Khanversations

Rukhsana’s thoughts on her journey of life, writing and sometimes—when she dares—a bit of politics.
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Drowning in information…

Omigosh, writing this blog post is almost a sort of relief.

Child’s play.

A chance to unwind after weeks of incredible information overload.

I’ve been in meetings and immersed in research a story I’m writing for an educational publisher, and I honestly feel like I’m drowning.

It’s very humbling.

There’s so much information out there I had no idea about.

For example, I just finished reading an article about narcissistic parents and I *gasp* recognized certain tendencies in relatives of mine! And subhan Allah, I couldn’t see any in myself.

I guess narcissism is in the air what with the Trump campaign.

In raising my kids I always tried to look for whatever qualities and aptitudes they naturally displayed and then I encouraged them in it. I’d acknowledge the ways they shone. I think it’s like shining sunlight on a seedling. It helps them grow free of competition from their siblings. And I’ve taken the same approach now with my grandchildren.

I’m blessed because I guess I learned a long time ago not to focus on material items. I don’t care to live in a fancy house, nor do I care if my children do. As long as there’s a roof over all our heads and food on the table, we are blessed!

And it comes down to character.

Do they do good?

Do they shun evil?

That’s what’s really important.

And alhamdu lillah I have nothing to complain about.

So over the last few weeks I’ve been immersed in meetings, and thinkings and ponderings about the state of children’s publishing. Last night I even had a call from a guy in Calgary who is thinking of getting into the biz.

I don’t believe in discouraging anyone but honestly there are SO many Muslims who are jumping into publishing without doing enough homework. And the stories they want to produce are quite mediocre. And they think there’s no good literature out there, because again, they haven’t done their homework.

I should mention this is going to be one of those incredibly rambling posts, in case you want to stop reading at this point. ;O)

I’m just unloading the stuff I’ve been exposed to over the last few weeks. Stuff that I was too busy to blog about till now.

Met up with some dear old friends, and it was so nice! And during lunch a little kid came up and asked if I was ‘Rukhsana Khan’. LOL

Omigosh! I was recognized!

The little tyke had a broken arm and his aunt had gifted him a copy of Big Red Lollipop, to make him feel better. So we took a selfie.

And then I went to an outdoor camp for Muslim youth and I did three presentations there, one of which was some storytelling before they went to bed for the night.

We put the lights down low and I told these teenagers some lovely romantic stories! And oh, so many of the boys lay down, and yeah, some fell asleep but I didn’t take it personally. The others listened, their eyes glowing, and I think I heard a few of them sigh when the guy got the girl.

Earlier I had done a public speaking workshop with them, that they were so enthusiastic about. Instead of the whole ‘talk for a minute about a topic on a card’ bit, I had them storytell. I told them a very funny but very violent story set in Pakistan that my dad had once told me. Ironically the moral of the story is how stupid violence is–something I made sure to make clear to these kids. Oh how they loved it!

And then I spent the night on a rubber mattress covered by a furry blanket I’d borrowed from the counselor who’d invited me (she’d forgotten to tell me to bring my own bedding) and I borrowed her pillow, and all night I tried to keep the blanket from bunching up underneath me, and I slept horribly.

My camp days are pretty much over.

In the morning I did one more presentation for the kids. It was hard because of scheduling, I had to cut things short, but I’ve always heard that your audience will get from you, what they were meant to, so I suspect they got something good.

And then I drove the long way home.

The funny thing was so many of the girls thought I was in my thirties!!!

When I told my husband he said they were just flattering me.

LOL

Who knows and who cares?

I’ll take it.

Just finished the first draft of the educational story. Tomorrow I will polish it up and see if it’s ready to send to the editor.

I hope so.

I really do want to get back to my other projects.

So many ideas! So many projects! So little time!

Subhan Allah!

Where has the summer gone???

Oh, and on top of it all, I’ve been working on promoting our new initiative The Story Club. When you watch these videos (they’re really short! Just imagine how many takes it took and how hard it is to sound intelligent when you’re in front of a camera!)

