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Friday, May 31, 2013

First Trailer Trip Wrap Up

From last week... I forgot to publish it!

Wait, I'm sure you're wondering--- weren't you supposed to be home tomorrow?  Because I know you all keep my social calendar at the top of your mind...

Yes, yes we were.  We almost came back yesterday.

Everything was going so well.  I wrote my heartfelt blog.  We left exactly on time.  We got a perfect spot.  We got a perfect spot next to a very lovely family whose sister I happened to know. Right on the reservoir.  We got set up in less than an hour.

The only downside, our extra water- to wash hands, dishes (we were trying to minimize using the trailer water), had spilled.  Other than that, no biggie.


We had hot dogs.  Sat by the fire.


Well, there weren't any fish....  but there were crawdads, so my son became obsessed with catching them.

Then at 3 am, an alarm went off. 

Normal people probably would have read the manual.  Since we bought our trailer used, it didn't have one.  I also turn over all responsibility to my husband in the area of all things trailer related.

After a good 5 minutes which felt like 30  he figured out what it was.  It was the propane warning alarm.  Not that we had a propane leak, but that the battery was dying so the propane warning system wouldn't work.

My husband started his truck to charge the battery.

Which of course, made the alarm go off as soon as he stopped the truck.

It wasn't terribly loud, but it was loud to us.

So my husband did the most reasonable thing-- he pulled the breaker for the alarm.  Because when you can't take out the batteries, let's face it, at 3 am, that's what you do.  Or bludgeon it with a hammer, which we thankfully did not bring.

So now we had no power.

And we did not bring much ice.  Because we had a trailer.  With a refrigerator.  We didn't need it. We also couldn't use the trailer water because we couldn't use the pump.  Our other water had spilled, remember... so no washing hands, dishes, faces-- no brushing teeth.  Yuck.  It is why I insist when we tent camp that we are near a bathroom and running water-- even a port-a-potty is okay-- but I insist on water.  I'll walk to it, pump it, carry it in a bucket, but it must be there.  It was not here because we did not think we would need it.

My husband who is usually good in these situations was not doing well.  He was very stressed.

He was not stressed about us camping.  We usually tent camp.  This was not a big deal.  He was stressed that we just spent a bucket of money on a piece of crap. The downside of buying something used-- no warranty.  He, of course, did not express this verbally.  He expressed it in that non-verbal marital communication-- the one where you stare off into space and notice how loudly everyone is breathing and could they please stop?!?!?

I, however, was a little worried (aloud) because without a refrigerator, our food would spoil.  Without water, we would be vile.  We were about an hour from ice & water, too.  (This is also the part in the story where I would like to add that I said "It has to be the refrigerator because it's the only thing that was running" and was totally shushed because a refrigerator runs off the propane, not the battery... silly girl... put this in the back of your head for now... it's important later.)

So as my husband was doing his best Archie Bunker I not so politely said:

"HEY!  We have 2 options:  Go home or go get ice and water.  PICK ONE.  I am not staying here with spoiled food and no water."  I was not going to do dishes with bottled water that we brought to drink.  And quite honestly, the kids get a little rank without a quick wipe.  It's impolite to grimace when your children hug you.

He was upset that we would have to drive an hour to get ice. An hour.  An hour to find a resolution.  I, of course, knew this was the best option and said "We could get lunch and get all those little things we forgot-- no biggie.  We'll be back my lunch."

And because I am a skilled peacemaker that is what we did. 

And here is where it gets good-- my brother-in-law had left a voicemail. He thought we were leaving Saturday and he offered us his generator.  My husband called him and said we were already there, it would have come in handy.  He hangs up and said "They are going to St. George today."

I say "Pick up the phone and ask if we can meet him there and get the generator."  We were 20 miles from St. George.

And amazingly, that is what we did.  So with ice, a generator and a battery tester we happily stayed another night.

Now the next part is a little boring.. the generator did not charge the batteries fully.  At this point we were convinced it was either a wiring issue (which I argued it couldn't have been because everything worked, then it didn't-- nothing "blew") or a battery issue (which I have to say, I was leaning towards).

We easily could stay the extra night-- we had a campfire, ate s'mores.  I even let the kids have an extra one since we were leaving.  My husband warned me.  "They'll be fine," I said.  Keep that in mind for later.

After we decided we were going to leave a day early so we could figure out what happened (even though we were fine with the ice-- my husband was no longer in his happy place.  I think I had talked him off the cliff and made him realize that everything else worked and if the worst case was that we got new batteries, well then, we still saved $10,000 by buying used), my daughter announced that she had puked last night.  In her bunk.

