Daily Affirmation

The best things in life are free.
The second best are very expensive.
- Coco Chanel

Thursday, January 23, 2014

San Francisco Nights - When I Could Stay Awake

It's been so hard to sit down and write anything lately.  Life is going by at a breakneck pace.  Wasn't it just Christmas?  And now January is almost over.  In my family February heralds in the birthday season, starting with Rex and Ronna, and the whole year rushes by from there.

This month has been a blur.  I just got back from a week in San Francisco.  We stayed at the Palace Hotel, a beautiful old hotel that had a spectacular lobby and dining room.  Absolutely gorgeous.

But before you get all excited, it was for work.  Meh...  On the 15th it was our anniversary (our 14th!),  and when this business trip came up, we thought "How great - we'll both go, and have a good time in the city after the work day to celebrate!"  My friends, when your day starts at 5am because you have to be down and ready to roll by 6am, there is very little energy left at the end of the work day.  I did pretty well.  I was up and going every day - ready for those little cardiology fellows who were attending our conference.  It was fun to interact with them, and observe which ones were going to be the great doctors that were beloved by their patients, and which ones would do better as lab rats.  We found we loved (almost) all of them for various reasons.  On the last half day of the program, the Big Snowstorm hit the northeast part of the country, and we were scrambling trying to secure new flights home for dozens of stranded doctors who'd just had their flights cancelled.  New flights, extending their hotel rooms, reassuring them that our company would pay for all of it.  It was an exhausting morning and never was I so happy to realize that I only had a short 1 hour flight home to good old John Wayne airport. 

While in San Francisco, I was finished with work every day around 4pm.  I'd originally thought that L and I would tramp around the city, seeing sights and drinking in the San Francisco culture.  In reality, I limped upstairs to our room and took a deep, snoring 1 hour nap every afternoon before dinner.  I couldn't believe how tired I was!  Once awake, we'd set off in one direction or another and find the restaurant that L had found on Yelp for us to try out.  One night it was a small Italian restaurant, with only about 10 tables in the whole place.  Their specialty was pizza - and it was delicious - but I fell in love with their spaghetti and meatballs too.  Another night it was a great little burger joint that also had sweet potato fries.  We shared a small table space with an older woman (yes, even older than me!) who had come in by herself.  We ordered room service in one night when I couldn't crawl any further than our room.  That was a treat - French onion soup, truffled fries (I thought I had died and gone to heaven) and chicken wings.  In truth, it was a little too much of a treat, but we won't go there...  We did tropical Mexican another night.  That was the night the 49ers played the Seattle Seahawks.  And lost.  Never was there a more quiet and subdued bar.  But the food rocked.

My favorite night of all, however, was the night that our friends Sue and Dave drove into the city and took us to a wonderful Italian restaurant in North Beach.  Pinocchio's.  The kind of beautiful Italian food you dream about - well I do anyway...  Good company and good food - you can't beat that. 

And that was the week.  It was fun to be away (when I wasn't working) but there's no place like home after several days away.  Good to get back into my nice comfy little rut again.  Working in the mornings to the sound of talk radio, and then rocking out in the afternoon to my iTunes collection.  Taking a shower whenever I can fit it in.  It's been a blessing to not have to put on makeup for a few days.  My skin is thankful.  My lazy self is thankful.

So what's next?  Well, on Valentine's weekend we'll be off again for a weekend in Santa Barbara.  My nephew Tom is getting married there and its... black tie.  Seriously.  Who has a black tie wedding?  No one in my circle, certainly.  Not until now.  I've been pulling my hair out looking for a dress that I wouldn't have to pay an arm and a leg for.  I found a beautiful one at Anthropologie, and it was perfect.  It was a short dress, but I didn't care.  It was one I could wear again and it was fancy enough. 

I saw it just as we left for San Francisco, and I thought I'd order it when I got back.  And when I got back... it was sold out.  So disappointed, but I reset my sights and continued the search.   So then I found a pretty ivory lacy top that I thought I could pair with a green silk skirt that I already had.  I looked at it in the morning, and thought I'd order it right after I finished work. 

