Greece 2017

I have been MIA for the past few weeks because we were in Greece on an amazing adventure! Of course, something catastrophic had to happen before we left: My phone died the afternoon before we left and I had to spend the evening finding a new phone that I could purchase here in town. It was ridiculous, but I’m so glad it happened before we left. If it had happened just a day later, it would have been an even bigger mess!

Anyway, we got up at 2:30 in the morning the day we left and we drove to the airport, new phone in tow. We normally are able to get to places with only 1 connection, but we had 2 connections this time, which meant 3 flights. It was definitely an all-day affair. We left Evansville bright and early at 5:45 am and flew to Atlanta. We had time for breakfast before getting on the plane to JFK.

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We had lunch in JFK and got on the plane to Athens from there. The last two flights were oversold so I was really nervous we would somehow get bumped, but luckily we didn’t. The kids were super excited about having their own personal TVs on the overnight flight.

 

 

 

 

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I tried to sleep on the overnight flight, but it was so hard and I was way too excited…fortunately, the kids slept!

Over the next month or so, I will be posting all about our trip and the amazing experiences we had, so stay tuned!

May into June

Where did May go and how is it already June?!?

Travel:

  • Anniversary weekend away
  • Family vacation - We left for Greece at the very end of May!

Reading:

  • Read 30 books. (12/30)
  • Read 2 “self-help” books or books about fostering creativity. (1/2)

Writing:

  • Daily Q&A – Still keeping up with this!
  • Post in my blog at least 5 times a month or 60 blog posts. (25/60)
  • Work through the Right to Write. (43 chapters) (21/43)
  • 500 Writing Prompts – 3 writing prompts a month (36 total) (15/36)
  • Work through Writing Better Lyrics. (2 chapters per month, 24 total) (10/24)

Spiritual:

  • Practice and complete a daily devotional. I have been able to keep up so far!

 Music:

  • Create one new Singalong packet for my Singalongs (for work).
  • Learn at least 3 new Classical pieces on the piano. (0/3)
  • Work on learning at least 3 of the modes. (1/3)
  • Listen to 10 classical music pieces. I have a new book about listening to Beethoven’s piano music that I intend to use for this purpose. (2/10) - I started reading this book and I am currently listening to Beethoven’s 3rd concerto.
  • Earn at least 20 CMTE’s (continuing education). (12/20)

Home and Organization:

  • Complete Bonus Room Transformation. 
  • Fix the other part of the deck and stain it. – Eric is almost finished with the rest of the deck. Then, we will just have to paint it.
  • Wash windows and glass doors in the house.

Family:

  • CMoe
  • Game Night
  • Make a home video with the kids.
  • Paint with the kids.

Service:

  • Provide at least 3 meals at the Ronald McDonald house. (1/3)
  • Volunteer at the soup kitchen at least once.

Physical/Health:

  • Run the 10-mile River Race in May.
  • Complete at least 5 fitness challenges. (5/5) - I did a 30 day challenge, as well as a 7-day Abs challenge and a 7-day Arms challenge. Even though I’ve met my goal, I’m going to keep doing challenges like this.
  • Drink at least 64 ounces of water on most days. - I am getting better at this.
  • Do something active at least 3 times a week. – I have been keeping up with this so far.

Miscellaneous:

  • Eat at 8 new restaurants on our list of places to try. (2/8)
  • I plan to cook at least 10 international meals this year. (2/10) - We made a British breakfast but I would also like to do a traditional British meal once we get back from Greece.
  • Take at least one day to “retreat” and work on my writing, music, etc. - I really wanted to do this in May but it just didn’t work out.
  • Do something nice for myself at least 20 times. (2/20)

As you can see, I’m still moving along. I know I won’t get all of this done in a year but I’m going to do my best!

May also included:

The 10-mile River Run

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Mumford and Sons concert

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How did your month go?

Things to Consider When Leaving the Country

When we travel overseas, as we’re getting ready to do, there are a few things we always try to do.

  • Make sure you have a valid passport with at least 6 months left on it. Many countries will not allow entry if your passport expires within 6 months of your visit.
  • Make copies or take a picture of all the credit cards and your passport you will be traveling with. If some or all of these documents are lost or stolen, you will be able to contact your credit card company and still have your passport information. Take a copy with you and leave a copy here with a family member.
  • Call the credit card company and the bank before leaving so that they are aware you will be using your card out of the country. Some banks and credit card companies must unlock your cards before they can be used. This is very important to avoid being locked out of your account. Also, be sure that you know your PIN numbers on your debit cards and know the maximum amount of money your bank allows you to take out per day.
  • Register your trip with the US State Department at https://travelregistration.state.gov/. This lets the State Department know where you will be and when. The State Department will also send you notifications if there is a travel warning in the area you are traveling.
  • Know where the US Embassy is located in the country in which you are traveling in case something happens and you need to get there.
  • Bring a charger adapter, if necessary. Some countries require different chargers.
  • Be sure to purchase travel insurance, as your medical insurance likely does not cover you while out of the country. Bring copies of your travel insurance cards.
  • If you plan to drive while there, be sure to obtain an international driver’s license. This can be done at AAA.
  • Check with your cell phone carrier to see if you will have service in the country you are visiting and inquire about any international charges for use of your phone in that country.

