Was It the Iced Coffee?

I just spent the last hour and a half sipping on an iced coffee with a coworker talking shop.  Our shop talk of choice this afternoon was classical music.

Yeah, yeah, I know - classical music is so serious.

Or is it.

I really don't think it is.  I think it's passionate.  I think it's intricate.  I think it kisses your ears and sends them on their way full of lust and excitement.

Serious is not what it is at all.

Walton Arts Center just finished its 3rd season of Artosphere this past June.  I'm pretty sure I've talked about it in the past, but it's a HUGE festival celebrating Arts and Nature that spans over the course of a couple of months.  We have dance, speakers, theater, children's activities, folk music, pop music and of course, classical.  As with any event (I take that back, some events don't need any help) there is the constant struggle of how do we reach out to new audiences.

Is a new audience the point of the show?

In the case of Artosphere, it kind of is.  We want the festival to be accessible to the masses.  We want low cost tickets, we want high end entertainment and we want the BEST of the BEST.  The question when it comes to classical is how to we convince people that they want the best of the best.  How do you convince the 25 year old video game illustrator that he/she must come listen to this:

Okay, okay, so that's easy to get people to come listen to.  But what about getting people to sit and listen to this: 

That isn't as simple.  In fact, it might take some work.  Heading into this meeting today, I wasn't sure what I could contribute.  I'm one of those people who used to eat, breathe and sleep classical music... but I've strayed.  I've strayed so far away that the extent of my classical music enjoyment as of lately has been via soundtrack for a movie or videos I find interesting on YouTube. 

I've just... lost interest.

Those words alone are enough to make me turn inside out.  When did this happen?  When did I quit wanting to attend every classical music concert I could get to?  After today's discussion, I'm quite certain it was after I quit learning about it.  I left the classroom and the music left me.  How did I come to this brilliant conclusion?  It was probably the 70 minutes discussing how it's education that will bring the masses in.  I'm not talking about high end, text book, put you to sleep education.  I'm talking about real, honest, and meaningful discussions about the music.

What made that composer tick?

Which piece's debut had the audience rioting out into the Parisian streets?

Which composer had a thing for his bassoon student and therefor wrote more bassoon music than is ever necessary?  (It was Vivaldi, by the way, I'll give you that one).

These points are interesting.  The answers might intrigue you.  At least, our hope is that it turns someone else back on in the way that just talking about them turned me on.  We didn't just talk education, we talked about intrigue, about drum beats and about new communities.  The conversation was fulfilling.

This conversation was exactly what I needed on this Monday.  I might also say with confidence that the iced coffee wasn't too far from necessary either.


Like a Chicken With Its Head Cut Off

I'm sure most of you have heard about working smarter, not harder.  Usually when I hear it, I follow it up with "yeah, yeah... easy to say".  In reality, I'm constantly looking for ways to be more efficient in my daily activities.  If I make things smooth for my team, the easier my job is.

Notice I didn't say "if I make things smooth for me".

The more difficult the challenge, the more I like the job.  I like puzzles, I like piecing things together, and I love it when someone throws me a curve ball mid-stream.  I thrive on that environment, however, not everyone does.  There are a small handful of people in my office who's jobs it is to take a jumbled mess of a puzzle and lay it out so that our team can come in and complete it without losing their minds.  I love that and if it were already laid out for me, I would have probably grown bored with things years ago.

Let's pause for a moment to give me a chance to say that I DO not like this atmosphere in my personal life.  I like order, I like ease and I like smooth the moment I step foot in my front door.  It would be easy to pull out the pocket psychologist and retort that this is clearly a result of constantly using brain things while in the office, but that just isn't true.  I've always preferred a calm home and I haven't always worked in crazy town.

Crazy in the office gives me something to solve, crazy in a home causes me to break down.

I've thought about this a lot lately, especially as I start to face a time in my career where I'll start to see a huge shift from daily front line activity to more of a planning from a birds eye view role.  Why do I love the chaos I work with at work but hate it at home?  Is it because I like the outcome at work?  Recognition?  Realization of a job well done?  An entire team working harmoniously because I've helped them to bring order to things?  At home, who sees that?  The Schmoo Cat?  The Sweet Boy who already tells me how wonderful I am on a regular basis?  I'm not sure.

Perhaps it's a classic "If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it still make a sound" situation.

What are some areas in your life that are as different as night and day but you thrive well in both scenarios?  I'd love to hear what make all of my readers tick.

