Monday, September 27, 2010

There's No Place Like Home

Dorothy was right!  Not only is there no place like home, but what you seek is often right in your own backyard.

I cooked tonight, a whole meal - well, two meals, actually, but for the first time in two weeks.  I was in my element.  I went to the grocery store, which is my own form of zen meditation (as much as I hate to shop for clothes and home goods, I love to shop for fresh ingredients!).  Quick check on my sick husband, with the promise of homemade chicken and dumpling soup, then into the kitchen to start dinner.  A friend from out of town was able to stop by and share a meal with me.  Great conversation, great wine, and all while I was cooking, this is my fabulous life (outside of work, that is).  I made chicken kiev - don't tell me that's so 1981, because fun, delicious food, much like Louis Vuitton handbags, never go out of style - with my fresh rosemary in the middle, it scented the entire chicken breast, mashed potatoes, gravy, and glazed carrots, my favorite comfort foods.  I also slipped in a mixed green salad with crisp Granny Smith apples and walnuts, with my own dijon, Paso Robles Olive Oil, and balsamic vinaigrette. I opened up a new bottle of Paso Robles wine - an interesting blend of Cab Sav, Cab Franc, Petite Verdot, and Syrah - truly delicious wine.  More great conversation and laughter - this is what I love about girlfriends.

There is an easiness between girlfriends that you can't explain to men.  And I'm certain they have the similar rapport, but tonight was perfect, just fun, good times.  Why can't life always be like a dinner party?  Work was terrible.  It always is lately.  I have to divorce myself of the concept that I am a corporate drone.  I just don't care anymore.  I will do my job to the best of my ability, but I am not taking on additional assignments anymore.  Why should I?  What reward did I get from working 60 hour weeks this summer, traveling in coach class (mind you - this is how I travel for pleasure - it just feels so much worse when you are not with your husband and on vacation), eating alone, living off the kindness of your friends merely through Facebook?  I got nothing.  My superiors would argue I got a one-of-a-kind experience, but I say, in the words of John Pinette, "nay-nay."  I learned how to say no - and no I will say.  I have school, I have my food and wine and writing passions, and the day will come when I can say good-bye to corporate life and live my days in blissful wonder.  And all the while - there's no place like home.

Monday's Musings

I've solidified my goals, I've mapped out the next three years, and I don't find it hard to get out of bed to do some PhD work or check out my friends' musings on Facebook.  I am, however, finding it difficult to get myself to work.  I know I should feel blessed beyond belief to have the job I do, and I am grateful.  But I have always believed that your life's work should be fun and meaningful, and lately, my work is diametrically opposed to that sentiment.  And I know I can change that.

In this quiet pre-dawn hour, Padma is teaching me Indian cookery while I surf the internet for inspiration.  I'm making dinner for a friend tonight, and all I want to do today is menu-plan and grocery-shop.  But alas, my job still calls, demanding, impatient, cranky petulant child that it is.  My life vision this morning involved sleeping in, eh, maybe another hour, then a slow, leisurely cup of tea while reading my e-mails (sent to me by my fans).  In my home office, I'm surrounded by newspaper articles proclaiming my writing as visionary, thought-changing, and intriguing.  I spend the day writing about food, thinking about food, and cooking delicious food.  But now I go to work, in an office full of furniture handed-down through generations of bored, tired HR people, to help grown men do things they should have learned to do years ago, and continue the drudgery on the way to my yellow brick road.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Courage to Dream

My love affair with the East coast, short-lived, is now over.  I can admit when I'm wrong.  Of course, Buffalo, New York is not the most glamourous of places to spend any amount of time, but this summer's exhausting work travel to Buffalo, the nerve-wracking Philadelphia "experiment," and amazing travel in the West has cured me of wanting to live in the over-populated, stressed-out, rat-race of the East.

Telluride, Colorado was the venue for this weekend's travel.  After contracting (on a compromised immune system, no doubt) stomach ailments one week, a nasty cold the following, and not being home for most of this time, I was blissfully happy to see my charming husband at the airport in Grand Junction, Colorado.  We slipped back into the familiar pace of our comfortable marriage, had pizza for lunch, and enjoyed the beautiful 2 1/2 hour drive up through the mountains.  Each mile grew more beautiful and culminated with breathtaking mountain views and changing aspen trees as we drove into the small-town resort.  A wedding took place, but most importantly, fun times with friends - both old and new - made the weekend perfect.

