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Monday Listicles: Anxious, anxious, anxious

Today is the beginning of the new semester, which means it’s time to crank up the teaching machine, dust off the notes, realize that these notes are too dusty to use yet again, re-write the syllabus, and generally panic about what the hell I’m going to say for fourteen weeks.  Because it’s the beginning of term, I’m not going to write a “bucket list” of ten things I hope to see happen before I die, which was one Listicle option we were given by Ally, one of two normal moms.

In any case, my list of what I’d like to see happen before I die would be your basic lefty media-elite wish for clean politics, clean air, clean food, clean water–and for there to be a veritable blizzard of invitations swamping the post office as gay couples all over the world decide to get (legally) married.  Oh, and I’d like teachers to get annual salaries that are even a fraction of what Newt and Mitt declared on their taxes (eighty gazillion and 3.1 million, respectively).

Yeah. That’s what I thought you’d say. Dream on.  So the other option for the listicle today was things that make you anxious.

Did I say it was the beginning of the term? At this time of year, me and anxious are like besties. We’re tight. We’re IM’ing each other and DM’ing each other and generally just inseparable.

1. The opening day of the term. I’ve been teaching for years and years but still that first day, walking into the classroom…Anxious. I’m always sure I’ve forgotten my notes, forgotten where the classroom is, forgotten how to work the computer for powerpoint.

2. Anxiety #1 links to the fear that it will be this term when I am unmasked as a fraud. That someone will storm into my office or stand up in class and say “Lady, you’re just nuts and this stuff doesn’t make any sense and where you’d get your graduate degree anyway, back-of-the-matchbook university?” (Confession: Husband and I were married by my uncle, who was licensed as a minister by…yep, the church of the back of the matchbook.)

3. Anxiety #1 and #2 combine to create the recurring nightmare that all teachers have, in some version or another: you suddenly realize that you were supposed to be teaching an entire other course in addition to the one you’re teaching and you’ve never set foot in the classroom; or you’re being observed by your supervising teacher or your tenure committee and realize that you’re naked; or you’re standing in front of the podium and the wrong notes are in your hand, you have no idea where you are, and no idea what you’re supposed to do.

4. Unrelated to teaching: bugs. Cookie’s Chronicles gave us a lovely upclose picture of an earwig and I’d like to return the favor: Giant water bugs. Or as I like to call them chichihuahua bugs (with apologies to small dogs everywhere). They’re huge. They move way the fuck too fast; they crunch when you get someone else to step on them. I can’t actually post the picture here because then I’d scream and knock the computer on the floor and that would be bad.  I will say that as I write about these horror beetles, my toes are all curled up and I’m scanning the floor, wondering if something is about to come waving its antennae out of the drain.

5. That my children’s fears about me ruining their lives by moving us all the way to hell and gone are right. Well, okay, I don’t think that’s going to happen, or at least, not because I moved them here. They’re not teen-agers yet. I’m saving the big guns of life-ruining for a few years down the road. The life-ruining hasn’t even started, kids.

6. That my parents’ comment (repeated over and over again when I was in grade school and middle school…and hell, in high school too): that I’m not living up to my potential, is going to come true. Of course, given how close I am to fifty, I wonder how long a person has to have “potential.” Is there a statute of limitations on that concept?  I mean, can I still be searching for the fulfillment of “potential” at fifty-five? At sixty?

7. What if I’m attacked by giant water bugs and never finish my novel? What if I’m not attacked by giant water bugs and then I don’t have an excuse for not finishing my novel?

8. What if I can’t finish my novel?And in the meantime, what if writing blog posts and fiction have so thoroughly insinuated themselves into my brain that I can’t go back and write professorial prose when I need to (see earlier on FRAUD).

9. What if these yoga pants (purchased on sale at Marshalls in NJ with my beloved sister during the winter holiday. God I loves me a big-box store. Not enough of them out here in Petro-dollar land, unless you count the mammoth Chanel emporia scattered throughout the various malls)–what if the fact that I’ve worn these pants so constantly for the past ten days means they’re never going to come off?

10. What if I don’t wring every drop out of this opportunity to live in another world for a while? What if I get back to the States and think “why didn’t I….?”

So there you have it folks.  I’m riddled with anxiety and the only thing preventing me from dissolving into a puddle are my Marshalls’ yoga pants. Omigod. Why didn’t I buy a second pair? What am I going to do when these fall apart?

