Thursday, October 25, 2012

Under Pressure - David Bowie Style

Healthways is basically a healthcare company (even though we hate using the word 'healthcare' - it's just easier to say). We partner with major companies and offer well-being services to their employees. For example, we recently acquired the State of Tennessee (a huge feat for us), and now those employees will get access to fitness classes, professionally-monitored weight management, de-stress programs, and they can even get help to quit smoking.

Each of these clients have marketing materials that get sent out to their employees. These materials include posters, flyers, table tents, emails, web pages, etc. And each of the designers that I work with are assigned to these clients. We work with our Engagement Marketing team who then works directly with the clients.

I've recently been assigned to a client out of Washington D.C. called OPM - Office of Personnel Management. This client has been transferred to me from another Healthways designer out of Salt Lake. It is the very first client to be assigned to me since I began working here and will be mine forever and ever.

Most of our clients are very large and use our standard templates and formats for each of the programs we offer. But OPM is different. It is much smaller than our other clients (about 1800 lives) and uses their own templates, which was no big deal to me because I didn't know any different when it was assigned to me.

Anyway, it turns out that the previous designer for OPM did everything from flyers to emails, so when they told me this, I was a little overwhelmed at all of the stuff I'd have to do. There were quite a bit more emails than print materials. But I'd worked with code before and thought I'd be able to figure it out. Easy, right?


For the most part, in the beginning, I was able to get away with editing the previous emails in their .oft form and send it back to Engagement for approval. This worked for a little while, but then I realized the quality was not as good as Michelle's (the previous designer) was. So, I was obviously doing something wrong, and I needed to figure it out. I figured it was because I was just editing old emails and all the back and forth was messing up the quality. So now I had to figure out how to build these things myself.

I began at the bottom slicing up a pdf in Photoshop and bringing it into Dreamweaver. I emailed Michelle probably 27 times about this and was really taking my time trying not to stress about it. Then the call came that Engagement needed the email that was supposed to go out in two days...


I'd gotten stuck on one thing and couldn't figure out how to fix it. And I had next to nothing else figured out. How the hell was this going to happen? I was going to be fired. This was it. I'd moved all the way to Nashville only to have to go back home after 5 months.

Well, let me just say...there's nothing like a little pressure to help you figure something out quickly. After talking to three designers and a fleeting thought of jumping in front of a bus to get me out of this predicament, I figured out how to go from a Photoshop file to an oft file in no less than 24 hours.

Only after all of this went down did I learn that we usually outsource HTML stuff to a totally different company. UGH. It would've been nice to know that about a month ago, but I'm glad I didn't because now that I can do it, we are in the process of moving that stuff in-house. And I can rest easy. At least until the next client comes around with something new.

It's actually one of the easiest things I've ever done in Dreamweaver.

This is what I'm working with.

Monday, October 15, 2012

People of Color

This past weekend I participated in the happiest 5k on the planet.

No, seriously. It was the most fun I've ever had exercising. It's called the Color Run and I recommend everyone do it at least once in their lifetime (it travels to all the big cities so there's no excuse).

A few months ago, my aunt Leila came up with the idea for a few of us to meet up in Memphis, since it is a good half way point for those that live in Mississippi and for those of us that live in Tennessee. And what could be more fun than meeting up to run 3 miles while getting covered in colored powder? Sounded good to me. Count me in!

So, the week before the race came rolling in and I started to get excited. As did the other three. We had the hotel booked, the white clothes required by the race, and the pre-race documents to keep us focused on anything but work all week long. I was so excited about it that I actually took the time to read the pre-race docs thoroughly beforehand. Those things actually tell you a lot about what's going on the day of (believe it or not). For example, the race is NOT timed! Wow, they were serious about this having fun thing... So, this is one of those races that serious runners should just take a break and have fun with. They shouldn't worry about their time, which is futile anyway once you see the kind of crowd 9,000 people can make when they get together in one place. They also send the runners off in waves over the course of an hour so that everyone isn't running and vying for color all at one time. 

It seems like a ton of waiting, and it is, but the race officials were very good at keeping us entertained while we waited. When we gathered at the starting point, there was music playing, people dancing, officials were throwing out free stuff (I caught a Color Run bracelet), we did the wave (which looks awesome when 9,000 people all do it together!), and of course there was also some great people watching to be done while waiting. People dressed up in all kinds of stuff for this race. There were men in wigs and tutus, people wearing joker hats with bells on them, knee high socks, and plenty of 'Color This' written on people's butts (bought, I'm sure, from the official Color Run store).

Anyway, once our turn came around to run, my mom took off. She gets excited. And my aunt came running after her, grabbed her shorts, and told her to slow down. We wanted to walk together so we didn't get separated (phones weren't super reliable with all the people around). So we walked the Color Run. But it was still fun because we hit four different color stations and had to slow down at each one of them in order to get sprayed with powder. And you want to get sprayed. If you aren't a horse of a different color at the end of the race, people look at you funny. So we made sure to get as much as we could at each place.

By the end of the race, we were all different kinds of colors and were just hoping it would wash off in the shower. We had to get to church that night!

Well, the powder does not wash off that easily. Each of us spent much more time in the shower than we were used to and we still found places we missed. It reminded my aunt of the toothpaste she used to use that turned your teeth blue in places you didn't brush well. We all found the places we didn't wash well. Mine is apparently my neck. I had a blue neck for two days and had to wear my hair down and a collared shirt.

There was also color in places we never expected to find it. My aunt Leila's toes were all blue. Aunt Carla's belly button was blue. My chest underneath my shirt was orange. It was gross but so worth it.

Not sure how that happened...

We also found out that the tattoos we put on our faces didn't wash off very well and had to spend the rest of the day with 'The Color Run' printed on our cheeks. Normal, right?!


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Death By Juice

Labor Day weekend, Aeri got a wild hair and decided she wanted to go on a juice cleanse. She'd watched a documentary called Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead and thought it'd be a good idea. I called her that Saturday, probably wanting her to go with me to get Froyo or something, when she informed me of this decision. She said it was supposed to basically re-program our bodies to stop craving bad foods. It would also improve our allergies (which we've both had problems with since moving here), our hearing, our skin, our sense of smell and would also give us tons of energy. If you haven't learned from the kitten story, know this: Aeri is a good salesman.

"Sounds great. I'm in!" I said.

So off we went to the Farmer's Market to get green leafy veggies and fruit. The documentary says that the recipe should consist of 60% green, leafy veggies and 40% 'other.' Whatever that means. I went with fruit. And I went with 60% fruit and 40% green, leafy veggies. First day and I was already cheating, but I didn't care. I wasn't going to be eating a damn thing for the next 10 days. If I wanted more fruit than veggies in my juice to make it taste bearable, then I was going to have more fruit! And anyone that had a problem with it could suck it! (No one had a problem with it.)

By the time we'd gotten all of our shopping done, we were starving. So we went our separate ways and went home to clean out our refrigerators and make our juices. When I got home, I could feel my stomach threatening to eat itself and I knew it was going to take a long time to make this juice, so I ate half a peach. Sue me. It was the only way I could clearly read the directions on my new juicer to figure out how to work it.

Making my first juice took about half the vegetables and fruit I'd just bought (this was going to be an expensive cleanse), but it actually tasted decent. I began to think that maybe, just maybe I could possibly drink this. And only this. For the next 10 days. I drank about 1/3 of the juice and decided I needed a nap, so I went to bed.

I spent my first 3 days of this cleanse basically in the bed trying to avoid food at all costs. Only drinking the juice when I felt like I was going to collapse from hunger and weakness (about every 60 minutes). I refused to go out of the house until Monday night when my friend, Kacey, wanted to go to Red Door in East Nashville for a drink. By the third day, I was beginning to live with the fact that I would get to see food again in 7 days, and it didn't seem that far away. So, why not? I went with Kacey to Red Door and decided before I left the house that I wouldn't drink.

At Red Door I got a water from the bar and Kacey got a Long Island and we went to find a table outside. As soon as she sat down at the table, I could smell the alcohol in her drink. And we weren't even close to each other! What the hell? How was I supposed to survive the next 7 days being able to smell individual alcohols inside a mixed drink?!

