in the middle of a powerpoint presentation and you’ve got an audience of about a hundred and fifty antsy ten and eleven year olds…
What do you do???
This is not a hypothetical situation.
It happened today, about three hours ago as I write this.
October being Islamic Heritage month, I was invited to Barbara Frum library, a Toronto public library to do a presentation to commemorate it.
I chose my favorite: The Roses in My Carpets, about my Afghan refugee foster child.
I love doing the presentation! But it involves a powerpoint visual tour of the refugee camp I visited in Peshawar, Pakistan.
So I’m going ahead, full blast, right at the beginning of the presentation. I finished ‘reading’ them the book when disaster strikes! I trip over the plug and the power gets disconnected from the cart that I’ve plugged my laptop into. My laptop is connected to the projector.
Well I quickly plug it back in and the projector starts to boot up, but disaster, my laptop is not turning back on!
I’m talking away, continuing the presentation, even as I keep desperately pressing the power button on my laptop to no avail.
Nothing! Nada! Zip!
What do you do when the technology fails you?
First of all, don’t let them see you panic.
Second of all, have redundancy!!!!
Not only did I also have the powerpoint on a USB flash drive, I also had a picture of Kareem, my foster child, in my presentation case, that I pulled out and showed the group as I continued the presentation.
I called the librarian, Alex, and asked for a new computer, while I continued the presentation as if nothing happened, knowing that at the beginning of the presentation, I dwell on Kareem’s handsome face for a good portion of time. Long enough that they might be able to set up a new laptop.
Sure enough, the technician brought a new laptop, I disconnected mine, while he connected his, and handed over my USB, and all while I’m continuing the presentation, talking nice and loud, as the powerpoint is coming up in time for the next slide.
I wonder if I could have done it if I hadn’t known the presentation, basically backwards and forwards. I’ve done it about five thousand times!
Even though all I could think of was what a disaster the technology had been, people came up to me visibly moved!
They had loved the presentation! Masha Allah.
So always remember, it’s never as bad as you think it is.
I tend to be super hard on myself. Any little flub or mistake I make gets magnified umpteen times in my head.
But the audience is so much more forgiving. Especially since it was a technology problem!
I did think of just cancelling the powerpoint and doing another presentation, but I’m glad I didn’t. It had been advertised!
And people had come from all the way across town, dragging their kids on public transit and everything, just to see me and this particular presentation.
Alhamdu lillah, it was fine and the librarian said it was an excellent presentation.
So just a tip, always have a backup in case the technology fails.
Haven’t tried turning my computer on again. I probably should. I think it might just need recharging before it turns on.
Or maybe it’s just crashed.
It’s been a day and a half since I returned from Malaysia, the other side of the world, yup twelve hour time zone difference and I’m powering through the jet lag.
Alhamdu lillah, it was a fabulous trip. My hosts were were so hospitable!!!
Almost too hospitable, need to shed some of the pounds I gained! And yet I was really careful!!!
I think Malaysian people are some of the nicest people in the world!
I remember last time I went to Kuala Lumpur I felt it, and this time the feeling was even stronger.
The lady in charge of COMEL, who put it all together is a lawyer who works for one of the largest firms in KL. Such a nice lady, she runs her own small publishing house as well.
She was in my session at the Asian Festival of Children’s Content in Singapore back in 2012.
How she managed to pull it all together I have no idea! She spoke to people who ended up donating almost everything including the hotel rooms and the airfare.
It took two days to get there. I left on Monday September 19th, at around 10 pm and got into KL on Wednesday morning around 9 am exhausted!
She had arranged for a massage for me at the spa in the hotel #Impiana. My first massage! And it left the middle of my back a bit sore because the tiny Asian lady who was pummeling me did a thorough job. My friend told me that sometimes happens if you’re not used to massages.
The hotel was beautiful! We had a view of the Petronas twin towers, Malaysia’s most famous landmark, from my hotel window.
She had a bunch of volunteers helping run the festival and there was even a rehearsal the night before that I didn’t go to because I didn’t have any technical requirements.
I only had about half an hour and I’ve found it’s better to ditch the powerpoint and just speak from the heart. Most of the time powerpoints are not better than just good old fashioned storytelling!
There were about a hundred people gathered to hear us. Many of them apparently had committed themselves to either come for the morning or the afternoon, but many in the morning enjoyed themselves so much they stayed!
It’s always so nice to actually learn something when I go to such events! I’ve gotten to the point where I seldom learn anything new.
