Friday, July 26, 2013

Death to Dandelions! or... Fateful Weeding Frenzy!

Foretelling Extra title:
How I followed Jo(e)'s resolution* so precisely! 
(down to the expected consequences ;-)
            *at the very end of the post

Last week I had a lot to do on Friday to get the house clean and ready for guests that we were expecting on Saturday. I was very productive and checked off all the items in my to-do list, which is in Portuguese, except for the last item and the one that matters ;-) (probably added after I'd done it!):
My "weeding frenzy" was initially aimed at the dandelions (hence the post's first title) which I had left behind after a previous weeding initiative months ago. I did pull all the dandelions that I could find in a large stretch of flower beds (with the help of a robust spade, to get as much of the roots as possible):

And then I tackled all the vines that were growing in between the hostas and lilies, most of them were wild strawberries, but there was another kind and... of course, poison ivy! I knew what I was doing, but I did it anyway, hoping that maybe my reaction wouldn't be so bad -- but it was pretty bad. :(

Here's a section of the flower bed earlier in the Spring:
 Before (on weeding day):
 During (almost done):
 After, a few days later (the weeds have begun to grow again, sigh...):
On a different day two weeks ago I pulled weeds from our brick patio, before:
The poison ivy rash is getting better a week later (I think I'm way less allergic than my dad or my husband who had to go to the doctor and take steroids), but unfortunately I got some poison ivy on my boys (through the blouse I was wearing) and... because Kelvin ended up wearing the same t-shirt several days in a row, he passed some more of it to himself. Sigh... next time we know better. I ended up doing several loads of laundry with suspected "contaminated" clothing and bedding and I hope that we won't encounter any more "cross-contamination" with the horrible oil from these "poisonous" plants (urushiol).

I will be more careful when working on the yard in the future, especially because we have not only poison ivy, but also poison sumac (which is probably what "attacked" my husband in another weeding occasion). Like Jo(e) I do want to spend more times outdoor, but if I can be more savvy & avoid itchy and oozy rashes, I will!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

I can keep the damaged book!

the "saga of the photo book" continues... :)

After Shutterfly reordered the book for me I felt really bad that I had let the mail carrier take my package. So I got in touch with Shutterfly again and they told me that I can keep the damaged book. (I would have felt dishonest going after the package if they didn't say it was OK).

I already called the post-office. The carrier is not back yet, but I let them know I want the package even if damaged & I'm hoping to pick it up later! YAY! I will give the damaged book to my mom, she will be so thrilled! (and this counts as one more of those "growing up 'poor/thrifty'" penny-pinching kind of situations that I often find myself in :-D)

There it goes, a classic cliched "lemons turned into lemonades" situation too! ;-)

Damaged -- or "The Curse of the South-Africa (Photo) Book"

I'm kind of "sadly glad" that I hadn't shared on the blog that I had finally,  finally!!! finished the South Africa photo book last Wednesday. (Obviously I was unable to use the expired 20 dollar coupon that my friend had given me and which had led to that "all-nighter" a month ago. With the 60% discount they gave me, it cost about a dollar a page -- 67 bucks).

I was eagerly waiting for its arrival since I spent so much time making it as perfect as possible. I almost got to see it this morning, but the U.S. post office had damaged the package (it was bent right in the middle!) and the kind mail carrier lady came to my door and explained that I couldn't open it so that way I wouldn't need to pay the postage to return it, so I just let her take it.

:-(  Now I'm waiting to have a live-chat with a Shutterfly customer service representative to ask if they could print me a new book ASAP, but I have a feeling that I will have to wait for them to get the book back before printing me a new one and who knows how long that will take.

I am sad. Sigh...

And my husband was joking that this was "the curse of the South-Africa book." yeah, a joke, but I don't think it's funny.

OK, I'll post this and come update it after I finish talking with customer service.

Edited to add: The chat with customer service was great! Not only has the book been pre-ordered (to arrive with "next day" shipping via Fedex -- which I think will ensure that it won't be damaged, YAY!), but she listened to my all-nighter story of the expired coupon and gave me a 20 dollar credit. YAY Shutterfly! Nothing like good customer service to assure that I will continue to be their customer!

