Sunday, March 30, 2014

24 Years Ago TODAY!!

I met my husband for the first time at a bus stop in the "Francisco Morato" Avenue in São Paulo (city). My friend was asking me this evening how I'd met my husband and, so I remembered that today was our "anniversary" of meeting each other!

YIKES, years ago when I first blogged about this only 16 years had passed so I feel really really old (and an "ancient" blogger).  

I love to remember and cherish this day, it was truly the a day that changed my life forever! I like to say that my sons' births were the most amazing things that ever happened to me, but they wouldn't have taken place if I hadn't met K, so our meeting is even more important!

I am away from home tonight (I cooked dinner for my students), so I've only spent part of this day with him (working feverishly to finish cooking the meal). I'm glad I remembered to blog about it, though!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Remember Slavery & the Transatlantic Slave Trade

Today is UNESCO's "International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade."
The very first class I took in graduate school was a class (taught only this once, back in 1998!!) on Slavery in Brazil, so this topic has remained of great interest to me and my two publications are related to it. You may not know this, but over 90% of all Africans brought to the Americas during the period of the slave trade were taken to the Caribbean and South America and around 60% were taken to Brazil. Brazil was also the last country in the Western Hemisphere to end slavery (1888).

An amazing resource is the The Transatlantic Slave Trade Voyages Database, especially its Introductory Maps! This is the first one, but you should check the others:
I hope to continue producing more scholarship related to this topic as well as raising awareness of it's connection to Brazilian history and culture in my classes!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Writing is what I do

I was thirteen when I first felt the urge to write what I felt (one night I simply had to get up from my bed, grab a pen and a notebook and write!). From then on, I never stopped.

Journal entries, countless poems, reflections that could have become essays, parodies, and (very rarely) ideas for a play. Never fiction (only with prompts in writing class in high school).

Studying literature almost killed all my writing, except for journaling. I did write a few more poems, even translated and "published" them in several volumes of an yearly journal from our department's undergraduate majors.

Then I started blogging, and wrote a 500 page dissertation, and continued blogging.

Published 2 academic articles (one of which I translated into Portuguese and which was published -- last year -- in a super prestigious literary journal in Brazil), did not publish an essay in this book (it's ok, it would have "blown my cover" -- ha ha, unknown little blogger that I am!)... and I keep on blogging. (even if it's not a conversation anymore, it's one only if you're really well known)

Why am I writing all this?

Because I love writing, in spite of the fact that I don't really do it well enough -- that's why (in addition to not having time) I never really got involved with Literary Mama, though I know several of the founders virtually and in person and I think it's a great site.

Not good enough.

But I don't care. I write for myself here and I write... tons of emails to my students, to friends and family. I write long comments on blog posts by my friends and also on status updates on facebook.
I can just write and write.

I write.

Because words matter.

I'm actually writing this because I'm helping organize a wedding shower. Helping is what I do even more than writing. Much more because it's more important. Being there for people is more important than anything. That's why, deep down, I truly don't care for an all-consuming academic career (though I do wish I could do research). Because I need time for people.

So, I'm helping organize this wedding shower as much as I can with my busy schedule. The bride and groom are close friends and today the bride emailed me (even though, poor thing, she's so incredibly busy in medical school). She wanted my help to write the Evite message from the wedding shower host (technically her mom, in practice us, her friends, in addition to her mom) and that's what she wrote at the end of her cute email:
p.s. I'm asking you L... because i know you can write :) well.
That really moved me and made me happy. "Writing is what I do" was my first thought. And yes, I'd like to think I write well, even though by some standards I really don't (and you write way better than me, J! And you too, Heidi! Not to mention my SIL who's an awesome writer, and writing teacher!). Unfortunately I don't have a gift for editing and rewriting and reworking. Maybe it's the ADHD, or the oversensitivity and thin skin. So I don't think I will ever publish anything, really. I probably "don't have what it takes" (but it doesn't matter, because I can help and love people and be there for them!).

After I wrote and sent the little "blurb" to my friend she replied with "you are simply awesome." And if that's what awesome means: being there for people, doing what I can to help (especially if it involves writing, or photography, or cooking, or anything, really), yes, I am. Thank you very much. I just hope I can keep it up. Forever.

