Sunday, December 14, 2014

Recent acquisitions: Embracing mom pants

Earlier in the year, I committed to listing out monthly acquisitions - if only to hold myself accountable and to curb spending habits.  

I failed.  I haven't listed anything in months, even though I have been fairly active with internet purchases. I should have known that pregnancy and post-pregnancy would do a number on my spending - with my changing body shape, pre and post-partum hormones shifts and late nights/early mornings spent comforting an infant, I was bound to make a few irrational internet purchases.  I'm not going to list every single purchase here. That would be far too embarrassing.

But I will say that my purchases of late have been spurred on by my realization that my too-precious silk numbers aren't going to work, at least for now.
  • I've wholeheartedly jumped on the Ace & wagon.  It's funny.  I first heard of Ace & Jig when I still lived in Cambodia and back then I could not justify the prices, not when I could make linen/cotton shift dresses in Russian Market. In retrospect and objectively, my gut instinct was probably right. But when I finally purchased a piece, I realized how beautiful the textiles were and how wearable. I was sucked into the hype. These pieces aren't cheap, however, and I don't see them becoming more affordable in light of the the growing cult following, particularly from moms. Bottomline: I need to ease up.   
  • For the last year I've also been itching for a new pant silhouette.  Can you believe I've been wearing skinny jeans for over 10 years? While I still wear a black skinny jean regularly, I also welcomed two pairs of slouchy Black Crane pants into my rotation. I must say I'm loving the elastic waist and looser fit. I wear the quilt pants at least two times a week. I also own the carpenter pants in olive, but that pair doesn't get as much use.
  • As for shoes, I rotate between three pairs of boots: the Rachel Comey Mars (for days I don't intend to walk very far); the Dieppa Restrepo Mer boots; and the IM Dicker boots, a "maternity" purchase from last year.  To my credit, these are not new purchases.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Thanksgiving holiday

I realize I use this space to whine about some of the realities of motherhood.  Today, I'm thinking about how tired I am, how I'm still not sleeping well, how I don't quite fit into my old clothes, and how postpartum hair loss is horrible, if not scary.

I think it throws friends when they ask me how I am doing and I launch into my grievances.  I see the look on their faces. But that is what's going on, dear friends.  Yes, I love my daughter, fiercely. Her smiles make me forget (for a while) some of the difficulties of motherhood.  And life is richer, in ways I didn't understand before.

But I'm not one to sugarcoat things and some days I surprise myself with my ability to get out of bed, get dressed and pretend to be functional, maybe even mildly coherent.  Today was not one of those days. I stayed at home in my pajamas while taking conference calls.

This post was about Thanksgiving in Colorado: There was snow and family. I didn't bring my work computer. I didn't think about human rights or the uphill battle we face. It was great.  And, speaking of M's smiles, here's one that melts my heart.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A year later

My little sister (above) flew out yesterday, after spending two weeks with us.  Tomorrow, M takes her first flight, to Colorado, where she will be surrounded by more family -- hopefully I can catch up on well-needed sleep and finally get over this nagging cough.

There's so much to be thankful for this year.  Last Thanksgiving holiday was a difficult one.  I alluded to many things, but never really wrote about everything.  In addition to my aunt's sudden death and some upheaval at work, this time last year I discovered I was pregnant, only to suffer what I believed to be an unequivocal miscarriage mere days after my discovery.  I was devastated.  I remember flying out to Wisconsin for Thanksgiving that day and how the airport seemed to swarm with babies.  Once in Wisconsin I remember confiding in Ethan's grandmother Megan, a petite woman who, with her steely eyes, sternly told me that this would pass, that women dig deep to find the strength to keep trying.

Well, a few delayed doctor appointments (and a few weeks of sickness) later, I discovered that I was, in fact, still pregnant.  

I didn't write about it then because it felt too close.  I carried it with me, even through the pregnancy, a little secret, a nagging fear.  But I've always tried to be honest in this space.

So it's crazy that a year later I will be flying with my little squishy daughter.  Motherhood is difficult, but I am so grateful for the presence of her in my life, and for the love of my incredible family and friends.

Monday, November 3, 2014

My balancing act

I took this picture of M when she wasn't yet two months old, when I was still on maternity leave and the days seemed to stretch out before me.

I went back to work in October, during a pretty full-on week.  But thanks my fabulous my in-laws, who flew into the city and hovered around my meetings so that I could nurse M every few hours, I survived that hectic time.  At more than one point in the week, I felt overwhelmed, out of sync, and ready to quit my job!  But I pushed through. One afternoon late in the week, I found myself seated at a table with two human rights defenders from Guatemala. As we discussed their case, I remembered why I fell in love with this work to begin with. 

