Thursday, September 29, 2011

My Own Library


 I was in my bed wide awake thinking of the files that I have, stored on yahoo, Gmail or even Facebook and the wonders of it all. Technology is so amazing that checking the oldest or live news on the Internet is as easy as clicking a mouse. It is becoming the most essential tool of the day for many who rely on it as the only source of information. It is stupefying how fast one can access anything, such as the correct usage of the word stupefying, at the speed of one key per millisecond. We cannot go anywhere without a piece of technology strapped to us. We research every little thing on the Internet forgetting the feel of a page of an old book on our fingers. 

Yesterday,  a young teacher came into the classroom to talk about how easy it was to gather scientific up-to-date data from Scholar on Google. It was such an informative session and I honestly learned so much from his enthusiasm and knowledge. But he made one comment which made me question it between myself and I. He said that this kind of technology was not available to him when he was studying for his Bachelor's degree. There was little information on the Internet back then that they had to also refer to using books and magazines. He informed the students how the process of gathering information was tedious then and took such a long time, while there is a fast growing library in their backyard and can be available to them at the tips of their fingers.

While I agreed with him about the ease of finding information nowadays from documentaries and maps to translation and self-help sites in a short amount of time, I disagreed with the word 'tedious', not because I want to but because everyone had their own impression about the whole experience. I absolutely loved going into the stacks looking for my own books or magazines. Spending hours searching for the right data or piece of information was one of the few thrills of writing a  15-30 paged research term paper.  Searching for microfiche and sticking them into a machine that would enable me to discover what's on its tiny mysterious rectangles, was one of the highlights.

I did not get that chance during my Bachelor's degree, except once, to enter any stacks. At that time, due to the the blast, only the Master's students were allowed up in the tiny stack room which remained unharmed. The last term I was at Uni, I took a Master's degree course as an undergraduate. When my Professor first informed the class that we will be able to go into the stacks I rejoiced (Literally, with all its exaggerations!). The first and  following few times, I cherished every moment I had with the books,  their old yellow pages that carried years of wisdom and knowledge in their every shade and the dusty scent of generations passed.

Both my parents had built in me the love of books, how they must be respected, maintained and looked after. These lessons might have been forgotten had it not been for the day I was studying for my final IB exams and had spread my books all over the carpeted floor. My dad walked in to wish me good luck for the next day when he saw the soles of my feet resting on a stack of books. I was using them to lift my knees and cradle a book I was scrutinizing. He told me off gently for not respecting the books that contained the knowledge I was seeking.

And that my friends was that. From then on my love of books grew. And despite my addiction, gratefulness and appreciation for having a library in my backyard, being surrounded by touchable books, connected to their earthiness and caressed by their pages.... beats all that.

Any thoughts!!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Superhero YOU

A few months ago I was intrigued by one post Jan, from Staying Awake, wrote. It was about the Superhero inside of you. I wanted so much for her to honor me and bring her experiences with her own Superhero You to my own blog. The following is a beautiful and inspiring account of Jan's journey into self- discovery and empowerment. 

I’ve been asked by Lana to write a guest post about “The Superhero Within. This was prompted by a post of mine some months ago, showing a journal page I created called “Superhero You”( link )My Superhero journal page was in turn inspired by a prompt by Theresa Huse at her blog (link )

After I had created my superhero YOU,  I reflected on how inspiring and empowering this activity would be for some very disempowered and disconnected young people or for children to do; an exploration of what it is inside them that makes them unique, what is their “superpower”? It would be a great way in to helping them to understand how they can draw strength from this inner superhero in tough times, and how they can use what is inside them to guide their actions out there in the world .

So what is a superhero?

A superhero……

  • has magical superpowers – usually abilities additional to those of ordinary humans (eg., flying), or abilities more enhanced than those ordinarily possessed by humans (eg., strength)
  • acts to rescue people from danger or to save the world from destruction
  • works to identify and develop their abilities or powers
  • seems to fight/use violence a lot as the way to solve issues – action, action, action!
  • usually has a weakness which is known by their arch-nemesis and can be used to plot their downfall and the triumph of darkness and evil
  • often do not take the credit for their feats, wear a disguise(or silly costume) and afterwards return to their quiet ordinary lives.

