Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Gotta Keep Typing



(Just a few recent pics off my phone.)

To put it mildly, life has changed drastically in the last 4 weeks.
I don't mind. I'm really enjoying the changes!
I couldn't find who the artist/sculptor was who did these two sculptures. But they were actually at 2 different museums. I'm assuming they were done by the same artist. Because what are the odds otherwise?

The most bizarre of all the changes is that I've developed (for the second time in my life) callouses on each of my fingertips and a bruise on the bottom of one wrist from so much typing.


I'm working daily for Meridian Magazine again, writing freelance articles, writing for the Motley Fool, building a new website, and when there are few spare minutes in a day, working on writing 2 new books.

About 2 years ago I complained that I was typing, on average, about 20 pages a day. And I'm easily back up to that again now. No wonder I'm getting callouses from all the typing!
(And yet we call this unemployment.) 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Most Influential Books I've Ever Read




A few weeks ago, at the recommendation of a friend, I read the book David and Goliath, by Malcolm Gladwell. It wasn't what I expected it to be. I had predicted a book about how small businesses can beat out big ones.
If you've ever read a Gladwell book before, you can feel free to laugh at how little I knew about his writings style.
That was far, far, far away from what the book was actually about.
Here's the actual description from Amazon:
Three thousand years ago on a battlefield in ancient Palestine, a shepherd boy felled a mighty warrior with nothing more than a stone and a sling, and ever since then the names of David and Goliath have stood for battles between underdogs and giants. David's victory was improbable and miraculous. He shouldn't have won. 
Or should he have? 
In David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell challenges how we think about obstacles and disadvantages, offering a new interpretation of what it means to be discriminated against, or cope with a disability, or lose a parent, or attend a mediocre school, or suffer from any number of other apparent setbacks.
Gladwell begins with the real story of what happened between the giant and the shepherd boy those many years ago. From there, David and Goliath examines Northern Ireland's Troubles, the minds of cancer researchers and civil rights leaders, murder and the high costs of revenge, and the dynamics of successful and unsuccessful classrooms---all to demonstrate how much of what is beautiful and important in the world arises from what looks like suffering and adversity. 
The book pretty much blew my mind. It was fascinating and an addictive, engaging read.
It was so good, that before I was even finished with it, I went and downloaded Tipping Point, Outliers, and Blink to my Nook.



 I'm about halfway through Outliers: The Story of Success.  It isn't just fascinating and engaging. It has me reconsidering my life, my successes, and how I have compared myself to others (both in and out of my generation) for years.
In a strange way, looking at the world through this new prism Outliers has given me, has made me feel better about my life. It has given me permission and understanding to take certain pressures off my past failures.
If that doesn't make sense, here's the real description of the book:
There is a story that is usually told about extremely successful people, a story that focuses on intelligence and ambition. Gladwell argues that the true story of success is very different, and that if we want to understand how some people thrive, we should spend more time looking around them-at such things as their family, their birthplace, or even their birth date. And in revealing that hidden logic, Gladwell presents a fascinating and provocative blueprint for making the most of human potential.
It has turned my view on "low hanging fruit" around, and helped me accept why sometimes there isn't "low hanging fruit" available.
The book makes this fascinating case study about why guys like Bill Gates have experienced so much success. Gladwell presents much of this with scientific and anthropological fact. It is all quite fascinating to see what common threads these "outliers" share. And to understand why there hasn't been another success story to the same degree of Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. (Although using the knowledge gained in this book I can see now the same pattern that sets Mark Zuckerberg apart.)
But in a very strange way, Outliers has strengthened my faith and belief in God. While the book may present it all as a series of events and fortunate timing, the Christian, God-believing heart can see more. I see that it wasn't a series of good luck and fortune. But that God in His infinite wisdom made sure that someone with the talents and gifts of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were placed on Earth at those strategic times so that they could be outliers.
The point is made very clear in the book that if Bill Gates had been more just a few years earlier or a few years later, +/- 3 years maybe, they would not have enjoyed the successes that we have so generously benefited from.
If you haven't read these books yet, I highly recommend them. They are, without reservation, the most enjoyable non-fiction studies I have ever had the good fortune to pick up and read. You'll forget you are reading non-fiction because the storytelling is just that good.
Go pick them up today!