But this time I was listening to Javier Zabala, an amazing artist from Spain, and he did a powerpoint presentation on how artists ‘extract’ inspiration from the masters. He showed slides of modern artists and older masterpieces and showed how the modern artists had ‘metabolized’ the older pieces. How they’d been inspired by them but not plagiarized them.
It was really fascinating.
Have you ever met someone who is so competent and so sure of his competence?
To be perfectly honest I’d never heard of Mr. Zabala. I think coming from North America we tend to think that we know everything about art and culture!
Ha! Not at all! This trip reminded me of how much there is out there in the world!
That’s his website! Check out his art!
Here’s his Don Quixote!!! My goodness! Look at the composition! He captures the ridiculousness and yet the vulnerability perfectly!
This is his Hamlet! It’s for an illustrated volume for adults! The movement! The violence! The power of it! Look at the way he’s actually built characters with just the suggestion of lines.
He’s really quite amazing!
One of the most interesting things he said during his talk was how he’d visited an art gallery where on display was work from an old master from the 15th century, and he was looking at the piece and thinking, My goodness, this guy’s been dead for five hundred years and yet look at how he’s controlling where I look, forcing me to look at a certain part of the picture! His composition led the eye to focus on what the artist wanted to focus on!
And then he told us a bit about composition!
Well talking to Mr. Zabala, I just listened for the first bit. I didn’t say much, I just listened. (I know! I know! For me to keep quiet wasn’t exactly the easiest! LOL)
But I was trying to figure him out. I thought he must be very good if my host had invited him! And there was something about the way he carried himself!
It was so funny. He had quite an accent and often times it was hard to understand him when he spoke, but I couldn’t help being impressed with his English! No way could I have given a presentation in a second language as well as he did!!!
Well he was up there talking and by this time we’d spent a couple of days together, and I’d figured out when he was joking (and he joked often!). I’d even figured out how to tease him back and between him and James Foley (the other author/illustrator who’d been invited) we had a grand old time!
James Foley was quite the opposite of Javier. I told him he was one of the *nicest* guys I’d ever met. Affable is the right word to describe him!
So obliging, whereas Javier was so droll.
So there was Javier talking about inspiration and the metabolism of it in order to make art, and he mentioned how he’d been talking to some Dutch people about one of their classic artists. He said the name of the artist ‘Vermer’ and the Dutch people kept staring at him blankly, with no idea who he was talking about.
And here’s me in the first row thinking ‘Vermer’? ‘Vermer’? And I blurted out “Vermeer!!!” so loud that everyone heard.
Javier glared at me in mock disgust because I’d just ruined his punchline! And he mumbled loud enough for everyone to hear, “I’m going to kill you later!”
Oh how we all laughed!
In the course of our conversation I learned that he’d actually been shortlisted for the Astrid Lindgren award! That’s a 500,000 Euro award given by Sweden to the best author or illustrator or arts organization!!!
He is that well recognized!
I don’t know how I got the nerve to talk to him about a story idea I’ve been working on. I ended up basically telling him the idea, thinking that maybe he’d be good for the story, and he actually liked the idea! Which gave me a big boost of confidence! And then he made an observation that seemed wrong at first. But then the more I thought about it, the more I realized he was absolutely and brilliantly right. And I thought, “Wow!” He really does know what he’s talking about.
We were at lunch later on and he showed me his sketch book. All artists seem to carry them around. And then he asked me to draw in it, and you know what I did? I drew him.
I sketched him. I didn’t think it was very good but he said it was promising and that if I worked at it, I could be an artist. Wow.
I don’t think he was being charitable. I think he was being honest.
But he scolded me for the way I signed it. He said, “Why do you authors always write so big, and slanted up?”
And I replied, “I heard it was optimistic!”
He just gave me that look.
I could go on but suffice it to say I learned a lot!!!
James Foley is a multi-talented author and illustrator whose style is about as different from Javier’s as you could imagine.
Here’s his website: https://jamesfoley.com.au/
I fell in love with this book about a kid who’s pet rabbit comes back from the dead that he’d illustrated:
Love the shadow!!! Love the worm sticking out of the bunny’s head! Almost like he’s driving!
The sense of humor!
It really reflects him well!
Doesn’t he just look like the sweetest guy???
That’s because he is.
I have to confess that I was dreading this trip. It’s just so hard to travel to the other side of the world. But then I’ve always found when things like this happen, there is a reason for it. God has a plan, and there’s something special that I must learn over there, while out of my comfort zone, that I wouldn’t have learned sitting home.
Not to mention all the wonderful other people I met.
