2020 Mid-Year Check-In

Well I’m sure back in January no one was prepared for what is currently happening in the world. I for one, was setting goals for myself with the mindset that it was going to be a normal year. I was hoping to do so many things that have unfortunately been put on hold BUT I’m still working through a few of my goals, hoping to still achieve some of them this year.

“2020 is going to be filled with a lot of great things.” Boy was I off on that one. But not 100% off. There were and hopefully still will be a few greats this year.

It’s hard to believe we are over half way through 2020 (I meant to write this post back at the end of June, but “I’ve been busy” is sort of an understatement). It seems like it was forever ago that I was volunteering with the high school ski team which ended up being another great season. The only down side was that our end-of-year banquet was cancelled just days before it was planned because of COVID-19. The banquet is usually one of my favorite parts about being a part of the team because we get to show all the athletes how much they’ve done throughout the year and show how proud we are as their coaches. Volunteering has been so much fun the last two years but I’ve decided I won’t be volunteering next year. It’s a large time commitment for a volunteer position and I don’t intend on being in the area so the end of this year was even more upsetting considering I didn’t get to properly say goodbye.

Of course there are many more things to be upset about, like my work travel plans. I got one trip in before my company put all travel on hold. I was able to go to Park City with my boss and I had an absolute blast, which you can read more about here.

Traveling and generally going on adventures has been challenging in some aspects. I wanted to do weekend trips to some of my favorite places near by but the thought of traveling anywhere besides into nature is frightening. So on the other end, camping is still an option. Albeit with some challenges of its own. Because travelling somewhere far away via plane and staying in hotels isn’t as popular as it usually is for the summer months, camping is booming in the mountains. It is a great way to socially distance, but sometimes I want to enjoy my own little oasis up here without worrying about someone taking my favorite dispersed camping spot.

But besides being a little frustrated with the amount of people flocking to my hometown to enjoy the outdoors, I am trying my best to accomplish my goal of being outdoors at least one hour once a week. In the winter months I was skiing a few hours each week, either downhill or cross country, until resorts were closed down. After the resorts closed and spring began, it was harder to get motivated to go outside for any reason. The weather was certainly not ideal and everyone had begun the stay-at-home, don’t leave except for essential business only practices, so for a few weeks this spring I didn’t uphold the goal of getting outside.

With regulations being lifted and getting back into the office I was able to get out more. A coworker of mine asked me to join him for his daily walks which I was eager to say yes to. So, I get out for 45 minutes, three times a week just for our walks which is helping me keep sane while in the office as well. In addition to the walks, I’ve been trying to get out on the weekends for your typical summer activities. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as I was hoping it would be. I’ve been working a second job as well as working a few Saturdays for my full-time job so my free time has not been as abundant as I wanted it to be. I’m hoping as summer dwindles and people begin to stay home again, I’ll be able to enjoy a few of my favorite hiking trails without running into a million tourists.

As for some of my other goals, I’m making progress on some and accepting that others most likely won’t be achieved this year.

Blogging hasn’t been something I’m able to do as much just because of the lack of free time but I’m still on the way to achieving 20 posts. Excluding book reviews, I have been able to write 12 posts, 13 if you include this one. I really enjoy writing and expressing my creativity through this blog and I hope to write more as the year goes on. Reading 20 books has also been a goal I’m proud to say is well on track. I’ve read 18 already so I’m increasing my Goodreads goal to 25 books and will be writing reviews for some soon, so stay tuned.

The goal of taking more photos has unfortunately been one that isn’t going well. I love taking pictures and hope to get out to take some before the year is over. I had hoped to take more photos on my work trips and a bunch during my family’s cruise vacation, which has been cancelled of course. Thankfully, we will still be doing some sort of vacation, whether it’s a staycation at home together or camping nearby.

An upside to these past few months being far from normal is that we have been able to spend a lot of time as a family. I have my mom and her partner watching Game of Thrones and we’ve done a lot of work around the house. Even though I love spending time with them, it has been a bit challenging as well. I would really enjoy having a space all my own to furnish and decorate however I want but with the current climate, I’m not getting my hopes up. I am saving a lot which will help tremendously when the time is right which is the goal I’m the most happy about.

If I learn anything from this whole experience I hope that it is to find the light in dark situations. With many things in life being uncertain at the moment, I can only hope to work through my current goals and create more as I grow. Even though this year is more than halfway over, I’m happy with the progress I’ve made thus far and look forward to telling you all about the achievement of these goals when 2021 is rung in.

I hope you all are working towards and accomplishing your 2020 goals and staying positive.

My Summer Must-Haves

So summer is finally here and even though we’ve had snow in the month of June, it’s starting to finally feel like summer here in Colorado.

No summer is complete without hiking, camping, enjoying the sunshine and just being outdoors. Add in the beautiful green landscapes, BBQs, the occasional day on the water and the longer days and it’s an ideal time for family, friends and fun. I love getting out to kayak, hike and camp and even though my first camping trip of the year was foiled by snow, I’m looking forward to the rest of what the warm season has to offer.

Of course the summer also brings out many things that I can’t live without. So here are 10 of my Summer Must-Haves.

Fresh Fruit
Who doesn’t love fresh fruit? Strawberries are my favorite and in the summer there’s plenty of different recipes to try. I enjoy homemade granola, honey yogurt and sliced strawberries. My favorite homemade granola recipe is actually my college best friend’s recipe which you can find here. Strawberry Shortcake is also a summer favorite with fresh whipped cream. Strawberry banana smoothies? Definitely a morning must.

