Can One Have Too Many Hobbies?

Over the years I have had numerous hobbies.  In HS I started collected quotes. Somewhere I even still have the journals I wrote them down in – I think I had 4 by the time college was over!)

Since I was little I have loved reading. I like to pick authors who write series books – they have one character and stick with them on a long journey over numerous books. What can I say, I get invested. Then I get sad when the story ends. I get even sadder when I know its a standalone.

I enjoy watching TV. Who doesn’t like watching drama’s, or even a mindless dramady.  I am not afraid to put it out there, some of my favorite shows are (or were) on the CW or ABCFamily Channel.  I even still watch General Hospital. I mean, who doesn’t love being able to shut down their real world or the make believe land presented on the TV screen?

I also enjoy listening to music. I love picking out lyrics that mean something, whether they have relevancy now or in my past, or could have in the future, I store them away for usage later.

I am also a bit fanatical about the New York Rangers. I am counting down the days until pre-season hockey starts up (48 more days!).  I try to watch as many games as I can, I read the game reports, I follow trades, standing changes.  Some may say I obsess a bit, but I’m a New York hockey fan, we take that seriously!

Of course, I also love to run and workout.  Not going to lie, this has been a rough 5 months with my lack of ability to do much of either. Turns out I can run, as long as my neck is taped, something I never had to worry about before. I still cannot lift anything above my head or carry on my shoulder, so that limits many other exercises I can do.

There is also my love of travel. Yes, to me this is a hobby because I have goals associated with it. I want to visit all 50 states (if I can run a half in each, well, two birds, one race!).  I want to see as many UNESCO World Heritage Sites as I can. I wan to gather stamps in my passport.  This is a hobby, its something I want to do, it’s something I enjoy doing, it’s not something I am required to do, its my choice.

So again I ask, can someone have to many hobbies? Sometimes it’s hard to find time to work on all my hobbies.  Sometimes it’s tough to be able to afford them all.  My DVR often gets backed up because I would rather be running or reading then watching TV.  Sometimes I have a list of movies I want to see but never got a chance to see them in the theatre. When that happens I get sad because without video stores, it’s getting harder and harder to locate a movie that was released 6, 9, 13 months ago!

What are you favorite hobbies?

Sadness and Happiness; Bad News and New Beginnings

run dwarfsI know I’ve been quiet lately. I’ve been dealing with things.

At the end of May my insurance denied continued no-fault benefits from being rear ended back in March.  I am angry, frustrated, mad, sad, piss-off. I got depressed; I went in to a injuryfunk.

Just 4 days prior my ortho had just said that we would keep up the PT and Med Massage while allowing me to pick up my other fitness activities (kickboxing, full body circuit training, pilates, ect) because I was starting to feel better finally. I was starting to feel myself again, at least fitness wise. I was ready, eager, antsy, to get moving in my training.

Then the letter came.  DENIED.

I tried running.  I tried to move forward with beginning my full body training again.  But it didn’t go smoothly.  After two weeks, my neck was hurting, I was in pain again. At times it felt as bad as it did those first 9 days!

I discovered that I could not carry my laptop on my right shoulder (I am a righty). I discovered that even carrying a backpack on both shoulders would be uncomfortable a lot quicker than normal.  I could barely put a plate full of food in the microwave without it twinging.  Heck, taking off my sports bra one night left me tears again.

I found a temporary solution to allow me to run further than 1.5 miles at a time, but its just that, a temporary solution, a stop gap if you will, because I DO NOT want to have to wear KT Tape or Rock Tape on my neck for the rest of my life.

It really is a life saver the tape.  I will keep it on for 3-4 days at at time which allows me to not just run almost pain free, but do some every day tasks as well.

It is quite a timely find as on top of that noticed being received, I started going through an interview process for a new job.  This is a job I had found online, asked my brother-in-law to see if he could pass my resume along through HR (he works for a branch of the same company).

Well, he went on a vacation before he could find a way to pass it along. While I was dr suesswaiting for him, an HR Recruiter found me on LinkedIn and 5 weeks later I started with that company!  This is a full time meeting planner job (get ready for a lot of #lifeofameetingplanner hastags on my instagram and twitter!) remotely employment.

This is still helpful in dealing with recovery as I have the ability to move to the couch from the table when my neck is bothering me to much.  However, it also means a bunch more travel (something I am THRILLED about), but as I recently discovered from some travel – both business and personal – I have taken recently, I cannot carry anything heavy on my right side.  I won’t even be able to put any bag in the overhead bin.

