The Rebound Queen

So, I have to be real. I was about to start this blog and realized I hadn’t published the last one. So you, lucky reader, might get two amazingly inspiring blogs today. But it’s still really for me, so don’t worry about your reaction.

One of my favorite authors, is Barbara Corcoran. Well, she is not in the hotel industry, that I know of. But she could be if she wanted to. She’s talked about making up a report or giving yourself a title based on what you’re good at. I am the rebound queen.

I can take a hit and come back like nobody’s business. Whether it’s a marriage that didn’t work, or a job experience that I needed to walk away from, or my health which loves to challenge me at exactly the wrong time.

I come back, usually stronger, always smarter. I don’t do it alone, I widened my circle and listened to those who want me to succeed. My heart is stronger (EF is now 35-40) and I am feeling more myself. I had one of my doctor’s say I have never looked better and I am not faking it, like I used to.

It’s true, I would rather tell you how well I am feeling than show any weakness. But who has the time for that? I’ve got goals and faking my way to them won’t work. In sales, my greatness asset is honesty, ironic eh? But clients, owners and my colleagues trust me more when I am transparent. I can forget things like any human, but my colleagues can help that. And yes, technology too, but you have to remember something long enough to put it in your calendar and make those details so the dedication to do that is necessary.

Before heart failure, I was an avid reader and love to go into the library every two weeks to pick out two or three books. Now I might struggle to get through one book in the two weeks that the library allows you to have it. Well let’s be real I haven’t turned in library books on time for probably a year now. And they are so patient with me. The hardest part but I did it this week I finished one. And I went to pick up two more.

So baby steps but in the right direction. There’s a lot coming up, but I’m feeling confident to handle it all. The usual busy season at the hotel, my oldest daughter’s bridal shower, bachelorette trip and a trip to Dallas for a sales conference with my company. My oldest boys graduated in May from high school, and our youngest daughter is making some big life decisions.

It’s a big year, but I am the rebound queen. I bet I’m not the only one.

Hire right, train right, avoid revolving door syndrome

What a start to this year! I had to step out of the frey at the start of January, but the defibrillator / pacemaker install went well. In an attempt to stay transparent, I don’t feel the need to hide the physical challenges that I have from time to time. I am resilient and even at my worst- I know I kick ass. I am feeling myself return to the sales shark mode and can’t help but feel proud. I do get tired, but that is normal after a full day, and if there is after work networking- I start to feel my limits.

The Indianapolis market continues to improve and in fact test our abilities to keep up. New hotels in the downtown market aren’t so scary- in fact, I welcome them. The number of events and leisure travel increasing means hotels need to be back to pre-Covid staffing levels. Guests want the old normal not the new one. They don’t want to hear that standards have changed or supplies are limited.

All of this really starts with staffing. Understably, hotels felt a pressure to hire fast and keep their current staff loyal. Which was hard as new hotels would often pay more to recruit your best people away. If you were able to keep them, you were going to pay them more. Which is great, but you also have to increase your starting pay for all departments.

And then the competitive pay for new hires started. Just to get people in the door. And not every hire is the right one, but when managers have been overwhelmed and overworked, more hiring decisions are made in desperation.

So how do you avoid desperation hires? Use your resources. Don’t rush to hire someone, and have them interview with 3 people in your organization, minimum. Use your housekeeping managers, sales department,etc. You make the final decision, but don’t make it on your impression only. If you are overwhelmed, overworked, you are going to believe what that candidate tells you- because you want to and you think you need to.

Rushing to hire the wrong person, tells the rest of your staff that you are desperate. But I get it, and I have been there. Working a long 12 hours, your head barely hits the pillow and your auditor calls in. Or your shuttle driver. And no one wants to pick it up. You feel alone, and all you want is sleep. But I promise, if you wait, if you plan to work harder and longer – the candidates you have to choose from will know that when you choose them – you are really choosing THEM. And they will know you have a strong team because you included them.

Build your team, one strong member at a time.

For all the non-hospitality people out there

So it’s been a rough couple of years for people in hospitality ( hotels, restaurants, entertainment venues). And it’s been a rough couple of years for the people that didn’t work in those jobs but also had their travel plans changed or drastically altered or canceled all together. I get it. Sometimes when negotiating groups or events for my hotels, it feels like one person has to blink first. I do see both sides, The traveler wants to feel like they are appreciated and in a lot of markets it is definitely a buyers market.. But for cities that are more opened up, due to covid or post covid conditions, The hotels and restaurants are content to wait for the best offer they can get.

