San Antonio Sabbatical

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Well, I guess this is goodbye.  I’m doing my final cleaning and packing since I’ll be leaving San Antonio tomorrow morning.  The guy from Time Warner Cable will be coming by this afternoon to disconnect my Internet service and take back the modem I rented, so I’m getting this post out while I’m still able to get online.

This blog was A LOT of work, but I really enjoyed writing it despite my discomfort with public sharing (I’m a private person).  It has become a great travel journal documenting my activities during this sabbatical semester as well as a marketing tool for advancing in my career.  I’ve had quite a busy four months.  For a quick recap, see these blog posts:

As I stated at the beginning, the intended audience for this blog is broad — my family and friends, psychologists, faculty, writers, tourists, relocators, language learners, and book lovers will be the primary readers of this blog.  I hope that you have learned something from my posts and been inspired by this blog.  My first sabbatical leave has been an amazing success and San Antonio and Our Lady of the Lake University have been wonderful hosts.

Thank you for joining me on this journey.  Enjoy the holidays and be well.

Note:  To read the blog in chronological order, go to the Categories box on the right side and click on Introduction.  This will take you to the “Welcome!” post.  Click on the title.  From there, use the top arrow keys to proceed through the entire blog in sequence.


(New York) — My enjoyment of Latino culture continues.  The day after Christmas, at the start of the historic 2010 winter blizzard, my sister and I took the train into the city to see a Broadway show.  First, we ate a delicious lunch (arroz con pollo) at a wonderful Times Square area Cuban restaurant, Havana Central Restaurant.  The menu contained a variety of appetizing dishes; I want to go back and sample more of them.  Then, we walked to the Richard Rodgers Theatre on the next block for the 2:00 p.m. Sunday matinee of the Tony Award-winning musical, “In the Heights”.  This great production about people living in the New York City barrio of Washington Heights was the creation of Lin-Manuel Miranda, a Puerto Rican composer/lyricist who also played the main character (bodega owner, “Usnavi”) for this particular show time.  What a treat.  The talented cast and crew gave an excellent — energetic and entertaining — performance.  “In the Heights” is a spectacular work of art.  I highly recommend it!  🙂


MY VIDEO:   The Sabbatical Project


In August I posted my Summer Reading List of books I read while preparing for my move to San Antonio.

Leisure reading continues to be one of my favorite pastimes.  Here are the books I have read during the last four months while on sabbatical:

  • General Reading

(1)     The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch with Jeffrey Zaslow

(2)     Finger Lickin’ Fifteen, a novel by Janet Evanovich

(3)     House Rules, a novel by Jodi Picoult

(4)     Hunger of Memory:  The Education of Richard Rodriguez (an autobiography)

(5)     Love Story, a novel by Erich Segal

(6)     Friendship for Grown-Ups:  What I Missed and Learned Along the Way, a memoir by Lisa Whelchel

(7)     Weekends at Bellevue:  Nine Years on the Night Shift at the Psych ER, a memoir by Julie Holland, M.D.

(8)     It’s All in the Frijoles:  100 Famous Latinos Share Real-Life Stories, Time-Tested Dichos, Favorite Folktales, and Inspiring Words of Wisdom by Yolanda Nava

(9)     The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

(10)   Like Water for Chocolate:  A Novel in Monthly Installments with Recipes, Romances and Home Remedies by Laura Esquivel

(11)    When Do They Serve the Wine?:  The Folly, Flexibility and Fun of Being a Woman by Liza Donnelly

(12)    The Help, a novel by Kathryn Stockett

(13)    Fits, Starts & Matters of the Heart:  28 True Stories of Love, Loss and Everything in Between by Freelance Success

  • Spanish Children’s Books

(1)     Cinco de Mayo:  Se celebra el orgullo (in Spanish) by Carol Gnojewski

(2)     Hairs-Pelitos (bilingual) by Sandra Cisneros and Terry Ybáñez

(3)     Mi primer libro de dichos/My First Book of Proverbs (bilingual) by Ralfka Gonzalez and Ana Ruiz

(4)     Too Many Tamales (in English) by Gary Soto and Ed Martinez

(5)     My Very Own Room/Mi propio cuartito (bilingual) by Amada Irma Pérez and Maya Christina Gonzalez

