Case In Point

September 30, 2014

The day after I got back from the US, Gimli and I went out for a date night hamburger. We ended up in an artsy little place with a dumbwaiter and vintage movie posters on the walls. As we were sitting down I thought “this place reminds me of Ithaca.” Midway through the meal, I abstractedly watched two of the waitstaff talking near the cash register and found myself thinking “Hey, they’re talking Spanish! I wonder where they’re from? Dominican, maybe?” It took me about 20 minutes before I remembered where I actually was…

The Mind-Body Problem

September 29, 2014

I’ve been listening to Albanian turbo-folk music on Youtube and then stumbled upon Cornell Bhangra, and as my foot tapped under my desk realized that my mind and body seem seldom to be in the same place at the same time. We spent a very long morning with both kids in tow sitting in hard plastic chairs and standing in lines, Illyria said “this looks like an airport,” except the point was not to go anywhere, it was to stay here. Visa renewal time.

Whoops, I forgot to include this in the original posting:

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is?Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.

Focus, Balance

September 25, 2014

Yesterday I was trying to figure out whether to skip a local board meeting to stay at the office and write, or not. I’ve skipped the last 2 meetings (when I was sick, and when the kids were sick), so I felt bad… so I did an online Tarot reading (Joanna Powell Colbert, she’s awesome) and my middle card, the “Challenge” card, was this one: (Do click to see the picture)

And the text next to it says this:   stay focused on your path

“The paddler sets out on his quest, unencumbered by baggage or even excess clothing. He is focused on his goal, intent, looking neither to the left nor right. The phrase “paddle your own canoe” indicates self-determination and self-reliance. He brings his strength, will and courage to the task at hand….” 

 So that was awesome! And I went to the meeting, which seems contrary to this reading, but it felt like the right thing to do. Then came back and worked.

There’s so much balance going on here. Balancing my tippy canoe.

I’m reading a book my advisor loaned me, re-reading articles that I have been citing but haven’t looked at in at least six years, and finding that I completely mis-remembered their central points. This is all going to make the final product so much better. It feels worth it.

Microblog Monday: Mama PhD [Candidate] Edition

September 22, 2014

She finished her PhD when her children were very small; I don’t remember exactly how young, but when I was expecting Oz I e-mailed her to ask her how she did it. One thing she said was (and I paraphrase): “I decided to do it while they were young, because they wouldn’t remember not having me around.” And I just couldn’t get on board with that. I don’t believe that what you don’t remember doesn’t affect you.

I applied to grad schools while we were TTC, and decided to postpone neither. It has been way, way harder than I ever imagined it would be. Whenever I see a mother announcing on FB that she’s going back to grad school, I cringe, I want to say “don’t do it!” And then when I see a mother of two getting her doctorate in three years I want to disappear.

I have to stay on track. I am on track, right now. It’s do or die time.

I never want to have to explain to my daughter why I never finished my doctorate. Not when I’m this close.

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is?Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.

There and Back Again

September 18, 2014

I was in Ithaca for a brief spell, attending a friend’s dissertation defense (more or less on a whim) and meeting with my dissertation committee. I even had a few extra days built in for writing – so I finished my first full dissertation draft, with enough time for serious revisions. Perhaps most helpful was just meeting with committee members face to face – I got more insight and information in the first twenty minutes with each person than I could have in a month of e-mails.

I wrote this the first full day there (but didn’t post it because I kept my laptop internet-free the whole six days there – right now I’m sitting in an airport waiting for my return flight to Bogotá). So this is a week old:

~::~ It’s so good to be here. Last night my bus got in about an hour after dark, and instead of calling a cab I walked the quiet dark streets from the bus station to the hotel on the Commons, about as far as I walk between home and office in Bogotá, and it felt wonderful after sitting for almost 24 hours. I walked past all these quiet houses, worn and softened by age, and I could smell them in the cool night air – smell the quietly sagging wooden porches, and they smelled exactly like my Grandma’s house on a farm south of Buffalo. I think most of what I love about this place is the connection to those memories, a place that anchored me, a place we always went back to, where the fragile kindness of my lovely grandmother who shares my name, first and last (a big reason why I didn’t take my husband’s last name when we got married) always so delighted to have us come.

