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Welcome to These Gypsy Feet!

July 28, 2011

It’s been a long-standing joke with my husband (henceforth known as C) and my family that I have “Gypsy Feet”. I define it as that urge one gets every few years to travel, see new places, or just shake things up a bit. Whenever I have felt my life getting stale I start telling my loved ones that I’m getting my Gypsy Feet, and they know that something big is about to change for me. The last time I got Gypsy Feet I moved 1200 miles across the country to get married to a soldier. That’s the short version, anyway.

Mostly I just write about whatever’s on my mind but occasionally I will have:

Fat Kid Friday – AWW YEAH! I know this is why everyone is here, and I won’t let you down. Recipes, restaurant reviews, and mouth-watering photos await. Go on… you know you want to.

So welcome to my adventure! Hope you enjoy the ride as much as I do.

 

9 Essential Seafood & Wine Pairings

August 1, 2016

When I was a kid August was always a bittersweet month for me. While the month holds some great things (ahem, my birthday) I knew that it was only a matter of weeks until school started again.

August still feels like a transition, though it no longer signals the start of school for me (hats off to you, parents whose children went back today). The nights get a little chillier with each passing week, even here in Hawaii. The sun sets a little bit earlier each night, and I have a desire to extend the carefree spirit of summer just a while longer.

Nothing says summer to me like seafood, preferably accompanied by a view of the water and a glass of something cold. To help you hold on to summer for as long as you can here are my 9 Essential Seafood & Wine Pairings. They’re sure to make you feel as though you’re still on vacation, even if you’re up to your eyeballs in back-to-school shopping lists and carpool coordination.

Read more…

4 Things Startup Weekend Will Teach You (and why everyone should go at least once)

February 11, 2014

Over the weekend I attended Startup Weekend Honolulu—an event for entrepreneurs and entrepreneur wannabes to get together, pitch some ideas, and spend 54 hours working like crazy to build a deliverable. It was SO MUCH FUN! The event was hosted at The Box Jelly, a coworking space in Kaka’ako (very cool neighborhood with something of a hipster vibe). What the teams build gets presented to a panel of judges on Sunday night, and winners get bragging rights… along with some damn good experience if they intend to continue on with their business idea. Some teams come already formed, others form organically at the event.

Everything kicked off Friday night, and the place was absolutely crackling with positive energy and ideas. Entrepreneurs, social media personalities, spectators all worked the room, greeting old friends, making new ones, and talking about what ideas they might pitch. C and I made friends before we even walked in the door—and it turned out that the two people we started talking to were a) both military and b) one was from Manchester! I swear the world keeps getting smaller.

I jumped in with both feet and volunteered for the warm-up activity before the pitches. Just as an aside– if someone asks you to say a random word on ‘3’, don’t say hippopotamus. Or onomatopoeia. Trust me.

No, not Tiny Rhino.

No, not Tiny Rhino.

Pitches are quick—60 seconds to describe your project and ask for who you need on your team: designers and developers being the most in demand, with hustlers a close second. C & I joined the Team myFocusBook, an app with a new twist on productivity. Jenée Dana, President & Chief Focusing Officer of FocusOpus (the company behind myFocusBook) is an astonishing lady. At 29-years old she can already boast some pretty impressive career accomplishments, including a book that debuted at #1 on the Amazon Best-Seller List and a time management system that she created based on her own experiences at UCLA, where she struggled with ADD and undiagnosed reading disabilities yet still managed to graduate a year early. I met Jenée during the social portion of the evening and we hit it off, so I decided to jump on her team. We ended up with 5 hustlers (read: business people with zero design/development capabilities) trying to create a web app for her program. Them’s the breaks! Here’s what I learned this weekend:

  1. It’s not about the project: Startup Weekend is all about testing the waters of your idea to see what’s below the surface. People spend a lot of time thinking about their ideas, and it all comes down to whether or not they can convince anyone else that it’s got legs. There were SOOOO many interesting pitches that didn’t even get picked to move on to the second phase of the weekend. Despite the buzz of ideas, I think that the really important part of the experience is about your team. You will learn a lot about yourself working under pressure, and a lot about other people. I learned, in particular, what kind of people I don’t like working with. Knowing that is as important as knowing what kind of customers you want to attract. Thankfully, in real life it’s easier to pick your team with care and precision. When it’s time, do that, and avoid the blowhards who can’t focus.
  2. You learn more from losing: Not gonna lie—I bet that winning last night would have felt AMAZE-balls. They had big fake checks that they were handing out (even though no money was on the line), and I loves me some bragging rights. As it is, though, I learned so much this weekend that I can’t even be sad. I feel like my mind has been blown open to an entirely new world of possibilities that I was scarcely aware existed! Most people never see this side of the startup world. I heard about investors, ideation, and pitching pitching pitching. This is without a doubt the place to be for those wanting to dabble in entrepreneurial ventures, but come forewarned: If you’re transitioning from a more traditional field, as I did, prepare to do a lot of Googling—this is a whole new ballgame, complete with jargon. And remember that it doesn’t matter if your team “wins” or not. In startups, as in life, those who come with the desire to learn get more than those with the desire to win.
  3. Take the time to look at what other people are doing: Probably my biggest regret from the weekend is that I didn’t walk around more and see what other teams were up to. You shouldn’t make the same mistake! Get up from your table and go mingle—it will serve you well on several levels. Firstly, you need to work off some of the calories from the omnipresent pizza and donuts (p.s. the food is sooooooo tasty)! Secondly, it gives you the opportunity to meet folks and just chat, about anything really. Talking about the projects is great, but I overheard lots of interesting conversations and even managed to have a few of my own when someone new dropped by our table. Make the effort, stretch yourself, and you might even get a little networking out of it. You may also see what another group is working on and have an epiphany! Won’t know unless you unglue your butt from the chair, right?
  4. Network, network, network: I’ve touched on this a little in the other sections, but I think the biggest benefit to Startup Weekend is the opportunity to meet like-minded folks working on interesting things. My best connection from the weekend came out of the pitch session on Friday night—I met the woman who I think is going to become my co-founder on a new project. It’s all very secret squirrel right now, but I will share more when the time is right. What does this mean for you? Come prepped with business cards, a smile, and the genuine interest in what someone else has to say. That’s all that networking really is anyway, in my opinion.

Why YOU Should Go to a Startup Weekend

Fun little secret? You don’t have to participate to observe the pitches or see the Demo Day on Sunday afternoon. It was absolutely fascinating to see the variety and quality of ideas/pitches being presented, and I think it would be worthwhile for anyone to spend an hour or two listening to that. The things that come from Startup Weekend are The Next Big Things. These are the ideas, and the people, who will be changing your life (and possibly the world). Seeing that in action is priceless. Startup Weekends happen all over the world, and all around the calendar. Chances are there will be one near you soon, and I encourage you to go check it out, and maybe even participate.

Pro-tips if you go:

  • Try not to stand in the corner looking grumpy when your project isn’t chosen. We’re all grownups here.
  • Try to join a group that you’re actually interested in. Try NOT to work by yourself because of the first tip.
  • Try to find some way to be useful. C, who has absolutely no business background, still managed to be vital to our team in the research process. I saw several people, though, who just sat around/did nothing/left early because “there was nothing to do”. Find some way to be useful! Create a Twitter handle, or some other social media presence for your group. Go out and survey folks to get validation for your idea. Create a Kickstarter page. You get the idea. There is so much to do that doesn’t involve design or development! I had the privilege of listening to George Kellerman from 500 Startups at lunch on Saturday, and he reminded us that the only constraints on us were in our heads. This advice doesn’t only apply to the startup world. Remember that.

