Sunday, January 30, 2011

An American In Advertising...

Yes, yes, I just spoofed the old Gene Kelly classic, "An American in Paris."  But so did Toyota when it took the song "I've Got Rhythm" by George Gershwin (also featured in "An American in Paris") and asked the car buying market, "Who could ask for anything more?"  To ad folks, nothing is sacred, and although Luke Sullivan does warn against potty humor, it didn't stop Clorox from filling our television screens with toilets, did it?

Every day, I get up, take my levothyroxine, and sit down with my glass of apple juice and peruse the news of the day.  Every morning it's a trip to CNN.com to hit the breaking news. From Atlanta, I go north to the New York Times, stopping at The Wall Street Journal, then round it out with a quick jaunt to the L.A. Times.

I do a trip around the globe via the internet every day because I have two classes that demand it.  First off, you can't study globalization and get a broader view of Global Media without looking at the news.  Today, I rolled my eyes at the take-over of NBC Universal by Comcast.  I know many a Comcast subscriber who has to fight tooth and nail to have internet service because it cuts out like crazy, so on Facebook I linked the article and dared to ask my friends, "Does this mean that NBC Universal will now have service interruptions in their TV shows and movies too?"  Yes, my humor is bizarre, but you really do have to laugh at that one because it's just so darned obvious.  

Then after my dismay at imagining a crappy internet service provider taking over more entertainment media, I saw a link to a story that we had discussed in Global Media on Wednesday, The Tiger Mother. The article I found was entitled, "Larry Summers vs. the Tiger Mom," in which Larry Summers (the former Treasury secretary) went nose to nose with Amy Chua, who just happens to be the terrorist known as the Tiger Mom.  Yes, you may agree with how she rears children, but I'd prefer to punch her in the mouth. What is up with not giving your child food or water until they get the song they're practicing on the piano right?  That's not parenting, that's cruelty, especially when those two girls have been forced to become high performers through torture.  I'm sorry, but if you put a child on a bed of hot coals, they're going to dance because they're in pain.  If you have a tyrannical parent, you perform for the sake of avoiding punishment, not because you enjoy it, but because you don't want to be in pain.  When you're raised like that, there's a beyond good chance that your mind will become wrapped up in a constant, unhealthy and demeaning cascade of performance anxieties.  Oh yes, Tiger Mama is raising two mentally healthy children...riiiiiiiiight.

My dislike for Tiger Mama aside, the article on WSJ.com made me think when I read this:

"Some ethnic immigrant groups clearly perform better in certain academic and professional fields than others—why, for example, should more than 50% of Berkeley's computer-science students be Asian-born?"


It made me ask the question of myself, "If I wasn't American, would I be going into advertising?"  Odds are, probably not.

Consider this for a moment.  I, like many of you, was raised in the '70's and '80's, land of "Monday Night Football" to which my Dad and his Pearl Light beer were riveted to every Monday night, "M*A*S*H*" on Tuesdays, "Dallas" and "Dynasty" on Wednesdays, "The Love Boat" and "Fantasy Island" on Saturday nights, yeah, the TV week was filled to the brim with great shows, plus the ABC Sunday Night Movie on Sundays.  Heck, I even remember Morgan Freeman on "The Electric Company."  My point is, I was raised on the most American of institutions, television.  By the time 1983 had rolled along, there was MTV just waiting to welcome me to Generation X.  And EVERYWHERE were ads.

Ah yes, the great advertising of Generation X.  Michael Jackson's hair being accidentally set aflame on the set of a Pepsi commercial, in which the King of Pop sold soda pop through accidental immolation on every 10 p.m. newscast plus repetitive screening on it's target market, the young viewers of MTV.  Could that have been the first viral video?  Quite possibly.

Who can forget the Budweiser Clydesdales (who are still my Mother's favorite during the holidays)?  The Pabst Blue-Ribbon Bull running through a wall?  E.F. Hutton talking and people listening? What about "Coke is it." or "The Real Thing." from Coca-Cola?  What about the old jingle from the Lite-Brite commercials? Or how about the age old classic, "Connect Four?"



Milton Bradley made millions during the '70's and '80's.  Remember the Charlie's Angel's Board Game?


Ah yes, Nan and I had that one...and everyone wanted to be Farrah Fawcett with the hair-do.  I remember a friend of ours, Buddy, with that darned Farrah Fawcett poster on his wall.  But, sufficed to say, between Bozo the Clown and the Mickey Mouse Club in the morning, then after school for Sesame Street and the Electric Company in the afternoons, followed quickly in the 'tweens by The Transformers and other merchandise selling cartoons, then on to the evening shows where we were extolled the virtues of "Gee your hair smells terrific" and "And I told two friends, and they told two friends, and they told two friends" of VO5 shampoo and hot oil treatments between views of the perfectly coiffed and made up Joan Collins and Linda Evans on Dynasty, I was bombarded with ads.

Now, as the old story goes in our house, I would run around like crazy during the actual TV shows.  They couldn't get me to sit down for all the tea in China.  BUT as soon as the commercials would come on, my parents had a well-behaved child.  According to my parents and Nan, (in which Nan can go ahead and laugh because she witnessed it first hand), I would literally sit in front of the television and sing along (word for word) with the ads and I would recite them perfectly with the same inflections.  I was, at the wee age of four, a student of advertising.  Instead of your average normal person who gets up during the ads to go to the bathroom and get a drink, I would do the opposite.  I'd get my drink and go to the bathroom during the shows so I could see the ads.  I'm so backwards it hurts.

Let's get to the point though.  Sweden does not allow any sort of marketing towards children, they actually have laws on the books that prohibit companies from using children as a target audience.  Now, if I would have grown up there, do you think I'd be so gung-ho about having a career where everyone goes out of their way to AVOID my work like the plague?  Probably not.  I'd probably be some sort of engineer trying to come up with the latest IKEA sofa design or be something far removed from an ad-crazed American.

Think about advertising all over the world.  It's rather thin and flimsy when you look at the '70's and '80's.  But as the American economy grew and globalization took root, what happened?  The ads started getting better, hence Helmut Krone, Bill Bernbach and my beloved "Lemon" that revolutionized a German car company's ads.  Now, a VW ad is always something we stop and look at, besides, it doesn't matter what language it is in or what country you just happen to be standing in, when you see a VW ad, you know it.  McDonalds are now all over the world.  (It was wonderful safety food in London in 1985, lemme tell ya.  We saw those golden arches and booked it.)  The Hard Rock Cafe in London was also a nice bit of Americana during our tour of Europe as well, but besides the amazing amount of cars driving around on our streets, where is the international flavor in American advertising?  There isn't.  Come on, think about it.  We don't view Toyota as a Japanese car maker, we just remember we can drive them into the ground and put 200,000 miles on them before they show signs of wear.  We don't remember that Sony and Nintendo are Asian companies either, we don't feel the slightest bit of their culture when we buy their products; but Sony flat-screen televisions, Playstations and Wii's roll off the shelves in droves.

This brings me back to my original point.  If I wasn't American, would I be so fascinated with advertising?  Is it the reason I'm so centric on trying to hit a target audience instead of creating a product or being an innovator or inventor of a new technology?  It's a tough question and it really hits home when you think of all of the foreign products we buy (oh and if you think you don't, what do you think you just picked up at your local Wal-Mart?  Look closely, it says, "Made in China."  It becomes ironic when you consider that we buy their goods but know next to nothing about them as a people).

And some doodah like me is going to probably end up at some multi-national ad house trying to market goods to foreign markets...oh yeah, I'm really going to go over like a rock on that one.

So, ok, I've stretched all of our brains enough today.  I've chastised us for being so self-centered but I've brought up an interesting point...so question to all of you...if you weren't American, what would you be doing with your life?  For those of you in other countries, if you didn't live where you live now, how would your life be different?  What job do you think you would have had, had you not grown up where you did?

Interesting, huh?

But, it all goes back to the simplest facts.  I'm an American aspiring to be in Advertising.  (Like this is some sort of shock...)

So, for your dose of music for the day, I give you a clip from "An American In Paris," Gene Kelly speaking French to some school kids...but please, while you're listening, try to not think about the Toyota ad...and remember, back then, if you went to a foreign country, you had to speak THEIR language.  Who could ask for anything more?

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Lucky Blackberry

Today is a day for Cliff's Notes.  I want to make the sum up really brief so I can get to the goods because today was...

AMAZING!


Last post, we left off with my overwhelming neuroses about what happens when you put down the yoke and heavy buckets.  That night, I went to bed and cried.  And cried.  And cried...and then there was more crying after that.  I guess the physical sensation of putting something down resonated with me because well, through all that crying, I put everything down.  I guess you could say I had my very first soul-cleansing cry.

On Thursday morning, I woke up and felt like a train had hit me.  My limbs were very heavy and I, very exhausted and just overwhelmingly spent, remembered that my cry was a good first step, not the answer to everything and I reminded myself that even though I was tired, I still have work to do.  School was waiting and my education can't wait or be skipped out on for the day.  I drug myself to the shower, got ready and made my way to school.

