I’m finding it difficult to properly introduce a woman I believe to be one of the strongest I’ve ever had the pleasure to call friend.  Meena’s sense of humble authenticity would probably not allow her to agree fully with that statement, yet I am confident her life story will cement her courage and resilience in your mind and heart, that you will not forget her, and that you will want to learn more about this amazing woman in our midst.  I’ve encouraged Meena to write her autobiography.  I cannot adequately express what an honor it is to be the one to give you a glimpse of this remarkable woman.  Perhaps after reading this interview, you might feel compelled to join me in encouraging her to write her memoir.

Though Meena and I have never met in person, we came to know each other through the Institute of Children’s Literature Writer’s Retreat – an online community of writers and would-be writers of children’s literature.  The beauty of this Iraqi-born woman’s spirit and the wisdom she imparts drew me to her immediately.  More than a year ago, I asked her for an interview.  She wanted to say yes, but needed time to take in my questions and “go there” to comfortably respond.  In a few moments, you will understand why.

MARIE ELENA:  Meena, I’ve told you this before, but I consider you one of the wisest of my friends. You and Claudette, actually, which makes it interesting to me that the two of you wound up collaborating on a blog:  Two Voices, One Song.   How did that come about?

MEENA ROSE:  Claudsy and I wound up spending so much time on each other’s separate blogs on top of “hours” on Facebook chat … I think once we got so carried away, I was up ‘til 1:00 a.m. PST, with work the next day.  We talked about everything under the sun: the writing craft, life, philosophy, sociology and general commentary.

One day I put the proposal out there: why don’t we pool our resources and post jointly on a blog where the two of us can show the world the sort of things we talk about? Gosh, did I have butterflies in my stomach. But she said “Yes.” In August of 2012, we decided to shut down our former blogs and funnel everyone to Two Voices, One Song.

I will have to say that the content has morphed over time to suit and match our interests better. We have leveraged Editorial Calendars to drive content. Unfortunately, I do not always hold up my end of the bargain – at times my professional work and family demand more time than I originally planned for.

I am grateful that Claudsy, a full time writer, has been so patient with me.

MARIE ELENA:  Yes, work and family absolutely need to take precedence.  Tell me about your family, Meena. You’ve indicated in some of your writings that you are a very close-knit group.

MEENA ROSE:  Gosh, where do I start? My immediate family is a small one. I have one sister who is about six years younger than me. My dad is a mathematician-turned-computer-scientist, while my mom is a physicist-turned-computer-scientist. If there was a shrine where people could worship science, then it would have been our house. Reading, philosophy, debate, word games, deciphering patterns were all the norm.

On my mom’s side of the family, she has two sisters and two brothers. This amounts to eight cousins. I do not recall my grandfather whatsoever. Though there is a black and white photo of him carrying me as an infant. He looked to be a big man with kind eyes and a gentle smile. He passed away while we were in the UK. I remember that being particularly hard on my mom to have not been there.

Little Meena with her Grandparents

Little Meena with her Grandparents

My grandmother, my beebee as we would call her, I had many memories of. By all standards of the era, she was quite accomplished. As we moved to Canada, she remained my umbilical cord to my heritage. She corresponded with my mom frequently. One of my favorite dinner time rituals soon became the reading of Beebee’s letters from Iraq. In fact, my mom would quickly scan the letter and give it to me to read as we gathered around the dinner table. My grandmother passed away in 2008. She suffered a lot during her last couple of years under the chokehold of the American embargo against Iraq. In the later years, one of my mother’s quests was always to work hard and try to secure the needed medication for my grandmother and ensure it was safely transferred to Baghdad. Beebee’s passing away affected me greatly and in so many ways. She symbolically represented so much. At one point she was offered the chance to stay in Canada with us and she turned it down, opting to go back to Iraq during Desert Storm so she could be there to support the family she left behind. Someday I hope to scan in and translate my mother’s correspondence with her and share her story with my children.

On my dad’s side of the family, he had two sisters and three brothers. This side is teeming with cousins; thirty, to be precise. Think big family gatherings; loud, lots of laughter, singing and storytelling. I never knew my grandfather. He had passed away when my dad was not even ten years old. He died of tuberculosis, leaving behind a young wife to tend all those kids. My grandmother’s family took her in. Oh, I forgot to say that they were carpenters. My dad would eventually work for them in their carpentry shop.

MARIE ELENA:  They sound wonderful, close, and fun.  I smiled at the image of this huge extended family, singing, laughing, and storytelling.  I wish I knew in my heart that is all there was to your family experiences, Meena.  But in fact, you lost loved ones as a direct result of war and hatred.  Would it be accurate to describe yours as a war-ravaged childhood? And please – I know some must be horrifically difficult memories – is it too much for me to ask you to share your story?

