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When I'm not here, you may find me wandering the pages below. (If I'm a regular visitor to your site and I've left your link off or mislinked to you, please let me know! And likewise, if you've blogrolled me, please check that my link is updated: thisroamanticlife.blogspot.com. The extra (a) makes all the difference!)

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Body: in sickness and in health

I won't lie; this body and I have had our issues with each other for many years. Body image -- sure. Physical and mental overextension -- comes with being a Type A kind of girl. I still struggle with these things, so they show up from time to time in my writing.

More recently, illness, pure but not simple, has added itself to the mix in a multi-system sort of way. And the challenges in figuring out exactly what's gone wrong are many. As problems have revealed themselves in the last few years, beginning with reactive hypoglycemia in late 2008, I've documented them here, partly to gain a little clarity on managing complex conditions but mostly to give voice to vulnerabilities I feel but don't normally share with anyone face to face. Better out than in, they say, right? (Oh yes, humor is one way I deal.)

The links below cover the different angles I've examined (and from which I've been examined) within that experience.

Travel: neither here nor there

When the person you're married to lives two time zones away, you log a fair number of frequent flier miles. And if you blog about commuter relationships, you log quite a few posts en route too.

Since we're no longer in separate places, I blog less often from airports. But we do travel -- together now! -- which is much more fun to write about. So in addition to thoughts on our years of commuting, the links below cover the places we've been as a pair and, in some cases, the adventures that have happened on the way.

Writing: the long and short of it

Why do I do it? Good question. Maybe it's not so much that I like to write but that I have to write, even when the words refuse to stick to the page. Believe me, I've tried doing other things like majoring in biochemistry (freshman fall, many semesters ago). Within a year, I'd switched to English with a concentration in creative writing and wasn't looking back.

After graduating, I taught English for a few years and then worked as an editor, which I still do freelance. In 2007, I applied and got into an MFA program at a place I like to call Little U. on the Prairie. I finished my degree in 2011 and have been balancing tutoring and writing on my own ever since.

The following links cover the writing I've done about writing: process, content, obstacles, you name it. It's not always pretty. But some part of me loves it, even when it's hard. And this is the result.

Heart: family and friends

I'd have a hard time explaining who I am without being able to talk about the family I grew up in as well as the people I've met beyond its bounds. But even with such context, it's not easy! In the simplest terms, I'm a first-generation Asian-American who has spent most of this life caught between cultures. That, of course, doesn't even begin to describe what I mean to, but there's my first stab at the heart of it all.

That's what this group of posts is reserved for -- heart. The essential parts of my life whose influences I carry with me, for better or worse. The links below cover what I've written as I've learned how these forces work within me, for me, against me, in spite of me. They anchor me even as they change me, and they keep life interesting.

Recommended reading

What do I do when there's too much on my mind and my words won't stick to the page? I escape into someone else's thoughts. Below is a collection of books and articles that have been sources of information, inspiration, and occasional insight for my own work.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Nesting?


Why, yes, we are.

Having family around didn't deter us from working on our place last week -- in fact, it was all we could do to keep D's dad from making yet another run to the hardware store (it's one of his favorite places, it seems) as we thought of various tasks we wanted to tackle while the weather was good and the manpower willing. As a result, the gutters are now cleaned, the wasp nests are gone from beneath the eaves, the trees and bushes are pruned, and only one carload of our belongings remains in our apartment.

While D worked on tidying the outside of the house and moving as much as possible from our other address, I worked on putting things away. I think my biggest accomplishment was getting the closet in our room organized. Until three days ago, it was a chaotic catch-all with clothes flung in piles on the shelves and floor, mostly because we'd been focusing our attention on the rooms the family would be occupying while they were in town.

The nice thing was that even with four extra people in the house, there was plenty of space for everyone, both public and private -- unlike the time when D's parents, aunt, and three brothers came to visit us two weeks after we got back from our honeymoon. I believe we even had guests camped out on the floor of our bedroom that time. Talk about having to get comfortable with your new in-laws right away ...

Our visitors have gone now, and I have exactly one week before I'm traveling again, this time for a visit to my grandmother and a cousin's wedding. I wish I could have a few more days at home as I still don't feel like I have a routine here yet. The structure of each day has been drastically different, given the continuing move process, and that's made it difficult to establish regular work hours for my thesis. More on that front soon -- I've finished another book on the reading list, just haven't gotten to reflect on it properly yet.

