Houses and Homes

4 days to go..

I have intense mixed feelings about moving back to Saudi Arabia (as you have all gathered, I’m sure). I will miss the familiar life I’ve built in Montreal, and my friends, and the leaves of the Fall, and my walks by the canal; my absolute favorite place here, graffiti and all.

At the same time, I miss my country, my family, my language. I miss the feeling of unquestionably belonging to the patch of earth beneath my feet, and to the people long buried beneath that patch of earth. I feel an almost urgent need to reconnect with the land and my identity. to lie down in the dust and rub my tired cheeks on the scorching desert sand.

An immigrant once told me, the moment you cross the ocean, you are always on the wrong side..I feel that way sometimes. Whenever I am in one place I long for the idealized other.

Although this tends to pull my heart strings in separate directions, I’d never have it any other way. I’m so lucky to love and be loved by so many people in many places, and to know that although I don’t own a house anywhere, There are many homes in both countries that would open for me, if ever I knocked on your door ( right? 😅)

Montreaaaaal! I found a part of myself by your canal. I built a part of myself in your mosques, and I’m leaving a part of myself in your river. I love you. I love your people. You have been so good to me, and I will do everything I can to come back 🙂



Note: To understand this one, you need to remember I wear the veil, and I live in North America. Not the best combination these days, but there you have it.

I was in such a good mood on my late afternoon walk earlier today-initially anyway. The boys were off to play soccer with their father, and Mimi’s bedtime was in less than an hour! Which meant I would have the house to myself for an hour before my boys stampede through the door at around 8 p.m.

I was planning to enjoy this hour reading or just relaxing at home. Instead I am writing this because I am incensed.

I like to walk along the Canal in Griffintown. There are two paths. There is the rough grainy slightly pebbled path for pedestrians and joggers. And there is the “bike” path, which I loosely interpret to welcome everyone on wheels.

As I was walking along, pushing Mimi in her three-wheeled stroller on the “bike” path, enjoying the breeze and visualizing my next big dream, a man biking with a group passed me from behind and huffed:

“This is the bike path” as he whizzed passed me.

“I have three wheels and you have two!”

I yelled after him at the top of my lungs.

People turned to see what I was yelling about. I didn’t care.

And that was it. I was and still am, disproportionately angry.
I spent the rest of my walk aggressively eyeing everyone who came across my path. Challenging them silently.

Do you have something to say? Do you have a problem with me? Huh? Huh?

My anger only increased as I saw a man on an electrical wheelchair, and recalled all the people I’ve seen on skateboards and rollerblades, not to mention very slow toddlers on tricicles and skooters. Of course they all had the right to be on this path. Was anyone yelling at them?

But nothing made me more angry than seeing an attractive woman jogging on the bike path (on her feet, no wheels, just to be clear). Was anyone yelling at her? Nooo. She’s the kind of woman one might ask to move slightly to the left, not to get her out of the way, but to bring her more towards the center of one’s vision, to better appreciate her figure and the way her blonde ponytail swished from side to side.

I tried to understand why I was yelled at
a. Because I look like an ignorant timid immigrant who does not know her rights
b. Because I’m a woman not dressed attractively enough for some people’s taste (really, studies show that both men and women treat better looking women ..well, better)
c. Because I’m a mother, who is crowding the posh single crowd’s idea of a Sunday afternoon. In which case, I wish upon them all triplets as an introduction to parenthood, then I’d like to see them try pushing their strollers on a pebbled path.
d. The man is simply an idiot who thinks his biking outfit makes him cool

Regardless of the reason/s, I sent a prayer after him that I hope hit the ceiling of the sky and came back down to ram his snobbish nose to the pavement. And if he did fall, then I hope he also had enough insight to know that that fall was the end of my punchline.