The Thrill of the Hunt

I felt it was time to change gears for a bit.  I've been blogging so often about my professional life, that this blog seems to have taken a turn for the paycheck chat.  Don't be fooled, there is so much more to me than my 8-5 (and those of you who know me know it's more like an 8:23 - whatevertimeofnightIgetoutofhere:00).  I used to blog ALL OF THE TIME about crafting and gardening.  At least, that's how I remember it.  I'd have to go back and see if that is really the case.  I'd like to get back to a me who has the energy and inspiration each night to download what's living in my head and make it fun.

I'll start with this post.

I know that shopping for vintage items at thrift stores is equivalent to putting a bird on it as far as trendy goes.  I care not.  If enjoy something, I do it (and yes, I love people who put birds on it!).  I've always had a thing for flea markets.  When I lived in Austin, I was in a mecca for cool, hip, funky things and those things usually came with a hefty price tag.  It was Austin, after all.  Cheap isn't something that city is familiar with.  However, it wasn't until I moved to NWArkansas that I learned that it isn't the flea market you need to spend your time at, it was the thrift store.

Thrift stores are usually home to LOADS and LOADS of junk someone dropped off after cleaning out their garage.  I've even found a creepy prosthetic that had seen better days in the 1960s at one of these shops.  Keep your eyes open, though, and you can find treasures.  Thrifting isn't for the faint of heart.  Thrifting takes stamina, good shoes and loads of iced coffee.  You have to use your poker face or risk someone following you around if you look too excited about everything you find.  It takes not being squimish to touch someone else's clothes/kitchen goods/sheets. 

Thrifting is work.

Hard work.

But it usually results in some great treasures.  Take that scale in the picture above.  The last one I found up for auction online went for $59 and the condition was no where near to that above.  I found mine for $5 at a garage sale.  And no, it's not a repro, it's the real deal.  And that McCoy cookie jar, just $13 at Salvation Army. 

I'm not sure what I love more, the object or the REALLY great deal I found.  Maybe it's a combination of both.  Maybe that is what makes thrifing so dang exciting.

Maybe that's what makes it so dang addictive.

My name is Erin, and I have a thrifting problem (but at least my sister - she blogs here - has a bigger problem - she buys all the things!  No really, she finds the most AMAZING treasures for next to nothing... I get jealous).


Florida, It's Been Real

The conference is winding down. The last sessions have been held, I exchanged my last business card this evening and the swag has been packed. It's always bittersweet at the end. I'm very ready to get back home to the Sweet Boy and the Schmoo Cat but am very sad to be leaving friends.

So much has happened over the past year that I owe almost entirely to my involvement in IAVM. I was talking to a couple of long time IAVM members at lunch today about my speech I gave at the New Member orientation. The speech wasn't much different than the one I gave last year. Well, it was way different since I kind of made it up as I went along, but the main point was the same.

You absolutely need to try this crazy thing called a conference out more than once.

Heck, while you're at it, go ahead and sign up for membership in the organization too. You'll thank me later for that advice, I promise.

I said that last year. I preached on about how your first year is the time to study the map and make sure you know where you're going. Your second year is when you start heading down the path. It's the time between your second and third year when you start taking the back roads and scenic routes.

It's the scenic routes that take you by the most amazing places.

It is because of my involvement in IAVM that lead me to meet a very important mentor. She is a mentor I needed desperately at that point in my career. It is also involvement that lead to my participation during the past Superbowl that lead me to meet some very awesome individuals. Individuals that might lead to new opportunities some day, new experiences and new lessons learned. It is because of my involvement in IAVM that I discovered Venue Manager School and attended on scholarship. That is an opportunity I'm not sure I would have received other wise.

All of this is because I came back. I can't imagine a world in which I found something else after trying these shoes on only once.

I suppose I don't want to imagine that world.


Soaking It In

Today was proof of one thing and one thing only (okay, maybe a few things, but one IMPORTANT thing) - you really never know what you might take away from a day at a conference. Today seemed fairly mild according to the schedule. I'd spend half of the day chasing around partners in the trade show. I expected to talk about tents, flooring, chairs more awesome than any other chairs I've ever seen and event management software. I expected to be intrigued by Frank Abagnale (even if I think I will still pretend he looks like Mr. Dicaprio in real life). I expected to end the day with a swollen left foot because after all, what is a day on my feet without going to bed with a mongoloid left foot? I did not expect to wag my finger at myself with a disapproving look. You know the look, it's the kind you get from your best friend when you've actually managed to disappoint him/her (which is hard to do, right, because they are your bestie). Yeah, that kind of look.

