Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Everything!

We made it! 

Some of us are neck-deep in gift-wrapping, baking, and planning last minute runs to the supermarket and mall.

Others are done with holiday preparations and are eagerly anticipating and celebrating the arrival of faraway family and friends who have returned for the festivities.

And others are wishing the next few days away.

People arrive here from many different paths; some are marked by joy and Norman Rockwellian images of love and belonging, and others are haunted by the ghosts of holidays past, scarred by pain and trauma.
Regardless of how you spend your holidays, enjoy them on your terms. 

Peace, strength, and love to those who struggle with this time of the year. 

Joy and merriment to us all. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

On this Winter Solstice

Wishing you peace, love, and joy this holiday and always. 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Five Years Ago in Paris..I said YES!

This time of the year provides the Señor and me with plenty of time to reflect on the wonderful life we have and the amazing places we have been and seen together. 

One of the places that will always be extraordinarily special to us is Paris. 

It was five years ago today that my sweet husband asked me to be his wife, and so today, I remember Paris, the City of Lights and our forever City of Love. 

Before they cut the locks off the Le Pont des Arts bridge, we had our own lock. 

Amor para siempre...Love for always

It was a perfect moment. 

But he didn't ask me. 

As we explored what is thought by many to be the most romantic city in the world, I thought about the journey our own relationship had taken over the last four and a half years and wondered where it would take us next.

And then, on our last morning in Paris, as we looked for a place for coffee on our way to the airport, we found a little cafe in a little street market lined with cobblestones and tasty treats.

Over cafe au laits and croissants, he asked me to be his wife, in his own sweet, quirky way. 

And like every romantic cliche, I said YES! 

And with all my heart, I still say YES, each and every day.

Amor para siempre, indeed. 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

I am grateful for...

Things I'm grateful for this year

  • my husband and our marriage
  • family, rooted in love
  • our sweet Gracie-girl
  • fabulous friends and partners-in-crime
  • a healthy body and mind
  • big dreams in motion
  • a job that I love; one that is aligned with our goals
  • road trips and coffee dates
  • my passport stamps and a welcoming world that is ready to explore
  • peace that comes with time and healing
  • access to information and the freedom and make choices
  • this space online, the visitors who have stopped by, and the friends I have made because of it
  • the kindness of strangers
  • people who are willing to fight for human rights
  • clean water, healthy food choices, and access to health care
  • the women who fought for my right to vote
  • our U.S. National Parks

    And mostly...
    • having what we need and most of what we want and loved ones with whom we can share our lives.

    What are you thankful for this year?

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    Happy Thanksgiving, friends. 
    Blessed to have what we need. 
    Grateful to have most of what we want. 

    Wishing you a bounty of blessings, today and always. 

    Tuesday, November 22, 2016

    Reverse Advent Calendar: 10 Ideas

    For many, Advent is a time of preparation. It's a time marked by an awareness of one's blessings and an empathy for those less fortunate. 

    As Advent calendars build excitement of what's to come, a reverse Advent calendar can bring similar excitement in knowing you made a difference in the lives of others. 

    Here are some ideas for your own reverse Advent calendar. 

    • one food item or more per day or one food category per week to donate
    • one dollar or more per day
    • one closet item purge per day for donation or one clothing donation per week, like socks or outerwear.  
    • one hour of service per week
    • one toy per week
    • one book per week to a school, cancer treatment center, nursing home, local library
    • one care bag to local homeless outreach (socks, personal care items, toys, towels)
    • one bag of pet food per week to a local shelter
    • one pay-it-forward per week; for example, someone's coffee in the drive-through
    • Determine a pre-set amount and pay toward or pay-off someone's holiday layaway.

    Have you ever done a reverse Advent calendar or holiday service project? What was your experience?

    Sunday, November 20, 2016

    Sunday Inspiration #20

    It's a matter of perspective. 

    Happy Thanksgiving, friends. 

    Thursday, November 3, 2016

    Ahora 19: Peeking out of the Rabbit Hole

    I know that it has been a while; for me too. 

    Every time I think about sitting down to write, something else take precedence, and it just never gets done.

    While I have a few minutes this morning, I wanted to peek out of the rabbit hole and say hello. 

    I miss you. 

    Thanks for sticking around. 

    Here's what is trending in my world these days. 

    The in's and out's of my new job. It is like a rabbit hole; I begin one project, which detours into another and another. I LOVE my new job. I love working with my students and my co-workers, and the flexibility of location independence is a dream come true. Learning the platforms and grading assignments in a fairly self paced curriculum take time. There are times when I am inundated and other times, less so. I wouldn't change a thing. 

