Mother, Scholar, Witch?

August 27, 2018

When I put the purple witch’s hat on my head, I knew it was mine. When I added a black costume cloak I felt a surge of contentment and happiness for the first time since arriving in Virginia this summer.

I don’t think I mentioned it here, but we moved back to Albania a year ago, with a “let’s see how this goes” mindset, and by spring realized that all our conversations about “next year” presumed staying on. Yet the day we left was one of the worst days I’ve had here; I got into a shouting match with our landlady’s son (who lives on the floor below) about who could have access to our flat while we were gone – about a 2-month time span. Ugh, I won’t go into the whole play by play but it was awful.

We spent two weeks in Colombia then, reconnecting with people and places – prioritizing what had been important in our children’s lives. The trip was for them, not for us. Then on our last day there, my daughter had a playground accident which landed us in the emergency room for 5 hours. She got four stitches in her heel and we were cleared to fly the next day, but it was traumatic.

So our “home leave,” vacation, summer month in the US was colored by all these things, and then Gimli left us in the basement of his parent’s retirement cottage (sharing their kitchen and car) for two weeks. I had insomnia; the voices in my head when all was quiet were unbearable and I’d web surf for hours until I just couldn’t stay awake anymore. I didn’t want to see anybody, do anything. I was walking on eggshells trying to learn all the house rules while processing the intensity of all the transitions going on.

The local library had a Harry Potter birthday party, so of course we had to get costumes to attend – it was really fun and I revelled in it.


When Gimli came back, as soon as he was more or less recovered from his jet lag, we dragged the kids north to our grad school institution; we got an AirBnB with backyard chickens and spent two lovely days seeing a few of my favorite relatives, long-time grad school friends, and my academic advisor and her husband – who took us on a walk to the nearby falls and it was like being with family; I don’t think we even talked about academia much.

That trip re-fueled and refreshed me more than I can say.

Which got me thinking – what was it about those two moments that made me feel so much myself? What has been missing that has made me feel not-myself, and if not-myself then who is it I’ve been pantomiming?

I was thinking about this again today, through the idea that we are people through other people – what was it in those moments that made me feel seen, known, understood for who I fully feel and believe myself to be? My aunt in upstate NY pulled out her genealogical charts and stacks of old photographs while we were there; perhaps that was the moment that I began to feel the unfurling of a dormant sense of self start to emerge again. These are my people; this is who I come from.

But her pages do not represent all my people; speaking Spanish with my advisor (who is my mother’s age), celebrating books and reading and waterfalls with my children and husband; being able to wear a purple witch’s hat and fitting right in… all these things mixed in together somehow.

I don’t really know quite how to make sense of all of this, just that I realized in the finding of that feeling of being myself that I had lost it prior, at some point. And I really want to hang on to it now.




August 24, 2018

So I finally hit on a new blog name that I like – “Movable Type” (see above). This is my third iteration; the original blog, titled “the I Word,” was on Blogspot, and the name gestured towards my inability (or unwillingness) to talk publicly about my in/subfertility. But family members found it, so I moved to WordPress and changed the name to Project Progeny (gesturing towards my fondness at the time of Project Runway).

Movable Type is about writing and publishing, but it’s also who I am – I am a movable type of person. I see myself as a global nomad; I was raised interculturally and come from generations of migration and intercultural marriage. I’m an anthropologist studying migration; I’m an expat; with my even more nomadic husband we’re raising our kids interculturally as well.

I feel a lot of different ways about this.

So the url here won’t change; Project Progeny and The I Word are all here in the archives. I haven’t updated my blog links in the sidebar in literally years but I’m looking to get back in the game.


August 23, 2018

I’m thinking of re-titling this blog Write Space. It’s what I really want from it – a virtual space to write in. A web-log of life.

I’m pivoting, slowly. It’s been a weird summer.

