Sunday, December 31, 2017

Vacation/Family Reunion Blogging

Since I started blogging 13 years ago, our family spent several holidays (Christmas & New Year's or at least New Year's Eve) with my husband's whole family, generally in odd years:
  • 2005 (Brazil): all of us (minus the honeymooning couple -- we went to Brazil for their wedding) spent Christmas at my in-laws' apartment and a week & New Year's at a rental house at the beach. There were only 3 grandsons: aged 3 & 1.5 (two of them). 12 people (with my husband's paternal grandmother).
  • 2006 (U.S.): Christmas at my brother-in-law's house in Maryland (missing youngest BIL who joined us on a live-stream) & New Year's Eve with everyone at our house in Philly. 4 grandsons: aged 4, 2 (2) & 6 months old. 14 people.
(2007 & 2008 U.S. with the part of the family who lived at the U.S. at my in-law's apartment in MD & at hour house in PA)
  • 2009 (Brazil): --> missing "the pregnant Canadians:" New Year's Eve in Brazil with the news of new nephew/niece upcoming birth 9 months later. 5 grandsons: 7, 5 (2), 3 and 1. 13 people.
  • 2011: (U.S. - FL): "epic" Christmas & New Year's at big rental house in Orlando). 6 grandsons (9, 7 (2), 5, 3.5, 1.5) and 1 grand-daughter (1.5). 17 people.
  • 2013 (Brazil): historic "opening" of my father & mother-in-law's in Brazil, whole family plus two grandmothers, then wonderful days & New Year's at the beach in the Brazilian Northeast. 6 grandsons (+ last one on the way): aged 11, 9 (2), 7, 5, 3.5 and 1 grandaughter (3.5). 17 people. 
  • 2015 (U.S. - FL) a repeat of 2011 at an even larger house, now the family was complete, with all 8 grandchildren (13 to 1.5): seven boys and one girl, 18 people total.
  • 2017 (U.S. - PA) first winter get together up North (we could never do anything in cold places during winter with my father-in-law).  All 8 grandchildren (15 to 3.5), 17 people. :-(
I wrote most of this post in PA during the last days of the year.
Posting on 1/9/2018, having meant to have posted on 12/31/17.

In 2017...

... I had two amazing trips that were only 7-8 days long: to the West Coast with my son, his teacher, and the Robotics team (May 1-8) and to Patagonia (Argentina & Chile, Oct. 30 - Nov 7). The natural beauty I saw on these two trips was incredible, particularly on the one to Patagonia/ Tierra del Fuego.

... I planted morning glory (one of my favorite flowers) again for the first time since 2007! I cannot believe it had been TEN YEARS! :-( I seriously feel like sitting down and crying thinking of that.  (I did that with some help of a lovely friend who shared four seedlings with me to add to the seeds I'd put in the soil).

... After one year dragging my feed with indecision I got my own laptop at work and I'm not very happy with it. Because I decided to with a PC instead of a Mac (long story of grievances) I don't have administrator privileges and cannot install ANYTHING, not even software updates sometimes, without calling the IT tech at work. Talk about a nearly useless machine. Oh, and I'd always hated the way Macs dealt with photos. Guess what, stupid Windows 10 literally does it the same way (you cannot preview your photos and just go through them anymore on the PC. I hate Windows 10 -- which  is made for touch screens, it feels very "Mac like" with a passionate rage! :-( If I'd known about the admin issue I would definitely have gotten a Mac. Sigh...

... I watched LOTS of movies on DVD & Blu-ray and even some in the theater. I have a post about this coming.

... We FINALLY decided to become citizens of this country in the worst year ever to do so -- the horrible first year of that orange man's "regime."

... I intensely helped a family of refugees get settled (and now I feel guilty that I am too busy to continue to help them much).

... I actually got to teach a literature class that went extremely well which was a bittersweet experience to say the least. 

... for the very first time in my life I exercised 5 or almost 6 times a week with a group of friends & with a video for about 6 weeks in June -- but then NOT ever AGAIN more than once or twice a week (they just started doing it at 6 am yesterday, but I cannot handle 6 am, unfortunately, I did 7 am, and IN THE SUMMER NO LESS, but no, not 6 am, even less in the winter).

... We saw everyone in my husband's family twice (I also have a post about this).

... We did some long overdue work to the outside of the house (never got to post about this): trimming of bushes that hadn't been done in years, mulching of backyard, and we bought a power wash and power-washed the driveway, the front steps and the back patio. Still remains to be done: the siding. (and re-staining the deck).

... I taught a private class for 4 weeks in the summer whose compensation will probably make us pay EVEN MORE taxes, just like the 8K translation that took me a year and a half to complete just to cost us pretty much half in taxes. And it's infuriating to know that the new tax law won't help us at all, only the rich. :-(

... Oh, and for the first time ever I spent a week at a beach in this country and it was amazing! My father-in-law would have LOVED it. We are carrying on his legacy by doing the things he enjoyed together as a family.

Those are all the significant things I can think about right now. Lots of the same: soccer for younger son, swim team for both sons, K working a lot.

My apologies for the fact that most of these have an "oh, but..." side to them. That's life, I guess. Most things have a bad side. :-(

actually written on 1/9/2018, but intended to have been written on 12/31/2017

MARVELous Movie Marathon

First part written on 6/22/17, second part written on 1/9/18, but retroactively dated from 12/31/17. 

It used to be our tradition -- after the school year was over during graduate school or, when we were still in Brazil, mostly during the "winter break" in July, we would rent lots of VHS tapes of movies and watch them for several days in a row.

We still did that when we had our first baby, back when we lived in Massachusetts and there was this great video/DVD rental place that let you rent 5 DVDs or VHS tapes for 5 days for 5 dollars, that was so great!

