Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Handsome Guy

I began this post yesterday, but I needed to share the "verdict" before discussing this issue.

They hired the handsome guy. The ABD, "promising star in the field," guy. Obviously much younger and less experienced than me, but most certainly very promising (see! he's a guy! he has no kids! he's young!). He's working on Brazilian TV writers -- pretty "sexy" topic. Sigh...

He's the one candidate I met, though, so I'm happy. We talked  briefly and I liked him and felt we could work well together (we kind of "clicked"). But... we'll see about that.

How did I find out, you ask, given that no official announcement was made in the department and the two people I asked about the choice over email literally ignored my question?

I only found out because "new hire" emailed me this yesterday afternoon. Because he's going to be my direct superior coordinate the program and he needs to turn in plans for the future classes that will be taught. He needed my syllabi and I handed them over. Sigh.

(The only reason I was able to design my own classes and syllabi this year was that they didn't have a TT person in place in my area. In this department everyone, except for TT faculty, teach with previously designed syllabi, even full-time lecturers. This is probably because they have graduate students who teach, but I always had complete freedom to design my classes when I was a grad student -- lucky me!!).

I have mixed feelings about all this. I probably need to steel myself to have this much less experienced and younger person be my "boss" in a way. I'll give it a year and maybe this time next year I'll be working things out so I can come back to "U#1" perhaps.

Anastasia's blog is gone (very very sadly, I really miss you, A), but when she recently wrote that tenure track people feel/think that they are superior to those of us who don't have TT jobs (and lots of people reacted very strongly and even viscerally against this notion/suggestion) this was an extremely simple issue for me. One that I will get to experience "in the flesh" in the year to come.

It doesn't matter to me what the people who are tenure track think of themselves or feel -- most of them (or you) are wonderful, nice people who treat the rest of us "marginal workers" with collegiality and respect. The fact of the matter remains, though, that feelings aside, they/you are superior (position-wise) to us. Full stop. You can't argue against that. And neither can we.

It doesn't matter that I have many years of experience, it doesn't matter that I spent this year planning and designing the classes on my own. I don't get to be the "program coordinator" because at U#2 this is a task for the tenure-track or tenured professors. And I wasn't the one chosen.

I get that and I can live with that, but it's tough. I have to think that this guy is just doing his job, that he doesn't have anything against me. But maybe I shouldn't have braved it and stayed. Because even though I'm valued for the work I can provide to U#2 and the department teaching, they don't want anything else from me, only my teaching. And that's how it's going to be forever. That's why I think that maybe I have a better shot at U#1, even if I'm not TT there.

And the saga continues!!

P.S. It's posts like these that made me remove my name from the blog and try to me more anonymous. I'm probably crazy to be blogging these things, right? Very few people read me, though, so hopefully I'm OK (for now!). And I was just thinking as I "wrote this post in my head" today while walking on campus that this highly inappropriate blog is one of the reasons why I'm not really "tenure track" material. Hmmm... nah... no. Some of you out there blog pretty openly as well. I guess it's just part of the low self-esteem complexes that assault me once in a while. Sigh...

Wimpy, Degonflé, BANANA! ;) (plus dork & moron)

My parents spoke French to each other a lot when I was growing up and after a while I understood quite a bit! (and I later learned French right before and during graduate school)

There are a few words that my parents always say in French because they think they conveys what they're thinking and meaning better than Portuguese. A big one is courant d'air (for a draught, wind coming from an opening window and blowing through the house) and another even "bigger" for them is gonflé (proud, "puffed up").

I was happily surprised to find out yesterday that the title for The Diary of a Wimpy Kid in French is Journal d'un degonflé!

Now, the title in Brazil makes lots of sense, but it's pretty derogatory, almost annoying: Diário de um banana !! :-) (a "banana" in Portuguese means a weak, useless person).

My oldest son (he'll be 11 in a week, isn't that crazy?) is a huge bookworm and he has read all the books (except for the 7th) a long time ago, but my youngest (who is 8.5) had never been interested in them... until now!

He is a good reader, but very particular in his tastes. Despite the fact that he's perfectly capable of reading longer chapter books, he's been sticking to reading and re-reading his beloved Berenstain Bears books and a Boxcar Children book once in a while.

