Friday, February 26, 2010

Aquarium and Sea World Shows

As Salaamu Alaikum and Greetings of Peace:

Well, I'm all packed and ready to leave for Istanbul tomorrow morning, Insha Allah! My cats are sitting on my suitcases as I write this, Alhamdulillah, breaking my heart! How I will miss them while I'm gone!

I am so grateful to our hosts (more on this later) for inviting us to their wonderful city, and for preparing a great itinerary for us while we're there.

But, before I leave, I'd like to say a little something about the tragic death of Sea World trainer, Dawn Brancheau, who died while working with the whale "Tilikum."

I pray that Allah swt grant peace to the family of Ms. Brancheau in their mourning, and guide them to the Straight Path/Ameen.

No matter where someone stands on the subject of places like Sea World, everyone can acknowledge the horrible situation of the animals in our seas, lakes, ponds, rivers, and so on. Habitat changes, environmental changes, pollution of waters, and hunting, etc., all man-made offenses, have taken a tremendous toll on aqua life.

As a lover of Allah swt's nature, I have enjoyed many a programs on National Geographic where they take people out on boat tours where they can see the whales and dolphins jumping up and swimming in the wild. How I wish I could afford to experience that!

But I did go once to the National Aquarium in Baltimore, MD. While we were there, we went to a dolphin show.

This occurred at a time in my life when I was separated from my husband, and experiencing a lot of depression and sadness.

Let me tell you, when those magestic dolphins jumped up out of the water and did their flips and such, I experienced a JOY that I have not felt since childhood. I was acutely aware of the emotion. I remember how a lump rose to my throat, and "oohs" and "aahs" escaped from my lips in a manner beyond my control. I sat there on that bleacher seat in the Aquarium and tears just streamed down my face.

I am, to this day, painfully aware that I seldom experience true JOY and ECSTACY in my life!

I don't know why. I have much to be grateful for. Allah swt is truly merciful and generous to me, Subhan'Allah.

Perhaps gratitude to Allah swt is a conscious decision! The intention made each day, to appreciate the joy and blessings that come our way.

Even when supposedly "bad" things happen to us, there is still a benefit in it from Allah swt.

Sometimes Allah swt takes things or people out of our lives. At the time, we may not understand the wisdom behind it.

Sometimes He does for us what we can't do for ourselves, Alhamdulillah.

How you will thank Allah swt today? (See you in a few weeks Insha Allah!)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

iPhone Photography

Masha Allah, I absolutely LOVE my new iPhone! The camera on the 3G iPhone exceeds my expectations.

This is a shot of one of my cats, Hawaa. She's a tortoiseshell, or "tortie," as some people call cats with this kind of coat. Her coat is mixed with warm colors: greys, creams, reds, browns, greys ... and just look at her pale green eyes! She and her brother, Samir, were born in Masjid Ikhwa, Brooklyn, NY.

Insha Allah I am leaving for Istanbul this coming weekend. So I probably won't be posting much except for some photography until I get back.

Insha Allah I'll have great shots of Istanbul and a lot to tell you about our trip. I am told that Istanbul is one of the most visually stimulating cities in the world. Everyone who has ever been there lights up when I tell them we're going!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Verizon - We Want You Back! LOL

"Come back today and get up to $100 off any phone or device when you sign up for any calling plan $55 monthly access or higher. Or get up to $50 off any phone or device when you sign up for a calling plan $39.99 monthly access or higher. With a new 1 or 2 year activation. Nowhere else can you get America's Largest and Most Reliable 3G Network connecting you to the people, information and entertainment you want with the latest technology. Switching back is easy. Call xxxxx and take advantage of this exclusive offer."

Now see! What did I tell you?!

Why didn't they just work with me in the first place, lol?

Verizon - You Suck! I LOVE MY iPHONE!!!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What's in a Name?

I've been noticing a trend among some Muslim writers. In magazines. Online articles. Books.

Allah swt is being referred to simply as "God."

The other day, my copy of Yahiya Emerick's "A Journey Through the Holy Qur'an" arrived. I was very excited to receive it because it has received great reviews by some Muslims. May Allah swt reward Brother Yahiya because his effort was almost 10 years in the making.

Brother Yahiya's books about Islam have helped a lot of Muslims, especially new Muslims. A quick review of his new effort reveals that "A Journey Through the Holy Qur'an" will probably help a lot of Muslims to understand the Qur'an. It is written in very simple English.

But he refers to Allah swt as "God."

