Monday, December 31, 2007

2007: The Roller-Coaster Year

I think I've never experienced a year with so many ups and downs, twists and turns as this one. Good thing I like roller coasters ;)

The Year in One Paragraph
In January-February we were waiting for job applications. K had an academic job interview and applied to the big pharma job at the end of February and got the job in March. In April and May we started looking at houses and had an offer accepted at the end of May. In June-July we had to give up on that house since the visa process was taking too long. I traveled to Brazil with the boys in July-August and when we came back our house was sold and K's visa finally came after five long months. We looked for houses, made an offer which was accepted, K started work, Kelvin started kindergarten. We closed on the first house, were "homeless" for a week before moving into our new old home. Moving was extremely stressful and the first weeks at the new house were tough because it's an old fixer upper which needs tons of work. On Oct. 31st, the very same day in which K mailed our first mortgage payment, K lost his job. The week before, my dad had hit a man who subsequently died. Dark times. We were at a loss for what to do when on Dec. 18, our 13th wedding anniversary, K learned he was going to continue at big pharma. Undescribable relief.

Last year I wished that this year I'd defend my dissertation and graduate and I didn't do that yet (partly because I wanted to maintain my visa so I could travel to Brazil)... Now I have no idea how things are going to progress in this respect : (

I'm so glad and relieved that we can look forward to this new year, that's just absolutely priceless. There are tons of things that I could write about 2007 and maybe later I'll write a post highlighting the main posts that I wrote this year, but it's getting close to midnight and I want to post this, that's why it's not nicely written or anything.

Happy New Year to everyone!! I hope 2008 is a great year. I can truthfully say that every single year of my life has been better than the one before. It's comforting to feel that way.

P.S. Oh, and I'm happy to report that my grandma went back home today. Back in 1997 my maternal grandmother died when I lived here in this town and I didn't want to be here again when my other grandma passed away. I'm thrilled that she has recovered.

The Dissertation and the Holidays: The Saga Continues

I went online hoping to write my end-of-year post (which I still want to complete), but I went to check my email and I found a couple of "surprise" emails from my advisor. I'll take the bullet approach to make this boring discussion more readable:
  • On May 17 I emailed him my revised (4-5th drafts, all previous already read by him) chapters 1-3 and he only read and annotated them electronically today.
  • In an older email (from the same day) he had said that he'd taken a look and liked those chapters, but I guess he changed his opinion somewhat. After a nice compliment on my dissertation being one of the best he's encountered, he went on to emphasize my "mechanical mistakes:" "(run-on sentences; lack of parallel structure, verb tenses shifts, awkward prepositions, passive constructions, weak verbs, non-specific nouns, too many qualifying adverbs), many of which [he] corrected, but many others which still need attention." He suggested that "You might consider getting a writing tutor as you are making many of the same mistakes repeatedly. Please do not expect your committee to correct your writing mistakes." Nice
I know this is pathetic and ridiculous and preposterous and maybe plain wrong, but I was wondering if anyone out there could help me or help me find help in this. I didn't plan to write this at all in this email, but I'm getting so desperate I guess I'm willing to just BEG for help. And maybe I could even afford to pay someone if only I got those piano lessons going again.

But this was not the worse part of the email. Guess what?
  • The advisor is going on sabbatical next semester and he assumed I knew about that already!! What wonderful news to receive right when I'm about to embark in my very last semester of graduate school, no? He said he'll be available in April and I'm sure I can defend then, but I'll have only two weeks or so to make any corrections before submitting my dissertation to the graduate school on time to participate of the commencement. Can anyone tell me if two weeks is enough???
  • I emailed him back right away and told him I'd go ballistic if I weren't able to participate. And he added another piece of news:
  • My former advisor, who had been a KEY person in helping me edit my chapters is ALSO going on sabbatical. Sweet, huh? I emailed him too, but haven't received a response (the advisor said we can schedule the defense for the second or third weeks in April).
Well, I know everything will be all right and I've become much more thicker skinned and calmer, but I'll be infuriated if any other committee members are not available for April. What a nightmare that will be. But hopefully everyone will be available and we'll schedule the defense right away. By the way... my MIL was teasing me because I keep telling people about my commencement and inviting them and she was asking whether I had the defense scheduled and joking about it, since I don't. Oh well... at this point I guess I don't really care (although I do), I just want to get it done. It's just annoying if I can't participate because of things out of my control, like committee members being away.

Let me know if you have any suggestions of people who could help me and correct my English, OK? Yeah... I guess I should have known that he'd pester me about it to the very end. Second rate foreign speaker of English that I am. Humpf.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Snapshots of Christmas 2007

I got completely over it. Yeah, I think I finally got my priorities straight in life and have realized that photos aren't really that important ;) (at least those 100 I lost weren't). So now I'm sharing some photos from our celebration.

