Bring My Children Home–A Plea From an American Mother of Saudi Children

The biggest fear of any non-Saudi mother of Saudi children is the potential that she might someday lose access to her children. Hands down.

Every wife of a Saudi that I personally know, whether in a happy marriage or not, has the what if in the back of her mind. What if he takes the children, what if he divorces me and kicks me out of the country, what if…what if…what if. This is, in part, what brought me to and keeps me in Saudi Arabia, to be frank.

There are no exit controls in the States. There is no documentation that needs to be shown for a child to travel out of the country with only one parent. There is no one at the airport who can stop it from happening. There is no list for the names of children or parents that will flag a possible abduction. Saudi fathers can easily get new passports and be out of the country before the mother knows anything about it. And once the children enter Saudi Arabia, they are Saudis first and only. The US government has no jurisdiction here in Saudi Arabia and they will not be able to help. This really does happen. It’s not common, but it happens. Because although it’s illegal, there’s nothing in place to stop it from happening.

Please watch the video, share with your friends, sign the petition. Help this mother. She needs all the help she can get. Pray for her and the others like her.

“My children were internationally abducted by their father on November 24th, 2013, during a scheduled, unsupervised visit, in violation of our custody agreement. Since then, I have been desperately seeking help in having them returned. In the US, I have spoken to the FBI, the State Department, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Representative Tom Marino, Senator Bob Casey, and it seems that nobody is capable of helping me. After attempting to contact the Saudi Embassy and the Saudi Consulate in New York every single day for 2 months, I did have a meeting with an individual in the Saudi Citizen Services section in New York on January 13th, who assured me that they would do anything possible to reunite me with my children. I have heard nothing since then, and repeated phone calls have not been returned or have revealed no information, despite the fact that the employees there seemed convinced that Majed had in fact broken Saudi laws in order to obtain the passports he needed to take the children. My hope now is to petition President Obama himself, who is traveling to Saudi Arabia at the end of March, to address the fact that Saudi Arabia is a “safe haven” for parental kidnappers. Please share this video, along with the petition to bring this matter to the President’s attention. I need my children, and they need me. “ petition:

Local news story about Jessica’s situation:

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My daughter turned 9 this week.

I’ve always made birthdays for her a big deal. It’s the one thing I ever put my foot down about, that we, my daughter and I, WOULD celebrate birthdays. No compromises.

Every year on her birthday I wake her up with tickles and the happy birthday song, she chooses her favorite meals for the day, and we spend some time talking about the day she entered into and became my world. We talk about her name and I remind her that I named her after a strong and defiant woman who stood up for what she believed in. I marvel at how much she’s grown…from a tiny baby only 21 inches long to a beautiful young lady whose head now reaches my chin and whose feet now fit into my shoes. She insists that I play games with her and that I let her win. It’s a day unlike any other throughout the year.

Motherhood has changed me in ways I could have never imagined. It has brought me strength I never knew I had, showed me love I never knew existed, and proved to me that the human body is capable of miraculous things. 

As I buzzed around the kitchen preparing way too much food for her party, I joked with my mother that children shouldn’t be the ones who get gifts on their birthdays. They haven’t accomplished anything, really. We as parents should be the ones showered with gifts as congratulations for allowing them to survive and helping them to thrive for yet another year. I admit that celebrating her birthday has always been a little bit about me, but I’m happy to let her shine and feel special, and I hope she is able to look back on these days with a smile when she’s also a mother.

The party went well, my house is still covered in confetti, and I have enough leftover pizza for a few more meals. Nine will be gone before I know it, so I’ll savor in its newness a few more days before we get on with life and routine and a decade creeps up on us.

Thanks for stopping by :) Have some cake!





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Untold Stories


I don’t know how old I was when it finally struck me that every person I pass in the street, in the grocery store, or on the street has a story of their own, but it’s something I’ve been fascinated with for as long as I can remember.

I’ve always loved striking up conversations with complete strangers and learning lessons about life from their life experiences. My friend George, an 80-something greeter at WalMart in my hometown, was a great example of the untold stories that hide inside each of us. He was a war veteran, worked on railroads, always told great jokes, was always ready with a warm hug, and was madly in love with his wife who was also in her 80s. He loved my headscarves, gave treats to my daughter, and always made sure that I had a reason to smile. Day after day he’d smile and wave at people entering the store and they’d walk past him totally unaware of his human-ness. We all do it. But I want to stop. I want to know everyone’s story.

