Sunday, May 21, 2017

14 Weeks of Break

I just realized that there are 14 weeks of break until I go back to work. Well, technically 13 because the first week just ended!

And I just calculated how my year (and my husband's) goes:

17 weeks Spring Semester + 14 of Summer + 17 Fall Semester + 4 Winter Break = 52 weeks.

I like it this way, I just think know I should be more productive each summer. I mean... there are three main kinds of  "productivity" that I'd like to have and which are hard to achieve:
1) get some academic writing done and, possibly, prepare some materials for Fall;
2) get the yard/garden in shape (in spite of the horrible summer heat -- this one is OH SO HARD!)
3) do some home renovations -- paint large portions of the house, renovate the kitchen (pending upon $ for appliances, counter top (granite!)+ sink, floors (probably synthetic again) and back splash (real tiles!), oh, and re-stain the deck -- this one will be done no matter what.

Last, but not least, I want to do a breakdown of the 14 weeks of Summer break -- maybe I can try to figure out how best to plan for the things I'd like or should do.

Week 1: Finished grading on Monday -- HURRAY! I went to the outlet on Tuesday after dropping of a friend at the airport. Had a fun relaxing time & bought at least one important item: ski jacket for my 15 year old at Columbia. Deeply discounted. I exercised, did some volunteering at the elementary school, had friends for lunch yesterday. Watched a movie! Signed up for DVD/Bluray Netflix so I can catch up on movies from the past few years. YES, actual Blurays 'cause you can't stream most movies, I HATE that!!!

Week 2: Scheduled: Party for a friend graduating from medical school today (I have to clean the garage for that); field trip tomorrow; take older kid and friends to movies on Wed. to celebrate last day of school; help with 8th grade graduation Thursday. Watch movies (first this one to prepare for Wednesday).
Tentative Plans: I should start writing an abstract for a paper I'd been solicited (I didn't tell you that, right? yeah! Mixed feelings about it) and work on the house/yard.

Week 3: Scheduled: My youngest turns 13 on Tuesday -- have friends over, plan a surprise (he wants to ride a train, not that easy to plan). Boys start swim team Mon-Th. Youngest will also start French-horn lessons and oldest should start online classes (he wants to do geometry and Spanish 1, I don't know if he'll do it, don't know how much they'd cost).
Tentative Plans: Try to get some things done! Watch more movies.

Week 4: Scheduled: Swim team Mon-Th. evenings; French horn, maybe piano lessons.
Tentative Plans: Get stuff done ;-P Watch movies.

Week 5: Scheduled: Swim team Mon-Th. evenings; French horn, maybe piano lessons.
Tentative Plans: Get stuff done ;-P Watch movies and cancel Nexflix DVD before free trial ends. (LOL!)

Week 6: Scheduled: Swim team Mon-Th. evenings; French horn, maybe piano lessons. Leave for FL on Friday.
Tentative Plans: Get stuff done ;-P Prepare to travel

Week 7: Scheduled: Visit friends in Florida; 3 days in Orlando, drive to Pensacola are
Tentative Plans: Maybe go to one theme park (Islands of Adventure)? Or just relax...

Week 8: Scheduled: Spend week with K's mother and brothers in rental beach house in the Florida Panhandle.
Tentative Plans: Just relax -- celebrate my birthday and my nephew's (same day! --> post I wrote when he was born) for the first time.

Week 9: Scheduled: Visit New Orleans and drive up stopping in Monroeville (of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird fame) and possibly other civil-rights locations, Selma, Montgomery?
Tentative Plans: Visit friends in Tennessee before driving up home.

Week 10: Scheduled: I will teach a private class for six hours a day + 2.5 hours of driving. Resume French horn/piano?
Tentative Plans: Don't think I can handle much more, maybe more movies (ha ha ha!). Ideally, work on the house.

Week 11: Scheduled: same as last week  
Tentative Plans: same

Week 12: Scheduled: Mon-Tue: I go to a workshop on language teaching at a university in DC. Drive to Canada towards the end of the week.
Tentative Plans: try to do whatever is needed before it's too late. ;-P Stop in New England before reaching Canada?

Week 13: Scheduled: Nephew's 3rd birthday party (his first actual party, poor baby -- his brother had several and a huge 1st b-day one) and drive back home. 
Tentative Plans: Maybe a Coldplay concert in Montreal?? (I really want to go!) Stop somewhere fun (NYC?) on the way back.

Week 14: Scheduled: kids start school    
Tentative Plans: get prepared for teaching the following week.

Conclusion: I can only really get some work done on Weeks 4-6 -- scary thought! In any case, if I come up with any more detailed plans for those weeks, I'll let you know. ;-) ;-P

Monday, May 15, 2017

FINALLY DONE!

I am so relieved that I am done. I regret (as always) that I procrastinated grading their online homework so much and left it for the very last minute. I MUST do better next semester, seriously, and not only because it's going to be insane because I'll have a minimum of 54 -- FIFTY FOUR! -- beginner level students.

I think I'll start a new thing, a strategy that may be helpful to us -- I'll separate students by Spanish native speakers versus non-native Spanish speakers and try to prepare materials and assessment tools for each group.

I need to prepare some material over the summer, though... which is always highly unlikely.

Did I mention to you that I'm teaching private lessons for two weeks late in July? That will be intense and tiresome, but maybe I can use some of that time to prepare materials? ;-)

I'm also going to participate in an ACTFL workshop that I hope will help me be a better language teacher.

I loved loved loved teaching literature and it was WONDERFUL to feel very confident and quite on top of my game teaching what I'm really prepared for. Only the Lord knows when I'll get to do it again, but I don't have a lot of hard feelings about that at the moment, I'm at peace, at least for the time being. Sigh...

OK, I still can't believe I'm done. With 22h to spare before the deadline -- which is NOT good in any way, but better than on the very due date, right? RIGHT?! ;-)

And let the summer begin! Hopefully I'll be doing some gardening and cleaning up and -- MAYBE -- some things around the house??