    Hot mulled apple cider. And Cinnamon Dolce coffee; I can thank my niece for this new obsession. 

    Reading and planning to cook my way through...

    Dinner With Julie's quick cassoulet. It's quick, it's easy, and it is delicious! It makes the house smell amazing too! With a glass of red, an arugula salad, and a warm baguette... bliss.

    This is Us. If you haven't started this series, you can stream it free on Hulu. It's that good. 
    And the soundtrack is playlist worthy. 

    Boston. We had friends in town last weekend, and we had the chance to play tour guide. 

    In Baah-stin speak, the corner store. 

    No matter where I go, Boston, you're my home. 

    Being somewhat of a stay-at-home-dog-mom. It sounds ridiculous, I know; however, I love having the flexibility to take Gracie outside at lunch time to play. 

    She seems to like it too. 

    And squeak toys are the best. 

    Fall colors? Yes, please. 

    And Snap Chat filters for days...if you're on Snap Chat, add me... I'm always looking for fun accounts to follow. 

    My Mom and Dad's 50th Anniversary. My brother and I planned to surprise my parents back in July. We did it, and it was wonderful. 

    And Happy 4th Birthday to my lovely space in the universe. A Lovely Life, Indeed turned four on November 1st. 

    About the election...

    This election gives me anxiety. The energy, the ads, the Facebook rants, the surprising jaw-dropping views of those I hold dear...I guess I do live in a bubble. A warm, happy bubble.

    And this election compels me to retreat. 

    But, it's critical that we get out there and vote, my American friends. 

    We don't have to agree on candidate or ideology, but we do have to voice our choice. 

    It's a big deal...and the world is watching. 

    Still not sure? Take the quiz from I Side With and see who parallels your thinking the most. 

    Also, read up on your state's ballot questions and carefully consider your options down ballot. Consider future legislation and the Supreme Court; it's not just about the executive branch. 

    Okay. I am going to go and get some work done. Tell me...
    What's happening now in your world? 
    Let's catch up. 

    Linking up with Kristin today. 

    Wednesday, September 21, 2016

    Global Entry: What You Need to Know

    In the spring, the Señor and I decided to apply for Global Entry and skip the long TSA lines in airport departures and at passport control upon arrival back in the United States.  

    Here's how it went.

    What is Global Entry?
    The Global Entry program, according to the United States Customs and Border Protection website is described as:

    A U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. Members enter the United States through automatic kiosks at select airports.
    At airports, program members proceed to Global Entry kiosks, present their machine-readable passport or U.S. permanent resident card, place their fingerprints on the scanner for fingerprint verification and complete a customs declaration. The kiosk issues the traveler a transaction receipt and directs the traveler to baggage claim and the exit.
    Travelers must be pre-approved for the Global Entry program. All applicants undergo a rigorous background check and in-person interview before enrollment.
    While Global Entry’s goal is to speed travelers through the process, members may still be selected for further examination when entering the United States. Any violation of the program’s terms and conditions will result in the appropriate enforcement action and termination of the traveler’s membership privileges.

    Who can apply?

    Global Entry is available* for U.S. citizens, U.S. permanent residents, and citizens of Colombia, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Panama, Singapore, South Korea and Mexico.

    There is no minimum age to apply, but children under age 18 must have parental consent to be in the program. Parents, themselves, are not required to be in the program, but like passports, everyone needs his or her own account.

    *There may be additional requirements, depending on your country of citizenship. Certain restrictions resulting in ineligibility may apply. 

    How much does it cost?

    All participants, regardless of age, pay a one-time $100 non-refundable application fee by credit card or bank transfer. The $100 Global Entry includes TSA Pre-Check (an $85 fee on its own without Global Entry) 

    Once accepted, Global Entry is valid for five years. 

    The Application Process

    First, applicants must register with GOES...the Global Online Enrollment System. Regardless of age, each applicant must have his or her own account. It is here that you pay your application fee and answer a number of questions including:
    • personal information (name, gender, eye color, height, language preferences) and address history
    • date and location of birth
    • contact information
    • citizenship information (including passport number, issue date and expiration date)
    • driver's license number and expiration date
    • current employment status and history for five years
    • travel history for five years
    • criminal history

    After your application is submitted, it is reviewed by CBP. If you are conditionally approved, you will receive an email stating that there has been a change in your status and that there is a message in your GOES account. 

    From here, you can schedule your interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center

    The Interview Process

    Each applicant must schedule his or her own individual interview. Bring your passport and another photo ID, preferably your driver's license. If you are a permanent resident, you must present your permanent resident card. 

