Madera, CA – February & March 2023

I have been to California a couple of times – mostly San Diego area. Never had heard of Madera before, but it is near Fresno and has a little bit of everything. It is a agricultural area with dairy farms, vineyards, produce like nuts and fruit. It is also a great place to stay if you are visiting Yosemite National Park, or the Madera Wine Trail. There are also a couple of gorgeous Casino Resorts up in the mountains and the drive there is just as scenic.

My assignment was to provide sales support and training for 3 different hotels, that have different owners and brands. It was interesting to switch focus depending on which brand I was working with each day and still give individual attention. But it can be done and the staff at all 3 hotels are absolutely some of the best. Very close knit, supportive and team players. This has been my longest assignment since coming back to task force work and they were all very welcoming to me. Their guests are also fiercely loyal and some drove up to 40 minutes past other hotels to choose them. Fresno is a much larger market but staying in Madera makes you feel part of the community.

Yep, I kind of loved it there. Between Madera, Fresno and Clovis – there were also great restaurants, wineries and breweries. My best recommendations and pictures to follow.

San Joaquin and Quady Wineries are just 2 locations on the Madera Wine Trail. I enjoyed the tastings at both and feel more confident about my future trips to Total Wine and More. Quady Wines were more on the sweet side with a lot of recipes and ways to use them in the kitchen. San Joaquin had a large event space and tasting room where they hold wine club meetings.

San Joaquin

There were some great weather days and Old Town Clovis was a perfect place to park the car, and walk around to balance out all the great dining. Favorites were The Local for the Strawberry Arugula Salad, Neighbor’s for the Anchor Bar wings, and Papa’s Place for incredible cocktails.

Fresno also had some great areas to explore. I highly recommend Eureka, which has a daily mystery cocktail called the Farmer’s Market – the day I visited it tasted like a key lime pie. Lazy Dog had a great brunch, with a four cheese quiche that could have fed 4 people. Mad Duck Craft Brewery has amazing tacos & a blonde ale that was hard to leave. Summer Fox Brewing had great local brews & pizza plus great live acoustic music. Brunch at The Elbow Room was so good, I went twice. Feast on these pics 🤤

Lazy Dog
Mad Duck
The Elbow Room
The Elbow Room

I just got to Philadelphia yesterday, and between the history, food and architecture – I already think it will be a favorite.

Keep exploring,



Colorado Springs – January 2023

Fresh off my holiday break, I got a whole new assignment that was sure to challenge me. I had never been to Colorado at all and was a little excited as I heard it was beautiful. My role was supporting 6 hotels, all Marriott brands while the area DOS was on maternity leave. There were 2 newish sales managers that were still in training and a new sales coordinator to onboard. Also, the sales system we use is getting upgraded and that meant training and recertification as well.

But let’s talk about them mountains and the altitude – this was no joke when they say it takes awhile to adjust. The fatigue, shortness of breath, and dehydration is real, but it waits until you think you have been there long enough to avoid it. Like in the middle of a site visit, when I needed to carry water with me to be able to keep talking. And I didn’t get to leave my Indiana allergies at home either. I arrived in Colorado Springs at the same time a little snowstorm did, but it’s true what they say- the sun comes out and dries it up fast. I landed, unpacked and started exploring a little that first day. Most of the hotels were on the Southside of Colorado Springs, and one on the north side. And mountain views everywhere, which meant I really had to focus on driving especially on the first few days.

Technology is always a challenge but for training purposes, it gives a good opportunity to take trainees through troubleshooting. But most of the training had to with time management, sales processes and prospecting for the right kind of business. Also – when to do certain activities like sales calls, research, supporting the front desk during high check -in times to learn more about the corporate travelers checking in and so on. I share experiences both good and not so good- it helps being “human” when training someone new to the hotels or new to the business in general.

The area has a strong military/ government feel due to all the bases and military housing. And there is plenty of natural scenic areas to explore like Manitou Springs, Old Colorado City and Garden of the Gods. The jeep tour at Garden of the Gods is amazing, I would have loved to have my family with me on it. The weather was perfect that day and it is sunny there alot, which helps on the colder days. I had a little kitchen in my room, so I cooked anytime I didn’t feel like going out. But there were some great restaurants and areas to walk when it wasn’t too cold.

Old Colorado City was wonderful and Bon Ton’s was breakfast with the largest & softest cinnamon roll I have experienced. Great coffee and grits gave me the needed energy to walk to… OCC Brewing for a little craft beer tasting. The ViewHouse and Trainwreck were my favorite spots for watching a little football. A few of my favorite pictures – but go see it for yourself, it is beautiful there and so many ways to enjoy the natural scenery.

Next? Madera, CA- join me as I tour wineries and the agricultural beauty of the Central Valley in February.

