Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Shout out

When was the last time that you complimented someone on their actions or behavior rather than their appearance?
When was the last time you received a genuine compliment of this kind? How did it make you feel?
Explore this with me for a moment. We make and receive compliments all the time, but how often are they meaningful? 

Nice hair!
Cute dress.
Love those boots!
You look great today.
Wow, you have beautiful eyes

These are nice to get. Nice to give. They are easy. And rather meaningless. Think about what they emphasize... Something we all bemoan about our society. It's emphasis on appearance.  A compliment on your footwear? Really just says something about the complimenter.... She likes the same boots you like. A compliment about eye color? Something we have no control over! 

But, a genuine compliment about an action or behavior.... That can have lasting impact. 

I am sitting here thinking of the times I've been genuinely complimented on an action or behavior. I remember some of them so vividly, even from years past. But the memories are scarce.
Here's one: nursing school. ACK! It's awful, friends. Avoid it if you can. It's 2-4 years of curriculum that makes you doubt yourself in every way. But I had a gem of an experience with one instructor and I recall an incident during clinical one day. We were calculating medication doses or IV drip rates or some such and she asked me what dose I should give.  I was, somehow, able to answer her right away. She stopped and put her hand on my arm and told me she was so impressed because though it was not a difficult calculation, the ability to figure it out on the fly, in a stressful real life situation isn't quickly gained by nursing students. I was the only one to accomplish it that day. Now, if you know my math skills, you'll be as surprised by this story as I was. But it had such an impact on my confidence level! And clearly, I remember it many years later. 

Why don't we do more of this? 

I'm am challenging myself to look for opportunities to compliment people on their actions and behaviors. There are plenty of times I could. Times, like this morning when I was on the phone with "Rick" the computer support guy at the hospital. He was kind, patient, helpful and efficient. He remembered me from prior calls and didn't make me feel stupid or inferior. I was impressed. I thanked him for his help but failed to fairly compliment him for what was an unusually pleasant tech support experience.  So, belatedly, here's a shout out to Rick. Dude, you did your job so well, and I know I caught you just as you were leaving for lunch, but I appreciate your patience and your efficiency. 

Think of a time when you've been genuinely complimented for your work, or for your kindness, or for a particular skill that you have worked hard to perfect. Think how that compliment left you with a glowing feeling that lasted all day. Think about how formative these types of interactions could be if we made a point to catch people at their very best and let them know we noticed. 
Imagine the implications at work, 
or with your kids or partner.

So, I'm going to try. And I'd love it if you would try along with me. Let's notice the good and call it out. 

Thank you for reading to the end of this post!  Not everyone does, and I really appreciate you!  Now, take a moment and leave a comment.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Caving in Maquoketa

October days draw you into the outdoors

Maquoketa Caves State Park
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It was an overcast Sunday. Rob was home, a rare weekend off, and we had R and A, our favorite co-adventurers.  We headed out with a picnic lunch to do some hiking and low-key spelunking at the Maquoketa Caves. I need a day in the woods every so often.  It recharges my spirit like nothing else can.  These views, large and small scale, help to calm my mind, to bring my attention into the present. 

The state park, located just north of Maquoketa, Iowa is replete with limestone bluffs, beautiful rock formations, hiking trails and a fascinating collection of caves. Admission to the park is free.  They have park rangers available to give you a brief orientation to the park and educate you about "White Nose Syndrome" a disease which is fatal to bats that inhabit the caves.  So far, this disease has not made its way to the Maquoketa caves.
Dancehall cave.

The kiddos were in rare posing form, so I took full advantage.

Caving + water....oooh, I see cave-diving in your future, Rob!
Note the spider.

Intense focus. I'll let him lead.

Anyone who is this happy in such a tight spot should be a professional.

This is how much he loves me....there were spiders in those caves!