    The time between conditional approval and my scheduled interview took months. The interview, itself, took about ten minutes. You may be able to continue logging in to change your appointment time, but I had no luck. You can also use this option to reschedule, should you have a scheduling conflict. 

    The Global Entry Enrollment Center in Boston is located at Logan International Airport, in Terminal E, Arrivals. There is a Dunkin' Donuts next to the office to make your wait time a bit more enjoyable. There is a wall lined with chairs and appointments (scheduled in 15 minute intervals). The interviews move quickly, taking in two people at a time, according to your appointment time. 

    When I arrived in the office, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officer took my passport and driver's license and compared it to the information I provided in my application. He was pleasant and conversational in tone and asked me a number of questions, similar to what had been asked on my application. 

    Then he took my picture and my fingerprints and told me I would receive an email in about 24 hours from GOES, similar to my email with conditional approval, stating that I had been approved for Global Entry. 

    He indicated that the number in my conditional approval letter was my Known Traveler Number which could be used immediately for TSA Pre-Check, and that I would receive my Global Entry card in about ten days to two weeks. 

    The email had arrived before we left the airport, and my card arrived in nine days.

    Is Global Entry worth it?

    Yes. If you travel domestically, the TSA Pre-Check benefit ($85 on its own) makes it worth it. For $15 more, you have the international passport control benefit. And, the Global Entry benefits are included in NEXUS and SENTRI, two other Trusted Traveler programs. 

    You're paying for the convenience of time, but for an average of $20 a year, I'll take it. And, if you hold certain premium travel reward-based credit cards, your fee may be reimbursed. 

    For us, it's money well spent. There are Global Entry kiosks at these airports. 

    Do you have Global Entry? In your opinion, is it worth the money?

    Tuesday, September 20, 2016

    Celebrating Freedom: Day 10...An Overview and an Announcement

    The last ten days of Natalie Sisson's Freedom Plan Blog Challenge were enlightening. 

    I always knew my ultimate goal, but some of the details were a bit fuzzy. 

    This challenge helped me clarify some of the unknown. 

    Here are links to the topics I explored over the last ten days and how I responded to each prompt. 

    Day 1: Finding Your Focus

    Day 2: Discovering Your Why

    Day 3: Creating a Vision: The Ideal Day

    Day 4: Defining Your Superpowers

    Day 5: The Power of Routine 

    Day 6: Finding Your Tribe

    Day 7: Imperfect Action

    Day 8: Choosing Adventure

    Day 9: Location Independence 

    And now, day ten. 

    Day 10: Meaningful 

    Here's what I know for sure. 

    Surround yourself with people who get it. 
    People who don't chase their own goals have less capacity to fully support you in your quest. When things get tough, or when you start prioritizing the steps you need to take, those in your inner circle may not understand why you have to say no or why you need to do x, y, or z. 

    Find your tribe. 
    Find them in person, and if that's not possible, seek them out books and virtually...through podcasts and Facebook groups. And love those around you who may not understand, but can cheer you on the way that they can. 

    See it and make it happen. 
    And, the more you can visualize where you want to be, the better chance you have of achieving it. 

    I'm living proof. 

    I'm a vision board maker...the old school kind. I save my magazines, buy poster board and a glue stick, and every year...more or less, I assess and revisit goals. 

    In January, I was part of a 10 day goal setting challenge, offered through a Facebook group by a coaching friend of mine, based on Chalene Johnson's 30-Day Push Goal Challenge. I struggled with the formatting and it wasn't coming together. 

    I went back again. I reworked my push goal (and the steps it would take to achieve it) until it made sense to me. And then it did.

    Ask and you shall receive. 

    On Friday, September 30, 2016, I will leave the traditional brick and mortar school, which I love, to become a full time virtual teacher to foreign students who are earning a United States high school diploma. This is no reflection on my current position; I love my school and the littles who have climbed into my heart. 

    This is an opportunity of a lifetime; one I cannot pass by. 

    My push goal has been achieved. Officially, I am location independent. 

    My virtual teaching job allows me the flexibility to work anywhere in the world with a wifi signal...freedom, indeed. 

    I am beyond blessed.

    And now, thanks to some of the work I did in this Freedom Plan 10 Day Blog Challenge, I'm ready to see how my Freedom Plan comes to life. 

    It's an exciting time, indeed. 

    Do you want to create a Freedom Plan of your own? 

    Consider doing the 10 Day Challenge and see for yourself what your life could look like? 

    Sunday, September 18, 2016

    Location Independence...Freedom Plan Blog Challenge...Day 9

    Imagine being able to work from anywhere in the world. 

    For some, it means working from home, free of the commute and hours of the traditional workplace. 

