Birthday Reflections

If you know me well then you know I am the least celebratory person you will meet. If it wasn’t for my family reminding me every year, I would probably try to forget my birthday. I do however like to make a lot self reflection around my birthday in order to tune into what I have learned that whole year. Last year I wrote a post, “30 things I’ve learned in 30 years“. This year I have been doing deep reflection on building a better character.

One bad habit that I’ve been trying to tackle on, is stopping victimizing everything bad that has happened in my life. Putting my trust in God that everything happens for a reason and that better days will come. Complaining all the time can actually affect your mood and how people perceive you. I know this sounds very dramatic but I had the constant thought of wondering if people would miss me if I would die. I felt that I am always victimizing myself and complaining that people did not find me pleasant.

I realized my first bad characteristic was not listening to others and including myself and my heart. I have been practicing self pity for so long to the point that my problems were more important than other people’s problems. I stopped listening to advise because I always had excuses and the problem never arose from me but others. Consequently, I became a selfish person not realizing that other people might be needing help, or wanting to help and saw things differently. With that I have to stop assuming that I know the reasons to people’s actions and instead have conversations where I would be actively listening whereby my thoughts can be changed if that person is proven to be right or has defended their actions justly.

Another very important characteristic that I want to work on is being kind. I am generally a kind person and do not mean to harm or hurt anyone as most people I believe are. My concern however, is whether or not I am striving to be the most kind person I can be. My answer is a big fat NO. I mean kind to the point of getting out of your way to help others, to putting for 110% effort in exhorting kindness. I believe this type of kindness is revolutionary, it moves mountains it fights wars and unites us as humans. Most people say that you have to be kind to yourself before you can show kindness towards others. I have tried that approached and for 31 years I have not succeed. This year, I will do the opposite, I will be kind to others first, especially to my kids before I show kindness towards myself and see if that has some sort of fulfillment. Sort of like, trying to eat healthy will lead you to a more active lifestyle approach, rather than trying to have an active lifestyle will lead to eating healthy. Am I making any sense?

My biggest characteristic strength happens to be my biggest weaknessas well. One of the things I am secretly very good at is reading people and their intentions. I am very good at reading and understanding people but that can have its off sets as well. Reading people comes from high sensibility and vulnerability where I can easily empathize with anyone and deeply visualize their emotions. This strength is not something I can explain or show off on my resume but it’s something that I secretly know about myself. This is also why I very sensitive around people that I am not fond off and can be shaken by the environment around me. I realize that I have to stop internalizing and overthinking everything that I caught on about a person or environment and let it go. Knowing that people and cultures are what they are and I just have to accept it for what is it and nothing more. Instead use my strength and turn it to something positive, like helping people in need.

Now, I know it sounds as if I tackled all these characteristics but the truth is I am not even 1% close to where I want to be. This post is more of a reminder to continue to actively change. Even one action towards change can make a huge difference in our character. Also, the people that always telling us that we should change are the same people who will never see our good deeds and are quick to point their fingers when we fail. It is important to change for ourselves and not for others and never give up even if we fail a thousand times.

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Going Shampoo-less

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The road towards a healthier life is not an easy one. You can’t take an escalator all the way to the top, it is a step by step process. I am by no means considered a healthy person but I have become more conscious of my actions and what impact it has on the society. Living in a chaotic, never stopping concrete jungle it is very easy to fall into and contribute to the city’s pollution. I have to come into realization that I will not be able to fix the city’s dangerous pollution but I have to take responsibility for my own contribution, whether or not it will have a positive impact on the environment.

It is quite clear to foreigners and Egyptians that Cairo does not have any green public spaces. And if it does, it is all privatized and enjoyed by the privilege which leads most of the population behind. I am a strong believer that nature is the cure to our soul, it is the way towards knowing God and being closer to Him. When you hinder people from decoding their stress and rejuvenate their energy than the country is building an aggressive and resentful beings.

What does this all have to do with going “shampoo-less” a.k.a no poo? Well, since the air in Cairo is nothing but a poison. Apart from trying to build a mini garden and eating healthier, I also questioned what else was I doing that could harm my body? Using conventional house products was one of those things that I’ve completely eliminated from my cleaning routine. Instead, I use apple cider vinegar for everything related to cleaning and more.

