Monday, May 25, 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 lilies!!! (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 see this house and buy a townhome in which I don't ever have to deal with poisonous weeds ever again!!! :-(

In Brasil we didn't have/don't have poison ou 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.

SERIOUSLY???

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.

Sigh...

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...

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Just for Fun! (Trying on Colorful Clothes)

I know some people hate shopping (good for them!), but for me it's son much fun! It's almost therapeutic.

However, I have way way way too many clothes. I buy too many clothes and women in my family also give me some clothes, so it's not good!

Today I entered Ross (one of my "favoritest" stores!) to look for sneakers for my sons and I decided I could NOT buy anything for me, particularly not dresses (I love dresses & own too many).

I'm happy to say that I didn't, but I had some fun trying four colorful dresses (most maxi) and one "dressy short coverall." Here's the result!
Crazy long!
Really weird tropical print!
I love the colors, but the pattern is too busy and the synthetic material and cut are blah.
I felt very tempted to buy this -- I love the colors and tie-die effect, but... Nah, not worth 19 bucks. 
Two of my favorite colors (Aqua and coral) in a lovely flowered pattern, but impossible to wear! I mistakenly through this was a blouse and almost tore the bottom part. Good thing it was a size M!

Well, I will try not to go into any more stores until I get paid in September! Because next time I may not resist the temptation!

"Like a lamb to the slaughter"

edited to correct a few details
 
These were my dad's words two days ago when he was getting ready to leave for Paraná, the state in Brazil where he grew up. My dad is really, really stressed out.

Today  Tomorrow (Wednesday) he has an audience with a judge in the presence of his youngest brother who is schizophrenic and who lives in the tiny town where the family lived from 1940 until 1978. Another uncle (from my mom's side of the family) is going to be the attorney, but it is my dad who is going to have two make the arguments (and he doesn't feel prepared, much less to speak in front of his brother).

My uncle has been unable to manage his own money for several years. He receives disability payments because he was a police officer many years ago in Brazil before his problems got worse and was discharged from duty. So my dad wants/needs to become his legal guardian in order to use the money to help my uncle take care of the house and to pay for people to help him. Dad knows that his brother is going to be furious about all this and may become violent in court. That's why he feels like a lamb going to the slaughter. :-(

Please keep them all in your prayers. I will write more later to share some more of this sad story! :-(

Monday, May 18, 2015

What if nothing comes of it?

I seriously have to ask myself this question about the application for the job at U#1 and I need to prepare myself for it too (because that's what realists* do).

I know it's probably too early to hear back from the search committee (they started reviewing applications last Thursday) and, of course, I keep on thinking of reasons why they would rather not have a local person take the job, especially if deans start pressuring them because of "spousal" reasons. Sigh... 

I don't think that knowing a couple of people in the department, even if one of them may be the search committee chair, helps at all. Maybe the contrary.

OK, call me a pessimist if that's what needs to be done, but I need to rehearse all kinds of worst case scenarios.

And, answering my own question -- if nothing comes of it I already have two "half" jobs for next year (although U#2's job seems to be a "phantom" job at the moment -- the classes are not in my online schedule!) and... delightfully, I'll be able to sit in/help teach an MPB** graduate class every Tuesday morning!

I have lots of good things to look forward to, so I should be calm and confident, not worried. Ha! I wish! I don't know how I can prepare for an interview if one is scheduled. Sigh... I'll try to ask my friends to help me out! Fingers crossed!

* I refuse to say I'm a pessimist. I do see the positive side of life, but I desperately need to prepare myself for the worse every time. Maybe I am always pessimistic about money, but I think I have good reason to be! K and I almost argued about it this morning, sigh... he can't stand what he calls my negative/pessimistic thinking.

**Música Popular Brasileira - Braz. music.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Two Goals!!

While his brother's team didn't do too well on the West Coast, my youngest son played very very hard in his incomplete soccer team and scored TWO goals!

For a long time in the game they were losing 4 X 2, then tied 5 X 5 for a while, that means his last two goals granted their 7 X 5 victory! He was so proud of himself and I screamed and jumped up and down as a really proud mama!

He's one of the smallest kids (and certainly the skinniest one), so I kept screaming that he was a tiny titan, no I think it was tiny wonder, or some such silly thing. ;-)

I'll try to edit to include a photo of him from earlier in the season (haven't transfered those to computer yet!).

Good thing we had at least one great victory to celebrate today!

Competing in California

My "baby's" team is competing in California right now and I wish I were there to cheer them on! Their first run wasn't that great and they are currently in 2nd place with 2 more runs to go. So much tension!!