I was amazed by the fact that nothing bothered me at all.  No anxiety, no pent up anger, no nothing, just calm peaceful existence.  I went to history class, my first Thursday discussion group for the history class, then took 40 minutes to grab some lunch and head off to IMC.

As usual, IMC is what I work the week for.  Tuesday and Thursday afternoons with Doc S. are sublime heaven.  Doc S. had me swooning in my seat as he talked about Bill Bernbach and the great history of advertising.  We perused beautiful ads, copy written by angels and I was in a permanent swoonfest about the vocation I've chosen.  Rule one of any career:  You have to love what you do.  However, when I looked across the aisle at a young woman asleep during a lecture I was swooning over, I sat with my mouth open for just a second, aghast at how someone could sleep through a lecture about such fascinating material (then I remembered, not everyone loves the same things, so I just let it go...in essence thinking, "Her loss.").

After class, I took my regular walk with my partner for the semester, Haley.  She and I park in the same section on Tuesdays and Thursdays so we enjoy the walk, talking about advertising and our semester project.   We always end up gabbing for at least a half an hour on Tuesdays and Thursdays after we get out to the cars.  She's convinced I'm a genius at this stuff and she's also convinced I'm going to be a millionaire from it (which I seriously doubt, but if people throw money at me for what I know, I won't turn them down.)

Driving home from school, again, I was so peaceful!  I couldn't get over it!  No stress, no anxiety, and even when some dodo bird ambulance driver cut me off (missing my front fender by about what seemed like inches) I didn't even get upset.  I didn't even get riled up enough to give his back bumper a good talking to, instead, I just gave a "pfft" and moved on.  That is SO not like me.  Where did this tranquility come from?

It had to have been that cry.  I felt as if someone lifted up the big wooden yoke and let me ease out from under it.  I feel light!  I'm laughing a lot too.  (Which is always good.)

OK, so now that's the Cliff's Notes for Thursday.  Let's get on to today.

So, as we know, I'm relaxed (still in need of a good massage though) and I'm feeling really good.  Nan and I had talked during the week and we had planned on having lunch today at Sweet Tomatoes.  I love Sweet Tomatoes, it's healthy, it's fun and so I spent about an hour with Nan, munching on healthy things, visiting and just all around enjoying each other's company.  After 20 years without having her around, let me tell you, to spend time with her is a treat.  We had a blast.  She also gave me her old Blackberry.  Ok, let's catch you up.  When Nan was going through chemo, her hands really took a beating, so Carl got her an iPhone so it would be easier on her hands.  Well, when Nan got her iPhone, her Blackberry Curve went the way of the Dodo, so as any big sister would do for her up and coming bratty kid sister, she gave me her old phone.  I love hand-me-downs.  I'm serious.  Trust me, if you had my big sister, you know that the hand-me-downs are primo.  The Blackberry is practically brand new, after all, I think she had it only a few months before Carl replaced it with an iPhone.   So, I'm a proud owner of a Blackberry!  Thanks Nan!

While we sat munching on greens, we put my sim card in the Blackberry.  My very observant big sister had already changed the screen picture to none other than an ocean wave because she knows how much I love the ocean and everything Caribbean or island themed.  I smiled as I saw that she had gone through a lot of trouble to make sure I could use the Blackberry.  She armed me to the teeth with the charger, the car charger, the instruction booklet and it was all packaged up in the box, ready for me to use.  My heart was so full of gratitude for just how much trouble she went through for me.

After Nan and I finished lunch, I was off to the salon to go see my stylist extraordinaire, Luibi.  Luibi has been my stylist for the last three years, almost four.  She took me from looking scrag to looking good.  She has shaped my hair, going from short hair to long flowing locks.  We sat and visited for a good while, she applied my color, (hey, no greys here thank you very much), washed me out and styled me to perfection.

But, here it comes.  Ok, everyone...I want you to grab the armrests of the chair and hold on to your seat.  What I'm about to write is nothing short of a miracle.  Put another way, something I never ever thought would happen...

While Luibi and I were visiting, the Blackberry chimed.  It was a text message from none other than KP.  Ok, no no, don't jump up and down yet.  The texts have been going back and forth between KP and I for about a couple of weeks.  Nothing ever too long, just a status text more or less, "I'll be online in about 5 minutes" or something of that nature.  No, the text is not that big of a deal, unless you account for the fact that today's were a little more detailed than usual, and the fact that he went out of his way to say hi at a time that I'm not accustomed to talking with him at.  We all know that he and I are always on Ventrillo playing WoW together every night, but outside of a text here and there, we have never spoken on the phone because we usually talk on the computer.  Ok, the plot thickens right?

Three text messages a piece went back and forth...after about a 30 minute pause...and just as Luibi had finished drying my hair...the phone rang.  Expecting it to be Nan or maybe my mom on the other end of the line, my heart stopped as I looked down to find...

It was KP.

Ok, now you can jump up and down, squeal, freak out and do what ever it is you do.  As I saw who the call was from, I looked at Luibi in panic.  I fumbled the Blackberry.  I gasped, my hands shook, and I suddenly and completely forgot how cellphones worked.  I looked at the foreign device in my hand.  It rang again.  Why was it ringing? What did the green and red icons mean?  What was my name?  Where was I?  What do I do? A freaked out cry of "OH MY GOD!"  flew from my mouth.

I quickly got myself together, remembered that the green phone icon meant "answer" and hit the button.  I croaked out a very timid, "hello?"  The voice on the other end of the line didn't sound like KP.  My KP, on the computer, has a deeper voice.  I thought it was a practical joke.  I thought to myself, "who is this joker calling me?"  As he spoke, I realized he knew me really well, but I still didn't recognize the voice.  I sat in disbelief as he was telling me about where he was and what he was doing, which was picking up Drewbie from school.  After everything he said, my mind still could not wrap itself around the fact that it was really KP on the other end of the line.  Luibi curled my hair and styled it as I talked to this would-be-KP (she knew that he had never called me before so it was an auspicious moment).  She finished me up as I kept talking to a KP impostor on the phone...I kept humoring whoever it was because the conversation was light, funny, witty, smart and overall mysterious.  I paid for my services and hugged Luibi then went out to my car.  I sat bewildered wondering who the guy I was talking to really was!   Then I heard Drewbie. Ok, there was no mistaking that voice.  That little voice was one of my sweet boys, it hit me like a lightning bolt as I realized, OMG!  I'm really talking to KP on the telephone!  At that point, I was grateful I was sitting in the car, because if I had been standing, my knees would have buckled.

I got to talk to Drewbie, ok yes, I know it's not new, I talk to him almost every night on the computer, but NEVER EVER on the phone...KP came back on the line.  For the first time ever, I drove home talking on the phone the entire way.  Now I get how people get so mired in those things!  After I got home,  KP and I talked for nearly two hours, each sitting on our individual balconies.  He read me something out of a magazine about something similar to what I had gone through on Wednesday.  He was genuinely concerned about what was going on in my head and he let me know that I wasn't alone in going through things like that because he had as well.  We covered a myriad of topics in that two hours and told me stories about work and things that had nothing whatsoever to do with the video game we play together on a nightly basis.  We talked about similar experiences, similar things and just talked like two people who had never even heard of WoW or a computer.  Yeah...omg.  SWOON!

Then TJ came in.  Oh my darling boy, TJ.  I adore that boy to pieces.  So, KP handed the phone off to TJ and  we talked about school, and I clued him in on a little thing called Video Games Live and because TJ plays the clarinet, I introduced him to a clarinet man by the name of Benny Goodman.

After a while talking to TJ, KP took the phone back and we talked some more and just before it seemed as we would never get off the phone (which I wouldn't have minded), he let me know what time he'd be on and that he'd talk to me later....

After KP and I hung up, I IMMEDIATELY called Nan to tell her what happened.  I told her..."The Blackberry, it's lucky!"  She laughed and was thrilled for me.  I thanked her profusely for lunch and for the phone, then politely ended the call, levitated off of my couch to come tell y'all about it.

Did I tell you...KP called me today!

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

Forgive me, I must go do the jubilant happy dance.

*faint*

For TJ we have a little bit of a tune by a clarinet man, the Benny Goodman Orchestra playing, "Sing, Sing, Sing."  And by the way, the man beating on the "skins" is Gene Krupa.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A shoulder yoke and heavy buckets.

Where to begin with this?

Let's start it as a typical Wednesday, up before the sun, in a good mood, crawling from the bed to the shower.  I press, dress and even get to school 15 minutes early, even with traffic.  Not bad for me!  Walked into my first class at 8:15, even before Doc Fish arrived.  Kudos to me for staying the course in my quest for punctuality and fighting my temporal challenges.  As far as my first class goes, everything seemed to be going good, the lecture topic of "Globalization" in Global Media went well...then the 15 minute walk across campus to Personal Growth.