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Pinch Me, Please




I never get tired of this picture. (I've told this story many times before, so forgive me if you've heard it.) I'm twirling in the Alps in Romania, living out my "Sound of Music" dreams. In just a few seconds I will hit that small white-gray rock beside me, which isn't really a rock at all. It's mountain goat poop. And I will trip, fall, and roll unromantically down the mountain.

And the best part is?

I get to go back to Romania and do it all over again!

It's true!

An organization in Utah (that for now shall remain nameless, but I'll share more about them in a few weeks) has invited me along on their international dance tour this summer. (And I said yes.) We'll be visiting Serbia and Romania. And thanks to the very strange flight schedules of Aeroflot, and a lack of flights into Serbia, I will also be spending 2 days in Moscow.

I'd have to say that so far unemployment is suiting me just fine.

Actually, if we're being honest, I'm barely unemployed. I am writing for the Fool again, editing for Meridian, working on a top secret business venture, doing this gig in Serbia, plus accepting more and more freelance offers every day. It's really rather crazy just how many offers have just found me and jumped right in my lap.

And I have never been more grateful. Truly, I never could have imagined so many amazing opportunities could or would ever come my way so easily.  Somebody pinch me, please!

To do before the big trip:
Find a dogsitter
Finish editing "You Heard It Here First" to submit it to a distributor (this is a BIG deal, folks!)
Finish writing the sequel to "This Just In!"
Finish writing the book on social media and missionary work
Finish writing that other book I'm writing
Write lots of articles for freelance magazines that pay. I need the money.
Get more people to use that Amazon link
Get more people to use my eShakti link
Pack, move, unpack, get organized
Go to Duck Beach
Get Russian visa
Lose 10-15 lbs before Duck Beach (well underway, but goal far from met)
Figure out why my dog snores so much suddenly
Get a new, bigger suitcase
Get a briefcase-purse thing that will carry my laptop
And about a dozen more things

Sunday, April 06, 2014

I'm Okay With That



Tonight the reality of unemployment is hitting me. I still have a few dollars saved up, but they won't last long. I have a few freelance gigs lined up, but they don't pay nearly enough to cover all my expenses.
My COBRA health insurance information finally arrived (2 days after my plan expired, which is how I found out which day my plan expired). $643 a month???
Um, no thanks.
I guess I will be going with ObamaCare after all. $40 a month, plus a $6000 deductible. Ha.
Well, hopefully I just won't ever get sick, right?
Speaking of which, back in December I had to go off a weight management medication I was on for 3 years in prep for my surgery. I never went back on it because my doctor didn't think it was doing me any good anymore.
Ha. Double ha.
I've gained 15 lbs since December, in spite of going off gluten, corn, and most sugars. (Paleo diet.) Yep. I gained 10 lbs while on the Paleo diet. Go figure. (the other 5 I gained before the diet, which prompted me to go on the diet.)
I think I'll be asking to go back on my medication again!
I just wrote up a to-do list for tomorrow.
37 items on it.
Thankfully 1 of those things actually pays. And 8 more will eventually bring in some passive income.
It's not much, but at least I'm not spending money (except on health insurance) tomorrow. I hope.
I'm sitting in my bed, KayaDog snuggled up by my side, listening to the trampoline sounds and conversations of the upstairs neighbors, forced to play music loudly so I don't have to hear them (b/c my goodness someone up there has a potty mouth), reading a book (just finished "Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs" and just started "Outliers" in the last hour), and you know what?
Life isn't perfect.
It's far from rosy.
There is far more to be worried and concerned about than I can actually count.
But I'm pretty darn happy.
I have good friends.
I have a great family.
I have a very cute dog with a serious snoring problem.
I have prospects.
I have a good attitude.
I have the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I have no idea what tomorrow will bring, and I am completely okay with that.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

I'm no Runaway Bride



When I was in high school this popular "Mormonad" hung in my bedroom for years. It's probably the reason I love daisies far more than roses. I don't know that I really learned the lesson it was trying to teach until the past few years though.

I watched [most of] the movie "Runaway Bride" again today. (Netflix keeps me entertained while I attempt to work and write from home.) The underlying point of the movie is that the "bride" (played by Julia Roberts) doesn't know what it is she likes, and just goes along with her fiance's preferences. She supposedly doesn't know herself well enough to have strong preferences, all the way down to how she likes to eat eggs (she always takes it the same way her fiance does).

