Sunday, April 29, 2012

Travel Tips: Connecting Flight in Europe, In Flight Food and Entertainment

During my last stopover on the way home from Israel, it was pretty obvious (and from talking to fellow travelers and people at the airlines) that security checks have increased dramatically for flights to the U.S.  I wish I had been prepared for the change, as by the end of my third screening, I felt like the dudes in those Snicker's Bar Commercials. (My angry celebrity persona would be Larry David.)

Speaking of Snicker's, I will also give you my take on airplane and airport food and entertainment.

If you don't feel like reading this, there is one important takeaway that inspired this blog: when you have an overseas stop, give yourself at least two hours to make your next flight. Currently, Orbitz (which I use, I'm not sure about the others) is providing flights in the database that only have an hour stop over. You will almost certainly not make your flight and unless it's a super small airport, your luggage won't either. Don't buy the one hour transfer ticket, unless you are totally flexible and wouldn't mind being stuck in your connecting city and don't need any luggage.


The Transfer

1. Don't expect to be dropped of at the gate.

I'm not sure if this was because of security or for another reason (traffic, personnel) we had to get off the plane and take buses to the terminal. This is only relevant because it's a little uncomfortable to be in a bus with no clue as to where it's going and  it adds to your travel time.

2. Even though you have never left a secured area, you will go through security again.

On my way last trip, I went through security again, was patted down (I hate that so much. It drives me crazy.), my feet and shoes and fingers were tasted for traces of bomb residue. My husband just had his bags checked again and went through the medal detector. My five feet of pure terrorist was clearly a threat to international security. (No, I'm just a short girl who travels a lot.)

3. More security at the gate

Then, last but not least, you will be questioned at the gate about your intentions for traveling to the U.S.  Then you may be questioned again by another desk agent if you raised any red flags - which I did.

Normally, I wouldn't write something about 1 travel experience, but I spoke to the airline and the last people questioning me, and they say that my experience is now standard procedure for all flights to the U.S from Europe.

Food

Again, back to the Snickers Bar commercials. I have a hard time when I'm hungry. I get lightheaded, nauseous, have headaches and become irritable. Airline food is, with few exceptions, terrible. I've tried eating the regular food and ordering special meals. The food is just bad for the souls in coach.  What is helpful is to prep for the trip as if you won't be fed at all. I recommend dried fruit and energy bars if you are health conscious and cookies and sweets if you are not. Some people eat trail mix, but eating a lot of sodium when you are flying isn't a great idea.

What about the stopover, you ask? Well, the problem is that the food at European airports is ridiculously overpriced and not very good. Also, if you can pay in U.S. dollars, you get change in the local currency. This might be okay, if every country was on the Euro, but many of them still use their native coins. (Anyone need a few Lira? Zloties?)

Entertainment

Don't expect every airline to have small t.v.s in the back of the seats or even several visible ones. You can look online to see your plane's entertainment options, and you should before you travel for 13 hours creaking your neck to watch Forrest Gump three times on the single screen in the front of your plane's section. Don't expect the airport you are connecting will have free WiFi. Even if it supposedly does, you may be sharing the small network with thousands of other people, and hence, you will not be sharing at all.

Conclusion

I know I'm very lucky to get to travel, and please don't perceive this post as whining. I just wish that I had someone post this blog before my most recent and other prior trips, and I wouldn't have been so cranky on the flight (instantly forgotten after watching the new Muppets Movie).



If you have any advice for travelers in this genre, please comment below! If you have any questions, if I can, I'm happy to answer them. (Unless you are asking about cheap tickets. I have no advice except to use Orbitz, Expedia, Travelocity, Etc.)


Saturday, April 28, 2012

Where is the Pause Button?


I am a licensed realtor salesperson and have been for about 9 years.

Don’t worry. I’m not going to try to sell you a home in this blog.

When I studied for the Real Estate Exam, the class and the material were difficult for me. In the end, I excelled, but it took me longer than I thought to understand all of the terms, perform pretty simple mathematical story problems, and pull it all together.

My brother is my sponsoring broker. He is excellent at his job and has weathered the tough market due to his excellent reputation and customer service.

……………

We had some friends over for dinner tonight and their two children. Something my friend said a couple of times about seeing two people she knows always “rushing around” has prompted me to write.

I am guilty of this. I’m constantly thinking about what I need to do next, almost to (or just above) the level of compulsivity. This makes me extremely productive, but sometimes I wonder if that fury is fueled by negative energy.  When I’m not being productive, I often get stuck in feelings of anger, disappointment, exasperation and guilt.  It’s only when I return to my normative frenzied state, that I can take a break from those toxic feelings.

Some might say I should address the cause of the toxic feelings and correct them. I don’t think the feelings will ever go away, because to some extent they are based in reality, or at least my perception of reality. What I do have control over is how I respond to those feelings.

The frenzy is the easiest way to escape emotions, but it’s not the healthiest, and it takes a toll.

The best weapon is to pause.
 
Really Pause.

Pause to have nice friends over for dinner, but not being compelled to cook a four course dinner for them. (I made soup, chicken and veggies, they brought the starch and dessert).

Pause to make a cake this week. I never bake.

Pause to catch up on the phone with a few friends.

Pause to write an old friend a verbose email.

Pause to write a blog post.