Popsicles and Ice Cream
If popsicles and ice cream aren’t a highlight of your summer, you’re doing something wrong. The hotter weather and icy treat go hand-in-hand. I really like Outshine Fruit Bars because they’re made with real ingredients and taste delicious. The creamy coconut flavor is one of my favorites followed closely by the pomegranate one. For ice cream, I’m pretty happy with anything that has chocolate. If I’m looking for a pint just for me to devour in one sitting then it’s Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food hands down.

HydroFlask Water Bottle
You definitely need a good water bottle in the summer time. You have to stay hydrated, especially in the hot summer sun and Hydroflask water bottles are ideal because of there insulation technology. I’ll fill my bottle with ice in the morning and still have over half at the end of the day. Even after filling it with more water at lunch it stays cool. I like the 21oz narrow mouth bottle with the sport cap because it’s the perfect size for a small hike, kayaking or just sitting at the office.

Neutrogena Sunscreen
Sunscreen is vital for summertime. Nobody likes to look like a lobster and it’s just plain uncomfortable to deal with sun burnt skin. I prefer Neutrogena because it’s lightweight and not oily. I tend to have oily skin and putting sunscreen on was always gross feeling but with Neutrogena’s Ultra Sheer Dry Touch formula it feels clean. I’m also conscious about the products I put on my face and I know I can trust Neutrogena to not cause a breakout.

Osprey Packs
I love my Osprey packs. I have a few bags from Osprey that come in handy a lot during the summer. I have a 65 liter Aura AG backpacking pack that I am hoping to use at least once this summer. It’s been a while since I’ve done an overnight hiking trip but I know I’m prepared with the Aura pack. For day hikes I have the Manta AG 24 liter. It’s the perfect size for a day out on the trail and the hydration component is the best element. In addition to my hiking packs I also have a simple lifestyle pack that I used for school and a carry-on luggage piece that is perfect for a short trip.

Chaco Sandals
I practically live in Chacos during the summer and I’m not ashamed to say I strive for that summer #ChacoTan. I got my first pair of Chacos when I was in middle school and have continued wearing them ever since. The quality of Chaco products are well worth the price and they have styles that fit everyone. I’m a classic ZX or ZX/2 gal but I’ve also purchased sneakers and casual leather sandals as well. I love the products, love the quality and highly recommend them to anyone that needs a good summer sandal they can wear out on the water or on the trail.

Repel Natural Bug Repellent
The only unfortunate thing about summer is all the nasty little bugs that come with it. The area I live in is inundated with mosquitoes and in order to survive you have to use bug repellent. I prefer to use natural bug repellent instead of DEET based products only because DEET can be harmful not only to your skin, but to your clothing as well. Did you know it can actually melt certain plastics? If it can damage plastic why would you want it on your body? My product of choice is Repel’s Natural Bug Repellent that is made with lemon and eucalyptus. Though the plant-based formula isn’t as powerful as a DEET-based formula, it’s a lot better for you and it smells amazing. You just might have to apply it more often.

Oscillating Fan
It doesn’t matter where you live, summer is hot and those that don’t have a fan are just crazy. In the mountains a lot of places don’t have AC so opening windows and getting a fan going is the only way to keep the indoors cool. It sounds like such a random must-have, but it is a must for me. I don’t personally have a preference of fan brands, but something of better quality that will last more than one summer is preferred. I like the tower style that oscillates just because it gets air moving around the room the best and they’re more stylish that the classic stand fan.

Library Card
If you haven’t caught on that I’m an avid reader, I’m here to tell you I’m an avid reader and having a library card, especially in the summer is a must. Snuggling up with a book on the deck or in my hammock is one of my favorite relaxing activities. With this year’s COVID-19 regulations, I’ve taken on reading some of my own books instead of borrowing from the library. I like being able to physically browse the library and I’m sad I can’t do that this year. But, I normally hit up the library a few times a month during the summer to borrow a book or audio book.

ENO Hammock
Being able to set up a hammock wherever is really nice. ENO Hammocks are ideal for any type of adventure. They’re super lightweight, small and packable and they come in great color combinations. I typically use my hammock at home on a stand, but I have the ENO Atlas straps that work great when I’m out camping. Reading, taking a nap or just relaxing wrapped up in a hammock is truly one of my favorite summer pass times.

These ten items aren’t the only ones I would consider must-haves for the summer but they are my top picks. What are your summer must-haves?

The New Office Normal: Adapting to Change in the Workplace

When I began drafting this post, I thought I’d write about how we’re getting back to normalcy but after a bit of contemplation, I’ve come to the realization that there really isn’t going to be a time when we get back to the normal we’ve all been used to for the majority of our lives. New normals will grow from the world we are currently in and we will adapt and eventually embrace them.

Work has probably been one of the most changed elements in a lot of people’s lives. Along with many others, I found myself working from home during the rise of the pandemic in the United States. I’ve worked from home on the occasional random day before and wasn’t worried about my focus or ability to complete a full day’s work. In addition to working from home, my hours were reduced to 32 per week and instead of shifting my schedule to just four days, we kept it at five. My days started later and ended sooner and the confidence that I had that I’d be okay working from home began to dwindle each week I spent at home.

