Friday, July 25, 2014

What's the number?

Yesterday I walked into the back office at one of my hotels to discover my general manager and two front desk agents in an absolute panic. The general manager was trying to get hold of the corporate office, I asked what the problem was and this was the conversation that transpired.

GM: We went to the gas station as we have to fill up the shuttle for our guests and we don't have the number that is needed to get gas.

FD1: We put the card in and it asks for a number.

Me: Your driver ID, that number?

FD2: No, we have that number, we need the other number.

GM: I am trying to call corporate because they never gave us the other number.

Me: Wait, so when you put in the card it asks for a number?

FD1: Yes the one before the driver number.

Me: You mean the ODOMETER?

All of them together: Yes, that number, corporate didn't give us that number.

Me: *crickets* *Guppy Fish Mouth Movements*

For the record, I did not hire these people.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Chaos and Calm.

It has been over a month since I started my new job and it has been stressful, entertaining, mind boggling, hysterical, head banging, ass kicking and with a few WTF faces thrown in for good measure.

The little red KIA and I have been doing lots of miles between Colorado and Nebraska. My iPhone is filled with podcasts and my music playlist grows larger everyday. I have encountered a tornado, actually was in between two, and that experience I never wish to repeat, but seeing as though my route is I-80 where tornadoes like to hangout, I guess it won't be my last.

I have worked 17 hour days, had a General Manager quit 15 minutes before we were about to take on a Million dollar account. I've had to fire a General Manager and work longer days because the staff wanted to teach me a lesson by walking out. I have dealt with stupid people, lots and lots of stupid people. I have encountered rude, drunk, ignorant guests. I have met scammers and con-men. I have been given a few hotels in a town that has a population of 18,119 people and where 13 meth labs were raided last year. I have been given the criteria to make sure that the people I hire have all their teeth. Yes, ponder on that one for a moment.

I fall into bed exhausted everyday and wake up with the chickens. I am learning to live out of a suitcase and finally bought a corkscrew and a wine glass. My days mesh together that I sometimes don't know what day of the week it is. Last week my body had enough and one of my General Manager's had to drive me to urgent care where I was given a shot of the good drug and ordered to stay in bed for the rest of the day.

One criteria I had when I took this job was that when I felt the need to take a break I could fly home for a few days. I have just spent 5 wonderful days in Oregon where I did the things that I love and have missed. I cooked great meals. I drank excellent wine. I went for long walks on the beach. I watched the fireworks from the beach. I visited breweries, the good ones.  I played backgammon and won. I read a book. I laughed. I cried. I reflected.

As I sit on the bed in another hotel room, in a different city, I am grateful for the past month and what I have learned from it. I have learned that I am strong. That it is okay to be alone. That there are people out there cheering for me to succeed and alas those waiting for me to fail. I have learned that my wingman will always be there, no matter what the turmoil of the day may be. I have learned that the employee's that earn the least are the happiest. I have learned that I am quite the salsa dancer with guidance from my housekeeping staff. I have learned that the saying "Keep Calm and Carry On" does not apply to me in a tornado situation. I have learned that no matter what the day may have in store for me I will always look for the beauty and the calm amidst the chaos.

At the end of the day before sleep takes over I count my blessings and that no matter what the next day brings there will be at least one person out there that will give me another great story to tell.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

That's Not My Job.

I have been at my new job since the 19th May and intensely busy would be the only words I have to describe how it has been and that would also be because my brain is on overload so words don't come easy right now. I am almost at that point of being found sitting in a corner, drooling and rocking back and forth.

I have been given six hotels to manage and five of them are migraine inducing with a total of roughly about 170 staff members all having their way of doing things and not without many complaints.  There was a day that I had to hide in my hotel room so that I could get reports done and just try and regroup.

In doing an assessment of what level everyone is at, I have been surprised (I really should not be) at how many staff members have thrown each other under the bus. One of the phrases I have heard the most these past three weeks is "That's not my job." I think I need to turn it into a drinking game, but becoming an alcoholic is not something I plan on being any time soon.

