Monday, June 27, 2005

From one of my favorite books

Thus ease comes from considering this world to be insignificant, giving up one's enjoyment of it, and removing the impurity of what is forbidden or doubtful. A person closes the door of pride on himself once he recognizes this; he flees from wrong actions and opens the door of humility, regret and modesty. He strives to carry out Allah swt's commands and to avoid His prohibitions, seeking a good end and excellent proximity to Allah swt. He locks himself in the prison of fear, steadfastness, and the restraint of his appetites until he reaches the safety of Allah swt in the world to come and tastes the food of His good pleasure. If he intends that, everything else means nothing to him.

Imam Sadiq (as), Lantern of the Path

Sunday, June 19, 2005


The first time I saw fireflies was the summer of 1996 when I did a physics internship in Knoxville/Oakridge Tennessee. I was fascinated by them. Up close they were, well, ugly. But the swarm of light in the evening was fascinating and a wonderful sight to behold. The next summer, I did an internship in Troy, NY, and again I got to see fireflies - not in numbers so great, but still in the evenings I could look forward to darting, green lights in the backyard of the old, lonely and creepy sublet apartment/house with no front yard that I was staying in by myself. I was the only female in the program so I had my own residence during the program just off campus.

But I've never seen other fireflies before or since. Even visiting my grandparents in Deatsville, Alabama, I didn't notice them. They had lots of other interesting wildlife there like huge turtles, though.

But now, apparently the fireflies are are doing the Pikes Peak or Bust thing. I don't think it would last long-term because it is only due to the meddling of people, altering the natural environment. Still, I do think it would be cool to see one in my own yard one day....

Eastern fireflies beat a luminous path West


Fireflies. Just mention the bright little insects and anyone who grew up in states east of Colorado pines for muggy summer evenings lit by thousands of floating lights.

Well, pine no more. Fireflies have arrived on Colorado’s Front Range.

Actually, isolated groups appear to have been here for some time, but as sprinklers, irrigation ditches, reservoirs, and other water sources increase moisture along the Front Range, firefly sightings are increasing.

The official line has always been that members of the firefly family (Lampyridae) living in the arid West don’t light up. They communicate instead through potent scents called pheromones.

Well-established pockets of fireflies in Colorado flash in the face of such orthodoxy. One group has been blinking above Valley View Hot Springs in the northern San Luis Valley since at least the 1920s.

But recently, many Coloradans have seen lights in places they never have before. The sightings, although not official, seem to suggest a modest firefly boom.

Most testimonials begin like this one from Stan Garnett in Boulder: “I have lived in Colorado all of my 46 years, and I have never seen fireflies west of central Kansas. Then one night . . .”

His first sighting was in 2002. Now fireflies drift around his yard every summer.

Ken Pals, a naturalist with El Paso County Parks, had a similar experience. He has led nature walks in the region since 1981.

He didn’t see fireflies until 1997 when, while walking in a meadow near Fountain Creek south of Colorado Springs, he saw something like embers darting above the grass.

“I thought, ‘You’re nuts; you’re out of your mind. We don’t have fireflies in Colorado,’” he said. But there they were.

Now he leads “guaranteed” firefly walks every summer to share these rarely seen delights with unsuspecting Westerners.

The firefly is actually a type of soft-shelled beetle. It spends most of its life underground as a glowing, grublike larva. The adults emerge as rather plain-looking, thin, brown beetles.

At dusk, adults take to the sky above tall grass and mix air, a substance called luciferin and an enzyme to create a luminous chemical reaction in their posteriors. They use the blinking taillight to attract the opposite sex.

The mating season and light show generally peak in July.

One evening last week, Pals visited the fields surrounding the Fountain Creek Nature Center to see if the inch-long insects were feeling frisky yet.

Already standing watch over the meadow was Brandon Broccardo of Security who had walked down to introduce son Daylan, 3, and daughter Kayley, 2, to one of summer’s rites of passage.

