Sunday, October 31, 2010

I want to thank Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, from the bottom of my heart for...

... bringing my precious niece to Washington D.C.!

For those who don't remember the significance of a girl in this family, let us back track. My parents-in-law had four sons. Until September 31st when baby A was born, they had six grandsons (my son is the eldest of the six since K is their eldest son).

My sister-in-law is a huge fan of Jon Stewart and when she was planning her 10 day visit to the U.S. she changed her whole trip around in order to attend the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear! That meant that she was able to spend the night at my brother-in-law's ("K2") house and we got to meet baby A. I'm so so thankful! We didn't go to the rally because we had a prior engagement (and we couldn't really do it with our two boys), but I can't wait to watch the whole thing online (I watched the beginning with K).

Thanks, Stewart, thanks Colbert! I never imagined I would have you two of all people (and I do love you guys, don't get me wrong) to thank for the sweet privilege of meeting my one and only niece!

Look at her! Isn't she the sweetest thing? I'm holding her, in my pajamas. I hope you don't mind the photo in my blog, sis. Thank you so much for coming to see us! It was nice to see you too, not just your gorgeous daughter. ;-)

P.S. As a reward for your effort sis, I think Texas should win the world series. Too bad it's 3X1 right now. :-(

Dilma Rousseff, Brazil's New Woman President/ NaBloPoMo

I don't have much of an opinion or deep thoughts to share with you about Brazil's new president, but I think that as a Brazilian, it would be a bit strange for me not to blog about it...

In a few words, lots of people in Brazil were campaigning against Dilma (we usually use first names for famous people in Brazil) using arguments that were not particularly strong: corruption in the former president's government because she belongs to his party, the fact that she was a former "terrorist" or "guerrilla fighter" opposing the military dictatorship in the 60s in Brazil, inaccurate statistical comparisons between next to last president's four years and Lula's eight years, and more. There were even conspiracy theories attesting that she had actually been born in Bulgaria (country her parents, or father? is/are from) and therefore was ineligible to be Brazil's president. All those campaigns notwithstanding, she won today.

Today was the second round of the presidential election because Dilma hadn't won 51 percent of the votes back on October 1st. There were many other candidates in the first round and the second runner up, José Serra was not particularly strong and thus unable to beat Dilma.

The truth is that in spite of the strong criticism, the former president Lula (whose popularity is about 80% right now) did great things for the country -- doubtless as his detractors point out -- because the previous president, the respected sociologist Fernando Henrique Cardoso, had set the country on the right track. In any case, I think it's not bad that there will be continuity between the previous government and Dilma's.

So, yeah, these are my thoughts. I know I should write more about Brazil, but I don't.

Well... maybe I should challenge myself to write at least, let's see... 7 (my favorite number) posts about Brazil during NaBloPoMo -- what about that? If you have any questions (not only about Brazil, anything), please send them my way!! Because I'm pledging to write at least 30 posts in the next 30 days, as I've been doing for the past few years...

P.S. I am a bit excited that Brazil has a woman president, but I think I would have liked the other candidate, Marina Silva better. Do I think it was this huge breakthrough or something? Not really, and I would be hard-pressed to explain why. Brazil is, after all a very "machista" country, that's for sure! Well, I can try to write more about that later. Maybe it's because I'm "out of it" -- 14 years living here.

Friday, October 29, 2010

3 days late to the "Marty McFly Day" Party

Back to the Future: 25th Anniversary Trilogy (+ Digital Copy)I don't really read the news (only a weekly newsmagazine), so I missed linking on the correct day to the the fun posts about the 25th Anniversary of the day Marty McFly went back to 1955 in Back to the Future. It was very interesting to see the photo of the main actors in that first post.

I join K and his three brothers in their appreciation for the Back to the Future Trilogy,. I am curious to see which of the brothers will be the first to give away or sell his boxed set to get the new 25th Anniversary Trilogy (they even have it in Blu-ray)! We're already thinking to whom we could give ours. ;-)

We've watched these movies over and over again and my favorite remains the first one, though the second one is lots of fun! Are you a fan? I'd love to know!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

My Mama Left on Her Birthday

Today is my mom's birthday. And not only any birthday, but her 70th.

