Travel for Business & Pleasure: Blurring the Lines

In #PR and in life we talk a good game about balance, but rarely do we achieve it.  Much of the time, we prioritize work or if we can get away, we try to stave off our to-do list for a day or two only to become even more stressed upon our return. Last week, for the first time EVER in my career,  I somehow discovered the perfect formula that allowed me to keep my work flow moving forward, to enjoy new sights and family time, and  to experience a less dramatic re-entry.

My husband and I completed a half marathon while our daughter ran the full 26.2 miles in Eugene, OR.
My husband and I completed a half marathon while our daughter ran the full 26.2 miles in Eugene, OR.

Looking back, there were three elements that made this possible:

  1. Select a Multi-Purpose Destination

My daughter (from NYC), and my husband and I (from FL) knew we wanted to do a destination race in April or May, so we researched the half and full marathons taking place in the U.S. during the spring season.  When my daughter suggested Eugene, OR, I knew that was the right one.  First, none of us had ever explored the Pacific Northwest and as outdoorsy, active people, we were excited to discover new and beautiful territory.  Second, it turns out that one of my clients, Laurel Hill, is located right in downtown Eugene – this was the perfect opportunity to schedule face-to-face time with my client, the distributor and the staff.  Working together virtually for nearly six months, this was a great opportunity to learn how their operation worked, and to get inspired with new ideas on how to create awareness of their unique, high quality knitting needles, crochet hooks and myriad selection of fiber arts tools.

After spending our first day getting acclimated to fun and fabulous Eugene, we met with Laurel Hill’s owner Rick Brown and his lovely wife Lynda.  They gave us a first-class tour of their city and we enjoyed the area’s excellent and varied cuisine.

Hendricks Park was in full bloom - we walked and talked with Rick & Lynda.
Hendricks Park was in full bloom – we walked and talked with Rick & Lynda.
Carbing up for the Eugene Marathon at Voodoo Doughnut - delicious!
Carbing up for the Eugene Marathon at Voodoo Doughnut – delicious!





Rick Brown, owner of Laurel Hill, took me on a tour of his showroom and distribution warehouse.
Rick Brown, owner of Laurel Hill, took me on a tour of his showroom and distribution warehouse.
Laurel Hill offers knitting needles, crochet hooks and every type of fiber arts tool you can imagine.
Bryson Distributing is filled with gorgeous displays and a vast inventory of fiber arts gizmos and gadgets.
The amazing staff at Bryson Distributing does everything from stocking their huge warehouse, to taking orders from around the world, to shipping to every destination near and far.

2. Add Days When You’re Away

If you are traveling a long distance (i.e., a 7-hour plane ride), it’s a good idea to build in a few days for sightseeing and adventures.  After the Race and two days of meetings in Eugene, our next stop was Portland, aptly named the Rose City.  We visited as many sights as possible including: the Nike Company Store,  the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, the Oregon Zoo,  International Rose Garden, Powell’s Books, Salt & Straw Ice Cream and lots more.

The Columbia River Gorge - so beautiful!
The Columbia River Gorge – so beautiful!




A rose by any other name…all of them were at the International Rose Garden!










Final destination: Seattle – we only had two days left but we hit a lot of the highlights: the Space Needle, the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum,  EMP Museum, Pike Place Market, the Seattle Aquarium (love those otters!), a ferry trip to Bainbridge Island and more – whew!

What an amazing and talented artist - Dale Chihuly's works are a colorful and intricate integration of art and nature!
What an amazing and talented artist – Dale Chihuly’s works are a colorful and intricate integration of art and nature!
The EMP Museum was fascinating – from rock ‘n roll to video games to movie memorabilia – so much to see!
We tried the chowder, the baked goods and the cheese – then we walked for miles so I think it all evened out.

3. Keep Up with Work at Your Leisure

There was much to do during the day but since we were in a different time zone, there was ample time to check and answer emails, keep up with conference calls, and check the status of ongoing projects.  Since I had let my clients and cohorts know in advance that I would be out of town, they expected that I would not be as immediately responsive as usual, but that I would respond that same day. It took the pressure off during daylight hours when we were exploring, but at the same time, no work situations went unanswered. Surprisingly, there were enough hours in the day to do it all.

