Thursday, February 26, 2015

Camping in February? Only in Southern California! Oh Yeah!

My sister Lisa loves camping! She especially loves camping at the beach. It has always been her dream to own an RV and last year she was lucky enough to buy one. I say lucky, but really it's due to the hard work of her and her husband and her great juggling skills in how she handles their money. I was really happy to see her dream fulfilled but I also know that Lisa having her dream RV home could only mean one thing...that sooner or later she would want me to go camping with her.

See...I'm a hotel kinda girl. I like hot water and soft beds and room service and someone to come in and make the bed for me the next day and leave me clean towels. It's just all so civilized right? But Lisa said that I would have to go at least once with her because she just knew that I was going to LOVE it!

She set the date for February. Now while the rest of the country is in a deep freeze, here in Sunny Southern California we're in the mid 70's, but regardless it seemed crazy to me to contemplate going camping in February. I's winter!

But my sister does so much for me that I figured the least I could do is to go along with her plan and I have to tell you, I am so glad I did. Did I like camping? Yes! Do I love camping? No! Would I go camping again? Yes! Would I prefer to stay in a hotel? Yes...and No! Both have their strong points.

So I'm just going to post photos of what we did. We left home on Friday morning and stopped and did a bit of shopping along the way and finally got to the campsite which is a very fancy place. Not just a state campground with no amenities. We had amenities up the wazoo! Wifi included people! This is my kind of camping!

We took our friend Lupe with us and it was great to have a girls weekend! Here's Lupe and Lisa opening up the RV or as we kept calling it, the trailer.

Here's where we spent most of our time, the little kitchen and kitchen table.

Pretty nice right? That kitchen table there, it turns into a bed. the couch that you see on the bottom left that is blue and beige, another bed. And this trailer has it's own bathroom with a shower and a bedroom. I don't know why I didn't take pictures of that.

And this RV park was awesome. They had a heated swimming pool, a recreation room with games and books and ping pong and TV, an on site restaurant and bar and grocery store. Super nice!

So what all did we do? Well you have to know that the most important and fun thing had to do with food and drink!

We had our Margaritas! You can get this bottle already pre-mixed for just $10 at Costco! And it is delicious! It's huge too, we barely made a dent in it and I don't think we even finished half.

We had our Noshing food. Just a bit of this and a bit of that. We stopped at a fruit stand that my sister knows of and bought some Guacamole and Pico de Gallo and Chips. We also picked up a package of Cheese and Ham with Crackers. That was perfect for dinner our first night and then we had it again our second night.

We also had to have something sweet in the evening and made up a little plate of some Grapes and Strawberries we bought at the fruit stand and I just happened to have a Hershey's Chocolate Bar with Almonds. It all went perfectly together and soothed our sweet tooth. Is your mouth watering?

We had some yummy cupcakes that Lupe's daughter baked for our trip. We thought they were so cute because the bottom is red and the top is speckled! They went perfectly with our coffee. Lupe had bought me this lovely coffee cup and I noticed while we sat outside having coffee how the words were reflected in the coffee. Pretty cool huh?

The last day we ate at the Girls Restaurant and I splurged and had French Toast. Lupe had a Breakfast Burrito and Lisa had Chorizo and Egg and we all shared with each other so we got a little bit of everything. Is not your mouth watering again with this picture?

But we didn't just eat. We played games. We played Ping Pong in the Rec Room and had so much fun!

We had lunch at one of our favorite places when we go to Pismo. Zorro's Bar and Cantina. It's such a quaint little place and such nice people and the best part is it's pet friendly. If you go with your dog you can sit out on the patio with them. I had a Mimosa which is what I'm holding in the picture below. I also had half a Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato Sandwich and a bowl of Chicken Tortilla Soup, it was delicious!

Here's Lupe and Lisa. Lupe had a BBQ Chicken Sandwich with Onion Rings that were to die for and Lisa had a Burger that she devoured as we were all starving. We had only had coffee and a sweet roll before we headed to the Avila Valley Barn at Avila Beach.

At Avila Valley Barn we saw animals...

Children riding ponies...

And we bought several goodies at the Fruit Barn, including some Maple Bacon Salt Water Taffy...

On the last day we finally stopped alongside the beach and just let the sound of the waves sooth our soul.

We really packed a lot into that last day. Not only did we walk all over downtown San Luis Obispo, but we made a quick stop first at The Madonna Inn. Lupe had never been there and she loved it!

I have to say that I like Camping and I had a great time and I'm ready to go again. So Lisa...when's the next camping trip scheduled?


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Trapped Under the Sea - From Left to Write

I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up. I know that sounds funny, but it's true. I've never found my true calling, my true passion.

Even now if you were to ask me what career path I would choose for myself if I could be anything I want to be I would not know what to say. 

The obvious answers like a famous actress, a singer/song writer, a doctor, a lawyer, all those things don't really appeal to me. 

I've always said jokingly that if I were to win the lottery tomorrow I would become a professional student just going to college to take various classes without really trying to get a degree, just for the love of learning. I know that I would mostly take classes having to do with Journalism and Writing. I've always loved to write.

