Monday, November 30, 2009

last place first (next time)

In honor of Cyber Monday, a post about shopping.

Preface my Ode to Shopping with this newsflash: Kuwait gets cold. I packed one long sleeve shirt and one three-quarters length cardigan and four pairs of pants, two of them jeans, which severely limits my work wardrobe. Layering a denim jacket over oh, everything, only works so many times. Oh, and no proper shoes aside from running shoes and a very beat up, ugly pair of Borns that I love wearing but that match nothing. So the last couple of weeks, I've been freezing. I just looked up the current temperature here: 59 degrees F. For Wisconsin in March, quite welcome. Here, quite chilly. I am told it gets colder yet.

So Eid (holiday) arrived and I was ready for a trip to the mall. Another newsflash: Kuwait is made of malls. On Friday, I found a pair of shoes after two or three hours of walking the maze of mall, finally ending up at the store I knew (knew) I should have started at: Ecco.

Lately I've been purchasing with the idea that I want to own what I am buying (uh, food excluded) for awhile. So I take awhile to find what I really want. Weeks, months, hours. I ask around. I check online. I think about whether or not I really need it.

Sometimes it's difficult to justify purchasing another pair of shoes or a sweater when you have several of each in storage. In your parents' basement. Justin and I talked about that this weekend: how we are going to really enjoy living abroad. This is what we came up with: container. Instead of rebuying every single thing (pots & pans, dishes, ottoman, bookshelf, hand mirror, toaster oven, flower pots) at every single place, we'll start making our home here and when we decide to move - should it be to another country abroad or returning to the States, we'll pack it all in a container and have it shipped. It'll be expensive but ultimately cheaper than rebuying flatware and mixing bowls at each new home. Also, it'll lend some continuity to our homes.

Also, it'll be great fun to wait three months for our stuff to arrive. Paper plates for three months? Who doesn't want that!?

Anyway, after Friday's shoe expedition, Justin and I returned to the mall yesterday to find a pair of jeans for him and long sleeve shirts for me. I hope that is the last time for a long time that I go to a mall twice in the same weekend. (Although visiting the cheese counter at Dean & Deluca twice in one weekend was glorious). Justin's jeans: check. My shirts: Gap's favorite tee is no longer mine. What is up with the tight tee shirt tunics this year? If I was a praying mantis, it might work. Long torso, you know. Instead, exasperated and already resigning myself to another week of wearing my denim jacket through the school day, I popped into one last store. Thank you, Zara.

Here's the deal: I knew that I should check Ecco and Zara first. I knew it. In my head, I thought: you know, I think they might have what I'm looking for. But I wrote off Ecco because I wanted something cute and thought Ecco might be too clunky. And I wrote off Zara because a lot of their product line is wispy and trendy and expensive. And in the end, I could have spent more time at the Dean & Deluca cheese counter if I'd just gone with what I first thought.

Question is, will my first impulse be correct next time?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

happy thanksgiving!

A Marslender Family Thankful List
1. Family. Of course.
2. Health and strength
3. God
4. Books (edible or not)
5. Moleskine notebooks Pentel RSVP fine line black pens (that's mine)
6. An apartment
7. View of the Gulf
8. No snow (that's also mine)
9. Skype
10. Treadmill (mine)
11. Francis, our nanny
12. Learning, becoming
13. Humor
14. Full bellies and good sleep
15. Clean diapers and Bear (Claire's contribution. Also, "Dadadada eee eeyahhh? Tucka tucka.")
16. Old friends and new friends (silver and gold Girl Scout song, anyone?)
17. Recipes that work
18. A job
19. Soccer coaching; a good JV girls' season (Justin's)
20. Hot water at any time of the day here (so far)
21. Naps (we all agreed on this one)
22. Chance to explore this world and live it
23. Insights, wisdom that comes when you are still
24. Dreams that you hold
25. Grace and mercy

Sunday, November 22, 2009

wanting words

So ends my solo weekend (plus) with Claire. All went well. I didn't lose it, crying or raging that I just sob sob can't sob sob do it any longer! I just noticed the empty spots where I would have passed Claire off while I was cooking dinner or going to the bathroom or in desperate need of some solitude. She was a gem, though, and we made it. But I did find myself thinking Words. Get some words, little lady!

Lately I've been envying the moms who can say, "Wait, honey. Use your words." And their toddler can actually tell them that they want that hairbrush or those crayons or they need a drink or they're hungry for another cracker.

