Inspiration From the Road

During my recent road trip, I was suddenly hit with the idea of creating a visual/word piece in the depiction of a road sign. I figured I could take it in many directions (so to speak). So I geared up the mental manufactory, leafed through some writings, and below is outcome of what transpired. I'm curious to see what you all think, so be candid with me. I'm all growns up.

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Virginia Trip: Part I

It's no illusion! Your eyes do not deceive you! The first installment has arrived!

Quick recap: Janell (my favorite aunt) and I motor off to Virginia for hiking and coasters, and antics ensue. To share plenty of photos and not spend hours uploading into my post, you will find hyperlinks below to Shutterfly for plenty of photo-viewing goodness : )

Day one consisted mostly of motoring through more states than I originally realized -- Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, back into West Virginia, Maryland, and Virginia. Nothing overly exciting along the way there. Except that I love the runaway truck ramps on the high grades through the mountains. If you never witnessed one, it's basically a cool ramp that Evil Knievel would loft to jump 20 school busses. Or the Fonz would take to jump a shark...

My car was built for the switchbacks of the Appalachians. The first rule of motoring is - you must accelerate through a curve. I don't think Janell liked that idea, especially when she was the pilot, but then again, I'd be nervous if I was in charge of someone else's car who has unhealthy attachment issues with it. Okay, so I'm not a freak, but I am a bit overprotective of my car, k?

Anyway, we arrive at the Skyland Resort inside Shenandoah National time to get dinner at the lodge and of course, get back to our room to watch Lost. Priorities. Then I got hooked a show on TLC about this family of little people who have three average height children and one child who is also a little person. Television. Exotic getaway, huh?

The next day, we get up bright and early for some breakfast and hiking. Remember kids, it's colder at higher altitudes. Pack accordingly. With rain clouds looming, we set off for the Whiteoak Canyon Trail to see some watefall action.

I tried to find a decent map online to post, but nothing having. I hope the pictures on my companion website will suffice for visuals. Needless to say, it was a good hike with gradual elevation change, so it wasn't hostile terrain. Along the way, we ran into an older gentleman (in his 60s, I'd say) and chatted him up about what to expect down below. We later found a bridge and decided to rest a bit. While sitting there, it came to me that it was my birthday. I turned to Janell and said, "I just remembered, it's my birthday today." She's like, "Yeah, I was going to say something this morning and then I forgot. Happy birthday." It was a quiet moment, and anti-climactic, you might say. But that's how I like it...not a fan for pomp and circumstance. Simple recognition works.

Besides, readers, I've figured out how to master the art of aging, and it has nothing to do with Botox, hair dye, oxygen bars, or even jogging every morning. It's about attitude. The most important part of aging is that you do not feel your age. If you have that pegged, you'll do just fine.

As the pictures reveal, the waterfalls were beautiful. It's amazing to actually see how water seeping from spongy soil turns to small trickles, to steams, to eventually 100's of gallons of water gushing by. It was shadowed a bit by sadness -- all the hemlock in the park are dying or dead due to a disease. The whole population is affected, and this trail had quite a few hemlock along the path. Quite sad, but nature has a way of sorting itself out, I guess.

I did a lot of thinking on the way down to the falls. There were huge rocks scattered all about, and I mean the size of Hummers. One rock had several messages carved into it. The usual suspects really -- R + J forever, etc. I wondered why people carve their names into rocks and other things. I think we do it to feel immortalized, but it is the rock that is immortal, not what is etched on its surface. I guess we all want to leave our mark, whether literally or figuratively. Interesting side note, three days later when we were at King's Dominion, this couple behind us were talking about etchings in the wood railing along one of the ride's waiting lines. The girl said she has a theory that when people carve Eric *hearts* Joanna or whatever, they end up breaking up soon after. I thought the connection was funny.

Janell wins for the day's best quote: "I took the road less travelled and it was muckier."

We went back to our room to scout out our next hike, recommended by the front desk clerk: Dark Hallow Falls Trail. Sounds spooky. What it ended up being was a helluvah hike. Steep grade. We ran into the older gentleman again who joked this one was much worse than the last. I joked that he was kind to keep scouting ahead for us. We had a laugh before parting ways again. This trail featured a 70 ft. waterfall that was very beautiful. We were happy to take in the view, delaying the inevitable journey back to the car. Little did I know what was waiting for me...

