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Greeting cards from Kansas City

Why is this man holding a sign with my name on it?

Continue reading to find out.

I don’t fly much, but when I do I love to look out the window to see the world below me framed like a picture in the rectangular window of the airplane. The city looks like a miniature train set. Some people say it’s like the world has shrunk so people are now the size of ants, but the view makes me feel like I have grown to the size of a giant. If the walls of the pressurized cylinder of air I am traveling weren’t in the way, I know I could step out my foot and squash power plants and stadiums like Godzilla. I’m so much smaller now than I was three years and 200 pounds ago, so it’s ironic that was also the reason I was staring out the window on a flight to Kansas City feeling larger than ever before.

I’ve gotten some odd e-mails because of my blog, but one of the most unusual ones came last month when I was invited to attend the all expenses paid Hallmark Blogger Conference on Thursday, October 25th. Hallmark recently launched a series of encouragement cards called Journeys (weight-loss being one topic covered) and they wanted to hear bloggers’ feedback and perspective. I had a lot of reasons for starting this blog, but finagling a free trip to Missouri out of the Hallmark corporation was never one of them. After getting over how odd this invitation was, internally debating ethics and morals and “selling out,” plus some extensive Googling of all parties involved, I decided, “What the hell! Why shouldn’t I go to Kansas City? When else am I going to get to use the phrase ‘all expenses paid’ without attending a taping of The Price is Right?” I’ve decided to say yes more often in my life, so I packed my bags, got my mom to drive me to the airport and flew across Illinois and Kansas to see what Hallmark had planned for me.

Full disclosure: Hallmark paid for my airfare, a night at the Hyatt in Crown Center, gave me a $25 gift certificate for dinner that night, and arranged for transportation to and from the airport as well as meals the day of the conference. And they had some damn good pumpkin bread. Mmm!

When I arrived at the Kansas City airport there was a man outside of the gate holding a sign with my name on it, which honestly made the whole trip worthwhile. (Yes, if I’m a sell out I sell out rather cheap.) Sadly, my digital camera gave its final death rattle the morning of my trip, so I had to buy an instant camera that used actual film to take pictures. I didn’t know they still made those. I made my poor driver stand there in the hallway for 30 seconds as I tried to take a picture before realizing I needed to turn on the flash. Then I made him stand for another 30 seconds as I figured out I needed to advance the film. Then I took the damn picture already.

It took 15 minutes to drive from the airport to the Crown Center, an area of shops, office buildings, hotels and even an ice skating rink that was a project of urban renewal by the Hallmark corporation in the early 1970’s. It is also home to the Hallmark headquarters. When I told my mom I was staying at the Hyatt, she said, “Oh, isn’t that where all those people died at a tea dance?” Uh, yeah, thanks for that information, Mom. There were no tea dances being held that night, so I was safe. I had some delicious sushi for dinner and finally, after years of inferior hand-eye coordination skills, managed to properly use chopsticks!

While I thoroughly enjoyed popping amber fish eggs like bubble wrap in my mouth, I had absolutely no idea how to determine the calorie count of my meal. So, for the first time since I started tracking carbs and fats a month ago, I decided I wouldn’t even attempt to figure it out. I think this is one of the biggest flaws in calorie counting: it’s nearly impossible to get an accurate count all the time. I also used to wonder what kind of idiot would pay $2.76 for a bottle of water. Now I know – a dehydrated, desperate idiot who didn’t get any meal service because of turbulence on her flight and could not bring her own water for fear security would confiscate it as deadly ammunition for water balloons. Travel eating is hard, and all the walking around concourses does not make up for the extra calories.

