Pittsburgh

I drove to Pittsburgh last Friday, an almost 500-mile road trip all by myself. I don’t remember ever driving so much alone in one stretch. But it wasn’t too bad. With a GPS and determination, I can get anywhere! I got confused and took the wrong exit a couple times and had to make U turns to get back on track, and I went through about 30 minutes of monsoon weather once I hit PA, but other than that it was pretty smooth sailing all the way. I had an audio book (The Last Anniversary, by Liane Moriarty) I was listening to, which I’m more than half way through, and kept me awake and focused when I started losing interest in the road.


I arrived at Pittsburgh around 7-8 pm, having left home in Chicago, around a quarter past nine am. Liz was here with Nick, so we got to do so fun things together. That night, even though exhausted, we went out to dinner, to an Argentinian restaurant (Gaucho), and had some really good meat.

Saturday, we went to the Carnegie Museum of Art and roamed around looking at art for quite a few hours. It was great!

We went back to Nick’s place to have lunch. Liz brought some delicious meat Margot made, especially for Nick, so we were on that! And then we went to run some errands: get Nick on the cell phone family plan, get him a new phone since his was dead, get a new case and make a pit stop by Gap that was having a 40% off sale. All good! Lastly, we stopped by Target on our way back because: Coke Zero!


On Sunday Liz went back to NYC, so we drove her to the airport and our way back got to see the beautiful Pitt skyline. So very pretty, unfortunately, I was driving, so no pic of that. Nick took this short video.

Nick and I ran some errands and went back home so he could continue studying, this is finals’ week after all. I relaxed and got caught up with social media and my Sims, and then found out there was a mass at St Paul’s Cathedral at 6pm, and that’s just a hop away from Nick’s place, in fact, you can hear the bells chime frequently from his apartment. So I went to mass, it was good, I hadn’t been in a while and hadn’t realized I was missing it. The Cathedral looks a lot like St Vincent’s Church, both inside and out.


Today I stayed in all morning, while Nick went to class and met with his advisor and did his student related activities. Once ready, I headed out to lunch at the Bagel Factory and had my favorite: plain bagel with lox cream cheese. I had been trying to get bagels since Saturday with no luck. Finally, I made it in when it was still open and topped it off with a doughnut, because why not?


I ended my outing today with a visit to a quaint little bookstore on S. Craig St called Caliban Book Shop. I loved it! I need another book like a need a hole in my head, but of course, I had to get something.

So far I’m liking Pitts very much, it’s a charming little city with the vibes of a small town. Everything seems to be happening at a slower pace here as if no one is truly in a hurry or stressed out. I like it, I could get used to this.

Happy August!

August Be Good

May this be the best month of summer thus far. Here’s to a wonderful August!

You hear me August?

Be wonderful!

Happy Birthday Mike!

Yesterday was Mike’s 51st birthday. I know, I know, it sounds like a lot, because, well, it is a lot. I turn 45 this year, in October, and I’m silently freaking out about it a little bit. But, I can’t even begin to imagine how 50 is going to feel… especially because on any given day, I feel like I’m still in my early 30s. It doesn’t help that people think I am in my 30s because of the way I look. Although I will never complain about looking younger than I am because I do take a lot of time and pride in taking good care of my skin… so looking young is my payoff, and I do appreciate it thoroughly.

In any case, this post is not about me. It’s all about Mike and celebrating him and his life.

Happy Birthday, Babe!

I truly hope every day you feel as appreciated as you are to us (Max, Charlie and I) because we would truly be nothing without you and everything you do for us on the daily. We love you more than we could ever say or demonstrate. You and all your imperfections, mean the world to us, and I truly hope we never have to experience being without you.

Love you more than tons!

A mí y al Pato Donald

Cosas que sólo me pasan a mí y bueno, también al pato Donald. Hace unas semanas atrás iba caminando al lago, a hacer un poco de ejercicio, y me garró la luz roja del semáforo. Mientras esperaba a que cambiara la luz, en la esquina de Sheridan y Touhy, se me acercó un señor. Al principio pensé que estaba parado esperando a que cambiara la luz, igual que yo, pero luego me dijo algo. Yo, como de costumbre, iba enchufada, escuchando música, y no lo escuché. Tuve que quitarme los audífonos, para poder escuchar lo que decía. El señor me mira y dice:

“You know, if you get your tubes tied, you won’t have to pay for birth control anymore.”