First, I want to share this joyous photo that we took with some of our best friends from church on December 16:
Now I want to show you all the presents that were exchanged this Christmas between six adults and four children (we all enjoy gift giving very much). We arrived here on Friday night and here's the tree with my parents-in-law and our gifts (My MIL's tree is simple because she's just starting to buy and collect ornaments since she got rid of all her old ones [not particularly pretty nor significant -- there's no ornament collection tradition in Brazil] when she moved here from Brazil two years ago]):
My brother- and sister-in law brought all these:
So this is how the tree looked like after we had stuffed the back and the side full of presents:Matching clothes were the "theme" of the evening. The four cousins were matching and just as a joke, my sister-in-law and I bought the same blouse.
Look at the some of the jolly mess afterwards:

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


First, I want to say that we're having a great time with family during the holidays and I hope you are too (that's why i didn't post earlier). Maybe I'll blog more about our Christmas later and see if I can include some photos... that is, if I can get over what happened this morning.

Last night I was checking blogs for the first time in a couple of days and I came across Dawn's rant about losing all her itunes music (and something else) and her subsequent apology about said rant. I felt really really sorry for her because I think one of the saddest things is losing photos, music, documents in computer crashes. It hasn't happened to me yet, thankfully, and although I'm not as careful as she is about backing up, I try to have all my photos in three separate places (desktop, external hard drive, laptop). Well, but it seems that having read her posts kind of jinxed me (I'm just kidding, of course...).

So... this morning I was taking pictures of my nephews when I noticed that the memory stick was full. I came to the bedroom to download the photos onto the laptop and while I was starting the download I noticed that several of the photos had already been downloaded. I didn't want to keep clicking "NO" (for the message "replace the other one by this one") so I canceled the download and opened the December file to checked which ones were already in the computer and then quickly (and carelessly -- I'm usually extremely careful because I'm a photo fanatic) selected a bunch of photos in the memory stick and clicked the delete button. I didn't really stop to think before the computer asked me if i really wanted to delete those 177 files and I hit "YES," but the moment I glanced at the thumbnails still displayed on the screen I realized that I had selected all the photos I took on our anniversary day celebration in Philly and more. Of course it was too late. I had just lost a bunch of pictures I had never even SEEN (only browsed through thumbnails quickly) let alone downloaded. I was instantly crushed. So much so that I immediately left the room and told everyone that I had to get over it and that I had just done something really really stupid. My husband's family knows how obsessed I am with photos, so they were very sympathetic.* I did my best not to overreact this time and I kept repeating "I'll get over it. It's OK." And I am OK. They remarked that it was better that i hadn't seen the photos yet, but that kind of worries me too, because sometimes I take random pictures of the boys that turn out really beautiful and I keep trying to remember which are the photos that I deleted.

Hmmm, yeah, I just remembered that I deleted all photos we took at Longwood Gardens last week on Wednesday which really is NOT a bit deal at all... and that is a great comfort to me. I'm glad I remembered that, phew!!

All right, i gotta go because the boys want to use the laptop to watch a video, but I wanted to share this little stupid mistake with you. I hope I can post a more substantial post later and even include some photos. I should be fully over it by the end of the day! :) And from now on I'll be really more careful and double check every time I hit the delete button. Sigh.

*Although a few minutes later my FIL asked "are you going to be sulking about this all day long?" Hmmm, No?!!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Full Circle

Edited to add: yesterday we left our house around 4 pm and arrived safely here at 10:30 p.m. I left the 900+ photo order loading and I just checked my email and verified that the order was processed although probably only with very few minutes to spare before the computer was scheduled to hibernate.

Thirteen years later we have finally returned to this Massachusetts town (the only city in the country in which there is a major highway passing under the city hall :) to spend the holidays.

Thirteen years ago we had been here in the U.S. for six months and we lived in a tiny two bedroom apartment in a dirty street at the top of a three floor house (the windows on the right side of the building). All we had was some pieces of hand-me-down furniture and just the most basic things to live (pots, pans, plates, etc). Those were tough days because the apartment's old gas central space heater's defective pilot light would go off every time it shut off while the temperatures outside fell to zero (F) and below (-20 C). It took over a week for our landlord (who lived on the ground floor) to get it fixed.

Now my in-laws live in a comfortable, spacious two bedroom apartment with free heat, electricity, and hot water and with an indoor pool and health club in a really nice part of town.

Thirteen years ago I was quite depressed since all our savings of 6 long years (16K) were quickly going down the drain. Worse than that was the fact that we didn't know what the new year was going to bring, it was all "darkness" ahead. Thankfully we went on to graduate school with a sponsorship from Brazil in the fall, but we didn't know that on those dark days of winter 96-97.

Now we still don't know what the next years will bring, but our residency ("grass-colored" card) application forms are in K's work laptop right now, so I think it's a good conclusion to this adventure that started thirteen and a half years ago. We have come full circle, but we almost didn't make it! I don't even want to think what would be going through my head right now if we hadn't received that "anniversary present" last Tuesday. I don't want to think of what-ifs now, I just want to enjoy the feeling of "fullness" and "fulfillment." I guess we're meant to remain in this country, at least for now. It taken thirteen years, but it looks like this time it's going to happen.

