Sunday, October 07, 2018

It's not funny anymore! :-(

Over ten years ago I wrote a post about a parody of the classic children's book Goodnight Moon (Margaret Wise Brown) that made fun of George W. Bush and when I clicked on the link to the publisher on that post, I discovered that there will be a new book from the same authors about our current president whose name I don't want to even say. It will be released soon, and it has lines such as:
In the very classy room
There was a golden mirror
And a silver spoon
And a broadcast of --

A half-baked story from a fake newsroom.

This kind of parody was funny to me in 2008, but ten years later and with that man as president. It's not anymore. :-(

The past two weeks have been hard, and made harder by the presidential election in Brazil (the front runner is as bad as the U.S. president, if not worse). It's all so very upsetting. How the country and the political climate has changed in the past ten years. Who knew the backlash for 8 years of a Democratic African American president would be so fierce and devastating?

White Americans feel threatened and are doing all they can to stem the threat of a future with a majority of (brown) immigrants and their descendants in this country. This has been a central goal of everything that this government has done since January 2017. It's way too depressing...

Sunday, September 23, 2018

"Wasted" Seeds?

OK, since I broke the "blogger's block," and wrote about "sowing seeds" let me write some more on a related topic.

So today I received an email related to a "seed" that actually was thrown my way, but maybe I'm just wasting it. I was supposed to write (to have written by now) a paper for a book, a "handbook" in the subject area of my dissertation. It was an "invited" publication and I was excited about it, BUT... there were many stumbling blocks:
  • I my email communications with the editors suffered numerous delays (I didn't hear back from them, then I dind't write back);
  • I never received a contract from them as they said they would send, and 
  • I had the hardest time retrieving my dissertation data from an old and inaccessible computer (only late July my husband broke through) -- I couldn't write the paper without that data;
  • an academic friend who is tenured and trying to mentor me mentioned that "Handbook" papers aren't worth very much in the grand scheme of things, which took the rest of my already embattled/non-existent enthusiasm for the project.
And today I get this email. Strange timing. I actually got an earlier email on August 3 and I was surprised by it. These are the "last call" emails I had received from other people before.

But I actually don't know if it would be worth it trying to write this thing. It wouldn't be extremely hard, but it wouldn't be easy either. Sigh...

What do I do? I think I will reply to the email saying I need more time, but also that, I don't know... I never got any kind of contract, so is it really going to be published? Sigh... and I also feel kind of ashamed that I didn't follow up to several of the emails. I do have the excuse of not having the data, which is true, but still.

I feel such a failure! Sigh... I have this feeling I bring these things upon myself. Partly because of my poorly handled ADHD, partly because of...? well, I'll blame on the ADHD. It makes me feel slightly better. And it's not totally a lie.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Sowing Some Seeds...

... I cannot write that without thinking of the song "A Bit of Earth" from the Broadway musical version of one of my favorite books, Secret Garden, it's not my favorite song (see below), but it's about sowing seeds:

My favorite is "The Girl I Mean to Be":


In any case, this is not about gardening, but about submitting a paper abstract for a conference that will be nearby. I continue not to have any funding for conferences that aren't related to teaching, but a friend who went to graduate school with me has offered to let me stay in her hotel room!

This is the first paper I submit in a few years (nearly three!), and it has been very intellectually stimulating to do so.

I guess that this post also means that I'm "sowing some seeds" in the blog as well, right? I still plan blog posts in my head (old habits die hard, I started blogging nearly 14 years ago!!). I have so much to say, but I will publish this and hope that I'll come back here soon.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Summer Road Trip of a Lifetime (and maybe... How Social Media is Ruining my Life and... the World? ;-)

I suspect that my smart phone (I was a late adopter and only got a smart phone in 2012, 6 years ago) and social media (Facebook and now Instagram -- the new "micro-blogging" and photo sharing site) have ruined my life. Sigh... I spend too much time scrolling through its bait-y feeds and though I follow very few people on Instagram, it's still distracting because of the stupid stories. I REFUSE to look at stories on FB. I still miss blogging and reading blogs immensely and I haven't completely lost the habit of "writing blog posts in my head" -- [relatively] old habits die hard! -- but I feel like I am slowly losing my ability to concentrate on longer texts and tasks. It doesn't help that I have ADHD. I am also being influenced by the images I see and people share (more on that later).

