Friday, August 29, 2014

How the Media Was Dumb

I went through a long period of my life where I did not watch the news or read the newspaper.  I was embarrassingly uninformed.  When I started to get interested in the news again, my main source was from the internet.  I would scan my local newspapers and read the articles that were of interest to me.  I can say that I probably had not watched the news for a good 5 years. 

As I began my maternity leave, I started to watch a lot of television.  And finally I was home and awake in the mornings, so I wanted to start my day off with a dose of what is happening in the world.  I tuned into the morning news show that I grew up watching, Good Morning America.  If you asked me in one word to describe that news program today it would be: dogshit.

I tried out every morning news program and they were all the same.  They were chock full of stupid, insipid, candy-ass content and for maybe 30 seconds they'd tell us about some fighting going on in the Middle East.  There was not one ounce of quality news reporting going on in those morning programs.  Watching those shows really got me thinking about the dumbing down of American media.

Then a few weeks ago, I listened to a wonderful program on NPR's The Diane Rehm Show.  The program was titled Judging the Credibility of News in the Digital Age.  It's definitely worth a listen if you have the time.  The takeaway from the program was that we really need to be careful about where we are getting our news from and whether it is accurate reporting.  Because today we can get "news" from anywhere, but we don't necessarily know the value of that news.  Was it fact-checked?  Who are the sources?  Was the story typed out by a unicorn in Westeros?  In the digital age, we can never be sure.

One of the most fascinating statements made on a show was by a journalist who was providing commentary.  She stated that in the last few years her most fact-checked story was a story that she wrote for O Magazine.  Do you get your hard, important news from O Magazine?  The journalist said this was a stark contrast from years prior when journalists had to back-up everything in painful detail.  But, now, in the digital age, we don't always have that luxury.  People can upload a photo to Twitter or Instagram in a second and *BOOM* it goes viral and they have scooped the  newspapers.  But no one fact checks that shit.  No one.

I've been thinking more and more about this in light of the story out of Ferguson, Missouri.  At work, during a criminal jury trial, one of the questions that is always asked of the jurors is: Have you had experiences with the police that make you unable to fairly weigh the testimony of a police officer?  In other words, do you hate the police because of a past experience or love them because of a past experience.  What we are looking for is a neutral juror.  A juror who can hear the testimony of a police officer and judge the credibility without allowing their past experiences to cloud their judgment. 

I would say the media is not a neutral juror when it comes to the police.  I would say the media loves to tell us shocking stories.  And it's more shocking to be stating that "police shoot unarmed man" than it is to say "we don't have all of the facts and are going to reserve judgment at this time." 

I miss those days in the media when we could really rely on what we were reading and seeing.  I miss hearing sweet Peter Jenning's voice tell me about what is going on in the world.  That might be less about the state of the media today and more about how much I loved Peter Jennings.  Ultimately I just miss having good news programs to keep me informed about the world and my community.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Wedding Color Story

Photo Credit: Erica Loeks Photography
I got married kind of a long time ago.  But I still love poring over photos of weddings, especially photos of my own wedding.  One of my favorite parts of planning my wedding was choosing a color scheme.  I had a lot of different ideas floating around in my head ranging everywhere from all white to all black to everything in between.  Then one night I had a full vision: bright green and royal blue.  A week or so after my vision, Emerald green was named Pantone's color of the year.

Because I was going with such bold colors, I knew that the reception could get tricky.  How do you use  the colors without overusing the colors.  Here's where I think it's crucial to work with a wedding planner.  Wedding planners have seen it all, and they have a great knack for reigning in the crazy.  I had a fabulous wedding planner, Stephanie Johnson of Park Place Planning, who helped me see my vision without overdoing it.  I cried a lot on my wedding day, but I have to say that walking into the reception ballroom took my breath away.  It was months worth of effort and agonizing over every single decision.  When I walked into that room I saw my very vision come to life.  It was one of my favorite moments of my wedding day.

Photo: My Own
Flowers: La Petite Fleur
There were two areas of wedding planning where I really wanted to see my vision shine through: the flowers and the linens.  I am lucky enough to be friends with an amazingly talented florist, Carra Otten of La Petite Fleur.  The flowers were actually easy because I went into a meeting with Carra, told her my color scheme, told her I like sequins and shiny things, and asked her to work her magic.

