Update on writing

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Thanks to everyone who participated in my giveaway and those of you who purchased, liked and reviewed my book. The final drawing was done and the last winner is  Brigid of  Watching the Daisies

Please send me your mailing address so that I can get this book off to you Brigid!

I am currently working on a cookbook and trying to keep editing my real life story as well.  I go back and forth with the real life story and kind of give up but then hear of other people who are suffering and as I have been told by many I do have a voice and can speak out. So, hopefully I will be able to complete it and maybe switch back and forth between these two ideas taking the pressure off.

Have a great Saturday and I had to share these photos of  little princess Alayna. She has a great deal of hair that is long and curly and in the morning it can be quite wild. Mom and Dad put a cute bow or make a little ponytail on top of her precious head but early one morning when I woke up with her it was natural and untamed! She is such a doll!

Bad hair day?

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The beginning- Amu hit me with a stick?

The words my son spoke could not penetrate through to my brain, my real thinking brain. I was now amidst trucks, cars, bikes and hundreds of students, drivers and fathers. My first thought was to get my children safely home. This new and strange environment seemed suddenly hostile and distant, no longer interesting and colorful!  I grabbed my son’s hand and held it tightly, pushing the stroller with his hand attached to mine. I was no longer a timid foreigner but an angry mother marching out into the street, navigating through the cars and trucks. Vehicles lined the streets stopping in the middle and side of the road, blocking other traffic. Horns honking, cars screeching to a stop, children laughing and the sounds of a busy school day letting out. I couldn’t be bothered by anything except the words my son had uttered.

We reached the outside of the villa, it was hard to know which one it was. I stopped and looked, there was Abu Abdullah’s (owner of the villa) little pick up truck. When I started out for the school to get my son I had counted the streets and tried to notice other details along the way so that I could find my way back, white pick up, grey car, beige house, stray cats, garbage dumpster, and again the same line up along the way.  Every villa and neighborhood looked the same to me, beige or tan, the color of sand, huge walls surrounded each home making the whole block look as if it were one big wall. We approached the large rusted metal gate and walked through the empty courtyard, up the stairs to the dull brown doors that had once appeared mysterious and full of possibilities. I sat down tired, weary and hot! I took off my abaya (long black coat) and rested for a moment.  I asked my son, What happened what do you mean someone hit you on the head?  I held his hand in mine and tried to make eye contact with him. I don’t know mom!  He was tired and overwhelmed and didn’t even understand what people were saying at this school. He said that the teacher had a long wooden stick and for some reason had hit him on the head! I didn’t know what to say or to ask but I tried to be calm. “Was he joking or was he mad, did he hit you hard or a tap”  as  the words came out of my mouth I realized how ridiculous this sounded. What did it matter if he was mad, happy or sad? He hit my son and nothing could change that. A dread came over me, I felt helpless and confused.

That night we had a make shift soccer game in the mejalis (men’s sitting room). I always tried to think of the benefits that came with not having furniture, indoor soccer games, pillow fights and no mess to pick up! After the kids were in bed, I sat in the plastic blue chair he purchased at the plastic souk (store carrying all things plastic!) it was hard on my body at this point to sit on the floor. Contractions came and went along with back pain, heart burn, hemorrhoids and all of the things pregnancy brings. I sat and waited,  I looked at the clock, 8:10, then 9, and finally 10. He left for work each day around 7 a.m. and arrived home around noon. If you work for a company keeping this schedule you work two shifts, morning until noon, back again around 4, finishing your day at 8 or 9 pm.  This schedule might have carried with it a benefit except that all stores and offices were then closed. So, a time when you would have potential transportation, there was no place to go.  With each minute my anxiety grew!  When he walked in I smiled and tried to be the cheerful, dutiful wife. I remembered that he was tired, busy and did not like his new job.  I  learned  to never bother him with my trivial troubles, personal feelings or struggles because a reply about me thanking God for my blessings instead of complaining and a lecture would ensue. But, with my kids it was different, there were no boundaries and no reason to ever give up or stop fighting!  I carefully approached the subject and told him what my son had said. He ignored my comment and continued eating. I repeated my statement and he glanced at me stating that he was sure no one would ever hit the boys, it was not possible! I questioned him further and could see the veins in his forehead start to bulge!  There was no way for me to comprehend this and it could not stand. “I would not be sending my children to an unsafe environment where they would be hit!” No response was given but my point was clear and left him no alternative.

