44

 

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Via Getty images

Today I am 44, a palindromic event that happens only once every 11 years.

I need to remind myself that growing older is a privilege denied to many, but dang, 44 really seems on the wrong side of youth.

Time to step up my skin care game.

It’s funny how much things have changed in the past year. I left a job that I thought I would have forever and I survived that quite nicely. I’m living more authentically than ever, even though that involves some temporary hardship as I live apart from Spouse and my kiddos until the end of the school year. My new job is even better than I imagined, though, and I’m just getting started.

Here’s an anecdote to illustrate the profound difference:

Last week I had to stop by the bank to deposit a check. I’d renewed my medical license and paid dues to several medical organizations, and my new employer cut me a reimbursement check, made out to me with “Dr.” in front of my name.

I had to wait in line several minutes at the bank and chatted with a few people around me. The old me would have been irritated with the wait and I probably would not have engaged with fellow patrons. The new me is not angry and talks to strangers.

When it was my turn, the bank teller immediately commented that we have the same birthday (And Happy Birthday to you, Lakeisha, if you are reading this!)

We joked a bit about how I was probably two decades older and then she looked at the check and said – with surprise – “Are you a doctor?”

I affirmed and she asked me what kind.

I said OBGYN.

She said that she always wanted to be an OBGYN.

I told her she should go for it.

We bantered a bit and she said that someone close to her needed fertility treatment.

I told her that, in fact, infertility was my speciality, she asked me several more questions and then requested four of my cards to give to people she knew. She effusively thanked me.

In the end, we both wished each other Happy Birthdays and left as friends.

As I drove away, I was smiling and thinking about the encounter. I asked myself how I was feeling and the answer came immediately: happy.

It almost brought me to tears.

On one hand, I was saddened that I didn’t recognize happiness during an ordinary day such that I had to question the strange emotion I was experiencing. 

On the other, I realized how far I’d come from my old situation.

I wouldn’t have stopped to ask myself anything. I definitely would have been annoyed by the wait. Frankly, I wouldn’t have been in the bank in the first place because I would have been too busy during the day to go there. The check would have eventually been lost in a pile of papers on my desk and I would have been out of luck.

Again: things have changed.

I had dinner last night with a former colleague and one of my best friends. I shared this anecdote with him and said that the biggest difference now is that I feel like I live so much more of my life as the best version of myself. I smile more. I engage. I am open to people. I laugh all the time. I am always, authentically me.

It took 44 years to get here and I’m still a work in progress, but it feels good.

I’m still making skin care a top priority for 2017, though.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hotel Living – Part 2

Last week I published thoughts on hotel living, but there’s still a lot to say.

I’m in a hotel as I type. Again.

So far, packing hasn’t been too difficult. I’ve been using this medium rolling duffel from eBags and I re-pack it every week.

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During the week I place dirty laundry into a plastic drawstring bag (hotel closets almost always have one in them for laundry) and when I am home on the weekends, I wash and re-pack some staples like workout wear, pajamas, etc.

I plan the upcoming week’s outfits while I do laundry. I plan these one at a time to the last detail, including jewelry and other accessories so that I don’t forget to pack anything. I’ve been using strategies on capsule wardrobe building from the excellent website Travel Fashion Girl. I try to limit my outfits to two different bottoms (this week it’s boring but versatile gray and black slim “Sloan” ankle pants from Banana Republic) and re-wear one top each week. This week I also packed one black blazer and will wear that twice, once with each pair of pants but a different top. In the end, I usually need 2 bottoms, 3-4 tops, 1 blazer or cardigan, and one extra sweater to keep warm. The capsule strategy works well because I work at one clinic four days of the week and the other one just once, so there aren’t many people who could tell I was recycling an outfit if I choose to do this. Packing with a capsule wardrobe has been a fun experiment, and I’ve discovered that I typically need much less than I think.

For shoes, I’m really coming around to the philosophy that boots are all you need. I typically bring two pairs of boots, wearing one and packing one. The styles rotate between my new pointy toed Steve Maddens, Chelsea boots (most versatile), and old pair of knee-length Born boots or my beloved Rag and Bone Newbury boots. An extra pair of running shoes also live in my bag, but these only see the gym.