The extra s'more was not a good decision.

It was the icing on the cake.  A stinky icing.  We did not have extra bedding (note for next trip!).

So we headed back to town-- a little more happily because we had survived, now only slightly concerned that we bought a lemon, convinced it must simply be the batteries. 

We cleaned the "dump"-- aka the crapper out-- with minimally issues-- I did not realize the hose was quite so strong, so another learning for me. The hose is very powerful and sprays with a lot of force. 

We got home to learn our poor dog, the goofy young one, crapped all over.  Our poor dog sitter got the worst of it.  We just had to clean up a few stains.  I got the pukey sheets all cleaned up in our new washer.

Nothing unusual, to be honest.  Just a typical mom day- puke and poo.

But then the best part-- my husband went online and figured out what the issue was and why our battery drained so quickly.

You guessed it-- the refrigerator.

There is some autodefrost feature that you can't turn off.  You can, however, clip a wire to turn it off.  It invalidates the warranty which we don't have, since it's used.

My husband was able to clip the wire, fix the issue and we are good to go on our next adventure.

And I get to say "I told you so."

Friday, May 24, 2013


Today, I had one of those moments I will always remember.

My husband and I were standing in our travel trailer that we just purchased a few weeks ago, getting it ready for our first trip tomorrow

I looked at him and had a moment.

The kind when everything seems perfectly where it is supposed to be.

You see, my husband grew up camping with his family.  I love the outdoors and we had tent camped quite a few times.  It started to get more complicated to find the time, get everything all together, etc. 

We had talked early in our marriage about getting a trailer.  It was our "one day" conversation.

I was concerned about the practicality-- the storage of it, how often we would use it, the expense of maintenance-- would it be worth it?

My husband really wanted one.

We looked,knew the style we wanted.  We said one more year...

Then the recession hit.

Then it wasn't exactly an option.

But the prices came down.

And my husband really wanted one.

A lot.

I wanted to spend more time with my family.

So we agreed that if we used it at least 6 times a year-- including his hunting trips-- it would be worth it.  Plus, we would get a used one.

Then the recession ended.

Then we started looking again.

Along with everyone else.

We planned on buying one early in the year and taking it on a trip for spring break.  But we couldn't find one.  So we decided to wait.

Again.  For that "one day."

Then I stumbled onto one online.  We saw it.  The price was good. It was everything we wanted.

We decided not to wait.

To the salesperson, it look like an impulsive buy- a 30 minute decision.

It really was an 11 year decision.  Careful negotiations between a husband and wife.  And at the end, this wife simply wanted her husband to be happy.  Because he deserved it.  Because spending more time together, 11 years into it, seemed even more important.  Because we can see how our family time is going to be even more limited in the future.  Because we were tired of waiting for one day.

And today, standing there, putting things in their place before we pull out tomorrow, it felt like one day had finally come.

My job is to help people plan for their goals and dreams.  It's great and extremely fulfilling.  I love hearing about the trip of a lifetime, or the child getting into their first choice school, or buying the cabin-- it makes me feel good to have been a part of it.

But today, I saw one of my family's dreams come true. 

To some people it's just a camper.  Probably not a big deal. 

But to me, it's more.  We were thoughtful.  We planned.  We got the one we really wanted.

It was worth it.

And to see my husband, having such a good time, was more than worth it.

It's not the actual item.  Truly.  It was the journey that we took to get there.  It was something that we both wanted-- the idea of spending time in the outdoors with our family-- not the actual trailer.  We are excited.

We are hopeful our first trip goes with no major disasters-- we don't have the best time with vacations-- so this is simply a camping trip-- not the v-word.

But today, for that moment, no matter what happens on our trip, I had that perfect moment. 

And I am grateful.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Why I Am More Excited About Summer Vacation Than My Kids

Three more weeks.  Not even full weeks.  A four day week this week.  Then another 4 day week.  Then a 2 1/2 day week. Then my kiddos are home!

Oh, and my husband, too.  He's a teacher.  More on that in a minute....

When I first had kids, I cut back down on my financial planning practice.  I sold a block of my practice to another advisor and only met with clients 2 days a week.  Long days, but I worked from home MWF.  It was great. 

Summer was always the time I tried to ramp it up and go in full-time.  My husband was home.  Theoretically, it should have worked.

It didn't. 

I ended up working about the same and feeling guilty.

But this year, no.