OK, I promise that this annoying introduction will connect to my main topic, our AMAZING, Dream-Come-True trip of this summer...

We DROVE from the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. where we live all the way to the Canadian Rockies and even a bit of the Pacific Northwest and it was GLORIOUS!!

Yes, it was an insanely long drive of 4 days there and 4 days back, but we took our time and it worked well. It was also slightly stressful to sleep almost every night at a new hotel and plan, shop for, and prepare ALL OUR MEALS (except for breakfast at all but 4 mornings of the trip) on the go. We ate out exactly ONCE during the whole trip -- on the last day driving back. I took my wonderful pressure cooker (Power XL if you don't want to click) and a small hot pot and we had three ice-packs and a small cooler. ALL hotels had fridges, some of them full-sized ones.

A quick summary of the trip if you're curious, I added links to the official National Park sites:

Day 1 - 7/30 (Mon): 8h+ drive to Michigan. We slept at a friend's house and my parents at a hotel (mistakenly reserved by my son)
Day 2 - 7/31 (Tue): 8h+ Drive to Minneapolis (accidentally did a bathroom stop at Wisconsin Dells!) where we had an amazing Home2Suites across the street from a natural grocery store. We went to check out the Mall of America in the evening.
Day 3 - 8/1 (Wed): 7h+ from Minneapolis to Winnipeg, Canada. We saw the city a bit, purchased our National Park Pass, and rain ponchos at a Dollarama store before heading to the hotel. We didn't like downtown Winnipeg very much.
Day 4 - 8/2 (Thu): 10h+ drive from Winnipeg to Medicine Hat (Alberta). We hurried along because the hotel had indoor water slides and we enjoyed that (I cooked soup).
Day 5 - 8/3 (Fri): 4+ hour drive to Banff, AB, passing through the North of Calgary and seeing it in the distance. We stopped in Banff and were delighted by the turquoise water of the river and the gorgeous Cascades of Time Garden. It began to rain (hence the ponchos) and, because of the rain, which emptied the parking lots, we managed to quickly see Lake Louise (definitely "the Mona Lisa of Lakes" -- SUPER CROWDED, it's almost disappointing ;-), Moraine Lake (an AMAZING blue even in the rain), and, after some annoying traffic and the end of rain, Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park (British Columbia). We were staying in Golden, BC.
Day 6 - 8/4 (Sat): Rain was in the forecast for the Banff area, so we drove through the Canadian Glacier National Park and visited Revelstoke National Park, where we saw the beautiful Columbia river from above and enjoyed beautiful alpine wildflowers! It was partly cloudy at times, but not cold! The only thing we didn't like was the vicious mosquitoes at the parking lot at the summit where we had our lunch. (stayed in Golden, BC a second night)
Day 7 - 8/5 (Sun): Today was sunny with some clouds and we drove through Yoho & Banff National Parks all the way to Jasper National Park and beyond, about 6h driving, with many stops. Amazing day of "adventures" & incredible views: canoeing at Emerald Lake (cheapest spot, gorgeous lake), seeing Takakkaw Falls (both in Yoho NP), seeing a freight train go through both of the spiral tunnels!! Hiking up to see the incredible Peyto Lake. Marveling at the mountains and glaciers along the Icefields Parkway North and seeing a black bear next to the road! Stopping to see the Columbia Icefields and its great visitor center. And then... driving all the way to McBride, British Columbia (seeing two majestic elk eating calmly by the roadside) where we spent two nights in an apartment at the North Lodge Motel. The farthest Northwest we went on the trip!

