Archive for the ‘the Bear’ Category


March 5, 2015

It’s my birthday month, which seems to be the point in the year when I do some serious self-reflection, evaluation, and goal-setting. In that spirit, I’ve rebooted my public real-name blog and am planning to resume more regular posting here as well.

Earlier this week Gimli and I had a state-of-the-union conversation, prompted by a critical remark he made Sunday afternoon that sent me into a tailspin of despondency. It wasn’t that major a criticism – he was unhappy that I had neglected to pack a snack for an afternoon outing with the kids, and was annoyed that this forgetfulness seemed to stem from my generalized anxiety about taking the kids to a place we’d never been to before. But it cut to the quick and as I thought and thought about it all uncovered several layers of issues in our relationship that had been simmering and suppressed for a while.

So Monday afternoon we walked home in the rain, stopping at a coffeeshop to shout over the whir of the espresso machines and juicers. It’s all the usual relationship stuff – control, communication, responsibility, roles – but since I (mostly) finished my dissertation we were due for a reboot, a renegotiation. There were plenty of tears but it was so worth it. And the adjustments we are making are minimal but hopefully will reverberate in how we each feel about how the other is doing in our joint management of the household.

I will take responsibility for getting the kids ready for bed, and Gimli will actually get them to go to bed. He will make a list of the calorie values of different food ingredients we often use and I will occasionally make food (my request – I felt like he was controlling everything I eat). On weekends, we will take turns doing things with the kids so each of us can have some time at home alone.

So things are better already.


Piled, as they say, Higher and Deeper

June 25, 2013

I’m tired. My heart feels so full. Gimli is like a bear with a thorn in its paw, growling and snapping at anyone who gets too close. I slide past the claws and scratch him behind the ears and he whimpers a little, closes his eyes, relaxes.

I’m on a constant march, a long trek. My inadequate map fell to the forest floor miles back. The optimistic track marked out in pale green highlighter bleeds a little in the morning rains. Bootprints press one corner into the mud. Each day is unlike the day before, an entirely new terrain to traverse. I fall into bed and relive each decision, wondering if it was the right one.

It’s a good place to be… even though I’m scared about the coming weeks, scared of the challenges ahead and whether I have what it takes to make it through (a team retreat fraught with complex conflicts and emotional pitfalls, a family trip to Albania [!!!]; new personnel coming on board when we get back). At the same time I can look back at the last seven months and see how I’ve moved into this new role well, overall, I think; I like it.

I’m glad you guys liked the Enneagram stuff, I really do find it fascinating, and helpful.

More soon, I hope…



February 14, 2013

I’m having a moment. It will pass. So I’m just coming into this space to metaphorically run around like a chicken with my head cut off (have you ever actually seen one? I have… very weird sight…) because it’s just been decided that Gimli will be going to Afghanistan for 2 weeks, leaving next Tuesday night.

He’s squeezing the trip in between two short, in-country trips that I have scheduled. So we’re going to be ships passing in the night from February 18 until March 12 (my birthday… #40…. I’ve been nurturing all these dreams about how to spend my 40th birthday, and it turns out I’m going to spend it traveling with a group of Mennonite pastors – but that’s another story).

I’m having a freak-out moment right this minute. I don’t want him to go. And yet I told him he can. I’m letting him go. And yes, he did ask for my permission…

I know how much this means to him. I know that he needs these periodic trips in order to feel alive. I know how close to the core of his self-identity and feeling of place in this world these things are. I didn’t have the heart to tell him no.

We’re used to him being gone… we’re used to his traveling… but I don’t want him to leave. I’m not totally sure why it feels different this time – perhaps the new context, new responsibilities on my plate, the kids being in school and how tender that process has been for me and for them…

I think I need to create a plan for myself, for my own self-care, for a safety net, support network. One of the things I’ve really enjoyed here has been working within a close-knit, caring team – a lot of what I do is look after their needs; now it’s time to go to them with mine.

sleep update

November 9, 2011

Since we played musical beds, and started using a musical alarm, things are much improved. For several nights Gimli has not had to go in to Oscar at all, not even once, and a few times O has slept until 6 a.m.!

