cycle of self loathing.

Now that I think on it, I can’t pinpoint the exact moment when I started to turn things around. A number of things happened in my life that began to show me that I was worthy. Body Positive memes, pictures of beautiful plus size models, learning how to wear makeup, finding one or two outfits that made me feel good, starting a romantic relationship with my crush. All these things gave birth to the faint whisper in my mind, “Maybe you aren’t all that bad.”

Four years pass. I broke up with my boyfriend who had been my crush all those years ago. I no longer had a man who complimented me and loved me even when I felt fat and ugly. I no longer had my rock to keep me from diving into the deep end of my pool of self degradation.

April 2016

I joined a crossfit gym.

It had a six week introductory program that held their members accountable. I still wanted to be skinny. I still looked at the other women in my program and wished I looked like them. It was something to do. To keep me distracted from my personal life that was falling apart.

Joining this gym exposed me to women who were muscular and strong. They flew on the bars and lifted weights I never imagined a woman could lift. I remember staring, wide-eyed at these women. They were beautiful. Not Victoria’s-Secret-model-skinny-beautiful. But strong-fit-kickass-beautiful.

I believe that’s when I started to shift my views on what beauty I wanted to embody. I don’t think I’ll ever not want to be skinnier- that’s imprinted into my psyche so deeply it’ll take a lot more time and effort to be rid of that, but I now want something more- I want to be strong.

With this mindset my dedication to Crossfit was iron clad. I started off working out three days a week. After the six week program was up, it became 5-6 days a week. Crossfit showed me how to measure my progress beyond the numbers on the scale and I became addicted. I created a spreadsheet of all my personal records or PRs and consistently updated it, seeing that I was getting stronger and the weights kept getting heavier. Before I knew it, I had also lost over twenty pounds. Though the scale was a victory, the other measurements of my progress were my focus.

Summer 2016

As time passed, I saw my friends and coaches constantly getting injured at Crossfit and this scared me. I didn’t want an injury that would force me to stop working out for weeks at a time. I couldn’t go back to my life before this. So, I varied my workouts with weightlifting and yoga.

Creating a variety of workouts and programs for me to choose from was possibly one of the best things I did to keep me motivated and dedicated. I would assess my energy level and my needs for the day. Did I want to be part of a class and workout with others or did I need the solitude with music as my company instead? Do I have the energy for a vigorous workout or do I need to focus on strengthening and stretching? The answer to these questions provided the workout I would do that day.

I fell off the wagon. A number of times. Usually before this point, if I fell off, I never got back on. If I binged after a week of healthy eating, I’d say “Fuck it, I just ruined the whole week. I’m not strong enough to control myself. I love food.” Or if I went a week without working out I’d tell myself, “You weren’t making progress anyways. It’s too much time and you don’t have it.”

April 2016

This time my focus wasn’t on punishing myself. It was on the rewards of getting stronger. So I would miss a few days and I’d tell myself, “I need to get back so I don’t lose all the progress I made. I need to get back so I can keep getting stronger.”

A few weeks ago, I had a friend visit me from out of town. I worked out three times in two weeks. And I missed it. It took me another two weeks to get back on the wagon. But it’s so fulfilling and satisfying to be back and so I refuse to beat myself up over the four weeks of rarely hitting the gym.

I quit crossfit.

It was perfect to get me the motivation and dedication I needed in making an active lifestyle a habit. But I realized I preferred working out in solitude and weight lifting was that for me. I won’t stop there though, because I don’t want to end up getting bored and falling off for good. I plan on getting into boxing and taking martial arts.

Variation is key. A healthy mindset is key. A good relationship with food and and an active lifestyle is key. A good relationship with your body is key.

These are so much to juggle all at once. For me, developing a healthy mindset and building a better relationship with my body were the first things I focused on (following healthy, body positive, plus size models and people on Instagram and Pinterest helped immensely- they were unapologetic of their existence and up until that point my life was one big apology). Then I developed an active lifestyle that became an integral part of my day. My relationship with food followed. I refuse to diet, but I do try to eat healthy for the most part and I am aware of my macros even if I don’t quite track them anymore.

