Happy Hispanic Heritage Month!

Crochet Taco Baby Rattle surrounded by Cactus, Snake & Avocado crochet rattles

Earlier this month, I met a friend for lunch at a little local restaurant that serves Papusas. Ours were the only white faces in a sea of golden brown ones. As Spanish flowed all around me, I poured hot sauce and cabbage slaw on my papusa and gave thanks that my world can be so full of flavor.

Hispanic Heritage Month began this week. Beginning Sept 15, it runs until October 15. Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico and Chile all celebrate Independence Day during this month.This is a time to celebrate Spanish speaking countries and recognize how much beauty and goodness they bring to our world.

In case you were wondering, Hispanic means coming from a country where Spanish is spoken, and includes Spain. Latino is anyone from a country south of the US border. The two terms cannot be used interchangeably as one refers to language and the other geography.

Large portions of our land used to belong to Mexico – Texas, California, Nevada, Utah, most of Arizona, about half of New Mexico, about a quarter of Colorado, and a small section of Wyoming. It is important to remember those who once walked these lands and laid the groundwork for much of what we have today.

Every year, more than 1 million migrant workers leave their homes south of the border to work on farms across the US. They plant the fields, tend the crop and, finally, harvest and pack much of the produce that we consume daily. My mom and aunts share stories of growing up on my Grandpa’s farm in Michigan. Every summer, workers would come from Mexico and work in Grandpa’s field, picking tomatoes and cucumbers. Today, these workers spend long days in the sun, making far below minimum wage, around $7500/year. Many migrant workers also work on farms in Mexico, where much of the produce is exported to the US. There they sometimes make as little as $7/day. Remember those tired hands the next time you reach for your bag of greens in the market.

Hispanics contribute greatly to the work force of our country. While they are well known in the restaurant and food industry and we might think of them every Taco Tuesday, they also keep our meat processing plants operating. But they bring so much more than this and can be found at work in our schools, hospitals, landscaping companies, construction, in our government and much much more. They serve our country, with 1.2 million being veterans of the US Armed Forces.

Hispanic households are an important factor economically. They own and operate over 4 million small businesses across the US and are seeing growth rates of 31.6%, while other businesses are growing at an average of 13.8%. They account for a large portion of American spending power and contribute billions to Social Security.

I cannot imagine The United Sates without our Hispanic brothers and sisters. They bring much needed flavor and light and we do well to not only celebrate with them, but to celebrate them!

 

World Gratitude Day

September 21 is World Gratitude Day.

We practice gratitude because it doesn’t always come naturally. As we practice gratitude we discover that it keeps hope alive and softens the frazzled edges that come from living in a fractured world. Here at Kahiniwalla, we have numerous reasons to practice gratitude each day:

  • The kindness of the people of Bangladesh. They are our teachers when it comes to living generously and welcoming the stranger.
  • The 12,000+ women across Bangladesh who work hard to create Pebble heirlooms. They sit side by side, yarn spilling across their laps as friendly banter spills from their hearts and community is knit together in love.
  • The fantastic staff who run the Pebble Headquarters, who answer our questions, often putting in long hours to get a needed shipment out to sea for us.
  • The hundreds of stores across the US that stock their shelves with Pebble products.
  • The customers, new and old, who buy Pebble for the precious little ones in their lives.

Like an invisible web, we are all connected. Trade can be beautiful when we remember each other, give thanks, and let all we do be done in love.

 

 

Embracing Change

Fall Leaves Changing ColorChange seems to literally be swirling around me these days. Brown leaves are already dancing around my back yard. The tomato plants are yielding less and less as the days grow shorter. By the end of soccer games, I’m wrapped in a blanket to ward off the chill of the night. The weather, the schedule, even the pace at work is changing as fall rolls into our lives. I don’t know about you, but change can be difficult for me. Even good change catches me by surprise with the upheaval it brings into the fabric of our lives. Here are a few things that I find helpful.

1. Acknowledge the change. Sometimes just a simple thing like sitting on the porch for 5 minutes, and giving myself time and space to acknowledge what is going on gives my brain, body and mind a chance to catch up with each other and is calming.

