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Adventure & Travel Dream: Riding the Southwest Chief to Arizona

Warning, after reading this post you may be afraid to take a trip like this…but don’t let the challenges deter you from the adventure! It was truly a one of a kind trip that I wouldn’t change for a second!

While we’ve thought about taking a cross country train ride in the past when talking about our “bucket list” we’d never written it down until I re-created my dream list for the dream manager program here at work. And just a few short months after writing it down, I found myself, my three kids ages 13, 10, and 4 and my husband boarding a westbound train with 31 hours of butt time ahead of us.

My parents thought I was crazy. And we did listen to them slightly. The trip originally started out to include a 30+ hour train trip from Mendota, IL to Flagstaff, AZ arriving around 9:00 pm then transferring to a Greyhound buss that would get is unto Phoenix sometime in the 2:30 am range. We tweaked it to include a hotel the night we arrived in Flagstaff and a rental car to drive to Phoenix the following morning. (I’m so thankful we made that decision…you’ll learn why later in this post. :))

In typical “Heather Fashion” we were scrambling to pack at the last minute and left the house about 30 minutes past our goal. But thankfully my husband knows me well and had added a buffer to our schedule to account for my last minute frenzied search for our Discover card that we’d need for the car rental. We’ve not charged anything for over a year now, and I’d filed the cards away in case we needed them, and couldn’t find them since we moved the filing cabinet at Christmas time to make room for the tree. 🙂

We made it to Mendota about 45 minutes before our train was due to arrive. We had about 13 bags (including a car seat for my 4 year old son) for 5 people. Two were packed with snacks, juice boxes, beer and wine for the trip. (Mom’s got priorities you know!)

The clientele on the trin seemed to be a friendly mixture of baby boomers who loved to travel by train, young families like us, who opted for the $907 train fare instead of the $2100 airfare for a family of 5 to travel the week of spring break, and college kids/20 somethings

We decided to eat our first meal in the dining car and it was an amazing experience. We were eating dinner while crossing the Mississippi and had the most incredible view. We also got to watch the sun set from the dining car. Dinner was yummy, and we had nice conversations with the family sitting across from us. Again, I can’t say enough about how friendly the people we traveled with were!

When we went back to our seats we settled in, all of us tired from the long day of packing and traveling. Our seats reclined and I was so impressed with the roominess of the accommodations, even in our coach seats. Each seat had an outlet to plug in a laptop, cell phone, kindle or whatever. There were adjustable leg rests and foot rests and the train employees passed out pillows.

Sleep wasn’t as restful as it could have been, especially with a few stops throughout the night and the lights in the aisle, although dimmed, made it too bright for me to sleep deeply. I wish we’d brought a light blanket for each of us. But in the end we all slept some and the gentle rocking of the train was relaxing.

The train traveled through the boring flat states in the dark so when we woke up we were into Colorado. It was a foggy morning, and beautiful as the giant oak trees along the tracks were shadowed in the mist. As the sun rose and burned off the fog we could see the little agricultural towns passing by our window.

I had a surprise when I went down to the bathroom first thing that morning (my birthday) to discover I had developed a case of pink eye over night. In my quest to remember everything I had grabbed the pink eye drops from my son who had it a few weeks ago to bring just in case, and I must have contaminated myself at that time. (Of course it would be just my luck that I must have left them on the kitchen counter because we couldn’t find them in our bags anywhere.) I also had started to feel congested in my chest and short of breath that morning. Probably from being run down trying to get everything ready leading up to the trip.

Again we headed to the dining car for breakfast. It was as delicious as dinner had been and our only challenge was my son spilling his apple juice. The employees quickly moved us to a different table and we had a dry rest of our breakfast, watching the small towns pass by as we ate our food.

We then stopped by the lounge car for a while to enjoy more of the scenery before making it back to our seats. I was so self conscious of my gross, gooey, sticky eye and became annoying with the Purell hand sanitizer every time the kids touched my phone, held my hand or anything.

We got off the train in LaJunta, CO for a brief moment and discovered an absolutely brilliant Girl Scout who was pulling a wagon of cookies up and down the train platform selling them to the travelers. We bought three boxes for the trip.

