How it’s going

February 9, 2016

So, the goals. I recognize they were pretty ambitious. I did great for a week, and then we moved, and I let the stress of that be my excuse for falling off the proverbial wagon (especially the computer games, journaling, and blogging goals). But this is a slow week at work, just now, so I’m ready to take it up again.

I love our new apartment. It’s high and warm and full of light. It’s a much longer walk to school, we clocked 28 minutes door to door today, but it’s good for all of us to get the additional exercise. It’s also forcing Illyria to face her fear of dogs as there are a lot of dogs en route. Mostly on leashes but not always.

A good friend from grad school contacted me yesterday about putting together a proposal for a special issue of an anthro journal, so that’s fun to think about – and scary. But that’s a small step towards the publishing goal, so that’s good. A necessary if not sufficient condition.

I’ve put a time limit on “time-wasting” web sites (it’s a browser extension called “Waste No Time,” it’s not perfect but I’ve been able to make it work for me. I used it throughout my dissertation writing to prevent getting distracted.

And, I faced a really awkward and difficult conversation at work today, someone I directly supervise, and it went really well! They weren’t defensive and agreed to change the thing they’re doing that was bugging other people at the office. So I feel good about that.

In terms of reading more books, I tallied up that I read seven books in January. But only one was a new read (Dracula). The rest were all re-reads (and every single one had at least one vampire in it… not sure what that says about me…). So now I’m reading Edith Durham’s High Albania, published in 1908. It is fascinating! She traveled as a single English woman in her late 30s all over some really rough terrain where very few outsiders ever went. Truly badass, and very smart. I have a shelf full of books to read next… I almost want to put together a syllabus for myself for the next 3 months and treat it like a university course.

Gimli is in Budapest this week and I’m insanely jealous.

Land of the Eagle

January 27, 2016

There is something so perfectly melancholy about a Balkan winter, replete with rain and early dark.

I would move back there in a heartbeat. And yet it was hard: Gimli was working 12-hour days and I was with the kids 24/7. We all got sick and it rained almost every day, making it hard to get out and do things.

And it was good too – we saw so many friends, ate delicious food – I could rave on and on about the sweet fresh carrots and potatoes and leeks – it was so much fun to speak Albanian again and realize how well I remembered what I’d learned before.

We revisited old haunts, Illyria remembered a lot of places, we caught up with people.

But I don’t live there anymore. I don’t know if we ever actually will again. For now, it was enough just to be there, to see Dajti, to say “përshendetje” and “faleminderit,” to tell the kids stories about their early years (and things they don’t remember), just to be there. It was enough.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


January 19, 2016

Finally, some time to write. We have spent the last 18 days on vacation but Gimli has been working, and I’ve been with the kids almost 24/7 the whole time. I think the only exceptions to that have been brief grocery runs and potty breaks.

We went to Albania. I have too much to think about to say anything about that right now except that it was so worth it and I’m so glad we did.

Right now we’re in Peru at my parent’s house and it feels like the right place to be as well. My parents are slowing down like clockwork unwinding. It’s only a matter of time until we as a family collective will have to make some significant decisions. Initial conversations have begun… but it will be complicated, because of geography. Well, I’m sure I’ll come back to this later.

I wanted mostly to come to this space today to think about 2015 and 2016. The required New Year’s post. 2015 was a tough year, emotionally. So much that I don’t feel like rehashing right now. I ended the year feeling burned out and grumpy. What I know with absolute clarity is that I need to talk with my supervisor about some of this, or most of it. Just lay it all out on the table. The only actual plan I have for getting onto a better track is to let go of a lot of my dreams/hopes/desires/wishes for this work, and just be as professional as I possibly can. This job is not my own personal salvation and I think my biggest mistake has been thinking that it was.

I want to spend 2016 more focused on things that matter, and on the world around me. I’m thinking of drastically cutting back on Facebook time, celebrity gossip sites, and all computer games (includes tablets). They are huge time wasters and add nothing to my life. If I have the time and energy to play a game, then I have the time and energy to knit, and at the very least knitting brings something real into the world. Not a high score but a useful and hopefully beautiful item created by my own hands. (Although sometimes setting up and starting a project takes a lot more time and energy than just tapping on “new game”).