A blackberry milkshake! We had lunch at this wonderful little restaurant in the park near the Big Meadows Lodge. Misty (our server) was way friendly, and one sight of her serving up a milkshake to another patron sent me into Pavlovian disarray. Simply put, it was one of the best milkshakes I ever had! And this boy...he loves his shakes, so I know.

Stay tuned for more updates. Just to keep you hooked, my sneak preview of what's to come: an even closer encounter with the older gentleman, Chris's run-in with "the law" of Busch Gardens, a stroll through Colonial Williamsburg, one degree of separation with Fabio, my black bear mating call, the "mall" of Ashland, VA, Mystery Hole, nuclear lunch at Arby's with lots of telephones, waiting line fisticuffs at King's Dominion, and my phony British accent.

Evolution -- New Digs!

I've finally done it! I got the motivation (thanks to Gouda's HOT new header) to retool the old website (once again) so it looks much more like the way I want it. There's more of me in it, you could say. Literally and figuratively...yes, that is my shadow. And yes, that is why we had 6 more weeks of winter...I done seen it. For shame!

Okay, hope you all like. And YES, I'm going to post about my trip to Virginia real soon!! Cross my heart : )

Wagons East

It is the eve before Janell and I depart east for our motoring trip through Virginia. Motoring buddies include the aliens (Xon, Xak, and Xed) and of course, Tyler as the transport. AJ and I will share roles of pilot and navigator. I already set up a motoring playlist on my iPod (including songs with driving or road themes, lyrics, etc).

Our itinerary for now:

Day 1) Motor to Virginia
Day 2-3) Shenandoah National Park - hiking, pictures, motoring on twisting roads
Day 4) Busch Gardens - roller coasters!
Day 5) Kings Dominion - more roller coasters!
Day 6) Motor back to Ohio (side trip to New River Gorge National Park?)

And in between, plenty of beautiful Appalachian Mountains scenery. I may be able to check in here and there on the laptop for some updates, but otherwise, see you sweet peeps on the other side!


Flirting With Disorder

So I take Mom to Red Robin at lunch today for Mother's Day, and our server is hot! After he takes our order, Mom and I have a conference and decide he is most definitely gay. Then I think, it figures that I live 4 hours away in Champaign where there is a gay man drought. I always seem to find the gay hotties who give me attention when I'm far far from home base.

Anyway, Tyler is flirting with me and finding excuses to come back and talk to us. So I'm flirting back and we're all joking around. He has beautiful eyes, nice lips, and an earring that was sexy. And I don't usually like earrings on guys, but he was an exception. He was also tall and slender, a seemingly perfect match.

Mom tells me as he leaves our table that he's eyeing me from behind. So I'm thinking, should I say anything to him? Is there even a point? Army needs a little action : )

He's telling us about why he is in Ohio (father is in the military) and that he's from Oregon and would like to move back there or to Colorado. All places that I dig, mind you. He is very quick and witty, which I find attractive. I gave him a hard time for persuading me to get the lunch special taco salad, we were kidding with the manager that the salad was dangerous (it had 5 tortilla wedges sticking up into points) and I later told him I cut myself and needed stitches. Then I told the manager our server was horrible and when Tyler came back, I was going on about how I praised his service -- at that time, the manager walks by and says, "You're fired." When he's talking, I'm slurping on my straw like I want a refill. This went on the whole time we were there. Mom and I were having a blast and each time he came back, it seemed more certain he was interested in me...and then...

Tyler mentions his girlfriend (needle across the record). Huh? I'm telling you, Mom and I were dumbfounded. The looks he gave me. The attention. The way he carried himself. What the hell is it with me and ambiguously straight men? I'm at a loss right now because it would seem my gaydar is beyond dysfunctional. This is starting to piss me off.

So I did what any sane and rational person does...I spent two hours trying to find him on the google and myspace. It's official, my desperation has become disorder.

I Want A New Drug

And like Huey Lewis, I want a new drug that won’t make me sick -- sick and tired of all those drug commercials on TV in which the announcer rattles off potential side-effects like the Micro Machines guy. As if the answer was so nebulous, I now have a clearer understanding of how the pharmaceutical industry can afford those plentiful advertising spots: just mix all the things I loathe: corporate buzz jargon, 70 hour work weeks, and enough money to fill Uncle Scrooge’s Money Bin.


