Cultural Glimpse

Enjoying diversity

Tag: Writing

Sharing Some Updates

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I hope everyone had a lovely summer. Mine was busy with the kids and now that they’ve gone back to school, I’d like to share some updates regarding my work.

1. My website got a makeover and soon I’ll be blogging posts that will inspire and help writers tell their stories, whether to get published or simply to heal and transform. Take a look by visiting http://www.weamnamou.com and following my new blog. Here’s a link to my first blog, called Abraham, The Storyteller: https://weamnamou.com/2017/09/08/abraham-lincoln-the-storyteller/

2. I’ve started a Meetup Group called “The Interactive Book Club” It starts Sept. 18 and in it, we’ll 1) Read a Book 2) Journal how the ancient lessons in the book apply to your daily life. 3) Put these concepts into practice
Check it out and RSVP! http://meetu.ps/3cZp6k

3. I’m keeping CulturalGlimpse.com for future use as I transition some of my work into videos and film.

Thank you so much for having taken the time to read my posts and being part of my journey. I do hope you stay connected.

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When Women Owned Bathing Suits in Baghdad

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Six Detroit area-writers gathered Sunday to share their work (memoir, fiction, poetry) during the monthly reading series organized by Detroit Working Writers. The theme for July was water and I shared two passages from my new book, Healing Wisdom for a Wounded: My Life-Changing Journey Through a Shamanic School (Book 2).  

The first passage was from Chapter 7, where I recount a story that took place in the 1970s. In our neighborhood in Baghdad, almost every home had some sort of bathing attire because the families had a membership to Al Zawraa Swim Club which had two pools outside, one for children and one for adults. This made it useful when an out-of-towner who did not possess a bathing suit was invited for a swim, as so happened with one of my cousins. My cousin spent the night over our house and the next day my siblings wanted to take her swimming. Because she did not have a bathing suit, they ended up borrowing one from a neighbor who was somewhat my cousin’s size.

 

As many know by now, Iraqi women who grew up in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s had much more liberty than the women who grew up during the 80s and the 90s. They enjoyed higher education, independence, and positions in the public work force. Many even dressed in miniskirts and bikinis. Men imitated the Western style of a shaggy moptop hairstyle, and dressed in bellbottoms and disco shirts. Women dressed miniskirts, cropped pants, and had fancy updos.

When Khairallah Talfah, Saddam’s paternal uncle and his father-in-law and the brother-in-law of then President Al-Bark, became the Mayor of Baghdad in the early 1970s, he ordered the security service and police force to spray paint the legs of any woman wearing short skirts and to tear the bellbottom trousers worn by any male or female. These actions against any westernized contemporary trends only lasted a few weeks and were terminated abruptly, when Vice President Saddam Hussein intervened. These trendy fashions subsequently spread all over the country and ironically had been worn even by Tulfa’s own sons and daughters.

My Life-Changing Journey Through a Shamanic School

Front Cover (large)“The school helps you to be heard not just by others listening to you, but by you listening to yourself,” said Lynn Andrews during the second year of her four-year shamanic school. “You have to do that in order to create a mirror for yourself, for your act of power. We’re peeling away the clouds of ignorance that cloud your vision. Then you begin to see that you really do have something important and wonderful to say, and more and more you’re appreciating yourself. Patience and diligence are important in this.”

In the second year of the shamanic school, we focused on understanding how to bring form into the world; to experience holding energy and moving it out into the universe; to develop the ability to move energy into objects for healing and sacred work; to learn how to use sacred tools in a powerful way without manipulating ourselves or others; and to prepare for the building of dream bodies and develop the skills for lucid dreaming.

Lynn said to me, “You need to stay focused on one project and just get it done. You need to have faith in it and see it being strong and wonderful. I think you have a fabulous project. I wouldn’t blur it with other projects. And if you can, stop worrying about it. Just do it. If God wants to help you, He wouldn’t know what to do. You’re kind of all over the place.”

Her preciseness and honesty tasted like sugar cookies. They were sweet and light and yet extremely important. They helped me see why I kept hitting a slump.

“Stick with that, with the book,” she said. “Do it! Live it! You’re really onto something wonderful. If you were speaking to God, what would you tell him you want? Tell God what you want!”

I did.

 

Book 2 of my memoir series about this school was released today. It’s my 10th book to date and it’s available in paperback and eBook.

Healing Wisdom for a Wounded World: My Life-Changing Journey Through a Shamanic School (Book 2)

https://www.amazon.com/Healing-Wisdom-Wounded-World-Life-Changing/dp/1945371994/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1469275283&sr=8-1-fkmr0&keywords=Healing+wisdom+for+a+wounded+world

I Authenticate Myself

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The moment we arrived to the Schoolhouse Cottage in Suttons Bay, I told everyone I was going for a walk. I wanted to see the little town that Melissa, the house owner, described over the phone. She talked about the little café’s and art galleries, the wine tasting tours, the hikes and the nearby beaches. We had driven for five hours and I was ready to explore. My niece said she would accompany me. We got to the main street, which resembled a picturesque street that belonged to a small European town with no fast food restaurants or chain stores.