P.S. it is really hard to hit publish because I'm keenly aware that this could be a much better post with much editing, but I just don't have the time. And I don't want this in my draft folder... oh well! And since I'm writing this p.s. I have to mention that I (again!) accidentally published a post that was still a draft (about needs & wants) and I hope to finish and publish it for real soon, OK? Sorry!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

"The institution of the faculty wife is alive and well in academic culture. She's an adjunct."

Ha! I should have a new blog called "The New Faculty Wife," shouldn't I?

NAH... are you kidding me?

In fact, that line is so painful to read that it just had to become a blog post title.

(well, it is still painful, even after I read the really, really [irritatingly] upbeat article that the pseudonymous "Marie Smith" wrote yesterday FIVE years ago for the Chronicle, but which someone tweeted this week, so I read it, unaware it was so old ;-). Her strife to write a "resentment-free" essay paid off, but her anonymity makes it clear that it's an unpleasant situation to be in. Sigh...)

~    ~    ~    ~
I remember the day I met my office mate as if it were yesterday. I also met another "faculty wife" right then, but we never saw each other again. I wonder if that bright German young lady is still around... (I'll answer this question at the end!)

Anyway, I met E at the end of the orientation program at U#1 and we had just come out of a very depressing session for "part-time faculty." We were right outside the building, sitting on the steps and talking, commiserating about our lame "part-time" jobs. P, the German young woman sitting next to us, sounded pretty rebellious and I jokingly said we should begin an association of adjuncts -- I should have probably said "adjunct wives!" (I didn't know back then that there were no unions here).

E, my current office mate at U#2, had just moved to the U.S. from Spain because she'd gotten married to a TT professor at U#1 (he'd been there for several years). P, the German girl, hadn't been married long as well and her husband -- like mine -- had just started his TT job at U#1. The main difference was that P had a degree in the same area as her husband so she would be teaching in the same department.

Back to E, though... She was an adjunct for two years at both U#1 and U#2 and in the second year she was actually also full-time at U#3 -- a one year appointment to replace someone who had taken a leave of absence which wasn't renewed.

On the year I started at U#2 she also applied for a full-time lecturer position there and we started together (that's why I asked to share an office with her, it was nice because we already knew each other).

Last year the department decided to give E and two other lecturers (including the current chair's spouse) three-year contracts which came with a 14K pay raise!

I teach the "wrong" language, though, so, as you already know, I am risking going back to part-time next semester. The "perfect time" to learn, after looking for her in the university website, that P, the young German woman is actually a "visiting assistant professor" right now -- the perks of being on the same discipline as one's husband!!*

In any case, I don't know if P will ever become tt faculty and I know that E doesn't want it at all, she's happy to continue as a lecturer.

Right now, I will be "over the moon" if only I can remain a full-time lecturer because that sounds the tiniest bit better than simply "adjunct!" Wish me luck!

* My husband's department has not one, but TWO faculty couples in which one was a tenure-track professor and the other one ended up entering the TT later after being full-time non tt faculty for a while. Interestingly, both couples are from Romania!

Monday, March 17, 2014

The End of an Era & Saying Good-Bye

Yesterday afternoon, after a busy weekend with tons of driving, we said good-bye to my brother-in-law ("K2") and his family by having a late lunch at K's family's favorite chain restaurant, Olive Garden.

Then we drove home in the snow while they drove to the airport where the snow didn't hold them back and they flew to Turkey then Egypt (we're hoping they arrived safely because we haven't heard from them yet!).

For almost exactly ten years we lived only a couple of hours away from them and we got together as often as we possibly could because we wanted our sons to grow up being very close. When they moved from Michigan their eldest boy was only five months old and our youngest nine months old, so these cousins practically grew up as brothers and they consider each other as best friends. Then they had another boy less than two years later and our four sons spent lots of time playing together whenever we visited each other.

That's why we were all so sad when we found out they would be moving across the world. And now we don't know if our boys will ever live close together like this again (they do plan to send the boys to study at the boarding academy close to us, but that's still many years in the future). It's definitely the "end of an era," one of those life changes that we need to accept and move on. That's why we didn't cry -- we need to approach this 100% rationally and see the positive sides even though it's hard and we know we'll grieve their departure and miss them like crazy.

