Wednesday, January 28, 2009


So, apparently all I needed was to get that out of my system.

I have officially re-started the one photo-a-day "Project 365" blog. So far I've posted only one photo (scroll down), but it's a beginning!

Oh, and I've changed the looks of the blog, added one of my photos to the masthead, or whatever that is called. It does distract folks from the other photos, though. What do you think of it? Should I keep it?

The Day My Life (In Pictures) Stopped

I want to blog more, I want to come back, but there is just so much in my head that it's hard to know where to start...

So, I'll just talk about one irrelevant thing, my failure to continue posting to my "Project 365+1" blog last year.

Interestingly enough, do you know which was my very last post?

Check it out.

(and I'm giving the specific post link, although if you click in the blog link today, it'll get you there. I hope, against hope, to post again someday, so I have to give the proper link).

So, what do you think of this?

To add suspense, the rest of the post is after the cut.


Are you surprised that the very last thing I posted to that blog, with the date of April 16, 2008, is a photo of my dissertation defense?

I kind of was when I first realized that, but then, I started thinking of all the reasons why this coincidence could be highly symbolic.

My life stopped that day, in a sense, because after that joyous moment ("Wonderful" is the title of that day's blog post) came the pits of despair of the grueling revision process. The formatting and the submission to the graduate school were even worse nightmares I blogged about in great detail, step by step until the live blogging the upload. The first resubmission, the second revision, and, finally, the acceptance. And then, after telling you that I thanked you, my online friends, in my acknowledgments, I never blogged about the defense or the dissertation again, I just posted my failed contribution to Mama PhD.

Of course the practical reason for no more pictures in that blog, though, is really prosaic -- we had no functioning camera from June (after my parents left and took their camera) to early August, so I really didn't have what to post. I couldn't get the outlet cable to charge the camera and it took K two months until he finally got around to fiddle with it.

Regardless of the actual reasons, however, I still think it's an interesting metaphor for my life. Photography and making photo albums online is one of my obsessions, something that my dad constantly tells me that I have to stop thinking about. I've been really disappointed with myself that I didn't stick to posting photos daily in that blog. I love doing that and I wish I could keep on doing it.

There's something inside myself that has been keeping me from doing it. I want to try not to spend so much time on these things, even though I really love photos and feel a profound satisfaction when I get to share them.

On the other hand, defending the dissertation was one of the only "nice" things derived from my dissertation. The commencement was OK, but I only had one friend come. What does it mean, anyway, to have them call your name and get your diploma? So I didn't even find the time to write about it in the blog, and to post pictures (here).

I've blogged several times about the "uselessness" of the PhD and my qualms with academia. So, I guess it's very fitting that the photo blog, at least for now, is "stuck" on my defense day.

I need to move on, leave it behind, catch up, begin posting again, and, hopefully, I will.

Life will go on.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Blogging in Bed

We've had laptops for years now and a wireless connection for several years too, but I don't recall ever having blogged from bed. Or even worked from bed or our bedroom. For some reason I always use(d) the desktop. I have rarely surfed the web and read blogs, but I think that the last post was one of the very first ones (if not the first) that I wrote from bed. Perhaps this was so because when I was working on the dissertation, coming to bed was getting away from work and I didn't want to bring the computer into the bedroom.

Wednesday night, however, I decided to see if I'd be more productive in the online work if I brought the computer to our bedroom and sat at our comfy IKEA POANG chair. K basically lived on this chair after his appendectomy, computer in hand.

The cold weather just made/makes this so appealing! And now in the morning our bedroom is full of sunlight, it's quite lovely! I wasn't that much more productive on Wednesday, but I was much warmer, having moved into the bed, where I am right now as well.

There is something that is bothering me, but which I didn't want to devote a whole post to, mostly because it may be nothing really, or so I hope. Several weeks ago I felt some pain under my right breast, like when the bra is too tight and it hurts for a bit, but I noticed also that there was a lump (a swollen lymph node) under my arm, in same the direction/height of my breast. I waited for a few days to see if it was going to disappear, but no, it's still there. And I also have a similar lump right next to my right year -- I didn't even know we had lymph nodes by our ears, I thought they were mostly in the neck under our face, underarm, and in the groins. So, I actually don't know if this lump on my face is a swollen lymph node or not.

I know I should see a doctor right away, but I'm waiting to see if our new health insurance through the university (and for which we're paying quite a lot for me, over 300) that was supposed to begin now in January has taken effect. The big pharma insurance was in effect through the end of December (the boys, BTW are still uninsured as our Chip application is processed). So, I wait. And I worry, just a bit. I hope and pray it's just nothing, but still, it's a bit scary, considering what it could be.

