Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Ignorance is Bliss! ;-)

I just renewed my parking permit for U#2.

I need to park there (after my 76 mile long trip), there's no way around it. I just didn't know how much I was paying to park. Until now, that is.

When I started teaching there I simply drove to the parking office on one of the days of my hectic orientation (I was 2 days late to the week-long orientation meetings because I was returning from Brazil) and signed up for payroll deduction.

Last year parking services sent me an email about the renewal and I didn't even click on the attached form, I just replied saying I wanted to renew via payroll deduction (they gave that option in the email).

So... when I opened the PDF form a few minutes ago and saw that I need to pay $538 dollars to park I was pretty shocked/bummed. I know I've been paying a similar amount for two years (last year it was 516, though, I finally opened that PDF), but still, it's quite a bit of money!

Add to that the monthly cost of gas and that explains a bit why my seemingly respectable wages don't go very far! :-(

And now, every morning when I park I will be thinking of how much I have to pay to do that... sigh... it's just how my silly brain works. "Paying to work" doesn't seem very fair to me. In fact, the article about adjuncts I linked to earlier today mentions something about contingent laborers like myself "subsidizing their students' education*" by providing more labor than we're compensated for (writing rec. letters, going to meetings, etc).

The quote is actually not related to adjuncts' expenses incurred because of teaching, but it still made me think about the costs I have to literally pay to do my job. Sigh...

Well, now I can answer my colleagues when they ask me how much I pay for parking -- as they recently did and I didn't have an answer. I fully enjoyed my ignorance while it lasted, that's for sure!

* full quote:
“Students aren’t getting what they pay for or, if they are, it is because adjuncts themselves are subsidizing their education,” Maria Maisto, president of the adjunct activist group New Faculty Majority, told me. “Adjuncts are donating their time; they are providing it out of pocket."
From Elizabeth Segram's "The Adjunct Revolt: How Poor Professors Are Fighting Back." The Atlantic, 04/28/14

First Free Day!!

I can't believe I haven't blogged for twelve long days!* I don't have a good reason, I've been busy and immersed in lots of things and although I continually "write" blog posts in my head, I actually haven't had time to come write them. Sigh... Hopefully I'll catch up soon!

I'm not "done" yet, but this is my first free day and I'm enjoying it immensely!! I spend about an hour at my sons' school giving this belated birthday gift to a friend (she was traveling on her birthday) -- she loved it!! yay! And then talking to the principal about some issues I find important. Some minor complaints & concerns. Our SUPER AWESOME principal and his family are leaving, which is pretty sad, but I met the candidate they chose as his replacement and I'm thrilled with him. I hope he'll be an awesome principal too.

Then I came home and transferred the load of washed towels to the drier when it was done (I try to line dry most things, but I'm sticking with the drier for towels or they become rougher than sandpaper!). And I spent sometime opening storage boxes in the garage and realizing that I want to free-cycle a lot of things, including some books and since we're having a group of friends over this coming Saturday afternoon/evening, I'll let them take whatever they want and then donate the rest!

I still haven't found what I was looking for (a shower curtain from our previous house -- I'm going to make kid tents like these, but with shower curtains & hooks so kids can actually open and close!), so I have to keep looking in storage boxes, closets, cabinets, you name it! Sigh... but in writing this it just occurred to me that maybe the shower curtain I'm looking for is plastic, not made of fabric, and I suppose that wouldn't work for the tent, would it? :-) I wanted a girl one (I have it already, with flower) and another one more geared towards boys, so the fish curtain I had was perfect! Well, let me look at old photos of the rental house, maybe I'll find out.

In the meantime, I will try to keep on being productive on my first free day! And I hope to do more blogging from now on. Can't believe this is only my 9th post this month. I'll try to make it to at least 10 or 12!

Edited to add @2:28 pm: I found the shower curtain in a box in the garage. It is plastic, but "matte" PVC, not hard, shiny vinyl, so I can use it! YAY!

* I wrote this before posting my "links" post this morning.

Adjunct Revolt/ Tenure Denial due to Maternity & Family Leave

Just trying to keep up with relevant (to me!) higher education online news this week.