Here are some of the videos of me talking about the Story Club:

https://www.facebook.com/469853356541737/videos/539218232938582/?comment_id=539540999572972

 

https://www.facebook.com/469853356541737/videos/539218232938582/?comment_id=539540999572972

 

https://www.facebook.com/469853356541737/videos/539218232938582/?comment_id=539540999572972

 

 

I’ve been thinking and thinking about why Trump, despite all his lies, and all the detritus that is spewing from his blowhole is so popular among a certain demographic of American population, and I think I may have come up with the reason.

When I was looking at the faces of the Trump supporters, most of them are around my age. In their fifties. That means they’re of the same generation that made my life such hell when I was growing up. They’re the ones who sniggered when David Archer called me ‘licemobile’, and even if they didn’t always join in, they didn’t stop the harassment because on some level they might have agreed or thought, ‘better her than me’.

I can picture them, back when they were still slim (like me), kings of the world, wandering the halls of their small town high school and hanging the little Jewish kid by his ankles from the third floor window as a ‘prank’ during frosh week.

But life for those same white privileged jerks hasn’t always turned out so good.

I’ve always felt that kids that were very popular during high school basically end up peaking early. They’re the kids who invested so much time and effort into their popularity that there’s little room for study and hard work.

And then when they graduate, they’re like ‘what next?’ All their friends end up going their own ways and they’re stuck with little education and few prospects.

Basically think of the movie Grease. You know that Sandy and Danny get married and after a while they’ll pop out some babies, get fat, bored and drift apart.

These people have grown up with a certain mindset of hierarchy. And in their little minds, white people are ALWAYS ALWAYS on top.

They’re like that stupid RNC senator who couldn’t think of any contributions to civilization from non-white people.

In their ignorance, just because they don’t know of any contributions, in their minds that means they don’t exist.

When I look back at junior high school, at how PATHETICALLY I tried to fit in, how HOPELESSLY I tried to please the popular kids, the Danny’s and Sandy’s and whatevers of my classes, I cringe.

Thing is the first thing immigrant kids try to do is fit in. It’s only when that doesn’t work. When the kids are completely cruel and not only dismissive, but actively do things to humiliate you, that you have a choice to make.

Either you agree with their evaluation of yourself and your culture, or you don’t.

Either you step into their idea of hierarchy, or you forge your own.

More and more immigrants are forging their own. And this is what is upsetting these people the most!

Their’s is no longer the only paradigm.

They’re no longer ‘cool’, because they’re older and looking kind of dumpy. But what they find worse is that their’s is no longer the only way of doing things. And things are changing. Society is accommodating those changes in demographics, as it should.

When I started wearing hijab in grade eleven, in 1979, in that same small town of Dundas where I grew up, and David Archer started saying that I wore it to keep the lice in, I ignored him. For the second time in my life I really didn’t give a damn!

But I must admit, I never imagined that hijab would become as common place as it has. I never imagined I’d see women wearing it all over the place and I wouldn’t be one of the ‘few’ Muslim women who embraced that Islamic injunction, that I’d be one of many. I thought the lure of Western influence would be way too great for girls to resist.

And so did those insecure white people.

They can deal with one or two weirdos who are bucking the trends. But when they see a lot of them, and THEY’RE NOT GOING AWAY! And even the newspapers and local media are starting to include them like they’re GASP normal! Then it shakes their little hearts!

Like so many other Western countries, Canada and the U.S. never bothered to legislate assimilation.

It is part of the arrogance of their mindset that they never thought they had to.

They thought that the lure of their way of thinking would be so strong that no minority culture could resist.

But they should have realized that they’re not that irresistible.

The first clue should have been when native cultures maintained their cultural identity despite being forced onto reservations, and despite EVERY SINGE TREATY VIOLATION AND ATTEMPT TO INTIMIDATE THEM!

So what did the insecure white people do? They forced assimilation. They STOLE the children from their families and brought them to RESIDENTIAL schools in order to indoctrinate them.

Can you believe that they actually thought they were doing these kids a favour???

My heart goes out to them because the native community is still trying to recover from such a rape of their cultural identity.

According to the law of the land, both in the U.S. and Canada, religious freedom is a right of every individual.

And both countries strive to accommodate as much as possible, the religious observations of any sincere individual.

That’s because the U.S. was founded by people fleeing religious persecution in Europe.

And it’s just part of being civilized.

But when these same insecure white people grow up and see people actually being religious it irks them. They feel like a minority in their own land, and they have to watch what they say.

