Sunday, July 23, 2017

Why I don't tell you if I'm coming to your town

Dear wonderful friends and family,

I wrote this post back in March, but decided that today, while I work through the weekend (again) is an appropriate time to update and post.

Last Friday I updated my flights and I'll be in three cities for work this week. Yep, I booked on Friday for flights that leave on Tuesday morning first thing. This is my normal.

Back in March, when I booked similar travel I was:

  • less than a 15-minute train ride from one friend who has repeatedly offered to drive as far as New Hampshire to see me. 
  • a short drive away from another friend who I only get to chat to via FB since we stopped working together
  • ANOTHER friend who was about to have a baby (baby boy is since born and I see Snapchats of him frequently--SO CUTE)
  • On the second leg of the trip I could have stayed at my Uncle's house. I was less than a 20-minute drive away from his house. 

Oh, and of the two airport options, I could've flown into one that would allow me to see yet another friend who has flown to Minneapolis to visit and have dinner at our house, but I've never met up with his family in Philly. 

Here's the thing: I won't have time for any visits. 

I don't think people who haven't done worked in a position similar to mine can understand. Afterall, I'm right THERE - so close by! Why wouldn't I have time or make time to visit? At least have dinner; you have to eat, right?

Here's the problem with my work travel. It's exhausting and I am working non-stop. There really isn't time to eat. Or sleep. Or do anything but work frantically and meet with customers. If I'm not preparing demo data, PowerPoints or ironing a suit then I'm on a conference call for yet another future meeting or driving to a customer site or trying to meet up with the sales person. 

Yes, you read that right. Often I don't eat meals. I pack a LOT of snacks and just snack my way through the time I'm working in the hotel room. I try to book hotels that are a) near a Starbucks (I can get a gluten free breakfast there on the run), b) have room service and c) have a fridge so I can stow water or tea in them because hydration is important. 
I am thrilled when I go back to a customer site that I've already visited and know where the grocery store is that sells Gluten Free stuff. 
This week I tactically booked my hotel across the street from the grocery store. The hotel isn't directly across the street from the Starbucks like last time, but the Starbucks is still within a 5 minute drive.

I'm lucky if I get 6 hours of sleep. I try every time to book my trips so I can get more rest. I avoid 5am or 6am flights whenever possible. 
I usually can't sleep on airplanes though occasionally I unexpectedly (involuntarily?) fall asleep with my laptop open on my lap. Any flight with WiFi means I'm working. 

Though it might sound like it - I'm really not complaining. I chose this job. I get paid overtime. God knows we need my salary. Sometimes I really love this job. Usually I'm pretty good at it.
But sometimes I dream of quitting. I think about what job I'd choose instead. Yoga instructor? Day care worker in an infant room? Target cashier? (No, probably not. I wouldn't like dealing with the occasional crabby Target customers.)
Recently I broke down in tears at the Avis rental car center and my only comment to the employee who tentatively approached the crazy crying lady was: "It's okay. I just think I need a new job". (Honestly, it was a lot more complicated and was related to exhaustion, missing a client dinner due to an Avis screw up and traveling the day after I had my staples taken out of my leg post-surgery.)

Having Global Entry, TSA Pre, Clear, Delta Gold, Sky Club and Avis Preferred means nothing. Really folks, it's commonplace for every one of the "road warriors" I encounter. 
I know exactly how things work for the gate agents, flight attendants and pilots. I can spot who's "dead-heading" and who is waiting for our flight's paperwork. I know when they'll do their upgrades and when we're not actually leaving on-time despite what the sign says. 
I also know when we're really truly screwed and not likely to depart--and that's when I quickly look for other connecting flights (even on other airlines, b/c sometimes Delta will get reciprocity with United) to get me out of whatever snafu is holding us up. 
I know when it's due to no inbound aircraft (you can also track the inbound equipment to see if they're delayed and you have plenty of time to find a bite to eat in the airport), timed out crew, ATC decisions due to heavy air traffic or storms. Sometimes I can spot mechanical issues and that one is a 50/50 chance. They might be able to fix it, they might be able to get another aircraft if they really need one at the destination airport - that's a "Hang tight and watch the tarmac" situation.
I know when the inbound aircraft is given ATC permission to make up time in-flight, and can often tell by their flight trajectory, too. That's a time when you don't worry about being too late.
I know which airports are likely to have delays and I book accordingly for expected late departures. I avoid certain airports like the plague knowing how notorious they are for ATC holds, late departures or just being a general cluster.
When we're really screwed, even before they tell us, I know when to book a hotel near the airport proactively and for some airports (especially Dulles for some reason - though that airport isn't on my black list) I already know the exact hotel and may have their number saved in my contacts.

