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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Run, Larry and Pam, RUN!


The last two weeks has, once again, been crammed with stuff to do, people to see, and places to go.

While we were hoping, I guess, to 'settle in' once we got established in the area, it has yet to be realized. There are simply too many irons in the fire just yet and hopefully it'll let up on us in just a few more weeks.

Robin and I are both finished with the arduos task of drawing, memorizing, and testing out on airspace maps. We were thinking that we were homing in on a finale to our training program until it became apparent that we are now facing a comprehensive written examination that will require extensive study and much more memorization. There has been a bit of confusion over exactly what our training requirements are and this is stemming from the fact that Robin and I are the first new supervisors from "out-of-house" that have come through the 'new' training curriculum. There have been several changes of management personnel in the various departments here and it is still all coming together. Meanwhile we keep finding out that there are 'a few more things' that we need to work on and learn. We'll get it, and in our roles here we are helping in a roundabout way to bring the program together.
We will have to keep plugging along and doing the best with what we've been dealt. When life hands you lemons, that means you only need a couple more components and you have a boat drink. Mainly .. Rum :)
Last weekend we had great fun when Larry and Pam visited us from Colorado. Among our dearest friends, we've missed playing cards and socializing with these two and it was wonderful to spend time getting caught up and swapping stories from the old stomping grounds.
They came here to run in the Miami Marathon and while we didn't get to rock and roll with Mojitos we did have a wonderful evening on the docks at Bayside and a great time of fellowship.
CONGRATULATIONS to both of on amazing runs (3:18 for the full Marathon for LArry and 1:57 for the half Marathon for Pam). Simply awesome!
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The previous week saw us pack up the fifth-wheel and move to a new site at the C.B. Smith Park in Broward County, well north of where we had been staying. The commute turns ott to be a little quicker, even if a mile or two longer, however we do get to mix it up with four lanes abreast of 80+mph traffic early in the morning (meaning; in the dark). I have yet to figure out why people want to drive 90 mph in a 60 mph zone when they are -on their way to work-. I've not noticed that I am in that much of a hurry to get to work ... now, coming home? ... a different matter :)
We won't be staying there very long however, as we were unable to qualify as 'residents' to receive any kind of discount on the site rental. Even though we are officially residents of Florida, and even though we both work full time in Miami-Dade county, we don't own property there (nor will we if we stay in the RV) so we are not 'residents' of their tri-county area. We put up our best defense, but" rules-is-rules" and we have to pay steeply to stay here. So we'll be moving on very soon. I'm happy to stay in a nice site at a nice park in a nice town, but not if I could rent a 40th floor condo on south beach for the same money..
We've checked out a couple of new parks so far, and it looks like we will be able to come up with a good plan for a place to stay with a nice view and maybe even a hint of ocean breeze during the summer. Life is good, and this is still fun!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Priceless...

