Fluff and Stuff

Dissertating is now a verb...watch as I perform!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Friends, Foes, and Fun TV Viewing

The last week has been oddly eventful in both pleasant and unpleasant ways. On the good side of things, I got an unexpected email from a friend I thought had disappeared into the never-never a few years ago (Monkey and Hungry Hippo know who I'm talking about--our little blonde friend from ye olden college days). Anyway, it turns out she'd gone off to Italy to do a two year MBA program and had lost contact with most people while over there. Now she's back in the USA looking for jobs and trying to reconnect with everyone. We had a great phone conversation in which she regaled me with exciting tales of European hookups galore. I had nothing nearly as scintillating to share, but then again, I do live in the backwaters of Florida....

As for the unpleasant side of things, I shall be brief as I do not want to repel people with TMI, but basically I developed a rather painful bladder infection out of the blue. I know these are more common in women, but I've only had two in my whole life--one as a child and one while I was living abroad in Scotland about 6 years ago. I have no idea what caused it and I can only say I wish it was the result of a passionate bonk-fest, but alas no. Anyway, I spent most of the weekend living like a recluse in my apartment and drinking a gallon of cranberry juice. With little else to do, I spent most of my time catching up on Netflix and anime.

First up, I've started watching Supernatural. As Monkey and Hungry Hippo know, I was a long-time devout fan of the X-Files--well before it turned crappy anyway. I love quirky mystery stuff and Supernatural certainly delivers. It's got intrigue, freaky supernatural happenings, oh, and two hottie brothers for lovely eye candy. Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki play Dean and Sam Winchester. From a young age they've been raised like warriors to fight supernatural baddies that the regular folks don't want to believe exist. They've been trained by their father, who is on an obsessive quest to find the entity that killed their mother when they were very young. Now grown up, Sam has tried to distance himself from the family "business" as it were, by going away to college and getting accepted to law school. He's living the "normal" life, complete with bouncy blonde girlfriend, until his brother Dean shows up unannounced one night to say that their father is missing. Sam reluctantly agrees to go along with his brother to search for their father. In the meantime, they get embroiled in a supernatural case their father mysteriously abandoned and when they resolve it they are no closer to finding their dad. Dean tries to convince Sam to rejoin the business and help him continue looking for their father, but Sam decides to part ways again and return to his normal life. However, when he gets home he finds his girlfriend plastered to the ceiling and dripping blood. Before he can help her, the ceiling bursts into a sea of flames and she's pulled into it...[cue creepy music] This is no coincidence of course, because the exact same thing happened to their mother about twenty years ago. With his girlfriend dead and his dreams shattered, Sam agrees to rejoin his brother and continue looking for their father who he hopes will have some answers for him. Thus begins the premise of this exciting series. So far I've only watched the first disc, but I'm looking forward to more!

Next up is another supernatural themed narrative, but anime style! Ghost Hunt is about a teenage girl, Mai, who ends up working as a part-time assistant for the mysterious Supernatural Psychic Research group. A private organization led by a seventeen year old boy Naru, SPR investigates paranormal phenomena. Along the way, Mai discovers that she has a small degree of psychic ability which she has always chalked up to an uncanny sense of intuition. As the narrative progresses, however, SPR begins relying on her abilities more often in the cases they cover. I'm only up to episode 17, but Naru is still something of a mystery character. He doesn't seem to go to school and he runs SPR. He clearly has special abilities but he keeps them hidden in most circumstances (although it's not clear why he wants to avoid attention--especially from the media). At the same time, he has a strange connection to Mai. Every time she has visionary dreams that portend something dangerous about the future he appears in the dream to watch with her and/or speak with her. Mai still isn't sure if he's just a figment of her imagination in the dreams or if he is actually in them with her. It's clear, however, that he has kept her working for him for a specific reason. I'm looking forward to finding out more as the plot develops.