After the second baby came, it became harder and harder and even though we had Netflix (one DVD at a time) we would only watch movies sporadically. There was one year in particular, 2007, I think, that we kept a Netflix DVD for THREE MONTHS and wouldn't stop and watch it. We could have BOUGHT two or three copies of that DVD, that's how much money we wasted.

So several years ago I stopped our Netflix subscription. I NEVER EVER liked their streaming services because there are very few good movies in it. Same thing with Amazon prime streaming, which we've used since it became available -- once in a while we find a film we like there and stream it. I'm not into TV shows or original series.

Here is a list of films I've seen in the past 3 weeks (before 6/22), the Marvel movies (which my son insist I see, in order, so I can go to see the new releases with him in the theater) have an M:

Anna Karenina (DVD from the library) by myself
Imitation Game (DVD from the library) -with hubby
Hidden Figures -- blu-ray with husband and youngest son
Bright Light (had already seen it, but saw it again, by myself, DVD from the library) - the special features are awesome
M - Iron Man (streaming from Amazon)
The BFG - blu-ray from Netflix - special features are excellent. I saw it with my youngest son.
M - Iron Man 2 - blu-ray from Netflix ( - watched part of it again (second half) with director comments -- it's great to hear their comments
M - Thor - got it from the library. Liked it OK, until now, my least favorite Marvel character.
       (until 6/22) Rest of the summer (all movies listed were blu-rays from ""):
M - Guardians of the Galaxy (I saw this one out of order, Kelvin watched it with me, then we saw #2 in the theater)
Moonlight - I liked it, my husband liked the other Oscar favorite more.
M - Captain America: The First Avenger (my son may have seen part of it with me) (He watched National Treasure and the sequel on DVD, I didn't)
M - The Avengers (I'd seen it in an airplane years ago and loved it, now, with the context, I liked it even more)
M - Iron Man 3
M - Thor: The Dark World (I liked it OK)
M - Captain American: The Winter Soldier (I liked this one)
M - Avengers: Age of Ultron - my son had said it was his least favorite, but I liked it. It's pretty dark and a good criticism of the emphasis on militarization in this country.
La-la-Land  - my husband LOVED it, I didn't care for it that much. I think my husband loves the very realistic fight scene & the ending. Sigh... I kind of hated the music. BLAH.
M - Ant Man (this was fun!)
Hacksaw Ridge - saw with my husband (the true guy belonged to our church and lived pretty close to where we live -- I was very impressed by this true story. In spite of Mel Gibson, sigh...)
M - Captain America: Civil War -- I think we saw this streaming from Netflix. I had seen it in the theater with my son last year and enjoyed it, but hadn't fully understood it, obviously. I liked it a lot.
M - Dr. Strange (I thought I wouldn't like it, but I did)
Loving - wow, what a nicely done film! I think I've never seen a movie with so little dialogue, seriously! Great film, and very close to "home" too. ;-)
Queen of Katwe - I saw this on my own and I really liked it. Special features are good.
The Theory of Everything - fascinating! My husband the physicist obviously watched it with me.

WOW, 24 films, 13 Marvel.

I then saw a couple of missing episodes of Masterpiece's Victoria and cancelled my plan.

I saw the other two Marvel movies in the theater with my son: Spider-Man: Homecoming (pretty great) & Thor: Ragnarock -- so much fun! We've decided to see Infinity Wars on IMAX. I already put it on my calendar!

Yeah, this was MY YEAR for becoming a Marvel Cinematic Universe fan, wasn't it? It may be the year I've seen more films in my whole life. Definitely the summer!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

8 posts to go...

... to get to 77 (because one is already written).

I'll have to post them all in the next 24h, but that won't be hard. ;-)

Sometimes I wish I were blogging more, but I keep in touch with former bloggers (such as Leery Polyp, Professing Mama, Anastasia, Raising WEG, etc.) on Facebook. I like it that Jamie (Light & Momentary), What Now?, and Laura (11D) are still around in blogland, though.

OK, gotta post this and come back for more later. Today the family who lives in Qatar (K3+family) had to leave to fly back home. Tomorrow morning the rest of us will leave the Poconos, so tonight my husband, his youngest brother and four of the boys (my youngest, K3's two boys, and K4's oldest) decided to go snowboarding/skiing because it snowed lightly all day. I hope they'll have fun and that my son & hubby won't get sicker -- they had scratchy throats. I'll update later.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Really Cold Holidays in PA

I've been writing a post about all holidays spent with my husband's family for a few days now (I have this need to look back and to make lists) and I hope to post it soon.

In the meantime, I just wanted to say that we've been here in the Poconos mountains since Christmas Eve. We like the house we rented a lot! It has lots of entertainment for the kids and lots of bedrooms so we are comfortably installed. We brought clothes and equipment (only one snowboard, but 4 helmets -- one of which I just bought) packed tightly in our tiny Prius, but in the end it was so cold we decided not to go skiing, fearing that we'd spend a lot of money and then not be able to stay at the mountain for very long.

We also have a lot of young kids, two of which live in Qatar (and before that in Brazil), so they're not used to the cold and that was another reason not to go. Of course my nephews from Canada (7 and 3) were right at home in the cold!

We also love playing board games (Dominion, Seven Wonders, Ticket to Ride - Rails and Sails, Sushi Go, Blokus, just the 4 brothers: Galaxy Trucker, Patch, the little kids - Monopoly Super Mario) and spent a lot of time doing that. We didn't even play all the games we brought (Settlers of Catan, Hanabi & some others I don't know that my brother-in-law brought from Canada).

We did a little bit of shopping too and went out to eat at Olive Garden, one of K's family's traditions.
My "Candian"  sister-in-law had to fly back to Montreal on Wednesday and tomorrow the first family leaves (the ones who live in Qatar). We will see each other again in Florida in the first week of July.

Gotta go to bed now, but I hope to finish the other post tomorrow!

