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Archive for the ‘Baha’i Faith’ Category

Part 2 – Do you participate in every religiously-connected school celebration?

I have a pretty inclusive belief system, being a member of the Baha’i Faith. I don’t mind my children being exposed to all the varying religious traditions and celebrations the world has to offer. But this last egg hunt at school, the week before Easter, did make me think about just how oriented around the Christian Faith school holidays and celebrations are.

Schools have ‘egg hunts’ not ‘Easter egg hunts’, from what I can tell. They have ‘Holiday Parties’, not ‘Christmas Parties’. Jesus Christ is never mentioned, as far as I know, or isn’t supposed to be. My fifth-grade teacher did mention Him a bit and pulled out a Bible a few times while lecturing us on being good people but she got talked to about it, I do believe.

I think schools walk a line of political correctness in not mentioning the religious aspects of the celebration.

But this makes me ask then, why celebrate Spring with an egg hunt at all?

Why did my kid come home telling me that Santa Claus only brings presents to good children, not ‘naughty’ ones? (That’s a concept that annoys me greatly, but is kind of off this main point).

Why is it okay to use these concepts to celebrate the seasons and breaks from school when they are linked closely to Christianity?

Now, it is true that many Christians do not necessarily relish the thought of religious observances they take seriously being watered down to Christmas trees and egg hunts, either. I guess my feeling is– if it is a tradition tied to religion, and that religion isn’t *actually* being taught or discussed, *why* use it?

Is it laziness on the school’s part? It’s easier to just have an egg hunt because children expect that and little plastic eggs and candy with bunnies on it are on sale at every store in town?

Why not do something to celebrate spring? Why not have a lesson about planting and bees and pollination? I’m positive that there are physical activities and games that could be fun for kids, cheap for schools, easy for teachers and educational– ones that don’t revolve around traditions that no one discusses the reasons for anymore, and when schools aren’t supposed to push religion at all.

Again, I say this not because I personally have a problem with my child learning about the religious traditions of all– but she isn’t doing that. And it’s not the school’s place. And some parents might not want them to participate in the egg hunt or “holiday” party that revolves around presents and christmas trees, and that is their right. I’m torn between seeing these things as American cultural holidays (I have an agnostic friend who still gives Christmas presents) and that it’s not a big deal, but I think when it comes to school it’s an issue worth examining. It doesn’t have to be a big deal to *me* to celebrate Christmas, as an American holiday, picking and choosing the parts I want to pass down to my children, the religious parts verse the pagan/seasonal parts vs the material American parts. But to do it in a school is different.

It’s my job to have an ongoing conversation with her about the values and beliefs that I want her to be exposed to.

I remember covering a story 3 or 4 years ago. A local doctor had put together an event for global education for elementary school kids, and several hundred kids took a field trip to the event to view and present tables on whichever area of the world their classroom had focused on. He talked to me about how he believes children have to learn about the entire world to have a shot at being successful in this world– it’s completely unavoidable in today’s world not to work with or meet people with different cultures and languages, he said.

I think this extends to religions. It doesn’t hurt our children to know at least a little bit about them. I have some other Baha’i friends, and a Jewish friend, who have done a lot more than I have in having their child’s classroom discuss and have activities based around their religions and the other children always enjoy it.

I don’t think the solution to this is to do less, I think it is to do more. But schools are not going to do more unless parents ask them to, and they’ll only do it in that child’s classroom. That’s why I think fall, spring and winter celebrations should have to do with the seasons and what activities and lessons can be derived from that. And discussion of religious traditions, inclusively, could be done all around the year.

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Payman has spent the last 2 weeks or so getting up before the sun rises to eat his breakfast, and waiting until the sun sets to eat or drink anything. Fasting, in one way or another, is a part of most world religions, and the Baha’i Faith is no different.

Baha’is fast from dawn to dusk in the 19 days before the first day of Spring, the New Year on the Baha’i calendar.

