Archive for the 'work' Category

Duck parades and cotton fields

This past week I had the great opportunity to travel for work. Now, I know that for some, traveling for work is all about the hassle of airport security and small bottles of shampoo but I don’t travel for work that often and those shampoo bottles are still a novelty I stuff in my bag anxiously awaiting for the hotel staff to replenish the counter with new ones (I swear, they appear like magic!).

This wasn’t my first work trip but it was certainly an exciting one. I was off to Memphis, Tennessee for a whorl-wind tour of press conferences at the Peabody Hotel and farm tours in Arkansas (I work in agriculture, yo. Have I told you that before?).

For me and my vanity, the most challenging part of the trip was figuring out how to pack. I was only gone for 2 nights and 3 days and I was traveling with a group of people. Therefore, I didn’t really want to have to check any luggage. I envisioned myself waltzing into the airport with my carry-on and whizzing by all those schmucks waiting to get their bags checked.

But as many seasoned travelers know, there are rules about traveling with liquids, aerosols and gels. What would I do about my HAIR PRODUCTS. I was going to MEMPHIS with curly hair in the middle of JULY! I need several products to calm my frizz on a regular day, how would I manage with soaring temperatures and 80% humidity!

I scoured the pharmacy shelves the night before I departed desperate for a hair solution that would meet the airports 100ml bottle restrictions. I ended up settling with some sort of scrunching gel product for curly hair. For a girl who swears by the volume-enhancing and touchable outcome of mousse, this was most definitely a second-rate product.

But, when no one else in my group checked luggage, I was relieved at my prudent hair taming choices.

We arrived in the birthplace of Rock n Roll with little fanfare. The farm tours took us across the Mississippi River into Arkansas and it was a real eye-opener to drive through some of the small towns there. Small town-Arkansas seems to really be struggling with lots of failing infrastructure and boarded up homes. It made me ever more grateful for how good small-town Ontario has it.

In seeming direct contrast to the trials of rural towns in Arkansas was the green fields of cotton, soybeans and sorghum and the blinding lights of Memphis.

The conference was held at the Peabody Hotel and although we stayed in a very nice hotel down the street, the Peabody was truly spectacular. The hotel’s main attraction is the ducks that swim in the fountain in their lobby. Every day the ducks parade in on a red carpet after taking the elevator down from their home on the roof at 11am (I wish I could sleep in till 11). I was lucky enough to watch them parade out at 5pm as they walked the red carpet home for the evening.

Apparently the whole duck thing started back in the 1930s when 2 men were out hunting. Back then it was legal to use live decoy ducks and after a bit of Tennessee whiskey they decided that it would be more fun to place their live decoys in the Peabody fountain instead of bringing them home to the farm. The prank didn’t have the outcome they expected when the ducks pliantly stayed put and hotel guests oohed and awwed.

I joined past generations and did my own oohing and awwing as the Duck Master led them home. Yes. The Duck Master. That is a job that exists in real life.

I was also lucky enough to spend some time on Beale Street in the evening and enjoy a pint while listening to a live blues band. To be honest, Beale Street wasn’t quite what I expected. It had more of a college party vibe and less of the sophisticated blues vibe that I was expecting. Either way, it was pretty weird for me to be legally drinking a pint in the middle of the street. I kept looking over my shoulder expecting the cops to come shut the street party down.

Fortunately, I left the city with no police record and our flights home were equally uneventful.

I’m excited about more travel opportunities for work. I would really like to see more of North America. There are so many places in both Canada and the US that I would love to visit!

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A story in three parts, in which the three parts have absolutely nothing to do with each other

Part I-The part in which I buzz

This week has been crazy busy at work. We’re a little short staffed at the moment and there have been lots of projects either at the precious ‘beginning’ stage or at the equally important ‘finishing’ stage. It’s the type of busy that makes you crazy but not in a ‘I hate this’ way, more in a ‘OMG this is so busy but it’s all so awesome and look how much we’re kicking ass’ sort of way.

Today, was especially busy. Today, I was so busy that I felt as though all of my internal organs were buzzing, as if they were busy right along with me. It’s that hum that happens when you’re just on the brink of panic but you have too much of an optimistic outlook to fall into the abyss of crazy meltdowns. It’s what drinking 8 cups of coffee feels like, but without the coffee.

Part II-The part in which I get frustrated

My resentment towards not having a blog name is growing at an alarming rate. I feel like a poseur in the blogging world; like I’m faking it.

