Friday, January 30, 2015

The Gambia

You are on your way're in command.  Three day.

I tried to convince you to let this one pass you by, that going on a two-week mission to Western Africa, was something someone else could do.

But, while patient with me, you never wavered - I want to do this, this is no big deal, this is a great opportunity, an honor, there will be more of this, you said.

So off you go to the capital city, consulting and training, meeting with Gambia's Janet Yellen, representing an organization that's business it is to send its employees to distant places.

What have I packed for this trip while you're gone?

1.  Serenity prayer and my sustaining faith
2.  Others who love you
3.  Several bottles of red
4.  Season 3 of Homeland
5.  WiFi- hope you write, or post, or tweet

"You live inside your parents' lives until, one day, they live inside yours."

~ Donia Bijan, Maman's Homesick Pie: A Persian Heart in an American Kitchen

Monday, January 19, 2015

Goodbye, good time Florida!

Today we visited Siesta Key Beach - unanimously voted by travel experts as the #1 beach in the USA - I'd agree!  Powder sugar sand, miles of green blue sea accompanied by wide, clean beaches. Yes, a bit sleepy - just the way we like it.  If you need a slurpee, you can't get one at Siesta Key - but if you need some zen - it's there.  Later, we drove the neighborhoods of Sarasota and Bradenton, eventually finding our way to St. Pete's Beach - also very cool for walking, although more ground up shells to dodge (and even a bit more remote, taking more effort to visit - more tolls, but scenic, fabulous bridges).   A bagpipe musician was playing and I captured his music -  touching!  Hands down - Siesta Key is our favorite!

I wasn't thrilled about our plan to vacation in seemed so ordinary when we were planning our trip.  I knew I'd enjoy the getaway, but I underestimated how beautiful and serene the natural landscape is, how exotic the wildlife is, how much (in other, less obvious ways) it reminds me of the Midwest.  Our peers live there, to be sure.  We talked with lots of people just like us - their hearts belong to loved ones elsewhere but the calm, easygoing life in sunny southern Florida is compelling to all of us, we agreed.

Tomorrow?  Cedar Rapids!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Sanibel and Captiva Islands, and Fort Myers Beach

Sky is pretty every night, Shawn says, because the water reflects the light...something that doesn't happen back home...we had another great day, hopping from beach, to beach, to beach.   There are a lot of snow birds here and we know why.   We like the similarities we find, but also delight in the differences.  They use seashells in place of peet gravel for lots of landscaping chores, the wildlife is different - but the really important part?  Prices for food and drink are nearly the same Iowa.  We love you, Florida!

Santibel Island - beautiful island with a busy two-lane road the only option (next time we'll rent bikes).  If you ever need to work out anything in your life, take a cold beverage to Bowman's Beach - beautiful white sands with few people and zero's kinda just you and the Gulf.

Captiva Island - like Sanibel, and a great place for shelling, if you are into that.  Quaint shops.

Fort Myers Beach - populated, murky water, cheap beers, great stretch of flat walking on clean, white sands.
Our footprints
Times Square dive - Fort Myers beach

Saturday, January 17, 2015


How do I like one of the wealthiest cities in the USA?  Let's just say we aren't talking to any realtors here.  I'm not sure I'll help the economy much, but I'll do my touristy best.

I actually love Naples!   We started at the Naples Public Beach, walked north to Lowdermilk Beach, turned around, walked back and ended up at Old Naples Pub (love the Naples Beach Brew).  Then, we jumped in the car and went to Vanderbilt Beach for the afternoon.  After several hours of walking, we grabbed a pizza, some brews and wines at the Beach Box Cafe about 1/2 block from the beach's entrance, and headed back to the beach for sunset!  We walked nearly 14 miles today...and tomorrow?  We are heading to the islands...
Naples Pier
Dolphin siting!
Old Naples Pub
Beachbox - Grab 'n Go (to see the sunset)
Outdoor dining - watching the sunset

Friday, January 16, 2015

South Beach, Everglades, Marco Island

Sunset - Marco Island with a Florida Avenue IPA

Look closely in the middle of the pic - that's an alligator folks!
We loved our time in Miami.  When we woke, we immediately headed for South Beach - I've tried the SoBe diet but there's something much healthier going on around there.  Tons of nightclubs, restaurants, hotels and shops.  Everyone was super chill - no sirens, no thugs, no aggressive street sales pitches.  Beautiful sand beaches (best I've walked?) with fine white sands and no shells...public restrooms, free, clean, and ubiquitous.  We walked the 40-block Miami Boardwalk and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Southern Everglades - Tropical wetlands in southern Florida...we saw a lot of offers for airboating...we saw aqifiers, exotic ecosystems, mangrove trees, and - really cool - alligators on the swamp banks (so prevalent, like squirrels in Iowa).

