Hilarious Things Seen and Overheard at the Sushi Bar

I think I've been a closet or wannabe Sociologist for a long time.  It's fascinating observing behavior around me and our interactions with one another.  But never enough to make it a college major or possible career.  Just enough to observe, get inspired, amused, or perhaps a bit shocked depending...just making notes on the virtual clipboard in my head.

And last night on Friday there was no shortage of juicy goodness.  Ever sit right next to two people on a first date?

I met my good friend T for sushi and drinks last night as a belated birthday celebration.  Hell, I love dragging out my birthday fun...any time to celebrate between Mother's Day and Memorial Day is fair game.  

Picture this:  T and I are at the sushi bar on the end of a row of seats.  Right around the corner from us are the two people on a first date.  And oh boy I felt sorry for the woman - she was clearly mortified with him.  Body language never lies!  And it screams!  He was the longish-bang'd, cocky and somewhat oily type. She meanwhile is trying to be polite and not roll her eyes except on the inside.  Does Cher have a niece?  This woman would be a dead ringer for her.  Meanwhile, the guy would not shut up or ask her any questions!  When he turned to chat with the guy sitting on the other side of him she immediately whipped out her phone and started texting...probably calling the girls for backup, ha!  Can't blame her.  UGH.  Haven't we all been there one time or another?     

While T and I are enjoying sashimi, wine, chatting with the sushi chef whom we know fairly well (and doing some major catching up on life amongst ourselves), the dude around the corner is nuzzling his date and whispering in her ear about things, much to her chagrin.  He pulls away and chats again with the guy on the other side of him and I hear something like,  "...there's an Angel on my left."  I'm thinking, Dude, there won't be for long the way you're acting. 

Let me sidestep and give some random advice to any guys out there about things NOT to say on a first date. 

Gentlemen, DO NOT say things on first dates such as:
- "...restraining order..." 
- "The judge told my first wife that..."
- "One of my psychiatrists told me to..."

Just trust me on this one.

I really would love to go into more detail about all of this (T and I were both fascinated with those two but didn't want to seem eavesdrop-y) so we stuck to our conversation and our incredible sushi. Good Lord, I swear the mention of "sushi" brings a Pavlovian response within me; wipe the drool from my chin!  Sashimi (raw fish)?  Bring it OWHNNN...as long as it's the superior stuff.  And this place has it.  Oh and some extra wasabi please.

So here we are with a 3-day weekend already!  Had to laugh as this was the first full week of the new job, so I've only been back at it 8 days and already it's Memorial Day!  I'm nowhere near feeling burnt out or ready for a long weekend obviously but it's here so I'll take it.  Might be a long haul till 4th of July depending on how intense things get.  The biggest thing for me right now is getting used to getting up earlier than I did when I wasn't working, forcing myself to eat something first thing to tie me over till lunch, commuting and trying to absorb all the information coming at me at warp speed.  Names, roles, key dates/milestones and building floorplans.  And chowing down an enormous bowl of "alphabet soup."  Meaning, learning a buttload of acronyms!

As I've written earlier, I've worked at this same large company before but in a different business unit and different campus location.  There are a lot of underlying similarities and yet the work is different.  How would I describe this feeling to my friends or new co-workers?  One day - BAM.  It dawned on me:

I've moved in with my "Cousins" !!  That's it!

I even tried out that saying on a few people and they seemed to nod or light up and get what I meant!  There's the underlying foundation and bond of family and familiarity, but other nuances, practices and habits are different.  Ta daaaa! 

The highlight of the workweek was getting invited out to lunch with 6 or 7 of my new co-workers who I've met either through meetings or general introductions.  I felt very flattered to be asked to join them for lunch as I'm not always sure as the new person how quickly I'll be embraced or included.  And that's no biggy, really.  I just rely on eating lunch on my own or with an office mate until I get to know people better.

But going out to eat and socializing is one of my favorite things to do (this is deep deep DEEP in my bones I've learned) and I think, frankly, it's an area where I truly shine.  I love conversation, small talk, laughter and shit-flinging (meaning, teasing, not in the literal sense, heh). And it's fun in this ramping-up mode with people who I sort of know professionally, at least after a couple of meetings, but haven't yet seen in a social setting outside of work. I'm not yet aware of all the politics and other pressures in this team. They're there but I'll learn them in time.

We hit the British Pantry in Redmond (actually the Three Lions Pub right next door). And DAYUM I must have been craving some serious Iron or protein because I ordered a burger with Stilton cheese and pretty much inhaled it.  Red onions and all.  No meetings in the afternoon so onions are fair game! Otherwise, forget it.  And I learned what "HP" sauce is.  If A-1 steak sauce and Worcestershire sauce had a love child it would be HP (House of Parliament) sauce. YUM.  It has a great kick and is a nice change of pace from ketchup.  And boy did we whoop it up at lunch with some laughs.  I felt so happy to have this chance to eat out and have some time off campus with my new co-workers and give them a chance to get to know me a little better too.

I'm realizing one of the things I'd really been missing these past months unemployed is the general social interaction of being at work around people, working together, lunch or coffee breaks, all of that great stuff.  Maybe this new work assignment will be an opportunity to re-nourish that part of my soul. Eating solo and at home gets old and depressing.  And eating out is somewhat of a luxury when you're on a tight budget.

We're in typical soggy/drizzly late spring-early summer weather around here.  My good friend J and I were thinking about going to the Zoo this weekend but then thought that wouldn't be very fun if it was raining. So we decided on the Aquarium - a first for her and a new visit for me after 10 or 15 years I'm guessing.  It was GREAT being in the city and out on the waterfront especially.  And kind of fun doing something "touristy" in your hometown. Thank you, rain, for not showing up! 

When you live and work in the suburbs it's easy to forget the energy and faster pace of the city.  And I admit, I miss it.  I haven't worked downtown since 1997 and don't get into the city as much as I'd like save for a handful of times a year with a group of women I meet with for lunch and shopping.  Come to think of it, 1997 is the year I moved from the city to the suburbs too.  The company I was working for at the time moved from downtown to the suburbs.  And while I loved where I lived at the time in the city (a somewhat dumpy apartment but with a kickass view), I knew the commute to the suburbs would be insane.  So, I made the big move to the 'burbs and here I am still 13 years later.  I sometimes wonder what would have happened had that company not moved.  Would I have stayed in the city and eventually bought some killer condo or townhouse?  Or would I continue renting?  

It's fun being back downtown trying to remember buildings and street names as well as discovering what's new.  Sometimes I have flashbacks and feel like I'm 25 again...I'll see a favorite restaurant where the work gang loved to grab lunch or a watering hole for happy hour on Fridays.  And then I realize, holy shit, that was way back in 1992?  1994?  That's not so recent anymore.  When I reminisce about these things with friends am I dating myself? Probably.

J and I had a great time hanging out, wandering around in the Aquarium and just laughing.  One of the things I really like about J is we're both pretty easy going.  We don't need rigid plans on where we're going or what we're going to do or when and just make it up as we go.  [I'm very punctual and schedule-driven at work, but off the clock I'm devil-may-care with my watch and calendar.]  She and I both love just diving into things we've never done before or just trying a restaurant on a whim.  And we crack eachother up with our senses of humor!  One time I asked, jokingly, "...can we take this act on the road and make money?"  Hmmm, probably not.  We think people would probably just glaze over and think what in Sam Hill are those two laughing about?

We grabbed lunch at Elliott's and enjoyed the view of the ferry boats, the Port, people watching...I had a cup of chowder and incredible salmon and pesto sliders.  And once again, I inhaled my food. Delicious. When in the world did I start eating so fast?  And not feeling full or bloated afterwards?  I wonder if I'm making up for all those months I probably ate like crap (e.g. popcorn for lunch) and I'm slightly malnourished?  Lord knows I'm not going to waste away anytime soon.  Meaning, I don't NEED to be scarfing down burgers with fries, sliders, chowder...oh and, ummm, chocolate ice cream with malted milk balls.  I justified this by skipping dinner, which was easy to do since we ate lunch around 3:00pm.

Yep, time to hit the treadmill.


Don't Name Your Pet Rita...

