Monday, January 31, 2011

Help me help you (or someone you know) get a job!

I'm bringing back the $500 referral deal. Go check out my job listings website, and send in some resumes! If you send in a resume (yours, a family member's, or a friend's), and that person gets hired in the next 45 days, I will pay you $500.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A little side business promotion

As most of you know, my professional training is in marketing, with a strong emphasis on social media marketing. If you have a business that could use a little extra online push right now, I am offering a special "friends and family" deal.
For $100 I will help your EXISTING or developing website with simple SEO, back linking, directory submissions (in other words, bump up site traffic in target audiences), give content guidance, and create you a "badge/button." And all of this will be done within one week of a signed contract between us.
For an additional amount (to be discussed privately), I can also provide you with a detailed marketing plan that you can take and implement as you see fit.
If you are interested, let me know! We can discuss details directly.

Highs and Lows

Ooh, the highs and lows of this week will be hard to pick from. There's a few too many options!

The lows are a tie between getting stuck for 5.5 hours in a snowstorm driving home from Richmond in a near whiteout. (Normally a 3 hr drive.) And the furnace going out the very next day and spending 48 hours in a very cold way.

The highs are also a tie on those same events. Several people were very kind and made generous offers to help me out during both events.
The other highs will be when the guest bloggers all send me their posts today! Yeah!

Friday, January 28, 2011

CityDeals on Sale!

My fellow CityDeals addicts! Today is an important day! 10% off of everything on the site!
Use code EXTRATEN (in all caps) to get the 10% off EVERYTHING.
This is big people. Very big.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Silver Lining

Today was part 5,373 of my PC physical. And we are still far from over. 2 more doctor visits, a buttload of paperwork, and another drive back to Richmond, at least, and then it will be over. I hope.
I've been on a very strict diet ever since Dec 26. I've been consistently losing weight. Today I got weighed at the hospital as part of my physical again. I was 10 lbs less today than I was 2 weeks ago when I was originally weighed for my physical! (Total weight loss is 18 lbs.) And on top of that, I had another weight loss related surprise.
I've always had the lowest blood pressure ever. We're talking 90/60 was on the high end for me. But after I gained the nasty 30 lbs I've been trying to shake for 4 years, my blood pressure skyrocketed right up into the completely normal range (110/60). It was no big deal. It was in the completely healthy normal range. But I knew. I knew it was high for me, and it was because of those nasty evil 30 lbs.
Today's surprise? 90/60 on the BP again. I was very happy to see that!
And the doctor wants me to write something up to add to my paperwork (MORE PAPERWORK) on how my weight loss is due to dieting and how I have been doing it. Otherwise, she's afraid it will get noticed by the powers that be, and I'll get sent for more testing to see if I'm sickly and losing weight.

This one time? More paperwork is a good thing.

I'll do some before and after pictures, and give you more info on the diet in a few more weeks. I really want to make my goal first, and then share!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Highs and Lows

The highs and lows for last week!

High- my birthday! And my sister and cousin pulling together a birthday dinner for me, without me knowing. It wasn't a surprise party- I was told a few hours prior to dinner. But it was a surprise, because I had no idea they were planning something! And we went to my favorite restaurant in Roanoke, Taaza Indian Cuisine. This time I tried the goat curry (it seemed like a good way to practice for the PC Morocco where goat is apparently a regular food item). And I LOVED it. Phew!
Very high- My Meridian column got over 100 comments! Crazy!  (And I have a new column up today!
Also high- my brother sending me an awesome, thoughtful present.
Not as high- went to the dentist as part of the PC physical. No "new" cavities. But an old filling has to get replaced. And it isn't cheap. So I'm going to be trying to get in at the dental college and see if they can do it cheaper.
Low- total plateau on my diet. And my brakes need to get fixed.

