Thursday, January 30, 2014

Life's Good

I mean, my schedule is truly great, so I'm happy, well rested, nearly non-stressed, so life's GOOD this semester (so far)!

Mega-commuting only three days a week as opposed to five makes a big difference, but I'm blown away by how having a couple of mornings home alone really makes ALL the difference! I was going to write a blog post about that, but now that too much time has passed I have to play catch-up and write a more general post.

I have fewer students -- that's a plus! -- and I know most of them already (this brings the stress level way down). I'm also enjoying the handful of new students I have. One little thing depresses me a bit & I hope to blog more about it later, but I'll say what it is: this may be my last semester teaching a literature class in a long time. Sigh...

Other than that, things are going really well. I have a teaching assignment for the summer and I hope I'll have enough students for my class to go forward. K still doesn't know if he'll have funding in the summer (slight panic about this!) so I really need to teach. If he does get funding my class will help us be able to buy the car we desperately need.

Well... this post is supposed to concentrate on the good stuff, not the concerns or worries, but they have a way of seeping through our thoughts and words, don't they? (especially if you're me :(  :-p  )

OK, It's 10 pm and still need to prepare my classes for tomorrow, so I've gotta go! & I hope to post more often from now on!

Thursday, January 23, 2014


I shouldn't have left you hanging (though I don't think many people still read this in this age of tweets & instagram & yucky facebook -- I still prefer blogging over everything else!) after my last post, but, here it is...

... it's all good! No malignancy! Only a moderate amount of irregular growth which might... or might NOT... have ever become malignant.


I'm relieved and happy and I'll keep going back yearly to check if everything continues to be fine. And start to apply sunscreen daily.

My only New Year's resolution, OK?

Hopefully more later... though maybe not because we're about to have guests this weekend -- in-laws whose departure to Egypt may be imminent... sniff, sniff... :(

Well, thats life. We all need to adjust to change. Even though sometimes I wish the change was in my life, not other people's. I hunger for new things sometimes. It's hard, very very hard to "settle down." Blah...

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


I was actually going to give this post another title (more on it below), but given how last week two journalists attacked a blogger because of this particular subject I guess I'll be careful! ;-)  (here I am again, pretending my blog is of any consequence!)

The day after we returned from our Brazil trip I went back to continue my long-delayed pursuit of medical care. After my first family doctor visit in over three years I was scheduled to go to three specialists: a gastroenterologist, a hand surgeon & a dermatologist and I saw the last one that day.

The doctor examined my whole body and decided to remove one suspicious mole and do a biopsy (I was thinking of using this word as the title of the post). She sutured the small cut with two stitches which I was supposed to have removed today, but due to the snow, I'll get them out first thing tomorrow morning.

I hope I didn't have/don't have skin cancer! My dad had several cases on his face and I know that as long as it's carcinoma and not melanoma, it's not that bad because it can be completely removed and not spread. I wonder whether the doctor will have to remove more tissue if the results are positive, though. Does anyone have experience with that?

Growing up I had many bad sunburns, my last bad one when I was 20 already. Now I know better and use sunscreen all the time when we're at the beach. Now I will have to start applying it to my face and arms every day as well, particularly because I drive in the sun every morning and early afternoon.   It will have to become a habit because I want to decrease even more my exposure to the sun's radiation. I'll let you know as soon as I find out what the results of the biopsy were, OK?

P.S. This is a summary of last week's cancer blogger debacle. Obviously my situation has nothing to do with the blogger in question and I'm pretty outraged at the journalists' criticism. I remember years back when the blogosphere mourned the loss of the "Cancer Baby" blogger. Many people were extremely moved by her experience and grieved her death. I think blogging is a very flexible genre and "blogging death" is just fine. If you don't want to read, just ignore it! Even Time magazine picked up this issue in its cover this week ("Blogging Cancer" is written at the top). I am yet to read the article.

Friday, January 17, 2014

A Week that Felt Like a Year

I can hardly believe that it's only been a week since school started... it feels like much longer.

