Wednesday, November 30, 2005
My parents were still here, my MIL was visiting for the week from Brazil, my BIL and SIL came from Maryland with my nephew, my husband's uncle came with his family from New Jersey (and left for another family celebration in D.C. after the meal), and his cousin and uncle came with a long time friend of ours from D.C. as well. The celebration was a success, I was thrilled that everybody loved the yams with praline that I prepared, and enjoyed everthing else. Of course something always have to go a bit wrong - I was dismayed to find out later that night that the apple cider was spoiled (I did notice it was unusually thick and gooey when I poured it into a pitcher, but I never tasted it - yuck!). No great harm was done, though, only my friend and my husband's uncle drank a lot of it, and the uncle later complained of some stomach pains, but he felt better pretty soon.
Well... after eating the whole afternoon, everyone but me, my mom, and my SIL, started getting bundled up. It was hilarious to see everyone putting layer upon layer of clothing, but worrisome too, because we knew it was EXTREMELY cold! What for? To wait in line all night to buy cheap electronics (laptops, video cameras, video projectors, etc.) in the infamous Black Friday to bring to Brazil. Terrible, I know, but, how else can we afford to travel there so often? (Last year was the first time we, I mean my husband and BIL, did it - and I brought the stuff to Brazil with me in February - it paid for my trip!) . And cold it was (- 5 C, 23 F), with howling winds and a wind chill of -17 C (1 F). Every time I woke up at night when Linton cried or Kelvin needed to go to the bathroom, I cringed at the thought of being outside, but they survived. Some of them have even gone back to Brazil with their purchases already. My husband's young cousin and his dad said they'll never do it again, but my husband, his mom, and his brother are already planning for next year! (My MIL wants to bring a sleeping bag, or maybe even a tent :) Well, they do report that most of the people in line that morning spoke foreign languages. They identified groups (very few brave the cold alone) of Korean, Mexican, Indian, and Chinese people there, and, of course, they were there "representing" Brazil :)
Yes, this Thanksgiving was fun. It was definitely the one I had more family members around, which is very unlikely to happen again... Unless perhaps more people in our family decide to come visit from Brazil only to brave the cold in order to pay for their tickets! I don't think I would do that!
(edited to add:) P.S. I really need to thank my dear friend Nelia (I know she reads this sometimes :) because she once invited us for Thanksgiving at her house with her wonderful family, which made us have an "insider" view of a typical American Thanksgiving. That's one of the main reasons why me and my husband enjoy typical Thanksgiving foods and celebration now. We miss you Nelia!
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
10 Things I'm Thankful For:
1. My wonderful husband, my best friend, who besides being a funny and stimulating person to be with is an amazing father, whom the boys adore.
2. My sons, cute beyond belief, bright, funny, energetic, and also very loving. They're loads of work, but it's all worth it :)
3. My parents, who are dedicating all of their energy to help me right now, and the rest of our family: my only brother and SIL, my mother and father IL, my brothers and sisters IL, my cute nephew and the nephew/niece that's on the way.
4. My dear friends in Brazil and their children. I miss them so much, but just knowing that they exist makes me happy.
5. I'm thankful for the internet, for email, and online "telephony"and IM that allows me to keep in touch with friends and family far away, and the resources that are available online for academic research.
6. I'm really thankful for blogs and blogging, because I learn a lot about some amazing people and their experiences, and feel connected to them. This makes it much easier to be an expat mom and student.
7. Airplanes/ air travel - so I can travel to Brazil relatively quickly (9 hours), as well as to other parts of the world. It's very convenient and not too expensive. (I was running out of things to say and thought of my upcoming trip to Brazil in exactly 2 weeks)
8. The privilege of being able to study. I sometimes complain a lot about how hard it is to complete this Ph.D., but I know that not everyone has access to even basic education, let alone graduate school. (like Dawn says, I think it's healthy to "unpack my privileges")
9. Of course, related to the last one, I'm thankful that we're healthy, have enough to eat and live, have a house, and it breaks my heart to think of those who don't.
10. My faith, because it gives me peace and stability regarding my life and my future.
10 Things I'm Hopeful For:
1. I hope that I can finish my dissertation and defend by next May
2. I hope nobody in my committee gives me excessive trouble when revising my dissertation - that's my biggest fear.
3. I hope that my husband can find a great job when he enters the job market next Fall at a place we will enjoy living (or if it works out at this job I'm applying to, that he can get a job at the same place - there's a job offer in his area too).
4. I hope we can "settle down" a year and a half from now, at the latest, and end our wandering lives as students/postdocs.