Despite my new-and-improved, Spidey-like sense of smell, I did well at Red Door. Didn't have one drink. Only water. And after about an hour and a half there, I was starving and needed to go home to drink my juice. I was still getting used to the being hungry all the time feeling. And just so you know: there's no getting used to that feeling. It sucks. All the time.

So, Monday I got up early, made my juice and headed to work. I did great at lunch drinking juice while everyone ate their smelly lunches. I even did it with a smile on my face. All day, I drank my juice, but the hunger was always there. I couldn't get used to not chewing on something. So I tried gum that afternoon. It worked for about 30 seconds. I needed something more than gum! But no, I told myself, 6 more days! I can so do this!

Then I get home Monday night and chicken comes to my brain. I remember that one of the things I didn't throw out was the chicken breast in my freezer. It was from Trader Joe's, so it was natural. No artificial things added to it, so surely that'd be okay...right? I got that chicken out of the freezer, thawed it out in the microwave, put some Tony's on it and grilled that sucker in my George Foreman and it was the best chicken breast I'd ever had. In. My. Life. So, I had another one after that. And it was the second best chicken breast I'd ever had.

After eating two chicken breasts in one night, I felt ashamed of myself. Aeri wasn't eating chicken breasts. She was doing well starving like she was supposed to be doing. Meh, no biggie. I told myself that tomorrow would be better.

Well tomorrow came and went. And with it, another chicken breast. Just one this time, but it was still just as good as I remembered it.

By Wednesday, I'd pretty much given up completely on the cleanse. I was feeling weak and lethargic. My head hurt, and I was so tired I could barely work. I needed food, and that was that.

I texted Aeri to see how she was doing. She said she'd been cheating and chewing on celery. But she was chewing on it for so long in her mouth that it was basically juice by the time she swallowed it. Umm.... I've been eating chicken breast and she's feeling guilty about celery?! It was time to call it a day on this cleanse. For both our sake's.

I don't know how that man in the documentary made it for two whole months on nothing but juice, but more power to him. I just don't have the will power for that. I like to keep my sanity in tact. By eating food.

The Culprit

Monday, August 20, 2012

Operation KK: A Happy Ending

So, the day one of the kittens puked up live worms in my bathroom was the day I decided it was officially their last night in my apartment. After many phone calls to animal shelters, getting rejected (because they are 'full'), the shedding of tears, and pulling of hairs, I decided to take them to Animal Control the next morning. One of the shelters I called said Animal Control would take anything you brought in, but they would put them down if they didn't have room for them. This was not an ideal situation because, despite my complaining straight-up bitching about them, I still loved them and wanted them to find good homes. However, the scratches on my arms and the worms on my floor were what kept bringing me back to one conclusion: They had to go.

Since Animal Control didn't open until 10am, I took the next morning off work, woke up early and began preparing myself for the internal battle ahead. I cried in the shower while watching them play around like it was any other normal day. Poor babies had no idea what was in store for them. I cried while drying my hair. I cried while getting dressed. I cried while packing up their things to donate to the shelter with them. I even cried while I tried to force myself to eat something (sometimes the best diet is a good, solid heartache). And, of course, I was ready to go 30 minutes before I needed to leave, so I sat on my bed and cried some more. 

Then I got a text from my friend, Aeri. "How does it feel?" she said. "Invigorating?"

"I haven't taken them yet. They open at 10," I responded.

Then she called me. She wanted me to bring them by her work because she had a guy, Wade, who might want one.

Whoa, what? This can't be happening. I refuse to let myself good to be true.

Anyway, I packed up the kittens in Poe's travel cage (the black/mean one freaking out only minimally) and headed off to the airport where Aeri works.

While we were in the car, the kittens listened intently as I told them this was their last chance and that they had to be on their best behaviors. No clawing or hissing. No scratching or running away. NO funny business. Although I knew it was probably a useless conversation, I figured I'd give it a try nonetheless.

When we got there, I carried the kittens, cage and all into a very formal-looking office place. I felt very out of place in my workout clothes (this being Workout Wednesday and all) carrying the cage of worm-infested kittens, while people walked by in their shiny stilettos staring at us. But it didn't matter. I was on a mission. The kittens needed to not die today.

We finally got to Wade's desk and I put the cage down on the couch in front of it. And people began swarming over to us like bees to honey. To my utter terror, they immediately open the cage and start grabbing kittens. Oh. My. God. Someone's gonna get a face lift today. These kittens had only ever seen maybe 5 people in their entire short lives and now there were hands grabbing at them from all directions. They're going to freak out any second. Please, please, please have listened to me in the car!

To my great surprise, even the black one seemed to just check out completely. He didn't even try to get away when Frank grabbed him. He just started shivering and nervous-purring. These people just think he's nervous. They have no idea what they're in store for if they take him home. But once they do, it's out of my hands... Okay, maybe this could work...

Anyway, after the cuteness wore off, people went back to their desks one by one while Wade continued to hold each of the kittens and Aeri continued to sell, sell, sell them. ("Yay, kittens! You might not have to go to your deaths today!") I began to let myself believe that maybe we could convince him to take all three... And as soon as Wade pulled out his phone and showed us a picture of his cat and proceeded to tell us he lived in a brand new house all by himself with just this one cat, I knew it was a done deal.

As soon as he said he'd officially take all of them, (YES!) I ran down to my car and brought up all the stuff I'd packed up to donate to Animal Control and gave it to him. He was impressed with how much there was and solidified his decision.

Before he could change his mind, I left for work.

Later that evening, Aeri told me Galena, the Ukranian woman they work with, and Frank both wanted the black one, but Galena beat him to it and took him home. The mean one. Uh oh. This happy ending may not end so happily quite yet. But I figured if she ended up not wanting him, I could take him back. One kitten wouldn't kill me. Three would.

The next day Galena said he meowed for his brothers all night. This didn't surprise me one bit because when I opened the bathroom door to let them out to play, he'd sit at the open door and meow chirp for them to come back. We called him the Tyrant/Dictator/Attention Whore. However, when Galena asked Wade if she could have one of his brothers so the Tyrant could have one to boss around, Wade refused! He said they couldn't be separated!


I couldn't pay someone to take these kittens off my hands, yet as they're literally being driven to their deaths, people end up fighting over them!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

B****es These Days

You know those bars you see as you're walking down Bourbon Street with the strippers dancing on poles outside and you think, "Who in their right mind would actually be caught dead in one those? Def not me!" Well, Nashville also has a couple of those bars and on Friday, I just so happened to end up with a group that just so happened to want to be caught dead in one. Yay me.

Let me set the scene for you...

I've recently become rather close to a fellow Zeta alum, Aeri, from Pennsylvania. We've been hanging out on a regular basis and wanted to go somewhere and have a good time this weekend. Aeri's coworkers decided to have a going-away dinner/happy hour for one of their own after work at Bar Louie on Friday and Aeri wanted to go. Since she and I were going out afterwards, I decided to tag along and crash the party. I'd been to Bar Louie before (with Aeri) and fully approved: The servers were nice and the crowd was more of the 'Young Professional' type that I appreciate/am a part of. So, of course I wanted to go!

We had a great time at Bar Louie and stayed there for a very long time...mainly because it randomly started pouring down rain for about an hour. Anyway, after the rain stopped, we felt like we'd done enough damage at Bar Louie and we all wanted to go dance somewhere. Our first try was down the road at a place I don't remember the name of, but it was salsa night or something and we wanted club music. So we headed downtown. I'm not sure exactly who's idea it was to go down there, but that's where we ended up.

The bar was called Throwdown and, not only did we go into the bar, we made a straight bee-line for the door! These people knew before we got there that that place was where they wanted to spend their Friday night! This is the type of place I have nightmares about going into. I mean, what was my mother going to think of me if I really did die in this place?!

As soon as we walked into the bar I abandoned whatever feeble hopes I had of meeting a cute guy to dance with/buy me drinks. I could pretty much guarantee that the type of crowd this place attracted was less than desirable. I was right, which was unfortunate because these thugs are usually the first ones to hit on me, and Friday was no different. 

Anyway, we got a drink, which I desperately needed, and headed to the darkest room in the place where the DJ and the dancing was. Okay, so the place wasn't as terrible as I thought it was going to be. Yes, there was a stripper pole, but there were no strippers that I could see. And they were playing good music that I could dance to. Ok, I can work with this.

