People watching

I love the opportunity travel affords for one of my favorite pastimes—people watching. I had two back-to-back trips recently that gave me ample and varied people-watching opportunities.

Not all of it is good. Here’s an example of a conversation I witnessed in the airport:

Old woman to husband (in a slightly bossy tone): “Go to the bathroom, tuck in your shirt, and put your belt on.”

Husband: “Okay.”

From that little exchange I can guess a lot about what marriage is like for this couple. Poor guy.

Then on the airplane I sat next to a couple who smooched a lot. Just what I wanted to see for three hours. Tonsil hockey. Ick!

On the plus side, people-watching in Boston was great. I’ll have to write a separate blog post on why I’m crazy about Boston, but one of the things I love is the general air of history and education, which doesn’t exist in the touristy, theme park, vacation environment of Central Florida. To me it seems to permeate the atmosphere, even among those who are not educated beyond high school. I saw people reading everywhere. People reading while laying out on the grass in Boston Commons, reading in the subway, reading in the airport. People in Boston READ. As someone who used to regularly walk into doors and walls while reading (being unable to put down a book even for the length of time it took to move from one room to the next), I love being in an environment where people take a book with them everywhere they go.

People watching at the beach this weekend was completely different. Here were people clearly on vacation. Lots of families. Some of whom looked happier to be there than others. Lots of bathing suits. Some of which were entirely too skimpy. It really makes one wonder what some people are thinking! I also noticed that lots of people dress their little girls in bikinis. I don’t know why this bothers me; I certainly don’t have anything against girls in bikinis. But Maia has never had one and won’t until she asks. I guess I was a little put off several years ago when she attended the birthday party of a boy from her class at daycare. There was an inflatable water slide, so of course bathing suits were a must. The grandfather of the birthday boy had heard much of Maia but had not, until then, met her. He expressed disappointment that she wasn’t wearing a bikini. It was probably an innocent remark, but a grandfather being disappointed that my 3-year-old daughter was not sporting a bikini creeped me out a little, and so to this day I have yet to buy one for her. Of course this story has nothing at all to do with people watching except that ever since then, I’ve always noticed just how rare a one-piece swimsuit is on little girls.

I love the Harry Potter books. Let’s be absolutely clear about that. I loved this one too, every bit as much as the previous five in the series. However, a small part of me can’t help asking, as Harry matures and the storylines get darker, is this really still a children’s series? Sure, Harry at 16 is appropriate for those who have grown up with him, eagerly anticipating each new release. But what about those younger kids who are just discovering the series, reading them back to back rather than aging along with Harry? There are themes of corruption, death, and approaching war that get stronger in each book. I’m not sure I’d let a 10- or 11-year-old read this one.

Having said that, I still loved it! With each new release, J. K. Rowling draws the reader further into Harry’s wizarding world. In The Half-Blood Prince, the typical Hogwarts scenes abound—magical lessons, Quidditch, sneaking around after hours with the invisibility cloak, and detention with Professor Snape. Harry is still no good at Potions, but receives unexpected help this time around from the Half-Blood Prince. Just who the Half-Blood Prince is turns out to be a bit of an anti-climax, so I’m hoping this will come into play again in book 7. Harry and his friends are, at 16, well entrenched in adolescence and all that means, so crushes and jealousies are well represented too. On the darker side, Lord Voldemort’s Death Eaters are wreaking havoc in both the magic and Muggle communities, and the magic community is in now perpetual fear. Harry believes that, at Hogwarts, Draco Malfoy and Professor Snape are in league with Voldemort and up to no good, but has a hard time convincing others of his suspicions despite mounting evidence. He also learns much about the origins of his nemesis, Voldemort, and the dark magic he is capable of. We can only hope this new knowledge will aid Harry in the final showdown that is destined to occur in book 7. And on a very sad note, we lose a beloved character. Or did we?

This one perhaps lacks the whimsy and sheer wonder of discovering Harry’s magical heritage that was present in the earliest books, but it’s clear that Rowling is positioning characters and setting the stage for the dramatic events to unfold in the next, and final, book in the series. I have my own theories about the surprising twists and turns that plot might take, but I’ll keep them to myself and wait to see if I am right.

Highly recommended, but read the other five first. Happy reading!

