King Cake

Two Weddings and a Birthday

June 30, 2014

Chateau de Roussan (Photo by: G Varone) Chateau de Roussan

Saturday five days ago, on Summer Solstice, my sister Cyrille got married. The day prior, my brother-in-law Stern got married. The day after, my god-daughter Jade turned 8. Needless to say, last weekend was one of many celebrations.

Two of these celebrations took place in the idyllic place of Chateau de Roussan in St. Remy de Provence, a small town in the Rhone region of Southern France, not far from Avignon. I learned while there that the city’s two claims to fame (other than the amazing countryside, kind residents, excellent produce, and overall beauty) is that St. Remy is the birthplace of Nostradamus (I saw the house where he was born), and where Caroline de Monaco lived for a few years with her two children after the death of her second husband, Stefano Casiraghi.

Orange! (Photo by: Polla Family) Orange!

The entire weekend was spent in the Chateau, which was fully occupied by the wedding party and guests – in effect, we felt like we lived there for three days. I felt like I got a glimpse of what it would have been like to live in the French equivalent of Downton Abbey. I definitely could have gotten used to it, including the part where my husband and I played a game of chess in the Chateau’s library …

Picnic apero, with champagne (Photo by: M Eckstein) Picnic apero, with champagne

The rehearsal dinner consisted of a gathering of 30-some Swiss guests, and one French guest, cheering for opposite sides of a World Cup game this past Friday. The wedding celebration was held in the garden, on a gloriously sunny Saturday afternoon, a perfect setting for a perfect couple and my nephew Leonardo. A picnic apero in the grass was followed by an outdoor dinner, and then dancing until 3 am. Apparently, my sisters and I can dance!

May goddaughter, Jade and I (Photo by: Polla Family) May goddaughter, Jade and I

My sister, the most beautiful and generous bride, shared the “morning after brunch” with my god-daughter Jade, who turned 8 that day.

Jade and I the morning after, on her 8th birthday

The entire weekend was filled with love, laughter, some tears, hugs, kisses, and champagne. The best part? The people. I was reminded of the best reason to have a wedding – the opportunity to bring together all of the people you love in one place, at one time. Thank you Cyrille and Marin! And we get to do it all again this fall, when another of my sister is getting married … in Bordeaux! Stay tuned …

 

 

Jade and I the morning after, on her 8th birthday (Photo by: Polla Family) Jade and I the morning after, on her 8th birthday

The Bride, the Groom, and Leonardo (Photo by: Polla Family) The Bride, the Groom, and Leonardo


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Mercury in Retrograde

June 24, 2014

The first three weeks of June are usually the most challenging time of year for me;  perhaps unlike for most – after all, it is the start of summer, of warm weather and early sunlight in the morning. It is the promise of a long July 4th weekend, BBQ parties, pool days, and maybe, the beach. Many seem to feel how I feel in July rather at the end of the calendar year. But I love December (Christmas, family, snow, skiing) and the renewal that comes with January. Maybe I never got out of school calendar mode, and June is the hardest (hours of studying for exams I never felt ready for).

For me, June is three long weeks of hard work before I get to Greece, to the island of Tinos, for my 10 days of real vacation per year (real vacation being defined as involving sand, my husband as the only family, and very limited Wi-Fi or  other forms of connectivity). The three first weeks of June are joyous because I have that Greek time to look forward to, but so very challenging because by then, I have not had a vacation in 11 months, and I feel like I am an iPhone on 2% red battery with 21 days to go.

Lucky for me, this is now happening for the 5th year in a row, and I have learned from the previous four years. I have listened to myself and I know June is hard for me. I know I am really tired, emotionally and physically. And so I have learned a few coping mechanisms.  

Here are some strategies I have put in place to make sure that my level of exhaustion does not wreck havoc during June.

1.      I avoid scheduling any super important strategy meetings between Memorial Day and when I come back from Greece in early July, if at all possible.