I know I’m overreacting. And I know why.
I have been sensitized and I am already bristling and inflamed. Because these are just some of the things I have stored in my memory from my walks in Griffintown and by the canal:

1. I stepped aside at the edge of a little bridge that was common to pedestrians and bikers one afternoon, smiling and gesturing to the biker to pass. He gave me the finger.
2. I was walking on the sidewalk, again pushing the stroller, when from all the way across the street another biker yelled in French: Terroriste! Les Musulmans sont terrorists! Terroriste! ( I don’t care about my French spelling mistakes and grammar)
3. A homeless man, watched me approach from a distance, again pushing the stroller. And he waited until I was close, and without breaking eye contact, he poured his only beer slowly onto the ground in my narrow path, leering at me.

Really? I’m worth your last beer? Really?

When we take these incidents all together, (and I am just getting started with my examples here ) Am I overreacting?

Should I just get used to this then? Tell me!!!




I am a small boat

half-ready to set sail


because I travel

so light

I’m tethered still to the shore

by many strings attached

not allowed to go

just yet

I wish I could

set sail today

Just go

instead of this aimless drifting

To and fro

To and fro

To and fro

I’d rather seek out

that beautiful


endless horizon

and vast open sea of unknown

I’d rather face that

than face..

The faces

on the shore



Waiting for that final goodbye


I peel it off the walls

ever so gently

the scotch-taped 


artwork of their childhood
But no matter how careful I am

a layer peels off

a layer of paint

of pain
Sometimes the glue (or our attachment)

is so strong

that we can’t say goodbye

without snatching a piece of home with us

or leaving a peace of us behind
Just to say:

We were here



The precious objects

You collect
Those you display

Out there

For all to see
Unlike the other ones

The ones you hide

The ones you guard

With jealousy
I’m not your object

I belong to me

To “keep” me

Is to Leave me free
For the surest way

To lose me

Is to To try
Just try

To lock me up

And hide the key
You see?

Not an “other”

A mosque up in flames in Texas where my sister is, another in Quebec City where 6 people were shot last night. I don’t see this as an anti-muslim thing only. It’s worse. It’s much bigger. It’s affecting all of humanity. I’m reposting this because it’s the same old story..with no new words.

So Many Hats (or Veils)


You would never have shot me

Or beaten me to the ground

If you knew me

If you knew me,

You’d never have been angry or afraid

If you knew me

You’d have loved me

You’d have shed more tears for me

than this blood on your hands

I think you know it

Yet can’t bare to know it

So you avoid my gaze

As the life leaves me body

You may look at me

But you don’t seeme

If you saw me,

You’d have seen yourself

Not another

Not an “other”

In February 2015, 3 Muslim students were shot in the head in their apartments. Days ago, a 24-year-old Saudi student was beaten to death by a stranger- who used his fists as bludgeons- outside a pizza shop.

I just don’t know what to say, except: Don’t shoot! It’s me! It’s you..

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I will be happy when…No you won’t.

How long have you been saying that?

I’ll be happy when I get into this program, get married, have a child, get a haircut, get thin, get published, pass an exam, get a job, retire..

And on and on the list goes. 


There will always be something looming ahead promising happiness.

It’s an empty promise, it’s time to wake up..

and be happy now.

Empty tank



For several nights in a row now, I’ve been stumbling to my room so tired, that I fall face down, fully dressed, on top of the covers, legs dangling from the side of the exhausted that I fall asleep and my children are the ones to cover me and kiss me goodnight.. before going off to bed.

No matter, I march on the next day and the next, gotta keep going. Today, something happened to make me pause for a second.  While driving home after dropping them off at school, and mentally going through my to-do list, I noticed I was running low on gas. Great, one more thing on my to- do list. Can’t run on an empty tank.

“What about your tank?”

“Wha..? who’s that?..Oh, it’s you”

Everyone, let me introduce my self-compassion voice. She’s new, and her voice is still very low..or  is it a he? I haven’t decided on the gender-or the accent for that matter. He’s kind of like my internal Siri. Let’s go with deep throaty Irish accent today 🙂

So, Irish here raises a good point.. What about my empty tank? what about my falling asleep all over the place? huh?