Oct 2016

This doesn’t happen overnight. I haven’t reached my goals yet, but I’m more focused on the journey as opposed to the end results now. I’m embracing every change and every progression I make mo matter no small or insignificant.

This struggle is real. It’s tangible. It’s being felt by more women and girls than we think. Let’s share our stories. Let’s help uplift and support one another on our individual journeys. In the end though, to make any lasting change in our lives I learned that we must find the strength and motivation from within.

My brilliant photographer (IG & Facebook: Sierra Prime) asked me to write a piece about my transformation. This was the result of our colaboration.

Why Makeup is so Important to Me

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Why Makeup is so Important to Me

I create this amazing picture and post of an item I absolutely love, but often find myself hesitating to post it onto Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. As my thumb hovers over the “post” button, I am awash with worry. Am I posting too many pictures of this makeup? Am I being pushy with my love for this brand?  My biggest fear is that I’m becoming that dreaded spammer that everyone hates. 

Do my friends and followers think I’m spamming them? Do they feel I’m pushing them to buy a product they have no interest in? Am I blowing up their timeline? 

Surprisingly, there are many times I cancel my post and save it for later or for never (eventually being lost in the labyrinth my phone album filled with 6000+ photos). 

And the dreaded day came, an acquaintance of mine sent me a message on Facebook telling me that she didn’t know why she was seeing so many of my posts (aka it was blowing up her feed) and that she believes that I’m beautiful with or without makeup (as if to tell me not to try so hard- at what? I have no idea).

The new reveal that my favorite makeup company, Younique, came out with on July 1st (3D Fiber Lashes Plus) got me all excited again about sharing all these amazing products with my friends and followers. But it didn’t squash my apprehension and anxiety over how others will take it. Not one bit. 

Being the reflective person I am, I spent some time thinking about why this makeup is so important to me. Why I still post about it and haven’t given up on it yet (like I’ve given up on Pure Romance, for example). 

I definitely don’t wear it for others. Not for any man or any woman. I often wear makeup when I’m not doing anything or not even leaving the house for the day. 

And I love love love playing with my makeup and experimenting with it when I’m home alone. 

I started wearing makeup late in my teens (like 19 years old!). My family looked down on people who did and often scoffed at any “girly-ness” that is exhibited. The tomboy I was as a child wasn’t natural for me. It was forced. I admired the women and girls that got to do up their hair and wear makeup and dress fashionably, while my hair was disheveled (my father often called me a cheetah) and covered at all times when in public; I wasn’t allowed to wear makeup of any kind; and always dressed super conservatively. 

To top it all off, I had a terribly thick unibrow- a special gift from my father- and a mustache! Yes, a mustache! (It was such an embarrassment). 

So imagine having to maneuver the world of beauty and makeup when you’re already an adult. And not waiting that long because you chose to, but because you weren’t allowed to. 

These are some of the reasons why I embrace makeup and fashion and hold them so dear to me. 

I wear makeup for me, because I love it. Not because I wear it for others. 
But why Younique? 

I used to be a Sephora addict. Buying all this expensive makeup that I wear for maybe a month and then for some reason it no longer feels right and I no longer like how it makes me look. Not a single makeup product I bought from Sephora was ever used up in its entirety. I always ended up throwing the makeup away when (in the best case) I’d only used up half of it and (in the worst case) I’d used it a handful of times and then “lost” it in my makeup drawers and then had to throw it out when I realized it’s been expired for a year already. 

In the few years I’ve been wearing makeup (before switching to Younique) I threw away hundreds (thousands?) of dollars on my makeup. Yes. Threw money away. I may as well just have flushed the cash down the toilet. (This is when I feel like I’m a telemarketer with all my cliches that ring so true)

Not only does Younique make the best mascara but I’ve used every single Younique product I’ve purchased. Until there wasn’t a drop left. 

