By Renee Williams, Photo Credit: John Harpring

 

TARA NAJIM, 32, is an Arabic tutor, writer and gardener. She and her husband, Amjad, an anesthesia resident at Augusta University Health, have two children, Laith, 3 and Maitham, 1 as well as a six pound Papillon named Neva. Tara loves gardening and used to think she had a black thumb until she discovered that she could compost her family’s food scraps and put them in the soil. Now her plants are happy and thriving. Tara set a goal this year (as a family of four) to only produce four kitchen sized bags of trash throughout the year, and so far she is on track.

If you could have any job, what would you choose? My biggest dream is to design incredibly beautiful permaculture gardens that will improve health and healing, especially around hospitals, recovery centers and nursing homes.

What’s your favorite food? Whatever dish gets my kids to each fresh vegetables!

Dream vacation? One where I hike through nature, get along perfectly with my husband, where my children sleep through the night and are angels throughout the day (You did say dream, right?).

Is there an important life lesson you’ve learned? The beauty of life is that we learn so many lessons, but here’s my most recent: About two years ago, I was feeling so isolated and insignificant that I honestly thought that if I died, almost no one would notice. I started reading Michael Pollan’s, The Omnivore’s Dilemma (about the American food system) and suddenly I saw the big picture,  in that not just spiritually or theoretically, but in a very tangible way we are all connected: from the microbial life in the soil to plant life to our own physical health to the Earth’s climate. In that one beautiful moment of revelation, my entire life shifted. I saw my place in this interconnected web and the impact I had on everything around me. It was a huge impetus in my journey to live “green” – which is just to say that I am learning to care deeply about all my relationships to the world.

Best thing about being a mom and the hardest thing about being a mom? The best part about being a mom is being filled to the brim with love. What a lovely feeling! The hardest part of being a mom is learning to see my children’s tantrums not as torture, but as opportunities to practice love and patience.

Whom do you admire the most? I feel a very special connection to my maternal grandmother. She never raised her voice (or so my mother claims) and never wasted anything. My grandparents had a small farm in Finland, where they grew or handmade just about everything they had and any remainder was re-purposed, burned as fuel in the cook stove or returned to the soil. Only a small box served as the household garbage and once while visiting, we brought an empty soda can from the airplane that filled the entire “trash can.” Two generations later and many years after her death, my grandmother still inspires me every day just by having lived the way she lived.

Are you a planner, a dreamer or a doer? I dream, plan and then do. I get so excited by my ideas that on average I spend 10-15 years on each one. (Overlapping, of course. Because what woman doesn’t multi-task?) For example, I spent many years studying refugee issues while living in the Middle East and working with refugees in the U.S. Then, I met a young Iraqi doctor whose stories of working in a Baghdad hospital during the Iraq war were so incredible that I said, “These have to be written down.” So I wrote my debut book, The Brothers of Baghdad. And, of course, I married him.

This article appears in the May/June 2017 issue of Augusta Family Magazine.
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