Thursday, May 24, 2012

Dos Equis - XX Years of Marriage

Cue the strings...

In the early 80s, he was the Western Hemisphere Boardsailing Champion. This was before I knew him, though I seem to recall sitting in my neighbor's house when I was about 11 years old hearing something about a windsurfer from Lighthouse Point on ABC's Wide World of Sports. Yup, that was Rob...

He only vacations near the oceanDon't even think about land-locking him.

He borrowed his sail number from the Devil himself. Put away your crucifixes...he needed a three-digit number that he could remember. OK, honestly, it scared the Hell out of me (pun intended) when I first found out his sail number was 666. I asked why on Earth he would pick that number. He told me that 111, 222, 333, 444, 555, 777, 888, and 999 were all taken, but 666 was available. (SHOCKER!) So, he took it.

He bravely wrangles wild animals out of his home. He once tried to lasso a baby opossum that had snuck into our house. I almost wet my pants watching the scene play out, I was laughing so hard.

Fashion sense and pride run screaming if fun is to be had. He has always dressed up for Halloween - even before we had kids...probably always will.

He is very handy around the houseHe has installed laminate flooring in both of our houses; installed high-hat lighting in my kitchen and living room (still have an extra hole in the ceiling whose patch job remains to be finished); built me a window seat for our bedroom; and built an awesome custom TV cabinet for our bedroom. He can also level pavers, replace car brake pads, and fix boat lifts (in his red wetsuit, no less - just ask our neighbors!) like it's nobody's business.

He bravely attempted to teach the "Chicken of the Sea" how to surfSadly, he was unsuccessful, I still can't surf, but he is a very patient man. 

He built a half-pipe (in our garage!) for his skateboarding son. Yes, he is a very cool dad. I can no longer park my car in the garage, but since that is "his domain" anyway, who am I to complain? He's also built a fun box, a grind rail and numerous ramps in our driveway. I'm sure our neighbors are thrilled to have a skate park in our 'hood. 

He wears his bright red USA long-john wetsuit with pride if the water is chilly. Even though it may be a couple of sizes too small and he refers to it as his "sausage suit."

He is a fabulous colorist. After years of spending a fortune having my hair highlighted professionally, I decided to let Rob (whose hair I have cut myself for years) have a go at it. I bought the products at Sally's and demonstrated  to Rob how Onell foiled my hair, then let him have at it. I now have an in-house colorist who is available as soon as dark roots and grays make their appearance. Even our almost-16-year-old trusts him to color her hair - that speaks volumes!

He has a soft spot in his heart for 150-lb lap dogs. And Golden Retrievers too!

He has put up with my goofy self for dos equis. That's XX, or 20  in Roman Numerals. Yep, TWO DECADES, and then some!

He is...the most interesting man in [my] world.

Cue the Latin guitar music...

May 23, 2012
XX Years of Marriage
On May 23, 2012, Rob and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. I have, in fact, been in a relationship with Rob for more than half of my life. We started dating when I was just a few weeks shy of 19 and he was 26 and we've been together ever since. People often comment that we are "perfect for each other." I have to agree. That does not, by any means, mean that we have always had a perfect life. We've had our share of struggles, but we've always been there for each other. I am eternally grateful for the life we have shared. We do not always agree with each other, but we can always work things out. He makes me smile. He makes me laugh. He is there with open ears when I need to vent and open arms when I need a hug. He is not only the most interesting man in my world, Rob is my world and I am so thankful for him. <3

Live Aloha my friends...

With Love and Aloha~Nancy

Monday, May 7, 2012

Things I Learned in Chicago

Chicago River View

Traveling to IRA 2012 for work was quite the experience, as detailed in my last blog post. Even though this trip seemed extremely short, and I was disappointed that I didn't get to see more of Chicago, I not only experienced many new things, I learned a lot too. Here are some examples: 

Gas may be expensive in Florida, but it's ridiculously expensive in Chicago. As Florida's prices are starting to drop below $4 a gallon (how scary is it that THAT sounds reasonable?), regular fuel in Chicago is still up over $4.50/gallon, with Premium very close to $5!

The Downtown area of Chicago is equipped with special tunnels for not only trains, but buses too. This made for a not-so-scenic ride to and from McCormick Place, but I imagine it saved a lot of time. Pretty cool idea.
One of many revolving doors.

When staying in a high-rise hotel on Michigan Avenue, opt for the "Michigan Avenue view" instead of the "City View". What was I thinking?

Texting while driving may be against the law, but apparently working on a laptop while driving is not (or so it seemed with my airport shuttle driver). Talk about scary!

There are more revolving doors in Downtown Chicago than I've ever seen in my life. Some of them are automatic, meaning you are not supposed to push them. Others are not, meaning you HAVE to push them if you want to go anywhere. That was kind of confusing.