Photo Credit: Erica Loeks Photography
Flowers: La Petite Fleur
The flowers were nothing short of perfection.

Having nice linens at your wedding is worth it.  It ties everything together.  I went back and forth on where I should spend my money and where I should add color.  I have one major tip for spending money on linens.  I wasn't going to do chair covers at first.  I talked to multiple people who work in the wedding industry and the answer was emphatically and unanimously the same: chair covers are a must. They can get expensive, but weddings are expensive.  And nothing can ruin all of your hard work in decorating than a gold and teal chair clashing with your pink and white color scheme.  For the love of Pete, people, use chair covers.  Or don't, whatever, it's your wedding.

I went with chair covers, and I never looked back.  In the end I chose a kelly green tablecloth for all of the round tables, white chair covers with royal blue sashes, and royal blue napkins.  Then for the head table, I decided on an all white look.  White cloths, white chair covers, and white sashes.  I think it turned out sensational.

I know this look is not everyone's cup of tea.  It's definitely bold, but that was what I wanted.  I loved the brightness and the clean lines and thought it was the perfect mix of preppy and modern.  Speaking of modern, when I was at the linen rental showroom shopping for linens, I stumbled upon these clear, acrylic candelabras that I could not live without.  We used three of them on the head table and they literally made my entire night.  Every time I see photos of them I talk about buying one for my home.
Photo Credit: Erica Loeks Photography
If you want to plan a colorful wedding, I say go bold or go home.  I also say hire a wedding planner because nothing is worse than decor that is ugly because someone took the expression go bold or go home literally.

I leave you with one last image of how color can really beautify a wedding.
Photo Credit: Erica Loeks Photography

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

What Does the Pump Say?

Before having a baby, I knew one thing for certain.  I was not going to breastfeed.  Save me your speeches on why breast is best.  I don't care.  While I wasn't going to breastfeed, I was all for pumping.  Once I was pregnant, my decision was set.  I would pump out gallons of milk and my child would be fed breast milk until she was six months.  Life had other plans for me.

First, right after I had my baby I was told to try breastfeeding.  I was too tired to argue and had a sudden change of heart.  Why not just try it?  Try it I did...and failed.  I ended up having a c-section and no matter what anyone tells you there is absolutely no comfortable breastfeeding position after a c-section.  They all cause pain and discomfort.  But every few hours I would try and wind up crying and frustrated.  Multiple times I asked for a lactation nurse to come in and help.  She never came.  Then I started asking to pump.  This request was quickly granted. 

This was how I became a pumper.  Although this post isn't actually about breastfeeding or pumping.  It's about how getting very little sleep does strange things to your mind.

When we left the hospital, pump in hand, I had no idea how weird the act of pumping was.  But it's really weird.  If I was lucky and no one but my husband was in our house, I could pump in front of the TV and watch Southern Charm.  That was my favorite.  If I was unlucky, I'd have to sit alone in a darkened room bawling out my post-pardum tears while my child cried in another room.  It's as awful as it sounds.

When I first tried pumping, I couldn't help but marvel at the odd sounds the machine made.  It was loud and rhythmic.  It almost had a certain melody to it.  I quickly noticed there were two distinct noises.  There was an initial noise that was made up of longer, drawn out notes, followed by a second noise that was short and staccato.  These noises haunted me because I felt like they were saying something. 

Then one day in a sleepy stupor, I heard the pump speaking to me.  At first it was saying "Grab hold! Grab hold! Grab hold! Grab hold!"  Then after the letdown it appeared to say "Pump! Pump! Pump! Pump!"  I thought I was going nuts.  I asked my husband if I was losing my mind, or if he could hear the words as well.  The concerned look on his face let me know he thought I was crazy but was too sweet to say it to my face.  I love that guy.

For days I would sit with my pump hearing these words: Grab hold! Pump!  Then some days I would hear different words.  One pumping session I disturbingly heard the words Grandpa! and Mom!  I googled it multiple times to see if other women heard these words being spewed from their breast pumps, but to no avail.  I was the only nut who swore her breast pump spoke. 