There are different reasons people fast, but Payman has always clued into one meaning for him: understanding hunger.

I vegan fasting when I was 14 but haven’t in 5 years because I am exempt when pregnant or nursing, for pretty obvious reasons. So sometimes I participate in my own way, but mostly I get to live vicariously through him on this one.

According to an article in today’s newspaper, North Carolina tied with Louisiana for first place as the state with the largest amount of children under 5 who go hungry. Apparently, 25 percent of our children here feel hungry, or as the paper put it, 1 in 4.

I suppose this could be where I enter into an argument for toddler nursing (free and healthy and filling!) but that isn’t really my point here.

That number really shocked me. A child in Florida who was interviewed described hunger as “a black hole” and the world’s hungry people exceeded 1 billion last year.

Payman remarks to me, each year during the Fast, that all he has to do is get up early and skip lunch, and how hard just that is, and how people can’t believe the strictness of our Fasting (which is 11 days less strict than the Muslim Fast, but perhaps a bit stricter than giving up something for Lent). Not that I mean anything by comparison, because a big part of Fasting is what the sacrifice means to us personally and spiritually, but moving on.

We have such a luxury that we never have to really truly know what it feels like to be hungry and unable to remedy it. And I tend to think of it has a war-torn, third-world-country type of thing, but it obviously isn’t.

To think this week I was fretting about not returning to work for a another couple years with Ada and how it would be nice if I was working to be able to afford already grown peach and cherry trees to plant in the yard to bear fruit, since organic ones are so expensive at the super market.

One big lesson about our Fasting then, is putting your life in perspective. Beautiful perspective. It’s amazing how 2 years ago I said “But *what* will I eat if I can’t eat dairy and gluten?” and so many others voice that same thought to me when they have to give them up or just talking about Ada.

We have everything to eat right in front of us and down the street.

And we get stressed about the cost of food and how incredibly hard it is to maintain our budget these days.

So thank goodness for perspective. We are not hungry. We don’t even know what it means to be truly hungry.

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Noble have I created Thee, yet thou has abased Thyself…

My most recent article in the newspaper on Saturday was about a Computing and Learning Center being opened up by Fayetteville State University.  It will have computers for free internet access and also a lab for skills classes and was created by a grant from the federal stimulus money

It will create one full-time job and 3 or 4 part-time jobs.

To me it seemed like a great thing.  I forget that sometimes people have different opinions on those things.  I was reading the comments to the article, and someone said (and honestly, I hate even giving this guy the time of day but I feel compelled to comment):

What a total waste of money. Typical Obama crap.

Have these idiots ever heard of the library? No, its not a place to take a bath in the sink or use the toilet, even though that seems to be the typical use.

I guess no, since books and reading must be beyond the comprehension of the target audience.

I think that someone is entitled to their opinion about the best way to stimulate the economy, the President, what, if any, social programs they believe in, what party they agree with.

But comments like these are only someone disguising their prejudiced opinions behind criticism of how to spend tax money or criticisms the President’s policies.

S/he opens with statements about money and the President, but quickly the true views are exposed.

And people say that racism isn’t a problem anymore.

But that is not true.  This is racism, prejudice, hate and selfishness, plain and simple.

And also wrong.  At the library there won’t be the skills classes that this center is providing.  I feel like many people are so selfish that they are damaging are country– the country they think they’d be protected with their compartmentalized mentalities.

One of the classes that will be taught is the European Computing Driver’s License.  Europe has a standardized course, ensuring that its citizens are educated and able to use technology and able to have a better shot at a job.

What is so wrong in helping people?  Someone like this the demoralizes the “target audience” by insinuating that they  bathe at the library and don’t know how to read.  If that were the case, as he sits back reading comments on his probable home computer, where does the selfishness comes from that keeps any decent human being from wanting to help in that situation?  Because in his mind anyone that hasn’t learned to use a computer or gotten a good job has brought it upon himself.

