My Farewell Tour

Years ago, sitting in class, didn't you wonder why you had to learn where Mesopotamia was? Why learn about the places so far away? What was the point of knowing about some huge desert in a place it was unlikely I would ever visit. Well, now I know why. One never knows in life what sort of interesting things will come about. And my life has certainly been interesting. But, now it's time to learn about another part of the world and depart from my safe haven of New Hampshire and head out to parts unknown in a place called Abu Dhabi.
I am calling this part of my journey, before I leave, my "Farewell Tour" because haven't you ever noticed that when a cool rock band is going to change members or break up, they have a Farewell Tour that lasts about a year? Well, I began my "Farewell Tour" at the Thanksgiving dinner table last November as I sat and looked around at my family, my cousins, aunts and uncles and I asked my mother what she would think if I decided to teach overseas. My mother responded favorably and I thought, well, then, this is it. This could be my last Thanksgiving dinner with the family in New England, for a couple of years. I mentally looked around at the family as if to impress their faces and that moment on my mind. At that point, my mother was the only one who knew that I was planning such a crazy, wild journey of my heart. I applaud her for being open to such an idea. Now that I am further along in my journey, she is still so very supportive. What more can one ask from her parents?

Monday, September 26, 2016

It Takes a Village...and Gas, Porta Potties, Food and LOVE

A friend posted a great comment about thanking her "village" for helping her raise her six children. I counted up my years raising my brood of 3...for 40 years...yep, no wonder I'm tired. Here are my thoughts on how this all happens...
It is a little known fact on your parent license that from the time your first kid is 4 until the last one is 22, your "adult entertainment" will consist of sports, (if you are lucky your kiddo will fall in love with hockey), dance, gymnastics, Cubs, Brownies, Scouts, Webelos, Cadettes, Church Youth groups, Sunday or Saturday religious services, Catechism, Sunday School, Talmud, Q'uran classes, overnights at YOUR house, hiking, biking, and the attendant driving to and from--paying for food for the entire family for said events, stopping at EVERY rest stop in every state you drive through on your way to all these events. Forget about Friday date nights... That is the night you sit home by your cell biting your nails until all your young'uns are home. Your parent license does grant you Sunday afternoon for adult pursuits with other adults with whom you spent the previous week screaming at games with while thinking their kid might do better in a non-physical  pursuit. You will be watching sporting events on said Sunday afternoon.
These rules are written in stone. Your reward will be well-adjusted, socially adept, morally savvy kids who someday MAY say thanks and appreciate your hard work. But don't count on it!
You're welcome

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

                                     Family Genealogy

I have spent the past 30 years immersed in the study and genealogy of my family lines. If this doesn't interest you, please feel free to move on. I hope that this chapter of my blog may prove intriguing to those researching the family history of the family names of Richard Warren (Mayflower Pilgrim), Barnaby, Sprague, Richardson, Steen, Noyes, Currier,  My search has been extensive and at times, exhausting. I have been aided in my search by family members: Elizabeth Buker, VJ Steen, Harold Steen, Jr, my parents, Marjorie and Raymond Steen, and all my aunts, uncles, cousins and friends who provided names, dates and personal information to help me on my search. 
I am proud of the fact that I have traced my family lines back over 13 generations to the landing of the Mayflower at Plimouth (now Plymouth, Mass) and before that to England, where the trails grow cool. I have traced my children's genealogy back 16 generations to England. Their genealogy provided 4 links to the Mayflower, while my genealogy provides one link, via Richard Warren.

I begin, today, with some interesting information that came to me through my aunt: the Barnaby Castle, also known as the Barnaby Mansion, at 299 Broadway, Providence, RI will be open to the public on October 4, 2014. Although I will be unable to attend, there are others in the family who will be able to attend and will bring back information about a family home that has been the subject of many of my waking dreams. To see the Barnaby Mansion is to see a home that is so extravagant, that, even through years of decay, it still appears to hold the magic of a stately, proper Rhode Island mansion. 

