The pros and cons of a business trip

From the first day I started working I have had travelling jobs. Within my first month of my first job, I had to leave my boys for one week to go to the Dominican Republic. As beautiful and fantastic as it was, I missed my boys (all three of them). At the time, Matthew and Michael were almost two years old, and today, eleven years later, it is still hard leaving them. One job required me to travel out of the country for as many as four times for the year, for as much as two weeks on each occasion. For others, I had to travel to other parts of my country that required an overnight stay or two or sometimes three. Regardless of the time spent or where I go, I have a love-hate relationship with business trips.

As I write this blog post, I am sitting in the lounge of the Altamont West Hotel, a business hotel with a fantastic view of the Caribbean Sea. Watching the waves crash ever so gently on the beach is soothing after a really long day; the only drawback is the hustle and bustle of the busy street below that separates the hotel from the beach. Nonetheless, I try to block out the negatives and enjoy the positives.

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As I sit and enjoy the cool breeze coming off the sea and the smell of the jerk pork cooking at the restaurant, Pork Pit, next door, I ponder the pros and cons of my trips over the years.

Reasons why I love business trips!

  • Peace and quiet – Business trips guarantee some peace and quiet as there is no one shouting “Mom”, “Mommy” or “Hon”. These trips are a welcome break from the normal routine.
  • Food frenzy – I love food and trying different types. My boys (all three of them) do not share the same sentiment. As such, business trips are an opportunity for me to partake in diverse restaurant offerings from the hotel or nearby establishments. Tonight’s choice was sushi; and boy was it delicious!
  • Relaxation time and “me” time – What to do with peace and quiet? Enjoy your own company – watch TV (in peace), read a book, or sit by the lounge and watch people and traffic go by. Whatever floats your boat, enjoy it while it lasts!
  • Get stuff done! – Doing work at home makes me feel guilty, as if I am putting work before my family. However, I don’t feel this guilt when I work on a business trip so I make good use of the time. I make sure to call and talk to my boys, ensuring that all is well at home and everyone is okay. After that, my conscience is clear to work until I am sleepy.

Reasons why I hate business trips

  • Empty hotel room – Nothing beats coming home to a warm house, full of people you love and who loves you.
  • Not my bed – While I have slept in nice hotels with nice beds, none were my own and no bed is as warm, comfortable and inviting as my own.
  • Missing my boys – Somehow when I am home and my name or “mommy” is called several times a day I want it to stop but when I am away and not hearing my family, it sounds weird and I feel nostalgic. Does that happen to you too? Sometimes the peace and quiet is deafening and I want some noise! I want to hear my name; I want someone to shout “Mommy, where are my school shoes?”
  • No human pillow – I like to cuddle in bed; it helps me to fall asleep, and no hotel room comes fitted with my husband or a life-sized version of him for me to cuddle with. Until this is invented, I will forever hate business trips!

Business trips are bittersweet and this one is no different. I love the view from my room and the peace and quiet is great; but even when they drive me crazy, I love my boys and today I really miss my boys!

 

What is happiness?

 I had one of those days today; the day from hell! The day where Murphy’s Law of anything that can go wrong, will go wrong, ruled. I’m sure you’ve had one (or two) of these days yourself. Today, I was really down as it seemed everything was against me. But, I have a rule; no matter how bad things seem, always try to find and look at the bright side. I tried my utmost best to stay true to this today more than any other day, but I am sure you can agree that there are some days when doing this is very hard. But today was a real test as it made me think hard about happiness and what makes me (and other people) happy.

The Oxford Dictionary defines happiness as “the state of being happy”. This then led me to ask, what is the definition of happy. “Happy” is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “feeling or showing pleasure or contentment”. On this particular day, it was really hard to feel or show pleasure or contentment. But, on my way home, I heard Pharrell’s song “Happy” playing on the radio. Have you ever really listened to the words of the song?  I needed it today more than any other day and it did make me happy!