One thing D and I have been able to keep routine is breakfast, thank goodness. And now that we're no longer limited by a shortage of cabinet space in the kitchen, we've been able to use the dishes we'd previously had to keep in storage, like the adorable egg cups from Almost Dr. Sis in the photo above. I love them -- the only challenge is bopping the eggs they hold. How can you whack something on its pate (much less scoop out its innards) when it's made to look as if its cute little feet are sticking out at you?

Well, D seemed to have no trouble.


We're looking forward to giving you a virtual tour once we've gotten our place completely in order. In the meantime, here's another nominee for the One Lovely Blog award, in keeping with the rest of this post: decor8, written by Holly Becker. So many ideas to consider ...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

On trains of thought


... and how I'm trying to get a grip on mine.

Numerous people have asked me in the last few weeks what my thesis is about. And each time, I've tried to come up with words to describe it, but I never feel like I've given a good answer. Part of this is a product of my not wanting to get too deep into personal details, as the subject is indeed personal, and part of it is just my having trouble deciding how I'm going to go at the topic itself. The thing is, in early May, I gave my prospectus, with tentative chapter outline, to my committee (four professors), and they essentially told me to toss the outline and just write. A refreshing approach to freeing the mind, invoking the muse, whatever you want to call it -- but the form my work will take is now completely unclear! Since I've tended to look at form as an essential part of defining what a piece of writing is about, I'm a bit stumped on what to say the shape of mine will be.

But I guess that's one of my goals in reading for the summer: seeking out some kind of frame on which to stretch my subject matter. The general topic is the body and how it mediates the way we relate to others. Since this is meant to become a narrative piece, I will indeed be writing about my body, but the story is more than that -- and here's where I get tongue-tied and can't really explain what that more is. It's not a body-image story or a sexuality story or an illness story. It's a character portrait in the form of memoir, I suppose, where the characters of the people under scrutiny (yes, the story's not just about me; that would be boring) are meant to come through to the reader via the characters' shared fascination with the body; the differing cultural attitudes toward it that come to bear on how the characters relate to each other; the experience of being a body at all. I say being rather than having because I don't want to imply that the body is just an object, a container for who we are. But that's an argument to get into at another time.

Clear as mud? I thought so.

I've been pondering over Arthur W. Frank's The Wounded Storyteller: Body, Illness, and Ethics as a jumping-off point for the last few weeks. It posits a theory on how we talk through the body to relate to others, specifically when illness strikes. My summary here totally oversimplifies what Frank examines and is even misleading -- it sounds like I'm saying we use the body in some nonverbal capacity to communicate when we get sick, but that's not it at all. I'm not going to be able to pin down Frank's real meaning without launching into a small treatise on his theory, so I'll spare you. But if you're interested in the body, illness, and the stories these two ideas together compel, this text is a good one to look at.

I'm not going to be looking strictly at illness, as I said before, but when things go wrong with the body, we do have a tendency to give voice to that experience. That leads me to my next nominees for the One Lovely Blog award -- I did some looking around on the internet yesterday and discovered some really interesting blogs that all spring to some degree from witnessing a breakdown in the body. The writing about the body in each is beautiful in its own way. So to continue with my nominations, I present:
Now go check them out. I promise they don't get all theoretical and they certainly offer food for thought.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

It's good to be (coo)king

Yep, the in-laws are here.

They (D's parents and youngest brother) arrived Friday afternoon in my car, which they kindly drove from Little U., saving us enormous shipping costs and eliminating their need for a rental on their tour of national parks en route. D's aunt flew in from Chicago yesterday morning as well. The plan for the next week: day excursions with possible overnights around the Olympic peninsula. D and I won't be going, but we'll spend evenings with the family in the new house.

Cooking for six instead of just two has worked out well so far -- we had soy-ginger barbecued chicken with a field greens salad the first night and broiled halibut steaks with stir-fried zucchini, summer squash, and broccoli yesterday. Tonight, we'll have a pork loin roast with red pepper gravy. That calls for a little more prep, but it is Father's Day. So while the crew is out enjoying the Fremont Fair, I'm going to get that ready along with individual meringues to go with the fresh berries we picked up at Pike Place Market. This works out well, as there are only five seats in the car, and I'm frankly in need of some alone time. Being the primary cook is a lovely excuse not to venture with everyone else into the throngs that will surely await them.

