Regaining my Love for Books

I like many different things, I seem to easily develop a strong attachment to things I like, and cherish them, as I would people. I guess I never outgrew the animism phase from the pre-operational stage of cognitive development. Coupled with that, I tend to have obsessive tendencies, meaning that when I like something, I like it to the bare bones, down to its core, until I can’t and eventually don’t, like it any longer. I guess I grow bored with it, or burn it out more likely, having pursued it until I just couldn’t do so anymore. Books are some of the things I like, I obsess over and collect. Yet, even though I do have more books than one person will ever need, my thirst for the knowledge and adventures they hold is neverending. I doubt I will ever bore from books, quite the contrary, they feed my yearn to learn and thus I keep coming back for more.

Because, I’m in this transition period this academic year, on which I will share with you my reflections in a later post, I currently have the luxury of time. It is incredibly fulfilling to be able to have time to pursue what one truly enjoys. And I, truly enjoy books and reading. Because of work and pressing responsibilities, I had lost my reading habits, as many other hobbies I enjoy that have been set aside for lack of time, reading for pleasure was not at the top of the list of things to do when being idle. Technology and other device related distractions seem to have taken up my free time of late. But last year I resolved to take on reading again and joined a few book club sessions at work. That’s when I rediscovered audio books and purchased a subscription to Audible.

On a road trip to Miami, from Chicago, in 2013/2014, Mike and I listened to The Devil in the White City, and another Erik Larson book entitled In the Garden of Beasts: Love, terror, and an American family in Hitler’s Berlin. Both absolutely enthralling stories. Highly recommend them. We had borrowed those audiobooks from the library and listened to them on our way there and back. It was a wonderful experience that we shared and bonded over, and made all those hours in the car so much more enjoyable. At that time we also listened to City of Scoundrels: The 12 days of disaster that gave birth to modern Chicago by Gary Krist, which I think was when I discovered I truly enjoy fictional history as a genre.

So last year, when I revamped my love for reading, I was drawn to audiobooks again. It’s a bit weird to talk about a story from a book that one has not truly read but listened to instead. Yet, I love listening to books, I think even more so than I love reading them. The intonation allows for the character’s emotion to come out loud and clear when a story is read, and I truly enjoy that. I discovered this when I listened to Lab Girl by Hope Jahren, which is read by the author… such a treat!

Last year I listened to all of Liane Moriarty’s books. I still haven’t seen the HBO rendition of Big Little Lies, but I truly enjoyed the book. I read or listened to rather, The Husband’s Secret, What Alice Forgot, Truly, Madly, Guilty, The Hypnotist’s Love Story, The Last Anniversary, and Three Wishes. Loved them all and discovered a line of Contemporary Fiction, Women’s Fiction, that I have come to love, because of the predominance of very strong women characters.

I also listened to and enjoyed: The Girl on the Train by Paul Hawkins, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, The Good Girl by Mary Kubica, Into the Water by Paula Hawkins, and My Husband’s Wife by Jane Corry.

More recently, I discovered Kate Morton’s books. I think I have read them all so far: The Lake House, The Forgotten Garden, The Secret Keeper, The Distant Hours, and the one I just finished today: The House on Riverton (or The Shifting Fog). It’s bittersweet finishing a book; one gets so enthralled by the story, we are not but left wondering about the characters, what they might be up to, what will happen to them next. But the story is over, and it’s time to move on to the next wonderful literary adventure, which is where I find myself now. If you have read any of these books and have loved them as much as I have, perhaps you might have some recommendations for me for future reads? As you can see, once I find an author I like, I go about reading everything they have written, that is available. So perhaps, you can recommend a writer and not just a book?

One of the drawbacks from audiobooks is that you can’t highlight to then re-read favorite passages. They sort of get lost in the digital world. So in order to keep, for posterity, favorite lines, and some of them are just too precious to lose, I stop the audio and write them down. Here are some quotes from Kate Morton’s books I have kept as mementos:

“Happiness in life is not a given, it must be seized.” Saffy Blythe – The Distant Hours

“Reluctance to begin is quick to befriend procrastination.” Grace Bradley – The House at Riverton

“Time is the master of perspective, a dispassionate master, breathtakingly efficient.” Grace Bradley – The House at Riverton

 

 

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Happy New Year!

A few weeks too late and a dollar or more too short, huh? I know, I know. I have been absent for too long here. I want to commit to writing here if not daily, at least weekly again, but every time I set that goal for myself I drop it within weeks. Thus, I’m not going to set that as a goal, I’m just going to write when the mood hits my fancy. So here we are, a new year, a new beginning, right? Well, it feels like it to some degree in some areas of my life. In some other areas, it seems like it’s the same-old-same-old… although I have to say because my life is very soon to be in flux, the anticipation of change has me feeling excited in a way that nothing really does feel the same or old.

I do want to update you on my birthday weekend and my parents’ 2-week visit, back in the Fall. That Galena 3-day trip was the highlight of 2017. As I look back at the year, I think both visiting Nick in Pittsburg (the last post I shared) and then going away on a road trip to Galena with Mike, the boys, and my parents, were the overall best things of 2017. December in Miami wasn’t too bad either, so I guess the trips, the get-aways, the being and doing something different was what I truly enjoyed and thus best remember of the year. Sophie’s visit and all the fun outings we had is also something I remember about 2017 with fondness. And also Mike and I embracing the Keto Cleanse in September, changing the way we eat, losing weight and essentially changing my relationship with food, was also a decent highlight. I guess change was name of game in 2017, and I embraced it wholeheartedly, and now look back on it fondly.

It seems contradictory though because I frequently say I don’t like change. I think I have a complex relationship with change. I like the reassurance of routine, to know what’s coming next and not having the anxiety of anticipation for the future. Thus when things run as they should, as expected, in time and shape, I feel secure. But I also get bored of sameness with time. I tend to think 4 to 5 years is my limit with sameness, and thinking about the years I have now in Chicago (almost 8), I seem to be overdue for a major overhaul. I like sameness until I’m bored with it and I don’t like it anymore. And right now, for some years now, I’ve been needing a change, a big one. A change of work, a change of address, a change of perspective in life. A big change in my daily routine. And I think, in fact, I know, 2018 will bring that with it: a big, unequivocal change for me in several of the buckets of my life.

I’ll let you know how things progress. I’m sure I’ll get the urge to write about it as it happens, so I’m positive I’ll be back here often this year, much more so than the previous one. I’m still wary of how much to share in this space and trying to find a balance in my voice when I merge the professional with the personal. But I know I can do it, and if I waver, if I have doubts, I can always write about that as well. So, I’ll be back. I’ll keep you posted as the ball of change continues to roll, particularly when I begin to glean where the ball is taking us next.  Here’s to 2018, and the changes it will bring!

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”?