Tuesday, January 31, 2006

My Very Own "Blog Cloud"

I saw this first at ABD mom, and then at Scrivener's I found a link to where I could get it too (it's a site that sells t-shirts with this "cloud" from one's website printed on them).

I think it's pretty coo! (it would definitely look good in a t-shirt as well as being meaningful to the wearer) I like how the highlighted words are really key words in my blog and how different versions of the word mother come up. I also like the last words "work worth write writing years." I hope it'll be worth writing my dissertation, it's definitely the work of many many years...

P.S. if you want one too, you need to follow the instructions on the link above (you can change fonts and colors) and then before hitting the finished button, you should right click and save the image to your computer. Then you just upload it to the blog as a picture.

Happy New Fear

In this last day of January I want to explain why I didn’t even attempt to write any New Year resolutions.

I fear this New Year…

Because this year I need to finish my dissertation, and I’m terribly afraid I won’t be able to. It is a huge responsibility, not only to me, and my desire to finish what I have started almost 8 years ago, but also to my parents who have spent so much time and resources to help me. My mom has postponed a serious thyroid surgery to be able to help me one last semester, and I just can’t fail her and my dad who so graciously take care of my boys, my house, and do everything for us.

I fear this New Year…

Because I have never felt such a weight on my shoulders or faced such a challenge that seems well beyond my abilities to conquer. Spending almost two months in Brazil didn’t help much, because now I’ve lost precious momentum, and it’s much harder to start working again.

I fear this New Year…

Because I know my limitations, I know I am a terrible procrastinator, I am disorganized, and I can’t work in a systematic manner. I’ve never been able to plan anything, even though I did write a timetable for the months of October and November and abided by it (let me say that it worked only because I cut myself a lot of slack stipulating that I’d send to the advisor whatever I had written for a certain chapter by the Friday it was assigned).

I fear this New Year…

Because just thinking about the work ahead gives me the chills, swarms of butterflies in my stomach, and an irresistible desire to just sit and cry. I want to run away, to flee, to give up, and every single “escaping” verb there is. I’ve never felt so powerless about something when I know I need to be in control because only I can do it, only I can write it.

I fear this New Year

For a myriad of reasons related to this dissertation (including fear of my committee members, of getting negative feedback, etc.), and to add up to these fears is the underlying fear of not knowing what will happen to us in the near future. If my husband “passes” the fierce competition (concurso) for a job at a state university in Brazil, we’ll definitely go back; he’s also just applied for a job in California. Chances are none of these things will materialize and we’ll remain here one more year for his last year of post doc, and entrance in the job market in the fall. I’d prefer the last option only for the predictability, but who know what’ll happen? (On a side note, the phone interview I mentioned in a past post will probably not happen – I missed my chance because I was not at the MLA).

I fear this New Year…

Because, as for any other year, I want it to be a good year, and particularly, a landmark year for me, the year in which I defend my dissertation and prove to myself and the world that I can do it, that I was able to do it. Oh, how I long to be able to say that. In the past tense! And then I’ll just smile and say, oh, yeah, I feared this New Year, but it turned out all right…

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Brazil and the U.S. (intro)

I'm working (at least in my mind so far) on a post about the main differences about my home country, Brazil and the U.S., since whenever I'm fresh from travel there I always think of tons of things related to this issue.

Meanwhile, though, I'd like to direct you to my sister-in-law's interesting comments (OK, "comparative study") about both countries at her relatively new blog The Sporadic Post (which may soon need to be renamed if she starts to post more than just sporadically :) -- welcome to blogging, sister, I'm glad I inspired you to post again!).

For those who can read Portuguese, my Brazilian friend Ricardo's "photoblog" has a hilarious post with the opposite point of view of my SIL regarding toilet trash :) (he moved to the U.S. last fall).