I’ve been using this Hudson and Bleecker bag for toiletries, and I keep it stocked and packed at all times. I’d read about these bags on other blogs but the price – $88 – kept me away. I finally broke down and ordered one early last year, and I’ve been very impressed. The zippered outer bag opens wide to reveal two clear bags that snap into place. These can be removed and used separately, or the bag can be used on its own without the plastic liners. There is also a zippered pouch in the middle that is good for holding small essentials like a tweezer, nail clippers, etc. You can fit an incredible amount of stuff in here, even for a product junkie like me.

I have a massive supply of previously pilfered hotel toiletries and cosmetic samples, and so far I haven’t had to invest much in anything new. If something runs low, I write a list during the week and dip into my stash to re-strock the bag on the weekend.

I already had an extra set of makeup that I used to keep in my gym bag. Now I bring it with me. Everything fits into a small Kate Spade bag:

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The small square Bobbi Brown palette contains corrector, concealer, foundation and powder, all in one tiny (probably 3″ x 3″), compact. It’s perfect for travel. I bring one champagne eyeshadow and a bronze-y eyeshadow stick, both again from Bobbi Brown. Rounding the kit out are tinted moisturizer, a small cream blush from Beauty Counter and a powdered blush/bronzer combo from Bare Minerals.

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Image via QVC

The brushes I use are also all travel sized. I especially love the mini blush brush from Bare Minerals. This was from a set that I ordered from QVC (I know) once when I was sucked into their programming on a Saturday afternoon.

Working out hasn’t been difficult. Everywhere I’ve stayed so far has a reasonable gym, usually with treadmills and free weights, plus extras like Bosu balls, resistance bands, etc. There is no excuse to not work out, so I do. I’ve recently become obsessed with the Netflix show “Broadchurch” and told myself I could watch it as much as I want if I watched it only while exercising. At least for me, this is a great strategy to get in an extra 15 – or 45 – minutes on the treadmill. 

Eating has been more difficult. I am really trying not to eat in restaurants whenever possible, both to save money and calories. I really can’t afford to overindulge on a daily basis, but without cooking facilities at my disposal, it’s been a challenge. During the day, I have access to a breakroom kitchen at work, so I typically stock up on yogurt, fruit, string cheese, etc, for breakfasts and lunches. I brought a shaker bottle and protein shake mix, too, so this has been an easy meal or snack many times. For dinner I will often stop at a grocery store (Whole Foods or another local chain that is similar) and get a salad, sushi roll or something healthy. The main issue for me is knowing the nutritional value so that I don’t accidentally eat more than I planned. So far, I’ve also successfully avoided room service altogether. This is a major win, since indulging in room service in my PJs was something I loved to do when I traveled for my former job. Besides the generous per diem food allowance at my old job, the big difference with that was that work-related travel was a spontaneous – not constant – thing.

Since the weather’s cold here, I also pack my winter accessories well. I’ll mix up the scarves I bring (this week it’s a fuchsia cashmere one from J. Crew) and I also try to bring a bag that is versatile enough for work and social events.

The bag is a bright orange Prada tote. I love it, especially against a black coat in winter. It’s big enough to fit my laptop, too.

There are a few things I discovered were valuable items to keep with me at all times:

  • Warm, thick, fuzzy socks to keep my feet warm and clean in the hotel
  • A thin cardigan to wear in the (often chilly) hotel room
  • Tweezers
  • Nail Clippers
  • Wine opener (not that I’ve been drinking a lot of solo wine, it’s just an item that when you need it and don’t have it, you’re out of luck)
  • Extra contacts and a spare pair of glasses
  • Chargers for electronics
  • Dry shampoo (my life staple)
  • A bottle of vitamins. This is easier than packing a small container every week.

While I don’t plan to live in a hotel for much longer, it’s been an interesting time. I’ve tried to use it wisely, including exercising regularly and using down-time at night to do things I previously skipped like skin care masks, etc. This is mostly making lemonade out of the situation, because the reality is also that I miss my kids, Spouse, kitchen and warm bed tremendously. 

I’m looking forward to when we get this move completed and start our new life here together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Updates and Reviews on Things I Bought

I mentioned last week that I broke down and bought the red plaid J. Crew Chateau parka that I’d been pining for since November.