It’s the authorities who have urged Muslims and other minorities to step up and expect accommodation.

We’re Canadians, they tell us. We have the same rights as everyone else.

And in order to be a peaceful society, they try to accommodate those religious requirements as much as possible.

So if some women using a public facility like a swimming pool, ask for black out curtains so men outside can’t ogle them, and if they ask because of their religious requirements to be modest, then the authorities think, okay, how can we accommodate them?

What is wrong with that?

Why should it bother you?

Thing is, we pay our taxes too.

Why shouldn’t we be accommodated???

It doesn’t take anything away from you.

You can go and strut your stuff as much as  you want to. You can let your butt cheeks hang out and your boobs dangle as much as you want. Why is their only a hue and cry if we don’t want to join you?

If we actually want to cover up and leave something to the imagination?

(This is actually one thing I like about Donald Trump. Somebody once asked him about the niqab and hijab and he said to leave those people alone. He’s spoken to some women and they want to wear it so let them.) (I never saw him say this but one of my niqab wearing daughters did, so I believe her.)

Ultimately why should the cloth on my head and body bother you???

Why should the xenophobes in France send a girl home because her skirt is too short and they accuse her of wearing it as a religious symbol??? (that really happened! She was a girl who converted to Islam and they sent her home because they said her skirt was too long!)

The French are probably the most insecure of all the Western countries!!!

Because they can’t understand how anyone having grown up in their land or in the land of the free and the home of the brave and the truth north strong and free, how anyone could cling to a religion that they think is so backward.

And seeing people who continue to follow their own customs and religious practices seems to shake their faith in their own superiority, in their own paradigm, because maybe, just maybe, they don’t know everything.

Maybe they think, ‘hmm, perhaps there’s another way of doing things, another way of thinking?’ but they quickly reject that as a threat to their idea of hierarchy and all they hold dear so instead, these immigrants these people should be forced to assimilate FOR THEIR OWN GOOD.

Citizenship isn’t supposed to be conditional. As long as you follow the law you’re supposed to be able to live your life as you wish.

The rights of a citizen are supposed to be the same whether you’re black, brown, white or mixed. The law of the land says that the rules apply to all of us, but it’s the INSECURE white people who rig things in their own favour.

And when the ‘freaks’ that they harassed in high school seem to be ‘taking over’, these insecure white people see Donald Trump as their own priggish high school bully, putting these foreigners and ‘freaks’ in their place and re-establishing their own paradigm.

They don’t care if he lies.

It’s not about any sort of truth or any sort of logic.

So you can point out the inconsistencies of what he says and how he can’t deliver on his empty promises till you’re blue in the face.

They don’t care.

And they won’t care.

It’s their last chance to ‘MAKE AMERICA ‘GREAT’ AGAIN’.

Great for them, that is.

But that said, there are a whole lot of other white people, who are secure within themselves, who see right through the bloviating, and the high school bully tactics of Trump and want nothing to do with it.

They are part of the new paradigm.

The paradigm where all people are allowed to live as they please and even though we might have different races, religions and sexual orientations or gender orientations and we don’t agree on everything, as long as we’re committed to a peaceful society, we can live our lives the way we want and let others live theirs.

And God bless the U.S. and Canada for these people, because without them there really would be anarchy.

 

 

when it becomes too depressing is not only wise, it’s prudent.

We have such limited time on this earth.

You have to pick and choose your battles.

And yet writing this is giving myself the advice I need reminding of.

Foolishly I started watching the Republican National Convention footage. Watching all these white people’s faces contorted in rage and hate…was really depressing.

And it did something to me.

I thought, how could we ever reach such people?

And then I realized no, we can’t.

And today, when I logged onto the blog, there was a comment waiting from yet another xenophobe who was furious at black out curtains for Muslim women who want to swim.

She said something like many women buy bathing suits designed to show off their bodies, why would you prevent that?

And I thought, “Omigosh! What a different way of thinking.”

And she ended with ‘you’ll never change my mind’. And I thought, yup, lady, you’re right about that. How could such a mindset ever understand the desire to be modest? To swim without exhibition, just for the exercise and not having men gawk?

Upon seeing that hate, the first night of the Republican Convention, I couldn’t stop eating!