5. I hope we get to go to a good place, and are happy there, wherever it is. (I'm really, really curious to know where we'll end up! :)
6. I hope I can make more friends, both now and in the future (where we settle down), because I miss having friends.
7. I hope my sons become good friends to each other, and enjoy being close in age, in spite of their very different personalities
8. I hope I can be a good parent to them. (make that - I hope they think I was good parent one day :)
9. I hope I can have a good relationship with my sons when they're older (I know I'll have to wait for this one after they are a certain age, but hopefully it will work out).
10. I hope I can keep on blogging, it's a lot of fun.
And now... I get to tag some fellow bloggers (this is the "funnest" part! :) . Feel free to follow previous versions of this meme, such as the one I saw at Here in Korea (with "shallow" and "genuine" things you're thankful for), or not do it at all if you don't like it or don't have the time. Therefore, I tag Sophie La Porte, expatmama, Kateri, Jo(e), and a new reader to my blog, Bellarour.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
Sunday, November 20, 2005
Who knew that one little application would be so time consuming? I spent the whole day mulling over the cover letter and CV. And I have so many questions! I have no idea what to do to prepare for an interview, I spent some time reading the interests of all the faculty of the dept. I'm applying to. Even worse - I have no idea of how is the work if I do get to be hired. I mean, grad. school may prepare us to do research, teach, and even apply for jobs, but not exactly to the transition between being a graduate student and a professor. I know the teaching load is HEAVY (4 classes/ 12 credits), but, other than that, what's expected of me? Do I have to spend all day at the university? I know I probably would have to serve in a committee or two... what else? I know, I feel like a CHILD, but are there any straightforward, simple answers to these questions? Blog posts I can read? Articles from the Chronicle? If you do have any clues, please bring them on, because I'm one CLUELESS applicant! :D
I'm pretty "confident" that I won't be hired. Perhaps, just perhaps, I'll be interviewed, because I modestly think I am a good fit for the job. And... the biggest surprise of all! I feel energized by looking at my old syllabi, thinking about my teaching, and about teaching that I can do in the future. It's weird because I've had only negative feelings about these things so far, for several years...
And, I haven't been thinking of how I'd manage with the boys. For a few insane moments I feel like I could try to "have it all," you know... and not "cop-out" even though I don't have an Ivy League education :) So many things to consider, so many things in a mother's mind. I know it's a hard world for mothers out there, I've been keeping up with the discussions on the subject.
Now I've scared myself. Oooh! So, I'll stop here for today, but I'll be back, 'cause -- I've been tagged!! That feels so jolly, really! Thanks swisslovebaby/Stella's mami, I'll be bag to respond to your meme. Promise.
Thursday, November 17, 2005
I'm glad to be a small part of this blogging "revolution".
11D has some great links today too... (I actually got to Goetz' article through her), the piece in the Times about early sex education is fun!
On other news... Dissertation work is not going well this week, because... I have found a strong, powerful distraction. I may apply for a job. There, I said it. I can't believe I said this. (a tenure track job nonetheless). Probably just for fun, but, who knows? It's pretty early, not exactly academically, because I think I'll finish and defend the dissertation before the summer, but as far as my "babies" are concerned. I spent the whole day yesterday agonizing over this. Linton will be only 2 years 3 months at the end of August.
On the other hand, I have been (re)discovering a "side" of me that had been dormant for a long, long time... I find myself thinking that maybe, just maybe it would be fun to teach (mind you, this position is for the subject I like the most, but I won't say anymore for now, OK?), to work, to be a "real grown-up" once and for all. I didn't know I had these feelings, I thought I enjoyed just being at home, lazy me... Oh, well. It's all useless, because this will probably be only for "practice" and not for real. There are several other issues involved, but I won't get to discuss them now, Linton needs me (he still breastfeeds once of twice at night...).
PS Now it takes me almost twice as long to check all the blogs in my blogroll. It'll take a while for me to get used to it, but it's fun to regularly read more people!
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
A while back, after hurricane Katrina, I linked to a post titled "Being Poor" that emphasized how little we know about what the underprivileged go through. Yesterday, Dawn linked to a post and its comments that attempted to come up with a Non-Poor Privilege Checklist that got me thinking again...