I work in Indianapolis and yes it’s been a really great year since about March of 2021. Indianapolis was one of the more open markets for events and the restaurants and hotels benefited from this result. But there is a another side of the story. There were some hospitality people that were furloughed and it didn’t make sense for them to come back. Often due to family situations, that made them more necessary to stay home. there were also the people that kept their jobs and due to be in short staffed, worked a lot more hours than usual and for the same or limited increased pay. Some hotel departments lost 90% of their staff and the 10% that were made had to pick up the slack somehow. When people started to go out to restaurants and travel again, there may have been an unrealistic expectation. Because they had the money to travel or go out, they wanted the same experiences. And they didn’t get that most of the time just due to staffing and supply shortages or delays.

I will give a good example as in December, I always take a staycation with my oldest daughter to downtown Indianapolis where we stay the night and go out for dinner and often live entertainment. The Hotel Indy had opened and we were excited to try out a new hotel. The lobby, the bar, the hallways and the rooms were perfectly modern and new and just fabulous. But the best part was the staff that made it happen.

My oldest daughter is old enough to enjoy adult beverages so we started out at the hotel bar. There were not enough seats for us but we waited a few minutes and two opened up. The cocktail menu was limited but inventive and accurately priced. A couple came in shortly after us and the guy talked loud enough for everyone to hear, and made a big deal over there not being seating where they wanted to sit at the bar.

The bartender offered them other seating and that they would serve them there, but that did not seem good enough for him. They ordered one drink, he talked too loudly about how he would have tipped better if they had the seat that he wanted. Clue: if someone talks loudly about what a good tipper they are, those of us in the industry know that they are not. Luckily, they didn’t stay long and sure enough, it was proven that they were not a good tipper.

We had a great evening, went to the Rathskeller after that for some amazing live music and great food and drink. Indianapolis is full of wonderful places to enjoy excellent food and drink. But in the past year many of our service industry folks have worked very hard just to survive. So, I guess my rant is to keep traveling, keep going out. But be gracious, recognize when a business is trying very hard to survive and those employees that work there are human just like you are. You don’t need to know their life story to be kind and understanding. Supplies are still delayed, staffing is still hard.

I will share from a recent experience where I was ignored and saw “the other side”. I met my husband at a lounge known for cigars and had an upscale decor and menu. We had been there before and had decent service. But the other night, I was ignored. He had been brought a drink, and I expected to be offered something at some point. I was walked by probably 5-6 times and after 30 minutes left. I get that it was a male focused venue, but this was a little much. I didn’t make a scene or complain, I just left. And I probably won’t return. There are a lot of places to spend money, and as a professional in this industry, I am very patient. I get it. But I know the difference between a busy, over extended staff and being ignored because I wasn’t a guy.

Both sides, everyone has a point of view. We can all do better. We have before and there is the choice to shine in difficult situations or to bow out. The service industry isn’t for everyone but understanding it should be. All of my kids have worked in it, some still do. It changes how you view the world and the people in it.

Stay healthy out there, be patient and kind.

Moving the goalposts

Since my diagnosis of advanced heart failure in late August, there was a “next” test date of November 30th to gage if my EF number had improved above the scary number of 19. I adjusted my diet, got more rest, took all The medications prescribed and tried to reduce stress as much as possible.

I guess I had unrealistic expectations, after all, I felt better. But I know as I try to increase my activity level, I am having more fatigue. My heart clinic appointments were having better results and maybe I was trying to convince them and myself that I had “beat” this.

But it took time for my heart to “fail” and it will take time to heal. I thought the physical pain of the echocardiogram and all my efforts would be worth it IF. If that ef number was high enough. If depriving myself of food i loved, if I did enough for others.

I was disappointed later that day to get a number of 25. Yes, it was improved but not much, in my eyes. I know there are other results that my cardiologist will go over with me next week and maybe I should finish this blog later when I have an adjusted plan.

New plan is… drumroll please- I get a defibrillator. Yeah, not exactly what I asked Santa for. I really felt my efforts were so good, that my heart would have dramatically improved. But I am coming to the realization that a defibrillator is the answer to me still being at risk for a cardiac event. I can’t lie, I really hate the idea of having surgery to install something that is a “just in case” measure. It will also send data from my heart to my doctor’s office which may help them improve my treatment.

