May 31, 2012

As a single mom do you leave your two young girls alone with a new boyfriend while you go out shopping?

You absolutely should not leave your two young kids with a boyfriend while you go out; not for any reason. You will put your kids at risk and you might deeply regret it. Once the damage is done there is no undoing the act. This is not to say that boyfriends should not be considered. They can be if you know the person very well, the kids like him and are used to him, and you don’t stay away for more than fifteen minutes or so. Otherwise, the kids should always be in your sight. It is just too dangerous to take chances. Kids are hurt every day by strangers as well as by people in the family.

Setting the parameters

• As a single parent your first priority is your kids. They trust and rely on you for their safety. You cannot abuse this by going out and leaving them with strangers while you are out having fun.

• Make arrangements with your mother or sister to look after your kids when you go out. Make sure the person is reliable and not going to be on the internet or playing computer games.

• If your former husband is good with the kids, let them see him more often. Your severance is with your former husband, not with the kids. Let them be with him for the weekend rather than be with a new boyfriend.
• Particularly because you have girls, do a background check on your boyfriend to see if he is a
safe person to be around your kids.

• Teach your girls not to sit on anyone’s lap – not even uncles and aunts – and to come and tell you if the boyfriend touches them anywhere.

• Teach your girls not to get in the boyfriend’s car or not to go anywhere with him- even if he says that they have to go and look for the dog.

• Have your mom come to the house to look after the kids if you are going to be out for a long time. Use this time also to do your shopping for the week, giving you more time with your kids.

May 30, 2012

Sugar babies, the new word for thinly veiled prostitution

Some of you know that I have a gripe with Dr Phil every so often and all in good spirit. He just aggravated me to no end with that whole Fred Williams thing. Today, however, I am fully on the side of the host and write this article because it is definitely a topic that young women should be made aware of.

Today when the show opened, five stunning young women sat on the stage and proudly announced that they were sugar babies and accepted money and gifts. They were careful with their language and could not understand what the fuss was all about. They convinced themselves that it was not immoral and illegal to have sex for money and were quite adamant that they were seen as prostitutes.

They all claimed that they have five or six sugar daddies and tried to convince Dr Phil who we all know takes no guff that taking money or gifts from a sugar daddy for sex is not wrong. Apparently these women are on a site and explicitly invite men to contact them for sex. In the words of one woman, she said something to the effect that men did not want to be with fat, ugly and old women, and they got paid to be in the company of men.

There was a former Federal Prosecutor on the show also who told them it was illegal and they just laughed her off. The uncanny thing about all of this is that these women do not see how shallow and stupid they are. One even said, “If a man wants to drop $300 into my Gucci bag, why should I not take it?” A pimp for one of these women was in the audience and wanted to defend the role of the pimp. When Dr Phil rained down on the girls he made for a side door and took off.

The grand pimp then came on and tried to convince Dr Phil and the audience what a good thing he was doing. These women could save for college, they could meet other wealthy men and it was all a network run like a business. He could not understand why the audience and Dr Phil couldn’t see his point. We were told that there was now a man in the audience whose twenty year old daughter was trolling the site as he spoke. He came on the show to see for himself and what he could do to prevent his daughter from getting involved in such a site.

Parents beware! This is a multi million dollar business. Know where your girls are. Make sure you have a good relationship with your kids so you don’t have a child selling her body for sex. These women are sad and pathetic despite their sexy appearance; sadder than this is the fact that they really believe they will live forever and have no conscience

May 29, 2012

The Dr Phil and Fred Williams saga

I’ve been following the Dr Phil show on and off since the show first started, and every time I tune in there is Dr Phil with the crack addict Fred Williams and his wife, Cathy trying to get the couple rehabilitated. Dr Phil usually gives a crack addict a chance to tell his story and then gets tough. He does not play around with the seriousness of the topic and will tell an addict what he thinks and what has to be done. All nice and wrapped up with the results three months later when the rehabilitation period is over.

In the case of Fred Williams the almighty Dr Phil has been lied to left and right by Fred Williams and still persists in listening to the lies, sending Williams off to rehab, following Williams’ progress, being lied to again. Any other addict Dr Phil would have read them their rights and sent them packing. I wondered why the favoritism, the money which was being spent, and the time Dr Phil had invested in one guest.

This morning I tune in to the program and there is Fred Williams sitting on the nice couch with new teeth in his mouth, a new haircut, new clothes, shoes, and his wife, Cathy in new garb also, with sparkling white teeth in her mouth, a snazzy hairdo with blond streaks and decent clothes. They had become celebrities for being liars and crack addicts. When Williams saw his wife enter the set, a tear appeared in his eyes. When Dr Phil reminded him and showed him a video of an earlier program some months back, Williams admitted he told all the lies and was laughing and having fun at all his attempts to get clean.

Is anyone kidding? We all know that addicts are liars and that we cannot take their word. Instead, Dr Phil sat on the opposite side of Williams and told him that he believed in him all that time. A video was shown of Williams sitting on the set. The video showed Williams entering rehab, staying six days, coming out of rehab and quite proudly marveled as he told how he had used crack and lied to Dr Phil all the time. They were almost buddies as he told the big host how he had turned to robbing and stealing cell phones and doing crack. Dr Phil was proud of him. He had taken a man out of a tent and given him respectability. He was showing his largesse. Get real, Dr Phil. Three months from now we are seeing William again. Imagine how many other addicts could’ve been helped with all that money spent. I guess one has to think out of the box all the time and think of the ratings.

Getting rid of a mean headache

Often people get headaches from not having enough sleep. Don’t underestimate the healing benefits of sleep. There are many kinds of headaches and often all it takes is a good night’s uninterrupted sleep, drinking lots of water and eating the right foods to get rid of them or not have headaches at all. It is also wise not to eat late at night and then go to bed with a full stomach. It can cause indigestion and nightmares and you can wake up feeling jumpy.

Kind of headaches

There are cluster headaches, migraine headaches, tension headaches, pressure headaches and so many of them that they have names. To speak generally most of them come from not having enough sleep, binge drinking, and hangovers. There are also migraine headaches where the pain is so persistent that it becomes worse when there are blinking lights flashing from the television screen, loud noises, or there is too much light in the room. A person who has had these headaches persistently knows what to do; he draws the curtains or the blinds to suffused light, switches off the radio and television and goes to sleep.

Determining what kind of headache you have

Tension headaches seem to be the worst and the sufferer feels a dull pressure behind his eyes and numbness down the side of the face. This can be quite scary if it is the first time you are experiencing it and the numbness can make you think it is a stroke. Migraine headaches can be frightening too as you can vomit and sometimes also have a problem with vision. These headaches are often caused by food reaction, hormonal changes and stressors. Try meditation. Have aromatherapy if you like it. Try a massage, get lots of sleep, and eat properly before you run out for headache tablets.

May 28, 2012

How and when do you explain the role of two mommies to a three year old child?

With a lot of gays coming out of the closet, Queen Latifah being the latest reveal, how do you explain to a child that he has two mommies and no daddy in the home? He asks you, ‘where is my daddy?’ Or he says to you simply that his friend has a daddy, why doesn’t he have one? What do you say? And is four the right age to bring it up, especially as your partner is just your partner for the last year and the child’s father lives in another country and he has no male figure to look up to?

Understanding the questions and answers

It is not a simple question to answer as some people will embrace your love for your partner, and others will judge you. To those who judge, my response is to first judge you. Remember what Jesus said about throwing stones? Having said that, a child must be answered and if he is big enough, I believe, he is old enough to understand. Children watch television and know what is going on. Probably they could articulate the situation better than you. You must however not tell a lie. You don’t have to be specific, but he must know the answer to why there is no father.

A personal matter

As for the question, I don’t know enough about same-sex relationships and what the best way to answer your child should be. This is a personal matter and only you can decide how it should be done. Still, the subject must come up so that there is clarity and everyone feels comfortable. You do not want your child to get his answers from people who hate all sorts of people. Your personal life is your own. You have to account only to your own conscience.

Things to think about

Having said that are you going to quote the Bible, use common sense, treat the subject in a way that might or might not upset some people, or just give a one sentence response? You can be sure that some people will have a lot to say, but they have their rights too to express their opinion. For this writer I would like to know myself how one would explain two mommies and no daddy. What you tell your children at this age, especially if your child initiated the question, will stay with him and will be his reference material.

May 27, 2012

Curbing your child’s behavior in public

What do you do when you have a three-year-old daughter who screams all the time because she is demanding and when she is with you shopping she screams and has tantrums in the supermarket? She throws herself to the floor and if I do not give her what she wants she cries and screams even louder.

Discipline in the home

Teaching your child discipline, especially how to behave in public, starts long before you take her out. She will be with other children and think she is the only one and in pre school the other kids will not want to play with her. If she understands the difference between yes and no, she is old enough to listen to you when you tell her not to do something. Here is what you can do:

• Ask her nicely to get up from the floor. Speak in a calm voice and don’t worry about the people in the aisles. If she carries on tell her that you will send her to her room when you get home. You should not be afraid to deal with her recalcitrance right when it happens. Do not wait until you have come home. Connect punishment with bad behavior at the moment she is acting out. She might also fall asleep in the car and not know what she is being punished for.

