Category Archives: About Me

Someday You’ll Think Back And…

smile-191626_640Hi Everyone!

I recently came across a donation campaign for a husband and wife who want to re-do their fifth anniversary that wasn’t so special the first time. Reading their story reminded me of a recent occurrence between my husband and I that in the moment was frustrating, but thinking back, it was truly hilarious.

It started off as a normal morning where I had just finished drinking my lemon water and was cutting up my vegetables for that night’s smoothie. My husband had just finished his shake and placed his bagel in our cheap, unreliable toaster. As he stood waiting for it to toast, his body decided that he had to use the bathroom at that very moment. Now instead of releasing the toaster until his return, he asked me to watch his bagel to make sure it didn’t burn. I of course agreed and proceeded to continue cutting my vegetables.

Now since he had just placed the bagel in the toaster, I took my time in checking it. And right before I did so, I smelled smoke and turned to see no smoke coming from the toaster, but when I popped the bagel out, it was in fact very burned. As soon as I turned to retrieve another bagel, the fire alarm went off. It wasn’t just an alarm that sounded off, but this thing was actually shouting “Fire!, Fire!” So, although there was just the smell of smoke in the air and no fire, I was still panicking, especially since it was 5:45am, and I didn’t want to wake the neighbors or make them think there was an actual fire in our apartment. I grabbed a dishrag, ran over to the smoke sensor and began whipping it helicopter style. Simultaneously, I was shouting for my husband to help me, and even though his response was “I’m using the bathroom!”, I continued, for whatever reason, to demand that he assist me with preventing this imaginary fire. Suddenly the bathroom door was thrown open and he waddles out, holding his pants around his hips. And instead of helping me (as if I needed it), he simply snapped at me and went back in the bathroom. I eventually did get the alarm to stop, and even though I was frustrated at my husband for his comments, I couldn’t get the image of his emergence from the bathroom out of my head. And each time I felt the irritation rise, I couldn’t help but laugh. My husband soon apologized and later asked if I had ever experienced a talking fire alarm going off unexpectedly as I was using the bathroom. No, I have not.

When we go through challenges or unexpected happenings in our lives, I truly believe that God has placed something in every single one of these moments to make us grateful and/or laugh. I hope that you, this couple, and myself can do that always.

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

If you’re interested in this couple’s story or donating, here is the link to their campaign site:

http://www.gofundme.com/asimpleanniversary

Love, Loss, Kindness, and Peace

hands-63743_640Dear Readers,

Today I would like to share with you a story from my past that I hope speaks to many of you. It’s about loss, love, and kindness. They are memories that will stay with me forever.

For seven years of my life I lived in Bronx, NY until I left at the age of 10. In my last year of being in the City, I was in the 5th grade at an elementary school that was literally one block from my home. That was where I met Philippe Gaton. Philippe was a Puerto Rican boy with the kindest heart of anyone that I had known. Never had I met someone so pure and so mature. I was a bit of a troublemaker in that I loved wrestling on the playground and playing jokes on my classmates. And when someone took a joke too seriously or if I got myself into trouble with my classmates, Philippe would stand up for me and at times would actually stand between me and the aggressor. There was a time when I had bumped into this grown man, causing him to become verbally hostile. Being a terrified 10 year-old, all I could do was apologize over and over, but it was to no avail. Philippe came out of nowhere and stood between me and this adult man and proceeded to deescalate the situation by talking to the man as if he were an adult himself. He then gently took my arm and steered me out of danger.

Naturally, of course, I developed strong feelings for Philippe. And naturally, I picked on him the most and made fun of him more than anyone. I often chuckle when I think back to our dreams at that point in our lives. I wanted to be a scientist and Philippe wanted to be a professional wrestler (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was big at the time). Being the person that I am and was, I never gathered the courage to tell Philippe how I really felt, but there was an unspoken understanding that we both felt the same way about each other. The word that I can best use to describe him was “good.” His soul, his character, his looks, and his heart were all good.

I passed the 5th grade with the expectation and assurance that Philippe and I would be together the next school year. As classmates and perhaps, even as a couple. That summer my brother and I went away for camp for a two week period. On the day of our return, my mother left her job to pick us up and drop us off to our father who was home as he always was. The cab was late and in a rush, my mother dropped us off at the door and hurriedly got in the cab and back off to work. To this day, I do not understand the rage and fury that my father had when I told him that my mother was not with us because she had to hurry back to work. He destroyed the apartment and nearly broke everything in sight. He was so anxious for my mother to get home that he waited on the corner block before hauling her off. That night they had the worst fight I ever remember them having. I think it was then that my heart severed ties with the man that was my father. And when he exhausted himself and left to the streets, I went up to mother and declared “I don’t want to live here anymore.”

