Things I’m Not Ready to Talk About

The Recent Tragedy at my Alma Mater

I’m completely drained. Since waking up to that text message on November 16 to now, it’s just been hard to wrap my head around the whole ordeal. I’m blessed to have an amazing support system and a wonderful husband who got me through this. And sadly I have too many friends who have experienced suicides of classmates and friends and family. My own husband has lost family members.

I hope that Jacob’s death can open the door to talk about mental health—especially on college campuses. Right now the focus is on bullying, which is in some ways just leading to more social media bullying (from grown ass adults!). We need to honor his memory by learning from this tragedy.

For the upcoming LiveWhale Developers Conference, I am presenting on our web response to the crisis and how we handled our communications. I’ll be thinking it out over Thanksgiving break, so maybe I’ll be able to talk about it after I sort out all the thoughts in my head.

ConfabEDU

I’d actually love to talk about this, but I haven’t had time to process all the awesome. After the conference was over, my husband and I stayed a few days in New Orleans to be tourists. We saw some floats, ate a ton of food, and I got a tattoo. I have a lot more to say about our trip.

I also have a lot to say about the lessons I learned while at the conference, and the new ways I want to approach our web content. Unfortunately I haven’t had time to read over my notes and properly geek out since we’ve been home.

The Dog

Yeah. Uh. We got a dog. We fell in love with a dog at a rescue before we left for New Orleans and were approved to adopt him. Unfortunately, while we were gone, someone else adopted him. We kept our appointment and let a dog pick us. Sadly this particular dog has major separation anxiety. He’s a great dog, though. Pugsley Addams is a cuddle bug and he’ll eventually adjust and not destroy the world when he’s left alone. We just keep telling ourselves that.

Heart Will Always Be Relevant

I read an article today about the Gilmore Girls revival Netflix is planning, and I took some issue with it. The author, Darlena Cunha, argues that society has changed in the past decade and our favorite Connecticut ladies might not fit in a 2015 world. Cunha admitted she didn’t finish the series; she also mentioned that it started while she was in college so she “grew out of it.” But her belief is that to succeed in today’s entertainment scene, Lorelai and Rory “would have to branch out from their small-scale feminism and represent a broader worldview.

I’ve never seen Lorelai and Rory as feminist icons. In fact, the more I watch the series, the more I see the flaws in their feminism. Is this bad? No. It’s human nature. Even feminists can have terrible boyfriends walk all over them—lord knows I have. For me, and for many others, the show is about growing pains, family relationships and a quirky small town. The most political moments were probably Paris and Rory trying to get people to sign a petition for political prisoners in Burma and Rory dreaming that Madeline Albright was her mom. Sure, Rory had the same Planned Parenthood sign hanging in her dorm room that I did, but abortion was never actually discussed.

There are several reasons fans of the show are excited about the potential reboot. First, Amy Sherman-Palladino left after season six and many of us like to pretend that season seven didn’t actually exist. The final season tied up some loose ends, and Rory went off to a job following Obama on the campaign trail—which turned out to be a good choice in May 2007. But some of the main relationships were never fully resolved, and Cunha is not necessarily interested in this closure.

Cunha states that she would watch the show for different reasons than most of the fanbase. Operating on the belief that Lorelai’s growth from maid to owner of the Dragonfly is some sort of early aughts feminist journey, she expresses concerns that Gilmore Girls will not be able to stand up to the cultural changes we’ve seen in the past eight years. Cunha says she wants the girls’ struggles to be more realistic; that she wants “to watch Lorelai and Rory take on the world as full-fledged adults who have sorted out their issues.

Asking for a change in the core of the show and saying it’s in the name of feminism is misleading. If we’re limited to four 90-minute episodes, confronting stark issues is not an option and the absence of trying will not affect the show’s relevance to its fanbase. It is not more or less feminist if the show fails to tackle real issues or acknowledge cultural hot topics. If Rory was still in college, could we examine rape culture? Possibly. However, shoehorning issues that don’t touch the Stars Hollow bubble into six hours of show would be a disservice.