This formula worked for me and for my clients – at least for this time.  I plan to apply these three tenets again next time I travel, and hope it will result in the same stress-free, yet productive, way.

How are you achieving (or not achieving) a work/life balance? I would love to know!



News Peeks: #SWFL A/C company to help family beat the heat

Kenmark Air has announced "Beat the Heat" to help one local family with air conditioning equipment and installation.
Kenmark Air has announced “Beat the Heat” to help one local family with air conditioning equipment and installation.

Ken McDaniel, founder and owner of Kenmark Air in Southwest Florida, is a great example of a local business owner giving back to his community.  He and his sons, Tyler and Bradley, will select a deserving family to provide equipment and installation of a new air conditioning system to help them “Beat the Heat.”  Until Sept. 15, 2015 they are accepting essays of 250 words max and will announce the recipient by Sept. 30.  Why is Kenmark Air doing this?  Ken says it best in his own words:

“Since starting Kenmark Air 20 years ago, being part of our community has always been important to my family and to my business. Throughout my sons’ childhoods and even after, I coached baseball and soccer, trying to help young people get off to a good start. After practice and during school vacations, Tyler and Bradley learned the HVAC air conditioning, service and installation business, eventually joining the company and taking on the leadership roles they have trained for since they were very young.

Mentoring, dedication to service and a supportive community have brought us to where we are today. We are very grateful, and that’s why my sons and I have launched ‘Beat the Heat.’ We hope to give back in the best way we know how.

With heat indexes into the three digits, we would like to provide a local family with free air conditioning equipment and installation. Until Sept. 15, we will accept nominations from the community for a deserving family living without air conditioning in their home. We will announce the winning home by Sept. 30 after an inspection to make sure it meets the necessary criteria.

Nominations of 250 words or less can be completed online at or sent by mail postmarked by Sept. 15 to Kenmark Air, 5811 Country Lakes Dr, Fort Myers, FL 33905. One can self-nominate or nominate someone they know. For a complete description of contest rules go to or visit the Kenmark office.

We want to help by making things better for at least one local family. And we will try our best to do even more.”

This is a great opportunity for one local #SWFL family and we hope readers will help spread the word and nominate someone by Sept. 15.  Let’s get together to “Beat the Heat!”




News Peeks for Yarncrafters: Vintage Knitting Needles

Laurel Hill, the innovative, environmentally friendly source for needles, notions and accessories for passionate yarn crafters, brings back a blast from the past with their vintage Boye Balene II knitting needles.


Thousands of knitters are nostalgic for the flexible, quiet Boye Balene II needles which are no longer in production. The good news is that they are available in limited supply at Laurel Hill (

Boye needles feature patented speed tips and perfection points designed to help prevent dropped stitches. Originally created to replace real baleen, derived from whale jawbones, Boye was the only manufacturer to achieve the comfort of real whalebone, developing needles warm to the touch, pleasant feeling and flexible. These needles quickly became very popular back in their day and since being discontinued, the few left are considered collectibles.

Laurel Hill has limited availability in selected sizes of Boye Balene II needles that have never been used and are packaged in their original sleeves for a cost of $5 per pair. For more information or to order visit

About Laurel Hill (

Founded more than a decade ago, Laurel Hill is an innovative, environmentally friendly company dedicated to producing the highest quality exotic handmade knitting needles, crochet hooks, and accessories at reasonable prices. Laurel Hill is a socially responsible company whose mission is to source and offer natural sustainable products from the U.S. and abroad that have a positive impact on our communities.



In Fort Myers: A Hometown Hero Brightens the Day

There are days when we can all use a ray of sunshine.  And yesterday, that ray was Vonda Chatman, a team member at PDQ in Fort Myers, Fla.   She was working inside the restaurant when suddenly a violent thunderstorm began, causing a power outage inside and flashes of lightning outside.

PDQ's CFO Nick Reader drove down from Tampa to congratulate Vonda on going above and beyond.
PDQ’s CFO and co-founder Nick Reader drove down from Tampa to congratulate Vonda on going above and beyond.

