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That’s a Pisser

images-3“That’s a real pisser!” Mini said to me.

Whoa…what do you mean that’s a real pisser? I am no Lily Librarian. I have seen and heard a fair amount in my life but I didn’t expect my ten year-old to use the word pisser straight in my face. Continue reading “That’s a Pisser”

The 6 Girlfriends Every Woman Needs

cropped-1454943_10151811784198440_1420869117_n.jpgEvery girl needs a excellent woman in her life. Seriously, how can we make it through the chaos without a gaggle of girlfriends? They are there for us in a variety of ways. Maybe not the same girlfriend every time, but a different one for a different need or a different chapter in our lives. Where ever we find them or for whatever reason — life is always better with your girls.

THE 6 GIRLFRIENDS EVERY WOMAN NEEDS

1. Mamma Bear: She bakes cookies, wears mom jeans and she’ll babysit your kids when you’re out of town. If your plane crashes on the way home you’ll leave the kids in her trusted hands. She quilts, scrapbooks and does other crap like that. When she drives she probably doesn’t exceed the speed limit unless she’s rushing a feverish kid to the urgent care. She thinks dressing up is putting on lipstick regardless of whatever else she is wearing. She wears a fanny pack stocked full of bandaids and neosporin and totes a snack cooler full of orange slices and avocados. She’s an old-fashion mother who sets rules and sticks by them. That’s why you’ve willed both the kids and the insurance policy to her  —  who else could handle 1,2,3 more kids?

2. Mrs. Perfect: She is perfect. Period. She never has a hair out of place, mismatched clothes, or a handbag that isn’t perfectly appropriate. Rock climbing? There’s a bag for that. Rolling Stones concert? Something functional; yet just a little edgy. Her car smells like L’Occitane. Her closet is colored coordinated. Her sheets are sprayed with some foo-fooey, lavender-scented Pottery Barn scam in a spray bottle. She’s the perfect corporate wife who will win her husband a promotion by smiling appropriately at a dinner party. She’s the friend you call when you have no idea how to decorate your new house. She’ll match your drapes to your sofa and your pajamas to the bed comforter. She will go ape wild in Williams Sonoma whipping up a housewarming basket that is so gorgeous you’ll never want to unwrap it — so you’ll just sit it in a corner of the kitchen and dust it until the cellophane cracks open.

3. The Mysterious Girl:  She wouldn’t be caught dead doing strenuous activities like tennis and zumba. “I’ll catch you Pansies at the club.” She wears sky-high heels, tight pants and has every cosmetic compact produced by MAC. She is too cool for school and doesn’t try too hard at anything. She sits quietly when all the other girlfriends are cackling over something pointless. Nothing really bothers her and she behaves like nothing really surprises her. She’s level headed and doesn’t rush into things. When she loves you: she loves you dearly. But when you get on her bad side — you are there to stay. There’s always something secretive about her — kind of like she buries her past lovers in the back yard. She’s the friend you go to when you have really big problems because she’ll hide you from the authorities and she has a few “key people” on speed dial.

4. Miss Innocent: She wears a cross around her neck given to her by her grandmother when she was in 10th grade. She covers her mouth a lot because she is astonished by most everything she hears yet soaks in all the juicy details like a dry sponge. Strangely, she sings all the words to the most explicit rap music as she twerks till dawn at all the ladies nights. She doesn’t drink because it’s against her religion yet will shockingly light up a cigarette as if she’s had the habit all her life. She buys her clothes at the grocery store and still manages to throw it all together. She’s the girl that reminds you that life is good. Just roll with it, flow with it and everything will be just fine. She silently assures you that it’s okay to be yourself regardless of the situation, the location or the company. You are you and that is good enough.

5. Burpee Queen: On the otherhand, Miss Burpee reminds you that you are not okay the way you are. She’s the girl who shames you out of wearing sweatpants to the grocery store. Who challenges you to put on the heels that are way beyond your comfort zone. She researches the new cellulite cream and reminds you that you should use it. She knows all of the gym instructors by first name and spends her spare time flexing for selfies with a selfie stick. There’s not an ounce of fat on her tomboy body and yet she is still at the gym every single day. She does pole dancing, windsurfing, kayaking all with equal skill. You hate her. You love her. You want to kill her but she’s the friend who kicks you in the bum when you need it and is a living example that you can be better you if you just get out of bed and do it.

