Friday, May 27, 2016

Bill Clinton's Glad Tidings to Coal Miners

Prestonsburg, Kentucky – On March 12, 2016, Former President Bill Clinton came to Prestonsburg Elementary School after being in Frankfort and Owensboro to continue his campaign for his wife, Hillary Clinton. The doors opened at 6:45 p.m. for the public. At the entrance of the school were protesters waving signs that said "Trump for 2016" and red posters that had "Coal Miners Won't Forget! Go Home Bill!" written on them. Hundreds of supporters were trying to squeeze through the door of the gym to sit on the empty seats closest to the stage. As supporters and protesters were waiting for Alison Grimes to introduce the former president at 7:45 p.m., they enjoyed listening to live music performed by "The Big Sandy Idols." There was another band after "The Big Sandy Idols" that played bluegrass country music.

When the former President took the stage he touched bases for solutions on coal issues, job opportunities, taxes, and foreign policy. Solutions for coal counties were his main focus. His 30-minute speech was short, simple, and straight to the point. There were great glad tidings for the future of Kentuckians and their generations. "I'm not like a lot of people," Bill Clinton started. "It doesn't bother me to have protesters and rallies -- I'm glad they come." He pointed at one protester and thanked him for booing at him.

He reminded the audience about the investments that were done by his administrators and him. He talked about the New Markets Tax Credit that gives up to 39 percent of tax credits to people who invested in places like this. "Between 2003 and 2013, we had thousands of projects in America to create three quarters of a million jobs," said Clinton. "Not here," one protester in the back exclaimed. In his speech he connected with the audience by telling them that he grew up in a place like this. "Nobody when I was a kid thought they were poor if they had clean clothes, food to eat, and they can ask a stranger to come in and have lunch." Clinton said. "The kids didn't think so for one main reason. Everybody believed that they can make tomorrow better than today."

He told us his memories of when he got out of law school 40-plus years ago. He mentioned two of his friends that had difficulties when they worked in the coal mines. One of his friends was 5'6" and weighed 96 pounds, had lung disease, and couldn't get any benefits. The other one, half his size, would work 16 hours per day in the coal mine where there was no protection just to give this country the ability to power itself and defend itself. Mr. Clinton also mentioned the potential of young Kentuckians. He saw the nanotechnologies made by 18 and 19-year-olds here in Kentucky. Millions of dollars were invested to do such projects. “I never held a million dollars in my hand,” Mr. Clinton said.

Mr. Clinton told us to remember what happened in San Bernardino, which was the last terrorist activity that happened in the U.S. "People that did that were converted over the internet," Clinton recalls. He told us that Hillary's position is something like this: You can build your wall across the Mexican and Canadian borders, build a sea wall across the Pacific, a sea wall in the Atlantic, you can send the entire U.S. Navy to the Gulf of New Mexico, and you still can't set out the social media across San Bernardino." He gave solutions to how we as Americans can win the hearts and minds of people together. "Go vote for who you want to," said Clinton, "but don't pretend that we can get things done by screaming at each other."

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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

9 Marriage 'Heads-Up' A Couple Once Told Me

"What you should know before getting married"

Seven years ago my best friend, a successful physician, asked for the hand of a wonderful lady who was his college sweetheart. They have had a successful marriage thus far and their third child was born last year. When I used to live near them, they would invite me to their house every now and then for a cup of tea. One summer we were chatting on the porch and our conversation somehow ended up being about marriage. I then teased that I was thinking about getting married. I asked if they would recommend it for me. They learned that I wanted to get married for the wrong reasons - I was a freshman in college back then. The following were the advice they told me to consider before getting married:

The Enchanted Fairy Tale:

After three to six months of marriage and a memorable honeymoon, the couple will wake up from their fantasy dream to a world full of responsibilities. Only then will they realize that marriage wasn’t all about sex and romance. Of course, it will be a part of their lifestyle,but it won’t be their primary goal. Maybe secondary. Their career and children will be enough keep them busy.

Let them hear “I Love You” and "Thank You":

For some reason, this is especially hard for men. Unfortunately, in our busy lifestyles we forget to take the time to tell our spouse how much we love them. In addition, we don't thank them enough. Don't take it personally if you feel that your partner doesn't appreciate you. They may be say "Thank-You" non-verbally: like surprising you with flowers or bringing you breakfast to bed. Here are more non-verbal things they may do instead of saying "Thank You". Furthermore, whether you're having a good or bad day, always give them smiles. For Pete's sake, fake it if you have to!

