Category Archives: Priorities

Inspiration From Zach

I heard Zach Sobiech on the radio last year and was inspired. In brief, he was diagnosed with cancer early in life and given a short time to live. As a parting message he wrote a song which has been doing quite well – it’s called Clouds. This was kind of his way of saying goodbye. Unfortunately Zach passed on May 20,2013.

To see his story watch the video.

There are many stories of kids that are terminally ill and are difficult to understand and accept. There is inspiration in these stories. Inspiration for gratitude. Inspiration for those around you. The biggest piece of inspiration I received from Zach is to live! To me that doesn’t mean living on the edge and skydiving or swimming with the sharks. It means looking back on the day and finding those pieces of joy. Enjoying those your with that day even if they have done things that really irritate you and they do it every day. We all receive unwanted news and get angry or depressed. Feel it, embrace it, and move on. This doesn’t mean do it all in minutes. It could take days, weeks, or even months to move on. Just don’t let if affect you for years and years.

How often do you stop and ask during the day “Am I enjoying this?” It’s a valid question. What is interesting is the answers you begin to give yourself. Why are you or are you not enjoying this right now? Could you be? Should you be? Is there something that needs to be changed? What are the consequences of those changes? You realize you are in control of more than you thought and that can be invigorating.

Orchids - One of My Hobbies

For me, I enjoy learning and experiencing new things. I change hobbies somewhat frequently. It may be keeping fish for awhile and then moving on to orchids and then photography. With each hobby comes dedication to learning and expenses. Traveling to different destinations is my most impactful hobby. Sometimes those travels are costly and other times they are just a day trip with little cost. Traveling is not just about the destination, it’s about experiences and the people that I get to share those with.

Those I get to Travel With

Zach has re-inforced that the things I like to do are ok. It’s alright to keep learning and living. Changing hobbies every 3-5 years has become a little frustrating because of the time, energy, and money I put into them. While I learn a lot, I can never seem to become a master at any of them because I get bored with them. Maybe that’s what I’m really good at, learning. Zach’s message to live reminds me that is what I’m doing and what works for me.


I hope Zach can be an inspiration to you also!

A Vacation Without the Kids

Going on Vacation Just the Two of Us

On our recent excursion to southern Florida Karen and I made the trip alone.  Every three or four years we try to take a vacation while leaving the kids at home with relatives. These trips allow us to reconnect with each other and have helped to re-invigorate our marriage in ways that are very difficult in our everyday family lives. I have read recommendations of doing this as frequently as once a year. I would imagine that could be quite re-energizing to the family unit however, time goes by so fast that by the time we realize we are in need of some time alone with each other, three to four years have already flown by.

Going on vacation without the kids allows/forces us to spend time together without interruptions giving us the opportunity to find those reasons that brought along the decision to get married in the first place. There are days and even weeks that go by which bring the question “why did we get married again?” usually brought on by all the hectic activities scheduled into such a short time. My answer to that question is often “so we can shuttle the kids everywhere and be interrupted every 10 minutes I guess!” Going on a trip with Karen can often return the original reasons for getting married. I find that focusing on each other ultimately is beneficial for everyone. My belief is that a healthy marriage translates into a stronger family and ultimately is better for the children. In order for a marriage to be healthy, there has to be great connections with the people in that marriage. Maybe this is just my way of justifying some fun without the kids.

Fun Without the Kids

For us a trip usually goes like this. We’re getting ready to leave for the airport and we see the kids with their sad faces and the question of going without them immediately comes to the forefront. We manage to get out of their sight knowing that we won’t see them again for a week causes sadness as we miss them already. To keep from turning back to see them again and to calm them down we remind ourselves and them that they can call us anytime and we will call them later that day when we arrive at our destination. Mobile phones and the ability to use programs like Skype to video call really do help to get through the first couple of days however get away from them for a majority of your trip or the purpose of leaving the children behind is irrelevant.

