Thursday, March 31, 2016

Really Hard Decision: Conference & Blogger Meet-Ups

One of the unintended consequences of leaving U#1 is losing my academic conference funding. It was one of the "perks" that I really enjoyed and didn't even take enough advantage of in the past few years when I was working at both universities (given my difficulty with not being able to find substitutes during the regular school year at U#2 & its lack of support).

I don't know what I was thinking when I submitted a paper proposal to one of my favorite conferences (the Kid lit one) without realizing that I wouldn't have funding to go. The deadline to register for the conference is tomorrow, so I have to decide whether I am going or not.

The saddest part is that I had decided to go to this conference no matter what because going there would enable me to meet up two bloggers/former bloggers that I really love (Dawn & Jenna), I was really looking forward to that! :-(

It's a hard decision to make because this trip will mean expenses that I probably shouldn't have. I also wish I could take my parents with me (that was part of the original plan) because they love getting to know new places... or, go with the family to Cedar Point and also visit Pittsburgh (which is on the way), since I've never been there.

Yeah, a hard decision and almost no time to make it. I kept putting it off too... :-(

(I truly hate money, I wish money wasn't such a "problem")

Monday, March 28, 2016

My car hit a bird! :-(

And I'm so, so sad! :-(

I could see its wings flailing desperately in the middle of the road through therearview mirror. I don't know if it died or not, but it probably did... :-(

First thing in the morning too...

I'm upset. May the rest of the day be better. For me, you, and everyone we love. 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Busiest Craziest Semester

We are horribly busy this semester. It's all kinds of overwhelming! Sigh...

And soccer season just started (practices, games in a week), I don't know how we'll survive the next six weeks! My dear parents will arrive precisely when classes end for me and K and the craziness subsides -- good for them!!

K is teaching three classes instead of his regular class, so he has extra preps, an extra night class and no free time of any kind. He just had two back to back conferences and we're still recovering. So, what's the best way for recovering than to have ten people come visit for the weekend?

We had 8 come in 2014 and it was a record, but this will blow the previous record. BIL's family is coming from Montreal (can't wait to see my "baby" nephew!) and a childhood friend of mine is coming along, with her husband and three children. To top it off, my BIL who live in Egypt is defending his doctoral thesis today (YAY! Good for him!) in Michigan and will come tomorrow. I know it will be great, but it's not easy to juggle this with having to teach today and tomorrow.

Oh yeah, and our boys have their Spring break next week! :-( I suspect they will spend a lot of time playing Minecraft and -- good thing for my poor teen who has slept SO little in the past month --
hopefully getting lots of sleep. (He wasn't here last weekend -- he went to a robotics competition in TN and before that he spent a lot of time preparing for it with his team).

Well, Spring is here and I should rejoice that it's only six more crazy weeks!! (technically 5+ finals)

Thursday, March 17, 2016

And now he hates the collages ;-P

So, remember the graduation photos? I spent a lot of time, stayed up really late and finally I have 10 photos now, but 4 of them are collages (I got PicMonkey to work on another browser and it's awesome!). But back to the collages... One has FOUR photos, another one three, and two have only two.

However, Kelvin says that he hates collages...


I'm inaugurating a new label right now: Teen Years.

Oh man, I have eight long years ahead!

I'm sure we'll find a compromise, but I'll have at least one of the collages, the patriotic one, with him wearing the same shirt, at three months and three years old:
And here are some of my favorite smiley photos from 7-8 years old. Oh, how I love this boy of mine! The top two were taken in Massachusetts in April 2009, bottom ones: left, Philadelphia Zoo, Nov. 2009; right, Longwood Gardens April 2010.
It's because of photos such as these that I never really cared for having professional photos taken...

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Chaos in Brasil! :-(

"What's gone wrong?" is the link bait in the BBC's website for today's article "Brazil corruption: Is the government in crisis?"* Lots has been going wrong in my country, for several years now. :-(

Sunday night I opened my facebook account and was inundated, overwhelmed by photos and video of friends and family, including my brother, his wife and two young children, all dressed in green and yellow, on the streets, protesting. Millions of people took to the streets. They want the president (Dilma Rousseff) to be impeached and tried for huge corruption scandals and last Friday, former president Lula (José Inácio Lula da Silva) was questioned by the police about this involvement with the same corruption scandal.

Well, today, Lula was nominated as Dilma's chief of staff, ostensibly so he can get away from the indictment that a judge in my home state of Paraná is trying to bring against him. People are disgusted and upset and are taking to social media again to voice their discontent. Again my FB feed is inundated with tearful eyes with the country's colors, and other signs of outrage.


I hope that justice will be done, I hope corruption will be curtailed, but it's very hard because Brazilians (in general) are used to "easy" and not always legal and legitimate ways of getting what they want. It's hard to have hope. We'll see what will happen.