It was harder to concentrate every day because my home became everything. It was where I ate all three meals, where I worked, slept and relaxed. I didn’t leave my house and that became detrimental to my mental health. And I know that so many others have, or still are, feeling that way. It’s not easy and it’s not normal. I thank my lucky stars that I still live with my family and that I wasn’t alone at home for those two and a half months. I had people to talk to and interact with face-to-face which many people didn’t have. A lot of those in the professional work industry rely on the social aspect of office life. Even though my office is small, I still enjoy visiting with my coworkers and I missed that.

As restrictions changed and the content of my work began to look like it used to, it was time for my workspace to move from my dining room table back to my actual office. My boss approved our return but preparations had to be made and guidelines put into place. The workplace had to adapt to continue to keep us comfortable and safe.

To start the returning process, I had to move my desk. I was out in the main lobby area behind a divider in a shared open space with our front desk agent and if I stayed in that space, we would have to both wear masks for the entirety of the work day. The two other full-time people in our office have personal offices with doors that can be closed so while alone in their closed offices they don’t have to wear masks. So, to make it comfortable we moved my desk to the back room that we use as storage and where maintenance had a small desk the manager used only on occasion. Moving into the back room, though far from glamorous with an unfinished concrete floor, housekeeping supplies and old filing cabinets, allowed me to be in an area where I could close the door and work without breathing through a mask all day.

Though we all are in our own personal spaces we still wear masks when in the common areas and keep our six feet social distance. For my boss and I, we are only in the office three days a week so we have some time together, but also have time at home where we aren’t restricted. When we are in the office we’re also required to take our temperature upon arrival to make sure that we aren’t running a fever.

We also respect each other’s personal space and only allow one person in the kitchen at a time. Sanitation of commonly touched surfaces also occurs daily. To give us an additional layer of protection, our office continues to be closed to the public, with the exception of deliveries, so we don’t have unnecessary outside interactions. These standards will hopefully keep us safe and healthy.

To be completely candid though, I think some of the regulations that my boss has put into place are a little extreme considering there are only four of us in the office and we live in a mountain community with an entire county population of about 15,000. Nevertheless, I understand the precautions and the continuous risk that COVID-19 presents, especially to a small tourist community. I’m also (now) extremely happy that I have the ability to be back in the office and to have some interaction with my coworkers. Returning to the office was not as exciting as I hoped it would be simply because it wasn’t like returning back to the normal I’m used to.

After the first few days back in the office I found myself wanting to return home to work full-time. It wasn’t what I was used to and I thought “maybe I’ll be happier at home.” But after thinking about my two and a half solid months at home and how isolating it was, I realized these few regulations weren’t going to kill me. I’ve also learned to do a few things to bring me back to feeling more upbeat at work.

  1. Talking a walk break. My coworker usually walks during his lunch break and I’d occasionally join him for the 30 minutes around the neighborhood. Now that restrictions are in place for restaurants he can’t spend the second half of his break in the coffee shop right below us so he walks for a full hour instead. This little break from being cooped up in the office is great. I get some steps in, some social conversation and I get a break from work. The fresh air is also a huge plus.
  2. Listening to music loudly. When my desk was in the common area I didn’t get to listen to my music very loudly, or I used headphones. Now that I’m in my own space I figured it was okay to listen to my music out loud (and uncensored). Music has always helped me concentrate, and stay awake, during the work day so having even more freedom with it has been good for my sanity.
  3. Keeping communication open. Before there was the risk of contracting a virus just by standing close to someone, we generally just went to each other’s desks to talk. Now it’s expected to send a quick email to discuss anything work related and socializing became a faux pa of sorts. To remain communicative and to have the ability to simply chat about the latest TV shows we were binging or discuss the latest county gossip, we started using our office phones kind of like walkie-talkies. It’s easy to pick up the phone and dial a three-digit extension and we all feel a little better just knowing that there are other people in the office and that we can still interact even though there are walls between us.
  4. Remembering that this will not be forever. Like I’ve already said, we will never get back to the normal that we are used to but these rigid standards will not be in place forever either. It’s temporary and we have to think about how this time will only be a short period in our lives. There will probably always be a risk, but at least we won’t live our lives staying six feet from every other human on the planet.
  5. Knowing that we are all in this together. Sometimes when you’re isolated working from home or even isolated working in your closed up office, it’s easy to feel alone. For me, knowing that there are so many other people feeling the same why I am feeling helps in a weird way. I know that for some people, like my coworker who lives alone, it’s a lot harder. I know that I’m not the only one living through this experience and even though it’s a terrible dystopian-feeling time, we are all in this together.

Returning to the office was, and will remain, a different type of working environment. We all have had to adapt and change the way we normally conduct business but the main thing to remember is that we will get through this. We must take what we have now and learn from this experience. We might even get the opportunity to find ways that work better than how they did before.

As I personally get used to being in the office again I know there will continue to be growing pains and days where I just want to go home and forget that this is all happening. And I know I’m not alone in this feeling. I can only hope that we all find what works best for ourselves and use this time for a bit of personal growth. I also hope that everyone out there is staying safe and is keeping their sanity intact.

Supporting the Small Business

I’ve always believed in supporting small, family-owned businesses and now is arguably a time where it’s even more important that those types of businesses get support.