The biggest thing I got from this weekend is the reminder that you get what you put it. If you come to Startup Weekend with the intention of contributing, you will contribute. It works the other way too. So—what are you waiting for? Start dreaming now, and maybe at the next event it will be your team on the stage holding a giant fake check and a sense of endless possibilities.

 

 

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It’s the Little Things

January 3, 2014

I had an epiphany this morning when I opened my dishwasher.

No, it wasn’t that I had forgotten to start it last night after dinner!

I was trying to get something out of the top rack, but it just wouldn’t open. I tugged and pulled, and finally looked inside to see what the problem was. There in the middle of the rack was the huge stoneware insert to our crock pot, which had given me trouble the night before when I was loading up.

‘Of course,’ I thought. I reached in and pushed the insert down. Nothing. Tried to push it sideways. Nothing. Pulled and tugged some more. Now I was getting a little miffed, because all I wanted was my coffee mug.

I bent down more to get a new perspective, and it was then that I realized that it wasn’t the crock pot causing me trouble at all… It was the lid to the smallest Tupperware container we own, which had somehow gotten jammed between the rack and the wheel.

I moved the lid, and the whole rack pulled out smoothly.

As I was sipping my coffee it occurred to me what a wonderful metaphor this was. I’ve been struggling with some big problems that don’t want to budge, and I’ve been tinkering and nudging and grumbling instead of looking for a smaller, more elegant solution.

I think we all do this from time to time. We see the big boulder in the middle of the road and try to push it. When it doesn’t move, or pushes back, we get angry.

What we need to do is look for the little cracks in the big boulder, because that is where we can start to get a foothold, and get over it.

What little cracks can you find in your big boulders today?

Moving to a place with palm trees does not invalidate my feelings.

September 23, 2013

I have noticed an interesting phenomenon happening when I try to talk to people about our upcoming move to Hawaii. They say things like “Wow, tough break” or “Gosh, how terrible for you” or “Life must be So. Hard.” or my personal favorite “Can I stow away in your suitcase?”

It’s like there’s some breakdown between the words leaving my mouth and their ears, and all they hear is Hawaii

They don’t hear the sadness in my voice when I talk about how I’m leaving the place that I have worked so hard to make home for the last two years and change. 

They don’t hear the fear when I tell them that no, I don’t have a job lined up yet and I’m not really sure what my next career step will be.

They haven’t read the articles and forums that I have from other military families talking about the high cost of groceries in Hawaii, how the average yearly electric bill is $4400, or how tropical hurricanes and tsunamis are a very real threat. 

In a nutshell, the concerns that I have about uprooting my life and moving it via boat and airplane to what might as well be another country are very real. I don’t deserve to be brushed off by someone else’s visions of palm trees and bikini-clad beautiful people on Waikiki Beach.

It occurred to me the other day that my experience of “moving to Spain” doesn’t really apply to this situation… a travel abroad experience, while it immerses you in another culture, is more like an extended vacation. You don’t have to worry about the logistics of moving furniture, or pets, or working. You just pack up a suitcase, book a plane ticket, and off you go. 

C and I keep talking about how strange it feels to know that one week from today we will pack up my car and leave Tennessee for good. We’ve booked hotels for a few nights before we go so that we can clean the apartment, and I hope that helps with the transition of saying goodbye. There are real emotions here, and even knowing that we are moving someplace tropical doesn’t erase them.

So please, the next time you are talking to me (or any other military spouse that is going someplace that you imagine to be wonderful and problem free), don’t shut them down. Listen. Try to hear them. After all, palm trees aren’t made of fairy dust.

 

There’s always something

August 26, 2013

So far, the preparations for our PCS have been going smoothly. Mostly it’s been “hurry up and wait”, which anyone associated with military life will recognize as SOP. We found out this past spring that we would be transferred to Hawaii, and then I began to eagerly await orders.