I haven't had a moment to write about the thesis reading I've done so far in the last month, but the ideas are in notes form somewhere with my partially unpacked Boston luggage. I'm hoping to have some more extensive thinking time Monday and Tuesday while also figuring out where to get my driver's license changed and what gift to get for my cousin's wedding, which is the next big trip on the horizon. Why does summer somehow feel less restful than the regular academic year? It must be the constant interruption of routines. I do like the occasional break from the usual grind, but everything gets accomplished in fits and starts with so many special summer activities stacked back to back. I think I'm becoming thoroughly convinced that everything in moderation really is my preferred way of living.

On a completely unrelated note before I head off to the kitchen, a big thank-you to Sherlock of Sherlock's Stuff for the One Lovely Blog award. Such a nice surprise to come home to -- and even after such sparse posting from me in recent weeks!

The rules for accepting this are as follows: (1) Accept the award and post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award as well as his or her blog link. (2) Pass the award to 15 other blogs that you have newly discovered. Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

There's no way I can nominate 15 blogs in one round, so I'm going to do a few with every post till I hit the mark. So at this time, I'd like to share this award with Mrs. Whatsit of I Love Science, Really. She's just been reunited with her husband after doing the long-distance thing for what, I imagine, felt like an age. Props for all the effort that went into that experience as well as the decision to move back while still working on a Ph.D. She writes with a candor I love.

To the ovens ...

Monday, June 15, 2009

Down time at DFW and a diet-tribe

You know you’ve been doing too much traveling when, upon arriving at an airport for your layover, you can direct other people to the nearest watering hole.

Okay, I admit, I happened to be looking for a place to buy dinner and was standing in front of an airport directory, but the guy who wanted beer was asking which vendors on the list would sell him one, not where to find any restaurant in particular. Being fairly familiar with the various establishments at DFW after getting stranded there back in March -- not because I visited them but because I walked past them so many times while roaming from terminal to terminal -- I pointed him toward the most likely options, and we went our separate ways.

I will be very happy to sleep in my own bed tonight! Seven nights on the floor of a dorm and then two more on a stick-to-your-skin leather couch are a little rough on the body. But it was all in the name of research and some long overdue catching up with friends I haven’t spent time with in at least six years. I think I achieved both of those primary goals, and that’s what matters.

Eating as a prediabetic for such a long period away from home was a pretty challenging but informative learning experience too. I was really lucky I was staying for the majority of the trip with someone who understood my needs so well -- whether we were staying in or going out, I didn’t need to feel like a nuisance for having to request menus that would give me enough to eat (heavy on the vegetables and lean protein, light on the carbs). I also didn’t need to feel deprived because we kept regular meal times and we didn’t have a lot of forbidden foods on the table for me to lust after. On top of that, I packed my own breakfast (low-carb cereal) to keep things cheaper and to prevent anyone from having to stock it for me -- the friend I stayed with for most of last week tends not to eat breakfast as it is, so I expected I’d be on my own for that anyway.

These last two days were quite a bit harder as I changed hosts for the weekend, and the other person I stayed with seemed to think that as long as I had salad, it was perfectly fine for her and her boyfriend to eat pasta and pancakes and chocolate chip cookies (the first was for dinner, the second lunch, and the third dessert after another dinner). I’m not saying other people should have to forgo all those goodies when I’m eating with them, but it did feel a little cruel to be given no substitutes or variety in alternatives. I love salad – I’ve been eating Cobbs, Caesars, and other kinds every single day for lunch and sometimes dinner in the last week without feeling deprived when that’s what I’ve decided to have -- but when you’ve invited me into your home and your meal has absolutely nothing in common with mine when we sit down at the table and mine is in fact a repeat of what I’ve eaten at every other meal you’ve served me, it feels like my food was an afterthought. If you get dessert, shouldn’t I? There are lots of sugar-free options out there.

