This is How to End Rural Poverty in Latin America

What’s the most you have spent on coffee before? I once spent $28 on Kona coffee beans in Maui.

Contrastingly, I’m shocked to learn that most Latin American farmers, of crops including coffee, live below $2 a day and will always be poor with their methods of subsistence farming.

Non-profit Pontis Nicaragua works with farm families to transform subsistence farms to enterprise farms. Enterprise farms are based on both solid agricultural and business practices. They are less chemical-dependent and use modern practices to produce yields 30-100% higher. The farms are run with financial discipline and spread risk over multiple crops.

How many times have you participated in the random act of kindness? Next time, instead of buying a cup of coffee for that stranger behind you in the Starbucks drive thru, consider donating to Pontis and help a family rise out of poverty, and join us in building small farms that provide for generations.

They are doing some meaningful, great work at Pontis. To help eliminate poverty in Latin America, click here to make a PayPal donation: https://lnkd.in/g5wcciE Or read more about Pontis here https://pontisnicaragua.org

Please SHARE this blog post to help drive awareness for this important organization. Thanks, and cheers! #thecoffeegrounds

– Melinda

coffee harvest

One Look in My Eyes

Sipping sweet, orange sherry
Under a full moon
On a boat, in the rain
He strums his guitar playing Neil Young
His old man, the British reverend
Looks at him, looks down
At his shoes

A diamond ring and polished nails
No music but the shore
Telling you it won’t go away
Landlocked
Without a key

There is a woman
Crucified to the bow
Of this boat
The tradewinds blowing
Through her long, black hair

She is alone
With the waves
From the shore
That won’t let
Her forget
She is there

Ruby red gems, and lips
Tomatoes and peppers
Spicy and hot
Tequila and beer
With salt spray and
Sunburns

Rays of moonlight
Stripe the ocean
The mountain
Is blue, purple and grey

Everyone is tired
And drifting
In an orange meditation
Sailing on the Caribbean Sea
Watching God
Watching me
Let this moment, this beauty
Stay with me
Stay with me
Forever

Boat (2)

 

 

 

Santa Cruz: Summer Days Drifting Away to Oh, Oh Those Summer Nights!

Birdsong Boardwalk Sunset


I travel quite a bit. And my daughter does not accompany me when I do. So when I returned home from one journey, I suggested we get away together to celebrate her upcoming 14th birthday and her 8th grade graduation. The only stipulation: it had to be somewhere we could fly to on my Alaska Airlines miles, and I didn’t have a whole lot to begin with.

Kenzie’s eyes lit up and she said, “Oh yeah! We are going to Santa Cruz!!!”

I totally understand my daughter’s allure. Santa Cruz, CA., is a beach community in the Central Valley. I used to go there from the Bay Area often during the summer months while I was in high school. I have lots of fond memories of yelling “Road Trip!” with my friends Sally and Heather and climbing into my convertible red ’63 Valiant, twisting and turning through the redwoods of Highway 17 to go body surfing in the cold Pacific with an occasional harbor seal, dance at reggae and goth concerts, and get kissed by the sun and salt spray on the beach.

It’s not upscale, like Monterey or Carmel, both of which I absolutely adore. It’s a bit rough around the edges. Peppered with aging surfers, skateboarders, assorted tattooed hooligans, hippies still tripping on LSD from the 70’s, and lots of beachgoers, but beautiful coastline, picturesque architecture and great food.

And you need to understand, my daughter is a rollercoaster aficionado. She has been a thrill seeker for as long as I can remember. As a baby, she readily scaled the sides of her crib to escape its confines and climbed chairs and counters. She used her feisty strength to push the boys out of the way to get to the top of slides as a toddler. So when she went to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk on a class trip last year, and the teacher wouldn’t let the kids ride any rides because she didn’t get waivers ahead of time, I think that ignited the stubborn streak in Mackenzie to return one day and conquer the Big Dipper and the Typhoon. And that day had arrived.