Tomorrow I drive to Richmond- again- for another Peace Corps physical thing. Hopefully there will be no major complications with the snow! 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Happy Birthday, Dad! Thanks for setting the example that you are never too old to live out your wildest dreams!
Love, Me

Saturday, January 22, 2011

More Peace Corps stuff

Anyone else in love with these little xtra normal videos? They crack me up, regardless of the subject matter. Of course, this video managed to strike a chord with me for obvious reasons!

(If you haven't seen the xtra normal video on "quantitative easing" yet, you are missing out. My favorite part is "the ben bernanke" and his beard.)

Knowing that I am going to Morocco has really helped ease my more neurotic side. I know it may all change, but it is really nice to have a plan, even if it isn't a solid one. I decided to tempt fate this week. And by that, I mean I decided to risk jinxing myself. I went out and bought a French textbook and an Arabic textbook. I'm going to attempt to be fluent in French before I leave, and at least be able to read Arabic and speak a tourist level of it. Of course, by doing this, they will change my placement and send me to Nicaragua or Thailand.

I can see that I am getting a ton of traffic referred to me from the PC Journal site. Hello and welcome friends! I'm curious, did anyone else attempt to learn any Arabic before going to Morocco?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Love is Actually... for guest bloggers

I'm welcoming guest bloggers again! With the month of love, chocolate, Valentine's, roses, and broken hearts quickly approaching, I'd like to turn the time over to lots of guest bloggers. I'll still be throwing out my 2 cents here and there. But I'd like February to mostly be guest bloggers. The subject- LOVE, and whatever that word conjures up for you. Parental love, love of a friend, dating, heart ache, romance, marriage, a love poem for your dog, little candy hearts with words on them, it is up to you. If you are game, and would like to be a guest blogger for me, shoot me an email (check my profile- it isn't hard to find on here)! And if you are a lurker on this blog that I have never met, you are invited to guest blog as well! The floor is open!

Also, over on my totally wonderful, and yet completely underappreciated blog "Cutting Back and Going Green" I am looking for guest bloggers as well. Potential subjects- organic Valentine's gifts, green-friendly gifts, inexpensive children's school Valentines, etc. Anything homemade is welcome as well! Again, just email me if you are interested!

Deadline: I must have all contributions sent to me by February 1. But please, send me an email saying you are interested first!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Mormon, Single, and Ready to Mingle

Have you read this yet? Mormon, Single and (Sort of) Ready to Mingle!
My favorite LDS, single, female, hilarious author, Elna Baker is interviewed by The Huffington Post.
Miss Baker is the author of The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance: A Memoir, a book I pretty much recommend it to everyone, LDS or not.
The article on Huffington Post even quotes my favorite line from the book. "Me, in the corner by myself, with too many cookies and a notebook. To make matters worse, I just witnessed a 35-year-old man -- definitely a virgin -- dressed in a duck costume doing the electric slide.""

Which reminds me. I accidentally joined Seriously, it was an accident. As was the completely ridiculous charge for 6 months on the site to my debit card. Ugh. Anyway, since I apparently have 6 months on the site, I'm making the most of it. Adventures in "online meeting" coming soon.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Thank you, please come again

See those happy teeth? I had my first dentist appointment in 5 years. No new cavities!

No blogging here today folks!
But that doesn't mean there isn't new content over at -

Cutting Back and Going Green (PooGloos and making your own recycled paper!)

Jobs By Erin - software architect, business analyst, game designer, art designer, java jobs, and more. And in several different cities!

Monday, January 17, 2011

29th birthday anniversary

Last year's 29th birthday anniversary picture. 