I'm Sure the Kids Would Enjoy This

Shortly after arriving at our destination we are talking about and thinking about how much the kids would enjoy this. “We wish they were here” is a common theme for the first couple of days often forgetting other things that come with them such as “I’m hungry! when are we going to eat?” or “I have to go to the bathroom!” every 15 minutes. Something as simple as eating on your own schedule can be liberating. Usually by day 3 or 4 we start to get use to and enjoy doing things on our own schedule. We can spend 2 minutes or 2 hours eating when and where WE want. Also by this time the phone calls back home have minimized and we begin to feel like we are on vacation with each other. Put the phones away! I didn’t say shut them off all the time because emergencies do arise but don’t spend most of your time with looking at this little 3 inch screen. Use your hand to hold your spouses hand, not your phone. There will be plenty of time to quickly play a word in Words with Friends while your significant other is fueling the vehicle or taking a shower.

Enjoying a Peaceful Sunset

Something I find interesting is how people treat you a little differently while on vacation alone. At a restaurant or excursion or even the hotel I find the treatment a little different from some of the staff once they find out you are there without the children. Usually a “Good for You!” comes first. Out of the corner of my eye I will see them give you a little smile as you and your significant other are talking or holding hands. Possibly a little more privacy is given. Those who are parents themselves immediately understand your situation with missing the kids and the importance of going somewhere without them. It’s kind of an unspoken bond between you and that person. It may be subtle but it is still there if you look. This understanding is re-affirming that you are not be terrible parents by leaving your children behind while you’re off having a good time.

Near the end of the vacation we start to prepare for the trip back home and realize it has been a few days since we talked to the kids. We start to miss them again and are happy to be returning to see them. It is at this point you begin to understand all of the commitments you have made that fill the weeks causing them to go by so fast and how much you didn’t miss all of that for at least one week. Now is a good time for a reflection of all of these commitments and how important they really are. Maybe one or two should go away so that there is more time spent as a family. One of the things I realize is stressful for me is daily mail. It may be odd but I dread going through the countless pieces of mail and not having to deal with this is one of the things that relaxes me while on vacation.

Traveling Back Home

If you can find a way to get away from everyday family life with just your spouse, I highly recommend it if even only for an extending weekend. This really does help you understand how much you need your kids and how much they need you. They will try to lay on the guilt trip but that is only because they want to get away to someplace fun too and miss you.

When Plans to Travel Change

Enjoying a summer evening

There are many different levels and commitments of travel from those who travel around the world 365 days a year to those who take a leisurely trip every couple of years just to take a break from work. We are a family with two children, pets, a house, and many of the same priorities as other families. Our priority of travel has been elevated since we made the decision to complete the National Parks Edition of Monopoly before our children graduate from high school. In order to accomplish this, our travel plans have been made through 2018 requiring one to two trips a year depending on the proximity of destinations to each other. The summer of 2011 brought plans to go to Acadia National Park. Upon returning from our winter adventure to Everglades National Park we discovered one of our dogs ailing from an unknown cause which would affect these plans.

Shadow with Kristen and Alyssa

After several visits to the Vet, it was determined that our dog – Shadow had either suffered a stroke or there was a brain tumor causing her medical issues. Only time or an expensive MRI would be able to confirm which of these was most likely. We opted for time since the MRI would only confirm one of these diagnoses and still would not give us an opportunity to correct any problems. I’m sure there are a number of people that are reading this and saying to themselves it’s only a dog. For many others it is understood that some pets become family members and provide similar emotional ties. This dog has been with us a year after Karen and I were married and moved into our house with us the day we bought it. We have known her longer than our children meaning that our children have known her all of their lives. We definitely had an emotional connection to this dog and wanted the best we could provide for her knowing that she will not be around forever.