We made our expedition the second weekend of October. The park is closed over the winter and will re-open in the spring.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Maine and Rhode Island: in pictures

Sweet little cabin in the woods. Southport.
Hiking near Boothbay Harbor, Maine.
K. Ocean Drive. Newport, R.I.
Pemaquid Point lighthouse beacon.
Waterfire 2014. Providence. R.I. 
Sibling love in Bristol. R.I.
Family photo! Waterfire. 
Family photo. Ocean Drive. Newport. 
Persimmon! Reid State Park, Maine.
Living statue. Waterfire.
R. Crabbing.
R. Posing. Ocean Drive. R.I.
Not a postcard! Pemaquid Point Lighthouse. Maine.
Must try the financiers! Portland, Maine.
Love family!

Daddy-daughter love. Bristol. R.I.
Daddy-daughter selfie!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Aruba: One Happy Island 2/2014

 Aruba Dive Trip 2014

Pristine white beaches. A reputation of being the island most frequently returned to, year after year, by happy vacationers. Easy to reach by air in the time frame we needed to travel, and surrounded by wrecks renowned for diving. For all these reasons, we made Aruba our dive destination this past February.  Our experience on the island was that of frugal divers and not your typical beach seeking tourists.  We rented a villa off the main hotel strip, opted for renting bikes instead of a car to get around, and sought meals that were inexpensive, choosing instead to spend our money on underwater adventure.

 Mermaid Dive Center, feels like a family run operation, small but professional. They picked us up from our villa both days, in a beat up old passenger van and took us to the shop in time to sign paperwork and size our rental gear.  The second day, I needed a full wet suit for the cold water temperature and was provided this at no extra charge. The divemasters took a personal interest in helping their customers improve their diving skills even on a routine recreational dive.  With temperatures uncharacteristically cold for Aruba, I spent the first day shivering in my skin suit and 3mm shortie, meanwhile blowing through my air in record time. Carlos took me aside and gave me some tips to improve my air consumption.  Although I was greatly improved on day two, I actually credit the full 6mm wet suit rather than any improvement in air management skill.

We did three dives each day. The Antilla on day one was our first wreck dive. We had a long surface interval after that dive, as we came across a couple who had capsized their sailboat and ended up towing them to shore.  Water temperatures were 76 degrees at depth, and by the third dive, on Isla Bonita Reef, (see above picture) I was so cold that I had to surface early. Vercazio, our divemaster, found a cute octopus who was willing to participate in a photo shoot with the group.  Some of us were less willing participants!
As you can see, visibility was not good, 30 foot at best. Although the divemasters noted that temperatures were unnaturally cold, they made no mention of the viz being worse than normal. As all of our dive sites were close to shore, I'm not surprised that it was so bad.

Day two brought a new depth record of 98 feet as we dove the J/C wreck. Penetrating the structure was an exhilarating experience. Wendy, one of the owners, was our divemaster and she made the experience so much fun, making sure we had plenty of photo ops near the prop of the ship.

We completed day two on Plonco Reef and Skalahein Reef, where the corol and wildlife were more plentiful than the deep dive earlier in the day, but visibility and water temps were ongoing struggles.
Read what I learned about dive buddy communication on that last dive here:

 The hotel strip was good for a photo op, but not much more!

We lucked out with our villa: La Costa Esmerelda Village  which had just opened when we stayed there. If we ever return, my guess is that it will be out of our price range.  The owner had a "manager" who worked next door at an exclusive restaurant.  They met us at the gate of the villa at our agreed upon arrival time and we exchanged pleasantries and a modicum of actual useful information for navigating the island without phone service (we had failed to add international service onto our plan before the trip) or transportation.  The owner's son, a polite young man in his early teens acted as translator to the best of his ability. In truth, once we left the villa and ventured out onto the island, we had no trouble communicating.  The rule seems to be that most islanders speak 4 or 5 languages. 

There were fresh flowers and fruit in the room upon our arrival.

The pool glowed at night.

Can you tell what's wrong with this picture?
 For divers, the location was perfect, we had room in the courtyard by the pool to hang our equipment after rinsing it at the outdoor shower.

Rob and Jon are busy rinsing our gear while I am inside making a frugal yet fantastic meal. Details just ahead!

