Time for Me to Fly

IMG_0516

I have a crush on JetBlue. And before you start thinking that I belong on an episode of My Strange Addiction, let me make it clear that feeling this way is totally out of character for me. I rarely, if ever, fall under the spell of a brand. At this particular moment, JetBlue is my one and only. Though, I have been in deep like with Dyson for a while, and I am in a co-dependent type of relationship with Nespresso. But the situation with JetBlue is different. With them it’s a full-on crush.

Because I am not accustomed to attaching warm and fuzzy feelings to a brand, I decided to dig a little deeper. In February of 2012, Brand Keys, a research consultancy firm that specializes in assessing brand loyalty, released its yearly Customer Loyalty Engagement Index (CLEI). The index, which has been in existence for 16 years, measures customer loyalty and brand satisfaction for nearly 600 brands in 83 major product categories. According to articles on BrandingMagazine.com and DailyFinance.com, Brand Keys provided 49,221 consumers, who were between the ages of 18 and 65 and who hailed from the nine US Census Regions, with a survey in which they were asked to rank companies based on “…quality, level of enjoyment, ease of use, respectability and other category-specific factors.”

I was a bit surprised by some of the brands that appeared in the top-20, but not surprised at all about the reasoning behind the selections. Brand loyalty is generated by a variety of factors, the majority of which fall under the broad heading of: value. And value is often measured in ways other than price — at least it is when I am doing the buying.

As is often the case with infatuation, I developed feelings for JetBlue at first sight. Call me superficial, but back in 2002, when I first flew on JetBlue, the airline’s good looks and flashy personality were something of an anomaly in the airline industry. And I wasn’t alone when it came to immediate adoration. I’ll never forget my then six-year-old son’s words to me as we boarded our inaugural JetBlue flight. “Mom,” he said as he scrambled down the plane’s aisle turning his head rapidly from side to side so he could get a better view of the roomy leather seats, “are we flying in first class?” My response was immediate and probably should have been a clue about which direction this relationship was heading in. “On JetBlue,” I said, “everyone flies first class.”

And after 10 years of flying on JetBlue, that is still how I feel. I love the comfort of the seats, the ability to watch DirecTV in-flight and the snacks. JetBlue gives good snack. And I also love the airline’s attitude. The employees (at least the majority of the ones I have come in contact with) are fun in a snarky, but not overly snarky, way. They not only seem to enjoy what they are doing, but also seem to enjoy the company that they are doing it for.

Another reason for my crush is the fact that the clever (and very funny) folks who run JetBlue’s Twitter account regularly engage with me on that social media site. And when I am on a JetBlue plane, more often than not, the flight attendants are outgoing and very willing to take the time to answer questions or chat. The pilots — when they aren’t otherwise occupied — are also very engaging. I even had one discuss SEC football with me during a brief delay on JFK’s tarmac. (Though, he was an Auburn fan. In hindsight, I might have to subtract points for that.) And when I have had to call customer service, yup, you guessed it, the representatives I have spoken with are helpful and friendly. Again, I am not a candidate for My Secret Addiction (really I promise, I am not); I don’t go out of my way to talk to JetBlue employees — it’s just something that seems to happen organically when I fly.

Brand Keys founder and president, Robert Passikoff, said the following when talking about the 2012 CLEI:  “Brand loyalty has always been primarily driven by emotional engagement, and the rankings this year make it crystal clear that connection is everything.” Based on my feelings for JetBlue, I’d say this is true.

But butterflies, rainbows and animal crackers (sometimes JetBlue serves the iced ones!) are not my be-all, end-all. The primary reason I have a crush on JetBlue? They get me, and those that I love, where we want to go – safely. And as a bonus, we usually arrive on time and with our luggage.

Do you have any brand crushes? And if so, what is it about the brand that makes your heart beat faster?

*We live in a world full of cynical people (I know, because I am one of them), so I want to be sure to add that JetBlue had absolutely nothing to do with the creation of this post. I pay to fly on JetBlue — but not to eat their animal crackers. (Not even the iced ones!)

