Wednesday, December 30, 2009

LOFT LIFE: On Death and Dying

OK, I have already raced through all the stages of grief, except maybe acceptance, and I have some comments--probably unrelated to grief, but oh well.

It seems that in addition to the mold-induced pneumonia, the radiologist spotted a spot, which he called a “NODULE” on my lung--not sure if it is right or left. So now my nightmares and bright outlook are in a deeper struggle for victory, and I am instructed to see a pulmonary specialist.

My call for prayer has resulted in emails from around the country, from family and friends who are all so loving, wise and responsive. Do you all know how much that means? Everything! For me, this is almost worth being sick, just to know how much love surrounds me--although no one has sent chocolate yet, which may be good, because I forgot to request the organic dark kind from the sustainable farms of the third world, or something like that. Not completely clear on this.

My daughter says she wishes she had cleaned the fridge, and after a crying jag of feeling overwhelming love, I assured her that I am sooo glad it was NOT her asthmatic self who had to do that awful, pneumonia-ridden task.

I have already made an appointment with Dr. G, the specialist, and even though I told him not to call unless I was dying, after he read my x-ray, he did call, hadn’t read the x-ray, and evidently didn’t know his call would send me into hyperspace. But, he called to answer my prior request of advice on how much activity was wise for a pneumoniac with a nodule. He said walk till right before I can’t breathe and don’t overdo, which as you will see in the next graph, is not easy for me to gauge being slightly OCD or something of that ilk.

My pastor also dropped by to pray for me, and after I showered, dressed, and frantically tried to convince my husband that we had to clean the house in the 20 minutes for our pastor to travel to us, I was told to sit down--kind of reminding me of my father ordering us girls to “light” as if we were bugs. Anyway, I obeyed--both times.

So, I will being seeing a specialist, I will be doing some light touring with Mic and Andy when they visit, and I can carry on with life, including chocolate (which is important, I tell you). It appears as if I may live, and since I am not dying (yet), this may curtail my getting all my wishes granted (I choose all the movies, we go to Italy soon, and I get to beat all my friends at Bejeweled). But at least I have you all, family and friends so loving and sweet to me. Who could ask for more than that? Except, maybe choc...OK, OK, I will stop with the hinting.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

LOFT LIFE: Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Well the holidays being hard took on new meaning when I seemed to be sinking by Christmas eve at Greg and Marybeth’s. Fortunately, their friend, Deb, when she heard i had cleaned out the IL home freezer’s layer of black mold, insisted I get checked out and get on an antibiotic. Good thing I listened.

By the time I went to the doc, the day after Christmas, I developed full-fledged pneumonia. Now I ask you, is this fair? I get to fly back and forth to IL, do all the heavy lifting, clean the house (well with a lot of help from my amazing neighbor, Becky and her girls), tackle MOLD growing from October to December in a fridge I turned off, but forgot to open said door of, and then, just because I forget a silly thing like a face mask...well, the doc said it is mold-induced pneumonia.

So my bod has been bedridden for days, and I have practically missed all of Jay’s Christmas break, and hopefully will at least be better by the time Mic and Andy arrive.

Of course, my nightmares race through a montage of all the friends I know who have died of pneumonia, and I try to keep a bright outlook, but it is sometimes difficult.

They say the antibiotic makes its headway within 48 hours, but mine has taken 60. And, only today have I been well enough to pour my own pita chips onto a plate and spoon on some mango salsa. I think I figured out the cookies and the chocolates earlier, but they take so much less effort, and the motivation is so much greater--even if the nutritional values or lack of could have something to do with the 60 hour benefit vs. the 48. But who’s counting?

Anyway, I am not dead, and seem to be going to survive, and though I do feel like body snatchers invaded my holiday, I am thankful for God's faithfulness, good friends, good doctors, and chocolate. (Thought I would throw that in in case someone feels prone to cheer me up.) And, though "they" may snatch the body for a time, even holiday time, they cannot rob the spirit, in spite of nightmares, slow medications, and what not (I always wanted to say what not), because He who is in us is greater than he who snatches but cannot win.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

LOFT LIFE: Holidays

Holidays can be hard. Even though Jay and I make the best of having just us two, it is an adjustment to celebrate without family around.

Our friends make it bearable. Andi and Thomas came over for Thanksgiving. Well, what really happened was that I told Jay that we should just go to a buffet for Thanksgiving and that it would end up cheaper than cooking, even for two. But, we owed Bob a dinner, so I said, why don’t we have him over for a dinner, and, “What kind of meat does he like?” which I erroneously assumed meant to Jay that I was NOT talking Thanksgiving meat, ‘cause we all know what that is, right?

Anyway, in our usual roundabout communication, Jay did not assume anything like that, and proceeded to go to work and ask Bob if he would like to come over for Thanksgiving. After ranting a tad, I adjusted and began to enjoy the thought of company for Thanksgiving. I had forgotten that Andi said they, too, didn’t like being just two for big holidays, and in my normal poodally and insensitive (War Games) manner, didn’t automatically invite them. But, since Bob was coming, I called Andi for the invite, to which she said, “Well, Thomas invited a co-worker,” to which I said, “Well, bring him along,” to which she said, well the Argentinians might come over too, but not for sure. So when the Argentinians did not end up deciding to share Thanksgiving with them, Andi accepted our invite and that included the co-worker. So we were to have six.

Thanksgiving arrived, and Bob was sick, and couldn’t come. Thomas and Andi arrived sans co-worker, who evidently was also sick. So the four of us had a glorious holiday. Andi brought orange cups filled with sweet potato, and the best cranberry bread I have every had (sorry Melissa, it had a coffee cake topping). Note: our family has cranberry bread contests (unofficial) because of Cranberry Thanksgiving, a children’s book with a recipe on the cover. Melissa finally figured out how to use the recipe (she won’t tell) and get the bread to bake all the way through.

Anyway, now it’s almost Christmas, and we are just two again. Marybeth invited us over for Christmas Eve dinner, which is really heartwarming. She says she never has fewer than 20, and we only make 17, so we accepted, and look forward to Greg’s stuffed sole and pork roast.

And, we will go to Andi and Thomas on Boxing Day (I don’t think they know it is Boxing Day), and have cookies and cocoa.

And, then Mic and Andy are coming by train on January 2, and we will watch Mystic Pizza at A & T’s and then all go to Mystic on Sunday.

All in all, these festivities will give us enough Christmas joy to permeate even the just us two on the 25th. In fact, we may need the rest. :)

LOFT LIFE: Walkabout

I love small cities that have the charm of small towns and the convenience of larger cities. Such is our northern CT abode. We have the mall, of course--Macy’s, Target, Home Depot, Best Buy, etc.--all the big box shopping we can handle. The worst is Costco, which is addicting. My first trip there in 30 years and I found myself hyperventilating with the temptations surrounding me. Starting with gourmet appetizers to die for, like Brie spread with pesto and cranberries, and Brioche, filled with brie, cranberries and...well do you see a theme here? And, they give you samples! You can really have lunch at Costco just by stopping at each sample station. Jay, who still hasn’t figured out the calorie thing (could be he still weighs what he did when we married 28 years ago), believes that unless he tops it off with Costco’s $1.25 hot dog, cheese spreads, puff pastries and soup samples are not lunch. You can almost see him secretly beating his chest, Tim Taylor style, and vocalizing, “Meat! Me want meat!.”

But, even Costco’s delights don’t compare with the joy of walking around our neighborhood and discovering the small shop offerings.