Vonda said, “It lit the whole building up and then everything just went off. I saw the lightning hit the pole. I looked over and saw the lady shaking a little and the daughter looked like she was dazed.”

A pregnant woman and her family had just left the restaurant when a bolt of lightning, strong enough to knock out power, shocked her as she was leaning against the bus stop shelter.

Without thinking of her personal safety, Vonda raced outside to offer assistance. She helped the woman and her small child back into the restaurant. The mother and child were taken to Lee Memorial Hospital.

Vonda explained, “I just kicked into mother instinct and just ran out there. I don’t care if I would’ve got shocked as long as I know they were okay. She got some medical treatment. I feel better now.”

PDQ patron Lynndy West wrote on Facebook: “Another example of PDQ team’s commitment to the community! Way to go Vonda! Amazing community partners and exceptional team members! Awesome food too!”

Vonda sharing her story during an interview with  NBC2 Fort Myers
Vonda sharing her story during an interview with NBC2 Fort Myers

Operating Director Scot Chausse was happy that everyone was okay. “Lost a little bit of power. Lost some electronics,” he said. “But we just basically saved a life. PDQ did.”

Thanks, Vonda, for bringing a little sunshine in after the storm – we are lucky to have someone like you in our community.

News Peeks from PKE: Out & About in #SWFL

PDQ guests can win “A Year of Fresh”

Guests who enjoy PDQ restaurants on 10 separate days during the month of July are eligible to win “A Year of Fresh,” gift card prizes ranging in value from $125 to $500, which can add up to free PDQ for a year.

Participation takes place online at where guests can create an account and register for the contest. They can then enter the transaction numbers on their receipts to track their visits. There are email reminders, incentives and special offers along the way.

The contest ends on July 31 and those who recorded 10 visits at any PDQ location will be entered into the drawing which will take place at a grand prize party taking place at the Gulf Coast Town Center location on Aug. 11 at 6 p.m. and at the Cleveland Ave. location on Aug. 14 at 6 p.m. Each location will announce its own winners of the Grand Prize ($500 PDQ gift card), Second Prize ($250 gift card), Third Prize ($125 gift card) and many other prizes. Those eligible for the drawing will also be entered to win a pair of round-trip airline tickets courtesy of Coca-Cola for travel within the U.S. and its territories used by Dec. 31, 2016.

For rules, regulations and other contest details visit

 In Southwest Florida, restaurants are located at 12499 Cleveland Ave. and 17470 Ben Hill Griffin Pkwy. in Fort Myers. Restaurants are open from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.



Star Spangled Bonita added sparkle to July 4th!

The City of Bonita Springs’s annual Star Spangled Bonita event was a sparkling success.  Taking place at Riverside Park in Bonita Springs, the festivities began at 4 p.m. and included a kids’ amusement area, the annual old-fashioned bed race, eating contests and live entertainment from The Ben Allen Band and Railhead. The night sky lit up with a spectacular fireworks display and laser light show after dark.


The City of Bonita Springs would like to thank the following sponsors: Gator Country and Renda Broadcasting, Bonita Springs Infiniti, Buffalo Chips, Royal Scoop, Adams Produce, The YMCA, The Rotary Club of Bonita Springs, Fitzgerald’s, Heaven Scent Flowers, The News-Press Media Group, Bonita Daily News, The Banner, Bonita Springs Area Chamber of Commerce, Center for the Arts, Seminole Gulf Railway, Advanced Disposal, PKE Marketing & PR Solutions, Lee County Sheriff’s Department, Bonita Springs Fire Control and Rescue District, iconDo Inc., Arc of Life Spinal Care, Suncoast Credit Union, Trinity Chiropractic, Hole in One Golf Carts, American House and Kinexis Chiropractic.

Restaurant news: Wacky Sunglasses at PDQ

The future’s so bright…

PDQ celebrates National Sunglasses Day

 Yes, there is an official annual National Sunglasses Day and PDQ will celebrate in style on June 29 with “Wacky Sunglasses Day.” Wacky sunglass wearers will be rewarded all day at both Fort Myers locations with a 50 percent discount off any one purchase.


PDQ #SWFL Restaurants are located at 12499 Cleveland Ave. and 17470 Ben Hill Griffin Pkwy. in Fort Myers. Restaurants are open from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.