Delta sends me a message when my bag has been loaded on the plane and when it's at the baggage carousel. I know how many Diamonds and Million Milers there are going to be on a hub to hub flight and that I won't get upgraded even if my ticket cost $3,000. (Yep, you read that right. I often fly domestically for more than it'd cost me to go to Japan.)
This is not special. This is the price of the job. This is just what you learn, what you do and how you survive.

This isn't meant as a whiney post - just an explanation for why, when I'm within a short driving distance, you won't see me. You won't even know that I'm nearby.
This is why I've stopped posting where I am on Facebook 99% of the time. Unless there is something exceptional like a crash landing (been there), major brawl (been there, too) or an exceptionally special rental car (I get the occasional BMW or Mercedes - and it's totally random!) won't know that I'm not home. 

Oh, and I didn't post on Facebook about that beautiful blue Subaru with dual sun roofs that Avis gave me (I was the first rental on this car - it had only 8 miles on the odometer) a month or two back that another driver hit within VIEW of O'Hare (less than a 10 minute drive back to the rental counter). 
The front of the car crumpled like it's engineered to and the front bumper was in the middle of Mannheim Road. (The other driver foolishly ran into 50 mph traffic to retrieve it despite me yelling "Stop!!")
My coworker and I somehow fit the bumper into the car and drove it back to Avis. That was a really nice car.. Avis hasn't given me one that nice for the last several rentals. Can't blame them. (Even though the other guy was at fault.)

So, dear loved ones, you won't know when I'm in your town or within a short drive of your home. I'm sorry - but it goes with the job. I wish I could see you - hell, I wish I could see some of the towns I visit, but it is what it is and I hope you understand.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

What Would Jesus Do. (At a traffic light)

I was on my way to Whole Foods with Gideon (and if you don't know who Gideon is, I owe you another story about how we have 4 kids now) today when something happened that completely rendered me speechless. If you know me, I'm NEVER speechless so this is notable.

We pulled up to a stop light to turn left and a woman in a large white SUV pulled into the right turn lane next to us. Instead of turning ('cause she could have) apparently she honked at me. (I missed that part, I guess the music was up to loud, but Gid heard it.) Then she started waving - and Gideon said: "Do you know her?"

As bad as my memory is I figured I might - so I waved back at her. She started waving even more enthusiastically like she needed to talk to me so I rolled down the passenger window. 

She immediately yelled: "Do have Jesus!?" I didn't come up with a witty comeback like: "Yes, tied up in the back, why?".. instead both Gideon and I answered: "Yes." She said: "No, do you have Him in your heart?" And we both said: "Yes" again. 
Then I said: "I've been a Sunday School teacher for 18 years" (actually, combo of nursery and Sunday School, but I whip that one out anytime I need to credentialize my faith) and she said: "Where do you go to church?" as if to say: PROVE IT.  I told her my church (Grace Lutheran) and she was undeterred. 
She said: "Do you know Romans 1?" And I said: "I've read the entire Bible" or something like that.. at this point other cars are honking--probably at her for not turning--and she said: "Well, how can you have that Rainbow, that gay, homo shit on your car?"
At which point the light changed and I turned left and Gideon and I both tried to pick our jaws up off the floor of the car.

"That homo shit." Really!? Really? She thinks that's how Christians should talk? That that comment would convince me of Jesus' grace and love? Gideon cried. He cried because he's strong in his faith but worried what damage this woman could be doing to other kids. How this woman could further estrange them from believing that God loves them. That God is love - and that they are loved by God.