I easily booked tickets for July 4th for 5k miles each way, which is a screaming deal. Especially since I have status and got us into premium seating for free.

Rather than stay in a hotel, I thought it would be fun for her to choose a VRBO for our stay. Mackenzie scoured the site, and narrowed the massive list down to two properties. After developing a pro’s and con’s list, she selected a pretty eclectic choice: The Birdsong Cottage.

This Westside two-bedroom cottage, only a 20-minute walk to the Boardwalk, is owned by an artist and a master gardener. Small, but whimsically decorated, the cottage is surrounded by pops of color from plants like wisteria, roses, trumpet vines and honeysuckle. It was so pretty, and different, and I think it appealed to Mackenize’s artistic side. She loves talented interior decorating and truly appreciates an eye for design.

I told my boyfriend Kenz and I were going to hit the road in the summer and he asked if he could tag along. Mackenzie gave the nod of approval, but I only thought it fair she invite a friend, so her good friend Emma would join us as well.

On July 4th, we were all bumped up to first class for the flight. Such a great way to start our trip! We rented a car at SJO and drove an easy 40 minutes down Highway 17 to Santa Cruz. I’ve never seen that road so empty, but I guess July 4th is the day to stay home and bbq.

We arrived at the cottage and walked up to the front gate, the pathway lined with fragrant jasmine. The gate opened up to a small garden patio and side yard stretching the length of the house. The girls burst through the backdoor to start exploring.

What a beautiful space! Each room was designed with so much care, and finesse. It’s as if the owner took into account every view, from every vantage point. Green, and yellow, and red, stripes and flowers, hardwood floors, and tiles, and small details like whimsical lamps, decorative plates, and curtains with a Van Morrison lyric. The girls and I were in awe and full of positive exclamations. Brad said, “This place is weird.” I said, “You have to view it with an artist’s eye.” “Not my eye,” he retorted. Well, we loved it anyway. Mackenzie and Emma ran through the house, continuing to discover its treasures and nuances, and laid claim to the comfy living room furniture, huge TV, bedroom and private patio.

That left Brad and me with the master bedroom, or what he laughingly referred to as the “passion pit.” The bedroom was deep crimson in color, with a high, soft king-sized bed you literally melt into. The bed faced a gas fireplace and a TV. A small office was off to the side; the perfect place for Brad to do his 5am conference calls without waking any of us up. The bedroom also has huge French doors that open up to the side yard. We opened them up, closed the screens, sank into the bed and drifted into a much-needed afternoon nap, with the cool sea breezes carrying the songs of the birds through the garden.

I remember lying there, amazed at how successfully the owners had blocked out the sounds and the views of the surrounding homes from the courtyard. I felt like I could have been anywhere, but somewhere remote, and peaceful, and so content.

The days that followed were filled with trips to the Boardwalk so the girls could fulfill their need for fun. And there were discount coupons too, so they could ride all day for less than $15. The Boardwalk is not like Disneyland or Great America; it’s a mixture of a high-end carnival with great rides, fun games, novelties and outdoor movies on the beach. We saw Grease one night; the beach packed with hundreds of people in fold up chairs, eating garlic fries and smoking pot. (ugh). They also have a really fun mini golf course to play and arcade to explore.

We went to Seabright Beach to get some sun on our Washington state-translucent skin and frolic in the waves, and we also went to Capitola for the day. The Capitola Beach Company was a great find with rentals on the beach. The girls wanted to do stand up paddleboarding (SUP) and they had the option of exploring the river rather than the ocean. The guys walked their boards down to the river for them and offered to bring them back. They spent an hour leisurely exploring the river under the warm California summer sunshine. When we returned to pay (only $20 each per hour) I asked about surf lessons. They explained Capitola is the best place to learn how to surf and most of their instructors started there. Mackenzie is excited to come back and try during a future trip.

Each night at Birdsong we made dinner. The kitchen was well appointed and they have an excellent barbeque in back, too. We saved a ton by making spaghetti, and grilling sausages and preparing halibut. Brad and I had fun cooking for the girls and it was a healthier option than Mackenzie’s original plan to survive for three days off of Dippin’ Dots.

