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a work by nusret colpan depicting the islamic ...

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This time last year, I was beginning to think about voluntarily deploying with the TN National Guard to join the war efforts, mainly to get a steady paycheck. I had no love of this Arabic culture, which was a culture to me just weird, and even a little eerie. All of that strangely played music and singing. The strange dresses, even on the men. Just.. eww..

Well, here I am, a year later, with nearly that long of time spent in the countries of Kuwait and Iraq. I am amazed at the place these people have in my heart, and I do not speak lightly when I use the word “amazed.” I felt so proud to be in this region when the Iraqis went to the polls and voted.

“Iraqis are not afraid of bombs anymore,” said Maliq Bedawi, 45, defiantly waving his finger, stained with purple ink, to indicate he had voted, as he stood near the rubble of an apartment building in Baghdad hit by a huge rocket in the deadliest attack of the day. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/08/world/middleeast/08iraq.html?_r=1

The people have earned my respect with their big hearts. Sure, they are still learning how to have a working government – dare I say we are still perfecting that concept in the United States?

One of the best classes I have had here on base has been “Arab Cultural Awareness,” taught by a raven-haired Arab-American woman with a bubbly personality,  and I would like to share with you some of my chicken scratch notes, and formulated thoughts.

  • Culture – shared tradition of beliefs.
  • There are 22 Arabic Speaking Countries, which share language, traditions, and customs, separate from religion.
  • There is a lot of hand shaking going on. Every time they see a person, it is with the looong hand shaking, small talk, hospitality. It would be rude to do otherwise. Men will shake hands with each other. A man will offer a woman the top side of his hand to be polite, yet remain clean himself from touching the woman’s palm.
  • The 5 Pillars of Islam1.) Prayer, 2.) Pilgrimage, 3.) Testifying there is no God but Muhammad, 4.) The Fasting of Ramadan, 5.) Tithing, Charity.
  • Orient yourself to prayer time. Dawn prayers, noon prayers, afternoon prayers, evening prayers…about every three hours. This may explain why a person has to wait longer at certain times of the day for a cab to the airport, etc.
  • The Sunni follow teachings of Muhammad / The Shia believe the succession should have gone to Ali.
  • Algebra is from the Arabic Nations.
  • The country of Kuwait (where I am currently stationed), is a Constitutional Monarchy with a Parliamentary System of Government, which was recognized in 1961 from the Arab League of Nations.
  • There are many languages spoken in Kuwait, including Tagalog – from the Philippines, Tamil – from Sri Lanka,  Urdu – from Pakistan, and Hindi – from India.
  • There exists a multi-tiered citizenship system. All non-Kuwaiti residents would be no greater than 4th class residents, which is say what I would be, if I chose to live as a civilian in this country.

What I drew from this class,  from my mental notes that went beyond my notebook, was how there are safeguards built into the Arabic culture to protect the women. It is not a matter of them being lesser, it is of the women being separate. It is something that our liberated Western culture has difficulty grasping as good and normal. But for the Arab people, this is how they see fit to live. I do not have to live by the culture to respect it, as I do not have to live by the 5 Pillars of Islam to be able to respect them, and appreciate the great devotion its people have.

So many of our grievances come from a lack of understanding of other cultures. It takes effort to understand ideals other than those that ring true in each of us. But I truly believe it is worth the effort. Hmm…perhaps if Obama would bring Eastern and Western world leaders together to share tea, shoot, even some special brownies made from the herb that grows so freely in Afghanistan where we occupy…..maybe, just maybe, they would have moments of resistance being lowered enough to appreciate the God-given glory in each other.  These people are our brothers.

That is all.

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Sumner County Medical Center in Gallatin, Tenn...

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I stretch, groan, wake up to my alarm, which is set way too early for a Sunday morning. Did I really volunteer to pick up extra work hours this weekend?…wwwwhyyyy?? So I get myself out the door, and on the drive in to the hospital, I get this warm feeling in my middle, the closer I get to work. It has something to do with the quiet of the streets on a Sunday morning, the sun rising, and the knowing of what sorts of good things are going to happen within the next few hours. This is church for me, I remember.

This is the place where I get the most incredible soul feeding! It isn’t because giving of myself is so important, no. It is because I am a selfish being at my core, and I adore this feeling I get when I connect with another human on this level, and I simply must have more of it!!

I think of the last weekend that I worked. Mrs Stanich had just had her total hip replacement, and that day was the first day she would get out of her bed and take a few steps.

“Oohh….no, I can’t…I just can’t” Mrs Stanich pleaded for us to come back later.

“Now, Mrs Stanich, the doctor says we have to try this morning, and I promise you it wont hurt your operation. You will be a little bit sore, but that’s okay,” the physical therapist explained.

“No…no, I can’t. I’m not ready”

“Mrs Stanich,” I got on my knees to look at her eyes. I could see she was afraid, but I knew if she would look at me, I might be able to reach her, “these exercises are going to help you get home sooner. Will you try with us? Will you do it for me? C’mon let’s try, we’ll do it together.” She nodded, still feeling cautious, but I knew I had reached her. I was exhilarated, and as I glanced over at her grown daughter who was with her, I could sense that she was feeling it too.

I knew enough not to let her leg cross over the other, so I took my position under her right shoulder, the therapist on the other side, and we would help her stand inside the walker. “Now you are going to hold your walker, and Sarah and I are going to be walking right beside you. You’re going to be just fine,” the therapist comforted her patient.