MEENA ROSE: Marie, it took me over half a year to come to grips with this question. My childhood spent about two and a half years in war setting. I am not sure how you define war-ravaged childhood, because in my mind’s eye that is something you see on the History Channel. It is not a notion that I associate with directly.

There are certain moments that rise above the din of the ensuing chaos. Little vignettes, if you will, that have become integrated into the story of me, and yet they do not define me.

Vignette #1:
Leaving the house was a treacherous proposition for you could never tell where you were going to be as the air raids started. One time, Dad caved in and took me to the farmer’s market. We had been cooped up for weeks, but there were three days with no air raids, and I suppose my Dad had deemed it safe enough to venture outside.
It seemed like the farmer’s market was teeming with people, as they too had the same notion. We went about our business. The day was beautiful. We wrapped up and started to head back towards the car when air raid sirens flared. Within seconds, five fighter jets were visible in the sky. Making the best of a bad situation, my Dad dropped a bag of produce so he could scoop me and up and run. We were in the open, there was no nearby shelter. We made it to the first car parked by the side of the road and my dad deposited me in the slot beside the car and the sidewalk and covered me with his body. Then the ground began to shake as the first of the explosives made impact. It would be another twenty minutes before we were able to drive home.

Vignette #2:

A School field trip. The destination – a public execution of a “political” traitor. It was death by firing squad. It was first grade and we had to “draw a picture” along with write a few sentences about what we had just seen. I drew Heaven with the man looking down at his daughter who was made to watch the whole thing. The whole time I watched her and never understood how anyone so loved could be killed just like that.

Vignette #3:

You might say that this was my defining moment. This is where war became really personal. Kindergarten 1980, Baghdad Iraq October 1980 to be precise, a mere couple of months after the start of the Iran/Iraq war. It was common practice at the time to station 23 fully armed soldiers at the schools. In my case, it was a K6 school. These positions were considered to be elite because you were not actually on the battlefield. Instead, you spewed Saddam’s dogma, brainwashed kids and instilled the fear of Saddam in anyone.
The recess practice was to assemble by grade level around the flag and sing the national anthem. Soon, they would add the task of kissing Saddam’s picture in a frame that was passed from kid to kid, teachers included.
That fine day, I had a really bad sore throat and I could barely speak (laryngitis ? who knows?). So at assembly, when it was time to sing the national anthem (or screech it out as it were the case), I made the executive decision that I would move my lips but produce no sound. That day, there were three soldiers on site, moving between the ranks of students and, as always, they made note of who sang or not. Sure enough, I was discovered. A soldier gruffly grabbed my arm and yanked me all the way to the center of the courtyard where all could see. Immediately, I sensed something was amiss, as one of the teachers had covered her mouth to stifle a cry.
The soldier had decided to make an example of me. He launched into a monologue: “You the children, know that you must love Iraq. If you don’t, then you are Iranian and must die like the filthy dogs they are. With Saddam’s strength, we will rightfully kill them – even their kids, because they are damaged in the head. This one here was not singing. In fact, she was mocking her country with the fake movement of her lips and her insincerity. What does that make her?”
In unison, the kids say, “Filthy Iranian dog.”
To be honest, I was too caught up in the pageantry and the display to even realize what was really going on.
“She has one way to save herself. Kiss Uncle Saddam and apologize to him.”
As the other two soldiers were bringing up the photo, I was shaking my head ever so slightly at first and then into full swing. It was then that a sob escaped my teacher’s throat. The Principal was pleading with me, “Please Meena do what they ask.”

Now, I was really beginning to feel scared and concerned. Every single one of the teachers looked like they were preparing themselves to witness some pure evil. They brought the picture before me and said “Kiss Uncle Saddam.”

I said no.
They asked me to sing the national anthem. Again I said no. At this point one of the soldiers left to go somewhere, and another moved to restrain the Principal who was weaving her way to get to me.
The soldier beside me, clearly enraged, screamed at me to sing the anthem. Again, I said “No,” in a steady voice that was not too loud. I did not really have voice to spare.  He grabbed his machine gun and put two rounds into the sky. He promptly lowered the machine gun and leveled it right at my face. A long blank and impersonal tube was already beginning to leave its mark on my head. He poked me with it.

“Sing the national anthem.”

It was then that I saw the man turn into a creature of sorts. His face red with rage, a deepening scowl. In his endless grimace, I could see that his eyes radiated heat. I could see the muscle of his arms twitch. His eyebrows were tightly knotted. He started dripping sweat. The machine gun was shaking ever so slightly against my head.
That really was the moment of Oh Crap. For the first time, I really wondered whether saying “No” was the right choice, and at the same time I was convinced that my reason for not complying with their requests was a legitimate one. Sore throats really do hurt.
One lone tear rolled down my right cheek. I was determined not to shed anymore – to not give them any satisfaction over the event.
The soldier wipes his brow and says, “You are not worth saving, you filthy Persian dog.”
He re-centers the machinegun against my head. Now, I am certain, I will die. I hear a faint click. I swallow, taking one step to the left. Bullet lodges itself in playground concrete. He is immediately tackled by the other two soldiers, and hauled away.
To this day, I can’t tell you why I was so emphatic about saying no – why it had escalated to that level. I can only surmise that the inspiration to move and the fact that he missed was all about divine intervention.
I saw Hate twist a man. Mutate him. Take over his being. Saw the ugliness spread. Saw reason leave his eyes. Since then I have seen that many times – Hate’s mutations of man. Perhaps that attributes to my sympathy towards all mankind. As the saying goes: Every saint has a past, and every sinner a future.
The budding Rose in Kindergarten fully blooms today