And wait. And wait. And…

Finally last Monday the orders arrived. It made me laugh a little that there was absolutely NO fanfare. I got an email from Doc saying “Here they are!” and that was that. It was a nice little anniversary present! And boy, did I hit the ground the running. Monday afternoon I took myself and our precious papers over to the Transportation office, which is where all shipment of household goods is arranged. They gave me a little present too– we were set up for our briefing on my birthday! 

It’s so odd that after months and months of waiting (and late orders), everything has happened all in the span of a few days. We have our shipment dates and are on the waitlist for housing. The only thing left to do was book our personal travel.

This, by the way, is the other shoe dropping. Now as I mentioned before, our arrangements have gone very smoothly, especially in comparison to some of the horror stories I have heard from other spouses– orders with no names, orders with wrong names, orders that changed halfway through the process, dogs that escaped on the tarmac en route to Germany– and that’s just the half of it. Everyone seems to have a nightmare tale to tell, most of which keep me up at night with worry. And I realize now in retrospect that I should have seen my own snafu coming.

I left my house this morning blithely, more copies of orders in hand, headed for post and dreaming of palm trees. On the way I called my Dad to make sure he could take us to the airport, and I rolled up to the Passenger Travel office ready to book our flights. The Army had other plans. For whatever reason, C had been operating under the assumption that we could travel from home to his new station, and pay the difference in the cost of the flight. I think this is because that is exactly what he did when he was coming to Campbell from AIT, so at least it was sort of logical. When I explained to the woman at the travel office what we were hoping to do, her response was, “Sorry, I can only fly you out of Nashville, St. Louis, or Atlanta.”

Well. Crap.

C had already submitted his leave packet and we were committed to going back home for several reasons, not the least of which is that we can’t ship my car to Hawaii and it has to go live at my parent’s house. 

I left the office, trying to hold back tears (anyone else here a stress crier?), and called C immediately. We spent about 10 minutes bouncing ideas around, trying to come up with a solution, and finally we decided that the best course of action was to eat the cost of a one-way flight for us and the kitty between home and one of those three airports. 

Great! So now I was off to find a computer and get researching. First stop, library– but their computers were down and I wouldn’t be able to get onto one without a CAC card (secure IDs that all the soldiers have). They directed me to the USO. We have a USO? Turns out that Fort Campbell is home to a pretty sweet USO, decorated with a Vietnam-era Huey in the main room. Literally. It takes up the whole floor.

Image

There’s a bank of computers along the wall, and I took up residence at one. I was knee deep in research on Kayak when suddenly my computer went dead! I looked over at the girl next to me– hers was dead too. I was just about to get up and go to the front desk when said girl realized that she had kicked the plugs out of the wall. I smiled and we commiserated, but the poor thing was so embarrassed that she took off!

I quickly realized as I was searching for flights that they were all during the day. I circled the three best options, and went and called my Dad again. No go. As a school teacher just coming off vacation there’s no way he could have asked for more time to take us to the airport. I was starting to feel the panicky tears again when he said, “Why not call T?” T is my best friend, and I thought, “Duh! Why didn’t I think of that?” Long story short (too late!) I convinced a different friend, H, to take us to the airport on her way to work the day we had to leave. **Quick shout out to H– you rock!** Thank God she works close enough to the airport and doesn’t mind getting up a little earlier than she already does to do it!

The funny thing is that H and her husband (also C) are going to be vacationing in Hawaii for two weeks at the end of October! I told her that I would pay her back in frilly umbrella drinks and gratitude.

I was about to call and book our flights when that little voice in my head said “Nope! Go back to passenger travel first!” Seemed like good advice, so I trekked back across post and back into the office. Luckily for me, the ladies who work in that office are superb. The woman I had seen first thing this morning picked up right where we left off, and assured me that I am not the first person to make repeat visits to her. I left with the assurance that our request was being processed and that we would have an itinerary soon.

So there it is. Our first hiccup, good sized, but not enough to really knock us down. Certainly not a nightmare story, although it felt a little frightening right in the middle of it! Now I just have to hurry up and wait for October. 

