Category Archives: Holidays

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

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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

Giving Thanks

I’ve been extremely busy these past few weeks, so I am very glad to be able to stop a bit tomorrow and take stock of all the things and people I have in my life. I’ve been thinking a lot about how lucky I am to have family, friends and colleagues that support me in ways that consistently surpass my expectations. For them, for you, I am beyond grateful.

I want to take a minute here to say, thank you. A true, deeply felt, and sincere thank you! I would not be where I am or who I have become as a person, without you. Thank you!

I hope as we celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow (in the US), you all also have many things and peopl to be thankful for. Keep safe, keep happy, and keep full. And as I frequently tell my niece and nephew: be good, be kind, be awesome.

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Summer 2016

At the start of July, when I last posted, I said I would be back here to update you and share some of the things that have been going on this summer. Well, we are almost mid-August and I’m just now getting back to the blog. But, let’s get on it because a lot of big events have happened this summer:

Max turned 8 years-old on June 27th. It’s been 5 years since I adopted him, and we have come a long way. Love you Maxy!

Max 2016

Mike and I had our 1st wedding anniversary on July 25th and we had a nice outing. We went to see The Book of Mormon and then had a spectacular dinner at Boka.

1st Anniversary Collage

I was not able to make it to the UK on July 25th for the International Children’s Spirituality Conference, because of visa issues. But fortunately my paper and presentation were ready and Dr. Karen-Marie Yust was kind enough to read it, so even though I was not physically there, my work was shared.

Karen-Marie Yust

Mike turned 50th years-old on July 31st, and we celebrated with family. We had a plentiful meal at The Chicago Chop House and then stopped over at The Redhead Piano Bar for live music and drinks. (photos to come)

The boys (all of them) and I flew to Miami on August 5th and will be spending three weeks with los Pelos. This is where we are now. Mike had to go back to work, but will be back during our last week here as a vacation for him.

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I just realized I have most of my photos and videos in my hard drive at home, in Chicago. Bummer. I’ll update this post once I get back. For now I’ll share what I do have with me on my phone.

How’s you summer coming along? Did you get a break? Did you celebrate something special? Or is work looking mighty up to date for you? Speaking of which, I need to get at it my self, these papers don’t write themselves and classes are not prepped by the prepping Gods, unfortunately! Hope you are all having a wonderful summer!

I’m still here – The Update

I left off July 13th, two weeks before the wedding. Things got a bit busy after that, sorry. But let me recap and bring you up to speed to today.

(07-17-15) My family starting arriving for the Wedding. We had a full house for about a week before the wedding; it was crazy and it was great all at the same time. I loved that I had Venezuelan representation in the house. Thank you all, for coming!

(07-24-15) The rehearsal at the church, followed by a yummy rehearsal dinner happened quite smoothly.

(07-25-15) The wedding occurred the day after.  It was not without hiccups here and there, but fortunately no one really noticed and all seemed to enjoy themselves and have a good time. It was memorable, and after all the stress (there was a lot of stress build-up in the preparation), I was glad it was over. It was a beautiful, traditional, Catholic city wedding. Elegant, classic, timeless. Our church was St Vincent DePaul’s Parish and the reception was held at The Murphy. Both unforgettably beautiful spaces filled with history and stunning architecture. We danced the night away. It was fun.

(07-26-15) We spent the night, well only a few hours really, at The James, and flew out to Punta Cana very early the next morning. We spent a week in the Dominican Republic, in an all inclusive resort, with the most delicious all-you-can-eat food. There was a beach at walking distance from our room, several golf courses, a mall, several different restaurants, a few pools, and yoga and tennis classes. It was perfect.  We celebrated Mike’s birthday there at a Michelin star restaurant after a day of golf for him, and yoga and beach for me. It was awesome.

(August) My family was still in town when we got back, so we got to spend some time with them. The first month back was a blur of getting back into normal life mode. Life after the wedding, as I liked to call it. Or getting my life back, which I still refer to daily. If I could go back to before the wedding, I would have taken some things off my plate  during the wedding planning months (like the presidency of my home association, for example), or would have hired a wedding coordinator to deal with some of the idiots we hired before and during the wedding. But anyhow, I’m not doing this ever again, so there’s not much “live and learn” here to remember for next time, thankfully.

(Sometime in September) We sent out Thank You notes to all our guest, for coming to celebrate with us and helping us get ourself going with wonderful gifts and words of wisdom. Thank you!

(Also in September) School started again, and during the Fall term I taught two courses, one I had taught before (now with some modifications) and a brand new (to me) internship. I had to hit the ground running once Labor day had passed. The term went well. I think it’s the term I have enjoyed the most teaching-wise thus far. My students were great and I truly enjoyed teaching and learning from them.

