Saturday, July 31, 2010

Happy Birthday Vania!! or My Dearest Cousin Turns 50!

I can hardly believe it, but today my dearest cousin in my mom's side of the family* turned 50 years old! That means that a year from now I will turn 40, since she's eleven years older than me. I'm really sad that was unable to talk to her on the phone, but I hope to talk to her tomorrow. Better late than never...

Here's young Vania with her older brother:
And here she is seen behind me not too long after she met me for the first time (I was two years old and had returned from Europe with my parents less than a year earlier):Vania and I are on the right side of the picture. You can see my pregnant mom in the background -- we're wearing matching homemade dresses! The other girl in the photo is my cousin Maisa, the daughter of my mom's other sister.

I posted a similar picture to the blog when I wrote about my aunt's 50th anniversary back in 2007, but here it is again, mothers (8 years apart) and daughters (11 years apart):When I went to Brazil last December and January I had the rare chance of seeing Vania and her family twice during my visit! I went to visit her family for a weekend and then she came with her family to my parents' house (here's a photo of them!). That's when we took these:
She doesn't look 50 at all, does she? I hope I can look as good as she does when I get there. I have to follow here example of fitness, though, and start swimming several times a week and exercising regularly. The only difference is that I'm going to start now and she's been very active for many years, so chances are I won't look that great! :-(

In spite of the age difference we became really close after I grew up. In fact, I always looked up to my older cousin. I vaguely remember her 15th birthday party (equivalent to the "Sweet Sixteen" here), the party favor was small red cutout heart with her photo in the middle and when I turned 15 eleven years later I made the same party favor with my photo. I've always loved babies and kids remember when Vania's son and daughter were born (I was 14 and 16, I think). I loved to play with my baby and toddler cousins and looked forward to the day they would be in my wedding, and they were, together with their other four cousins (some photos here). Now we're looking forward to the day when my son(s) will be in her daughter's wedding -- pairing up with her new, adopted daughter, who is Kelvin's age.

I wish we didn't live so far away, but I visit her every time I go to Brazil. She hasn't come to visit yet, but that's just because I don't live in Orlando, FL (that's part of the reason why we wanted to move there! ;-)

Dear Vania, I just want to say in this very public space that I love you and I'm very glad to have you as part of my life! I hope you had a wonderful day with your loved ones in Brazil. I was thinking of you all day long!

* I have two dearest cousins, a female cousin in my mom's side and a male cousin in my dad's side who is a few months younger than me. Interestingly both of these cousins' middle names are my parents' names because my aunts were very close to my parents.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Send in The Clowns

I've been a little sad lately. More disgruntled than sad. K is away (left this afternoon, will return Friday night). And while I hope everything goes well, the fact that a decision may have to be made and that we might go as early as January just adds to the stress of just having moved.

Just having gone and come back through Philly -- "the city who ate my cat" -- before and after our trip did not feel good. I'm reminded every time that even though everything is going well for us, we're starting over once and that I miss my cat, my garden, the backyard, so many things. We're supposed to go again visit friends next week and I'm not looking forward to that. Particularly being so close to my old house (can't blog about that yet, not that I'm terribly sad or anything, it's just that it kind of "died" for me and I've forced myself to "forget" about it for the time being).

By now I'm used to being alone, unsettled. I've left my country after all and all my dearest friends behind. New friends were made, but those are away too (we moved multiple times, remember?). Thanks to you, my dear, but elusive friends in the computer, I have survived and been pretty happy these past 5+ years.

So after a pretty useless day in which I spent way too much time online watching stuff (I usually don't do that, I just read blogs), I have to take my friend's Dawn's cue and turn to music... write about my love of Stephen Sondheim and his songs, particularly one.

I "met" Sondheim through the friend that I just went to visit in Canada. She was the one to who introduced me to a performer I'm now a little embarrassed to admit I used to love, and whose cds (these two) I still listen to once in a long while: Barbra Streisand. Through Barbra I "met" Broadway. Previously I had only been familiar with The Sound of Music and other things by Rogers and Hammerstein, but now I learned of other musicals and their "standards." And I became particularly interested in Sondheim because the best songs in Streisand's two Broadway albums were his: "Putting It Together," "Being Alive" (thanks for this link, Dawn, he's truly handsome too! And all those people playing and walking, awesome), and "Not While I'm Around." "Send in the Clowns" captured my heart immediately. It is still my most favorite piece of music of all time. I love really sad music and this one is particularly heartbreaking, at least for me and I didn't really know why.