Last Sunday he spent hours reading the first Wimpy Kid  book and he has been re-reading various passages ever since. And today I realized that this reading had unexpected consequences.

My very sheltered and innocent son had never encountered the words dork and moron before, but now he knows them. :(  He obviously knows not to use them, but I guess a new "universe" has now opened up for him, he's no longer my naive baby -- which is normal, I know. But still, hearing your child say "What does dork mean?" "What is a moron?" is not fun.

Good thing their school (K-8, small, private) and his classmates are nothing like those he's reading about. Phew!

Have you/your kids read this books? What do you think of them? At this point, I value reading so much that I'll have my sons read whatever will get them excited about reading. Hopefully it won't harm them too much. ;)


My mom is having cataracts surgery on her right eye today (she decided to do each eye separately) and she's really scared. I hope it all goes well. Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers. I'll call her later and update this post. Thanks!

Edited to add: The surgery went well, I talked with my mom this afternoon and she told me all about it. In the end she things she should have done both eyes, but she was pretty afraid. But it's good that she at least has one eye uncovered (the other one is covered until tomorrow), the only problem will be that she will have to put eye-drops in for 5 weeks for each eye.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

(Week-)Old News: That was strangely EASY...

I haven't been updating you regarding my job situation, but I'll try to mitigate that now (even though I should be grading or preparing to teach my classes or cooking dinner... Sigh).

As quickly as I can (we need to have dinner!)...

First, the current situation, in case you don't remember it: after two years being an adjunct at University #1 (where my husband is an Assist. Prof.), I applied for a full-time teaching position (non TT) at University #2. However, I continued teaching a class at U#1.

Meanwhile, I applied for a TT position at U#2, but nothing came of it and I began to actually fear for my job. I calmed down considerably when was assured that I would still have a part-time position at U#2 in the Fall, but after I this happened I thought that maybe I could use it to my advantage. That's precisely what happened!

When I talked to my chair about this surprising (but meaningless academic-wise) development she suggested that I talk to our department's coordinator and I did that. My argument was that U#2 could also get involved in "tele-teaching" and that could help me secure a full-time position for next year.

The coordinator was interested and asked for more information, so I talked to the person in charge of the project at U#1. That was when things got really interesting! This guy (who is a tech administrator guy, not in an academic position) suggested that maybe he could use the project's funds for me to work full time at U#1! WOW. I said that for the moment I was interested in continuing at U#2 while still teaching a class or two for U#1 (I make a bit more money that way).

Knowing that there was a possibility that I could also have full-time employment at U#1 was very reassuring and I emailed my coordinator at U#2 and made sure to mention that this possibility of employment had been mentioned. A few days later (two weeks ago, on a Friday) U#2 coordinator called U#1 tech guy and then immediately sent an email to the department chair,  the project coordinator at U#2, copying me and other people, arguing that my position should be made full-time.

He did say something else, though... he wrote that I had been offered a full-time job at U#1 and refused it because I wanted to work at U#2 instead... hmmm.... That was stretching the truth quite a lot! I had most certainly not been offered a job, but he said that, not me!

That same night the department chair emailed me and asked me to see her on Monday (last week). When I went to talk to her the conversation went as if I had never before asked her about my prospects for next year -- very strange! -- or as if we had never talked about my employment at all. She quickly asked me if I wanted to continue full-time and said that I would. That was it.

Yeah, it was that easy. And I felt slightly bad for having "maneuvered" the whole situation in my own favor. I'm still pretty surprised about that.

What did this whole process teach me?

1) That my position at U#2 is becoming more secure, but it is also 100% dead-end (more on that in another post, soon coming).

2) That there are concrete possibilities of going back to U#1 and that I would feel OK about that. However... I think I'd prefer to wait until there was something better (TT would be ideal, but maybe something else could work too).

So... things are still wide open and I like it that way. OK, dinner now (a VERY late dinner, I  must say).

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Argo is Awesome

Ok... Awesome is not the right word here, but I just couldn't resist writing it because it sounded so well. ;-)

It's a really great movie, though. I don't know if it has all it takes to win an Oscar, but maybe it does, given the contemporary Iran crisis. I definitely enjoy based-on-a-true-story movies more than others!

