Memorial Day for the Syrians

Last year at this time, I wrote a post about commemorating the lives of those who died for a cause, fought for their country or died from natural catastrophes. Last year was a pretty intense year. This year, I will say more of my focus has been on the uprising in Syria and the cruelty that has been used against the Syrians pleading for freedom and democracy. While we were celebrating Memorial Day and remembering the lives of our fellow Americans who died at war, the town of Homs and my fellow Syrians found a reason to have their own Memorial Day, as Syrians were massacred and brutalized. Over 100 people were killed, more than half of them women and children, in an 18-hour bombardment, murdering people in the privacy of their own homes.

I pray that the people who have the power to make a change will open their eyes and publicly condemn those responsible for killing the innocent Syrian people.  I hope that the people trying to raise awareness will be heard and helped, and I hope that the UN Human Rights Council will finally take action against the violence in Syria, as they have failed to do in the past. It is time for these crimes against humanity to be tried and punished, and it is time for the Syrian people to be granted their freedom.  Most importantly, it’s time for peace and security for Syria. I pray and hope for a better future.

Accept Yourself, Ignore Others

I spent a lot of yesterday watching the Tyler Clementi/Dharun Ravi case. My heart goes out to Tyler’s family and friends who had to suffer his loss and think about the pain and torment Tyler felt before he committed suicide. Tyler must have felt extremely ridiculed and distressed in order to commit suicide after his roommate invaded his privacy.  What really makes me sad, though, is that he let such a small group of people affect his fate. While he felt embarrassed and mocked by his peers, he must not have thought about the fact that his peers are such a miniscule percentage of this world’s population. If only he thought about the thousands of people outside of his small world that would have accepted him for who he was and known that the majority of people condemn Ravi, instead, for being a cruel, ignorant and closed-minded bully. I am sure Tyler was too ashamed to seek help from his parents or request to be moved to a new university, but he could have. He could have gone to a new place that accepts him and knows about the video and looks down on Ravi instead of him.

It’s a good reminder to all of us that the tiny group of people we know is only a small group of the billions of other people in this world. Why do we let ourselves get influenced by these people? Don’t compare yourself with the ones around you and don’t let them shape the image you have of yourself. Accept yourself for who you are, be proud of the person you are and strive to be your best, everyone else should accept you as you are. There is so much more out there, and there is so much diversity in this world, so much culture, so much understanding. If you have found yourself in an unaccepting environment, move on, move forward and be proud of the person you are. 

Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day. A day in which most people spend shopping, with family, at barbecues and celebrating the beginning of summer, but often forgetting that today is a holiday commemorating the lives of Americans who died at war.

Many people are out visiting graveyards and memorials to remember those who died for a cause, who fought for their country, and who died as heroes. As a proud American, I extend my condolences to those who have lost loved ones in war, and I am proud of my fellow Americans who died for something they believed in and fought with bravery at their own will.

Just as these brave Americans chose to fight for their country, many people around Africa and the Middle East are bravely standing in the streets to peacefully demand freedom, democracy, and justice in their homelands.  These brave civilians are also fighting for their country, so the next generations can experience a life of opportunity and a life worth living.

At the same time, we’ve seen the devastating natural forces all around the world – from the tornadoes ripping through the southern US states, the earthquakes in South America, the tsunamis and earthquakes in Asia, the flooding all around the world – killing thousands of people.  This year has been a pretty intense year in terms of natural catastrophes and political upheavals.

On this Memorial Day, while my heart, respect and gratitude are with my fellow Americans, I also extend my thoughts and prayers to those who have died either for a cause or by a natural cause. May their souls rest in peace and may their lives always be remembered.

Do Some Research

I’m sorry for the slow start to this week…I think I wrote about 15 drafts on Monday, but I couldn’t seem to get my thoughts straight. I felt the need to comment on the death of Bin Laden and the deaths of Ghaddafi’s son and grandchildren, but I was at a loss for words. I realized that talking about death, no matter how celebratory for most it may be, is not something I enjoy discussing. I’ve also realized just how much I dislike discussing politics.  Since the “Arab Spring” began, I feel that most of my conversations revolve around politics. This weekend, I was at a British wedding (not the Royal one :)) and all people wanted to discuss with me, as a Syrian-American, was politics. Although I studied politics for 6 years, the truth is, I simply have no interest in touching upon nor debating sensitive subjects.  I was going to title this blog “Stay out of Politics,” but I realized that I may stay out of it socially, but I love to read about it while I am by myself.

So, what I will say, today, is “do some research.” Too many of us have differing opinions and beliefs, and I think that everyone, as long as they are aware of a situation, has the right to believe what they want, as wrong as others may find that to be.  Someone recently asked me how we are supposed to know “the truth” or what is really going on.  I said that we can’t.  I have family in Syria, and I still can’t get an accurate account of what is happening there. All I know is that people are dying, and it’s barely a priority on most news agendas.  There is no way we can find out the truth from only watching or reading the news, but at the same time, direct sources aren’t always an option either. All news stations have their own platforms, so it is up to us to do our own research and formulate our own opinions of what is going on in the world. Because we find so many conflicting news stories, I believe it’s best if we expand our sources and read from around the world – Haaretz, NYTimes, BBC, AlJazeera, Fox, etc.  I personally enjoy reading the Op-Ed section of newspapers.  Whether I completely agree or disagree with what the person is saying, at least I know it’s an opinion – nothing claiming to be fact.  Find a journalist you respect and read their opinion, maybe you’ll find that it answers many of the questions you have. 

