Hotel Hipsta How I Miss Ya

I traveled to NYC on business this week to attend an industry roundtable/seminar. It was a great opportunity to meet colleagues in the same line of work in our industry, to share ideas and to simply get back to the Big Apple. (I convinced myself of this last part as I waited through a 2-hour delay followed by a roller coaster-esque landing into LaGuardia caused by the storm that moved from home due east to…NYC. Bam!)

The dinner and meeting were held in the Meatpacking District – once a neighborhood of drug addicts and prostitutes, now a place where you can walk down the street at night from your luxury hotel to Ted Baker to buy a $200 tie.

And, oh, how my hotel oozed hip, sophisticated, urban-cool!

I totally overlooked it when I first arrived – I was late for dinner and a little woozy from the plane landing /ACCELERATE BRAKE ACCELERATE BRAKE technique the driver used to get me there. So, it wasn’t until I came back from dinner that I saw the photograph on the wall of my room. It was like one of those fragrance or fashion ads I imagine I’d find in Vogue, if I cared enough about fragrances or fashion to read Vogue. Hipster skinny dude smiling seductively at a woman straddling the armrest of a sofa or something. Her back was to the camera, but I’m pretty sure she was smiling (seductively) back at him and not at all concerned that her top was falling off her shoulder, or that she forgot to put pants on that morning.

So there was that.

Then, I saw the tiny bottles of energy drinks on the nightstand, but not the Five Hour Energy obnoxious-rainbow-color kind you see all over the place. These sported restrained, high-end labels and, if memory serves, coconut flavoring.

Then, I noticed the extras left in the bathroom for me:  a package containing an orange thong (sadly, size Small and even sadder, priced at $22) and a rubber ducky personal massager with the command, “Get Wet”.

This got me thinking:

  1. Does every guest at a luxury hipster hotel get these?
  2. Do men get orange g-strings while women get thongs? Are other colors and styles available?
  3. Do most women (or men) buying the orange thong care that their dollars are helping low income women, as was promised on the packaging?
  4. Did I really look that bad when I checked in that the slickster at the reception desk felt compelled to call in the RELAX. DON’T DO IT. SWAT team to drop these goodies on my counter?

Don’t get me wrong:  I like ducks and photography and new underwear as much as the next girl, although orange isn’t my best color.  (And, no, I didn’t purchase anything. Are you kidding me? I can barely get an expense report approved without some glitch in the system when I buy coffee at the airport.) I wasn’t offended; I just found it all very amusing. The hotel was nice, but seemed to be trying a little too hard. The bed was comfie, which, frankly, was hip enough for me.


Thursday Thanks: for a “tune up”

T-Rex, my son, chose to play the oboe last year in his first year of band so he could sound like a snake charmer. (A handy skill to have in certain Indiana Jonesey situations, I imagine.) However, somewhere between September and May he realized that 1) the oboe is hard to play especially when 2) you don’t feel much like practicing.

Oh, and 3) that you start out souding more like a bleating, squeeking farm animal than a snake charmer.

This year T-Rex asked if he could try another instrument. As a music lover and former band geek, I was glad to hear he still wanted to participate, so I said “sure, what is it you want to play?”

“Something easier than the oboe,” he said, “like the cello.”

The cello.

Squeeky charmer to Yo-Yo Ma. Oy vey.

Hot mess

Wishful thinking:  I am attractive and ladylike while I sleep.

Reality:  No, I’m not. I’ve discovered I clench my teeth, furrow my brows, get distracted by every sound and movement and, for extra insult, I snore. Most nights of the week you’ll find me with cotton balls in my ears, a dental grinding guard in my mouth, some Frownies pasted to my forehead — all with my trusty and awesome Marpac sleep machine whirring in the background.

Sexy, no?

That’s a whole lotta craziness, if you ask me — and much of it is due to my struggles with falling asleep. The experts call it sleep-onset insomnia, but we in the club like to call it, “Why the hell can’t I shut my mind off and fall asleep like everyone else? Why? WHY?!”

It doesn’t happen every night, but it’s definitely increased over the years. Now that I have a partner sleeping beside me, it’s a pattern I can no longer ignore. (Ironically, he’s the best guy a gal could ever ask for except that he has a gift I do not — and one he cannot give me. He can fall asleep in 30 seconds or less. Literally. Me? 30, 40, 60 minutes, etc. Fortunately, he sleeps right through the craziness.)

Once I’m asleep I’m golden – I LOVE sleep when I’m actually doing it — it’s just getting there. So, that combined with knowing a family member has serious sleep apnea and chronic insomnia, I decided to take the pillow in hand and take back control. I’ve done much reading (recommend Dreamland: Adventures in Strange Science of Sleep by David Randall for an interesting take on the subject), talked to my primary care physician and recently consulted with a sleep doc. Best decision ever!