First I ate some pecan bars left over from Eid. Three of them. Even though I knew the sugar would make me suffer.

Then a bowl of honey nut Cheerios, and then a bag of popcorn.

I couldn’t stop feeding my face!

Like I was a baby who wanted to suckle and a blanket.

I’m definitely an emotional eater.

I tend to eat when I feel hopeless. When the world seems to be ending and I figure what’s the point of trying?

I could see that I was eating in a crazy way, but I couldn’t seem to stop myself.

So the next night, I just flipped channels. I didn’t watch the whole convention. I saw a bit of Chris Christie bloviating, and caught a bit of the smug smile of Donald Jr. but for the most part I avoided the convention and had no problem whatsoever controlling my appetite.

But I felt exhausted.

And I think the past few weeks have taken their toll, because I felt like I’m coming down with a cold.

And I thought to myself, how fitting.

Basically I’m allowing myself to heal right now. Taking some time off from creative endeavours to take care of myself, physically, emotionally, mentally.

I feel fragile.

And that’s okay.

It’s time to regroup.

To remember that I don’t have control over anything but myself and the stories I write.

I obviously don’t write for everyone.

I read a very interesting article about the top seven tips from Stephen King. I really admire his discipline and many of the stories he writes. One of the tips was about writing for your ideal reader. He said you should picture a person you know and write a story, almost in an intimate way, to that person. And then he said that his ideal reader was Tabitha, who is his wife, I think.

And he said ‘write the truth’. Be brave.

I needed to hear that. With the project I’m working on right now, I needed to hear that.

It will take all the courage I can muster to tell the truth.

So much hate in the world.

The sides have never seemed more far apart.

God help us all.

 

 

Creative caving or simply being practical?

Not sure.

But I’ve been thinking of Neil Gaiman quite a bit for the last few days.

He’s the author of Coraline and is really good at writing creepy stories. I read his Graveyard Book and although it’s nowhere near as good as Coraline, it is kind of interesting and the fact that I finished it, means I liked it enough to keep reading.

He gave a commencement speech a while back that’s really worth watching.

He talked very movingly about sometimes ‘settling for what you can get’.

You need to pay bills and that means sometimes you take work that will pay.

I was thinking of Neil Gaiman when I turned down some work that just seemed way too tedious and just didn’t pay enough. It was an educational publisher who wanted me to write cultural stories that could teach kids to read.

And then I accepted a project that seems almost as tedious, but pays better and I wondered if I wasn’t walking away from ‘the mountain’ he talks about.

Loved what he talks about working on time, being pleasant to deal with and your work being good. He said two out of three was fine. That’s quite true.

I try to be all three.

I do find that sometimes you need to write to specification. Oh but learning the new genre! I know, I know, I sound like I’m complaining.

I’m not really.

I know I’m fortunate that I was even approached for this assignment.

Basically you need to do whatever it takes to survive. Don’t turn your nose up at good honest work. That’s what I’ve done all these years and I’ve found that each open door I went through led to others. You just never know.

But I do hope and pray there’ll come a day when I don’t need to work this hard.

Now to submit my outline/synopsis and see if it’s appropriate.

I don’t usually get very ‘religious’ on my blog, ironically it seems to be ‘bad form’, but I think I want to talk about what faith is actually good for.

Yesterday was July 7th and I happened across a very infamous video of Philando Castile’s girlfriend documenting his shooting and eventual death as her four year old daughter sat in the back seat. They were pulled over for a tail light.

Then later, during a protest in Dallas, some army vet or vets, it’s not absolutely clear yet, decided to snipe white policeman who were at the protest, and as a result five police officers were killed and about eight were wounded.

After seeing the video of Castile’s girlfriend documenting the horror she was going through, it’s hard to describe the emotions that went through me. Anger, disbelief, sadness, horror and a bunch of other emotions and then eventually guilt. Because I doubt I’d ever be treated that way in the same circumstances and it breaks my heart that people live their lives in fear of police.

And then when I saw police men, who’d had nothing directly to do with the killings of black men, gunned down I tried to summon as much sympathy as I could but it wasn’t as easy because I hadn’t seen a video of them being shot and I didn’t know anything about them like I knew about the black victim, and I was still angry at Castile’s death.