But I do know, that spending that week with Javier, and those few days with James (he had to hurry back home because he was getting ready for his upcoming nuptials) was a huge boost to my own creativity and I will not be the same when I tackle my own stories. I shall metabolize the inspiration I gleaned from everyone I met and thank God for the opportunity!
I’m heading off to Kuala Lumpur tomorrow evening.
My second time going there, and I was sad to leave the last time.
I’m going to be doing a session at the Comel -The Magic of Picture Books conference.
Malaysia is one of the most beautiful countries in the world!
And so friendly!
Last time I went just before attending the Asian Festival of Children’s Content in Singapore. From KL (Kuala Lumpur) you can take a bus down to Singapore, which I did.
On the bus ride I met an American who’d decided to retire in KL. Every few months though he had to make an immigration run, he had to leave Malaysia, and then re-enter, renewing his visa. The easiest way to do this was to run down to Singapore, and then come back on the same bus.
He told me how much he loved Malaysia and living in KL.
Very high praise indeed!
You don’t need a visa to enter Malaysia if you’re coming from a Western country.
But if you stay longer than five months I think (can’t remember what he said the limit was) you have to go out and come back and you’re good for another five months.
So excited to be going back!
Hope to have some nice pictures to post of the conference!
Last time I passed these amazing caves with these huge Buddha statues that people were climbing up to. Hope to see them this time around.
I remember hearing on Dr. Phil that when a person shows anger they’re actually at their weakest.
And that anger and sadness are often symptoms of a more basic emotion: fear.
I don’t know about all that, I just know that I often have to balance how much news of the world’s events I take in, in order to preserve my own composure.
Like many people, tragedy hits me pretty hard.
Especially children’s suffering. Guess it’s the maternal instinct in me. When I think of the situation in Syria, Myanmar, the refugees and migrants making their way to Europe and the brutal and hostile reception they’re receiving, I can’t help but think of my own children and my grandchildren, hold them closer, and thank God that we’re not in that situation.
And it makes me feel guilty that we have so much.
And when I see the callous indifference of major corporations to the effects they have on ordinary working people, like in the case of the pipeline they want to cross into North Dakota, it gets me pretty riled up.
Had lunch with a dear friend yesterday who always reads my blogposts and she said that my last blogpost came across as ‘angry’.
Immediately I thought, “Oh dear! I can’t afford to be angry!”
Angry and Muslim doesn’t go well in this day and age.
We Muslims have to be ‘admirable’. We have to be noble in the face of suffering.
We have to be patient.
And yet the Canadian in me wants to tell it like it is, unfiltered, which is what I did with my last post.
There are countless beautiful people (of all colors) who have reached out and spoken out against injustice of all kinds.
There is a hadith I love that goes: Speak the truth even if it is against yourself.
And that’s what I try to live my life by.
When I was talking to my friend and she said I sounded so angry, I thought to myself, No, not really angry. Sad.
Even writing this I have tears in my eyes. There is so much wickedness in the world!
And my heart bleeds for those who are oppressed.
I’ve always in particular been sympathetic to the plight of the Native community.
With the Dakota access pipeline struggle that’s happening right now, and the lack of major coverage on the news channels…it feels so overwhelming!
And when I was expressing that in my last post it must have come across as anger, but no, it’s not anger as much as frustration and sadness.
Such are the limitations of the written word that you cannot always tell the tone of my speech by what I’m writing and I’m way too lazy to use a lot of emojis to clarify, although that probably would be prudent.
I started reading a book by member of parliament Charlie Angus called Children of the Broken Treaty.
It is very well written and documents that we Canadians have nothing to feel smug about in terms of the treatment of our native community. We claim to be a tolerant and enlightened country, especially with regards to how America treated their natives, and yet the disenfranchisement continues, and despite all the calls for action, the native community in Canada continues to face blockades to development and the enjoyment of a standard of living that I, as an immigrant, take for granted. Something as simple as clean water!!!! And proper schools!!! Are things that native communities long for!
When I first began reading the book, some of the anecdotes of the suffering of native children on the residential schools were so horrible that I couldn’t stop crying.
I felt like curling up into a ball and just closing my eyes!
And then I spoke to a television producer lady that I’ve known for quite a while and she said that the book shouldn’t be considered as depressing. It’s a call to action. And then she said something that really changed the way I looked at it all. She said it’s not like the onus is on any one person to change things all on their own.
And it was like a light bulb went off.
Who do I think I am? Did I really think it’s up to me to fix the world’s problems???
Who do I think I am?
And it was very reassuring.
Because if these issues make me feel so moved, then that means, other people will feel exactly the same way.
I am certainly not the only one who is sympathetic to the suffering of the native community! There are loads of other people working much harder for much longer than I on these issues!
