Notre Dame is Burning: An Iconic Landmark Devastated

When I was a teenager, I read many books which featured Notre Dame Cathedral and it was always my dream to go visit this iconic landmark.  Fortunately, my travels have taken me to Paris twice. Today, when I looked at my news feed at lunch, I was shocked to see the news that Notre Dame is Burning. This is one of those devastating events that I will always remember where I was and what I was doing when I heard the news.

When I first saw the item at the top of the ticker is simply said “fire at Notre Dame, more to follow.” I figured maybe a small fire had started near the church but would be quickly put out. But a short time later the pictures started to come out showing billowing flames coming from the roof. I literally gasped. I just know this church that I love is not going to ever be the same.  At this point I hope they can save it, but later in the day additional news comes out from French Officials that the Cathedral cannot be saved.

UPDATE: After this post was published, it turns out that roof collapsed, all the wood inside the church burned, and the spire collapsed; but the main structure was saved and there are plans to rebuild. Additionally, while a few first responders were inured, overall it was a blessing more people are not hurt. My thoughts to the families of the first responders.

A landmark that has stood for over 700 years is reduced to ash and rubble. The first time I visited Notre Dame, it was a brisk November morning. It is my first time in Paris and I am visiting as part of a tour group. The bus drops us off near Point au Change and I walk across the bridge, finally I get to see this historic building that I have read about so many times. The sun is just coming up over the spires, there are not a lot of people in on the small island, Ill de la Cite, on the Seine River. There is a feeling of timelessness as the sun rises over the square.

Finally, the church opens and the group gets to go inside. TV and movies do not prepare you for the beauty of the church. It is smaller inside than I imagined. But on the other hand, the stained-glass windows with the early sunlight steaming in creates such a stunning, beautiful, dispersion of light. Looking at the architecture of the building is amazing; to think that hundreds of years ago this great building was crafted by talented people who did not have access to modern technology. You look up at the soaring ceilings and realize how amazing this work really is. The tour only gets to stay for 45 min and we are on to the next location. But overall, this is a wonderful experience for my first visit to Notre Dame.

The second time I was lucky enough to visit Notre Dame, it is August, the end of Summer. This time I am visiting the city for one week with my friend Jenn. We both wanted to visit the city but did not want to go alone, a girl’s weeks was a great idea. Jenn had never been to the Cathedral so we go the first afternoon in Paris. The sun was out, the island was full of people, the church has a lot of visitors, but it is still a wonderful experience. Despite the noise outside, it is quiet inside; people speak in hushed voices as they admire the beauty and artistry.

Because it is summer, the towers are open. For an additional charge, a visitor can join a group and climb to the top, see the bell tower, and get a wonderful view of the city. I love to climb things, people who travel with me will tell you it is an exhausting habit. But Jenn is game and we wait the 30 minutes for our turn to climb the tower.

The entry is in the left tower. About half way up there is a gift shop, where the guide invites the group to stop, shop a little and rest. There are many stairs on the circular staircase, so it is nice to take this break on the way up. I have to admit I did get a little dizzy on the way up. Oh, but the climb was worth it for the panoramic view from the top.  The bell tower is nothing like described in the book Hunchback of Notre Dame, and nothing like portrayed in movies.  It is actually tiny and a bit difficult to get to with the trusses up on the roof. Still, I had to go up the extra stairs so I could say I have climbed all the way to the bell tower. The guide lets the group wander for a few minutes on the path set out. From this vantage one can get some unique pictures of Paris. Sadly, my pictures, like the Cathedral are lost. After the time is up, the guide takes the group down the right tower and we are back on the ground. Thus, ends my wonderful second visit.

My heart breaks for the people of Paris, to watch this beloved landmark burn must feel like losing a piece of yourself. Notre Dame is such a wonderful piece of history and the city will never be the same. Oh, it will go on as Paris always does, but there will be a hole that can never be filled for those of us cherished this beloved church.