Moreover, let's hypothetically say I wasn't Christian. Let's say I am a devout Muslim (maybe that's what I should've answered to give her an aneurysm right on the spot). Or Buddhist, agnostic or atheist. Who is she to judge? Did she get some special prophecy from God that she should accost everyone at traffic signals and curse at them for the rainbow sticker on the back of their car? Is THAT showing Christ's love and emulating Jesus? I sure missed that part in the Bible. 

I always took more away from the Bible where it said something like let your faith be known by your actions and be a witness by showing Christ's love to others. Also, to have His scriptures written in my heart and remember that to those whom much has been given much is expected. 
I've always aimed for showing love and being a humble servant. I strive to be like my Father-in-Law who is the most humble servant of God I know. 

I think Jesus, if he were to walk among us today, wouldn't be attending a Mega-Church or appearing on TV with Joel Osteen. I think He'd be at a homeless shelter like Hope4Youth. I think He'd be ministering to kids who are hurting because their parents kick them out or refuse to validate their gender identity or sexuality.
I think He'd be ministering to those with addiction, untreated mental illnesses and the children who don't get three meals a day even though they live in one of the wealthiest nations in the world. 

In any (hypothetical) event, I feel relatively certain that He wouldn't pull up to a traffic light and curse me out for having a rainbow sticker on my car. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

'Culturally Responsive Native American Approach' in Honors English.... Honestly, funnier than it sounds.

It’s not every day (or even every week) you can get your High School aged child to tell you about their day at school.

Today was an exception – and its comedy gold.

My daughter has a student teacher in her Honors English class this term. The student teacher is not a young person—she’s in fact the age when many others would retire, so perhaps this is a second career for her or she’s always hoped to teach and now after all these years she’s getting her teaching license.

She looks like… well, a bit like an aging Flower Child. I don’t know if other people know this term – but I’ve referred to folks like this as a bit “granola”. It’s not a negative connotation per se; I’d probably really like her as a person.

I won’t name names or give any incriminating details – but I am including the handout that gives, verbatim, the things the student teacher said and it’s essentially her lesson plan as well. It appears to be her own material and was presented today on the only occasion thus far that the supervising (regular Honors English) teacher was not in the room for the full class period.

First, a disclaimer: I don't think there is anything humorous about the Jim Crow laws, segregation, our history of white privilege and abuse of African Americans. Nor is the pervasive racism that continues to this day in any way acceptable or humorous.

It’s the WAY the teacher approached this lesson that is so funny I cannot pass up sharing this story. Of course, it was better when our daughter explained it out-loud, but in lieu of a recording my writing will have to suffice.

The class was given a short article on Jim Crow laws. Nothing new to my kiddo as she’s studied AP History and has read extensively, and with much better content, on this topic.

The teacher placed a rock on the floor of the classroom and then insisted the kids sit on the school linoleum floor in a circle around the rock. My daughter was wearing a skirt, but fortunately she also had shorts on under the skirt. Not sure how this worked out for any other girls not wearing the standard issue yoga pants to school, but I digress.

Once they were all seated in a circle she proceeded to ask them to close their eyes and breathe 10 counts in and out and then place their hands on their chest and abdomen and focus on their breath so they could have a REAL, spiritual, deep conversation.

After some time of deep focused slow breathing they were directed to open their eyes. The teacher held a stick. It was the “talking stick”. They were only to speak when passed the stick. (I’ve heard of this and have no problem with this—I get it, it’s a tool so no one interrupts while another student is expressing their thoughts.)

The statement the teacher wrote (and said out loud verbatim) was that the stone and the stick represent a shared nature of all those in the circle. Huh? Ooohhkay…

Each student was then instructed to share how the article mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually made them feel.

Yes. You read that right. She wanted them to provide (and she said it this way) how their SOUL responded to the article. It wasn’t in a religious context – it was just meant to tap into their spirituality.

Yep. This one missed her calling as a yoga teacher.

She started to be an example and said that this article made her physically nauseous and spiritually caused an earthquake in her soul.