I have dealt with disgruntled employees, unhappy guests because you were unable to move heaven and earth for them, water pipes bursting, staff members smoking pot on their breaks because in Colorado it is legal so they feel they can, swimming pools that won't co-operate and General Managers leaving property and their staff at peak busy times.

The one shining light is that one of the hotels I have would be the hotel I helped with last year - the hotel where the staff fondly named me Ninja Bitch. I 'm now known as Boomerang Bitch. I love having Zac back on my team and he has been wonderful in helping me with pool, heaters, network printers and security camera issues. His hotel is two hours north of where I currently am so I have bribed him with food and beer.

I have found a way to escape the craziness. When it all gets too overwhelming I go to the hotel kitchen and start washing the dishes from either a banquet or the restaurant. At that point I am the highest paid dishwasher the company has. This mindless, soothing, job is what helps me escape and in my mind seeing dirty dishes become clean gives me a huge sense of accomplishment.

There is so much to be done and I know that I can do the job, I just need to tackle one little piece at a time and there have been a few days where I will have an employee in my office asking for something to be done and just for once I would love to say "That's not my job."

Sunday, March 30, 2014


Thank you Elisa for my beautiful affirmation bangle. 

While living in Corvallis I attended a local art fair and discovered Saucy Jewelry. I was leaving the following week to visit friends in England and I found an affirmation bangle for my friend Lisa which said "She thought she could so she did." Lisa was going through a tough time and I wanted her to have something that she could look at everyday and keep her motivated and moving forward.

There wasn't any phrase that Elisa had that really stuck out for me, so I didn't buy an affirmation bangle for myself at that time.

These past few months have been a tough one for me and it has been a huge learning curve for me not only about people, but mostly about myself. A few weeks ago I was reading a book on codependency as I was trying to figure out why did I think that it was okay to allow people to treat me in a less than favorable manner.

I post daily affirmations on my G+ account and was trying to find something one day on codependency. When I pulled up the images the first one that popped up was "Examine what you tolerate." This was profound. I sat staring at the screen for a while and just let those four words sink in. "Examine what you tolerate."

I have thought about those four words every day since discovering them and then that light above my head moment happened and I knew I finally had the words for my affirmation bangle. I contacted Elisa at the beginning of this week and yesterday when I got back to the condo a package was waiting for me. My bangle was here.

There are some that may think it silly to rely on an object to keep one moving forward, but at this point of my life and learning that it's okay to be me, I really don't care what people think. What matters is me and my inner peace and calm and when the next person that treats me in that unfavorable manner I will look down at my wrist and glance upon the words on my bangle and then slowly walk away.

Please visit Elisa at Saucy Jewelry and see all the wonderful pieces she makes. Click on the link here.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Against All Odds.

My beautiful sister Rosie.

It was a very cold, winters day on the 15 January 1996. I was sitting in my living room planning my 30th Birthday party when I received a phone call from my Father. My sister Rosie and her husband Andrew were involved in a very serious car accident. Rosie had died at the scene, but was revived by the paramedics. She was on life support and in a coma and I was to get back to South Africa as soon as possible. My Mother and oldest sister were in Hawaii so the scramble for flights to get back home was intense.

The flight back to South Africa felt like it was by far the longest trip I had ever taken in my life. Sitting on the plane I made bargains with God if He could keep Rosie alive for us to see her and probably get to say goodbye. Trevor's pediatrician's concern was that ICU is not a place for a child to be in, as it is nothing like they portray on television. I geared myself up for the worst and that if I saw Trevor in distress I would take him from the room.