So my role in this is simple. It’s to call others. To use whatever skills I’ve acquired as a writer, to spread the knowledge of what I’ve learned and motivate others to do something too.
It’s with the action of many that these things can change.
People are not always willfully cruel.
They are busy. And they don’t know, like I didn’t know.
If you want justice, you have to stand up and ask for it.
And keep asking for it. Like with the #NoDAPL movement.
Patience and perseverance.
One step in front of the other, keep going.
And it reminds me of another hadith where the Prophet (peace be upon him) said that God loves actions that even if they are small, they are done consistently.
So it’s meant drying my tears, rolling up my sleeves, and getting to the task at hand without any grandiose expectations of what one single person can accomplish.
We’re all in this together.
Yesterday was Eid ul Adha, and I kept thinking to myself, I can’t wait to get back to work.
And I started asking myself if I’m a workaholic, and then I thought, nah! A workaholic would get more done.
I’m only partly kidding.
I’m at that stuck stage of a project.
I began working on this new novel idea and there were parts that I was quite happy with, and then all of a sudden, I stalled.
So I decided to approach the story from a different angle, and I was humming along and there were parts I was quite happy with and then again, I stalled.
I was trying to be disciplined, butt in chair kind of thing, but what do you do when it’s just not coming?
And then I asked myself the scary question: “Do I really want to write this story?”
It’s a tough one, because it’s a good story.
And I know I should write this story.
And I know it’s a really good idea.
But I feel like I’m just tired.
I’m pretty much exhausted.
And it doesn’t help to see all the stuff going on in the world.
I spent a lot of last week supporting the struggle of the native community against the Dakota Access pipeline that was threatening to snake across sacred burial grounds and under the Missouri river.
If it burst it could poison the water supply of eighteen million people who counted on that water for their daily survival.
Originally the pipeline was supposed to cross near Bismarck, North Dakota but the people said, “Not in my backyard.” So they decided to put it on native land.
And so native communities gathered like they’ve seldom gathered to fight this.
And I couldn’t help asking myself, ‘Why should that even be an issue?’
It’s violating their treaties, again.
When I read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, I kept getting appalled at the callousness of the people in the 1800’s. How could they treat the natives like this? And then when they’d decimated them, they wrote stories about the ‘noble’ savage, and sympathized with their plight and all that kind of baloney, while in fact, they were supporting politicians and policies that continued the carnage.
And when it’s pointed out to them, people nowadays complain about being held accountable for things that happened before they were born.
Yeah, but they’re happening now too, and what are you doing about it?
The apathy is astounding.
And people might wonder why me, a Pakistani Canadian would care what happens to the Native community, and the answer is simple, it’s because it’s about domination, and injustice. Once America was finished dominating the west, and the natives, they moved on to other countries. They put their military bases all over the world, made promises to help regimes maintain order, and basically have manipulated the entire world so that their own people would benefit. They have created so much anarchy and bloodshed, just to keep the people they can control in power. Back in the eighteen hundreds it was in the name of manifest destiny, now it’s in the name of democracy, but when people they don’t like win a democratic election, they quickly barge in and create chaos ie. Iran, Algeria, Palestine.
And it makes me realize that we’re really not much better than animals. Animals have to fight for their survival.
If they don’t they’ll get eaten. Simple as that.
Look at Tibet and the Dalai Lama. They were taken over by China and they’ve been peacefully protesting for years, he’s been in exile for years and nothing ever happens to rectify the injustice.
People complain when the oppressed fight back, but would they lie down and allow the oppressors to roll over them if they were in that situation?
If they’re being oppressed they are not expected to take it. They expect the world to care, and it does.
Oh dear, this is becoming such a depressing post.
I didn’t mean it to be.
Take a deep breath.
And carry on.
The first time I heard the term, I felt quite flattered.
Me? A pioneer?
It was said by a recently published Muslim author I had connected with.
Then I heard it again by another published Muslim author, and another.
And then, I don’t know, it doesn’t sound so cute.
Oh I get it. They’re saying that I came first, and that I lay the ground work, kind of.
But Pioneers feel like they’re part of the past.
A ‘has been’.
A ‘used to was’.
There was an old cartoon I remember loving as a kid, about an old dog an a young pup. The young pup was so cute and called the old dog a ‘has been’ and a ‘used to was’.
That’s what it reminds me of.
Like my heyday is over even though I feel like I’m only getting started.
Thinking about that conversation too, that I mentioned in the last post, where I was told I should write books people want to pick up.
First world problems.
I realized one thing today. I’ve become very undisciplined in using my writing time.