The other thing I want to do this year is journal and blog more. I want to write in my journal for 15 minutes every evening after the kids go to sleep, and blog 3x a week (twice on my family blog, once here). I’ve had a lovely hand-made paper journal for over a year and I think it has exactly four entries in it. I want to fill it up.

I have one more goal but I don’t know how realistic it is – to read a book a week. I’d like to be an academic book but it could be a novel I guess. If I can do a little of both that would be great. And I’d like to publish an article, if we’re going to be all goal-oriented up in here I may as well throw that one in too.

The question of when to leave Colombia remains unresolved. In part because I don’t just want to run away from all that has been hard and unfulfilling about our time here, but there isn’t anything clearly and strongly calling to me to run towards. At least not professionally. Going back to Virginia would mean friends and community and a bilingual school for the kids – but professionally I don’t know if there is anything there for me. Going back to Albania would be lovely, but it is so dang far away (see aging parents paragraph above) and again, I don’t know if there is anything there for me professionally either. Moving to Peru may happen at some point eventually anyway (could we talk my mom into moving to the US? Hard to say)… it would be for my parents, not for me really.

Gimli threw me for a loop in early December when he came back from a work even (that I didn’t attend because of the kids) riding a high of job satisfaction and suddenly talking about renewing our visas next September. I told him that even to consider it we would have to renegotiate some things at work, especially around communication – and it was good, I actually was able to say some things I’d been feeling for a long time but felt unable to say before. (Thank you, therapy!) I guess the talk I feel like I need to have with my supervisor is another part of this too – trying to see a way clear to staying.

So that’s where I am at the start of 2016. I have a lot of worries and fears, mostly about the kids – a new school year starts for them in February, and Oz will be joining his big sister at the elementary school that has been such a struggle for her. I worry about Illyria’s weight and that is a whole ‘nother can of worms that I tremble but need to write about. It will be a big change for Oz being at school full time, instead of half-days. Oh, and we’re moving to a different apartment as soon as we get back to Colombia. So… here we go.


November 7, 2015

The kids are asleep, lulled by my voice reading C. S. Lewis. It is so satisfying to read these books to them, the first chapter books I remember my dad reading to my sister and me when we were just a little younger than my kids are now. After they fell asleep I got up to write a couple e-mails and finish my beer, listening to my music – the “Mellow” mix – and realized that the music was hitting a psychic spot that needed it badly, so I left the music on and caught up on blogs a bit. I needed this. I should do this more often.

A Sorta Fairytale

October 19, 2015

(apologies to Tori)

My therapist says I’m carrying a heavy emotional load, bottling things up. This is such an old, old story. When I crack open the bottlecap what wells up is just this tremendous sadness. She gave me some exercises to do, to start letting it out little by little. I need to find/make the time to do that. The next 2 weeks are pretty packed. But it’s so much closer to the surface these days.

I had a delayed reaction this morning to our weekend drama – I cut Illyria’s hair on Sunday, at her request, but I cut it too short and she was upset. This morning she went to school in tears, afraid of what the other kids might say. Haven’t we all had this experience? I know it’s a rite of passage but I feel consumed by guilt. If I could give her my own hair I would. So this morning we did yoga together, and I was cheerful and supportive and encouraging, but after I dropped her off at school I kind of fell apart a little bit – I felt her butterflies in my stomach, I felt her fear and embarrassment. I know this over-identification is not good for me or for her.

I feel dull and deadened inside. I have so little motivation or energy for work, for anything. This feels like the leading edge of a bit of depression maybe.


October 7, 2015

When I think about the day we left Albania, I still feel like crying. How do you forgive yourself for leaving someone? How do you forgive yourself for leaving? How do you forgive yourself?

I don’t know what the mechanism is, what steps to take. How do you do it?

Thinking, always thinking

October 1, 2015

It’s feeling more and more definite – our vision of the future. Neither of us can see staying here past the middle of next year. And that fills me with a sense of buoyancy.

If there’s any sadness, it’s more the flavor of regret. Regret that we didn’t manage to fall in love with this country, as so many others have. Wondering if it’s some deficiency in ourselves, some cold-heartedness, some failure. Feeling that we’ve deeply disappointed our staff, our partner organizations, in some intangible way. Our predecessor in this position was so well-loved, and so passionately involved in everything – it was a hard act to follow no matter what. We knew that coming in.

