Friday, May 30, 2008

Post 1001 - Uncontacted Tribes

Originally I just posted this on Facebook, but I decided to post it here, too, because somehow it just really strikes my imagination. These images are from a plane fly-by over a "village" of people who have had absolutely no contact with the outside world, apparently.

If you look carefully at the pictures, absolutely no modern artifact is to be seen. What did they think of the plane? Do they have contact with any other people at all? What do they live like, what do they think and believe?

As for the past week, school has been officially out but I worked a few days this week with some other teachers on preparing in our school for a new math curriculum on Tuesday and Wednesday. Yesterday, I was helping my brother with some of his master's work. Monday we had a barbecue at mom's house. Sunday I took my brother's kids to Territory Days in Old Colorado City. Basically it is a street fair - they close off the streets and set up lots of vendor selling stuff and giving away samples and freebies and there are some rides and entertainment. I saw several of my former students or other people I know because that neighborhood is kind of the hometown area for the high school I teach at. Saturday I did yard work all day. My brother's son helped. Raking is sooo hard! :) Friday and Thursday last week I worked hard at school, too - moving books and going through and getting rid of about 10 years of old department files. So that's about it!

And here's a meme from Patrick's Place

What was your FIRST job?

Well I had two jobs that summer - one at McDonald's and the other at a Mexican non-chain fast-food place in the mall.

What was your FIRST car?

A 1981 Oldsmobile Omega.

Who was your FIRST grade teacher?

Mrs. Baptist. Here's what I remember about her, mainly: She had permed white hair, she beat certain boys with a yard stick when they misbehaved, she taped a 6 on my desk because I kept writing it backwards, and she wanted to move me to 2nd grade early but my parents said no.

Where did you go on your FIRST ride on an airplane?

I think my first by myself was in college maybe, perhaps to Oklahoma; before that I think my family had flown to Florida to visit my uncle and Disney World. And the first (and only) time I flew a plane was in a circle in California.

Who was your FIRST best friend & do you still talk?

The one girl who I think best fits the criteria of best friend in terms of how much time we spent together and visiting each other's houses, etc., was Angela Premier. Angela Premier and I were "best friends" for most of elementary school but she moved away and gradually we lost touch. I've tried to find her several times but haven't succeeded yet.

Where was your FIRST sleep over?

I don't remember. It might have been a sleep over involving several Brownies at one of the troop members' houses - maybe Christine Glick's house. But I don't remember for sure - it was probably 1st grade.

Whose wedding were you in the FIRST time?

I've only been in one wedding - my brother's, when I was in high school. We're not a big formal event type of family.

FIRST foreign country you went to?

Mexico - Juarez, on a junior high Spanish class road trip. Kids sold candy at concessions after school and at events for a long time to raise the funds. I was the first person in my family to ever leave the country!

FIRST movie you remember seeing in the theaters?

I remember going to the drive-in that used to be down here. My dad had a red pick-up truck and he'd park it backwards and I had a sleeping bag to lay in. I think I remember seing Superman and some Western movie but I fell asleep.

First state you lived in?

The only state I've lived in for any length of time is Colorado.

Who was your FIRST roommate?

Helen Cooney from Canon City, my freshman year in the dorms at college.
We didn't really hit it off.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Late Daffodil

People have said we've had a late spring. This Daffodil agrees I guess. I think my mom's bloomed about two months ago, but mine are just getting around to it now.

And my new Columbine:

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Yesterday, I attended yet another graduation, one of many I’ve participated in as a high school teacher. But for the people crossing the stage, it is a once-in-a-lifetime event. I remember my own graduation from high school only because as valedictorian I was required to give a speech. I was so nervous my legs shook and I was sure everyone could see me shaking.

More people than I realized at the time were proud of me that day. The valedictorian at yesterday’s graduation also elicited pride from his parents, teachers and friends. However, crossing the stage were 315 additional people. Some of them overcame great difficulties just to graduate. Some of them have lived with severe disabilities or illness, some of them have been homeless, and some of them have suffered years of abuse. Although the valedictorian generally receives more recognition, is the accomplishment of being number one in the class a greater one than just making it to the stage for those other students?

How should we consider our accomplishments? In this society, we often take much more credit for what we do than we deserve. With every passing day, I realize more that we owe our successes to Allah swt. For example, while I studied to get the grades I did and chose to take the challenging classes that I did, I could have been made unable to understand the lessons, or unable to complete the assignments, or unable to see or hear the teachers, or too ill to attend school, or so many other things that would have barred me from achieving anything. Additional obstacles could have been placed in my way that might have stopped me – I could have been moving every 6 months in my childhood, I could have been caring for a dying parent instead of going to school, I could have been born some place where school was not available, I could have encountered a teacher determined to make me fail, and so on.

