Acquiesce

The following post is a huge piece of the puzzle that makes up my life.  I have written and deleted this story many times only to return to it again. I want my story to enlighten people and help others and at the same time not strengthen negative stereotypes about religion or culture. I can honestly say that the numerous people I have met from various cultures and religions through the past 30 years, did not fall into the stereotype at all. They have all been different just as we are all different than our neighbors and friends. Religion was used as a tool to keep me in line so it is not the culprit. All of my friends have been supportive and open minded about my experience and I would ask the same when reading this post. I have hesitated to post this because I don’t want to shed a negative light on any religion or start a debate.

Bringing a new baby home to our family was like bringing the latest trendy pop star, famous actor or the president all rolled into one. The kids piled into the car with their Baba and made their way to the hospital where they crowded around the bed to see mom and baby. Each one wanting to hold, kiss and name her. My oldest was the leader of the kids and always dreamed up new ways to trade the older baby for the new. He loved being “in charge” deciding what the kids would wear and lining them up for photos. When I brought home Foof (4th child) he turned to his brother, 16 months younger than him, and told him how lovely See See (3rd child) was, pinching her cheeks and showing him how she could walk and talk and actually play games, none of which a new born could do!  His efforts were very transparent and my second son gave him a glum look and refused the generous offer of being “in charge” of See See while he would help out with the new baby!  Bringing this baby home was no different, the children were enamored by the presence of this beautiful new born and the household was upside down for a few weeks.

School continued to be a normal experience for the boys and they started making great strides learning Arabic without the threat of humiliation or corporal punishment over their heads. The little kids spent their days watching baby sleep and playing around the compound home. I continued to do what stay at home mother’s do which included stacks of laundry, dishes and cooking favorite meals from scratch. I still saw Gloria and Guadalupe but not as much, as I struggled to run a household of 8 people and take care of a new born on my own.  My oldest son always enlisted the help of the kids but they were young and chores often meant more interesting results that required extra time to clean up! He continued to travel from Riyadh to Al-Khobar on the weekends and the kids continued to love their days with Baba. He sat in the living room telling stories of the large Riyadh compound that would be our home after three short months. He made weekly visits to the site to check progress on our home which was still under construction at that time. The kids sat mesmerized by talk of the two pools and the parks that had just been finished, full gym, indoor basketball court and mini market. Although I was leery of a move back to the conservative capital of Saudi Arabia, there were no other options, so making the best of it was the only choice.

When he came home for weekends he ran errands, visited friends and took the boys to the mosque for prayer. Our household was full of love, laughter and the beautiful chaos that comes with a large family. It was also run according to strict religious principles, no music, no television, no pictures and no rebellion towards him. He was the head of the household and his word was the ultimate law, although he told anyone who would listen, “Lynn is the real boss.”  He was so convincing that even I grew to some how believe him and his friends seemed to fear and revere me as the true leader of the family. Satellite t.v. had been allowed for a few months only to be disconnected on a weekend visit. He showed disapproval when he saw us watching a popular children’s program explaining that the women were dressed inappropriately and the theme was unacceptable.  Although I tried to keep as many of these little comforts as I could, the end result was usually not worth the trade off. Rules remained in place and I had tilted the balance of our teetering peace all for nothing.  He gave his speech about the evils of the world and kissed me on the cheek, his eyes fell on my face investigating and probing to see if any resentment or anger was evident. In these early days I was able to bounce back and remember that this was only a temporary life nothing compared to the hereafter.

The phone fell to the floor and the ringing finally stopped. It had been blaring all day and night for weeks, or so it seemed. My careless foot flailing back and forth in a drunken stupor had finally met with the table, knocking the lamp and phone to the floor. The pressure seemed enormous and drinking was a flimsy excuse to escape the constant calls and lectures. It had been three short months since we drove through the winding fields and into the landscape of a tiny town with a wedding chapel. Only a short while later he announced he would be moving 5 hours away to a college where he would finish his degree. He had trouble with language and rumor had it that this school was more accommodating for non English speakers. So he left and within weeks the pressure mounted. I had kept this secret marriage from my parents, sister and friends, tied to a promise. Now within 3 months he had moved away and found religion.  He called to announce his new found beliefs and explained to me the importance of all that he had forgotten and up until then left unpracticed.  While I was happy for him, I had grown up in the church, attending service each Sunday, going to bible camp during summer and believing very strongly in what I had been taught.  Now I was being asked, at first gently, and then obsessively, to change my belief system. Months later under the constant and relentless talk of trust and love, I acquiesced. I entered the mosque shaky and scared, donning the little colorful house scarf they handed me.  The men who kindly greeted me inquired as to my knowledge of the religion and how I had come to this decision. Something in their manners seemed hesitant as they reminded me that this was truly a decision only I could make. I was 21 years old and within two years had met and married this man secretly and now would be taking on a whole new religion. I sat at a plain brown table surrounded by strangers and uttered the words he had taught me to say, thus making a new secret to hide.