Intellectually I knew the murder of the policemen was just as wrong, but somehow I wasn’t feeling it.

And I found myself stepping back and knowing that my thinking was wrong and flawed. It’s totally wrong to be less outraged at the police killing. Both deserve equal condemnation so I did what I often do, I decided to ignore my inclinations and recognize that yes, both were victims and both must be condemned.

That’s what religion can do for you. It can bi pass our prejudices and emotions, and anchor itself in what we know to be right and wrong irregardless of the circumstances, how much we know about the victims and our emotional state at the time.

And I remembered my own dealings with black people, which at times has been less than perfect. It’s easy to be against prejudice and racism until you meet someone from a race that really ticks you off and being human and the way we’re wired, we look for commonalities and that’s how stereotypes and prejudice are born. And these are things we must consciously resist! And having faith helps with that.

I remember encountering this black kid, probably about fourteen, who’d gone into the handicapped washroom in the library ahead of me and pissed all over the toilet seat, and strolled back outside, blase, like it was no big deal. I wanted to call him back and tell him to wipe up! But I got scared. You just never know how a young kid like that will react.

And I remember getting so angry at his behaviour, who maybe had been taught better but on his own decided to be a jerk and how there was nothing I could do about it but wipe up the seat so that I and the people after me, could make use of the washroom, and even though I knew it was a little sadaqa (an act of charity) it was still completely disgusting!!! And it got me mad. And I thought no wonder people react to black people sometimes, but then I checked myself again, and tried to remember this was just this one stupid kid! And he could have been any ethnicity. And it was wrong to let my anger at his actions color my view of all black people (pardon the pun).

And I remember a while ago, when I saw some Canadian police dealing with a noise violation, two o’clock in the morning and some people were partying. The police pulled up and ever so quietly, calmly and most of all politely, they asked them to quiet down.

No guns.

No altercations.

And I remember being surprised at how polite the officers had been.

And then I thought of my own experiences dealing with young people in schools. It’s such a cliche but you really do catch ‘more flies with honey than with vinegar’.

My approach in schools, especially schools where there are a lot of jaded and ‘violent’  and yes a lot of black teens is to be polite and respectful. You’d be surprised at how well the kids will respond. I’ve done presentations in schools with terrible reputations! And yet the kids were nothing shy of wonderful with me!

Anyway, when I see such horrible things happening in the world, and it just feels like it’s getting worse and worse, that’s when I fall back on my faith the most.

In this day and age when it’s not ‘fashionable’ to believe in God, I’m going to come out and say what my belief in God really does for me.

Ultimately it gives me hope, it calms me and it gives me peace.

I do believe that justice will not and cannot be served in this life. People will get away with things. But I also believe that there will be a hereafter and a judgment day where everyone that may have gotten away with anything will face the Creator and have to answer for it. Every single thing!

And I will have to answer too. For every single thing I do, whether public or private, and because God can read the intentions of every person He created, there will be no injustice that day.

And that is very comforting.

It is also pretty scary! I fear the day I will be laid bare in front of all humanity, and every sin and every foible will be exposed for people to gawk at. And that means I try to minimize my bad deeds and sins. I try not to do them. I restrain myself.

And when I get angry, really really angry at the injustice in the world, unlike some people, I do not lash out.

Instead I pray.

And prayer is good for the soul.

It’s basically a turning over of every injustice and every frustration that I fear to God’s hands. Let Him deal with it, because I can’t.

And then, after a while, I can breathe again, and I can get back to the task of being the change I’d like to see in the world. Trying to be patient and trying to do a bit of good.

That’s all that’s within my purview. I know my limitations and although sometimes I chafe at them, on the whole I accept them and try to stay humble.

So I don’t feel the need to take revenge. I don’t feel the need to lash out.

But I understand that some people do.

Nietzsche said, ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’. But I have found that isn’t always true.

Sometimes people face things that are so difficult, so trying, it tips them over the edge. They might physically survive, but mentally perhaps they were fragile, or maybe they didn’t have the moral conditioning that many religions and belief in God gives you, so that they cross the edge and they do things that are wrong.

Evil.

That they wouldn’t resort to, if they hadn’t been pushed beyond all reasonable limits.

