Morning Walks

The weather has finally gotten better, although it snowed on Monday… again. But it has gotten so hot, it even reached 79 F last weekend. Right now it’s back to the 50s, and we are enjoying it.

Our morning walks are some of my favorite times together, when the four of us are out and about in the neighborhood. Some of us snif, pee, poop, and chase squirrels, while others of us talk and reminiscence while enjoying the cool, fresh air, and sometimes take photos to share with you.

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Aren’t mornings along Lake Michigan pretty? We tend to think so.

Hope you have a Sweet Easter

Did I tell you that I dropped sugar for Lent? I guess I haven’t because I have been MIA again. But yes, for Lent I decided to give up sugar, or more specifically, sugary treats, like: cake, chocolate, ice cream, cupcakes, candy, cookies, and the sort.

So, on Fat Tuesday, I stopped by the Swedish Bakery in Andersonville, and got myself a little loot of goodies.

A cupcake cookie:

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And a couple Paczkis:

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All which I devoured quickly Tuesday afternoon, in preparation for 46 days of no sugar. Do you know what that meant for me? Yeah. HARD. So, we typically believe Lent is 40 days long. Well, as it turns out, it’s more like 46 days, since I didn’t know Sundays were off-days. If you don’t fast on Sundays, because they are days to celebrate, then it is 40 days, but I didn’t know that, so I went off sugar, cold turkey for the whole 46 days, from Ash Wednesday to the day before Easter.

It was hard. I craved sugar every day, until today, the day before Easter. I lost 5 lbs in the process, which is good, but I really think it should have been more. It was harder than just 5 lbs, and those pounds only came off during the last week… so yeah, hard.

But today is the day before Easter, so I went back to the Swedish Bakery and got some more goodies. This time I got another cookie, a tulip:

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Their version of black & white cookies (I didn’t know they made them outside NY):

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And a few truffles (red velvet, lemon and raspberry):

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And Mike and I just finished licking our fingers, after finishing them all up. Tomorrow we will probably indulge in more goodies, as we are off to the suburbs to celebrate Easter with family.

Did you give up something for Lent? Did you do it for 40 days, or 46 days? In any case, it’s over, and tomorrow is Easter.

Happy Easter everyone. I hope it is filled with sweets!

Locks of Love

I thought I’d give you an update on my hair. Not that anyone is interested in anybody else’s hair growth. But I thought I’d show you since I cut it for a really good cause, and by showing you the growth progress I’ve had in 3 months, I might entice you to do the same. Maybe? Perhaps?

This is how my hair looked right after I got it cut. This was the next day, after I had washed it and dried it at home (pardon the crazy face):

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And this is how it looks now, three months after the cut (this was taken last week, with crazy face in-toll as well):

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See? Not too bad, huh? Easily 1.5 inches, if not 2, of growth. Right? Think about it, you will make a difference in some kid’s life by donating your hair, and at the end, it will just grow back. It’s hair, after all.

About a month after I made the donation, I received this from Locks of Love, in the mail:

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You will make a difference, I promise. Just, think about it.

Back with updates on work and health

My gosh, I totally dropped the blogging ball, didn’t I. And the thing is I’ve been thinking about wanting to blog and have all these events I want to share here, but just haven’t had the time. Every time I feel the urge, there is another, more pressing activity I need to tend to, sometimes urgently, and thus I leave blogging to the side. By the time I free up, I’m exhausted and to continue sitting in front of the computer is the last thing I want to do. So I blog in my head. Yeah, no use to anyone, but myself, I know.  The life of the working woman, huh?

In any case, there are a lot of things to update the blogging world on, if there is anyone left reading this, that is. As you know I am back at work full-time. My research leave ended in December, and when the term began the first week of January, I went back to work full force. It seems like I haven’t had a chance to catch my breath since. The courses I was teaching, this winter term, went really well. I loved my students this term and I think that right there made all the difference. Also, I taught a new-to-me course, which meant a TON of preparation before each class, but it was a bilingual education course, the field in which I want to begin to get my feet in, and I truly enjoyed teaching it.