A “cowboy” who was also a passenger on the train, commented to my son that he liked his red cowboy boots and then offered to take a family picture for us. He struggled a bit with the camera on my iPhone and while we did get a good photo that shows all our faces, I absolutely LOVED this one he took!.

The scenery thought the mountains in New Mexico was breathtaking…and not just because of my progressing bronchitis development which continued to get worse as the day went on.

I was worried sick because we were on our way to visit my husband’s mom who is in the middle of chemo treatments and has a compromised immune system. I kept thinking that if I rested, took my inhaler, and stayed vigilant with the hand sanitizer that I’d be okay by the next day. I ended up choosing to sit alone to keep from passing my cooties on to my family.

The passengers that boarded the train in Albuquerque left a little to be desired. It was definitely a more urban crowd, a little less friendly and a whole lot noisier. I was relieved to step off the train in Flagstaff, knowing a hot shower and a comfortable bed was waiting for me at the hotel.

I woke up the next morning with both eyes now infected with pink eye, and unable to breathe without coughing. Dayquil took the edge off, thankfully, but I ended up dropping my husband and kids off at my sister in law’s and heading to a Motel 6.

I don’t know what I was expecting with the motel, but YUCK there were “pubies” in the tub. I’m just not that kind of girl and after lugging all my crap up the stairs, coughing up a lung, and checking out the room, I asked for my money back. Ewww.

Just my luck, my phone was dead, and I didn’t bring a car charger with me, so I ended up driving around Phoenix looking for a hotel that didn’t look too resort-like and would fit my meager budget. I pulled into a Clarion which ended up being perfect.

From there I drove down to the doc in the box who prescribed me an inhaler, prednisone, cough drops, eye drops, and an antibiotic. Woo-wee…$146 bucks later thanks to the $50 copay and $96 in med’s I was on my way back to the hotel ready to drug up and sleep the trip away. I was feeling pretty sad, but the doctor, a very sweet woman who was also a mom of three, brought up the point that having a hotel room to myself was quite a luxury, even if I was sick, and to enjoy it!

I loved her perspective and had big plans of getting lots accomplished while I was there. In reality, I watched a few episodes of Friends, read a book, and slept the rest of the time.

I did end up getting to see my sweet mother-in-law, sister-in-law and her family for about half a day (outside) the afternoon before we left. They also celebrated my birthday with a yummy dinner and Texas sheet cake (a family favorite!)

The trip back was uneventful aside from the tremendous views out the window and a slight delay to cross the Mississippi due to barge traffic. (Who would have thought?)

Can’t wait to do it again and I’m proud to say that’s another dream checked off the list!

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Moving Beyond Uncertainty and Fear

What stories do you tell yourself when you’re staring down your Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) and you’re feeling overwhelmed, nauseated, and afraid? I don’t have enough information. I don’t have enough skill. I am not ready. I’m not good enough. I’m okay where I am, I can live without ____.

It’s our body’s natural defenses designed to keep us safe that hold us back unnecessarily in our lives and our businesses. What was meant to protect us from taking risks that would leave us as food for the lions, tigers, and bears of our ancestors, is the same thing that keeps us planted in status quo, even though the thread of death does not exist.

What doesn’t kill us will only make us stronger…but only if we face it and move past it.

This is an awesome video I saw today that gave a process for reframing those stories we tell personally so that we can move beyond being paralyzed by uncertainty and fear.

  1. Identify one thing in your life where there’s lots of uncertainty as to what actions you should take.
  2. Identify the story-line you’re telling yourself that is allowing you not to move past your uncertainty. i.e. I’m not ready, I don’t have enough information, etc.
  3. Identify the opportunity that lays beyond the uncertainty and fear should you move past it.
  4. Ask yourself “how” questions and rewrite the story so that focuses on the opportunity, not the anxiety, fear, and uncertainty.

Come on! Let’s do it together. 1–2–3 JUMP!

Happy leaping!

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2018 Dreams and Goals List

I mentioned in my previous post “Got Dreams? Get a Dream Manager,” that I’m working with a dream manager at work to help me clarify and achieve the goals I want to work toward.  It’s an awesome program based on the Dream Manager book by Matthew Kelly that helps people feel more fulfilled in their jobs because the job is helping them to work toward life long dreams.

