Help of a Three-Year-Old

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This year my sister-in-law, K, decided to homeschool some of her kids. It’s not the first year she’s homeschooled, but this school year was marked by a new addition to the family, a new bundle of hysterical outbursts…I mean, a new bundle of joy! And the new bundle has a three-year-old (ish) sister. Yeah, exactly. Craaaaziiiiness. God bless them all and keep them all health, happy and safe. But despite the craziness, I know that K is a rock; if she can deal with my brother, then dealing with a bunch of little punks is a breeze. (Ok, so not a breeze, exactly, but easy. Or…maybe…not easy, exactly, but doable. Yes, definitely doable.)

As you can imagine, K is always busy. Busy with the kids, busy with house stuff, busy with other stuff, busy, busy, busy. So sometimes, while the homeschoolers are in their designated areas doing their work, and she’s dealing with everything she needs to be dealing with, she invokes the assistance of the three-year-old.

“M, can you please go ask the boys if they need any help?”

And M, like the helpful little three-year-old that she is, climbs the stairs to the boys. And, as you can imagine, K begins to prepare herself for the ascent up the stairs. She perks her ears up, anticipating M’s call. But then the baby cries, and K nurses him, and burps him, and changes him…and forgets completely that she had employed M’s services.

Some time passes, a few moments of quiet descend upon the house, and K realizes her pint-sized assistant isn’t around.

“M,” she calls out, “where are you?”

And the answer cascades down the stairs, in the best adult, three-year-old voice you’ve ever heard: “I’m helping the boys with their school work!”

So, ladies and gentlemen, if you decide to homeschool your kids, no need to think that you must have all the answers. Not at all; all you need is the help of a three-year-old!

 

 

(Thank you for reading and liking this post. You may enjoy reading the four interviews for the women characters of my novel, Behind Picket Fences. The interviews were super fun to write, and I think you’ll find yourself wondering if they are characters from a book or real people. Click here for the interviews.)

 

Divided We Fall

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The other day I saw an image quote that said something like race, religion, and politics divide us. Well, I think that’s a load of crap. I think that while race, religion and politics may differentiate us, what truly DIVIDES us is disrespect. We can be different, and still stand together, united, as long as we have mutual respect. When we are divided, then it is not race, nor religion, nor politics which are to blame: it is disrespect, plain and simple.

The truth, which for some reason people find difficult to voice, is that when we differ, we are in essence finding fault with the other opinion. For example: I, as a Muslim, do not believe that Jesus is God nor the son of God. I believe that is false, that it is wrong. And Christians, by their own creed, must believe that I am wrong. But what the hell is wrong with that? What is wrong with thinking another person (or group) is wrong? Nothing! Absolutely nothing…as long as our disagreements are not coupled with disrespect. I have no right to disrespect my Christian brethren. I have no right to disrespect them with words, nor with caricatures mocking their faith, nor with hateful actions. I do not have that right, and they have no right to disrespect me.

But that’s not what happens these days. These days, when people talk about religion or politics, it’s not uncommon to hear someone say, “You’re an idiot for thinking that!” The problem we have in our society today, is that we don’t know how to respectfully disagree. And that disrespect often manifests in the form of verbal and physical hate crimes.

In the Quran (chapter 49 verse 13) it says what is translated as “O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another.” God created us with all our differences so that we can LEARN from one another! There is an innate beauty in our differences, if only we could recognize this.

Recently one of my Facebook contacts implied that I have no right to voice my concern about the results of the recent election. She claimed that since my feet do not currently tread on US soil, I don’t have the right to care about what happens there. I am simply enraged by her disrespect, on so many levels. She tried to revoke my freedom of speech, and she questioned my patriotism. She had no right to do either! Yes, I do not currently live in the US, but it IS my home. Not only is my family there, but I was born and raised there. I was educated there, I worked there. It is a part of me. I want to see it flourish, I want goodness for it. I was blessed to have been born and raised there. And although I think I may feel this way no matter where I had been born, the truth is that freedoms and privileges in the US shine above so many other countries. I’m not saying it is a perfect country. No, it is not. There is racism and sexism and all sorts of other prejudices. But the BEAUTY of America is that its very constitution works to keep those prejudices at bay. Its beauty is that at its very core is a promise to strive for a society free of prejudice. I wanted to see it keep moving forward, keep improving. I wanted to see the incidents of hate crimes decline and to see the gap of inequality diminish.

Since the results of the election, there has been a rise in hate crimes against Muslims in the US. Latino students have been verbally assaulted with chants that a wall should be built to separate them. The list does not end there, but the point is clear: the disrespect which the president-elect showed to so many minorities during his campaign is being put into action as hate by at least some of his supporters. And that is the saddest part of this election. It’s not about one man…it was never about one man. It’s about those who show support for division. If this behavior is not quelled immediately, it will undoubtedly grow out of control, and the country will fall. It’s that simple.

I do not want America to fall. The freedoms that it represents are too precious.

