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First year home-2009

This is the story of our first year back in America, other installments can be found here:

https://lynzrealcooking.com/first-year-home-2/first-year-home/

https://lynzrealcooking.com/first-year-home-2/first-year-home-2009/

https://lynzrealcooking.com/2018/11/16/first-year-2009-our-story/

 

Idaho 2009

A sharp buzzing pressed in my ear waking me from a restless sleep. It was time to rouse one of the girls, spoon coffee into a filter and pour a pot of water into the reservoir.  Thoughts of school and the day before held a nagging place in my gutt. The sad little figure that lay sprawled in the grass amongst students and helpers remained fixed in my memory. I had overlooked the possibility that this was my youngest child and instead a mask of denial coated my brain leaving it in an unrealistic fog. But after his sister sat beside him taking her place in a stance of not so much concern but possibly comfort, it was clear that things would not be as easy as I had hoped. My focus turned to the thought that there were only two more weeks of the paper route and then a new routine would take shape; no more nights spent wrapping bundles, sorting orders and jumping out to deliver to each and every home. Cooking for the co-op, cleaning once a week at a building and the odd sub job assured me that we could keep afloat and each time mom and dad visited they unloaded boxes of bread, croissants, peanut butter, canned vegetables and chicken, candy, school snacks and staples. Provisions were hauled into the apartment, stacked on the kitchen floor and put into cupboards. I watched as hot coffee dripped into the carafe and pushed away the idea that I was truly at fault but still I couldn’t help but wonder if leaving Saudi was for the best. I heard his words ring through my ears triggering shooting pangs of guilt to my core. “You are torturing me and the children with your stubborn and unhappy ways, you have become one of those women that I hate”

 

Summer love-9

0725151215.jpgThe trickle of soft red wine being poured into a single glass broke an awkward silence that had until that point had been persistent and unrelenting. I positioned myself to his right and leaned against a blue pillow, casually propping my arm against his. Mom sat on the large white couch making herself comfortable before dinner was served.  It had been a long day like many others and she needed time to unwind which usually meant a warm soak in the tub, music and the occasional glass of red wine. She was a straight-laced, small town, God-fearing woman who remembered where she came from but years of sophistication could not be hidden. Her questions were broad and friendly but it was apparent that she would be honing in on more important details later.

Inquiries regarding education and career goals were interspersed in a causal way that masked a dogged concern regarding his past. He eagerly pieced together sentences and informed her that he was studying Engineering and had already been a draftsman in Damascus for several years. He was the second of 7 children, and his father owned a store in the business district downtown. He smiled graciously and appeared happy, even enthusiastic in response to each and every query.

What he lacked in mastery of the English language he easily made up for tenfold in a polite and appropriate disposition. No request was too large and he would never utter a complaint but contentedly agreed to help whenever needed. A freshly shaven face coupled with dark eyes, black hair and an attitude of worldly yet humble reservation all added to his charm.

His expertise and know how was offered from that point forward in various areas and overshadowed any flaws that might have been visible in this initial stage. A random sheet was sewn into a couch cover for a new floral sofa on the middle floor, a large wooden food dispenser was hand crafted for Bosco and meticulous details on jobs that needed attention were finished in a timely manner.

A dream had become reality but would ever so slowly evolve and blur into abuse, control and rage.

 

 

 

 

Update on the book

For the past few months Saleeha (oldest daughter) has been working on the book. She has organized, suggested and reviewed. I worked last year until I needed a big break but now that school is almost starting I will put my efforts back into finishing the book and first publishing a poetry book. I am new to all of this but feel that it is time! It is something that I have to do or need to do or just a part of the process of recovery but whatever it is, this is the time. Thank you for being there on this journey. Your love and support mean everything! 