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Sick in Chicago

Yes, guess what, during the last 2 hours of our 10 hour and a half flight I started feeling a bit sick. For the first time in my life I vomited in a bag, and it was not in the airplane either, it was after I had already gone through immigration, put 5 heavy bags (the heaviest two had almost 62 pounds each) and 2 carseats on two carts and gone through customs and then re-checked the luggage, when we were waiting for the airport train that took us to terminal 1. It was not that bad either. I survived. And once we were actually airborne, out of Chicagoland I started feeling much better. It was probably something I ate in the plane (I did eat a lot). Otherwise the trip was excellent, uneventful. We left Brazil at 1o pm and the boys slept before dinner was served and through most of the flight. They woke up quite early, I would guess 2-3 am Chicago Time (6-7 am in Brazil, which is the time they actually woke up there too), and then it was hard to keep them busy during those last hours of flight and when we arrived in Chicago (before 5 am) because by then Linton was getting sleepy again and very cranky. Oh, and of course he nursed all night long and I barely slept (partly because I decided to watch a movie, corny but interesting, Where the Heart Is (with Natalie Portman and Ashley Judd).

Anyway, here I am, left to consider one more time how TINY our house is. It is very cozy, and I enjoy stepping on soft carpet after walking on tiled floor for all of my stay in Brazil (more on Brazilian houses later, at least I hope to post more on Brazil in the upcoming days), but it is extremely small. When I got to Brazil in December this was one of the first things my mom said about the boys - they were happy there, she pondered, because they were enjoying all the room to run and play (in spite of the fact that there were less toys). Here they're cooped up, and I guess they just get tired of their toys. Of course right now they're really enjoying the house and the toys, they've been playing non-stop since we arrived, that is, Linton napped for 1 hour (me too) and Kelvin for almost 4 hours. I already did one load of laundry (my poor husband, the other traveller in the family, was running out of underwear and other clothes), and removed the suitcases from the living room (no, I did not unpack the clothes, only the food and books I brought (which was a lot). I also made bread in the bread machine (Dawn's/This Woman's Work recipe, I should link to it sometime).

OK. More later. Let me know if you have any questions. (I do feel terrible because I never answered Alice's question about Brazilian Christmas and New Year's - I still want to answer, OK? It was just very rough to blog from Brazil - I'm sorry about that Alice!).

Edited to add: I flew to Chicago then took a connecting flight to Philly. I did start feeling better in the second flight, thankfully.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Thank You! & It Was/Is Worth It

I want to thank heartily all the readers who commented, I definitely feel encouraged to continue blogging. I t was worth "complaining" a little bit, even though it's not very "elegant" (ha ha ha, I've never been really "elegant" in life, and I'm a major complainer, ask my poor husband - this is what he hates the most about my personality traits - but I'm getting better, am I not, sweetie?) and I think it's definitely worth it to blog.

I even heard from new people! Welcome Dalian Moon, hello Sarah Sometimes, thanks for adding me to your blog roll!

See, this is what I mean, I like it when it is a dialogue, a conversation, that's why it's fun frequenting (do you have this verb in English?) more "famous" blogs, and participating actively in the comment section... I am an extrovert (OK, how do you say that again? In Portuguese it would be "extroverted"), and love talking to people even though I usually stay very quiet when I am in big groups of people I don't know, or meet groups of new people. Like I just said in a comment over at Dalian Moon, it took me around 6 months to get comfortable in my "blogging skin" and start posting more often, and commenting more often in other people's blogs. It does take persistence to make good "friends" in blogosphere, and I already have several, which makes me really happy.

OK, I have to go now, but I hope to be back soon. I have a couple of memes to do (you probably already forgot about it, Kate, and thanks Alice, yours looks very interesting) , but I think I will do them at home, so I won't make my mom's phone bill even costlier (she pays for phone usage, it's not a flat rate)...

I fly home tomorrow night, and I'm trying to finish packing today so I won't leave it for the last minute like when I came in December. I already have one of the large suitcases packed, so I guess I'm making good progress towards my goal. I still have some shopping to do, and I wanted to scan some old pictures of my parents as young children, but maybe I won't be able too.

I hate the days before major travel, they are super stressful. Until now I'm really calm, though, let's see if I remain that way until tomorrow!