The budding Rose in Kindergarten fully blooms today

Vignette #4 (written in 5th grade)

I sat down on my bed with a heavy sigh. I pulled my knees up and rested my head on them. Soon tears were rolling down my cheeks and my body began to shake. The tears were flowing steadily down my cheeks, leaving a wet trail as they continued down the hollow of my neck. Eventually I stood up and looked at myself in the mirror. My eyes were bloodshot and puffy from all that crying. My nose was running as well. My blouse was absolutely ruined with tear stains and snot stains.
I took my blouse off and hurled it across the room. That felt good. I stood there in the middle of my room breathing hard, trying to remember why I came up here to begin with. Then Mom’s words played back in my mind in slow motion.
Mom said I could only take clothes for a four day trip even though we were never coming back. That meant no dresses. Just shorts and pants and socks and underwear. I would have to leave all the rest behind and I needed to done before dinner.
I got up to get another shirt from my dresser. Grandpa made it for me before I was born. Grandpa died before I got a chance to meet him. A picture of him hugging Mom while she was pregnant with me sits on top of the white dresser. And it was my dresser, Grandpa had carved a little note that said “The best day of my life was finding out you were coming. Love, Grandpa.” Grandma told me that he even planned on carving my name there once he found out what it was. Why does Mom think I could just leave it behind?
I turned away from my dresser and found myself looking at my bed with its pink pillow case and light pink comforter with a ruffled lace border. Grandma had hand embroidered the pillowcase and comforter with red roses and their long green stems. I would trade packing clothes for packing the bed sheets and comforter. I have had them my entire life.
I turned my attention to my closet, and looked at the five dresses I had. I had only two favorites. I had a pink dress which I did not like to wear until Grandma knit a matching pink jacket and purse to go with it. It suddenly became one of my favorites. I also had a bright blue dress. This was the dress I wore the most. It was made with special cloth, velvet. When you brushed it with your hand one way, it felt soft, smooth and ticklish. When you brushed it the other way, it felt poky.
I looked at my other toys at the bottom of the closet and I noticed my jigsaw puzzles and my erector set. I could not help the tears that started to roll down my cheeks again. No toys. No books. Just clothes for a four day trip. We were leaving tomorrow and we were never coming back. I was supposed to say goodbye to my room and my things and get packed, but all I could do was cry.

MARIE ELENA: My dear, sweet friend, I could hardly make it through. My throat closed, my heart pounded, tears flowed, sobs escaped, and my breath seemed to leave me. These snapshots of your childhood are hard for someone like me (with precious little exposure to hate and true violence) to wrap my head and heart around. I’m so sorry I caused you to relive such agonizing pain.

MEENA ROSE:  Marie… things happen in their good time for their own reasons. I have long since surrendered the practice of rationalizing what comes my way.

That you asked the question was reason enough for me to answer. That I was indeed to remember was obviously the case, or you would not have asked to begin with. That it took me this long – I am grateful that I could answer.

Just think that “chaos/violence/hate” was all but 2.5 years of my life, and I just turned 38. There was a never a question in my mind about “rising.” I had to – otherwise “they” would have claimed more than their fair share.

We all have it in us to “rise,” and we must. I wrote a cento a while back using three of Maya Angelou’s poems to capture that very thing (Still I Rise, Phenomenal Woman, and A Brave and Startling Truth.):

A Mayan Cento  By Meena Rose

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
Yet it is only love which sets us free.
A Brave and Startling Truth.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
I’m a woman Phenomenally.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
It is possible and imperative that we discover
A brave and startling truth.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a woman
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
I rise
I rise
I rise.


MARIE ELENA:  Yes.  You are no less than phenomenal, my friend.  Phenomenal, and deeply spiritual.  Please tell me about your religious upbringing.  How did it impact you as a child? As an adult?

MEENA ROSE: I was born into a, at the time, secular Muslim country. In fact, my Dad was Sunni and my Mom was a Shi’ite. Two of my uncles were married to Christian Iraqi women. My grandfather who was a tailor had set up his shop in the Jewish sector of Baghdad (before all the Jewish Iraqi people were kicked out of the country). A great many of his friends were Jews. In fact, in my mother’s early life, they had a Rabbi for a neighbor.

