Sunday, March 28, 2010

Need Tips on Tips

I know about cabbies, waiters and whatnot...but am clueless on proper tipping etiquette for bellboys, bellhops, doormen, concierges, etc. By the way, is a bellhop and a bellboy one and the same? Is a doorman a porter? I need a lesson before we check out. Thank God for Google! Anyone else at a loss about this stuff? Give me a minute while I track down the info...

Okay, before the lowdown, here's an interesting tidbit-the word tip is rumored to have originated with a pub owner as an abbreviation for "To Insure Promptness" on a box he provided to patrons! If you want prompt attention, you tip! Maybe we should install a tip jar at the post office, DMV, and my eye doctor's office.

Not surprisingly, women tip men better, and men tip women better. Attractive women get higher tips, and so do attentive men (as long as they don't make mistakes). Tipping goes up when the weather is good, and down when it is bad. Hmmm, doesn't bode well for waitstaff in Seattle, England, Minneapolis or just about anyplace but Denver or San Diego!

This is what I learned via Tip the hopping bellboy $1-2/per bag or $5-10 for bringing in bags and providing a descriptive introduction to the room. If the doorman helps with bags, it seems that he should be thanked with a little green as well. If he just opens the door for you each and every time you come and go, give him a toothy smile, a big thank you, and then hand him $5-10 when you check out. If a staff member or concierge helps with a special request, show him your appreciation with a a few bucks.

If you splurge on room service, a gratuity is usually automatically added to the bill, but it's nice to hand the deliverer a couple of dollars, especially if they come in and set up the food. Same deal for a maintenance worker who comes to fix something or someone who delivers a requested item - like a cot or blanket. Note to self, stock up on ones and fives before next trip.

Yikes, my biggest blunder so far is that I've never really been aware that we should tip the chambermaids. Oops. And that we should tip each and every day, since it might be different gals on different days. Double oops. Okay, now I know.

I must find a way to do penance for all of those poor chambermaids who have had to deal with not only me but my large, messy family over the course of our travels. I somehow knew to tip the few times we've stayed at resorts, but what about all the times when our 3- rooms-at -a-minimum-family just bedded down at a Marriott for a night or two? Why did it never occur to me that we should always tip the maids. They have the toughest job of all. They do what I do at home which is disgusting enough when you're related to the people with the hair. Ugh, what if you didn't even know the people who once belonged to the hair and had to not only see it but get rid of it. My bad. Okay I promise to make it up somehow. Maybe the best way is to spread the word to other dummies like myself!

Next time you stay overnight in a hotel, leave a couple of bucks in an envelope or wrapped in a piece of paper; write 'chambermaid', and leave on the pillow or bathroom counter before you leave each day. And if you or your travel companions shed more hair than the average Joe, maybe you should make it a fiver.

Don't know if I'd rather hear that other folks have stiffed the maids too so I don't feel solely responsible for economically disadvantaged maids of America ...or that everyone else has tipped housekeeping since the beginning of time ensuring their survival despite my gaffe? Regardless, I will remedy this situation before checking out tomorrow. May my tombstone read "she sure learned how to tip".

Monday, March 22, 2010

Girl or Boy?

When we pulled up to the Burger King drive-thru speaker, I was thinking about my conversation with Karen. We had met that morning for a brief coffee catch-up and had shared the recent developments in the lives of our gender-variant kids. I was pondering what the best next step would be to form a playgroup for non-traditional kids…when the order-taker asked if the Kids Meal was for a boy or a girl.

I glanced in the rear view mirror and saw my son’s face, frozen. I asked why she wanted to know…”for the toy “ was the reply. I said to give me the girls’ toy, and my little boy breathed a sigh of relief.

Raising a gender-variant kid is no picnic. And being one sure isn’t either. My oldest and youngest sons both preferred dolls to legos, theatre to sports, long hair to boys’ regular. When my middle son would invite a friend to play, his older brother would panic if the friend saw his Barbies and would silently agonize over what would happen if the friend told others about his secret. When my younger son searches the library shelves for an American Girl book he repeatedly checks over his shoulder to make sure no one is watching, and actually refers to his love of dolls as “my secret”. His "secret" makes it hard for him to do much outside the safety of our home.