I attended a Women in Leadership session today. It dealt heavily with the topic of self doubt (well, that's not what the speaker called it, but that's how I'll explain it for simplicity's sake). I'm talking about the ugly creature that lives in the back of your head telling you things like "Oh, lucky you being in the right place at the right time and getting that awesome opportunity/promotion/raise/project" or "It won't be long until my boss figures out that I am TOTALLY the wrong person for the job even though I've been doing it for 8 years" or "I think I'll just go ahead and let someone else do it, they are probably better equipped for it than I am". Ugly, ugly stuff, people.

At first, I thought that wasn't me at all. I'm confident. I'm smart. I'm pretty. Dammit, I know what I'm doing and that is more than I can say for some people. Oh yeah, and I'm modest! (see what I did there... it's called being ironic... or something like that). However, I stepped back for a moment and realized that it was me. It was so much me that I was ashamed of years of being that person.

There is one way, and one way only that I am that person on a regular basis. When people ask how I got into my industry, I almost always say "I fell into it, I guess. The job just happened to be open when I was looking and it was in a small market".


Why on earth do I tell people that?

Had I not been EXACTLY the right person for the job, I wouldn't be where I am today. Heck, I'd probably have already gone back to school for a grad degree and be in a completely different field.

Everytime I say that, I'm cutting myself down. I should sing my praises. People ask me about how I got my start in venue management because they are interested. I should indulge them, not downplay it. I should represent myself as the fabulous person I am. I should show my true self, not the self conscience, mousey person I make myself out to be.

So that is my goal tomorrow. When asked about my past, I'll stand up and explain how awesome my first job was and how my skills and qualifications got me that first job. And I promise to be humble about it. After all, I'm not looking to be a braggart, just to give myself my due.

I would have to say I soaked a great deal in today.


Machismo part 2

I'm sunburned. I'm also convinced that the sun in Florida is closer to the earth than the sun in Arkansas. It's quite the trick, but somehow, the sun has pulled it off.

I paid attention very closely to every detail of today trying to pull out snippets that would result in an entertaining and well thought out blogpost. I did this so well, in fact, that I'm pretty sure I could give you a replay of each moment from the time I enjoyed lump crab under a poached egg for breakfast until the time that I nearly smacked a loud and obnoxious guy riding behind me on the bus leaving the Ticketmaster party.


So quit complaining about the 2 blocks you'll have to walk to get to your hotel.

You're making Americans sound even more lazy than we're already perceived to be.

And if said guy is reading this post, oh well. I still stand by my statement.

As the day wore on, I was worried I wouldn't come up with a winning topic, but then it happened. It happened right on the floor in the middle of the trade show opening reception. A colleague said "There is just so much machismo in here... you know what I mean?". I turned to him and said "And that is EXACTLY how I found out how wonderful this organization is".

If you remember back to my post a year ago about being a wallflower, then you might remember I said something about how I couldn't find a group to join at a reception. Lots of men... lots of older men... lots of pleated pants. It just wasn't my scene, or so I thought.
I was almost beside myself when I heard this right out of the mouth of someone new to this organization tonight. Part of me was excited to go on and on about how it might seem like that on the outside, but really, it isn't like that at all. But part of me had to take a step back and think about how to solve this.

I brought my colleague along from my venue. It's his first time at Venue Connect... well... first time at a venue management industry conference at all. I had been introducing him to people all day. Some young, some retired but all of them a vault of valuable information. How can I help him to see beyond his first impression and see what I see? Can I change his perception or is he going to have to do that on his own. I suppose I had help doing this myself, but it was my spark that changed my view. What will his spark be?

I desperately want him to find it. I want him to experience what I do each time I attend an event like this. Maybe it will be tomorrow at the keynote session, maybe in a session about budget cuts and how to deal with them or maybe it will be over a drink at the after hours reception on the top floor of our hotel. I suppose where everyone finds it is different... or does everyone even find it?

*look of horror* I don't even want to think about that. Sad.

In other news, I had to do an impromptu speech today. I thought the person asking me to go up in front of the room to talk about why returning to this conference after your first year is important was joking, but I could tell by looking at her she wasn't. I made this speech last year, but it was written out and rehearsed. This year was unexpected, and thanks to some bad weather in Dallas causing delayed flights, desperately needed.

So I talked.

And I wasn't nervous.

