Saturday, February 26, 2011


This dismal February ended with a trip to Chicago for a four-day faculty seminar sponsored by the University of Chicago, and while I didn't enjoy much about the seminar itself, for several reasons, and the hotel where we stayed was quite dismal (we had to be moved from one room to another because of a non-working heater), I got great news over there and having my husband's company made the trip special, as usual.

Chicago is, of course, a lovely city, especially at night, when it lights up like jewel, and while we didn't particularly care for the lake wind that chilled our bones when we took walks outside, it was wonderful to be so near the water. As a caribeña, I love to see the waves and the lake is big enough to pass for a sea, for someone unfamiliar with the geography of the place. I think that's one of the reasons, apart from all the emotional ones, that I so love Boston. Even when I just land at Logan after flying over the coast, there's a tugging at my heart that only also happens when I land in Puerto Rico.

Once the second seminar session ended on Friday afternoon, my husband and I decided to drive into the city and visit the famous Water Tower Place mall, which is worth the visit (I only bought "authentic" Cubs T-shirts for my sister and brother). Since we couldn't leave Chicago without experiencing its world-famous deep-dish pizza, we went to Giordano's for dinner and had the stuffed veggie pizza above, which looked like it wanted to eat us, that's how huge it was. I only managed one piece but, since we drove to Chicago, we were able to bring leftovers home and enjoy the pizza again once we made it back Saturday.

One thing my husband wanted us to do while there was to visit the University of Chicago's Chapel, which is quite a misnomer, considering that the church is as large as a medieval cathedral. Once we walked in, I was sorry not to have my trusty digital camera with me, so the phone camera had to do, but it barely was able to capture the loveliness of the stained-glass windows, which rainbowed against the frame when hit directly by the sun.

The chapel itself, below, where my husband's sister got married more than two decades ago, is truly beautiful and he tells of how her large wedding (200+ guests) seemed dwarfed in the huge structure, and I can see why.

Being at the University of Chicago made me appreciate, even more, my small college on the hill, and the wonderful support and the collegiality that we prize and practice with each other. There's nothing like going to a place that is ranked "higher" and feeling you don't belong there to make you stop looking for greener grass on the other side of your fence and more actively appreciate the grass in your own backyard, so to speak.

While I was in Chicago, I got the news that I had won a competitive one-year fellowship awarded by my small college on the hill for excellence in teaching, which gives me a year-long leave for scholarship, and I also signed an advance contract for my book project with a press, so 2011-12 will be the Year of the Book. The advance contract only means that I get to turn in the manuscript when it's ready next year, not that they have a commitment to publish it, but it's a good start. 

All I could think of was how thrilled my father would be at these news and it was rough not being able to share them with him. But, of course, I think he knows and probably has had a hand in all these wonderful things that have happened. Thus, while there were some aspects of that trip to Chicago that were not so positive, at the end of the day, there is much truth in the adage that says, "all is well that ends well."

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


This has been a common sight around our house this winter, this migration of a group of six or seven deer, all apparently part of the same "family," who migrate to and fro, in front and in back of our house, in search of food.

Although we've had a few days of milder weather, much welcomed after almost two solid months of rather awful winter, we're back to snow and the warm 50s are but a yearned-for memory. The soul, tired of all the stark whiteness and gray of winter, wants to demand sun and warmth and spring but has no one to take those demands to.

At work, I'm almost done with the process of pre-tenure review, which I must admit has been more enervating than I thought. Having colleagues in the classroom observing, and sometimes more than one, has been a new experience. I usually welcome class observations but, this time, feeling that any small mistake may somehow "count against" me has made it less fun than I previously thought it would be.

At any rate, I know it's part and parcel of the process, and I have been spared having four or more people visiting in one day. But after next week, once the department meets to discuss my pre-tenure review, I will be relieved that this part is over.

My papi, who today would have turned 74, would have told me not to worry, would have expressed his unconditional confidence in me and, as a dear friend reminded me today, would have been so proud, so proud. Still, he is not here and it has been a sad day.

But the good news is that next week is also when this dismal February finally ends. There are many reasons to look forward to March, of course, not just because school goes on break but also because winter must, someday soon, give up its hold on everything and then the deer will be less visible and less hungry and everything around us will be reborn again.

Friday, February 11, 2011


This morning, the sky was so pretty, all decked out in pastel pinks and blues, that I just had to take a picture. The earlier rising of the sun and the later setting counter my already-sick-and-tired-of-this-interminable-winter blues and remind me that Spring does spring eternal, like hope.