Getting near White Hall for class, I bump into a fellow student along the way, the chit-chat is cheerful and I'm just in the mode to get Personal Growth over with so that I can go on to the rest of the business of life as usual.  I took my seat at 9:55, ready to roll.

Today in Personal Growth we covered "Awareness."  Ah yes, the wonderful topic of noticing things about yourself, the world around you AND how the world affects you and how you affect the world around you.

As we know, I'm very aware of everyone around me.  I notice small details, I even notice mood changes or even down to the simplest little piece of body language from the people who pass my way.  I do not lack in being aware of the people, noises, sights, sounds and so forth of the world around me.  Heck, I'm even looking up and noticing the blue sky when I'm out in the world along with noticing the people.  I'm ok there.

Now, here comes the hard part and the reason that I'm spending tuition money for my class.  Yes, Doc Cat, for all of her unorthodox, seemingly uncaring style, she's decided to pull out the big guns.  I'm guessing she makes light of the class so that the students don't actually realize that they're going to have to actually work.

Doc Cat went through all different sorts of awareness building tools, how they're put in psych-speak and so forth.  We do a few awareness exercises:  "Take a moment to notice everything around you," then it was, "Close your eyes and notice what's happening with your body.  If you feel a tense muscle, make it tighter; if you have a sensation, make it stronger."  After an hour's worth of lecturing, she stopped us and said, "Did you bring a lot of stuff with you today?  Grab something and hold it up."  I grabbed my five-subject notebook and held it up.  She said, "Keep holding it up."  She circled the lecture hall before saying, "Come on guys, keep holding it up!"  At which one young man seated two rows in front of me was holding up his very sizable and very heavy looking book bag said, "I can't."  She asked the class, "How does it feel?  Your arm getting tired?"  My response was one that yes, my arm was having a slight burning sensation in the muscle, but not too uncomfortable, so I just shrugged and said that holding it up wasn't bothering me.  She circled the room for another three minutes having us hold up whatever it was that we chose to hold up in the first place.

Students started to moan and groan.  She egged a few more people on before saying, "You know it's the hardest thing to get across to people what they're not very aware of, we all carry things around inside of us that we would be much happier if we just put them down and let it go."  At that point, she let us put the things down that we were holding.  She asked very bluntly, "Doesn't it feel good to put it down?"

Tears started pooling in my eyes.  It felt like someone had just shoved another stake through my chest, pinning me into the seat.  I fought with everything I had not to just sit there and start blubbering my head off.  Anyone who knows me will without a doubt understand why I was sitting there on the verge of wailing my head off.  Even though I try not to and I thought I had put a lot of stuff down, the truth is, I carry around a lot.  I carry around anger over my childhood, I carry around other people's expectations, I can't even begin to express everything I carry around, but sufficed to say, it's a lot.

I sat in the chair, mortified to even move, knowing if I even budged, I'd start leaking from the face and become my own irrigation system.  I took a few deep breaths, Doc Cat dismissed the class and I got the hell out of there so fast I must have left a vapor trail.  I hate crying in front of people, especially if they don't know what's going on.  I hate explaining how I feel when I'm weeping my fool head off.

Here's the problem.  I carry a lot of crap around, most of it I should have put down years ago, put simply, I don't know how, and don't sit there and tell me it's as easy as putting down my notebook.  I've tried meditation, I've tried mental exercises, I've tried everything and it's DOG to put it all down and get over it and I still end up holding on to a lot of it.

As we know, I have a 33-year-old Teddy Bear.  I'd rush into a burning building to save it.  As I drove home from school, weeping my fool head off, I realized I hold onto all of my problems just like I do that silly stuffed animal because I don't know what would happen to me if I put it all down.

My creativity stems from the fact that I have to keep my mind occupied or I will spiral out of control with my depression and anxiety.  It's a trick I learned a long time ago to keep myself from hurting.  "If the mind is occupied, it doesn't have time to hurt."  So, if I feel myself getting edgy, I occupy myself with something creative or highly mentally taxing.  Some of my best ideas have come out of moments of complete and total soul-decimating circumstances.  What would happen to that creativity if what it stems from goes away?  I won't lie, it's a terrifying thought.

Case in point:  Intro to IMC.  I got my assignment, my two partners and myself have to come up with an ad campaign for a ready-to-eat cereal.  You know that, I told you about it the other day...well, within 48 hours of getting the news of what my product was, I came up with three pages worth of ideas for cereal ads.  I had Kung-Fu spoons running around, the beautiful little "Story of a Spoon" with it going from the foundry, to it proudly being purchased and carried home, to the disappointment of being placed in jar of baby food (to which it sighs and falls out of), into a garbage disposal (yes, shriek in terror "Oh SPOON!" when the garbage disposal gets turned on accidentally) then finally being placed into a bowl of the cereal, finally relaxing with a contented and relieved, "Ahhhhh." (Yes, that's a 30 second spot...) From there it was Spoon Spas and all sorts of other ideas, and they all went onto the pages of my notebook.

One of my partners, after seeing all of the ad ideas I had, (trust me, the list above are just some of the ideas I don't mind letting go...there are some that I'm holding close to the chest) she looked at me and said, "When it comes to this stuff, you are a genius!"  I looked at her and said, "Meh. I don't think so.  I'll have 1000 great ideas but I know that each and every one of them can and will be shot down, so I always have another 1000 to replace them.  Out of the thousands of ideas I'll have, there will be only ONE that's good enough."  That is the truth inside advertising, to hit the "sweet spot", the odds are astronomical.  When you're a creative, you have no choice, you have to keep popping those ideas out.  They have to be hashed out, tweaked, used as a doormat for your partners dirty tennis shoes, reworked, retooled, etc., ad nauseum. It always amazes me how much it takes to go from concept to finished product.

For the last two weeks, I've been consumed by the cereal ad.  Luke Sullivan said something to the effect of, "If you can retool the marketing for the most mundane of products and execute well, you're doing good."  So cereal has become my life.  The local grocery store's Berlin Wall of Boxes (a.k.a. the cereal aisle) has been looming over me in my dreams, desperately begging me to break it down...but I digress, point of the story is that instead of being screwed up by my depression and anxiety, I've had cereal instead.  Feel me?

Now, here's the hard part for me, what happens to me when I put all of the things I'm carrying down?  I will say without a shadow of a doubt that it sucks to high heaven to carry all this crap around in my head.  I'd love nothing more than to put it down, but at what cost?  Here's one we all know, "Which is better, the devil you know or the devil you don't know?"  It's a risky proposition because I have no earthly clue what I would find if I put it all down.  I'm afraid it'll hurt and to be honest, I'm tired of hurting, so that's not really an option I'm prepared to pursue because I've grown accustomed to what I have and what I live with on a daily basis.

Another hard part is that I don't know who I would be without it.  Would my creativity take a nose dive?  Where would my inspiration come from?  What would happen to the thousands of ideas I seem to spew (like a toppled fire hydrant), while everyone else struggles for even one idea?  I'm driven relentlessly by my pain and my need to beat it back and prove that I can survive no matter the odds.  It manifests itself in my unwillingness to be mediocre.  It shows up in my lust for life because my passions allow me an escape mechanism.  If I put down all the crap I'm carrying, would it all vanish?  I guess what I'm asking is, who am I without all of it?  I guess I'm kind of like Captain Kirk in Star Trek V.  Remember that horrible piece of the franchise?  It's where Kirk looks at McCoy and says,


"Damn it, Bones, you're a doctor. You know that pain and guilt can't be taken away with a wave of a magic wand. They're the things we carry with us, the things that make us who we are. If we lose them, we lose ourselves. I don't want my pain taken away! I need my pain!"


Ok, so here's where I over-analyze a bit and bring my addiction problem.  Am I addicted to pain?  Am I addicted to the hurts that were inflicted on me or hurts that I perceived or both?  Am I holding onto them like I hold my 33-year-old Teddy Bear that comforts me in the dark?

Who am I without it?  The answer to that question is what truly terrifies me.  I'm so afraid I'll look in the mirror and find that I'm not worthwhile and I have no nutritional value to share.  I'm afraid I'll find I have no substance and the people around me will find that it's an "Ignore the woman behind the curtain" kind of thing.

What I'm finding is that I'm standing on the edge of KP's proverbial bridge which looks remarkably like the one that Kathleen Turner was faced with in "Romancing the Stone." The same bridge that Michael Douglas' character looks at (the bridge that is decayed and beyond repair, covered in vines with rotting beams) and says, "That's no bridge, that's Pre-Columbian art."  Yeah...KP never said that sometimes you have to NAVIGATE the larger bridges.  He made it sound so easy...now we're finding that the larger bridges are somewhat harder to cross than the small ones.

And I'm sitting here, kleenex box at the ready, picturing the yoke and the heavy buckets that I've been carrying so long and desperately trying to figure out what I'm going to do with them.  If some smart-ass comes along with the very Captain Obvious moment of "just put them down..." someone is losing their head.  It's a lot more work than that.