I had hoped to be starting the New Year with some fun trips planned and maybe less meds, less diet restrictions. Would love more energy to put into my career and more time devoted to writing and publishing again. I am moving the goalposts for this year. In a time where Covid is changing a lot of plans for a lot of people – I will have to be flexible as well. I will move slower, eat more and better, be more patient with myself – which should help me have less dizziness.
I won’t feel bad about what I can’t do and celebrate what I can do. I will look forward to my son’s graduations and my oldest daughter’s wedding. I will rest and treat myself well so I can enjoy the important things in life.

I will let family and friends help me when I need it and when they offer. I will also help them, when I can and when they need it. But this week, I start with surgery and recovery.

What’s your plans and are you open to revisions? Be safe, travel well and be kind-

Jill 2022

Detour ahead, major hazards to prepare for.

Some may think this is about Covid coming back to kick the hospitality business back down as it just started to recover. This blog was supposed to be about recent travels in June and July- Nashville and Tampa. But it’s bigger than that.

For the last 18 months to 2 years, I have been trying to figure out why I still have increasing shortness of breath and fatigue. I have been trying to get stronger thru a better diet, and walking. My rheumatologist ordered a echocardiogram and a few other tests to rule out bigger issues, not expecting the results we got. advanced heart failure. Possibly from being a long term lupus patient or from viruses I had ( possible Covid, definite shingles) from Nov 2019 to march 2020. Either way there is damage, and a treatment plan. I do seem to have one of the best cardiologist in the Indy area and I feel confident about my care so far.

It was a shock, and yes there is anger and sadness – as it changes everything. I have to figure a new way to live, eat, work that keeps my heart in the best possible shape. If you have been a reader for awhile, then you know how much I enjoy travel, dining and new beverages. I pride myself on getting a lot done each day, and enjoying life at it’s fullest. I have to plan how to get ready for the day, resting between the most routine tasks. And watching all fluids consumption, sodium level in everything I eat and weighing myself each morning to monitor any fluid gained – and taking heart meds. It is not a short term, let’s fix it and move on. I am a cardiac patient, who has to manage my health daily for the best prognosis long term.

My family and friends have been super supportive, and my company – the same. I put the most pressure on myself but that is typical. I want my life back – the one where I work hard, play hard and take advantage of every opportunity. Can I do this? I have to, adjust to a new normal- be cautious with my time, energy and ensure that my actions don’t make my family & friends worry so much. Wearing out my support team is not okay, they do so much.

I have to give credit to the healthcare workers I encountered at Community North Heart & Vascular Hospital. I was already nervous about having a heart cath lab procedure and with Covid cases rising and hearing so much in the media about overwhelmed medical staff at hospitals. But my short stay was calm, everyone that was involved in my care was caring and helpful. No one appeared stressed or like I was a bother. They were compassionate and understood this was scary for me and my family. Because they were calm, so was I.

And now that I am home and adjusting to what comes next, I feel comfortable going to my next heart clinic visit there. My family knows the warning signs of when to get me help and I know I have to take this seriously. The goal is clear, better heart function and keeping fluids off my heart. Stay on a low sodium diet, keep building my activity level slowly and focus on what I can do instead of what I can’t.

I hope to enjoy a long life, maybe not as carefree as I like but one that makes every moment count. So I will get back to traveling and maybe my food and beverage travels will be on the healthier side. At the very least, I can cook and this will challenge my culinary skills.

Stay healthy, and travel safe,

Jill

May 2021 – one for the books

I can’t complain at all about May this year. Business travel resumed, leisure travel too and then there was the Race. The Indy 500 was back, with fans! There was something special about Indy in May- and it seemed like every visitor knew it. Weather was beautiful, and restaurants & bars downtown seemed to benefit.

I really had some great foodie experiences and love to share. Fortville – the bone marrow fries. And table bread. Pay the five dollars for the butter alone. I’m serious.

Geist- Wolfie’s, tilapia sandwich has replaced their dry rub wings as a favorite.

Sophia’s Bagels in Pendleton, a hometown favorite and the farmers market is a great way to spend a Saturday.

Mass Ave district downtown- mass Ave pub for pretzels and great conversation at the bar. The house wings at Chatham Tap.

Bottleworks district- Azucar Morena, I didn’t know that I loved arepas. But I think of them every day. Just go. And get the Jose sauce.

Ellison brewing downtown near Lucas oil stadium- wow. Wings, summertime salad, and pizza, amazing indoors or on the patio.

Also mass Ave – the peachy pig pizza at Ralston’s Drafthouse is a repeat fav, I may be stalking them or thinking about it.