Once I started sleeping a little more, the words went away.  I realized that the noises were just the mechanical iterations of air being sucked through a tube.  It made pumping that much more lonely. 

Those first few weeks of sleepless days and nights with a newborn are no joke.

An Aside: Alternative title post: "This is What it Sounds Like When Pumps Cry"

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tights Can Be Tricky

A few years ago, I was fresh out of law school and had just passed the bar exam. I was also unemployed. On top of all of that, my grandma had been sick and in the hospital for a couple of weeks. It wasn't the best time of my life.

I had gone on a few job interviews but really wanted to spruce up my resume. I promptly made an appointment with my law school's career counselor. It was set early on a Wednesday morning. Long story short, I ended up at the hospital with my grandma into the wee hours of that Wednesday morning. I went back home, got a couple hours of shut eye, and then had to get up and go to my career meeting. I was stressed, tired, and frazzled. Not the best combination, but I needed the help with my resume and decided that I should keep the meeting.

As I was getting ready, I realized that I was almost totally out of black tights. It was freezing cold out, but my most professional looking suit was a skirt suit. I was too tired to find a pants option, so I decided to just pull out a pair of tights, throw on the suit, and go with it. Because what could go wrong?

After getting dressed, I hopped into my car and drove the 20 minutes to my law school. The law school that I went to is in the city and has limited parking. The best parking options are on the street, but you are lucky to get a parking spot that is less than a 5-minute walk. At -20 degrees, even a 5-minute walk can be brutal.

It was a particularly cool and windy morning, so I decided to drive around the blocks a few times to see if I could manage to snag a spot close to the school's main entrance. As my terrible luck would have it, the closest I could get was four whole blocks away. I expertly parallel parked my car and braved the elements for my walk into school.

Here's where the story gets a little interesting. As I begin walking towards school, I begin to feel the top of my tights creep down my stomach. It was just a little slip and slide but definitely noticeable. The faster I walked, the more I noticed the tights slipping around. Damn, I thought. I must have grabbed a pair of tights where the elastic at the top was wearing out. I made a mental note to stop in the restroom before my meeting to readjust myself.

As I got closer to the school, I was getting panicked about my tight situation. They were no longer on my stomach, and they weren't even covering my belly button. Nope. The only thing that was holding up these tights was my rear end. But my gluteus was proving to be no match for the slippery nylon as I could feel the tights moving down my rump.

Luckily I was extremely close to the school entrance, and there was a restroom right inside the front door. I ran a few steps and dashed into the restroom. As I got into a stall, I assessed my situation. The tights weren't as far down my butt as I had originally thought, but the elastic was completely gone from the top. At first I thought about ditching the tights, but it had been a few days since my last leg shave. As long as I could get through the meeting I thought I'd be fine. And the tights weren't going to fall off while I was sitting down.

I made it through my meeting just fine. My resume was polished up and shiny as a whistle. I was feeling empowered and ready to attack my job search with gusto. But first, I needed to once again brave the cold Minnesota air and get to my car.

I walked the first block without noticing much movement from the tights. Everything seemed kosher. I can totally make this, I thought. The second block proved more difficult as I could feel the tights moving. At this point, they were basically riding right along the largest peak of my ass. I thought if I walked with my butt sticking way out, then maybe the tights would stay where the were. Gravity, right?

Wrong. At the start of the third block I could see my car pretty far in the distance and my tights were no longer around my ass. They were hitting at my upper thighs and had a mind of their own. These tights wanted off my body. I spread my legs out real wide and started walking like one of those green army men from Toy Story. I was definitely attracting some attention from passing cars, bikers, and those crazy St. Paulites who love to walk in the winter.

But I was so close to my car, I just couldn't give up. And even if I wanted to give up…where would I go. I couldn't just take my tights off in the middle of the street. No, my only option was to make it to my car.

My wide-legged walk worked for about half of the third block. By the second half, the tights had beaten my walking game and were now inching down my thighs with each step. It was getting embarrassing. My skirt was about an inch above my knee, so by my calculations I only had another inch before the top band of my tights was actually below my skirt line.

To make matters worse there were two women walking towards me with a dog. They were going to see all of my embarrassment. Then I turned around and a couple blocks back I saw a guy jogging towards me. Great. An audience just when I need it most.

