Rules of the Reluctant Business Traveler

This January 2012 kicks off my first business trip since May 2010. Travelling for work always brings back memories of my first business trip when  I thought, “I get to stay in a cool hotel and eat delicious food. This is going to be GREAT!”

To say the least, I was ill-prepared for my first business trip, but after standing on concrete for ten hours and being nice to hundreds of strangers on my first day out of the office, I felt like I’d been punched in the face. I realized that while the flight, hotel, and meals were paid for by the company, I still had to EARN that shit.

My next thought was, “Traveling for work blows.” I maintain that thought to this day; however, over the past five years I’ve built-in eight general rules to help with my survival.

1. Bring an arsenal of toiletries, extra underwear, breath mints, chapstick, and travel/hotel itineraries in your carry-on. If at all possible, don’t check a bag at all.

2. Keep caffeine to a minimum on your travel days. Being jittery on a plane is not fun and coffee will dry out your skin like mad. No alcohol either. This is not spring break 2003.

3. For the love of god, do not touch your eyes when you’re traveling or while you’re glad-handing in a conference center. You have no idea what might be on your fingertips after you just shook that sketchy guy’s hand. Next thing you know you’ll be in a San Diego ER with a dilated pupil and a bloody nose due to possible “drug residue”.

4. Related rule, wash your hands…a lot.

5. Wear comfortable slip-on shoes at the airport and never wear heels because you will have to run to a gate at some point. Also, high heels are so incredibly dumb (just ask any podiatrist).

6. Three words: TWO DRINK MAXIMUM. Just because someone gives you a fistful of free drink tickets does not mean you need to use all of them before dinner. You will get hammered and fall.

7. Take a moment to gather yourself if needed. When faced with a daunting task or an onslaught of potential customers to woo, it’s okay to step back and take a quick break to refresh.

8. Airborne. Take it.

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A Little Victory

Last Friday afternoon, I sat in an uncomfortably short chair, holding onto its arms like I was preparing to be ejected.  All I could think was, “This is not my life.” This was my mother’s first counseling session. I was surprised that she went and I was even more surprised by how she acted when the office door shut. I’d been preparing myself for this counseling session for the past few weeks, knowing that she would be reluctant and even defensive about seeing a therapist.

Over the past 30 years, I’ve witnessed events that range from bizarre (anyone want to know how our barn started on fire?) to violent and most of those events have had my mother at the center. Furthermore, these events were something I was told never EVER to talk about. Growing up in a tiny microcosm allowed for gossip to fly across town at the speed of sound itself. 

In that afternoon’s counseling session, much to my surprise, her public persona fell away and her true behavior revealed itself. Years of anxiety, depression, and paranoia filled the dimly lit office. As she spoke, I wondered why I hadn’t done this earlier and why mental illness has to have such a stigma. 

To me, this was a victory, though not in an epic sense.

Instead, it was simply a turn in the right direction and hopefully, I’ll have a mom again someday.

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Holy crap, I’m engaged!

A LOT has happened over the past couple of months. The biggest news is that McFad and I have decided to get married!

We’re already trying to do this thing our way without worrying about the annoying “should’s” that the Wedding Industry projects upon young couples.

Think small Autumn Iowa wedding with wonderful food, drinks, and maybe a little Elaine dancing from the bride.


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Remember this reading list?

Today, all of a sudden, I remembered that I had once created a reading list for 2010 and I began to wonder how many of the books on said list I’d actually read. I’ll definitely revise this for 2012.

1. White is for Witching – Helen Oyeyemi (CW highly recommended this one)-

Note from 2011 me: I’m sorry CW.

2. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen (This book has been sitting in my bookshelf for most of my adult life. 2010 will be the year I read it.)

Note from 2011 me: Jane Austin is BOOOOOOOORING. I would’ve been happier if the heroines ditched the guys all together and started their own radical ladies-only commune.

3. Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression – Studs Terkel (I borrowed this one from my economist friend about a year ago. I’m guessing she wants it back.)

Note from 2011 me: I finished this one, but I also I spilled soup all over it. CE never got her book back. However, I did buy her a new copy because I’m not an animal.

4. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain (I’m not sure how I escaped middle school without reading this one.)

Note from 2011 me: Well, shit. Didn’t read it.

5. The Blind Assassin – Margaret Atwood (A favorite book of one of my Denver Publishing Institute friends. My other DPI friend loathes it. I must enter the conversation) 

Note from 2011 me: What the f&$@ is wrong with this novel? I made it through the first few chapters and I just couldn’t engage with it.

