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