• When you get home tell her that you want her to be a good girl at home and also when she is out with the family. If she screams and throw things around send her to her room and tell her she is not to come out until she knows how to behave. Tell her also if she carries on like that again, she will not only be sent to her room, she will have to sit in the corner with her face to the wall. If she rants and raves, put her on the stool and tell her to stop it.

• If your husband feels sorry for the child and gives her sweets to calm down, tell him not to interfere when you are doling out punishment. If he wants the kids to have good manners they have to listen to their parents. If she runs to him, tell her to go right away to her room. You are the boss; not a three year old child.

This may be hard for you to do at first, but you will see results. Children look to their parents for cues on how to behave. Set a good example by acting on your threats. They will soon learn that they cannot play one parent up against the other and who is the boss.

Severing your friendshhip with an addict

If you have a best friend who is seriously addicted to drugs and refuses to believe that he has an addictive nature and is a full blown addict, the best thing you can do for your friend is to sever the relationship between you and go your separate ways. It can be very wearing for family members and friends who have been around this person for years and now are just plain fed up with the whole thing. They have listened to the lies and the sob stories and now expect results or they are going to move on

Addicts, whether drug addicted, an alcoholic, or a gambler all fit in the same category of first class liars. They always think they are in control of their habit, but make the same mistakes all the time. You cannot fix an addiction on your own. You need support and you need a counselor the addict can call on if he needs to go through a hard patch. He also needs an intervention which can be set up by his family where help is on standby to take him directly to a rehabilitation clinic where he can be treated.

Things you can do and what he can do for himself

• If you are his girlfriend, a family member, or whatever, put your own sanity first and do not believe him if he says that he is going to stop and to give him another chance. You want to see that he is sober and doing what he should do to free himself of the disease. Remember, alcoholism is a disease. You can never cure it, but you can arrest it.

• Don’t give your friend money. Just say you are not going to support his habit and that it is over between you. You are tired of his lies and you want a life of your own.

• Give him information and books on alcoholism and tell him the one thing you will do is go with him to Alcoholics Anonymous.

• Mean what you say and end the relationship. Do not look back and don’t answer his calls. You have to be tough to help your friend and doing things on his own is part of recovery.

• Last, do not break your own rules by feeling sorry for him and getting sucked in again, just to be disappointed another time. Tell your friend that you just cannot be his friend anymore and that when he has gone for rehab and stopped drinking and proven himself, you can be friends again.

May 26, 2012

Is your guy losing interest in the relationship?

Does he come home from the office and say that he has to go out again after supper? Does he change his clothing, put on cologne and over check his appearance in the mirror? Trust your instinct. If he does not have a late meeting with the boss for a promotion, he is probably up to something. Maybe it is a surprise for you? Who knows? You have to test the waters to see if you are right or you will be suspicious forever. Women know long before the axe falls when there is trouble. Still, don’t jump the gun. Test it out and be sure before you ask him anything. Here is a quick way to find out if the relationship is changing.

• Call him at the office and ask him if he wants to have lunch with you at his favorite restaurant. Tell him it’s your treat for being such a great guy. If he says he has another appointment for lunch, give him the benefit of the doubt and let it go.

• Wait a day or two, don’t question him on his whereabouts and for supper prepare a nice meal. Wear something slinky and wear his favorite fragrance. Lay the table and on his plate place a folded card with the words: Booty call? Watch for his reaction. Is it spontaneous and romantic or does he show annoyance? This is a huge test as a man who is in love with a woman will do anything to get under the sheets.

• You have one last thing you can do. Ask him where he is going to every night as you would like to know. If he is anxious to explain to you and assure you that nothing between you has changed, you can breathe a soft sigh of relief. If he waves it off and says half heartedly that you are imagining things but don’t sound too convincing, you are probably in the beginning stages of a failing relationship.

• Mull over the suggestions above and determine whether you have something to worry about. You know him better than anyone. Do you feel that your suspicions are warranted and that he has changed towards you? Then probably you are right.

Saving money as a single parent in the US

If you are a single mom living in America there are many ways to save money to be able to survive. According to the US Census Bureau in 2006 there were approximately 14 million single parents responsible for raising 21.6 million children. Child care subsidies and public health insurance can help, but it is not enough. Here is a list of things you can do to put a little extra money in your pocket whether you live in the US or not.

• Use coupons and buy items which are on sale. This can save you dollars which can be used elsewhere.

• Buy generic household items; there is very little difference between regular and generic. You can purchase paper products, clothing, prescriptions, toiletries and many other items with coupons. You also have great savings with generic prescriptions.

• Shop at discount stores and buy certain items like toilet paper and canned goods in bulk. These are items you always need.

• Buy clothes that do not require dry cleaning and that you can wash yourself. This will save you money over the long run.

• Buy make up and hair tint from a drugstore and do your own nails and hair.

• Here is a big one if you are desperate: buy a used car and sell your newer model to give you some big cash where you can buy a cheaper car and save a few hundred.

• If you foresee a tough month or two ahead, you can also temporarily cancel your cable and internet service until you can afford to have it again.

• Shop at superstores where you can buy in bulk and save a lot. Buy your grains, seeds, beans and nuts at places like Target and Wal-Mart.

• If you want some weekend entertainment for the kids and have no money left, call the library or the museum to see what activities they have planned. Following these simple suggestions will ensure you have more money to spend.

May 24, 2012

Visiting a mosque for the first time

Many non-Muslims who come to the mosque are there because they are interested in what takes place in a mosque, how a sermon is conducted, what people do in between prayers and just want a general feel to someone else’s religion. There is bathroom and mosque etiquette which is easily observable and while Muslims welcome people of other faiths to visit, the visitors nevertheless have to show decorum and abide by certain rules when they enter the mosque.

Decorum and etiquette in the mosque

• Take off your shoes when you enter a mosque. You will not be asked to wash your face and your hands, but your shoes must come off.

• The imam stands and people are seated on the floor. He conducts the sermon from the mimbar which has three steps. The mosque is silent except for the imam’s voice. There is no talking and laughing when the sermon starts.

• A non-Muslim can enter if the man is wearing long pants, and women are required to cover up and wear a scarf. You cannot be bareheaded inside the mosque and you must not draw attention to yourself.

• When prayers start everyone stands in rows and the women are either segregated upstairs or standing on the other side of the rope so that there is no accidental touching.

• The mosque is a sacred place and your clothes must be neat and free of animal hair or animal dander. If a dog licks your pants, you must change it before you enter the mosque. This is one of the reasons Muslims do not allow animals in the house as their clothes are clean; meaning it is free of dust and dirt and other contaminants.

• The carpets are clean and often when people give to the mosques it is carpeting as some mosques have fewer donations than others.

• When in the mosque after prayers you can mingle and talk to people but one should be quiet on the whole as the mosque is a place of worship and contemplation and not frivolity.

May 23, 2012

Is silence the best way to stop an argument with a spouse?

Silence is not the best way to treat the situation otherwise the problem you have with each other will never be resolved. On the other hand, silence is good if you want the aggressor to calm down first before you continue to list your grievances. Oftentimes in an argument the person that becomes silent is accused of playing a game to appear the better one in the disagreement. Be that as it may there is a fair way to fight. It is understandable that people grapple with issues and need to speak to each other to fix the problem; it is not understandable and not necessary to do so by screaming and shouting accusations at one another. When it comes to hurling insults and swearing, you are inches away from causing serious marital damage and losing respect.

Silence is golden

• Make use of silence when you want to defuse a situation, but also speak up to defend yourself. Silence on its own won’t do anything as the other person will not know what you are on about unless you speak.

• Agree to disagree and speak honestly about how you feel and how the two of you should resolve the issue. Make sure the children are in their rooms before you start telling your side of the story as there is no need for kids to be involved or listen in on adult conversations.

• Don’t bring your children into the situation and ask them to back up what you are saying. They should not be put in the middle and be made to answer questions about one of the parents.

• Always treat each other with respect when you engage in a dispute. Children can sense there is trouble if the parents are moping around the house and are ignoring them.

• If your problem is complicated and you have had the same problem with your spouse over and over again, seek help by seeing a psychologist who can listen to your story and advise you on the best way to go. Don’t go to bed angry and if your children ask if something is wrong, don’t share the details but say that you and your spouse are just working something out.

Is it possible to stop gambling?

This is a serious question and not meant to be taken lightly. Gambling is an insidious disease. It robs you of common sense and when you are in the grip of the disease it can be very hard to stop. If you are really prepared to change, go to Gamblers Anonymous (G.A.) and join the group. If you fear a backlash by friends, don’t concern yourself about it and stick to your guns. We all have carbuncles in our closet; some of us need help.

Why you should attend Gamblers Anonymous if you want to stop

They have regular weekly meetings which you can attend, at different locations, on a Tuesday night. Get a counselor who can support you and on whom you can call if you are struggling. The group works with a twelve-step program and you should join so that you are with people who meet on a regular basis and have the same objective in mind. You will receive a booklet and regular attendance and a strong will are necessary to be successful. Remember, stopping the addiction starts in the head. Don't put it off any longer.