The community I live in is composed almost entirely of family-owned businesses. The restaurants, clothing stores and personal services have the face of the family that runs it with their dedicated employees. Being in a small tight-knit area where everybody knows everybody is difficult because at this uncertain time everybody knows someone that has either lost their job or is struggling to keep their business alive. It’s heartbreaking to know so many individuals who are struggling and that’s why my family and I are trying our best to support our local businesses.

Many businesses have adapted to work with what they have and are able to do with restrictions. Restaurants are offering takeout, retail stores were able to shift to online sales before they were allowed to open again and services encouraged gift certificate purchases if they couldn’t operate within the guidelines set forth by the local government. They are offering what they can in hopes that the community can continue to support them so they are operational when the time allows them to get back to 100% operational.

For my family, some of our favorite restaurants are still open and offering take-out so we have tried to spread the wealth and ordered from a few different ones over the past two months. Others that aren’t open we hope to frequent when they are. We’ve purchased what we can from local retail stores that are open after being closed down due to Colorado executive orders instead of ordering online. We even were able to move up some work we had planned to have done on the outside of our house to help a carpenter friend whose wife isn’t able to work. But it’s not just our locals that feed our small community economy.

In our county, like many others in Colorado, several businesses don’t just rely on local support, but the support from visitors. Our economy is maintained and boosted by the tourists that frequent our area in both the winter and summer. Some businesses chose to close during the slower months simply because they do not generate enough revenue to justify being open. Usually this time is now, in the spring after the snow has melted and in the fall when the weather isn’t warm but the snow hasn’t stuck to the ground. Generally those businesses close for a month at most. As of today, it’s been almost two months for not just those business but others as well that have been forced to close.

For me personally, I know too many people that work for or own businesses that are a part of that list of temporary closures. Thankfully, with openings beginning in Colorado, some of those establishments are ready to open and welcome back their devoted customers. It’s when these places open that the community has to take action. We have to support those that are a vital part of our community.

Re-opening might not be an easy task for some businesses. It could bring a whole different challenge for some. Employees that were laid off might not be able to return. Some have had to move from the area or start a new job leaving owners short-staffed and wondering how they will conduct business like normal. It’s a challenge that many will have to face and I hope that they have the support to rebuild.

I’m lucky to have a job that was able to keep me working from the start of all this but I have always had a soft spot for a small family-run outdoor store that I have worked for off and on for five years. The family that owns the store have become a second family to me and I was worried when they were forced to close. They’re working on an addition to the building and I know it’s a large project that is taking a lot of time and energy that has been delayed. Thankfully, they have a great local group of faithful customers that are happy to make purchases regularly. Plus, they always look out and genuinely care for their staff which keeps team members happy and ready to work.

With Memorial Day weekend already here we know there will be a surge of tourists looking to escape to the mountains. I hope that the surge helps local businesses, but I also hope that those coming to our community take precautions and understand we want to keep everyone who calls this place home safe and healthy.

If you have an opportunity to support your locally-owned businesses I know they’ll greatly appreciate it. Here are five ways you can support a local family owned business:

  1. Make a purchase.
  2. Plan services for the future.
  3. Buy a gift card/certificate to gift or use later.
  4. Write a positive review online.
  5. Follow the business’s social media accounts.

It’s a challenging time no matter where you live or what you do for a living. I hope that everyone is staying safe and being cautious and keeping the well-being of everyone in mind.

Book Review: “The Nightingale”

I read this book from a recommendation and was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked it. I have never been a huge historical fiction person, but I really enjoyed this story and got to a point where I couldn’t put it down. I even ended up purchasing the book after my library borrow time had expired and I hadn’t quite finished the book yet.

I was not the best history student in school and didn’t retain much about World War II which made me look up a lot while reading this book. It’s fictional in the individual stories but the history is accurate and I genuinely learned more about the war and how truly devastating it was. I obviously knew it was tragic, but didn’t fully grasp the personal stories outside of those in camps. In school you don’t really get to hear about personal stories, what you learn are mostly general, broad ideas and timelines.

Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale follows the personal stories of two sisters living in World War II occupied France. One sister, Vianne, and her young daughter are living in a small town that becomes host to several Nazi captains, one of which requisitions her household while her husband heads to the front line. The other, Isabelle, continues her teenage rebellious tendencies and joins the resistance determined to undermine the Nazi regime and operate right under their noses.

The best element of the book was the emotional tone that came through and made the narrative so engaging. It was the two personal stories that made it great. I felt for the characters and every up and down they had. I felt the emotions they were feeling and that’s what kept me reading nonstop for hours on end. I didn’t want to put it down because I had to know what was next and I think that quality in a book is a sign of a great author.

I think many authors can go wrong when writing fictional novels that are based on major historical events. I think there is a fine balance to writing the history and writing your own story. I’ve been afraid to read historical fiction because I don’t want to feel like I’m reading a textbook that drones on and on about the facts. I’d much rather have a story that plays into the facts of the event or time period with personal stories that are easy to follow and that the reader can latch on to.

I also think it’s important in these types of novels to really develop the characters and illustrate how they are reacting to the events transpiring around them. If you don’t have an interesting character then it’s going to feel like a textbook with little to no emotion. I think the best stories about historical tragedies encompass the heartache, the struggle and the thinking or decision making of a character living through that tragedy. And I think Hannah did that with not just one character but two very well. I also find it really enthralling because the two characters are females that are dealing with having to become strong individuals. It’s a bit different than other WW2 novels too because the majority of the ones I’ve seen or read about focus on the soldiers at war or those imprisoned in camps. This story was different and I think that’s why I chose to read it.

