In case you aren’t friends with me on Facebook, you probably missed the Great Valentine’s Day Hoax of 2012. Which, as it turns out, is probably a good thing.
Let me explain.
Around dinner time on Valentine’s Day, after a couple glasses of wine, I got the bright idea to change my relationship status from blank (the boy and I aren’t Facebook official) to engaged. Within seconds, I’m not kidding, SECONDS, there were 14 likes and a handful of comments. This was going to be awesome or horrible.
I don’t comment. I just stare in disbelief at my phone as it explodes and the battery starts to drain because of all the Facebook notifications.
We go out to dinner, and my friend Brandi is in town from Florida. We’re celebrating her first skydive, and it turns out that she has a ring on from her mom. A cool little “quarter carat for a quarter life” gift, and I ask her if I can borrow it. Barry and I take a cheesy ass picture with our hands all intertwined in newly-fake-engaged bliss and post it. If you had been at the table with us, you’d know that we are peeing our pants and the boy is convulsing because he’s laughing so hard as he’s kissing my cheek.
We go through the rest of the meal enjoying each other’s company, and see a car with a Nevada license plate parked next to us. So we take another picture by the license plate. More comments. More likes. People asking if we’re going to Vegas.
At this point I just want to call the whole thing off. I have cold feet about our fake engagement. I feel bad that so many people are happy and celebrating something that we just don’t plan on doing.
Here’s the thing. My parents are happily married. They have been for 30+ years. All I’ve ever wanted is to have the kind of love that they have. They’re best friends, lovers, and amazing parents. My one goal in life, despite what I’ve wanted for myself professionally, is to find a love like they have.
And I have found that kind of love.
The boy is everything I could want in a boyfriend/husband/partner/best friend (or whatever label you want to put on it). He is my best friend, my rock, my knight in shining armor, all of that. And we’ve talked about it. If he wanted to ask me to marry him, I’d say yes. And that he could throw a life saver or an onion ring on my finger and I’d be just fine with that. I’ve known that since we first started dating. But we also talked about how we don’t need the whole procedure to make this work. He can sign my logbook and that’s as official as I need it to be.
I’m not opposed to it in the sense that I think marriage is a joke, necessarily, I’ll give the marriage thing the benefit of the doubt on this one (that really is a different conversation for another day). I appreciate couples that have amazing relationships, and I know a lot of people who are, or appear to be, happy in their marriages. I’ve also seen the act of getting married ruin a perfectly good non-married relationship. Like a switch goes on and everything changes. That’s how it was with the boy’s first marriage. He’s experienced it first hand. And to be honest with you, I think the reason we work, the reason we’re so good together and so happy and so sparkly and unicorn-ey and amazing together is because we don’t label it. For the sake of talking, yes, he’s my boyfriend. But seriously, guys, we’ve already talked about being married. We’re kind of already married in our heads, in that we’re totally and completely batshit crazy in love with each other and committed to making that work.
I’m not interested in taking the chance of something going horribly wrong if we made it legally legit. I’m usually not afraid of change, in fact, I’m a huge advocate for change, but in this case, if it ain’t broke (and it isn’t), I don’t want to “fix” it. We have an incredible relationship, and if you have met us and seen us together, you probably want to puke in your mouth because we’re ridiculously adorable together.
And that’s just it. To us, the marriage thing is just a label. A piece of paper. I don’t want to piss anyone off because they think I’m mocking people who get all excited about marriage and the ceremony and everything that comes with it. But, I also feel like I’m being judged because we are perfectly happy together without rings and certificates and ceremonies.
I realize I’m an odd duck. I’ve never visualized my perfect dream wedding. I’ve always said if I get married, it will be on a beach or outside somewhere and people better not be dressing up because I sure as shit won’t be wearing a dress. I don’t want to have kids and I don’t hear my biological clock ticking loudly in the background of this happy relationship I’m in. I’m strange. So be it.
I also know that things change. Sometimes, out of nowhere, people who have been together for awhile with no intention of marrying get married. I’m not saying it won’t happen someday. I also know that I’ve cried wolf on getting engaged so if it ever DOES happen, there will be five people that give a shit and the rest of you will think I’m joking again. And while I’d love to think that everyone would be happy and excited and show that enthusiasm for us if that’s the route we ended up taking, I know that the Great Valentine’s Day Hoax of 2012 has ruined that reaction for a lot of people. I get it.