* nerdy comment: didn't know capitalization in British English was like in Brazilian Portuguese materials.

14 years in 10 photos - Hardest Task EVER!

For 8h grade graduation I have been charged to choose ONLY TEN, out of thousands upon thousands of photos of my first born son.

How is that possible? I take way too many photos of my gorgeous kid! (I know, modesty is NOT my forte, sorry! And note that I didn't say "gorgeous photos," which only very very few are).

I am already trying to "cheat" by creating at least three collages to add a few more photos, and that's how I found out the really nice online photo editor fotor. I am also trying to use PicMonkey and it seems amazing (and oh, so helpful in answering my questions about pixels and print sizes, thank you!), but so far I have been unable to save the only collage I made, all I see is a monkey blinking at me in the center of the screen! :-P

Here's one of the cute collages I made with, I am titled it "curly angel boy":
These photos were taken in 2003 & 2004, the one year old (nearly 1 and a half) looks baby-ish and the two year old is much more grown-up looking.

I'm spending way too much time selecting photos! Sigh...

Monday, March 14, 2016

March Torture (Revisited)

Every March, for almost as long as he's been in graduate school, with the exception of a few years, K goes to his national conference and when he goes, it's a hard week of single-parenting for me. He's been to so many places! Seattle, LA, Madison WI, Baltimore (several times, including this year), Portland OR (where he got me my favorite mug!), the list goes on & on...

I'm whiny tonight, upset that my husband will be gone from tomorrow to Friday, so I decided to look back to past months of March in the blog.

On my first year as a mother of two (2005) I was in Brazil when he went to his meeting and the following two years my parents were with us, so I didn't have any trouble. In 2008 he didn't go (it was the fateful year of the big-pharma job) and I was dissertating, with my parents living with us again for a few months until my defense & commencement. He had to skip 2009, with nothing to present, having gone back to academia & being a post-doc only six months earlier.

I wrote a quick blog post in 2010 about single parenting for a week & a humorous one about my son not missing daddy (I was cyber-schooling the boys back then, so I'm sure it was intense, but OK), I was glad when he returned & thankfully we had a house-guest, so I didn't have to wake-up the boys to take them to the airport in the middle of the night.

I think K didn't go in 2011 & 2012 (not having enough results to present, being fairly new in his tenure track job). In 2013 the kids had Spring break so they stayed for part of the week at my brother & sister-in-law's while K was at the conference in Baltimore (he may have stayed at his brother's house, I think) & I stayed home alone & went to work. That worked out great!

I don't know about 2014 -- I didn't mention anything about him going to a conference in the blog, but I did last year I mentioned him going to the conference (in San Antonio, TX -- literally a week after his uncle had moved away from that city to Tunisia!) in a post titled "Academic Single Parenting" & I rejoiced when he came back in a snowy night.

Well, I can't wait for Friday night!

Wednesday, March 09, 2016


My son turns fourteen today and I'm happy that he's growing and maturing by leaps and bounds! He is such a joy to be around, whip-smart, funny, easy-going, even-tempered (for the most part, particularly compared to his younger brother), and now -- new and improved edition! -- very responsible* and excelling in school. He is friendly, but quiet, and enjoys working in the background (e.g. this week his class is doing skits in school and he volunteered to take care of the sound system). He is also so hard-working! He is involved with multiple after-school activities: bell-choir, robotics team, and soccer, in addition to having piano lessons, and he has been handling all very well.

Last night I wrote some of these things for his online high-school application and I felt happy that he is so prepared for this milestone in his life and he's looking forward to it so much. I think that one of the things that helped him is that we are supporting his hobbies, particularly his YouTube channel (if you click you can see a time-lapse video of Kelvin and I moving a bookcase from one room to the other). We bought another monitor, a graphics card for the computer (as he explains in much detail at the end of that video), editing software, etc. and we allow him to use his free time to record and edit videos. Some mornings he gets up at 6:30 to spend sometime working on his channel before school. I am a firm believer in supporting their interests, especially for a child like him, who needs to be interested in something and motivated in order to thrive and to focus.

This year he didn't get an actual gift like last year -- I didn't get to blog about it, but we ended up completely surprising him with a WiiU on the very day, using some Best Buy gift cards we had, plus some old birthday money Kelvin had with us (he agreed after the fact). However, a few weeks ago he bought a new phone (a Samsung Galaxy S6 Active -- it's waterproof!! The phone itself is a case!! Battery lasts A LOT!!) and that was partly a birthday gift. And yesterday we bought him these fun slippers:
We started a tradition a few years ago, I make an Oreo vanilla ice-cream cake and bring it to his class in school and they LOVE it! So I did that for the last time (sniff, sniff) today, since I know I won't do that stuff when he's in high-school, right? :( And... we're going to have dinner at Olive Garden! I think it will be a nice birthday!