If an article causes an earthquake in her soul, I wonder what losing her job and/or not receiving licensure as a teacher will do to it? 😜

Also, the highlight of this story is that my daughter’s best friend is in the same class so they could kvetch about it after the class ended.

I adore her best friend and it gives me the giggles that she (the best friend) accidentally broke part of the “Talking Stick” as it was being passed around. I can just see it in my head and it cracks me up (no pun intended) every time.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Silver Linings and No More "Someday"

The past several months – let’s say the last six months - have been so eventful that I find myself needing to step back and take it all in repeatedly.
Being in the present almost requires pinching myself to absorb the new reality as things shift so frequently. It takes self-protection, humbling myself, looking at things through other’s eyes and reminders of what is good and normal and what is not. Also, to realize that life goes on whether you want time to pass or not.

There are times this past year when my world stopped spinning briefly.

November 9th. When Trump was elected. I wasn’t watching the results the evening before as I flew from Boston and then drove on the rainy New Jersey turnpike to some godforsaken industrial zone to find my hotel.
I woke to the news that Clinton had lost in a generic hotel room in New Jersey as I was ironing my work clothes for the day.

I remember thinking I couldn’t go on with my day. That I needed to be at home curled safely in bed with my family.
My world had fallen off its axis. I sobbed and wondered how I could get my shit together enough to meet with customers (warehouse management particularly) that may very well have voted for Trump and likely be unsympathetic to my red-rimmed eyes.

Somehow I pulled it together enough to fake it through the day. I cried randomly for the next two days. On airplanes. Driving. In the comfort of my own home. I proceeded to denial and stayed there for a nice long time.

I saw I wasn’t alone in my shock and disbelief. That helped a bit.
Then, when Trump rescinded the Title IX protections for transgender students, I went to war. I found out there are active hate groups. They quietly languished after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage during the Obama administration but now they’ve mobilized again. They can’t repeal a Supreme Court ruling so they’re taking aim at anything ambiguously defined - especially transgender rights.

I’ve been a regular at school board meetings ever since. It’s ugly, and it’s necessary and I’ve stuck my neck out there with my voice and my pleading as sugar sweet as tea in Texas.
I’ve been asked to run for the school board. I’m not going to – I’m busy enough and there are fires to put out in more places than just the school district.

This has shaken my world – but broadened it, too. I’m a part of communities I didn’t know existed and have become a mentor and ally to a greater degree than before.
It’s not that the struggle and the hate groups didn’t exist before—it’s that I was less aware of them and the world looked like sunshine and rainbows until they began to feel empowered and began to really push their hateful agenda. They’re going after our kids, and I’ll fight them, their misinformation and hidden agendas and deep funding from radical right wing so-called Christian organizations.

But, Trump and the hate that has crept out of the dark shadows with his rise to power, is not what has shaken my world the most in 2017.

It was Sam’s death. 

He’s not my son – but he grew up in tandem with my son. The Millers are like family, even years after Shelli isn’t raising my babies.

I knew Sam’s heart. His kindness. His tenderness and goodness.
I knew he struggled and I felt like a kindred soul in that struggle. We’re all broken and I’m working hard and knew he was working hard, too.

He loved his son and fiancĂ©e so much – it’s like the same tether that has kept me from harm from time to time, too.

When Sam died, the world stopped, again. I could only watch Shelli and Jason’s raw pain and FEEL it. I imagine what the pain of losing your only son, your youngest child might be like and then know that it must be more excruciating than even my imagination can fathom.

Again, the world tiltled off its axis and it didn’t seem like time could move forward. But then, once again I had to rush to the airport with scant time to hug Shelli and her family and cry with them. At least I has home in time to attend his funeral…but even that was a haze of pain where I didn’t feel like I could be useful.

There were other moments that stopped time. A more trivial one was when I worked my ass off all of 2016 – harder than I’ve ever worked in my life – and was looked over for ANY recognition at the start of our fiscal year and sales kick off in Jan. 2017. 
I’d seen people recognized in multiple categories and for less effort the year before and had been told already by my boss that I was the top; the highest in our group and that I’d be taking my husband to President’s Club (which has been at a resort in Mexico).