Sunday, May 14, 2017

So close to done!

Just a quick update as I take a moment to breath while grading.
(Warning: this is a most boring post about grading!)

I am this close to finishing all my grading. I'm sorry it took me several days (4!) to respond to your question, What Now?, but classes ended for me on Monday 5/2, that's why I was able to travel with my son's robotics team to California for six days.

We returned on the day of my first final (last Monday 5/8), but I needed to ask a friend to administer that exam because we were supposed to get back at noon and the exam was at 9 am (in the end we got delayed and got back only 3 pm). I gave another final last Tuesday and then it was hard to get all the grading started because I was exhausted, had laundry to catch up on, went back to exercising with some friends in the morning, and I participated in some activities in my youngest son's school (in addition to driving the boys back and forth from home to school and vice-versa).

Once I got started, it wasn't very bad. I graded all final papers for my literature class on Thursday and got started with the 9 page long final exams. I finished grading those on Friday, but couldn't get much done because I had to drive 3 hours for a half an hour meeting with some colleagues and the department chair (I will reveal the subject of the meeting later).

I took my 24h Sabbath break (in which I actually was very busy preparing food and coordinating the church potluck lunch) which was extended by a few hours because of the final Spring concert of my son's high school -- he's in band, orchestra and choir. He actually won an award of one of the "Best Newcomers" in Band!! We were so happy and pleasantly surprised!! After the concert, I graded one last paper and submitted the lit class grades and now, all that stands between me and being DONE is a bunch of online work (compositions, reflections). I am almost done with their online homework on the textbook's website.

Checking work online is VERY tedious and I still have some PTSD from my HORRENDOUS University of Phoenix/Axia College stint back in 2009-10. That was awful.

So... I'm hoping to be done tonight, but I'm afraid I'll fall asleep while trying to check online work. We'll see, maybe I'll drink some tea, eat some dark chocolate, and I'll succeed. Wish me luck! I'll let you know when I get done.

P.S. oh, and it was mother's day, so my husband and younger son prepared breakfast and brought it to me in bed (I was anxious to start grading, but had to wait 50 minutes for them to come in. Then, I didn't get started until noon -- bad bad me!). And this evening we had an event at the elementary school with the families of the robotics team. It was nice, but I cooked and made a mess in the kitchen (again) for my poor husband. He came to log in a gentle complaint a few minutes ago and I felt bad for the mess I made. OK, now back to grading!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

In Closing (last post on the unsynchronized trips)

I don't know the dates of next year's trips yet, and maybe they won't be back to back like this year. One thing I do know, we'll have to add one more trip to the mix! In addition to Music Tour for Kelvin, Bell Tour and Robotics Trip for L, there will be L's 8th grade class trip! I clearly remember missing Kelvin last year...

Then, for two years the boys will be attending the same high school (if we don't end up sending one of them to Brazil for a semester or a year) and having the same Music Tour, but Kelvin will have the Junior Class New England history and literature tour and then Senior Class trip.

Spring semester is a busy one for sure, but I CAN'T WAIT for them to be in college so we can at least (maybe? if we all stay in this state?) have the same Spring Break and hopefully plan a family trip again. Nothing will be worse than the three weeks of Spring Breaks in 2013: K had his at U1 (and partly me too since I taught a class there), then I had mine at U2 and then the boys had theirs. Boo!

OK, I should be grading, but here I am... sigh... I hope to finish by Friday!

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Reunited! (and now it's time for grading) ;-P

Yesterday our family was reunited again in a very unlikely place, an airport!! I was glad to see my oldest son again after two weeks away from him (we missed him by a couple of hours last Tuesday when they arrived in the same airport from which we departed).

While my youngest son and I were gone to Northern California, we were going to miss several graduations, including that of my husband's cousin and his wife (and to top it off they just had a baby last January) which was going to happen in Michigan. On Thursday, K decided to get tickets with some of our United miles for him and Kelvin and they ended up going to surprise the cousins! It turns out that K's younger brother ("K4") and his family were driving down from Canada too and they almost surprised one another!

They were able to catch a ride to the airport on Friday and I was going to pick them up yesterday at a different airport from the one we were landing. We both lost our second flights back (us from Detroit, him from Chicago) so he and Kelvin were able to change their flights to come to the same airport we were flying into! He arrived 20 minutes before we did!

After sleeping for over 11 hours I am still a bit tired (we caught a red-eye flight back from San Francisco, then missed our connecting flight which was only 25 minutes after the other anyway -- so it was our fault when purchasing the ticket), but I have to administer a final exam this afternoon and grade like there's no tomorrow. ;-)

I'm sure it will go by relatively fast, though and I'm looking forward to being done in a few days!!!

This trip was one of the best trips of my life, seriously!!! The weather was AH-MA-ZING!!! Two days in San Francisco, a day in Yosemite, a couple of day in Auburn (we were going to Lake Tahoe, but it was raining AND snowing! The only time the weather didn't help us), the competition in the outskirts of Sacramento (which we didn't get to see, but I'm ok with that). I'll share lots of photos of landscapes later! Now I have to finish two loads of laundry and drive to give the final at 2 pm.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Glimpses of the "Day of the Lost Photos"

scheduled post :-)

Here are some photos my youngest son took last year on May 31st, the day I took hundreds of gorgeous photos which got accidentally deleted from the memory card. :-(
The saddest part is that my parents were with us and they also took very few photos, so we only have my oldest son's photos and videos (lots of it thankfully, but which he never takes time to edit) to remember the day by.

I never mentioned that my youngest son called me A LOT during his trip (7 times on the Thursday of the trip, plus texting) and that was great! Kelvin has called me twice from Costa Rica, on Friday morning and Saturday night. I was very thankful and happy!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

One more Unsyncronized Travel detail

An addendum to the last post!
 