In that case, even though what they experienced didn’t ‘kill them’, it seems it killed something within them, maybe they’re humanity, and they do the unthinkable.

Maybe if people have strong religious beliefs they basically have an inviolable moral code that some actions are just not even possibilities.

Like murder, like assassination.

For example, when I was a teenager and I was being persecuted by my classmates, I thought of death and suicide, but it wasn’t an option because of my belief. I had no idea my life would change. I just knew I would never kill myself because again, I feared God and the punishment in Islam for suicide is not only hellfire, but basically repeating the way you killed yourself over and over again till Judgment day.

Yikes! No thanks!

There are plenty of people who refer to belief in very derogatory terms. But for me, it’s what has kept me going. It’s what has kept me sane.

And insha Allah, it will keep me good, on the side of right, in this life and the hereafter.

But right now, it’s time to pray.

As the world goes crazy…

take a deep breath and carry on, and remember that all this too is within God’s plan.

It has been confirmed that Eid will be on Wednesday July 6th insha Allah, so a few hours of this fast and one more to go.

Just heard the news that there was a suicide bomber at the Masjid al Nabawi in Medina! Outhu billah! Can’t imagine! And yet part of me is still at peace.

Like a sigh.

On top of everything else, they have attacked the sanctity of the Prophet’s masjid.

How could they?

I’ve spent the month reading Quran, as much Arabic as I can but all of it in English, because I can understand it better.

I’ve missed the Quran. During the rest of the year I’ll be lucky if I crack it open. Alas I tend to be a very lazy Muslim.

It was funny, because I was reading it and reading it, my eyes often filling with tears, and then I looked up at one point and said to God, “It’s been really nice getting reacquainted with You.” And then I realized how ridiculous that sounded. God is always there.

Like I feel Him all the time, and I talk to Him within my head all the time, and knowing He’s watching me will often be enough to prevent me from doing something I could regret.

But reading the Quran is different.

Just like reading a novel exposes the character and personality of the writer, I feel reading the Quran connects directly with God Himself and that’s what I meant by ‘getting reacquainted’.

Each year that I read the Quran during Ramadan often tends to focus on ‘themes’. I remember reading it one year and I kept noticing how many times God urges believers to spend our of what He has bestowed on us. It’s not just talking about spending on charity, but basically to not be tight-fisted. And I thought yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

You go to Muslim countries and everyone’s out to haggle as much as they can, scrounging. And it becomes exhausting. And I decided, no, I don’t want to be like that. I won’t be a spend-thrift, but I won’t be cheap either.

When it’s time to spend money, I will, and insha Allah, I won’t complain about it.

With the idea that it’s all part of my rizq, my provision, that God has planned for me.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot too.

This year I came across a lot of verses that talking about being generous. And I kind of smiled within myself because yeah, a lot of that work I mentioned, that’s so exhausting, is exactly about being generous. I baked a LOT!

I made chocolate cake with mocha icing, pecan bars, lemon squares, cheesecake cupcakes, and pine tarts (pineapple tarts) as well as meat-filled buns. And I made various packages containing some of these things and dropped it off to neighbors and to one aunt that lives close by who’s always been super helpful and of course to my mother in law and father in law. They’re elderly now and I know she can’t bake like she used to and she really enjoys these things.

At their age they don’t like a lot of material gifts, but this is something I can do for them, so I do. Alhamdu lillah.

And so when I came across the verse about generosity, I felt a bit good about myself. Happy that I’d worked that hard.

And I’ve come to a number of conclusions, but because they’re mostly religious and this blog isn’t exactly a platform for religious dogma, I’ll just leave it at that.

I had been planning on writing a lot this Ramadan.

Hasn’t happened.

This Ramadan the days were about at the pinnacle of length of fast. Basically there was a six or seven minute difference between the first fasts and tomorrow, the last fast. Not much!

This as hard as it gets.

It was hard, don’t get me wrong. Harder than I thought it would be, but at the same time it was doable.

And to be perfectly honest a lot of the difficulty was self-inflicted.

All the baking and cooking and wrapping of Eid gifts isn’t exactly part of the Ramadan protocol. It’s just what we do.

But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

By the way, the recipe for my pine tarts will be featured in the Toronto Star’s Wednesday (Eid day) Food section!!! https://www.thestar.com/life/food_wine.html So if you want to learn how to make those scrumptious little things, just check it out.

