Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Year in Pictures

January 2013 began in this beloved old house, our second year of return to life in the tiny city near the capital. The best decision we made in 2012 was to come back to this house.

In February, my husband and I traveled to Savannah, GA, for a conference on the Gothic at which I presented part of my book project. I fell in love with Savannah and hope to return someday.

March roared in like a lion with lots of snow and ice and sleet and cold. In retrospect, it really has been a pretty chilly year...

But April, as usual, dazzled us with its beauties... And it was the month in which I celebrated achieving my promotion to tenure!

May was a month of roses.

We traveled to Annapolis, MD, in June for my niece's high school graduation. It also was a busy month with work, especially the inaugural session of the Summer Teaching Institute that I proposed and co-taught with a dear friend.

July marked our 19th anniversary, which we spent partially rescuing a lost Australian Shepherd.

August was gorgeous, a month of feasting on everything that late summer has to offer. My husband also built the new steps to our patio.  

In September, I decided to learn how to preserve the glorious bounty of tomatoes, peaches, and other edible gifts that summers here bestow on us so generously. This also was the month when I found myself back in the hospital because of my atrial flutter, which got worse in 2013.

October, my favorite month, gave us another Halloween, albeit a cold and wet one, in our beloved house.

For Thanksgiving, we went to Puerto Rico and stayed at the little studio in Isla Verde that served as our home for three weeks in 2011.

For Christmas, my brother and his family visited us here for the first time since May 2005
and we drove up to Annapolis (two visits there this year!) so we could all be together.
Thank you, 2013, for ending pretty much as promisingly as you started 
(despite the few atrial flutter setbacks here and there). 
¡Feliz Año Nuevo!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

¡La familia!


Spending a few days in Annapolis, MD, with the whole family, was a treat, especially the games of "Apples to Apples" and "CatchPhrase" and "Guess Who?" with the nieces and nephews. Lovely memories to end the year!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas joy

This has been a very special Christmas because, unlike most years past, when it's just my husband and me, my brother and his loving family came to visit. Thus, there were many presents under the tiny tree, and Christmas morning was a delight just because of my nephews' and niece's contagious excitement. Even though no one got enough sleep last night, it felt just the way it should be.

Christmas Eve, or Nochebuena, was also very nice as my talented niece helped my husband make his world-famous homemade pizzas. She didn't mind kneading the dough for 10 full minutes (she really loves cooking and is a very good at it, too!).

This morning, as everyone opened presents, Lizzy began to feel a little left out of the action so we had to give her a dog biscuit so she'd feel like she also was remembered.

And then, for our late lunch, early dinner, we cooked up a feast. My sister-in-law made a delicious arroz con gandules, and there were pasteles and hallacas sent by my mom from Puerto Rico, and the pièce de résistance: the traditional pernil, or roasted pork shoulder. I hadn't realized it before but, in a culture like ours, so influenced by Spain's colonial rule in Puerto Rico for over four centuries, it makes sense that pork would be the mainstay of the Christmas dinner table. What more contundente way of showing that you were a Christian and not a Muslim in Spain after 1492 than to have to eat pork for Christmas? This got me thinking about how it would be really interesting to find out when that tradition began to see if my guess is right that it begins shortly after the Catholic kings evict the Muslims from Spain after centuries of their influence there.


All in all, it's been a lovely Christmas and, as 2013 begins to walk quickly to its end, I feel blessed and so happy to have such a wonderful family and to have had at least half of them here for Navidad. ¡Felicidades!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Snowy December

Today is a good day.  Thanks to the fact that I only had a total 24 students this semester, compared to the up to 60 I can have in the semesters when I teach three courses, I was able to keep on top of my grading. I think this also was helped by the fact that I've become much more selective about the amount of work that I give my students, rejecting my "boot camp" approach of earlier, less experienced years when both I and the students were overwhelmed.

I've come to understand that, in teaching writing, process is much more important than product so rather than have students write an endless amount of papers, it's more important for them to draft and revise so they can see where they went wrong in the first place and feel how they've improved. This method has worked very well for my 100-level class and it keeps me sane and much more content, especially when, like today, I'm able to finish with all pending grades and am, officially, done with the semester. The deadline for posting grades is the 30th so I've actually finished more than a week ahead of time. Woo hoo for the unbeatable feeling of being better organized and more on top of things!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, December has been the snowiest in memory with more than 15 inches having fallen in Ohio before today (when winter officially began). The usual number is 28 inches total, so we're already more than half way to the average for the entire season! Of course, today it's 59 degrees out there and the rain is falling as if Macondo wasn't in Latin America after all. My husband had to hook up the sump pump (unbelievable for December) just so we could keep this basement from becoming an underground pool.

Earlier this week, before this warm front blew in, the beautiful moon glittered in the cold, like an ice queen.

Today also marks the day when my beloved husband finished our kitchen remodeling project, which we began in April, when we first met with our contractor to discuss choices. Below is our 1980s kitchen, complete with warped formica counter tops and poorly functioning appliances: from the gas oven that heated things at 75 degrees over the setting to the broken dishwasher whose tray was always wanting to crash onto the tile floor when filled with dishes.

TA DA! This is what the new kitchen looks like today, thanks to my hubby's hard work (he painted in what we chose to be a light gray but what looks like a muted lilac). New discount stainless steel appliances and gorgeous black-gray granite countertops make a world of difference, even when we decided to keep the same cabinets (it cut the cost of the project way down, too!).

And, instead of paying $129 for a new hood over the stove, about $5 worth of spray paint did the trick to make it match the new, functioning gas stove that actually cooks at the temperature it says it's cooking. "It's the best $124 I've saved this year," my husband said.

I always have a lot of "stuff" that needs to go on shelves (yes, I'm a teacher, after all) so we had the contractor build this set of shelves with its accompanying bulletin board to repurpose that useless space in the kitchen. It's a great place for all my cookbooks!

The kitchen makeover makes me smile every time I walk into it, especially since it was principally funded by the blood, sweat, and tears shed from having worked two jobs over five weeks this past summer, something I hope not to do again for a long time. But it sure was worth it and, today, I can hear this old house softly singing with happiness that we're taking such good care of it. 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

December frost

December roared in, dumping more than 5 inches of snow in Columbus this weekend and breaking records. Temperatures, which are supposed to be in the 40s, aren't budging up from the 20s, at best, so this winter is going to be one of those that test our mettle. I think winters in Ohio are getting worse, which isn't a good thing for us since neither one likes or enjoys cold weather.

I have one more week of classes and am expectantly anticipating the end of the semester, as is everyone else at my small college on the hill, I'm sure. This time around, though, I do plan to get my grading done ahead of the deadline so that I'm not having to grade on Christmas Eve, as has happened at least once before. Not that I'm particularly religious but there's something metaphorically sacrilegious about grading during Christmas break.

In our home, everyone is more or less gearing up for the holiday season. We've started taking out decorations (the lighted wreath is up and the colored lights are on the evergreen next to our front door). Once classes end, likely this weekend, I'll put up our tiny Christmas tree and finish the process of holiday-icing the house.

Christmas for me tends to be a bittersweet season. On the one hand, I love the notion of a Savior being born, of hope blazing eternal. But, on the other, there is so much that needs to be fixed in this world, and, seemingly, no way to do so. What's important, though, is to do our part for good and to never, never give up. Christmas is also a perfect time to celebrate second chances and to be thankful, deeply grateful for what we have, especially all the love in our lives.