Cheesies

This wonderful pastry filled with cheese has been a favorite in our family for as long as I can remember. A family friend, Bev who is also an innovative and fantastic home cook, passed on this recipe for Cheesies. These pastries are simple but amazingly delicious!

Ingredients for pastry

2 1/2 level cups flour

1 cup butter softened but not melted

1– 8 ounce package cream cheese

Filling

2 cups grated cheddar cheese-this is approximate and depends on how cheesy you want them.

2 cups feta cheese

Directions

Mix cream cheese and butter very well, add flour and continue to mix. Dough should be a smooth ball at this point. Place in plastic bag and refrigerate for an hour.

Take dough out of refrigerator and divide into four equal balls.

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Roll each ball one at a time. Sprinkle with cheddar or feta cheese.

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Roll up and push ends in to seal.

With a knife make small marks in dough where it will be cut.

Place on a baking sheet.

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Bake for 30 minutes or until brown on the top and bottom. Slice and serve.

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Reminiscent

It was February in Al-Khobar and temperatures were cooler making the constant humidity more bearable. See See, Foof and little Abude ran around the house playing, singing and creating memories of the special things that little ones do. The boys were enjoying their 3rd grade year and the disturbing tactics of the two Riyadh schools were now in the past. In the previous schools there were numerous problems and among them was the lack of supervision. Physical education meant a teacher throwing an old soccer ball to the children letting them tussle around in the dusty play area for the class period on their own. This westernized school had an actual P.E. class complete with instructors. It was difficult living alone and the idea of moving to a large compound was exciting but thoughts of going back to the Riyadh school system made it bittersweet.  I was almost 9 months pregnant and my 3 closest friends on the compound were about to stage an intervention that would send me straight to a Saudi Obgyn for a check up.

These dear ladies put together their own plan of action in case he was not in Al-Khobar for delivery. They had inquired for months about the doctor, hospital and my birth plan and finally they would take no more of my nods and smiles but insisted on a solid plan of action. One day while sitting with Gloria at the park, Guadalupe and Michelle approached and started discussing the need for a “plan”.  They insisted on having answers and impressed upon me the urgency of addressing the upcoming delivery. They spoke of what would be done to accommodate this birth if he was not able to make it back in time. As I listened to them planning and speaking of the upcoming delivery I felt a sick twinge inside of me. It was a feeling that did not align with my outer image as a God fearing, loyal wife. Guilt and shame rose inside of me each time these thoughts ran through my mind.  I secretly hoped that one of these three women would be forced to accompany me and he would not make it back for the delivery. He did not allow complaints about pain or discomfort nor did he see the need for medication in what he deemed a “natural” process such as this. He was always there during delivery which supported the theory that he cared deeply and would never allow me to be alone during this important time. He was calm and cool under pressure and always managed to remind me that the pain was not as bad as I thought. This created more of a panic inside of me especially given the circumstances of delivery in Saudi.

I accepted the fact that it was time to make an appointment with a doctor. Michelle told me there was a male Saudi Obgyn who had been educated in Europe. She encouraged me to make an appointment to see him and reminded me that it was indeed at this point a necessity. I called to schedule my first check up although I felt very doubtful that it would work out . A few days later Ushruf (our school driver) picked me up and dropped me off at the little office that looked more like a house. In Saudi most doctors have an office in a hospital which is sterile and unwelcoming. For my first delivery soon after arriving in Riyadh no one would speak to me or answer my questions when trying to see a doctor. I stood at the desk in the hospital lobby until I finally enlisted his help in getting someone to respond. I felt as if I were some how invisible and definitely not welcome. As I opened the door of this little house, I saw candles, plants and colorful pillows warmly placed throughout. I sat nervously filling out paper work when a lovely lady from Austria stepped out to call my name. She was the receptionist as well as medical assistant, and the doctor’s wife. She smiled and chatted as she took my blood pressure and asked me about my general health. The three little ones sat playing with toys, chattering and trying to be on their best behavior. I couldn’t imagine having a male doctor and sat holding onto the gown that was awkwardly draped over my body. The doctor finally entered the room as my anxiety reached it’s peak. He was a middle aged man dressed in pants and a casual shirt, a calm and gentle soul. He sat next to me and spoke in a soft voice asking me questions about my previous births. I felt a certain comfort knowing that he would be there for delivery.

