Monday, March 31, 2008

Blogging Blues (Again)

Disclaimer: This is a disgruntled post about how I'm feeling regarding the fact that recent posts got no comments at all (except for my SIL's, thanks sis) in conjunction with my grouchy feelings about the dissertation and academia. If you're reading it, chances are you don't "deserve" to read it (it's like those teachers who reprimand the class when those who needed to be reprimanded aren't even there -- I don't know if this ever happened to you, but it happened to me a lot when I was in grade school and even high school).
~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

Was it the weekend? Or is it just that nobody's reading this anymore? I don't ever check the stats, only look at the weekly email from my free sitemeter, but they don't mean much now since there are feed readers now, and most of those hits are from random search engine results anyway...

Perhaps the absence of comments indicates that you're just tired about dissertation-themed posts, but the recent post didn't even mention the dissertation!! It's pathetic, but sometimes I wait on the wings before posting again because I'm hoping that if I leave the older post up for a few more days, more people will comment. I know I blog for myself and not for others, and besides, my life is pretty uninteresting as it is and that I won't ever be of any real consequence in the blogosphere.

To make matters worse, now that I'm finishing the dissertation and getting this useless Ph.D. I'll loose an important part of my identity as a "blogging graduate student/ABD mama" and I will just be an unemployed, former academic mother. Yeah, it doesn't really matter that I'm not even included there (although I'm wondering if there are any other grad student mamas from other countries represented there -- see? I'm already trying to make my "minority" status count for something, how embarrassing. I bet there aren't, but who really cares about my experience if I cannot write well? That's the real reason why one is not selected for publication, not any concerns of representing a group or not).

Tomorrow is the deadline for that CC post and I don't think I'm applying to it after all... why bother? I won't be selected. I know I should send it, but just the thought of writing a cover letter when I'm not even done with the LONG OVERDUE DISSERTATION CHAPTER (one of the reasons I didn't work on the application last week was that my husband wanted me to finish the dissertation first and then work on the application -- haha, I didn't do either thing!).

I hate to be wallowing in self-pity. I am really a happy, fortunate person and I KNOW THAT. I have the most adorable sons in the world, I have a fabulous dissertation that I have confidence will be published in Brazil, and maybe someday I'll be able to work enough to attain good writing (although I have so many issues with this subject that I cannot even begin talking about it). Perhaps I will even have a decent, fulfilling job someday... It is hard to be in this in-between situation, though. Swimming against the current -- see, what a ridiculous cliché?

I've been thinking lately that I can be a proficient bilingual, that I can be a smart, even bright person, a good English speaker, but I'm a hopeless writer because of this very bilinguality. I have read a lot, but not enough... Sometimes ridiculously old and weak clichés sound interesting to me because I wasn't BORN into this language... in moments like these I feel like I want to go back to Brazil. I have this feeling that there I could be a good academic, I might even be able to write there... but no, I don't really want to go back.

OK, I'll end here. I know I'll feel better soon about some of the things I wrote. About others, there's no real way out, they'll remain there. Together with the other rejection letters. Thankfully, mine not as plentiful as my dear friend Articulate Dad's. I truly admire him and I hope he can succeed. One of these days I want to reflect upon some of the brilliant things he's written about giving up on academia. You can begin with this letter, and also check out his thoughts on Unemployment.

P.S. Oh yeah, and I'm so sick of my own inability to give any really original contributions, not even to my blog, that I removed my photo of the fern from the masthead and left the old blogger template image.

SOMEDAY, someday I'll be able to reinvent myself, the blog, my incipient writing, my non-existent work career. I know that someday it'll happen, but someday is not now. And now I have to work. work hard.

I need a good cry, but I don't really want to cry, I kind of like feeling angry like this, as long as it feels like justifiable anger. Hopefully it will help me keep writing and working. It generally does.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Excited About Continuing Family Internationalization

(Please, do read the previous post, the beginning is boring, but the last part is not that bad ;-)

And now I've got news for you!

My brother just confirmed his acceptance of a job offer to work in Auckland, New Zealand and I'm so excited about it! I mean, I thought it would be interesting to visit him in China, but I do have a very dear friend in New Zealand and I've always wanted to go there, but I figured I'd never be able to afford it, but now I have extra motivation and will most certainly visit!!

The thing is, my brother was happy at his job (he's a forest engineer who was basically teaching the Chinese how to plan eucalyptus, working for a Swedish paper company which is trying to open a paper factory in China), but he doesn't really like living in China. He doesn't like dealing with the people, particularly with the unsurmountable cultural differences that make his work there extremely hard, he doesn't like the language, and he can't stand the food. He and his wife also (who is the only one studying mandarin) lived in a comparatively remote region, in the city of Beihai, which has approximately twenty foreigners in all.

