Category Archives: Mike

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!


Pool Time

Mike is still in Chicago, he won’t be back until the weekend, and then he stays with us for a whole week. But he was here the weekend we arrived, and my dad took these photos of us having some fun in the pool. My “new” family of 4.

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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!

Valentine’s Day and Updates

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! Hope it was kind and sweet to you. Valentine’s is special around our place because it’s the day we celebrate my dad’s birthday and also, old lad Charlie’s birthday. And, we also celebrate the anniversary of our first formal date, back during in the awful blizzard of February 2011.

Mike had made reservations to go out to dinner at Emilio’s, the restaurant in which we had our first date 5 years ago. We try to go back there every year. But we had to cancel and hopefully reschedule for next weekend. Mike started feeling icky Friday afternoon and by Saturday morning, he had a full-on fever of 100.4, which got a little worse to 100.6, until it finally got better Sunday night. So this was the backdrop for our Valentine’s day…

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We still celebrated a bit, with cards, gifts and chocolates. Mike got jeans and I got much needed tech-gloves and an infinity scarf.

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Charlie, the old chap, would have loved to relive this:

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But instead got several short walks in the snow and lots of treats.

Liz flew into Miami Saturday night. The initial plan (before my mom’s health emergency) was to be with my parents for the kids spring break and my parents birthdays (my mom’s birthday is also coming up in a few days). Great timing, because they could all be there to visit Coco and celebrate my dad’s birthday as well.

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Coco is doing better. Still at the hospital (it’s been over a week now) and still not well enough to go home (although she asks every day), but better. After the TIPS procedure, there were going to be side effects both from bypassing the liver and the general anesthesia. The blood that is now not going to be cleaned of toxins by the liver, takes these to the heart and brain, causing elevation of toxins in the brain, also known as Hepatic Encephalopathy, which is an altered mental state. In order to control these toxins and eliminate them, she is given a laxative type of medication, which for a while there she refused to take.

Another complication/side effect from the whole episode was low hemoglobin. She had lost a lot of blood from the initial esophagus bleed, and even though she had some blood transfusions, the hemoglobin was not a stable normal indicator yet. This coupled with the general anesthesia, caused respiratory issues. She developed liquid in the lungs. As of yesterday, she had one lung clear and liquid remaining still in the second one. She’s been taking diuretics and being nebulized every 6 hours now.

So these are the 3 variables they are controlling for currently: eliminating the liquid in the lungs, keeping the hemoglobin up, and lowering the toxin levels to avoid Encephalopathy. The side effects are plenty: bruised arms from all the injections and blood drawing, many bathroom accidents due to excesses diuretics and laxatives, weight loss and thus loss of energy and vigor, and overall being done with the whole thing and wanting desperately to go home already!

She is getting better, the values that need to go up are rising and the ones that need to go down are slowly decreasing. But she’s not yet ready to go home. The Dr. said today that if she went home, she most likely would have to come back soon, and we all definitely want to avoid that. The hospital is the best place for her right now, until she’s stable. Hopefully this week, she’ll be able to go home to her Jack, and all the fun awaiting her there with Liz and the kids. Keep those prayers going, and the positive thoughts coming. They are all helping very much. Thank you!

6 Months – Name?

It’s been 6 months since the wedding, so that means it’s our half-anniversary today. I’m not sure how I feel about a 6-month milestone, especially because in February it will be 5 years since Mike and I have been together, and a year-and-a-half since he moved-in and we began living together. So, this 6-month milestone doesn’t seem like a big deal in comparison.

Mike and I were talking about this the other day, and we both feel like not much changed after we got married. Especially not for him, since I was the one who changed my name, he didn’t even have to do that. Well, frankly I didn’t have to do it either. I could have changed nothing regarding my name. But I wanted to help myself identify more with us as a family unit, and taking Mike’s last name has helped me do just that.

I didn’t completely lose my name either. I would never do that. You see, in Venezuela a married woman takes her husband’s last name and it’s placed after both of her family names. In Venezuela, I would be: Jennifer Mata Gómez de McMahon. Incredibly long and very inconvenient. Here in the US, I’ve always been just Jennifer Mata, and now Jennifer Mata-McMahon. Still long, yet not as long as the Venezuelan version, and a bit more convenient.

Of course, people at work still call me Dr. Mata, or Jen Mata, which seems very short and easy. I guess that’s why it’s stuck. Also, 6 months is not enough time for people to get use to the name change. I know I’m not quite use to it yet. Although, outside work, some people just call me Jennifer McMahon, or Mrs. McMahon, which I guess is the oddest of all of those names for me still. It’s interesting how much we identify ourselves with our names, isn’t it? Mata connects me to my Venezuelan roots.

