Desktop Organization

It had never once occurred to me to “organize” my desktop.

Sure, I purge every now and again, search, find, and lose – but never have I really organized this space that I use every day, all day long.  I just hadn’t put much thought into it.  Until I came across Iheartplanners, a blog dedicated to all sorts of organizational tips and tricks – and this post about desktop organization graphics.

Her blog got me all sorts of excited about how to maximize my own desktop space and viola, twenty minutes of Power Point later my desktop is as gorgeous as that desk calendar I’m still searching for.  Have you found an adorable, affordable, date neutral option?

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Feel free to use any of my desktop graphics, or make your own using the “Format Background” tool in Power Point.

Desktop Graphic, Purple:

Desktop Graphic - Purple

Desktop Graphic, Green:

Desktop Graphic - GreenDesktop Graphic, Gray:

Desktop Graphic - Gray

Other organization blogs I like include:

Dear Gentlemen, it’s too bad about this whole feminism thing

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I stumbled upon a sad little blog the other day full of angry little trolls huffing and puffing that white men had become the marginalized minority, discriminated against, marginalized, and silenced. Between the venomous lines of hate, I read quite loudly the longing these men shared to return to the “good old days” of masculine power and white privilege.

I couldn’t help but want to scream, “You chose this! You gave your power away; you squandered it with violence, war, greed, and tyranny.”

The problem is, gentlemen, that the men who came before you destroyed the status quo you loved so much; they proved that you are not to be trusted with power.

For centuries, we gave you a pretty good deal: at home your woman provided three hots and a cot (made up with linens hand-washed, starched, and embroidered with dainty flowers as symbols of our devotion) and the great privilege that comes with assumed male superiority, and all you had to do was foot the bill and not behave like neanderthals.  But, too many of your brothers and fathers took advantage of these Sevres handcuffs. You left bellies empty, black-eyed wives,  and wounded young bread winners on the battlefield of pointless wars, and so we got fed up.

We warned you with small actions like Abigail Adams’ letter where she urged our newly formed Congress:

“I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”

But, you gentleman refused to listen. You refused to concede your complete rule over female education, bodies, finances, suffrage, and sexuality and so we warned you again, louder, refusing to be quieted until full rights of citizenship were granted.

But, still, you refused to recognize our inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. You attempted to block our access to effective birth control, to reduce our income through unfair wages, and to pass insulting laws and laughable sentencing guidelines against sexual predators and domestic abusers. And so again, we expressed our displeasure, burned our bras, marched in the streets, and reminded you to keep the promises of our founding fathers. Instead, you patted us on the head and gave us Cosmopolitan Magazine and Roe vs. Wade, but you didn’t listen.

That’s okay. We don’t need you to listen. Because quietly, behind your backs, we decided to take matters into our own hands. We started to make things happen, one college degree, one Tupperware party, and one pink-collar promotion at a time.

We became doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, and politicians – in spite of your tush pinching, bra snapping, subtle discrimination of low expectations.

We earned spots in your armed forces, even though sexual violence against our female troops was routinely used to humiliate, degrade, and marginalize those who tried.

We bought trucks, guns, groceries, houses, and tickets to NFL games – and you listened to our dollars, even when our words were silenced.

We shaved our legs, or not, on our own wims, and many of you started a little manscaping of your own.

And then one day, after ignoring our requests for millenia you looked around and realized that the laws of physics you’d enjoyed so much, had changed. White men no longer controlled the conversation simply by nature of less inky melatonin and the existence of your dangling participles. You’ve now arrived at the day where you have no choice but to listen to the women who surround you.

You report to us, appeal to us for leniency when you run stop signs, and pay $29 per month simply hoping one of us will decide not to swipe left on your selfies.

Oops! Sucks to be a late adopter then find out the price went up, doesn’t it?

Into Everyone’s Life A Little Motivation Will Fall

Six hours

I have six hours until I need to be on a flight to the UK, followed by three days “on”, a day to fly home, two days of laundry, groceries, and prep then four days in Chicago, five days in Rome, and one week home. Then it’s on to one week in New York, a long weekend in Louisville, a few days of baseball practice, birthday parties, and laundry, a week in Dusseldorf, a week at home … two weeks in Eastern Europe. Then, finally, I’ll get a nice long six week break before I start it all up again.

