Meeting Lailah

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My story Lailah’s Lunchbox is coming out this June! My illustrator is Lea Lyon and she has done a phenomenal job making Lailah come to life. I did not know making a book includes a team of people and the editors and publishers at Tilbury House have been working hard and doing a great job! After working through this process, I understand why word count matters so much with picture books and how less is more. Lea’s illustrations of Lailah are spot-on and the emotions she paints synchronize with my words. I love picture books, sometimes more so than books for people my age. There is something about the glossy pages, big words, and the pictures of a good children’s book that mesmerize me.

I have seen Lea’s illustrations for my story and have had the chance to sit and look at the almost-finished-product. It is a rewarding feeling to see a Microsoft Word document come to life. When you are at the very beginning stages of a story, the blinking cursor sometimes taunts you. Your phone rings. A child needs to use the bathroom. Writing is hard work. Writing is also beautiful work. When you see your writing become something, it feels surreal.

As I sat down to read Lailah’s Lunchbox to Z, I told her that I was the author, to which she laughingly responded, “You! How???” I feel the same, how? Upon seeing the character Lailah in the story,  Z said, “That’s me!” I love how the book hit close to home, and how Lea’s illustrations of Lailah was someone she could relate to.

In the meantime, here’s a sneak peek of Lailah! Looking forward to sharing more about her with you soon!

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Pockets of Comfort

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I hear the triumphant thuds approach. Jump Jumpitty Jump.

Toddler A jumps anywhere and everywhere. At first, cautious tries to get both feet up in the air were made. Unsuccessful jumps. One footed jumps. Slowly and surely one foot joined the other and now two-footed-triumphant jumps occur frequently. What was once out of her comfort zone has now before comfortable for her.

Now she will jump gleefully on the floor, on the bed, on the sofa. I should put my feet down, my hands down, everything down and say in my sternest voice No. But I remember a year ago when she needed therapy for a stubborn neck muscle, when she had to go through a series of tests to see how well she could move. And I remember her face planted on the mat squirming uncomfortably responding with a series of cries and tears.

 

There are things we don’t want to do, places we don’t want to go, people we don’t want to see. But we are told to break out of our comfort zones and to seize the day type things. I disagree.

I gravitate to things that ooze comfort. Dapply sunlight. A colored lead pencil. A warm thick ball of yarn. Turmeric soaked Ramen noodles.

In life we are often reluctantly thrust into comfort-less situations. Pushed out of our comfort zones into areas which make us cringe and flinch and twist our faces into worry. In those times we should seek to create pockets of comfort.

Rather than breaking out of ones comfort zone, why not just create pockets of comfort in the areas of life in which we need it? In our tough areas, why not breathe a little deeper, pray a little harder, wrap a woolen shawl a little tighter? Then maybe our awkward efforts can flourish and we too can jump.

 

She asks before she climbs onto the bed and sofa, can I jump mommy? The triumphant thuds often start before I answer.

Yes. Jump.

 

Bleeding Green

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“Pakistan needs one good win to get in motion,” ~ Javed Miandad.

I don’t know what it is about Pakistan cricket that makes me keep wanting to watch. It’s one thing to watch in a country where everyone watches cricket and it’s always aired. It’s another thing to watch cricket in America. To actively seek out opportunities to watch it. It’s also a chance to reflect on where you are since the world cup only occurs every 4 years.

Last world cup, I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes and left my sleeping family early in the morning to watch cricket at Georgia Tech – Pakistan vs. India. As the world slowly woke up, I was with a group of excited fans watching and celebrating cricket eating green iced cake. It’s always reassuring to see cricket fans like yourself.

This world cup, I can watch it in the wee hours in the luxury of my own home with a password and email address and an Espn account.

Pakistan lost to India already which was a crucial match emotionally. They just lost to West Indies yesterday. Pakistan fans everywhere are feeling the sting majorly by now.

Yet when I sit and watch the eager Pakistan fans on the screen, I cannot help smiling inside. Feeling a glimmer of hope. The commentator said it correctly yesterday, “One thing you have got to love about these Pakistani fans. They have hope. Until the last ball, they’re hoping.”

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And that’s so true. Pakistan is a team that has high high ups and low low downs. You never know what they’re going to do, if they’re going to let a victory slip out of their fingers, or all of a sudden crush a supposed-winning-team.