Okay, my next guilty pleasure recently has been the anime Prince of Tennis or "TeniPuri" for the hardcore fans. Seriously, it's still something of a mystery to me why I like a sports anime. In general, I detest sports. I have no patience or interest in watching games or matches. I don't like to play many sports either. But for some reason, I love this show which is all about a boys' tennis team trying to make it to the Nationals. I think perhaps it's the yaoi fangirl in me that enjoys the homoerotic underpinnings of the narrative. There aren't any female characters of real consequence in the show. It pretty much revolves around the boys and their relationships with each other. They have to work together as a team, and of course in doubles pairs [snicker] for certain events. The so-called "prince" of tennis in this series is the main character Ryoma Echizen, son of famous former-pro tennis player Nanjiroh Echizen. He's the first freshman to make it to the regulars on the Seigaku tennis team and the older members quickly discern that he has a lot of untapped potential to become an even better player. As Seigaku goes through various tournaments, Ryoma grows as a player. The matches are fun to watch because there are all kinds of spiffy acrobatic moves (many of which I'm sure don't actually occur in real tennis) as well as special effects like flaming tennis balls, balls making holes through the mesh on tennis rackets, etc. It's really kind of silly upon greater reflection, yet it is vastly entertaining when watching it. (I'm sure Monkey is chortling right now, as she greatly enjoyed mocking my Dragonball Z obsession in college.) But anyway, this show is lots of fun and ranked as one of the all-time favorite anime in Japan. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens when they make it to the Nationals!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Comforts of Geekdom

I've been a bit down lately due to never-ending financial woes (I'm losing track of how many times I've been in the financial aid office over the past week and a half) and the uncertainties of the job market. At times like this I tend to envelop myself in the comforting blanket of my own personal geekdom for a while. This usually means living like a hermit in my apartment reading books and/or watching movies that I enjoy. Ever since I got my new computer over a year ago and high speed DSL, the Internet has become my prime reading and viewing resource. Most especially because I can access international media with the greatest of ease.

So, over the last week I've been chillin' in my pad and trying to recover my typical upbeat bravado while getting into the unexplored terrain of....J-Doramas!

That's right folks. My Japanese pop culture obsession has moved into yet another realm, that of the live action TV drama! Thanks to the glory of DSL and the dedication of fellow fangeeks I can download fansubbed TV shows to my heart's content. And my most exciting find last week was:

Gokusen (*SPOILERS*)

I must start by gushing about the fact that this show is now on my personal list of all time favorites! Incidentally, it came out in 2002 while I was actually living in Japan, but I had no idea. Weird coincidence. Anyway, I stumbled across fansubs for it while downloading some other stuff (to be blogged about at a later date). Intrigued by the plot synopsis I found, I decided to watch the first episode on YouTube to get a feel for the series. Yo, I am practical. I have precious little storage space left on my external media drive and I don't want to waste it on something I don't seriously enjoy--especially as I cannot afford to buy the new glorious 500GB drive of my dreams. (le sigh)

Well, after watching the first episode I was hooked! The story is as wacky as they get, with wonderfully zany humor that had me cackling throughout. It was precisely the kind of narrative I needed to boost my spirits.

The story revolves around Kumiko Yamaguchi (played by the beautiful Yukie Nakama), a recent college graduate seeking to make her way as a high school teacher. Becoming a teacher has been her lifelong dream, but one big obstacle in her path has made things difficult. No ordinary woman, Kumiko is the grandaughter of a famous yakuza (Japanese mafia) boss and next in line to take over the family "business." She still lives at home with her grandfather as the only woman in a house of yakuza men. This provides excellent fodder for moments of hilarity throughout the series as the yakuza underlings try to convince Kumiko to give up teaching and become their next boss.

Kumiko starts her new job at the all boys high school Shiroken Gakuen, only to discover that she has been assigned to 3-D, the troublemaker class full of juvenile delinquents. The group gives her plenty of trouble at first, but quickly realizes that Kumiko is no ordinary teacher and that she won't back down. Eventually she gains their trust and respect. What I love about this show is that it doesn't go down the same trite but well-trodden path of "angelic female teacher comes to the rescue of troubled adolescents and saves them"--yadda, yadda, yadda. Kumiko has no problem with resisting normalcy. In fact, she doesn't dissuade her students from being delinquints, but rather teaches them how to be delinquents with pride! In this respect she teaches them a yakuza-esque system of values (i.e. the difference between an honest fight and cowardly violence, the importance of bonds between friends and family, protecting things important to you, etc.)

