Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tentative days of spring

This morning, Lizzy and I took our first walk in weeks on the muddy trails, and we were both delighted (well, she more than I, who am not a fan of mud). At one moment, the loud gobble of a wild turkey fascinated Lizzy and she stopped in alert but gave up when she couldn't figure out what was making the sound.

Later today, as the evening was turning to night, and after I had chased her (to her delight) around the yard, she carrying a large stick in her mouth and me laughing and panting at her antics, we sat quietly on the deck to watch the fall of evening. The spring peepers are a pleasure and a group of geese flying above making a ruckus was the only sound interrupting the settling quietude.

Lizzy, disappointed that I wouldn't let her run to chase off the deer eating on the other side of the fence, settled down to watch their every move and to fantasize about how fast she would run if I let her and how many deer she would scatter because, albeit her small size, she's ferocious (or likes to think of herself as such). (Lizzy and I are very similar, indeed.)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Signs of spring

The Goldfinches are molting from their drab grays into their luminous yellows. What a sight they will soon be!

Let sleeping cats...

Friday, March 26, 2010

The last snow of the season


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Happy anniversary, Life!

Today it's eight years since the life-saving surgery that gave me a second chance. That illness-free time has been an incredible blessing for which I am humbly grateful.

Happy days

Our furry children, these days.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spring has sprung!

That's the phrase my husband has been repeating almost every day since our return home on Thursday. And today it was evident in the purple and yellow crocuses that have sprouted merrily around our little pond and in the 67-degree weather that allowed us to open a few windows and spend time both on the deck and on the porch, reading and enjoying the warmth and the promises of spring. We even turned on our long-stilled water fountain for a while!

This Sunday has been a blessed one of rest and homeyness, when I decided not to go to the gym or to the office but to stay still, at home, and to actually take it easy, for a change. While I did class-related reading, it was done in the most pleasant way of all, sitting leisurely outside, enjoying the chirping of the birds and the spring-bearing sun.

Tomorrow, the semester starts anew and I already have two meetings scheduled in the afternoon and students lining up to see me during my evening office hours. While I was able to grade 71 papers during break, there are still 100 pending to grade, and 42 more that come in by week's end. There are also senior exercises to comment on and two letters of recommendations to do before April rolls around.

Still, now that the weather has turned for the better and winter is but a bad memory, I can look forward to six more weeks of school and then to blissful summer when there will still be lots to do but mostly at my own pace and on my own time.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Mi isla bella

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Isla verde

After returning from California very late on Monday, March 8, we had two days at home before we took off again, this time to Puerto Rico to visit with my parents. We've been here since Thursday, March 11 and return home this coming Thursday.

We've had wonderful weather and after staying for a few days at my titi Eileen's small apartment in Panorama, where we've stayed before, we are now at the Verdanza, which used to be the Holiday Inn, but has been recently refurbished under local management. This is the view from our window on the sixth floor and the sun streaming through our windows, and its warmth, is simply delicious. My very generous mami is treating us to two nights at the hotel for which we are very thankful.

A few minutes ago, my husband went off for a run on the beach and I'm going to leave shortly for the fitness room to work out at the treadmill. I'm going to try to be more consistent with my visits to the gym for what remains of this semester since I'm a much happier person when I exercise regularly rather than allow my busy life to interfere with my commitment to taking care of myself, first and foremost.

In the meantime, I have finally whittled down the 171 papers I have to grade over break to 144, and hope to reduce that staggering number some more in the days to come, especially on Thursday when I'll have a three-hour layover at the Detroit Airport on my way home. The flight to Detroit also is longer than the one to Atlanta (where I will never stop again after Thursday's 11-hour ordeal) so, thanks to my beloved mini Acer, I hope to get a lot of work done then, too.

Every year I pledge that I will assign less writing to my students, but every year my students comment in their evaluations that they find my classes challenging and that they become better writers thanks to all the writing I assign, so I have, once more, erred in their favor rather than in mine. However, this can't be the case next semester, when I'll also be teaching three classes but will undergo my pre-tenure review. That's no time to be overwhelmed with grading so I'll have to re-think, once more, my assignment load although I'm afraid that I just don't see how to reduce it without compromising my pedagogical goals. Oh, well. I'll just have some thinking to do over the summer.

