Monday, November 30, 2009

A day in the life of Lizzy and Hamlet

This looks a lot more ferocious than it really is. Lizzy and Hamlet are pals and like to play rough -- a lot.

Walking Lizzy on the first day of hunting season

As someone who prides herself in looking "espic espan," as my grand-aunt would say in Spanish, in all of my professional endeavors, I was glad no one (except my poor husband) could see me this morning as I set off into the nearby trails with Lizzy.

It's the first day of deer gun-hunting season (sunrise to sunset) and my small college on the hill issued an e-mail alert that anyone walking its trails should wear bright clothing and stay away from areas where hunters might be shooting.

It turned out that my favorite trail abuts an area that hunters have used in the past, so we had to content ourselves with the muddy low-land areas. The bright clothing recommendation was initially a quandary since most of my cold-weather outerwear is black, but my husband recommended wearing an orange T-shirt over my parka. Problem solved.

Still, that meant that I looked like an obese female version of the Michelin Man. My husband also chuckled when, on top of that unattractive get-up, I donned my leopard-print rain boots and my black winter cap. No, I wouldn't have won any "best-dressed" awards this morning. And I surely didn't look my best, but at least I felt a little safer as Lizzy and I embarked on our walk with the faraway shots exploding through the cold morning air.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Out on a walk before sunset

This view reminds me that there is magic all around us, if we only bother to look.

One of my favorite winter sights are the planes cutting a white line on a winter-blue sky.

My husband ran ahead of Lizzy to get this great shot. She's very focused when she's on the prowl.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Who knew?

Today we went to my husband's best friend's house for a second Thanksgiving feast that couldn't be beat (we went to another friend's house on Thursday). We've been to my husband's friend's place several times but I never knew the fascinating history of what is now an upscale suburban community.

That was until we drove by Africa Road and I said something like "That's unusual...," thinking of the predominantly white and obviously well-to-do community around us. That's when my husband drove us to this sign, that he'd espied here during one of his visits to his friend.

Someday, I'll write a novel about this buried history, I thought.

First snow

Thursday, November 26, 2009

To be grateful

The concept of Thanksgiving Day may be hokey and may promote an outright lie (that the Puritan pilgrims were inordinately generous with the indigenous peoples they found -- for the true story, read Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick). But I love the idea of devoting a day to being grateful. There is a special humility in thankfulness that is worth cultivating. (Of course, I also don't mind all the turkey and the mashed potatoes and the cranberry sauce and the stuffing and the pumpkin pie...)

This year, I miss my abuela who, when she would no longer leave her house to celebrate the day with us, always expected us to bring her some dark turkey meat with all the trimmings. I will miss my family, all of whose members are scattered far and wide, and I will miss cooking up a storm with my sister, as we did the first year my husband and I had arrived in Ohio. During that Thanksgiving, my nieces and nephew played outside in the mountains of dry leaves in 73-degree weather and then they sang for us after dinner. It was unforgettable. (That was also the Thanksgiving that I caught pneumonia and had to send my sister and the kids back to Maryland for fear they would catch it!).

This Thanksgiving my new house will be quiet and empty, there will be no delicious smells coming from my oven or stove nor will there be boisterous nieces and nephews running around the house, chasing the cats and being chased by Lizzy. Instead, we will go to the home of friends and appreciate their generosity in including us into their family for this day.

This Thanksgiving I am grateful for it all, the good and the bad, the easy and the difficult, the happy and the sad. Without shadow, the light wouldn't seem as bright.

This Thanksgiving I am fully grateful for the life I am privileged to live. I'm especially thankful for my parents, my siblings and their luminous families, the good friends I have had for many years and those who are newer in my life, and for my furry children. I am also grateful for my beloved profession, for my students, for my colleagues, for the place where I live and work.

Especially, I give thanks for the man, who, more than 15 years ago, decided to cast his fortune with mine and who has kept his vows, through thick and very, very thin, and with whom I still can laugh and be unreservedly myself, which is mostly a good thing but sometimes not so much. A man whom I admire and respect and love even more deeply than when we first got married.

Ultimately, I am grateful for all the love there is in my life. For the love I receive and the love I am able to give. This is a true privilege and a blessing and I am humbly thankful for it all.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Days for cats and dogs

These are days for cats and dogs in this house. I'm on break and feel my time stretching like a cat instead of constricting like a boa, as it seems to do during work days, and the whole family appreciates the more relaxed atmosphere. Unlike on work days, I'm not impatient or annoyed or racing to get somewhere. Of course, I'm grateful to have a job I love but I'm also immensely thankful (and at the appropriate time, too!) that I get a respite from its intensity.