I didn't finish the movie. I never liked it much. There's something about it that just doesn't sit right with me. It doesn't take a psychotherapist to figure out why.

I once had a guy/relationship candidate/possible ex-boyfriend tell me that it bothered him how I "stalked" him by liking all the same things he liked. Apparently it never occurred to him that we really did just like a lot of the same things. (See, for me, that was the appeal of the possible relationship. We had a lot in common. For him it was creepy that we were so alike. Go figure.)

One of those things that we had in common was a love for all things superhero and sci-fi tv/movies. As I watched "Runaway Bride" today I also texted several girlfriends to see who might be game for going to the DC comic con with me - while I wore this shirt-


Which got me to thinking about my collection of superhero t-shirts (that I've had long before I ever met that guy)-


(I have about 10 more shirts I don't have pictures of myself in.)

But possibly the best proof ever that I loved the Justice League and all things sci-fi long before I loved men-


Yeah baby, that's the 4 year old me getting R2D2, and Spider-Woman Underoos for Christmas. 
And this dude has been hanging out on my desk for 8 years now.



So let it be known. I'm no "Runaway Bride." I know who I am. I know what I like. 



(And there's a long list of ex-boyfriends who wished I didn't like country music as much as I do as proof!)

I'll see y'all at Comic Con!

Happy Dance Time




Time for a new happy dance.
And nothing makes me happier than the cute girls in this video.

Why a happy dance?
Why not?

Things are good.
Things are great!
I haven't been this happy with prospects and opportunities in a long time.
I'm just so dang happy I might explode.

So let's all do the Harlem shake, shall we? 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Colors of Life


Yesterday it snowed.
I cried.
I really was convinced it was the end of the world.

Today it was 65 degrees and sunny.
I wasted no time.
I ran to Home Depot, bought paint, and a few new plants, and came home and got to work.

Tonight as I sit here next to my freshly painted, refurbished nightstand, I am so glad I did it. I've been waiting since December for the weather to be nice enough that I could take it outside and paint it. It looks so much better than it did before, and now it finally matches my bedroom set.

Maybe one of these days my bedroom (nay, my whole apartment) will finally start to pull together and look the way I want it to.

Maybe.
Someday.

I just discovered that the landlord does allow us to paint our apartments (as long as we paint them back). I can finally say goodbye to my bland, no color apartment! Color here I come! 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Really Easy Wonderful Way You Could Help Me Out


I am truly blessed with many wonderful, great friends.
Thank you all for your support and kind words lately. Needless to say, losing my job unexpectedly, and losing my grandmother, all at once, has been a bit overwhelming.
But thankfully things are looking up. Several very unexpected opportunities have come my way. Some more exciting than others, and some far more realistic than others. But the fact that opportunities have come up at all truly makes me feel so grateful and blessed. Thank you to everyone who has thought to reach out to me with different opportunities.
I have been asked many times "is there anything I can do for you?" And usually the answer is simply, no, there isn't.
But today I thought of something would help me out. And it's a fairly easy thing to do, if you ever do it.
If and when you buy things on Amazon, it would help me out a lot if you used my Amazon links. I'm an Amazon Affiliate, which means I get a small commission anytime someone purchases something on Amazon using my links or codes. It doesn't charge you more to use the link. And anything you buy on that visit to Amazon using the link gets me a credit. (To the person who once bought the $800 furnace using my link, you'll never know how much I appreciated that!) I can't see who buys what. But yes, I do see what it is you buy. (And sometimes I get a really good laugh out of the combinations!)
So if you want to help me out, and you shop on Amazon, it would help provide me some much needed extra income if you clicked on one of the ads on my blog to get to Amazon, or if you CLICK HERE TO GO TO AMAZON.
See how easy that is?
You're awesome.
Thanks. 


(You can also feel free to buy my books, or use this link to buy things off eShakti too.)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Will the Sun Come Out Tomorrow? I'm Seriously Starting to Wonder.