What a hard way to have to live.

Despite all of the advances that have been made in adult society’s acceptance of gender-variant interests, vocations, fashion, and behavior, in the world of children, being gender-variant is like wearing a permanent target on one’s chest. The worst part is the feeling of shame. I used to feel it too. But the longer I walk this lonely path with my youngest child (the older son is now a happy, successful, self-assured adult who is adored by more people than he can count) the less my shame and the greater my anger…and my determination to do something to change the way we treat children who differ from the norm.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Say it Again, Sam!

It must seem pretty hypocritical that a woman who is building a website to celebrate and facilitate sharing between people would be so reticent about sharing something as unobtrusive as her name. But I have to confess that one of my biggest pet peeves is the new coffee house strategy for making sure they give you the right drink. “Triple venti non-fat latte, coming right up… What’s your name?”

Who wants to know?

Frankly, I don’t want to give them my name. Is it because I have never really liked it? because it’s hard to spell? because mom warned about people offering me candy in exchange for my name? Let’s face it, maybe it’s only Norm who wants to go someplace “where everybody knows your name”. So I just lie and say my name is Sam.

But one day I got caught when I was ordering coffee with my husband in tow (his name happens to be Phil…something you might see on a bowling shirt or a mechanic’s pocket but apparently he has no problem sharing it with any old barista). When asked for my name, I automatically said “Sam” and Phil looked at me like I had two heads. Oops. Then I had to explain the whole charade to him (and the barista and all the eavesdroppers in line behind us). No one else seems to be bothered by the whole thing. Is it just me?

Names are funny. I remember the ongoing debate on baby names. Phil likes traditional. I like non-traditional. He won for the most part. And to this day I rue the fact that none of my kids’ names achieved the alliteration that I so adore (see achieved, alliteration, adore? ---Which is maybe why Sam sounds good to me…). My family makes much fun of the fact that I swoon over S names that are unusual and nature-ish. For example, I was really determined to name my first boy Slate. I’m also partial to Sky, Summer, and Savannah. The kids just roll their eyes at me, except for the ten year-old who loves helping me think up outrageous names beginning with S that we fantasize about using if we ever talk his dad into getting a dog.

So if you hear someone hollering “Serendipity… here Serendipity!” next time you’re jogging through the park, you’ll know it’s Sam, and that at least I won the dog negotiation.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Intention: Philanthropy

“What’s a philanthropist?” I asked my Dad when I was maybe seven or eight, after reading the word in a Bobbsey Twins mystery. He explained in the simple terms that parents use with little kids that a philanthropist is someone who does good by giving money to people in need. I said “then that’s what I’m going to be”. He had chuckled. Probably since in that day and age philanthropists were generally men… men with money. But he didn’t discourage me when I began producing backyard circuses, plays, and puppet shows as fundraisers for the local children’s hospital. Never mind that the total I raised at each of these galas amounted to maybe 15 bucks- tops.

I’m not sure where this longing to do good came from. Believe me, I am no Mother Theresa. I have peeked in friends’ medicine cabinets, sneaked shots of vodka before big, intimidating events, and play “Your Team” with my family on a regular basis (if you don’t know the game, please don’t ask, it’s not nice…not nice at all).

Maybe it’s because my parents had always been volunteers in the community, and though fierce Republicans, ironically, they did raise us with the Kennedy philosophy “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country?”

Maybe it’s because they were folks who were kind to everyone, no matter what his or her station in life. Maybe it was the National Geographic magazines that my Dad religiously pored over and collected over the years that gave me a peek into life outside my sheltered suburban world. Whatever it was that gave me the bug to give money to people in need, it’s still with me.

Granted, I have raised lots of money for lots of organizations over the years. But frankly I’m tired of asking people for money for some cause or another. I want to earn the money myself, and give it freely to whomever I want. In a year and 2 weeks I will turn 50. When that day comes, I will look back over the past year and glow.

I am a philanthropist. Watch me grow.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Social Media Butterfly

Social media…the bane of my existence, and the reason for it.