And - you guessed it - it sold out.  It was all I could do to keep from cursing like a sailor.  I mean, what are the odds?  Is everyone going to this wedding?  I was not good company the rest of the night.  Clearly, I need to shop a little faster.

Today I was working away and wondering where I was going to look next, and thinking maybe I would just not have to go to the wedding (actually a more attractive thought than I cared to admit) and I suddenly remembered: the black formal dress I'd bought about 6 years ago to attend a black tie event for the American Heart Association in Las Vegas.  At the time I was stuffed like a sausage into it and I didn't like how I looked in it at all.  So it's been hidden in the nether regions of my closet so the memories wouldn't keep coming to the surface.  But, 30 pounds lighter, I tried it on and hey now... it actually fits me right and it looks nice!  Nice enough that I don't want to look for another one.  Paired with a cute little pair of jeweled black velvet kitten heels that I've owned forwever, all I need is a killer pair of earrings.  L was so relieved he didn't have to shell out for a new dress, that he practically begged me to let him buy me a pair or earrings.  Done and done!

So the week that started with wardrobe angst has ended with a peaceful smile.  I know I shouldn't let things like that get to me, but I get hobo anxiethy when I know I'm going to be surrounded by beautiful people.  And the bride's family are all beautiful people.  Like model beautiful.  Tall, blonde, beautiful models.  It's what nightmares are made of in my head.  But I shall hold my little dark haired head up, because on that occasion it will be decorated with killer earrings.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Birthday She Never Wanted But Loved It Anyway

Busy, busy, busy.  That's been my life the past week or two.  Recovery from the holidays induced a sort of stupor that gives me a bit of amnesia regarding what I've been doing.  It feels like everything and nothing.  Headache-inducing stress, and yet not much noteworthy to show for it.  Let me explain.

A co-worker of mine (if you can call someone based in Minneapolis a co-worker) has left for a 10 day vacation to the Dominican Republic.  And believe me, if you've been living in Minneapolis for the past month, the Dominican Republic is looking like The Promised Land, all sunshine and lovely warm, WARM temperatures.  Can't blame her for skedaddling out of Dodge.  However, I've had to  (once again) be schooled in her job responsibilities so I can take over for her while she's gone.  This results in lots of hours, and many more dollars for me, so I'm not totally complaining here.  However, the learning curve and memory recall was a bit steep and stressful.  I've had to watch my job responsibilities pile up, while I try to regain skills I'd acquired last May and June, but have not had to use since.  It's not rocket science, but for some of the tasks there are many, many steps, and so many tedious details to remember.  And for a brown-nosing teacher's pet like me, well... it's just stressful.  Because I don't like to make a mistake.  I hate making mistakes.  So I've had headaches, and bad sleep, and lots of dreams about the new responsibilities.  Now, the difference this time around is that I'll continue to do many of these things after my working buddy comes back - so that's a plus.  So let's just say that I was a sweaty-palmed wreck last week, and this week will be just about as intense.  Tons to do as I start a new work week, and all the while I'm preparing to go and spend 6 days in San Francisco for an education conference I'm helping with.

The good news is that L is coming with me.  I won't have to work in the evening, and that means 6 lovely nights in one of my most favorite cities with my favorite beau.  It's our 14th anniversary on the 15th, so we'll just call it a celebration while we're at it.  We're going to stay at The Palace Hotel - google it, it's gorgeous.  Yes, I'll be working from about 7:00 - 4:00 every day, but I'll also be spending the evenings with that boy I love so much.  We'll find our own adventures, and we have some friends in the area we're hoping to get together with.  It'll be fun, and I'll sleep better at night with him there.  I'm looking forward to it, even though it's a little stressful doing something new, like working one of these conferences.