Yes, I have pictures…

And I am going back to Nashville TN tomorrow sooo put your boots on and stay tuned 😊

Get back out there, you know you wanna travel – Jill

Recent travels and new discoveries at home

I love weekend road trips and get so excited to see someplace new to me or even one I haven’t been to in a long time. Mid-march I drove our three teenagers to Madison, Wisconsin to see family they hadn’t seen in a long time. It was a five hour trip minimum one way and they all slept until Chicago, and then wished they still were sleeping. I am a decent driver and Chicago traffic doesn’t bug me. The tolls, well, there were more than I remember. But we got there and stayed in a nice Springhill Suites near an outdoor mall. The kids had their family time and I had time to walk, relax, try a new restaurant or two and find a brewery new to me.

I enjoyed the Cafe Hollander and the Great Dane Brewing Company in the Hillsdale shopping area.

I didn’t realize how much I missed traveling until then. Not knowing exactly what was going to happen. Soon after, Bill and I celebrated our anniversary with a quick weekend trip to Cincinnati. We try to go somewhere different each year. Cincinnati was pretty open, there were still some businesses downtown that hadn’t recovered but enough to make for a fun weekend. Bill had not been to Montgomery Inn before and the original location still had the great views and was a great return visit for me. We also enjoyed Homemakers Bar, Taglio, Brick & Mortar, and the Holy Grail.

Okay so that was March and I’m really behind, but I will fill you in on April and May shortly.

Keep traveling,

Jill

It’s been awhile. No apologies. I post when relevant.

So March 2021. Be kind. It’s been a hell of a year. I lost my muse in the last quarter of 2020. She would say she was sick of the politics and chose to leave, I believe her, she was 96.

She had seen too much, and more than deserved her holy reward. I hope she is still proud of me. Not at my best but making a comeback. I needed to read again, gain perspective and oh yeah, I got a promotion.

I think timing is incredible. When I think I can relax, things change. I built reliable, sustainable business for a hotel in a thriving community that did well in spite of a pandemic. I got a promotion, to help 2 downtown hotels recover from a pandemic. But no support staff, as when do you know when’s downtown market recovers from a pandemic?

I know. I’m 46. Proudly 46. Been thru a few economic downturns, and survived. Because I read, I listen and do research. There are businesses that do well in a pandemic, war, etc. Sustainable business is key. Response time is key. Answer the phone, respond to emails. Be honest about what your business can do and follow thru.

Guess what happens? Recovery. Doesn’t matter what political feelings you have, stuff recovers. We have to. And who recovers best? Those people who know relationships matter, in any economy. They do. Build them and don’t let go. If you get the chance to mentor others, teach that first. Revenue management is huge for hotels, relationship building is bigger. Know your clients, know your market and build your empire. I can’t give it all away. Travel.

Get your piece back and the some.

Travel well,

Jill

In honor of

I have been quiet for a while. The usual stress of working in an industry that has been hit hard by a pandemic, being a mom, and wife was enough but dealing with my grandmother’s illness and eventual death really took a toll. My Nana, my dad’s mother – has been part of my core, my backbone. I have always dreaded the thought of one day her not being there. How would I cope and move on?

The past two months have been a blur. She had some falls, dizzy spells, digestive issues that led to a diagnosis of lymphoma on her colon. She has always been a healthy person, and in her 90’s still lived on her own in a senior apartment, walking to the YMCA for yoga and silver sneakers classes. Her appetite for life was unmatchable. At 96, she wondered what else was she supposed to do here? Her faith had her looking forward to seeing her mother who passed when she was 8, her 9 siblings and the two husbands she had outlived as well.

The only thing worse than losing her was the thought of her in a hospital. Her decline was rapid but we got a couple more visits in when she would be home to have the talks we needed to for me to know that she was okay and even eager for her next life. She had an appetite for her “next”, so how could I not be happy for her? I would not fall apart without her because she would always be with me.

As a child, she was my first teacher of what hospitality and service to others meant. Staying at her home meant sleeping on the coolest, cleanest sheets that were ironed. The windows were cracked open so you had fresh air and the sound of crickets to fall asleep to. She fed you and would make you sit down so she could serve you. She cleaned houses, did laundry and served in a restaurant even – to make money to take us shopping. She was a girl’s Grandma. We felt special at her house, and she showed us how wonderful it was to be a girl. She was proud of her hard work, and if she cleaned your house – it would be the cleanest you ever saw it. She took pride in every job and in serving others.