(6)     Tu cuerpo, de la cabeza a los pies (in Spanish) by Núria Roca and Rosa Maria Curto (Barron’s Educational Series)

(7)     Gracias, El pavo de Thanksgiving (in Spanish) by Joy Cowley and Joe Cepeda

(8)     My Name is María Isabel (in English) by Alma Flor Ada and K. Dyble Thompson

(9)     Sopa de frijoles:  una poema para cocinar/Bean Soup:  A Cooking Poem (bilingual) by Jorge Argueta and Rafael Yockteng

(10)  In My Family/En mi familia (bilingual) by Carmen Lomas Garza

(11)   A Gift from Papá Diego/Un regalo de Papá Diego (bilingual) by Benjamin Alire Sáenz and Geronimo Garcia

(12)   The Empanadas that Abuela Made/Las empanadas que hacía la abuela (bilingual) by Diane Gonzales Bertrand and Alex Pardo DeLange

(13)   Dancing Miranda/Baile, Miranda, baile (bilingual) by Diana de Anda and Lamberto Alvarez

(14)   The Everything Kids’ Learning Spanish Book:  Fun exercises to help you learn español by Laura K. Lawless

Last night I attended Susie’s end-of-semester potluck party for our Spanish clinic team.  The fun began at 7:00 p.m. and didn’t end until around 12:45 a.m. this morning.  There were ten of us — Susie and her boyfriend Chris, Rosanna and her boyfriend Diego (I had Thanksgiving dinner with them), Martha, Celina, Stephanie (my ride), Gabriel, me, and Dr. Ezequiel Peña (a.k.a. Clinic Team Supervisor).  We had a great time eating food that people brought, talking, watching a little television, and playing games.  I tried a sip of the champurrado, Mexican hot chocolate made with hominy flour that is served at Christmastime (brought by Celina), and an assortment of good food — tortilla chips and spicy guacamole dip, salad, fruit, chicken, rice, flour tortilla, tamale, chocolate cake, and a Coke.  The games — as well as the company — were engaging and enjoyable.  The first one was Rainbow Jumbling Towers, a set of 48 colorful wooden blocks that are stacked high in which each player tries to remove one without causing the tower to fall.  I narrowly escaped causing a collapse; it’s a good thing I’m not an engineer.  Then we played Boxers or Briefs?, a fun adult party game (we kept it clean) in which we got to learn interesting things, some true and some funny, about each other and teased with off-the-wall answers until there was a winner — Martha, who collected six “True” chips and six “Funny” chips.  I really like this game.  Finally, we sang karaoke courtesy of YouTube lyrics.  Since I can’t sing, I had fun observing as the group sang a variety of tunes including Spanish songs, “I Swear” (All-4-One), “Bad Romance” (Lady Gaga), “Tick Tock” (Kesha), “Like a Virgin” (Madonna), “Total Eclipse of the Heart” (Bonnie Tyler), and “Eye of the Tiger” (Survivor).  It was nice to see everyone so relaxed and in a good mood after their stressful semester.  This group is such a friendly and welcoming bunch and I will really miss seeing them in class and clinic.  At the end of the night, Dr. Peña gave each of us a small gift and Celina gave me an “Alamo” t-shirt as a reminder of my time in Texas.

I squeezed in some leisure reading over the past week.  I finally read the New York Times bestseller, The Help (a novel) by Kathryn Stockett and loved it.  Also, I read Fits, Starts & Matters of the Heart: 28 True Stories of Love, Loss & Everything in Between, a book of essays by my fellow writers at Freelance Success.  This was a very good read too.  Tomorrow I’ll post a list of all of the books I’ve read this fall while on my sabbatical leave.

Christmas is quickly approaching and I’m looking forward to being with my Dad and sister in New York.  Holidays are more difficult now since we lost my Mom in 2001 to breast cancer.  Her loving presence is greatly missed and I didn’t want to conclude this blog without mentioning her since she has had a great influence on my life and would be proud of my work and travels.  I think of and pray for Mom often and she lives within my heart.