Overall, I was very happy reading this book and pleasantly surprised about how I couldn’t put it down despite it not being a genre I usually gravitate towards. I’ve started to recommend it to others because it is a fantastic historical fiction read and I hope those that I’ve recommended it to enjoyed it as much as I did.

World Book Day Recommendations

In honor of World Book Day I want to give my top five book recommendations. I could recommend a long list of books but these are five that I find to be great reads for anyone. I realized just the other day that I ask people for book recommendations a lot and I’m always grateful for whatever gets recommended so I might as well return the favor out into the universe. I’m definitely not a genre-specific reader, I generally like most out there and will pretty much read anything.

Here are five of my top book recommendations:

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
This classic is by far one of my favorite reads. I just love the story and the writing style of Fitzgerald. I read the book in high school for the first time and then had to read it again when I was in college for my comparative literature class. When I was in high school I definitely didn’t appreciate the story and the poetic depiction of the 1920s. When I read it again I just couldn’t believe how dense and unappreciative I was the first time reading it. Needless to say I still pick it up from time to time to read just for fun.

The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah
This is the newest addition to my favorites list. I just read it a few months ago from a recommendation and after struggling just a little to get into the story I quickly fell into the lives of the characters and couldn’t put the book down. I just loved the way it was written with historical accuracy and true emotion. I will be writing a book review for The Nightingale soon so stay tuned for that post.

The Giver by Lois Lowry
Another read from when I was younger that I actually enjoyed and appreciated at the time. If I remember correctly I actually read this book when I was probably too young to understand it completely but read it again when I was in high school right before the movie adaptation came out. It’s just one of those books that I really enjoyed because of the seemingly normal story that isn’t as normal as you think in the beginning. The story definitely parallels modern ideology and I think that’s what I liked about it most. It’s the similarities in stories that reflect the story of modern life in unconventional ways that make them relatable and hard to put down.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
One of my favorite books and surprisingly also one of my favorite book-to-film adaptations. I love a good mystery/drama and this one just tops my list. It’s a great twist and turn type of novel that certainly keeps you on your toes chapter after chapter. It’s a suspenseful story that you can’t stop reading.

The Poet by Michael Connelly
I absolutely love Michael Connelly’s writing and his large collection of novels. My first taste of Connelly’s books was The Poet. I think I first picked it up at the library and read it and really, really enjoyed it. I knew I liked crime novels because there’s a mystery that as a reader, I always try to figure out before I finish the book. Connelly’s writing usually keeps me guessing until the very end. I specifically resonated with this novel because it’s the introduction of a new character to Connelly’s world of crime. Instead of the original perspective of detective Bosch, it’s from the perspective of a reporter that covers the local beat in Denver. Always a great read and I hope he keeps writing so I can keep reading.

Of course there are many more books that I could recommend and a fair few series *cough, cough Harry Potter*. I’m also always open to recommendations. I find myself gravitating more towards fiction crime/suspense and then fantasy which can arguably be placed at two ends of the spectrum but alas, I still like reading any type of genre. There are more than 130 million published novels in this world and it’s honestly a shame there isn’t enough time in a life to read them all.

As always, stay tuned for more posts and more book reviews.

30 Days of Being Grateful

Self-isolation started for me on March 23rd. Because the state of the entire world is shrouded in chaos at the moment I wanted to stay positive and think about the things I’m grateful for during this uncertain time. Here are those thirty things that I thought about for the past 30 days.

Monday, March 23rd: First day working from home. Today I am grateful for fast internet.

Tuesday, March 24th: Today I am grateful for still living with my mom. If I was living alone (like some of my close friends are) I’m not sure how I would be handling this.

Wednesday, March 25th: Today I’m grateful for long phone calls and Facetime sessions. Connecting with my friends in this time is important for me to keep my sanity. I also love being able to talk to and see my friends that are in a completely different state.

Thursday, March 26th: Today I’m grateful for a large house. Even if I’m sharing it with my wonderful mom and her supportive boyfriend, an energetic ball-crazy dog and a sleepy kitty.

Friday, March 27th: Today I’m grateful for having a job that is able to keep me employed during these uncertain times.

Saturday, March 28th: All three of us are staying home on the weekends for the foreseeable future. Today I’m grateful for streaming services and many, many movies that we can watch as a family.

Sunday, March 29th: Today I’m grateful that I have a large book collection.

Monday, March 30th: Week two of work-from-home begins. I’m grateful that my superiors understand I’m here to help and that I’m able to help take something small off their very full plates.

Tuesday, March 31st: I would have been leaving for South Lake Tahoe today for a work trip if the COVID-19 pandemic hadn’t come to it’s peak here in the US. Today I’m grateful that Southwest has a flexible booking policy. I have credit for when things calm down and I’m able to travel for work, and leisure, again.

Wednesday, April 1st: Today I’m grateful that people are able to keep humor and lightheartedness in this time of melancholy but also know the boundaries of what’s humorous and what’s crossing the line.

Thursday, April 2nd: Today I’m grateful for our local grocery store staying as stocked as they can and working hard in these crazy times. Everyone just needs to stop panic buying.

Friday, April 3rd: Today I’m grateful for Fridays. I am usually always grateful for Fridays, but now even more so.

Saturday, April 4th: Today I’m grateful that we have a nice backyard and that spring is definitely here.

