Let’s Be Honest


When is the last time someone asked you how you were doing? I’ll wager it wasn’t that long ago. Most of us have friends, family members, coworkers, and even acquaintances who’ll ask that question often. The harder question might be… when was the last time you responded honestly?

After a late-night chat with an old friend, I posed this question on my personal Facebook page… When was the last time you honestly told someone how you are doing?

I had asked my friend how she was doing. Not much uncommon in that. Most of us ask the question often, offhandedly with good intent but don’t typically get more than a canned response to it. This time though the answer was rare, raw and honest. She let the flood gates open, pouring out the truth of how she really was doing.

It hurt to hear. But, her honesty allowed me to be there when she’d been alone and in crisis for months. Even now I think of that conversation and wonder how long it had been since she let go, let herself be truly honest.

So, I pose the same question to you – dear reader. When was the last time you answered this question honestly or were there to hear someone when they did?

This world is a place of great gifts, of wonder and joy. It will also push us to our limits, even break us. But, if we allow, it can also open the doors to our shared humanity. How do we tap into that?

Be open. Be willing to speak your truth and listen to the longing for connection in others. We have all been given a spark of empathy and a boundless capacity to care for one another.

The point to this post? Ask the question and be there to hear the answer. Know that if you’re being asked how you’re doing, that person doing the asking cared enough to ask and values you enough to listen.



Where to Stay in Dublin – The Fitzwilliam Hotel

Where to stay in Dublin - The Fitzwilliam HotelDublin, Ireland is a unique city where old and new, history and innovation blend in a harmony rarely found in any major metropolitan city I’ve visited. The options for entertaining oneself are endless, as are the places to rest your head. When I’m asked where to stay in Dublin, the answer is easy – The Fitzwilliam Hotel.

I’ve stayed in countless hotels around the globe and learned that all of them can be measured by four things; location, amenities, staff, and value. Here is how The Fitzwilliam Hotel, Dublin measures up…

Location, Location, Location!

The Fitzwilliam sits at head of Grafton Street directly across from the famed St. Stephens’ Green. A large section of Grafton Street is closed to all but pedestrian traffic and features endless options for shopping and dining. Though I will say that I wasn’t so impressed with the stores… what American wants to go to Dublin and shop at the Disney Story? Not this one. 

Far more alluring was the ability to walk – literally across the street– and into St. Stephens’ Green. If you didn’t already know, this public park was the model for New York City’s Central Park, and I’m sure countless other public squares. One of my favorite areas in the park is the gardens around the Caretaker’s Cottage, which is directly in front of the Fitzwilliam.

Saint Stephen's Green Caretakers CottegeThe DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) tram stops within walking distance of the property. There are taxis galore in the area, as well as pedicabs and horse drawn carriages (take one to the Guinness Store House for a fun twist.) Concierge will happily help you with securing a bicycle if you’d like, though the streets are quite busy – I’d fall and need stitches!

Amenities

Sure there is a gym, doesn’t every hotel have one these days? What the Fitzwilliam has that most don’t, is Spirit. Part salon, with a little bit of spa, Spirit ascribes to a wonderfully holistic and natural approach to beauty services. Treat yourself.

Not many hotels can boast three excellent on-site restaurants, let alone one with a Michelin star. The Fitzwilliam can.  Thornton’s is fine dining at its best, thus the star. Citron is a more relaxed, yet still upscale dinning experience that boasts some modern twists on Irish classics. Their Celeriac soup is simply divine! Pop into the Inn on the Green for a great breakfast, or a lovely lunch in this cozy place that makes you feel at ease. Note: the charcuterie plate is HUGE! 

Any good hotel, in my book, must have a fabulous bathtub and plush robes. Not having this can be a deal breaker. The bath at Fitzwilliam was a deal maker!

Where to stay in Dublin - The Fitzwilliam HotelThere is also a wonderful tea available seasonally on the balcony that overlooks the city.  Free (reliable) wi-fi and in-room safes that are large enough for a laptop are both pluses.

Staff

Here is where the Fitzwilliam sets itself apart. From the doormen who take the time to ask you where your day is taking you with sincerity to a concierge staff who call your room to ask how they can help make your stay even better, to the housekeeping staff that leave lovely notes, this place makes you feel so very welcome. Many a hotel will send up a welcome amenity. At the Fitzwilliam we got a delivery of Dairy Milk bars and crisps with a note from the front desk telling my daughter how those where their favorite childhood treats.

Get to know the concierge while you’re here! These folks are gems, working with them is akin to having your own private guide to all things you love that can be found in Dublin. Seriously, this is a service they should charge for – I’d pay. 

Each and every staff member we encountered was warm, helpful and never overbearing, which speaks to the earnestness that takes this from hotel to a fond memory and a place you long to return to. 

