Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Farewell, July!

I've changed the look of the blog after my youngest nephew, Diego, informed me that he found the aesthetics of the blog to be rather wanting. Pretty much in those very polite but firm words. He disliked the black background most of all. Thus, taking his feedback to heart, I've changed the colors to something I hope is at least a little brighter.

As July ticks on toward its sad end, I'm profoundly grateful for having had such a restful time, a true break, this month. And for having felt so well physically after a year of struggle on the heart front. In addition to joining a gym and doing some light stationary bicycling (added to my two walks with Lizzy each day), I've managed to read several books just for fun. These include current "bestsellers," like The Vacationers, The Hundred Year House, and Bliss House, which I'm almost done with. It's been great fun reading not-for-work. On audiobook, I've listened to The Husband's Secret, Mrs. Poe, Still Life with Breadcrumbs, and started on The Good Lord Bird, which is making me laugh out loud. For more serious work, I'm also reading In Cold Blood for the first time, and re-reading Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, both of which I'll be teaching in my new journalism class this fall.

I've taken to heart (so to speak) the realization that unscripted time is a rare privilege to be treasured. I know and hear and read about so many people whose busy-ness is like a compulsion so that they can't (or don't want to) stop long enough to think or ponder or consider. I'll never forget a friend at Harvard in the 1970s who told of his grandfather, an elevator operator in NYC, who never had any time off until he retired in his old age. July, with its blank-slated time, has been a blessing for me and I am deeply grateful that I've been able to enjoy it fully. Once we round the corner into August prepping for the semester and finishing scholarly projects will be the priority.

Just for fun, a work friend sent me a lovely tiara after I mentioned that I'd admired the ones that Princess Diana had during my recent visit to Cincinnati. Now I have my own tiara. "Don't encourage her!" another friend said on FB. Well, it's too late for that. :)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

July, how do I love thee?

July has been a fantastic month so far. In addition to the lovely anniversary trip to Kentucky with my husband, this past weekend my dearest friend K and I drove down to Cincinnati to visit with T, one of our favorite people and oldest friends. We were all together at OSU back in the day. We had a lovely lunch at Melt, which is a fantastic place we love, and then we headed to the Cincinnati Museum to the Princess Diana exhibit.

Though none of us is a "royalist," by any stretch of the imagination, we loved the fancy dresses and shoes and tiaras. The exhibit's "narrative" is interesting, too, because, as K so aptly noted, we go from Princess Diana's birth to her marriage to her being a "single" woman to her death. No mention at all of her divorce and little mention of her sons.

I shared my memory of how, on the night Princess Diana was killed in that terrible accident, I had been on the city desk at the newspaper I worked for in Puerto Rico. I was already home when I turned the TV on and saw the story about the accident. I remember calling the late night editor to make sure we didn't go to press until we had the story on the front page. (Our newspaper already had the dubious distinction of having totally missed the story of the fall of the Soviet Union, likely being the one newspaper in the world whose front page the next day didn't have that story.) Even though I was just the local news city editor, on that night I knew we had to make darned sure we didn't make the same mistake and definitely not under my watch. So that's a night I won't readily forget.

July's greatest gift has been the unscripted time I've been able to enjoy. I am working on my research projects, especially on reconceptualizing the book manuscript, and have started to get organized for the fall semester, which will begin in about a month's time. But I've had what feels like oodles of open time to read for fun, to work out at the gym, and to take the occasional nap, when I get tired. Health wise, I've been doing great, even after stopping one of the two heart meds I was taking a week or so ago. So far, all is more than good. And July isn't even over! Hail to July!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

20th anniversary!

Our 20th anniversary began early on July 4th when we went to my in-laws' lovely hill in West Virginia to visit them and my husband's sister and nephews, and were surprised by a cake and a celebration. That definitely set the tone for what was one of the best anniversaries we've ever had.

On Saturday, we packed up the car and started the drive to Kentucky, where we'd decided to spend our actual anniversary since I'd never been to the state or seen the horse farms or been to a bourbon distillery. I'd heard my husband talk about them after he did a motorcycle tour of three distilleries 13 years ago and this was an easy trip to a different place that promised to be enjoyable. And it didn't disappoint.

In researching for places to stay during our visit to Bourbon Country, I stumbled upon the 1851 Maple Hill Manor B&B, which came highly recommended. I'm often wary of Trip Advisor recommendations since we've had some not-so-good experiences with places highly rated on that site and I heard a story on NPR about how their reviews aren't always true. But we decided to try it and were really happy we did.

The inn, on top of a hill near Springfield, KY, is an alpaca and llama farm, with spacious rooms (we stayed in the Clara Barton Room) and a slow-paced feel that was just what the doctor ordered. The breakfasts were superb, with the "eggs in a basket" were particularly memorable and, unlike in the link, the eggs inside were perfectly fluffy and scrambled. The rambling property invited strolling, taking time to wait for the sunset, and petting the two friendly cats who became our shadows each time we went outside to enjoy the glorious weather and the large patio, which invited us to sit and read and chat and simply be. I decided to take advantage of their call-in masseuse and got a 30-minute neck, shoulders, hands, and feet massage that left me feeling more relaxed than I've felt this entire year. What a treat!

Another highlight of the trip was our visit to the Maker's Mark Bourbon Distillery, where we saw the whole process, from the "white dog" liquor produced from the fermented (yuck) grains to the finished product, which was provided at tour's end in a tasting. I don't like bourbon so I passed but my husband was able to fully enjoy that part of the tour.

We also went to the Lincoln Birthplace National Park and it was truly impressive to see a replica of the famous log house preserved in what is basically a mausoleum. On our last day, and on the recommendation of another couple we met at the inn, we went to a famous independent bookstore in Lexington, KY: Joseph Beth Booksellers.

I love these three-day trips since they're not long enough to trigger my "I miss my house!" reaction. It was truly a special anniversary. Now we're thinking, thanks to my sister-in-law's idea, that maybe for our 25th we ought to return to Puerto Rico, to the place we were married in Guánica. Stay posted.