Continue Reading · on January 24, 2012 in Abu Dhabi, expat, Monday Listicle

Monday Listicles: things i said i would NEVER do

Somewhere in the U.S., it’s still Monday even though here I’ve just put the kids on the bus to Neckerchief Academy for their Tuesday. For yesterday’s listicle--which I’m going to pretend is today’s prompt–Greta gave us a prompt that is basically an exercise in eating humble pie: a list of ten things we said we’d never do…and then did.  I did this list the easy way: I thought about being a parent and how often being a parent seems to result in eating one’s own words with remarkable frequency. Or maybe that’s just me.  Maybe the rest of you don’t have this problem.  Sigh.

1. “because I said so, that’s why.” Yes. That was me. And more than once. The phrase of parental last resort–and it’s not a resort that I’d like to visit as often as I seem to be doing.

2. There was a time, back in the day, when I thought team sports were the exclusive realm of the Great Santini and his offspring. I didn’t play a team sport growing up (me and hand-eye coordination were strangers for a long, long time); I don’t follow a particular team; I don’t get the whole “team” thing. Mostly I just don’t play well with others, is what it boils down to.  But then Liam fell in love with soccer and there I was…standing on the sidelines in the freezing cold, driving all over New York to games, and here in Abu Dhabi, I’m back in the shlep-wagon, out to soccer school, over to practice…And you know what? Being on a soccer team (and having the great coaches he had in NYC–thank you, Sean and Marcus) — it’s the best thing that could’ve ever happened to him.  Of course, my weekends are shot to hell, but hey, who needs a weekend away, right? Rah rah rah go team.

3. “do you know how many starving children there are in the world who would eat that?” I have a very clear memory, when my mother would say that to me, of saying back to her “well why don’t you mail my food to the kids in Biafra then, hmm?”  Funny, she didn’t seem to appreciate that idea. I remember also thinking to myself “I will never, ever say such a stupid thing to my kids.”  Yeah. Well. Um. What can I say. It’s true, dammit. So eat your carrots!

4. In graduate school, I spent a lot of time thinking about feminism, poststructuralism, gender theory, and other stuff that now makes my early-middle-aged brain hurt to even contemplate. At the time, however, my friends and I sat around talking learnedly about how gender differences were really just socially constructed ideologies that could be done away with if parents would just be a little more, you know, thoughtful.  I believed my own words until the first time my little boy picked up a stick and said “pwang pwang pwang…”  I’m still a feminist but now I’m a feminist who has to accept that she has sons who will, for reasons known only to their DNA, step over or around the socks on the floor, leave the toilet seat down, and look at her blankly when she says “why did you knock that over?” Let me be clear–they are made to put the socks in the laundry, wipe off the toilet seat, pick up the thing they knocked down. But I’m fighting against genetics, here, people, which means that, yes, I’ve been that person who smiles and shrugs and says “well (nervous giggle), you know, boys…” Ugh.

5. Related to 4: when my boys were toddlers, I’d watch their adorable chubby selves playing “bakery” in the sandbox and look in horror at those ill-bred “big boys” playing chase and I’m-gonna-shoot-you-with-my-triblatteringlaserpistolgrappler.  I’d be all smug and judgey and decide that the mothers of these boys had utterly failed. I mean really, what mother would let her children play such a violent game? Um…hi. That would be me. And I’ve even said “run around and chase with your friends,” because I recognize that children are like puppies. They need to be exercised regularly or they’ll just wreck the furniture. .

6. MY children will never be like those OTHER children who walk around surgically attached to their screens. Cue hysterical laughter here. Computers, e-readers, DSi, iPod touch…the electronics in this family could stock an Apple store. I think we manage their computer time pretty well but the sad fact is that when screens are up, bickering is down.

7.  You know how when you were little and your mom would spit a bit on her shirttail or (worse) her fingers and smootch at your cheek to get off the remnants of your last meal? And remember how you thought “god that is gross!” Remember how you thought, nah, you’d never do such a thing? Yep. I thought so too. And then just yesterday, I grabbed Caleb’s arm just before he got on the school bus and swiped–with my shirt and some spit–at the glob of jam on his cheek. He said “MOM THAT’S DISGUSTING” and squirmed away.

8. I never thought I would have sons.  How’s that for hubris? I always wanted to have children but in my mind’s eye, it was always me and charlottedoralucyameliaruby reading Little House on the Prairie and playing dress-up and then later, when they were grownups, my daughters and I would hang out and have long conversations about Life and Shoes and Relationships. They’d tell me what to wear so I didn’t look too dowdy and we’d be the best of friends.  But noooo, the gods have a larky sense of humor and so I am the mother of boys, which means I don’t sit on the beach and flip through magazines. No, it’s SWIM and DIG and PLAY BALL WITH ME and DIG and SWIM.  And when I’m an old woman living alone with a hundred cats, the boys will buy me the valu-pak of Depends and the high-grade cat food, and congratulate themselves on being good sons.

