Archive | grace in small things

Grace in Small Things #4: In Praise of Grandma

1. Not a small grace note but a BIG grace note: my mother has been visiting us for the past week and having her here makes living so far away suddenly seem manageable.   It’s both extraordinary that she’s here and…completely ordinary. Of  course she’s here; Grandma always comes to visit in the fall.  The fact that she flew fifteen hours to do so…well, that’s just logistics.

2. Grandma brought candy corn. The genuine original high-fructose orange-and-white pyramidical “corn.” Bags of it. Five bags, to be precise.  Which should be just about enough—for me.  If my children are very, very nice to me, I may share a few kernels with them. Maybe.

3. Henna. We got henna tattoos, even though we weren’t guests at a Mumbai wedding. My very blue mother, who lives in a very red state, joked that now her neighbors (who were aghast when she voted for Obama) will be certain that Barack has converted her to Islam:

4. The team uniforms of the soccer club that organizes the teams Liam and Caleb play for: they look like human candy corn. Or McDonald’s workers. Or escapees from a Where’s Waldo book:

5. The fact that an actual reader of my blog (a reader! I have an actual reader who is not my mother, is not a relative, and who found this blog through…well, I have no idea how she found me, but I’m glad she did) saw fit to email me with the name of the woman here in town who cooks and delivers real Mexican food.  Muchas gracias, Tracy!

Continue Reading · on October 30, 2011 in Abu Dhabi, Children, family, grace in small things

Grace in Small Things #3: Food, Flowers, Sunsets

Grace day again.  It’s beautiful here – I finally understand what people have been talking about for the last nine weeks, about what happens when the humidity breaks: clear blue skies, soft air, light breeze. Perfect. It’s finally possible to walk outside for more than five minutes without developing a thin film of sweat from head to toe.

Grace notes? The first is extraordinarily simple:

1. Toast with butter and fresh honey, which I had for breakfast. I may, in fact, head back for a third piece. (It’s very small bread!)

2. The fresh honey comes from Food Queen Honey and we buy it from Suhil, from Yemen:

To amuse Caleb, Suhil did a dramatic pour:

3. Fresh naan bread, baked in a clay oven:


We bought 3 plain naan and one filled with minced potato and onion, for 6 dihram. That’s about…$1.50.

4. Sunsets.  Our apartment faces south and west, and every evening, I watch glorious slow sunsets.  Even through my grimy windows (a natural filter of salt, sand, and dirt films the outside of all the windows. There aren’t enough window washers in the world to keep the windows of all these glass-clad skyscrapers clean):

5. Bougainvillea. Not so much the flowers themselves as their color. This city’s color scheme, aside from the color of the water, is generally…dust. Dusty brown, dusty green, dusty dust.  So the shock of scarlet against a blue sky hits deep:

Hmmm: I wonder if Proflowers can match that?


full disclosure: I was compensated to include the link to proflowers, but the ideas, photos, and experiences in this post are completely my own

Continue Reading · on October 23, 2011 in Abu Dhabi, expat, food, grace in small things

Grace in Small Things #2

Am in need of grace this evening.  It’s been, as they say, one of those days. Although actually if I am really precise, it’s only been one of those days since 3:45, when my children got off the bus and all hell broke loose. But we’ll ignore that explosion for now, other than for me to pose the question: does it make me a bad mother that when my kids are having meltdowns, a tiny part of me thinks blog fodder!

But I am not writing about meltdowns this evening. I’m going glass half-full tonight, instead of glass shattered-on-the-floor-with-orange-juice-on-the-rug (metaphorically, that is. No one broke a glass, no one had to be rushed to the hospital gushing blood).

1. Spicy almonds from Lebanese Roastery,which has an entire wall filled with what looks like small file cabinets. Each drawer contains different flavors of nuts: lemon pistachios, spicy pistachios, walnuts, weird black knobby things with Arabic names that I can’t read. The drawers are warmed, so that when you get your bag of nuts, they are fragrant, warm, crunchy.

2. I found a vegetable market within walking distance of my apartment! It’s not the Union Square Farmer’s Market, but the produce is relatively local (versus, for instance, the irony of going to one of the grocery stores around here and seeing that all the grapes were from California).  Also unlike Union Square, most of the guys working in the market are barefoot. Also? You can buy fresh coconut:

3. Delivery trucks with decorative paneling. Many of the white trucks that rattle around have detailing: cut-out tin hearts, flowers, butterflies. They make me smile.

4.  Bad translations. Probably I shouldn’t laugh at mis-translations (especially because at the rate I’m (not) learning Arabic, I will never even know how to say my own name in another language, much less translate anything).  But then again, I’m the mother who thinks her kids’ miseries will create blog content, so what the hell. Somebody’s bad English gave me a giggle:

5. Yoga on the beach. Actually, yoga on the beach is a BIG grace note. I confess that I’m not a true yogi: if I were, I would’ve been “on the mat” for our entire summer travels and for the weeks after we got here. I even went so far as to put yoga classes on  podcasts in my ipod but you know what? I got distracted, would do a little bit and then decide I needed to do something more important. Fold the laundry, check my email, eat cookies.  So when I found out that The Yoga Juice was starting up their evening yoga on the beach classes, I got myself there: in an open-sided pavilion facing the water, doing vinyasa during the long Arabian sunset. More than grace. Bliss.

Continue Reading · on October 16, 2011 in Abu Dhabi, exercise, expat, grace in small things, UAE, yoga

grace in small things: uae version

Schmutzie writes a blog over there in the upper-left quadrant of North America, in Saskatchewan (a word that is worth saying out loud); she writes well and wisely about everything from photography to toe socks, design to cats.  One of the many projects you’ll find on the masthead of her blog is “Grace in Small Things,” which is a “daily reminder to take notice of the positive things we tend to overlook. You are hereby challenged to find the joy in small things, because life is short and love is large.”

Not bad advice, right?

On the 12th of October we will have been in Abu Dhabi for two months. Somedays it feels like we’ve been here forever in a good way and sometimes it feels like we’ve been here forever in a bad way. I’m afraid that lately my emails home to friends have sounded whiny: living here is haaaarrrd, I’m lonnnnnely, I miss my friennnnds…  Like that.

So I think it would behoove me (behoove, that’s another good word, isn’t it?) to start looking around this new world where I live and finding myself some grace notes, dammit. It might not make the whining stop…but then again, it might (another good anti-whining device? Click over to the GIST website and listen to the ukelele version of “Bohemian Rhapsody.” I dare you not to smile.)

The gauntlet Schmutzie throws down is five things: find five grace notes in your day, your week, your whatever.  Here goes.

1.What I see when I walk out of my office:

It reminds me that I live in a very new city in a very ancient part of the world.

2. This billboard, which I also see every morning. The question sort of reverberates around in my head: where is my moon? where is my moon? where is my moon? where is my moon?

3. The smiley-face and question mark (it’s not a photo reversal, that’s how the question mark is drawn in Arabic) decorating the hood of this Porsche:

4. My younger son’s feet: perfect, smooth, curved, elegant:

5. The fact that I can get camel milk at the grocery store and drink it in the coffee I get from the Lebanese coffee roasting place. Camel milk. Me! A nice girl from the Midwest, land o’cows, drinking camel’s milk. Funny, the journeys we take:


Where have you found grace these last few months?

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Continue Reading · on October 9, 2011 in Abu Dhabi, expat, grace in small things, street notes

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