Two years ago I wrote this post with several cute photos of "mami" and I wish I had time to make a slide show of some photos of grandma and her grandsons to celebrate today, but I'll have to do that some other time. (this just gave me an idea for an awesome present for her, hmmm...)

My parents flew back to Brazil last night and arrived there safely. They got to their house 29 hours after leaving mine for the airport, poor things, but they were happy to be home. Too bad their house was so dusty that when I called them this evening my mom was mopping their bedroom floor so they could sleep in a relatively dust free environment.

My brother is still in Brazil because of his business trip, so my parents will be able to spend the weekend with him -- that's so delightful! I'm glad they were able to change their ticket (they were only supposed to fly back on Nov. 15).

It was her birthday present, mom said.

Here's a recent (and rare, remember the 2 year rule regarding my brother) family photo:

Happy Birthday Mami! We love you!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost

This is the perfect poem for right now. I showed it to K this morning and he really liked it. Years from now, I want to be able say those last lines with great conviction.

The Road Not Taken
Robert Frost (1874–1963).  Mountain Interval.  1920

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

I got the poem here.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Saddest, Most Open "Closure" Ever

this will be long. please bear with me if you're so inclined. (oh, and if you want to read with a lovely song in the background, scroll down and hit play :)

All I/we want(ed) was closure, this has been dragging on since that fateful Friday, April 29th.* Bringing conflicted feelings and not letting us enjoy all the new experiences that come with moving to a new place. A nice, beautiful place at that. Starting brand new jobs (OK, I don't have a real job, but it's something). Going to interviews on the first weeks on the job not once, but twice -- K in the summer and both of us in September.
* Day when K first read the email that brought us to today I didn't blog it until a few days later.

The easiest thing to do would be to just move on, but it's so sad and difficult after K had the most surreal academic job offer refusal conversation ever this afternoon.

Sigh. Gulp.

They truly desperately want(ed) him. And still do. Left all doors open. For those who have experience with academic jobs, this doesn't happen very often, unless they really want you. (It happened with our friend P back in 2007 when he had 5 offers, including one from the place where K got his current/past offer from.) Sometimes, when someone rejects an offer, this person is almost "blacklisted," but this was clearly the opposite of that.

The truth is that the department is in a dire situation right now, two people didn't get tenure and left, they're struggling to hire more people. It's a department with some faults and tons of potential, but budgetary problems at the university level present some constraints (e.g. the low salary for K which makes it more desirable for us to stay here even with my low part-time salary and it was because of the budget problems that there was nothing for me -- I have an insider friend who assured me of that).

And then, there's my current "job" which was one of the main reasons for the decision (there are others, including a conviction that here might be a better place for the boys to grow up) -- I'm enjoying the teaching, but it was positively lovely to think up some potential classes and syllabi.

I know it's a cliché to say this, but it's the best way to describe it. This whole experience felt like an alluring dream that we were going to wake up from at any minute, but that we willingly kept dreaming just to see where it would lead. I often wondered out loud to K if it wouldn't have been better to just to have let it go back in late April/ May when the first email came. The problem is that saying that he was not interested in pursuing this (our #2 option, remember?) would have been a lie.

Here we are today, though. We can decide to wake up from the dream and live on, just recalling what it felt like to walk on that lovely campus, wondering if we would be coming to work there or not. I can go on teaching my classes, but I know that deep down I'll always remember the "dangerous exercise in dreaming" that was designing those syllabi.

You know, I don't even mind anymore that as we get older life only gets more and more complicated. And beautiful. Because if everything were simple and straightforward, I think it would be boring. Over the past 14 years as an expatriate I have learned to let go of so many things... and I think this makes the decision on where to settle down so much harder and fraught with conflicting emotions. It feels easier to just keep going, moving on and on.

