More On Happiness This Holiday Season

I was a bit long-winded yesterday, so I’ll try to make my Christmas post a bit more concise…

I got onto Facebook this morning and was greeted by tons of beaming smiles and pictures of presents.  And that’s awesome.  But what happens once the euphoria wears off and normalcy sets in?  Will the extreme happiness still be there?  Or will there be a little anti-climactic letdown as we get on with daily life?

My husband and I got into a deep philosophical chat about my issue with the “Happiness is your birthright” comment in the Angel From Hell trailer I posted.  He didn’t understand my objection.  He thought it’s a nice idea to think that everybody deserves to be happy; I argued that we do NOT deserve to be happy; just have our needs met.  And that’s where we began to pontificate.

From my perspective, the only thing we deserve is to not suffer.

If I do not go hungry, I have heat when I’m cold and my other basic needs met, then that’s good enough for me.  Truly.

I do not think I’m entitled to anything more than to break even in my day.  Anything else is extra and while it may roll over into tomorrow and can ease any insecurities, it’s not happiness.

Similarly, money and possessions cannot bring happiness; rather, I think it just raises the bar higher to make increasing demands to keep a certain status quo.  I prefer not to chase this elusive emotion.  I’d rather just achieve contentment with what I already possess.

But if happiness means the ability to experience joy, then yes, we all should possesses this skill.

The key is to be able to experience intense pleasure from every day events: a feel of piece of chocolate as it melts in your mouth; the smell of the earth on a warm day; the song of a bird at dusk; a cozy sweatshirt…

All these little sensations bring me happiness because I realize how lucky I am to be able to be in the present moment and be thankful for these little gifts.

But I do not think that the mere fact that I am on this Earth entitles me to any excess beyond sustaining life.

So my 153Promise for the day is to remind my children to be thankful for all the extras they have in life.

It may be a cliché, but happiness really is a state of mind that comes from within.  If being content with what we already have can be our new happiness, then that’s the key to true inner peace.

Fostering this ability is the best gift we can give our children.



A Real Christmas Miracle

It’s Christmas Eve Day.  Kids are out of school; there are last minute shopping for stocking stuffers; cookies are laid out, and presents go under the tree for tomorrow morning.

Little ones will wake up super early, eager to rip open their gifts.

Some even go to church.

Before I get too deep into my post, I submit to you one of my favorite clips of the holidays:

I try not to speak too much about faith on this blog because that subject can get very touchy due to all the perversions of the beliefs in all the different world religions.  However, I think it’s appropriate today, given all the expectations of tonight and tomorrow.  But first, I think it’s only fair that I tell you a little bit about who I am so you have a little perspective on the woman who’s writing this Christmas Miracle post…

I am Muslim.  I converted (some prefer the term ‘reverted’) when I got married to my husband several years ago.  I thought it was important to have a united front as a family.  His whole family is wonderful and they all live the true Islamic way.  They love God (Allah) and have shown me more love since meeting me a few years ago than I’ve experienced my whole life by my family of origin.

Before that, I was studying Buddhism.  (I still do.)  Before that, I was not much of anything.  Before that, I was a hard core Catholic.  Like, leading the Sunday mass as a cantor in high school Catholic.  My journey has had many twists and turns, but my path right now has me wearing a scarf.  (I suppose when I decide to commit to something, I really embrace it.)

People see the scarf and make all kinds of assumptions.  People think I’m oppressed, crazy, brainwashed, a terrorist…  all those great media-perpetuated stereotypes.  People somehow think Islam is the Anti-Christian religion.  As a result, I feel like I need to go out of my way to really get into the holiday spirit, just to show that Muslims are not some Godless group.  I’m sure most of the general public would be shocked to learn that we “believe” in Jesus- he’s in the Qur’an.  He was born of the Virgin Mary.  He traveled and preached the Word of God.  He was prosecuted for his teachings, and he will come back at the end of days as the Messiah.  The main departure is that Muslims do not concede that Jesus is God, and that he did not die on the cross for our sins.  But many surveys have been conducted asking self-proclaimed Christians if they believe that Jesus is the only way to everlasting life, and the numbers are in the teens.