Spent the weekend trying to make all my user names, passwords, email addresses, and screen names line up. So far, I am known as 475Gretch, Ginger27, gretchen27, Javamama27, gretchen174, ChiefChick, ChiefChick27, Georgie27, and Macaroni. A chick with nine lives.

(Since my passwords are probably already known by half of Denver, I’ll refrain from listing them here.)

Okay, let’s Face it I’m all aTwitter about these fabulous new apps that I happened to Stumble upon. Can you Digg it? Frankly, who gives a Hoot, as long as I’m Linked in to all humanity, it is sweet. Welcome to My Space, will you be my Paypal?…Can you say Ebay? Yahoo! I get Googley eyes when I fantasize about Ticketmaster, even though he’s hot for the Amazon. Blog Her! She may be in Constant Contact, but she’s probably just a Dreamer not a Doer, and I think that My Emma is after him too. She may Evite herself to the Tasty Kitchen, but she’s no Pioneer Woman, so prepare for a 4Square Tuggl of war. I am MidChix, hear me roar! Let’s see what YouTube can do…to make me the Apple of your eye.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Defend Yourself!

Self-defense. It sounds kind of ominous. But why wouldn’t we want to know how to defend ourselves? Theresa, our instructor, wasn't surprised. She said that a lot of people are scared off by the words “self-defense”.

If you are one of those folks, let me tell you that articulating your biggest fears and then finding out how to handle them if they happen is the most empowering experience that one can have. It was amazing to find out how little strength it takes to out-maneuver and even (yes!) debilitate a man twice my size. To tell the truth, it felt pretty good! I don’t want to be afraid. Do you?

If someone is creep, a jerk, a perpetrator, or a predator…they’re looking for a victim. Hell, I don’t want to be a victim. I want to know how to take care of myself. While many of us spend a boatload of time trying to figure out how to take care of ourselves financially, very few of us have spent even a few minutes considering how to protect ourselves physically.

Statistics say that one in six women will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime. College aged women are 4 times more likely to be sexually assaulted. In fact, according to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, every 2 minutes someone in this country is sexually assaulted. Perhaps, most disturbing is the fact that 35% of women have been in romantic relationships that were verbally and emotionally abusive, and this is the highest indicator of potential eventual physical abuse.

By not learning how to defend ourselves, we are really putting our heads in the sand. It’s like not buying insurance, not wearing a seatbelt, not getting a flu shot, not exercising, not quitting smoking, not using condoms, not using birth control, not saving, not protecting our social security numbers, not locking our doors etc etc.

Although we invited over 600 women to a self-defense class last week, only one person (besides Lise, Meghan, our videographer, and me) showed up.

I urge you, whether you are a member of MidChix or not, to learn about defending yourself in the event of an attack. Our inspiring instructor, Theresa Byrne, a third-degree black belt in martial arts, and owner-instructor at United Martial Arts Center provided us with a wealth of information about early warning signs of an abusive relationship, as well as specific techniques for use in the event of a physical assault, as well as verbal self-defense in a situation where the body’s adrenaline response would have us Fight, Flight, or Freeze. Check them out in Ideas on

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be kickin’ someone else, then kicking myself for not being ready…

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Waking Up

When the alarm blared its obnoxious blare this morning, I rolled over, and got up. My loving but slightly less morning-hungry husband, muttered "How do you do that"?

Good question. I mean, I'm clearly tired. I go to bed way later than the rest of the family, and get up earlier. I know that I'm sleep deprived, but no matter how I've tried to address it, sleep always loses. You know what's funny? Just as I was typing this I noticed that tired and tried are almost the same word. And that is kind of the idea that I was just getting to.

I heard one of my heroines speak at the Women Empowering Women seminar on Saturday. Jeannie Ritter shared some insights, stories and a few memorable quotes with us. I didn't note the original source...but one of the quotes that really stuck with me maybe explains how I get up. "The anecdote for exhaustion is wholeheartedness." Isn't that nice?
I guess I'd rather "she tried" then "she was tired." Back at it.