It's not easy to live in the "border" between being poor and not poor, and I've been there since I was born, basically. I tell myself that if we both get good jobs and have some more money one day, that I'll never get used to it (I hope I don't, and that I don't forget it's not easy not having much money). One example, related to the checklist linked to above, is that I have not been able to shop in "regular" grocery stores for years (only for items such as soy milk - which they now have at the discount stores, and unbleached and whole wheat flours). I go to those stores you need to bring your own plastic bag, or pay for the bag. I'm forever thankful for the European (German?) chain Aldi, because their products are cheap but really good quality. My "consumer dream"? Being able to grocery shop at Whole Foods :) ( deep sigh...) And being able to eat out more often than once every two months :)
Changing the subject slightly, and talking about the "middle class" mommy wars in the news, this post by Raising WEG was beyond excellent. I totally agree with her that news coverage in this country is all about the interest of the readers and viewers, and not about real issues that we often forget such as last year's Tsunami and how the victims are faring today, as well as Katrina, Rita, etc. I'll never forget this documentary about Noam Chomsky's ideas about the media - everyone should watch it to understand how we are easily manipulated by the media.
Abbat, from Bringing Desta Home also recently remarked on the absence of any news about Ethiopia, and tons of useless reports about a football player.
I guess I just realized that it takes as long to write a "short" post linking to current relevant blogging than it would take to write an "original" post :)
Monday, November 14, 2005
I have learned even more than what I outlined in Part I of my 100 things mega-double-post back in August. I have also learned that compared to other blogs, mine is a little nothing... just a tiny speck in blogosphere. But it is a happy space for me. It makes me feel more alive and connected to the world, even if only 5 or 6 people read it, and if half of those puny 1,000 hits were done by myself :) (thanks Sandra for reminding me :)
Being a mother of young children is very tough and isolating, and being an expatriate mother, who just moved to a new city, with no friends, family of support system, is even worse. Add to the mix a looming dissertation that needs to be finished and you've got... me! Blogging has been helpful, even therapeutic, I'd say. It's been a good year, and hopefully next year will be even better!
I'm marking this day by adding new blogs to the blogroll. I've been meaning to do it for a while, because I need do diversify even more, learn more, while enjoying the blogs I already read in a regular basis. It will be a while before I can "catch up" on those blogs (I usually like to read at least a good chunk of people's archives before adding them, but this time I didn't follow this "rule"). I think it'll be fun!
DH has said he's going to help me personalize the looks of my blog, and I can't wait for that to be done. Even if it's just one of my pictures as a "heading" (like Scriverner's), it'll already be awesome. So, watch out for changes, even though I think it'll take a little while...
So -- Happy Anniversary to me and my blog one more time!!
I think Fall is beautiful, but I have learned to dread it just a bit. I wish I could write good poetry, for I'd write about the beautiful but ultimately devastating fire that consumes all the green things in the fall. Yellow, orange, fiery red... it's a fire that burns and consumes the green my eyes love to behold, particularly against the blue sky.
The hardest thing for someone from a "green," tropical country to experience here (at least for me) is the barreness of Winter. Looking at bare trees for over 6 months is very depressing. Some people actually get sick because the lack of sunlight, thankfully that makes me only sad, but not really seriously depressed.
(I agree that the bare trees do look gorgeous in the snow, or, better yet, glistening in the sunlight after an ice storm, but snow comes to visit only a few times a winter - even in Massachusetts it had been like that in the past few years - with global warming and all, winters are not what they used to be, I think...).
Back to gardening, though. Every fall I feel sad to see the plants wither and either die or become dormant for winter, sometimes I'd have some potted plants in my patio and they'd die too, but this was first the year I actually planted some seeds, and watched them grow (the music from the Broadway musical about one of my favorite books Secret Garden comes to my mind here, I never saw it, but have a tape). And I also planted small flower, tomato and herb seedlings. It's been a truly sad experience to see these annual plants die.
On Friday I ripped half of the morning-glory vine from the front porch, and that was so hard! I know, it's just a plant, it will die anyway, and it's best to "euthanize" it before it becomes really ugly and dried up, but I still felt it was heartbreaking to do it. The plant seems to want to go on living, you know, it tries to keep on growing, even though the new vines are kind of shrivelled, and it does keep blooming. Throwing perfectly good, unopened flower buds in the trash feels strangely wrong to me!
One interesting aspect, a good side of all this, is the harvesting of the seeds - I have been saving the morning-glory seeds for a while, but on Friday I would literally pick those little black specks from the ground, as if they were precious stones that had fallen there...
They are my hope. They will bring these beloved flowers back to me next year, and then all will start again...
I do concede that there is an inherent beauty in the cyclical nature of the more marked seasons of the Northern Hemisphere. However, even though I can "rationally" appreciate this beauty (and I say with certainty that now, after almost 10 years, my favorite season is definitely Spring), I can't help feeling a bit of despair when I see the last leaves falling, or when I see the annual plants dying. And I know, deep down, that in the years of gardening that lay ahead of me if I remain in this country, my faint heart will only get stronger. I do look forward to that.
