whether a princess or a prince.

you are but a tiny thing

barely four inches of existence

with blood and body I carry

but have not yet seen.

For a decade now, I’ve prayed for you

to one day become a part of me.

You are part of two,

two that love and cherish each other

who love and cherish you.

Whether you are to be

a wild-haired princess;

free spirited, huge-hearted,

brimming over with adventures

or

a benevolent prince,

wide-eyed,

eager for knowledge,

with enough wisdom and love

for a hundred men

Whether a princess or a prince,

We wait for you with barely constrained

impatience, and so, so much hope.

 

Nesha Usmani

These are a Few of my Favorite [Tea] Things

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

My husband and I drink tea. But only one of us really love it. Or should I say, only one of us is really obsessed.

Like, if there is no tea in the house I have obviously taken it with me somewhere you will never find me. Or I drank it all.

I probably drank it all.

I haven’t written much since gettin’ hitched to the awesome guy I call my husband, but I have been collecting tea and coffee and the little innovations that make them so much more enjoyable.

Here are a few of my favorite [tea] things.

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 My snazzy red kettle, without which tea would take way too long to make and would require a trip to the kitchen.

It was my first newlywed purchase and it’s ever so useful. A plump and pretty thing, I got it for about $30 from Amazon. The brand is Hamilton Beach.

Here’s the link:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004ZG8Q88/ref=sr_ph?ie=UTF8&qid=1438981545&sr=1&keywords=red+kettle


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This is Teavana’s Perfectea Maker. 

I actually bought this for my husband thinking he’d become a tea connoisseur, but alas, this didn’t happen.

To dream wildly is often its own punishment.

 It’s not too expensive. This one makes about two cups of tea, which is about one serving for me. I love this handy gadget because I’ve fiddled with so many loose leaf tea sieves and sieve spoons and sieve chains and sieve teapots and nothing ever really works as well as this thing. You fill it with your favorite loose leaf tea and some hot water, and let it brew. Then you place it on top of your tea mug, the rim of which pushes up on its whatchmacallit and dispenses the tea straight into your cup. Just watch how much you’re pouring, and set it down on its drain plate to catch any drops. It is plastic, but Teavana also makes a glass one, or some poly-plastic type material that looks and feels like glass. The only downside is that it’s a bit challenging to clean.

Here it is on Teavana’s Amazon page:

http://www.amazon.com/Teavana-PerfecTea-Tea-Maker-16oz/dp/B004X7DIHI/ref=sr_1_1?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1438982052&sr=1-1&keywords=Perfectea


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Tea for two, two for tea?

My father gave me this beautiful cast iron tea pot and tea cup set a few years ago. It’s wonderful to use and beautiful to look at. The floral designs on the pot are dogwood flowers and I believe the plates have them, too, if I’m not mistaken. It has a sieve attachment for loose leaf tea. It’s a pretty small teapot, you could make a nice strong green tea or some oolong in this and it would be perfect.

It is from Teavana, and can be anywhere from $40 to $100 dollars. I have tried to look for the dogwood design but I haven’t found it

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Just a peek at my current tea collection. I have much more stashed away, somewhere. Nuts.com has more than nuts and chocolate, it has tea!! I got a bag of their gunpowder tea and their matcha tea (not pictured). Unfortunately, I don’t have a bamboo matcha whisk (soon!), so I still have yet to try that. But the gunpowder tea is everything you think it tastes like. Bitter, strong, earthy.

Husband and I are not big fans of fruit teas. He’s tried it but I haven’t had that one yet. The copper Teavana bag is filled with their gingerbread tea, which were favors from my amazing surprise bridal shower. I stole the ones left from the people who didn’t come! Bahaha! The Perfectea box is stuffed with other tea from the bridal shower. I took them all. I am without mercy.


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Here they are!

Also – My amazing sister Areej and my friend
Sunny D (her real name has been modified, this is her super hero name) made teabag cookies. Sugar spice cookies shaped like a tea bag, dipped halfway in chocolate, and then strung with string and a label. My brain couldn’t handle the delight.

I think I ate them all. Or most of them. They were amazing!


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Last, but never least…My tea of choice.

If you’re a Desi person, or are not Desi but have a Desi spouse, like my husband, you probably, most likely, maybe have this in your kitchen. If the above applies to you and you do not have this, you’re crazy. Get outta my house and get this tea immediately. Just as good is Ahmad tea (green and yellow box).

This is called Tapal Danedar (red and green box). It’s a very rich and aromatic tea. I like to cook it on the stovetop with cracked green cardamom, and drink it with milk and honey, sometimes a little sugar. I used to drink this 3 or 4 times a day, then realized I couldn’t handle that much caffeine. Suffice it to say, a little goes a long way.