One will have to give in:

There is no shame from backing away from an argument. One night she will be the winner, the other night he “may” be the winner. In order for the marriage to continue, one of them has to accept the other's opinion whether he or she likes it or not.

Each person has a special gift from God:

We are all different than each other. If they want to continue loving each other forever and ever then one shouldn't compare his or her partner with another person.

Be respectful of one another:

Play, laugh, tease, and joke, but most importantly don’t cross boundaries. That includes shouting, using bad language, and hitting. Forgive them if they did a mistake and mention the mistake later on. If they feel that their spouse can't accept the advice, then they can discuss the mistake.

The deadly sins:

Telling your spouse about your past sins, including personal secrets, will put distrust in their hearts. Did you expect your partner to say, “Oh Honey! Thank you for being so honest with me by telling me that you did this and that". They should sincerely repent and not fall into their previous sins again.

The Mother-in-Law advice:

Mother-in-Laws can sometimes be the cause of a divorce. The couple should do their best to keep their fights and arguments away from them. Give them a warm welcome when they come over for a visit!

What happens in the house, stays in the house:

Again, there will come times when you both get into an argument. Keep your fights and problems to yourself. Do your best to solve them using wisdom and patience. Also, don't tell your friends about your personal life with your partner or your partner's shortcomings.

The children advice:

Last but not least, have some children! Children are like adhesive glue for their parents. Sometimes they are the reason why couples stay together forever and other times they are the reason why parents aren't lonely.

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Monday, April 25, 2016

The Benefits of A 30-Day Challenge

Sometimes a 30-day challenge can be more beneficial than a 365-day challenge

Have you ever promised yourself to stick to a personal goal, but your intention fell short weeks later? If so, a "30-Day Challenge" is right for you! A 30-day challenge is an excellent strategy to use to develop a new habit or break an old one. I learned this concept two years ago when I stumbled upon Matt Cutts’ blog. What’s cool about this concept is that it isn't "permanent." You can change your challenge every 30 days. When you give it a shot, I know that you will experience all the amazing benefits the challenge has to offer.

Committing to a 30-day challenge is beneficial because it's temporary and measurable. You don't have to think that you have to commit to something your whole life, especially if you didn't enjoy it. Furthermore, we tend to lose motivation for something we have been doing for a very long time if we don’t get rewarded for it.

Let's say you want to exercise an hour a day for the whole year starting from tomorrow. The story will go as follows. A spark of excitement will rush through you. You run to your nearest store to buy some exercising equipment and a notebook to track your progress. You will also have a sleepless night because you can't wait to start exercising in the morning. Finally, you wake up early in the morning and exercise for three hours instead of one. By now, you probably figured out the ending of the story: You may eventually give up! Giving up the exercise routine you set doesn't mean that you weren't capable of exercising. It just means that you were not getting rewarded for the overwhelming long-term goal you set. In addition, if you are not in the habit of exercising then more than likely you won't achieve your goal unless you start building that habit step by step. If you don't want to give up then you have to develop realistic, short-term personal goals. This is why a 30 day challenge works. At the end of the 30 days, you will hopefully overcome that inertia. You can continue exercising after 30 days while adding a new habit. More importantly, you won't feel discouraged if you quit exercising in the future because you had already accomplished that goal!

I highly encourage you to start a 30-day challenge if you haven't done so in the past. Who knows? Your challenge may turn into a habit. If your challenge does turn into a habit, make sure to stick to it and add on a new habit as well. Again, whether you enjoyed your challenge or not, you will change it later on. For me, sticking to the same routine can be quite boring. That's why I think doing 12 different personal goals a year is better than only one personal goal. I chose 10 random examples to get you started. Feel free to share some of your own ideas with us in the Facebook chat below.

Do one of the following every day for 30 days:

1. Chew your food more "slowly." Take a 5-10 second break between each bite. In other words, don't inhale your food!

2. Talk to someone new every day. Expand your network and make new friends.

3. Look up and memorize the "Word of the Day." Merriam Webster is a resource. Increase your vocabulary.

4. No social media. (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram). It's not as bad as you think it is.

5. Only drink "water" as a beverage. It was very challenging for me when I did it.

6. Write a novel (50,000 words). "All you have to do is write 1,667 words a day for a month." Matt Cutts

7. Read and finish a book. You can read more if you have time.

8. Write 250-500 words. Your topic can be about anything you like.

9. Don't complain. This can be quite challenging.

10. Give up your TV. That includes Netflix and video games too.

Blog of Matt Cutts - 30 Days

Steve Pavlina's Blog- 30 Day to Success

Check out the Ted Talk below...
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Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Importance of a Hand-Written Letter

Acknowledgements: A special thanks to Kevin Smith and Dr. Nancy B. Johnson for making this article possible.