I think overall, Santa Cruz was a great place to bring a couple of teens for a few days. And it was certainly a good destination for me. I bought a sweatshirt that says, “Salt Water Heals Everything,” and that is exactly how I feel. There is something so restorative about the beach. The cry of the gulls, the salty breezes, the pastel sunsets reflecting off the cool blue, liquid horizon.

Maybe someday I’ll live by the beach again. Until then I’ll suffice with oceanside injections now and then. I think there was everything the girls could have wanted out of vacation here. And we loved the cottage. Truth be told I’d love to stay right on the beach. But if my ideal place isn’t available next time, I hope Birdsong is. One bathroom with two teenage girls was slightly challenging, but nevertheless, the cottage had a bit of a Bali Ha’i quality to it, which made me feel like we had found a bit of a mystical garden. I hope we come back someday.

A Super Hero in Each of Us

 

 

 Two weeks ago when I was in Canada, I was listening to the CBC at noon on the radio doing an interview about the new Wonder Woman movie. A caller said how meaningful the movie was to her, how the character inspired her as a child and made her feel that she too was invincible. You could hear the emotion in her voice, and her excitement as she recounted some scenes from the movie and how it made her feel, and how she would take her 11-year-old daughter to see it.

I smiled and thought back to watching Wonder Woman in my own childhood. I never felt any great affiliation for her. In fact, I liked watching the different super heroes but always felt Wonder Woman never had any real special powers. Her wrist bands, her shield, her invisible jet. I don’t know, she seemed a bit weaker to me. And there was the buxom Lynda Carter on the TV show. I think my father enjoyed the show more than I did.

I met the marketing director for iPic in Redmond a few months ago. We chatted about all kinds of stuff and he gave me some free movie passes as I had never been there before. Yesterday, I used them to go to see Wonder Woman with my boyfriend.

I was definitely ready to be entertained by the action film, and I reclined in my premium seating in the 64-person theater, wrapped up in the soft, coffee-colored blanket. The opening scene introduces you to the world of the Amazons, and their values, and their beliefs, and how Diana’s purpose is to destroy Ares, the God of War.

There was something about seeing these women fight. The special effects making them seem so goddess-like themselves. The strength, and capability. And the sheer brute force they used to wipe out the German soldiers. I found myself strangely wanting to be stronger, to be more athletic. I’ve been having a lot of health problems lately, and I just wanted to feel well again, and to get back to my workouts at the gym, and feel like my strong self once more. I also wished I had pushed myself a lot further when I was younger, too.

As the movie progresses, Diana is in a scene in London during WW1 where she has to find some appropriate clothes to blend in. She tries to throw her leg into an Amazon kick in a long dress. Tears it. She can’t balance in the skinny high heels. A high collar is itchy, and uncomfortable. So she ends up dressing exactly like her male colleague, but in a skirt she can move in. Sometimes it’s physically difficult for women to move in this world while trying to fit into society’s concept of being beautiful. I, for one, can’t wear high heels anymore, my feet long since ruined by life.

I think it was the war scenes which really affected me though. Her sidekick Steve Trevor takes her to the front lines; to No Man’s Land. Diana, new to the world of man, is horrified by the brutality and the flagrant disregard for life. She is emotionally overwhelmed and feels the war must be stopped. Steve explains that the soldiers have been trying for months to make progress against the Germans here, but they hadn’t moved an inch. Diana strips down into her Amazon outfit and leaps out of the trenches to take on the German forces herself.

There was something about watching her run alone, her shield out, her wrist bands deflecting the bullets zinging endlessly at her, the black and white background and the debris and dust and dirt flying around her. The intensity of the music and the sounds of war, the endless barrage of bullets, and her pushing forward, compelled by a desire to stop the God of War, to end the needless suffering, to stop all the killing. She was alone, in color, with her little shield and her wrist bands, pushing, pushing. And succeeding. Sometimes as a mother, as a giver of life, my soul feels horrified by the atrocities in this world. I thought about passionately protesting during the nuclear scare in my youth, about my dad fighting in the Korean War, about my friend’s son in the Navy right now, about all the conflict and the death and destruction of our current world. And here was one woman, powered by the concept of love, Super Hero as she is, on a mission to use her powers to stop it.