But that aside, for the first time in a long time, I look forward to monday again. I am so excited where this job will take me.  Professionally –  I hope to grow more as a meeting planner, hopefully roam throughout the company, expand on meeting types I excel at, AND around the world to feed my travel addictions to see everything.

As a runner, I hope to be able to extend a trip here and there and run a race wherever I am, domestically and internationally (side note, anyone know where I can search races internationally?).

I hope your Monday is shining bright!!
Dream Sparkle Shine

Balance Act – Work & Travel

open roadAs I mentioned last week, I am lucky enough to work remotely.

But given that freedom, I am hesitant to use it to the full joys of virtual employment.

So far I have been able to work remotely locally, or on weekend trips to visit friends in Maryland.

I am nervous to test the limits of just how remote I can work. It stems from my lack of knowledge on available Wifi elsewhere.  I know that, through my cable provider here on Long Island, that I can access Wifi from almost everywhere.

I can go to the boardwalk or a local park and do work, but can I go to any of the 20 or so states I have not yet visited, easily access Wifi and successfully complete my work for the day?

I need to jump out of my comfort zone, just pack a bag, pack a car and hit the road right?

What are you favorite American Road Trips or Travel Destinations?

American Vacation Policy Fails Again

travel is the only thing

I am a traveler. I also have a full time job as a meeting/event planner.  I am a bit of a workaholic.  I love what I do. I also love to travel.

There has been many a discussion regarding how infrequently American’s travel. How we work to much and lose money each year by not taking those 2 weeks of vacation the corporate world has allowed us to earn..  There is even a  MasterCard commercial about it!

What I have figured out is that it is hard to take a proper vacation with only 10 vacation days allotted to us each year.  Relaxing vacations to a beach location can yes happily occur with only 10 vacation days a year. But a true trip, the ability to actually see and explore the vastness that is Planet Earth – 10 days per year is definitely not enough.

I am single, I have no children, very little over head and bills I pay off each month. I can afford to travel.  I NEED to travel. Yet I run up against a vacation policy that isn’t very forgiving when it comes to grand trips, experiences, adventures.

In the past 8 years, I have spent 2 weeks in Italy, 2 weeks in China, and 2 weeks in South Africa.  At the time of each trip, I was freelancing.  I worked as an independent contractor for meeting & event planning companies. I may have ‘lost’ money by taking each trip because I wasn’t working as a salaried employee, so I was not given paid time off (PTO). In the long run, I am ok with that, I gained so much more by the experiences I had, the things I saw, the things I ate, the people I met, the world I ventured in to.

However, in addition to those trips, since I was freelancing and working remotely at the time, I was able to take a few other shorter trips throughout the year: a long weekend in Maryland, a long weekend in Las Vegas, wherever I wanted to go I was able to. I could easily take my work with me.  However, had I been working full time and not freelancing, I most likely would not been able to do that as I would have used up all 10 of my days.

We are an overworked society that places to much emphasis on learning and working then on experiencing the world, or even our own country.  Case in point, if you haven’t already seen the letter floating around social media from the father back to the school principal regarding his children’s “unexcused” absences so the father could run the Boston Marathon! (Yes, there is not scandal within the running community as he may not have legitimately qualified for the Boston Marathon)

American’s have falsely been labeled as non-travelers.  This is probably because it has been said how few passports American’s as a whole actually hold.  A 2011 article on CNN informs that only 30% of all American’s hold a passport.  I can believe this number.

Truth be told, our country is a phenomenal one.  The amount of things to see and experience are astounding.  Each state has its own historical value to showcase, even if it is not as historically long as many other countries around the world; each state, each city in America has it’s own historical flare.

IMAG3027We have our National Park system, we have various national landmarks or monuments scattered around the country.  There is plenty to see domestically, but we just do not put a priority on see it all, we put the priority on working long hours, on making more money then your neighbor.

To push that point home even more, according to an article in the Atlantic (The Only Advanced Country Without National Vacation Policy? It’s the US), America practically the only developed country that does not have laws in place requiring a certain amount of paid time off per year.

Every time I travel, I run in to folks from countries with amazing vacation policies thus allowing their citizens to take a two weeks grand trip somewhere and still have vacation days left over for shorter trips somewhere else!

There are now some companies that are giving unlimited PTO.  This can be a double edge treat. To me this can mean the work is going to so continuous that the employee will not actually get to use their unlimited PTO?

