Monday, December 31, 2007

2007: The Roller-Coaster Year

I think I've never experienced a year with so many ups and downs, twists and turns as this one. Good thing I like roller coasters ;)

The Year in One Paragraph
In January-February we were waiting for job applications. K had an academic job interview and applied to the big pharma job at the end of February and got the job in March. In April and May we started looking at houses and had an offer accepted at the end of May. In June-July we had to give up on that house since the visa process was taking too long. I traveled to Brazil with the boys in July-August and when we came back our house was sold and K's visa finally came after five long months. We looked for houses, made an offer which was accepted, K started work, Kelvin started kindergarten. We closed on the first house, were "homeless" for a week before moving into our new old home. Moving was extremely stressful and the first weeks at the new house were tough because it's an old fixer upper which needs tons of work. On Oct. 31st, the very same day in which K mailed our first mortgage payment, K lost his job. The week before, my dad had hit a man who subsequently died. Dark times. We were at a loss for what to do when on Dec. 18, our 13th wedding anniversary, K learned he was going to continue at big pharma. Undescribable relief.

Last year I wished that this year I'd defend my dissertation and graduate and I didn't do that yet (partly because I wanted to maintain my visa so I could travel to Brazil)... Now I have no idea how things are going to progress in this respect : (

I'm so glad and relieved that we can look forward to this new year, that's just absolutely priceless. There are tons of things that I could write about 2007 and maybe later I'll write a post highlighting the main posts that I wrote this year, but it's getting close to midnight and I want to post this, that's why it's not nicely written or anything.

Happy New Year to everyone!! I hope 2008 is a great year. I can truthfully say that every single year of my life has been better than the one before. It's comforting to feel that way.

P.S. Oh, and I'm happy to report that my grandma went back home today. Back in 1997 my maternal grandmother died when I lived here in this town and I didn't want to be here again when my other grandma passed away. I'm thrilled that she has recovered.

The Dissertation and the Holidays: The Saga Continues

I went online hoping to write my end-of-year post (which I still want to complete), but I went to check my email and I found a couple of "surprise" emails from my advisor. I'll take the bullet approach to make this boring discussion more readable:
  • On May 17 I emailed him my revised (4-5th drafts, all previous already read by him) chapters 1-3 and he only read and annotated them electronically today.
  • In an older email (from the same day) he had said that he'd taken a look and liked those chapters, but I guess he changed his opinion somewhat. After a nice compliment on my dissertation being one of the best he's encountered, he went on to emphasize my "mechanical mistakes:" "(run-on sentences; lack of parallel structure, verb tenses shifts, awkward prepositions, passive constructions, weak verbs, non-specific nouns, too many qualifying adverbs), many of which [he] corrected, but many others which still need attention." He suggested that "You might consider getting a writing tutor as you are making many of the same mistakes repeatedly. Please do not expect your committee to correct your writing mistakes." Nice
I know this is pathetic and ridiculous and preposterous and maybe plain wrong, but I was wondering if anyone out there could help me or help me find help in this. I didn't plan to write this at all in this email, but I'm getting so desperate I guess I'm willing to just BEG for help. And maybe I could even afford to pay someone if only I got those piano lessons going again.

But this was not the worse part of the email. Guess what?
  • The advisor is going on sabbatical next semester and he assumed I knew about that already!! What wonderful news to receive right when I'm about to embark in my very last semester of graduate school, no? He said he'll be available in April and I'm sure I can defend then, but I'll have only two weeks or so to make any corrections before submitting my dissertation to the graduate school on time to participate of the commencement. Can anyone tell me if two weeks is enough???
  • I emailed him back right away and told him I'd go ballistic if I weren't able to participate. And he added another piece of news:
  • My former advisor, who had been a KEY person in helping me edit my chapters is ALSO going on sabbatical. Sweet, huh? I emailed him too, but haven't received a response (the advisor said we can schedule the defense for the second or third weeks in April).
Well, I know everything will be all right and I've become much more thicker skinned and calmer, but I'll be infuriated if any other committee members are not available for April. What a nightmare that will be. But hopefully everyone will be available and we'll schedule the defense right away. By the way... my MIL was teasing me because I keep telling people about my commencement and inviting them and she was asking whether I had the defense scheduled and joking about it, since I don't. Oh well... at this point I guess I don't really care (although I do), I just want to get it done. It's just annoying if I can't participate because of things out of my control, like committee members being away.

Let me know if you have any suggestions of people who could help me and correct my English, OK? Yeah... I guess I should have known that he'd pester me about it to the very end. Second rate foreign speaker of English that I am. Humpf.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Snapshots of Christmas 2007

I got completely over it. Yeah, I think I finally got my priorities straight in life and have realized that photos aren't really that important ;) (at least those 100 I lost weren't). So now I'm sharing some photos from our celebration.

First, I want to share this joyous photo that we took with some of our best friends from church on December 16:
Now I want to show you all the presents that were exchanged this Christmas between six adults and four children (we all enjoy gift giving very much). We arrived here on Friday night and here's the tree with my parents-in-law and our gifts (My MIL's tree is simple because she's just starting to buy and collect ornaments since she got rid of all her old ones [not particularly pretty nor significant -- there's no ornament collection tradition in Brazil] when she moved here from Brazil two years ago]):
My brother- and sister-in law brought all these:
So this is how the tree looked like after we had stuffed the back and the side full of presents:Matching clothes were the "theme" of the evening. The four cousins were matching and just as a joke, my sister-in-law and I bought the same blouse.
Look at the some of the jolly mess afterwards:

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


First, I want to say that we're having a great time with family during the holidays and I hope you are too (that's why i didn't post earlier). Maybe I'll blog more about our Christmas later and see if I can include some photos... that is, if I can get over what happened this morning.

Last night I was checking blogs for the first time in a couple of days and I came across Dawn's rant about losing all her itunes music (and something else) and her subsequent apology about said rant. I felt really really sorry for her because I think one of the saddest things is losing photos, music, documents in computer crashes. It hasn't happened to me yet, thankfully, and although I'm not as careful as she is about backing up, I try to have all my photos in three separate places (desktop, external hard drive, laptop). Well, but it seems that having read her posts kind of jinxed me (I'm just kidding, of course...).

So... this morning I was taking pictures of my nephews when I noticed that the memory stick was full. I came to the bedroom to download the photos onto the laptop and while I was starting the download I noticed that several of the photos had already been downloaded. I didn't want to keep clicking "NO" (for the message "replace the other one by this one") so I canceled the download and opened the December file to checked which ones were already in the computer and then quickly (and carelessly -- I'm usually extremely careful because I'm a photo fanatic) selected a bunch of photos in the memory stick and clicked the delete button. I didn't really stop to think before the computer asked me if i really wanted to delete those 177 files and I hit "YES," but the moment I glanced at the thumbnails still displayed on the screen I realized that I had selected all the photos I took on our anniversary day celebration in Philly and more. Of course it was too late. I had just lost a bunch of pictures I had never even SEEN (only browsed through thumbnails quickly) let alone downloaded. I was instantly crushed. So much so that I immediately left the room and told everyone that I had to get over it and that I had just done something really really stupid. My husband's family knows how obsessed I am with photos, so they were very sympathetic.* I did my best not to overreact this time and I kept repeating "I'll get over it. It's OK." And I am OK. They remarked that it was better that i hadn't seen the photos yet, but that kind of worries me too, because sometimes I take random pictures of the boys that turn out really beautiful and I keep trying to remember which are the photos that I deleted.

Hmmm, yeah, I just remembered that I deleted all photos we took at Longwood Gardens last week on Wednesday which really is NOT a bit deal at all... and that is a great comfort to me. I'm glad I remembered that, phew!!

All right, i gotta go because the boys want to use the laptop to watch a video, but I wanted to share this little stupid mistake with you. I hope I can post a more substantial post later and even include some photos. I should be fully over it by the end of the day! :) And from now on I'll be really more careful and double check every time I hit the delete button. Sigh.