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
The title is an attempt to counter the ubiquitous statement "I'm not a feminist, but..." which is the title of this excellent post by two peas, no pod, a post that really got me thinking about feminism. I'm not an outspoken feminist, but I certainly am one, and I don't fit any of the stereotypes outlined in Cristy's post either. Saying this reminds me of item number 7 in this post by writing as jo(e). I'm sure I'd get similar comments if I talked to acquaintances more often about being a feminist.
Brazilian men, for one, would be "scared" of me and despise me for sure - not that I'd care. Last September we spent two days with this group of Brazilian friends at a camp, and while I was waiting in line to get my lunch one day, I overheard a guy talking to a friend. With scorn in his voice, he said: "Yes, I think she was one of those feminists." I have no idea what they were talking about, but my eyes must have betrayed my feelings, because in that split-second, the guy just looked at me sideways, and I had a feeling he knew, yes, he must have known I was one of them...
Sunday afternoon, I was working on my dissertation. I’m drafting a history of the Brazilian women writers right now – it’s a difficult history to write and think about, and I had tears in my eyes when I read certain essays and thought about what some of these women went through (if you can read Portuguese, this one is worth checking). And then I remembered one of the reasons why I chose to write about women writers in my dissertation.
It all started one sunny afternoon back in the late 1980s. I must have been 17 or 18. I was taking a walk with one of my best girl friends, and we happened to bump into this guy, several years older than us, who was just an acquaintance. Maybe it was on my last year of high school, because he may have asked us what we were going to study in college, I don’t really remember.
What I remember more clearly, though, was that he asked us what we wanted to do or become professionally, a "what do you want to do when you grow up" kind of question. And – oh how I miss those “idealist, dreamy” teenage years – I answered truthfully that I wanted to be a writer. He turned to me and said: “Oh, so... you’re never going to marry.” Just like that! Oh, how I despised him. No, I actually hated him.
On top of that, my mom also used to say things like that when she was mad at me for being extremely disorganized and spending most of my time reading, writing, and dreaming instead of cleaning my room. She was sure I was unfit to be a wife and mother (at least on her own sense of women’s "obligations" as wife and mother)…
So, I went and became a feminist, of course. Not a very outspoken one, or very preachy… but, nevertheless a feminist. I had endless discussions with my husband (then boyfriend), trying to explain my views… I don’t think it bothers him now (does it honey? :) I guess he just doesn’t like the “fuss” women make about this, even though he fully believes in women’s rights and, as far as our partnership is concerned, he cares for the boys in every way (except breastfeeding, of course) and does everything around the house (he doesn’t like cooking very much – his only weakness ;)
Oh, and that guy, what became of him? You may ask. I have no idea what/how he's doing today, but when I left Brazil, he still seemed to be a very disagreeable kind of person. He'd been married with a former high-school classmate of mine for several years. I think they even had two children by then (1996). I don't envy her at all. By now, she may have done a boob job (I have nothing against boob jobs, you know, not being very endowed in that department :) even though I rationally know that as a feminist I shouldn't be too concerned about how my body looks) .
But why do I suppose that? One of the few things I did know about this guy is that his wife once complained to a dear friend of mine that he kept pestering her and saying that she was not as endowed as my friend (who actually had breast-reduction surgery), and he wished she were. Well, his wife, my former classmate, was a bit of a blabbermouth, but still... this kind of comment reflects a very despicable behavior from the part of her husband.
Friday, November 04, 2005
Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
When I first read Robert Frost's poetry I loved it. Little did I know that years later I would live in New England, go to school in the very town where he lived for several years, even borrow some books at the Robert Frost library at Amherst College where he taught. I do miss New England, particularly in the fall, but fortunately there's a beautiful tree accross the street from my house, and I want to share some of its fall beauty with you...
P.S. Yesterday the wonderful Jo(e) posted about her walk in the woods in the "last nice day" of fall. Today was a really nice and warm day, perhaps our last (though I hope not), and I felt so jealous of Jo(e)!
I couldn't go for a walk, or drive to a park and walk, enjoy the trees, take tons of pictures as I like to do each fall. I had to sit in front of the computer and work on chapter 2. But then, there was the tree across the street. I took a thirty-minute break and while my sons "drove" their push carts up and down the sidewalk in front of my house, I crossed the street and took in the beauty of these leaves, making them last forever in my pictures.