I wish they could win, to make the trip even more meaningful since they've worked SO hard! We'll see what happens! Meanwhile I'm glued to my phone and to the group text messages I'm getting from their teacher. My son hasn't responded to any texts from me. :-(

I'll keep you posted!

Their next run is in 15 minutes, at 2:25 PT (post edited at 5:10pm ET).

6 pm update: OH, the tension!!! Something went awry with their robot this morning, so they are still in second place with only 205 points after their second run  and they're working feverishly to see if their last run can be improved. Best team's points are 270.  Sigh :-(

Poor kids, I imagine they must be so stressed!! And frustrated! That's why my son won't respond. He's probably seated at the computer trying to program the robot. I imagine.

Last update 6:55 pm- They got second third (7:50 pm) place! (230 points in last run) Not what they wanted, but still OK. As my husband said just now, "the trip was the most important thing" and I guess it was!

They'll be back tomorrow night. One whole week away! 

Fiercely Missing Brazil

:-(

The worst part was finding out that tickets to fly there now are the cheapest they've been in many years, maybe 10 years. And even cheaper for flying from there to here (good for my brother-in-law who is moving to the Middle East with his family this summer via the U.S. -- he's been flying several times here to bring suitcases full of their personal belongings).

I wish I could go, but I can't. We simply cannot afford it. Sometimes I ALWAYS get mad at this whole "not being able to afford anything" thing. I'm tired of it and, at the same time, I don't think it will ever change. I cannot fathom how it could.

The culprit right now is a very good thing -- the upcoming "big trip" -- and, of course, last week we just went ahead and bought a car (even though we still have credit card debt from buying the Prius -- or would it be the trip's tickets? Gah, either one!). But I'll try to come back to blog about this later.

Every year, or several times a year sometimes, it just hits me... a never-ending, bottomless saudade (can be roughly translated as homesickness) that fills me with longing and sadness and a desire to just be there. In the country where I grew up. Looking at that familiar sky (I miss the Southern Cross! A LOT!), spending time with my parents, seeing friends and family and their new babies (one of our friends' precious baby girl just turned one a few days ago), eating yummy Brazilian food, etc.

I'm glad these feelings generally don't last too long and I just realized that they must come in May and during the summer when I'm stuck at home, without work, feeling (and truly being) poor and aimless. No wonder I want to go to Brazil. No wonder I generally GO when I can! It give these long, excessively hot, summers purpose and joy. I am so looking forward to going next year! I hope it'll be everything I'm hoping for. I'm already making a super-long to-do list!

Meanwhile, I have to try and work on the translation and try to work on the house and yard (VERY depressing post about the weeds coming up) and... I'm getting worried that the job application will come to nothing!

Sorry! I can't focus! This post was supposed to be about missing Brasil and instead I'm all over the place. Sigh...

all right, let's see if I can accomplish a few things today, right?


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Polyps & Bronchiectasis

If you don't like health condition discussions, steer clear of this post! ;-)

I had my second colonoscopy today (first one was in 2009) and the doctor said he found and removed two polyps. (I can't say that word without thinking of my friend Jo's former blog, The Leery Polyp)

My mom is super stressed out about this because she had some polyps removed a couple of years ago and she thinks it's OK to have polyps at 73, but not at 43!

We have a history of colon problems in our family, including the death of my paternal grandfather after a failed colonoscopy and my maternal great-grandma's death, that's why I've been proactive by seeing GI doctors once in a while. (Never mind that the local office had me seen by a physician's assistant last year and this year -- I checked her badge, she is NOT a nurse practitioner, which would have been acceptable -- and still charged me the specialist co-pay ($40). Health care in this country is an outrageous joke sometimes. I think the assistant did an OK job, but still, paying for an expensive doctor's visit and not seeing a doctor is TYPICAL of U.S. health care, BLAH! the same thing happened on my second visit to the dermatologist. I don't want to go back there anymore now!).

However, my mom shouldn't be worrying about me when she has had a very worrisome recent diagnosis of bronchiectasis to worry about. This is an irreversible condition in which the airways in one's lungs have been stretched and damaged and can no longer effectively get rid of mucus and get air in. Scary, right?! She was actually diagnosed by her cardiologist (because she thought she had heart problems) and hasn't yet seen a lung specialist. The symptoms are shortness of breath and the sensation of a "weight" on the lungs.