P.S. Please keep my grandmother in your thoughts and prayers. She's back in the hospital and we don't know if she'll ever recover (she's suffering from a lung emboly, the accumulation of fluid in the lungs as a consequence of a having suffered and being treated for thrombosis). What a tough time for my father's family, particularly during the holidays! The worse part is that my grandmother is uninsured and although Brazil does have publicly funded health insurance, her doctor and the family put her in a private hospital and they're charging her a discounted rate (around 100 dollars a day). Her children are splitting the costs, but those may add up. Everyone's biggest concern, however, is that she doesn't suffer pain and she goes peacefully, like she wants. I hope this is possible. My mom is spending the night with her and I'll give her a call soon. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Gotta Be Quick!

I know... I never had the time to scan and post some of our wedding photos. I'll do it someday. Promise.

We're leaving for Massachusetts in an hour or two (hopefully) to spend the holidays with my parents-in-law (my BIL and his family arrive tomorrow night, I think, they're flying from MD) so we have a long drive ahead of us.

I can't stand the days and hours before a trip because it's just inevitable that we leave everything for the last minute. Particularly I, myself, and me... :( K was actually a bit mad because I obviously left for today the task of uploading and ordering a year and a half worth of photos because today is the last day of a promotional price (5 cents a print) for the already CHEAPEST photo development website in the country!! I get so happy just knowing I'm paying the lowest possible price for good service. The best thing is that if you live in NYC or NJ you can pick up your photos for free and that's what I did last June when we went to bring my brother to NYC. It was the last time I ordered a sizable number of photos. The plan was to pick them up today as well, but I decided to have them shipped instead. 14 bucks for almost 1000 photos is pretty good. Anyway, check them out.

OK, gotta go finish packing the bags, washing a sink full of dishes, etc.

I'll be blogging from there, but I want to wish you and yours very Happy Holidays!! And wish us a good trip :)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Is It Strange to Feel Like Crying Now?

I've told you before that I cried only three times after "The Very Bad Thing" happened. The first was when I thought of how Kelvin was going to miss his school and classmates and remembered that K was also 6 years old when the first move to another city that he can remember took place and traumatized him quite a bit. The second time, I was driving from a store to another rushing to buy things friends had asked me to bring to Brazil when I drove past this awesome, brand new YMCA I had visited with the boys on our first week here and Linton asked me: "Mama, when are we going to go swimming in that pool?" I was astounded that he remembered it from almost two months earlier and felt so devastated that we'd probably never become members and go to that pool. We then took the highway and drove by K's work and this beautiful song was playing in the car stereo and I wept bitterly. (I can't remember the third time now...)

I have to confess that I can cry at movies and sad books fairly easily, but I have a hard time breaking down and crying when things aren't going well.* I don't like to let anyone see me cry and I've been like that since I was a young girl so I've learned to control my crying quite well, even when I'm alone sometimes. I feel like crying now, but for some reason it seems to be strange to cry now that things are well. This is the point, though, all the tension that I've been holding has to melt away and crying would help.

I tried to be as brave as possible and not to complain, either here or elsewhere, and that wasn't easy at times, but finally I felt at peace and didn't feel anguished just by looking around the house and the things that need(ed) to be done. Now that everything is finally resolved, everything keeps coming back at me...

... how long and stressful this year has been: K having only one interview out of 50 academic applications; then getting a "miracle" job offer, but having to wait for ages for the visa; making an offer on a house and then subsequently being forced to give it up; putting the house on the market and selling it before having chosen another one; coming back from Brazil to go house hunting while trying to pack for the move and meanwhile K started on the new job and Kelvin started school...

... the stressful move and being "homeless" for almost a week.

... how tough those first weeks here were, having to get used to this older house and some of its ugly, even repulsive, things (like old ugly, dirty carpet in bathrooms), feeling like it would be a torture to wait to be able to afford each renovation.

... just when we were getting used to this place, making some small progress in renovating, buying new furniture, the devastating news came. What to do then? How to sell this house and not to loose a huge amount of money? What about all our plans and dreams?

I had these small concerns and sadnesses preying on me and that I allowed myself to share with you: the bulbs and the garden that I wasn't going to have, the CSA farm membership that we might not get (because if we moved we wouldn't be able to continue), Kelvin having to go to another school. And meanwhile I even forgot things like our wish to become part of the YMCA and do more physical activity. Last week I drove on that road again and Linton was asking when we were going to go on the water slides and I just said that probably not at that place, ever... But now things have changed again and we can proceed with our plans and dreams, even the "small" ones.

On our way home yesterday I wanted to stop at IKEA so we could look at mattresses since now we can finally go ahead and buy the king-sized bed that we had planned to buy before our anniversary (only it'll have to be after it ;) and I could hardly believe that we were doing that.

