Cultural Glimpse

Enjoying diversity

Month: September, 2015

My Lovely New Garden… Inspired by Frankenmuth

My New Garden

My family went to Frankenmuth for Labor Day weekend and the very first day that we returned home I bought a rocking bench to put on our front porch, and the next day, I told my husband that we had to change our landscape. The jungle we had in the front of our house was getting out of control, and it was ugly. And it looked even uglier after I had the opportunity to sit amongst the lovely landscape and floral displays in Frankenmuth.

He said, “Sure, I’ll do it next spring.”

That statement was not promising so I started looking for a landscape gardener.  Within less than a month, my landscape was transformed. I replaced gigantic bushes with lots of colorful flowers, an apple tree and a pear tree.  After ten years of living in this house, I’m finally able to enjoy my front yard.

I always say you don’t need to travel far to find inspiration, and this is a perfect example. A town that’s only one hour away from my home truly inspired me, not only with regards to the landscaping but with its other splendors.

Frankenmuth, nicknamed “Little Bavaria”, has a population of roughly 5,000 people. It’s a beautiful city that has more than three million visitors each year. It is famous for Zender’s Restaurant, which serves homemade Bavarian chicken, and for Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, the world’s largest Christmas store.

The night we were there, we rode a horse carriage where we saw a house where the same family has lived for over a hundred years. We learned from the horse carriage driver that the owner of Zender’s Restaurant is 94 years old and that she still works every day in the kitchen, except for Monday. Mondays she teaches her grandchildren how to bake. This bit of information made me feel quite young.  Another brownie point for Frankenmuth!

Real Talent Lives in My Neighborhood

Sabah Wazi 2Today I went to Wazi’s Rug Shop to pick up a gift that talented artists Sabah Selou Wazi made for me. Sabah is one of sixteen artists I interviewed for my upcoming book, Iraqi Americans: The Lives of the Artists. Because the shop is only a few blocks from my house, I mostly interviewed Sabah at his shop.

Each time I go into the shop, I feel I’m entering a small museum. Sabah has a studio in the back of the and his artwork is displayed in various corners in the front. Being surrounded by Babylonian and Sumerian artwork makes you want to wander around, and basically, not leave. When visitors admire his work, Sabah takes the opportunity to introduce and educate them to the rich history and culture of Mesopotamia. Doing so has become dearer to him since the horrific attempts to destroy Iraq’s heritage.

About a month ago, Sabah told me that he made clay tablets with cuneiform writing, replicas of those made during ancient Babylonian and Sumerian times. He passed them out for free during the opening of the Keys Grace Academy in Madison Heights. Grace Academy is the first Chaldean charter school in the United States. He told me he would make some tablets for me and my family. Today I picked up these four tablets.

Aside from being impressed by the detail of his work, so many feelings went through me as I held the stones that resemble those made thousands of years ago by my ancestors, who invented the first writing system.  There was a mixture of awe and wonder, a real closeness to my birth country, but also a little sadness to what has happened to that land. By the time I returned home, the sadness was gone and all that was left was joy – joy at having a number of real talented artists live in my neighborhood and doing their part in keeping the memory of the Cradle of Civilization alive.

Sabah Wazi

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Transforming Your Fears

Today I received this letter from Lynn Andrews. In the last four years, Lynn and her school has helped me transform my life through her teachings so I wanted to share information about a two-week online course she has from September 25- October 8.
My Dear Apprentices,
My teachers tell me that modern societies are living in greater chaos and confusion now than at any other time in history. They say that humans were never intended to live in this kind of pressure. Yet here we are, and it is a chaos and confusion that we, ourselves have created, for we are the ones who have poisoned the air that we breathe, the soils in which we grow our food, and the waters that are the very source of life itself. We are the ones who have created and bought in the paradigm of perpetual warfare instead of harmony, creating weapons of mass destruction so powerful they are capable of wiping out entire cities in the blink of an eye. Will we use those weapons? That is a choice we will have to make. And yet, we find ourselves moving into fear, not making choices, not creating abundance. Why is that?
Fear is a trap that we fall into, and when we are caught in the grips of fear, we are unable to move forward. We are stuck in a place of negativity, and we have moments when love and power seem to be unattainable. When we are standing in fear, abundance cannot move into our life. As I look out across the landscape of life, I see so much opportunity just waiting for us to tap into it. We live in a time when the creative brilliance of the human spirit, combined with the technology we have, puts all of possibility at our fingertips. Think about this for a moment. Just look at the incredible opportunities that are there for us today. Life is filled with abundance, and it’s all there for you to accept. So what is keeping you from it?
What is next for you? It is time for each of us to transform our fears, to take another step forward into the life we have been dreaming of, whatever that may be. Of course, even then there will be new difficulties to face, new fears to look at and transform, and hopefully each time you do it will be easier for you as you fill with light and gratitude. I am here to help you with all of that by giving you the tools you can use each time you are faced with fear.
It is my dearest wish for each of you that as you move forward in your lives, that you will seek the truth that is within you, learning how to discern the right path. Our next online course begins this week, and I have created it to help you do exactly that. “Transforming Your Fears with the Four Sacred Laws of the Painted Feather” is filled with the steps you can take to explore your fears, and then transform them, opening your heart and spirit to love and abundance. I want you to begin to find the inner peace and joy that comes from living by the Four Sacred Laws of the Painted Feather; to glow, beautifully attracting a life that is abundant with goodness for you to share, and that you will live fully each day, freed of the limits that fear imposes.
You are each so very dear to me, and to the Sisterhood of the Shields. I hope you will join me on this next step towards living the life you deserve to enjoy and love.
Lynn Andrews