This personal experience through my unique family circumstances painted a view of religious tolerance. As I have traveled and lived amongst other people, I became exposed to the various faiths of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Shintoism. I would also learn of the way of Native Peoples of the Americas and their beliefs. I realized that in quest to fully appreciate and interact with the person facing me, I needed to appreciate their beliefs or at least explore their existential beliefs or those of their culture to be able to better relate. Thus was the birth of my grand journey into theology and personal theosophy.

It has greatly impacted the way I interact with the outside world. It is also very humbling to able to spread out all the theological nuggets I have collected over time and illustrate the overlaps and the reinforcements of thought. Despite the different words or cultural stories, the message is remarkably the same when you can step back and observe the whole spectrum of human existentialism and codes for a rewarding life on earth.

I actually had whiteboarded this in a conference room at work at some point in my life.

MARIE ELENA: What a fascinating and impressive diversity of faith.

So, tell me what brought you to the U.S.? How old were you at the time?

MEENA ROSE: I decided to take wings and fly out of the family nest after I was finished with college. At the time, I had also started going to grad school. However, something disrupted that experience and I decided to move on and start working instead. By then, I was 23 years old. I moved to Arizona as I had family living there at the time and it was super easy for a Canadian to apply for a temporary one-year work visa back then. The economy was good, and jobs were plenty. So I picked up a position as a Mechanical Engineer at Allied Signal Aerospace (formerly Garrett Engines).

MARIE ELENA: I have to laugh at “picked up a position as a Mechanical Engineer.”  It’s a rather amusing mix of the casual “picked up,” and impressive “Mechanical Engineer.”  😉

You’ve shared with me feelings of being discriminated against, simply because of your nationality.  What experiences have you had, and how did you deal with them?

MEENA ROSE: Before I answer this question, I would like to highlight the fact that a good number of things have also happened because of my nationality. I will mention those as well.

During the height of Desert Shield/Desert Storm, there was a brewing anti-Arab sentiment in Montreal, Canada. I was in college at the time (think 12th grade and freshman year). This anti-Arab sentiment ripped through our campus. There were three incidents total.

On one occasion, I was pushed down a staircase, as a nasty racial slur was being said. On another, I was assaulted by the locker area and punched in the gut. The assailant had mentioned that I should be grateful that he did not bruise my face. Thankfully, that broke up real quick when a classmate of mine showed up. I am forever grateful to him. He had insisted to escort me everywhere. He would even walk me to the restroom. In turn, he was antagonized as well. This last I found tough to swallow. As a result of this “anti-Arab” sentiment, the Arab community within the college drew closer. I chose to stay by myself. I had long since learned of the dangers of groupthink and heated sentiments. Because of that, they tried to rope me in and I always refused. They even said “because we are Arabs and we need to show these pigs we are smart, let us copy your homework.” My reply was an adamant no. I said that I would tutor however many for however long but I would not do homework for people. That would be cheating. I was thus summarily excised from that community and I was “cursed” for being a traitor and heathen, and I was bound on a ticket straight to hell.

In my adult life, I am extremely leery about who I share my heritage with. You never know the reaction you will receive. At one of my workplaces, upon learning of my heritage, one of my coworkers snapped. He was personally blaming me for every military decision the US government made with respect to Iraq. Racial slurs, sexist remarks, curses, eternal damnation … the spawn of Satan … he went on nonstop screaming at me for a good five minutes. He went as far as to pick up a stapler and was about to hit me with it (I was cornered in my cube). It was then that one of his coworkers got ahold of him from the back, physically manhandled him out of my cube, and took him straight to security.

That young man returned and apologized with tear-brimmed eyes for everything that I had to put up with that guy who went nuts. He took me out for coffee so we could both diffuse. That is when I learned that he lost an older brother to the war in Iraq. It was my turn to cry. He said “It is no one’s fault that my brother died. He chose that life. I miss him. I so miss him, but then I am sure you have family that has gone missing too.”

We continued talking for quite a bit. As we headed back to work, it was then that very lesson crystallized in my mind: Never underestimate the compassion of man. It can move mountains.

MARIE ELENA:  Yes.  And there is that wisdom I see in you.  Meena, do your children experience racism? If so, how do you help them / teach them to handle it, and to respond to it?

MEENA ROSE:  My children associate themselves with America. Thankfully they have not experienced racism – just your average grade school bullying. They think of words like Arab or Iraq as that is where Mom and the grandparents are from. They speak Arabic to a certain extent, mostly to please my parents.

MARIE ELENA:  I’m so thankful to hear your response.  I nearly did not ask that question.  Are you pleased to raise your kids here in the U.S.?

MEENA ROSE: I am definitely pleased to be raising my kids here in the U.S. When I think of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, I truly believe that the seeds for self-actualization lie here. I am grateful that I am professionally engaged in a capacity that helps cater to the Physiological and Safety needs. There are so many people here who are more than willing to help spur Love, Esteem and Self-Actualization needs of those around them. I do sincerely wish to salute these people who continue to prod me and my family along life’s journey.

