Monday, December 19, 2011

It's a Wonderful Life!

Lately, I find myself in a rush all the time. There always seems to be something that needs to be done. The mornings are hectic, filled with chores that my wife and I split up to get ourselves ready for work, the baby ready for daycare and simply get out of the house and on our way. Once on the highway, I struggle with the rat race. People are always going too fast or too slow for me, and are no doubt, mindlessly going to work as I am. Once in the office…well, there is no shortage of work to do. Meetings and daily fires make the time pass quite quickly and before I know it, I’m late for lunch!

Lunch has turned into a one hour period where I run errands. Today for instance, I had to go to the University to a buy an overpriced, used (pretty much falling apart) book for my upcoming Financial Management class. Getting there is a major struggle with traffic and lights, and takes three times as long as it should. Parking is an even bigger nightmare. Once I find a spot to sneak my full size truck into, I have to rush to the bookstore and back as quickly as possible so I won’t get a parking ticket. Once I am through with the bookstore, I head to the mall. Again, traffic, parking and lots of people push my buttons. I find what I’m looking for, but continue to stress out about getting the “perfect” Christmas presents for the ones I love.

Back at work, I continue the day with more meetings and yes, more fires to put out. I’m lucky to cross off one thing from my ongoing task list in a day. When I’m heading home, yes you guessed it, more traffic. The traffic has been worse as of lately due to the holidays. Once home, Jill and I get to work quickly doing our nightly chores to make sure Lylah is all set for the evening as well as the next day. One of us feeds her while the other cleans her bottles and prepares her lunch for the next day. Every other night, she gets a tubby (she loves tubbys) just before her nightly bottle. After her nightly bottle, we get her jammies on and settle down with a few books. As she’s getting older, she’s getting more playful and curious of the books, so it takes a bit longer before she is tired enough to be put down. On a good night, we’re done with our chores around 8:30pm. At this point, Jill and I can start focusing on what we need to do. Sometimes, it’s more work (I have conference calls with Asia on a regular basis). Lately, it’s present wrapping, checking addresses for Christmas cards and stuff of that nature.

Now, it may seem like I’m complaining here, but I promise, I’m not. I decided to write about this because I came to a realization today. On my way back from the University at lunch, pretty aggravated and annoyed at the traffic at that moment, I really questioned how my life became so hectic and stressful. In this life, I would be so happy if I could pack Jill and Lylah up, buy a house up in Jackson, NH, nestled in the beautiful White Mountains, and move up there. In that perfect world, I would I get a job doing something outside…maybe a New Hampshire Fish & Game Warden or do something for the U.S. Forest Service…low stress! Money wouldn’t be an issue because we would have each other and that is all that matters. We would be able to look at the mountains from our front porch and know that beauty is always around us. I dream of this often, especially when I’m in an aggravated state and the rat race has me all strung out. But, as that dream often does, it ends abruptly and I realize that it is nothing more than pipedream. I don’t believe I will be able to move us up there anytime soon. There are much more important things like making sure Lylah grows up in a loving home, in a bigger house (with siblings), has the privilege of a good school district, etc. to make sure happens. For now, my rat race is the best means I have of providing that for her.

So again, like I said, I’m absolutely not complaining. We watched It’s a Wonderful Life the other night. Like George Bailey, I will always want to live where my passion is. For him, it was exotic traveling...for me, it's the mountains. Of course, I wouldn’t give up the people in my life, ever, nor is anything worth that… I’d just take them all with me :). Ensuring that the people I love are well taken care of is well worth the price to not living up north. The next time I get stuck in the rat race commute (which will undoubtedly be tomorrow morning!!!), I will not get aggravated but instead think of how I have a Wonderful Life too! Sure, I don’t get to stand on a mountain top every day or go in search of wildlife on a regular basis, but I do get to come home to a raspberry blowing baby whose smile lights up the room. I get to curl up on the couch with the wifey and drink hot cocoa every night (you can’t put a price on that)! I don’t need the mountains for these precious moments.

Now, our latest plan is to possibly buy a small cottage or summer home in Jackson sometime in the future, hopefully the near future. We will work on adapting that into an all season home that Jill and I can retire to full time when all the kids have graduated. Until then, I’ll continue day hiking with Jill and soaking in as much of the outdoors as my busy schedule allows. I will continue to write about my passion for the mountains here, as an escape from the rat race when needed. As John Muir said, “Going to the Mountains Is Going Home”. For me, I hope that will be a permanent reality…someday!

In order to get through tough days at work, I have a few tools to help me. I thought I would share them with you. Here are some snapshots of my office! 

White Mountains maps on my wall! Great to plan out my adventures at lunch.

 My desk calendar that Jill made me last year which reminds me of all our great hikes so far!

 My White Mountains calendar, coincidentally has the Jackson Covered Bridge highlighted for December!

 The Old Man, hanging proudly on my office wall!