First there is Diana’s Bakery. She claims to have been in her Main Street location for 20 years. Her Italian cookies are wonderful, and I am still sampling her breads. Didn’t much care for the whole wheat--it seemed too refined to get the low glycemic benefits, but her rye, which Andi pointed me to, “without seeds” was just fine. I still miss Great Harvest, which if I ever decide to mount the challenge of meandering surface streets to Manchester, I will visit. But, for now, Diana’s is good.

Really, even though it isn’t whole grain, Sylvia’s Restaurant has good breads. She is Rumanian, but serves Hungarian, German and Rumanian foods. There is never anyone in this charming restaurant, which has us scratching our heads. We dined there once, and ordered the lunch portions, which Sylvia, a proud woman, just could not do. I think she thought it was a price issue, so she gave us dinner portions at lunch prices, which made us feel bad, because we were the only diners that hour. The food was delicious. Jay got goulash and I had schnitzel, which was a little greasy and not as hot as I wished. But, I couldn’t complain when Sylvia, herself, was our server, and I heard her exasperation trying to explain to the chef, probably her son, that we only wanted lunch. His reply was something like, “Well how many pieces is that?” to which Sylvia shrugged and gave the okay to give us the full dinner portions.

On my way to Diana’s I had stopped at the Polish Deli to get Jay some baked ham for lunches, but the owner was busy, and doesn’t hurry anyone, so I said I would be back. At Diana’s I mentioned that I was going to the deli next, and she said, “Oh, say hello to Helen.” So I did. And, Helen seemed truly surprised to see I came back. Since it was my turn, I got the full customer-service treatment.

I had a cookie sample, on the house, at Diana’s, and a slice of ham at Helen’s, so I didn’t miss Costco at all. In fact, I have to keep reminding myself that I really prefer supporting these small businesses, rather than indulging in the brie and cranberries and spending $115 just for breathing, when it could have been $30 at two shops, both in walking distance, that really fill the bill, and make life here so much fun.

Diana, Helen and Sylvia are fixtures here, and I intend to tell everyone how lucky we are to have their shops, and their personalities, and how much we need to patronize them so we aren't forced to shop big boxes only, convenient though they are.

Friday, November 13, 2009

LOFT LIFE: New Friends

LOFT LIFE: New friends

Andi and I met at the health club, she working away on her morning routine at the treadmill, and then the weight room, I dabbling with getting back to a treadmill after 18 months of sedentary life, except for my walks around the hotel.

Our bonding started with my request to change the channel on the exercise room television to the Food channel.

“That’s my favorite, too,” she affirmed, and so we enjoyed talking, watching, and getting to know one another. We had coffee at her place—we are in the same building, and at my place the next day. We both love coffee, she and her husband appear to be wine aficionados, and her sister lives in Chicago, where she visits, so we may even share a trip to ORD in the spring, where Andi will show me how to fly from New York and save $100.

We introduced our husbands to each other in the parking lot the next morning, Saturday, and though we are much older than they, I think this is a great start at making friends in the area. Age has never been a big issue with our assortment of fun and interesting friends. And, best of all, these friends are neighbors, just upstairs from our place, and also not knowing many people in this area.

Andi’s in Chicago as I write this, and when she gets back, we will celebrate her new job with a rouladen dinner and dumplings. This is the only German meal I know how to make. Andi’s husband, Thomas, is from Germany, where they met. But, I hope to have her teach me other German dishes, since she also seems to love cooking. So much to look forward to.



I think I may have to revisit the whole idea of this blogging thing. I understand it is kind of about me, and that you are readers, followers and good friends, and that I have to keep you entertained. But, I seem to be having a bit of a challenge changing from the weekly column idea to daily blog. I promise to get a handle on this—even soon.

In any case, we had some misgivings about our loft apartment: the complex borders a not-so-lovely town, where the citizenry claims to be in an urban renewal mode, but where we we often see people who look either homeless, or bored, loitering about the perimeter of our back parking lot. The fact that we park a Mini and a Jag there is some cause for concern, although I understand the big car and parts thievery makes and models are Hondas. So that is a relief. I guess pawning off Jag parts is not as easy as for Honda stuff. In general, I have found our fears unnecessary. We keep our windows open and no one has yet sought to climb in and rob or maim. I will decide it is a non-event. I also will visit the Enterprise Zone office and see if I can be helpful in the urban renewal. I have skills. Why not help!

Also, as I mentioned before, I have been concerned about space. This is also less of a problem, although there are some creative storage challenges for pots, pans, spices, tableware, office supplies, files, maps, and the list goes on and on. Our tableware plastic insert form, for instance is too wide for the narrow kitchen drawers. My Corning ware is a tad too wide to be placed three across on the cabinet shelf. My spices take up two cabinets—which I think, next to books, is my overdo area. But you remember I had to buy all new herbs and spices for the hotel kitchen, and now when I unpack my IL home spices, I have double contents and half the shelf space. This will dwindle and be resolved, probably by Easter, 2010. (That’s a random guess.)

I was concerned that some of the reviews of the apartment mentioned lots of noise—like hearing a fraternity party, and lots of mess—like party pizza boxes and beer bottles. I think that is not in our building, because we have not had much noise, and the so-called “paper thin walls” are not only very thick, but I can’t even hear Jay playing his beloved acoustic or new electric three rooms away in the same rooms.

So we are happy. We love the place. It is a job unpacking, and much of what we used to have at arm’s length is now down the hall in the storage room. But oh what a joy it is to have our own place, to set up housekeeping, to be able to cook beautiful meals on our Italian pottery dishes, and to have a light on without waking up the other spouse. Oh, and while we are on the subject of lights, there are none here except in the kitchen. No overhead lights! No light in the dining room, the bedroom, or the living room (which we have made from bedroom number two). So our lamps are not enough to light the way for my workday in the living room, or morning routines, like seeing our clothes, in the bedroom. This may have to result in buying more STUFF, like lamps. L

We have a checklist to hand into management, which will include the broken blinds, the broken oven door, the very old microwave, and the nicks on the walls and woodwork, plus a towel rack that dislodges from its track in our master bath. I wish the countertops in the kitchen weren’t white and prone to staining with the whiff of a coffee cup’s presence, but they are! Other than these things, the place is beautiful, and every time I look at the Realtor emails of the houses we could have bought or rented, I am thankful I did not end up in any of those dingy, small places, with overhead lights, but no character.

I love our tall industrial windows, the brick walls on the outer sides of each room, our 20X13 three rooms, our high ceilings, and even the beige carpeting has a nutmeg hue that is more appealing that I thought it would be.

I love passing the massive, exposed support wooden columns and exposed beams in the hallway, which I pass on the way to the mailboxes each day.

I love the health club. We’ve been swimming a half dozen times. And, I have also done the treadmill a couple of times. The first time I met Andy. More about her later.

Hubby is happy, I am happy, we are happy, and we thank God for His goodness in fulfilling my only request: small is okay, but please not ugly!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Hotel Stories: Moving Day

Moving day was set for October 30, which meant another flying trip back to IL for me to direct the packing, labeling, coordinating, etc.

This was supposed to be simple: just sit back and relax and a professional moving company will do it all. NOT!!!

Instead, before the relaxing, the professional moving, I had to divide the house up, finding sticky notes of color to denote which things in EVERY room would stay, and which would go with us to the apartment and the 300 square foot storage space, which was sounding more and more like what might occupy my life for the next ten years. I mean, if I didn’t have time to sell, give away or throw away all of the stuff BEFORE the move, it was only a matter of time before this task would haunt me at my new location.

You know, we spend the first half of our life accumulating, and the second half trying to get rid of it all. It is daunting. Stuff! I have really come to hate stuff!! I want no more stuff. Friends, hear this! Do NOT give me more stuff. No gifts that are not consumable, or about travel, or perhaps small boxes of writing paper—but even that will soon go the way of the dinosaur.