Day 8 - 8/6 (Mon): Lots of driving because McBride is TWO HOURS from Jasper. We did the round trip and hiked the beautiful Maligne Canyon, drove to see Medicine lake (and unfortunately didn't drive down to Maligne Lake, so we didn't have a chance to see moose -- they are around Medicine and Maligne lakes). We had lunch next to the Maligne River and were going to go up on the AirTram in Jasper, but they closed due to the weather -- very disappointing! It was a beautiful and sunny day, but it was probably windy. So we went to downtown Jasper instead, where we had ice-cream, and went grocery shopping. On the drive back we stopped to see the majestic Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies. This was the last sunny and crisp day of the trip.

Day 9 - 8/7 (Tue): Long drive back South (nearly 300 miles), and it was sunny, but unfortunately very hazy. South on the Icefield Parkway we stopped at Athabasca Falls and enjoyed walking through it's canyon and going down to the river, we saw Sunwapta Falls and had lunch there, then, we stopped at the Athabasca Glacier (Columbia Icefields), walked all the way to the glacier (even though  it's forbidden, everyone does it), and walked a little bit on top of it -- but we didn't go very far like lots of other people. Then we stopped at Peyto lake (a bit hazy and it was 6:30 pm) to see it again at a different time of day and we enjoyed taking tons of photos of the gorgeous blue Bow Lake with lots of sunshine. We arrived at the most luxurious (and expensive!) accommodation of the whole trip at the Mystic Springs Chalets and Hot Pools in Canmore. We went to the pool and also had to go grocery shopping. It was very very smoky in Banff and Canmore due to the Wardle fire in Kootenay National park. :-(

Day 10 - 8/8 (Wed): Today we went back to the lakes in the Banff area, but we couldn't get an early start and the parking lots were closed, so we had to park at the overflow area and pay for a shuttle to Moraine Lake. It was SO WORTH IT!!! The bluest lake, incredible photos, can't even describe it. Then we had lunch at the parking area (all picnic tables are in the sun, so we used a large rock for table and tree trunk stumps to sit on). After lunch, we were able to find parking to visit the über-crowded Lake Louise. There were two brides taking photos there! Last, but not least, we hiked the Johnston Canyon where I was wretchedly disappointed that the "hidden cave" and huge boulder and waterfall (link to image search), the "most photographed spot in Alberta" is now off limits. See, social media ruining my life. I REALLY wanted to see and photograph that place!! The ostensive reason is protecting birds, and I do believe the birds were probably bothered by the foot traffic in that hilly wooded area, but the canyon is SO MASSIVELY VISITED that I believe unless they closed it completely, it wouldn't help the birds much. But who am I to say/judge? My husband tried to console me saying that I care for the environment, but I was devastated. 

Day 11 - 8/9 (Thu): Last visit to Banff National Park area: we visited the lovely Cave and Basin National Historical Site which is where the very first Canadian National Park originated to protect the hot springs from prospective bidders. Then we drove to Calgary where we stayed at the excellently located Homewood Suites downtown and went to have dinner with friends at Blaze Pizza (we hardly ate because we had eaten at the hotel!).
Day 12 - 8/10 (Fri): Today we drove from Calgary to Glacier National Park in the U.S. and we met up with friends again! We met them at Logan Pass and then hiked with them for about an hour in the scary Highline trail. We headed to our hotel in Kalispell where we went grocery shopping (at Costco!) and then I cooked dinner for our friends, since we were staying at Homewood Suites again. 
Day 13 - 8/11 (Sat): Today we visited Glacier National Park again with our friends before they had to leave to go back to Missoula. In the morning our youngest son took the challenge and jumped off a cliff into the frigid waters of this swimming hole! Then, after a picnic, lunch we hiked to the Hidden Lake in Logan Pass and saw many mountain goats (and snow)! Then we drove four hours to our hotel in Helena where we arrived pretty late (10 pm).
Day 14 - 8/12 (Sun): Today we drove for 8h+ from Helena, MT to Mount Rushmore and we stayed for the evening presentation and lighting, it was nice! We stayed in a Best Western in Hill City that looked very "Western" indeed! ;-)
Day 15 - 8/13 (Mon): Today we drove through Badlands National Park on our way to Omaha, NE. There was a moment we were 90 mph on I-90 and it was 99F! I really liked Badlands, I wish we'd spent more time there, but we needed to get to Nebraska.