Riyadh 2001

Jeans were seen as inappropriate and bad for the bones and female form. Silence gripped the room as he looked up and down rubbing hands across his face and then head, ultimately finding their resting place in his lap. The usual commentary repeated itself and unbeknownst to my scrambled brain, it made little difference what logic I attempted to pursue; she was young and did not have a womanly body, we lived on a western compound where all young girls were allowed to wear jeans and lastly there was no way to return these items. I finished my plea with a reminder that his children were modest beyond the norm and had never engaged in activities that would reflect poorly on him.  A roundabout discussion as to why my parents would bring such offensible items into our home and the improbable threat that he would actually speak with them, ended in tears. It was necessary to place myself on the side of caution and therefore I stood firmly with him. I knew there were only two options, we were either with him or against him. The jeans were rumpled into a ball and placed well away from view, hidden in a vast and endless cavern that contained forbidden actions, thoughts and words.

Her frail figure approached the table and placed the plastic sack down on a chair just beside me, tucking it under miscellaneous jackets, bags and items that were stacked in a pile. Her eyes shifted nervously at first forward and then a slight tilt of her head dared to look behind her. He was nowhere in sight that was the obvious and unspoken conclusion. The younger children voiced their irritation at this seemingly wasted trip to Faisaliah (one of the first malls in Riyadh). Clatter of shoes rubbing against the table jangled our nerves as Heme squirmed and rolled between the table, floor and chairs. The pants were eventually taken from the sack and handed over to my lap where I surveyed their color, length and ability to conceal her tiny figure.

Plain light blue, loose fitting and ordinary, they appeared to be the best that we could find and the only suitable option in this upscale, trendy mall. They looked to be perfect, a replacement for the shiny, fashionable jeans and shirt that Grama had recently brought from America. Grama and Grampa supplied all clothing and as far as she knew that is where necessities came from. A play station, toys, shoes, towels, mixers and of course clothing had become my parents “gift” to the children as well as to him. Dress pants, ties and shirts were purchased and put together into suitable and professional sets and then brought as yearly gifts in boxes that either preceded their visit or came along with them. This was undeniably the most helpful lifeline that we were blessed with but also came to be a sharp double edged sword, both welcomed and dreaded.

Little ones jumped to attention and sat upright, the girls fixed loose hairs and smoothed their abayas and I knew that this was it. He smiled and sat directly opposite my chair and I reciprocated with a grin and nervous laugh. Heme pestered and whined asking for ice cream, cheesecake and fries. I shushed him and placed him on my lap informing Baba (their father) that we had found the perfect pair of pants, a replacement for the distasteful and repulsive ones that had been the topic of discussion just days before. He waited patiently as I took them out and did my best to make them look mundane, unflattering and non-threatening. An exasperated sigh wisped between clenched teeth and parted lips, his eyes rolled back and forward and his hands rested in their place on his lap.

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Seven days

 

Seven days in the life of a large household can be chaotic, stressful and of course joyful. This past week was no different and included last minute preparations for the bridal shower, a trip to the lake for the fourth of July and an extended visit from the middle child.

Soos with the fan wall she created that will hang above the check in area where I will greet guests and guide them to the photo booth.IMG_E8657

Games and decorations have been finalized and as always the kids are willing to test new ideas!

A break from planning meant big sister taking little brother out for cinnamon roll French toast. As you can see this was a highlight of his week!IMG_20180629_124344

Mid week it was time to head to the lake for the traditional fourth of July celebration. Things are much quieter these days with fewer guests and simple food. It is always a great time and as usual one of my favorite people was present, KK. When asked how long we had known each other she said it was 1975. She was hired by mom and they became best friends and have been ever since! She and her husband John are truly family.

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Fattima decorated the brownie cake mom makes every year, the kids swam and played basketball and then we made our way back to town.

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It is basically countdown week for the shower and I will be sharing more throughout the week. As always blessings are numerous along with the many freedoms that our family holds dear!

 

Happy Saturday!

Summers in Saudi were pretty boring, most expats made their way home or to various tourist locations in Europe. Meanwhile we stayed put and learned to make do with projects, art, crafts, games, parties and even had a makeshift summer camp comprised of my nine kids! We all look back fondly at these times and it is apparent that each one has their own version of make do and have fun!