I should be grading now, or at least cleaning the house, but here I am, blogging. The time suck and the addiction that makes my life so much happier ;-).

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Skinny Kid...

... with the funny name.

Is our president (ok, technically not yet mine because I'm not a citizen yet, but maybe in 4 year's time!!!).

And, would you believe it that I just heard for the very first time the speech that started it all? It's been over four years and it's just so amazing to look back. His audacity of hope got him there...
... the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too.
Oh, yes, it sure does! The most coveted, the most prominent place... it's almost unbelievable.

And, like Larry King said yesterday, answering a question that, very curiously, had been raised by a Brazilian writer over 82 years ago (more on this in a minute), we don't ever have to ask ourselves whether one day the U.S. will have a Black president.

Back in Brazil in 1926 Monteiro Lobato, who later became famous as the founder of Brazilian children's literature, published a science fiction saga titled O presidente Negro (The Black President) about the U.S. electing a black president. I already knew about this book, obviously, but while searching for the publication date, I came across a Slate article about it published last September: "The Black President A 1926 Brazilian sci-fi novel predicts a U.S. election determined by race and gender." Cool, huh?

I want to end this by commenting on one last quote, something that a former civil rights leader Andrew Young wrote in Time magazine last week. Young remarks that Barack Obama is not a "typical" African American like himself and that this makes a lot of differece. Perhaps, all the difference. He writes:
He isn't just black; he's an Afro-Asian-Latin European. That means he's a global citizen and an all-American boy. He defies categorization. The fact that his father and grandfather on one side were black doesn't make him any more of a black President than his grandfather on the other side being white would make him a white President. We claim him, and we are proud of him, but the fact is that he has not had the experiences of deprivation, humiliation and racism that I had to grow up with — which is good. He has the label without the scars.
These are precisely the kinds of things that I've been thinking about for a while. And that last sentence? It's spot on. I wanted to elaborate, but I really have to go work on the online gig. I'll try to comment more on this tomorrow or later.

Friday, January 16, 2009

In Brazil, in the Middle of the Night

It's 3 a.m. and here I am, not yet sleepy after a nap on the 2h drive from the big city (São Paulo) to where my parents live. I slept well on the flight, thankfully, and that helps... but I've been so sleep deprived lately that I'm kind of suprised I'm not just sleepy. I have to get up relatively early so I can get a hair cut and hair color (highlights touch up) -- one of the big reasons why I came here ;-)

Anyway, there's the Baby Watch 09 for my friends Lucy and Jo to follow, and trying to catch up on more blog reading, but now I'm going to take a shower and go to bed. Really.

The air smells of flowers here, maybe orange blossoms from the neighboring citrus farms? Or some other night flowering plant? It's just lovely. My poor mom stayed up until 1 am when we arrived, but dad was sleeping. It's been a long day. My favorite part was looking down at the rolling hills of my country from the airplane window when we started our descent. Bright green, covered in forests, with lighter green pasture land and farmed areas here and there. I'm glad to be here once more.

The 12th time, in 12.5 years. It's not much, but enough for me so far.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Another Nay

So, the answer is no again (on that opportunity, which was, I should have realized, not really that, but a distant possibility which now became a "failed opportunity"). I did speak much too soon, unfortunately. They're keeping his resume in case they ever need it again. I guess that won't help much in the position that is open in yet another department...

Oh well, and so we carry on...

I'm still struggling with the online gig. I've been losing sleep over it, literally for the hours spending grading and also in the more abstract sense of being stressed out, agonizing over the whole thing. I wrote on my journal about it last Saturday night (OK, it was already Sunday, at around 3 a.m.) -- I just couldn't sleep because I was just so frustrated! I might go back to it and try to transpose some of my reflections there to here.

In my post on Friday I said precisely the opposite of what I've been often thinking. I wrote: " Oh well, I need to succeed in this [online gig] anyway, I owe it to myself not to fail. " But what I struggled terribly with last Saturday night was the idea that I have to give myself permission to fail this, but it's just so hard!!

Ok, I have to grade some assignments, so I have to go. Hopefully, I will be able to come back and post before my trip.

P.S. today is my brother's birthday, BTW, and I wasn't able to talk to him! :-( Good thing he has good friends from Brazil visiting him in NZ, so he's probably busy and happy there. I'll write him an email. Right now. Before grading.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Maybe I Spoke Too Soon...

... when I wrote the previous post.