Day 16 - 8/14 (Tue): Took a detour to visit a denominational College in Lincoln, NE and quickly visited Saint Louis, MI in the late afternoon/ evening. It was lots of fun to take the tram to the top of the Gateway Arch. We literally forgot our hunger and tiredness in the brand new museum under the arch, FANTASTIC! 
Day 17 - 8/15 (Wed): Drove back home, longest day, over 13 hours, but we had a good lunch at Olive Garden. ;-)

This was long and took me a lot of time to write, but it was fun to remember it all!

Back to the social media issue. I believe that people have more money and that's why they travel more, but I also think that the ability to see photos of your friends in beautiful places, such as the Canadian Rockies lakes and vistas, makes people want to go there too, so I think that the huge crowds we saw -- everyone trying to take the most perfect pictures, even risking limb to do so (there was this girl who fell in the water in Moraine lake trying to reach the rocks and several people were trying to balance on logs and rocks to take photos). Of course we were busy taking photos too and I spent A LOT of time selecting the perfect 10 photos of each day and writing a short descriptive text to post on Instagram. I posted way more photos to Facebook (later), but used the same texts.

Yeah... is this all very bad? Not all of it, I'm sure. I have to go now, I have to practice a song with a group of women to sing tomorrow!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Hi

When I have gone this long without posting, for some reason I cannot write a descriptive title.

Sigh...

Like... "To the beach in Florida and back and Hamilton!" for example.

or the darker "When your worst nightmares come true!!" :-O  or "Family Reunion Turns into Nightmare" ;-P

All are kind of true... (sigh)

We did go to to Destin, FL with my husband's whole family plus his departed dad's twin brother and his wife. However, THERE WERE BEDBUGS! And they bit almost every single part of my body. Not the feet because I wear socks to bed and not my torso/lower back/bums and front. Everything else was bitten.

Did I mention this has always been my worst nightmare? And that after something like that happens it's another nightmare to wash all one's clothes or dry on high the clean ones to make sure you won't bring those things back home.

OK, I have more things to say, but I need to post this so my mom can use the computer. I'll be back and edit.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Employed until 2022 & I VOTED!!!!!

I signed my new contract this weekend.

With the new 3 year contract we are reviewed half-way through (in the beginning of this semester) and then the contract is renewed for 3 more years, so I have work guaranteed until May 2022 unless the program is closed or enrollment is too low or something bad like that.

Right now enrollment for the Fall is the lowest it's been in the past 6 years, but it's just because I have to wait to let the seniors in the class. I should have two full sections. Sigh...

My title was also changed, and I now have a "fake" real academic title, but it ends with two words that tell the tale that I'm not in the tenure track.

I will have an intense week of work next week designing a new course and redesigning another one. What makes it bad is the nearly 3h commute (round trip). I know I'll live and it will be fun, but there'll be lots of driving.

In typical out of sync fashion my husband is doing his course design thing this week at U#1 and I do mine next week. I think it's good for our 14 year old son, since it would be awful for him if both of us were doing it this week. The 16 year old is working in Florida helping to run a day-camp. He'll be back next week and he'll be traveling with my mother-in-law and a tour group for two weeks, lucky him!

Last, but not least, I voted yesterday! I was so happy and so excited! Much more excited than on the day I got the citizenship. I have a voice now!! And I finally feel like a citizen. I think it will really sink in when our passports arrive (we applied last week) and I go out of the country as an American. :-O

Monday, May 14, 2018

My CRAZY Life

Things have calmed down somewhat, but there is still plenty of CRAZY to come!!

If you're wondering about my brother-in-law, he had a successful surgery and got out of the hospital in only 5 days after the amputation. The initial recovery was excellent and he's still recovering well, but the "phantom feelings" and nerve sensations in the leg that he doesn't have are really bothering him a lot right now. If you pray, please keep him in your thoughts and prayers. Sigh... we saw him yesterday.

I will try to blog again soon, but the past few weeks were simply insane. My parents arrived on the day I taught my last classes, but they didn't come to our house. We picked them up at the airport (late at night) and drove them my aunt's house so they could help care for my disabled uncle for a couple of weeks.