What’s more, Lorelai and Rory are never going to be full-fledged adults. That’s one of the reasons we love them. Who ever truly grows up and feels they’ve got a handle on the world? When I rewatch Gilmore Girls on Netflix now, I see beautiful disasters. I recognize the self-sabotage in relationships. I notice the confidence issues that real women have to overcome. I’m disgusted by how terrible all of the men actually are when I think about it. Lorelai and Rory are just living their lives and dealing with the challenges they’re handed. If it wasn’t for the fabulous writing and the quirky story, their stories could be incredibly mundane.

Gilmore Girls worked because it existed as the story of a family and a town living in the world but not necessarily dealing with the world’s problems. Feminism was present in the broadest sense, represented by independent women but not exemplified by actions. References to George W. Bush where limited to Lorelai saying, “He’s stupid and his face is too tiny for his head and I just want to toss him out.” Money was never an issue because the grandparents had unlimited funds. This fictional world allows Lorelai and Rory to struggle with smaller, personal issues—straying from that model would make the show different and shatter the illusion. What use is relevance if it destroys the heart?

Chicago: eduWeb 2015

Every time I go to a conference, I wish I had a time turner a la Hermione Granger. Having to choose between multiple sessions? It’s too hard!

For the past few years, my job has focused on social media and becoming a LiveWhale CMS guru. This year, to expand my wheelhouse, I attended sessions that primarily focused on analytics, advertising, and teamwork.

I flew away from O’Hare with a ton of ideas to bring to the upcoming school year. I want to expand our use of Google Analytics and use social advertising to support our recruiting messaging. And, per usual, I want our team to function more seamlessly. That will come up again when I go to ConfabEDU in November, I’m sure. The editorial calendar and my Virgo organization tricks will catch on. They will!

Sometimes a picture can say more than any note-taking can.
Sometimes a picture can say more than any note-taking can.

Since I have over 50 (small) pages of notes, I’m going to limit this blog post to talking about the opening keynote from Sree Sreenivasan. I was lucky enough to meet with Mr. Sreenivasan, Chief Digital Officer for The Metropolitan Museum of Art before the conference began for a quick look at Washington College’s social media. I’ve already implemented some of his tips including a more striking Twitter profile picture and more engaging Twitter description.

According to Mr. Sreenivasan, we need to focus on the mobile experience and making content available in formats our audience want. Our institution is targeting teenagers; this audience often engages with our content through mobile devices. If the content isn’t created with them in mind, will they consume it? As we focus on our stories and our videos, pitting them against Buzzfeed and the never ending supply of cute cats on YouTube, we need to make sure our content cuts through the clutter and stands out. Colleges need to connect to their students, alumni, and professors and show those connections to prospective students. I’m happy to say that Washington College is working on this through video campaigns like #unhurried.

To make our content appealing to our target audience, we have to consider the language and attention span of these students. Throughout eduWeb, I heard a lot of dislike for press releases being copied and pasted into the CMS. I’ve already talked to my boss about this, and we do need a repository of press releases somewhere, so I cannot light them all on virtual fire like I’d hoped. However, I’m going to adjust the workflow so that we have a web story and a press release—not just a press release. Creating a smaller, easier-to-read web stories also means content that is more evergreen for our department sites.

These aspirations and plans are taken from just a few pages of my notes. I hope that by posting them here, I can force myself to work hard on them. I’ll also be updating on my experiments with Google Analytics once I have some time to figure it all out.

A Look Back at Analog-A-Go-Go

Dan and I have been going to Analog-A-Go-Go since its inception, and each year it’s grown and changed. Logistically, this year was the best set up we’ve seen. Upon check in, we received a map that showed where vendors, beer and food would be located, but there was still a lack of instruction when it came to staying behind the fence-line with booze. I assume that this is a new ordinance from the town, but a mention of it prior to our stroll over to the air conditioned tasting room probably would have helped us not break the rules.