I have so many reasons why I love this stuff and want to share it with everyone. And when I think about all of this, I realize that this is why I am so passionate about this brand. 

I wish I could get angry at myself for letting how others react to what I post affect me. But it is who I am. I care about how people perceive me and I care about what I do that affects them (even when they can just unfollow or unfriend me or choose to hide my posts).

I will continue to post on social media all about the wonderful brand of makeup that I use and I will continue to fight the apprehensions I have at how others will react. 

Pecan Carrot Banana Bread

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Pecan Carrot Banana Bread

This morning I woke up with the inspiration that I should make a fusion of banana bread and carrot cake. How have I never thought of this before?

For the past two years, whenever I noticed that our bananas were getting ripe (which was every time we owned bananas), I would tell my boyfriend that I needed to make banana bread. And for the past two years, I would just never get around to it and the poor bananas ended up in the trash.

This morning was different. I woke up to a text from my school district that summer school was canceled for today because of Hurricane Bill and for some reason I was inspired with the idea of carrot banana bread.

One reason I’d never gotten around to making banana bread over the last two years, was because my boyfriend isn’t a fan. I knew he loved carrot cake so I was hoping he’d enjoy this.


A quick search on Google, revealed that banana bread fused with carrot cake isn’t a new thing. But there were tons upon tons of different recipes. From decadent-clog-your-arteries recipes to super-healthified-doesn’t-sound-too-great recipes. I wanted something in the middle, that didn’t result in me having to go to the grocery store for more ingredients.


I had four extremely ripe bananas that were about to expire if I did nothing with them and a bag of carrots in the fridge. All baking ingredients were in my pantry. But I had no butter and I didn’t want to use vegetable oil. So I continued to search. I finally came upon a Carrot Cake Banana Bread recipe that looked promising.


I looked at the ingredient list and decided to play around with some of the measurements and switch out some of the ingredients to fit what I already had. Needless to say, my Pecan Carrot Banana Bread recipe was born and it is heavenly and delicious.

Here’s my version of the recipe:

Carrot Pecan Banana Bread

  • Servings: 8x8 pan or 2 loaves
  • Time: 20 mins
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

2½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoon baking powder
1½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon fine sea or table salt
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 large eggs, at room temperature
½ cup coconut oil
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar or turbinado (I did half a cup of each but will most likely split it ¾ of both brown & regular sugar next time I make this)
2 cup mashed banana from very ripe bananas (about 4 medium sized bananas)
2 cups firmly packed grated carrots
1 cup chopped walnuts (or pecans)

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare pan by spraying it with Pam or a nonstick spray.

Into a large mixing bowl mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon together.

In a medium bowl whisk together the eggs, oil, vanilla, sugar and banana. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and mix until just combined.

Fold in the carrots and pecans just until combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake 50-55 minutes or until a toothpick in center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack 15 minutes then enjoy!

Refrigerate leftover cake up to 5 days.

 

The original recipe had an additional recipe for cream cheese frosting. As I stated before, I am butter-less and so I decided to forgo the frosting. It does sound good and will definitely take this recipe from bread to desert. I do wonder if the frosting will work if I switched out the butter with coconut oil. I’ll try it out another day.

 

The Egotistical Teacher

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There is an art to teaching well. 

Despite the multitude of books and information out there about teaching well, there is a trait, I believe, that is integral in any good teacher. If you don’t have it, no book will be able to help. 

The teacher who does a good job teaching doesn’t just know her content, but is charismatic and personable as well. Just like an actor must connect with her audience, or a sales person must connect with her client, a teacher must connect with her students. 

But being charismatic and personable isn’t enough. 

To do this the teacher must be a bit of an egomaniac. Yes, that wasn’t a typo or mistake. 

The teacher must be an egomaniac. 

As a teacher, I have to be confident in my skin, willing to take on any comment or statement made in my presence, and still carry myself with an air of one unaffected by such comments. I have to know my worth and believe in my self-importance.  And for it to come across, I have to believe I’m integral to the growth and success of my students.  