*Although a few minutes later my FIL asked "are you going to be sulking about this all day long?" Hmmm, No?!!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Full Circle

Edited to add: yesterday we left our house around 4 pm and arrived safely here at 10:30 p.m. I left the 900+ photo order loading and I just checked my email and verified that the order was processed although probably only with very few minutes to spare before the computer was scheduled to hibernate.

Thirteen years later we have finally returned to this Massachusetts town (the only city in the country in which there is a major highway passing under the city hall :) to spend the holidays.

Thirteen years ago we had been here in the U.S. for six months and we lived in a tiny two bedroom apartment in a dirty street at the top of a three floor house (the windows on the right side of the building). All we had was some pieces of hand-me-down furniture and just the most basic things to live (pots, pans, plates, etc). Those were tough days because the apartment's old gas central space heater's defective pilot light would go off every time it shut off while the temperatures outside fell to zero (F) and below (-20 C). It took over a week for our landlord (who lived on the ground floor) to get it fixed.

Now my in-laws live in a comfortable, spacious two bedroom apartment with free heat, electricity, and hot water and with an indoor pool and health club in a really nice part of town.

Thirteen years ago I was quite depressed since all our savings of 6 long years (16K) were quickly going down the drain. Worse than that was the fact that we didn't know what the new year was going to bring, it was all "darkness" ahead. Thankfully we went on to graduate school with a sponsorship from Brazil in the fall, but we didn't know that on those dark days of winter 96-97.

Now we still don't know what the next years will bring, but our residency ("grass-colored" card) application forms are in K's work laptop right now, so I think it's a good conclusion to this adventure that started thirteen and a half years ago. We have come full circle, but we almost didn't make it! I don't even want to think what would be going through my head right now if we hadn't received that "anniversary present" last Tuesday. I don't want to think of what-ifs now, I just want to enjoy the feeling of "fullness" and "fulfillment." I guess we're meant to remain in this country, at least for now. It taken thirteen years, but it looks like this time it's going to happen.

P.S. Please keep my grandmother in your thoughts and prayers. She's back in the hospital and we don't know if she'll ever recover (she's suffering from a lung emboly, the accumulation of fluid in the lungs as a consequence of a having suffered and being treated for thrombosis). What a tough time for my father's family, particularly during the holidays! The worse part is that my grandmother is uninsured and although Brazil does have publicly funded health insurance, her doctor and the family put her in a private hospital and they're charging her a discounted rate (around 100 dollars a day). Her children are splitting the costs, but those may add up. Everyone's biggest concern, however, is that she doesn't suffer pain and she goes peacefully, like she wants. I hope this is possible. My mom is spending the night with her and I'll give her a call soon. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Gotta Be Quick!

I know... I never had the time to scan and post some of our wedding photos. I'll do it someday. Promise.

We're leaving for Massachusetts in an hour or two (hopefully) to spend the holidays with my parents-in-law (my BIL and his family arrive tomorrow night, I think, they're flying from MD) so we have a long drive ahead of us.

I can't stand the days and hours before a trip because it's just inevitable that we leave everything for the last minute. Particularly I, myself, and me... :( K was actually a bit mad because I obviously left for today the task of uploading and ordering a year and a half worth of photos because today is the last day of a promotional price (5 cents a print) for the already CHEAPEST photo development website in the country!! I get so happy just knowing I'm paying the lowest possible price for good service. The best thing is that if you live in NYC or NJ you can pick up your photos for free and that's what I did last June when we went to bring my brother to NYC. It was the last time I ordered a sizable number of photos. The plan was to pick them up today as well, but I decided to have them shipped instead. 14 bucks for almost 1000 photos is pretty good. Anyway, check them out.

OK, gotta go finish packing the bags, washing a sink full of dishes, etc.

I'll be blogging from there, but I want to wish you and yours very Happy Holidays!! And wish us a good trip :)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Is It Strange to Feel Like Crying Now?

I've told you before that I cried only three times after "The Very Bad Thing" happened. The first was when I thought of how Kelvin was going to miss his school and classmates and remembered that K was also 6 years old when the first move to another city that he can remember took place and traumatized him quite a bit. The second time, I was driving from a store to another rushing to buy things friends had asked me to bring to Brazil when I drove past this awesome, brand new YMCA I had visited with the boys on our first week here and Linton asked me: "Mama, when are we going to go swimming in that pool?" I was astounded that he remembered it from almost two months earlier and felt so devastated that we'd probably never become members and go to that pool. We then took the highway and drove by K's work and this beautiful song was playing in the car stereo and I wept bitterly. (I can't remember the third time now...)

I have to confess that I can cry at movies and sad books fairly easily, but I have a hard time breaking down and crying when things aren't going well.* I don't like to let anyone see me cry and I've been like that since I was a young girl so I've learned to control my crying quite well, even when I'm alone sometimes. I feel like crying now, but for some reason it seems to be strange to cry now that things are well. This is the point, though, all the tension that I've been holding has to melt away and crying would help.

I tried to be as brave as possible and not to complain, either here or elsewhere, and that wasn't easy at times, but finally I felt at peace and didn't feel anguished just by looking around the house and the things that need(ed) to be done. Now that everything is finally resolved, everything keeps coming back at me...

... how long and stressful this year has been: K having only one interview out of 50 academic applications; then getting a "miracle" job offer, but having to wait for ages for the visa; making an offer on a house and then subsequently being forced to give it up; putting the house on the market and selling it before having chosen another one; coming back from Brazil to go house hunting while trying to pack for the move and meanwhile K started on the new job and Kelvin started school...

... the stressful move and being "homeless" for almost a week.

... how tough those first weeks here were, having to get used to this older house and some of its ugly, even repulsive, things (like old ugly, dirty carpet in bathrooms), feeling like it would be a torture to wait to be able to afford each renovation.

... just when we were getting used to this place, making some small progress in renovating, buying new furniture, the devastating news came. What to do then? How to sell this house and not to loose a huge amount of money? What about all our plans and dreams?

I had these small concerns and sadnesses preying on me and that I allowed myself to share with you: the bulbs and the garden that I wasn't going to have, the CSA farm membership that we might not get (because if we moved we wouldn't be able to continue), Kelvin having to go to another school. And meanwhile I even forgot things like our wish to become part of the YMCA and do more physical activity. Last week I drove on that road again and Linton was asking when we were going to go on the water slides and I just said that probably not at that place, ever... But now things have changed again and we can proceed with our plans and dreams, even the "small" ones.

On our way home yesterday I wanted to stop at IKEA so we could look at mattresses since now we can finally go ahead and buy the king-sized bed that we had planned to buy before our anniversary (only it'll have to be after it ;) and I could hardly believe that we were doing that.

It's not an "instant injection" of cheerfulness, though, this piece of good news. It seems that the dream is somewhat tainted now, that we're no longer innocently taking things for granted, we now know we have to enjoy it while it lasts and be prepared for changes in the future too. Sudden changes if necessary.

I planted the remaining bulbs today while K cleaned all the remaining leaves from the front of the house. And when I had to go buy more lawn bags, I bought another bag of bulbs. Daffodils, which are cheerful and not eaten by rodents. And I planted them with renewed hope in a brighter future.

* Except perhaps when it's about people and dying. I cried several times since I heard about my grandma being ill. It looks like she'll be released from the hospital tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Perfect Day (With a Cherry on Top -- read to the end)

It was a great day (although I'm still overly full for having eaten way too much at our late buffet lunch/dinner). The boys enjoyed the Renoir exhibit thanks to the audio guide that was included. Kelvin listened to every single explanation, both the "family" ones and the ones for adults. I think it was a great way to introduce them to art, particularly by the artist that I loved the most when I was a child (Monet became more of a favorite later, but I never forgot my childhood love of Renoir). It was harder for Linton who didn't really understand the audio guide, but K carried him part of the way (no strollers allowed) and he was OK with it.