Travel well,


Charlotte NC – December 2022

I took some time off for the holidays and realize it may feel like longer but I took time off and really tried to be “at home” in location and in my brain. Task Force jobs are not easy, but to avoid burnout, I really try to detach and just be home. Be a wife, mom, sister, daughter and friend. But I did have an assignment that ended pretty close to the Christmas holidays which would make anyone nervous. Except I do have an exceptional family, that tells me I don’t have to make it magical. To be honest, I don’t think I was ever great at that- I am not Jesus, and couldn’t come close. Which is why there is forgiveness in the first place, right?

Okay, I realize some of my readers may not share the same faith I have – but I know what sustains me. If you have something else, please edit accordingly ❤️.

Charlotte NC is beautiful, but perhaps my weather expectations should have been lower. I do live with systemic lupus, and now a heart condition – so my circulation is affected. I was just hoping for anything better than Indiana. It is December after all, and I adjusted. But every assignment surprises me, and this was no different. It was not a walkable market where my hotel was located, there was not a new DOS to train, I was supposed to provide sales support to a hotel. Due to know fault of their own, airline training contracts were changed to another state. And corporate business base was low due to airline contracts. Again, this happens – in airport markets, so if you have read my previous blogs that tell you not to have all your eggs in one basket…

It is tough, in any economy – to replace business lost but valuable to gain knowledge in that situation. The pressure is intense, and no one has the rabbit to pull out of their hat. But a task force manager has to think of things that no one on the property has tried yet. And even in December, when contracts are signed – you still have to find a way. And you have to be confident that your efforts may not affect them in December. When employees talk about being laid off or having hours cut there is a very real sense of panic that sets in. It is literally the worst time of year to have an assignment where you are supposed to fix something with a very short timeline. But this is what we do.

So what happened? I looked up airport projects and contacted project managers, and I looked what tourist attractions my affect us in another segment. And I found that I was ridiculously close to the Billy Graham Library. I am a preacher’s kid, after all. And I fly for my job, so prayer is big for me. I have been in business that day to day changes, there is something that sustains me more than great food and drinks.

I took the tour, during the day – a lunch break I never take. And I learned more that day about history, politics, and other countries than I ever have. No matter your faith, this Library has an impact. I am not trying to change the world. Well, okay, I would like to change the world in hospitality. But to be honest, I want to change it the way I see it. And to be real, that is not hospitality for all people but for me. Which means I have more to learn.

I’m not going to leave you without great food, drink & leisure suggestions. I wouldn’t do you like that. But there was less of that, due to it being December & location always affects how much I get out & about.

I enjoyed the Christmas Market at the Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, fire pits, local vendors and plenty to drink & eat. From there it was an easy walk to Sugar Creek Brewing, Brewers @ 4001 Yancey (multiple brewers in one location) and Protagonist LoSo location. It was sunny and just warm enough to make it a perfect day. The goat cheese salad, pretzel, and white ale made Sugar Creek Brewing one of my favorite stops. Caramel Apple empanadas were amazing at Brewers at 4001 Yancey.

Billy Graham Library

Next assignment is in Colorado Springs, never been but I look forward to sharing it with you.

Keep traveling,


Sterling VA – task force 1 Nov 2022

Trying something new with the titles of my blogs moving forward… I remember how hard it was to come up with a new and interesting titles when I was traveling the last time lol. Sterling VA was my first assignment back into task force and was the experience I needed it to be. I got to learn a brand that I had almost no experience in, with a definite time limit of knowing it enough to train a new Director of Sales. She had great experience, and confident in her sales skills.

My first 10 days were spent organizing the office, cleaning up files, doing a group audit, and learning Hyatt brand tools and systems. The goal was to learn enough to be able to understand it myself and be able to present training in a way that was efficient and effective. I doubted myself at certain points, but by her first day of training – had a decent understanding and a plan. The nice thing was that I was no expert on the brand & tools but had figured out how to at least get things started in the right direction.

It really helped to be able to tell her, “you will get it and I know it’s a lot to take in”. Being transparent is important, having patience and being approachable. And taking breaks – that is crucial, it allows the person you are onboarding a chance to process what they are learning and applying it in the way it makes sense to them.

I had some fun too, and got out a little in the communities that surround the hotel. I got to know the staff enough to know I would miss them and that the new DOS was getting to work with a guest focused staff. That is half the battle in creating loyalty with the current and prospective clients, you can sell the hotel but they determine whether that business returns.

So, what’s in Sterling VA and where did I eat? That’s really what you want to know, right? Stones Cove Kit Bar has highest honor as I went twice. First time for dinner, 2nd time for the brunch. Unique dining as you sit around the bar/ kitchen, so you see them make your food & drinks as well as others. Best grits & breakfast bread pudding – their brunch menu is as good as it sounds.