It's not an "instant injection" of cheerfulness, though, this piece of good news. It seems that the dream is somewhat tainted now, that we're no longer innocently taking things for granted, we now know we have to enjoy it while it lasts and be prepared for changes in the future too. Sudden changes if necessary.

I planted the remaining bulbs today while K cleaned all the remaining leaves from the front of the house. And when I had to go buy more lawn bags, I bought another bag of bulbs. Daffodils, which are cheerful and not eaten by rodents. And I planted them with renewed hope in a brighter future.

* Except perhaps when it's about people and dying. I cried several times since I heard about my grandma being ill. It looks like she'll be released from the hospital tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Perfect Day (With a Cherry on Top -- read to the end)

It was a great day (although I'm still overly full for having eaten way too much at our late buffet lunch/dinner). The boys enjoyed the Renoir exhibit thanks to the audio guide that was included. Kelvin listened to every single explanation, both the "family" ones and the ones for adults. I think it was a great way to introduce them to art, particularly by the artist that I loved the most when I was a child (Monet became more of a favorite later, but I never forgot my childhood love of Renoir). It was harder for Linton who didn't really understand the audio guide, but K carried him part of the way (no strollers allowed) and he was OK with it.

We stayed a bit over an hour walking around the 2nd level and a bit of the first after we exited the special exhibit, but we were in no rush to see everything* because I purchased a membership -- finally!! I can't believe I could have had a student membership all these three years and never got one -- however, the kids were way too young to really enjoy it, now is the right moment to do it (and my last eligible year too).
* I know, it's unbelievable that we hadn't gone to the Art Museum in these past three years, but I reasoned that it was too hard with the little ones underfoot. We had been there once back in 2000, so we had seen it once before. Only I feel like kicking myself now that I realized I could have had the membership and not missed the Salvador Dalí show (2004) and the Wyeths. We didn't go to those because on the tight budget that we had, spending 44 dollars to go see art felt like a bit too much, no matter how much we love it. Now I get to see Frida Kahlo in a few months for free!!! Let me know if any of you want to come along. Oh, and BTW, if you like Renoir's work, you should see the exhibit, it's really good.

We left the museum around 2:30 and we didn't know where we were going to eat (as usual... we have a hard time planning since we don't know any restaurants only the "chain ones" since we hardly ever eat out). I remembered dimly that Jeannette had mentioned (also in an anniversary post) an Indian buffet around 10th street, so we parked on 11th (past Chestnut) and asked about one and there was a really great vegetarian one on Walnut St. YAY!! So cheap too. The kids didn't eat too much, but we just stuffed ourselves with that delicious food! Then we walked to Macy's where we arrived in time to see their giant light "Christmas card" in action (every hour?) and then we saw the Dickens village (which portrays "A Christmas Carol" with half-heartedly animated figures. OK.

The phone rang when we were starting our drive back out of the city. It was K's office mate at Big Pharma with a message from his boss's boss from abroad -- he wanted to talk to K, but since he was on the cell phone, his colleague asked the boss to call K instead. In a few minutes K got the call and, as we drove around City Hall and Love Park we reached the company's headquarters -- I pointed it out to K, and he actually parked the car at the curb to finish the conversation. As it turns out, his boss's boss carved out a new position for K and he's not going to be leaving big pharma after all. Can you believe it? Yeah, neither did we. What a Christmas present! What a remarkable day and anniversary! Wow... more about that soon. And... if I can figure out how to scan with minimal hassle I'll share wedding photos later, OK? (and some photos of today too)

1. My grandmother is recovering remarkably well. I'm so thankful for that. My parents will see her in a couple of days.
2. As of yesterday, my Christmas shopping for family is DONE! I had taken a break since Thanksgiving, but I got my act together yesterday since there were only 3 more presents to get. Now I need to find something for Kelvin's teachers and his "secret friend" in school.

Thirteen Years Ago - The Eve

I was still up thirteen years ago at this time. In fact, I didn't go to sleep until after 3 a.m. I was making three mix tapes of some of my favorite music: from this album by David Foster, Ennio Morricone's music, Nat King Cole's standards, showtunes interpreted by Streisand here and there [I did make a mistake and put "Move on," not once but twice -- this is a song about separation, not union], and, of course marvelous Brazilian music by Ivan Lins, João Gilberto, Chico Buarque, Caetano Veloso, Zizi Possi, and others.

These were my wedding reception mix tapes, the very first and last I ever created (I don't know why I sometimes prefer to listen to whole CDs and not mixed stuff. I haven't yet gotten into ipod and digital music at all, I know, strange...).

I slept well and deeply once I was done. I was never calmer in my life. a "miracle" in and of itself. I've inherited my mom's genes and I've always been anxious and nervous, but in the year that led to my wedding I literally prayed for peace and calm and it happened. As the hectic year end came to a close the calmer I became -- a surprising fact given the nerve-wracking circumstances.