On previous dive trips, we've struggled to get our gear dry before our return trip home. Being able to hang everything outdoors in the secure courtyard was perfect!  And the grounds were simply gorgeous.  Each morning several groundskeepers/housekeepers made the rounds watering and caring for the extensive foliage surrounding the pools, brick walkways and patios.

There were several supermarkets within walking distance of the villa.  We stocked up on fresh mangoes, the likes of which you will never taste in the states: the smell alone was rich and lush. I spent about ten minutes perusing the aisles looking for the makings of a meal and came up with an old pantry standby that I haven't made for years: Tuna Croquettes.  Hey! Give me bonus points for incorporating seafood while on the island!

Cheat eats!
There's no actual recipe, so you can't go wrong: tuna, some kind of bread or cracker crumb, egg, and additional flavoring ingredients.  I used carrot, red onion and capers, sauteed in copious amounts of butter.  Peasant food, yes, but after a day of diving, we were ravenous and they tasted wonderful!

We didn't eat every meal in the villa.  The first night on Aruba we walked down to The Old Cocuno House
 Where we had a lovely outdoor meal, enjoyed our first of several Balashi beers,
 discovered that on Aruba,
 the beers are miniature sized, unless you order the extra large. 
 We enjoyed the many avian visitors
 As well as the classic Arubian food.
 Rob had the Keeshi Yena, pictured above.  It was decadent.  I had the cod fish Grand Ma style, which turned out to be a salty mash of cod and vegetables. Get the Keeshi Yena!
Both the waitress, Jasmine and the manager, Cory, were solicitous.  They even looked up the phone number of Red Sail Sports, the bike rental shop, and let us use the restaurant phone to place a call.

The bikes were integral to the last few days of our trip. We had made arrangements to pick up them up after our first day of diving. A long walk down to the hotel zone and along the beach finally brought us to the rental cabana. We donned our helmets and took off across the island to visit the Harley Davidson store. And we encountered the ferocity of the winds of Aruba.  Didn't seem to matter which direction we rode, it was always into the wind!

After navigating the island on beach bikes for three days, our collective advice to future visitors is this: rent a car! Bike lanes were non-existent; we were lucky to have a shoulder. Many of our routes had us riding on highways and making our way through traffic circles.  We saw very few other cyclists and came to the conclusion that the island is just not well suited to road biking. We toughed it out, even surviving a blow-out on the last day.

Calling Red Sail Sports to come rescue us! They arrived, replaced the tire and had us back on our way within 20 minutes! For a shop that specializes in diving, and para sailing, they did a great job with bike rental for us.

A Scenic overlook we stopped at on our day-long bike trip.

Continuing our ride, we stopped again to hydrate and rest in the shade: three divers out in the desert heat, wondering if the destination we'd chosen was truly worth it!

What's that coming into view?

Worth it!

Not too tired for a photo

We ended our bike tour of the island with a late lunch at Reef and Beef, where they really love their chalk boards! 


The daily specials were good, we each tried one of what they had remaining from their lunch rush. The Carni Stoba, Chicken Sate and Grouper Creole.  Service was slow.  It almost seemed like everyone was on break or that the restaurant was not actually open.  But, the food was good.  I haven't yet "liked" them on Facebook as requested, though I do admire their chalk board enthusiasm.
They are located in the courtyard adjacent to Aqua Windies Dive Shop, purportedly the biggest on the island.  A sign offers discounts at Beef and Reef to divers, but does not include the daily specials, as they "are already on special" according to the owner, who served us himself. 

All too soon, our short visit to Aruba: One Happy Island, was ending.  We packed our gear, called a taxi and headed to the airport.  We were welcomed by crowds of fellow travelers. Yikes!

The line snaking out of the airport and wrapping around the parking lot

I'm not sure if there is any airport more complicated for it's size than Queen Beatrix International Airport.  Be forewarned: the instructions to arrive early are not a mere suggestion. You will pre-clear US customs when flying to the United States, so that is one explanation for the airport's complexity, but having to remove shoes twice for double security clearance, giving up your luggage and then reclaiming it only to check it once again...these things were unexpected and time consuming.  Arrive early!