If ever I felt my life was on a wayward path, it’s times like what I’m retelling in this blog entry that remind me I’m on course. It’s like that time you felt a little lost driving down an unknown stretch of highway until you find that one guidepost that confirms you are spot-on.

As part of the Career Services Council at my University, I was able to participate in a “field trip” to a pharmaceutical company in a northern Chicago suburb to learn about their Human Resources functions, hiring practices, what skills sets they look for in interns and new hires, etc. It’s a good excuse to get out of the office and learn a little. And did I learn, though not exactly the lessons I anticipated.

Pharmaceutical Industry = Major Money (or as I like to call it, casholene)

Again, this is really a no-brainer, but when you hear someone say they spend $1.5 million on their internship program for about 300 interns (which DOESN’T include their salaries), you know folks have silly money to blow and maybe that bottle of Dylozanex doesn’t need to cost beaucoup dollars. But good lord! What could our University do with that kind of money!? Maybe build us a new building so we don’t advise students in a previously condemned house that has paint peeling off the walls and recently had a sewage leak in the basement…ah, pipe dreams.

Moreover, it’s another example of how Corporate America likes to work people to death and then “reward” them with a company carnival. Gee, thanks. Sure you may make loads of cash, but it ain’t worth the 70 hour work week for me. I enjoy having a life after 5 p.m. every night. And like I always say, if you want to make a lot of money, you will pay for it.

It was nice to tour the plant, though. I felt like we were in Willy Wonka’s factory looking at all the fantastical machines. You wave your hand in front of these wall pads to open the metal sliding doors. Sadly, there were no fizzy lifting drinks or Oompa Loompas about, but we didn’t get to see the whole place, so who knows…

Our lunch was catered – it consisted of hand-made salads with sautéed shrimp, chicken, or beef. It was the best salad I ever had! And we got these nice shoulder bags and 3-ring binders…fairly standard for such events, but again, silly money with nothing to spend it on but flare. But this was all ancillary to the main event that made me have to blog about this experience…

Stepford Manager (a.k.a., Broadzilla, Chatty McBlabby)

Our presentation started with the head of HR talking about her “team.” My team and I like to have fun, she said. Which is the first clue that they don’t actually have fun, but she likes to think they do so they can continue their lives as indentured automatons in work-centric denial. Note the lack of bias in this report…

Anyway, she is the consummate phony manager – platinum blonde hair, perfect make-up, pressed gray suit, heels. She was sleek and sexy. And filled to her blonde roots with bullshit. She was all storefront and no showroom. This woman is the corporate nightmare I despise and the primary reason my affair with the business world was brief and best left in my past.

The kicker was that EVERY OTHER WORD FROM HER MOUTH WAS A BUSINESS BUZZWORD! I started writing them down because I HATE buzzwords yet I am fascinated how people can throw them around without knowing what they are saying. Well, she don’t know jack, apparently, because I have a list of about 150. No shit. Check it out in the picture. I could barely keep up with her sometimes. She managed to talk for 30 minutes and say nothing whatsoever. I can basically reconstruct her monologue by pasting some of her jargon together:

“Our goal is to create a talent pipeline of intellectual manpower that will allow us to leverage our core competencies and add value. When we look at the aggregate skyline, we have found a huge disconnect, primarily in our philanthropic strategy. This is where senior leadership is vital in sourcing strategies and articulating key messages to give us a competitive advantage in the marketplace. We can start with the onboarding process; fostering deep and robust partnerships, working in concert, and tapping into our primary feeder pool of top talent. This will prepare us for the global landscape and create job brand awareness. Does this resonate with you? I see some nodding out there. What this means is that a fundamental shift in the employee journey map will create touch points, extend the employment lifecycle, and allow us to proactively coach and share preemptively. With this global mindset, we’re starting to see that our moon and stars are aligning. Now I don’t want to get into too many details, but if you are interested, you can get with one of my team for a one-off meeting…”

Blah blah blah. This garbage went on for literally a half hour, and it basically sounded like what I put together here: verbal masturbation. I swear it was some kind of subliminal voodoo or mind sapping -- and the proof is in the gel-coated capsule. They talked about how they strive for conversion when acquiring talent. Yes, CONVERSION. Else said, they strive for converting interns into full-time employees. What is this, some wacky new religion guised as a corporation? They definitely put the cult in culture.

Why can’t people just say what they mean? This interaction actually took place:

Broadzilla: “We’d like to get your contact information so we can craft our individual messages accordingly.”