In January they'll be back from a few days and we're already planning what we'll do together (in spite of the fact that our sons will be in school already). Now every vacation will revolve around their visits and getting the boys to see their cousins. Something tells me it will become harder and harder to plan spending time with friends who live far away (e.g. in Brazil). Sigh... this is part of life too.

Let's hope they will soon have internet access so we can be in touch -- the world is so much "smaller" now that we have the web, right? One more thing to be thankful for.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Leaving the Major Carriers!!

Almost precisely ten years after going wireless we're delighted to finally be able to ditch the major wireless carriers!! 

Since 2004 we've used Verizon, T-Mobile and, more recently, Sprint, and now we're going to be using Ting! Three days ago they started accepting the iPhone 5 and we immediately switched!

Apple fanatic "iKelvin" won't be able to have an iPhone, but he's happy to have bought a Samsung S4 Mini (hey, Jen, you win!!) and can hardly wait until it gets here.

My phone hasn't been switched yet, but it should be by the end of the day. The early termination fee will be LESS than our monthly payment and we hope to save quite a bit of money!

OK, we're almost at the ski place and this geeky family is playing with remembering what these acronyms stand for: PDF, NASA, LED, LASER :-) Do you know? 

Twelve! (03/09/14)

Kelvin turned twelve on Sunday and when I told him today that I hadn't had time to blog about his birthday he let out a whining sound (bless his heart!). So I have to rectify this situation, no matter how late I go to bed!

Unlike his younger brother who doesn't much like to be blogged about, Kelvin enjoys it when I write about him. He even has a blog, but he doesn't update it. We want to wait one more year so he can use google products without fear of being shut down after the pretty sad loss of his email account a couple of years ago (to make a long story short & not to have to look for the link, he was invited to join Google+, tried to register & when he had to enter his birthdate his main email account [he has three or four like me] was deleted! It could only be recovered if we lied about his age, which we didn't want to do... sigh...)
Before I talk about his day, let me just share his favorite recent photo (above) and say a few words about my handsome "tween" boy! When I posted these photos to facebook a friend asked me if he had already began to act surly like a typical teenager and I think that the photos speak for themselves a bit. He's got plenty of "attitude" already, but I know it may get much worse.

One thing is certain, my son really cares about his appearance now! After his latest haircut in Brazil (finally someone got it right! Too bad I ruined it just slightly by cutting his hair a bit a couple of weeks ago [no photos from "after," just before in this post]), I've been helping him to blow dry his hair and, once in a while, he wants me to use the straightening iron. (I will delete this info if he tells me to! ;-) Isn't he the cutest thing, though? I love it that he still wants to spend so much time with me and wants hugs and kisses. I won't ever take that for granted because I know that for a period it will be very different!

He's maturing and growing every day and... he's getting a phone next week which has been his greatest dream for a while now! I could go on and on about my "baby," but I need to get some sleep! ;-)
His birthday celebration was great, but bittersweet: skiing with all the men in the family who were here! With his dad, his two uncles and three cousins (including the 3.5 year old!). The women didn't go (though I did want to). D (K2's wife) stayed home to study Arabic and I went shopping with M, K4's wife, who is pregnant and needed to buy things for the baby. She's having another boy, the 7th grandson!

Kelvin was looking forward to snowboarding with his uncles, especially with "K2" who had seen him  try to snowboard over a month ago when he had just started learning and who could really appreciate how much he had improved. All the boys enjoyed themselves very much and I was glad that in their excitement with the novelty of spending several hours together on the ski slopes and (especially) the terrain park, they didn't stop to consider that this is one of their last times together until January next year. Here are the cousins together for one last time until probably Dec. 2015
-- we were missing only two who are in Brazil :(

Well, here's the post, Kelvin! Now I need to write another one about your present! But that will have to be at another time.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Lamest Spring Break Ever

I'm mildly depressed at our most boring and "sad" (well, it will end really sadly, more on that later) Spring Break ever.

OK, last year was WORSE because the two universities' Spring breaks didn't even coincide, this year at least K & I are off on the same week. Sigh...

The original plan (from when we we excitedly found out our breaks matched) was to drive down to Florida for a week, glorious! Later K decided against it, though, so the boys wouldn't miss more school (they missed several days because of our trip to Brazil). So sad!