First, the extremely personal issue of adjunct faculty and how some adjuncts, dubbed 'poor professors' in the title of this Atlantic article, are trying to fight back. Sigh... It's always very disheartening to read about "my life" in these essays. I like what one commenter said -- that articles discussing adjuncts don't point out a serious problem: the fact that the majority of contingent labor is composed of women, many of them mothers. And that's a good "bridge" into today's article.

This morning a friend linked to the case of the female Professor who is suing UPenn (where my husband did two postdocs) for denying her tenure based on her family-related leaves in Inside Higher-Ed's "Of Motherhood and Tenure." Although my experience is different because I don't have a tenure-track position, I can relate to the essay. I almost faced troubles as a graduate student when I first got pregnant, but thankfully I was still allowed to teach. I shared the whole story in my personal essay "Of Babies and Academic Milestones" which did not become part of the collection Mama Ph.D.

Friday, April 18, 2014


"And talking about our kind of shoes have you seen this one?"

We were in the shoe section of TJ Maxx, and the black flats with the thick ankle strap were, indeed, very much "our kind of shoes." I had never heard my sister-in-law say anything like that before and I was pretty delighted to hear it. "We have similar taste in shoes" the off-hand remark meant, we have something in common.

It was this sentence from M, my third (in order of becoming part of the family) sister-in-law on my husband's side (his youngest brother "K4"'s wife) that prompted me to think about them: the sisters I never had!

I have only one brother, but I have four sisters-in-law!

I've known my brother's wife, P,  the longest (she was six years old when we moved to São Paulo in the mid-eighties), but sadly I never got to spent much time with her -- what with them living in China, then New Zealand, traveling the world, and never visiting! Moreover, when I left Brazil, she and my brother had been together only for a few years and they broke up a few times before deciding to get married. Her brother used to be our best friend (actually, I used to joke that he was more like my "twin," because we have so may things in common), P & I both play(ed) the flute (we played a few duets at a wedding once) and we have curly hair. I think that's about it! ;-)

However, in the past 23 years, since I "acquired" my first sister-in-law on my  husband's side, I've gotten to spend time, get to know better, and to love my new sisters! That's why when I heard the sentence above (not a precise translation because it was said in Portuguese), I knew I had to write this post.

K2 started dating D only a year after K & I became a couple (24th anniversary of that was last week, on April 7th!). She's 5 years younger than me (and K2 is 4 years younger than K), but we interacted some while I was dating and more after I got married. D and K2 got engaged earlier just so that we were able to be at the engagement party before we traveled to the U.S. back in 1996. Their wedding was the reason for our first trip back to Brazil in December 1997 (paid by our parents, since we really couldn't afford it, having just started our graduate programs).

D & I have the most it in common as far as upbringing is concerned. She was born in the same town as my mom in Southern Brazil. In fact, her dad is a distant relative of my mom, born and raised on the same small village as my grandfather. In addition to our common Southern Brazil upbringing we share a passion for cooking. We can spend hours in the kitchen and start and/or finish each other's dishes or meals seamlessly!

In spite of the age difference, we watched some of the same TV programs and listened to similar music growing up, so we have these things in common, and one of my childhood friends is her second cousin. We also spent the most time together because K2 and D moved to the U.S. back in 2001 and we lived only 2-3 hours away from each other for ten years so our boys (her oldest and my youngest) grew up together. So we know each other pretty well and for birthdays or holidays she's given me many lovely pieces of clothing that people always compliment me on.

I can't believe they're gone "forever" (I doubt we'll ever live in close proximity again, but "never say never," right?) and I haven't talked to her at all since they moved to Egypt (and right now they're spending a few weeks in Thailand at a Mission Institute). :-(

I can't believe her sons are going to have the childhood that I thought I was going to have (missionary kid, third-culture-kid, traveling the world) and I know that their unique and amazing experiences will make them drift apart from my sons... Sigh... that's life!