Monday, July 22, 2013

He's Back!

When K drove into the driveway and opened the front door at around 7:30 pm this evening the boys and I could hardly believe it!

"Is our life going to go back to normal now?" I asked.

"Did you submit the grant yet?" I pressed.

"Did you? Did you submit it?"

It turns out it's going to be submitted tomorrow morning because he didn't see his email from the secretary before she left at 5 pm.

"But why weren't you checking your email?" I insisted.

Poor guy... I'm sure he can't wait to have this over as well!

He collapsed on the couch, deep pale circles under his eyes (he slept about 4h last night), but life is very closely back to normal this evening. After a light meal, K collected the trash around the house and he's now cleaning the kitchen as he usually does on week-nights. YAY!!

He will still work on his "side job" tomorrow and then he will just have to supervise the students in his lab until August 2.

I still can hardly believe we have him back! (until the next grant or journal submission or something else comes around) ;-)

Subversive Thoughts (with Cynical Overtones)

A couple of weeks ago I began to feel that I missed work (a little bit) and at first that was a pleasant thought. After all, I do enjoy teaching and, for the most part, I don't hate all the driving. And being home all day with the boys was getting on my nerves. Of course I "could" be working, but I don't have the external motivation of a tenure-track job, so I slack off, and then further assure that I'll never ever have a t-t job because I'm not already publishing and researching, vicious circle, yada-yada-yada. (these are fleeting thoughts, I know it is true, though... I should be very stoic & keep on plugging at this even though I'm pessimistic realistic about my prospects).

Then, last week, my thoughts became slightly panicky because I began to think about  how working with NH (new hire) is going to go. I felt overwhelmed again with worry regarding my ABSURD teaching load Th-Th (about 7 class periods, involving driving mid-day from one campus to the other).

I began to suspect, in turn, that the reason why they denied my request not to teach on Fridays (class is taught 5 times a week!) and implement some other activities, has everything to do with NH.  I may be wrong, but I have a hunch about it. And, the worst part is that I feel like asking hir* point plank about it (foolish idea! but I have a feeling I may do it, I am a fool).

HOWEVER, I also realized in the past few days that my employment for the next school year (14-15) will probably depend for the most part on being on good terms with NH and hir willingness to have me teaching more classes that s/he is supposed to teach or is teaching too (but to TWO students next semester -- they definitely didn't need to have hired me full-time & I'm also feeling a bit guilty about that -- I KNOW I SHOULD NOT).

OK, enter this morning's thoughts. I was washing the dishes and I began to think that I need to start planning for 2014-15 already. I need to begin to see if I can come back to U1 (where I still teach 2 classes) full-time. I was thinking "subversive thoughts" as to how the tele-teaching can best help me be hired in a better position.

And I have a feeling that blogging about all this is very bad idea and why I need to be as anonymous as I possibly can. Sigh... (but I know I don't need to worry because very few people read me to begin with).

As for the cynical overtones, they always accompany my whole thought processes very closely. I still feel extremely belligerent towards "academia" and all it represents and all I can an cannot do because of "it" and the way it operates. I know that I need to "work the system" to my advantage as I did that past year, so... I was proactive:

I just sent an email to my (brand new -- for the 2nd time) department chair at U2 because I want to talk about me and next year and about how the relationship with new hire. And teaching load and other things. And I also want to have a meeting with the guy who basically offered me a full-time opportunity at U1. I need to keep all my options open.

Oh, and I know that the subversive aspect is only in my head. There's no way to really "subvert" this cruel system. I wish. I will just keep trying to ride it as best as I can without falling of this "boat" that I'm not even exactly in! In the end, I'm not really a pessimist, am I?