(October) We went to NYC for my birthday. I got to see my very good friend Eleni, who was spending part of her sabbatical in NY, and my wonderful sister surprised all of us, with live entertainment in a party she so graciously hosted in my honor. I love that woman. And a wonderful, beautiful, intelligent, accomplished woman she is. I’m sure you would love her too, if you ever met her. My cousin Marco was there too, and that was such a special and heartfelt event.

(November) Was all about wrapping up the term, flying to Orlando for an invited presentation at NAEYC and then Thanksgiving with Mike’s family, up in Wisconsin. It’s always a good time up at Nancy and John’s place. They are such sweet and attentive people, I truly enjoy visiting them. Also, in November there was a situation with my car, which led me to turn it in for a new one. The positive is that I finally got myself the car I had been wanting and saving for for a few years. All my savings had gone into the wedding, so I thought it would take a few more years of saving to purchase it. But as good fortune and hard work would have it, I’ve been doing some consulting work on the side, which allowed me to purchase it sooner than I thought. And just in time too, because my old car really had to go immediately (I’ll tell you the story another time).

(December) Saw us working to get all things done in time to take some time off. We drove to NYC with the boys in-tow. It took us 13 hours, but we made it in one piece, all in one day. We spent about 5 days in Manhattan and then drove up to Hudson, were we spent two glorious weeks in the wilderness. Well, in a beautiful house, with central heating, wifi, and plenty of supplies. We spent Christmas and New Years there, and on the 2nd promptly drove back home.

(January) So far January has been good. I’ve resume my meditating, which I truly believe had much to do with last term being so positive for me. And I’m in the throws of several research and writing projects that I am very excited and motivated about. There is a ton of service on my plate these days too, but it’s ok, I’m not doing anything I don’t believe in, so that’s always a good thing.

This new year 2016 promises to be very busy, it has been so thus far. I have high hopes for it being filled with finished projects and accomplishments work-wise. At a personal level, I’m seeking peace of mind and embracing happiness. I think daily meditation is a good start, but I also think I need to get myself to yoga and exercising again, in order to achieve the happy state. I want to embrace being grateful and stressing less about the small stuff. I want to let things go more, and not strive for perfection as much.

I also need to lose 20 lbs and go on a no-buy phase in order to start saving again, this time for a house. But if I’m being fair to myself, I have started tackling all of those goals already. I have lost about 3-4 lbs (depending on the day), and have stopped buying things I want but don’t need (I was on a makeup buying spree that seemed more like an uncontrolable addition than anything else). The daily meditation really helps me be more present, grateful, and loving. It’s working. I’m on my way to making 2016 all I need it to be. How about you? What have you been up to since we last talked?

Happy 4th!

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Happy 4th of July, everyone! I hope you are off to some fun ventures. I have already had a homemade facial, a teeth whitening, and a bubble bath. Pampering anyone?

I hope your 4th is great too!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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My gift to Mike.

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Mike’s gift for me.

Aren’t those flowers pretty? And the cupcakes were delicious!

I hope you had a great Valentine’s Day, and enjoyed it in any way that suits you. Mike and I had an appointment with a DJ out n the suburbs, and then were off to dinner.

We had a reservation at Emilio’s, the tapas place in which we had our first date. But when they seated us they gave us an awful table, and when we asked to be moved, they said they couldn’t (or wouldn’t), so we left. We lucked out and were able to find a table in The Athena Restaurant, last minute without a reservation, and enjoyed a delicious Greek meal.

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Our appetizer was a lightly breaded salty goat cheese, flamed in brandy, called Saganaki.

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I had a slow cooked lamb that fell right off the bone, delicious!

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And Mike had the combination plate. Yummy!

A pretty nice date night for us, and a very nice way to celebrate 4 years together 🙂

Happy New Year 2015!

I hope your New Year’s Eve was a fun one, spent with those you love and love you back (that’s important, believe me).

I hope 2015 is the best year yet for you, and all of those who are important to you.

I hope this new year is better than the last one, especially if 2014 was not that great for you.

I wish you health, love, wealth, and peace, lots of peace, peace of mind, body, and soul.

I hope this is the year in which at least one of your main dreams comes true.

I hope it’s productive, fruitful, and positive.

And above all, regardless what happens in 2015, I hope you learn to rise above it, and be happy.

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Happy New Year!

Happy 2015!

#RoadTrip2014 Recap

Happy September! And Happy Labor Day! We have it off here and are enjoying a day of staying in, doing some work (work-work and housework) since the weather is crappy and the forecast is rain all day. We did manage to get a walk/jog in by the lake, before the rain, so there’s that.

We are back from our #RoadTrip2014. I thought I would post and share some of the adventures from our vacation time, while on the road, but it never happened. I did take my computer because I had some work to finish, mostly class prepping. But towards the end, my computer started acting up and I couldn’t use it for the last couple weeks. Anyhow, blogging wasn’t on my mind, I guess, because I bypassed it completely.