I will resume my packing and cleaning tomorrow so that I’ll be ready for Friday’s move.  Four days to go…

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  • In: Diversions
  • Comments Off on Books, Food, and a Movie

I’ve recently read some more Spanish children’s books in order to practice using the language and to learn about Hispanic/Latino culture.  Most of these books were picked up at my local public library (Cody branch), but I also made a special trip to the Central Library downtown in order to read a recommended book that was not allowed to be checked out.  As mentioned in a previous post, even children’s books in a foreign language can be challenging due to unknown words, regional dialect, and creative sentence structure.  On a positive note, this batch of books was easier to get through than the last batch; I guess the practice helped.  I recently read six books:  (1) Sopa de frijoles: una poema para cocinar/Bean Soup: A Cooking Poem (bilingual) by Jorge Argueta and Rafael Yockteng; (2) In My Family/En mi familia (bilingual) by Carmen Lomas Garza; (3) A Gift from Papá Diego/Un regalo de Papá Diego (bilingual) by Benjamin Alire Sáenz and Geronimo Garcia; (4) The Empanadas that Abuela Made/Las empanadas que hacía la abuela (bilingual) by Diane Gonzales Bertrand and Alex Pardo DeLange; (5) Dancing Miranda/Baile, Miranda, baile (bilingual) by Diana de Anda and Lamberto Alvarez; and (6) The Everything Kids’ Learning Spanish Book: Fun exercises to help you learn español by Laura K. Lawless.

On a related note, when I stopped by the SEFLA office yesterday to pick up my diploma for successfully completing my course, I was pleasantly surprised.  I received a grade of A+ for Advanced Conversational Spanish.  I really enjoyed my weekly lessons with Elvia.  These private lessons were an added out-of-pocket expense, but they were definitely worth it.  Although several native speakers have told me that I speak Spanish very well, I still don’t have the comfort I would like in using the language.  This will come with more practice and time.

Earlier this week on the way home from my clinic practicum, I had take-out food again from El Pollo Loco.  I ordered their 2-piece chicken meal (leg & thigh) that came with two sides (I chose the broccoli, cauliflower, and carrot veggie mix and a corn cobette).  The meal came with tortillas.  I also ordered an individual serving of chocolate cake.  This dinner was delicious; it was very tasty for fast food.  I like this restaurant chain but we don’t have it up north where I live.  Yesterday, on the way to SEFLA, I picked up a take-out Chinese food lunch from Beijing Express (5203 Fredericksburg Rd. at Callaghan), a new restaurant for me.  I decided to try a different dish than usual so I ordered the Almond Chicken lunch special; it came with fried rice and an egg roll.  This meal was okay (Chinese food is not my favorite but I do like a few select items and order them occasionally).

This morning I went to AMC Huebner Oaks 24 to see Katherine Heigl’s new movie, “Life As We Know It”.  Since the movie start time was 11:30 a.m., I got the before-noon ticket price of $5.00 — a good deal.  But, the small popcorn I ordered was $5.75.  It cost more than the movie!  I remember reading recent survey results in which Americans named movie theater popcorn as being the most overpriced food.  I would have to agree.  Anyway, this movie — a comedy/drama — was entertaining, although I’m getting tired of seeing Katherine Heigl play the same type of movie role.  I really liked her on the TV series “Grey’s Anatomy”.

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Entrada #8 de diario:   domingo,  el 28 de noviembre de 2010

El semestre terminará en dos semanas.  Hay mucha información que he aprendido sobre latinos y sus culturas.

Capítulo 9 de Hispanics and the Future of America examina la salud física y mental de los latinos.  A pesar de tener baja posición socioeconómica que los caucásicos, los latinos como un grupo tiene menos mortalidad que los caucásicos (p. 365).  Este hecho se llama “epidemiological paradox” y es muy interesante y sorprendente y necesita más investigación.  Una preocupación principal es la salud de los niños latinos – especialmente la condición de sobrepeso – porque los niños son la futura de la sociedad.  Los estudios indican mejor salud mental para los inmigrantes recientes que los inmigrantes que están aquí por un tiempo muy largo (p. 376).  Es posible que el proceso de aculturación tenga un efecto negativo en la salud de los latinos.  Necesitamos más información, estadísticas, y explicaciones para entender que pasan en las vidas de los inmigrantes latinos.  En mi clínica bilingüe, los clientes latinos tienen muchos problemas con depresión y ansiedad.  Estas condiciones son universales; son comunes en non-latinos también.