While thinking about writing this post for Lana, I realised that my interest in Superheroes had never really been that great. In fact when originally I saw the journal prompt, I almost didn’t do it. Something about superheroes just leaves me cold, the often dark colours used in comics, the cartoon format itself, all of this fast moving action, violence and so little reflection, speech bubbles are not my thing either. Yuk! Forgive me if you dear reader are a fan. Despite this horror of superheroes and their costumes, I did in fact throw off those old constraints and allowed myself to play, I created my own inner superhero.  

As I child I did not really read or watch TV programmes about Superman, Batman or Spiderman. My reading matter as a small child and a growing young person, was set much more in the real world. Much more down to earth, not really involving magic or special powers, or great acts of heroism.

I read stories about ordinary, and yet extraordinary girls and young women….Heidi, Katy Carr, Jo March, Pollyanna…these were some of my favourites. Then there were also girls like the Mary Lennox from The Secret garden; the three girls from The Ballet Shoes; The Little Princess; The Little Match Girl and Jo from The Chalet School series. I must have wanted to understand, and be close to these girls and young women. I wanted to know how they navigated their life’s journey, rather than some magical landscape. I wanted to know about their lives and what they achieved, rather than the secret lives of heroes, or of superheroes who saved people from life threatening or world threatening situations.

As I got older I became more interested in the real people of history who had worked to change the world…. Ghandi, Martin Luther King, William Wilberforce, Mother Theresa among others. Significant actors who changed the world, but with quiet and non-violent acts of courage and commitment that moved mountains. I wanted to be like them.

Somewhere on my life’s journey, I lost my way. I got myself into a hole where I felt that my actions didn’t matter and that my contribution was not good enough – not enough It is hard for some of us to feel as if our actions matter in the world. We can feel so small and insignificant alongside the great leaders and heroes of history, alongside those who are contributing currently to making changes with actions that are highly visible. Sometimes we miss the smaller actions that ordinary people are demonstrating each and every day. Sometimes we forget that we make a difference just by our presence in the world, we touch the lives of others for good or bad, and we forget that we can make choices, we become so used to being swept along or just drifting along life’s river.

I arrived at that Superhero You prompt earlier this year, after doing quite a bit of soul searching, reading, unlearning, revisiting childhood passions and digging deep to find my strengths. I did some reading about gifts and talents and found the film “Unbreakable” – a film about a reluctant superhero. The hero of the film is both afraid of, and is hiding his gifts. He is not developing them or really using them in the world, due to some shame and some fear. Living a kind of half-life, his work, his relationships with his wife and child, his whole life seems to lack commitment and passion. The story shows how he is led to recognise his gifts and develop them, to put them to use in the world and to invest himself fully in life.  

Many people feel overwhelmed by world events, or by the ups and downs of living lives that may feel disconnected. Many people in western society are prescribed anti-depressants or have problems with addiction. It is hard to feel as if we matter in the world and that our actions matter. Easy to numb out and buy in to escape. Easy to lie to ourselves and others. Easy to forget compassion to self or to others and judge and blame instead. Easy to feel like a victim and opt out, failing to recognise our gifts and neglecting them.

By calling on our gifts and our strengths, which are sometimes hidden amongst all of the mess and complexity of modern life, we each have a unique contribution to make to the world. We each have a unique inner power to draw upon. When the superhero within wakes up, he or she begins to know this and to develop their unique power and take action in the world around them. Like the classic superhero everyday superheroes do not feel they are superior or separate to the rest of us, their acts of heroism may not make the news headlines or history but their everyday actions make a difference. They are fully alive and lead a committed life. They bring their piece of the puzzle into the jigsaw that is the world, without their contribution the puzzle is incomplete.

