Archive for December, 2017

Attitude of Gratitude for 2017 – December 21, 2017 – Happy Solstice

Thursday, December 21st, 2017

Sunrise over the SE Alaskan Coastal Mountain Range on Winter Solstice – at 9:37 AM.

I captured this very rare picture this morning at 9:37 AM.  Rare for a couple of reasons.  The first one is it’s rarely sunny un SE Alaska on Winter Solstice to even see the sun rising.  Yes we can tell it’s daylight, but we often don’t see the sun here for weeks on end in the winter.  The second reason is because I’m rarely here on solistice.  This year it was a fluke as I was up here working on this yoga/cooking studio.   In year’s past I’ve been in Hawaii visiting my father or just arriving in Haines for the holidays a day or two after winter solistice.

I have been doing a month long tribute to my late father on the Cheetah Learning blog.  Today I wrote about his love of sunrises and how he fostered my love of travel, adventure, and nature.  You can read about it at

I’m very grateful for my community in Haines, Alaska – for always welcoming me home with open arms, no matter for how long I’ve been gone.  This is where my heart is the happiest and I am so lucky to call here home.

I’m wrapping up the attitude of gratitude for 2017 posts.  I am going to focus the next couple of weeks on enjoying my friends and families in the here and now with the holidays.  May you enjoy this time of year in the way that brings you the most peace, love, and happiness.

Attitude of Gratitude for 2017 – December 20, 2017 – Rattlesnakes

Wednesday, December 20th, 2017

Rattlesnakes deserve respect, not fear. It is possible to happily co-exist with things that can be dangers, when you know how to mitigate the potential of their threat.

I saw this “Beware of Rattlesnakes” sign when I was playing in a golf event with my new friend and banker Jean Perpich from Wells Fargo back in May.  I had left Wells Fargo 8 years earlier when there was a significant misunderstanding with their risk management department and $85,000 of our course registrations.  After collecting tens of millions of dollars in course registrations for my business over seven years, suddenly we were such a risk, they were going to hold this $85,000 for six months to make sure we delivered on the courses for which our students had registered. They did this while I was on vacation in Italy.

I came up with the idea to refund all of those students their money and re process their registrations through a different merchant account and settle it into a different bank.  And thus, we ended our long term relationship with Wells Fargo.   So what changed now eight years later that had me move our banking business back to Wells Fargo?  Two things.  First was a general dissatisfaction with the numerous other banks with which we had used since we left Wells Fargo.  Several had gone under over night throwing our whole business into a scramble, others had archaic technology systems that made even simple banking activities exceptionally difficult.  Besides the credit card fiasco and one other egregious incident, our relationship with Wells Fargo had gone extremely well.   Next, Wells Fargo had just gone through a huge upheaval because of increasingly bad behavior and they were on a new path to remediate themselves.  I figured now was a great time to give them another chance.

Taking another chance on Wells Fargo and meeting Jean Perpich has proven to be a good call.  Jean stays on top of our accounts, periodically reaches out to me,  introduces me to other business owners in town, and has been good counsel with handling the banking elements of the business. With banking these days, it can seem like it’s a pick your poison situation.  There are rattlesnakes everywhere, it pays to know how to mitigate their dangers.


Attitude of Gratitude for 2017 – December 19, 2017 – Being an Entrepreneur

Tuesday, December 19th, 2017

Getting ready to prototype the Five Star Picnic Idea.

While this picture may just look like I’m off on a biking adventure, it is really me testing out an idea I had to lead biking lunch tours up at Lake Tahoe in early May.  In early April I had been accepted as a part time biking tour guide in Haines, Alaska.  Then two weeks later, my assistant who had been with me for nine and a half years gave her two weeks notice.  So I felt I needed to stay focused on my main business and stay in the lower 48.  I had made a friend in the winter who was watching my dogs who was leading snow shoeing tours in Tahoe and she loved the idea of doing biking lunch tours with me at Tahoe.  I was disappointed I would not be doing the bike tours in Alaska, and looked into leading bike tours that included a gourmet lunch at the lake.  This was where the idea of “Five Star Picnics” was born.

