Thursday, July 02, 2015

Made by Me! Pretty "Naked Cake" & Fruit Arrangements

Note: only photos from my phone for now (unedited, unfiltered!). I'll edit the post & write more later. I couldn't stop taking photos of that cake! :-) 
Everyone loved it all! If academia doesn't work out I can always do catering! ;-$

Getting Anxious (Pre-Travel Stress is the Worst!)

started packing for our epic six-weeks long trip last week, but I've been planning what to take and shopping for shoes (light walking shoes, open & closed) for months and months now.

Until last night, I was just really excited and just planning and making lists to try not to forget anything, but suddenly I got anxious last night and didn't even have a good night of sleep...

It's just that we'll be going up some mountains in the Alps and driving far North in Germany (to Hamburg), so we need to actually be prepared to face cooler weather. I had forgotten that we'd need some pants and light jackets and now I'm freaking out that they won't fit in the carry-on suitcases that K and the boys decided to buy & pack (one for each, two of them cute ones from IKEA Family). I'm taking a medium sized suitcase, though, I can't think of only having the little one! And besides, we need to check at least one bag with liquids & gels.

My stress & anxiety before a trip is always the same, though: I'm afraid to forget some important item (hardly ever do) and to take the wrong clothes or not enough. I always tended to pack lots of clothes in the past, but I've been making a concerted effort to pack light for the past few years -- thus it's happened that I didn't have enough clothes on a few occasions (all short trips not too far from home). I think I'll be fine, but I know already that I'll be taking more clothes than I'll actually need and I'm fine with that. I just hope my husband won't complain too much!

In the end, it all boils down to the fact that I have a really, really hard time making decisions, especially small everyday decisions. It's excruciating! Sigh... 

I hope that I can pull off something that will be nothing short of miraculous: to be 100% packed on Monday, the day before we leave and the day before my birthday. Did I mention that I'm actually throwing myself a birthday party on Sunday? A "Pinterest" cute party? Yeah, I'm insane, but I really wanted to to it. I've wanted to have a birthday party for years, but my friends are never in town around my b-day, but this year they'll be! Yay!!

I hope to blog the party! But before I need to show you this wedding shower I "catered" for! Lovely photos to come, I hope! I guess my anxiety is better now that I'm talking about these fun things! I hope it will all turn out ok in the end!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Too Much to Say (or Not)

These past two weeks were intense. The main reason I haven't blogged about the horrible terrorist attack and hate crime that took place a week an a half ago in North Carolina is that it's very hard for me to know what to say and how to say it. I want to be an outspoken ally of the African American community and to condemn racism, but I need to be keenly aware of my white privilege at all times.

I am grateful for all the writing that my online friend LaToya (Dr. Mama Esquire) has been doing on Twitter and in her blog. Hearing her voice and her perspective is very important to me and one of the reasons why I stayed silent even though another online friend whose opinion I value, Susan, was upset at those of us who didn't speak up.

So many things are so complicated -- I know this is a cliche, but it's so true of my life. Things are even more complicated when you are an immigrant, living in several conflicting worlds and cultures. In addition to that "condition" I also am part of a faith community about which I have extremely complex and mixed feelings. Ditto for academia. Sometimes my brain and my heart hurt at the same time because there are so many forces pulling me in so many directions. I can't even articulate my thoughts and feelings.

I just happened to come across something critical about NPR's coverage of Israel and I was reminded once more that in a few weeks I'm going to visit a country I have very mixed feelings about as well, because of the Palestinians.

Then there's the daily reality of our lives. My husband is scrambling to finish writing a grant proposal and academic articles, so he spends 15-17 hours away from home working in his office at the university every single day except Friday night & Saturday (and, Sat. night lately). He leaves between 9-11 am and comes back between 2-4 am.

Most nights I've been awake until he gets home, but it's mostly been coincidental. Sometimes it's because I took some short catnaps and have just been able to stay up, sometimes I'm just naturally awake. I'm going to bed now, but maybe he won't even come back home -- because he needs/wants to finish writing the grant tonight.