Quoted here, from the USGENWEB Rhode Island is an article on the JB Barnaby family. My own Great-great Grandfather, Abner Jones Barnaby is mentioned hers. While Abner does not have the same notoriety as JB, and did not own a home close to the same grandeur as the Barnaby Mansion, he held some political posts in his own right. The article, forthwith, from the History of Providence County, Volumes I & II:

p. 684 - 685Jerothmul Bowers BARNABY, the founder of the J. B. Barnaby Company, was one of 14 children of Stephen B. and Lucy H. (Hathaway) Barnaby, and was born at the Barnaby homestead October 27th, 1830.  The family is descended from James Barnaby, who was at Plymouth as early as 1660.  In 1725 Ambrose Barnaby moved to Freetown, Mass., near Fall River, where he purchased a portion of the estate now known as the Barnaby homestead, which at present is owned by the heirs of Stephen Barnaby, the father of the subject of this sketch.
Mr. Barnaby was educated in the country schools at first, supplementing this work with a course of instruction at Pete's Academy, an institution then in existence near Fall River.  He was 16 years old when he left school and became a clerk in the employ of his brother-in-law, William H. Ashley, at Steep Brook, near Fall River.  When 20 years old he entered the clothing store of Andrew N. Dix, at Fall River, where he remained about two years. October 27th, 1852, he came to Providence and opened a store at 15 South Main street, where he continued in business very successfully for 17 years. Then he removed to larger and more commodious quarters, which had been specially fitted up for his business, in the new Woods Building, corner of College and South Main street, in 1869.  During this year also the firm of J. B. Barnaby & Company was formed, Mr. Henry B. Winship becoming a member of the copartnership.  Success followed the new firm, as it had followed its senior member, and they were compelled to remove again in 1876 to still larger and more eligible quarters, which they secured in the new Dorrance Building, located on Dorrance, Westminster and Middle streets.  From that time to the present the firm has not only popularized itself by certain unique and attractive devices for drawing public attention, but in the legitimate expansion of its business it has stretched forth to several other cities, where large stores under the firm's management are also operated. In 1884 the firm was enlarged by the addition of three members -- Messrs. Walter A. Scott, George H. Grant and Albert L. Anthony, who had been clerks under the old management.  On January 1st, 1889, Mr. Barnaby retired from the business, with which his name had been honorably connected for over a generation, leaving the large clothing concern that he had established in the hands of his late partners.
Mr. Barnaby also engaged in enterprises outside of Rhode Island, among them the Barnaby Manufacturing Company of Fall River, which is engaged in the manufacture of ginghams, and in which he was a director and one of the largest owners.  He erected the first iron front building in the state.  It was located at the corner of Westminster and Union streets, and was built in 1870.  In 1872 he built the Bowers Block, and subsequently the Conrad Building, one of the finest edifices devoted to business in the city.
In politics Mr. Barnaby was a democrat.  In former years he paid more attention to politics than during the latter period of his life, owing to the multitude of business affairs.  In the first place he was a member of the city council from the old Seventh ward from 1870 to 1879, and for several of the latter years of this period he was successfully selected for chairman of the joint committee on finance of the city government.  In 1875 he was elected to the general assembly from this city, and served for one year.  The year 1877 saw him nominated as the democratic candidate for governor.  His opponent was ex-Governor Van Zandt, republican and prohibitionist.  A highly exciting campaign resulted in Mr. Barnaby's defeat by 454 votes out of a total of 24,456.  The next year he was made the democratic candidate for congress in the Second district, though his residence was in the First district.  Honorable Latimer W. Ballou, the republican candidate, out of a total vote of 10, 427, defeated Mr. Barnaby by 717 votes.  On the death of his brother, Mr. Abner J. Barnaby, in 1882, who was a member of the democratic national committee from Rhode Island, Mr. Barnaby was elected to that position, and he was twice reelected, the second time in the spring of 1888.
Mr. Barnaby was married September 15th, 1857, to Josephine A. Reynolds, daughter of Joseph and Rebecca (Anthony) Reynolds, of this city.  They had three children; Mabel, wife of John Howard Conrad, of Chicago, Ill.; Hattie A., who died in 1879; and Josephine Maud.  After an illness of several years, Mr. Barnaby died on the morning of September 19th, 1889.  The flag on the Board of Trade Building was placed at half-mast on the day of his death in tribute to his memory.  Mr. Barnaby became a member of the Board of Trade February 26th, 1887.  He was a regular attendant and a large contributor to Grace church.  He was buried September 25th, 1889.