A while ago – I can’t even register how much time it has been – a year? Two? – I interviewed scores of people who have participated in a church-based exchange program for young adults, from different regions of the world. The oldest was 72, and had gone from southeast Asia to Indiana half a century ago. The youngest was 20, and had returned just four months prior. The main focus of the research was to assess notable impacts of the program in the lives of participants and in their communities. One pattern that emerged for me as I listened to story after story was that it took participants about five to ten years to really get a grip on what the impact of one year abroad had been for them. It took that long for people to be able to look back and trace the line from experiences they had had then, or people they had met then, to who and where they were now.

I think about that as I struggle to assess what the last few beats in my life have meant – achieving a doctoral degree, living and working for five years in Colombia, the return to Albania – this summer weirdly compressed all those aspects of the last decade of my life into an incredibly short time frame and I…. did not handle it well. There was drama. Add to it a tween daughter who finds me and her beloved grandmother mortally embarrassing to be around… and let’s face it, the current political climate in the US is nothing short of stressful… (blue voter here, just for the record).

So I’m trying to pivot. I have an idea for the next phase of my life; I’m just trying to dredge up the courage and self-discipline to see if I can make it work.

Fork in the Road

August 5, 2018

Welp, it’s been a while. I’m still here. I’m thinking about a rebirth for this blog; “project progeny” continues in terms of parenting my now 10 and 8 year old kids, but my life is no longer focused around procreation and as blogging genres go, it’s just not what I’m writing about here anymore.

I think I’ve pretty solidly hit midlife, with all the introspection and angst that goes with that (not that introspection and angst are anything new to my usual mode of being, I’ve just felt unusually stuck recently), and the themes of work and career as they intersect with identity are foremost in my mind. I have a lot of thoughts and I think I’d like to chronicle them – process on the page – a bit more.

So, I don’t know if I’ll keep this blog but rename it, or just start a new one with an entry here serving as the jumping off point, but I’m leaning towards the latter. It’s so easy to set up a new blog…  in terms of creating space to write, it’s also something of a symbolic step.

Don’t know if anyone is still reading… but anyway, here goes.

Baby Terror

March 3, 2017

So our pair of hamsters had babies… three of them. It was not a huge shock but still a bit of a surprise… almost immediately I became overwhelmed with fear and anxiety about these little things, these tiny translucent pink creatures with shadowy shut eyes.

My husband tells me that even if they die, even if their mother eats them, it doesn’t mean I am a bad mother. but it’s so hard for me to separate. As I shut down my computer at work, before I open my eyes in the morning, I wonder are they still alive?

I feed the hamsters bits of boiled egg, slivers of cheese, cups of sunflower seeds. I hover anxiously. Gimli says it’s bringing back memories of when our own kids were babies, the constant obsessive anxious attention.

We haven’t named them yet.

Obligatory NY post?

January 2, 2017

Last year I made a LOT of goals and resolutions. Some of them I kept, some of the time. This year I have a lot of things in mind that I’d like to do (publish an article, put together a panel for the next Anthropology meetings, perhaps begin to write creatively again) and one thing I MUST do: get a job. Our contract ends in October but we’ve told our boss that we plan to leave in June or July. What comes next is at best nebulous. There are some employment possibilities for Gimli, but none in the place where I most want to live. So I’m hunting. Impostor syndrome does a number on me though.

Some great things happened this past year; I wrote a chapter for an edited volume that should be coming out next year, and I got the opportunity to work on some really exciting (to me) projects at work that are ongoing this winter. I got to teach an online class (on NGO ethics) and loved every minute of it. I applied for and was offered a non-teaching university position, which although I turned it down (the timing was terrible and the pay was less than motivating) it was nice to be wanted.

I got to meet Pam!


As we prepare to leave Colombia, I don’t want it to be with the lingering bitter taste that threatens to overwhelm all other flavors. I was talking with my sister-in-law about this – realizing how much pain and anger there was in our work team when we arrived (because of something that happened a few months before we arrived), and it had nothing to do with us, but we absorbed a lot of it and it colored our whole experience as well as our responses to things and people. She suggested I spend some time processing non-verbally, whatever that may mean for me, to find out what I want to take with me, what I want to leave behind, and what I want to throw to the wind.

