Category Archives: Life

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.

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.

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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Menopause Barbie

This post is for all my girlfriends, to all the ladies out there that I know and care about, young and old. It doesn’t really matter what age you are, if you are a female, this post is for you. From me to you, because I care about you.

I am 43 years old, and as of last Fall, give or take, I started having menopause symptoms. First it was just inconsistent periods, but then all the other stuff started to hit. The diagnosis was confirmed by a blood test prescribed by my gyno, which resulted in high estrogen and low progesterone levels, which are indicative of Peri-Menopause.

The symptoms are nothing I would desire on anyone, unless I really, really disliked them. The over heating sensation, like you are burning up from the inside out, the lack of energy, being tired all the time, hair loss, insomnia, weight gain, and the kicker: acne. All very undesirable symptoms, I have been having on and off since about a year ago. Well, as it turns out every female out there, sooner or later will go through it. Peri-Menopause (the moment any of these symptoms begin) will happen to you all, it’s just a matter of time.

But don’t despair, this is where this post comes in.  My gift to you is this YouTube channel I recently discovered, it’s called Menopause Barbie.

Dr. Barbara Taylor, a retired OBGYN, is now dedicating her time to put her book and seminars into YouTube videos in order to reach a broader audience. She is out to spread the Menopause word to all women out there. the videos are somewhat wacky, but they are filled with useful information and clarify a lot, if not every question you might have about menopause. And if you are Pre-Menopausal, meaning you are not having any symptom (the first one is inconsistent periods), you can still benefit about learning about your body and knowing what to expect, because believe you me, it is coming, and when it gets to you, you will want to know what the heck is going on.

Watch the videos. Check out her website. Download the worksheet and the outline. Or buy her book. But don’t let peri-menopause reach you unprepared and uneducated. Believe me, you will be happy you did it. And if you are going through it right now, you will be so thankful you understand what the deal is with your body, and will learn about all the options you have to manage your body’s changes in whichever way you see fit.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you. You are very welcome!

I’m still here

Thursday was a weird day for me, emotionally. I felt out of sorts all day. I realized I was completely unmotivated and didn’t want to do anything productive. But, I didn’t want to wallow in it either, so I started fake smiling, to see if I could trick my brain into thinking I was happy and have some endorphins released to give me a boost of happiness. It worked. A little bit.

On Friday, I decided I was going to go out. I had planned a visit to IKEA on Saturday, and thought it would be smarter to go Friday, to avoid the weekend crowds. It worked. I mean, leaving the house, going out, seemed to give me an emotional boost. The visit to IKEA was productive in the sense, that I did avoid the crowds and bought the things I needed, but traffic was hell. I drove for over 3 hours yesterday, so today, there was no way I was getting into the car again.

Mike is off to Wisconsin, for a Grateful Dead’s concert, which I passed on, because I don’t really even know who the Grateful Dead are. And I figured I would not be happy surrounded by drunken, high people, while not even being able to sing along. Not that the Grateful Dead’s music is the sing-along type, but you get my drift, right? So today, I’ve been hanging out at home with Charlie and Max doing fun-for-me activities: sleeping, eating, Simming, SnapChatting, catching up on DVRed shows from October (Oprah’s Belief series, interesting), and perusing catalogs and beauty magazines. I also payed bills online, caught up on work emails, and did some laundry. And just now, I figured, let me check on my blog, since it seems like I haven’t been here in ages.

Well, ages it has been. The last time I wrote here was in February, and in reading back there are only 6 posts this year. Talk about dropping the blogging ball! Also, I looked at one of January posts, updating you all on my new year’s resolutions/goals progress and realized one of my 2016 goals was to go on a no-buy (!). I completely forgot about that, obviously, because my spending these past 6 months has been out of control, particularly in the beauty department. I recently decided to not buy any more makeup. Period. I have so much there is no way I will be able to use it all before things begin to expire and go bad. But I’ve moved my shopping habits to other areas like facial care products, clothes, bags and most recently been eyeing jewelry I’m drooling over. I need to get a grip. Yesterday!

The meditation goals is still going strong. I meditate every weekday for 10 to 15 minutes, first thing in the morning. And I truly  believe that is what has been keeping me sane all these months. Not that life is so crazy I would go mad it left to my own devices, but I can truly see and appreciate the benefits meditation has been having for me since I resumed my practice back in September 2015.

On the weight-loss front, nothing has really improved. I’m still fluctuating between 144 and 148 lbs. Of course, nothing that needs to change in order to help that number go down has changed either. I’m still eating whatever I want, whenever I want. And I only just started going to yoga (irregularly) and walking/jogging a couple weeks ago.

