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29 October 2009 @ 12:04 pm
My mother-in-law was here for 21 days (actually, let me spell that out: twenty-one -- just so we all understand the heft of the number).

And, I never posted a bad word about her. And i never yelled at her. And, though we had some serious discussions,. my husband and I didn't argue about it. I was sympathetic to his stance, and he to mine.

And she is gone, gone, gone!!  My house, my marriage, my writing, and my days and nights can return to normal.
07 September 2009 @ 11:29 am
We had a wonderful time in DC -- I've posted many pictures to FB if you'd like to see them.

In much more momentous news -- I gave my two-weeks' notice for my job while I was away. So, beginning one week from Friday, I'm going to focus on academic research and writing again (can I get a "Hooray"!?). I'll also teach one or two classes in the Spring at my soon-to-be-former employer, and I'll continue to grab freelance writing and editing gigs when they come up. The Midwesterner in me feels guilty about giving up a job -- even a poor one -- when so many are without work, but I need to strike while the Ted Hughes iron is still hot. And, if you know anyone who needs a book indexed in record time, send them my way.

We're off to see "Julie & Julia" (finally!) today. I have a great love for Julia Child -- I met her once, at Smith, just about ten years ago. And she was awesome!

Happy Labor Day!
19 August 2009 @ 05:30 pm
Yesterday's successful interview is the culmination of about a year or more of really significant stress in my life, which included some terrible, cruel family drama, a personal sense of being off-track physically, emotionally, and intellectually, and a real loathing of my current hometown and my work situation -- all in addition to the constant uncertainty of the green card/work authorization process.

But, it's ALL over. And, interestingly, it's all un-knotted itself in about the past six weeks -- and especially in the last ten days -- and I really feel like I've been through a battle. Simultaneously, though, I feel like the ball of fear and uncertainty inside me is gone for the first time in a very, very long time.

In my marriage (and, really, in most of my personal relationships) I am the one who is always looking three steps ahead, planning, plotting, striving, moving on. But in the last months, as J. has tried to suggest concrete plans for the next months and years, I've shushed him and shook my head: I couldn't see beyond the immigration stuff, past my family drama, out of my miserable workaday situation. Thankfully, jubilantly, mercifully, something in me has released, and I can look forward again. I feel secure in myself, secure in my marriage, and secure in my life. And it feels amazing!

So, in light of this new perspective, this rediscovery of my true self, I'm making some plans, and making some lists, and making some promises to myself. This is the beginning:

1. I promise to keep eating healthy, making healthy meals for J., and exercising 5 days per week.
2. I promise to read some poetry every day -- it makes my heart sing and my mind rejoice.
3. I promise to actively seek writing and editing gigs and research activities.
4. I promise to get back into academic writing. I've worked too hard at my education to let that go.
5. I promise to get back into creative writing, little by little, even when writing exercises feel silly.
6. I promise to tell my wonderful husband every single day that he is the most amazing person I know, and that he makes my life so warm and safe.
7. I promise to appreciate those who love me and to love them back. This includes John's family.
8. I promise not to let the place I live, and my dislike of it, define me. As a wise friend in a similar situation put it, she "just doesn't let it get inside her".

We had our green card interview yesterday, and it went smashingly well -- even though we freaked ourselves out in the last minutes of the car ride to the office because we could NOT recall what song we danced to first at our reception -- in fact, it went so well that we were stunned into silence when it was over.  The security officer in the lobby held up the entry line so she could browse my wedding album, we waited about 15 minutes. The interview itself was pleasant, brief, simple, and I only had to answer two questions (J's date of birth and his dad's first name). He only had to answer about 10 questions, most of which affirmed things like the fact that he had never committed espionage nor been on public assistance -- and none of which were about me, or our marriage.  And he'll have his green card in hand by the end of next week!!

Will it surprise you to know that I had prepared a five-inch ring binder with originals and copies of documents, financial information, wedding records, photos of our life together, sworn affidavits from friends, and the like -- all in sheet protectors, labeled, and indexed?  I didn't open it once in the interview -- and the officer asked to see our wedding album after she had approved the green card.

I am incredibly grateful that it's over, and that it went so well. Thank goodness!
08 July 2009 @ 04:56 pm

Yes, we are back on the Vegan Bandwagon, full-stop. John had a bit of a health scare (which is unanticipated in a man of 38), and our research has shown us that the healthiest overall lifestyle for us at this time is one that is pretty much vegan.

I like the idea, I like the health benefits. And, I love the way I feel. However, what I'm not-so-much liking is the cooking and prep time involved in preparing vegan meals and snacks for two people seven days a week with very little assistance. And, from what I've found so far, there isn't that much "easy" vegan cooking to be had. J. has promised to pitch in, but he doesn't yet have the skills, the pace, or the mindset to be anything other than in the way. He doesn't quite get that cooking can be -- in regard to such things as cooking time -- an exact science.