In spite of my anger at the film industry, I though it was ok to pay 5 bucks to stream it in HD as opposed to 26 (for K & I) at the theater.

I wish I'd had time to see more Oscar nominated flicks (the only other one I saw -- and loved -- was Life of Pi), but I guess I'll enjoy watching get Academy Awards regardless of that. I think I want to see Lincoln & Zero Dark 30.

Ok... I guess I've made my commercial for today! :-)

P.S. most importantly I'm delighted we have a new tv & antenna so I can watch the oscars this year!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

I wanna go home

(Trying to blog from my phone again, let's see if it'll work!)

Lately I've been really struggling with being an expatriate (again! This comes & goes...). It's not that I miss my country. No. I'm fine with not living there. It's just that I'm struggling once more with feeling like an outsider.

I think that part of this is related to the church/school community that we are part of. For the very first time in he 16.5 years we've lived in this country we are finally part of a large (i.e. several hundred people) community that is predominantly American, mostly white American.

I suffered from pretty strong culture shock back in 2010 when we moved here. It got better, but now it's again becoming difficult to deal with.

This whole "not having friends" problem in my life had been nearly "solved" by the interactions I had through blogging -- but that was back when I didn't have much of a life (had babies/small children, went to really small churches, was home full time trying to finish the phd).

Now, we're finally part of a large and thriving community, we've settled down, K has a stable job at the university and I have a job (or two "half" jobs) too.

Maybe part of the problem could be the disappointment of settling down in a place that we thought would be just perfect (and in many ways it actually is...) and in the end no place can be perfect.

Then what happens is that I blame it all on being a foreigner, on being here in America, where people are friendly, but never really true friends. [this sounds like "Prairie Home Companion's" Garrison Keillor talking, no? ;-)]. A few concrete examples...

Three weeks ago we went on the school's ski trip & when not skiing I was back at the lodge where a large group of parents & people from our school/church community were hanging out as kids skied (there were 90 skiers plus several people just there with the kids). Nobody really talked to me. I knew I could have talked to this Dominican friend, mom of my son's friend & classmate, but that was it. People seemed to just ignore me. I tried to talk to a few people, but I couldn't get any conversations going. There were a few groups of moms together talking, which mede me feel like I don't belong at all. Sigh...

... Whenever there is a school (K-8 private School) event I feel like everyone is part of a group or "clique" and that we just don't really fit in. Many people in the school have been around for 10-15 years or are originally from this area... Again, most white Americans. I can easily interact with the few Hispanic families, but we're all "outsiders" anyway, so it's obvious that we identify with each other and not with the majority.

All my close/good friends here in the U.S. are either foreigners themselves or children of immigrants or married/partnered with foreigners. Brazilians, Korean, Romanian, Indonesian, Mexican, Spanish, British, African, Bulgarian, Argentinians, Jamaican, Haitian, etc. What's up with that? Is the problem with me? With us?

Last March, at the conference I went to in Rhode Island, when I shared this thought with my dear English friend (who has also lived here for the past 17 years), it gave her pause. She thought for a minute and was able to think of only two American friends.

I was going to blame it partially on my particular religious community, but my English friend is not religious at all and her experience is similar to mine.

I don't know what else to say. This may be a phase which will hopefully soon pass. Or maybe it's just he lifelong reality of expatriate life and ill have to learn to cope with it and adapt. And by now going back "home" to my country would probably not be a solution in any way.

There's no "home" to go back to. I have to bloom (or weed, as my dear online friend Jamie so brilliantly says) or "weed" where I'm planted. And I will make my best to do just that. Promise. Thanks for listening.

P.S. I was just reminded tonight that there's hope. :-) Thanks Heidi!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

You know you're getting old...

... when you fall asleep during the first musical performance of SNL even though you've had 8.5 good hours of sleep the night before. Sigh...  (K actually fell asleep after the second skit, he got up earlier than me).

And it's worse yet not to be able to get up and go to bed and just nap there in front of the tv and under the blankets. (I actually turned off the TV when I was only awake to watch two fragments of the Weekend Update and was falling back asleep). I think we only got into bed close to 1 am.

