Saturday, November 11, 2017

Gingerbread House Season

I'm a Gingerbread Master and it's gingerbread house season so I'm  perusing the internet for ideas and came across these real-life gingerbread houses in Martha's Vineyard.

Click here to learn more about this unique neighborhood!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Hiking Pinnacle Mountain (or, a lesson in Time Management)

Location: Little Rock, Arkansas

Target Attraction: Pinnacle Mountain

On my way from the airport to the hotel I asked my Uber driver,”What’s the best tourist attraction in Little Rock?”

He piped up right away, "Pinnacle Mountain! It's the highest peak in the state, right next to the river. There's a great hiking trail to the top, not too strenuous either."  (Hmm, what's the "not too strenuous either" part about. Do I look old to you sonny?)

The next morning I googled "things to see in Little Rock" and Pinnacle Mountain State Park topped the list. A good hike is a rare find on any city attraction list and with two recommendations I planned my outing for Sunday prior my 3pm work start time.

Shoulda… set my alarm.

Normally I don't sleep past 6:30 am but this Sunday morning I roll over in my bed, grab my phone from the bedside table and do a double take when I check the time. NINE FoRTY Zeven? I haven't slept that late in years!

Woulda…had a leisurely breakfast.

But, keeping my 3pm deadline in mind I do a few yoga stretches, dressed and popped into the car a quick 30 minutes later with a plan to grab a coffee to go on the way.

Coulda…skipped the Starbucks stop.

The closest Starbucks is inside the Target store down the street where I need to return some items so I decide to kill two birds with one stone.

Shoulda…skipped the returns.

There’s a line at the Returns Counter. And, when it’s my turn I decide to exchange instead of just return. Now, in order to stay on schedule, I have to beeline through the store to grab the size I need. Silly me gets side-tracked looking at 10 other items on my way between the counter and the new shirt. Back to the Return Counter 15 minutes later.

Woulda…loved a Starbuck’s Protein box.

I got hooked on these perfect to-go snacks in Philadelphia, but they don't sell them here. Oh forget it, I really don't want the coffee and I'm sure I can pick up a water at a gas station on the way.

Now it's noon. I have 2.5 hours to get out to the park, hike, and return to the hotel in time for my work shift. I'm still committed.

The drive out to the park traverses quaint suburbs as it winds into the Pinnacle Peak Valley where the obviously wealthy Little Rock-ians live. Massive mansions border the Parkway, even one oversized horse farm that I'd expect to see in Lexington, not Arkansas.

Thirty minutes later I enter the park where a lush forest canopy blankets the road. It looks and feels like the gentle backwoods of North Carolina. I'm really excited to get out and hike, but first, a stop at the Information Center.

Shoulda…gotten a trail map online.

The Center’s volunteer offers me a trail map and describes the two routes up the mountain. She focuses on the gently ascending east side that is an 800-vertical foot climb but I ask her about the west side trail which looks a tad bit longer.

She warns, "They're both about the same distance, but the west one is a strenuous hike through boulder fields. You're climbing over rocks almost the entire time."

I know she’s trying to discourage me, but, she couldn't have excited this Colorado girl more! I haven't been through a boulder field in years!

But by the time I get the trail map and make it to the trailhead I’ve used up another precious 15 minutes. Now I’m down to 90 minutes of free time. I climb out of the car and look up at the rather extravagant trailhead marker.

Woulda…taken the easy route if I didn’t feel like that was the “old person’s route”.

TWO HOURS for a mile and a half hike? Hah! I know I can do it in half that. I start my brisk walk up the trail but soon am entranced by the quiet green forest, the gentle breeze through the trees, and cautiously stepping through the rough rock trail. I remind myself with every step, "It's the journey, not the destination that matters."

Within minutes I reach a dead end. I look around. Not a trail marker in site. Not even in 360 degrees of sight. I retrace my steps, still no markers. I continue to retrace my steps. Still no marker.

Coulda…made it to the top if I was willing to stretch my limits.

I continue backtracking to the main trail where I have a decision to make. I’m now down to an hour of time and while the trail is not strenuous for me, it is challenging my coordination. (I can trip on flat ground!)

I surrender and head toward the trailhead. I’m disappointed, knowing that I’m missing a surely spectacular view at the top.

Shoulda...managed my time for success, especially when it’s my own I’m spending.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

'Tis the Season: HallowThanksmas

Sunday I celebrated a solstice of sorts. Twelve weeks until Christmas. The glorious season of HallowThanksmas is upon us. 