Though, my name has always been an issue for me, or actually not for me, I know how to spell it. It’s been an issue for others. In the US when I say my name, people ask me to spell my last name, and I do spell it for them “M, A, T, A. Mata.” “Double T?, they ask.” “No just one T.” “Oh, Mara, they say.” “… No, MaTa, with a T, not an R, just one T, which sounds like a T. MaTa.” In Venezuela, they don’t know how to spell Jennifer. They don’t ask you to spell your name in Venezuela, they just write it as it sounds. I’ve had my name written it all different “Spanish” ways: Yenifer, Yeniffer, Yennifer. You see J sounds like and H in Spanish. And Y has the J English sound, so of course they would write it with a Y and not a J.  And pronounce it as “Henifer”, when they read “Jennifer”.

The kicker story, was that one time I had applied to a scholarship and got it. When I went to the office and told them my name they looked for my file. There was my file: Jennyfer Mata Gómez, and a second one just next to it: Jenny Fermata Gómez. I smiled and hung my head. I explained to the woman I was both those people, and she had two files for the same person; she had messed up the name. It took her a while to believe me, and realize her mistake, but eventually when Jenny Fermata never showed up to claimed her scholarship, I think she finally realized I was right.

McMahon is no piece of cake either. When people read it, they do not know how to pronounce it. They pronounce all the letters, and as I’ve been told, that’s not right. As it turns out, it’s pronounced McMan, as if the “h” and the “o” did not exist. Another problem is that, when writing it, people often don’t capitalize the second M. So after I’ve spelled it for them, they write as Mcmahon.  I now say: “My name is Jennifer Mata hyphen McMahon, let me spell it for you J, E, double N, I, one F, E, R, Jennifer, M, A, T, A, Mata with one T, hyphen, capital M, c, capital M, a, h, o, n, McMahon. All Ms in my name are capitalized.” Try that for size won’t you? It’s take 5 minutes just to get a person to write my name correctly. To have them then call me Je-Ji 😉

I’m kidding, I love my nicknames. And I have tons of them, but that’s a topic for a different post. I went on a tangent with the whole name thing. My point though, was that not much has changed since we got married, and 6 months doesn’t feel like any major milestone. My name changed and in conversation now, I refer to Mike as my husband. That’s another aspect, I guess I’m still not use to. But other than that, we live in the same place, have the same discussions over the same things, enjoy doing the same things, and carry on with life as we did a year-and-half ago.

I’ll let you know, once we get to the one year mark, if I see any more differences. For now though, the main change has just been my name.

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 October!

Happy October everyone! September has been such a great month, I’m almost sad to see it go. Especially, because it’s getting chillier now, and we can just feel in these parts… it’s coming… winter is, unfortunately, coming. But lets not get ahead of ourselves, Fall isn’t even here yet, at least not in full blown. Leaves are starting to fall and seem to be everywhere these days, and the temperature has dropped 10 to 20 degrees, but today, the first day of October, it’s sunny and bright, and you could even break out a sweat if you went for a jog.

September was a great month for so many reasons. The first one being that ever since we got back from vacation and then got engaged, Mike and I have been truly enjoying our cohabitation. Mike moved-in mid June, but he worked in the suburbs until the first week of July. So the commuting to and fro didn’t leave us with much f2f time during the week; it actually felt as if we were still only seeing each other on the weekends. When Mike’s time at his old job came to an end (by choice), we spent 3 weeks in July sort of on a stay-cation. School had ended for me, so I was working on-and-off from home, and we would mainly run errands together and spend a lot of time sorting things out around our condo.

On Mikes birthday, the 31st of July, we headed down South for a 4 week vacation, which was a great time spent with family and friends. But it wasn’t until we got back, the last week of August and in September that we got a sense of what it truly feels like living together, in the day-to-day routine: me working full-time, teaching and going into the office mainly everyday, and Mike doing day-trading from home. And I have to say, we have never been happier. So much so, my friend Andrea called me up yesterday to ask what was going on with us, because apparently in every photo we share on FB we look like we have fairy dust sprinkled on top of us, we look so happy… which I guess makes us look pretty too.