But one thing we Pakistanis are good at is hoping, and hoping we will continue to do. Until the last ball.


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Nurturing Gifts

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 “Sometimes I feel like the bulk of my job – as a writer, as a mother, is simply to protect my time – to spew a series of No’s in order to allow Yes’s for the gifts I have been given, today.

To refuse, to accept.

No, I cannot meet you for coffee. My gift, today, is to mother.
No, I cannot attend your event. My gift, today, is to write.” ~
Erin Loechner

 

Be Present. Be Present. Be Present. I always hear the ‘Be Present’ phrase and have read dozens of articles about the Art of Being Present, in a smart phone age where we are always on-the-go. Being Present is the thing to do. It means putting your things to the side and sitting on the wooden floor for who-knows-how-long and playing and conversation making with a person who is a minute two year old. It means paying attention to everything and doing everything, and doing it all, or at least that’s what I made myself think. It means you must have a fresh, home cooked dinner on the table, be there for your children, do mundane household chores, read your child scores of books, and manage to get some juicy writing in. It means having your laundry in neat, little piles. Or does it?

I read this beautiful article here by Erin where it says you can be selfish, and if you have a gift, nurture it. So if you can write, then it’s okay to stay in and write. It’s okay to pore over photos and edit to your liking. Actually, it’s more than okay. Because if you don’t ever give yourself that time, then your gifts may not linger so much. I’ve heard others say writing is a muscle and if you don’t exercise those muscles, it’s so easy to get rusty, to get stale, and to have your thoughts become stagnant.

I have had some unforeseen circumstances in which lately I am at home more. Naturally, being at home more and less on the go is more relaxing. When you are always on the go, from picking up children, grocery shopping, park-going, library-visiting, drive-through-eating, you feel like your life is simply going-through the motions. Rinse. Wash. Repeat.

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Being at home more, it’s natural to feel the I-should-be-reading-to-my-children-moreI-should-be-playing-with-her-more-on-the-wooden-floor, but there are many times when I get to sit down with my pink laptop, and write, and in those moments I feel the most present and alive and happy. Happy to let my thoughts free. In those moments, I push the guilt to the side, and just allow myself to write.

Then, those moments post writing when I am sans pink laptop, I feel more attuned to the lives of the little ones around me. More attuned to the things they say, and more likely to appreciate. More likely to ‘Be Present.’  More likely to realize that the meaning of being present is to be slow and gentle with yourself and the expectations of what you can do, to appreciate what you have done, and to look forward at what is upcoming.  To not just Rinse, Wash, Repeat, but to Make Bubbles, Linger and Lather , and Soak. Soak in the goodness of it all.

 

“Verily, in the remembrance of God do hearts find rest.” – Quran 13:28

The Troubles of Strangers

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“Are you waiting to get a transplant?” He asks earnestly.

The question is direct. It twitches a smile across my lips.

I am sitting amongst 4 men of different ages, jovial men, in the waiting room blood work lab. These men’s smart phones are stowed away and they are sharing stories. One talks casually about how he was on the very bottom of the Liver Transplant list and got bumped up to number 1 when he was given 24 hours to live. He lost his spot when a 9 year old boy took it because he had priority over him, but not to worry, he lived a week and now has a spanking brand new liver!

Congratulations are said, the stories proceed. These men are present, alive, happy to be given the opportunity at life, like a fish thrown back in water, yet  they converse and breathe sans gulps.

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I know the ways of waiting rooms. Rooms in which pregnant women cradle smart phones and bellies, rooms in which toddlers cry for their mama’s phone, and rooms in which people generally avoid eye contact. Rooms in which actual conversations don’t take place, life is too busy for that.

But this waiting room is different- this room is the hospital waiting room; and in this room the patients are surprisingly happy to be alive, they are present. Some have brand new livers and some are awaiting them, yet they are positive and at peace.


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Back to his direct question, “So are you getting a transplant?”

He is waiting for a liver. He is 28 and has had problems for over a decade. His first liver was a bad liver. His second liver clotted. And then the third one clotted. So he is patiently awaiting for his fourth liver, yet he is full of hope.

