Bigger Isn’t Always Better

The American Dream: get a college degree and a high paying job. Meet the love of your life, get married, buy a house, have some kids, and retire young enough to enjoy your grandchildren and travel the world….

I think I believed in that dream until I hit 30, when I had that degree in education plus a teaching license under my belt, but was more interested in wandering the country working at odd jobs in order to support my addiction to adventure. Now, at 52, I am still dreaming of all the places I’ll go, and all the people I’ll meet. I’ve started my own blog, Journeys Out Yonder, with the goal of telling others about the great places and people I’ve met on my road trips.

But, backing up a bit, I did dabble in the marriage and home ownership realm of the American Dream. Soon to turn 40, I felt it was time to go big! I had been living in little, above-the-garage, apartments, trailers, rented rooms, and even in the boiler room of Forest Service housing, exchanging a day of work per week for a free room. As I was turning 40, I met a man who fell in love with me pretty hard, and quickly. Within 6 months I was taking the leap. I had the best wedding EVER! On top of Arrowhead ski area, wearing an elegant boiled wool skirt and coat from Geiger, I married a man who was into me enough to wear ski boots and ski down the mountain after our wedding vows. We played house for a few years, buying one and fixing it up to his liking. To “his liking”….this is where bigger was getting really bad, for me. Our life centered around “his liking”, which was in the line of bigger is better. He wanted children. I didn’t. He spent thousands of dollars on big TV’s, big trucks, and big vacations. I spent money on good, healthy food. I volunteered in local schools, and started an after-school program for local youth. I taught avalanche safety courses, cross country and downhill skiing, in exchange for services and products. My time was spent exchanging my gifts with others, benefiting from their skills and becoming empowered by sharing my own. I wasn’t making more money, personally, but I was creating deep friendships and was developing a deep love and appreciation for the new community I had moved to with my husband.

Free to ski in elegance and beauty
Free to ski in elegance and beauty

The bigger house, TV, trucks and vacations didn’t make a difference to me during my marriage. I was scared to leave, because I now wasn’t so sure I could support myself, and didn’t know where I would go. I lost my mojo! Me, the life-long adventurer, was stuck. I made one phone call, to a friend back in Colorado, and immediately found my groove again.

When I took off, and left him to fend for myself. I found a job and a small cabin in the woods outside of Glenwood Springs, Colorado. My two cats and I lived peacefully, and simply.

Then, realizing the money I’d saved for years was burning a hole in my bank account, and it was time to prove I’d “made it”, I started looking for a house to buy. I was still in the mindset that bigger is better. I had moved into a full-time teaching job, which would continue to pay more each year, including getting a masters degree, and I still had the dream of meeting the man of my dreams who would share in the cost of my home. I bought that dream house in January of 2008. It was everything I’d dreamed of in a home. A couple months before the current economic downturn, my school district discovered an error they made in my contracted salary. My salary was reduced, making it more important for me to get my masters degree to increase my salaray. Five years later I had that degree, but had resigned from my teaching job, and I was still paying my mortgage alone. Bigger wasn’t better, for long!

A place to call my own.
A place to call my own.

The big job teaching in a public school conflicted with my own beliefs and training in education. I started my masters degree, and the more I learned about equity in education, the more I lost my love for teaching. The abundant paperwork and regimented system of teaching, to get students to perform well on standardized tests, overshadowed my love for sharing the joy of learning. Bigger scores aren’t always better.

Smaller is simpler, for me. I’ve cleared away my clutter, and am on a new journey to create a new American Dream, which is to follow my own dreams. They are creating a Tiny Home Village, making “MY Ski Skirts”, leading “Journey’s Out Yonder”, and spreading great advice with my “Quote Roll-Ups”. These are my skills and my passions, unique to me.

Calligraphy quotes on scrap lamination strips…great thoughts on reused plastic…beauty and ideas in one.
Calligraphy quotes on scrap lamination strips…great thoughts on reused plastic…beauty and ideas in one.