Obviously, I still have TONS of things I want to blog about and end up not doing it. I will try. Today I prepared food for a bridal shower at church and I want to share photos of that! And some other things.

Gotta go to bed now, though!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


I just made an interesting mistake! ;-)


I didn't give the best instructions to the hairdresser, so, instead of two tones of highlights, I ended up with my very first full head hair coloring experience! Two tones of blonde. Darker and lighter. The plan is to add more light brown highlights in three weeks, so family will be less shocked by it when we meet in July. ;-)

In the meantime, I will hopefully enjoy looking quite different for these next three weeks. My sons thought it was okay, but different. I already called my husband, but I have to wait for the verdict when he gets home. I think he'll be ok too. 

I guess at 40+ one has to shake things up once in a while!
I'll let you know what K thinks!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Writing Retreat

I've been at a writing retreat since yesterday and it's been great. I'm reading more than writing, because I'm working on a conference paper for next week which I had not done any reading for, but I have seven pages of notes for the paper (and it only needs to be 9 pages long). I hope to get some more work done tomorrow morning.

And even more meaningful than reading and writing I am making some great new friends that I hope to keep in touch with for years to come if possible! There is one person I already know (her daughter goes to the same school as our sons and has been my oldest son's classmate for the past five years, they also go to out church), but I met several others and I'm particularly excited to have met a colleague from Russia who moved here a year ago.

Interestingly, there are several of us with children that are 12 or 13 years old, that feels interesting! I should be working and not blogging, but I've missed blogging.

Oh, last, but not least, the food at this retreat center is pretty amazing!

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Mockingbird/ Mockingjay

Well, it didn't work out very well to watch the Mockinjay Part I movie almost back to back with To Kill a Mockingbird (the movie with Gregory Peck)! ;-)

Not only are the books and movie styles completely different, but movies made so many decades apart (half a century, in fact!) have incredibly different paces and techniques. So, yeah, it was almost a joke to do something like this, but it's not often that I go to the university library's Media Center to borrow DVDs (this time they had Bluray for Mockinjay, yay!!), so I got those two plus the documentary Hey, Boo which I don't know if I will finish. [Hey, if you're interested it will air again on July 10 on PBS to "honor" the July 14  release of the prequel Go Set a Watchman!].

It seems that the To Kill a Mockingird screenplay was hailed as one of the best adapted screenplays of all time and I think it's OK, but I was truly pleasantly surprised by how great and how "faithful"  to the book Mockinjay Part I was! It didn't end exactly where I'd thought and said it would end (I think that would have been way too much suspense!), but almost. It was so faithful that they even showed the lake and certain areas of District 12 that had not been shown in the previous two movies. I really really liked it!

Of course I hadn't read the Suzanne Collins book as recently as I had when I watched the first two movies, which I basically didn't like at all, particularly the first one, The Hunger Games. They cut too much of the book (in the words of my 13 year old son who has read them all and watched the films with us, in the first movie, it feels as if the games themselves last for a few days, not over two excruciating weeks). Catching Fire was slightly better, but still not that great -- too little time was spent showing the Capitol, among other faults. Their portrayal of how they controlled the Arena with a model was cool, though, as was having a view of the background of what's going on. After watching Mockingjay (on Tuesday night), I re-read the ending of the book again and I think it's pretty great. I hope the last film won't disappoint!

My husband worked on reading the trilogy over many months (maybe close to 6 months) and he finished a bit over a month ago and thought the author did a fantastic job, particularly in portraying post-traumatic stress disorder. Not a lot of time in the movie(s) shows that, even because the films don't have a first person narrator, but we get to see the effects on Katniss. Jennifer Lawrence is a great actress. Phillips Seymour Hoffman is splendid and I don't know exactly how they'll get around not having him in the sequel. He only appears at the end, so I guess they'll have Haymith say his lines.

As for To Kill a Mockinbird it also cuts most of the novel, no scenes in the school, barely any relationship with the neighbor ladies, no aunt Alexandra, but it keeps the main scenes and Peck and the girl actress who plays Scout are splendid. I think we're spoiled by the way movies are made nowadays, though. Thankfully, great books transcend the passage of time and the novel moved me greatly.

