Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Life Changes: Giving Up on "Someday."

Sorry, I've been MIA for a bit, but I've been busy changing my life.

In this economy when most people around me are thanking their lucky stars to have a job, any job, with regular paychecks and health-insurance, I resigned from mine.

Why? Because of Eva.

Eva was a petite,dynamic woman with the energy of the Energizer Bunny and a twinkle in her eye. I met her about four years ago in a writing class I was teaching. She wanted to write. I loved having her in the class --she was enthusiastic and inquisitive, did the work, and showed up for every session.On the last day, as we said goodbye, I told her to keep writing. She laughed her trademark laugh and said, "I'll probably wait until after I retire."

Well, she retired and actually helped me get the job. She'd already retired as a teacher, and now she hung up her hat as a nutrition educator. I wished her well and told her to buckle down and write. Unfortunately, her mother who'd been ill all along took a turn for the worse and Eva transformed into a full-time care-taker.

This January Eva's mother died. When I saw her, I gave her a big hug, offered her my sympathies. I made a silent wish for her: Now, now she would write.

Two weeks later she got diagnosed with Stage 4 throat cancer. And earlier this month, Eva died. Even though I knew her only a short while, Eva managed to touch my heart and bring change into my life.

Thanks to her, I had one of the best day jobs ever. For about three years I got to teach people about food and how to cook. Not only did I have fun at work, but at the end of the day I knew I was helping people improve their lives. I have had enough jobs where I wrote fluff to make a product sound like the greatest thing since sliced bread, or a news story to boost the publisher's pal. They paid the bills, but left me empty.

So, why leave my great day job? Because even in passing, Eva managed to touch me and bring about a change. She made me think.

Yes, I enjoyed the job, but did I want to retire from it? No.

If you asked me what was the one thing I wanted to do in life, the answer would be to write. The elementary school me, the college me, the today me would all answer the same way. For the longest time, I've wanted to write and be a writer. Not write a bit on the side, but be a full-time, wholly-committed, creative writer.

So, yes, the money was good, the health insurance a blessing. But the cost was most of my waking hours spent not writing. Some of the other costs were missing out on kids' programs that conflicted with work, travelling, spending time with my parents. Time.

So, while lots of people are digging in their heels to hold on to their jobs, I walked away from mine.Because "someday" sometimes just doesn't come.

I know my decision doesn't make sense to a lot of people,and that's okay. I arrived at my decision through much thought & reflection, and, yes, after many discussions with the Cowboy. It wasn't an easy decision, but it's the right one for me.

The key now is to live life well, and use the time I've gained.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

My Adventures at the CIA

I recently got up close & personal with the CIA. No, not the hush-hush agency, but something even cooler: the Culinary Institute of America. I've been wanting to go visit CIA, take a class, for sometime now...but both the New York and California campuses were too far away. However, now that they've a San Antonio, Texas campus...a mere three and half hours drive away...yes, I finaggled the Cowboy to take me to San Antonio for our 10th anniversary. He really is a keeper because he put up with two-day's worth of CIA on our weekend.Of course, he ate well and that did help.

One of the first places I checked out was the new CIA Bakery Cafe. Oh the desserts were works of art. Don't take my word for it, check out the pics.

They also had rustic loaves of bread, coffee and teas from around the world, and an uber cool light fixture made of wooden spoons...

But the desserts wowed me and the Cowboy & I splurged...

The chocolate dome thing was called "Chocolate XS" and it was...but my favorite ended up being the light and luscious Mango Mousse Cake. Yum. A sweet first day of vacation.

The CIA Bakery Cafe hours are: Tuesday through Saturday, 7 a.m.–5 p.m. and 8 a.m.–5 p.m. on Sunday. The CafĂ© will be closed on Monday.

The next day, I participated in the Spain and the World Table cooking class that CIA was kind enough to let me cover. You can read about that adventure and find some Spanish recipes at this link. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

All About Beans

So, I loved the San Angelo Standard-Times food section today. For one thing, they created a great package with my stories and pictures. Being a freelancer, I've no editorial input in the headlines, or page I'm uber grateful when every element comes together in a nice package. And I was featured both on the front and the back. And I got color. WooHoo! Yes, pretty excited.

Funny thing about beans, I grew up eating chickpeas as they are pretty popular in Bengali cuisine. However, my Cowboy had never tried them before he met me. Now they are a staple food for him...especially as hummus.

In return, he introduced me to pinto beans. In West Texas, they use the colorful pintos in everything from refried beans to chilis (yes, even real Texans sometimes put some other protein in addition to meat in their chilis).

During our dating period, we explored other cuisines. We tried black beans in Southwestern and Latin dishes, fava beans in Middle Eastern restaurants, and baked beans in Boston, and creamy cannelinis in Italian concoctions. Ah, beany good eats!

Want to know what to do about the gassiness of beans?

Here's the link to my article.

Want a primer on how to cook with beans?

Here's another link. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Come read my interview w/CJ Lyons about working w/activist Erin Brockovich

Hi all,

Today is the release of ROCK BOTTOM, which my friend/mentor CJ Lyons co-authored with famed environmental activist Erin Brockovich. It's the story of a woman fighting mountain top removal mining that threatens her hometown. To celebrate, I interviewed CJ about ROCK BOTTOM.

Given that we are all writers, I thought you might be interested in learning about the co-authoring process and how the book came about. Given that we are all readers, I thought you might want to know more about ROCK BOTTOM, which is being released today.

So go check out the interview at Romance Magicians