Living in Riyadh has made my desire to know everyone’s story that much more intense. There are so many people here whose lives don’t matter and whose stories go untold. They’re invisible. No one thinks about the family the street cleaner left back home to come and work here or the children their maid hasn’t seen in several years. The cashier whose yearly salary is less than the 20,000SR Chanel handbag he’s ringing up has feelings, but no one cares about them. The baker standing in front of a hot oven baking bread every morning has hopes and dreams, but probably can’t remember the last time anyone asked about them. The Saudi widow with 6 children who she can’t afford to feed. The Saudi man who can’t find a job. The abused wife. The spinster daughter. The Syrian mother whose children were born and raised here, but can’t go to university since they’re not citizens. The American woman who came here with her husband knowing that plane tickets for her and her 3 children back home would never be affordable. The stay at home mom whose sanity is hanging by a thread most days. You get the point here. There are stories all around us and I want to hear them and share them with you. 

My goal is to photograph and interview at least one person a month for the blog. It is of course taboo to photograph people, especially women, so I know it will be hard. Language barriers will also be something to overcome, but I’m up for it.

Faces may or may not be included. Names may or may not be changed. But stories will be told.

If you or someone  you know would be interested in being involved with my project and you (or the someone you know) are located in Riyadh, please get in touch with me via email at undertheabaya @ gmail . com.

Check back in a few days or subscribe so you don’t miss the first post :)

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To Facebook or not to Facebook

So now that every blog under the sun has a Facebook page, I’m feeling a little bit like I did in the 7th grade when I FINALLY got a hand me down pair of Adidas Shell Toes after all the cool kids already got them in the 6th grade…and brand new at that. I’m a little late to the Facebook game. It’s not that I wanna be one of the cool kids, it’s just that I think my readers are cool people and I’d like to hang out with ya’ll on The Facebook without letting ya’ll into my business by adding you to my personal page. Geeze, I’m out of breath.

The page would be a way to keep up with new posts (when I get around to writing them) as well as a way to share information, articles, pictures, and all that jazz. You know how Facebook pages work by now, I’m sure.

And here it is, my friends, in all its automatically generated glory…my very first poll on the blog. You don’t even have to be 18 to vote! Mandi for President!

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6 Things You Should Know about True Love — From the Purpose Fairy

I’ve had an ongoing battle with a post about love for some time now. Every time I sit down and give it the time it needs, I end up junking it up with my anger and emotions. I feel like I’ve been lied to about love…like maybe we’re all being lied to about love and that maybe that love in its purest form is rare between a couple. I think the things that we’re taught in the name of love are really just cleverly disguised symptoms of attachment, and considering the temporary nature of life, attachment to another isn’t something we should be longing for or teaching our children about. This idea that someday I’ll find someone to love who will love me in return and then my life will be worthwhile and complete is toxic. It ruins lives. I’ve wasted a good chunk of my life trying to make a man want to be a part of my life, thinking that my life is less real if I’m not giving myself to a man instead of just living while I’m alive. I don’t want to do that anymore. I want to redefine love for myself and I want to teach my daughter differently. 

Last week I came across a post on Facebook from one of my favorite writers/bloggers/inspirational people, Luminita Saviuc, that talked about true love. It made me realize that maybe I’m onto something. The words she shared are so much more eloquent than any I could ever write, so I asked her for her permission to share theme here with my readers. After you’ve read them, please take a look at her work on .  She has so much to offer! With sincere thanks to Luminita, I leave you with her words.

6 Things You Should Know about True Love 

We go around looking for love, hoping and wishing to find that ONE person who will make our imperfect life perfect. We fool ourselves into thinking that love can only come from outside of us but rarely from within ourselves.

Love can only be found by love. Love goes where love is. The more love you hold in your heart and the more love you have for yourself, the more love you will be able to attract upon yourself.

Love cannot and will not go to those who have an empty heart. True love comes from within. It starts with you. It comes to you abundantly when there is an abundance of it in your heart. It flows through you and it ends with you.

“Seek not outside yourself, for all your pain comes simply from a futile search for what you want, insisting where it must be found.” ~ from A Course in Miracles

This being said, here are 6 things you should know about true love:

1. Self love is the best way to attract true love
Love yourself with all your heart, for who you are and for who you are not. Be good to yourself and the whole world will be good to you also. If you don’t have love for yourself, you can’t expect to get it from someone else. And even if you get it, it will only be for a little while. It won’t last too long. It doesn’t work that way. Love comes in abundance to those who have it in abundance in their hearts.