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It looks like it’s now sold out online at J. Crew, but I’ve discovered in the past that with diligent checking, many “sold out” items come briefly back in stock, so it may be worth your time to check back over the next few months if you’ve got your eye on this.

In the meantime, it’s still available at Nordstrom (via their J. Crew collab), but as I pointed out last week, you’re not going to get as good of a deal. At least not now.

However, this J. Crew Factory coat in “Electric Red” seems to be a very good substitute, especially at $150 even without any of their near-ubiquitous discounts (currently 25%, so you could get this coat for less than $115).

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I’ve only worn my Chateau Parka a few times, especially since it was so brutally cold in the beginning of January that I had to buy a much warmer coat than this. Survival, y’all.

Last week the temps climbed for a moment to the mid-30s, and it was time for the Chateau Parka to come out.

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I am so terrible at taking photos for this blog. Sigh.

For reference, I am 5’9″ and usually wear a size 8 or 10. I bought this coat in a 10 to have enough room for winter layers underneath.

The cut is slightly A-line, so the midsection and bottom are pretty loose, but not quite a swing shape.

The upper arms, however, are weirdly tight. The overall fit is still fine, but for the relative looseness of the bottom half I was surprised by the cut of the upper arms.

I didn’t capture an image, but the snaps and zipper are gold. The zipper pull is oversized and chunky.  The lining is a satin-y cream colored material, and the faux fur collar is pure fun. 

Final thoughts: This is probably not going to be an every day coat, but it’s a cheerful option for late winter when the temps warm up a bit and for days when a pop of color is in order.

I also recently received these Steve Madden “Nari” boots for the outrageous price of $45.

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Here they are:

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See my comment above about terrible photography.

I am not sure why my pants look so bunchy in that picture. They really weren’t, I swear. There is also a stuffed unicorn sitting next to a stuffed bunny on the sofa in the background.

I bought these boots in a 9. I’d say that my real shoe size is about an 8.75, which of course does not exist. 

Sometimes if I gamble and buy a pair of pumps or sandals in a 9, they’re too big and I walk out of them.

Boots are usually a safe bet to size up in, though, since they’re often paired with thick socks. Add the pointy toe effect of having less room in the toe box and the bigger size seems correct.

Even in a 9, though, these boots were tight, both in the toe and the heel. I still kept them, although I wore them with two layers of thick socks for a few hours to stretch them a bit. It kind of worked. They’d be ok for going out to dinner or wearing for about half a day of work, but they’re not comfortable enough for travel or all-day walking.

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One more thing: these look like $45 boots. The original price was $150, which is still cheap for boots, but these look and seem inexpensive. Still, the style is edgier than what I normally wear, so I’m ok with these being a trend item and not a wardrobe classic. Especially for $45. 

The last thing I bought recently is this printed tee from Elizabeth & Clarke:

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Elizabeth & Clarke is a subscription box service for shirts. They release three designs per season and subscribers can sign up to receive one, two or three shirts.

I was intrigued when I heard about this brand and signed up a year and a half ago. After about three boxes, I wasn’t feeling it and cancelled.

This printed tee was from the Winter 2016 collection. I saw it on several blogs and immediately regretted cancelling my subscription. There is something about the trompe l’oiel chandelier-style design that made me fall in love.

I also received an email inviting me back to Elizabeth & Clarke last month, with the further notice that all shirts will now be made with unstainable technology (which needs to be in my life) and that there would be a price increase on all subscriptions, but former subscribers could be grandfathered (grandmothered?) in with a discount. Ok, sold.

I was too late for winter but picked two shirts for spring. I haven’t received them yet but will review once they come. I also already picked out summer, which feels tremendously far away. Shirts from past seasons are available to purchase if they are available, so I sent an inquiry about this top. It was still in stock and I could have it for $40, which I thought was worth it.

The fabric is a nicer cotton than your standard long sleeve tee, and the print really sets it apart from almost anything else in my wardrobe. I ordered an 8 and the fit is perfect. I think this could be dressed up enough for work with a skirt, but it’s probably better suited for the weekend or going somewhere like an upscale quick casual restaurant. It’s not quite Going Out material, but it’s not Running Errands attire, either.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twin Cities Women’s March

After a bit of hemming and hawing, I decided that the Women’s March was so important that we needed to attend.