Encontré un libro de referencia para ayudarme con las entrevistas y las sesiones de terapia con clientes hispanoblantes.  Es Medical Spanish: A Psychologist’s Guide (Complete Volume) por Craig A. Sinkinson, M.D. y es disponible en  Este libro tiene muchas palabras y frases útiles en inglés y español.  Probablemente, no podré manejar las sesiones clínicas totalmente en español a causa de los matices de la lengua, las diferencias culturales, y mis obligaciones éticas, pero quiero entender suficiente cuando mis clientes usen palabras españoles para describir algo.  Siempre necesitaré un co-terapeuta o supervisor bilingüe para estos tipos de casos.

  • In: Diversions
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Only three weeks left in San Antonio.  It’s hard to believe how quickly the time is passing by.  Two days ago I had my last Spanish lesson at SEFLA.  I’m so glad that Elvia and I were able to work together for these last ten weeks.  Her lessons were very helpful and I learned a lot.  She shared with me some really good websites for learning and practicing Spanish, and now I’ll share them with you:

Yesterday was Thanksgiving day.  I feel very blessed and have a lot to be thankful for in my life.  As an optimist, I often focus on the positives and express gratitude as appropriate.  I hope that you also take the time to acknowledge the good people and things in your life, not only on Thanksgiving, but always.  Since I couldn’t be with my own family this Thanksgiving, I accepted an invitation from one of OLLU‘s graduate students, Rosanna (who is in my lecture class and practicum), to have Thanksgiving dinner at her aunt’s house in San Antonio.  It was so sweet of them to invite me.  I arrived with a fruit-and-nut basket and was immediately greeted by the large friendly dog and other family members.  There were about 15 of us — aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends — and everyone was so warm and welcoming.  Rosanna reminded me that is is a Mexican family (from El Paso, Texas) and this is how they are.  We ate a delicious dinner in the back yard, then had dessert inside while watching two movies, Walt Disney’s “A Christmas Carol” (the famous Ebenezer Scrooge tale by Charles Dickens, starring Jim Carrey) and “Winter’s Bone” (a tragic story of poverty, drugs, and cruelty which made us even more appreciative of our own blessings).  I enjoyed my five hours there with great food, people, and conversation.  Sharing the holidays with kind-hearted people is truly a blessing and I’m glad to have made new acquaintances in San Antonio.

Today was a day of rest.  I avoided the “Black Friday” frenzy at the malls.  I’ll do my holiday gift shopping later.  I’m still trying to do some pleasure reading, and recently finished a book of cartoons, When Do They Serve the Wine? The Folly, Flexibility, and Fun of Being a Woman by Liza Donnelly.  There are still several other books on my to-read list, but I’ve been temporarily sidetracked by my reading of Spanish books.

Sampling San Antonio‘s restaurants remains high on my to-do list, so tomorrow I’m scheduled to go on another food tour.  As usual, I’ll report back once it’s over.

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The countdown begins.  In exactly four weeks from today, I will be leaving San Antonio.  At this point on my journey, I am scaling back on my club activities so that I can have more free time to explore the area.  I still have 3 or 4 tours I hope to do in the remaining time.

Wednesday afternoon was spent observing the other Spanish Team at the clinic.  This team is supervised by Diana Lincón, MA, LPC, an OLLU graduate.  I observed her team two weeks ago and enjoyed the experience so she invited me to return.  We had a full caseload that day — six clients (two each hour).  As with my Tuesday Spanish Team, the Wednesday Spanish Team (different bilingual student trainees) has interesting cases as well.  I’ve been discussing my clinic experiences in my journal entries for Classroom Professor.  After Wednesday’s clinic, I went to SEFLA for my ninth Spanish lesson with Elvia.  These Spanish lessons have been great.  I have only one more left.  For dinner that night, I returned to Las Palapas, a Mexican fast food restaurant, and ordered a meal to go.  This time, I tried “Steak a la Mexicana” (spicy grilled beef with peppers, served with beans and rice and warm tortillas).  It was flavorful (“poco picante”) and very good.