My semester continues to unfold in surprisingly manageable ways, even though I am teaching three classes. I also really enjoy the teaching aspect again, feeling that I may have figured out a lot during my time off and, consequently, feel more at ease and in command in the classroom.  I also am appreciating the ability to (finally!) balance my life and my work. Achieving that balance is a personal pledge and I want to prove to myself that I can do it. So far, so good.

I guess this is a good place to be when I'm only a few months away from getting to the half century, and I am blessed that I feel it has been a good half century, full of peaks and valleys, and some very difficult valleys at that, don't get me wrong. But, overall, I am right where I want to be, pretty much, at this time in my life and that's a true gift, I know.

I still have ambitions and projects to get accomplished, and while my husband insists that I've already made it into some kind of Hall of Fame and need not continue "swinging for the fences" (a metaphor I love since, as a child, I wanted to be a Major League baseball player), I confess that I don't know any other way to play than to bat aiming for that next home-run.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The trouble with instincts

My crazy dog, Lizzy, who is a Brittany Spaniel and Australian Shepherd mix, has always had a lot more energy than either one of us, ever since she became a part of our household in July 2009, when we moved into this house.

Later that summer, while still fairly new to our family, and while my parents were visiting, Lizzy managed to almost kill my mom of a heart attack when, in pursuit of a chipmunk, she got her head stuck in a plastic outdoor vent and pulled it from its moorings so she was running around with her head caught in the black pipe while my mom tried to dislodge it, convinced that the dog would asphyxiate.

This past fall, Lizzy managed to get herself skunked several times, while trying to attack a skunk that had entered into our yard through a hole in the fence, which my husband later fixed. It was past 10 p.m. and I let her out for her "last call" only to hear the high-pitched yelps and plaintive barks that tell us she's found a critter she wants to kill. The skunk, however, did not have plans to die that night, and, despite the fact that Lizzy kept trying to charge it, the critter won the fight, managing to cover Lizzy's face and her flanks with the worst smell EVER to be found on this earth. At that hour, and on our deck, we had to hose her down with water and mouthwash, which I found on the Internet was a recommended home solution for skunkings (of course, the mouthwash is not to be used on the dog's face but its body).
Today, Lizzy regaled us with her killer instinct yet again when, in pursuit of some small woodland critter, she found a lair and proceeded to dig herself, waist-deep, into a mud hole. Using buckets of warm water this time, because the hose is completely frozen, my husband and I were able to clean her up enough to let her back inside. Now my husband is going to have to go find that hole and try to cover it somehow so that Lizzy can't go back and do a repeat performance but the small woodland creature can still get in and out.

César Millán, of The Dog Whisperer fame, advises that, when choosing a dog, one should pick an animal that has about the same energy level as its owners. In that measure, at the very least, we did not choose wisely, at all.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Winter of our discontent

While I celebrated the end of 2010, which was an awful year at so many levels, so far, 2011 has been a punishment in the weather department. We've had such unrelenting snowfall that my husband has had to clear our driveway, which is not inconsiderable, more than four or five times in about that number of weeks. It is back-breaking work.

The weather also has been harshly unsympathetic and discouraging for my beloved trail walks with Lizzy, so those have been cut to a bare minimum and only on those days when there is a slight improvement in the weather outlook. Thus, poor Lizzy is stir crazy with cabin fever until she gives up and just mopes, lying on the sofa or the bed with a woeful look.

Then we had an ice storm today and there's more coming tomorrow so, our already difficult driveway that my husband has worked so hard to keep clear, has frozen over like hell will one day and it's a perilous skating rink that now looks like a river of ice.

The driveway was so slippery this morning that we couldn't get my car out so we walked to a neighbor's house, careful to keep to the snow and not the ice so we didn't break our necks or something else in a fall. My neighbor had been able to get his car down his driveway (he lives up the hill, not down like we do) and he was able to drive me to school so that I could teach my classes today. My husband eventually got the car up our small hill and there it is staying overnight so that we have a way to get out of here tomorrow.

 Meanwhile, there's more than 1/4 inch of ice on our deck, which means neither Lizzy nor Hamlet want to brave the great outdoors because all they do is slip and slide on the frosting-thick ice.

Like Shakespeare's Richard III we can say, with conviction: "Now is the winter of our discontent." Spring doesn't even seem possible these days.