Like my dear poet/entrepreneur friend Articulate Dad said, I want to enjoy the canyon and ride the burro, but I wonder what the other path would look like. Especially because the door of the limousine has been left open like that...

yeah, I thought I'd be writing a different post tonight, but this is what I have. And when K told me about the phone call he said he knew I wouldn't like the outcome. I've been shedding a few tears in the past two days as the burden of this momentous decision felt so heavy and I thought that it would all be over after today, but probably not. I'm a little sad right now, and I don't know where to put this sadness because it doesn't fit anywhere...

This is the song I wanted to have included in that post, I hope it works this time. Listening to it soothes me right now...

well, I'll have plenty of time to reflect in the daily posting month that is coming... And I hope the bubble/dream will not burst, but live on.

Friday, October 22, 2010

. . .

They have nothing for me.

Now we need to decide. I'm speaking to my current dept. chair first thing on Monday to talk about future prospects of more permanent employment.

We'll make a final decision by Monday. It's a really, really tough one. We'll see, but maybe we're not going. More later.

And the final answer is...

... I won't know until later today when K receives a phone call with their "final point" in the offer process.

I can hardly breathe right now and I'm shivering, so I had to share the suspense with the internets. I'll let you know as soon as I find out.

Today may be the day in which the rest of our lives will be decided. Well, at least where we'll live in the next 6.5 years or... for a long time.

Maybe we'll get to stay (which is good -- we go see and can put an offer on the house we liked! we get to live in a nice peaceful place), maybe we'll get to go (which is better -- challenging intellectual, more academic work and other things).

So, yeah... I'm on pins and needles. Sigh.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Flower & Song...

I want a garden again someday. I want to try and plant poppies, like these I photographed at Longwood last April:

And listen to this tender song "Estrela, Estrela" composed by Vitor Ramil, a singer/songwriter from the South of Brazil, and interpreted by Maria Rita. This song is only available for download after one buys her cd: Maria Rita. I think I will do it, not only because I want "Estrela, Estrela," but because her voice is just so beautiful  and the song list is good.

No wonder her voice is so good, because she's the daughter of Elis Regina, one of the most amazing Brazilian singers (who died of an overdose in 1982 when Maria Rita was only five years old). A young person in Brazil provided an "amateur English translation" to the song. It's just a piano and her voice, just like the title of her father and brother's CD Piano & Voz (beautiful album too).

Unfortunately, "Estrela Estrela" cannot be embedded here :-( so you'll have to click and listen to it on YouTube. I highly recommend that you do so.

P.S. I thought you'd enjoy more a flower photo & a song than a pathetic email about my insecurities as a teacher. I may still write it some other evening...

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Modern U.S. President (musical spoof)

OK, this is the second video-link post in a day (and not the one I've been writing since mid-afternoon), but this is just too funny not to share. Thanks to Laura (Apt11D) who also embedded the original song. And thanks to Phil Vischer (from the Veggie Tales), I know the original really well. ;-)

The Bronte Sisters Action Dolls!

This fake commercial is just so fun, I had to share it. I really like the Brontë sisters and Wuthering Heights is one of my favorite books (there's also the Norton Critical Edition ;-). So much so that my youngest son's name was taken from that book (the oldest's name has a relationship to my husband's discipline, but I won't blog about that).


It was a little harder to explain to my boys what this "commercial" was all about (especially after I said all excited that one of their names had come from one of their books ;-). Someday they'll understand...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sent. and... Found (question abt sending student evals in job applications too)

Tuesday was a stressful day because I had to fulfill one of the requests made by "my possible future employers in whom lie all the hope of my husband's future employers to have him accept the job:" send them some student evaluations.

Last week I wrote some syllabi and that was loads of fun, very intellectually stimulating. While I looked for materials for the syllabi, I also looked (half-heartedly because I just hate them so much) for my student evaluations, opening at least four boxes in the garage. After I sent the syllabi on Thursday, I forgot about the evaluations and this whole weird "being 'pitched' for a job that doesn't really exist" thing over the weekend (someone has to take a break from negative things sometimes, right?), but of course K had to remind me of it on Tuesday morning :-(.

