Friday, December 19, 2008

Anniversaries- and Accountability

This month is more than merely the month we celebrate Christmas.

This month is also the month that marks the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - written in 1948, the wake of the Nazi Holocaust in hopes that clearly affirming and explaining basic human rights might help shape a more positive and peaceful future for all people.

This month is also my own anniversary, marking the day when my husband and I got married.

Many many many Christmases later, as I carefully decorate our Christmas tree it is good to look back on our years together, counting our blessings. Life has not always been easy (or fair), but we have managed to, day by day each day in turn, rise to every challenge- and survive. Good intentions help immensely- and so do compassion and empathy... and hard work.... and focusing in on the positive... and attention to detail...

Every year at least one if not more of our Christmas ornaments and decorations gets broken.

We try to fix what we can as many of our ornaments are symbols collected through out the years... symbols of ideas and people and places and times that we want to remember and cherish:

It might seem silly to have an old pair of baby socks on the tree- but those little socks have decorated our tree since one of my babies pulled them off their adorable little wiggly baby toes years and years ago.

Some of our ornaments have been more recently purchased, such as little wooden ornaments made in Palestine from Olive tree wood.

I like the idea of investing in Palestine- and investing in peace... a just and lasting peace for all people.

I also believe in investing in America- and our ideals of true liberty, justice and equality for ALL.

And I believe in investing in beauty and the arts- and poetry...encouraging the best, and the most inspiring.
Investing in Civilization

The Internet is an amazing gift- allowing us to communicate with far away family and friends- and complete strangers. What we post and the emails we exchange and forward can help open up hearts and minds- make connections & keep connections... help reaffirm human dignity and decency.... help civilization survive.

The opposite is true too... but from what I can see most reasonable and intelligent people tend to ever so politely and quietly walk away from the impossibly rude and crude and cruel and stupid and insulting and deceitful, preferring not to waste time and energy on totally negative pursuits, leaving hate mongers free to think they are winning... when really they are not.

There are countless people world wide worth listening to and learning from, and the more we reach out beyond our own small circle of friends and family to appreciate various perspectives and insights the more we enrich our entire world and our own selves, in much the same way that ancient trade routes enriched communities all along the way.

Last week I came across a fascinating op-ed in one of my favorite newspapers, The Jordan Times, which I blogged for my notes for letters- and for inspiration for myself :

"....This phasing out of the duties of individuals meant a devolution of this dimension of human rights at a time when this complementary feature of human rights is much needed in order to attain more balance and symmetry between rights and duties of individuals" ‘Dwarfing’ the declaration by Walid M. Sadi

Duties and rights are in many ways two sides of the very same coin as we the people seek to make the world a better place for more people.

When I was growing up and my mother did some stranger a favor, they would want to repay her but she would smile and say; "It's a favor- pass it on"... and they would smile warmly in response and promise that they would. That's a treasured lesson I very much took to heart- as have many who have benefited from the kindness and generosity of others... as well as good examples... pass it on...

My mother-in-law is the queen of forwards- most of them deliciously funny- some a bit naughty... but none are intentionally cruel. Most are heartwarming and adorable- mood lifting- and entertaining. Some are simply informative. Some are hard to fathom. Many she has received from her friends and she passes them on to friends and family.

Everywhere on earth there are decent and good people quietly and gently and each in their own way being kind to and about family and friends- and strangers. That's civilization. No one person or government or religion owns it- it belongs to all of us, as one wonderfully diverse humanity learns to get along.

My advice to my own children as they learn to accept responsibility for their own choices and their own future is to make making priorities a priority. Every choice you make has ramifications, so be mindful of how you choose to spend your time- and thought-and money:

You can not control what others do- but you can control your own response.... and the messages you send... and you can help shape a better world where all children have a chance at a decent life....Mainstream media work... Help free Palestine with positive thoughts and efforts: As always (for good stories, and honest stories that help explain the very real plight of the Palestinians) PLEASE go to the link to read the story in full- to help let the newspaper know the story is popular- and to help bring in ad revenue for those newspapers who dare publish Palestinian perspectives... & feel free to write the newspaper a comment, note or formal letter.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Giving Gifts

Sorting through all many tempting photos I've taken of my family and home since the last time I blogged Growing Gardens- and all many tempting themes... I keep coming back to one theme that seems most important- and none of my own personal photos really fully express what I want to write about today.

Giving Gifts.

I think the first gift we are ever given is the gift of positive thoughts.

Hold a newborn and you can not help but be drawn into their eyes as they are drawn into yours... and you can not help but hope for the best for this child... this gift of life.

The gift of positive thoughts.

In living a gentle, civilized life, over and over I try to bring the best of myself to my family and friends... and to the organizations and ideas that I believe are worthy endeavors, worthy investments of my own time and energy.

