Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Adoption, Birth Parents & Steve Jobs

I've said it before, but I'll say it again... adoption is the issue I most learned about -- particularly from the birth-parent's point of view -- since I started reading blogs & blogging. Unfortunately some for the bloggers from which I learned the most are no longer blogging (Dawn, Kateri, Manuela), good thing that others still are (hi Jenna! and AmFam!). Adoption is such a thorny, heart-breaking subject and one about which lots of people have very preconceived and unethical views. I am glad to have been exposed to the powerful, at times soul wrenching writing of the above-mentioned women, they opened (and are still opening) my heart to understand the "weakest link" in the adoption "triad:" the birth-parents.

I just learned this summer that one of my good recent friends (met her just 1 year ago here in VA) is a birth-mother. Her story is very sad and I wish I had the courage to ask her more about it (she was only 15, living at a boarding school, and had to give the baby up because she had no family to even take care of her, let alone her baby). Maybe someday we'll talk more about it, it's just that I don't think I can have a conversation about this without bursting into tears.

I have another friend who is a birth-father and who was only able to contact his daughter about 5-6 years ago, when she turned 15 years old. They are now "in reunion" (term used by birth-parents and adoptees for their lives after they meet) and I'm just so happy for him. One of the first things he said to me when we met 19 years ago was that he had a daughter... and he pulled out a small photograph of a beautiful blonde toddler. You could tell how sad he was for not being part of her life and her not even knowing that he existed.

Today this New York Post article (whose title and byline I really dislike, but whose content is good) about Steve Job's 80 year old birth-father brought tears to my eyes. I am sure that it's not only his "Syrian pride" and regrets for not having parented Jobs that prevent Jandali from contacting his biological son. Society and people who promote adoption -- even and perhaps especially international adoption -- do all they can to simply erase the birth-parents, particularly the birth-fathers, since they don't actually carry the baby for 9 months. As if conceiving and giving birth to a child could be simply forgotten after giving the child away (and films like Juno perpetuate this absurd notion).

Some birth-parents may put it behind them... a smaller group may even reject the child (like Susan Ito's birth-mom), but I'm sure that most think of that baby they didn't get to parent every single day of their lives. However, society just doesn't allow them to express and validate their grief, it just forgets that they ever existed. Mr. Jandali has been conditioned to keep himself out of the picture since after all, "he's not the father," Mr. Jobs is.

I know, it's the whole age-old "Nature versus Nurture" debate and "Nurture" seems to be our culture's "darling." However, as the article points out, "Nature" is pretty fascinating too, since Jobs and his bio-father have striking physical similarities. I personally think that biological ties are uncanny and strong, therefore I would never, ever consider donating eggs and I shudder to think of babies who are conceived with anonymous donor sperm...).

I am saddened that these two man are constrained by so many obstacles and haven't, and perhaps won't be able to ever get together. And I blame it on hundreds of years of a system of adoption that shames the young unwed mothers and tries to erase, completely obliterate the birth-father.

How unspeakably sad.

Monday, August 29, 2011

General Education Students

I think one of the big "culture shocks" for me as an expatriate wasn't selling all my furniture, packing all my clothes, photos & cds and leaving family and friends behind to move to another country. It wasn't even the depression that settled in as I realized we were spending all our hard-saved money and not making enough. It wasn't speaking a different language, since I was 100% fluent in it after all... and the culture wasn't that different from what I was used back home.

One of the big shocks was... surprisingly, teaching undergraduate students (another was health care, particularly pre-natal care and I blogged all about this here). I still have lots of difficulty really connecting to most Americans and I find it hard to blog about this because after all, my blog readers and blog friends are exactly those Americans I've best connected with! Now... maybe it'll be a bit easier to write that I find that connecting with undergraduate students, particularly "Gen Ed" undergrads here in the U.S. to be utterly impossible!

I TAed and then taught them for nearly six years, including several summers and winter sessions during graduate school and I just felt so inadequate, so "not a person." I thought that maybe it was because I was in grad school and that it would be way better when I was done. Well... of course I'm not a real "professor" yet, but most students don't really know that.

I must give this state credit where credit is due and maybe it's because we're already in the South here and people in the South are friendlier, warmer, a bit more caring, but I do like the students in VA "better" than those in MA. And I know that student populations vary greatly from school to school.

Another thing... I enjoyed working with language students last year, I think they're a little different, more interested. However, this semester I am teaching a "Gen Ed" class... Today was the first day and I already find the students challenging as I felt they'd be. I'm planning to make this class more learner-based, thus, with more discussion, group work, etc. and I don't know how well that's gonna go.