I'm delighted with my schedule this semester and I think that I have a good chance of being really productive for the first time in a long time! I'm going my mega-commute only 3 days a week, MWF and on the other two days I teach a couple of classes at U#1. The big difference is that I'm teaching in the afternoon (more about that on another post).

After returning from Brazil (I can't believe it's only been 9 days!) the jet-lag is making me go to bed really early (9:30-10, this is incredibly early for me), so I feel more rested than I've ever been! Especially I stopped waking up at 6 am after the third day since we came back. :)

I want to blog more, I want to share photos, but right now I have a house to clean and -- worse yet, I need to cajole two pre-teen boys to leave their ipads and help me! :( My husband, the super-efficient official house-cleaner is in PA where he went to attend a workshop and he won't be home until later this evening.

I hope everyone has had a good week and that you have a relaxing weekend!

Monday, January 13, 2014

First Day Traffic Jam! :-(

An 11 mile long traffic jam is not a good thing on the first day of work! :-( At least, with a smart phone I can know what's going on!

I'm wondering if I'm going to make it on time for my first class and that is pretty stressful. The worst, however, is driving stick shift on a traffic jam…. Especially when it's slightly hilly like it is now...

Wish me luck! I will concentrate on the road now.

Update one: Traffic resumed for a few miles but then it stopped again 3 miles before my exit. And it's a big big hill! We'll see what happens… Have never been so anxious in my life to get over a hill!

Friday, January 10, 2014

My "Mandatory" Activities to Make a Trip to Brazil Complete

Disclaimer: this is a personal list. My husband or family may not agree or care for most items. I am the annoying "want-to-have-it-all" person in this family. ;-)

I will probably have to edit this post multiple times so I can make this list more "exhaustive," but I want to start it while these thoughts are still fresh in my mind!
  • (most important) Going to Curitiba, Paraná to visit my extended family on both sides (this is the city where I spent four years of my childhood, ages 4-8, and all my vacations growing up).*
  • Seeing as many old friends & their children as possible (this time we only saw four+families and that was very sad indeed!). Ideally spending some time (a day or so) with the closest friends and/or staying at their houses.
  • Traveling to Caldas Novas and/or Olímpia (both Hot Springs resort places, in 2009 we went to both!). This time we didn't do it, but the sea water was so warm in Maragogi that it didn't matter! I guess any fun time spent in water (pools or sea) counts here.
  • Grocery shopping for industrialized food to bring to the U.S.: heart-of-palm; pre-cooked corn flour to make corn-based "cous-cous" & some other items. (I did do this, but not as leisurely as I'd like).   
  • Eating at Ráscal, an Italian/Mediterranean restaurant that has an amazing all-you-can-eat salad bar & gourmet pasta that exists only in São Paulo & Rio. --> I haven't eaten there in many years, maybe the last time was back in 2009. (?)
  • Shopping for clothes in Monte Sião, MG and/or for old books in used bookstores in São Paulo and walking around commercial areas in São Paulo. (didn't do those) Going to the crafts fair (feirinha) in Curitiba or shopping for hand-made crafty clothes & accessories in Maceió -- did the latter in a rush & bought nearly nothing.     
  • [to be continued] if needed
Optional, but desirable:
  • Visiting sigh-seeing locations with the kids. We do this rarely (e.g. in 2009-10 we went to visit a second cousin near Brasília -- the capital -- so we took the kids to see the city. I really want to take the boys to Rio de Janeiro and Foz do Iguaçu, two of the most prominent picture-perfect "postcards" of Brazil.

* I went there every time I went to Brazil except two weekend trips and this last trip. K hasn't been in Curitiba since Dec. 2005, if I'm not mistaken.

All is Well With the World: He Came Back! or The polar vortex did NOT kill my beloved cat!

PHEW, what a relief!!

The first thing I did when getting into the house the night we came back (Wednesday 1/9) was going to the garage to check on our two cats, but there was only one there, Quark, Lepton [the one on the right in the photo above an the one below] was gone! :-(

I immediately panicked and began to worry whether he had been gone for a day or two or for many days. I left a voice mail at the cat-sitter's house and waited for her to call back anxiously.

