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Jun. 30th, 2015

Summer Days

Summer in Lausanne is glorious. Having an active and very mobile nearly 16-month old means we leave our flat at least once a day, often twice, and it’s been a wonderful way for us to get to know our new neighborhood.


Around the corner from us, there’s a park with a playground, view of the Alps, splash pool for kids, and a deer enclosure.


A 10 minute bus ride takes us to a grassy beach with a snack bar with decent food and a rather good beer selection, a toddler-friendly playground, and oh, Lake Geneva and the Alps! A 20 minute downhill walk takes us to another waterfront park with a playground, mini-train for kids, and gelateria. In the opposite direction is a large estate with extensive grounds. Currently there’s an outdoor installation of sculptures that are intermixed with the playground, café, gardens, and aviary.


Every day, M and I spend a great deal of time outside. Sometimes we have errands, but mostly we explore, walk, and play, and I soak up as much sun and inspiration as I can.

When Max sleeps and when I have childcare help, I work. I currently have four “projects,” each of which is exciting and potentially all-consuming, so I’m trying to find a balance between them and do some work on two per day.

  1. Collaboration — I’ve mentioned my “secret project” on Twitter several times. It’s actually a collaboration with Andrew, and an exciting one that pretty perfectly pairs our interests and strengths. More on this, I hope, in the fall.
  2. Novel — The revision continues. It’s going much more slowly than I’d like, but I’m pleased with the results. This is the best it’s been, and that’s hard for me to say because I tend to be extremely critical of my own work.
  3. Research — This is brand new as of last week. I’m doing some research on landscape and literature with a professor here and thoroughly enjoying it. Living here, I’ve become completely preoccupied with landscape, and of course I’ve always been lit-obsessed, so this is another perfect pairing.
  4. Students — Haven Education is still going, and I’m working with some wonderful families right now.

So it’s a summer of exploration and a summer of serious work, both of which make me happy. I am glad to be finding myself again as M becomes increasingly independent and also to be discovering and sharing new things with him.


(click to enlarge)

(As a reminder, this is my final cross-post to LJ. You can subscribe to this blog at anindita.org either via the RSS feed or by email.)


Originally published at anindita.org. You can comment here or there.

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Jun. 17th, 2015

Quick Check-In

Why, hello there! It’s been a while since my last post. Life has been busier than usual. Andrew had his public thesis defense in April and is now officially Dr. Sempere. He had a show go up two weeks later and fell off the stage and broke his heel on opening night. Of course he still ran sound that night and continued to work on the show while in a cast. Then we headed to the U.S. for three weeks on what was a rather insane trip — TX, CA, and MA, so three time zones, two weddings, two big backyard parties thrown by parents, and one college reunion. And yes, we traveled with a very mobile toddler with one parent who had a broken foot. It was insane, but we survived. We got home on Sunday and have been catching up since!

Two quick updates:

— I am planning at long last to stop cross-posting to LJ. If you’d like to keep following this blog (and I hope you do — I promise to post more often!), you can subscribe at anindita.org either via the RSS feed or by email. I’ll take the LJ link down at the end of the month.
— Before leaving, I had a piece published in Medium’s The Message about teaching Humanities in the middle school that Boston marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev attended. It was a tough piece to write, but it seems to have struck a chord with many people who are just as confused and dismayed by both what happened and the death sentence. Please check it out.

Originally published at anindita.org. You can comment here or there.


Feb. 16th, 2015

Classic & Contemporary

I saw two dance videos recently that I liked for their combination of classical and contemporary styles. The first, surprisingly enough, is an advertisement for Rag & Bone’s new menswear line. The dancers are Baryshnikov (yes, Misha, really) and Lil Buck, and the song is by the Venetian Snares. It’s a fun mash up of styles, from the aesthetic to the music and movement. And yeah, I may have drooled over the clothing line just a little bit ;)

The second went viral recently, and with good reason. This is Sergei Polunin, a Ukrainian ballet dancer, dancing to a song by Hozier. I love pretty much everything about this — the dance, the song, the space, and the videography. Oh yes, and Polunin’s tattoos. He’s had critics, of course, saying that he ruined his career, his ability to play roles, etc. by getting inked — that body art distracts from getting into character. I think that’s silly. It’s like saying people of different races or genders can’t play certain roles. The whole point of performance is to become the part, and he does this beautifully.

Originally published at anindita.org. You can comment here or there.

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Feb. 14th, 2015


The past few weeks have been so full of excellent news, I’ve been delighted to the point of bursting.