One particular corner caught my eyes. The outside had several metal welded art pieces on its walls and the center of its courtyard:  a bike, butterfly and the body of a women sleeping on her side. I took pictures of the area before I entered a store called Casey-Daniels. It had colorful handmade handbags and matching hats as well as handmade jewelry.

A man greeted us and when I told him we had just arrived for a weekend vacation, he immediately we dove into a long conversation about the town of Suttons Bay. His name was Will and he had been living in this area for 50 years. He made his own jewelry and pointed to a table where he sat all day to do the work. He told us about his neighborhood, the dozens of artists and writers who lived and worked there and the diners that served good food. I asked if I could write about him in my blog and he said, “You can do whatever you want. You’re a writer?”

“Yes.”

“What do you write?”

I told him about my books, including the poetry book coming out in May. He went to a corner and returned with two magazines, handed me one and my niece the other. It was called Exposures 2014, a Leelanau County Student Journal and it had been around for 26 years. He said he was the publisher. I flipped through it and saw poems written by school students along with pictures, paintings and other art work.

“There are no ads in here,” I said. “How are you able to publish this?”

“It’s funded by the schools.”

I frowned and closely observed it. “How did you manage that?”

He opened his eye glasses from the center of the frame and removed them. “We submitted a proposal to the school and they accepted.”

I was impressed. Before we left, he emphasized that we return to his store if we needed anything. The next morning I woke up before everyone else. I made myself a cup of coffee and walked to Will’s store. He and I sat on a bench outside his store, under the sun.

He told me about traveling with his friend every year to countries like Egypt and Ecuador, regions where their wives were not interested to go. He asked me about my work, and after I explained that I write about the Iraqi American experience, he said, “There’s an attitude in this country about the Middle East that is very stereotyped and we refuse to acknowledge that region’s historical literature. We want to group it in simplistic mindset in what constitutes the Middle East.”

He pointed to a green building across from us. “This building is green, right? But I tell you it’s blue. That’s the audience you’re confronting it.”

We continued to talk about the business of unconventional writing, and in the end, he said, “It’s important to get your foot through the door. Is it relevant which door you get your foot into it? I make weird things. I’m not going to stick myself in art shows. You know why? Because I’m not looking for the approval of others. No, I’m going to authenticate me.  You’re going to authenticate yourself. If I want to put them at a gallery, then I’m placing what I do at the throne of someone else. They stand and say, ‘Oh, that’s this and that.’ And I lose myself.”

With that, I returned home with a whole new perspective.  

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Writing To Change The World

       IMG_2734Writing Spirit called for me to pick it up like a child off the store’s bookshelves. It was an odd-looking book about writing. On the cover large palms came halfway out of the water, and in the table of contents, the chapter headings had words like power animals, shamanism, alchemy and baptism. None of it made sense to me, and the last thing I wanted was a book on writing. I had been writing for over twenty years, and the journey had proven so futile, I wanted to bury the pits of this desire into someone else’s backyard and start a new garden, one that resembled those in One Thousand and One Nights stories, where the hero ends up with breathtaking trees bearing pears, apples, figs, pomegranates, and apricots made of real gold, diamonds and rubies.

Yet the book stuck to my hands like glue.  I bought it, even though I barely had any time to eat a meal sitting down let alone read a book. I was raising two young children and doing a lot of freelance work, as well as trying to write a book. The moment I read Writing Spirit, however, the fragrance of that Arabian treasure garden raced out of the pages, and I remembered all the reasons I’d become a writer in the first place – the calling, the sacredness of storytelling, the freedom this profession provides, in my case allowing me to raise my children without having to abandon my career. Shortly afterwards, I enrolled in Lynn’s school, The Mystery School.

The Mystery School is a spiritual school that has, for over 25 years, passed down Native American shamanic teachings of 44 women known as the Sisterhood of the Shields. These women are healers from various cultures such as Panama, Guatemala, Australia, Nepal, North American and the Yucatan. Their teachings have been passed from one generation to the next for over 5,000 years. They initiated Lynn as a member of The Sisterhood and appointed her as their public messenger. Lynn’s study began with Agnes Whistling Elk and Ruby Plenty Chiefs, Native American healers in northern Canada. Lynn wrote about her own experience in Medicine Woman, and later, as she met with more of the women of the Sisterhood, wrote over a dozen more books. Her website describes her “as a major link between the ancient world of shamanism and modern societies’ thirst for profound personal healing and a deeper understanding of the pathway to enlightenment.”

I recently met Lynn in person and I discovered that the majority of her apprentices and graduates, who are from all over the world, were first introduced to the Sisterhood teachings by reading one of her books. Something in her books resonates within people the ancient healing and magic of long ago, thus bringing to life, through experiential learning, a connection to spirit and the earth.