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When your Business Life Bleeds into Personal Life

When you are a manager of a bunch of employees who travel it can be difficult for the manager to keep track of all the moving pieces. It is difficult to make sure everyone is getting up to date information in a timely manner. Recently, the manager where I work came up with the idea of having the team install What’s App on our personal phones. This way he can put out a message in one place for us all to read and we all have one place to check in and let the manager know we arrived on site.  The idea makes sense, but the reality so far has been business bleeding into my personal life way more than it already does.

At first, I resisted the idea of putting an app on my personal phone, I don’t know anything about it; is it safe? If the company wants to monitor me with an electronic leash, they should provide me a company phone that has all required software. They never mentioned in the job posting, the interview, or the onboarding process that I would be required to use my personal equipment for business reasons. But after a little thinking, I decided to be a team player and do what I was asked without making a fuss.

The benefit of playing along should be that I get to communication from the manager and the office faster. Our project is in a process of rapid change, this is a good benefit. Two days into the experiment the reality changes. A mid-level manger decides to post a personal vacation photo to our “Important Information” thread. This opens the flood gates of personal information now being shared constantly in the app.

Friday night I get several messages on my phone with coworkers sharing what they are drinking at their favorite bar, what cigar lounge they are currently hanging out at, and who is hosting a party at their home. These messages keep coming in until almost midnight. Someone please tell me how this is “Important Information.”

The trend keeps going on Saturday, with messages about Tigger Woods and what people are eating for breakfast.  Some people were even posting religious messages without regard to the fact that not everyone on the team is of the same religion. It is now the end of the weekend and I have received over 100 messages from What’s App and over half of them have nothing to do with work.

It would be nice if I could just turn off the thread in the application but some of the messages are actually about work. So, I have to wade through nonsense to find what I actually have to do and be aware of. In my opinion, if the team wants everyone that much in their personal life, they are free to start another thread but should keep our work thread clear of anything not related to, you know, work.  

The experience this weekend got me to thinking; when is it reasonable for an employer to expect an employee to use their personal resources for business reasons? When you are not on salary, is it reasonable to expect so much of one’s business life to bleed into the personal life?

All I can say at this moment is, I sure hope the manager cracks down on people using the “Important Information” thread for personal information. I just don’t need to know that much information about my coworkers.

Packing for Travel: Tips from a Business Traveler

Most people do not travel that often; when packing for personal travel it is easy to forget important items. When one arrives at the destination and begins unpacking inevitably there is that moment when you realize something is missing. When I started traveling for work this happened to me all the time and I had to get a system in place so that I was not constantly buying duplicate items. My solution was to build my travel kit and never take certain items out of my bag. Well for the most part, read on and I will tattle on myself with some of my travel mistakes.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you should purchase something, I might earn a small commission which comes at no cost to you (and is greatly appreciated!).

Last week I was staying with family right before a business trip. I had all the things I needed in my kit and was enjoying some time at home before going on a short 3-day trip. The trouble came when it was time to leave for my trip complacency got the best of me. Instead of double checking to make sure I repacked all my items, I just threw stuff in a bag and went on my merry way.

When I get to my hotel and start unpacking, I realize I do not have a toothbrush, toothpaste, or hairbrush. Thank goodness there was a store a short distance from the hotel so I could replace the items quickly.

This mishap got me to thinking about the things that I regularly take with me. The items I forgot this trip are a no brainer for most people. Some of the basic items one should always keep in their suitcase when you travel often is your toiletries, you know like the brush I forgot 😊. I actually go so far as to keep shampoo, conditioner, body soap, and lotion in my bag. This way I don’t have to rely on the items the hotel offers. If you are like the guys in my life you might be wondering what’s the difference, hotel brands are free. However, most of the women I know get it when I say, not all products are equal. When you have long hair like I do, the quality of the conditioner is important.

Now for some of the unusual items I pack that other people don’t often think of. A must have for my go bag is a travel steamer. There are many types but I use the Joy Little Steamer. It is inexpensive, works very well, and easily fits into my bag.