I think one of my biggest problems with American undergrads (and people in general) is that I haven't experienced schooling in this country and I have no idea how it is -- just from films or reading and now from some of your blogs when you write about your students.

Well, yeah. I don't know what else to say. This sounds very lame. It is exactly what I wanted to share today, after teaching my first GenEd class in 7 years. But I'm not blaming on the students per se (I have three students in the class that have taken my other classes and I know them, so that's nice) -- I'm blaming it on the "requirement" of having to take these GenEd classes that they aren't really interested in, but have to take. I hope they get to learn something from this class -- not "from me," but from the readings, the films, from our class activities -- I can only try to motivate them and be enthusiastic about the subject.

Teaching blog friends/readers of mine... do you think my problem is due to my expatriate status or do you find hard to connect to your students as well? (I know Jo(e) most certainly doesn't, but then, again, she's awesome and her students are too).

Another thing I worry about -- am I letting my own (perhaps pre-conceived) view of my students influence me too much? Should I try to be more open, caring, and accommodating and not so judgmental? Maybe ta change of attitude will help, right? Any thoughts you can share with me will be appreciated.

P.S. I have six students, it looks like I'll be fine with that class! Hey, I'm surprised that this has become (for right now) a teaching blog! Oh my! Who knew!

First Day (and hope for the other class)

Today I begin teaching again, one more year of "working in the margins" for me. Last Friday was a bad day... I was depressed and angry, particularly during the all faculty meeting that I attended just to go with K and to eat a free breakfast (yeah, when you grow up frugal & thrifty like I have you never, ever pass up a chance to have a free meal).

We talked and talked, K and I. He understands my frustration, and though he knows that I am a "realistic pessimist" (I think I wrote a post about this some time...) he has a hard time dealing with my reasonings. He was pretty patient, though... Right now we have no other option, so we'll see for how long I'll be OK with this situation.

Last night I received an email from the dept. chair saying that if worse comes to worse they can pay me by the student -- which makes way more sense than having to do independent studies for free, right? Her email was motivated by the fact that one of my students emailed her and begged her not to cancel the class. Yay for involved students!!

OK, I have to go now... I need to get ready to leave and I still need to finish my syllabi for tomorrow as well as print out today's at the university.

I'll let you know how the day goes, OK? I'm so excited about my new class about Brazil!!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

What about working without being paid?


I'm just so stressed out right now! Just what I needed when I need all the energy I can muster to put the finishing touches in my syllabi and my planning for the new semester that starts next week.

Sigh again.

It just so happens that if I don't get 2 extra students for my 200 level language class, it will get cancelled and then I will NEED to teach it as an independent study for the other students (5!) and obviously I get paid NOTHING to do that.

I did independent studies with three students in the past year, but I didn't mind because I was already teaching my two classes and these students were in their very last semester and worked really hard. One student did a whole semester in two months last Fall and the other two had a time conflict with my class (which then had only 6 students) and met with me once a week all through Spring.

Now, doing an independent study with 5 students (2 of which are really weak and need lots of help) will be just too much! And what's worse, chances are that the next (and last) 200 level class won't happen next semester again and will need to be an independent study (in spite of the fact that I have one student that may return, I just saw him today) so these students can graduate.

Someone please wake me up and tell me it was just a nightmare!!

The only thing I can do right now is to say to the chair of the department that they will have to ask the former Portuguese instructor (the one who is a full time staff member -- not tt) and who receives a full time salary (as far as I know) to do it. But then I risk being told that I'm not coming back to teach as an adjunct again. Sigh.

To add insult to injury, in the 101 class I have 18 students. How many of them are seniors? (who won't be taking the 200 level): 7. Ha... ha... ha...

OK, I should go work on my syllabi and quit the whiny blogging. Sorry!!!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


And the worst part about it? (tongue in cheek)

I was driving, so I never felt the first earthquake of my life. oh well... :P

K felt it very strongly in his office and he says it was scary to see his desk, his computer, his books, move around, but the scariest thing was when the window shades started banging against the window. Yikes! He and his colleagues went into the hallway and began wondering what was going on until they realized that it really was an earthquake.

My youngest son and his class felt it, but my 4th grader and his classmates didn't notice anything, so Kelvin and I were both disappointed for "missing" the quake. Maybe next time, though I earnestly hope there won't be a next time!

BIL K3 says he was in a meeting and one of the people had lived in California and made them all get up and leave the building immediately.

Several friends called us right away or left messages for us and I received several emails including one my from my brother who happens to be in Bolivia right now. It's good to know that friends and loved ones are concerned with us and want to know whether we're ok.