Next, I'll blog about Lois Lowry's books which I read last week (The Giver & companion books).

Good Question!

Thanks for your question, What Now? Obviously there could still be something, but I have a sneaking suspicion that in this particular case, being a local candidate didn't work in my favor. Of course this "local" is relative, since I don't work in this department of with any of their faculty.

Besides, my application was more of a tenure track application. That's what I was advised to do by my (fabulous) friend. Incidentally, she had a meeting last week, or two weeks ago, with the chair of the department where the position is and she had promised to make some inquiries. To be quite frank, I'm afraid to ask anything... Sigh...

In any case, my friend had told me that this was my one shot, so my application should look like an application for a tt job -- I should try with all my might, give 'em all I've got. So I did. Maybe they'll want to give me a chance next year? Maybe they only want to hire a person that will clearly know that this is a ONE YEAR thing -- because that's not what my application was for. I mentioned solid projects that have potential for many years of work with students. So... yeah... maybe that's part of the problem.

And I'm not upset or disappointed. I'm just preparing myself for another year of language teaching and for fighting again to keep my jobs and/or get another one.

It's OK. Part of the process. Too bad that I'm turning 44 and it's been 7 years since I finished my PhD so I'm probably past my expiration date as an academic. I'm not ready to quit yet, though. I won't go down without a fight. (She says, sardonically, always aware that it's pretty much a lost battle, that on this very day we learned more about the decline of the humanities... Sigh).

Yeah, whatever... ;-)

Nothing... & Benign

Two short posts in one, to save time. ;-)

Nothing is what I heard from my job application. I hope they'll at least send a rejection letter. It's better than NOTHING. Sigh... :-( I guess it was just a dream and, as I've said before, I'm confident that whatever happens will be for the best.

(what if I lost my other two jobs, got this one year position and then lost it after the end of the year? If they open a TT position I'll apply. And I'll try to publish at least a couple more articles until I have to send out that application [I don't know when I'll find the time, but I can try]. Sigh...)

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The second part is about the polyps from my colon. I got a call from the doctor a week ago to say that they were benign, but considered "pre-cancerous," so I'll need another colonoscopy in 5 years (my mom thinks is too far into the future). I'm glad I'm OK, but slightly concerned at the same time. I don't know if there's anything I can do to prevent future problems. I'll look in to that.

. . . . .
Last, but not least, a weather report. Yesterday it was even colder for swim practice (59 F), but the boys braved it again. Today, both soccer and swim practice are cancelled because of the rainy cold weather.

At least I think it'll get warmer tomorrow. Today it's drizzling... which kind of reminds me of the city of São Paulo and its famous drizzle. I wrote a poem about that many years ago (1992) and posted it to the blog for Jo(e), eight years ago. Wow, I've been blogging for an awfully long time, haven't I?

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Chilly Swim Practice

61 F (16 C) is a little chilly for swim practice, but the boys said the water wasn't cold & did ok! 
And the coach put both together in one lane. 

Monday, June 01, 2015

The Last Salary

Every end of May/beginning of June I get paid my last salary from U#2 and then I have to wait until the end of September for the next one. It's always very depressing. (I know I recently blogged about this, sorry about being so repetitive!). I have given up on teaching summer classes because nobody registers for them anymore. I need to teach online, but I won't develop an online class without being paid to do so. (and I don't have time during the semester to participate of the workshops that lead to that payment).

My husband didn't get the NSF grant he applied for two years ago and another collaborative grant he had been promised went wrong, so he doesn't have a "real" summer salary either (only 2.5K that he managed to salvage from the second grant). Of course, his meager wages as an assistant professor are distributed through the 12 months of the year (although it's technically a salary for 9 months only), so we still have enough for the mortgage and other living expenses, but still... I hate this side of summer. 

With our big amazing trip coming up (Egypt, Jordan, Israel & Europe), I'm just very apprehensive at the thought of the credit card debt we'll have until my first salary is deposited. (in addition to our current debt due to the car we bought last summer [that post has a spam comment from a car dealer, but it's so cute I won't delete it! ;-)])

OK... enough complaining. There are more annoying things to worry about right now than money... Horrible Weeds! A really messy house with misplaced things that I really really want/need to find. A garage that needs to be organized and cleaned to accommodate a new present I'll soon blog about!