Kumiko, who quickly earns the nickname of "Yankumi", is something of an adolescent geek at heart. Much of the comedy of the show revolves around her difficulties keeping her yakuza origins hidden (she dresses like a goofy cross between a teenage girl and a P.E. coach, she slips into hilarious yakuza gangsta' speech mode at inopportune moments, she beats up bad guys, she develops a crush on a man who turns out to be a policeman, etc.). Indeed, she has to keep her family a secret or else she will lose her job. But of course, early in the series one of her students unwittingly discovers her secret.

Enter super hottie Jun Matsumoto as Shin Sawada.

Hot damn. This boy is all kinds of sexy! I know what Monkey will say, but girl, don't hate on the pretty! I mean, look at that gorgeous hair, those pouty lips, those big brown eyes...grrr!

Ahem. But I digress from the narrative.

So, Shin soon develops an interesting rapport with his teacher because of this knowledge. He's the leader of the 3-D delinquents and a quiet, brooding character with troubles of his own. But he gradually starts to come out of his shell and becomes interested in school again now that Yankumi is his teacher. They both help one another out at various points in the series and share similar views on what it means to be a friend to others.

Here's where I'm unclear as to how the TV show differs from the manga on which it's based (which I totally want to read now!). While it is clear to the viewer that Shin starts to develop romantic feelings for Yankumi, she remains pretty oblivious to it all. At the end of the TV show Shin openly admits to Kumiko's yakuza buddies that he plans to pursue her, but the conclusion remains open-ended. (I think the manga is still running, so I'm not sure how it will conclude and if the romantic plot line is evident there or not) But I thought Yankumi and Shin had a cute dynamic.

(He's so purdy!)

All in all, this show is light-hearted feel-good humor that will have you laughing loud enough to scare your neighbors and it will leave you with a smile on your face. I highly recommend it!

Another point of huge excitement for me looms on the horizon. The countdown to Naruto: Hurricane Chronicles is on!

(*does the happy dance*) Starting February 15th, the Naruto anime will end the horrid and seemingly never-ending fillers and take up the second main story arc of the manga! There have been over 100 filler episodes since the first main story arc ended (around episode 136) and the fans have been waiting for the manga to progress enough that the anime could continue with the main storyline (because Naruto is awesome, but the fillers suck hardcore). The second story arc begins two and a half years after the first one, so all of the characters are older and have new looks.
They've also learned new skills and have matured quite a bit (at least as far as they've been depicted in the manga). I will be eagerly awaiting fansubs the day after it comes out in Japan. I don't think it will take loyal fansubbers more than 24-48 hours to get the first episode out for us. Huzzah!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

How the Federal Government F*%#@d Me in the New Year

Some of you are already very familiar with the ongoing financial saga of indentured slave (a.k.a humanities grad student) Mademoiselle Sparks. But what better way to start off the new year than to share all the details on how the federal government has already f*%#@d me for 2007!

Let us step back a month in time. In early December I learned, to my very great pleasure, that I had won a competitive dissertation fellowship at my university. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences was only able to award 13 of these fellowships to grad students from across all the school's respective programs. I was the only person in my department to get one, and thus I was quite chuffed. The added advantage of this award ($5000) was that I would not have to teach in the spring. Instead, I could focus exclusively on completing my dissertation and graduating. Needless to say, this was almost too good to be true.

And indeed, that quickly proved to be the case.

I was soon informed by the financial aid office that receiving this award would decrease my federal loans. Even though I typically have a teaching assignment each semester I still need to take out loans to supplement my income--because honestly, I don't make enough money to live on. To say I was mildly apprehensive after hearing this news would be an understatement. Nevertheless, I rallied my spirits after speaking with one of the deans in charge of the fellowships who promised to look into reclassifying the award so it would not affect my aid.

Well, as soon as I got home on Sunday, what do I find waiting for me in my mailbox? Why, a letter from the financial aid office indicating not only would I not be receiving any aid this semester, but since I received this fellowship they re-evaluated my "need" and determined that I actually had to PAY THEM BACK MONEY FROM LAST BLOODY SEMESTER! Although this amount was relatively small ($214), I was still irate. I don't have $214 in extra cash just hanging around for these kinds of problems. Not only that, but I soon discovered that my fellowship was going to be taxed (f*%# you IRS!) and distrubuted in incremental payments (more like my standard paycheck).

I felt dirty. I felt like I was taken unawares (from behind I might add) while lying vaguely comatose from all the sugary and fatty comestibles I'd consumed over the holidays and unable to resist.