“Some places you stay. Other places stay with you.” ~Me

Value

The Fitzwilliam is a luxury property, and the price tag reflects that – our stay in the off-season and was £395 per night. That said, the location, and service were well worth the price. Being so centrally located, you need not spend extra money on getting around. Having the concierge as your guides is a huge service, adding to the value.

Where to stay in Dublin - The Fitzwilliam HotelThe Fitzwilliam is also a member of the Preferred Hotel Group – their iPrefer program is one of only three hotel loyalty programs I personally belong to. Why?  Their points add up fast, you always get free wi-fi, early check-in and/or late checkout, and they take the time to learn your (and your family’s) preferences ensuring that they follow you across all their member properties.

Visiting Iceland in Winter

How many travel blogs have you stumbled upon in your quest to figure out if visiting Iceland in winter is a good idea? I’d love to tell you that you’ve finally found the post that will answer all your questions and ensure that you have a magical trip. Here is the thing though, I had no intention of visiting Iceland in winter… until I did, sort of

In our family, we aren’t big on big gifts to mark occasions like birthdays or graduations. What we are big on is escaping whenever a good excuse can be found. So, when my husband’s big Five-Oh rolled around, he asked for an epic trip to Iceland. 

I started plotting and planning well in advance and then life happened. Our planned Spring expedition soon became an early Summer aspiration.  Before I knew it, Fall had rolled into town and we had yet to get our tickets booked. 

Like any good one-time-award-winning-travel-blogger I scoured the interwebs in search of last-minute trip ideas. Right around the time that I’d annoyed every travel writer pal of mine with copious questionings, I tossed out any idea of a well-planned trip.

I hit the book button on tickets through WOW airlines and contacted a homeowner on Airbnb. Nothing like phoning it in for the half-century celebration of the birth of the man who makes my every day an adventure, huh? 

All of that lack of planning had us touching down in Keflavik on a late November morning around 5 am. It also meant that we happened to embark upon our Icelandic adventure in the midst of a freakish cold snap that had the average temperature hovering somewhere around, oh… say thirty degrees Fahrenheit. Thus we were for all intents, visiting Iceland in winter. 

Cold though it was, it was none the less magical and amazing. 

 

 

Health Is A Human Right

What comes to your mind when you hear someone talk about human rights? Food, education, safety, freedom of expression, the ability to pursue happiness these are things most of us can agree are, or should be, the right of every human. But what are we missing there? Heath. Is health a human right too? 

It’s been a little over five years since I retired most of my packing cubes leaving the travel writing gig on a back burner to take a position as the director of a functional medicine practice. I jumped in heart-first with the bulk of my medical experience limited to being a patient, parent, and caregiver. I’ve learned so much in such a short time and one of the most heart-wrenching lessons learned was that here, in the United States, the system leaves many behind. 

It is with that knowledge in hand that I’ve partnered with Providence Saint Joseph’s to continue to share stories, news, statistics and the faces of Medicaid.  What I hope we all get out of this post (and previous ones) is the understanding that yes… health IS a human right.

So, who or what is Providence Saint Joseph Health? Yes, they are a healthcare organization but their mission reaches far beyond the number of beds in hospitals. In the last year or two, I’ve learned so much from the work they do. I have seen the impact of that work through the people I’ve met who have honored me with allowing me to tell their stories. 

At Providence St. Joseph Health, our mission calls us to be agents of radical change for health. We’re to be a source of healing love and a beacon of hope … in the world, within each of the communities we serve, and for every person we encounter – especially those who are among the most poor and vulnerable in our society due to social conditions…”

Many of us understand that Medicaid is a government program that assists the disabled and those with low-incomes to obtain medical care. But that is a one-dimensional understanding. Veterans, children in foster care, senior citizens, those with complicated medical needs, and even expectant mothers are covered by this program. Medicaid also serves those seeking help with mental health issues that often aren’t covered by private insurance. The program plays a key role in helping to battle the opioid crisis as well. I firmly believe that understanding is the bedrock of change.

The stories below are those of real people, beneficiaries of Medicaid;  

Twenty-three years ago, a boy in Alaska was born 10 weeks early to parents who could not afford his care without Medicaid. Today, he’s a bright young teacher ready to change the world.

In California, Medicaid helps sustain the daughter of a public relations executive. Born with a rare (1,000 in the world) condition, this bright young girl requires care at a cost that eclipses the means of her two professional parents.

A young man in New Mexico manages depression and addiction through the help of Medicaid and is now on the path to rebuilding his life.

A hard-working Montana couple found themselves both facing challenging times between jobs and relied on Medicaid to help get back on their feet.

As a social media expert in Oregon searched for a new job, she needed Medicaid to help her successfully manage her Type II diabetes.

After learning her husband had dementia, a heart-broken spouse in Texas relied on Medicaid to provide him the skilled nursing home care he needed before he passed away.

An energetic 50-year-old woman in Washington experienced a catastrophic stroke, and, since her commercial insurance ran out, Medicaid has been a lifeline to help rebuild her life.