Protected: Something I’ve been trying to write for a very long time

January 2, 2017

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December 16, 2016

I can’t post the PWP thing yet, it’s too sad, and I’m already too sad about politics at the moment.

But if you like some levity that’s only vaguely political and entirely seasonal, check out Buzzfeed’s investigation of the PM’s political party in Love Actually! 


November 19, 2016

This morning in the shower I had lines from a potential blog post drafting in my head. As I got dressed I thought, “write it down. Write it down now.”

I’m at my annual professional conference, even though I haven’t presented in ages – I come to stay connected to the idea that I am an anthropologist. Finally, after the last elections, I am feeling like I have something new to say. I will probably throw an abstract into the pot for next year, and work on an article meanwhile.

Yesterday I saw a hand waving through a windshield outside the conference center and ran through the first smatterings of rain and snow to meet her – I read Pam’s blog archives (Bloodsigns) through from first to last while I was on bedrest in my second pregnancy, so that was seven years ago now. I first read her writing on one of those blog exchanges that happened in the mid-aughts, where in an effort to cross-pollinate our blogs someone organized a way for infertility/loss/adoption bloggers to guest blog for each other. Does anyone reading this remember that? I remember feeling so confused as the voice, style, and tone on this one blog suddenly changed so much, then realized what was happening. That was how I found Pam.

There is a truism in anthropology that we work “to make the strange familiar, and the familiar strange.” Meeting Pam was at once so familiar, and so strange. I have seen photos of her face on her blog, but more on Facebook (my husband thinks it is so strange that I am Facebook friends with half a dozen women I have never met in real life, that I know only in this electronically mediated way). “I feel like I know you!” she exclaimed.

We talked about our children, our writing, our feelings after the election. We drove through increasingly precipitating streets to the public library where we had coffee and pastries, then sat together at a poetry reading organized as part of the conference. We exchanged book recommendations.

I have to confess: meeting Pam in person was the thing I was looking forward to most about coming to this conference. Wish fulfilled.

Her actual speaking voice sounded nothing like the voice I had heard in my head while reading her blog, but the warmth in her smile and eyes conveyed the spirit I had come to know in her words.

We talked about making connections through blogging, and what that had meant for each of us during our years of actively working to build our families, through the pain and grief and fears of infertility. Neither of us is actively in that stage anymore – no more two-week waits – but there is something about feeling known and understood and accepted that we both miss about the ALI blogging community.

I’m thinking about changing my blog name, if not the URL. I’m thinking about remaking this online space as a place where I can re-engage in that practice of writing my life in community and connection with other women. I know that writing means reading means commenting means being present in other people’s lives as well.

I started this year with a lot of goals. I fell off the wagon on most of them within a few months. This is another attempt at a new start… I finished my dissertation; I know I can do this.



Can I?

May 2, 2016

On the path of transformation, you will experience forgiveness, which entails letting go of old hurts and resentments and opening up space in your heart to be affected by people and events freshly. Can you experience this in yourself today? ~ Enneagram Institute

Can I? That is the question. Our supervisor had a little talk with us Friday afternoon and I am WRECKED. It was really all about Gimli and his temper, but of course I’m implicated by association. So he and I had a long talk Saturday night over an entire bottle of wine and while it was good and cathartic, and had us on the same page by the end, I’m still stewing over the whole thing.

Can I let go of old hurts and resentments? Things that happened during our first few months here have deeply marked our experience – G and I have opposite ways of reacting to feeling slighted: he gets mad and tries to give as good as he got, or better; I withdraw. Last night I lay awake in bed for FIVE HOURS thinking over everything that has happened in the past five years, and how it could all have been different if only we’d gotten off to a better start.

Can I open up enough to make a fresh start? So much hinges on this question.