So, I just started drinking, quit caring, and started dancing. And dancing. And dancing. And sweating. I was so gross by the end of the night, I couldn't believe Sayid from Africa kept trying to dance with me while offering to treat me like an "African Princess." Poor Sayid. I hope he's not still waiting on a phone call from Andrea from Throwdown. But I'm sure he didn't have a problem meeting some other girl (he was quite confident and pushy), so I don't feel that bad.

Some time during the night, I met a girl named Alison that I really clicked with. She was super sweet and there with her boyfriend of 4 years and his mother...yeah, ok, that should've been my first clue, but my inhibitions were gone, remember? Anyway, Alison kept telling me how beautiful I was (as a sweaty, disgusting mess and hair in a bun on top of my head by this point) and taking pictures of us like we were besties already! She was SO sweet! I wanted her number so we could hang out later outside of the bar. She gave it to me and told me to text her later, that her boyfriend had her phone right now and she'd text me back when she got it.

So, I texted her and got an immediate response that the number I sent it to was invalid...INVALID!

Wow! A girl actually gave me the wrong number! A girl! And I'm not even gay! Or a creeper! I suppose that's karma...Can't even meet a good girl friend at the bar!

Bitches these days...

I actually saw Alison at Walmart yesterday as I was picking up some groceries, and I immediately turned my head and pretended to be super interested in what new clothes they had on display. I avoided that awkward situation like a boss.

Bitches these days...

Monday, July 9, 2012

Operation KK: Part Two

After my failed attempt on Friday to capture any kittens, I'd kind of lost all hope of catching them and doing something good for them. However, I set the traps back up anyway and went home for the night. I decided I'd let them sit out overnight and in the morning I'd exchange them for new traps since the ones I had weren't keeping the kittens in them.

Saturday morning I woke up bright and early (9am) to get to the kitten shop by 10. I got to Kacey's around 9:40 and put the first (empty) trap in the car. The trap had been set off and it looked like someone had evaded my capture a second time. Oh well. I figured that would happen. Then I went to get the second trap because I'd begun to lose all hope that I'd be able to catch these kittens.

But then I saw one. In the trap! OMG! I really caught one this time!

I ran back to my car to get the sheet I brought and put it over the cage. The kitten immediately calmed down. Wow! I was so proud of myself! The trap actually worked! Maybe I'll be able to get them after all!

Kittens 1 and 2

So, I had a what?

I took it (trap and all - under the sheet) back to my apartment, set up the litter box, food, and water and released it into the bathroom. He had to appreciate the air conditioning! I cleaned out the cage it'd been trapped in and headed back out to exchange the non-working trap at the Cat Shoppe.

Once I got back to Kacey's I set up both the traps. One at each end of the tunnel I'd seen them in. It was upwards of 100 degrees and Kacey was home, so we decided to go sit in her apartment for a little while in case the kittens were watching us and remembering what had just happened to their brother/sister. And if I did catch something, it wouldn't be out there very long.

After about 30 minutes, we went back out to check the traps again and, to my complete and utter surprise, I'd caught another one! Whoa! This is awesome! These traps really do work!

I ran to get the sheet from my car, put it over the cage, left the other trap set, and headed home to release that one with its brother/sister already in my bathroom.

Here, I'll go ahead and mention that I'd left my can opener on the back of my car and didn't realize it until I was pulling into my apartment complex. As I got out of my car, I thought it was great that my mom had bought me two of them because I was never going to see that other one again. But lo and behold, there it was! Still sitting on the back of my car just where I'd left it! This day could not get any better!

After releasing the second kitten into my bathroom, I gave them both about an hour to get acclimated to life on the inside before I went to check on them. They were both huddled up behind the toilet, but the first one I caught absolutely freaked when I came in. He left his bro/sis behind the toilet and ran all over the bathroom trying to find a place to hide (which I did not give them on purpose - they need to get used to me!). He jumped into the trash can, decided that wasn't good enough; jumped into the shower, but I could still see him so that wouldn't work either. Then he jumped onto the toilet (I had previously closed the lid) and onto the bathroom counter where he saw his reflection for the first time. This cat then proceeded to jump into the mirror thinking (I guess) that it was another room he could hide in. However, this being a mirror, he smacked his nose into the glass. Every time. It took him four times before he figured out that wasn't going to work and he needed to find some other place to hide.

Dazed and confused, he finally decided to light in my basket of hair products/lotion. This is where I got to touch him/her for the first time. I'm pretty sure the only reason this was allowed was because he couldn't see straight after the mirror incident. He hasn't let me touch him since.

Anyway, an hour after the suicide attempt, I went to check on the traps again, and guess what?! The 3rd one was in the trap, chillin and waiting on someone to let him out.

Okay, he wasn't 'chillin' per say. He freaked (as expected) when he saw me approaching him with a sheet. So I covered the trap and took him home to be added to the not-so-happy family now residing in my bathroom.

Kittens 2 and 3

Operation KK: Kitten Katchin' Part I

How was my weekend, you ask? Well, I'll tell you! It consisted of mainly two things: catching kittens and kayaking. Seriously.

It all started a few weeks ago when my friend, Kacey, noticed some kittens living in a tunnel in her apartment complex. She took a picture of them and posted it on Facebook and I instantly fell in love with them.

As you can see, they are absolutely gorgeous! We had to save them!

So, on Thursday I got it in my head that I was going to be these kittens' savior. I, with the help of others, would get these kittens out of the heat, vetted, and to a home. I began contacting shelters. Many many shelters. Mostly through email. Most of them said they were full, and most of them refused to take feral cats of any kind because they may not be healthy.

However, after quite a lot of searching, I happened upon a shelter that said they could help with training and vetting feral kittens. Yes! This is the place I'd been looking for! This place was exactly what I needed! I emailed them.

The shelter had been shut down for the summer. Perfect. However, a very nice someone emailed me back and offered to help by forwarding my emails to other shelters/people she knew that might be willing to help. She also had great advice on how to trap the kittens and inexpensive places on where to take them to get shots, etc.

So, all of this emailing and advice got me excited. Thursday, after work I went to Kacey's apartment complex fully intending to bring those kittens to their new (temporary) home. It never occurred to me that if Kacey, who'd been feeding them for weeks, couldn't catch them, then I probably wouldn't be able to either. I bought litter and two cans of wet food to get them to come to me. How could it not work?!

Well, I'll cut to the chase now and tell you that it didn't work. Those kittens wanted absolutely nothing to do with Kacey or me. They ran and hid from us and refused to come out while we were sitting anywhere near them. Not even my smelly, good food could lure them out.

This was going to require more work (and more food). I went home to re-think my strategy.

Friday, after work, I went to the Cat Shoppe where I was told you could rent kitten traps (free - you just leave a collateral of $50 to be returned when you return the traps). So I got two of them and went back to Kacey's apartment complex. The kittens were not outside playing when I pulled into the parking lot. Hmm. Usually they were. So I went to look in their tunnel. It was flooded.

Uh oh. Where in the hell could they have gone? Was this the end of my kitten catching/rescue before it had even begun?

Maybe they didn't go far. I looked in the tunnel close to the other one. A much bigger tunnel that I could easily duck down and walk into. And there went four little kittens running out the other side. Found them!

Now I could commence trapping. I set one trap at the end of the tunnel I saw them running out of and the other one at the other end. And then I went to my car and waited.

I could see them hiding in yet another, smaller tunnel this time. Every now and then they'd peek their heads out, make sure no one was around and come out to play. Then I got an idea. Well, why don't I just put the trap in front of that tunnel? Duh!

So, I did. And it worked. I watched one of those kittens very slowly make his way into that trap, eating the food I'd put in there. Yes! This was going to work! Then I watched him step on the trigger that slammed the door shut behind him. YES!! I CAUGHT ONE!!

I texted Kacey and told her the news, and started walking towards the cage with a sheet to put over the trap to calm him down, all the while the kitten is freaking out, wondering what the hell just happened.

I got close enough to the cage to touch it and all of a sudden, the rattling of the cage stopped. The kitten was gone. What the hell?! How did that happen? After closer inspection, I saw that the trap door hadn't locked when it slammed down and the kitten was able to push his way out again. Great! Stupid trap! Now I'll never catch them! They all just witnessed that screw up. There's no way they'll fall for it again.