I don't know how this work/life balance thing will ultimately pan out, but I hope I can strike a healthy medium.  Right now, my attempt at balance includes a mix of working a (very) slightly reduced schedule, leaving the office at 3:30pm most days, working remotely, and carving out time to spend lunch with M everyday.

One of the things that causes me the most anxiety now is something that I have thrived upon - namely, international travel.  I've managed to push off any international travel this year. There was the three-day trip to London that I jumped on and immediately backed off of once M was born. On the horizon is a meeting that keeps getting pushed back. Initially scheduled for Thailand, then India, the meeting will now either be held "somewhere in Africa," in Turkey, or in Thailand.  I won't be able to escape that trip, but I'm hoping that by the time I go - for a week - M will be a little older.  And then, there's the work trip to Nepal that keeps getting pushed back (indefinitely) and Peru, which will happen next October.

This is the longest period of time I've been grounded without international travel, and I crave a new stamp on my passport - but not yet, not if it means being apart from her, and not when she is so little.  A dream I have, someday, is to travel across the world with her, or at least to a few far-flung places.  I think fondly back to the French father-daughter pair I met in a ger in Mongolia.  She, a blonde bubble of energy, was on her gap year.  Father and daughter met in Mongolia for a three week tour of the Gobi Desert, after which she would travel to Nepal alone.  I remember their talks, his encouraging words to her about hiking in Nepal, of the Annapurna trail dotted with tea houses.

That's the dream, but baby steps first.  

Thursday, October 23, 2014


images via

I'm exhausted and a little ragged from attempting this whole work/life/baby balance thing. Frivolous distractions are welcome. Plus, aren't they healthy at this point? Rugs from Bohem.

Checking in and looking back

I'm happy to report that I survived yet another crazy week of meetings.  As is often the case with these chaotic weeks, friends and colleagues from all over the world flew into the city.  This time, Ratha, with whom I spent many tedious hours in the countryside of Cambodia, was in town to discuss her research on agribusiness in northern Cambodia. She came with news from Phnom Penh - mainly bad news. The small team I previously worked with faced threats of arrest from authorities (not surprising), but this time several staff were arrested, though eventually released.  If I was still in Cambodia, I would certainly have been one of those arrested.

Ratha's arrival also gave me pause to look back. The picture above is one that she took during a challenging week of research in Sihanoukville. There is probably a filter on this picture, but I swear the sunsets I remember, especially on that coast, were always bathed in some stunning, unreal light. 

This picture was taken during a very demanding, fast-paced month. At the time, our research team faced threats of arrest, so we moved our work to Sihanoukville, another province. The team, exhausted most days, bickered on and off, with a divide increasingly occurring between the Khmer and foreign staff.  I stood in the middle.  Days after that work trip, there was the elaborate Khmer wedding in the countryside, at the pepper plantation.  And then a few days later, I joined others for a lovely weekend in Koh Kong, at the Rainbow Lodge Eco Resort, to celebrate a friend's 30th birthday.  There was hiking and leeches, laughter, and sun-bathing.  That same month, Ethan had left to meet his family in Europe.  It was the longest time we'd been apart since we met.  A few weeks later Ethan would travel east, and I west, and we would meet in Almaty, Kazakhstan. It took me three separate flights to get to Almaty.  I remember it feeling like forever.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A taste of BKK

September is flying by.  It's difficult to imagine that this picture was taken over two weeks ago, on a day we found ourselves in Fairfax, Virginia.  I was desperate for a cup of coffee and we stumbled into this cafe, which turned out not to be a coffee shop but a Thai restaurant and one that, with its decor and soft music, transported me back to the many small eateries on the streets of Bangkok.

Even more difficult to imagine is that I will be back to work in a few short weeks. I'll be greeted by one of those crazy caffeinated weeks at a certain international institution.  I've been stewing, disheartened by my maternity leave options, or lack therof. I'm with an organization that has worked on international human rights for many years and yet I had to fight to get more paid leave. I also fought for more unpaid leave and lost that battle. And while I admit we're fortunate enough to have the resources where I could work very part-time for a while, I have no job protection if I choose to do so - and thus, I will be going back to work earlier than I had planned.

In the past weeks, I've wondered several times if we made the right choice to move back to the US.  I know we did, but it's not easy to reconcile that conclusion with the realization that I would have better maternity leave options (and easier access to affordable daycare) abroad.  I think back to the position I was vying for before this DC position came up.  It was with an international group based in Paris and would have had me ping-ponging between Bangkok and Paris. Interesting, but not ideal for motherhood. Yet, I am certain my maternity leave options would have been far more favorable.  But in the end, I didn't make the final cut, so it's a moot point.

How do women do it?
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