Of course, I then sent out a frantic email to the dean begging him to give me some final shred of hope to cling to. But alas, there is apparently no way the award can be re-classified that would incline the federal government to give me back my subsidized and unsubsidized loan money.

Now I am looking into either trying to apply for a graduate PLUS loan (which apparently works differently) or a small private loan from my bank. I am actively seeking feedback on these options. What do people recommend? What kind of experiences have you had with either? Are there any other loan alternatives that I'm unaware of?

I'm still reeling from being royally screwed by the Department of Education. Any words of wisdom or comfort would be greatly appreciated.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Post-Interview Updates

So folks, I made it back safe and sound (despite a freak snow and ice storm) from the interview, which went quite well. I've been meaning to update the blog for a while but I have been completely swamped under end-of-the-semester papers, bureaucratic nightmares, and unexpected financial aid problems.

Back to the interview though...it was a really hectic, nerve-wracking, and incredibly helpful experience. I learned A LOT about what to expect in these situations. And my earlier description of an academic obstacle course was definitley not far off the mark!

Here's a summarized breakdown of interview details: After a long trip (3 different planes to get there!) I arrived to find myself in a somewhat unexpected winter wonderland. (City X) had experienced a freak snow storm that dumped more than 20 inches of snow. Citizens were freaking out because snow is not a common weather occurence in their neck of the woods and so they were all a bit unable to deal with it. Apparently the campus of the university had even been closed for a day due to the weather. Anyway, I made it to my hotel safe and sound (although I was freezing!). And I will say, they shelled out some cash to put me up in a really nice hotel. I had one of those sweet loft-style rooms with a kitchen and living room downstairs and bedroom upstairs. Admittedly, I gave a bit of a squee when I arrived. I stayed up for a few hours doing some last minute note-tweaking on my research presentation and then I went to bed and slept for a solid nine hours. The next morning I was up at 6am getting spruced up in my fabby interview outfit. Then I made it down to the pub/restaurant for a hearty breakfast and several cups of coffee to give me plenty of energy for the day. I was ready and waiting at 7:45 for my departmental ride to appear at 8am. That's when I encountered the first glitch of the day. The person scheduled to pick me up phoned the hotel at 8am and told me she had overslept and would be late. Cue Sparks having a minor nervous breakdown but concealing it from one and all. I calmy asked her if this would affect my already tight schedule for the day, which she sort of brushed off. I endeavored to maintain my composure by telling myself these kinds of things happen all the time. Well, around 8:30 she shows up and we head to campus. By now I'm a half hour behind schedule and when I arrive she does tell the faculty members that it was her fault we were late (which I greatly appreciated). The department chair showed me to an office I would have access to during my breaks and then we all settled into a room for my research presentation. Cue glitch #2--they had not tested the projector unit for their computer in advance and discovered they didn't know how to use it properly. A technician was sent for and my presentation was delayed another 20 minutes at least. But fortunately (and I was sweating mental bullets at this point) they got the projector working and I was able to give my presentation without any problems. And I will say that it seemed to go over very well with them. I got several good questions at the end but we had to cut the Q&A short because I was scheduled to meet with two of the Deans and was already running late. So I was promptly hurried away to meet the Deans who were both very nice and made the university sound incredibly appealing in terms of research money and faculty benefits. But then of course I find out that they have no role in the hiring process whatsoever, which mentally makes me question why I'm spending so much time talking with them. But oh well. After these meetings I had time for a quick bathroom break before my extended meeting with the chair of the department. We hit it off very well and had a great conversation in her office. After this, I went to lunch with her and two other faculty members. Again, they all seemed very nice and we had a good conversation (no weird lapses or silences). They re-asserted their interest in my research, commended my presentation, and asked me some more questions. Once our meal was concluded we had to hurry back to campus for my scheduled teaching presentation. I have to say this started off a bit awkwardly--first of all, they didn't bring me to a classroom (which I'd been expecting) but instead used a small conference room. This proved a bit problematic in terms of space because there were a lot of students and they had trouble finding places to sit. There was no board or anything for me to write on, which meant I had to change the approach to my presentation somewhat. Then all the professors sat in a row against one of the walls, but with only about a foot of room between them and many of the students who kept fidgeting and looking behind them at first. But once everything settled down we managed to proceed in a decent fashion and they turned out to be a very smart and talkative group of students. After this was over I had about a 5 minute break before the formal 90 minute interview. By now I was feeling a tad tired, but I mustered my energy and went to the interview in high spirits. This formal interview was probably the most rigorous part of the process. My mock interview had prepared me fairly well beforehand, but I still received a large number of questions I hadn't really been anticipating. I managed to answer them all, although I found several of them to be quite difficult in terms of requiring me to have instant-on-the-spot recall for certain things. But it was definitely a very rewarding experience overall because now I feel better prepared for a number of different kinds of questions in these interview scenarios. Afterwards, I had a half hour to unwind and check email in my office before going to dinner. At first, the dinner was going to be canceled due to the weather. But then it cleared up enough that two of the faculty members were willing to go (the others lived further out and didn't want to chance not being able to drive home). They took me to a really fabulous Italian-fusion restaurant and we had some really fun conversations about things both academic and non-academic. Then I went back to my hotel and CRASHED. The next morning I was up at 5am and heading to the airport by 6am. But then, of course, my first flight was delayed 5 HOURS (!) due to ice and fog. So in the end I missed my final connecting flight in Atlanta and had to sleep overnight at an airport hotel before catching a flight the next morning to make it the last leg of the way home.

