Archive for Author Rachel

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.

“Just Add Water”

“Just add water.” That’s what my Keurig says more often than not. After I help get the kids ready and get them and my husband out the door on time, I make my coffee, find my breakfast, and try to clean up the mess on the counter that everyone left before they ran out the door. Usually, there is no water left in the Keurig for me to make my coffee, and it reminds me to “just add water.” It’s really not a big deal…all I have to do is put more water in, right? But every time I see those words, it reminds me of how often I have to do “just one more thing” before I get what I need. I have to fold one more load of laundry before I can relax for the evening. I have to make one more glass of chocolate milk for my son before I can find something for breakfast. I have to find someone to watch my kids so I can go to an appointment, take on a gig, etc. The list goes on. It also reminds me of the fact that no one else in my life is “adding the water” for me. Everyone is busy with their own lives so I’m going to have to be the one to make sure my needs are being met.

The truth is, I find myself constantly trying to find that balance of taking care of my family, providing quality therapy for my patients, finding time to plan trips for my travel clients, keeping track of the schedule for my family, making sure everything that needs to be done around the house somehow happens, and making sure that I’m taking time out for myself. How does that even work? To balance all of those things at once? I can’t be the only one…

March into April

Travel:

  • January Wellness Weekend 
  • Weekend away with the kids - We are going camping for a weekend in April.
  • Anniversary weekend away
  • Family vacation - We will be going to Greece in June.

Reading:

  • Read 30 books. (9/30)
  • 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. (15/60)
  • Work through the Right to Write. (43 chapters) (13/43)
  • 500 Writing Prompts – 3 writing prompts a month (36 total) (9/36)
  • Work through Writing Better Lyrics. (2 chapters per month, 24 total) (6/24)

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 need to get to work on this. It is my next big work project.
  • 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 starting to listen to some of Beethoven’s first concertos.
  • Earn at least 20 CMTE’s (continuing education). (0/20) - I am finishing up a CMTE course right now that would give me 10 points, as well as supervising students that will eventually give me an additional 2 points.

Home and Organization:

  • Complete Bonus Room Transformation. - Eric has decided to build a climbing wall, so he has ordered some parts he needs for that…should be interesting!
  • Fix the other part of the deck and stain it. – We have bought the wood and are just waiting for a good weekend for Eric to start working on this. 
  • Wash windows and glass doors in the house.
  • Go through and re-organize the pantry. -
  • Go through refrigerator.
  • Go through freezers.

Family:

  • Inflatable Fun Factory 
  • CMoe
  • Game Night
  • Movie Night We watched Pete’s Dragon this past weekend and it was a really good movie.
  • Gatti Town or Chuck E. Cheese 
  • 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. - I am in the middle of training for this.
  • Complete at least 5 fitness challenges. (2/5) - I had a really hard time making myself finish the 2nd one, but I did it. I am planning to start an upper body strength fitness challenge next.
  • Drink at least 64 ounces of water on most days. - I really need to get back into doing this…I felt so much better when I was drinking more water!
  • Do something active at least 3 times a week. – I have been keeping up with this so far, even the week I was sick.

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.
  • 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 when in May.
  • Do something nice for myself at least 20 times. (1/20)

I feel like March just went by so fast, and I couldn’t even tell you what all we did, though I know we did a lot. Anya attended a one-day Suzuki workshop, which she enjoyed. I have been booking lots of trips for people and have been working on music for two weddings, plus music for my brother’s wedding in July. It has definitely been busy!

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Why We Travel with Our Kids

Me and Felix enjoying flamenco in Spain in 2014

As I’ve mentioned before, we are planning a trip to Greece this summer, and we are taking our kids. Some people are shocked to hear that they are coming along because they are so small. Don’t get me wrong, we don’t always take our kids everywhere. We have taken a few trips to places like Jamaica, Mexico, and Costa Rica and have left them here, so Eric and I could spend time together on our own. However, they have gone to Europe with us every time we have gone since they have been born. This trip to Greece will be Anya’s 3rd trip to Europe and Felix’s 2nd trip. We are really lucky in that neither of our children have serious medical issues or anything that would keep us from being able to take them out of the country, and we are very grateful that we have been able to set aside money in order to take them places like this. It would probably be easier not to take them to Europe, but our motto has always been that they can throw a fit here at home or they can throw a fit wherever we happen to be.