Source:"History of Providence County, Vol I & II." USGenWeb RI Articles, History of Providence: Woonsocket, 2. Ed. Richard M. Bayles. Rhode Island US Genweb Project, from WW Preston and Co., 1891, 1999. Web. 01 Oct. 2014. <>.

Pictured below is the Barnaby Mansion, also known as Barnaby Castle.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Like Sands in the Hour Glass, So Were the Days of My Life...

Al Hamdul'allah!
So, a quick blog to reestablish that I'm back! I have lost this blog since sometime in 2012 when I changed over to a Google chrome account and suddenly, this whole lovely blogging hobby was lost. Complicating matters was the fact that in trying to get back on, the page would only come up in Arabic, which, of course, I couldn't read...haha. I just spent the last hour going through page after page of forums and help desk info. So, baby, I'm back!!

I am also home from the sands of a place I loved and dearly miss. I left Abu Dhabi in October, 2013. I came home unexpectedly, and with much regret. I will elaborate more, dear readers, at another time. 

My story actually begins some time in February, 2014, with my mother's death. The story begins and ends with her death. I thank the lucky stars and my God in heaven that I came home in October, when I did, as I was able to visit her and spend time with her that I could never have had if I had stayed in the UAE. I have acclimated and acculturated back into life in New Hampshire; a difficult process, due to the parts of me that missed my friends in Abu Dhabi with a cutting pain. But this story, and these words will have to wait for a time when I can truly reflect on my time in Abu Dhabi, and more importantly, my arrival home. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Stumbling Onto the Mattress and Into the Barbershop

Hello my blog readers. I know it has been quite a while since you have heard from me. Somewhere between Thanksgiving and June, things got very hectic here and I was going through what we all refer to as "adjustment issues."
Let me start by saying that I have had a very full and rich winter and spring. I became involved in two performing groups and have been so busy going to rehearsals that my time was literally eaten up. Add to that the occasional Saturday working day and life just got very busy.
Now that my musical, Once Upon a Mattress is over and the barbershop chorus that I direct has had its day on the stage, I think I have a few things to write about.

Working backwards, I want to comment on the Queen's Jubilee, 60 years of Queen Elizabeth on the throne. I work with many expats from the UK and we shared our collected knowledge about the Queen's big day. At the end of the day, I found myself driving downtown and remembered that there was going to be a celebration at St. Andrew's church, where I attend services. I checked in with my friend, another American and we met at church for what was a delightful and meaningful service. The music was spectacular, with horns and Handel's Zadok the Priest, the well known coronation anthem. Other music choices followed with a sincere and heartfelt rendering of God Save the Queen.  An American doesn't get too many opportunities to belt out the alternative words to My Country Tis of Thee and I enjoyed every minute of it. Most importantly, one of the Sheikh's attended the service. Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan is known to us as the "Education Sheikh" and His Highness. Now it is interesting that I have attended two different events where His Highness walked amongst the people. Although there is security for these events, it is not to the point of the security that we would experience seeing a high ranking Vice President or presidential candidate in the US. When His Highness drove into the church compound, I was at the curb waiting to cross to enter the church and I recognized the education Sheikh from my previous encounter with him at a large educational event. I admit, I was a little excited to see this gentleman up close. Although he is part of the royal family, he is not in line to the throne.

Last weekend, I performed in the Broadway musical Once Upon a Mattress. It was a spectacular performance, even if I do say so myself (to use an overused cliche.) I was cast as a woman courtier, but when it was apparent that not enough men were in the cast, I offered to switch roles to a male courtier. I wasn't too sure how this would all pan out, but let me say that when I put on my costume, got my head into my role and then covered my head with a gob of hair gel and makeup, I was quite believeable as a man. So believeable, in fact that after the show I shocked several theater goers who had no clue! Even my good friends had trouble finding me and I felt quite successful in my role. My lovely partner, Shabri played her part well, keeping me in character as a man. The other men in the play did think I played my part well. So that was high praise coming from the acting bunch. That is me at the far left in the photo above...the short, scruffy, bald man. That photo was taken in dress rehearsal and I subsequently shortened the tunic so it fell in length with Julian, at far right. As costume designer, Julian created the elaborate designs and we purchased all the fabric and notions, together, then sent them to the tailor who made them, then sent them back to us, and I altered, let in, let out, restitched for hours upon hours until we were ready.
The weekend previous to the show, my barbershop chorus performed in the "Just Voices" show. Three different choral groups worked to present a wonderful evening of a cappella music. I was asked to direct this group, back in January, so we had been quite busy getting ready for two different concerts. It went well, save for a "costume malfunction" on the second night of the concert, when my beautiful fuschia gown got caught under my music stand. A long pull and the skirt bounced back into place. The audience actually loved that moment. (maybe I will include a costume malfunction in every show.)