I remember one summer when I was going to write a book. I think I was in the 7th grade and I had my mom buy me a composition book. Remember those? 

I started out by writing, "Once upon a time" because that is how all great books start. That is as far as I got. I doodled and drew lines and then I just started writing numbers.

I kept going the whole summer until I filled the whole book with numbers. If the Great American Novel is in my head it's taking it's time coming out!

In the book that I'm currently reading, Trapped Under The Sea by Neil Swidey, which is a true story about a team of divers that get trapped...under the sea; I am amazed by the divers and their work. I haven't gotten to the point of their getting trapped yet but I am on the edge of my seat reading this amazing book!

Each of these divers just stumbled into diving and the type of work that they do, and they love it. They live, breathe and eat diving to the exclusion of almost everything else. I sometimes wonder if someday I will stumble into something that I love just like that?

What about you? Are you living your dream career? Did you just stumble into it? Did you always know what you wanted to do? Or are you like me and waiting to see what you're going to be when you grow up?


This post was inspired by Trapped Under the Sea by Neil Swidey. In Boston, five men were sent into a dark, airless, miles-long tunnel below the ocean to do a nearly impossible job that would help clean the once dirtiest harbor in America. Join From Left to Write on February 19th as we discuss Trapped Under the Sea As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.


Monday, February 16, 2015

Baby J Sunday! It's been a long time since I did one of these!

Baby J is growing by leaps and bounds. I can't believe that next weekend she will be two years old!!!

I am still totally captivated by her and think she is the smartest, prettiest little girl ever born!

This Sunday was the day after Valentines Day and she showed up in a cute little pink dress with matching bow that her mother had dressed her in. But her Nana (my mom and J's great grandmother) had an cute little outfit she wanted us to put on Baby J. It's a little Nightgown, but it could be a Princess Dress, at least Baby J thought so! She loved it! It was not easy to get her to stand still as she wanted to keep twirling in her new dress.

Just love the dimples on this child! She loves to model as well.

She was very happy that her Nana had bought her such a beautiful dress and she didn't take it off the whole time that she was with us. Here she is giving her Nana a big thank you KISS! You can see her discarded pink dress on the arm rest of the recliner.

I just love this little doll!

That's it, short and sweet, just like Baby J!


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Coaching Isn't Just About Winning Games - The Matheny Manifesto

Coaching isn't just about winning games, it's about building better human beings.

I'm in the middle of reading a book by Mike Matheny.

If you're like me, you have no idea who Mike Matheny is, so let me give you some background.

Mike Matheny is a former professional baseball catcher. He made his debut in the major leagues in April of 1994 with the Brewers. In 1999 he signed with the St. Louis Cardinals. During his time with with the Cardinals he helped St. Louis reach the postseason in four of his five years with the team and they claimed the National League pennant in 2004.

He was considered one the greatest defensive players in the Major Leagues and was given the nickname "The Toughest Man Alive", after taking a 96 mph fast ball in the face and playing the very next day! His career ended after a series of concussions that would not allow him to return.

You can read more about Mike on his website HERE.

Mike was asked to coach a youth baseball team and wrote a series of conditions he demanded before agreeing to be with the team. This letter spread virally across the country and became knows as the "Matheny Manifesto" and the book has inspired me to write about my own experiences, thoughts and theories on Coaching.

My Son when he played for
Coach Figueroa
My first experience in youth sports (other than when I was playing) was when my son was 7 years old and he asked to play Baseball. He had never played Baseball, had never even caught a ball that I knew of. I remember his first day of practice. I had bought him a new glove and tried to play catch with him but even at that age he didn't want to play with a girl and he didn't think that I knew what I was doing.

He headed out to the field and I stepped up to speak to his Coach. I explained to Coach Figueroa that my son had never played and to go easy on him and he said he would. He asked my son to stand by home base and then he threw a soft lob at him. I still laugh at this because I had told him how to hold the glove but he had to do his own thing and learn the hard way. The ball bounced out of his glove and hit him right in the side of his face! He was mortified! Coach came over, told him not to worry about it and then showed him how to hold his glove (the same exact way that I had shown him!)

Coach Figueroa was an excellent coach. He never yelled at the boys and even though he was coaching his own two sons on the same team I never felt that he showed favoritism to them. My son gained a lot of experience and self-esteem and a love of the sport.

That was the only good coaching experience I ever had. My son continued on playing Basketball and Baseball for several coaches, but he never had one like Coach Figueroa.

I hate to complain because these men donated their time to coach, they didn't do it for money. Whether they did it for love of the game or love of their sons, they were still donating their own time. But so many of them perhaps should have found something better to donate their time too. I experienced coaches that only cared about winning so they never let all the boys play, even when we were 10, 20 points ahead of the other team. I experienced coaches that yelled at the boys when mistakes were made. The worst thing that I experienced was a couple of coaches that were only doing it so they could have their son and the sons of their buddies shine. It wasn't about the team, it was about grown men wanting to relive their accomplishments through their sons, at the expense of the team and the other boys.