I could go on and on about the topic of the faiths and how they are observed, but in short, I am NOT anti-Christmas.  When people ask me if I “celebrate” Christmas, I have to really gage how they ask it.  Are they worried about offending me?  Are they asking about Islam?  Is it just a passive aggressive poke?  So to answer, while I do not acknowledge Christmas as a day to give praise to the birth of God incarnate, yes, I do observe that this is the time to recognize the birth of Jesus.

It’s also the time of the winter solstice and the new calendar year.

So do I decorate for the season?  Yes.  In fact, we’re the only house on the block with religious decorations!  (We have an light up angel hanging off our porch banister.)

Do I give gifts of affection when we visit relatives over winter break?  Yes.  We have pictures of our son sitting on Santa’s lap (taken for free at the YMCA).  In Turkey, Santa is called “Noel Baba” and in fact, the original St. Nicholas is from Turkey!  You see him and decorated trees in Turkish malls this time of year.

In short, do I participate in the wide-spread secularism of Christmas?  Like most of the general public, yes.  But our household keeps it low key for two reasons:

  • we truly embrace what Christmas is all about and treat the true meaning with respect
  • we are trying to teach our children moderation and not buy into the sense of greed and entitlement of the season.

I held this position even before I met my now husband.  I’ve always thought that Jesus has been lost along the way and capitalism has taken over.  Sad on all accounts.  In that sense, Charlie Brown and I are of the same mind.

So my point is that I’d love to see some Christmas Miracles tonight and tomorrow… if you celebrate Christmas, please take your children to church.  Pray to God for peace on Earth.  Think of Jesus and what he preached during his 33 years.  Listen to the sermon of your spiritual leaders.  Hopefully, he or she will remind the congregation that we are all brothers and sisters in the eyes of God.

And when your children begin with the Gimmie-gimmies, pause for a moment to give them a reality check about where their hearts are Christmas morning.  In that sense, a little Buddhist mindfulness would be a great addition amongst the boxes and bows.

What prompted me to make this post?

I was on the elliptical at the Y yesterday, and this came on the machine:

Perfect timing, ironically.  Just as the story of the angel of the Lord sends word to Mary that she will be giving birth to Jesus, an Angel from Hell comes to a woman and tells her that, “You don’t just deserve to be happy; it’s your birthright.”


That sense of entitlement is exactly what is wrong with our society.

Yes, I am Muslim.  And I am going to truly observe the meaning of Christmas by humbly praying to God that parents everywhere — no matter what faith — make the 153Promise to their families by teaching their children to be thankful for everything that they have.  Gifts are not just the items under the tree.  Gifts are everywhere: your home, your working body parts, your bosses or teachers, your relatives…

It’s my prayer that Christmas Miracles of appreciation are in the air… no just tonight and tomorrow, but all year around.

That’s how this Muslim observes Christmas.

Kisses.  XxXx.





When We Fail…

(Note: I am not finished with this post, but I wanted to push it out.  Please check back later on in the week for more content.)

Yes, this is a site that wants to focus on showing love and affection to our children.  I can practically smell the chocolate chip cookies and am blinded by all the shiny glitter.  But sometimes, it’s necessary to go a little Dark…

Yes, it’s the holiday season and all thoughts are on celebrating and happy times.  However, sometimes heightened emotions with all those expectations of recreating a Norman Rockwell moment can create a lot of pressure and ultimately backfire.  Especially if there’s been a little dipping into the giant punchbowl of “Holiday Cheer.”

So while everybody’s hyper-focused on trimming the tree, wrapping presents and forcing everybody to wear matching outfits for their yearly festive family photo that gets uploaded onto their Facebook page, please allow me to throw a little reality into the mix.

I thought it important to actually run down a list of  dysfunctional parenting techniques and their consequences.  Perhaps some of them may sound familiar because you grew up in this situation.  If so, then you may already have some insight and be making adjustments so you don’t repeat the cycle.  The also may strike a chord because you realize your child is already displaying certain behaviors listed below; in that case, you can look deep into yourself or any other authority figure in their lives to identify the source and then make adjustments accordingly.

We’re all human and flawed.  This list is not to name, blame, and shame.  It is to serve as a resource toward kinder, more loving choices.  Please take it in that spirit.