I’ll earn this year’s Gold Medallion status in just one quarter of work travel.  But, today, I just can’t seem to must two f*cks to give. 

I love my job. I love to travel. I love to pack, and head out on a great adventure.  But sometimes, I love to sit on my bed, with a nice glass of Pinot, and watch Keeping Up With Kardashians.  And, until July – there will be no time for such luxury.

So, right now, instead of going to get the mani-pedi I desperately need, or packing up my still empty suitcase, or tackling the laundry mountain that is threatening to swallow me whole, I am wallowing. I’m still in last night’s T-shirt, snuggled under the covers, too pre-emptively tired to even reach across the bed for the remote control, and Pinteresting packing ideas (as if that will magically fill my suitcase with clothes).

For those who’ve never experienced it, pre-emptive exhaustion is the practice of being exhausted not by what you’ve done, but by what you’re preparing to do. I haven’t yet flown for 15 hours straight, haggled to get a trunk full of sample merchandise through customs, and then been charming and “on” for four days of double-face-kisses and global sales dominance, before washing, rinsing, and repeating in another city, another W hotel. But, I know it’s coming, and right now, just the thought of it is more than I can handle – exacerbated by the fact that following her performance review, the world’s worst assistant quit, with no notice, and an inbox full of To Do’s.

Damn, I wish the liquor store opened before 11:30, it’s the perfect Pinot-and-Kardashians kind of morning.

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One Year in Review

The LaBelleValise blog is now one year old.  This blog started as a travel log on all the places work, life, and wanderlust takes me and over the past year the adventure has been better than I hoped.

Here are a few of the highlightswpid-20141203_115451.jpg

My 30 Day Adventure: Prologue

My 30 Day Adventure, as I’ve taken to calling it, has now ended, with an extra 10 pounds, three new passport stamps, and so many emails and unpacked bags awaiting me I wish I could start the trip again just to get away from it all!

That said, when I think back on where I have been for the past month, and all the wonderful experiences, it was more than worth it – and I still think someone should pinch me that the universe has decided that THIS is my life.

The past year has been an amazing whirl wind of travel, adventure, growth, love, and good fortune along with tears, loss, and stress.  Looking forward to 2015 I can’t wait to see what life has in store, but of course I’m also carrying just a bit of trepidation, as if happiness tempts fate.

Over the next few weeks I’ll try to get caught up sharing all about my adventure, from dipping in a hidden Jacuzzi in Utah’s Red Rock deserts to mixing up my airports and getting followed by the Mafia in southern Italy. But, for now a place holder to begin sharing my adventure from …

The Itinerary*:

Leg 1: Four days at the Red Mountain Resort, St. George, Utah

Plotting the German OffensiveLeg 2: Three days in Vienna (via Paris)

Leg 3: Two days in Germany – Berlin, Hannover, Stuttgart, and Mannheim

Leg 5: Four days in Amsterdam and Rotterdam

Leg 6: One quick day in Dublin

Leg 7: A Day in Milan

Leg 8: A Day in the South of Italy – Bari

Leg 9: An evening in the lovely Torino, Italy

Leg 10: A quick jaunt home, four hours, a shower, and a second suitcase to begin our family’s alternate Christmas.

Dreaming of a white Christmas!

Dreaming of a white Christmas!

Leg 11: Fort Lauderdale

Leg 12: The Cruise (The Review is posted, but the late David Foster Wallace said enough in his Harper’s Magazine Article: A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again)

Leg 13: Orlando, Universal Cabana Bay Resort, Epcot Center, and Disney World

Leg 14: Pompano Beach

And, on the final day, Christmas morning, 2015 – Home!

*Hotels that I particularly loved will get hyperlinked, further reviews to come.

Ballin’

Last week was definitely one for my adventure log, unfortunately it was also accompanied by context which makes it all sound far less exciting.  But first…

Friday morning, last, I awoke at 6:00 am, showered, shaved, and shampoed, grabbed my trusty green carry on, my white patent leather Ted Baker tote, and a go-cup of coffee and headed to the airport for an 8:53 AM flight to Chicago.

