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We missed the first three days of our vacation because of a cancelled flight. Finally arrived at our Villa in Tuscany late Tuesday afternoon. Yesterday we spent the entire day with Monika Iris – our guide to the Chianti region. Every single place she took us had one thing in common – they stay deliberately small so they can concentrate on the quality of their product.

A great example is the DOCG rating for Chianti wines. There are rules – much like the NCUA’s CAMEL rating only these make sense.

Rule #1 – Your grapes must be grown by you. You must have complete control of the product. No participation grapes.
Rule#2 – You must limit the quantity including the number of grapes per vine that are allowed to grow to maturity. You cut down several bunches before they are allowed to mature and they become fertilizer. Not every grape can join the bottle. There is no “lives, works, worships” grape rule.
Rule#3- You must pass a rigorous blind taste test – a valid survey of your product – the experience.

Everything I experienced yesterday validated the thought that quality versus quantity still matters. In one day I feel as if the cost of the trip was justified.

Today – Castellina for gellato…….

And walk to the Jefferson Memorial.

Friday Mark and I were to fly to Rome and drive to Greve, Italy where we would share a Villa with dear friends for a week of wine tasting.

United Airlines had another plan. We found ourselves in an airport hotel with two full days on our hands. What to do?

Day One: Take the Metro into town and take in the monuments. World War II, Korean and Viet Nam wars, Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials and of course the giant phallic symbol – the Washington Monument. It was a perfect day. Sunny and warm (not too humid). We definitely worked off the pity party of the night before that involved lots of cheese and vodka.

Day Two: Mark got on Google Maps – went East to the shore looking for a knife and a fork and found Tim’s River Shore Restaurant and Crab Shack. Need I say more? We sat on the beach (in sand) along the Potomac and ate our weight in crab, washed it down with beer, while listening to a local Boomer band cover Jimmy Buffet tunes. Sublime.

Day Three: Today. Slept in. Did our laundry at the hotel to wash away the stench of disappointment and well….crabs. We are back at the airport, waiting to board our flight to Munich and then Rome.

Life is good.

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I’m convinced now that we go away on vacations because of some kind of weird peer pressure. Think about it. When you declare you’re going on vacation, the natural response is always “Where are you going?” If your response is,”Oh, I’m just going to stay home and relax…” well……dull.

I’ve been bragging for weeks about my vacation. Italy and Croatia! I planned to blog my adventures every day and take tons of pictures. I’ve been on vacation now for 3 days. I’m sitting in an airport hotel next to Dulles. I won’t bore you with the details but this has been the trip from hell so far. I actually prayed for the world to end yesterday – not even that happened as scheduled.

Last night I had a meltdown and today I am feeling quite Zen about the entire thing. Here is what I have learned:

1. Service levels in America are at an all time low. This recession has done the opposite of what I had hoped. Instead of people embracing their jobs, lucky to still have one, they are surly, sloppy and scared.
2. As much as I love rewards programs I have experienced the effect they have on employees. Case in point – I am Marriott Gold. When our flight to Rome was cancelled we were sent to the airport Marriott. I did not have my Gold card with me (didn’t think I would need it) and the desk clerk said no problem – she would look it up. Apparently she did not. Last night when we tried to charge our dinner to our room the waiter said we had the room number wrong. Mark went to the front desk and was informed that we had to move to another room – one door down.

It should be noted that this is when I lost it.

Seems they had a big group that reserved a block of rooms and when we checked in after sitting on the tarmac for 3 hours and then were told our flight to Rome was cancelled and stood in line for 2 hours to find out we cannot get out of DC for three days…….oh sorry, wasn’t going to bore you with the details…..anyway beeotch did not look up my Gold Card number!

We moved all of our stuff to the room next door. THEN I called down to ask about a fax I was supposed to have received and casually asked if my Gold number had been entered yet. She said it had not and she looked me up. Suddenly the world changed. Apologies all around and get this – come back down to the lobby and we will rekey you so you have access to the Concierge lounge, etc.

This is when I lost it. I really just wanted my points for the three night stay – I expect that everyone will be treated well at a Marriott. I have blogged numerous times about how much I love their service. This is the first time it has been horrible. Apparently their policy is to only treat the elite well. The rest of you can go to hell. This was a real eye opener for me.

I live in the Land of Enchantment. 300 days of sunshine a year. I have a lovely home and now a wonderful little doggie that is so excited to see me it makes my heart ache. Last night I fantasized about just being home for the week. Waking up when I wanted to – taking hikes with Mark and Dexter. Watching movies. This is the last vacation I think I will ever take – where I leave paradise to subject myself to long lines, crowds, surly service, hotel food, living out of a suitcase and…wait for it……starting tomorrow. The Euro.

Stay tuned.

Before I figured out a way to use my Dexter in marketing.

This is what you get when you combine a minty bone with a ShihTzu Maltese and iPhone 4 (with video capability) and a brilliant copywriter friend with a warped sense of humor and Final Cut Pro.

Enjoy.

“Here’s a giant block of whatever is most difficult for you to carry, and trust me on this, you’ll carry it more times than you can count, until you decide that’s exactly what you want to do most, and then it won’t weigh a thing anymore.”

– Brian Andreas

Mark bought me a collection of Brian Andreas’ Storypeople years ago. And I read this one every day for months trying to figure out what it meant. I even emailed Brian – the artist – and told him this was my favorite and I wasn’t really sure why – but it spoke to me.

Brian emailed me back (I was thrilled) and told me that after reading my blog and checking out my website that he thought I was a cheerleader for passion and commitment, and that’s harder than being ordinary. Sometimes it feels like a curse.

Next month I celebrate 31 years in the credit union movement. There were times when I would get so frustrated with the wacky name changes, unnecessary mergers, political b.s.,  I just wanted to bail and work for Starbucks. Credit unions have become my family, albeit a big dysfunctional family. And like family, they continue to support me and love me, and accept my foibles, and let’s face it, like the Mafia, it’s hard to leave.   

So, I decided to embrace my gift and to go back  where I started – working for a credit union.

I am excited to announce that I am the new VP Marketing for Del Norte Credit Union in Santa Fe, New Mexico!!! For those of you who’ve known me forever, you can appreciate the magic of those two things. To live in the Land of Enchantment full time and to have the opportunity to work for an amazing credit union – developing their brand and fine tuning their target audience…well, it doesn’t weigh a thing anymore.

My Nana told me that God gives every child a gift and it is our duty (and here she pointed her finger at me) to figure out what that is and to give it back to the world.

I hope my Nana is watching.

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