2.      This is usually not possible. Which means I have at least three really, really important meetings in that five week period. In this case, I prepare for each with extra time, extra patience, and extra care.

3.      In the preparation of these meetings, and in preparation of most of what happens during that time, I understand that given my level of tiredness, everything seems hard, and every task (in particular thinking) takes me longer than usual. And is harder than usual.

4.      I allow myself extra time not just for professional tasks, but for everything. Case in point – I left some hanging clothes in a hotel room closet two weeks ago. I was rushing in the morning to pack and leave. Usually, I can rush to pack and leave no problem – it is the story of my traveling life. Anytime of the year except in June. No rushing. Of packing, or of anything.

5.      Along those lines, I triple check everything. Do I have my keys before leaving my house? My clothes before leaving the hotel? My wallet before leaving to go grocery shop? My passport before leaving on an international flight. I am overly diligent. Because I need to be.

6.      I turn my tongue in my mouth three times before I speak, in particular when I feel I am getting upset. I have realized that when overly tired, the things that would usually roll off of me, easily and without effort, instead, upset me. I try to recognize that fact – recognize the upset as something that is my reality, not THE reality.

7.      In everything that I do, I try to be kinder. I actually need to be kinder in general, but in this case, being kinder is really just being kind. At least I am trying.

8.      And lastly, while I have never needed much sleep, I try to sleep at least seven hours per night. Not that this enables me to feel rested. But it does enable me to get by. For just another month. 

All in all, I have come to think of the month between Memorial Day and June 26 (or 25 or 27 as years go), as my own personal Mercury in Retrograde moment. As my BFF from business school would say it, “Small Arm Movements today please” – meaning don’t scare or surprise me, I am so emotionally exhausted I might bite your head off for no reason. They say the first step to fixing a problem is recognizing it. I recognize it, accept it, and learn every year how better to cope with it.

And by the time you read this, I will only have a couple days left of coping before I have 10 days of resting, relaxing, and recharging my very empty battery.


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DC Staycation

June 3, 2014

I have two degrees. I run my own business. I have five god children. These things might indicate that I am responsible and have my act together. And I do. Most of the time.  Except for today, when somehow I lost my house keys. In Florida. I returned home to find myself locked out of my house.

Solution #1: I keep a spare key to my house in my office – and spare office keys in a little lock thingie accessible from outside for just those moments when I forget my keys.

Failed solution #1: I can get in to my office but can’t find my spare house key.

Solution #2: I call my amazing landlord (whom I have called in this situation only twice in the past five years). He has a key to my house of course.

Failed solution #2: Two calls and one text message later, no response.

Solution #3: I check in to a hotel. I live my life on the road, after all, it is only slightly funny that tonight I have to stay in a hotel in my hometown.

Being a creature of habit, I won’t go far from home – i.e. not far out of Georgetown. I make a few calls. I figure since this is such last minute, I might talk myself into a sweet deal at a nice hotel. After all, if I am to stay in a hotel tonight, it might as well be a nice on.

Ritz-Carlton on South Street is the first call I make. This is where my parents stay when they come to town. So I figured I should stay there too. They have availability, but it does seem a bit extravagant. I talk myself into calling the Capella. After all, if extravagant it is, then extravagant it might as well be. Luckily, the universe helps me see that spending $700 on a hotel six blocks from my house is just too extravagant. I call three times, and three times T-Mobile drops the call, despite 4 bars. The Park Hyatt is next. Perhaps my favorite hotel in DC, I know their bar for the best cheese plate in DC. Guess what – they are sold out. Good for them.

Fourth and lucky. Hotel Palomar. Kimpton hotels are always a preferred choice when on the road, why not here? They are not extravagant, and they are not sold out. Candice is lovely at check-in. I tell her I live four blocks away, she laughs, and gives me a cocktail coupon for the bar. Conclusion: one Manhattan, and a couple episodes of Sex and the City later, I figure that losing my keys is not all bad.  


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