The morning has been a rush for me. I was feeling dreary and tired and heavy. But, my attitude has shifted gently by sitting in this waiting room. I answer his question, lightened by the troubles of strangers, that no I don’t need a liver. I’m just waiting for some blood work.

But his story lingers with me, and gives me perspective. It makes me grateful for having a liver, a liver that doesn’t clot, a liver that works.

So many times we think we are the ones with challenging situations, only to meet another who is in a harder situation, but has a better attitude. Sometimes we just need to sit and listen and be present and listen to the troubles of strangers, troubles that give us perspective. Troubles that give us the extra fuel to include those strangers in your prayers and hope that all the challenges smooth over once more.

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12 Non-Goals

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I was inspired by this post of Erin, another blogger’s. At the turn of a new year, you see a lot of posts from bloggers, beautifully written goals and hopes for 2015. Erin creatively suggests making Non-Goals and writes it eloquently here,

“You know the drill by now, it’s non-goal time. In a month where we’re encouraged to pick apart bits of ourselves – more of this, less of that – sometimes it’s just refreshing to take a step back and see the landscape for what it is. To swim in the grace we’ve been given; leap in the forgiveness we’re granted. To just keep walking, one foot then another, without searching for a new route that might offer a quicker arrival to a destination we were never intended to seek.” – Erin Loechner

I love how she worded it, rather than making goals and critiquing one’s self and thinking I should have done this differently, I should do more of blank, blankitty, blank, SIGH!, why not look at one’s self and think, You know what? I did this well last year.

Taking Less Pictures

1. You are doing better taking less pictures, going for longer stretches for days in which your camera stays quietly stowed away. Rather than documenting all the time, and whipping out the camera, you are learning to witness moments with eyes, rather than a camera lens and that is good. Eyes trump camera lenses. And when you do pull out your camera, you find your camera eyes refreshed.

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A Little More Patience

2. You are doing better being a little more patient. You know that patience can sometimes be bitter, and that unforeseen unfortunate circumstances force you to be patient, but you hope at the end of this journey, for you the bitterness will become bittersweetness.

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Mail It In

3.  You have learned to take risks, to mail in children’s book manuscripts, even if you get rejections. To write new stories, edit old ones, email them for critiquing to a book group, to re-edit the stories. And then the hard part, to take action. To actually take action, go print out the story and Mail It In. And that sometimes, when you mail in your stories, you might get a positive response, and a book deal! Lailah’s Lunchbox comes out this year!

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Let Things Pile Up

4. You have learned it’s okay to let things pile up, it’s okay to let things slide. It’s the only way you’ll ever get any work at home, to ignore crumbs and spills just temporarily until you can make your heart hum and your thoughts and words dance. (The below actually happened when Z accidentally dropped the dust buster [or as baby A says it buster buster] while making sprinkle cookies).

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Crochet Soothes

5. You have learned to crochet hats a little better, as well as crochet longer items like snoods! And that it is relaxing and gives you a break from the computer. You have learned to value this hobby and hiding your yarn behind the sofa, it is easier to make time to crochet during reading aloud or TV watching.

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Family is More Important than you Thought

6. You learned it a little more this year. You will remember it for life.

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Zinnias Bloom

7. Your zinnias actually bloomed this year. Reading the directions on the seed packet helped, and that quick short cuts in gardening don’t always help flowers in the long run.

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Blank Weekends are the Best Ones

8. You are fine with unmarked blemish-free white squares that fall on Saturdays and Sundays. You cherish it. With the hubbub of events that whirl around you, it’s refreshing to step back, and you’re learning to do that.

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Health is Important

9.  Same as #6: You learned it a little more this year. You will remember it for life.

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Packing Light Finally Clicked

10. You learned how to pack a little lighter, to do a little more laundry. You wished you’d clicked with this earlier. You also realized how quickly you can upack your clothes when you’re back home.

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Kite Flying is an Art

11. It is a skill in which you are witnessing and are inspired by. It is a skill in which you will gladly don a warm coat, mittens, lug a toddler on your hip, and rush out into the chilly air to witness your father flying his kite peacefully as the sun sets.

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And to end…

12. Patience and Prayer

“O you who have believed, seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, God is with the patient.” – (Quran 2:153)

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You’re learning this slowly and surely.

 

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Thank you Erin for your inspiring post! What are your Non-Goals? Writing them is therapeutic!