My mental Pro/Con List looked something like this:

Pros:

  1. This is an incredibly important, once-in-a-lifetime event
  2. As an OBGYN, I am all-in for equal rights and women’s rights, especially reproductive freedom
  3. I am a feminist
  4. As parents, both Spouse and I thought this was a tremendous opportunity for the kids to see activism in action
  5. I could go on with about 100 more points like this…

Cons:

  1. I’d already driven the 200+ mile round trip between our current city and the Twin Cities twice this week. With my new job I’ve been staying in a hotel from Monday to Friday, but this week I had an early morning dentist appointment on Friday and drove home Thursday night after work (in terrible fog and icy rain) and then did the whole round trip Friday. Going to the March meant I had to do it again on Saturday, too. In the best case scenario, I hate driving. In this case, I really detested the nail-biting road conditions.
  2. I thought that parking and the crowds might be a hassle
  3. While I believed that things would be peaceful, I had a tiny worry that some nut job might do something crazy and I didn’t want to put my kids in danger
  4. The real reason: I hate being even *slightly* physically uncomfortable in the cold. My temperature comfort zone ranges from approximately 70-73 degrees Fahrenheit, and this March was taking place in January in Minnesota.

Even in my head, I knew the Con List was totally lame and the right thing to do was to go. Sometimes I grumble about things, but in the end I almost always Do The Right Thing, and the March was something we could not miss.

MGM (9) and I set off on Saturday morning. [Trixie (7) had a birthday party to attend and Spouse brought her later in the morning. MGM and I never saw them, but we knew they were there].

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Proof

The temps were in the mid 30s and there were periods of rain on our drive to the March. We had zero issues with travel and parked without a problem in the parking garage of the Minnesota Science Museum, which was about a half mile from the organizing point for the March. We joined the crowds walking to the starting point. The mood was upbeat. People were incredibly friendly. It felt great.

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Shortly after we got to the organizing point, I got a call from my friend and work partner, P., who had arrived with her daughter. We met them and then the March started. The crowd was estimated to be more than 60,000 people.

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There were so many witty signs along the way. This was MGM’s favorite:

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Pizza rolls, not gender rolls.

This one is even harder to see, but I loved it:

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You can’t comb over misogyny.

One speaker I was excited to hear at the rally was Ilhan Omar, the first Somali-American lawmaker in the United States.  She was elected in November to the State Congress. She received huge applause and was very inspiring.

The funniest thing I saw all day was a dog wearing a Donald Trump wig. I wish I would have taken a picture of it because it was so hilarious. This is NOT the dog, but I googled this and found an entire costume from My Best Friend Boutique:

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Remarkably, the rain held off during the rally and with temps in the mid-30s but appropriate winter gear, I was never cold. Not even a bit.

In the end, I couldn’t have imagined Not Going. The spirit, camaraderie and energy were incredible. I was lucky to be a part of this. I think my 60,000 new friends would all agree it Felt Important.

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After we left the rally, we had lunch and I told MGM we could go to the Science Museum if he wanted. He did. This was a bit of quid pro quo on my part, since the March wasn’t his top idea for a Saturday.

They had an interesting exhibit about medical quackery. This is a “brain tester” from the 1920s:

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MGM and I also did an experiment to extract DNA from wheat germ. This took about 20 minutes to complete.

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The last step was a show-stopper: DNA floated through a layer of alcohol to form a swirly cloud in a test tube. We were both impressed.

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We drove home without incident, cooked a meal together as a family and called it a night.

It was a successful Saturday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nordstrom Sale Rack

Act fast! Nordstrom has some killer deals right now.

Like this Rebecca Minkoff tasseled camera bag, which is now reduced from $245 to $147, a whopping 40% off.

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Another Rebecca Minkoff: this mini feed bag is also 40% off ($195 to $117). I love the red color and the gold hardware.

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My Friend/Work Partner P. was wearing a camel colored mini poncho earlier this week and it looked adorable when paired with a plain cream top, camel faux suede leggings and brown riding boots. You could get a similar effect with extending this infinity scarf over your shoulders. The best part is that this is only $12 right now.

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Wow! This is quite a find: a Clare V. tote on mega sale, from $495 to $297. I didn’t even know Nordstrom carried this cult brand.