Marco Island - let's's a coastal island in the Gulf of Mexico in southwest Florida.  Amazing wide white sand beaches.   Gulf-side sunsets.   Lots of peers.  Paradise-like.
Dirty Banana - at Quinn's, Marriott, Marco Island
Crab/Lobster Fish Tacos at Quinn's
Marco Island love

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Welcome to Miami (bienvenido a Miami)

I've been wanting to visit Miami, the cruise capital, since well before Will Smith's 1997 hit.

The Jackie Gleason Show was a staple I enjoyed as a kid; I remember hearing about exotic Miami Beach and have wanted to visit ever since!  I know about it's reputation (bad things, yes) but also it's listing as the country's cleanest city.  It's apparently one of the richest cities, too, in terms of its purchasing power...there are many international banks and companies.  The Magic City awaits!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Downtime: Scheduled.

I'm scheduling my downtime just as seriously as I've planned my next dental appointment.  If I just wait and hope I can decompress on the fly, well that's what happens - I never really unplug, refocus, reflect, connect.

I'll probably return to 400 work emails, but I will be returning with a renewed productivity that I can only get, I've told myself, by going to southern Florida for a few days. 
New favorite beer:  Florida Lager

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


We splurged on new flips for Florida...and due to plantar fasciitis and a big urging from our doctor/friend Liz, we settled on Chacos.

Love them already!  They have all the casual hip knock-aroundness of flip flops but with hidden support (they call it a LUVSEAT footbed)!  And in addition to comfort, the company is big on philanthropy.  I just love their advertisement:  Support your feet.  Support our world.

Now that is true comfort.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Quick Draw

We did it again!  Out of my comfort zone and through the snow...we the Knights annual blood draw in Fairfax.  And I always feel so good, albeit a bit weak, afterward.

Did you know?

A person with AB positive blood is known as a universal recipient (someone who can receive blood of any type), and someone with O negative blood is known as a universal donor. (a person who can give blood to recipients of any blood type). 

Whitney, the kind young woman who put up with my wisecracks:

Whitney:  Can I get you anything to drink?
Me:  Yes, how about a Vodka Tonic?

Whitney reminded me they get people like me all the time.  Don't forget, she said, we go to the high schools.

Up to four different products can be produced from each whole blood donation:  red blood cells, platelets, fresh frozen plasma and cryoprecipitate.

It's official -we're common and average.  Both Shawn and I have O+ blood - and enjoy popularity with the most common blood type (39% of the population).  Whitney, my personal phlebotomist, told me this profound thing:  Positives can get from negatives but not the other way.

Friday, January 9, 2015

One more thing on Smarts

When all reason dissipates and you have a sizzling situation that makes you feel like you just need to replace the emotional equivalent of a spark plug to get moving again, try asking yourself these three questions:

1) Can I fix this?

2)  Do I have to put up with this?

3)  Should I walk away?

There.  Now as quickly as possible, go outside and look up and really see the sky.

Thursday, January 8, 2015


I've been hearing a lot of GMAT and business school chatter and know with a certain conviction that I wouldn't score in the upper quartile of any quantitative testing...

But there's more to a happy life than high test scores.  I'll take my emotional intelligence any day, thank you - although, I wouldn't get a perfect score on that test, either.

They say that those who most need to work on developing their emotional intelligence (and this is learnable, people) are the very ones who don't realize it!  Their empathy and self-awareness scores are low.  A little study and a bit of instruction can kickstart your mark - and life's experiences can help, too, if you are paying attention at all.

Rethink your style if you notice anything familiar here:

     What you say:  "You don't have a clue!"
     What the listener hears:  "You're not smart enough to understand!"

     What you say:  "I don't know why you are making this a big deal!"
     What the listener hears:  "I don't care how you feel!"

You might decide, if you want to work on your EI (great NY Resolution, I'd say), to grab a hot drink and sit in quiet reflection, analyzing a recent interaction that went a bit sideways:  What did you intend to say?  What was the impact your words left on others?  How do you think your words (now that you are replaying this tape) made them feel?  And before you see those people again, think about the impression you want to make and the objective you want to reach next time. How do you want to be regarded afterwards?

My biggest challenge is remembering to press PAUSE in the middle of a frustrating discussion.  I'm not suggesting I should slip off the chair and fall under the table twirling my gnarly hair, although that can be tempting, it's just important to help others feel like you've understood them, and you can't do that if you are jumping in, lashing out, interrupting. 

I also need to remember to wear BOTH shoes...not just putting myself in the other's situation but also not dismissing my stuff in my sick pursuit of likeability.

Using these tools, I'm hoping for a better score, today, next week, next time.  I'm hoping with more practice, I can approach prickly topics with a chill confidence that allows everyone to feel like they win.  Smart, huh?