It turns out that when my son returns from Costa Rica tomorrow night, our group will already be close to the airport (staying at someone's house) so we can spend the night there and leave early in the morning on Tuesday. :-(

Therefore, I won't see my son for two whole weeks. Probably the longest I'll be away from him.

No big deal, I know... (and just the beginning too), but still, I wish I could see him before we leave.

I am supposed to be very productive and to be checking lots and lots of items in a long to-do list, but I'm quickly writing this post (of course!). I have a already downloaded and backed up three SD cards full of photos and videos, most of which had NOT yet been downloaded into the computer since last AUGUST! (I know! Crazy!). Losing all of May 31st New York City photos did a number to me -- I became so upset I stopped caring about photos for a little while. (I quickly mentioned this unfortunate event in this post).

Today I recovered a handful of photos from that day -- my youngest son took a few -- very very few! :-(  And I was also backing up the photos on his phone.

I also graded about 30 exams, but I still need to grade 5 papers (two of which I printed out -- together with the rubrics and FORGOT to pick up from the department printer on Friday!) :-( And the two worst things: I have to finish packing, which is HELL for ADHD me -- making decisions is torture for me, even if it's just deciding which clothes and shoes to take.

Sigh...

And the worst of the worst -- some online grading that I need to do of my students projects that were completed a month and a half ago. I can't stand grading anything online. I will be using paper rubrics and there aren't that many projects to look at, but still... I keep putting it off.

OK, I have to go do something. I think there are a few more items in the list. Yes, finishing revising final exam (two students need to take it tomorrow even though it's the last day of class because of my trip), making a recording for the exam and possibly a few other things...

Wish me luck! 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Month of Disconnected Travels

Today my youngest son arrives from his six day trip with the bell choir.

Tomorrow night (more like Tuesday early morning), our oldest leaves to go to Costa Rica with the music groups (orchestra and choir) of his high school.

He comes back Monday next week and the next morning my youngest son and I leave for a six day trip to California where our elementary school's robotics team will take part of a national competition (for our denominational schools). The competition is only on 5/7, but we go earlier to visit San Francisco, Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, and other places in the Sacramento area (where the competition takes place). We are so excited and delighted to be going!

Travel is one of our favorite things!

In addition to our "disconnected travels" this month, we are hosting one of my husband's youngest cousin who lived here from 2012-13 and graduated from high-school from the same academy our son is attending. He is currently spending a year volunteering in Tunisia and he took a short break. It's good to have him visit!

I know the next two weeks will be CRAZEEE, but I also know all of us will enjoy every minute of it all -- well, except for my husband, poor thing, he's staying put through all or our comings and goings, poor thing!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

My Youngest Son's First Trip Solo

This morning I sent off my youngest son in his first bell-choir trip. Three years ago I blogged about the first of such trips for our family and how Kelvin had such a great time. Kel was in 6th grade at the time, but L only joined the bell choir this year in 7th grade. I imagine that Kel is probably happy about this so he didn't have had to put up with his "little brother" during last year's trip. ;-)

As in most previous years there are 4 boys and 9 girls in the group and two of the boys happen to be my son's good friends (although the friendship is changing with the oldest of the two since he's going through puberty ahead of L and getting moody and cranky, which strains the relationship). I hope he'll have a good time, though I know he won't be as enthusiastic about the trip as his brother was three years ago -- they are so different from each other!

Edited to add: He just called me (9:40 pm) and all is well, but he did forget to pack pajamas! He'll be able to use a pair of comfortable shorts and a t-shirt. I told him to try to select one of the t-shirts or at least wear a new one every night (and then keep it during the day).

I miss him, of course!

P.S. this is the third Tuesday in a row I miss going to the Farmer's market because of an outside obligation (in this case, going to the airport, unfortunately Reagan, to pick up some students. I'm being paid $200 for my trouble, but it's still kind of annoying, sigh...).

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses!

I should be working on my garden, right now, and getting some sun on my shoulders to get lots of vitamin D... and I will, in a few minutes. I want to get some pesky thoughts out of my head first, though. I think it'll be therapeutic.

Having ADHD sucks, it really does. I love, love, love the hyperactive, creative, boundless energy (until it's gone) side of it. I like how my brain is all over the place and all the thoughts and unexpected connections I make. I feel very alive and full of interests, it's exciting! I hate the bad side of it, the fact that even on medication I can't start on things I hate to do, I can't do what I NEED to do.

I hate too many things about it and I don't want to focus on those here, although I already used the title of the post against myself -- my brain is an EXPERT, in finding excuses. As Heather would say (love, love, love her! I'm THRILLED she's back with a redesigned blog, it makes me happy and energized to blog more), my brain is the valedictorian of excuse-making.

Sigh...

So, yeah... I have recently remembered some excuses that are very valid, though. I'm having this horrible depressing professional crisis which is NOT the subject of this post, and I realized the other day that now the I'm taking medication (on and off), I have to make good on my promise to try to write academic papers (sigh...).   (I'd love to do it, as a matter of fact).

Back to gardening, though... all through last year I didn't weed one particular flower bed (one that I build with my own arms and hands years ago and that cost me a ridiculous 200+ dollars -- I should TOTALLY have just bought a ready-made raised bed at a store. [links/photos coming later]) and there were various excuses, but I think that this action stunted and basically killed a bunch of beautiful tulips. I'm very sad and upset.

OK, so now that I wrote this quick post I will go and take some photos to capture the "before" state of another flower bed and work on it for a while.

Then later... I'll get a haircut and highlights, how's that for a nice Spring day? (I may get a mani-pedi too, we'll see). ;-)

Monday, April 10, 2017

Crazy week of little sleep

Quick update because I need to go to bed.

