Tuesday, November 24, 2015

New Orleans Love

I've been absent from the scene for a little bit, but lately I have been reading the blogs of some other writers and have become inspired again.   So to catch you up on what's been going on since last we met...

Remember Our List - It's the list made up by the hubs and me and it includes anything we can think of that we want to do, places we want to go, things we want to try.  We crossed a major one off the list earlier this year:

New Orleans Jazz

We did this trip up right, and even made it about more than just New Orleans.  We started the week by flying into San Antonio, where we rented a car and booked a room at the Westin Riverwalk.  The Westin was perfect for us, because while on the Riverwalk itself, it is far enough away from the most touristy areas to be accessible, yet quiet.  We were able to see all of the Riverwalk, visit the Alamo, and even venture downtown to take in parts of San Antonio's Fiesta Days (we just got lucky!).  We stayed for just a couple of days, then headed off to explore the Gulf Coast by way of South Padre Island, Corpus Christie and Galveston.

We experienced our first shrimp po-boys at a little diner in old town Baton Rouge, then made our way to NOLA, where we returned the car to the New Orleans airport.  We took a cab into the city because, seriously, who needs to pay outrageous parking fees for a rental car to just sit!  We splurged on our hotel in New Orleans and stayed right on the Mississippi River at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside.  Easy walking distance to the river, downtown and the French Quarter allowed us to:
  • Have cafe au lait and beignets at CafĂ© Du Monde:

Worth the wait in line to experience this outdoor wonder of deep fried sugary deliciousness!
  • Then on to Jackson Square and a first glimpse at the incredibly rich history in this area.

  • Bourbon Street is everything that you've heard, and then some. 

Yes, it's filled with clubs and bars that open right out into the street.  Yes, NOLA's open carry laws make it possible, even acceptable to drink a 24 oz. Hurricane at 10:00 AM and carry it around with you while you peruse gift shops.  And yes, I can see how the place could smell a little, especially after a weekend party scene.

That being said, I was so impressed by the number of shopkeepers I saw out hosing down the sidewalks and sweeping up to keep the area looking nice.  And just one block in either direction and you are surrounded by some of the finest galleries, eateries and really amazing architecture.

Did I mention that I tried my first oyster???  Barbecued at Drago's, those little suckers are shucked right in front of you, placed on the grill and doused with parmesan garlic butter while the flames shoot up.  When they are served, they are still bubbling, and are accompanied with a small loaf of crusty bread for soaking up all that goodness.  Now don't get me wrong...like you, I thought "Ewwwwww, oysters!"  But oh good Lord those things were amazing!  They even warned me NOT to try a raw oyster any time soon.  I've experienced the best, and any other oyster will just be a step down. 

I could write a whole blog post about the New Orleans food - from gumbo to jambalaya, it seems like we just ate our way around the city.  Yum, yum, yum... made the whole trip worthwhile.
  • We even went on a dinner cruise aboard the paddle wheeler Creole Queen. 
But the icing on the cake, our real purpose for the visit, was the music to be found everywhere you looked, in bars and on street corners. 
  • New Orleans Jazz!

Watching these performers all over the city made my heart sing and inspired me to return home and attempt to learn to play my saxophone!  But that's a post for another day...


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Wow! It's Dark Outside!

                                                                                 photo credit:  galleryhip.com            

I got up at 4:15 AM this morning.  Jeremy is headed off to Denver to do a project, so fur baby Roxy and I hopped in the pickup to deliver him to the airport and avoid parking charges.  I find it fascinating to look at the "middle of the night world."  Not much traffic out, I peek into the offices and shops to see if anyone has arrived to start the day.  It's interesting to wonder about the few other cars that are on the road at this hour.  Where are they going and what is their story?

In any case, when I got home, it would have been my normal routine to crawl back into bed for a few hours.  Instead, this morning, I found myself catching up on news, reading, and enjoying my morning coffee.  As 7:00 approached, it dawned on me (no pun intended) that it's still dark outside (thanks to Daylight Savings Time), and I can enjoy the dawn.......

Um...excuse me...who are you, and what have you done with Lynn???!!!!

I am a night owl, remember?  I should be panicked because I'm up this early...Why, oh, why, didn't I catch a few more hours of sleep?

And then it hit me...

        It Doesn't Matter!!!

One of the very best things about the Encore Voyage is that we can listen to the circadian rhythms of our bodies, wake when we feel rested, and sleep when we don't!