Last week was week 11, finals week, and my students presented their final quizzes and projects. I am now in the midst of grading, which hasn’t been as tedious as before… I’m telling you this term has really been a good one… I don’t want to jinx it though, because the next term begins in a week, and I want to start it with the same positive vibe and mojo as the term I’m just leaving behind. And I really want to take some time, if only a little bit, to savor the positives. Of course there were particular students who tried to be a sour pus. I guess it’s inevitable. But the bottom line is all very positive, and since last year, right about this time, I had more than had it and was in a very negative place work-wise, I think I really need to take at least a minute to savor and appreciate this very positive state.

Aside from work, and being swamped with grading, prepping my two courses for next term, addressing the editor’s queries for my book (expected to come out in July, hooray!), and submitting my annual tenure review, all due by the end of this week, other things are going on as well.

Health-wise, I’m still dealing with my prematurely retired thyroid and it’s consequent weight gain problems. Even though I am watching what I eat more theses days, my weight is not budging. I even dropped sugar for Lent, and thus have spent the past 3 weeks deprived of sweets (oh, the cravings!), and nothing. I’ve gone down a whooping two pounds. So I’m making an appointment to see an endocrinologist sometime soon.

I’m also still recovering from the arm fracture, but doing much better. Did I share that before I went off the grid? I think not, because it happened the 19th of February, and I think I haven’t been here since January, right? Right. Well, one early Wednesday morning, a morning a bit less cold than the polar vortex we have come accustomed to lately, while walking to my car to drive into work, I slipped on ice and fell flat on my left side. OUCH! A few seconds later, I was able to get up, walk to my car, shovel it out of the snow with my right arm only, and drive to work. Unfortunately, the pain in my left arm did not lessen, and by time I was done teaching around 3:00 pm (I was teaching two classes back-to-back on Wednesdays), the pain was unbearable and I decided I needed to have an MD take a look at it.

I should have gone to an orthopedic doctor, but I didn’t know any, so I called my internal medicine doctor, who wasn’t in. There was another internal medicine person who could see me around 5:30 pm, so I went. She thought I needed an x-ray, she thought because of the pain and the fact I couldn’t really move it, it might be broken. But, of course the technician at the x-ray office was already gone for the day, so I would have to come back the next morning. What I really should have done was gone to the ER right after I fell, but I truly thought the pain would go away. I didn’t think I had broken anything, and by Pete, I had to go teach!

In any case, I drove as I could, home and then back the following day, got an x-ray and later that day a call from the doctor saying, yep, I had a fracture and I needed to go see an ortho guy. They couldn’t get me an appointment before Saturday morning, apparently all orthos were booked (I guess a lot of people are breaking bones this time of year), so I had to wait.

The first doctor had prescribed stronger ibuprofen, so at least I had that. When Mike came over Friday night, he improvised a sling for me from a scarf, because I didn’t have anything to hold my arm in place, and every little movement was quite painful. That helped. Saturday morning, during the ortho appointment, he reconfirmed it was fractured, gave me a proper sling and sent me home, saying I needed to come in a week. I was also instructed to try to move my arm as much as possible, without straining it or putting weight on it.

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Did you know that casts are not recommended for adults? As it turns out adults are not as resilient as children, and if my arm were to be immobilized for weeks, once the cast came off I would have lost mobility to the point that not even with physical therapy I would be able to recuperate it. So a sling and allowing for movement, as much as possible, was the best way to go with a hairline, non-displaced fracture in the arm, close to the elbow, as the one I have.

Also, did you know sling in Spanish, is cabestrillo? See all the things you learn by coming here? ;)

It’s going to be 5 weeks tomorrow, and I have recovered a great deal of mobility. I’m not completely pain free, but I only took painkillers the first few days. I used the sling everywhere the first week, only to go out the second week, and after that, not at all. My students were impressed, they thought I had recovered quickly. They were the ones who saw me in pain and holding my arm all through class the day I feel, and then wearing a sling the following two weeks. By week 3, when I was not wearing the sling any more, they thought I was super woman! :)

All kidding aside, I’m glad I recovered mobility, The doctor says I won’t recover 100% of mobility or outward rotation of the arm, but we’ll see about that. He says I won’t be able to stretch it all the way flat, but will always have about 15 degrees of inclination in the left arm, in comparison to the right one. That’s true right now, but I am hopeful it will continue to get better. This is, after all, my first ever fracture because of an accident, so I am focused on getting it back to wear it was, even if I’m over 40 and my bones are not what they used to be… everyone has been asking about my calcium intake. Yet, I am positive that anyone who fell as hard I did, on the cement, would have fractured something too, no matter how much calcium they took everyday.