Lately many writers and spiritual leaders are using the idea of the Superhero to help people develop spiritually and emotionally. Since Lana asked me to write something along these lines I searched on google and found that Deepak Chopra has recently written a book called “The Seven Spiritual Laws of Superheroes” (link I think that to read this might be a useful next step for my Superhero YOU. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

One of These Days

It was one of these days when everything ran smoothly and one's left with a sense of satisfaction and inner joy. School went well with students asking me for support and for me that is one of the highlights of being a teacher… it is feeling that I am of use to students... that I can offer some advice and guidance to students and they are well received. It felt good and I was in high spirits.

The night before, I received a call from my cousin, who just got married in Jerusalem. She was in Thailand on her honeymoon and wondered if we could hook up. I checked on the Internet where the hotel she was staying at was and found that it was just too confusing for me… I decided to take a taxi instead of risk taking the Sky Train and going in the wrong direction. I got to the main road and asked two taxi drivers if they could take me to my desired destination. Both of them refused pointing to their watches and the gridlocked traffic ahead of them.

Realizing that it would take me hours to get to the hotel, I decided to call them and ask for a different route. The person at the reception recommended I took the sky train and so I made my way to Asok fearing the acid-man attacker. You see, that day, teachers at school received news of three cases at a hospital having had their face sprayed with acid at the Asok train station and that was exactly where I was heading.

Anyway, nothing happened of course and I got on the train to begin the first part of my trip. I had to change two trains before I had to make a decision of either taking a taxi to the hotel or jump on a river boat for the last leg of my journey. I decided with the later as it would provide more excitement and a better view. As I was waiting for the boat, I saw other boats with huge signs on them indicating which hotel they were for. After around 15 minutes a boat docked at our little metal pier but the hotel sign on it was so small that we could have missed it. I ran back to warn the unaware people waiting at the upper deck. The wooden boat was beautiful and had a roof that looked like the roof of a house with brown tiles. Despite the murky color of the waters it did not by any means cloud the beautiful man-made vista that surrounded me.

I disembarked at the hotel’s small pier and made my way inside towards the reception. On the way I realized that this was the same hotel where I had the interview which paved the way for me to have the job at my current school. Memories flooded my mind and I found myself going through the 3- day job fair event that took place there in January when the ring tone of my mobile phone brought me back to the present.

I answered the phone and it was my cousin asking me if I was still making it to the hotel that day. At the same time, I was walking towards the reception and saw her standing there with her back to me. I decided to continue talking to and walking towards her. I stood beside her resting my arm on the reception desk.  After a few seconds she turned around and was startled to find me right there. It was a warm reunion with loads of hugging and laughing.

It was a good night … a good day. I do not usually have good days from start to finish but I am finding that those kinds of days help me appreciate them even more because they are rare.

Do you always have these kinds of days or do they rarely occur?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Blast

I had never experienced a blast before that fateful day. I had only seen missiles flying overhead but never once did it land anywhere near where I lived. During the Gulf War of 1991, we all went into over-drive, going to neighborhood meetings to discuss emergency and rescue plans, taking first aid classes just in case Jordan was dragged into the war, but never once did I see Red Cross/Crescent people going into full action. I had seen old bombed buildings in Central Beirut and on TV but had never experienced it first hand until that terrible day.

We used to spend most of our day and some hours of the night socializing on the Main Gate steps over looking College Hall (Picture above). It was simply beautiful. An old building that warmly greeted you the moment you walked through the university's main gates….Majestic in my eyes and the eyes of many AUBites. It held years of wisdom in its every stone since the university's establishment in 1866; the hall that was visited by three of my family's generation and was held in high esteem by all of us. Even though I had attended two other universities, none touched me as deeply as AUB did and College Hall was definitely one of my favorite structures on that campus.

But alas... that old structure was to be no more within 3 months of my first step on that campus. The day was November 8th 1991 a few minutes past 4:00am. I was in my dormitory bed which was on the lower campus of the university, a walking distance away from College Hall, when I woke up a few minutes before the unforgettable deafening sound. For some reason, a voice asked me to wake up and open my window overlooking the sea. When I went back to sit on my bed, I turned around and saw a strange orange light painting the sky. Seconds later, the sound of the explosion engulfed my whole body and disturbed the sweet dreams of sleeping students. I will never forget that sound which still rings in my ears 20 years later. I remember how not a single sound came out of my mouth as my roommate screamed with fear. I was in shock; my mind was racing trying to interpret the unfamiliar sounds, vibrations and strange sights, trying to make sense of them.  I went to my friend’s bed, slowly led her to my own and hugged her tightly.

