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Observations - Communication in the Modern Age - The Webinar

This morning I attended a " Webinar ". I got up 15 minutes before it started ( being in Hawaii, what is morning on the mainland, is dark thirty here ), made coffee, and settled in front of my computer, jammies and all. I didn't brush my teeth or hair, put on makeup, or worry at all about my appearance, sweet ! All hail technology !
Now, let's turn the clock back a few years. If I was lucky enough to have the speaker come to Hawaii for a " Seminar ", I would have had to get up 2 hours before it started, make coffee for a " to go " cup, do the whole makeup, hair, and clothes thing, and then head straight into morning commute traffic. Upon arriving at the location, I would have spent 15 minutes threading my way up a never ending maze of a parking garage, and then at a half-run barely made it to the check in table to get my badge, and handouts. Once in the room, I would be slithering through one of the narrow isles between the rows of chairs trying not to step on someone's toes, to get to that one remaining chair right in the middle of the row. And you already know that seated right in front of me is the world's tallest person, so to see the speaker, I have to cock my head to one side or the other, and just as soon as I do, they move their head the same direction. Sound familiar.
Now, all you public speakers, please don't get offended, because most of you are great at your jobs, but after a couple hours of any power point presentation, the listeners start to develop a case of " the heavy eyelids ". Thankfully, that's usually when the morning break comes, which also means time for a pit stop, which especially for the ladies, also means time to wait in line while your bladder is stretched to the max from the morning coffee. Then you quickly grab another cup of coffee, and of course, one of the highly nutritious sweet rolls that have been sitting out for about 4 hours, yum, and then squish back in to your chair. A few more hours pass, you pay a ridiculous parking fee, and then you're on your way home, with hopefully a little bit of time left to get some work done before your evening duties begin.
Again I say, " All hail technology ". I spent half the time, in the comfort of my own office, did a bit of multi tasking during some slow periods, got the biggest part of a day's worth of work done, didn't pay a cent for parking or gas, and learned something to boot. And though my taste buds miss that old dried up sweet roll, my waistline is definitely better off.

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Lions & Tigers & Bears, Oh My !  or  Registration & Insurance & Storage, Oh My !