2. Grieve any losses the change may bring. For some, this is obvious. If you are experiencing an empty nest for the first time, it will be easier to pinpoint your loss. But small changes bring loss as well, and even for good change, this awareness is essential. For example, I love having the kids back in school. I thrive in routine and order that the school schedule brings to our lives. But I lose the chance to have my morning coffee outside in the soft morning light. I lose at least an hour of sleep every night, as I now get up super early so that I can still have my coffee (in the dark) and do my yoga before taking my youngest to school.

3. Celebrate the good things that the change brings. That 10 minute drive to school that results in a mature conversation with an often grumpy teenager. The bag of crisp juicy apples from the local orchard. The beautiful sunset during the soccer game. For me, it helps to keep a “grateful journal” and jot down a few things every night that were specific to the day I just lived.

4. Organize. Especially when the results of the change make life more chaotic and crazy. I find that taking a few minutes to make lists and plan out my week help take a lot of daily pressure off. Simple things like planning meals and then cooking double so I can stick a meal in the freezer for another week or have leftovers for lunches is a big help.

5. Practice Mindfulness. When our body is stressed, we take short, shallow breaths. Something as simple as mindfully breathing, taking deep breaths in and deeper breaths out can instantly reduce stress and slow down our heart rate. It allows us to return to the present with a deeper ability to engage in the moment. Also, drink water! Water helps to flush out cortisol, the hormone produced by stress. Increase your water intake and use those moments to gratefully remember your connection to the earth and all living things.

Change is inevitable but it does not need to knock us over. With a little care, we can navigate change with grace.

The Thing About Silence

I always loved walking my kids home from school. Now that they are older and independent, I miss those sweet ten minutes of undivided attention where we would talk about their day as we walked the 3-1/2 blocks home. One day, we were walking behind another group of kids, and I couldn’t help but overhear one kid bullying another. Though this happened years ago, I remember their faces as if it were yesterday. His sweet round pudgy face, ringed with dark curls, eyes down on the road, while a younger boy with large brown eyes and similar dark curls was laughing loudly and calling him gay.

As we turned to walk down our alley, my inner conflict was roaring so loudly, I’m surprised my kids didn’t hear it. I’m a quiet person and don’t like to put myself into other people’s business. I most certainly do not like to tell someone that they are wrong.

BUT his eyes and his sweet little face!

AND my kids were watching and how did I want them to treat people?

AND I was convinced that God had created each person and loved them so deeply and that was all that mattered today.

So I turned around and marched up to the little taunter and we had a conversation loud enough for everyone around us to hear. I gently but firmly told him this was not okay. That God had made and loved each person so deeply that it doesn’t matter if this boy was gay or not. No one deserves to be treated this way.

There is a lot of hatred, bullying and racism being spoken loudly and publicly these days. Listen up big people, little people are listening more than you realize. What you say is important but don’t forget that your silence speaks volumes as well and right now, it shouts a message to those around you. Choosing to be silent when witnessing racism and bullying has the same effect as being overtly racist or a bully yourself. You communicate to your people, including your children, that your race is superior and that bullying others is okay. Silence makes you an ally of one side or the other. There is no happy medium with silence.

We choose life by choosing words that give dignity. We bring healing to a broken world when we choose words that give hope. Choose words, instead of silence, because our little ones are listening.

Photo courtesy of Adrienne Gerber Photography.

The Power in Your Pocket

We don’t have to be wealthy to change the economy of our neighborhood.  A business degree isn’t necessary to lower the unemployment rate. If we have money in our pocket and buy things, we are job creators. That 1% at the top would like for us to believe that they are the job creators in this country and that to enable them to open up more jobs, they need more tax cuts and benefits. But think about it, even if they choose to expand and hire more workers instead of lining their pockets, it is not sustainable unless enough of us are purchasing those products. You can read more about this here. We hold incredible power in our hands.

Even if our budget is limited to the basic necessities of life, we can choose who we help create jobs for by choosing where we spend our money.

We can frequent your farmers market to ensure local farmers and bakers stay in business.

We can choose to eat at the taco truck or local diner to ensure that families in our home town can keep paying their bills.

We can meet our friends at a coffee shop run by a mom and pop nearby instead of lining the pockets of some CEO at the head of a large chain.

Hire the electrician who is just starting his own business.