Oh and I'll leave you with this.  Today, I got the news that my high school band director, the man who labeled both my sister and I "walking tardies," Mr. Wayne Tucker, died on January 14th.  He was 68.  For being a walking tardy, he only sent me to detention once...and that was for missing the band picture because I forgot parts of my uniform.  Hats off to him because he was a major influence during my youth.  Imagine the character of Mr. Holland in "Mr. Holland's Opus."  That was Mr. Tucker all the way.  I look at it like this, in my mind, he's still alive and well, looking at me and saying, "Late again, huh?"

So, here's today's song of the day...Paul Dukas' "The Sorcerer's Apprentice."

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Sunday spent preparing for Monday...

I am a horrible person.  I spent the weekend doing frivolous things.

On Thursday, finally having a moment to myself after school, I decided since my cupboards were doing their best imitation of Mother Hubbard's, that I'd go grocery shopping.

Up and down the countless aisles of my local grocery store, I looked at so many different things and had so many different ideas for things I wanted to eat, I realized I couldn't do them all.  Being on a budget smarts sometimes, so I opted for sliced chicken breast and the ingredients to my family's famous Chicken Spaghetti (spaghetti in a creamy mushroom, garlic, onion sauce with stewed tomatoes).  It, of course, went well because it's the one recipe I've cooked ad nauseum over the last 10 years.  Only problem was when it came time to boil my pasta, I turned on the wrong burner, charring a perfectly good wooden spoon and of course, the bottom of the pan that I would be creating the recipe in.  I'm such a klutz.

But, after scouring the bottom of the pan with an SOS pad and abandoning the helplessly charred wooden spoon to the bottom of a sink full of soapy water, I created a tasty casserole that has been feeding me for the last couple of days.

Friday was, as I hate to admit, a day devoted to my priest in World of Warcraft.  This will sound so bad, but I got up at around 10 a.m. and was at the computer by 10:30.  I did 10 levels in a matter of a day, hurtling her poor little body from level 40 to level 50 in a matter of about 12 hours.  My friend Michelle summed it up in one phrase, "That's nuts."  Yes.  I know.  But, seeing as that I don't really have a life outside of school, I thought that for a blow-off day, that I thought was intentionally there for me to take a rest, it wasn't a bad way to spend it.  To be honest, I never thought that little priest of mine would ever see the outside of a major city's bank or auction house.  Now that she's out in the world, I think it's a good lesson to myself and it reminds me why I get up four days a week for two classes I don't like and two that I do...you have to see the world, have experiences, getting out there to make it happen.  

Saturday night saw me take more things from my grocery shopping to create my family's Five Cup Salad.  That's right, a pound of cottage cheese mixed with a small can of strained crushed pineapple, a strained can of fruit cocktail, an eight ounce tub of Cool Whip and of course a packet of lime jell-o.  Now, as this may sound a bit unorthodox and for some of you rather, um, disgusting, but I have to say, it turned out beautifully.  The trick is to make sure the fruit is drained completely, then after you're done stirring everything together, leave it in the refrigerator for about two hours before serving so the gelatin has a chance to set up a bit.  It's heavenly.  Light and fluffy, and oh so sweet, it's a bit of something healthy even though it's got enough sweetness to make the heartiest of sweet-tooth's only take a couple of spoonfuls.  But it is great for a snack.  It's kind of like healthy ice cream.

I do love to cook.  I guess that's why after taking the shopping trip on Thursday, making sure I fed myself for the week, I could blow off for a day and not think about having to mess up the kitchen again and wisely avoid the inevitable pratfalls of me scorching a pan, burning a wooden spoon or setting something aflame.

All the while, my schoolbooks have been sitting in a corner.  $400 worth of knowledge just waiting for me to crack them open.  Tonight, after going to my parents for the traditional family Sunday Steak Dinner (with baked potatoes, mushrooms, green beans and a salad), I headed home with a singular purpose, to read.  I had a chapter to cover in the Personal Growth textbook, cornily entitled I Never Knew I Had A Choice, directly followed by two chapters of my Global Media text, Comparing Media From Around The World.  Yeah, not a lot of fun on a Sunday night, but let's face it, I suffer of my own doing.  I could have easily spaced out the reading over the three days, but I didn't.  I figured I'd retain more for my classes if I did the reading the night before.  Nooooooo.  I should have just placed them on my bed (yes, I sleep with books...hey, you know any guy who wants to hook up with me?  Yeah, neither do I, so the books will just have to do.)  I do a lot of reading in bed, I am kept company by Dark-Hunters, gun-wielding ad men who live to blast a hole through the Snuggle bear's head, technopunks, stoic philosophers and a book of crossword puzzles.  In my bed, the only action happening is paper cuts, so to do my school reading before bed every night would make sense.  Haven't we covered the fact I don't have common sense to pee on?  Yeah, we're there again.

So, it's Sunday night.  I get the books and my syllabi out and commence reading.  The chapter in my Personal Growth book was 36 pages long.  At page 8 I started looking for how long the chapter was.  At seeing it ended on page 36, I rolled my eyes, turned on the Soundscapes channel on my cable box and tucked myself in on my couch with a big fleece blanket.  I picked up a surprise for myself the other day, a Caribbean Salsa candle from Bath and Body Works.  So, as you can imagine, with a wooden stool next to where I was laying acting as a faux table, I placed my Coke bottle on it, lit the candle on the coffee table and started reading, taking notes and finding out what lay in store for me.  To be blunt, I think this class is like my Environmental Studies class from last semester...a real drag that I unfortunately know what's in the book because I've already lived it.  So, at least the reading is done for that one for the week.

The two chapters in my Global Media book were another problem altogether.  The type is small, but lucky for all of us, the chapters are only 13 pages long.  I did a lot of skimming.  I usually don't skim, but in this case, most of it was already covered by Doc Fish in class last Wednesday so there wasn't much point to that set of readings.

It was then that my timer showed up on my television, the ultimate bloggers movie "Julie and Julia" was playing again.  I saw it as a sign.  I needed a break, and after about 75 pages of reading, I was due, it was time to come and write.

It's 9:45 p.m.  I have to go to bed in about an hour so that way I can be well rested, chipper and perky for two classes that have all of the nutritional value of cardboard.  But, as I reminded myself as I dressed to go to my parents, the week finishes with Doc S. and Intro to IMC, so I'm basically doing what anyone with a normal workweek would do...work for the last hour of the week, come home, cook, laugh, play and remember that I'm doing all of this for a singular purpose.  A job.  A well-paying job and an educational record and portfolio that shows that I'm worth having people throw money at me.

It's Sunday night, my clothes are washed, folded and put away, I've read and I'm sufficiently sated in the hunger department.  I feel like I'm 13 all over again.  It's a school night and it baffles me completely that people haven't really realized that school (and work) all start on Sunday night with endless preparation.

With that, I tip my hat to the ultimate blogger's movie, Julie and Julia, with a song from its' soundtrack, a little piece by Alexander Desplat called (ironically) "Starting Out." (That I had to dig to find and ultimately found it on a Russian website.)  It reminds me, I really should give a shout out to all my readers around the world...I'm studying your media practices, so why not include you here?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Spring, Day 2.

Well, this morning was a nice change of pace, I was up before the sun.  It's a lot of fun when you think about it, I'm used to going to bed when the sun comes up.

But, as it's Wednesday, that means that it's Global Media at 8:30, followed by Personal Growth at 10 a.m.

Every semester, every college student on the planet knows that at least one of their classes is going to be a lemon.  And I don't mean Lemon in the swoon-type nature of the brilliant ad either.  I mean a real, flat out lemon.  What happens when you put a lemon straight into your mouth?  The overwhelmingly sour taste makes your face pucker and you put it down quickly.  (Except for Nan, she eats lemons with salt on them...go Nan.)

My lemon for the semester is the much hoped for Personal Growth.  We went through the list a few days ago of the brilliant topics being covered in it.  I was so excited to go to that class today after the underwhelming grind that is Global Media.  I did my walk across campus, even stopping for a Vanilla Frappucino, still making it on time.

What I didn't realize is that we've come a pretty good circle thus far.  Remember my first semester way back?  I had Nevada School Law in a lecture hall...remember that?  Yeah, Personal Growth is in the same lecture hall with 90 other students.  I will say this, my history class is much larger.  Taking the exact same seat I sat in for Nevada School Law, I waited for class to begin.

As I waited, I noticed that the first two rows of the class were filled with very young (read: no more than 19 years old) students filling in and talking obnoxiously.  I knew it wasn't a good sign.  What I didn't know is that when I went into the lecture hall, I held the door open for my professor.  For the sake of comedy and I know my friend Kathy will get a kick out of this, my professor for Personal Growth has the unique pseudonym of Doctor Cat.  Yep, Doc Cat is a fairly young woman, my age or slightly younger and let's just say it out loud, not what I expected and not what I deem as appropriate for that class.  She's a licensed therapist in her own practice and she's one of those gals that is very stand up.  She tells jokes, anecdotes about her current patients...(wait, is that ethical?)...and has made it clear to the entire class that it's going to be a walk.  By just what came out of her mouth, she's not even enthused to teach it.