I had no idea who else was attending this conference, but when we all met in the lobby at 8:00 a.m. the next day I recognized Stephanie from Back in Skinny Jeans walking towards us, making me feel simultaneously excited and stalker-ish. If there is a quiz for “Do you blog too much?” I think “Have you ever recognized a blogger in a hotel lobby?” would be one of the questions. There were 7 of us all together:

From left to right: Dotsie from Boomer Women Speak and the National Association of Boomer Women (who has lovely eyes even though you can only see her lovely eyelids in this photo. Sorry, Dotsie!), Elizabeth from GenBetween and Busy Mom and Career and Kids, Jerry from Your Life After 50, Beverly from lots of stuff including her personal site, Boomerworld and Baby Boomer Talk & Other Stuff, me (obviously), Sylivia who posts on Diet-Blog and at Sylvia’s Insight and Stephanie from Back in Skinny Jeans. Whew! I’m glad there were only seven of us because it took forever to type all those links. Hallmark invited more people, but the mommy bloggers had childcare issues, surprisingly enough. I’m not sure why the cancer and depression bloggers couldn’t come, but perhaps they had health issues?

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you how the day went. Not only that, I will be giving away free stuff!

UPDATE: Read part 2 here.

Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn't Go Away
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Charity • October 29, 2007 at 9:14 am

Hey, cool! My in-laws live in Overland Park, KS. I love the Crown Center!


Emily • October 29, 2007 at 9:43 am

I live in KC. You should’ve called. Oh wait, you don’t know me. I don’t really know you. That’s the strange thing of blogging. You feel like you know someone….but you really don’t. Anyway….hope KC was kind!


Mia • October 29, 2007 at 10:07 am

Cool! I’m glad you “sold out”! Can’t wait to hear more about it.


Dotsie • October 29, 2007 at 10:11 am

Hey Jennette, not to worry about the eyes, but thanks for the nice comment.

It was a real pleasure meeting you and as you know, I spent time browsing all around your site Saturday morning. Love it and will be sharing it on my site. Looking forward to reading your take on the big day spent living large as Hallmark queens. I’m still questioning why they didn’t put those gold crowns on our heads. It would have been fitting for the way we were treated.


Crabby Mcslacker • October 29, 2007 at 11:14 am

I’m so jealous–so far my blogging career has netted me a few free teabags (of, um, Broccoli Tea) and two boxes of Nut Crunch Bars.

(But I was so excited about each of those free gifts I couldn’t stop talking about them for weeks).

Sounds like a lot of fun, and I wouldn’t call it “selling out” at all. (Well, if every blog post now starts extolling the virtues of Hallmark Cards, perhaps we’ll be suspicious).


Jenny • October 29, 2007 at 11:54 am

Woo-hoo! Way to use Corporate America’s expense account. It couldn’t have happened to a better Blogger.


v'ron • October 29, 2007 at 1:10 pm

Can’t wait to see what kind of swag you got!


the former veggie paparazzo • October 29, 2007 at 1:16 pm

You’ll only have sold out if we suddenly start seeing lots of positive posts about the quality of Hallmark products on your blog. ;)


Liz in Ohio • October 29, 2007 at 2:27 pm

Why would you EVER let Otto drive you from the airport?!?

BTW, you didn’t sell out. If it was free, why not?


MB • October 29, 2007 at 3:10 pm

Greetings from the home of the WORLD CHAMPION BOSTON RED SOX!!! (Sorry, I haven’t slept much lately and it is insane here between the NE Patriots domination and Red Sox frenzy).

Sorry to hear about your digital’s demise. I recently lost mine in a drowning incident (very sad).

I don’t know if I would ever get in a vehicle with Otto. Haven’t you seen the way he drives that bus?

You deserve all the freebies corporate America wants to throw at you. Hallmark … when you care enough to blog with the very best.


Zandile • October 29, 2007 at 5:00 pm

That sounds like a blast, although I agree that it was reckless of you to ride with Otto! I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time discovering your blog over the past week and I’m finally caught up. You are such an inspiration, I’ve shared your site with my friends and can’t wait for the book! I began my own journey just last month and can’t believe how quickly my self-concept is changing. I included the URL to my blog, hopefully you can link through.


ordinary girl • October 29, 2007 at 5:15 pm

Welcome to KC! :)


starbird • October 29, 2007 at 5:37 pm

Wow – it only took you 30 seconds to figure out how to operate the flash and advance the film? You’re obviously a genius. I won’t tell how long it took me.


