Month: June 2016

Love What You Do

Love what you do and the money will come…it’s something I would tell myself on those days when I could not bear sitting behind a desk any longer.  But the saying  never really explained how to achieve it. I just figured that it was not meant for me seeing as the things I love to do (reading and sleeping, for example) are not real money makers.  I thought about writing and owning my own gift shop, both things I have done but no money ever really came.  I chalked it up to more personal failures. 

I kept looking at it through eyes that only saw the small picture.  Think outside the box seemed like a way to make it happen but once again the saying did not do much to explain.  I like to have instructions or, at the very least, a checklist of tasks in order to accomplish something .  As we all know, life doesn’t come with either.  

What I didn’t know was that the thing I love to do was not even something I would have known that I loved.  When I applied for the job on the train I had no idea it was going to be that thing for me.  In retrospect, I now realize that applying for the job was actually thinking outside the box.  Although I just thought it would be fun. 

Today I am awake before the alarm goes off and I hardly ever hit the snooze button.  I look forward to going to work, I enjoy what I am doing. There is not a lot of money involved but enough to live.  And you can’t really ask for more than that.  

I see now that it can be a reality…to love what you do and live on it.  The kicker is that the thing you love may not even be on your radar as a thing you love.  Harrison Ford was a carpenter for many years.  I wonder if he thought about acting as something he would love to do or was it just something that happened and he ended up loving it?  I do not really know but stories like that make me wonder.

Now I can see potentially other things that I might love to do when my season on the train is done.  Once the door is opened the possibilities are easier to view.  I am hoping to have a string of different jobs to help support myself and give me experiences I never even dreamt of.  If you were to ask me a year ago if it was possible to love your work, I would have said maybe for someone else.  Ask me today and I would say it’s possible for anyone who can see their own possibilities. 


Lois Loves Earl

karma 1

I have been crushing on Earl Hickey for quite some time.  If you are unfamiliar with the show, My Name is Earl, here is a quick synopsis.  Earl and his brother, Randy, are bad boys.  They hooked up with bad friends and they did bad things.  Until one day Earl won $100,000 in the lottery and immediately got hit by a car.  While in the hospital, Earl felt he came to understand Karma and that bad things happened to him because of the bad things he did.  So he made a list of all the people he had hurt and he went about making all his wrongs right.

Earl and his crew are not overly educated (mostly for comedic reasons), but they have big hearts.  They fight among themselves, but also take care of their own.  Earl and Randy work very hard to do the right thing.  Earl just wants to be a better person.

I, too, could have such a list from my life.  I have drank too much at times, been loud and obnoxious many times, hurt people’s feelings, made bad decisions that affected other people, and was generally an overall pain in the neck.  I still can be a pain in the neck today but I think that probably never goes away as there is no cure for that.  Once a pain, always a pain.

But today is different.  I want to be like Earl and I want to be a better person.  I do not want to impact other people’s lives negatively.  I do not want to do or say stupid things anymore (unless it is really funny…only kidding).  I want to be able to say I’m sorry when it is appropriate and I want to say thank you all the time. I am finding out that those little bits of manners are severely lacking in our society today.  All you have to do is look around, no matter where you are, and you will see people being rude and selfish.  They will be inconsiderate and will act like they have no manners whatsoever.  This makes me sad.  I lived that life and it is a very sad existence.

The more I help others, the better person I become.  I do not know much about Karma but I do know how I feel inside.  I feel as if everyone just tried to be a little more polite, a little more understanding and a little more tolerant that life would change drastically.  Today, many people feel that their needs and opinions are the only ones that matter and unless you believe what they do, you are wrong.  That kind of thinking is causing such strife in our communities and our world.

Please do not misunderstand me.  I realize that there are some things that are just plain wrong, seriously wrong.  That is not what I am talking about.  I am taking about  very grassroots things such as saying thank you when you someone holds the door for you, or not pushing your way to the front of the line just because you are in a hurry or driving like a maniac because you feel you are more important than the other drivers on the road.  Simple things that could completely change our society.

I lost my manners for a while.  I was a selfish, uncaring, unempathetic person.  I only saw me and how I was wronged by other drivers or the people in the grocery store.  I felt as if they were out to get me for some unknown reason.  I was a martyr in my own mind.  Then one day, like Earl (unfortunately it had nothing to do with winning the lottery), I saw the error of my ways.  Now I just want to be a better person.

Karma 2

The saying goes something like:  “man’s inhumanity to man.”  It is a true saying that has real impact in today’s world.  You do not have to be a serial killer to be inhumane.  I am going to try to be nicer to people who are serving me or giving me customer service.  I want to not get impatient with new workers who may not know everything yet.  I need to remember that everyone I meet today is going through something in their life and might just need some kindness to help them through.  My parents taught me manners and, although, I “forgot” them for a while, I still remember them.  I want to start using them daily and maybe make my little corner of the world a little bit better.  Who’s with me?!?!