My Father picked us up from the airport and we were taken to the hospital immediately. Walking through the stark hospital passage was surreal. My feet felt as though they were made of lead and my stomach was a sailor's knot. I held Trevor tightly and we walked into the room. I didn't recognize my sister. The only way I can describe the way her head looked is to compare her to an alien. You know those cartoon alien head drawings where the chin is small and the brain is large? That was how she looked. Trevor was in my arms and he wanted to give Aunty Losie (he couldn't pronounce his r's yet) a kiss. When I held him towards her his eyes got big and he had a look of fear on his face. It was then that I remembered what the pediatrician had said. The machines frightened him and it was at the point that my brother took him out of the room. I sat and held my sisters hand and begged her to open her eyes.

The days crawled by and after a while Rosie woke up. The paramedics who saved her life went to visit her as they couldn't believe she had survived. I remember one paramedic said that seeing this miracle is why he does his job. It was very touching to see grown men tear up when they saw her.

Rosie was awake, she was talking, laughing and it was amazing to see. What we all didn't see was the traumatic injury she had to her brain. Her memory was gone. She recognized her immediate family, but couldn't remember anything beyond that. Rosie's frustration became very evident after a while when she would constantly remind us "I don't remember that." When she ate an orange she couldn't believe the taste and exclaimed how incredibly delicious this fruit was. I told her that she ate them all the time to which she responded "I don't remember that."

It was time for Trevor and I to head back to the States and it was hard to say goodbye, but the relief that my sister was going to live was an intense calm. Living with a person who has TBI is difficult not only for the family, but for the person with the injury. When you look at Rosie you see an amazing woman, but what you don't see is the bandage around her brain. My Mother and older sister went through a lot at that time and everyone was learning how to deal with the new Rosie.

So in honor of World Brain Injury Day I honor my sister. Rosie there are not enough words in the dictionary to describe how grateful, blessed and honored I am to have you as my sister. You rock. We take for granted every day that we have our memories of our childhood, friends, experiences, travels, but when that is suddenly taken away from you I cannot even begin to fathom what that must be like. My sister has had many surgeries since the accident, enough that would discourage anyone, but not my beautiful sister. She is the most amazing person I know. Her attitude about life and her inner calm is an inspiration to me. She is very logical, too logical sometimes. I believe that there is a reason why she was given a second chance and I would selfishly like to think it was to help me through so many of my dark days. Rosie and Andy have an amazing son who is the light of their life and has his mother's sass.

My favorite part of conversations with Rosie are when she points out my fault in handling a certain situation, but when I remind her that she would do the same, her sassy, true to form, eye rolling response is "I don't remember that."

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Phone Call.


This past weekend I received a phone call from my ex-husband, I had no idea what to expect and when I heard what he had to say and his concern for me I was speechless. (And we all know what a feat that is in itself.) Years ago I thought I had let go of the anger and the animosity that I felt towards him and my ex-best friend.

When you think you have things figured out the Universe quietly shows you that you're still a newbie to the game and that the lesson is never ending. I thought that I had let things go, that I had moved forward, but the phone conversation proved otherwise. To hear him say how sorry he was for what he put me through years ago had me thinking that this was a dream. Our conversation lasted over an hour and there were tears, on both parts. His concern for me was I must admit very overwhelming. I kept on looking at the phone thinking that this wasn't real.

T. was in the room and overheard my side of the conversation and I know that my ex and I both showed him that even though we had parted ways 11 years ago, we still have respect and a different kind of love for each other.

I thought that after speaking to my ex that things couldn't get more surreal than no sooner I get a text from his wife, who was my best friend. That blew me out of the water, I think I did the fish mouth water motion. A two hour conversation followed and once again there were tears on both sides of the phone. Her apology was heartfelt and accepted and it was at that moment I felt as though a weight, that I thought was lifted years ago, just lift and evaporate.

I have currently been beating myself up about the choices I have made and how they have affected T. My son is my world and all I ever wanted for him was to be healthy, happy and stable. This weekend I know that I taught T. the lesson of forgiveness and I pray that he will find it in his heart one day to forgive the person who has hurt him and who he trusted and loved for many years.

As parents we are hard on ourselves about all the wrong things we did. We need to start focusing on all the great lessons we have imparted to our children. Teaching a child the act of forgiveness is a gift that is truly priceless and most importantly the freedom to be able to walk away from the restrictive, choking chains of anger and hostility.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Hello Nebraska.