Friday, December 15, 2017

Greatest Fear Revised

Back in 2011 I blogged about my greatest fear (wow, I was already living in this house and it was also December!) and then revisited that idea/post in March 2015 when my husband's cousin's wife had a very scary brush with death.

Well... I guess my greatest fear has changed now that my sons are older and it has reverted back to what it was before I became a mother. If I die now, my sons will not only have lots of memories of me and our relationship, but they are older and while that would still be awful, they don't need me as much anymore (well, they do, but I don't feel so scared and helpless with the thought of leaving them behind).

My greatest fear has always been losing my mind, having a mental breakdown, going crazy. Whatever you wanna call it. My dad's family immediate has a history of mental-health issues. His youngest brother was schizophrenic (I pretty much told his life in my post about my "three uncles" a couple years ago) and his sisters are pretty troubled (bipolar, probably? and we don't know what the other one has).

The fact that I am not neuro-typical by having ADHD doesn't help my fear and there's something I've experienced since I was 16, which I never discussed with a mental health professional (not that I've seen one for long anyway and I was unhappy with him) -- I experience these "dream attacks" that I guess one could call "panic attacks," but not so serious (I haven't researched much about panic attacks either). I can write a post about that, exploring how and when it started (it's an interesting story) but the experience is just brief moments of feeling that I'm "living inside" my own previous dream and it's very unsettling. It's happened often enough in my life that I'm capable of weathering and brushing it off much more than I could do when I was 16.

Anyway, in days like today, when I'm extremely stressed out by all the things I desperately need to do and don't have enough time: FINISH GRADING,  it TAKES FOREVER!, The Xmas Cards have been printed and ready to go for THREE WEEKS and I haven't mailed them :-( , the house is filthy and needs cleaning, guests arrive on Sunday evening and the house needs cleaning and I need to plan food for guests while K and I go on our anniversary getaway for two nights. OH, and there's laundry to be done! (but I wish I could line dry it, but it's too cold!!) Sigh...

Yeah, not a recipe for a good place mental-health wise. Sigh...

Well, even though nobody is reading I needed the free therapy of blogging this morning to help me cope with the busy-ness. And I will constantly be praying that I won't ever lose my mind. That I will find good professionals to help me so it can be avoided. HOPEFULLY!!

P.S. it doesn't help that this presidency/regime is angering and stressing me out so much! I have a blog post in the drafts folder about the CHIP program, in addition to the net-neutrality worries.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

NOOOOO!!!! Net Neutrality was Killed!!

A small victory one day (Doug Jones wins) and large setbacks the next day. How are we going to survive this horrible administration?

They are beginning to interfere with our lives in very tangible ways!!

Sigh... I don't even know what else to say, except that I feel powerless and that how can we effectively RESIST if big corporations and their profits are given more and more power over our lives?

I'm so angry! This anger and stress and daily worries will take its toll on all of us, seriously!

I have to go find more things to read, but this commentary is good.

P.S. it's like Brad, Jo's friend said, after Doug Jones's Alabama victory on Tuesday, we had to get a bad thing happen before the end of the week. We couldn't get both. :-(

Monday, December 11, 2017


Last time I blogged I was upset because I couldn't find something I'd written and I found it the next day on my phone's notes.

I will post it, maybe later today, but I feel I need to write an update since I have been posting very sparsely, no? Sigh...

I'm at the orthodontist's office with my youngest son right now and this morning I had to drive to school to take an inhaler to my oldest (he hardly ever needs it, but I guess running during P.E. made him wheezy, I hope he'll keep the inhaler in his backpack and use it as needed).

The past two weekends were extremely busy, first we did our annual "mega-volunteering" for our church's Christmas community outreach event: a very involved "guided tour" of 1 AD Bethlehem. My husband and I are guides as is our 15 year old with a classmate. We help for over 4 hours 5 nights straight (plus a couple of hours two days before for the dress rehearsal).

This past weekend our high-schooler and his classmates had the Christmas concerts weekend: Candlelight concert Friday night with a repeat performance Saturday afternoon, performances at church in the morning and a Pop concert on Saturday night.

I'm tired! But I'm happy that yesterday I was able to put up a small Christmas tree. I hope to share photos soon!

Appointment is done and we're off!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

When you think you wrote something...

... and then can't find it.

I thought I'd blogged it, so I looked in my archives this year (easy peasy because, hello! only 62 posts, the most depressing number ever), part of last year (wow, what a depressing year 2016 was!) and came up empty.

It may be in my journal somewhere, that's what I'm hoping. If it is maybe I'll even post a photo.

Yesterday a former blogger I really like* and who often posts funny things on facebook that all her really cool friends comment on and we always have great interactions in the comment sections couldn't sleep and wrote a post with chapters of a "book" of self-condemnation items. People chimed in with chapter titles and appendices and what not, and I wrote a comment outlining my own very sad book of regrets & other negative things.

However, a while back -- a few months? half a year? a year? I was feeling like literally writing such a list of negative things, but I stopped myself and wrote a list of the things I'm best of.

That's what I'm looking for. I'll go look in my journal, maybe it's there.

* and one of a select group of bloggers I met several times in person, in her case and two others because of LLL!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Headed to the Big Apple!

We're headed to NYC later today. It's going to be the second time we stay in Manhattan.

The first time was only for ONE NIGHT and it was December 30, 2001 -- right after 9/11 and when I was heavily pregnant with my eldest son. We went to NYC with my husband K's three brothers, K2 and his wife, K3 and his girlfriend, and K4 who was still single then.

On Dec. 31st we stood in line for many hours to see ground zero with our very own eyes. :-( And while we were there, Rudy Giuliani and his girlfriend came to pay a visit on his last day in office. We took photos. Yuck, Giuliani!