Not sure how, but this post ended being all about work and then health issues. Not that much fun for a first post back in months. But hey, I’m writing, and hopefully this will set me in motion to come back and share the rest of the other tons of things I’ve been meaning to write about. But for now, this just got way past the length one can sustain for reading a blog post. So let’s wrap it up now, while we are ahead, shall we? I’ll be back with more soon.

No to the negative

I stumbled upon this on Pinterest the other day and got a chuckle from it. But then I thought, it’s so true, and we all need to do this pronto!

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My dad sent me this photo. I’m not sure where he got it from, but I thought I’d share it, because, isn’t Caracas just breath taking? I miss home. I was last there in 2010, the summer before I moved to Chicago. It seems like a whole other life now…

And, we are back!

Happy New Year! And Happy January! I am hoping this year I will blog more often than the previous one, but I’m making no promises. I did go back and re-read the previous post about goals for 2014, and edited it a bit. I apologize for the mistakes. I wrote that from the iPad, and sometimes it’s hard to edit there.

Our trip to Miami was a success. As you know, we headed down by car, with the two dogs in tow. So I was a bit apprehensive as to how that would go. But it was good. On our way down we encountered a storm, mainly rain because it wasn’t all that cold, in the 30s F. We did 12 hours to Georgia, where we stayed over night and then 12 more hours to Miami, arriving Sunday the 22nd around 7ish pm.

A friend of mine was surprised it took us so long to get there. We stopped quite a few times, for food, bathroom breaks, and to walk the dogs as a bit. They were troopers though, really well behaved for two very active pups being cooped up for so long in the car. We gave them a little something to soothe them and help them sleep the first day. But then decided they looked too doped and like they weren’t having any fun, so we skipped the pill on day two. On the way back we didn’t give them anything either and they did well.

Miami was great. It went too fast though. We were there from Sunday 12/22 night to Tuesday 1/2 morning, so 10 full days, but it still felt too short. My sister and her family were there too for Christmas, so we had a full house for Christmas Eve dinner and presents. They then left for the Bahamas to visit Cas’ family, so we had a smaller group for NYE.

Mike and Jen


Us with Dogs 1

(with the boys)

All of us

(all of us before dinner)

Jen Photo Bomb

(me photo bombing!)


(us four)


(with my mom)


(las hermanitas Mata)


(Mis Pelos)


(with Mi Ni)


(with my mom)


(la Mophie and her mom… and Charlie)


(with the grand-kids)

We ate a ton, but I also exercised quite a bit too, so I want to think I compensated. I was determined to begin on goal one (lose 25 lbs) while there, because I knew that coming back it would be hard to exercise outside, which is what I like to do. So I got as many jogs in as I could. But the food, ah the food! We ate out at Versailles (best Cuban food) and Vellagio (great Italian food), and also went to El Arepazo for some great Venezuelan food. You can find mostly all the Venezuelan goodies in Miami, which is always a sweet treat. But most of our eating was done at home.

Regarding outings, we went once to the movies to see The Hobbit, we went to Dolphin Mall and Dadeland Mall for a bit of shopping, I got a mani/pedi (the best one’s are done in Miami no doubt), Mike played golf to his heart content (5 times total), we watched two movies at home family style (The Lorax, with Soph, and Flight with my parents), we had family come visit on three different occasions, and had tarot and Family Feud game sessions too. We stopped by Target twice for provisions, because what’s a vacation without Target, am I right? And lounged by the pool on every sunny opportunity.

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(the boys golfed)

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(this shot was taken by Mike on the course, the first of January)


(a mini extended family reunion)


(the proud parents of the most beautiful baby… cutisimo!)


(second cousins)


(Sophie definitely was the one who enjoyed the pool the most, like always)


(but others enjoyed too)

Pool with Dogs

(we even got Max in once)


(Charlie lived in the pool. Max? Not so much)


(I’m outta here!)