The main reason to move, though, is this: they're planning to have a baby!!!

And my sister-in-law is terrified of the incipient medical care there. They would most probably have to go to Hong Kong to have the baby, which would be extremely complicated. So, SIL has been looking for jobs in my brother's area for months. And he's been sending applications to various places. So two weeks ago he got in touch with us via Skype and said he wanted to talk to my parents. We were able to call him and they talked for a long time, that's when he first told us about the new job prospect. My parents were a bit taken aback, but this was NOTHING compared to how my mom totally despaired when she heard about the China job back in 2006 (and I had to tell her then at my brother's request).

Anyway... they're thrilled, although financially it won't be as advantageous for them, but they're excited about living in a "First World" country, and one that they visited six months ago and absolutely loved. And I can't wait to (1) have another nephew or (that would be heavenly!) niece -- the first related to me, not only to my sons; (2) visit New Zealand!!!!

P.S. and in NZ they'll be able to check this blog since they cannot open it in China.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Running Out of Steam/ Academic Nostalgia

Yeah, I knew it was going to happen, that the trip would make it much harder for me to go back to work. I know my dear husband K will be really disappointed with me when I tell him (I'll do it before he reads this post) that I hardly worked from Wednesday to today. I added a sentence here and there, I read articles, but I didn't finish the chapter I had proposed to finish by today. And the worse part is that I don't feel bad about it. At. All. No guilt, no shame, nothing.

I am so ready to get done and I just cannot maintain the level of enthusiasm on the dissertation that I had last week. I know that this is just a "low" moment and that once I gain momentum again I may feel better and more motivated, but right now I'm frankly just tired of it all. It doesn't help that I'm having lots of conflicted feelings about this whole thing which are certainly normal. I hope that on Sunday I can get back to work and that next week I can finally proclaim that I AM DONE! Can't wait to be able to say that. Some other random comments...

One Another Big Blunder
You may, or may not recall that last year I absent-mindedly forgot to register in the "continuing enrollment" program and was temporarily withdrawn from graduate school. This ended up being a great blessing in disguise because it led me to send chapter drafts to my former advisor and that's one of the main reasons why I'm nearly done today. Well, this semester, I found out last week from a kind hand-written note attached to my graduation eligibility form that there was a bursar hold on me -- that is, I'd forgotten to pay the program fee!! Oh well, that happened in part because I only check my university email account every ten days or so, and a fellow grad student had reminded us that our tuition bills were due soon. I'd also received an email from the bursar about it. I already mailed the check and I'm 50 bucks poorer because of the late fee... Oh well. And the worst part is that this year there are no blessings in disguise attached to this.

Nostalgic Mode
While checking the university email two nights ago I found out that a graduate school colleague I met the year before I moved away from the university had his second daughter -- who received the same name I have (plus an extra L, obviously), while the first one was born about a year after I left. Looking at the newborn photos at the hospital I was overcome with emotion, tears, and saudade (the Brazilian word -- unique to our language that conveys homesickness, longing, nostalgia, blues, all rolled into one and much deeper), thinking that I gave birth to my boys in that same hospital, thinking of how for various reasons we didn't really fully enjoy our seven years there and that I'd love to live there now, to have my children play with the children of other graduate students (there were none at the time and now there are quite a few).

For some reason this past weekend in Nashville, playing with the boys in Centennial park across from Vanderbilt (in 2006 I didn't walk across the street to the park from the university, I was so absorbed in attending the conference) -- congratulations to Jo's husband Sean on landing a post there, BTW -- I felt this sudden tug from academic life pulling me back to it. I cannot even write about this now, I begin to tear up. And just this week K was a bit disappointed with how things are going at Big Pharma (you may, or may not recall, but his work there is merely temporary, he can be fired again any time) and he's flirting with sending academic applications again this Fall. Go for it, I told him, I'd love to live in a college town and go back to teaching.

On our drive down to Nashville, as we drove through Western Virginia, I looked wistfully from the highway to the beautiful buildings, some brand new, of the only university where K had a campus interview last year (he was applying to it this year again, but he withdrew his application because he was reinstated at his job). On the drive back I was engrossed in my reading of Susan's book and I missed seeing the university again. I called K a few minutes later to report on that and I said:

"Oh well, I guess if we really decide to leave academia behind, it's OK, I really shouldn't have looked back."

I don't know if we're ready to walk away and not look back just yet.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

He Said :-) He Said :-(

Well over a month ago, before my parents got here, I was preparing something for us to eat in the evening and then Kelvin, who was seated at the table, asked daddy (we actually call daddy papa here since daddy in Portuguese is papai):

"Why is it that only mama cooks?"

