Category Archives: Khadijah

January 28 – The Ballad of Wild Bill

by Khadijah


Last Monday Primrose, our LaMancha doe, had twin bucklings. We woke up, and there they were, all healthy and happy, and Rosie was up and eating and drinking and causing trouble, as usual. Mu’aadh, my twelve-year-old son, named them Buffalo Bill and Wild Bill Hickock. Buffalo Bill was brown, and Wild Bill, gray. Congratulating ourselves for being clever enough to have such a wonderful creature in our herd, we left her to look after them.

Tuesday afternoon the babies were both missing, and Rosie was happily hanging out in the goat house. We mounted a search and found them in the field where the goats go to browse, sleeping. We returned them to their mother, quite sure that it was a fluke.

Thursday afternoon, I was on the phone when I looked out the window and saw that the goats had staged a breakout. They basically have our entire 25 acre property to browse on, with the exception of a small area directly adjacent to our house. The goats, of course, feel that this tiny bit of land must surely hold wonders that are not to be found anywhere else on the property. So they had gone through meadow and forest in order to browse by the storm shelter. I told the children to go and put them back in the field.

A few minutes later Maryam came in with the news that Wild Bill was nowhere to be found. Thinking of what had happened Tuesday – and mad at myself for not exiling Rosie and her babies to the goat pen – I told them to look all along where the goats had to have walked in order to get to the Land of Milk and Honey. After a half an hour or so, they came in and said they had not found him.

The clouds were moving in and there were only a couple of hours until sunset, so I went out and tried to look for him systematically. I walked the forest at the end of the orchard first, since that would have been the path of least resistance for the goats – something they value very highly. No Wild Bill. I then walked the field in a grid pattern, looking more with my peripheral vision than straight on, hoping that what worked for hunting small game would work for searching for small goats. It began to get dark a half an hour in; half an hour later it was full dark and raining, with the wind picking up.

I, of course, was crying for poor Wild Bill, out there without his mother.

So I walked, and cried, and snot poured out my nose as I thought what a wimpy homesteader I was, crying over a lost goat.

Eventually Hudhaifah, my older son, came out with a flashlight and helped me finish walking the field. Wisely, he stayed quiet as we walked and I berated myself for being a bad goat-herd, and Rosie for being a bad mother after all. I mean, I had eight children, and to date I have never misplaced any of them. She, on the other hand, had lost two once, and now one again. Eventually the rain and wind became too strong, and we had to go in. Baby Asmaa and I kept bursting into tears over the loss of dear, sweet, Wild Bill.

The next morning Alice, my ever practical goat mentor, told me to suck it up and get out there and look again. The children and I looked in all the places we had looked on Thursday, as well as some places that really, if the goat had been there, we would have had to call him Houdini. No Wild Bill. Four days old, no milk for a day and a half, no protection from the elements; surely, Wild Bill had to be in the happy browsing ground.

Saturday morning was busy, as I prepared to go and get a new computer. My old one had, in an act of solidarity with Wild Bill, completely crashed and burned. I had lost many files from my hard drive, and it was clear that it was the end for that erstwhile machine. I looked out the window and saw that Lily, our herd queen, was plotting an escape out by the fence. Maryam went out to foil her plans. When I looked out again, Maryam was walking back and forth, as though looking for something. She went into the goat pen and came out again, running to the house.

“I heard maaaa maaaaa maaaaa from somewhere. I was afraid it was Buffalo Bill, but he is in with Rosie.”

Could it be?? Could Wild Bill have possibly followed in the tough guy footsteps of his namesake and survived two and a half days away from his mother?

A few minutes later Nusaybah came in with a very thin, shivering, and chastened-looking Wild Bill Hickock in her arms. Apparently he had taken shelter in the upturned root system of a toppled tree, and had decided to remain silent the whole time we were looking for him We wrapped him up in towels and made him a bottle. Nusaybah held him and fed him. He finished it off in minutes.  I left them there by the fire and went to look for a new computer.

When I returned, Wild Bill, wearing a diaper, was jumping around the living room like he had spring-loaded feet.