Sunday, April 5th: Today I’m grateful for my mom and how she has taught me how to cook, enjoy reading and to keep a clean home.

Monday, April 6th: Beginning week three of work-from-home. Today I’m grateful for Nash, our family dog. He is keeping things positive for all of us.

Tuesday, April 7th: Today I’m grateful for Gordan Ramsay. The many shows he has available through streaming services is making time go by faster.

Wednesday, April 8th: Today I actually left the house for a short amount of time. For not leaving in the past two and half weeks, it was nice to get out and just drive for a little bit. I’m grateful for living in the mountains where the air is fresh and there’s rarely any traffic.

Thursday, April 9th: I’m grateful for social media. It might be a hindrance sometimes but most of the time it’s there to keep me connected to the rest of the world and the friends that I don’t get to see.

Friday, April 10th: Today I’m grateful for sweatpants and long sleeve t-shirts. And I’m even more grateful for the fact that I have enough to wear everyday of the week.

Saturday, April 11th: I’m grateful for weekends. Who isn’t though?

Sunday, April 12th: Today I’m grateful for having the freedom to believe in what I chose to believe in.

Monday, April 13th: Today I’m grateful for being out of school. I know that sounds so selfish but I can’t imagine how I’d be handling this if I was still in school, high school or college. I give lots of kudos to the students that are working through this, especially you seniors. Hang in there.

Tuesday, April 14th: I’m so so so grateful for my cat. She’s been a mega cuddlebug and I love love love it.

Wednesday, April 15th: I’m grateful for it staying lighter longer. I missed it and it is making me optimistic for summer.

Thursday, April 16th: Today I’m grateful for the support system that is in place for the company that I work for. Our executives genuinely care about what is happening in our various locations across the US and we all know we are here for each other.

Friday, April 17th: Today I’m grateful for the three other people that work in my office. We video chatted today for about an hour and it was exactly what we all needed. There was a little business but mostly laughs and lots of chats about what we are all doing to stay sane.

Saturday, April 18th: I’m grateful for really lazy days where I can just relax, lay in bed and not care at all about being productive. I think everyone needs lazy days and today is my day.

Sunday, April 19th: Today I’m extra grateful for having the ability to cook and make some decent meals.

Monday, April 20th: Today I’m grateful for having a second family. My second family lives really close and I occasionally dog sit/house sit for them. So right now I’m lounging in their living room with a pup at my feet and the other on the dog bed behind the couch. There’s also chicks in the bathtub so that’s fun.

Tuesday, April 21st: Today I am grateful for having this blog. I know not many people read it, but it’s a fun and creative outlet for myself and sometimes I just really need it. Thank you to those that do read, I hope you enjoy it.

I hope you can all find something to be grateful for in these uncertain and anxiety inducing times. I think finding the positive in any situation can mentally help a lot. Stay sane and stay healthy, but more importantly stay safe everyone.

A (Business) Trip to Park City, Utah

Early in March, before things in the United States started to escalate, I took my first business trip. Today I would have been leaving for another. This year is supposed to be full of those for me, but with the state of things I won’t be travelling for work until travel is safer. Now I’m not going to dwell on the fact that I’ve had to cancel trips and postpone booking others, instead I’m going to reflect on my first trip and how much I enjoyed it.

This trip was my first one of many but different from what my next ones will be. This trip was scheduled around my boss’s already scheduled trip for the property’s annual meeting of the owners. My boss is the Vice President of Resort Operations for the mountain region for my company which as of right now includes Colorado and Utah. As I live in Colorado, I am able to do the tasks that are set in place for my property visits whenever I want. So the only other place that falls under her region is our property in Park City, Utah. Since this was the first property visit outside of Colorado, it made sense to schedule and travel with my boss.

I’ve always been excited to travel and explore new places but when I began college traveling, and flying in particular, suddenly became a stressful experience for me. I didn’t know why it was so sudden but anxiety began to ruin any fun, travel experience I was going to have. Since then I’ve traveled a few times and without fail any time I’ve flown, I’ve become extremely anxious to the point of being physically ill. After travelling last summer to visit friends I decided I needed to speak to someone about my anxiety and get it in check so that not every flying experience was racked with full-body stress. Thankfully, I was able to get some help with that anxiety and my first trip was a success and felt like a major milestone.

I’m glad my first trip wasn’t solo and that I could experience travelling for work with my boss. Being in an office of just four people, my boss and I are close which I believe helped a lot in both a professional and personal way. We have a lot in common even though there is an almost 30 year age difference so there were never any dull moments. What surprised me the most was that we pretty much never stopped talking. We had a lot to talk about, both work related and non-work related which passed the time.

Aside from having a great travelling companion, this work trip was not a meeting-oriented, spend lots of time sitting in a room kind of trip, it was a fun-filled, get creative and explore kind of trip. My job as the Marketing and Communications Manager on these site visits is to explore the area so I can accurately market the property and the attractions that draw people to the area. I also took along my standard camera and 3D imaging camera to collect content. Of course, I had to monitor emails and be available if something came up that needed my immediate attention in addition to having fun so there was some down time in the room that I sometimes welcomed. Because the trip was only three days I had to use my time wisely.

Day 1:
I have passed through a few airports but I will always love DIA. I don’t know if it’s purely because it’s my home airport or if it’s because I love the odd layout, but it is my favorite airport to fly out of. Because our trip was short we didn’t check any bags and with my boss’s TSA Precheck we zoomed right through to our gate and had extra time on our hands so we grabbed breakfast at a cafe and continued chatting.