After ten minutes, I went down stairs to the dorm lounge to see many girls walking around crying and looking worried. Their shut windows had shattered and filled their rooms with sharp broken glass. They were huddled together wondering what on Earth caused that explosion sound. Was it another skirmish between factions? Was it the start of a new war? Phone calls from other dorms and security guards on the gates started flooding the system. Since it was dark, not many were sure what was going on. But then the blood draining news came through the telephone lines... College Hall was bombed!

Against the advice of my resident mother, I left the dorm through a broken window and went to check on my friends in the surrounding dorms to see if they were all right. I am not the type who would stand there and wait for news. I had to explore and check what was going on by myself.

After making sure my friends were all right, I made my way up the steps to Upper Campus and walked slowly trying to feel my way in the dark. The early rays of light were still not enough to see things clearly and so many times I found myself squinting trying to see through the dense pine trees on campus. I was looking for it.... the Campus compass and which was seen from many corners of the serene grounds. I kept making my way towards the hall... my beacon... desperately trying to find it. When the way was cleared by the trees, I found that my beacon was no longer piercing the sky but resting on its side beside a pile of rubble. I took in a deep breath, held it in for a few second to give my mind a chance to process what my eyes were looking at.

The sea view side of College Hall was completely damaged... in ruins... and the Clock Tower... Our beacon... Our compass... was on the ground lying broken and helpless as the man it trapped underneath the rubble. The rescue team could not move him as he would have died instantly. They stayed with him for 6 hours trying to keep him as comfortable as possible... but as the Old Clock stopped so did his heart. A sad day for every AUBite!

The after several days... many students went into action trying to save as many of the important documents as possible. I was one of many students who risked going into the broken building to retrieve anything valuable from the destruction. Every sound the standing rubble made, we had to run out of the building thinking it would collapse in any minute. I believe we were trying to breathe in the last moments of the Hall, to touch the remaining stones that contained years of history and be its companion until its final day. The last time I ran down the steps tracing its dust covered walls with my fingers, I picked up a few of its number signs as a memento just as we keep pictures of loved ones who passed on. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Writing as a Form of Therapy


My friend Barbara, from 40 and Loving it, has honored me with a guest blog today. She courageously agreed to share a part of herself with my readers and talk about how she deals with difficult situations and addressed her grief with regards to her ailing mother. I am simply humbled by her honesty and bold statements. Thank you Barbara for writing from your heart. 

1. Does writing act as a companion that does not interrupt your flow of emotions?
I have always been a very sensitive and emotional person.  When I was growing up all my teachers said I was "a very sensitive child".  Now that I am older I find I am more sensitive now but I am better at understanding it.  When I was little my only way of letting my emotions escape was to cry.  I cried a lot!  However there were negatives to being so sensitive as a child and because I didn't have the resources to deal with my sensitivity I have today I had to deal with bed wetting, wetting my pants and panic attacks until I was in my teens.  It was humiliating and I told no one except my mom and dad. 
I started writing in about 11 years ago when my life had taken a very bad turn.  I had no outlets for all my anxiety and I became very depressed and it was suggested I go into the hospital. I refused because I had two young children at home and was still breastfeeding.  It was suggested to me to start  a journal.  It became an immediate release for me.  I wrote down everything I was feeling and thinking and held nothing back.  It got to the point where I had to write everyday or I would have panic that would lead to anxiety and then to depression.  So, to answer your question, writing does not interrupt my flow of emotions because it is my flow of emotions.  It is like asking an artist to explain a piece or art.  My writing is very simply,  me. 

2. Does writing provide you with a way to let yourself go and touch those deepest emotions and thoughts that you have?
I rarely hold back when I write and for that reason very few people I know in my non-blog world know about and read my blog.  I need a place where I can feel safe and face no judgement.  In my blog I do touch some of my deepest emotions though sometimes my emotions run so deep I have no words.  For instance I have severe panic attacks and can't find the right words to explain how horrible they are. 