And, books! Oh my. Of the 17,800 pounds of stuff, 3500 were books. We do love our books, but really, this is a stat that has to change. There are libraries. So, don’t give me books either. Give me the author and title, and I will borrow it somewhere. A book is heavy. I am thinking about a Kindle, but even that is stuff, and I might miss the page turning and the feel of paper, even though many of my library loans’ pages revealed what the previous readers had been eating, or in some cases, more than I wanted to know about their DNA.

But, I digress. I got my daughter to list for me what she wanted: the claw-footed oak table and chairs, the piano (of course), the antique Singer sewing machine, the trundle bed and mattress, the treadmill, and the washer and dryer. Only problem is, she lives in one room in a house, and had to find storage. She did. Whew. Then a friend wanted our family room couch and chair, a bedroom set, and assorted other items. The rest will go to charity, and they will pick it up. Again, big whew. But, there were still 17,800 pounds to label for three different locations at the other end: the apartment, the storage room and the barn. This, of course, was also my job.

I stressed. But, there was little basis, as so often happens with worry, for my fears. And, that was due to an awesome man, named John Dalton, who when he pulled up in his Allied Van Lines semi (which he owns), communicated a calm that was contagious.

When his three mover-guys arrived, Larry, Steve and Joe, it became very clear that they were professionals, and that John’s management style left nothing to chance. They walked through the house, saw the items to stay, labeled those for the apartment, the storage room and the barn, and began packing—for the next eleven hours! The next day they loaded the truck.

At the other end, one week later, John hired Peter, Eddie, Dave and Louie, and they were most appreciative of the large entryway to the loft, and the proximity of the storage room, and they traveled on to the barn and even unloaded the lathe, the tools, the motorcycle, and the parts, plus the rest of the garage contents. I have to say here, I love that barn! J

I also have to let you know that John is a very interesting person. I plan to interview him for my Rock River Times column, Lunch with Marjorie, (which hopefully you have clicked on the live link at the bottom of this blog, and visited to peruse the many interesting stories of ordinary people, living extraordinary lives). After it is published, I will tell you more about John Dalton. But, here, it is just important to say thanks, John. You and your crews did, indeed, allow me to begin to relax and enjoy the move.

So, this is the end of hotel life, but not the end of my stories.

NEXT: Loft stories

Hotel Stories: New Beginnings

September seems so long ago. Please accept my apologies for completely skipping blog writing in October. But, you see, October was a busy month.

Actually at the end of September, I returned to the empty house in IL, ready to face another winter of vacancy where the house would begin to decline with no one living there till spring.

I was meeting with a media rep at a local cafĂ©, when one of my former media reps waved hello from another table. “Are you still trying to sell your house?” she queried. “Yes,” I said, “Interested?"

“Maybe,” she said. A few casual Facebook snippets and she and her husband decided to meet with me to see if we could brainstorm a good rental agreement. And, there it was. The empty house would have a family. At first I had been adverse to children and pets—new carpeting and countertops looming before me as ruined. Then, one morning in prayer, I realized how stupid and selfish that attitude was. A 3,000 square foot living space cries out for children. Pets, hmm, maybe not. But happily they have hamsters. They will not get a dog or cat as renters, and that is okay with them, and us. But, their lovely children will enjoy each having a room of their own, and these doting parents will have space at last to roam, even an acre of lawn for play.

So, October was spent in a frenzy of house and apartment hunting, and we actually decided to pursue a whimsical desire for a loft apartment. We really only needed a house for Jay to have a garage for the motorcycle building, tinkering, etc. So, in a happy serendipity, where our friend (originally the guy who sold me a Jag on EBay), who Jay has been helping for 17 months with Maserati restoration in his several Massachusetts barns, offered some barn space for Jay to work on his bikes, house hunting took on a different perspective.

We would look at 900 square foot homes, and they were ugly and needed lots of work. And, if we were to be renters here in CT or MA, we really didn’t need that house work to occupy our lives.

We Googled apartments and actually were amazed to find a 1200 square foot loft apartment, two bedrooms, two bathrooms (many houses we found had only one), and the real clincher was a 300 square foot storage room just down the hall from our second floor apartment. So the real problem of finding space for the 3,000 square foot of furnishings, suddenly became less of a hurdle, and the garage work became a positive relationship with a really nice friend for Jay—who by the way just bought two motorcycles. Life doesn’t get any better than that for Jay.

I, in the meantime, was giddy for the old manufacturing plant, turned loft apartments. Rent includes a health club, with both indoor and outdoor pools, an exercise room, a weight room, racquetball, tennis, and fitness classes, all included in the rent. Get ready for the new me. :)

So with a short space of double payments in CT and IL, we signed a lease ending our 17-month hotel stay, and we are moving into our lofty loft at the end of October.

God is good. All the time.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Hotel Stories: Sun shining through clouds

Look at my face: tears of joy streaming down my face because of the kindness of our hotel staff. We were looking at apartments, begging for house sitting, considering living apart until the house sells, when one of the residents suggested we negotiate with the hotel. After all, 16 months has to be one of the longest stays they’ve seen.

So now, instead of feeling homeless, we are deeply grateful for a rate that allows us to stay until our house sells. I can’t believe it. Not only am I feeling amazed at how much I WANT to stay, but I am noticing all of the blessings I kind of bypassed before: flowers blooming all around me. I have a gardener! Meals have improved astronomically. Vegetables every night—even dark greens. Quick fixes on sluggish drains. New cable channels available at no extra cost. The list is long, but when I added up the cost of an apartment, with utilities, Internet, cable, moving furniture, dishes, pots and pans, cleaning products, cars, etc. it turned out not to be the great respite I imagined.

Life here isn’t so bad after all. In fact. Life is pretty good.

We still need to move on—get the house sold, get settled. But for now, we are thanking God with all of our hearts.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Hotel Stories: A perfectly good house

Well, I guess I felt it in my bones—bones, mind you, that feel a whole lot! But, this time I called it almost to the day, the day we would learn that our temporary living largesse has ended.

The company has been more than generous, going 16 months with us. That is extreme. So now we have a huge house in Illinois, a perfectly good house, just sitting there looking pretty, and here we are in New England. Homeless.

I believe in God. I believe He is always Good. I believe He has perfect timing. So what is the big picture here? Are we doing something wrong? What are we supposed to do now?

Options: rent a room; have a double house payment; live apart till the house sells; rent it out—not necessarily any more likely than selling it; sell it ourselves and drop the price $10K. I am sure there are more options.

At least for now, I'll be back in Illinois for a long while, and thus my hotel stories appear to be coming to a close.

I will keep you posted for the rest of our short stay. And, then—your guesses are as good as mine. Does this sound discouraged? Somewhat. Yes, there will always be an answer forthcoming. Just maybe not the one we were hoping for.

They’re showing the house again tomorrow. Hope.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Hotel Stories: Help!

I’m crashing. Tired of making the best of hotel life. Wondering why no one seems to be even considering buying our home. Concerned at the thought of double house payments, double utilities, double maintenance costs. Realizing that even with my diatribes about hotel food quality and nutrition, it is saving us something like $300 to $400 a month in food costs, and that is serious. We only have to buy five meals a week, and that is quite a savings.

People ask me how do I manage living in one room for 15 months, and I usually quip something positive and grateful sounding. And, don’t get me wrong--I am grateful. But, the positive thing is wearing down. I need to believe there is some end to this “temporary living.” I can see the advantages. Of course, there are some. But, really, we have to get serious about what we jokingly refer to as Plan B. We really don’t have one worked out yet.

