New Adventures

Once upon a time I graduated from Drake University and began working for a wonderful little publishing company in Des Moines. I worked there for a number of years. I learned all sorts of terrific things about being an editor and had the opportunity to work on some really stellar projects. I also did some freelance writing and editing on the side, just because I like being busy.

Then a certain Conservative Boy graduated law school and we took off for the wild world of L-Town, so he could become a small-town lawyer.

For a while, I kept working for that wonderful (no longer quite so little) publishing company. At the same time, I had the opportunity to teach a few first-year writing classes down the road at a small, private 2-year college here in L-Town. So I juggled the teaching and the editing and the freelancing.

And then I decided to pursue my master's degree (in environmental studies and journalism), so I started taking classes down the road about 45 minutes away at the University of Illinois campus in Springfield.

And then I was really busy.

Then I realized that the publishing company in Des Moines needed a managing editor who was actually in the office, and I needed to set out down a new path and try things out. So I became self-employed and worked as a freelance writer and editor, took a graduate assistantship at UIS, and worked on finishing my master's degree.

Oh, and somewhere in the middle of all that Conservative Boy and I got hitched.

Then, when all I had left to do was my thesis, I started job hunting. I applied for a full-time teaching position at a fabulous private university down the road a different direction, in Decatur. I was one of two finalists for the position and, I thought, nailed my teaching and research demonstrations. However, I had a big strike against me: I didn't even officially have my master's degree yet. And the other candidate already had a PhD. Bet you'll never guess who got the job.

But that's OK, because shortly thereafter I landed a swell position, overseeing campus and community sustainability initiatives and education at a community college back down the road in Springfield.

It was a terrific position in which I got to do a crazy variety of sustainbility-related work: working to increase environmental awareness on campus and in the community through special events, workshops, speaking engagements, etc.; helping college operations become more sustainable; developing renewable energy and green construction certificate programs; running all sorts of grant-funded projects related to raising awareness of local food, training people to grow local food, starting school gardens at local elementary schools, and more; collaborating with other sustainability professionals across the state. I probably forgot at least 30 other things I had the pleasure of doing in that position but, alas, you get the idea.

And then I got pregnant.

And then a certain little fellow you may have heard of once or twice came along.

After my maternity leave, I went back to work full time. But after a few months, I realized things had changed. Not only were my job duties shifting as a result of changes in grant funding and priorities at the college, but I also was starting to wonder what it really was I wanted to do. I loved much of my work in sustainability, but I was also missing the freedom and creativity of the freelance life and the opportunity to teach and closely interact with students on a regular basis. (Surprisingly, considering I was working at a college, my interaction with students was incredibly limited.) Plus, my personal priorities were shifting.

I struggled with being gone for long hours all day, driving 40 to 45 minutes each way, and hardly seeing the little guy. (Look at this face. Can you blame me?)

After he'd go to bed at night, I'd be crazed trying to keep up with things around the house. There was absolutely no balance in my life, and it started to stress me out.

It was time, once again, for a change.

Fortuitously, this realization struck me right about the time a couple of local colleges and universities were looking for English instructors. So I applied for a few positions, just to see what would happen, and ended up getting asked to teach a few classes here and there. So after a lot of thinking and figuring, we decided I'd leave my sustainability position to jump back into freelancing and teaching as of Aug. 2.

It has been a whirlwind of a month planning for four different classes (writing fundamentals; critical writing, reading, and research; web publishing; and an environmental service-learning class) at three different campuses, ramping up freelance writing and editing again, and figuring out a new schedule.
But so far I am loving every minute of it. Three work days a week, I immerse myself in teaching and planning and freelancing. Two work days a week, I'm home full-time with the little man. We have lots of time to play and read books and explore and cuddle (not that he really sits still for cuddling, but I keep trying). And when he naps, I have time to get work done on those days, too.

(Oh, and lest you think I have abandoned my interests in sustainability, never fear. Obviously we focus on the environment in my service-learning class; but it's also the focus of my critical writing, reading, and research class. Fun.)

Sure, things will get incredibly hectic at some points, when freelance projects come in at the same time that I'm trying to grade multiple classes' worth of papers. But that's OK. I don't mind. It's a new adventure, one that's allowing me to get back to some of my passions and spend more time with my family.

Plus, you know I thrive on being busy anyway.


A Mexico Wedding

A couple of weekends ago, Conservative Hubby and I said sayonara to the ridiculously hot temperatures in Illinois for a little getaway in Mexico.

 No, really, August in Mexico was cooler than Illinois. I kid you not.

We spent a long weekend at a little boutique all-inclusive resort called The Beloved Hotel to celebrate a very special event: the marriage one of my best friends to her honey.

The customer service at the resort was terrible. They greeted us with champagne the moment we walked in the door. A cerveza materialized in Conservative Hubby's hands as if by magic whenever he needed one. Every employee greeted us with a smile and a hello.

The setting was questionable, to say the least. Views of the ocean, multiple pools, and palm trees galore? Ridiculous.

And our room was a real dump, as you can see from the photos. I mean, seriously. Who did they think they were fooling with the giant multi-head shower, the mini bar that wasn't so mini, and the jacuzzi tub overlooking the resort?

Oh yeah, that's right. Me. And Conservative Hubby. And probably every other guest staying there.

The location was fabulous. The time spent with friends by the pool and at the beach was fun. The food was delicious.

 And the wedding? Beautiful.

Hooray to the happy couple!

P.S. I survived the long weekend away from the little man. Can you believe it? It was hard, but I knew he was in good hands with all of his grandparents ... in fact, perhaps in too good of hands. We came home to discover he'd gained a whole pound and figured out how to sleep through the night ... finally!


88 Southern Illinois Peaches

If you give a family 88 Southern Illinois peaches, they are going to want to eat most of them fresh from the counter, sliced, for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks, too.

Some they will not even bother slicing; instead, they will eat them standing directly over the sink, letting the juice run down their hands.

They will cut up some of these peaches into small pieces, so the littlest member of the family can nibble on them, too.

If you give a family 88 Southern Illinois peaches, they are going to want to puree many of them, so the littlest member of the family can enjoy them for meal after meal, plain or mixed into oatmeal or paired with plums or other fruits that are almost (but not quite) as tasty as the fresh peaches.

They will blanch and slice these peaches, then toss them with lemon juice and a light sugar syrup so they can freeze bag after bag of them for use when peach season is but a hazy memory. Some of these bags of frozen peaches they will share with friends, because it's no fun keeping all the juiciness to yourself.

If you give a family 88 Southern Illinois peaches, they will have roasted pork chops and peaches as a main dish and a wonderful peach cobbler for dessert.

(Although technically the peach cobbler will not be made from the 88 peaches, as it will come from Not-So-Conservative Grandmom. So technically, the family will consume more than 88 Southern Illinois peaches before all is said and done.)

They will re-create the peach and prosciutto pizza from The Harvest Cafe in Delavan, and then wish they had time to re-create it again.

Then because they are going on vacation and there are still peaches on the counter, they will again blanch and slice the peaches, toss these with lemon juice and light sugar syrup, and begin counting down the days until they have an excuse to take a bag of frozen sweetness from the freezer to puree or baked into a pie or whatever else they might choose to do with what remains of those 88 Southern Illinois peaches.