Why do we put so little value on traveling and vacationing while the rest of the world is always out there seeing it all?  Is it because back in day when the country started there was a bit of an isolationist mentality? Is it because of how high a premium we put on making/having money?

This article on CNN, Why is American the ‘No-Vacation’ Nation?, puts everything in to nice little boxes of why we don’t do it and why the rest of the world embraces it.  A large part has to do with our limited vacation time compared to countries like German or New Zealand who are given 6 weeks vacation a year, from day 1 at the job.  This is in addition to the national holidays they are given.

How did our super advanced, democratic championed nation lose the focus of how important vacation and travel is.  Now only in terms of relaxing and decompressing, but for those with children, for educational purposes, for learning about other cultures, other historys, other lands.

As I noted in the image above, Travel is the only you BUY that makes in RICHER in the end.

What are you next big trips planned?
I’m working in either a Mediterranean Cruise, Iceland, Peru, some good old American Road trips…I just can’t decide, and I’m not sure I have enough PTO to handle all of that (even though I do work remotely, and wouldn’t mind working while away, to a certain extent, I still want to SEE the places I venture to!)

How to Successfully Work Remotely

work from homeI am one of the lucky ones – I work from home nearly 95% of the time.  I have a full time job for a small company that has embraced the ease at which employees have the ability to work from almost anywhere. 

Yes, I’ll admit there are a number of industries in which remote work is not feasible, but there are more in which it is.  There is a growing number of virtual or remote workers in our country.  Technology today has made working remotely extremely easy.  

Flexjobs.com has explained a bit more all the different types of remote work or remote employee and how each can be achieved in this article.

For me, I love getting back the nearly 2.5-3 hours a day I would spend commuting. I love being able to sleep until I wake up instead of waking up to the buzzing alarm.  I like being able to roll out of bed in to gym clothes, sit at my laptop and start working. I like being able to go for a short run at lunch time without having to worry about how sweaty I am afterwards. I love not having a manager directly over my shoulder, yet having them know I am accessible to them almost any time they need me.

I have worked remotely on and off for the better part of the past 7 years.  I have mastered the art of flexible scheduling, of time management, of prioritizing.  Yet, many employers still do not believe in remote work or flex schedules.  That is probably my biggest issue since going back to work full time from freelancing – the lack of flexibility within the work day.

I am able to easily, most days, overcome the lack of flexibility due to always being connected.  I receive my emails on my cell phone so regardless of where I am I can see if something has come in.  If I bring my laptop with me wherever I go, I can usually access and respond to any email that comes over the wire.  This is the true meaning of working remotely – not being tied down to one place, one desk, one office, one room.

This is where being a workaholic comes in handy.  I don’t let work drive me, but I do make myself available when emails that require responses come in.  I pay attention during 9-5, obviously I do the majority of my work during that time, but as a workaholic who has perfected the art of remote work, I also know that sometimes life takes over.

Sometimes you have a doctor’s appointment during your lunch hour, but end up waiting nearly an hour before even being called to the back, thus you have gone over your lunch hour. Well, as a remote employee, that doesn’t affect me all to often. I don’t have an office to be back at, my office is wherever I am located. I have answered calls or responded to emails from the waiting room, or even the patient room while still waiting for the doctor.

There has been much discussion over how American’s are obsessed with work, how the typical 9-5, 40 hour work week no longer exists (as noted in this article by Kevin Mercadante).  Yes, it’s true, many people are now working early in the morning or late at night, sometimes both in one day.  There are even people out there who simply refuse to take their work home, instead staying late at the office just to finish a task. To me that is a dis-service to your family, your friends, your work/life balance.

Now my industry has never been a 9-5 industry. We work with vendors, contractors, attendees who are sometimes located across the country. Some even based internationally. I have been known to take my laptop to dinner with me if I am waiting on emails, or if I am working a program with vendors/clients in multiple timezones or pressing deadlines.  My friends understand. I delegate my time so I can do it all, I am less stressed this way because I don’t feel as though I am letting something lag.

Personally, it bothers me, concerns me even, when employers would rather have their employees stay late hours instead of taking their work home with them. Or if they know a project will require long hours, why not let them split time, do half days in the office with the rest at home.  This will keep their employees happier, less stressed, more free.