But I’m still not ready to pick a name. It’s a big decision. I want to pick something that will stick, something that is clever and witty but without looking like I tried too hard. I want a name that will grow with me but isn’t too broad and open. I want a name that people remember but not in a way that’s overly stand-out-ish.

I am open to suggestions, however I am not open to suggestions that include the words ‘Claire-ity’ or ‘Claire-ification’.

Part III-The part in which I give up on domestic perfection

The Boyfriend’s ENTIRE family is coming the weekend. We’re talking his ENTIRE EXTENDED family. They are using our apartment as a jumping off point on their way to a place that has hills reasonably sized enough for skiing.

They will only be here on Friday night and will be leaving early Saturday morning. I’m actually sort of excited for them to see our place and we’re going out for dinner and I’m always up for eating out. However, I have decided not to stress about this. I will not go into a cleaning, cooking, decorating, oh-my-god-I-might-not-have-enough-towels-for-everyone-to-have-one-for-their-body-and-one-for-their-hair-in-coordinating-colours frenzy a la my mother.

What I will do is make cinnamon buns Saturday morning (hi Pilsbury!) and go back to bed once they’ve left.

Appendix to Part III

In other news, I lied when I said The Boyfriend’s entire extended family is coming. It’s just his father, uncle and cousins. But he has a small family so this is a fair sized portion of them.

The look-a-like

Whilst talking about very important work-related things with a co-worker at her cubicle (oh! how I love cubicles), we both had a good view of all the people coming in the front door.

As we’re chatting about aforementioned very important work-related things, three men come into the office. Neither of us recognize these men and it’s obvious they are there for a meeting. This, in itself, is not anything strange. But the event did provide a break in our discussion about very important work-related things and the conversation that followed went like this:

Claire: Hmm, one of them was kind of cute.

Co-worker: Incredulously stares at Claire

Claire: What? He was!

Co-worker: You do realize he looked just like your boyfriend.

And he did! He looked like the boyfriend in horn-rimmed glasses.

I think the boyfriend should be heartened to know that if I were ever to have an affair, it would at least be with someone who looked like him.

I told him such and he didn’t exactly feel heartened. Fortunately, affairs aren’t really my thing.

Fake it till you make it

It’s been a busy week at work full of late nights, last minute meetings, rapid-fire emails and lots of coffee. It’s nothing I haven’t handled before and it’s not exactly a surprise. This frantic week comes at the same time every month (thanks to a strict editorial calendar) and I’m usually pretty prepared for it.

I was just as prepared for it this month as I was last, but this time around I noticed something peculiar. How I handle this stress has changed, or perhaps evolved. I don’t know when these changes started happening and I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing. Mostly, I’m just trying to think that these changes are rather comical.*

I have now begun to handle stress with an inappropriately positive and cocky attitude.

For instance, earlier this week a conversation with a co-worker started like this:

Co-worker: Hey Claire, I have a question for you.

Claire (with a huge smile): Awesome! I have the answer.

And a few days ago, another conversation with another co-worker began this way:

Other co-worker: Hey Claire, how’s the magazine going?

Claire (with so much exuberance it’s shocking): AMAZING! It’s going to be the most awesome one yet!

And just today, these exact words came out of my mouth:

Yet another co-worker: Hey Claire, I have a question for you.

Claire (with enthusiasm coming out her wah-hoo): Good. I have ALL THE ANSWERS.

Now, let me be clear: in the first case, I had no idea what they were going to ask or whether or not I knew the answer. At the time of the second situation I was borderline panicking about said magazine. And in the third situation, well, I know it may be a shock to some, but I do not have all the answers.

You see, I’ve noticed that I have increasingly started to handle stress with reckless arrogance. The more stressed I get, the more I exaggerate the awesome-ness of everything around me.

Fortunately, I’m fairly certain that my co-workers know me well enough to understand that I am not actually that arrogant. Also, I think this seemingly automatic response is mostly coming from the fact that I know from experience that it will all turn out. I mean, this is the cycle of my job. I’ve been through this stress before and so far, everything has actually turned out well. It hasn’t always turned out super-fantastic-amazing-like, but it’s always turned out well. I don’t think I’m so far gone that I wouldn’t know when to ask for help and move on to Plan B.

In fact, I think I’m going to chalk it up to a ‘fake it till you make it’ attitude. So far, that attitude has proven itself as the best and only way to get through this whole ‘working in the real world’ thing. So, I think I’m going to stick with it, for now.