Every day I am blessed for I am married to a good and decent man. Yeah ok he is not entirely perfect- but he is perfect for me...

He is a good man and a good husband and father who daily gives the gift of his time, and the gift of his wide knowledge, and the gift of his hard work, and the gift of his great sense of humor to help make our world and our home a better place.

The gift of positive thoughts.

This week three important appeals for donations have appeared, like the three wise men. Each organization is different- and yet all three are very concerned about one subject that concerns my family- and that is Palestine.

I often blog these organizations' appeals because I think they are important... not only as it is VERY important to give money to help worthy endeavors, but also because each appeal helps explain their core mission, and their goals- and what they have accomplished.

The first best gift you can give is good thoughts... and then if you have a bit of money to spare, please feel free to invest it wisely in good ideas- and decent organizations that seek to help educate America about Palestine.... and the crucial importance of respecting the Palestinian refugee's inalienable legal, moral, natural and sacred right to return to original homes and lands.

Right now, more than ever, the people of Palestine need our help.

Mainstream media work... Help free Palestine with positive thoughts and efforts: As always (for good stories, and honest stories that help explain the very real plight of the Palestinians) PLEASE go to the link to read the story in full- to help let the newspaper know the story is popular- and to help bring in ad revenue for those newspapers who dare publish Palestinian perspectives... & feel free to write the newspaper a comment, note or formal letter.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Christmas Lights

My Kitchen Window getting ready for Christmas

I like holidays. Yes here in America they can get far too commercial, but home by home every home really does retain that spirit of good will so crucial to nurturing humankind, decency, and dignity as we are all free to celebrate however we might wish.

Married to an American Muslim whose large family tree has roots that reach right back into historic Palestine, the way I celebrate has changed a bit over the years. Become better really as the years roll by and I raise our children and read books and explore the Internet and learn more and more about the world past and present.

And the older I get the more I appreciate my husband Jaffar. His powers of observation and vast general knowledge never fail to impress me. He thinks clearly- he's got a great sense of humor and yet he works so hard, even on his days off. I cringe when I read or hear negative things and hate mongering targeting Muslims for the Muslims I know really are simply people- human beings, good bad and indifferent just like all human beings.

My husband Jaffar with our sons Miqdad & James in our dinning room

This year, very much appreciating the importance of family and adoring my own family I appreciate more and more the Christmas images and symbols with a father, mother and "...unto us a child is born."

As with everything what you bring to something is what it becomes. Every person is free to contribute each in their own way to help every endeavor become better... and every symbol more significant.

I am convinced that the most important component of civilization is the family- and for me at least Christmas celebrates that- Christmas celebrates love not only for one's own family but for all of humankind.

All symbols of Christmas, even the most commercial ones, reach back to the roots of family in one way or another, and much of what we do to celebrate Christmas is to bring warmth and goodness and cheer and welcome into our homes.

The same is true of many Islamic feasts as they are celebrated with family and friends and children often are given gifts- and the poor are given charity. There is a great deal of generosity in the Arab world, as well as a tradition of giving guests a warm welcome- and delectable food. This is our heritage- every one's heritage really as Arab ways are very much part of our modern world.

Indian Muslims pray at the <span class=J

Muslims throughout the world are celebrating Eid al-Adha, the festival of sacrifice.

Most Americans don't know that yesterday was the Islamic feast - the Holy Day/Holiday Eid Al Adha "The Feast of the Sacrifice" and it coincides with and marks the end of the Holy Pilgrimage to Mecca. It was a day off for many people in the Middle East and because of that my husband was able to enjoy a long chat with his father on the phone.

Visiting the Middle East at Christmas time you can hear Christmas carols in shops- and see Christmas lights and trees. Not as many as in America, and also in addition to a sprinkling of Christmas lights and symbols there are many Ramadan lights which I wish we had here- a crescent moon and a star that fits in a window or up on a wall.

Every year my husband gets out the ladder and he puts Christmas lights up for me. Every year they are a bit different, depending on how much time we might have to twiddle with designs.

This year we had time- but it was cold. I am my husband's helpmate as he puts up the lights. I hold things and hand them to him. We work well together.

Twilight and twinkling lights... the sun set as my husband finished putting up our Christmas Lights. I wish my camera could have also captured the V of geese flying overhead, and then the rising crescent moon - encircled with the glow of ice crystals.

Our reindeer now gaze across the street at our neighbors reindeer.

Every year on seeing Christmas lights, I fondly remember years ago the many nights when our boys were very little- how adorable they were as they'd toddle and dash up to their bedroom window at bedtime... and stand together on tippy toes peaking out to see the pretty lights on the house across the street.

I like having nice neighbors... and I like Holidays... and my home and family. In growing a garden for Palestine today this Christmas season, I am hoping that more and more Americans learn about Palestine past, present and future...

for Palestine inspires

WHEREAS recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world....Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948