Yo le veo, e inmeditamente pienso, este debe estar mal de la cabeza, no puede ser que una persona en sus cabales sea tan imprudente… y le respondo:

“I don’t have any children and I won’t have any children because I cannot have them. I don’t take birth control and I don’t plan on getting my tubes tied, not that it is any of your business anyway.”

El señor inmediatamente se empieza a disculpar, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” Yo le digo, “It’s ok.” Cambia la luz del semáforo y yo continúo trotando, pensado “Pedazo de loco imprudente! Esto me pasa sólo a mí y al Pato Donald!

Missing

It’s been a month since Tata’s passing. They are holding a mass for her in Miami later tonight. I’m here, in Chicago, so I can’t go. Plus, I teach tonight, so I’ll be in class while the mass is going on. More often that I would care for, these past years, it’s been abruptly brought to my attention the constraints work has on personal lives. Especially when work is located so far away from family.

Living abroad, living away, being separated from those dearest and loved seems to transfer into reorganizing priorities in a way in which the urgent tends to take precedence over the truly important. I’ve had to think about this often these past two years, first when my mom was ill, and I was able to fly to Miami and be there with my parents, but then had to fly back because I had work responsibilities and classes to teach, while she was still hospitalized.

Now with Tata’s passing, this has become once again evident to me. I was too far to just grab a plane be there for the funeral and then back in time to teach my weekly classes.  It simply wasn’t possible, timewise, to be in both places at the same time. It also didn’t seem possible to be both physically present here and fully engrossed in the emotions that would be palpable there. I said before Tata’s death hadn’t hit me yet, and I think more than not haven hit me, I didn’t let it hit me. The timing was not right.

I am a very calm, cool, collected type of personal, some would say rational. I am in touch with my emotions and don’t think I come across as a callous, uncaring, insensitive person, which I know I am not, but I can often be more rational than emotional. Perhaps not more practical or functional than form or aesthetically driven, but I am definitely more of a thinker, an intellectual if you will, than driven uncontrollably by emotions and feelings. I’m not very impulsive. I prefer to think things through and make decisions when I am calm, as to not regret any action. Although, I can feel emotions like sadness, happiness, and angry as fully as the next person, I can probably control them and keep them in check better than your average Joe.

But today, it’s been a month since Tata passed away and the sadness is more palpable, less controllable, a little more real. I miss her. I miss living close to her. I miss visiting her, talking to her, learning from her. She would say “you learn something new every day”,  and she was right. I was always and still am, on the lookout for what I could learn today. I know she is in a better place. I just wish I could visit her now and then, as I used to when I was back home.

Happy May

May

May tends to be a busy month for me. We are smack in the middle of the Spring quarter and there is a lot to do before even beginning to see the light at the end of the academic year tunnel. But it also means that June is right around the corner and that means summer break is upon us. I am literally counting the weeks until summer break. This has been a quite difficult academic year. I don’t mean to be cryptic, but when the time comes, I’ll share why.  Anyway, the sun is shining today and the temperature is getting warmer, that means more strolls around the neighborhood and long walks alongside the lake. There is something to be said for being out in the sun, collecting vitamin D. The endorphins surely activate themselves and we begin feeling happy even if we don’t want to. I miss the carefree feeling of summer as a child, perhaps this summer I’ll recover a bit it.  I know I am very much looking forward to it. For now, though, Happy May, let’s enjoy it as it comes.

Tata

Columba Josefina Coello Adrianza de Gómez

12-19-1927 to 04-16-2017

This is how my grandmother looked when she was younger, probably younger than I am today. This is how I remember her from when I was a kid. Always well groomed, put together and elegant. She always wore the latest haircut and color and had her hair professionally styled once a week  Her makeup was always just enough, very classic, and her skin was always moisturized, plumped and perfect. I remember it felt like silk. And she always smelled as sweet as flowers. I’ll never forget how good she always smelled. There is no question she was a beautiful woman.