So, or those of you who ARE friends with one or both of us on Facebook and were part of the whole thing, I apologize if us posting that we were engaged and then saying we weren’t offended you in some way. My friend Becky is pretty wise, and when I asked her why it would piss people off, she laid it out pretty clearly for me:
People who love and care about you guys see you two always talking about/showing how happy you are together. People want to believe that love stories like yours end in marriage. And when you post that you’re engaged and don’t make it obvious that it’s a joke right away and people get all excited for you and then you’re all like “jk weirdos, obviously you dont’ know us at all” it makes people 1. feel stupid 2. feel angry that you take the issue of engagement/marr
iage as such a joke when many of them believe in it strongly and 3. feel annoyed that you guys think it’s funny that people “don’t know you very well”
I did the same thing on April Fool’s Day and nobody was pissed when it wasn’t true. So I’m all “why the hell is everyone mad because it’s on Valentine’s Day – you know he wouldn’t propose on Valentine’s Day.” Becky pointed out that April Fools was obvious (okay, but honestly, him proposing at all is more likely on April Fool’s than Valentine’s Day but I digress) and that this was after we moved to Elsinore.
…and you were still happy and sparkly back then, but it wasn’t like the gold medal glitter shower celebration parade from the unicorn and teddy bear happiness olympics you seem to be living now. For those playing along at home, it seems like maybe you guys finally feel “settled” somewhere. So i can see how many feel it is a reasonable next step.
Touche, Becky, touche.
At the end of the day, I know this: I love him very, very, very much. More than I’ve ever thought I was capable of loving. I love our friends that know us and know that it was fake and laughed about it because they know us very, very well. I apologize to our friends that didn’t know it was a joke, got excited, and then probably felt like we were complete assholes for claiming “you should have known better.” I love my parents for understanding our relationship and not pressuring us to get married and squeeze out some grandchildren. They know that’s not how we roll.
Love is a funny thing. And it’s most certainly different for everyone who experiences it. And while our fairytale may not end the way little girls all over the world dream of, I certainly couldn’t have dreamed up a better life for myself, or for us.
For the married peeps out there, are we total assholes? What is the secret to making your marriage work? For the non-wed folks out there, or people in happy relationships with no desire to marry, same question – what do you do to keep things working and amazing?
And how many of you have de-friended me on Facebook because of this? Be honest.
I suck at pitching in the “here let me tell you all about myself (or this client) and PS I don’t give a shit about what you do or who you are” kind of way. In my first agency job, I was groomed to establish relationships, to get to know the people I was contacting, and, most importantly to start a conversation. And I was really fucking good at it. It’s super easy to just draft up a form letter and do a mail merge, but I didn’t like that. And because I didn’t like that, I got results. Bloggers would email me back all “holy shit thank you for obviously knowing something about my blog instead of saying ‘hey blogger’ like other people have done in the past.” I never wanted to be one of those PR peeps that got blasted in front of the masses for some blanket pitch.
So, a few weeks ago, at Entrepreneur Magazine’s Growth Conference in Long Beach, I did exactly what I feared at my first agency job: a blanket pitch. To an editor for the magazine. In her face. Except this time I was pitching the only client that I’d ever know inside and out: I pitched my business. In three minutes. To someone I’ve never met.
I was in line with several hundred of my newest friends, a bunch of entrepreneurs just trying to get their shot at being covered by the magazine. For some, this would mean product sales. For others, it would mean exposure to a gigantic audience. For me, it was an exercise that led me to kinda sorta figure out what the hell I’m doing with 3Ring Media.
The man in front of me in line asked me what I do.
“3Ring Media is a marketing firm (me) that helps adventure sports companies with online marketing. Essentially, I help these peeps figure out how to be awesome online. Most of them are already awesome in the offline world, but they have no clue how to tackle online marketing.”
Sounds pretty good, right? No? Okay fine, I need to work on that.
He asked me how many active skydivers there are. Last I heard, the USPA has some 30,000 active peeps paying dues, and that number doesn’t really seem to grow all that much, from what I gather. People decide to get out of the sport and they seem to be replaced with new, younger jumpers. But what he said next blew my mind.
“How many of those 30,000 members own their own company? Could you be helping skydivers with their marketing for their small business?”
DING DING DING DING DING
Yes, I could. And really, I am. He put the words in my mouth. I help Blue Skies Magazine, started by skydivers, by contributing content and offering marketing advice every once in awhile. I help CONFLO, a BASE-jumper founded clothing company, get closer and closer to their mission of being the Billabong or Quicksilver of the air sports world. I am helping my fellow jumpers market their businesses. I knew what I did and I know how I do it, but I had never put it into those words before.
After having this mini-epiphany, I read over the guidelines for the pitch the editor session. Everyone will get three minutes. You should talk about yourself, your business, and consider the following questions to keep your pitch on-target:
• What do you think is interesting or newsworthy about your company? Explain briefly.
• What key challenges or obstacles did you overcome while starting/growing your company? Explain briefly.
• Do you use any innovative or unusual marketing or sales strategies, financing strategies or management techniques?