Just check out this article on Forbes.com: Top 10 Benefits of Working From Home.  For me personally, my top reasons for LOVING remote work are: More me time, less commuting time, higher productivity, more flexibility. Of course there are the perks: I can travel a bit while still working because, let’s face, as long as there is a Starbucks nearby, I can get on Wifi from anywhere!

Would you rather work remotely or work from a dedicated office building?

That Time I: Spent a Weekend in NYC

IMAG2851As most of the running world knows, last weekend was the United NYC Half Marathon. I live only 45 minutes away from NYC, but opted to stay in the city for the weekend.

I ran with American Cancer Society DetermiNation team, we were meeting on race morning at 6:15am, so if I stayed on Long Island, I would have had to leave for the city at 5:00am, by staying in the city, I gave myself an extra hour of sleep on race morning! This is a key item on any race readiness list.

Friday afternoon I met my mother at the Penn Station waiting room with our luggage so I IMAG2848could ventured over to the United NYC Half Marathon Expo to pick up my bib, tee and other necessary race items.

Of course, I found the finisher shirt I wanted, but as I was unable to run for nearly two weeks, I wasn’t feeling my confidence in my ability to finish, so I didn’t want to own any finisher items just yet (flash forward 2 days, the website no longer as the shirt I wanted…..).

I also stopped by the DetermiNation table to pick up some flags for my race shirt as I was running in Memory and in Honor of some folks close to my heart.

Afterwards, my mother and I checked in to our hotel (Hilton Garden Inn Central Park South) and went to dinner.  We have always loved the restaurant Serafina in NYC, so of course, this is where we went off to! My first of two pasta dinners in prep for the race.

On Saturday, my mother and I had planned our day around the DetermiNation team dinner downtown starting at 6:00pm. Backtracking from there, we decided we had time to see a Matinee!  I will never pass up a chance to see a show, so at the TKTS booth in Times Square we got ourselves some tickets to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

IMG_20150314_134902This is a show unlike any show you would expect people to be flocking to or expect to be such a huge Broadway hit.  The show is about a young boy with autism, how he relates to the world, how he interacts with his family, his neighbors, his world and how he overcomes certain things.  I don’t want to spoil anything, but I do suggest everyone who can go see it!

I was definitely moved by the show, left amazed by the acting, by the storyline, by everything involved – the production value was amazing.  This is based on a book written by Mark Haddon.

After the show we went downtown for the team dinner where I met other DetermiNation runners, heard some amazing speakers, and was reminded why I choose this charity to run with.  We heard from Dr. Sener, who has been involved with ACS since the 1980s and also had a large part in starting the DetermiNation team!IMAG2858

We also heard from Nora McInerny Purmort who lost her husband late last year to cancer after a 3 year battle.  Throughout his treatment he gave his best efforts to stay positive and keep his sense of humor.  Our shirts were made up in his honor.

After the dinner, we got back to the hotel where I did my final prep for the next morning.  I stuck my flags on my shirt, I gathered up all the items I needed for the next morning, we taped my neck and knee and by 10:30 I was fast asleep with dreams of actually getting myself across that finish line!

Wait to hear all about my race day in my next post!

That Time I Spent the Weekend in NYC

It’s that time of the year again! Holiday time in NYC which means my friends from MD come up for a girls weekend (YIPPEE!!!)

We started this in 2012 because I missed my friends after I had moved back up to Long Island and my friends want to see NYC at Holiday Time when the windows are done up and the stores have some amazing sales!

So this year we started planning at the end of September, of course that was just to set the date everyone was available to play. The previous two trips have been the weekend just before Christmas. This year seems the best weekend was a week after Thanksgiving!

Once we had the date secured on our calendars, it was time to search for a hotel. You know how this goes, hope for the best, expect the worse. It’s holiday time in NYC, so of course hotel prices will be high (granted NYC most of the year hotels are pricy). We searched on all the hotel search sites because we weren’t sure what hotels were in the area we were looking.  We found that staying in the Herald Square area of the city works best.

Based on our parameters of Date and area we settled on the Radisson Martinque at 6th Avenue and 32nd Street.  It was easily accessible for me coming in on the LIRR to Penn Station. I just had to exit at the 7th Avenue exit, cross 7th then walk straight down 32nd Street and boom, there was the hotel waiting for me at the corner.

