Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Dressing in the Dark: Fashion Faux Pas and other memorable moments

Have you ever gotten all the way to work and realized your underwear was on inside out? Welcome to my world. I used to consider myself fashionable, but now, after years of experience and long periods of reflection, I’ve come to a different conclusion.

Looking back there are moments in time I’m glad there were no photographers. And, others still where I’m sorry there were. Let’s take a trip through Amandaland.

I’ll start with a less offensive example to ease you into my past. While working a very formal awards banquet, one of my roles was to sit by the stage and walk the awards over to the Emcee. (Just call me Vanna). So, true to myself, I dressed the part. A long, black, strapless gown with just a bit of sparkle at the top was the outfit of the night. With my hair curled and cute jewelry, I was ready to go. I actually got a lot of compliments that evening so I thought I was pretty cool stuff. I was posing for pictures, and really feeling good about repeatedly waltzing across the stage in front of 350 people. One thing you need to know about me is my hair doesn’t “do” anything so I need heaps of hairspray to even attempt to do anything other than the long, flat Jan Brady look. I may have gone overboard that night. In retrospect, I look like something out of a 1992 Miss America Pageant. I could’ve written a country music tune, “A little less hairspray and a lot more hairbrush.”

More recently, I was wearing some new boots that were pretty cute. Black leather numbers that are sort of biker meets yuppie. I really like them (obvi). Since people are wearing boots with dresses these days and I decided to pair these with a dress for work one day. It was winter after all I wanted to keep my feet warm. And, for the most part, I think I was right. But perhaps where I strayed was that I chose to wear them inside the building. Upon further review it was more mini-dress-meets-moon-boots, than artsy-hipster.

Flowy cardigans. Whoever came up with these was seriously disturbed. However, until I saw myself in one, I thought they were the bee’s. There’s nothing like having spent the day with your board of directors, giving presentations, etc, laughing over some cocktails with them afterward, only to see a photo of yourself and discover you looked about a small as two pigs in the same pair of spandex tights. The best part was one of the women said, “Well, that’s not your greatest photo.” Thank you?

The very best example I can ever share with you came early on in my career-wear days. I had gotten a cute black and gold necklace/bracelet combo and wanted to pair it with a really basic outfit. It was a simple set, but unique, so I needed to wear something equally simple and just let it make a soft statement. Ask yourself what kind of statement a black leather strap with a gold buckle across your neck makes. It’s really awesome to know that I wore a dominatrix dog collar to work. And that it was caught on film.

I suppose you can say if you don’t take chances, you’ll just be boring. So, I guess I have that going for me.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Solving the world's problems, one coffee break at a time.

I love the conversations that happen at the office. The ones that come up randomly with your co-workers while you're completely busy working on something, sometimes even with your headphones on. Someone pipes up with a comment about The Hurt Locker, or the grocery, or the revolution that was the microwave. I love it.

A few choice examples as of late:

#1 - Commencement speakers. It's that time of year, and UND was heavily promo'ing US Sec of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano as its speaker. The question posed was: how are these people are chosen? When you look around at the vast majority of commencement speakers, you have to wonder if they were tapped for their accolades or for their attributes. A person may have a laundry list of accomplishments, titles, etc. S/He may be a brilliant person. But a good speaker that does not make. Inspiring, engaging, filling young minds with vigor, gratitude and a can-do attitude -- these are all things people expect from a speaker. These are things rarely gotten. After much consideration, we had an intra-office jinx that Madonna should speak at UND in 2011. Runner up was Samuel L. Jackson. Not that either is Ghandi, but at least they'd be entertaining. Hats off as well to Ms. Napolitano for quality remarks under the 15 min mark. You're aces in my book.

#2 - Facebook buttons. There's a "like" button on facebook, which is really helpful if someone posts something like "I'm going to a Green Peace rally". But, what about when someone says "My grandma just died"? Um, awkward. My officemate did a little unscientific survey and came up with the following submissions for additional facebook buttons for all of life's occassions: Jealous, Hug, Lust, and a few others I don't remember. My very passionate argument was for "Disagree". Not that it would help in the instance of a death in the family.

#3 -Microwaves. Remember when the swept the nation? They swept it in a way bigger and broader than the iPod or even Obama '08. Everyone had to get one. I still remember going to get our first one; it was like an official family outing. And let me say, I don't really know why it was such a big deal (other than the fact that it was an Amana, dangerously close to my name and at roughly age 6 that obviously made it amazing) - it was nearly the size of the regular oven and didn't cook that much faster from what I remember. It had this huge door that swung down just like real oven, with orange digital numbers and faux wood siding. So modern and stylish. Sadly, I think my sister had it as a hand-me-down until not that long ago. The funny thing was my officemate's grandma didn't want one because she couldn't figure out what to do with all the extra space in her kitchen when she got rid of her range.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Summer Reading List

With the end of the school year upon you, I figured you can't start your vacations without a summer reading list. So whether you bring your book to the beach or just relax on your patio in the evenings with a glass of wine, here are some books I think you'll enjoy.

- Long Way Down, by Nick Hornby
- Holidays On Ice, by David Sedaris
- We Thought You'd Be Prettier, by Laurie Notaro

Chic Lit:
- Thanks for the Memories, by Cecilia Ahren
- Expecting Adam, by Martha Beck
- Pink Slip, by Rita Cerisi
- The Dive from Clausen's Pier, by Ann Packer

General Reading:
- Running with Scissors, by Augusten Burroughs (to be followed by Dry and Wolf at the Table)
- A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, by Donald Miller
- A Year in the Merde, by Stephen Clarke
- Once a Runner, by John L. Parker Jr.

Happy Summer. Happy Reading.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

TAG! You're it.