If you're anything like us, and you're buying something fabulous, you get caught up in the moment. You don't think about all the little details that can add up to way more work than you bargained for. Well that's exactly what happened to us when we bought the Winnebago Scorpion and it's companion, the Ram Bighorn. We bought them in Montana, and because we owned property there, we were able to have them registered there as well. That was a great stroke of luck as it's one of the few states that doesn't collect sales tax. Once we got back home to Hawaii, I started working on insurance and storage, and did that ever turn into a can of worms. I know that our situation is a bit different than the norm,  and that most of you reading this will never have to deal with it,  but I'm hoping there will be something in here that will save someone a headache or two.
Because we're taking a number of animals with us on the summer RV Celebration Tour,  it's important that we have a non stop flight from Hawaii. That of course means we need to store the vehicle in a city that fits that requirement, and unfortunately, that leaves Montana off the list. We knew we'd be flying Alaska Air ( it's by far the best choice if you're traveling with pets ), so the first step was determining which cities were possibilities. Well after I got that together, I started working on insurance.  I first checked with our regular agent, who quickly informed me that they could only write Hawaii insurance and that I would need to contact a company that had a mainland presence. Progressive immediately popped in my head as I remembered their commercials on having RV insurance, so that seemed as good a place as any to get started. After 4 very long phone calls that involved numerous agents, I was finally informed they wouldn't insure us. The fact that we lived in Hawaii, had the vehicles registered in Montana, and would be storing them somewhere else blew out their hard drive. Fortunately, what was impossible for Progressive, wasn't a problem for Geico, and at a better rate. The big issue was where the vehicles would be stored, and I'm not talking just about the state or city, I'm talking about the zip code. Rates are based on zip code and you can have very different prices in the same city. It's all about what city, and where in that city. So before I could get the vehicles insured, I had to tell them where they would be stored. OK, easy enough, or so I thought.
Large RV storage seems to be considerably different than household storage, and because we were looking for covered storage, we put ourselves into the needle in a haystack range. Very few facilities have the ability to store 45' long vehicles, fewer still have an area that accommodates them under cover, and the ones that do are usually full. They'll put you on a waiting list, but there's no telling when, if ever, a space becomes available, and as I'm sure you've already guessed, prices differ greatly from one area to another.  It then became a game of find the facility, check the price, get the zip code to check the insurance price, total it up, and then go to the next.  I finally found a good facility at a reasonable price, that had a    " good " zip code for insurance, and was close to Seattle, so it also fit the non stop flight requirement, and called Geico to get everything locked down. During the application process the agent said " Uh oh, I need to check something ", and just before I passed out from holding my breath with all my fingers and toes crossed,  they came back on the line to say " Sorry, that's not going to work ".  Apparently Washington will not allow a vehicle to be insured in their state without it being registered in their state, and the only way to register it, is to be a resident. Since we had no plans to move to Washington, I was back to zero.
A few days later, and more calls and Emails than I possible could count, I found that magic combo in Oregon. The only downside was that the Winnebago trailer would be stored in Prineville, and the truck in Portland. We were thrilled with the facility in Prineville, it just opened this year, so everything is brand new and in perfect condition. It has wonderful security and a great on site manager. We couldn't have asked for more. Unfortunately, I can't say the same about the facility in Portland. Their website had obviously not been updated in a very long time, probably about the same length of time that most of the old rusty vehicles that occupied the lot had been there. Needless to say, as soon as we got home from the " move " trip, I started looking for another facility for the truck and found a gem just across the river in Vancouver, Washington. I know you're thinking, what, Washington ?  But out of desperation, I called the insurance company to see if there was any possible loophole, and sure enough there was. Because we were already insured, the place was now a non issue, so we could store it anywhere we wanted to, hallelujah. The truck is now at it's new home and is being well cared for by the wonderful couple that owns the facility. They picked it up for us, for a ridiculously low fee, will be picking us up at the airport when we come in the end of June, and will have had our truck serviced and ready to go for our arrival. Wow, talk about a night and day difference, and hopefully, all's well that ends well.
Heather Spencer
Mission Positive Films

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Observations – Communication in the Modern Age