So what’s the answer? How do we teach respectful disagreement? How do we teach it with a president-elect who does not show it?

I want to say, as some of my friends have already pointed out, that discussion is the solution. That learning about those who are different from us from those very people may help relieve our fears and grow a feeling of respect.

But if I’m being honest, I do not think that will work. If an adult does not already recognize that they must respect people around him regardless of their race, religion, or any other differentiating factor, I do not think that he will learn it.

I want to be wrong. I want to be wrong about the direction the US seems to be heading in after this election.

I put my faith in God and pray that He will protect my brothers and sisters in humanity from all forms of disrespect.

This poem is my prayer of love for you.

 

Rays of Love

 

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I pray the hate never finds you,

I pray you live protected from its jagged blade.

I pray it does not tear at your heart,

That it does not shred you

From the inside out.

 

I pray the hate never finds you,

I pray you live protected from its jagged blade,

I pray it does not puncture your flesh,

That it does not shred you

From the outside in.

 

Come,

Hide ourselves and our children in the bosom of compassion,

And when hate comes,

Hold up our shields of brotherhood,

Warn it off with our saber of love.

Stand our ground, lock arms,

And let it not penetrate the circle.

 

Multiple rays of love can melt the hate.

 

I pray the hate

never finds you.

©Hend Hegazi

 

(Thank you for reading and liking this post. You may enjoy reading the four interviews I wrote for the women characters of my novel, Behind Picket Fences. The interviews were super fun to write, and I think you’ll find yourself wondering if they are characters from a book or real people. Click here for the interviews.)

Writing Backwards

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National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo or NaNo) is already more than a quarter finished. Writers from all over the world are scribbling, typing and running word sprints as you read this, trying to complete the goal of writing 50,000 words in just one month.

This is only my third year NaNo-ing, and I have no real intention of ‘winning.’ I haven’t visited the official NaNo site once, nor have I even been tallying my word count. But I do lurk around the NaNo Facebook group that I’m on, giving words of encouragement and sometimes finding inspiration in their posts. One of the best parts about NaNo is that it turns writing from a solitary act to a team sport; that connection with other writers who are also creating characters and living in fictional worlds unites us in normalizing these seemingly escapist techniques.

My personal goal with NaNo is just to keep disciplined—to write for two hours daily. And of course, just days ago, I failed that goal. Partly, it was the weekend and writing while the kids are home is like trying to roast a leg of lamb in a toaster oven: yes, the heat is on, but the door will never close and the task is simply too grand for that tiny toaster.

The other reason is I just don’t know how the rest of my scene is supposed to play out. I sat there for a while, staring at the pen in my hand, unsure of what to do next. Then, I remembered something…

When I began writing my debut novel, Normal Calm, I had a revelation that afterwards made me feel so silly for not realizing earlier: When we read books we must read them chronologically for them to make sense. You must read page one, followed by page two, and so on. But one of the beauties of writing a novel, is that one is not governed by that same law. I can very well write the final scene of the novel first, if I so choose, and no reader will ever be the wiser. Writing backwards, I call it (even though it would be more appropriately called ‘writing out of order,’ but what fun is that?).

Writing backwards is what will save me with this novel. I have a few scenes ready in mind, and so the time has come for me to abandon the scene which is giving me trouble and work on another. The added bonus of that, is that usually my subconscious will continue to figure out that troubled scene, and by leaving it alone for a while, the solution will probably make itself know to me very naturally.

If you haven’t already, try writing backwards, and see how it works for you.

(Thank you for reading and liking this post. You may enjoy reading the four interviews I wrote for the women characters of my novel, Behind Picket Fences. The interviews were super fun to write, and I think you’ll find yourself wondering if they are characters from a book or real people. Click here for the interviews.)

Homesick in Autumn

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Today it looks like it’s going to rain. I miss the rain.

But I miss the rain that falls on grass and makes puddles. I miss walking with its pitter-patter bouncing off my head and shoulders and its calm wetness melting on my tongue. I miss the rain in a place I still call home, which will soon no longer belong to the family who has owned it for nearly forty years. I miss watching the rain through the bay window. I miss that bay window. I miss my room, next to the bay window. And sitting in the yard, enjoying the soft shade and fresh breeze. I miss the oranges and reds of autumn, and that serene, smoky smell is holds. Oh, I can almost smell it! I don’t go there enough in my mind. And soon, I won’t even be able to go there in body.

After all these years, why do I still call it home? I live ages away from that place now. Here, the rain is not the same. Here, the rain forms rivers on the paved streets and spits grime on my clothes. But this is my true home now. This is the home that shelters me, and in which I live and love. And I am happy here, despite missing the rain. So why do I still call the blue house with the rock in the yard my home?

I spent my childhood there, all my youth. It was the only home I knew for twenty-three years. It will always be home, even once it isn’t. It is not a building, it is an entire system; it is the people, the experiences and the settings that nurtured me. It will remain where I grew up, where I played. It will remain the place that held me so that I could become me.

