United 679 Chicago to San Diego

We were involved in a rolling invasion of the 2009 Realtors Convention in San Diego. I was travelling first, my wife second, my son third, and the return was similar. The goal was to participate in the convention, but have good coverage for the day to day operations of the office. Half of the office team, including my son Matthew, were ready for our absence.

My highlight of the week, was my installation as President Elect of the 1.166 million member National Association of Realtors. It was a formal event and very exciting. Next November I will become President. This year I became the first alternative to a very talented and accomplished person: Vicki Cox Golder.

Often I wait to last call to get on the plane. It requires planning and a check in of all of your luggage. This day, I was organized and among the last people on the plane. Found my seat and instantly received a text from my friend Cindy Butts. “Just saw you getting on board, but not seating next to you, so I will not make ‘The Window Seat.” I smiled back at her. The smile was probably a bit Cheshire. The person next to me was not going to engage me in any conversation. He had earphones on and did not even look up as I sat down in my aisle seat. As a result, Cindy became my ‘seat mate, albeit a couple of rows back.

Cindy is the CEO of the Maine Association of Realtors. We have known each other for more than twenty years. She has always been one of the rare individuals who tell you exactly what he or she thinks: good, bad, or ugly. Do not ask for her opinion if you do not want one. Few people have passion for both ‘truth and excellence. Cindy is one of those people. During times of challenge for me during my leadership, Cindy was a person I would contact for advice. It was always measured and detailed.

Cindy is like many people who are professionally accomplished, but what makes her amazing is her ability to balance life: self, family, work, world and spirit. It is not easy, and in truth it does not come easy, but she finds a way. Maybe it is living in Maine and having to deal with “Down Easters” To sail in stormy water, you need to be present and quick minded. It is actually fun to hear her talk about the challenge of being a parent of teenagers, particularly a teenage son. Cindy always tries to do everything well, so it is very funny to have her ‘question’ swim meet attire’ for the parents. Tropical humidity inside a swimming complex, when the exterior temperature is sub zero, makes wardrobe choices a challenge. As a parent you are always told: “PLEASE DO NOT EMBARRASS ME MOM (or Dad)” Like the rest of us, that is always difficult to figure out.

So we travelled west from Chicago to San Diego. We had no conversation. I slept and read a greatly great book: Kane and Able by Jeffrey Archer. I had no conversation with my seat mate in the three hour trip. Cannot remember the last time that happened.

The association had made arrangements for a ride from the airport. I invited Cindy to join us in the car to the Convention Center. My luggage came out quickly. As we waited for her luggage, she joked that hers would be the last off of the plane. She became more uncomfortable with the wait. It did not matter. She suggested I go ahead. “No thank you. “Finally, her luggage arrived, not quite the last. We made our way to the Convention Center. In the course of the next several days, we saw each other rarely among the 20,000 attendees. But we knew each was working for the best of Realtors.

It is really great to be with people who encourage you to be your best self. Cindy Butts, is a one of those great life gifts. She is also a great friend.