Anyway... we ALMOST went to see the ball drop in Times Square, but I had a silly old backpack (I was pregnant and needed water & snacks) which I didn't want to toss in the trash -- maybe I should have?  So we drove back up to Massachusetts while K3 (who had his own car) and his girlfriend stayed behind to see it.

We're staying in a hotel close to the Brooklyn bridge. We are wondering if the cheaper prices downtown have anything to do with the latest terrorist attack (that unfortunately killed 5 Argentine men from Rosario, my dear Argentine graduate school friend's hometown. BTW, did you hear about the Argentine submarine that went missing? So sad!).

Then, on Thanksgiving day we will drive up to Montreal to visit K4 and his family. It'll be a short visit because it's not a holiday for them. We'll see them again at Christmas, which we're spending with K's whole family in a house we rented in the Poconos, PA.

I'll try to post from NYC!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Highly Curated Content versus Relatively Raw & Unflitered...

... or the Instagram/Pinterest versus the Blogger/WordPress generations.

Nothing like a scattered and hastily written blog post to dispel writer's block, I guess? ;-) ;-P

Yes, I know that smiley faces make me look less intelligent, but this is not a work email, and I don't care. Although I am bravely resisting the urge of adding emoticons to my emails to students. I still draw smileys on exams, though. ;-)

I have wanted to say this for a while and I wish I could write a highly edited and curated blog post, but a quick one will have to do, before the writer's block sets in again! (can you feel the despair in my voice?)

In any case, first of all, I think this is a generational difference... (that's why I added the "Aging" label -- I don't have one about different generations) younger people (and by that, I  mean folks 10-15 years younger than me) have a "thing" going. At least the sample of younger people that I know and interact with -- most are originally from Brazil, BTW. They are very intentional in the way they decorate their house, plan and execute their weddings, pose for photos, not to mention fashion choices. They also photograph everything daily life & events very selectively and at expert angles & lighting and post it to Instagram.

I guess it all started with Pinterest and the ability to curate content online (so people would find the same things cute & "fashion" would become even more uniform than it already is) and then Instagram made it easy to share one's highly photogenic choices and lifestyle.

There are some older people (although maybe still slightly younger than me) such as Dooce and other professional bloggers who have been very picture perfect in their online life, although not exactly like the younger people I know -- but those are the "professional" web content creators. Today, everyone looks perfect like that, I mean, at least the sample I'm exposed to.

One thing that is kind of scary to me is how fads and styles have become the same here and in Brazil. The style of wedding decoration and children's parties, for example... Wooden things, greenery, mason jars for drinking, naked cakes, hanging lights...


Can you tell I'm slightly irritated by all this perfection?

I miss words, many many words rather than pretty images. I miss raw feeling and relatively unfiltered thoughts. I still attempt to share them here, but I confess that I'm becoming more and more overwhelmed by the millennials that create such perfect content online now. I severely limit my exposure to such folks, only following a few people I know on Instagram, but even this small exposure already influences me.

Looking at their neutral colors, extremely beautiful party decor, lovely assortment of picture frames arranged on walls, is making me feel ugly and old and too colorful and LOUD, even.

I LOVE who I am, I love my funky style, all the colors, all the flowers, but sometimes I feel like I want some of that stereotypically beautiful style that today's younger generation likes.

A prime example is the new Magnolia line at Target. I have also been photographing things in this style for a while on my phone and I'll try to illustrate my point with photos later.

For now I just want to say that I really, really, REALLY miss the community of bloggers that I was active part of from 2005-2009, maybe 2010. I have some more thoughts about this (that have to do with the openness that came along the advent of blogging and that has now waned), but I'll try to share those later.

Have you noticed this new Pinterest/Instagram trend? What do you think?

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Gotta Write Something! (And a Xmas Card brought to you by... Lowered Expectations!)

OK, I have FIVE posts sitting in the draft folder right now, all my latest posts, and about 5 more in draft since June.

I'm tired of thinking of the draft folder. I also think that the internet and my phone are exacerbating my ADHD to such a point that I'm becoming a useless person. Really.

So I've gotta write and publish something. ANYTHING!!

It's cold and I think that now that I've been back from my trip for a week I'm finally back to "normal" -- especially today that I finally took my medication again (it had run out a few days before my trip and I had not had time to fill the prescription and did so only yesterday).

And back to normal is not especially pleasant since I feel HORRIBLY guilty that I have a HUGE number of compositions and online work from my students that I haven't read and graded since the beginning of the semester. Yes, I am a horrible person and a horrible teacher. Sigh...

I hate online homework. I don't know how I can make that better. All the "PTSD" from the horrible University of Phoenix gig (from like 8 years ago!) is still a factor.

Ok, what else can I say?

We've decided to go to Montreal next week to visit my youngest brother-in-law and his family. Oldest son is suggesting we stop for a night or two in NYC and get a hotel in Manhattan.

Youngest son is grumbling that he hates cities and it will be torture (this is the poor kid that was "forced" to spend his 12th birthday in Manhattan with us last year -- MoMA (which he loved, BTW) and Top of the ROK.

What else? Oh, yeah, Last night I ordered our Christmas Card at Costco and we picked them up today. This is the photo paper one that I send to Brazil to be mailed to all our family and friends. I order extra-early so my mother-in-law can take them to Brazil for me for my mom to mail them out.

We had NO nice photos at all, so I used a photo taken at a sunset at the beach in FL (and the light looks horrible in the print out) and -- GASP!!! -- a SELFIE! How low have I gone!? A selfie in a Xmas card? Talk about lowered expectations!! Then I added two more photos -- one of our youngest son and I in San Francisco and the other a nice photo of K and Kelvin on my new phone. It's not too horrible.