  There are a few good things about getting older, not many, but a few. One is that with time and experience, you have a better understanding of how things work, or at least a good means of being able to make comparisons.  For instance, the way we communicate with each other has changed significantly over the last 30 years. My husband and I started a business in Hawaii in the mid 80’s, and at that point you had three means of contacting someone. You could call them, you could send them a letter by mail or courier, or go visit them in person. That was it; there were no faxes, no texts, no voicemail, no Email, no Facebook, Twitter or anything else. I know at this point, if you are in your twenties, that concept is horrendous, but at that time, it made things much simpler and much more personable.
If you called someone, they would actually take your call, or even more surprising, if they were tied up, they would call you back. Imagine, someone returning your call, that’s almost unheard of today. I say that because almost every time I return someone’s call, it puts them into shock, and then after a few seconds of silence while they bring their dropped jaw back into position, they start thanking me profusely for doing what used to be normal. The structure of the call was different then as well, at least in Hawaii. Chatting with someone about their health, their family, and their hobbies was something you did before you got to business. It was called ” talking story “, and it basically was there to remind you that you were dealing with a real person that had feelings, goals, dreams etc. It added a necessary degree of respect to the business relationship. A case in point. I made a call to my credit card company a few nights ago, and spoke to a very nice man who right away asked how I was. I responded and returned the question, and was surprised to hear his reply. He was overwhelmed I had asked how he was, and told me that was the first time that entire day someone had asked him that question. When did common courtesy become such a rarity ?
For important issues, there were pieces of paper with writing, called letters, and you couldn’t procrastinate in getting them out in the mail, because you knew it would take at least a week to reach its destination. If you missed posting it in time, or it was a really pressing matter, you had to pay a huge bill to a courier service to get it there by the next day, or your first-born if you wanted it there on the same day.  Believe me, technology wins on this one. It’s a hundred times easier and more efficient today, and I wouldn’t want to turn back the clock, but the cost for that efficiency is a means of exercising and receiving patience. Everyone knew how long it took, so you weren’t expected to pull a rabbit out of your hat on a moments notice.
Then of course there was the personal visit. This was by far the best way to give and receive information, and generally it led to a stronger bond, whether a business associate or a friend, but it is also  was a very time-consuming and inefficient way of conducting business. Our office was a 30 minute to 1 hour drive from most of our clients, which meant a 5 or 10 minute meeting, could cost you 2 hours of your business day. That was huge. And it also gave rise to the traveling salesman, who spent more time on the road than they did at home. So again technology has improved how things are done and fortunately with teleconferencing, you get most of the personal connection. It’s not as good as a handshake, but close enough.
Ah, then came the fax machine. Woohoo, now things were getting easier and cheaper. What a fabulous addition that was to our business, in so many ways. The only down side was that now you not only had another method of receiving information, it was basically instantaneous, so people’s expectations of how fast you should respond to something, corresponded to the speed of the communication. That was the beginning of the end of patience as we knew it.
Soon, the curse arrived, voice mail, and with it, the automatic switchboard. Gone were the days you could talk to a live person, and gone were the days when people believed they should return a call. They didn’t have to. If they wanted to avoid someone, they just left their voicemail on. It was especially hard for those that worked in accounts receivable, because now, you literally could not reach a person unless they wanted to be reached. This changed everything.
Before long came Emailing, texting and social media, and even a superhero can’t keep up with all the levels of today’s communication. We are inundated from the moment we wake up to the moment we hit the pillow. There are not enough hours in the day to fit it all in, even if you didn’t have to do the menial things like make a living, or raising your children. So now to cope, we have 4 levels of categorizing those that are trying to reach us. The ” have to’s “; such as our boss, our mother, our personal trainer. The ” want to’s “; our significant other, our kids, the cute guy from the pet store. The ” if I get time’s “; our co-workers, our friends that want our help with a new project; and the ” not in this lifetime’s “; which is basically everybody else.
The problem of course with our modern age communication overload is we forget that at the its basic level, we are still dealing with real people who have real feelings, and real problems, just like us. So the next time someone calls you, if you can’t take the call, at least try to call them back. And when that phone solicitor interrupts your dinner, before you hit ’em with both barrels, try to remember that they are just trying to make a living, because they too have rent to pay, and a family to support. We are all in this together, and the more we realize that, the better world we’ll have.
Heather Spencer
Mission Positive Films

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This is an animation video that explains the basics of Stem Cell and Bone Marrow Transplants. Please share this with anyone it may help.

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As we carefully peeked into the garage, we were able to breath a huge sigh of relief. Thankfully, all was well.  A few things had shifted a bit, but everything that was supposed to be connected to the walls, was still connected, woohoo ! We went about packing, and trying to get as much done as we could in preparation for tomorrow's winterizing and storing, including running a load of clothes in our little Washer/ Dryer combo. Yes, you heard right, the RV has a little Splendide combo unit, which was part of our negotiations when we bought the unit.