More recently, I remember here more like this. When she stopped coloring her hair and went for a more natural look, embracing her years in her looks and style. Because, she always embraced her years with her wisdom, which was shared openly and generously with those who might be in need of it. If anyone was ever in need of advice, she was the one to call, everyone in her family did, frequently.

Tata was the eldest of 13 siblings. Two of them passed away at birth, but 11 remained under her tutelage, and most considered her as their second mother. She got married very young, at the age of 19, to Toti, my sweet grandfather, who passed away some nine years ago. They had seven children, of which my mom is the eldest.  One of her children, the second child, Fanny, died about eight months after birth from a heart condition, which I don’t think Tata ever really got over.

Because she married so young and had a house filled with kids to look after, she didn’t go to college. She loved medicine and was an avid reader, and because what happened to Fanny, I think she made it a mission to learn as much as she could about health and the body. She was the person to call when you were sick. She would always diagnose you correctly and know exactly what you needed to do and take in order to feel better, but she also always sent you to the doctor for a “real” consult. She had a ton of faith in doctors and medicine.

Speaking of faith my grandmother was a very faith-filled and spiritual person. She lived her faith and spirituality religiously and was a practicing Catholic. I think if it had not been for my grandfather, who was more of a religious rebel, and a bit of an agnostic, if not even an atheist, I think she would have been to Church more often. I owe embracing my religious practices to my grandmother, for whom the sacraments were all very important, and even though I was allowed to embrace them at my own pace, when I decided I was ready and wanted to, a part of me always knew I would do it someday, if not only for her.

She guided me in my spiritual search and growth. She listened to my ponderings, she tried to answer my questions, she was always there for me. Mi Tatica linda. And even though I hadn’t seen her in person in the last almost seven seven years, and she was not able to make it to my wedding (in a Catholic Church, as I knew she would have liked it), I remember her and think about her daily. I miss her. I miss visiting her with my mom on some random middle of the week afternoon. I miss stopping by at the bakery to bring the goods for a merienda and a nice long chat.

Tatica, I know you are in a better place now. I know you are with Toti, and Fanny, and some of your siblings and your parents. I know you are ok. But I miss you. I’ve been missing you for quite some time now.  And I’m pretty sure, I will miss you always. I don’t know if you knew how special and significant you were to me. I hope you did. I told how much I loved you, but I don’t think words can really do justice of how in debt I feel myself towards you. I truly hope you knew.

I love you, I miss you, and I will forever hold you in my heart.

Tu muñeca,

Jenny

How do you define yourself?

I’ve been listening to S-Town this past week. It’s a podcast I discovered through a recommendation made by a YourTuber I occasionally watch. It’s a production of This American Life and Serial, which I was hooked on in 2015.

In one of the last episodes, there are seven of them, one of the secondary characters makes reference to herself as not as bad of a person as others may be perceiving her to be, based on her recent actions. It got me thinking, in how our definitions of ourselves can be so ingrained, that we can’t understand that sometimes not only can we waiver, but also, that being good does not preclude us from occasionally doing wrong. It also, seemed interesting to me the internal struggle of being a Christian, and being called to be good, and how that superposes itself with doing what we believe to be right, which might necessitate doing wrong to others, sometimes a specific person.

Another character, I think in the same episode (chapter 6, I believe), asks the reporter what he thinks of him, in a way that is looking for approval, or perhaps trying to gauge how others perceive him, in order to better define himself. He doesn’t want to be a bad person, I think he doesn’t believe he is, but by asking this it seems as though he needs reassurance through the perception others might have of himself. Maybe even more than a corroboration, but allowing for a glimpse of possibility, that his own perception of himself might be mistaken.

As I navigate the tribulations of this academic year, I find myself remembering the words a colleague shared with me recently, “Don’t let idiots define you”. I tell this to myself everytime I feel I’m losing north, or I’m wavering in the absolute confidence that I am who I believe and know myself to be. But what if those trying to define you are not idiots? What if they are people whom you respect and have even admired at points? Do you let them define you? Do you take their opinions of yourself to heart? Do you revise your definition of yourself to include their offerings? Or do we take a John B. McLemore approach to life and just say “this glass is neither half empty, nor half full, this glass is full of piss”?