That should be enough for one post.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Back "Home"

Today was one of those days of literal "in-betweeness" in which I have to re-enter the country and face all the angst of my choice of living here. When I'm there, in the confusion and mess that is South America (Argentina is messier than Brazil, and I'm not referring to the soccer player here. I know, pathetic cliché pun), I have some feelings of longing to come back to the orderly U.S., but once I'm here, now that I'm going to become a citizen, I don't feel so sure.


I wish I didn't have to feel this uncertain, but, as my husband said to me on the phone, it's hard to come back to the country (on election day, no less, the anniversary of one of our worst collective nightmares) with this creature as president.

I just posted 185 photos of our trip on facebook. I bought an iPhone 7+ on purpose so I could have its top-notch camera on the trip and it was so worth it! Let me know if you want to be facebook friends. I'll try to post some photos here later, but with no blogging app it's hard.

I have another flight to take and then a 3 hour drive home. Thankfully I'm using a pass to be at the United Club, so I'm having hot drinks and I'm about to eat some fruit. Back to real life as soon as I land. Good thing in a month the semester will be nearly done!

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Oh, Boy, it's November! But I'm in the Southernmost City in the World!

I could have possibly blogged last night, but I was EXHAUSTED! First night sleeping in a bed in three days! First longish night of sleep in four days.

My parents and brother arrived this morning and we are so delighted to be traveling together. This hasn't happened since... I don't know... many many years ago? I have traveled a lot with my parents ever since we left Brazil back in 1996, but I haven't traveled with my brother SINCE OUR CHILDHOODS ENDED! Years ago!! Sigh...

Anyway, I desperately need to sleep, so I have to stop. But I will try to blog more often, once a day or more, throughout this month.

Greetings all the way from Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, the Southermost city in the world (only reason why Argentina HAD to "steal" half of this island from Chile -- they wanted the bragging rights!) ;-P

Monday, October 30, 2017

Airport Blogging, Part 8

I don’t know how many “airport posts” I’ve written in the blog— no time to check now, but I’m guessing 7. ;-)

Travel is EVERYTHING. I’ve said it before that I’m happiest when I’m on the go and I wish I could be constantly traveling. Seriously! It’s magical to get to know new places, it’s just the best thing in the world. At least to me!!

I just wish that traveling wasn’t [it should be weren’t because it’s the subjunctive, but nobody used it, so it sounds so wrong!!] so stressful. Sigh... I mean, generally it all works out in the end, but packing, loading the car, making sure you have all the documents, driving to the airport with time to spare, going to security, waiting at the gate, boarding the plane, the uncomfortable plane ride, making the connections, landing, getting luggage — and then doing it ALL OVER again on the way back. That is stressful and kind of exhausting.

When you travel as often and as extensively as we do (I know I want to travel more, but I am delighted at how much we do travel, I know how lucky we are), you get so used to it that it’s annoying, but kind of second nature to do everything. My sons have been traveling since infancy — my youngest is so proud for having flown at 6 days old!! — and are such pro travelers it’s a joy to behold. It’s also fun to have the luxury of traveling without them!

My last trip, to San Francisco with my son’s robotics team was from this same airport! This is helpful to me because I feel comfortable that I’ve been here before. Ok, I meant to blog to say that I still don’t know for sure if I will be able to board my plane to Argentina because my upcoming flight has a delay. But I hope I can!!  I’ll try to update this post.

The Year of the Unfortunately Thwarted Travels - Part II

Today I leave for another trip, but this trip has also been altered by events outside of our control. I hope it will have a true "happy ending," in spite of the stress it has caused us.

My dad turns 80 on November 6 and my brother decided that it would be a good idea to make my dad's dream to visit Tierra del Fuego -- the Southernmost place on a continent on Earth -- come true. So he talked to my mom and they planned a surprise trip for dad. They also asked if I could come and after consulting with my colleague I decided to find people to help with my classes and to go too!

Well, the first thing that went wrong was that my dad (who was suspicious because of some charges from Argentina in his credit card) went through my mom's emails and found out about the trip. They kept telling him I wasn't going, though, to try to keep at least this part a surprise.

I leave the U.S. today, but my parents and my brother were leaving Brazil on Tuesday, since my brother is finishing his MBA and has classes on Monday nights. Friday night, my brother received a series of ominous emails from Aerolineas Argentinas saying that they had scheduled a general strike for Tuesday 10/31 and that their flights were cancelled!

When I got up Saturday morning I noticed that my Tuesday flight had been cancelled from my reservation as well! :-( We all spent several hours calling airlines and trying to change our flight and we finally did -- except that my parents and brother will miss TWO WHOLE DAYS of a six-day trip. :-( I am missing only Tuesday evening, since I'll get to Ushuaia (the world's Southernmost town) on Wednesday morning. My family will join me on Thursday.

For a moment there I thought we would have to completely cancel, and we probably should have, since my brother and my mom, whose previous tickets had been purchased with miles, had to cancel those and purchase new tickets, which cost them a lot of money!

I hope with all my heart that the trip will be uneventful even in spite of these unfortunate circumstances. I will try to keep you posted!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Year of the Unfortunately Thwarted Travels - Part I

If you're a longtime reader you know our family travels a lot! It used to be mostly within the U.S., to Canada, and to & from Brazil where we are from and where most of our extended family members live. Starting in 2012, though, we began to go on a few trips to other faraway places thanks to my mother-in-law's successful travel agency business!

First it was an amazing trip to South Africa (I wrote 10 posts about that one!) in March 2012, then, a couple of trips to Brazil, and in 2015 we had a long and marvelous "Epic Family trip" first to the Middle East (Egypt, Jordan, and Israel) and then to Europe (Germany, Switzerland & a tiny corner of France -- Chamonix/Mont Blanc). I even created a label about the epic trip so I could link to all posts together here. Last year I barely blogged out trip to Brazil since I didn't have a laptop in which I could download my photos (now I do! It's a work laptop, but I will be using it to blog!), but on that nearly 6 weeks long trip we did two "epic" things, visited Foz do Iguaçu and the Iguaçu/Iguazu Falls (Cataratas do Iguaçu) and spent two short, but marvelous days in Rio de Janeiro.