That’s when the texts started rolling in – cancelled flights, delayed departures, and nine of my colleagues, four models, and one celebrity spokesperson were all de-routed from our final destination, Chicago, due to one bozo’s breakdown.

Undeterred, I pulled into the economy parking lot and dialed the Platinum Medallion line at Delta.  “Angelette” and I mapped the perimeter of Chicago and determined that a flight to Detroit, departing an hour after our originally scheduled flight, had six available seats, followed by a three and a half hour drive to get to Chicago.

Doable, but not ideal, and who among us was expendable?

That is the moment when the old adage kicked in, “It isn’t a problem if you can solve it with money.”

Heads together, cell phones blazing, a plan was concocted: charter a jet for ten to Green Bay, Wisconsin and drive the rest of the way, then send the six least critical of the group to Detroit to drive the rest of the way to Chicago (knowing of the possibility that flight would be cancelled as well).

wpid-20140926_143306.jpgLuckily, for my adventure bucket list, I am considered critical, and off to the private plane I went. Then the waiting started, the flight attendant cancelled, delays on the jet in Aspen, more waiting, as we left the six less critical at the main airport, with a destination of glamorous Detroit.

After a quick freshen up in the private airport lounge, at 2:00 pm, and feeling rather baller, I climbed aboard a Bombardier, Challenger en route to somewhere in the Mid West. We were hoping for clearance to land in Chicago, but knowing that Green Bay and a long-ass shuttle ride to Chicago would probably follow. At 6:30 pm, when we touched down in Green Bay I consoled myself that “Hey, at least I got to fly private.”

Until I got the email from the disposable-six that they had been able to secure seats on 2:00 pm Chicago flight, and were happily waiting at baggage claim for their luggage as I was climbing on board an 11 passenger van, bag of Chex Mix in hand, and no bathroom in site, in the middle of the Friday rush hour commute … my ball was feeling pretty deflated.

When we drove past Milwaukee the collective bellies of the group started grumbling with hunger, and it was decided we’d grab burgers. Thanks to Yelp a burger house with great reviews was located, and in we tromped, a Mormon, a Model, a Millionnaire, and a Mix of Mumbling travelers who’d rather be sitting in our hotel rooms enjoying room service.

That’s when we met Destiny … Literally … Friday night in Milwaukee means Drag Queen Bingo with Destiny … and I loved it!

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The Spring Collection

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American designers launch their collections twice per year: the Fall collection is introduced at fashion markets in the spring and the spring collection in the fall (a calendar disconnect which makes it nearly impossible for me to speak about a collection without pausing to correct myself first).

The spring launch is out of sync with European markets, which launch once per year, beginning in April in Paris then sweeping through Europe until finishing in Moscow. (Unless, of course, you’re talking couture labels, and then the schedule begins in October, in New York, with Fashion Week, or Asia starting in February).

Basically, fashion is all over the map, and that means so am I. But, when people ask me “What’s the most interesting place you’ve visited?” I draw a blank.

Truth is, I don’t visit interesting places. I hit all the destinations any Octogenarian would hit on their Viking Cruise. Then I rinse and repeat.

Least you think I am complaining, I am not! I love my job, but now that I am on the “repeat” phase of the rinse cycle I’m developing a hunger for the unmannecured, unwashed, underdeveloped corners of the planet – corners that don’t buy couture.

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I’m craving the steamy pulse of Southeast Asia, or the rhythmic sway of South America, or the bustling grime of India.

I want to be covered in bug bites, glistening with sweat, and sipping a cold beer in a warm breeze while laughing with locals.

To me, that means Columbia – the Santa Marta islands, Cartagena, or my friend’s coastal farm a harrowing day’s drive outside of Bogota.

When you travel for a living,”getting away” takes on a whole new meaning.