  1. I know how you feel, Karl, and must say that I think you have your head on straight. I, too, want to move my family to a more scenic area of the country so I can be surrounded by a different sort of beauty. But, home is where the heart is. A cabin somewhere in the hills is in our 5-10 year plan, though!

    Take care -

  2. Nice post Karl! You really put life's stress into a very positive perspective. I also am part of the daily rat race and I often wonder why I don't live in a cabin in the mountains. But being able to see friends and family is a reminder of things in life that are even more important than mountains.

  3. I tell my wife all the time...the next time we move...it better be to Colorado!! Sometimes I dream of just running away and living in a tent in the mountains. But thoughts of my family keep me from doing that. The question remains...what If we just did it? What if we moved to the mountains, lived and worked there. No tv, no paved roads, just our families and the mountains. What are we afraid of? That we will have to spend more time with our families and less time in the car? I recently canceled my satellite tv. Best thing I have done in awhile...as I see it...moving to the mountains is next!

  4. Great post Karl. I think a lot of people feel the same as you. I feel very lucky. In 2009 my wiife and I were able to buy our perfect cozy little vacation home in the Adirondacks. In 2010 we moved to beautiful Lake George, NY for our primary home and now live only 45 minutes from our vacation home. Both locations are perfect. We can't stay indoors!

  5. Since we have returned to 'normal' life after nearly two years of vagabonding and hiking, I have felt the crush of not having enough time and not enjoying the outside as used to. It is nice to know that I'm not the only one!

  6. Karl,

    Thanks for sharing this post with us...

    We moved to Western Maine (not far from fryeburg) 14 years ago.. raised our kids here, and have never looked back.

    Yes, we've had to make lots of sacrifices to live up here, but we love living in a small town with lots of hiking, fishing, camping close by.

    Never give up on your dreams...

    PS. we use to live south of Nashua NH


  7. Hey Karl, there's an adage that says "A diamond is merely a lump of coal that did well under pressure." It sounds to me like you truly are a "diamond". You are doing very well indeed during this phase of your life when there is a lot of pressure with career, raising a family, etc. You have my respect and admiration.


  8. Hi Casey - I can tell you feel much the same way I do through some of your posts on your blogs. Good luck with your 5-10 year plan, I wish you the best of luck. And thank you for you kind words!

    Hi Grant - You're absolutely right. You know, the cliche "the grass is always greener" I'm sure it true in that situation. Moving further north brings you closer to nature, which we all yearn for, but removes you from your family and friends daily life. That's a tough thing to imagine!

    Hi Steven - Man, you have me thinking...should I give up my satellite TV. It's not a bad idea. I wish you luck when you move up to Colorado. No doubt, I'm sure you'll do it!

    Hi Telemarkmike - Your home and vaca home sound absolutely awesome. I'm happy for you. I'm glad you're able to take advantage and get outdoors as much as possible!

    Hi Misti - You are absolutely NOT the only one!!! I'm glad to hear you got two years of traveling and hiking in...better than nothing for sure!

    Hi Todd - I hope that I can follow in your footsteps someday! I'm glad to hear it worked out well for you. You certainly chose a beautiful area to make that leap too!

    Hi John - Thanks for the kind words, as always. I'm sure when the pressure of a career and family subside, new pressures will take their place :) Again, you're too kind.

    Thanks everyone. I'm glad some people could relate to my daily struggles. I appreciate all your comments wholeheartedly!


  9. I understand completely how you feel! My children are older and that doesn't mean they're more self-sufficient, it just means I play taxi that much more. Going hiking is the way I recharge and am able to handle the various responsibilities better. We're dreaming of that small property up north, too, but the children still need to really be on their own before we'd consider that seriously.

    My husband has made a changing computer wallpaper out of some of his hiking photos to stay connected to the mountains. It is fun to try to guess where some of them were taken, especially the winter ones.

  10. Don't know how I missed this when you first posted it Karl. It says what I think and feel every day. Your office looks a lot like my cubicle. I love your plan for the place in Jackson. Sounds like we're on the sae wavelength. I have a bunch of saved searches for that perfect retirement home in realtor.com to virtually visit the dream on a regular basis. God willing we'll all get there someday. In the mean time we just need to keep channeling our internal John Muir...

    Happy New Year


  11. Karl, don't give up on your dreams. I'm not in your position, so I don't know the realities of your situation other than what you wrote, but I do know that a dream only becomes impossible when you give up on it.

    Regarding Jackson...there are many other gorgeous places to live in the Whites that are far less expensive. Perhaps you could look into less costly, but equally beautiful communities and make your dream happen sooner rather than later?

    Changes can happen if you truly want them to occur. However, change can be frightening and you have to be sure that you're okay with living with any unintended consequences.

    Regardless of your immediate choices, you and your family have many years ahead of you. There's time. Do what you and your family feel should be done, stick together, and take the plunge when you feel you're ready.

    Just my (unasked for) $0.02,

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