Saturday, May 26, 2012

Washington DC Calls in the Name of Business

When my job description said 10% travel, that was no joke.  Chicago, Memphis, Orlando, and Seattle have all been graced with my presence.  Washington DC now joins the list.

I was there this month for the American Institute of Architects (AIA) annual show, which was held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.  Like most of the events our magazine attends, it's a combination of educational panels and an expo floor.  Many of our major advertisers are there so it's a good opportunity to connect in person.  Luckily for me, Mike and I went to DC for our honeymoon so I wasn't distracted by the lure of the museums, lol.

For those who've never attended a tradeshow before, it's a long day of work.  While you may be in a cool city, you're stuck inside a convention center conducting business.  My primary job is to meet with exhibitors.  I get 15-25 minutes to gain an overview of their company and products, looking for story ideas along the way. 

In many ways, just by setting up a booth appointment, I'm smoothing the way for our sales team.  It's not a direct effort because I'm oblivious to their needs, but they can nonetheless leverage my simply being there to their advantage.    

You will have to excuse the horrible pictures on this post - my camera batteries crapped out so I was left with my camera phone, which you can see really sucks. 

This is what a tradeshow floor looks like.  This particular show had upwards of 40 rows of vendors.  Zone booth scheduling is crucial so you're not huffing it from one end to the other all day.

This was a decent show.  I prefer going to more educational sessions, but that wasn't the primary mission of this event.  All I can ask for on these trips is for my schedule to remain on time.  When delays and mix-ups happen, that's when my patience starts to go.

When I wasn't getting my networking on, I was holed up in the historic Mayflower Renaissance.  I don't think I've stayed at a hotel this nice before - apparently it holds some kind of record for gold foiling and is a favorite for politicians and prominent organizations needing an impressive ballroom.

The lobby (source)
Anyways, I had a tiny bit of downtime one evening to treat myself out.  Even though my legs were ready to fall off, I could not bypass the National Geographic Museum when it was literally across from my hotel.

With only 45 minutes before close, I made a B-line to the Titanic exhibit.  You might recall that prior to the hell of my Orlando trip, I was excited to see a Titanic museum there.  Since that never happened, this was my makeup splurge.

For $8 in admission and the bragging rights to say I'd been to this museum, the price was totally worth it.  The exhibit didn't include any artifacts from the wreck, but it did include prop pieces for the movie and footage from a brand-new documentary about the wreck.  It was an enjoyable way to kill off any remaining strength in my legs, lol.  

To-scale model
Getting fancy with my camera phone

This was pretty neat.  This image of the wreck was projected from above but when you got close, it revealed how the ship looked before sinking.  A totally ingenious use of technology and super kid-friendly.
One of the actual ROVs (remote operating vehicles) used to visit the wreck.  On loan from WHOI.

This model of the wreck is really cool for two reasons.  First, it's the same model Cameron used for the underwater shots in Titanic.  Second, it's so accurate, it's actually used to map expeditions to the site.  All of the new research about the ship is focusing on documenting the wreck like a crime scene and they use this to plan where to enter the ship with the ROVs. 

After touring the museum, my whole lower body was screaming for me to stop abusing it.  Instead of finding a nice restaurant in the neighborhood, I just went back to the hotel.  Their restaurant was just as nice as the rest of the place and I supped on pork chops with roasted plums and jalapeno-cornbread.

Cafe Promenade

In light of DC, this kind of trip is precisely why I need to reserve a credit card exclusively for business.  Between my hotel, cab rides, internet access fees, and meals, I racked up over $900 in three days.  I would never be able to fund a trip like this out of checking alone.  It's clear the company is giving me more travel responsibility so it's great motivation to live a lifestyle free of credit card debt. 

Business trips and visits to family account for all of my summer travel plans.  Are you going anywhere fun?


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey - Didn't Have Me Tied Down

Warning - I'm going to talk about sexuality.  Knowing full well my mothers and friends read this, I'm giving you the chance to click that red X in the corner lest the idea of me broaching the topic of erotica, sexuality, and the social impact of literature gets your panties in a twist ... and not in a good way.

For the rest of you still hanging out, thanks for being curious :)

Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James is taking over the bedrooms of bored women across the nation, or so the headlines have been screaming.  The book charts the complex relationship of Anastasia Steel (literature student) and Christian Grey (wealthy entrepreneur).  It's the classic story of unworldly, slightly clumsy, doesn't-know-she's-hot girl meets experienced, dark, I'm-in-need-a-therapist hot guy.

The twist, if you're not aware, is that instead of your run-of-the-mill romance novel steamy scenes, EL James lets her readers explore a slightly darker gamut of sexual expression in the world of dominant/submissive, accompanied by some light bondage, a touch of flogging (not in the Spanish Inquisition sense), and a few spankings.  That would be BDSM (bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, sadism, masochism) and all of the ensuing combinations.

I'll kick off my review with this statement - sexuality is not fixed or binary, it is highly personal, and as long as you and your partner set the boundaries and are honest with each other, what you do with and to each other is your own damn business.

If you think erotica is porn, well, I'm surprised you're still reading this.  I could devote another post to explaining the difference, but porn is visual and leaves nothing to the imagination.  Erotica is sensual and requires imagination on the reader's part.  The difference is profound - porn is a 10-minute quickie whereas erotica is a drawn-out seduction. 

Back to Fifty Shades.  This book started out as online fan fiction for Twilight.  Oh yes, the main characters were once Bella and Edward.  The influence is easily discernible, which may put you off or pull you in.  

To her credit, James readily admits she's a novice writer.  Which makes it easier for me to gently agree with her.  This is not a wonderfully written book.  A chunk of my editor brain was having fun mentally taking a red pen to the text as I read.  This sentiment applies both to the relationship portions of the book and the "I might blush here" sections.