Tonight, I am trying to vegan up a chicken Parmesan sandwich J. drooled over on a Zaxby's commercial. Stay tuned!

06 July 2009 @ 09:14 am

That about sums up our Independence Day weekend extravaganza in Atlanta.

Because we are largely deprived of civilization in Montgomery, our jaunts to Atlanta (or anywhere else, really) often revolve around dining and shopping. We rolled into Atlanta mid-afternoon on Friday, and we stumbled across an awesome Mediterranean food stand run by an Armenian family. We had a lovely lunch of salad, falafel, and tabouleh, plus a little bit of their special fish soup, which was delicious, and which the man gave us for free (and it wasn't on the menu) because he and John talked Turkey and Armenia for a bit. J's diplomatic roamings get us a lot of play when we travel. Next, J. found his nirvana -- a frozen yogurt chain called Yoforia (which I insisted on calling frotopia all weekend) -- and he had some pomegranate frozen yogurt topped with all kinds of berries. We shopped a bit next -- I found a great Ralph Lauren purse at Ross (it's from last season, I think, but it's very swish), and I also got some jeans and some capris at Macy's. John got some travel stuff at The Container Store, then a book or two at B&N, and, finally, a new shirt and tie at Macy's. To make it even more splendid, we had applicable coupons to use everywhere but Ross. John also got a smoothie at a local place, because he likes them almost as much as ice cream. We stocked up on some hotel room supplies at Whole Foods (which, again, is such a luxury for us these days, living in the supermarket desert as we do). We went for a late dinner at Maggiano's (J. hadn't eaten there before) -- and we noted the location of a Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, which we'll be visiting on a subsequent, better-funded trip. I will give up my vegan ways for a night at Ruth's Chris without any qualms.

We were up early on the actual holiday because I had plans to meet a friend from grad school (Emily, the only person more pathologically early than I am) for a visit -- we hadn't seen each other in about four years! After some Peachtree Road Race induced traffic badness, John dropped me off and went off for further book shopping, and Emily and I had a great visit. I also got to meet her daughter, who is two-and-a-half, for the first time. After the visit, John and I went to Lenox and lunched at CPK, then we hit up Borders (which was surprisingly disappointing) and Filene's Basement (which was unsurprisingly disappointing, after my depressing visit there last month). We shopped a bit more, he got some more Yoforia, then we had a late afternoon nap back at the hotel. We had out Independence Day dinner at the Cheesecake Factory (which is our fave chain restaurant) -- and we ate Kobe beef burgers in keeping with the holiday-burger-eating tradition. We also had some great fried zucchini and stuffed dates as appetizers, and -- of course -- we had cheesecake for dessert. Having just read what we'd eaten, it's probably not surprising to know that we slunk back to the hotel and watched the fireworks on TV. It was a great, relaxing day!

Sunday we watched some news and Wimbledon, breakfasted at a bagel place, then hit up our true destinations: Trader Joe's and Whole Foods. After piling the car high with groceries -- and filling a cooler to its brim -- we got John once last smoothie, then made an uneventful drive back to Montgomery. I do think I startled and confused the folks at the Alabama Welcome Center rest area when I whipped out my sushi lunch. I got a few stares, and there was some pointing. The photo above was taken at the rest stop. Quite a statement on life in the South, isn't it?

We had a great weekend, even if it was a bit of a chain restaurant holiday. Really, is there anything more American than that?

I'm looking forward to the holiday weekend, and we have MUCH reason to celebrate in our Anglo-American household: J.RECEIVED HIS U.S. WORK AUTHORIZATION YESTERDAY!!!

He starts his new gig as an Assistant Professor (sans "visiting") on Monday. This really means we can stop living in fear that "something' is going to go wrong with the process, and we can move on with our lives. Of course, it also means I must give up my fantasy of living in a cool London flat for a few years.

We've also learned that we've been fast-tracked for the green card process, so we can expect to receive notification of our interview date very soon.



Current Mood: relievedrelieved
24 June 2009 @ 11:53 am

I just found out that someone I know from college makes about an 85-90 mile daily commute from her home to her job. She lives in Small Town, Wisconsin (where she and her husband have purchased a house, and where he's from), and she works in downtown Chicago. I don't know her well enough to ask her about it really, but I know she used to commute that distance and hated it, then she got a job nearby and hated it, and now she's commuting again. 160 miles as a round-trip daily commute seems kind of obscene to me, but it reminded me of a discussion J. and I have been having.

It can not be overstated how much I despise my current city (with no offense to its natives, some of you are lovely and wonderful). I also have a helluva time with the public transportation system (or lack thereof) and I have been much limited in my career options.

