Small Business Saturday 2017: Etsy Edition

I’m a huge advocate of shopping small when possible, every day, but especially during Small Business Saturday. If you’re not familiar with it, Small Business Saturday is an initiative by American Express, which has taken on a life of its own.

Every year, I try to highlight a few of my favorite Etsy shops and the women behind them.  One of my favorite parts about Small Business Saturday is reminding everyone that shopping small can mean online, supporting Etsy shop owners who work hard at creating high quality, handcrafted goods with love. (If you’re a frugal shopper like me, I’d like to point out that Ebates now provides cashback for Etsy purchases as well. Right now, you can get 6% cashback on your Etsy purchases)

On to the shops: Read more Small Business Saturday 2017: Etsy Edition

“You Can’t Drink Water?” and Other Questions about Ramadan

Over the past few years, I’ve been getting the same questions about Ramadan.

You can’t drink water?

Wait, how long do you have to fast?

Why is it during the summer?

I don’t talk about my faith often, but those around me know that this is my favorite time of the year. It’s been a long time since I’ve addressed questions about my personal observance of my religion. As you can imagine, these days, I’m mostly in defense mode when talking about anything related to Islam.

I’m not the perfect person, nor am I the perfect Muslim. Most days, I don’t feel enough. I hold my faith close to my heart because I truly believe it’s a personal connection that I shouldn’t have to justify to anyone.

But you guys, Ramadan is beautiful. Its observance is something that’s been a cornerstone of my life since I was ten years old.

Full disclosure: I’m not a religious scholar. I don’t have all of the answers. I can only talk about my personal experience and observance. 

First things first: What is Ramadan? Read more “You Can’t Drink Water?” and Other Questions about Ramadan

Self-Care Doesn’t Take a Holiday

December is such a weird month for me. It’s always been full of new beginnings and sometimes, terrifying endings. I know that the holidays bring out a lot of emotions for everyone, no matter what’s going on in your life.

I’ve come a long way since I ran away to a new life when I packed my car and drove to Seattle four years ago. 21 years ago, my family and I made a similar journey when we moved from Turkey to the U.S.

At 31 years old, I’m finally feeling like I’ve got a good handle on life. I’ve got a solid career path, a group of friends I can finally trust to be there but also know when I need to be alone. I’m in a healthy relationship (we just passed the 9-month mark, what!). Most importantly, my baby brother and his girlfriend are now living in Seattle.

Life is good.

Life is emotional.

It’s the constant struggle, isn’t it – to feel sad even though you’ve got a lot of things right in your life? “Things could be worse,” we tell ourselves. I tell myself that all the time.

I also allow myself to feel the sadness and anxiety that comes up because they are part of who I am. I need to process feelings to understand where they come from, and maybe, help me become a better person.

That’s the beauty of being human. We can feel conflicting feelings all at once, defining who we are at a given moment by choosing to embrace the positive ones as the negative ones run their course.

I know I’m not alone in this.

We feel guilty at this time of year if we personally cannot live up to the standard to be ever-cheerful and happy and joyful. — Dr. Arthur Hayward, Kaiser Permanente

Whether you’re spending your holidays surrounded by family and friends, or not – remember that self-care doesn’t take a holiday. In fact, it’s more important than ever. What you’re going through matters, whether it’s good or sad. I want you to remember that too.

Here are a few tips for practicing self-care this holiday season.

 

  • Give yourself permission. To take a walk. To take a break. To be a bit selfish. To feel happy. To feel anxious. To feel – period.
  • Take your time. If you’re going home for the holidays, everything can feel rushed. You have to see everyone. You have to rush from house to house, event to event. Where and when you can, take a breather. Maybe spend a little extra time getting ready. Take the longer route from one house to the other. And yes, cancel on events if you’re feeling overwhelmed. You don’t have to be everywhere, all the time. (I know this applies more to social activities versus family obligations.)
  • Hydrate. No, seriously. Water. Don’t forget about it – especially between those glasses of wine at family functions.
  • Laugh. Even if it’s through tears sometimes.
  • Take a walk. Put on your coat (or light jacket), put away your phone, and take a walk around the neighborhood. Don’t forget to take deep breaths.
  • Indulge. Listen to your favorite songs. Put on your favorite holiday movie. Make your favorite treats.
  • Give up expectations. Nothing will be perfect. Something will always go wrong. Stop putting so much pressure on yourself (and others) and try to enjoy the moments.
  • Breathe. This is the most important one. No matter what, remember to breathe.

What are some ways you get through the holiday blues?

 

This Is Not A List of Resolutions

(I originally wrote this in December, 2011. These remain true for me today)

Around this time of year, the blogosphere is filled with reflections, resolutions, and everything in between. Over the last couple of years, I’ve come to learn a lot about myself but that’s because I didn’t leave my reflection to the end of the year.