So, that is the culmination of many weeks of hard work and artistic endeavor. The musical and performing artist ex-pats over here are limited in number, so they tend to perform in more than one group. It's a supportive group with a great deal of talent. I'm glad I stumbled into the Barbershop and onto the Mattress with them!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

When Dinner Ends: "Elvis Has Left the Building"

 Stay Tuned; More Photos to follow

Like many Americans, I am getting ready for Thanksgiving, this week. We will adjust our calendar to accommodate our schedule. Over here, it's been a bit of a challenge to put a Thanksgiving dinner together. Since we work on Thursday, I will have our event on Saturday. The guest list is a little out of hand, now, I think I am up to 40 confirmed people. My upstairs neighbor and colleague, Sebastian, has offered me the use of the rooftop deck for additional space. (I'm pretty sure I will need it!)
The turkeys did appear in the stores after Halloween, so I brought home two large size 13lbs (well, large for Abu Dhabi) each...yesterday, I returned to the store for another, all the big ones were gone, so this one is about 10 lbs.
Hunting for the makings for stuffing has been the biggest challenge...cannot find sage, anywhere...I was in the market yesterday, in the spice aisle with another American also looking for spices. She had her I-pad with her and googled "Sage" and all we could determine is that if I find something with the scientific name "salvia" that would work. At the same time, another American walked up and she had found some "sage-y feeling" herbs in the veggie dept that she thought tasted like sage. So, I trucked back over there and found same...but I am not sure it is sage. has a very sharp, peppery taste. but I chopped it up into the dressing...and with the marjoram and thyme, it is passable as to what I think stuffing should taste like. The bread itself had to be created from stacks of French loaves, browned in the oven.
Other adventures in culinary tasks...I have the makings for Whipped cream and had to find a whisk to whip it. I didn't want to spend the $$ right now for a real mixer.
The American gal from the spice aisle asked me if I knew where she could find real vanilla extract...ah, well, yes, in another country...a Western country, as Muslim countries do not allow vanilla extract to be sold, as it is alcohol based. I did suggest to her that she could get vanilla beans at the herbalist and put them in a small bottle of grain alcohol or vodka and be able to have real vanilla.  (She really should Google that!)
The defrost process is taking forever. Bird #1 (Elvis) had 4 days in the fridge and really could have gone another day. Bird #2 (Arlo) has been in the fridge 2 days and shows no signs of softening. Bird #3 (Khalas...Arabic for "finish" or "end") had better straighten up and defrost or you know I'll have to just execute him...again.
Oh, the biggest joy is cooking over here. There is no such thing as a real old fashioned stove oven...I did find a beautiful "cooker" which is a stove/oven combo, with convection, so after burning the brownies on my first try out...I have learned to adjust both time and temp. Elvis turned out so beautifully moist with the crispest of crusts that when I go home I am ditching my traditional oven and getting one of these convection combos.
My cranberry bread also turned out better than ever.
I cued up my Youtube this morning to find a copy of Arlo Guthrie singing "Alice's Restaurant" so we can continue the tradition. I would miss that if I couldn't hear it.
Well, that's a little insight into "Giving Thanksgiving for Being in Abu Dhabi" and I believe I have just written my next blog!