Of course part of it is just the routine -- our bodies are now trained to get up around 7 am and to go to bed earlier so we can cope, but still... yeah, part and parcel of getting old is becoming more sleepy and not being able to stay up late as much as we used to. Blah...

The weekend was good. Friday night we had a kind of housewarming party/Bible study get-together at a friend's house. Then yesterday we had friends over for a delicious Italian food lunch and spirited conversations and discussions all afternoon accompanied by my made-from-scratch chai tea (I had the spiced water and people could use rooibos [brought from South Africa last year] or black tea).

Last night we had a "game night" at the university, but very few people showed up. The boys and K played pool with our friend E (who is a doctoral student in music) and her friend who came from Mexico to audition to become a doctoral student too! He's a really nice guy and he's married to a Brazilian (YAY!!), so we're hoping he'll be accepted and come live here next year!!!

Today I had to help a friend with a small, simple, co-ed wedding shower and that was good, especially the Indian food & Ukrainian blintzes (the groom is Indian American, the bride is Ukrainian).

The funnest part of the weekend was spending some time reading the next novel I'm teaching and watching a TV adaptation of it online. I can't believe I get to teach Brazil's most famous author and what's considered his masterpiece!

Oh... and I think they will really continue to offer me a full time lecturer job at my current place of employment. I hope to keep the part-time gig, though that will be lots of work (maybe 2 extra classes on top of my 3). And I hope to be able to continue doing the long commute without being completely burned-out. More on this soon!

Have a great week, everyone!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

OH NO!!! (friend's dad killed)

We just received an email from our dear friend W (who coincidentally visited our house with his wife & kids three weeks ago for the first time in eight years) letting us know that his father-in-law was killed in an extremely unfortunate car crash in Florida this morning. He died in a collision with a police car heading to an emergency (my first reaction is to think that it was probably the policeman's fault!). :(

This is absolutely devastating because he was still fairly young (only 64) and he leaves behind a wife, a son, a daughter, five grand-daughters and one grandson who loved him very very much. I cannot imagine his daughter's pain. We've known this family really well since we moved to the U.S. back in 1996... this is just so unspeakably sad.

The worst part is that W has said in his email that the media is after the family, thus adding insult to injury in such a difficult moment in their lives... W sounded extremely upset that his house is crowded with people and that it's all really chaotic. I cannot imagine how hard it must be to cope with such a situation, so unexpected, so demanding and so heartbreaking.

Please keep Kelly, her mom, her children, brother and nieces in your thoughts and prayers!

We're going...

... to Brazil in December!

As I type this post, K is purchasing the tickets. They were the cheapest we could find (about 1,060) and we're pretty sure we wouldn't be able to find cheaper ones later.

One of the reasons we have to do this now is that one of us (me!) has to fly with an award travel ticket (using our miles) and these need to be reserved nearly a year ahead.

So... after ten years of flying solo with one or two babies/little boys multiple times, I will get to fly by myself while K will take the boys (we will fly back together, but not on our way there). K is excited, since he has missed flying with the boys (who ADORE flying, BTW) to Brazil.

Their tickets were purchased, now he's purchasing the first leg of mine. I hope it all works out fine since mine will be purchased with our miles combined with my father-in-law's miles -- one set of miles for each way.

All of K's family will get together for the holidays this year again (the plan is to do it every two years, in 2011 we rented a house in Orlando, FL) and the BIG thing is that my in-laws will be "inaugurating" (that's the word we use in Portuguese) the house they're building right now!
August 2012:
 Nov. 21st 2012:
We'll spend Christmas together and our family will be staying at my parents' house (which is located just two streets behind my in-laws') while K's three brothers and their families will be at the new house. Maybe even my brother and his family will be there (I'm hoping dreaming hoping!).

Then... we'll all fly (I don't know about my parents and brother & family, maybe) to Maceió and spend a week in Brazil's "paradise" AKA Maragogi. I'm borrowing these photos from a cousin (Laura):
And this one from Trip Advisor:
 Sigh... (we'll get to enjoy the natural pools that you see above if the moon cycle & tides allow. I haven't yet been able to find the tide tables for the first week of January 2014...).