The names went up on the screen for President's Club and I wasn’t there. We had small group meetings and no one said: “Good job, you’re number one this year.”
No one acknowledged the 80 hour weeks and the sacrifices I and my family made.

I would have worked hard no matter what; but to be overlooked entirely for any recognition burned. It hurt. I’d been promised something that didn’t happen. I got demoted in title, too. I’ve had to suck it up and continue to do my best work. Suck it up Buttercup.

It stings – it pisses me off from time to time, but aside from being another suck part of the past 6 months, it somehow feels trivial and petty by comparison to others’ pain.

But then I have to stand back and also acknowledge all the bright spots. The beautiful things that have happened that almost don’t feel fair. That I’m almost embarrassed to share because savoring this happiness during a dark time feels like not sharing my candy with the other kids.

My new car. My dream car. It was unexpected and yet…it’s a dream come true. I’m like a 16-year-old kid looking for any excuse to drive anywhere just to sit in my car.

My cello, and taking cello lessons at last. It’s been a wish for as long as I can remember. A promise I made to myself for “someday”.  “Someday” I’ll learn cello and write a book. “Someday” I’ll spend my days quilting. If I win the lottery then…

And this one I made come true. Not someday, but now. And my cello teacher is fascinating and wonderful and FAR better than I deserve or need (she’s a published author, retired principal cellist for the MSO, and a daughter of Holocaust survivors…I could talk to her for hours on end).

I’m running. I’m healthy and strong and able to do what I want to do.
I’m not injured or unable to run with my friends. When I run, I run with a smile and I think: “I run because other people can’t”.  It’s true. It’s a gift (even at my slow pace) to be able to use my body this way. To run with my friends. To do yoga and improve my balance and strength.

Trivial though this may be, I’m also pleased that I got my “turn kick” in swimming back after decades. I haven’t done this since I was a 5th or 6th grader—but I’m swimming while Lucy takes her lessons each Sunday and my flip kick to push off the wall is back after lots of practice. It’s a bit show-off-y, but damn it’s fun. It’s amazing to do something I haven’t been able to do for nearly 3 decades.

All this reminds me of when I was in Israel with Grandma Elaine in 1996.
I remember being in a car with the guide when she and I had ventured out on our own to walk through a very Orthodox neighborhood. I wanted to see the culture up front and it wasn’t part of the tour with the little old ladies, but the guide, who was younger, took me on this side-excursion and educated me on the Hassidic culture in the process.

On our way back to central Jerusalem stopped at a traffic light I saw a young man, maybe late teens, with his arms folded across his chest and no hands on the steering wheel or brakes of his bike just coast through the intersection (downhill) at high speed. He didn’t have the green light, he didn’t touch the handle bar. He just sped through on his bike and no one hit him and he kept going.

I gaped and pointed and the guide explained: “They live their life like they could die at any moment. You can’t give in to the fear. You could be blown up at a cafĂ©, or shot while you’re drafted into the military for your mandatory service at age 18. If you live in constant fear, perhaps you become fearless.”

Maybe this, to a lesser degree, is what has happened to me in 2017.

I’ve fought back from the edge. From illness, injury and constant mental health struggles. But damn it, I’m not letting it hold me back from my bliss. I can't live in fear. The uncertainty and fear - eff 'em. 

I’m going to smile every moment I drive, savor the new car smell, hug my cello and play it (poorly for the moment) every day.
I’m going to work less and do yoga and run more. 
Screw work. There is no reward in killing yourself with too much work and they don’t pay me enough to go the extra miles I’m already going to do excellent work.

I’m going to ask for a god-damned raise. I deserve it.
I’m going to take vacation time and NOT ANSWER THE WORK CALLS this time.
I’m going to stop working earlier and make time to see friends even if it’s a 2pm on a Monday afternoon. I work more than my 40 hours; I don’t feel like I should apologize one bit for taking time for me.  