K just called saying that the other dept. chair (the one who is doing the search is from another dept, not the one that's hiring) is a bit resistant to hiring him. So, it's a toss up and not a certain thing yet. I'll let you know how it went. He may find out this afternoon.

In any case, if he doesn't get it, he'll have a less stressful semester and will have more time to dedicate to his research which is important too. We're OK with whatever turns out -- this was so quick that we didn't even have any time to absorb it. The only continuing worry is the financial aspect which makes the pressure on me to be able to do the online gig bigger. Oh well, I need to succeed in this anyway, I owe it to myself not to fail.

Opportunity/ New Year Resolution

I should have blogged about this sooner, just so we'd have some suspense and resolution, ;-) but now it's more like an announcement.

It's not an opportunity for me -- I already have one in place (the online "thing" -- I don't like to call it teaching because it really isn't, it's only part of teaching. They call it facilitating.) and I shouldn't let it slip away, so I'm trying to fight for it, and I'll be looking for more opportunities soon.

So, here's my one official New Year Resolution:
I will be proactive about looking for jobs. I will look into anything, private high school/prep school, adjuncting in colleges and universities, editing, curatorship, librarianship, anything that could possibly and even remotely fit me. Even a couple of local faculty jobs ;-). And, hopefully, I will have one or more "real" or "marginal" jobs come fall.

The opportunity is for K, and this one came so easily and quickly that I'm just still stunned and happy, in a good way. It will be a lot of work for him, and when I say that I mean it, since it's a class that he's not even taken before, let alone taught. But I'm confident he can do it.

So, on Sunday or Monday, he received an email from his close friend and recent tt faculty at Penn (the one who had a loong three year job search but who ended up with five job offers last year!) who is, incidentally, vacationing in Brazil right now (he's from there too). Our friend had been contacted by a dept. chair of a local university -- the closet university to us, BTW! -- saying that they needed an adjunct instructor to begin teaching a class next week! K emailed the dept. head and heard back from him on Monday night. Today it was confirmed that he starts teaching next Wednesday night (the same day I travel to Brazil... good thing we already have several people who can babysit, yay!).

K is aprehensive, but he desperatetly needs (and I cannot emphasize this enough) teaching experience in his CV/resume! He never taught here in the U.S., just did research, but he is an excellent teacher -- he taught middle school and high school in Brazil for 6.5 years and he did really well. In his concursos (competition to enter a tenure track job in Brazil) people were impressed with the classes he taught. In spite of that, the lack of teaching experience in his CV is a real problem when applying for teaching colleges although it's pretty irrelevant when applying for R1 (research focused) universities.

And it doesn't stop here! There is a tt faculty post open at the same university that K was already planning to apply to (and will), it just is not in the same department, but in one "related" to the one where he will be teaching. Isn't that just unbelievable?

So, I'm glad to be the bearer of good news here in this blog. In spite of the fact that this will make life more complicated for K and interfere with his day job (the postdoc), it will have two great advantages: provide him with t he experience he needs and help pay the mortgage (two months' worth). I'm quite happy and I think that K is too.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

You won't believe what just came in the mail!

Is the universe playing a joke on me because of my previous post? :-D

I agree with that:
But whoever/whatever this Strong Moms organization is, I really think that their marketing strategy failed miserably with us here! They missed the point, because this is not the type of gift that we need right now :-)
And, besides, shouldn't they know that formula does not enter this house? ;-)

Now what do I do with it? I know, I donate it, but I just don't know to whom. I'll figure it out.

Thanks for all your responses, they've been super helpful! I will try to write about it soon. Meanwhile, I'm super busy grading (for a change :-( ) and getting ready to go to Brazil next week -- woo hoo!!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Persian Girls: A Memoir -- Book Review (Unsolicited)

A year ago I received this book from Mother Talk. I didn't get to participate in the Blog tour, but I received it so I could participate in the discussion of their newly open discussion forum. Unfortunately I didn't have time to do so because I was busy with the dissertation and other things, but I saved the book for later. I read it in two sittings, the first in the car on our way to Florida and the second on Saturday night. I knew I could/should be grading for the online "teaching," but I made a conscious decision to read the book instead.

I will have to be brief, but I wanted to say that I really liked the book. There is no suspense to it because the back cover already reveals what happens at the end and which motivates the existence of the book, but going back in time and examining Nahid Rachlin's childhood is fascinating. The book was also a good way to learn more of what happened in Iran before, during and after the deposition of the Shah and Khomeini's rule, as well as the hostage crisis.