Saturday night I was fixing Claire's dinner and getting ready for a Skype call with my in-laws. I was busy. And Claire was jabbering away and then the jabbering turned to yammering turned to fairly direct insistence that I pick her up Right This Minute. "Claire darling," I said, "Mama is fixing dinner and then we are going to talk with Grandma and Grandpa Marslender and then you will have a bath."

"Tucka tucka tucka ooh be guga guga tucka," Claire held my pant leg, "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!"

"And then, baby girl, comes bedtime. Do you know how wonderful bedtime is?" I was using that bright, false voice that says I am being very, very patient. I didn't want to lose it after holding it together so well for four days. So in the middle of "Stop. Claire, stop. Please let go. Okay, honey. Alright. Wait a minute. Here we go. Stop. No, that's hot. That's too hot. Wait." and tripping over little feet and undoing tiny fists, I managed to deliver dinner, log on to Skype, and not freak out.

Okay, I freaked out a little. I also worried that Justin would be in a plane crash and the rest of my life would be me noticing an empty spot where wordless Claire's Papa should be to take her off my hands so I can just fix dinner, please.

But he's home safe. I have a nice moment to myself Right This Minute, and dinner is almost done.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

you must be counting down the days

Said a friend to me today. She was talking about the days until our December break, when I will be finished with the maternity leave sub. But, surprisingly, I'm not really counting down. In fact, I've told a few people that I'll miss being in the classroom when this stint is over.

Today I took a trip to the English department book room and gawked at all the class sets of novels. I like that book, I thought, and I would love to teach that one. I grabbed two to read for myself. The texts I'm teaching from are very good too, an updated version of what I had in Wisconsin. My last two years in Colombia, I was photocopying loads of material, didn't have a decent updated text to use, and wasn't impressed by the class sets of novels. (However, the Bolivar library was very well stocked with new and interesting titles). So I found myself thinking how smoothly I could put together units, plan lessons, with all of these available resources.

So I've just finished my second full week. Julius Caesar is wrapped up (finally) and the sophomores are about to begin Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, set in 1820s Nigeria. I'm excited about teaching it and looking forward to what the students pick up from the story.

And that's what makes me think: maybe I could teach next year. But I'm still holding firm to part-time as an ideal balance for me, at this time in my life. I thought subbing might be a good test of whether or not I'd enjoy full-time. I think I could do it (of course I could!), but I'd lose more than I'd gain. I enjoy teaching, but I enjoy being a mama more. Understanding that, I'll pursue a part-time position for next school year and be pleased if it works out and fine if it doesn't.

Honestly, I wasn't sure I wanted to be back in the classroom at all. Six years seemed like long enough to learn a bit, endure a lot, and quit before I really hated my job. But I'm not counting down the days and that suggests that the classroom might have a spot for me yet.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

just throwing it out there

There is a Dead Sea ultramarathon in Jordan over our spring break. I'm actually considering this. Could be fun. If I commit, I need to commit without worrying a time goal: a run it to run it sort of deal, no grand illusions.

Also, it's an excuse to buy a new pair of running shorts.

Monday, November 16, 2009

grass withers

Today I am on campus and at five minutes to eleven, I am grading vocabulary tests when I hear a heavy boom. I put the pen down and listen. Nothing follows. The air conditioner is rattling and humming. I mute the music I am listening to on the computer. I get up and go to the door and debate whether or not to look in the hallway. I step out and look left and then right. I listen for footsteps.

I expect to see a terrorist. I expect to hear someone scream. I expect to hear another heavy boom, a bomb somewhere. None of this happens. I step back in my room and close the door, lock it. I turn the lights off. I turn the air conditioner down, hoping the white noise will lessen so I can hear what I need to hear. I wait at the desk, expecting an announcement telling me to remain where I am, that the campus is not safe.

Yesterday I read an article about the terrorist attacks in Mumbai a year ago. So when I heard that boom, I thought: today I might die.

Yesterday my in-laws delivered sad news that the daughter of a friend of theirs committed suicide with her boyfriend, leaving behind her own twelve-year-old daughter. All morning, I thought about that daughter. So when I heard that boom, I thought: what if my baby has no mama tomorrow?

I dream vividly. I feel acutely. I ache and rejoice and weep and laugh. I am beginning to enjoy every moment of this life because I believe it is a gift. I am learning to really savor what I am in the middle of, instead of reaching for the next moment. But I am still afraid sometimes because when I think of so much that is happening in this world, I think: misplaced, broken. I want decades to enjoy and savor. I may not have them.

You don't have to live in the Middle East to realize any of that. But I am in the Middle East, and I am realizing it (again) and trying to decide what to do next. I don't think that I am made to live in fear. I think we are made to live free. So yesterday and today I have been thinking about sad things, sobering things, and understanding that not too much separates the safe, content me from what might be the fearful, nervous me. Perhaps recognizing that so much is not for me to know is enough. I need not dwell, or conjure sadness.