If you have been following my travel series, you will know that metal straws have made it on my must have list. Putting the straws on the list made my friend comment on the fact that she did not want something that she drinks from just floating around in her bag. So, we looked and found a there are some great carry case options. The one I decided to purchase was Ecotribe Straws with Bamboo Carry Case. I love the bamboo case and the straw is tall enough for most drinks. The only exception I have found is my taller 44oz cup. For that I still have my other straws.

The last item that I cannot do without is my bag scale. This may seem strange to those who do not travel a lot but follow my thinking on this one. Airlines charge huge fees if your bag is even the slightest bit overweight. My coworker had to pay $100 for a heavy bag fee. Again, there are many types, but they range from $10 to $25. This one-time fee can save you a lot of money in the long run. Especially if you do any shopping for while out an about on your adventure.

These are just a few of the key items that I keep in my bag at all times. They make my life on the road a lot easier. Just remember, when you take something out of your bag at home or you run out of a consumable product, replace the items as quickly as possible. Otherwise you will end up like me, in the hotel with not toothbrush, running to the closest open store late at night.

The Pitfalls and Benefits of Credit Cards

When it comes to budgeting and being mindful of money, credit cards can have a huge impact on the bottom line. Many places don’t take checks any more and sometimes people look at you like you are crazy when you slow down the line by paying cash. I can hear them thinking “aw she is cute paying with her little pieces of paper.” Credit cards make paying for things simple and fast, but they can make us less aware (mindful) of our spending habits.  Let’s take a look at some of the pitfalls and some benefits of credit cards.

Points Programs

Every day we are bombarded with credit card adds that talk up the benefits of their points programs. If you use their card you will get cash back, airline points, hotel points, or member exclusive access to certain events. This all sounds wonderful but what are these benefits really costing you.

One popular program offers you 1.5% cash back on every purchase. Sounds great, free money! Maybe, maybe not. The company is counting on you not paying off the credit card every month so they can charge you interest, which is much higher than 1.5%, that is pennies to them.  I have seen interest rate ranging from 6% for people with the best credit scores, 14% on average, and up to 25%. If you carry a modest balance the cash back still does not put a dent on the low end 6% rate. 

One common mistake people are tricked into, especially with advertising, is putting things on their card just to earn rewards. Sure, you might earn a free plane ticket here and there but if you are paying interest on that purchase that “free” ticket is costing you more than if you just purchased the ticket outright.  If you are making a purchase just for the reward, maybe think twice…can you pay the balance before the next billing cycle. If the answer is no, ask yourself, would I make this purchase if no reward was involved?

I fully confess, I love my points programs. Particularly the program tied to the card I use for business travel. I know that when I put my hotel, car, plane ticket, and any other business costs on the card I will be reimbursed for those charges before the next payment cycle. Therefore, I do get free money.

Carrying a Balance

There are times when an unexpected expense comes up or we just need to make a large purchase. It is great to have a credit card to facilitate the process. Another reason a credit card is great is for online shopping. There are some great deals to be found or products you just can find locally but you need some form of digital payment. Many of the sites I use let me save my payment and all I have to do is click a button and my purchase is on its way. These are all reasons credit is great.

The danger is in carrying a balance. A few years ago, I was helping someone with a budget and they had maxed out their American Express card; these cards are not meant to carry a balance. He was being charged 25% interest on a balance that was over 20k. Think about the math on that for a minute.  That is $5,000 interest in one month. Each month that number grows and it becomes more difficult to get out of that hole.

But let’s take a more common example. Pretend you carry a $2,000 balance at the lower end of the interest scale, say 10%. This will cost you $200 interest; the minimum payment is 50.00. If you pay just the minimum next month you owe $2,150 with interest of $215. And so it goes until you buckle down and pay the balance off.

 I get it, sometimes the unexpected happens and you have to use your card, but I suggest you pay the balance as quick as you can.

