Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Updating "Home Renovation" To-Do List from 2008!

Long time readers may recall a post from early 2008 in which I listed all the things we needed to do in the house (titled "Long Term Home Renovation To-Do List" -- I don't know why I put "long term" since most were done within 5 months! Added after writing post -- now I understand why!).

Here is the updated version (I had to use approximate dates because most of my photos -- the best way to date the conclusion of the jobs -- are in the desktop, not the laptop that I have right now):

First, a quick review:
1) The Ground Level comprises: the garage, family room, 4th bedroom (home office), front door to back door hallway in which the laundry is located, and a small full bathroom.
2) The Second Level: living-room, dining-room, and kitchen.
3) The Third Level: master bedroom with small full bathroom, two bedrooms, hall bathroom.
4) The Partial Basement: one large "finished" room, the unfinished furnace and oil tank room, and another room where there's a sump pump and the electricity "control panel."

Ground Level Projects:
- Put vinyl floor in laundry area and paint wall (9/18/07)
- Paint* 4th bedroom/home office (10/2/07)
- Paint home office closet - NOT DONE!
- Paint pink wall to the left of entrance hallway 4/08 (my dad)
- Remove wall paper from wall by living-room stairs 4/08 (my dad)
- Replace the "Technicolor Dreamcoat Carpet" by laminate or other flooring - July 08
- Deal with wood paneling in family room (paint? remove?) Painted two weeks ago by K - 3/20/09 (concluded)
- Do something to the ugly fireplace - I looks BEAUTIFUL now with the painted wall! (photos coming soon)
- Get the remote controls to the garage door to work -- OOOPS! We have to take care of that before closing!
- Fix cracked concrete floor in the garage - NOT GOING TO BE DONE
- Renovate small bathroom (floors, etc) - NOPE :-(
- Install exhaust fan to bathroom (through outside wall) NOPE...

First Level Projects
- Remove ugly border from dining-room and paint May 08 (my dad)
- Replace light fixture in dining-room July 08 (because of MY insistence!)
- ? Patch huge hole left from air conditioner removal (after stucco wall is replaced) - YES! Done in May 08.
- Remove wall-paper from living-room back wall (after previous project) May 08 (my dad)
Redo whole kitchen - YES! Redone!:
- Replace all cabinets - All were sanded and refinished with clear stain!!!
- Replace all appliances (except for white new fridge we bought for previous house. The stove is really bad right now, I can't wait to have another one) July 08
- Put an island at the middle of the room - For future owner :-(
- Put new light fixtures Aug 08 (eating area) and March 09 (above sink) - both from IKEA, where else? (we live at IKEA, basically0
- Tile the floors July 08
- ? Granite countertops? - I must have been kidding, right? Formica countertops - July 08
- Install stove exhaust fan (through attic? how?) - NAH!!!
- Transform corner into a closet with built-in-pantry (a pantry like that is my wildest dream!! - Keep on dreaming, Lilian!) Aug. 08 (IVAR shelving from IKEA) and March 09 - sliding panels from IKEA.

Second Level Projects
- Paint (dark pink) closet in boy's bedroom (9/21/07)
- Paint (even darker pink) closet in master bedroom (9/25/07)
- Remove hideous carpet from hall bathroom (10/14/07)
- Replace rusted baseboard heat cover (required toilet removal) (10/18/07)
- Cover old flooring with (cheap) vinyl tiles (10/17/07)
- Paint boy's bedroom (1/24/08)
- Remove old carpet in boy's bedroom (1/24/08)
- Paint guest bedroom and closet (2/6/08)
- Remove old carpet in guest bedroom (2/7/08)
- Paint master bedroom (after removing ugly border)(2/27/08)
- Remove old carpet in master bathroom (2/28/08)
- [partly done] Install exhaust fans/vents in both upstairs bathrooms (through the attic) Only done in Master Bath, Nov. 08, I think
Re-do tiny master bathroom:
- Put ceramic tiles in shower stall (or buy a new plastic one - NO WAY!) July 08
- Add swinging door to shower - NEXT OWNER
- Ceramic tiles on floor - SURE! July 08
- Replace white tiles on wall July 08
Re-do "long" hall bathroom: NAH :-(
- Replace the ugliest bathroom vanity in history
- Put attractive light fixtures
- (Only a dream) Replace tub with a whirlpool tub
- Add sliding doors to tub (?)
- Re-tile floors, walls and shower/tub

- Redo the whole thing, new flooring, walls, ceiling, etc. - SORRY, NOT POSSIBLE!
- Install water softener - NOPE
- Paint outside cement block walls with impermeable paint - Poor K is doing this as I type this 3/31/09

Outdoor Projects
- Replace, and level to correct angle the soil by the foundation of the house/ basement, so water doesn't seep into basement walls - Not really :-(
- Redo buckling stucco wall on the right side of house (living/dining room wall) and all stucco around the house (close to 10K) -- will include demolition and probable replacement of plywood walls. April 08 - It was less than 10K! I love me some nice Mexicans (roof too).
- Transform the back porch in a screened in porch - NAH...
- Add two or three skylights to back porch (too dark) - only a dream anyway
- In two year's time -- replace roof. HA!!!! See here for the reason why it was replaced in Aug. 08.