2011 29th birthday anniversary photo

Ah yes, another birthday has come and gone. Thank you to all who wished me well on this the anniversary of my 29th birthday!
Some funny factoids about my birthday (if you are a long time reader, you've probably heard this before)-
I share it with Benjamin Franklin, who just happens to also be my favorite founding father
Nearly every year since I was 16 a major national or natural disaster has occurred within 1-3 days of my birthday (eg- Haiti earthquake, Desert Shield/Storm began, Kobe earthquakes, LA riots, Challenger disaster). Every year on my birthday I have a tendency to check the news compulsively to see what will happen this year. So far, we are good this year.
There is a freak warm spell in Virginia every year right around my birthday. When I was a kid I always wanted to have a sledding party for my birthday. More than once we ended up having backyard picnic parties instead! This year is the first time in my (Virginia) life that it has snowed on my birthday. (It was probably also the first year I have ever been desperate for sunshine. We're going on nearly 2 weeks of overcast skies and the S.A.D. is killing me!)
My family has a birthday serenade tradition. My dad will always call and sing Happy Birthday. The tradition has now been passed down, and now my nephews (albeit somewhat grudgingly, and yet with great gusto) will always call to sing Happy Birthday "cha- cha- cha!" The cha-cha-cha's are their favorite parts. I'd pay good money to hear my dad sing anything with "cha cha cha" in it.
For the second year in a row, I found myself on a very strict diet on my birthday. For the second year in a row, I am at my lowest weight in 10 years on my birthday! (I am 2 lbs lower today than I was a year ago today.) Just like last year, I really, really enjoyed getting to "cheat within reason" with a few of my favorite foods. And I have to say, it was totally worth it.

Let's face it. Last year, as in all of 2010, pretty much sucked for me. There were a lot of ups and downs, and some serious stress and disappointments. I'm not sorry to see it end. My birthday is my "new years," and starting over. I say bring on 2011. There are a lot of great things ahead of me, and I can't wait to get to them. The next birthday will likely be celebrated in a small village in Africa! And I can't wait!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Golden Globe Predictions

The Golden Globes are tomorrow night. And I'm looking forward to seeing some of my favorite shows get some awards! Here are the nominees, with my choice for winners in bold. There are a few categories where I just can't vote because I haven't seen any of the nominees. 
Also, I'd like to add my name to the list of protesters about True Grit getting shut out of the nominations. I'm sorry, but Emma Stone for Easy A? And not Hailee for True Grit? Seriously? Emma Stone sucked, as did the movie! That's just wrong on too many levels!

Best TV Series (comedy or musical)
30 Rock
Big Bang Theory
Big C
Modern Family
Nurse Jackie
My vote goes to Modern Family just because everything about that show is perfect- the cast, the stories, the set, etc. All of it. Who do I think it will go to? Glee or Big C. Why? The cable shows always do better, and Big C attracts a more adult, mature audience. And Glee just because Hollywood types (those who actually vote on this stuff) love how Glee tackles political, social issues.

Best Television Series -- Drama
Boardwalk Empire
The Good Wife
Mad Men
Walking Dead
Didn't I just say yesterday how I love the Good Wife? I think Mad Men has run its course in the awards, and I've never seen the other shows.

Best Motion Picture -- Comedy or Musical
Alice in Wonderland
The Kids Are All Right
The Tourist
I've only see Alice, and none of the others. And I really don't think Alice was that great. So I won't be voting here.

Best Motion Picture -- Drama
Black Swan
The Fighter
The King's Speech
The Social Network
I have only seen Inception and the Social Network. I thought the Social Network was great, but it wasn't the best movie this year. It was just a really interesting story about something everyone is a part of. However, Inception blew me away. Personally, I'm rooting for an Inception sweep! Do I think it will happen? I don't know. 

Best Screenplay -- Motion Picture
Simon Beaufoy and Danny Boyle -- 127 Hours
Christopher Nolan -- Inception
Stuart Blumberg and Lisa Cholodenko -- The Kids Are All Right
David Seidler -- The King's Speech
Aaron Sorkin -- The Social Network
Having not seen 3 of the 5 movies, I can't really say much. But again, there has never been anything like Inception before, so I'm going with Inception.