Friday, January 20, 2006

Blogging Crisis

Sometimes I feel that blogging is almost useless to me, since so few people read this, most of them merely lurkers, as far as I can tell from my sparse stats checking. I'm writing this right now, but it's not how I feel at this exact moment. You know when I feel that keeping the blog is worth it? After I spend sometime reading other people's blogs. Of course reading "famous" and prolific bloggers like Jo(e), for example, easily motivate some "blog envy" (in a matter of a couple months, her visitors went from 50,000 to almost 95,000, while I've had 2,000 visits in one whole year -- of course in one year I've posted less than 100 times and my writing is not brilliant at all, so I need to keep things in perspective :)

I always learn so much, though. First, about writing itself, because there are so many talented writers out there! Then, about feelings, truths, and experiences that make me grow as a human being. I like to go out of my "niche" (the wonderful expat mamas and multicultural families out there - hi everyone, I feel I "belong" to this group and love to read your blogs!!) and learn from other people's experiences, so I read a few infertility blogs, some adoption blogs, and birthmother blogs -- those are some of the saddest and deepest. There's a new one that I need to link to, because this woman writes so beautifully that I can't even begin to describe it. It's inspiring, even while it's utterly heartbreaking: Speaking For Myself. I found her at Dawn's blog -- I always learn tons from Dawn, who's an amazing person, so incredibly open, the most "experienced" blogger I know (since 2001!).

Anyway, I didn't come here to write about these women, even though it is important to keep linking to them because they are references, they should be read, all 3 of them and many more. Something that "Speaking For Myself" said a few times in different wordings stuck to me (and I'm paraphrasing here) -- it is very important when a woman tells her story, it can change the world ("split it open" I think). I think writing/reading can also change ourselves, because we learn so much when we express ourselves and when we read other women's experiences.

What do I have to contribute? I guess I have summarized it well in my blog description. I am a "divided" person, I am torn between my academic life, which by no means is the center/core of my life, which makes it extremely difficult for me to just go ahead and finish this PhD and my family life, my desire to be able to pursue things that I love, like children's literature, like trying to write someday, my home country and the friends here and the country where I now find myself in (even my two main languages, English and Portuguese - my sons only speak one of them so far...). So many things... Being the mother of two young children, loving it, enjoying every moment, every time I breasfeed, every time I play with them, but being torn because I desperately need time for myself, to try to find out who I am, and still HAVE to work on a dissertation, which is a task so difficult I feel overwhelmed just to think about it, let alone work on it...

Juggling all this is not easy. And that's why I think I need the blog. Even if nobody reads (I mean, I know some wonderful people who do and always give me lots of encouragement - Alice, you're great! Stella's mami, I know you're there too, and some other great people like Kate, Sandra, Ana, Marco, etc - this is not meant to be an exhaustive list of readers OK, folks?), even if my writing is not the best there is or even merely good... I need to express myself and share my story and that's all that matters. Even if it's extremely hard to find the time for it (this is one of the main reasons for my "crisis" -- is it worth it, I ask myself, to take time from my sleeping when I know my kids will get up before 7am just to blog? I think it is... because it helps me). Reading blogs also makes me learn a lot about writing, and hopefully that will show here in the future!

Anyway, I won't give up, at least not for now. There's so much I want to write about this visit to Brasil, there are fears I want to voice about the upcoming year, but this will have to wait, because I do need to get some rest.

As I was typing this last paragraph, I felt something was wrong and heard screaming from downstairs. I had not plugged the baby monitor, and my son needed to pee and woke up screaming, which, in turn woke up his baby brother. Luckily the situation was quickly resolved, but it's a very up to the minute example of what happens when mothers try to blog :)

Monday, January 16, 2006

Here in Brazil #5: My Parents' House

Before I go back to the US and it's too late, I wanted you to be able to vizualize where I am, so here I offer a couple of pictures (I wanted to upload more, like a series of houses so you have a better idea of how Brazilian houses look like, but this would take forever on this internet connection... sorry).
This is my parents' house:

And before you start wondering, wow, this is such a big house, they're rich, or something, let me explain... My parents saved their whole lives to be able to build this house. They moved in when it was not even finished yet, so they could save on rent to finish it. I think they lived on it for only a year before they both retired. It is pretty big, and it has a third floor "lookout" (where my dad's "office" is located) because my dad wanted to be able to have the best view possible.