I remember those events vividly from my childhood (I was 8-9). I recall the name Shah Rezah Pahlavi and hearing that he had to flee. I also remember about the hostages being freed (althouh I had no idea it was related to Reagan's inauguration). Most of all, I have a very negative image of Aiatolah Khomeini, which a prominent figure in the news in Brazil while I was growing up as well as the war between Iran and Iraq.

I enjoyed learning about those events again, this time filtered by the experiences of a woman who lived in Iran shortly before all that took place. Rachlin's description of her displacement as a foreign student also struck me, although I cannot say that I fully identify since my own culture was not as removed from this one and I was fluent in the language when I came to this country.

Most of all, I just enjoyed reading. With my intellectual life on forced "over drive" all these years of graduate school and dissertating, reading for pleasure was hardly ever possible. I need to begin to catch up! I'm so thankful for MotherTalk for giving me the opportunity to receive some free books (the same way I gladly collected books during the years I was a T.A. -- I've had a post on free books in the works for years now :-). Otherwise, I cannot really afford them.

Talking of which, I just used my gift certificate from this review to purchase Persepolis. I can't wait to read that one! I'm also thrilled that Nahid Rachlin is coming to UPenn in March. I hope I can go see her -- if the reading is open to the public (it should be since it is listed in Rachlin's website). It will be a treat if I can make it! I'll let you know!

Note: I was thrilled that I was able to write this post in 16 minutes, I hope I can continue to write posts this fast in the future ;-).

Monday, January 05, 2009

It's "Coming Around Again"

So, out of nowhere... OK, it probably wasn't out of nowhere... sigh, but I won't go into that yet.

Anyway, it's embarrasing to admit it, but out of somewhere then, if you insist, :) I've suddenly begun having that crazy urge, that wildest and most insane of desires... the wish to have another baby.

There, I've said and...Yes, I know... crazy, huh? Aren't you going to say that I've lost my mind? Please, be supportive and do say something to that effect! I beg you!!! (My husband will thank you wholeheartedly if you convince me that I should quit such deranged thoughts at once!).

I'm fully and embarrassingly aware that I made a public announcement here that I was done! Good thing I phrased it "I think I'm really done." We have a saying in Brazil (OK, in Portuguese) which does not translate well, but I'll use it anyway: "Pensando morreu um burro" -- By thinking, a donkey/dunce died" or "Thinking killed a donkey" (I think that I'm beginning to understand that, now that I've translated it ;-). 

Anyway... I've been debating this issue for a long time, haven't I? Really thinking about it. Proof here (2007) and here (2004 -- oh, MAN, was I 33 when I wrote that? How old I feel now at 37!), but I know that now I'm in the "now or never" threshold and my body, my mind, my everything, are going crazy. 

The motives are slightly selfish -- breastfeeding again (weren't five years five months enough? :-), more attachment parenting (more baby-wearing than with the other ones, if needed, since those first two didn't really crave it), the crazy environmentally minded cloth diapering (or at least the flushable ones), perhaps home birthing (that, my husband doesn't like too much, but there's a birthing center! Not far away!)... crunchy, delicious earth mama things like those that I want to experience now that I'm much "wiser," more aware, and able to enjoy certain things more fully. 

And, of course, the crowning reason is one that I've been "trupeting" here all along -- being a mother has always been and felt as my greatest accomplishment. The one single thing I've never felt deficient at, the one thing that came so naturally and gave me so much enjoyment that I I don't seem to get enough of it. Being a mother is just so awesome!

Now on to the cons, which are just as "selfish" as the pros, if not more. Why start it all over again when we're finally out of the most limiting stage, one that American Family calls "baby jail"? Why? K and I just did our very first outing by ourselves, leaving our sons with friends for two days/nights -- why would we want to wait another three to four long years before we could enjoy that again? Now that I'm planning a nice celebration for our 15th anniversary in December? I finally finished the PhD and can try to find work. In the fall both boys will be in school. What in the world am I thinking? 

So, what do I do, my dear readers? I know. Just wait until the desire passes because it eventually, and, hopefully, will. Right? Right?

In fact, you shouldn't worry because I actually think that this whole discussion is almost futile and I'm pretty sure that nothing will come of it. The rational side will probably win in the end. It's almost a no-brainer... 

And now for the various triggers: 

1) K mentioning that he should "get snipped" soon. I think I just freaked out at the thought of just not being able to ever change my mind again (I know you guys were able to reverse that, my friend, but it sure was hard and it came at a cost, right?).