I’m going to not apologize, needlessly and reflexively like many women do, and tell people how I feel more.
I’m going to say “I love you” and “I appreciate you” and “I hurt for you” and I’m going to SHOW UP. I’m going to hug people and let them know I’m on their side.

If time has to march forward, then I’m going to squeeze every bit of joy, love and goodness out of life. I’m going to fight for what is right and protect those who need our protection.

I’m humbled by the good health, family and material perks that bring me happiness. I still hurt…but I am consciously focusing on living my life like that Israeli teen. (Though not as recklessly.)

I won’t live in fear. I won’t wallow in the pain and disappointment. If time presses on relentlessly then I will make time my “someday” and do what I need and want to do right now, in the present.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Gluten Free Travel

It’s been a while since I’ve finally given in and accepted I have Celiac or at least severe NCGS (Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity). I thought it was so faddish to go Gluten Free that I fought the diagnosis. Even after the blood test came back positive for Celiac. 
Even after the endoscopy - I clung to the comments that the biopsy didn’t come back as definitive for Celiac though I had significant upper-GI damage. I was on expensive medication to make my GI system work. I was physically miserable. 
I remember crying to Jeff and thinking over and over... how could I go on like this for the rest of my life? Not just the $60 copay per month - but the pain and unpredictability with my GI system.

Then came the day an Orthopedic doctor asked me, after a slow-healing stress fracture, if I’d ever been diagnosed as Celiac. This surprised me. Then he sent me for a bone density scan (DEXA) and warned me osteoporosis and more bone injuries were in my future if I couldn’t properly absorb calcium. 

That shook me. It was no longer about resisting a fad. 
It made me stop and think. I knew my mom had to be gluten free. Could I have some of the same issues? I know that food allergies can crop up at any age in life…did I suddenly grow "allergic" to gluten? Most of all, I couldn't bear to go on with the discomfort and expense (and unpredictability) of my GI issues without at least giving it a try. 

I sucked it up and made the effort. I went completely gluten free and within a week or two my guts worked. Like a normal person. I no longer needed that expensive prescription medicine. I no longer felt sick, bloated, or in pain. 
Avoiding any other (gross) details – suffice it to say that I was thrilled my body was acting “normal” at last. 

Here’s the funny thing…a lot of people (again with the fad aspect) go Gluten Free thinking it’s a “healthy” diet and they’re likely to lose weight. That's not what happens. 
Not that you can’t eat healthily while avoiding gluten (wheat, barley, malt and more) - if you substitute by eating more fresh veggies and fruits and quinoa…However, if you rely on packaged foods and snacks you'll find they are packed with fat! Moreover, I’ve actually gained weight now that my body is finally absorbing more of the nutrition in the food I eat. 

Anyhow--it’s easy enough to be Gluten Free (okay, for brevity – hereafter GF) at home. We already eat a lot of white rice. Baked potatoes. Grilled chicken or steak. Veggies & fruit. A normal family meal wasn’t too difficult. The rest of the family could have bread or rolls – I just skipped it for a nice arugula salad with my favorite (GF) vinaigrette. 

BUT. I travel. A lot. It is not as easy to find GF options when you travel. 
Below are my tips and things I’ve learned that help me. 

1. Whenever you can – get a rental car. 
You can find your nearest Chipotle or Noodles & Company where they have GF options. 
a. At Chipotle just be sure to get a bowl. 
b. At Noodles & Co. just before sure to ask specifically for Rice Noodles. 

They can make it with any sauce (just be sure to avoid Soy Sauce or dishes that might include it. Soy Sauce is not GF). My “go-to” is the Pesto with mushrooms and tomatos (their Pesto Cavatappi – but with the rice noodles). They will even denote “Allergy Aware” on your order – which may (or may not) help with cross contamination.  

c. With a rental car and potentially a hotel with a microwave you can find your closest Whole Foods and find a lot of options. 

2. Pack your own snacks. You can bring it through TSA. Really. Pack a lunch box if you want. I bring baby carrots, almonds, my favorite GF chocolate covered pretzels and fruit snacks. 