And so the saga of Wild Bill drew to a close. He is currently out in the goat house with his mother and Buffalo Bill, having a grand time.  Alice said we should rename him Miracle; I think that Wild Bill suits him just fine.

Khadijah and her family are currently homesteading on 25 acres in southern Missouri. She is a student, teacher, herbalist, writer and translator who has had several books published on the subject of Islaam, as well as a children’s poetry book. She is currently working on a women’s herbal book and another children’s book as well as her own story which you can read about at Yemeni Journey. She also writes about sustainable living at Wide Earth.

 Yemeni Journey:

Wide Earth:

December 1 – I Hear Your Voice

by Khadijah

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I haven’t forgotten the sound of your voice any more than I have forgotten the sound of my mother’s heartbeat when I rested my head against her chest during cold Wisconsin nights.

I haven’t forgotten the sound of your voice any more than I have forgotten the sound of the wind shuffling its feet through kaleidoscope colored leaves in the Kickapoo Valley.

I haven’t forgotten the sound of your voice any more than I have forgotten the sound of my breath exhaled in cold clouds of wishes half-formed.

“Assalamu Aleikum.

Ummi? Is that you?

Assalamu Aleikum?”

Yes, it’s me, it’s me here listening and waiting, thinking and planning, hoping and striving. Yes, it’s me, still holding you as close as ever I did those hours spent each evening going over the blessings of the day and looking forward to what we would do on the next. Yes, it’s me, pulling you still in your little red wagon with your name painted on the side, full of books and stuffed animals and the Cheetos truck you wouldn’t let go of. Yes it’s me, sitting in the swing on Grandma and Grandpa’s porch, holding hands, looking at the stars, never imagining I would be a world apart from you, my little blonde whirlwind.

Yes, it’s me.

Just a few words, a few seconds of peace snatched out of a world that is increasingly chaotic.

All of the words I had stored up in a full heart, behind closed lips for weeks suddenly change form, becoming tears that refuse to be held back, tears of love and joy and loss and patience and pain for you, for me, for what has been and what may be.

I cannot speak, but I can hear, and I hear your voice as it always was, reciting Qur’aan all day long, no matter what you were doing.

I cannot speak, but I can hear, and I hear your voice as it always was, asking questions that made me think with my head as well as my heart.

I cannot speak, but I can hear, and I hear your voice as it always was, before.

Your voice and the wind blend together, and I hear the cry of the child that has become the man.

Khadijah is still trying to adjust to life in the States after almost ten years in Yemen. She is a writer, translator, teacher, herbalist, fiber artist, and homeschooling mother to her eight children. Her oldest, Mujaahid, is in a village under siege in northern Yemen with his wife and children.

October 25 – Hand Woven

by Khadijah

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Been thinking a lot about my mother lately, hard to believe she’s been gone so many years. It seems like yesterday, last week, a month ago at most I midnight called her knowing she would be awake, playing solitaire at the kitchen table we spent so many hours eating, laughing, talking around. Can it really be nineteen years since I last heard her voice, me truly still a child despite having a child of my own, thinking she would be there for me forever- no not forever, but for a very long time and then-

she wasn’t.

In a split second lives change, people come and go, stand tall and fold, circumstances turn upside down so you can hardly recognize them anymore except maybe with the feeling of a vision almost grasped but not quite, deja vu but really, when you were there the mountains actually reached towards the sky but now you see only their reflection in a clear blue mountain lake.

Even now I reach for the phone to call her, talk about days and dreams and how did you do this help me figure it out so I don’t fall down again? For my mama, I do miss her, mash’Allaah.

Buried 1

Hand Woven

She was there when he was born

Hot blood gushing amidst tears and silence

Thankfully not hers.

No platitudes or empty prayers,

Simply support and a hand held tight.

Her life was built on courage

Dreams spilling from hurt and shame

Hers to hold alone…

Strength of spirit and hope

Bound with doubt of self.

I was late life born from late love

Child running through grown up lands

Fire to her cool calm…

Striving, spinning dreams

From photos creased with wear.

“Say, um…mom died…”

Words crackle through stormy night

Dad cried…

After first sorrow, I searched

For her in me.