I think the freshly baked chocolate chip cookies were the clincher last night. I felt like I needed to leave the room while they noshed on them, three or four at a time. Dinner was light, so I was still hungry but I didn’t feel comfortable asking my host for more food. Moral of the story: when staying with strangers who might not understand your dietary needs, pack your own treats (I tried to go lighter on the baggage since it was already so stuffed, but perhaps it would have been worth the extra few ounces for some sugar-free chocolate). And if you’re someone who might be hosting a guest for a meal where dietary restrictions come into play, at least try to make sure your guest has as many courses as you do so s/he doesn’t have to sit there pretending not to notice that you’re eating while his/her plate is awkwardly bare.

Okay, I’m off my little soapbox now -- time to find a good carry-on meal option! This won’t be posted until after I get home (no free internet till then), but for now, the dinner hour approaches.

Friday, June 12, 2009

In which I become an undergrad again

Well, not really, but it sort of feels that way for two reasons. The first is that I spent most of last week wandering the grounds of my alma mater and (re)experiencing the university's commencement ceremonies. Almost Dr. Sis and I had a terrific time -- both of us felt we could actually enjoy the hoopla properly since neither of us were preoccupied with the uncertainties of the next day: how to get completely packed and moved out of the dorms by 5 p.m. as well as how to make the transition to that thing called the Real World after four years in the protective bubble of those dorms. They provided hot meals and an instant community when we arrived. How were we supposed to find those things again on the outside?

Actually, I think our younger sister will have no trouble. She's amazing in the kitchen (having worked for a catering service helps in that area) and she's incredibly comfortable meeting new people (even in early childhood, she was never panicked by the presence of strangers as we were). Wish I were as outgoing -- I'm not quite so shy anymore, but I am apprehensive about finding ways to make new friends once I get properly settled in Seattle. Perhaps I should start looking for special-interest groups in the area, or maybe sign up to volunteer somewhere once or twice a week? Otherwise, I'll end up too easily content to stay at home, nesting.

But yes, back to graduation. Almost Dr. Sis and I tried to chase down the parade of seniors from our younger sister's dorm to get a picture of her marching (each dorm's residents process to the ceremony through the city streets after breakfast, escorted by bagpipers). Unfortunately, we couldn't locate anyone from her dorm and kept running into folks from others. In the end, after sprinting around madly in heels with cameras in tow, we made it to the university church in time to see the last of the seniors filing in for some final words of wisdom from the reverend:


Still not the group we were looking for, but at least it's representative ...

We finally caught up with Newly Graduated Sis in the afternoon -- and from then on, time moved in leaps: a celebration at a lovely restaurant, a few hours of sleep, and then speed-packing NG Sis's belongings. D, who flew in for the graduation dinner, schlepped ALL of the boxes over crazy cobblestone sidewalks to the nearest Staples for shipping the following day. No question, he's the best. Wish I'd had that kind of assistance when I was moving out!

Now, the second reason I'm feeling like an undergrad again (sorry, I got carried away talking about the previous one): I've been staying this week with a former college roommate, who is pursuing a Ph.D. at another university nearby -- and I have to say, it's been an adjustment returning to dorm life. At Little U., there were no graduate dorms, so everyone rented apartments. Here in Boston, the rent is much less budget-friendly, so the university has to provide other options. My friend has a single room in a group of three that share a bathroom and standard-size refrigerator (no common space, just a corridor connecting everything). A kitchen for the entire floor of residents is available down the hall (not sure exactly how many people use it, but there are about 500 students housed on five floors, some living in suites with private kitchens, if they can afford it, and some without).

I think the obstacles to cooking a proper meal are what have really stood out to me in the last few days. We've been making use of the kitchen as best we can, but because of the limited fridge space and storage for cooking utensils in the tiny rooms, it's not easy to eat cheaply without eating poorly (i.e., prepackaged stuff meant for the microwave rather than meals using fresh produce and actual pots and pans). We've found that stir-fries are a fairly economical, single-pan way to go without sacrificing our health -- my friend's diabetic so agreeing on a menu has been pretty easy. I have to admire her creativity in finding space for her cooking supplies:


The shelf is actually a shoe rack, and the drawers are empty clementine crates. Genius.

When we were true undergrads, we had access to a kitchen during our sophomore year but not a lot of funds to invest in cookware. So we bought an all-metal pot that doubled as a skillet and baking pan for many recipes. We remembered that this week while we were jury-rigging a lid for her current pot so we could boil water (a large plate works well). It's been useful to my research, unearthing such memories here, as my thesis will examine a part of my life in those first years away from home. I never expected this trip to provide this sort of "data" though -- I only intended to conduct interviews with some Boston-based contacts when I arranged to stay the week. The magic of serendipity, I guess.