I won't say how close we were to the epicenter for the sake of this blog's semi-anonymity... ;)

Next thing K will do is to call our homeowners' insurance and check whether it covers earthquake damage!

Well, those of you in California are probably laughing at the hullabaloo that such a small and seemingly inconsequential quake has caused, but when a region hardly ever has any seismic activity and suddenly does, it's no laughing matter, right?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Ready for School Tomorrow

Their backpacks were ready two weeks before our trip and today we started the bedtime routine soon after dinner, with enough time to pick outfits, let the boys' bedroom clean and organized, make sure we'd packed every single item in the school supply list.

So I guess we're ready. Kelvin can't wait to begin 4th grade and is really excited to be going back to school tomorrow (albeit 4 days late), but Linton keeps saying he doesn't like school. I know he's going to have a great time in 2nd grade, though!

In spite of the lack of a family vacations, we had a nice weekend with friends and family.

Too bad the boys are much readier than I am to go back to school (teaching). :(   I think next Sunday night I'll be a nervous wreck.  Sigh...

Tomorrow, kitten blogging,  promise!!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

First Day of School - Away

Well, it was the first day of school for my sons, but they just happen to be almost a thousand miles away from their school today.

The school called my cell phone about 9 am, but I couldn't answer since I'm in Canada and that's how I was reminded that it was the first day of school. I talked to the boys' teachers beforehand, but forgot to mention to the secretary and principal that we were going to be away.

We're starting the drive back home tomorrow and today I got to help my lucky sister-in-law who got to see a good friend giving birth on the day before her trip to Brazil. Yesterday afternoon we had walked to the building across the street to see this baby girl's nursery and we had a nice, leisurely talk with our friend Isa, while we felt baby Lys kick inside. Little did we know she would decide to be born today. I think she knew her parents needed M (my sister-in-law) to be there for moral support and that M wanted so much to see the birth.

Best of all, we're here to look after baby N while his mama is away (she still is). He's having a good time with his cousins, giggling a lot at their antics. And the cousins enjoyed playing Bejeweled games while N napped. We're taking him out on the stroller now and I can't wait to see photos of baby L.

Monday, August 15, 2011

they're ours


since last Tuesday.

I wanted to write a long, nice announcement post, full of photos and stuff, but I didn't and don't have time.  (remember I was sick last week? And that we had to travel from Virginia to Vermont to Montreal, Canada?)

I also didn't want to blog about it before telling K's family because I didn't want my one family member [dear sister-in-law] who reads the blog to find out through here... but... I changed my mind today after telling "French Canadian" brother-in-law K4 in person.

I realized that it's better to tell people who might not be very happy with your pet decisions in person rather than online (and I didn't even know K4 might have a negative reaction, BIL K2 is the one I'm really stressed about 'cause he is strongly adverse and apparently allergic to them too). So I think we're only spilling the beans to the closest living family members when we see them next weekend or the following one. MIL doesn't need to know just yet (and she's really cool and neutral and doesn't interfere in our lives. I just love my mother-in-law. :)

Furthermore, I know "Blogger SIL" ;) won't mind learning through my blog (that's how I found out she was adopting a cat many years ago, which made me feel all warm and fuzzy and understood in a way that only people who have family members who can't stand cats do) -- just don't tell anyone yet, OK, Rene & K3?

I'll let you know their names next time -- I'm just SOOOO excited about that! -- & I'll have photos too.

Today the boys and I arrived just in time for my nephew's 1st birthday party (delayed for a month so we could be here) and it was lovely! And now I have to go to bed.

Did you think we were going to get the kittens or not? Were you surprised? (some "real life" friends were :) Let me know, I'm curious!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

This was the worst week to get sick

I have some strange digestive track virus... thankfully no vomiting, but lots of pain and discomfort and even a low grade fever (all day Tuesday and last night again). I'm a bit better, but I haven't eaten pretty much anything since Tuesday (when my last "meal" was a bagel anyway) and I'm not hungry in the least. I must have lost a couple of pounds already, which is not a good thing for me.

And this, of all weeks, is when I didn't need and really couldn't have been sick, but I am. K has not been able to help much because he's working like crazy to try to have his grant proposal written as well as elaborate a poster to present a conference he's going to next week. On Tuesday night, when I was feeling really bad, he didn't come home until after 10 pm, then he stayed home yesterday morning, but didn't come back home until nearly 5 am this morning. At least the first draft of the grant proposal is ready, but he still needs to get the poster done and he thinks it's unlikely that he'll finish before tonight, so instead of driving to PA and only having about 6h to drive tomorrow, we'll have to travel for over 10h to New England. :(

And there's something else going on that I'll write another post about shortly!

I hope I can be well soon. Wish us luck!