At the end of January, my friend Helen won the Costa award, which is one of the biggest literary prizes in the UK. I’ve mentioned her brilliant book H is for Hawk a couple of times and keep raving about it. It finally comes out in the US in March, and she’s going on tour. She’s wonderful, as is her book, so please preorder and go see her!

A few days later, a couple of VCFA alumni won major awards in children’s literature, notably Kekla Magoon for her Coretta Scott King honor and Jandy Nelson for her Printz. Kekla was ahead of me in the program, and Jandy was a semester or two behind, and it’s so exciting to see how far they’ve come, and, of course, to read their brilliant books.

And then last week Andrew had his private thesis defense before his committee, which he passed in the best way possible. My coup? Throwing a surprise party for him that day that was, in fact, a complete surprise. He didn’t even know that I’d booked the babysitter for the night, let alone booked dinner for us at a restaurant he wanted to try and drinks afterwards with a dozen of his friends. He still has to submit his final draft and have his public defense (which is a formality), but the big hurdle has been passed, and in under three years!

A few days after that? The infant took his first few steps. I’m going to have to start calling him a toddler soon. How on earth did that happen?

It’s been an exciting few weeks, and I feel like I can’t keep up with the people around me. So I’ll simply celebrate them.

Originally published at anindita.org. You can comment here or there.

Jan. 22nd, 2015


I think I’ve mentioned that I’ve been working on a secret project. I’m delighted to announce the launch of Haven Education, an educational consultancy and writing coaching service. Please take a look at the site and our offerings — I’d love your feedback if you have any and your help spreading the word. The company’s based in Switzerland, but I am accepting clients internationally.

Originally published at anindita.org. You can comment here or there.

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Jan. 13th, 2015


With a new year comes new systems. In addition to reading process posts, I love hearing about how friends and colleagues organize themselves.

I’m a bit of an organization junkie. You probably can’t tell from my desk (there are piles, but they are ordered piles!), but I can’t live without my systems.

This year I’ve seen two come up repeatedly: bullet journals (Kate Messner blogged about hers here) and the Passion Planner. Both are paper based and look comprehensive and pretty wonderful.

I was a paper planner, but I switched to Workflowy a while ago, and in the fall switched again to Evernote. While I enjoy paper planning, I like having a system that’s on my computer and phone and backed up. I live in mortal terror of losing my planner, and it’s much faster for me to set recurring tasks and to update and change things as I go virtually rather than having to copy and write everything out by hand.

My Evernote system was initially set up based on a Lifehacker post about The Secret Weapon, a GTD system built in Evernote. It looks really complicated, and it’s much more involved than I need. I tried it out for a few weeks and simplified as I went along until I had something that fit how I work.

I write and capture everything in Evernote — from grocery items as they occur to me to links for blog posts to notes for our family & friends newsletter. Evernote lets you attach images and PDFs, so if I need to fill out and submit a form, it gets attached to my to do so that I don’t have to track it down.

I’m pretty vigilant about daily and weekly planning, but as I looked through the bullet and passion planner systems, I realized that something big was missing from what I’ve been doing: reflection. My system didn’t leave time or create a space to evaluate how the week or the month had gone. I tend to set annual goals in the form of resolutions, but I check in on them at the beginning and end of the year and do my best along the way to keep those goals in mind, but my approach hasn’t been particularly mindful.

So I’ve added a layer. Now I have my reflections and evaluations in my journal and start each week and each month by looking back at what worked, what didn’t, and why in the previous time period and set some goals for the next one. I also loved one element of the passion planner — the ongoing list of good things that happened. For a while I was posting gratitudes here, but it didn’t make sense to post a gratitude every day, especially when some are very small or very personal.

Now I’m setting aside a page in my journal each week for that week’s good things and gratitudes. Sometimes it’s as small as an excellent scone and cup of coffee. Other days it’s something bigger, like the baby’s first tooth emerging. And now, on particularly challenging days, I read through some of these pages (which are, of course, indexed in the back of the journal for easy retrieval!) and smile and know things are okay, and I can move onto whatever is next.

Originally published at anindita.org. You can comment here or there.

Jan. 1st, 2015

Welcome, 2015!

2014 had a bit of a crazy end — we’d booked a special Christmas trip, not knowing if this would be our final one in Switzerland, and the night before we were supposed to leave, the baby came down with croup. It was too late to cancel, and we were sad about the sick baby, missing the trip, and losing out on hotel costs, but we had a Christmas miracle.