My husband is from a poor country, Grenada.  I lived there for a year tutoring kids.  Some of the kids I worked with have never used a computer or had the chance to.  And if they’d been able to  make it to an internet cafe, and spend precious money, that isn’t the same as taking a course on Microsoft Office and budgeting and resume writing.

That was a different country, but the principle is the same.

And I can find no logical reason to not think its a good idea to provide a center for people to learn and create skills that will help them, and it will create jobs on top of that.

That’s why I know it comes down to selfishness and racism.  Imagine the difference if Americans saw something like this has building up the citizenry of their country.  If this guy has such disdain for this “target population”, he sure doesn’t want to do anything to help someone be different from his false stereotype of them.

A quote, about true wealth, to balance the unfortunate quote at the beginning:

O SON OF SPIRIT! I created thee rich, why dost thou bring thyself down to poverty? Noble I made thee, wherewith dost thou abase thyself? Out of the essence of knowledge I gave thee being, why seekest thou enlightenment from anyone beside Me? Out of the clay of love I molded thee, how dost thou busy thyself with another? Turn thy sight unto thyself, that thou mayest find Me standing within thee, mighty, powerful and self-subsisting.

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Quiet moments with Azita can be few and far between.  So while I wished she would have slept in with Ada and Payman, it wasn’t so bad she got up with me around 7:30.  I like the quiet house to myself, but she needs some quiet time with me.

We sat down on the couch and I told her we were going to say our prayers together before anything else.  She is going to be quite the advocate for herself.

Yesterday I really lost my temper with her.  If I don’t eat protein and just carbs my blood sugar goes weird and I have a really hard time holding my temper.

I yelled at her much louder than a kid deserves, that’s for sure. 

She tells me, “You just have to say a prayer and calm down momma.  Kids are real people.”

She must hear me and Payman talking parenting stuff in the car (the only time we ever have to talk!) about how we see kids treated or something.  But good for her.  My ego can take it.  I’m glad she sticks up for herself.  When I say something even a little exasperated to Ada, like, “What IS it Ada?  I wish you could talk already!”, Azita will tell me “Don’t talk to her like that.  She’s just a baby, momma.  She doesn’t know.”

So anyway, we say down and read this prayer:

He is God! O God, my God!

He is God!  O God, my God!  Bestow upon me a pure heart, like unto a pearl.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá

I asked her what a pearl was and we talked about it and she loves that.  She loves explaining things and learning new, science-y things. 

I told her that, like the oysters, we have to take the gritty rough sand like when we don’t feel good or I lose my temper or Ada is bothering her and make a beautiful shiny pearl and be kind and nice and pure anyway.

Then she wanted to explain something to me and add to the conversation, I think.

“Momma, do you know what sillies are?  Sillies are things in my body that just make me have to move my arms and legs.”

Awww.  Last night we kept getting frustrated with her for jumping around and not being able to keep still. 

If any parent out there has mastered not getting frustrated and normal child behavior when you are tired of loud noises and action, please tell us the secret.

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When I became pregnant with Azita, I hadn’t given much thought to being a parent.  Me and Payman had said if we have a kid, great, if we don’t, great.  We were happy enough together and fulfilled in what we did in life that I didn’t have that drive, that pull towards having a baby.

I worked during the day, went to school– FTCC and then UNCP– some during the day, at night and online and I held Baha’i Study Circles and devotional gatherings.  At the study circles, we went through different books with quotes on different topics.  Book 1, for example, is called Reflections on the Life of the Spirit and one of its sections is on the life the soul.

I really felt, and still do, that my purpose in life, and the purpose of human life in general, is to enjoy this life and make good choices.

Enjoy the material things but don’t be attached to them. Recognize that the true life is the life of the soul and make your choices and decisions on how you live and treat people accordingly. 

Make the world a better place in the sense that you add to the positive rather than the negative.  Life is tough enough as it is, so I feel we should be working together, building each other up.