9. I would never make separate meals for my picky eaters. If they don’t want to eat what I cook, then they’ll go hungry. HAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAAHA My children’s eating habits keep me in a state of perpetual humility. I have failed here and here and here and will probably fail again at dinner tonight.

10. God. Some people just can’t shut up about their damn kids. That’s what I thought. And then I started a blog.


Double-dipping this week: this post also links to the wonderful lovelinks site–it’s like Cheers bar for small bloggers (or micro bloggers, in my case). It’s where everyone knows our (screen) name and they’re always glad we came, where everybody can see that all our troubles are the same…and now everyone knows that I’m old enough to remember that show when it wasn’t in reruns! Click on the button below to find some great reading–and then come back on Thursday to vote for your favorites. I won’t even be mad if you don’t vote for me!

Continue Reading · on January 17, 2012 in Children, expat, family, Feminism, food, Gender, Kids, Monday Listicle, Parenting, sports

Monday Listicle: Are You on Vacation? Or a Family Trip?

I just figured out that “listicle” = list+article.  Pretty slow on the uptake, hmm?  Stasha’s listicle topic today is, appropriately, 10 things that make a perfect vacation, a topic chosen by Hope at Staying Afloat.

I have a lot to say about vacations, but first a key clarification: “vacation” is something you do that probably doesn’t involve family members other than, perhaps, a partner-ish type person.  When you travel with family members, you’re on a “family trip.”

Once you have these two paradigms firmly established, you will no longer experience the shattering of expectations when you arrive at your scenic locale, kids and spouse in tow, only to find that you’re staying in a rental apartment that doesn’t even come stocked with salt and pepper, your kids are hungry, and everyone is wondering what you’re going to cook for supper.

Don’t get me wrong. We’ve had some amazing family trips since we left New York, almost exactly three months ago, but I wouldn’t say we’ve been on vacation, exactly.

With our recent trip to India in mind, let’s review the family trip/vacation concept, shall we?  For my purposes, “family trip” includes two boys under the age of 11. Your “family trip” might include an in-law whose very presence is the human equivalent of nails on chalkboard, or a sibling who wants only to scope out chicks, or an irritable poodle who needs to be walked at inopportune moments.

1. Vacation involves a large bed, preferably with those fancy tempur-pedic mattresses.  You sleep on zillion-thread-count sheets and there is room to spread out. You may even be in this bed alone, without your partner, because, perhaps, your idea of a perfect vacation means traveling alone.  In either case, a vacation becomes a family trip when the four of you stay in one hotel room, with one big king-size bed and one cot. Three in the big bed, one in the small bed.

2. A vacation means traveling on the Maharajah express, where the sleeper compartments look like this:

or like this:

A family vacation means traveling in a sleeper compartment that looks like this:

3. A vacation means eating delicious, locally appropriate food, prepared exactly as you like it and served whenever you’re hungry.  A family trip means searching for pizza in the middle of Delhi. (Ironically, of course, the best brick-oven pizza we’ve eaten since we left New York we found in Amici’s, in Delhi’s Khan Market. Gotta love that global kitchen. Nevertheless, there we were, in the heart of Delhi, eating pizza. Furthermore, we went there twice).

4. A vacation means sleeping when you want to, where you want to. A vacation–especially if you’re a parent–means rediscovering the kinds of sleep you used to have when you were single, or dating, or had just started shtupping your latest shtupping partner. Remember naps? Remember waking up too early in the morning and going back to sleep? Remember having sex in the middle of the day and then dozing off afterward? Yeah. That is a vacation.  A family trip is…the absence of all these things, including sex (see entry #1, above).

5. A vacation means no set itinerary, no list of “to do,” no need to plan anything. A vacation is a long aimless stroll through a new neighborhood, or leisurely contemplation of the work in a museum, or sitting somewhere lovely and catching up on back issues of The New Yorker (or junkier pleasures, like Vanity Fair). A family trip is “I’m tiiiiirrrreed….”  “this is boooorrrrring….”  “this fort looks just like the ooooother foooort….”  “I wanna see a tiiiiiggggggeerrrrr…”  “I’m thirsty/hungry/angry/tired/thirsty/hungry/bored…” Aimlessness leads to whining.

6. A vacation means doing things you might not do in your regularly scheduled life and enjoying the break from routine. A family trip means that some semblance of routine remains in place: children need to be fed and watered regularly, they need to be reminded to brush their teeth, they need to be tucked into bed, they need to be separated from one another lest they kill each other. Same shit, different country.