* He has always been very intelligent, but 7th grade was challenging because his attention issues (no official diagnosis, but my therapist and I are pretty sure that he has ADD like me, sigh...) :-( and his inflexible teacher (who did NOT accept any work late, no exceptions, no excuses) caused some lower grades. The teacher hasn't changed, but Kelvin has learned to deal with it without complaining or much prompting from us. It's incredible. Even my therapist cannot believe his turnaround, given that I spent a whole year stressing out about my son and jointly diagnosing him. ;-)

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Bad Girl!

I've been a very bad girl, not flossing my teeth as I should, so, last week at my cleaning & check-up dentist's appointment, I was told I have four cavities and that they need to be filled.


All my fault, of course!

So today I went in to have the first two cavities filled. Not fun at all, and there are two more to go. Sigh...

Needless to say I have a new resolution and I hope I can take better care of my teeth in the future!

Pay Day*

Yesterday I finally received the check with my payment from the "never-ending translation project" that took me a year and a half to finish. And, coincidentally, last week we had finished paying off the very last credit card debt we had from getting money to buy our Prius back in 2014. That means that this 8.5K is ours to do whatever we want and we are debating what to do.

One thing we decided (unrelated to this payment) is that we are buying a cheap/in good condition mini-van and selling it again after we use it with my parents this summer. I hope we'll be good with getting rid of it, but I have a feeling that maybe K's parents and brother may want to help us out and have us keep it so it will be a car that they can use when they visit. If it were an 8 seater it would be amazing because we could actually travel with brother-in-law's family! But I have a feeling it will be hard to find one of those, they are hard to come by. We'll see!

K's dad can't believe that we have two small old(er) cars and won't invest in a larger, more comfortable vehicle, but we don't mind his criticism -- it's what makes sense financially for us! (We have a Prius that I use for my mega-commute and last year we had a friend returning to Italy after 8 years in the U.S. and we bought her Hyundai Elantra that had very low mileage, less than 60K! And we sold our little uncomfortable Hyunday Accent that had NO air conditioning [Canadian car] and only two doors!).

This payment took so long (I sent the invoice in December and emailed them a few times after that, never hearing back) that it's almost anti-climatic, but it does feel good to be helping my family even more! I'll let you know more about the car purchase when we decide what to do!

* I MUST disclose that saying this would send Brazilian kids into fits of laughter, because it sounds just like the verb conjugation for "I farted" :-P

Thursday, March 03, 2016

A Tale of Two Universities or... Why the Mixed Feelings

I need to write at least one more lengthy post about this before I can put it behind me and (try to) move on, so please indulge me (if there's anyone still out there reading, that is!). :-)

I am attempting not to give too many details and to discuss general issues pertaining to my work at both places. (if you're curious to know more, just email me and I won't mind sharing more details). I have already written lots in the past four to six years, so for old time readers, not much will be new. I also want to write this to help sort through my mixed feelings in this moment of transition from "bad" to "less bad!" ;-P

U#1 has its advantages, even though they are pretty "minimal." The department gives us contracts every semester, but the renewal is indefinite into the future (why would they want to change that? Cheap labor, abundant!). As you may know, I had a yearly full-time contract at U#2 for the past four years, but renewal was not a given and it was a veritable nightmare in 2014. No benefits on the first and benefits on the second.

At U#1 part-time faculty members (a really really messed up definition, since some "part-timers" in this dept. taught 6-8 language classes -- maybe not anymore, I know some recently turned "full timers" are teaching 6/6) are eligible for all kinds of professional development opportunities, many of which are compensated and provide amazing opportunities to network and grow professionally. I took advantages of many of those and did very well.

However... all this "development" just led me nowhere, really. I often was the only person, or one of a few, who was non-tenure track faculty at these things and that was hard to bear. Some of these felt like a waste (maybe of time, more a waste of my talent & a lack of recognition from THEM or waste of their money too...). 

U#1 also funded me 100% to go to one conference a year. A perk that I suspected existed because they saved so much $ on teaching, that the budget allowed for it, or maybe not enough people did go to conferences (?!)... I don't know. I never asked, I just gladly took the money and went! (Obviously first went, then got the refund).

So at U#1 I mostly pretended I had a real job and was allowed to act like a real academic (including going to "departmental meetings," designing & implementing new classes, organizing student panels in the annual conference, etc.), but it was all very not real when looking at the pay and ridiculous semester by semester contract.

At the other place, for one year I was "in charge" as the only person in my area, then they hired a young(er) person (I had applied too, but, nah...), and for a year I still felt mostly ok. Except that the other full time adjunct faculty and I were clearly not considered equals as compared to faculty. Of course it's because of the type of institution, but this week I understood better what the problem is. It's what I explained in my first disgruntled post this week, we are supposed to "know our place" and stay there. And now it's official.