I spent my days performing the same routine as I had for many years, contractions came and went as I made my way into the last couple of weeks. I didn’t think of delivery because that brought with it great fear and agitation, but prayed for an easy delivery and most of all a healthy baby. My friends were present each day and gave me support and comfort. Gloria and her husband offered to take me to the hospital at any hour needed and Guadalupe said she would come to my home and stay with the children. Each week passed and while contractions got stronger they didn’t bring about any results. The doctor did stress tests and as I reached the point of being two weeks over due he said he would wait no longer. A dread washed over me as I knew it would mean leaving the children at home and entering into the unknown.

When he came home that week we made our way to the hospital where they administered medication hoping to start labor. Although I was away from the children it was much different than the first experience in Riyadh. I  sat alone for hours worrying about my kids and had no contact with the outside world. This time I had friends  and family and the support of a qualified physician. Finally at nightfall light contractions started and it seemed as if labor had finally taken hold. He and I had spent the day laughing and perusing baby names. As the pain got stronger I wanted to walk as I had done when delivering in the states and so he grabbed my hand and lead me out to the hall. He guided me to the elevator and we headed down to the street below. We walked and laughed and reminisced in the moon lit night, it was as if we had returned to those happy college days. He drove the old green Vega and we parked at Spring Valley sleeping in the back after a day of fishing. We felt as if there were no one else in the universe as we lay huddled in the old green Vega gazing up at the stars and moon. A security guard hailed us as we rounded the corner of the building and we blissfully skipped to the other side of the street to continue our midnight rendezvous. As pain became too intense he helped me to the building and back up in the elevator. We were met by a Filipino nurse who smiled and said they had been looking for us. She helped me to the room and I stood against the bed breathing heavily. It was now nearing morning and a female doctor asked that I be moved to the delivery room. She broke my water and after several more pushes my beautiful daughter was born. The Saudi doctor didn’t make it in time but just knowing he was behind my care was comforting. It was once again a relief to be finished with labor. He held her in his arms and repeated the Iquama (call to prayer) gently in her ear and read from the holy book.

Gail’s Easy Chocolate sheet cake

My mom had many friends during her nursing career and she still has lunch, coffee and birthday dinners with some of them. I remember them fondly and they were a big part of my growing up. There are several that I still see including my dear KayK who I mentioned in the Carrot cake recipe I posted. Another one of Mom’s long time friends, Gail, gave her a recipe for a chocolate sheet cake years ago. This recipe has been passed from my mom to me and down to my kids as well. When mom visited Saudi she taught my kids to make it and I still have the typed up recipe card she gave us.  It is easy and has always turned out great with no hassles!  The batter is runny and you frost it while it is warm.

Ingredients

4 Tbs. baking cocoa

1 cup butter

1 cup water

2 cups sugar

2 beaten eggs

1/2 buttermilk

2 cups flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. cinnamon-optional

Frosting

6 Tbs. milk

1/2 cup butter

4 Tbs. cocoa

1 box powdered sugar

Optional-1 cup chopped walnuts

The recipe calls for a box of powdered sugar so I looked it up and it should be around 3-4 cups.

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Grease a 9X13 baking pan that has sides.

Mix first 3 ingredients from recipe (butter, water, cocoa)  in a sauce pan on the stove. Stir on low heat until everything is melted and well mixed. Turn off heat and get other ingredients ready.  Put flour and sugar in mixing bowl, pour cocoa mixture over this, add eggs, buttermilk, soda, cinnamon, basically all of the other cake ingredients.  Start mixing, make sure all ingredients are mixed in well. Batter will be runny.

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Pour into greased pan

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Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until done. Do not over bake.

Remove from oven.

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Frosting

Place butter, milk and cocoa in a sauce pan on the stove on low heat. Mix and melt butter and other ingredients together.  Place powdered sugar into mixing bowl. Add melted chocolate and mix well. Spread over cake while it is still warm.

Optional– When frosting is done you can add chopped walnuts if you like.

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