• Have you developed an innovative product, service or technology?
• Is there a specific marketing/sales strategy, financing strategy or management technique that has greatly helped your business’s growth?
I guess I should have known better that this wouldn’t be a conversation – but I figured the bullet points were items I should have in mind for when my time came – perhaps the editor would be asking me questions and I’d be answering them, like more of an interview than anything else. I’m awesome at interviews, so I’m pumped. I’m thinking I’m going to nail this. I envision sitting on the couch at home and getting an email from Entrepreneur Magazine about how they need me to fly to wherever they’re based they can have a photo shoot with me for the cover of an upcoming issue – with 3Ring featured as an awesome business.
What actually happened was pretty much the exact opposite of nailing it.
I was totally out of my element, I was stumbling and rambling and I KNEW it. It’s like I was having an out of body experience, sitting next to the editor and watching myself look like an unprepared idiot. This version of pitching was totally outside of my comfort zone. I don’t believe in elevator pitches, at least not for what I do. My business is me. I’m what you get when we work together. I don’t have some product that I’m trying to sell, essentially, I’m selling a relationship with me and building trust that you know that I know what I’m talking about.
That said, I treat business (and life in general, really) similar to how I treat a cocktail party – I start a conversation with someone, ask them about who they are, where they’re from, what they do, all that, THEN talk about myself if they’re interested in hearing it. I’ve never just walked into a room and been like “HEY I’M SYDNEY AND 3RING MEDIA IS MY BUSINESS AND I’M HERE TO TELL YOU ALL ABOUT IT!”
Even though I totally fumbled around to make myself and 3Ring sound interesting, it was a great exercise. I learned a bit more about what 3Ring is shaping up to be, and also learned that this kind of conference is nowhere near what I’m used to. It just goes to show what an echo chamber we’re in when we’re talking to marketing/PR/social media types. When you’re used to talking to everyone about what you do and every person you’re talking to is also in the same industry, they totally get it, and they realize how important PR/Marketing/social is to business. When you’re talking to someone who has no clue how social media works and doesn’t have a clue how to get started with marketing, you really have to bring it back and explain it as if they have no clue what you’re talking about… because they don’t.
As awkward as I felt, I’m actually looking forward to the next opportunity I have to go to a conference like this.
After a skydive, we debrief and there’s a structure to it. State some things you liked about the skydive, and things you could improve upon and HOW. To start with “I sucked at ______” isn’t proper format, and my coach would slap me on the wrist if I didn’t debrief this experience properly. If you’ll notice, the title says “I suck at pitching” – which is bad debriefing form. So, to not totally rob myself of a proper debrief:
Things I liked: I loved finally seeing Erika Napoletano speak. She lit up my life and the room and I SO wish I could be at SXSW for her book launch. I liked catching up with Jason Falls and learning more about how he’s working on his book tour and what that all entails. I liked being outside of my comfort zone.
What I didn’t like: I didn’t like fumbling around during the pitch. I can improve upon this by practicing this kind of pitch so I know how to do it when I need to do it. Though I don’t prefer this method of talking about my business, I understand certain circumstances call for it, and I want to be totally fucking awesome at it when that happens next.
If you’re an entrepreneur, how do you pitch your business? Have you ever been to a similar conference? Do you have any tips for how to pitch if starting a conversation isn’t an option?
Tuesday is our Saturday here in California. We spent all day in bed like total bums and it was absolutely glorious. Come dinner time, I knew I wanted to make something but I didn’t know what. I was kind of at a loss for inspiration, even after spending an inordinate amount of time looking at FoodGawker. So, I asked Facebook what I should make for dinner. Good lord I love the Internet.
One of the boy’s students, Katherine, is the executive chef at some super sweet restaurant in San Diego, so when I got the notification that she commented, I was super pumped. “Build your own pizza” was one of a handful of her suggestions. If you know the boy and I, you know that we already rock the pizza scene pretty hard. Our buddy DK said “tacos and margaritas”. We were “eh” about both. Then the boy remembered some ridiculously awesome taco pizza that he made once after having it in New York somewhere, with seasoned beef and ricotta cheese. My ears perked up at ricotta cheese.
So, not really having a recipe, we totally winged it. And it turned out ridiculously delicious. You know how ricotta gets a little crispy on the outside and all creamy and orgasmic on the inside? That totally happened with this pizza. We haven’t ventured into making our own dough yet, but we do buy fresh dough from the grocery store, local market, or a little pizza joint, depending on where we’re making the pizza (home, Austin, Illinois, etc).
Just whip it all up according to the recipe below, and it should turn out looking a little something like this:
So, what are you guys up to for the Super Bowl? Last year, Hulu had all the ads online after they aired and we watched the ads in bed, sans football. If you’re going to a party, bring that Spinachy Garlicky Artichokey Super Bowl Dip. Your friends will thank you. They’ll smell like garlic for two days after consuming it, but they’ll thank you.