On Thursday at 10:00 a.m., I attended my monthly Newcomers of San Antonio “Coffee, Tea, and YOU!” at Bea’s house (located in a really nice section of San Antonio that I hadn’t been to before).  I met a couple of new people and chatted with others whom I knew from a previous coffee session or luncheon.  I mentioned the Studio Art Tour I did last week, and how I’m wrapping things up in preparation for my move next month.  There were 27 members at this social event.  People were friendly and welcoming.  We snacked, talked, had a meeting (conducted by President Donna Lee and during which there was controversy over a proposed bylaws change), and played a fun game (Scavenger Hunt in your Purse) in which my team tied for first place — we found 30 out of 50 listed items in our purses.  I left the meeting almost three hours later and headed, for the first time this fall, to a mall.  On the way there, I stopped at Staples and bought three boxes of holiday cards (is the year really almost over?) and a couple of other things.  Then, I headed to The Shops at La Cantera, a cute and popular shopping area.  My first stop there was to Bravo! Cucina Italiana for lunch.  Italian food (minus the cheese) is one of my favorites — I love pasta and bread!  This was my first time at this restaurant; I stumbled upon it because it was the closest eatery to where I parked my car.  Good thing I did, because I absolutely loved my Pasta Bolognese (“fresh egg fettuccine tossed in our signature Bolognese sauce”) and iced tea.  As usual, I took the leftover portion home and ate it for dinner.  Next, I went to Dillard’s (we don’t have this store in Pennsylvania or New York) and purchased a pair of earrings and heavy pajamas (I was surprised to learn that it gets cold at night in San Antonio).  Then I walked around and browsed.  Of course, I had to stop in Barnes and Noble as I passed by it; fortunately, I limited myself to purchasing only two magazines (I didn’t dare go back into the book section).  I finished my three-hour mall trip with a stop at Godiva where I purchased one small piece of chocolate.  I knew that Godiva chocolates were expensive, but imagine my surprise at paying almost $3.00 for one small gourmet candy.  When I inquired about the price, the cashier informed me that the chocolate costs $48.00 per pound!  Luckily, I got an additional piece for free by giving my e-mail address in order to join their loyalty club.  What a lovely day — nice weather and several of my favorite things (Italian food, books, and chocolate) all in one afternoon.

Today (Friday), I rested a little, ran a couple of errands, and then went out with Donna Lee of Newcomers of San Antonio.  She invited me for dinner at Soluna restaurant (I had beef tacos and iced tea) followed by a 6:00 p.m. Spanish conversation hour with her teacher (Oralia) at Instituto Panamericano.  Donna Lee has recently begun her study of Spanish.  This conversation practice was something new for her.  When we arrived at the school, Oralia was reviewing stories with a few children and their parents; five minutes later we moved to another room and began our conversation.  Donna Lee introduced me and we spent the hour talking.  Oralia read to us one of the stories she wrote that she based on her own Mexican family.  I appreciated this opportunity to spend time with Donna Lee and to practice my Spanish with a native speaker.  At the end of the evening, we exchanged contact information so that we can keep in touch.

During the week, I’ve been practicing my Spanish and learning more about Hispanic/Latino culture by reading Spanish children’s books that I borrowed from my local public library.  This is a great way to expose myself to a variety of issues via stories written for a novice reader.  Even though these books have children as their primary audience, they sometimes challenged me — an adult — with unknown words, regional dialect, and creative sentence structure.  But, I got through them and enjoyed them.  Recently, I read seven books:  (1) Hairs-Pelitos (bilingual) by Sandra Cisneros and Terry Ybáñez, (2) Mi primer libro de dichos/My First Book of Proverbs (bilingual) by Ralfka Gonzalez and Ana Ruiz, (3) Too Many Tamales (in English) by Gary Soto and Ed Martinez, (4) My Very Own Room/Mi propio cuartito (bilingual) by Amada Irma Pérez and Maya Christina Gonzalez, (5) Tu cuerpo, de la cabeza a los pies (in Spanish) by Núria Roca and Rosa Maria Curto (Barron’s Educational Series), (6) Gracias, El pavo de Thanksgiving (in Spanish) by Joy Cowley and Joe Cepeda, and (7) My Name is María Isabel (in English) by Alma Flor Ada and K. Dyble Thompson.



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