Observe the following:

• Do not hang around with the people you have gambled with before. They are toxic and will entice you to gamble on and on until you have lost all your money.

• Gamblers are liars and will do anything to continue their habit. Go to all the G.A. meetings in your neighborhood.

• Take a family member who is reliable and trustworthy into your confidence and let that person keep your money until all your bills are paid.

• If you are traveling by car to drop someone off at the airport, don’t let it be an excuse for you to go gambling and take a detour and travel a different route so you are not tempted to pop in at the casino.

• Take care of your spiritual life and keep God in your prayers. You need all the help you can get.

• Stop all forms of gambling, even going to the races or buying lottery tickets.

• Don’t be tempted to stray from your objective and tell people who are looking for someone to go gambling with that you are not in the game anymore and stay away from them.

• Instead of wasting your money on raffle tickets or gambling, take your family out to the skating rink or the movies and encourage family outings.

• If nothing works, step up your progress with the twelve steps and tell your counselor that you are about to relapse and you need help. Remember misery likes company and you don’t want your life to be a life of misery.

May 22, 2012

Preparing for the wrath of an earthquake

Do you live in California or an earthquake area and are not fully prepared in the event of a seismic disturbance? California has the worst seismic disturbances and the worst earthquakes. With the damage that can be caused by an earthquake it makes sense to be well prepared by doing the following before an earthquake starts:

• Move your pets to a safe area or take them to an animal shelter. Ensure they have a three day supply of dried dog food and enough water.

• Turn off the power, the electricity and the water. Also make sure the kids know how to dial 911.

• Put all glass items on the bottom shelves of cupboards and cabinets and keep mirrors under the bed on the floor.

• Put poisonous items such as pesticides and herbicides on bottom shelves of cupboards which have locks.

• Make sure there is no loose wiring and nothing in the way of small items that can fly around the room.

• Hide under heavy furniture or desks.

• Have a flashlight and batteries, food supplies and a first aid kit at hand.

• Draw up an emergency plan in the event the family is separated.

• Stay inside the house. The worst thing you can do is try to leave the house.

• If you find yourself outdoors, move into the open space and stay where you are until the shaking stops.

• If you are driving when the earthquake starts, stop the vehicle and stay in the car. Stay there until you are told you can get out.

• When the earthquake stops, get the animals where you have left them and give them water to settle down.

• There can be after shocks for as little as a few hours or for months, so be cautious and take care of the elderly and the children.

• Do not use the land line except for emergencies.

• When you open the doors to a cupboard or cabinet do it cautiously as things can come tumbling out.

• Check your chimney before lighting a fire.

• Listen to a battery operated radio for news.

• Do not switch on or use electrical appliances until it has been checked; this includes telephones and electrical devices.

For those who have never experienced an earthquake, don’t panic. When you get the command, hide under heavy furniture and do not move until you are told to do so. Listen to the radio for up to date news.

Are dreams insignificant?

Are dreams meaningless? Do they count for nothing? Have we just had too much food to eat before falling asleep and suffering a bout of indigestion? I have discussed this at length in some forums, with friends and other writers and have come to the conclusion that while I don’t have the answers, I believe there is significance as it can tell us things about our lives.

The first time I knew I was talking in my sleep was when my son told me one morning that I was talking and screaming in my sleep the whole night. I knew it to be true as my body which usually feels rested in the morning was tense and tight and my breathing was a little shallow. A few days later he woke me up in the midst of my sleep because I was shouting profanities at someone and kept saying, Get away! Get away! I used the eff word and was screaming at the top of my lungs. This was nothing, however, to other extreme experiences I had.

The first real bad experience I had was when I was standing on my bed and stepped off it in the dark, bumped the front of my head against the cement wall, and had a big knob on my forehead. I could not believe that I was on the floor holding my head and woke my son up to see if there was blood on the top of my head. I put on an ice compress and went back to bed, sitting up, too afraid to go back to sleep. I went to the doctor and was told I had night terrors and was talking and acting out and fighting in my sleep.

Another occurrence I had one night was dreaming that four men pulled me off the bed and rolled me in a carpet to take me away. I woke up and I was lying next to the bed on the floor, wrapped up in the duvet. I was in a daze. I did not know how I got there. A somewhat embarrassing incident that also took place was when both my kids were laughing when they told me that I was talking again in my sleep and that I was flirting with a man in my dreams and was laughing. So far I do not want to participate in tests as some of them involve sleeping in a clinic overnight and being recorded. How do I know when I am sleeping what I am going to do next? I am fully responsible for my behavior when I am awake, but not when I am asleep.

Here is my response then to whether dreams are insignificant. In my case do you think they are? I believe that these dreams and night terrors were an indication that something was wrong. I have since learned I have Parkinson’s, which is a degenerative brain disease. Don’t you think there is a connection? I do.

May 21, 2012

Have you ever had a near death experience or met someone who has?

I’ve always been interested in what happens to us when we die. I have heard many versions but I guess I was looking for something in Islamic literature to read more about the Hereafter. And today, after copious readings of different reports and stories of near death experiences (NDE) and the people who came back to tell us, I was not surprised at all. I remember telling someone not long ago that I believed that what happens to us at the very moment of death, the struggle to die, is the same as what happens to a new born baby when he struggles his way out of the womb and comes spluttering and choking down the birth canal into life.

After birth, it is claimed you come into the light, and at death. After slipping out of life you also come into the light. The people whose documented experiences talk of a bright white light and the overwhelming sensation to come into the light where it is warm and comforting cannot all be false and made up; the experiences are too similar. Almost all of the NDE stories mention the light and some even claim that it is Jesus in the white light. I do not believe that all these experiences are lies.

I don’t have an NDE story of my own but can relate an incident where two boys, best of friends were in an accident together and one lived and one died. At the moment of the one boy passing on, one of the women standing at the bedside reported the still living boy speaking to his friend. When the boy had passed on, everyone was eager to hear what had been said. He said he told his friend not to die, to fight, but the boy stretched his arm out and said he was happy where he was and someone was waiting for him to go fishing.

Near death experiences, psychics, people reporting NDE stories which are documented in books and reports all point to an afterlife. Whether this is enough to convince people that there is indeed a Hereafter, I don’t know but would like to think that when we leave this world that there is a nice warm celestial light for us to step into and that we can also go fishing. Maybe that is heaven? Maybe you can write about it if you have something to add?

Muslim births and deaths

A Muslim learns that he must always be cognizant of death, and not fear it when it comes. As most of you know, when someone dies in the Muslim faith, the Muslim funeral machine goes into action, and everything must be done swiftly so that the body can be in the ground on the same day – even if it is midnight and the men have to use lamps at the grave site.

Dress code and decorum

The moment someone dies the death notice goes on to Radio 786 and people hear the news, or other people hear the news and pass on the message. Women step into their robes and put on their scarves. In half an hour the house is full of people. People phone one another to pass on the news. Doctors also know that when a Muslim person dies they have to give the death certificate right away, the planks and burial cloth must be bought, the washers of the dead must be picked up to wash and prepare the body for burial, one of the rooms have to be cleared out where the body will be washed and be on display for a few minutes. A Muslim person can grieve, but the crying must not go on and on. One has to accept death and thank God that the deceased has passed on and has entered another dimension.

Prayer meetings create an opportunity for socializing

There are many celebrations during a Muslim’s lifetime. When a child is born, a male member in the family must whisper a prayer in the child’s ear. The name of God is the first thing the child must hear. People are invited to the event and after prayers for the infant, there are refreshments and gifts. All gatherings and events start with prayer. Even a death is seen as an opportunity to get people together as everyone is so busy with their lives otherwise. When you receive news of a funeral you have to drop what you are doing in order to attend. In one room people are washing the body and preparing the burial cloth, in another room someone is writing the name of the deceased on a board, and in the kitchen there are the women busy preparing pots of food. There is sobriety, but also the buzz of life. When the men return from the cemetery, people sit and stand around talking and food is served. Socializing has importance in Muslim life. You see friends and relatives you haven’t seen for a long time and you can interact. Together you mourn for the deceased, and together you celebrate the different events like marriages, births and deaths. By the time you reach home five hours later, you are more aware of your own mortality..

May 19, 2012

Do you believe that polygamy can work in this society?

Yes, it can. South Africa has in its constitution Muslim Personal Law which affords protection for women who are abused and do not get child and other support. A woman can take her case to the Muslim Judicial Council and get help. It is difficult enough for a man to have one wife never mind two, but under the constitution, he can be married to his first wife and take on another without breaking the law.

Protecting the rights of women

Polygamy can work if all the parties follow the rules and there are very many polygamous marriages where the parties have learned over time to overcome jealousy and accept change. God does not like divorce but permits polygamy so that the woman is not left destitute and her children will be cared for; not an ideal situation but the best under the circumstances. A woman should never be left without a roof over her head. The father of the children are held fully responsible.