The topics which I revered taking part in, she looked at and said, "Blah, blah, blah."  Literally.  It was like a stake plunged through my chest.  The one course I thought I was going to get something out of, that I really wanted to delve deep into, well, according to the professor, "This class isn't hard..."  I sat there feeling completely jipped out of the money I paid for the class.  Seriously, I feel like I just got assaulted and robbed.  Really?  Personal Growth is a joke?  Telling us that "when I find out what being an adult is, I'll let you know." Really?  Oh gods.  I cried all the way home, my heart heavy with disappointment.  The topics being covered are things I need in my life right now...yes, as in a desperate need...these are things I need to learn, to discover about myself...and she's treating it like a joke!  The rest of the Neanderthal man-child students cheered as she explained how she wasn't going to push any of the topics, that basically sitting through the class and reading the textbook would guarantee you an A.  I'm just sick about this.  Really just physically ill.  The one class that I thought, "yeah! I'm going to dig this!" ends up being a friggin' lemon.

But, we must find a bright side, yes?  It fulfills one of the core requirements for my degree.  Had I known that the class would be a total rip-off, I wouldn't have even bothered with that class and taken something else.  However, since the list is rather gaunt and thin in that department, I've got to suck it up and get through it, realizing that yes, it's just another grind.  Oh I'll just say it out:  How fucking disappointing.  It just breaks my heart.

Do me a favor, remind me when it's all over that I took something horrible and made it worthwhile.

Now, I get the wonderful experience (since I finally got to buy my books today) of doing my reading for history.  The Declaration of Independence.

Someone, wake me when it's summer.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

First Day of Spring Classes...

I just got off the phone with my father and Nan about the day, so I figured y'all would want to be in on it too.

What a day.  So exciting I can barely hold it in.

Yesterday, I left off wondering about what History and Intro to IMC would hold.  Well, now I know.

This morning at 10 a.m., I walked into the biggest lecture hall I've seen to date and with over 100 of my fellow students, I got to meet my history professor, Doc B.  Now, when you think of a history professor, who do you usually think of?  I usually think along the lines of Gore Vidal (from the film "With Honors") or someone like John Houseman (from "The Paper Chase").  What I got met with was Stephen Fry meets George Harrison.  Yes, that's right, with a slow London accent and a Beatles hair cut, my tour through the syllabus was something remarkably, um, dry.  But what do you expect from history?  Something sexy?  Um, no.

Here, just so you know what I'm going through every Tuesday and Thursday morning, have a listen to the deep, dulcet tones of Stephen Fry who sounds EXACTLY like Doc B. (without the swearing):


Something that annoyed me right off the bat was when Doc B. phrased Cleopatra as "an exotic woman with certain aspirations" without mentioning her name.  Other than that, he didn't get marks from me for gender equality after he mentioned more than once that it was the adult male that was a part of the democratic process, never once talking about any sort of women's role in the early history of democracy, because let's face it, there wasn't one.  He painfully reminded me that women's suffrage in the United States is only a mere 91 years old because the 19th amendment was passed in 1920.  Yes that's right, the history of humanity goes back further than the 18th century B.C., but us gals in the U.S. have only had the right to vote and take part in the democratic system for the last 91 years.  How sad is this, I ask you?  Oh yes, women, we're expected to raise children, bolster a man's ego, do all sorts of "feminine" things, but gods forbid giving us the right to actually make a difference in the larger world by having a voice through voting.  In the historical scope, I can honestly say that women have a right to be pissed if a man decides he's Mister Bigshot and expects us to just sit by and take it.  I intimidate more men on a daily basis just by my sheer force of will, so if some guy thinks he's more important than me just because he's a man...he's got another thing coming...calling Cleopatra "homicidal" and "exotic"...ooooh, ticked.  She was a feminine political powerhouse!  The woman only spoke seven languages...oh yes, she's a woman, so she's "exotic"...*gnashes teeth*

With the voice combined with the subject matter, my eyes battled to stay open.  I laughed in a few places, but otherwise than that, the syllabus states we're going on a tour of the ancient world, from Greece for democracy then on to Rome for studies about republics, a myriad of topics including the Renaissance, the American Revolutionary War (in which he said very dryly, "In all my studies as a historian, I just can't figure out what all the fuss was about..."), and it all ends up all the way back to the United States Government (according to him,"The only reason the United States has a Senate is because Rome had one...it's that simple.")

I look at it this way, it fulfills my constitutions requirement.  It's four credit hours, so as soon as I get through it, I don't ever have to look at another history book.  On top of that, I get to remark all semester long how Doc B. sounds just like Stephen Fry.

Then I had an hour and a half break before the cherry on the cake for the day, Intro to Integrated Marketing Communications.

Would you like to see my instructor?


The girls last semester warned me that my professor for Intro to IMC looked just like Sully from Monsters, Inc. and I didn't believe them.  Um, they were right.  Complete with bushy eyebrows and a tall frame, in walked Doc S. 

As we know, this is my total drool class for the semester.  Seems as I was right to want to get into this one and oh is IMC my field!  The class started out by him handing out notecards and asking us to put our names, e-mail addresses, phone numbers (if we were so inclined to share that info so that he could get a hold of us if there was something we missed...) and questions about what we thought we would learn in the class.  My questions were fairly straightforward, "What does it take to win a One Show Pencil?" and "What does it take to be a great publicist?"  Yes, you can tell, I've got my hands on the wheel and my eyes on the prize.  This is the big show, the place where I'll get the building blocks and learn in practice and theory what goes into Ad/PR.  From damage control to market research, from branding to placement, it all is going to happen this semester.  

Along the way, Doc S. asked the class who wanted to be involved in the creative end of the spectrum.  My hand shot up in the air so fast and it was undeniable what I want to do.  He looked at me and said, "You're...," I replied, "Sheri, sir," to which he followed with, "And what did you do during the semester break?"  I unabashedly replied, "I spent my winter break with my nose in "Hey Whipple Squeeze This" by Luke Sullivan.  I have a copy of the VW Lemon ad up on my wall and worship at its' altar daily."  You could tell he was quite impressed.  The VW Lemon ad, according to every single person in the advertising industry, is one of the greatest ads ever created.  It's brilliant, it's succinct and it has so much nutritional value it hurts.  It's THE AD.  It is the altar at which every great ad person worships.  Oh, but don't let me convince you, here, try it for yourself:

The copy reads:

This Volkswagen missed the boat.

The chrome strip on the glove compartment is blemished and must be replaced. Chances are you wouldn't have noticed it; Inspector Kurt Kroner did.

There are 3,389 men of our Wolfsburg factory with only one job; to inspect Volkswagens at each stage of production. (3000 Volkswagens are produced daily; there are more inspectors than cars.)

Every shock absorber is tested (spot checking won't do), every windshield is scanned. VWs have been rejected for surface scratches barely visible to the eye.

Final inspection is really something! VW inspectors run each car off the line onto the Funktionspr├╝fstand (car test stand), tote up 189 check points, gun ahead to the automatic brake stand and say "no" to one VW out of fifty.

This preoccupation with detail means the VW lasts longer and requires less maintenance, by and large, than other cars. (It also means a used VW depreciates less than any other car.)

We pluck the lemons; you get the plums.


OMG, just that last line..."We pluck the lemons; you get the plums."  Sheer genius.  VW ads are some of the best in the business.  Swoonfest over the Lemon Ad.  If you don't get it, that's ok, but Ad/PR folks see that ad and drool, praying that just once in their lifetime they'll ink something so sublimely perfect.

My goal is to take that ad and show it as a first generation of great advertising.  Yep that's right, it's my life's mission to take that ad and hold it up as the first generation, then break it down and come up with something that will be held up next to it as the next great generation of ads.  However high or audacious my goals may be, one must pay deference to one undeniable fact: great advertising all started with a Lemon.

Here, to boot, I'll show you the 2010 One Show "Best in Show," the 5-minute long "The Man Who Walked Around The World."  Now what I want you to look at is the placement of the props, and the message that it's portraying...the guy who wrote this ad, Justin Moore, will probably never have to look for work again for the rest of his natural life.  Gods, I love this ad.  It's so well done it's just gut-wrenching how good it is because it gives the product an idea of its' placement in the marketplace along with every little aspect that is considered part of an ad.  Oy veh.  If you'd like to see more One Show winners, go to http://www.oneclub.org/os/



Back to the class though.  We talked about how the line is blurred (to which I corrected, non-existent) between technology and advertising.  Doc S. talked about how in the age of media convergence that each type of technology serves another, print to web, web to radio, radio to TV, TV back to Web, it's all tied in together. (That's why Ad/PR isn't called "Ad/PR" anymore...it's now Integrated Marketing Communications because let's face it, all the platforms are integrated when it comes to pulling off a really great campaign.  Lucky for me, I've got the leg up on everyone else when it comes to the web portion.  Hey, I didn't get my AA for nothing!  It's actually being useful!  OMG!  So, I'm ok for this, I've got the writing, I've got the web and I've got creativity, that's just half of what I need, now it's on to learning the rest.