A week later, my mother sent my brother and I to stay with my aunt in South Carolina for the summer. In that time, my mother took what she could and left the Bronx. My brother and I returned to New York but it was to Binghamton where I would be for seven years. And my father knew nothing of it. Moving to Binghamton was a relief because of what I was leaving behind and because of the promise of the better life I was looking forward to. Though we looked over our shoulders often, I didn’t care about what my father thought and how he felt. I only cared that we were free and safe. At the same time, I was sad because I was not able to say goodbye to Philippe. I knew that he would understand what I was going through, and it broke my heart that I disappeared without warning.

Two whole years passed before I saw him again. Although we had left the Bronx, we would visit on a regular basis to see my other Aunt and go school shopping. On this one particular summer day in the City, my mother was craving beef patties. We decided to go to a Caribbean bakery that I had visited all too often when we lived there. For some reason, I decided to wait for my mother in the car. And as I sat listening to my Aunt and cousin talk, I saw Philippe. With a small plastic bag in his hand, he looked like he had just stopped at the corner store and was heading home. Like a dream, I saw him walking slowly towards the car, asking myself if it really was him. And when he came close enough, I threw the car door open and shouted his name.

Philippe stopped abruptly and looked at me. He then said something that astounds me to this day. He had simply said my name. After all those years of wanting to see him, after all the praying and wishing that he would not forget me, that I still meant something to him, he said my name.

Philippe approached the car slowly, respectfully acknowledging my cousin and aunt and turning his attention back to me. The look of shock on his face reflected my own. I don’t remember who reached out first, but I remember grasping his hand. Despite everything I felt and was feeling, all I could say was “I moved.” He asked me where. I told him. He asked me when. I told him. He confirmed that I just finished the 7th grade. And then we didn’t know what to say because all that was needed and wanted to be said couldn’t have possibly been done in the short amount of time we had. So we said goodbye. I slowly closed the car door, and out of the back window I watched Philippe sulk slowly through the crowd and up the hill that I had walked up and down so many times. Just like a dream once again, the world seemed to have been fast-forwarded as he alone moved in slow motion. I watched him walk away from me until I could see him no longer, and still I looked.

“Who was that?” my cousin asked.

All I could choke out was “someone I knew” before I turned around cried with all the strength that was in me. It had seemed that all the pain I had been through, the love, the loss, the unspoken words, and the unrecognizable feelings I had since knowing Philippe came out at that very moment. I had never cried that hard before then.

One night after that I had a dream. Philippe and I were in the 5th grade again and we were on the swings at our school playground just talking while the stars above us shone brightly. We laughed about the old times we had on the playground and in the classroom, and I told him why I moved away. I told him I was sorry that he never knew. I told him that I liked him a whole lot. And then I told him goodbye.

These days, I dream about Philippe once in a blue moon, but we have not reconnected. Like the young 7th grader, I don’t believe he will remember me. But perhaps, as it was before, I may be surprised at hearing him say my name once more. Philippe is not a professional wrestler, but from I gather, he is an aspiring actor. He goes by Philip Gaston now. He has and will always have a special place in my heart.

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

Lifetime Resolutions

Hello My Dear Readers,

I’m not really one for New Years Resolutions, but recently, God has been reminding me of my goals and dreams in this life. When I seem to be down or discouraged, something happens or someone says something that reminds me that His plans for me are still unfolding…perfectly. With that being said, I have created a list of goals and hopes that I want to aspire to not this year, but for the rest of my life. These are my prayers and dreams that I want to never stop striving for, no matter where I am in life.