So that’s that. I have a few other teas and tea gadgets laying around, but this is really the cream of the crop. The cream of the tea. The dregs in the cup, if you please.

🙂

Brave Girl, Chapter One

author’s note: this poem has elements of magic (entirely attributed to evil in the poem) that serve as metaphors in the story. What those metaphors are…is entirely up to you to interpret. But this story is meant to outline the journey from abuse, heartbreak, and trials to understanding and redemption.

Brave Girl,

She walked a path for miles

a path of brick and stone

tree limbs bending downwards

green leaves overgrown

Along the path she met a Lad

His eyes were cloudy grey

His hair was red and brown,

Yet glinted golden in the day

They linked arms and began to walk,

new love bubbling from their easy talk,

Easier and easier they began to be,

Walking over mountains and valleys,

and along the pale shores of the sea.

Within his eyes Girl saw her life,

And he promised with words that he would stay

So with fingers entwined like wanton vines,

They cast their doubts away.

One day on Girl’s hand,

Lad placed a glass band

that sparkled with his love

And with eyes wet and smiles wide,

The promised Groom and promised Bride

Both thanked God above.

But as years flit by, as dragonflies do,

the Girl began to doubt,

For as much as he was there with her

She began to feel without,

Girl felt love like burning fire

but began to fear her young Lad’s ire.

He said with words he loved her much,

And would never leave her side,

But often swatted away her touch,

And became defensive of his pride.

The path became no longer smooth,

It jutted rock and stone,

And though their discomfort she tried to soothe

Lad’s confidence was thrown.

He stumbled over root and stone,

Due to attention little paid,

When stifled by vines overgrown,

Refused the young Girl’s aid,

At last, for fear, there came a day,

When Lad’s color began to abate

His eyes and hair, his skin so fair,

Met the mirthless bite of fate.

For Lad lost hope,

and could not cope

with Girl or path no more,

And through the trees, he spied a space

And left through it like a door.

Girl cried tears bittersweet

For she knew she could not follow,

And though in her chest, her heart still beat

She knew within was hollow.

Girl felt a cold, thin vice,

upon her cold, thin hand

And looked upon with grief

At Lad’s still-sparkling band.

Girl continued on the rocky trail,

But often sat to weep,

Whispering his name brought no avail,

and memory’s wounds were deep.

But her grief was woven

with a stronger thread than she,

One night it drew an evil coven,

Of curious witches three.

Cackling, they asked her,

“What hath befallen thee?”

Girl jumped and walked much faster

So frightened now was she,

“We know the burden of your heart!”

Called the three magicians,

“Fear us not, let us help you,

For we are but mere physicians.”

But Girl kept her stride

And said “I have no money, nor trust for witches.”

And the witches, cackling, gleefully replied

“We offer only aid and have no use for riches.”

Girl then stopped and turned to face the Three,

For her heart was but pain and anguish,

And an end she could not see.

“What aid you offer, O stalking witches?

And what your price, then, if not riches?”

The witches laughed with victorious glee,

And at our Girl did smile,

“We wish to end your suffering,

And bring back your Lad a while.”

“Lad?” Girl cried, “How can you know?

Lad, who hath hurt me so?”

“My dear sweet Girl, your tale we know,

It hath been spun, so long ago.

It is an age-old tale, timeless and grand,

Our price, sweet Girl, is your sparkling band.”

Girl thought she felt a warning in her heart

Though Lad was no longer there with her,

With the band she should not part,

“Your band, my dear, is what we seek,

If it is Lad that you desire,

For the path does not favor the weak,

And companion-less made dire.”

Girl felt a pull inside her soul,

And Lad came to her mind,

His smile that had made her whole,

A love impossible to find.

“A question, witches, if ask I may,

before I give my band away?”

The witches looked at the sparkling ring

with hunger in their eyes,

“My dear, sweet girl, ask anything,

Anything that rests your mind.”

“What use have you of this sparkling treasure?

It is but mere memory,

It has no value beyond its measure,

For its meaning is known only to me.”

“Worry not of these things!

It is that which we require.

Forget your sentiments of that ring!

And we will bring you the one whom you desire!”

So with care she slipped the band away,

Off her cold, thin hand,

She gripped it, shining, in her palms a moment,

then gave away her band.

But the wind blew then,

a cold, strong, gust

That blew the band to the rocky ground,

and shattered it to dust.