PDQ, which stands for People Dedicated to Quality, is a fast casual restaurant specializing in fresh hand-battered chicken tenders, made-to-order sandwiches, daily cut fries, hand-spun milkshakes and fresh salads with dine-in, drive thru or catering options.

PKE News Briefs: Weekly Peeks from #SWFL

SOUTHWEST FLORIDA (June 4, 2015) —

Lee County Schools names PDQ Business Partner of the Year

Team members from PDQ with their award from Lee County Schools

Fast casual restaurant PDQ was awarded Business Partner of the Year at the annual State of our Schools/Partners in Education Breakfast at Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre on May 29 in Fort Myers, Fla. Gulf Coast Town Center PDQ operating director Amy Johnson accepted the award from the Lee County School District and The Foundation for Lee County Public Schools.

Since the restaurant opened last year, PDQ has become involved in the community by cooking on site at events at Three Oaks Elementary, Pinewoods Elementary and Bonita Springs Charter and Estero High School. They have donated food for Three Oaks Middle School’s open house, and provided catering for beloved coach Jeff Sommer’s memorial service at Estero High School. PDQ has also given gift cards to reward students and as recognition for faculty and staff. They also participated in Veteran’s Park Elementary Teacher Appreciation lunch.

PDQ’s Fort Myers locations are at 12499 Cleveland Ave. and 17470 Ben Hill Griffin Pkwy. in Fort Myers.

Hazelden in Naples older adult program serves as model for Betty Ford Center

Originally developed by Hazelden in Naples last year, a unique program designed to treat substance abuse in older adults will be replicated by the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, CA. Both organizations are part of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation.

The [email protected]+ program was created at Hazelden inSouthwest Florida to treat what has been called one of the fastest growing health problems in this country: substance abuse in older adults. Addiction in older adults is estimated as high as 17% of the population.

Since the program started in November of 2013, several hundred clients have completed the Naples program with an outstanding success rate that has been noticed by other treatment centers around the country. The Betty Ford Center is collaborating with the Naples team to develop their version of the program, titled [email protected]+ to be more in line with their demographic makeup which skews a bit older.

Brenda J. Iliff, M.A., executive director of Hazelden in Naples said, “It was exciting to see the true team effort involved with this project, making the process both meaningful and timely.”

Iliff pointed out that as baby boomers age, the rates of alcohol and drug abuse will continue to rise through the year 2020. Older adults are less likely than younger adults to recognize the need for treatment. The incidence of addiction in adults over 50 is rising because of a decreased ability to metabolize substances, greater access to drugs for pain and anxiety (physical and emotional) and combining drugs, including alcohol. These factors establish a platform for chemical use, misuse and addiction, especially since substance use issues many times mimic medical concerns, making screening and assessment more complex. The need for specialized programs to address the unique concerns of people 50 plus are key.

The close collaboration between Hazelden in Naples and the Betty Ford Center will continue through the anticipated August launch date in Rancho Mirage.

Ultimate Mosaic introduces new option for creative, social outlet

Mosaic Class
Phil & Paige LeBoutillier with their mosaic works in progress

 Wilson Lopez and Lili Gequelin, owners of Ultimate Mosaic, in Fort Myers, Fla., announced that they now offer classes in mosaic art. Participants experience two-hour sessions to learn the basics of mosaics and to create their own work of art to take home or give as a gift.

Classes are offered on Wednesdays from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. or Saturdays from 2 to 4 p.m. with a minimum of eight people for each class. A fee of $45 includes all materials, refreshments and personalized instruction from mosaic artist Wilson Lopez.

“We are happy to offer something new and different to the community,” said Gequelin. “Perfect for date night, couples outings, girls night out and corporate events, those who have joined us so far are really having fun with their projects.”

“Our goal is to provide a new, fun creative outlet,” commented Lopez. “We may even discover someone’s hidden talent along the way who can progress along with us as the art form grows in Lee County.”

Ultimate Mosaic’s gallery and studio are located at 11400 Metro Parkway, Suite 3 in Fort Myers, Fla.

For more information on classes or the gallery visit or call 239-931-4649.