During the second semester of my sophomore year at Big Sandy Community College, I enrolled in a leadership course required for our Honors Program. Dr. Nancy Johnson and Melinda Justice were the professors that taught the course. One of the leadership skills they taught us was the importance of a handwritten letter. Each week they would invite a guest speaker to talk with us about their experience in leadership. After the guest speakers deliver their speech and finish the workshop, each one of us would write them a “thank-you” letter. In the letter, we thanked them for their time and effort on visiting our campus to teach us about leadership. In addition, we wrote the things that we learned from them, and we mentioned how their advice will benefit us in the future. We learn that we add more value to family members and friends by taking time out of our lives to write them a letter rather than sending an e-mail or a tweet. The recipients will remember you in the long run because of their appreciation for your sincere investment.

Kevin Smith, one of our guest speakers that semester, shared an interesting personal story on the importance of a hand-written letter. Kevin is the founder of the nonprofit organization Young Professionals of East Kentucky. We learn from Kevin that we add more value to family members and friends by taking time out of our lives to write them a letter. The recipients will remember you in the long run because of their appreciation for your sincere investment. His advice has stuck on the forefront of my mind all these years and it's one I hope you find as encouraging to you as it was to me.

"A well thought out hand-written letter goes a very long way," Kevin stated as he started his talk. In 2006, while Kevin was a student at Union College (Barbourville, KY), he set out to cover the President's State of the Union Address in Washington, DC for his college's local paper The Mountain Advocate. He had no idea how hard this task would be as the speech is only open to Members of Congress guests and to a limited number of press.

After researching and finding out who the media contact would be on disbursing media credentials, Kevin created a plan of selling his story of why they should choose him. Unfortunately, he was told that the credentialing process was for only for the largest daily papers in the country because of limited seating and that Barbourville's weekly paper would not qualify. Despite this saddening news, Kevin persevered. After continuing to follow up to share his desire to cover the event, he sparked some goodwill. Three days before the State of the Union, he received a call from Washington that a media credential had opened up and that he was the first person to come to mind. Kevin had gotten his hands on one of the toughest tickets in America.

If the story of perseverance isn't enough, the story continues. Upon returning back to the Commonwealth, Kevin wrote a hand-written letter thanking the gentleman for the once in a lifetime opportunity. As the months afterward rolled on, he thought little about the potential effect of his letter. However, as media credentials were being issued for the next State of the Union Address, Kevin received a call and invitation to attend once again. When Kevin asked how this was possible, he was told it was because of his thoughtful letter they'd received earlier. If individuals are fortunate, then they are able to attend one State of the Union Address in their lifetime; Kevin attended two in a row. As Kevin concluded his talk, he shared, "going twice to the State of the Union Address would not have been possible without the my sending a hand-written thank you card."

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Saturday, April 2, 2016

18 Tips for a Productive Weekday

How many of the following do you think you can accomplish this week?

This was my first post on "TheOdysseyOnline".
Believe it or not, we are now in the fourth month of this year! Are we satisfied by what we have accomplished so far? As the days fly by, many of us are so caught up in our job or school. While that is necessary to excel, we should remember to do the things that will help us invest in others and ourselves. It's those little things that we do to others that will go a long way. At the end of the week, all of our efforts will all add up. It's tempting to spend time looking forward to the weekend as well, but let's not wish our lives away. Instead, let's do our best to make our week count.

  1. Spend quality time with the elderly. You will not only keep them company, but you will learn from them too.

  2. Don't forget to spend time with the little tykes too.You will all learn from each other.

  3. Dedicate 20-30 minutes of your time to the sun.
    The sun has so many benefits for your body, so don't wear any sunscreen during that time.

  4. There is no need to be a winner in every argument.

  5. Give your parents a call.
    They were always there for you. They will be so happy to hear from you!

  6. Drink lots of water. Water is what makes life go on.

  7. Get rid of the things in your life that give you no happiness or benefit.

  8. Sleep for at least seven to eight hours each day.

  9. Consume more fresh food, and less of processed/canned food.

  10. Take care of your friends and keep in touch with them.
    Your job won't be there for you when you need a shoulder to lean on.

  11. Understand that life is like a school where you are a student. And any problem you face is like a math problem that can be solved!
    Whatever your problems are, have faith that they will change.

  12. Envy will waste your time.

  13. So will debating your religious or political views with others on social media networks.

  14. What others think about you has nothing to deal with you.

  15. Life is very short. Don't waste your life hating others.
    We may not like the actions of someone, but we don't hate them for that.
  16. Forgive and Forget.