My hope is that our travels will help our children to learn about other cultures and how people live in other places. The world is bigger than the street we live on. It is bigger than the city we live in. And it is definitely bigger than the state, and even the country, we live in. There is nothing wrong with choosing to stay in your own country for vacations, and I can completely respect that. It can get very expensive to travel out of the country (especially in some locations), and it can be a real pain to have to figure out car seat situations and how to keep kids busy in museums. But it is when you leave your own country and fly to a different one that you really see that the world is about more than just you. It really puts things into perspective in that your life is a small part of a much, much bigger picture. When you get off a plane in a different country where the language, culture, and food are all different, it makes you realize that there is so much more to the world than the box we live in. It makes you appreciate the freedoms we do have here in America, but it also shows you that, at the end of the day, we are all just people trying to live in this world.

Yes, there are some not-so-nice people in the world, and these people have done some really horrible things to innocent people. I would be lying if I said that some of the things I see on the news don’t make me nervous to travel. But I also know that these sorts of things also happen here in America, and there have even been some crazy things happening in my own city. I remind myself periodically that I am not really any less safe in another country than I am in my own, assuming I am smart about my decisions about when and where to go.

So yes, there are bad people, but most people living in other countries don’t fall into that category. The only thing we really know about people from other countries is that there are some not-so-nice people, what the government officials in that country stand for, and what the media would like us to know about particular place, which is not even usually the full truth. But those groups of people are not the majority of the people living in those places. The majority of the people in these countries are just like us. I really enjoy being on the metro and/or the buses in other countries and watching how people living there do everyday things, like get to work and go grocery shopping. At the end of the day, we are all just trying to work, provide for our families, give our kids a good education, and take our kids to the park every once in awhile. Yes, we might go about these things in a different way, but ultimately, we all want pretty much the same things. Yes, there are some unfriendly people in other countries just like there are unfriendly people here in the US, but for the most part, we have always been met with smiles and a genuine willingness to help when we look like we could use directions or any kind of help. In fact, most people are pretty proud of their country and they want nothing more than to tell you all about it.

I hope that our travels will help to raise two intelligent, accepting, and open-minded American children. White children. Children some would call privileged. I want them to know that we do not all look or speak the same, but that we are all people, and we are all worthy of respect, no matter how we look or what language we speak. I want them to feel comfortable in unfamiliar places and be able to navigate their way around any city even if the street names are in another language. I want them to learn as much as they can about the world and the people in the world, and traveling is the best way to do just that.

This is not to say that kids can’t be taught these very same things without traveling, because that is certainly possible, but as long as we can save enough money to afford to travel with our children, we plan to keep doing just that.

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California: Day 11 – Santa Cruz

The next day, we checked out of the lodge at Yosemite and headed for our last stop before heading back home: Santa Cruz. We had rented a cute little house in neat little neighborhood that wasn’t too far from the beach.  The property manager talked with me on the phone on the way there and gave me some recommendations on things to do with the kids and where to eat. She also brought over some Meyer lemons from her lemon tree!

Even though Santa Cruz isn’t that much further south than San Francisco, it was surprisingly much warmer, which I really loved. I liked San Francisco, but I have since decided that I couldn’t live there because it was way too windy and cold in June.

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The kids and I hanging out at the house

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After settling into our new place, we went out to explore. We drove a short distance to Capitola and ate at a little beach bar type place that had a pretty view of the water. We got there in time for happy hour and those things were strong!!

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At dinner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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After dinner, we walked down along the water before it got too cold.

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We Are Going to Greece!

I have written before about how we were considering visiting Greece this summer, and we ended up booking this trip about a month ago. Needless to say, we are working on our itinerary. So far, this is what we’ve come up with:

Wednesday – Flying all day

Thursday – Arrive in Athens mid-morning

Friday – Athens

Saturday – Athens (possibly a day trip to a nearby island called Aegina)

Sunday – Athens (this day is Anya’s birthday, so we are trying to plan something really fun for her!)