As I sang and danced while driving home I thought about happiness, what it is and what it means to be happy. I thought about all the little things to appreciate, all the little miracles that happen daily and I was reminded to celebrate the small victories. So, I wanted to give you a list of things that I try to remember in hard times, things that help me to see the bright side. In essence, things that make me happy. To me, happiness is:

  1. Chocolate goodness – A slice of moist, rich chocolate cake, a serving of smooth chocolate ice cream, a chocolate bar; basically, anything with chocolate.
  2. Bread pudding– A slice of warm bread pudding topped with vanilla ice cream (yes, I have a sweet tooth).
  3. Warm sunshine – Has the sun ever kissed your cheeks on a cold day? Enough said?
  4. A cool Caribbean breeze – Feel the wisp of a cool breeze on a hot day (and in Jamaica there are many).
  5. My boys – Watching my sons, Matthew and Michael play video games and playing Mario Kart™ with them.
  6. Family cartoon time– Watching cartoons (sorry anime!) with my boys (all three of them).
  7. My Girls– Chatting with my girlfriends and not to mention girls’ night out!
  8. Eating in the midst of love – Food and good company pairs well. I love eating out with family and friends; very little compares to a table full of my family members laughing, chatting and enjoying a good meal.
  9. My human pillow – Sleeping on Gabriel’s side of the bed (even if it means sleeping on top of him!)
  10. My kids’ Independence– Watching my sons do homework without my help.
  11. My kids’ Intellect– Watching my sons play chess or listening to them argue about the theory of evolution and whether or not humans really evolved from apes (this one was interesting and hilarious)
  12. Cooking – Cooking a fantastic meal for my boys and watching them eat and enjoy every forkful.
  13. New Shoes!– C’mon ladies! We can never have enough. You know we love buying or getting new shoes.
  14. New clothes! – What’s a new pair of shoes without the matching outfit?             
  15. That kick-ass Marketing Plan – Finishing that winning marketing plan is everything!
  16. Winning Financial Wars – It’s a battle well fought when I get the marketing expense budget I wanted approved by finance!
  17. SHOPPING! – Even if its grocery shopping; and yes, I get excited about that too!
  18. Pamper-me-time – Getting a facial, or full body massage.
  19. One down!– Crossing a task off my to-do list.
  20. Karaoke– Having a karaoke session with my son Michael.
  21. Kissing my boys – Taking time to kiss my boys while they sleep because I’m no longer allowed to kiss them while they’re awake.
  22. Date night – Because personal time with hubby is necessary and always a pleasure!

I could go on and on. What’s important is that when you take the time to count your blessings, you will realize that you have more than enough to be happy about. How many on my list can you relate to? What are some of your happy moments?

Funny Kind Of Heaven

Beautiful and warm words to describe how you feel about a loved one. Give it a read!

Elan Mudrow

Giulietta Masina in Fellini's La Strada Giulietta Masina in Fellini’s La Strada

You know,

when I look at you

I laugh

Not because you’re a fool

Although you can be foolish.

Not because you’re a clown You juggle just fine.

Not because you tell good jokes

Sometimes you get lucky.

Not because you’re silly

There’s a bit of a child in you.

Not because you can’t match socks

(I’ll let that one slide).

It’s because I love

The hell out of you!

Funny kind of heaven

We’ve got going on between us.

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5 Apps I CANNOT Live Without!

In my Secret to Sanity blog post, I talked about things I do to keep my sanity in all the craziness that I call my life. In it, I explained how important my cell phone is because of the apps I use to keep me in check. Today I want to go through five apps that will help keep your keep your life in order.