Any ideas? Help!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Hotel Stories: The ugly truth about soft drinks

In ongoing commitment to preserving the life and health of children, I must make a protest about an ugly truth that prevails in America—I don’t know enough about other countries to comment about them.
We talk so much about choices, especially encouraging parents and children to make them healthful choices. We talk about obesity, and its growing peril to our nation, our budgets and ourselves. And. We have connected the dots on how choosing daily consumption of soft drinks adds calories at a level that simply skipping them could dramatically change the statistics on weight gain. We even have school changing their vending machine options to encourage better beverage choices, i.e. fruit drinks and water vs. soft drinks.
But, with all of these facts being true, I continue to be amazed at the number of venues where soft drinks are the only beverage being offered to children. I have observed this at picnics, church suppers, sporting events and family gatherings—and now hotel social hours.
Tell me why, when we offer adults alcohol and soft drinks as their two beverage choices, we cannot find a way to serve milk or apple juice, or even water to the children? For that matter, why wouldn’t that be an option for the adults also?
We seem to have become a nation who considers soft drinks a beverage Really it is not. Yes. They are drinkable. But, do we really want to classify a zero nutrition liquid a beverage in the same category as milk, juice, and water (which by the way does have minerals and health benefits), especially when we are talking about growing children? And, do we really want to send the message to children that this is an acceptable part of eating a daily meal? And, do we really want to have growing children become synonymous with increasingly obese children?
And, beyond obesity soda pop has a pathway you might want to consider before handing a can of the bubbly to your kids. John Tesh’s website reports the research on this:
In the first 10 minutes: 10 teaspoons of sugar hit your system. That’s 100% of your recommended daily intake. And the only reason you don’t vomit from the sweetness is because the phosphoric acid cuts the flavor – so you’re able to keep it down.
After 20 minutes: Your blood sugar spikes, causing an insulin burst. Your liver reacts to this by turning any sugar it can grab into fat. And at this particular moment – there’s a LOT of sugar in your system.
After 40 minutes: All caffeine is absorbed. Your pupils dilate, blood pressure rises and your liver dumps more sugar into your bloodstream. 
The “adenosine” receptors in your brain are now blocked – preventing you from getting drowsy. You also start producing more dopamine, which stimulates the pleasure centers of your brain. This is physically the same way heroin works.
And 60 minutes after you drink a soda: The phosphoric acid binds calcium, magnesium and zinc that was on its way to your bones - to your lower intestine instead. You also have a sudden urge to go to the bathroom, so you end up flushing all of those nutrients OUT of your body, as well as sodium, electrolytes and water. Then as your body quiets down, a sugar crash kicks in - causing you to feel irritable and sluggish. Not to mention you’ve emptied your system of the nutrients it needs to hydrate itself, and build strong bones and teeth. And all this’ll be followed by a caffeine crash in the next few hours.
So, John and I ask you: Is drinking soda worth all that!
Okay, maybe a cola at a special occasion. Maybe one at a baseball game. Maybe at a picnic, now and then. But, really, I implore you, let’s get good stuff into our kids for the daily fare. Let’s not make a treat into a daily beverage. Let’s all think about our choices—especially beverages at meals.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Hotel Stories: House and pet sitting situations wanted

We are officially the longest term residents of our hotel. The Kentucky family returned to their unsold home and made other arrangements for the New England job. They stopped to say goodbye. It felt like a relative telling family about their whereabouts. We too would like to move on—at least that’s what we keep saying. But the transition to another form of temporary living isn’t easy.

We have now placed ads on Craig’s List for house and pet sitting situations. Everyone tells me how wonderful Craig’s List is, and how in the first twenty minutes they sold everything they had on the list, or they obtained whatever they were looking for.

My experience on CL has not been so glowing. My first try using the site was to attempt to sell my family heirloom, black walnut dining room set. I received three offer to send me thousands of dollars if I would just return a portion of their generosity with my own check for a mere fraction of the total. These letters had that tone you know is not native to modern America, and, were obvious scams. I got a couple of queries asking for pictures, which I posted on the site with the ad, but to no avail. The dining room furniture still resides in the unsold house in IL.

I have to admit that we did get legit replies to an ad for Jay’s motorcycle. Automotive stuff and tools seem to do best on CL as far as I can see.

As for our need for a house sit, we have so far received four attempts to scam us into a credit report, several pleas for us to rent a property, with no follow up from the pleader, making this too seem like a credit report scam, since they went on and on about our financial health requirements, and did not call when we said we would talk to them. We also got a couple of Realtor replies letting us know how easy it is to get into foreclosures.

Really, do these people even READ what we post as our ad needs? Apparently not. They don’t appear to even read our email replies. It makes a person kind of testy after awhile. It seems to bring out the latent discontent of hotel life to have a potential reply for a better situation, only to see it is an attempt to take advantage of an already difficult state of being. I mean, why would people not understand that hardship is not the time to visit with more hardship? I know. It is merely human nature. I just get a bit discouraged that so many are so willing to pounce when things are already down.

We did consider trying out two week stints for vacationers, but learned that the taxation regulations in hotels change when the stay is less than 30 days. Once a resident has a 30 days stay, and it continues without disruption, the state no longer considers that a hotel stay, but switches it to a residency status. Residents don't pay hotel taxes the same as short term guests do. Well, doesn’t that say it all? We live here. Even the state agrees.

We have a library card, get mail here, and it’s getting kind of comfortable. But, that has to change, doesn’t it! We look forward to getting something other than bogus replies, and moving on to long term house sitting. Anyone? Snow Birds? Sabbaticals? Just let us know.

In the meantime, our home continues to have occasional viewers, and we continue to hope for a sale before the end of summer. But, this is August. Almost mid-August. Hope has not sprung up in vigor for quite some time now. But, nevertheless, we do still hope.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Hotel Stories: Finding things

There is a human propensity for “returning to normal” even in the worst of times, the worst of circumstances. It is comforting to have things where you know you can find them. It is disconcerting to feel things are never in the same place twice. But, finding out what is normal is the catch.

We are in a bad market, a down economy, and everyone keeps watching their favorite indicator to find out when things will be the way they used to be. Well, hotel life is an interesting microcosm of what is happening, I think globally, and at least nationally.After 14 months of “temporary living,” Jay and I have decided—well, again, mostly I have decided—to live as if this were our permanent abode.

Now I don’t mean we are expecting to live here long term. That is a scary thought. What I mean is, life goes on, so we must find some of the things we are used to having in a permanent residence: doctors, dentists, food purveyors (really this is always first), church, charities, friends (these are not in order of priority), gyms, hairdressers, memberships (YMCA for instance), and just generally all of the vendors and people who make life feel worthwhile.

We have, at last, found a dentist, which we decided to keep in Connecticut. That was a good experience, and although I had to train my Illinois dentist office in what I expect and need, this one seemed to already have that, which was a pleasant surprise.

When it comes to doctors, who may entail more than one visit every six months—not usually, but sometimes, and optometrists, we aren’t sure whether to choose someone in Connecticut, or in Western Mass, where we expect to live—but we aren’t sure about that either. So we have put that decision off, but there is this gnawing feeling in some of my brain cells that I had better get this done before winter and the dreaded “flu season” descends upon us.

We have also found a hairdresser, which was a serendipity based on the Italian hair color I use. She is amazing, and just right, and I will have to commute to her wherever we end up living—and that is every five to six weeks!

As for exercise, I have already mentioned that we can use the company health center, but that entails having a physical which I have already mention entails finding a doctor, which I have also mentioned we have not done yet. Result: no formal place to work out. I have looked into the senior center in our little town, and that too seems to imply longer residency than another three months, and an acceptance that I qualify as a senior (over 55) and my husband does not. Oh, what to do? What to do?