On a rare moment where I watch t.v, one of those dr. shows was on and a guest had explained how she had not washed her hair with shampoo for 5 or more years. At first, everyone in the audience were frazzled by this concept. However, as she explained how much we are exposed to chemicals on our daily life and how shampoo strips our natural oils and that not too long ago we were not using shampoo, all of this starter making sense.

Immediately after having watched the show, I started making my own research for alternatives to using shampoo and came across the “no poo” terminology. I found a lot of alternatives that were just overwhelming and would take a lot of organization to go on the “no poo” journey. The simplest alternative to shampoo was by washing my hair with banking soda and apple cider vinegar. It didn’t require any work since I already have those products, so all I had to do is just start. I said goodbye to my store shampoo and conditioners and nevertheless saw great results. For moisturizer, I always use a fusion of almond, castor and coconut oil on my hair but this time I try to cut it down to allow my scalp to product the natural oils.

For a couple of weeks everything was dandy but afterwards, I’ve noticed that my hair was breaking and my ends where very dry. One of my daughter who has similar hair to mine was having the same issue. Although our hair looked better than when we were using regular shampoo and conditioner, the dryness and breakage was driving me crazy. I once again jumped online and made more research on the “no poo” journey and came to find out that baking powder has a very high PH level that our hair is not able to handle, therefore experiencing breakage and dryness is very normal.

I came across another alternative to shampoo that required blending canned coconut milk and aloe vera and rinsing the hair with diluted apple cider vinegar. This combination is so refreshing to the scalp and even skin, definitely living your body moist and soft. There was a lot of this mixture left behind so I just froze the rest in ice cubicle batches. However, this method left my hair feeling waxy on my scalp and oily. Although I loved the moist and how soft it makes my skin and hair feel, it was as though I had too much oil in my hair.

After not using banking soda on my hair for about a month, I had go back to this method to wash all the build up oils but this time I used a little less baking soda than usual. The outcome had my hair feeling lighter, airy and brought my natural color back to life. I also had found out through my research that the type of water you wash your hair with can have also an impact on the health of your hair. Water alone is sufficient to wash away the dirt in the hair but it all depends whether or not you living in a region that has hard or soft water. Hard water has a lot of harmful chemicals and minerals that also strip away the natural oils of the hair. Unfortunately, Cairo falls under the hard water category but there are some things you can do to repair the damage that hard water creates.

One step you can take is buying a filter for the shower but if that is expensive one can use rain water by putting a clean bucket outside until filled. If you live in the desert and almost no rain all year round and don’t have a filter than making a hair mask once in a while can be very helpful. You can use either the coconut milk/aloe water mixture or mask that I find helpful to remove dandruff and dryness is using olive oil with turmeric spices and leave in the hair and/or skin for 30-1 hr.

In conclusion, my hair is still not the way I want it to look and feel like with all of my experience with the “no poo” method. I am quite positive that the water in Cairo is not doing any good towards my hair either which is something I have to live with or invest in a shower filter. In the mean time, I realized that not all shampoo alternatives work for everyone. The “no poo” journey is a definitely a trial and error but patients is required and I have hope I will come across either an already all natural shampoo or a recipe alternatives. Although, my hair in the mean time is no where perfect or how I want it to be, I can tell it is definitely healthier because I no longer have dandruff and my natural color is slowly appearing. Also, this step I took towards eliminating conventional shampoos got me thinking of other healthy steps I can take next. Food is definitely one of the biggest challenges but I am eager to master healthy eating habits and share it with you all.