Last week was pretty crazy! It started with a super intensely packed & exhausting weekend because last Sunday was the day when I cooked dinner for all my students (around 30 people). Everything went well, with the help of my husband (who started coming with me last semester for the first time in five years!), but it was stressful and tiresome.

Then, Monday night (with no sleep!) and Tuesday came along and the week got crazier. One great thing about last week is that we ended up having two "game nights" with friends who used to live here, but who were living further South for the past three years and are getting ready to move to Tulsa, OK over the summer. We got together on Monday and Wednesday and it was great.

Thursday was an ok day (yoga, some shopping, and a dinner date with my husband to celebrate our 27 years together), then, I had to pack for over 36 hours away. I left on Friday morning and had to leave straight from work to drive for several hours to meet up with my son who was attending a music festival with his school.

We stayed overnight with a good friend who moved from Brazil to the U.S. three years ago, but who we rarely see. They live in the house where my brother-in-law and his family used to live and it was the first time we stayed there for the night after they moved to Egypt three years ago. It was fine, much better than the first time we visited back in 2014, that felt really weird and sad.

Since I see my friend so rarely, we stayed up until 1 am talking about our sons, our families, etc... we literally had years to catch up on. On Saturday my son had a concert in the morning with his band and the bell choirs (10 of them!) and then I got to spend a couple more hours with my friend before visiting my aunt and uncle. That visit was fun because my cousin's son, who is almost three years old and the cutest boy ever, was there and L, my 12 year old, enjoyed playing with him.

We stopped at a couple of grocery stores on the way and didn't get home until 11 pm! Then, K & I had so much to catch up on (especially with all of my conversations with friends and family over the weekend) that we were talking until nearly 4 am. And today I did three loads of laundry and had to spend a lot of time in the soccer field with my son (last Sunday he had to go with his coach).

Needless to say, we're exhausted! I took a short nap earlier this evening, that's why I'm still up, but I'm headed to bed now! 

P.S. I'm really mad that I didn't realize there was a new SNL last night, so I missed it. It's ok, though, because I was talking to my husband. TV is not as important as family!

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

You'll never guess...

... how I spent this day, the "happiest Tuesday of the year" ;-)  It's easy to guess that I did NOT, in fact go to the Farmer's market as I was looking forward to.

I also could NOT sleep in for a few hours to catch up on sleep I decided to lose to see the new Brontë film. I turns out I had to go to the Brazilian consulate to notarize a copy of my Brazilian ID card so we can send it express to Brazil so that the process of figuring out my father-in-law's estate can proceed! :-(

It was just an extremely long day. Instead of driving for my regular maximum of 3h, I drove for 5+ (total), but I did get to go to IKEA!! And to a Brazilian store and also got to run some other errands.

I didn't get back home until 8:30 pm, though, so I'm trying to work some before I go to bed. I'm ready to crash, but I can't yet! :-(

To Walk Invisible

This was beautiful! I'm buying the blu-ray. You can see it for free for five more days in the PBS Masterpiece website. So sad as well, but so beautifully done. Their lives must have been even harder. Somehow the way it ends so unexpectedly made me cry more than I thought I would! I just had to stay up until past 4 am to see it. So gorgeous and moving. I need to go to Haworth now to visit the Brontë Parsonage Museum. Bucket list item!

The Absolutely Happiest Tuesday of the Year!!!!

Today is one of my favorite days of the year because the Tuesday Farmer's Market it back!!

Our local market is open year-round on Saturdays, but I don't shop or work on that day, so I look forward to April to November when I can enjoy the Market on Tuesdays!

Well, I hope I can get there tomorrow today before it ends, because I'm still up, watching the new Masterpiece about my beloved Charlotte, Anne, and Emily Brontë (I even named my youngest son after a Wuthering Heights character. ;-) I'll blog about it later.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Blame it all (blog hiatus mostly) ;-P on the birthday boy

My son turned 15 two and a half weeks ago and I didn't even blog about it! Or about anything else, for that matter.

The main reason is that with him constantly gaming and editing videos, I have hardly ANY access to our only desktop! :-(  And I don't like to use my macbook pro that needs urgent file purging to work ok. (and a secondary reason is that I have NOT installed any other blogging apps on my phone, so I continue not to be able to blog from the phone! :-( :-( :-(

So... what have you missed? TONS ;-P

If we're friends on Facebook, you'll know that on International Women's Day my husband and I went to DC to get our Brazilian passports and we ended up participating of a Women's March protest in front of the White House. That was awesome because minutes before the march started pouring in, we were there looking at that place and feeling horribly dismal and upset.

Too bad we came back home to find out that our youngest son needed a new passport too! What a failure!! Sigh...

I wanted to blog more about my "Volunteering" Spring Break, so I'll leave it at that for now (many many hours of volunteering, but, thankfully, also three fitness classes [two yoga], YAY! Conversely, I haven't been to one in two weeks [since then!! oh no!!]).

I still cannot believe that the craziness had taken various hits and that we have a temporary break and some respite from the constant anguish and despair. I'm indescribably relieved that the second banned was blocked even before it went into effect and there are no words to describe my relief about the health care replace failure. I literally want to cry for joy.

The hard part is that we still don't know what is going to happen in the rest of this presidency, there's no predicting it. :-(  Have you been reading/following Dan Rather's Facebook updates? It's the BEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED since the election. Reading what that man writes keeps me sane (yesterday's post is most excellent, and a great "sample"). I like him better than Michael Moore who can be a little incendiary and who's been very very quiet lately... don't know why. I hope his health is OK.

Ok, what else? Well, there's some more, but maybe it's worth saving the juiciest bits for stand-alone posts.

Dirty confession (that also deserves its own post, but is too silly not to mention): I have become a  LuLaRoe legging semi-addict, but I'm working on quitting, slowly, but surely. Sigh...

I'll end here, this is a jumbled and long enough post to break the hiatus, isn't it?