J. and I have been spending more and more time in Atlanta, and he is enjoying it more and more. One of the last times we were there, he broached the subject of us moving there. In this deal, I would live there full-time, and he would commute the 2.5 hours from and to on Mondays and Fridays (and on Thursdays, often, instead of Fridays). At first I declined the idea flat-out: we've done our time in a long distance relationship, and I've had much bad luck in the past with thinking long-distance was a workable situation and having it be the death knell of the relationship.

But, the more I think about it, the more I think it just might work, especially for a fixed amount of time (like 2 years, which would be from next summer until his contract is up here). Would I miss him? Of course! But, could I have a much better career and life in Atlanta? Definitely! Not only would my career and transportation options be better, but I still have a handful of great friends there, and the literary archive I need to excavate to get my scholarly life back on track is there, too. Also, as J. has seen in our visits, our cultural, shopping (Hello, Trader Joe's!), and entertainment options would be amazingly better. And, believe it or not, it wouldn't be so damn hot, either. Having lived there for about three years, I can vouch for the weather being better! And, of course, with all the traveling he does, it would be much easier for him to go in and out of ATL, without the obnoxious drive or risky commuter flight on either end.

None of J's immediate colleagues make that commute, but he knows of several people within his university who do it.

So, what are the drawback? We'd hate to live apart, and I'm sure doing so would cause issues we'd have to deal with. I don;t mean to downplay that, but I also know that i am not fully myself here (meaning, I am often miserable), and elevating my mood and outlook will only help our relationship. And, it would be more expensive, though Montgomery is wicked cheap, and J. could get a small apartment for under $1000/month. He says the driving wouldn't bother him in exchange for the quality of life improvement he'd receive. We know I'd need to make double what I'm making now, but I've done more than that in Chicago -- both in the recent and distant past -- so it's a possibility (though not a guarantee in this economy).

So, we're thinking about it. But I'm probably going to raise the discussion from the hypothetical to the possibly-planning phase.


23 June 2009 @ 11:04 am

I'm getting itchy again.

You see, behind my facade as a university administrator, I am a scholar. Being cursed or blessed with a hint more practicality and middle-class-values than the typical scholarly-minded individual, I realized about 4 years ago that my chances of achieving the perfect tenure-track gig -- along with the requisite book contracts, sabbatical funding, and ivy covered office -- were slim-to-none. The economic realities of the liberal arts had a lot to do with this, though the fact that I was about ten years older than most of my colleagues contributed to it, too.

So, I figured it out, cried and cried and cried, then turned my sights elsewhere. I got some very good advice from a woman I knew through my academic contacts -- she has a PhD, she writes widely about a few modern poets, and she is also a VP in a financial services firm. She told me that -- at my age, and with my practical mind and real-world job skills -- I would be well-served to make academia my side gig while pursuing a career in a more reliable field.

I've done that. Granted, living in a non-metropolitan area has meant that I've had to take some sidetracks, but it's working. I have a job where I can do meaningful work -- and it's within a university, my colleagues know and respect my background, and I have a reasonably-secure 8-5 paycheck along with full benefits.

The thing is, I've only really fulfilled half of the deal suggested to me by my wise colleague: I've got the full-time gig nailed down, but I've done virtually nothing in the last few years to build the side career, the one where my heart and my mind really belong. I've kept my toe in the poetry business by maintaining contacts, I've gotten research acknowledgements in a couple of recent books about my poet, but that's where it ends. I'm way behind, my scholarly mind feels stale, and I'm not sure where to begin. But I must begin soon.

I just have to figure out how. And where.
21 June 2009 @ 04:58 pm

I've been trying to find a really delicious vegan cookie recipe. Last week, I made the choc chip cookies from The Engine 2 Diet book and they were good straight from the oven, but they had a less-than-appetizing texture by the next day.

We've had some success with the recipe for Nutty Oatmeal Cookies in Mark Bittman's Food Matters, and I've played with the recipe for a while. Today, I hit the jackpot! Thus, with credit to Bittman for the basics of the recipe, here's the winner:

(Vegan) Cashew-Cherry-Chocolate-Coconut Oatmeal Cookies

1/2 c. canola oil (or 1 stick soy margarine, softened)
1/3 c. sugar (I use Turbinado)
1/2 c. brown sugar, packed
2/3 c. unsweetened applesauce
1.5 c. whole wheat flower, sifted
2 c. rolled oats
3/4 c. dried cherries
1 c. vegan chocolate chips
1/2 c. roasted unsalted cashews, broken into pieces
1/2 c. unsweetened coconut, toasted
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
pinch of salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 c. soy milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cream oil/margarine and sugars with an electric mixer. Add applesauce and mix until blended.

Combine the dry ingredients, including the fruit, nuts, chocolate chip and coconut. Stir. Add to the oil and sugar mixture a little at a time, alternating with the soy milk. Mix by hand until well-blended. Add the vanilla and mix again.

Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 9-12 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes on cookie sheet, then move to wire rack.

Makes 2.5 dozen cookies.