Hiking Clingman’s Dome

Scenery No 1

Part of my North Carolina plan was to start hiking.  I have a friend that I used to work with (shout out to Jan!) who moved here and started hiking.  She is so healthy now and I want to be like her. She is my inspiration.  Except I really do not like the outdoors, or sweating, or hiking for that matter.  I am an indoor, read a book, or binge-watch Netflix kinda gal.

Unfortunately I have found all my years of non-outdoor activity have made me rather soft.  Walking the parking lot at the grocery store can cause me to want to take a nap.  I am actually afraid that I am so out of shape that I can never recover.  Everyone says it’s never too late to start getting in shape, but I think I am the exception to that rule.  I am marshmallow soft.

Mike came to visit for his birthday and he gets hold of Jan who happens to be in town and we all meet up.  We catch up for a while and then the talk goes to taking a hike.  I start to get nervous because everything around here seems so hilly.  I am not good with hills or non-paved walkways.  But I figure I can tough it out, it is the least I can do.

They decide on Clingman’s Dome and off we go to the National Park.  I learned along  the way that it is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park at 6,643 feet.  Obviously, I realize we are not going to actually climb this peak, like from the bottom of it to the top.  That is not an adventure you start at 3:30 pm on a Wednesday.  There is a parking lot with a half mile walk to the top.  I was much more at ease as I know I can probably walk that amount without major injury.


The drive to Clingmans is worth the experience.  The National Park is overwhelmingly beautiful and is beautiful from all angles.  As we climbed, in the car, the temperature dropped and dropped from a hot and humid 90 to a refreshing 70.  Ok, I was loving this trip so far.  We did not see any wildlife on the way in but we did see a black bear and a few elk on the return trip.  That was very cool.

After about an hour, we get to the parking lot at Clingman’s Dome.  Remembering it is only a half a mile, I put a spring in my step and we started off. Little did I know that, although it would make sense since this is a mountain, that the half a mile was all uphill.  Not just up a hill, but intense, steep grades that would make a grown man or woman cry.  Luckily, there were benches every few feet and I utilized them all.  Finally, I told my walking companions that I was never going to make it before sunset and that they should go without me.  They tried to talk me into continuing but I fought them on it.  So they eventually went on without me.

As I sat on the bench I watched a variety of people coming down from the top.  Each person shouting encouragement and saying how worth it the trip was.  I saw older than me people, some were handicapped, some were out of shape like me and many other varieties of shapes and sizes.  I was wimping out and became very disappointed with myself.  Quitting, especially this early on, was not what this adventure was all about.  So I started walking up some more.  After several stops, some short and some longer, I made it to the top just as Mike and Jan were heading down.  Their faces showed such surprise and happiness that I had made it. It was worth doing just to see them. They accompanied me to the top of the observatory where it is said you can see up to five states because you are so high up.

The scenery was breathtaking and surreal at the same time.  It did not seem possible to be over 6,600 feet up, on top of a mountain.  My brain was having a hard time believing what my eyes were seeing.  It was beautiful.  As I took some time to catch my breath, I realized that climbing this mountain, albeit not so much climbing as walking a path, was more than just taking a hike for me.  It was overcoming my fears of heights, and fears of having a panic attack due to the strain.  The fact that I even made it without collapsing made me so inspired to keep trying new things.

By the time we got back to the car, I was exhausted but in a good way.  I was thrilled that I toughened up and did it.  Mike and Jan were proud of me and that encourages me to do more.  At first glance, the mountain seemed to have won, but I steadied myself and talked myself into completing the journey.  I also prayed a lot for strength as I struggled up the walkway.  But it got done and I could not be happier.

Muhammad Ali said “Don’t count the days.  Make the days count” and that day counted in my book as an accomplishment that I can be proud of.  If you ever get the chance to “climb” Clingmans Dome, I highly advise you do it.


Please note:  the photographs in this post were not taken by me.  I have some great shots that I took.  Once I figure out how to get them transferred from my camera, I will post separately.

Small Town Girl


Like John Mellencamp, I grew up in a small town and I lived in a small town.  Whereas he loved it, I hated it most of the time.  Oh, how I wanted to be like Mary Tyler Moore and move into a really cool apartment and have a really awesome job.  I dreamed of being a big city girl.  I thought I would hang out at art museums, listen to symphonies, drink fancy beverages, write awesome prose and basically just be very bohemian (a word I had to look up before wanting to become it).

I always put off my dream of writing because I had not experienced anything.  I thought only living in a city like New York or Chicago would give me the cred I needed to write and to be cool.  I have already established from other blog posts, that when God was giving out coolness I must have been in the ladies room or quite possibly taking a nap.  Cool is not who I am.