When she did call, I had some answers, but they made me even more upset! She told me he'd refused to come in and had been outside for about a week. She had seen him and tried to get him to get in the house, but hadn't been able to, he just wouldn't come. And she hadn't left food out for him. :-(

Sigh... I spent two nights and a day and a half SOOO stressed out! I couldn't go back to sleep when I woke up at 5:50 am yesterday and today and I couldn't stop going outside from different doors calling his name all the time. Yesterday I'd walked around the bushes in the back of the house calling him too. And I put food out yesterday morning, but he didn't tough it.

Today, late in the morning, I heard him meowing outside, next to the food and ran to the garage to let him in! He looked fine, really really happy to see me, but, poor thing, he was limping on his right leg. It didn't seem to be broken because he touched the floor ever so slightly once in a while with it.

He meowed insistently until I gave him his favorite canned food and didn't stop purring for over half an hour. I kept him in the house with me for a while and then took him to the garage to join his brother who was sniffing him and seemed a bit spooked by what he smelled. ;-) I thought he wouldn't be able to, but Lepton jumped up to their bed by the window. I just don't know if he can jump down because of his limping leg. We'll see.

I'm just so happy he came back! Now I can go back to normal and relax and sleep in the early morning, and not feel sick (my IBS was acting up this morning). I texted our vet (who happens to be a friend) and she said to keep an eye on him and bring him if he seems to be feverish and sick.
What a relief, I'm just so thankful! My poor baby Lepton was outside in "polar" temperatures with no food and survived! Cats really do have seven (in Brazil) or nine lives, don't they?

Sad to be Back

We're generally glad to be back home from vacation, but this time was different, particularly for me (with the added stress of an unexpected reason that I will elaborate more on another post).

It wasn't because of the cold weather although that makes it harder. In fact, thankfully we missed the worst of it (this "polar vortex" the media was talking about) and it will be pretty "warm" in the 60s this weekend!

There are some negative aspects of traveling back that are a problem every time:

1) Seeing my mom cry when we leave and knowing that she'll be crying a lot for the next day or two;

2) The tiredness of flying, connecting flights, sleeping badly in the uncomfortable airplane seats, etc;

3) The delays and the drive to/from airport that are always complicated -- this time we had a 4:30 am flight, but the last bus to the airport from the São Paulo countryside left at 8 pm the night before! So we spent most of the night sitting at the airport and waiting to check in. Then the friend that was picking us up had a 2h delay... sigh... This made it into a 24h trip from my parents' house to ours.

4) Knowing that we won't have our families close by anymore and won't see them for a while.

(5) (only when we travel in winter here) -- 3h time difference that makes for some annoying jet-lag.

But this time there were some aggravating factors:

1) Our stay in Brazil was too short  -- especially because we didn't get to see many friends or visit many places (post about "mandatory Brazil Trip things" upcoming!).

2) Exceptionally, we spent a lot of time with K's whole family and, most importantly, we were at a perfect beach, so leaving that feels like waking up from a wonderful dream into a reality nightmare.

3) Although I saw my brother, sister-in-law* & met their babies, I didn't get to spend a lot of time with them for two reasons: they have young children (2 & 8 months) with rigid sleep/feeding schedules & we weren't staying in the same place. It's hard & sad not to see them often and not to be able to catch up much, if at all.            *I hadn't seen him in over 3 years and her in 5 years.

I think there are a few more reasons, but these are the strongest. The boys (at least our youngest) felt a little sad too -- the vacation was just too good, better than any before, I think I could say!

The hardest thing for me is that I already always live my day-to-day life with mixed feelings of always being "in-between" two countries and never knowing whether I'd like to be here or there, or whether we made the right choice by deciding to stay here. And a "re-entry" like this just makes it all so much harder and angsty! If only my job situation weren't so iffy and angsty to begin with, I'm sure things would be easier. :(

Sorry for the whiny post. I will try to share some glimpses of our trip with you later and that will both cheer me up and make me even sadder... oh well, that's life!

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Quick Airport Blogging - Bye-Bye Brazil

We're about to board our 4:30 am flight to Panama City & then we'll take a connecting flight to the U.S.  We've been at the airport since 10 pm :( so it's been a long night. We won't be home until 4-5 pm tomorrow afternoon. Sigh...