One of the things he wanted to confirm was that I do not also have sleep apnea. For that, a home sleep test.

I took the test last night:  airflow hose in my nostrils and taped in place to my cheeks, a heart rate monitor clipped to my finger and CPU pack strapped to my middle. I looked like a female version of this guy. Except I was wearing PJs. And my eyes were closed. And I was wearing the cotton balls, mouth guard and Frownie, because at that point, why not?

I hope I “passed” the test and am hopeful my sleep habits will normalize more than the accessories I wear to bed.

How about you? Do you have sleep problems? How do you deal?

Fifteen Years

Me:  Hey, y’all, I’m back!

You:  [crickets]

Me:  Excuse me, I guess I should have said “yinz”. Yinz, I’m back with a blog post.

The World: [zzzzzz]

Me:  Fine. Be tha tway.

So I’ve broken that cardinal rule of blogging – write frequently enough for your readers (even your mom) to give a hoot – but I’m realizing in middle age that humans are not born to multitask, after all.

Is something outside my window? Squirrel!

Humor me for a moment while I do the obligatory, guilt-ridden blathering about how busy life has been in the last 3 weeks EXCEPT TO BLOG:  getting back to school; celebrating the kids’ birthdays, my birthday, my parents’ anniversary, my work anniversary; restarting taekwondo classes (sijak!); taking a trip out of town; restarting my 2013 resolutions before the year is over, entering yet another stage of self-reflection and hair coloring. Blather. Blather…

Thank you and sorry.

Funny thing is that in the jumble above one milestone sticks out in my mind and connects many of the others to each other:  my work anniversary. Fifteen years at the same company. Quite frankly, I never thought my tenure would go past five.

I’ve written about my midlife “what do I want to do with my life” crisis before. I’ve resolved my feelings about it for now, for the most part. I’ve spent the last 15 years generally doing things I like to do, working with more good people than not and have been given the chance to grow and learn. Not always when I would like, or necessarily in an industry I’d choose again, but I’ve asked for opportunities and given new challenges. Part of that I will take credit for; part of it rests with the people I work for. The thing that has struck me the most about “15,” though, is what has happened in my personal life in that time.

My first husband and I celebrating our first Christmas in our new house.

Our first baby.

Our second baby.

Our divorce.

My townhouse, the first house I purchased on my own.

Lots of painting (and wearing paint on me). Developing a few DIY skills along the way.

New neighbors and friends.

Many dates.

Many misses.

My first blog.

Writing and pitching my novel.

Putting my novel away, proud of what I accomplished but ready to move on.

Discovering who I really am, what I want and what I won’t settle for.

Bringing the rest of my immediate family to this area.

Meeting my husband.

Jumping out of a plane.

Planning a wedding.

Getting married again.

Our Hawaiian honeymoon!

My last pregnancy.

My only miscarriage.

Buying our house.

A new, loving extended family.

Lots more painting and home projects – now at two houses, my in-laws’, and our own.

Learning, learning..

My second blog. (This one!)

More Christmas and Irish/St. Patrick’s Day decorations than I ever thought I would own.

More figuring it out as I go along.

Whether I’m still working here or not down the road, it will be interesting to see what the next 15 years bring.

Thankful Thursday: For America’s Pastime

First Pitch Pirates Game 012This edition of Thankful Thursday (on Friday) is about baseball — specifically, the Pittsburgh Pirates (Go Bucs!) and my dad. See, he won a prize drawing and got to throw out the honorary first pitch at Wednesday night’s game. We feared the game would be delayed because of rain, but it was a go.

20130828_190001Joe was set to catch (backed up by the Parrot mascot), but he didn’t really get the chance because, well, let’s just say it wasn’t my dad’s best pitch — which is a shame because he knows how to. (Many, many moons ago the Boston Red Sox asked him to try out for their minor league team!) Dad didn’t seem to mind much, though. After the hoopla of being on the field and near the players, we got to hang out in a luxury suite and watch the Buccos beat the Brewers.

Like the pitch, it was a fun and wild experience!

First pitch night


Thankful Thursday: For surprises up the road from home

Trailin' behind

We’ve been fortunate to be able to vacation away from home most summers. They aren’t necessarily “fancy” trips; this summer we stayed with cousins who have 4 kids under the age of 10. (Can you say, “hello, endless slumber party, noise and rewinds of Disney’s Teen Beach Movie“?) We had a lot of fun, and it was nice to get away, but you don’t always have to travel far.

As my first “thankful Thursday” — because I’m not above themes, memes or gimmicks — I’m going to tell you about a lovely time we had in Franklin, PA, just “up the road” from us.

Did you know the first oil well was in northwest Pennsylvania? Yes!