Here’s my (still evolving) list.  I’ve had this post in drafts since mid December, and I’ve had fun watching it grow and eliminating goals that don’t feel like they are authentic after I’ve sat on them for a while.

I started my dream list on the Dream Manager website, but realized that I had more flexibility and a higher chance of success if I created it in my blog since I won’t have “one more place” to log into frequently.  It’s been easier for me to update it when I think of another new dream.

I challenge you to do the same thing.  You may realize that there really isn’t much standing in your way of achieving many if not most of your dreams.

Happy Dreaming

♥ Heather

Here’s my list of goals and dreams:

(This list includes the dreams that felt more like to-do’s I talked about in my first dream manager post, since accomplishing them will help me to feel less overwhelmed.  The ones that are bold are the dreams I’m focusing on for the first half of 2012)


  1. New job for hubby
  2. Have energy to enjoy things with family in the evenings
  3. Time to to Y 2 times per week with kids
  4. Time to to gym for me 5 days a week
  5. Hire a personal trainer
  6. Hire someone to mow and weed yard so hubby and i can play with kids
  7. Hire someone to wash windows
  8. Have the house washed
  9. Hire a cleaning lady every 2 weeks so house is clean and we have more time with kids
  10. Treat myself to weekly massage
  11. Sign up for a yoga class
  12. Grow my nails
  13. Get my hair colored
  14. Time with hubby each week (Friday date night?)
  15. Deepen relationship with hubby–less stress more fun
  16. Take vitamins and balance my iron levels
  17. Reach a healthy weight under 150 pounds
  18. Take up tennis again


  1. Find way to incorporate coaching again for fulfillment
  2. Get coaching for CM blog for fresh ideas to improve sales/marketing funnel 
  3. Attend training or seminar quarterly to network and stay current
  4. Go through market motive training at work
  5. Go to wizard academy
  6. Turn CM into a social media marketing agency?
  7. Create a blogging contest for FW bloggers
  8. Revamp FW blog, opt in, side bar, etc.
  9. Create couponing training program with Shauna for FW
  10. Do weekly interview series with financial forum people and financial bloggers for FW
  11. Turn FW interview series into weekly podcast
  12. Become a regular contributor for another website for FW
  13. Use send out cards for Arbonne again
  14. Create opt in for becoming me
  15. Post weekly on becoming me
  16. Post weekly on cm
  17. Focus more on video for cm
  18. Get an assistant for fw to help expand social
  19. Hire a VA for cm
  20. Speak on stage trainings at seminars
  21. Develop speaking skills
  22. Create complete training system for cm
  23. Write a book (turn CM into a book)
  24. Write a book (becoming me)


  1. Send our daughter on the DC trip with school (Paid balance in full 12/23/2011)
  2. Save new car for hubby
  3. Tithe regularly
  4. New family car
  5. Save for retirement so that we have 100K per year living money
  6. Have 3 months savings in the bank
  7. Have 5K in the bank for emergencies
  8. Pay cash for a new car for the kids
  9. Pay off all credit card debt
  10. Get a month ahead on all bills
  11. Pay off second mortgage
  12. Pay off mortgage


  1. Go to Rio de Janiero
  2. See castles in Scotland
  3. Visit Yellowstone
  4. Take a paddle boat cruise down the Mississippi
  5. Family vacation to Mexico
  6. Family vacation to LA, San Diego, etc.
  7. Visit Thailand
  8. Family vacation to Hawaii
  9. Drive to Alaska
  10. Plan an overnight trip for each child yearly to shop, theater, or whatever they want with mom and dad
  11. Girls vacation spa trip with both of my girls when they’re older
  12. Girls vacation with mom and sister
  13. San Francisco with hubby
  14. Family vacation to north east shore (NJ)
  15. Family vacation to Grand Canyon and out west
  16. Family vacation to Europe
  17. Family vacation to Disney
  18. Yearly romantic vacation with hubby
  19. Take a tropical cruise
  20. See the arches in Utah
  21. Take cruise to Alaska to see glaciers
  22. Take the badger line ferry across Lake Michigan
  23. Visit Shenandoah valley
  24. Vacation in Hilton Head
  25. Vacation in Mackinac
  26. Go to Australia
  27. Trip to NYC with kids
  28. Go to the cedar point amusement park in Sanduski OH
  29. Go to Maine, see the crabbing and eat lobster
  30. Go to Seattle
  31. Take a romantic weekend in Chicago, ride the train in, eat a Geja’s, see a play (Bought Groupon for Hotel 1/6/2012)
  32. Go to Monterrey California for a romantic trip
  33. Go to wine country