True confession time here again:  one of my occasional late-night comfort foods is chips and really, really hot chipotle salsa.  Salsa so hot I break into a sweat sometimes.  Ahhh, I love this.  Sometimes I'll add a small blob of sour cream to cut the heat a bit.  Hmmm...is this a reason for my weight gain this past year?  DUH...ya think??

One of the funny after effects of this late night salsa fest is I have really, really strange dreams.  Dreams that make me wake up in the morning already giggling.  And dang I'd love to find a picture to post in here that captures this most recent salsa-induced dream but I just can't so we'll go with the dog and cat this time. 

As is typical with most dreams, I was hovering at a weird angle above the action.  This time it was a whole bunch of pets - mostly dogs, but also some cats, llamas, parrots and ponies.  And they were a mixture of cartoon drawings and "real life" animals too all in a huge crowd.  Ah, the magic of dreams.  And in the background, some man was playing a banjo and singing with a good ol' country twang, "Don't name your pet Rita..." And damn, I wish I could remember the tune and the rest of the chorus now!  It was something about how all the animals in that crowd were already named Rita so don't name your pet Rita because it would be too confusing as there are already too many with that name. 

Are you still with me?  Have I lost any of you out there?  This is one of those times where trying to write and capture a dream is just...well, there's just no way to describe it fully. 

Now.  Lots of you who have been reading my posts these last few months know I've been through a whirlwindy roller coaster being out of work and interviewing, looking, searching so bloody hard for a new job.  And when an offer did pop the start date got delayed over three weeks.  Well, the taunting, torturous delays are now done and yes, I've got my feet under a desk again!  How many of you out there can say you started a new job on your birthday?  Well, I sure can.  And that was the best gift of all no doubt.  Marching onward into 40-something here...oh yeah!!

How would I describe this new gig?  Same place...with a different color of Koolaid.

I'm back at work on a large, corporate campus for a third Tour of Duty.  And I'm not going to name names or provide hints.  Those of you who know me in real life will know what I'm talking about.  If you've found this blog either on purpose or by accident...well, first of all WELCOME to fivenineteen.  And second, I'm going to keep things generic but hopefully not too bland.  Meaning, the purpose of my writing is not to necessarily praise or bash companies or people by name.

So there's a certain familiarity about being back at work here.  Lots has changed in the years since the last time, but the culture, energy and rhythms are the same.  I'm in a totally different part of the company from a business unit perspective...a distant cousin a few branches away in the ever-changing family tree.  And I'm in a completely different part of the campus location-wise as well.  I had a seven-year stint awhile back where I moved around as many times in as many years as I've probably mentioned before.  But I hadn't worked in or visited this part of the campus...well, save for one time when I'd left my hockey gloves in the locker room at the rink and my team Captain had picked them up.  He worked in this building I'm now in so I dropped by one day to see him and get my gloves.  But that was about six years ago.

And just like before, there's a lot to learn getting acclimated and learning how to navigate the labyrinthian hallways.  No matter where I've worked on this campus, it's taken a few weeks for me to figure out where the hell I am and not look like a lost dumbass trying to quickly get where I need to be.  What is it with the tricky floorplan angles and all?  Did the breakroom magically move since the last time I walked by?  Oh, and be sure to look up when entering a restroom at a building next door...lots of these buildings are in clusters which are mirror images of eachother with their floorplans to make it even more interesting.  I've walked into the mens restroom by accident in one of my past locations here a few years back.  Fortunately that hasn't happened here...yet.

I soak all of this in with a warm smile and giggle.  I know I will get my bearings and everything will jive in time.  I know I will dig in, contribute, collaborate and drive in a style that's uniquely mine and that's taken years to refine...and has never, ever failed me.  I've zoomed in and out of shorter-term engagements many times since my last stint at this company wrapped up nearly 4 years ago.  It's nice having that experience and quiet inner confidence within...my own personal pilot light.

But I'm also impatient and want to learn and understand everything RIGHT NOW.  Or yesterday even!! What can I do to add value RIGHT AWAY?  What are the goals, objectives and expectations of this part of the business?  What's the weather report right now?  Are we in good shape or in hair on fire crisis?  Who are the key people to know?  Who are the drivers, the influencers?  And where are their offices located?  I might need a few extra minutes to find them in case I get lost or turned around, wandering the halls with laptop clutched in hand, ha ha. 

And where's the nearest cafeteria?  One thing I've loved about this company (as well as the one I worked at briefly late last year actually) - the food service is incredible...and subsidized.  You can eat for cheap and there's something for everyone.  I'm also hoping I'll be able to eat more nutritionally now that I'll have access to a wider variety of foods, salad bar, etc.  And hoping this will help with the whole weight loss dealio too. Honestly, when you're at home most of the day and on a very tight budget it's easy to slip into bad habits and not eat well.  Popcorn for lunch is not a good idea on a regular basis!

So, I hold a fresh cup of Koolaid in hand and begin the chug-a-lug yet again. But I'm also feeling road weary and battled.  I'm ready to rock but with a tiny sense of calm...I'm AT WORK AGAIN.  Is it something that could turn into a longer-term engagement or merely a welcomed landing on a steep, twisted flight of stairs?  Who knows.  I'm still getting job leads and even a few interview requests which I will likely dig into if they look promising.  I've learned to never, ever stop networking. 

And I kicked off the weekend with two great friends to not only celebrate my birthday but to celebrate the new job.  Given the past weeks delays, we weren't sure it was going to be a new job start celebration as well, but thankfully it was, with just two days to spare!

I made a vow many months ago I'd be at work on my birthday and the Universe could NOT have cut it any closer.       


The Goat Rodeo and the Clown Shoes - umm, Part Deux

Umm...hi, everyone, it's me again.  Yeah, me, the one who thought she'd be starting the new job on May 17 (check out the previous post if you haven't already done so).

I feel like a starving soul who has crawled through the hot, dry desert for months and has been JUST out of fingertip reach of an Oasis.  And jacked around, lied to, deceived, misled all these recent weeks.

Let's cut to the chase - we need to readjust the new job start dates:

Targetted start date:  April 26
Actual start date:  May 19

Silly, silly me for actually posting a start date before it even happens [but look what I'm doing yet again].  And I'll be a damn fool if it slips again since I'm posting this date two days in advance. 

You know it's bad when you call friends to see how they're doing and the first thing they say when they pick up the phone is "are you at work yet?"  And yes, this happened today.  For if you recall my previous post, I was supposed to be at work today.

Instead, I got sent home after waiting two hours in the lobby while everyone under the sun tried to track down the manager there at CL2.  See my previous posts for the coding on all the factors here.

Fortunately, the manager IS alive and not lying in a ditch somewhere.  But we found out later he'd fallen very, very ill and had been ill for a couple of days.  So, given he apparently had zero backup help in the office he sent me (and one other new person) home.  I can't tell you how unnerving it is to get up, shower, dress, drive to a new work location with adrenaline pumping after ALL THESE WEEKS of waiting for the start date, sit in a lobby and then get sent home after two hours of waiting.  Am I the only one who doesn't see the INCOMPETENCE here??  Please do not misunderstand, as I feel badly when people get sick. 

I have ZERO patience when it comes to not having a back up or wing man at the ready to take care of business when one is out ill.  Or at least not to notify people that you're out - even the building receptionist was at a loss as to what the deal was.  I tell you if I'd ever pull a stunt like that I'd be strung up by my toenails.

I am scraping my personal barrel to find any last ounce of patience that might be lurking in the corners of my being meanwhile.  And I do hope that in time I'll somehow be able to look back at all of this and laugh.  For now, nope - not possible.  And if anyone reads this who knows what I'm talking about I'm not backing down in my raw emotions here.  I think - know - they will cool in time.

So here we are...3 weeks and 3 days (I think) behind schedule.  And how poignant to have the new start date slip - yet again, for hopefully the final time - to May 19.

My Birthday.


The Goat Rodeo and the Clown Shoes

I've become a lot more flexible and adaptable over the years given all I've encountered and experienced.  Things change all the time - maybe like death and taxes it's a constant that's always there.  I've even been evaluated in job performance reviews on how well I handle change..."...stays flexible and adaptable with changing priorities."  Oh hell, I haven't had a performance review in over 4 years but I think that was one of the line items. 