  17. Don't forget to tell the ones you love how much you love them.

  18. After every difficulty comes ease. That's Guaranteed!

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Friday, March 18, 2016

Big Sandy College - Student Discussion Panel #1

The Office of Cultural Diversity held a forum for students today on the Prestonsburg campus.

There was a Student Discussion Panel today at Big Sandy Community and Technical College. The event was from 11:00 am to 12:00 pm. There were about 24 professors and faculty members present, and seven students that were presenting for the panel. My Professor had previously asked me if I was interested to participate in it since I come from a Middle Eastern background. Of course, I said yes.

Two of Big Sandy's faculty members sent me an email so I can be prepared. I thought that it will be better to attach the email they sent me here so you all will know exactly what went on.

""They told me that they wanted to include a student who might be willing to help us dispel myths and stereotypes about persons of the Muslim faith. We wanted to give students of different religions, lifestyles, cultures, races and ethnicities a forum to better educate our College staff, faculty and students about differences in our students to help us all celebrate, share and embrace those differences. Having said that, Jeremy Dempsey, Communications instructor, will moderate the panel and will ask students to respond to questions that hopefully will generate an exchange of ideas and promote a better understanding of our students.""

Some of the Questions that I answered were:

"1. Name and place of origin?

2. What would you like people to know about you?

3. What has been your experience with the culture in this region, and environment at the College?

4. You may be asked to define any words you use to describe yourself. Words from one culture may be interpreted differently in another culture. For instance: What does the term “Queen” mean?

5. Our moderator will ask questions to help audience become engaged in discussion to better educate the audience and to dispel myths, stereotypes and lack of understanding, so he may ask you to clarify or expound on certain points or topics for the purpose of helping the audience better understand your responses.

6. Questions from the audience of approximately 20 persons (faculty or staff) may be asked-- and answered according to level of comfort with the question. You may decline to answer any question and the moderator will handle the situation, so RELAX and help educate us.

7. Our panel moderator will be Jeremy Dempsey, Communications faculty from Pikeville campus."
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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

March Madness 2016 Bracket

Yesterday, I filled the March Madness 2016 Bracket for the first time. Let's see how it will go. 
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Sunday, February 21, 2016

Kevin Williams' AlJazeera article "The Muslims of Appalachia: Kentucky coal country embracing the faithful"

Kevin Williams(Left), Me(right)

Photo Credit: Dr. Syed Badrudduja

Kevin Williams, a journalist for Aljazeera America, visited us a while back to write about our community. He invited me for lunch to El Azul Grande to discuss our community. After lunch we went to Masjid Alfarooq for Friday Prayers. He is very interested in the Amish Culture.

He founded the website

I appreciate his time and effort for driving to East Kentucky. He was the one who informed me that Aljazeera will shut down soon. I told him that I want to save his article just in case the Aljazeera website also shut down.

The article was published today.

By Kevin Williams

""PRESTONSBURG, Kentucky — With its coal-caked hills, isolation and deep poverty, Southeastern Kentucky is probably not the first place that springs to mind when one considers the Muslim experience in America.

But nonetheless a small Muslim community has settled in the Appalachians, making a home forged in the ash-black-smudged margins. Friendships are made and communities are established, even as a wider debate rages around the prejudice of GOP frontrunner Donald Trump’s call for a ban on Muslims immigrating to the U.S.

Bilal Ahmed, 22, is from Elizabethtown, an affluent area near Louisville. But he decided to come to the University of Pikeville near the Virginia border to challenge himself and get out of his comfort zone. He described his freshman immersion in Pikeville as “brutal,” not because of anti-Muslim backlash, but just adjusting to college life.

In fact, after the first semester, Ahmed was so homesick that he filled out an application to transfer. But then exams intervened. Ahmed was taking Biology 151 and stressing over an upcoming exam, so he stepped out of his comfort zone and approached the kid behind him, asking him how he planned to prepare for the big test.

“We started studying in the library together and just hit it off and became best friends from that time on,” recalls Shey Spencer, 23. The two went on to become resident assistants, tutors in organic chemistry, and co-founded a campus chapter of National Society of Leadership and Success.

Ahmed credits his friendship with Spencer, a soccer and tennis player, as convincing him to stick it out at Pikeville, a decision the aspiring eye surgeon is now happy he made. Ahmed’s social circle gradually expanded and, like Spencer, many of his new friends were conservative Christians steeped in Bible Belt culture.

Ahmed has a theory for why he and others have been well-received in Appalachia.