Let me tell you about my two days in New York City.  I was given an opportunity to visit New York City for a travel coordinator’s seminar.  I jumped at the chance and packed my bags.  I had been to Chicago many times and Los Angeles too.  I figured New York was going to be the place I fell in love with, the place that would change my life.

The plane landed in Newark and from that moment on I hardly drew a breath.  All the people, all the commotion and the overall bigness of everything started to overwhelm me.  Every movie I had ever seen about NYC flooded my memory all at once.  I somehow got into a cab (which was way smaller than I had imagined it to be) and got to my hotel.  When I got out of the cab, the city noises were almost deafening.

I finally got to my room on the 12th floor.  I quickly bolted the door and placed a chair in front of it for added security.  I slowly moved toward the window and looked out.  Buildings were everywhere, as far as I could see.  Even that far up all I could hear were car horns and sirens.  The sidewalks were wall-to-wall people.  More people on one street than lived in my entire hometown.  I gingerly moved over to the corner of the room, fell to the floor hugging my knees and stayed in a fetal position for most of that first day.  Overwhelmed did not begin to cover how I felt.

Not sure if or when I even slept, most of the day was a blur.  I had obligations to fulfill regarding this trip so I made myself get out and go to the seminar.  After it was done, I walked to the Chrysler Building thinking it was the Empire State Building.  That is how “cosmopolitan” I was.  At home, I always considered myself so citified, when in reality I was really just a small town girl and New York City was not the place for me.  I was lost and afraid the entire time I was there.  I walked to Times Square which was larger than I thought it would be but at the same time smaller than I thought it would be.  It seemed very surreal to me.

Saddened on the way home, I realized that all my grand dreams were just that…dreams.  Nothing was as I had thought it would be.  I was pathetic in the big city.  I was so very sad when it hit me that I was just small town.

Fast forward to North Carolina.  I stayed in Asheville for a while.  Asheville is in no way similar to  NYC but it is a fair size town with lots of people.  I never felt secure there.  I never felt like I fit in.  It is a lovely town with lovely people but it just was not for me.  Then I found Bryson City.  A town more like where I came from.  My comfort level went through the roof.  This town fit me and I fit it.  Everyone literally knows everyone else.  The people in the diners are friendly as are the shop owners.  There is a slower pace that small towns have that I require in order to thrive.

I cannot live under the constant pressure of a big city.  I can do without the over-abundance of micro-breweries and dance clubs.  I like shopping at Family Dollar and Freds.  I do not need specialty shops and fancy places.  My heart is heavy that I am really not as cool as I once thought I was, but I understand it now.  Some people are made for the big city and some are not.  I am not.  I am learning to embrace my small town attitude and be thankful that I, at least, got to see a few big towns in my life.  I guess part of the journey is finding out not only what works but what doesn’t.

I guess, like John, I will probably die in a small town and I am finally ok with that.

Teamwork-It Is The Best!


Me and my crew!! Part of a great team!!

I have been blessed most of my working life that I have worked with great people who would pull together to obtain a goal.  There is nothing like the feeling you get when something comes together and it was because everyone pulled their weight and got the job done.

It has been a few years since I have had a position that required a lot of customer service.  Mostly, I have worked in offices with little contact with actual customers.  My position on the train, however, is full-on customer service all the time.  If you think about it, our train is not like Amtrak; we take you one place and bring you back to where you started.  It is a scenic excursion meant to bring about relaxation and joy from seeing the beautiful scenery.

Our customers pay their hard-earned money to take our day trip.  It is our job to make sure that the experience is safe, fun and memorable.  This means going over and above what our job descriptions might say.  Any number of situations can come up, and do, that cannot be anticipated.

With that being said, I cannot imagine doing this job without being part of a great team.  Anyone of the team will jump in to help, job description or not, to fill the customer’s need.   This makes for an excellent customer experience.

I am finding out that life is not a solitary sport, but a team event.  The thoughts I had of ever being a “lone wolf” have long gone once I realized that there is no way to get through this by myself.  Many of my posts discuss this same topic, but it is becoming so clear to me that I need to learn to ask for help and I need to give my help freely.  It is that give and take which makes life more fulfilling.

I am lucky to have had the privilege of working with so many people who have been willing to show me the ropes and who take the time to answer my never-ending rounds of questions.  I hope to be that giving when someone asks me how to do something.  Since we are all in this life together, it only makes sense that we help each other.

Teamwork was always just a concept in my mind.  I understood it but I had to have the control of doing it all myself.  That left me burned out and unhappy.  Now I just ask for help and give help when asked.  This is a much better way to work and to live.  Wish I would have given it more consideration sooner.  I always thought being part of a team would be constrictive, but it is just the opposite.  It is a freeing experience. I am amazed at the lessons I am learning.

Here is to giving help when needed and taking help when needed.  Here is to being part of a team not only at work but in life!  GO TEAM!!