Then, K's younger brother ("K4") was planning to visit from Montreal and when we realized that it would be one of K3 & family's last weekends before their move we organized our last "half-family reunion" (and birthday celebration for my eldest son). This was last weekend (and I'll try to blog more about my son's birthday celebration later).

The rest of the week has been relatively uneventful... On Monday I cleaned the house and made Oreo-vanilla ice-cream "cake" & took it to my school to the delight of all 6th grades while my husband went to his office & lab. Then I took the boys for piano lesson.

On Tuesday I took a whole-morning nap!!! (Too bad I had weird nightmares...) and spent some time outside with my youngest son. I also did more cleaning. K had to spend the whole morning judging a science fair at the university (he regretted having volunteered during Spiring Break!) and then he had to go to a meeting at the Brazilian Embassy in DC. And I had to get the boys to bed by myself... :-(

Yesterday I spent most of the day at my sons' school - I made more Oreo ice-cream "cake" for the 6th grade teacher since he'd loved it! I also sent emails and talked to people planning both a wedding shower and the farewell party for the elementary school principal who is leaving with his family...

Today I "dragged" my poor husband to an outlet store because he badly needed shoes and we also wanted to check skiing/snowboarding clothes and we were successful.

The plan for tomorrow is to have the boys miss school so we can go skiing/snowboarding for he last time his season. I actually wanted to drive to the coast to do some sightseeing, but I prefers to stay home.

On Saturday night we have a birthday party to attend in a city 2h away (we may travel there tomorrow night) and on Sunday we want to have lunch with my brother-in-law's family before they go to the airport to move away to Egypt. :-(

So the break will probably end in a very sad note and we'll be grieving the "end of an era" of family geographical closeness for a while. I also hope to write more about this, but in case it doesn't happen, it's registered here.

Yeah, apart from last year's unfortunate mixed up schedules, this is certainly one of the lamest spring breaks we've had!

Monday, March 03, 2014

Productive (and Freezing!) Snow Day

In our first snow-day this year, back on January 21st, we were super, mega productive! I did four loads of laundry and cooked and probably cleaned the house.

That was not the case with the 2nd & 3rd days, Feb. 13-14 (technically no snow days for the school as I explained yesterday). I don't even remember what I did, but I know it involved lots of being cozy in bed and taking naps! :) Only on Friday I think I cooked and cleaned some.

Today K got up determined to be productive! :) We first woke up at 7:40 so I could go online to find out whether U#2 was cancelled (U#1 texted us about it, so we knew as soon as we looked at our phones) and once I found out classes were cancelled, I went back to sleep for a little bit longer. K got up and started on his productivity quests, but the boys jumped into our bed around 8 and I napped and didn't get up until close to 9.

By then K had made breakfast and immediately started cleaning out his bedside table and drawer and the dressers in our bedroom, so I had no choice and began to clean too. I also loaded the dishwasher and washed most of the other dishes in the sink. It took me forever (ADHD makes all "tidying up" very challenging), but I finally cleaned my bedside table and the floor next to my bed.

I only did one load of laundry -- late in the day (and I forgot about it for a couple of hours, so it's drying only now! ;-), but I cleaned out my sons' closet and separated three full bags of their outgrown clothes to donate to friends.

I should have worked more (I have several piles of grading waiting for me), but I mostly just sent various necessary emails and announcements to my students. I'm going to try to work a bit more on the grading before I head to bed, but I'm already yawning. :)

K and youngest son shoveled the driveway and went sledding in the backyard, but Kelvin chose to read on his ipad after he'd cleaned his bedroom, studied piano and put dishes away in the kitchen. So my husband asked him to shovel  the deck and he worked on it for a while until it was getting dark.

It was SOOOO cold outside that I was truly happy to remain indoor and drink cups upon cups of hot tea. K had already taken the cars out of the garage (after cleaning the driveway) when he checked the forecast for tonight (temperatures are supposed to go down to 7 degrees!) and decided to bring the cars back in. I helped getting the cats inside and cleaning the cat litter so we could put the trash in the curb (collection is tomorrow) -- the garage door was open and I almost froze while cleaning. I shiver just thinking about how cold it was/is out there!

Last, but not least, we had "breakfast for dinner" -- yummy vegan pancakes!