As many ideas do, this one expanded to being like a 1-800-flowers idea but for picnics.  I researched the possibilities for doing this, did a five force analyis on the whole idea, and then realized, yeah, fun idea, but no, I’m going to take a pass on this one.  It would be too easy for a large specialty grocery store to copy the idea and put all my efforts to waste.  The picnic biking idea would require a commercial kitchen and a level of oversight that would make the business onerous.  If I was already in the food service business, this would be a nice extension service.  But I have made a conscious choice not to be in the food service business.  I’m more about cooking lessons, cook books, and menu designs/planning for the events we run – rather than being in the food delivery business.

I did learn some new things about event planning and promotions tools that exist on social media that make it much easier to do business start up.  I also learned that in a resort town like South Lake Tahoe, it’s still the relationships you need to cultivate with the conceirges at the area hotels that can make your specialty tour business work more than how well you can craft a clever social media campaign.  Since I don’t have a huge presence in Lake Tahoe, that also made it more difficult to get something like this off the ground.

I am very grateful I’ve had extensive seasoning in business start up so that I can run with an idea for a little while and bail on it – feeling glad not bad. I recognize how hard earlier versions of me had to work to get Cheetah Learning to the stable mature business it is today. And I’m grateful that Cheetah Learning continues to be such a strong, viable business, even with losing a key player that was critical for it’s operation.


Attitude of Gratitude for 2017 – December 18, 2017 – Random Acts of Nature

Monday, December 18th, 2017

Getting out in nature to capture something unique in the moment brings me back to a happier place.

I took this picture at the end of April on the Eastern side of the Sierra’s.  I am calling this one “random acts of nature.”  I wasn’t expecting to see this Texas Sage in Northern Nevada in this area where I walk the dogs.  I have never seen one there in bloom before.  This was not near any path – the dogs and I were bushwacking finding a way up to another path we wanted to get to.   I find the best way to experience random acts of beauty in nature is to be out in nature (pretty simple).  I’m exceptionally grateful I was out in nature that day to see this rare bush for Northern Nevada (it’s native in the Southwestern US and used ornamentally in gardens).

Several months ago when I was in a funk after my father passed away, I was reading about how surgeries were having far fewer mishaps when they followed a basic start up checklist.  I thought, hmm maybe I could be happier if I created a similar checklist for my day rather than wallowing in sadness.  My checklist is pretty basic – get out in nature, notice something unique while I’m out (this brings me into the present moment),  connect with people I know in a meaningful way,  stretch, breathe, take time to meditate,  focus on a task to completion, reflect on what happened in my day that went well.  Living in the present like this has helped pull me out of the loss of a parent funk.  This picture reminds me that how I feel in the moment is a choice and I can change it to something more positive and uplifting by just getting out in nature.

Attitude of Gratitude for 2017 – December 17, 2017 – Chicken Pot Pie

Sunday, December 17th, 2017


I had such deep containment and satisfaction from these chicken pot pies. I truly appreciate the unique relationships with each of my children and how they continue to spark such happiness in my life.

Earlier this year, I was inspired to make my own Chicken Pot Pie after seeing that my daughter had made one.  She had posted this very appetizing picture on Instagram of her chicken pot pie effort.  This picture to the right of my chicken pot pie reminds me of a saying I heard decades ago by a colleague who had just started studying buddhism – “The quality of your life is determined by the quality of your associations.”  I enjoy every day the quality of the relationships I have with both my children in so many myriad ways.  I think though this “quality” parameter goes into other dimensions as well.

While I don’t recall the details of this recipe, I do recall that I used puff pastry.  I find anything with puff pastry is brought to epic culinary delight.  I got this cookbook when the children were teenagers that showed how to make some favorite commercial products.  I remember when we first got this cookbook, I made these incredible “pop tarts” using puff pastry.  I don’t think the recipe called for puff pastry, but again the puff pastry made our pop tarts out of this world incredible.  So maybe this buddhist saying for me could be “The quality of your life is determined by the quality of your ingredients.”