The sky was so clear-blue that I know the fog that clouded my judgement of places-to-live most of the year 2010 had finally lifted.  I felt free and at ease, and allowed myself to dream of the day I walk away from a corporate soul-selling job and into a career of my heart's desire.  The weekend was full of time for just the two of us, and time with our friends.  We sought out the perfect pizza place and perched at the bar for the Wyoming Cowboys game - their loss being the only sore spot of the weekend.  We rode the gondola, which provided stunningly gorgeous views of the town in a quiet, peaceful setting.  We ate great food, we drank great wine.  We lived, we laughed, we loved.  I have the courage to dream of all the great things that lie ahead for us.  As Anais Nin has said, "Life shrinks and expands in proportion to one's courage."  I made my bucket list last week, formalized the goals to get there, and am going to take the risks, be courageous, and live the dream.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

That's What Dreams Are Made Of ...

I hope Van Halen will allow me to title this post with one of their lyrics.  (Straight up we'll climb ... leave it all behind ... ).  I got ill two nights ago, stomach ill, one of the worst for me.  I thought maybe I'd gotten food poisoning from a fast food restaurant on the way home from yet another trip.  Now, two days later, I believe it's stress.  The amazingly intense stress of working, traveling, and going to graduate school full-time.  I'm buckling.  I haven't spent enough time on school, enough time at home, enough time with my friends and family.  This is when it gets hard.  This is when people make life-changing decisions.  This is when I have to make some life-changing decisions.

I don't love working in HR.  I drag myself out of bed in the morning to do it because I make a great living at it.  But the truth is, I have found what my dreams are made of.  My dreams are in the kitchen.  Cooking.  Tasting.  Teaching others the joys of cooking and tasting.  Writing.  Talking about food.  Planning menus and parties.  Living in my own world with my own rules.  The question becomes:  How will I get there?  I fear I have become so lazy and complacent, but the time is now.  I must make steps, no matter how small, to get my to my goals.  If I wake up in 5 years and am still in the same place - physically or emotionally - I will have failed.

I read and watch Ina Garten, who is a role model to me.  Stuck working in a government job - a very good job - but going home at night to her one true passion.  Her husband encouraged her to leave it all behind, to climb higher and higher, and she is a success.  She loves what she does, she's good at it, and I suspect she's fabulously wealthy.  While my path won't be the same, I hope that my end goal is similar - to love what I do unequivocally and whole-heartedly.  To jump out of bed in the morning, put on my apron, or sit down at my laptop to write important things.  This is what my dreams are made of.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Everything Happens for a Reason

Do you remember a time when you hoped that someone would break up with you first, so you didn't have to expend the energy to do it yourself?  Yeah, that just happened to me.  With a job.  Immense relief to hear that I'm not what they were looking for, because they sure as hell weren't what I was looking for.  I am gainfully employed, they asked ME to this interview (same company, so nothing lost), but it felt wrong from the beginning.  Trust your instincts.  Go with your gut.  Whatever eloquent quote you need, do it.  Being honest about my talents, my abilities, and my passions was the way to go.  I'm staying in Wyoming for now.  And I'm happy and relieved for that decision.  I felt light-hearted, for the first time in a month, since this opportunity was presented in a most sloppy fashion.  I belong here, for now.  And I can work on things I know how to do while working on my PhD.  It is the perfect answer for me, and I can't be more excited at how things feel into place for us, oddly enough, to make us stay in a place I thought I wanted desperately to leave.

