Saturday, February 26, 2011

Charlie Sheen is Batshit Crazy

On Friday, Chef sent me the file of Charlie Sheen's radio interview. It was flipping crazy as hell. Clearly it was crazy enough to halt production on one of the most popular shows on TV. Not a show I like, per se, but it is--or was--very popular.

So, Charlie Sheen goes on air to talk about how sober he is and with that sobriety comes a challenge to the show creator. A crazy rant. The fast-talking, the slurring of the words. It's some clear signs of some kind of mental break. I know the words "Charlie Sheen" and "mental break" aren't that much of a stretch. I mean, the dude has acted like a whack-a-doo for a long time.

But the rant includes some killer sound bites. One of them that I like is his peppering of the word "winning" when trying to compare his career with that of others. But when you think about it, the only "winning" Charlie Sheen really did was the winning of that of the genetic lottery. Without his dad, there would be no career or "winning" for Charlie Sheen. It's just his own damn fault he's frittered it away.

What I love about it is that Charlie's wrecking of his show makes Alec Baldwin's horrible phone message to his daughter look like telemarketing.

It takes a special kind of madness to completely sabotage your own success.

End of Round One

Today was the last day of our first Wrye Family Weight Loss Challenge. Two months ago my aunts, cousins and I started off on our journey to lose weight. We track it through a weekly weigh-in and chat about it on a secret Facebook group.

We started out by setting a goal (it ended up being 10 pounds each) and then we choose a reward. If ALL of us hit our goal, then we get to partake in our reward. My reward was a nice haircut and color from a professional--not just Supercuts and a box of Nice 'N Easy like I normally do.

Good news is that we had our last weigh-in for round one this morning and we all hit our goal. The six of us lost more than 77 pounds in two months. Not too shabby, if I do say so myself. I lost a little over 11 pounds this time and that brings the total of weight I've lost since moving to LA at more than 14 pounds. Not too shabby. Especially when you consider that Chef and I still go out at least once a week for a nice dinner. I'm actually pretty happy with it so far. And at least for the moment I'm motivated for about 30 more pounds.

Now the question becomes, how am I going to get my hair cut and what color should it be? Chef is determined for me to be a redhead, but I'm not quite convinced yet. Maybe some auburn highlights, but I'm not ready to commit to full blown red. I'm also thinking it's time to get some bangs and an actual hairstyle. Hopefully by next weekend, I'll have some pictures to post.

In the mean time, if you have any hair suggestions, send them my way.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The More Things Change. . .

the more they stay the same. Well, kind of. It's 9:15 on Thursday night and I'm on my work computer. Why? Because a mere three weeks in and I feel about a month behind. Or in one case, I'm actually 60 days behind. How did I come up with 60 days? Well, the project that just got handed to me 5 days ago and needs to go out in 30 days needs to be completed by the art department. The art department requests 90 days to get a project from first draft to final copy. A good practice, I'm sure, but it ultimately means that i'm already 60 days behind and need to ask a favor to get things done.

Generally, I feel like I'm doing pretty well, but I also feel like I'm dropping the ball on a few items. I guess that's a typical feeling when starting a new gig. While I'm used to having a ton to do, I'm not used to having to implement my new organization system (which isn't quite where it needs to be), and learning the new customs and expectations of a different company. For example, writing a press release is taking me about twice as long as it should because I'm not entirely sure what and how much information needs to be included. And then I go off in search of the information and some that I need isn't available for public consumption. So then I have to track it down internally which takes even longer.

Basically it boils down to unfamiliarity. Until I get a little more time here under my belt, my normal productivity is going to be lower. Which will frustrate me.