10 Things I learned Through My “Minimalist” Journey

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It seems like Minimalism is a current trend. What is this minimalism thing anyway? For me, its more of a lifestyle reconstruction rather than a materialistic order. It’s a way of simplifying your life choices which can include many and anything depending on the individual. It’s an endless reflection on your life occurrences, mistakes and goals. In the beginning of this journey, I thought to live a minimalist life meant to buy less and control your budget to the core. Although, I think this type of lifestyle is customized to fit the individual, I realized that it is not just a black and white cut out answer. With that said, I would like to share what I have learned through this journey;

  1. De-clutter- I truly though to achieve simplicity is to use a pair of shoes to the point where not even scotch tape can safe it anymore. On the contrary, is to get rid of everything (donating, trashing or gifting) that has and will not be used anymore. It is also letting go of very old things that can not be recycled such as my pair of converse. It doesn’t mean I am not allowed to to buy anything either, by decluttering my home and closet, I allow space for new things which leads me to number;
  2. Quality vs Quantity- I used to buy things and still do sometimes that are aesthetically appealing but sometimes the quality is not that great. Or I buy something which I need immediately but end up buying the cheaper version instead. I am realizing now that being a minimalist doesn’t necessarily mean that I spend less on material things. It can also mean buying something that will last me a life time which I will have to invest the money knowing that later will compensate.
  3. Quantity- This is not just an American problem, Egyptian love to buy oversized things too. Now, instead of buying kilos of vegetables all at once to later throw most of it in the trash. I buy just a small quantity which I know will last me a week. Not only do I keep my fruits and veggies fresh, I don’t have to throw it away either. Making LISTS is also crucial at achieving a simplistic life. Writing a list of things that I need to buy not only keeps me centered, focused but it allows me budget better and saves me time.
  4. Time- On my journey to achieve this life style, I have done ridiculous things such as not buying a can opener because I think I will not used that often. However, every time I need to open a can, I have to use a sharp knife and a hammer which not only is a pain in my behind but wastes a lot of time that I do not have. Which makes me think, is time not precious enough, it doesn’t have worth? Heck ya! Time is more precious and valuable than money in my book. That is why, I am on a hunt to buy things that have multipurpose and will safe me time, like a can opener that I have yet to buy.
  5. Routine- This is so so and I stress so crucial in life! My kids need it for their own sanity and it helps them to have a little bit of control and security in their lives. This also keeps me on track of the endless things I need to do. Since it allows me to save time, I can use it reflect on my short and long term goals.
  6. Will power-One of my weaknesses is, giving up when things get hard or I think I am not able to achieve it. This flaw never allowed me to know my capabilities and capacities. I know this will be one of the hardest things to change in my life but I am determined to fight this inner demon of mine by focusing on one thing at a time, rather than 10 millions things all at once.
  7. Health- A healthy life leads to a healthy mind. Buying less junk food and investing the time to make homemade snacks have really changed my state of mind. My diet it is no where from perfect but there are things that I have been eliminating that had made a huge difference in my mood and concentration span. I am buying less junk and more veggies and vegetables. Part of my breakfast routine is to always make fresh juice with chia seeds and blend it all in. Hibiscus juice has also entered in my daily healthy habits. I buy the dry flower leaves and boil it in water. Let it sit to cool and place in on jar in the refrigerator. I have found that hibiscus juice has cleaned my urinary track and controlled my sugar level. Also, it important to eliminate things that cause stress, friend’s that are not worth your time and even a job that is not worth the money due to high chronic level of stress (as long as there is a back up plan).
  8. Patients- Letting life be! Not everything has to be planned, controlled and manipulated. There are and there will always be things in life that are unexpected, unpleasant and goals might need to put on hold but it doesn’t mean failure and does not have to lead to unhappiness.
  9. Self- I think I can speak to all the mothers when I say we often don’t make time for ourselves. But if I don’t work in my worth, what will I have to offer to others? Having time for self reflection will have a good effect on how I am as a mother, friend, wife ect. In this culture it is very hard for most woman to take their time for themselves but it is something I will defiantly squeeze in more for my self growth.
  10. Peace- For some people peace means quiet and tranquility. As for me peace is to accept the challenges and obstacles that life throws at me and being able to be at peace with these occurrences. It means not running away from life’s challenges and difficulties but rather tackle it with grace and optimism.

Moreover “minimalism” is an endless journey and ever evolving. Life, goals, dreams, they all change consequently leading towards a different meaning of minimalism. But most importantly being a minimalist is down to the individual, it doesn’t have just one meaning, you as the person definite it.