Attitude of Gratitude – December 14, 2017 – For the Love of Pi

Thursday, December 14th, 2017

My sister is a math whiz and a phenomenal math teacher for both the math phobic and the math gifted.   She found her calling early in life – before she even looked like she her self was out of high school.  In her first teaching job, she was routinely asked if she had a hall pass and some of her students were just a couple years her junior.   She’s been at this math teaching gig for 32 years now.  She is now teaching the children of some of her students, and for those that liked to multiply early, maybe even their children.

She loves to celebrate Pi day (3/14) – in some pretty unique ways.   Yes this is her head and it’s remarkable how little gray hair she has from teaching teenagers for the past 3+ decades.  It’s her sense of humor and overall zen approach to life that keeps her happily in that game.  It’s very much fun to hear her stories about her Math counts groups and the other little genius’ who grace her days. I asked her how many student’s she’s had and it’s over 3000.  What an impact she’s made.

I figured on 12/14,  I would celebrate and appreciate her as after all 12/14 has the number 12 and if you add the digits – 1+2=3.  Okay this is a stretch – but she’s worth celebrating nevertheless. Besides being a dedicated professional, she has been a fantastic friend and the best sister I could ever hope for.  I got to enjoy her company several times this year.  Even camped in my “moho” in her driveway for the weekend camping trip in the CT burbs.  She lives in a wonderful park like setting, has the occassional bear visit and has some majestic trees that call her yard home.  It was a very nice place to camp for a couple days.  I wonder if she ever got the electrial fixed from that visit…..

Attitude of Gratitude 2017 – December 12, 2017 – Unicorns

Tuesday, December 12th, 2017


Unicorns welcome me on my drive home from ear surgery. This I took as a very good sign.

Because of my ear surgery, the doctor did not want me doing any travel that would require elevation changes.  This meant I got to enjoy Portland for three weeks since to get back to my home in Carson City I’d have to go over a mountain range.  Lucky for my recovery, it rained the entire three weeks.  I didn’t have a choice but to take it easy.

When I finally got the all clear to head home, I took the route back to Nevada that was on the eastern side of the mountain range.  Crossing the mountains in northern Oregon is lower in elevation gain than further south.  I’ve only done the drive one other time on the eastern side of the mountains.  It was during some pretty rough weather, solo, in the motor home.  This time, the weather was calm and I had a fun friend along for the ride.

My friend encouraged me to stop to enjoy the scenary more than if I was just driving alone.  She noticed these very cute white horses and wanted me to turn around.  They look very much like unicorns.  The gorgeous scenary was enhanced by lots of laughs and I was happy to have the company.

Attitude of Gratitude for 2017 – December 11, 2017 – Moving Through Life With Dogs

Monday, December 11th, 2017

My three best friends – Coco, Rosebud, and Daisy.

My parents had six children.  I only had two (since they were perfect, I stopped).  And I’ve made up for it with having several dogs.  Here are my three best friends in a rare moment when we were all together on a walk near our home in Carson City last March.  This year,  Rosebud the middle one kept the manager of the Cheetah Corporate Retreat Center company while I traveled around North America. Daisy’s job is to hold down the fort with the manager at our corporate retreat center in Alaska.  Coco has the perfect temperment to be my traveling companion.  She is fantastic with small children and quietly stays put while they tug on her.  When things change as much as they do in my life, it’s nice to have them as my constant.

They are all doodles.  Rosebud was my first doodle.  She joined me as a puppy in May 2008.  Rosebud is an Australian Shepard Poodle mix and can play ball for hours, if indulged.  Coco is a minature Berniedoodle – a cross between a Bernaise Mountain Dog and Poodle.  She joined me as a puppy in January 2016.  Daisy is a full size Berniedoodle.  She loves to sleep out in the snow – which is why her duty is in Alaska.  She joined me as a puppy in May 2016.

I am very thankful we are moving past the puppy stage with both Coco and Daisy.   I might be able to start knitting again….

Attitude of Gratitude for 2017 – December 10, 2017 – For the Love of Titanium

Sunday, December 10th, 2017


My hearing improved dramatically with a new titanium implant in my middle ear.