I hear her whisper now as

Memories slip through soft shadows

My dreams and hers…

Braided, woven tight

Hands upon my heart.

Khadijah is still trying to adjust to life in the States after almost ten years in Yemen. She is a writer, translator, teacher, herbalist, fiber artist, and homeschooling mother to her eight children. She blogs at Yemeni Journey and Wide Earth.

August 1 – Shadows Left Behind

by Khadijah


The lid of the old plastic storage tub is difficult to pry off. A decade in storage has warped the plastic, wrapping it tighter around its burden of memories. A tug, a twist and it pulls free.

Saudi white musk. I remember a nine-year old Mujaahid, his face wreathed in smiles the first time a brother gifted him with a tiny vial of this precious fragrance. From then on it was his favorite, used sparingly to make it last. As I breathe in the essence of a child lost, I know this container must be Mujaahid’s. Sad, but curious as to those things he felt were important enough to store before our journey to Yemen over ten years ago.

A Hot Wheel delivery truck, with “Cheetos” across the side, worn from years of small fingers holding it, just there, as a little boy raced it across his sleeping grandfather’s back. A plane, a small purple VW Bug that was always “Ummi’s car.” A notebook, written by a five-year old boy.

“My little sister climbed the steps today.”

“We went to Aunt Shaakira’s and ate popcorn and macaroni and cheese.”

And later, in the voice of a nine year old, a talk he’d written and given at an Islamic conference, and names for bows he would like to sell:

“Sa’d Ibn Abi Waqqas Bow for Boys”

“Nusaybah Bow for Girls”

And rules and reminders for his first bow hunting season.

At the bottom, a scrapbook. I open it and see Morning Glories. A book of photos of my sister Patty’s little house and studio in the woods, with her careful descriptions written years ago. Her voice, now stilled, comes to life again as I turn the pages and remember.

“This is the door to my studio. I can sit here and watch the birds for hours.”

“This is our swing, covered in snow. Of course, we don’t use it when it is like this.”

Patty never had children, but she loved me and mine with a sweet and deep love that we never had cause to doubt.

A week of memories, of tears and reminders of a past almost forgotten in the fullness of each day. A hand painted milk jug and three matching hearts on ribbons, a final gift from my sister that last summer before we parted for good. Books on homesteading and raising goats, and my soap molds made by Patty’s husband Sully. Afghans crocheted by my grandmother’s hands, quilts I pieced lovingly for my two oldest children, all gone, chewed through and ruined by mice and bad storage conditions.

The afghans and quilts thrown away, the Cheetos truck carefully placed aside to send to the man who once lived in that little boy body, a pitcher on a window to remind me to watch the Morning Glories every day they bloom.

Gratitude, sadness, and prayer. A house filled with the shadows of what was, looking forward to whatever may be.

“Then which of the Blessings of your Lord will you deny?” (Surah ar-Rahman)

 Khadijah is a writer, student, teacher, translator and herbalist. She currently lives in Kansas City, MO, homeschooling her eight children while working on all of her various projects and planning her next move to a homestead in New Mexico.

June 23 – Connections

by Khadijah


The night is cold, rain pelting against the small windows, filling strategically placed pots to overflowing, candlelight flickering and dancing against whitewashed walls worn to gray. I sit listening to the symphony of water, light and darkness as it surrounds me, seeping through my fleece blanket armor, providing the song for my thoughts to hum along with.

Within three years of moving to Yemen, I have lost my eldest sister and father, each moving beyond my grasp, slipping away even as I strove to hold onto them ever more tightly. My remaining siblings are travelling their own paths. I understand, as this path that I am taking to gaining knowledge seems strange to them, foreign, extreme. To me, it is the only way, a blessing from Allaah that I cannot turn away from.

This June is a time of connections. My sister is visiting, and we are enjoying times of quiet conversation, evening walks, and fun with all the children together. Last week a conference was held, bringing Muslims together to seek knowledge. I was asked to speak, and was blessed with meeting students from my online classes in person, putting faces to the words across the screen. And, one day last week, I was finally able to meet the sister of my heart, who had previously only been a smile in my inbox, sharing so many ideas, dreams and aspirations through our lengthy and frequent emails.

