Tag Archives | family

Waiting for a train in Austria…without the Von Trapps

In October, I had the joyful experience of spending a few days in Vienna and Salzburg with my siblings and my mom. We laughed and drank, listened to music and walked through wonderful old streets exploring Austria’s history–real and imagined. There were the real spots–Mozart this and that, Beethoven here and there–and the imagined spots, most of which had to do with Maria-the-singing-nun and the Von Trapp family.  Did you know that all those landmarks from the movie are spread out all over the city of Salzburg? Movie magic at its best, along with the fact that the Von Trapps skipped merrily over the Alps to freedom, just ahead of the Anschluss.

While we were in Salzburg, we saw a very different picture of people escaping repression: trainloads of refugees from Syria being herded along the train platform and out to the Red Cross tents that had been set up in the parking lot. Where these people were going to go from there is anyone’s guess. But I don’t think they were going to be skipping and singing any time soon.

My article about the refugees, real and imagined, appeared here in The National.

 

photo credit

Continue Reading · on December 1, 2015 in Abu Dhabi, expat, Politics, The National, Travel

Whose Family Values Are They, Anyway? Happy Adoption Day!

I wrote this post almost four years ago. In that four-year time, gay marriage has become law in almost half the states in the Union and yesterday Tylenol ran a new ad that celebrated all the different types of families you can imagine — including some that look like mine.  To celebrate #HowWeFamily, here’s this post again…

My extended family will officially, legally, extend by one more person today, August 29.

My brother is going to become a father.

It’s very exciting and my mom has gone out west to join him for the big day.  They’ll meet at the courthouse where the papers will be finalized and then they’ll go out to lunch: my brother, my mom, my now-official nephew, his mother, and a few assorted other relatives.

It’s an event that would make Michelle Bachmann’s well-groomed toes curl in horror and make all of Rick Perry’s hair stand up straight (Michelle’s would stand up straight, too, except she uses too much hairspray. Come to think of it, maybe Rick does too).  In fact, my brother is pissing off the entire cohort of the Far Right today, with one simple action.

My single gay brother is legally adopting his biological offspring, the result of a single woman’s trip to a sperm bank some fifteen years ago. Continue Reading →

Continue Reading · on June 23, 2015 in birth, Children, family, Feminism, Gender, Politics

Halloween, or, sometimes nostalgia looks like Boba Fett

It starts in September, when I get the late August issues of The New Yorker.  I’m always a few weeks behind because I like to read the actual magazine, not the digital one. Usually I don’t mind reading about current events from a month or so ago…until September.

In early fall, the magazine becomes a sort of arcade of impossibility: the new theater productions I won’t see; the restaurants I won’t eat at; the movies that (maybe) I’ll get to when they come out on DVD…the list seems endless.  Husband reminds me that when we actually lived in Manhattan we didn’t get out much, unless you want to count standing by the sidelines of a soccer game in the cold as “getting out.” He’s right, but somehow, when we lived in New York, all those things listed in the magazine seemed at least theoretically possible. Now, given that I live in a city where there is one theater (reserved mostly for state celebrations or the occasional children’s musical), only one museum, and where all the restaurants have too many forks for comfort–now, none of it is possible.

Following hard on the heels of the culture-vulture issues of The New Yorker come the facebook posts of friends’ kids off to school in sweaters and new shoes, and then there are the photos of leaves turning, until I can almost smell the seasonal crisp in the air and I long for the crunch of just-picked apples on sale at the Union Square Greenmarket. True, I could just turn off facebook but then there’s that whole I-might-wither-up-and-die thing.  Turn off Facebook? I shudder to think.

It’s not really that I miss seasons–because lord knows I do not miss February–it’s just that I miss fall. I miss that gathering up of breath and energy after the sprawl of summer; I miss the beauty of those last warm days in October, when the warmth feels like a gift because you know what’s coming.

And aside from that maudlin stuff, you know what else I miss? Boots. I loves me some boots and although some women wear boots in the winter months here, I just cannot bring myself to put on a pair of motorcycle boots when it’s 90F outside.