So when I found out I was pregnant I didn’t have that immediate overjoyed feeling.  I was far more freaked out and worried about how my life was going to change and how I’d ever have time for all the things I was doing– mainly finishing my degree and Baha’i stuff.

But in reality, I got exactly what I wanted.  I was so tired of working and being exhausted and running place to place on time.  Being a work at home mom was actually the perfect fit for me. 

And before being pregnant, I was completely freaked out at the thought of labor pain and breastfeeding.  And then it was like, everything just changed.  That mother instinct just began to pour out of me and then when Azita was born it was like a wave. 

I’m not saying that your entire life is supposed to revolve our your children or that they must define you, but for me, it should be like that at least for a while.

And at the end of the day when I feel like I haven’t done anything to make it a better place, I really need to remember the importance of what I do as a mother. 

I wanted to share these quotes from the Baha’i Writings that were a part of putting into words the emotions I felt when Azita was born, though I don’t know that I’d read them at the time. 

“For mothers are the first educators, the first mentors; and truly it is the mothers who determine the happiness, the future greatness, the courteous ways and learning and judgment, the understanding and the faith of their little ones.”

 

“Let the mothers consider that whatever concerneth the education of children is of the first importance. Let them put forth every effort in this regard, for when the bough is green and tender it will grow in whatever way ye train it. Therefore is it incumbent upon the mothers to rear their little ones even as a gardener tendeth his young plants. Let them by day and by night to establish within their children faith and certitude…”

“As to thy question regarding the education of children: it behooveth thee to nurture them at the breast of the love of God, and urge them onward to the things of the spirit, that they may turn their faces unto God; that their ways may conform to the rules of good conduct and their character be second to none; that they make their own all the graces and praiseworthy qualities of humankind; acquire a sound knowledge of the various branches of learning, so that from the very beginning of life they may become spiritual beings, dwellers in the Kingdom, enamored of the sweet breaths of holiness, and may receive an education religious, spiritual, and of the Heavenly Realm.”

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I’m a little late in making a post about Ayyam-i-Ha, but that’s the story of my life anyway.  So many things I want to tell you all about.

Ayyam-i-Ha is a Baha’i Holiday that went from Friday to Monday, 4 days (5 on leap years!).

They are days of gift-giving and charity and happiness and each morning I had a small something for Azita and Payman.

I adore buying gifts for people.  I would bankrupt us buying presents during birthday’s and holidays if I didn’t exercise someself-control.  My entire family is like that.  I mean, my sister bought us a kitchenaid mixer one year.  That’s huge!

So I love buying presents and Azita loves getting them.  Hopefully we’ll work on her love of giving them as she matures, but that could be an entire post of its own; kids, materialism, gratefulness!

Azita got a Barbie that has hair that reattaches and then you cut it– a big winner there, because she is always trying to cut things.  Also linkin’ logs, a basketball net that suction cups to the window with a little ball that Ada keeps running away with, and a new curtain– sparkly pink– for her room.

The funniest thing this Ayyam-i-Ha was that me and Payman got each other the same thing.  I’ve finally found out that baking, especially gluten-free, is so much more amazing when you make little muffins or tiny cakes using the little ceramic ramekins.  They are non-stick with no chemicals, not silicone, use no un-eco-friendly paper muffin cups. 

So I’ve been really jamming on my little ramekins and I only had two.  I saw in the check out line at Ross little pink ones that say “I love you” inside on sale from Valentine’s Day.  So I picked them up for him as I was getting him a belt, too.

He had to return the belt and get a different size, and he picked me  up two little pink ramekins as well!  I laughed when he came home and gave them to me (I obviously hadn’t given him his set yet).  So now I have 6 total.   Score for being awesomely in tune with your partner. 

LOL.  I don’t know if we are awesomely in tune, but we have proven that putting cute things for sale in the check out line works.