I spend the second day of the conference waiting, knowing that she and her family got in late the night before after a long transcontinental flight. Every time the door opens, though, I look, and wonder if it will be her. Finally, my daughter Juwairiyah comes in and says, “Ummi, you have to come outside.” I rush out and see a newcomer, and know it has to be her. In seconds we are holding each other, thanking Allaah for bringing us together in body as He has blessed our hearts to come together so many months before.

The next few days are times of silence and laughter, speaking and listening, sharing and spending time together. The day she is leaving, we sit side by side watching our children sliding down the steps of the house we are staying in.

“I’m sliding down on my back!” says one girl.

“I’m sliding down on my stomach!” says another.

“I’m sliding down on my armpit!” says a third.

We turn and look at each other, identical looks on our faces and suddenly we know for sure that this friendship and sisterhood is for real. I think back to those rainy nights of solitude, and rejoice in the fact that there is a time for this, and a time for that, and in the knowledge that each thing happens in its own time, its own place.

I thank Allaah for the blessings of this month, for the love and strength of sisterhood, and for allowing these connections to be made.

Khadijah is a writer, student, teacher, translator and herbalist. She currently lives in Kansas City, MO, homeschooling her eight children while working on all of her various projects and planning her next move to a homestead in New Mexico.

March 31 – Scent of Jasmine

by Khadijah Lacina

A few days ago Mujaahid called me from Yemen. It was the second time I’ve spoken to him since our return to America, and I admit I had trouble speaking through the lump that filled my throat. I talked to little Suhayb, and heard baby Yasmeen in the background. It made my heart ache to feel the distance that separates our worlds now. I wanted to share with you the story of baby Yasmeen, to try to bring her and her family just a little bit closer…

On September 27, a new little person entered the world. My eldest son, Mujaahid, and his wife, Hiyaat, had a baby girl. She was delivered at home, with a midwife and Hiyaat’s mother present, and by all accounts was a big baby. She was born with a caul- in Islaam this doesn’t have any special significance, but I can imagine that my Bohemian grandmother, and my Irish grandmother, would have a few things to say about it. They named her Yasmeen, which is the source of the English word, Jasmine. I pray that she will both spread joy and goodness like the fragrance of her namesake, and that she will find the world to be sweet and scented in the same way.

I wasn’t there for the birth, just as I was not there for Suhayb’s birth, making this a bittersweet time, one which brings home forcefully the reality of distance unrolling over desert and mountain, of time spent apart and the choices which led to this separation.

The first choice, I suppose, was when we sent Mujaahid to study in the village a few months before we ourselves were going to make that transition. He would call every week, his voice sounding small and far away and tearing at my heart-strings. He would assure me that he was fine, and was studying hard, and that everything was alright.

The second choice was when, a couple of years later, he decided to marry and to build his house attached to his wife’s house across the valley. Automatically he became a part of their life, while stepping out of ours in a major way. His brothers and sisters felt the distance at that time; perhaps it was for the best because when we left the village a year or so later due to my continuing illness, he didn’t even consider coming with us.

That was the next choice, and it was both ours, to leave, and his, to not join us. It was so difficult leaving the village. I had teachers there that I loved and respected, I loved learning about Islaam and attending classes and lectures, and the village itself had found a deep and abiding place in my heart. And, of course, as we were bumping off in the pre-dawn darkness over the trackless mountains that surrounded the village, my heart felt like it was being physically ripped in two as part of it stayed with Mujaahid.

I don’t have any photos of Mujaahid as a baby, but last year, when I was able to see his son, Suhayb, for the first time, I immediately saw the shadow of my little blond boy in his face. It made parting with them after a month even tougher, bringing home truth of the saying that when we choose to have a child, we choose to allow a part of our hearts to walk around outside our bodies for the rest of our lives.

Now time, and distance, and political upheaval have made our lives in this beautiful land more uncertain than before. When I think that I may never see Yasmeen, or Suhayb, or Mujaahid and Hiyaat again, I feel an intense sense of loss, and sadness, and a wish that I could somehow change things, while knowing that I cannot. Too much time, too much distance, too many choices made that led us to where we are now.