  1. Amazon – If you’re as avid an Amazon shopper as I am, you cannot afford to not have this app. It makes for quick and easy shopping with recommendations for purchases, updates on the shipping and delivery status of your purchases and so much more good stuff! Wherever you shop frequently, you must have their app!
  2. Out of Milk – This is my grocery shopping app. You can manage different shopping lists, save the price of the items you buy, apply coupons, scan the barcode of a product to enter it into the database and so much more. It is a great app for budgeting and tracking your supermarket spend before you even get to the supermarket. If you don’t have this one, you need some kind of grocery shopping app. There are many great apps out there; try Fooducate, GroceryIQ, or any other from this list.
  3. Period Tracker – Whether you are planning to have another little one or not, a period tracker is great for reminders of important days such as your ovulation days. This is also good for keeping track of your menstrual cycle so that you can identify changes. I have found this to be very handy for some doctor’s visits; I have irregular periods so detailed tracking is a must for me. One of the best things about it is that you can input symptoms to track PMS.  Other apps you can try are here.
  4. Amazon Kindle – I love reading and I don’t always want to scroll through Twitter, Instagram or Facebook when I am bored; that’s where my Amazon Kindle app comes in handy. Whether you use this or Audible, it is good to have a reading or audiobook app to help you unwind from the social media madness.
  5. ColorNote – This is my all-time favourite app! I mentioned that I love lists and this is my list app! It also has a calendar; you can do notes, there are different colors so you can color code your notes; it’s just fantastic! I won’t even recommend any other one, try ColorNote!

So, these are my top five favourite apps that are constantly in use. I highly recommend you try these or something similar to help you stay organized and sane! Before I run off, I would like to give an honourable mention to Hootsuite, my social media management app, and WordPress as these apps are constantly in use on my phone and can rival any of those mentioned in the top 5. So, what are your favorite apps?

The Secret to Sanity

How do you do it? I get asked this question by married as well as single colleagues and friends almost daily. The married ones feel as if they aren’t holding it together and the single ones are overwhelmed by how much work balancing marriage, career and kids can be. But somehow, everyone thinks I have everything organized and well laid out. Hmm? Do I really? There are days I swear I am going to tear my hair out or lock myself in my room and hide under the covers. But, we all have those days, don’t we? Nonetheless, we push through; because we are women, mothers, fighters, warriors; hear us roar!

So now that I have you all excited and riled up, let’s talk about some of the habits that help me survive from day to day.

  1. Write a list – I live for to-do lists, checklists and shopping lists. They are extremely helpful in keeping me organized and preventing me from forgetting important things. The time management matrix is not only used at work but also at home! In case you are not familiar with them, the four quadrants of the time management matrix are:
    1. Urgent and important – tasks that need your immediate attention and impacts other persons. A good example of this is a baby in desperate need of feeding or a diaper change.
    2. Not urgent and important – these tasks may impact other persons but don’t need immediate attention, such as setting a dentist appointment or cleaning the refrigerator.
    3. Urgent and not important – these are distractions or interruptions such as the cable going out or the toaster oven being broken.
    4. Not urgent and not important – don’t add any real value and you can do without them, such as neighbours stopping by to gossip.

These guiding principles are used to prioritize tasks and have proven extremely valuable since the day I learned them. At work, I use Google™ Docs and Microsoft® Outlook tools to stay organized, but at home I have become addicted to my Out of Milk app for shopping and ColorNote for everything else. These two babies keep me in line!