6. The Art of Mexican Cooking – Diana Kennedy (Yes, I read cookbooks. After hearing an interview with Kennedy on “The Splendid Table”, I can’t wait to read her cookbook!)

Note from 2011 me: Thanks to McFad’s grandpa, I now own this book. The recipes are complicated as hell and look delicious. I have yet to make anything from it, mostly because I don’t have a lot of ham hocks and corn husks sitting around.

7. Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie (Again, I’ve been putting off this one off for years)

Note from 2011 me: Still putting this one off.

8. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens (Ditto)

Note from 2011 me: Still ditto.

9. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – J.K. Rowling (This one has been on my list since I was schooled by the English Department Chair’s children a few years ago. Afterwards, they asked me “Are you really smart enough to finish your master’s degree?” Thanks, boys. I’ll read this, but I will never be able to answer your math story problem flashcards. NEVER.)

Note from 2011 me: I’m pretty proud of this one! I’ve read the whole series and seen the entire movie series (last two in IMAX-3D…woot woot!).

10. Ulysses – James Joyce (I won’t lie. I’m still intimidated by Joyce. I’ve read parts of this, but never all the way through)

Note from 2011 me: Made it to page 3 and yelled, “What do you have to prove, Joyce?!”

11. Let the Great World Spin – Colum McCann (Amazon e-mails me this book as suggested reading CONSTANTLY.)

Note from 2011 me: Amazon no longer recommends this; therefore, I refuse to read it.

12. My Last Supper: 50 Great Chefs and Their Final Meals – Melanie Dunea (Features an almost-naked Anthony Bourdain. This makes it a must read for me)

Note from 2011 me: Hell. Yes. I read this and loved the photos.

 13. War Dances – Sherman Alexie (He can be a little preachy, but I still love his writing)

Note from 2011 me: Sorry, Shermie, I haven’t read you yet.

14. Lights on a Ground of Darkness – Ted Kooser (Kooser’s work appeals to my midwestern-growing-up-in-a-shack-in-the-middle-of-nowhere-on-the-prairie roots. I read everything he writes)

Note from 2011 me: Absolutely beautiful!

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A Blog with the Blahs

After perusing some blogs by hip ladies (check out a blog I found while looking for scarf patterns: On the Wings of a Dove), I fear that I’ve let my blog go blah. Blogsite, prepare for a makeover!! Autumn is the time of year when I feel like I need to make everything cozy and organized. Last year, McFad and I were in the process of moving to the Chicago ‘burbs, so my ritual cleansing didn’t happen. So, this time it will be a doozy! Blogs and closet space will not be spared!

On a slightly different note, check out the Downers Grove foliage. It doesn’t hold a candle to Dubuque’s colors, but it’ll do for now.

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Where The Suburban Sidewalk Ends

Sidewalks aren't meant for walking around here.

Soon we will be celebrating one year in the Chicago suburbs. When I moved here, I was really hoping that I would grow to like the area. Though that hasn’t quite happened, I am learning that I need to be more proactive and take my destiny by the balls…or the ovaries…depending on one’s perspective.

I hope to change my surroundings soon, but McFad and I are still going strong, still having fun, and still learning. We just really miss our Dubuque friends!

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As I write this Labor Day, I am aghast at how long it’s been since I’ve visited my blog. I am also incredibly relieved that summer has pretty much passed. Being a pale, moderate weather loving woman with summer allergies, I am usually forced to spend much of late-May through August indoors.

That pretty much blows.

At least I had plenty to do this summer. I managed to teach a course; work myself silly; travel to St. Louis, Boston, Spearfish, Michigan with the DPI ladies; and plant a garden. The course went well, but the garden only yielded giant zucchinis, a couple tomatoes, and a shitload of weeds. McFad and I are so ashamed of the garden plot that we’re planning on visiting it in the cover of nightfall next time. It’s been about a month since the last time we checked it out, so I am sure our neighbors aren’t exactly pleased with us.

And this brings me to the title of this post. I stepped on the scale for the first time since April today, and lo and behold, I am back to 163 pounds. This is a familiar weight for me. Whenever I stop exercising regularly and start eating want I want, this is where my body wants to hover. My stout broad-shouldered German/Polish genes have kicked in as the extra pudge has gathered around my upper arms, belly, and thighs. Early in my twenties, I would have freaked out at this news. Now, I kind of shrug and understand that I have accomplished a helluva lot this summer and a little weight gain isn’t the worst thing in the world. I will eat a little better, exercise more, and enjoy my favorite season of the year. It’s all good.

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