The intensity of the scene was like watching the opening of “Saving Private Ryan” all over again. My body was trembling with emotion, I tried to muffle my sobs, tears were streaming down my face. Not only because of this overwhelming feeling of hatred for man’s violence against one another, but for being a woman in a man’s world. Sometimes the work environment makes me feel disadvantaged, or that my personal values are not in line with traditional corporate values of making money, and being the dominant dog. But rather doing what is right, and trying to come from a loving place.

Apparently that scene almost didn’t even make it into the movie. The director Patty Jenkins had to fight for it, because no one understood the importance or the significance.

Not only that scene, but the whole movie meant so much to me. So much about motherhood, and integrity, and being a woman, and wanting love to prevail, and standing up for what you believe in, and triumph, and kicking some serious ass in everything you do while also loving ice cream and babies and dressing up for a gala.

I cried so much during this movie. And I felt so inspired afterwards. To be myself, to keep fighting for what I feel is right, to take care of myself, to push myself harder, to love deeper. Whenever I am asked what my favorite movie is, I’m not sure what to say. I don’t think I had a favorite. I do now. How unlikely that I would identify so deeply with the fictional character of Wonder Woman. But after a tough adolescence, traveling the world, going to college, having a career, getting married, having a child, getting divorced, and owning my own business, I don’t know, I guess I’m at an age now where I feel there is a Super Hero in each of us.

When the movie was over, I quietly got my things together. My boyfriend hugged me and asked if I was ok. Normally I gush when I love a movie. But I didn’t want to explain or say anything. There were absolutely no words I could use to try to communicate the experience I had just had. There was no way he would ever be able to understand. The movie somehow demonstrates a difference between the world of men and the world of women.

Wonder

Doing research for this blog post, I saw a statistic that there was only 1 female super hero to every 4 male ones, and there were no super heroes of color. I wondered why that was. It made me think of the Greek and Roman gods. They had goddesses too; strong female figures. Or the goddesses of Hinduism. Super heroes, it seems to me, are the modern American religion. And there simply should be more female characters. That seems like a positive thing to me.

I texted my 13-year old daughter. I told her to go see Wonder Woman. I told her I would pay for her ticket. She is going today with three friends. I hope she enjoys it and I look forward to talking to her about when I see her after I get back from my business trip. I can’t wait to see the Super Hero she becomes.

June 23rd: Beer and Baptism in Puerto Rico

It’s approaching a very special night of the year, at least in Puerto Rico. June 23rd marks La Noche de San Juan Bautista, or the Eve of St. John the Baptist. Not only is it an annual event, but it’s quite possibly the most epic party I have ever attended.

I was 17 when I moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Three friends and I decided to take some time off between high school and college. My friend Carol’s sister lived in San Juan and invited us to stay for a few weeks. Well, we decided to stay for six months. And then for me, it turned into four years.

We rented apartments and found jobs and started assimilating into the culture. This honestly meant hanging out and working with the expats primarily. That was simply because we settled in the neighborhood of Ocean Park, 5 miles east of San Juan, and as much as we tried to learn Spanish, most of us were not great at it and did not put in the effort we should have. I really regret that now.

I worked as a waitress in a Tex-Mex restaurant called Mona’s. And I just have to point out that Tex-Mex has absolutely nothing to do with Puerto Rican food. God but it was good. One of the owners was originally from Mexico and the other owner Jay was a talented cook. Together they created a delicious menu with items I still crave to this day: Chicken Mole, Ceviche, Enchiladas, Chile Con Queso, Jay’s Chili with chunks of steak, Chicken Burritos with fresh jalapenos and sour cream, Flan de Coco….