At 9 p.m., with dusk thickening in the fields, there was no sign of sparks, but Broccardo was sure they would appear.

“Last year there were just thousands of them here flying everywhere. It was incredible,” he said.

It blew him away because he was born in Colorado Springs, grew up in Colorado Springs, and until that moment had never seen a firefly in the state.

The beetles may have gained a foothold on the Front Range in the past several decades as millions of people have transformed the short grass prairie into a lush patchwork of lawns, fields and ponds resembling the green country of the Midwest.

During that time, Fountain Creek changed from a trickle along a dry, sandy bed to a constant stream lined with vegetation.

Moisture is vital for firefly young feeding on snails and slugs in the soil, and may explain why populations appear to be expanding.

The region, once too dry for the grubs, now appears to have several spots to their liking.

There have been no formal studies of the population, said Whitney Cranshaw, an entomologist at Colorado State University, but he said anecdotal reports are increasing.

It’s possible that more people are seeing the same few bugs, he said.

“It could just as likely be that changes in water use have created more habitat and the fireflies are increasing.”

These days, fireflies blink regularly on sections of the Cache La Poudre River west of Fort Collins, over ponds and fields in Boulder and Jefferson counties, and in areas of Colorado Springs and Pueblo, including the section of Fountain Creek where Pals and Broccardo waited.

It looked like there would be no fireflies that night. Then, suddenly, a spark streaked the dark field. Then two.

The kids giggled with delight.

They counted four fireflies — not the glowing swarms of the Midwest, but possibly a harbinger of more to come.

“Who knows. They may spread quite a bit,” Pals said. “We’ll have to wait and see.”


Thursday, June 16, 2005

For Granted

I read a most incredibly wonderful and powerful dua today. Someone recommended it to me and now I have to spread the word and recommend it to everyone else. It is Imam Husain (as)'s supplication at Arafah (Dua Arafah of Imam Husain (as)), given just before he left the plain of Arafah toward Karbala. It is not particularly short, so set aside a bit of time for it but I think you would certainly not regret it.

I've been thinking a lot lately about how we take things for granted; I've been learning about that through lots of events in my life and hopefully learning to do it less. We take our families for granted, that they will be there, that they will be healthy, that they will do what we expect them to, etc. We take our health for granted, that it will be there, that we will be able to do what we want with our bodies like getting up in the morning, moving around the house, driving to the store, breathing, typing. We take nature for granted, that we overlook its beauty, that it will always provide us with wholesome resources, that our children will be able to enjoy it. We take our minds for granted - that we can learn, reason, try to reform ourselves, deal with difficulties. We take our faith for granted, that we have it, that it stays with us and doesn't leave us, that it grows and guides us in the right direction. We take Allah swt for granted more than anything, that He will forgive us, that He accepts our prayers and answers them, that He guides us, that He loves us and is Merciful. Everything in life that we haven't lost or had to fight for we tend to take for granted, and sometimes even those things we take for granted, too, the moment they are given to us.

That is the beauty of loss and struggle. It teaches us to appreciate the uncountable blessings in our bodies, our minds, our souls, our environment, our friends and family, our challenges. Being able to appreciate Allah swt even a fraction of what He is due is a source of peace and joy. Appreciating makes us reflect and slow down and honor what we have. It also makes us understand that it is Allah swt's to take away and when it is taken away we still have uncountable blessings and still owe immeasureable gratitude, and that something taken away is really not a loss to us, it has its own blessings. The only loss or challenge we could face that would truly be a loss is that which takes us away from God, from His pleasure, from knowing Him.

It is not only loss and struggle that teaches not to take things for granted and to appreciate. But an answered prayer, a wonderful unexpected blessing can do the same. In the presence of a wonderful gift, if we reflect on it and acknowledge its preciousness, we have to love Allah swt all the more for the blessing. Its preciousness, even if it is a short-lived blessing, makes us not take that honor of receiving it for granted and makes us appreciate that gift and the Giver. In order to appreciate, we have to be willing to feel joy and pain alike, and we have to be open to Allah swt's designs and plans whatever they may be.