Because it was not until today, after reading Dawn's post (and discovering the lovely "I Remember Sky" -- a song by Sondheim I didn't know) that I went to read more about my favorite song. I know, silly me, right, to like it so much for 20 years and never even try to see or listen to a full recording/video of the musical. (I'm into musicals but have never really been to any, save for Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera in London -- I haven't cared for Webber in a long time, I totally agree with Dawn that you care for his stuff at first and then get sick of it and that doesn't happen with Sondheim). I loved what Sondheim had to say about this song reading his quotes here. That it is a song of regret and anger, "not a soaring ballad" (which is how it has been interpreted by those who made it most famous -- Judy Collins and Frank Sinatra). And the whole thing about them being the fools in the end.

I went to look for the song on YouTube and although I don't know if Streisand's interpretation would be considered good (angry and regretful) versus "bad" (ballad), but I guess Sondheim liked it enough that he wrote a new verse for her to record it (!) (that always surprised me, having carefully read the album's notes), all I know is that after I saw Judi Dench interpreting it (singing here is not the point), I don't think I will ever be able again to see Streisand do it. I think that the theatrical effect of the man (Fredrik) being there gives the interpretation its context and much more feeling:

I listened to Judy Collins's interpretation (OK, definitely "soaring ballad"), but could only get through a few seconds of the Frank Sinatra. I think Catharine Zeta-Jones did a good enough job. If anyone is curious, here's the original 1975 rendition of Glynis Johns. I think Dame Judi Dench's is even better.

OK, I'll embed Streisand too... just because it was how I first encountered this song.

And though I love it so much, I hope this song has nothing to do with our life situation right now. I hope that we're not the clowns (fools) that are here. Neither now, nor next year.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

2,210 Miles (3556 Km) Later

We got back home on Sunday after I drove a total of 2,210 Miles (3556 Km). More trip stats:

Days and nights away: 11

Time on the road: approximately 37 hours (not counting short trips within the destinations)

Stops to refuel the car: 16 (haven't calculated how much spent)

Places visited: 6 -- town in Vermont, Montreal, Oshawa, Toronto, Niagara (ON), Rochester

Tourist Trap Attractions (TTA) visited: Canada's Wonderland, CN Tower, Niagara parking [20 dollars!!] and Behind the Falls

Money spent on TTAs: approximately $241.00 Canadian dollars.

Cultural Attractions: Ontario Science Center (not Harry Potter, though) and Strong National Museum of Play (I cannot thank my friend Aliki enough for her blog recommendation of this place!). Money well spent! (about $ 70)

Nights in hotel: 1

Fast food take out: 1 (Taco Bell on the last night of trip before returning to PA)

Eating out: 0

Yes, we ate at friends' houses or "picnicked" with food from friends' house or supermarket all trip long. That's how we can afford traveling at all in our family. Good thing the friends I went to visited are of the same thrifty persuasion. ;-) Oh, and even most of the water we drank was from house filter/ water fountains in our reusable metal bottles which I carry everywhere with an ice pack.

I think all that driving (and maybe water and food carrying too) is what caused the backache that I'm experiencing right now, not to mention pain in my wrists and arm and right knee. It was well worth it, though!

After this amazing event we spent two days with a friend I hadn't seen in 12 years, her husband and her daughters -- almost the same age as my sons. The children had a wonderful time together and we enjoyed catching up. They lives in New Zealand and I'm looking forward to visiting them when we go visit my brother (I'm hoping he doesn't move again before we visit, like it happened with China).

I was looking forward to taking the boys up the CN Tower and to Niagara Falls and they really enjoyed both things. I have some beautiful photos to share.

The drive back to our friends' house in the greater Philadelphia are after the museum in Rochester was exhausting. Driving was the hardest part of the whole trip and I had to stop several times to take short naps. I don't drink coffee, but I had to go through several bottles of lemon flavored iced tea to survive this trip.