But I know I'll be back to normal soon enough.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Conclusions I've Come to This Week (so far)

I've been doing some thinking and chatting and various things are flitting in and out of my head. So, here are some conclusions that I've come to this week:
  • I want to be married but don't really want the hassle of planning a wedding (or reception). When all is said and I done, Chef and I will be getting married here pretty quickly but won't be having a wedding reception to publicly celebrate until about our first anniversary.
  • There are few embarrassing things or situations that you can't laugh your way out of. I should know. I was in one this week that is not for public consumption, but Chef got a chuckle out of it, anyhow.
  • My weight loss is paying off (again). I got my license and the bloated face on it is larger than the face that stares back at me today. I guess 14 pounds will do that to a person.
  • Being from a smaller state doesn't necessarily mean things are run backwards. Both Tennessee and Indiana had WAY better DMV procedures than California. It's fairly sad when Chef and I went to the DMV on the same day and he got his license 5 weeks later and I got my license 5 weeks after him.
  • My office is really sad. I need to bring that box of packed items from my old office so I at least have a bobblehead and a certain onion cooker to brighten my work area.
  • More choices doesn't necessarily mean BETTER choices. Case in point: our continuing restaurant saga. We've tried a pretty good gamut of area restaurants and still cannot be completely satisfied. All are really well reviewed, but don't really deliver consistent and delicious results. Chef says part of that is that we're discerning customers.
  • There are some weird movies out there. Chef and I watched "Little Boy Blue" last night and were intrigued. This one's got perceived incest, maniacal military impostors and lots of Ryan Phillipe's bare ass. A weird combo and not necessarily a winning combo, but I didn't feel cheated out of valuable time in my life.

So that's what I've learned up until Wednesday. Word.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

I Haven't Changed. . . I'm just less stressed

Tonight Chef and I drove to Laguna Beach to have dinner with my dad and Robin. My dad has a conference in Orange County that starts on Tuesday and luckily, I'm off tomorrow for President's Day. It will be my first President's Day off and I don't think there's any better way to celebrate than by Chef and I showing my Dad and Robin around our neck of the woods.

But anyway, we had dinner tonight at their hotel restaurant. Although to call it a "hotel restaurant" is kind of a misnomer. The place was SUPER hopping and had great ratings on yelp. The food was very good. But clearly the company was better.

And while we sat and chatted, I realized that I had changed a little since I left Tennessee. By changed, I don't really mean that my personality is all that much different. Because frankly, it's not. I may be a little more open to new things, but always feel like I had a cautiously adventurous spirit. I say "cautiously" because I always feel like my risks are calculated.

But I have changed in the sense that the intensity of my life is dulled. I guess another way of saying that is I'm less stressed. I think a big part of that is changing jobs. When you work some place for 9 years, you set yourself up for a few things. 1) You begin to get an unnatural attachment to things, 2) you begin to think of yourself as indispensable, and 3) you wonder if you are your job and doubt that you're strong enough to separate yourself.

So, I realized that a job doesn't have to be THAT intense. Not that I didn't love it. I've come to realize that I can be driven to do my best, but I don't have to give 90 percent of myself to my job. I think it's helped Chef and I too. I'm able to be more to him and I'm happy to do so.

So maybe the change isn't so bad. It's a relaxation thing. I hope it sticks.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Rainy Days and Sickness Get Me Down

It's raining again in LA. That's enough to make at least 10 percent of the 8 million SoCal residents act like idiots on the road. Chef and I went out this morning (because you can usually avoid just about any crowd by doing things before noon in LA), and got back to the house a little before 2 p.m. --right before the rain started falling.

The thing about rainy LA days are that they seem so rare that it almost gives you permission to be lazy. Add to that the fact that I've been fighting various kinds of illness all week and it was enough to say "Let's stay at home and watch movies."

Seriously, I can't seem to shake feeling sick. Never bad enough to warrant anything other than going to be bed early, but still. Not cool. I had a full blown cold on Sunday--cold but running a fever, lethargic, and stuffed up. So, I went to bed and stayed in bed until I got up for work on Monday. I fought the cold with daily doses of Theraflu, DayQuil and NiQuil.

That worked for the most part, but the cold then turned into major allergies. I think it's the moisture around here that flipped the switch. I sneezed in my office all day on Thursday and Friday. It's not so professional to have toilet paper hanging out of your blazer pocket, but a girl's got to do what a girl's got to do.

The congestion is still residing in my nasal passages, but luckily the sound like a man voice is gone. I'm still taking Afrin and shivering in the "cold." I know 55 degrees isn't cold. But with some rain and a wind, the chill through the bone is enough to have me and Chef under blankets.