So I moved the trap back to the big tunnel where I'd had it before and waited some more. After a couple hours of trying to scare the kittens back out of the smaller tunnel we decided we might as well leave and try again later (by this time, help had arrived in the form of Jennifer, who lives in the complex, and another Jennifer that runs a shelter and offered to take the kittens if/when a spot opens up). So I took my cat food and deflated dreams of being a hero and went home.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Flapper Attire

Last Thursday (June 21) Mercy Lounge hosted a RAWartists Showcase. It was basically a bunch of local artists showing off their awesome stuff in a place that served overly expensive alcohol. And it was FUN.

I actually had no intention of going to this show, whatsoever, because 1) I'm not so down with the hipster scene and 2) the theme for the show was the 1920s. Now, don't get me wrong: I love the fashion from some of the past decades and sometimes think I was born in the wrong one; however, I must say the loose, pleated clothing that aimed for the boyish figure of the Roaring 20s is not one of my favs. And at this show, people were encouraged to dress the part and all my friends were going as flappers. No thanks.

Well, of course I got talked into going because, you all should know by now, that I can't say no. (This is turning into a very expensive vice). Anyway, the ticket was only $10 and there was art and live music! How could I not go?!

Heavy sigh... Fine.

So after a full two days of frantically searching the internet, my closet, and even some thrift stores for something to wear, I decided to go for more of a 'daytime' look. I chose a white dress that I had not worn in years but hung loose on me, so I thought it'd be fine for that 'boyish' look. I also went with some black heels, a gorgeous pearl necklace from Kacey, and a black sequined headband that I borrowed from Jennifer, a new friend, who just-so-happened to have had a 20s-themed birthday party last year. Good enough!

When we got there I realized that all my stressing was, of course, useless because there were plenty of people who did not dress the part. But it didn't matter anymore because I actually felt cute. I usually feel cute when I wear heels because people stare at me, which probably has more to do with the fact that I tower over everyone and nothing to do with what I am wearing. But it's all in how you view things, folks. I choose to believe it's because I'm breathtakingly beautiful and nothing else!

Anyway, the art was amazing. We looked around at all the photography and paintings, and jewelry. The stuff those people came up with was really fun to look at. It's crazy to see how different my [what I like to believe is a] creative mind is from other creative minds. It never fails to amaze me, which is why I never regret going to one of these shows.

They also showcased a music video, a fashion show, two music bands, and a comedian. All of which were amazing. Except the comedian. He was the last to go on and was pretty much a train wreck. I couldn't bear to watch him and we were hungry by that time, so we did not stay for the whole thing. Poor guy.

I definitely did not regret going to this show. I got to hang out with some awesome people, discovered a great new band, The Hardin Draw (mix between Zach Brown and Mumford and Sons), and fell in love with my white dress all over again! I can't wait to see what I'll benefit from the next time I'm talked into something I don't really want to do.

Many thanks to our very own paparazzi, Amber, for taking all the pics at all our events! It's always nice to have someone force us to take pics so we can remember what we did (and so I can show them off).

Most of the Group

Kay, Me, and Amber

Kacey and I

Monday, June 18, 2012

My First Kayak Adventure

One really cool thing that came out of my Old-People Watching trip was my very first kayak trip.

I'd been dying to go since pretty much, forever, and of course it came up in conversation in the car on the way to the recital. Somewhere in the conversation, I said, "Man, I wish I could go, like, tomorrow!" Then Sarah kind of raised her hand and said, "I'll go!"

Well, she didn't have to tell me twice! I immediately texted my new friends Amber and Anne, who I knew had been wanting to go. They were both super excited about it and didn't hesitate to say yes. Keep in mind this was at, maybe 7pm the day before. Just goes to show... I found the right girls to hang with!

So, I got up the next morning and headed to REI to get a dry bag. They convinced me to join their membership as I was checking out because I can't say no I know I'll be there again, and on the way home I could barely contain my excitement. I was SO ready! We met at my apartment and rode out there together. Anne and Amber got a canoe, and Sarah and I got kayaks.

We took the two and a half hour, 'Ballpark' tract because a) we were too late to do anything else, and b) we figured it'd be easy.

So, the Foggy Bottom Canoe people took us and our boats to the drop off point. This was kind of sketchy because there was no shoreline; you could only put in one boat at a time. We had to walk down a flight of concrete stairs that ended with just water. So, the guy who drove us to the drop off held the boat while we got inside. And after a very awkward encounter with his arm and my butt, I did actually get in the water, paddle and all, without tipping over (though it felt like I was going to). In fact, we all got in just fine without any more awkward encounters or tipping.

Anyway, after about 10 minutes, Sarah and I got the hang of the kayak thing. It was a lot of work because you can never really stop paddling, but it seemed easier to steer than the canoe...

Anne and Amber had quite the difficult time getting it to go in a straight line. It was pretty entertaining to watch them go in circles. We had plenty of time to turn and watch them.

And despite Sarah and I having to wait for Anne and Amber a couple times and very worn out arms, we all made it safely back to the take out point.

When we got in the car, I immediately regretted offering to drive because it took quite a large amount of work to lift my arms. But we were hungry and we couldn't spend the night there, so I sucked it up for a little longer, and off we went. To Arby's, which was, hands down, the BEST meal any of us had ever had. We all agreed unanimously on that one.

I'm pretty sure it was the most fun I've ever had on the water, and I couldn't wait to do it again!

We had the van to ourselves!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Old-People Watching

Last Friday, Amy, one of the girls I work with (we started on the same day and work in Marketing together) very sweetly invited me to go with her to see her cousin play in a jazz quartet. His quartet's name is the Goodburgers (reminds me of the Kenan and Kel days - which may or may not be the point) and apparently they all go to some special music school in New York. Amy said her cousin plays his guitar around fourteen hours a day. This was her way of justifying us driving to Columbia, TN to see him (which I never actually minded in the least, but poor Amy felt like she needed to justify it 'in case it sucked').

Anyway, we met at Amy's house (she invited another girl from work as well) and, after meeting her absolutely adorable Goldendoodle, Franklin, we rode together to Columbia, TN. Out in the middle of BFE, if you ask me. And I'm sorry all of that rhymed. It was very unintentional.

We pulled up to the address given to us and the one Tom Tom said we should be at and realized we were at an American Legion.

Um. What?

We were expecting a bar because her cousin said they had a "gig." When I think of 'gig' I think of 'bar.' But we went inside anyway, walking past the group of very old men outside practicing their instruments on our way. When we got inside, we automatically realized we were the youngest people there. By about a hundred years. And we were under-dressed.

Well, at least we didn't have to pay that $10 cover I thought I saw mentioned on the Facebook group.

We found some chairs, sat down, and watched her cousin play about three songs. They were actually pretty great! They sounded like they'd been practicing together for a while. And quite a few of the elder people got up and did some couple-dancing, which was really fun to watch. Eighty year olds make for great people-watching (no offense, Granny!).

After the Goodburgers' set was finished, Amy played the mom card disturbingly well by taking pictures of her cousin and his group that played with him. She even got a close-up of the awful earring he was wearing that we only saw when he turned to the side. It looked like a tooth of some sort... We tried to figure it out later but failed.

We left about as quickly as we arrived and decided to go back to Nashville to an actual bar and have an actual drink, Amy apologizing the whole time, which was very unnecessary but cute all the same. I actually had a good time watching the old-school dancing.

In the car we established two things: one being that the set we'd just witnessed was not a gig, but more of a recital, and two, that we will not dance like those people did when we get older.

I mean, it was pretty cool to see the older generations ballroom dancing because no one dances like that anymore. Sarah mentioned that she wished she knew those dances because one day we'll be old and we won't know how to dance like that. I had never thought about that before. Those dances actually require you to remember steps instead of just grinding on one another. I just figured when we get old we'll be out there dancing to the Wobble and the Electric Slide, just like we do now. They thought that was funny, but I was completely serious. Why would it be any different from now when we get old? I don't think a distaste of rap (or knowledge of new dance steps, for that matter) comes with age. I've grown up with it and I fully intend to keep listening (and dancing) to it!