I was the first person in my family to go to college. My parents did not have the financial means to send me, so I knew I had to get a scholarship, and a full-ride one at that. I could not imagine a future for myself without college, but it certainly was not guaranteed. Most of the scholarships I applied for I didn’t get, but the one that really mattered – the full-ride, I did. Somehow I knew ahead of time that I would get it, but even as a teenager not yet aware of Islam, I realized that if I did it was due to Allah swt. There was no way I could really claim that I got the scholarship of my own merit independent of Allah swt. Anything I was capable of, Allah swt had made me capable of. The fact the application and interview were received well by the scholarship board was also something I could not take credit for, but that Allah swt had taken care of.

My first year in college, I met Muslims for the first time. Within a year, I decided that I believed in Islam. While there was certainly a lot of study, self-evaluation, and psychological challenge involved for me, I realized then and now that had Allah swt willed, I would never have met a Muslim, I would never have been inspired to investigate for truth, would never have recognized the truth, or, even worse, would have recognized it but chosen to remain with the religion of my parents because the change seemed to hard to manage. Every day that I wake up and still love the path I have chosen and desire to progress on it, I owe Allah swt for that love and desire.

The achievement of the lowest-ranked graduate may be as great or greater than the valedictorian. Later in life, few people will know or care about your class rank, and it won’t necessarily help you in life or in the Hereafter. What will matter is how you got there. Someone who passes through school with ease, never or rarely challenged, and facing few obstacles might not leave school as well-developed as a person who had to struggle more. Someone who has focused on the grades, maybe even cheating now and then to get them, has learned less and harmed himself severely compared to the one who focused on learning and developing good character and habits. The one who leaves school prepared to learn, to work hard, to persist despite difficulty, and to live an upright life leaves with something that can help them in life and in the Hereafter.

The success in life is in how you make the journey. We all are faced with unique circumstances and challenges that will make our journeys different, and some of these will make you appear to be more or less successful than someone else. But if we take pride in our apparent successes as if we have earned them, we have deserved them, or we have independently accomplished them, then we have misunderstood our dependence on Allah swt. Do you recall the parable of the man who took great pride in his orchard and then Allah swt wiped it out in a day? We could all make the same mistake as he.

So, how do we avoid this mistake? Perhaps the key is in gratitude. Yesterday I was thrilled when it rained here and some flowers in my yard bloomed. I remember a few years ago when we suffered drought here. Since then, I have never again complained about rain. I was blessed by the drought because it made me appreciate the rain and thank Allah swt for it, and the rain is a blessing in itself. Last week I felt like complaining about minor health issues, and then I learned about someone who suffered for a decade from obstetric fistula. She not only endured the suffering from the illness, but also suffered great humiliation, shame, and lack of sympathy for her condition and was forced to exist as an outcast in her society. Then I remembered more how I owe thanks to Allah swt for what I have.

As we mark the anniversary of the death of the great lady Bibi Fatima (as), we can remember the blessing of her tasbih. Reciting it consciously – Allahu Akbar 34 times, Alhumdooleluh 33 times, Subhanallah 33 times– can express a small measure of gratitude to our Creator and can revive in us even more gratitude. One of the wondrous natures of Allah swt’s blessings is that they often compound upon themselves – like the double blessing of the rain and gratitude for the rain, or the double blessing of reciting dhikr and being enlightened by the dhikr. Reciting her tasbih does not have to be limited to after the salat, but can be done anytime.

Congratulations to all the graduates; may Allah swt grant us all true success in this world and Hereafter and may we all find in ourselves ever-increasing gratitude to our Creator.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Biography of Zainab (as) The Victory of Truth

I think it shows how little we really know.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Ya Zainab!

Oh Bibi Zainab (as), yesterday we gathered for you. So much we do not know about you. How do we live as women when you, our role model, we know only incompletely? I long to be closer to you and your family, for I feel it is the only cure for loneliness, the only way to raise myself out of the fog, the darkness, toward Allah swt.

How can we gather for you and yet many do not even listen for you or seek you? I feel lost in a sea of people, in their beautiful beaded and sequined dresses; I cannot compare to them, but even so I am confused why is your name not on their tongues, why are they not eager to hear the speaker make remembrance of you on your day? I cannot see their hearts, but I know the spots on my own that shame me.

But still I am happy they are there, for someone should be there, someone must remember you. I seek out anyone with you in their hearts wherever they may be found because I need them; I sought to be free of need in this world, but I am always in need of an occasional beacon or glimmer of burning love for you and your family to light the darkness on my way in this world.

No one stays here long; my heart attaches to a soul and then it moves on, and my heart attaches to others and they move on, and my heart breaks at the loss of a connection, even brief. I am still here and I want to move on, too, but I know my life is about learning patience.

And in solitude, I hear a heartbeat, and it beats remembrance of Ahlulbayt (as); and I realize then that I only feel alone because I allow myself to do injustice. But in the quiet, I again feel the fabric that binds us and remember that you are always there. I cling, as to the rope that pulls away from an icy, turbulent ocean. How grateful to Allah swt I am for the rope of hope, mercy and guidance!

Monday, May 05, 2008

Mildred Loving, a True Heroine

Heroes and Heroines don't set out to be one in most cases. Mildred and her husband Richard stood up for love and against bigotry, because they loved each other. Mildred has passed away this week.

Read more here.