* you may have noticed that I decided to be more vague about this person. I should probably delete older posts that are almost inappropriate. ;) And again I get panicky & think I need to delete all photos of my face from the blog. GAH... I hate to "take back" anything I've posted here. In fact, I have very rarely done so.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Overcoming Writer's Block from Infrequent Posting

I blog in my head pretty much all of the time, ;-)  but coming here and actually posting sometimes seems to be so hard! I started a post several days ago, but the thought of selecting the photos to include was a bit overwhelming, so I put off posting.

I thought of writing a post titled something like "I want my husband back!" or "The Grant Stole My Husband" or maybe "His Work is His Lover" -- which is actually how we often jokingly refer to his discipline -- "she" (all sciences are grammatically feminine in Portuguese) is K's lover and sometimes he spends way more time with "her" than with me & his sons. Sigh... That post would be boring, though, and only complain about how for the past 3 weeks K has worked from 8 or 9 am (when the boys & I are often getting up at 10 at the earliest) to 12 am every day except Friday night to Saturday. So, I'm just mentioning this here in this "catch-all" phost.

He is submitting the grant on Monday morning, though, so it's the final stretch. Then, he has to finish this side work (that pays nicely on the side too) of rating the university evaluations with another person (it's "secret" stuff that I'm not supposed to know about or look at!!) that ends on Wednesday -- I thought it was CRAZY of him to volunteer for this extra work precisely on the week he needs to submit the grant, but he thought that over 1.5K was needed & not just desirable. Sigh...

OK, the grant part of the post is over and now... I have to confess that I haven't been very productive as I knew I wouldn't be. And in the post I (badly & hastily) wrote about the "dreaded summer tasks" I forgot to mention a couple of major things that need to be done, such as emptying and de-frosting the deep freezer -- aaargh! and, pretty important too, finishing re-staining/sealing the deck (I just thought of that one today when I walked out there and saw that the parts that K didn't stain last year are beginning to peel).

And I can't even finish this lame post... because I have to go to a good-bye party in the park for a friend who is heading to medical school tomorrow. Another reason for the blogging hiatus is that I have been spending time "diving deeply" into Brazilian music via a journalist's blog that I found. I will probably talk more about that later here.

P.S. and I intend to post photos of my garden. Including before & after of last Friday's weeding session that left me with several itchy poison ivy spots in my arms. So I've been marginally productive with the garden/yard. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

45 Years Ago Today... parents got married! I hope that in 5 years we can have a wonderful celebration for them with the whole family for their 50th wedding anniversary!

I posted one photo here back in 2009.

Sunday, July 14, 2013


Back in April I went to a conference in Rhode Island and one night, as I talked to my friend in her hotel room, we heard some noise outside and went to the window to look out in the street at the back of the hotel.

It was a very small, but very organized protest against the Trayvon Martin murder. Mostly African American young people wearing hoodies and screaming for justice (we opened the window to hear them better) at 9:30 pm on a city street that had no traffic at that hour.

I told my friend that I was glad to see the protest (though saddened by the murder), especially at how it was bringing young people together. Then we went down for a late dinner. I didn't think too much more about the case and I even had a pretty "sterotyped" reaction when I saw photos of the women in the jury -- I thought that they would for sure incriminate George Zimmermann.

This evening I had just opened facebook when I saw some disgruntled posts from my African-American friends here and there... "WHAT?!" from my dear (girl) friend, a resident MD in NYC. "F...!" from a blogger friend, and then... more detailed posts from another dear (guy) friend (also a resident MD) from Connecticut. So I headed to CNN and was pretty stunned at the verdict.

And then, ironically, I went and read Fang's great post from a few days ago -- "The Spectacle of Murder" (his discussion on how this murder was politicized is great, BTW).

I don't really know a lot about law, but my gut feeling right now tells me that in this particular case the defense did a really fantastic job putting "reasonable doubt" in the mind of the jury.

I liked what Katie Allison Granju also wrote on facebook: "Our laws should be constructed so as to PROTECT unarmed children walking thru their own neighborhoods from adults with guns, not the other way around." and she also wrote something like (I'm paraphrasing here), "if I were being followed in the dark I might also have punched someone on the nose" and she ends with (direct quote) "No one wins here. No one. The only winner is a badly constructed law that doesn't actually protect anyone from violence."