All in all, I thought it was a fun, educational night. I'd happily do it again!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Shades of Awesome

So, our Meetup group had our first actual Meetup about the Color Run in Nashville in September (the Bar Crawl was more of a pre game). We met last Tuesday at my new favorite place to eat, Chipotle. This place is awesome. It's healthy Mexican food in the style of Subway. So cool. And pretty cheap, too.

Anyway, about 15 girls showed up, which I was really excited about, since it was kind of my idea to form a group in the first place. I was originally hoping to just get the minimum four required, but 15 is awesome! 

We spread out over about 4 tables and ate and talked and got to know some more girls. I'm sure the people eating/working at Chipotle were wondering what the hell we were doing. Some of us walked in and already knew each other and others we hadn't met we knew immediately upon their entering the building because they looked like lost puppies. We all knew that look/feeling because we'd all been there before! But I think we made all the new girls feel pretty welcome. They all seemed to have a decent time, anyway.

After we ate everyone was still chatting, and I figured we were never going to get out of there with a group name, which is required to register. So I stood up and suggested each table come up with a name and we'd all vote on which one we liked the best. Apparently, coming up with a team name is more difficult than it sounds. One of the tables got distracted and started planning a karaoke night (which I'm so down for, BTW), another couldn't come up with any at all, so that left two tables. Mine and another one that included all the girls I'd met before. 

We all got out our phones and started searching for lame names that had some kind of pun in them for colors. Some of our examples were: Ready, Set, Van Gogh (which we later found out was tweeted on the Color Run's Twitter, so we didn't go with that one), The Van Gogh Gogh's, Tempura Tantrums, etc. However, the one we all decided on was Shades of Awesome. That name pretty much won, hands down.

So, then we discussed our t-shirts. Kacey has a screen printer (jealous!) and offered to print a logo on our white Ts that we have to wear to run in. 

I got a wild hair the next day and decided to take a stab at the logo. I didn't expect to finish it that quickly, but I got excited about it once it started looking pretty cool. Here's what I came up with:

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

How To: Make New Friends

Since I moved here (a whole 3 weeks ago) I've been wondering how in the world I am going to meet new people. Everyone I knew back home I met through school and had pretty much grown up with. Well, school is over now and I am in a completely new place. I left all my old friends in MS. I had even briefly considered taking some random class at Vanderbilt just to meet people. But that would mean I'd have to do extra work, and I think it's safe to say that y'all know I don't volunteer (let alone pay) for extra work.

So, maybe the third best discovery I've made in Nashville so far has been It is a social networking site, similar to Facebook, that allows people to meet new people with the same interests. I found out about it one day last week while talking with my insurance agent, of all people. You find groups that cater to your interests and join them. For instance, I joined a hiking group and a group just called Nashville Girls in their 20s because it sounded like me. Then the group organizers plan Meetups where anyone who wants to gets together and does something fun. The hiking group gets together and goes on hikes. Nashville Girls in their 20s gets together for bar crawls or 5Ks or whatever girls in their 20s are up for doing.

Now, let me be clear: This is not a dating site. There is minimal risk of creepers lurking behind their computer screens waiting to make their move to do... whatever it is they do...

Most people I've seen on the site are new to town and looking to meet new people and make new friends. It's pretty legit.

How do I know? Because I went to a Bar Crawl Meetup on Friday. About eight girls met at the Hard Rock for dinner and pre game. Dinner was a good idea because it gave us all a chance to talk and get to know each other before heading out to the loud bars and gettin' our dance/drink on. It was a pretty cool experience. Almost like an instant group of friends because, for the most part, we all got along and seemed compatible.

I clicked with one of the girls pretty well and we went out again Saturday night. Despite it being miserably hot, we had a good time.

Then about 5 of us met up at one girl's apartment pool and hung out there most of Sunday before going to dinner and exploring the bars around hipster town. AKA East Nashville.

So far, we can kind of tell who out of the original group will be friends because we have been the ones going to all the little get-togethers, which is totally fine with me because they seem to be the really outgoing ones that I tend to get along with better anyway. We do have another Meetup tonight to talk about our group doing the Color Run later this year and some of them were out of town this weekend and couldn't make the hang outs, so I'm hoping we can add a couple more fun girls to the regular group! Use it. Love it. Thank me later.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

House Painting... Situation

My personality is basically summed up like this: Unending curiosity coupled with an inability to tell people "no." Years ago, I never would have qualified myself as a "spontaneous person," but lately I've found that certain personality traits (mentioned above) require a great deal of spontaneity, which tend to land me in strange (sometimes sticky) situations.

One such situation happened during my second week in Nashville. One of my ex boyfriends from high school just so happens to live outside of Nashville in Springhill, TN. Right before I moved here, we began messaging each other over Facebook and basically just catching up and seeing how each other were doing. I was job-hunting and he was living in Tennessee with his wife, Sharayah. Life had been good to both of us.

Sharayah and John (I knew him back when he was JJ) are both from Vicksburg. I vaguely remember playing soccer either with or against Sharayah way back when. We were maybe 12. Not sure. JJ (I'm not calling him John, that's awkward to me) I dated in the ninth grade. Ten years ago. Wow. Hadn't done the math til just now. Ugh. I'm old.

Anyway, JJ sees my Facebook updates and realizes I've moved to Nashville. We exchange phone numbers so that we can communicate faster than Facebook messaging. That was a little weird for me because I literally hadn't talked to this guy in about 10 years. But I knew he was the kind of guy that has no problems having friends that are girls, so I figured Sharayah would be fine with it.

Then he asked me if I wanted to come hang out one night that week and paint his house.

Um... Paint your house? No thanks.

Actually, I passive-aggressively told him I'd "get back to him on that." We all know I had no intentions of doing that. However, he and I both knew I had absolutely nothing to do when I got home because I was pretty verbal about not knowing anyone here and all my friends being in MS and all that. So, it didn't take much to talk me into it, since I can't tell people no. Another one of those sketchy personality traits that I really need to work on: Lying.

I was able to put it off a day because I didn't have clothes with me that day (he first asked if I could come that night). Geez. I needed time to wrap my head around hanging out with my ex and his pregnant wife. Oh, I didn't mention that before? Yeah, she's pregnant.

As the time got closer for me to go over there, my mind starting freaking me out. I had no idea what he'd told her about me. What in the world did she think of me? Does she know we dated? Does she care? Should I even mention any of that? What if I get to their house before JJ does and it's just me and Sharayah? What the hell are we gonna talk about?

So, I get to their house and, of course, JJ isn't there yet. So, I'm freaking out but ring the doorbell anyway. Too late to turn back now! Sweet little Sharayah answers the door and is so freaking nice I immediately feel better about this whole thing. In fact, if JJ had never shown up I think we would've had a great time either way.

We found plenty of things to talk about. Namely, his mother. I learned what a gem she is and how much I lucked missed out on. I met one of their friends who was there painting as well. She was super nice and also hated Bama, so we got along just fine. I ended up staying a couple hours and painting a little bit. Though I didn't feel like I really helped that much.

All in all, it was a successful venture! I'd love to hang out with them again and babysit their little girl when she joins us.

Needless to say, it was awkward telling my friend what I'd been doing when she called me later that night, and my mom even thought it sounded strange when I told her. (Everyone needs to know what I'm doing with my time since they all know I have no friends here and there's only so much a non-talking, stressed out rabbit named Poe can do for entertainment.) I probably got a gray hair over this whole thing for nothing. I really need to quit stressing over things so much.

New Blog Topic

Ever since Mama's (and Shana's) little bird got a job and flew the coup, I've been racking my brain over what to blog about next. I've pretty much covered my most meaningful job-hunting experiences and I've completed my goal of actually finding a job (yay me!). So what could I write about that's interesting enough to keep not only my attention but yours as well?!

Then it hit me... I will blog about my adventures making new friends in Nashville! With a little exploration thrown in for good measure. (You can't meet new people without seeing new places.)

And I already have a story to share. Post to follow.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Working for Nothing

Something I got particularly tired of during my job search was being asked to create some kind of artwork for the company to which I was applying. Yes, that actually happened. And it really irked me. I mean, why did I spend 5 years creating a portfolio if every job I apply to is going to make me create something for them?! But beggars can't be choosers, right? So I did the work. Most of the time.