PCS-ing to Hawaii with a Pet: Part 1

August 2, 2013

I’ve decided that while I wait in limbo for C’s orders to come in that I could still be blogging about other useful things… like how to PCS with a pet. In our case, that pet is Hobbes, who adopted us a year ago August 15th.

I’ve always lived in a home with multiple pets, but after seeing the checklist for the Hawaii 5 Day or Less Program I am SO thankful that we only have one fur baby at the moment. I didn’t know until I started researching our move that the Hawaiian Islands are rabies free, and they are scrupulous about keeping them that way. For anyone planning to import a domestic animal that translates into the lengthy to-do list you’ll find by clicking the above link.

That checklist, by the way, is your Holy Grail for getting your animal to Hawaii without having to pay out the nose or leave them in quarantine for 120 days. Yeah, you read that right. Download it, carry it around, and make sure that your vet has a copy too.

Here’s what you will need to do to move your pet, in a nutshell:

Call your vet TODAY and schedule an appointment. Do this for two reasons: 1) To make sure that your pet is current on all vaccinations, and 2) to map out a game plan for the rest of the program.  #1 is especially important for the rabies vaccine, because your pet needs to have had TWO rabies shots in its lifetime in order to qualify for the 5-Day-or-Less program. That means if you have a puppy or kitten younger than 6 months, you probably won’t be eligible for the program and will need to quarantine your pet.

The reason for the 2 rabies shots is that your pet will need to have blood drawn for what is known as a rabies titer. Long story short– your vet draws the blood and sends it to a special lab in Kansas. That lab will test the blood sample to determine if your pet has a high enough level of rabies antibodies to be eligible for direct release on the island. They will forward the results directly to the quarantine center in Honolulu, and they will also notify your vet of the results. Generally speaking, 4-6 weeks need to have passed since the second shot for these levels to be high enough in your pet. I gambled a little and we drew the rabies titer on Hobbes 2 weeks after his second shot, and his results came back fine. I would say consult your vet, but if you are short on time you will probably be okay.

Here’s the most important thing: Your pet’s 120 day quarantine begins from the day they receive the sample in Kansas. So if you are leaving next month, your fur baby may still have to spend some quality time in the quarantine center. Start budgeting now if that is the case, because they charge you for food and lodging while your pet is there. On the flip side, don’t do it more than 120 days before you intend to land at HNL, because it will invalidate the results and you will have wasted your time and money.

Another VERY important tip: Get your vet to sign (in blue ink) on your pet’s rabies certificates, and make sure you know where the tags are. The State of Hawaii will NOT accept your pet without those signatures in blue ink. Picky, but crucial.

Now, what you are probably really wondering is how much all this will cost, right? Prices will vary from place to place, of course, but for us each rabies vaccine cost about $30, and to have the blood drawn cost $122 (that included the office visit, blood collection, and an overnight shipping fee because the sample has to be sent cold).  Remember what I said earlier about not having to pay out the nose? Guess the guide can’t really help with that. I estimate that by the time all is said and done and we are FOG with Hobbes in our hands we will have spent at least $500 just getting him to our new home. Multiply that by each pet you have, and then probably round up. The things we do for our animals…

I am lucky to have found a wonderful vet here in Clarksville (shout out to the Family Pet Hospital!), and my vet not only printed out the 5-Day-or-Less program, but helped me go through it and figure out when each step needed to happen. There’s a lot of “do this not more than x days and not less than x days” language in the requirements, so go over it with them and get it all in your calendar. One less thing to worry about.

If your pet is already fixed and microchipped, you can skip this next part. If not, read on!

Soapbox Time.