We slowly, very slowly took Mrs Stanich to the door of her room and turned and came back to the side of her bed. I could tell, June wanted to stand up and cheer, but instead told her mom how proud she was of her. Mrs Stanich was beaming. We sat her back in her bed, removed the walker to the other side of her room where it would stay until her next therapy session.

“Are you two coming back again today? Please say you are coming back,” the frail woman pleaded.

“Now Sunday is only one session per day, but your therapist will be back tomorrow, and you will be in very good  hands, we promise.”

As I left the room, I had the most gratifying feeling inside of me. There is nothing for me to complain about when the greatest accomplishment of the day for this brave woman was making her way across the room and back. If ever there was a Christ consciousness, this was it. This was my best church time, where my soul was fed – no, where it feasted!

New Living Translation (©2007)
“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

*Names have been changed, for patient privacy.

A goat kid (Capra aegagrus hircus) resting und...

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Today I stopped at the smoking area talked with some of the other soldiers, and we happened upon the subject of country life. People are surprised to know that I grew up on a farm, ha, I dont know why. Hasn’t everyone tasted a mineral lick? Am I the only one who grabbed the tail of a young cow and let her drag me running across a muddy pasture? I learned to go straight inside a fighting zone and survive by wrestling with geese! Surely there have to be more of us out there!  Even when I talk to other adults who grew up on farms, I have yet to find one who helped their folks butcher rabbits and found that the prize of it was the bladder which looked an awful lot like a water balloon. And then I get in touch with those memories, one flooding in after another. It was a great time to be a kid. As much as I hated milking goats at 5am and 5pm, man, it makes for great stories I tell my kids…over and over…ha, yeah I finally have some of those hard-living stories to bore my kids with and make myself feel superior in comparison to their easy existence..just kidding babies! I am glad I grew up in my time, you have it a lot tougher in ways I didn’t have. I only hope as a parent that I can impart to you some of the simple joys I had growing up. It was really a carefree life, full of such richness!

A Monument at Mt Olivet Cemetery, Nashville, TN

My first encounter with this wonderful place was when I took my kids to an annual fundraiser for Mt Olivet Cemetery, The Confederate Cemetery Illuminated Walking Tour,  conducted by re-enactors in period dress. It is an amazing thing to walk through a gently glowing cemetery, the shadows play, the cold October night air begs for us to dress in layers again. We treated ourselves to a cup of hot cider to warm our hands through the Styrofoam cup. The most memorable re-enactment  for me is of wealthy businesswoman and associate,  Adelicia Acklen who married “once for  love, once for money, and once for the hell of it.” She is buried with her three husbands in a mausoleum, and it is quite interesting when each husband re-enactor follows her out of the shelter one by one on this tour.  Ah, I simply must go back there again!…I will have to wait until 2011 fall tour, as I am in Kuwait until December 2010 – a completely unrelated side note, but it’s my blog, haha, so I it is okay to mention that here.

For a while I had been wanting to take a camera, and perhaps a couple of willing subjects to the grounds there during the day and see what kind of wonder we could co-create on film. One key to an enjoyable afternoon with the camera is that everyone being photographed feels inspired as well as the photographer. So I try to keep my digital camera on hand for when I sense that everyone is on board with me, and then the fun really begins. I will say that this day I took my camera to the cemetery, nearly everyone had the shutter bug, minus my younger daughter, but we went with it anyway, in hopes of something good being made. I am satisfied that we got that.

This is Carlie, my youngest daughter. She was a trooper, I will give her that, and this picture was loosely posed, but mostly caught candidly, because she had already found this place to perch while her sister was on a mission to explore the tombstones in the immediate area.

I handed the camera to my oldest daughter, Brenna, and she snapped this quick photo, which had wound up to be one of my favorites for use as an avatar on my websites. While she was taking this picture, Carlie decided to join us in exploring the grounds, and her good eye found something so interesting! It just might have been the picture of the day.A small statue proved to be a simple resting place for this Daddy longleg. We took a few moments to linger and watch in wonder at the oddity we were viewing. The girls then continued on and read the tombstone of an 8-year-old girl.

A game I played with my camera – trying to see which angle would render the most obelisks and tombstones in my frame.

The tombstone of a Margaret Ray had been leaning this way against a larger stone named “Husband” for quite some time as indicated by the dirt and well-rooted Fescue around her base. I think this is a precious message of lasting love.

As Brenna was taking a break from exploring, to rest in the thick summer air, I caught her on film, and am quite happy with these results. A friend suggested I return to this location when there are no leaves on the trees and try the photo again, which will showcase the subject more. I think I will give it a try…I was looking for a reason to get back here with my camera. When I return to Nashville, it should be perfect timing for another round of outdoor photos.

The Universe does not know or care whether the vibration you’re offering is in response to something you are living right now, and observing, or in response to something you are imagining. In either case, the Universe accepts it as your point of attraction and matches it.

-Abraham

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Hello world!

This is where i say “Hey world! A big *high five* to ya and i cannot believe i am living in this wonderful age of information!” Even so, it is interesting to me that we all have our own unique perception of what goes on around us, and in front of us on our computer screens. Our life experiences color how we view things. I would say my view is through those glasses with the springy eyeballs that fall out, haha. C’mon, it’s a fun ride, we can go wherever we want. Don’t miss a minute of it!