“I start to feel that each step taken is part of an invisible journey for which there is no map and few road signs.” John Francis, “Planet Walker”
“I start to feel that each step taken is part of an invisible journey for which there is no map and few road signs.” John Francis, “Planet Walker”

Small is beautiful. I sold my house recently, and moved into a 240sf bungalow. I’m starting over, with less. I gave away or sold (for barely anything) more than half of my possessions. The items I gave away to friends are there, in their homes, for me to enjoy when I visit. I haven’t bought anything new for years, preferring to shop at thrift stores for my clothes and the local food coop for food. I need nothing else. The less I own, the freer I feel. I donated all of my teaching materials to the Marble Charter and Ross Montessori Schools.

Small is Beautiful
Small is Beautiful

What dreams are you following?

Are your dreams unique to you?

Do your dreams show off your passions and skills?

Posted in Plan a Journey Out Yonder

Journeys Out Yonder for Adult Adventure, Learning and Fun

I’ve decided to move away from the idea of offering JOY to young people, and towards the idea of helping retirees custom design their Colorado-based Journeys Out Yonder. As more and more adults retire, there are more opportunities to travel and explore the country with friends and family. You may not always be able to find someone to explore with, or decide on the right trip for you and your traveling partner(s). This is where my expertise comes in.

I have traveled the country, but have developed a deep knowledge of the western US, specifically the Western Slope of Colorado, eastern Utah, and southern Wyoming. From the central Rocky Mountains, to the high desert landscapes, to the jagged mountains and raging rivers, I will turn your vacation into an adventure of mind, body and spirit. You’ll have memories, stories and photos to last a lifetime.

There are literally hundreds of natural and man-made historic and modern destinations in Colorado. I’ve journeyed to many of these places since first visiting Colorado in 1985, and moving here in 1991. Whether you’re inclined to camping  or sinking into the comfiest hotel room around, I can recommend and book your accommodations for you. If you want to climb the highest mountain, raft the roughest river, or go on a haunted hotel tour of Colorado, I will make the plans and ensure you’re confirmed for the activities and events you’re dreaming of.

Some examples of places and events you might be interested in are:

  • The Marble quarry at the headwaters of the Crystal River
  • Vineyards and Breweries in the agriculture belt
  • Museums featuring western art and dinosaur fossils
  • Music festivals and alpine skiing competitions in Colorado’s finest resort towns and ski areas
  • Federal and State Fish Hatcheries that keep our most popular recreational activity alive and well in Colorado
  • Geologic wonders in Glenwood Canyon, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Ouray and Grand Junctions Bookcliffs and Colorado National Monument, to name a few
  • Hot springs soaking in local’s favorite river holes, and in more civilized resorts
  • Men and women’s professional, amateur and college baseball, basketball, hockey and football games
  • Theatrical plays that bring the stars of the Big Apple to the stars of our small mountain town, and,
  • Much, much more. Our limited imagination is our only limitation.

In order to best serve your journey needs, I’ll need to get to know you a little better, and understand the types of activities and experiences you’d like me to plan with you. I’ve created a survey to help me get an idea of your dreams and desires. Please take time to fill it out by going to the tab titled, “Survey“.  I will contact you within 24-hours if I have any questions or comments about your answers. Otherwise, please give me 48-hours to receive and review your answers to create a a draft of your customized Journey Out Yonder.

Finally, if you don’t have a traveling companion, or don’t have the means to get yourself to the destinations you’re looking forward to exploring and experiencing, I am available to join you on your Journey Out Yonder. There are certainly many places I haven’t visited, which affords me the opportunity to  create JOY for you and me! Please use the survey to express your desire for me to join you in your JOY.

Posted in JOY for Adventure

Summer Program

Summer Program.

Posted in JOY for Adventure, JOY for Fun, JOY for Learning, Summer Program | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


There is nothing more satisfying, and professionally confirming, than having the parents of my students, and my students, take it upon themselves to promote my work! Over the past 15 years I’ve taught all grade levels, all subjects, in public and private schools, and all for one purpose: bringing fun and joy into children’s learning environment.

