A Kase of… Biking in Key West. At night!

16 08 2010

I lived in Key West, Florida for almost three years.  I don’t tell people that as much as I used to because the response to that statement is almost always “Why did you leave??” thrown at me in disbelief.  Believe me, my Key West adventures could fill enough blogs for a year; in fact my blogging buddy Adam Gercak of Throwing Quarters thinks there’s a book in some of my adventure stories… we’ll see…

One of the best and worst things about Key West is the weather.  I can picture the shaking heads of my fellow current residents in the Cleveland, Ohio area as they think of the 5+ months we have of cold, gray weather on the “North Coast”.  However, this past week Cleveland (like many parts of the US) was sweltering under very Key West-like weather with temps in the 90s and very high humidity.  In Key West, we had five months of that weather. every. single. day.

Now before you think that’s a dream come true, I ask you to think about what the hot weather has been like over the past few days – meteorologists have used words like ‘oppressive’, ‘harsh’ or ‘brutal’ to describe the heat.  And that would be accurate.  In Key West, the sun would beat down on you all day, and many jobs were outside in the heat.  But, in the evening, as dusk approached and the tourists all gathered at Mallory Square to watch the sun set, I would hop on my bike and ride around the island.

This was one of my favorite things to do in Key West for many reasons.  The first was that for as harsh and brutal the daytime heat was, the night air had a gentle softness to it; a light breeze that brushed across your skin like silk.  You could smell the sweetness of the various tropical plants – the Bougainvillea, Hibiscus and Oleander, plus the flowers on the Royal Poinciana trees.  The scents would hang in the humid air and mingle with a freshness that can never be captured by any candle.

As I peddled down the narrow streets I often found I was not the only one enjoying the night air: many of the cats from the island would sit on stairways and fence posts and watch in silence as I rode past.  Some of these cats had found people to live with, others  just lived from the good will of people.  Yes, many of the cats were polydactyl cats and I would meow at them (I speak cat quite well), but most were just as happy as I was to be taking in the soothing night air.

The other fun part of biking through Key West at night was the rather voyeuristic opportunity to see  inside the lighted rooms of many of the old homes that had been built in the 1800s.  I didn’t want to see the people; I enjoyed seeing the homes!  I am fascinated by architecture and the  romantic nature of these beautiful old homes:  The Gingerbread houses, the Eyebrow houses and the beautiful Victorian mansions made of plank after plank of southern yellow pine, which held up through years of extreme temperatures and more than a few hurricanes.

The whole experience was very soothing and relaxing, and I found myself embracing the wonder in the small, simple treasures of the island.  That was part of why I had moved to Key West from Chicago – to ‘decompress’ from my city life.   The other thing to remember is that this was the early-to-mid 1990s, before we were tethered to a smart phone or a lap top.  Forget Twitter or Facebook- the internet hadn’t happened yet.  Most of us didn’t have cell phones.  Long distance calls went out over your landline and cost money.

Last week I went biking around my suburban neighborhood of Westlake, OH.  I needed to get away from my laptop, and the the modern technology I embrace  so heartily.   I went biking at night, in the dark, and the air was once again so gentle after the harshness of the day’s heat.   I was flooded with my Key West memories and I found myself longing for the serenity I used to feel on those nocturnal rides through the Southernmost Point in the United States.  In my opinion, the McMansions of the nearby development do not hold a candle to the beautiful homes in Key West, but I was still very relaxed from the experience.  I started to notice details of the neighborhood which evaded me when I drove through in a car.  I began to appreciate the little things I had been rushing past for months.

This time of year is always hard for me – I feel like so many people have already shifted in to Back-to-School mode, or are thinking about their fantasy football team when I want to continue to embrace every moment of summer, no matter how hot.  So please take a moment to feel the air before the summer leaves us all too quickly.  Take a night to turn off your A/C and open the windows.  Hear the cicadas in the trees, the smell of the hydrangeas, and maybe the meow of the occasional stray cat.

Summer comes and goes so quickly, and soon enough it will be cold, rainy and blustery; just a precursor to months of snow, boots and thick coats.  If you have a bike, get on it – go for a ride at night (yes, have lights on your bike and be smart about it, ok?) or for an adventure in your neighborhood during the day.

Coming up on Wednesday, I’ll fill you in on the details of my 10 mile Sunday bike ride which included unexpected stops at cemetery and a public baptism in Lake Erie.  If I had been driving in my car, I would have missed it all!  Slow down, explore and enjoy!