But overall Intro to IMC was a triumph.  It showed me I'm exactly where I need to be and on the path I should be on.  After class, I got a chance to talk one-on-one with Doc S.  He's a sweetheart of a man.  I let him know what I knew, then humbly begged to learn from him so that I could have the skills to really let my creative juices shine.  I want to have a strong base to work from so that way when I walk into a room, I'm not just some specialist in a particular thing, but a juggernaut with knowledge across the board and can hold my own. I just hope when it's all said and done that it results in people begging to throw money at me for my brains.  I know in my heart that I'm good, now I want to be great and be seen as great.  Tall order?  Yes.  But, it's a challenge I'm going to throw my heart and soul into.

This semester's project (which we'll be working on pieces of it all throughout the semester) is a campaign for, get this, a 'ready to eat' cereal.  Ok, what it means is that it's a box of cereal that you pour milk on.  Yeah, took me a bit for that one too.  Ok, new vocabulary phrase "ready to eat cereal" roughly means "Cheerios".  LOL.

Apparently he's going to give us the market research, let us taste it and so forth, then we get to knuckle down and name it, package it, brand it, place it, and the rest.  I knew in my heart that when you learn the business you have to start with the most mundane of products.  As I told Doc S. after class, "I'm getting into a field that all sane people in their right minds will do their best to avoid my work.  They'll Tivo past it, they'll get up to go to the bathroom when it comes on, and I have to make it so good that they'll stay and watch it."  Doc S. replied, "Sheri, you are music to my ears."  Awwww!  *giggle*

So, Intro to IMC?  Fabulous.  It's going to be a lot of work, it's going to be painful but I'm going to savor every moment, every page from the textbook, and every morsel I can get from Doc S.

To boot, it was a gorgeous spring day here in Vegas.  There were students wearing hoodies of every size, color and description, more pairs of designer sunglasses than you could ever possibly hope to shake a stick at.  Sitting outside on a bench waiting to go into IMC, I looked up at the most beautiful blue sky, marveled at the 70+ degree day we were given and soaked up the sunshine. I then watched the students, only to find them face down in their cellphones and not even bothering to look up.

Yeah, well, it's the aware and alive that make the big differences.  Let 'em stay tucked away in their technology, those of us who are present in their experiences always know to look up and be grateful for days like today.

So, let's give the preliminary verdicts on today's classes.  On a scale from 1-10, one being the worst and 10 being the best, History gets a five and a half, Intro to IMC gets a 10.

Tomorrow:  Global Media and Personal Growth along with about two miles worth of walking.

Monday, January 17, 2011

It's Syllabus Day!

Yes, it may be Martin Luther King Day, but it's also Syllabus Day for me!

Ok, come to find out, I've got class four days a week this semester.  Yeah, I was going off of the wrong schedule when I only thought I'd be doing the mileage between Greenspun and White Halls only one day a week. Nooooo.  It's two days a week!  Mondays and Wednesdays!  Oh my gosh, I'm going to be a toothpick by the time this semester wraps.  That's a mile in either direction in 15 minutes.  Goodbye weight!

Today, I went through, and as I fully expected, Doc Fish is being his usual wonderful self because there is all sorts of goodies on WebCampus (the university web software that holds course information) for my Global Media class, from the quizzes that I've already taken (that aren't due until next Monday) to all sorts of examples of what we're going to be tackling this semester.

What I didn't expect was what I found in the syllabus for Personal Growth class.  Oh yes, I like this class already.   Here, by way of the topic list, you'll understand.

  • Barriers to personal growth
  • Developing awareness
  • Childhood and family influences
  • Adulthood and adolescence
  • Variables in Growth/Locus of Control
  • Body and Wellness
  • How to change successfully
  • Managing Stress  <-----OMG!  Right here!  Need to learn that!
  • Work and Recreation
  • Becoming the person you want to be  <-----another OMG moment
  • Motivational Interviewing
  • Love  (woot!  KP week!  LOL)
  • Theories of Love
  • Relationships 
  • Sexuality (to quote my niece and nephew "bow chicka wow wow")
  • Loneliness and solitude (been there, done it, got the t-shirt)
  • Sharing Reflections from Experiences (that one made me laugh...you know exactly why)
  • Death and Loss
  • Grief Process
  • Meaning and values
  • Making meaning
  • Pathways to Personal Growth
Ok y'all, does this not look like a tour-de-force of The Eternal Sophomore?  This is everything we've talked about, dealt with, laughed at, and the rest of the gamut on the way.  Two years summed up by one course.  However, it doesn't talk about crack smoking GPS ladies or wacky adventures in online worlds...LOL.

In a way, I kind of feel sorry for my professor because she's asking for individual journal entries on "awareness", "family influences", "personal timeline and reflection", "reflection on relationships", a reflection on an exercise called "Getting Out of Yourself", and a piece on Self-Authorship.  Get this, each have to be only a page long, double spaced.  Is she kidding?  It's not possible!  Me, talking about all that stuff and keep it at a page, double spaced?   Jeez! For each thing it's a book in itself!  Oh yes, talking about Mom, Dad and Nan in one page...riiiiiiight.  Ok, try this, KP in one page.  Oh, like that's going to happen.  OMG.  That professor has no clue how incredibly complicated my life is...but then let's look at reality here, most of the kids in that class are going to be what?  18-23 at most?  They haven't had half of the experiences I've had thus far.  So yeah...that's going to be interesting.  I'm really going to have to compartmentalize and keep it very succinct without half of the details that I think should be in there.  Who knows, maybe she'll give me an extra page just for my age.  Is there a big kids table I can sit at for that class?

So, by way of the syllabi I've seen just half of what's in store for me this semester.  Tomorrow morning, we'll get the rest by way of my History and Intro to IMC classes.  

Yep, it's the beginning of another semester, one step closer, always moving forward.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Revisiting "It's Complicated."

Ok, so as we all remember, a year ago I went to the theater to see the film "It's Complicated" with my sister.  We all remember how I sat next to my nephew writhing in agony while Nan was sitting next to me laughing her head off.

A year later, "It's Complicated" is playing on HBO.

A couple of nights ago, I turned on the television to find the film playing.  As it's been close to two years since the ex left and things are progressing well and I'm starting to feel more traction, grounding and presence in my experiences, I thought I'd take another shot at sitting through the film.

How did I do?  Didn't even make it through half of it.  Yeah, I'm just not there yet.  I can't bring myself to accept how someone can look past the lies of a cheating spouse yet.  I got through about 45 minutes of it and was so traumatized I had to change the channel.

I've reached the point where I'm perfectly fine by myself, I had no issues sitting in the chapel for my sister's wedding, and I'm just overall ok with where I am on the relationship mat.

Thinking about Nan's wedding, I realized when I wrote about it the other day that I hadn't fully processed it yet.  I was still digesting the moment and being thrilled that she's happy.

From my point of view in the pews, all I could think about was how happy I was for her.  She stood there glowing with this inner vibrancy that I think can only be found when you're truly happy and in love.  The thought that passed through my mind as she walked down the aisle arm in arm with my father was that she had a unique confidence in her walk.  To be honest, if I'd been wearing those four inch heels, I'd have landed on my face, but Nan floated on the air.  Her graceful, confident step said one thing to me, that she was, deep in her heart, where she wanted to be.  I watched her as she stood beautifully next to Carl and said her vows, how she looked so intent and serious about the words she was saying and there was no mistaking them, she meant them with all her heart.

Later the next day, I sat in the apartment and realized that having a lifelong companion would be a very good thing and nice to have.  For me though, it's more of a matter of timing.  Like sitting through the movie, I'm just not there yet because I'm trying to rationalize why lifelong relationships even happen in the first place.  I sat pondering the "want" and "need" aspects of why people get into relationships.

I think there is a vast difference between "want" and "need".  It's like being hungry.  You either want the food because it looks good and you want to taste it or you have the dire need to eat that comes along when you're starving.  I guess it's the difference between choice and desperation, or at least that's how I see it.

Do I need a man to survive?  No.  Not in the least.  I always said, "There is nothing in the world a man can give me that I can't give myself," and I think it's very true.  As a woman, I have every opportunity to take myself anywhere I want to go, buy myself whatever it is I want and find my happiness from within.  No one single person should be charged with making me happy because I naively think that it's my life and if I'm not happy with myself, how am I going to be happy with someone else?  It boils down to the fact that we're born into this world on our own and we die on our own and there's no one to hold our hand in those moments because those are things we have to do ourselves, so what's wrong with independence?

Carl Sagan once said (and you'll remember this from the film "Contact") that, "the only thing that makes the emptiness bearable is each other."  So, I agree with the fact that company is good to have along the way because what is an experience if you can't share it with someone else?  Of course you could have all kinds of experiences on your own, but come on, let's be honest, the best part is when you share your adventures with the important people in your life.