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This MAC mini makeup brush set is only $32, reduced from $53. It’s from a “Nutcracker” collection left over from the holidays, but who cares? Mini brushes are perfect for travel. I would snap this up in a second if I didn’t already have a million (figurative estimate) similar ones at home.

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Here’s a cute Madewell cowl neck sweater with a drawstring at the waist, at 30% off ($118 to $80):

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This Alice + Olivia colorblock sweater is remarkably similar to one I received from Stitch Fix in November. It’s a staggering 60% off: $275 to $110, but it’s currently only available in medium.

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Here’s a classy Trina Turk camel peacoat with an interesting cut, reduced from $495 to $300. I love the leather details.

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It’s not quite End of Season for winter gear (and frankly, I’ve probably got at least 3 more months of snow ahead of me, sigh), so while good deals are starting to show up on winter coats, they’ll still get better. Because winter fashion is an extended event here, I have a lot of coats. I would consider adding this Trina Turk number to the collection if it was $150, but I’m still not ready to spend $300 for another coat I don’t really need.

Speaking of coats, Nordstrom also recently collaborated with J. Crew, and there are several J. Crew coats (including this Chateau parka that I blogged about earlier) on sale at Nordstrom. The caveat? You can still get better deals at J. Crew. The Chateau parka was originally $378 and is now $284 at Nordstrom, however, I was able to snag it at J. Crew for $179. 

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One last fun pick from the Nordstrom sale. This Junk Food sweatshirt perfectly captures my thoughts:

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Happy Weekend Shopping, Friends!

 

 

 

Hotel Living – Part 1

With my recent job change, I’m still figuring things out.

Like where to live.

The new job is about 100 miles away from the old job, but it’s not commutable. 

Ok, technically, it is physically possible but with weekend call, early morning procedures and the wintery weather – and accompanying icy roads – it doesn’t make sense to drive back and forth each day.

The original (and still current) plan was for me to stay near my job during the week and come home on the weekends. A month into the process, this is working out ok. Not perfect, but ok enough.

I used to love to travel for my old job, typically to medical conferences in nice (read: warm in the winter) places. I loved staying in luxury hotels, decadently ordering room service when it was on the company dime or indulging at local restaurants.

Things are different now.

Without an expense account, I have suddenly found myself becoming much more frugal, especially with where I’m staying. I’m still loyal to Starwood Hotel brands, but I had to swap the W for the Four Points Sheraton. I’m scouring the Starwood Preferred Guest app for upcoming deals and taking advantage of them. Even though there are several Starwood Hotels in the metro area where I’m staying, usually the Four Points Sheraton is the cheapest and most convenient to my new primary office. I’ll mix it up, though: last Sunday night I found a great deal at the Westin – closer to work and much nicer – so I booked one night there.

The upshot: I’m getting a lot of Starwood Hotel points.

Starwood recently merged with Marriott, so it isn’t clear where this will end up, but currently Starwood has a Lifetime Gold program. This requires five years of Gold status and 250 total nights of eligible stays, although they don’t have to be within that five-year frame.

Through savvy hotel swapping and work-related travel, I was able to achieve Gold status for the past six years. Gold requires 10 independent stays or 25 nights in a calendar year. Platinum is much steeper: 25 individual stays or 50 nights. Platinum also comes with some incredible perks, including automatic upgrades to the best available room at check-in. Hello, Presidential Suite!

Previously, though, while achieving Gold was possible with some effort, Platinum was always out of reach. 

But it might not be this year.

If I’m doing my math right, I will make Platinum by May, which means I will be Platinum for about half of 2017 and all of 2018. Status earned during one calendar year is good for the next calendar year (since many people probably don’t reach the required number of stays/nights until late in the year), but it kicks in immediately for the current year once you hit it.

By June, I think I will also reach the 250 nights total (this is spread out over about 8 years) to make Lifetime Gold. I came into the year with 188 nights.

Also by June, I am hopeful that Spouse and the kids will be able to move here (we’re waiting for the school year to end), and all of this hotel living will be over.

Since I like getting something extra wherever I can, though, I am making lemonade out of this situation and dreaming about free hotel stays and suite upgrades for family vacations in 2018.

Next up: suitcase living, hotel hacks and dietary considerations