6. The Diplomat: Brings up the probing questions. She’s got the MBA hanging on the wall at home and had she’d not been more interested in having fun in life, might have went on to law school. She’s the one that keeps you in check. Did you ask this question? That question? Do you completely understand what is going on? She seriously never wants to be the one that rains on the parade; but then again, how do you know for sure that this is what it seems….she might ask. You love her because when you need to be serious you give her a call. When you need a confidante or an informal advisor, she’s there with her thinking cap on. And when you need to have fun. She’s there too. She’s cool, she’s calculated, and she’s J. Crew all the way.

 

Girlfriends. My girls are intelligent. Nothing gets past them. They enrich my life and they have a huge heart. Always quick to lend a helping hand to someone who needs it. They are nurses, teachers, marketing gurus, artists, and managers. Thick as thieves. Stuck like glue. Birds of feather. Six different countries. Six different languages. Together by choice or by necessity. My life is always better with my girls.

These are my girls. Tell me about yours.

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Be Careful Over There – What?!? I Live in the UAE!

Be careful over there! my American friends said to me. As if the Middle East is simply one big mosh pit of danger, mayhem and debris.

Be careful doing what? I thought to myself. Choking on lobster, slipping on a marble floor, or poking my eye out with a canape skewer?

What exactly do they think could happen to me? — I LIVE IN THE UAE!

Oh, no, you’re mistaken. I don’t live in Saudi Arabia. I can drive here. It is fine. And I don’t wear an abaya. Although on a bad hair day it sure would be a snap. And if I decide to do so it does not effect my feminism. My human rights are not limited as you might think they would be. I just can’t look like a harlot when I’m walking the streets. So far that hasn’t been a problem for me.

None of the craziness you see on TV is anywhere near me or my family. This is the wealthiest place in the world. There are no beheadings or prison camps or things like this you might read. I am perfectly safe here — I LIVE IN THE UAE!

In the UAE, they prefer that I not scream obscenities or flip my middle finger at the crazy new driver that cut me off at the pass. Yes, in the States I would shout, shake my fists, and tell them to kiss my arse.  But I really don’t miss that privilege and it is okay by me, if we all focus on a little more civility. You see, it is a conservative place in many regards. They prefer if we all do not behave like total schmucks, lugheads or goofs. In fact, everyone here uses their manners and are extremely gracious; they call me madam and my husband sir and they go out of their way to please us.

They must be thinking about Iraq or Iran and they are as close to the UAE as New York is to West Virginia; although, you must agree, there is a huge difference between them. If you lumped New Yorkers and West Virginians together, any American would tell you they have nothing in common. They may be the same religion and in the same country but there is a world of difference between them. We live in a bubble, a very expensive bubble it may be; that separates us from the rest of the Middle East. Life here is grand we have no complaints. We live in a world of over-the-top excess. Free from the badness many nations face.

There’s no danger here. We are a very happy bunch. We shop and we explore and we eat fancy brunches. Tell the media how happy we are and to stop lumping Muslims together. There’s nothing threatening about being here. Get out your maps and look into it. Get on a plane and come visit us.

We are here of our own choosing we like our little Utopia. Please save your be careful over there for someone who needs it. We are living the dream. Please come and see it!

We love living in the UAE!

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You say Goodbye and I say Hello…Hello…Hello

1779306_412717678864074_1323054497_nThe two words you never want to hear an expat say are “I’m leaving” — and regardless of how many times you hear them it never gets easier.

The first time my nine year-old felt the pain of these words was when his sailing buddy, his soccer buddy, his first friend and his best friend said, “I’m leaving.” My heart ached for him as he quietly cried in hidden places and he moped around for weeks before deciding that his life would go on.

At school, we have seen families come and families go. Either back to their home countries or off to new adventures. Favorite teachers leave. And the learning still continues. Companies relieve people. And new companies hire them.

There have been times during this journey when I stopped myself and thought, this is one of the best days of my life. I want to capture it and keep it forever. But life evolves and changes: and while recovering from a loss, we are preparing for a new beginning. The fact that things change is what keeps it interesting and yet emotionally exhausting at the same time. It is a love affair with the unknown. An addiction to the experience. A memory that may never be forgotten.

Constantly saying goodbye and saying hello. An old friend leaves as a new friend walks in the door. Knowing there’s no time for sadness because you need the new person as much as you needed the friend who just left. We hold each other up, and watch out for each other’s best interest; we band together like brothers and sisters. Ready to take on whatever is thrown our way as we try to make sense of the mysterious and the illogical.

The expat life isn’t intended to be enjoyed without good friends. You have to share the experience. You need a sidekick, a buddy — a girl pack in order to navigate the craziness; otherwise you will be lost in the experience. And that would be really sad.

Hello…Hello…Hello. I don’t know why you say goodbye; but I say Hello.

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Just Like Me

Something strange happened this week.