I know the rain is supposed to be here tomorrow too, but I'm hoping for at least some sunshine on Monday. My visitors deserve the best of what California has to offer.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Weekend Visitors

I am vowing to leave work on time or even early (which is tough to do--I mean, I want to make sure I'm giving off the right appearance, but I have been coming in at least 30-45 minutes early all week and leaving at regular time. Yes, I neourotic. And a workaholic, but it just has to be that way.) I am vowing to leave early for two reasons:
  1. Traffic is SIGNIFICANTLY worse going home on Fridays than any other day. And by "significantly," I mean that the drive that normally takes about an hour and fifteen minutes going home Monday-Thursday took me two hours and twenty minutes last Friday.
  2. I need to get my rest and tidy up the place because I'm having my first visitors this weekend: MY DAD AND STEPMOM!!!!

I knew they'd be the first out here and am so excited to show them around our little neck of the woods. Dad also requested a trip to Santa Monica, which is very do-able, although might be a little chilly as it's only going to be about 60 this weekend. Dad and Robin are in town for a conference and Chef and I are so happy to have them come. I look forward to it tremendously and know that we're gonna have a great time.

In the mean time, I need to finish out my day and mentally prepare myself for the long ride home. I think I'm literally going to dig in and take the scenic route this time. A drive along the Pacific Coast Highway with the ocean to my right. Traffic isn't so bad to be stuck in with a view of something other than someone's bumper. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Good, but Just Not Good Enough

Tonight Chef and I had our Valentine's Day. And how best to celebrate than to do what we love: eat steak. But instead of hitting our usual Ruth's Chris, we decided to hit a place called Maestro's in Beverly Hills. It's gotten great reviews, so we decided to give it a whirl.

I knew we were in trouble when we sat down. The first thing was that our table was smooshed in the middle of the dining room and tiny. The back of a large Asian lady was touching our table. The second thing that happened was that our waitress asked "Are you even 21?" when Chef (and later I) ordered a drink. Normally, I'd be flattered about this but when you're in an expensive restaurant, the last thing you want to be labelled as is an underage couple going out to dinner. It's assumed that you don't have money and haven't eaten by yourself in a nice restaurant.

Calories were of no matter to me tonight. So we had two appetizers- crab cakes and scallops. The crab cakes were okay, but the scallops were delicious. Next was the main course. I had a 12 oz. filet medium, Chef had the18 oz. bone-in filet medium rare. We also had the famous lobster mashed potatoes and brussel sprouts with bacon.

Sounds delicious, right? And it was. But there were little things that just weren't quite right. My steak was medium well on one end and medium rare on the other end. Chef's steak was straight up rare. The brussel sprouts were served without bacon and they were burned. So when we asked for new ones, we got them, but by the time they were cooked again, we were almost done with dinner.

The highlight for me was the warm butter cake. It's Paula Deen's wet dream. It's a yellow cake with a caramelized butter crust and ice cream. It's also got fresh cream that was delicious. Seriously the butter cake was the best part of the meal, but I was so full that I only had about 1/3 or less of it. It was a shame to leave so much on my plate, but I'm sure my waistline will thank me.

After dinner, we waded back through the crowded (too crowded for my taste and especially for a Wednesday night) restaurant and bar to get my car from the valet. It took about 20 minutes. TWENTY MINUTES to get our car.

So, nothing that was a tragedy about the experience, but for the price, I want my butt kissed. I want a table where I can actually hear Patrick talk when he speaks to me. I want to not have an Asian lady's back fat dipping into my lobster mashed potatoes. I want there to be enough light that the waitress doesn't need the penlight she's carrying to see that there's no bacon in the brussel sprouts. It was all nice and good food, but it just wasn't nice or good enough. Maybe I'll get some butter cake to go when I get a craving.

Chef's made me a discerning consumer. That's not such a bad thing.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Inquiring Minds Want to Know

Apparently I haven't given enough details of my job to satisfy some people and I want to quash any rumors of me working for any illicit operations in the Valley. I haven't given any details because of two reasons:

1) I just started last Monday and didn't have any real details, and

2) My boss mentioned in my interview that he had read my blog (it's on my resume), and I found out that other members of the PR team had read it as well.