    For others, it means following their ideal weather, living a nomadic life or one of slow travel, where you experience life as a local for weeks or months at a time. 

    Assuming that you still have to work and fund this location independent lifestyle, how would you create a work-life balance?

    This is the focus of day nine of Natalie Sisson's Freedom Plan Blog Challenge... identifying what location independence means to you. 

    To me, location independence means having the ability to work anywhere in the world, be it in a job with employability anywhere in the world or as a digital nomad, working anywhere with a reliable wifi signal.

    As a teacher in a traditional brick and mortar school, this is a challenge, but not impossible.

    For me, location independence means the freedom to travel at will, within our financial means. It means having multiple income streams, one of which comes from an employer that is not me. Freelancing is a lovely idea, but relying on my own entrepreneurship for our livelihood is not something that interests me in a full time capacity. 

    My work-life balance is detailed in the work I did to describe my ideal day on Day 2 of this challenge. My ideal day is built on location independence; it's my ultimate goal. 

    How would you define location independence in your own life? Is this something that is important to you or are you happy with a more traditional work environment?

    If you want to design life on your own terms and need guidance developing your own personal freedom plan, it's not too late to participate in this free Freedom Plan Blog Challenge. Sign up here

    Fall Seasonal Goals

    Life According to Steph

    I'm a long time reader of Life According to Steph, and I'm excited to participate in her seasonal goals linkup. Finally! It's about time. 

    Here are my seasonal goals for the Fall. 
    1. Book travel and accommodations for the Women in Travel Summit (WITS'17). 
    2. Plan and go on our annual fall weekend in New York. 
    3. Find a new chunky sweater to wear with jeans and tall boots. 
    4. Attend one seasonal festival.
    5. Yoga at least three times per week. 
    6. Participate in a fall 5 or 10k. 
    7. Attend a theatrical event. 
    8. Reorganize clothes...donate what summer clothes I didn't wear all season and purge what doesn't fit right and what I don't LOVE. 
    9. Read a new personal development book. 
    10. Try six new recipes: two vegetarian, two crockpot, one fish/seafood, and one baked dessert or casserole recipe.  

    Are you a goal getter? Please share what's on your list of goals to accomplish this season. 

    Saturday, September 17, 2016

    Choosing Adventure......Freedom Plan Blog Challenge...Day 8

    Day 8 of Natalie Sisson's Freedom Plan 10-Day Blog Challenge revolves around adventure. 

    While some who are participating in this challenge may have spent the day seeking adventure in their own backyard, I chose to spend this day exactly as I wanted. 

    And that felt like freedom too. 

    Every day need not be filled with adventure of epic proportion in order to feel free. 

    Life on your own terms is freedom. 

    Today, after catching up on some mileage-related car service, I opted for a quiet afternoon at home...just me, my dog, and Pablo Escobar. 

    When the Señor came home from teaching his class, we opted for an at-home date night, with pizza, wine, and movies. 

    Tomorrow is Sunday, and we'll enjoy our Sunday coffee date...and some extra cuddling, I'm sure. 

    Globetrotting adventure, it was not, but it was life by design. And it was wonderful. 

    Did adventure find you this weekend? Do you plan your weekends with intent or do you see where the time takes you?

    It's not too can still join Natalie's free Freedom Plan Blog Challenge. 

    Sign up here and begin your own freedom plan as you see fit. 

    And if you do, please come back and share a link. I would love to see what you wrote. 

    Friday, September 16, 2016

    Imperfect Action......Freedom Plan Blog Challenge...Day 7

    We've all been there...that feeling of overwhelm with too many ideas or to-do items on a list that grows longer by the minute. 

    We don't know where to start, so we put it off and before long, we forget about it, relegating it to the realm of impossible or something that wouldn't have worked anyway. 

    Natalie Sisson, of the Suitcase Entrepreneur, says that procrastination can be the result of a fear of failure...or a fear of success, if you can believe it. 

    Perfection becomes the enemy of progress; it leads to procrastination, and in some cases, inaction. 

    Today's work focuses on strategies for moving beyond that panicked state of inaction. These strategies revolve around small, daily actions you can take to move closer to your own freedom plan or big, scary goal, whatever it may be. 

    Imperfect action is better than no action. 

    For me, one imperfect action I can take is committing to write every day. It need not be published, but it needs to be written. 

    I can commit to my 15,000 steps every day.

    I can commit to my personal development every day. 

    Finishing does not mean it's perfect. Finished means I kept a commitment to myself. 

    I'm worth it, and so are you. 

    What about you? What imperfect action can you take today?

    Have you joined Natalie's free Freedom Plan Blog Challenge yetSign up here