This is the view:

The sunsets here are incredible, if you want to see some, I have them posted elsewhere, and you can ask me for the link (again, I could post a picture if it didn't take so long :( The trees are orange trees, this is an area of the Sao Paulo state countryside famous for that. The tiny town you can see in the background is called Engenheiro Coelho (that's where they live). Even in a mostly rural area like this, a condominium with houses that look beautiful like my parents' (even though most of the residents are just middle class people who used all their life-savings to build a house) is a target for theft, so they had to go and build this wall, which is almost 10 feet tall, (3,40m) - sad, isn't it?

The boys enjoy being here, my dad put up a swing in a tree in front of the house, and they have plenty of space to roam. Too bad they're still very young, so it keeps the three of us occupied all day long just to know where they are and what they're doing. Oh, yes, and it's extremely hot here, with temperatures in the 90sF (35C), so I wish my parents also had a pool - but see, they truly aren't rich, or we'd have one :)

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Random Updates and Thoughts (in lieu of New Year resolutions)

I've been constantly thinking about posting here for the past week, I have even an almost ready post that I typed a week ago (last Saturday morning), but it's been tough to run after two little boys all day long in the hot long days of Brazilian summer. There are so many things I want, and actually need to write and think about, but it's just not happening right now. So I'll try the itemized approach...

- I'm still here in Brazil, but more than any other time I've been back here, I want to go back "home" (to my house, since home here could also mean my home country, and I am in my home country).

- I'm getting frantic about getting to work and finishing this dissertation. I am hopeful this WILL be the year I'll finally put this behind me. It needs to happen, or else... or else what? Or else my parents won't be able to help me anymore (they're getting tired), or else I just won't be able to stand it anymore, or else my life will never ever start...

- I miss my husband, I miss my house, I miss... No, I don't really miss the US, I miss something I can't have - a life out of limbo, where we know for sure we're going to be living at a certain place for a long time, where we have real jobs. I want our future to start SOON, 'cause I'm tired of living a life of simply looking forward to something I don't even know what it is. It's been 10 years (or it will be, this coming June), and I think this is a bit too much.

- I want my sons to have friends, they need socialization and the joy of sharing their lives with other people they love. I want/need to have friends, if not the cherished old ones (I mean, we'll always have these wonderful friends who are here in Brazil, but if we don't live close to them, we won't share our lives with them), at least new friends that we can spend time with, get to know, and learn to love...

There are so many things I need, and even though I feel perfectly happy with my wonderful family (marvelous husband, gorgeous sons), there's no denying that my life has been incomplete for a long time now. The bad part is that it's not easy to solve these problems. Many things need to happen. I need to finish the dissertation, DH (dear husband) needs to find a job, we need to live in a "permanent place," and not just live "temporary lives," if you know what I mean.

I need to come back and elaborate more about these not so random points... maybe it'll be easier once I'm back home and the boys have their "honeymoon" period with their old toys :) What about that?

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Delurking Week

I copied the picture from ABDmom, and only after I had uploaded it I thought I didn't like it that much. I'll post it anyway, though, since it's hard enough to upload things on a dial-up connection, and I'm planning on posting again soon, so it won't sit at the top of the blog for too long. Today I'm spending a lot of time reading blogs and trying to catch up, since it's the first time in almost 3 weeks I'm not in a hurry online... It's amazing how blogs have become indispensable for me, almost as much as email, I'd say!

Any lurkers out there? I'd love to hear from you :)

Vacation Accidents

I haven't been able to post lately but there are tons of things to post about, so I'll start with what I think will yield the shortest post so I can get going.

I can't recall a vacation period with so many accidents in years and years... First, there was the mirror accident (or perhaps more adequately, incident), which could have been much more serious but which was not, and which in the end cost us only 100 dollars.