In addition to the usual slurry of advertisements to over spend and over eat, this year we’ll participate in an important election. I’ll experience the birth of another grandchild and take a trip to Spain. Halloween. Thanksgiving. Christmas.  It’s going to be quite a season.
My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. I love that a day (and usually an entire weekend) is set aside to give thanks in our country. In our family we gather at my ex-laws home to celebrate with a prime rib dinner.

Yup, prime rib with the ex-husband and his wife and the rest of the clan. The die-hard turkey eaters could really balk at the menu alone. But that’s not our priority on this day. Being able to set aside our differences and sit around the table together is. Just like every other family we have our fair share of family disharmony, but we choose not to let it interrupt our Giving-Thanks day. Being grateful for what we have takes precedence over holding fast to our differences.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Is Your Job Making You a Better Person?

Before becoming a full-time workamper I was focused on being the best corporate employee that I could be. Once I got on the ladder I climbed it as fast as I could. Within a few short years I doubled my income and received some pretty great perks for climbing the rungs.
But that climb came with a price that surpassed what I was earning. The stress that came with it affected my health and my spirit. 
I stepped off the ladder when I became a workamper living in a motorhome. I traded the corporate package benefits for a grand lifestyle, with grand vistas and even grander personalities in the transient world where I lived and worked. 
Now I have a position that pays like a corporate job but allows me the freedom of living on the road. I found it by leveraging all of the talents I have developed from every job I have ever had and even then I still had to put hours of time and effort into training for my new position.
Our jobs are so much more than just a conglomeration of tasks and people-pleasing.
Think about this. If you are a full-time employee you spend over 2,000 hours a year at your job. And, on average, most people work about 40 years before they retire. That's eighty thousand hours!
Putting that kind of time into anything could make you an expert at it. So, yes, you could be the best whatever-you-do in your profession. But are all those hours making you a better person, or just sucking the life out of you?
Maybe it's time to evaluate, and step up your game or make a change. Consider the following.

Are You Learning New Skills?

I know plenty of people who can answer that question with a frustrating "yes" based purely on the amount of learning required to keep up with the ever-changing technologies of our times. But learning new skills beyond these simple necessities offer many benefits.
Expanding your skill set makes you more valuable to your employer. And typically greater value equals greater pay. Take advantage of the opportunities around you. Many employers offer online training courses, or will pitch in to cover the cost of a college course or two. These educational options will naturally be oriented toward making you more effective in your current position. However, think about their benefits to you personally. You can use them to make a move to a better position, or to survive an economic downturn, or even start your own business.
Learning a new skill can also keep you healthier longer. Did you know that keeping your mind active and engaged is a great way to ward off physical and mental diseases and slow the aging process? According to Nancy Merz Nordstrom, author of Learning Later Living Greater, continual learning opens our minds, and helps us to develop our natural abilities. So by learning a new professional skill, you could be inadvertently improving a skill that will enhance your personal life as well.

Are Your Professional Goals Aligned With Your Personal Goals?

I recently completed an online Employee Performance Review that asked whether my position was still aligned with my personal goals. Plenty of things can change in a year and I was impressed that my employer was insightful enough to recognize this and phrase the question in a way to encourages employees to ponder its significance.
First of all, what are your personal goals? Do you want to spend more time with your family, or care for an elder? Want to take some time off to travel, or pursue a hobby? Think about your answers and carefully calculate where you are in those 40 years and 80,000 hours. Is your job helping you reach your goals or getting in the way of them?

Do Your Values Align With Those of Your Employer?

Values are at the core of who you are. They are what you stand for, what you believe in, and what you are willing to fight for. Does your employer share your same core values? Are they actively fleshed out on the workplace on a regular basis?
I have had to leave jobs that I loved because I so adamantly opposed the values that were expressed throughout the workforce. And I have stayed at lesser-paying jobs longer that I should have because the opposite was true. Conflicting core values can be a source of excessive stress and dissatisfaction in your professional life. Don't underestimate the impact that this can have on your personal life.

Who Are Your Colleagues?

Are you surrounded by positive and encouraging co-workers? Or is there a Debbie-Downer around every corner?
Listen to the conversations surrounding you throughout your day. You can only be a better person if you surround yourself with people that also want to be better people. That means being around people that encourage you to try new things and help you through tough learning curves. It means being around people that honor your abilities, and support your professional responsibilities by competently managing their own. It's difficult NOT to be come a better person when you surround yourself with the right kind of people.
So what are you doing with your 80,000+ work hours? Are you satisfied with just a paycheck, or do you want to use that time to become a better person too? The choice is yours, consider your course of action wisely. Then take action!

*This post is recycled from an article posted on To read more of my Infobarrel Articles click here. Photo image