Somebody’s got to cut our hair every now and then. Why not make sure it’s a local business owner?

Buy our bicycle directly from someone who actually cares about your neighborhood.

Order coffee beans from someone who knows the farmer who grew them.

Buy gifts from the quaint little shop in town where the owner loves to tell you stories of the people who crafted them.

We must stop waiting for someone at the top to make this country great, improve our neighborhood, make our lives better. It starts with us.

Let’s be thoughtful…be purposeful…spend with intent…love our neighborhood well.

Photo courtesy of Adrienne Gerber Photography.

 

 

Turning Strangers into Family

Bangladeshi BBQ MealToday is Eid al-Adha, the festival of the sacrifice. Muslims around the world gather in memory of Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son.

I remember being a young exhausted mother of a wall-climbing toddler, with a second child on the way. We had just moved into a new apartment in Dhaka, Bangladesh and barely had our boxes unpacked. The morning of Eid, our toddler had us up bright and early, as usual. It wasn’t long before we heard a knock on the door. Much to our surprise, seven gentlemen from seven other homes in our apartment building, were standing there, eager to invite us to each of their homes to celebrate the holiday with them.

We were humbled and honored to be their guests. And we did, indeed, visit every one of their seven homes that day. Each family shared their finest feast food with us. We were welcomed to their table, even though we were different. Foreigners of a different faith. Speakers of a different language. Welcomed as family.

I’m sitting here today with a lump in my throat that will not go away. I get goosebumps on my arms as I remember their kindness, their generosity, their welcome. I cannot help but contrast it to how my country is treating those who are foreign, those who are different.

When we lived in a Muslim country, we never spent a holiday by ourselves. We were always treated as family. Here in our “Christian” country, many immigrants never see the inside of an American home. Here we too often treat them as the “less than” and automatically assume they have broken laws to be here. Our “Christian” nation is in a frenzy, trying to rid ourself of those we believe do not belong here, stooping to unspeakable violence and indecency.  Last week in Mississippi alone, nearly 700 people were rounded up by ICE, leaving many children without parents to come home to on their first day of school.

Most of us agree that the system is broken. But any system, broken or not, can only go so far to make or break a country because a country is made up of individuals. As individuals, we can open our doors wide.  We can practice hospitality and turn strangers into family.  My Muslim friends taught me that family is any human being who is near you. So let’s keep an eye out for our family. Let’s make sure they are safe and that they know we see and value their humanity. We don’t have to wait for the system to change to become the change that our country desperately needs right now.

Eid Mubarak. Happy Festival!

 

National Avocado Day

It’s National Avocado Day!

Here are some things we have learned about avocados.

  1. The Avocado Tree is a tropical evergreen and never goes dormant.
  2. Avocados are loaded with vitamins, healthy fat, more potassium than bananas and no cholesterol and can actually help lower cholesterol.
  3. 86% of avocados are grown in Mexico. This equals 1.52 million tons. That number is so big I can’t even picture it. 3,000,000,000 pounds.
  4. Avocados are grown in California, Florida and a few other states, but on a much lower scale. If the border were to close, we would run out of avocados in three weeks.
  5. Americans eat an average of 7 pounds of avocados per person per year. Not so long ago, it was 1 pound per person.
  6. This surge in American consumption has made avocados more valuable than cannabis in Mexico. On one hand, this has created many jobs. On the other, it has caught the eye of cartels. Many farms are forced to pay exorbitant fees to cartels for “protection”.
  7. Avocados need a lot of water to grow. It takes around 70 gallons of irrigated water to produce one pound of avocados in the US. In Chile, it takes 97 gallons and in  Mexico, it takes about 32 gallons of irrigated water.  In contrast, it takes 10 gallons of water to produce one pound of strawberries (in California).
  8. California’s avocado peak season is May through August. If you buy an avocado during a different season, you can be sure it is imported.
  9. 1out of 5 avocados carry bacteria. Always wash the avocado before cutting and peeling. If you need it to ripen faster, put inside of a brown paper bag for a few days.
  10. The seed of an avocado can be use to grow a cute houseplant.

Avocados, to put it in a nutshell, are so good for us and create a lot of jobs, yet take a lot of resources and, in some places, people’s lives are daily in danger for the love of this fruit. If any of these things concern you, you can eat less, buy as local as possible, buy fair trade if possible and, as always, eat mindfully. Remember the hands that planted, watered and harvested your fruit.