Family, for all of its joys, dysfunctions and so forth, are the folks who welcomed us into the world and who are eventually going to be the ones to send us on our way.  They're almost a given when it comes to the big scheme of things, almost to the point that you forget about it and take it for granted.  But, is it our animal drive to procreate and propagate the species or is it the unique moment of connect we have with another human being outside of our family that gives us the drive to want or need a companion?

To be honest, I have trouble with needy people.  I don't understand why people (bordering on pathological desperation) need to have someone with them all the time.  I don't understand why people feel that they need to be in a relationship, is it because they have a dire need to have the relationship become their identity?  Do they not see their self-worth without their partners?  Do they need the reassurance of commitment to make them feel better?  Are they so lonely that they're to the point of desperation that they have to cling on to another human being so that they'll have some sort of satisfaction with their lives, like they've fulfilled a purpose?  That's the kicker with the whole "need" part with me.  I don't need anything that badly.

This brings us to the want part.  Would I prefer to have someone around?  Naturally.  But for me, it's who I want to be around, not who I need to be around.  See the difference?  Need implies desperation.  Want implies choice.  It's choosing to spend time with someone because you want to be there, not because you're so desperate with need that you'll take anything with a pulse to get by.

My choice of who I'd want to be around is obvious.  From the start, it's been KP this and KP that.  Round and round we go, 2500 miles apart and you know what?  He and I are on very similar journeys.  We're at that point where we are finding out who we are, where we want to go and what we want in our lives.  Remember how I once said "everything finds its' own level"?  That's basically it.  I'm spending time with someone who is right at the same point I am, although I'm not juggling the lives of three children in the mix either.  I find it fascinating every day I get to spend a modicum of time around him and it's becoming more and more apparent that the distance is a unique facet of our little mutual admiration society.  We talked about the distance last night.  KP talked about how if we were in the same physical space, we'd get distracted from our goals, in which I think he's right because we'd, in all likelihood, get so wrapped up in each other that we'd forget everything else.  Talk about two people who want to be together...but it's so funny, we're so focused on the little changes we need to make in our own lives to be together that we've forgotten about the distance and we spend time just communicating to each other how our little pieces of the puzzle are coming along.

Ah, the puzzle analogy is perfect...here, try this...ever put together a jigsaw puzzle?  What do you start with?  The edges.  You put the edges together, but you usually start from a corner to get everything started right?  That's exactly how it is here.  He's got his corner he's working on, I've got mine and somewhere it's going to meet up in the middle.  I know at least 100 people who would give body parts to see us meet already.  Ok, well, if you're dying that bad to get the two of us together, he or I will gladly take your donations to buy a single round-trip airline ticket for one person to get to the other.  Personally, sending me to Hawaii would be best because then I get to see the kids too.  But, as no one is willing to fork over $500 for a plane ticket, like me, you'll just have to be patient.  Yes, yes, I'm dying to write that blog entry too, if you think I'm not, you're kidding yourself.

Yeah...there's a vast difference between want and need.  I didn't need to watch "It's Complicated" again, but I tried.  Also there is a unique little piece that I have a sneaking suspicion my pal Tae wouldn't let me get away with...and that's the point that you don't always get what you want.  As in, "you can wish in one hand, crap in the other and see which one gets filled faster."  But I don't think it's unrealistic to work towards a goal to get to where you want to go.  We all do things every day to get what we want.  From wanting to go window shopping but having the restraint/common sense not to buy everything we put our hands on in impulsive need. So I guess I better differentiate.  There is a difference between gluttonous want and making a choice.

I guess it's like me changing the channel to watch something else...it's a choice.

But back to reality.  I need to get my education and yes, it's desperation...I'm desperate to really make a difference and live my life on my terms.  I know I'm doing it already, but there's a finer degree I'd like to get to which of course will allow me to slap down that $500, get on a plane and finally put the edges of the puzzle together.  I don't need him, but I sure would like to spend time with him face to face.  Besides, to tell someone they're wanted is a higher compliment than to tell them that they're needed, at least to me.

That's not complicated, is it?

But talking about wanting and needing things...I'll stay realistic with the newest addition to the soundtrack, and with a wink to my dear guiding angel Soosi who always reminds me of the value of the '60's, The Rolling Stones..."You Can't Always Get What You Want."

Friday, January 14, 2011

Stepping Into Spring

Today, I spent time with the campus map and my spring schedule.  Oy veh.  What a mess.

Here, want to see the beautiful UNLV campus?  Take a look... http://go.unlv.edu/assets/maps/flash/main.html

Ok, now that you've got the map I do, you'll get to see the wonderful distances I'll be traversing.

As an overview, you have to remember UNLV takes up approximately 332 acres.  It's a big campus.  Not as large as say, Texas A&M, but at 332 acres, UNLV is still sizable.

On Tuesdays, it's History then Introduction to Integrated Marketing Communications. I'll be between the Classroom Building Complex (CBC) and then I have an hour and 45 minutes until I have to walk just a short distance to Wright Hall.  Not bad, short and sweet, right?

Mondays and Wednesdays are a whole different enchilada as I have to leave the house at an ungodly early hour to be on campus at the beloved Greenspun Hall for my Global Media class with Doc Fish.  After finishing with Doc Fish, I'll be hauling butt (because I only have 15 minutes to get there) all the way across campus to the White Life Sciences building for Personal Growth.  Ok, if you're not looking at the map, let's put it this way, White is HELL AND GONE from Greenspun Hall.  They're literally on opposite ends of the campus.  Ok, let's put that into brighter relief...I'll be walking from corner to corner of the 332 acres in 15 minutes.  Guess I'll be jogging...

Thursdays aren't bad though.  It's History lecture at the CBC followed by its' discussion just 10 doors down in the same building.  After discussion, it's off to Wright Hall for more Intro to IMC 40 minutes later.

Those Wednesdays are going to be killers this spring.  Leaving the house at 7 a.m. to be on campus and in my seat in Doc Fish's lecture by 8:30 a.m. is going to be a feat of strength all of its own.  I'm seriously considering parking in the lot behind White Life Sciences, doing the trek to Greenspun Hall, walk back to White for class then fall out of class and back into my car.  It's a logical approach, but thinking about the distance, I'm cringing hard.  That's a lot of walking.

Before you say, "use your bike," you have to remember, I don't know how to ride one.  Yes, yes, you skinned your knees and have fond memories about learning how to ride a bike, but I don't.  My mother even tried to bribe me with a $5 bill stuck to the fridge (which stayed there until she took it down) in an effort to get me to try to learn...but while I was trying to learn how to ride a bike, a girl that lived down the street from us decided to ride her bike down the hill we lived on.  She crashed into a tree, resulting in a piece of cedar tree bark being shoved through her eye and into her brain.  Yeah, that swore me off bikes but good.  As a kid, while all of the other kids were riding bikes, I was running.  I ran everywhere.  When I got old enough, I learned to drive, which you'll agree with me, four wheels and a metal housing are infinitely safer than two thin wheels and my balance.  We all know how clumsy I am.  Do you think I was any less clumsy as a child?  Oy veh.  Let's just say that clumsy and I have been friends for a l-o-n-g time.  Oh yes, me, who if I can step in it, step on it, bump into it, fall over it and usually does, do you honestly think for a second that I belong on a bicycle?  Um, no. Just thinking about it has the sounds of car tires screeching and loud crashing noises echoing in my head.

I'll walk, thanks.

But, distances aside, I'm grateful for all the quality time on campus this semester.  Yes, we remember me and my two online classes last semester...ewwww!  Yeah, for all that time I spent sitting on my butt, I'm now going to be hauling it across campus three days a week.  If I have my 'druthers (read: I'd rather), I'll walk it.

Let's turn a negative into a positive though.  What do I get out of walking all that way?  A healthy body.  There it is...the ol' nutritional value I love so much.  This time, it's almost literal.  With all that distance being covered by my legs, I'm bound to lose more weight with increased activity.  Am I going to like it?  Probably not.  (Oh yes and all of you are just running out the door to get to the gym, aren't ya?  Mmmhmmm... *poof*  ooh!  There goes another weight loss New Year's resolution!  LOL!)

I consider it a forced workout regimen.  That's right, if I want to get to my goal then I'm just going to have to pound the pavement.  Like I've said countless times, you can't become great without being in the trenches and pounding the pavement first.  It builds character (and removes cellulite).

I'm trying to have a good sense of humor about it, which I'm sure at 6 a.m. on a Monday or Wednesday morning the humor will be non-existant, but hey, it is what it is.  On opposite ends of the UNLV campus are classes that will be enriching my GPA and getting me closer to my degree.

And let me tell you, the theme to The Eternal Sophomore can't be more appropriate at this moment because I'm going to be walking across campus, one foot in front of the other, doing my best to keep marching on.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Nan's Wedding

What a day.

I won't lie.  It was a LONG day.  Now, not long in a bad sense, it just was that we had a lot to do in not a lot of time.