  1. Ring the alarm! – My alarm not only wakes me up, but is set at different times of the day for different purposes, as it works hand-in-hand with my phone calendar. I have reminders for every item on my to-do list that has to be done at a specific time and place. There is even a reminder for the time to leave home so that we are not late for school or work. So no, my phone calendar and alarm are not just for meetings; it is also for shopping trips, exercise sessions, bills to pay, etc. This, along with number 1, is part of the reason why my cell-phone (AKA Sammie) is my best friend and I would be lost without her.
  2. Plan your meals – This part of me comes from my nutrition training. I plan my meals in advance so that I know exactly what I will be doing and when. And yes, I have a list and an app for that too! When I get home from the supermarket, I put away all the groceries except for the meat items. These I will then take the time to separate, clean, pre-season and package in Ziploc® bags according to the meal plan. This makes it easier for me when I get home from work. All I have to do is move the desired package from the freezer to the fridge when I am leaving home in the morning, and by the time I get home it is defrosted and ready to cook.
  3. Everything has a place and everything must be in its place. – Gabriel says I am anal retentive with a touch of compulsive disorder but I simply think that people and things should be organized. In my house, every item has a place and if used it should go back in its place when it is no longer in use. Also, wherever an item is placed must make sense. For example, my medicine cabinet is in the kitchen; most medications and vitamins must be taken with food so they are kept close to the pantry. Sounds weird but it works.
  4. Lysol™ it! – I keep containers of Lysol wipes in the bathrooms and kitchen; the two places they are most needed to clean up spills, spots, stains, etc. In a house with majority boys, they are a must have!
  5. Use “down time” wisely – When I have a “free” moment, that’s when I get to think. For example, if my work outfit was not chosen during a “free” moment before bed, while I am showering, I’m mentally flipping through my wardrobe so that when I get out I know exactly what I will be wearing. The commute to work is also a good time to organize your thoughts and things to do. Otherwise, it is a great time to catch up on reading via audio books if you are the driver. Remember to stay alert and drive safely!
  6. When in doubt, let the kids help out! – It is not against child labour laws for your children to help around the house. It is actually a good thing as it helps them to grow up and be more responsible husbands and wives. As long as the assigned chore is age appropriate, all is well!
  7. Set your clock ahead of time – All my clocks are set at least five minutes fast. This helps to keep us on time for any and everything!
  8. Have a set date night – Get away from the children, forget about work; date night is all about you and your other half. Whether you go for a quiet dinner, a movie or you go bowling, forget about everything and everyone and just focus on the two of you.
  9. Be selfish about your “me” time – It is okay to take a breather every now and then to do something that you enjoy. In fact, you need to do it to protect your sanity. Whether your “me time” has a set date each week or not, make the date and enjoy it to the fullest! It could be watching your favourite movie on Netflix™, hitting the gym, or catching up on your reading. Whatever you do, ensure that your kids and spouse are aware of this time and set boundaries so that you can maintain it.

These are just some of the things I do to stay organized (and sane), so what about you? Go ahead and leave some tips for me in the comments section below.

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Promote Your Blog Here

Very good blog, check it out.

MakeItUltra™

Hi Everyone,

I want to create a directory for my subscribers to connect with each other. I usually don’t allow self-promotion on my site, but this is different. If you would like to share your blog, please leave a brief description about what readers might find if they visit your site. Hopefully this will create some positive synergy for our blogging community. Don’t forget to reblog this post so we can get more people involved!

For every 5 reblogs I will select 1 blogger to return the favor and reblog one of your posts!

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Oh, what a grand time!

Don’t you just love family vacations? Every year we go on at least two little getaways; one with my husband and two boys and the other with all four of us, my parents, my brother and his girlfriend. A couple weeks ago, we went on our joint family vacation to the fantastic Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa in Montego Bay, Jamaica. It is an all-inclusive family resort that has a little of something for everyone to enjoy. The hotel is beautiful and we were immediately taken away into a different realm when we stepped out of our cars, weary from the 3 hour drive to get there. Upon alighting from the car, we were quickly greeted by a bell-hop who placed our bags on a cart and carried them inside. Customer service was off to a great start!

 

The check-in

The check-in process was just as pleasant as we were greeted with the usual complimentary fruit punch by a very courteous waiter. Following a quick and easy check-in, we immediately went to the buffet restaurant, as we were well into the lunch period and famished from our journey. To our dismay, we arrived just a few minutes before the end of lunch so the offerings were very limited. But, not to be discouraged, we had what was available and then made our way to the pool so the boys could start having their fun. And fun they had! Their eyes dazzled when they saw the huge waterslide and rushed toward the pool, barely able to contain their excitement. After quickly reminding them to take off their slippers before going into the pool, it was time to splash to their hearts content. I must admit, Gabriel and I were just as excited about the water slide and quickly joined them too. Our first ride down was exhilarating as well as terrifying! I didn’t know whether to love it or hate it! The reaction from the boys – it was a hit! They went on the slide over and over again. I didn’t take any pictures or videos of this but I found some good ones that you will enjoy.

So, clearly, the water was good but the slide wasn’t a hit for me. So, I went to explore. There is a section of the pool called the Lazy River and there is where I found my niche! It was fantastic! It was the greatest and most relaxing feeling to float aimlessly in that tube around the circular section of the pool, lined with sporadic waterfalls and the occasional tunnel. I almost fell asleep.