“The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely.” ~ C.G. Jung

2. True love is not about finding your completeness in another
You are already whole and complete and the more you learn to love and accept yourself the more you will know this to be true. You really don’t need another person to complete you, you only need someone with whom you can share your completeness. True love is not about finding your completeness in another person but rather about sharing your completeness with them fully in order to grow and expand more and more each day.

3. The love of your life is YOU
Why look outside yourself for something that is already with you? True love starts with you. The love of your life is nobody else but you. Within you lies all the love that you need and desire. In you, not outside of you. The love you will receive from outside of yourself will be nothing but a projection of the love that is present within you.

“Life is just a mirror, and what you see out there, you must first see inside of you.” ~ Wally Amos

4. True love doesn’t need to be fought over
You often hear people say, “if you really love somebody, you have to fight for that person.” I really don’t think so. If you need to “fight” for someone’s love it means it ain’t worth having. It ain’t the real thing. It ain’t love.

“To fight” and “to love” are two opposite things and you can only have one without the other. You can’t have them both.

5. True love is effortless
True love feels easy. It flows and everything comes natural. Where there is true love, there is no need for control, no need for fixing the other person, no need for criticism, judgement, jealousy, blame or any other toxic behaviors. Love is love and that’s all there is to it.

“True love does not come by finding the perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly.” ~ Jason Jordan

6. True love knows no attachment
Love needs to do what love knows best, to love and be loved. Love imposes no demands. Love has no interest in holding on to something or someone. Where there is love there is no attachment and where there is attachment there is no love. These two cannot coexist. 

“The wise are so totally detached, Pain is for those who are attached.” ~ Mohit.K.Misra

This is what true love is all about. Many have heard of it but only a few have really experienced it. Have you? You can share your insights by joining the conversation in the comment section below 

P.S. Remember that self love is the best way to find real and long lasting love. The best way to find true love. As you love yourself more and more each day, you will start loving the world around you also and your loving attitude will help you attract the love you so much need and desire  :) xx

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Still Not Over It

I’m still not over my marriage. Or The Mr.

That confession is probably more of a shock to me than it is to you.

I do not want to get back together with him. We’re still mutual on the belief that the bitter outweighs the sweet when it comes to us being together, and that we’re just not meant to be married to each other. There are things about him that I cannot live with and that he is unable or unwilling to change, and there are things about me that he cannot live with and that I am unable or unwilling to change. But knowing and understanding those cold, hard facts does not make me able to keep my stubborn feelings for him and the pain associated with the excruciatingly slow end of our marriage buried all the time.

Weeks go by where I don’t even think about it except to give thanks that I can come home to a quiet house and a sacred space of my own that he doesn’t often invade. I am happy not to have to do his laundry or pick up his dozens of water bottles left by the bed. I’m thankful to be able to have friends over without giving him notice. I’m happy to not fight about whether or not it’s ok for him to smoke inside the house.

But there are times when my alone-ness sinks into loneliness and I can’t help but miss his presence, the smell of his cologne after he’s left for work in the morning, his lap which made the perfect resting place for my feet, and his chest which made the perfect resting place for my face.

I know this will pass. I’ll cry myself to sleep for the next week or two and then he’ll say or do something that will make me sure that I hate him and thankful once again that he’s not around to pollute my environment. But it always comes back again.

What am I supposed to do with these feelings? Wait until they go away for good? How long will that take?

When my mother was here she told me that it took her years to get over my father. They divorced when I was still a little girl, maybe 5 years old. But she still loved him, through his relationships and hers, and hoped they’d get back together until I was 13 or 14. Is this what it’s really like?

I want so badly to move on. I want to love someone else, but, as The Consultant told me, I’m still in this relationship more than I realize or am willing to admit, and I don’t want to be living a double life. How do I get out of it and get over it?

When does the grieving stop? When will it not physically hurt? When will it be truly over? According to Charlotte, it takes half the time you were in a relationship to get over it, but I’m not sure if I can really count on the writers behind Sex and the City to get me through this. And I don’t have a trio of awesome gal pals and a Manhattan full of eligible bachelors to help distract me along the way either.

So you tell me, readers with real life experience. When? How? And what to do in the meantime?

Posted in Divorce, Experience, Life, Loneliness, Marriage, My Journey, Personal, Uncategorized | 45 Comments

Under the Abaya–2013 in review

It’s review time, Readers! In the past year, my blog has grown so much and I’ve grown with it. 2013 saw more traffic and comments than ever and I have you all to thank for that. I sincerely appreciate every visitor, every comment, every share on facebook and twitter, and every private email I receive. Take a look at how you’ve all contributed to making my slice of the internet a success…

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 200,000 times in 2013. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 9 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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