The restaurant itself didn’t look like a traditional Tex-Mex place. We only had 18 tables in the L-shaped room. The six windows in the main area weren’t covered with glass; they were giant wooden squares the staff would prop up with wooden slates. When the torrential tropical storms would descend, we would run to the windows and try to close them as quickly as we could, usually getting soaked in the process. We became such a popular night spot we had to get a bouncer. No joke. A little Tex-Mex place with a bouncer. The line out the door would be an hour long. The bar area was standing room only. I had to carry trays full of margaritas, my arm fully extended upwards, as I snaked in and out of the bar crowd. After midnight, sometimes drunk guys would try to crawl through the windows to get in.

I remember the first June 23rd I went to work at Mona’s. The owner told me we would be shutting down around 8pm. I asked him why and he was shocked to learn that I didn’t know about La Noche de San Juan Bautista.

Centuries ago, the Catholic Church started merging their holidays into the existing pagan rituals. So it’s no coincidence and St John the Baptist’s birthday celebration happens to coincide with the summer solstice. St. John is the patron saint of Puerto Rico. In fact, the whole island used to be called San Juan. Nowadays, the evening of June 23rd on the island is pretty much one of the wildest parties around.

Things shut down for all intents and purposes in the evening, and everyone heads to the beach. The whole island – but the most popular beaches are those around the Condado, Isla Verde, Carolina, and my own little neighborhood of Ocean Park.

That night my friends and I ventured down to the beach around 10pm, four houses away from my apartment on La Calle Elena. There were hoards of bathing suit clad people on the beach under the moonlight on the humid, June night. You could smell roasting pig, hear bongos and drums and guitars, salsa and merengue music playing from ghetto blasters, people laughing and singing and yelling. And there was a lot of beer being consumed. The Atlantic’s waves crashed softly and rhythmically before us, gently pounding into the sand. We drank cold, local Medalla beer and partied for hours with people we knew, and people we didn’t, on that Ocean Park beach.

And at midnight, everyone entered the ocean, backwards, three times. The water is thought to be blessed, so this “baptism” of sorts is thought to cleanse you of all bad spirits and bring good luck throughout the coming year. Some believe seven dunkings are better, some think 12 are more effective. Whatever the total, it’s a great local custom and a mandatory method for rejuvenation on the island. And then the party continued into the night.

Today is June 23rd, and here I am decades later, living in Redmond, Washington. I’ll be heading to a soccer tournament tonight for my daughter. There isn’t a beach in my immediate future. But there is a hotel pool, and I just might have to have a beer at midnight, and go for a dip in fond memory of my Caribbean past.

La Noche

 

 

 

14 Airline Travel Hacks to Benefit the Frequent Flier

As a traveler who flies often for business and pleasure, I have learned a thing or two about air travel. I thought I would share my findings with you in hopes that they help you take advantage of a few things. If you are a seasoned traveler, you are likely aware of these tips, but you never know, there could be a nugget in here for you, too.