Edited to add: To finish off the trip we went to the Barnes Foundation on Friday, our last official day in Philly, and then we spent the weekend at my brother-in-law's house in Maryland before coming back home on Sunday.

Well, let me post this and I'll come back with photos later.

P.S. the best thing was that the car survived the trip with only two full refills of oil (it's burning oil! I'm polluting the environment even more! How awful! how can I dare to drive so much! Oh well... ;-)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Universe Gave Me an Incredible Gift!!!

I came to Montreal to stay less than 48 hours and my dear new nephew N was born while I was here and I was able to be at his birth with my brother- and sister-in-law. I slept less than two hours last night, but I'm oh, so happy!N entered the world at 5:10 am this morning weighing 7lbs 15oz (3.608 kg).

Welcome to the world and to the family, dearest and cutest N! I hope your little cousin A has a peaceful arrival in a month, too bad she will be born in Brazil, so far away...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Leaving for a (looong) road trip

I really love to travel, but I don't like driving very much. :-( Driving by myself with the boys does give me a sense of accomplishment, but having to drive so many hours (from 4-6-8 hour stretches) is not fun.

My knee hurts very badly just from the tension of my let stepping on the gas. I will try to use cruise control as much as possible and I should be happy that at least I will be driving our automatic car, not the standard one because then the left leg would hurt too, even more, if we hit traffic (traffic jams with standard gear are a nightmare. The left foot has to be constantly pressing the clutch so we can keep switching gears. Sigh. Good thing I at least learned to drive a standard).

I bought snacks and I selected CDs to listen too (although I didn't buy any books on CD as I wanted to :-( ). The boys have their DVD player and some other things to keep them busy, but they're always really really good on trips. We broke them in early.

OK, I have to finish packing, while I wait for our minivan to come back from the shop. If it's not fixed today then the beginning of the trip (and my first blogger meet up) may be ruined :-(.

Now, the big question is whether we'll be able to meet the newest member of our family -- my nephew who could be born any minute in Montreal. We'll be there from Friday night to Sunday at noon and I have a suspicion that he'll want to make his appearance after we're gone (his due date is Monday the 19th after all).

I should be happy that I'll get to spend two days with my dear friend and meet her daughters. I haven't seen her in 12 years and I can't wait to see her again!

All right, back to packing.

Ultra Efficient DMV

One of the things that I was slightly concerned about when moving to another state was getting a new driver's license. This proved to be a NIGHTMARE in Pennsylvania. Their DMVs are simply the most bureaucratic thing we've ever dealt with and the old ugly buildings don't help too much.

We delayed getting new licenses in PA for three years since it was easier and much more efficient to renew the MA ones (they didn't ask for proof of address! I don't know if they do now), but we had to get them before we bought our second house in PA (the one we just sold). K had to go back six times to the Penn Dot place because one day they were closed, another day he didn't have a document, another time he didn't have a checkbook, and so on...

I only went once, but stood in line for over an hour. Then when I renewed a year later there was a loong line again. (Because of my visa my first license was only valid fora year -- that's why I had renewed the MA one).

So last week, after a nearly useless day we'd spent in the house, making calls, paying bills online, we left home 25 minutes before the DMV was supposed to close. We got there with 10 minutes to spare and there was NO LINE! The lady complained that the receptionist assigned both K and I to her ("I want to go home!" She whined), but she was courteous and efficient and in about 15 minutes we were done!

What a relief!! The license is valid for eight years. Too bad we might live here for much less than that. Sigh.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

I'm Most Definitely a "Serrated Knife Person" ;-)

Edited to add: I just republished the post with the correct date and added one more expression.

Sarah, just wrote a great guest post at Dooce titled "La Vie en Janice" in which she describes what the name/expression "Janice" means to her and her friend Anne. Fun post!

Then, at the end of her post she linked to this great essay about The Language of a Marriage in which the "serrated knife people" expression appears. I thought the essay was great and I definitely have several such phrases with my husband. Most importantly, we have several "language of a family" expressions too, most derived by funny things my father-in-law has said.* These phrases are used by my husband, his brothers, some cousins, the daughters-in-law and now the grandsons (we've been teaching the first one below to our boys since they were babies).