  1. Learn to speak French
  2. Learn to speak Spanish
  3. Skate boarding lessons for daughter
  4. Games for the kids’ x-box
  5. Get another dog
  6. Take cake decorating classes with daughter
  7. Buy husband guitar and lessons
  8. Buy husband a GTO to restore
  9. Finish “old man winter” carvings
  10. Live on water front property in Wisconsin
  11. Have an art studio and writing studio
  12. Remodel an old house after kids are grown
  13. Take a sculpting class
  14. Float the Colorado river through the grand canyon
  15. Learn to sail
  16. Finish pilot’s license
  17. Float Namakagon river with family, and camp on shore
  18. Float the Wisconsin river with hubby, kids and dad
  19. Kayak the apostle island caves
  20. Sail from Chicago to Mackinac
  21. Fly to all 48 states
  22. Fly to Alaska
  23. Fly in an open cockpit Steerman
  24. Learn to play the piano
  25. Take up photography again
  26. Write a book (children’s book with photos)
  27. Paint again
  28. Get proficient at pottery again
  29. Archery for kids and hubby
  30. Karate for hubby
  31. Help hubby build a cedar strip canoe
  32. Compete in the annual Namakagon regatta
  33. Own a convertible (drive it to the cabin in the summer)
  34. Have the ability to move around and if we like a place, stay there for a while, if we want to move on, be able to
  35. Go camping in Colorado with the kids
  36. Be on a boat in the ocean or great lakes far enough out where you can’t see land
  37. Camp in Aisle Royale
  38. See a moose
  39. Go fly fishing in Montana or Wyoming
  40. Canoe the boundary waters in Ely Minnisota
  41. Scuba dive
  42. Go down hill skiing with the kids
  43. Ride in and finish the scenic shore 150 and other longer bicycle of rides
  44. Take the Amtrak Southwest Chief train trip/vacation


  1. Put in alarm system (Installed 12/31/2011)
  2. Have a big fish tank for family room
  3. Laptop for daughter’s 8th grade graduation gift
  4. Fish tanks for kid’s rooms
  5. Knock down wall on stairs and put in banister
  6. Put in a pool for the kids
  7. Get a hot tub in back yard
  8. Fence in back yard
  9. Recarpet upstairs
  10. Add hardwood floors in family room
  11. Expand kitchen into dining room
  12. Buy a gas kiln
  13. Buy a sailboat
  14. Buy a plane
  15. Insulate garage and heat it for pottery
  16. Get a bigger TV for bedroom
  17. Build a media room in basement
  18. Move family room gas fire place to office in basement
  19. Convert family room fireplace to wood burning
  20. Get a piano and learn to play
  21. Have professional family photos for the both sides of the family
  22. Help send other kids in need to college
  23. Help my kids graduate from college debt free
  24. Sponsor a family in need every year for Christmas
  25. Landscape yard – boulders
  26. Outdoor lighting
  27. Riding lawn mower
  28. Swing set for son
  29. SLR digital camera
  30. Braces for the kids
  31. Build room to move office to basement
  32. Decorate FW office
  33. Decorate living room
  34. Redecorate dining room to get rid of red walls
  35. New dining room furniture
  36. Living room furniture
  37. Patio furniture
  38. Get a new family car big enough for all 5 of us
  39. Clear out toys and give them to new baby (1/7/2012)
  40. Declutter bins of clothing in basement–keep only hand-me-down clothes
  41. Build laundry room in basement
  42. Turn laundry room into coat closet
  43. Turn coat closet into pantry
  44. Closet organizers for all the bedroom closets
  45. Bedroom dressers and mirror for our room
  46. New curtains for our room
  47. Jacuzzi tub
  48. Upholster lazyboy in bedroom
  49. Upholister chairs in family room
  50. New family room furniture
  51. Insulate the attic
  52. New cell phones (iphone?)
  53. Laptops for kids with study area in basement
  54. Own a truck again
  55. Own a jeep again
  56. Own a convertable
  57. Own a tandem bike
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Got Dreams? Get a Dream Manager