Rene (A):
"Rene" is the youngest of my sisters-in-law, 11 (or 10, I might be wrong in this one) years minus precisely a week younger than me. We met soon after she and K3 started dating when we visited D & K2 in Texas, while K4 was living there for a while and K3 was living with us in Massachusetts (for about two years all four brothers lived in the U.S.!). She was visiting MA when Kelvin was born, so she got to meet him right away with K3. (maybe that's also one of the reasons why she's Kelvin's favorite aunt -- the first one he met? ;-) Two years later, I almost missed her beautiful wedding because my youngest son was born only a week before the big day, but I managed to fly with a six-day-old and made it! It was such a thrill! (and a surprise to everyone, apart from K, obviously)

As the only American, I hope she feels included and an integral part of the in the family. In any case, we all joke that her son is the "most Brazilian" of all the grandkids and she was the lucky one to have the ONLY GIRL out of eight grandkids (the eighth one, and 7th boy, is due this summer). I totally think that she is (and would be) the best mom to a girl of all four of us, though! She's also the most athletic (having run several marathons) and the healthiest (well, not all of the time! ;-) person in the family.

In addition to loving popcorn and cats, we have lots more in common because both our husbands (K & K3) studied and taught the same science and she and I studied language and literature (she earned a master's degree a while back). She is the only person in the family I can really talk to about my work and academic matters. She even read parts of my dissertation! I wish that over the years we'd have more time to talk about our passions for literature and teaching, but I'm thrilled that she has a (sporadic) blog and reads mine!! So she probably she knows even more about me (or more in depth at least) than D. All the writing I do and her always cheerful comments are equivalent to lots conversations, that's for sure! ;-) And I'm a huge fan of her writing and her adventures (she's so much more hard core than me!) chronicled in her blog and sometimes, like whirlwind day-trips [?!!] to Japan or Hong-Kong, in facebook. Thanks for always being there for me, 'sis!

And all that brings me back to M, where I started. M, married to the "baby" of the family, K4 who is, comically, the tallest of the four brothers,* is "a character." Extremely opinionated, pretty, sometimes demanding, in turns energetic and the person who sleeps the most in the family. She speaks her mind so freely that I sometimes joke, tongue-in-cheek (this is a Brazilian saying that may not sound right in English) that if you have her as a friend or in the family you don't need any enemies. :-)
   * (and unarguably the thinnest, at least until now!)

She and I grew up in the same state and she knows all my family members who live in Curitiba, Paraná very well. I was first introduced to her when visiting Brazil back when Kelvin was little, in 2003-04 and always enjoyed how well she interacted with her nephews (she has always loved babies and little kids).

She was a great professional and had a fantastic job in Brazil which she loved -- she was sales rep for big pharma companies, most recently Pfizer. She and K4 were crazy to splurge on a HUGE wedding all paid by themselves with no help from families (the tradition in Brazil is that the bride's family pays for the wedding). [today she says she would have used the money as the down payment on an apartment!] In spite of doing so well in Brazil, in 2009 they decided to immigrate to Montreal, Canada (mostly because it's impossible to immigrate to the U.S.!), not exactly what M wanted to do with her life, but now she enjoys being an immigrant. Their move was great for us because now we could (and can!) see and visit them several times a year!

The visits are short, so we don't interact enough, but M always likes to chat on skype (we do that with Rene & K3 once in a while too), especially when she needs any kind of advice on shopping or other things. She loves to share what she's doing around the house, especially for the new baby's and nephew N's bedrooms. Amazingly I was able to be there to photograph the birth of their son N! And then my sons and I could also be there for N's first birthday party. I probably won't be there for the next baby's birth, but we'll go meet him in August.

M & I love the color green, but apart from that (and our home state/town), we don't have much in common, that's why her unexpected comment about the shoes struck a chord with me. I'm no expert in social interactions, but I feel that identifying with people is one of the most basic steps to building a relationship. K & I couldn't stop talking the day we met because we had a nearly endless number of interests and experiences in common that we wanted to share and we're still talking that way 24 years later.

I'm glad that slowly, but surely, I'm building relationships with my "sisters" and I hope that in spite of the distance, we can continue to interact and become closer. Acknowledging the things we have in common, like shoes, is a good start! :-)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

"I'm Alive" A Song For Brazil's Rainforest - Coming on Earth Day!