What I thought was hilarious though, is that I really only use serrated knives and I don't care if I may be considered an inferior kind of cook because of that!! I buy my knives in Brazil and when they get dull I just get a newer one to use. You should see how fast I can chop tomatoes or mince onions. I love my serrated knives!

Well, at least I'm not a Janice! ;-)

* The most important ones just for the record:

(1) "Fala meu primo!!" ["Speak my cousin!"] -- We say it in English on occasion as a joke. This refers to the way my FIL's greets his dear second cousin Vanja.

(2) "Bah, querida!" [Bah, dear!] -- this exasperated expression comes from the last day of the 1993 U.S. trip when FIL, MIL, K and his brothers were stuck in a traffic jam in Miami Beach. FIL had been telling MIL to please calm down (she thought they were going to miss the flight), but then he caught on and got exasperated too. This obviously doesn't make any sense for those who weren't there since it's such a common expression. It's the intonation that does the trick. BTW, I wasn't there to hear this.

(3) "Um dia que bonito para a prática do esporte!" [What a beautiful day to practice sports!]

(4) "Morreu?" "Morreu." "Ah bom!!" ["He died?" Died." "Ah, good!"] This one has a funny story behind which I witnessed first hand. FIL's youngest sister-in-law was telling a story about a construction worker who had fallen flat from scaffolding up above and FIL wasn't sure if the guy had died or not, but the way he reacted, was hilarious. He obviously said "good" because he now knew for sure what had happened, but it sounded comical, as if the guy's death were a "good" thing.

(5) "Até que o coração PAAAARE de bater!" ["Until the heart STOOOPS beating"] - at a wedding, while saying the vows, FIL exaggerated in the "stop" and we couldn't stop laughing for a long time and saying it to each other later.

Friday, July 09, 2010

I Haven't Given Up

In spite of the previous post, old time readers know that I really enjoy going to academic conferences (blank stares or not), although I do have a "love and hate" relationship with them. ;-)

In spite of all my real and imagined "woes," I have to admit that I'm a lucky adjunct. As it turns out, the department where I'm going to be teaching one class is pretty generous will give me funding to attend an academic conference!! That hasn't happened in seven years!!! So I think I've decided on the one I'm going to. See? I haven't given up just yet.

I Really, *Really* Love My Dissertation & one more useless rant against the (humanities) academic establishment

Note: this is a rant that might not be of interest to non-academics. Academics may not care for it either since I'm mostly a "lazy" non-academic right now, critical of the establishment as most of us in the margins or outside are. So, let's just say I'm writing this primarily for myself because I need to rant once in a while. Thanks.

I know I'm repeating myself -- I often do here in this blog, my apologies to you my readers -- but it's true, I really love my dissertation and I care deeply about its subject. In addition, I think it's a good dissertation, all 511 pages of it. A great contribution to its field.

And all this, first the fact that I continue to care and second, and, most importantly, the fact that it is a contribution, makes me is very, very sad and hopeless. I'm nearly reduced to tears every (rare) time I open the PDF file and read some of it. No, I do not have a hard copy of this most significant piece of work that took me ten years to bring to its final form (it began as a paper I wrote in 1998 and I defended it in 2008).

Why am I deeply saddened about this? Because the way academia works is CRUEL. Nobody really cares for anyone else's work unless it's published in countless peer-reviewed journals and somehow, catches people's attention. Then, if you're lucky, a BIG NAME in the field that you mention in your dissertation might read something and write something either citing you or, maybe, if you're really really good, respond. Even if one's work comes to be published as a book, it may still be a meaningless achievement because if not enough scholars are interested in the subject matter, nobody will even know it was published or read it. It's just, well, the "ivory tower." You either work with something "fashionable" or you're a "non-person."

Of course I'm using all this as an excuse and the truth is that I'm DOING NOTHING about it (OK, I am LIVING. I just spent a whole year cyber schooling my sons and before then I was working at the school).