A friend took over the first night of our reservation. The pediatrician cleared the baby for travel, who recovered from croup within 48 hours. We were able to book a last minute room in Zermatt, so we ended up having our two nights away, one on top of a mountain, and the second looking up at it.

Since the 1800s, tourists have been coming to Switzerland to experience the sublime. Last summer, for my birthday, we went to Lauenensee, where we encountered this:


 (Click through for a larger version)

Spectacular, right? That was summer sublime. For Christmas, we went for winter sublime. We stayed at a hotel on top of Mt. Gornergrat, which is 3100 m. / 10000 ft. high. It looks upon the Matterhorn (first panorama includes the Matterhorn and our hotel) and is surrounded by 29 4000 m. peaks, including the Monte Rosa glacier and massif. Monte Rosa (second panorama) is the tallest mountain in Switzerland.



Andrew took a photo of me taking a photo of the Monte Rosa glacier. He was reminded of a painting by Caspar David Friedrich, which is a classic, Romantic piece that evokes the sublime.


2014 was an intense and unexpected year. We had a baby, which was expected, but no one can ever prepare for how life will change and when. We’ve become much better at adjusting to whatever happens, but I did not expect an extended mid-year sleep regression, which threw everything off for me, especially my novel revision. I also expected that we’d have a spot in a local crèche by now. Instead, I’m juggling and doing my best to make things work.

We’re supposed to spend our first day of the year setting the tone for the remainder of the year. In that case, I’m off to a good, productive start. Today is our laundry day in our apartment building, and after missing last week due to travel, I ended up running five loads. I also made a few types of baby food, journaled, finished a book that I started last night, wrote this blog post, and did some work on the secret project. This on top of taking care of the baby all day and having a morning dance party, knocking over towers of blocks, and Skyping with grandparents. It’s 9 pm. I just need to sneak in some writing time before bed, and we’re good.

Figuring out how to travel with the baby was one of our biggest wins of 2014. I’m glad that we were able to explore a few new places. This year is about productivity and reclaiming brain and art space.

What are you looking forward to in 2015?

Originally published at anindita.org. You can comment here or there.

Dec. 5th, 2014

A Well-Earned Break

Today was an unexpectedly lovely day. I’m solo parenting again this week — Andrew was technically here for most of the week, but he was attending a workshop in Geneva, so he’d wave goodbye to the baby and me first thing in the morning and come home post baby’s bedtime. Now he’s away for a couple of days, and I decided to give myself a break by booking the babysitter for one, non-French class afternoon (luxury!) so that I could have some time to myself.

This was brilliant.

M & I went to Kindermusik this morning, and two more mums from my mums’ group just joined, which was awesome. Now there are four of us from the group in one class and another mum in the toddler group that meets immediately before ours, so we all got to see each other and catch up a little.

At the end of today’s class, I mentioned that M & I were going to grab lunch at a café before heading to the babysitter’s flat. My mum friends spontaneously decided to come along. This is one of the very few times I’ve managed spontaneity with M in tow, and it felt really good. We hopped on a bus with a caravan of strollers and snagged what has now become our table at the café and all had lunch together, including the babies.

Afterward, I dropped M off at his babysitter’s place and headed to EPFL, where instead of going to class, I went to the library. It was my first time there, and it’s just lovely — clean design, plenty of workspaces with outlets everywhere, natural light, and complete silence.


I gave myself an afternoon of revision. It was amazing to get some work in during the day instead of at night when I’m exhausted. I finally nailed a chapter ending that’s been eluding me for weeks. I’ve been rewriting and tweaking it every few days, and today, within 10 minutes of sitting down, got it.

Good way to end what’s been an exhausting week of parenting paired with the emotional exhaustion from current events in the U.S. Best of all, the kiddo & I both had a good day. He had a blast between music class, the group lunch, and an afternoon playing with his babysitter and her toddler.

I was amused by comments of, “Wait, you gave yourself the afternoon ‘off’ to work?” Yes. Absolutely. Because writing is sometimes *the* thing that replenishes the well.

Have a great weekend!

Originally published at anindita.org. You can comment here or there.

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Dec. 2nd, 2014

Speaking up

Speaking of racism, privilege, empathy, and humanity, here are links to a few excellent pieces I’ve read recently.