It was an OK day, in spite of the packing, the heat and exhaustion. It's not all that bad to be going back home, but, as I already said, I don't feel like I stayed in Brazil long enough...

Gotta go, boarding is starting now!

Bye-Bye Brazil! (movie & song title ;-)

Monday, January 06, 2014

Exhausted & Sad

This trip was way too short. There are several things that I feel like I need to do in order for my trip to Brazil be complete (I'll try to list them in another post) and I did very few of them this time. :(

It was a long day and I was very wrong to say it was our last day because our true last day was yesterday (because we got to go to the beach one last time!)...

The trip was OK, my parents were waiting for us (it always feels good to have someone waiting for you when you walk out of the luggage collection at the airport). It was a tight fit for me, my mom & the boys and the car my dad used doesn't have air conditioning (it's his old car that he passed on to my brother).

We did stop by a huge mall on our way to my parents' house (partly fulfilling one of my "requirements"), but because of that we arrived home at 9 pm. We need to buy a few more things tomorrow and pack. Sigh... And I'm really exhausted & sleep deprived right now (I stayed up way past midnight and got up before 6 am this morning), but I'm happy that the trip was sooooo good. It's always sad when a really good thing ends, isn't it?

OK, gotta go to bed. My husband is almost done helping my mom use the new laptop we gave her for Xmas. She's having a hard time with Windows 8 and, frankly, both K & my son were too.

We'll see if I'll find time to blog more tomorrow. In addition to the shopping & packing we also need to spend time with some friends. If we weren't so tired we could pack now, but it's all good.

Last Day of Vacation :(

OK, technically, the last day is tomorrow, but I'll be at my parents' house packing and we'll leave at 6:30 pm to take a bus to the airport, so I'll call this the last "24h" period of our vacation. :(

It will be sad to leave K's whole family behind and go to the airport in a little more than an hour -- we fly today too, from Maceió to São Paulo -- especially because it will probably be nearly two years before we'll all be together again.

Next time we'll be "complete" with 10 adults and 8 kids because my SIL (the one married to K4, the youngest brother) is having a baby in July. I hope I can go see the birth or meet the newborn baby in July! (miraculously, I was there to witness the birth & take photos when my nephew was born!.

All right, I need to take a quick shower, have breakfast & finish packing. Our flight is not until after 11 am  (it's 2 hours earlier than the U.S. here), but we need to go early in case there are traffic jams -- the bane of people's existence here in Brazil. :-(

More later!

In 2014...

... I will have a new nephew or niece (maybe we'll find out later today which one it is!), due on July 12, & K's family will be complete with 18 people!

... I hope my parents will visit us again in the U.S.

... K & I will have our 20th wedding anniversary and I hope we'll find a way to celebrate in style!

... My sons will turn 12 and 10, I can't believe they're not "little kids" anymore! :(

I don't know what else to say about the new year, except that I hope things go well for K & I at work (which is really complicated for me, as you know). I don't have any other wishes (apart from health and happiness for everyone) or resolutions -- which you know I don't like anyway.

Happy 2014 for you and yours too!

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Happy 2014!!

This is a belated New Year's post brought to you courtesy of our wonderful family vacation that is about to end in a few hours!

We've all had very limited internet access here at the beach and though we're all feeling a little (or a lot! ;-)  "internet deprived," I suppose that's a good thing!

New Year's day was very eventful for my immediate family, my parents & my SIL & nephew because we went snorkeling in the coral reefs after taking a catamaran from the closest town. It was awesome and I want to go snorkeling again ASAP! (and I'll try to find time to share photos soon).

Then on the 2nd & 3rd we walked on the the sandbanks in our beach (that's actually a lagoon protected by reefs less than half a mile from the beach) and reached the reefs where we found some natural pools and snorkeled again. It was great too, but the colorful fish were tiny and not so plentiful.

We also enjoyed the beach, the family and took tons and tons of photos which we were sharing in between our computers last night.

It was a most wonderful vacation and I'm sad to go back home on Wednesday. I hope to have time to blog more about our adventures, I will try to do that tonight.