All in all, the interview was a great (albeit exhausting) experience. I learned so much that I now feel incredibly confident and infinitely more calm about future interviews. I was rather disappointed that one of the faculty members on the hiring committee could not be present at my interview because she was snowed in. During the process I also got a more balanced perspective on the school, department, and location in general. It was my number one choice at first, but after visiting I've discovered a few reservations that I didn't initially have. It's still a great job to be sure, but I won't be completely devastated or heart-broken if I don't get it because I guess it wasn't quite as perfect as I'd imagined it.

I have not heard back from the search committee yet and may not know anything until early January. I will definitely update when I hear anything either way.

But, I'm happy to say, I have at least one MLA interview at the end of the month! This was another job high on my list, so I'm excited to meet with some of the committee members. I'll be keeping my fingers crossed for a follow-up campus visit!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Mock Interview

Well, it's after midnight and my gut is churning with anxiety because at 2:00pm today I have a "mock" interview scheduled. This has been arranged by my department as preparation for my campus interview next week. I feel confident that everything will go well. I definitely think that I am suitably prepared, and I tend to think quickly on my feet should anything unexpected arise. Nonetheless, I will be interrogated...excuse me, interviewed, by two faculty members I don't know very well at all. Gulp!

I will post again later with more details after the fact. For now, I'm off to bed to get a good night's rest.

UPDATE: The mock interview went fabulously! Granted, I was a nervous wreck beforehand. I had trouble falling asleep the night before and woke up with what felt like an ulcer in the making. But once I got in there I went into academic mode and managed to hold up pretty well. My two interviewers asked me some great, and at times challenging, questions that I think will come up during the actual interview next week. At the end, they both told me that I had "incredible presence" and even said that I sounded like a professor! :) That one still has me grinning. They also told me that they think I should have no problems at the campus interview next week. This is a HUGE relief. It's one thing to have your friends and loved ones tell you that you are going to be fine, but getting outside affirmation from objective professionals in the field (both of whom did not know me very well) somehow carries more weight. They also gave me some great pointers for a few additional prep ideas before leaving that I found really helpful. All in all, this experience was incredibly worthwhile and has made me feel a great deal more peaceful and confident about the interview next week. That's not to say I'm no longer nervous or that I won't be preparing like a madwoman, but I think my blood pressure has finally managed to drop down to a safer level!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

More Tales from the Odd World of the Academic Job Market

Even though I have the unexpectedly early and very exciting job interview lurking on the horizon (deep breath Sparks, deep breath) that does not mean anything is remotely certain for me. Being on the academic job market is a bizarre and disorientingly surreal experience. There are no guarantees that a Ph.D. will secure you a job, and at times it feels like there is very little rhyme or reason to the process itself. What makes review committees favor certain candidates over others? Indeed, what they are looking for on paper and in person doesn't, from what I've learned, always seem to correspond. How does one prepare for these scenarios? In some ways, you can't. You just need to be able to adapt and go with whatever situation you are thrown into.

Needless to say, I'm still a bit baffled by it all but soldiering on doggedly in my determination to land a job.