Stephanie Quilao • October 29, 2007 at 6:46 pm

Hi Jennette. You make me blush. It was a great honor to meet you too, one of my fellow weight loss bloggers. I am very proud of your journey and all the work you have done. Congrats again on your book. Please add me to the blog press tour when the book comes out. I’m happy to spread the word ;-)

One of the blessings of the Hallmark conference was that it was not one long infomercial with brainwashing. It was informative, insightful, and fun. There was a great group of people there with a positive vibe. Again, it was an honor to have been chosen….I’m gonna go cry now…lol….(part of our secret joke)


Jerry • October 29, 2007 at 7:47 pm

HI, Jennette, It was so nice to meet you and I was astounded when I saw your pictures on your blog. You are my hero, I had to have gastric bypass and I didn’t lose 200 lbs, just 110.

It was a good conference and I also was surprised by Hallmark Cards as they were really interested in what we had to say. I also wondered who would be at the conference and why they had come to Kansas City.

Take care, Jerry


Lauren • October 29, 2007 at 9:11 pm

I know it’s bad and I’m going to hell, but I laughed at the cancer and depression people having health issues. Or is it mildly ok because I have depression issues.


Diana the Scale Junkie • October 29, 2007 at 11:38 pm

I’ve been over here three times and finally made it to the end of your post without interruptions! I think Hallmark made a wise decision in consulting with you, I’m sure you represented all of us weigh loss bloggers like a true star!


Princess Dieter • October 30, 2007 at 12:26 am

I hope they have those journey ‘diet’ cards as online cards, too. Or at least some.

Hated the monkey one. Liked best the last one, with the sun/tree/red butterflies. Nice.

Free trip. Dang, you’re getting up in the world.:)


Lora • October 30, 2007 at 6:34 am

It sounds like you had a great time! I hope they have one of those Hallmark events again but this time in Boston.

By the way, MB, I think lack of sleep has affected the guys in the office. They are cranky and eating candy to compensate! LOL


chrissie • October 30, 2007 at 7:13 am

Selling out is entirely worth it if you have some one waiting for you at the airport with a sign with your name on it. I’m not typically one to advocate selling out, but if ever it were appropriate I think that would be the key.

Signs with your name on it.

Unless they’re sign says something like DOWN WITH PASTAQUEEN, which would just be strange, most especially if said sign holder were there to give you a ride.

Funny story. When I was living in Chicago some international internet acquaintances of mine were passing through the Chicago airport with a layover on their way to St. Louis. I agreed to meet with them at the airport for lunch (nice public place, low risk of getting eaten alive by pale Swedish boys). I told them I’d meet them at a certain exit with a sign with their names on it (we’d never exchanged pictures). Unfortunately I had forgotten, however, how to spell their names (odd international spellings) so I wrote “The Swedes.”


firewings • October 31, 2007 at 12:11 am

Hey thanks for the link!

(Is that too dorky? Am I making a blogging faux pas? Should I care? Oy.)


Beverly Mahone • October 31, 2007 at 12:49 pm


I wish I had read YOUR blog before I posted my own. You’re not so quiet! :) Just goes to show you how first impressions aren’t always accurate.

It was such a pleasure to meet you and now that I know where you are, I’ll stop by and get some ideas on how I can become “Half-Assed.”

I’ll see you soon on YouTube!

Peace & Blessings to you!


Tina • November 1, 2007 at 3:35 pm

Hey there Pasta Queen—this is Tina, one of the Hallmark writers you met—just wanted to say it was great to meet you, and it’s also great to have another good blog to read every day. (And if my boss is reading—I mean, uh, every other three or so days. During lunch.) Hope you had a good stay in Kansas City, it certainly was nice to meet you!


Comments are now closed on all PastaQueen entries. The blog is an archive only so I don't have to deal with spammers. For fresh discussions please visit my new blog at JennetteFulda.com.

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JennetteFulda.com now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

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