Sunday, May 31, 2015


My "baby" turned eleven yesterday!

He is a joy and makes our lives and our family complete.

We had some of his friends for lunch (pasta: Spaghetti and Farfalle with red & alfredo sauces) and since he mostly wanted ice-cream I baked him a simple Brazilian carrot cake: a yellow cake made with carrots put in the blender with eggs and oil with an also really simple chocolate frosting: sweetened cocoa (such as Nesquick) with some butter or margarine & a few spoons of milk put in the microwave, stirred, and spread over the cake while it is still warm (the frosting sets later when the cake cools and gets less shiny).
I can't believe L is already eleven!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Last Days of School Are Sad! :-(

As my sons get older and closer to important milestones in life I get more & more emotional about them. I was thinking today, as I walked into my sons' school, that I will get to relive twice all the rites of passage in life that I went through myself (and then, if I am blessed with grandchildren and a long life -- I'll live through many more with the grandkids, WOW!). And I don't know if I like that prospect. I wasn't really thinking of those things when I had children. Sigh... It's interesting to discover new things about mothering/ parenting once in a while, though!

Last night was 8th grade graduation and my 7th grader actually walked down the aisle during the ceremony (the tradition in our school is that pairs of 7th graders stand in line as their classmates walk in, one by one) and I was teary-eyed several times during reading of the profiles of the 18 graduating students. I am very apprehensive about next year, I don't want to cry from beginning to end! It's hard, though! My parents will be here as will probably my in-laws. Kelvin is the oldest grandchild on both sides of the family, so it will be the first graduation for all of us.

Today I missed the photo slide show that the 7-8th grade teacher always prepares for the whole school and I felt sad about it. The last day of school is the day I bring cake to celebrate my youngest son's birthday, since it's the last day I can do it before the date (May 30th). In the first three years I baked cupcakes, but in the last two our new tradition has become homemade vanilla-Oreo ice-cream cake! (the Oreos are crushed in the blender, the ice-cream is mixed with Cool-Whip). I'm becoming "famous" in the elementary school because of this cake, kids and adults alike love it. I bring it to school so the kids can eat it before school is out (12:15 on the last day), after singing Happy Birthday to my son.

This was done and it went on smoothly, but then I felt sad that it was all over. Particularly as I went over to Kelvin's class and saw the eighth graders (not high-schoolers) there for the last time! :-( Next year it will be my son and I will probably be sadder, but at the same time excited for what is coming. If all goes well, next year will be the beginning of a 12 year streak of graduations for our sons. One every two years: 8th grade, high school, college. I know it will go by just too fast, so I want to savor every event, even if it feels sad. (wow, that was a lot of "eves"! and "Vs")

This year seems to have gone fast, but it was also kind of stressful, so it's a good thing it's over. I have mixed feelings about it all, though, because I have a hard time keeping my sons going at home. I know that if left to their own devices all they will do will be to spend all day playing on their ipad or computers (Minecraft) or, maybe their WiiU, and that's not good. Summers aren't my favorite time of the year -- unless we're traveling, which, we obviously will.

Have a great summer, everyone!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Weeds Have Won! :-(

After four very sad years, the weeds have won.

And it's not just that it looks bad and overgrown (because it does):
It's because EVERY SINGLE KIND of EVIL POISON weed is present in our smalish yard (like 0.3 of an acre).

Poison Ivy is everywhere:
Poison Oak sent my husband to the doctor two years ago after he cut it, and now it grew back, hidden under our overgrown weeping cherry tree:
And there are several trees/big bushes of Poison Sumac (the worst one!!) thrown in for good measure:
(And there may be some poison oak there too) I think there's a very young poison sumac growing between my irises!!! (Shudder):
It's BEYOND depressing! :-(

Thankfully, I am not highly allergic to them (my husband is, horribly so, as is my dad), but I've had reactions in the past and I know that reactions can get worse with time.