I almost ran to him and high-fived him for his question and I knowingly looked at K and said -- "See what I've been telling you? You've got to be a role model to them."

The back-story is the following...
K does a lot around the house, and in his defense I have to say that it's really a lot because he picks up my slack and does most of the straightening out and cleaning, BUT he has never liked to cook (and, of course shop). So we do it like this: I do the grocery (and clothes most of the time) shopping, the cooking, and the laundry -- tasks that I enjoy, and he does the other tasks that I don't like too much and he prefers. However, years ago when I learned that we were having a son, and then another son I had him promise me that he'd begin to cook because I wanted the boys to have a good role-model and learn to cook too. Well... six years have elapsed, and we're yet to see daddy cook.
~ ~ ~~ ~~ ~ ~

A couple of days later, I was sitting at the table with Linton when he looked at my forehead and said:

"Mama, your forehead looks like a train track, only it's not a train track."

Oh-oh... time to purchase expensive wrinkle creams! (I have to write about my non-usage of cosmetics/ make up sometime... I really wish I could consistently take care of my face and hair, but I don't really value my appearance too much, I'm much too brainy to worry about this stuff, and besides, I haven't had role models for that either because my mom never used expensive creams, make up or anything. Lately I've been carrying some lipstick/gloss in my purse because I know I look much better with it).
~ ~ ~~ ~~ ~ ~

OK, so last week on Wednesday, the day before we drove to Nashville, Kelvin, who was worried about daddy staying home alone asked:

"Who's going to cook for you?"

"I will," daddy answered.

"But it's girls who make food"

[You can see me growling at K now]

"No, boys can cook too"

"OK" daddy continues, "So let's make a deal. When you come back, I'm going to cook a meal for us, OK?"

Let's see when that will happen ;-).

Now I don't know how we're going to "undo" the stereotyping that has already taken place if daddy doesn't step up to the plate (another kind of plate this time)? I understand that cooking is something that some people just don't enjoy, regardless of gender, but still, the stereotypes and the modeling that our parents do (e.g. men hardly even cook in Brazil) influence children's attitudes towards cooking and I really want the boys to learn and enjoy it. I guess I'll have to make an extra effort to make cooking fun and also plan include the whole family in the preparation of food from now on.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Three Weeks from Today

I will have defended the dissertation.
I will be a Ph.D. holder
(well, almost, officially I'll be one only after April 30 -- deadline for dissertation submissions).

I can hardly believe this.

And yet I feel kinda sad about it. No more affiliation, no more access to any journals or online resources of an academic library. Nothing. Done. Gone. Yeah. You'll get tired in no time of such sentiments, but they'll be recurrent themes from now on. But today I'll stop here, and try to go back to work. By traveling last Thursday I interrupted all that great momentum that I had gained the 10 days before, the days in which I worked on it over 16 hours a day, so now it's hard to get into it again. Very hard. I've got to do it, though. I'd rather be posting pictures to the blog, but I have to work. More later...

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

On the Road

Edited to add to my son's story according to the notes I took at the time.

My boys loooove hotels. So on the way down, whenever the little one saw a hotel he'd say, "Look, there's a hotel! Are we going to stay in that one? We're going to sleep in a hotel, aren't we?" Well, we decided to keep driving, particularly because it was one hour earlier in Nashville, so we arrived there 11 pm (midnight to us), so I had to explain to my son that no, we were not going to a hotel in spite of the fact that it was getting dark and that we'd sleep in his aunt's house. I also added that on our way back we'd sleep in a hotel for sure.

Yesterday afternoon the little one took a long nap and when he woke up, this was the story he told:
When we were traveling far away I asked mama if we were going to sleep in a hotel, and I said,
"Mama, are we going to sleep in this hotel?"
But you said nothing. And we kept on going... (E a gente foi se embora).
I thought it was so cute that he was still thinking about that, so I happily told him that we were going to sleep in a hotel that night. The boys were thrilled when we selected a hotel by the highway from one of those coupon books, one that had an indoor pool and whirlpool. After I checked in, all the oldest wanted to know was if the hotel had keys or those cards -- he LOVES those! -- and he excitedly took possession of one of them. When we opened the door to the room, little one exclaimed: "This is our home now!" I'm always delighted to know that they can feel "at home" anywhere they are with their family, but I guess it could not be different for a little boy who took his first plane trip at 6 days old and stayed at a hotel room at 17 days old. :-)

They're great in the car too, I always joke with my brother- and sister-in-law that all those 14-16 hour long road trips to spend Thanksgiving with them in Texas (2002, 3, and 4) paid off . In the first two we had only Kelvin, but on the second (slightly shorter at 11-12 hours), both boys, so we did the bulk of the driving at night. And I guess that for our in-laws, it's the shorter (3h) trips to our home that have been getting their sons used to road travel, but in a lesser degree. :-)

We need to have breakfast now although the boys are still sleeping after going to bed at 11:30 last night, and we have a long day of driving ahead of us, at least 8 hours from here (Bristol VA) to home.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Enjoying Time with Family

I've started a post chock-full of pictures from our trip, but since I've been busy updating the other blog, words will have to do here for a while.