Analog is always hot. I’ve come to terms with this, and encouraged my husband to start searching for a new partner-in-crime to attend the event with him. This year, though, I had to suck it up and go. I pre-gamed with Gatorade and overjoyed at the water coolers they put out. I also devised a plan to complete the try-every-beer game faster: we each grabbed a different beer after waiting in line and I would try a tiny sip of the ones I was interested in. That way he got to try everything, but we only had to wait in a few lines. It proved an important time saver, and we were out of there before I became an overheated crankypants.

The main draw of Analog—aside from the beer of course—is the vinyl. Some of our favorite record stores, Rainbow Records and Jupiter Records, had booths but various other vendors set up shop as well. The other artisans and vendors this year were impressive as well, and in general the set up was greatly improved from years before. There was a better flow, and a better system for parking than in previous years. Part of this is due to the expansion of Dogfish Head as a brewery. In the years we’ve been visiting the brewery we’ve seen its growth, and the past few years that growth has been exponential. Part of the newest addition includes a truck entrance; directing traffic through this entrance made it easier to have flow between the vendors/beers and the main tasting room (with its glorious air conditioning).

My only complaint was our tour, and I—the girl who hates to talk to people about uncomfortable things—was actually upset enough to talk to the manager about it.

I should have realized immediately that going on the tour with this particular guide would be painful. His mannerisms, his vulgarity—it didn’t sit well with me. I have been on the DFH tour at least a dozen times by now, and several times I had one of the best tour guides ever, John. So, yes, I do hold the bar pretty high, but this young man ticked every box that made me twitch. It doesn’t matter what you’re like when you’re hanging out with your buddies, drinking PBR and being a bro. When you have a job giving tours for one of the larger craft brew companies, you need to project a professional (although off-centered!) personality, and that is not accomplished through dick jokes. Whether he realized it or not, he was representing this 20-year-old company poorly from a hospitality standpoint. The manager seemed on point, though, and I’m truly hopeful that she will address it with him and make him a better representative of the company.

I have lots of opinions on the hospitality and customer service industry, and part of that probably stems from my job in marketing a college. You need to believe in your product—you need to bleed what you’re selling. In my case that’s liberal arts, in his case it’s craft beer that is enjoyed by a demographic that skews a little too old to enjoy a barrage of jokes about “hard wood.”

Analog Sculpture

A highlight of the day (that we actually missed but got to enjoy on our way to pick up a case of Festina Peche before we left) was the unveiling of a sculpture that dispensed beer. A very cool thing, and one of our favorite guys was tapping and handing out samples of beer from the new art piece as we walked by. It complements the Steampunk Tree House that was once at Burning Man and now sits proudly in front of the brewery.

I’ll put it this way—one little hiccup in an otherwise good day isn’t going to completely turn me off from this brewery, especially since I got my gumption up to say something. I can thank them for getting me into craft beer, even if I’d rather spend my time at Burley Oak or Evo these days, enjoying the slower pace and smaller scale. I am happy for their growth, and wish them well with future events.

 

Post Wedding Blues

I’ve definitely been hit pretty hard with a case of the post-wedding melancholia. There’s nothing left to do except thank you cards and selecting what pictures we want to frame. No more decisions to make. No more anticipation.

I wonder if this is worse for an only child. I hate to think that I’m bummed out because I miss the attention, but in a way that was kind of nice. When you’re planning a wedding, everyone asks you about how it’s going and you can select what detail you want to talk about. The questions now range from how’s life as newlyweds to when are we having kids, and they’re harder to answer—and not as frivolous and fun.

Another issue with the post-wedding slump is that we both jumped back into work after only a few days off. His job has been especially tumultuous, with people on his team leaving and constant pressure driven partially by his Virgo perfectionism and partially by the field he is in. I jumped back into post-Commencement work at the College and I’m essentially doing a content audit as part of a long-term website redesign project. Our “honeymoonish” as we dubbed it was really just a chance for me to sleep off the heat stroke and for us to hang out. We’re going to the beach for a week soon, so I’m hoping that will help us feel a little more like newlyweds.

