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!

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?)


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. 

Who needs sleep? You’re never going to get it…

June 17, 2014

I think I might have to let go of my Kindle. It’s cutting into my sleep. I have a hard time falling asleep anyway (even as a kid, I remember lying awake in bed at night it seemed like forever, inventing fantastical adventures or singing hymns to myself or just tossing and turning) so the backlit source of Candy Crush, net surfing, and a growing collection of fun books really doesn’t help.

This is going to be hard. 

I think I might have to ask Gimli to hide it from me.

Anyway, the most recent acquisition which I finished reading at some ungodly hour was Mel’s book, Apart at the Seams. I completely enjoyed it, the concept and the execution. Glad I got to it before this self-prescribed Kindle fast begins.


Dusting off my writing desk

June 13, 2014

I’m back at my writing desk for the first time in about 6 weeks… with a commitment from Gimli to take on a larger part of our shared responsibilities so that I might have a hope of finishing my dissertation this year. 

Literally dusting off my desk. 

I’ve been a crap commenter lately, honestly blogging was one of the first things to fall off the map for me when things got busy – but it’s been part of my writing process for the past few years, so I think I’ll pick up a bit here in the next few months.

I want to set some goals: 

  • 20 hours of work put in by the end of this month
  • Something good sent off to my committee by the end of this month
  • By the end of July, another section ready for committee review
  • Full draft ready for review by early October

That’s kind of a general sketch… I’ll be setting daily goals too. I HAVE to get this thing done this year. I truly feel that it’s now or never. There will be a cost, and I’ll just have to take it.


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