Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude. – A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
2015 We began the year surrounded by cartons, all of our worldly belongings, once again, wrapped in paper and fitted like so many puzzle pieces into brown packing boxes awaiting, once again, a moving van to shift the mountains from one home to another, seeing out the old and seeing in the new. We finalized our project, made deals, secured a loan, signed papers, and at the end of January moved, lock, stock, and barrel, into the Hôtel Diderot. One week later, the first day of February, we unlocked the front door and saw in our first clients, the start of a new profession and a new life. I had no idea what I was walking into.
2015 was nothing short of tumultuous, a year of surprises. My husband and I bought a hotel and embraced – tackled – a new profession. 16-hour workdays, 7-day work weeks, a staff of 5 to get to know and learn to work with (and accustom them to our ways, our humors, our work habits and rhythm), an exhausting, exhilarating, insane new life. Our diet went haywire, our dog went blind, our apartment is a disaster area, my mother was put into an assisted-living facility and I made the difficult trip back to Florida to help clean out my childhood home so that it can be sold. I started a new Life’s a Feast, started from zero, to slowly, carefully build back up a readership, oftentimes frustrating, mostly joyful, a readership curious to see the inside of my life in a hotel (much less glamorous than Eloise). I haven’t had the head to do much writing, but I took the time to put together my first book proposal.
2015 was passionate, chaotic, draining, stressful, intoxicating, breathtaking. An emotional rollercoaster. I was proud of my ability to take on this hotel adventure, a colossal new challenge, and succeed. Working alongside my husband, working full time, managing a team, making important decisions is all rather new to me, yet I was able to take in stride and with laughter. It was the year that I saw what I was capable of doing, the physical endeavors, the drudgery, the sweat and toil. Our marriage was put to the test and we made it through our first crazy year as co-owners, co-managers of a thriving business. My announcement of our purchase of the Hôtel Diderot elicted oooohs and ahhhhhs and oh, you are living the dream! Friends imagined elegant afternoons casually strolling among the guests, lingering on the terrace, chilled glass of wine in my hand, chatting amiably. This does indeed happen, and it is what makes the work utterly worthwhile.
What took me by surprise, and what many don’t see, were the sore and swollen feet and legs, the hours of hands plunged into dishwater, heaving unwieldy trays of plates, cups, saucers, silverware into and out of the steaming dishwashing machine, afternoons spent folding mountains of towels, loading and unloading groceries, plants, buckets of earth, and heaps of trash in and out of the car, the utter exhaustion. The stressful juggling of guests in an overcrowded breakfast room. The sweltering summer afternoons spent sweating over giant vats of boiling jam. Thinking, fearing that it would never end and often wishing, on the verge of tears, that it would.
2015 was a down year for writing. After the last couple of years in which I built up an honorable portfolio and had pieces published in prestigious magazines and websites, this year I just wasn’t able to concentrate on, nor devote time for my writing and I was sorely disappointed in myself, often berating myself for being lazy and unfocused. I have often thought of quitting writing, just focusing on the hotel, putting myself into it and my family and myself (my health and sanity) 100%. Yet…. What would I be without my writing? And I think I would let people down, my friends, my agent, the friends I work with and teach. But mostly I know that without my writing I would be unfulfilled, a black hole in my soul. I complained, I whined, I bitched, I punished myself. I turned once and again to my friends for advice, support, an ear, inspiration. A good slap in the head. And I always found what I needed.
And… thanks to some wonderful friends and colleagues – Sean, Sara, and Faith, I began getting back into the swing of things, being published on About.com, Paste Magazine, and the kitchn. And I actually had an essay republished in a college writing textbook. Honor. Ilva and I held our first Plated Stories Workshop in Chinon at the hotel with a marvelous, talented, fun group of women and it was inspiring and successful. I have created a working relationship with the folks at FABLife tv and I have a great and inspiring agent. I have an abundance of ideas and sources for stories and articles, many started, and simply have to settle down and write.
My personal life was in turmoil, so much to handle at once. My sons are far away, one moving to Senegal, the other off in the north of Sweden, communicating with both via laptop and video. My mother, her health, her morale, her memory fading, was moved to an assisted-living facility, a scare so many of us have experienced. And then the desperate cleaning out of a childhood home and the pain of loss that engenders.
The ups and downs of 2015, the ups and downs of my life.
All this to say thank you. I am filled with gratitude for each and every one of you, friends all, who have stuck with me throughout this year, through thick and thin. You have kept me going, inspired me, made me laugh, filled my head with ideas. I thank you for your support and encouragement, your cheering and your advice. Your visits to my blog (your thoughtful comments and your generous shares) have been immensely appreciated, your presence an important part of my life. I truly couldn’t have done it without you.
Together we will face 2016 and all of the joy and turmoil and adventure and life that it may bring.