IMG_3446

Waiting

“I have noticed that the people who are late are often so much jollier than the people who have to wait for them.” ~E.V. Lucas Photo ©2011 The World According to Jennifer

Big Hair… Big Heart?

IMG_1366

My big hair, prior to Keratin treatment, but–after–it had been slightly tamed.

When left to do as it pleases, my hair is: big. I’ve got some wave, and if the length remains above my chin, also some curl. But for the most part, my hair is just big. And big, (as far as I can tell anyway), went out in the 1980s. So, after struggling for almost a year to grow my locks from the short pixie cut that had been my signature style since the late 1990s, I decided to venture into the world of chemical straightening.

In August of 2012, I had a Keratin treatment applied to my hair. This was not something I did without reservation. I had several of those. My father died at a young age of a non-smoking related form of lung cancer, so for me, the fear of breathing in formaldehyde fumes was very real. I took care of that concern by asking my hairdresser to blast two fans on my face. And I also had a washcloth at the ready to cover my nose. My other main worry was that my hair would go from being big–to being flat. I have a long face to begin with, and the drowned water rat look doesn’t make it appear any shorter. This potential problem was addressed by leaving about an inch to an inch and a half of my hair (at the root) chemical-free.

My initial reaction to the straightening was one of excitement. Prior to having the process done, I spent a lot of time with my blow dryer  and flat iron. My hair is big–remember? Big hair does not go down without a fight. After the Keratin treatment, my hair was so straight that I could have let it air-dry. But I didn’t want to do that, because the one or two times I did, I kind of looked like a drowned water rat. Oops.

It’s now the first week of January, and the Keratin treatment is almost grown out. And I don’t think I will have it applied again. Here is why:

  • My hair, despite overuse of the flat iron and blow dryer, had been very healthy prior to the treatment–and now it isn’t. I have a lot of breakage, most noticeably in the areas that surround my face.
  • The smell of the chemicals, (even with two fans blowing on me, the front door of the salon open, and a wash cloth pressed to my nose) was at times overwhelming. My eyes teared up often during the process, which tells me that my body was not reacting well to the odor.
  • The treatment definitely reduced the time I had to spend styling my coif. But in the end, even when using a blow dryer (and not the air), my hair was too flat.

So in 2013, my mantra will be: bigger is better! And once again, I’ll be cranking up the flat iron. If you need me, I’ll be in the bathroom.
IMG_2711

My hair immediately following the Keratin treatment. Note: the drowned water rat look is not yet in full effect. 

While I Was on Hold…

In March of this year, I traded my Droid for an iPhone. And a few months later, I started using the photo-sharing app, Instagram. And a few months after that, I created an iPhone photo-based blog. Today, as I was thinking about writing a year in review, it dawned on me that I have a nice visual record of the past nine months. So I am going with that instead.

There is no comparison when it comes to the camera on my iPhone 4S and my Canon DSLR. And for that reason, when photographing professionally, I will always use the latter. But… there is a lot to be said in support of a quality camera that is the size of a deck of cards. There is something about capturing the small, and often undetected, moments in life that really appeals to me. And let me tell you, it’s a heck of a lot easier to photograph people on the street–when they don’t know that you are doing it.  That is reason enough for me, when doing street photography, to choose the camera in my phone over my bulky DSLR.

Interested in learning how to do a bit more with your phone’s camera? If so, this article offers some good tips.

Here are some of the images I captured on my iPhone 4S in 2012.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

All images ©2012 The World According to Jennifer

Happy New Year! And thank you for being a part of my world.

What Not to Wear–Ever

In the three-year history of The World According to Jennifer, there is one post that has been demonstrably more popular than the rest. Confessions of a Short-Waisted Woman, in which I write about my lifelong struggle with trying to dress in a way that kind of sorta makes it look like I have a definable midsection, is the most searched, commented on, and read, of my 155 entries.

So it should probably come as no surprise that I have been itching to take another stab at the world of fashion. But I didn’t want to just take a stab. I wanted whatever I came up with next to come from a source of inspiration.  It was after all, a life well-lived, but lived without a real waistline, that inspired my first successful fashion-related post.