I get the sentiment – a new year is peeking at us and we’re overwhelmed with this sense of renewal. For some of us, the new year can’t come soon enough. I’ve had those years myself, when everything associated with that year seemed like a bad dream.

Maybe it’s because I’m an “over-analytical bag of compassion” (as I’ve been called) but I tend to do my reflecting on a daily basis, so when December rolls around, it’s nothing new. Sure, I look back at my year and reflect a little but for the most part, I’m just ready for another day.

Because that’s how my life is – day by day. At times, it’s hour by hour, because I can’t predict anything anymore.  The only thing I can do is reflect, try to figure out patterns and then find out what works for me.

Over the last few years, especially over the last two, I’ve nailed down a few truths about my life.

***

Blood does not family make. Blood makes you related to someone else. It’s the mutual love and respect you have for another human being that makes you family.

People in my past who treated me like shit and broke me gave me a chance to rebuild from the pieces.  I may have jagged edges but the pieces are still me – just stronger, a little crooked but a whole lot wiser.

I will have bad days where I slip, whether it’s emotionally or literally as I hide out on my couch. The world outside will keep moving but I’m in control of the direction of my world.

My gut never steers me wrong. I just need to listen to it.

I think about death, way too often. Sometimes, it’s in irrational fear. Other times, it’s to reflect and remind myself that no matter how bad my day feels, I was alive today.  Tomorrow isn’t promised.

I’m a hot mess. That’s never going to change.

When my best friend tells me that a situation is sucking the life out of me, I should probably take note. For her to tell me that means that it’s been gradually pulling me down for a while.

When I get super drunk, I cry. A lot. This is a fact of my life. Sometimes, I throw up. I’m working on the throwing up part. The crying will probably never go away.

I’m an emotional wreck of a human being. You don’t want to know the things that make me cry on a daily basis.

Those who I call my best friends, the ones who are family by my definition, won’t leave me hanging – no matter how I insecure I get. I can’t let my past pain color the good in my life today.

Life is hard. Words are hard.

I can’t ever stop writing.

My life is where I want it to be. I can stop sabotaging it now.

I will never fully fit in to my surroundings, but I didn’t come this far in my life by fitting in. I came by owning the fact that I’m an outsider and making shit happen for myself.

I could never be any kind of inspirational writer/coach/speaker/fill-in-the-blank. I don’t know how to actively inspire others. I just know how to live and share. Anything else, to me, feels fabricated. [This is not a commentary on anyone else. This is something that I came to learn about myself after joining a couple of group sessions, trying to writing ‘inspiration blogs’ etc.]

No matter how old I get, I will never be too old for the silly things that make me giggle.

***

These are my truths based on my life and experiences at 2 years old. In a year, I might add a couple of things, or nothing significant could happen to change it.

All I know is that I’ll be doing my reflecting quietly, without any kind of life lists, because that’s what works for me.

***

How about you? Are you the reflect and make resolutions type? 

Do you have a life list?

Was 2013 a “Shit, I am so over it. Bring on 2014” kind of year?

Sleepover, A Runaway Dog & Spongebob

“Would you have thought this moment would happen 2 years ago?”

As we stood in my room at my parents’ new place Saturday night, my insightful fiance asked me that question.

The answer is “No.”

Because we were staying the night at my parents’ for Father’s Day weekend. If you’ve known me for even 6 months, you know what a big deal this is.  Hell, if you’ve had an overnight trip with your significant other for the first time with your/his/her parents, you know what a big deal this is.

So this was a big deal. (In case you missed it).

We drove up after Andrew got off work Saturday night & were up there around 11 pm. The surprise of the weekend wasn’t how awkward it was but how much Andrew fit in with my family. We sat around the table, teaching Andrew how to play Rummikub (Which is kind of a big deal in Turkey) and it was a  peaceful sight.

Andrew fit in with my family*. In his own goofy way.

When I went to bed that night (In my own room while Andrew slept in my brother’s room because whoa, one step at  a time people), I was at peace.

The next day, the dog ran away.

The little bugger figured out how to get out of her collar and ran away when she was supposed to be peeing. WHOOPS. If you’ve never seen a young Siberian Husky run, they run FAST.  My bro & Dad looked for her on foot, and after a couple of minutes, Andrew & I decided to look for her with the car. It was my dad that found her but whoo, that was quite an adventure.

What? I'm not planning anything.

Never a dull moment with my family!

Then I found my old Spongebob visor from middle/high school, which I had to wear in the pictures we took at the end of the day before Andrew & I headed back. Those were the only pictures we took all weekend, which a shame because the Godfather card Andrew gave my dad for Father’s Day was epic.

Just like this first weekend with my family.

Maybe next time Andrew & I can sleep in the same room when we visit my parents.

Not the same bed of course, until after we get married.

 

My boys.
With my boys. (And Spongebob)

How was your Father’s Day weekend?