Qur’anic reasoning on polygamy

Today women greatly outnumber men and even though I would not want to be in a polygamous marriage myself, I agree that it is better to have protection for women in place than not. God’s word on polygamy is that being in a polygamous relationship is not easy and that a man could never be fair, but to protect women God allows it but does not recommend it. If the woman is satisfied with the arrangement that they all discuss, it is permissible. In other words, polygamy is allowed, but not recommended. Surely, this is a better arrangement and better for both women if they can share a man where both women’s rights are protected. In the past, women had to put up with cheating husbands and fight for support. Is polygamy not better than facing another woman with a crowbar trying to break up a marriage? With time comes knowledge and there are many cases where polygamy works beautifully.

What do the women say?

The women are in favor of polygamous marriage and even spell out the benefits, which range as follows;

• they do not have to cook every day,
• they can go out more with their friends,
• they have three or four nights when they do not have to share a bed,
• they have the car to take the children to school,
• they can eat what they want, and plan their life better with the three or four nights off. Is this not a better deal than struggling by one’s self?

May 18, 2012

A woman traveling on her own to Mecca

Every year over three million people descend upon Mecca from all corners of the world to obey one of the five pillars in Islam. It is not a trip for the weak-hearted, but an enormous and strenuous undertaking. Women cannot travel to Mecca without a mah’ram which can be a brother, a father, a nephew or a male relative in the family. This article will deal only with dress code, behavior, and what is and what is not allowed in the holy city of Mecca.

Behavior in the holy city

At hajj classes a few months before leaving for Mecca, the imam leading the group said something I will never forget: “One of the most important requirements for this trip is sab’r – patience – and you will need a lot of it. From the moment you arrive in Jeddah you will be tested. You might have to wait four or six hours for a bus to take you into Medina, and then when the bus arrives, the driver first has to have his tea and his cigarette. And when he is ready he leaves. Here, when you are traveling, you are traveling by South African rules. There, you are traveling by their rules. Don’t try to be smart with the Arab.”

Do’s and don’ts

• Think carefully about your accommodation and spend an extra thousand for a room just for you and one other person.

• If you are a smoker do not travel with a non smoker. Women are not allowed to smoke on the street and end up smoking in their rooms.

• Travel with someone you know well and have been friends with for a long time. This makes it easier to negotiate things.

• Make sure that what is in the contract is what you get; it is too late when you are standing in front of a hotel and your name is not on the list.

• Negotiate things like showers and whether the air conditioning should be switched on before or after prayers at the Kabaa. The same with switching off the light at night. Some people pray the whole night and leave it on making it difficult for the other people to sleep.

• Travel light. You need only two bras, two sets of ihram, three panties, two pairs of socks as things dry easily. You wash out one pair and wear the other.

• Take all your vitamins and medications and make sure you have enough to last the whole six weeks you are gone. Have a doctor’s prescription as they are strict with drugs.

• Have a bladder prescription from the doctor and an all-round antibiotic in case you contract bronchitis or pneumonia from going in and out of air conditioned premises.

• Pack in a box or two of glycerine suppositories, especially for those outdoor toilets where you have to squat.

• Buy a good pair of walking shoes for that long road through the tunnel.

• Have a cloth bag with a good shoulder strap where you can keep the rolled up prayer mat, bottle of water, and dates.

• Bring along a piece of elastic to tie around your waist so that your robe can be hoisted up around your hips when you go to the outside toilet which is wet.

• Have enough bottled water and toilet paper if you are going to visit a site which will take longer than an hour.

• Drink lots of water and avoid sugary drinks.

Should your kids sleep with you in the same bed?

Your kids should definitely not sleep in the same bed as you and your husband. Besides the fact that it is the place where you come to rest and sleep at night after a full day’s work and activity, it is your sanctuary. Sleeping in your bed is also not good for children as it encourages co-dependency and other habits. I am not referring to a child waking up in the middle of the night with nightmares and wetting the bed. That is a different case. It would be all right under those circumstances to clean him up and bring him into your dry bed, and only for the night. He is a child and should not be in bed with his parents. Your bedroom is private.

Reasons why a child should not sleep with his parents

• It encourages co-dependency and he will get used to sleeping with you and the habit then will be harder to break.

• Your child’s presence in the bed will interfere with intimacy.

• You all will feel cramped and will not have a good night’s sleep. In the morning all of you would be cranky.

• You can’t watch television as he is in the bed with you and will wake up.

• He is a child and should go to bed at the right time for his age. You could leave the door ajar so he does not become afraid.

These are only some of the reasons why he should sleep in his own bed besides what a child psychologist will tell you. Bedtime is an important thing for a child especially if he is already highly strung. Take him to bed at his regular time, read him a story, and put off the light. If he gets out of bed, put him back again. If he starts to cry and goes into your bed, get him and put him in his own bed. Do not shout or scream at him, and don’t spank. Tell him to go to bed and tell him that if he does not stop you will close the door. Raise the tone in your voice a little to let him know you are serious and tell him again that he has his own bed and that mommy and daddy sleeps alone. Don’t bribe him or offer him chips or sweets. He has to brush his teeth and go to bed.

May 17, 2012

Deconstructing online article writing

When it all comes down to it, article writing, in plain words, is slave labor for cents with your wholehearted approval. Being one of the online writers you are hooked on the slow movement upwards of cents and there is some kind of perverted pleasure in waking up the following morning and seeing that the site you write for has given you three cents overnight. Wow! What a prize. But you are so addicted to the whole process that even when you do realize that you can earn more money packing shelves at the supermarket, you still can’t stop. I’m one of those addicts, addicted to the writing process since childhood. So it must be obvious to you, the reader that this is not for the money. We would starve if we looked at it to pay for a bag of groceries let alone the rent.

What is in it for writers?

A huge feeling of satisfaction because you are doing something which can potentially help people who need advice in all areas of their life, including marriage, dating, religion, relationships, society, culture and can virtually write about anything you want to know more about. If you are not a technical writer there are a whole lot of categories you can peruse and investigate. If you do this every day you see other people’s writing style, how they interpret certain things, how they deal with a problem and the advice they would give to friends. In all this mix of writers there are specialists, doctors, psychologists and people who do this because they feel good that they are helping someone out there. It is a do it yourself volunteering situation and more and more writers are doing it.

Homemade psychology

Another advantage of online writing is that you don’t have to be in an office and can be anywhere with your laptop; in a café, in the library, in your bedroom or office, or sitting under a tree. If you want to write about God, the environment, how to successfully date a man or get rid of one you can write 400, 500 and 1000 word articles to be published on the net. Some new writers looking to hone their craft learn how to write better in a familiar online environment. They pose questions and write answers and comments. One of the questions posed today by a young woman and answered almost by twenty writers, was what she should do about her mother who favors her sister and makes her feel insignificant. It was interesting, depending on the culture, to see the comments which were given. Not all sites have comments and answers, but at MyLot you can go haywire with all the subjects to write about.

Directing a film

Whether the film is a blockbuster with guns and machines or a small art house film, the same work has to be done. Here are some of the duties of a skilled director:

• He is offered the script and he reads it through and thinks about it. Now that he has the gist of the story, he reads it again and makes copious notes.

• His notes include some ideas he has for the film, how to shoot it, which angles, how many, and possible edit points for the scenes.

• He draws up a budget which is time consuming as it entails going out to locations to see if it is viable to shoot there. His assistant is with him and makes a list of permits to be obtained.

• The director meets with the actors and start with the audition and rehearsal process.

• On a second visit to the locations, he makes more notes and permission has to be obtained from homeowners and sometimes even the police for big hectic shoots.

• The director and the creative producer go out to the sites to ensure the site is viable and have permission to shoot there. The editor is with the director at this point to discuss viable editing points in the film.

• The director and the producer sit down with the caterers for the production and draw up an eating plan, how many actors, how many days of shooting, how much food.

• The director sits down with the art director and takes a look at what he has proposed for the different sets and he and the producer estimate the cost.

• The director talks to the first assistant director about how many days for the shoot, and she draws up a production schedule which includes every scene.

• The director also meets with the sound guy and the musicians to discuss the music end of the film and they agree on a price.

• The cameraman is the head of the crew and sits down with both the director, creative producer and the sound guy to discuss stock, scenes, and agree how the film will be shot.

This is only the beginning of a nightmarish eighteen or twenty six days. Things can go wrong. Production assistants can lose the beat. Laptops are open on trestle tables and schedules and sides are printed. There are meetings every day in pre production and the director and creative producer get hardly any sleep. A million things still need to be done before the camera is finally switched on. At this time the director is jacked up and ready to go.

May 16, 2012

Things my mother taught me

My mother lived without me for 27 years when I was far away in Canada. What she taught me as a child still resonates with me today as she taught me discipline, honesty, compassion, patience, a hard one for me, and responsibility. Here are some of the things she taught me.

• How to make a good cup of tea by making it in a little kettle and having it with hot milk and a crushed cardamom.

• How to make tomatoes and eggs, a Sunday morning favorite made with braised tomato in the pan seasoned with chili and poached eggs on top of the base of tomatoes. It is still a favorite today, even by the ex husband.

• How to make good treats from scratch for my sixteenth birthday and how to make creamy chocolate cake.