Another thing I recall is all the dad's on the sidelines yelling at their sons for mistakes or for not paying attention. After one game my son and I walked back to the car and got in and we sat there for a bit and watched a game that was going on and you could hear a dad ridiculing and riding his son and my son turned to me and said, "Mom, sometimes I'm glad I don't have a dad. All the dads I know yell at their kids during the game, but you never do." My heart broke for those other boys and for my son who didn't have a dad.

In reading the Matheny Manifesto I realize that this should be a mandatory book for all coaches to read before they decide to start coaching. It's not a bad thing to read as a young parents or even as an employee, there are many lessons to be learned in this book. One thing that resonated with me was an excerpt where Mike is retelling a story of meeting some Navy SEALS. He asked one SEAL who was both a leader and an instructor what five characteristics he commonly saw in those SEALS who made it through the process. He listed these five:

1. Physical toughness ("The easiest quality to find," he said.)
2. Mental toughness
3. Moral toughness (He described this as "Doing the right thing all the time, even when nobody's looking.")
4. Team orientation ("A belief that the needs of the team are greater than your own.")
5. Humility

How many of us can use those five characteristics in how we live our every day lives? Especially number 3!

My son a few years later with more confidence
in himself and more training in how to hold a
bat! Batters glove and everything!
I'll end this post with a funny story that I recall with fondness when my son was playing Baseball. This was a few years later when he had more experience under his belt. I would sit in the stands with the other parents, usually my mom and dad would join me, sometimes my sister and my brother and his family. I would hear the other parents say encouraging things to their son when they were up at bat and got hit by the ball. The most common sayings were "shake it off" and "take one of the team".

So it was my son's turn to bat and the pitcher hit him with the ball and I could tell it hurt him so I yelled out to him, "that's ok son, shake it off...take one for the team!"

He stepped out of the batters box, turned to me and said, "you take one for the team mom, that hurt!"

All the people in the stands laughed at that, my dad laughing the hardest and now it was my turn to be mortified. All those parents yelling that same thing at their sons but only my son had the nerve to turn around and talk back! He was and is a character!

This post was inspired by The Matheny Manifesto by Mike Matheny. St. Louis Cardinals manager Matheny shares his tough-love philosophy for children's team sports that translate to everyday life. Join From Left to Write on February 12th as we discuss The Matheny Manifesto. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Poppycock to Germs! Unless It's in My Office!

Image Credit -
I am not a germaphobe!

I don't mind eating food that other people have cooked, even though I haven't personally inspected their kitchen.

I don't get all grossed out by sharing a drink with a friend or a family member.

I honestly think we need to knock off all this gibberish about hand sanitizers, disinfectant wipes, sprays and steaming surfaces. Now yes...they do have their place. Like hospitals and doctors offices. But I don't think you have to go into a restaurant and take out a wipe to wipe down your table and chair. I don't think you have to immediately reach for the wipes in your glove box or purse after shopping in a grocery store or Walmart or Target.

I know some of you will argue with that and insist that there are tons of germs out there and you never know what is growing on some of the items you touch in the stores. Poppycock I say! Pop-py-Cock!!!

We all need to build up immunity and the best way to do that is to be exposed to virus' and germs every day.

But that is not the point of my rant..the point of my rant is those people that KNOW THEY ARE SICK and still go out into public places.

People! This is the age of texting and emailing and faxing. You can do electronic signatures and take photos of documents and email them to people. You no longer of have leave your home while fighting Anthrax just to take a document to your insurance agent! Seriously people, you don't have to! We live in the age of technology for goodness sake!

Today I was swamped! It was a typical Monday. Phones crazy, emails coming in non-stop, clients wanting things yesterday. But I was handling it like a champ until a client came into the office and as I arose to greet him at the door to my office he offered me his hand. What can you do? I shook it. It's the age old greeting of client and insurance agent right?

Then as he was sitting down I asked him how he was doing and he proceeds to tell me how sick he is, how he's feverish and has been for a few days and he can't stop sweating and he's feverish and can't keep anything down and he can't quit coughing and it's hard to breath and he's feverish! Did I mention he had a fever? This is no allergy people, this was something bad and ugly!

While he's telling me all this he's breathing like he's just run a marathon and I can smell what he last ate in my nose so I know that I'm breathing in every sickness known to man that's in his body!

He was in my office about 45 minutes, the whole time coughing and dying in the chair right across from my desk. Now I'm not heartless. I'm so sorry for those that are ill, but STAY HOME! I don't want to get sick because you don't know how or won't use technology!

It was so hard to remain professional and get him taken care of and the second he went out the door I ran to wash my hands, grabbed the bottle of Lysol Disinfectant Spray and the can of Clorox Disinfectant Wipes and went to town on my desk, my chair, the chair he was in, my keyboard, my pens and all the air in my office. But you can't disinfect the crap I already breathed in. You can't disinfect your lungs!

So I can feel my throat all scratchy already! I just know tomorrow I'm going to wake up with plague or pneumonia!

People please...if you're sick, stay away from others ok? Just stay away. But especially stay away from your Insurance Professionals, they don't need to be sick!