So in an effort to make sure I actually knew what I was talking about before posting (which is a change of pace for me), I decided to hold off until I had an idea of what my job was before telling a little more about it.

Here's what I know right now: I do PR. I'm the US PR Manager for SAGE Publications. The US is needed because the company I now work for is a global entity and has offices in the UK, Singapore, India and Washington DC. In fact, my boss and the majority of the PR team are located in the UK. I've spent the last week trying to be able to do the time zone math in my head (it's an 8 hour difference).

Lucky for me, last week was an unintentional boot camp of the company. There were LOADS of people over from the UK (including my boss and my UK counterpart), and the freelancer that has been doing parts of the job for the last 10 years was also flown in to help give me some context and information about what I'll be doing. But the first week was intense. I literally met about 50 people, learned about a new industry, learned about 5 new products, and had cocktail or dinner engagements on 3 of the 5 nights. It was a great learning curve, which I feel like I got through pretty quickly.

Clearly, I'm still learning. I can tell you about the upcoming branding audit results and present to fellow staff, but I can't print out a report and staple it--because I don't have a stapler. Or a highlighter. Or just about anything. The office I'm in (and I'm thankful that I have an office and not a cubicle--not sure how I got that lucky, but I'll take it) right now has got a desk with drawers that currently hold a box of tampons (I brought those in), a computer, a week's worth of my notes strewn about the desk (I'm notorious for being messy on the desk, but clean on my hard drive), roses from Chef for Valentine's Day, and a refrigerator.

Why a fridge? Because I'm a lazy caffeine addict. This place has about 300 employees or so on-site and the breakroom is downstairs. There's a vending machine and three fridges for storing frozen meals (but only up to two per person for space sake) and four microwaves. But those things require me to: 1) have cash or change--which I never do, or 2)not be in meetings where I have the 7 minutes roundtrip to get a beverage and get back upstairs. (Yes I timed it). So I'm lazy and put the fridge in my office so I only have a 4 second trip to get a diet Coke. Really it's for the company's sanity as well as my own.

Anyway, office aside, I do a lot of the things I did at the AHA. I push out journal articles from among the 630+ journals we publish. I announce the acquisition of new journals. I announce when books are published. I work on social media. I contribute to a corporate blog. I prep our executives for speaking engagements. I continue to be the branding police. I manage a staff that plans events--except instead of cocktail parties and Galas, it's conventions and trade shows.

That's basically the gist of what I do. And it's for a very legit, very legal and not at all X-rated independent company. On another day, in another post, I'll start comparing for-profit with non-profit. It's been a re-entry experience into the for-profit world. And not a bad one.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Shopped Till I Dropped

For some reason, I wanted to go shopping today. And because he's my best advocate, Chef was all in. Not only that, he came to be last night and said "Why don't we leave early so we can be there when the outlets open? That place is crazy busy."

And he was right. We got there right when it opened and it was already getting packed. I hit the GAP and got some great deals. Then hit the CAbi outlet. Not only did they have TWO items that I had wanted the last time I was there IN MY SIZE this time, but when I went to check out, the lady gave me chocolate. And not just any chocolate. I opened it and it had an additional discount of 30 PERCENT!! Hello!!!

Then we found some things for Chef and I found out that both Ann Taylor AND Benetton had sales were everything in the store was an additional 40 percent off. Ridiculous. It was just my day to get some deals. And a day that I appreciate Chef letting me take as much time as I needed.

Now tomorrow is going to be a different day. Tomorrow is the day when I have to go through my closet and weed out all those shirts that I feel badly about buying and only wearing once before deciding that they weren't cute. Now they sit there and mock me every morning as I pass them over for a more loved shirt. It's time to let them mock someone else now. I've got new duds!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Because It's Still (And Will Always Be) In My Heart

I've clearly and obviously still got a soft spot in my heart for the American Heart Association. I mean, it's only been a few months that I left the place with an entire day's worth of tears streaking down my face, a nose clogged from snot and looking like I'd been beaten. (They didn't beat me for leaving, but I cried so hard it felt like they had.)

