Sunday, June 28, 2015

Freedoms in the US

I understand that my posts have become boring. I will have to think of more interesting stuff to post, or simply not post at all. I don't know how many will notice if I don't post. 

I am going to give a 'devotional' today at someone's house. I am struggling with what to say. She asked me to share my conversion story, and I am having a hard time talking just about me. I hope I can find direction about what I should speak about.  Some people from the Math department will be there, so that is added pressure. I hope people feel the spirit and are not disappointed.

The university hosted a luncheon and a speaker from the US military came to speak to us. He has served in Afghanistan and Iraq and other areas.  I always had a hard time with Americans serving in those countries and could not see a purpose for it.  So, I decided to go to get more informed about what the US army does in these countries. This man's experiences were eye opening. He was doing a lot of good there.  

He told us a little bit about Afghanistan and I was shocked at some of the figures he shared with us. Almost half of the people there cannot read and write. There is so much conflict, in addition to crime.  Methods of transportation are mostly horses, donkeys or camels. He said there are 7 million landmines that have not been discovered yet and he has seen those go off and kill children who think they are a toy and want to play with them. The average life expectancy there is 44 years old! And 20% of the children under 5 years old die. The average salary is $300 a year!

This helped me realize the value of education. Why doesn't anyone invest in the effort to teach those people how to read and write! He showed us one boy who's goal was to learn to read and write. His father then said: "and when he learns, he is going to teach me and his mother also how to read and write."   How can they survive without ever going to school!?

What he shared also made me grateful to be Palestinian. Even though our situation in Palestine is bad, at least we can live without danger mostly. It is true that people in the US sometimes don't realize how blessed they are to have the freedoms they enjoy and he made that clear as he spoke. 

There are many flags and decorations around as Americans celebrate the 4th of July, independence day.  I hope that some day I will have that feeling of having a country, and celebrating being independent and free... Having the right to travel freely in my country...

A Palestinian friend of mine who married an American decided to take her new husband to the Holy Land to visit her country. She holds a US passport. The Israelis let her in, but did not allow her American husband to enter the country. They said that on her Palestinian ID it does not say they are married. (What? why can't he enter as a tourist? What does their marriage status have to do with anything?) They finally let him in a few days later after my friend changed her Palestinian ID to say 'married'.  But, of course my Palestinian friend can't show her husband around her country. He has to travel and sight-see on his own. As a Palestinian, she is not allowed to travel to Jerusalem or Galilee or any of those places (even if she holds an American passport as well).

My nephew in Palestine has been sick and in the hospital and hopefully the doctors will figure out what is wrong and help him. This is when good medical care is essential...that is the other thing that is good in the US. Even though it is VERY expensive, there is better medical care.

I already have three of my classes next semester that are full with a waiting list.  The students I have this semester are doing Ok except in one of my classes. There are quite a few that will fail (mostly because they NEVER come to class). I don't understand why they even register and not come. I tried to encourage them to come, with no success. 


Sunday, June 21, 2015


It is Father's Day here today. We don't have such a day in Palestine (probably because mothers do everything over there and so Fathers get 364 days of the year for them and the mothers only get Mother's day). But, it is a good day to remember my father. He was the strength of our family, he did everything for us and we knew that he could solve any problem whether it be a broken TV or an emotional problem. His absence was truly felt.  My dad had a hard life growing up in a poor family...And the last few months of his life were spent in hospitals as he fought cancer. It was very hard to see him suffer and see him change from someone who did everything to someone who needed help with everything, even the basic things like eating and going to the bathroom.

The day he passed away, everyone was crying...except me. I was so glad my father didn't have to suffer anymore. I had a peaceful feeling and knew that my father was in a much better place. I know that because my Savior broke the chains of death, my father and all who passed away will rise again.  I will see my father once again and together we will fall at the feet of the Savior and thank Him for making this possible.

It is hard to not have someone on this earth to fall back on, to not have someone to help you with all your problems....But, I am so glad that I do have someone. I don't have my earthly father with me here, but I have a Heavenly Father who loves me and helps me with all my problems just the same (and even better). I had Him lift me up, comfort me, and bless me many times (more than I can count). I feel so blessed now that I often think: "What did I do to deserve this?"

My mother just celebrated her 83rd birthday. Her health is still OK, but she has become more and more dependent on others. The other day she fell in the garden and could not get up. Luckily my sister came to our house and decided to clean the balcony and so had to go outside to get the hose (otherwise she would not have found my mother). I know Heavenly Father watches over our loved ones even when we are away from them.

Things are going ok for me here. I am super busy as I am trying to prepare my final exams and grade tests and other stuff. The workshop I am going to in Nebraska (end of July) turned out to be more work than I thought. They want us to do 10 hours even before we go! I really don't know where I will find 10 hours between now and the end of the semester.

I am also trying to plan my summer (plane tickets to Ohio, car rental, hotels...etc). I am going down to Utah at the beginning of August for one week. Then flying to Ohio for a week. I want to do something fun this summer, but we will see if I can make this work. Too much is going on!



Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Atonement is Essential

I have had a busy week. I paid the price of taking a break one week and doing nothing. Now I feel I have to catch up and do what I need to do. I can't believe how fast time has gone by. It is already the last third of the semester..we barely started!! 
I have my schedule for next semester and it is not that great, but at least I don't have a 7:45 class! I have really late classes (after 4 pm), so I will have to do something about making sure the students attend. 

Our department head decided to move offices next semester (rotation) and so my office will move to the Math building. I am so grateful for that so I don't have to walk back and forth from my office to my class. I won't have the nice spacious office I had in the Rigby  building, but it is ok.  I can't ask for anything else. I am really so grateful about how wonderful things are going. 
Most of my students are trying their best, coming to my office and working hard. It really means a lot to me to see them interested and trying. Half of them even bring their books every day to class. I mean if you knew how heavy those calculus books were, you would understand.  I am really hoping they will do well in the third exam. They really deserve to do well, they have been trying extra hard. 

I got my plane ticket for Ohio. It is still some time away, but tickets started climbing, so I thought I better get it. I will be there Aug 11 - 18th. I also decided to go to a conference in Nebraska at the end of July. It will be finals week and it will be super crazy, but it may be a good experience. This means I have to finalize my grades and do everything before I leave. 

I am looking forward to Fall semester...this has been my trial semester. Everything I did wrong this time, I can fix. I have to make class attendance mandatory...It is hard to get the students to understand how important coming to class is especially in calculus.

Since this post has been particularly boring...I am going to end with a thought. 

The atonement of Jesus Christ is real. Without it, none of us have any hope. I listened to a talk this morning by Pres. Uchtdorf about Grace.  In his talk he speaks about how we all need the atonement, but often times we forget.  We start to think that we make it to heaven by our own good works. We don't! We need His grace. No matter what we do and how hard we try, we are still sinners and fall short. Here are a few quotes about that.

Being forgiven and following the Savior, you become a new being so much that the process is referred to as 'being born again'. I feel my life has changed when I started to follow the Savior, my life still changes as I continue to follow Him. I love this quote:

And as sometimes we complain because we are going through trials, let us remember that Heavenly Father knows what He is trying to make out of us. Let us trust the sweet, loving hands of the potter as He shapes us into a perfect form. We should do our best, but we must remember that, in the end, it is because of Him and His atonement that we are saved.


Sunday, June 7, 2015

Happiness is not the Absece of a Load

Recently, I have been thinking "Why me?" Why do I have to be so blessed when others suffer? I keep waiting for trials to come, but they don't. I have no difficulties whatsoever. I didn't think that was even possible in life. But, then I started thinking that these are the months of plenty that I should be using to prepare for the time of hardships.

I am happy here, but if happiness had a scale, I would say there were times in my life when I was much happier. Those are the 12 years I spent in Palestine, right after joining the church. During those years, my family was criticizing my new faith, I was climbing hills and walls and sneaking in to go to church, I had travel restrictions and no human rights, didn't have running water all the time, there were demonstrations and conflict around me....

How can I be happier then than I am now? When now I have a good job, I am safe, I can go anywhere I want without checkpoints or restrictions, I am free to practice my faith, I have a temple literally next door, and I am surrounded by members of the church.  In addition to the fact that I have running water all the time and heat and electricity...
I echo Elder Bednar's words. Happiness is NOT the absence of a load. Many do think it is, but it isn't!
 It is strange that we sometimes think that happiness is dependent on our situation or on what we have or where we live.  I wanted to share my cousin's favorite quote too (I love it too!):

My friend's husband had a stroke a while ago and could not move half of his body. He needed constant care and my friend provided all that care willingly. She talked about how much their love deepened as she served him and cared for his needs. Both of them were so excited last month that he could now move his left leg again.

Last week he had another stroke and died suddenly.  When I called her to offer my condolences, I thought she would be a mess because of his sudden passing. She was not.  She knew she would see her husband again and she was at peace.

I went to the funeral yesterday and was shocked at how peaceful it was. This is the first LDS funeral I go to. It didn't strike me as a sad occasion, but felt people were celebrating the amazing life this man has lived. They all believed in the resurrection, knew that there was life after death and that this was only a temporary parting.  His sister remarked in her talk: "Even though my brother was 53, I don't believe he died before his time, everyone goes when it is their time to go."

My cousin just got back from a visit to Gaza. She shared some amazing things with me. But, mostly about how the people there love life and are able to find happiness despite their miserable situation.  Electricity is cut off for 8 hours EVERY day (no one uses a fridge anymore), their homes are destroyed, and so many are still homeless (well unless you call the homes they built or their tents 'homes'--here is one family home)

 My cousin says that they are so used to the electricity going off that no one even blinks when it does. They just continue what they are doing. They are even so used to the sounds of bombings that they also show no reaction to them. As strange as it is, I think sometimes we have to cope with our situation and find joy in life. There are things we cannot change. Worrying about them and complaining about them will not make them go away. We just need to be strong and learn to dance and be happy during our storm....

Let me end with this quote from Joseph Smith: "Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God."