Mateo Ramy,  Maya Rania, and Makayla Raneen (

Mateo Ramy, Maya Rania, and Makayla Raneen

MARIE ELENA: The wisdom I keep mentioning is quite evident in your responses to my questions. Do you think of yourself as wise? How do you impart your wisdom to these three beautiful children?

MEENA ROSE:  Thank you, Marie. I have actually been called wise by a number of other people too. I suppose, I do see and recognize such an aspect in myself. In the same breath, I come with my own set of folly. I may be interpreting on your behalf and that of others when you say “wise.” I imagine that you may be referring to my view on humanity or world view. A good bit of either is seen through eyes that have seen much as they were growing up. It is not the seeing alone. It is the requisite reflection that comes with it.

I really do not proactively impart wisdom, I don’t think, to anyone much less my kids. What I do strive to impart is listening. Listening beneath the words and hearing the other’s heart speak unhindered by the limitation of vocabulary. What I also strive to impart is reflection. Reflection of one’s actions and words and seeing if they resonate with the inner core. It is also about charting a path forward should we find ourselves in a place of dissonance.

MARIE ELENA:  Have you ever returned to Iraq to visit family?

MEENA ROSE:  I left Iraq in 1982 along with the family and we have not been back since. For the longest time it was simply not safe. I really have no plans to go back there. As it is, my whole family on both sides has scattered to the wind – spanning New Zealand, other Arab countries, Scandinavia, Canada and the US … it is as though the ancestral roots just shriveled and dried.

MARIE ELENA:  How has your amazing life story impacted your decisions, and your writing?

MEENA ROSE: The one thing I believe my life’s story imparted upon me is a true interest in our Humanness. How do we think? What makes us tick? What drives us insane? What brings bliss?

This in and off itself has always positioned me favorably in collaborative efforts. I would rather throw my fuel to an existing flame or start one so others may join.

Another lesson is hugging the walls and assessing the scene. This has led me towards big picture thinking and managing success via influence. In many ways, I am perfectly fine being the woman behind the curtain, so long as the outcome is as spectacular as I had imagined.

My writing. This in itself is an interesting topic. I would say my heritage and life’s gift which I collected early enable me to express emotion and human motivation, really. At times, my Grandmother’s storytelling skills manifest through me. Our family had quite the oral storytelling tradition. Generally, I tend to write verse over prose. I am still a novice at the craft, and I have a ton more to learn.

MARIE ELENA:  And now, if there was only one thing we could know about you, what would you tell us?

MEENA ROSE:  Hmmm. Just one thing: Just because I wear a warm smile and appear under control in most circumstances does not mean that my stomach does not do butterflies or that my heart does not try to beat straight out of my chest. Sometimes serenity is surface level — other times bone deep. I work hard on my serenity practice.

MARIE ELENA:  Meena, I cannot thank you enough for your willingness to share yourself so freely and frankly.  You and I could not have more vastly different life experiences.  It overwhelms me.  I’m immeasurably thankful to God that your life was spared on that appalling Kindergarten day.  You were spared for a reason. I wholly believe you are living out that reason in your daily walk and interactions with family, friends … with us.  Thank you.  You are an inspiration.



  2. Oh, Meena and Marie! All the while I’m reading this, I’m thinking “she should write and publish EVERYTHING!” This is a fine interview of an exceptional woman. And yes, Meena, we’re still waiting for you to visit North Carolina.

  3. As you’ve said, Marie, Meena and I have come to a closeness that most don’t get to experience with her. She is an amazing woman, an amazing person, in every sense. That she chose to open up in this interview shows her trust as well as her willingness to accept the consequences of that openness. That’s difficult for anyone on the world stage.

    Thank you so much for the delicacy that you used in your questioning, and in your boldness to search for one woman’s truth. That’s a fine line to tiptoe. You did it well.

    And thank you, Meena, for being willing to come into the limelight for a little while and expose yourself to the world this way. You are such a generous and unique person. I’m honored to called you my friend.

    • Claudsy: I agree too. Marie is phenomenal. And, you know me better than most… better than me at times, too. Thank you for everything: patience, compassion and friendship.

      • I need to use little patience with you, Meena. It’s usually the other way ’round–at least from my perspective, that that is extremely near-sighted, you know. It’s all been natural and beyond easy in our friendship, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

  4. This is, by far, the most personal interview we’ve seen at Poetic Bloomings so far. Now I know Meena not only as a sweet, smart and talented writer, but also as a wise woman who can teach us all how to rise from whatever challenges we are facing.

    And I am not ashamed to say that I bawled like a baby when I read it.

    • Oh, Linda… Hello again. At times, the right words fail to present themselves and I find at a complete loss in articulating the potpourri fusion of emotions swirling within.