By now, hours had passed and we all felt like it was just a few minutes ago that we entered the pool. We grudgingly pulled ourselves from the greatness of the pool and made our way to our rooms. To this point, I thought the highlight of the day was the lazy river; man was I wrong! Just outside our ground floor room were a plethora of hammocks anchored by palm trees. My heart skipped a beat as I tested one out – O-M-G! The cool, calm wind from the beach was a welcome addition to the shade of the palm tree and the light swing of the hammock. I, again, fell asleep!

Rest & Relaxation

An hour later, I was awakened by Gabriel who reminded me that we need to get ready for dinner. I entered the room to see the boys comfortably wrapped up in the bed playing games on their tablets; another plus for the hotel for them was free Wi-Fi available across the entire property! So far, so good; as all was well and everyone was pleased. Then Gabriel said, “Honey, there’s no mini-bar.” I was surprised because we fully expect a hotel such as the Hilton would have a nice mini-bar in the room. I replied jokingly, “Maybe it has a concealed entrance.” We checked the fancy, modern cupboards and found the mini-fridge with bottles of water, but alas, there was no mini-bar with his favourite rum. But, not to be discouraged, there was plenty of rum at the many bars on the property. So, I sent the boys to shower and get ready. Fast forward an hour later and we were all ready and rearing to go for dinner.

dinner

We met with the rest of the family and headed to the restaurant, anxious to sample the offerings on the menu. It was great! Each item we had tasted home-cooked. I was ecstatic! We happily enjoyed our meals while engaging in goodhearted conversation. After a hearty main course, we checked out the dessert section. It was small and the options limited, but upon trying the offerings found out why. Everything was heavenly! I asked the waitress to give the pastry department my regards because they had done well. Dessert was literally the icing on top of the cake!

dessert (1)

After dinner, my mother was sleepy so she took the boys back to the room, leaving the night owls to enjoy the hotel nightlife. We had leisure drinks at the bar and chatted until it was time to go to the club. Here, we danced until our feet were tired and then made our way to our rooms to rest up for the next day.

Day 2 – More fun!

Gabriel and I were the first to be up as we were planning to start our day at the hotel’s fitness centre. As this was our regular Saturday morning routine, it was easy for us to get up and head to the gym. We were pleasantly surprised to see that it was well stocked with treadmills, stationary bikes, elliptical trainers, a leg curl machine, leg extension machine, dumbbells, medicine balls, stability balls, yoga mats, and kettlebells; we almost didn’t miss our gym! After our workout, we made our way back to the room to get ready for breakfast. Once again, we met the family and had a grand time.

Breakfast is served!

Prior to our next bout of fun in the pool and waterslide, the boys stopped for a game of chess. I watched as Gabriel battled wits with our son, Michael, with Matthew occasionally giving his brother tips. The two games ended closely with Michael almost beating Gabriel both times. So off we went to the pool to repeat the fun of the day before. Just like the previous day, we grudgingly left the pool to have lunch and then made our way to the Teen Zone where we played video games on the Wii, Xbox and PS4 for an hour. If you remember my last post, this was also where my husband almost gave me heart failure by suggesting we take a walk, leaving the boys playing games. We won’t dredge up that story again but feel free to read about it here. Nonetheless, we went to the Cricket Club to play pool and have drinks until it was time to get ready for dinner.

It was a great trip; everyone had fun. The boys played video games, enjoyed the waterslide, good food and free Wi-Fi; all the things important to modern day 11 year olds. My husband and I were able to relax a little, have some fun and still have one-on-one time. My parents, my brother and his girlfriend also had a great time. There were minor hiccups but nothing to spoil the fun. So, I say good job to me for planning it and good job to Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa for living up to the reviews I read online. Cheers to another successful and fun- filled family vacation; mission accomplished!

Where was your last family vacation and how was it?

If you want to plan one in Jamaica, let me know, I can help you plan it to guarantee success.