"I'm Alive" is project filmed in the Tijuca Forest in the city of Rio de Janeiro by Brazilian musicians Caetano Veloso, Lenine (who recently has become one of my favorites!), Criolo, Emicida (rapper), and Pretinho da Serrinha. Here's the clip, narrated by the Brazilian top-model Giselle Bündchen:

The video was posted last week and I can't believe it has only 8 thousand views! I hope more people see it and support the Rainforest Alliance -- more information here!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

I hate money...

Seriously... I don't have a problem talking about money as much as I don't have a problem talking about my age -- both taboo subjects for a lot of people, the first one particularly in this country, I suppose. As for age, I've gotten used to my indiscreet boys broadcasting out loud how old I am to classmates and friends far and wide (my oldest doesn't do much of that anymore, obviously).

[ridiculously long run-on sentence]: I'm 42 and I should be happy that with my two "jobs" I make nearly 50K a year, so I know I'm doing OK compared with billions of people worldwide and shouldn't complain, but the possibility I'll make way less than that next year, K not having a summer salary, my summer class probably being canceled, and the fact that there's this huge expensive-tickets trip coming up next summer and all of the things I wish we could do added to those we actually need, just make me overwhelmed, stressed, and make me hate money (especially its lack) more than anything.

OK, rant over. I don't want to write more about that. such a first-world problem. such a whiny person. Very very bad! :-( It's just that sometimes (ok, all of the time) I get sick and tired of living a very frugal life which is the only life I've known and probably the only life I'll have so I should just shut up, right?

ok, bye then. (says the ashamed blogger, as she shamelessly hits publish)

Sisters I

This weekend it was my oldest maternal aunt Esther's 85th birthday, so my mom's other sister, Ruth, drove (OK, her youngest son drove ;-) all the way from Curitiba, state of Paraná, where she lives to my parents' house in the São Paulo countryside* (and aunt Esther came too from the capital). Then on Sunday they all drove to São Paulo (city) to celebrate at aunt Esther's house with a churrasco [Brazilian barbecue]. I'm SUPER jealous of my local friend Mimi who happened to be in Brazil and got to meet both of my aunts. I haven't seen aunt Ruth since July 2012... :-(

Here are two photos of the sisters this past weekend (cropped & edited, my mom's camera is not very good):
 Helena, 73; Ruth 81; Esther 85
Their mom, Adelina, lived to be 94 years old, but I'm always worried about them. Especially on how my mom would deal with losing her sisters. (sniff, sniff) In the mean time, each moment has to be cherished, even from a very long distance! I'm actually glad that my friend was there. She shared a special moment of my family's history and she can rub some of it off onto me. Sigh...

* Aunt Ruth's visits are is really always "momentous" because they are to rare!! In all their lives I think aunt Ruth has been to my parents' house only three or four times (and my uncle only twice! He doesn't like traveling much, he's such a character!).

Monday, April 14, 2014

Intrigued: Should I go Gluten Free?

Eating a healthy diet isn't easy, especially when I'm so tired by all my teaching and mega-commuting to feel like cooking. So I'm ashamed to admit that sometimes I haven't been very good about feeding my family well-balanced meals. It's hard enough to try to be mostly vegan at home (when we don't have guests), but lately something else has presented itself and, because of my parents, I'm intrigued.

After reading the Wheat Belly book my parents have gone gluten-free and my brother's wife is not feeding any gluten to their kids. My dad has actually lost some weight and they feel great, so mom and dad have been kind of gently nudging me towards checking this out.

I have friends who are celiac (severely allergic to gluten), so I understand how serious of an issue gluten can be for certain people. I am also aware that parents of kids in the autism spectrum think that going gluten-free benefits their kids (and I know it may benefit people with ADHD too), but I was pretty skeptical of the benefits of gluten-elimination in "regular people's" diets.

I also have to confess that I've been feeling pretty irritated by this whole "gluten-free fad" (as I used to call it) for years now,*  so for me to be even considering it is a breakthrough. It's just annoying to realize the bad timing of this because I finally learned how to make amazing no-knead crusty bread (I promise to post some photos). :-(

I don't like to be extreme or radical in anything (so we do eat dairy once in a while and, much more rarely, fish), but maybe I'm wrong and in order to reap the full-benefits of any dietary choices we should be more strict... In any case, I'm not a big "bread person" so I think I would be OK and not crave it too much (now, not eating rice or potatoes, as the paleos do, I think it's going a bit too far!!).