My award travel tickets were purchased even before I saved and uploaded the beach photos. YAY!! Just what I needed in this very cold day in February, right? Life IS good...

P.S. I'll worry about paying for the tickets later ;)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Tele-Teaching Poster Child Goes GLOBAL!

These were my feelings & thoughts two weeks ago, after I finished my very first conference call:*

"This is truly insane... why in the world have they invited me?"

"I surely don't belong with university presidents and professors who have been at their universities for 30 years!"

The worst part was that I initially felt very conflicted about having been invited to present on a global forum about my "virtual" teaching experience. I felt that the technology I'm using has great potential to be used for "evil" (i.e. continuing under-employment as adjunct faculty providing even more profits to universities who can now share already marginal employees).

I was able to overcome my scruples and go along with it. Two conference calls after that one and we're nearly ready to record the presentation.

So... this was the news from two weeks ago that made me feel valued and, at the same time, crushed because it doesn't mean much of anything. I've been invited to talk about my experience and it will be broadcast globally to thousands of people. Yeah... mind blowing. I hope it's a harbinger of good things to come. Of future possibilities...

* Which, ironically, happened on the same day I learned the candidates were teaching my class. The conference call then motivated me to talk to my department chair, which, in turn, made me even more panicky and then... blah that crazy week happened. :(

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Upside Downton Abbey

For DA fans (if you haven't seen it yet)! My sons and I bumped into this accidentally a few minutes ago in the PBS app in their ipad and I had to share!

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Skiing... Is this the end for me?

I was looking forward to this day, I really was! The third time/ fourth day skiing in my life (first was back in Dec. 2004, at Wildcat in NH).

I canceled my class, convinced my husband to cancel his and come along because it's the kids' school ski day so it was dirt cheap for the whole family!

I had taken the kids on ski days in the past, but I couldn't ski much, looking after them all day, so today I thought I could go to be top of the mountain for he first time & come down on the easiest trail.

I did it, the problem is that some parts of be 2 mile long trail were too hard for me and I did it, but I was really scared and stuck in several parts. My legs didn't have the strength needed...

The worst part was that I went again... This time with my husband -- I had gone with a friend the first time and... It was a disaster!! My weak legs coupled with my paralyzing fear almost didn't let me do it. So much adrenaline that I'm still affected by it over an hour later. Sigh...

I don't know if I'll make it to the top eve again& the bunny slope gets old really fast. Oh well... Maybe it's the beginning of he end of skiing for me! :(

At least I have some pictures!

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Dissertation Defense - PTSD or Just Nostalgia?

I just cried lots and lots right now... because I read this post from Rebecca Wolf's mom talking about the cookies she made for her son's Ph.D. defense at Harvard.

I'm wondering if crying and crying after looking at these beautiful dissertation defense photos is some form of post-phd (nearly FIVE years later, isn't that CRAZY?) post-traumatic stress disorder?

I mean... I just thought it was so beautiful, the photos and the spirit of the people in them. It reminded of my own defense as I wrote on my comment to that post.


Long-time readers will know how incredibly hard it all was for me. The three long years finishing writing. The horrible month revising and resubmitting on time for commencement.

Yeah, I definitely think PTSD is a genuine description of what I feel when I remember February to May 2008 (defense was on April 16, I will never ever forget that date, for as long as I live).

Why do I have a lump on my throat when I write this?

I think it's because I still feel like this whole phd thing was kind of USELESS. yes, I do. That's why I was so anguished last week writing all those posts about tenure jobs, etc.

So much effort that's basically worth nothing.

Because a tenure track job in languages, literature, cultures is nearly IMPOSSIBLE. It's harder to come by than winning the lottery. Seriously.

That's why I tell whoever is around and can hear me NOT to EVER even CONSIDER getting a phd in one of those areas.

Because it hurts too much looking back.

OK, done being a drama queen. I know, it's ridiculous, but heartfelt.

Ha     Ha    Ha. Sorry.