Horrified and terrified, Girl began to retreat,

But the witches gathered around her,

And with vines  tied her hands and feet

“I cannot explain this! Let me go!”

Cried the Girl, fighting against the biting vines,

“I cannot explain it! I do not know!”

But the witches cared not for Girl’s cries and pleas,

they tightened the bonds and pinned her body

to the trunk of a leafless tree.

“Liar! Traitor! Deceptive thing!

We want the band, or you’ll dearly pay!

Repair that sparkling, shining ring,

Or we’ll cut your Lad’s head away!”

“It was a gift of mere glass,

No value had it, but sentiment!

I cannot repair the shattered thing,

You must accept its detriment!”

The witches gathered to consider this fact,

The band was gone, shattered to dust,

But the girl was whole and young and brave,

To claim her youth, kill her they must!

The witches, seething, drew a long knife,

Crooked and forked, and dripping dark red,

“If you wish to save Lad, you’ll pay with your life!

“Either pay with your blood, or we take his head.”

Girl trembled in fear against the tree,

And shutting her eyes she tried to see,

One last, precious memory…

End of Chapter One.

Nesha Usmani

2013

As I Try to Describe Happiness

Assalamu Alaikum

Bismillahi Ar Rahmani Ar Rahim

You’ve probably noticed by now that a lot of the content on my blog is a bit melancholy. Whether that turns you off or not isn’t the point; it’s just that this blog picked up speed during a time in my life where…well…due to a lot of circumstances, I guess I lost the meaning of the emotion.

I’m not emo! Please, don’t think that. I’m just one of those people who thinks too much, over-analyzes, and then analyzes the analyzations (why does this word look weird).

Happiness.

Sometimes, I think that there really isn’t such a feeling. I suppose, I feel that that it’s sort of a morsel, something tasty, tied at the end of a fishing pole and attached to our heads. We follow it, chase it, like one of those cartoons of dogs who are forever chasing a bone, but never actually getting it.

Or like this cat.

Poor cat. What happens to her moment of thrill when she tackles the thing, yanks it away from her human’s hand? The process starts all over again. The chasing and the endless jumping and snatching. Bloody flipping hell. Is that happiness?

Setting our sights on what we like … be it a career or status or cheeseburger, and then once we have it…what then? What happens next?

When I was younger, it was so much easier to be “happy”. I was so carefree back then, you could have put a smiley face on a french fry and I would have made it into something to laugh about.

But now, everything seems so devoid of meaning. I don’t want to say “pointless”, because that makes it sound like I’m two minutes away from jumping off a cliff (thankfully, not the case).

When I think of happiness now, true, real, honest-to-Allah happiness…well, I think of Allah.

And I think of children, having a family. I think of a time in the not so distant future (inshAllah) when I’ll most likely still be struggling, but I’ll have someone to struggle with. Someone who will wipe my eyes and kiss them, and I’ll do the same for them. Someone to share my beliefs and my hopes.

Happiness, now, is not instant gratification, anymore. For me, I think it used to be. It’s not getting what you want when you want it. It’s not an elevated level of emotion or excitement. It’s not bright, sunny days or cold glasses of lemonade. A day off or a good movie.

While I might still like those things…none of then mean anything to me, anymore.

No. I can’t even describe my definition of happiness to you.

Or, maybe I can.  Your mind doesn’t just store memories of events. It also stores memories of emotions and sensations. Things you felt, tasted. SubhanAllah.

Somewhere along in my life, my definition of happiness went from instant gratification to remembering a sunrise from years ago.

It was 2005. My family and I were on vacation in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. We had rented a little house on the beach during spring break.

I think I was 16 at the time, but I could be wrong. The days were cloudy, just the way I like it (no joke). In the afternoons, dark thunder clouds would roll in and the ocean and the space between it and the sky would melt together, forming this ethereal gray-blue-black-white of impending stormy weather. Combined with the hot smell of sand and the caress of gentle, sea-infused humidity, it was intoxicating.

Lightening would strike in the distance and it was all I could do not to run out onto the beach and just stare.

One morning, my mother woke me up to watch the sunrise. I remember the sheer, exploding whiteness of it.

It was like the entire ocean had turned to silver, or gold, or some weird combination of both. My brain couldn’t really comprehend it. I took pictures, but I’ve lost them.

They wouldn’t have done it justice, anyway.

The edges of my vision seemed to darken; blotting out all but the sun. It rose like it has done in all of the memories of the earth, but, witnessing it from the beach was like watching some once-in-a-lifetime cosmic event. The entire sky seemed to be the sun, the ocean as well. Everything became one and the same. I actually started to worry I might go blind. My eyes were watering even though I kept them in a tight squint, blinking away the tears, or shielding my eyes from it altogether in intervals, like a panicky vampire.