* Painting rooms in our book involves: painting the window, door frames, and baseboard (including heater) "pure white," painting the ceiling (white), painting the walls and the closet, and replacing all the black outlets and light switch with white, sleek ones.

As I wrote back in September, we have come a long way! But, lemme tell ya, I was THRILLED to see that I didn't get to cross everything in the list above. We did a lot, but not everything, and that's a great consolation to me. And, you know, we're addicted to this, we LOVE renovating and we'll probably do it again! We're actually looking forward to it now. We're incorrigible, that's what, or, we just enjoy it, that's all.

Putting up the Tombstone

I just talked to K on the phone. When I mentioned yesterday's post he laughed a bit (sarcastically) and said,
If on Friday I was burying the house, today I put up the tombstone when I put the 'For Sale' sign up front.
That was a very apt metaphor. Selling the house is the right (if the only) thing to do though, and we're at peace with that. The grief remains, however and we will mourn the loss for quite a while. I will try and post pictures later, to "celebrate" the short lived relationship that we had with this house. RIP.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Burying the Dream

The house is officially on the market and when I saw the listing online tonight I broke down. Not externally because my in-laws and the boys were having dinner and we're in a small apartment, so there was nowhere I could do to just cry and cry. And it's so impossibly hard to keep your composure when you're just completely grief stricken inside!

It was devastating for me to read the description of the house and see the photos that K took yesterday and we selected last night. The grief is just too much to bear, really.

If the house just wasn't that beautiful...

If we hadn't spent so much money and effort into it to make it look that way...

If were not aware that after 8 years of home ownership (an integral part of the "American Dream") we are now back to square ONE, having lost all the money we had so far managed to make and ending up with the roughly 10K we started with back in 2001 (if all goes well with the sale).

Even knowing that this is NOTHING compared to other people's losses still hurts. And it hurts incredibly more because (and I was going to write another post about "The Roads Not Taken" or "Regrets" and maybe someday I will) K found out (quite by accident) last week that his group at Big Pharma hasn't been dismantled yet, so he could still be there, making enough money for us to keep the house. He hated the job, though, and it was (and wouldn't) taking him nowhere. Now, he's making less than half the money, but he feels rewarded, fulfilled, and hopeful for a nice tenure track position in the future. So, we are confident it's all for the best, but still, learning about this on the hardest moment -- the one in which you put the house you thought you'd live for many years in on the market -- is just indescribably hard and heart-breaking.

All this has been much harder on K, but it's taking its toll on me now that it's very palpable that there's no way out, and nothing can happen to make us keep the house. K says he feels detached from the house, that he wants closure, and I don't blame him.

On Friday, he spent most of the day spreading the huge pile of mulch that we had a landscaper friend dump onto the yard and as he did that (with a bucket no less, poor K!) he saw it as a fitting metaphor -- he was burying the house, burying the dream.

And here it ends. It all began on that fateful day back on October 31, 2007. I know it could have been worse and that we'll be OK, but it's no less painful.

May the dream rest in peace and others spring in its place. Sigh.

19 Years Today = More than Half Our Lifetimes

This is what happened 19 years ago today.

It's hard to believe that it's been nineteen years, but yes, this year, officially, K and I pass the mark of having known each other for over half of each of our lives. I've been looking forward to this day for years. In fact, I think I calculated when it was going to take place during our first year together (1990). We were 18+ when we met (K 18 and 10 months and I 18 and 8 months), so now, we've known each other longer than not.

I love that idea! I often wish that I'd known him all my life, that we had met as children, but that doesn't really matter. What matters is that on March 30, 1990, we met and that made all the difference.

P.S. I'm just sorry today is such a sad day for us, but this too shall pass (another post coming up). Oh, and I can't find a recent photos of the two of us to share. Sorry!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Last Minute Flying

I'm in Boston... instead of us being in the car driving all night.

3 pm - K bought the ticket

3:40 - we left for the aiport

4:00 - we ran into traffic and despaired

4:45 - I arrived at the airport

5:15 - time the flight was scheduled to depart

Thankfully, I was able to print my boarding pass and the flight was delayed until 6:35.

8:30 - I arrived in Providence and my father-in-law picked me up.

9:40 - he dropped me off at my friends' apartment in Boston.

All courtesy of my lovely, dear mother and father-in-law, who were very worried about us driving all night so I could be at the conference by 8:30 am tomorrow.

I'm so thankful! And I LOVED traveling only with carry-on luggage. It was my very first (and perhaps last) time... it's so convenient!

Anyway, I'm just sorry for my poor husband who will have to leave the house ready for showing without my help!

P.S. I really think that the job possibility is getting really slim. I emailed them to find out when I was going to hear back from them and they said that the Friday evening question is too much of a problem. :-(

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Tale of Two Books

Two books were released today,* The Double Daring Book for Girls, by Andi Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz and Heather Armstrong's It Sucked and Then I Cried.