On the other hand, my rude neighbor accosted me in the grocery store AGAIN to complain about Oz’s crying, and again I didn’t understand everything she said, but I think she was saying something about my babysitter… whom I absolutely adore… I have concluded, though, that the child she’s been hearing crying can’t be Oscar, because he simply has not been crying at night. Sometimes he’ll cry when I leave for work, or the inevitable fights with his sister, but good lord that is NORMAL. He cries a normal amount for a young toddler. I think my neighbor is mean, rude, and also confused. There are times I’ve been home and thought I heard Oz crying and when I checked it turned out to be a child somewhere down the street, so it’s not a far reach to suppose my neighbor might be making the same mistake.

I just wish she wouldn’t accost me in the grocery store in front of a bunch of people where I get all tongue-tied and and ashamed.

Right now

October 10, 2011

I feel the shift of the earth in its orbit: the seasons have changed, and the first bite of winter came this weekend. It feels like one day we were sweating and hiding from the sun, and the next day shivering and seeking it out. This weekend I raised the awning over our balcony to let in more light, and dressed Oscar in his winter pajamas.

The turning of the seasons makes me contemplative all the more because it marks our first year in Albania. We moved here at Solstice last year, and we’ve now gone a full turn around the sun in this place. The coming of the cold usually makes me a little sad, but there’s a funny gladness in me this year as the angle of the light and the smell of roasting chestnuts evokes the memories of last year. It feels like we have come so far as a family in one year, in so many good ways – Illyria talking and engaging in pretend play, learning to use the potty, overcoming so much of her anxiety and fears from the first few months. And Oscar – wow. Transformed from an infant into a toddler. All those milestones – rolling over, sitting up, teething, eating solids, standing, walking – if only he would SLEEEEEEP! Ah well.

I find that the same things that bothered me a year ago about Albania still bother me – the litter, the second-hand smoke – and the same things I enjoyed a year ago are still my favorite things about living here – the kindness and generosity of the people, learning the language, the plentiful fresh produce (which I’m told is de facto mostly organic, not so much from an ideological motive but more just because farmers can’t afford a lot of agrochemicals).

As we took another interminable bus ride through southern Albania last week (accompanying my husband on yet another work trip) I was struck with a feeling I have not felt since 1998 – a feeling of rightness, a feeling that this is where we are supposed to be right now. I don’t think I could give a reason or explanation; I just know, somehow. Over the past decade Gimli and I have made a lot of big life-decisions – changing jobs, buying a house, going back to school, trying for and then having kids – and in each case those decisions felt more or less arbitrary; there wasn’t a right or wrong choice (which in its own way was a big agonizing), just a choice. The decisions we made never felt like part of a master plan, just stuff we decided to do, for better or for worse. This feels… just a little bit different. At the time we decided to move here, it really did feel like just another thing we decided to do, because what the heck, why not. But now, for whatever reason, it just feels right.

And that’s a good feeling.

It could just be where I am in my cycle, or some function of neurophysiology, or a natural result of having acclimated enough to feel at home here, but it feels good.


Recently people here have begun asking me if we’re going to be staying on after next year. The first time someone asked me this I was completely taken aback; the thought that we might stay beyond two years had literally never occurred to me. But when I mentioned it to Gimli, in a sort of “what a weird question someone asked me today!” he just sort of nodded and said “Yeah, I’ve sort of decided not to think about that until January or February,” and that surprised me even more than the original question – that he’d even thought about it as well.

