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.

Slow Time is for Thinking

July 27, 2015

It’s a slow day at work; last week I even resorted to sifting through stacks of paper that have accumulated over the past 2.75 years on our shared desk and recycling most of it (the most exciting find was my daughter’s vaccination records, which I thought we had lost).

So I’ve been reading… Harry Potter memes, national news, and old blog archives from current and former team members here. I feel like I’m in this quest to figure out what it all means – our time here, to be specific – what we’re supposed to be doing or accomplishing – and how will we know when it’s time to move on?

We signed up for five years, but I feel like our hearts have never been fully given over to life and work here. It’s always been a bit tentative, a bit hesitant, a bit wondering if this is really the right fit for us. Always holding back like a bad boyfriend (the one who will only walk you halfway home after a date, who gives you a fucking cactus for Valentine’s Day). We’ve never really fallen in love with this place, but then I think we never really tried either.

Gimli says there are three things that would make him want to end our term early: 1) having to deal too much with this one department at HQ that he hates, 2) Bogota becoming unbearable, and 3) a job opportunity opening up in Albania. I’m on board with that, for sure… part of me is still grieving Shqiperia. And while Bogotá is growing on me, it’s still an enormous polluted city of over 8 million (mostly very rude) people. The work itself, and the organization itself, I do care about, though. HQ doesn’t bother me. But I’m the kind of person who can’t really enjoy watching a movie if the person I’m with isn’t enjoying it.

So I just realized that my last blog post was about this exact same thing. Circling around to the same thoughts and questions. I have an appointment tomorrow afternoon to see a family psychologist. I’m not in crisis, but I feel like I need help.

July 17, 2015

Man, it’s been a long time. I unchained myself from my computer when I submitted the final, final version of my dissertation and bought tickets to graduation. It felt HUGE to attend that event, really and truly a celebration and putting final punctuation to a nine-year process. It doesn’t even matter that I don’t have a clear plan for a continued academic life, it just feels incredibly good no longer to have that huge thing hanging over my head all the time.

At the moment I’m enjoying the extra free time by reading tons of Harry Potter and celebrity gossip. And paying attention to some of the qualitative things at work that I’d left languishing. I feel a new sense of energy for parenting. I’m thinking about ideas for cooking with more vegetables, thinking about extracurricular possibilities for Illyria, even haircuts and craft projects.

Last week I attended a retreat where even though I was in a supporting role (not the “intended audience” per se) there were some wonderful spaces for contemplation and renewal. I’ve been thinking a lot about Albania, and Colombia, and why I still feel such a strong sense of attachment to the former but the latter still leaves me cold. Obviously these are two facets of the same coin. But I finally feel like I’m no longer grieving Albania. I feel a sense of acceptance and peace about that chapter having ended. I’d still love to go live in that part of the world again, but I’m ok with not knowing when or whether that will ever happen. More than ok. I’m good with it.

So Colombia is growing on me. I’m feeling a new sense of appreciation for this country, and what life here brings us. A new sense of interest and curiosity. Gimli isn’t in the same head-space, though, and that means we’re still talking about whether we’ll weather the 5-year contract to the end, or cut it a bit short (possibly July 2017 or so). We’ve decided to decide by February at the latest.


April 16, 2015

I just have to highlight this comment from Angela on my previous post:

“Here is my 2 cents worth. You thought things would be easier when you accomplished your goal. Telling yourself that was probably what helped you push yourself through it. But you are going through a change in routine. All changes are hard, especially when you don’t expect it to be. Give yourself time to adjust.”

This is exactly right. I told myself all kinds of things to push through to the defense, some of them lies. But I got to that milestone. Now I just have to finish this LAST LITTLE BIT and I’m home free. I think I need to just celebrate finishing and not dwell so much on what I perceive as my failures.


Illyria’s been doing better this week, although still struggling. I have a meeting tomorrow a.m. with the teachers although Gimli won’t be there since he’s traveling this week (and next…)

Everything is temporary, anyway

April 15, 2015

I’m kind of feeling like I’m on the edge of depression. I have so little motivation to do anything at all. I had thought that once I finished the dissertation (oh sweet freedom!) I’d plunge into my work with all this energy… when in fact I’m still struggling to finish revisions and am wondering if we’ll be able to stick this posting out another two years.

I have a clear deadline though (for revisions that is), and I’ve signed up for graduation and ordered my cap and gown. I hope it will be fun, I’m kind of dreading it.


April 13, 2015

Illyria is a sensitive little soul, there is so much emotion packed into that little body that it gets overwhelming sometimes. Friday morning I had to take a Skype call at 9:00. We usually drop her off at school at 8:45 but classes start at 9. The school is four blocks from our house.

Last week was haaaaard for her. It’s been hard for her to get back into the rhythm of school especially after the long spring break, on top of a lot of family travel in March, I think she only went to school a total of 5 days that month. So a month of playing with other English-speaking kids, of greater flexibility with food, of a lot of time with mom and dad.

This year at her school there have been a lot of changes. The three other girls in her class didn’t come back, so instead she’s the only girl in a class with 3 boys (it’s a very small school). Instead of having nearly all subjects with one classroom teacher, they are rotating the teachers by subject through all the grades. So that introduces a sense of instability into her routine, at least from her perspective – she’s getting to know all these new teachers and no two days in the week are the same.

It’s been a daily struggle trying to get her out the door. I’ve explored every possibility with her – is someone hurting her? Is there someone she is afraid of? It seems like actually she feels ignored (by the other kids) and overwhelmed by the challenge of learning language and content at the same time. I know what a struggle it is for the migrant kids I worked with in the US, even with ESL classes and other supports. We have a huge wealth of resources to help Illyria here – we could even transfer her to a bilingual school although she’d be getting on a school bus at 6:00 a.m. to do that. There are a lot of reasons we like her school and want to keep her there. And I feel like we really have spoiled her – Gimli and i have noticed how little perseverance she has, when something is hard she gives up really easily. Like roller blading, for example, which she really wanted to do, but when it got hard she just wanted to give up. We are seeing this at school too with writing. Her coloring is abysmal, she just scribbles over a general area with little regard for the lines. She’s almost 7.

I want her to stick with this, to be brave and learn resilience and perseverance. But fuck that was hard on Friday. I took the call in the bedroom while Gimli tried to get her out the door and she screamed and cried and pleaded. I had to try to ignore her so I could focus on the call. I have no idea if we are doing the right thing, it seems appalling to force her to go to school when she so clearly hates it. (This is where the last post came from.)

I’ve asked the teachers for a conference this week, and called a family counselor for an appointment. I’ve started doing morning yoga with both kids (which has helped me immeasurably, I only hope it’s helping them too!) and we’re talking about getting a Spanish tutor for Saturdays. I’m reading to them in Spanish and trying to build up her vocabulary.

Today was better. Gimli is away all week on a work trip, next week too. She left the house with tears in her eyes but said “I’m going to be brave.” It physically hurts, I love her so much.


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