The good news is, I have settled into a cooking and eating routine that evidently is resulting in some weight loss. And, I still take my walks around the hotel, so that is something—if it isn’t rainy, which it usually is. I still feel the need to find some formal place to learn upper body exercise where there is equipment. I miss my treadmill--especially on rainy mornings. My daughter taught me some yoga positions, such as the right angle, which I can’t actually remember well—so I think I may be at 70 degrees instead of 90 on that. And, I haven’t done my Latin music routine for weeks, but I do still believe that dancing is good for me.

The pool here is not inviting with so many children in it, that first, I cannot do laps, and second, I believe may be laced with urine (I read somewhere that a large percentage of people feel comfortable urinating in public pools). My daughter told me to suck it up (not the right image for the urine-laced pool water) and get in to do my workout anyway. Is there some mask or diving equipment available to cover my mouth, nose, and even my whole face if I do decide to do this?

Well, suffice to say, that after we locate these back-to-normal entities, we will feel much more settled, and the hotel will not be a foreign place of suspended animation. However, I suspect there is a resistance to finding some of this normal stuff too quickly, because that indicates an acceptance of our temporary lot as at least more permanent than fleeting—and that is really a strange thought. We are really not in the acceptance stage of loss. I think we are somewhere between bargaining and depression. We don't believe in depression, so we will probably stay at bargaining for quite some time. I know this stage well: it's the one where I imagine winning the lottery and having the down payment for a house here, even before we sell our house in Illinois. And, being me, I actually believe I could win the lottery, and have a large figure in mind.

We know we will not, cannot continue hotel life for too much longer. But temporary life—well, we are looking into house and pet sitting, and if that isn’t temporary, what is? And, then all of our finds will be moving targets. Very strange and unusual for homebodies like us. Although we may be in a bargaining stage for quite some time, at least it's not shock and denial, even if it is not quite acceptance and hope.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Hotel Stories: Daily life goes on

I see I’ve been kind of self-centered with renditions about us, us, us living in a hotel, now 14 months, when really there are a lot of people here with their own struggles:

Two women who had a house fire around Christmas, told me their insurance company still hasn’t decided whether to raze their house or repair it. That means they won’t know for some time the projected hotel stay, or what further fate will befall their home.

A family of growing boys has been house hunting for many months, and waiting for their southern home to sell. They have specific geographic parameters, because they home school, and some legislation areas aren’t “friendly” toward home schooling. Yet even in their months here, with active boys needing space, their parenting is exemplary, and they remain cheerful and friendly.

Another resident, a physical therapist on a special assignment away from her home, is finding it challenging to get a good night’s sleep, especially when there are guests who party all night. She cares for cancer patients and sees daily patient deaths, so it’s not easy to handle this without sleep. Her tired eyes, and aching muscles were apparent one Friday morning, and I wished I knew some way to assist.

Staffing is also challenging during these hard times. It’s common to see the General Manager and her Assistant General Manager stooping down to wipe up spills at breakfast, or taking desk duties nights and weekends, even though their own management tasks are many and complicated. I see the morning hospitality staff now coming back in for the social hour in the evening—extra hours so new staff isn't needed, I imagine. There is some feeling of fear and panic in everyone these days, including hotel personnel, yet, our entire staff are so friendly and solicitous regarding our comfort and welfare, that you wonder how they de-stress after their day’s work. Some of them have more than an hour’s commute, and small children to care for after the long day. “You do what you have to do,” one of the staff said, “because jobs are scarce these days.” All of these people relate to us as though our housing crisis is the most important thing happening. Compassion and understanding are just their normal attitude. It makes you want to pitch in and help.

Actually, I find myself hanging out at the gate house, sometimes guiding guests to entertainment options for the weekend, directions to places, help on the best places in town for dining, and even invitations to our church in Massachusetts, because we really know the area pretty well now. For instance, the family here from New Jersey, with little children, perused brochures wondering what to do over the weekend, and didn’t know about the Mystic Aquarium or even that Mystic Pizza is still there.

One couple looking for good food, asked for the local restaurant list, and I found our favorite missing from the printed hotel suggestions, so of course found it necessary to add The Whistle Stop to the list. Elizabeth, the chef at this amazing family-run restaurant, trained at the Rhode Island culinary school, and it shows. Every single time we have eaten there, whether for her wonderful breakfasts, including cheese grits, or her amazingly authentic Philly cheese steaks, or her delicious entrees, which change often, this is a find not to be missed.

For another family, I suggested the Connecticut Authors and Publishers meetings and membership for their 12-year-old, who evidently has written more than forty books, and is wondering about publication. They're here on contract at a major company for an extended time, and like us, have decided to bloom where they are planted. Really, none of us know much about tomorrow, so why not? If each day is fruitful, we have food and shelter, and we generally have what we need, who says we have to "know" where we are going to be on some future day? None of us really does, you know.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Hotel Stories: Sing, sing a song, sing out loud...

Lest you all think that all I do is find things wrong with our hotel living conditions: au contraire. Even in this miserable economy, the housing crisis, and the return to, some say, a great depression there are bright spots. OK, we can’t really get to the upside without explaining a bit of the down. So, let me tell you something about depression!

The romance of living in our one room kind of wore off around month four. I can, without equivocation, assure you that month 13 has definitely evoked some not-so-lovely characteristics in both Jay and me. Well, to be fair, mostly in Jay, but we won’t dwell on that.

A year of: 1) not having a garage for tinkering, 2) not having a motorcycle to build, 3) not having a motorcycle to ride, and 4) not having a way to escape from one room, has most definitely taken its toll on his psyche.

This has led him to look for alternative means of de-stressing activities to handle both the day-to-day job stuff and the night to night lack of diversion. TV gets really old. I am sure we have seen every NCIS and House episode four times. This led to the desire to purchase an electric guitar, which of course led to the discussion about amps and decibels, hearing loss (remember, one room), and the fact that our walls aren’t that thick, and our neighbors are present--which we can prove by the pounding on our ceiling from the penthouse above, and the noise on the stairway, usually after 11 p.m. Also, there was the discussion about practice, and how one must be a good steward of one’s purchases, especially in these hard times.

Now, don’t get the impression that I am one bit negative about Jay getting an electric guitar, even though he has a perfectly good acoustic gem sitting idle in Illinois. Nooooo. I am quite excited that he has a moment to switch from gas leaks in the garage and oil stains trekked onto the carpet to catchy tunes and rhythms. I might add here, that when doing a resume for a client, years ago, I received from him an unsolicited analysis of my handwriting, and he confirmed that I have within me NOT ONE negative bone. I am not sure that it is really the bones that determine outlook, but on a non-humid day, I might agree. Anyway, after gaining all but a written affidavit from my dear hubby that he would indeed watch his amps and decibels, and would promise to maintain, as well as possible, the hearing he has left, and that he would dutifully practice and become worthy of the amazing de-stress enabling instrument he was imagining, we were off to Guitar World, where we found the most magnificent Epiphone hollow-body, which Jay says is pretty darn close to the Gibson 330 (or was it the 335?)--which sounds impressive.

Since I promised to turn positive, I’m happy to report that music has brought back some romance to hotel life. Well, actually, that’s what it’s done for me. Jay still sorely misses his garage, a project bike and a ride. Yet, as he valiantly strums away, more than an hour each night, I’m quite amazed at his talent and grit. Plus, listening to his melodic tenor makes my spirit soar and makes me love him even more than I already do. He doesn’t like to admit it, but it’s made him feel better too.