 

Not the actual card but you get the idea.

 

*I did have a moment and thought about whether or not any of the men in my past would’ve fit in with my family like Andrew does. The answer is “No.”

 

Summer of Travel: NYC

I wanted to kick off my summer right but it wouldn’t be by the pool or BBQs. Oh no. I got my butt on the bus Saturday morning and headed to one of my favorite cities in the world: NYC. It would be a weekend full of relaxation, & bonding away from everything else (Including A, who worked all weekend. Poor baby.)

I was a little afraid though. When I went to NY last October, I fell in love. I was afraid the magic would be gone. That the comfort I felt back then was only because life was treating me awful and I wanted to get lost in the chaos of the city.

The second we crossed the Lincoln Tunnel, I knew that I was worried for no reason.

The same kind of relief I feel when the plane touches ground in Turkey washed over me.

 

In Times Square - October, 2010

I wanted to just relax on Saturday and was feeling a little blah after the bus ride (Which was full of a pee stink for 4 hours). Monica was headed to the beach and asked me “Are you sure you don’t want to come?”

No. I was not sure. To the beach we went!

It was my first time on the subway, and as we were waiting on the platform, I informed Monica of this.

“Get ready to run.”
“OK. Wait. It’ll be that full?”

“Well, it won’t stop. The doors will open but it just slows down & you have to jump in.”

For a good 30 seconds I believed her because her face was so straight.

“Oh. You suck.”

We headed out to Coney Island & even though it was windy, laid on the beach for a couple of hours before walking around. Nathan’s hotdogs & cheese fries? Ice cream? Sailors in their cute uniforms?

Oh yes. It was a gorgeous day.

Rocks

You can find all the Coney Island pictures here. I also have a couple up for sale on Etsy if you like them.

The rest of the weekend was full of relaxation & laughter.  On Sunday, I left Monica resting in the apartment while I went to meet up with 3 people I’ve known for over 6 years & haven’t yet met.

These women (and that one guy) have known me since I was 19. They’ve seen me hit rock bottom & grow and have been there through it all.  (And yes, I met them blogging. Go figure.) I only got to see them for a half hour but it was so worth it.

 

All in all, it was an amazing weekend. Best part was that there was no partying. I was content just being in New York, walking around and taking in the city.

It was the best way to start my summer. The summer that’ll make up for the depression of last summer.

Next up: Chicago in July!

How was your Memorial Day weekend? What have you got planned for this summer?

I survived Rapture 2011

Well, apparently the world is ending.

You know what I think when the world is ending?

I’m going to need a mug that says I survived this…HOW ELSE WILL MY CHILDREN UNDERSTAND?

Or a t-shirt.

Whatever floats your boat.

Because I made it.


I’m also taking custom orders for any of the other products.

Thanksgiving & All That Jazz

Confession:  I hate this time of year on Social Media. The reason? The word “turkey” shows up on every other update and I’m wired to react to that word automatically because of the fact that I’m FROM Turkey. So everytime I see the word, even if I’m paying half attention, my brain goes on full alert, ready to see what’s going on and then I see “Turkey blood tastes like chicken” and bang my head against the table.

Yeah, I’m a little nuts.

As always, I do have a lot to be thankful for this year but I give thanks everyday to the people in my life who make it worth getting up in the morning with their love, loyalty and faith in me.

This has been a pretty big year for me, because I’ve gotten everything I want out of life so far.  Even though I had a few heartbreaks, at the end of the day, I’m fulfilled.

I have

…an amazing boyfriend who is there for me unconditionally

…friends who love me even from miles away

…a fantastic network of professionals who inspire me everyday

…a chance to do my dream job

…an undying passion for life

…a family who drives me crazy at times but has my back no matter what.

I live in Washington, D.C. which is one of the best cities in the world (Right after Istanbul & NYC).  I’m making a home for myself, and taking my life in a direction that will challenge and fulfill me for years to come.

I’m taking chances and I’m grateful for the fact that I have the luxury to take those chances.

I’m grateful for the friends who are standing by me even when they don’t agree with some of my decisions because that’s what real friends do.

I have my health, my sense of humor and a positive outlook on life.

I have the ability to help those less fortunate than me and the compassion to do everything I can to do so.

I’m grateful for my life and everything in it – the good, the bad & the ugly.

I’m grateful for you – every one of you who read & comment on my blogs, whether it’s on here, via Twitter/Facebook or in an email.  You guys are awesome & I love you.

I hope that all of you will have a WONDERFUL Thanksgiving.

It’s a Vlog (Re: Ramadan)

Hey guys, I decided to do a vlog instead of writing today. After I posted the video, I remembered the thing I forgot.
It does not bother me if you eat around me. I’m used to it and honestly, I’d have to stay home the entire day if I couldn’t be around people eating or drinking 🙂

Also, excuse my zombie-like state. I am running on very little sleep and no caffeine.