And that my friends, is one of the very best attributes of retired life!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Life is Good!

Jeremy's mom passed away last Monday.  She had just celebrated her 100th birthday on the fifth of the month.  She was an amazing lady, and I am so grateful to her for raising the kind, considerate son with whom I get to share my life.  

Before she retired, mom was a teacher.  I have always said that mom led such a long life because God was keeping her here on earth to show the rest of us how we should live.  You see, I never heard her say an unkind word about anyone!  I never heard her say anything unkind to my father-in-law while he was alive.  It seemed as if she never really entertained less than positive thoughts!  She approached her life with the motto, "Life is Good!"

                                                                         photo credit: sturbridgeyankee.com

Even in the last year, as she became non-ambulatory and required the care of a skilled nursing facility, she did not complain or grumble.  Surely, body parts must have hurt.  She had fallen and broken a hip with its resulting surgery, but she pretty much kept her discomforts to herself.  She preferred to present an outward showing that life is, indeed, good!

Last Monday, as I was driving in to the city to do some work for a client, my thoughts centered on my own life.  It was a brisk, sunny morning.  How lucky I am to be able to have a flexible work schedule on my own terms.  I love our home and its location, which gives us uncomplicated access to nearly everything we need.  I love that I have time to pursue music, books, exercise, travel and crafts.  While we are certainly not wealthy, we have enough. Jeremy and I share a love and commitment that is strong enough to walk through anything.  We are surrounded by family and good friends.

I returned home to learn of mom's passing.  

And then it hit me - The most gratifying moment for any teacher is that moment when "the light bulb" goes on.  It's that time when the kid finally "gets it" and can continue to do the work on his own.

Well mom, our light bulb has gone on...Your lesson has been well taught and now it is up to us to keep doing the homework.  It is up to us to keep trying to emulate your principles:

A steadfast refusal to give voice to negativity
A constant grateful spirit

I hope the rest of us will be able to go forward practicing these lessons which you have spent a lifetime demonstrating for us.  I know I, for one, will be forever grateful for your loving influence, and I hope that I can do justice to carrying forth the mantra that you so genuinely expressed nearly every day:

Life is Good!!!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Adventures from the Camino

Yesterday, I had lunch with a good friend who recently returned from completing the nearly 500 mile pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago in Northern Spain.  In the course of the afternoon she shared her many experiences from the Camino.  She told of blisters and pouring rain, of sleeping in rooms filled with snoring strangers, of not speaking the language yet learning how to order a beer.  She told us about carrying stones from home, representing her burdens, and her opportunity to lay down those burdens at a cross along the way.  She shared the struggle of a middle aged woman walking 8-12 miles per day, up and down hills, over the Pyrenees Mountains.  She shared photos of centuries old churches, of stunning scenery and of quaint villages.

My friend was walking on behalf of those with autoimmune diseases, and carried with her a list of prayers which she burned at Finisterre (The 'End of the World'). She started out with a true purpose in her heart - that she would walk the entire Way of St. James as a spiritual pilgrimage.  

But what she learned along the way, and shared with the rest of us yesterday afternoon, struck a particularly meaningful chord:

1.  The Camino will provide - This saying is frequently heard on the Camino de Santiago. Along the trail, pilgrims find they always have enough. The true blessing is in discovering how little is really needed.  When you carry everything you own on your back for six weeks, you quickly figure out what's important.  It's not all of the "stuff" we accumulate in our normal daily lives. So how much "stuff" are we carrying that we truly don't need?

2.  The relationships are the important thing - Along the Camino, my friend met travelers from all around the world.  They shared meals and wine, stories and hardships.  What she learned is that we are all the same - people everywhere work hard, play hard, have health issues, daily struggles, and families they love...and she will forever treasure those relationships formed in their commonality. Perhaps we should all pay more attention to investing in those soul-enhancing relationships!

3. The sense of accomplishment - Once you have walked nearly 500 miles in all types of weather and terrain, there is very little you can't do!  I found myself thinking about the things in my life that give me that sense of accomplishment.  Maybe the message is that we should all have something to strive for, something that challenges us in some way.  It doesn't have to be a trek through a foreign country.  But the world is full of new things to create, do and try and we owe it to ourselves to stretch our potential!  

4. The strength of the human body - I asked my friend how she felt walking up the steps at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.  She told me that she felt complete joy, and was amazed with what her body could do!  She started the first day of her journey gasping for air as she climbed steep hills.  She finished the Camino feeling more fit than ever before. The human body and spirit have incredible resiliency when tested.