One-room schoolhouses still exist in rural areas of the United States! I met three teachers (two from Montana and one from Wyoming) who teach at rural schools. There are about 12 students in the ENTIRE school, ranging from Kindergarten to 8th Grade. Very cool!

I really miss spring flowers! There were tulips planted everywhere along Michigan Avenue. The ones that were starting to wilt were being replaced with pansies. It was beautiful.

The architecture of buildings in Downtown Chicago is breathtaking. I can't imagine not only designing, but actually building them. I thought watching an addition being built on my house was cool! I would have loved to spend more time in the city to see even more amazing buildings.

Chicago (at least the "Magnificent Mile") is the cleanest city I've ever been in. There were guys pressure-washing the sidewalk every single morning.

Indoor pool at the Marriott
Standing among tall, tall buildings makes you feel very small and insignificant.

There are pools on rooftops and inside buildings in the city. That just blows my mind.

Walking along the Michigan Avenue bridge over the Chicago River is very unnerving when a bus drives by - the whole bridge shakes.

Having a shuttle bus stop right next to a sewer grate is just not cool. ;b

Live Blues at Buddy Guy's Legends
I couldn't walk "down by the river" without thinking of Matt Foley, motivational speaker.

Although I am partial to 80's music, I discovered that live Blues music is actually quite enjoyable.

Even though I couldn't understand the language our cabbie was speaking (most likely Hindi), I'm pretty sure he was calling the other drivers "Dumb asses."

If you ever have dinner at Mike Ditka's Steak House, keep in mind that the restrooms are up a pretty high staircase. Not good after a glass or two of wine.

Walgreens Sushi
They sell sushi at Walgreens in Downtown Chicago. Tip: You might want to add Pepto Bismol to your basket as well!

Security at Midway Airport is an absolute nightmare. There were literally hundreds of people waiting and the TSA agents were in NO hurry to move them through.

Lots of men dye their hair prior to traveling (I observed this during my long wait in the security line).

Gino's Chicago-Style Pizza
Chicago-style pizza takes a long time to bake, but it is DELICIOUS! Now, I finally understand what is meant by "pizza pie." 

Whatever line I happen to get in - that WILL BE the slowest line. (This is true everywhere, not just at Midway Airport security).

Three people can take a limo to the airport for the cost of a cab! Nice (but it would have been nicer if it didn't reek of cigarette smoke).

At the end of the trip, I have to say that I enjoyed Chicago far more than I ever expected. I would love to bring my kids there someday. Rob has "been there, done that." Just a few days before I headed for the Windy City, I learned that my former Northern-Hemisphere World Champion  Windsurfer husband was given the "Key to the Windy City" back in the early 80s. I just love it when his memory fires up and I learn new things about him! 

If you have a chance to visit, ChicaGO for it! ;)

Leaving Chi-Town in Style
With Love and Aloha ~ Nancy

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Rise of the Silver Stalker

Traveling to Chicago for the International Reading Association convention was quite an experience for me. So much happened on this trip and I learned many new things. As usual, there was no shortage of entertainment and/or drama.

A better way to fly.
My travel compadre, Bob was scheduled to fly to Chicago a day early to set up our booth for the show. Mind you, there is NEVER a trip with Bob that something doesn't go wrong (or, at least, amusingly off-kilter). First, his flight is delayed three hours because the plane had to be diverted to Indianapolis due to "mechanical problems." JUST what you want to hear when you are about to fly. Praying that he made it to Chicago in time to set up the booth, he boarded the "broken plane" three hours behind schedule.

About eight hours after leaving his house, Bob made it to McCormick Place in time to set up our booth. Unfortunately, when he got there, the booth, it was bare. The logistics company "misplaced" our entire shipment, including our displays, banners, projector, screen, literature, etc. INCLUDING the blue tube pictured to the left.

My flight from Fort Lauderdale to Chicago would be my first solo flight ever. At age 41, I had never flown without a companion of some sort. Little did I know that I would meet one at the airport who would essentially "stalk my whole entire life at McCormick Place" [Pauly D voice] for the next three days.

As I was sitting at the gate waiting to board the flight, I was checking my phone, when I heard someone say, "You must be going to IRA." I looked up to see a smiling man in his late 60s. I replied that I was, and asked how he knew. (I was kind of being a smart ass, seeing as I was wearing a VocabularySpellingCity shirt.) He responded that my shirt didn't say anything about Math. Oooooo Keeeee.

He didn't say anything else, so I went about my business. We boarded the plane and I prayed for a safe, uneventful flight. I had a good boarding position, so I chose a window seat in the second row. The two other seats in my row were quickly occupied. The man who sat in the middle seat automatically assumed that both armrests belonged to him and that he was entitled to a portion of my personal space. I noticed that the guy who sat in the first row (where there are no seatback pockets) must have requested a barf bag. Instead of one of of the little paper airsickness bags, the flight attendant brought him a large plastic garbage bag. Yeesh, we hadn't even left the ground, how sick was this guy? I said a little prayer of thankfulness that he hadn't chosen to sit next to me.