Let me know if you have any other questions you want me to answer!

It’s That Time of Year

Starting August 10th, I will not be drinking for a month. Why? Because it’s Ramadan!  This will be the first year when it’s so early in August and it will be in the summer for the next few years (Yay for lunar cycles!). I would like to say that I will be fasting everyday but I’ve never done it when it’s a 12-15 hour day (for fasting) and I just started a new job so I will do my best to fulfill my fast everyday this year but I am not allowed to push myself beyond my limits.

I never talk about my religion because I don’t believe in advertising my faith. The biggest cornerstone of my faith is that it’s between me and God. I may not look it but I’m a proud, practicing Muslim. I know that there are misconceptions about Islam because of the news, images in media, etc. I’ve been pretty quiet about it all, except when someone asks me a question. I don’t talk about it in my blogs but I’m very passionate about my religion.

Ramadan is the holiest month of Islam and the third pillar of the 5 pillars if Islam. Because the Islamic calendar is based on the moon cycle, it isn’t like Christmas where it’s the same day every year.  Islam is a religion based on purity of the heart, mind and body. During the month of Ramadan, the fast is aimed to help Muslims keep their focus off the superficial things and grow spiritually as a person.

For me, Ramadan has always been one of the most exciting times of the year. As a Muslim, I may not be perfect but I know where my faith lies. I look forward to Ramadan and to fasting. I may get a little spoiled and selfish at times but when Ramadan rolls around, all my superficial needs take a seat back. For the month of Ramadan, I try to steer my thoughts in the direction of purity. This isn’t to say that I’m not grateful for all that I have on the days outside of Ramadan but fasting is an incredible experience for me.

The actual fast itself may be taxing for some people but for me, it doesn’t get that difficult. Basically, I’m not allowed to eat or drink ANYTHING from sunrise to sunset. The fast also includes smoking, sex, etc but the only things that really apply to me is the eating and drinking. Yes, that also includes water.

Since I’m supposed to be completely pure, I am not allowed to fast while on my period. Women who are pregnant and anyone who is taking medication isn’t allowed to fast. The reason I can’t fast while on my period goes hand in hand with the purity of the body. In the Islam religion, being pure is incredibly important. After sex (both men and women), or in a woman’s case, after her period, a person must take a special bath that is supposed to purify the body. A person can’t touch the Quran, or a prayer book without being pure in that sense and that also applies to fasting. Until my period is finished, I can’t fast because I have to take that special bath. After sex, both men and women have to do this.

Coming back to the fasting… One misconception that people have about fasting is that after sunset, you can binge as much as you want so you aren’t hungry the next day. That’s just stupid because your metabolism slows down and binging is almost a sin. When your body is full, you shouldn’t force any more food just because you won’t be eating the next day. The hardest part about fasting is not being able to drink water but after a couple of days, my body adjusts to it. I love fasting…don’t ask me why. It’s just always come so easy to me and I’m the only one in my immediate family that lasts for the entire month of Ramadan.

Some facts about Ramadan:

— The word “Ramadan” is derived from an Arabic word for intense heat, scorched ground, and shortness of rations. It is considered the most venerated, blessed and spiritually-beneficial month of the Islamic year. Prayers, sawm (fasting), charity, and self-accountability are especially stressed at this time; religious observances associated with Ramadan are kept throughout the month.

— The Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, and months begin when the first crescent of a new moon is sighted. Since the Islamic lunar calendar year is 11 to 12 days shorter than the solar year, Ramadan migrates through the seasons.

–The act of fasting is said to redirect the heart away from worldly activities, its purpose being to cleanse the inner soul and free it from harm. Properly observing the fast is supposed to induce a comfortable feeling of peace and calm. It also allows Muslims to practice self-discipline, sacrifice, as well as sympathy for those who are less fortunate, intending to make Muslims more generous and charitable.

— One of the most important aspects of the Ramadan fast is called niyyah. Niyyah literally means “intention.” Muslims must not simply or accidentally abstain from food; they must achieve the requirement of niyyah. To achieve this requirement, a Muslim must “intend in [his] heart that [the fast] is meant to be a worship for Allah alone.” So, if someone fasts for political or dietary reasons, he would not achieve niyyah. In fact, according to scripture, “Whoever does not make niyyah before dawn, would not have fasted.” The determination to fast is equal in importance to the fast itself.

I won’t ramble on anymore. From this point, I’ll take any questions about Ramadan or Islam in general. It’s just easier to see what questions you guys have rather than writing a long-winded blog about it…because I can go on for hours.

On a funny note…Whenever I say Ramadan, my old roommates used to break into this:

(Most of this blog was a repeat from last year so I apologize if you’ve read it before.)

If you have any questions about any aspect of Ramadan or my religion, this is the time to do it!