Also, have you seen/hear of the case Marissa Alexander, a Florida mother (who is African American) who was sentenced to 20 years for firing a gun -- NOT killing anyone! -- in what she alleged was self-defense against an abusive husband? The judge determined that she didn't fit into the same "stand your ground" law that motivated today's acquittal. Isn't that unbelievable?

This continue to be very complicated in this country concerning race, that's for sure!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Back Home!

I'm glad to be back home, even though my husband arrived from the university right before midnight (and our 11 year old was still up, sheesh!) and he has to go back to work early tomorrow.

I'm glad to be home because even if I feel sick like I did in the wee hours of the morning today (I think it was something I ate yesterday and it was very bad, I will spare you the details) I am in my own house and I know where to find a tea to drink.

I'm especially glad to be home because it's "raining cats & dogs" outside and there's lightening & thunder (poor K had to drive in such horrible weather!) and it's the perfect weather to snuggle in my own cozy bed and cheerful green bedroom. Sigh...

SIL & nephews are coming tomorrow so they don't spend the weekend on their own. The boys will have lots of fun, it will just be hard if it rains all weekend long... :(

Let's hope it doesn't, so they can ride bikes up and down the street & we can go to the pool. Above all, I'm glad that during the weekend we'll be able to spend at least 24h with K before he resumes his work on Saturday night or Sunday morning.

OK, gotta get ready for sleep now! (I am already in bed!)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Bowling with our Boys

I'm spending three days at my sister-in-law's house so the four cousins can spend some quality time together while their Dads work hard on K's grant proposal & K2's doctoral dissertation (my BIL traveled to MI for that). Today we are bowling... I'll soon post about yesterday's adventure!

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Productive Birthday!

We started celebrating yesterday with a lovely drive in a nearby park and then over an hour driving to go to the restaurant where I wanted to eat! (with a stop at the Apple stores first for the benefit of "iKelvin," the family's "Apple fanatic" ;-)

The poor boys were falling asleep over the food at the end, but we had lots of fun. We arrived back home at 1:20 am and then spent some time laying down on a blanket in our deck and looking at the beautiful starry sky!

I was awakened by my three boys singing happy birthday & bearing gifts! K bought me a cute & colorful t-shirt and a gorgeous green bamboo salad bowl (similar to this one). K had to work, but he did it from home while the boys were supposed to clean their room and help me get the house ready for friends who were coming later (they mostly listened to music on their ipads/ipods -- one of their latest pastimes).

I took advantage of the hot day to do two smallish loads of laundry (the boys' bedsheets & tons of swimwear) which dried up very quickly and which I brought inside from line drying just before this really windy thunderstorm started with lots of rain! Oh, and before that I also dragged the boys to the recycling center with me where we recycled tons of cardboard plus our usual plastic, metal & glass. It was super hot, but with their help we did it quickly.

We then drove to town where we spent an hour at our local "paint your own" clay place. I'll show you what my rectangular plate & the boys' "tea kettle" tea bag holder pieces look like later (we painted them with the rainbow colors!). After buying some fruit (for a "rainbow" platter!) we came back home where we started cooking (and reheating some of the pasta we had brought from last night's restaurant trip).

Our friends came and we had a good time with yummy foods and fun games. Photos forthcoming!

It was a great day made even happier by the countless Happy Birthday wishes I received via facebook -- the joys of having a Sunday birthday when everyone is online and on fb! ;-)

Thursday, July 04, 2013

My First Hydrangea!

And my first "instagrammed" photo! I hope it'll bloom for years to come! 

I love hydrangeas & I hope I can keep this one blue by making the soil acidic. I also want to plan other ones, but I'll never forget my first hydtrangea plant!

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

They are so worth a $200 vet bill! ;-)

My birthday is coming up and I'm feeling really sad about it

We were supposed to be in Florida for my birthday, but of course it was too good to be true. Sigh... (scratch that sentence, typical "realistic pessimist/ pessimistic realist"[whatever!] point of view).

