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.

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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. 

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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.

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

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. 

Brewing

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. 

Sigh. 

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. 

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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. 

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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!

Here I am

July 10, 2014

So earlier this week, blog-friend Pam put out an SOS and others in the community lit their beacons for her. And it feels trivial to meander on about the mundane happenings in my own life, especially when other IRL friends are immersed in their own battles as well. But here I am… kind of enjoying that there’s not much going on at the moment. I’m having low-level anxiety symptoms about work, realizing how much of this is part of my personality – being hyper-sensitive to criticism, perfectionistic, but also a little lazy (especially when something can’t possibly be perfect). Does one ever outgrow these things? 

I’m beginning to no longer feel like we just got here. Case in point: we bought 2 guinea pigs for Oz’s birthday! And Gimli and I are going to go on a diet together. My feeling is that both those things indicate that we’re feeling settled enough here that we can actually pay attention to mundane things… it no longer feels like we’re just surviving. 

One of my counterparts in Central America and her husband just terminated their contract with our organization, after 15 months in. I was not shocked at all. I’d been hearing from her for months what a toll this job was taking on them. I’d been feeling it, living it. I think Gimli and I have had it a LOT easier than a lot of others in our position in other countries, partly because of the staff we have here, partly because we’ve worked together frequently before (and have negotiated a lot of our differences), partly because of the experiences we bring to the table. A good part because our predecessor and now-supervisor is fantastic. 

I probably shouldn’t write so much about work on the web, right?

things going well

July 1, 2014

I just had the best solo-parenting weekend I’ve ever had. It was… actually fun! So that was cool. Gimli is back in Albania this week, and I keep thinking how strange it is that we both got so attached to that place, to the people there. Right now we’ve been in Colombia for about 18 months, which was the point in time in Albania when we started thinking about what to do, where to go next, or whether to stay on there longer. But it doesn’t feel like the same amount of time. I still feel like we just got here. And I really don’t understand why it feels so different.

Anyway, even though it was a long holiday weekend, the kids and I had a good time. I didn’t feel as exhausted as I usually do, and I found myself just enjoying the kids so much more. I think that has to do with them getting older, and interacting with them is easier. They’re also a ton more helpful when I ask them to do things for me, there are more things they actually can do, and that’s so nice. 

We also bought two guinea pigs for Oz’s birthday coming up – Illyria looooves animals so she is in 7th heaven. It’s been neat learning about what guinea pigs need and how to care for them. Oz named his Leona (original idea was “Lion” but they are both female) and Illyria named hers Brown and White (yes, she is very literal sometimes…). We spent a lot of time setting up their space in the kids’ bedroom, but I’m going to have to move the corral because their little noises keep Illyria awake at night. 

In dissertation news, I made more progress in the last 2 weeks than I think I did in the last 6 months! I sent a chapter to my committee and I should have 2 more chapter drafts ready by Friday. I’m pretty close… So that feels good too. Things are going well at work, no major crises (knock on wood), so that allows me to take all this time off for writing. 

I’m using an online stopwatch to discipline myself, I know it’s not a direct measure of productivity but at least I can see exactly how much time I’m wasting, how much time I’m actually writing, and how much time I spend checking sources and re-reading stuff. It has worked pretty well. 

Not sure what I want to write about, I just need to write

June 24, 2014

I’m feeling a little emotionally beat up, nothing big, just an admin team meeting followed up by a side meeting about a recurring staff issue that’s my responsibility but I wish it wasn’t. I guess I just feel like the past 2 hours were spent dwelling on a lot of negative things. 

I got an ominous e-mail from the graduate school this morning, approving my leave of absence for this coming academic year (with stern warnings about keeping my status up to date and finishing soon), and then another e-mail asking for a petition to extend time to degree, which I had already submitted last week. So I re-sent it. I’ve been working harder than ever on the dissertation, and there is still so very, very far to go. But I should be able to send something to my full committee by the end of this week.

Gimli is going on another trip this coming week, but that’s ok. I still feel like I “owe” him for all the time I was working overtime or traveling in May. 

My kids are on their 2-week midyear break, and Illyria is acting up a lot – I think she’s feeling the lack of routine and stimulation from school. I printed out about 40 kindergarden worksheets for her in English and Spanish and she did half of them in one sitting. She was sick this weekend, too – throwing up and sleeping a lot. Last night – or early this morning, actually, I guess – Oz had a nosebleed in bed, getting blood all over his face, shirt, sheets, pillow, and hair. Poor kid. His birthday is in 2 weeks and I haven’t planned anything… I think we’ll probably just have a family party.

Right now Colombia is playing Japan in their third World Cup game, I think they’re already in for the second round, unless they get trounced in this game. I’m not watching because I need the writing time. 

So I have about 2 hours left this afternoon, in which to make progress. Here I go.

peace pearls for a thursday morning

June 19, 2014

Continuing this month’s practice of let’s-throw-random-shit-up-on-the-screen-and-call-it-a-post, here are the contents of my brain this morning.

  • an irritating former volunteer is back for a visit and the very sound of her voice grates on my nerves.
  • Colombia plays somebody in the World Cup today and the whole city is vibrating with excitement and nervous energy
  • Since the organization I work for has a firm stance for non-violence, people from HQ actually and with completely straight faces refer to bullet points as “pearls” (short for “peace pearls”).
  • This morning I woke up feeling rested for the first time in ages – Oz was not feeling well and fell asleep at 5 p.m.; I went to bed around 8 but he woke up hungry at 10:30. So I was up with him til a little past midnight, and then we both slept hard until 7! 
  • I had the fun experience this week of seeing a number of photos of myself from the back (posted on Facebook, of course) – one set in a bathing suit… man oh man, I’m suddenly filled with incentive to start exercising again and trying to eat better – specifically cutting back on caffeine, sugar, and bread. I think that doing those things will also help me sleep better at night.
  • I’ve been having some academic anxiety dreams – and realized that if the theme is academics, these dreams always, always take place at my undergraduate institution, and involve the philosophy classes I took with the object of my obsession (occasionally a math class with sneak in, regardless of the fact that I never took a math class in college – and even so he is always in the dream). 
  • Illyria’s vacation starts today; Oz next week. We might take a weekend trip to the country since there are also two holiday Mondays coming up soon. 
  • On a whim, I started telling the kids the story of the Hobbit at bedtime. They begged and begged for more so last night Gimli actually started reading the book to them (in installments). It’s really fun introducing them to this world that has been such a big part of our lives since we were kids! (We also realized we’d mis-remembered the order of events in the book, although Gimli remembered better than I did… but I still tell it better because I do all the voices and stuff. I may suck at many aspects of parenting, but we definitely do breakfasts and story time well, so at least the days are bookended with goodness. And hopefully that counts for something?)

groggy

June 18, 2014

So Oz had a slight fever last night and only wanted to sleep cradled in my arms. I am so tired I almost can’t think. It might be a good day for coding interviews and field notes – the drudge part of the work. 


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