I’m participating in the dream manager program my company offers, where I meet with our dream manager who helps me sort through the things I want to accomplish and fulfill the dreams I have for both my family and myself.

My first challenge was to try and come up with a list of 100 dreams, but that wasn’t my “challenge.”While it was super fun and rather easy–I think I have more than 175 dreams–what I noticed on my list is that many of the dreams are actually more like to-do’s than big dreams.

I sat on the list for a couple of weeks, thinking about it and wondering if maybe I wasn’t dreaming big enough.  What I discovered is that I want, more than anything on this huge list, is to feel in control.  I’ve lived for the last 5 years in a state of stress and overwhelm.  Life feels like it’s taken over and I’m just trying to keep my head above water from one wave to the next.  Whether it’s surprise car repairs, housework, family responsibilities, weight gain, social obligations, or work, I’ve not felt like I’ve been able to entertain my own dreams and desires.

The Challenge with Dreams:

I’ve tried keeping dream journals, creating vision boards, and daily prayer and meditation to get focused on my dreams, and for me, the dreaming part is easy.  Allowing myself to feel like I deserve them now is the hard part.

I’ve stuffed my dreams down, too much, living by the unwritten and self inflicted rule of work first/play later.  The housework, laundry, and unfinished things on my to-do list, drain me of energy, leaving me in a state of not really feeling like doing anything.  In reality, I know the work will never be done, but I have a hard time releasing myself from it.

I know this is what many moms and nurturing women feel.  We live like martyrs and end up feeling resentful that we don’t have time for ourselves because there are too many things we NEED to do.

Even though consciously, I know it’s my perspective and outlook that makes me feel overwhelmed, not the “stuff” on my to-do list,  I let myself live in that state, day in and out.  It’s not fun for me, my kids, or my husband.

Coming up with this dream list helped me to see that there are a lot of joys in life that I could have easily achieved, but I’ve stolen from myself and my family because of my work before play attitude.

My Next Dream Big Step:

So, I’m not sure what the next step for the dream manager program is for me, but I plan to make my first step one of stopping to smell the roses and making a commitment to reduce the external, energy draining stresses in my life by decluttering my finances, home, schedule, and body of as many things that don’t bring me joy as possible.

Ironically, there’s a banner I see every day, hanging above our lunch table at work that says, “Balance.”  It’s one of our 7 core values at work.  I don’t know if it’s ever truly possible to be balanced, but I’m sure as heck excited to try.

Maybe it’s the residual buzz of the New Year’s new beginning combined with knowing that I’m going to have some accountability from our amazing dream manager at work, but I’m thrilled beyond belief to start tackling some of these things on my list–both the to-do’s and the just for fun dreams.

Dreams Coming True Already:

Just since making this list, I’ve been able to cross off a few of the items:

  1. For peace of mind we got an alarm system for the house. Now I have a spy who will announce “back door” when my eager explorer 4 year old son attempts to escape. 🙂
  2. We also bagged up a bunch baby things from my son this weekend and brought them to my husband’s best friend’s 3 day old new baby boy.  (I felt so excited driving there with a car load of toys and baby gear, knowing that they’ll enjoy it and we’ve cleared some space for new dreams in our house.)
  3. We paid the balance in full for our daughter’s trip to Washington DC with school
  4. And finally, I bought a Groupon deal for a night in a Chicago hotel for my husband and I to take a mini romantic getaway this spring.

I’ll keep you posted on more dreams come true, but in the mean time, I encourage you to make a list of your 100 dreams.  Who knows, it may be more revealing than you think!

If it will help you brainstorm some of your own ideas, here’s my list of goals and dreams!

Happy Dreaming!

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