We stayed a bit over an hour walking around the 2nd level and a bit of the first after we exited the special exhibit, but we were in no rush to see everything* because I purchased a membership -- finally!! I can't believe I could have had a student membership all these three years and never got one -- however, the kids were way too young to really enjoy it, now is the right moment to do it (and my last eligible year too).
* I know, it's unbelievable that we hadn't gone to the Art Museum in these past three years, but I reasoned that it was too hard with the little ones underfoot. We had been there once back in 2000, so we had seen it once before. Only I feel like kicking myself now that I realized I could have had the membership and not missed the Salvador Dalí show (2004) and the Wyeths. We didn't go to those because on the tight budget that we had, spending 44 dollars to go see art felt like a bit too much, no matter how much we love it. Now I get to see Frida Kahlo in a few months for free!!! Let me know if any of you want to come along. Oh, and BTW, if you like Renoir's work, you should see the exhibit, it's really good.

We left the museum around 2:30 and we didn't know where we were going to eat (as usual... we have a hard time planning since we don't know any restaurants only the "chain ones" since we hardly ever eat out). I remembered dimly that Jeannette had mentioned (also in an anniversary post) an Indian buffet around 10th street, so we parked on 11th (past Chestnut) and asked about one and there was a really great vegetarian one on Walnut St. YAY!! So cheap too. The kids didn't eat too much, but we just stuffed ourselves with that delicious food! Then we walked to Macy's where we arrived in time to see their giant light "Christmas card" in action (every hour?) and then we saw the Dickens village (which portrays "A Christmas Carol" with half-heartedly animated figures. OK.

The phone rang when we were starting our drive back out of the city. It was K's office mate at Big Pharma with a message from his boss's boss from abroad -- he wanted to talk to K, but since he was on the cell phone, his colleague asked the boss to call K instead. In a few minutes K got the call and, as we drove around City Hall and Love Park we reached the company's headquarters -- I pointed it out to K, and he actually parked the car at the curb to finish the conversation. As it turns out, his boss's boss carved out a new position for K and he's not going to be leaving big pharma after all. Can you believe it? Yeah, neither did we. What a Christmas present! What a remarkable day and anniversary! Wow... more about that soon. And... if I can figure out how to scan with minimal hassle I'll share wedding photos later, OK? (and some photos of today too)

1. My grandmother is recovering remarkably well. I'm so thankful for that. My parents will see her in a couple of days.
2. As of yesterday, my Christmas shopping for family is DONE! I had taken a break since Thanksgiving, but I got my act together yesterday since there were only 3 more presents to get. Now I need to find something for Kelvin's teachers and his "secret friend" in school.

Thirteen Years Ago - The Eve

I was still up thirteen years ago at this time. In fact, I didn't go to sleep until after 3 a.m. I was making three mix tapes of some of my favorite music: from this album by David Foster, Ennio Morricone's music, Nat King Cole's standards, showtunes interpreted by Streisand here and there [I did make a mistake and put "Move on," not once but twice -- this is a song about separation, not union], and, of course marvelous Brazilian music by Ivan Lins, João Gilberto, Chico Buarque, Caetano Veloso, Zizi Possi, and others.

These were my wedding reception mix tapes, the very first and last I ever created (I don't know why I sometimes prefer to listen to whole CDs and not mixed stuff. I haven't yet gotten into ipod and digital music at all, I know, strange...).

I slept well and deeply once I was done. I was never calmer in my life. a "miracle" in and of itself. I've inherited my mom's genes and I've always been anxious and nervous, but in the year that led to my wedding I literally prayed for peace and calm and it happened. As the hectic year end came to a close the calmer I became -- a surprising fact given the nerve-wracking circumstances.

1994 was our last year at the university (my 5th and K's 7th) and we scheduled our wedding for the end of the school year (December in Brazil), before our summer vacation, since we had to go back to teach beginning in February. However, earlier that year there was a two month long strike among the university professors and personnel that lasted from late May to July/August (K lost a semester and subsequently missed a whole year in 1988 because of a longer strike) and we were afraid that the school year was going to spill into January and our wedding plans would be ruined. Thankfully, though, the first semester concluded in August (first semester is from March-June, July is a month of break, 2nd semester from August-Nov) and the second went up to literally days before the wedding. I handed in my very last paper on Tuesday, had the city marriage on Thursday and church wedding on Sunday. But I remained calm through it all and was able to plan the wedding in minute details.

We like to be as unique as possible, so with the help of a computer whiz friend we designed our own "quirky" invitations -- printed on light green paper and with bamboo leaves as a background. We also planned a day time wedding -- something unheard of in Brazil where everyone loves a wedding at night for some reason (tough in the summer since it has to start at 8 pm and then it goes on really late into the night, awful for people with children) -- this has changed in those past 13 years and now more people do that. We did it because we didn't like late dinners and we wanted to serve a lunch (lunch is the main meal in Brazil actually, more like dinner here), so we scheduled it for 11 a.m. (of course I was a little bit more than fashionably late, but hopefully I'll share that part "tomorrow," I mean, later today :). In short, we wanted our wedding to reflect who we were and the relationship we had with our friends and family.

It was a HUGE affair. 400 invitations were handed and we calculate that between 500-600 people attended the ceremony and reception afterwards. It was just as it should be, a most perfect day, but that's what I hope to share later, after I get to scan some more photos [that's why I didn't post last year on our 12th anniversary :( ]. Our scanner situation is a little tricky right now, but I'll do my best since I really want to share that day with you!!

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~
Tomorrow we're going to Philly with the boys. I purchased tickets for Renoir's exhibit at the Museum of Art. I hope the boys enjoy it. I'm already thinking of a bribe so they behave. I think it's key that they have their tummies full. Too bad that when they think of museums they automatically think of this one. :( Not too far away, but not the museum I want to go to tomorrow... Wish us luck!!

Saturday, December 15, 2007


I had to smile when RocketMom wrote on a comment to the previous post that it was "ok to take it easy." Little did she know that I wouldn't be able to take it easy yesterday nor today and although I guess I can rest now, I still have some more things coming up before we take a true "vacation"* and head to Massachusetts for 10 days next Friday.

This morning we had a Christmas program in church and K and I were organizing it, so last night, after practicing some songs with our musical group and getting back home 10 p.m. I stayed up until 4 a.m. preparing materials (mostly a handout that ended up not being used) and power point presentations for today's program. [I'm sorry you didn't make it to the music part Cloudscome, but it was surely nice to have lunch with you and talk!] I had only 4 hours of sleep and now I'm obviously exhausted.

We couldn't return home after we were done at 3 p.m. and had to stay in Philly because a good friend had her 50th birthday party tonight. The party was really nice and we thoroughly enjoyed the time with our friends in spite of the fact that we had to drive for a whole hour to get back home. The tiredness is taking its toll on us now and we have to go to bed soon (K is watching SNL right now, though, in spite of the fact that he had to stop the car so I could drive the last part of the way home).

And tomorrow there's more of the same (minus most of the work): we have a holiday party and "White Elephant" gift exchange with our church friends. I'm in charge of baking a couple of pot pies, but I'm sure I'll enjoy baking them (and, most of all, eating them!).

~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Talking about rest, I'm very sorry to report that my only living grandparent, my 95 year old grandmother's health took a turn for the worse this week. She is hospitalized now and she may go to rest soon. The hardest thing is that her body is failing, but she's perfectly lucid and aware of everything. She talks about dying and she wants it to come soon so she can rest.

I'm just so sad [I'm crying now] and I really feel for my poor father who is going through such an unbelievably dark phase in his life right now. This would be so hard for him to bear. He's her favorite son too. When she heard about the accident (before the man died) she just laughed and shrugged it off and said: "I know everything will be all right. Things always go well for [my son] since he's such a good man." This will be the grandparent's loss that I'll feel most keenly (I'll talk about the others someday).

Well, I know I should go get some rest now.

* Vacations with young children are never restful. Life is never restful with them. Last night K remarked that people with little children just can't lead "normal" lives -- most everything in our lives revolves around them, doesn't it?

Friday, December 14, 2007

"First" Facts in Family Illnesses

  • Tonight was the first night of uninterrupted sleep for us since Saturday. (Linton had a cold and woke up several times Saturday-Tuesday nights, on Tuesday night Kelvin got very sick, coughing and unable to sleep from 4 a.m. on).