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

A rare day

Edited on 4/4/17 3:17 am
 
Today is a rare day, [because] I get to teach about my dissertation subject. One of the three authors [I wrote about]. Who knows when I'm going to do that again?

That's why it's bittersweet. Nice, and at the same time heartbreaking.

Today I thought I want to write a book about this author, and I don't care whether I'm not supposed to, but I will try.

I don't want to be silenced by a system that prevents me from being a true scholar. {later rephrasing of same sentence}: I want to do it [write a book] to defy a system that prevents me from being a true scholar and sees me as less. I want to make mine the slogan nevertheless, against all odds, she persisted.


Note: I spoke this to my phone, sentence by sentence (that's why the first line of the fourth paragraph was accidentally the first line when I "published" this) on the first 10 minutes of my drive to work (before I got on the highway. I never do this on the highway).

Then I cried for about five minutes and I was really depressed for a few days afterwards. O 3/6, I started writing a post titled "Blame it on the STUPID USELESS PAIN INFLICTING PhD (again, and again, and again)" which began "I hate hate hate my life right now." And right then I did, for a few anguished moments. I even had a sad [to me] conversation with my husband about all this, and then, after a few days, the negative, dark feelings dissipated... for now at least. It's hard, but only unbearably painful for a few fleeting moments. I have lots of other things in my life. More later.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Ethnic Cleansing, or "Make America *White* Again"

The days following the election, I was extremely upset and spent every waking minute interacting with equally stressed out friends on social media and reading a select few news stories and analyses (while avoiding most media contact, even listening to NPR, like the plague).

It didn't help my mood that my generally calm and collected "geeky scientist" husband was beside himself. I think I've never seen him so distressed and angry in our 26 years together! And the worst part is that as election week went on he became progressively more distraught (he couldn't even get much sleep). I was relieved that after a couple of weeks, the negativity wore off slowly (while I continued to be distressed). Now, over three months later he -- the optimist who most criticizes my "realistic pessimist" outlook on life -- is very pessimistic.

What K was most upset about soon after the election is something that still worries him exceedingly: It is the fact that this so-called-president (henceforth I'll call "it" #45) had and still has the support of millions of people and because of that, there is no way to stop #45. Unless an overwhelming majority turns against #45 it will be hard for anything to be done to remove "it" from power (at least that's what my husband thinks).

The second thing that K kept saying is that #45 and his cronies figured out a way to prevent the seemingly inevitable "statistical takeover" that was going to take place because Hispanics and other current "minority" groups were slowly turning into a majority. K said to me on the Thursday after the election that if #45 really did remove millions of Hispanics and other brown skinned immigrants from the country he would succeed in making it "whiter" and, possibly, make the conservative movement stronger.

In the "lull" that followed the election, K stopped talking about this anti-immigrant/ anti-brown people stance that bothered him, but now that we've seen that #45 is really serious about his pursuit of what can be described as a new kind of "ethnic cleansing" we are upset again. If he succeeds in this and many other changes he wants to put in place, the country will change dramatically.

And now there's talk of spending tons of money on defense and cutting many other programs -- including the tiny budget for various art and humanities initiatives, I'm sure. I mentioned war in my post from a week ago (it seems that Tuesday is the day I blog now) ;-P and war is so terrible and deadly -- but very lucrative to a few people.

I don't know how we're going to survive #45. He is poised to cause so much harm (and already has). I can hardly think of anything else -- I wish I could blog about more light-hearted topics... but I'm having a hard time to do that right now.

OK, I'll just say that I watched most of the Victoria Masterpiece Theater marathon this past Sunday and now I'm hooked and have a new winter "pleasure" to replace Downtown Abbey. I stayed up well past midnight last night just reading about Victoria and Albert and other related things. So fascinating!! And historic! I want to be motivated to read more history so I can enjoy more my future visits to Europe. Especially to Germany and it's castles. I LOOOOOOOOOVE Germany! (well, maybe it's a DNA thing, I'm pretty much 50% German).

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The (Relative) Calm Before the Storm is Practically Over/ people like us

I'm bracing myself, I really am. Just waiting for the next horror to unfold and make me anxious and upset.

I meant to post this yesterday, when the new policies on immigration weren't out yet and I could have written that the calm was almost, but not yet, over. Sigh... this new  "regime" of #45 is relentlessly upsetting (I was going to create a new and unfortunate #45 label for the blog, but I already have "Unprecedented times," so I'll keep that instead). 

The worst part about all of this is the utter despair that it's not a far fetched possibility that there will be EIGHT LONG YEARS of this nightmare. And by then it may be too late to reverse the damage done to the country (whose democracy and prominent position in the world may be very well be destroyed), to the environment, to the lives of countless people who will be hurt by the immigration laws and the healthcare act's demise. People will die. And, there may be war, an even worse prospect.

War...

Sigh...

Why would anyone want to go to war? This horrible man Bannon, which SNL displays as death personified, wants to do just that. Some people profit from wars, other people actually enjoy inflicting suffering on others they disagree with. (Shudder)

How will this country be in four or eight years? How will the world be?

By the way it's going, it seems that in this country truth and facts won't matter, racial and gender tensions will become worse and horrible, the rich will be richer still and the poor more destitute. What else?

The past two weeks have given me some small, but much needed respite, but I wish I could have hope! :-( There is no hope. Even my optimist husband is gloomy, upset and discouraged. He refuses to watch SNL because he doesn't think it's funny. He watches Steven Colbert, Trevor Noah, and Seth Meyers instead.

I read those new memes on facebook, the one about the "I will not work with him" to do this and that and this long list of horrible setbacks which you're supposed to cut and paste and add your name to the end; or the one about the country "being great again" because everyone is mobilized, getting informed, calling their representatives, etc. and I just feel worse and worse.

There are news and calls to protest events and countless appeals for signing this or that petition show up, and I am truly thankful that nearly everyone I'm friends with on FB feels that same way. And then these horrible articles are published about how we're isolating ourselves and only interacting with like-minded people and not trying to understand the other side.