If you want to feel the power of Allah swt in your daily life; to you have to acknowledge the complete power He has over every aspect of your life. The fact that you breathe another breath is only due to the will and power of Allah swt. Allah swt is a changer of fortunes. Like Yusuf (Joseph) who was the lowest of low in the well and became the highest of the high in the Pharaoh's kingdom. We can be made high from low or low from high in an instant despite any effort of our own power granted to us by God. In a moment, I could lose my health, my sanity, my family, my everything. So we must appreciate and not take for granted anything, nothing is promised but that we all will die and raise again; whatever we have is a gift.

If we truly understand this and absorb it into our being, we can never want for what we do not have, we cannot be jealous for what another possesses or can do, because we will be absorbed in the acknowledgement of the greatness of what Allah swt has given us, appreciating it, enjoying it, and inspired by it to give thanks to Allah swt, draw nearer to Him, and seek His pleasure.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005


Thanks for everyone's prayers and good thoughts. Dad got offered the job as electrician for the Fountain school district and he starts Monday. I am very happy for him and I hope he likes the job.

My house is terribly messy. I've been pretty busy so far this summer. I need to finish some papers soon but it has been hard to get much accomplished on them. I feel crummy about getting stuff done and things weighing on me that need to be done.

Watched The Pacifier today at the dollar theater with Laura; it is only 50 cents on Tuesdays. That is a popular day care field trip movie; last week we tried to see it and it was sold out! But I like that movie, I think it is hilarious. We also did a quick geocache hidden in the East Library - one busy library. Also watched my brother's kids and took them to their baseball game. It is kind of nice to see so many people out enjoying summer. Makes me wish I could be a full-time stay at home wife/mother. Insha'allah someday, we'll see.

Friday, June 10, 2005


The past two days I have been participating in interviews as part of a committee to evaluate candidates for the CSEA Uniserv director position. It is a highly skilled job. I learned much about interviews over the past few days. I served on an interview committee before, but it was not as well run, and through this process I learned much more. A few points that really stuck out:

1. If you are interviewing someone, you must design the questions carefully ahead of time to make them describe for you specific examples in which they have exemplified the skills you need. This requires that you carefully identify what skills are required for the job first. You want them to talk about what they have actually done that shows they have or do not have the skills you need. When a successful interview is over, you don't just have an impression about how you feel about how the person would work, but instead you actually know if they have what the position calls for or not.

2. If you are coming for an interview, it is absolutely essential to prepare by conducting research. You must come in having researched about that organization, the job, and the community where it resides. You need to have questions prepared to ask the interview team that probe further and demonstrate your research.

3. Exhibiting some humor is good; exhibiting strong political stances is bad.

4. Don't ever be late for an interview.

5. Use good grammar. Stop and think if you need to and organize your thoughts.

6. Make SURE you actually answer the specific question asked, and not just something related to it or similar to it.

7. If it is important to get the right person, then it is better to re-open the position than to hire a candidate that is acceptable but not your ideal. Try to design timelines accordingly.

And here is some possible good news: dad has gotten some interest from a local school district to be an electrician for them. Insha'allah they may offer him a job soon, we are hopeful.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Another Loss

One of my aunts passed away this morning. She was young, in her fifties, and had gone in for routine knee surgery but developed a blood clot and died on the operating table. Inna ilahe wa inna lillahe rajeoon. ( From God we come, and to Him we return.) The last time I saw her was when she had come to visit us in the hospital when my father was so ill and we thought he might pass away. So it somehow seems a bit ironic. No one knows when we will go.

The funeral may be Saturday or Monday. Insha'allah I am hoping it is Monday because there are people counting on me for something on Saturday and I don't want to leave them without what they need.