The lobby was nice and big. There was a couple of couches and chairs for sitting, with enough to stand milling around without really being the way of anyone else. Check in was fairly easy, though when I showed up at 2, they said they had no rooms available because check in was a four so I should leave my bags with the bell desk and come back in 2 hours. Now I travel a lot for a living, I often show up at the hotel prior to the official check in time where I am still able to get a room with little hassle. Sometimes they tell me the reason why one is not available: we were sold out last night so rooms are still being cleaned, check out time hasn’t occurred yet so we don’t have any clean available rooms at the moment. But if check out is at 12:00 noon and it’s now 2pm, either tell me you were sold out last night and don’t have any rooms cleaned yet, or say I am waiting for some clean rooms to show as available, don’t just dismiss a paying guest.

As I do travel so often, I rarely back down from a check in desk staffer who lacks customer service skills so of course I asked when would the earliest time a room be available? Finally she searched in her screen and come up with something available around 3pm.  I could handle that, it was closing in on 2:30 already. So I found a couch space and read another James Patterson book on my Kindle (FYI: I finished NYPD Red 2).

So I checked in and went on up to the room. For a NYC hotel room it was quite roomy.  It wasn’t big by normal hotel standards, but it was nice sized for four adults and one pack n play. The shower didn’t drain easily, but really that was the only major complaint I had about the hotel. They have two sets of elevator bays so depending if your room is towards to the front or the back you have options of which set of elevators you want.

Friday night has become our annual trip to a delicious Jewish Deli. This year we were up to Katz’s Delicatessen on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. We attempt to hire an Uber since it was 2.5 miles away, but the first few got cancelled, the one we got messed up and cancelled the car when we got in, then with the surge, tried charging us $48, so we hopped out at 3rd Avenue and 13th Street, gave him some $$ and walked the rest of the way down. We walked up to 2nd then down to Houston. The deli is at Houston and Ludlow right on the corner – you can’t miss it with signage like this:

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When you enter, you are handed a ticket – don’t lose this ticket, you need it to pay and leave the deli (and there is a hefty cost if you do lose it!). We opted for table service instead of counter and seat yourself service.  We had a bowl of pickles brought over and then we each ordered.  I ordered a hot dog and salad (as did my friend Meg) and my friends Lana and Jess ordered Matzoh Ball Soup with Half Reuben. Delish all around! Lana fed her 18 month old daughter some new food to try, most of it was a hit (though the pickle took two tries…)

We then hailed a cab back to our hotel. It was raining when we walked down there, so we opted for the cab ride home.  We made great time right until 30th street. The protesters were back in Herald Square Friday night, 2 blocks from our hotel.

Saturday was spent walking around the city, enjoying the holiday sites. Well, it was supposed to be. We didn’t make it any further then Herald Square because it was pouring all day long.  My friend did manage to get a Santaland picture of her daughter with Santa (well, sorta, the kid wasn’t having anything to do with Santa!).  We then did a bit of shopping at Macy’s.  The sales weren’t quite there were when we visited the weekend just before Christmas, but a sale was taking place.

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After a bit of shopping along 34th Street, it was time to start searching out a restaurant for dinner. However, the hotel concierge wasn’t on duty anymore at 5:30 on a Saturday evening just when we were looking for recommendations!  What hotel does that during one of the busy seasons?

So we just asked the front desk for some help, and found a lovely restaurant up on 3rd Avenue call La Giara in the Murray Hill area. It was still raining, but it was only a 7 block walk (5 cross down and 2 up town) so we hoofed it again.

I must thank whoever at the front desk recommended this place to us, it was great!  We called just before we left to check availability. They held their last table for us (4 adults and a high chair!). A few minutes after we sat down, my friend placed an order of Mac & Cheese for her daughter, they were quite accommodating. The decor was interesting – red brick walls (red was an overall color theme), a couple of booths, a number of regular tables. The space wasn’t very big, but it was big enough to fit about 15-18 tables of varying sizes. We were brought water relatively quickly, and we had just the right amount of time to review the menu when the waiter came back over to take our orders.

IMAG2362The menu wasn’t large, but had enough variety that we were all satisfied with options, and our actual orders. The food was delicious, everyone was thrilled.  My friends daughter gives it two hands up, as she tried a little of bit something from each of our plates and was happy with each!

How very Italian themed of them, they have a pasta press when you first walk in!
Again, we walked back to our hotel and just chilled in the room talking and catching up. Sunday morning, we checked out and I walked back down to Penn Station to catch a train while my friends made their annual stop at Ess A Bagel to bring some NY bagels back down to MD with them!

As always, it was amazing hanging out with some of my girls in my home town. I wish more of them would visit more often – but I am working on it!

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