I’ve been thinking about blogging this week, but have been playing catch-up at work,  running errands, getting the condo in order, and getting all doctor appointments in before the trimester starts. So, I thought I’d share a recap of our summer trip first, and then in future posts, share what’s been circulating within my mind lately. Game? Good!

We left on July 31st, Mike’s birthday, and headed toward Louisville, Kentucky. There, we stayed with Mike’s dad and step-mom for a couple days. We had been to visit them before, a couple times actually, but this time we did some of the touristy stuff there is to do in Louisville, aside for the Derby, which we went to a few years ago.

This time we ate out a couple times and visited the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory. There, we saw The Babe and the Jeter! Take a look:

At Bonefish Grill

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At Momma’s Mustard Pickles and BBQ

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At the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory

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After a few days in Louisville, we loaded the boys back into the car and on the road we went again, this time to Atlanta, Georgia. There, we stayed at Mike’s friends’ place.  We spent time with them, walking the boys and exploring their very high-end dog parks. We also went out for dinner to Buca di Beppo, but unfortunately I forgot to take photos of that.

Here’s Charlie having fun with the water at The Heavenly Dog Park.

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Then it was back in the car and off to Miami! The boys were really good in the car, except for some bouts of panic from Charlie when it rained. They were especially happy in Miami at my parents’ place. I think it was because both families we stayed with on the road had dogs, and now in Miami they were the kings of the backyard, with no one to put them in their place. They loved it!

In Miami we did what all people do when they go to a warm place for vacation, we relaxed. We lounged by the pool, went to the beach, went on a boat ride in Bayside Bay, went to Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens, went shopping to the awesome Miami malls (well, that was mostly me) and played golf to our hearts content (that was mostly Mike). Oh, and how could I forget, the main activity of the trip, reason why I gained 6 lbs, we ate, oh how well and how much we ate! We went to El Arepazo, Bahamas Breeze, El Parador, il Forno Ristorante, and The Fish House. We also did some home cooking and ordered takeout a couple times, because pizza and Chinese food are always well received by all.

Us at Hollywood Beach, we went there twice. Once we rented jet skies.

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Sophie practiced putting with us once, and once my dad and I went with Mike on one of his multiple golf runs.

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This is us at Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens, a really lovely place, but if you go take water, the heat is something else!

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This is us at Bayside Bay, where my dad rented a boat for the day. He misses his Konsentida from Venezuela, so this was a real treat!

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The day was a success, the whole stay in Miami was wonderful. When at home we lounged by my parents’ beautiful pool and Sophie swam as much as she could, in the hopes that her dream of being a mermaid would come true. I think, in her mind, it did. Even Maxy misses the pool now.

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But our days in Miami came to an end, and on the road we went again. The boys were really good on the way back, even though I could tell they missed Miami and all its wonderful people. On our way back we stopped in Tallahassee for the night, and the next day we went through Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and drove around the University of Alabama’s campus, Mike’s alma mater. Unfortunately, I don’t have photos of the beautiful campus since I was told we would go back after lunch and roam around, and we never did (I’m looking at you, Mike!). After Alabama we drove through Memphis and stayed the night in a little town in northern Tennessee.

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We arrived last Wednesday night in Chicago and it received us with great cool, summery weather. This is Lake Michigan, in Loyola Beach, where I went for a jog Thursday morning. Pretty, right?

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So we are back home, back in the grind, getting ready for the beginning of the term which starts on the 10th. But the memories of the great #RoadTrip2014 are still lingering, and we still miss tons the people we left behind. Thank you all for such a great vacation!

Summer already? What about Spring?

This weekend we celebrate Memorial Day, which traditionally is know as the weekend that launches the summer season in the US. Thus, technically summer begins right after next Monday. This means the beaches along the lakeside in Chicago will be open for business. Lifeguards will be back on duty and beach goers will be allowed to swim in the Lake’s waters (that is, if they want to risk hypothermia with those freezing temperatures). But I feel like we haven’t yet had true Spring. Do you feel the same?

Yes, I haven’t used my puff coat (my measure of when Winter truly ends) in over two weeks, there has been no need, and yes, the trees and flowers are blooming and there are buds everyone one looks, but it’s just been weird with all the cold, rain, and hail. I mean, it did snow last weekend in the suburbs.

I like Spring too much to have missed it completely this year. It seems like (as usual) we went from freezing Winter (the worse winter ever, for me, and the third worse winter ever in Chicago) to now sunny and hot Summer. It’s in the 60s so it’s not truly hot yet, but I can feel it, it’s coming, probably this weekend. And with the heat, boom! Summer is here and Spring? Well, Spring, never truly was.

My favorite thing about Spring are the flowers. The tulips that seem to spring out everywhere, as if they were weeds. The magnolia tress, with their beautiful shades of pink and white. And this year, Mike introduced me to Dogwoods. They are beautiful and seem to be everywhere in Rogers Park. I went a little camera happy on our walk the other day. But just take a look at the prettiness of these trees:

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