Monday – Athens, take the bus to Nafplio

Tuesday – Nafplio (day trip to Mycaenae)

Wednesday – Nafplio (day trip to Epidavros)

Thursday – Nafplio, taking a private taxi back to Athens airport, flight to Rhodes (the island)

Friday – Rhodes

Saturday – Rhodes

Sunday – Rhodes

Monday – Rhodes

Tuesday – Rhodes, flight back to Athens

Wednesday – Athens (possible day trip to Delphi)

Thursday – Athens

Friday – Fly home

 

Some of the things we definitely want to do while in Athens include visiting the Acropolis (of course!), visiting Sounio where the Temple of Poseidon is located at around sunset (you should definitely google “Temple of Poseidon at sunset”), attending a Greek Orthodox service, and lots of other things. While on the island of Rhodes, we plan to spend at least one day at the beach and maybe one day visiting Lindos, a popular cruising port. One issue I’m having is the fact that we might be able to see Turkey from where we will be on Rhodes, so of course, I’m looking into whether or not we could actually spend part of a day at a small port town. It may not work out, but I feel like we need to at least look into it before making a decision.

We were able to get the great deal I wrote about previously. We have also booked the rest of our hotels and the flights to Rhodes and back. We were able to get 12 nights of lodging (the other 3 were included in the flight package) for $932, which is pretty amazing, and our flights to and from Rhodes were around $360 for all of us. Not bad at all! With the flight package, all the hotels, and the flights to the island and back, we are still sitting at around $1,000 less than what it would have cost us to purchase just flights on our own, so I’m pretty happy with how it is shaping up.

The next order of business is figuring out how we will get ourselves to Nafplio and back, as well as booking a private taxi tour to Delphi. Then, I can start planning our itinerary for each day.

What do you think we should do in Greece?

Around the World 2017: Greece

Part of my plan for 2017 is to make some international food at home. I have been slacking in this area, but tonight we did make some Greek food. We chose chicken souvlaki with tzatziki sauce and served it with salad and bread. It was surprisingly easy and healthy because I got the recipe out of an international Cooking Light book. It was also something the kids could eat, though I saw Anya almost throw up when eating a piece of zucchini;)

I was proud of how well my tzatziki turned out and I was happy with how simple it was. I think we will be making this one again!

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Check out what other meals we have tried:

 

France: Part 1

France: Part 2 and 3

France: Part 4

Costa Rica: Part 1

Costa Rica: Part 2

Portugal: Part 1

Portugal: Part 2

Jamaica

Czech Republic

Italy: Part 1

Italy: Part 2

Spain

February into March

Where did February go? How is it March? I know that February is short, but it literally flew right by…

Travel:

  • January Wellness Weekend 
  • Weekend away with the kids - We are planning a camping trip for part of spring break. Stay tuned!
  • Anniversary weekend away
  • Family vacation - We have booked parts of our trip to Greece this summer. Watch for more information about the things we will be doing there!

Reading:

  • Read 30 books. (7/30)
  • 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. (10/60)
  • Work through the Right to Write. (43 chapters) (8/43)
  • 500 Writing Prompts – 3 writing prompts a month (36 total) (6/36)
  • Work through Writing Better Lyrics. (2 chapters per month, 24 total) (4/24)

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)
  • 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. (1/10) - I started reading this book and I am starting to listen to some of Beethoven’s first concertos.
  • Earn at least 20 CMTE’s (continuing education). (0/20) - I am finishing up a CMTE course right now that would give me 10 points, as well as supervising students that will eventually give me an additional 2 points.

Home and Organization:

  • Complete Bonus Room Transformation.
  • Fix the other part of the deck and stain it.
  • Wash windows and glass doors in the house.
  • Go through and re-organize the pantry. -
  • Go through refrigerator.
  • Go through freezers.

Family:

  • Inflatable Fun Factory 
  • CMoe
  • Game Night
  • Movie Night We watched Pete’s Dragon this past weekend and it was a really good movie.
  • Gatti Town or Chuck E. Cheese
  • 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. - I am planning to start training more in March.
  • Complete at least 5 fitness challenges. Doing these kinds of challenges helps me to keep carving out time to do something physical and it gives me a chance to focus on some areas that I feel like I need to work on. (1/5) - I am in the middle of my second challenge. I’m having trouble keeping up sometimes but I’m making it work.
  • Drink at least 64 ounces of water on most days. - I kind of fell back into old habits, so I am working on getting back into this.
  • Do something active at least 3 times a week. – This has been working out 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 made a Greek meal this past weekend.
  • Take at least one day to “retreat” and work on my writing, music, etc.
  • Do something nice for myself at least 20 times. This could mean taking a bath, spending time playing the piano just for fun, buying a piece of clothing that I want, reading a book by the fire even when I still have work to do, or anything that contributes to the idea of doing something nice for myself. (1/20)

In February, we also celebrated Valentine’s Day and went to Disney on Ice with the kids.

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How is your year going so far?

 


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