~~ ~~ ~~ ~ ~
My mom is the last child, the caçula, or raspa do tacho (scrapes from the pot's bottom), who was born when my grandma was 40 years old and already had four children, the youngest of which was already 8 years old (my aunt). So growing up, in spite of the fact that the extended family on my mom's side is very close-knit all my my maternal cousins were on average 8-10 years older than me, so I never got to play with them and only enjoyed their company after I was a teenager.

In my father's side of the family, however, dad is one of the oldest of 8 children, and so I am the third oldest grandchild. I always enjoyed spending time with my paternal cousins, and someday I want to write about two of them in particular who are like siblings to me. My dad's family is really complicated and I don't want to get into that too much because someday family members may read this blog. All that matters for today's subject is the fact that we were quite close to my dad's youngest sister's family.

I was always in awe of my aunt because at the young age of 28 she had three children, the oldest of whom (a boy) was only three years younger than me (he was born when auntie was 18-19 and my parents were 30 when the had me) and really a great companion to my (younger) brother and I. We visited them often and played a lot together. My girl cousin was 6 years younger but I enjoyed her company too, particularly because she loved gymnastics, which was also a passion of mine. My youngest cousin was the baby we enjoyed carrying around and playing with. My older cousin Fábio was a voracious reader like me and sometimes when we visited we went on a "reading binge" and I remember that one day in which read three books together (these were longer young adult books too). They only visited us once during the five years we lived in a boarding academy in the countryside many hours from the state capital where they lived, but that was a really memorable visit! My (girl) cousin was only six years old, but she remembers that we went hiking on the wheat fields...

Some years later in 1986 or 87 when we were already living in São Paulo, we drove to the center of town one Friday night and went up to a hotel room where we said goodbye to aunt, uncle and our three dear cousins. They were coming to live in the United States. Many years went by until I was able to see my cousins again (my aunt and uncle came to Brazil once and we saw them quickly). In 1993 when I visited the U.S. for the first time with my husband (then boyfriend) and family we stayed at their house in the Miami area for a couple of days and then I visited for five more days at the end of my trip. The next time I saw them was in 1997 when we drove to Miami to pick up my parents who were coming to visit us. Later they moved from Miami to Nashville and my aunt and uncle visited us a couple of times, but only their youngest son came with them once. In 2003 my cousin got married and I came to her wedding which was really nice because another cousin came from Arizona as well my uncle who lives in D.C. and his daughter.

In 2006 we came here to visit them again because I had a conference to attend (long time readers may recall that my blog disappeared from the internet the night before my trip to Nashville) and it was lovely to meet my cousin's beautiful daughter who was 18 months at the time. Now little cousin is almost three and she and my boys are enjoying their time together while the adults spend long hours talking and reminiscing about the past. It's really good to be able to spend this time with cherished family members. We didn't get to grow up together and interact for many many years, but we're still family and we love each other. We just miss my older cousin who still lives in Florida (good thing I saw him at my cousin's wedding, but my parents haven't seen him in over ten years). Well, that's life... I like it better when it's just geographical reasons that separate us from family members and not other kinds of "walls" that are much harder to break, but I don't want to talk about those problems here.

Pictures are forthcoming...

Thursday, March 20, 2008

" We're on our way... to Opryland"

Well, not really, but what should I have said, "country-land," "music land?"

So we're leaving and we'll probably sleep on the way there because it is just too far away, 800 miles.

One chapter wasn't finished, but I want to go anyway... I don't want to ruin the whole family's holiday (well, K is staying, poor thing). And since Kelvin goes back to school only on Wednesday, we have to take advantage of that. Oh yeah, and perhaps there'll be a blogger meet up!! I'm hoping to meet "Mami Hen" Carrie whose blog, aptly titled Bilingual in the Boonies I really enjoy (oh, and meet her chiquitica too!).

Well... Wish us a good trip. I'll write more tomorrow when we get there.

P.S. I'm thrilled about the chapter I sent out yesterday, things are coming together so nicely! I'm sure it does have problems, but it's not that bad either. ;-)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Tired, Deconstructed, Picking up the Pieces...

I am tired, tired, tired of working around 16 hours a day on this dissertation. It's coming along, I know, but it's quite discouraging.

My aunt, uncle, cousins, cousin's daughter are all waiting for us to go spend some days with them in Nashville but I cannot travel before I finish. I mean, at least mostly finish.