How can we understand the other side, though? HOW?? I'm truly afraid to talk to most people in my church for fear that we have next to nothing in common except for our religious denomination/faith. I cringe to think that one of my son's teachers (soon to be homeroom teacher for 8th grade in September, my older son's teacher in both 7th and 8th grade) went to the inauguration. I don't want to talk to him about any of these things. How can I? It's too personal for me, being an immigrant and all... I don't feel like I can talk to anyone without breaking down into sobs and making them really uncomfortable. But maybe I should? I probably wouldn't cry, I would just sound so angry and upset I'd be incoherent and unable to formulate good arguments. I just can't bring myself to talk about politics with anyone. Sigh...

people like you and me

Last, but not least, a few quick words about the three families from Aleppo we are sponsoring. I have met one of them, the young man in his early 20s who came with his parents and whose apartment we helped rent. He came to church twice and sat with our family. The day I met him, it was hard, very hard, not to cry. I quietly followed him and my husband to our seat, almost biting my lip, crying inwardly. Just thinking about the other two family and their 7 children makes me want to sit down and cry and cry at the outrageous thought of not helping such families, such people.

Such a handsome young man. Dark hair, black rimmed glasses, shy and quiet, doesn't speak much English. His family is Yazidi, BTW, that's why he came to visit our church, the other families are Muslim.

I got some snippets of news from our friend who lives in their same town and has visited often the two families and taken them to the doctor/hospital, etc. (the 2 year old girl of the youngest couple was having lots of trouble with her legs, I don't know if there was a diagnosis yet). The older couple who has four children, twin boy and girl (14), two boys (11 or 12 and 9) probably had their application for refugee status granted because the middle boy has autism. After they'd left Aleppo to Turkey 4 years ago the children had never been able to go to school. The autistic boy had actually never been to school. After all their paperwork and immunizations got straightened out, they went to school and the boy with autism loved it. So much so that the next day he got up and got dressed on his own and was next to the door waiting for the bus.

If that doesn't make you want to cry, I don't know what will.

Then, two weeks ago my friend posted that one of the twins and the boy with autism had gotten hearing aids and had been able to hear their mother's voice clearly for the first time. The fathers are working and our pastor helped them buy a car so they can drive to work. The 20+ year old young man doesn't like it here because it's very rural and there's nothing going on -- social life is intense in Middle Eastern countries. I hope that after they get work and apply for their residency they can move to a place that will suit them better.

One of the things I hated the first day that young man came to church, about 12 days after their arrival and 7 days after the travel ban was issued was how several people kept telling him: "You came just in time! You're so lucky!" Why did they need to point that out? Sigh...

Maybe I'll get to meet the other families this coming weekend. I'll let you know more about it when I can. And soon the next storm will start, that will impact the lives of many more people like them -- like us. :-(

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Thanks to my kid I know more Grammy music!

Of course I like Adele or Beyonce on my own, but thanks to him I also know and have listened to music from Lukas Graham, John Legend, and Sia regularly when he plays it in the car or around the house. And since last year I started checking out the Grammy music & watching the show (I'd never really done it before). I think it's fun to be more in tune to the music that has been popular in the past year and it's much easier to do that when you have a teenager in the house. ;-P

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Blogging in 2017...

... is lonely and discouraging.

But blogging is one of "my favorite things!!!" :-(

BTW the label/song-nod, is wrong because I have A LOT of favorite things, really, not a few by any stretch of the imaginations... shall I list?
... traveling!! (planning trips, being out and about)
... my sons & my family
... colors! (greens and aqua and rainbow colors, rainbow things, rainbow anything!)
... clothes and shoes and cute things
... music
... cooking for people! (my "drug of choice," remember?)

yeah... and much more.

Back to blogging in 2017, though... sigh... it's frustrating to say the least. I made so many friends through blogging! It literally changed my life (I'd like to a post from 2006 -- ELEVEN years ago! -- but why? I know how to find it, nobody will read)

And now... all that I can do to keep up with these dear and thoughtful friends I made is to hang out in STUPID Facebook! :-( And since I hardly ever post there, those friends, who no longer read my blogs or any blogs (I'd like to hope, 'cause it's very sad to think they still read other people's but just got tired of mine or something, it hurts my feelings, not to mention my self-esteem which is already pretty bad!) don't know what's going on with me much.

I blog for myself though, the same way that I still keep journals -- a daily one, writing a few lines about each day (generally once a week on Saturdays) and sometimes on another one I can write more. I re-read my journals regularly and I also re-read old blog posts quite often. It is a wonderful way to keep track of one's life -- and also the lives of my sons to a lesser degree (given that I've never blogged much about them, as I wrote on this lovely post from 2013).

So, yeah... I'm glad Jamie is still around (and sent me this most beautiful, absolutely GORGEOUS shawl I have yet to blog about) as well as What Now? Thank you SO MUCH to both of you for still reading and commenting!

I love to blog and I'll keep on doing. I just don't know if I can trust Google not to delete Blogger. I need to back up this blog somewhere safe and I hope Google will let us know ahead of time if it decides to shut this free service (for which I am very thankful) down.

I want to give an update on the refugees, since What Now? asked, but it will have to be another post. I should be grading now, but I'm blogging, obviously. Classic procrastination tool!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Best Class Ever or...

... sheer torture? Because it could be "the last" for a long, long while... who knows how long. :-(

I'm teaching a lit class because "the person above me"* is on leave this semester. But that person just emailed me last Friday to take away the only 3000 level class I teach so we can offer three beginner level classes next semester and try to grow the program. It's good to grow the program, but... sigh... it feels like my losing ground here.

* the no-longer-that-new hire, who is younger than me, has less experience, and is not from my country (a white dude from California, a most typical American academic).