That’s right, kiddos. I made a spinach artichoke dip for a wine/appetizer night at the boss’s house last night. The verdict? Totally delicious. It went a little something like this: I made the dip, then baked it at the boss’s house. Then I did quality control on it before anyone tasted it. It was so good I told everyone it was awful in hopes to derail the masses from attacking the dip. Yes, I wanted it for myself.
Then everyone tried it. One by one, they were all “yes, this is terrible, nobody else should try it” – they were on to my strategy. And then most of it disappeared. I took home the leftovers and had some for a snack and put some of it with some pasta shells and used it as a sauce. Gooey. Delicious. You’re welcome.
So, I don’t really give a shit about the Super Bowl but I know a metric asston of people are probably looking for the best recipe for a Super Bowl Spinach Artichoke Dip so, hopefully this one delivers. Of course it will. Sorry I didn’t get more pictures, we were borderline disgusting with how we tackled the dip last night (see what I did there?). I’d love to have a shot of the dip on the crostini I served it with but that just wasn’t happening.
If you need a spinachy, garlicky, artichokey dip recipe for your Super Bowl party, this is the ticket. And if you have any leftover, which is highly unlikely, you can eat it as dip (again) or throw it in a bowl with some pasta and call it a day. What I can tell you is that you will be welcomed with oohs, ahs, and applause at any party you bring this to, regardless of whether or not it’s revolving around football and advertising.
And? Double bonus? No mayo up in here. Light sour cream. 1/3 Less Fat Philadelphia Cream Cheese. Part skim mozzerella. Fresh spinach. Delicious artichoke hearts. The recipe I adapted this from says it’s only 135 calories per 1/2 cup and that’s with twice as much cream cheese as I used. Yes, I was shopping and didn’t realize that cream cheese blocks aren’t like butter blocks. I thought there were two blocks of cream cheese in a box and there was only one, so I used half as much cream cheese as what the original called for.
The recipe below is the one I actually made. You can find the one I adapted it from here.
Again, you’re welcome.
On our weekly trip to Plowboys Market, I found some gorgeous asparagus, but it was a bit on the skinny side. Having been craving it lately, I picked it up anyway.
Now, I guess I should preface “skinny asparagus” with a story. Back in the day, I was a bartender at Charley’s Steak House in Tampa, Florida. It was a DiRona award-winning restaurant, one of the top ten independently-owned steakhouses in the nation, blah blah blah. We had asparagus. And it was huge. I’m talking asparagus that was as thick as a Crayola marker sometimes. Think about it. That’s a big stalk of asparagus. It was perfect for grilling because you know those suckers weren’t going anywhere. So a lot of “normal” asparagus looks very skinny to me.
On with it, yes?
So I find this asparagus that isn’t suitable for grilling because it’s so skinny. The boy and I were a bit on the lazy side yesterday and didn’t feel like going to the actual grocery store after going to the market. So I started poking around the cabinet and found enough to go with for a delicious dinner: some leftover feta cheese in the fridge, a boat load of garlic (always), some lemon peel (left over from the freshly juiced margaritas we had just made), basil, and a mostly-full box of linguine. Bam. Happening.
I chopped up some basil and garlic and poured olive oil over it. A little infusing action happening. Then I took a knife and sliced off some of the lemon zest from the peel that was leftover. I chopped that up really fine and threw it in a skillet with a little bit of olive oil as well. Water is in the process of boiling. Over super low heat, I heat up the lemon zest and the olive oil. Smelling good up in here.
I took about half of the rubber-banded bundle of asparagus and chopped it up in to bite-size pieces, like this:
Then once I throw the pasta in the water, I add the asparagus and 4 cloves of sliced garlic (you’ve caught on by now that I have an unhealthy obsession with garlic, right? Okay great.) and let it cook a little bit. We’re going for bright green and “tender” not “mushy” here.
Once the pasta is done, I strain it and throw it in a bowl. Then add the asparagus and garlic combo to the bowl. Then grab that delicious basil-garlic-EVOO mixture and pour that into the bowl as I’m tossing it. A few twists of black pepper and continue to toss. Go easy on the oil mixture at first, you don’t want the pasta to be sloppy oily, but nicely coated. Or maybe you do like sloppy oily. Then go for it. Top with crushed red pepper flakes and feta cheese. I used some of the garlic and herb Athenos variety, but you can do whatever you want there.
And there you have it. It takes as long as it takes you to boil water and cook pasta. Seriously. So easy and so fast. Love it.
Up next: trying a variation of this with red quinoa. First time cooking quinoa. We’ll see how that goes!