Schmoozing

I’ve just returned from one of my favorite events of the year, CHART. I love this conference because it’s like family. It’s a smallish group (around 350 this time) of hotel and restaurant trainers who come together to share information and learn from each other, regardless of the fact that in many cases they are competitors. It’s all about building relationships and exchanging resources and ideas. It’s so unique, and I love it. Because of the small size and the requirement that members must attend at least one of the two conferences held every year, I see a lot of the same people, some of whom are our clients, over and over. There is such a camaraderie about it that I just don’t find at other conferences I have attended.

I remember a few years ago, as a first time attendee, how it at first seemed clique-ish and a bit intimidating to see all these people hugging and greeting each other like old friends. First timers get their own opportunities to bond, though. They are usually required to put on a skit during the awards dinner the last night of the conference. The skits are always corny, but they get everyone involved right away. When I was a first time attendee, our skit was about being initiated into the “cult” of CHART. Hotel bathrobes were involved. And lots of chanting. But people also go out of their way to be nice to the first timers (who are identified by special flags on their badges), welcome them, mentor them, and direct them to resources, and sure enough the very next year I was one of those people hugging others and greeting them like old friends.

I titled this post “schmoozing,” and it amuses me to think the shy girl from high school would turn out to be a schmoozer in my professional life. But that’s really a misnomer. It’s more about establishing genuine connections, professional relationships, and friendships among my peers in the industry. And because we are in, or serve, the hospitality industry, it’s all about hospitality with each other, too.

I’m on a temporary blogging hiatus. Too much going on combined with back to back trips out of town will be conspiring to keep me away from the computer through the end of the month. But fear not, my mind is ever on the lookout for good blog topics and I’m sure I’ll have several as a result of my upcoming travels. I’ll be taking good notes and will aim to be back with some good stories come August 1. Bon voyage!

Silence is golden

Today is one of those rare “I’m so busy at the office that I can’t get any REAL work done, so I’m working from home” days. It’s total, absolute, glorious silence. No meetings, no interruptions, no TV, no radio, no talking/yelling/crying, no background noise of any kind. Imagine that—a bit of silence, and I can actually concentrate! In two hours this morning I’ve already accomplished more than I can get done in an entire day in the office lately. So I feel a little justified in taking a quick break to blog about it. I’ve been swamped with one meeting after another, which prevents me from getting much done on the ever-lengthening to-do list. Productivity has been elusive during the past couple of weeks. And of course the meetings generate more work, which I can’t get to because of still more meetings, and well, you probably get the picture. It’s nice to be in demand, but enough already! I’m giving a 90-minute presentation next week, twice, and it is so not ready. I’ve blocked out the entire day to prepare. It’s going well, but now I must get back to it.

A bit of mental overload

What a month this is turning out to be. I’ve been going from one thing to the next to the next, virtually nonstop. A friend teased me this morning, looking for my cape and a red “S.” But even though I’m juggling so many things between work and with the kids’ busy summer schedules, I’m no Superwoman. A busy schedule is good; it makes me feel productive. But I barely have time to myself these days, and that is something I prize. When I don’t get that time to decompress, I get tired and stressed. It only gets worse next week. At least there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. I just have to get through the rest of this month.

In the meantime, I’ve been trying to keep up with the blogging, but haven’t been doing so well. A bit of writer’s block, I suppose, but really I’m finding it difficult the past few weeks to find the time to write anything interesting. So which is better, writing frequently, even if it’s short and about nothing, or writing well, even if it’s less often? I don’t know the answer to that one and I don’t have the time to think further on it now. Because in addition to everything else, I’m trying to read the new Harry Potter book. I’ve only just begun, but already have some thoughts that I’m sure will make it into a book review here. Whenever I can find the time to write it.

For a two-year-old, Noah is remarkably easy to reason with. Whenever he wants something but can’t get his way, all we have to do is explain the plan and we almost always get a sunny “okay!” This morning he wanted to play on the piano when we were trying to get him dressed for church. Kent just told him that he had to get dressed first and then he could play. “Okay!” Then he was begging for a bath (wait, what two-year-old actually WANTS baths? Mine does!). We told him he could have a bath tonight. “Okay!” On our way out the door, he wanted a cookie. We told him after church. “Okay!” I’m telling you, I wasn’t sure what I would do with a boy since I grew up in a family of all girls, but he is the sweetest thing ever. And polite too. He says thank you for everything. For every teeny little thing I give him, I get “thank you, Mommy.” It’s almost a broken record, but it’s just adorable. And as long as I’m being sentimental, I LOVE the way he shouts “Mommy!” and flings himself at my knees to give hugs whenever I come home. Maia was a big time Daddy’s girl at this age, so this is a little new to me. I am loving it.