Notes to transcribe, groceries to pick up. More news as soon as I can sort out more of my whirling thoughts.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Déjà blues

What a crazy week.

I'm in Boston, getting in fifteen minutes of decompression time at a Starbucks in a hotel I just checked out of. I arrived Tuesday evening, spent the next three days celebrating my sister's college graduation (more on that when I have time to write at greater length), and then had a day with D before he had to leave for Seattle again. Now, I'm officially on my own once more in the city where I spent my college years.

D visited infrequently during that time since airline tickets were especially difficult to pay for on a student budget -- we worked various jobs to make the cash for a visit every few months -- and I had a jarring moment of involuntary recall when I put him on the train to the airport just now. Can't help feeling some of the same sadness that used to haunt me after his departures so many years ago.

I know I'm going to see him again in a week, so this goodbye was much, much easier. I'm also about to meet up with some old college friends I haven't spent time with since graduation -- and move in with them while I'm doing my thesis research -- so I'll be perked up shortly. Amazing, though, how history catches up with you even when you think you've laid the not so great memories to rest.

One thing D and I never did get to do while we were in school was eat lobster. To commemorate our return to Boston, we decided to do just that last night. I'll leave you with a picture of the fantastic one-pounder I got to enjoy. I'm proud to say I got all the meat out of the shell.


More as soon as I find another free internet connection ...

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Monday, June 29, 2009

Nesting?


Why, yes, we are.

Having family around didn't deter us from working on our place last week -- in fact, it was all we could do to keep D's dad from making yet another run to the hardware store (it's one of his favorite places, it seems) as we thought of various tasks we wanted to tackle while the weather was good and the manpower willing. As a result, the gutters are now cleaned, the wasp nests are gone from beneath the eaves, the trees and bushes are pruned, and only one carload of our belongings remains in our apartment.

While D worked on tidying the outside of the house and moving as much as possible from our other address, I worked on putting things away. I think my biggest accomplishment was getting the closet in our room organized. Until three days ago, it was a chaotic catch-all with clothes flung in piles on the shelves and floor, mostly because we'd been focusing our attention on the rooms the family would be occupying while they were in town.

The nice thing was that even with four extra people in the house, there was plenty of space for everyone, both public and private -- unlike the time when D's parents, aunt, and three brothers came to visit us two weeks after we got back from our honeymoon. I believe we even had guests camped out on the floor of our bedroom that time. Talk about having to get comfortable with your new in-laws right away ...

Our visitors have gone now, and I have exactly one week before I'm traveling again, this time for a visit to my grandmother and a cousin's wedding. I wish I could have a few more days at home as I still don't feel like I have a routine here yet. The structure of each day has been drastically different, given the continuing move process, and that's made it difficult to establish regular work hours for my thesis. More on that front soon -- I've finished another book on the reading list, just haven't gotten to reflect on it properly yet.

One thing D and I have been able to keep routine is breakfast, thank goodness. And now that we're no longer limited by a shortage of cabinet space in the kitchen, we've been able to use the dishes we'd previously had to keep in storage, like the adorable egg cups from Almost Dr. Sis in the photo above. I love them -- the only challenge is bopping the eggs they hold. How can you whack something on its pate (much less scoop out its innards) when it's made to look as if its cute little feet are sticking out at you?

Well, D seemed to have no trouble.


We're looking forward to giving you a virtual tour once we've gotten our place completely in order. In the meantime, here's another nominee for the One Lovely Blog award, in keeping with the rest of this post: decor8, written by Holly Becker. So many ideas to consider ...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

On trains of thought


... and how I'm trying to get a grip on mine.

Numerous people have asked me in the last few weeks what my thesis is about. And each time, I've tried to come up with words to describe it, but I never feel like I've given a good answer. Part of this is a product of my not wanting to get too deep into personal details, as the subject is indeed personal, and part of it is just my having trouble deciding how I'm going to go at the topic itself. The thing is, in early May, I gave my prospectus, with tentative chapter outline, to my committee (four professors), and they essentially told me to toss the outline and just write. A refreshing approach to freeing the mind, invoking the muse, whatever you want to call it -- but the form my work will take is now completely unclear! Since I've tended to look at form as an essential part of defining what a piece of writing is about, I'm a bit stumped on what to say the shape of mine will be.