My Vassar College Faculty ID Makes Everything OK by Kiese Laymon (really rather devastating piece). Excerpt:

My Vassar College Faculty ID affords me free smoothies, free printing paper, paid leave, and access to one of the most beautiful libraries on Earth. It guarantees that I have really good health care and more disposable income than anyone in my Mississippi family. But way more than I want to admit, I’m wondering what price we pay for these kinds of ID’s, and what that price has to do with the extrajudicial disciplining and killing of young black human beings.

Jacqueline Woodson’s response to her introduction at the National Book Awards. Excerpt:

To know that we African-Americans came here enslaved to work until we died but didn’t die, and instead grew up to become doctors and teachers, architects and presidents — how can these children not carry this history with them for those many moments when someone will attempt to make light of it, or want them to forget the depth and amazingness of their journey?

How could I come from such a past and not know that I am on a mission, too?

This mission is what’s been passed down to me — to write stories that have been historically absent in this country’s body of literature, to create mirrors for the people who so rarely see themselves inside contemporary fiction, and windows for those who think we are no more than the stereotypes they’re so afraid of.

The Chris Rock interview on vulture.com. Excerpt:

What would you do in Ferguson that a standard reporter wouldn’t?

I’d do a special on race, but I’d have no black people.

Well, that would be much more revealing.

Yes, that would be an event. Here’s the thing. When we talk about race relations in America or racial progress, it’s all nonsense. There are no race relations. White people were crazy. Now they’re not as crazy. To say that black people have made progress would be to say they deserve what happened to them before.

Right. It’s ridiculous.

So, to say Obama is progress is saying that he’s the first black person that is qualified to be president. That’s not black progress. That’s white progress. There’s been black people qualified to be president for hundreds of years. If you saw Tina Turner and Ike having a lovely breakfast over there, would you say their relationship’s improved? Some people would. But a smart person would go, “Oh, he stopped punching her in the face.” It’s not up to her. Ike and Tina Turner’s relationship has nothing to do with Tina Turner. Nothing. It just doesn’t. The question is, you know, my kids are smart, educated, beautiful, polite children. There have been smart, educated, beautiful, polite black children for hundreds of years. The advantage that my children have is that my children are encountering the nicest white people that America has ever produced. Let’s hope America keeps producing nicer white people.

Originally published at anindita.org. You can comment here or there.

Nov. 30th, 2014

Giving Thanks

Although the Thanksgiving holiday is problematic, I appreciate having a day to step back and reflect on all of the things I’m grateful for. Since moving to Switzerland, we haven’t had a “proper” Thanksgiving with family and a full turkey. Our first year, we did the best we could with what we could find. Andrew made turkey schnitzel, and I made all of the sides and desserts. Last year we were in Zurich, where Andrew had an event. That made this year particularly special.

Andrew has been developing systems for performance, so he works with theatre people and dancers. As a former dancer and theatre person, it’s a little strange to be on the outside of these shows — not to go to auditions and rehearsals — but they’re still my people. This year, someone that he has been working with invited us to Thanksgiving dinner.

She’s American. Her husband is French. The show’s director (an American living in England who happens to be a fellow Wellesley alumna), the playwright, and the playwright’s wife (also a theatre director) flew in from England. Our hosts and another couple who were there are scientists. Even though it isn’t a biological family, it’s a close knit group that’s relaxed around each other and who laugh and tease and talk about anything. We also ranged across generations from our almost 9 month old to the playwright & his wife who have full grown children and a couple of grandchildren, which added to the family feel.

Dinner began with a round of Kir Royale, made with amazing crème de cassis from Burgundy, France, and then we had the full turkey, all of the sides, and a couple of pies. It was lovely, and even the baby got to have some turkey and mashed potatoes along with the grown ups.

It’s been a crazy year, and while there’s a lot to be thankful for, I’m particularly grateful for:

— friends, old and new, near and far

— my happy, healthy, active, and curious little boy

— having this opportunity to live abroad

— having health care

— my online communities

— my in-person mums’ group

— simple and free technologies like Skype & Google Hangouts that let me easily and regularly connect with family and friends back home

— support from close & extended family

It’s a complicated time to be an American with so much difficult news from Ferguson to UVA. There’s a constant deluge of stories revealing racism, sexism, and general inhumanity. I’ve been thinking a lot about privilege and having the ability to tune out for a few hours, or even a few days, to recenter and recuperate. I’m not sure what there is to do but continue to listen, signal boost, and attempt to highlight underprivileged voices. I hope we can find ways to see and understand our common humanity and to empathize with one another. In the meantime, I am constantly and immensely grateful for my various communities and the care we take of each other.

Originally published at anindita.org. You can comment here or there.

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