  1. Coffee and Tea On Board: I don’t drink coffee on flights, and now I’m going to add tea to that list. Apparently flight attendants won’t drink it either. According to a recent article by Food & Wine: “As NBC 5 noted, the water for tea and coffee comes from the tap, not from a bottle, while in flight. And that water could be downright disgusting. According to a 2004 EPA sample of 158 planes, 13 percent contained coliform. Two of the airplanes were found to have dangerous E.coli in the water. And as Business Insider reported, an additional EPA study found that one in every eight planes fails the agency’s standards for water safety.” No thanks…
  2. Booking Tickets: I fly on several different airlines. Not only should you check their websites when purchasing tickets but you can also check travel sites for deals. I often use Expedia.com and Travelocity. I prefer these as you can purchase each way of your journey separately, i.e. you can book one way on Delta and return on Alaska, if you so choose. Combining flights like this will often give you the best price. I have also read multiple articles that if you are looking for the best price, shop Tuesday or Wednesday morning, 5-6 weeks out for regional U.S. travel. I have found that prices can differ by almost $300 if you wait for the sweet spot for long, regional hauls, but you have to be pretty diligent about checking.
  3. Airports: I find that most airports are adequate enough, but there are some that I will avoid like the plague. (LAX) Los Angeles (poorly organized and packed), (CDG) Paris (has anyone ever been here when there hasn’t been a labor strike?), and (KEF) Reykjavik (the island has outgrown this airport) should all be avoided in my opinion. I do have some favorites hubs though, including (DTW) Detroit, (MSP) Minneapolis, (AMS) Amsterdam, (SLC) Salt Lake City and my own (SEA) Seattle. These five have great amenities and are extremely efficient and well organized. And if you need to fly into the San Francisco Bay Area, try flying into Oakland (OAK) instead of SF. Same if you are heading to LA, fly into Ontario (ONT). These are smaller, under-utilized airports and so much easier to exit. But when I’m choosing a layover location, I always take the time of year into consideration. I genuinely haven’t had many cancelled flights due to weather even in the winter, but it does indeed happen. I also always opt for a layover longer than an hour. Having a shorter layover stresses me out because sometimes planes have slight delays, but that throws your connection into chaos, and I am no sprinter. So instead, I’ll catch up on email and grab a bite.
  4. Apps: GateGuru is a great free app to help you get around airports throughout the world. It provides terminal maps, tips and a list of amenities and where to find them. I am also very fond of the Delta app, which now includes a map feature as well as directions to places and walking time. Super useful!
  5. Matching Status: Having status with an airline really helps as it gives you the choice of better seats and the possibility of upgrades, of course. I think it also helps with the level of customer service you receive. One thing I discovered this year is that many airlines will match the status of their competitors. For example, my boyfriend is at Diamond level with Delta. Alaska has a program where they will match a status for one year. So he is now a Gold 75k with Alaska too, their highest level, for one year. Delta also offers this program, and I wouldn’t be surprised if others offer it as well. It’s only for one year, but it’s free. You just need to fill out the paperwork.
  6. Premium Class: I’m not sure I would pay for this class of service but it certainly is nice to be upgraded into it. Delta Comfort, for example, offers more comfortable seats and legroom, a basket of free snacks generally presented a couple of times each flight, and free alcoholic beverages. One thing I have found lately is that I will often book a seat in the main cabin – typically in the first row. Delta Comfort sometimes sells out, leading me to sigh sadly and say “oh well.” And then I get on the plane and the online seating map did not show the correct configuration of the plane. It turns out that my first row main cabin seat is actually in Delta Comfort. Nice surprise! This has happened multiple times, so I recommend booking the main cabin seat as far forward as you can.
  7. Airline Credit Cards: I’m not one to collect credit cards, but I did recently apply for a Delta Reserve American Express. It’s $450 a year (ack…) but it includes an annual companion fare ticket for $99 good for anywhere in the U.S., individual membership into the Delta Sky Club, and other benefits. I can expense half the cost for my home business, so it’s completely worth it to me. Plus, with the card I received 10,000 miles – which were applied both to my status for next year, and to my overall miles I can use for ticket purchases. That was a very nice surprise.
  8. Companion Fare Tickets: As long as you don’t mind paying the annual fee, many airlines include a $99 companion ticket with their credit card promos. I have gone to Hawaii with someone twice now, and round trip for two has come to a total of $800 each time. If you are planning on a long, expensive vacation flight like this, it’s completely worth it. You have to use it yourself though, you cannot give the benefit to someone else.
  9. Airline Lounges: The expense (via my Delta credit card) of a membership to a lounge is completely worth it to me. I typically eat 2-4 meals in airport restaurants per trip and they are pricey. The Delta Sky Club is a little haven to me. I can charge my phone, access free wifi, sit comfortably, have unlimited beverages, including alcohol (although I don’t recommend tying one on while flying – it’s dehydrating), a cappuccino or latte, and a buffet of food. Ok, the plates are basically the size of saucers, and there is typically not real hearty food to choose from, but for me, veggies, hummus, cheese, fruit, snack items, soup – I can easily make a meal of that. And, it will typically be healthier than what I buy in at a Chili’s or a pub. And, some Sky Clubs have showers. The thought of coming back from Europe and hitting a shower during a layover sounds pretty good to me. Oh, and by the way, you can also book a massage in Seattle and JFK https://asandaspa.com/delta/delta-sky-club-asanda-spa-seatac/seatac-information/, and do yoga at JFK some Saturday mornings. I’m not kidding. You are also in the lounge with other business people typically, so you never know who you will be networking with.
  10. Medallion Benefits: Some Delta frequent fliers aren’t aware, or they just don’t take advantage of it, but the higher levels of status with Delta offer some pretty cool benefit choices, such as gifting status to someone, free global and regional upgrade certificates, a Delta gift card, a Tiffany’s gift card, membership to the Sky Club. This is all in addition to the automatic upgrades one typically receives. Most people reach status through business travel, so it’s simply free stuff! And next year, Delta’s highest level will receive three benefits to choose from, and their second highest will get two.
  11. Flying on Miles: I think most people know to take advantage of this, but what I didn’t realize is that Delta and Alaska, for example, will upgrade their customers flying on mileage tickets. I recently flew to London on miles, and I was upgraded to first class on Delta for the leg from Seattle to New York. That’s a long flight and the plane’s first class seats reclined to a vertical position. Oh, thank you! You might be surprised by the relatively low mileage requirements for global trips. A friend recently traveled from Seattle to Sydney, Australia round trip for 82.5k miles through Alaska. Her husband went for business, she met him afterwards, and they had a couple weeks of vacation out of it. Plus, Alaska recently lowered their miles requirement for short trips. Three of us are traveling from Seattle to San Jose, for 5k miles each way. And we are traveling on my boyfriend’s Gold 75k itinerary, which he got on promotion without ever flying Alaska, so we are likely to be upgraded to first class. Pretty cool.
  12. Surveys: Most airlines will send you a survey at the completion of your flight. I’m a nerd, I usually respond. And they do read them. I have received credits for future flights when I have had a valid complaint. Ok, I’ll take it!
  13. Airlines: Over the years I have developed my preferences. Everyone is different of course, but here are my thoughts on this:

–          Delta. Delta is my first choice nowadays, and I cannot say enough nice things about them. They also have great customer service, they are reliably on time, they fly everywhere, I get upgraded to Delta Comfort almost every flight, and often to first class, plus they offer free movies which Alaska does not. Great mileage program, too.

–          Alaska Airlines. This is an awesome airline, especially if you are based on the West Coast. Great customer service, good selection of code share partners, possibly the best food, generally on time. I adore Alaska but they do not fly the route I need the most often.

–          American: Good God, avoid at all costs. Yes, they are cheap but UGH. Almost always late and I’m not a fan of their customer service.

–          KLM: I’m a huge fan of KLM for trans-atlantic flights. Last time I flew to The Netherlands I was able to automatically upgrade to premium because of my status with Delta. My boyfriend and I were hoping we could be automatically upgraded into first class but because of the code share rules that wasn’t possible. However, on the day of the flight, we were offered first class upgrades for an 80% discount. Their service in first class was stellar and full of special nuances. I highly recommend flying KLM if you have the choice.

–          IcelandAir: It’s an affordable option when you are flying from the States to Europe, but that but that Reykjavik airport…what a nightmare. Personally I think it’s worth spending the extra money so you don’t have to deal with that place. I have heard that they are expanding it though, so maybe improvement is on the way. I found it too small and frustratingly inefficient.

14. BYOH: Reddit user ichigo29 says “I used to work for warehouse that supplied a certain airline with items. The headsets that are given to you are not new, despite being wrapped up. They are taken off the flight, “cleaned”, and then packaged again.” Uhhhhh….gross!