But I have to tell you about last night.  It was my aunt's 80th birthday on the 10th.  My brothers and their wives, my parents (my aunt is my mother's sister), and 3 of my cousins and their wives all met together last night at a restaurant to celebrate this imporatant birthday.  And yes, I think 80 is a HUGE milestone.  If you know my aunt at all, you know that she hates hates hates to have any attention on herself.  No birthday celebrations, no parties, no recognition of any sort.  So we had to plan this on the sly, and sort of kidnap her into it.  Oh, we eventually let her know it was coming, and she called my cousin Greg at least twice to tell him it was off, and please don't come, but he is a determined sort, as well as very kind, and he just ignored her attempts at birthday sabotage.  We all did.  She tried everything from begging to getting a little mad, but we wouldn't budge.  I think what I appreciate most of all was the fact that all of my cousins had to drive quite a distance to be there, and every one of them came.  With bells on, and fun wives in tow.  Such a treat.  We haven't been in the habit of getting together at all over the years, and I'm so glad we were able to pull it off.  What happened is that the birthday girl herself had the time of her life.  And the rest of us had an equally good time of our lives.

Here is the miracle of the night: by the time dessert came, she was so relaxed and happy that even when the waiters and the rest of us sang "Happy Birthday" to her accompanied by a lovely bread pudding (her choice) with a candle stuck in it, she just sat there with a big dopey smile on her face.  No argument.  Loving all of it.  Soaking every birthday wish up.  Worth every argument I had with her over Please Don't Do This/Yes We're Doing It Get Over It.  If you're turning 80 you deserve to have a bash - especially if you've never had one.  Or knew that you wanted one.  Which she didn't.   Best.Night.Ever. in my opinion.

So good, in fact, that all of the cousins want to have another night just like it.  We were thinking maybe a weekend in Palm Desert, which is more in the cousins' neck of the woods, and somewhere I love to visit - minus the birthday, and probably just us cousins and spouses.  Last night's gathering brought me right back to the days at my Grandma's house when we'd all play in her huge back yard.  Running around, having Easter egg hunts, Christmas Eves when Grandma would knit each of us a new pair of slippers (mine had pompoms on the toes), and we'd line up for pictures, oldest to youngest, in our jammies.  We'd squabble and play, someone would always be crying, Brad would confide that he loved strawberries the best (he is 9 years my junior, so he was my special pet), we'd eat our dinners at the "kid's tables" (the card tables) and the youngest ones would have terrycloth aprons tied around their necks to save their clothes.  At Christmas there was the background glow of my grandparents' aluminum tree with the rotating color wheel.  (Remember those?  I was fascinated by it! )  Such good times so long ago, and I want more.  More cousin gatherings, I say!  More dinners and more laughing.  It was good for the soul.

So YES yes yes.  It's been a busy week, with more to follow.  I'll get through the San Francisco conference and travel stress - and hopefully have a few beautiful memories to keep and share.  Then I really need to get on it and find a dress for my nephew's wedding in Santa Barbara.  Its black tie.  Yes, you heard me.  BLACK TIE.  And I don't have any overalls nice enough to wear.  I seriously don't.  We all just found out about the black tie part, so I'm a bit unprepared.  So I'm praying that I'll find something perfect that I can actually afford (the bride's mother was going to get ideas for her dress from the Golden Globes... yes, they have THAT kind of money... you see my predicament.)  I can't show up dressed in something that looks like I don't know what "black tie" means.  GAH...  But the week before that little soiree L and I will spend a night at the W Hotel in Hollywood while I work again at a small overnight education conference (earning money for that dress!)  L wanted to go see Jimmy Kimmel while I'm working but alas, they're not taping that day.  But it's HOLLYWOOD - he'll figure something out.

So today, Sunday, L and I just took a breath.  We're moving a little more slowly so we don't damage our brains, or clog an artery.  Because tomorrow, the roller coaster starts up again and we'll be glad we rested.  Oh, and the Golden Globes are on.  Maybe I should go gather some ideas for my Santa Barbara dress.

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