We just had a "fun" conversation of nearly 40 minutes on Skype in which she worried about me a bit and then I listened to her talk about the doctor's visit and urged her to do certain things (such as NOT use the 40 year old nebulizer and go buy a brand new one, go to a lung doctor, start physical therapy, etc.). "Mothering" one's mother isn't easy!

My mom has always been very good and proactive about her health care, so I've never had to worry about it, but this is a new condition that we weren't aware of and she didn't seem to be taking it as seriously as she should. She's undergone multiple surgeries with no fear and she's generally quite healthy, but this lung problem was likely caused by her gastric reflux which has been treated, but still bothers her. 

I'll keep you posted about these issues!(sigh...)

Note to self: I need to come up with a label for posts about my parents

P.S. Fingers crossed for the application which was due today. I'm getting nervous!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

"If you're going to San Francisco..."

No, I didn't tell him to wear flowers in his hair. I suppose it wouldn't look good on a 13 year old boy!

My son is flying right now to San Francisco with seven other classmates, a teacher and a mom. They will be competing on a national robotics conference (for our denominational schools) next Sunday and the teacher is taking them early to tour the area.

It will be Kelvin's second time on the West Coast, but he was only 15 months when we went to LA for a few days back in 2003.
I will miss him, but my exercises in "letting go" have served me well -- I want him to go and have fun and to know I'm here for him when he comes back! And I know he's going to call me, he already did once this morning, when they landed in Charlotte, NC for their connecting flight.

Yesterday, one of the moms posted on facebook that her heart was aching and that she wished her daughter to stay here and I was so relieved that I don't feel that way at all! YAY!

Have a grand time, Kelv!! Like your dad said last night (they had a super-early flight, so they went to spend the night close to the airport), maybe you'll return someday to work on one of the tech giants!

P.S. we'll have to take him to tour those when we finally get to go there ourselves! (I know that the Apple-fanatic boy and now android enthusiast will want to see those companies)

I'm DONE!!!!!

Grading and submitting grades. Before the deadline!

But now I have to work on the translation! :-(

And tomorrow I have a colonoscopy (history of colon problems in family, just a check up to make sure it's all good, last one was 6-7 years ago), so no fun not eating all day and then being "cleansed" overnight. BLAH...

Friday, May 08, 2015

Application Sent

I'm exhausted and a bit stressed, but I submitted my application five days before the deadline which is HUGE for me! ;-)

Today it was stressful to edit the Teaching Statement with my husband -- we do have very different styles and it's very hard for me to give up on my voice to adopt a more succinct and objective style.

Oh well...

And now I wait.

One of the reasons I was so stressed out about submitting the whole application online was that I submitted the information for the references twice, but they never received the automated emails. I am hoping that now that I completed the whole thing they'll get it.

I hope hope hope hope I get this job!! I am 100% ready to leave the other department at U#1 as well!

Today I had lunch with a dear colleague who is returning to Italy after eight years in this department and university and no permanent residency or a good contract. Very sad.

Enjoy the weekend everyone!

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

My Fabulous Colleague

She calls all her women colleagues beloved and you can't help but love her. She is one of the smartest women I have ever known, and beautiful too. Her accomplishments are just incredible. She published "only" 29 articles before being granted tenure last year.

She is from Kenya and we hit it off right away from the first time we met. My only regret is that I haven't spent enough time with her in the past five years. We are both hoping that this is about to change. She was amazingly enthusiastic and encouraging about my chances to get this position from the beginning and today she helped me make an already strong cover letter even stronger.

Most importantly, she made me feel accomplished and confident about my strengths as a fabulous candidate, to use a word she likes. It will be indescribably fabulous to work with her if I this works out. Let's hope it does!!

Still Not Done! :-( & My Genius Writing Partner :-)

I hope to write a different post soon, but I suppose I'll wait until Friday, or Sunday, when I should be fully done with both universities (I'm still at the same point I was in the previous post from Monday evening)...

Yesterday was a long day. I spent most of it on a teaching retreat (at a beautiful location, with delicious food and nice company, thankfully!), then I did a series of trips to several grocery stores, stopping at various points in my 70 minute commute back home, and making it a 4 hour affair -- that was very tiresome!

My husband's students are coming for an end-of-the-semester dinner tonight, (sigh...) but I also took so long because I always pick up several items for a friend every time I go to one of my favorite grocery stores and yesterday it was time-consuming because I had to email her photos of different things to check if I was buying the right things. And I still need to go to Costco today to finish the grocery shopping! We're preparing a Mexican (Chipotle eatery-style) meal since yesterday was Cinco de Mayo. :-)

Then, while I was driving home from my last stop I saw a new email about the letters of recommendation and freaked out BIG TIME (because I didn't realize the letters needed to be submitted by the deadline too! So I hadn't said that to my references!). So I got home nervous and high on adrenaline and because it was 9 pm and I still needed to feed the boys something and had to put away all the groceries, but all I wanted/needed was to sit at the computer and write emails to people, I screamed at my poor husband and it was not a pretty sight.

huge sigh...