Still, as the sun begins to shine into summer, that ride is awfully alluring, and we will have to see how long mere music in a fairly dim room will soothe my sun-loving, wind-in-his face craving, somewhat, but not entirely, domesticated mate.

Friday, June 5, 2009

HOTEL Stories: Food Update

With all my ranting and raving about hotel food, it appears I may actually have had some influence on positive changes in, at least, the dinner offerings guests enjoy Monday through Wednesday. For one thing, my crack about Romaine lettuce brought forth immediate results. Our Hospitality Director began by serving, just me, a large plate of Romaine, while iceberg remained the token green for everyone else. This evolved to mixing in some Romaine for the other folks, and eventually graduated to an actual salad bowl, piled high with the dark green stuff. Amazing.

Then one night last week, armed with my own concoction of Romaine, beet greens, lovely Italian lupini beans, cooked asparagus, red onion, roasted red pepper, marinated mushrooms and plum tomatoes, imagine my shock when I discovered the hotel’s Romaine bowl had sprouted its own slices of cucumber, squash, and carrots, with a few tomatoes and even some broccoli heads! I barely knew what to do: 1) abandon my own plastic bowl of goodies and save for later, or 2) mix in my stuff with their good stuff--which is, of course, what I did.

Our Hospitality Director keeps saying her goal is to provide some variety, to which I keep saying that it is far more important than that--it is life and death. I mean veggies are what our bodies use to create interferons, and interferons are what we need to build our immune system, not the least of which provide strong strands of RNA, or something like that, to keep out dreaded foreigners, like cancer cells.

You don’t think I’ve become such a militant nut for no reason, do you? I can’t go a day without my interferons--and neither can you. So when you notice a plate of white, brown and pale green, think of all the health soldiers you are missing and get busy on the drafting of purple, orange, red, and deep green ones. It is more than a whim. It is life itself.

I do notice the staff reflecting looks of anticipation as I enter the Gate House each evening a meal is served. They look at me as if I were about to give a thumbs up or down, and they were the toreador awaiting their fate of approval or disapproval. Of course, I try to be sensitive to them. I don’t want them to think I am unappreciative of the great effort they have gone to to please me. Really it is only the white bread and too frequent hot dog dinner that remain the big problems. Even on cheese and cracker night, there are veggies. And, the cheeses are good--brie and horseradish cheddar, and Jarlsberg. These are cheeses I would buy, and I have to admit to lopping off some extra chunks and carrying them back to the room for lunch the next day.

My recent visit to Valley Fish Company in Granby produced more amazing goodness. I learned that several of our favorite local restaurants use this vendor, and therefore, we can be confident that ordering clam chowder, or even the occasional fried strips will assure us the freshness we used to believe was only available on the coast. Not so. Valley serves our new favorite town of Southwick, Mass. and the-on-the-way to Southwick town of Granby. Good news indeed.

My dilemma with counter space has diminished, mostly because we humans are indefatigably adaptive, and I have learned to forget the toaster all together and chop to my heart’s content on tiny counter space. And, since it appears I may not have to cart my plastic bowl of produce up to the Gate House, I can certainly find time and space for the other three days I need to chop.

Breakfast remains the biggest challenge, avoiding good-looking stuff like waffles with strawberry mush and crispy potatoes and sausage. I have resigned to only indulging in the eggs with salsa and the twice weekly croissants, which remind me of Italy; if only we had the steaming cups of cappuccino with the foam swirls atop to go with the cornucopia-shaped pastries, like our daily fare in Rome. Alas, no. And, these croissants are packaged, not the freshly baked, peach infused delights at our boutique hotel on the east side of Rome. It must be the memory that makes it okay, like the event my husband witnessed when he took me to Maine Fish Market Restaurant on the east side of Windsor, Conn. I wouldn’t have realized what happened that evening, had I not tuned into "No Reservations," where my favorite travel host, Anthony Bourdain, explained it all.

On this Friday night in East Windsor, Jay ordered his usual fish dinner, baked, not fried, in his token effort to convince me that he cares about his cholesterol, when I know he really doesn’t. I, on the other hand, uncharacteristically ordered the fried Fisherman’s Platter. When it arrived, piled high with fried clams, crab cakes, fried flounder and fried shrimp, I was met with stares of disbelief.

“What are you doing?” my dear husband inquired, thinking, I am sure, that I must have lost a few brain cells on the drive over.

“I don’t really know,” I confessed. “It must be some childhood memory kicking in.”

This didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, as I said, until I was back in Illinois, enjoying Tony’s travelogue to New Jersey--which if you know his show, was a hoot, and a real departure from his usual exotic locations. This one began with a bus tour of The Sopranos territory. The bus tour narrator bragged that New Jersey had the highest record for toxic waste in the U.S. in the same proud tones other tour narrators would have reported on something like beautiful gardens or famous historical figures.

Then Tony wandered to Asbury Park, where he revealed such amazing facts such as that the Gypsy Teller in Springsteen’s song was still practicing her fortunetelling on the beach. He visited a near-abandoned diner for lunch, and ordered a grilled cheese sandwich, knowing it would be white bread and the un-cheese, American cheese. I actually stopped the recording and typed up his paragraph about how he felt safe eating this utterly disgusting meal, because he was quite sure that it was so void of any possible nutritional value that even the bugs would reject it--a comfort in a place with almost no customer traffic, which would mean food lying ‘round the place for weeks. It was hilarious narrative.

But, it was dinnertime at Howard Johnson’s that filled in my memory gap for me. Tony sat down at HoJo’s and ordered the Fisherman’s Platter, muttering something like, “I know this is counter-intuitive in today’s health-crazed climate, but it’s something about a childhood memory.” That isn’t an exact quote, but it was exactly what I said to my hubby in East Windsor. On the one or two occasions that my family could afford a dinner in a seafood place, when I was growing up, the Fisherman’s Platter was the delight I looked forward to. This was way before any talk of fiber, cholesterol, fat or even the detriments of fried things. This was not daily, weekly or monthly food. This was once-a-year, twice at the most! So forgive me if I remain tied to this meal, which, really, I can’t completely dis. It is, indeed, for me, as for Tony, a cherished childhood memory, which I believe I will celebrate, now that I live in New England, at least three or four times a year. So there! Does that prove that I’m human or what!

I try, I really do. I am just not one of those individuals who knows how to enjoy being human. I think it has something to do with being born in July, and though I do NOT practice any sort of astrological mumbo-jumbo, because it is against my faith, I will concede that being born under a water sign has made my mystical propensities dominant, and also has made me cleave to my earth-bound husband for respite that just occasionally, I might know how to abandon myself to the “bad-for-you-stuff,” and just relax and enjoy it.

I always remind myself of that Smothers Brothers’ song (does that date me?) called, “I Remember Suzie,” about a girl born in the city, who went out to the country for a holiday, breathed in air with no pollution for the first time in her life, and died of health. So I try to indulge in some bad stuff once-in-awhile, just to keep up my immunities to the things that can kill you, since, opposite to Suzie, I don’t think I have enough exposure to these substances (I meant fried food--what were you thinking?) to protect me if I should happen upon a time, like a year in a hotel, for instance, when I am deluged with non-health-oriented life and food. Everything in moderation. That’s what my daddy taught me. And, he knew everything.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Hotel Stories: Larger than life

When someone tells you that you are larger than life, you hope they mean you live boldly and embrace life. In my case, I imagine they are thinking more in terms of blimps, tent-sized clothing, and less than self-control during table experiences.

Actually, it's the hotel living at fault. I mean, I have already told you that eating out and cooking are a problem. But it is worse than that. I think it might be change of climate, not selling our house, not having a permanent headquarters for life, or any one of those. Someone told me that moving is one of the high stressors of our life--on a scale with things like divorce and death.