(and here I come!)

We missed going to the Beach and to the Fairchild Botanical Gardens. I wanted Mike to see the butterfly conservatory, but it will have be visited on another trip. We just didn’t have enough time.

New Year’s Eve was a treat. My dad got us tickets to a boat dinner cruise and it was great. It was my parents, my cousin Cory, and Mike and I. We had a great time. the food was delicious, the music was great and the view of the city beautiful. We got to eat, dance, and see the fireworks go off after midnight. Really fun.

Jen and Mike

(all dressed up for New Year’s)


(the New Year’s group)

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(before getting on the boat)

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(on the boat)

On Thursday 1/2 in the morning, we packed up the car again and headed back. This time we stayed the night at Macon, Georgia instead of Dalton, and it only took us 9 hours to get there. The following day, Friday 1/3,  we drove about 8 hours to Louisville, Kentucky, where we were going to stay with Mike’s dad and his wife for a couple days. But as it turns out a snow storm was expected Saturday night, and we feared if we stayed we might get caught in Kentucky and not be able to drive back due to closed roads. So Saturday 1/4 morning, we packed up again and drove back the 5 hours to Illinois.

The snow started falling as we were driving in. And it didn’t stop until almost Sunday night, so it was a good thing we got on the road early and didn’t have to drive under those awful conditions. I was going to spend the night at Mike’s Saturday and head back home on Sunday, so I could get settled in and ready for my Monday class. But we received noticed from the university that classes were cancelled and the entire university (all campuses) would be closed on Monday due to inclement weather. So I stayed, and today Monday, when I should have already been home in the city, I am still out in the suburbs at Mike’s because the amount of snow still on the roads does not make it safe to drive, and it is incredibly cold out there. Hopefully, tomorrow things will clear up a bit more and I will be able to pack my stuff and head home and into work. I don’t teach until Wednesday, but I do have to prep my classes and get everything settled for my early Wednesday morning class. They haven’t said anything yet about tomorrow, I’m thinking everything will resume by then, but I have to go home regardless, because come Wednesday I need to be ready and in the city.

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So there, we came back from Miami to the worst weather possible. It’s so cold in Illinois today that they are saying it’s the coldest high temperature ever registered in Chicago. EVER. Isn’t that crazy? Here’s hoping it gets warmer soon. I hope you are keeping cozy wherever you are, and staying in if you don’t have to absolutely go out. I, will be walking the dogs again soon. The little devils (Charlie mostly) pesters us to take him out, and then when there, wants to come right back in immediately because it’s unbearably cold. Oh well, the perils of the dog human. Anyway, happy 2014 and happy freezing January!

Wrapping up 2013

We got to the end of 2013. We made it! That might be a little dramatic on my part because this year wasn’t all that bad, at least not the second half of it. The first six months of the year were tough. I was swamped at work and even though I felt like I was accomplishing a lot, I wasn’t happy with some of the feedback and reviews I got. I had issues with some students which left a sour taste once the academic year came to an end in June. Again, I let the opinion of one or two influence the way I felt, overall. This will change this year, for sure.

The second half of the year was awesome. I took a much needed month off, and flew to Miami with Sophie. I spent a month not thinking about work (for the most part), and really enjoyed the time spent with my parents. Then, when I got back to Chicago I was in excellent shape to dive into writing mode. And I accomplished my goals: I finished the book manuscript and turned it in by the deadline, I attended two conferences, presented at one of those and turned the paper I wrote into an article I submitted to a journal, I got the review back and resubmitted with the modifications. Pretty good, if you ask me.

Travel-wise, this year I went twice to NY and also Miami, for pleasure. I visited Lisbon and DC for work, and got to know more of Illinois and Wisconsin. I got to spend quality time with both Mike’s family and mine, and saw some friends in NY when I visited. I hope to do more of the same next year.

Regarding goals and resolutions, I am declaring 2014 the ME year; the year I put myself first and stop being little-miss-nice-and-agreeable. Not that I’m planning to turn into a self-centered insufferable bitch, but I am going to make a conscious effort to put myself first and to stand up for myself, regardless of what others think I should do. Or better yet, regardless of what I think others think I should do. That makes sense, right? Right. This year I do only what I think is best, first for me, and then for others. No more sacrificing myself.