We just had a team retreat during which we said goodbye to eleven people leaving now; five of whom are staying in the country either to continue working in the same area, or moving to a different position in our organization. The Colombians on the team always feel deeply moved by those who stay, who fall in love with this country, who form a deep attachment and commitment to the cause.

We haven’t. We’re putting in the time, at this point.

I can attribute some of my feelings of regret-failure-disappointment-guilt to the issues that I’m dealing with in myself in general; it’s the same emotional pattern that swirls around my graduate work and parenting. It never feels good enough, and anything short of perfection feels like failure. I hope that at least being able to identify this pattern in my psyche will help me disengage in healthier ways.

I also wonder, though, if our enduring attachment to Albania was the thing that kept us from fully engaging here? I still cry when I think about that last day, the airport, the last cup of coffee, the last goodbye.

If Illyria was happier at school here, that could change our decision. If we could live somewhere other than Bogotá, that would make a huge difference. But ultimately… it doesn’t feel like staying to the end of our term in 2017 is a very good idea, either for our mental and emotional health, for our family, or for the good of the program and the organization. They need – and deserve – leaders who really love this place. And that’s just not us.

Solo (#Microblog Mondays)

September 13, 2015

I’m in La Paz, Bolivia, 21 years after flying through here for the first time on an internship. Exactly half my life ago. It’s a work trip, but I came a full day early and it’s been a sweet retreat, introvert time, journaling in cafes and losing myself inside my own head time. I need more of this in my life.

I feel in some ways like I’m coming out of a chrysalis. I spent most of the past seven years in crisis mode, between grad school and parenting small kids and moving halfway across the world twice. There’s this vast inner landscape of turmoil and disaster and now I’m setting to work putting things in order, picking up bags of trash, clearing downed branches out of streams and waterways, planting little seedlings and flowerbeds. Sometimes I pause and look around and just cry because there is so much work to be done, and it’s not just for me, it’s for those small vulnerable little people who call me mom. But it’s good work too, and the aching muscles and blisters feel really good.

I need more solitude in my life. I need to order things in such a way as to find it.

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

September 4, 2015

So I’ve started seeing a family therapist, finally, and there has been plenty to talk about – mostly about parenting. I haven’t really started to process the whole “what should we do with our lives” question that is constantly simmering in the back of my mind.

The main thing she said to me is that I need to forgive myself for failing to live up to my own expectations and sense of self-identity. Say “yes” to the past, and the now, and the future. Think of everything that I chose, that I did, that I felt, that I thought, and know that it is ok.

I feel like I don’t really know how to do that, but I do know that this enormous feeling of GUILT for trying to obtain a degree while parenting, and the enormous sense of failure for not doing either as well as I think I should have, is devastating. It eats away at me and I think it colors a lot of my emotional interactions with my daughter, even now.


I also bought Ask Moxie’s book of 32 truths about parenting, that has been fabulous. The book is an expanded version of her blog series on the same topic, which is also good, but there are some great quotes in the book that I didn’t see on the blog. Here are some gems though:

# 28: “I believe that a lot of parents are carrying around some trauma from our children’s younger years, and may still be immersed in that trauma.”

# 4: “…the truth is that we’re tired and stressed and sometimes lonely. We’re doing too much, because we have to. And sometimes because in order to do the things that we love, we have to add them on to all the stuff that just has to get done. And it doesn’t mean there’s anything particularly valiant or morally superior or even extra-strength about us. It just means we’re making it, one day at a time.”

I think the most helpful thing she said was that I am the best parent for my kids. Otherwise (I’m paraphrasing) we’d find the most Ma Ingalls women in the country and give them all the kids  to raise. (I admit that I’ve often thought that would be a good idea, actually.) But they need ME. With all my faults and flaws. They need me to be present, engaged, attentive… just me. And I will fuck up, and I can ask for forgiveness.


August 4, 2015

In between meetings today, I brewed three potions and practiced spells to the point where I finally felt ready to take the plunge into the Dueling Club. Oh my gosh it is so much fun. I’m terrible though, so I challenge Hufflepuffs in order to give their house the points to stay ahead of Slytherin (since I pretty much know I’m going to lose…). I also took the plunge and bought the Harry Potter e-book series, all seven at once; I resisted for a long time because I figured that the woman who is richer than the Queen doesn’t need my money, but then I started looking into the charities she supports and figured what the heck. She can have my money.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.