Edited to add: the hardest thing for me is taking care of the boys, trying to feed them when I can't get close to food and can hardly make any effort since I'm pretty week and getting them ready for bed and in bed without help from K (he usually takes care of the bedtime routine). We're surviving, anyway. That's when having mostly "free range" kids comes in handy...

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Linky Post: Michael Moore, Immigration, The end of the Middle Class etc. & Smart Memory Cards

My apologies for having become a really boring blogger (either whining or whining about kittens -- how cliched!). I really need to get some links I've been saving for ages out, so here you go!

1) I've been reminding myself for over six months now to post about this geeky thing that I tweeted about back in December last year: "A compulsive photographer's dream come true!! "Eye-fi" memory cards: what could be better than that?!" Can you imagine not having to connect your camera to your computer or take off the memory card and put it in the computer to transfer the photos you took? They can all be transferred wirelessly? I hope I can get one of these someday! :)

2) Michael Moore:  I should be following his blog because he often writes good stuff, but at least I already follow him on twitter.* Back in March, he tweeted a link to this NYT magazine story saying something about immigration and how important/ relevant it is: "The Tire Iron and the Tamale." (my apologies for not recalling MM's tagline for the story). Also back in March, MM posted a link to this 60 minutes report on children and homelessness which is worth watching.

Last, but not least, earlier in the day today (I haven't gone to bed, so for me it's still Friday 8/5), before news of the S&P downgrading of the U.S.'s debt credit rating, Moore wrote a blog post about how "30 years ago today, the death of the middle class began. One of the darkest days in American history."

Here's how his post begins:
From time to time, someone under 30 will ask me, "When did this all begin, America's downward slide?" They say they've heard of a time when working people could raise a family and send the kids to college on just one parent's income (and that college in states like California and New York was almost free). That anyone who wanted a decent paying job could get one. That people only worked five days a week, eight hours a day, got the whole weekend off and had a paid vacation every summer. That many jobs were union jobs, from baggers at the grocery store to the guy painting your house, and this meant that no matter how "lowly" your job was you had guarantees of a pension, occasional raises, health insurance and someone to stick up for you if you were unfairly treated.
Young people have heard of this mythical time -- but it was no myth, it was real. And when they ask, "When did this all end?", I say, "It ended on this day: August 5th, 1981."
Beginning on this date, 30 years ago, Big Business and the Right Wing decided to "go for it" -- to see if they could actually destroy the middle class so that they could become richer themselves.
And they've succeeded.
On August 5, 1981, President Ronald Reagan fired every member of the air traffic controllers union (PATCO) who'd defied his order to return to work and declared their union illegal. They had been on strike for just two days.
And today they hastily passed a law that will help FAA workers get back to work. Sigh.

He talked about this in his documentary Capitalism: A Love Story, and here's the video:

Food for thought in this other perhaps negatively significant day for this country's economy and politics. Because that's what it is -- S&P's decision was 100% political. I totally agree with my friend Gradmommy who tweeted a little while ago: "This is a Republican conspiracy." I think you may be right sister!

* I heartily recommend it. He doesn't tweet that often and when he does, it's several tweets at once, but all very relevant. Moore & Obama are the only "celebrities" that I follow on Twitter, BTW, I don't have time to waste on irrelevant people, unless it's someone you'd highly recommend -- let me know if I'm missing someone/ something!

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

They Stole Our Hearts and Now We're in So Much Trouble!

Just look at them!

Some other ones:

These babies are the surviving guys of a litter of five at the farm where we get our CSA share from (and where I work for a few hours a week to help pay for my share). And they're only alive because we expressed an interest in adopting them. Sigh. I can't bear to post photos of the other siblings when they were just two-three weeks old. I don't think I can ever look at those pictures again.

In any case... as you already know, my sons have tested positive to cats in allergy skin tests and K has generally been adamantly against us having cats again.

and I -- cold hearted new home owner -- really want to have cats, but I'm SUPER stressed out about our new sofas and storage ottoman. I know, such a bad reason, right? It's the only thing that's holding me back right now. Actually, it's not... if K agrees, we're getting them soon. Right now they're still nursing a bit and they live in a basement window shaft from which they can't get out (so they don't really know what to do when we bring them up to the porch).

I also know that apart from the allergies and the couches, the cats will be a significant expense (they'll have to be fixed and vaccinated and tested, etc) and a nuisance when we travel (which is a lot) since we need to find pet sitters.

They have stolen our hearts, though... and we know they need a home. And besides, since Blues disappeared last year I have this gaping hole in my heart that is begging to be filled. Sigh.

Very hard decision to make. I'll keep you posted, OK?