In the meantime, I printed my final exams and gave them to two graduate students who administered them for me, because I had to travel to Florida for five days with my son's robotics team and their teacher. We drove in two cars, 12 hours the first day (Thursday) to St. Augustine, visited Kennedy Space Center the next day, then took it easy on Saturday. On Sunday was their competition (they finished 8/23, similar to last year in California), then we still drove 4 hours from Orlando to Savannah, GA. On Monday we drove back.

It was harder than the California trip last year because of all the driving, and also, more kids. We had 6 kids last year and were in one mini-van, this year there were 8 kids... and they kind of trashed my new (to us) mini-van. :-(

After I came back I had to go pick up the final exams and grade them, then I drove to get my parents, then helped cook lunch at the elementary school, and volunteered taking photos of an event in the evening. This Saturday were the day-long concerts for my son's high school (morning, afternoon and night!) that I didn't want my parents to miss, then yesterday we drove two hours to spend Mother's day with my mother-in-law and K's two brothers (K4 had driven down from Canada with his family to see K2 after the surgery).

Now I have to gear up to go on my son's 8th grade class trip, then comes the graduation, my husband's birthday, my son's birthday, trips with my parents, etc...

Sigh... and there's more, but I'll write about that later!

P.S. Last Thursday my husband became a U.S. citizen too! I think he's happier than I am about it. He even made a speech! It was kind of cute. ;-)

Friday, April 27, 2018

Bad News (extended family)

I need to sleep, but I also needed to share this before the event.

I haven't blogged much about this over the years, especially because I suspect that the person in question has read my blog in the past (I don't think now or any time recently), but I probably mentioned in passing that in 2011 my brother-in-law had cancer (liposarcoma) on his thigh and two surgeries followed by radiation therapy. The cancer returned in 2015, then again in 2017 followed by two surgeries, but in spite of those, the tumors came back in the same spot.

So early tomorrow morning, my BIL is having his left leg amputated not too far from his hip. This is absolutely devastating and we hope he can recover well, have an implant, and a prosthetic leg in the future. But mostly we hope the cancer won't return elsewhere (so far it has not).

Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers. I'll try to provide updates.

Monday, April 16, 2018

The TEN YEAR Anniversary of my PhD Dissertation Defense!!!

Ten years ago today I defended my dissertation. It was Wonderful! ;-)

Later, in the following weeks, it would get quite stressful, but the day, the moment itself, was great.

I can hardly believe I still have this blog. It's useless, though, since the many friends I made through blogging have all "disbanded" from blogland (with a few rare exceptions).

I actually went through every single one of my 1,028 Facebook friends to cull the 30+ people I met through my blog so I could write a FB post about this anniversary and share the blog post from that day there.

Sigh...

I have been thinking about this anniversary quite a bit lately. I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that I will never have a "real" academic career and that this is OK!!! There is a project I'm just beginning to work on that is, in my mind, the only actual way I can celebrate this 10 year anniversary in a worthwhile way. I don't know if this project/dream will actually come true, but I hope it does.

I will share more about it in time. If it does work out, it will enable me to pursue some of the academic interests that matter most to me and it will most certainly bring me satisfaction and also peace. I want to stop feeling troubled, angsty, and upset about academia. I want to have a more positive perspective.

There is a post I wrote around the time of the dissertation defense (and which I'll come back to edit to add the link) that is pretty "prescient" -- it demonstrates that I probably really am not "tenure track"  material because I enjoy life more than I enjoy spending ALL my time researching and writing.

I think I'll be ok. Sigh... And let me post this before midnight!

Friday, March 30, 2018

Did she finally come around?

Last week my mom surprised me. When I left Brazil 22 years ago next June, my mom desperately sobbed and cried at the airport. Over the years, she has never hid her pain and sadness that we moved so far away. Thankfully she and my dad were able to spend lots of time with us and the grandsons because they both retired one year after my oldest son was born and if it weren't for their help, I would have never finished my PhD.