If your pet is not already spayed/neutered, I HIGHLY recommend that you do that. Not only does it protect your pets health and prevent future litters of unwanted animals, it is the perfect time to microchip your pet since they will already be under anesthesia. The microchip is a REQUIREMENT of the 5-Day-or-Less program, and a good idea regardless. It is so much easier to return a fur baby with a microchip, because they cannot lose it or have it removed like external ID. After it is implanted be sure that your vet scans the chip in front of you to make sure that it’s working, and then you can go online and input all of your info so that if Fluffy makes a run for it, you have a better chance of getting him/her back. It cost us $165 to have Hobbes neutered and microchipped, and it was worth every penny.

Soapbox time over.

I know this is getting long, so I’m going to wrap it up here– I’ll be back soon to talk about pet crates and traveling by air with your animal. Please feel free to email or leave a comment if you have any questions!

The Leprechauns in My House (Or, How I Lost my Wedding Ring)

May 28, 2013

**Mother-in-Law Spoiler Alert: I found it!**

Yesterday was a day for housework– I got rid of all the extra boxes in the garage, tidied the living room, and took care of the kitchen that has been sadly neglected during these last few weeks while I’ve been finishing up with school.

After doing the dishes I took off my rings because I wanted to dry them, and I tucked them in the pocket of my jeans. I do this often, by the way, because for whatever reason the feeling of wet metal wrapped around my knuckles drives me CRAZY. About a half an hour later I went to put them back on, which is when my hands derped and my wedding band went flying.

Naturally I am sentimental about this piece of jewelry, for many reasons. One, it belonged to C’s great-grandmother, Elsie. Two, it was given to me by C’s mom. I can still remember the day I got it, when she and my soon-to-be sister in law and my mother and I sat around my dining room table. I slipped on the ring and it just felt right. It wasn’t just the fact that it fit (which was delightful), but the way that it looked with my engagement ring, and the delicate engraving on the inside of the band. Since the day C put it on my finger and we said our vows it has not left my hand unless it was absolutely necessary.

I heard the thump of it landing on fabric somewhere, but I didn’t see it right away as I looked around at my feet. I searched the couches and under some bags but couldn’t find it. No big deal. I decided I wouldn’t panic yet– when C woke up he could help me lift up the couches, where it was surely hiding.

A few hours later he got up, and came down to help me look. We. Looked. Everywhere. Under the couches. Under the bags. IN the bags. In shoes, boots, the cat carrier, my rolled up jeans, and the crack where the carpet meets the wall. Nothing. I was perplexed to say the least. Our living room is a) not that big and b) the cleanest room in the house, just in case anyone stops by. This is when I started to cry. “Good job,” I berated myself… “Elsie had it for six decades… it only took me 2 years to lose it.” I may have spent awhile pouting on the porch as I tried to figure out what on earth could have happened to it.

C tried to be soothing, but really, what could he have said? He’s too smart to tell me “it’s not a big deal”, so he mostly just said nothing and rubbed my back. I tried not to think too much about it, but I put a moratorium on vacuuming until we found it.

Around 8 o’clock C decided to take a quick shower before bed, and I went back to the living room for one more scan. I rechecked all of the places I had looked before, and when I still turned up nothing I lay down on the floor and stared at the fridge. This was how C found me about 10 minutes later, and my poor husband just kissed me on the forehead and said, “Maybe we should give up for now and look again in the morning.” I nodded and he helped me to my feet. He hugged me close, and as I pulled away I was going to say something to him but before I could C got a crazy look on his face and just pointed at a spot behind me.

I turned and there, on the floor where I had been lying, was my wedding band. Stunned, I sat on the edge of the couch and just stared at it. “Has that been there this whole time?” C shook his head ‘no’, which made me feel better. And then we both started laughing. I picked up the ring and put it back where it belong.

The logical thing, of course, is to assume that the ring had landed somewhere on my person and then fallen back out onto the carpet while I was lying there. The other option is that I have leprechauns. You know… the ones who steal socks, and hide keys, and create science experiments in the fridge? They took my ring to play a trick on me and took pity when they saw how sad I was. Either way, I am delighted to have my ring back, and I hope my leprechauns are happy.