7. A vacation means unplugging from the world, losing yourself in the timelessness of no work, no deadlines, no phone-calls, no meetings.  A family vacation (in our tech-addicted group) means “where’s the ipad? where’s my DS? why does he get the ipad? where’s my DS? it’s my turn for the ipad! where’s my DS?” …  (in their defense, the boys were reading on the ipad and not playing plants versus zombies. I have no defense for the DS, which turned out to be buried in my suitcase. I have no idea how it got there, I swear).

8. A vacation means a time to reflect and reconnect, with yourself or with people you love….Hmm.

Wait a minute. I think that we may, actually, have done a little bit of that on our family trip. It was the first time we’d been away from Abu Dhabi together since we arrived here, almost exactly three months ago, and our nine days of constant togetherness (and I do mean constant. Review #1) actually brought us together, once we got past the bickering about whose turn it was to use the ipad. Even the youngest of us knew we were somewhere amazing, and our wealth of experiences gave us all something to talk about, marvel about (and, yes, okay, complain about).  And being away made us think about Abu Dhabi as the home we were coming back to.  On the night we left Delhi, I asked the boys if they felt like Abu Dhabi was “home,” and Liam nodded and went back to the concluding pages of The Hunger Games. Caleb said “yes because home is just where the love is.”

So there you have it. We had a family trip. It was amazing but definitely not a vacation. Husband and I, as the grand finale for his 50 29th birthday celebration, are thinking about a trip to the Maldives. The boys are probably going to have to come with us because we don’t have anyone here we can inflict them on to take care of them for a long weekend. That said, however, we’re definitely going to stay somewhere that has a “kid’s club.” That way it can be a family trip in which everyone gets a vacation.


Wow! Cookie’s Chronicles linked this post with her “Best of the Blogosphere” for November. I’m so flattered to be included with the other writers on this list. Thanks!

Continue Reading · on November 14, 2011 in Abu Dhabi, Children, family, Monday Listicle, Parenting, Travel

Monday’s List: The Necessary Evil of E-Readers

What’s a Monday without a list? Stasha, over at The Good Life, understands the power of lists. Lists are my version of what Jeff Goldblum said about rationalizations, in “The Big Chill:” “Rationalizations are better than sex. Ever gone a day without a rationalization?”

I can go a day without a rationalization, but I’m not sure I can go a day without a list. We won’t talk about that third term in the equation.

Here’s Monday’s list, occasioned by the fact that I’ve been reading books on the iPad: an amazing memoir about Japan, Hiroshima, and marriage, called Hiroshima in the Morning, by Rahna Reiko Rizzuto; another crazy Scandinavian thriller, The Snowman, by Jo Nesbo (what is it about these close-to-the-North-Pole people that they come up with such wild plots? lack of sunlight? socialism?); Mary Poppins, to Caleb, our before-bed-chapter-book; and now, finally, the fifth (and I hope to god the last) Game of Thrones book, called Dance with Dragons.  I’ve been simultaneously enthralled and bored to tears by these books, but by this point I’ve invested so many damn pages that I have to finish the fifth one just to see what the hell happens to the hundreds of characters we’ve been following for four previous novels.

Here’s the thing: the ipad feels like a necessity, because we’re traveling for the next month and when we finally land, in a new apartment, in a new country, I won’t have a lending library to feed my almost book-a-week reading habit.  But I’m not a convert. Husband, of course, accuses me of being nostalgic, luddite, “so twentieth century.” To which this list is my response:

1. There is no glare problem with a book when you’re reading on the beach.

2. When you’re reading on the beach and the book gets damp, you get only some wrinkled pages, not fried electronica.

3. A book never says “a wi-fi connection cannot be established, please try again.”

4. I can lend a book to a friend, a relative, leave it on the train for the next passenger, donate it to a thrift shop.

5. It’s easy to flip back through the pages of a book to see if you’ve missed an important detail.

6. An e-reader will never acquire pages soft with time or the scent of whatever house has provided bookshelf space.

7. No flight attendant ever tells you to put a book away during take-off and landing

8. A book never runs out of charge at a particularly thrilling moment.

9. If you wonder why the hell you’re reading a book in the first damn place, it’s easy to flip to the blurbs on the back and figure out why you were suckered into reading it.

10. For someone (like me) who spends way the hell too much time in front of a computer, an e-reader feels more like work than an escape from work

Of course, this list becomes moot, unfortunately, when I consider the fact that A Dance With Dragons is more than 1000 pages long–in hardback–and lugging it around would wreck my back for the forseeable future.

On my ipad, that fifth book behemoth doesn’t weigh anything at all.

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Continue Reading · on July 18, 2011 in Books, Travel

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