In the meantime, I just wanted to let everyone know that I am doing super-awesome-fantastic-like and everything in my life, work included, is running as smoothly as a bullet train in Japan.

*I’m starting to think that my rosy outlook on these changes in my stress-management may actually be a symptom of my new found stress-management techniques.

Narrowly escaping tetanus, humiliation and the chance to get wedding photos with the tractor

I have been attending a conference these past few days. A farm conference at a farm college. Along with my brain overflowing with knowledge and my notebook filling up with scribbles (of important, knowledgeable things, not doodles of the abominable snowman) I also had a harrowing, terrifying experience.

My second session of the day was at the ‘Livestock Pavilion,’ essentially a glorified barn. A warm, dry, and clean barn decked out with a powerpoint display. As I had previously consumed about 8 cups of coffee, I needed a bathroom in a serious way. So when I located the women’s washroom in the ‘Livestock Pavilion,’ I was mighty relieved.

I let myself into the only stall and found the door didn’t close properly. Being the industrious woman that I am, I simply put a little shoulder into it and man-handled it into place. Everything was fine and dandy until I had to get out of the stall.

You see, the door opened into the stall and I had used my body weight to shove it closed. Unfortunately, it’s a lot easier (for me at least) to shove something closed than pull it open. It didn’t help that the top and bottom of the door were exposed steel that dug into your hand and certainly transmitted tetanus if you pulled with any force.

So here I am, stuck in a bathroom stall in a barn, at a farm conference. I quickly swallowed by panic and thought out my options:

Option A: Wait for someone to find and rescue me. — the problem with this option is that I was in an out-of-the-way bathroom at a farm conference. And, I was in a women’s washroom. Although there are an increasing number of women in ag, the conference was still dominated by men.

Option B: Call for help. I could yell and bang on the door. I wasn’t too far from where the session was being held, someone would here me. — I considered this option for all of 2 seconds before I quickly discarded it because Oh! the humiliation. Now, if I lived in a fantasy world, this would be the perfect set-up for a nice farm boy to come save damsel-in-distress-me, we would fall in love and live happily ever after. Considering the boyfriend would probably not appreciate that scenario, I didn’t dwell on it either.

Option C: Put some muscle into it.

As you’ve probably deduced, Option C was the only option. I threw caution to the wind, silently thanked an old professor for making me get a tetanus shot a few years back (another story altogether), carefully placed my things on a clean spot on floor and got ready for a heave ho.

It took getting a little sweatier than I would have liked and my hands didn’t love the bare steel, but I emerged triumphant. I even managed to pull myself together and get back to the session. I convinced myself that the sweat gave me a dewy, fresh look and my hands would be satiated with a heavy dose of lotion.

So, the moral of the story is: if you ever find yourself trapped in a washroom at a farm conference and don’t have a loving boyfriend to go home to, call for help. Some nice farmer will come save you, sweep you off your feet and you’ll always have wedding photos with the John Deere tractor and the prized cow to cherish.

A graphic novel about the Kennedy assissination

Last night was my office Christmas party. All week leading up to the party the boyfriend and I had several conversations about appropriate and inappropriate conversation.

This is what I had to endure:

Claire: So, you know that you need to behave at my Christmas party, right? My boss and my boss’ boss and my boss’ boss’ boss will be there.

The Boyfriend: Can I tell everyone I’m an astronaut-in-training?

C: No, Why would you tell people that?

TB: Why wouldn’t I tell people that. It’s not like I’m telling them I’m a real astronaut, I’m an astronaut-in-training. It’s totally believable.

C: There is nothing believable about that.

A day later…

C: The Globe and Mail tells me I should talk to my partner about appropriate behaviour for the office Christmas party. Do we need to actually have a serious discussion about this?

TB: No, I will be on my best behaviour.

C: Ok, what are some appropriate conversation topics you could use?

TB: I’m going to tell everyone about my project of writing a graphic novel about the Kennedy assassination.

C: You’re not writing a graphic novel about the Kennedy assassination.

TB: They don’t know that.

C: <exasperated sigh> You can’t do that!

TB: Why not?

C: It’s not the truth. And it would be a boring graphic novel. Everyone knows how it ends.

Then in a fit of cold weather induced crazy-ness, I said the following:

C: If you have 4 frames completed before the party tomorrow night and an entire storyline written out, I’ll let you tell people that you are writing a graphic novel about the Kennedy assassination. And stick figure drawings don’t count!