Lunch with King Ding and Snotting Cat-Beef on a Shanghai Lazy Susan

When Kingful Ding of Shanghai, China (no, I am not making that name up) asked me to be the guest of honor at a lunch in his villa I accepted the invitation with enthusiasm. It’s not everyday I get asked to lunch at a villa in Shanghai, and there wasn’t really a polite way for me to get out of it anyway. So off I went, head full of optimism, suppressing that inner voice that nagged about this being CHINA, and my palate being about as refined as a four-year-old’s.

Throughout the meetings preceding this invitation I was suppressing a giggle every time I called him “Mr. Ding” with his bulbous face and puffy hair he looked a bit like a fat penis head, so I thought “Ding” was particularly fitting.

Yeah, about that palate … now would be a great time to mention that I don’t eat anything that lives in the water, and really prefer not to even look at the ugly little critters, especially shrimp, the cockroaches of the ocean.  I’ll make an exception for steamed crab legs on occasion, only as legs, but that’s really just a vehicle for melted butter.

I walked into the King’s “villa,” which was really just a private upstairs dining room at the clubhouse for his gated housing complex, and discovered a room full of dark heads – none of which were ever introduced to me.  I was the only woman in the place except for the lovely serving girls in their skin-tight cheongsam, but that comes up often enough as a woman doing business in Asia, so I was amused but not intimidated.

The table was pre-set in typical Chinese style with small plates on a Lazy Susan in the center and water goblets and wine glasses at every seat.  I was ushered to a seat next to my generous host Mr. Ding.

Now, I am traveled enough to know there are a lot of customs and expectations when dining in China (there are social mores for everything) but I am NOT traveled enough to know what those customs and expectations are … but I do know one thing: when the host is drinking, one is expected to drink as well.

But does this apply to women, at 11:30 in the afternoon?

Unsure of what would be required of me, I took my seat, set my napkin on my lap, and smiled and nodded through the first round of toasts, taking small sips between each speech that were translated for me to basically mean, “We’re excited to work together. Mr. Ding is basically awesome, and we like your yellow hair.”

All was going well until my host began the dining portion of the meal. The sheer number of plates sitting before us was a bit staggering, and the fish eye that was winking at me from across the table kept creeping precariously closer than I’d like him to be.

“Kindly” Ding picked a few morsels on the plates closest to us and placed them before me: vegetables, pickled cabbage of some sort, and a beef-ish looking thing, all fairly innocuous even for my childish finickiness. I somehow got the first bite to my mouth just as another toast started, took a sip of the worst red wine I’d ever tried, and looked down in horror just in time to see Ding place the fish head on my plate.

The King of Ding seemed a fairly traveled fellow, or at least his translator had told me that the big Ding had visited Hawaii a few times, so I had to wonder, “Is he having a laugh at my expense, surely he knows Americans don’t eat fish heads!”

The rest of the food on my plate was fairly inoffensive, so, undeterred by my American girl in the foreign city (pretending that everyone in the room wasn’t watching me) I dug in, “accidentally” moving my food around the plate to cover up my gill-breathing dining companion and contemplated spilling my wine on my plate.

Lunch continued for a few moments, and then another batch of serving plates came out, another round of toasts, and the small rice bowl beside me was filled with a gelatinous stew of hairy crab.

I resisted the urge to Snapchat a quick “Help!”  when I looked down at the ugly little fellas and was relieved that it was time for another toast, which by this point the translator had stopped explaining to me, having decided to fill his mouth with every manner of imperial cuisine presented.

I discovered a great benefit to chopsticks … dropping.  Anything I didn’t want to put in my mouth accidentally got “dropped” a little at a time, and my serving girl swept it away before Ding noticed I had disposed of it.

But, the wine was trickier.  The toasts and resulting gulps that followed them were getting more frequent, and lasted longer. We toasted the crab, we toasted the lunch, another toast to my yellow hair, if all this celebratory drinking didn’t stop soon I was at serious risk of falling off my chair – or taking off my top.

Then my sister’s wise counsel from a night of too many margaritas came to mind, “If you start feeling drunk, just go boot and then you’ll be ready to rally.” Sweet, solution found! But, I was not going to waste a trip to the ladies just to rid myself of too much wine, this was too great an opportunity.