The first place to ask that of me was a fireworks place down in New Orleans. They had me drive down there for an initial interview (which I later learned could've easily been done over the phone), and then told me they wanted me to create not one, but three versions of fireworks packaging for them. In three days. Now, normally I wouldn't complain about the deadline, and I really didn't at the time because I needed a job and I was kind of excited about getting to design packaging, but this was three days on top of my regular job/life. I came up with three pieces by the deadline and went back down to New Orleans for my second interview (keep in mind that I had to take off work for these little trips). This interview was basically a waste of time because all I did was show them my pieces, which easily could have been done over email/phone. Needless to say, despite all my work and driving and money spent, I did not get the job.

Another place that asked me to come up with designs for them was a place in D'Iberville on the coast of MS. It was a place that mainly advertised for law firms. This place actually paid for my hotel, which was very nice and unexpected. However, I had to sit at their PC-based computer for 4 hours and create an ad and a webpage for them. Not only did I not get paid for this work, but I also had to leave my files on their computer, which I was not comfortable with. Who knows what happened to them!

These are just two examples of many companies that asked me to create work for them. There was also a company that asked me to design three t-shirt designs for them, one asked for some online ads, another asked for a mix tape design, an invitation, a CD cover, and something else (I did not do that one) and one asked me to design some online buttons for their website. That one was particularly hard because their website looked like they'd plugged some information into a template they got for free somewhere. That job even promised to pay me, but I, of course, never heard from them again.

I didn't complain about having to do these things at the time because I was desperate for a job and it seemed to be a normal thing - despite Shana telling me otherwise (she thought it was ridiculous from the start). However, a year later combined with what I know now, I feel like I have the right to complain about it. So I'm going to. If I can show you my portfolio and explain my thinking processes about each piece to you, then you should have a feel for how I work. There is no need for me to do extra work (without pay) for a company that may or may not use my design without my knowledge if they don't end up hiring me! It was ridiculous! And, once again, Shana was right!

Fireworks Packaging

Ugly Website Button

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Craigslist Creepers

Much of my job search was done online. Craigslist was my go-to source for quite a while because it was so easy to send my resume in pdf form to the email address listed in the ads. Since you've seen my resume, I won't go into detail about how great it looks in pdf form vs a Word document, which is what quite a few employers asked for. (That surprised me because they were hiring graphic designers and only giving the option of submitting Word documents for resumes! And unless I was feeling especially desperate, I did not even bother applying for those.)

One particular Craigslist ad stands out in my mind because of the creepy guy that responded to my resume application. This was for a job in Cumming, GA for a place that made plaques and trophies and such.

He began by responding almost immediately to my submission. He sent an application for employment (standard procedure) that I emailed back as soon as possible. I tried to be accommodating because I knew potential employers were usually in a hurry to hire someone, but I was used to having to wait a day or two in between emails/hearing back from them. So it caught be by surprise when this guy, let's call him Dave, acted like my almost immediate responses weren't quick enough for him. That was my first clue that something was off about this place, but I let it go.

The second clue was when he led me to their website. It was horrible, but I let that go as well. Maybe that's why they were hiring a designer. They desperately needed an updated version of that mess!

Third and fourth clues came on our Facetime Interview. Dave was maybe in his mid thirties and I could tell he was single. He spent much of the conversation bragging about his father owning the company and how they had just merged with the company Dave was managing. Ok, that's cool, Dave, but what will I be doing?

Working mostly with Dave. He'd be training me. Day in and day out. Until I got the gist of things.

Well then he asked me when it'd be convenient for me to come to Cumming, GA for a face to face interview. I told him Thursday (it was Monday). He said, "How about tomorrow?" Um...

It was a 7 hour drive from Vicksburg, MS to Cumming, GA. No respect for my time or my current job, but okay, maybe I could make tomorrow work. He was, after all, going to pay for my hotel room and gas to get there and back. I'd have to leave work in two hours to get there at a decent time that night for the interview tomorrow.

The second to last straw came at the end of the conversation when he said if I got there before 8pm, he'd take me out for a drink. Um... just you? No thanks, Dave. But what could I say? There was no possible way I was going to make it there before 8pm, so that was immediately off the table.

Then he told me he'd pick me up from my hotel room tomorrow morning, take me out to breakfast, and then we'd go into the office for the interview. Um... just you? No thanks, Dave. Why did I feel like I was being asked on a date? This was a job interview! I felt like he was being very unprofessional.

After we got off the phone I wasn't feeling as great about this prospect as I'd started out feeling. Then came the countless emails he sent confirming our interview, confirming my hotel reservation, continuing to email me back to responses that clearly indicated the conversation was over. I had all the info I needed, so why was he still emailing me?! Then came the last and final straw. The email that said, "Hey, I can't wait to meet you. J" J? Apparently that's some kind of creepy smiley face (well, creepy when he used it).

Geez, I wasn't about to drive 7 hours for this creep to show up at my hotel room in the middle of the night. I was a single girl, about to be alone in a place a good 7 hours from any relative or any person I knew. Time to call this off. If he's creeping me out this bad on the phone, there's no telling how it will be in person!

He did not make it easy, that's for sure. I emailed him and made up some excuse about my car needing an oil change before I made the drive. That was just passive-aggressive stalling on my part because I was too weak professional to tell him to F off. After I emailed him, he emailed me back (immediately) telling me to call him. I didn't. He called me. I figured he wouldn't go quietly, and I was right.

I finally got him to leave me alone, and I never once regretted it. To this day I'm glad I did not waste my time on that job. Especially considering the amazing one I've found in Nashville!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Moral: Use Crest PRO HEALTH!

I would like to take this time to let you all (349 of you!!) know that I am aware that I have not posted anything recently, which I'm sure is absolutely killing you. If you missed the last post, I got a job! This post is more of a commercial break. I will resume regularly scheduled blogging (hopefully) next week.

Anyway, I'm super overwhelmed with stuff to do right now. I've found an apartment (which is so much easier than finding a job, by the way) and am moving in this Saturday. As in Cinco de Mayo. And I will stay there next week and try to get settled in before I go to my cousin's graduation in Starkville next weekend.

My place is in The Grove. It's a pretty big one bedroom apartment with a sun room that can act as a second bedroom/office/Poe's room/whatever, and the best part is that it is in downtown Nashville. It's the perfect starting place! A little expensive, but I'm in the neighborhood I want to be in with all the folks that are my age, so I'm okay with the price for now!

I spent some of yesterday making phone calls to get renter's insurance (required by my apartment), gas, electricity and internet turned on. I feel so grown up!

However, before I did all that I had a dentist appointment. Just a simple teeth-cleaning was all it was supposed to be. Well, I am Emily and nothing is ever simple. I have a...something (some stopped up gland or something) in my mouth that has to be numbed and cut out, and I also had a freaking cavity! Seriously? I'm 24 years old. Haven't we out-grown cavities by now?! The dentist said it was tiny and wasn't a big deal, but I know exactly why I got one. It's because I've been using just plain ole Crest toothpaste instead of Crest Pro Health. For years I'd been getting compliments on my teeth and hardly any of that scraping and scratching involved with tons of plaque removal (and I never floss). For years I'd been using Crest Pro Health. Until one day when Walmart didn't have the cinnamon flavor I loved. I figured, what the heck, plain ole Crest in cinnamon flavor is probably the same thing... Nope.

It gives you cavities and bleeding gums from scratching and scraping of plaque. FML.

At least I have an amazing new job and apartment to help me get through Thursday when they cut that thing out of my mouth (which has to be biopsied, but I know it's not cancer because I don't smoke!) and fill my stupid cavity.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012



And I could not be happier!

After a year-long search for the perfect place, I've found a job! No kidding! I knew from the very first interview that it was the place for me.

I am the newest graphic designer at Healthways in Nashville, TN! This place is so great! They have Workout Wednesdays and Fitness Fridays, all the employees are encouraged to go to yoga and aerobics classes given throughout the day, and they even have a cafe that grows some of the food it sells! So amazing! Not to mention it is in a beautiful area.

I told my boss at Ergon at the beginning of April that this would be my month. I could feel it in my veins that I was going to have a job by the end of this month. And I did it! I can barely think straight right now. This is the biggest day of my life! All of the hard work and rejection was worth it to get to this place. It's perfect! I can't say that enough!