  • It was the first time in three years that Kelvin had what can be considered an acute asthma attack, although he hasn't been diagnosed with asthma yet. We were at the doctor's office for over two hours last Wednesday where he received a couple of nebulizer treatments. I foolishly didn't think the problem was in his lungs because just three weeks ago Linton had a similar cough (only louder) and "wheezing" and it was just croup (that needed steroids nonetheless).

  • For the first time ever one of my sons is taking antibiotics. Besides his asthma and having to take steroids Kelvin tested positive for strep. :( And now I'm worried that Linton (and maybe I) may have caught it, but Linton is on the mend (only coughing nasty stuff up) and I'm OK. Nobody had fever.

  • Kelvin was going to have his first lunch out at his favorite buffet restaurant with his school [only 11 kids]. Even Linton and I were invited, but we all missed it because of his illness. :(

No more firsts to narrate, I guess... since it's the second bout of colds this winter. I hope not that many come. Oh, and it was the second time Kelvin was away from school, only the first with a valid health reason since the first time he only complained of a pain in his ear, I took him to the doctor and he had nothing! We're yet to have our first year infection in this household, but hopefully it'll never come!

P.S. I'm taking both boys to an asthma specialist soon. I had really bad asthma growing up (starting at 3 years old), but was basically "cured" after I became a vegan at age 18. Now I'm not that strict anymore (I consider myself an "ovo-lacto-vegetarian"), but I avoid dairy foods and don't eat cheese at all and that keeps my asthma completely at bay. Lucky me, I know.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Planting and Hoping

Yesterday I finally planted most of the bulbs I had purchased back in August when our offer on this house was accepted. The temperature was in the 50s and I knew that it was going to drop today and stay low for a while (we've had sleet and now have some freezing rain out there). As I usually do with any gardening tasks, I enjoyed doing it very much. I think that planting bulbs is like magic, you put this tiny (well, sometimes fairly big) bulb in the earth and in the Spring it becomes a beautiful plant with a colorful flower. I didn't plant as many as my friend Jody did two years ago and last year (how many again, Jody, like 600?), I planted around 200 and I still have around 30 to plant. I'm thinking I could "force" some of them in vases, have you ever done it with tulips? I think one of my gardening/ house plants books (I have only four, and I certainly will need more if we get to stay in this house) explains how to do it.
(I'm "illustrating" this post with photos from last Spring of some of the bulb flowers I planted three and one [hyacinths] year[s] ago in our former home. They were the same kind ["brand"] as those I planted here, purchased at this European/worldwide "bargain" chain store -- it's one of my favorite places to shop since everything is good quality and prices are extremely low).
Now that I planted them I'm hoping, not so much that we stay in this house for a few more years. I hope...
...that these tiny little promises sprout and flower in the spring
...that the rodents don't devour them
... and that the deer leave them alone while they display their beautiful colors.

These are bigger challenges that the bulbs will have to overcome in order to survive for future bloomings. Many of those I planted are disliked by those creatures, but some are prized (tulips and crocus). And now we 'll wait until Spring for the surprises they'll bring (yeah, silly rhyme, but the feeling is genuine).

Monday, December 10, 2007


This weekend K and I finally had some time to have a couple of long, fruitful conversations even though we got a bit tired as a result. On Friday night, after coming home from practicing with our singing group at 10 p.m. we talked until 2 a.m. A lot of it was about intellectual stuff, the things I learned last week and wrote in my dissertation and other ideas we're both excited about -- I just love these conversations! We haven't had time to communicate well in ages and I was flabbergasted (and oh, so relieved!) to find out that a decision that I'd been struggling with during the past two weeks was already a "fait accompli" (had been done, taken) -- to keep on helping at our church or not. K had already told the pastor weeks ago that we'd be "stepping down" due to our stressful and uncertain situation and I simply didn't know!! I got a kick, however, of how relieved and relaxed I felt all weekend -- as if a mighty weight had been lifted from my shoulders.

On Saturday we were talking on the car about our options and K realized that there would be another alternative for us to be able to keep the house if:
1) the hopeful jobs around here fell through and he had to go back to being a post doc;
2) he didn't pass or decided not to participate in the concurso (the Brazilian entry examination for a tenured university professor post) in Brazil and we decided to remain in the U.S.;
3) he didn't get an academic job offer starting in the fall and he went on to remain a postdoctoral researcher until the summer of 2009.

If I got a job and earned 40K or more we could probably keep the house. Of course we'd spend a lot on childcare for Linton (and maybe even for Kelvin if my hours didn't coincide with school hours), but we might be able to make it.

I'm just thinking again what I could possibly do and I felt so absolutely limited by a "stupid,"
basically useless Ph.D.!!!!! I could try to be a postdoc although in the humanities there's less funding for such things and I don't really know how it works, I could be an adjunct, but that wouldn't pay the amount we need, I could teach high school, couldn't I? (I was just looking at WWW Mama's blog and she was writing about her new job as a high school teacher).

Well... I hate to think of a job solely as a way of providing money for survival. I guess we academics get really spoiled in that respect. We spend so many years pursuing our own interests in the name of "advancing knowledge and/or science" that we come out of it with a warped sense of how "the real world" works. We become passionate and foolish idealists who only want to work with things we're passionate about (isn't that so, Articulate Dad? Good thing that your line of work has the prospect of becoming lucrative in the long run). In the end of the Ph.D. journey our painful endeavors don't mean much to anyone else and the only option we have to continue that journey is getting an academic job. HA!! Problem is that there's an acute shortage of those jobs -- the number of Ph.D.s has just inflated for many reasons and our degrees are rendered useless in the end because we cannot be absorbed back into academia, only as "indentured slaves" (aka adjuncts).

Very very sad, but very true as well. One's got to think of all the alternatives, though. Even if they seem merely mercenary (alliteration and assonance intended) and not idealistic at all.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Out of the Blue

(photo of the sky on the day we had that picnic)
Well, OK, it was not completely out of the blue since he had sent his resumé (it would be CV in academia...) to them through a friend who works in recruiting and who knows someone in there, but... today, K did a phone job interview for another "big pharma," for a job he didn't know existed and had not even applied for!! This supposed prospective job wouldn't require moving.... wow. Let's not get our hopes up just yet, OK? Or at least try not to.

I thought you guys would like to hear that.

I didn't get to the dissertation today, but, like Sarah Sometimes said in a recent comment, yes, I definitely have momentum and I'm really really excited about my work right now. That feels SO GOOD!! Gotta go to bed now.

Oh, before I forget... I went grocery shopping here today and took an alternative way coming back home, right through this nice National Historic Park that we have nearby and at the end of a curve we "ran into" a covered bridge!!!

A lovely, beautiful, white covered bridge on this pretty day with snow on the ground and more falling softly.
The very first covered bridge that I've ever seen in my life!!! (in spite of the fact that I lived for 8 years in Massachusetts not very far from a couple of them). I was just so excited! (I bet you can tell from the ridiculous number of exclamation marks I'm using right now).We didn't go through it (for the boys' disappointment and mine too), but doing so would probably get us lost and out of our way. Now I want to go back there and take some photos! (the photo above was taken from the internet -- we were driving on the opposite side going to the left). It was a magical moment... (and just a few minutes later K told me about his interview on the phone).

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Dreaming in "Academese"

I didn't sleep well, mostly because I spent most of the night writing in "academese" with the highlighted word being "intergenerational" -- a key word in my dissertation writing from last night.

It's actually funny when this happens and a good sign, right? It means I'm working, making progress. It made me get up and come right to the computer to dissertate some more. How awesome is that?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

I Ble*w It

(I edited the title because I don't want to be one of the first results [5th] on g00gle for that expression like I am right now :) )

Literally, not figuratively, I destroyed our leaf blower/vacuum today .

The culprit:

No, not my son. My scarf (hand knit by my beloved grandmother).

Silly me, I let it loose around my neck while I was vacuuming some more leaves in the backyard and the fringe was sucked up by the machine's poor motor which shut off immediately. I opened the thing and got the scarf out (I even cut some of it even though it wasn't really necessary), closed it back up and nothing. K did the same and it won't work. I killed it.