With my tights just an inch above my skirt line, I make a crucial decision to start running towards my car like a maniac. I figured that maybe my speed could beat the tights' speed. So, I run. In 3-inch heels and a tight skirt. It wasn't pretty. By the end of the third block, my tights are around my knees. I am just a couple of feet from the ladies with the dog, a few feet from the jogger, and many more feet to my car. But I keep running. I was committed.

As I start up the fourth block, there was no denying what had happened. My tights were now around my ankles like shackles holding my feet together. I couldn't really run in full strides due to the tightness of my skirt, the height of my heels, and now the tights around my ankles. The ladies with the dog stopped to gape. I think they thought I had been attacked. The jogging man slowed down as he passed me and asked if I needed help? Sir, I thought, I'm an unemployed law school graduate who is standing on the sidewalk in the middle of winter with her tights around her ankles. So, yes, clearly I could use some assistance.

I stopped running when I was about two car lengths away from my vehicle. I slowly walked the rest of the way, all of that vim and vigor from my meeting completely washed out of me. This is an important lesson for a woman in the workplace: always check your tight bands for elasticity.

Things I Don't Understand: Blogs

I read a lot of blogs.  A LOT.  I actually would consider myself a fine analyst of blogs.  I'd brag about it, but it actually is not an amazing feat.  Bloggers tend to be pretty transparent.  I have a laundry list of things that I do not understand about blogs.  Allow me to share a few with you:

  • Unoriginality.  I am going to rant about this.  I would say 85% of the blogs out there are completely unoriginal.  Go through your blogroll (if you have one) and count how many blogs mention the word "pumpkin" today.  And in a week, note how many talk about those GD Pumpkin Spice Lattes.  Just do it.  I totally dare you.  Because it's a lot, and it's totally boring.  Also, remember the bubble necklaces.  They all had one and yet for months after J Crew's bubble necklaces became popular people were still wearing them in every outfit photo and talking about where they got the latest knock off.  It's like we get it already!  One blogger starts to mention something they like, and the rest glom onto it like little zombies until they suck all of the life out of that particular item.  The next big thing is the Kendra Scott necklace.  I don't even have to look up which necklace I'm talking about because you all know.  You've seen it on 40 different blogs already.  Here's a tip bloggers, be original. 
  • Giveaways.  I don't understand how some of these blogs have so much etsy crap to giveaway.  Are these people from etsy contacting them?  Do they even test out the products?  Or are bloggers so excited about getting free stuff that they will put any product on their blog to giveaway.  Because I will be honest and tell you that there have been giveaways that I would not sign up for if you paid me.  I mean, honestly, where do they find some of this crap? 
  • Always Positive Sponsored Posts.  I don't have a problem with sponsored posts.  If a company wants to send you their product to test out, and you end up loving it, go ahead and blog about it.  I have actually gotten some of the best product recommendations from blogs.  But when you are posting more than once a week with a sponsored post using totally generic positive phrases to tell me how great the products that you received for free were, you become inauthentic.  It's kind of gross.  And I would pay someone to have a sponsored post where they said that the product was pretty average.  For instance, I recently saw blogs talking about how great and amazing some brand of paper towels were.  They said they used them "all the time."  First, snoozeville.  Second, were they really that much better than any other paper towel?  In the hierarchy of paper towels, is any 3-ply paper towel really better than the next?  Or does a paper towel really clean up a spill better than a plain, old dish cloth? 
  • Recipes.  I love a good food blog.  Getting recipes from blogs is actually the number one thing I love about blogs.  But I will tell you what I cannot stand, blogs that give you a recipe that isn't actually a recipe.  For instance, everyone in the world knows that if you take a vegetable and toss it with some oil, salt, and maybe a little pepper, you will have a roasted vegetable.  That's not a recipe.  That's just what I do in the kitchen everyday.  How dumbed down can we get?  I also love a sandwich recipe that tells me to buy ingredients and put them on bread.  Or they get really fancy and tell me to put it in a tortilla wrap.  WOW!  What a completely sucky recipe. 
I could go on and on.  I love blogs, but I also love to hate them.