But I guess that's one of my goals in reading for the summer: seeking out some kind of frame on which to stretch my subject matter. The general topic is the body and how it mediates the way we relate to others. Since this is meant to become a narrative piece, I will indeed be writing about my body, but the story is more than that -- and here's where I get tongue-tied and can't really explain what that more is. It's not a body-image story or a sexuality story or an illness story. It's a character portrait in the form of memoir, I suppose, where the characters of the people under scrutiny (yes, the story's not just about me; that would be boring) are meant to come through to the reader via the characters' shared fascination with the body; the differing cultural attitudes toward it that come to bear on how the characters relate to each other; the experience of being a body at all. I say being rather than having because I don't want to imply that the body is just an object, a container for who we are. But that's an argument to get into at another time.

Clear as mud? I thought so.

I've been pondering over Arthur W. Frank's The Wounded Storyteller: Body, Illness, and Ethics as a jumping-off point for the last few weeks. It posits a theory on how we talk through the body to relate to others, specifically when illness strikes. My summary here totally oversimplifies what Frank examines and is even misleading -- it sounds like I'm saying we use the body in some nonverbal capacity to communicate when we get sick, but that's not it at all. I'm not going to be able to pin down Frank's real meaning without launching into a small treatise on his theory, so I'll spare you. But if you're interested in the body, illness, and the stories these two ideas together compel, this text is a good one to look at.

I'm not going to be looking strictly at illness, as I said before, but when things go wrong with the body, we do have a tendency to give voice to that experience. That leads me to my next nominees for the One Lovely Blog award -- I did some looking around on the internet yesterday and discovered some really interesting blogs that all spring to some degree from witnessing a breakdown in the body. The writing about the body in each is beautiful in its own way. So to continue with my nominations, I present:
Now go check them out. I promise they don't get all theoretical and they certainly offer food for thought.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

It's good to be (coo)king

Yep, the in-laws are here.

They (D's parents and youngest brother) arrived Friday afternoon in my car, which they kindly drove from Little U., saving us enormous shipping costs and eliminating their need for a rental on their tour of national parks en route. D's aunt flew in from Chicago yesterday morning as well. The plan for the next week: day excursions with possible overnights around the Olympic peninsula. D and I won't be going, but we'll spend evenings with the family in the new house.

Cooking for six instead of just two has worked out well so far -- we had soy-ginger barbecued chicken with a field greens salad the first night and broiled halibut steaks with stir-fried zucchini, summer squash, and broccoli yesterday. Tonight, we'll have a pork loin roast with red pepper gravy. That calls for a little more prep, but it is Father's Day. So while the crew is out enjoying the Fremont Fair, I'm going to get that ready along with individual meringues to go with the fresh berries we picked up at Pike Place Market. This works out well, as there are only five seats in the car, and I'm frankly in need of some alone time. Being the primary cook is a lovely excuse not to venture with everyone else into the throngs that will surely await them.

I haven't had a moment to write about the thesis reading I've done so far in the last month, but the ideas are in notes form somewhere with my partially unpacked Boston luggage. I'm hoping to have some more extensive thinking time Monday and Tuesday while also figuring out where to get my driver's license changed and what gift to get for my cousin's wedding, which is the next big trip on the horizon. Why does summer somehow feel less restful than the regular academic year? It must be the constant interruption of routines. I do like the occasional break from the usual grind, but everything gets accomplished in fits and starts with so many special summer activities stacked back to back. I think I'm becoming thoroughly convinced that everything in moderation really is my preferred way of living.

On a completely unrelated note before I head off to the kitchen, a big thank-you to Sherlock of Sherlock's Stuff for the One Lovely Blog award. Such a nice surprise to come home to -- and even after such sparse posting from me in recent weeks!

The rules for accepting this are as follows: (1) Accept the award and post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award as well as his or her blog link. (2) Pass the award to 15 other blogs that you have newly discovered. Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

There's no way I can nominate 15 blogs in one round, so I'm going to do a few with every post till I hit the mark. So at this time, I'd like to share this award with Mrs. Whatsit of I Love Science, Really. She's just been reunited with her husband after doing the long-distance thing for what, I imagine, felt like an age. Props for all the effort that went into that experience as well as the decision to move back while still working on a Ph.D. She writes with a candor I love.