Then, something else happened while we were at the beach two weeks ago, this time with Kelvin, our almost 4 years old son. In one of the afternoons, the women in our family (my MIL, DH's grandma, my two SIL and I) drove to a town 2 hours away where there are several clothing factories and factory outlets to shop. DH stayed with both boys, and my BIL stayed with my nephew. Everything was going well until dad decided it was a good idea to take both boys to a playground to keep them entertained until we got home. The boys were having fun at the see-saw (the old fashioned kind, which I have never seen in the US since I started going to playgrounds, the one that goes all the way down and not only leans on a huge spring/coil). DH was holding Linton, who's only 17 months old, while Kelvin was holding on by himself. Then Kelvin didn't want to go anymore, and climbed down and started "helping" daddy to lower down his brother. Linton was enjoying it much more when the see-saw went down really fast, so DH started to do it faster, and, accidentally, the wooden see-saw hit Kelvin's front teeth when it was coming up. I can't imagine how poor DH dealt with two screaming boys, one bleeding profusely, but he managed. He washed up Kelvin, put both boys in the car, and drove to the nearest dentist (Linton screamed all the while, and only calmed down later, at the dentist's office). The dentist cleaned up Kelvin's mouth, prescribed a pain-killer/anti-inflammatory, and asked him to come back the next day for an X-ray. Of course I was heart-broken when I got home, especially when DH told me that Kelvin was very sad when it happened because he was just helping daddy, and not doing anything wrong. The end results? One, and probably both of his front teeth "died" (one already changed color), and he'll probably need a root canal in each of them not to compromise the permanent tooth behind them, can you believe it? Too bad this can't be done here because his teeth are still too 'soft'... this may end up being the costliest and hardest to solve accident of all.

The third one happened yesterday and not here in Brazil (that's why I didn't use that in the title). DH is in France participating of a winter course in his area of specialization. He was looking forward to skiing there, but he won't be able to. Yesterday as he walked to the ski station to ask about prices he slipped and fell in the ice fracturing his left arm... (This is a guy whose only fracture in life was a foot in his 7th grade, and only because his school bus driver made a sudden curve and he kicked the seat in front of him too hard). I felt very frustrated because he won't be able to ski, and even more because he'll have to write shorter emails :) The cost of this one? Apparently 150 Euros, thanks to the socialized health system in France (oh, yeah, I could go on and on about of how terrible I think the American health system is...).

Anyway... the hardest part for me is the realization that as far as the kids are concerned, this is only the beginning. I know I have to brace myself for much more serious accidents; they're an intrinsic part of childhood (and sometimes even adulthood... :)

Edited to add:
1. You may have noticed I’m a bit worried about money. It’s just that we’re on such a tight budget that any unexpected expense, however small, worries me.
2. Did I mention we were on vacation? Vacation my foot! There's no vacation when you have two young children. My husband and I were talking that in this situation it's best to vacation at home, but this subject is another post in itself.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Here in Brazil #4 Quick Update or Travels, Birthdays, and Weddings

I’ve been very busy over here. After a week at the beach (we had wonderful weather and enjoyed the beach and each other’s company), on Monday we spent ½ a day at my in-laws’ house (where I got back online for a few minutes), traveled for 4 hours to Curitiba where we spent the night. Then on Tuesday me, my dad and the boys drove for 8 hours to get to my parents' home in Sao Paulo state. Brazilian cars are tiny, so my mom used her miles to fly, and my husband took a bus (and the car was still completely packed with stuff). We all met again here at night.

After only a day here we're driving to Sao Paulo (the city) this afternoon, and we'll be back on Tuesday. There we'll stay at our best friends' house, and on Saturday we'll celebrate my husband's grandmother's 80th birthday, since her whole family is here from all over Brazil and also the U.S. for the two weddings (my BIL's and a cousin). Her birthday is actually the same day as mine, July 7, but we're celebrating ahead of time. On Saturday night, hubby flies home, missing his cousin's wedding on Sunday because he has to go to France (!!) for a course - lucky him! (coincidentaly, Saturday is the grandmother's sister's birthday, so we'll have a celebration for her 73rd birthday as well during lunch).

Sunday will be a crazy day, because we have two weddings to go to, and Kelvin will be a ring-bearer at both of them. The first (my husband's best friend) is at 11 am and the second (hubby's cousin) at 4 pm, and they are in different cities, 2 hours away. Wish us luck with this marathon. I hope to post again on Sunday night because our friends have high speed internet.

I'll try to be back soon, but meanwhile, I'll post this, because I'm using my mom's phone line right now...