It’s almost like acting. The good actor must believe that the fate of the show rests in their own hands- no matter how small the role may be. 

To be egoistical in the teaching profession, a teacher must always be ON. She must be charming, proud, and happy and, very importantly, look the part. She must be dressed to perfection every single day. The clothing a teacher wears is often more telling of the teacher’s person and confidence than the words she speaks. She must radiate this confidence in every aspect of her being: speech, looks, and interactions. 

I can’t stress enough how important image is. Students hold on to their prejudices much longer than anyone else I’ve met. Whenever they complain about a teacher, they start by expressing how annoying the teacher sounds (yes, I know we can’t “help” how we talk or what our voice sounds like), how ugly the teacher looks/dresses, and then finally say something about the actual subject being taught or way the class is run. In that exact order. 

Dressing professionally for work is a no brainier. And yet it feels that many teachers have missed the memo. Students aren’t going to give two shits about a teacher unless they respect her. And take her seriously. They have to look up to her. No one looks up to a person who looks like they’ve given up on themselves. 

Students can say mean things. Just like an audience can throw rotten tomatoes at an actor on stage (do they still do that?); students can be quite effective in making themselves heard via their back handed comments and criticism. This is where being egotistical is key in teaching. Many teachers may engage their students upon hearing these comments- validating the students’ power over the teacher and instilling their power, within the classroom, to derail the lesson or activity. However, by using egotism, a teacher can do away with much of these issues. She should not bat her gorgeous lashes at the comments and should instead appear above them. The comments are being made by incomplete human beings (we’re all in some stage of incompleteness theoughout out lives) and so they should not be given a second moment’s thought. 

Comments to “ignore” are ones about showing favoritism, anger towards the system, questioning the importance of education, commenting about the workload, grumbling about the subject, hating on the skill being taught, etc. 

I’m definitely not the teacher who thinks she’s better than her students, but I do believe I’m better than most other teachers. And this belief provides me with the power I need to keep a (mostly) smoothly running classroom. My students see me radiating my love and confidence for my profession and my love and confidence in them that they have no choice but to perform as expected within the four walls of my classroom. 

I’ve also noticed that if I “turn the other cheek” on the impossible-to-please students (or administration), my other (faithful) students often put them in their place by defending what I do and reasoning with them.  This has happened to me more times than I can count. 

Why take what they say to heart? They’re just saying it to get under our skin. Often, if I feel I need to address an issue with a student- such as an unacceptable comment or action- then I pull them aside later or ask them to talk to me in the hallway. However, I’ve had to do so less and less as students realize that they can’t get under my skin. I’m the adult. They’re the teen. I need to be more mature and more thick skinned, which means my backhanded comments and witty responses stay intact in my mind as I smile sweetly at the offender. 

Case and point: a good teacher must have an ego. 

Purpose

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I started this blog hoping that I may be able to finally be open, honest and real. I’ve blogged for many years before under anonymity and it was easy. Now that I’m open about who I am, blogging has proven to be much harder than it once was. 

I truly believe that it is important to be open and honest about my experiences and past. I’ve lived too long in hypocracy that even now there are people who once “knew” me who refuse to believe my story. I guess we were that good at hiding our truth. 

What makes me special? Nothing. 

But I have a story to share and if my trials and tribulations, my past endurances and suffering could help one person who feels alone no longer feel lonely, then everything I’ve seen and done and lived through would not be in vain. 

Am I nieve? Yes, I may be idealistic in my views of what my life’s purpose may be. And that could possibly be one reason why I became a teacher- to try and help others navigate this big bad world we live in. Hopefully, my blog will be another tool in helping me help others.

Namaste. 

Spring Break Anxieties

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This spring break I’ll be visiting my sisters in southern California. It goes without saying that I’m really excited to see my three sisters. 

So why am I also dreading this family reunion?