I tried to tell myself I am not stressed. I like hotels. But, my body seems to disagree. In any case, I have literally gained 10 pounds. That is not the direction I was heading. I was thinking more like The Big Loser--except, I meant the weight, NOT the description of my status. Oh my.

So, I decided that I cannot really wait to begin a regular exercise program. Somehow, I foolishly thought I would put off the heavy-duty exercise program until we got into a house. That was when I was under the illusion that such an event would occur sometime before 2019. Since it has been a year in the hotel by the end of May, 2009, I have clearly concluded that exercise is a must, not an option--and, of course, for more reasons than weight loss. I need to maintain some sort of routine, some attempt at health, and to unload some of this stress I must have, whether I "feel" it or not.

My first order of affairs was to buy one of those exercise balls. My large one is in IL, so I bought a smaller one. It came with a video, and I thought that would help. It is still in the box on top of the pile of DVD's and CD's. But, I will get to it, as soon as I get Jay to inflate it.

Next, I put on my list to bring my stretch bands from IL, and I now find myself happily stretching and pulling in various directions, at various lengths, in the hope that one day my upper body strength will magically appear. I will keep you posted on how I'm doing with that.

The front desk informed me one day that as a resident of the hotel, I was permitted to use Gold's Gym as a guest. This was good news. I made it the two miles to the gym about a month later, and sure enough, I was allowed to use the gym. What the front desk did not know, was that I would only be permitted to do this if I were an occasional guest--not a permanent resident. They did allow me to use the gym for the entire week, and i had some interesting adventures on the day I began. The woman on the treadmill next to me worked at the local prison as a guard, and we had a great chat as we did our miles on the machines. The next time I tried to do the gym, it was dark out when I finished my exercise, and it was raining. I do not drive at night, and i definitely don't do rainy night. My return trip to the hotel was fraught with me holding up lines of honking traffic, and this was so shattering, I lost my motivation to return during the rain-snow season--which is every season. I determined to find another solution.

I did hear a rumor that some of the carpenters on-site at the hotel were there to build an exercise room. Haven't heard another word about that in the six months since the rumor started, so I have given up on that one too.

After becoming a dedicated Macbook Pro user, I discovered this amazing thing called Garage Band. Once I figured out how to play the pre-recorded background music bits, I was delighted to find that the Latin beat was the perfect background for moving around our one room and stopping at the mirror to do The Twist, or whatever other dance steps I can remember that go well with Latin. The microwave timer allows me to continue the dance for many minutes (usually 17), when I switch to the stretch bands for the final 8 minutes of repetitions, which I am more in the mood for after dancing to Latin music for 17 minutes.

I also walk. I was doing laps around the hotel, but was discouraged that I didn't know how many laps it would take to do the two miles I was aiming for, at first, and three eventually. So one night, I had Jay drive me around the hotel, to clock how many rounds were needed to do a mile. This particular night, Guru, one of the hotel guests from India, was out by the dumpster, smoking. Guru, a wonderful name for a computer nerd from India, is about 31, and here for a short software engineering project. We had gotten to know him on the occasions we had breakfast at the Gate House.

Anyway, this evening, as we circled the first time, Guru waved, glad to see us on an evening, I am sure. On our second round, Guru timidly waved again. By the third time, he had developed a strange look, and didn't wave. Round number four produced such a look of bewilderment that we stopped a moment and rolled down my window.

Guru asked if we were having problems finding a parking place--even though he knew that was a foolish question, since there were many on all sides of the complex. We, of course, said no, and that we were circling to count how many laps I had to make to walk two miles. With that, Guru broke into gales of laughter, slapping his thigh, and proclaiming, "Oh, that is a good one, that is a good one." I was glad to bring such joy to his dismal hotel evening, which was obvious if smoking at the dumpster was his idea of a good time.

Since that evening, I have faithfully walked my 3 3/4 laps for one mile, and have often accomplished 7 and a half for the two. At first I tried using my new headphones and listening to my 6 gigs of music on my IPod Nano. But the headphones are heavy, and the lighter ones fall out of my ear and distract me. I do miss the Latin music a little, but I am sure there will be rainy days when I will need it. I have decided this walking time should be for prayer, and I really love the time to concentrate on praise, thanksgiving, interceding for others, and asking for various things on my heart.

But, I was getting a little humdrum about it all, and just as I was wishing for some variety, Jay came in one evening from work and announced that we can both use the company health center to exercise with equipment. I can't believe it. I can even hire a personal trainer--which my children all think I should do. The only holdup is getting the forms filled out and getting the required physicals involved. This is more complicated than it sounds, since finding health care providers was not yet at the top of my list. Well, now it is. So, all I have to do now is decide: 1) what town to find providers in when we do not know where we will be living, 2) whether to enroll in Medicare before my birthday, which will be this summer or try to continue on our HSA plan if possible, 3) get appointments made after 4PM for Jay and anytime for me. Then, since the company health center rules say I, a guest, must be accompanied by an employee (who I imagine should be Jay), I simply have to convince my husband that we NEED to do this THREE times a WEEK. That, my friends, will not be easy. Will keep you posted on that also.

So, there we have it: exercise, hotel style. I welcome your suggestions and comments. After all, if you follow this journey, we are in this together,

TTFN (Winnie)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Hotel Stories: Food

By about our third month of living in our hotel room, I realized that food was to become a big issue. Of course, in our family, food has always been a big issue. It's more than just eating to live. I have contemplated the "live to eat" alternative we have chosen, and wonder if the sin of gluttony will be a problem--hoping that gluttony is about over eating and not over-thinking about eating! One of my daughter's friends said to us, "You're the kind of people I can feel comfortable talking with about, um, anti-oxidants!" I considered that a compliment.

Anyway, as hotel life deepens, so does the necessity for eating in restaurants. That means we get to eat all the high-fat, high-salt, high-calorie food our little hearts desire. We try to be conservative because: (1) we are somewhat on an expense account, and we care about our company, (2) we know restaurant food has all the "bad stuff" we just mentioned, and (3) we don't want health issues and weight gain, which is already happening.

Worse than eating in restaurants are the hotel offerings--which are mostly (maybe all) pre-packaged foods. Breakfast has a wide variety of choices like waffles, eggs, sausage, cereal, bagels, with all fixings like cream cheese, salsa, and that excuse for cheese that comes out of a machine and covers nachos and hot dogs at baseball games, as well as pretend maple syrup, which is really high fructose, and peanut butter, which is really who knows what! The flour is white, the sugar is white, the food is highly processed, and, frankly, although we hate to be complainers, it is just plain not good for us--or anybody, in fact. But, we don't see most people caring about that. In fact, my request for Romaine lettuce was met with curious expressions, as if I were making some sort of alien demand.

The hotel used to provide dinners four times a week. It has been reduced to three, and one includes menu descriptions like cookies and milk! Although that may be enjoyable, it is NOT dinner. The other choices are potato bar, crackers, cheese and wine, and sometimes mac and cheese, chicken tenders, barbecue or stuffed peppers.

We cozied up to the hospitality director and actually talked her into chicken and broccoli once. That brought out a crowd. They seemed to know that broccoli had been missing from their diets too. But that director has mysteriously disappeared. Hmm. Needless to say, we won't be losing weight or winning any nutrition contests at these dinnertimes.

Not showing up for this generous hotel hospitality also has its pitfalls. The staff has come to know us, and they appear to even like us. When we disappear for days from these meal times, they ask if we are all right. Once they asked Jay whether I was being unsociable not coming to breakfast. I told him to tell them that I was in my room eating my Kashi. The response was that I could at least come down and say hello.