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! I wanted to post this earlier but time has gotten away from me these past couple weeks. 2016 ended with a boom for me, and even though I usually have time over the Winter break in December to blog and catch up here in this space, this year things were a bit different.

I flew to Miami on the 13th, with Max, to spend three weeks with the Pelos and the rest of the fam. The first week was really good, I got to rest, exercise, spend time with my parents, Nick and then Liz and Sophie, who arrived a few days later. But on the 19th, the day Tata turned 89, she fell and was taken to the hospital. The paramedics were called because she had fallen and they thought she might have broken something. What they found had happened was that she had had a stroke, a hemorrhagic cardiovascular accident (un ACV hemorrágico).

As you can imagine this was all very stressful and emotional for all of us, because we are far away, but especially for my mom because she has been wanting to go home and visit her mother for quite some time now. She has not been able to because of issues with her passport, and the overall difficulties of going back to Venezuela. But quickly after hearing the whole situation, I looked for tickets and booked my parents a flight for the next day.

Los Pelos were in Caracas from the 20th to the 30th and got a chance to not only see Tata and be with her a bit, but also help out and offer support to all the aunts and uncles there. Tata was released from the hospital on the 28th, so los Pelos were able to see her home before they came back.

Currently, Tata is home with a nurse 24/7 by her side, and my uncle Emilio, who lives with her supervising everything. Everyone has pitched in, in one way or another. It really takes a village, and in this case, the village has poured all resources into helping make sure Tata is ok and slowly recovers.

This whole ordeal has been tough. Each of us has dealt with it in her/his own personal way. Some are depressed, some are a bit paralyzed and others like me, are a bit numb. There was one-day sadness really hit me while in Miami, and I felt I just wanted to be in bed all day and do nothing. I was clearly sad. I had been holding it off for too long. Christmas was rough. Not only different because it felt really strange to be at los Pelos’ house without them and celebrating Christmas, doing secret Santa, crackers, pernil, hallacas and pan de jamón, without them. But the whole atmosphere was off.

We had the traditional Christmas dinner, we wanted the kids to have a “normal” Christmas, and I think we accomplished it. I cooked the pernil my mom always makes, following her recipe. Liz made pan de jamón, and brought hallacas she had made in NY. Cas made blinis and Swedish meatballs, traditions from his Swedish family. And we even had the British crackers and Cas’ potatoes al gratin. Sophie set up the Nativity set and we did our secret Santa bit. So it was Christmas as usual, but it was the worst Christmas I have ever had. I was on edge, and didn’t really enjoy it as I usually do.

2016 was a rough year in looking back. My mom got sick and almost died back in February. And then my grandmother gets sick and almost dies in December. Work related issues in the Fall, of which I’m really not going to talk about here, also put a big damper on the final quarter for me. My dad got diagnosed with diabetes, and I with perimenopause. And then to top it all off Trump wins the presidential election. It was one of the worse years I have had in all the 44 I have been alive. So I was not really sad to see it go. I suddenly got it, I now understand what people mean when they say they are eagerly wishing specific years to end.

I’m hoping 2017 will be a better year. In fact, I know it will be, because it already has begun much better than how 2016 ended. Although I still have this bit of lingering sadness, that I think won’t truly go away for some time. Tata is recovering, but let’s face it, she’s 89 and is not getting any younger. So it’s just a matter of time, and I’m here, far away, and it’s hard.

I don’t want to wrap this up on a negative, sad note. If you know me, you know that I always bounce back. I am a warrior, it runs in my family, and I never give up no matter how hard it gets. So there’s always that. There were good things about 2016, and if we want to see the glass half-full, in 2016 my dad got his BioFeedback certification, Mike got two new jobs, which have been great for him, Nick started college at Carnegie Mellon University, and the freaking Cubbies won the World Series!

So here’s hoping that in 2017 we can continue to count our lucky stars and the balance at the end is more positive than negative. I truly hope your Christmas and New Years were good, and if they weren’t, there’s always another year, and hopefully 2017 will be a good one, once again.

Merry Christmas 2016

merry-christmas-isolated

I hope you all have a Very Merry Christmas and if you don’t celebrte Christmas, I wish you the best of Holidays!

See you again soon,

Jen