Best Director -- Motion Picture
Darren Aronofsky -- Black Swan
David Fincher -- The Social Network
Tom Hooper -- The King's Speech
Christopher Nolan -- Inception
David O. Russell -- The Fighter
Surprised? I think the Social Network had potential to be the worst movie this year. But it was the direction of it all that made it work. So I'm going with Social Network. But I'm hoping Inception gets it. See the above reasons for why.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
Christian Bale -- The Fighter
Michael Douglas -- Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
Andrew Garfield -- The Social Network
Jeremy Renner -- The Town
Geoffrey Rush -- The King's Speech
I'm going with the only one where I can remember the guy. Did I think he was that great? Meh. So I'm ready to be wrong.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
Amy Adams -- The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter -- The King's Speech
Mila Kunis -- Black Swan
Melissa Leo -- The Fighter
Jacki Weaver -- Animal Kingdom
Never saw any of them. Don't plan to either. I think Cary Mulligan should be here for her role in Wall St though!

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture -- Comedy or Musical
Johnny Depp -- Alice in Wonderland
Johnny Depp -- The Tourist
Paul Giamatti -- Barney's Version
Jake Gyllenhaal -- Love and Other Drugs
Kevin Spacey -- Casino Jack
Again, I'm going with the only movie I have seen. But Johnny Depp was pretty good in Alice. The Tourist is showing here in town still. Maybe I'll go see it today.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture -- Comedy or Musical
Annette Bening -- The Kids Are All Right
Anne Hathaway -- Love and Other Drugs
Angelina Jolie -- The Tourist
Julianne Moore -- The Kids Are All Right
Emma Stone -- Easy A
I think it will go to anyone but Emma Stone. I think it will be split between Annette Bening and Julianne Moore, and go to Angelina Jolie instead.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture -- Drama
Jesse Eisenberg -- The Social Network
Colin Firth -- The King's Speech
James Franco -- 127 Hours
Ryan Gosling -- Blue Valentine
Mark Wahlberg -- The Fighter
Maybe I haven't seen Colin Firth in this movie, but I will always vote for him anyway. If for no other reason than I just want to see him on stage.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture -- Drama
Halle Berry -- Frankie and Alice
Nicole Kidman -- Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence -- Winter's Bone
Natalie Portman -- Black Swan
Michelle Williams -- Blue Valentine
Not only have I not seen any of these movies, I've only heard of one of them. I have no vote.

Best Actor in a TV Series- Drama
Steve Buscemi- Boardwalk Empire
Bryan Cranston- Breaking Bad
Michael C Hall- Dexter
Jon Hamm- Mad Men
Hugh Laurie- House
I once read somewhere that Hugh Laurie deserves all awards always. Why? Because he's speaking English with an American accent (he's a Brit), walking believably with a cane, spouting some difficult medical jargon, and playing a fabulous character. He works three times harder than all other actors. So I'm tempted to go with him. But I think House has run its course. But I haven't seen 3 of the 5 shows, and I don't think Jon Hamm deserves it this season. So I'm going with House.

Best Actress in a TV Series- Drama
Julianna Margulies- the Good Wife
Elisabeth Moss- Man Men
Piper Perabo- Covert Affairs
Katey Sagal- Sons of Anarchy
Kyra Sedgwick- the Closer
Have I made my Good Wife feelings known yet? Also, Julianna Margulies is what makes the show. She deserves it!

Best Actor in a Television Series, Comedy or Musical
Alec Baldwin- 30 Rock
Steve Carell- the Office
Thomas Jane- Hung
Matthew Morrison- Glee
Jim Parsons- Big Bang Theory
That is like trying to pick a favorite child. I'm throwing a dart and going with Alec Baldwin.

Best Supporting Actress in a Series, Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television
Hope Davis- Special Relationship,
Jane Lynch- Glee
Kelly McDonald- Boardwalk Empire
Julia Stiles- Dexter
Sofia Vergara- Modern Family
Another very tough one. But I don't know how anyone is more believable than Jane Lynch. But I do love Sofia Vergara!

Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television
Scott Caan- Hawaii 5-0
Chris Noth- the Good Wife
David Straitharn- Temple Grandin
Eric Stonestreet- Modern Family
Chris Colfer- Glee
Quite frankly, I think this is a toss up as well. But I'd like to see anyone but Chris Colfer win. I love the show, and I like his character. But really? His acting? Anyone could pull that off. And while Chris Noth wouldn't be my first choice for getting an award for the Good Wife (I'd give it to Josh Charles, because I love him), I want the Good Wife to sweep!

Best Actress in a Television Series, Comedy or Musical
Toni Collette- United States of Tara
Edie Falco- Nurse Jackie
Tina Fey- 30 Rock
Laura Linney- the Big C
Lea Michelle- Glee
I'm going with Laura Linney. Lea Michelle can sing, but she can't act for TV. Tina Fey has been there, done that. Edie Falco is edgy, but I don't care. And Toni Collette is playing an annoying character on an annoying show. I've only seen one episode of the Big C. And what I remember was that Laura Linney was incredible.

Friday, January 14, 2011

TV Talk

Let's talk TV!
I actually don't have a TV in my house. I watch all my shows online ( or Hulu- why won't CBS just put their shows on Hulu?!?!), or on my sister's DVR. So I'm a little out of the loop on new shows coming in. I can't remember the last time I watched a commercial (hallelujah!).
So what shows do you like? What are you enjoying this season?
I always love the mid-season introductions. I seem to find all my favorite shows at mid-season replacements!
That being said!
Shows I'm loving, new and old!

The Good Wife- It can be gritty, and is definitely TV14, but I love it. I love the tension between Alicia, Will, and Peter. I love Kalinda, Carey, all of them. Hands down the best casted show on television.

Royal Pains- it comes back in a few more weeks. I can't wait. I will rate this one a G+. Kids wouldn't enjoy it or get it. But it is clean, and yet still intriguing!

Castle- this show keeps getting better and better. Again, a TV14, as all good police detective shows should be. I love Castle so much that I got "Heat Wave" on my Nook this week. And I'm loving it too. I really hope they "publish" his next "book" too.

Off the Map- I'm hooked on just the pilot alone. Of course, this show would totally appeal to a Peace Corps applicant who can't wait to go live off the map herself! Also, LOVE the casting so far (main doctor was in Bride and Prejudice, and one of the baby docs was awesome in guest spots on the Good Wife). HAWT! Inevitably headed for a TV14 rating.

Modern Family- if you aren't watching this show yet, you need to be! I LOVE IT. My parents love it. My sister loves it. There isn't a week that goes by that I don't laugh till it hurts when watching this show!!

The Cape- based on just the pilot, I liked it. But then, it has everything I love about a show. It's campy, fantasy, heart, and has Summer Glau. Really, the only thing missing from this show, (and it shows) is Joss Whedon. Seriously, if he joined up on this show, it would be the best show ever.

Grey's Anatomy- surprisingly, I'm falling back in love with this show. Shows this old tend to get stale after awhile. But this one just seems to be getting better. (Loved the (totally predictable) twist this week.)

NCIS- I will forever and always love Tony, Ziva, Abs, McGee, Ducky, Jimmy, and Gibbs. And sometimes I like Vance. Again, a show that only gets better with time!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Let's get physical!