I was so depressed afterwards. K was great, he said that accidents happen, and went outside with the boys in the freezing cold to work on the yard. He bagged two more piles of leaves and hickory nuts (yes, we have a huge tree in our front yard!!) so the city can take them tomorrow. We'll have to tackle the rest of the leaves in this fashion. I so hate to blow 50 perfectly good bucks on this :( Good thing I had at least blown most of the leaves around the house (the wind did spread a lot of them, but not all the piles) and vacuumed several piles.

~ ~~ ~
And today, just because I decided to blog about it yesterday I guess, that little speck, that tiny sliver is almost disappearing from view... we think it's not gonna happen. I shouldn't have given you hope, I spoke too soon. But we'll wait, and wait... for emails, for interviews, for whatever comes. And we MUST start renovating the house although we have little energy (and $) for that. Sorry for being so negative today.

Today's other post may be a little better if you haven't seen it yet.

NYT Article About Brazilians Leaving the U.S.

Edited to add a paragraph.
Two blog readers, Lauren (via a comment) and Karen (by email), brought this article from today's NY Times to my attention. Karen said she wanted to hear my thoughts on the subject.

Well... if you've been a careful reader you'll know that I have very conflicted feelings about my compatriots who come here illegally. I've interacted with hundreds of them over the eleven and a half years in which we've lived here and there's always a subtle divide between us since I'm not in the same situation and have never been. I don't agree with what they're doing although I'm not insensitive and can understand why they decided to come. I actually thing it's a very good idea to go back, at least for people like those described in the article -- middle class people. They generally come with the desire to stay for just a while and return later and sometimes they do.

One of my best friends went back in 2005 and even though it broke my heart to know that our two children, both of whom are just one month apart (we enjoyed being pregnant together twice since we lived only one hour away) wouldn't grow up "together" (i.e. seeing each other several times a year instead of just once a year or every two years) I knew that they'd be much better off in Brazil. And they are, they're happy and relieved that they decided to leave. The children are American citizens and they can return one day if they want. There they're close to family (although they did have one brother here who has remained because his daughter is a promising swimmer) and friends.

Now... I have come to know many people who were really quite poor in Brazil and for those returning is much harder. Most came with their children's future in sight although I cannot see how they'll really benefit if they weren't born here. And I guess some of those are staying in spite of all the "tightening" circumstances. Some didn't leave Brazil with a desire to go back, they just want to stay and make a new life here.

Anyway, this is a subject that brings me pain and anguish. Even interacting with these folks is painful at times, particularly knowing that I'm better off than they are because of my legal status, educational background, etc. It's funny that years ago when we first met some of the middle class people who were coming they would actually be shocked to find out that I didn't really like it here and that I planned to go back. I was proud of that and very critical of those who simply idolized the U.S. and thought it was "the promised land" or something. I never viewed myself as an immigrant, although that may be changing, let's see.

Edited to add:
Oh, and if we return to Brazil it certainly won't be for the same reasons those folks featured in the article are returning. We're planning to go back only if K gets the tenured professor post at the largest and most prestigious university in Brazil (perhaps in Latin America). He may not even get to "apply" for it, though since the concurso (official examination) may be scheduled at date when he may have received other job offers. We'll see.

Anything else about this you'd like to know?

(I am planning to write more on my thoughts and feelings as an expatriate although I often feel at a loss for words to express then).

Monday, December 03, 2007


Even the tiniest speck, the thinnest sliver of hope makes all the difference.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I wasn't going to blog about this, but as the time draws near when we'll find out whether this hope will lead to a solution to the "Very Bad Thing," I thought I'd let you know. Word should come within next two weeks. We've been hopeful for over two weeks now and it is a relief to have some respite from the constant pain, even if it may be just temporary relief. Just knowing our worst fears may not materialize after all is heartening and, if worse comes to worse, we've had some time to regroup and focus on what needs to be done next (not that we've quit working on job applications or anything).

On other news, I made a dent on our "excess leaf problem" today! I vacuumed/mulched three big piles (which filled three extremely packed bags). Yay!

I'm going to start working on the dissertation again! Yes. Hold your breaths... the end is near, or so I hope.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Stupidity, or... Should I Say Oversight?

Well, I'm still stressed out because our yard, all around the house, is full of piles of leaves that are now covered in a bit of snow and ice/ freezing rain, but that's kind of OK because it couldn't be avoided (unless we'd stayed home raking leaves during Thanksgiving, yadda yadda yadda).

Now... having an empty two car attached garage and leaving BOTH cars outside to freeze to the point that the doors won't open is sheer stupidity!! Or, in less harsh language, a "gross oversight."

I cannot believe we did that, knowing the forecast and all (and there was a period of just a bit of snow, or flurries in the morning before it turned into freezing rain). We must be out of our minds... yeah, something is not right. ;-)

Well other than that, we had a nice quiet weekend and didn't go to Philly for church as usual since Kelvin had a Christmas program at his school's church (he did a really cute recitation about the donkey). We had lunch there* and the boys played with their friends while we talked to a group of expatriates like us (from Indonesia, Thailand, and France) until almost 4 p.m. Our Brazilian friends did have a surprise birthday party on Saturday night (and even called us about it), but after we came home we just lounged and napped and were too tired to drive an hour into the city [I guess we were also too tired to park the cars in the garage even though we left briefly to go to an ATM and dollar store because Kelvin wanted batteries for some toy]. Today we stayed home all day, but we need groceries, hence the need to use one of the cars.

K went outside and was able to open all the car doors, so it's not that bad. The layer of ice is very thin, but I still feel stupid for not having used the garage. We had been "dreaming" about how nice it would be not to have to clean the cars when it snowed, and not there was this... Oh well...

*I got to enjoy again some typically American potluck dishes such as green bean casserole [I have to confess that I have made that to myself, with a whole can of French onions, on occasion since K hates it] , (vegetarian) shepherd pie, and other strange concoctions. It had been a long time since I'd eaten those ;)

Changes and Badge

As you may have noticed, I started "playing" with my template. I added my own background picture to the banner (I know I have to change the font colors, but blogger hasn't let me do that yet) and I want to do many more changes.

I have also removed the NaBloPoMo badges from my sidebar and added this nice one
which was created by Drew and linked to in the NaBloPoMo's site.

I could have used one of the "Pills*bury doughboy" ones provided by NaBloPoMo, but unfortunately I didn't exactly do 30 posts in 30 days because of the internet being down last week :( . I do love the "Ideal Girls Blog Daily" slogan of Drew's badge, though.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Leaves/ Brand New Ideas and Answers

OK, I gotta write this. I've been reading blogs and commenting for an hour and that won't get me anywhere as far as posting goes...

My arms, are extremely sore because I just spent two days blowing and vacuuming leaves and I'm still not done. Not even 1/8 of the way done vacuuming (I've blown all the leaves into piles at this point). And guess what? There's going to be sleet/rain on Sunday (insert dismayed and distressed facial expression]!!! And I won't work on it tomorrow. And... "the price" I paid for this incomplete work? The boys watched HOURS of television and/or DVDs because K was busy with his applications (he came back home only 7:30 pm last night) and I couldn't let them come outside (mostly Linton who spends all day at home with me) because of the high level of noise (I was wearing earplugs) and the cold. I felt really guilty and wondered all the while if it wouldn't really have been best to pay someone to do it since K was traveling so much in the past month. We also had to wait for all the leaves to fall, which they did shortly before and during the Thanksgiving break. The other solution would have been not going to Maryland for Thanksgiving and staying to take care of the leaves, but I wouldn't have done that for anything!!

Oh well... I really enjoy doing it, though, in spite of the horribly high "price" of electronic baby-sitting. Plus, today while I was working with the leaves I had several bright ideas!! There's nothing like physical work to get one's mind thinking away and coming up with great things!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
First, though, I have an "answer" of sorts (since it's not really a "helpful answer") for one of the questions I have been raising in this blog lately: "Where do we want to go? What would I like to do with my life?"