This morning at the library I sipped a soy latte, the taste that filled my mouth for the 2.5 years I was on campus experimenting with lactose intolerance, met with one committee member (who was so kind and encouraging! Why am I so amazed at this?) then wandered around the stacks for a while resisting the urge to bury my nose in rows of yellowing books. Why am I not pursuing the academic career that would make this my life?…

I miss this place. It’s good to be here. I feel so thankful for this time. ~::~

I’m on my way home now. And that’s a good feeling too.

Microblog Monday: Almost There

September 8, 2014

I’ve been so stressed. I’m way behind on my dissertation goals even though I’ve been working harder than ever and, I think, making meaningful progress. But I’m scared they’re going to flunk me out of the program. DH has been sick with the flu, the kids too, so I’ve been covering for him at work (we job-share) and that means less writing time than ever… plus he has been SO CRANKY. OMG.

Major happiness: my blood pressure has normalized since adding a second medication!!!!

When my daughter was so sick, she said “Mom I can’t see any happy faces. I only see twenty sad faces.” Today she went back to school saying “I see sixteen happy faces today!” Almost there.

(Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.)

Apart at the Seams

September 5, 2014

Welcome to my part of the Apart at the Seams book tour! I’ve never done this before so I hope I remember all the steps.


I loved reading this “sideways sequel”; in Measure of Love, there are multiple moments when it’s hard-to-impossible to know what Arianna is thinking or why she’s doing what she does – the reader is as mystified as Rachel is. So seeing the same series of events through Arianna’s eyes is hugely revealing. I also think I’m more like Arianna than like Rachel in personality, so in some ways I enjoyed this book the most of the trilogy. I adore the cover – the fact that it matches details in the book itself is really nice, and the yellow boots just pop wonderfully. 


Throughout the story, Arianna slowly develops a non-romantic relationship with a man named Noah. Although the two are attracted to each other, they maintain the status as friends due to Arianna already being in a relationship with Ethan. Arianna, along with myself as the reader, compares Noah to her boyfriend Ethan and it’s obvious that Noah and Arianna have much more in common. They both share the same views about marriage as well as the importance on advancing their own careers. Is it possible to nurture and maintain a platonic relationship between a man and a woman despite the attraction the two share?

Yes. I believe it is. Here’s why: while I don’t think we can or even should control how we feel about things, we have more control over how we think about things, and the most control over the actions we choose to take. An attraction is a feeling – it’s there whether you like it or not. But how you choose to act on it is up to you. I don’t know if Arianna crossed the line or not… Obviously Rachel thinks so, but does Ethan?

I do feel that the word “nurture” in there does make it tricky… how do you nurture a platonic relationship differently from a romantic one? And how do you know when you’ve crossed the line? And is actively nurturing a platonic relationship with someone you are attracted to, while in a committed relationship with someone else, simply a dangerous (to your relationship) thing to do?

I’ve been in this situation myself, so found this question very compelling to think about – and read about in the novel as well.


Marriage is one of the main themes in the story. Do you think it is possible for a couple to share a long-term domestic relationship without actually being officially married?  Why is our society so keen on the expectation of marriage in a romantic relationship despite the high divorce rates?

I think that humans in general have a hard time dealing with ambiguity. We want things to be crystal-clear and easy to mentally categorize. “Married” is a very clear category, legally, financially, and socially. The connection is unambiguous. In other cultural contexts, living together and especially raising children together is socially recognized as marriage, sometimes even legally (in Bolivia, after only three years a domestic partnership secures all the same legal protections as marriage).

There’s probably a commercial aspect to it as well that reinforces the social expectations – big weddings mean big bucks to some people.


About 7% of the way through the book, Arianna describes her reasons for choosing the safe career option rather than the fulfilling one, referencing her priorities in life and how they’ve changed and evolved. She says, “I’ve been working to support myself, but not really working to fulfill myself.” How have your priorities changed and evolved throughout your life so far? How do you see them changing and evolving over the next ten years? Can you tell us about the trade-offs you’ve made and are prepared to make?