Going into this, people told me I would feel differently after the wedding even though we’ve been together for six years and living together for almost four. To some degree, I do. In some ways, though, it hasn’t completely clicked yet. We’re still operating as we always have, just with extra rings on our fingers. When I look at the pictures though—which are fantastic, by the way—I do feel an immense swell of love in my heart. I know that I’ve met my forever person and I’m glad that some of our favorite people were there with us that day to celebrate our love.

So when will everything click? Perhaps once the last review is written and the thank you cards are sent out. Perhaps when we have our guest room back and the gifts we received have found their homes. Maybe once we can actually spend some time together where I’m not dying of heat exhaustion or overtired and he’s not stressed about work. I don’t think there’s a right or a wrong here, and I don’t think what I’m experiencing is out of the ordinary, especially for girls who make extensive planning spreadsheets for their weddings.

All I can say now is that it’s been a hell of a spring and I’m so happy that I have this gentleman by my side as my partner.

Whirlwind Wedding

Everyone warned me that my wedding would be a blur, and it was.

I will talk more about the road to the wedding another time, but I’m going to take this opportunity to reflect on the actual ceremony and reception.

A photo posted by @doktanibblez on

Daniel and I picked the venue first, and after that things sort of fell into place. We got married at Historic Shady Lane in York County, Pennsylvania. It’s a sprawling property with rustic charm that reminds me of a combination of his parents’ backyard and Longwood Gardens. We had our first look in the ruins of an old bandstand on the property after we got ready separately in the bridal cottage and men’s den. Our ceremony was in the old rose garden, which has an old stone path and a sundial. We processed from the main house, across a small bridge to our friend David playing “Hallelujah” and “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” on acoustic guitar. I barely remember hearing it, but I’m sure it was beautiful. Our other friend David officiated the ceremony, and his words received many compliments from our guest—but I’d have to consult my gmail to remember what he said. Our vows touched on our love, our silliness and our respect for each other and then we kissed. And, in the eyes of our friends and family, the knot was officially tied. We recessed to David #1 playing “The Girl” by City and Colour and our guests descended upon the property’s greenhouse for cocktail hour. We snagged pictures where we could with various family members and each other. Hugs and hellos and beer and lawn games until we finally lined up to enter the reception—everything was a blur.

Our first dance was to Beck and St. Vincent’s cover of “Never Tear Us Apart,” a song that so summarizes how I feel about Dan and our relationship. It was a beautiful moment we shared, spinning around the tent in front of our friends and family, chatting and sweating and wondering how long this song could possibly be. In that moment, though, I felt like no one else was there. It was just us. I think that came through in the pictures—and I’ve only seen pictures taken by friends so far.

A photo posted by kbbmarch (@kbbmarch) on

Where we received some of the biggest compliments? Food and drink. Look, if we waited this long to get married and we were doing it at a perfect venue, we wanted our friends to enjoy it. Our menu included pulled pork and pit beef, macaroni and cheese, baked beans and potato salad from Sensenig’s Meats. We served craft beer from Pizza Boy Brewing and Tröeg’s. And instead of cake we had Maple Donuts. Yep, you heard me. Donuts. We fed each other a cookies and cream donut, which proved to be entertaining since it was cream filled.

Our friends also danced their hearts out and played with lawn games—the most popular being bean bags (can we please just stop calling it cornhole?) and the giant “jumbling towers”/Jenga that Dan’s dad created from 2x4s.

I look back on the night and wish it could have lasted longer. I wished I could have spent more time with friends—especially those who traveled across the country to see us. It seems like I hardly spoke to anyone for more than a few seconds—even my own grandparents. But knowing that all of these amazing people were there to support me on this next step in my life fills my heart with an indescribable amount of joy.

So yes, my wedding day was a blur, and I’m only just starting to recover from the heat exhaustion and overall exhaustion a week later. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

On Losing My Grandfather Two Weeks Before My Wedding

I will readily admit that I did not know my Papa as well as some of his other grandchildren. I’m the Yankee grandchild, the daughter of his firstborn daughter who disappeared off the grid for a while and surfaced in Pennsylvania. Throughout the years, my visits with him were limited by distance, by money, by age. But I know that he loved me, and I believe that he was proud of me.