Today, it looks like it’s going to rain.

I miss the rain.

 

(Thank you for reading and liking this post. You may enjoy reading the four interviews I wrote for the women characters of my novel, Behind Picket Fences. The interviews were super fun to write, and I think you’ll find yourself wondering if they are characters from a book or real people. Click here for the interviews.)

For the Love of Books

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I have loved to read ever since I was a child. My parents were not in the habit of reading to us, and I don’t think they ever really encouraged us to read either. My dad has always been a math and science guy, so he stressed those subjects. Literature? Not so much. Growing up, neither of my brothers liked to read. And if he didn’t have a degree saying he’s an actual, real life dentist, I may even argue that my older brother doesn’t even KNOW how to read! Just kidding. He totally knows how to read…I saw a Dr. Seuss book on desk when I was there over the summer.

Anyway, in my case, I think it was the influence of my teachers that taught me the love of reading. I don’t remember vividly, because it was so long ago (and I have four kids, which means my brain cells are probably more fried than if I had been a druggie), but I do vaguely remember story time. I remember sitting in a circle with the rest of my classmates and listening to teachers read. My guess is, that’s how I learned to love reading.

But now, my kids don’t get story time at school. And only one of them is showing any interest in reading. I really want to nourish this love, but unfortunately, we don’t have public libraries here. And although I may be able to download books onto his tablet, I feel that digital books are just substandard, especially for kids. I don’t want him on a device, sucking up whatever kinds of waves they have and have not yet discovered being emitted from those things. I don’t want his reading time to be screen time. But the bigger problem is that I simply can’t afford to buy him a paperback book every few weeks. But I can’t afford to have him lose this interest either. I am torn.

So I’m trying to find free e-books, and I can read (at least partly) to them. My kids enjoy that; even my teenager enjoys it when I read to them. I do voice acting, which really keeps them engaged. The problem is it’s very easy to get out of the habit when our routine gets thrown off due to traveling or whatever, and it is very difficult to get back in the habit, mostly because it takes my kids FOREVER to get ready for bed.

But tonight, they did it. They got ready (relatively) early, and we had time to read together. We started The Wind in the Willows (because it was free!), and even though the language is a bit beyond them, and the digital version has no illustrations, they enjoyed it. And so did I.

Now we have a different problem altogether. I mean, do YOU know the difference between a mole, a badger and an otter? Google has already caught me looking up rifles and Dallas and trolls and recipes for cinnamon rolls (which turned out pretty good, actually) and folding furniture and all sorts of madness this week…guess we have to add furry creatures to the list now, too!

(Thank you for reading and liking this post. For a peek at some of my fiction writing, please click here and I’ll send you the four interviews I wrote for the women characters of my novel, Behind Picket Fences. The interviews were super fun to write, and I think you’ll find yourself wondering if they truly are characters from a book. Check it out.)

The Blessing of Bad Writing

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I’m working on my third novel, and praise God, I’m actually moving along at a reasonable pace. So much so, that I’m not even stressed about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) being less than a week away. I’m already in the groove, already have my daily writing time allotted. I’m actually hoping that if I can maintain this discipline, and continue to make my writing a priority, I may be able to finish this novel before the end of the year.

There is only one problem: it’s complete crap. There are some scenes I’m literally cringing at just how awful they are. My second novel was a vast improvement—in terms of writing— from my first. I see it, and many of my readers do as well. And I love that. Naturally, I’d like this one to be even better. But I wonder if I’ll be able to make that happen. And that doubt makes me hesitate. And when a writer hesitates, she can easily get off track, lose momentum. So what to do?

Stop thinking and keep writing…even if it is crap. It sounds almost counterintuitive, like I should really take a break and reevaluate, but no…any professional writer will tell you, sometimes the crap has to be spilled on the page in order to get to the gems. Fixing the bad writing, taking out the useless scenes, improving the language, all that stuff gets done with subsequent drafts. The first draft is the brain spill draft; write it as it comes to you, no matter how horrible it may seem. Maybe there are two conflicting scenes, and you’re torn between which to choose? Write them both; once more of the story reveals itself to you, you’ll know which one to keep. (And you may even be able to use the other one in a different project.) Can’t think of the perfect word to use? Leave a blank space; it will either come to you later as you write or during your editing.

Really, that’s what NaNo is all about; writing, writing, writing, never stopping to edit. And that’s really why so many people can ‘win’ it. NaNo isn’t about producing a publishable novel; it’s about maintaining the motivation to write daily—through the good and the bad—to get so far ahead, you can’t possibly quit, and to give yourself a first draft that you can then re-write and edit into the next bestseller.

That’s what I keep telling myself anyway. I’ll keep you updated.

 

For a peek at some of my fiction writing (some of my better stuff; I promise it’s not crap!), please click here and I’ll send you the four interviews I wrote for the women characters of my novel, Behind Picket Fences. The interviews were super fun to write, and I think you’ll find yourself wondering if they truly are characters from a book. Check it out.