These are designed for RV use, and are great for small light loads. It's not the best for sheets and towels , but really good for keeping up with your day to day stuff. After all, closet space in an RV isn't conducive to having a huge wardrobe, so this way you don't have to wear yesterday's undies, if you know what I mean. Anyway, it worked great, and because it washes and dries as one program, you set it once, and then can head off to bed without staying up to transfer clothes, sweet.
We actually even got in a little TV time. It seems that a lot of the RV parks now provide cable TV hookups, so all you need is the coaxial cable, which we picked up at Walmart ( more about that shortly ) during one of our many midnight trips to the store. It took me a few minutes to figure out how to get it to work and then another few minutes to realize I had all of about 4 stations, but hey, at least it was little downtime for the brain.
We had an 11am appointment that next morning with a mobile winterizing guy that was meeting us at the storage facility in Prineville, Oregon. It was about a 30 minute drive from the RV park, and we knew we needed to get there early enough to get checked in, all the paperwork filled out, and to find our space, so we set the alarm for yet another predawn start. After loading a " to go " cup of joe, we headed to Walmart to return a few things we hadn't needed, and pick up a few things that we still did. Don headed for the return line and I made my way through the store hoping to find everything on the list.
I've gotta take a few moments to give kudos to Walmart,  as they were a lifesaver more than once on this trip. Number 1, they're open when you need them; number 2, they are basically everywhere; number 3, they carry tons of stuff and even have an RV section; and number 4, they're well priced. We also have heard that many of the stores are OK with RV's spending the night in their lots at no charge. Though we didn't need to do that this trip, I can see where it would come in real handy if you ran into problems with full RV parks, or not being able to make your destination. So after visiting more Walmart stores in this one trip than I've done in my entire life, I am now a fan.
The downfall though can be long lines in the return lane, and that day was no exception, so by the time we made it back to the RV, we were running late. We quickly went through the batten down the hatches thing, hooked up, called the winterizing folks to let them know we were running late and hit the road.
We were lucky in that the Dodge Ram came with a great GPS system that had worked beautifully through the trip, and as we had done each morning, I entered our destination address into the system, and we followed it with total trust. Lesson number 96, never follow anything with total trust. There we were sitting on a dead end residential street in an enormous rig with the GPS telling us we had reached our destination. Needless to say we didn't have a clue where the place really was, or how we were going to get out of this area without ripping off the top of the trailer. One of the many things that's different about driving these large trailers is you have to pay close attention to what's above you. Our rig for instance is  13' - 3" tall, which means that you not only have to worry about overpasses and tunnels, you have to worry about power lines and overhanging trees. So many of older residential neighborhoods have utility lines that cross the street, or large tree limbs that create a low hanging canopy. If you're not paying attention, or get stuck in an area without a clear passage, you're gonna get slammed with thousands of dollars in damages. Fortunately, before the panic started to settle in, a car parked behind us and a woman got out and came over to the truck. She lived in the neighborhood, and had seen a few other folks run into the same problem, so she said she'd get us there and just to follow her. She led us through the winding narrow streets that thankfully had enough height clearance, and took us right to the storage companies front door. We were completely overwhelmed at her generosity, and though she wouldn't accept any compensation, she finally let us give her the box of chocolate covered macadamia nuts we had brought from Hawaii.
The winterizing guy was there waiting for us, and the manager of the facility told us to go ahead and deal with getting set up, that we could do the paperwork later. Tell you what, they grow 'em nice in Prineville.
Winterizing primarily consists of making sure all the water lines and water storage tanks get a good taste of Pepto Bismol. Not really, that's just what it looks like. It's a pink antifreeze that's supposed to be non toxic ( well one can hope ), that's run through all the lines to make sure they don't freeze and crack. That included of course our in line coffee system, ice maker, washer dryer, toilets and faucets. We're talkin' lots of pink. There were some other odds and ends, but I'm going to wait until we de-winterize it next summer, to see what we did or didn't do right. I'll give you an update then with the definite do's and don'ts.
Now it was time to back the sucker in to it's winter home. I'll give Don high marks, he got it in there well within the lines in a reasonably short period of time. That' not to say it was perfect, or that he doesn't need a little more practice in backing, and that I don't need a little more practice in spotting, but it's there and we didn't kill each other. Mission accomplished.
Our good friends Gil and Cheryl Loomis, along with our now new good friend Cynthia Quinn, showed up during the final backing sequence, which put a little more pressure on us to look like we knew what we were doing, but it was so fun to see them there, and we got to do our first " open house ". After closing everything up, and getting our storage paperwork finished, we gave the beastie a big kiss, and headed to Bend to share the evening with them.
We had a night filled with lots of laughter, wonderful stories, great food, and furry companionship with their adorable dog Buddy. It was hard to say goodnight as this was the first time the entire trip we actually had a chance to relax. In the morning we had a delicious breakfast in town, spent money in the downtown craft fair that happened to be going on while we were there, and then said our goodbye's. It was time to head to Portland, store the truck, and then get back to Hawaii to get on with the planning. Lots to do.
In closing, I've gotta say, I love our rig. Despite all the surprises and hiccups we've run into, it's a blast, and I can't wait to get our 4 legged critters in there with us. I know one thing for sure, there's nothing about this summer's trip that's going to be boring or normal. It'll be Mr. Toads Wild Ride, and I can't wait to experience it, and share it with you.
Heather Spencer
Mission Positive Films
PS. Though this is the last post about this trip, it's not at all the last post about the adventure, so if this has been fun to read, you'll have something related at least once a week. If you're interested in following the blog,, please sign up as a subscriber. I promise, the only Emails you get, are notifications of new posts.