Typically I fly with Southwest but they don’t offer a direct flight to Salt Lake City so we took Delta which I was pretty happy with. It’s a quick flight so we arrived a little after noon and went straight to get our rental car. After getting our rental car it only took about 45 minutes to get into Park City and to our property Park Regency. Because it was still early we went across the street for lunch at Einstein Bagels and then settled into our rooms. After we unpacked we headed to Main Street to walk around, shop and enjoy the beautiful early spring weather.

There were several stores that had everything from name brand collections to standard souvenirs. Mingled among the stores were restaurants and bars that offered a variety for the après ski crowd.

After walking up and down Main Street we headed back towards Park Regency to grab dinner. Thankfully across the street there are many dinner options to choose from. As my boss has been to Park City before she knew which restaurants I had to try while I was there. One of them being Sammy’s Bistro which was featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive Ins and Dives. We ordered take-out from Sammy’s, headed back to our room and decided to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer and have some wine together to finish off a long day.

Day 2:
The day started with breakfast at Einsteins and then I began my trek around the property taking photos and scanning rooms for online tours. My company purchased a Matterport 3D camera to create virtual tours that can be shown on our booking platforms so potential guests can see what our rooms and common areas look like. I really like the camera and how it can bring our websites up a notch. On top of the 3D scans I also took regular stills to be used for other parts of our website and for third-party booking platforms.

Wandering around the property and taking photos allowed me to get familiar with the resort and gather content for social posts. It makes my job much easier if I’m able to put together a collection of photos to use later. I hope that I’m able to go back in the summer when there’s a whole different type of scenery and activity list.

After taking photos throughout the day and having a moment to check emails it was time for dinner. Because there was an annual meeting the board of directors were on property so we went to dinner with them and their spouses. We went back to Main Street to a wonderful restaurant called 501 on Main. The menu had a great variety and I really enjoyed my meal (and dessert).

The best part of dinner though was getting to speak with the board members and seeing what they thought could elevate our marketing for the property. For most of my trips I won’t be there at the same time as board members so this unique aspect gave me a bit more to work with.

Day 3:
Back to Einsteins for breakfast because it’s so convenient and I could probably eat bagels every day for breakfast. This time we were joined by our CEO who came in for the annual meeting scheduled for later in the day. It was nice to catch up with him and chat a bit about business. After breakfast I walked around a bit more to take photos and spoke with the front desk staff about recommendations they give to guests. This helped me to get an insiders/local opinion about where to eat and what activities to do.

After the very short annual meeting we set off to a potential new property with a board member. This wasn’t necessarily something that needed my presence but I got to see into how things like new contracts come together. I liked the insight and getting to understand more about how our company’s development process.

Afterwards we went for lunch with the board member to wrap up our time in Park City. We ended up at a nice bar and grille called the Boneyard Saloon. After lunch we headed back to Salt Lake City for our flight home. We were a bit ahead of schedule so a glass of wine and a small snack helped pass the time. My boss and I continued our long chats and before we knew it we were getting in the car at DIA and heading home.

We left on Thursday morning and came home on Saturday night and even though it wasn’t a long trip, we packed in a lot of work, play and plenty of food. I enjoyed the trip and got to gather a lot for the marketing department while exploring a new place. I’m happy to have had this opportunity and I hope I can continue these trips to explore all these great areas in the future.

I also learned a lot about how to pack light and how to maximize the time I spend in an area which will be beneficial for all my future traveling. My boss of course had tips and tricks that I hope to use in my future business trips. It was a great trip and a great introduction to business travel.

I really enjoyed the Park City area and I hope to return to explore even more in the future.

Other places I hope to be travelling to this year:
– South Lake Tahoe, California
– Big Bear Lake, California
– Long Beach Peninsula, Washington
– Sedona, Arizona
– Ruidoso, New Mexico
– Destin, Florida
– Pensacola Beach, Florida
– Gulf Shores, Alabama
– Biloxi, Mississippi
– Nags Head, North Carolina

Book Review: "Under the Shade of the Banyan Tree"

In honor of World Poetry Day I’ll be reviewing Simi K. Rao’s collection of Poems, Rants and Short Stories, Under the Shade of the Banyan Tree.

As I’ve mentioned before, reading poetry is a great step away from the classic novel and I really enjoy reading collections from different poets to get a taste of the different styles and stories that each poet has. Some people say that poetry is all the same, but each poet has their own style that comes through in their selection and flow of words.

I really enjoyed Rao’s style and flow and how she put together her collection. The assortment is a mix of her own life experiences and of those of her friends and family which makes it far more realistic and enjoyable. Life isn’t always easy to write about and even harder to share with others. For Rao, the emotion comes out in each poem clearly. You can tell she took her time in writing and arranging the poems and short stories to best convey certain emotions.

One particular poem that I enjoyed and bookmarked to reread was Loneliness.

Loneliness

Introducing Loneliness,
your constant companion
You lie if you say you don’t know me
I’m the one who sits beside you in the empty
passenger seat
I’m the stranger who smiles at you at the mall
I’m the blanket you wrap yourself in every night
I’m the clock you hear ticking in the hall
I’m the breeze that ruffles your hair on a cold winter
morning
I’m the scream that reverberates through your lonely
frame
I’m the earth who cradles you in the grave
Where would you be without me?