To the ovens ...

Monday, June 15, 2009

Down time at DFW and a diet-tribe

You know you’ve been doing too much traveling when, upon arriving at an airport for your layover, you can direct other people to the nearest watering hole.

Okay, I admit, I happened to be looking for a place to buy dinner and was standing in front of an airport directory, but the guy who wanted beer was asking which vendors on the list would sell him one, not where to find any restaurant in particular. Being fairly familiar with the various establishments at DFW after getting stranded there back in March -- not because I visited them but because I walked past them so many times while roaming from terminal to terminal -- I pointed him toward the most likely options, and we went our separate ways.

I will be very happy to sleep in my own bed tonight! Seven nights on the floor of a dorm and then two more on a stick-to-your-skin leather couch are a little rough on the body. But it was all in the name of research and some long overdue catching up with friends I haven’t spent time with in at least six years. I think I achieved both of those primary goals, and that’s what matters.

Eating as a prediabetic for such a long period away from home was a pretty challenging but informative learning experience too. I was really lucky I was staying for the majority of the trip with someone who understood my needs so well -- whether we were staying in or going out, I didn’t need to feel like a nuisance for having to request menus that would give me enough to eat (heavy on the vegetables and lean protein, light on the carbs). I also didn’t need to feel deprived because we kept regular meal times and we didn’t have a lot of forbidden foods on the table for me to lust after. On top of that, I packed my own breakfast (low-carb cereal) to keep things cheaper and to prevent anyone from having to stock it for me -- the friend I stayed with for most of last week tends not to eat breakfast as it is, so I expected I’d be on my own for that anyway.

These last two days were quite a bit harder as I changed hosts for the weekend, and the other person I stayed with seemed to think that as long as I had salad, it was perfectly fine for her and her boyfriend to eat pasta and pancakes and chocolate chip cookies (the first was for dinner, the second lunch, and the third dessert after another dinner). I’m not saying other people should have to forgo all those goodies when I’m eating with them, but it did feel a little cruel to be given no substitutes or variety in alternatives. I love salad – I’ve been eating Cobbs, Caesars, and other kinds every single day for lunch and sometimes dinner in the last week without feeling deprived when that’s what I’ve decided to have -- but when you’ve invited me into your home and your meal has absolutely nothing in common with mine when we sit down at the table and mine is in fact a repeat of what I’ve eaten at every other meal you’ve served me, it feels like my food was an afterthought. If you get dessert, shouldn’t I? There are lots of sugar-free options out there.

I think the freshly baked chocolate chip cookies were the clincher last night. I felt like I needed to leave the room while they noshed on them, three or four at a time. Dinner was light, so I was still hungry but I didn’t feel comfortable asking my host for more food. Moral of the story: when staying with strangers who might not understand your dietary needs, pack your own treats (I tried to go lighter on the baggage since it was already so stuffed, but perhaps it would have been worth the extra few ounces for some sugar-free chocolate). And if you’re someone who might be hosting a guest for a meal where dietary restrictions come into play, at least try to make sure your guest has as many courses as you do so s/he doesn’t have to sit there pretending not to notice that you’re eating while his/her plate is awkwardly bare.

Okay, I’m off my little soapbox now -- time to find a good carry-on meal option! This won’t be posted until after I get home (no free internet till then), but for now, the dinner hour approaches.

Friday, June 12, 2009

In which I become an undergrad again

Well, not really, but it sort of feels that way for two reasons. The first is that I spent most of last week wandering the grounds of my alma mater and (re)experiencing the university's commencement ceremonies. Almost Dr. Sis and I had a terrific time -- both of us felt we could actually enjoy the hoopla properly since neither of us were preoccupied with the uncertainties of the next day: how to get completely packed and moved out of the dorms by 5 p.m. as well as how to make the transition to that thing called the Real World after four years in the protective bubble of those dorms. They provided hot meals and an instant community when we arrived. How were we supposed to find those things again on the outside?

Actually, I think our younger sister will have no trouble. She's amazing in the kitchen (having worked for a catering service helps in that area) and she's incredibly comfortable meeting new people (even in early childhood, she was never panicked by the presence of strangers as we were). Wish I were as outgoing -- I'm not quite so shy anymore, but I am apprehensive about finding ways to make new friends once I get properly settled in Seattle. Perhaps I should start looking for special-interest groups in the area, or maybe sign up to volunteer somewhere once or twice a week? Otherwise, I'll end up too easily content to stay at home, nesting.