It has taken a while (one day shy of 23 months, but who’s counting) for lightning to strike again. But today–boom!–it did. (Oh wait, that’s thunder.)

comme-des-garcons-red-velvet-dress-product-1-5096949-838560157_large_flex

(photo credit: http://www.saksfifthavenue.com)

I came across the above dress (I would use the word sack, but the high-end retailer listed it as a dress and I am going to take them at their high-end word) online while perusing a 40 percent off sale. Here’s the view from behind:

comme-des-garcons-red-velvet-dress-product-3-5096949-838505600_large_card

(photo credit: http://www.saksfifthavenue.com)

This lovely little frock originally could have been yours for the very reasonable price of $1,515, but is now, thanks to the holiday discount gods, available for a mere $909. That’s quite the bargain–no?

What? You don’t think wearing this dress could change your life? Look at the model! She clearly feels great about herself in this red-hot number. I’d even go out on a limb and say she feels confident and probably beautiful. And who wouldn’t when wearing such a fine example of couture?

And lest you be confused, this design is indeed considered to be couture. It originated in the house of Comme des Garçons, a Tokyo-based fashion label that reportedly grosses around $180 million in revenue each year. The best part? Comme des Garçons is French for: “Like the boys.” I am going to assume that in this instance, that stands for “thinking like the boys.” Because there is no way any woman–at least not one who actually likes other women–could have come up with this particular design.

There you have it, my fashion advice for what not to wear–ever.  I hope I helped. I suspect that I did.

Jury Duty (pt.3) Strike One!

At this point in my courtroom adventure, the judge stated that it was time to seat the jury. We were going to engage in some void dire – y’all! Prospective jurors (I don’t know how many of us were left, but it was still a large number) were going to be counted off and sent in groups of 12 to the jury box for more in-depth questioning.

I have no idea which number I was assigned, but I do remember noting that if EWW had not been taken out of the picture (and left to stew in her seat), I would not have made it inside of the jury box. And I wanted in that box!

I have to admit that my recollection of what happened next is a bit hazy. I know that I was not the first person questioned, but I can’t tell you anything about the person who was. I do remember, however, some of the details about the people who were questioned before and after I was. I remember, for example, that there was a young woman who said she was employed as a nanny. And I also recall an older woman who stated that she worked as a member of the housekeeping staff at a local hotel. The person who sticks out in my mind the most? That would be the man who proudly (and with a smirk of his face) announced his longstanding membership in the National Rifle Association.

After about 15 minutes of listening to others chirp away about what they did for a living and about which part of Fulton County they lived in–it was finally my turn! I am pretty sure that it was the defense attorney who began my questioning. She (the defense attorney was female), started off by asking where I lived. “Buckhead,” I replied. I probably should have realized right then and right there that my chances of being a member of this particular jury were doomed. I’d like to say that I saw a look pass across her face that indicated that this was the case, but I didn’t. This was a conclusion I came to after I saw the final makeup of the jury. But I digress…

Her next question to me was: “What do you do for a living?” I responded that I worked as a photographer and added that my primary responsibility was taking care of my two young children. I think the corners of her mouth did turn up slightly when I revealed this tidbit of information. And then she asked (but really it was more of a statement than a question), “So, it would be a hardship for you to be away from your family?” It was at this moment that I remembered that the judge was also in the room and that invoking the word hardship is what landed EWW in time out.

“Hardship?” I replied while looking up at the judge. “No, it wouldn’t be a hardship.” I went on to explain that while leaving my kids wouldn’t be convenient, I could work out childcare if need be. And you know what the defense attorney did next? She pushed. She insisted that it would be a hardship. And once again, being mindful of what the judge had said about hardships, I said that it wouldn’t. And then, in a blink of an eye, my jury duty experience was over. The Buckhead-biased defense attorney cleared her throat and announced to the judge that she was using one her allotted strikes — on me!

After my turn under the spotlight was over, the court went into recess. We were told to leave the courtroom but were not let go for the day. This meant that I was able to chat a bit with fellow pool members before being officially dismissed. We were  instructed not to discuss details of the case during the break but that didn’t mean we could talk about the jury selection, right? In short order, a group of us dissected what had just happened and decided that NRA guy was not going to be on the jury, and that the nanny and the woman who worked in housecleaning for the hotel would be. We would be correct about all three.