Yesterday I went to Richmond to the Veterans Admin Medical Center. They are kind enough to do the Peace Corps physicals for free for applicants. I really had a wonderful experience there and I just want to share what a good experience that was.
First, the coordinator handling getting me in to see half a dozen different doctors is a total sweetheart. I arrived 30 minutes late yesterday, due to the obnoxious weather we have around here (and a faulty GPS unit). When I arrived the first thing she said was, "I saw that bad weather, and that you were late, and sent up a little prayer to God to deliver you safely to us. I thank Him you made it to us." I love the South for the people who so openly say things like that.
Second, the doctor that did my physical told me I would be her last PC applicant she could work with. The hospital is too busy, and they just can't do freebies anymore. She said they told her to turn me away, but she put her foot down and insisted. She supports the PC and anyone who wants to make the world a better place. So if she has to sacrifice her lunch hours to squeeze in PC applicants, she'll do it. How great is she?
Third, my nurse was also amazing. I have been on a diet for 2.5 weeks now. I practically ran to jump on the scale to get my weight. She said she had never seen a woman do that before, so I told her why. She gave me a high 5 "girl to girl, up high!" Later she told me how she's lost 60 lbs, after seeing her husband, "go back to sit with God, because he loved his sugar too much." Again, I love Southern Christians!
Fourth, the poor medical student in the blood lab that got stuck with me. I shouldn't say stuck. I'm the one who was used as a human pincushion! Even when I'm not dieting, and I have had plenty of water and a good meal, my veins like to play hide and seek. I'm not the easiest "stick" in the world. In fact, looking at my elbows right now, I see no faint blue veins under the skin. Nothing. And then I get stuck with a med student who is in the last few minutes of his one and only phlebotomy rotation. I think he genuinely felt bad. He had to stick me 4 times before anything showed. And then they robbed me of 10 vials of blood! 10!! That's just mean. Between that and the TB skin test, I'm a little tired of needles right now.
But the truly awesome part was the med student. I could tell from him name and his faint accent he wasn't US born. He saw on my paperwork I was a PC applicant (and very obviously not the usual type of VA hospital patient). I asked where he is from and he said, "Ghana. It was a PC volunteer that helped me get my education and go to college. I owe a lot to the Peace Corps!" I thought that was really great. It gave me the extra boost to survive 4 pricks and 10 vials.

(Now I just have to get my dental appointment, eye appointment, gyn appointment, urology, and get 4 different doctors from around the country to send me paperwork from 10-15 years ago, and we are done with this!)

Camels, Haiti, Singles, and Me

The past 48 hours have been busy, emotional, and did I say busy yet? for me. Between writing articles for Meridian Magazine, the Examiner, recruiting for Phase 3, driving to Charlottesville and Richmond, visiting relatives, getting a physical, the anniversary of the Haiti quake, and finding out what my official Peace Corps nomination is for, I am exhausted today! Can I just stay in bed and read for a few hours?
Have I mentioned lately how much I love my Nook?
This week I wrote two fairly emotional pieces for Meridian Magazine. The first was on Seven Ways to Better Serve the Singles (in the LDS Church). This was one of the hardest pieces I have ever written. I had to dig up a lot of bad memories and ask myself what went wrong in those situations in order to write it. And then I had to go back through multiple times and remove any trace of personal emotion from the story. The result? I have written nearly 100 pieces for Meridian over the past 10 years. This was my third headline article for them. And it received nearly 70 comments (I normally only get 5-10 per story). I think overall I made a good point and that the piece was well received.
The second piece I wrote was a personal retrospective on Haiti one year later. (Also a headline story- 2 in the same week!) Again, very emotional for me to share my thoughts on Haiti like that.
And then with the writing all over, it was time to drive to Richmond for my Peace Corps physical. Literally 2 hours before I was about to leave I got an unexpected email! I found out my official Peace Corps nomination! Absolutely ALL things are subject to change!!! And I do mean all things. (We are still waiting on legal clearance for me, which I believe means that I could be nominated in some other areas still. But as of right now this is what I am nominated for. I'm calling it a really great Plan B, with this possibility of a great Plan A in the future. But I'm thrilled for Plan B.)
The nomination?
North Africa/Middle East- Business Advisory!
Which looks something like this-