Polar Bear Island

This beautiful story book has captured my heart. I remember mindlessly reading the same few favorite books to my kids, over and over when they were little. This is a book I would have gladly read and reread.

Using the power of story, author Lindsay Bonilla weaves words together in a simple way that even little ones can understand. Yet this story’s message is timeless and will warm the heart of the eldest among us.

Set on a snow covered island inhabited by polar bears who want to keep everyone else out, a lone penguin enters the scene and asks to stay just one night. When she gets out her Flipper Slippers, all the penguins want a pair. She freely shares her skills and soon everyone, but the mayor, wants her to stay.

Eventually she is joined by her family, much to the mayor’s chagrin and he plans to kick them out. But before they leave, each of them shares their skills until the whole island is having such a good time that no one wants them to leave. Their lives are so enriched by what these new creature brought to them and even the mayor ends up benefiting from their their gifts. He decides that they weren’t taking over the island, but were making it a much better place.

This book provides  the perfect medium to let the kids in your life know that when we love and welcome people who are different, our world becomes a better place. It is a beautiful reminder that each person has something unique to offer and if we try to keep others out, we are the ones who lose the most.

You can visit Lindsay’s website here. You can buy Polar Bear Island on Amazon, Barnes and Nobles or you can visit Indie Bound to find a Retailer near you. For wholesale inquires, contact Sterling Publishing at specialsales@sterlingpublishing.com or (800) 367-9692 to obtain pricing quotes.

The book also pairs nicely with Pebbles Penguin Rattle and Ornament.

Sunlight on Bullet Casings

The sky above is soft, giving the illusion of peace and safety as pink fluffy clouds float by, waiting for the sun to rise and fill the space with heat and light that will bounce off the metal roof and the golden bullet casings scattered outside the window and across the street. She looks at her daughter, finally sleeping in the pre-dawn quiet, and she wonders how many mornings they have left…if they stay. She is tired, so very tired, of the struggle just to survive. She thinks of her neighbors to the north and she ponders going to them for help. Her thoughts drift to the mothers in that country who are, even now, slowly getting up to make coffee, cooking their children breakfast before sending them off to school. She wonders if they have ever seen the morning sun reflecting off of bullet casings. She wonders if they even know what their country has done to their neighbors to the south over the past several centuries.

She knows. She has heard the stories, lost more relatives than she can count, seen the economy of her country totter and flail. She know the desperation of hunger, the weight of constantly having to look over her shoulder. When she looks in the mirror, she sees the lines of a woman twice her age. She looks at her sleeping daughter  and dreams of watching her grow up with a belly always full, a daughter who skips to a big yellow school bus with a backpack full of supplies to learn in a safe environment.

Should she go? She has heard the stories of those who have gone before. Some have starved on the way and never made it. Some have made it there, only to have their children taken away from them. She has heard of the deaths, the rapes, the torture. She looks again at her daughter. If she stays, she knows those things will happen here. But if she goes, maybe, just maybe she will be the lucky one to make it through. She reaches out in faith for her backpack, hand hovering in the air as the sun peaks up over the horizon, its light bouncing off of the bullet casings outside of her window.

This story was written to give voice to parents south of our borders who are facing an incredible struggle to survive. I was recently made more aware of our country’s involvement with our southern neighbors and it got me thinking. We have invaded them again and again over the years, sometimes under the guise of helping, but always with our own interests in mind. We have toppled government after government. Imagine the trickle down effect of that. We can only imagine because we have been at the top for so long. Please take a moment to read the brief summary below of our involvement South of the border.