I've also heard sayings, shot through with humor, like "don't get comfortable."  And I lived that out working for one particular company where I probably changed offices seven times in the seven years I worked there, on a large, corporate campus.  There was a good reason for the wheels on those filing cabinets!

And in this most recent search for work I've read countless job descriptions.  It's now pretty commonplace to read/see things about dealing with ambiguity.  "Comfortable with ambiguity."  "Navigates successfully through ambiguity."  Let's face it - as a contract worker, working short-term assignments, you're expected to dive into the deep end of the pool and figure it out - FAST.  And while your manager might have the best of intentions, they may just not have the luxury of time to get you fully oriented.  In my recent experience, "training" is as rare as white tigers.

It's been a long, dry road these past few months.  Other than a very brief 8 weeks in late 2009, I've been out of work since late July.  Yes, July 2009.  I've been very, very diligent networking and interviewing wherever possible, and the spreadsheet I use to log my progress is LONG, people. 

And I've learned quite a bit about staffing and recruiting practices.  Bottom line, they're unpredictable.  How can they not be, given the heavy human element?  We are people, not black and white bits of data.  One of my past work assignments was working on projects within the staffing and recruiting industry, and it was very eye opening getting to peek under the hood and behind the curtain.  While it was a bit shocking learning what's "normal" in that field I am very grateful for the experience as I gained a huge amount of understanding as to why things don't happen consistently. It's helped my tolerance in this recent job search for sure.  I'm not going to go on and on about the details, other than my hat's off to recruiters out there.  I'd have flung myself onto a sword long ago.

So while it's fresh in my mind, I've gotta recap the past few weeks.  Talk about wacky and unbelievable!  Yes, I've been through quite a bit in my day but nothing compares to this.  And as I've written in here before, you can't make this shit up.

Let me set the stage here...we have:
- Company 1 ("C1"), where I worked briefly late last year as a contract worker.  It was a very short assignment as I was actually covering for someone who took an unexpected, emergency family leave. Granted the pay was about half of what I usually make, but after being out of work since late July I figured it would be a great way to get my foot in the door at a very respected, well-established company.
- Recruiter 1 ("R1"), an internal recruiter at C1.
- Company 2 ("C2"), a consulting firm who places people at multiple client engagements. 
- Recruiter 2 ("R2"), a recruiter who works for C2, my point of contact for interviews on behalf of C2.
- Company 3 ("C3"), a company where I worked for about a year a couple of years ago.  I was a full-time permanent employee, but my business unit was RIF'd so it ended up feeling like a contract assignment even though it wasn't.

Targetted new job start date:  April 26.
Actual new job start date:  May 17.

Come with me on this recent goat rodeo...*cough* I mean timeline.

December 30 (2009):  all contract assignments wrap up at C1 (by design). Lots of hugs, smiles and handshakes - a job well done!  Yes, our team sliced through the ambiguity (there's that word again!) and met our deliverables a bit ahead of schedule!

January 1, 2010:  Happy New Year.  Never did I think I'd start off the new decade out of work.

[The next few months are spent nonstop interviewing and networking.  I'll fast forward to the "good part" starting in March.]

March 15: R1 emails me about an opening at C1 (full-time, permanent).
March 17:  Phone interview with the hiring Manager at C1.
March 29:  In-person interview with the hiring Manager at C1 and 3 others.
April 1:  R2 contacts me about a contract assignment with a large client. It's a 6-month backfill for someone taking maternity leave.
April 5:  In-person interview with a manager at CL2 (the client for C2). They want someone to start around 4/19.
April 5:  Contacted R1 and told her about CL2 and asked how the hiring was coming along.  R1 explains they're very early in the interviewing process and likely won't have decisions made by 4/19.
April 8:  R2 advises I didn't get the CL2 gig.  The manager went with the other candidate.
April 8:  R2 schedules another interview with a different manager in a different group at CL2.  This is a year-long engagement.
April 13:  Interviewed in-person with the other manager at CL2.
April 14:  Follow up phone screen with a peer of the manager at CL2 from yesterday's interview.
April 15:  Got a call from R2 - I GOT THE CL2 JOB!! A year-long engagement scheduled to start 4/26.
April 15:  Told R1 I accepted the C2 position at CL2 and that we'd keep in touch - perhaps there will be another time to interview in the future.

Take a deep breath...we're not done yet...

April 16:  My garage door opener dies.  Thankfully I was able to flag down a neighbor to hold the door open while I backed my car out; the door doesn't stay up and open securely when I use the manual release.
April 18:  Filed my weekly unemployment benefits claim, my typical routine for many a Sunday.  My allocated amount is now depleted.  No problem, as I'm supposed to start a new job 4/26.
April 19:  R2 finishes all of my reference checks.  Meanwhile, I've filled out, scanned and emailed the job offer acceptance paperwork back to C2's office.
April 20:  Garage door repairman replaces my garage door opener.  Most of that last weekly unemployment check goes toward this.  Good times.

Somewhere in the next few days I found out the job start date would be delayed due to getting paperwork processed at CL2.  So, 4/26 was a no-go. Targetted new start date slips to Monday 5/03.

April 29:  I go to C2 to pick up my laptop, finish onboarding paperwork and meet with my soon-to-be new co-worker.  We walk to a nearby coffee shop and get acquainted.  Love it!
April 30:  emailed C2 to confirm if 5/03 was still a go.  Start date slips to possibly 5/05.
May 3:  emailed C2 to check status about 5/05.  Nothing confirmed.
May 5:  still no updates.  C2 is calling the manager at CL2 but has not heard back.
May 6:  still no updates from C2.
May 6:  I'm pissed, panicked and frustrated.  This was the day I asked The Universe for help and my friend P who works at C3 IM'd me out of the blue and from there got me an interview with her Director.  Her Director and I speak on the phone briefly and he sets up an onsite interview for me the morning of 5/07.
May 6:  R2 and I agree that if there are no confirmed start dates as of 5/07 he will start submitting me for other opportunities with C2's other clients.  I don't tell them about what just transpired with C3.
May 7:  I'm awake, showered and ready to go interview with C3.  C2 calls and says guess what, the paperwork at CL2 is done and we're looking at 5/10 "or thereabouts" for a start date!
May 7:  I call the Director at C3 and cancel the interview.  But I go have a wonderful lunch with my friend P, which was going to be part of the C3 interview loop anyway.
May 10:  C2 hoped there would be a start date of 5/11 but the final set-up transactions with CL2 are still not completed.  I'm feeling like a racehorse trapped at the starting gate.
May 10:  I call the nice people at our State Capitol to check on the status of my application for an extension of my weekly unemployment benefits.  They'd just received it and it would be a few weeks before I'd have a yes or no answer.  Yep, I've heard that before...
May 11:  Around lunch time I hear from C2 that they are expecting the magical data required for me and one other person to start in just a couple hours at CL2.  Start date of May 12 looks likely.  R2 agrees to tag-team with the manager at C2 to get the data processed if it rolls in after business hours on May 11.
May 11:  At around 8:30pm I get an email from C2 apologizing about the false start, but as it turns out they didn't receive the magical data from CL2 after all.
May 11:  I don't recall 100%, but it was likely one of those "popcorn and wine" dinner nights.
May 12:  I officially pull out all the stops and start re-networking.  Even R2 and I agreed to chat that day to talk about getting submitted elsewhere.  Yes, this is sounding a little deja vu from last week, right?  Moreso, this is fucking retarded...how long are we supposed to sit around and wait for basic clerical shit to get finished?  Push the damn buttons already!  Sadly, CL2 is somewhat known for backlogged, bloated processes but this was now beyond what anyone would consider reasonable.  I ate a big bowl of Crow with a slice of Humble Pie and called the Recruiter at C1.  Ummm...remember me?  You might be surprised to be hearing from me!  R1 explained that they actually hadn't filled the position I'd interviewed for back in March!  And that there had been some changes within the group leadership which was part of the delay. She said she'd let a couple key people know that I might be available after all!  And I let the people I know at C3 about all this too.  Yep, C2 is at High Risk of losing me.  I'm ready to walk.
May 12, continued:  At about 9pm I got a call from the Director at C3.  I was a little surprised to receive a call so late but at this point ANY sort of contact -phone, email, carrier pigeons - was like manna from heaven.  I told him my start date at CL2 was delayed yet again and he asked me to come meet with him in person the next morning!  He explained the opening was a contract to hire position and that he'd need someone on the ground as soon as Monday 5/17.