One foot in Nebraska, the other in Iowa
Yes I am back in Nebraska working on another hotel project. There are four positive things about the adventure this time around.

1. The hotel is 6 years old.

2. The maintenance man knows what he is doing.

3. T is with me.

4. I get to drive this again.

Happy Nubian.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

If love came with a warning label.

Speak to your heart before proceeding.

Love may cause dizziness and euphoria.

Do not take love with alcohol as it may impair your judgement.

If taken in the right dosage daily, love will work.

Do not mix love with any other emotion such as jealousy, envy or anger.

Love must be reciprocated daily.

Do not crush.

Love must be taken with equal amounts of caring, compassion and trust.

Use caution when opening your heart to love.

Love may cause your head to hurt.

Excessive use of love may harm you.

Do not suddenly quit love without talking to your head and your heart.

Not all love will work. 

Time to refill.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

When in Maine...

I guess one cannot visit Maine without visiting L.L. Bean. I had no idea as to how large the store was. There are many different stores all connected to the main store and it is open 24 hrs, 365 days.

The L.L. Bean boot with the lovely Ms. Erica
posing for me. 
The L.L. Bean boot car. (Only in America right?)
One of the stores. 
I love the door handles.
An indoor trout pond.
And I so wanted to make a wish. 
The stuffed animal section. Kinda creepy.

Poor stuffed bears. 
Somehow this one doesn't look as intimidating as the ones I have seen
in the wild. 
Long, long wall with all the catalog covers. 

One cannot go into the tent section and not play.
Main Street in Freeport, Maine
It was a great day and Erica and I decided that if we had an unlimited budget, our packages would have been numerous.

Except for the mom khakis. We would totally skip those.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Birthday Blessings.

Today is my birthday and my day could not have started any better when I received this video.

My cousin's adorable little children just melt my heart every time I am with them. Prima means cousin in Portuguese although Daniela pronounces it as Bama.

My email inbox started filling up with the most amazing letters from family and friends. These were not just your ordinary birthday wishes, but letters telling me what a difference I have made in their lives and what I mean to them.  Every single one had me in tears. A dear friend even wrote an entire blog post just to me with wine being the common bond and theme. Another friend wrote a list of things of what him and his wife love about me and this one had me laughing out loud. "Hilarious, with a wit so sharp and dry it will cut you and make your face pucker." 

I also received cards and gifts each one with a mini thesis attached. I have to say that the most incredible email I did receive today was from T. You all know how I hate the term, 'I am blessed', but in this case I have to say it. As a parent you know you have done something right when your child writes you more than a one paragraph letter.

There were three letters/emails that really touched me as these were from people I have known for a long time, but have never met in real life. To know what my friendship means to them, just makes me feel incredibly humble.

My cousin aka as Gorgeous had planned on us all going out for dinner, but the dreaded blizzard has hit New England and we have decided to wait until this all clears. So in true Princess fashion I get to celebrate my birthday longer.

To everyone one of you that reached out today with letters, emails, phone calls and Skype calls, thank you for making my 48th birthday one to remember.

I really am blessed.

My beautiful flowers from my cousin BoozaBell

Sunday, January 19, 2014

My visit to Brunswick, Maine.

Maine Moose
This weekend I visited with our friends Jon and Erica who live in Maine. It was a much needed break and mini vacation. Jon was T's Biology teacher in high school and you can read about him in this blog post I did a while ago. Brunswick, Maine is home to Bowdoin College and a very quaint college town. It reminds me a lot of Corvallis, Oregon.

Jon and Erica have just purchased a home and have started doing renovations and I couldn't think of a better way to take out my frustration on peeling off wallpaper and taping up shit. My OCD was in over drive. My weekend adventure is documented in photographs, a type of graphic novel for those that don't like to read lengthy blogs.