And I thought to myself, "It's not Thanksgiving yet, but I'm thankful for these leaves, for this warm sun, for my beautiful sons walking up and down the sidewalk, for being able to take these pictures, and enjoy this moment so thoroughly."
And I felt good about going back to work, with the added thought that after I was done for the day I had some people I could share these pictures with. And for that I'm also thankful.
(and yeah, site meters are "fun," as Manuela has found out lately :)
I don't know the thousandth (weird word!) person, and it visited for zero seconds anyway, so, Sophie La Porte, you were 999, so the "prize" goes to you!! I'll email you a copy of my dissertation when I'm done (no, I'm just kidding of course, even though I can send it if you want :)
You know, this is a wee little blog, I'm just a newcomer, but I enjoy blogging, reading other people's blogs, and finding my space in blogosphere, I feel truly connected now to so many people around the world ("'Hi there everyone!" Waving and smiling :) And plus, I get to sharpen my writing skills, share my big journey to Ph.D.land, show off my kids, and write about anything I want - it's just great!! (it's also addictive, but I won't comment about that :)
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
But before that, some words about last week. It was not a good one - the two boys were sick, coughing and sneezing a bit. Nothing terribly serious, but on Monday night Kelvin did wake up with a "croupy" cough (I had never heard it before, and I got pretty scared, even called the doctor, even though I read everything he told me before hand in our parenting books of choice, this - our favorite; and that - very detailed and informational, if you happen to be curious) and in a day Linton had a little cough too. But they're OK now, I guess they caught a much milder version of the virus I had two weeks ago. (More recently, I started coughing a bit again, but it's not really bothering me).
What else? I didn't work many hours and didn't produce many pages. As a matter of fact, since I started registering every single hour of work, and number of pages produced, and holding myself accountable to another ABD friend of mine 5 weeks ago (all thanks to this post by Academic Coach from a while back), this was the week I worked less hours.
1) I sent a very "clean" rewrite of chapter 1 to my advisor
2) Received the annotated copy of chapter 2's first draft from the advisor and was much happier with the feedback (not too different but now I know what to expect , or perhaps what NOT to expect, and this time every single page was equally annotated)
3) I spent some time writing emails to my dept chair and also to the advisor, and...
OK, wait, for number 3 to make sense I need to digress a bit.
Two weeks ago I was upset with one more development in the dissertation front. I tried to add another member to my committee (intending to switch her by another member), a professor from Brazil who's now working at a university in upper state NY. She, however, declined, because she's too busy. I was crushed. Little did I know this would open the way for me to get the person I really wanted to get. This is a professor who teaches in Brazil (in Rio de Janeiro) and whose main line of research right now is identical to mine. We had exchanged emails, and I just read and used for reference in my dissertation 2 MA thesis she advised and which were defended early this year. I had not dared to ask my department for permission to invite her to serve on my committee because I knew they wouldn't be able to pay for her trip.
After the failure of my plan B (the prof. from NY), I thought about asking my department whether they would agree to have her serve on the committee if she were already in North-America for a conference, or a speaking engagement, and they said, why not? And even gave me the alternative of asking her to be only a reader, if I couldn't get her to serve. I emailed her immediately, and she responded. Just a few hours later. And (drum roll...) she said yes, she'd be delighted, and that she was coming to Toronto in late May for a conference and she could come to the defense.
I just couldn't believe it!!! Not only the perfect person for my committee, but the incredible GIFT of a defense date, a deadline, a light in the end of the tunnel. So:
3) I have a new committee member, and a defense date will probably be scheduled very soon!!
I immediately started emailing the New Member (her name henceforward) about my dissertation, and sent her some older papers. Her response (after quickly looking at my stuff) already contained meaningful questions, which will probably help me a lot. I'm sure she is just "what" I need: someone who will help me think about the content of my dissertation, and, be able to give me invaluable advice about Brazil, since she is there (I had nobody from Brazil in my committee).
Last but not least, today The Advisor emailed me about my revision of Chapter 1. He said it was my best writing so far, that he was happy with it, and had to do only minor corrections, etc, etc...
In short, he thinks I'm in the right direction, and likes my work. He's usually very positive, but this time I know I did a good job, and I feel much more confident. That's the good part, and I think I finally deserve to give myself some credit. I can do it. I will do it!! I can't wait for this to be over, I can't wait for May to be here. Wow. I still can't believe I'm feeling this way.
But then, I know this whole trajectory is supposed to be like this, ups and downs, highs and lows... I have to live with it (and now I'm starting to dread the next update... just a little bit :)
Let's see if I can post something less boring soon, perhaps a picture or two, OK?