Twice I was in a room filled with people who looked just like me — and it was odd. Nobody with dark skin. Nobody with a Middle Eastern accent. Nobody dressed in their country’s native clothes. Only white people, in white people clothes, having white people conversation — and I was bored.

Since I arrived in the Middle East I have been immersed in a melting pot of cultures and I have not stepped outside my melting pot since I arrived. Here in the UAE, my norm has been a mosaic of languages, clothing, and exotic features; all of which I now consider ordinary. One day I asked my friend Wlede, “Is this dress too African for me?” Of course not! was the response. In the States I would have received many stares for exploring fashion outside of my own ethnic group. Here nobody raises an eyebrow. Many days I ask myself, “Who have I become? Do I even still feel American anymore?

I never realized the extent of our global education until Max called out to me, “Yalla habibi! (Come on my loved one — which, as a nine year-old boy, he obviously didn’t quite understand or he wouldn’t have said it.) Another day he tossed out a “Ya know mate” that would rival any Aussies’s. And then he surprised me with the British terms keen, trolley and trainers almost in the same sentence. Who is this kid?

Raising an expat kid is different. They absorb the culture of their classmates and sometimes identify it as their own. They will swear up and down that they are from countries outside their home. Laura, my Italian friend, has three children who assumed they were Chinese. Imagine explaining to your child that although they’ve lived in China all of their lives, they are not Chinese. Interestingly, in their little view of the world they do not recognize the difference.

My friend who is a kindergarten teacher asked her class, “So class where are you all from?” One little boy screamed, “Exxon Oil!” While another little girl with a Texas accent said, “I’m from Saudi.” Many American children of teachers teaching internationally and other expats living abroad have never lived in the United States. They’ve lived here and there around the world, moving from assignment to assignment. Kerstin, my American friend whose children have never lived in the USA said, “I hated it when my kids lost their Aussie accent!”

Of the nineteen children in my son’s class there are probably ten different ethnic groups represented. During holidays the children disperse around the world to visit family or vacation in far away places. The cultural experience an expat child receives in the UAE is unmatched. Yes, we are living in the Middle East but we are truly receiving a global education due to the overwhelmingly large expat community. We are a melting pot larger than New York City. And fortunately for me, I am learning to pick and choose the best each country has to offer.

When deciding to move internationally, our goal was to create a global citizen. Someone who isn’t defined by geographic borders, an inherited culture, or misinformed by the evening news. Someone who is as comfortable in Dubai as he is in London. Someone with a kind heart, an accepting spirit and a thirst for knowledge and exploration.

And then one day Max said something to me that was so British it made me smile.

I realized with the quip of his little British slang that this experience was achieving its bloody goal.

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The Expat Trade-Off

IMG_0012_2Life is a trade-off. I have the Maldives and you have Miracle Whip. You have NY&Co and I’m trying to squeeze my arse into French fashion. Expats do not have Girl Scout Cookies, Andes Mints, and beef that tastes like home. Chili powder, Cheerios that taste right, and good New York bagels. Pork? Forget it! Whatever they do in the UAE twists the taste into something unrecognizable.

We traded a country that operated pretty much like a well oiled machine for a multi-ethnic experience where we only comprehend answers to questions, directions, and a restaurant menu about thirty percent of the time. And since we have no other choice, we have learned to trust people with things that would absolutely shock Americans. 

Yes, we live an exotic life.

 

Which may sound like a dream to some, yet in reality it is a trade-off for things expats hold dear but gave away for the experience of traveling the world and seeing places and things many only see when they close their eyes.

Loved ones die and we are not there.

Families have holidays, weddings, reunions, birthdays and graduations; and we wish them our best from across the globe.

We miss the loved ones we really love, the ones we only like to see once a year and even the dysfunctional ones that cause more grief than good. We miss them all.

But we get to see place like the Maldives, Malaysia and Rome because they are as close to us as Florida, California and Mexico are to you.

Two of the top regrets for dying people are they wished they would have traveled more and they wish they would have lived their lives authentically. I believe I am doing both — but it comes with a price.

Expats trade the comforts of home for the excitement of the unknown. Instead of regular hugs from grandparents, our children see Buddhist temples, ancient history and the wonders of the planet many children will never experience.

But they miss hot dogs. Doritos with the good cheese. Chicken in the Biscuit crackers.

Life is a trade-off. You can’t have it all. We chose the Maldives and you chose Thanksgiving with family.

The best thing about this experience is that we can both live vicariously through one another. Keep sharing your pics of home cooking, family get-togethers, your dogs and your other experiences; and I promise to show you the world.

Deal?

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