There’s a double nostalgia whammy in October and November–Halloween and Thanksgiving, neither of which, as you might imagine, are very big in the UAE.  I’ve never been one of those people who does the full Halloween costume and decorations thing, but I like the occasional witches hat and pumpkin carving and I have a serious candy corn addiction, which is really hard to feed here (I guess that’s not entirely a bad thing, at least according to my dentist. And my hips).  There are isolated tricksy-treatsy spots around town, mostly in the expat neighborhoods where lots of Americans live; and some of the shops have Halloween decorations, but mostly Halloween comes and goes with just a blip.

We bought Caleb’s costume this summer when we were in New York, where the Halloween shops are always open; Liam didn’t want to get a costume because at almost thirteen, he’s decided (sort of) that he’s just too cool for such things.

I guess because I’m missing “home” so much these days, I took a great deal of pleasure in how excited Caleb was about his costume, even though I hate store-bought costumes and am not a big “Star Wars” fan (practically heresy in my household).  He is not Boba Fett, although I kept calling him that. He is dressed as Pre Vizsla, an entirely different Mandalorian fighter. I mean duh, right? Keep it straight.

IMG_7410

There is one way in which Abu Dhabi keeps pace with New York.  The shops here also have seasonal marketing schizophrenia (SMS). SMS renders stores incapable of marketing only one holiday at a time.

IMG_7408trick or hohoho?

Continue Reading · on November 2, 2013 in Abu Dhabi, expat, family, Kids, UAE

changes in the heart(land)

Camp Grandma convened this summer at Grandma’s new house in Illinois, just one state over from Indiana, where she used to live. You would be forgiven if you got confused between which state is which, if you were driving on one of the many small farm roads that criss-cross these states: lots of corn and soybeans, the occasional picturesque silo, a cow or two.  I grew up in Illinois and consider my mother’s time in Indiana a minor aberration; in family lore we credit her doorbell ringing and phone-banking with why Indy went blue for Obama in ’08; it went for Romney in ’12, as mom was getting ready to move out of state.

These states are flyover country, as those on the coasts like to call it, or sometimes “the heartland,” usually by a politician trolling for votes or a CEO announcing more manufacturing plant closures.  Why this part of the country is still called “the heartland” I’m not sure. Does America like to pretend it’s still an agrarian country, even though according to the 2010 census, more than 80% of the population lives in cities?  Does it mean that this flown-over swath of land is somehow the pulse of the country?  If so, that means the pulse of the country–my mother’s efforts notwithstanding–beats red: the heartland went mostly Republican in 2012 (although Iowa and Illinois went for Obama).

And I guess the election maps don’t lie: the heartland is home to a host of people who seem hell-bent on out-TeaPartying each other: consider Michelle Bachman, although don’t think too hard about her or your head will explode; or Ohio’s John Kasich, who just signed some of the most restrictive reproductive rights laws in the country; or John Thune from Nebraska, who says that the family is the most basic unit of government (and is against gay marriage, natch). The heart of the country, it seems, beats red with fear of People Who Are Different.

“Different” in this context of course means “people who aren’t exactly like I am and thus must be weird and dangerous and somehow controlled, patrolled, quarantined.”

Sometimes, then, it’s a grim exercise to read the local newspaper out here (although let’s face it, reading any newspaper anywhere these days feels like a pretty grim exercise). Almost daily I think that the world is going to hell in a handbag–and not even a designer handbag, but a cheap handbag, some faux-leather knockoff.

But visiting my mom this time, I’ve seen a tiny glimmer of hope, in a rather unexpected place.

Water balloons.

The other day, out here in Americana-ville, where the trees are big and green and fluffy, and the hiss of the sprinklers competes only with the sounds of birds, my kids dragged a plastic wagon filled with water balloons out to the front yard.  My stepfather, an African American (who voted for Hilary, god love him, in the 2008 primary), orchestrated a massive water balloon battle with my two kids, who call my stepfather Grandpa (and whose biological grandparents come from Chicago…and Karachi and Manila) and the two boys next door, whose gay fathers adopted them from Guatamala, and the six-year old girl across the street whose hair is so short that Caleb spent the entire afternoon thinking that she was a boy.