P.S. I really enjoyed watching the Oscars last night. I've been watching for years. In high school when I still lived in Brazil I'd stay up until 2 or 3 in the morning to watch until the end! (it used to be 3h difference, but right now it's 2 and next week it'll be only 1 hour forward there).

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Murmuration -- for my friend Heidi!

On January 31st, Heather (Dooce) posted a link to this amazing video and when I watched it I immediately thought of my friend Heidi who had posted some photos of a multitude of starlings in her beautiful blog Ladders of Mercy last year in January. (I'm sorry it took me so long to write this post!) And infinitely sorrier that she had to move away... :(

Did you know they were called Murmuration?

Murmuration from Islands & Rivers on Vimeo.


More snow is coming our way and we're prepared! The extent of the preparation consists of driving the cars into the garage (after bringing the cats inside the house so they won't run out into the cold and wet evening)...

I don't mind more snow, especially if it means one less day of driving 152 miles for me! I'm just worried that classes at the university won't be canceled until the last minute, but even with that risk and that stress, I didn't want to drive tonight to my friends' house and be stranded all day there tomorrow. I really want to be home spending more time with my family.

The boys haven't had that many snow days, so we've thoroughly enjoyed each one we've had -- one in December, the others in the past two months. Technically, they had a total of three (and five in practice) because in one of the snow days school was cancelled anyway for another reason [teacher in-service]-- how lucky of the school! -- and they also had another day in which they logged in snow-related activities at home to count as a school day. It looks like the school wants to do that tomorrow again, we'll see.

So I couldn't be happier and more relaxed. Ready to email my students about an assignment they can do instead of having class tomorrow and ready to grade as I watch the Oscars. YAY!

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Growing up

My sons are growing up so fast! :-(

(I know, this statement is a total cliche for every parent, but oh, so true.)

Especially the eldest (the one whose 12th birthday is in 8 days). He asks me hard questions sometimes ("What does OCD stand for?" And after the explanation, "Am I OCD?").

This week, for the first time I can remember,* he reacted pretty strongly to my job-related stress and asked a lot of hard questions which I didn't have enough time to answer (but hope to do it over time).

* The boys seemed pretty oblivious to all the stress and upheaval back in 2007 when K lost his Big Pharma job and in "The Big Depression" 2009 when we worried about losing the house. But they were much younger then.

Then, as I was tucking him into bed that night, I found out that he actually had felt some of the effects of the upheaval from 2008 and 2009 that resulted in our move here more keenly than I realized. He asked me: "Why did dad have to leave the Big Pharma job?" "Why did we have to move from PA, I loved that house!!" (Me too honey, me too, sniff -- particularly after the transformation - before & after photos worth checking ;-)

Hard to answer!! If you're a longtime reader you'll know that K decided to walk away from the industry job to go back to Academia -- how to explain that to a 12 year old in a way he can understand and without boring him to tears about the job market, etc?

Some of this week's questions: "What do you mean you may not have your job anymore?" "Won't you ever go to _that town_ anymore?" "Why won't you be full time anymore?"

These made me want to be more careful about my own reactions and how much I share with the boys. I've always been really honest with my sons and I'm basically an "open book" kind of person (it's hard for me not to show my emotions), but I don't want to cause them more stress than necessary for a situation that's still uncertain and that may even be resolved. Sigh...

Then, this afternoon, when K put some music to play in the living room Kelvin said: "I don't want to listen to that, it reminds me too much of Philadelphia." :-(

And as sad as I feel about my nostalgic son (because he really enjoys nostalgic conversations and memories) missing our old house, I feel relief that we decided not to move again from here to Georgia soon after we'd moved here, even though K walked away from over half a million dollars of start-up money. Family is more important than money and a more prestigious (and stressful!) academic position and I think where we are now is a better place for the boys to grow up. Way better than that town North of Philadelphia, the spacious renovated house notwithstanding!

I was going to end there, but as I was writing the post I remembered that back in 2005 when this blog was only a few months and posts old, I blogged about a day when Kelvin asked tons of hard questions and I'd even updated the post in 2007 with photos I took as we were having those difficult conversations. I just re-read the post and was amazed to find he had actually asked these questions:
"Are we going to live in this house forever?" "Why not?' "I like to live here!" That's my boy! He's one of those kids who was born with an "old soul," as they say, such a serious little man at three years old!! And blogging is amazing because I can remember that moment so well nine years later!