I also easily tired of our narrator, Ana.  She's young, innocent, exploring her sexuality for the first time (she starts out as a virgin), and is written accordingly.  She can't bring herself to talk about her or Christian's body directly; instead she refers to down there, his erection, or the apex of my thighs.  She constantly says holy shit! when something arousing happens, which gets annoying because it seems so juvenile.

Despite my literary beef with the execution, it distresses me that the media sharks out there have dubbed this work mommy porn  <shudders>  There are so many things wrong with that term - it's sexist, disparaging, and dismissive.

Granted, this very heterosexual, very white book is not going to cut across all demographics, but to throw such a label on it is repulsive because it seeks to shame any woman (or curious guy) from picking it up.  On that premise, I defend the book for making sexuality more approachable, even if you've innocuously downloaded it on your Kindle or Nook and no one sees the cover (which in print form is also deliberately unremarkable). 

To be honest, this is Introductory Erotica.  Unlike most of the user-submitted stuff you can troll for online, Fifty Shades at least had some quality control, but there's better stuff out there.  If you've never tasted this taboo genre before or are already a closet Harlequin reader, I endorse this for you.  But if your sexuality is more robust, this will leave you unsatisfied.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Saying Goodbye to Size 14

Have you ever saved clothes that no longer fit?

Maybe it's your favorite pair of jeans from high school, a stunning dress prior to having kids, or a business suit you once rocked.  I would bet good money that most women (and maybe some men) have a stack of clothes they're hoping will fit again one day.

My pile has been added to since 2008 and while I remain hopeful about slimming down, I know it's going to take a while because I'm doing it the right way.  I'm going for a lifestyle makeover with steady exercise, tracking calories, and eating nutritionally dense foods.  Weight loss will be a pleasant side effect of my efforts to be healthy.

My stash of cute and professional but too small clothes has been wasting space in our closet for far too long.  It was once a smart idea to save money by having clothes on hand I could fit into at a smaller size instead of having to buy new ones.  But four years later, it seems a little silly and wasteful to have perfectly wearable clothes just sitting there unworn.

I spent a solid afternoon trying on clothes and really questioned if I would still like them if they ever fit again.  I found that my professional clothing tastes have shifted and what's considered dressy in academia is a touch different than in business.  I'm also guessing that no matter how much weight I hopefully lose, my boobs are here to stay so button-up shirts are a lost cause :) 

I emptied out that entire top bin as I wistfully ran through memories associated with my outfits.  The under-the-bed container still holds clothes I'm saving, but they are one size directly below what I wear now or are literally an inch or so from buttoning.  I admit, I kept one or two "reference" pants from smaller sizes so hopefully one day I can pump my fist in the air and say yes!

I had to smile when I weighed the bags out of curiosity - 40 pounds of clothes, about the amount of weight I should lose to be more fit.  The symbolism/irony wasn't lost.   

Instead of going the Goodwill route, I have a good friend on our editorial staff who became the recipient of my castoffs.  It's a super awesome solution because I get to see the fruits of coming to term with my size as she makes my former clothes look good around the office.
With my high school reunion coming up in a few months and aware that I am about 60 pounds heavier than in 2002, I've been thinking a lot about how women destructively define themselves by size.  

Have you ever noticed that women say they are a certain size, not wear?  That little shift in verbs associated size with identity.  I am a teacher, I am an editor, I am a size 18

I have sat around with too many of my girlfriends complaining about our size, how the fashion industry sizes clothing, and how much "happier" we were at a small size.

Ladies and gentlemen, put a sticky note on your bathroom mirror:


I've decided that when people complain about their size, even if it's all negative, they are being vain and immature to focus on a random number designated by the fashion world.  For health reasons, sure, it's not a number you want to completely blow off, but when it comes to your self esteem, tell your size to go to hell.

We need to jettison this idea that S-XL has anything to do with who we are.

This attitude change about my size didn't happen over night.  It's the accumulation of years of being mean to myself.  I am exhausted by the negativity that I, not anyone else, associate with my body.  Yes girls, the fashion industry or media isn't to blame for your poor self-confidence (though they're not completely off the hook ... that's a post for another day).  

Who is it that makes you cry when you go clothes shopping?  Who is it that frowns when you look in the mirror?  Who is it that makes snide jokes about how you look?

I won't spell out the answer.  Self-confidence is a complex animal that's influenced by a million things.  Women should be empowering themselves about their bodies.  They need to say "fuck patriarchy, I am a sexy bitch" and let the other stuff go.  Because when we are so wrapped up in the reflection in the mirror, we're not any better than the wicked Queen from Snow White.

I was uploading my sister's graduating photos to Facebook last night and feeling hesitation.  You've probably noticed that I rarely ever post pictures of myself online.  That's a direct result of how I have felt embarrassed by how my body has morphed over the years.  

No longer.  I refuse to say and think mean and immature things about myself.  It takes a little effort still, but when I look at this picture I tell myself that I'm wearing a cute dress, that's a good color for me, I have an adorable hair cut, and the shape of the dress is flattering for my waist and hips.  I push these positive thoughts to the forefront of my mind so they eclipse anything negative I may say.  
It's totally obvious that I take after my dad's side of the family - German and Scottish heritage.  Unless you're Heidi Klum, these aren't countries noted for turning out good lookers.  I am round.  Even when I was at my thinnest, I had a round face.  This is how I look.  This is a reality that I must shape positively for myself. 
You wouldn't say a car's performance is shit just because it isn't painted the right color.  Your body is the vehicle you roll around in and yes, people do look at it.  But the performance is underneath the hood.   
Be a little easier on yourself.  Ok, a lot easier. 
Pep talk over.