What became evidently clear at his vigil and funeral was that my Papa was a helper. He went above and beyond to help anyone—blood or not—in any way that he could. My mother and I benefited greatly from having such a kind and generous man in our lives. He helped make college a possibility for me. He always had good advice and a shoulder for my Mom—even when she didn’t want it. He was a rock. Not only was he a rock to our family, but to his community and to his friends.

He knew what was coming better than any of us ever could. We thought our rock was invincible. And in some ways, I kick myself for not seeing the signs.

Knowing that the odds would be extremely slim that Papa would be able to trek to Pennsylvania for my wedding, Dan, my Mom and I took a road trip to visit him for my 30th birthday. My Mom stayed at the house, reading while her Dad—who was probably sicker than I realized—napped in his chair with the television volume up high. Dan and I explored Moore, Norman and Oklahoma City, joining the family for dinners at the house, sharing our stories of museums and the zoo. Papa, in his motorized chair, showed Dan and me his shop and his collections of tools and all things useful. I saw a picture of Lebanon Levi from Amish Mafia that Mom and I had sent to him in his office.

We left on my birthday. I wanted so badly to see Memphis that I had planned a more extended route back. Instead of spending another day with family, I wanted to see Sun Studio. Papa understood my wanderlust; he’d seen the city before and understood why I was interested. If I’d known then that it was the last time I’d see him, I would have stayed as long as I could. As we took family pictures, he put his arm on Dan. He told him it was up to him to take care of his girls.

As we pulled out of the driveway, I cried silently. I tried to think about the next time we came back to visit, picturing dinners with Papa at the head of the table, making jokes, picking on Dan.

Now, at home in Maryland, this all seems surreal. Did I really just spend three days and four nights in Oklahoma? Did I really say goodbye to a man who, despite a physical barrier of miles, helped shape the person I am today? I think he knew, when we left the last time, but he didn’t want me to miss Memphis. He wanted our trip to be full of good experiences, of love, of reflection.

I am so proud to call this great man my grandfather. I’m determined to continue to make him proud, to carry on his legacy as someone with a big heart and willingness to help others. My wedding day will be bittersweet without him there. But I know I am marrying someone who he trusted to take care of me, and I will carry him in my heart as I always have. There has always been distance; instead of miles we’re separated by mortality, but it doesn’t mean there is any less love in my heart. I know he loved me and that his love for his family is eternal. That is what will keep me smiling as I walk down the aisle next week.

My Papa, always in my heart.

Welcome. Here’s some navel-gazing about my job.

I work for a liberal arts college. I should add here, and probably in an about page, that the views expressed in this blog are not the views of the college—though in some ways, they are informed by my experience at the college.

You see, I attended Washington College from 2003 to 2007. I graduated into a terrible economy, held a variety of jobs, and somehow—with a bit of luck—ended up working at the College in 2011. My liberal arts education shaped me as a person, and it instilled in me a passion for learning that will never go away. If I could collect master’s degrees like Pokémon, I would. So far, I’ve only got one, and it’s in secondary education. Before I got the job at Washington College, I was planning to become an English teacher. Instead, I ended up in College Relations and Marketing, an office at the school that makes videos like the one you see above, promoting our annual Birthday Ball event.

In my job I get to be creative. I get to work with an amazing team. I get to learn and grow and strategize and help others do the same. Working for a liberal arts institution is almost as awesome as attending a liberal arts institution. Some days it can be trying, just as any job is, but for the most part it’s the perfect environment for someone quirky who loves to think strategically about communicating with audiences (that’s a fancy way of saying I like to think about the internet).

When I was a kid, I wanted to work for an ad agency. I know, that’s kind of a weird job to pick—most kids probably opt for doctor or astronaut. So I’m not working for an ad agency, but I am marketing a product I firmly believe in. At 30, what more could a girl ask for?