      I bawled as well working my way through the interview… tears, snot, the whole 9 yards. Then I would remember a funny goofy moment and laugh and in the process inhale some snot which would gross me out completely making me laugh even more. Then I would wash my face. Take a deep breath and have at it again.

      Emotions are a vital part of how we interact, relate and express ourselves.

  5. Sweet Meena Rose! What you endured is a reflection of your awesome inner strength. To have stood so strong with such a clear “no” in such a fearful situation is more than impressive. Your courage is remarkable! Thank you for your easy and open candor! Your depth of expression and wisdom shows an internal understanding of all you have lived through. You are one brave soul! A wonderful and moving interview. Thank you and Marie Elena!

    • Miss Janet Planet: I can only offer the humblest of thank you’s in the face of such outpouring support. All of you are a part of my journey and I have learned much along the way.

    • Thank you, Misky. Funny how one’s good ole life when viewed through someone else’s rear view mirror makes us believe it was perhaps extraordinary after all.

  6. Thank you, Meena and Marie, for a fascinating interview. It was an emotional read but satisfying on many levels. I esp. was interested in your spiritual views. I’ll mull everything you said for quite awhile.

  7. Thank you Marie and Meena Rose for the interview. I’m grieved that Meena Rose had to go through such thing as a child. I’m glad that it was a relatively short span in her life and that her children are safe and happy. I wish for you the best and that your story will help dispel such evil in the world.

  8. I am just as grateful for and blown away by your stories as are the commenters above. Meena, find someone you trust to be your editor. More importantly, write your story. You voice emerges so uniquely and clearly. Your book or books will be a gift to all of us. Thank you, again.

    • Hello there. It must be the early morning hour. I am not sure I recognize you, ownbetterhalf. I have been told by many to write my story and for the longest time I thought, besides the drama what else would it really offer?

      I will cross that bridge someday. It took a great while to simply recover from the interview.

  9. Marie – thank you <i.so much for this interview with Meena. I did not think, when I started to read the words here, that I would be so profoundly affected (even brought to tears.) Meena – in spite of everything, you still retain those beautiful silken threads of hope. You are right – listening is key.

    I am in awe,.

    I saw the picture of your adorable children. I have two children myself (who in a few days will be ‘officially teens.’) When they get home from school, I am going to read your story to them. I want them to appreciate what people other than themselves have to deal with, and how fortunate they are.

    And finally, I have hope too – that some of this evil will see its last days, and we all can find our peace.

    Thank you,

    • RJ: Thank you so much. I feel downright humbled. You – such a woman of phenomenal strength and wonderful spirit. There were times I had fancied myself weeping with beneath the swaying fronds of a benevolent willow.

  10. Meena Rose (such a Beautiful name!), I cried just feeling your pain… I “hugged” your inner strength… and I Loved these words especially: “… theological nuggets I have collected over time… the message is remarkably the same…” And, “…Never underestimate the compassion of man. It can move mountains…” Meena Rose, and Meg, Thank you for a very emotional, inspiring interview!!

    • Henrietta: Thank you, indeed. Be careful when asking me about personal theosophy or recognizing one that resonates with one’s core, I might not let you put in a word edgewise.

      Here is a nugget for you: Meena is the Iraqi word for the ivory enamel that is used to decorate the Mahogany boxes of old.

  11. Thank you for the sounds from the lands of “One Thousand and One Nights” – and from the wisdom of one of my favorite films, “Bagdad Café,” I’d also say, there’s always room for yet another artist wherever we are.

    • Andrea – thank you. As I am typing this, I am recalling a TV news program/special on ABC that was entitled “Iraq-The Legacy”. It aired during Christmas of 1995 or 1996. This one took you back. All the way back to Uruk. The land my maternal grandmother’s father hailed from. He was an Islamic Healer that did his rounds visiting various villages doing his healing work.

  12. Wow. Meena thank you so much for sharing your personal life story. I find living here in America that we often are so far removed from the news headlines that they hardly make a dent in our day to day life. Then to read what happened to you as a child (which breaks my heart) and how you rose above those situations, that “they do not define you”, makes me grateful and amazed for your strong spirit. Hugs to you.

    • Michelle: Thank you. I have this to offer from my family. The Iran/Iraq war was tame and relatively non-violent compared to these more recents horrors.

      I am grateful I am not my cousin’s husband who was restrained as he was made to watch his wife (my cousin) get raped. This was during the early days of the invasion.

      And somewhere in the mess that followed, I am grateful I am not my uncle (a Doctor) who was not allowed through the security checkpoint to take his wife, who was in labor, to the Hospital. He called a Vet friend of his who opened up the Veterinary Hospital so he could perform an emergency c-section.

      Also, I am grateful I am not my two second cousins who cowered in the corner of the patio as they witnessed their dad get gunned down by a machine gun in close range. By the time their mother (my cousin) rushed outside, they were soaked in their dad’s blood.