Traveling outside the United States can be exciting and a great experience; it may just take a little extra planning, but it is totally worth it!

Around the World: England

We have been not-so-good about doing our international meals, but we are trying to focus on British meals. We needed something easy this past week, so I thought we would try a traditional English breakfast for dinner. Somehow I didn’t get a picture, though I swore I took one…

Some of the items on our plates are what we eat for breakfast, like toast, sausage, and eggs, though I think they normally fry their toast in butter, which we did not do…trying to eat more healthy and all. They also tend to have both bacon and sausage for breakfast, and their sausages are much bigger than ours and the bacon is more like fried ham. We just made do with what we had. Baked beans seem odd but we had that every morning at breakfast when we were in London in 2007, as well as grilled tomato. Sauteed mushrooms are also included sometimes. We finished off breakfast with traditional English tea. It was delicious and actually something the kids would eat!

Why You Need to Visit a Sandals Resort

My first personal experience with Sandals was on my honeymoon 10 and a half years ago in October of 2016. My husband and I spent 7 amazing nights at Sandals Whitehouse, which is now Sandals South Coast. We spent one day off the resort shopping and climbing Dunn’s River Falls. You know the gorgeous sunset on my home page? That is from the catamaran sunset cruise we took. I’ve never seen a sunset quite like the one we saw Jamaica that evening. We got to revisit the same resort to celebrate our 5-year anniversary and saw that same sunset on another catamaran cruise.

Sandals has 16 all-inclusive, couples-only resorts throughout the Caribbean, including:

  • 7 in Jamaica
  • 3 in St. Lucia
  • 2 in the Bahamas
  • 2 in Barbados
  • 1 in Antigua
  • 1 in Grenada

Each resort has its own personality so literally anyone would find something that suits them. There are also a few things to know about these resorts:

  • They include impeccable service and tips are included. In fact, excluding a few employees (butlers, etc.), employees are not even permitted to accept tips.
  • Don’t like to just lay on the beach for an entire vacation? Sandals resorts include watersports, land sports, group classes, and use of the fitness center. Some of them also include the Red Lane Spa. We were able to use the sauna and jacuzzis even when we weren’t paying for a spa treatment. (If you do visit a Sandals resort that has the spa, though, I do highly recommend their services!)
  • If you’re interested in taking a break from the resort, you can book an excursion through Island Routes.
  • If you scuba dive, you can do that for free at a Sandals resort. If you don’t scuba dive but would like to become certified, you can do that at a very low cost at a resort.
  • If you’re a golfer, have your agent book you at a Sandals resort that includes a golf course.
  • Sandals offers Weddingmoons, which are weddings and honeymoons all in one.
  • And most importantly, the food is amazing! You can also order as much as you want. You can have dinner at one restaurant at 6 and dine at a different one at 9 if that’s what you want to do.

There are so many great things about Sandals that sets them apart from some of the other resort chains, but the one thing to remember is that they are all about making your stay there unforgettable, whether you are staying in a standard room or one of the rooms that comes with butler services. You are pampered from the minute you step off of the plane to the time you get back on to go home.

Have you ever been to a Sandals resort? Which one and what was your experience?

California: Day 13 (Santa Cruz)

On our last day in California/Santa Cruz, we just spent the day at the beach. It started out a little chilly and windy but got warmer by mid-day. The water was cold, but we still enjoyed it anyway!

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See what else we did in California!

San Francisco: Days 1 and 2

San Francisco: Day 3

San Francisco: Day 4

San Francisco: Day 5

San Francisco: Day 6

San Francisco: Day 7

Napa Valley: Day 8

Yosemite: Day 9

Santa Cruz: Day 11

Santa Cruz: Day 12

April into May

Somehow April came and went, and we are now going full force into May. Here is what happened in April…

Travel:

  • IMG_20170331_160625Weekend away with the kidsWe went camping the first weekend of April, even though it was way too cold.
  • Anniversary weekend away
  • Family vacation - We will be going to Greece in June!