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The Best Laid Plans or ... A Study in Murphy's Law - Part 4

Knowing that we had a long day ahead of us, we tried to do as much repair work as we could that night. We were able to use the parts from both damaged tables to make one relatively good one, which fortunately is all we really need anyway.  We got everything turned right side up and secured for the next day's drive, and then went about trying to figure out how to solve the " rail off the wall" issue. What we found was quite surprising, there were holes in the rails to accommodate 8 screws, but only 4 of those holes had been used with fasteners, 2 of those fasteners were on the floor, and the other 2 were now barely holding on to the wall. It was obvious that if we took it back on the road like this, we'd end up with the whole system on the floor.
Sorry, but I have to pause the story for a minute and spend a paragraph on RV manufacturing for those of you, who like us, don't know much about it. I have been in a construction related business most of my life, and still love to learn about how things are made, but have a fairly firm idea in my head of the basic do's and don'ts in building. Such as if a 2" x 2" will do, a 2" x 4" is better, and if 10 screws will hold something, 20 will be stronger, stuff like that. With RV's the opposite seems to hold true; meaning that if a 2" x 2" will do, you can squeak by with a 1" x 2"., and " as long as you don't touch it, it will probably stay there ". Now I'm having some fun at the RV manufacturer's expense, but in reality they have a really tough job, because their houses are on wheels. That means everything is about keeping it light. It also means trying to build something that is not only lightweight, but sturdy enough not to fall apart from the vibration of miles and miles of roads. Trust me, those two concepts just don't go together, so all in all they do a remarkable job. What's strange is when you realize that what you thought was a real house, turns out to be a movie set instead. A great example are the tables that were damaged. I assumed that they were your standard laminate over press-board, and boy was I wrong. As I stood looking down at the damage, what I saw was very thin laminate over Styrofoam, yes, that's right Styrofoam. I've also found out that the interior walls are 1" thick, consisting of a layer of 1/8" plywood on either side and foam in between, and that the fasteners that are holding up cabinets, towel racks, mirrors and the like, are little 3/4" long regular screws that are being held only by that 1 layer of 1/8" plywood. So when you hang your towel up at night, you'd better be real careful, or rack and all will end up in the toilet. That being said, they have put supports in for the major stuff like doors and windows, but do it yourself remodeling can be tricky.
OK, back to the story. First thing the next morning, I placed a call to the Montana dealership that sold us the trailer and asked about the rail. They were quick to say that if it wasn't dealt with before any more driving, we'd end up with a real mess. Yeh well, we pretty much had that one, so we headed to the nearest Home Depot, bought a drill, fasteners, and braces, and got started. We had borrowed a ladder from the RV park manager who told us on hearing the story,   " Well you aren't the first, and you won't be the last ". His advice, and I pass this on to anyone that has an interest in RVing, is to spend about a week in the area you purchase the rig, and drive it, and drive it, and drive it during that week. He says things will need to be fixed whether it's new or used, and it's a lot easier to be close to the dealership, than out a million miles away from civilization. Sage advice. Anyway, about noon, we had done everything we could, including putting in those 20 screws I mentioned. Hopefully, that would get us through until we could get to a dealership that would handle checking that out, as well as the other warranty work that still needed to be finished.
With fingers crossed, we tentatively pulled out on our way to Redmond Oregon, which would be our last night in the trailer for this trip. Eastern Oregon to my surprise is mostly plains, and farming land, but about halfway though the trip the road started following the Columbia River. Wow, is that beautiful, and on the hills on either side overlooking the river are large wind turbines, very impressive.
We had to leave the river much too soon, and headed inland to central Oregon where you find high desert, also a surprise as I always though of Oregon as primarily wooded terrain. We were in a race with the sun at that point, and were hoping not to be out after dark having such little experience with this large of a rig, but the sun definitely had the advantage. We topped a large hill right before dark to see the lights starting to shine in the city below, and the down-slope before us was steep and curvy. Before we knew it, the weight and size of the trailer in combination with the degree of the grade, brought us up to a dangerous speed, and Don struggled to keep the vehicle under control. There were white knuckles all around for the next few minutes, but he managed to get it slowed down enough to breath again. That was one of those " Wow, I'll never do that again " experiences.
We finally pulled in to the RV park about 8:45, with just minutes to spare before they closed, got set up, and then with one eye closed, peeked into the garage to see what awaited us.
To be continued .....
Heather Spencer
Mission Positive Films
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It Takes a Village