In February I had a reconstructive ear surgery to fix a collapsed ear canal.  I had a surgery 27 years earlier to fix a congenital defect that had eaten away the bones in my middle ear.  The repair had failed and I was suffering from a six month chronic ear infection.  I never heard very well after that first surgery- even with hearing aids.  I got used to reading lips, and nodding and laughing a lot – even though I had no clue what people were saying.  It is no wonder I much prefer texting and emailing to talking on the phone.

I did not know going into that ear surgery that they even had a titanium implant that could replace the middle ear bones I had lost 27 years earlier.  I guess they just came out with this two years ago.  When my daughter talked with the doctor after my ear surgery, he said that my hearing might be improved.  I’m glad he did not tell me ahead of time as I had gotten used to my quiet world and may have declined it.

It’s been very interesting learning how to hear again.  Sometimes life is way way way too loud – I hear all types of things I had not heard in a very long time.  I do very much like though hearing the rain on the metal roof.  With certain sounds,  it seems like I’m listening to a cheap speaker with major reverberation.  This happens especially when I am talking too loud.  I still need people to be in the same room when they are talking to me – but at least now I can hear they are even talking to me.  I just can’t make out what it is they are saying.

Attitude of Gratitude for 2017 – December 9, 2017 – The Pioli’s

Saturday, December 9th, 2017

I met these two 33 years ago. We’ve gone through much of our incredible adult lives together. I’m so lucky they are such a huge part of my world.

Last year my good friends Dave and Mary Jane Pioli threw my double nickel birthday party.   I’ve had the wonderful good fortune to have met these two souls in 1984 when I was stationed at Wright Patterson Air Force Base.  We have moved through our adult lives together.  These two took the huge leap and moved away from their families to pursue their dreams in the Pacific Northwest.   They did a post card campaign to my husband and I to entice us to move there as well.   We followed a year later.

Dave and Mary Jane had a zest for exploring the Pacific Northwest and often cajoled my husband and I into going camping during some pretty gruesome storms.  One weekend in January back in 1989, we went camping on the Washington Coast.   We had taken our Nissan mini-van with our three dogs.   The last morning in a down pour, Dave successfully lobbied us to leave early to go to breakfast.  It really wasn’t very hard to convince any of us to go along with this idea.  On the way out of the campground, we hit black ice and the mini van went off the road and rolled down a hill.  No one was hurt.   Oddly enough, the only thing that went flying out of the Mini-van was Mary Jane’s birth control pills.  Dave in surveying the scene found them perched on a shrub about 50 feet from the upside down van.

The mini-van was totalled and too damaged to drive back to Seattle.  Dave, Mary Jane and my husband found a bar to watch football while I found my way to the closest town to get a rental car so we could get back to Seattle   That was a very crowded trip with the four of us, our camping gear, and the three dogs in this tiny rental car.  We were quite grateful though to even have a way home.

Two months after this accident, Mary Jane picked me up at the airport on the way home from a business trip.   The first thing I said to her – I feel like I’m going to toss my lunch.  I think I might be pregnant.  Even though Mary Jane was the one who lost her birth control pills in the accident, I lost something else, my inhibition with having children.  While my husband and I were not trying to have children, we also were willing to start a family in several years.  We had actually discussed this the night before we rolled the mini-van.  We just had no idea it would happen so fast.

For the duration of the pregnancy, I said I was pregnant because of Dave.  It was his desire to go out for breakfast that started the whole situation that lead to the start of our family.  My husband and I had been very successful in preventing pregnancy as I had a very routine cycle.  But the accident changed all that.  It threw off my cycle.  A power outage after a couple glasses of red wine several weeks later, during a time when I thought it would be safe not to use any “protection” – brought our new daughter into being.  Dave thought this was the craziest assertion.  Yet it was hard to refute the validity of this story when she was born on his birthday.

Dave and Mary Jane have been in my life in so many helpful and profound ways the past 33 years.  They have known me every step of my entrepreneur’s journey.  They believed in me when I did not even believe in myself.   I am very fortunate to have the love and friendship of these two very special souls.