I still can’t quite envision it. Just because this feels like where we’re supposed to be right now doesn’t mean we’re, like, married to Albania. We’d have to really think about the implications for our careers, our kids, our relationships. So I don’t know. I like to have a plan and then stick to that plan. Gimli likes to wing it. In our years together, I’ve come to learn that sometimes “we’ll decide at the last minute what we’re going to do” can actually work as a plan… but I don’t think this is one of those times. So we’ll see.

state of the marriage

August 11, 2011

…is good. But wow, it’s work, isn’t it?

Just got back from a lunchtime sit-down with Gimli, ostensibly about vacation plans but with ramifying, as these things do, into what is becoming familiar territory around our shifting roles, perspectives on child-rearing, and general approaches to life.

So, easy stuff.


I’ve often said that every time we fight it’s the same argument over and over again in different guises; I still think that’s the case, but I’m understanding more deeply what is implicated in that argument. It’s really some basic personality differences – differences that make us a great match, but also cause friction. Isn’t that always the case? For us, it’s how each of us responds differently to stress – I get still and quiet like a rabbit (freeze), while he starts giving orders and trying to control the situation (fight). So he gets mad that I’m not doing anything, and I get mad that he keeps telling me what to do, because it makes me feel like he thinks the situation is my fault.

Right now the stress in our life is by and large good stress – the children, living abroad – these are good things in both our books – but he’s frustrated with me because he feels like I’m not fully plunging into life in Albania, and I’m frustrated because he keeps wanting to run around and do all this stuff – big family excursions – and keeps pushing me to be more social. The running around part makes me feel like he doesn’t care about the needs of our little ones, and the social part – well, it’s just scary for me with my social anxieties. I also end up feeling defensive, like how am I not good enough/doing enough for you???

So we needed to talk things out, and I feel like we understand each other better now. We also made a few minor decisions (like, no big family excursion until my in-laws come to visit in about 3.5 weeks, and he’s going to start trying to come home earlier in the evenings), and that feels a little bit better too. The sucky part was I ended up crying in the middle of the restaurant where we met for lunch. And I lost a good hour of work time. But hopefully overall this will help maintain domestic harmony.

When we were dating, we both read a book titled Two Years Before the Mast – a memoir from the days of sailing ships, written by a Harvard student who for health reasons worked as a lowly sailor and visited California when it was still part of Mexico. Gimli and I both marveled at the descriptions in the book of the tedious work sailors had to do, like scraping the rust off of chains or tightening jibs, and we made it a metaphor for our relationship. You have to do the small maintenance daily – at least weekly – to be storm-ready. I did a counted cross-stitch of a sailing ship that we hung in our bathroom at home in the States as a reminder to do this.

We were due for some good jib-tightening. It’s not fun, but it’s better than the alternative.

Brooding, as usual

April 8, 2011

Gimli and I had a huge fight on Wednesday morning before he left to work, which ended with me telling him “Just go, so I can calm down and we can talk about this later,” after I had yelled at him in front of the kids and banged my head on the kitchen cupboards. He walked out the door with tears in his eyes and it took me about six hours to fully calm down. I feel bad for Illyria who was subjected to a short-tempered mother all morning, and who saw us fighting for the first time in her life (not our first fight since she was born, but the first time she’s seen us fight).

On the surface it was about grocery shopping, but underneath that it was about the shift in our roles since moving here. I’m having a hard time coming to grips with how I see myself now, now that I spend maybe five hours a week instead of five hours a day working on my dissertation. And Gimli, who used to come home every day to put Illyria down for her nap when she was a baby, is now gone from 9 until 6 or 7 and weekdays often doesn’t see Oz at all except for about an hour or two in the morning.

So Wednesday morning, Gimli waved a yellow post-it note at me. “I’m making a shopping list,” he said pointedly. I felt my hackles raise: it was his air of “This isn’t my job, I shouldn’t have to be doing this,” that instantly raised my defenses, because we always shared this duty before, in the States … and it escalated from there.