If you didn’t get a little tug in the pit of your stomach from reading that, then read it again. It’s brutally honest in a way that is hurtful but also comforting. It’s a poetic interpretation of a typical, human element that most, me included, wouldn’t be able to put into words. It’s very powerful.

The collection includes other poems just as powerful as this one but also others that are more light-hearted and short stories that I wish weren’t short stories. I strongly believe that a good writer has written a good short story when the reader wants more.

The short stories and poems that reflect real experiences and emotions of struggle, loneliness, defeat and triumph make the whole collection worth a read. Rao’s writing is raw and relatable which makes it an easy and enjoyable read.

Day 5 of 5 Days of Love

“We just need to be kinder to ourselves. If we treated ourselves the way we treated our best friend, can you imagine how much better off we would be?”

Meghan Markle

I Love Me

I think one of the biggest problems in the world today is that nobody loves themselves as much as they should. We spend hours every day worrying about other people and making sure everyone else is okay, but we seem to forget about ourselves. And I’m definitely one of those people, but I’m going to start loving myself more, taking care of myself before others because there’s only one me in this world.

I love me. I love that I’m hyper-organized and plan everything to the finest detail. I love that I can cook and bake and that I get excited about trying a new recipe. I love that I have blonde hair and blue eyes. I love that I can justify buying pretty much anything and I love that I probably budgeted for it. I love a lot of things about myself and sure, I don’t love everything, but that’s okay. Flaws aren’t permanent, they can be changed or I can find a way to love them and that’s okay too.

Self-love doesn’t come easy and if someone says differently they are trying to sell you something. In my experience the first step to loving yourself is to accept yourself exactly how you are. Now this might sound difficult, but it’s the best way to start because then you’ll have a foundation to build on. Start accepting your crooked toes, your high-pitched sneezes or the way you organize your bathroom. It’s how you operate and who you are and you should accept that. If it’s something that you can change, like the way you organize your bathroom, then change it until you like it, and then accept it. Be confident in you.

Think about your dreams and aspirations and find elements of those dreams and aspirations that you love and go with it. To love yourself you should do things that you love to do and commit to them long term. Then you have stop complaining about everything you don’t love in the world. Leave the negative out of your life, it helps a lot. Promise yourself that you’re going to do that thing and stop doing that other thing. Find a balance in your life that works.

Loving yourself starts with the way that you live your life. If you don’t like certain elements of your life, then you’re not going to be happy and being unhappy will make it harder to love yourself. You’re your first priority, make sure it stays that way.

I’m still working on all this myself, but believe me when you step back and take an objective look at your life and what makes you happy and what you love about you, it vastly improves your self-love.

“Be healthy and take care of yourself, but be happy with the beautiful things that make you, you.”

Beyoncé

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Day 4 of 5 Days of Love

Have you ever taken the 5 Love Languages quiz?

I Love Quality Time

I took the quiz back in college when the guy I was dating at the time asked me what my ranking of the five love languages was. I had no idea what that meant so he showed me the quiz and I took it. I found the screenshot I took of the results just the other day and it still rings true today.

  1. Quality Time
  2. Acts of Service
  3. Physical Touch
  4. Words of Affirmation
  5. Receiving Gifts

Though I love to give gifts myself, I actually feel weird receiving them. I also feel super awkward when someone compliments me so it makes sense that ‘Words of Affirmation’ and ‘Receiving Gifts’ is lower on my list. ‘Physical Touch’ is also something that I sometimes feel odd about but I do like. I mean who doesn’t like a good cuddle? ‘Acts of Service’ is my number two because I generally like when someone offers to wash the dishes or help me clean the bathroom. But my top love language is definitely ‘Quality Time’.

‘Quality Time’ means the world to me, especially in a romantic relationship. It’s also important to me in all my normal, close relationships. I could care less what we are doing, just that we are spending time together. I love just being with the people I care about because you never know how much time you’re going to get with someone.

Want to spend a day just watching movies and eating junk food? Sounds amazing. How about a day hike? Yes. Running errands, getting groceries, washing the car? Would love to. Quality time to me means that we are together and it really doesn’t matter what we are doing. It could be seeing each other for just an hour or for a full weekend, quality time is quality time and I love it.

Stay tuned for the last day of love!

Day 3 of 5 Days of Love

Who doesn’t love being in nature?

I Love The Mountains

I always thought I was going to be a city girl and when I left for college I was excited to live somewhere “city-like” and away from the mountains but that excitement didn’t last long. I really thought that I’d like the city more because I was going to be closer to more things, but after spending less than a year in a city I realized I didn’t really like it. I liked being near stores and having access to items instantly, but I missed the quiet, the trees, the fresh air and even the snow.

There’s just something about being right in the mountains where wildlife is abundant and you can get lost driving just 10 minutes away from your house. I also love all the activities that come with having the mountains in your backyard. Hiking, camping, skiing, snowshoeing, you name it, I probably love it.

Now don’t get me wrong, living in the mountains has its challenges, but sometimes they are worth it. I love being up here but it is a bit harder of a life to live. As someone my age, unless you work at a ski resort, it’s hard to make friends and if I need that one item from Target I have to wait till my next trip to Denver. I love being up here but in the near future I am going to move away, but not too far away. I want to stay close enough to be able to escape to the mountains for the weekend because you can’t be too far away from something you love.

Stay tuned for the next two days of love!