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Monday Listicles: A booklist mashup

It seems fitting that as I sit down to write Stasha’s list (on, er, Tuesday night), my kids are mewling please please just ten more minutes…but they’re not begging for more screen time (although they have been known to hourly occasionally do that too).  They’re begging to have the light left on for just a few more minutes of reading time.  Liam is reading something called Divergent (thanks for the suggestion, Karen!) and Caleb…well, Caleb has discovered that Harry Potter is better in print than on the screen. He’s lost somewhere early in Book Six.

How to make a list of ten books? Books that I love to teach? Hate to teach? Books my kids love, books my kids loved but I hate (hellooo Thomas the goddamn Train), books I return to again and again? Books that “Everyone” loves but I hate (Franzen, Franzen, Franzen, let me count the ways). So many ways to make a list of books.

If I were going to make a list of books I loved as a kid…

1. Betsy-Tacy-Tib, by Maud Hart Lovelace. Set in the midwest in the early 1900s, these stories start when Betsy befriends Tacy, and they in turn befriend Tib. They have Big Adventures for little girls who are only six – they go over the Big Hill, they put on a show, glamorous relatives visit from the “big city” (aka Milwaukee), and Betsy, from the beginning of the series, wants to be a writer. The girls’ friendship remains the key through the entire series, which goes through to adulthood, marriage, and the beginnings of World War I. I loved that these characters grew up, unlike Nancy Drew, who I also loved but whose permanent high-school-hood eventually made me quite suspicious.

2. Maida’s Little Shop, Inez Haynes Irwin. Irwin was a radical character- a journalist who spent time at the turn of the 20th century reporting on revolutions in Europe – and who belonged to a feminist group called Heterodoxy, which met monthly in Greenwich Village to talk about suffrage (gasp!), birth control (horrors!), equal rights for African Americans (double gasp) – and, even more shockingly, to offer support for women who kept their own names after marriage. I know – can you imagine? But anyway. Maida is a sick little girl, finally recovered from a long illness, who is surprise surprise, also beautiful and the daughter of a bazillionaire, who sets her up in a little rickety storefront in Boston and tells her to make a go of it. So she does -and meets all kinds of kids from the working-class neighborhood she would never otherwise encounter.  This book is the first in a series of Maida’s adventures (all funded by her father, “Buffalo” Westabrook), and all of them (especially the first few) are wonderful illustrations of Irwin’s progressive, radical-for-her-era politics.

If I were to make a list about books I loved when I was a little older than young – a “tween,” I guess you’d call it, although back when I was a tween they just called it “awkward:” Continue Reading →

Continue Reading · on April 24, 2012 in Books, Monday Listicle

in which we learn to redefine “bad weather”

It was going to be glorious. A full moon kayak expedition into the mangrove forests that grow on one side of Abu Dhabi island (what’s that you say? you didn’t know Abu Dhabi is an island? It’s an island sort of like Manhattan is an island: easy to forget when you’re deep in the scrum of traffic and tall buildings but then you get up into one of the skyscrapers or out to the shore road and WOW look at all that water!)

The kayak trip was part of the consolation celebration of Husband hitting what some friends characterized as the 20th anniversary of his 30th birthday—yes, one of those birthdays commonly acknowledged as “milestones” (although “millstones” might be more appropriate).

To acknowledge Husband’s (mostly) graceful aging we had a wee cocktail party (what’s that you say? Cocktails? In a Muslim country? Isn’t liquor punishable with forty lashes or something? Well…technically you’re supposed to have an officially issued “liquor license” to buy booze. Or you just have to look so emphatically non-Muslim that no one bats an eyelash).

A few days after the party we had planned this kayaking trip through Noukhada (they run eco-friendly tours here in town), and then at the end of the week an elegant dinner with friends.  And finally (because turning 50 39 apparently warrants a year-long celebration) we’re thinking about a trip to the Maldives, before they sink into the ocean, but that’s a post and a plan for another day.

Full moon kayaking.  Two nights ago at moon-rise, the light was so bright I could see my shadow (cue Cat Stevens here). I imagined us in kayaks gliding through quiet waters with moonlight gleaming in the trees, the hum of the city far behind us.  I had figured out how to wrap my little camera in a Ziploc baggie and was hoping for a great moonrise photo that I could post for the Wordless Wednesdays meme.

Talking about our trip in an email to a friend, I wrote (smugly, I must confess), a nice thing about living here is that you know outdoor plans won’t be scuttled because of the weather.

Off we went, my newly elderly Husband and I, in a friend’s borrowed car, threading our way through the Formula I racetracks that masquerade as city streets. We had an iPhone GPS, we had printed map directions from the kayak company, and…we got lost. The streets don’t connect; they dead-end in walls of shops and apartment buildings, or circle back on themselves into little cul-de-sacs.  We could see the road we wanted to be on, but like they say in Maine, we couldn’t get theah from heah.

Just as I was fumbling for my phone to call the kayak company to say we were going to be late and please don’t take off without us, my phone rang.  It was the kayak expedition leader, who said that the trip was being cancelled due to…


Husband and I looked at each other, looked out the window. Not raining. No plagues of frogs or locusts (we’re living in an ancient land, here, people, the original angry-gods-smiting-whatever-pisses-them-off country; it could happen); no thunder storms.  It was a little foggy out, a little hazy, but the mist comes with the heat.

I opened the car window, looking for weather.  It wasn’t misty at all.  It was sandy.

Sand finer than talcum whirled in the streets; I saw pedestrians squinting against the wind, palm tree fronds shaking back and forth, and women wrestling to keep their hijabs from being pulled off their heads.  I couldn’t see the moon, though, which means that out on the mangroves, it would’ve been pitch black.

Sandstorm. That’s the bad weather that cancelled our trip.

Sandstorm conjures up Dune (not the movie, the book!), sand-worms, Lawrence of Arabia on a camel squinting his impossibly blue eyes into the impending storm, but alas, Peter O’Toole is not thundering towards me on a camel.  There’s just a lot of grit whistling through the hot night air.

Husband and I admit defeat, make our way back home.  Maybe next month, inshallah, we’ll get our moonrise kayak paddle.

If the weather cooperates.

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Continue Reading · on October 13, 2011 in Abu Dhabi, environment, expat, sports, UAE, wordless wednesday

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