Three great women moving forward in 2010

14 01 2010

As I mentioned in my last blog, I was inspired by three woman who recently made decisions to follow their true selves and walk through fear as they do it.  Now I have the opportunity to thank them and give them the credit they are due:

Jennifer Ferber – Jenn is someone I have really come to know by taking her Spin classes at Ride+Workout in Lakewood, OH.  www.RideandWorkout.com For those of you who follow me on twitter and Facebook, I will often mention I take her Sunday 4pm class.  Not only does she play a great mix of music (all played LOUD, with the lights dimmed), she talks about the class being an active meditation:  You’ve taken the time to get there, now focus on your intent.  You need to get beautiful from the inside out… if the ‘outsides’ are pretty but the ‘insides’ are nasty, no one’s going to want to be around you anyway!

The other great thing about Jenn is that she started spinning only a little over 2 years ago, as she was going through a very nasty divorce.  She said that the support of the spin class and the process of taking that time for herself got her through some really bad times.  It was a natural progression for her then to start teaching classes and I have seen her grow as an instructor.  She also met her now-fiancé, Scott (a GOOD guy) in spin class and they are going to start teaching a tandem spin class Fridays at 6pm to demonstrate how the energy you get from a good spin partner can really help propel you to keep going, and how the energy can just flow between the two of you.

Not only is Jenn taking on this new class in 2010, but she has made a big decision for change in her fulltime job.  She recently decided to leave a “safe” position with a company where she had worked for quite a while to take the risk with a new company in Business Development.  She stands to earn more in the long run, but more importantly, she realized it was time for her to challenge herself, and she believes in her ability to accomplish her goals.  If you’d like to reach Jenn (she’s not on twitter – bummer) but you can email her at  SpinGirl1968@yahoo.com.

Gini Dietrich (@ginidietrich on twitter) Gini is a truly driven business person. I came to know Gini strictly through twitter (we have since connected twice in person).  I had put out a general question on twitter about Vistage, (the company for which my father has been a Chair of groups of CEOs to improve their business and personal lives), my old college roomie Diane (@ChicagoDiane) said that I had to speak with Gini; that Gini was a Vistage member (and CEO of Arment Dietrich PR).  I inquired with Gini (who is in Chicago) if she might know of anyone possible members for a Cleveland group where my dad was based.  She didn’t, but we began following each other on twitter.

I think our relationship is a healthy example of how to connect on twitter – I don’t really remember how it all evolved, but it seemed to grow very naturally.  That, and Gini would often tweet things that would make me laugh!  But then she did something really brave, she posted a blog about mistakes she had made; it was brutally honest and open.  She was honest about the things she didn’t know, she admitted to crying, she discussed her self-doubt, until she began to see it was ok to fail http://www.spinsucks.com/leadership/mistakes-made-in-growing-a-business .  I was amazed at her candor.  More importantly, I was amazed at how she addressed the failure and turned it around.  The quote that inspired her blog post was from Confucius: “It’s not in that we fail, but in how we pick ourselves up when we do.”  Wow.  That’s one worth posting over my desk.

More recently, Gini has made the decision in going into 2010, that her “PR” firm is no longer going to be a PR firm – it is going to focus strictly on social media and communication.  Gini explains it better here:  http://www.spinsucks.com/spin/arment-dietrich-is-no-longer-a-pr-firm .  Bottom line, Gini is doing what she feels is right to build her business AND for her to be satisfied in her roll as well.  You should follow Gini on twitter @ginidietrich- she recently reached her goal of over 10,000 followers!  Oh yeah, and she spins (the exercise) too!

Heather Acton (@HeatherActon78)  – Heather is a new twitter friend.  I’m not even sure why I had started following her –  she may have been suggested by one of my Chicago connections (Heather is also a Chicago gal), or maybe someone had retweeted something from her I had liked.  We had not connected much on twitter, then late one night just a couple of weeks ago I was scanning my Tweetdeck, contemplating many of the great questions of life (something like ‘what do I do next?’ ‘why me?’,  or ‘I feel lost…’) and though I did not tweet any of those questions, I came across this tweet: VIDEO: Heather Jumps Ship! http://tmogul.com/tweet/bYPjL 12:44 AM Jan 5th.  So I watched this video Heather had just posted.  She discussed her decision to leave her engineering job at Proctor & Gamble so that she could focus on her kids and grow her own home business.

I immediately tweeted back to Heather, giving her my support and telling her of how I had just read Gini’s blog only hours before about her decision to change direction and how I had also just made a big decision to leave WNCX (albeit only part time) to be truer to my ‘personal brand’.  We began frantically DM-ing each other back & forth about how it can be scary but also so invigorating to make big changes and take a risk.

Heather has had her last day at P & G, and is now building her home business of web site development, marketing, and online business development  for individuals, organizations, and businesses.  Check out her website and blog at www.HeatherActon.com.  I definitely plan on connecting with Heather in person on my next trip to Chicago.

So who do you know who is facing fear and taking on new challenges this year?  Are you supporting them? You should!  This is the new economy and how we can grow both personally and professionally.  Let me know of an outstanding individual in your life an I’ll try to feature them in an upcoming blog post.   Remember to keep moving… crawl, walk.. run!