Today as the bitter cold wind was whipping my face and I dodged yet another melting snow pile, the thought occurred to me - what if this never ends?
What if this is the beginning of the end of the world, and the first sign is a winter that never ends?
(I have an active imagination sometimes, work with me here.)
I didn't go the religious "am I prepared" route, nor did my mind wander to the zombie route (and likely never will - I just don't get the zombie craze). No, I wandered to the "how long could I survive in a never-ending winter" route.
Could I survive in a world where the seasons suddenly became erratic and unpredictable? What if the sun stopped shining? (It feels like that already here.) What if I never got to wear flip-flops again?
It was a depressing thought, I tell you.The horror.
This apocalyptic never-ending winter is pretty much my worst nightmare.
I can say without hesitation, that given my current circumstances (no job, no daily responsibilities), that the only thing logically holding me back from just throwing my dog and a tent in the car and driving as far south as I can get, is the problem with my car. (My car broke down a while back, and I've been driving my parents' Suburban ever since. It gets about 10 miles to the gallon. You'd be surprised how much of a deterrent a $100 gas tank can be.) If my little, gas efficient, easy to handle car were in running condition, I'd be halfway to Key Largo by now.
I do love Key Largo. Beautiful place.
Where is the sun? Where is the warm?
Do I need to send an S.O.S. in a bottle?
What if this is the beginning of the end?!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Back in the Saddle Again

Aunt Nadine and Uncle Paul with most of their nieces, great-nieces, and a few great-great nieces that were at the funeral. Not even close to half of all the girls in our family. Aunt Nadine is our remaining living great aunt (out of 9, I think). 


This may be the longest I have ever gone without blogging- 9 whole days. 
Granted, they have been 9 very long, emotional, and often overwhelming days. 
You'll forgive me, won't you? 

My grandmother's funeral was quite lovely. It was wonderful and enjoyable to spend so much close time with my immediate and extended families. All but 4 of my first cousins were able to be there. I think that's the most that have all been together at once in close to 20 years, maybe longer. 

I'm back home at my own place now. My immediate family has all dispersed back to their own homes. I honestly have no idea what comes next career or life-wise. Stay? Go? Get another office job? Write full-time? Move? Return to Roanoke? Renew my lease? Get a roommate? 

There are a dozen questions, none of which are easy to answer, and few to no answers so far. 

I'm taking things one day at a time. And when the smoke clears and things are less overwhelming (I anticipate this may happen by Monday morning, but then again, maybe not), I'll start to formulate a plan. 

I'm feeling very loved and blessed these days. As complicated and overwhelming as things should be, I've been very much at peace. I'm scared about my future, don't get me wrong. But confident and faithful that things will work out. I just have no idea what the end picture will look like when it does all get worked out. 

Bear with me as we go through another major life transformation - again.


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Bittersweet


My Grandparents' Wedding Picture

My heart... oh my little heart.
I don't even know where to begin.

My world has been turned upside down, shaken, stirred, and dumped on the ground for me to piece back together.

And I don't even know where to begin.

On Tuesday morning I learned my grandmother only had days to live, maybe hours. 
I got to work, feeling sad and overwhelmed, where, without any warning, clues, or inklings, I lost my job.
My grandmother passed away on Wednesday morning.

Streak back wildly four years...
To the day cold, sunny day in December in Utah. I thought my life was going well, and I was completely blindsided when I was laid off.
And my grandfather died just days later.

My grandfather was horribly sick. Cancer had robbed him of his health. His passing was a bittersweet blessing.

My grandmother was 90 years old, frail, and barely a shadow of the vibrant she used to be, robbed of her wit and personality by a stroke three years ago.

I hated my job. Let's make no mistake about that. Going to work every morning was a very painful chore. But I did it. And I was incredibly grateful for the work and paycheck. I worked hard and I tried hard to always be able to keep that paycheck coming. And there were no warnings this might happen. Not once.

I love my family. We're big. We're opinionated. We're hard workers. We prize intellect. We value beauty. We adore each other.

The days before a funeral are the worst. The tears, the sadness at the passing, the loneliness of loss.

My parents and siblings will begin to fly into town today and tomorrow. We'll say goodbye to my grandmother and lay her to rest on Saturday. As soon as we are all together, the sadness quickly turns to joy. We were blessed to have "Grammy" in our lives for so long. But we are so happy that she has escaped this mortal coil that has held her back these last few years. And once we are all together again, we can celebrate her.

But first there are these quiet and lonely days.

Compounded by my fears about the future and memories of the three years that followed this scenario last time.

What happens now? What next?

I have no idea.

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