May 13:  I get up, shower and go interview with the Director and some other people at C3 and have a great lunch interview with my friend P.  Remember, she's the one, thanks to that totally random instant message back on 5/06, who helped me get re-introduced at C3 and this latest batch of interviews lined up with her Director!  In typical interview practice, I had my cell phone turned off. [Side note to job seekers out there - PLEASE be sure to do this or at least put it in silent mode.  Zero distractions while you're interviewing!].

After lunch I turn on my phone while getting ready to drive home and it pops and bubbles back to life - it's R2 (from C2) and the job at CL2 is starting...Monday May 17!  Absolutely, positively, for real!  Ummm...are you sure?  Yes, yes, I'm told this is REALLY for real this time.

The engagement with CL2 is slated to last a year.  And you can bet dollars to donuts I will make sure C2 adjusts the dates given the delayed start date as they'd promised.  The engagement with C3 would have been less than half the time and at the same pay rate.  If you had to choose between one year and four months, what would you choose, given your wallet is hurting? 

So while nothing is guaranteed, I decided to stick with C2 and start onsite with CL2 - yes the one that got three weeks delayed.  If I'd received and accepted an offer with C3 I would have had to go through all the onboarding with a totally different agency and who knows how long that would take.  Given my tolerance for financial risk gets lower and lower with each month I'm not getting a paycheck I wasn't willing to take that gamble.  

So let's put away the Clown Shoes, folks.  After a long, dry spell and some continental drift this girl's going back to work Monday!  



Some of my Favorite Things – Part 4…Brows and Cheeks

Oh, and a loose powder I forgot to include in the last post - whoops!

Brows. I never gave a huge amount of attention to brows when I first started wearing makeup, save for a little stray hair tweezing as needed.  When I was coming of age in the 1980s, in a very general sense, the trend for brows was to keep them naturally shaped and not overplucked, a la Brooke Shields.  Not sure you believe me?  Check out movies and TV shows from the mid/late 1980s and you'll see what I mean.  And when I felt like coloring in my brows a little I used a good ol' Number 2 pencil.  No joke.  I read about this trick in a magazine and it actually worked with my skin and brow color!  Talk about beauty on a budget!

And while my hair color is naturally an ashy brown shade (now shot through with a few greys), for some reason my brows have always stayed fairly light colored.  I get my hair highlighted blonde regularly and never had to worry about it looking too "fake" having dark eyebrows in contrast.  But one day my hair colorist, whom I've known for years, told me "why don't you get your brows tinted?"  It never had occurred to me to try this!  She said you know, your brows really define your face shape and yours are pretty light and thinner now so give it a shot!  I wasn't sure I was ready to take the plunge so I went to the Lancome counter at the nearby Nordstrom and had an SA help me choose a brow pencil.  She was both hilarious and glamorous - a dead ringer for Star Jones before her weight loss, and spent quite a bit of time with me showing me how to use the pencil - which also had a small brush on the opposite end.  She did one of my brows and had me do the other one to mimic her work.  I admit I was a little shocked at how I looked, as I wasn't used to seeing myself with defined brows but I was glad to have some help! 

Since then, I did take the plunge and start getting my brows tinted at the spa I go to for waxing appointments.  The same woman who does my waxing did my first brow tinting, so I trusted her given she "knows" me very well.  She assured me she was using a vegetable dye so it would gradually fade and wash out over a few weeks.  I really liked how it turned out!  And I realized it also saved me time in the mornings not needing a few extra minutes to use that brow pencil.  As you can see, I'm all about saving time whenever possible, especially on those workday mornings.

But with the Money Diet in full swing I decided to stop the brow tintings temporarily.  And on a whim I picked up MAC's Browset in Beguile. It's in the long tube on the right side of this picture.  "Beguile" is just a fun, fancy word for a light taupe shade.  This stuff is like mascara but for your eyebrows.  Unlike the Lancome pencil I first tried a few years ago, the Browset also keeps the brows in place, which is nice as for some strange reason a few of my brow hairs are starting to stick out. Ugh.  Department stores or maccosmetics.com.

One more loose powder. How could I have forgotten about this one?  Ah, the power of online makeup discussions.  I heard rave reviews about Smashbox Halo Hydrating Perfecting Powder, and this is a splurge I haven't regretted.  Inside there is an inner lid which has small holes in it, kind of like a cheese grater.  It rotates to "shave" just a small amount of the powder at a time.  I love it!  As you know I can't stand wasting product and loose powder is probably one of the most vulnerable for spills.  But this package design makes it easy to just use a small amount - and pack for business travel without worries of a powder explosion in your suitcase.  I use this as an alternative to foundation on days I just don't feel like it.  It helps cut down the ruddiness in my face.  It's at Sephora.

Contour.  This can be dangerous and unfortunate territory without great lighting, great brushes and a lot of practice!  Just like the obvious line of mismatched foundation along a jawline (yuck), poorly applied contour will look like you have two brown lines on your face.  I used to attempt this when I first started wearing makeup but more often than not I would skip this step.  And even today, I still do as it takes time and practice.

After reading more rave reviews I picked up NARS bronzer in Laguna. I actually saw this being demonstrated on a YouTube tutorial and the woman using it had skin about the same (pale) shade as mine.  She used the bronzer as a cheekbone contour and it looked great!  Normally I shy away from bronzer as it only succeeds in making my face look dirty.  However, this shade and texture is absolutely wonderful (and very layerable/blendable) for contour.  Find it at Sephora.

Stila Contouring Kit. This is in the silver box on the left.  I saw this demonstrated on someone who has skin even paler than mine if that's possible!  And, I caved. There are 3 powder shades inside and they are very gentle and light - meaning it's easy to layer without it going on too thickly. I usually just use either the medium or the darker shade.  I think the lighter shade is for highlight but I often don't have time for that last step. I'm very impressed with the color and texture of the product.  However, the packaging inside is a little cheesy - there are small tiny lights along the inside lid border around the mirror which frankly don't help at all.  At Sephora.

Blush. How would it be necessary for someone like me with pink chubby cheeks to wear blush?  I used to just wear foundation and skip blush altogether except for special occasions.  My "natural" pink seemed to peek through enough.  But after a 15 year or so hiatus, I decided to give it a try.  Blushes and contouring powders have come a LONG way in the past 20 years or so...it seems more products are sheerer, layerable and just overall smoother in texture.  I do think it gives a more thorough polished, finished look and I admit I'm still practicing and experimenting with getting it just right.  Again, this is where great lighting and great brushes are Your Friends.

MAC Mineralize Blush. I once again sing the praises of MAC (well, except for their foundations).  MAC makeup is an absolute steal price-wise for a department store brand.  Don't get freaked out about their theatrical looking website or other displays.  MAC has a ton of wonderful, neutral makeup for everyday normal people if you look under the flamboyant surface.  And I always get great help at the MAC counter in the Nordstrom at Bellevue Square - thanks, girls!  They are always super friendly, helpful and attentive no matter how swamped they might be.  And when I feel like shopping in my PJs maccosmetics.com has super fast service and free shipping promos all the time.  What's not to love?

So, the Mineralize Blush is very sheer and layerable - don't be put off by the bright shades.  The one in the picture here front and center is called Gleeful.  It might be hard to see from the glare but it's a nice, basic peachy-pink - another "jeans and a t-shirt" everyday color.  True confession - this shade is one of, gulp, 10 in my stash.  That's how much I love it!

Laura Mercier Shimmer Bloc in Pink Mosaic.  You know, I hear people rave about Laura Mercier all the time but I have yet to try any of her products save for this one.  Inside there are 4 different, sheer shades that you just swirl all over together with a brush and apply.  It gives a light glow which I've used as a blush substitute (I think this is meant to be a bronzer as it comes in darker color themes as well). It's $38 and probably not my wisest purchase as I hardly ever use it.  It's nice but nothing to shout about.  Department stores or Sephora.