Also, I feel the need to make a disclaimer: I am NOT a licensed therapist.  My knowledge comes from years of teaching, extensive personal research from a variety of reliable sources, and my own life.  They are in my own words, from my own perspective.  I also cannot possibly list where I got my information, as it is common knowledge within the psychiatric community.  For more information, I suggest you consult the website.  Also realize that there are no physical tests for any psychological/psychiatric disorders- the only criteria is that enough boxes are checked in a list of symptoms.  This ambiguity causes much controversy, as one therapist may diagnose a patient with one disorder and another therapist may assess in a very different way.  Additionally, some people will want to label typical “normal” behavior as a disorder, while others may normalize, or downplay, toxic behaviors.  There is also a lot of “bleeding” from one disorder to another due to the similarity of conditions, either causes or effects.  Comorbidity, or multiple disorders, may also occur.  Furthermore, the DSM is constantly changing, expanding, or collapsing their conditions (presumably for insurance coding purposes or in response to political lobbying or legislative changes).  Finally, it is important to realize that there are some emotional/mental disorders that are physical (chemical) in nature not caused by any learned patterns and may require more extensive treatment.

Additionally, some patients seek out medication, while others only seek behavior modification or both.  This post is not meant to be a diagnostic tool.  Rather, it is meant to create awareness and mindfulness regarding healthy relationship decisions in the future to foster an affectionate environment, enabling children to thrive.

The following list is a general list of maladaptations that may be the result of dysfunctional parenting, in alphabetical order.  Check back from time to time, as I will update as I think of more and expand my descriptions.

Addictions (Compulsions)


*Attachment Disorder

*Borderline Personality (BPD) and its variations


*Dependent Personality Disorder


****Dissociative Personality Disorder, fka, Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD)

Eating Disorders (Anorexia/Bulimia)

*Histrionic Personality

Love Avoidance

*Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)

***Not Otherwise Specified (NOD)

Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)

**Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

*Reactive Personality Disorder

You may want to revisit this post from time to time as a gentle barometer to see if the behaviors of either you or people around you seem to be aligned with any of the above patterns.  If so (or even the need to re-read this list), you may want to seek out some professional support.

So when you find yourself getting caught up with the pressures of life — be it something like the holidays or just daily routine business — keep the 153Promise to yourself and your loved ones to be mindful and aware of the fact that everything you do has a ripple effect of reactions, and act only from a position of L.O.V.E.







The Gift That Keeps on Giving

It’s only twelve days until Christmas, and people everywhere are rushing around to buy gifts for each other.

I’ve been to one party where the “rule” was for everyone to buy each other a $20.00 gift card.

I know some families who start groups on FB just to list what they want for gifts.

One of my colleagues said her mother texted a due date for gift requests before her shopping day and she got a another text warning her that if she missed the deadline, she’d only get socks and underwear.

I have to say, I never quite got the concept of buying gifts when they seem to be a mandatory exchange.  If I have to buy for you and you have to buy for me, why don’t we just agree to skip the whole business and just stay at home with a good movie instead of getting mauled at the mall?

After all, why do we give gifts, anyway?  Isn’t it as a token of affection?  Isn’t it as a symbolic gesture during Christmas to replicate the giving of the gifts from the Magi?

Don’t get me wrong- I love the season with the yummy foods, beautiful lights, and cozy smells.  But I am suggesting that we re-examine the spirit in which gifts are supposed to be given and if you still feel the pressure to get something for those near and dear to you (if you haven’t already), consider a gift that goes far beyond some pretty wrap, bow, or bag.

Or even if you have purchased the requisite present, imagine if came along with the  153Promise of giving them daily affection with the goal of supporting a functional, loving relationship.

Some possible ways to do this are:

-Buy some books on parenting, relationships or self-help books about issues you are currently working on and sharing that purchase with your loved one

-Take your family shopping together for games (that you play at a table- NOT a computer) you can play as a family

-Have a family meeting to decide on a few day trips like the zoo, a museum, or some other experiential activity

There are many other possibilities… one great way is to ask them what they’d like to do, rather than what they want.

So as you watch everybody else run around for last minute shopping for things that most likely will end up in the back of the closet in a few weeks, why not make the decision to put a stop to that materialistic pressure and put your energy into truly making the spirit bright… by showing your affection through deeds and time and making an effort on a daily basis to show them just how much you love them.

That’s a gift everyone will be able to enjoy all year long.