1994 was our last year at the university (my 5th and K's 7th) and we scheduled our wedding for the end of the school year (December in Brazil), before our summer vacation, since we had to go back to teach beginning in February. However, earlier that year there was a two month long strike among the university professors and personnel that lasted from late May to July/August (K lost a semester and subsequently missed a whole year in 1988 because of a longer strike) and we were afraid that the school year was going to spill into January and our wedding plans would be ruined. Thankfully, though, the first semester concluded in August (first semester is from March-June, July is a month of break, 2nd semester from August-Nov) and the second went up to literally days before the wedding. I handed in my very last paper on Tuesday, had the city marriage on Thursday and church wedding on Sunday. But I remained calm through it all and was able to plan the wedding in minute details.

We like to be as unique as possible, so with the help of a computer whiz friend we designed our own "quirky" invitations -- printed on light green paper and with bamboo leaves as a background. We also planned a day time wedding -- something unheard of in Brazil where everyone loves a wedding at night for some reason (tough in the summer since it has to start at 8 pm and then it goes on really late into the night, awful for people with children) -- this has changed in those past 13 years and now more people do that. We did it because we didn't like late dinners and we wanted to serve a lunch (lunch is the main meal in Brazil actually, more like dinner here), so we scheduled it for 11 a.m. (of course I was a little bit more than fashionably late, but hopefully I'll share that part "tomorrow," I mean, later today :). In short, we wanted our wedding to reflect who we were and the relationship we had with our friends and family.

It was a HUGE affair. 400 invitations were handed and we calculate that between 500-600 people attended the ceremony and reception afterwards. It was just as it should be, a most perfect day, but that's what I hope to share later, after I get to scan some more photos [that's why I didn't post last year on our 12th anniversary :( ]. Our scanner situation is a little tricky right now, but I'll do my best since I really want to share that day with you!!

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~
Tomorrow we're going to Philly with the boys. I purchased tickets for Renoir's exhibit at the Museum of Art. I hope the boys enjoy it. I'm already thinking of a bribe so they behave. I think it's key that they have their tummies full. Too bad that when they think of museums they automatically think of this one. :( Not too far away, but not the museum I want to go to tomorrow... Wish us luck!!

Saturday, December 15, 2007


I had to smile when RocketMom wrote on a comment to the previous post that it was "ok to take it easy." Little did she know that I wouldn't be able to take it easy yesterday nor today and although I guess I can rest now, I still have some more things coming up before we take a true "vacation"* and head to Massachusetts for 10 days next Friday.

This morning we had a Christmas program in church and K and I were organizing it, so last night, after practicing some songs with our musical group and getting back home 10 p.m. I stayed up until 4 a.m. preparing materials (mostly a handout that ended up not being used) and power point presentations for today's program. [I'm sorry you didn't make it to the music part Cloudscome, but it was surely nice to have lunch with you and talk!] I had only 4 hours of sleep and now I'm obviously exhausted.

We couldn't return home after we were done at 3 p.m. and had to stay in Philly because a good friend had her 50th birthday party tonight. The party was really nice and we thoroughly enjoyed the time with our friends in spite of the fact that we had to drive for a whole hour to get back home. The tiredness is taking its toll on us now and we have to go to bed soon (K is watching SNL right now, though, in spite of the fact that he had to stop the car so I could drive the last part of the way home).

And tomorrow there's more of the same (minus most of the work): we have a holiday party and "White Elephant" gift exchange with our church friends. I'm in charge of baking a couple of pot pies, but I'm sure I'll enjoy baking them (and, most of all, eating them!).

~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Talking about rest, I'm very sorry to report that my only living grandparent, my 95 year old grandmother's health took a turn for the worse this week. She is hospitalized now and she may go to rest soon. The hardest thing is that her body is failing, but she's perfectly lucid and aware of everything. She talks about dying and she wants it to come soon so she can rest.

I'm just so sad [I'm crying now] and I really feel for my poor father who is going through such an unbelievably dark phase in his life right now. This would be so hard for him to bear. He's her favorite son too. When she heard about the accident (before the man died) she just laughed and shrugged it off and said: "I know everything will be all right. Things always go well for [my son] since he's such a good man." This will be the grandparent's loss that I'll feel most keenly (I'll talk about the others someday).

Well, I know I should go get some rest now.

* Vacations with young children are never restful. Life is never restful with them. Last night K remarked that people with little children just can't lead "normal" lives -- most everything in our lives revolves around them, doesn't it?

Friday, December 14, 2007

"First" Facts in Family Illnesses

  • Tonight was the first night of uninterrupted sleep for us since Saturday. (Linton had a cold and woke up several times Saturday-Tuesday nights, on Tuesday night Kelvin got very sick, coughing and unable to sleep from 4 a.m. on).