Right now I'm trying again to pick up the pieces of whatever is left of my fifth chapter which I FOOLISHLY send to my third reader while it was still in an early draft form. So, she totally deconstructed it, writing whole paragraphs and pages, even writing nice things like this (talking about some of the theory parts which she totally disagrees with):

"I also don’t see why you need all this; it’s certainly not what you do in your other chapters – and here we are getting past halfway in this chapter and you still haven’t said a word bout the actual [subjects], only about the FACT that they exist at all. When did that become your focus? Is that really what you want this chapter to be about? Does it fit into your overall thesis if this is its focus?"

HOW STUPID of me to send her unfinished and incomplete work! Now I have to pick up the pieces and move on. I have to realize that comments like these: "nonsense! I don't agree with this..." are directed not at me, but at the authors of the quotes that I scattered around without commentary because it was a draft.

Just writing about it makes me feel much better. I should probably go to bed and work like crazy tomorrow AGAIN... and then, perhaps, we can be on our way to TN soon.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Running on Empty

Sorry for not updating the blog lately, it's just that there's not much to tell. I've been working so hard on the dissertation that I'm empty of other things to say.

On Friday I was able to send the first two chapters (but I later realized that I want to write an interesting paragraph to begin chapter two since the one I have is too boring). On Saturday night, while my whole family went here with a large group of friends, I stayed home to work. Then on Sunday K took the boys here and I didn't go. Kelvin is already complaining that "You don't go anywhere, mama!!" and when I tell him I have to finish the dissertation he whines "But you're never going to finish, never!"

Oh boy...

Yesterday I sent of the third chapter and I hope against hope that I can finish the rest today. :-(

Problem is, you have no idea how much feedback from my third reader, Dr. Contrarian, I have had, and still have to deal with. It's excellent feedback, by the way. She doesn't take anything at face value and following her suggestions will help my dissertation be so much stronger.

Last week, or two weeks ago... I can hardly remember... I had to smile at your suggestions (Libby's, I think) to "strive for bad." Well, my friends, I've been trying to strive for bad, but my committee members are SO helpful and tuned to detail that they won't let me get away with bad :-). Apologies for the lack of modesty, but I'm secretly hoping that I can get one of those dissertation awards... I just don't know how those things work. Well, if I don't, at least I'm sure it'll be published as a book in Brazil, if not here (I'm already doing part of the work for that by including all the Portuguese citations in the original Portuguese in footnotes).

OK, see? I'm not really empty, I'm only full with the dissertation, and all that talk must be boring you. I'm actually surprised at how I'm not "hating it" at all, on the contrary, I like it more and more even though it still WILL have faults because I do want to get done. I'm not striving for bad, but I am, striving for done, as you guys said. (sorry for no links, I'm really tired right now)

And I know I'll get done, and if what's done can also be good, wow, then it will be awesome!

More later... (now I want to keep writing, but I have to go back to work. I think I've never written a post this early in the morning, btw... but last night at 11:30 [which is really early for me] I was falling asleep in front of the computer and then I went to bed.

P.S. Oh yeah, I have news about family members, but I'll leave those for another post!

Friday, March 14, 2008

In The Middle of the Night

Because today I am going to spend all night working on the dissertation, in an attempt to have at least three chapters ready for submission tomorrow (I have six chapters, plus a conclusion, and three appendices... I think I'm going to have a 500 page dissertation, yeah, I know, pathetic), I decided to take a tiny break and do a really rare thing here in this blog... post a poem. It's a very fitting one too.

I have no idea when I wrote it. It was one of those beautiful surprises that seems to appear from nothing, nowhere. I found it in my hard drive one day and was so stunned by it that I thought someone else had written it, but I think it was me... it's not that good, so it must be mine :-)

I found it and finished it on October 3, 2003. I think I may have written it during one of the nights when I was getting ready for my comprehensive exams back in February 2002 -- heavily pregnant with my first son. And later I wrote a Portuguese translation as well, which I include here.