I did present my dissertation results at various national and international conference, but I have concluded that conference presentations are mostly USELESS!! They are just lines on CVs for the presenters. No true dialog takes place, only amongst people who already know each other and who organized panels and picked the presenters -- not for unknown newcomers. Of course one can try to use these conferences to network and become part of already established groups, but that's hard. The only professional association I had any success with this was the Children's Literature Association, but who cares about children's literature anyway? (thankfully my former dissertation advisor does and he helped me write my dissertation chapter about this subject). As I've said here before, I got lots of "blank stares" when presenting since I guess what I did was just completely outlandish and related to a literature that is not very studied here in the U.S.

I haven't tried to publish, especially because my easiest way to publication would be to try and publish my dissertation as a book in Brazil and publish articles there, but I am not living in Brazil right now, nor do I intend to return, so that wouldn't help me at all to be more known in the Academic community in the United States.

It is impossible, really, trust me, to get a tenure track job in my area that would enable me to continue doing the research that I love. Nor would I want a TT job (remember, I like to live a little bit?). Besides, I've concluded that I don't want a TT job. Too much pressure, too much politics...

The only thing I'm left with is teaching classes here and there as an adjunct and maybe, if I'm lucky, in the future as a full-time lecturer. Teaching most probably won't allow time for research and that's about it.

So, yeah, that's some of the explanation as to why I read my dissertation and it makes me cry. So much time and energy spent for nothing really. OK, that's wrong, I'm being melodramatic and whiny. I learned lots and lots and my committee members did too. Another problem is that mentorship is definitely not a forte of my home institution and my committee members, so I didn't have much help in that respect.

All hope is NOT lost, though, my friends, because there is the internet!!! What I want to do someday is to have a website in which I display my research results. I've also said that before here, so my apologies again for the repetition. But I hope I can find alternate ways to undermine that cruel hold that academia has on knowledge and research. There must be alternate avenues to take knowledge even further than peer-reviewed research can. Sigh.

Do you know what it feels like sometimes? It feels like I'm this puny creature fighting against a huge, complex machine whose processes just got out of hand and outdated, but who still holds power over us. The academic machine. The meat-grinder tenure process. Etc. There are countless pages in the web criticizing it. My husband thinks that the few that I read (mostly personal blogs and some Chronicle articles) have simply poisoned me and made me have a negative view of everything. We cannot talk about this. He feels I am the one making all my problems up. Am I, really? I know I'm whiny and all, and that I haven't tried -- mostly because I don't see how even trying would take me anywhere. So, yeah, maybe I'm really wrong.

In any case, K is lucky to be in a field in which one can still do significant work and be recognized and even apply and get interviews and offers. Because the in the humanities? It's a wild, depressing, world out there. So, yeah... I guess I should just not look at my dissertation anymore.

Why did I even do it? A nice blog reader who teaches Spanish decided to use one of my posts (the one about the census and being or not Hispanic) in a teaching presentation she's going to do for a conference (maybe I should check this conference up!) and she's also using a picture book I wrote about in my dissertation, so I offered to email her the PDF, which she (thankfully) accepted. I hope she enjoys the part about the picture book. It feels great to be able to help someone, particularly through the blog. Now, if they can even be helped by my dissertation, that will be even nicer! Maybe someday it will be useful for something after all.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

39. Next Year I'm Throwing a Big Party. Today I just went to DC.

Spending the whole day in and out of museums with my family and coming home to a full inbox with over 70 congratulating messages, either from orkut (Brazilian friends) or from facebook just made my day!

I've always fully enjoyed birthdays, always looking forward to being older and having more and more wonderful experiences in life (I'd always say my new age 4-6 months earlier, yes, even up until a few years ago into my 30s). This year, however, I'm getting a little scared and anxious about "getting old." It's my last year in my 30s, I'm officially no longer a "young adult" -- that's usually until 35. So I've been feeling very despondent about turning 40 next year. I told my mom that we'll probably be in Brazil and that I'll be throwing a HUGE party. Just to make me feel better ;-).

In any case, something that my dear friend Cibele wrote to me in orkut (in Portuguese) made me lots of good today. She wrote,
Congratulations! Simply for being the person that you are... the same loving friend [you've] always been and who continues to grow as a person, woman, mother... so many experiences, no? This is it, don't think about your age, think about the experiences, the learning [moments], that way you'll want more, instead of less!
Thank you my dear friend, that was exactly what I needed to hear today. I can't let the negative experiences of the last three years get to me and bring me down. I'll have a garden, a house and a cat (or more!) someday again. I am immensely happy, married to a wonderful person who's my best friend, someone with whom I share so many interests and two gorgeous sons who love me like crazy. How could I not be happy?