Dear Lord,

For this year and for ever more:

  • Keep me humble
  • Help me to continue laughing at myself
  • Please don’t let me lose my dorkiness and nerdiness, and may I continue to never be ashamed of it
  • Don’t ever let me lose my compassion and empathy for others
  • Help me to grow in patience and forgiveness
  • Strengthen my love and respect of others
  • Help to me to be better a wife and best friend to my one and only
  • Don’t ever let me stop dreaming
  • Strengthen my hope and trust in myself and most of all, in You
  • Until You say it’s time for me to have children, help me to devote myself and my life entirely to my husband and those around me for You
  • Help me, Lord, to always see You in those who are suffering and in pain, especially those who show otherwise
  • And please, may Your Light continue to shine through me

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

“Everything Happens for a Reason”

directory-466938_640Dear Readers,

Many of us believe that everything happens for reason; good or bad, there is a purpose for every event that God allows to happen or not happen. This is definitely something I strongly believe in as well. But I also believe in the fact that just because everything happens for a reason, doesn’t mean we are meant to know what that reason is. It is impossible to get into the mind of God and many of us (including myself) have stressed ourselves out trying to figure out the “why” and “how” and “when.” As Joyce Meyer said, if we were able to get into the mind of God and understand why He does the things He does, he wouldn’t be as great and mysterious. Yes, everything does happen for a reason, but with that belief comes acceptance and trust that everything will be okay and the possession of courage to keep moving forward in the direction we are being led.

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

The Unheard Voices and the Unseen Struggle

My Dearest Readers,

One year ago today, my first book Kingdom of the Sun, was published. I am so blessed to have been through an experience that was both a struggle and a joy. The goal and dream that I had in this endeavor was to give a voice to words and ideas that have been unsaid and to illuminate the struggles that are hidden and unseen.

I published Kingdom of the Sun on Columbus Day of last year simply because of what the “holiday” represents. In response to the falsification and propagandic use of history, I published my novella on Columbus Day as a way to represent its purpose of being a light for truth, inspiration, and hope for change. I wanted the book to illuminate the impact of a history that was edited, to represent the effect of colonialism, and to signify a nation and race of people that were silenced. I wanted my work to display how no matter where we are in time or history, there will always be an obstacle in the world and in our own lives that must be overcome. And yet, no matter how hard or unfair the battle may be, there is always hope for victory.

A year later, I still harbor the hope, faith, and drive that the words written in Kingdom of the Sun and on this blog will touch you and push you to make a change that you may have always wanted or say the words that have been bottled up inside you. I am no stranger to invisibility and forced silence. Even now, it still hurts me to think back to it. But even now, I am still reminded of the strength it gave me to become who I am and want to be. And the only thing I want for someone in the same situation is to break free. Become unhidden and become unsilenced.

We must not become like those in the past whose voices have been silenced and whose history have been distorted and edited. We must let our voices rise above the ones that try to mute it and our actions be braver and more holy than those who are not. We must be and make the change that is so needed in this world— changes so powerful that they will light the future for other generations and bring illumination and freedom to the voices and history of the past.

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

The Light and Happiness Inside

glass-384951_640Dear Readers,

My husband and I are kids at heart, and last weekend we went to see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. My favorite scene (no spoilers) is during the climax of the film where the brothers are on their way to take down the enemy. They decided to take a detour via an elevator, and as you can imagine there’s heightened tension and stress as they wait to arrive at their destination. But during this ride, Michelangelo decides to beat box, inspiring the other brothers to jump in for a good 10 seconds until the elevator comes to a stop and the seriousness then resumes. I love this scene because not only was it hilarious considering its timing but mostly because it was a reminder of how God would want us to act in times of trials and difficulties.

I’d like to think that we all have something that makes us smile or laugh. I know I do. In fact, I often get asked “what are you smiling at?” because when I’m feeling stressed or sad, I retreat inside myself and dig out these memories.

Many of us are going through tough situations, and there is so much negativity in the world that sometimes it’s so hard to escape it. I don’t watch the news for the simple fact that it focuses so much on negativity— whether it’s potential war, finding a scapegoat, the environment, or whatever or whomever they choose to talk about or demonize. Though I try to avoid negativity, there are many who choose to carry it with them, allowing it to deeply affect themselves and those around them. Joyce Meyer describes these people as “dead,” and although we sometimes wonder if they’re trying to bring us down with them, we must never let negativity affect us (and this most certainly does not mean that we shouldn’t be compassionate and caring). Instead of letting negativity in, we must unleash the light and happiness within us because ultimately, that is what this world needs and what people who are hurting need.

Picture all those wonderful and happy memories that you have as being placed in a bottle inside you. Open it in troubling times. Open it to share its contents with someone else. Let the contents build up so much that the bottle bursts and that light and happiness shines through your eyes and radiates in your smile and on your face, showering on all whom you meet.