I just have to iron my Eid outfit, make some beef biryani tomorrow and some samia and another chocolate cake tonight (for hubby and son’s workplace folks–already packed away their share of pine tarts) and I’m set for Wednesday.

Oh.

And I’m almost done reading the Quran. Just a few short chapters left.

Alhamdu lillah, a beautiful blessed Ramadan!

Ooh, one more thing! I lost five pounds!!! Yay!!!

Aahhh.

Ramadan’s last ten nights…

are upon me, and although I haven’t done much ‘writing’, not physically anyway, I’ve been rereading the Quran, immersing myself in the language that has basically defined my life.

It was first revealed in Ramadan, and Ramadan is always a good time to recharge, reacquaint myself with its message.

I’ve realized that much of my poetry, when I write verse, imitates or tries to imitate, the cadences of the Quran. It’s like it’s ingrained in me from so many readings.

I still find my breath catching when I read it.

The tone, the perspective, from far outside humanity, from high above us, looking down on the foibles of humanity, the warnings of horrible punishments, the admonishments, and most of all the tugging at my heart so that my eyes fill with tear at the majesty of God. The Quran is so different from anything else I’ve ever read.

And with the world going crazy, reading the Quran has allowed a sense of serenity to descend upon me, despite all the sadness.

I started a new novel while waiting to hear on a work in progress.

I had planned that what with the early mornings after breakfast, I could do some writing of it. But that hasn’t panned out.

Instead of writing, I find myself reading. More and more and more, and yet writing occurs on so many different levels.

One of the hardest things has been figuring out the motivation and character of my antagonist.

I find villains hard! It’s hard to think in such mean despicable ways! With my work in progress I struggled with several scenes where some of the characters gave way to their basest mentalities.

And with this current novel, again I’m struggling with motivation.

And motivation is so important.

That’s where reading the Quran has actually been quite helpful. There are so many spots where God talks about the way the disbelievers and hypocrites think. It’s so duplicitous. Two-faced, despicable! So I guess it comes down to the fact that even though I’m not ‘writing’, I’m researching.

Ramadan has had so much physical demand on me. With the days so long, it hardly even makes sense to go to sleep before the morning meal, so I’ve kind of taken it upon myself to stay up all night till Fajr.

And then sleep.

And now we’ve come down to the last ten days and there are so many times when I’m just filled with such joy like my heart will burst with it. And then I find myself catching myself, feeling almost guilty, because of all the suffering in the world.

I’ve started Eid preparations. With four kids and ten grandchildren, Eid ul Fitr is a hefty celebration! Got the Eid gifts wrapped, and all the letters to my children and my grandkids and my niece written (ever year I write them each a personal letter). Now comes the cooking!

My kids have called Eid–Eat for the longest while, because after a month of fasting, the first day of Shawwal (the 10th month in the Islamic calendar) involves a LOT of eating!

I’ve already started by making my ‘meat-filled buns’. They’re pretty good alhamdu lillah. Made sixty today! Got about forty more to go. And then the rest of the week will be filled with baking: chocolate cake, pineapple tarts, pecan bars, lemon squares, and cherry cheesecake.

Mmm.

I always make packages that I give to the neighbors and in laws. Lots of work, but all in all worth it.

Afterwards it’s such a RELIEF to get back to normal!

Can’t wait to get back to ‘work’. It’ll be so much easier!!!!

Dealing with heartache…

Just days after they laid Muhammad Ali to rest, a 29 year old American named Omar Mateen shot up a gay nightclub killing 49 people.

How could anyone do such a thing???

Just when things are getting calm, something like this happens.

I try not to think of it because whenever I do, tears well up, and I’m fasting and already dehydrated enough. I can’t afford to lose more water.

Oh Allah have mercy.

I’ve been immersing myself in Quran. Lots and lots of Quran. It always helps put things in perspective.

And it makes me feel grateful because no matter how tumultuous the world is getting, alhamdu lillah, things are good with myself and my own family situation.

I can pray for the world, I can pray for the victims. And I can work to tell stories that try to make sense out of it all, and urge others towards a better world view.

That’s about it.

A friend puts it bluntly, ‘Just because the world’s going nuts, doesn’t mean you have to.’