I remember it now and I feel a rising in my heart. But, I don’t really remember the actual sunrise when I think of being “happy”. I just see a explosion of bright, white light over a molten ocean of silver. There’s a lump in my throat.Tears come to my eyes and I don’t feel excitement or thrill. I just feel content, at peace. Some mixture of longing and love threaded through with a ribbon of sadness, fear, and awe. 

Is that my definition of happiness? A perfect balance of emotion?

Could be.

Happiness.

Once something all about instant gratification, turned into what I feel when I see something so much bigger than I could ever be.

My mother likes to say this one thing a lot. I don’t remember it verbatim, but the gist of it goes something like:

“Human beings are so arrogant. We’re surrounded by things so much bigger than ourselves, so much more powerful and out of our controls, and yet, we are the most arrogant of beings.”

She’s right. In our arrogance we’ve taken granted of so many things, including each other. Chased after meaningless, fruitless things thinking we’ll find satisfaction, when all we ever find is more temptation, more emptiness, and a hunger for “more” (whatever that is).

I’m reminded of the simple lifestyle of our beloved Prophet (SAW). Who lived and died a simple man, and yet the greatest who has ever lived subhanAllah.

I am reminded of the hadith, according to Bukhari & Tirmidhi, in which the Prophet (SAW) held the shoulder of Abdullah Ibn Umar and said 

Live in this world as (if you are) a wayfarer or a stranger.

Travel light. Don’t live in excess. Don’t chase worldly things. All it will get you, as it’s only ever gotten me, is greed and suffering. Don’t plant roots in the dunya, for the dunya will not keep you. Inna lillahi wa inna illaihi raji’oon! From Allah we came, and to Allah is our return.

I just finished a book (which I enjoyed a lot) and in it, the author makes a lot of references to the Dicken’s character Jacob Marley (from A Christmas Carol). One line in particular, in which Marley supposedly said:

“I wear the chain I forged in life.”

::Shudder:: Isn’t that the damn truth? Doesn’t what we do in our lives bind us or free us in the next, depending on Allah’s mercy? SubhanAllah.

Well, I’ve done my best, describing happiness. Happiness according to a 24-yr old Muslim romantic. anyway.

If you decide to comment, which I hope you do, what’s happiness to you?

Sources

http://dailyreminders.wordpress.com/2008/07/16/live-in-this-world-as-a-traveller-or-a-stranger/

A Glimpse of Beauty

On my way back from the library, I decided to stop by a local grocery store. Before turning into the parking lot in front of the store, I braked for some people walking towards their cars.

Among them was a couple with a little blonde toddler in the seat of the grocery cart. The man pushing the cart was wearing a T-shirt and what looked like your run-of-the-mill blue hospital scrub bottoms. The woman, her blonde hair tied up in a pony tail, was pregnant. From the looks of it, I’d say about 7 months (just a guess).

I felt like a creeper because I couldn’t stop staring at them. The man was pushing the cart  away from him and letting go; sending it coasting along in front of them, to the sheer delight of the child in the cart.  The man had a big smile on his face as he pushed the child but was also responsibly taking precaution by walking swiftly to catch up with the cart.

Behind him, his pregnant wife glanced up, a content smile crossing her features as she watched her husband and child have a moment of fun together.

The whole scene lasted less than 10 seconds, but it had such an effect on me. Tears sprung to my eyes and I felt sadness, envy, awe, and happiness all at once.

Maybe it was just over-active hormones. Maybe it was also the knowledge that I came so close to having what they have, not just once, but twice. InshAllah I’ll have it, one day.

I think my friends think I’m weird, to want so badly to have a husband and children.They think I’m too young, that I haven’t “lived” my life, yet. I just think that’s silly. But the truth, sometimes, can only be found in the present. And the truth is, it’s just not meant to be, right now. Like so many things recently, just not meant to be.

Alhamdulillah for what I have. I’m still young, I’ve gotten to see the world. Everyone I love is still alive, alhamdulillah. InshAllah, I’ll go to Chicago in the fall to start my MPH program. I have so much, alhamdulillah.

But, astaughfirullah, there’s that empty feeling. An emptiness, loneliness, sadness that just won’t go away. I can only blame my nafs and shaitan. Authubillahi min-ash-shaytaan-ir-rajeem.

I just keep telling myself that whatever God wills, will happen whenever He wills it.

Ya Allah, give me patience.

Nesha

Tired & Hungry

Bismillahi Ar Rahmani Ar Rahim

Assalamu Alaikum!