And then I went home. And the defendant, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, didn’t. Because he was found guilty. I left this experience reminded that perception, especially when it comes to seating a jury, speaks louder than reality. I also learned that the word “hardship” is one that should be used carefully, sparingly, and — accurately.

Part 1 can be read: here

Part 2 can be read: here

C is for Cookie

This week, I have done (what for me is) a lot of baking. On Wednesday, I tried my hand at Wall Street Kisses. And today, I tweaked a family favorite: chocolate chip cookies from The Best Recipe cookbookThought I’d share the recipe here.

If you like your chocolate chip cookies thin, crispy AND delicious–you’ll want to write this down:

Traditional Chocolate Chip Cookies (Makes about 60 cookies)

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt (*I use coarse sea salt)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed (*I use dark)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon water
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans (*I used Heath Bar bits)

1. Adjust oven racks to upper-and-lower-middle positions and heat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk flour, salt and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.

2. Either by hand or with electric mixer, cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about three minutes with mixer set at medium speed. Scrape sides of bowl with rubber spatula. Add eggs, vanilla and water. Beat until combined, about 40 seconds. Scrape sides of bowl.

3. Add dry ingredients and beat at low speed until just combined, 15-20 seconds. Add chocolate chips and nuts (or, as I did, Heath Bar bits) and stir until combined.

4. Drop batter by tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheets, spacing pieces of dough about 1 inch apart. Bake, reversing position of cookie sheets halfway through baking (from top to bottom and front to back), until cookies are light golden brown and outer edges begin to crisp, 8-10 minutes. Cool cookies on sheets for 1 to 2 minutes before transferring to cooling racks with wide spatula.

Pass the milk, please.

Jury Duty (pt. 2) Hardship? What Hardship?

Less than 30 minutes into jury duty, and my mouth was hanging more than slightly agape. I grew up in Richmond, Virginia. And when I say Richmond, I mean the City of Richmond. There were many nights, propelled by fear, that I ran (we’re talking full-out, sweat-inducing run) from the off-street parking spot I secured in my neighborhood all the way to my house. I have not lived a sheltered life and I am definitely not naive. Yet, as I sat in the Fulton County Courthouse, my mouth, because of the stories I was hearing and the behavior I was witnessing, was dragging the floor in disbelief.

As I mentioned in part one of this story, the jury pool, due to size and the nature of the case, was questioned as a group. The lead attorneys (on both sides) were doing the questioning with an occasional contribution being made by the judge. The next few inquiries had to do with religious or moral objections. I can’t remember the exact wording, but I do recall that this is when the courtroom first became aware of: her.

And by her, I mean an elderly white woman (going forward she will be known as: EWW). That’s the best I’ve got in the description department, as she was several rows in front of me. I never saw the woman’s face, and can only guess her age range based on the color of her hair (gray) and the tone of her voice (a mixture of fatigue and annoyance).

So… the question was about morals or religion and whether those things might prevent us from sitting on this particular jury. Almost immediately, EWW’s hand was flapping around in the air. She said that she couldn’t be impartial–for religious, or maybe moral, or perhaps it was ethical?– reasons. She just couldn’t do it. She went on and on about how she didn’t like guns and violence. I am not sure why the judge moved past EWW’s over-the-top objections, but she did.

The next question was about hardship. Would serving on this jury create a hardship for you or your immediate family? In the speech the judge gave earlier that morning, she mentioned hardship. And her message was clear: unless your leg suddenly became severed at the knee, and no duct tape was available to attach it, no hardship was great enough to keep anyone from serving on this jury.

EWW must have snoozed during that part of the judge’s speech–because once again–she did her best Arnold Horshack imitation. Only this time, her entire arm appeared to be levitating above her head. Sadly, I don’t remember the hardship she claimed, but whatever it was, the judge wasn’t buying.

Some members of the jury pool, however, were having success when it came to demonstrating reasons they should not remain in the room.  A police officer and doctor were both excused. And there were others too. Our numbers while still large, were shrinking.