Destroying my own mental health isn’t going to help the situation any. Instead it’s time to lean in, plod on. Patience. Perseverance. God loves those who patiently persevere.

 

 

Oh Beautiful Ramadan!

The Prophet (peace be upon him) had encouraged Muslims to welcome this sacred ninth month of the Muslim calendar! Welcome it because during this month the doors of heaven are opened and the doors of hell are closed and all the shayateen (devils) are chained up and have no power to influence us.

It is not easy.

But there is something very exciting about it!

I was writing a novel recently and I came to describe it, that you think it’s going to be so hard, but then the first week passes and the second week passes, and when you go to the masjid for taraweeh prayer, you feel the peace descend upon you as you listen to the beautiful recitation of the Quran, God’s own book, that was first revealed in this blessed month.

And you see the moon changing, through the lacy cloud cover, or sometimes you can see it better when it’s clear, and you see it waxing, and then waning, the days and nights inevitably passing, and you get into the rhythm of the month so that you hardly feel the hunger and thirst of the days, even though the days are long because it’s at the height of summer.

And before you know it, the month is passing and you’re getting ready for Eid!

Oh it is a beautiful month.

My heart is light.

I am surrounded with peace.

And even though I have a bunch of presentations in the fall to prepare for, including the National Council of Teachers of English convention in Atlanta, Georgia where I will be conducting two presentations, I am at peace, and I know I will work towards it insha Allah and everything will be okay.

Last night I watched The Martian with Matt Damon. During Ramadan I try to stay away from stupid nonsense and dirty stuff in particular, and The Martian is really just a good story. It’s in the end, when Damon is lecturing to a group of students that the themes of the story really come together. It’s well worth watching, and it makes me realize that more and more Hollywood is tired of the normal story format. There are no ‘love interests’ in the new stories. And good on that.

And yet there’s something missing. Soul.

Hollywood and science fiction is incredibly amoral, and areligious.

And kind of depressing.

I hope whoever reads this has a wonderful month of Ramadan, whether you celebrate it or not, whether you fast or not, and I hope this month will bring the world one step closer to peace.

Ameen

Especially when things are really funny!

Like when you had a chip on your shoulder and you made a terrible mistake, a faux pas, and then life has a way of circling around back at you, as if to nod and say, “It’s okay.”

That’s what happened to me today.

About twenty years ago, when I was still just starting to try to get published, I tried writing everything and anything, just to get a publishing credit so that I could mention it on my cover letters so editors could take me a tich more seriously.

I always admired OWL and ChickaDEE magazines! They’re Canadian institutions, so naturally I took an oral speech I’d help write for my daughter and tried to turn it into an article for OWL.

I have come to the conclusion that I am NOT a non-fiction author.

Not really.

Despite the occasional article I write for journals and stuff, I can’t write creative non-fiction. Not for the likes of such prestigious magazines anyway, but at the time I didn’t know any better and I wrote the article.

It languished at OWL in the slush pile.

And so I went to this conference back then called STORYMAKERS. The editor of OWL was Sylvia Funston. She was doing a session, and here’s me sitting in the front row, listening eagerly. And when she said that they respond back within three months, I stuck up my hand and told her it had been six months.

She was kind enough to go back to the offices, dig up my story, and sit down with me the next day to tell me why it didn’t work and what I could do to fix it.

Did I appreciate it?

No, I did not.

LOL.

Omigosh. Like I said, I’ve made every mistake imaginable on my journey to be an author.

I cringe at the way I behaved. I did not appreciate the criticism. I did not even realize what a favour she was doing for me!!!

By the time I did, she had moved on.

I wrote an open letter to Sylvia Funston, I think on this blog, apologizing profusely but I don’t think it ever wended its way toward her.

And then lo and behold, out of the blue, I get a request from ChickaDEE magazine to write a story for them! A fiction story–which I can do!

And which I did.

And now that it’s been finalized and the editing is done, I can say it feels absolutely SURREAL to have written for such a prestigious magazine as ChickaDEE!!!

I asked my editor if she knew Sylvia Funston and whatever happened to her, but no, alas, she was before her time.

I do hope I get to apologize to her one day.

But in the mean time…

CHICKADEE!!!!!!