The only difference between the two, as far as I am concerned? I've had the first one (Double Daring...) in my hands for several days, courtesy of the publisher and my connection to the authors as because of my previous MotherTalk blogger experience and my blog review of the first book. I really enjoy having/reading books before they're even released! And it's even better that they're free! YAY to blogging!

Of course the one I really want to read right now is the second one. Oh well... it'll have to wait until I can afford it... Meanwhile I can enjoy Heather's blog...

* Once more I'm posting after midnight, but tweaking with the date so I don't miss posting on the "right date," please indulge, me, OK?

Quick, Short Answers

The commenters to the previous post had some questions, so I want to quickly answer them here. The home renovation, cleaning, de-cluttering, staging continues, so I don't have much time, but it's good to take a few minutes to unwind online... ;-)

So, yes, I don't work on Friday evenings after sunset and on Saturday for religious reasons. If you want to learn a bit more about my religious affiliation, I'd recommend this unbiased website. I prefer not to discuss religious matters here in the blog, but I'd like to add a disclaimer that I don't necessarily agree with all positions on current issues held by my denomination and described in that site. Another reason why I don't write about faith and religion in this blog is that although it is a big part of my life and I have no major theological problems with my denomination (which is also part of my "cultural and family" heritages), I have ongoing conflicts and qualms regarding not only my denomination but Christianity in general which are too complicated to even talk about, let alone discuss in the blog.

Karen had another question, about the possibility of going back to Brazil. A short answer to this is nearly impossible, but I'll try! I think I've blogged about this issue a few times, but, in a nutshell, now that we have the residency, our perspective has changed a bit and we do want to try to build a life here. One of the main reasons we want to remain here is that we think that K can be more happy and fulfilled as an academic here than there because there are only two or three universities in Brazil that he would like to work at. He has already participated of two concursos (competition to enter into a tenure track job) and not passed, but once in a while he still checks out out these opportunities over there and with the experience he has acquired he'd probably get in if he tried again.

For me, obviously (because of my specialization in Brazilian literature), there would be more academic work opportunities there, but I don't really have any academic ambitions anyway, so... I don't see this as a very strong reason to go back.

Well, I hope this helps, let me know if you have any other questions! ;-)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Mind Boggling & The School Question

I had the job interview (at the Y) last Friday and it went well, but...
I'll talk about the "but" at the end, let me just first say that this interview created another mind-boggling "Oh! How/why could this be true/ happening!" type of situation for us.

You see, I had spent all these weeks agonizing over* being away from my boys and working long hours and... well, it turns out that the position that they have open (for before and after school care) is precisely at "our" elementary school -- the one the boys would be going to if they went to public school. And you may remember that one of the reasons we bought this house was because it was in one of the best school districts in the Philadelphia area, so it is a good school. Anyway... it didn't occur to me until when I was driving back home after the interview, but the reality is that if we remained in this house and we put the boys in that school, I'd be paid to stay with my boys again (from 3-6)!
* wow... did I write that just 10 days ago? It feels like so much longer

Of course the job is SUPER demanding. Almost 11 hours of work daily year round. During the school year I have a 3h break in middle of the day, but in the 10 weeks of summer camp it's from 7am -6pm non stop (and I won't be with the boys much in the summer because I'll be helping out at various camps). Phew! All that for around 25K, with benefits. And, of course, in order to send the kids to the same school I'd be working at we'd have to keep the house, which might not be bad ;-).

And why is this so mind boggling? Because I may not be offered the job after all, even though the interview went really well, I liked the people I'd be working with and, in spite of the demands, I think it would be an interesting job.

The thing is, I do not work from sunset on Friday until sunset on Saturday and the job requires me to stay at the school until 6 pm (or a after if a parent is late) every day, and in the winter, when sun sets between 4:15 and 4:45 for several months, that wouldn't be possible for me on Fridays.

Isn't that just a terrible, horrible tease to have this job dangling in your face, a job -- regardless of how hard and demanding -- that would allow you to keep your house for a while longer and still meet your childcare needs? It's almost cruel. So... Friday evening, when I came back home from the interview to see the beautiful final results of the painting of our formerly darkly wood paneled family room I just couldn't help but just cry and cry.

Of all schools in the two school districts that this particular Y works with, why did the job I applied for (the one and only application I sent out) have to be at "our" elementary school? Why? Just so that I'd have this glimmer of hope shine in my face and then just fade away?

I'm trying very hard to concentrate on the negative aspects of the job (practically no vacation, no time off, no traveling to Brazil, grueling hours, etc, etc), but it's very, very hard. As we clean the house, as we finish doing all the little things that we'd been planning to do since we started the renovations, as it continues to look nicer and nicer, I just feel like screaming: "I don't want to have to sell our house!!"

