Edie’s clients loved following her as she visited all 50 states
When Edie Gardner turned 40, she set a goal to have an experience in all 50 states over the next ten years. Mission accomplished! The stories she shares from driving through the snowy mountains in Colorado, to visiting Cracker Barrel in Tennessee, to Mount Rushmore, all helped her create stronger relationships with her clients.
In this episode, we talk about how important bucket lists are and how it gave her a sense of purpose — while also remembering to enjoy the journey. She talks about how the best employees are those that have passions they use to enrich their jobs. This makes work more enjoyable and gives you something to look forward to.
Edie Gardner is a CPA and counselor who can audit your financials and then ask you how you feel about the numbers. She’s had careers in public and private accounting and social work but is now a stay-at-home mom with a new business of “storybookkeeping” which is part accounting, part counseling, part organization of papers, and part creation of bucket lists for living a truly happy life. .
Edie graduated from the University of Santa Clara with a BS in Accounting. She later received her Master of Social Work degree from the University of Southern California.
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John: Welcome to Episode 33 of the Green Apple Podcast where each Wednesday, I interview a professional known for a hobby or a passion and I’m doing a little research for a book I’m writing so if you haven’t done so already, please take 60 seconds, it’s all it takes and do my anonymous survey on employee engagement by doing to greenapplepodcast.com. There’s a big green button there on the top right. It’s only a few questions because I know you’re super busy and it’ll take less than a minute I promise, but the more data points I have, the more legit the research so I really, really appreciate it.
So now, let me introduce this week’s guest, Edie Gardner who set a goal when she turned 40 that she would visit all 50 states in the next ten years and she’s done them all and now, she’s with me here today on the Green Apple Podcast and I’m so excited. When she’s not travelling, Edie runs her own business that she calls “storybookkeeping” which is part accounting, part counseling, part organization of papers and part creation of bucket list for living a truly happy life. It’s quite the combination.
So Edie, I can’t wait to jump into these stories but first, I thought it’d be great if you told everyone a little bit about how your career got to where it is today.
Edie: Sure. Well, I’m a true Gemini and that the Gemini sign is a split personality or the twin and that is really me because I’m both a CPA and a licensed counselor.
John: Oh, goodness. All your clients are right there at work. That’s so perfect.
Edie: Exactly. So what I like to tell people is I can audit your books and then ask you how you feel about that.
John: Not good! That’s fantastic. Very cool! So I guess one thing that I love to ask everyone is just how did you get into accounting to begin with?
Edie: Well, the short answer is that I loved math and I couldn’t stand science and I think I lasted two years in college taking the sciences and I was like, I like math but not this much to be a math major and so I thought well, where can I still work with numbers but it’s definitely on the more practical side so I declared Accounting my major and the rest is history.
John: Yeah. That’s funny.
Edie: I remember asking my high school math teacher, “Okay. I love Math, what can I do with it?” And she said, “Well, you can teach.” “I know I could teach but I’ve been teaching cotillion and tennis to little kids my whole high school. I’m not positive I want to teach.” She’s like, “Well, okay. So with a math major, what you can do is you can work for a company and walk in to a room and that’s your inventory room and you take measurements of the room and you calculate based on your math skills how much inventory you can put in there to be the most productive and the most sufficient with your money.”
I went, “Okay. That’s pretty specific. What else can I do?” She’s like, “They’d tell you about PT?” “Yeah, you mentioned that.” So I thought okay, I’m really kind of limited maybe with the math theory so Accounting is just perfect.
John: That’s so funny though how your two jobs are teacher or inventory and calculator lately.
Edie: That’s all she can come up with.
John: It also comes in handy when you need to count jellybeans in a jar at the carnival.
Edie: Yeah, exactly. You’re the expert. You win the prize every time on that.
John: Right. That’s hilarious. So I saw some of the pictures that you sent. So you’ve been to all 50 states?