But I know that even while a part of my heart is with them in their mountain village, a part of them remains, and will always remain, within my chest, as close as the air I breathe. And sometimes, that is all you can ask for.

Khadijah Lacina has recently returned to the States after almost ten years living in Yemen. While trying to get over her culture shock, she spends her time homeschooling, writing, knitting, crocheting, playing in the dirt trying to grow things, and messing around with herbs.

February 29 – Unexpected Grace

by Khadijah Lacina

February is a month of birthdays in my family. I was born in that month, as were three of my children. Each birth was special, but the one I want to share with you today is that of my son, Mu’aadh, who was the first of three babies I had in Yemen.

When we moved to Yemen I was four months pregnant. I was worried about having a baby there, due to the fact that I tend to hemorrhage severely after every birth. I found myself in a strange environment, full of strange germs, and dealing with customs that were totally different from my own. I didn’t even speak the language well at that point.
I went to the Mustashfa Um, the mother’s hospital, a couple of times before I gave birth. I found a doctor and an ultrasound technician who spoke English, more or less, and the ultrasound doctor even gave me her home phone number and told me to call her when I went into labor. In Yemen, the custom is for some of the women of the family to accompany the mother-to-be to the hospital, and she was worried because I didn’t have anyone to go with me. I didn’t think I would call her, but knowing she was there was a comfort.

The night of the birth arrived. I hadn’t felt well all afternoon, and was keyed up and full of energy. I wasn’t sure at first that I was in labor, but by evening it became clear that that was the case. I was determined to stay at home as long as I could, as I knew that once I went to the hospital I would be by myself- they don’t allow men into the labor and delivery areas at all, so my husband, who had been present at all the other births, would be waiting downstairs. Finally, around midnight, I decided we had better get going. We walked downstairs, and I crouched on the sidewalk by the buildings while my husband tried to get a taxi in the nearly deserted streets. The first cab driver saw us an opportunity to make some extra cash; the second, however, was reasonable- and when he saw I was really really pregnant, he hot-footed it all the way to the hospital. I remember that trip as a collage of lights, glimpses of men sitting in tea rooms or gathered on street corners, and wild dogs skulking in the shadows.

Once at the hospital I was told to go right upstairs. I tearfully said goodbye to my husband, clutching my walkie talkie in my hand so I could talk to him once I was settled in. I walked up two flights of stairs, and was met at the top by a doctor I had never met, one who didn’t speak English. She smiled at me sweetly, though, and talked to me as if I could understand…and I almost could. Her expression turned alarmed when she checked my condition- apparently I had waited just long enough before coming, because I was ushered straight into the delivery room.

“Bismillah!” In the name of God, she said, and told me to push. The nurse held my hand and said “Bismillah” as well, and I felt comforted, blessed that these women who shared my faith were helping me have the baby. Three pushes, and there was Mu’aadh.

After a few minutes they walked me, with the baby in my arms, to a room to rest for a bit before going home. There were two other new mothers in there, along with an entourage of female companions. They spoke to me, and the first thing I was asked after they wished Allaah peace upon me was, “Where is your mother?” I knew how to answer that, anyway. I told them she had passed away. “Your sisters? Your aunties?”
“They’re in America,” I answered, suddenly feeling very alone, and very young and very far from all that I knew.
“America!” they said. “Miskeena!” Poor girl! Suddenly they were swirling around me, pressing cookies and milk into my hand, offering to hold the baby for me. Tears welled up in my eyes as I felt the kindness and love of these women who were complete strangers to me. “I will be your mother,” said the mother of one of the other women. From her bed, her daughter smiled and waved at me. “Sister!” she said in English.

My walkie talkie beeped. I pressed the button. “How are you doing, Sweetie?” asked my husband’s voice, quiet and reassuring as always. “Fine, alhamdulillah…and you’re a daddy!” He didn’t understand at first, and then he was bursting with happiness. “Are you okay?” he asked.

I looked around at my little impromptu, totally unexpected family and smiled.

“I am,” I replied. “I really am.”