MAC Powder Blush. These are in the 6 palette at top center.  I'd consider these more traditional-style blushes than the Mineralize formula.  They come in different formulas from sheer to satin to matte.  I typed up a small table in Word, printed it out and taped it inside the inner lid for reference.  The MAC palettes are wonderful because they are magnetized.  And if you buy the blushes in just the basic pan format - not with the extra black plastic packaging - they come with a small magnet on the back!  Voila - you just plop them into your palette.  They stay put but are easy to switch around too. Yay for magnets! And yay for these blushes!  I actually do have one other palette of 6 not in this picture so you can say I'm making up for lost time not having worn blush in so many years.  These are really worth testing at a counter if you are not sure about ordering online; lots of the more vibrant-looking colors are actually very sheer while some of the lighter shades might go on matte and heavier.  All a part of the joy of experimenting!  Department stores or maccosmetics.com.

And I also included two of my favorite MAC brushes. The angled 169 is fabulous for getting contour under the cheekbones and the 150, while designed for all over loose powder, is one of my favorites for applying blush. 


Some of my Favorite Things – Part 3…Foundation, Loose Powder and Concealer

One of my big “growing up” milestones was when I bought my first small bottle of liquid foundation in I’m guessing 8th or 9th grade – at the drugstore, smiling, allowance money in hand. I’ve always been obsessed with that flawless skin you see on TV or in magazines and wanted to replicate that for myself. Looking back on it now that was probably a little much for a 14 year old but I admit, I was a wee bit obsessed.

I consider wearing foundation as basic as brushing my teeth before heading out the door. And I do try to select formulas with SPF whenever possible.

Before I go on, let me just say my ramblings are going to be about liquid foundations, not mineral. I did briefly dip my toe in the whole mineral foundation craze and ordered some free samples from everydayminerals.com.

But after nearly 30 years of wearing various liquid foundations I just can’t make the switch. I tried, but I don’t have the patience for all the swirling and tapping required to get a mineral foundation sprinkled into the right sized small bowl or tray to mix and then apply. Plus I need to be careful to not let “powdery” products settle into the lines around my eyes and on my forehead.

In one of my earlier posts I mentioned that I don’t necessarily believe the best products are the most expensive. But given foundation is pretty much a daily ritual in my book, it’s worth it to spend a little more on something that really works – and getting the right match done professionally at a department store counter. Just like a hair cut and/or color – we wear our face and our hair every day, so why not invest in it?

So. Liquid foundation, if applied correctly, should help even out your skin tone without it looking like a can of paint hit you in the face. Yes, there’s a fine line there, ha ha. And ideally you should be able to just spot apply it where you need the most coverage…really it should just blend in with your skin texture and skin tone completely. Haven’t we all seen those unfortunate mistakes of a wrong color line at the jaw where someone’s foundation stops? UGH. So please, I implore you all out there…try on foundation in NATURAL LIGHT along your JAWLINE. Not on the back of your hand or your wrist – trust me, the skin on your hands is not the exact same shade as your face. Finding natural light can be hard if you’re deep in a department store or shopping mall. But it’s completely worth it to ask the Sales Associate (SA) for a small mirror so you can walk out to daylight and check it yourself (or use a small mirror in your purse). Might seem a tad silly but it's your hard earned money and YOUR face so take the time to find a good match.

Sadly, my "holy grail" foundation, Lancome Maqui Libre in a shade called Delicate Porcelain was discontinued many years ago.  After 15 years - no joke - it was heartbreaking to see it go. Quite literally it was my go-to "jeans and a t-shirt" makeup.  It worked for any occasion at any time and it never failed me.  I remember when I first heard it was being discontinued I stocked up on quite a few spares, including some off the Lancome website and I stored them in the fridge.  Since that era, I've journeyed off into quite a few different directions for sure.

I'll attempt this review in the picture order, left to right:

Estee Lauder Double Wear Foundation SPF10.  This is the one and only Estee Lauder product I've been able to pull off.  For real.  Estee Lauder products are FAR too yellow-y on me, including blushes and eye shadows.  The quality/texture is great but if the colors aren't right then forget it.  But this one in the color "Shell" is wonderful.  I can put this on in the morning and trust it's going to stay in place without looking or feeling too "grippy" or fake. Department stores or esteelauder.com

Revlon ColorStay SPF 15.  I have the Normal to Dry skin formula.  I'm of the school of thought to spend more on foundation (meaning, go to a department store or to a place like Sephora to get professionally matched), but I have heard great things about ColorStay so I tried it out, using a 30% off coupon at a nearby drugstore.  I AM impressed...this stuff DOES stay put as its name implies.  It's a little harder to apply than the Estee Lauder - meaning, you've got to work quickly to blend it as it tends to "grab" to the skin pretty quickly.  And it does require a little extra work to remove at night.  No joke - this is one of my favorite "do a little makeup real quick" foundations to put on before I go play hockey.  Again, to tone down those pesky, pink cheeks. Find it at drugstores.

Cover Girl TruBlend.  In trying to keep with my "try it in daylight" mantra, I took a package of this up to the window in the drugstore and held it up to my face with a mirror.  Not the best way to test a foundation but given it was a drugstore (meaning, cheaper) brand I figured it wouldn't be a huge waste if it didn't work out.  I like that it comes in a pump dispenser (the Revlon ColorStay does not), which means a longer lasting product in the longer run.  This one does not have SPF but if I wear it over a moisturizer and/or a primer with SPF I don't worry about that too much.  It does tend to wear off and separate on my skin by late afternoon so granted it's not my favorite of the bunch but I do find wearing it over that Chanel primer I talked about in my earlier post does make it stay on longer. At drugstores.

MAC Studio Fix Fluid SPF 15.  Oh dear, what an Epic Fail, save for the SPF.  As you'll see in later posts, I ADORE MAC makeup.  But their foundations are pretty damn crappy.  This is part of my mantra where no single brand can knock it out of the park 100% on everything.  Shame on me for ordering this online without trying it first at a MAC counter.  There is twisted logic in their foundation color-coding...I ended up with NW15.  15 being the lowest (meaning lightest) shade and "NW" I think means "not warm" so it is cooler-toned.  UGH.  How cryptic!  Even so it goes on watery and uneven, plus it's a bit too yellow for me.  I know some people have mixed it with other foundations successfully and I might give that a try at some point but that just seems like too much work.  Department stores or maccosmetics.com

Makeup For Ever HD foundation.  No SPF, but it has a pump dispenser and goes on VERY nicely.  This is one of the foundations I'd trust on a business trip, meaning it will look good and stay put in a variety of situations and climates.  At Sephora.

Makeup For Ever Liquid Lift foundation. This is on the far right of that row of foundations and probably looks worn out, gross and sad.  It IS a great product but this formula has been discontinued and that bottle is on its last legs - not very camera-ready I'm afraid.  I'll keep using it till it's gone or until it fails the "smell" test, ha ha.

Oops!  One got left out of the lineup here...yes, the shutter-shy foundation is MAC Studio Sculpt SPF 15.  Once again, MAC's foundations are nothing to jump up and down about.  This one comes in a long tube and feels a little more gel-like than liquid.  If you're looking for a full coverage foundation it's worth checking out.  I tend to save this for special occasions such as a night out or when I feel like doing more dramatic makeup.  The texture can be a little tricky and even in that "not warm" NW15 it's still a little too yellow.  It has a very nice light butterscotch scent, however!  Department stores or maccosmetics.com.

Ah, concealers.  I've used them under foundation mostly to cover the dark circles under my eyes.  Amazingly, since I started exercising more regularly I've found my dark circles aren't quite as dark as they used to be!  Coincidence?  Who knows?  Although I do have a lot of products in these posts, I am a believer in 'less is more,' so if a concealer isn't necessary, then why bother?

But there are times they really do help.  So with that we have...