Edie: Yes. So well, I kind of had a hard time turning 40 and I never thought I’d have a hard time turning a particular age but I just kind of thought I would’ve accomplished a few things by 40 that I hadn’t been yet and so I thought, you know what? I am not going to have this feeling when I’m 50 so I kind of had two bucket lists working and I’m a huge believer in bucket lists.
So I had a bucket list of things I wanted to accomplish before I’m 50 and things before I die and I thought oh, I better concentrate on the one before I’m 50 first but I was hoping that I didn’t have to concentrate on the one before I died, before 50 but I’m kind of playing both bucket lists. I decided I wanted to go to all 50 states and this has been in the works for a long time. I can tell you a little bit about that if you want but I decided I wanted to go to all 50 states before I was 50 so that was very important to me and accountants love rules so I had a bunch of rules on how I can count a state, actually count a state. It was the best thing I’ve ever done.
John: Wow! What were your rules? So I assume that just being in an airport doesn’t count.
Edie: My rule was that I really wanted to know what it was like to live in the different states. So I had to have an experience in each state. I didn’t have to necessarily spend the night but I had to know what it was like to live in that state and if somebody asked me, “What about this state?” I could tell them what my experience was and I had to eat the local food, I had to really feel like I knew what it was like.
Sometimes it’s really difficult for example like California because I can tell you what it’s like to eat at San Francisco. It’s very different than what I might eat in Santa Barbara or something. But I just wanted to know what it was like for each state.
John: Yeah. No, that is cool. So do you have a favorite state or a couple?
Edie: Well, everyone asked me that and it really is hard to stray from California and Hawaii.
John: Yeah. That is tough. Even people that have never been to either of those, that’s still their favorite states.
Edie: Yeah, exactly. But some kind of I’ll call them sweeper states that I had no idea, what I typically tell people, South Dakota, it was beyond Mount Rushmore. It’s everything I had heard was so many people said, “South Dakota, Mount Rushmore’s so hard to get to. Once you do, there’s nothing around there”. I couldn’t have found that further from the truth. It was a fabulous state, beautiful state and my experience at Mount Rushmore was historic for me.
And then the other sweeper state that I didn’t really know I would attach on to like that was Tennessee. I thought Tennessee was just — I had never been anywhere, anywhere in the south before I started this and so everything was like, “Wow! What? What?” I found my favorite restaurant of all time in Tennessee which was I’ve been there all over but Cracker Barrel. That’s my favorite. I get chicken and dumplings with the side of dumplings.
John: Oh, there you go.
Edie: That may explain why I looked away.
John: That’s so fantastic.
Edie: But no, it was really, really incredible. Every state has its own charm and duty to it and character, definitely character, but those were two wonderful surprises.
John: Yeah, that’s interesting. That’s great. I haven’t been to South Dakota before though. A good friend of mine actually, Dave Gilbertson, he was a guest on the podcast earlier and he’s from North Dakota and I remember asking him — you know what? I have been South Dakota before and I said, “I’m going to South Dakota.” I said, “What’s the best thing to see in South Dakota?” He said, “Look out your right window and you see North Dakota, that’s the best thing to see.” I was like, goodness, you guys are cutthroat there.
Edie: Well, North Dakota I think is particularly sensitive because I’ve met more people who have been to 49 states and not North Dakota. They’re like, “Oh, I can’t get out there. Why would I want to get up there?” But oh, my gosh. If you just went up to the Kenny Roosevelt National Park, it’s just heaven. It’s just so unbelievable up there. I thought that it was interesting that Alaska’s probably the hardest one to get to or Hawaii but most people hadn’t been to North Dakota.
John: Yeah. That is interesting. That is. But I guess there aren’t cruises going to North Dakota so maybe that’s the difference.
Edie: That’s true.
John: It might be the point. That is so fascinating and so great. How many states had you had when you turned 40? So how many did you have to get in that ten years?
Edie: I had quite a few but I kind of do let’s start this over because I mean now, my boys had been to 47 states so I really only counted two or three of them before them but really, I wanted to make sure that all of my states had been in my adulthood so I really had very strong memories and I had to have this experience, right?