So, this year didn't begin with grandiose travel plans, except that my brother-in-law K3 who lives in Doha, Qatar (they teach at the American school there), invited the whole family to spend Christmas with them. My mother-in-law decided it would be more exciting if we spent a week in Dubai (United Arab Emirates -- UAE) first, so she booked a few suites there and was planning some outings for us, and then we'd spend a week in Doha. So in the end we were having one major trip in 2017.

In April, I think, my husband decided to go ahead and purchase our tickets to go on the trip. We were flying in and out of Dubai because it was cheaper, and would buy our flight to and from Doha later (it's less than 1 hour flying, and pretty cheap). As you may remember from reading/listening to the news, it turns out that because of the TV channel Al Jazeera and some other disputes, several Arabic countries (UAE, Egypt, Saudi Arabia & Bahrain) decided on a blockade against Qatar in the early summer, hence completely destroying the plans for our trip.

Of course we were the only ones who had actually bought tickets, so we had to think of alternate plans. United was kind enough to let us switch the flight from Dubai to Doha, Qatar, and also the date, from Christmas from Thanksgiving. I wasn't very happy about this because my thinking is that if you're spending more than 3K on a trip it should be longer than six days, but whatever... In any case, you won't believe what happened! Lufthansa cancelled its Frankfurt Doha flight ENTIRELY back in September. Seriously!! And the annoying customer service people at United kept saying our flight was ok (in spite of us telling them we'd read in the news Lufthansa had announced the cancellation), until they found out it wasn't (DUH!) a week later and called us frantically several times.

In conclusion, we asked for our refund and had to sadly tell our brother-in-law, SIL, nephew and niece that we wouldn't be visiting them after all. :-( I felt sorry for the kids who were looking forward to having guests! We debated going to Europe (our initially desired destination before this whole brouhaha started in April) to meet up with K3, but he bought their tickets to fly here instead, so the whole family will meet up for the holidays (my mother-in-law rented a house in the Poconos, PA, since there are 17 of us. We are hoping to hit a few indoor water-parks there, since we don't know if it will be snowy/cold enough to hit the slopes).

That's all there is about that huge thwarted trip, but there's one more messed up trip (not entirely!), and I hope to blog about that shortly!


Thursday, October 26, 2017

66 or 23 more posts to go

Once more, I want to pursue the "silly" goal of 117 posts in 2017.

If I find it too hard to write 66 posts, which would be PRECISELY one post a day until Dec. 31st (yikes!!), I'll settle for 77. ;-)  That's way more manageable, only 23 more posts to go!

In any case, if I post daily in November, I should be good, shouldn't I? (old NaBloPoMo!) In any case, I know that once I get going, or "start talking writing" it'll be easy to keep going.

So... yeah, I have a feeling that 66  more posts would be relatively easy. OK, let me post this and get started right away! I feel good about the prospect of blogging more often. I just wish the Blogger app still worked so I could blog from my phone more easily. Now with a bigger screen I can probably manage doing it from the browser.

I'll be back soon!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

I really don't know...

... why I'm not blogging more or, I mean, much, or at all.

There's no good reason, perhaps the main one is that I have the (probably correct) impression nobody reads anymore, it's no longer a community. And I HATE that I spend so much time on stupid Facebook because I want to continue to have some relationship with people I met through blogging.

Sigh... such a lame reason to waste time on social media!

Everything is going ok. My title at work has changed. It's supposed to make us feel less bad, or to make us almost believe that we actually have some professional dignity. It's the same title of TT faculty, with "General Faculty" attached at the end.

It's a cosmetic change. No pay raise, no other benefits. More work because some service will be required -- they need more people to populate committees that will "promote" other faculty to the same "fake" rank.

I am sorry if I am horribly bitter about all this. I've hardly had the courage to blog about it... it is what it is. I will, after my review next year, have some actual stability, and that's good, but I want to be able to take a semester leave without losing my job so my husband can take a sabbatical and we can go live in Europe for about 6 months. Maybe it will be possible -- but by then the kids will be older and probably won't come with us. :-(

I am not very happy about my teaching, as usual... but everything is going ok.

I have a trip coming up, but I hope to blog about that in a separate post.

My mom turns 77 in 4 days and my dad will be 80 in two weeks -- that's the reason of my trip, BTW.

OK, more later!

P.S. (ETA 10/24, 10:50 am) What makes me more depressed is that for our "promotion" only research about pedagogy counts. We have ZERO intellectual freedom. I mean, we can do some research, publish, present (no funds to go to conferences, BTW, only with grants that only let us apply for pedagogical stuff again), but it won't count. And this "lower," second-class pseudo tenure is becoming the norm. I know I should be thankful that 1) I have a full-time job; 2) I have a multi-year contract and hence higher pay; 3) I will actually have stability.

Sigh... why can't we do research too if we were trained for it and are passionate about it. Are we really such a threat to the tenure system? Is it our fault that there aren't enough jobs to go around and too many of us?

As I'm getting older and more bitter I begin to regret having gotten a PhD. WHAT FOR???? Academia is the worst, it really is. 

And I guess it makes perfect sense I haven't been blogging. I don't want to be whiny and annoying, so why even write here? :-(

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Exhilarating Day in Parenting and Teaching

Wow... what a long day it has been!

The first day your child drives you somewhere, not just through a small town, but, after successfully driving on a minor highway for a bit, takes you back home on the interstate for about 15 miles is quite exhilarating! He'd driven around quite a bit on country roads and parking lots and while other parents may not have dared to do such a thing, I'm glad I did. He did a wonderful job!