The more you travel, the better your perks will be. But even if you can reach the lowest level of status I highly recommend it. The premium seating with the opportunity for upgrade, free baggage and great customer service makes it really worth it. Plus airlines have partners and many of the benefits will cross over to their code share airlines. Choose an airline and stay brand loyal. And if you travel a lot, choose two if you can.Air Travel

Do you have a useful airline tip? Please comment below!

 

 

 

The Cake Campaign

CakeNow that I’m a small business owner working from home, I’m realizing the advantages. But there are definitely disadvantages, too.

I worked in the agency and corporate environment for a total of 19 years. But now that I work from the solitude of my own little home, I have had to make some adjustments.

Of course, you hear all the time about the benefits of abandoning the corporate lifestyle. For me, these include:

–          Freedom: I can work from anywhere I want to. Whether that is my home, a coffee shop, in Canada, in Europe, wherever I choose. And if I want to take that afternoon pilates class, I can.

–          Time: The commute for the average American is increasing. I once had a job where my commute was 90 minutes. Each way. I spent three hours in a car every working day. If you calculate that time over the year, it’s like spending the entire month of July in the car. Plus, especially for women, think of all the time you spend each day getting ready for the office. Now, my hair goes into a ponytail and I’m quite comfortable in my yoga pants, thank you very much.

–          Attitude: I confess that this is the happiest I have ever been in my life. Particularly because I now have spare time to be creative. I was too tired and busy to pursue the hobbies that make me fulfilled, but now I can – like writing, and painting, and cooking more often. My friends have commented on the significant change in my mood.

–          Excitement: It might not be for everyone, but I don’t know where my next paycheck is coming from. There is something about the pursuit of new clients that is a bit exhilarating. For some reason, I love this part, and I can’t wait to learn about them and start working with them.

–          Master of My Own Destiny: This was probably the biggest a-ha I’ve had. I took time and thought – what do I want my life to look like? What is important to me? I love the industry I work in, I love to travel, I love to write, I love spending time with my teenage daughter and my boyfriend. So I’ve designed my life so I can do all of it.

–          Empowerment: It’s nice to know that all the hours and sweat I put into my work directly benefits me. There is also something special about being a woman and owning my own business.

Those are indeed some of the benefits. I am truly living my dream right now.

But what I wasn’t expecting was the isolation, and the loneliness. One of the best aspects of working for a huge corporation is the camaraderie, and the laughter. It’s hearing everyone’s stories and ideas. Commiserating sometimes, and offering a shoulder to cry on at others. Sometimes I look forward to going to the store just to be with people, and to have a two-minute conversation with the check out clerk. That said, the loneliest time of my life was also when I worked for a corporation, with thousands of other people.

The other thing I miss? Being perfectly honest? I miss the cake! I swear to you that we must have had a cake a week. For a birthday, or a promotion, a retirement, a going away party, an anniversary. Not only in my department, but other departments too. Sometimes they would leave leftover cake in the break room; that surprise piece of Costco white cake with its sugary frosting flowers is something really special. I don’t think I have had cake since 2015. Oh, wait. I had a client dinner in February. I shared some cake there.

It’s been predicted that by 2022, 60% of the office workforce will be working from home. I think they might be right. And I will make a prediction that the Costco bakery will go out of business. Without that office population supporting their cake sales…

I kicked off my new company recently. My “office of one.” I didn’t have a room full of coworkers to celebrate my launch. So do me a favor. If you are a friend of mine, participate in my Cake Campaign. Next time you go to the store, buy yourself a piece of cake. It doesn’t have to be cake really, maybe a cookie, or a peach, or a dozen happy sunflowers. Think of me, and wish me well in my new venture.

And if you don’t know me, I encourage you to do the same anyway. Enjoy your treat, and maybe think about a dream deferred. One that is sitting in the back of your mind somewhere. Maybe it’s those guitar lessons you wanted to take, or French classes, or maybe think about that quirky home you’d like to own someday. That old one in Seattle. Or Monterey. Or Tuscany. Let yourself daydream a little.

To dreams…