  “You write in order to change the world, knowing perfectly well that you probably can’t, but also knowing that literature is indispensable to the world… The world changes according to the way people see it, and if you alter, even by a millimeter, the way people look at reality, then you can change it.”   —  James Baldwin

I Miss My Caribou

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Caribou Coffee on Rochester Rd in Troy had been my stop for over fifteen years where I ordered my favorite Carmel High Rise with nonfat milk. The place resembled a log cabin and had the friendliest baristas. One of the guys there, Aaron, had been there since I could remember. Though he didn’t pronounce it right, he knew me by name. “Hi, Weem,” he would say, which was close enough.

During the winter I’d sit at the table near the fireplace and during summertime, I’d sit at the table near the windows. Sometimes in the summer, I’d sit outside. I loved the place. There were daily trivia on the board and if you guessed the right answer, you got ten cents off your drink – which at approximately $4.00 and up a drink wasn’t much, but that’s beside the point. There was another board where customers used chalk to finish sentences like “I stay awake for….” The Caribou cups and napkins were unique in that they also had words-to-live-by that were made by average people. There was also a picture of John and Kim Puckett, the founders of Caribou, and their story.

John and Kim Pucket were newlyweds, backpacking through Alaska in 1990 when on the summit of Sable Mountain in Denali Park, they decided they wanted to build a company to capture the spirit of accomplishment they felt during the climb. They began plans to build a special company that would bring the mountain experience into local neighborhoods where customers could find a place to “escape the daily grind” each and every day. On the descent, they saw a herd of wild caribou. The beauty and incessant movement of these caribou seemed to be a fitting name for a company that aspired to both rapid growth and high quality.

The Pucketts sold their interest in the company in 1998 for $120 million to Atlanta-based Crescent Capital, which has since changed its name to Arcapita. Since opening, the chain has expanded to 415 locations in 16 states and the District of Columbia, making it the second-largest operator of non-franchised coffeehouses in the United States, after Starbucks Corporation.

Two weeks ago when I went to Caribou I noticed the tables were dramatically moved around and it just didn’t have the same feel. For that reason, when I was heading there Sunday morning, I considered if I should go to Panera Bread instead. The idea was playing in my head when I noticed that Caribou was shut down. It had closed. I kept driving, thinking of all those years that I sat in that place writing novels, poetry, essays, articles, scripts, memoirs, query letters, homework assignments and grant proposals.

My Writers’ Group

Rochester Writers' Group

I was determined to make it to the Rochester writers’ group meeting last night and much to my surprise, I did it! It had been years since I was able to attend, not counting the Christmas potluck parties held every year Mary’s house. Mary is the leader of the group.

So how did I make it there? I improvised. I called my uncle’s aunt, picked her up and had her watch the kids at the Thomas and Friends train table at the back of the bookstore – my son’s favorite place – while I sat with the adults, some whom I’d known for many years, some of whom I just met.

I listened to a meaningful poem, a hip novel excerpt, a drastically improved and revised first chapter of another novel, a beautiful memory of a romance, one soldier’s experience in the army, and a man’s heartfelt story about caring for his dying father – though I must admit the parts in the caretaker’s story about the feces were a bit much, especially when enjoying a hot cup of hazelnut macchiato, a new drink I was excited to try at Barnes & Noble.

I received delightful feedback on the material I read – even clapping! It was like the olden days, when I was in doubt about some of the scenes in my chapter and once I read them to this group, I knew what worked, what didn’t, and I walked away feeling a sense of peace and accomplishment.

The biggest difference between then and now is that yesterday, in the midst of the meeting, I began to hear my son’s voice creeping up behind me. I turned around and there were my kids with my uncle’s wife.

“We’re hungry,” my daughter said.

Christmas is Officially Over

Christmas Day 2012

Schools were closed today due to the weather. I found this out at 5:31 am when I got a call with an automated message. Afterwards, I couldn’t get back to sleep. I ended up waking up late and even though I got some writing done, the background noise of Spongebob and Patrick, Dora and Diego, and “mom, I want this and that” got to be too much.

Shortly after my husband came home, I escaped with my laptop. I decided to go to McDonald’s since it’s right around the corner and a lot of people study there now-a-days. A woman around my age initiated a conversation. She is four classes away from getting her master’s degree and she only started going to college in 2005, when she was working full-time, had an eight-year-old son, and was a single mom. Her son is now 16 years old and she said that growing up in an environment where the two of them studied side by side was a very healthy experience for him. He’s very much ready for college already.

I felt better by the time I left McDonald’s. I came home and decided to finally take down the Christmas tree which my kids have begged me to keep in the living room. I tried to tell my son that it’s no longer Christmas, to which he responded, “Then why is there still snow, mamma?”

Until now, he often has me play Christmas songs in the car, although recently I’ve been firm about listening to my audio book – Michael Moore’s memoir “Here Comes Trouble.”

Christmas is officially over in my house, and the house is so quiet that I don’t want to go to sleep and miss out on the beauty of its silence.