Well, the problem is that I was looking forward to spending the day with a dear friend with whom I spent so many birthdays with in my teens (we met when we were 13!). I will never forget the surprise birthday party that she, her sibling and some other friends put together for me in freshman year of high school. And the many other surprise birthday parties that we organized together for other friends... Sigh again...

The worst part is that her sibling lives very close to us, but they are no longer really in touch with us  and that's sad.* We always considered them as some of our closest friends.

OK, I can't blog about this, I am going to end up crying, it's no good. I wish there was something we could do, but there is not. And I can't say more. Not only because I wouldn't know what to say (see below), but also because it's a sensitive issue I shouldn't even be blogging about. They don't read this blog, though. And, if they read, at least they would find out how sad this whole mysterious situation makes me feel.

Sigh... there are a few options, I could throw a party to myself, but that's kinda weird and as much as I'd like to do something (rainbow themed!) I don't think I will. My dear wonderful amazing husband is truly wonderful, but it's an understatement to say that he's not good at organizing parties, surprises, events (or even buying gifts, for that matter) and I'm OK with that... I love him the way he is and he does enough for me at it is at home. But it's sad that I don't have friends that can do something nice for me. I love the one Brazilian friend I have here, but this person is pretty unique & overwhelmingly busy with her family (in-law) most weekends.

I have to try to think positive. I have contacted some friends and I know they could come over (even though they have out of town guests)... I don't think we're going out to eat because the restaurant I want & was planning to go to in FL (Maggiano's Little Italy) is too far away and...

... whatever. This is frustrating. And I know it's just because I always want to have or do something special for my birthday, but it just hasn't worked out in the past few years. (several, many, years?)

I know it's just a day like any other, but still...

OK, another pathetic post brought to you by my need to use the blog as therapy. Sorry about that! We'll soon go back to regularly scheduled programing. Promise!

P.S. to compensate, I'm buying several cute things for myself. I will write an upbeat post about that later, OK? ;-)

*we know from family connections that something upset my friend over two years ago, but we can't even apologize because we don't know what we did wrong. I shouldn't be blogging about it, but I need to. I've been overcome with sadness regarding this issue on and off since we found out months ago. At least we don't need to get puzzled & upset that they're not in touch. We know something's up. Sigh... So we don't even call or message or anything so things won't be awkward. In person meetings in church have been cordial, but we haven't seen them in a while.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Those Dreaded Summer Tasks

I actually wrote this on July 1st around 6:30 pm on my phone, but for whatever reason it wasn't published... (I can't believe I didn't have a label for "Housekeeping" or house chores or some such thing... it just goes to show how much I don't enjoy such tasks, sigh...)

I'm here poolside blogging again, look!
Just practice, not a swim meet* thankfully.

Today I'm thinking that since July is here & summer will be over before we know it I need to begin tackling those unpleasant but necessary summer tasks, some of which I haven't done for two years!

Two weeks ago I was getting ready to have guests stay at our home office when I realized that because we got new backpacks for he boys last school year their backpacks from the 2011-2012 school year had never been opened in a year!! I couldn't believe how badly I'm doing!

I need to throw out schoolwork from the last two school years that are stored in four boxes and I need to try to organize the toy storage space (under the stairs), the garage and other storage spaces.

Another disagreeable task is, of course, weeding. I have made some headway on that already, but there's tons more of weeding to do! Sigh...

I wish I could be getting ready to travel to Florida tomorrow as planned, but K's NSF grant application got in the way! :-( sigh... Now I'm scrambling to try to plan something for my birthday... Blah... 

Well, let's hope I can be productive at least! 

* That was a nightmare, BTW, my poor resilient boy is over it, though. I should NEVER ever let him compete knowing he's not good enough yet (as in not really knowing how to swim properly freestyle yet). It was disheartening... He's not competing again until he's had about year of swim lessons under his belt! (My boys haven't had lessons yet)