They played for hours, these kids, moving to hoses and water guns when the water balloon supply ran out; they played without thinking about who had what kind of parent or whose skin was dark brown or light brown or white with freckles; they screamed and laughed and slipped on the wet grass, and they were at home in the heartland.

waterballoon

 

Continue Reading · on July 18, 2013 in family, Kids, Parenting, Politics, Travel

Monday Listicle: the anti-resolution resolution list

I took a little internet break over the winter holidays, or tried to, anyway (I can’t ignore twitter, what can I say) but now I’m back in Abu Dhabi, back in the interwebs, wondering what to write. I mean, it’s seven days into January. I don’t know about you slackers but I’ve already lost ten pounds, written a novel, redecorated the house, re-organized my files, and gotten a second doctorate.

Okay, that last one is a joke.

You can imagine my relief, then, when that fantastic Northwest Mommy suggested that we write a list of things we have no intention of changing in 2013. Sounds good to me. And then maybe I’ll get around to pondering the meaning of the new year sometime later this month, when I celebrate Barack’s second term and my last year of being forty. I mean, omigod my last year of being in my forties. Yes. That’s right. In 2014 I hit fifty. Or fifty hits me.

So with that end in sight, herewith a list of things that ain’t gonna change in 2013. At least not this month.

1. There will be cheese. I went a whole month without cheese, really I did. And good lord was it dull. A shop window in New York gave me a word for myself:

The word is “turophile” and it means a connoisseur of cheese. Yep. If you’re on Broadway around 18th street, stop in at Beecher’s. Try the Hooligan. You won’t be sorry.

2. There will be family. Last Christmas, when we visited New York, I raced us around visiting all and sundry, without logging in nearly enough time with my family. This year I learned my lesson and we spent a big chunk of our time hunkered down with family galore. Well, we’re not that big a group when all is said and done, but so it was a small galore, but still…a galore. And it was galore-ious. For those friends who we didn’t see, thousands of apologies and promises for long visits this summer, after we get the kids out of the bread line.

cousins queuing up for soup, Depression style

3. There will be driving. I will drive around to various soccer-related events. I will drive and drive and drive, in my little SUV, stunned that somehow I moved all the way to freaking Arabia and became a soccer mom. Here I am in an cosmopolitan city, living in a fifty-story high-rise, and yet I drive around like I live … in New Jersey.

4. I will keep working on my various writing projects. And more than that I will not say, other than to say that if I keep saying “my writing projects” in public, then eventually I will have to produce said projects. Which is to say that in fact I haven’t really written a novel this year. Yet. Dammit.

5. There will be teaching. And as much as I might complain about grading the essays and preparing for class, it’s still the best teaching gig I’ve ever had. Bright, committed students from around the world–the kind of students who are shocked shocked when they go to other institutions and discover that sometimes students come to class without doing the readingStudents like these? A gift.

6. I will remain fascinated (rather than frustrated) by life in Abu Dhabi, life in the Gulf, life so far from “home.” I suppose this one is really more of a hope than a resolution but I’ve seen what happens to people when they only see frustration. It’s an odd place to live, there’s no doubt, but it’s not altogether a bad place to live, if a person has to live somewhere.

7. I will be grateful for the health and happiness of my children, who amaze and delight me on a daily basis. I don’t know about you, but the tragedy of Newtown haunts me; I say a tiny “thank you” every time I hug one of my kids.

8. Husband and I will find time to be together when I’m not nagging him about picking up his socks and he’s not wondering why I’m so tetchy about making the bed every morning. Remarkably, we will celebrate our fifteenth wedding anniversary this summer, so we should probably remember to be nice to each other most of the time all year.

9. There will be ladies night out. I believe that couples should spend time together without kids (if they have them; without pets if they have those), but spending time with women friends helps me re-charge my batteries. A walk on the Corniche, a long lunch, or a weekend away from the families–it’s practically a medical necessity (and certainly helps with #8, above). Roger Cohen, in this column from the NY Times, said that “one has best friends in part to talk with them about the problems one has with one’s loves.” Bingo, baby. I mean….that’s what I would do if I ever had any problems with darling sock-dropping Husband.

10.  I will keep in mind this advice from Bill Cunningham, via a chalkboard outside a shop in New York:

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Continue Reading · on January 8, 2013 in Abu Dhabi, family, Kids, Monday Listicle, NYC

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