So I didn’t want to count anything from childhood but I did go on several trips in my childhood and when I was I don’t know maybe 12 or 13 my dad took the two older kids, me being one of them, along to east coast and we were seeing a lot of states. We even went into Canada a little bit and I remember saying to my dad, “You know dad, I think if you just go a little bit few miles north, we can get to Maine” and I really wanted to always go to Maine. And he’s like, “All right Edie.”
So he literally drove over to Welcome to Maine, pulled off the highway, on the off ramp and he said, “Okay. Get out.” I’m like, “Here?” “Yes, get out here” and jump on the ground and so I did. I stomped on the ground, got back in, sure enough he pulled around, you know, Welcome to New Hampshire. So I’m like wait, I didn’t have any lobster. I didn’t see anything. I did know from an early age that I’ve definitely got to do this in my life.
John: Yeah. That is so cool. Well, at least he didn’t leave you. It’s like, “Okay, get out here.” And then, “Where you going?!”
Edie: Yeah. That’s what really got it started because my dad was the CEO of a large chain of nursing homes around the country and he loved to travel and he loved to plane travel but he also really loved road trips but his road trips were really hard because as CEO of these nursing homes, he liked to do surprise visits to the nursing homes.
At the time, they also owned mental health hospitals and so there were a lot of facilities that we couldn’t go into so my mom and dad had to go in and he did these surprise visits so my dad would choose a destination where our vacation was but then the road trip up and those crazy hours on these road trips, he would visit every nursing home along the way and so I can tell you more about parking lots at different nursing homes all over the country. I can’t necessarily tell you about that country.
John: Than you can about Maine.
Edie: So that really taught me that it’s way more about the journey than it is about the destination and you really have to enjoy the journey. Instead of just checking off a bucket list, you have to enjoy the ride, too.
John: Yeah. That is so fascinating and a really good point that I think a lot of us forget about. So maybe along those lines, what was the wildest journey to get to one of the states or one that you remember the most?
Edie: This is easy so because of the boys’ school schedule, we pretty much did every vacation and every trip during the summer with yes, humidity and lots of bugs but almost without exception, excellent weather. And so one Christmas vacation, I said, maybe we should explore some of these states. It was a little snow, right?
So unfortunately, that meant that we soon ended up in Durango, Colorado and we’re headed to Santa Fe, New Mexico and if you Google that, you’ll see the most treacherous roads ever in the United States and we’re doing all these in my minivan. I took a picture at one point of the temperature gauge which is minus 15 in the minivan without chains, without Garmin. I mean I do have to tell you it might sound impressive, 50 states but I got to tell you probably three quarters of them were done without any kind of GPS or Garmin or anything. I didn’t know that and it didn’t really exist most of the time we were doing it.
So I mean we were going on this mountain roads that were the most treacherous. We saw 18-wheeled trucks like completely flipped over and they had on their side, they had been rescued but worst. So then we were like okay, we’re definitely going to stick with summer.
John: Right. That was the last winter trip. Wow. That’s amazing but I mean it makes that experience a lot more real and vivid for you than just if you just drove it during the summer.
Edie: Yeah, I know. It’s definitely us. Being basically from California, it’s like I’m such a baby with the weather and I talked to my husband’s family on the east coast and sometimes I hand over the phone going, “I can’t talk about the weather anymore.” Here we just have hot or hotter, right?
John: Yeah. It’s just amazing all the time. I want to be a weatherman out there. That’s for sure.
Edie: No. It’s very warm.
John: You’re never wrong. It’s like, “Well, what do you know? It’s 80 degrees today.”
Edie: True. “No rain today. Okay.”
John: Yeah, great. “Back to sports!”
John: So I guess, is there one thing that’s the coolest thing that you got to see or something that you really, really wanted to see from that experience?
Edie: Well, wow. Like I said, every state has that character but I think the first that pops into my mind is Mount Rushmore because you’re in the black hills of South Dakota and it’s very, very hill-y, very windy and like I said, I did this without a Garmin so I was usually the navigator while my husband’s driving and I had printed out the directions and I kept comparing directions with looking outside, I’m like, “I know it’s got to be here. How can we be missing Mount Rushmore?”