There was a time when I wrote in Portuguese and translated my writing into English (I published several bilingual poems that way in a tiny journal), but I guess that five years ago the tide turned and now English has taken over... it's a little sad, but inevitable too.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

at two in the morning
with no one around
no matter how many friends one has in the world
it’s impossible not to feel lonely

there’s something about the night
that makes it the loneliest of places
so dark and silent,
time has difficulty to pass
perhaps because it can’t see
it advances slowly, halting at each step
looking back to see if no one is following

walking at night is lonelier
each light in the distance another lonely traveler
stuck in time and space,
unable to communicate with those around

spare sounds cut the air like lightning –
silence so thick it is hard to breathe

awake in the middle of the night
one becomes the only being on earth
and Night – the improbable place where
this loneliness of being materializes

then … I feel alive

~ ~ ~ ~ ~


às duas da manhã
sem ninguém por perto
não importa quantos amigos se tem no mundo
é impossível não se sentir sozinho

há algo à respeito da noite
que a torna o lugar mais solitário de todos
tão escura e silenciosa,
o tempo passa com dificuldade
talvez porque não consiga enxergar
ele avança devagar, parando a cada passo
olhando pra trás pra ver se alguém está lhe seguindo

andar à noite é mais solitário
cada luz distante outro viajante sozinho
preso no tempo e espaço
sem poder comunicar-se com aqueles ao redor

sons esparsos rompem o ar como um raio –
o silêncio tão denso que fica difícil respirar

acordado no meio da noite
torna-se o único ser na terra
e a Noite – torna-se o local improvável no qual
esta solidão de ser se materializa