And, you know, this is nothing compared to the questions that anguish K every single day. "Why oh why," he asks, over and over, "Did I have to get this job, this unbelievable six figure job just to lose it two months later?" Of course we're happy with the residency that came as a consequence of that job (and losing it and then recovering it temporarily), but still... it's more than mind-boggling, it just feels plainly unfair at times (OK, all the time). Of course life is never fair, but things like those are just so hard to live through! I know we'll survive and, as the cliche goes, "we'll come out of this stronger" HAHAHAHA (duh, yeah, how else could you be after having to steel yourself for going through so much!).

~ ~ ~ ~ ~~
Changing the subject just slightly, several of you had been asking me about the boys going to school (and I being able to work, etc.), so I'd been planning to blog about "the school question" for a while now. (Linton really is turning 5 in May and going to kindergarten in the Fall.)

So, this is Kelvin's second year at this tiny Christian school where I happen to be currently working part time. Both K and I went to private denominational schools in Brazil until we graduated from high school, so we were planning to go the same route with our sons. My work at the school made me realize, however, that home schooling might be an even better thing to do with the boys, particularly with Kelvin, because it would allow him to work at his full capacity and advance faster than if he were at a regular school. He is really good (an understatement) in math and very interested in science and other subjects and he's well ahead in reading too, so I feel that if I had the patience to work with him he'd just soar ahead and excel academically.

We obviously cannot afford homeschooling now because I need to try to work and help us make ends meet and in terms of academics we're not really happy (also an understatement) with the school he's in right now so... sending him to the local elementary school is actually something that we had even considered before and which would probably be good for him academically. So, you see how this also makes the whole thing even more mind boggling? Nice, huh?

Of course we need to know whether there will be a job offer or not in order to be able to make a decision in the case there is an offer on the house or not, so I'll wait until Friday and then I'll contact my interviewers by email. So, there won't be a suspense forever -- I'll keep you posted.

So, what do you think of this new development? Our life is quite the roller-coaster, isn't it?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Even Quicker

So, I went to the doctor, not on Monday, but Tuesday because I left my insurance card at home and missed the appointment after trying to go back to get it.

I could write volumes on how I HATE going to the doctor in this country (I spent that evening writing and rewriting multiple posts in my head), but I'll spare you and only say that I'm already scheduled to do a mammogram and an ultrasound of the lump by my ear.

K is staying home from work this week and painting and fixing things around the house. Hopefully I'll get to post photos. Tues and Wed. night I got to help paint and I was happy about that.

Tuesday afternoon as I was getting ready to get to the doctor I noticed I had a voice mail. It was from the guy at the Y, about the job I applied for. I called him back the next day, maybe I'll take the job, but I want to go to MA first for two weeks and the house will go on the market regardless.

So, that's where we stand. Too busy to think or feel much of anything.
(post written in 5 minutes flat)

Sunday, March 15, 2009


We've had a busy weekend here, packed with visits to friends we hadn't seen in a long time, going to two different churches, going to a friend's birthday party, getting started with the de-cluttering, cleaning the house... and I even went with Kelvin to the store to get his birthday present. More on it later (photo post).

Anyway... we're worried, but in peace. We're still SUPER concerned about the immediate future (how to keep on paying the house and living at the same time) and confident that selling it is the best option for many reasons (not only the fact that we cannot afford it, something that might be mitigated if I went to work somewhere -- I'm thinking retail, grocery stores, wherever). K's long commute is a big problem right now for our family, and there are other things I'll try to talk about in other posts.

So, this is what's going on. I have a terrible cough, leftover from a cold I had last week and which was exacerbated by the fact that I ate lots of sweets (with dairy) from Kelvin's party. And I continue to stress out about the lump by my ear. Good thing I get to go to the doctor tomorrow. But I keep thinking about cancer, about the possibility of having to undergo a small surgery to remove it (a good friend told me on Saturday that she thinks they'll remove the lump), etc. I dislike doctors, hospitals, etc... :-( .

In addition, I am co-chairing a seminar with a friend at an academic conference in less than two weeks, so I hope I get to go to Massachusetts, I've been really looking forward to that. Especially the two weeks that I am going to spend with the boys there. During the conference I'll be staying at one of my best friend's apartment (her husband is studying English there in Boston) and she's also pregnant, so we're so excited about spending time together. Then I'll go to my in-laws', but come to Boston to spend more time with my friend. I hope it all works out or I'll be terribly disappointed...

Sorry for the lame post, but I think that an update (even a lame one) was in order. Now I have to try and cook something for us to take to lunch at the school tomorrow...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The (Terribly) Spoiled Mother & Conflicted Housewife

This long post has two parts, OK? I was going to write 2 separate ones, but it's easier to just go ahead and discuss it all at once.

The Spoiled Mother/Person
First, that's what I mean by "spoiled" in my case: having been able to be home with my boys for the past seven years, i.e. since they were born.

During Kelvin's first two years of life I was a graduate student instructor (and actually a Teaching Assistant [TA] again for my last semester, during Linton's pregnancy) and it was easy for me and K to care for him. Then we moved to the Philly area and I could not teach anymore (because of the student visa), so I just stayed home with them. Then my parents came and I worked on the dissertation at home on and off for the next 3 years. Last year I started "working," but my "work" at the school allows me to be with them again -- which has spoiled me even more.