One last question was asked before we headed to the jury box for individual cross-examination. This question had to do with the length of the trial. The proceedings could last for up to six weeks, would this create a serious problem for anyone? After much discussion, a teacher was set free. The court agreed that the length of the trial would keep him out of work too long. Buoyed by his success, several other people tried to present equally compelling reasons why they couldn’t do six weeks, but this seemed to anger the judge. She interrupted someone mid plea and repeated (this time in a much angrier way) her speech on civic duty.

And when she was finished, the question about whether the length of the trial would create a hardship was repeated. This time, only one hand shot to the sky. Yup, it was EWW. She told the judge she had an appointment with her dermatologist scheduled for that very afternoon–and it would be a hardship for her to miss it. The judge looked at the elderly woman for what felt like an eternity. So long in fact, that I almost peed my pants out of fear.

Slowly, the judge turned her attention to the two lead attorneys. And in a voice that was louder than necessary, she instructed them not to use any of their five strikes (I think they had five strikes) on EWW. She went on to say that the difficult (and apparently not very bright) woman was being held in contempt and would sit in the courtroom, on that bench, in that seat, for the rest of the day.

Up next… my trip to the box. 

Part 1 can be read: here

Part 3 can be read: here

Jury Duty! Jury Duty! Jury Duty!

Since registering to vote at the age of 18, I’ve been called for jury duty six times. Three summons in San Diego County and three when I lived in Fulton and DeKalb counties in the state of Georgia. My first two attempts at getting seated went nowhere. I arrived at the courthouse early in the morning and left an hour or two later. I barely had time to get comfortable in my not-so-comfortable plastic chair before being told, “thanks, but no thanks.” The third time, I made it to voir dire–which admittedly is not as good as serving on a jury–but was still worth the price of admission. This happened over 10 years ago, but I, the person who often has a hard time recalling yesterday’s lunch, remember the experience well.

The judge, whose name escapes me at the moment (I had turkey on rye for lunch yesterday), opened the proceedings with a very inspiring lecture on civic duty. I can’t recall the exact content of those comments (Monday’s lunch: hummus on a wheat bagel), but civic duty, I feel certain, was mentioned. She concluded her speech with the warning that anyone who even attempted to b.s. their way out of service would be held in contempt of court. *Author’s note: pay attention–this is important.*

The case being tried was an attempted homicide. That’s right: M.U.R.D.E.R. This stuff was complicated. So even before seating the jury, certain facts of the case would be revealed. We learned that the defendant hit the road for a bit and that the television show America’s Most Wanted profiled him. And also that the victim was his live-in girlfriend. The defendant shot her, but she survived and would testify.

I think there were close to 70 people in the original jury pool, a number large enough that general qualifying questions were directed to the entire group. If our answer was “yes,” we should raise our hand. And if we didn’t feel comfortable responding to follow-up questions out loud we could “approach the bench” for a bit more privacy. *Author’s note: It was at this exact moment that I should have realized that one day reality TV would become insanely popular.*

This is probably a good time for me to set the scene. I lived in Fulton County when I received this jury summons. While not the largest county in terms of square footage, Fulton, which includes the City of Atlanta, does contain the most peeps. So… the jury pool was chock-full of folks with differing backgrounds. Which is exactly as it should be.

The first question: “Have you, or any member of your immediate family, been the victim of a violent crime?”

All around me, hands shot up.

I won’t go into descriptions of the type of violence my fellow jury pool members and their family experienced. I only remember one or two of the stories (pizza with goat cheese on Wednesday) and wouldn’t want to repeat them anyway.

Question number two: “Have you, or any member of your immediate family, been convicted of a felony?”

Again, my hands stay down. Lots of others don’t. Sadly, one woman had a son who was a victim and a daughter who was the perp. And we get to hear intimate details of both crimes. No one is taking the time to “approach the bench.” The more people share their tales, the more I begin to feel like I am watching an episode of Scared Straight.

One confession comes from an average-looking, middle-aged man who is dressed like he might have been a member of a fraternity in college. He admits to a prior drug conviction. Apparently, (but not allegedly, because he was found guilty) he sold some cocaine. I probably wouldn’t have remembered this guy’s story had the next question not been:

“Do you recognize anyone in this courtroom?”