5.  "One Day, One Adventure" - As she neared the end of her journey, a fellow pilgrim shared this motto with my friend.  It could mean that we should live in the present, not wishing for the future or pining for the past.  It could be the acknowledgment that we have limited time on this earth, and that we should make every moment count.

As our afternoon drew to a close, I found that I was deeply touched by how my friend's insights from the Camino apply to our Encore Voyage.  Our longings for a minimalist way of life were proven valid by the few items she carried in her pack.  Her accomplishment of that 500 mile journey, with it's resulting fitness and friendships, confirms for me the things that are truly important in our retirement.  One Day...One Adventure for me means living with intention.  I get to decide what to make of the day, and to be present in it.   I found myself wondering if I would have been able to make that trek myself.  Who knows?  What I know for certain is that the lessons my friend shared yesterday inspire me seize each day with a spirit of "One Day, One Adventure!"


Monday, January 5, 2015

What's Your Word???

It seems everyone in the blogosphere is into choosing a "word" for the year to represent goals and dreams.  I'd say that's a far cry better than the standby "I'm gonna lose weight" resolution.  So I'm going to choose not one, but two words for 2015:
Isn't that just a really cool word?  For me it's about taking time to breathe, to live in the moment, and to appreciate all the good that we are experiencing on the voyage. It's about learning that it is not necessary to be consumed by busy-ness.

And here's what it looks like for me, today:  Having time to linger over my morning coffee with the morning news, and not needing to rush off to work - delightful!  Lingering in bed for just a few extra minutes in the morning, to stretch and breath and give intention to the day.  Lingering over a dessert treat, slowly enough to make it special - so that I don't feel like I have to deprive myself on other days. Paying attention to the moment!

My other word for 2015 is going to be:


2015 is going to be even more about exploration - new places, new foods, new books, new ideas, new skills.  Our plan this year is to head to New Orleans just to check it out and listen to authentic jazz.  Oh, and to eat my first oyster!  I've heard that if you're planning to explore oysters, NOLA is the place to do it!

The Encore Voyage is all about exploring new things, and then having and taking the time to linger and really appreciate all that's before us!

Lingering and exploring rock, yes they do!

So how about you!  What word or words represent your dreams for the upcoming year?


Friday, January 2, 2015

Resolutions Smezolutions

Perhaps you've noticed that I haven't been around for awhile.  Yeah, me too.  And as I've approached the end of the year, I found myself feeling sort of guilty that I didn't post on my blog more frequently. 

First, I made lots of excuses (Thanksgiving travels, Christmas preparation), but when I really got serious about it, I was feeling a little bit like a fake.  Yup, a big ol' fraud.  What the hell do I know about retirement? 

Technically, I guess you'd say that we're not eligible for retirement.  Not old enough to collect social security, still working at our own business, had some emergency savings money, so it wasn't like we really had to take some plunge. Fake, fakey, McFake-fake!

Even thought about giving it up.  But then some really great friends called us, 

just to ask how the hell we did it!

Really!  They did!  And it occurred to me that maybe it's okay just to share our experiences on the voyage.  Maybe, just maybe, someone will get an insight or two or even a little encouragement...

  Ya think???

I guess you might say this is sort of a resolution.  I'm going to keep at it.  Perhaps I won't worry so much that my posts need to be deep and insightful, full of lists and beeee uuuu tiful photography.  I'm no teacher, so I'm not gonna tell you how you should do it...

No wait - I AM a TEACHER... oops!

My point is that I'm hoping this year to treat my blog with a little more heart. This thing may change and include a lot more ramblings and nonsense and streams of consciousness.  I'm just gonna roll with it that way.  I'll tell you less of what you should do, and more of what WE did.  Seems a lot less stressful, no?

And one more thing...I'm really thinking that you should leave a comment or two and let me know if I should keep this up!  All the pro bloggers say that you should just keep at it, and I don't want to sound like I'm begging, but

Seriously, you can hear crickets if you listen...

Wow, that sounded whiny!  In any case, my New Year's Resolution Smezolution is to write, write, write and see what happens.  I hope you come along for the Voyage!