I understand his frustration, and I feel like I’ve been ridiculously slow on the uptake, to really get that I have to take pretty much full responsibility now not just for the shopping itself, but for monitoring the cupboards and refrigerator and for thinking ahead to what we might need tomorrow. I have to shift my mentality and think in terms of backup, like I do with regard to diapers and coffee. I have to think that way about everything – bread and eggs being a main point of contention at the moment because I tend to use them up before buying more, instead of always having extra on hand. Same with leftovers – my preference is to use up what’s cooked before cooking more, but this strategy results in an often-empty fridge, which bothers Gimli more than I realized.

His mom is a hoarder and stockpiler to a ridiculous degree (we spent a year once eating through her canned food, and she once kept a frozen salmon in the deep freeze for – get this – TWELVE YEARS) but I suppose I tend to run to the opposite end of the spectrum. I need to find a better balance. I’ve been living day to day, seldom planning ahead more than one meal at a time. And that has to change for the harmony of our home. By the end of the day Wednesday, I had come to terms with that. And I know I’m spoiled for help – our fab Albanian babysitter/cleaner/general helper is here for at least a few hours every day, and all day Mon/Thurs. I should totally be able to handle my current reality considering the help I have.

But I’m feeling deeply depressed about this shift in how I see myself – I don’t feel like an academic anymore, I feel like a housewife, and a bungling and inexpert one at that. (Not that I’m feeling particularly confident about my dwindling academic self at the moment either, to be sure.) I feel like giving up. I feel like giving up on the PhD, on language learning, on everything that isn’t related to managing the household and raising the children. Last night I dreamed that first a former student of mine and then another grad student in my cohort came to me and said, “we don’t think you’re really cut out for this program.” It was a version of the oh-no-there’s-an-exam-today-and-I-haven’t-studied-at-all dream we all have and I think it is indicative of the growing feeling I have that I’m just pretending; we may drag this out for a few years, but in the end, I will never finish my degree. I don’t have what it takes. Maybe I have the smarts – at least enough to fake it – but I don’t think I have the drive, the mental discipline, or perhaps as Wordgirl put it, the ego to take it to the end. (I did once; where did it go?)

I’m good at the loving, the playing, the getting down on the floor and getting absorbed in whatever the little ones are absorbed in. I’m usually very patient. I’m not so good at the organizing, the discipline, the setting boundaries and being consistent about rules and routines. I have to get better at that part of it though, because like it or not, I am the señora de la casa now. I’ve been shunted back six decades in time. And if I’m going to have the responsibility, then I will learn how to do it well.


June 29, 2010

I am 37 weeks today, with 10 days to go til my scheduled cesarean.  The Braxton-Hicks have been ramping up, but the pelvic exam today showed Tadpole at -2 (he was at 0 station last week) and cervix tightly closed.  I don’t think my cervix knows we have a deadline.  Right now I’m running on the assumption that it’s going to be a repeat section.  But like I said… I’m at peace with that.  I know how to prepare for it, and what to expect afterward.

T is home!!!!  Yay!!!!!  Who knew a king sized bed could feel so small… or the sound of snoring be so beautiful!  🙂  He’s jet-lagged and stressed out about report deadlines and the impending birth, but still manages to make me laugh like nobody else in the world does. After my NST this morning he took me to B&N for a relaxing magazine indulgence so I could enjoy my “parole” a little longer.

Ten more days… I can hardly wrap my mind around that!


May 25, 2010

I honestly didn’t expect that I would get pre-eclampsia again.  Maybe this was naive.  Yes, it was probably very naive.  The thing is, I’d read that pre-eclampsia is most common in first pregnancies, in very young moms, and for women over 40.  So, I reasoned, I’m not 40 yet, and this is my SECOND pregnancy, so it will be less likely to develop this time around. And less likely means probably not, right?

What I hadn’t read, until I looked at the Preeclampsia Foundation website last week, is that the single biggest predictor of developing preeclampsia is having had it in a previous pregnancy.