It turns out that the evaluations were in an easy place to find -- in our filing cabinet, behind my dissertation stuff. I don't have my "regular semester" class evaluations, but I have those for the six classes I taught for continuing ed (mostly in the summer and in winter sections) and so I had to read them all and select a sample to send. That was a rough trip down memory lane. Some of my thoughts:

"How can they have sad that? Sure, it's true that I'm scattered and stuff, but didn't they realize I had a four month old baby and was teaching that difficult 200 level class for the very first time on my own?"

"Oh, that was that class I taught in the winter, when I was almost 8 months pregnant."

"Phew! I'm glad those students didn't think I was that bad -- that was my very first semester teaching on my own. One of them even thought I was cool, great! I was newly pregnant on that class too..."

"Why oh why did this one student have to blame my 'scatteredness' -- probably due to some level of ADD -- on me being a speaker of English as a second language? I was OUTRAGED when my useless advisor pulled that same "BS" [and I don't ever swear!] on me when I was working on my dissertation prospectus -- BLAH!!!"

For some classes, most evaluations were negative and I decided not to include totally negative ones -- that would be suicide, no? I did include some "balanced" ones (including the English as second language one -- as far as criticism goes, this may be annoying, but not very negative). In the end, I scanned and sent (one PDF file for each class) the overall quantitative results page for each of the six classes plus two to four evaluations.  Is that something that is done?

Question: those of you who send student evaluations as part of job applications, how do you do it? Do you send the whole packet for one class or do you do a selection? How is this supposed to work? I'm clueless, really.

This is the second time I've had to do this. The first time was back in 2006 and I went to my department in Massachusetts, looked at all of them, and copied a sample (and STUPIDLY, sent the original copies, never copied them for my record -- at least I couldn't find them anywhere, but I'm pretty sure I sent the only ones I had). In order to have evaluations for my "regular" classes I have to go to MA again and copy them out of the department's secretary cabinet files. I hope I don't have to do that again someday. I'd love the excuse to go and visit, though!! :-)

OK, now to the "Foud" part of the title. If I were a good writer, ok, good at editing, this material would have made for a nice, moving post, but no, this is what you get. :-(

Looking at those evals (I don't like reading them, it's another of the myriad of things that I should talk about in therapy if I ever get to afford have some therapy) made me get into a weird funk for the rest of the day. I was feeling better and then last night I found something that was quite amazing!

I was selecting papers from the trash for recycling -- I had found and discarded old student exams, papers, etc, useless things that moved THREE TIMES* with us since 2004 because we never had the time to tackle them in our moves. While pulling papers out of the bin I came across this thick, handmade paper envelope (I've always loved handmade paper, I actually want to make some with my boys). When it opened, it contained the most beautiful note from a student I've ever read or received. And it was from the very last term I taught a Cont. Ed. class (Summer of 2003) and whose evaluations I had read two days before.

The student (whose name I couldn't really make up) was very sweet and wrote things such as:
This was one of the best classes I've ever attended at the university. It was harder than I expected, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. It was really, really good. Thank you for your time with us and your understanding.
That was nice, but look at this!
As for you, a student, a mother, a wife and a teacher -- you're pulling it off splendidly. You're going to make both the university and the people in your life very proud.
And in the end:
You're going to go far, I'm proud of all you've accomplished. It may get hard but hang in there. You're going places**. :-)  
This was just so amazing to find and encouraging to read! And such a contrast to some of the evaluations I'd read on Tuesday. Truly soul comforting. It's moments like these that make all the effort we put into teaching worth-while. When K saw it he said something like: "See? You deserve this, you don't need to be upset with the negative evaluations." True. Still hard, though. Hopefully over the years my skin will get thicker and thicker. Meanwhile, I'll be hoping for more positive feedback like this lovely note I found.

*2004: I had a newborn, my parents packed our house in MA with K.
2007: we packed everything with the help of some friends and in a hurry into "Flex boxes."
2010: friends helped load furniture and some previously packed boxes, but everything else was packed by yours truly and her husband and carried into the trailer.

The worst part of thinking about moving again? I already know ahead of time they pay only 4K and that's not enough, I'm pretty sure, to pay for someone to pack our stuff. We'll have to do all the packing again (movers will just load the truck and unload -- they'll only deal with big furniture and previously packed boxes). And we had SWORN never to do it again and not to move if the moving expenses were not completely covered for a DECENT move in which movers packed our stuff (books, kitchen stuff, clothes).