I wonder if I can ever get "cured" from this spoiling because I need a quick fix right now. The problem is, every time I think about going to work and being faced with having to be away from the boys and leaving them somewhere I get upset, sad, teary. Frankly, however, I'm not so sure that the real cause of the problem is my "spoiled mother" feelings. These feelings are real and shouldn't be discounted, but they're not all that there is to it.

I'll cut to the chase now. I think my problem, at its core, is not really related to motherhood, I'm just using the kids as an excuse (and a valid one at that) not to get ahead and try to find work. Because I have never experienced any work that was not flexible and allowed me to travel to Brazil or abroad for over a month each year and to other places (shorter trips) whenever I wanted, I just cannot face being "imprisoned" by work that won't allow me the flexibility and the freedom to take time off and travel to be with my family. I've been actually spoiled by working part time through school in Brazil, then coming to the U.S. and being a graduate student for 11 years and just doing flexible work. Add to that the years as a part time housewife who loved to take the kids to the park, the museum, the stores, etc. Maybe all that has made me a MISFIT.

Besides, and I'll use the derogatory word here because it IS the truth and I have to face it: I've always been a lazy person. Yeah. So, there you go. And I'm pretty sure I'm definitely not a go-getter (I've had a quick discussion about this with Dawn in her comment section and through email). All work that I've always had -- with the exception of my two years as a cleaning lady (yeah, I, the messy one, was a cleaning lady) -- just "came" to me. My years as a teacher in Brazil and then TA and instructor here came as a consequence of my connections to the schools in question. So I have a hard time "going and getting" work.

In addition, I have that terrible problem with having to talk to strangers and put myself "out there" by sending CVs and resumés. In sum, I haven't been proactive and to make matters still worse, the only "work" I've tried (the online gig) I hated and didn't get approved to do anyway.

Yeah, I'm such a loser that way. I mean, a loser with a useless PhD. Oh, and on a side note, our situation has finally been acknowledged by the mainstream media now. The NYT is saying that people with humanities PhDs are doomed, basically (of course I'm being more extreme in my language here) -- it's nothing new for us, obviously :-( (thanks for linking to it Articulate Dad!). [Geeky Mom also wrote a post about another NYT article which argues that the humanities need to prove their worth in difficult times such as these. I didn't even read the articles closely because I'm tired of my own situation already, I don't need to get more frustrated/worried/disillusioned than I already am. Sigh.]

Anyway, it seems like I've finally decided to "go all out" about my issues in the blog, belatedly fulfilling one of the "resolutions" I had last year. Now, on to the second part.

The Conflicted Housewife
Maybe it's because we finally made the decision to put the house up for sale and now I'm getting cold feet, but I'm getting extremely guilty and conflicted because, again, as I've said it here before, all that stands between us keeping the house and not having to sell it is me getting a job. And right now I'm not really considering that option. First, it would have to be a decent paying full time job, preferably with benefits. Second and most important, what would we do with the kids? Third, fourth, etc... I will be STUCK! How are we going to manage caring for this big house, preparing meals, shopping, laundry, etc. with the two of us working long hours?

I'm not a typically "good" housewife by any stretch of the imagination, but, funny as it seems (because I never thought I'd feel this way, really), all I want right now is to stay at home with my children. Even if that comes at the high cost of having to get rid of this house and downsizing dramatically. I then think that I'm just being lazy and that I don't really "deserve" to stay with my children and have the freedom of coming and going as I please. Go figure.

So that's where I stand right now. Conflicted and divided. I'll have another (shorter) post up soon. This one took me the whole day to write (11 am to 4:45 pm). And I did three loads of laundry, spent the whole day baby-sitting two of my friends's kids (boy 6, girl 4) + Linton, now that Kelvin's back there are four of them running around, so I have to go see what they're doing before they bring the house down. So, perhaps I'm not that bad of a housewife after all. ;-)

I'm Going to the Doctor

I just wanted to let you know that I've finally scheduled a doctor's appointment for Monday. You may remember my previous complaint about swollen lymph nodes. Well, they still haven't gone away and I'm getting worried because the one in front of my right ear seems to be growing and sometimes my jawbone hurts (I don't know if it's related). It is painless and that is even more worrisome. I can't help but wonder if it's a lymphoma or something. In Googling I found this in various sites: "Enlargement [of lymph nodes] that comes on gradually and painlessly may result from malignancy or tumor." And that's exactly what's been happening with me.Yikes!

Anyway, I'll keep you posted. I know I should have acted on this earlier, but I didn't, so, as I always say, "better late than never."

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

In Two Weeks...

... if all goes according to plan, there's going to be a For Sale sign on our front yard.
(photo from 10/23/08)
I should actually be cleaning and de-cluttering right now and not writing this post, but hopefully we'll get that done and do a successful "staging" of the house. We've done it twice before and succeeded in the first few showings. The kids and I were not around back in 2007, though (we were in Brazil), so it was easier to keep the house in perfect condition. That's why we're planning to travel to Massachusetts for two weeks so we can be away for the first two or three open houses. (I have a conference in Boston and then a week later Kelvin has a 10 day Spring break so we'll just combine the two).