After my workouts my appetite spikes. Pretty sure it’s normal, and the trick is knowing what NOT to eat.

As women, I feel like our emotions in daily life have us steering towards rich, comforting or just plain bad-for-you foods.

Yesterday, I was at a garage to get an oil change for my car. I gave into a moment of temptation and bought a bag of not-so-healthy snack food from a vending machine. And I regretted it big time.

I think sometimes we go for foods that are rich, high in calories, high in carbs, etc because it’s just more satisfying.

But the truth is a light dish can be just as satisfying!

I’ve been on a major salad kick, lately. I consider myself different from most people because I don’t put any kind of dressing on my salads. Sometimes, I even like to eat salad with my fingers. Whole grape tomatoes, wheels of cucumbers, spears of peppers, a crunch of crisp greens, a burst of sweet fruit, and a sharp bite of a little cheese. I know it sounds stupid, but it allows me to connect with what I’m eating, and it’s no longer a fork-to-food-to-mouth mechanical thing anymore (or maybe it’s because I’m Pakistani, and we eat everything with our fingers).

Alhamdulillah, it also helps me have control over what I eat AND it makes me appreciate exactly what I’m eating. And who needs that greasy, creamy stuff? It totally makes the point of a salad moot. And it masks all of the natural deliciousness of the real stuff in the salad.

Here’s a picture of a salad I made for my sister some time ago:

20130113_135340There’s some grilled chicken, strawberries, blackberries, pomegranate seeds, pear slices, and a modest sprinkling of mozzarella cheese, all on a bed of fresh, crisp baby spinach.

No fattening ocean of dressing. No overwhelming tang of vinaigrette (although, done right, it can be good, but not for me).

Try and eat this with your fingers! You’ll have a blast, I  promise. If you have a spouse, imagine how romantic it would be to pop a pomegranate seed, a blackberry, or a lovingly folded leaf of spinach into their mouths?

Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwww. Go on, you know you want to.

Ahem.

Anyway, earlier tonight after I crawled off the elliptical machine and Gollum-ed my way up the stairs to my kitchen, I had only one thing in mind.

Can you guess what it was?

Salad.

I tenderly opened the door to my fridge, and grabbed the box of arugula, a glorious jar of marinated artichoke hearts, feta cheese crumbles, deli-style turkey (halal for moi, s’il vous plait), unsalted sunflower seeds, a single button mushroom and a quarter of a pear.

I took about a handful and a half of arugula, two artichoke hearts (shook off the excess marinade and then ripped it up into pieces), a little sprinkling of feta cheese, sliced my pear up into little triangles, tore up two little slices of turkey, tore up the mushroom, and threw in a sprinkle of sunflower seeds.

And I grabbed a fork because sometimes I don’t eat salad with my fingers. And then I ate it.

Alhamdulillah.

Oh, man. Words cannot express how good it was. Arugula has a bite to it. It’s a bit bitter, but not too much. If you’ve ever eaten a mint leaf straight off the stem then it kind of tastes like that. Combined with sugary pear slices, tangy feta, and the rest of the ingredients (I’ll ease up on the adjectives because I don’t want you to get too hungry), it’s pretty much all you’d ever want from a salad. And no dressing! The artichokes take care of that nicely (go easy on these, too, please!).

I made this salad a few days ago as well, except I also added some carrots and used some imitation crab meat instead of the turkey. I have a hunch that the turkey is probably better for you, but I could be wrong.

So…anyway.

Any salad that HAS to be blogged about has gotta be pretty incredible, right? Says the woman who posts puppy and cat gifs.

Ok.

That’s all!

Nesha

Storms and Seasons, and the Things You Said.

I wish you knew how I felt when I watched you walk away.

Joining the small company of those who said they would,

but in the end they didn’t.

Who strung my heart up with words

and left it there when it flew too high to reach,

To bring down, to return it to my empty chest.

It would be easier if I were angry with you.

But I’m not.

I remember you with love-filled sadness.

Like the silence of a lover who gazes upon

the sleeping face of her beloved.

Seeing you for the first time, seeing your eyes

was like remembering.

Like reliving memories of a time and place

that I have yet to reach

and are now probably just dreams.

Dreams, like those you used to have about me.

Dreams that comforted and reassured,

and not those from “the mind’s shadows”.

A line of poetry you once wrote.

That repeats and repeats.

Like storms and seasons.

The same way I remember your steady gaze,

and the feeling I had as you looked at me,

As if, for a moment,

I really was, like you said,

“A diamond among rocks.”

Nesha Usmani