Monday, November 10, 2014

Soft Skills Matter - The Keys to Entrepreneurial Success

                                                                                                           (photo credit:  Tailwind via Pinterest)

Our encore voyage began when I asked Jeremy, "What do you really want to be when you grow up?"  Our journey into our entrepreneurial adventure started that very day. Up until that time, we had both been working since we were about sixteen years old...for someone else!  And let me tell you...starting your own gig and working for yourself is a whole different animal, for sure!  Fast forward four years, and our business is growing nicely.  The Frank, Warren and Jimmy plan is coming to fruition and the Jimmy part was recently able to take a nice vacation to visit Chicago.  

The other day I was freelancing at a meeting, where one of the participants was a representative from Junior Achievement.  Junior Achievements works with high school students to teach entrepreneurial skills and financial literacy.  One of the points the presenter made is that Junior Achievement is placing a heavy focus on teaching "soft skills." Today's employers are complaining that young people entering the work force may have content knowledge, but they are lacking in interpersonal skills, presentation skills, and general work values. 

In looking at our business, and evaluating just why we are able to pull this off, it has occurred to me that my guy has incredible soft skills - I know that sounds kinda weird, but just read on!  It's one thing to be good at the technical aspects of your career, but real success comes from the following things:

1.  A daily routine -  Even though we work out of our home, there is a business routine in place. Jeremy gets up, showers, shaves, and is in the office before 7:30 every morning.  We treat the business as a business!  There is a schedule of projects and a priority of what needs to happen, and in what order. Even though there is some flexibility in our scheduling, the business comes first.

2.  Dressing the part - I know this sounds strange, but Jeremy does not wear jeans to his office.  He generally dresses in khakis and a casual shirt, unless he is meeting a client, and then he steps it up a notch.  If he takes a break to mow the lawn, he will change into jeans, then change back when he returns to work.  The right dress puts him in the right frame of mind.  We treat our own business with the same respect we would if we were working for someone else.

3.  Keeping connections - I believe that one reason Jeremy has been so successful in this second act is that he not only knows hundreds of business people, but he consciously makes an effort to keep in contact with those folks.  Sometimes it's just to check in and see how they're doing.  Sometimes it's to buy a lunch or a cup of coffee.  If he has time while working on an out of town project, he'll try to fill his day by meeting up with other business people.  But the most important thing is that it's always genuine...never a leg humping sort of thing.  It is important to let people know that you value their friendship - not just their business.

4. Keeping your word - If you say you will do something, you do it!  It's as simple as that.  Yet so many young people do not understand the concept that your word is golden.  At the end of the day, your word is all you have!

5.  Being punctual - I sometimes tease the hubs that he is going to arrive early to his own funeral.  But it's a fact that being late to anything is a sign of disrespect.  It says simply, "I am more important than you are, and your time is of no value to me."

6.  Choosing your words wisely -  Handle conflict gracefully.  This is one that is particularly difficult for me, and I learn from the hubs every day.  He is an expert at holding his tongue, or negotiating his way through a difficult conversation without getting someone upset. Unlike me, he rarely just shoots off his mouth.  His responses are careful and considered, and that skill has served him well.

7.  Marketing what you do well - It's important to have a business profile, to understand your own strengths, and to be able to sell your skills, without sounding like you are bragging.  But it's also important to just be genuine about what you are trying to accomplish, so that you don't come off like an annoying salesman.  Have an "elevator speech."  Know how to describe what it is that you do.

8.  Being respectful - Jeremy is one of the most respectful men I know.  And most others know that about him. That quality has indescribable value.

9.  Never burning a bridge - This one can be particularly difficult to master.  When you want to tell someone to suck eggs, just suck it in and keep your mouth shut.  You never know what the future may bring.  The damaging words you say today may end up damaging your reputation tomorrow.  The person you want to rail at today, may end up hiring you tomorrow.

10.  Looking to the long term - Success doesn't happen over night.  It comes from doing your best over and over again.  To that end, take enjoyment in the little victories.  What did you do today that promoted your business goals?  Yeah that...do it over again tomorrow and know that nothing worth doing well is easy. We knew going in that the second year is the year in which many businesses fail - and we kept focused beyond that second year!

11.  Being charming! - Have you ever noticed that many people who are successful in business are just awesome to be around?  They are often funny or charismatic and make those around them just feel good. Sometimes they joke around, but always they leave people feeling valued.  It's really an art - but it can be developed by emulating someone whose business personality you admire.  But be careful...there is a fine line between being charming and being a "suck up."  And the latter can be deadly in forming business relationships.

So how about it, you entrepreneurs out there...are there any other soft skills you can think of to add to the list?  Leave a comment - I'd love to hear about your own experiences!