I began taking lusty bites of the items on my plate then palming them into my napkin.  By the time I excused myself to the bathroom I’d nearly emptied my plate into my emerald-green cloth serviette, and I surreptitiously dropped it into my handbag.

In the bathroom (which thankfully was NOT a squat toilet) I purged like a sorority girl, then unloaded the contents of my napkin into the toilet, cleaned up, and sashayed back into the dining room, feeling rather proud of my quick thinking.

The Horror!

In my absence an entirely new round of toasting liquids had been brought forth, beer. Chinese beer. Served luke warm. Shit! And, another round of who-knows-what had been placed on the Lazy Susan – more food than thirty people could eat, and we were only ten.

More toasts, more helpful servings from Mr. Ding, and the greasiest soup known to man slithered down my throat: sautéed eel was swallowed without a bite, abalone was accidentally dropped onto the ground, followed by more beer, white fish, stewed spinach, more beer, until I looked over at the Big Dinger and saw that he was even more phallic now. His face had turned a bright red, and a glossy sheen of sweat was dribbling from his temples down his face, reminding me a bit of … sorry, I won’t go there, we’re eating here (though the gelatinous salty consistency of our lunch also reminded me of that a bit).

The lyrics to hotel California started to play on repeat in my head, “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.”

Here I was, surrounded by men who were not really speaking to me, all of them starting to look a little intoxicated, pretending to eat/drop ridiculous amounts of food I didn’t even want to look at, and there was no end in sight.  And then, the laughter could no longer be suppressed.  I put my napkin to my mouth and pretended to cough as I regained my composure, and focused my eyes completely on the Lazy Susan in front of me, did that fish eye just wink?

I reached out toward a plate of what in the U.S. I would call Beef with Broccoli and set it on my plate.  I took a bite and it was good!  Really! Tender, really, rich, deliciously good, what joy!

Then, from three seats down I heard it, “Meow.” quiet at first, so quietly I thought I must have mis-heard, so I took another bite, and now it was louder, “Meow!”

WTF!

I looked around and caught the eye of one of the nameless young men who had not been introduced to me and saw a twinkle in his eye, at which point the laughter could no longer be contained. I tried so hard to hold it back I snotted cat/beef up through my sinuses and a tiny little piece flew out, onto the Ding’s plate. Before I could say anything (what would I say?) he lifted the piece, along with the gelatinous detritus surrounding it, to his mouth and swallowed, impervious to what had transpired.

My second trip to the ladies for a boot and rally went down (or should I say “came up” much more smoothly having watched Ding swallow my eruption). Three hours later I made my way out of the villa and the young man who’d meowed at me rode back to the hotel with me, where he apologized in perfect English for teasing me, and explained that what I had eaten was “probably” not cat, but definitely not pork or beef.

Business travel is just so glamorous!

Watching a Train Wreck Play with Fire

“Burrito plates are hot!”

Once upon a time, after about the billionth time burning my fingers on the scalding porcelain plate in my over-enthusiasm to get to a microwave burrito, I decided to commit this important lesson to my soul by repeating it fifteen times in a row.  Every once in a while I still forget, and burn my thumb, but more often than not the mantra jumps into my head and I grab a hot pad, or the edge of my sweater.

But, how many of these stupid mistakes do we repeat again and again, without ever truly absorbing the lesson? 

  • Cutting your hair on a whim
  • Lunch with THAT ex who crushed your heart
  • Buying a Faith Hill album
  • Calling your bossy older sister when you make a huge mistake a work
  • Turning left without a green arrow at 5:45
  • New heels on a slippery floor
  • Ordering a Chalupa

All of these are lessons that, in theory, one should only need to learn once.  We KNOW that the ex is going to be just as big an ass clown today as he was long long ago, and that a Dorthy Hamill bob barely even looked good on Dorthy Hamill, oh and Faith Hill had one good song, in 1998, and hasn’t made another album worth buying since.  

All that said, I’d rather continue to be the optimist who believes that maybe, just this time, I’ll find the ceramic sweet spot and move my bean and green chili delight from microwave, to counter, to belly, unscathed… so I’m going to continue to repeat the same old mistakes and consider them nostalgia.