This, I don't like.

Why do Muslims do this? Allah swt does not refer to Himself as God. He refers to Himself as "Allah," i.e., Al-Lah. The God. The One. The Unique. There is none like Him. He is different from any God or god(s). This is the essence of tawheed and Islam.

So why use a name for Him that is like the name that others use to refer to their Higher Power?

What's the big deal you may ask. Some claim it's good dawah. Others claim the use of "God" is simply English translation. But I disagree.

We are Muslims. Why not call Him what He calls Himself in the Qur'an?

Have you ever heard an imam refer to Allah swt as "God?"

Have you ever heard a khutbah where the name "God" was used for Allah swt?

So why, I wonder, do some Muslims have no problem using "God" when writing?

I knew a Muslim sister who had a son named Yacoob. When he started pre-school, she told the teacher that his name is Jacob. Why name your kid Yacoob if you're going to have everyone call him Jacob? Why not name him Jacob in the first place? Jeez.

Brother Yahiya does encourage everyone to learn Arabic and to read the Qur'an in Arabic to get the full and rich meaning. But I just don't understand why he chose to use "God" instead of Allah swt?

Maybe I'll ask him :)

Monday, February 15, 2010

What a Day!

I intended to wake up and get a few things accomplished. For one, I have to put my contract together for my chaplain position. I am waiting for an endorsement letter from my imam to come in the mail so I can put everything together and turn it in.

But ...

No mail today. It's President's Day.

And thus went my plans to go to the bank, and to mail my completed tax returns at the post office.


So, I decided to do something about my smart phone.

I had a Blackberry Curve:

I really liked this phone, and it served my purpose. But with my MS and resulting fine motor control problems, it was a nightmare to send a text message or email. Also, my right thumb was cramping up doing all of that scrolling up and down. So, I thought I would look into a touch screen phone.

I was only one year into my two-year contract for the phone. My husband suggested that I call Verizon and explain my problem. So, I called and ran it down to the customer service representative. I told her that MS and arthritis can impede fine motor control and also cause muscle cramping. I told her that I knew it was not time for me to get a new phone, but wasn't there something they could do for me?

Well, the bottom line was "no." Not really. The only thing they claimed they could do for me was to give me a "deal" that would have resulted in me paying $219.99 up front and after a mail-in rebate, my final cost for a touch screen Blackberry Storm would be $119.00. (I needed the Storm that was a GSM phone so I can use it overseas.)

You know, I don't know what I was thinking, but I just thought that they could have done a little better for me. I explained that my MS has progressed to the point that my current phone is nearly impossible to use.

To tell you the truth, she laid so much salesperson/marketing double-talk on me that I was so confused and couldn't grasp my "fortune" of what she was trying to describe as a "deal" for me.

I was hoping that they would make some type of exemption and renew my contract early based on medical/disability urgency. I know they don't have to do it, and it's not their fault I have issues, but ...

I then asked the salesperson how much it would cost me to break my contract. She said, "are you really willing to break your contract for that reason?"

Well yes, lady. I have been a customer of Verizon for years. My husband also has a cell phone through them, and they are our internet service provider. I have never been late or missed a payment. I know that their business is a competitive one. I still think they could have done something better for me.

A strange walking into a Verizon store would have got a better deal than what they were offering me, a loyal customer.


I went to AT&T and bought a 3G iPhoneI just LOVE the touch screen! It makes all the difference in the world for my hands.

So, I'm going to break the Verizon contract. I don't care that it's going to cost me an early termination fee.

I'm sorry. It's the principle for me.

I'm like that. I have said elsewhere here that customer service really means a lot to me. I think I'm a customer service representative nightmare, lol.

I also have bottled distilled water delivered to my home. A few years ago when gas prices were starting to rise, I noticed a "fuel surcharge" on my bill. It was only like 50 cents or something like that. But again ... it's the principle. I called them up and told them I wasn't going to pay it. I told them that I could not charge my employer for the increase in fuel for the cost of me doing business (i.e., going to work). They sent me bills for months with fuel surcharges on them. I nicely deleted the surcharge from the bill and sent the balance to them. They finally gave up. Now, I don't have fuel surcharges on my bill. And they never bugged me for the money. LOL, they did carry it as 90+ days overdue for awhile, but they gave up. I told them if they insisted, I would cancel with them and get another bottled water provider.

