Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Day is here

My best rather unexpected present this year was a Fiat 500 Pop in Verde Azzurro. My beloved Scion, which had more than 149,000 miles, had had the "check engine" light on for a while so my husband took it to a nearby mechanic here in Bexley, after our mechanic in my college town couldn't figure out what was wrong. The second mechanic found several things that needed to be fixed and that would've cost near $1500. Thus, we decided, given the age of the car and the fact that it needed major repairs, that it was time to consider a new car.

Still, I wasn't excited at all about paying $20,000+ for a car of any kind (makes me uncomfortable to spend that much money on a piece of metal, even if it is the piece of metal that makes it possible for me to work an hour away from home), or with the prospect of having a huge monthly payment for three years. Still, last Sunday we went to test drive a Ford Fiesta, which seemed like it had what I wanted (hatch, 5-speed manual transmission, bluetooth, etc.) but the dealer didn't have the right color or a stick-shift model of the hatchback on the lot.  Thus, we moved on to the Scion dealer where I bought my erstwhile car in 2006, even though it was closed that day. There I looked at the Scion iM, which has my initials, as my husband pointed out, but it seemed too large for me and, again, expensive.

My husband wandered over to the Fiat dealer next door and saw this pre-owned, and pre-certified car for $12,900, with about 850 miles on it. That seemed like a good deal so we returned the next morning, test drove the car, and by 1 p.m. I was the proud owner of this cute car for a flat $12,000, including my old car as a trade-in. Gotta say I was impressed with my husband's negotiating skills, and with the Bob Boyd Alpha-Romeo and Fiat dealer. I love my new year-old car and, best of all, we didn't have to get into debt to pay for it.

Thankfully, I've had this week and next off from work, which means I've been able to spend every day and night at home, something that has become a rarity since July, when I started my administrative job (this past semester, I spent 41 nights [or more than a month!] over in my small apartment by the College. I've definitely loved being here in Bexley for a whole week and look forward to the same next week. In this time, I've been able to send off my revised chapter for an edited collection on Atlantic Studies that will be published next year. I've also been working on my book manuscript, which I have promised myself I'm finishing over the next week or so, come hell or high water.

Yesterday, on Christmas Eve, the weather was so mild that we took Lizzy for a walk on nearby trails of Three Creeks Metro Park, one of our favorites.

This morning, I went to the Christmas Day service at the nearby Episcopal Church and the rector, a woman, remembered me from having attended her Easter service a few year's ago. She even remembered I was a college professor. The sermon was lovely, as was the service, and now I'm back home to spend this Christmas Day doing a little bit of book work and enjoying a little bit of R&R.

I hope you all have had a lovely holiday!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

December arrives

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Thanksgiving in Cordova, TN!

Traveling 1200+ miles to be with family in Thanksgiving was totally worth it! Priceless time spent together and lovely memories to last a lifetime.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

November sunset

This has been, by far, one of the mildest and most beautiful falls I remember since we arrived in Ohio 14 years ago. Today, the weather was good and warm for November so we took Lizzy with us to one of our favorite metro parks and walked around Turtle Pond as the sun was setting.

I like that it's light when I leave the house early in the mornings when I commute to my small college on the hill, but I hate the darkness that now falls shortly after 5:30 p.m. I know that the days are quickly growing shorter as we move toward December so I have more of this darkness to contend with until the days begin to inch toward more daylight in the new year.

It's almost unbelievable to think that we're already only weeks away from 2016! I don't know if it's a function of growing older but it sure feels like time moves so much faster these days.

In the meantime, I'm really enjoying my new job as Associate Provost and learning so much about higher ed administration, and I'm looking forward to teaching my American Fear class next semester with a reduced number of students (though keeping my own list means I've already inadvertently let in 17 students instead of the 15 at which the department chair and I set the limit).

My book manuscript is on hold since I haven't had any time to go back to it, but I plan to do so in every chance I get from now until Dec. 31st, when I plan to send the revised "Monster" (as I used to call my dissertation) back to the editor. I'm really looking forward to a 2016 without this manuscript hanging over me like the fated albatross of Coleridge's poem...

Still, I've managed to produce one chapter for a collection on the "Southern Gothic," which was accepted and is scheduled to be published this year, and another one of the "Queer Atlantic" that gave me the chance to stretch my wings into queer theory, something that is a new area for me. We'll see what the editors of that second piece say.