Illuminare extra coverage foundation/concealer SPF 21.  This is in the small blue tube in the picture. The shade I have is called "Amalfi Alabaster."  OK, not too descriptive, but I heard about this on a forum chat about foundation recommendations for super pale skin.  This is far too thick as a foundation but a couple tiny dots under the eyes are great for a concealer.  Illuminarecosmetics.com

Lancome Effacernes waterproof undereye concealer. I discovered this before learning about Illuminare and I do like both equally.  This one says it's waterproof but to be honest I don't need a concealer to outlast a swim or shower.  For everyday wear, it's excellent. Sephora or lancome.com.

Makeup For Ever concealer palette.  These come in a variety of color spectrums - this one is in "No. 1," the lightest shades.  Most are for dotting over undereye circles or other imperfections, while the light green on the far right is a color corrector for redness.  The apricot shade just next to the green can also be used to correct undereye circles but I tend to stick with lighter shades in the products above.  I don't use this super often but it is a nice alternative and does blend in well with foundation without getting cakey.  It's at Sephora.

And...lastly...loose powder!  Where would I be without this stuff?  As much as I love liquid foundation, I also love loose powder where it's needed to set, such as on the eyelids and under the eyes. 

For years my favorite was Coty's AirSpun loose face powder in the colorless, translucent shade.  While it's a great value and lasts, the problem I've had all these years it that it's messy and hard to control.  Plus it's hard to pack/tape up for travel.

Given that, my splurge/investment more recently is Makeup For Ever's HD Loose Powder.  It's probably 3 times the price of Coty's but the container design makes up for it.  It's sealed inside the lid with small holes like a salt or pepper shaker, so you can just shake what you need into the upper section as you go without worrying about a big mess or waste.  It's super fine and goes on great with a kabuki brush.  Definitely worth every penny!


Some of my Favorite Things – Part 2…Make Up Primers

Well gosh, I just love makeup. Ever since my Mom sometimes let me play with hers in her bathroom when I was a little girl – total heaven. I remember when I did ballet and Mom would put a little lipstick on me before a recital – so fun!

Yeah, I do feel more put together and polished when I have at least a little makeup on. I’m not so high maintenance that I can’t step outside without it for a quick hop to the store on a lazy weekend, but in general I like to take a few minutes to clean up before stepping outside or going to work. I admire those women who can just casually put their hair in a ponytail or baseball hat and just rock a natural beauty without a stitch of makeup. That’s just not my style at all.

So here are a few things I love to play around with. This is truly a journey…a whimsical journey with no real set plan other than experimenting and having fun in the process.  

Now, when it comes to makeup primers, I am a changed woman. For years I thought primer was a total, complete ripoff – why would there be a need to prepare skin for foundation beyond, say, a little moisturizer? I’ve even heard/read that wearing a primer is good because it “protects your skin from your foundation” or “creates a barrier from your foundation.” Ummm…so does that mean there’s something WRONG with wearing foundation? Seriously, how stupid does that sound?

But over the years my skin texture has changed a bit. It’s both drier in some places as well as still oily like it was in my teens, and it is definitely not as taut as it used to be. Gotta love the combo of time and gravity.

So, I picked up a sample of Smashbox primer at Sephora on a whim and I've gotta say it DOES make a difference. A good primer will dry pretty much immediately after you apply it to your face and will even out its surface, so you can start your foundation right away.

A few primers I’ve tried and liked:

Smashbox. This primer comes in the original, clear formula as well as an oil-free type which looks white but goes on sheer.  There also are a couple of color corrector types: green to counteract redness and lavender for sallow skin. Both of these are extremely sheer. I’ve used the green-tinted one over the ol’ chubby pink cheeks and it does help tone them down somewhat. Department stores or Sephora.

Makeup For Ever HD Microperfecting Primer. This one comes in a small pump and in a range of shades from clear to various color-correcting tints, similar to Smashbox. I found it a little bit stickier than the Smashbox, but still really liked it. I tried it in the sheer blue "illuminating" shade but ran out of it a couple months ago, which is why it didn't make the picture.  Find it at Sephora.

Clarins Instant Smooth Perfecting Touch. A unique primer in a jar. Yes, this one is actually a firm cream and while it may seem a little odd that it could work as a primer, it does do a great job smoothing out the skin’s surface and it dries instantly. The one drawback is that it might not be as ‘clean’ in the longrun as a pump dispenser would be, as your fingers will keep touching the product unless you use a small spatula each time. Department stores or Sephora.

Stila Hydrating primer with SPF 15. I do like products with SPF because every little bit helps prevent long-term sun damage. Stila’s primer is in a silver tube and I do like it on days my skin feels extra dry. This one takes a few minutes to really settle into the skin so I usually finish getting dressed or fix my hair while I’m waiting.  And it's worth it.  Stilacosmetics.com or Sephora.

Chanel Le Blanc de Chanel sheer illuminating base. This was a big splurge at $45 for 1 oz…I read about it on a makeup forum and I caved. I do like the texture a lot – it's another primer that looks pure white in the container but goes on sheer and smooth. Good thing I liked it given the price tag!  I used it under one of my liquid foundations I'm not overly jazzed about and this primer DID help the foundation last longer into the late afternoon.

To be continued...more on foundations, loose powders and more to follow!

Some of my Favorite Things – Part 1…Skincare

I’m going in a completely different direction in this post because I’m tired of whining and droning on and on about being out of work and now waiting for my soon-to-be job assignment to start. And perhaps you are all as well. I’m looking forward to writing more about how things will shake out in this next new version of my life ‘routine.’ Meanwhile, we’re going on a tangent – something I just LOVE to do anyway! Want to join me?

Those of you who know me in person might know I’m a junkie – but perhaps a selective one - when it comes to makeup, skin care, shampoo and hair styling products. Come on upstairs to my master vanity sometime and it’s a sight to behold. There really is an organizational method to the madness on the countertops and in the vanity drawers.

And as you’ll soon find out, I have absolutely zero brand loyalty. Meaning, one brand CANNOT be all things to me – in my opinion NO brand is THAT superior all around in the whole cosmetic product range from lipstick to mascara to foundation, cleansers, etc. I am a firm believer – with exceptions – that the most expensive products aren’t necessarily the best. My style is more eclectic and a la carte and as a result has taken a little more trial and error but it works for me. Some products I’ve stayed faithful to for 20 or even, gulp, 30 years and others I’ve discovered purely by accident recently.

So, buckle up – here we go…in skincare…

St. Ives Apricot Facial scrub. This product has added more varieties over the years, so the one I’ve stuck with all this time now is called the “blackhead and blemish control” formula. Don’t laugh, but way back in college I was taking a much-needed study break and reading an issue of Cosmopolitan which had Cindy Crawford on the cover. The magazine always had a blurb inside about the cover model. She mentioned that was what she uses so I thought why not check it out? Again, don’t laugh – that’s the 100% truth. And it’s worked great for me all these years – plus it’s cheap and you can find it at pretty much any drugstore. It used to come in a small tub but now comes in a squeeze tube as you can see in the picture.  I also love stocking up on the smaller trial sizes as they're perfect for travel.  I use it very lightly to exfoliate while I’m in the shower. Even in my early 40s I still break out occasionally. Yes, zits AND wrinkles – bonus. And sometimes I’ll use it lightly on my forearms too.

Neutrogena Rainbath shower gel. This is another staple I’ve sworn by for about 30 years. One year my folks gave me a huge Costco sized bottle as a Christmas stocking stuffer and I thought that was just about the coolest thing ever. I got a sample pack of Neutrogena products way back in Junior High at a gift exchange and I just loved how it smells…and works. I can’t stand soaps or shower gels that are too flowery or sweet-smelling; I don’t want to smell like a fruit salad and the smell would likely clash with my perfume too. So I stick with neutral-smelling scents. This one is cheap as well and at most drugstores. Our Campfire Girl group leader had a skin care seminar when many of us were on the brink of puberty – meaning starting to break out and all - and one of the ladies explained how bad and drying bar soap is for our skin. Honestly, I haven’t touched bar soap since.

Paula’s Choice One-Step facial cleanser. I’ve been a BIG fan of Paula Begoun over half my life. She is an expert in celebrating the joy of makeup while simultaneously slicing through the hype and bullshit so many of us fall for with outrageous, farfetched claims some companies make in stating what their products will do. And when we fall for it and open our wallets we sometimes end up disappointed, poorer or even worse, with skin irritations. Along with providing no-nonsense guidance on what works and what doesn’t, she’s launched her own line of skincare and makeup. This cleansing gel is unscented, in basic packaging and removes makeup without over-drying my skin. In short, it does what it's supposed to do - nothing more, nothing less. I ordered some about a year ago and I'm hooked. Bliss. Find it at paulaschoice.com.