So. I stopped the car downtown,  walked to my favourite store, and  bought this belt with pink feathers, which I have been wanting for a while. It was the very last one, and on a double sale!

(if you don’t know the significance of this belt, read this, you’ll enjoy it):

Then I went to one of my favourite cafes and had  a sinfully delicious breakfast (yes, it involved Nutella). And then..I went home, and did some work to ease my gnawing conscience (I’m not used to this degree of pampering). After that, I exercised, then practiced my new secret hobby # 1 and new secret hobby #2 (I’m a beginner and too shy to tell you what I’m learning).

By the afternoon, when I caught my reflection in the mirror, I swear I looked different. Some colour back in the cheeks and some sparkle back in the eyes.

Hey.. there you are, Wid..

You know, we work so hard at our careers and as mothers and caregivers that it’s hard to stop and take care of ourselves. Days like this are so rare and so special. Do they have to be?

In the end I went back to working on my computer and cooked and read to my children (we finished the last chapter of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets today..amazing!). I did all I had to do.

And I wrote..It feels like ages since I’ve written for my blog..

I guess I had something to give ..only after filling the tank.


What’s in a name?


New Year’s Eve, the world is optimistic, hoping..hoping that 2017 will be better, at least less bloody, than 2016.


The attack in Turkey on New Years Eve took the lives of people close to home. Some of the dead.. we know their names, their families. They were related to and -colleagues of -some of my family members. And if I were in Saudi Arabia, I’d be attending the wake of a young woman named Lubna right now. There was also an attack in Madina a few months ago, in the Holy Mosque, where up to millions of Muslims gather to pray every day..there were attempts in Jeddah this year too, where I will be living in 6 months time. (inshallah, God willing).

But you know what the killer is? As if being killed is not bad enough.. what is really special, is that although Muslims, are the most likely victims of terrorist attacks.. we are also the most likely suspects.

No sooner did the attack happen, than the rest of the story unfolded in a sickeningly familiar sequence. The media shouts: it’s the Muslims again! the Terrorists! ISIS! (They are all the same thing in the media you see, who cares about mere nuances amidst such tragedy?)

What people often forget though, is that Muslims form 82-97% of fatalities in terrorist attacks (hey, don’t take my word fort, look it up : ).

No matter. I am always “randomly” selected at airports for extra tests or pat-downs. Here is one particularly painful event: I was traveling alone to New York to attend my mother’s college reunion (Vasser). After passing the metal detector, the security agent-he had kind eyes-said, somewhat apologetically: “I’m sorry M’am, but if you’ll present your hands, palms up, I have to run a test”. I complied silently as he swabbed my fingers. He looked at me and smiled..”Sorry, we have to do this to anyone wearing “headgear” “.

Why did I suddenly feel like crying? “You do what you have to do” I said, tight smile.

but don’t do that. I thought. Don’t be kind. Don’t be human. Don’t you pierce my comfortable prickly shield of anger.. and stir my grief..which is never far below the surface.

Then I’m given the choice of the x-ray like machine or a pat down..hmm, what do you think I’ll go for..I think the pat down is less humiliating than allowing a semi-naked reconstructed image of me to pop up on a screen. Done. I quickly run to the ladies room and cry. To this day, I’m not completely sure what those tears were about, so I don’t really expect you to get it either.

So there it I am..The Muslim (thunder sound effects would be nice here)

The most likely victim

the most likely suspect

you think I am them are afraid of  me

but..I am afraid of them

We all lose

I’m so tired of explaining

and defending




Note: look, I know the security guard was doing his job. I know he is ensuring my safety. I know everyone is doing their best. This is an emotional account. Not a political one. I’m revealing a human facet of myself, and if you can turn or bend, to align  your own facet of humanity to mine, then we’ll understand eachother, and see eachother, and never ever kill eachother, or call eachother names.

Wid Kattan