• How to behave when I got my first period and she said to me, ‘my girl, from now on you must be careful when you play outside. Keep your legs together and don’t let anyone touch you’.

• How to protect yourself in a marriage by telling us girls that she wants us to be educated so that we can put our feet under our own table one day and never have to take a man’s crap.

• How to treat visitors when they come to the house by switching off the television and leaving the room so that there is no noise, and to make a pot of tea without being told.

• How to be friends with boys our own age by inviting them to the house for coffee and cake so she can take a look at them. She was a fun mother and enjoyed meeting our friends. She insisted however that they come to the house. That kept us out of a lot of trouble when party girls did not mean slut.

• How to be honest by always telling the truth and to remember that not saying something and leaving it out is the same as a lie.

• How to discourage a boy when he asks you to sit alone with him in the car and he tries something; keep your legs together and scream for help.


Defending Rafael Nadal

I’ve been following the career of Rafael Nadal with interest and awe since the time he stepped on court as a professional. I’ve watched him develop over the years and had tears of admiration when he finally became number one. There have been a lot of negatives things written about him and while I would agree with many of them, I think the Spaniard is sometimes taken out of context because of his youth, his great looks, his athleticism, and sometimes it is just plain jealousy. Otherwise why write negatively of his piñatas and sleeveless shirts, and losing his hair? He is a kid still, for heaven’s sake. And what has his hair got to do with it?

I look at Nadal as a little puppy that has much to learn and occasionally has an accident and wets the floor. He has a way to go yet with humility. But who are we to judge? He has to please the people around him; his coach Uncle Toni, the sponsors, his fans, and everyone’s eyes are on him. Put a tennis racquet in a child’s hands at the age of three, teach him resilience and a stubbornness to win, this is what you get; a hard-working athlete who has to learn to deal with fame. I too have cringed here and there at some of his actions and remarks, but put it down to achieving fame too early in his life.

Another thing; if Nadal makes a noise about the blue clay courts it is held against him. If Djokovich on the other hand says the same things and echoes Nadal, he is praised for it. Yes, Nadal has his quirks. He has rituals before serving the ball. He picks at his clothes and lines up his water bottles with meticulous precision under his umbrella and keeps people waiting. So what? Maybe he has a compulsive disorder. Do you laugh at that and do we blame him for it? He’s not Mr Federer. He’s just a colorful, brazen sportsman who sometimes gets ahead of himself. Federer is known as the gentleman on the court, but he has his ambitions. Nadal just hasn’t learned yet how to hide his. He is a little jumpy these days but it is no surprise when you’re a former number one. As for the journalist at who wrote the scathing article; you posed the question as to whether it was your discontent or Rafa’s. It is definitely yours.

Visiting Dubai for the first time

Located in the Middle East on the Arabian Gulf, Dubai is one of the seven emirates; Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm Al Quwain – and shares borders with Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and the Sultanate of Oman. Dubai is the largest and most populated emirate and seems to be the new babe on the block for vacations and business. Collectively known as the UAE, Dubai is the most popular place to visit. Hot, with an arid desert heat, and in the cooler months, November to March the temperatures are a comfortable twenty degrees. The planes getting you back and forth are Emirates Airlines, a luxury in itself.

Consumption of alcohol Dubai is one of the most liberal emirates in the Middle East, but it is still a Muslim country and there are certain observances to take cognizance of. The first thing you will be made aware of is that alcohol cannot be purchased in supermarkets unless you have a license and can only be purchased at a duty free shop – four bottles only – on your way into the country. Alcohol cannot be consumed on the street and there is zero tolerance if you are caught, especially if you are drinking and driving. On certain holidays and for mourning no alcohol will be allowed.

Dress code in Dubai Bikinis and swimwear are allowed on the street but you will be well advised to cover up on the street. Topless bathing, nudity, and thongs are regarded as offensive to families on the beach. You don’t have to wear a robe, but you should take care not to show your bosoms and your legs; in another country you should follow the rules.

Drugs and medication There is zero tolerance if you are caught with any drugs. If you are carrying Tylenol because the doctor prescribed it, it would serve you well to carry a letter from the doctor stating you are on these medications. Do not carry more than a three month supply of medications you need. Codeine in medicine or drugs is also restricted.

Behavior Act modestly in Dubai and do not have public displays of affection. Same sex couples are not permitted in any part of the UAE. Unwed couples should not sleep in the same room.

Hospitals and medication Hospitals are well-equipped and have all the modern technology and the best specialists, but make sure you are properly covered with insurance.

Miscellaneous Don’t even think of bringing firearms and religious propaganda into the country, or even fruit and vegetables from cholera infected areas. Also make sure you understand the visa requirements to enter the country. Local currency is the UAE Dirham. Do NOT change money on the street. Dubai has many banks.

Driving If your visit is for less than two weeks, use taxis instead of driving a car. If you have an international driver’s license you can drive. Remember that penalties are strict in Dubai and can range from fines to imprisonment which can include a lashing. Respect local laws.

May 15, 2012

When you have two kids and one of them is asked to be a flower girl, what do you do

Of course you want to say yes immediately, you would love your youngest daughter to be flower girl, but you catch yourself just in time. You have two little girls; one of them has been flower girl already and the other one had not yet been asked or had the opportunity. As you are fair with both your girls, do you let her be flower girl or do you speak to the couple on the quiet and say that your other daughter hasn’t had a chance yet to be part of the wedding and it is her turn now?

There are two ways to look at this. You can’t put the couple on the spot to choose your youngest child as they may not want her in the retinue and then she will feel rejected and believe that her sister is prettier than she is and is being favored. On the other hand the sister who is being asked to be flower girl already thinks it is unfair that she cannot be flower girl and that her mother is being unfair to her. They both end up crying.

There is only one way to deal with this. You have to say no to both of them and also tell the couple that as much as you would like your daughter to be part of the wedding you cannot let her participate. Make up a reasonable story as to why you cannot and leave it at that. Don’t explain. It is just one of those things where a small hurt is better than a bigger one and you want both your kids to feel equally loved. The couple was nice when they asked, but they need not be given a whole explanation.

Kids are funny about these things. They want the same amount of pudding in the bowl, the same number of games, and the same amount of affection. To allow both girls to feel good, the correct thing to do is say nothing more on the matter and if they ask just tell them that you had forgotten that that was the day you had planned to take them to the zoo. It is a white lie, yes, but you had to do it.

May 14, 2012

Top British and American Film Divas

As film lovers we love the five British Moms because they are from another era and their films have stood the test of time. Julie Andrews will always remind us of a nanny and of the sound of music, Judi Dench as the high ranking “”M” and the man with the golden gun, James Bond, and Maggie Smith for countless brilliant pieces of film, including Room With a View. There is also Susannah York, but one of my favorites is Helen Mirren who took part in Calendar Girl, and is still a top contender; she still sizzles despite her silver strands and her age. There is also Emma Thompson who had a nice little part with Anthony Hopkins in a British film about a butler and one of the establishment's employees, whose name presently escapes me. These older actresses brought magic to the screen.

Actresses I would like to include for these actresses' American counterparts is the ever consistent Meryl Streep for her brilliant performances in Kramer versus Kramer, Bridges of Madison County, The French Lieutenant's Woman, which is one of my favorites, and her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher as The Iron Lady. Streep hasn't been in one film where she gave a second rate performance. She melts into her role and becomes the character. Another American actress that fits the description of one of the best older American actresses is Diane Keaton although we don't see much of her anymore. Also, watch out for Glenn Close who played a super bitch in the television series Damages. The lesser known Lena Olin is also a great actress and I loved her with Gary Oldman in that Romeo film where she fought her way, bum first, with a fake arm out of the front windscreen of a car and ran down a deserted street.

It's amazing how we remember actors from their performances. If you take Joan Collins, she played a super bitch and we both hated and loved her in Dallas. We never missed an episode. We gave Dallas parties, invited our friends to come and watch.

May 12, 2012

Traveling to Mecca for Hajj

It is eight years now since I’ve been to Mecca to perform hajj but it is an experience I will never forget. I documented the entire journey. To get to Mecca you first have to go to Cairo to connect to Jeddah and then journey by bus from there to Medina. Here is an excerpt from The Mecca Diaries.

Wednesday, December 15th 2004

We arrive at the Haj Terminal in Jeddah at around ten in the morning. This is not the international airport, but an airport that only operates once during the year, for a few weeks during haj, and then is closed again. It is huge and accommodates three millions pilgrims who all have to pass through it into Medina and Mecca, and then home again, in a very short space of time.

We enter the airport building, and meet in a large room with long rows of benches. Up ahead is a wire fence with a gate and several young Saudi clerks in brown uniforms and berets, and some officials in white robes and red scarves, in glass-enclosed cubicles checking passports - two or three clerks per cubicle. We wait almost an hour before our documents are inspected and re-inspected and double-checked, before being handed back to us. By this time my passport has taken on the look of a coupon book with my yellow vaccination certificate stapled inside, a Saudi visa, and bar codes in several colors.