When I was growing up, I never saw myself as having “a career,” or doing just one thing for the rest of my life. I’m not sure why. I always wanted to be a writer and/or a teacher, but then in college I became interested in community development work and that dramatically shifted my life direction. Looking back, I see that I have always swung between an academic life  and social service kinds of work. For me the biggest trade-offs, though, have been because of my marriage. Because of the ways in which we’ve negotiated our different goals and interests, we’ve ended moving between continents twice during my dissertation-writing which I think cost me about a year towards finishing each time. I’m not where I imagined I’d be when I started this doctoral program… which is ok. I actually love my job, love having lived in all these places with my husband and our children. I still sometimes wonder what my life would be like if I hadn’t married him, where I’d be, what I’d be doing. 

In the book, I loved the glimpse into Arianna’s professional life and the world of high fashion. It was so fascinating, and something I’d never really thought about before – who does all the hand-sewing for haute couture gowns? I guess I imagined it was all sweatshopped out overseas. As an industry I know nothing about, I loved learning about that in this book.


 To continue to the next leg of this book tour, please visit the main list at  

Writing Desk

August 5, 2014

I’m back at my writing desk after a 2-week hiatus, organizing my thoughts, looking for a way “in” to this chapter. The last substantive chapter to draft. Then write the Conclusion. Then re-write the whole thing at least twice. 

It’s do or die time here. The only option is to finish. This year.


This past Saturday felt like the first real Saturday I’ve had since the kids were born. We cleaned the house, went grocery shopping, cooked, ate, played, and in the mid-afternoon I sat down on the couch with a cup of herbal tea and a new knitting project. And I felt relaxed. It felt amazing. The kids were playing well together, Gimli was puttering in the kitchen, and I had time to sit and knit. A part of myself that has been dormant for six years started to come alive again. 

I can feel it in the tendrils of thoughts about new knitting projects I’d like to try, the new energy I feel while tackling housework. I don’t know where this new life-force came from, or what precisely has shifted either internally or externally (or both), but it’s fantastic. 

July 15, 2014

So I’m sitting at my desk crying over photos of Tirana, of all things, when I realized – yep, got my period today. 


July 14, 2014

This morning by 8 a.m. I had so many thoughts and emotions brewing internally I didn’t know what to do with them all. First of all was – is – Illyria’s food drama. Things were going pretty well at her new school, until we had a 3-week mid-year recess. This past week was her first week back and it was really rough. Friday when I went to pick her up she was crying because, she said, “the teachers want me to eat and I don’t want to.” I had a long talk with her classroom teacher who wants me to learn to cook Colombian dishes to feed to the children at home. Well, it seems logical I guess, but I don’t think it’s going to happen… first of all because I don’t do the cooking, Gimli does. 


There are so many culturally-based assumptions and ideologies about parenting, about food, about how to handle cultural differences on both those axes – I can tell you that my empathy for the immigrant families I worked with in the US has magnified a thousand-fold. I mean I was pretty empathetic before this experience, but now I feel it to the quick, how hard it is to feel judged on a completely different scale than the one you use to judge yourself. And when the expectations that seem so clear and obvious and natural to the school feel weird and uncomfortable to the parent. 

The teacher also thinks we should speak only Spanish to the kids at home, even though research shows that a strong foundation in the mother tongue is critically important to second-language acquisition and fluency. But why would she know that? As far as I know, there’s only one other expat family at that school. 

So, I spent the weekend looking with Illyria at food groups charts, and talking about why we feel it’s important for her to at least TRY to eat the lunches at school (which I know to be healthy, fresh, and balanced nutrition). She is so picky. It is SUCH an effort to get her to try new things. And she has expanded her repertoire so much this year already – tomatoes, rice, chicken…. I want her to know I am proud of her and I Love her no matter what. I fear that I’m setting her up for an eating disorder. I feel so conflicted about this whole issue. 


My dissertation buddy is in a tough spot and I spent a while this morning writing an encouraging e-mail. I realized a lot of it was also a form of self-talk. My goal is to submit another chapter at the end of this week. Which means I need to organize my work obligations well. 


Gimli has organized our kitchen so we can both go on the Zone diet for a while. We did this shortly after we got married and really liked it. We’re much less physically active now than we were then, but at least we can give it a go. I’ve been having a lot of dizziness lately, I attribute some of it to poor sleep, but I know I’ve been lazy about keeping salt out of my diet and preparing all our own food will help. He is super excited about it!


There are a bunch of little things at work and at home kind of gnawing at me, that I have to figure out how to process/cope with/answer in some way. I really enjoyed this article about tree-planting, I think it applies to almost any kind of work – without the trench foot though!


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