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The photo wall was put up downstairs and tested while little brother was pulled in for a picture to see how it looked!

Happy Saturday!

The scooter

 

Riyadh 2000

The sound of laughter from the porch could be heard throughout the house as events of the day were discussed and dissected at the dining room table. Freshly baked cream puffs had been sent to a neighbor on a whim and had been mentioned to him during lunch at the office. This brought humiliation and shame and highlighted the lack of control he had in his own home. I sat eagerly listening, offering apologies, relieved that our conversation kept him occupied and unaware of the hodgepoge of comedy that unraveled just feet away.

Flowering plants were now in bloom and palm trees made a waving pattern over the large grass area near our home. Women walked the loop, workers delivered jugs of water in a rickety shopping cart and children played, running back and forth down the street that passed our residence. The latest gadgets and toys; pogo sticks, scooters and bikes all wound up piled near sidewalks while swimming and other play commenced. A large garbage truck chugged past pausing to collect weekly trash while laborers swept streets, trimmed bushes and maintained a well established standard of Western living.

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Compound home

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Yusuf parked the flimsy red and blue scooter on the porch, leaning it against a cement pillar. A large bolt clanked and rolled down past his shoes and onto the third step. Silence fell from oldest to youngest and each examined the place where Osama had carefully used a screwdriver, then tape and finally glue. A ringing clank had become customary as each of the seven siblings who were old enough, took their turn on the shiny vehicle and then watched bits and pieces loosen and eventually drop from porch to steps and sometimes into nearby plants.

Toys, bikes and the latest trends were seen as ridiculous, unnecessary and generally prohibited. Foof was determined to run next to her friends while they whizzed past on bikes but her brother was not so easily appeased. Gifts that did make their way into the home were usually socks, mittens or anything that would be deemed as essential. But this time it had been different and each night prior to the upcoming holiday, Osama sat in the well furnished living room of the compound debating and wrangling to obtain Riyal (Currency in Saudi Arabia) for Eid gifts.

Frustration finally gave way to jokes and eventually an unstoppable wave of laughter as handlebars made a loud and resounding crash. Red and blue parts rolled and scattered and were later scooped into a large plastic bag.

My story- liar liar

Al-Khobar 2008

Words that were not allowed in our vocabulary made up a list that changed and shifted and seemed somehow ambiguous. Anything disrespectful or prideful was quickly suppressed and marked as ungodly and even blasphemous.  The usage of “ok” might be seen as objectionable if given in a solemn or what might be construed as flippant manner.  But now these two words rang out in bare rooms and empty walls, signaling hostility and confusion.

He had given me the rewards voucher months before, instructing me to use it on whatever gave me pleasure or was needed. Every so often he would bring the subject into conversation and question me, wondering what had become of the certificate. Each time I would pause and ask him what it was to be used for and he would respond that it was up to me.  It held its position tucked neatly away in the side pocket of a diaper bag until holidays approached and an idea shuffled through my mind.

Gifts had been forbidden in our household until a few years prior when Osama questioned the validity of this unspoken rule and finally convinced him to supply the funds for holiday presents.  It was always a stretch and we knew to pick and choose wisely; practical, inexpensive and exchangeable. A modest sum of money was secured and then doled out to each member of the household. But recently everything had changed and with the older boys away at University things had returned to a veto on the exchange of gifts.

A chuckle came from his mouth but was indistinguishable as levity, anger or mere frustration. Our vehicle swerved between cars recklessly and gained speed only to come to a quick and abrupt pause when necessary. The box in question sat precariously on a lap in the front seat, shuffling from side to side. The mall entrance could be seen in the back window and now a day of shopping, food and frivolity seemed reckless and arrogant. A foolish view of reality and a blip into the real world had marred my judgement and remnants of lunch were taken home instead of dumped prior to exiting the boundaries between home and mall.