**It was as Children's Literature class.

I cannot write short posts, will you still read me?

I'm almost done with a post, but it's just so long, I almost feel embarrassed for it. Parenthetical remarks, footnotes, the works. You know if you've been reading for a while. And you also know I've written a 511 page long dissertation.

I feel bad all over again when I read things like a recent post of Dawn's emphasizing that we all need editors. Sure, we totally do! I should know (see? my comment is the size of a shortish blog post!). I wish I liked being edited more (I do think it's necessary, see comment above), but the truth is that I really enjoy the freedom of unedited writing here in the blog. Sigh. I shouldn't. I should strive for better quality and not quantity.

OK, there is one thing that I can say quickly now and get done before I go finish my long unedited post. In  two days (roughly 36 hours) I will see my sons for only a half hour tomorrow morning. Good thing they'll spend a lot of time with daddy and other family, but I'll miss them.

Today daddy will drive them 2h30 hours to go to their beloved cousin's birthday party in Maryland (I have meetings in the afternoon and a class to teach at 5 pm, so I can't go). The boys will be asleep when they come back and tomorrow I have meetings all day and a dinner in the evening and will only see them briefly in the morning while getting ready for school. I hope we get to spend a lot of time together during the weekend! More about it later. :-)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Gorgeous, Artistic Videos, Beautiful Music - Sigur Rós

Several months ago I began to follow these "kids" (10, 15 years or more younger than me), distant cousins of my husband (children of my mother-in-law's cousins) on twitter and blogger and I've really been enjoying what they have to share. Particularly because they are very artistic (musicians, singers, and budding composers/lyricists) who have recorded one or more music albums in Brazil (Leo just released his third CD through Sony Music's Christian/gospel music division in Brazil, it's fully in Hebrew, I can't wait to listen to it).

Dani, Leo's wife, whom I haven't met in person yet, :-( has been writing about Sigur Rós in her two blogs for a while now and I just couldn't resist sharing a few of their music videos in the blog. Maybe you know all about them, but I didn't. They're a group from Iceland.

This and the next are my favorite video-clips of their music so far. I really loved seeing these "older kids" having fun. Oh, no! I can't embed it, the music is gorgeous and the video with these "rebellious" old folks is worth watching.  Hoppipolla is the title of the song. 

Glósóli: This one has actual children and stunning visuals. I think it's amazing:

This next one was a bit too sad for me, but the music is beautiful. (It reminded me of this film that my brother, cousin and I enjoyed in the 80s: Le Grand Bleu/ The Big Blue (beautifully titled Imensidão Azul in Brazil -- in the U.S. the soundtrack was destroyed, so you probably don't really know about it, the original music is one of the great things in this eerie film):

This last one is the fourth part (in YouTube) of their amazing documentary/ live shows DVD, Heima:

Let me know what you think! I

Saturday, October 09, 2010

It's insane, but he asked it

First, though, he kind of had to say "yes" to the offer.

The phone call I mentioned at the end of my previous post didn't happen until Friday evening. When they talked yesterday K made it clear to his prospective department chair that it would be a step back for us to move there if I didn't have a job, since my adjuncting gig here is guaranteed to continue, probably for years to come. We know it does sound insane to make such a request to a prospective academic employer, but as we say in Brazil, "the ball is on our side or court" now, so we have to take advantage of the situation. We don't have anything to lose at this point.

We are at peace with this because staying here wouldn't be bad, although several things have been happening -- including the way I felt writing those syllabi and some negative things going on in K's current department -- that make us realize that going there would be pretty good, too, even better in some areas.

Let's see what's going to happen. Right now, I think I'm getting excited about the possibility of going, but I can totally live with staying too.

Oh, yeah, and about the whole saying yes thing. At the end of the call, K was asked point black whether he'd accept the offer if they had work for me too. He answered that there would be a very high probability that he would. ;-)

And now I'm going to change the subject ASAP.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

I did my part...

... in two days I created a full syllabus, the outline of another and a few more reading lists that can become future syllabi.

