Monthly Archives: July 2011

A suitable candidate

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My stomach feels funny. I think we can blame dinner. Vegan cream cheese, and honestly you should just take my word on this, tastes terrible.

I’d tried vegetarianism for a while in college, but I gave up after the heroin addicts upstairs vandalized my apartment. To prepare decent vegetarian food, one must be able to use the kitchen. I was a terrible cook back then, and after the kitchen ceiling caved in, I admitted defeat. Meat was back on the plate, along with convenience and processed artificial ingredients and tasty, tasty unhealthiness.

But animal welfare has always been a pet concern (ha!) of mine, and lately I’ve been reading a lot of ecological nonfiction, and leaning more and more toward veganism. The more I learn about pollution and climate change, the more I realize that livestock production is critically important. Eating meat and cheese does more damage to the environment than driving a car.

A stumbling block on the path to veganism was the not insignificant matter of my morning coffee. I tried drinking it without half-n-half for a while there. I lasted two days.

But then it occurred to me that I could use soy milk and coconut milk instead, and practically overnight I became a vegan.

I do not have any upstairs neighbors, so my kitchen ceiling is safe. I am still a terrible cook, but I know how to fake delicious food in my three slow cookers. I wish I were living in an eco-fanatic community such as, let’s just pick one at random here, the greater Asheville area, but even without that luxury, I have managed to become a stereotype. I am an educated liberal white bisexual yoga-practicing quasi-pagan vegan female. Who owns three cats.

I am a grocery store vegan. I reserve the right to eat animal products on holidays, when I’m traveling, and on special occasions, but at the grocery store, my purchases are strictly vegan. It’s easy. Aside from the soy milk and coconut milk, there are no labels for me to decipher. I buy vegetables, fruits, spices, and sometimes grains, and then I go home and command my slow cookers to do their magic with the ingredients.

But since I’m going to the beach in a couple of days, I skipped the fresh fruits and veggies at the grocery store this evening. Didn’t want them going to waste in my absence. I poked around in search of convenient, pre-packaged vegan foods, which is how I came home with the fake cream cheese, which is why my tummy hurts.

Or maybe my tummy hurts because of the waiting. I had my job interview last Friday morning with a library system in the greater Asheville area. It is a small rural mountain community, and I spent an hour doing my best to convince the interview panel that I’d be a great director. It was a strong interview, I think, but I have no way of knowing how well the other four candidates interviewed, or what job experience or personal connections they might have.

If things go as planned, the County Manager will present the name of the chosen candidate at the next meeting of the Board of Commissioners. This will be on the evening of Monday, August 8. I expect I would get my phone call, telling me yea or nay, on Tuesday the 9th.

This is what I looked like on the day of the interview.

The professional-looking suit rather downplays my unusual figure, but take my word on this: I do not have a common frame. The heels I wore that day took me all the way up to 5’3″, and I am cursed by the bustiness gene. Or maybe I should just blame the hormones in all the yummy cow flesh I ate for three decades.

The problem is not just that I have big boobs, but that I have big boobs on a smallish ribcage. I am unable to go into a store to buy a bra. No one carries my size. Likewise, I am unable to go into a store to buy a swimsuit.

This is why I forked over an ungodly amount of money for a custom-built suit. My online investigations led me to a store, several time zones and one international border away, that demanded exacting measurements. I felt confident paying them a week’s worth of rent because they obviously cared about the details.

Would I have felt so confident if I’d known that the Canadian postal workers were on strike?

Oh well. Though I have not yet seen my suit and cannot say if it lives up to its promise, I want to take a moment to say a lot of nice things about Zena Swimwear. Incessant online tracking since July 9 had showed my suit to be sitting in a Canadian post office, and sitting, and sitting, and sitting some more. I wrote off the delay to the backlog following the strikes, but finally I picked up the phone and called Canada’s postal system. The nice lady explained to me that the package was not actually at the post office, that it was still with the original sender.

So I emailed the swimsuit store. The person who replied was extremely apologetic. She explained to me that my swimsuit had been handed over to the post office and that it was most likely lost or hopelessly delayed. At this point I gave up any hope of seeing my swimsuit before my beach trip.

But this afternoon I received an unexpected email. The swimsuit store was sending my package by international courier in the hopes that it would arrive tomorrow, Friday, the day before my departure.

Zena Swimwear either tracked down the package in the backlogged postal offices, or sewed up a new one from scratch, and then paid a small fortune to send it by courier, at no additional cost to me.

Will it get here in time? I hope so. Even if it doesn’t, I am flabbergasted by the exceptional service. The strike was not their fault, but they are doing everything they can to get my swimsuit to me on time.

They are totally getting a nice letter from me. I’ll send it from the beach.

Jiggity jog

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Arkansas: They tell me I was born there, but I really don’t remember.

Mississippi, regrettably, I do remember. We lived in a few dinky towns as well as Vicksburg, and though there is a certain je ne sais quois quality to the Deep South that you can’t help but love, there is also the matter of rampant poverty, dismal public schooling, and sticky slimy nasty-hot weather.

Escaping from there, when I was seven, was a huge relief. We landed in Mars Hill, North Carolina, deep in the mountains and in the middle of nowhere. A few months after that we moved to the neighboring county, to a town called Weaverville, which is bigger than Mars Hill, but that’s not saying much. Somewhere in that convergence of the Smokies, the Appalachians, and the Blue Ridge Mountains, near the city of Asheville but sequestered in the country, I finished elementary school and then middle and high school, and fell in love with the land.

I would not normally make such a bald-faced statement, especially one that flirts with cliché, but it is true. I fell in love with that slice of North Carolina. Ever since I left for college and grown-up life, I have been missing it– and it goes without saying that I have missed my parents, who still live in the same place in Weaverville.

There’s a chance I may be moving back.

Madison County needs a library director. It is the lowest-paid directorship in the state, and would be a significant paycut for me; the entire budget for their three branches is smaller than the collections budget for my current library; you could count the number of full-time employees on one hand, with fingers to spare.

So of course I applied.

There are three strong reasons for my wanting the job. I want to return to the area, and I would love to be near my parents, and I think I would love being a director of a small system.

My first job out of library school was in an underfunded rural system. It was incredibly hard work, but here’s the thing: I was an administrator– not the director, nor the assistant director, but one tier below that. In such a small pond, there was a lot of room to make a difference. In my current library, I am comparatively on a much lower rung, so the work is more scripted and my opportunities for making change are more limited. That’s not a criticism. Actually it’s a compliment; it means the system is working. But, and I do not mean this in the megalomaniac way, I miss the power of being an administrator. I miss saying “Hey, let’s build us a new website,” and then six weeks and a three-person team later, bam! There’s a new website.

Not to tempt the gods or anything, but I love a challenge. In a small system like this, I could really dig in, get my fingers dirty, and make a difference.

My interview is next Friday, the 22nd, at 8 a.m. My colleagues have already pitched in to rearrange our work schedules so that I can travel there and back. This is really great of them, especially since, if I am successful, there’s going to be a lot more work for everyone.

I’ve got the catsitter booked and the haircut scheduled. I have somehow misplaced the top half of both of my two interview suits, which rather boggles the mind– how exactly do you lose the blouses and jackets, but not the skirts?– but I think I’ll be able to beg, borrow, or steal something. (Note to Madison County HR, if you’re reading this, and I hope you are– you should really google your prospective employees– I would not actually steal clothing. I have a sophisticated moral compass. And if I get the job, I promise I will buy some suits.)

Thomas Wolfe famously said that you can’t go home again. Tom was from western North Carolina. Here’s hoping he was wrong.