I'll keep you posted as to whether I decide to give it a try. Maybe it will help me with ADHD, who knows?! Do you have any experience with a gluten-free lifestyle? Please share.

P.S. And there are more recent books like the Grain Brain, by a neurologist who claims that carbs and sugars actually cause dementia, ADHD, anxiety, depression, etc. Sigh...

*and as a believer in the benefits of an animal-products free diet I've been particularly irked by the "paleo" diet)

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Epic Wedding Shower!

I can't resist, I have to post these photos! 
Many of them are a bit blurry because there wasn't enough light to photograph without flash. :(
I edited them and cropped some (a first for me! I never take the time to edit, but I'm learning).

I was only responsible for the drinks, my passion fruit mousse, and helping set things up (thankfully, because I was up most of the night on Saturday with my husband who was making a movie for the shower on iMovie). And I also gave suggestions to the bride's mother which helped her plan some of the decorations. This shower was a group effort, although the bride's mom made most of the decorations and the food. Oh, and I made prints of the couple's photos and put them in picture frames from my house, and prepared a banner (inspired by this one) with the bride & groom's names, but didn't take any good photos of it.
The "Lovebirds" ;-)
aren't they adorable? :-)
The drinks 
(plain water/seltzer water with fruit and punch made with Hagen Daz sorbet)
An overview:
 The Food! (mostly Romanian)
 The Desserts: 
(my passion fruit mousse* is in the tiny cups)
 The Gift table:
Wasn't it a lovely shower? :)
* I make it using frozen passion fruit pulp by Goya, if anyone is wondering, blended (in a blender, obviously) with condensed milk and "La Crema" heavy cream.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Busy: Cooking, Teaching, Writing, Presenting, Helping

Yeah, I've been crazy busy.

Last weekend (Saturday night & Sunday) I cooked TONS of food and drove to U#2 with all that food to perform my "semesterly" ritual of feeding my students Brazilian food. It was tiresome as usual and with some drawbacks such as much lower turnout of students than in previous semesters and uncomfortable feelings because I was busy cooking and cleaning while my colleague was having a good time and talking to the students. I think this is all I'm going to say about that... sigh!

It was lovely to go to my friends' new house for the first time and sleep there, I wish I hadn't gotten there so early, but it was for a good cause (little home improvement project, I'll share at another time! :-)

Then, there was the regular teaching, with a departmental conference added in for "good measure" (ha ha ;-).  Old-timers here will know that I just love conferences, though, and I've been organizing a panel with students every year  for this particular one (except last Spring because I didn't have many students at U#1). This year's panel was just fantastic! I had a former student (who's finishing his master's and will go on to Duke to do his phd in Brazilian history!!) and three current students who spoke about various fascinating topics related to Brazil (don't want to share or else you can google and possibly find me ;-).

I wrote my paper on the fly, downloading (through Google reader for the first time ever) 15 articles on Wednesday night then writing the paper all day on Thursday, including during this poetry panel I participated in at the conference. ;-) I was done for our panel, though, and the paper came together pretty nicely in the end! Phew!

OK, now on to helping, my favorite activity, something nearly innate in me, a trait I "inherited" from my parents and took to even greater lengths (particularly in the cooking department). I spent quite a bit of time this past month helping organize these friends' wedding shower and it'll be tomorrow afternoon. Last night I started making them a banner that looks a bit like this (slightly different colors -- added yellow) and I just finished now! I am responsible for the drinks and I'll make Brazilian passion fruit mousse, but I mostly have to help the bride's mother to decorate the venue.

When it rains, it pours, so tonight we have another shower, a baby shower this time, involving some of the same friends, but I 'm not helping with this one. I'm just really upset that the book I ordered wasn't delivered on time because for whatever strange reason, Amazon isn't selling it (it's Dr. Sears' Baby Book) and I had to order from someone else that didn't offer prime. I paid double for express shipping, but it didn't work out. :(

OK, gotta go pack that present and find out whether I have a ride for tonight or whether I have to drive there by myself!