In any case, I am the one who is going to have to deal with them all. However, I am TERRIBLE at doing yard work. I procrastinate (especially when I have tons to do). And I just can't do it in the heat (especially not covered head to toe in protective clothing and gear!!).

HELP! I am desperate and upset and sad.

And (although I LOVE flowers and wish I could be good at gardening) I want to sell this house and buy a townhouse in which I don't ever have to deal with poisonous weeds ever again!!! :-(

In Brasil we didn't have/don't have poison ivy and its evil friends -- why are they so prevalent here? Why??? :-(

Friday, May 22, 2015

To Kill a Mockingbird

... or, as my son Kelvin, a Hunger Games fan, says, he'll always want to call it "To Kill a Mockinjay" :-)

I didn't grow up in his country. Yes, I majored in in English, but this was not one of the books I read in my 20th Century American Lit. class.

So I hadn't read it until now, until today. I bought it after I became aware of the brouhaha and excitement caused by the upcoming publication of Mockingbird's "sequel."

WOW, what a book! I really knew nothing about it or about the author, which is such a gift nowadays. In an age of pervasive information overload, ignorance is not bliss, it's a rare gift.

So I was delighted when I found out that Dill was modeled on Capote, Harper Lee's childhood friend, and that I was 100% right in realizing that that fascinating little boy was gay. (I still need to watch Capote with genius Phillip Seymour Hoffman -- still sad about his death. Fame is often perilous). I also had no idea that her father had been a lawyer and that there are many other autobiographical traces in the novel

In any case, what a joy to read such a masterpiece! Makes me long for reading and teaching literature. Oh, if I could just get the job! I think it would be a most welcome career change. Sigh...

And how relevant to read a book about racism and lopsided race relations after the past few years' deaths of young black men at the hands of police or vigilantes. This country has come a long way, but it has not overcome racism.

I'd love to talk more about this book some other time! Now I want to see the Gregory Peck movie and watch the documentary (I'm all about linking to The Post today! ;-).

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Update on Dad & Tickets to Brazil

Just to "throw salt on the wound" [as we say in Portuguese] yesterday my brother-in-law (K3) informed the family that American Airlines has some tickets to Brazil for under 450 dollars.


Just because I don't really have time to go? :-( I just wanted to weep like a baby.

I checked them out and did find some for $448 flying from Philly.

Maybe I could go? Just maybe? June 21-27? August doesn't work because my parents will still be in Europe.

sob! :-(
OK, now for the good, great, peaceful, news!!

Everything went very smoothly with my dad and uncle in court. They wheeled him in on a wheelchair and the (female) judge only asked him and my dad a few questions and granted the request. I think just by looking at him one can see that he's not doing well. :-(

My mom just told me how in the end my uncle enjoyed the day (and I felt very much like crying while listening to all the details of the story). He wanted to go out to lunch in the next town (where they were going to court), so my dad took him, driving slowly, because their appointment with the judge was 4 hours later. Then he wanted to have some ice-cream, which they did. Finally, my dad explained to him that they needed to go to court so my dad could help him more.

When they reached the courthouse my uncle didn't want to go in, he just wanted to wait in the car (he has a bad leg, that's why my dad got the wheelchair). To make matters worse, there was a 45 minute delay, but my cousin (on my mom's side, he's an assistant to his lawyer dad) helped by talking to my uncle for a while.

After leaving the courthouse they took him back to his filthy house... and he even wanted to go home with my dad (something he never wanted to do before). Maybe my parents can fix and rent out his house (which used to be my grandparents' old home) and he can come live close to them. This won't be easy, though because he's a heavy smoker, has limited mobility and is, clearly very confused and hard to deal with.


His mind is very foggy and he can't really understand that now my dad is in charge of his money and, pretty much, his life. It's very sad, but it's for the best. I will share more about this uncle someday.

My brother's son has his name (one of the reasons why my brother didn't really want the name) and, of course, the same last name. My mom also had a brother with this name...

Daniel.  A beautiful, meaningful name.

The only uncle who ever gave me presents when I was growing up...