Monday, September 19, 2011


Today's episode in Abu Dhabi was a trip to the mall for internet wifi use. I do this almost every day with several teaching colleagues. Today, the bus dropped us opposite the Khalidiya mall. There used to be a broken fence that we could sneak through, but the good maintenance folks of the Abu Dhabi highway system have fixed it. So getting to the mall, now requires a long walk around the fence and crossing two 3 lane highways. I stand perched behind three Pakistani men who are going to the mall for the same purpose I am...laptop bags dangling from their shoulders. I see a break in the traffic and one person runs. He makes it. The next two wait for a break in the traffic. I prepare to run with them. I check to see if my colleagues have made it across. Tim is in the middle of the median strip, waiting for his wife Cindy to venture across. 
Let's pause for a moment to consider the drivers of Abu Dhabi. These brave souls man the driving wheel attempting to avoid cabs, motor bikes and the occasional pedestrian. They peer ahead into the traffic and see a hapless soul about to step off the curb...they speed up, in an attempt to splat him or her over the front of their grill. I have seen them grinning and even laughing as they bear down in their expensive cars. They get big points for catching one of us, and particularly huge points for catching an American over 50 ... I am a prime target. However, I have seen 60+ year old Asian women who qualify as prey, as well. Asian women can run particularly fast. 
I step off into the morass of traffic, wait for the opening between cars and run as fast as I can for the median strip. I pause, breathing hard, looking down the street for the next break in traffic. I see Tim and Cindy have made it safely. I watch the young men run and I follow in their stead. I reach the safety of the opposite curb. Today, I have negotiated the traffic, safely. I'm pretty sure the game designers of Frogger spent a lot of time in Abu Dhabi.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Woke up, it was a Chelsea morning...

Early one September morn…

Week one of my new job in my new school has come and gone. I not only love this job, but I am finding that I am at peace, here in the desert. Oh, it’s certainly not a bed of roses. There are many things I would change about this job, if I could. However, the overwhelming sense of peace descends at the end of the day. There are many imperfections…the day I was moved from my delightful job at the boys’ school to the girls’ campus was particularly difficult, and getting to the girls’ campus to find that no one in administration had thought that pens, pencils, paper or other supplies were essential to the running of the school was a particular jolt. However, we were given a stipend to go buy supplies at the store. And a few days later, copy paper made its way to our campus, as well as staplers, tape and paper clips. There are just certain things that make you feel that you are a teacher. Obviously, I can teach with merely a stick in sand, and I was fully prepared to do so, but the pens were a nice touch. We are still lacking internet and our overhead LCD projectors are still on the ceiling without a remote to run them. But, those are mere technicalities, and I expect with a little more patience, those things too, shall be ironed out. Strangely enough, last Thursday a brand new, automated (and free) vending machine for coffee, mochaccino, cappuccino, and cardamom tea appeared in the faculty lounge. One can certainly understand where Arab priorities lie. I didn’t think I would like cardamom tea, but am finding it particularly delightful. I’m thinking I will become addicted to mochaccino and cappuccino with this fantastic addition to our teacher lounge. (I do dislike coffee unless it is really flavored up) Of course, I can still enjoy my first love, Earl Grey tea with a bit of milk and sugar, but let’s face it, on my half hour morning break, it will be so much easier to just push a button. Oh, yes. Break in the morning is 25 minutes long, versus the hectic, stateside jam-your-worksheets through the copier, spend 5 minutes swearing at it and another 4 minutes trying to remove the jam and by that time you realize that you have to run to the rest room before heading back to class.  Abu Dhabi culture does have its advantages for the older bladder.

On another subject entirely, I had a pretty good weekend. On Friday, I pulled off an afternoon tea for an assortment of new friends and colleagues. We munched on tea sandwiches, drank sun tea and laughed about life in Abu Dhabi. On Saturday, I got up quite early and attended a charity flea market at the Sheraton Inn, and came away with some amazing purchases; plates, serving dishes, towels, pillows, a duvet and a duvet cover, several lamps that match my décor,  an African ebony bowl and a framed coin collection. After that success, I wound my way over to Nefertiti furniture, a used furniture place that had been closed during my spare time during Ramadan. I purchased an IKEA chaise lounge, two large pillows, two glass-topped side tables and a kitchen bar for my kitchen supplies that are starting to overwhelm my tiny kitchen space. As I walked away from Nefertiti, in the blazing hot sun, I thought that it was the right time for my friend Michael to be returning from his morning jaunt and I hoped he would pass by me in his taxi. Instead, I baked my way to the edge of the road and waited a few minutes for a taxi. Later that afternoon, Michael mentioned that he had passed me by in the Khalidiya area carrying two pillows. My prescience is alive and well in Abu Dhabi, it just didn’t extend to “seeing” Michael stopping for me. Had a second moment in class, this morning, after class had started and we were well on our way toward 8am. I was doing a last attendance check when I mentioned to the class that I fully expected Huda to walk through the door any moment…and at that very moment, she did. I enjoy these little moments of clarity and prescience. God has put me in a good place.