These were some of the classes that I'd always dreamed of designing.

Whether I will ever get to teach them someday is a whole different matter.

Right now I'm just hoping that I look good on paper (as I usually do, thankfully, except for my measly publication list). I do know that I can pull these classes off, yes I can! If given the chance. And I'm hoping that doing my best will help decide our case (because they obviously want K already). I didn't want to be the deciding factor, but I think I don't mind anymore. 'Cause I do deserve something too.

It was a dangerous exercise in dreaming, this was. On Monday, when the request for syllabi came I freaked out and felt like a farce, like I just wanted to pretend I could do this, but really wouldn't be able to. Then I got down to work and it dawned on me that not only could I do this, but probably do this well, and enjoy doing it it, for the rest of my  life... Teaching things that matter to me, that I think will contribute to furthering the knowledge about my country, its culture, its literature.

Yeah... dangerous because what I am actually working on right now is fun and easy, but it's not why I spent 10 years doing a PhD for. I want to be challenged, I want to push myself and my students. I want to learn from the material and from them, I want to grow!

And K does too. That's the main difference between here and there.

So, yeah... I sent my stuff a bit over an hour ago and while I was writing this post, K was probably on the phone with his dept. chair -- the one who is trying to get me placed too. I wonder what they talked about. I wonder, with bated breath, what's going to happen.

No fear, I'll keep you updated.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

I was too tired to write another post...

... last Friday, when I wrote the previous post.

And today I'm too tired to write much as well. Not to mention that we forgot the laptop's AC adapter & plug at my brother-in-law's house today and I can't use the laptop for too long because K (whose work laptop is the same brand & compatible with this one) is working on the computer.

We had a WONDERFUL day yesterday because my aunt and uncle (she's dad's youngest sister, my dearest paternal aunt) were driving down from PA to TX on their truck and stopped by to have lunch with us and to see my brother whom they hadn't seen for about 10 years. This was the first time they were able to meet with us mid-trip in the 10+ years they've been truck drivers and driven by wherever we lived. I hope it can happens more often from now on!

Later when we were on our way to the airport to drop off my brother (who forgot his cell phone, laptop AC adapter & jacket here!) my aunt called to say we had had that lunch to celebrate their dad's birthday -- exactly on October 2nd.

My grandpa died back in 1979 (I remember it pretty well, in spite of the fact I was only eight. My mom took me to the viewing and it freaked me out a little bit to see his body). He died not too long after his birthday. I remember my mom had me practice "Happy Birthday" on the recorder and when the day came (it was a Friday) we drove to their house with a cake and I played the song.

He's the grandparent I knew the least and the one who died first. My grandma survived him for nearly 30 years. And yet, what little I knew of him has stayed with me. There's this picture book that I have to try and write about my grandpa. I hope I can do it someday.

But now, I have to go to bed. ;-)

Friday, October 01, 2010

On Fridays the Blogosphere is a Wasteland

And I feel lonely because of that.

I've been struggling with so much stuff regarding blogging lately. I have this feeling that maybe I'm overdoing it and that's it's not good for me and that I need to spend more time doing "real life" things instead of investing so much on a "virtual life." (this, BTW is what everyone in my family, not husband, perhaps, but certainly parents and K's family -- not all of them -- think).

It's just that I've always been that way. Before the internet, it was reading constantly, all the time, even while walking (I hardly ever do that nowadays, I know, sad) and writing in my journals. And reading and re-reading the journals and writing some more.

And in addition to that, from 7th-12th grade, I had one best friend and two other super-close friends who have now become the best friends. Although, well, it is a complicated thing to analyze. I'm too complicated for my own good. I don't even know how/why some of you are still reading me.

What I mean to say is that this blogging person here, that's not a "new me." I've been like this all along, it's just that now I found the right medium, a wonderful outlet (even if it doesn't bring me much more than a handful of friends, no money, no fame, nothing tangible -- except in the way of "wasted time" that could have been used doing other stuff).

OK, never mind. I have resolved not to care. And I'll post more, for myself, even if people won't listen/read. It's still good for me.

& now I'll put out a quick post about Narnia. I love Narnia.