My kids were both in school full-time this year.  While I still leave early on Mondays and Fridays (and to be honest, after my first year in business I always left early on Fridays) to pick up the kids, the late night once a week makes up for the time.

So I am back to M-F at the office.

Which, considering how much I love what I do, you would think would be great.  But honestly, after juggling a tight schedule all these years, it feels very strange.  Very strange. 

It also feels perpetual.  Although I know many times I felt like I was never 100% anywhere, I will say, I miss the trips to the park more than the kids.  Before I had kids I could work 60 hours and not bat an eye.  Now, well, I liked taking a break here and there. 

I also developed bad habits at the office-- because I was only there for such a limited time, I ate at my desk.  I very genuinely don't take a break.  Which gets old.  I also don't manage my time as well.  I have these weeks when I am buried and other weeks where I get a lot of online training done, shall we say!  I have very organized files.  It used to be great that I went in, plowed through the day, and got out of there.  Now that there are more days, it's gotten to be a bit much.

And I never took fun time off.  Ever.  I took a Friday afternoon and did a spa weekend.  Once.  Every time I take time off, it's to go volunteer at the school or a doctor's appointment.  Seriously, going to the gynecologist should NOT be reason to think "Phew--- I get the morning off." 

Keep in mind, I love what I do.  Truly.  I've just felt like I've been on a treadmill for awhile.

I'm completely self-employed, too, which makes it more pathetic.  I can schedule anything I want.

But I've had this mindset that I can't.  I have to "make up" for the time I missed.  Except now, I'm not actually missing any time.  Not any more than any other parent or for that matter, colleagues who take time off to golf or take tennis lessons. 

I also over volunteered this year- spring in particular.   I lost a few weekend days.  A night here or there.  It was too much.

And the summer thing to "catch up"- never happened.  My husband would want to take advantage of his time off, so not much changed.  For the first  few years he thought it was funny that when I worked from home I kept a schedule.  I got up, got dressed and went into my home office.  I had a routine.  It's hard to work when your spouse is there like a devil on your shoulder pointing out that you can do something later.  As the kids got older, it became harder to leave the house to even get to the  real office because.... here's the big factor I had not counted on...

I like my children.  A lot.  They are a blast.  I have so much fun with them.  Tonight I played trombone with my son.  He decided a few weeks ago he wanted to learn. I happen to play.  I told him I would give him lessons.  He was worried because-- and I quote "I don't know how I can pay you, Mom..."  We had our first official lesson tonight.  And guess what he told my husband "Mom's a really good teacher... that was fun!"

And my daughter is a hoot.  We went through her closet today to clear out for the summer.  She just grew so nothing fits.  She got her first phone call from a friend.  She had the phone cradled on her shoulder while she told her friend what she was doing.  The entire time they chatted, she kept cleaning her closet.  It was like watching Sarah Jessica Parker talking to Samantha on the phone.  We read tonight and I love that she is so expressive when she reads.

I like them.

So this summer I decided screw it.  Our holiday break was sidelined because my assistant's father was ill and she had to take off.  Then I got sick.  Spring break was a bust because I had a few meetings and a few other things came up.  Darn it, I deserve time off.  It's why I work. 

I blocked out three weeks this summer.

I know, crazy.  Actually, if you consider I've been in business for nearly 20 years, three weeks isn't that exciting.  I did it right before the recession for 2 weeks.  But even that was spent visiting family.  Sorry-- that's not a vacation.

But for me- wow.  It's crazy.  I can't even believe it.   Three weeks of nothing but my amazing family.

We'll see if I can stick to it!

We recently bought a travel trailer and most of it will be spent camping.  I am so incredibly excited.  We are going to be in the mountains fishing and hiking. 

You know, relaxing.

Getting off the treadmill.

Playing games.  Reading books.  Enjoying life.

I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am.

My kids are growing so fast- as evidenced by today's closet purge.

I don't want to miss it.  I want to be there 100%.

To be completely honest, summers are usually slow for my business.  It's 105+- it's similar to our winter.  No one wants to go out if they can avoid it.  Most of my clients are out of town that time of year.  It works.  Or I hope it does.

This year, I get time off.   I get to play.  With my kids.  With my husband.  Doing something we all love.  No obligatory visits.  Nothing. 

I am so incredibly excited.

Because after all, isn't that the point of working hard?

Three more weeks.... tick... tick... tick...

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Viva Las Vegas-- Why I live in Sin City

I did not mean to live in Las Vegas. 

I don't gamble.  I'm not a big drinker.  Those are actually good qualities to have if you do live here, by the way.

