What’s in your conference travel bag?

A red purse sits in the backyard. In front are a laptop, notebag, pens, two small gray zippered pouches, a power adapter, a power strap, a pill case, and a striped pouch.
Taken in a hotel room, appropriately. Iphone not pictured, since I had to take the picture somehow.

Anyone else have a weakness for those “What’s in your bag?” features? My stuff is not nearly as nice as the stuff those people carry, but deep in my heart, I seem to cling to the belief that my life really would be better if I could just optimize a few things.

Anyway, I posted on Facebook about a new receipt-filing thing I’d bought, and the response was so enthusiastic (what is wrong with my friends?) that I thought I’d do a quick post about what I’ve been carrying lately. I’ve been traveling for work a ton this year (way too much, obviously) and I’ve been devoting more thought than I’d like to admit to making my conference travel bag efficient.

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How to accommodate a breastpumping mom at your event

Breast pump encased in black tote bag
A decent daily-use electric breastpump like the Medela Pump in Style will run you $269.99 on Amazon.

Breastfeeding has been a pretty damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t experience for me. I’m in an extremely privileged position, breastfeeding-wise — with relatively generous (for the U.S.) maternity leave and a private office with a door — but it’s still been a challenge. New mothers hear a great deal these days about the expense and health toll (though frankly some of that science is questionable) of formula-feeding (or, as Kaiser’s lactation consultant insisted on calling it, “artificial food”). But breastfeeding also has well-documented and significant financial penalties for women who work outside the home. And people who wouldn’t ordinarily pronounce on a woman’s personal decisions feel no compunction, for some reason, about passing judgment on a mother’s decision about how to feed her baby.1

At the moment, I’m on my way back from the Society for Cinema and Media Studies, my first real trip away from the baby. The conference organizers were really helpful to me when I asked for lactation accommodation, finding me a room in the sold-out conference hotel so that I wouldn’t have to miss too much of the event. (Though this, of course, meant staying in the conference hotel, which I usually avoid in order to save money.) Still, it’s been a bit of a logistical challenge, involving trekking across airports in search of remote nursing rooms, sending a pump through security checkpoints, and absenting myself from events every few hours.

In a perfect world, we’d all understand the mechanics of lactation so that we can accommodate women who are breastfeeding. But I’d be pretty wildly hypocritical if I condemned others for their ignorance, having until recently been in the same position myself. A few months ago, I was embarrassed to realize I had no idea where to send a woman who needed to use a breastpump at an event I’d helped organize. I didn’t even really know what she’d need, having never dealt with it myself. Which is to say that I understand why this stuff is confusing. So I thought I’d do my tiny part by explaining why we need what we need for the benefit of anyone who might host a breastfeeding mother.

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Dora (or: why I’ve been slow returning emails)

Dora Joan
Dora. Photo by Brad Wallace.

Andy and I welcomed our first child, Dora Joan, on December 15, 2012. She’s absolutely amazing. As you might expect, my world has been very much taken up with baby stuff lately. I’ll be on maternity leave until UCLA’s next quarter begins on April 1. I hope you’ll understand if I’m not great about getting back to correspondents right away.

Dora’s namesakes are her great grandmothers, whom we loved very much: Dora Goldstein and Joan Hildebrant.

Leaving Emory, joining UCLA

Image of the U.S., with the states of Georgia and California highlighted and connected by a dotted line in the shape of a heart.
Illustration by Carrie of the Here & There Shop, who is a pleasure to work with. Click on the image to commission your own print!

I’m equal parts delighted and heartbroken to say that I’ve accepted a new job. As of February 10, I’ll be the digital humanities program coordinator at the University of California, Los Angeles. January 13 is my last official day at Emory. The decision to accept the job was really difficult — I love being at Emory, I love the library, and I love my colleagues. I’m so proud of what we’ve done together. Still, this new position is a significant opportunity for me: the chance to shape a growing program in California, the state where I grew up and which I care about deeply.

I’ll spare you the weepy theatrics, except to say that I feel really fortunate, both for the opportunities Emory has offered me and for the new opportunity I’ve been afforded.

My Ada

Dora Goldstein
Dody at a PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) rally in 2008. This was her Facebook profile photo!

Today is Ada Lovelace Day, which celebrates women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics by honoring Ada Lovelace, whom many name the first computer programmer.

My Ada is Dora B. Goldstein, or Dody, as everyone called her, who died Sunday. She was a pioneer in so many ways: one of the first women to enroll in Harvard Medical School, a leading expert on the pharmacology of alcohol, and a professor at Stanford. She was also a civil rights activist who campaigned for women in the academy and, later in life, a leader in the gay rights movement.

She was also my husband’s grandmother, which is how I knew her — a great cook and attentive listener who was so interested in what we were up to. She punctuated our stories with “How wonderful!” and made us feel important and loved. She was a person of endless compassion, curiosity, and intelligence, a role model for me. We’re lucky to have known her.