One quick question K sent me over gmail chat today provided the answer. He asked: "Would you like to live in 'Swiss city'?" I returned to the leaves outside and though... wow, I have an answer, something I'd known all along, but had forgotten.

If I could choose where to live, something that won't get to happen, I'd really want to be able to have the opportunity to live in Europe. Not in one particular place, but preferably in various countries/ cities. Which ones? France/French Switzerland, Italy, Spain. Oh, and I think England too.

Since that's not going to happen, this answer is moot. But it's a nice "dream" isn't it? Maybe K will apply for the post in Europe, but the likelihood of him getting it is slim. I know we could also do what my BIL and SIL are doing -- work at American schools around the world, BUT, we don't think we want to teach rich high school kids for the rest of our lives. No. Probably not even for a year. So... that possibility is out. It does feel good to at least to have an answer to the question of where I'd like to live if I could choose ;).

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The "bright idea" is related to yesterday's post (thanks for all the responses, folks! Keep 'em coming!). I stayed up really really late last night reading a novel by one of the writers I'm analyzing in my dissertation. What a great book!! I hope I can blog more about it later, it made me think about my country's history, about torture and other issues. This is not what I want to share now, though.

While I was blowing leaves today I started to reflect (thinking also of an interview with Ray Bradbury that I read last night and his great book Fahrenheit 451) that books just need to be read! And I thought of my friend Cloudscome's blog and other blogs with great book reviews and dedicated to books and it dawned on my that I should start a website. The internet is making the world such a small place, putting information right at people's fingertips and I think it's pathetic that we academic researchers, particularly in literature, are not doing enough to promote the things we love and work with. This site wouldn't be a blog, though I could begin with as one, I envision a site about Brazilian books in English and, subsequently, in many other languages. Later (after a book deal was secured in Brazil at least) I'd publish in it all the data that I collected in my dissertation, all the statistics and lists, so it could be a resource for anyone in the world interested in Brazilian literature. It would be geared towards both the general public and academics and provide a comprehensive list of the books available in English (in print or not -- those can be easily obtainable in libraries) and other languages.

OK, I'll admit that this idea is not new. My advisor told me years ago that I should transform the information from my research into a website, but I had never really considered this. At the time I thought "Oh, but this is my work and why should I share it freely with people?" Well, now I know why, because books need to be read and in today's "small world" only the popular, best selling books are being read. Why not use the internet to try and disseminate little known books? I feel like getting the domain name right now, but I know I need to finish the dissertation first. Darn.

What do you think?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Well, this is the end of "NaBloPoMo," but not the end of posting more often. I don't promise to do it everyday, but I did enjoy posting daily and I want to continue doing it as much as I can.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

"Lost: Translation" into English -- A Question For You, Please Respond!!

Last night I was doing my weekly (sometimes bimonthly) check to my university email account (there were 30 pages of spam to clean up) and I found a link to a great article from The Guardian in the U.K. in one of my academic listservs. It is titled "Lost: Translation" and discusses the fact that less and less translations into English are published while the opposite happens around the world: countless books written in English are translated to every single language. One of the scariest statistics cited in the article was: "Ninety-six per cent of the world's languages are spoken by just four per cent of the world's population." It was also the first time I heard the expression "eco-linguist," referring to David Crystal (whose work is really fascinating). Another thing that surprised me was the fact that many writers from other countries are actually moving to anglophone countries and learning English so they can write in this language and have more readers. Wow!

Anyway, this issue is actually one of the subjects of my dissertation (I really want to blog more about it, but I'll wait a bit more until after the defense, etc) and I decided to do an informal survey with my blog readers since I know most of you are voracious readers (I'm looking particularly at you chicagomama :).

QUESTION: In the past year or couple of years, how many books which were originally published in another language and later translated into English have you read, if any?

Thanks, I'll be delighted if you chime in. Do mention the name of the book if you can, and more or less how many books have you read in the period as opposed to translated books (like e.g. "I read around 100 books and only 1 was translated into English")

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A White Tall House in PHL

(photo substituted by another without visible license plate)

I think Linton has "caught" some of our discontent and this makes me really sad.

Last week I was coming out of a store with him (I'd been shopping for things for K to bring to Brazil) when I had a sudden thought that there was a slim possibility that we might be moving back there, so I asked Linton:

"Would you like to go back to Brazil?"

"No," he replied, and then came the big surprise, "I'd like to go back Philadelphia."


"Yes, I want to go to that white*house in Philadelphia."

"Hmmm, really? We don't live there anymore, we have a new house here."

"But I want to go back to that house."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This morning we dropped off Kelvin and as I pulled into our driveway he said:

"This is not our house. I want to go to that white tall house in Philadelphia."
(Essa não é a nossa casa. Eu quero ir praquela casa branca alta na Philadelphia.)

"But this is our new house, Linton"

"No, this is an old house."
(I guess he's heard me repeating to people, like the guests last night that the house is old and complaining about the work that needs to be done. Interestingly enough, K's aunt's first words to me were "You guys live in a mansion" and for Brazilian standards it's almost like that, yes)

His desire to go back to our previous house just breaks my heart. How can a three year old be saying things like these? How can he remember the house so clearly? It's no really white, but it is " tall" in the sense that it's a two story twin, taller than our multi-level, spread out home. It's not in Philadelphia proper either, but only a few miles from the city.

He makes me feel guilty for uprooting him from the only house he's known since he was born (he was two months old when we moved in). It seems that Kelvin is much more resilient and welcomes change more easily, but I guess his reaction must be just a side effect of the events that have taken place lately and our own feelings about the place. When we talk about moving Kelvin gets really excited ("Yes, let's go live in an apartment, that would be so fun!") and I didn't think Linton had any "thoughts" or feelings about this. When we moved I kept emphasizing how nice the new house was, etc, but now he feels like it's not his house. Oh well. I kind of feel the same in the end. It's almost worse than that week in which we were truly "homeless." We have it, but we don't. "It's temporary," I said to K's aunt last night, "we don't really live in a 'mansion'!"

P.S. The boys are thrilled with daddy's return and so am I. More tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Guests Are Here, Gotta Be Quick

K is going to arrive tomorrow and find a spotless house (except for our bedroom and the study's big desk, that is :). I'll tell him that he should ask his mom to always come visit the day before his arrival if he wants this to happen again! :)

Even the garage and the basement are almost decent! The only thing I wasn't (and wouldn't have been) able to accomplish was cleaning the yard since .75 acre of leaves are lots of trouble. Tomorrow I'm going to buy a blower/vac to help me get the job done (today I went to the store just to realize I'd forgotten my wallet home...).

It was the shortest visit ever, though -- they got here at 5 pm and leave at 2:30 am for JFK airport. I have to put the boys to bed, they keep asking their grandpa to play with them even though they're pretty tired. Linton spent the whole day pestering me with the question: "Are the guests (as visitas) here yet?" I should let you know, though, that one of the main reasons they came spend this half night here (other than JFK being an hour or so closer from here than from their home in Southeastern MA) is this store. My MIL is crazy about it and there's a brand new one a few miles from our home. ;)

See you tomorrow.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Recapturing "The Post That Wasn't"

Phew! I've been back online since 2 p.m. and eagerly reading blogs. It's good to be back ;) Now, on to the post...

As I was driving home on Saturday night (we left MD at 2:30 back to Philly where I dropped off K at the airport and then proceeded to a baby shower from which I left almost at 10 p.m.) and getting near our new region and neighborhood (which we love, BTW, but I don't think I'll get to blog about that, it'll be too painful) I started to feel unbearably sad. I was fine when we left, but being away for a few days and then driving back is like rubbing the wound and making it raw again. I also realized that the fact that I was by myself with the boys was part of the reason for feeling that way.