There is a flicker of hope after all the angst of last year (which I was never able to blog about in a straightforward manner for various reasons). [WHOA, there are 126 posts with the "Working in the Margins" label? Wow, I write a lot about this depressing subject, don't I? Only "Academic Life," "Job search" {mostly my  husband's various ones}, and "Family Travels" {yay! winner!} have more posts!] Maybe, just maybe, some of us lecturers will be granted non-tenure track academic ranking/titles. I'm not counting on it and, if my "demotion" to basic level classes is any indication, things aren't really going well for me in this department.

I will try to be hopeful, though, as best as I can. And in the mean time, enjoy every minute of my amazing class. Six bright and motivated girls, readings and films I feel very comfortable teaching. I think it'll be awesome. YAY!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Doing a small thing/ Despair/ What can we do?

this promises to be long, and rambling, and... but... I have to write tonight, I just do, so please bear with me if you're so inclined. (written on Wednesday night 1/25)
 
I just created two new labels now: RESIST! (can't have exclamation marks on labels) and Unprecedented Times, to go with my older and vaguely feminist "Political and Personal" label.

You know... I have a pretty charmed life, perfect really. Apart from the tough mega commute, some tensions at work, and my heart's desire to be a "real academic" somehow, I need to recognize that I have a really good job when so many people bad ones or none at all. [meta-blogging comment:] I also feel sad that I lost the precious community I had with/through this blog for several years and now I thirstily follow people's updates on facebook (which I hate with a passion) because I miss reading their blogs so much! (sigh... I will never get over this, NEVER. It's an ongoing frustration that I enjoy sharing here, but people who used to read and care about what I have to say don't anymore. Except for Jamie! Thank you so much, my friend!

Anyway... other than that (and some other issues that have more to do with my "fragmented" life), everything is good. Lovely family, husband, kids, extended family.

But I cannot be happy just for myself, and my family. I feel the need to protect the environment, to fight for social justice, to stand up for those who are oppressed, to listen with compassion to people who are different from me, to humbly recognize my privilege (even though I am also part of several minority groups), and do my part to make the world a better place. A place with more equality, less poverty and disenfranchisement, more acceptance and understanding and less racial strife and sexual discrimination (among many other things).

I am having a really really hard time living in this country now. Where millions of people are just APATHETIC because doing nothing, ignoring politics, not voting has no serious consequences for their privileged little lives (or so they think!). Instead of being upset at those who voted, I am upset at those who didn't because they didn't CARE. Because they think politics is corrupt and useless or because they were upset with the choices at hand. I am really angry at those people.

Sigh...

I am getting bitter and bitterer each moment I spend reading what my outraged friends are posting to facebook. So many bizarre things happening all at once. It's been CRAZY since last Friday -- it's hard to take it all in and not despair.

There is one small thing that is making me feel a teeny, tiny bit better right now. It's really small, but it's something.

I mentioned briefly that the network of "house churches" we are involved with sponsored three Syrian refugee families this past December (and it's giving them ongoing support). A couple of weeks ago we decided to stretch ourselves to the limit and sponsor one more family who arrived yesterday. My husband and I were co-signers on their lease.

It's a really small thing, but it's something.

I cannot think that refugees will not be coming anymore, that hard working people (whose jobs NO ONE ELSE WANTS!) will probably be sent back to their countries -- maybe with their American citizen kids (who knows?), and, perhaps saddest of all, thinking of all the people, children, elderly, who will die without health insurance.

I have to keep myself from thinking about any of these things lest I burst into tears multiple times a day.

What can we do?

Friday, January 20, 2017

. . .

I don't know how to title this.

i don't feel like capitalizing anything... as if small letters could convey better how scared and sad i feel inside. more like disconsolate. expecting the worse.

why are there lots of people who keep reassuring everyone that this is no big deal?

this is not normal, it hasn't happened before. such an unprepared, sick man who picked questionable people to help him dismantle everything...

i've never really checked the news, but now i do even less. i may have to stop listening to npr. is npr even going to survive? or any other humanities and arts initiatives that depend on government funding?

sigh...

government in this country is about to change forever. i saw a headline saying that there will be permanent changes in civil rights laws...

the rich will get even richer and polute even more

those who most need help with their health and their kids' education won't have it

. . .

In the meantime, our small network of "house churches" has just signed up to sponsor a THIRD family of refugees from Syria who arrive in 4 days. The first two arrived before the holidays and we were so busy with grading that we couldn't help at all :-( though we donated furniture, money, raised money and donations from my husband's department.

The families, both from Aleppo, if I'm not mistaken: a young couple (she in early 20s, him 30) with three small children (3, 2 and not even 1). A middle aged couple with four kids, twin boy and girl aged 14, autistic boy aged 12 and 9 year old boy -- they had been in Turkey for two, three years and the children had never been allowed to go to school.

The new family is an older couple (50s-60s) and a son in his 20s.

Refugees are being hurriedly brought into the country by agencies before it's too late, before the door closes. I will concentrate in helping the refugees (I haven't met them yet, actually), I will refuse to let this bring me down.

Resist, we need to resist.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

First Meal of the Day:

5 pm.

:-(

It was a wonderful day of teaching!

P.S. Blogging on my phone again. [Trying to!] One. Word. At. A. Time. Literatlly
(Except this note I cut & pasted)


ETA -- and cutting and pasting from Notes on the iPhone doesn't work (different color text, see below):

P.S. Blogging on my phone again. One. Word. At. A. Time. Literally. 
(Except this note I cut & pasted)

First day and...

... of course I forgot to take my medication!

I guess I'll have some coffee instead!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Last Day

Tomorrow I go back to work, so I'm spending a few extra minutes in my cozy bed this morning, even though I already had to drop off my youngest son at school. 