I called Justin, told him what I heard. "I heard it too," he said. He was in the auditorium for parent-teacher conferences. "No one reacted here. I think you're okay." Okay. I am okay. I kept the door locked. I thought about these things.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

done with people

People. Overload. At the end of a work week, I am done with people. I've spent my days talking and smiling and figuring things out and being stumped on questions and willing creativity and keeping a checklist on paper that doesn't include half of what's on the list in my head. All I want at the end of the week is to do absolutely nothing.

And yet, I made plans. And then cancelled. We were supposed to go to the Embassy tonight to have a beer. A beer that wasn't brewed in a spare bathroom. Claire was going to get to play on real grass and we were going to visit with our friends who were kind enough to invite us along. And until about five o'clock, I thought I could do it. Justin was still at a game, Claire was eating her dinner, and I thought that I could handle a night at the embassy.

Then I crashed. I couldn't do it. I couldn't even imagine how much energy it would take to call a taxi and then to smile at all the new people I'd meet and then to actually pay attention to what everyone was saying. All I wanted was a hammock.

This is my first week back at work full-time, subbing for an English teacher on maternity leave, and I'd like to think I have it in me to go go go, but I don't. I've done remarkably well, though. Classes and students are fine, but our family life is stretched thin by Justin's coaching. Next week is his last week with soccer and it will be a long week for all of us. He'll be traveling to Qatar for a tournament with his girls so Claire and I will be on our own for a few days. I have absolutely no idea what that will be like.

So. One week down. I'm enjoying the classroom. I haven't imploded. And I do miss my Claire in the mornings.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

insane earliness

Last spring I did a stretch of four a.m. mornings so that I could get my run in before nursing, before teaching, before I was too zonked to think about tying my running shoes. Tomorrow it begins again. Four a.m. alarm, on the treadmill twenty minutes later, and then out the door by a little after six o'clock.

My friend Kate once told me that she had to be on the train for her commute into Chicago by eight. I think it was eight. Either way, it was a time that made me think I'd chosen the wrong profession entirely. I dream of nine to five. One of my biggest gripes about teaching is the insanely early hours you have to get up to teach a pack of adolescents who are barely awake themselves. I don't think being done by three or four in the afternoon counts for much, especially if you're lugging prep work and grading home at night. I'd rather start late, end late. And (digression ahead) I also don't mind the idea of year round school. I think teachers and students would be much more productive and happier if they worked worked worked for nine weeks and got a week or two off before starting the next quarter. Or switched to trimesters. Or shortened the school day but added days to the calendar. I keep hearing debates about all of this but not too much about districts actually trying any of it.

Anyway, as much as nine to five sounds glorious my schedule from now until our Christmas break is: at school by 6:30 or 6:45 to begin classes at 7:15 (which end at 2:00) and home by 3:15 or 3:30. Not bad, really. I don't know why I'm complaining. Even if I worked nine to five, I'd still probably get up at five in the morning to run or write. What's an hour earlier?

The answer may be: a lot.

Friday, November 6, 2009


1. I turned twenty-nine yesterday. Today I was able to joke about the fact that Justin remembered to sing to me yesterday and that next year he'll remember a gift. The thing is we've been just buying stuff when we travel and saying, "Oh, happy birthday to me. Merry Christmas to me. Yea for St. Patrick's Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day!" Not quite, but close. But I realized: I want to open a gift on my birthday. So next year, a song and a gift.

2. Sweet Chocolate Babycakes. I made these to celebrate twenty-nine using Nigella Lawson's recipe. Not time consuming and sooo very delicious.

3. On Sunday I begin subbing for a tenth grade English teacher on maternity leave. I signed up for this awhile ago when I thought Yeah, I'll need a break by then, thinking that staying at home might leave me missing the classroom. I wouldn't call teaching a break. I'll miss my little one. The days will be long but I don't know quite what to expect until I just jump in and start.

4. This one is for DC RunningMama. I miss reading your blog! See if you can find me on FB under Justin Sarah Marslender. Can't imagine there being a lot of those Justin Sarahs out there. I didn't ever try to track down your real name so I still think of you as DC and am not sure how to find you. (To think that I would like to be a spy one day).

5. No guarantees on blogging over the next week or two (see 3). I'm working on a few mini-essays about life here that I'll post sometime and I need to get my pictures together so that I can post more of those. Also want to put up a few recipes that work well for us. Until then, happy weekend. Think of me when you're loving your lazy Sunday afternoon!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009