In an attempt to pacify his anger I explained that I had used my money from tutoring for a day of holiday gift shopping and purchased pizza with the voucher.  I looked at the box that sat on the kitchen counter and with it came the realization that once again I had failed to understand him. He insisted on seeing the voucher although he knew it had already been used. The usual rules would have been followed and no words of our trip to the mall, food or fun would have been mentioned.  But this time somehow I clicked back into the real world and having been pushed to have fun, I did so.

A firm stance was not a sign of defiance on my part but imperative to keep legs from giving way. He held the drill in one hand securing nails for curtain fasteners, waving it intermittently to emphasize each syllable. YOU ARE A LIAR A THIEF A calm demeanor overtook him when grabbing hooks and drill bits from the children’s hands. When fury timed out he spoke of taking them to dinner, offering numerous choices including favorite American restaurants that were most often seen as unfavorable. He gently pinched cheeks, smiled and inquired as to their choice of eateries. The creaky borrowed ladder shook and waved upon a return to the diatribe that started upon entrance to the villa. His tirade peaked and waned, eventually subsiding after piles of endless fury had been depleted.  Each child looked wary of his words but also knew their role in this ongoing escalation. The project was complete and he insisted on taking at least two children out for dinner.

 

A modern life

JSFP8356My niece sent me these pictures from a visit to Riyadh. Things have changed in the past 9 years as you would expect. When we first arrived to Saudi in 1993 there were no fancy malls and not much fast food. By the time we left in 2009, upscale malls with ice skating rinks, amusement parks and designer shops had popped up everywhere! Fast food chains were to be found on most streets and many locals seemed to adopt a new lifestyle.

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My niece just informed me that today they opened a cinema in Riyadh which seems really unbelievable!

Above the Palouse

Next month it will be 9 years since we made the trip back to my hometown and eventually decided to stay. To be honest, two of my children told me they would not return to Saudi if I chose to, and they knew there was no way I would leave them here alone. Once again they turned out to be my heroes and helped me to be strong.

We were, and still are a unit, a family but also a tightly knit group that formed a bond through fear, isolation and of course love.  My kids never told on one another, everyone knew that could be a scary prospect. They stood up for me and every member of our family. We put whatever limited resources available to us in for the better good of the group. We stood together as one working to make it through each obstacle.

After a few months of being stalked, harassed and threatened, he made a visit to our little town and then returned to Saudi. He announced his marriage to a second wife and soon there would a new baby. During this time I tried to divorce but efforts were futile. He offered to buy a home, the first stable place for my kids in years and so I agreed.

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I am grateful for this home but it also comes with a price, being linked to him. The view from my deck is shown in all of the photos above. One day my daughter told me “It is like God put our name on this house and handed it to us”

Thank you for your love and support!

Lynn

And so I smile

Riyadh 2006

Her smile had faded and stringy hair had been cut into one even line, but it was obvious she still existed. No modern styles were allowed and like the children, she would be summoned to sit in his chair and wait for scissors to chop and shape until this task was complete. Her skin had wrinkled and bits of grey washed through a dirty blonde but there was no mistaking, it was really her.  A red shirt hung loosely over her chest and spots of bleach dotted her pants. The space was noticeable but only with a wide smile which could easily be avoided.  It had been years, even decades since I really looked at her in the mirror.

His job ended and once again he would stay at home for 12 months looking for the perfect employment opportunity. Offers came and went but none were at the standard that he had become accustomed to. He held a U.S. passport which entitled him to benefits and a salary that were in line with his status. His frustration built with each passing day as he slept till noon, drank tea with friends and walked through the house making random inspections.

The balance that was kept when he was working had now come crashing down and although money had been saved and was plentiful, it was not to be touched.  The boys were at University, children needed immunizations and our teeter totter balance could not be disrupted. Eating and drinking had become difficult and avoiding the fractured tooth that hung precariously was no longer possible. It wiggled and moved sending shooting pain along a rugged path that ended only to be agitated more frequently. One last warning was given and an offer to see the dentist. He was of course the best provider and always thought of his family first. I nodded my head in agreement, handing him the pliers and a tissue. He placed his hand firmly on my head and gripped the jagged piece of tooth ripping it loose.

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