Regardless of what your opinion on political matters may be, I do encourage everyone to “read all about it.”  I believe it is important to educate ourselves so that we know what is going on in our nation and abroad.  Plus, if you happen to end up at a foreign wedding, it will be nice to answer questions that may arise in a political discussion between you and the other guests. 😉

Go Fly a Kite!

I don’t mean “go fly a kite” as in “get lost,” I literally mean, go fly a kite! Hopefully the weather around you will be nice enough so that you can do something different this weekend.

I don’t remember the last time I flew a kite…actually, I don’t think I’ve ever even flown a kite! I remember trying once and failing miserably, and that was probably 20 years ago. This weekend, my company is having a grand opening event and we’re inviting people out to our property to come fly a kite. So, I look forward to learning, tomorrow.

I decided to read about some benefits of kite flying, because in my mind, it seems to be a calming experience, which must relieve some stress!  Turns out, there is a Chinese proverb that says, “Those who fly a kite can have a long life.”  (The kite originated fromChina.)  When looking and focusing on your kite, it relaxes your mind and your body.  While concentrating on your kite, you stare into a blue and white sky, which will give you a sense of serenity.  At the same time, kite flying is said to rejuvenate and reenergize the body.  So go fly a kite this weekend, and see how it makes you feel!

Smiles are Contagious

Have you ever seen someone randomly smiling to themselves and then noticed that you are now smiling too? It’s nice to see that someone is having a nice thought, or that someone just made their day. Little things like that can really brighten up a moment. I know it sounds a bit cheesy, but try to smile a bit more, today…even if you’re not feeling it. It might be nice to let a memory or a thought take you to a place where you smile and the next person sees it causes a ripple effect.  Look around in the next public place you  visit, look at people’s smiles, and hopefully it will make you smile, too.

Forget the research done that proves that smiles are contagious, I think it’s proof enough that everyone has experienced it. Hopefully, just thinking about it makes you think off to nicer moments, regardless of the mood you’re in right now.  This reminded me of one of the great quotes by Buddy the Elf (Will Ferrell in Elf), “I just like to smile. Smiling’s my favorite!”

Just a note: I’ve read that smiling makes a person more attractive, and helps them to keep a positive outlook…so those are just two extra good reasons to keep smiling! 😀

Call up a Friend

How often do we think about calling to check up on a friend, but never actually do it? I feel like I always have an excuse not to pick up the phone, but it’s not even that time consuming! The truth is, if you keep thinking about it, you will always feel a weight on your shoulders. And even better, once you do hear your friend’s voice, you will probably feel an overwhelming satisfaction.

We can’t let distance come between valuable friendships – whether your friend has moved, you have moved, or even if they live in the same city. Whatever the reason for the distance, the phone can always keep us near.  There are many people I think about on a regular basis but never see, and with so much going on right now, I don’t even know their news!

The same goes for meeting up with a friend. A cup of coffee with a friend is even better and more enjoyable then a catch up session on the phone (at least in my opinion!).  We let “life” get in the way of some great friendships.  If someone has been on your mind lately, or you just miss a friend, get in touch with them. It’s always good to hear a distant voice, especially one that brings back good memories.

Embrace Other Cultures

This past Saturday I went to a party to celebrate the upcoming marriage of two great friends. The bride has a French mother and a Lebanese father and the groom has an Iranian-Turkish mother and an American father. I cannot tell you how diverse this party was, with all the relatives and friends of both of these families – not to mention the groom’s cousin (Chinese-Iranian-Turkish) and his wife (Iraqi-American) and their families! I was already thinking about how beautiful it is to see so many people from so many different places all gathered at a French-themed cocktail party (in Texas), when one of the waiters asked me if I was Italian. I told him I am not, and we started talking about where we were from, so another waiter chimed in and said “Who cares. We are all one anyway – one human culture, one world.” It was the perfect way to define what I was thinking that night. 

 All of us grew up with our own culture, and I’m pretty sure all of us come from an ethnocentric one – at least I know I do! But, the truth is, as much as I love my culture and love the people I can share that with, my greatest friendships are not those I share a culture with but those I share a greater bond with. I find the least judgment, the least criticism and the most affection from these people. My best friends come from all over the world, and their spouses come from even further parts of the world…when you put all of us in a room you could think it was a UN meeting. So, it’s important to embrace other cultures and find a truer connection with someone. Instead of focusing on the things your families have in common, share your family’s background with someone, and establish a relationship based on what you can bring from your culture to someone else’s. I was talking about it with my friend, and she said it so well “Love transcends cultures.” It’s so true.

Have a BBQ!

It’s spring time, meaning it’s the most enjoyable weather of the year! (Aside from the allergies…). If the weather permits, go make the most of your weekend by spending it outdoors.  One of my favorite ways to spend my time is with friends and with food…so organize a BBQ this weekend. Grilling is so easy and there is always one willing volunteer who will offer his/her grilling services.  If you have a friend with a backyard call them up and plan a small gathering. If you have the backyard, take the initiative to call up some friends and get everyone together. This is a good way to wind down and relax.

If you like crawfish, it’s a great time for a crawfish broil, and if you don’t, it’s always the right time of year for fajitas or burgers. Also, throwing some chicken cutlets onto a skewer with veggies or peppers is a really easy and healthy option.  If you just want to contribute to the meal, some easy and nice ideas are corn on the cob (boiling only takes 10 min) with some added seasoning and butter or a tossed salad.

Have a great weekend!