I'm working out at the gym the other day and basically counting the seconds (which feel like minutes) until I can get off the eliptical machine. When I finally do reach the 30min mark and head to clean the machine, I look around. What I see is not pleasant. A room full of overheated middle-aged people still agonizingly doing their counting. Not much in the way of Olympic aspirations or body-building competitions.

What are we doing? Oh the depression.

It occurred to me in that moment, that wouldn't it be better if we all just played a big game of tag? Like we did when we were kids, running through the neighborhoods, between each other's backyards. I remember running and biking and skipping and jumping. I know that dodge ball is making a real name for itself these days with adult leagues and here's my theory why - it's fun. It's fun that happens to incorporate exercise. Not exercise that might have a little fun in it (read: step aerobics).

So I ask why do we have to stop doing the fun things? Why can't we go meet up on Saturday mornings for sessions of red rover, red light/green light, and my personal favorite TV tag? I would definitely set my alarm on a weekend for that.

Monday, April 12, 2010


I haven't written much lately but I've been thinking a lot about books. Books that I've read at different times in my life, what they meant to me; books that I'm reading right now and the things they make me think about; books that I've tried to read but haven't been able to get through for one reason or another.

I'll share my stories if you share yours. What books have you read, tried to read, loved, or hated? Lay it on me.

To get us started ...
The first book I ever remember reading and being completely engrossed in was none other than the Babysitter's Club Super Special #8: Boy-Crazy Stacey written by none other than Ann M. Martin. Thank you Ann. I checked that book out from the Edward D. Neill Elementary School library as many times as I possibly could, reading and re-reading Stacey's and Mary Anne's summer at the Jersey Shore as nannies. (Somehow they never met anyone named Snookie or The Situation)

I know it wasn't Tolstoy or even Hemingway, but I'll tell you what - Ms. Martin sure makes an ice cream at the Howard Johnson's seem like the world's greatest idea to a 4th-grader. That's just solid writing, plain and simple.

More importantly, though, it showed me the magical worlds created in my mind through reading. And for those of you who know me well, you know my mind does some magically creative things. (Which is why I can't watch scary movies - Michelle can vouch for me on that as she had to be in the same room with me when I saw Disturbia. I think I had to stay over at her house that night.)

So, that's my book. The buck is officially passed to you.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Commitment. What do you think?

The other day my mom told me that her pastor recently mentioned only 40% of Americans claim they go to church. Which is a dwindling number, meaning there is an exodus of people either going to church, or claiming to go church. Maybe both.

She asked me what I thought about that and instead of reacting to the lack of religious conviction, my mind was automatically drawn to the fact that, lately, I've noticed there's a lack of commitment to a lot of things. In fact, just about everything.

Religion or no religion, I think you can see it in secular arenas too - Lions Clubs, Jaycees, and others face lacking participation; notably, marriages fall by dozens (some may view this as religious, I know). But, my comment in the moment of this question was, "Look at cell phone contracts. People can't even commit to those. They want everything like it is at Burger King. They want it their way, every day."

I really see it as an issue of selfishness. It's a lack of ability to commit because one is too selfish to give up doing whatever they want to, whenever they want to. Acting in any way that seems pleasing in the moment, justifying whatever they do as right because they say so. There may be plenty of people who, when they learn about a particular issue, could be compelled to commit. But when/if that means they need to change their lifestyles, pay attention to the things they do and say to be responsible or culpable for them, or to even to just go and rededicate themselves and learn more once each week, that's just too much.

Commitment is about being selfless, at least in many ways. A person has to say they are giving themselves to something, someone, a cause or whatever, and living within the boundaries that result is ok because they are all in.

When was the last time you saw someone do that?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Devil May Not Actually Be In the Details

I used to hear this saying a lot, that the devil was in the details. I've always taken it to mean that flaws or red flags can live deep within the fine print. A person should be very thorough, considering multiple possibilities or scenarios, one should make sure all the details are understood and clearly play the role they need to. It can be tedious, time-consuming work, but that's what's supposed to save the day and ensure success, right? Right?

I'd like to somewhat debunk that theory.

Yes, the devil can be in those details and those details can be what bring a you down. But all the same, details really aren't that important if the big structure isn't sound.

Lately I've noticed an inordinate number of instances where heaps of effort were put into the details of a project, but little to no thought was put into the big picture. Think of it like this: making a household wheelchair accessible, adding in a home theatre and a gourmet kitchen, but forgetting to concern yourself with finished walls and a good roof. The details were incredible, but the fact that you were building a house was totally lost.

The funny thing with situations like this is all that time and effort in the details wears people down and makes them feel very busy. Meanwhile, the fact that the big picture is overlooked makes those who need it frustrated. Those people ask for improvements to the big picture but the people stuck in the details are too busy to do anything about it (and have lost sight of it anyway in many cases). And so the cycle continues.

If you didn't like the house example, I'll give you another one to chew on. It's like a parent spending a lot of time and money to ensure their child has the best clothing or sports equipment, or access to the best schools, but doesn't spend the time necessary to instill values, teach the child boundaries or manners. The parent was too caught up in the details of a particular lifestyle to remember that the child needed a foundation for life first.

Or, let's say you are at work and you are putting content on your website to entice new customers. In the process of doing that, you get working on this incredible map of how to get to your store - maybe you include directions from different areas of town, a standard map, and even use Google Earth with the 3D buildings function so users can really "get in the map" and find their way. This is a great tool for sure. But you spent so much time working on that you forgot to display pictures and descriptions of your products (ie: the real reason someone would be enticed to come to your store).

Overall, it's safe to say I think the devil may be in the big picture. I think that if that's solid, well planned and well executed, 9 times out of 10 the details will work themselves out for the best. That's where my money is anyway.