Within the first few minutes down the highway he asked me whether to set up cruise control one would just press the button and when said yes, he did, and fiddled a bit with the + and - buttons. Then I mentioned that he could step on the brakes to turn off cruise control to which he replied, "I know mom, I read the car manual!" and (I paraphrase here) "I know all the theory, now I'm getting the practice." Impossible not to ADORE this kid of mine!

And as he drove, and I used my phone and just relaxed, occasionally pointing out something he could improve on or sharing things I do or that happen when I drive, I remembered the day, many years in the past, ok, maybe only about 8 years ago, when we were talking about something Kelvin enjoyed to do and he turned to me and said "Mom, you know how I feel about machines!" That's my boy who will build computers and new "information age" paraphernalia someday. His love for machines does shine through in intense desire to drive a car.

Then, he again drove me to my husband's university where I dropped him off (dad wasn't lucky to be driven by him because out other car is a stick shift!) ;-P and drove on to U#2 where we were opening a film festival today! The first film was Brazilian and I introduced it. Many of my students came and it was a great success! Now I need to go to bed, even though I'm quite awake after drinking some guarana (very caffeinated Brazilian soda).

Oh, yeah, and before my son got his permit, he had a dentist's appointment and I was seen too, because I had a crown put in last week and it was bothering me.

(this is the most boring way ever to end a post, but here you go!)

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Alive, busy, happy

I'm alive, very busy (not excessively so, thankfully! Leisure time guaranteed), and happy.

I was angsty before the semester started, for several reasons, but now I feel quite at peace, which is great. We're much more organized this year, my husband is helping with making a meal plan for the week and we're spending less and eating better!

OK, I'm about to drive 80 miles in pouring rain, so hopefully I'll continue to be fine. I always think about my probability of being in an accident, but there's nothing I can do. It's how I operate, it doesn't make me less happy. ;-)

I added so many labels to this tiny post, it's quite funny! I hope to blog again soon.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Many Firsts

Some aren't especially significant -- my first day of teaching was two days ago on Wednesday, my husband's is coming up on Monday. Other firsts are true milestones, though...

... last week, before his first day of school, my firstborn shaved for the first time (mostly his "mustache" area). I feel so wistful about that!

... on my youngest son's first day of school (last week on Wednesday) he rode his bike to school (with my husband riding alongside) and rode back on his own. Our eldest also rode a bike to & from school (borrowed from his dad, see next item) a few times in the past week.

... yesterday my husband rode his new electric bike all the way from work (18 miles!). He's not planning to do that everyday and probably not both ways, but he's excited about the possibility of saving gas and exercising, even if will take in over an hour.

... yesterday my youngest son had braces put in. He is not very happy about it, but I'm hoping he'll get used to them soon.

Life is always changing, some times more noticeably than others.

Oh, yeah, and only four days ago we saw our very first total eclipse of the sun. An AMAZING, indescribable experience. If you're my friend on facebook (and you're welcome to be!) I posted 64 photos yesterday, check them out!

I hope to post a few here too... we'll see.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Path of Totality

We are headed to TN in a few minutes to see the eclipse. We had plans to stay at a friend's house, but it turns out this friend moved to Florida! But we have more friends! Brazilians, particularly those who have a worldwide church network like we do, have friends EVERYWHERE. So I contacted my other friend last night. It turns out she has a farm, in the middle of nowhere, but it's pretty much in the center of the path of totality!!!

My husband the scientist is beyond thrilled! The pre- and post-eclipctic traffic will probably be truly apolcalyptic, but we're doing this anyway. Wish us luck! I'll try to keep you posted. Kids are missing school for this. OK, gotta go!

Monday, August 14, 2017

The best thing about the first day of Sophomore year...

... is that we're all much less nervous about the whole thing.

K has been at the school all year and has done wonderfully well. He gained so much confidence (being the best kid in his grade in some Match test competition) that he did the whole book of Geometry over the summer so he can test out of it and take Pre-Calculus. The test is tomorrow and I'm a bit nervous, but I think he'll pass it. Better to do this than to be stuck all year in a too-easy class.

He will continue to work in the IT department with some of his best friends, be very involved with music (in the band, orchestra, and choir), and we are getting him a new bike so he can go to school and come back by himself. It will only take him a few minutes more than us driving him and he'll be independent.

I was going to say a few more things in this post that was meant to be cheerful and celebrate my son's first day of school, but after reading several news articles, writing this post, and missing a dentist appointment because I completely forgot about it (which made me even more upset), I'll leave it at this... I hope this Monday gets better soon! Sigh...

This weekend

I cannot say much about this weekend because of the semi-anonymous nature of this blog, which is already saying too much.

All I will say is that when I picked up my phone after lunch with our family and visiting family on Saturday and began to be really upset and worked up about what a lot of my friends were posting, I had to stop and try put it out of my mind. After venting a little to my brother- and sister-in-law (subject for another blog post!) I had to just be quiet and not think about it because were preparing for a surprise birthday party that was going to happen in my backyard in just a few hours and I knew I just couldn't even begin to talk to most people at this party about what was happening. :-( One of our close church friends has an NRA sticker in the back of the family van. Nice people who are just so clueless about their privilege and the consequences of their political stance.

This disconnect between our church and school community and our values, our commitment to social justice,* and our political leaning sometimes make us feel lonely and frustrated. It's a "neutral" enough community -- most people aren't really politically engaged and controversial topics aren't brought up, but the school... (I mean the boarding high school who just started school) is composed of a near majority of kids of color and I feel for those kids. We need to do more for those kids, not to keep them in a "bubble" which is kind of what the school already is, but to also prepare them to face their world (which most of their teachers and school administrators don't really understand. Sigh...). 

OK, let me now go try and finish this "fluffy" post about my kid's newly started first-day of school. 

* I just found out reading news this weekend that "they" label us "Marxist" or  SJW - Social Justice Warriors - UGH!!!