Wish us luck, particularly in the next two weeks as K takes some days off from work to paint and I try to do one of the hardest things in life for me: organizing, decluttering, and tidying up the house. I wish I could afford professional "stagers" since make over people (the ideal ones) are even more out of the question, obviously ;-)

I'm planning to get the photos of the renovations up here soon. I'm even trying to beat my friend Tracy with her awesome bathroom renovation photo posting ;-) (and I know that by writing this I'm setting myself up to fail because she can just go ahead and post before I do ;-).

Some friends are sad on our behalf and ask whether we shouldn't try harder to keep the house, but our standard answer is that we're already detached from it. We've already grived (over and over again, actually) its loss and we can't wait to get rid of it at this point. Of hourse there will still be sorrow, but if we can come out of this debt free and able to start with a clean slate, I'll be very thankful and satisfied. We'll keep you updated.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Seven Wonderful Years of Kelvin


I made this movie using Picasa, it was the easiest thing I've ever made in my life and I'm eternally thankful for Picasa and Google. I think I can finally start making home movies (Micros0ft's Wind0ws M0vie Maker is the worst thing ever). So... thanks Google guys!

From my point of view as a mother this was, hands down, the best birthday I had so far with my first born. The party was yesterday and it was a big success, thanks to all our friends that helped (more on that in a separate post), and today I spent most of the day with him, reminding him that it was his birthday and just enjoying having him as my son.

School got out right around the time when I started pushing 7 years ago (3 pm). As we waited for the children to get on their buses, I scooped Kelvin up into my lap (he's still small and light enough that I can carry him on my hip) and told him that. I also shared it with some of out friends who were around. As he knew that he'd been born at 4:14 he looked at me and asked, "Wow, but it took a long time for me to come out! Over an hour" And I explained that it was not that bad, that other women push for much longer periods. Kelvin is very sympathetic to the suffering that mothers undergo to give birth and he has expressed several times his relief at being a man and not having to experience giving birth ;-).

We didn't get to do anything special after we got home (we were meeting with our realtor tonight), but I gave him tons of hugs and cuddles and cooked macaroni and cheese -- his request for dinner. I will take him out to eat tomorrow, probably. I hope the video works out (I still have to publish and see the post to believe that it did, I'm still a bit incredulous that it can/could be so easy!). So, without further ado, I'll publish the post. :-)

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Alpha Mom Attacks

I'm not an alpha-mom, of that I am very sure. I'm very loving and caring and I do spend a lot of time with my kids, but not necessarily "quality time" (i.e. I don't play with them much, unlike their dad). I'm a pretty laid back person and, consequently, a pretty laid back mom (on my standards, at least).

A few times a year, though, I have acute "alpha mom" attacks. Can you guess when?

If you're a long time reader and you remember my party picture posts you will already have answered by now that these attacks occur around my sons' birthdays. For some reason I just love to throw them big parties. It's partly a cultural thing (in Brazil people love to have big parties for anything and kid's birthdays are no exception, being generally parties to which whole families go, not only the children) and partly one of my own personal "goals" or eccentricities as a parent. :-)

So, tomorrow is Kelvin's party and if all those invited come we will have around 70 people. Isn't that completely crazy? Well, crazy and merry, since I totally embrace and agree with the adage "the more the merrier!" And I'm still up preparing things for the party.

This is the worst day in the year to "Spring forward" and lose an hour :-(

Oh, and before I forget, I want to congratulate two blogging friends who just had their babies!!!

Meredith just had her second son yesterday morning and lucky Keiko had a daughter on Thursday (her second child too). And I obviously feel just a tiny bit jealous, especially of Keiko and her little girl... oh well. I should be relieved, that's what, particularly in our situation nowadays.

I sure am happy for them, though!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!

I'm feeling better, everyone... (insert small sigh of relief mixed with a tinge of worry, still, here)

Thank you so much for all your comments (even comments from brand new readers or first time commenters, that is just so nice, thank you!) and also email (Dawn).

One big factor in feeling better is that yesterday K was feeling at peace and OK (today he's back to being a bit depressed again, but we can help each other out). From Sunday night to Tuesday -- when I went to pick him up at night from the train and and we were just so depressed that we were silently riding in the car for 20 minutes almost right up until we drove into our driveway (the boys were sleeping), which is extremely uncharacteristic of us (both of us are chatterboxes) -- we were feeling terrible. Worse than we ever felt in all the years we've been together (19 years). On Wednesday night we talked more and yesterday K came home and was feeling all right, so I slowly began to feel that my feelings about life and our prospects are getting back to "normal" in a way.