Khadijah Lacina has recently returned to the States after almost ten years living in Yemen. While trying to get over her culture shock, she spends her time homeschooling, writing, knitting, crocheting, playing in the dirt trying to grow things, and messing around with herbs.

January 30 – Homecoming

by Khadijah

A month home. A month of reunions, of revisiting the past, of revelations both large and small.

The journey was long; three days of travel, two nights spent in airports, planes missed, children sick. When we arrived in Atlanta no one was there to meet us, but when they came an hour later the hugs made the whole journey worth it. For three of my children, it was their first real taste of family beyond their brothers and sisters. Most of the others had only vague memories of grandmothers and grandfathers, aunties and uncles. Some of these, sadly, will remain in the land of memory. My children will never greet my sister Patty, or my father, as they left this world while we were away. They slipped through my fingers…but this only makes our remaining family all the more precious.

After a three hour drive, we were in our new, if temporary, home. Having never lived in the South, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the smell of green and feel of clear blue sky on a winter’s day is apparently the same everywhere.

“I never knew there could be so many trees!” said six year old Maryam.

The children marveled over the variety of the houses, the ease of the washing machine, and the feeling of grass underneath them as they rolled repeatedly down the small hill in the backyard. When my mother-in-law took them to the Dollar Store and allowed them each to choose five things for a dollar apiece, they were in shock. It took them an hour to decide, having never had such riches or so many things to choose from before. Aunt Elise took us to the library, and even Mu’aadh was speechless for a few minutes, shocked at the idea of so many books in one place, and all of them within his little grasp. Eating tacos for the first time, seeing dogs on leashes being walked through the neighborhood or cardinals swooping and swooshing through the cold morning air…everything is new to them, and thus, in some way, new to me as well.

When we made the very difficult decision to return here to the States, people warned us about the negative experiences we might have due to the general negative image of Muslims that many people have. After having been here for a month, I can honestly say that we have had no negative experiences at all. Our neighbors have been welcoming, people in stores have been helpful, and strangers in the street often smile and say hello. I know that there will be unkindness because we experienced it here both before and after 9/11. However, I make a conscious effort every time we go out to be kind and friendly within the boundaries of my belief system, and I have seen the difference that it makes. The children naturally do this, and it has paid off as well. The other day I looked out the window to see several of the neighborhood children out on our lawn, running, playing and laughing together.

The sadness of leaving Yemen is still with me; I doubt that it will ever go away. But I know that my life is overseen by Someone who has greater knowledge and wisdom than I, and that in every situation He has put good. I look forward to teaching my Muslim sisters here, to writing, to gardening, to making a home for my family. I look forward to the opportunities I have to do good, to share knowledge, and to benefit others. So even as my heart looks backward, longing for Yemen and all that we left behind, I look forward to traveling another path here, knowing that my experiences in my second home have changed me forever, and will color everything the future holds, no matter where we might be.

Khadijah grew up in the Kickapoo Valley in Wisconsin and now lives in Yemin with her husband and eight children where she teaches Arabic and Islaamic studies to women and helps them recognize their importance and the need for their stories to be heard. Khadijah was the winner of the 2010 Story Circle Network Lifewriting Competition.

October 3 – Support and Solace

by Khadijah

I was a teenager when I became a mother for the first time. I wasn’t married, and I had already begun the journey towards a college education and all that that would entail. In many families, such a thing would be cause for angry words, accusations, and a pulling apart of the fabric of the family. In my case, though, it ultimately resulted in my having a stronger relationship with both of my parents, as we faced the difficulties and challenges of unmarried parenthood together.

I don’t remember telling my mom, but I would guess I did so while driving somewhere or other in her little Dodge pickup. I do remember her telling me to go for a drive while she told my dad. When I returned after an hour or so he simply enveloped me in his big football player arms and told me he loved me and we would do this together.

The summer of my pregnancy passed quickly. Mom and I would go to the bigger towns that surrounded our little village of Gays Mills, Wisconsin, and shop on a regular basis. As a family we went to different tourist attractions around the state, like Villa Louis in Prairie du Chien, and the steam train in New Freedom. Dad would go for walks with me after every meal and sit up with me at night if I couldn’t sleep- something he continued to do after the baby was born- he would stretch out on the couch in his blue pajamas while I sat in the rocking chair nursing the baby.