And I really never ever forget that I look out the window and all I saw was George Washington’s jacket. That’s all I could see from that perspective outside the window. I was like, “That’s him!”
I felt like I could reach out and touch it. That’s how close we were. I was like, “Oh, I can’t believe it.” Even though that wasn’t my last state, it was kind of combination of oh, my gosh. It just can’t get any more American than that.
John: Right. Now, that’s fantastic and so cool. So do you talk about this bucket list with clients and people in your bookkeeping business?
Edie: Oh, yeah. You can’t set me up. It’s interesting because what I really did takeaway from that is I think it’s Mark Twain that said, there are two important days in your life. The day you were born and the day you found out why. I really do think that travelling all 50 states gave me the sense of purpose that I didn’t have before. I was helping other people to develop their own bucket list and like I said, enjoying the journey, it’s not just checking off your bucket list but enjoying that whole process.
So my business has morphed from strictly accounting. It never really was strictly accounting because I incorporated this counseling part into it. So I kind of combined the two since the 50 states, and I call what I do “storybookkeeping.” So I take your own personal story about your past and stuff and try and revamp it a little bit so that you’re seeing more of the positive than what has happened in your past and try and come up with how you can use your past to have this best future you can.
John: That’s awesome. That’s very cool.
Edie: So helping other people to do their bucket list is what I’ve been trying to do.
John: That’s great. I’m sure that the hotels and all the states are very happy for you. Getting new business for them.
Edie: Yeah. I don’t get paid, I don’t get anything from it but —
John: In commission check, right.
Edie: The Hampton Inn like we swore by then because it had a pool for the kids, it had breakfast for everybody. It’s just so easy.
John: And their beds are so comfortable. Oh, man. I’m a huge fan.
Edie: They should hire me, I swear.
John: That’s very great. That’s fantastic. So fantastic. So I guess how has this sharing benefited your career? Do you find that referrals are easier or people are coming to you because of this or they want to talk about this the bucket lists?
Edie: I think I went out to coffee with a colleague of mine who was doing a lot of the same things that I wanted to be doing with my accounting business and she said to me some day and I forgot and she said, “Edie, accountants are problem solvers” and I took that back with me and I thought, I don’t know if I’m a problem solver and so much as I’m a real problem solver so I think I can show people how to do Quicken. I can show people how to make their taxes before April 15th a little easier by doing stuff all along the year. I can show them all that but that’s kind of like saying, you really should eat carrots instead of cupcakes on a diet.
I mean we all know those things. We all know what we should be doing but I think the essence of how I can help people is getting to why you aren’t doing that. Let’s get to the real problem. Let’s get to the real issue that you’re procrastinating on something. I think that’s what I’ve tried to kind of focus my energy on with people.
John: Yeah, I know. I mean I think that that’s such a powerful thing that I’m sure your clients are very appreciative of and it has to get you a ton of attention in that world.
Edie: People have been with me on the journey and they’ll be like, “What’s your number? How many states are you up to now?” And it’s like their passion, their happiness and me completing a goal, hopefully I can try and help them with that in return. I get to teach them stuff about the country that they maybe didn’t know and stuff.
John: Yeah. I think that that’s so fantastic. I guess going back to when you started with Arthur Young and your other jobs, did you feel open to share like you do now or what’s changed?
Edie: My family have always been kind of an open book but yeah, I’ve always kind of relied on being friendly and trying to include everybody in things and I would say that I’m not the best accountant and that I can’t recite the Tax Code.
John: You’re not alone in that.
Edie: I don’t think the best accountant is the one who can recite the Tax Code. The best accountant is the one who can really work with people, right? So maybe trying to dispel the limitations that a lot of people, clients put on accountants is I think a lot of people didn’t have such a lack of knowledge of what accountants really do but also what they can do. I think they just put us in this kind of pigeon hole. I remember at Arthur Young, we were auditing a hospital and they literally put the auditors next to the morgue.
John: Oh, my goodness.