Looking forward to a break over Thanksgiving and for the chance to see my family but already, and always, so thankful for everything.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Saturday happenings

Chiquita in her favorite place (my lap) and Hester (the feral cat who lives on our porch) letting me know she wants a late afternoon snack.

Last of the fall

Unfortunately, it was overcast when I took the photo, but this tree in my neighborhood is one of the most beautiful pleasures of late fall

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The best way to celebrate 54!

It took me nearly 13 years since I first started saying I wanted to go there, but we finally got to spend a few glorious days at the Red Mountain Resort in Saint George, Utah, and it was worth every penny. I first heard of the resort when I started my Ph.D. program in Ohio back in 2002, and I first learned about the concept of spa resorts. I don't know why, but this place stuck in my mind all these years and when my husband asked if this wasn't the year to finally make it come true (after my job promotion this past summer), I had to agree it was.

So off we went, with a view of my celebrating my 54th birthday there. He flew to California, borrowed a bike to test and review, and met me in the Las Vegas Airport on Wednesday so we could ride the motorcycle to Ivins, Utah, where the resort is located. When I first met my husband, my suggestion of "an adventure" was to drive to the south-western shore of Puerto Rico to dine at a fancy hotel (which has now, unfortunately, gone bankrupt). My husband likes to tell that story to illustrate how our definitions of adventure were way off. But I think they were pretty well synced this past week.

The ride from Las Vegas to Utah is nothing short of an adventure. There are miles and miles of empty, scraggly desert and impressive rock mountains to view, and then we get to Arizona and pass the stunning Virgin River Gorge, which is simply breathtaking. There were no opportunities to take photographs there but I found this YouTube video online that at least gives you an idea of what I'm talking about. Mute it first because the song is annoying and totally unrelated to the view.

Once in Utah, we made it to the Red Mountain Resort, and quickly discovered the why of its name. The place is a health resort where there are lots of activities (hikes, horseback riding, yoga, etc.) that can be chosen. We chose to hike on our own through their lovely "Imagination Trail," and a little of the nearby Snow Canyon open trails but, mostly, we took it easy. And it was just what the doctor ordered.

On Friday, we got more ambitious and biked over to Zion National Park, which is spellbinding. Its original name, Mukuntuweap National Park, was changed in 1919 to Zion, which definitely doesn't do it justice.

The last morning came way too soon but we will not soon forget what a special time we had among the red mountains. In their honor, I composed a very short attempt at a poem:

Red Mountains:
Nature's Monuments.
Immortal Watchers, who,
pity our fated transience.

imga 10/31/15

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Late fall beauty

This fall has been one of the most beautiful in recent memory. The days have been glorious (not too cold, not too hot) and we've had many opportunities to make the most of the afternoons by taking long walks in different metro parks around the city.

Today, we went to Slate Run Metro Parks Wetland section and, again, enjoyed a lovely time, and the quietude of nature in fall. That is, except for the hundreds of tiny frogs, who plopped in the water each time we walked by, announcing their presence with their leaving. This little fella, though, stayed put and seemed undaunted by my husband's lens upon him.

This week, I turn 54 on Thursday, and while I appreciate the comment of the stranger who said she did a double take when looking at the birth date on my license because she couldn't believe it, I've lived each and every hour of that half-century-plus. And I am grateful for all of it, and excited for what's to come.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Falling for fall

The summer went by in a blur after I accepted a position as full-time Associate Provost, which entailed not only moving from my tiny office to another, larger and prettier one (about as spacious as my third-floor studio apartment in Cambridge when I was in grad school, whose heat source was the oven) but a huge learning curve in terms of new responsibilities.

I'm enjoying learning a lot and really appreciate this new opportunity but it has seriously set back my book revision project, even though I decided not to teach this semester (though I will be teaching my Fear class in the new year). I kept my advisees so I get to see students on a regular basis, which feels good, and I am looking forward to being back in the classroom next year though I will have to see how that balances with the full-time schedule.

A demanding job makes the free time even more precious and rare so it was great that we got to ride the motorcycle to one of our favorite farm markets recently. All will soon close down once we move from fall to winter but, for now, we still have farm markets to visit and locally grown apples and pumpkins to enjoy.

Also awesome recently, at the end of September, was the Supermoon, which I didn't get to see at night, but I did get to see before dawn when I usually get up on Mondays as I'm getting ready to come up to my small college on the hill.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Five years ago today

Wow, it's been a while since I've visited these pages. I guess that Facebook and Twitter have now taken up what I used to do here, which was to keep close friends and family abreast with my life.