I am let through and have to hand the passport to another stern looking official at the door, after which I receive a dismissive wave of the hand, as if to say, go woman, that way. After picking up our luggage we go outside, to a bank of white robed and red-scarved officials sitting at a long table, asking for our passports again. We pay our tanazul of $275 U.S.; a fee for the different services the Saudi government provides for pilgrims during haj. And we are happy to pay. To cater for three million pilgrims during haj is no joke. The sanitation provided at Mina, Muzdalifah and Arafah, the water trucks, hospital services, cleaning of the haram, the monstrous task of directing traffic and keeping control of hordes of people all there for the same purpose, at the same time, takes a lot of doing.

Outside, we see Tent City - the huge, tall tents erected overhead, stretching out into the distance. This is where pilgrims from different countries will all be allocated a spot to wait with their luggage, either for a bus to take them into Medina or Makkah, or on the home bound journey, to wait for a plane.

Our bags are loaded onto a baggage carrier, and we walk behind it for a good few minutes to an empty location with benches. The bags are offloaded, and we’re told that we’ll wait a few hours for a bus. We’ve been warned beforehand that there will be a lot of waiting around.

We look around. Tent City is airy and filled with pilgrims from different parts of the world. A hundred feet away, stands a row of brightly-colored, air-conditioned buses. These are for the pilgrims already in ihram who are going to Mecca directly. We’re going to Jeddah; we have to wait. We don’t mind a few hours of stretching our legs after so many hours on a plane. We need to freshen up, and take ablution for prayers. We’ll have our first squat on the dreaded toilet. I had heard about this toilet, and had built up all kinds of images in my head. On this particular afternoon, however, I am pleasantly surprised. I open the door, and there it is; a brown porcelain hole in the floor, which flushes like a regular toilet. A thin little hose coming out of the wall, gives you a quick spray between the legs. We have had so many tips from friends on how to overcome the indignities of the squatting toilet, that we have come prepared with a piece of elastic which we pull on over our clothes, then haul up our robes so that when we bend down, our hems don’t drag on the wet floor. I am grateful for that tip. Perched in this undignified position wearing a robe and a long scarf; holding everything up, using the spray, locating the tissue - is quite a manoeuver.

3.00 p.m. – We are finally told that a bus is waiting for us. Two young Saudis in crisp white robes and red scarves, with walkie talkies into which they speak intermittently, tell us to stand in two rows; one for the women and one for the men. We have to walk single file, like schoolchildren to the bus. We board. The luggage is loaded. The driver gets in. Everyone is counted and re-counted. I look out the window as the bus pulls away. A group of young men in crisp white robes and red scarves rolled a special way about their heads are standing around in groups talking and strolling about.

“Don’t they have any work to do?” someone asks. “And look at their feet.”

She was right. Most of them had their heels hanging over the edges. But they are handsome young men. I sense restlesness in them. They seem to have nothing to do.

In the bus, the air-conditioning is directly overhead, and shoots a cold stream of air at my shoulder. Everywhere people are fiddling with the controls, covering themselves with jerseys and towels. The bus driver nods at our requests for him to turn down the air-conditioning, but does nothing. In the end, I sit with my prayer mat draped over my back.

Outside the window, the land is yellow and brown, rocky, and barren. After some hours, it changes to black and grey stone. The bus drones on. We pass by derelict little buildings, with no windows and no doors, the odd little shop, an occasional petrol station with no customers - reminding me of a strip on the edge of a ghost town. The sun starts to go down. As the bus drifts down the highway, its passengers fast asleep, it seems as if we’re floating in space; no music, no talking, just gentle breathing, and rows of slumped bodies as we give in to fatigue.

The bus stops for forty minutes at a restaurant where we can have something to drink and eat and freshen up. It’s prayer time. We have to take ablution. This is a remote, backwoods kind of place, except there’s no backwoods. It’s along the highway traveling to Medina. There’s a humble, dusty little building with sacks of rice and foodstuffs, with big letters, SUPER MARKET, on the white washed wall. A mosque in the process of being renovated, with cement dust and bricks and planks, stands waiting and a dark-looking restaurant with pilgrims filtering inside where a group of men are sharing a platter of chicken and rice on the floor.

This is a family restaurant, so women are allowed in also. Still, I am careful not to be brazen, and ask one of the men in my party to go up to the counter with me. The man serving is tall, in his early forties, with a kind of cloth hat on his head, and a long brown cloth jacket over a robe. I ask if I can have a piece of chicken, without rice. He makes a sound with his teeth, which means yes. I ask if I can have it grilled. He says, “flame, flame.” I take this to mean that it will be grilled, and agree. He writes something on a piece of paper, and tells me to go to the end of the wall, to the fourth window. Then, without blinking an eye, he lifts up his leg and puts his foot, shoe and all, on top of the counter, which comes up to about his waist, and turns to the next customer. I look around to see if anyone is watching. But it seems to be nothing unusual. The man is just being his normal self. He is changing position, resting his foot on the food counter - and doesn’t look one bit perturbed or uncomfortable in this strange position.

“What do you think?” I turn to my friend.

“Die’s die Arab se land,” he says. (This is the land of the Arab).

We get the chicken, but no one feels much like eating.

Back in the bus, we huddle under our jackets and prayer mats, shivering. We’re nearing Medina. Sheikh Gabriel gets up in the front of the bus, and gives a short history of the holy prophet Muhammad, (pbuh), and his migration to the radiant city.

We recite all the way into Medina and arrive at ten thirty at night. We’re not at our destination yet, however. With pilgrims there’s lots of red tape and paperwork, and first, we have to go to the control centre where arriving and departing hujaj have to check in. We remain seated. Our passports are collected by our group leader, and taken away. We wait almost an hour and a half, before we get going again. Shortly before midnight, we check in at the al-Shourfah Hotel. It’s one of the nicer hotels, and we have a suite with two bedrooms, and a bathroom. Our bedroom is fair, with four beds, and a large window. The two men in the party are in the room next to ours. We unpack, have a shower, and drop into bed. We hadn’t slept in almost two days.

Three hours later, we hear the call to prayer. It is 5.30 a.m. We have overslept. We jump out of bed, take ablution, and head for the mosque for our first of forty sets of prayers. It’s our intention to catch forty waq’ts – sets of prayers - in the mosque before we leave for Mecca. It’s not compulsory or part of haj – in fact, coming to Medina isn’t part of the haj, but it’s part of the build-up, and it’s hoped that when you come to the mosque for eight days in a row, not missing any of the five daily prayers, that when you return to your own country, you will continue to go to mosque, and be steadfast in your prayers.

May 11, 2012

Tips on conducting yourself when attending court for a custody hearing

It is necessary to establish that for most custody cases it is usually the man who has the money for the best legal defense and that your lawyer will not match his. Lawyers employ all kinds of tactics to seek favor for their client and will stop at nothing to win the case. He will be confident and smiling and you will be the meek little lamb. It is not unreasonable to be upset. You are angry and it shows. He will look good to the judge and you will come across as the nagging, angry wife. This article will prepare you for your day in court.

What to wear and how to behave

• Choose a classic suit and a silk blouse. Don’t wear killer hills or garish colors. The idea is to be classic and conservative and to appear strong. Have your long hair swept up and out of your face; don’t go for a pony tail. You are not looking for a date.

• Wear natural lipstick or lip gloss and don’t chew gum while you are in the courtroom. It is tacky.

• Keep quiet and let your lawyer earn his money. Don’t alienate the judge by talking too much.

• Don’t turn to look at your husband as he is counting on you to be rattled so that he can gain control and get everything he wants.

• If he talks to you, show that you are in control by speaking to him in a civil manner. Remember, defense lawyers are sharks. They don’t get paid all that money for nothing.

• Know your rights. Your husband knows his.

• Don’t interrupt court proceedings and draw attention to yourself. The world is watching. Even though you can’t take it, you have to bear through it. The prize at stake is your children.

• Control yourself. When a witness is asked to answer questions and says the wrong thing, don’t shout from your seat that it is not so. Show courage. Let your lawyer answer. Errant husbands will put on a grand show by smiling affably, waiting for you to say the wrong thing. His affability will only last as long as he is in court.

May 9, 2012

Comforting your child at his grandfather's funeral

One of the hardest things for a parent to do is to explain death to a child, and especially if it is his favorite person, his grandfather who is on his deathbed. Your child has seen his grandfather take ill and go to hospital in an ambulance, and the house is quiet and there is a morbid atmosphere as the family starts to arrive. Your five year old son asks you what is wrong. You are at a loss for words. From this article you will learn how to comfort and respond to your son.

• Take him into his room where his toys are and he is familiar with his surroundings. Put him on your lap and tell him his grandfather has just died. He will probably tinker with one of his toys, not saying anything. Ask him if remembers the time one of his fish died in the bowl and you gave him a funeral where he said a prayer for the fish and then flushed it in the toilet. He might smile at the memory and come back to the question of death.

• If he asks you what you mean that Grandpa has died, tell him that his grandfather had passed into another world. Grandpa won’t be with the family forever and it was time for him to go.

• This is an important talk, so don’t rush it. If he takes his time responding, hear what he has to say. He might ask if his grandfather is going to be alone. Explain that his grandfather will be dressed in his best clothes and will go to the funeral parlor where the family and Grandpa’s friends will come to pay their last respects and say goodbye.