Lancome Bi-Facil eye makeup remover. Yes, ladies (and gents), it’s important to remove every speck of eye makeup before you go to bed. Even if you get home at 4:30am after a wild night out, do it. This one comes in a separated oil/water combo so you just shake the bottle a few times to mix it before dabbing a little bit on a cotton ball. One thing I learned from reading Paula Begoun’s books (and later her online newsletters and Blog) was to be gentle around the eye area – don’t pull or tug when applying or removing makeup. I took this to heart as a teenager and while time marches on and the crinkles have started, I hope being gentle has paid off. Department stores or Lancome.com.

Neutrogena Healthy Skin Face Lotion with SPF 15 and Alpha-Hydroxy. I use this under my makeup religiously and I would like to think the daily dose of SPF has helped my skin stay looking pretty good all these years.  I am very fair with ruddy cheeks - I think that's the Scottish heritage at work - so I am the type that burns, never tans. The alpha-hydroxy might be a little tingly and take some getting used to but it also helps keep the skin looking fresh. I put it on after I’ve finished drying my hair and let it sink in while I get dressed. You can find it at drugstores.  And oops - this is not in the picture up top; I've actually run out and in the interest of my Money Diet and using up what I already have lying around I'm using some Lancome facial sunscreen which I'd forgotten I'd had as a substitute.

Clarins HydraQuench cream for normal to dry skin. I picked up a sample of this in a Sephora order on a total random whim and I use just a touch of it at night on my temples, eye crinkles, forehead and between my brows. There is so much debate out there about night creams and eye creams and whether they are really necessary. And many are outrageously priced too. I could go on for pages about my own opinions but I’ll keep this one short and sweet. I like how this cream feels on my face as it’s not too heavy and it just "feels" good. My sample tube’s about empty and I might go splurge on a full-size of it at Sephora, but as of right now the Money Diet reminds me to wait yet again. So…time to dig through other samples.

Arbonne Exfoliating Masque with Thermal Fusion. Anyone out there ever sit around killing time watching TV or just veging out for a half hour waiting for a gooey masque to do its job? Give this one a try; you’re done in 5 minutes. I use this every month or so and I do recommend doing it before you go to sleep as it can leave the skin a bit red. I apply it mostly in the t-zone area (over dry skin, not damp) and then activate it with a small splash of water. Rinse it off after 5 minutes and voila! Bedtime. If you’re lucky enough to know an Arbonne consultant or to attend/host an Arbonne party, enjoy – I’m a huge fan of the Arbonne line and will have more to write about their lotions in another section of this blog.  Arbonne.com.

What’s missing in this skin care product lineup lovefest? Toners! Honestly, I’ve never been convinced of their benefit nor have I been overly impressed with any that I’ve tried. I don’t understand the need to “balance” out your skin with a toner once it’s been cleansed. If it needs to be balanced out you might need to find a different cleanser. To me, toners are a waste of time and money.

So that's the start of the Favorite Things mini-series in here.  I will likely have more about shampoos/conditioners/styling products as well as makeup. 

All in good fun, of course.


I'm starting to forget what the hiring manager looks like...

I don't even know where to begin.  Sounds like a familiar opener in here perhaps?  I never knew it was possible to feel such a heightened range of emotions all at once - excitement, rage, hopelessness, panic - see how most of those are negative?  That's what's been chipping away at me.

I was supposed to be back at work this past week.  Feeling engaged, not enraged.  But my work assignment start date has been delayed now over two weeks.

Yes, two weeks.

How long is a reasonable time to wait, especially when it's something out of my control and out of the recruiting firm's control?  How many times can I call, email or bitch asking when the start date's gonna be?  All the onboarding paperwork and email setup's been completed with the recruiting firm.  I've got a laptop ready to rock and a brain waiting to get out of mushville from not working all these months.  What's the problem?  Well, apparently it's a transactional delay on the client's side which is holding up the remainder of what they need to do in order to allow me (and one other person, actually) to come on campus and hit it hard.

How fucking sad is it that it's not even a grey area contract negotiation issue.  It's simply some transactional paperwork rotting in someone's inbox or an old stinky email in someone's queue that's lacking attention.  Don't people realize that there are PEOPLE just like THEM behind the numbers and paper??

At first I was able to keep a sense of humor through these delays and tell the recruiter you know, my soon to be new co-worker and I are ready to pitch a tent in front of the building we're going to be at until this is finished - I'll bring s'mores and we'll croak out a few folks songs on the guitar.  But after awhile, humor and patience wear thin.  Keep in mind I'd interviewed with the hiring manager on April 13th and had expected to start work April 26th.  So here it is; a full two-week delay. 

And meanwhile, I'd started taking myself off the job market gradually - letting people know the good news I'd be starting something new very soon, thanking other recruiters for all their help and that we'll keep in touch and on and on.  And I'd been getting calls, texts and emails from people asking hey, how's the new job coming along?  How stupid does it sound to say well, guess what it's been delayed.  

This past Thursday I hit the wall.  I woke up with my stomach in knots and wondering if I'd been a fool to wait all this time doing pretty much nothing but waiting and bugging the recruiting firm for some action.  I called the recruiter and he asked in his usual cheery voice "how are you?"

My answer:  "...do you want the REAL answer?"  It got quiet.  And then I told him they were officially at risk of losing me for this assignment.  I thanked him for all he and his team have done to push this through - I don't blame them one single bit for this mess - but still the net result is I'm not working and I'd thought I'd be the last week of April.  He understood.  And I told him something like, "Is it bad that I've forgotten what [hiring manager] looks like?"  Maybe a last grasp attempt at some humor there.  But that humor was the truth.

So, I knew I needed a back-up plan but I wasn't sure how to start.  How do you go about re-networking and saying hey, guess what I thought I'd have started that new job by now but there's a delay on the client side that is clerical-based and so I can't start yet and I need to get back to work so do you have any leads?  How retarded does that sound?  And can I even do this without sounding bitter or bitchy?

I sat here in front of the laptop, trembling with tears in my eyes and I buried my face in my hands.  I felt more hopeless than I ever had in recent memory, so out of control.  I took a deep breath and asked the Universe for help.

What happened next is, well...let's just say you can't make this shit up.

Within an hour of asking for Help my friend P IM'd me (sent me an instant message).  Keep in mind this is something she rarely does - we usually talk on the phone or email.  She asked me if I knew someone - a name I didn't recognize.  It was someone whom I apparently had a 2nd degree connection with on LinkedIn.

I checked my LinkedIn contacts and didn't recognize the name nor the person we "know" in common.  But then it dawned on me...the person we know in common is someone who facilitates job networking mixers.  So, it was just a business-card-in-common connection, nothing more than that.  She said they were thinking of offering this person a job on her team and she was wondering if I knew anything more about him.  She asked me how I was doing and how the job was going and I said, well, guess what - we're going on a near two-week start delay! 

She wrote "call me" and the whirlwind started from there.

P and I used to work at the same company a couple years ago (and she is still there).  We didn't work in the same department but we have similar job titles and got to know eachother that way...and have stayed in touch even after my group got RIF'd from there awhile back.  She said she thought I'd be a possible good fit for this job opening and said she didn't even think to ask me if I'd be interested because she assumed - rightly so - that I'd be at my new job already.

The back-up plan was now officially underway.  Between P and another person at that company, I knew I had strong advocates.  And after hearing no news on a job start date for two weeks it is THE most wonderful feeling to pick up the phone, call an old friend and colleague and have them say, "Hey, why don't you come back and work with us again - we'd love to have you!" 

Within mere hours I was on the phone with P's Director and we hit it off.  And even though it was starting to be close to around dinner time he was able to schedule time for me to come onsite and interview with him and a few other folks the next morning!  WOW!  Very impressive hustle.  I was totally open with him about my situation...that I'm waiting on something else that could possibly pop any moment but I don't have an ETA.  I didn't think I'd be a shoo-in for this new thing that came literally out of nowhere but I knew I'd have people going to the mat for me and I knew I'd love to someday return.