Reading:

  • Read 30 books. (11/30)
  • Read 2 “self-help” books or books about fostering creativity. (1/2)

Writing:

  • Daily Q&A – Still keeping up with this!
  • Post in my blog at least 5 times a month or 60 blog posts. (20/60)
  • Work through the Right to Write. (43 chapters) (17/43)
  • 500 Writing Prompts – 3 writing prompts a month (36 total) (12/36)
  • Work through Writing Better Lyrics. (2 chapters per month, 24 total) (8/24)

Spiritual:

  • Practice and complete a daily devotional. I have been able to keep up so far!

 Music:

  • Create one new Singalong packet for my Singalongs (for work). (0/1) - I am almost finished with this.
  • Learn at least 3 new Classical pieces on the piano. (0/3)
  • Work on learning at least 3 of the modes. (1/3)
  • Listen to 10 classical music pieces. I have a new book about listening to Beethoven’s piano music that I intend to use for this purpose. (2/10) - I started reading this book and I am currently listening to Beethoven’s 3rd concerto.
  • Earn at least 20 CMTE’s (continuing education). (10/20) - I finished my course worth 10 credits and I will also be receiving 2 credits for supervising students this semester.

Home and Organization:

  • IMG_20170430_175826Complete Bonus Room Transformation. - Eric actually built a climbing wall for this room.
  • Fix the other part of the deck and stain it. – Eric is about halfway through the process of fixing the deck.
  • Wash windows and glass doors in the house.

Family:

  • CMoe
  • Game Night
  • Make a home video with the kids.
  • Paint with the kids.

Service:

  • Provide at least 3 meals at the Ronald McDonald house. (1/3)
  • Volunteer at the soup kitchen at least once.

Physical/Health:

  • Run the 10-mile River Race in May. -This is happening next weekend, though I may be doing the 15k instead of 10 miles. 
  • Complete at least 5 fitness challenges. (2/5) - I have another challenge picked out but just haven’t started yet.
  • Drink at least 64 ounces of water on most days. - I really need to get back into doing this…I am doing better but not as well as I would like.
  • Do something active at least 3 times a week. – I have been keeping up with this so far.

Miscellaneous:

  • Eat at 8 new restaurants on our list of places to try. (1/8)
  • I plan to cook at least 10 international meals this year. (1/10) - We have not been very good with this, so I need to find more motivation to do this. We will be looking at British food next. 
  • Take at least one day to “retreat” and work on my writing, music, etc. - I would really love to do this in May, but I’m still trying to figure out how to make this work in my schedule in May.
  • Do something nice for myself at least 20 times. (1/20)

I think I’m doing pretty well in some areas but not so well in others…looking at my goals each month serves as a really good reminder of what I need to work more on…

In April, we celebrated Easter…

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…and Felix’s 4th birthday.

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Felix and I also did a Mother/Son scavenger hunt.

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What did you do in April?

 

Celebrating One Year

Last week marked one year since I signed a contract with the travel agency I work with as a home-based agent. Since then, I have booked a total of 19 trips, including two of our own. A few of the trips have already come and gone but most of them will be travelling within the next 8 months or so. I’ve booked trips to Disney, London, New York City, all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean, Caribbean cruises, an Alaskan cruise, Vienna, Costa Rica, Canada, and of course, our upcoming trip to Greece. I have a few more also in the works, with hopefully even more to come. I’ve also been working on various training, such as training on Carnival cruises, Jamaica, Disney, and Universal Studios, but I have a long list of others I plan to start working on sooner rather than later. There is certainly a learning curve with all this because there is so much to learn and remember, but I am genuinely enjoying learning about new all these amazing destinations, so please feel free to contact me if you need help with any upcoming trips!

California 2016: Day 12

On Wednesday, we did a whale watching tour. I had never been whale watching so I was excited, because I thought our chances of seeing a whale were good. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any whales, much to our dismay. However, the tour was pretty exciting because we saw lots of other things, including a group of sea otters playing in the water and lots and lots of dolphins. In fact, one group of dolphins was really large and they were all swimming alongside us in the boat. But the highlight of our trip was the great white shark we saw that wasn’t all that far from the beach. It was apparently sleeping at the time so we got a really good look at it. We also learned that the people on the beach weren’t in much danger…according to the expert on the boat, at least. That being said, I’m not sure I would have been swimming in the water near the beach if I knew what was there not too far away from me! So while we were disappointed about not seeing a whale, I figured there will be other whale watching tours in my future, but the chances of seeing a great white shark in real life while on a boat was pretty slim.


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On a side note, a few weeks after we got back, Eric looked up sharks in Santa Cruz just to see if they had seen the shark again and we found out there was a helicopter shooting footage of it from the air, and when we looked a little closer, we noticed that it was filming the day we were on the boat and you could see us on the boat!