It's probably not terribly proper to blog about a dining experience (that's what Tripadvisor is for) but we took a chance on a restaurant labeled as "acclaimed" in Miami and I must say that we were completely pleased.
You see Robin's birthday was earlier this week, and I thought it wouldn't really be practical to fly everyone out here for a party, you know, since it's so hard to get time off from work and all.
First off, thanks to all who sent cards and e-mails and text messages and voice mails to her. It's great to stay in touch even electronically. We do feel the physical distance between where we are and where we came from when events or holidays come around and we are still in the process of finding our way around the new city and new workplace. There has been precious little time to dedicate to building new friendships 'here', and we still miss the good friends we enjoyed so much back 'there'. I almost said back 'home' and that would be only partly true. It's definitely our 'home' stomping grounds since we spent so long there and learned our way around so well. It's definintely 'home' because our heart is still there with our friends and family, and it's 'home' becuase we're new here yet and a big, culturally different city is somewhat daunting when you try to absorb it.
But we have a now have a Welcome Mat just inside the door that simply states "Home is Where You Park It" and it applies so very well to what we are chasing. So far we have found that we are pretty content to explore when and where we can, to do our best to make and endear new acquaintances and to make the most of each day. It's nice to have a goal and to be in pursuit of it and that's all I have to say about that.
So.. I made reservations for two at a place called "Azul" in downtown Miami. This place came pretty highly touted and since it was to be a special night for Robin, I had high hopes for the evening.
When I made the reservation I let them know that it was to be Robin's birthday and that we love to have a table with a view of the bay. This place is one of those kinds of places where I've read that tipping might be the only way to get a view, but it was wrong advice. The advice I'd give is to make their first seating time (which I did...unwittingly) and show up about 20 minutes early to get to know the staff a bit and have a drink.
We were seated front-row-center at the perfect table and we were alone for a short while until other patrons began filling the place up.
It was an experience like none other, better than the best we've had on a cruise ship or on land. the food was outstanding and the service impeccable. There were six or more staff attending to us and they managed to do that without intrusion or annoyance. The food presentation was made for a book cover and tasted so good that it presented a tough dilemma. On one hand you wanted to savor each bite and let the flavors linger, but that meant the food would be cold before too long .. oh what to do???
We spent an easy and fun two and a half hours over dinner and when the sang was sung it was not as expensive as I was expecting for a millionaire frequented place. We certainly can't make it a weekly visit (that what Mama Mia's is for) but it was affordable for a special occasion and worth every dime ... ermmm dollar ... umm ... twenty ... well you get it :) We'll go back. It was elegant and romantic and had it been just a bit quieter, perfect.
We would've stayed much longer had we not needed to get up early for work the next day, and I am confident that the restaurant would've let us stay there all evening had we chosen. It was a 'wow' experience.
I love to share :)

Baby It's Cold Outside


Most of the country is entrenched in cold air. (Over Chicago on Jan 9th, 2009)
Twenty five below zero in upstate New York, below freezing in Seattle and feet of snow lie on the ground in places I know. Outside the fifth wheel there are kids playing catch, a man jogging along with his .. get this .. rabbit running along with him (off leash) and there's a bit of a nip in the air. Yes, it's a breezy sixty-one degrees outside on this January morning. We will probably need long sleeves to go out today. I do see some folks in long coats and hooded sweatshirts out there, protecting themselves from what is undoubtedly 'cold' weather to them. It is still amazing. Watch how this turns out when July comes; I'll probably still be 'amazed' by high nineties and high humidity :) It all comes around...
Last weekend we got a good reminder of winter as we hopped a ride to Chicago to attend a 50th birthday party for Robin's dear friend Elen. I had no idea what to expect, but any friend of Robin's ... We arrived, grabbed the shuttle to a nice, comfy, and relatively inexpensive Best Western very near to where the party would be held. It was in the low 20's there and we were actually enjoying the reminder of 'real' cold air and how it fills your lungs differently. I also could enjoy it because I wasn't going to have to shovel any snow :)
After checking in, we met Ellen and the reunion began. I think it has been on the order of 15 years since these two spent time together, but that didn't matter one bit. Good frienships are like that...even if you only get together once in a great while, you pick up right where you left off with no hint of guilt or worries about the time that has passed. It just makes for a more interesting conversation filled evening as you catch up with each other.




We enjoyed a wonderful evening and by the time we caught a cab home we were into a 22 hour day and had made a vinter happy. We were happy too :)

Saturday morning dawned ... well ... lightened to overcast, wind, snow, and 26 degrees. We were both feeling somewhat puny after the long day and travel (and probably the wine) so we had breakfast and rested for a few hours. Then we bundled up (as best as one can bundle up having brought Florida attire to Chicago) and headed off in our sneakers to have lunch and go drop a Travelbug in a Geocache. We hiked about a mile and a quarter through sloppy intersections and gusty, blowing snow and located the cache, but not before we spent a while helping another pedestrian get two cars un-stuck from the slush in a parking area. I don't wish to offend, but a rear-wheel drive Jaguar is no match for foot deep snow ... or 3 inches of slush.
We dropped the Travelbug, made a trudge back to the road and caught the first cab that would have us. After warming up in the room we donned our party attire (including the wet sneakers we would need just to get out to the curb and catch another cab) and rode with Robin's cousin George to the venue.
It was loud, it was audacious, it was crowded ... we had a ball! We partied like it was .. well .. 1979 :) Thanks Elen, for the invitiation, for the opportunity to meet you, and for putting on an amazing event! Don't grow up just yet, ok?





















Tuesday, January 13, 2009

And a Happy New Year to you too!

