All posts by Ms. Hala

Back to Normal? What Normal?

I recently posted the following statement on Instagram and Twitter, “I do not want to go back to normal. I want to go forward to a better, brighter, and peaceful future.”

I have been reflecting a lot these past several weeks on many, many things, from what’s happening around us to my personal well being. How can I do better for not just this world, but also for myself? Do I have faith that these changes will indeed be for the better or is this just another phase?

The world is currently in a crisis, not one started by the COVID pandemic, but indeed exacerbated by it. Although many act like the virus has miraculously disappeared overnight or pushing their localities to “reopen already”, the crisis is still very much upon us. We are still in the first wave of this pandemic and the second, I believe, is not far behind.

Our planet isn’t getting better because people have stayed home. It may have gotten a small break, sure, but it will indeed get worse. As highlighted by a recent USA Today report, environmentalists are worried about the rise of waste in our oceans. Mainly, COVID related wastes such as masks and gloves, both made of materials that are not necessarily biodegradable.

Our country is already anticipating a historical record rise in evictions. So many people right now, especially our essential workers, are unable to pay their rents as perfectly covered by Hasan Minhaj. This is not a problem of rent affordability but how we’ve allowed corporate landlords to take advantage of a difficult situation to make a quick profit. This is not the first time – for those who have forgotten the 2008 recession – nor is COVID the sole reason behind it.

In a matter of weeks, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd were killed either by lynching or unnecessary police violence. “My gut told me he did it”? No knock warrant? Choked to death for over 8 minutes? The social contract we’ve been forced to adhere too by so many that haven’t followed through, as best put by Trevor Noah, has been broken. Better yet, it’s always been a flawed design. I think with the recent protests, those that had never experienced police brutality saw first hand what a militarized, systemically racist police force are “allowed” to do to its citizens practicing their first amendment rights.

Poverty, corporate greed, systemic racism, and the environment are long suffered issues, that were never going to survive this pandemic.

I’m not in any way shape or form undermining the human casualties of COVID. I recently lost a cousin who was just a couple years older than me to COVID. Our family can’t go near my grandfather’s long term care facility in New Jersey where he resides. My father has been dealing with isolation issues after having a thriving social life in the community.

This virus is real, and it’s hurting people. It has not gone away and yet I feel everyone is trying to “get back to normal” like the virus, and the issues exacerbated by it, have magically disappeared overnight. This bugs me to my core!

Am I speaking from a place of privilege when I say I don’t want to go “back to normal” like everyone else? Yes, I miss my extended family, friends, people but patience will get us to a better place, not the “normal” that brought upon this pandemic and horrid response to it.

I know I will most likely not be heading back to work in our offices this year, but I’m so grateful to be able to work from home. I will not be traveling this summer as planned but I still have options to do so when the time is right. My hometown of San Francisco is slowly being reopened but I’m very, very cautious while attempting to support local businesses from afar.

I’ve been using this time to read, keeping myself informed, and trying to figure out how I will be better on the other side of all of this. This is the time to build stronger bonds with our families, especially with my nephew. This is the time to learn sometime new, like my mom’s sweet baking recipes. This is the time to figure out what do I want to on the other side of this. And what I want is to be better and brighter.

Nothing will be the same, nor would I expect it to be. If this is not the time to demand change that’ll be beneficial for all as well as self-care and personal growth, when is it?

Quote of the Day

“I can’t breathe” – George Floyd

Please tag or note the artist for credit. This piece is located on Upper Great Highway and Rivera Avenue in San Francisco, CA.

Paid Your Zakat Yet?

It’s that time of year! Reblogging as this information is still relevant and these organizations are doing amazing work during these uncertain times in our world.

May God accept your fasts, your prayers and your zakat, ameen.

Ms. Hala

If the answer is no, now is the time to do so!

First, what is “zakat”?

Zakat (or Zakah) is an Arabic word now used universally to mean “obligatory charity“. As prescribed to Muslims with means, it’s obligatory to make an annual contribution of 2.5% against all assets one holds for a minimum of one year towards charitable use.

A good example might be one has, after expenses, a $1,000 in the bank, gold or silver worth $5,000 and a car worth $10,000. Their total assets are at $16,000 and they’d pay a minimum of $400 against that.

Have you feared to present before your consultation charities? Then when you do not and Allah has forgiven you, then [at least] establish prayer and give zakah and obey Allah and His Messenger. And Allah is Acquainted with what you do.

The Holy Quran, 58:13

Check out this Zakat…

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What Did You Eat This Ramadan?

During Ramadan, our foodie family has been taking turns cooking iftar meals. These past couple of weeks of making old favorites and trying new recipes has been absolutely fun. Here are our top three dishes that I hope inspire your cooking as we near the end of the holy month.

Nothing beats Mama’s cooking! I mean, she’s the one that has truly inspired us kids to be the foodies we are today. We can’t go through the holy month without Mama’s delicious kushary. A popular Egyptian street food dish that consists of rice, lentils and pasta that’s drizzled with garlic marinara sauce, and topped with crispy fried onions.

What makes my mama’s take different than most traditional takes is that she makes the typical Egyptian rice with vermicelli noodles and uses two kinds of pasta, both spaghetti and salad macaroni. If this isn’t carb heaven, it’s not kushary.

For Mother’s Day dinner, my brother Samy took a risk from his usual steak and curry dishes to make a slow cooked brisket. Alongside all the fixings, it came out pretty good! We’re talking baked potato, roasted tomatoes, garlic and corn as well as a side of sauteed asparagus for good measure.

The meat was tender and seasoned to absolute perfection. Kudos to my brother because I can’t wait for the encore!

Speaking of encores, when I make something the family loves, I’m usually almost asked to remake it. Now when my nephew raved for days about my crispy chicken tenders and waffles -from scratch might I add- I couldn’t say no when he asked for more chicken.

Thus I combined two of his favorites that I’ve made for the family throughout Ramadan into one simple dish. Crispy chicken tenders atop Parmesan penne pasta. I use boneless chicken breasts, cut into four pieces each and use seasoned breadcrumbs. As penne pasta is one of my favorites, I love coming up with varying recipes for it. This one however has always been a favorite with the family, with a light fresh tomato sauce with cheese cooked in the sauce as well as garnished on top.

Who can say no to more cheese? And I’m lactose intolerant!

Do share in the comments what’s a dish you must have in Ramadan? What’s a dish you tried for the first time? What’s a favorite you’re favorite dish to cook up?

A Letter To My Nephew on His Birthday

This very much still stands as this little guy turns seven today!

Ms. Hala

My Dearest Salem,

I remember coming home from Qatar to see you for the first time, holding you at the airport and having you giggle rather than cry. I just can’t even explain all the emotions that rushed through me at that moment.

I praise God every day for bringing the joy that is you into my life. As I watch you grow into the smartest, funniest and cutest human, I’m in awe. I can’t believe you are already turning five years old. Where has the time gone?

On your birthday today, I want you to know a few things…

  • You are loved beyond words.
  • Your smile is contagious, keep smiling.
  • I’m extremely proud of your awesomeness.
  • You are amazing, never doubt yourself.
  • You will achieve greatness, just put your mind to it.
  • There are no stupid questions, so ask away.
  • Kindness and respect are universal currencies to be splurged.
  • You…

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