It wasn't just the mission or the job that I knew I'd miss, but the 100 percent the people. My co-workers were smart, dedicated and hardworking people. Some of them were even sarcastic, slang-talking weirdos like me. And then of course, there were the people who weren't paid to work for the American Heart Association, but did it anyway. Those lovely volunteers who had great intentions and tons of spirit who loved to help just because. No other reason (usually).

And so with that, I will sit here and blog for my heart. Lots of people know of the American Heart Association, but few know the true intricacies of the organization (unless they work for it). So, with that I'll say one of the most public and well-received efforts the organization ever launched was the Go Red For Women movement. It is vital because while more than half of all women can NOW name heart disease as the No. 1 killer of women, less than 25 percent actually think it is something that will affect THEM.

And unfortunately, that is not the case. Heart disease claims the life of one in three women.

Think of all the women in your life: your mom, sister, grandma, aunt, daughter, friends. That's a lot of women. One in THREE will die. That's not good odds. (Other odds that aren't good- getting away with murder-- 2 to 1 odds on that!).

In that spirit, today I'm blogging my heart out to support Go Red For Women. Spreading the message and asking you to tell 5 people the same thing. It's easy. Click here, join the FREE movement and tell 5 other people. It's easy and it takes less time than it took you to read this blog post. So, you might as well do it!

To all my heart friends, I miss you very dearly and have thought of you (or will think of you) during this hectic month of Go Red events, Heart Galas and Balls, and all the things that make you tired.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Weird Coincidence

Today was day three at my new gig. I am positive why they wanted me to start this week. First is the fact that my boss is in town from London this week. Not that he isn't here a lot, but an entire week of his presence is key for this as my position was created and replicating one in the UK office.

Second is that EVERYONE from all branches of this company is in town this week. There was a big office wide "meeting" today where the new products were announced and a lot of the other branches from other locales (DC and UK mostly) had their people present. It's an interesting set-up and I'm beginning to understand the pieces. So, this meeting was all 300 or so of this branch's employees at a hotel about 5 miles from the office.

The coincidence comes in the fact that I was heading to the bathroom at this hotel when I happened upon two of the few people I know in LA now. It was two of the LA American Heart Association employees. Turns out they were confirming some things for Ventura County Go Red For Women Luncheon next month. I was kind of excited for two reasons: 1) I know more than just Chef in LA!! I'm on my way to having some contacts and then some friends! and 2) I'm probably going to be able to go to the luncheon since it's so close. Another chance to meet some new people.

Don't get me wrong. I've met about 30 people at my new job, and I remember at least half of their names, but I'm always looking for some kindred spirits. Or at least some clever smart asses.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Day One done, Day Two begun

First days are always funny at new jobs, aren't they? You cram about a week's worth of learning into the first 8 hours and hope that some of it sticks. So far, I think I'm absorbing more than I realize. Or should I say I hope that I'm absorbing more than I realize.

Unbeknowst to me, my counterpart from the UK flew in to help acclimate me this week. That's because my boss, who is also based in the UK, flew in for a conference and wasn't going to be able to spend a ton of one on one time. Apparently, his next trip to the US after this week is in April. So, this is going to be a sink or swim test. And I'm fairly certain I can swim just fine. I might just need some water wings for the first week or so.

So, because of this flurry of foreign activity, I've been booked solid for the first week. Happy Hour cocktails for two nights and a dinner on a third. It's probably a good thing because the extra time gets me out of traffic. The only downside is that I'm learning names from people I'll probably not meet or see again for months and am probably going to forget them. Then I'll have to act like I remembered them from my first day when in all likelihood, I won't.

The only other thing that I noticed is the accents. I'm good throughout the day, but around 5:30 and with a brain full of mush, I was having to concentrate. The same thing happened in Murfreesboro, though.

So I sit here and begin and realize that there aren't a lot of people who are outside the education arena that work here. Most have backgrounds in colleges, teaching or sales connected to colleges and teaching. It'll be interesting to see how quick I'm able to catch on...

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Yes, I start my new job tomorrow, but here's the key question: What do I wear?

It seems the same for the first day of anything new- a new job, a new home, a new school. There's always a first day. And it's never the actual work or core of the new challenge that we worry about. It's the little things.