For 2012 I wanted to believe, to let go and let God, to feel a sense of assurance that the best would happen if I went with the flow and let the plan unfold. In my review of the year, and preparing myself for 2013, I realized I was living much more in the present and enjoying whatever was, not controlling or wanting to control so much, and I think that holds true for 2013 as well. So I’m considering that a win.

For 2013 I wanted to be happy, I wanted to feel happy and realized it was all up to me. But I wasn’t happy the first six months of the year. In fact, by June I was furious and had had it. But that month off and then the five month leave, did the trick! I got myself back to who I am, a smiley, positive, happy person, and felt oh so much better. So I’m guessing that’s a win too.

Now for 2014 I want to focus on me. Continue to be happy and feel good about myself, and what I say and do. I only have two major goals for this new year: lose 25 lbs and write/publish as much as I can. I want to keep these two goals at the forefront and if/when I have to put things aside because of lack of time, I want those things to be anything else but any actions related to these two goals.

Yet goals don’t accomplish themselves, and it is very easy to fall off course, especially if there is no action plan. So my action plan for goal one is to exercise at least three times a week for at least an hour, and cut down significantly on sugar and carbs. For goal two, I plan to write for 4 hours twice a week (most likely Thursdays and Fridays) and finish/send out for review 3 articles and a couple children’s books.

I have other wishes I would love to see materialize in 2014, but they fall under the category of “let go and let God”, so I’m not going to worry about those. I will focus on what I can control: my eating habits, my exercise activity, and my writing productivity. The rest will take care of itself, when and how it’s supposed to. I’m confident of that.

How about you? How did you fair in 2013? What plans do you have for 2014? Goals? Resolutions? Wishes? Whatever your plan is, I hope it all turns out well, and I hope the end of this year lives up to your expectations. May 2014 be the best year yet! Cheers! And here’s to accomplished goals.

Off to Sunny Miami

And we are off! By the time you read this, early (very early) Saturday morning we will have packed the car and started our long drive south. We are leaving this:


For this:


Because who in their right mind wouldn’t, huh?

We will be with family in Miami for two whole weeks. I might post from there, but I make no promises, because I want to soak up as much of summer as I can before coming back to dreary old winter.

Lovely, sunny, warm Miami, here we come!


I donated my hair to Locks of Love. I’ve been thinking about doing this for quite some time now. But back in July, the last time I cut my hair, it still wasn’t long enough. They require at least 10 inches of hair in a ponytail, and I didn’t have that much then.

I went in today to get a much needed haircut. One, because my hair was way too long and getting in the way too often, and two, because I’ve been feeling like I need a change, a new look perhaps. While sitting in the chair, thinking about what I wanted done, I remembered I wanted to donate my hair, and asked the stylist if she thought I had enough. She measured, and voila! I had more than 10 inches to spare! :) So chop-chop, and in a few minutes my hair went from super-duper long, to a bob.

Here’s a before shot (with and without bangs):

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And then the after shot (excuse the gray hairs, I still need to color it):

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And here’s the hair I am mailing to Locks of Hair, 12 inches! I hope it will make some kid very happy.

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They accept less than 10 inches as well. They just don’t make wigs out of shorter strands of hair; they sell those. But the profits from selling the shorter strands finance the making of the wigs with the longer ones, so if you just want to chop off 5 or 6 inches and not 10, you can contribute with those too.

I feel weird with short hair. I haven’t had short hair since 1996, when on a limb, I chopped it all off into a bob too. My kindergarten students then complained, especially the girls.

Kindergarten El Avila

Before that time, I also chopped it off in 1988. I wish I had a photo of that to show you because… the 80s!!!! And before that, this. I guess this was the first time I had short hair in my life, in 1976, when I was 4 years old.

Polin 1976

It’s just hair, it will grow back. In the mean time I continue to do a double take every time I catch myself in the mirror… but I am enjoying the bounciness of it, and tomorrow when blow drying takes at least half the time, I’m sure I’ll be happy too.

What do you think? Would you donate your hair to the kiddos?