Oh my! Now I have a family here expecting me to be connecting on a regular basis. Ten months here has removed the anonymity one usually finds in a hotel stay.

Cooking too has its problems. Yes, we have a small kitchen. We shop for groceries, trying to cut down on the restaurant and the hotel dinners. But, my cooking style requires more than heating up packaged and pre-prepared food. We don't microwave anything but coffee, and the counter space is dwindling. Storage of groceries is less than adequate for what I consider a necessary pantry stock.

For instance, I chop--fresh veggies and herbs mostly. I also make bread and pizza and other things requiring counter space. That means I need herbs and spices and a place to chop. My space at the hotel consists of a few inches in front of the coffee pot--if the toaster is not sitting there. The other small counter is loaded with packages of nuts, dried fruit, bread and bags of granola, and our box of supplements. I still do chop, but it is not motivating to do this around all of the groceries. Plus, getting in more pantry provisions only takes up the remaining space, so I resist shopping for an entire stock of herbs and spices, veggie and chicken stocks, rice, pasta , flour, sugar, honey, and other pantry items, but I find myself missing them terribly.

I won't even go into how much I miss my cast iron skillet, my stock pot, and my equipment--zesters, garlic press, micro-planes, graters, steamer, blender, and food processor. This isn't whimsical! I need to cook. I love to cook. We must have vegetables! What choices do we have if I don't cook? Restaurant and hotel veggies are smothered in butter and grease, and we just cannot do that for months at a time, and don't want castor oil to become a regular pantry stock.

What vegetables do average Americans eat? It appears to be corn, potatoes, and those little carrots you buy in a bag, and, of course, iceberg lettuce drenched in high fructose corn syrup and partially-hydrogenated oil. Those, my friends, are NOT vegetables! And white breads are not substitutes for whole grains. I need fresh kale, and spinach, and Romaine, and beets, and Swiss chard, green beans and broccoli and cabbage, parsley and watercress and arugula and...well, all of the real foods God made for us to eat. I need crushed tomatoes, garlic, curry and balsamic vinegar and EVOO (if you need me to explain that, stop reading NOW), and basil with fresh mozzerlla, and garden tomatoes, and olives and peppers, red onion and capers, cinnamon and ginger. I need coarse-milled whole grain breads, to be found commercially only at Great Harvest Bread Company. That molasses-colored stuff they pass off for whole wheat bread at the supermarket is NOT really as whole as they pretend.

And, I haven't even started on fresh fish. Yes, I can get wonderful New England clam chowder and clam and lobster rolls. But grilled salmon and ahi, and really fresh ocean fish like perch and cod are hard to find prepared at restaurants without lots of fat, even in Connecticut. That means I have to find a purveyor of fresh fish, which you would think would be easy in New England. I have my eye on one possibility in East Granby--Valley Fish Company. After talking with the owner, Frank Pericolosi, I am hopeful that this will be a find. But, my daughter informs me that "poor people do not buy ahi." That conjured up images of Marie Antoinette and cake. I think she means she is making some sort of sacrifice since leaving the nest, and I am sure she means that the price of grocery shopping these days has brought most of us back to basics, even sacrificial choices. Well, I am basic. I use whatever is left in the pantry and fridge to create something out of nothing--a talent which brings me joy. But first you have to have a pantry. Note: I heard John Tesh report that the farm-raised tilapia is loaded with BAD Omega-6's and raises cholesterol, and should not be eaten by people prone to asthma, arthritis and other inflammatory problems. Check it out on his site.

Here's a good fish story to illustrate what I am talking about: During my month at our IL home, while I was doing taxes, I created a new dish for my daughter and me. I had to use up the stuff in the freezer and fridge so it wouldn't spoil before my return in April. I found frozen perch, a bag of coconut, and milk and cooked pasta (spaghetti), and I still have all my good spices in the cupboard. I poached the fish in the milk, added coconut, then topped it with the pasta and added cumin and curry. The fish flaked into the milk and then combined with the pasta and spices. Served in our shrimp-red deep Italian pottery bowls (which I miss so much), this became a new treat. My daughter said, "Wow, if they served this at Red Lobster, I would never order anything else." Now, that's a vote of confidence.

Anyway, back in the hotel, I do not have curry and cumin, or coconut to be used up, or even frozen perch. And, we have no Italian pottery, which again sounds snobbish, and like I am complaining, but really, hotel dishes are not inviting, and dishes matter in good eating. I can buy the spices, but the bottles will have to be stored next to the pots in the cupboard or beside the toaster, which has to be put back in the cupboard to make room for the chopping.

Okay, I know it sounds ungrateful! We are eating well, but not healthfully. Something has to change. Unless we decide to eat out six nights a week, I have to resolve the cooking supply and space problems. Oh, and expense. Have any of you been grocery shopping lately? I haven't, at least on trips intended for really eating at home. A trip to Big Y, Whole Foods and Trader Joe's was shocking. Two people have a hard time buying real food for under $200 a shopping trip. I am not talking about caviar and champagne. I am merely talking produce, whole grains, olive oil ($24 all by itself) and fresh fish. Ugh. This is unreal. Have food prices really doubled in the past year? I do not have $800 to $1000 a month for a food budget. I can't imagine having these prices with growing children in the house.

These exorbitant prices bring us to the temptation to settle for the cheese and crackers up at the hotel's Gate House. But, I just can't. I'm not a snob. Okay, I AM a snob. But I cannot allow my weight to push up any more.

Exercise! That is part of the solution. That will be my next hotel story.

Until then, ta ta.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Hotel Stories: Life in a Hotel

We are entering our 13th month at our CT hotel, waiting for our home in IL to sell. It is an interesting season. You could look at it that temp living is no fun--one room, life suspended, no roots, no visible sign that the housing market will improve anytime soon.

I choose to see this as a season for reflection. Besides, my daughter reminded me that I have always said I wanted to live in a hotel. Of course, what I had in mind was the Waldorf, or maybe the Hilton. I remember my monthly stays at the Millennium Hilton in NYC. I loved that I would have dinner in the hotel cafe, and they would allow me to take my teapot and cup to my room, only asking that I put it outside my door in the morning. The room was spacious, the toiletries posh, and the linens fine on a mattress that was as comfy as home.

Our hotel is not the Waldorf or the Hilton, but it is reasonably comfortable, and although not fancy, it has its perks: daily maid service, full breakfast (which I can't eat daily or I gain weight), and sometimes even an evening meal (not on the low-glycemic index).

And, since my husband says I compulsively interview everyone--only a slight exaggeration--where better could I find such an endless stream of interesting people to talk with?

You probably assume that most people in a hotel are there on business or vacation. Actually, I haven't found that to be so.

Everyone has a story. That is the premise for my Lunch with Marjorie column and also for this blog. I hope some of the stories will inspire you. I plan to find as many as I can before this season ends and I am forced to accost people in coffee shops and other places to find subjects for my interviews.

So stay tuned. In the meantime, you can find
Lunch with Marjorie at (There is a LIVE LINK below)
type in Lunch with Marjorie in the search (upper right). And NOW you can leave comments there TOO. TY

You can read the first of the hotel stories in the 3-parter, entitled: Living Life Now and Enjoying Every Minute about John Gompper from Kentucky.

If you will take the time to read a couple of the stories already there, I would so appreciate your comments and reactions. You can email me at:

Well, I await your responses. Please follow my blog for some good stories, now and in the future. Who knows? The next one could be about you!

Thanks for visiting. Don't forgot to post a message for me after you read some stuff.

Go to March Hotel Stories: Food