Note: this was inspired by a particularly snooty Flight Attendant. When Delta had no Gluten Free options with a meal in First Class she told me: “You know, you can order a special, like Kosher, meal.” 
And then chided/reminded me about it 3 more times during the 2 hour flight. At one point she leaned in and said: “So why didn’t you bring your own snacks?” Well, first I was on a quick in & out trip with one small bag and a computer bag— I didn't have room for snacks. 
Second, how was I to know I’d be upgraded to 1st Class? Sure, it’s great to sit at the front of the bus—but I rarely (if ever) have time in advance to order a meal and 99% of the time if I’m in First Class it's because I lucked into an upgrade. 

3. Simple meals are your friend. Ask for a plain grilled chicken breast and a baked or mashed potato. Side salad. Avoid dressings if you can – or go for a vinaigrette (odds are pretty good that’ll be safe). 

4. If all else fails, you can order Dominos to your hotel room. They have a GF pizza and it’s been reliably safe for me. 

5. Culvers. They have a safe GF bun. They serve the bun and the burger separate so you assemble it on your own. Many Culvers serve their fries from a fryer dedicated to non-breaded items only – so it’s worth asking. I tend to be OK eating their fries. Also good news: their frozen custard is GF! Watch out for toppings beyond what they recommend on their website. (Hot fudge = OK) 

Tips: MSP (airport) MSP doesn’t have a ton of GF options. One I’ve found is that Surdyks has a really nice packaged salad with fresh greens & goat cheese. It’s even marked GF. My preferred side dish with this is a bag of Kettle Chips. (Also marked as GF). 

Another option – especially if it’s breakfast – is Ike’s. (This can be spendy, but hey, I’m on an expense account.) They can do an egg white omelet (create your own) and side of bacon – and you’re good to go. 
One note here – they prepare ALL the food on one single grill (currently – because their toaster is broken). So, you might ask about cross-contamination and/or have to educate your server on what you cannot eat. If you don’t you might get a pile of toast on top of your breakfast entrĂ©e. 

I used to prefer Caribou. Then I read up and found out that Starbucks has ALWAYS been more GF friendly. From the get-go. Their coffee mixes (i.e. Frappuccinos) are GF which means just about all of their drinks are GF. 
Their website is also a wealth of information on what is GF safe. On top of all that they offer a lot of snacks and all the GF ones are clearly marked. They are go-to at most airports…even if all I can find is a salad, almonds, and a fruit bar. 

Other airports: SLC 
A bunch of the Delta gates are near a Smashburger. Smashburger has a GF bun and as long as they aren’t out of them – then you have a good option for a grilled chicken sandwich or burger. Note of caution: the fries –should- be gluten free…but I have had to avoid them due to cross contamination. They’re making them in the same place they make breaded chicken strips/sandwiches and so on occasion I’ve felt sickly after eating them. If you get a bigger Smashburger you can ask if they have a dedicated fryer for fries only (GF stuff only). Some of them have that…but typically not at the airport!

I'll add more airports and "safe" eats as I go. But in the meantime - my advice:
  • Bring your own food as much as possible. 
  • Expect to not have a meal you can eat on the Room Service menu. (Hilton, Hyatt, Omni, Marriott...I'm looking at you.)
  • Vietnamese restaurants are a great option (helloooo rice noodles!)
  • Thai is good, too (same reason)
  • Even a steakhouse is better than an Italian place - because you're likely to find a grilled something that you can eat and a potato.
  • Did I mention bring your own food as much as possible?

Monday, April 25, 2016

Another attempt at breaking the stigma..

Below is a lovely video. It's message, the lovely Irish lilt of Doug Leddin and his plea that others seek help and speak out are all very much worth your time to watch. 

However. I know that the stigma is very much real. His fears about losing his job - I share those fears. I DO know people that have looked at me differently when I've shared that I have had mental health struggles. Not everyone is supportive. Not everyone is understanding. 

I think the same way people used to throw around the word: "gay" as a negative and how offensive that is to non-hetero folks is similar to the way that I hate when people say "he's crazy" or "she must be bipolar" to describe someone's behavior (key word: behavior, normal, human, perhaps dramatic behavior) in front of me.