It's raining out there and I wish that maybe I could sleep a bit more, but I already took my medication (hoping I can sleep earlier tonight -- it still makes me more alert at night than I'd like (and I'm already a night owl -- that's my biggest worry if my son were to take medication, he'd never sleep!). I will just read in bed to prepare for my classes, I'm really excited for the opportunity to teach literature once more -- I'm making a HUGE effort to try to look at a "glass half-full" here instead of being my regular negative self. I promise you I am. Sigh...

Ok, more later, before I relapse!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

My Gorgeous Baby Brother's Birthday!

WOW, I can't believe it's been seven years since I last blogged about my "baby brother's" birthday (he's only 2.5 years younger than me, I don't think I should call him baby brother, but, oh well... I will!). This is actually the third time in 12 years I blog about this, the first time was nine years ago.

So, let's do the math, I guess he turned 43 today... we're both getting old (duh! as my oldest son would say). I congratulated him on Facebook (where he doesn't list is b-day BTW) and thanked him for giving me the gift of the most gorgeous nephew and niece in the world. Totally true! (especially the niece)
I don't know if I should be sharing this last photo (that my husband took back in 1995), but my bro will never see this, so I guess it's ok! ;-)

Firsts in 2016

First graduation (our boys never had kindergarten graduation).

First son in high school and working (though his wages go straight to pay the school).

First death of a close family member.

First time we took the boys to Rio de Janeiro (and Iguazu Falls/Cataratas do Iguaçu).

My first three year contract (sigh...) and raise (not associated with teaching more classes).

K got tenure (I think that's not a first because I'm pretty sure there will never be a second. Sigh...)

First suit purchased for Kelvin (plus a tuxedo for music groups & a few formal jackets -- lots of money spent on this boy last year!).

Oh, first time each boy has his own bedroom (more expenses ;-P)! 

We got L (younger son) his first phone for his 12th birthday (like we did with Kelvin), but he never uses it or carries it around, so it was kind of a useless thing to do. We did get to use the phone in Brazil (did we? can't remember, at least we could have if we needed it) and I'm sure he'll use it on his first trip along this coming April.

If I remember more firsts for 2016, I'll edit the post and list them. Gotta share this before the year is too "old"! (in this process I'm editing a few other "Firsts" label posts, you'll see those if you get a feed that also gets recently edited posts, I suppose).

All of the clothes

Today I'm washing and line-drying all of the clothes. Seriously. Sheets from the beds (that will go right back on) and even all stinky snow sports clothes. The clothesline is full right now, but many clothes are nearly dry so I can swap them out by wet ones when the next wash is done.

Obviously I'm just so happy!!

I wrote this at 10:30 am when I had already hung three loads and the fourth was washing. A lot has already dried now and I have put back the sheets in my bed and my older son's as well as put all his clothes in his room.

And now, since it's still fairly early and these "microplush" sheets dry fast, I'm washing a fifth load (or is it sixth? I can't keep track today!) with a king set of sheets and some other things. I'll add some photos in a few minutes. :-)

Here they are (3:14):

Friday, January 06, 2017

Books Read in 2016

I want to blog more about books and reading in 2017, so why not start and try to remember the books I read in 2016? This post will have to be a work in progress because I cannot remember most books I read.

The last week of the year was a great time for reading, since we were mostly hanging out in my youngest brother-in-law's house and it was very cold outside (it's Montreal after all!), so I read three books there, first I finished Feed by M. T. Anderson which I had bought together with the The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing books I and II for my son (I am yet to read those).

Feed is crazy and gave me a bit of a headache. It's all too real even though it was written BEFORE we were completely glued to our cell phones 24/7 and to our facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds. I picked it up after a friend and children's lit scholar (and former blogger) mentioned in passing that the president-elect (a creature whose name shall never be mentioned in this space except by titles) sounded like the few quotes from the president in Feed.

Then I read a Brazilian book, Desde que o Samba é Samba by Paulo Lins, the author of the now famous novel then movie Cidade de Deus/ City of God. It's a supposedly historical fiction book about the history of samba music and it's pretty interesting, but way too full of sex and red-light district skirmishes to my liking. Sigh... and it was pretty repetitive in its structure, not well edited at all. It was interesting to learn more about how "Umbanda" -- one of the Brazilian African inspired religions -- originated. Lins had a few well-placed (if coming out of nowhere) cameos of famous people such as Carmen Miranda and the Brazilian poets Manuel Bandeira and Mario de Andrade (not very flattering portrayal of the sexual life of those two, probably the reality, though).

And I began, but not finished until Monday Jan. 2, another Brazilian novel, Azul Corvo this one available in English translation (Crow Blue) which I imagine must be good -- I'd recommend this book if you're interested in the experience of immigration/migration and knowing a little bit about the guerrilla movements in Brazil during the late 60s early 70s. Adriana Lisboa is an extremely talented novelist, I need to read all her books (I have read and taught another one, Symphony in White -- pretty heartbreaking tale of two sisters, trigger warning: sexual abuse & incest. It's masterfully written, though, and oh, so poetic!).

That was it for the last week (I've read two more books since Sunday)

Other books I read in 2016:

Between the World and Me. Wow, this book is a must read for those who want to know what it feels like to grow up Black in America. A tour de force.

Books I re-read: Sense & Sensibility back in February.

Then, before I watched the movie version of Lois Lowry's The Giver (precisely this beautifully illustrated edition), I re-read the book (which I'd read for the first time last year and never got to blog about! ;-(

And around the time of the election, I re-read the three sequels, Gathering Blue, Messenger -- very relevant for today, especially the whole thing of building a wall and shunning immigrants and refugees, and Son (which I didn't love when I first read it, but now think it's pretty good). I heartily recommend this quartet if you haven't read them!

I'll edit the post when I remember other books I read -- they weren't that many, unfortunately!

Monday, January 02, 2017

11 Days Away

And nearly 12 hours to get back, but we're home now!! 

May 2017 be a tolerable year! Sigh...