In all fairness, the dept. is actually trying to provide us all with FUTURE funding to go to conferences, but we don't have any now. I could say more, but maybe I'd reveal too much. As for What Now?'s question, yes, I have friends who support me, all of us are in the same boat. All we can do is to commiserate together. 

But there is no hope, really. One my office mates was denied tenure at an Ivy League school years ago, and the dept. chair has no clue of that and keeps reminding office mate of the "advantages" of not being tenure track (sigh...). The system is what it is and what I described earlier this week. It's pretty much take it or leave it. Change is NOT forthcoming, the New Faculty Majority multiple initiatives notwithstanding. In certain situations, there is NOT "strength in numbers."

Let's hope I'm wrong! And do you see now why I've been responding very unenthusiastically to any congratulations I've received on my long-time in coming three-year contract?

Sigh... (and I still need to share some other things that upset me regarding these issues a few weeks ago, I don't know if I'll get to blog those)

I really don't see how the situation is ever going to get better. The worst part is that I have a feeling that once one gets a TT job, one moves to the "dark side" and can't help but defend one's own position. I often have a hard time talking to my husband about my situation. He understands, but he is still part of the system/ "dark side." And once more I end a post without finishing it properly, but it's just because there is no "end in sight" for this situation...

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Salt in the Wound, Poison in the Veins/ Academia: Sciences vs. Humanities (Literature, Languages, Cultural Studies)

They've been building up momentum for over a month, my bitterness and discontent, informed by years and years of resentment (well documented here in this blog over the years), but after yesterday it all exploded in my head.

Conversations with colleagues that left me with a heavy weight of nervousness in the pit of my stomach. Official communications from the department, surreal conversation with colleague. All boiling up in my head like a cauldron with a bitter potion.

I know my system will slowly clear, but right now, it hurts, because too much salt was rubbed on the wound; there is poison cursing (pun intended) through my veins.

I think I'm most stunned by the (very late) full realization that in fact, in the humanities, academia is a war, unfair, brutal and soul-sucking.

In the sciences, collaboration is crucial -- most important for experimentalists, but even for theorists, who need the experiments to validate their theories. I have been closely following my husband's career for almost 20 years. You begin by working at someone's lab (sometimes as an undergrad, but more often as a grad student) and when you finish the degree, you also work as a Post-Doc in charge of projects at someone else's lab again. Until after getting a job, you can run your own lab. And even then you still collaborate with former colleagues, current and former students. It's a web of collaboration, a machine with many parts that moves slowly, but surely forward. And these relationships can actually be quantified and visualized in number of citations, who cites who, etc.

In the humanities, however (particularly in languages, literatures, cultural studies, and related fields). Each of us works ALONE. Of course it's not in complete isolation because we still need to read the works of others and "interact" with them, but the greatest likelihood is that the "big names" we cite won't ever read us or ever even hear of our work.

There are too many areas, it's impossible to really be visible (take the MLA for example, it's a jungle, it's ridiculous), so we "speak" to nobody really, and try to make our mark uselessly.

It's a field heavily populated by white males and even though they need to hire the "token women" or "token minorities," I believe that white males still call the shots. This may change, but I don't know how, really.

And yesterday I realized one more layer in the conflict and the bloody war -- people in the humanities are even MORE isolated because they are afraid of each other, they are threatened by each other.


and fortunately, I ran out of steam and will publish this half-finished. Maybe it's good that my motivation to write about this is waning. I guess the poison is getting diluted, the salt is slowly washing away. I'm sure I will have more to say soon.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

New (Brazilian!) Colleague

Last year, my husband was very upset when his closest colleague and collaborator at the university decided to leave for another university where his wife was also offered a tenure track job (he was already tenured, but left anyway). 

One of the reasons that upset K the most was that he felt that maybe he/we may need to do that someday in order for me to have a job I'm happy with. That problem is still up in the air, but apart from ther, he sorely missed his colleague and hoped they'd find a good replacement.

From the moment the dept. decided to open the position, K contacted M, a Brazilian scholar who works in a related field, to let him know that the position would be open. M interviewed, and was unanimously (a first on this department!!!) chosen to be offered the job. 

K was delighted, but worried that M might not want to come here (his wife was unable to visit the area and we wondered if she's want to live here). Today K was told that his friend M has accepted the job and he is thrilled!! I hope M and his (American) wife will like the university and the area!

Kind of relieved

I can't vote yet. On the one hand, I really would love to support whichever Democratic candidate ends up being nominated, but, on the other hand, politics has become so crazy that it is scary!

I also think that we wouldn't have become citizens in time to vote this year, so I am not beating myself up for not having done it. We really couldn't afford it right now. 


So I will just watch from the sidelines once more!