But yes, back to graduation. Almost Dr. Sis and I tried to chase down the parade of seniors from our younger sister's dorm to get a picture of her marching (each dorm's residents process to the ceremony through the city streets after breakfast, escorted by bagpipers). Unfortunately, we couldn't locate anyone from her dorm and kept running into folks from others. In the end, after sprinting around madly in heels with cameras in tow, we made it to the university church in time to see the last of the seniors filing in for some final words of wisdom from the reverend:


Still not the group we were looking for, but at least it's representative ...

We finally caught up with Newly Graduated Sis in the afternoon -- and from then on, time moved in leaps: a celebration at a lovely restaurant, a few hours of sleep, and then speed-packing NG Sis's belongings. D, who flew in for the graduation dinner, schlepped ALL of the boxes over crazy cobblestone sidewalks to the nearest Staples for shipping the following day. No question, he's the best. Wish I'd had that kind of assistance when I was moving out!

Now, the second reason I'm feeling like an undergrad again (sorry, I got carried away talking about the previous one): I've been staying this week with a former college roommate, who is pursuing a Ph.D. at another university nearby -- and I have to say, it's been an adjustment returning to dorm life. At Little U., there were no graduate dorms, so everyone rented apartments. Here in Boston, the rent is much less budget-friendly, so the university has to provide other options. My friend has a single room in a group of three that share a bathroom and standard-size refrigerator (no common space, just a corridor connecting everything). A kitchen for the entire floor of residents is available down the hall (not sure exactly how many people use it, but there are about 500 students housed on five floors, some living in suites with private kitchens, if they can afford it, and some without).

I think the obstacles to cooking a proper meal are what have really stood out to me in the last few days. We've been making use of the kitchen as best we can, but because of the limited fridge space and storage for cooking utensils in the tiny rooms, it's not easy to eat cheaply without eating poorly (i.e., prepackaged stuff meant for the microwave rather than meals using fresh produce and actual pots and pans). We've found that stir-fries are a fairly economical, single-pan way to go without sacrificing our health -- my friend's diabetic so agreeing on a menu has been pretty easy. I have to admire her creativity in finding space for her cooking supplies:


The shelf is actually a shoe rack, and the drawers are empty clementine crates. Genius.

When we were true undergrads, we had access to a kitchen during our sophomore year but not a lot of funds to invest in cookware. So we bought an all-metal pot that doubled as a skillet and baking pan for many recipes. We remembered that this week while we were jury-rigging a lid for her current pot so we could boil water (a large plate works well). It's been useful to my research, unearthing such memories here, as my thesis will examine a part of my life in those first years away from home. I never expected this trip to provide this sort of "data" though -- I only intended to conduct interviews with some Boston-based contacts when I arranged to stay the week. The magic of serendipity, I guess.

Notes to transcribe, groceries to pick up. More news as soon as I can sort out more of my whirling thoughts.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Déjà blues

What a crazy week.

I'm in Boston, getting in fifteen minutes of decompression time at a Starbucks in a hotel I just checked out of. I arrived Tuesday evening, spent the next three days celebrating my sister's college graduation (more on that when I have time to write at greater length), and then had a day with D before he had to leave for Seattle again. Now, I'm officially on my own once more in the city where I spent my college years.

D visited infrequently during that time since airline tickets were especially difficult to pay for on a student budget -- we worked various jobs to make the cash for a visit every few months -- and I had a jarring moment of involuntary recall when I put him on the train to the airport just now. Can't help feeling some of the same sadness that used to haunt me after his departures so many years ago.

I know I'm going to see him again in a week, so this goodbye was much, much easier. I'm also about to meet up with some old college friends I haven't spent time with since graduation -- and move in with them while I'm doing my thesis research -- so I'll be perked up shortly. Amazing, though, how history catches up with you even when you think you've laid the not so great memories to rest.

One thing D and I never did get to do while we were in school was eat lobster. To commemorate our return to Boston, we decided to do just that last night. I'll leave you with a picture of the fantastic one-pounder I got to enjoy. I'm proud to say I got all the meat out of the shell.


More as soon as I find another free internet connection ...