então... me sinto viva

~~~ ~~~ ~~~
And, this is heartbreaking for me, but I like the English one better, in spite of the gender "twist" or revelation in the very last word of the Portuguese version.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


My husband just emailed me about two openings in the Community College closest to our house -- the only one I'd be interested in teaching at this point, since the other ones are so far away.

The first opening doesn't really apply because it's for Spanish (oh, how I repent at these moments for not having made Spanish one of my secondary languages/literatures! -- they are English, Portuguese, French)

But the second opening is great because it is truly "open." It's a diversity faculty fellowship program aimed at promoting the career of exceptional junior faculty and has a relatively light teaching load (for a CC): two classes in the Fall, three in the Spring.

Problem is... am I diverse enough? I do not really identify myself as H!span!c, only in instances when it might make a positive difference, you know. Most often I think of myself as c@ucasian since I'm a Brazilian of mostly European origin. Of course for this application I would say I'm H!spanic, and I DO specialize in a Latin American (though NOT Hispanic) literature. In addition I am very interested in issues of ethnicity, my three publications are exactly about that (Afro-Brazilian aspects of Brazilian children's literature).

Anyway. I'm excited. And I hope other possibilities arise if this one proves fruitless.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Professional (Non) Affiliations - The Beginning of the End

In the beginning of every new year, for most of the past 7-8 years, I renewed my student membership in various professional associations. The MLA, ChLA, BRASA (since 2006), and the national association of my discipline. Last year I also joined the international and the Brazilian branches of my discipline because I attended congresses of both of them in Brazil.

This year I'm not renewing any of the memberships, mostly because I'm almost positive I won't be "in the market" at the end of the year and, most importantly, I don't really want to be because I think it's a waste of time. Applying turns me into a nervous wreck and is generally for nothing. Really. And I don't know if my husband will still have his job at the end of the year, so even applying to jobs in or around Philadelphia may not be an option. (Take a look at my friend Articulate Dad's "small sample" of rejection letters, people... consider how hard academic jobs are to come by for interdisciplinary people like him and myself. Go look. It's just a sample.)

The saddest thing of all, though, is knowing that from now on, if present at conferences, I won't have any affiliation. That's why I wanted to become an adjunct/ instructor/ high-school teacher (I know, sis', but I just may have to) soon so I could at least have am institution to put under my name. Not that I'm going to any conferences this year. The one in Brazil doesn't have any interesting seminars, and the other ones are much too far away. Wait, I don't know where the next MLA will be! PHEW! What a relief, it's in San Francisco, much far for me to go, so I'm good... (for a minute there I panicked thinking that I'd waste the chance to go, even though there are only 3 days before the FINAL deadline for abstract submissions).

(The only conferences I went to after I left campus and couldn't really apply for funding because it was a hassle to be pestering my department for money over email -- I know, I did go to many conferences in the past two years, I even presented at the MLA and didn't get ANY FUNDING WHATSOEVER! -- were conferences at driving distance from home or in places where I could stay at friends houses: Princeton, Philly, Virginia, Brazil - São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.)

This "letting go" of the affiliations stands as a symbol, a metaphor of sorts for the fact that my career as an academic may be ending before it's even begun in earnest. I am aware that this dissertation may be the beginning of the end, and not the beginning, the "entrance ticket into Academia" that it's supposed to be.

I'm shedding them now like my friend AD is shredding the rejection letters that he has kept. And I'm not really looking back. At least not yet.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Desperate Question, Urgent Plea to Former Dissertators Out There

My Dear Friends,

How did you do it? I mean... how were you able to cope with pre-set deadlines and still turn in something that was (more or less) decent? Or you didn't (I mean, what you turned in wasn't great)?

I know that my dissertation won't be perfect, I know that I could have dedicated much more time to perfecting it but for various reasons I have to live, spend time with my sons, husband, family... etc. Life is important too.

How do I finish and accept that it's OK not to have addressed every problem, not to have followed every suggestion from well-meaning readers, not to have written and analyzed all that I wanted to have written and analyzed?

Most importantly, how to convince my committee that it's OK, that they can push me hard and that I've trying to do my best, but that it's also good that I get done? (On time for commencement)

I know that it will all work out in the end... it's just that these last days before "the big day," the "due date" are so terrifying!!!

How does one survive finishing and defending a Ph.D. dissertation? Is that one of the reasons why you quit, Scriv, knowing that in the end it all feels at the same time so relevant and such a waste of time and such a power struggle between us the students and our committee members, "the authorities"?

I'm just trying to breathe... calm down, keep going. I don't feel like pulling four all-nighters in a row, though, before my Friday deadline.

I'm actually surprised at how low my motivation is at this point. I thought that by this week I'd be energized, ready to finish and to work day and night with a vengeance, but that's not how I feel. AT. ALL. I feel sleepy, worried, stressed out, I want to procrastinate, but don't because I know I can't anymore.

I DON'T feel guilty for taking time off to celebrate my son's sixth birthday with family (and DO feel guilty because the dissertation didn't allow me to put up the usual big party for him on his birth-day -- I still want to do it later in the month), for "wasting" several hours last week here buying our bed and other things for the house. Is that a sign that I'm not a good scholar? I don't really care if it is ;-)

So... tell me... how do I deal with the fear that my advisor will be once more totally blinded by "mechanical errors" that he sees in every sentence without paying what I imagine would be exorbitant fees to these online dissertation editors... (I googled them up today, but didn't even want to find out how much it cost...). Am I too proud to not even want to have a perfect stranger dissect my words even though that might mean that my dissertation director would be pleased? I don't even have any money for this... BUT I'd pay someone I know or that is referred to me by someone I know and trust, quite willingly. I really don't want a stranger, faceless person to do this...

My advisor has TOLD me, repeatedly, that I need someone to revise this. HOWEVER, I won't finish writing the last bits until later in the week and how in the world can I have someone revise what I've written the day or night before it's due?

How did you deal with that? Several of you have told me that your own dissertations had the same kinds of problems that my advisor is telling I have -- Did you all finish way ahead of time so you could have someone revise your English? Who did that? I'm NOT on campus. I CANNOT go to the Writing Center and have someone help me.

Well, anyway, any stories about the last week before you turned your "finished" dissertation to your committee and what followed before the defense and after, will be appreciated. I KNOW I am not alone, but I want you to tell me that.


Thankfully Yours,

Lilian, the desperate-dissertating-mommy-blogger :-)

Friday, March 07, 2008