TB: Deal!

I really wish I could report that he did finish it and did tell people that he was working on a graphic novel about the Kennedy assassination. A part of me loves that ending for a) a good climax to an otherwise boring story and b) how awesome would it be to try to explain to my boss’ boss’ boss what a graphic novel was!

But, somewhat fortunately, due to last-minute shopping requirements, he was only able to finish 3 frames of a graphic novel about the Kennedy assassination therefore, he was unable to tell people that he was working on a graphic novel about the Kennedy assassination.

Technically I win, but I’m not as thrilled about it as I should be.

Also, just in case you’re interested, he didn’t tell anyone that he was an astronaut-in-training. But I know that took a lot of self-restraint. I’m proud of him.

In other news, my blogging may be sporadic these next few weeks because a) it’s Christmas and I must devote my time to wine drinking, chocolate eating and family and b) I’ll be at my parents who live in a vortex of 1997 and still have dial-up internet.

Happy Holidays to all!

Best of 2009: Rush

I’m doing the Best of 2009. Check it out and do it with me!

December 14 Rush. When did you get your best rush of the year?

My rush did not come from any sort of extreme sports activity, it did not comes from taking any huge leaps of faith or making any split-second decisions. No, my rush came from a carefully planned and meticulously executed task.

Before I tell you about this great rush, I first need to give you some background.

I’ve been debating with myself for a while about how much to reveal on this blog about my work because it’s the internet and OMG people get fired for stuff like that! But the reality is, many of the people I work with are internet and social media savvy. If they happened across this site, they would know immediately who I was and I’m ok with that. I don’t plan on talking about work a lot, but I’ve decided that I can at least tell you what I do.

I work in agriculture and I am the editor of a farming magazine. Yep, a whole magazine devoted to farming (there are actually A LOT of magazines devoted to farming, shocking, I know). I love my job and I love the magazine and it factors strongly into my rush of the year.

This year, the magazine expanded considerably. We changed the name and expanded our focus. With all these changes came a complete re-vamp of both the look and the content of the magazine. With the help of a lot of other people I worked on the project to completely redesign the magazine. We agonized over colour choices, fonts and layouts. For the first issue, we spent meticulous hours choosing stories, researching stories, writing stories, sourcing photos, combing through drafts, consulting style guides, editing spelling and grammar and double checking spelling and grammar. I’ve put a magazine together before, but this one was more important that your average issue. This was the FIRST issue and it had to be PERFECT. There was lots of work leading up to that one day when the final draft was complete.

Handing the draft to the printer was both exhilarating and terrifying. It was the feeling I imagine rock climbers get when they lunge for that hold just beyond their reach. Running through my head were thoughts of “did we correct that bi-line, did we fix that spacing, did I spell that name right.” I was full of terror and excitement. There was a lot riding on that magazine, my career included (this is probably a huge exaggeration, but it’s too dramatic to exclude).

That feeling of excitement and fear lasted for the four days it took at the printer. Typically with a magazine, once it’s gone to the printer, I don’t think about it anymore. But I awaited this one’s return anxiously.

When it arrived, I could barely look at it I was so terrified. I was terrified I had spelt the headline wrong on the front cover (I spelt ‘intelligence’ wrong in a headline once). Luckily, the cover looked great and no one spotted any other foibles. Or, if they did find a mistake they were too terrified to tell me.

Getting that first issue out is one of my greatest accomplishments so far. It was terrifying and exciting all at the same time. During the week leading up to the print deadline and the wait for the printed copy to arrive, I bounced back and forth between thinking I was going to vomit and resisting the urge to jump up and down shrieking like a 14-year-old girl.

Altogether, it was an awesome rush.

With each following issue, the rush decreased just a bit. Finally, one day, about two weeks ago, I realized that the latest issue was back from the printer. It had been sitting on my desk and I’d barely noticed it. I was already hip deep in the upcoming issue and I no longer had time to ooh and ahh. The rush wears off, but I still remember the feeling of the first one.


Hi There!


I'm Claire. I like to write about ridiculous things.

I love chocolate but don't think cheese and cake belong together.

I often wish it was socially acceptable to wear glitter before 10pm.

If you want to chat, email me at clairesuzanne1 at gmail dot com.

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This work by Claire Suzanne is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 Canada License.
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© Claire Cowan, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Claire Suzanne with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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