Gail: “We brought a roster with all of our names and office listed so you can contact any of us when you need to.”

Broadzilla: “Great.” (turns to her team member) “Karen, can you interface with them?”

Good god!! How about: “Karen, can you pick up the fucking piece of paper?” Freakin Betch!

I’ve decided that Chatty McBlabby the Stepford Manager should start her own phone service where people can call and she will talk corporate to them:

“Do you wanna leverage my synergies?”
“Oh yes!”
“Show me your bottom line. I’m hungry for an opportunity to engage.”
“Keep going!!”
“Are we gonna interface and create a growth plan? Are we??”

Wrap-Up: Getting to the Moral

It’s clear that Chris is not fit for the corporate lifestyle. I cannot stand these people who are promoted to their level of incompetence by sheer force of personality. But I have come to learn that sooner or later, you and your Karma will have to reconcile with one another, kinda like an IRS audit. And I believe that people who are truly competent, responsible, and sincere receive the recognition they deserve in the fullness of time. And despite my spiteful tone against Chatty, she really made my day. She reminded me that I am in the right place, doing what I enjoy, and having a balance that keeps me sane and in-touch with my sweet peeps. That means you, dearest reader(s)! But if you don’t believe me, we can have a one-off meeting and interface.

Boy Meets World

A week without internet service has reminded me how much I enjoy a good web cruise in the evening. Due to some internet service provider upgrades (which hopefully include connectivity), I've been deprived of the superhighway and therefore, my blog. So this is what it looked like? I had forgotten, it's been so long!

(Chris rejoins the future)

So I've been dealing with a sassy bird whenever I'm in the front yard working on my garden or mowing the grass. I think this robin betch has some brattlings incubating in my bushes because she's a territorial old sort! I was out front today putting an auto timer on my faucet and there she was, fluttering about, eyeing my sideways, and mouthing off. I thought she was going to dive bomb me for a minute there. Cool your jets, baby. Besides, your kids will just grow up and either be embarassed by you or resent you for getting the last worm. I say leave 'em in nature's hands because parenting is, well...for the birds. (insert ample booing)

And now for the next invention from the mental manufactory, my debut book entitled "Parenting Schmarenting" with co-author and friend Jill (i.e., ramblergirl). We are working on such exciting chapters as "Earning Your Keep By Pulling Your Weight" and "If Spanking Is So Wrong, Why Does It Feel So Right" and my favorite "TV, DVD, VCR: The Babysitter Has Many Names." The best part is neither of us are parents...let's face you, you parenting lot are too biased.

We will also have promotional tie-ins with our second motivational book for dating singles, "No, It Actually Is You" and my child sedative aerosol spray called "Hush Little Baby." Because sometimes, Mommy and Daddy need some peace and quiet.

Ladies and Gents, Army is back in the world!

Gone Wild Series: Advising Gone Wild!

The late-arriving last installment of this trilogy of gone-wildness is here! This is the one that started the thought in my head that connected it later to Turkeys Gone Wild and MILFs Gone Wild.

This one is an inside joke mostly, but I think it's funny and because these are ME thinks, I shall proceed to entertain one of you in my readership...of hopefully more than one. [end self-deprecation]

For those of you who don't know, I'm an academic advisor at the University of Illinois. What that means is I get to tell students what I think they should do. And I get to learn all kinds of stuff, talk with students with varied interests, and basically have fun (well, mostly). See, I work with a population of students who are exploring majors or in the process of declaring.

Anyway, I was recently tasked with the charge of co-presenting with a colleague and friend in the Career Center. We were talking about topics for our conference presentation and of course, wanting to come up with a wonderful title. I'm a big fan of catchy titles. Snakes on a Plane.

All of the sudden, I had a Eureka moment (now that I mention it, don't Eureka moments always happen all of the sudden?). I came up with the best title ever:

** Advising Gone Wild: Show Me Your Major!

It was great! You had to be there! But yeah, Katie and I were cracking up at all the innuendo and tag lines, like:

- "Nice supporting course work!"
- "I'd like to get a look at her correlate area!"

Sadly, the title didn't fit our presentation, so we didn't use it. But I have filed it away for a future use, trust me. Until then, I did incorporate some of the humor onto our presentation website -- check it out next time you have insomnia. Wait, didn't I already end the self-deprecation for this post?

Eh, snakes on a plane.