Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Take A Hike!

In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks. ~John Muir

For some reason we’ve literally adhered to the advice “Take A Hike.” In the last few months we’ve become a family of hikers. Long hikes and short hikes. Tough hikes and easy hikes. We actually even hiked in the winter this summer when we went below the equator on a family trip to Peru.

Here is a photo journal of our family hikes in 2010:

Brian Head, Utah:

Grand Canyon, Arizona (North Rim):

Uinta Mountains, Utah (Mirror Lake):

Ensign Peak, Salt Lake City, Utah:

Silver Lake, Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah:

Machu Picchu, Peru:

Waterfall Canyon, Ogden, Utah:

Adams Canyon, Layton, Utah:

Monday, September 27, 2010

Watch Out Suze!

“Because things are the way they are, things will not stay the way they are.” –Bertolt Brecht

If you haven’t been a victim of the economy in some way, shape or form in the last two years then you’re probably living on an island in la-la land. Even if your income has remained steady, I’m betting that the value of your home has dropped or your retirement plan has been rocked. The economic downfall has changed all the rules of the game.

My career is marketing. I’ve been working for financial services companies since 1998. It’s the “great recession” and I’m in the unique situation of trying to convince people they need a loan from my financial institution. I love a challenge, and I’ve got a big one.

Let’s face it...right now most people should not be taking on new debt. However, taking on a new loan doesn’t necessarily mean taking on new debt.

If you have a mortgage, if you have an auto loan, if you have a home equity line, if you have a credit card...take a few minutes and check out your rates. Chances are you can refinance those loans to a new lower rate and/or shorter term. If you choose the right financial institution, you can probably get balance transfer fees waived or closing costs reduced.

The other day I talked to a friend who will save $700 in interest over the life of her auto loan because she re-financed to a lower rate. Ka-Ching!

Refinancing a loan is not difficult. You can do most of the process over the phone or online. Trust institutions are more than eager to help bring your loan over from the competition. They will make it easy on you.

I’m a coupon clipper. I’m a thrift-store shopper. I’m a bargain hunter. I’d like to think that I’m a half-way decent negotiator. Take a little advice from a friendly blogger who loves a money-saving deal:

Spend a few minutes figuring out your existing loan rates and then research your refinancing options. After lowering your loan rates, apply the same amount of money each month to your loan payments that you have been paying all along. Not only will you save big money on interest, but you’ll also pay off your loan sooner!

(Watch out Suze Orman…I’m after your job!)

(Just kidding.)

(But if you need a sidekick, just let me know.)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Life is Just a Bag of Trail Mix

I’m the kind of person that picks out and eats the almonds, cashews and M&M’s in the bag of trail mix. I make no apologies for my behavior. Life’s too short to eat raisins and frankly I don’t need the extra calories from the peanuts after eating all of the other stuff.

Unfortunately, trail mix has a disproportionate amount of raisins and peanuts compared to my favorites. Such is life.

My momma never said that “Life is like a bag of trail mix.” But I just did. And I’m a momma.

There are the sweet moments like family vacations and holiday celebrations. There are the savory moments like job promotions and buying a new house. And then there are boring moments. Lots of them. Actually, they seem much longer than moments. Hours, days or even weeks filled with necessary yet unexciting activities and responsibilities.

As you may have guessed, I’m dealing with the post-vacation blues. We’ve been home less than two weeks and I’m already thinking that we need to go somewhere. Soon. But then I look at our personal financial statement and remember we’re outta money because of the 11-day trip we just took to Peru. In the trail mix of life, that vacation was a ginormous bag of M&M’s.

So my life has returned to raisins and peanuts. I’m not complaining. We never slow down long enough for things to get stale. Just throw me a few M&M’s, cashews and almonds every so often and I’ll be fine.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

It's Choice, Not Chance

“It’s choice, not chance, that determines your destiny.”
– Jean Nidetch

A few weeks ago I was with a group of career women discussing work/life issues. Almost immediately, one of the ladies said, “I don’t know how to respond when someone asks, ‘How can you leave your children every day and go to work?’”

For the love of Pete! How absurd is that question?

Why must some people make it sound as if us working moms treat our kids like cats? (“I just give them plenty of food and water before I leave the house and they’re fine…they don’t even miss me!”)

Most women work for the same reason that men work…to provide for our families; not because we dislike spending time with our children or because we’re feeding a shoe fetish. In addition to bringing home the bacon, many women work because they are darn good at what they do and enjoy it.

Notice that men never get asked about leaving their children to go to work. Even when they have a garage full of toys and spend every weekend on the golf course, if they hold down a full-time job and get a regular paycheck they are considered a responsible husband and father.

If you are plagued with the question, do NOT respond, “I don’t have a choice.”

If you have enough freedom in your life to read this blog, then you have a choice.

Absolutely and positively you have a choice.

Getting (and staying) married is a choice. Having children is a choice. Where you live is a choice.

If you love your spouse, and the two of you have children, then you need to make some big decisions. (Kind of like choices within your choice.)

  • Where are you going to live? Rent or own or move in with your parents? How about staying in a van down by the river?

  • How are you going provide the basic necessities of life? What about health insurance? What about retirement?

  • Where will your children go to school? What about college? Missions?

  • How will you help your children develop their talents? Do they have special needs?

  • What are your childcare options?

  • What kind of career are you qualified for? Your spouse?