Below are testimonials I’ve received from students, parents and colleagues:

Mary, Thank you for a wonderful, magical year with Ella and her buddies. You are her best bud – she loved having you as her teacher! Thanks for venturing into this Waldkinder adventure with us – your generosity + creativity were greatly appreciated.” Lots of Love, The Klingelhebers.


Ella has a heart of gold!

Mary, you have been such a wonderful addition to our lives. Kinley has had an amazing time with you. Thank you for everything!” Love, Lisen, Todd, Kinley and Elleree


Kinley belts out one of her songs of joy

Mary, Not sure what we will do without you. Ashton will have so many memories from his Waldkinder days. We are so thankful for the love, energy, and commitment you have given Ashton.” Love, Lynn, Steve and Ashton


Ashton demonstrates his strength.

“Attention Carbondale Parents!! Just sharing this info about a fabulous summer camp possiblity and after school program for your kiddos. Miss Mary has been Dylans Waldkinder teacher this past year and she is beyond incredible. Kids love her and she leads the best adventures! You are the best & we love you!”                                                Donna Lambert Riley, May 2015


Dylan shows loves his love for mom on mother’s day, 2015

A transcript of a FB messaging conversation provided by my prior Carbondale Middle School student:
3:18 PM me: You ROCKED this weekend Kevin! Thanks for helping out at Mt. Fair. I hope you had a great time, and I hope YOU or Amaranda win the bike!
3:20 PM Kevin: You’re welcome Ms.Russell. And thank you for getting me involved in the fair. If it wasn’t for you I would have never known. I had a fabulous time.
3:21 PM me: AHH!! Thanks. With that comment, would you be willing to write that in a little “recommendation” letter? I’m collecting testimonials from students and parents about me as a teacher and community leader.
3:22 PM Kevin: Yeah sure.
3:23 PM me: Thanks. If you could make sure to include your name, address, phone number and email address, I’d appreciate it. Do you and Amaranda have any plans tomorrow, from 12-2:30pm? If not, do you want to come visit me at KDNK during my radio show?
3:25 PM Kevin: I would love to!!! But I don’t know if Amaranda can or wants to.
3:27 PM me: Well, then you come on over and you can help pick out music. The genre is “Funk, soul, african and world”…so, that means almost anything. I show up around 11:00 to start looking for the music. Come whenever you can.
3:28 PM Kevin: Alright. But about the recommendation letter, how do I do it?
3:29 PM me: Do you have Microsoft Office?
 Kevin: No.
3:30 PM me: Do you have a gmail account?
 Kevin: Yes
 me: Do you know how to open a Google Doc?
3:31 PM Kevin: Yes
3:32 PM me: Create a Google Document for the letter, then share it with me. Do you know how to share documents with other users?
 Kevin: No but I will try
3:34 PM me: After you open a new Google Doc, give it a title, like “Ms. Russell recommendation”. Then, click on the “Share” box, on the upper right hand corner of the document, and look at the bottom of the box that opens up. It’ll ask you to enter the email address of people you want to share the document with. Just type my email address,, in the box, then “SAVE”.
3:36 PM Kevin: Oh ok. Seems pretty easy.
 me: On another subject, do you remember all the shifts you and Amaranda worked? I want to update the Google Doc to include all of your shifts.
 Kevin: Yes
3:37 PM me: Give it a try, and I’ll be online all afternoon since I’m working on some online classes. Send me your times in an email, and I’ll update the spreadsheet. Thanks!@
3:38 PM Kevin: Do I do two Google docs then? One for the shifts and the other for the letter?
3:39 PM me: No. Send me a regular email for the shifts. Make a google doc for the letter.
 Kevin: Oh oh, ok.
 me: I’m signing off of my desktop, and will be back online on my laptop in about an hour. Let me know if you need any help.
3:40 PM Kevin: Ok thanks,
 me: You’re welcome!