I used to write first thing in the morning, before I’d had breakfast or my cup of coffee. I can’t seem to do that any more.
So I come downstairs, have my breakfast, then I have to check emails in case something important came through overnight. (It happens! You’d be surprised at how much correspondence I get from the other side of the world.)
And then I check on Facebook, and I guess I’ve been clicking on so many uplifting articles that they’re basically what arrives in my feed. Many of the articles are interesting. Like articles about protests against the pipeline they’re trying to put through Dakota territory.
But reading all of them sure makes me feel bad for the world.
Between Syria, Myanmar, Egypt and Yemen, oh the suffering that is happening!
And here I am complaining about being called a pioneer.
Well, I guess I should smarten up and keep on keeping on.
Stop feeling sorry for myself.
I’ve started some new projects that are interesting so we’ll see.
I just have to get more disciplined about writing now that I have the time for it.
I’ve had some strange experiences recently.
I’m not sure if I mentioned this one, but I went to lunch with some old friends and a kid recognized me and wanted a selfie.
Then went to a wedding and a teacher who works with disabled kids, told me how she’d been at a school where the class was writing me letters, asking me to come visit, and when she told the kids she knew me, she instantly became a celebrity.
And then someone else said something too, I can’t even remember, about how thrilled they were to know me. And I thought it was so weird.
I’ll confess. Sure why not?
I always wanted to be ‘famous’.
For one reason.
When you’re famous, when you’re ‘known’, then people will check you out but I’m not sure if that’s really true.
It seems these days people are just ‘famous’. Doesn’t mean you’ll go and actually read their work. It just means you’ve heard of them and you think you know who they are.
And actually, except for the kid who wanted the selfie, I found all these incidents kind of annoying.
I guess I’m fortunate that my immediate family keeps me grounded.
If I ever try to get a swelled head and think I’m all that, they bring me back down to earth pretty rapidly. To the point that I actually feel kind of uncomfortable talking about myself.
I go to family events and functions and keep my mouth shut, just enjoy the festivities, and if someone brings up my books I feel like this isn’t the time or place and no way do I want to steal anyone’s thunder.
I feel like right now I’m in flux. Waiting for a bunch of things to happen that are completely outside of my control.
That’s what’s hard. You wait to hear back from publishers, agents, you name it.
Finished up a project for an educational publisher in the States, and yup, now I’m waiting to get paid.
I feel like I haven’t had much of a summer. It just flew by!
I’ve been working pretty hard.
And then there’s always the correspondence.
You wouldn’t believe how much correspondence is involved in a writing career.
But alhamdu lillah, I’m paying my bills and what more can you ask for, especially in these tough times!
It feels like writing books is a lost cause, that people just aren’t reading that much any more, but my son assures me that no, they are. He sees people reading on the subway all the time.
We started watching Game of Thrones when it came on network television a few weeks ago.
I was highly skeptical.
It’s funny what makes it big. But I have to admit that by the end of two weeks, I did want to know what was going to happen.
I missed that.
Just wanting to know ‘what happens next?’.
So much of the story was just okay, and I found a lot of the nudity and sexuality gratuitous and disgusting, but every once in a while, a character would say something, make an observation, and sometimes the statements would be quite profound.
That’s what I found compelling.
In fact I found it so compelling that I actually caved and bought the books.
Going into Chapters is always a huge disappointment for me.
I can be feeling pretty good about my place in the universe and then I go into Chapters and I see an entire bookcase devoted to Game of Thrones or some other such pop cultural phenomenon and it makes me feel like a complete failure.
And I said so to my hubby and my son. And my hubby said, quite profoundly, “Well, you just have to write the kind of book people WANT to pick up.”
And he was referring to the fact that currently I seem to write the kind of book people OUGHT to read.
And I found that even more depressing!
Because I thought I already did write books people would want to pick up.
But the thing is, I write realistic fiction. And that is a conscious choice.
All the stuff that is currently popular is mired in the supernatural.
When you believe in aspects of the supernatural, it is very hard, and I even think quite wrong, to trivialize it by writing stories about it.
Anyway, there’s no accounting for what becomes popular. You just have to keep slogging away at the craft and doing the best that you can.
I’m sure that’s what George R.R. Martin, the author of Game of Thrones did.
That’s what I plan to keep on doing.
I feel like if I just keep at it, it will happen.
I also missed a writing retreat that two of my best friends went on.
Had hoped to get a bunch of writing done on my own, but that didn’t quite go as planned.
Omigosh, writing this blog post is almost a sort of relief.
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.
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!
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:
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.