When Mujaahid was born, on October 3, 1988, my parents were both present. While laboring I held onto Charlie, my stuffed monkey- Dad sat by me and held Charlie’s hand. When the contractions got too intense I sent him out to the waiting room. Mom said that he hadn’t attended the labor or birth of either of his own children, so I knew what it had cost him to sit in there, by my side. Mom stayed near the entire time, except for periodic trips out for a cigarette, telling jokes and lending quiet strength right up until the baby made his appearance.

And so it continued, even after I went off to college. My parents supported and assisted me in every way that they could, and I owe so much of what I am, and what my son is, to them. September 27 of this year saw the birth of my second grandchild, Yasmeen, to Mujaahid and his wife Hiyaat. I only hope and pray that I can be there for them, always, like my parents were for me.

Khadijah grew up in the Kickapoo Valley in Wisconsin and now lives in Yemin with her husband and eight children where she teaches Arabic and Islaamic studies to women and helps them recognize their importance and the need for their stories to be heard. Khadijah was the winner of the 2010 Story Circle Network Lifewriting Competition.

August 9 – Holding Space

by Khadijah

I sit on the rooftop as the sun slowly sinks to the horizon, steel hot blue of summer sky melting to the sweeter, softer indigo night. Six days of Ramadan have slipped by, six days of prayer, fasting, soul searching and sacrifice. Six days of waking up at 3:00 am with my eldest daughter to make breakfast for everyone in the deep hush of breath held night. Six days of everyone working together to make something special out of whatever we have on hand, knowing that food prices in the markets have doubled and tripled since the beginning of the month. Six days of reading and playing and laughing with little ones.

Ramadan is always a time of renewal- the body remembers hunger and thirst while the soul remembers the feast of faith. This year, however, because of the protests here in Yemen, a month that should be spent in joyful contemplation and willing sacrifice turned for a few brief days into one tainted by destruction and death.

Three nights ago my son went down to the market to buy juice cups for the children. He encountered crowds of angry young men, burnt husks of motorcycles, carts tipped over and set ablaze, and a field of broken glass and stones. Later that night gunfire could be heard in the not too distant distance, as we sat together and listened to the night prayers recited over the loudspeakers of a dozen masjids. As I gave comfort to my children, I found myself feeling outraged and frustrated at this foolish show of violence in a town with no government presence at all, a town of southerners in the heart of the south- what purpose could they have in harming their own people, of protesting to empty skies and absent authority? This revolution of the rich here in Yemen, where the protesters tend to own ipads and laptop computers and spend hours online while their fellow countrymen lose their jobs and have to struggle to feed their families in a broken, spiraling economy, has gone on for months. Months of snappy slogans, empty promises, and needless violence that have plunged millions into a reality harsher than that which they already lived in. Feeling anxious and unsettled, I booted up my computer and connected with my sisters across the world at Storycircle.

I told them of the riots and the absence of fresh vegetables. I told them about the fires and the skyrocketing food prices. I told them about my frustration at this attempted hijacking of this blessed month. And they listened, and responded with questions, ideas, encouragement. They listened, and I felt myself relax, just a little, and remember that no matter what a few hot-headed, misguided people were doing, I still had my family, I still had my home shaded by its beautiful tree, I still had my sisters back home holding space for me, thinking of me, and supporting me. I still had my faith and my determination to spend Ramadan in worship and contemplation, and my drive to use the blessed presence of this month to improve myself for the rest of the year.

They didn’t say any specific thing, they didn’t come up with some magical solution, but they listened, and their hands and hearts joined around me, helping to hold me up until I could step back and join my hands with theirs, and take my place in this circle of sisterhood that is Storycircle.

Khadijah grew up in the Kickapoo Valley in Wisconsin and now lives in Yemin with her husband and eight children where she teaches Arabic and Islaamic studies to women and helps them recognize their importance and the need for their stories to be heard. Khadijah was the winner of the 2010 Story Circle Network Lifewriting Competition.