  • It was the first time in three years that Kelvin had what can be considered an acute asthma attack, although he hasn't been diagnosed with asthma yet. We were at the doctor's office for over two hours last Wednesday where he received a couple of nebulizer treatments. I foolishly didn't think the problem was in his lungs because just three weeks ago Linton had a similar cough (only louder) and "wheezing" and it was just croup (that needed steroids nonetheless).

  • For the first time ever one of my sons is taking antibiotics. Besides his asthma and having to take steroids Kelvin tested positive for strep. :( And now I'm worried that Linton (and maybe I) may have caught it, but Linton is on the mend (only coughing nasty stuff up) and I'm OK. Nobody had fever.

  • Kelvin was going to have his first lunch out at his favorite buffet restaurant with his school [only 11 kids]. Even Linton and I were invited, but we all missed it because of his illness. :(

No more firsts to narrate, I guess... since it's the second bout of colds this winter. I hope not that many come. Oh, and it was the second time Kelvin was away from school, only the first with a valid health reason since the first time he only complained of a pain in his ear, I took him to the doctor and he had nothing! We're yet to have our first year infection in this household, but hopefully it'll never come!

P.S. I'm taking both boys to an asthma specialist soon. I had really bad asthma growing up (starting at 3 years old), but was basically "cured" after I became a vegan at age 18. Now I'm not that strict anymore (I consider myself an "ovo-lacto-vegetarian"), but I avoid dairy foods and don't eat cheese at all and that keeps my asthma completely at bay. Lucky me, I know.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Planting and Hoping

Yesterday I finally planted most of the bulbs I had purchased back in August when our offer on this house was accepted. The temperature was in the 50s and I knew that it was going to drop today and stay low for a while (we've had sleet and now have some freezing rain out there). As I usually do with any gardening tasks, I enjoyed doing it very much. I think that planting bulbs is like magic, you put this tiny (well, sometimes fairly big) bulb in the earth and in the Spring it becomes a beautiful plant with a colorful flower. I didn't plant as many as my friend Jody did two years ago and last year (how many again, Jody, like 600?), I planted around 200 and I still have around 30 to plant. I'm thinking I could "force" some of them in vases, have you ever done it with tulips? I think one of my gardening/ house plants books (I have only four, and I certainly will need more if we get to stay in this house) explains how to do it.
(I'm "illustrating" this post with photos from last Spring of some of the bulb flowers I planted three and one [hyacinths] year[s] ago in our former home. They were the same kind ["brand"] as those I planted here, purchased at this European/worldwide "bargain" chain store -- it's one of my favorite places to shop since everything is good quality and prices are extremely low).
Now that I planted them I'm hoping, not so much that we stay in this house for a few more years. I hope...
...that these tiny little promises sprout and flower in the spring
...that the rodents don't devour them
... and that the deer leave them alone while they display their beautiful colors.

These are bigger challenges that the bulbs will have to overcome in order to survive for future bloomings. Many of those I planted are disliked by those creatures, but some are prized (tulips and crocus). And now we 'll wait until Spring for the surprises they'll bring (yeah, silly rhyme, but the feeling is genuine).

Monday, December 10, 2007


This weekend K and I finally had some time to have a couple of long, fruitful conversations even though we got a bit tired as a result. On Friday night, after coming home from practicing with our singing group at 10 p.m. we talked until 2 a.m. A lot of it was about intellectual stuff, the things I learned last week and wrote in my dissertation and other ideas we're both excited about -- I just love these conversations! We haven't had time to communicate well in ages and I was flabbergasted (and oh, so relieved!) to find out that a decision that I'd been struggling with during the past two weeks was already a "fait accompli" (had been done, taken) -- to keep on helping at our church or not. K had already told the pastor weeks ago that we'd be "stepping down" due to our stressful and uncertain situation and I simply didn't know!! I got a kick, however, of how relieved and relaxed I felt all weekend -- as if a mighty weight had been lifted from my shoulders.

On Saturday we were talking on the car about our options and K realized that there would be another alternative for us to be able to keep the house if:
1) the hopeful jobs around here fell through and he had to go back to being a post doc;
2) he didn't pass or decided not to participate in the concurso (the Brazilian entry examination for a tenured university professor post) in Brazil and we decided to remain in the U.S.;
3) he didn't get an academic job offer starting in the fall and he went on to remain a postdoctoral researcher until the summer of 2009.

If I got a job and earned 40K or more we could probably keep the house. Of course we'd spend a lot on childcare for Linton (and maybe even for Kelvin if my hours didn't coincide with school hours), but we might be able to make it.

I'm just thinking again what I could possibly do and I felt so absolutely limited by a "stupid,"
basically useless Ph.D.!!!!! I could try to be a postdoc although in the humanities there's less funding for such things and I don't really know how it works, I could be an adjunct, but that wouldn't pay the amount we need, I could teach high school, couldn't I? (I was just looking at WWW Mama's blog and she was writing about her new job as a high school teacher).