      Sadly, none of these incidents made the news headlines or a dent anywhere in global consciousness.

      However, all in all, I am grateful. Our family was spared way more than other families.

  13. It is so good you understood how horrible hate is and how it can make people into monsters:

    “I saw Hate twist a man. Mutate him. Take over his being. Saw the ugliness spread. Saw reason leave his eyes. Since then I have seen that many times – Hate’s mutations of man. Perhaps that attributes to my sympathy towards all mankind. As the saying goes: Every saint has a past, and every sinner a future.”

    I think it is that realization which kept you from being a hater yourself. God is so good to have spared your life and given you that understanding of hate so that you did not become a hater yourself.

    • Sheryl: thank you. I hold firmly on to the belief that no one out there is bad/evil. Bad/evil are things that happen to people that then transmutes and transforms them into something they are not. We all return to our genuine good self in the eventuality of time however long that may be.

  14. Meena Rose – your name sings, so pretty – thank you so much for sharing this beautiful but hard-to-tell mini-history of your life. You show remarkable courage and candour both in the living and in the telling – I am so glad those two other soldiers had the good sense to pull off the crazed one who was about to take the life of a stubborn kindergärtner and that you lived to tell the tale…How lucky we are over here – sometimes it takes someone with the life experience of someone like you who is willing to share their deepest self with us for us to remember that we are so fortunate…Thanks to both you and the always delightful and compassionate Marie Elena – she always seems to know just the words to use to elicit the response we need to hear, and often the ones the person being interviewed needs to say – I got that feeling during this poignant interview. Thanks again.

    • Sharon: you are welcome. That makes at least two of us who are glad that I did indeed live to tell the tale. I wholeheartedly agree, Marie Elena Good is more than good by name alone. Her warmth, trust and caring comes out in everything she gets involved with.

  15. I add my words of awe…yet again to Marie, for so skillfully conducting interviews, and to Meena, for so skillfully exemplifying what it means to “choose life” rather than being defeated by it. Thank you both.

  16. Meena, your interview was transformational. It gave me a world view that I never had. I talk to a lot of Europeans online and feel in touch with the character of Europe, but I feel very out of touch with the rest of the world. I understand the news, but I don’t feel that I understand the character of the people. Your interview has given me a glimpse that I very much appreciate. Your honesty, and yes wisdom, touched me deeply. Thank you so much for sharing with us this view of your life, your writing, and yourself.

    • Linda: I am humbled by your words. Iraq has been an agrarian culture for many an era. Displacement from the fertile lands of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers has been hard on many people.

      Traditionally a very hospitable people with high etiquette holding a visitor with the highest esteem. This is reflected best in a saying “The Bearer offers Water is offered to the one who asked before taking care of themselves.” This loosely translates into: if you are getting up to fetch water from the kitchen because you are SO thristy and and someone else says “get me some water while you are at it”, then your duty is to serve the other prior to sating your own thirst.

  17. Meena, Thank you so much for sharing this incredible story of your life. I too would encourage you to write and publish “your story” for the world to read. I pray God Blesses you richly with His Peace and Grace in abundance with your beautiful family.

    Marie, Thank you for orchestrating all this – you do it so well.

  18. In this case, a Rose is not just a rose, it is a Meena–strength and beauty. It took you some time to come to a place where you could “comfortably respond.” Likewise, it will take time for us to ingest your story. Thank you for thoughtfully sharing your story.

  19. Oh, my goodness. Meena, just when I thought Vignette #2 was going to undo me, I read #3. I am speechless. I absolutely knew there was something amazing, and deeply centered, about you. I had no idea.

    Listening IS wisdom, my friend. To others’ hearts, and to your own. Your story is a beautiful one. I’m so thrilled for your gorgeous children, having you as their mama. Your life speaks volumes, and they are listening.

    I have always loved your words. The ones shared here only make me love them – and YOU – more.

    Thank you, Marie, for sharing this incredible woman with us. And thank you, Meena, for sharing your amazing heart.

  20. Thank you all for your kind and generous comments, as always.

    We have so much to learn about life from Meena. I think I should have titled this interview “Beyond Survival,” rather than “Beyond Baghdad.” FAR beyond survival. As I had told Meena, she not only survived, but thrived, forgave, and loved. If only we were all this strong.

    Marie Elena

  21. Being SO caught up in Meena Rose, her message, her story, and her amazing spirit, my fingers were flying as I typed this interview. Looking at it again in a different mindset, I noticed something I didn’t notice before:

    I broke what I decided should be rule #1 in my interviews: Never, ever, EVER begin an interview with “I.” 😉

    Marie Elena

  22. Through tears, I am writing o thank Marie for providing this unimaginable
    true story of Meena’s life. Meena, you are a remarkable person, and I wish you and your family happiness and security. Your poetry is beautiful, and I hope to see more of it. Thank you.