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

 TMNT Elevator Scene

The Small Things

Dear Readers,

We all have a lot going on in our lives that tend to occupy our minds and worry us more than we should allow. There are times when I am so focused on a project that I find it very hard to sit still or focus on something else without feeling guilt or anxiety. The little or big things that go on in our worlds tend to make us oblivious to the larger world that we live in. Your neighbor, a store clerk, a customer, a teacher, a co-worker, or whomever may not know what you’re going through, but even so, they are still in this world with you and may be going through the same problems that are probably even greater than yours. I believe that everyone could use a blessing, a good cheer, or something to make their day and perhaps, lives, a little brighter.

When I was senior in high school, my dance teacher took some of my classmates and me to a very expensive restaurant to celebrate our graduation. Little did we know that the gentleman who was dining alone across from us overheard our conversations and generously decided to pay for all six or seven of our meals. This was of course a wonderful surprise, but I’m talking about making a difference in someone’s day by doing the seemingly small and insignificant things that really matter:

  • Looking someone in the eye and giving them a genuine greeting and genuinely wishing them a good day.
  • Putting back unwanted store merchandise in the correct location.
  • Stopping your car to allow a waiting driver to pull in front of you.
  • Greeting people who you normally don’t notice or speak to.

I know these may seem meaningless or senseless to some, but from being on both sides of each scenario, I can tell you they make a difference. From the sudden gleam in a janitor’s eyes to the feeling of relief that someone cares, I can tell you that it’s worth it. So please, stop and see someone today and try to do so everyday.

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

 

Author Visitation Part 3: Overcoming Fear of Publishing

blogging-336376_640Hi Everyone,

In the final segment about my visit to my local high school, I would like to discuss my tips about overcoming fear and anxiety of sharing or publishing one’s writing. This post was inspired by one of the students that I was honored to meet. She had asked me this question herself, but I didn’t really get the chance to fully answer it. So here goes-Think about the following:

1)   Your Goal

Think about your goal and purpose of writing. It could be to tell a story (fiction or non-fiction), to express yourself, to get something off your chest, anything. Whatever your objective is in writing, hold on to it and don’t let it leave your head. Now for your heart…

2)   Your Passion

Your passion for whatever you are writing about or for should be the driving force. If you have something that you have to say and want to say, don’t let anything stop you.

3)   Your Anonymity

If it helps, you can always publish your work with a pseudo name or perhaps even be anonymous. Anonymity is a factor for many when it comes to showing off their writing, so they choose this route, and many tend to forget it as an option. If you’re afraid of publishing your work, I would recommend that you start an anonymous blog. This gives you an opportunity to show your work while still keeping a distance from your readers. This will also give you the control to reveal yourself, whether slowly or all at once, whenever you are ready.

4)   Your Acceptance (yourself and others)

With authorship, comes the acknowledgement and acceptance of who you are as a writer as well as who your readers are and will be. You have you to be comfortable and confident of yourself and your abilities, but be humble at the same time. You must realize and accept that although many readers will love your work, many will hate it. You must then decide which of those people you should forget and which of those you should remember.

5)   Your Dream

The best tip that I have for overcoming fear of publishing your work is for you to recognize what your dream may be in writing and publishing as well as where you hope to see yourself in the future and the impact you hope your writing will have. Let this drive your heart and mind to move forward in fulfilling that dream.

I hope this helps those of you who are struggling out there. These tips are based off of my own experience and the anxiety that I had in starting a blog and publishing a book. To those of you who overcame your fear and anxiety, please feel free to share any tips you have as well!

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

Author Visitation Part 2: Student-centered Learning

iraq-81479_640Dear Readers,

In part 2 of sharing my visitation experience at my local high school, I want to discuss a method of teaching that I not only witnessed, but was a part of.  Mrs. Carey, the journalism teacher of the three classes I visited, conducted something called student-centered teaching. She of course has a curriculum, but she has her students give input on how they want the course to look like. She even allows them to provide feedback and give suggestions. Before I visited her classes, I was nervous and even slightly uncomfortable with the thought of lecturing in front of her students. I had even prepared a powerpoint. However, my experience was anything but and the powerpoint certainly was not needed.