Edie: Like, really? That’s how important you think we are?
John: It could’ve been in the morgue and that would’ve been probably worse. They did you a bonus by putting you next to the morgue.
Edie: You’re going to get out of here one way or the other.
John: Right, exactly.
Edie: Either we reel you out or — so I think that there are some accountants who unfortunately would rather just recite the Tax Code and just stay in their comfort zone and maybe that’s why they’re maybe more introverted and so that’s been kind of harder to share who they are and so maybe that’s kind of difficult for them so I need to respect that of course too.
John: Yes, right. Have you seen some companies or some firms that are doing some things that do encourage this culture or little things that they do to help with people sharing?
Edie: Well, a lot of the places that I work with are very small or individuals so I definitely gravitate towards the areas that interest me. So the people that have similar interests in wanting to not just have the 9:00 to 5:00 jobs, so pretty much the things that I’ve noticed are the people who have a really interesting and involved and engaged time outside of work are the ones that are the best workers.
I was watching one of your videos where you were presenting to different companies, you know, you did in your comedy and I think you asked one person what’s something that they do after work and she said, “More work, more accounting.” It was like well, yeah, your boss is sitting right there. That was a good answer but really, I have seen out in the work force that people do like their jobs but they enrich their jobs by having this rich whether it be social circle or just hobbies and interests and they have to use all of that to be a better lawyer or a better real estate developer whatever that it just enhanced their jobs which is why your philosophy, that’s exactly right.
John: Well, thank you so much. That’s a great point that it doesn’t take the place of your job. It just enhances it and enriches what you’re doing from during the day in the office. That’s much well put than I’d ever set it actually.
Edie: So I don’t know about that but —
John: Well, that’s so fantastic, Edie. I feel like everyone’s really gotten to know you really well and I wish that we could’ve been along for the ride for all 50 states, that’s for sure.
But I always have my 17 rapid fire questions to see if we could really hang out type of a thing and it’s what I encourage people to use when they’re interviewing the new prospects. But here we go, rapid fire questions.
So the first one. Cats or dogs?
Edie: Both but really dogs.
John: Dogs, yes.
Sudoku or crossword puzzle?
Edie: Hello? I’m an accountant. Sudoku.
John: Yeah, well, once in a while I get a crossword guy like, “What?”
Edie: Oh, you do?
John: Yeah. I think they’re just trying to make something up.
Do you have a favorite color?
Edie: Cross between pink and purple so fuchsia and I kind of overdo it a little bit with that.
John: Well, at least you’re honest.
How about a least favorite color?
Edie: No. Love them all.
John: Love them all, all right. Star wars of Star Trek?
Edie: Hello? Harrison Ford. Star Wars.
John: That’s the best reason I’ve ever heard. It’s so funny. PC or Mac?
John: Right click or left click?
Edie: Both but I think I’d go with right click.
John: Yeah, you seem like a right click in a good way.
Favorite toppings on a pizza?
Edie: Okay. This is really, really, really bad but you know how Domino’s pizza had those pasta carbonara pizzas and I’m pretty sure were out to kill you?
Edie: I looked it up when we watched it once and like, “What? I can’t eat for three months?” But I got to go with pasta but if I don’t have pasta then actually, ironically it would be all the veggies.
John: Oh, okay. Just try to balance it out?
John: Right. Do you have a favorite band?
Edie: This is tough. Well, can I say one singer?
John: Sure. Absolutely.
Edie: I don’t know is Stevie Wonder a band? It’s Stevie Wonder.
John: Oh, Stevie Wonder, yeah. Absolutely.
Edie: And then Phil Collins and Genesis. I’d go with that.
John: Oh, yeah. That’s good for road trips.
Edie: I’m dating myself. Yeah, very good for road trips.
John: Very good for road trips.
How about heels or flats?
John: Balance sheet or income statement?
Edie: Balance sheet.
John: Do you have a movie that makes you cry?
Edie: Out of Africa.
John: Oh, yeah. That’s a good one.
How about a favorite number?
Edie: This is so easy. 15.