Erica putting the finishing touches on the
crown molding.
Jon making sure that the caulking is perfect. 
Me on the phone to RyRy and peeling wallpaper.
Marley, my godchild, supervising from the bedroom.
All the ducks in the neighborhood.
Ducks hanging out at the neighbors. 
Brunswick Saturday Flea Market. 
Nightmares in the making. 
For my friend Berta
Amazing collection of salt and pepper pots.
The wonderful Hannah from Gracie's Garden
Lacto-Fermented vegetables. They are awesome. I bought the beets to
bring back home to Oregon. 
Wonderful cheese from Balfour Farm. 
After the farmer's market we had to have Gelato.
So much to choose from. The winner was the Vegan Chocolate Gelato.
What I woke up to this morning. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Hello my name is America and I am depressed.

Becoming a US Citizen and all the amazing people who came to witness
this incredible moment.

Growing up in South Africa I always thought of America as a very intimidating country. Watching the news America was always portrayed as the quarterback, the main man, and the rest of the world just mere spectators.

In 1990 I had an opportunity to come to America and I embarked on the journey with my carefree adventurous spirit. America was nothing to what I thought it would be. I thought that everyone was wealthy, there was no homeless and kids didn't get lower than a B in school. I guess I watched too much American TV and the news to not think any differently. To say that this was a huge culture shock is not giving the in your face glaring reality of something that wasn't, zero credit. There were homeless people, lots of homeless people; the ignorance and lectures I had to endure from many people when they learned I was from South Africa are too numerous to mention and I quickly learned that not every kid in school got straight A's and there were even some who didn't go to school.

There was, however, one thing that remained the same. The confidence of the American people with some bordering on arrogance was still intimidating to me, but then I saw what many accomplished and how their dreams were being realized and it opened my eyes to a different perception. Everyone worked together in some form or another, smiled and the tone of the country was contentment. It became the house with the white picket fence dream and I was taking on all that it had to offer.

Fast forward to today and this is not the country I was introduced to 24 years ago. We have a government who can't seem to get their shit together and have lost the "We the people" mentality to the "What's in it for me" attitude. Daily on Twitter I watch people name calling, trash talking and generally hitting below the belt when you happen to mention your opinion. A while ago I had posted an article that Rachel Maddow had written and immediately someone who followed me wrote "Hey look everyone, another feminist c___ on Twitter." I was floored. I have seen an ugly side to people who when they feel they are not winning the argument the name calling begins. We are truly a country divided.

We salivate over reality TV to see wealthy, poor et al go at each other. We are no better than the Romans going to the Colossum to watch Christians being barbarically murdered. The news media is split and the non fact checking garbage that is out there is enough to make ones head explode. My husband's philosophy is that anyone who listens and believes what a person is saying on the TV/Radio must remember that these people rely on ratings to help fatten their wallets, and the more bizarre the claim the better.

No one smiles anymore. Today I went for a walk and every person I passed I smiled at and it wasn't reciprocated or maybe they thought that there was something wrong with this smiling woman all bundled up.  I watched people in cars on their cell phones rushing to where ever they were going, like ants on a mission. As I sat in the bakery I overheard a conversation about money and Christmas debt and how this person was going to have to find a second job to pay off their credit cards. One only has to see Black Friday and what it has become and you have to ask yourself "Why?" what void is trying to be filled.

Did you know that 105 suicides are committed a day in America? According to The American Association Suicidology  those numbers have dramatically increased since 2010. After the Wall Street fiasco life in the house with the white picket fence America was no more. So many Americans lost their homes and are living out of their cars or in tent cities. We have people losing their unemployment benefits, college students graduating with an insane amount of debt and many families taking on second jobs to survive. It seems that the majority of the American people are just surviving and that depression is slowly eating away at that confidence that I witnessed many years ago.

As we face 2014 my wish for everyone this year is to be kind to yourself and each other. Focus on what you have, what is around you, take long walks, dance in the rain, laugh more, love as if this is your last moment on earth and most importantly, smile.