She taught us about self-care before it was the buzz word it is today. Rest, fresh air, exercise, good food with a regular appointment at the hair salon. She added mani-pedi appointments later and always had the best nails in Brown County. She never left the house without her lipstick on and ready in her pocket for a touch up. She believed if you made the effort to look your best, you would be more confident and ready for anything. She made us proud to be women before we knew that was a struggle at times. I will always be proud of my struggle because of her and every hard fought win is because I had her in my life.

She didn’t have the best education but never let that be an excuse. Her bible, countless books, and Time magazine were her library. She never stopped learning and could have a conversation about most anything. She loved us all as individuals and even when correcting us, showed us how to present and fight for our beliefs. We didn’t always agree but as an adult I recognized her influence every time I faced adversity. Her early years of hardship and loss made her strong and she worked hard with my grandfather for the life they wanted. She wasn’t perfect but didn’t pretend to be, and she was transparent in her feelings. You knew how she felt about you, and her hugs were so fierce – you needed time to recover.

She taught us that in love, there can be second chances. She remarried in her 80’s after reconnecting with an old classmate after my grandpa passed. Ed had also lost his wife after almost 60 years of marriage. They had a courtship that was beautiful and full of affection. They taught me something that I lacked and should pursue in my own life. I did, eventually, and have never looked back.

I could go on about her for days. I will never stop telling stories about her, and she can rest knowing she left a legacy. Now , I have to figure out my legacy, she set the bar high.

Travel well,

Jill

Service in the age of social distancing, part two

Oh, restaurants and bar seats, how I have missed you and hope we never part again for that long! Yes, it was probably good to focus on family meals, and staying in together but I have to admit – when I get stressed, I should not be in the kitchen. It only creates bad mojo and no one wants that. Plus those moments when I go out – that is to have someone make and bring me food – and those of us in the service industry need this to remind us we are valuable and cared for. so let my praise of local restaurants, breweries and pubs I ran to- in and surrounding Indianapolis – begin:Fishers:

Rize- get the big cinnamon roll. and the next time the crossant or biscuit with salted butter and preserves. They do have gluten free and healthy items but I have not crossed over to that line quite yet. My writing partner, Jokima, and I have been a few times when she visits from Missouri.
Rise and Roll- the Amish bakery and more that I was thrilled to see expand here from South Bend. My co-workers and husband agree, these are so dangerously good. The signature caramel cinnamon donuts and donut holes are always welcome, but the peanut butter and key lime filled have become much loved too.
Fishers Test Kitchen – Okay so it is part of the Sun King brewery at the Yard District which can’t be a bad thing (hello Orange Vanilla Cream Ale). Pair that with Gochu Pork Rice Bowl at Korave Korean BBQ and you have a casually fabulous meal indoors or they have a great patio upstairs and down. Jokima also approves of the Taco Trio.
The HC Tavern & Kitchen – I highly approve of the Triple Cream cheese plate, the cheese, candied pecans, and preserves is probably the best way to end a bad mood. I also recommend the flatbreads, scallops and the truffle grilled cheese & roasted tomato soup. Another new favorite that I got to enjoy with my husband and Jokima. My “nexts” there will likely be the lobster “cargot”, bourbon maple candied bacon, and smoked fried chicken.
Another Broken Egg Café – if you start with the lemon blueberry mimosa, it’s a great start. When they have the lobster and grits, get it. also the biscuit beignets are a must. every time.
Wolfie’s at Geist or the one I stalk near work on 96th Street – the Wolfies dry rub wings are what I get half the time, the other half – the peanut butter bacon burger. It’s not always on the menu, but they make it if I ask. I love that.
Anderson – yes, Anderson. I was born there and have relocated to Pendleton near there a few years ago. And we have a few favorite haunts –

T.M. Nortons Brewing company – great local beers, great patio and the pulled pork panini is amazing. A very casual, laid back place to relax.
Oakley Brothers’ Distillery – the crab ragoon pizza and lemon shakeup mason jar. Yes, just yes…

Speaking of breweries, Creatures of Habit Brewing Co always has interesting brews and is a short walk from Oakley Brothers’. More breweries to visit –

Pax Verum Brewery in Lapel- stunning outdoor patio / beer garden and Big Woods Speedway.So – have you been at any of these, do you agree? Did I miss something fabulous? Please share your suggestions – when travel is less scary- what are your favorites in your town? Let’s be careful out there and do what we need to do to stay safe and keep our fabulous favorite restaurants open.Cheers,Jill