• Ask him if he has any questions. Hold him to you and let him digest the information. If he asks you where Grandpa is going to go, tell him the truth and say that Grandpa is going to be in his coffin and that the body will be buried. Add that Grandpa is with Jesus now and would not want him to cry for his grandfather. Reassure him that you will still be there and that you and his father are not going to leave him.

• If he cries, encourage him to let it out. Tell him that it is good for him and tell him again to ask if he has any questions. Tell him he must not worry because Grandpa is still alive in spirit and will always be near him.

• Let up on the questions and tell him to come with you; that you are going to give him a nice glass of hot chocolate and then you will play with your toys and go to bed. Spend time with him in his room and ask him if he wants you to read a story. Stay with him until he is ready to fall asleep. Put on the night light so he does not become afraid of the dark.

Pros and cons of being a celebrity

As a writer who wrote the novel Confessions of a Gambler, the downside is that people think you are the gambler. Everything you write in novels and in articles or talk about in interviews, the reader thinks it is you. Well, I am a gambler in the risks that I take. Quitting my job as a paralegal in the seventies and believing that I can support two kids in Toronto just writing is a huge gamble. I go for the stock market instead of savings bonds. I trust in the characters I choose for a book and know that they will come through for me. I buy a house and don't worry too much how I pay for it. But people will take things out of context.

Coming back to the main question, the big advantage I see in being a celebrity is that you have privileges not afforded to others. You get a seat in the line at the traffic department to get your driver's license. Yes, celebrities have to stand in line too for certain things. You also feel good when people acknowledge your work. As a writer who lives in Cape Town, small in comparison to New York, I am well known and live in my community. A community feels safe, you know the people and they know you.

The disadvantages of being a celebrity is that you always have to be well dressed or you will read in a magazine that you wore baggy pants and an old sweater taking your kids out, or you were spotted picking your nose when you thought no one was looking, and you are constantly under the microscope. You can be famous for almost anything today. Look at Kim Kardashian. What has she done that she should count herself as a celebrity? Her claim to fame is that her father knew OJ Simpson, she has a big posterior, and voila, a celebrity is born. Celebrities are dime a dozen today. There are no stars left like Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard; a true star. Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, and Leonard Cohen have got it right. I've been a Dylan and Waits fan since the sixties.

May 8, 2012

When is the right time for your teen to have sex

This is such a precarious subject to discuss with a teen that it is better you discuss with each other first which one of you will do it and especially if the teen is your daughter who stands to lose the most if things go wrong. So let’s get that first question out of the way. There is never a right time to tell a teen when it is all right to have sex, but what you can do is talk to her. This will not be easy as you don’t want to put distance between you and your teen, and this is probably your first discussion about sex.

• Talking together is the first step. Speak easily; don’t set up a particular time, but speak when you are alone in the sewing room or the kitchen, and tell her that the two of you should go out for a movie and some cake and cappuccino afterwards. Talk about the boyfriend she is so in love with. When you’re discussing the movie over dessert and you are both relaxed, tell her you want to talk about what is going on with her and the boyfriend. She will be naturally shy or embarrassed to talk with you about it but don’t let go.

• Tell her that you know she knows the clinical side of the birds and bees talk and have sex education classes, but you want to know from her if there is anything in particular she wants to know especially now that she has a special friend.

• Ask her what the two of them do when they go alone to a drive in movie or the cinema. Tell her that she is fifteen years old and that she is not ready yet or mature enough to have an adult relationship. It is also not legal and she is under age.

• Another writer’s opinion was that one could also tell them that they could kiss and cuddle and have intimate talks, but that is like putting them in a candy shop and expecting them not to eat anything. All that it does is that it escalates things.

• Don’t push the matter if she starts to get upset. Leave it for the time being and tell her the two of you will talk again. Do not bring out a box of condoms to turn the discussion in another direction as she will not be as easy as the first time you talked.

• Reassure her and tell her you know that she is a responsible girl, and that you will trust her to know the right thing to do – until she is older and can be more responsible for her actions.

What is the magic in John Steinbeck’s brilliant novel Grapes of Wrath

When I read John Steinbeck’s novel in the 70s I immediately decided to buy another copy so I could one day leave each child a book. It was the most brilliant read for me for coming from South Africa and reading an epic novel set in the Salinas Valley in the 30s. It was Steinberg’s masterpiece after a long struggle to get published, even in New York. He returned to the Salinas Valley and wrote the book of his life. His descriptions of his characters are so detailed that I read some paragraphs several times. Here is a description of one of the characters.

Excerpt on page 5

“The man’s clothes were new – all of them, cheap and new. His gray cap was so new that the visor was still stiff and the button still on, not shapeless and bulged as it would be when it had served for a while all the various purposes of a cap – carrying sack, towel, handkerchief. His suit was of cheap gray hard cloth and so new that there were creases in the trousers.”

Grapes of Wrath is a masterpiece and filled with descriptions you read many times to savor the beauty and magic of his writing. You can see the images drifting before you, feel the hot sun beating down on your back, the dust in your mouth and the poverty in the man’s eye. But, it is the description of the turtle trying to cross the road on a scorching day in the Salinas Valley and sees a truck approaching which makes me read it several times. The excerpt is a few pages long; here is a fragment.

Excerpt on page 14

“And over the grass at the roadside a land turtle crawled, turning aside for nothing, dragging his high-domed shell over the grass. His hard legs and yellow nailed feet threshed slowly through the grass, but boosting and dragging his shell along. The barley beards slid off his shell, and the clover burrs fell on him and rolled to the ground. His horny beak was partly open, and his fierce, humorous eyes, under brows like fingernails, stared straight ahead.”

The book is chock full of vivid descriptions, and the story of the Joad family is so powerfully told that I read it every two years. As a writer I can only realize that kind of writing in my dreams. He is a master storyteller and will remain my number one author.

May 6, 2012

Things you should know when entering the world of article writing

It stands to reason that one might be able to write, but there are many things which have to be learned first before one can attempt writing articles. For one thing, a writer friend of mine wanted to write for my site, but did not even know what SEO- search engine optimization - stood for. I at least knew that, but must admit that I am not a fast learner when in comes to the technical side of SEO. I learned to submit and navigate through the various sites by trial and error. I spent almost two years understanding enough where I can post anywhere. However, there are areas of article writing that must be understood before the writer can sit down and write. The following can be troublesome for new writers.

• What is a link? How does it work? What is the meaning behind having it?

• How do you place a widget and what is the purpose of having one?

• There are links and hyper links. What are the differences and how do you use it?

• Downloading and uploading. Do you know what to do when downloading fails?

• Blogging as opposed to straight article writing.

• Rules of the game; they are different for every site.

• Understanding the terms and conditions of the site you are writing for.

• The frustration of getting help in that you sometimes wait days for a reply.

• How to write an article.

• How to write a review.

• Understanding trafficking and writing good content.

• Learning the business of grinding out good quality articles.

There is no reason to feel overwhelmed. You will learn all of this as you navigate the sites you are interested in. Take time to research your topics and think about how you want the article to go. I cannot stress enough the importance of good grammar and formatting. You want an attractive article for the buyer to look at. Research basic SEO on the internet and learn all about links and hyperlinks. Also make a list of your questions you wish to ask so that you can query all of them at the same time. In the meantime, if someone can tell me exactly how to create a widget successfully, I would be most appreciative. I recently tried on Bukisa, copied the code, but did not know where to place it. When I put it in my browser, hell broke loose on the page.

May 4, 2012

Are religion bashers atheists looking for a new cause

With all the hatred in the world today, especially towards foreigners, and more especially towards Muslims, another group of people, the atheists, have also come upon the scene and added to the vitriol against particular groups. Believing in God is a mental sickness, they say. They would laugh God out of existence. We all have the right to choose our own faith and when you’re older determine if you are where you think you should be. Unfortunately, this is hard to do as we inherit the teachings of our parents and don’t know any better.

A child born into Christianity, Islam or Judaism knows who he is by the time he is four. He knows he goes to church, the synagogue or mosque. He has to have an identity. And so he takes on the teachings and the scriptures which his parents have taught him. By the time he reaches the age of thirty his beliefs are well entrenched. He lives his life as a Christian or a Muslim or a Hindu or a Jew, and a wise man will not interfere in the choice of his faith. One day he meets a man on the street and they discuss God and he finds out that they have very many of the same beliefs and are not so different after all.

What right does a non-believer or one who does not believe in God have that he has the right to bash another person’s faith? In his own way, he is a believer himself because he is an atheist, which is a belief system in itself. Just this afternoon I read in an article a quip by a writer who commented on a post, that bashing religion is fun because the Muslims have no sense of humor. Another one commented as follows: ‘There’s not a moral code atheists have to go by; bollocks to it, I hope to laugh religion out of existence. It deserves to be made fun of.’