People at work have noticed as well. The other day someone told me I looked Zen, and now he knew where to go when feeling stressed, because I exuded this aura of calm and “everything will be well with the world”. I’ve always been a pretty composed, happy person, but I know where he’s coming from, because right now I am smiley and happy, without any effort on my part. I am enjoying everything I do, living it up, seeing the positives, and just overall being happy. I shared this with Mike the other day, and he agreed, he feels happy too. I think he was afraid my OCD-ness would not be able to tolerate his messiness, and he feared that once we started living together all hell would break loose. Not the case. Quiet the opposite, in fact. We are loving it!

Another great thing, maybe a side-effect of the happy feeling, is that I have kept on track with my dieting-losing weight goal. I have now lost a total of 10 lbs, and I’m feeling really good about it. I had gone up to a size 10, people! Can you even believe it? And now I am back in a size 6. I am doing a happy dance now in my chair! I fit into most of my old clothes, some 6, some 4, especially skirts and dresses; I could do a size 4 in dresses now, but still not in pants. My goal is to lose 10 more lbs, that would put me back at my ideal weight and where I was when I moved from NY. But I am starting to realize that I need to do something drastic to accomplish that. I’m thinking South Beach diet is actually more so in my closer future, than I thought. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

The other area in which things are just swimming along nicely, is at work. I always come back renewed and energized after the summer break, but this September has been a bit different. I am loving teaching, and even though both courses I am teaching this term are a lot of work (one I’m teaching for the first time, and the second I have completely redesigned), I seem to not mind. I’m not stressed about it, and I’m enjoying all of it: the prepping, the actual teaching, and the grading. Life changing, I tell you.

I’m also full of neat new project ideas I want to pursue, as I also complete two papers I need to get out to journals (the goal is to do this by December). I’m loving it, I tell you. Loving it all. As you can see September really was a great, fulfilling month, and I expect no less from October, which is also my birthday month, so there’s always that. Although, be warned, Mercury goes retrograde the 4th of October, and will be so until the 25th. Be cautious, be careful, be clear, be patient, but still for the love of God, be happy! Happy October!


If you are a friend of ours on FB, you already know about our latest news. But I thought I’d share it here too. Mike and I got engaged!!!

We had been talking about it since the spring, and in June we started looking at rings and figuring out what I wanted (there are so many beauties out there, and I do love jewelry). In the summer, when we visited my parents, Mike had a talk with my dad and both my parents gave us their blessing.

So, a couple weeks after we got back from vacation, Mike popped the question in the South gardens of the Art Institute. It was sweet and with such a pretty backdrop, it was romantic and me tear up. Although, if you know me (the older version of me), I still am not an easy crier, but a great tearer-upper.

There were a few wedding parties in the gardens while we were there (a good omen?) and one of the brides maids took this photo of us:

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And then of course, we took some selfies, and shared them with the world.

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We went to the museum afterward, to see the Magritte exhibit. If you are into Surrealism, I highly recommend it, it’s pretty good. And while we roamed the Impressionist gallery (my favorite) and then waited in line for the Magritte show, I took some photos of the ring, because everyone wants to see the ring, right? 🙂

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We are both very happy about the whole deal, and we are looking forward to all the wedding prep that awaits us… hope it goes smoothly!

Happy Birthday, Mike!!

Mike turns 48 today!

Happy Birthday Mike!!!!!

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We love you, honey. More than words can express. I hope you enjoy your day. It promises to be busy, but hopefully it will be fun too.

Love you… Love you tons!



Summer time is always anniversary time in these parts. I wrote about it a few years ago here. It’s a time when I also have some down time to think about what I have accomplished, where I am, and where I want to be. I think because I’ve always been living under the “academic schedule”, summer is the time during my year when I get the breathing time to do some reflecting, and unavoidably, every year, it happens.

This summer, it’s been 4 years since I moved to Chicago from NY. Four years working at DePaul and working toward tenure. It’s been 3.5 years since Mike and I met and started our relationship, and now it’s been a month since we began living together. Parenthesis – I live with boys now, people!!!! – I just needed to get that off my chest, but I’ll come back to that later.

It’s been 3 years since I adopted Max, and it’s been about a month since he turned 6. Max is 6 years old! Charlie’s birthday is in February, so we don’t celebrate that in the summer. Old Charlie is a whopping 10 years old, can you believe?

But speaking of birthdays, Mike is having a birthday tomorrow!! I’m excited. I’m always excited about birthdays. And I’m prepared too, with gifts and cards in tow.

Tomorrow is also the beginning of our summer road trip vacation. We are heading out south tomorrow morning, and probably not getting back into Chicago until the last week of August.

So, enjoy while we are gone. We will be doing a whole lot of this while we are away, because the boys are coming with, and we all know how much they love their morning walks! I’ll keep in touch from the road. Cheers to summer!