My plan is to continue with the exercising, absolutely continue with the meditation, and definitely go on a no-buy stint, as soon as possible. I also want to be more active here, on the blog. I’m not going to commit to anything in writing, but I will come back soon, this week, to provide an update. There are some posts roaming around in my head, I want to get out. So I’ll be back. Soon. Promise.

2016 Goals – Month 1

I shared before I had some goals for 2016, so I thought since we are coming to the end of the first month in 2016 (can you freaking believe it?!), I’d update here my progress.

Regarding the weight loss: I started out at 149.5 lbs and weigh now 146.5 lbs, which is better, yet not really significant since that number fluctuates daily. The lowest I’ve been this month, was a few days ago, at 144 lbs. Again, nothing mayor, but still improvement. I’ll take it as progress.

Regarding the No-Buy: Well I mega crashed and burned there. I realized one of the work trousers I had bought last year was worn out and had to go, and the other two were way too big on me. Not necessarily because I’v lost all that weight, but more so because since I had gained weight and all my pants were too tight, I had both those last year a little bit lose, so I wouldn’t feel tight. The logic, I know. Well, now I needed new black pants for work. I went out to get just that. Yeah, right. I got 5 pairs of pants, 1 blouse, and 2 vests. And I also got two pairs of jeans for Mike. So there went my no-buy in January.

I also bought a little bit of makeup… 😦 I ran out of deodorant, and the one I use is sold at Sephora. That, I realize now, is very dangerous. Anyhow, I got myself the needed new deodorant (Lavanila the Healthy Deodorant in Vanilla Coconut), a not-needed yet wanted eyeshadow palette (UD Naked2 Basics) and a primer (MUFE Step 1 Skin Equalizer Primer). I use ebates though, for online shopping, and Sephora had an 8% cash back, so there’s always that.

This month, I’ve also bought a Groupon for a face serum, a lobster roll lunch for two, and yoga classes. The yoga classes though, are also part of the 2016 goals. I need to get back into exercising somehow, and yoga has always been so good for me physical, mentally, and spiritually.

I’ve also bought some toiletries I needed (shampoo, conditioner, body butter lotions, and the sort), but that doesn’t count. As the deodorant from Sephora (only the deodorant), also does not count for the no-buy. Those things are more necessities than wants. The no-buy is really for extras, for those things that are, as we say in Spanish “antojos”.

We went to IKEA this weekend and got a drawer unit (Alex 9-drawer unit). We needed that for the study. To actually free up the study closet, and make more room for Mike’s clothes. Poor Mike had his clothes spread out in 3 rooms. Now, at least they are in just 2. But, I’m guessing that doesn’t count either, because technically, we did need that unit.

Regarding meditation: I’ve been on a roll. Meditating every morning I can, which tends to be 4 out of the 7 days of the week. So, all good there.

I think those were it. I didn’t write down goals, or set deadlines this year. I just kinda said aloud that I wanted to lose 20 lbs and go on a no-buy, to save for a house. The yoga, meditation, and exercise bits, I’ve added to the lose weight goal, which I’m thinking is more of a get healthy goal instead. Overall, I think I’m making progress in some areas, and not so much in others. Hopefully, February, will be on the positive end of the balance for all areas. How are you coming along with your resolutions/goals for 2016? Do you have any?

Dreams

I’ve been having these somewhat confusing dreams about wedding ceremonies gone wrong. In some of them I was the one getting married, and in others I was present at other people’s wedding. The commonality seemed to be that all the dreams had a lot of drama around them; drama about marrying the wrong person, or not wanting to get married and having to, for whatever reason. Mike says I’m getting cold feet. And it might as well be. I’ve always understood marriage to be HUGE commitment and as one ventures in, one has to comprise quite a lot; which might have been the reason I hadn’t really had the conviction of getting married before now. I take it seriously, too seriously perhaps, which could explain the nightmares.

Last night though, I had a different kind of dream. I was with Mike and some of my family, cousins, some friends too perhaps, and we were sorting something out, holding a discussion of some sort around something, that seemed to be banal, or at least from an outsiders perspective, it seemed trivial. And suddenly we hear this loud noise, we look back and this wave of people running, surrounded by bursts of fire, chaos, screaming and just complete mayhem was heading our way, like a tsunami taking over everything. In the dream, I quickly understood it as the end of the world, and the instinct was to run for dear life. In the dream, Mike took my hand and we started running away from this wave of madness that was taking over everything. I woke up, startled and a bit out of breath.

Japan-Tsunami

I’ve had chaotic dreams like this one before that turned out to be premonistic. So, I thought maybe if I shared this one, it wouldn’t happen. You know, like when you tell others your wishes they don’t come true, because you somehow jinxed them? Well, I thought, maybe if I shared this dream, I’d jinxed it too. So here it is. I have no desire for the world as we know it to end, not now and probably, not ever. The dream felt real in a way though, and it made me think about how if something like that happened right now, all our worries about petty little things would suddenly end, and shift to, literally running in order to stay alive. It gave me pause, for a minute there.