Thus, I have been continuing to send out myriad applications for other positions in the hopes of securing additional interviews down the road. Because, let me be honest here folks, I HAVE to leave Gainesville this summer. I can't do another year here. As much as I love my department and my network of friends and colleagues, I have hit my restlessness threshold. Like Monkey, I have been a nomad all my life. I think it might be genetic because my father is exactly the same way. We never stay in one place more than a few years. And Gainesville is just too remote and residential for my overall predelictions. I can last far longer in an urban area without losing interest and enthusiasm. But I've pretty much exhausted all that Gainesville has to offer and my feet are itching to move on.

Some of the places I've applied to jobs are in better locations than others. Like many other job market newbies, I'll very likely be waiting down to the wire before I hear anything about potential MLA job interviews. Right now I've been receiving the slew of Affirmative Action response cards and "acknowledgement of application" letters from places that I've sent materials to. But yesterday I received an unusual email request from another BIG NAME SCHOOL asking for a writing sample (they are famous enough that they only requested a CV and cover letter call for applicants as part of the initial application). This is of course a really good sign of interest, but their request was not quite what I'd been expecting. While most schools ask for a publication sample or a chapter of the disseration as the standard request, this school is asking for A FULL MANUSCRIPT of my dissertation. As you might imagine, this freaked me the hell out because 1) I don't have the full manuscript completed, as I'm not going to be defending until April, 2) What does this mean? Do they merely want to ascertain how far along I really am? Or is there some other reason?

Honestly, a complete manuscript is a helluva lot to read. Review committees typically don't want to read submissions of more than 30-50 pages because they have to read a lot of them. Even my committee chair noted that this was a very unusual request, but wasn't sure what to make of it. Basically, I will send them what I have with a cover letter explaining the status of the two chapters that remain to be written. We'll see what happens.

I've been encountering some really odd or atypical things in my first job market search, which just goes to show that even the helpful information your colleagues can provide you with in advance will not necessarily anticipate what you may find.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Shopping Spree on a Thursday

Today I finally had to break down and spend some serious cash to complete my ensemble for the upcoming interview at the end of this month.

First on the agenda, and very desperately needed, was a new carry-on bag for the plane. All the suitcases I own are gigantic and cumbersome things used to transport all my important worldly goods across the globe during my many adventures abroad. Thus, they are lacking in any utilitarian function for a business trip. I also needed the carry-on suitcase because I have to get onto 3 different planes in order to get from my neck of the woods all the way out to my interview location and I just know any checked luggage would likely get lost or halted along the way. I was originally looking to totally cheap out on a suitcase, but then I found a rare treasure at Ross--a beautiful Diane von Furstenberg in magenta, silver, and white. This puppy normally retails for over $300, but I got it at Ross for $48!

I am TOTALLY in love with this bag. I have some fears that I might get distracted watching it trail behind me as I walk through the airport....

Next on my list was a pair of comfortable but business appropriate shoes. I know Monkey thought I should wear a skirt for the interview, but I'm gonna butch it out with slacks. Apparently it is cool and rainy at the interview location right now and I really want to be comfortable while I go through a day long academic obstable course. I'm also going to be on my feet most of the day giving presentations and the like, so I decided to go with the tried and true UK shoe company Clark's. I bought these in black.

You can check them out here. They are soooo comfortable. I felt like I was gliding on air, and they made my big honkin' size 10 feet appear smaller! A truly amazing feat (ha! I love homonym puns...), I assure everyone.

A week or two ago I had bought a jacket with the hope of potential interviews, and that has certainly paid off! In my professional realm we don't have to get totally pimped out in conservative suits--unlike those spiffy lawyers :)--so I took a bit of leeway and picked something funky but also professional. And let me just add that being a full-figured gal can make it difficult to find clothing that doesn't make you look like a 60 year old librarian! Honestly, it sucks sometimes. So this jacket was an exciting find at Lane Bryant, plus--it's crushed velvet!!! (Squee!)

I love this color, which really brought out my grey eyes. I'm going to wear it with a nice pair of black slacks and my new shoes. I'm still debating on what blouse to wear underneath though. I have a nice silvery satin one that might work. Or I'll probably go with plain white. I'm not sure yet.

I've spent way more money that I should have, but I feel good. Let's hope it all leads to a positive end result! :) Thanks Monkey and Violet for your wonderful words of encouragement!