And I did have a wonderful day in D.C. enjoying some of my favorite works of art:
and seeing Julia's kitchen:Did I blog about Julie & Julia yet? No, I didn't have time. The DVD was my Christmas present from K and there's so much to write about it -- particularly the blogging part. Sigh. Someday perhaps, I'll find the time to do it.

I really loved seeing Michelle's dress too (I had no idea it was already there):

All in all, it was a wonderful birthday. On the way back we stopped at an Indian restaurant and the food was great -- although it was soooo spicy the that boys and I had some trouble enjoying it, particularly them. ;-)

And the best part was getting home and reading all the messages. Thank you so much, my friends! Lots of you who know me only through my blog sent me messages on facebook. That was lovely! I wish you could all come to Brazil for my party next year ;-).

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Blogger Meet Up with Scrivener!

If there's one thing that I like even better than blogging itself is blogger meet-ups! I was sad that there were so few of them last year (only this and this, both with bloggers I'd either already knew pre-blog or had met in person before), but this summer I'm really ambitious and it looks like this was just the first of three great blogger meet-ups that will happen in the upcoming weeks!

I've been reading Scrivener's blog for years now and lately we've also been in touch via Twitter. Our children are almost the same age (his daughters are one year older than each of my sons) and I had always wanted to meet him. Actually, I wish I could meet all my blogging friends in person! It almost didn't happen because of ours and his upcoming road trips, but then we were able to meet briefly for a few minutes on Sunday.
It was great meeting you and the girls, Scriv, have a great trip and hopefully we'll see you again (if we move down there). Oh, and next time you'll have to play the guitar!

Sunday, July 04, 2010

I can't stand the "Peanut Butter" phase anymore!! :-(

If you have boys you know what I'm talking about. It's that annoying phase when they can't even say "peanut butter" without giggling uncontrollably because it has "pee" and "butt" in it. Yeah, that phase (insert deep tired sigh here).

That unbearable phase when all the boys talk about is "farts" and "poop" and "burps," etc. all accompanied boisterous laughing. Sigh. When will this end? Please give me some encouragement!

It started a few years ago in school when Kelvin was still pretty young (6?), but now that Kelvin is older (8), I thought he would be past this stage, but no... it's stronger than ever. Probably because his six year old younger brother laughs so much at everything he says (or they say together).

Oh well. Sometimes it is kind of funny and I even join in the laughter, but I'm really, really tired of saying over and over to them: "Boys, can you stop that already? Everyone poops [great book with this title, BTW] and farts [another book, we own this one], and pees and burps. What's the big deal?!" Then lots of laughter ensues. Every. Single. Time. I guess it's not working, right? I should just keep silent and not participate in their fun.

Well, apparently it is a big deal when one is a boy, so I guess I'll just have to bear it for as long as it lasts, but it's getting old. Sigh.

P.S. Then, when I think about these characters, I just wonder whether men ever outgrow this fascination with physiological functions of the human body! At least some do, I think, so there's hope. ;-)

Friday, July 02, 2010

Brazil is Done Gone from the World Cup :-(

Well, we cannot win every time, right? We're already the country with the most World Cup wins (five). Then, there's the fact that the next World Cup will be in Brazil -- it would be nice to win that one, right?

So, yeah... pretty sad. And I guess it was worse because we were winning during the whole first half of the game. Not only winning, but playing better than the team had done throughout the whole world cup. But then there were errors and Holland's first goal was scored. Things just went downhill from there.

In other news, we've met my mother- and father-in-law and they're exhausted after their 20 days traveling with a group through the U.S. Exhausted is not the right word, but it will have to do for now.

We drove through the place where K will be interviewing. I don't think I can write too much about here and about his possible place of employment. I wish I could. Oh well. As always, feel free to email me about where we are now and where we might be going. I'd be ok to share that by email, particularly if I already know you.

Tomorrow will be a really, really long day. And we'll be around thousands and thousands of people. Sigh. I don't like thousands of people, but... oh well, we'll survive.