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

5 Excellent Exercises to Prevent Back Pain -- "bookmark" :-)

I'm embedding this video here as a bookmark because I want to be able to easily go back to these exercises! I should totally do this more often, or save links by writing blog posts. In any case, I'm pretty new to exercising regularly, so I guess I will learn more effective ways to do it as I go along! I found this video in a Time magazine "newsletter" article about Leg Cramps! They also have a good video about the benefits of jumping rope which I'm not embedding here.

Sunday, August 06, 2017


I'm feeling way better, and I'm happy to report that I have 26 students now instead of only 18. I still have quite a way to go to reach 54 and maybe I won't reach full capacity in all three sections, but I'm hoping! In the past six years I've had two full sections, bursting at the seams (sometimes I squeezed 19-21 even though the official limit is 18), with many students unable to get in.

Well, I want to try to write some "update" posts about the past four weeks, I hope to be able to do it soon. I'm also working on a post about all the movies I watched this summer (all but one at home), so I'll be back!

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Freaking out

I was trying my best not to be negative, to be patient, and not to freak out, but now I'm in full blown freak out mode. :-(


Every semester for the past six years my two language classes have been PACKED in the Fall and there have been waiting lists of students trying to register. They enroll by permission only (except for one summer two years ago) so I can screen prospective students and give priority to freshmen to sophomore since seniors won't be able to take more classes after their last year and we need students to take several classes or our tiny program will die. Because of this, I spend all summer checking the student registration website periodically, granting permission and keeping track of  enrollment requests.

In order to document the interest in the class I have been copying and pasting every single permission request -- a tedious task -- and then marking the students who enroll, as well as those who enroll and later drop and those who never enroll. I also email the seniors and ask them to wait for late July when I can begin to let them register.

In past years, by late July the classes were nearly full already and I generally could only let a handful of seniors enroll, if any. Because there was a consistent number of students who could not enroll every Fall, my colleague decided to open a THIRD section this Fall.

Well... guess what?

I have never had so few permission requests come in since I started keeping track!! :-( I should probably have granted permission for the seniors earlier (there were quite a few of them), and by the time I finally did two weeks ago, very few enrolled. Their requests have since expired (and disappeared) and I will have to look for each of their emails and contact them because I am DESPERATE.

And the worst of the worst is that in the three sections of the class, right now, the number of students enrolled is enough to fill ONE SINGLE SECTION! [insert despair and dismay face here]

Please pray for me if you're the praying kind. I have been praying about this not only every time I login to the website and open the word document where I keep track, but also every time I think about the Fall classes (which is quite often).

All through July I have been telling myself to "calm down because everything will work out in the end," but now I'm not so sure. I am dreading the moment my colleague decides to check on enrollment and emails me. Please please please let more people enroll before s/he checks!!!!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Week 8: Our very first week at a beach in the U.S. in 21 Years!

In all these 21 years living here we had only been to the beach to spend a few hours or the day. Some of the beaches we'd gone to were: Block Island (RI), Brigantine Beach and Island Beach State Park in NJ (this last one is the one we went to the most, 3-4 times, to spend the day when we lived in Philly -- we even had a wedding there once!), Flagler and Matanzas beaches in FL.

So of course our very first time spending a whole week at the beach had to be in one of the most amazing stretches of coast in the whole country (close to Destin, FL)!! So now we won't want to go to any "blah" places after this. I only took my Nikon DSLR camera to the beach on the next to last afternoon and morning, and took over 4GB of photo then. We also took lots of photos on different cell phones (the best of which was my MIL's iPhone 7 plus), but I don't have those photos in my external hard drive yet.

Here is a selection of some of the beach photos of the last evening and day!

 Evening of 7/6:
 My birthday, 7/7! 
(all these were taken with a 70-300mm zoom lens)
 All 7 kids 3-13:
(15 year old missing, he arrived very late at the beach)
This is what the 15 year old did when he got to the beach:
It was wonderful!

Busy Weeks 5-6 (Before & After Photos!)

I've almost forgotten weeks 5-6 already, but I'd like to write about them before I write about weeks 8 & 9 and before grueling weeks 10 & 11 begin tomorrow.

I guess I could sum up weeks 5-6 in a few words: working out, helping refugee family, swim meets, house guests, French horn lessons, yard work and house cleaning. I guess having that followed by week 7 was perfect, no?

On week 5 we didn't have the house guests yet (my brother-in-law and his family and my mother-in-law), they arrived on Monday of week 6, but we had a swim meet (only my oldest son competed this year) and a French horn lesson and I worked out every day with my friends in the morning in addition to spending some time helping the refugees. We started cleaning the yard -- my husband began to use our brand new pressure washer and he loved it! I took tons of before and after photos and will share some below.

On week 6, the family arrived on Monday and I continued exercising in the morning (my sister-in-law joined us for two days and was really sore) and even did double workouts on Thursday going to yoga and feeling the strongest ever. SIL and I went to the Farmer's market and I helped the refugee again for several hours on Thursday and Friday. We had a swim meet in our town and Grandma got to see her oldest grandson swimming, but K was late with my younger son and our nephews and they missed Kelvin's races.

Before, WIP (work in progress), and After photos, I tried to select as few as possible, but I take too many photos!
The most satisfying before & after set: 
power washing:
 Cleaning back brick patio:
weeding, power washing, spreading new sand:
 Weeding back flower bed:
April,then June, WIP, mulched
 Last, but not least, weeding.
Raised bed, and some of the back (WIP) --
the part with the most poison-ivy.
  It was because of this weeding (and also hugging my cats) that I got some poison ivy right before we traveled. :-(

P.S. I also changed the knobs of the vanities in our three bathrooms, but I only have before and WIP photos so maybe I'll share those another time, together with the 2011 photos of the before & after of kitchen cabinet knobs! ;-P