For more on my thoughts about the age of two, and a funny story, check out this post from the archives.

Happy Anniversary

It’s 11 great years of marriage today! In honor of the occasion, here are some of the things I love about my husband, in no particular order.

  • He still holds my hand.
  • He still tells me I am cute/pretty/beautiful.
  • He writes me poetry.
  • He makes me smile.
  • He supports everything I do.
  • He remembers all the important dates.
  • He sends me flowers.
  • He likes to laugh.
  • He lets me put my cold feet on him at night.
  • He does the laundry and the dishes.
  • He still loves me even when I am cranky and snappish and disagreeable.
  • He is never cranky or snappish back.
  • He doesn’t make me feel stupid when I do stupid things.
  • He is always willing to lend a helping hand.
  • My family loves him too (so much that my parents’ speed dial for us just says “Kent”).
  • He made two beautiful kids.
  • He is a great and very involved father.
  • It’s just comforting and comfortable to be with him.
  • He takes care of me.
  • He makes me feel special and loved.
  • I know he’ll always be there for me.
  • He is my better half.
  • He is my best friend.
  • He picked me.

Happy Anniversary, Kent, my love!

Life in the Internet age

So this weekend we had an unofficial “mini reunion” among former high school classmates (this would explain the no blogging for the past few days). I reconnected with people I haven’t seen in 17 years. Technology is a truly marvelous thing, because through our class of ’88 message board, we’ve all had the opportunity to get reacquainted in a way that never would have happened otherwise. Without the Internet, this impromptu reunion wouldn’t have taken place. This has made me ponder the impact of technology, specifically computers and the Internet, on my life.

For one thing, it has changed the way I communicate with friends. Letter writing may be a lost art (though one I think I would have been good at), but in some ways e-mail is a better option. It’s easy, it’s convenient, and at least in my case, I type much faster than I write. Who knew that typing class I took in high school would turn out to be so useful?

Another big thing I think about sometimes is that I am attached at the hip to my computer at work, and often even at home (easy to do since our computer sits in the living room these days). I can’t help wondering, what kind of career would I have ended up with in a time before computers and the Internet? How would I have communicated with clients and coworkers without the benefit of e-mail? What? You mean actually pick up the phone and call someone? What a novel idea! I guess in some ways, e-mail is something of an anti-social medium. But in a work setting, it’s instant documentation. That has come in handy for me on more than one occasion.

While I’m on the subject of the Internet, how in the world did people get information about anything before Google? The world at your fingertips, 24 hours a day! And speaking of Google, have you ever tried to Google yourself? I did, and many of the hits were actually me. Except the one where a character in an erotic fiction story STOLE MY NAME!!! That’s definitely not me!

So those are just a few random musings about life in the Internet age. I’m sure I’ll visit this topic again.

My little swimmer

Okay, so he’s not a swimmer yet, but Noah started his swimming lessons tonight. But this is more accurately survival skills than swimming lessons. You’ve probably heard of it—it’s the type of program where they basically let the baby or toddler swallow a lot of water while they teach them how to get to the side of the pool and how to turn over and float on their backs. I know this type of teaching is controversial, but it’s practically a must in Florida where drowning is the leading cause of accidental death in kids under 4. And the kids that I’ve seen go through it have all turned out to be excellent swimmers. It was torture for me, though, because after he went under the first time, you could tell he wasn’t quite sure about it, then the next time he cried, then he started screaming for me “I want Mommy! I want Mommy!” How can I possibly do this to my baby??? I had to keep telling myself that they have a 100% success rate for teaching these skills, and it will be worth it when we start spending a lot of time at my parents’ new house with the pool.

But it turns out that my little stinker was just teasing me. As soon as he got out of the water, my polite little man even managed to say thank you to the teacher through his tears, and agreed that he wanted to come back for more of this torture tomorrow! When we came home he was telling Daddy all about how he went swimming in the water. You’d never know this was the same child whose cries and looks of pure desperation were breaking my heart 30 minutes earlier.

We’ll be doing this 5 nights a week for the next 6 weeks (or longer, if we get rain cancellations, which is a given). What fun. I hope I can survive it.

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