Is there a Doctor in the House?
Space Invader
Not 20 minutes into the flight, just after the captain turned off the fasten seat belt sign, I noticed an older man slowly making his way up the aisle (I assumed toward the restroom). The man was holding on to the seats as he walked, which I didn't find too unusual, until he stopped and started leaning forward. The flight attendant (who had provided Ralph with the garbage bag), stepped up to the man and asked if he needed help. She told him to hold on to her and she would help him to the restroom. He then collapsed on her. Uh-oh. A lady in the front row got up so they could sit the man down. He was barely responsive. So, the flight attendant gets on the intercom and asks if there is a doctor or a nurse on board. (Yes, sometimes that does really happen!) Fortunately, there WAS a nurse on board. After evaluating the man, she suggested that they try giving the man some orange juice. They did and he perked right up. He just had low blood sugar (thank the Lord!). Crisis averted. By the way, the nurse got a round of applause when the plane landed. :)

We made it to Chicago on time. As I was making my way to baggage claim, the man who had asked if I was going to IRA started walking and chatting with me. Now, I am not opposed to talking to strangers (unless they are REALLY strange). I firmly believe in the proverb, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." I try to be nice to people and hope that people will, in turn, be nice to me...karma and all that. The man tells me that he is a retired administrator who is giving a presentation at IRA. His presentation is the next day, so he's heading straight to his hotel instead of the convention center. Since my boss is always encouraging to make contacts, I thought that he might be an important person to get to know. He offered me his business card, and I gave him mine. Oh, how I would grow to regret that...

Braille Travel
I walked away from him at baggage claim, collected my luggage and proceeded on to the GO Airport Shuttle counter, where I had a reservation to go to McCormick Place. This was an experience in itself. As I waited my turn, I noticed that the agent was a middle-aged man with thick glasses and pretty severe strabismus. He reminded me of Widow Hen's son. I told him I had a reservation and handed him my confirmation. He asked if I could read the number to him. When I did, he literally put his face within three inches of the keyboard and typed in the number, then looked up at the computer screen (equally closely). Realizing he must have mistyped it, he asked me to repeat the number. I did and he repeated the procedure. I bit my lip. He got it right the second time. Now, I think it's great that this vision-impaired man is gainfully employed, but I can't imagine that a job where he has to type and read a computer screen for frantic travelers in Chicago is an enjoyable occupation. Couldn't they have gotten him a braille keyboard? Surely they exist! But, he handed me my ticket and I was on my way.

So, I go out to catch the shuttle. Several passengers are on board and the driver tells me to sit in the front passenger seat because he'll be dropping me off first. (The inner "Wang" in me was thrilled because I figured I could take lots of unobstructed photos through the front windshield - clearly I was unaware that the scenery from Midway to McCormick can't really be called "scenery.") A couple minutes later, the retired administrator/IRA presenter approaches the shuttle and waves at me. He climbs on board, telling me that he decided to take the shuttle too, and he asked to  be "put on Nancy's shuttle." OK, now I'm getting a little creeped out. When the shuttle got to McCormick Place, I retrieved my bag and booked it to the Exhibit Hall, without looking back. I might have left skid marks. 

The Show Must Go On
I arrived at our booth, which was tucked waaaaaaay in the back of the convention center. Bob was at the booth, but our displays, equipment and literature (except for a few brochures and mousepads Bob had thankfully brought himself) were not. Our shipment was MIA. "No worries!," I said. "We can DO this!" And so began DAY ONE...

We carried on with the show. As usual, it was wonderful to meet teachers and hear about how their students love our site, "especially the game with the cat and mouse!" Traffic at our booth was lighter than usual, but I think that had more to do with the poor location than our lack of "stuff." Our booth was clearly NOT impossible to find, at least, not for a former administrator armed with a business card and a convention program. Yep, I soon received a visit from my "Senior Stalker" (as he shall be called from this point forward). Feeling uncomfortable, after our initial greeting, I left him talking to Bob at the booth, hoping he'd get the hint. He didn't.

Not One of the Fifty Shades of Grey I Had in Mind
Day two. More help arrived in the form of our newest sales team member, but our shipment was still missing. The show must go on...and it did! The second day was busier and more productive than the first. I also received another (and more disturbing) visit from the Senior Stalker. He stopped by the booth when I was there alone. He asked about the show, then asked when I was flying back. I told him I was leaving Wednesday night. "Oh, 7:05?," he says. Turns out we are on the same flight home. (Lord, help me.) He asked me what I did for SpellingCity, and I explained that I did marketing and social media. He then informed me that he tried doing social media for his company, but that a bunch of "porn people" tried to "friend" him. [This is the part in a show where you hear the record needle scratch across the album, then silence...] As I was praying that at least one member of my sales team would return to the booth and save me, the Senior Stalker asked me to join him for an early dinner at the airport before our flight. I didn't want to be mean (I SHOULD have been mean!), so I told him that I really didn't know what our plans were. Again, hoping against hope he would take the HINT. Bob returned to the booth and the stalker left. 