“The foundation of my friendship is that both groups — Muslims and people from Central Appalachia — feel marginalized. Muslims are viewed as terrorists, Appalachians as uneducated and poor,” Bilal says. So the two groups have found common cause aside a mainstream media machine that paints both groups with the same broad brush.

Such cross-creed friendships in the heart of Central Appalachia do not surprise Christopher Green, an associate professor of Appalachian Studies at Berea College in Kentucky.

“Many people outside the area don’t think about it, but Central Appalachia is an incredibly diverse region religiously. You have Baptists, Pentecostal, Holiness, Catholic churches and mainline churches, there is a tremendous diversity of religious experience through Christian denominations,” Green says. Because of this, he says, “There is tremendous respect for people who hold religion close, no matter the denomination.”

Kentucky has three medical schools: one in Louisville, one in Lexington, the other in tiny Pikeville. The medical school has enough Muslim students to have a Muslim Doctor’s Association.

University communities are generally welcoming of outsiders. While Bilal will pack up and head to Toledo, Ohio, to finish his medical studies, there are Muslims who have grown up in the area — so many that in 1999 a mosque was opened here.

Outside of Prestonsburg, a short drive north on US 23 and is the Big Branch of Abbott Creek Road, a small ribbon of asphalt that disappears into the folds of the area’s unyielding hills. Travel a mile or two and it appears in a holler — as locals call narrow valleys tucked in the hills — an elegant mosque, its Arabic script standing out in an area more known for its thoroughly accented English than Middle Eastern languages. Welcome to Masjid Al-Farooq.

While mosques in other southern states have experienced increasing turbulence and threats, the Prestonsburg mosque has generally been met with nonchalance.

“I got one call after 9/11 from someone at 2 a.m.,” recalls Syed Badrudduja, the mosque’s imam who is also a well-known local surgeon. And that phone call, the imam notes, wasn’t even from the area; it was from Ohio.

The insular, protect-our-own culture of eastern Kentucky extends to the Muslims who call the area home.

“People have been very kind. Even after 9/11 people would come up to me and say `if anyone gives you problems, we’ll take care of it for you, we have your back,’” Badrudduja says. He says that the mosque serves a need in remote southeastern Kentucky.

“There are a few Muslims in every county. The whole area was in need of a mosque,” Badrudduja says, saying the mosque draws worshippers from as far away as Hazard and Harlan, in addition to neighboring Pikeville and Prestonsburg.

On a recent day, about 20 men gathered in the mosque for traditional Friday prayers. Almost everyone in the room was a medical professional: cardiologist, surgeon, pediatrician. There was one accountant. The professionals are drawn from all areas of southeast Kentucky and neighboring West Virginia. The vice-imam, a pediatrician, led the group in prayer. One man in surgical scrubs came with his son. Cell phones are ubiquitous. If someone were ever injured on the premises there’d be a doctor in almost any specialty to help.

Yassin Khattab, originally from Syria, is the only private-practice pediatrician in the underserved area around Prestonsburg. He has over 5,000 patients from a seven-county area. He says the Muslim physicians play such an important role in the community’s health that they are made to feel very welcome. Khattab said one of his nurses recently came to him visibly upset and asked:

“What will happen if Donald Trump is elected?”

“Nothing,” he said. “I’ll still be here practicing medicine.”

Meanwhile, Khattab’s son Asaad Khattab blogs about his life growing up as a Muslim in Prestonsburg. He was intrigued by Donald Trump’s candidacy in the beginning.

“But then he started saying all of those horrible things about Muslims, so I didn’t like him anymore,” Asaad says.

Asaad attended a “Muslim home school” located behind the mosque for a time (his younger siblings go to public school) and then started his college studies at Big Sandy Technical College before transferring to the University of Kentucky, and then Eastern Kentucky University to finish. He hopes to study to become a dentist. Assad studied for a year in Syria between high school and college. But Asaad can’t imagine himself practicing dentistry anywhere but eastern Kentucky.

“I want to contribute and give back to my community,” says Asaad, 22. “The Muslims that they are putting on the news do not represent us.”

Muhammad Ahmad is a cardiologist in Pikeville. He says that many Muslims come to rural areas as part of their visa and work study programs that require them to set up shop in an underserved area for three years. But, Ahmed notes, in the case of Pikeville, most stay far longer.

“This is a nice place to stay and raise a family,” Ahmed says.

The warm welcome comes as no surprise to Robert Musick, chaplain for the University of Pikeville.

“I feel passionately that Appalachia is different. We are not Southern,” Musick says. “We are deeply central Appalachian, Scots-Irish, and we’re a very welcoming, hospitable people.”

By: Kevin Williams
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