I'm still not sure who this Erin is, but I like her. Oh I like her a lot.


Salamanders and the Macarena

After what felt like an entire day of travel (isn't that the case for any trip out of a small airport town?) I finally made it to sunny and humid southern Florida. I haven't been here since 1999 and judging by the pictures taken on that trip, it wasn't as humid then. Although, it was in May, not July, so that might make a difference.

I was also 18 then. Maybe hair on an 18 year old flows perfectly and doesn't poof up. It was effortless to be perfect fresh out of high school. The older I get, the more work I have to put into such a task.

I would like to bring up a couple of nice welcoming touches that Ft. Lauderdale prepared for me. The first was the baggage claim at the airport. This wasn't just any baggage claim, this one came with a special treat. You know how most baggage claims warn you to start paying attention and get off of the luggage belt/track with what seems like the most startling alarm system known to man? Usually they come equipped with an alarm that rivals any tsunami warning alarm I've heard of (which isn't many... but I know they exist and I'm sure they prove to be effective). Not this claim. This claim came with the...

wait for it...

MACARENA!!! Did I hear that right? I'm sure I did. The person I'm here with thought the same thing. Two smart people can't be wrong, can they? The moment was saved because unlike Jr. High, people didn't break out into synchronized arm movements ending with a quarter jump to your right.

Had that happened, the charm would have been lost and this post would have a different tone. Instead people just went on about their bag waiting business. Actually, not one single person seems phased by it. Maybe they were used to it.

The 2nd welcoming touch that goes above and beyond the usual touches is my new room pet, a salamander. Yes, one of those creepy, practically see through, kind of slick looking lizard like things. It crawls on the wall of my hotel room and hides behind a decorative mirror. I think I'm as leary of it as it is of me. I'm not as happy with this touch, but it's certainly unique. Hopefully it will be gone by tomorrow.

It kind of creeps me out.

Or grosses me out.

Either way, I'd be happy to see it pack it's salamander bags and head on out.

I've been thinking a lot about what I want to take away from this year's conference. I have a different perspective going into this than I did a year ago. A year ago I was unsure, nervous and completely apprehensive. This year I'm not. Actually, there isn't one ounce of those other things this year. This year I'm feeling good about where I am, where I'm headed, what I've learned, who I know and how I need to get there. I really feel as though I have my stuff together. So with that, what am I looking for this year?

I have some guesses... I suppose only the next few days will tell me what it is I'm here to learn this time around. Whatever it is, I'm sure it will blow my socks off in the same way they were blown off last year. I'm always amazed by that.


Testing 1, 2, 3

This post won't be long, but I thought a test was in order. When I travel, I often take almost every modern, electronic I own. Let's see, I have my iPhone, my iPad and my laptop.

Now wait, before you judge me and my over abundance of electronics in my carry on, allow me to explain.The phone is obvious. I don't need to defend that. The iPad is almost obvious. It's great for note taking and staying connected to work at conferences (I don't take it on personal travel). The laptop is taken only to blog. Yep. I tote that heavy thing around just so I can keep the masses updated with my daily activity when away from the office and/or studio. Seems silly, but I adore blogging when away from home.

 It seems I'm only inspired when on the road.

We'll save that topic for another post and after we've all had a few drinks... it's a doozie.

I'll be heading out to IAVM's Venue Connect on Friday. I think having a place to compile my thoughts at the end of the day is important. However, I do not look forward to packing up the laptop yet again and hitting the road. Enter the bluetooth keyboard. Why have I not considered this before yesterday? All it took was a trip to the local electronics big box store and a a small handful of moolah and the keyboard was mine. Good bye traveling with a laptop and hello iPad with a cute, wireless keyboard.

I feel so with it.

So please, check back in this week as I'll be blogging from sunny (hopefully the weather reports showing scary clouds of doom are wrong) Florida avout this year's Venue Connect and what I'll take away from it. I'm sure to be funny and, depending on the amount of sleep I'll get each night, I'm sure to be on top of this.

Update: It seems that to add pictures from Instagram I have to download an app on my phone that isn't formatted for iPad (thanks, Blogger) and add pictures there. This might pose some inconvenience... but I'll make do.

Update number 2:  It also seems that posting from the iPad makes these posts completely obnoxious in that their paragraph formatting is OUT the window.  This frustrates me.  But it's 5PM the day before I leave for a conference so maybe it's the 1002 things I've left to do that frustrate me.  I'll do another test tonight before I decide to pack up the laptop and lug it to Florida.