Pause to call my brother to give up my real estate license. I had until April 30 to become a broker, as Illinois is removing the salesperson designation. The transition called for many hours of continuing education (which I had decided to do online).  I finished 75 percent of it, (the class was actually quite interesting) but to complete the final 25 percent was going to take gargantuan will on my part, and in the end I just didn’t have the time.

I felt bad for a while (I’ve had a year to complete it) that I wasn’t prioritizing it. But between work, exercise, a Hebrew class, and getting married in Israel and having a reception in Indiana, and writing thank you notes, it just wasn’t going to happen.

You may ask why I had a real estate license in the first place. Part of it in the beginning was to help my brother out, make a little money, and also due to the encouragement of my dad,also a realtor, that it could be my back up plan.  My dad really wanted me to complete the course.

 My brother was really nice about it when I called him. It was a little bittersweet.

……………..

So without thinking about it too much, I hope to include many more pauses in my life that will help me not to be as focused on yesterday and tomorrow. I don’t have a plan (because I plan too much as it is), but it has to be my priority.

Because I believe living a life consumed by what’s next and resonating hurt is no way to live at all.

On Thursday, Rabbi Wolpe who I follow on Facebook posted this on his page which has really resonating with me:

"To pray is to pay attention to something or someone other than oneself. Whenever a man so concentrates his attention -- on a landscape, a poem, a geometrical problem, an idol, or the True God -- that he completely forgets his own ego and desires, he is praying. Choice of attention -- to pay attention to this and ignore that -- is to the inner life what choice of action is to the outer."
W.H. Auden

I hope this weekend and week that you will have the inspiration to pause, and I hope that I do too.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Key Lime Pie for Brain


I remember someone once explained to me the concept of non profit financial allocations and how sometimes a great idea wasn’t funded because it would mean something else would have to be decreased or cut.

He said, “The pie doesn’t grow any bigger, you just have to cut more slices.”

At this point in my life, just this month or so, I feel like I need a few more pies, to stop eating pie, or to throw the pie in a clown’s face.

But let’s say I’m the pie, I just feel right now that I keep slicing myself into smaller and smaller pieces, almost to the point of them being minuscule so that no one wants a taste anyways, but I want them to still have it.

What is bogging me down is so dumb, so unimportant in the scheme of the universe, it’s almost embarrassing, especially because I don’t have kids.

Twelve lovely women are throwing me a shower for my recent wedding. I put off buying a dress for this shower until Monday. Finally, I did it. Why do I hate shopping so much? That’s for another blog post. But I have the dress, now, I still need shoes and the right kind of bra. In addition, I need to buy them “hostess gifts.” To my parents’ huge annoyance, I haven’t done this yet. I plan to go to this cute store right by my condo on Friday after work.  But what if I run out of time? What if I show up to the shower with no gifts, braless,and  in flip flops?

I have some thank you notes to write that after Saturday will become 40+ thank you notes. I never wrote thank you notes for my bachelorette party (thank you notes and a penis cake just seem weird). And I didn’t write thank you notes to my the gift givers at my Israel wedding because my husband said that isn’t customary. But I’m worried he’s wrong or that I was wrong not to write thank you notes for the bachelorette party.

And then there’s the wedding reception on May 20. I need something to wear to that. I don’t want to shop. I hate shopping, but I need something really nice.

The next thing bothering me is I am supposed to renew my real estate license by taking a course and a test. I have until April 30. I have taken half of the course, but I need to finish the rest. Then I need to take a test. I have 11 days now to complete. They gave us a year to complete it. I’m down to 11 days. Part of my lackluster attitude is I don’t practice real estate. My brother is a broker and way, way back in the day I would help him once in a while. But I think the last time I did anything useful for his business was 6 years ago. So it’s hard to motivate, but I feel bad about not doing it. Especially because it’s not hard, just time consuming.

Then there’s my second bedroom in my condo. I want to get rid of all my books. I have a mini library. The room is starting to smell like a library because of them. But I can’t do it. I’m stuck. One reason is because I just love the books, the other is I don’t really know what to do with them or how to pack them up or whatever.

I need to organize my kitchen, but I can’t do it. I’m stuck.

I haven’t been a very good friend to anyone lately. But I don’t even know how to right now.

And then there’s work. I feel very stressed out. But it’s hard to tell what is self imposed and what is actual.

And then there’s some legitimate stuff as well in my family that is causing me concern.

And some Visa issues (8 months from now! HaHa) that need to be worked out for my husband.

And what about the dentist? When am I due for a cleaning?

And how will I ever be able to manage having kids if my brain is going like this every day!

To avoid it all, I’ve joined a fancy gym. I work out almost every day. Today I watched the Real Housewives of Atlanta Part 1 Season Finale. I burned 500 calories (allegedly, who knows if those machines are correct) and was thoroughly entertained. But when I got off the machine, I just felt guilty because of all the other stuff I need to get done.

My husband is great. He sees me spinning my wheels and tries to put the brakes on. Despite his valiant efforts, he’s snoring and I’m awake at 2:35 a.m.

On his computer. Because mine died tonight. When the hell will I fix that?

I know people have much, much more significant problems and challenges in their lives. And I try, try to think about that when overwhelmed by what I’m overwhelmed by. But, it doesn’t really work.

And I just think about my tiny pie pieces.