3. Does it generally reduce your stress?
Yes!  I have to write.  I also must have quiet time to each day. Both are as important to me as food, air and water. 

4. James Pennebaker mentioned in his first study on expressive writing that even though the act of bringing painful experiences to the surface through writing might not seem beneficial in the short term there is a potential for tangible benefits in the long run or the wake of this pain. Do you agree?
Right now, I am writing about the process of my mother dying and at times it has been grueling.  Many times I have wondered why I am doing it and if it is worth it.  It brings out so much pain; pain that I would rather not deal with right now.  But because of my past experiences with writing I know that it will help me get through this.  I do believe there are tangible benefits to writing but honestly, I am not seeing them right now.  I do love the notes (comments) of love that are left after I write.  I really do feel each of my readers close to me as if they were sitting in the same room.  I feel your hugs and prayer and Reiki.

5. Do you feel that healing comes about when you make time for yourself to acknowledge and express the pain?
Yes.  Since my mom was diagnosed I have taken the time to deal with the fact she was going to die and not die as an old lady like I had hoped.  I have gone to Hospice for counselling and Reiki. I have read different books on death but not many spoke to me as speaking to actual people who have lost loved ones.  My Spirituality plays a big part and keeps me grounded too.  I know I will see my mom again and that makes it so much easier to say goodbye.  I know our separation is temporary.  I have also taken time to speak to my mom.  I have told her how much I love her and that she can go.  I have said goodbye.  I have also given her messages to pass on to my grandparents and cat when she sees them!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011



I was sitting in an English Poetry class discussing symbolism with the students and how many words in the English language can have different connotations. Such as the word rain can symbolize time passing or knot can symbolize problems or obstacles to overcome. Colors also have different connotations to them, for example red can symbolize blood or passion and orange can be used to symbolize fear and urgency. 

To help some of my students write their own poems, I hit the Internet in search of more poetic symbols and stumbled upon this Symbol site. It was so intriguing looking through all the symbols there are in this world and how many civilizations or groups of people created them to represent an idea, a deity or a process.

Reading their descriptions, I realized how amazing it was that each symbol represents a meaning and it denotes a variety of things to different groups or factions. I find it very interesting how one simple symbol can communicate so much to the rest of the world.

Take the symbols of Cross, Star of David, Crescent or the Om for example. Just by looking at them, might bring about a variety of emotions such as love, peacefulness, even fear. We find that many symbols bring about an instant sense of relief and warmth while others bring on the total opposite feeling; panic, dread, horror, maybe even hatred. Pick any symbol from the list provided on the site and make a note of the kinds of feelings it might stir up inside of you. 

Isn't it amazing? Even though when you think of it... it is only a symbol... nothing more... just a few lines drawn to make a shape or a picture...If we took the symbols out of the context they had been used for, we would not expect them to bring along any specific or intense emotional reaction. They are not to be feared or be alarmed about and yet we tend to attach a lot of meaning to all of them. For example; there are so many symbols on that list that I had no knowledge of before finding that site and therefore did not feel any kind of emotion welling up inside of me. I just found them interesting to read about and yet, I was positive that they might bring about different emotional responses from people who associated them with certain events in their lives or the lives of their loved ones.

It is we who attach meaning to these symbols... sometimes it is out of our own or other people's experiences that we attach the emotion of fear onto them. We know that our fear of these symbols is illogical and yet we link so many negative connotations and emotions to some of these symbols. Even though there are a few symbols on that list that bring about fear and sadness in everyone's hearts, such as the 3000 year old swastika, we each perceive these symbols differently probably because we had an intense negative or positive experience with them in the past.

I never realized how powerful these symbols can be.... and yet at the end of the day they are man-made. Makes me wonder about the power in every human-being and how that same power that can bring about so much fear, destruction and misery can also be used to bring about so much security, development and contentment.

Saturday, September 10, 2011



My mind has been similar to a blank page for the past few days... I have no thoughts that flow easily like they used to and maybe it is a reflection of how I am feeling... I do not know. 