Life in PR: Practicing Mindfulness in the Workplace

Welcome 2015 – a New Year invites us to set new intentions, navigate a new course and improve the way we manage our personal and professional lives.  I recently saw a segment on 60 Minutes where Anderson Cooper attends a workshop on how to practice mindfulness (, a concept less about spirituality and more about concentration: the ability to quiet your mind, focus your attention on the present, and dismiss any distractions that come your way.


As explained in The New York Times ( the formulation dates from the work of the psychologist Ellen Langer, who demonstrated in the 1970s that mindful thought could lead to improvements on measures of cognitive function and even vital functions in older adults.

I have enjoyed learning more about this practice, but how does one actually put it to work? For my professional life in a boutique PR firm, I would embrace the ability to occasionally quiet my mind and focus my attention on the present – and it would be amazing to improve my cognitive function – all of this would certainly benefit my clients and my business.

It would be great to occasionally quiet the mind.
With all this going on it may be a challenge to quiet the mind.


So after a great deal of thought on the subject, here are a few ways I am going to practice mindfulness in 2015.


1. Forget about multi-tasking.

After years of feeling fully confident that I can do 10 things at once — talk on the phone, email, and write my to-do list, I am saying goodbye to multi-tasking.  Let’s see what happens when I focus on one project until it comes to a natural stopping point before starting the next one. Granted there may be situations that arise somewhat suddenly, but I am going to do my best to complete one thing at a time. I will get back to you to let you know how this worked out.

2. Remember to breathe.

Even the most basic yoga classes remind you that “it’s all in the breath,” and I am going to try to take that to heart – or lungs in this case.  Would it be so crazy to stop in the middle of a late breaking news release to reflect and take a breath?  I think not – on the contrary, a moment’s pause might even improve the writing. It might offer a chance to think of a few more points to add to that media response, or to provide a client with calm advice in a crisis. Yes, you have permission to breathe.

3. Do something you love…every day.

You know the old adage about putting the oxygen mask on before you try and help someone else?  I am going to try and listen to it and to do the things that give me oxygen.  Reading, yoga and running are three activities that pump me up for the day, wake up my mind and body and improve my mood and alertness.  And talking to my long distance children by phone or Facetime simply gives me that warm, fuzzy feeling.  So instead of putting those things off due to meetings, deadlines and lack of time – I am going to try and do MORE of those things.

Watch for my upcoming blog, "Chasing Success" about Running and Business.
Running makes my life better!

I can already hear my inner Puritan sternly commanding that I steer away from this nonsense and get back to work.  But if all the experts are right, shouldn’t these steps lead to a more fulfilling, productive professional (and personal) life?  And won’t all this help me to become an even more focused and effective PR professional? There’s only one way to find out!

What are you going to do to improve your work life in 2015?

Life in PR: Lessons Learned Along a Country Road

“It’s all in the details.” A common refrain, but one that we don’t always focus on in our fast-paced, get-it-done-now PR life.  A few days ago, I started off on my favorite mountain running route on Beech Mountain, NC, the cool breeze blowing past, lush greenery whizzing by my peripheral vision.

RhododendronsAs I reached the summit of the first hill (a huge accomplishment for the FL flatlander I am), I suddenly came face to face with a large female deer (a doe, right?).  Her huge brown eyes did not even blink – she just stood still, staring at me as I slowed to a walk and got my bearings. She didn’t follow me which was a relief, since I did not have a Plan B in mind should she be in an aggressive mood.

That’s when I decided to remain at this pace, to take in my surroundings and focus on all the little things I had never seen before on this very familiar route.  Yes, it IS all in the details.  Here are three things I realized during my solitary country walk:

1. Pay attention to details now and save time later.  Yes, it’s true – no matter how much we think we can multi-task, reflecting on the here and now and mentally recording information for later use is proven to be more productive in the long run. Rushing inevitably leads to mistakes, omissions and unsatisfying results.

2. Reflect upon how smaller elements add up to the big picture.  If you are always looking 10 steps ahead and only achieving a “macro” view, you are less likely to plan a logical course from point A to point B.  Allow yourself to understand the steps you need to take to reach your goal and the more equipped you will be to replicate the experience later, and to explain to your client or boss how you achieved the desired result.