  • Do you have an adequate number of shoes in your closet? (just kidding…needed to lighten up for a second)

  • Do your financial needs/wants require one or two incomes?

  • If your family requires one income, who will work?

  • If your family requires two incomes, how do you coordinate schedules?

  • Are you willing to give up your discretionary time? Discretionary income?

  • Can you stick to a budget? How’s your credit?

  • Who does the cooking? Cleaning? Laundry? Yardwork? Carpool? Parent-teacher conferences? Pediatrician visits?

The choices and decisions go on and on.

Choose wisely.

Choose what is right for you and your family.

Do not compare your situation to others.

Always remember: Each person and each family has unique circumstances.

You do not have the same spouse.

You do not have the same children, with the same ages, and the same needs.

You do not have the same education levels and skills.

You do not have the same opportunities and challenges.

You probably do not even have all of the same goals.

But you DO have a choice. And I recommend that you choose to do what's best for you and ignore anyone who asks you to justify your choices.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Guilt & Anxiety

Early in my career I would travel quite often. My company was based in Utah and my assigned marketing territories were in California, Arizona, Texas, Louisiana and Puerto Rico. On average I was flying 2-3 times per month over the course of about 3 years.

Traveling all over the country was great fun when I was single. I had every loyalty card known to man, so I would get upgrades to first class, free upgrades on rental cars, and awesome perks at the hotels.

After I was married, business trips weren't as much fun. So what if I had row 7 seats behind 3rd base at the first-ever Arizona Diamondbacks Baseball game? I wanted to be home with my man. (I know, I's kinda sappy. After all, I was a newlywed. But I must say, 12+ years later I still feel the same way.)

It got worse after I had kids. MUCH WORSE. I was traveling less at this point, but I HATED any business trip. Each time I had to go I had an emotional meltdown. I would feel tremendous guilt and get very anxious. I would wake up in the middle of the night in a panic...and that was before I would leave town! I would arrive at the airport with red, puffy eyes from crying the entire way from home.

Funny thing is that I found out later that some people in my office thought I was intimidating. (LOL!) If they could have only seen my oh-so-not-professional, homesick moments while on the road.

I felt SO INCREDIBLY GUILTY about leaving my baby. I was already dealing with the working-mom guilt that came from putting my child in daycare, so going on a business trip was just adding fuel to the fire. I was a mess.

An interesting side note, I felt just as guilty the first time I left our daughter to go away for an anniversary weekend with my husband. In fact, I probably felt MORE GUILTY because I was going away on an optional vacation and not a mandatory business trip.

I'm 40 years-old, and I've just recently figured out the difference between GUILT and ANXIETY. I no longer feel guilty about my life as a working mom. In fact, I really enjoy having a career.

I have learned so much about people and relationships through my job. Working full-time has forced me to become a more balanced person. I know what matters most, and that's how I plan each and every day. There's little room for fluff.

Anxious about being away from the kids? Yes, I still feel anxious. But if you know me, then you know that I get anxious about the kids getting off at the right bus stop every day. It's the normal I'm-a-mom-so-it's-my-right-to-be-anxious kind of anxiety.

I've stopped the guilt trips. Nothing good comes from them anyway. And honestly, I can't function on sleepless nights. I have way too many things to do!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Mushy-Brain Syndrome

I'm living with mushy-brain syndrome. It's a side effect of long vacations. I'm on day 9 of our 11-day trip to Peru, and I can barely put two sentences together.

I. am. so. relaxed. :)

The moment that I think of my job, or any sort of responsibility enters into my mind, I dismiss it without guilt. Without any cares. Without any worries. Without any stress.


I will admit that the first couple of days I kept looking for my Blackberry. But it's been safely tucked away in a drawer...and hasn't been turned on since we boarded the plane in Miami more than a week ago.

I didn't even pack a pair of high-heeled shoes. All of my dry-clean only clothes are hanging in the closet back home. Except for a couple of hours at the Lima Temple and MTC church services, it's been 100% casual 100% of the time.


The highlight of this trip was a 3-day trip to Cuzco and Machu Picchu. I loved every second of that adventure. Sharing it with my husband, girls and parents was an incredible experience.

I'm quite content living with mushy brain syndrome. In fact, I'm almost to the point that I don't miss my shoes. (ALMOST. I haven't been gone THAT long.)

I'll be back to reality soon enough. The Skechers will go into semi-retirement, the high-heels will be dusted off, and I'll force my brain to start functioning again.

Until then...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Bittersweet Day

I've already given you my thoughts on back-to-school. Watching my two girls get on the bus together this morning was so bittersweet. All the way to the bus stop Jenna kept saying "I'm so excited to ride the bus" and "I'm so happy to go to Kindergarten."

We followed the bus up to the school so we could walk her to class. When we met her on the sidewalk, she promptly told me "No mom...Lauren (her 3rd grade sister) will take me to class."

"Please?" I begged. Pathetic, yes...but I really wanted that mommy moment.

I would expect no less from my super-independent five year-old. After a few minutes of pleading, she agreed that we could walk her to class.

A couple more photos, and she sent us on our way. Mom and Dad were no longer necessary. Jenna had fulfilled her obligation to let us fuss over her on this big day, and she wanted nothing else to do with us for the next 3 hours.

I held it together. My voice only cracked once as the tears welled-up in my eyes. I'm determined to be as strong as my five year-old.

But I can't stop thinking about her! How I wish that I could be a fly on the wall in that Kindergarten class today!