July 30, 2012 Kevin Morales, prior 5th Grade student at Carbondale Middle School

Posted in JOY for Adventure

Cabin Fever in Sunny Colorado!

Anyone who has ever spent time in Colorado, winter, spring, summer or fall, knows the sun shines relentlessly! It’s crazy to imagine getting cabin fever when it’s so sunny out and the temperatures hover between 30 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit. But, I think I have cabin fever!


I do live in a little, cozy, fabulous bungalow with my cat Luna in the middle of a field and next to a river. I get plenty of natural light, get outside to play with my students for three days every week, and have plenty of time to spend outdoors on my days off.


I get plenty of personal time alone, reading, watching movies, listening to NPR shows, and making art. I volunteer as a DJ on my local public radio station, KDNK, and as an usher at The Wheeler Opera House in Aspen. I have a few close friends with whom I spend quality time with. So, why do I have cabin fever?

Two years ago I decided to downsize, work less, spend less, and play more. My play relies on being creative by not spending a lot of money. What I’ve realized is I am not making JOY in my life that is exciting to me. I haven’t taken a Journey Out Yonder since a short trip I took last summer, to Joyful Journey Hotsprings Resort.

Road trips bring me JOY! I’m ready for one, and know my cabin fever will disappear once I hit the road, listening to music, seeing new or familiar sites, and meeting new people.


What JOY will you add to your life to stave off cabin fever?

Posted in JOY for Adventure

Autumn in Colorado (a Vermont gal is still impressed!)

I was born and raised in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont (the NEK as we call it). I’ve lived, worked and played in Colorado and Wyoming for the past 23 years. Although I still believe no other place rivals Vermont in the fall – and in so many other ways – I do get star struck as I drive through the mountains, valleys and plains of Colorado during the fall. This scene in Vermont is astounding, it’s true. It makes me long for my home state during the fall season. 10417567_10152511920497408_6319747171422604861_n Courtesy of Marc Plourde, Vermont Instead, I take a drive to places nearby, to get my foliage fix. I recently took a Journey Out Yonder up and over Grand Mesa. She presented a spectacular display of autumn Aspen color. DSC_0022 DSC_0023 A landslide of color. DSC_0029 The Crystal River Valley has another week or two before it peaks. DSC_0027 DSC_0020 Foliage framed by dark conifers. DSC_0017 Brilliant oranges pop! DSC_0016 Grand Mesa, the largest flat top mountain in North America, exudes brilliance. DSC_0013 Reach to the sky! DSC_0010 Be like a fall Aspen tree…stand tall, and proud. DSC_0009 Aspens stand atop basalt boulders. DSC_0005 A pallet of red, orange, yellow, green, and blue. DSC_0004 A touch of dark, green pines and brilliant blue sky provides contrast. DSC_0003 Yellows dominate. DSC_0002 A touch of red reminds me of my VT home. DSC_0001 Some trees, just like people, resist change.

Posted in JOY for Adventure | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Words to Inspire

I’m reading E.O. Wilson’s book, Biophilia, for the first time. I have biophilia: the innate tendency to focus on life and life-like processes.


A tide pool to explore, in San Diego, CA.

Wilson’s book are his thoughts on humans, and our connection with other life forms and each other, on Earth.





Last night I read a most inspirational quote, a memorial tribute to Hermann Minkowski, by Daivd Hilbert, about the “…perpetual cycle with gentle botanic images”. His words speak volumes about why I do what I do, why I say what I say, and why I teach the way I do.

“Our Science, which we loved above everything, had brought us together. It appeared to us as a flowering garden. In this garden there were wellworn paths where one might look around at leisure and enjoy oneself without effort, especially at the side of a congenial companion. But we also liked to seek out hidden trails and discovered many an unexpected view which was pleasing to our eyes; and when the one pointed it out to the other, and we admired it together, our JOY was complete.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Tom Wessels and Aimee Ostensen

A trail in the forest, in Vermont.

Posted in JOY for Adventure