That more relaxed schedule has been very evident for the past two days. A trip yesterday to my stylist for a long-needed and postponed haircut and then on to the mall for lunch and some shopping at my favorite store, Talbot's (including not one, but two stops at Starbucks!). And a trip to the university district for lunch and a movie today. Tonight, I re-watched several episodes of Little Dorrit and I'm tempted to get out my Pride and Prejudice tapes from the hall closet and re-watch them for the twentieth? hundredth? time.

Since Friday's start of the break, Lizzy and Hamlet have been enjoying more attention and when they managed to sit next to each other as I finished my Little Dorrit session I called my husband to take the sibling portrait above. Hamlet was leaning against a cushion cover my sister-in-law gave us a long time ago, which has a black cat pictured on it, and it's hard to tell where Hamlet ends and the cushion cat begins. Curious Lizzy had to get her nose into the lens and made us laugh when we saw the picture. It's so Lizzyesque.

Meanwhile, my determination for this Thanksgiving break is to make the most of it and enjoy the kinds of things I don't get to do during the semester. That includes reading a new novel, Wolf Hall, which is in no way related to my scholarship or my teaching (full disclosure: I'm also reading The Haunting of Hill House for my class next semester), and watching HBO movies (yesterday I caught the Keanu Reeves re-make of The Day the Earth Stood Still, which probably ranks as the worst movie I've ever seen even when I didn't see the whole thing). I've also watched Bride Wars and parts of Marley and Me, movies that you couldn't have dragged me to the theater to watch but that are fine when there is nothing else pressing to be done. Or, let me be more accurate: there are things to get done but they're not due tomorrow or the next day or the next.

I am so grateful for having this gift of time to recoup and recalibrate and recenter and I will do this time justice. In fact, my plan is to juice this time until it's given up its very last drop. Tomorrow morning: To the gym I go!

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Lizzy kind of day

Today was Lizzy's kind of day. She got a long walk in the morning and then our friends let us borrow their black lab mix, Pepper, for an extended play date. Watching the two dogs spend time together is a lesson in friendship.

Of course, ending up all slobbered on and dirty, the way Lizzy finishes the play date, isn't ideal, but the two love to spend time together and they make the most of it. I especially love watching my husband join in the fun and throw a ball or two so the dogs go wild with joy (and chase each other endlessly).

Today was definitely a dog's day, in the best sense of the phrase.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A two-day trip to Oberlin

For a long time I've been wanting to visit Oberlin College in Ohio, because of its historical importance as the first college to accept both women and African Americans in this country. I finally got my chance this weekend when I attended the meeting of a multi-college committee I serve on, and a Student of Color Leadership Conference, at which I moderated a panel on the retention of students and faculty of color.

My husband came with me since he also was curious about the place and we were able to get a great house and pet sitter and left Lizzy and the kitties in very good hands.

Apart from the meeting and the conference, we also got to have breakfast at our favorite place: IHOP. I remember the times in Puerto Rico when we would drive from our house in Guaynabo to the IHOP in Hato Rey but then it closed. Since there are no IHOPs in Central Ohio I'd practically forgotten all about it.

That was until I saw an IHOP commercial on TV the other night and my husband, without betraying his intentions, found out that there was one near Oberlin and drove us there this morning. Those scrumptious buttermilk pancakes were quite the treat!

Spending a day or so in Oberlin reminded me once more of the a-historicity of the opposition to Affirmative Action. As I remind my mostly Anglo students, we need to consider that Harvard College, which opened for white, propertied men, was established in 1636. Oberlin College, which was the first institution of higher education to open its doors to non-whites and women, was established a little less than 200 years later.

How can groups of people make up for 200 years of being actively excluded and prevented from benefitting from and participating fully in the intellectual life of nation? That's one of those questions that visiting a place like Oberlin should make us think long and hard about.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The taken trail

This is what most of my and Lizzy's mornings look like when the weather cooperates. We didn't get the day off for Veterans' Day but we got a great looking day for our early morning walk. And, more often than not, that's plenty.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

It's a good day...

when Lizzy can see her shadow, and when, after our morning walk, her tongue is already half out her mouth by the time we made it back home.

In the afternoon, Pepper came to play. Lizzy was so mugrosa by the time Pepper left that we had to give her a full bath.

All in all, I'd say it's been a good Sunday for Lizzy. And, thankfully, not a half bad one for us humans, too.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

November views

For my papi, because he wondered:

This is what November looks like around here.