  23. Marie, your interviews are always excellent — even when you break your own rules. 😉 Never doubt it. And Meena Rose, thank you for sharing your amazing story! You are a wise soul, indeed; and sweet & loving when it would have been so easy to become bitter and hateful, given your history. You and your family are a beautiful inspiration.

  24. Thank you for that interview. I was gripped through every word. I wonder what it is that makes one person capable of such good sense and decency and understanding while another becomes hard and cruel? If we could work that out and use it wisely the world could be so much better a place. In the meantime it is wonderful and reassuring that people such as you Meena – remain true and keep positive. Very inspirational. x

    • Michele – thank you for your kind words. I too wish I could answer your question. I find it interesting reflecting on people’s input: it is “difficult” for me to be hard and angry and cruel for any sustained length of time. I avoid it because it is wearying. However, when some of us “are in it for the long haul” whatever “it” is, I believe we shut down that sensory input in the name of persevering.

  25. Thank you, Meena, for this courageous interview. I carry with me a deep sense of your compassion and wisdom. It is a privilege to know you, even if only in a tiny part!

    • Andrew – thank you for your kind words. I left in Iraq for the first time when I was 9 months old when my parents went to the UK for their Master’s Degree at Aston University in Birmingham. I spent about 3.5 yrs in the UK at the university daycare. I truly attribute that slice of my life (pure joy) with helping me juxtapose what came after. I still carry memories of driving by the old HP factory on the way from our residence to the university.

  26. Meena, I have students in my classes now who have lived similar experiences. You deserve praise for being so willing to share your experiences and your spirit so freely. Anger is often a reaction to fear, and fear is often a reaction to the unknown. Knowledge, and the inner strength to share it, is the only way to stop the cycle. KUDOS.

    • Patricia – thank you. As I have intimated elsewhere in the interview and comments, there are many who have truly been through Hell and back. I am fortunate in the scope of my exposure.

      I wrote the following 14 word poem during Jodi Barnes’ 14 words for love event:

      There is

      There is

      Above it all

  27. Meena, your story reminds me of how much we didn’t know about about Iraq and life for people there. Like Marie Elena’s my story is much different than yours. I can see how much it took to dig up those childhood memories and for you to express them to us. As I read your story I was so happy most of your family escaped the horrors of the last war. However, the scars of war do not erase as you get older. They etch into your memory and create who you are.

    I agree with Marie Elena that you should write your memoirs if you can stand dredging up all of your old memories. As an American I am really ignorant of the what it was like in Iraq during Saddam Hussein. Yes, we have seen the news and heard about it, but to hear it from someone who lived through it would be amazing. I know I have learned a great deal from just this interview and thank you, Marie Elena for asking Meena these questions.

    • Barbara: Thank you. Growing up the only bedtime stories I wanted to hear were my dad’s of how he grew up. I have also been meaning to write “something” honoring my two grandmothers. For it is beyond just my memories, it is the spirit of a people who have been conquered time and again across the centuries – always, they rose again. My dad’s worst nightmare at the moment is that this past war might indeed be the killing blow for these resilient people – the setback so vast that as a people they may never recover.

      As they protests were sweeping the world against a war on Iraq, my mother, myself and my son took to the streets in protest. My dad’s hatred for Sadam was so strong he supported that war. It is the one thing he views with regret to this day – that in his personal hatred for Sadam, he condemned his people to horrors no one can imagine. This time, the horror came biggie sized with Depleted Uranium (DU) rounds. The land, the soil, the rivers are all contimated with nuclear waste. Per all the recent findings, DU makes Agent Orange look like Windex.


      http://viewzone2.com/du/dux.html (extremely graphic)

  28. thank you for this heart opening interview Meena and Marie… how blessed we are to exchange such sweet breath on this planet…no matter how much suffering and hatred that goes on, I firmly trust that there is more kindness in humanity when given the opportunity to blossom than anything else. Your stories reinforce my sense that this is true Meena. Thank you.

    • Laura – Thank you.

      “no matter how much suffering and hatred that goes on, I firmly trust that there is more kindness in humanity when given the opportunity to blossom than anything else” <—— That too is one my core beliefs.

  29. My word … Meena, I am very much speechless. I don’t even know how to express how beautiful and touching your story and willingness to share your experiences has been. Thank you so much for sharing … and for gracing us with the benefit of your wisdom! You’ve touched my heart more than I can even begin to say. All I can say, again, is thank you. Thank you, thank you!

  30. I just finished reading this, and I am again astounded by all that you’ve lived through. Blessings to you, Meena. I really do hope you write your autobiography, because it would give so many people needed insight into the Arabic world. Thank you for sharing.

  31. I have waited a long time to read this because I wanted to have the time to sit back really immerse myself in the story–it is an incredible story and Meena, you are an amazing person, that poem is so inspirational, as is your life and the love that emanates from your story and your poems. Thank you so much for sharing with us 🙂 ❤

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