I do believe we, I, spend too much time consumed with the little things, the mundane, the material, the non-transcendental day-to-day aspects of life. But I don’t think we, I, need the world to go through such an awful event in order to gain perspective of what is truly important. Do you? Which is why I’m hoping this is not a premonistic dream, and just a wake-up call, to pay attention to the truly important things in life, for me: how we relate to and take care of our own and each others’ souls and spirit.

At the hair salon, the other day, I read in a Self magazine, an article by Deepak Chopra’s daughter Malaika. In it she shared her struggles to stay centered in what is truly important and how going back to meditating 10 minutes a day helped her gain back that perspective. I haven’t been meditating for quite some time now, and I think that was why reading that article rang so true for me. And now this dream, I think is trying to remind me to stay focus on what is meaningful in my soul’s experience in this life, and stop consuming myself with the minute, the mundane, and the inconsequential. Are you on that path? If so, how do you make sure you are taking care of your soul? I think I’m going to start meditating again. I can afford to invest 5 to 10 minutes a day on my soul; I definitely need it, look at all the signs!

Bye Bye 2014, Hello 2015

2014 is almost gone, and even though I haven’t been blogging all that much, I thought I’d update here my thoughts around this year ending and the next one beginning.

In December of 2013, when I was wrapping up 2013, I reflected on the happenings of that year in regards to the resolutions or goals I had set, and then offered some new goals to meet during 2014. I have to say I didn’t meet my 2014 goals, not really. I had set to lose 25 lbs and publish as much as I could. To meet those goals I had set an action plan to exercise 3 times a week for at least an hour, and write for 4 hours twice a week (send 3 articles and a few children’s books out to be published).

I did exercise on and off, especially during the summer, both in Miami and in Chicago, and I did drop sugar for a while and lost 10 lbs. I did not lose 25 lbs though, I suspect mainly because I didn’t fully diet, but also because the doctors and I are still trying to figure out the right medication for my thyroid. And the whole reason I gained the extra 10 lbs to begin with was because of my thyroid. So for 2015, losing weight is still on the list. This year I intend to lose 14 lbs, to get myself back to 130 lbs, which is a weight I feel comfortable with; not too skinny, not too fat, just right.

Regarding the exercise bit, I realized this last trimester, that because I did not exercise regularly and failed miserably at scheduling an appointment with my chiropractor, my stress took over my back and by the time I actually could get to the chiropractor in December, they both (I went to two different ones) asked if I had been in an accident. “Did you hurt your back/neck? Are you sure? No fender benders? Really?” “Yep, really, no accidents, this is all stress baby”. So this year and I have resolved to get back into yoga. I am determined to go to a yoga class at least once a week, if not twice. It’s the only activity that will help me control my stress and relax both my mind and by body. I need yoga. I miss yoga. Yoga is on the list for 2015.

Publishing went well in 2014, my book was published in the summer, as well as an article in a peer reviewed journal. But the writing for both of those occurred in 2013. I did not live up to the writing plan for 4 hours twice a week. I’m not setting that goal again for 2015, because I know I won’t meet it then either. But I do need to wrap up two pending articles I am writing and submit them to journals and then write, preset at a conference, and then submit to a journal, another article that is in the works. Three articles need to be out this year, hopefully done by the end of January.  So writing and publishing is still on the list for 2015 as well.

A new goal I am setting this year, one that I practiced on during a month back in 2012, is to not spend money (shop) on things that are extras, or that I don’t really need, like shoes, makeup, clothes, and the sort. My plan is to spend and buy things that I need to survived (e.g., food, mortgage) or replenish (e.g., shampoo, toilet paper), but not buy anything new, I don’t really need, like a new bracelet. My dad suggested that every time I get the urge to buy something, to save that same amount instead, actually move the money from my checking to my savings account, and then by the end of the year spend it on something expensive. I like that idea. My end of the year expenditure though is going to be the wedding, which we plan to finance ourselves. So there is that incentive.

There will be a lot of wedding planning this year, and time spent on that. But it won’t be a goal or a resolution, it’s just on my to-do list for 2015. I also want to read more fun-books. I just finished a book I began back in September, and even though it took for ever to finish, at least I got one fun-read book in this year, yay! My goal is to get at least one fun-read book per trimester in 2015. I already begun two, so I think I’m off to a good start.

How about you? Have you reviewed your goals for 2014? Did you meet them? Are you setting new ones for 2015? Are your rolling the old ones over to this new year? Whatever you are doing, I wish you luck. And hope you are wishing me luck too, because I know I need the support and the cheering-on. I have set my mind to accomplish these goals, and by George, I’ll do it! But it’s always nice to have friends cheering for me, so thanks and Happy New Year!