Ideas used to come from no where ... I just found them in front of me... on the road...on TV (which I do not watch anymore) and I'd find it so easy to write. So at the moment, my dear readers, I find myself stumped...  my mind blank...a white sheet of paper.  

I write for self-therapy,  if I needed to work through a thought or felt like sharing a part of me and my family history... and even though I have many pictures that I wish to share and write about, I look at them and words escape me. I know that this is short lived and I am waiting for the black cloud to pass.

Ever experienced such a blank moment?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Moment to Moment by Judy Croome

Can you live in the moment?

I have recently been blessed and honored to have two guest bloggers, Peter, from There's a Part of me, and Paula, from Everyday Radiance, on my blog. They shared two well written and thought provoking posts True Colors and True Colors; a Polarity respectively.  I am looking forward to having more guest bloggers sharing their feelings and perspective on some interesting topics as well.

My dear friend Judy recently published a book, Dancing in the Shadows of Love,  which I am enjoying reading at the moment. She offered her followers a chance to write a guest post for their blogs and with her being such a good writer, how could I refuse. I am thrilled that she wrote the below post and hope that you will all enjoy it as much as I have.

Moment to Moment by Judy Croome

In today’s busy world, how often do we attempt to juggle the different activities — our jobs, our families, our personal goals — in our lives? 

If your life is anything like mine, I’m constantly manipulating my time. I steal a moment here to tackle that load of dirty washing or a moment there to do some writing, all the while trying to keep a sense of balance and order in my life. 

Often I’m overwhelmed by a feeling of being fractured by all the demands placed on me.

“Stop!” I want to yell (and sometimes do!) “I’m only one person!”

Usually I crack when I’ve forgotten an essential component of living a harmonious life: our ordinary human lives are both exquisitely important and disappointingly insignificant. 

Understanding this fundamental paradox of human existence is the key to keeping our inner balance while meeting the persistent demands on our time.

To us, the incapacitated father, the job deadline or the rush to prepare the perfect religious celebration, are overwhelmingly important. However, in the time-line of the evolution of humankind, they are all less than pinpricks. 

They may feel like the thrust of a sharp steel sword, cutting up our serenity and throwing us off balance. But, really, they are pinpricks in comparison to events that affect the universal human condition.

What is my beloved Dad’s brain-stem stroke, which has left him with limited functionality, compared to the wars that have ravaged our planet and our souls for millennia? What if he has to live this sad existence for another month, year or decade compared to the four-million-year life and death of a sun in a far-away galaxy?

“The sun is new every day,” said Heraclitus.

For what is today, cannot be tomorrow. With each moment that passes, everything is different. The change may be too small for us to notice—another word in my Dad’s already reduced vocabulary forgotten as another small synapse in his brain burns out—or it may be a tsunami of demands on our time and energy.  

When we forget that no condition in this life is permanent, we start to live an unbalanced life. We scurry here and hurry there, attempting to juggle all the different balls of our life at once. We plan ahead. We try to control what is essentially fluid. 

Life is not a series of separate balls to be kept in the air by a human juggler. Life is more like a river running from its source, high in the pure mountain air, sometimes calm, sometimes slow, often filled with hidden currents and rushing rapids that tend to knock us off-balance until, finally, the water sweeps back into the ocean from which all life originally emerged.

What if, when we feel exhausted, stressed, or hopeless, we stop juggling life and remember that the easiest way through a fast-flowing river is to step from stone to stone? What if we only concentrate on the moment that each stone reveals itself, showing us the safest way through the swirling, ever-changing waters? 
So it is with our busy lives: when we accept that the best way of dealing with the pinpricks of life is to remember that whatever happens will pass in the morning, we can give up trying to control what happens around us. We can just flow from moment to moment, letting harmony return to our lives and joy to our souls.

Judy Croome lives and writes in Johannesburg, South Africa. She was recently shortlisted in the African Writing Flash Fiction 2011 competition, and other short stories and poems have appeared in Itch-e Magazine and “Notes from Underground Anthology.”  Her independently published novel, “Dancing in the Shadows of Love,” is available from and other bookstores. Visit Judy on her blog

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