While parts of the region have clearly suffered — as so many do when companies or whole industries pull out — Franklin and nearby Oil City are filled with stately victorians and a lush landscape of wooded hillsides and rivers. Joe and I have been there before, but Saturday we discovered biking and picnicking along the Samuel Justus trail, which runs along the Allegheny RiverIt was so scenic and peaceful. It was also the first time the kids had done any riding outside of our neighborhood – a perfect introduction! Then, we decided to stop into the DeBence Antique Music World museum:

…It’s the country’s largest museum of its type open to the public with more than 100 antique mechanical musical instruments. A few of them are the “last man standing” of their kind.

What’s wonderful about the DeBence Museum is that (1) they give guided tours and (2) you get to hear almost everything you see. These old instruments – one dates back to 1850 — still make music…

This personal collection-turned museum is full of music boxes, phonographs, organs, player pianos, orchestrions (a la the 1915 Wurlitzer band organ playing at the Kennywood Carousel – cover your ears, they’re LOUD!), jukeboxes, radios and other antiques. If you like music, you’ll love this place. If you’re mechanically minded (or like me, can appreciate the mechanics with no understanding of them!), you’ll love it even more.

If you don’t live near Franklin or Oil City, don’t worry. My guess is there’s a surprise right near you — if you’re willing to look.

 PS. A shout out to my wedding photographer and fellow blogger Irene Smith, who lives up there. She’s excellent at what she does and a real pleasure to work with!

PPS. I’m also thankful this Thursday that I didn’t crack my car windows even more than I did ‘cuz it’s raining y’all. A lot. Whoops. What about you?

7 things I learned this summer

It’s been almost a month since returning from our family vacation to New England – and less than two weeks before school starts. Yikes! That rascally, slippery summertime — those months teasing me with sun, relaxation and overly ambitious plans — is quickly disappearing. Here are 7 things I’ve learned this summer:

1.  On vacation I learned that my son, who has somehow made it through many years of school, had no idea that Connecticut is a state. He thought Connecticut was a city…or a mysterious, magical place; he couldn’t really say. Those laminated placemats of the United States I purchased when the kids were little weren’t as educational as I thought.

2.  T-Rex and Drama Girl are really good car travelers, but they don’t seem to grasp the concepts of time or distance. I couldn’t get why they kept asking us if we were still in [Name of State] when we had driven right by the “Welcome to [Name of Other State]” sign minutes before!

3.  This introduced our family to the catch-phrase “Straight-A Stupid,” compliments of T-Rex. I’m fortunate the kids both enjoy and do well in school, but Common Sense 101 is clearly missing from their curriculum!

4.  Boston continues to be one of my favorite cities to visit, although I have yet to make my way out of the main tourist areas. I recommend taking a Boston Duck tour if you’re visiting for the first time or if you have young children. (BTW, if you or your family members are claustrophobic or crowd-phobic or high-price phobic, do NOT go to Quincy Market!) Newport, RI is also simply lovely and only 2 hours from Boston. It would have been better without the rain, but lovely nonetheless. Bonus: We enjoyed one of our best beach experiences ever…in New Hampshire. What a nice surprise!

5.  New England highway drivers really know how to use a passing lane. How I wish I could bottle up that knowledge and force every Pennsylvania and Ohio driver to drink it! New York and New Jersey drivers? Not so much — they make up their own rules of the road as they go. I lived in northern New Jersey for some time growing up and forgot just how nutty it can be to drive through the state (not a city like Connecticut). I flashed back to the first time my driving instructor said, “Now you’re going to merge onto Route 17.” Route 17, one of the most chaotic, neurotic roads leading to and through the shopping mecca (or hell, depending on your viewpoint) known as Paramus, NJ. Just like that! If you know the area, you know what I’m saying. Flashbacks.

6.  Each summer “getting back into shape” starts off with a bang, but by this point my motivation is limping along rather than running full speed. (In fact, last summer I was literally limping along –my quest to get back in shape by jogging aggravated, or outright caused, a stress fracture in my toe. There’s motivation for you!) Joe and I try to get out and bike once in a while (like tonight) and we walk as much as we can, but ice cream and the occasional cold beer tempt us every step of the way. We’re weak, what can I say. Nothing new here; I just happened to realize that this is a pattern each summer, which brings me to…

7.  No matter how much I love summer and want it to be all chillaxy, life’s stressors don’t go away. They don’t take a neatly planned vacation, which is unfortunate. We cause a lot of our stress ourselves, and acting like responsible grown-ups year-round is sometimes hard to swallow. (I know. Wah!) I guess if I can’t get rid of stress entirely I might as well embrace it with a little umbrella, beachy drink. 

What have you learned this summer? Are you ready to get back to routine?