Slow Week and "Christmas in March"

This week things were a little slow here, and lonely... no comments, no lively conversation, quite different from last week. My hits are still up because of Kateri's link to last week's post, but I know they'll soon dwindle down again to their regular number...

Not that I care too much, just a little bit. ;-)

You're probably thinking that I'm working like crazy on the dissertation and that's why I didn't blog this week; unfortunately, that's not exactly the case. I'm not working as much as I should and this the a topic of an upcoming post. I should be working right now, but I wanted to wish you a good weekend. We're leaving for Maryland soon, for a trip of little over 24 hours.

I had a HUGE distraction this week that I have hardly been able to enjoy as much as I should. It totally feels like Christmas, since this WAS one of my supposed Xmas gifts, my husband made a tiny paper one and put it in a cute box, but it was only this week that I finally got it:I'm very happy about my "gift."

Have a good weekend, everyone. I hope to blog again on Sunday, my son's 6th birthday!

Monday, March 03, 2008

Tons of New Photos

As usual, I have just posted many photos to the Project 365+1 blog.

Home renovation stuff and more.

I'm still not caught up, but there's a lot there.

And now I should probably go back to the dissertation. I'm feeling a bit bad about it, but I took a break today after being so overwhelmed yesterday. I hope that I can go back to my chapter and do something now. I'm not looking forward to it, but I know I have to do it.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Too Much of an (at least in principle) Good Thing

I'm a little sick to my stomach right now. Not from anything I ate, mind you, but from way too much of something someone is sorely lacking right now. I almost feel guilty by writing this because of her, but it's my experience, what can I do.

I feel "sick" because just like eating too much sweet and/or fatty yummy things, too much of a good thing is generally not good for you, right?

Right now I'm suffering from an acute case of excess-feedback poisoning. And all I can tell you is that it's more than nauseating, it's just... oh well, I don't really have words to express this.

I knew it would come to this, having the committee members that I have and thankfully, I've developed a much thicker skin in a way I never thought was possible when I wrote posts like these.

I have "written my wrongs" before, I know my weaknesses, but today it's all come down to this, again,
I just don't write well [in academese], I have a hard time even having my own ideas and not relying on other people's, but I'm a good researcher and I've accomplished a whole lot.
And I have two weeks to figure out how to please these folks (diss. due to committee on March 14). They'll pass me anyway, I know, but I do want this dissertation to read well and not be just "good research materials and results" with a really crappy presentation.

Thankfully, my confidence is NOT undermined by the excess of feedback, by the constructive, if hard to swallow criticism right now, which by itself is already reason to celebrate, but feeling OK about it doesn't mean I'll be able to use it in my favor, that I'll be able to implement so many suggestions, criticisms, admonitions, corrections, etc.

Well, let me just tell you straightforwardly what's going on. After I didn't hear back from Dr. Mentor (my former advisor) for several days I decided to approach Dr. Contrarian and seek her feedback on the chapter that I'm about to submit to the committee. She's been annotating my drafts electronically and sending them back to me so I can work on them right away.

She does give me way too much feedback, though. And not the kind of feedback that Dr. Published (my advisor) gives -- Dr. Mentor is so sweet he's been humorously talking to me about how we can revise my chapters so they can pass the scrutiny of the "mechanical errors police" :) -- her feedback is thoughtful dialog with almost every idea, telling me what the problem with my writing and my argument is, etc. The biggest problem in her opinion is my use of the works of others. And I've heard that from all of them... in different ways, but it's my weakest point. I cite other people's works too much... Dr. Contrarian got to the crux of the question today when she said (of things I wrote between Thursday and Friday -- oh, I worked 32 hours last week!!! and produced about 10 pages only) that I'm trying to place pieces of a puzzle together.... And it's true, since those parts she had the most problems with are "first draft" sections, full of citations and trying to make sense of what various sources are saying about the subject I am addressing. Yeah. I knew all along that I shouldn't have left anything to write at the very end of this journey since first drafts need tons of rewriting to become smoother... But that's how it is, particularly with "professional procrastinators" like me...

OK, gotta go to bed now. And tomorrow morning I have to come here and start figuring out what to do with all the excess feedback that I have right now. I can't just toss, it, can I? I can't address all of it either, so I'll have to find a balance between the two. That won't be easy, to say the least. Wish me luck... positive thoughts, prayers, etc. appreciated.

Sleepy... Tired...

And I'll probably sound totally incoherent, so I shouldn't even be writing. This weekend was so full of activities (mostly Friday night and yesterday) that I'm beat. And I have to work on the dissertation, day and night... (oh yeah, and selecting the label [Weekend update] reminded me again that we MISSED SNL last night :( -- you'll see why below.

Let's see, on Friday night we had a practice session with our singing group and we since we were able to get the boys to bed before leaving, we stayed until late talking with our friends. When we got home I stayed up until 3 am preparing a CD for the children in church. Got up extra early (7:30), drove to Philly for a never-ending day.

church stuff, them, practice for several hours in the afternoon with the group (we're going to do a program in Maryland next week). There was a wedding at 7 pm and we tried to get a song done to sing but it didn't work so I practiced a duet (which we already knew) with a friend. I also had to play the flute because the bride wanted me (and my husband on the piano) to play K3nny G's "The W3dding Song" (we had to order the sheet music on 2nd day air last week and got it on Friday)... so we practiced that.

Well, to make a loooong story short, we were there the whole afternoon right up until the wedding (my husband was also the interpreter) and the reception and we only got back home at 12 pm and we were more than wiped out.

Today I got up early and had a nice, intellectually stimulating, morning (I really want to blog about it, but I don't have time/ energy now), then in the late afternoon we had another practice with the singing group... which was more or less disastrous because our friend had fallen asleep and we were locked out for a whole hour before he woke up and heard us banging on his door. and meanwhile my youngest boy pooped on his pants in the car and I had to walk to the nearby grocery store to buy wipes... oh well. All is well that ends well, so it was not that bad in the end (after he finally opened the door, at least). OK, nobody will even read this, so let me hit publish. And now I have to write another post about dissertating...

That Was Obvious!

I saw this in Susan's blog, and I was curious to try it. Now I have to remember what's the other quiz I did recently that I thought was fun. Meanwhile, I guess you already know what kind of punctuation I am! :)

You Are An Exclamation Point

You are a bundle of... well, something.

You're often a bundle of joy, passion, or drama.

You're loud, brash, and outgoing. If you think it, you say it.

Definitely not the quiet type, you really don't keep a lot to yourself.

You're lively and inspiring. People love to be around your energy.

(But they do secretly worry that you'll spill their secrets without even realizing it.)

You excel in: Public speaking

You get along best with: the Dash