We got the "Very Bad News" on Oct. 31st and the next day I flew to Brazil. I returned on Sunday and that afternoon K flew to London. I got to spend the first ten days of grieving here, in this house, by myself with the boys. When he returned things got easier. We didn't talk too much about our feelings, we were dealing with practical things. I was sending out applications, he was figuring out new job possibilities. We were just "surviving," concentrating on the boys. I wasn't well, though. After I sent out the applications I just fell into a kind of stupor. I think I was/am mildly depressed. I am usually not very good (OK, make that pretty bad) at housekeeping, I'm a messy person and don't usually like to organize the house and although I'm a good cook, I'm usually lazy and don't prepare a full meal everyday. These past weeks I was terrible, though. I had no energy, no motivation to do anything. I just wanted to sleep in every morning (poor Linton, he gets so irritated at me, he keeps telling me "it's already day, it's not night anymore!!") and then be online a lot. I didn't even do any grocery shopping (that in itself is a subject for another discussion). K was quite upset at me and talked sternly to me about it.

Interestingly enough, I have been doing quite a bit now that I'm alone. Things that K didn't get to do (like starting to clean up the garage and unpack the toys in the basement and raking the leaves). Of course I have an extra motivation: I need to clean the house because my mother- & father-in-law are coming tomorrow with her sister & husband (they were supposed to be here tonight, but didn't make it), but still, I feel energized.

I know, it's strange -- at the same time that I feel that rawness returning I find all this energy that just wasn't here last week. I think I also did pretty OK in the 10 days while K was in England. Well... I wanted to continue in the "reflective" vein, but I just can't keep on going. I feel quite empty, and sad. Ups and downs, I know it's supposed to be that way.

You know what the hardest part of this whole "story" is?

We really don't know what we want to do with our lives.

We don't know where we want to live, whether we'd like to go back to Brazil (probably not, but at the same time we miss it), or where we'd like to live in the U.S. Sometimes we think about the different places where we're applying for jobs and I'm OK with several of them, but if I was asked to pick a place I really wouldn't know where to go.

I think we just don't want to have to decide. We want to be taken by the circumstances -- that's how it's been until now in our lives. (Of course there's a whole dimension of faith in our trajectory that I won't go into). Things have worked out really well. It's been a balance between circumstances and decisions and up until now we felt that everything had been working for the best. And I know that even this will be OK in the long run. It's just hard to be excited about the prospects since there are so many issues, so many questions involved. Yeah, I know you'd just run for shelter and quit reading if I were to explore every aspect of it, particularly the nuances of living as an expatriate, not quite knowing whether you should stay or go. Knowing full well that now you don't really fit in anywhere now. Yeah, like my friend Alice (no longer blogging, sniff, sniff :( ) used to say -- welcome to the "third culture kid" kind of life/mindset. It's hard to "become" (is there such a thing? there should be a new term for me) a TCK between ages 25-35, that I can tell! OK, enough for today.

P.S. the boys are sleeping in a tent in the living room. We set up three tents this afternoon for them to play. Fun. Maybe I'll post photos later. Kelvin's coughing, though :) Oh, after not really eating any proper food all day long (eating well -- another problem for skinny me in this juncture) I cooked some yummy soup tonight. Tomorrow will be a better day (make that a mantra).

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Credit Where Credit Is Due

I'm glad you enjoyed the Thanksgiving photos, but I wanted to let you know that I didn't decorate the table and counter -- my sister-in-law did. She does a wonderful job decorating tables, decorating for children's parties, etc. I've already posted about this before (kid's parties here - seven post with many photos -- some of which are my own decorations ;).

I did make the cranberry bread, though, and the crust-less squash maple 'pie,' cranberry sauce from scratch, helped prepared the other dishes and did put all the food on the table. :)

But I don't want to take credit for the "beautiful and bountiful" decorations. O, mine would be just cluttered too, believe me! ;)

NaBloPoMo Forcibly Disrupted -- No Internet Connection

I arrived home at 11 pm last night, with the post already planned in my mind. I was going to leave the boys sleeping in the car (in the garage which is right next to our study) for a bit so I could post and there was so much I wanted to say... but it never happened since the internet (and the TV cable) was down. :(

The worse part was the realization that I wouldn't be able to know whether K arrived safely in Brazil and talk to my mother since I hadn't called her since Wednesday. The thing is, we have VOIP for our telephone line (with a plan in which we can place unlimited calls to Brazil and 25 other countries), so when there's no internet, there's no regular phone. Thankfully I at least have the cell phone, but no phone card I could call Brazil and I wasn't going to call anyone at 11:30 p.m. just to ask them to email my mom and tell her I was incommunicable.

Since the boys were still in the car a wild thought came to my mind so I wouldn't miss my NaBloPoMo post -- drive around with the laptop until I could find a wireless connection, but I thought that was just too much. I'm a blogging addict, true, but I really wouldn't do that in such a cold night!

Today was a more productive day without email and blogs, but I felt strange and disconnected from the world all day long. Too bad I have to be quick now because the boys have to sleep and I'm at a friend's house half an hour away from home and I still need to check email.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
In case you're wondering, K arrived safely in Brazil. I called my brother-in-law first thing in the morning (like 8:40 -- good thing they have my young nephews and were up) so he could email my mom and our friends in Brazil to let them know I was off-line and phone-less (my mom did call and left an anxious message, poor thing). They called back a few minutes later to relay that my mom had heard from K and that he was already on his way to our friends' house.

Then, thanks to Skype and speaker phones, I was able to talk to K for a few minutes. He called his brother on Skype and he in turn called me on his cell phone and put it on the speaker phone so we could talk and it worked. Phew! (a "public" conversation, but better than nothing).

Anyway... some good news! One of my committee members read my first three chapters over the weekend and she LIKED them! YAY! I'm getting closer to finishing this dissertation, what a relief.

OK, gotta go, the "cable guy" is coming tomorrow, so I hope to be online in the afternoon. Keep your fingers crossed for me. Now I'm off to send email. If I think of anything else to say I'll write another post to make up for yesterday's.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving Photos

We had a lovely holiday with lots of delicious food, so I decided to share some photos of the table and the decorations that my sister-in-law prepared.

This is a close up of my triple cranberry bread
(this one is actually "double" since I forgot to bring the craisins)

I don't know what time I'll be able to post tomorrow, it'll be a really hectic day, but I'll find a way. Enjoy the rest of the holiday!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Remembering Thanksgivings Past

Several people are blogging about how much they love Thanksgiving and I agree with them that it's a great holiday, particularly because it has no religious and consumerist undertones (well, except for Black Friday -- yuck! I can't wait for the day when I won't need to go buy stuff because I need to get them for cheap). You may have noticed that we don't do Haloween and Easter and I know we shouldn't really do Christmas either if we were to be completely coherent, but I love exchanging presents (more on that some other time). Thanksgiving, however, the quintessential American holiday, was a celebration that we had to be taught about and grow into. It was not until we had the privilege of spending the day with a "typical" American family (New Englanders) for several generations, in 1999 that we finally "got it."

In 1996 when we had been here only a few months, K's uncle came with his family to share the Thanksgiving dinner with us, but I really had no idea what the holiday was about and how it's traditionally celebrated. The community college where K was an ESL (English as a Second Language) student organized a nice dinner for the students with Turkey (which we as vegetarians didn't eat) and all the "fixins," but we didn't like the food much.

In 1997 we went to a Brazilian friend's house and in 1998 we were home alone, just the two of us (I think that was when the sad story that I shared last year took place) . Then, in 1999 we were invited to go to our friend's house and celebrate with her, her husband and two sons, and her extended family: her parents, sisters and their children. We were delighted that their opened their home to us and the food was positively delicious -- I've been making the yams with pecan praline that she prepared every year since (recipe here!). At some point during the day they started watching old videos of old Thanksgiving celebrations that took place in the New Jersey home in which my friend grew up and which had parents had sold years earlier. The children present were babies/toddlers then and it was fun to watch them so much younger. It was just lovely! We not only learned from them how a proper Thanksgiving meal should be, but also caught the whole "spirit" of being together with family that is at the center of this holiday. We were supposed to celebrate Thanksgiving with them again in 2000, but she had to cancel at the last minute and we went to one of K's professor's house instead -- that's why we became homeowners in 2001, but that's another story.