The next morning I got up, showered...and the phone rang.  It was the recruiting firm for the job I was supposed to start weeks ago.  Good news - everything's been approved and you and [the other person] will start early next week!  REALLY???  I was standing there in my bathrobe, wet hair in a towel, getting ready to go interview somewhere else.  I was shocked at how...shocked my voice sounded.  Is this really for real?  I didn't tell the recruiting firm I had a back-up plan already in motion - it really wasn't any of their business.  I croaked out an "OK!" and tried to be excited.  It kind of scared me that I wasn't.

And it also scared me that there had to be escalating and head thumping at higher levels to get things moving along.  I don't know the whole story other than what I've heard 2nd or 3rd hand so I'm not going to try and summarize it in here.  If we've gotta be heavy-handed assholes, threatening to walk, why can't we save that for special occasions like majorly complex negotiations at an impasse?  Is it really necessary to pound upper-level heads to get a freaking "approve" button pushed on something so simple?  Where's the sense of urgency??

So, I called the Director I was supposed to be meeting with in about 90 minutes and explained things were fixed up and that I'd be taking this original assignment after all.  I still was open to meeting with him and the others as he'd scheduled, but I told him I didn't want to waste his or any of his team's time given I wouldn't be immediately available after all.  He was super cool about the whole thing, and we agreed to keep in touch going forward.  He was genuinely interested in considering me for future opportunities.  So while this whole thing was a little whirlwind, I don't think it was flakey.  I try to keep a little grace and tact interjected into how I conduct myself, even when things flip and change on a dime.

I ended up having a great, long lunch with P (which was part of the interview plan anyway).  I don't know if she knows how much I appreciate what she did to help get me out of a panicked funk on Thursday but...thanks, P!  I sent the Director a thank you note and smiled knowing I have yet another new connection on my contact list.  We'll consider the seed at that company officially re-planted.

Meanwhile, I've got a laptop bag, water bottle and small tube of hand lotion gathering dust on the dining room table.  Let's get this party started already!!

So, I am taking a leap of faith and considering today, Saturday, the start of a gloriously sunny 3-day weekend.  But I know I'll feel better once my cheeks are in a seat at work, whenever that is.



So what IS it about Hermes anyway?

I have some idea where I'm going with this post but not 100%.  Sometimes that's the most fun way to write...just start going at it and see where it turns up.  Might be compelling to one or two of you out there, and it might be good help for any insomniacs!  Either way, happy to help.

I'm in one of those moods where just I feel like being lazy and just sitting here rambling, er, writing.  And I woke up smiling remembering last night's Canucks/Blackhawks game...this hockey playoff series is gonna be EPIC no matter how it shakes out.  Nothing like a blowout win for the Canucks in the United Center...5-1 last night!  But it was only the first game.  One game at a time, my friends.

So, I met a few good friends for coffee and mimosas yesterday at the local Hermes boutique.  My good friend T invited me to join her and I thought sure, why not?  I didn't realize until the night before that this event - a scarf tying workshop - started around 9:00am, before the store officially opens!  Oh boy - I'm usually fast asleep at that hour, especially on a Saturday!

I pulled into the parking garage at the Bravern still somewhat sleepy and in a daze.  It was almost ghost-townish, riding the outdoor escalator up to the 2nd floor shops - all front doors locked, windows dark, as most stores don't open until around 10.  The Bravern is a newer layout around here, more "village-like" with outdoor walkways and shopping compared to the more traditional covered shopping mall.  Never did I think I'd see the day that we'd have an outdoor escalator around here.  You see, here in the Pacific Northwest we're known for our rain and drizzle.  Sure we've got glorious weather too, but smart locals know that if you ever have any sort of outdoor event planned - even in July or August - you'd better have a rock-solid indoor Plan B too.  Or at least have a good tarp company on speed dial.  The Bravern does have nice umbrella stands throughout, but if it's a shopping day for me and it's pouring rain you can bet I'll be at Bellevue Square (our covered mall).

I arrived at the Hermes boutique and gave T a big hug.  I passed on the mimosas...one of my personality quirks is that I can't stand orange juice, so I'm usually one to say hold the OJ, I'll take a glass of champagne.  But booze at 9:00am didn't seem like a good idea so I stuck with coffee.

As always, everything in the boutique was impeccable.  From scarves to handbags, belts, shoes, jewelry, luggage - absolutely amazing. 

What's even more amazing are the prices - they're not for the faint of heart.  This is a boutique where lots of things don't even have price tags on them.  Kinda reminds me of that whole "if you have to ask you can't afford it" shtick. 

Hermes (that's "air MEZ" with a short 'e') is a luxury goods brand.  Kinda like the Ferrari or Porsche equivalent of luxury, for those who might not follow the who's who of designers.  They've been around since the 1830s so you can bet they know their stuff.  Scarves are silk-screened by hand and the hems are hand-stitched.  Leather goods are hand stitched as well - no assembly lines.

So...those are just a couple reasons why their products are so high-priced.  Impeccable materials, everything hand-crafted in France - oh my!  We browsed around the boutique yesterday, admiring $8000 handbags, $1200 small leather agendas and $900 scarves with no flinching.  "This bag's $8000?  Oh, OK..."  Kind of in the same tone as oh, did you know that chicken is on special today at the grocery store?  Oh, OK...

What do I love about their products?  Everything is effortlessly chic and understated.  Nothing flashy, bling-y or "look at me" here.  You won't find a glaring "H" on anything save for a small belt buckle perhaps.  In fact, when I first started meeting this group of women for lunch and shopping periodically I didn't even know many of their own bags were Hermes, save for the more famous Kelly or the Birkin (in the picture here).  Thank you, wikipedia, for that picture - I don't see pink Birkins around here but I felt I could use this picture without getting yelled at over the Internet, ha ha.

I've learned quite a bit more about their different handbag styles, leathers, colors, sizes.  There's the Bolide and the Lindy for starters.  And on and on.

What I DON'T like are the elitist tactics required to purchase some of these items.  I might be talking out of my ass but as I've learned the ritual is to develop a rapport with one Sales Associate (SA) and purchase a few smaller items to start.  Then as you continue to grow your collection you "might" be offered the opportunity to purchase a Birkin, say.  Nope, you can't march into a boutique brand new and buy one off the shelf.  They are made to order and each one has to be approved by the mother ship in France.  There might be some exceptions if you are a celebrity I'd imagine.  Who knows.  I really don't mean this to be a bash on Hermes.  AND if I'm not stating the ritual here correctly someone please let me know.  But that's my understanding of it.

So, if I had the cash, why isn't my money as good as anyone else's who has already purchased a bunch of other stuff?  I just don't get it.  And despite that sales protocol, I'm secretly relieved that a lot of the items don't really "sing" to me.  Because at those prices you'd better believe whatever I would purchase had better rock my pants off.  Yesterday's visit was probably my third and I still left feeling the same way.

However, I do always feel very welcomed in the boutique, even if I'm more a looker/gawker than potential purchaser.  The SAs are always very warm, helpful and friendly - no snobby attitudes thank goodness.  Meanwhile, T let me borrow one of her scarves and my friend J - what a fabulous surprise to see her there - showed me how to tie it.  I found out that J was actually called in to train the new SAs on how to tie scarves when this boutique first opened last fall - wow!  J has exquisite taste and really should be a personal stylist.  She's so much fun to shop with and helped me pick out a pair of wonderful sunglasses a couple years ago.  Oh yes, the days when part of a tax refund could go toward a nice splurge, not paying the bills!

As we were saying our goodbyes we each received a small souvenir - a signature small, orange round box tied with that famous brown ribbon...with a few small candies inside.  I popped one into my mouth driving home, my 'scarf on loan' from T still tied around my neck.  Yummm - salt water taffy! 

And while I was watching the hockey game last night I decided to browse the Hermes website...uh oh, something now has officially "sung" to me.  A beautiful cashmere and silk shawl - fabulous blue shades and a design called "coaching."  I'll leave it at that for now. 

Someday, maybe someday..