Archive for January, 2013

Back in Business Again

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Going back to work in the corporate world meant going back to business travel. To be honest, the chance to travel was one of the big reasons I entertained the idea of corporate life again. I love to travel and some of the nicest hotels and best airplane rides I’ve had have been corporate sponsored.

My transition back to the 9-5+ has not been without its interesting moments. First time I called a benefit hotline for new hires I was offered a conversation in a private phone booth with the girl of my dreams. I carefully dialed 866 (not 800) the next time and signed up for health and dental with a private conversation, recorded for training purposes

I now commute to the land beyond O’Hare airport. For those of you not in the Chicago region, that means far, far away from my downtown neighborhood. First drive to the office went without a hitch. Second time was full of hitches. Somehow the directions I printed from Google left out step #8, which meant that I drove west instead of north. I am directionally challenged when I get outside of either seeing the lake (it is always east) or being guided by Chicago’s easy grid & numbering system. Luckily, I only have to drive to the burbs once a week.

Which brings me to my latest escapade. I’m sitting in an airplane lounge awaiting my first international business trip in many years. And I am excited. International makes it feel a little less business to me, for some reason. And I’m going to a location where I will be able to visit family, turning the trip into an international business–with a side–of personal trip.

I have been sitting in this lounge for a long time. For most of the inauguration parade, from what I can tell. I’m here enjoying the free Diet Coke and crackers instead of lunch at home because I misread my ticket. I arrived 4.5 hours early for my trip because I looked at my ticket for my return home. This is not a complaint. At least I’m in an airport lounge. And the bands along the parade route are good entertainment. This is just a reality check for me. I’m back in business again. Time to check everything twice, because the difference between a questionable telephone connection or a unexpected layover is just a few digits away.

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Fashion Faux Pas or Face Plant?

Coming of age in the 70s I was more than a fashion faux pas, I was a fashion face plant. Nothing can explain away the dress I wore to the junior prom. I looked like a picnic tablecloth on the bottom with a matching place mat on top. Since I can’t find the picture, which I know I saved, you’ll have to use your imagination.

Large red and white checked gingham fabric. Long skirt accented with a ruffle. Halter-top attached to the skirt, also accented with a ruffle. Straps crisscrossed in the back and buttoned into the top of the skirt. My father made me dance around the living room to make sure nothing fell out of the square piece of material over my chest. Since my chest amounted to nothing at the time, I was safe.

Ruffles play a major role in my best wardrobe worsts. My early choices for formal dances at college all had ruffles on the bottom and unfortunately a few had gathered sleeves with ruffled edges. And there was the ruffled yellow dotted swiss bridesmaid’s dress accessorized with a matching floppy hat. Of course that was chosen for me and truth be told, the whole time I wore that dress I squelched the urge to cry out, paraphrasing Scarlett in Gone With The Wind, “I’ll never go dotted swiss or ruffles again.”

Of course it took a whole new decade and career before I found my ruffle replacement. Half the fun of going to work in the mid-‘80s–for me¬–was wearing the businesswoman’s bow tie. Floppy or stiff. Bright red, blue or black. It didn’t matter. I simply liked the ritual of tying it. And it announced my competence without me saying a word.

I first learned about power dressing from The Women’s Dress for Success book written by John T. Malloy. His advice to women hoping to be taken seriously by others (men) in the workplace: look like those others (men) as much as possible. My closet was full of men’s styled dark colored suits that I wore with white, blue, or an occasional pink shirt, when I felt rebellious, and a bow tie. Simple jewelry, gold or silver stud earrings and maybe a pearl necklace rounded out the corporate career gal’s look.

I took all of Mr. Malloy’s advice and added my own twist. Looking at my first-day-on-the-new-job picture I wish I had applied Coco Chanel’s advice: “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.” I wore a dark gray pinstripe suit with modest shoulder pads and a light blue wing-collared shirt with pleated front. A bow tie in the same color as the shirt flopped under my wing collar more than it stood at attention. A necklace of alternating silver and lapis-colored beads lay under my tie. Thank goodness I just wore matching silver studs.

In the 90s my bow ties and starched shirts gave way to flowing scarves and silky blouses. Then I went casual, business casual and then work from home casual. Today the most flounce in my wardrobe is found in the pashmina-style scarves warming my neck in overly air conditioned and under-heated environments. I am aware of the return of the bow blouse to the workingwoman’s closet but have resisted. Much as I have resisted anything in red and white checks. Neither bows nor gingham fit my style anymore.

The New Year Feels Different Already

Signs that 2013 will be a different kind of year than 2012:
1. On January 1st Northwestern University won its first bowl game in 64 years.
2. On January 1st I watched a whole football game on television since the Chicago Bears won the Super Bowl in 1985.
3. I learned more about probiotics and restoring the good bacteria in your gut than I ever wanted to learn while watching said football game.
4. An anonymous friend sent me a five-day pleasure challenge to start the new year, and I’m taking it.
5. In a few minutes I will drive to my new full-time job and first corporate job in five years. I didn’t sleep well last night and my stomach hurts now. Some things never change.

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