Of course not all atheists are religion bashers; there are atheists who believe in the exact same things non atheists believe in, but they have difficulty articulating God. They are still in the midst of who they are and what they really believe – and so there are false claims made in the name of God, that unless you believe in a particular way that you cannot be a real child of God. Jesus belongs to the Christians; He is God. People who are not Christian do not have a God. Why do we have to fight over who God is, who is the number one God, and who God’s children are? If you are immersed in your faith and you really believe in it you do not have to fight so hard to convince those who do not share your beliefs.

Is volunteering good for the soul

Indeed it is. For the most part we live selfish lives and giving back is a way to say thank you to God. We don’t have to have money to do it; there are many ways to volunteer. We could help out at hospice, a shelter, read to sick children, orphans, assist with sick babies or children with HIV. The best way to start is to inquire at an organization where your talents can most be used. We all have talent. Being patient is a talent; also a virtue. Other virtues which could be employed are kindness, compassion, generosity. If you don’t like giving money, give loaves of bread, packets of rice, fish oil to cook, sugar for tea. These small items will help someone out. If you are a teacher you could help with educational needs. You could also help with children, animals, and children with special educational needs.

How to go about finding the best fit for you

• If you have a talent or a particular interest, you could teach that to anyone who is interested in the knowledge. Writing for example can be taught in the comfort of your home.

• Speak to a volunteer adviser and find out where your talents could most be used.

• People of any age should be welcome to join and seniors should not be excluded. For some seniors being useful will be good for them, particularly if they are indoors all day with nothing to do. It will be a kindness to help them start something new in their lives.

• If you know of work at home jobs for women who are eager to learn and earn, there are many jobs that can be done from home allowing women with young children to stay home.

• Volunteer for the right reasons; because you want to and not to earn money. Your reason for being there is to help someone change his or her life.

• There are always new projects or new programs springing up. Put your name on the list of volunteers who are interested in being involved.

• Be sincere. Don’t volunteer because you have ulterior motives. Volunteering your services to help others is a good thing to do as it requires your time, and for some people, particularly for people in business time is something they can ill afford. Such a person would have the right frame of mind of what volunteering entails.

• Once you start on a program, don’t quit just because you didn’t know how much work it would be. Give of yourself whenever you can.

Surviving a panic attack when it happens

It is said that one might forget the angst that happens during a panic attack, but that the body never forgets. The muscles in the body remember the pain and the fear as you struggle to overcome it. It is the same for every attack. The anxiety and fear spins out of control and you think you are going to collapse in the middle of the street and pass out. You feel weak and dizzy. Your heart beats at a phenomenal rate, you have difficulty swallowing. The attack has you in its grip as your heart races and you think you are going to die. The first thing you immediately have to tell yourself is that you are not going to die and that you have had these attacks before and survived.

How it starts

Usually a panic attack starts when you are under stress, or when someone dies, or you fear something; there are many reasons for an attack. You can be naturally fearful and anxious and worry too much about things. What happens is you feel suddenly weird for no reason at all. You notice an increase in your heart rate. Your hands feel sweaty. You perspire. Your breathing is out of control. You panic. The first thing you have to tell yourself is that you are NOT going to die. You have to focus on that one thought. This writer has already fainted in a public place due to fear, and as recently as a few months ago panicked in the underground section of the airport when it was difficult to push the trolley up the ramp. A friend was with me. I was heaving over the trolley holding onto him so as not to drop to the ground. He acted as if nothing was happening. He told me to remain where I was and fetched a bottle of water. We stayed at the airport until I was feeling better, and got into a taxi and came home. The best thing the friend did was to ignore my panic and keep calm. His calmness calmed me.

What you can do

What you have to remember during an attack is that you are not going to die, and focus on your breathing by taking long slow breaths and exhaling slowly. Push everything out of your mind and just do this for ten minutes. Your heavy breathing will stop. Your heartbeat will normalize. Have sips of water in between. Sometimes the panic is also eased when you go to the toilet. If you have survived these attacks in the past you know that you should try to aim for a less stressful life. Anxiety comes as a result of stress. Don’t take pills and get your body used to medication. You should see someone for your anxiety and look for natural remedies to keep calm.

May 3, 2012

Should you go out with the guy your sister dumped even when she says it’s okay

It’s a bad idea to date your sister’s ex-lover even when she says it won’t bother her and that it would be all right. People say things and they mean it at that moment but because this is someone she’s been with before a situation may arise in the future when she realizes that she has made a mistake. If there was to be a relationship in between where both sisters dated other people and it was ten years later, that might be a different thing. Still, people have long memories when it comes to a man they’ve fallen in love with and the situation can change any time.

Possible repercussions if you decide to date him

• There might be a time when your sister comes to the house and there is no one home except him and you get to talking, remembering the time when you were together, and you realize that you had made a mistake and now want him back. This will create a huge rift in the family. You are sisters before you are someone elses woman. When the man has been with both sisters and knows them intimately, a line’s been crossed and the relationship between the sisters will never be the same again.

• The first sister will say she was his woman first. The other sister will say she has him now. The relationship between the two sisters will be destroyed and neither one will get him – if he is worth getting. One just cannot step into a relationship between two sisters; it is not your business and you have no right.

• The man will be totally confused and if he has any sense he would leave the sisters alone before he destroys everything. No matter who the parties are, dating someone who has been with someone else in the family before is just not on.

It is never a good idea to date one another person's ex boyfriends. There are memories of the old relationship. You remember things. You imagine that it can work again for the two of you and so you want to give it another try irrespective of whether you hurt your own sister. Your sister had meant it when she said it did not matter and that it would not hurt her, but she has no one now and wants him back. What eventually happens is that the sisters break up with the man and also break up with each other. No one wins. The question to ask is, how can the relationship work if there is infidelity and betrayal? You can’t come between sisters.

Does Ice love Coco

Ice is mostly known for his rap music and playing a cop in a television series, and always struck me as a tough guy; someone who can defend himself in any situation. He can be so tough at times that you really believe he's a hater. And then Coco comes into his life with her stilettos and her slinky dress, and the rapper is transfixed and transformed. Together with the bulldog which has attitude they make the perfect threesome. But I’m curious about the blond reality star. I want to know if she can cook besides doing the samba, and if she knows how to look after a man - what her values are and if she is only a sexy kitten who curls up in his arm with the bulldog fighting between them to get a canine kiss.

I am presently surprised. She not only serves up delicious snacks which have taken time to make, she adds little things to it to make a good presentation. She absolutely caters to the rapper who just laps it up. Truth be told, she has changed Ice. Who would have thought that the Ice Man would melt so fast and stay married for so long? Ten years they are together. They live their life in public for the moment, but the more I check Coco out the more I think she’s a really fun and great person besides being a good wife. Not that he needed to be changed, but he needed a little softening up. They renewed their vows and he had a big splash for her. I can say that she transformed Ice and he’s a lovable teddy bear now.

But what about the Kardashians? I don't know what they are famous for. Did one of them win a literary prize, made the Guinness Book of Records, or helped people in Africa? Is it their long hair and their connection to famous people that we have to know who they are? Surely we cannot be interested in the thoughts of women who go on all day long about their love life, their morning routine, the new guy they are dating, who’s going to have the next baby, on and on. For all the talk around her buttocks, it is rarely filmed. She always faces the camera. I must really be getting old because I don’t understand the hoopla. Do we watch the show because there’s an OJ connection and now suddenly they’re famous too?

Is there such a thing as a no-budget film

The answer is no. From the moment you open your mouth to start talking about making a no-budget film to people who might join your crew, the meter starts. A lot of filmmakers don't take the most important ingredient for successful filmmaking into account; the budget. The crew has to eat. You have to have three meals a day catered. You have to have one or two hot meals, sandwiches if you work late, snacks, coffee, tea, water, and lots of cigarettes. If your crew is not going to get paid, you must at least have food and lots of it. The creative process needs nourishment.

If I had a dime for every film student who has an idea for making a no-budget film I could go and watch a movie or two this afternoon. People think it’s easy until they come to the set and see the equipment strewn around, the chaos, some of the crew meeting for the first time. They want to know how much they are going to get paid. There is no pay. You work for a credit in the film. You ask someone to help with the script. You are the producer, the director, the runner and you have a humongous amount of paperwork. You think because you got a good deal on renting a big vacant house in the woods that you can make a horror movie for free as there are only two outside scenes and no one is around asking for a film permit. What about film stock? What about lighting? What about the guy borrowing the van to pick up another crew member and they run out of petrol? And what about the food? As people stand around and talk and wait and set up shooting the first scenes, they are already waiting for a break to have coffee and muffins and sandwiches and you have no money to pay for it.

So what is this notion that one can make a no-budget film? There is no such thing. You can make a low budget film, yes, and you can make a film that costs as little as a used car, but there is no film you can make without spending money, and there is no free lunch. The clock ticks as soon as the horses are out the gate. A sharp new producer with a five-man crew made a stunning 20-minute short film which won a prize at a festival. He told me that the most important thing to budget for in any film is the food. The cost for making the short film was roughly $31,000 US. It won a prize, they watched it a hundred times, and no distributors picked it up. There were no deals. Making a film is an interesting experience, but the process is tough. You have to start off with a good script and spend months in preparation. You have to audition. You have to ask friends to star in your film. They tell their families. Everyone turns up on the set. You have to have food!