That day, I also got to meet an extremely entertaining presenter, Danny Brassell (click on his name and be sure to check out the video, "You Have Something to Teach Me,") who talked about VocabularySpellingCity in his presentation on vocabulary instruction and joined us for dinner that evening. Danny was neither creepy, nor stalker-like and his great sense of humor really helped lighten my mood and ease my increasing paranoia. In his presentation, Danny always reminds teachers that his last name is spelled like "Bras sell," so naturally, on the walk back to our hotels after dinner, the Wang in me couldn't resist asking him for a photo in front of Victoria's Secret. He very graciously obliged. ;)

Wednesday morning, I contemplated changing my flight to an earlier one, but the cost and inconvenience seemed to outweigh the relief of avoiding the Senior Stalker. Maybe he would take an earlier flight himself, after all, he had no reason to hang around, right? Bob had attended Danny Brassell's presentation on Tuesday (where he talked about VSC) and really enjoyed it. Danny said that he was doing another presentation Wednesday afternoon and invited us to come. I decided to take him up on it and I am oh-so-thankful I did. 

She's Too Young for You, Bro
Before the session even started, I received a text from Bob: "You just missed the stalker." No WAY! I was sure he was kidding. He was not. Bob told me that the Senior Stalker came to the booth asking for me. (He said that he actually snuck up on him!) Bob told him that they sent me home. Stalker replied, "No, I'm flying home with her." [Imagine crickets chirping.] On the same plane, perhaps...WITH me, I think not! Bob again told him they sent me home and he left. 

By that point, I was looking over my shoulder like a fugitive. Why on Earth did this man think that I wanted to hang around with him? I didn't even KNOW him, and he was old enough to be my father, for goodness sake! I was beginning to think that it might be time to rethink my policy on friendliness to strangers. By the time I got through the 45-minute security line at Midway (the WORST I've ever seen) and naturally I got in the longest line, I was anxious and paranoid AND hungry. After a burrito and a beer, I felt a little better, but I knew I still had to go to the gate and face the inevitable. UGH! :(

I asked Bob what the stalker was wearing and he told me he thought he was wearing a blue shirt. Approaching the gate, I spotted S.S. in a green shirt. Bob leans over and says, "Oh, he's wearing a GREEN shirt, not blue." Thank you, Captain Obvious. I was thankful that I had changed out of my VSC uniform into a black shirt (more ninja-like). Lucky for me, Stalker was engaged in conversation with a lady much closer to his own age, so he didn't see me sneak into the gate area. (Bob laughed and said, "Looks like you've been replaced by a cotton top!") I breathed a sigh of relief. We snuck around to the other side of the terminal and I made my bodyguards (LOL!) sit on either side of me, while I slunk down in my seat. 

By the time I boarded the plane, Stalker was already on board. When he spotted me, his eyes lit up and he said,  "Hey! I didn't see you in the terminal! I would have saved you a seat!" I can just imagine the look of pure terror on my face at this point. I responded with a hasty, "No thanks, I'm gonna go back and sit with my guys." To which he responded (rather snarkily), "OH, I see." Yeeesh. 

After that, aside from the crying 9-week-old baby in front of us, the return flight was uneventful. I gladly took the middle seat (and even kept my elbows to myself). When I spotted the Senior Stalker at baggage claim, I made a quick 180 and hid behind Bob, who stayed with me until S.S. left the building. I just wanted to get home to my family. 

I haven't seen or heard from the Stalker since the flight home (except for the pictures of him posted around my office - thanks, guys - I thought you were my friends! ;) ). I'm hoping he lost (or even burned) my business card. {BTW, he didn't. He ended up trying to "friend" me on Facebook a few days later. I permanently blocked him.}

Aaaaaaaaaaaaye! :)
As always, the show was an experience. Our shipment did show up Tuesday evening, but by that point, we just asked the logistics company to ship it back to our office. We really did okay without it. I got to meet some wonderful people, saw a couple of famous authors (including Henry Winkler, a.k.a. The Fonz) and had a good time (when I wasn't glancing over my shoulder). I am thankful to have had the opportunity to see a new city, and a beautiful one at that. I really loved Chicago (what little I got to see of it), and I'll blog about that soon.

Mostly, I'm happy to be back with the people I love, where I feel safe and stalker-free. Pauly D., I sympathize with you Bro. There's no place like home...

With Love and Aloha ~ Nancy