3. Enjoy the experience and become more creative.  I know, you’ve heard it a million times in many different ways – “be present,” ” be in the moment,” “be mindful” – but did you ever really try to do it?  It’s not easy, but let’s face it – for most of us in PR, life/work is pretty fun (except when you’re dealing with a crisis).  We have the opportunity to build relationships, to participate in community, and to be creative – whether it’s for traditional marketing materials or online content.  You will be surprised how just a few minutes out of your usual routine can result in some of your most extraordinary “wow” moments.

Try it today -whether you are on a mountain, near a beach or in proximity to busy city streets, get out, take a walk and notice what is around you. You may be surprised, you may be delighted, and best of all, you may be inspired.


Let me know what you find out there!



Life in Public Relations: A Recipe for Kindness


Gloria’s La Trattoria Cafe Napoli, Fort Myers











Good at Heart

This is part I of a story about one woman’s kindness and one young girl’s dream. With all that is going on in the world, it is uplifting and inspiring to know that Anne Frank was right when she wrote, “despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.” I hope that I can share with you the same feel good moment I experienced today.

AMIkids Southwest Florida

AMIkids-Southwest-Florida - with tag

A little background first: Like many of us in the public relations profession, at PKE we are concerned about our community and love getting immersed in the causes we care about. At our firm, we work with several Southwest Florida non-profit organizations, but our heart is with children and education, specifically AMIkids Southwest Florida, an alternative school for at-risk kids between 14 and 18 years old.

One visit to this day school and you cannot help but be impressed by the staff’s commitment to getting these kids back on the right track and back into their regular high schools. Through rigorous academics, mental health therapy and behavioral treatment, this program addresses the problems of kids who often have unbearable home lives filled with violence, drugs and abuse. They start out with such a disadvantage that there is little surprise when they get into trouble and make the wrong decisions.

A rough start

A few months ago, we planned a Ladies Tea to create more awareness about AMIkids Southwest Florida. One of the students, 15-year old Naomi, was brave enough to share her story with the guests. She not only told of her hardships, first the incarceration of her parents and then their deaths, being split up from her sibling and sent to live with an elderly aunt who became a substitute “grandma,” she also shared one of her dreams – to become a chef and to own her own restaurant.

Her talk was so direct and heartfelt that everyone was silent for a moment after she was finished – we were amazed at all this child had been through and yet here she was, tasting her first scones, trying a variety of teas and sharing her future plans. What could be more wonderful and serendipitous than one of the guests being a local chef/restaurant owner? Even better, the guest was Gloria Cabral, owner of La Trattoria Café Napoli, a warm-hearted, friendly, community-minded person who was as taken with Naomi’s story as the rest of us. So much so that without hesitation, she offered her time and attention to mentor Naomi – to have her come to the restaurant to see what the life of a chef is all about. In essence, the offer to ignite Naomi’s dream and help her take the first step to making it become real.

Portrait of Gloria that hangs in her restaurant
Portrait of Gloria that hangs in her restaurant

A new beginning

Today was Naomi’s first visit to Gloria’s Trattoria Café Napoli. Accompanied by AMIkids executive director Windye McNeal, restaurant manager Tino gave Naomi a front and back of the house tour, briefed her on the menu and wine list, and gave her tips from “Safe Staff,” a publication on safety in the workplace from the Florida Restaurant Association. Her next lesson will be with Gloria in the kitchen to learn more about the role of a sous chef and the importance of quality cuisine. The best part? Gloria has designated May 14 as “Tapas Night with Naomi,” an AMIkids SWFL fundraiser where Naomi will participate as sous chef for the evening and help prepare dinner for 55 guests.

Tino's training session with Naomi
Tino’s training session with Naomi











Naomi is slightly nervous about being in the spotlight, but when I asked her how she felt about all this, she said, “I am really excited about this adventure. This is a dream I will always remember.”

One woman, one girl and one extraordinary act of kindness – the perfect ingredients for a second chance.



Delicious lunch at Gloria's La Trattoria Napoli
Delicious lunch at Gloria’s La Trattoria Napoli

Part II coming soon: In the Kitchen with Gloria & Naomi