Well... I hate to think of a job solely as a way of providing money for survival. I guess we academics get really spoiled in that respect. We spend so many years pursuing our own interests in the name of "advancing knowledge and/or science" that we come out of it with a warped sense of how "the real world" works. We become passionate and foolish idealists who only want to work with things we're passionate about (isn't that so, Articulate Dad? Good thing that your line of work has the prospect of becoming lucrative in the long run). In the end of the Ph.D. journey our painful endeavors don't mean much to anyone else and the only option we have to continue that journey is getting an academic job. HA!! Problem is that there's an acute shortage of those jobs -- the number of Ph.D.s has just inflated for many reasons and our degrees are rendered useless in the end because we cannot be absorbed back into academia, only as "indentured slaves" (aka adjuncts).

Very very sad, but very true as well. One's got to think of all the alternatives, though. Even if they seem merely mercenary (alliteration and assonance intended) and not idealistic at all.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Out of the Blue

(photo of the sky on the day we had that picnic)
Well, OK, it was not completely out of the blue since he had sent his resumé (it would be CV in academia...) to them through a friend who works in recruiting and who knows someone in there, but... today, K did a phone job interview for another "big pharma," for a job he didn't know existed and had not even applied for!! This supposed prospective job wouldn't require moving.... wow. Let's not get our hopes up just yet, OK? Or at least try not to.

I thought you guys would like to hear that.

I didn't get to the dissertation today, but, like Sarah Sometimes said in a recent comment, yes, I definitely have momentum and I'm really really excited about my work right now. That feels SO GOOD!! Gotta go to bed now.

Oh, before I forget... I went grocery shopping here today and took an alternative way coming back home, right through this nice National Historic Park that we have nearby and at the end of a curve we "ran into" a covered bridge!!!

A lovely, beautiful, white covered bridge on this pretty day with snow on the ground and more falling softly.
The very first covered bridge that I've ever seen in my life!!! (in spite of the fact that I lived for 8 years in Massachusetts not very far from a couple of them). I was just so excited! (I bet you can tell from the ridiculous number of exclamation marks I'm using right now).We didn't go through it (for the boys' disappointment and mine too), but doing so would probably get us lost and out of our way. Now I want to go back there and take some photos! (the photo above was taken from the internet -- we were driving on the opposite side going to the left). It was a magical moment... (and just a few minutes later K told me about his interview on the phone).

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Dreaming in "Academese"

I didn't sleep well, mostly because I spent most of the night writing in "academese" with the highlighted word being "intergenerational" -- a key word in my dissertation writing from last night.

It's actually funny when this happens and a good sign, right? It means I'm working, making progress. It made me get up and come right to the computer to dissertate some more. How awesome is that?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

I Ble*w It

(I edited the title because I don't want to be one of the first results [5th] on g00gle for that expression like I am right now :) )

Literally, not figuratively, I destroyed our leaf blower/vacuum today .

The culprit:

No, not my son. My scarf (hand knit by my beloved grandmother).

Silly me, I let it loose around my neck while I was vacuuming some more leaves in the backyard and the fringe was sucked up by the machine's poor motor which shut off immediately. I opened the thing and got the scarf out (I even cut some of it even though it wasn't really necessary), closed it back up and nothing. K did the same and it won't work. I killed it.

I was so depressed afterwards. K was great, he said that accidents happen, and went outside with the boys in the freezing cold to work on the yard. He bagged two more piles of leaves and hickory nuts (yes, we have a huge tree in our front yard!!) so the city can take them tomorrow. We'll have to tackle the rest of the leaves in this fashion. I so hate to blow 50 perfectly good bucks on this :( Good thing I had at least blown most of the leaves around the house (the wind did spread a lot of them, but not all the piles) and vacuumed several piles.

~ ~~ ~
And today, just because I decided to blog about it yesterday I guess, that little speck, that tiny sliver is almost disappearing from view... we think it's not gonna happen. I shouldn't have given you hope, I spoke too soon. But we'll wait, and wait... for emails, for interviews, for whatever comes. And we MUST start renovating the house although we have little energy (and $) for that. Sorry for being so negative today.

Today's other post may be a little better if you haven't seen it yet.

NYT Article About Brazilians Leaving the U.S.

Edited to add a paragraph.
Two blog readers, Lauren (via a comment) and Karen (by email), brought this article from today's NY Times to my attention. Karen said she wanted to hear my thoughts on the subject.

Well... if you've been a careful reader you'll know that I have very conflicted feelings about my compatriots who come here illegally. I've interacted with hundreds of them over the eleven and a half years in which we've lived here and there's always a subtle divide between us since I'm not in the same situation and have never been. I don't agree with what they're doing although I'm not insensitive and can understand why they decided to come. I actually thing it's a very good idea to go back, at least for people like those described in the article -- middle class people. They generally come with the desire to stay for just a while and return later and sometimes they do.