The structure of my visit was very student-focused. I don’t like to talk about myself too much, so I was relieved when Mrs. Carey told me that it would be a very laid back conversation that was driven by the questions I would be asked. So, instead of standing in front of the students and lecturing to them, I sat amongst them and talked with them. It was of course more comfortable, but it was also much more personal and effective. The students were free to ask what they wanted to know and for those who had other responsibilities, they were free to work on them solely or simultaneously while listening to me.

What I love about this teaching method is that it gives students some control over what they should control: their education. Administers may see students as children, but for the most part, especially when they’re in high school, students know how they want to be taught and what works for them as well as what doesn’t work. The best thing about this method is that it signifies how teaching is indeed a partnership. A teacher may believe they have the best teaching method around, but if it’s not working for the students, then it’s not working. A teacher needs to understand their students and work with their students in order for education to be successful.

So, if student-centered teaching is so great, why isn’t it used more often? Why are policy-makers more interested in result-focused education instead? There are of course plenty of reasons, and I believe one of them to be an issue of control and power. I believe it correct to assume that some feel student-centered teaching to be a relinquishment of power and control for teachers and policy-makers. On the contrary, I believe that if students are spoken to, spoken with, and most of all, if they are heard, the teacher in turn gains much more respect and power in the classroom. The students that I visited were anything but out of control and disrespectful, and this does not mean that they don’t get unruly like all students do. Their education is just a matter of understanding the following principles:

1)   Students have a voice that need to heard.

2)   Education is a 3 way partnership: Teacher and Student, Student and Parent, Parent and Teacher

There are, of course, other successful teaching methodologies, but I believe this one to be one of the best.  To Mrs. Carey and all the other student-centered teachers out there, you’re doing a great job!

Peace and love,

Ariffa

When a Teacher Retires

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Photo Credit: KRISTOPHER RADDER/Pressconnects.com

Dear Readers,

I firmly believe that our souls are constantly speaking to us, especially when it has a connection or bond to another. I was reminded of this on Sunday when thoughts and memories of my high school dance teacher kept entering my mind. She was a petite Japanese-Canadian woman that possessed an aura of power, intimidation, kindness, and grace. The best way for me to describe our relationship is that it was the epitome of teacher and student. I looked up to her, I learned from her, and I admired her.

So on this particular Sunday, I thought about the wonderful memories I had of dancing for her and beside her. That night, I felt compelled to visit an old friend’s Facebook page, which is something I do once every two months, and there it was: After twenty years, Karen Koyanagi (or K2 as she was called) was retiring as the dance teacher of Binghamton High School and her final performance was that night.

I was then hit by a strange feeling that is hard to put into words, even now. I of course felt sadness that was not due to me missing her seeing as I have not seen her in years, but it was instead due to the missed opportunity that will result from her retirement. I found it quite rare that a high school would have a dance department, let alone, an excellent teacher in it. And students after her will never be able to experience that joy. Reading about K2’s retirement also made me aware of perhaps a naivety that I had in believing (and even hoping) that the teachers I held near and dear to me would teach on forever. And I guess in my eyes, K2 will leave too soon.

In thinking of K2 that day, two of my favorite memories of her came to mind. The first was the week that my great-grandmother had died, and I was having trouble assessing my feelings in dealing with the death of someone in my family for the first time as well as the fact that I barely knew her. K2 had noticed the change in my behavior and had sat me down after class to talk. And it was in the sunlight classroom that she withdrew from me words that I had bottled up inside and emotions that spilled from my eyes and onto her shoulder.

The final memory that I will share with you happened at my high school graduation. Mine was structured in a way that when a student’s name was called, they were greeted by someone who handed them their diploma and the student then proceeded to say their goodbyes to all the school administrators waiting in a line before them. When my name was called, I was greeted by a wonderful teacher who was to retire that year or the year after. Holding back tears, I took the diploma and gave a hug to every administrator that stood before me and at the very end of that line stood K2. In remembering that day, her presence took me aback a little. It wasn’t because she was not an administrator, but because of how and where she stood. All the administrators had stood side-by-side, facing the audience as the students said their goodbyes. But K2 stood about five feet away from them and her body was turned to face the student as they made their way to her. As I approached K2 that day, the same feelings that resurfaced on Sunday came to me for this woman, this teacher, this wonderful and supportive educator. And on days like Sunday when memories of her creep into in my mind, I’ll smile and think of what I said to her on graduation day when I held her close: “I love you, K2.”

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