I start May 14, and I can't wait!

Now, maybe all those grey hairs will give it a rest!

P.S. This post is obviously out of order, but I will continue to post about my previous experiences at interviews after my brain has had time to wrap itself around the fact that I HAVE A JOB!!!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Fiery Lakes of Web Design: Part II

I stalled for months on developing the Asphalt site because I knew I had absolutely no idea where to start on it. At every traffic meeting we had I managed to mumble my way past it and find other work to do to keep me/every one else occupied. I figured as long as I could stay busy with other things I could continue to put it off and no one would ask me about it. This just means it was hanging over my head for months. And, honestly, I secretly hoped I'd get a job before I finished it so I wouldn't have to do it at all because I knew it would take me the rest of my life to finish.

But that didn't happen.

After my interview at the Cirlot agency, however, I was a little more pumped up about it. I realized that I'd never be able to fully get around web design/development since I'd gone into a career that basically surrounds the web. I needed to bite the bullet and just do it. Like Nike.

So one day I decided this would be the day. I installed the two-week-trial version of TextMate on my computer and began to open the program thinking, "Well this ain't so bad." But when I opened it, nothing happened. No magical blank document appeared with an outline of a basic website (not sure when that delusion set in), nothing that connected Safari to my site so that I could see what I was building, no folders of images automatically connected to my document like they were when we opened those files from our textbook cds in class. Nothing. Happened.

"Um.... Wing?"

Wing was my coworker who sat beside me before she moved to LA and was/still is, like, a web design/development queen - and she heard that phrase too many times to count throughout this process. I needed her help before I even got started. So much for doing this on my own.

She got me connected to everything I needed to be connected to and had to help me write the header, body and footer because I'd forgotten in all those months of stalling. Then I was off! It took me a few weeks to finish and quite a bit of help from every single person in the department, but I finished it. After a few set backs and some small design changes, I got it finished enough to hand off to Lee, our programmer. And I can't tell you how good it felt to hand it off to someone else!

The best part about this project (other than discovering that I still don't care for web design) was that I learned so much HTML and CSS that, when asked, I can force myself to put together a basic, decent-looking site. And I also learned how to save things and write their code so that they displayed correctly in Safari and Internet Explorer (GAG). People, please stop using Internet Explorer. It's a pain in the butt to write code for, and I didn't even get into the complicated stuff!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Outside or Inside the Box? Pick One!

Back in January of this year, Shana asked me to help her with a marketing campaign for an outdoor shopping mall, Colony Crossing (an Ergon property). She had great ideas of ads and billboards we could design that would reflect the illustrative properties of the Colony Crossing website. Despite my being down about still not having a full-time job, I got excited about this. It sounded like a lot of fun and a good reason to stick around Ergon a little longer, so that I could add some stuff to my portfolio.

My first assignment was to design a half page ad for the Mississippi Business Journal. Its target audience would be business owners looking to lease a space for their business. I was given a tag line (Move To Our Neighborhood) and told to include the required text and logo that the Real Estate department gave us. Other than that I was almost free to design what I wanted! The two guys we were working with on this project said they wanted something "out-of-the-box" that would bring more people to the mall. "Out-of-the-box," "Different," and "Catch Attention" were phrases Shana told me they kept using over and over (I wasn't present for the initial meeting). Well I was definitely going to give them out-of-the-box. I was going to give them something other than the standard picture-of-the-mall-with-copy-below type of boring mess they'd been using since who knows when. I was going to give them something so great it would blow their minds. I was going to show them what they'd been missing.

The best of the 3 I presented

Well, blow their minds, I did. In fact, it went completely over their heads. We met one day in our conference room to discuss the ad/their budget/other campaign ideas. They took one look at the great designs I presented to them and said, "Well, that's interesting." Immediately I knew that I had wasted a good week of my life on this project.

After the disapproving looks at the ads, we discussed the pricing. A half page ad ended up cutting too far into their budget, so we decided on an eighth-page ad that would need a complete re-design. Since this was the first time I experienced these two discussing their budget, I got a little irritated at the fact that I'd just spent a week pouring my heart and soul into an ad they couldn't even use.

So they told me how they wanted the eighth page ad to look (we talked them out of putting an actual picture of the mall into an ad so small), and this is what it looked like:


No joke.

You tell me which one was better; which one was "Out-of-the-box." But that is exactly what they asked for, believe me, because even on that one they had a thousand changes before we could send it off.

Then, about a week after we sent the black and white one off to be printed, they both came back with the Business Journal in hand and laid a half page ad down on Shana's desk and said, "We want that, it's so out-of-the-box." This is the ad:

Complete with illustrated drawing.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Cirlot Agency

One of the first big-girl job interviews I ever went on was at the Cirlot Agency in Jackson, MS. I've mentioned this place before: The owner/interviewer congratulated me on "breaking away from the pack" through my resume design.

After doing some research on the place, I got really intimidated. Why in the world would this awesome place hire lil ole me with my two years experience? (It was two years at the time)

Before I even pulled into the parking lot, I was sweating like a man. Please keep in mind that this interview took place in the middle of the summer. I'm talking 100+ degrees, folks. On top of that was that pesky intimidation, so I was screwed on the cool front either way.

I walk into the lobby of an immaculate building. The lady at the front desk tells me to have a seat and Liza would be with me shortly. I sit on the couch and start thumbing through a book on the table beside me. It's a book full of successful businesses and their owners in Mississippi. I see my boss Leslie Lampton in there, so I know this is legit. Then I see Liza Looser and her husband, owners of the Cirlot Agency. I wonder if it's too late for me to slip out the door unnoticed.

But no, I hear heels clacking down the hallway and I figure that's her. I was right. She's exactly what I thought she'd be. The epitome of a business woman. Off-white suit with matching off-white heels and pantyhose. She introduces herself and holds out her hand for me to shake before my brain has even had a chance to tell me to stand up.

Then she's off. Leading me to a conference room as I struggle to get my purse over my arm and my portfolio in my hand at the same time. What was I thinking? This place is big-time. I'm country come to town in this place!

By the time we get to the conference room, I'm shaking so bad I can barely put my portfolio on the table. Why is this thing so big?!

Anyway, I go through my pieces and explain to her my thought processes on each one just like Shana and I had rehearsed beforehand. As soon as I got done she said, "Tell me everything you know about web design."

Uh oh.

I'd barely finished the Asphalt site's design! I knew next to nothing!

I fumbled through my answer and gave her what, I'm sure, was the dumbest response she'd ever heard. But I finished talking and she told me she was looking to hire a few web designers in the next few years. She said I was the type of person she was looking for, but she wanted him or her to have a little more experience than I did. She was very professional and very nice at the same time. She could probably tell I was sweating through my clothes by now.

She told me she was not necessarily telling me to get more experience, but I needed more experience. She suggested I design a website for Poe. Okay, I could handle that advice. It was good stuff. It was what I needed to hear from a professional in the business.

So I did not get that job (obviously), but it was the beginning of many helpful (and some not-so-helpful) critiques I received from quite a few potential employers. I began to learn how to respond to them without sounding like a complete idiot. I'm so glad Liza was the first person to introduce me to the interview process because she knew exactly how to handle me. And believe me, I've worked for women before, I know how cut-throat and demanding they can be.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Fiery Lakes of Web Design: Part I

I believe it was somewhere in the middle of my second summer at Ergon that I was assigned the most dreaded project for a beginner graphic designer: a website redesign. One day Jim decides to have a meeting with Russell (our copywriter) and me. I immediately know nothing good can come out of an almost solo meeting. And I was right. Jim tells us that he wants me to redesign the Ergon Asphalt & Emulsions website and he wants Russell to make up the copy and content for it.

Okay, this could be good for me. I need to add some web design to my portfolio. How hard can it be?

I had no idea how hard it could be.

I started with the basics: I did some research on asphalt and emulsions. Let me just tell you that I now know way too much about asphalt and emulsions. I could probably get hired as a salesperson by Ergon and be a damn good one.

Okay, maybe not. But I sure know more than I ever thought I'd ever have to learn being a designer and all... But I'm getting off topic.