I strain my eyes looking around at the various faces in the room, but once again, my hands are in my lap. Not the case for a few other people. The man who was busted for selling drugs? He knows someone. And that someone, who is also an average-looking, middle-aged male, acknowledges knowing him.

The judge asks, “How are the two of you acquainted?”

The convicted drug seller replies: “I coach his daughter’s soccer team.”

No one wants to approach the bench? Really?

To be continued…

Part 2 can be read: here

Part 3 can be read: here

Most of the Time, It Is About Who You Know

I spoke on the phone with Dr. Ruth once. The conversation was short (it was Dr. Ruth after all) and involved no sex talk. At the time, I was working on an idea I had for a photography book and Dr. Ruth was one of several celebrity-ish people I approached about participating. She turned me down, but did so over the phone and only after telling me how much she loved the concept. As rejections go, it wasn’t bad.

I also chatted about my project with Mean Joe Greene, the legendary Pittsburgh Steeler who was known for selling a Coke or two. I don’t think he ever really considered participating, but it was nice that he took the time to hear me out.

And I received the following rejection from Bil Keane, creator of the Family Circus cartoon:

I liked the late Mr. Keane’s “no” so much that I had it framed.

You might be wondering how I was able to get in touch with the above mentioned folks. The answer to that question can be found in Bil Keane’s letter. I had a name; I knew someone. Though, that connection was very limited. In 2002, I photographed former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn and his grandson. I was a portrait photographer in Atlanta and Senator Nunn’s daughter came to me via a word-of-mouth referral, which was how I generated all of my business.

I must have done a good job on those photos, because when I told Senator Nunn about my idea and asked if I could feature him in my book–he said yes. Feeling a bit emboldened, I then requested permission to use his name to secure other participants–and again–he agreed. That was the end of the connection. I had use of a name, but not use of a Rolodex. I made all the contacts myself and included a link to my website in every query letter I sent. Examples of my photography, and the concept for the book, were proof that I had ability. But, there is no denying that my entry (even in the instances where my foot never crossed the threshold) into the world of the celebrity-ish was due to the fact that:

I knew somebody.

With the economy being what it is, and the job market tighter than tight, who you know–and who they know–really does matter. The success of LinkedIn, the online site that bills itself as the world’s largest professional network, is proof of that. As is the fact that being social, both online and in person, is easier than ever. You can connect with people on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google +, YouTube–and if you want to go old school–Facebook.

Marty Ingels, husband of Shirley “Partridge Family” Jones, also rang me up. I think his call was to figure out if I was on the up and up. He was funny and his voice reminded me of my dad’s–which I told him. In the end, I must not have passed his smell test. As we neared the conclusion of our conversation, Marty said that he would: “check Shirley’s calendar” and get back to me, but he didn’t.

Had Marty been able to read my Twitter stream, or view my about.me page, I have no doubt that me and Mrs. Jones would have worked together. But alas, at the time our call took place, Zuckerberg was still working on outsmarting the twins Winklevoss. And Twitter was but a glimmer in Jack Dorsey’s eye.

With one child entering college and the other firmly established in high school, I am at a stage in life where I really want to put my creativity and business acumen (I’ve got boat loads of both) front and center. “What I know” definitely remains my strongest selling point, but I am also going to need to get some help from the connections I have made in person and online. “Who I know,” especially in 2012, remains crucially important. In the meantime, I’ll continue to extend my hand to others–because that’s “who I am.” 

Just so you know, not everyone turned me down. In addition to Senator Nunn, famed college football coach Bobby Bowden was, according to his wife, Ann, a go. As was George Clinton, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame musician who among other things is known for founding P-Funk. His inclusion would have been beyond stellar.

Sadly, my book never came to fruition. An unforeseen opportunity (“Let’s move to California and start a business!”) got in the way. But you can bet that I am still patting myself on the back for securing George Clinton’s yes. And Dr. Ruth, if you are reading this, call me. I have a new idea I’d like to run by you.