An Iraqi Henna in America

I have been gone quite a while because, over the summer, I was busy keeping up with the kids’ activities (and going crazy in the process). I’m also busy trying to finish the details of my seventh book, Iraqi Americans: The Lives of The Artists, which is coming out in a few weeks.

I thought that things would slow down once school starts, but nope! I still have a million and one things to do, but last night, I attended my husband’s nephew’s henna party, and I could not resist sharing its beauty with the rest of the world. I’ve written about henna parties before, so I will not repeat this information in this post.

This is purely a visual post so enjoy!


John Monteith’s Award-Winning Book Series

John Montieth

When my friend Aida visited me this summer, she gave me a few tips about marketing my books. She is not an author, but unbeknownst to me, her husband John Monteith is an award-winning and best-selling author of the Rogue Submarines series, which pairs an arms-dealing Frenchman named Pierre Renard with a renegade American ex-naval officer, Jake Slate.

John recently released the seventh book in the series. The book will have a public release announcement at a submarine veteran conference September 11th. Having graduated from the Naval Academy in 1991, John worked abroad a nuclear ballistic missile submarine and as a top-related instructor of combat tactics at the U.S. Naval Submarine School.

I decided to interview John to learn how he manages a full-time job as an engineer and yet be such a prolific and successful author.

WN: How did you start your writing career?

MONTEITH: It was all a matter of self-expression. It was never a business decision. I was going through a very dark time, had a lot of issues to deal with and feeling lost and angry. I didn’t want to yell at people, so I yelled at the paper. My main character, Jake Slate, a naval officer, was very angry. He wants to understand his anger and get over it. He has a drinking problem and his wife tries to introduce him to religion while he tries to figure out where he fits in as someone who kills people.

WN: Was writing therapeutic for you?

MONTEITH: Psychologists say to figure out what’s bothering you and write it down. I picture Jake Slate as me, the invincible invisible me. He is ten years younger than me. Then there’s the international arms dealer, Pierre Renard, and he’s ten years older than me. He’s part of the therapy too. He has a heart, but he just can’t stop manipulating people.

I think that Jake Slate is not with me,  nor in front of me. He’s a retrospect. He’s the sanity check, looking through the rearview mirror. At the same time, he’s filling the gap on some lessons I didn’t learn – he’s there to solidify the lesson.

WN: What was the writing and publishing process like for you?

MONTEITH: I started writing the first novel in 1996. It took nine years until it was published. I lost count of the number of revisions it went through. I realized later that I needed that time to learn to write. I had two mentors and I took a class and a few workshops in creative writing. I also read a lot of books.

I was very disappointed when it came to publishing the book. I approached over 120 agents. Two offered to read the manuscript and nothing came of that. I figured this is a dead end. It’s self-destruction. Still, I started writing the next book because I couldn’t help it. I wrote the first draft to that book in two months, and I felt that at least those years of writing were an investment in learning the craft. Now I know how to do it.

I went on to write the third book. But I hated losing money and not getting published. In 2005, I had decided to publish with Author House. In 2007, my second book was published by iUniverse. I went that route just so I could see my books in hard copy, but they were money losers.

WN: What did this do for your writing career?

MONTEITH:   Well, one day I called a friend of mine, an author, for a blurb for my book, and he asked, “How are you publishing this book?” When I told him, he said, “No, no, you’re doing it all wrong. Nowadays it’s all about Kindle and eBooks.

He told me how much he was making and I was surprised. At that point, I changed the title of my first book, to make them all alphabetical, and published them as eBooks in 2010. I did this for the rest of my books as I continued writing the series.

WN: Your seventh book in the series is coming out September 11. What is that book about?

MONTEITH: Book Seven is a continuation of the series. The people in my books  borrow, build, and steal submarines. They always do something that the US allies may not take risk to do, not for moral correctness, but for other factors.  Book Seven continues that theme in a conflict between North Korea and South Korea.

WN: You’re a full-time engineer, working ten to eleven hours a day. How do you find time to write so many books?

MONTEITH: I write nights and weekends. I’m married, but I don’t have any kids, and that allows me for the extra time. I’ve done this enough times to know how to fill out an entire manuscript. I can just start writing and know what direction it will take. I don’t start writing until I have a story arch. The skeleton is already there. I already have an idea for book eight. I’m going to take the Rogue Submarine book series as far as I can.

WN: What advice would you give writers?

MONTEITH: Make sure you do it because you have a burning desire to express yourself. Don’t do it for money and to be famous, because there’s much better ways to do that.