None of the OBs I went to – the ones who delivered V., the ones I went to here when I found out I was pregnant, the one I switched to later – made this clear to me. Or maybe this understanding was somehow embedded in the statistics they rattled off, in the cautious assurances that I would probably not have problems the second time around, and I just didn’t hear it.

I feel…. dumb.  I feel, irrationally, that people are going to judge me for having gotten pregnant again given what happened the first time, especially given my age… and I especially worry that people at church are going to judge me.  I’ve reached out to the church for help and support – especially prayer (my conflicted feelings about which merit a separate post) – while at the same time feeling undeserving of anyone’s generosity, especially because we drew on it already 2 years ago.

Yesterday afternoon T. left for Albania, planning to stay as long as he can – that is, he won’t cut his trip short unless I take a turn for the worse and delivery is imminent.  I encouraged him to go, feeling optimistic about how well I’ve been doing with consistent bedrest and hydration.  It felt like a choice to approach life with optimism and confidence instead of with fear and anxiety.  But I can’t help wondering, am I just in denial?

Ten Years (edited)

March 26, 2010

Ten years ago today, we said our vows under a basketball hoop.*  Like today, daffodils were blooming and Easter was on its way.  When I think about the past decade together, I think of the dozen or so countries we traveled to together, all the new experiences I had that I never would have dared to undertake without him – long hikes in New Zealand, England, South Africa, and Lesotho, Peru; long drives in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica; snorkeling in Belize; wine tasting in Chile, South Africa, upstate New York.  Buying a house together, raising a daughter, looking forward to a son.

When we were dating, we both read a book titled “Two Years Before the Mast,” about a young man who dropped out of Harvard in 1834 and took a job on a sailing ship.  It’s a fascinating first-hand account of life on a sailing ship, back in the days when now major cities in California were collections of huts and goats.  Anyway, one of the things that struck us about the story was how much time was spent maintaining the ship.  The author kept mentioning the annoying task of scraping rust off chains for hours on end.  From a distance, he said, a sailing ship appears to make its way merrily and effortlessly along, but up close you see all the work – the jib-tightening – that goes on.

This story became a metaphor to us for our relationship.  We occasionally set aside time for “jib-tightening” talks, when we try to deal with the little things that are bugging us about each other or our relationship, trying to get to them before they become big problems.  It hasn’t always worked but it does help.  About three years into our marriage I did a counted cross stitch of a sailing ship that now hangs in our bathroom (because it matches the wallpaper) as a reminder to scrape the rust off our chains.

Ten years before the mast, and going strong.  I love you.


*Oh, right, the basketball hoop – well, we were married in a church fellowship hall that had basketball hoops at either end, so it could double as a gym.  My mom snagged miles of tulle from a friend of hers who had used it to disguise exposed pipes in a church under renovation during her own son’s wedding, and my cousin who is a visual artist did a great job of draping the tulle in long streamers from the basketball hoop at one end to make a sort of canopy.  He used Bolivian textiles as accents on the walls and one over the hoop itself, and we brought in some potted plants as well.  So it turned out really pretty.  We arranged the folding chairs in a circle and skipped the procession thingy (we didn’t have a bridal party either), just had our parents and siblings sit next to us up front.  It was kind of an unconventional ceremony, but fun.  Afterward we had the reception dinner in the same room, a potato bar (super cheap!).**

T. did say it would have been fun to have the two families square off in a game of pick-up but nobody on my side is particularly into sports!

**Actually, we did the whole thing for about $2,000.  T’s family helped with renting the space, and used it for a family reunion the same weekend.  My mom made my dress, her dress, T’s shirt, my sister’s dress, the cake, and did all the flowers which we picked up for cheap from a local florist – mainly irises.  T and I were both in grad school and recently returned from volunteer service overseas so we had like no money at all.  Short of eloping it was about as economical as we could get!