Troy and Shadow

As summer grew closer we were pretty sure Shadow’s medical problems were a result of a brain tumor as issues from a stroke would not likely worsen and her difficulties became more severe. How long this would persist was an unknown. Do we go ahead and plan our summer adventure? Who would be able to take care of our dog is she was still with us? Originally we began going through some preliminary plans which including going to the Statue of Liberty for the Independence Day celebration and then driving to Acadia National Park to explore another destination on our Monopoly Board. In order for this to work out we wanted to start making arrangements by the middle of May. As this date came we had to shift our priorities and the possibility of a summer trip dwindled because we were not willing to burden someone else with taking care of our sick dog and we were not willing to put her down just for our convenience. I was very frustrated because of the uncertainty surrounding our dog and knew that canceling this trip made the goal of visiting each national park on our board more challenging. Besides, what would the point of this site be if no one was traveling around a Monopoly Board?

Shadow bird watching
Shadow Liked Nursing Homes for Several Reasons


Apparently there were other plans for us this 4th of July. We spent it at our house with the kids and dogs and as it turned out, this was the last day we got to spend with Shadow. She has passed now leaving us with only memories of her 13 years as our devoted pet. She is severely missed and we are learning to adapt to a life without her. Our other dog is also adapting to being the only dog now which she has never experienced. However, now we are able to travel again so the preliminary planning for Acadia National Park has begun. We’re looking at going on this adventure near the end of August. I’m really looking forward to experiencing another national park! I expect there will be several other challenges causing us to evaluate how high of a priority completing this Monopoly Board is as many other people need to do when unforeseen events interfere with already made plans to travel. These are the times when we get to find out how important certain things are to us.


Kristen and Shadow

Has Winter Overstayed Its’ Welcome?

Orchid Collection
Spring is Coming!

I decided to get a little off topic this week as I just have not been myself lately and thought a good rant may be entertaining.  At this time of year I hear almost daily how tired people are of winter and how they just want the snow to be gone.  This does not include everyone as there are a number of people who love ice fishing, riding snow mobiles, skiing, and several other cold weather activities. Early springtime weather can provide some of the best days with warmer temperatures and more daylight hours.  In addition, as the weather warms up, nature also becomes more active with the animals out enjoying the warmth as they search for tidbits to eat, play, and look for their summers home.  Myself… I’m more of a summer type of person and I think all this cold and snow has finally gotten to me. 

More Snow
Snowing Again!

It all started about two weeks ago.  I lost all interest in participating in many of the activities that I usually enjoy, including this website.  There are many hours spent each week on the computer writing posts, maintaining and upgrading, reading other travel websites, participating in social media, ect…  In addition, there are numerous activities during the week when you have younger children as any parent can attest to.  Surprisingly there was one item on my daily list that still held some interest and that was feeding the fish in our aquariums and maintaining those aquariums.  Knowing this could help determine the cause of my lack of interest in most other activities. What does a person do when they lose all interest in daily and weekly activities?

A nice view during the Winter

Well, for me apparently I become obsessed with orchids.  It didn’t matter what kind of orchid.  All I wanted to do was learn about and acquire orchids.  Tropical orchids… hardy orchids… native orchids…  (Did you know there are orchids native to the coldest parts of the United States?) It didn’t matter because orchids became my passion and every free minute I wanted to spend researching them or acquiring them and still could not satisfy my desire and alleviate a lack of interest in other things.  In all fairness, I am a horticulturalist so working with plants is not that big of a leap. Also, I did go through a little orchid craze a number of years ago in college but it was definitely not as consuming as this one was/is. It certainly did not help to have an orchid specialist about five minutes away that breeds and collects unique orchids and then grows them up for sale. 

Native Ladyslipper
One of our popular native orchids

Oh ya, there was another part to this craziness.  All I wanted to eat and drink was candy and colas.  Not sure where the sugar frenzy came from.  I resisted this as much as I could and tried to consume healthier foods but my success rate was fairly low for a few days. 