  • 1846 US went to war with Mexico over land issues and took 1/3 of Mexico’s land, including most of present day California, Utah, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico.
  • 1903 US helps engineer Panama’s independence from Columbia and gains, in return, exclusive possession of the Panama Canal. The US kept possession until 1999.
  • 1809-1903 US helps Cuba gain independence from Spain, continues to occupy Cuba and refuses to pull troops until it gets something in return – long story short, the perfect spot for a Naval Base, Guantanamo Bay.
  • 1914 US invades Vera Cruz, Mexico, hoping to help take down Mexico’s leader.
  • 1954 CIA backs a coup to take down the Guatemalan president.
  • 1961 CIA launches full scale invasion of Cuba, in hopes to topple Castro from power.
  • 1964 US backs coup that takes down Brazilian president
  • 1965 US sends troops to the Dominican Republic in hopes of preventing a communist dictator from taking over.
  • 1973 US backs military coup in Chile to overthrow the democratically elected president. He is replaced by a brutal dictator.
  • 1970s US plays a significant role in Operation Condor, and intelligence operation that resulted in an estimated 60,000 deaths.
  • 1980s Regan fears communism and interferes in both Nicaragua and El Salvador. The US backs forces against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua and sends $3Bn to El Salvador who is fighting left-winged guerillas, The US also invades Grenada to take down a communist ruler.
  • 1989 US invades Panama and takes down the dictator.
  • 1994 US leads invasion of Haiti to restore the former president to power.
  • 2002 US backs coup in Venezuela.
  • 2009 US backs coup to overthrow Honduran president.

While I am sure that there are more details that could be added to this list, I hope it can spark a chain reaction in your brain. Imagine that each state of the US were its own country and that for the last 150 years, Canada had been either invading various “countries” or backing coups, always manipulating outcomes to grow it’s own wealth and protect its interests. Imagine what our economy and infrastructure would be like. Imagine what our family dynamics might be. Imagine, if you will, waking up to sunlight on bullet casings and deciding you have had enough. Would you look at the opportunities and the security of your northern neighbor and want that for your children?

What would you do if you woke up in those shoes?

 

Photo courtesy of Adrienne Gerber Photography.

 

 

Human First

Two weeks gone in a blink and we are in line at the airport to travel home from Bangladesh. We battle mosquitoes and crowds for four hours, standing in one line and then the next, until we finally board our 3 am flight at 4 am. We miss our connecting flight in Doha by minutes and spend four more hours in line, waiting for new tickets for the next day’s flight and hotel vouchers. Deep thirst drives me to ask for water, having been given nothing since breakfast on the plane some six hours prior. I’m sent to a shop where I begrudgingly bring out the plastic card, cringing at the price this liquid gold is costing me. When I return to the group, I return with a new friend and soon meet another. We share this liquid gold and it is worth every penny. I return to the shop and throw down the plastic again for a pack of biscuits and we share this too. Who knew that airport liquid gold and packaged Marie biscuits could be the holiest of communions. Four exhausted Americans and our new friends – a young Bangladeshi lawyer from Minnesota and a sweet Bengali Auntie from Kolkata who spoke no English.

Together the six of us move forward, a weary cluster of travelers, and squeeze ourselves into the hotel shuttle bus. After check-in and a lovely spread for lunch, we set out with our new friends for the Souq. We walk on clean city sidewalks, past bank after bank covered in beautiful mosaic, we walk in cool but bright sunshine, my new friend asking occasionally for directions. We cross busy streets and turn a corner and there it is, like something out of a storybook. Ancient architecture, paintings, textiles, pottery, jewelry, stalls spilling over with treasures. We forget our tiredness, the long lines of waiting that landed us here and we soak up a girls night out. We buy treasures to tuck into our luggage, sip coffee under pink-soaked clouds and laugh with the thrill of this adventure. Our new Kala (auntie) gifts each of us with a magnet that says Qatar and we insist of buying a bracelet for her, something to keep us connected after the initial memories of this day fade.

We finally pull ourselves away from the Souq to begin the long walk back to our hotel. As we rush to cross one of the busy intersections, I turn back to make sure Kala is still with us. What I see utterly melts my heart. My new Muslim friend grabs the hand of my new Hindu Auntie and walks hand in hand with her for the rest of the journey. It was a reaction of the heart and it moved me profoundly and it makes me want to be more like them and the hundreds of others I met on my journey to the East. This ability to see another as human first blurs the lines of labels and boxes that we of the West cling to so fiercely. What would our nation look like if we saw each other as human first? Imagine if the lines of race, gender, socioeconomic status, religion, and education could be blurred enough that we could see straight to the core of each other. Imagine the beauty of looking into the eyes of a complete stranger and seeing your own soul mirrored back?

Human First.