My brother left Brazil in 2006 to live in China and then in New Zealand, but he went back to Brazil for nearly four years (2014-January 2018). He is now in Indonesia and he doesn't plan to come back. His move was hard on my parents because my brother has two young children, 5 (the boy) and 3 (almost 4), the girl.

Brazil is in turmoil now. The president was impeached to years ago and her party, the Worker's party, which had been in power for ten years is being charged with corruption. Violence has gotten worse in Rio de Janeiro, prompting the president to send the armed forces to take care of security. The presidential election has become a circus and the country's recent past has literally become a Netflix series, The Mechanism (with all names changed).

So last week, my mom sent us a voice message over WhatsApp that really surprised me! She said that she thinks my brother is right in leaving Brazil and that it's good that I don't live there either! She also said that she and my dad won't live much longer, so it doesn't matter that things are bad, but she seems happy that we're out of there.

WOW, just wow! I'm not happy that my home country is falling apart, but I sure feel better that my mom seems to be much more reconciled to us having left the country. I hope her feeling holds, and also that things don't get too bad so she and dad can be OK there.

In any case, also good timing with my citizenship thing as well, right?

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Safely Back!

Both of my "babies" made it back safely!

My washer and drier were very full last night, but my heart was fuller! ;-)

P.S. the day after my oldest had left for Peru (3/16), I became a citizen of this country. Right now I don't have a post in my about that, but I feel bad holding back that information from you. Incredibly, there seems to be a "silver lining" to this, and I will blog about that soon, promise!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Childless for Four Days...

... after having an only son for a week.

In about 18 hours I won't be childless anymore and in about 20-21 hours our family will be complete again! It hasn't been bad, really. There were some moments things felt strange, but not having to worry about what to feed them and just doing our own thing, my husband and I, it was pretty ok. ;-)

The boys texted and called with regularity. The oldest was in Cusco, Peru, for a mission trip. He had bought an international data package, so he could text and call as much as he wanted or needed. One day (possibly Wednesday), there was a 40 minute phone call because he enjoys just being on the phone while he and I are doing various things, and I actually had to basically hang up because I was tired of being put on hold for a few moments at a time. This morning he woke us up at 8:40 (we had taken naps yesterday afternoon, then stayed up really late watching a movie) and we talked for over 30 minutes while he was at the airport, at times frantically searching his backpack for his allergy medication. Their flight had been delayed several hours, so he felt like calling me and just talking for a while. It was good to catch up on what he'd been up to since Thursday. Then, when they finally got to Lima and he had Wi-Fi at the hotel he called me to seemingly ask me what drink he should by at the soda machine (K and I were on our way to eat out and I had to say goodbye and hang up again because we had arrived at the restaurant). Later, he called quickly just to request that I make sure I have tons of ramen noodle so he can make it for himself as soon as he gets home! :-D From what he's been telling me, they all had a wonderful time, in spite of the horrible food and some people getting sick (possibly food poisoning) at the end of the trip (yesterday and today). I know I will have to spend hours seeing all his photos and videos!

Our youngest went to Tennessee for a robotics competition and his texts and calls were a bit more anxious (he forgot a towel, he was unhappy with the food and how different "American" food is), but he did great for most of the time. This morning he texted me after their first two competitions, then in the early afternoon he said that they hadn't done very well in their robot's run. A few hours later, though, he texted me SUPER excited saying that they were the champions! Now they are headed to Florida in early May and I will be a chaperone again, except that this time I'll have to drive all the way to Orlando and back. :-( Not as fun as flying to San Francisco and getting to visit Yosemite and do other fun things... ;-P

Today my husband decided to start the Spring cleaning. As a matter of fact, he decided he will spend more time doing projects around the house and I'm thankful about that. It is a double-edged sword, though... Sigh... I will have to endure lots and LOTS of pestering on how many shoes or scarves or winter hats I have accumulated over the years... Not very fun. I did manage to separate several of each for donation today and we have a HUGE donation pile with many of items we haven't used in years. There is a long way to go in cleaning the house and de-cluttering, but hopefully we can do a better job this year than we've done before.

OK, I will now end this scattered post to go to bed & be prepared for their arrival tomorrow.