One of the Aquisitions

I like to learn, experience new things, and create new challenges so wanting to learn more about orchids and accept the challenge to grow them and flower them would be normal for me.  Becoming absolutely obsessed is a bit extreme. After about 10 days, I tried to understand what the cause could be.  I came up with a few possibilities.  Winter has grown very long and has been unusually cold with a lot of snow so seeing flowers could be a way to deal with that. Although at work I see flowers every day so not sure this makes sense.  A mid-life crisis may be brewing. This obsession has seemed to be tamed with the purchase of a few specific orchids and I wouldn’t expect that to compensate for a mid-life crises.  This could however explain the sugar frenzy. Can a mid-life crisis occur and end over a two week span? Maybe I just needed to add to my list of hobbies.  NOT LIKELY! 

Another Aquisition

I believe the most likely scenario is the long winter explanation.  The fact that I still enjoyed our aquariums which include fish and plants leads me to believe that I’m feeling confined inside and ready to get outside with a nice green landscape. Orchids just happen to have my attention and present a challenge at this time that I believe I can achieve. Still not sure about the sugar frenzy and how that fits in. 

The One That Satisfied the Craze

What’s your solution to a long, cold, and snowy winter? (By the way, it is snowing again while I write this  :-(

A Memorable Day

Entering Biscayne N.P.

Every day is a day to be thankful for but there are days that make an impact on you that you won’t forget.  Today was one such day!  Our plan from the beginning was to get going to Biscayne National Park to explore Convey Point and Boca Chita Key with the hope of spotting a manatee some time during this adventure.  There was a dilemma that arose a week ago which required some difficult decisions and examining our priorities.  I fully enjoy exploring National Parks and all they have to offer and was really excited to see Biscayne.  The issue that conflicted with that was one of the sports teams I follow was in the playoffs and I really wanted to watch the game.  My resolution before today was to miss the first half of the game and leave the park a little early.  Well this came with a further examination of priorities as the day wore on.  In the end, all worked out well.  Let me explain:

I don’t follow a lot of sports teams with any regularity and am content with just hearing scores most of the time for a few teams around my area.  There is one team I have followed for much of my life and they are the Green Bay Packers.  Well, a week ago they earned the right to play in the NFC Championship game with the winner going to the Super bowl.  Unfortunately the game was scheduled for mid-afternoon at a time I was planning on enjoying the sights and environment of Biscayne National Park. After doing some soul searching and examining my priorities I came to a conclusion. I may never be back to the park and there is a probable chance the Packers will make it to the playoffs again in the next decade or two so the park held a higher spot on my list of priorities.  I decided to leave the park a little early (probably only by an hour) and that should allow me to watch the second half of the football game.  That seemed acceptable to me and a good compromise.

The Lighthouse at Boca Chita Key

Apparently that was not a close enough examination as our plans were called into question once we arrived at Biscayne National Park.  We had planned on taking a boat tour out to Boca Chita Key which was listed as departing once in the morning and once in the afternoon.  As we were getting ready for this tour we were informed that there was only an afternoon trip which would not get us back until the football game was almost over.  Our decision was to either miss the trip to the key or miss most if not all of the game.  I didn’t want to do either but could not do both.  Ultimately the decision was to take the boat trip and hope we could see the end of the game and the highlights.  With technology there was another option, I could watch the game on my laptop as long as I could get reception.  A nice way to enjoy a bit of both the park and the game.

Watching the NFC Title game at Biscayne

After deciding to take the boat tour the day began to fall into place and ended up being a day I’m sure I will remember for a long time.  As we began looking at the displays in the visitor center and learning about the park I had a gentleman ask me to take some pictures of him and his girlfriend.  I agreed and began to follow him outside when he further explained that he was about to propose to his girlfriend and where so that I could take some pictures for him of these important highlights.  I was very happy to do this and be a part of something that can be so significant for two people. After this the day went to fast as we explored Biscayne N.P. and searched for the elusive manatee.  We enjoyed seeing many fish and birds along with the amazing scenery of the landscape and ocean all the while seeing the city of Miami in the background.  On our way back to the hotel I managed to find a radio station to listen to the football game and did make it to the hotel to see the last few minutes of the football game and watch Green Bay win to move on to the super bowl in 2 weeks. 

Boca Chita

In the end staying with your priorities, even when they are challenging to determine, will allow you to be confident in your decisions.

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