These people piss me off when they think they can screw people because they think they're the only game in town.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Blizzard 2010

Here are a few shots I've taken ... for real, I don't feel like editing the rest of them. Power keeps going in and out, making computer work a bit frustrating. But these give you an idea of what we received! All in all, it was okay as long as a person was able to stay in the house, lol. We were lucky: we only got 15 inches.

The old bathtub I use to start vegetable seeds:

Side of our front porch:

Buddy sure is a trooper, isn't he? Okay, he's a bit of a sis. I had to make the initial tracks and then he came through:

No soda sales today:

Some neighbors never clean their snow. What are you going to do?

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Saudi Bakhoor

My husband brought this beautiful gift back for me when he went to Hajj, Alhamdulillah.

It's from my first attempts at light box photography.

You like?

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Chronic Pain, Suicide, Physician-Assisted Suicide, Family-Assisted Suicide ...

Yusuf Smith left me this comment and I wanted to address some of what is in it in a separate post:

"As-Salaamu 'alaikum,

Have you been following the Lynn Gilderdale story here in the UK? It was about a woman who committed suicide (with her mother's help) after suffering for 17 years with ME (no, not MS). She'd been ill since she was 14 and had been bed-bound for almost all of that time. The mother was accused of attempted murder but was acquitted last week, and there has been a lot of public sympathy (although some criticism as well).

Has it received much coverage in the USA? I posted two long entries about it as, although I know nobody who has that illness, I found it affected me quite deeply, particularly reading the published extracts from her blog (which was mostly private).

Do you have any opinion on this? I know there have been some with MS who are quite vocal in support of euthanasia, particularly here in the UK; is this quite widespread or is it a few people given disproportionate coverage?"

Wa Alaikum As Salaam Dear Brother Yusuf and Everyone:

To my knowledge, this case hasn't received a lot of coverage in the US. Of course, we have had similar cases here, and there are Americans who believe that people should be able to die with "dignity" when, where, and how they choose.

You may be familiar with Dr. Jack Kevorkian, also known as the notorious "Dr. Death."

In the US, they are referred to as "right-to-die activists" and in the case of Dr. Kevorkian, "physician-assisted suicide." I'm not sure or aware of the position of the MS community.

Some people feel that the medical profession should help terminally ill patients and their families so there will not be tragic and sad cases such as the one you wrote about.

As for me personally, and my position, my life is guided in all matters by Islam, Alhamdulillah. Islam does not permit a person to wish for death, nor does Islam permit the ill person to kill himself. Further, Islam doesn't permit anyone else to do it either, including the Muslim patient's physician.

It is Allah swt Who gives life and causes death.

However, there are cases where it is Islamically permissible for a physician to remove the life-support system of a Muslim, after the physician is absolutely sure that the person is "dead." Dr. Muhammad al-Jibaly explains the details very nicely in his book, Sickness: Regulations & Exhortations, 2nd Edition. I recommend every Muslim to have this excellent book on his bookshelf, may Allah swt reward Sheikh Jibaly/Ameen.

That being said ...

I can definitely understand how a person, including a Muslim, would reach the point in his illness, whether it be a brief illness or chronic one, wherein the person would want to end his life and his suffering.

I have numerous health problems which affect my back and legs, particularly my left leg. The problems are complicated by overall MS and Arthritis. I have severe varicosity, Schamberg's disease, a back injury, peripheral neuropathy, and Restless Leg Syndrome. I also have a Baker's cyst behind my left knee which does not want to leave me (they say they dissolve by themselves, Allahu Alim). MS causes me to have severe balance issues, pain, and mental confusion. At times it affects my eyesight. I have slight tremors that make fine motor skills a nightmare. Arthritis causes severe pain and stiffness. I live with these illnesses as well as a lifelong heart valve problem and asthma one day at a time.

But there have been times where I have been severely depressed. Chronic health problems and pain can cause depression. Because I am a retired counselor, I am able to recognize when I am becoming depressed, and I do things to snap myself out of it. It is important to mention that this depression is not the same as chemical imbalance depression seen in some psychiatric disorders. However, if the human brain lives with depression or anxiety long enough, the brain will become changed because the brain tends to be an adaptogenic body part in certain cases. The challenge is not to let depression progress to the point of no return where someone may have feelings of suicide, and where the person cannot recognize that he is depressed.

Back to my left leg ...