I’ve been looking for a theme for next year’s Celebration Tour that encompasses what we are trying to accomplish. What popped into my head is ” It Takes a Village “, which seems more and more fitting as I think through it. Cancer, though a very personal experience, cannot be dealt with alone. It takes a team of medical professionals, and I’m not referring to just to standard Western medicine. Those that are fighting cancer holistically also need a team to help sort through the best course of treatment. But a medical team is just part it, an emotional support system is extremely important; family, friends, social workers, church, psychologists, and support groups. Then there’s the financial side as treatment can be surprisingly expensive, which may involve fundraising, and loans. If you take it to the next level, you have the researchers that are working diligently on new and more effective treatments, and the companies that make and distribute those treatments. Don’t forget the lobbyists that are working on legislation to increase funding for research, and   the government agencies that are working with hospitals and care facilities to try and make sure patients have the best possible care, and on and on. It therefore takes a very large village to fight this horrible disease.
It also takes a village to accomplish what we are trying to do with this tour. Our goal is simply to bring hope to those facing that terrifying diagnosis, and to those that love and support them. By sharing stories of survivorship, introducing products and food that will help during and after treatment, providing massage and Healing Touch, and passing on tips and tricks from those that have gone before, with luck, they’ll leave better able to handle the fight.
We can’t do this alone, it requires those that have the stories to tell, those that have the products to help, and those that will help spread the word for this to work. This is a non monetary event, there are no sponsors, and no funding, it’s just people trying to help other people. If you have anything to contribute, an idea, a person to contact, a place, a survivor who’s picture you’d like to see in the slideshow, a piece of music, anything at all, we’d love to hear it.
The tour starts on Oahu in spring and will continue through the Northwest in summer. If we are successful and are making a difference in peoples lives, we will continue the tour to other parts of the country.
Cities currently on the list are Honolulu, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver BC, Calgary AB, Bozeman, Cheyenne, Denver, Colorado Springs, Salt Lake City, Coeur d’Alene, and Bend. We’ll need help and advice in each of these locations. Also, if you feel we should add another city, please let us know. Thank you.
Heather Spencer
Mission Positive Films
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