However, today is a day to mark, especially, so I'm here again, where my papi used to come regularly (he was subscribed to the blog) to find out what was going on with me. Today, five years ago, my father left us to "the other side of things." He is sorely missed.

I feel very fortunate to have this photograph, which I believe my mami kept. I remember that, on one of his visits to me while I was studying at Harvard, my dad insisted that we should take a portrait. He made all the arrangements, told me to dress up, and took me to get this photograph done. Back then I thought it was my dad being a little weird, like he could be. As a typical 20-some-year-old (I wish I knew what year this was taken--the black plastic bracelets on my arm suggest the 1980s), I was not a little annoyed with this embeleco.

Now, so many decades later, I can't be more appreciative that my dad took the trouble to do this. He knew something I didn't know then (and wasn't that true for so many things?!). He knew this would be something to cherish in the future. For that, and for so much more, I give thanks. Papi, you may not be here with us, but you are always present in our hearts, forever.

Friday, April 17, 2015

A glory of magnolias!

April is that month in Ohio where everything starts to sprout, and when it happens, it seems to happen de la noche a la mañana, or overnight. You go to bed and there's nothing above ground and you wake up and there's all these little signs of life edging themselves up toward the sun. When you live in these parts, where nature dies over the winter, it's revealing to see that the first color of life isn't green--it's red. The first buds, when they appear about mid-April, are reddish in color and later they turn green. It gives everything this crimson aura that signals the pulsing of life within, itching to come out.

The magnolia tree in front of our house in the small city is always a glory. It hits its peak right about now and when the sun salutes it in the afternoons it looks like a radiant, blushing bride, opening herself to a new life. It is simply a perfect tree. Last year, we had a frost in late April that killed the blooms (thankfully, not the tree) and I wept for days when I saw the pretty-pink petals drooping and burned brown by the frost. Thankfully, there doesn't appear to be any cold spell coming over the next few weeks so maybe we will be spared that suffering this April. We can only hope.

The gloriousness of the magnolia tree is rather ephemeral. Probably by next week, when its green leaves come out, it'll lose its blooms and drop them, like a bird molting its feathers.

But, by then, we'll have the tulips in full bloom and my beloved bleeding hearts, which have just started to show their tiny heart-shaped flowers, will bring it on. Without a doubt, spring is really a marvelous time of the year here.

It reminds me that, despite any frustrations or setbacks or doubts, life reinvents itself every year about this time. Life, despite death, is unstoppable. That's a good thing to always remember.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Practicing resurrection

"Holy Week" was always a big deal when I was growing up in Puerto Rico. I remember that it was a long week off when we'd often stay with my great-aunt at her Santurce ground-floor apartment, and binge on movies about The Passion that wouldn't show Christ's face because it was disrespectful. A lot has changed since then.

I'm no longer in the island of my childhood, and my beloved great-aunt has disappeared into the living, breathing void that is Alzheimer's. But Easter is still an important date for me. Though I'm not particularly religious, I make the point to attend Easter service. I now prefer the Episcopalian church near our house in the small city, especially because I love the ability to follow the service carefully through the handouts and The Book of Common Prayer. Last year, I went to Mass with my brother and nephew when they visited, and remember that feeling of being "lost" in the Catholic liturgy, unless you have it memorized. Nowadays, there's very little I can/have memorized so I appreciate the Episcopalian helpfulness.

Today, I got up early (funny how I can't manage that as blithely when it's time to walk the dog or go to the gym) and made the 8 a.m. service, which was lovely. The woman rector (another thing I like about the Episcopalian Church) gave a sermon about resurrection, one that echoed my sentiments this morning about why this day is so symbolically important to me (I'm very familiar with the practice of resurrection).

My husband and I had also invited some good, close friends for a potluck and we had a feast. I made shrimp and grits for the first time, with the grits that my brother and nephew had given me as a present last time I saw them (they know of my late passion for S&G, acquired two years ago when I visited Savannah). The dish came out rather good, if I may say so myself, and the rest of the dishes that our friends brought were delicious. The conversation and the company were great and we enjoyed some time outside, basking in the sunny day.

Yesterday, my husband and I went to Turtle Pond, one of our favorite city parks, with Lizzy and enjoyed a nice, long stroll, albeit in much cooler temperatures.

It's been a perfect weekend, though, some of it devoted to R&R, to spending time with my husband and furry children, to cooking up a storm (which I love doing), and to friends. Investing the same effort I put into my work into my personal life is a very important part of the practice of resurrection.