And for me, I'm worried about the little things. Here's my list:
  • Will I get there in time?
  • Will I be overdressed in a suit?
  • Should I pack a lunch? If I pack a lunch, how long does it take for a frozen meal to thaw? Do they have a fridge for me to store it? Would it look bad to have my name already written on it?
  • Is it presumptuous to bring some of my office decor on the first day? How early is too early to designate and stock a snack drawer?
  • Will I have a cubicle or an office?
  • How much paperwork will I have to fill out for HR? What's the over/under on pages? (I'm thinking 10 pages)
  • How much help will I need to figure out the new to me office equipment works?
  • What's gonna surprise me most?
Oddly enough, I know they have a schedule for me. And less odd is that my questions center around food. That seems to be the center of a lot of questions in my life. Like, why can't I stay away from it?

Until then, tomorrow is a new day and a new challenge. I'm sure my small questions will be answered fairly quickly and give way to much larger, long-term questions. But I'll save those for another day.

Friday, February 04, 2011

And the winner of the Ashley Employer Lottery is. . .

well, me, of course. Because I've got a job. But the employer isn't getting a bad deal, either, because I work my ass off, as a rule.

And the lucky employer is. . .SAGE publishing, a higher education textbook, reference book and journal publisher. On Monday, I begin my tenure as the PR Manager. I get to continue management (or as Amanda quoted to me "We can put you in a position to be over as many as four people"--except that was Office Space and my new gig puts me over 2--one of which I'll have to hire), I get to work with the upper management and build the brand externally, and I get to learn a new industry. All of which are very exciting.

The things I really liked about SAGE were that it is an independently owned publishing house--which is highly unusual--and the owner has set up an endowment to keep it that way. The place feels like its on the precipice--at that crossroads where its trying to figure out how to expand while keeping the relationships and service that made it successful in the first place. And that's kind of fun.

I also got to meet a LOT of the upper management and the CEO during the interview process and they were all easy to get along with and understand. Plus the HR department sent me chocolate covered strawberries to welcome me to the team. Which was exceptionally sweet and Chef will very much enjoy them.

So on Monday I get to bust out my heels and cute work attire and head back into the fray. The one downfall is that there is about a 45 minute drive (with light traffic) to get there--up to 90 minutes in heavy traffic to get home. That's going to be a change from the usual 8 minute commute I had at the AHA. Which got me thinking back to my longest commute. Two of the longest commutes I had were 35 and 40 minutes to Princeton and Mount Vernon, respectively. Which kind of made me chuckle that my longest commutes thus far weren't in the city but my Indiana home.

So the commute is gonna have to become a useful time for me. I've decided to use it to do a couple things:
  1. Listen to Mike & Mike and sports talk radio. Mike & Mike ends at 7 a.m. here, and in time, I'll be able to keep 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. hours at the new job. So that means, extra sports chatter. And until then, I'll listen to regular sports talk to get my sports jones in without sacrificing any Chef time, as he's not a fan.
  2. Flush out my arguments. For a debate? Against Chef? What kind of arguments? All valid questions. The answer lies in Chuck Klosterman. Thank you, Greg, for introducing me to him and his wonderfully sarcastic essays. They've already got me thinking and that thinking takes time--so I'll use the commute to flush out some weird arguments to write. And be prepared for this blog to shift it's tone a little. I feel like I may have pulled some punches lately to buffer things from any potential employers or to keep from offending. But I've decided its time to be a little offensive.
  3. Books on tape. Anyone got any good suggestions? I've never been a big audio book fans because I like to visualize my literature and its harder for me to visualize words that I'm listening to rather than words that I'm reading. Is anyone else like that? Does this mean that I'm a visual learner? I guess it does. I usually take notes as people are talking to me so that I can see the important words they're saying. It helps me remember better. I may never look at the notes again, but just writing them and seeing them help me.
  4. And last, but not least, I need to use the time to be inside my head for a little while. I need to let my mind wander and go places that it shouldn't. I need to be my characters for a while and use the time to write. I might even get a voice recorder to see if I can transcribe anything later that could be useful.
So, that's my life and work coming up. Wish me luck on Monday. I feel good about it.


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