I’m anxious mainly because I know we will be judging each other. Whether we like it or not, we have always been competitive to the point we revelled in our siblings’ failures. Though our lives are so different today and there is no reason to judge, the residue of the habit is hard to get rid of. 

I think I’m most anxious because I wonder what they’ll think of me. Will they comment to one another when I’m out of earshot that I’ve gained weight? That my hair’s too thin? Will they remark on my outfits? Will they comment on how deep the circles under my eyes are? 

I think each of them is just absolutely gorgeous and since the last time I really spent time with them was back when they were much younger, I really don’t have much to compare them to. And I don’t want to compare them to begin with. I want to get to know them as adults and work on building a stronger relationship now that we’re older. 

Maybe we’re just more critical of ourselves and I’m projecting my insecurities on to them. I hope I am. Because I just want to have fun with them and build our relationships anew. 

Mini-Memories

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Talking to my students brings so much insight to my life. They’re always so inquisitive and curious about what brought me to their school and how my life has turned out. 

This last week, I had them writing mini-memoirs. As is to be expected many students just looked at me and were like, “We don’t have anything to tell”. Which is obviously untrue. 

So I dug into my experiences to give them ideas. I told them about the video tape my dad made of my two older sisters waiting for me to be born. My mother was in the bedroom with the midwife and they were in the other room. There was a whiteboard on the wall with a few names scribbled on it in Arabic. One of those names was خلود Khuloud. And even though they were still deciding on what my name would be, they kept calling me by the name they eventually gave me. I like to believe that that was when my family started our tradition of all of us having a hand in deciding the name for the next baby. 

Or like the time I almost drowned when I jumped into the deep end of the swimming pool as a little kid. Or feeling like I was drowning when we were at the beach in Malaysia and my father kept throwing me into the salty ocean and scooping me back up again while everyone laughed and enjoyed the warmth and beauty of the day.

Or the time when I was hit by a motorcycle as my sister, our friend and I were crossing the road heading home. I remember coming to this road, looking both ways and noticing a lone motorcycle in the distance. It was a warm and sunny day and our friend had her bike with her. We decided it was safe to cross. And this is when everything gets hazy. I don’t know if I tripped and fell or if the motorcycle just hit me and then I fell. All I knew was that my face was smashed into the hard concrete and gravel ground. I was crying and the motorcycle was on top of me and then it was gone. I don’t remember hurting- my body was numb. My sister and friend lifted me up onto the bike and each grabbed one side of the handlebars, keeping me balanced between them as they ran to our house. I remember not being able to see infront of me. The tears made everything blurry. For some reason that is beyond my comprehension, I felt bad that they were pushing me and so I tried to use the peddle to help. I think my sister yelled at me to stop. 

In no time at all, we were home and I was lying on the floor of the living room. I think my mother decided to change my clothes, but I can’t be too sure. I swear I was above my body watching everything happen in a blur. Everyone was screaming but they were all muffled. My sister was telling them what happened. I don’t remember where our friend went. My father lifted me and put me in the back seat of the car and raced me to the hospital. 

I don’t think I broke anything, I was badly bruised and needed stitches and a cast on my leg. I don’t know how long it took for me to heal. The last thing I remember is being in the car going to the hospital. Everything after is a black void in my memory. I could easily have misremembered the details, I was only five or so years old. 

How did we get off topic? The point was to get my students to write about themselves. The point wasn’t so that I could captivate them with my own stories. But sometimes it is important to go somewhat off topic. To make yourself human in front of your students. To captivate them with your stories. I like to believe my honesty and opennes helps them trust me and open up to me. 

It’s difficult to ask students who lead rough lives to share their stories with us. They often don’t want to share their truths even if I’m the only one reading it. I believe building a relationship of trust and honesty helps make it easier. 

Reliving my experiences helps me appreciate the life I’ve lead and who I have become because of my unique encounters. It also reminds me that my students are currently experiencing encounters and events that will forever shape who they will become. And I pray everyday that the time they spend with me are timrs that have a lasting and positive effect on who they grow up to become.