Silly me doesn’t have pictures of Azita opening her gifts her anything.  I wanted to do more than I did and really make the holiday special for her.  A mom friend of mine did all this cool stuff for her kid for Ayyam-i-Ha.  We used to go to Baha’i Youth retreats together back in high school.  Now she’s my idol with her craftiness.

I’m really feeling that it’s time for me to do more with Azita in the fostering-spirituality area.  She’s been bringing out our worst these days.  When I lose my temper with her or when she is losing hers because something is making her upset– like her coat being too hard to zipper or the pillow not going in the pillow case– we do talk about taking deep breaths, calming ourselves down, saying a little prayer.

I’m trying to do some more memorizing with her.  She knows, with some help, these two:

 Is there any Remover of difficulties save God? Say: Praised be God! He is God! All are his servants, and all abide by his bidding!

and

O God, guide me, protect me, make of me a shining lamp and a brilliant star. Thou art the mighty and the powerful.

and we recite this quote:

O SON OF SPIRIT! My first counsel is this: Possess a pure, kindly and radiant heart, that thine may be a sovereignty ancient, imperishable and everlasting.
Something is sinking in at least a little.  The other day I was getting on to her for something and Azita said, “You just can’t yell at kids when you are mad.  You need to say a prayer.”
Kids, gotta love ’em.  So I took a deep breath and we said “The Remover of Difficulties” and then talked about whatever it was she was doing, and life was good again.

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Payman is back at work today, he’d been home for a week.  Why it is that when he is home I actually accomplish less– blog less, do less laundry, ignore my to do list– I have yet to figure out.  Sometimes it really is just up to the fact that the baby still might be clingy whether or not he is home, but sometimes I think he is home so we just fill up our time going out as a family or doing something all together. 

For some reason, if he is in the living room with the two kids, I tend to stay in there instead of doing a chore.  I think I figure that he is home, so I’ll have time to get it done.  (But I never do!).  Whereas when he’s at work, I approach my day like a working day and start getting stuff done right off the bat.

Either way, Christmas is  come and gone and it was nice to have him home.  We made it up to Greensboro and back to my grandparents home with no major tears in the carseat from the baby, which is awesome.

I waited until after that car trip to trial in a few foods for Ada.  She’s been doing great for December, which I thought was due to me avoiding traces of corn like citric acid and xantham gum.  But I’d also cut out orange and sweet potato, just to see.

I gave her orange saturday morning.  She had a rash that night, didn’t sleep too well, and her digestive symptoms that y’all don’t want to read about the next day.

I should test again to be sure to make sure it wasn’t cross contamination or something from eating Christmas dinner at someone else’s house, but I don’t really have the desire.  I’d rather introduce something else and broaden my horizons than give her something I feel 80 percent chance she will react.  Kid’s been reacting her whole life.

I guess you could say we had a productive holiday– this was a good thing for me to find out.

Ada got several jackets (much needed) to wear over her many Azita-stained hand-me-down clothes.  We got a set of duplo blocks from my sister that the kids played with for a long time yesterday.

I gave Azita and her cousin both an Indonesian barbie… she was just too pretty to pass up, and Azita needs a barbie that isn’t blond.  She only has a few anyway.

Azita also got, from my mom, a video game thing where she has to run and jump and be active, and she’s loving that too.

We celebrate Christmas within our extended family especially, but also amongst ourselves.  It is an American holiday.  Baha’is believe in Jesus Christ too, so I don’t feel that its not a part of my holidays.   There is a bigger one for us coming up as Baha’is though, when we will give gifts in February and March.  These are the holidays that are more spiritually significant to me, and the ones I will play the meaning up for Azita and Ada.  But Christmas is too much fun to just not get caught up in too, for us.  Any excuse to give gifts we seem to get pulled in to, no matter how much we tell each other that we should all save our money and just get together for dinner or something.

Here are some other Baha’is thoughts on participating in the Holy Days and holidays of other religions.

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