I ended up during my junior year in college doing an internship in Atlantic City.  I applied for that one because they provided room and board.  They were the only internship that did.  I couldn't afford rent in NYC where most of the internships were.  I also had a strong hospitality background- I waited tables, washed dishes, had done the Disney College program-- so casinos weren't that big a stretch.

When I was getting ready to graduate from college, the HR Director where I had done my internship asked me to work the career fair for them and talk to students about the internship program.  They paid me, so I said yes.  Plus, I really loved it.  It was fun.  New Jersey is a great state.  They treated me extremely well and I learned a lot.  He suggested I talk with the VP of The Mirage who was there.  He introduced us.  We clicked.  Great guy.  He remembered that I had contacted him 2 years earlier about an internship program.  He thought I was quite tenacious.  He also told me while he would love to work with me, he knew I would have my choice of jobs when I graduated.  He asked me to at least come out and visit the property and meet some people.

I did.

I immediately fell in love with the city.  I remember calling my parents and telling them "You're not going to believe this, but this place is great...." 

Unfortunately, the offer package was not.  The start date would have interfered with a consulting opportunity I had with my university to travel through Asia and publish a study.  The salary was half what everyone else offered.  I did the mature thing and said no.  I had student loans and money was a big deal.  And there was no way I was giving up the Asian opportunity.

So I went to Asia.  Loved it.  I took a fancy job at a Fortune 500 company.  I hated every minute of it.  Except the onsite gym.  That was great.

I called the VP.  A job happened to open up.  I jumped at it, took the pay cut, drove nearly 3000 miles and figured I would stay for 2 years.

That was 20 years ago.

I tried to leave 18 years ago.  It lasted 6 months.

I get a lot of questions about how I can live here.  I am amazed that people even need to ask.  It is usually asked in a judgmental tone, too.

As if I take kids to the strip clubs... no, just on Family Night (kidding!).

So this is why I live here:

The weather is freaking amazing.  Yes, it gets hot in the summer.  For about 6 weeks-- not consecutively-- it's uncomfortably hot.  As in stick your head in the oven hot.  That hot.  There is also a lot of truth to dry heat.  I will take 105 ANY day over 85 and humid.  110, however, blows.  The only inclement weather is the heat, wind gusts and the very rare flash flood.

No ice.  No snow.  No tornadoes.

I also think it's beautiful.  You might see rocks, I see amazing desert scenery that changes with the light.  Desert sunsets are breathtaking- the reds, the purples, the blues-- setting behind the mountain range-- beautiful.  And yes, there are mountains so my children have seen and played in snow.  In fact, you can ski here. And go boating in the same day.

I like living in what a colleague at our India office referred to as "the most fascinating city in the world."  The shows, the casinos, the restaurants, the clubs (not such a big deal these days!)-- it's a fun place.  It's Disney for grown ups.  Every celebrity chef has a restaurant here.  It's fun to people watch.  Nothing ever closes.  My husband was fascinated by the concept of last call when we were visiting Ohio.  I can eat steak at 3 am. 

I have great friends.  Yes, regular people live here.  I've been in a book club for 16 years.  I used to sing at my former church.  It's fairly normal once you're off the strip.  Fairly. I'm not going to lie-- it's not a mecca for intellect but you can find bright, intelligent people. 

I love the politics here.  We have a part-time legislature that plows through in a very brief session.  The legislators are accessible as well.  You can go to Carson City and get stuff done.  Very cool.  It's a conservative state with brothels.  Seriously, does it get any more interesting?  No.

My family is here.  I married into a family that has been in town since 1908.  I love them.  They are fun.  It's my husband's heritage- the ranchers, the railroad workers, the cowboys-- it's fun.  So yes, we have normal holidays.  Again, fairly normal.  Is any family event ever completely normal?

It's also diverse.  My kids' classes look like Sesame Street.  They will be able to adapt to any environment.  Racial and ethnic differences don't phase them.  They have friends of every make and model.

And the airport.  We are the 8th busiest airport.  You can always get a flight to anywhere.  Very convenient.

In short, I love it here.  Love, love, love it.  You might scrunch up your nose and think I'm setting my children on a path to debauchery but I wonder "Why wouldn't you live here?'  People are constantly complaining about their weather... today WAS a little cloudy...

I love my town.  I've been here longer than any place I've every lived and I don't anticipate ever leaving.  It has a boom or bust mentality.  It's never boring.  It's vibrant.  It's growing.  It's the best.

Viva , viva Las Vegas!

Elvis sings our theme!