Well, it's been one ... 2008 has seen as much change and adventure as I can ever remember (perhaps that's because I block out some of the early years' trauma (grin)). We have gone from safe and secure and routine to unknown and thinly protected and 'at risk' by throwing all the chips on the table and leaping the first big step toward the dream.
2008 saw us decide to fill out applications for new positions in Florida, go through late night resume crunching and a battery of interviews. We put the house on the market, purchased the RV and pulled it 2109 miles across the US to arrive at our new 'home'. In the meantime, we refurbished siding, did tons of yard work and painting, did downsizing and yard sales and donations. It was hard, more than a little spooky and of questionable sense to those who aren't so recklessy passionate about chasing the sun. All in all it turned out OK. We have amazing blessings; family and friends. The support and love you've shown has made this endeavour truly rewarding and we are deeply grateful.

We lost a dear one this year to cancer. That was hard... but we'll never be able to forget the amazing spirit and intrepid soul of the man we loved as husband, dad, uncle and friend. Save me a spot at the Euchre table, Howard!

We spent a down week in Mexico. Nothing to do but read and unwind. It was perfect timing to regain sanity in the middle of the pressure and chaos that defined uprooting a 25 yr residency and heading off in an RV for unknown skies.
This was the first year in a while that the activities of moving and re-establishing a household have precluded a visit to family over the holidays. It was weird and we missed it ... we'll be back... expect a ham. :)

To you and yours: "May the Lord fill your sails with fair wind, support your hulls in inviting seas, guide your hands upon the tiller toward pleasant places and bring us all home, O Lord, to a safe and loving harbor."

Happy New Year.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Keys to Christmas

This could well be titled "How I Spent My Summer Vacation" instead of "What we did for Christmas Day", and I think I like that idea :)
We found a local church here and they had a wonderful Christmas Eve service. There were perhaps 80 folks there, mostly adults and elderly adults although we did see a couple of falilies with children. The service was full of carols and scripture reading and a couple of solo presentaions. Even the pastor sang a solo song in Spanish.
With every carol we sang, the first verse was english and the second verse spanish. With every scripture reading, the english had the sapnish words up on the screen and the spanish had the english words up. It was a very creative and down-to-earth service and I am so glad we got to go. In spite of all that has happened during this last year, it is so god to take time to reflect on the really, really important central matters of faith and what God did for us that night.
Please remember the reason we are able to celebrate in the first place ... because we have hope; abundant hope.

In keeping with our new "sushi-for-easter-dinner" line of holiday traditions we did not exactly wake up on Christmas morning, head down to the tree, open our gifts and then prepare a feast. It was more like ... wake up early, load the bicycles into the truck, and drive to Key West for the day. Since it was Christmas day, we packed a lunch in case everything was shut down, but we found businesses open all along the way and when we arrived it seemed like any ordinary business day. I presume it gets a lot busier and more hectic on a normal weekend, but we enjoyed the day immensely and took in several miles worth of sightseeing and people-watching.
The trip there is about 140 miles along US-1 from our RV park, and it took a little over three hours as there are innumerable slow speed limits and it's mostly a two lane road. We found a spot to park, and decided not to feed the meter on a holiday hoping that a ticket might be less than the meter :). We did check around, and it seemed no other meters were being fed that day.
We rode out to the State park, around the downtown area, and out to the end of Duvall Street to a place called 'Sunset Pier' where we enjoyed a traditional Christmas meal of chiken breast in a mango salsa and a Reuben (also with a mango sauce instead of dressing). This day was maked by fair winds, enjoyable warmth and a view of the Gulf of Mexico. We put our feet in the water of the Gulf and made sure we had sunscreen on. We stood on the end of the pier along with hundreds of other folks and watched a stunning sunset, hoping that all the sailboats floating by would not block our view. A round of applause broke out after the sun had slipped below the slightly couded horizon, and some carribean style music started up somewhere... you could tell there was a party or two in the air and that this area has a penchant for good times.
We packed up the bikes and headed home, arriving back at the RV around 9:30. A different and fun kind of Christmas.
I don't miss shoveling snow, in fact this is the first time in 31 years that I haven't had too, but it's still pretty weird to think it's the dead of winter here.