2) Several family members, close friends and close bloggers getting pregnant and having babies recently, some right around now (like CJ, Jo, Lucy). There's nothing like lots of people around you having babies to trigger the "reflex" of wanting the same. 

3) Last, but not least, the very interesting brainstorming sessions that K and I had during this trip and in the car driving up and which point out to a slim possibility of me working at home in the in-law's family business, which has the potential to really really grow (I'll probably blog about this at some point). Just the possibility that I might be able to do that already makes me all eager to consider having another one. 

OK, I've been writing this post on and off for about three hours, so I'll stop now and let you join the discussion, all right? Please do share your 2 cents (or more ;-).

Warning: Heavy Posting Ahead

I'm just bursting at the seams with things I want to blog about, so I'm issuing this warning here. 

I'm afraid my blogging binge will overhelm my already flailing "readership," but I need to get started because I've just been putting it off for too long and I've also been struggling with so many thoughts and feelings which keep me from blogging. So, I'll just bring it on, OK?

You've been forewarned. ;-)

Thursday, January 01, 2009

New Year Meme

As seen at This Woman's Work, thanks Dawn! And Happy New Year, everyone!

1. What did you do in 2008 that you’d never done before?

I got a PhD, does that count?
Became an official immigrant, a resident of this country!!

2. Did you keep your New Years’ Resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Hmm, I kept some of them, not that they were actual "resolutions," I wish I'd been able to do more. I think I will make an exception and and make more more next year (sigh).

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Yes! My youngest nephew was born on my birthday and my favorite cousin and his wife had a baby daughter, but I haven't met the baby yet.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Yes, my grandma, on Dec. 23. just last week.

5. What countries did you visit?

Brazil (as usual :)

6. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?

Like Dawn, more money, that I earn with my own work too.

7. What date from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

The day we submitted my dissertation only five minutes before the deadline, April 30. It was very unreal, having been up for so many hours, stressing out like never before in my life, and finally having suceeded, literally at the last minute. yikes.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

The PhD? Getting the greencard wasn't a real "achievement," but it still was something incredibly significant.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Hmmm... so far failing in the online teaching gig for being late with feedback. Hopefully I'll come around.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

No, but K had an appendectomy!

11. What was the best thing you bought?
I don't know...

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
not mine! ;-). K, I think, who delivered a big surprise for our anniversary and is always so patient with me.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
The McCain campaign.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Home renovations (not my money, "ours," i.e. my husband earned it, I wasn't working yet... :-( ).

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

The home renovations? (although the expenses take an edge off the excitement).

16. What song will always remind you of 2008?
I really don't know.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder? Hmmm... happier overall, less worried about the future.
ii. thinner or fatter? Same, maybe a tiny bit fatter 'cause I'm on vacation now ;).
iii. richer or poorer? Poorer, but hopeful.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
I don't know!

20. How did you spend Christmas?
Home with in-laws, brother-in-law's family, K's cousin and his wife.

21. What LJ users did you meet?
I’ll amend this to other bloggers. No new ones in 2008, unfortunately, but I hope that in 2009 this will change.

22. Did you fall in love in 2008?
I fall in love with K again all the time.

23. How many one-night stands?
[I'll second Dawn on this one:] This is for the younger blogging set, isn’t it?

24. What was your favourite TV program?
Saturday Night Live and portions of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report that K would show me online.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Nah, I don't think so. I don't really hate anybody.

26. What was the best book you read?
I read so few! Most were books that publishers sent me for review. I liked The Self-Esteem Trap (I've wanted to blog about it for a while).

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?

28. What did you want and get?
The PhD? ;-D , a job, even if low paying and part time.

29. What did you want and not get?
The fellowship.

30. What was your favourite film of this year?
Once -- although it's a film from 2007 I only saw it this year, at the eeriest of situations: on the car, at night, while we were driving up to MA for my commencement.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
The day itself was low-key, I was at my BIL's house and we came back home that night. In the following weekend I threw a big party (celebrating my graduation too).

32.What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Hmmm... having mor money so we didn't have debt now.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008?
Same as usual, cute, comfortable, clothes that 'look like me.'

34. What kept you sane?

My ability to relax and disconnect from the stress.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Barack Obama!

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
All issues during the election.

37. Who did you miss?
My brother. I always miss him because I only see him every two years now that he became a globe-trotter.

38. Who was the best new person you met?
Our friends Keyla and Paulo. I'm just so glad they moved here from CA!

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008.
Try to have a positive attitude, work harder (I still really haven't learned it, but I'm trying too -- online thing).

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

If I find out, I'll add it later.