In 2002 we started a "trend" that would last for three years -- driving all the way from Massachusetts to Michigan (with a baby in tow and later two) to spend Thanksgiving with my brother- and sister-in-law. It was a grueling trip, 14-16 hours long each way, but it was lovely to spend time with them in frigid Michigan, besides by then we knew that this is what the holiday was all about, being with your loved ones. The worst of the three trips was in 2003 when Kelvin was a 20 month old toddler who wanted to walk all the time. In 2004 we had the two of them (Linton was 6 months old) and we did half of the trip during night hours so they could sleep -- exhausting! We cherished those times of family togetherness, though and the last year, 2004, was the must fun because we got to meet my 2 month old nephew for the first time and enjoy our two babies (Linton and his cousin are only 4 months apart).

We hosted Thanksgiving at our house in the past two years since BIL and his family moved here to Maryland, only 2h30m away. In 2005 it was a "mega-celebration." My parents were living with us, my mother-in-law was visiting from Brazil, one of K's cousins drove from D.C. with his dad (also visiting from Brazil) and a longtime friend, and we invited my MIL's brother to come down from New Jersey with his family (three daughters and a boyfriend). It was great! Everyone loved the food, particularly a galon of apple cider that I didn't realize was spoiled until later (it was fermented -- the funniest thing is that nobody in the group drinks alcohol and we were joking with those who enjoyed the "hard" cider the most) and the triple cranberry bread that I made (I baked one last night). We also took several lovely photos of my MIL with her three grandsons, but the highlight of the day was poring over all the adds for Black Friday. There was so much competition that each man bought his own newspaper to have his own ads.
It was hilarious to see the gang (all the guys, including my dad plus my mother-in-law) getting ready to spend the horribly cold night "camping out" outside electronics store (that they don't do anymore :) -- they only made it because they were in a large group and were talking all night long while trying not to freeze. Their return home for breakfast was also very interesing, all those bleary eyes and tousled "hat hairs" comparing the bargains and drinking hot chocolate -- I laughed a lot.

Last year it was just us, my in-laws (who moved to the U.S. on May 06) and my brother-in-law and his family -- with the addition of my new nephew, 4 months old. There was still some (disappointing) shopping on Friday (BIL didn't participate because they drove back home on Thursday) and then we drove to Massachusetts to visit my in-laws for a few days while K went to Brazil in one of his several excursions back in Oct/Nov last year.

This year we have downsized even more, it's just the two brothers and their families. The boys are enjoying their time together and my SIL and I are busy and happy in the kitchen since we love to cook and we do it identical ways so we get along extremely well. OK, gotta go help her and finish my cooking projects for the day (these two recipes) while the boys are in the playrgrounds with their dads.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone, I hope you enjoyed 'hearing' my stories. If you want to hear the funniest turkey blooper story ever, head over to Susan's place. :)

P.S. I'll come back later to include photos in this post since I'm using my SIL's computer.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The The Daring Book for Girls - Mother Talk Blog Book Tour

As I've posted in this blog before, I was really looking forward to this book since I read and reviewed the "original" The Dangerous Book for Boys months ago. Interestingly enough, in spite of the emphasis on gender of much of The Daring Book for Girls, I felt, like I did about its predecessor, that both boys and girls can enjoy most everything in these books.

Now, the part that really caught my attention the most was the lemon powered radio. Wow! I want to try to do that now (of course today it'll be hard since it's the day before the biggest holiday in this country, but I did tease my husband, who is a scientist that he should have known about this and done it before!). I really want to know if it works, not that I doubt it will, but it just sounds so amazing. I bet the boys will be crazy about it.

Let's see what else... I thought the comprehensive lists and historical parts about women in World and American history were great and I was fascinated by the songs, be them for fireside, hopscotch, hand games. I just felt sad that I won't be able to sing most of them unless I find a music part somewhere because I come from a different culture (that's why I was enthralled by those in the first place) and didn't grow up with any of this stuff. (I know this is not a music book, so it couldn't have the melody and chords there, but... I still wish it did).

Now, I think my blog readers don't know this, but in Brazil you can do specialized courses in high school (it's changed to resemble more American high schools, but it used to be that you could do Teaching [for elementary grades only], accounting, nursing, and some other tracks), and I chose, believe it or not, science -- a course with a heavy concentration in chemistry, physics, biology, plus all the other subjects (history, geography, language, literature -- we have each one of the subjects I mentioned all year long for three years). Therefore, I thought it was great that the writers chose to expose girls to the Table of Elements and some basic chemistry and physics -- with mention of various women scientists. I often wonder what can be done to bring more women into scientific study and maybe we have to start early and dispel the myth that these are "boy" areas.

I'm sure there's much more that I could say, but I want to conclude with the remark that I loved the illustrations, Alexis Seabrook did such a beautiful job. Do check out her website to see her portfolio, she's just a great artist.

Oh yeah, and last, but not least, I have to say that this book is WAY more beautiful than the other one -- I don't really like red, but I adore turquoise/aqua. :) At another time I want to write about the translation of the "boy book" into Portuguese and I can't wait to see this book translated and adapted as well!

P.S. This reviews is part of a MotherTalk blog book tour and I received a free copy of the book to review it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Remembering the Picnic

As the days get colder and colder, in addition to rainy, cloudy and wet, I keep on thinking of an afternoon not too long ago (Oct. 21) in which we had a picnic in the backyard. The same one whose pictures brought tears to my eyes when I wrote this post. Since then I've made a collage using Picasa (photo management downloadable software that is connected to G00gle) to share with you some highlights of that day.Then I did another collage, this time for my mom (I already printed it in photo paper and it came out beautiful, K is going to Brazil this weekend and he'll bring it to her with some other photos). I wish I had prepared it in time to post it on her birthday, Oct. 28, but these are her favorite flowers:
I'm always looking for things (greeting cards, stationery, magnets, shopping lists, etc.) with pansies (or violas) in them so I can buy them for my mom. I love giving her these small gifts.

Tomorrow I'll be back with my Mother Talk sponsored review of this book. In case you've heard about Mother Talk, I'd like to link to two posts (and the lengthy discussion that ensued in the comment section) by Jody about the subject. Food for thought, whether one agrees with her or not: 1) on the Dangerous Boys and Daring Girls books & MT; 2) More about MT (the comments in this one are very interesting). So, I'll be back tomorrow with that review and, if time permits, some more stuff. (or, alternately, I'll be back tonight with more stuff, we'll see).

Monday, November 19, 2007

Three Meaningful Years

I missed posting on my "blogging anniversary"(or blogiversary as some folks say) again this year. On November 14, 2004 I posted a picture of myself and my youngest son and started this blog. I guess the picture can be seen as "symbolic" because the son and the blog came to existence in the same year only five and a half months apart.

I'll try to think a bit about these past three years, but in case I come up short, I want to offer you this post which sums up what blogging has come to mean in my life.

In the past year since I wrote that I met five other bloggers in person (Laura, Lauren, Jeannette, Anjali, and OK, one of them, O, hadn't started blogging yet, but I did get to meet her right before that :)

OK, how my life changed in the past three years.

1) I have become hopelessly addicted to blogging and blog reading. I do limit my reading as much as possible and I have to admit (and apologize to those involved) that I haven't even been able to keep up with the blogs in my blogroll (which needs some updating as well). The problem with me and blog reading is that I need to interact with people, so I have to comment almost every post I read and that takes time, so sometimes I'm not able to read.

2) As the post I linked to in the second paragraph above attests, I have become a happier person since I started blogging. (here's a happy photo for you -- I'd love to put it in my profile [I used it for facebook -- let me know if you're there so we can be friends'], but I still don't have the courage to do it. I don't mind posting photos, though).

3) I think I may have improved my writing a bit, but not much. As you've probably noticed, NaBloPoMo is a breeze for me because I'm a blabbermouth, I have so much to say! And I've been so "boringly" chronicling my days that I even forgot to celebrate my "blog anniversary."

4) Most of all, meeting all of you has enriched my life beyond measure.

Thanks for being there for me and thanks for sharing your lives too, since they have touched mine!