You may know someone who has a child with a rare, complex medical condition. I do. My younger brother needed life-support equipment as an infant. Equipment my young parents – a college student in grad school and a waitress- couldn’t afford it on their own. 

Maybe someone in your neighborhood lost their job and is struggling to make ends meet. This happened to my family in the 80s when the state of California went bankrupt and my dad lost his job. 

I volunteer to help fellow veterans on a regular basis who, despite having served their country, did not qualify for VA healthcare. Many have no private insurance. 

These are our stories. They highlight our commonality and reflect our own humanity. Could you shake hands with any of them and not agree that their health is important and not something they should have to choose over things like food, education, safety or even happiness? 

When we understand what it is that Medicaid means for so many, then we can take up the cause. We can be the change we want to see in the world by helping others understand and then reaching out to our leaders to make sure they know that Health is a human right. 

Want to learn more? Visit the Provident Saint Joesph’s website to get to know the faces of Medicaid .

This post is part of a paid partnership with Provent Saint Joseph’s Health. It is a topic I am passionate about and that I feel we all need to understand. If you have questioned their website is an excellent resource as is your state’s own Medicaid website.


It’s Okay to Overcook the Turkey

thanksgiving

This is a classic post from a bygone era. One where I used to post daily… sigh. Last night, as I sat with a warm dog on my lap and a snoring teen on the sofa next to me, a blinking cursor mocking me, I just couldn’t find words to write. That brought me to my blog archives looking for inspiration to break this writer’s block. I found this post and even years later it still holds so true. I hope you’ll find some inspiration or at the very least a message that it is STILL okay to overcook the turkey. 

 

Hands down, Thanksgiving is my husband’s favorite holiday. Why wouldn’t it be?  Let’s do the math.

Meat + Potatoes + Football x Pie {nap} = bliss (repeat) <— this is a formula for man holiday awesome

Me? I’m not the biggest fan. Why?

In my world Thanksgiving means weeks of planning, days of cooking, decorating, stressing and a history of storied foremothers to live up to. All of this for 20 minutes of pigging out, followed by an immediate dispersal to the sofa for the ensuing tryptophan coma.

Or am I missing something here?

Last night we got a call from my Mother-in-law. My husband’s Uncle passed away. He was elderly, but that didn’t really lessen the blow. It seems that this week is a favored time of year for fate welcome members of my family to their seats at the grownups table in the sky.

This got me thinking about my complicated relationship with this holiday.

My mom is the queen of the holidays. Before there was a Martha Stewart, there was my mom… with a tenth of the budget and a million times more personality.

Mom grew up with little to no family to speak of, bounced around from home to home, until she landed with the aunt and uncle who raised her. I think creating a Rockwellian holiday for her kids was her way of filling the need that no one ever took care of for her. I really was lucky to have that growing up.

That said, those perfect holiday decorations, meals and themes, sure are hard to recreate. Trust me, I’ve spent many years trying to. So many, I think I’ve missed out of much of the joy I could have been having with my family.

The funny thing is, as perfect as mom’s Thanksgivings were, my favorite parts were the odd things, the imperfections. The folklore of my family, the part that matters most to me are the things like…

My mom being famous for her strays. Where some people might a leave little turkey out for the neighborhood alley cats, her turkey always attracted the extra person to the table. I couldn’t tell you the name of many of them, where they came from or where they are now. They came, they ate, they left.

The year mom got so uptight dad couldn’t take it anymore so he let her have it in the face with a scoop of mashed potatoes (I’m sure I remember this wrong, but it’s how I recall it). The ensuing food fight was epic.

The other fights, those too are part of the tradition. One of my brothers is notoriously cantankerous, and it isn’t a holiday until he reminds us all of that. I’m usually the one who takes that bait, being a bit overly dramatic myself. Once the tension breaks, it’s like the best spa day ever.

Dad always does something wrong. I don’t think he even tries to fight it anymore. In fact, I suspect he secretly plots a new way to piss mom off every year. Most of us secretly root for dad, though we all know mom will win in the end.

Family is such a complicated thing, and I certainly can attest to that with my family.  You love them, even when you have a hard time reconciling all of your other feelings for them.  Sometimes our thankfulness for family comes in the form of thanks for showing us how we don’t want to do things. Sometimes it is a gratefulness for them allowing us the room to have our own imperfections.

This Thanksgiving I won’t be pressing linens, shining glassware or insisting that everyone dress for dinner. I might even opt for paper plates to make cleaning up easier. I give even myself permission to over-cook the turkey, just like mom does… and be completely okay with that.

In lovingmemory of Aunt Donna and her doll houses, Uncle Bill and the first time I ever learned about Cambodia, Aunt Paula and her sweet potato casserole, Aunt Carrol and Tryon Peake, Zio Serafino and fresh zeppole with honey

Travel. Eat. Drink. Write. REPEAT