The fact is that it's no fun having so much pending work during what is supposed to be break, but I guess that is part and parcel of working at an institution such as mine, a job for which I am very grateful. Still, I've also been able to do some reading (albeit class related) so I hope to start the last six weeks of the semester somewhat caught up.

In the meantime, I will enjoy what remains of our time in Puerto Rico by making the most of these gloriously warm and sunny days. I'm eager to be back home with Lizzy and the kitties but I wish I could take the weather, and the calorcito de mi gente, with me.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

California - Days 6 and 7

Saturday, March 6, 2010

California, Day 5

After five days in California inside a window-less hotel basement, on Saturday night (which was the first we faculty fellows had "off"), my husband and I hopped in our surprisingly cool-looking, rented black Ford Focus and headed for nearby Balboa Island.

There, we ate at Amelia's, a seafood and Italian restaurant that can't be beat. I had the best shrimp scampi I've ever had and the best Italian-style garlic bread. The quaint little restaurant is very romantic and my husband and I really enjoyed our night out, even though it was raining so we couldn't walk around the neighborhood of very expensive-looking houses.

We did walk into a nearby candy store that had every kind of saltwater taffy one could imagine (I didn't even know what that type of candy was!). But I liked the collection of color-filled barrels.

The Anglo parts of Southern California that I saw struck me as tributes to Excess. The amount of wealth that is evident in the housing subdivisions, and in the small, mostly white towns, was disturbing. Especially considering that the state is bankrupt and that so many Latin@s struggle to make it there.

One of the head Latin@s at the conference made a pitch for me to consider moving to California to teach at a Hispanic Serving Institution in the future. But I'm not sure I can see myself living in that environment. Plus, my husband is quite adamant that he's not moving to California anytime, sooner or later.

Still, if the conference results in my being invited to lecture at one of the HSIs that was represented there, I wouldn't mind visiting Southern California again. While some of the Anglos I met were rather rude, most of the Latin@s I came across with were not only fully bilingual in English and Spanish (which was a treat!), but they also were very, very nice.

California dreaming

I arrived in Costa Mesa, California, on Tuesday for the fifth national conference of the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education where I've been participating as a Faculty Fellow. The conference, which ends today, is attended by upwards of 300 Latin@s involved in higher education in the United States. I don't think I've ever seen these many Latin@s together in one place, even when I was regional director for Puerto Rico of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

For me, in addition to getting used to the jet lag, it's meant balancing my surprisingly busy responsibilities as a faculty fellow here (mostly in mentoring fellow junior faculty and graduate students and attending long plenary sessions), with being available through e-mail to the 42 of my students who have papers due later tonight.

Since Tuesday, when I arrived, and despite the three-hour time difference, I've read and commented on 26 drafts of student papers. That's half of the students enrolled in those two classes, and that doesn't take into consideration the drafts and outlines I looked at before I came to California. What that has meant, though, is that any and every free moment I've had here, and there haven't been many, was spent reading and commenting on student drafts. I finally finished with all the drafts last night at 10 p.m. California time, which is 1 a.m. our time. I hope my students appreciate the effort.

The ultra-busy conference schedule has meant that I've spent all my time so far in California, which I'm visiting for the first time, inside of a hotel, except for a brief sojourn into the daylight a few days ago when the faculty fellows went together to an El Pollo Loco (a Mexican-style fast-food franchise here) to grab a quick lunch that wasn't factored into our schedules. But once the conference comes to a close today, my husband and I are taking off in our rental car to find a nice place to eat and to do some sight-seeing around this area.

A highlight of the conference came today when I met with the chair of English at New Mexico State University, who had read my scholarship and gave me great feedback and encouragement.

Tomorrow, after a two-hour breakfast session for the fellows, I'll be finally free and then my husband and I take off in the car to San Diego (forecast: rain), where we'll be staying overnight at a nice hotel in Coronado (but not the famous Hotel Del Coronado!). I'm really looking forward to finally starting my break and everyone can be sure that I will NEVER again attend a conference of any kind right before or during Spring Break.