We left off yesterday with me talking about MAC Cosmetics, hairdressers and so forth.  I lost track of time in the middle of the post and almost made myself late.  Lucky me, I got myself there on time.  Funny thing was, Nan called the salon not five minutes after I got there to make sure I got there on time...gee, thanks for the faith there Nan... *pbbbt*.

One hour, three rubber bands and exactly 45 bobby pins later, I had an up-do.  It was nice, filled with lots of hairspray and was incredibly painful to take out when I got home.  My stylist for the day, Melissa, really did a great job on my hair, but unfortunately my bangs got unintentionally sacrificed to the habitual-hand-through-the-hair gods.  So here's the back so you can see it first-hand.



After the hairdresser's it was off to MAC for a session with a make-up artist.  I lucked out completely with a wonderful artist by the name of Amparo.  She took my bare skin and turned it into something to look at. 

Nan sat across from me with a wonderful artist by the name of Caesar.  Now this is ironic because we went to the MAC at The Forum Shops at Caesar's Palace... (which guarantees you get some of the best artists in the city...ah-ha!  Sheri was thinking ahead!)

Well, as Cait went with us, so did Ryan.  Poor fella, he waited for us for two hours in the mall while we were being primped and preened.  Thanks to Cait, she got photos of while we were getting fixed up!


While Amparo was working hard on me, I glanced over at Nan, and what do you think I saw?  Caesar grabbing a set of false eyelashes for Nan!  I grabbed onto Amparo and said, "Oh my gosh!  She's going for the falsies! Woot!"  I never thought in a million years Nan would go for something like that, but sure enough, there was Caesar giving her the total treatment! She went for it and I couldn't have been more tickled to see her really getting into it!  She seemed like she had so much fun getting made up and let's face it, for all of those hours she made me up, I figured she deserved it!


So after it all went on, Cait got a picture of us...


While the artists took a break, we sat and visited and waited for Cait's turn.  My nephew's wife is such a cutie.  I'm so glad I got a sweet girl like her as my niece...

Amparo came back for an encore and she went to work fixing Cait up, which was a real treat because that was her first time in an artist's chair...




And so, three fresh faces walked out of MAC at 3:30 p.m. and ready for the big hoorah.

I got home at 4 p.m.  Enough time for me to unwind a bit, catch my breath, organize what I needed, my clothes and so forth and get dressed.  But you know me, it's never that simple.

The day had gone off like a choreographed stage show up until the moment I got home.  I sat down to relax and picked up the phone to call Nan to verify what time I needed to be at the wedding chapel.  Carl answered.  We visited for a few minutes and I asked him about the times and so forth and he said, "Well, we've got to be there at 5:45, you can be there by 6.  If you don't want to miss anything, be there by 6."  When I asked him if he was excited, he replied, "You know me, I'm excited, but I'm internalizing it."  Yes, this is my big brother...appropriate, isn't it?

In the midst of my downloading the photos to the computer, getting my clothes out and so forth, time (which we all know I have no sense of whatsoever, hence the phrase "temporally challenged") slipped by and before I knew it, guess what, I was running late.  How does this happen to me?  Ugh.  

I dashed on my clothes, fixed my bangs which had unfortunately been sacrificed to the habitual-hand-through-the-hair gods, put on my jewelry and zoomed out the door, looking like this...

(Disclaimer: I don't photograph well.)

When I got into the car, the clock read 5:45.  I stared at it for a moment, looked at the car ceiling and screamed, "How does this happen to me?!?!"  I put my foot into my gas tank and headed off.

Now wouldn't you know it?  Come on, you know where I'm going with this...yes, yes, if there was a red light, I caught it.  If there was some poky jackass in the middle of the road, I inevitably found them.  I was ready to commence hari-kari at a few points.  But lucky me, in my preparations, I had also made a visit to Mapquest...yes, I wasn't going to get lost getting there...

So, I'm on the 95 zooming into town going Mach 5 in a car that was built for fuel economy, not speed.  Did you know that a Prius will run on electric power at 80 miles per hour?  Yeah, found that out.  *facepalm*  I get to the Spaghetti Bowl Interchange (yes, Las Vegans really do call the interchange between the 95 and the 15 "the spaghetti bowl" because it looks like it), I get onto the 15 only long enough to get to the Charleston exit, I get off only to be met with what?  A red light.  The clock glowed at me saying, "5:50."  My heart at that point had sunk into my gut.  I was going to miss the wedding and Nan was going to kill me.  With visions of Nan laying me low for being late...I cringed.  Sitting there, nervously twitching in my seat, I waited for the light.  And I waited, and waited, and waited.  It felt like the longest stoplight in human history.  Finally it turned green, I hit the gas, made the left turn onto Charleston Boulevard and what do I get again?  A red light.  The clock glowed 5:55.  At that point, my adrenaline had gone into overdrive.  I sat with my head in my hands, thinking, "They're going to start without me and as well they should."  I got mad at myself for my temporal handicap.

When the light turned green, everyone seemed to know I was on my way to a wedding because by some miracle, people either turned, changed lanes or something to give me a clear shot to Las Vegas Boulevard.  I made a left onto the strip and I look down at the speedometer, knowing that I'm near the courthouse, police station and every other type of government building with a cop in front of it, I reminded myself to keep the speed down even though I wanted to floor it.  As I passed in front of the wedding chapel, the clock glowed "6:00" at me.  I knew I had missed it...I make a quick turn into the chapel parking lot, hop out of the car, break out into a dead run (in heels mind you...kudos for my athleticism in formal wear) and get into the door of the chapel.  Dad and Carl were waiting outside the chapel that they had rented for the ceremony.  I hugged Carl and asked him, "Did I miss it?"  He looked at me and said, "How could you, it's just now 6 o'clock?"  He could tell I was relieved beyond belief that I had made it on time when he said, "You're on time, don't worry."  Come to find out, the clock in my car...

It's 5 minutes fast.

As I walked in the door, I find my cousin Nicole and her daughters came to see the event, Mom, Ryan and Cait were all tucked into a pew and there I was hoping I hadn't missed anything when Mom and Dad had shown up at 5:00. They'd already been waiting an hour.  After I showed up, it was still 20 minutes before the ceremony started.  So I sat visiting with my cousin and her daughters and caught my breath from the sprint to get there.

Nan and Carl got married at a sweet little chapel called "Mon Bel Ami."  When I walked in, I noticed it was lovely.  It was decked out in a warm yellowish hue, there was striped silk buttery-colored bunting and lovely flowers everywhere.  Carl looked dashing in his suit and tie, Mom had been primped and preened as well, so she looked fabulous, Dad was looking good in his blue suit and a lovely tie.  Ryan was sporting a tie and Cait looked lovely in her purple shirt and pencil skirt combo.  The whole family looked wonderful.

The gentleman who did the service came to the front and gave us a few hints and tips about the whole thing.  Nan and Carl had contracted a photographer, so we couldn't take pictures inside during the ceremony, you know, the whole, "Keep your arms and hands inside the vehicle at all times" speech that goes with any type of ride...ok, I'm kidding, but he did tell us what was going to happen and what we would be seeing, when to stand, when to sit, etc., etc.

Then it was finally time.  The music started and Dad walked Nan down the aisle.  Nan chose a very sedate suit to be married in, it was a beautiful ivory white and she carried three white roses.  

During the vows, Nan started to tear up.  Which of course, if you've ever seen the film "Steel Magnolias" you'll remember the Dolly Parton line, "If you cry, you'll make me cry.  I have a strict rule that no one cries alone in my presence."  I started to tear up with Nan.  I sat there thinking to myself, "No, don't cry, we just spent a ton of time at the make-up artist...don't you dare shed a tear..." and I held it together.

In all it was just beautiful.  I cheered when the official turned Nan and Carl around and presented them as husband and wife.  I finally, FINALLY have a big brother.  Thank goodness...I waited long enough.

After the hoorah, we headed out to Carrabba's for dinner.  Italian.  Nice.  I made the mistake of ordering their Lobster Linguine...oy veh.  It was like eating antiseptic. I sent it back and just went with a safe choice, Fettuccine Alfredo.  But all in all, it was so sweet sitting down at the other end of the table from Nan and Carl as I watched how happy they were.  


We got done with dinner by 9 p.m.  As I headed home a song Nan says is so true, Nickelback's "Gotta Be Somebody", started playing on the radio.  Behind the wheel of the car again, I ironically turned west onto Charleston Boulevard on the way home.  But it wasn't just the car that was facing west, it was my mind that was wandering 2500 miles west of where I was, thinking about KP all the way over in Hawaii.  The song kind of made me tear up at that moment because if Nan (who went through divorce, cancer, mastectomy, chemotherapy and all sorts of aches and pains) got a happy ending, there's no reason we all can't have a happy ending of our own.

There's gotta be somebody for me out there...

But enough about me and my dire need for KP...

Grats to Nan and Carl, the best big sister/big brother combo ever!  I'm so thrilled for them both.