Also top honors go to Jackson’s in Reston Town Center as I went there twice as well. Blue crab & shrimp fritters, so good and beautiful. Also in Reston Town Center, Ted’s Bulletin – a cold brew martini and grown up pastries that resemble a favorite rectangle from your youth.

One Loudoun area had the largest and busiest Barnes and Noble I have ever seen. It also has great shopping but for dining- The Lost Fox wowed me. The small plate menu makes trying a few things affordable and easy to take your time with each plate. I had the seared duck breast and then later the brown butter and sage gnocchi.

I leave you with a few pictures and a fondness for Sterling VA. It was my first task force location back and will remain a favorite due to the staff at the hotel and the amazing food and hospitality I found there.

Next up, Charlotte NC! Keep traveling friends, Jill

Fall travels and new beginnings

When someone says “describe yourself”, do you all the sudden don’t know how to or in what order? We live in a very diverse world, and the roles we play change- monthly,daily, hourly even.

End of August, I was Mother of the Bride (see last blog), mid September I became fun wife on beach vacation in Ft Walton and then it was October. Some job changes were in the works and a quick trips to the farm in Moss TN and the Marine base in San Diego has me in full on proud mom mode again. I added Mom of Marine in San Diego to my list. And then a few days at home unpacking and packing for….Task Force Sales in Sterling VA.

Yeah, I have whiplash too. But my ticker kept up and I will rack up the airline miles while trying to manage the guilt of being away 10 days at a time. I get 4 days off every 10 so it works out. That’s what I tell myself. Also, the kids are grown and no one needs me reminding them of chores and dishes in the sink.

Let me tell you the highlights: the employee hotel discounts were getting used like hand sanitizer in the airport. We stayed at The Island Resort in Ft Walton Beach, FL and I can’t wait to go back. It was exactly what we needed. A super clean room steps from the beach, 2 pools and numerous food &bar options. Watching football on Sunday in the grotto pool bar ranks as an favorite. The Tripp Tide beach bar was close and had live music most evenings. We drove there so we had a car to explore the area too- I may miss Parlor Doughnuts the most but Fokkers Pub, Bay Cafe and G.I. Jade were favorites there. We took a short drive to Destin for Harry T’s Lighthouse but found ourselves heading back to the relaxed Ft Walton area.

We got a quick weekend a few weeks after at the family farm in Moss TN where I counted maybe 9 or 10 new calves. That is always a relaxing time and I think seriously about not leaving each time. We fit in a trip to Dovie’s for their unsqueezed burgers that I may have to explain to my cardiologist someday.

And then San Diego where we stayed in a Hampton Inn about 10 minutes from the MCRD, and had some great Uber drivers for the most part. We laughed, cried and watched one of our sons graduate boot camp. There is nothing like that family day & graduation ceremony. My father in law was able to join us and experienced my skills at finding a classy place for dinner one night which ended up being a dive bar🤷. We had great food and made it back alive, so all is well.

This week I started traveling for work again as a task force sales manager and am in Sterling VA. I do kinda love it here, and it gets it’s own blog.

Stay tuned,


Seeing the other side- my mother of the bride experience

I don’t just work in hospitality, I am pretty sure I live and breathe it. So the challenge of being the MOB- mother of the bride, definitely challenged me to look at things through fresh eyes. From the bridal shower to the bachelorette party to the rehearsal and finally the wedding, I worked hard at enjoying the moments while trying to make the wedding and all that comes with it less stressful for my daughter.

I had help. Like a lot of it. My friends and family who helped me stay sane and less stressed myself get big time credit. They didn’t just offer, every time I said I had this – they helped anyway. Which was good, no life-saving to the stubborn ass I can be. My husband, who helped while having some big career and family changes himself, was patient and reminded me that we would handle this like we always do.

The businesses that we worked with were pleasant, professional and flexible. Sullivan’s Hardware on the NE side of Indy has the cutest and affordable Garden House that was perfect for the bridal shower. They were prompt with responding to questions, and the day off- helped with unloading as almost tornado like winds were going to carry me off like Dorothy. Catering was optional, and helped me supplement the menu I had in mind. Last minute requests were granted and the staff was incredible.

The bachelorette party weekend in Nashville was fun, and I hung with the girls as long as I could. But when bedtime called, the Aloft hotel in Cool Springs, was a calm, cool place to chill and rest up for the next day.

Leading up to the big day, Ashley at Pipers at the Marott, was exceptional at working with my daughter over ever question and concern. Rehearsal night and the wedding, Ashley set the tone for a calm and special event. We had a lot of out town guests and our hotel staff behind the scenes helped so much. It was a crazy transitional time but when your people have your back – it meant enjoying the beautiful moments and big tired smiles the next day and for days to come.

Yes, a beach vacation is coming (soon) but I couldn’t miss out on the chance to say thank you and recognize the folks that make it possible.

Next up, Ft Walton beach ⛱️.

Stay cool and travel,


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