P.S. I met the super handsome candidate (my students were late [not]finishing their exam). I hope they hire him, he's probably great! We talked for only a few minutes, but he's super smart and enthusiastic, I think we click & I'd love working with him. I'm sure the other guy will be fine too, but I think I prefer this one. They'll decide on Friday.

Oh, but now I'm tempted not to work there anymore if I can work closer to home. Gotta blog more about that.

Two White, (very) Young Guys!!

This is getting super fun and exciting, folks!! Seriously!

As I've blogged about before, my hunch was right! They really want to hire a WASP! (I know this is an outdated and politically incorrect term and that I risk being called"racist" and prejudiced for using it, but I still remember learning this word back in college in Brazil and thinking... wow... that's pretty interesting!).

I just got the names of the two candidates this morning and promptly looked them up. Two young, very good looking (at least one of them) guys.

One from most famous Ivy league school, newly minted phd from there (and, who is possibly from the same religious orientation as the former presidential candidate, given his undergraduate institution -- that would be interesting! My neighbors from across the street are also of this orientation).

The other, the most good looking, and who was described by his advisor as a rising star in the field, (WOW!), comes from California. I'm secretly hoping he's of the other orientation if you know what I mean.

The thing I'm hoping the most, though is pretty simple: I hope hope hope none of them is married to a Brazilian woman.

Because if they are and she is qualified to teach the language, I'm TOAST!

And I don't mind, because...

.... drumroll...

... in a conversation yesterday, I had someone propose that maybe there could be some funding from this "teleteaching" thing to help me become full-time at former institution.

I'll wait and see!

I'm going to be late at the end of the exam today so I can meet the really good looking guy who will teach my 12 pm class! Fun!

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Whatever Happened to me Last Week?

By Friday evening, when I was 100% recovered from my angst and blog-post filled week, I thought about all I wrote and felt a little puzzled as to why I got so worked up in the first place!

Why in the world did I start stressing out about how I'm never going to have a tenure track job, blah, blah, blah... when the one genuine worry I had starting on Monday was whether I will have my lecturer job back in the Fall or not.

I was not expecting to be interviewed for the TT position. I applied because I knew I should and that was that. I have blogged multiple times about the issues I was stressing about last week and although it is very true that I love research and would like to continue to pursue it, for the time being I am happy simply having a job.

One of the things that happened was that I got worked up again regarding the whole adjunct position situation and the dismal state of the academic job market and academic departments and universities hiring practices.

And the more I thought and wrote about it, the more worked up I became. Sigh... (I admit this now rather sheepishly). I believe in every word I wrote, I don't retract any of it, I just hope I can be more rational and even-minded in the future (nah... I don't think that's going to happen).

I have calmed down considerably. If worse comes to worse I'll just teach two classes at each school and make considerably less money (24k+16k=40, maybe 42. Which is similar to what I have this year). I will continue to have health insurance through my husband and I guess the saddest thing to lose will be the retirement savings. :(  The problem is that I NEED to schedule the second class at the first university in the next few weeks and I wish I knew when to schedule them.

I hope the talk tomorrow will reassure me that there will still be teaching for me, maybe part-time.

The hard part will be driving the same 152 miles not being full time.

The hardest of all will be if they really cannot reassure me that there will be a job and I won't know for a few more months. In this case, I'll go right back to freaking out mode. Wish me luck at this meeting tomorrow!

P.S. and in case you're wondering, closing went SUPER smoothly on Friday morning. It took only about 20 minutes and the rate is actually 2.625% (not 2.65 as I had shared earlier). Unbelievably low!

Friday, February 01, 2013

Sleep, Sweet Sleep

I don't know if all that therapeutic blogging helped, but tonight I had a very good night of sleep and didn't want to get up in the morning. YAY! That's more like me!

I also had pleasant dreams (sometimes weird dreams can wake me up too)... with blue seas, new year's eve by the sea and family (my brother-in-law's "K3"'s family, especially my cute niece, it's always nice to think of her!).

Now I'm ready to finish grading a pile of tests (I fell asleep grading tests in my bed last night and it was oh, so hard! to get up and brush my teeth before slipping under the covers! And signing a bunch of papers at the closing!!! (then driving and teaching)

Bring it on!