One of my best friends went back in 2005 and even though it broke my heart to know that our two children, both of whom are just one month apart (we enjoyed being pregnant together twice since we lived only one hour away) wouldn't grow up "together" (i.e. seeing each other several times a year instead of just once a year or every two years) I knew that they'd be much better off in Brazil. And they are, they're happy and relieved that they decided to leave. The children are American citizens and they can return one day if they want. There they're close to family (although they did have one brother here who has remained because his daughter is a promising swimmer) and friends.

Now... I have come to know many people who were really quite poor in Brazil and for those returning is much harder. Most came with their children's future in sight although I cannot see how they'll really benefit if they weren't born here. And I guess some of those are staying in spite of all the "tightening" circumstances. Some didn't leave Brazil with a desire to go back, they just want to stay and make a new life here.

Anyway, this is a subject that brings me pain and anguish. Even interacting with these folks is painful at times, particularly knowing that I'm better off than they are because of my legal status, educational background, etc. It's funny that years ago when we first met some of the middle class people who were coming they would actually be shocked to find out that I didn't really like it here and that I planned to go back. I was proud of that and very critical of those who simply idolized the U.S. and thought it was "the promised land" or something. I never viewed myself as an immigrant, although that may be changing, let's see.

Edited to add:
Oh, and if we return to Brazil it certainly won't be for the same reasons those folks featured in the article are returning. We're planning to go back only if K gets the tenured professor post at the largest and most prestigious university in Brazil (perhaps in Latin America). He may not even get to "apply" for it, though since the concurso (official examination) may be scheduled at date when he may have received other job offers. We'll see.

Anything else about this you'd like to know?

(I am planning to write more on my thoughts and feelings as an expatriate although I often feel at a loss for words to express then).

Monday, December 03, 2007


Even the tiniest speck, the thinnest sliver of hope makes all the difference.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I wasn't going to blog about this, but as the time draws near when we'll find out whether this hope will lead to a solution to the "Very Bad Thing," I thought I'd let you know. Word should come within next two weeks. We've been hopeful for over two weeks now and it is a relief to have some respite from the constant pain, even if it may be just temporary relief. Just knowing our worst fears may not materialize after all is heartening and, if worse comes to worse, we've had some time to regroup and focus on what needs to be done next (not that we've quit working on job applications or anything).

On other news, I made a dent on our "excess leaf problem" today! I vacuumed/mulched three big piles (which filled three extremely packed bags). Yay!

I'm going to start working on the dissertation again! Yes. Hold your breaths... the end is near, or so I hope.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Stupidity, or... Should I Say Oversight?

Well, I'm still stressed out because our yard, all around the house, is full of piles of leaves that are now covered in a bit of snow and ice/ freezing rain, but that's kind of OK because it couldn't be avoided (unless we'd stayed home raking leaves during Thanksgiving, yadda yadda yadda).

Now... having an empty two car attached garage and leaving BOTH cars outside to freeze to the point that the doors won't open is sheer stupidity!! Or, in less harsh language, a "gross oversight."

I cannot believe we did that, knowing the forecast and all (and there was a period of just a bit of snow, or flurries in the morning before it turned into freezing rain). We must be out of our minds... yeah, something is not right. ;-)

Well other than that, we had a nice quiet weekend and didn't go to Philly for church as usual since Kelvin had a Christmas program at his school's church (he did a really cute recitation about the donkey). We had lunch there* and the boys played with their friends while we talked to a group of expatriates like us (from Indonesia, Thailand, and France) until almost 4 p.m. Our Brazilian friends did have a surprise birthday party on Saturday night (and even called us about it), but after we came home we just lounged and napped and were too tired to drive an hour into the city [I guess we were also too tired to park the cars in the garage even though we left briefly to go to an ATM and dollar store because Kelvin wanted batteries for some toy]. Today we stayed home all day, but we need groceries, hence the need to use one of the cars.

K went outside and was able to open all the car doors, so it's not that bad. The layer of ice is very thin, but I still feel stupid for not having used the garage. We had been "dreaming" about how nice it would be not to have to clean the cars when it snowed, and not there was this... Oh well...

*I got to enjoy again some typically American potluck dishes such as green bean casserole [I have to confess that I have made that to myself, with a whole can of French onions, on occasion since K hates it] , (vegetarian) shepherd pie, and other strange concoctions. It had been a long time since I'd eaten those ;)

Changes and Badge

As you may have noticed, I started "playing" with my template. I added my own background picture to the banner (I know I have to change the font colors, but blogger hasn't let me do that yet) and I want to do many more changes.

I have also removed the NaBloPoMo badges from my sidebar and added this nice one
which was created by Drew and linked to in the NaBloPoMo's site.

I could have used one of the "Pills*bury doughboy" ones provided by NaBloPoMo, but unfortunately I didn't exactly do 30 posts in 30 days because of the internet being down last week :( . I do love the "Ideal Girls Blog Daily" slogan of Drew's badge, though.