Today I spent a lot of time driving and listening to NPR and what I heard about the ""struggling homeowners" (thanks for the comment, Ally) made me slightly hopeful. K called the bank yesterday and the lady he was talking with was not very helpful up until when he said that he might not be sending the next payment. Then she said, "OK, I'm sending you a packet right now." The bank folks still don't sound very helpful and this is the second or third time we contact them, the first time was last year in September and the "package" they sent (a couple of forms) wasn't helpful at all-- ours is among the "fallen" ones. We don't ever want to deal with big banks ever (I've already mentioned that, I know). Let's see what's in this package they mailed. We can most certainly prove a DRAMATIC decrease in income from last year.

The main reason K got depressed again today (he even had to go for a walk around the university to unwind, he tells me) is that he did the taxes last night and while our returns will be OK (8K, BUT having to pay around 1.2K for our state -- I don't like PA very much, :-( ) he had to look at and think about his basically 6 figure salary from the unfortunate big pharma year and compare it to his paltry earnings as a post-doc from now. He feels terrible about not being able to support us, to enable me to stay at home with the boys (since I may have to just start going to work full time if we want to survive -- more about this on a later post). It has to do with the things Dawn recently posted about how her husband struggled after he was laid off.

Some people have asked about K's job. It's really stable, a job as a postdoc at a leading university, BUT, it doesn't pay well, obviously, and it is temporary work, which, hopefully, will lead to a tenure track appointment in the next round of applications. BUT, it could be a couple more rounds if the next one doesn't work. Do you remember the adjuncting job that didn't come true for him and the position he was applying to at a local university? Well, today he got a letter from them saying that they're in a hiring freeze, so the position he applied for (the only one this year, BTW) is no longer open. Sweet, huh?

So, since he's our only hope of a tenure track job ever coming true, the pressure on him is enormous. Well, it's always been, of course, poor K, but now the pressure on him is even bigger because since I'm not working in academia and I haven't worked since 2004 (I couldn't because of my visa and the fact that we lived away from the university -- the only place a person on a student visa can work) my prospects of getting even a lecturing job are pretty slim -- my CV doesn't look right with my work experience ending in 2004 (of course I can argue I'd been dissertating from 04-08, but that's not a good argument in my favor, since it took so long, and, obviously, I cannot say, oh, and I was raising a baby boy too and now he's almost 5!) My hope has always been working (as an adjunct, whatever) at the same institution where he gets a job offer in the future... (and you already know my struggles regarding not being able to easily get a job because of the discipline I chose to study).

In any case, we don't know what will happen, but we're confident that a solution will present itself. I just didn't want to go back to "life as usual" and not keep on fighting, but it's hard. Right now I don't have the energy needed to get this house into shape for staging and showing, but that's what our next step need to be. I don't know how... since K gets home late everyday and there are the boys to care for. I just don't see how we could add a job for me in the equation. What about the boys? Who would they be with? K keeps on saying that I need to get the job first and then we worry about this, but I just can't. But I'll blog about this separately.

Sorry for the disjointed post. This is some of what's in my and K's mind lately...

K just sent me this video and I think it's pretty interesting and very fitting for the times we're living in right now:

Monday, March 02, 2009

Knocking on (Pad)Locked Doors & Applying for Jobs

So, I started knocking on metaphorical doors two weeks ago by sending my first email making myself available as an adjunct instructor/teacher/ professor? (no, I think one will never say adjunct professor).

And in my pessimistic view of academia I extend the metaphor a bit thinking that when I'm just sending out inquiry letters regarding adjunct positions that do not exist, I'm knocking on "padlocked" doors... I got a quick generic response saying that I'd be contacted if such a position materialized. Probably the standard answer. I have yet to write to other schools -- the problem is having to tailor the CV to each one, it's pretty time consuming.

Minutes ago I sent out my first actual job application and I may send a few more. K said that I should go after part-time retail jobs too, just in case, so I can do it while I'm still at the school because we need to pay the bills. I'll keep you posted regarding my efforts.

The worse crisis last week for me/us was that I -- like everyone else in the world, I guess -- have not been keeping my one and only New Year's resolution. The thing is I have this irrational fear of contacting strangers and this overwhelming fear of failure and rejection that paralyzes me in my efforts to apply for jobs or contact people regarding adjuncting, but that HAS GOT to stop. I have to just do it. And I'm trying, yes I am. Wish me luck.

Default?!!? [State of Emergency]

K dropped that bomb-word* above in a phone conversation that we had less than two hours ago and... I don't know... my heart just stopped and I went speechless for several moments throughout the (long) conversation. I was on the verge of tears several times and I think I'm still comparably OK, calmly writing this post because of the adrenaline still running through my veins.

Apparently, life as we know it has ended abruptly.

I/ We/ Us/ Our Lives...

...everything is in a state of emergency right now.

Were we in denial before? Not exactly, but, well... perhaps.

Back in August when we decided not to put the house on the market (because the renovations had not been fully finished and K had to go back to work at the university) and just wait a little longer, we knew that around May money might run out, but we were hoping for several things that seemed "far away" in the future... that work for me would materialize, that we would have a clearer sense of what we should do as time went by and other things, but, mostly, that I'd have work that would help us make it. I had just started training for the [now defunct] online gig and soon after I started at the school. Life got really busy and we just kept on living it, as usual.