The other day I saw a program on National Geographic called Taboo. In the particular episode I saw, they highlighted a problem that some people have which is a kind of body dysmorphic illness, but in this case, the person has issues with a limb or limbs. The one guy profiled felt since childhood that his right leg was not a part of his body. He had strong negative feelings about his right leg to the point it negatively affected all the major areas of his life. He was a very unhappy camper. Since most physicians and psychiatrists are not willing to recommend amputation for this condition on what they perceive to be ethical and moral grounds, many sufferers do something to injure the limb to the point where IT HAS TO BE AMPUTATED. Some people have gone as far as to shoot themselves in the leg or attempt to chop their own leg off, etc. Can you imagine?

(Funny how physicians have no ethical or moral problems amputating a man's penis because he feels like he is a woman. Anyhow, I digress ...)

But I found myself oddly relating to the man in the program. I thought of my own left leg. I found myself agreeing with the man. There have been times I have felt like I didn't want my left leg. Oh how nice it would be to have it gone sometimes!

What good is my left leg? After all, it is barely useful or functional. About the only use it has is for balance - and that is even SOMETIMES. I can't even make salaat on all of my limbs. Sitting back in jalsah is nearly impossible.

What use is my left leg?

It is the cause of constant excruciating pain, stiffness, burning, stinging, swelling ...

Of what use is it?

Well, all I can come up with is the each body part of mine will speak for or against me on the Last Day.

Will my left leg explain to my Lord that I was patient and tender with it? Will it tell my Lord about the times I cursed it out, lol, or wished ill of it?

So I try to remind myself that Allah swt tests me through this body and especially my left leg.

So my opinion Brother Yusuf? I would encourage a person to be patient in illness or any other hardship or trial.

I would recommend that the ill person become familiar with the signs of depression, and have a plan for dealing with it. I would also recommend that the person see a qualified pain management person. I myself go to a pain management doctor. All the medical and psychological strategies for pain we use manages to take the edge off, even though it doesn't remove the pain entirely.

I would remind the Muslim that "with every hardship comes ease" even if it's in another area, not necessarily the health area.

I would remind the person that every pain expiates sin. It also evevates the Muslim in ranks, and purifies his heart.

The Sahabah (ra) were well aware of the benefits and rewards of illness, so much that some of them wished for illness. The Prophet (saw) had to warn them against asking for illness!

So I would in the end implore Allah swt to allow me to care for myself the best I can so I do not emotionally progress to the point where I may think or suicide, or cause my body to be a trial for my family and friends.

But at the end of the day, although I don't agree, I can undersand how a person could be in so much pain that they would wish for death.

I'm just glad that I'm Muslim, Alhamdulillah, and as in all major areas of my life, I have Qur'an and Sunnah in my life for guidance in all of my affairs.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Gardening Fever

Just got these today!

No more wet, muddy socks after I'm done in the garden.

I can't wait to wear them; they look so bright, Masha Allah.

SabiWabi, eat your heart out, lol.

Monday, February 01, 2010

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished? Or Child Trafficking?

I have been viewing with interest the news reports about the American Baptists accused of child trafficking in Haiti.

The news reports and many people familiar with these kinds of situations who are writing online have been warning that groups may try to exploit the situation with the children in Haiti.

News reports state that the parents of some of the children "gave" the kids to the Baptists. That they agreed for them to take the children to the Dominican Republic for a "better life." Reports say that many of the older children didn't want to go, and that they cried and objected loudly. What child wants to leave their family?

Allahu Alim.

While some of us may think it horrid that a parent would agree to "give" a child away, in some cases that action may be a loving and unselfish one. News reports from Haiti claim that many children have been "given away" by their parents, and not always to a good situation. Some children live with people who use them as domestic servants without a care to their welfare. In other cases, parents give away children with good intentions, and the kids end up in bad hands.

When I was in Puerto Rico, it was not uncommon to know of numerous related and unrelated people living together and defining themselves as "family." I personally knew of one woman who "gave" her child to a relative, and the relative referred to the child as her daughter. The mother couldn't support the child.

A nightmare for the public assistance folks, lol.

Who knows?

I am not sticking up for the Baptists, but I think it's important to let this legally play out before we jump to conclusions.

Is this case one of "confusion" about procedure as the Baptists claim? Were they just trying to do good, and help?

Can you already hear that blogosphere blowing up with posts from people who vehemently object to white people adopting black or other non-white children?

Or better yet, are the Baptists being made an example and warning for would-be child traffickers from America or elsewhere?

If they are guilty, screw them, and let the full force of the law be upon them. But if they are not, let us not judge them harshly, as we Muslims have had others judge our intentions without the full facts.

What do you think?