The next morning as I helped my boys get ready for school, I made sure they knew that hings would be different! It must have been a mistake or misunderstanding and one that would not be repeated. I waited anxiously all day trying to make sense of what had happened and his response to this incident. That night when he arrived home after work he told me that he had gone to the school to see the teacher. The teachers all loved my son and said no one would ever hit a child, it was against Saudi law! I knew my son would not make this up and so began 12 years of muddling through the Saudi school system. This meant changing schools each year in some cases, lodging complaints, and trying to unravel these complicated, unwritten rules. Years later I took my kids out of the school system and went back to home schooling. That was one of several choices that afforded more freedom but pushed things to the limit and brought me to where I am today!

Unfounded

I finished the cookie dough, adding the extra chocolate chips and walnuts that mom was so fond of. As I mixed I thought of her face and hands, how she would look through them with a child’s excitement, finally picking the one with the most chocolate, barely held together by little bits of dough. The house had been scrubbed, beds were made, gift basket placed on the dresser and kids were off to the airport. Little Abude ran around singing and talking about Grama and Grampa’s upcoming arrival, he had patiently waited for days and was now ready to burst. Baby Soos was 10 months old and gingerly put one foot in front of the other as she made her way around the coffee table, letting go to take a step here and there on her own. I straightened up one last time, plumping pillows, wiping counters and picking up the latest messes that continued to pop up around the little ones. A surge of excitement took over as I realized I would soon be seeing mom and dad. I felt proud to bring them to this home, comfy and warm, fully furnished and brightly colored, to introduce them to my friends and let them know that the kids and I were doing well. All of the mixed emotions had faded as my heart raced and head reeled with anticipation. The thought of holiday gift bags, toys and brightly colored clothing all seemed like imaginary worries as I stood looking at warm chocolate chip cookies.

Finally headlights could be seen through the living room curtains, a signal that they had arrived. The door swung open, the bigger kids walked in carrying bags and boxes. Mom and Dad followed close behind looking weary from hours of flying and lay overs. Hugs and kisses were exchanged and a beautiful essence wrapped around me as I fought to hold back tears. Dad gave his usual fatherly hug and then he made his way upstairs following the children who were eager to show him his room. I grabbed the cookies for mom and we sat chatting while she held baby Sumaya for the first time. We talked about their flight, the snow and things back home. Finally it was time, Mom picked a helper as we knew she would, shut the door and started her ritual of placing the gifts in each bag.  He sat with dad chatting about work, the stock market and topics they had in common. When he first drove up the dirt road leading to the house on the hill so many years before, he spent hours with dad, going to hardware stores, working on projects and talking about many things. When he needed someone to sign for him to get his green card, to be responsible for him, it was dad. They stayed up for hours each night discussing religion, finance and current events. We were finally allowed to enter the room and mom’s little helper passed out the gift bags. The children quickly took each item out amazed at the latest trendy toys and much needed clothing, shoes and socks. He received a bag as well, mom always took great pains to include him and give him special things needed for a professional engineer. Dress slacks, shirts and ties, a pair of shoes and a wind suit for the rainy weather. I felt a twinge of nerves as I watched the kids remove the contents of each bag, but he smiled and laughed, picking up toys, playing with Abude and baby Soos. He pushed buttons, listened to the musical sounds and gave piggy back rides as if he were a small child on Christmas. He then stood and said his goodbyes as he made his way to the “sheik’s” home for the rest of the evening.

The days were beautiful and warm, as if transported to a carefree time when the worries of real life seemed distant. Mom woke early and insisted on riding with the boys to the Arabic school while dad made coffee and walked to the mini mart to get a newspaper. They sat on the porch, took walks, rode the shopping bus and planned the meals they would make. Each day was a special gift and a reminder of the life we had left behind. He seemed happy and content to share morning coffee, chat and laugh before leaving for the office at the front of the compound. I felt relaxed and saw that my fears were just as he always told me, unfounded and unfair.