That was a mistake. Because we should have been in a state of emergency since he left Big Pharma. Not spending a penny on anything not strictly necessary, acting, working on finishing the possible (and inexpensive) renovations in every spare moment. But K's 3h daily commute and my busyness with my two "marginal jobs" made us feel somehow that we were living life as usual... Even the conversations that we had after my panic here were totally different from the one we had today (unfortunately on the phone). That's what shocked me so much. And made me ask K, incredulously, repeatedly, why oh why we were in such dumb denial all these wretched months?

Ignorance is bliss, but that also means that when you're face to face with an emergential situation, you just feel it's so unreal that, I don't know, how can you find the strength to go on? I know, adrenaline, the sense of urgency, the fear of the worse coming true.

And it doesn't make me feel any better that there are millions of other people in the same situation. Quite the contrary. We're just another casualty of this new depression. We're OK, actually, life hasn't even started for us so we don't have much to lose, for other more established people, it's the end of a long life of honest effort and toil, much more unfair. I know I shouldn't be complaining. But still, it's hard to live through it.

And I knew it all along, from that fateful day, October 31, 2007, the day K first lost his job that the problem was the house. The house that we bought partly because I wanted a bigger house (K didn't) -- SIGH.

I am numb. All the depression that I felt last week, crying on and off, feeling sad and hopeless seems almost silly now. I guess that's good. There's much to do and I need to be aware, wide awake. First and foremost, declutter and clean the house. Help paint. Look after immediate jobs. Try to stay calm. Try to shelter the boys somehow from too much anxiety.

Kelvin's birthday party is next Sunday, K says it's the last thing that we'll do from now on that has a "semblance" of normal life. Then it's full on emergency mode. Every waking moment devoted to dealing with "the problem(s)."

All possibilities are on the table. Sending me and the kids to live with my parents in Brazil for some time while K deals with the fall out if things go really wrong. Returning to Brazil for good if all fails -- something we had not really been considering, and other ideas. (One small good thing -- my credit may not be affected by this because the house is not in my name b/c I had no income back in 2007, not that I really do now... [insert sarcastic laugh here]).

But, hopefully, the house will be sold, we'll downsize, we'll find a cheap place to live and we'll trudge on. Hopefully the worse can be over by the summer so K can concentrate on his work at the lab, so he can be well prepared to send applications in the fall. Because he's our only hope of ever getting out of limbo and getting a life, settling somewhere.

We know we'll be OK, we do. It's all a matter of facing it, and we will.

I think it's so fitting that it's snowing hard right now. It feels right. The silent, stifling, white stuff falling and burying everything.

My apologies to you, my poor readers, those few who may have remained after this late negative turn in this blog. I had been thinking that this negativity must stop, that I should just suck it up and stop blogging about my sad feelings and sharing outrageus complaints such the fact that I'd been terribly spoiled by being able to be with my children for 7 years and now feel devastated that I need to leave them to go to work or something. How many women have to do just that only weeks after their babies are born? How do I even have the right to complain?

Anyway... my apologies, but I have to keep on blogging, especially now. I need the support so I don't feel so alone, so useless... I'm sorry. And, thank you.

* In case any readers don't know what going on default on a mortgage payment means, it means stopping to send the bank monthly mortgage payments because you don't make enough money and/or you anticipate that you won't be able to keep the house either because it won't sell or if what you owe the bank is less than what the house is worth now (not our case). Currently, we can pay the mortgage with K's salary, but we don't have anything left to fund all our other expenses. We are hoping to sell the house and not to have to default, but sometimes even the thought that one may have to end up defaulting in a few months can motivate someone to stop sending the payment because it is, in sum, a waste of money if you're going to end up losing the house anyway... yeah, I know, it's such a depressing scenario. Defaulting on a mortgage ruins one's credit and a foreclosure (having to give the house back to the bank) effectively destroys it for at least 7 years. So... it is a scary thing, but, as K was saying to me on the phone tonight -- it's happening to "everyone" nowadays... sigh.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Don't Go to Florida in the Winter...

... Or you may want to move there permanently. We're not planning to, obviously, but during our trip last December we had the idea of suggesting that my in-laws consider buying a house there because my father-in-law is retiring in December. They loved the idea and K is there today with them checking it out (looking at houses, evaluating whether it's a good plan, etc). My in-laws already have an apartment at a coastal city in Northeastern Brazil and they plan to build a house in the state of Sao Paulo (where my parents live), but meanwhile, it would be great for them to be in Florida, a place where most of our family could go visit several times a year (in the winter, preferably :-).

We already have many friends in FL in the town where they're planning to buy. In addition, it's a buyer's market right now and one of our good friends is a reliable real estate agent that can guide my in-laws' through the process. We understand that the situation right now is complicated, but it is not a bad moment to "invest" (hasn't this word taken just such an awful connotation in the past few months?) in a house that most likely we will all be able to enjoy for years to come.

So... all that to say that K is there now (flew yesterday evening and will be back on Tuesday morning) and that perhaps we'll be going to FL quite often in the future.

If only we knew what this future held...