After I had half an understanding of asphalt. And emulsions. I started doing research on websites: Great websites. Creative websites. Terrible websites. Simple websites. Dynamic websites. Static Websites. And everything in between. (Trust me, there's more)

Then I did some thumbnails. Lots of them. Those were actually the most fun I had on this project. Those damn thumbnails would be the last enjoyable part of this project that I would see until it was all over.

Jim loved the thumbnails. Everyone does.

After thumbnail approval I got to work on the next-to-the-real deal. The Photoshop version of the three thumbnails I liked the best. I came up with three designs that I thought were decent. Jim saw them one day and said, "Those are very 'Web 2.0.'" Uh oh. He then proceeded to schedule a meeting for us all to discuss the mock-ups. Uh oh.

Hold up! I like these designs! No "uh oh"! They're awesome. I worked hard on them. They can't not like them!

Once again, I was wrong. I'm wrong a lot.

Everyone thought they were okay. Well, for those of you who don't know, "okay" is never okay in a designer's world. "Okay" means "It's a good start." Ugh. I'm becoming an alcoholic.

So I go back to the think tree. I do some more research. What the hell do they want? These were good designs!

This time I play with color. I use basically the same layout since they didn't seem to have too much of a problem with that. Those actually turned out worse than the first ones I presented. I wonder if my next job will pay for my AA meetings.

By now the other intern is actually feeling sorry for me and tries to help me out by telling me how she interpreted their critiques. And it actually makes sense to me.

Finally, something clicks, and I think I understand what they might want this site to be. A construction site! HELLO!! An asphalt site needs to look like a construction site! Geez.

Well, okay. I think I can do this now. I come up with three new Photoshop designs and the first look Shana gives them doesn't say, "You really hate web design, don't you?" Thank the Lord in Heaven!

We both picked the design that looked like a street sign and decide on the colors: Black, grey, and orange (of course). The design still needed a ton of work, but I finally understood what these web design freaks wanted! Everyone wants to hire a web designer, so maybe I could become a design freak too. Maybe...

Anyway, after a few weeks of blood, sweat and tears (literally), I got the design where everyone thought they wanted it. The next step was to build it. With code. From the ground up. And guess who was chosen to do that lovely project!

And that's another story!


Two of the layouts I'm not too ashamed of to show.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Kim Kardashian of Bunnies

After two years of working at Ergon, all the school I could stand and a break up, I was ready to graduate and get on with my life and out of Vicksburg. I wanted a big-girl job with a big-girl apartment. By myself. I was tired of being controlled by the people around me and I was ready to do something for myself.

By the time March of my senior year rolled around, I had in mind that I would meet that goal by no later than May. May 2011. This would mean I'd basically have a job waiting for me when I graduated complete with a two bedroom apartment and would be living for/with no one but myself. An impossible standard for an art major with barely two years of experience who wanted to leave town/the state.

This standard led to the first of many mental break-downs. When I didn't meet that goal, I felt like a complete loser. Why had I worked so hard and spent so much money on a degree if it wouldn't even get me a freaking job?! I kept seeming to forget that I had a job. A great one that was continuing to teach me real-world stuff on a daily basis, which was more than $6,000 a semester had ever taught me. Go figure.

After about two months of feeling like a failure, I talked to Shana my life coach about what my problem was. First, she assured me that it could take a year or even a year and a half for someone to find a job right out of school. And that was when she graduated... I won't go into how long ago that was. Then, she told me to get my ass to work. Sure, my resume was great, but it needed work. My work needed work. Ugh, here we go again. I needed something in my portfolio that would make me stand out from the pack. So, I got a stiff drink and got to thinking. Again.

A couple of days later, Shana walks skips out of her office with a huge smile on her face. "Why don't you do a celebrity branding campaign for Poe?!" (Poe is my pet rabbit.) At first I was weary about how that would even begin to work, but as we talked more about it - she could be the Kim Kardashian of bunnies (Kim K is apparently more likeable than Paris - or at least she was before that divorce), rich, famous for being famous (minus sex tape) and all that good stuff. So I think about it (we do a lot of that) and come up with a bio for Poe that I can draw inspiration from. I give Poe a logo that Shana immediately approves. Since I'd never gotten Shana's immediate approval on anything before, that pumped me up. This could actually be something good!

So what now?

A magazine cover.

Okay. Well in order to design a magazine cover for Poe to be caught on the cover of, I needed a name and logo for that magazine. Geez. This seemed like a lot of thinking (my brain is going to think itself to death), but it actually came pretty quickly. Probably because I was still hyped up from getting Poe's logo perfect on the first try. The magazine would be called the "Nibbler." Duh!

The magazine design actually took two tries to get right. This was still better than normal. Maybe I was starting to the hang of this design thing... Well, let's not get ahead of ourselves. The first try looked like a tabloid magazine. I decided I wanted Poe to be classy, so I tried again and used mags like Vogue and Glamour as inspiration. The final product, after a couple of minor changes, turned out great. Poe was on her way to stardom, and I was on my way to doing/thinking/designing things for myself.

This was the first project I really felt proud of. I did a lot of it on my own with minimal direction from anyone else. And I know what you're thinking, "Um, how was that minimal direction?" Trust me. It was. I took Shana's advice and ran with it. I interpreted it on my own and she critiqued what I came up with, which were usually minor changes.

When we looked back on this project, we realized how far I'd actually come from where I was when I'd started at Ergon. And it has only gotten better since then. Mental break-down aside, I was glad I'd stayed at Ergon past my goal of May 2011. This project helped develop one of my answers to those questions at interviews about my strong points: ability to take direction well.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Birth of a Resume

Mississippi College taught me that if you keep going to school and keep passing those classes they make you go to, the time for you to graduate will eventually come around whether you like it or not. After about two years working at Ergon, I made it to my last semester of school. This semester involved a class called Portfolio II. It was an entire semester dedicated to driving design students insane. Oh yeah, and getting our portfolios together to be graded at the end of the semester. I should mention that they were to be graded by people who worked in the Jackson area as graphic designers. People who had never seen us or our work before. Ever.

Well, thanks to Ergon, my body of work was decent. I got Shana and my boss to look it over. They suggested small changes to a few of the pieces and we decided they would pass. However, I needed to come up with an identity that would define me and my work. Namely: my resume. It would be the first piece of artwork a future employer would see. It needed to be great. It needed to be different. It needed to catch an art director's attention. It needed to get me an interview. I needed a drink.

I had no idea where to start on this. So I literally started by doing a Google search on "creative resumes". Yes. Seriously. The best Google could come up with were some decent-looking Word documents, so I figured that'd be good enough. They still looked professional enough to be resumes, yet they had a little kick to them. Their formats made them just interesting enough to read.

Well, as you may have guessed, what I came up with based on that Google search was not good enough for Shana. I'm surprised she didn't just laugh me out of her office. It sucked. I had to go back to the drawing board. Actually Shana calls it the "think tree." Don't ask. 

After she ripped my first resume to pieces, I entered a minor state of depression. I thought this resume should be good enough, so I'm going to apply for some jobs with it anyway. I'll show her.

No luck.

So I do some more thinking. Then it hit me. I want to leave Mississippi, this job could be my ticket out of Mississippi! So why not design a ticket?! Hello! That idea had been slapping me in the face for two years, but it took all that thinking and brain power to actually see it. I needed another drink.

So I got my portfolio together, which included the new resume (that did not actually look like a resume at all) and brought it before the panel of judges that would decide whether or not I had just wasted five years of my life. 

They loved my work. They said I could even afford to be picky about where I applied for jobs because my work was so good. One guy did not care for my resume (figures) because he preferred more "traditional" ones. I told him that a resume was the first piece of art an employer sees when hiring a creative, so why not make it an actual piece of art?! He didn't get it.

I walked out of that room feeling great about myself. But that only lasted till we got our grades back. I got a C.

A C?! Are you kidding me? A C because my resume was not "professional."

Those jerks. Couldn't say it to my face?! 

Well, it didn't matter. I wasn't about to change it. And I was glad I didn't. The first interview I went to was at the Cirlot Agency. I was interviewed by the owner who told me that my resume was the reason I got that interview. I believe her exact words were, "Way to break away from the pack."

HA!! Those jerks! A C! My foot!

Don't tell me what I can't do!