John: 15, and why is that?
Edie: Because 15’s always been my favorite number and it’s my birthday too but if you ever want to get really inspired for organization or really just inspired on anything, go to flylady.net and you just spend a few minutes with that website and you’ll no longer wonder why 15 because you can do anything for 15 minutes and you’ll be shocked at how much you can do. So just set a timer for 15 minutes and do the thing that you don’t like to do and you’ll be shocked in how much better you feel and how much you can get done in 15 minutes.
John: Yeah, wow. That’s amazing, kind of a Pomodoro type of thing?
Edie: Yeah. Totally. It’s unbelievable. I have a races for how many 15-minute things I can get done so it’s crazy.
John: Right! Very cool. Do you have a least favorite vegetable?
Edie: Nope. Not really.
John: Wow, you like them all? Even Brussel sprouts? No, I’m just kidding.
Edie: Some more than others but I like to focus on some attributes of something. Nothing negative.
John: Right. If you put ketchup on it, everything’s good right?
Edie: Yeah. I’m going to have enough salt, yeah.
John: I think I might know this answer but do you have a favorite actor or actress?
Edie: While you would think so but no, well, Robert Redford.
John: Well, Harrison Ford’s cousin I’m sure in some way.
Edie: Yeah. He’s second.
John: Right. A few more.
Pens or pencils?
Edie: Okay. So when our local Staples, when they ran out of supplies, they call me because I’m a bit of hoarder of school and office supplies. I have to say both but I would also add that you should always carry with you a highlighter if for no other reason than symbolically because you should always be highlighting the positive in your life.
John: Oh, look at that! That’s so good. A highlighter. That’s very good.
Here’s the last one. The favorite thing you own.
Edie: Okay. This is really easy. But then you’re going to really think I’m out there. So I did all 50 states before I’m 50 so check that off, and now we had to get to my husband’s bucket list and it was he wanted to go to 100 countries before he dies and that’s not my bucket list item and I know for sure I’m not going to get to 100 countries, I might get to 50, I don’t know but he’ll do it so first starting out he wants to go to all seven continents so he said, “Okay, while we’re on the younger side, we should go to the most difficult.”
So I went to Antarctica with him in December, our family did, and this was so outside my comfort zone, John, you have no idea. You think, “Oh, she wants to travel. Of course, she would go.” No. Antarctica. You couldn’t even see my comfort zone with this trip.
So he went for his 50th but he was almost 52 when we went because we were already into so many years on whether or not I should go but so since we did this trip, everyone’s like, “Oh, Edie, he owes you big time. You’ve got to figure out some payback.” “You guys do not know me very well that you thought I would go on this trip without my payback already arranged.” It was only in two-letter and one that is R and the second is one V. So I bought an RV when we got there.
John: That’s so awesome.
Edie: I turned it into a mobile office so that’s the most favorite thing I own.
John: That’s so great and it reminds you of the vendetta that you had — no, I’m just kidding.
Edie: That’s right. But ideally, it was meant to continue travelling my 50 states. Even though I’ve done it, it doesn’t mean I can’t keep going in an RV but really, I love it so much and I’ve just made it my mobile office that I just want to stay in there all the time.
John: That’s so great and every time your husband pulls in the driveway, and he sees it and he remembers every time like you don’t even have to remind him. You don’t have to point it.
Edie: “Hey, look what I did for you.” Yeah.
John: “Look out the window, buddy.” There you go. That’s so great. I’m going to not let my wife listen to this episode. That’s for sure.
Edie: I know. There are a lot of people who want to go have an RV, I couldn’t believe it when I — I haven’t told everybody. I haven’t even told many of my family members but they were like, “Oh, I’ve always wanted an RV.” It’s really a lot of fun.
John: Well, that is so great and thank you so much, Edie. This was really, really good and I’m sure that everyone really enjoyed it. So thank you so much for being with me on the podcast.
Edie: Oh, thank you, John. Thank you very, very much.
John: Like Edie said, everyone’s supposed to like their job but you’ll like it even more if you enrich it by talking about your passions.
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