I did calm down, prepared something for the boys, wrote all the emails, and got the answers I needed, thankfully. And then, around 11 pm K and I sat down to work on the application materials. He edited my cover letter for a couple of hours by himself and then we revised it together.

He's a GENIUS writing these things, my husband is. What would I do without him? No wonder he got four interviews (including one at an Ivy-League school) and almost got a grant he applied for. He has learned to write these things!!

I was joking that he's my ninja-writer husband to which he replied that ninjas are not only precise and skillful but FAST and he's very, very slow when writing, so I had to drop the metaphor... sigh...

OK, I just heard back from my last reference and will now login to the job application site and provide the information for each of them. I'll keep you updated about the job application!

P.S. it's such a gorgeous day! I wish I didn't have to work and grade and give exams, etc... (I have two students taking tomorrow's exam at U#1 early later this morning...)

Monday, May 04, 2015

Almost Done!

Only 18 more final exams to grade and enter grades online and I'll be done at U#2!

The best thing I ever did was to volunteer to proctor an exam for a colleague which forced me to finish grading! If the exam had been an hour longer I would have finished!!

Now I am going to spend the night in the colleague's house so we can go to a workshop tomorrow. 

And I keep thinking, and hoping, these will be my last days here. If they're not, it's okay. I need to be prepared either way.

Blogging in 2015 = Talking to Oneself?

I keep saying that I'll be the last one standing, but now that it seems that professional blogging is dying too -- a big example is that Heather Armostrong of Dooce announced that she's moving on -- I wonder what will happen to the rest of the blogosphere. (I've discussed here before that "amateur blogging" is slowly dying).

The truth is that it's tough to talk to oneself, but I keep doing it because years before blogging was created I was "talking to myself" in my journals, so it's a practice that works for me. But once more I feel alone and, saddest of all, lonely. Once upon a time, way back in 2006, blogging truly changed my life, but most of those friends's blogs are gone now. Being in touch with them via facebook or twitter is not the same. :-(

OK, I have one more post about this issue from my drafts folder that I'm working on, but I didn't want to leave that last post there, I wanted to "change the subject," so I'll stop here for now.

I still have TONS of grading to do, wish me luck!

Saturday, May 02, 2015

I am SO DONE with U#2!

I wrote this on April 23 and then finished it yesterday, May 1st. However, it was published "in the past" (on April 23), but now I'm "bringing it to the present" (May 2).

Written on about a week ago after I'd had an annoying meeting with my colleague/boss. I no longer feel as contemptuous (as my just published post can attest - I love that post and that photo, BTW). But I want to publish it "for the record." Sometimes feeling righteous indignation over how we are treated is useful. 

I am steeling myself. If needed, I'll be ready for one more year of this, but I am incredibly ready to move on. I am hoping that the time has come, and that maybe now I can have a real job.

Because, seriously! I had to write the depressing previous post (this one about my salary) before I wrote this one just to show how outrageous the situation really is for me! As my dear friend emailed me today apropos of that link I sent her, I deserve better!

And I'm ready to move on from this job on every level. It will be a relief to drive only 36 miles a day instead of 152! It will be awesome to be able to drive to work with my husband on certain days, and to go out for lunch with him on a regular basis. 

In spite of the even worse and more exploitative pay, I have always been treated well at U#1. They have paid my expenses to go to conferences every single year, I have been able to buy books with department money, I get included in departmental meetings and events, and other things. And I get paid to participate of professional development opportunities and fellowships.

I'm also ready to tackle harder, more involved teaching and work. Teaching language is just too easy and not intellectually stimulating. I am ready to start seriously doing research and publishing, I think I can make it now. Not that I couldn't before, but now I feel better prepared. 

That is where I stopped writing last week. I have much more to say about all these issues, but I will have to revisit this topic at another time. Of course there are things I will miss from this university, but I don't think I'll miss much. 

And if nothing comes of my application, I'm sure I can handle next year, especially because I'll be working less hours, finally! 

Most importantly, I'm glad to be more at peace again. I don't know until when! The roller coaster that is my life is always moving, up and down! And I'll keep taking you along for the ride.