I'm not afraid to admit I'm wrong.  I'm not afraid to realize that I have it truly great now and to embrace the emotion.  All things happen for a reason.  I think this job interview was the answer to making me appreciate where I am now.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Embracing My Roots

I grew up in Wyoming.  Early morning goose hunts, long deer hunt hikes, and mountainous fishing expeditions were the norm.  Except I, being a princess-girl, resisted my dad's efforts to turn me into a rugged Wyoming girl.  I think he lured me into the goose blind with the promise of hot chocolate, even though at 4 a.m., I was crabby enough to snap back at him (if he knew what he did now, he would have added Kahlua to the hot chocolate and made me a hunter forever).  These were the days before water bottles, so when we got thirsty on the trail, he told us to suck on a rock.  I'm still baffled at how this quenched thirst, but this is my dad - don't ask, just do.  This is the man who, my mom accounted, recently broke his wrist while training for his next elk hunt, and had every doctor, surgeon, and specialist in the regional hospital, where he went to the ER, come to marvel at the man who survived a heart attack 12 years ago, a broken wrist that he didn't know about for three months,, a kidney transplant (courtesy of yours truly), and another broken wrist, and still spends weeks on end in the wilderness (some by himself) hunting wild game every year.  He's a marvel of modern medicine.  I could learn a lot from him - I have learned a lot from him.

We got to elk camp at 1:30 a.m. after tailgating for 5 hours before the first Wyoming Cowboys game.  The beer and Jaeger flowed freely, and I stopped early - dammit, knowing I'd have to drive.  The 2 hours, long, long hours to elk camp.  My dad, the most rugged mountain man alive, stayed up to help us set up our tent (because there was no way in hell I was staying in my parents' camper with my sister, her husband, and 5-year-old nephew - my dad thinks that he can fit a small army in this camper, and I think I need my own personal space).  I rode a four-wheeler, for the first time ever; I drove a four-wheeler, well, obviously a first, and in time to make my dad's dreams come true - as he had returned with my husband, from the morning's hunt to witness this spectacle).  I didn't have a meltdown (like I did last year), despite being a long day of tailgating, a campfire, and a couple days' worth past a shower.  I actually let go and let myself enjoy it.  I was a self-proclaimed city-girl for a long time - until I started dodging the bullet of actually having to move to Philadelphia and being a city-girl.

On the four-wheeler, I saw mountains, streams, lakes, wide open spaces, and fresh air.  People passing by in camo, waving at us, happy as hell to be in a world without cell phones, satellite tv, and internet.  I could maybe do a couple more days, but I have to have tv and internet.  I don't need to be connected through cell phones, but I have to Google shit I don't remember off the top of my head, I have to watch Top Chef, and I have to have my wine (which, rest assured, I did - and found fellow oenophiles in my parents' friends who camped with us).  My dad, thoughtful soul that he is, gave up being the head chef (which is probably one of his other passions - clearly I take after him), and let me cook two meals.  I hadn't cooked in almost two weeks, being on the road, and it was fantastic.  Even in the confines of a small camper trailer, I cooked amazing fajitas one day, and an awesome dry-rub pork loin roast and fried potatoes the next.

But during our four-wheel rides, I realized how truly lucky I am to live a life where this is just a short drive away.  To be able to get truly away, without cell service, and live life more simply, more slow-paced.  One afternoon, we played SkipBo, Uno, rummy, and Pass the Pigs (Google it - it's the most freakin' hilarious game you will ever encounter) with my five-year-old nephew.  If you read this blog (and who does?), you'll know I'm not fond of children.  I live in an adult-only world, but my nephew is the exception.  He's smart, he's well-behaved, and he's hilarious - I laugh until I nearly pee my pants at his entertainment.  He loves to camp, he loves the mountains.  One morning, he found a stick, and hobbled around like an old man - only to find out, he was channeling his inner Yoda, and then he'd break out into Jedi-light-saber mode, it's too funny to even write about.

I don't want the job in the city.  I don't want that life.  It's a rat race that most people would pay dearly to get out of - would probably pay dearly to have the life I do.  Why would I give this up?  To make well over 6-figures?  Who cares? I make close to 6-figures in Wyoming, where we have a beautiful house, the cost of living is cheap, and we can travel to amazing places in a short amount of time.  I dread having the conversation with my boss to tell her I'm not interested in relocating.  I'm not interested in making the big bucks, because with the big bucks, come the big house, the big stress of maintaining the big house, the big lifestyle, when I really already live a life larger than my expectations.  I am grateful that I've learned this now, instead of making a huge mistake to move East and lose it all.