Not Paying off Everyday Items

I put a lot of stuff on my card, from gas, groceries, cell phone bill, gym fees, to lunch when I don’t feel like packing my own. It is just easier to have all the charges go to one place and then I pay the balance every payday. This just simplifies my life, especially when I am on the go a lot. The biggest trap I see people fall into not paying off the everyday purchases.  

Even if you have to carry a balance for a large purchase, my advice is to make sure you keep track of the ordinary purchases and make sure you pay them off each month. This way the sneaky interest monster does not grab you and put a dent in your financial goals.

Speaking of everyday items and online shopping, when I lived overseas, I met a lot of people who did not have any credit cards. Where I lived, they were not that common and many local businesses did not accept cards. A friend of mine asked where I purchased the book I was reading; I told her Amazon. She was sad that she could not get the book. At first, I misunderstood and thought she meant they will not deliver to our location, so I quickly told her “no Amazon does deliver here.” The lady corrected me, she said “I do not have a credit card so I have no way to pay for this item.” Being an American from a consumer/credit culture this was new to me. Long story short, I bought the book for her and she just gave me cash.

As Americans, we do live in a credit culture, which can be a good and a bad thing. Having a credit card makes it so we have access to many things at the click of a button. The pitfall is that it is easy to spend beyond our means and the things we buy end up costing way more than we think. As always, there is no judgement, I am just advocating for mindful spending.

Respect and Disagreement: They Do Not Have to Be Mutually Exclusive

Many of my posts end with “respectful comments are welcome” because I would like people who read my blog to know that I would love to have a conversation about any of the topics I write about. Hey, you can even suggest a topic if you are so inclined. But the other day a person from my office found the blog and reacted to that line by saying “you just don’t want people to disagree with you.” Disagreeing and respect are not mutually exclusive.

The idea that one cannot disagree and still be respectful is a bit disconcerting to me. Therefore, I explained to the person what I mean by respectful comments is, I do not like people to post profanity or bullying statements on my page. However, if you disagree with something I have written, by all means share a point of view.

However, the deeper question raised by this conversation is; since when did it become disrespectful to disagree with someone? Is this a common thought process or is this just the point of view of the one person I was talking to?

I think of disagreeing with someone as a way to have a lively debate and share ideas.  However, one should not make it personal or put down other people and their ideas. It is one thing to say “I think you should not talk about money with kids because…” it is another thing to say “you are a total moron if you…”

When I debate with people I do not back down easily, especially on topics that I feel passionately about. There may come a time when the group has to agree to disagree, shake hands, and walk away still friends. One last point, it is good to listen to people who disagree with you because it is a chance to challenge your thought process and maybe learn something new.

I hope that this post will encourage readers to feel comfortable commenting on my topics, whether you agree with me or not.

Business Travel Interrupted

This year the travel schedule is slow to get rolling, but spring is here and I have an assignment within driving distance of the office (about 3 hours). Because this assignment is fairly close, I do not have to get up early, I feel like I won a prize! Hold on to that feeling I tell my past self, things are about to get crazy.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I like to recon my work locations on my travel day. I get in my car early afternoon and start down the road; I have plenty of time for a recon before checking into the hotel. When I am about 15 minutes from the training location my phone starts to blow up with texts, “what is going on? I guess I better stop at the closest gas station and check in” I think.

The boss writes “customer has pushed back event, if you have not started travel stay home and wait for updates.” 

Uh oh, I am almost there, what do I do?  So, I text back “hey boss, I am 15 min from location, do you want me to turn around and come back to office?”

Boss says “not sure when the class is going to happen, don’t want you driving up and down the freeway needlessly. Stay in place until further notice. Will have more info soon.”

Like a crazy person, I am now sitting in a gas station parking lot wondering what to do now. Ever wonder why people just sit in the car in a parking lot; they don’t go in to the business and they don’t drive away. They just sit there. Well now I have a good reason to imagine why people do this.