See what else we were up to in California…

San Francisco: Days 1 and 2

San Francisco: Day 3

San Francisco: Day 4

San Francisco: Day 5

San Francisco: Day 6

San Francisco: Day 7

Napa Valley: Day 8

Yosemite: Day 9

Santa Cruz: Day 11

 

 

What Working From Home Really Looks Like

You know those Facebook memes that go something like “This is what my friends think I do. This is what society thinks I do. This is what I think I do. This is what I really do” and then they have cute little pictures that describe each of these sentences? Well, that’s what I feel like when I think about the realities of working from home.

Don’t get me wrong…the things I’m about to say in this post don’t mean that I don’t like working for myself. They just mean that working from home isn’t exactly what it seems to those who don’t work from home.

Some common misconceptions:

1. I can do whatever I want. Well yes, theoretically, I can do whatever I want. I can work or I can not work if I choose to. But if I don’t work, then I don’t get paid.

2. My schedule is flexible. Again, yes and no. Parts of my schedule are flexible, but my groups happen when they happen because the times have to also work with the facility or with my piano students’ schedules. However, the planning and documentation parts of my job are flexible and I can choose to do them whenever I want, but I can tell you it’s a heck of a lot easier to do them during the day while I have childcare than to try to do them while everyone is home. Also, if I don’t do those things, they just pile up until I do them anyway. In my situation, no one else is picking up my slack if I take a day off, so I just plan for the week before and the week after a vacation to be really busy. Oh, and if I’m sick, I usually lay on the couch and try really hard not to think about all the work piling up while I’m too sick to do anything about it.

3. I make lots of money because I get to keep all of it. Ha. This is absolutely not true in my case. I am a music therapist and a travel agent. There is nothing about my jobs that make me a lot of money. Yes, I get to keep all of it before taxes, but I don’t get paid that much to begin with, regardless of the ridiculous amount of education I have, and I also have to pay more taxes than everyone else. See below… Also, I don’t get yearly evaluations or raises. In fact, the only way I get a raise is if I raise my rates, which is difficult to do when everyone is trying to save money.

4. Since you’re home…People sometimes think that since I’m home, I can just keep the kids because you can work while the kids are there, right? WRONG! I can’t take them to my groups most of the time, and if they’re here, the amount of other work I get done is “not a lot.” One perk is that I can have laundry going or the dishwasher going but I don’t always have time to just stop what I’m doing to fold laundry or get other chores done around the house. I actually do have to work.

The realities….

1. I pay more taxes than people who are employed. I get to pay the other half of the FICA tax that other people’s employers pay for them, because I am both the employee and the employer in my businesses. On the other hand, I do get to write of any expenses to my business and not pay taxes on those things, but I also have to use the money I make on my business for those expenses, so it kind of evens out in the end.

2. I don’t get paid for sick days or vacation days. There are no PTO days for me. If I’m sick, I can take that day iff, but I am not paid for any of it. Some of it I can reschedule and some I cannot, so I do lose money when I’m sick. Also, when I take vacation, I am not paid. In fact, my last maternity leave with my son was completely unpaid (yikes!). On a side note, anytime I take a vacation, I have to notify everyone I would normally be working with during those times and let them know I won’t be there at the normal time. And when I’m sick, I don’t just call in to one place and then go back to bed. When I was sick a month or so ago, it took me over 30 minutes to get ahold of everyone I was supposed to have an appointment with that day and I had about 5 phone calls to make. Not fun when you’re already feeling bad.

3. I don’t get benefits. I don’t have insurance or short-term disability options through a company because I work for myself. Luckily, my husband has good insurance options where he works but I just keep my fingers cross that I never seriously injure myself in a way that would make it impossible for me to work.

4. There are a ton of things I just have to do but don’t get paid for. This list is ridiculously long but they include things like:

  • Calling facilities when they haven’t paid to find out why they haven’t paid and when they plan on paying, which is never fun.
  • Filing documentation, which I try to do at the end of each month.
  • Keeping track of my income and expenses so that when tax time rolls around, I have some idea of what is going on in that department. I try to work on this at the end of each month and make sure I’m keeping up with paying quarterly taxes so I don’t owe a huge amount at the end of the year.
  • Rescheduling every time I want to take a day off or someone needs to reschedule with me. I feel like I’m constantly scheduling things.

5. I am always working. If I went to an office and clocked in and out every day, it would be much easier to stop working when I got home. But when you work from home, you start to feel like you are always at work, but then you are also always at home, too, except for when I’m out doing groups. So that means while I’m working, I feel like I need to have laundry going or get the dishes put away if I actually have the chance to take a break. And when I’m “not working” in the evenings, I still feel the need to take phone calls and texts about trips or rescheduling a lesson even though they’re after “business hours.” It is SO hard to separate the two when they are one and the same for you.

Ultimately, this style works for me. I bore easily, and between two businesses with a different schedule every single day, I always have something different to look forward to. Sometimes, I am frustrated by the extras I just have to do but it’s all part of it.

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