I can't really fault them if they don't know. I haven't told them. Sometimes I'm tempted. But, the fact that they're throwing it around so casually or as a sort of "slam" about someone's abrupt change of opinion or state of mood tells me maybe it's not 'safe' for me to share my diagnosis. 

Still. Food for thought. If we don't talk about it, people die. If we don't come forward and say: "Look, you know me as a hardworking and congenial co-worker/friend/employee but let me explain how hard I have to work at this with a combination of medication, sleep and exercise."

I'm down for putting in the work. A little understanding for those that have different (harder) circumstances is called for - as is the knowledge that everyone is fighting a battle you may know nothing about.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

8 Comebacks for Transphobic Relatives Over the Holidays (or really anytime of the year).

There is this nifty YouTube vlogger (is that the right term? I'm over 40, I 'm too old for this stuff) named Franchescha Ramsey. She makes lots of great videos (many for MTV Decoded). I especially like this one she made just in time for the holidays (or really any day) called: "8 Comebacks for Transphobic Relatives Over the Holidays":

It's useful for just about everyone - but especially CIS gendered folks. 
I bring this up because I notice that advocacy and "comebacks" may not be naturally born talents - but something we can all learn! And, as a CIS gendered white woman - it's up to me to use that privilege ensure equality (see this if you don't understand what I'm talking about): 

Two recent cases come to mind.
Last Monday I'm on a flight home from the west coast. The San Francisco based crew on my plane landing in Minneapolis includes an attendant named Marie. Marie is lovely, has a bit of a fake French accent, but is nothing but kind, welcoming and pleasant. She's doing her job as a flight attendant and she's doing it well.
I am sitting in a different section (ok, so, I was upgraded to business class where I got dinner - haters go ahead and hate) than the section Marie worked, but I still heard her announcements and saw her walk through the cabin doing her safety checks.

After we landed and were taxi-ing to the gate at MSP she was making final announcements and wishing us all Happy Holidays. She had some confusion letting us know what time it is in Mpls. (Heck, happens to me all the time. I subtract or add the hours wrong - I know it's a 2 hour time difference, I just don't add or subtract it where I should.)
She laughed and made a joke about it... and just then the guy in the seat ahead of me says to his seatmate, and loud enough for all of us seated around him to hear: 

"Not only can't he count but he's cross dressing today."

I took a deep calming breath, leaned forward and said quietly: "Her name is Marie. SHE is not cross dressing."

He turns around in his seat and says louder yet: "Same difference" 

At this point my blood is boiling. I'm sure my face is red and flames are coming out of my ears and singeing my hair. 

I finally don't lean forward - I just use my regular volume (which isn't as quiet as I'd been using so far) and say: "Those of us with transgender children would beg to differ."

That shut him up. After a pause he said: "I'm sorry." I answered in what I hope was a non-angry voice: "You should be." The man next to me looked at me and smiled. The woman across the aisle caught my eyes and nodded at me smiling as we began to deplane. 

Case 2: Today our mail-service pharmacy company calls up (they have some talented and understanding employees, but today I was called by one that doesn't fall into that category) - and starts referring to my son (noted on their record with his correct name) by his incorrect, but legal still, name on the insurance. 
OK, no big deal. I'll just correct the confusion. I'll just explain again the reason his name says Erik on the record is because that' And, please use his pronouns when talking with me: he, him and his. 

This guy was slow on the uptake. I think I had to re-iterate my son's name and pronouns three more times. Moreover, he works for a company where he talks about medications all day and he couldn't pronounce ANY of the medications he was calling about for our I'm just going to write him off perhaps a new-hire or seasonal temp-worker and hope that the company recorded that call for quality assurance.

I take the approach of being kind. Firm, but kind. So far I've only run into uneducated people. No one has been hateful, deliberately rude or intentionally hurtful to me and for that I am grateful. I'm sure the day will come. Until then, in the words of my jam, Chuck D & Flavor Flav (Public Enemy), "I gotta do what I gotta do".