Finally, the boss sends out another blast “trip canceled, class might be Friday, everyone who can go back home. Work from home tomorrow and wait for additional guidance.”  Lucky me I am only a few hours away. I feel bad for my coworkers who had to fly to their training location; they are stuck in limbo.

Telling us to go home is all well and good, but what about the travel plans we made? In my case, I booked a hotel that has a 24-hour cancelation policy. I am going to have to pay for the room even though I am going home. My coworker rented a car and had a hotel room.  These costs will also have to be accounted for.

The tricky part is related to the people who had flights. Now the company has to decide if the cost of bringing the employee home is worth it, or do they let the person sit in a hotel for a couple days hopping the class is not delayed again.  

Being a budget minded person, the first thing that came to mind when the trip was changed last minute was all the costs associated with interrupted business travel. Canceled hotel rooms, mileage to and from training locations, wasted man hours and productivity, and the cost of keeping people in place until a final decision is made. What a crazy thing to happen.  At least I did not have to pay for parking at the office 😊

When Should We Begin Teaching Children About Money?

Recently the local news station was doing a segment about how game companies intentionally make children’s games addictive. The reporter gets a father and child on TV for an interview about how the child charged about $3,000 worth of game items to the father’s credit card. When the child is interviewed, he is gleefully telling the reporter how he just clicked the button every time the game gave him the choice to get another boost, coins, or extra lives. The news story got me to thinking, when should we begin teaching children about money?

The child on television is talking to the reporter in a way that made me think this the child still does not really understand that they did something wrong. The tone, body language, and words chosen all point to the kid thinking “I had fun with the game, my dad got mad for some reason, and now I get to talk about it on TV. Look at me on TV.”  If this is really the case and not some kind of dramatization or coaching off screen, someone has failed this child if they spent $3k on a game in one month and still does not understand there is a consequence for this action.  

It dawned on me that the reason I know so many adults who struggle with managing money is because they were not taught as children how to manage money. Therefore, I began talking to my friends and family to get their opinion about what age is a good age to start teaching kids about money. I got a wide range of interesting answers.

I will start with my own childhood. My parents have always been very secretive about money; it is very taboo…we just don’t talk about those things. I knew we did not have a lot and that after my step-dad was injured at work we needed help. I never knew how bad it was exactly but I did know I got free lunch at school because my parents qualified for some assistance.

When I was 17 a friend of mine was taking business economics as an elective and the class had a personal finance month. She began telling me all about the things she learned in class. I realized I did not know anything about managing my money.  I had a job, cashed my paycheck at the bank that issued the check, and gave my dad a little money for my car insurance.  At 17 maybe I should have known a bit more about how to manage money.

My coworker started having conversations with her child when the child was in elementary school. My coworker started with small conversations like teaching her child one does not always get what they want when they want it. Things have a cost and sometimes we have to wait to purchase something and/or save for it. As the child got older my coworker gave her kid a prepaid debit card as a way to teach the daughter how to manage a small amount of money. As the child grew the complexity of the money lessons grew.

Another friend takes a middle ground on this issue. He thinks that you should not start money conversations when children are too young. Just let them be kids as long as they can before putting the pressure of the world on them. This friend is of the school of thought that all you need to teach a children responsibility is  give them chores and paying a small allowance. This way they learn you work for what you have. Then when the child is 14 or so you can teach them about money.  

That is all well and good in generations gone by. But today companies actively build marketing programs to target children. They are bombarded with input at a very young age so my opinion is we need to start teaching them small lessons at a young age. The child does not need to know every detail of the family budget.  But it is a good idea to teach a child that they cannot just click a button and get something anytime they want it.

This is a complex issue and can become emotionally charged. Most parents I know do the best they can by their children and work hard to provide their child with the things they need. However, I think we should consider that one of the things a child need is lessons and boundaries. Teaching a child about money is a life skill that can make a world of difference throughout their whole life.

Any opinions out there; what is a good age to start teaching a child about money?

Respectful comments are welcome. Names are optional to post a comment.  

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