Can you see that? It gives me 100% change of going to Morocco!
However! Allow me to point this out as well-
If we change it to "Worldwide" and Business Advising, about 35 countries come up. If we change it to "Africa" and Business Advising, about 17 countries come up. But since I do have a region and a sector, and it is pretty specific, I think it is time to break out my Arabic and French books, and start brushing up on my language skills.
The country and assignment were a huge shock to me. But the bigger shock was finding out I will be leaving in September. I was under the impression that I was cleared as early as June. I don't know if it is September because that is when this specific program starts. Or if it is because I'm delayed in the paperwork process. Which could very well mean that once my legal and medical comes through that my nomination would change, and the date would change as well.
Again, nothing is official or actionable. But it sure does feel good to have such a great option in front of me! I can be very very happy with Morocco! CAMELS!

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Eastern Caribbean

I was thinking about the Peace Corps again today. Okay, so I think about it all of the time. Some applicants have a fairly good idea of where they might end up, due to their specialties. (For instance, "water and sanitation, sub-Saharan Africa." They may not know which country, but they can narrow it down to a geographic area.) Some applicants are nominated for the ever broad reaching category of "education." Which means they could end up just about anywhere teaching English, math, or science.
Me? I got nominated in multiple categories. This is fairly unusual. I know I requested a certain continent (Africa), but I made it clear I was wide open to anything. (And have since changed my mind, and have decided I'm afraid of cold locations. Hot I like. Cold I hate.)
So today, as usual, I was playing with the Peace Corps calculator, putting in the different things I was nominated for, and looking up the different countries. And I just discovered "Eastern Caribbean" on my list of possible places. The possibility is only 2%. Not exactly a strong chance, but a chance nonetheless.
And right now, shivering in this cold, old house, the idea of spending 2 years working with the Caribbean people I love so much, on a tropical island, sounds just about right!

Getting over myself

For the past few days I have been in one helluva bad mood. Stressed, frustrated, angry, and yelling at the moon, bad mood. Tonight I decided to get over myself by reading Peace Corps blogs. Reading these blogs, about volunteers, trainees, and other applicants helps me stay focused on what really matters. It got me to thinking, I don't think I have shared with the cyber-world (or my personal, private world) why it is I want to join the PC, and where I want life to lead me after that.
In the past few years I have learned a lot, some of it first hand, about having and meeting human basic needs. This has become a passion of mine, and something I can't let go of. When I was younger I was far more concerned about individual's rights (for instance, anything Constitutional). But I find myself less passionate about rights, and more concerned about basic needs. As you look at the world stage, you will notice that is the countries and locales that have trouble meeting their own basic needs that tend to have the most volatile societies and political systems. It is my personal opinion that helping individuals reach their basic essential needs (clean water, basic health and sanitation, education, and housing) needs to come first. Rights can come second.
And so I go forth into the unknown world of volunteerism, looking to help others achieve their basic essentials.
Then what? Where will I go when I get back from the PC in Fall 2013?
I'm hoping to Oxford. I will get a fellowship (which requires service in the States for a few months) after my PC service is over, plus some grant money as well. If all goes well, and the timing plays out just right, I'll go straight to Oxford to get my MBA in social entrepreneurship.
By the time I'm done with the PC, my fellowship, and then Oxford, I'll be just short of my 40th birthday. (Yes, fellow PC applicants reading this, I'm a few years older than most of you!) And so, my goal for my 40th birthday is to be well on my way to setting up my own teen shelter/orphanage in a third world or developing country.
I have read a great deal about the children in orphanages, in various countries, and what happens to them after a certain age. They are kicked out to become street children, or sent to live in mental institutions, without much hope of a life. I'd like to target this age group, and create something along the lines of a teen shelter or group home (still an orphanage of sorts), that is self-sustaining, and serves as an educational institution. What I'm describing here is incredibly vague, compared to what I have in my mind. You'll just have to trust I have a much bigger plan in mind.
I believe that regardless of the program I enter in the PC, and regardless of what country I am sent to, I will gain a great deal of insight and knowledge that will help me achieve this goal. As will the education I will gain through the Skoll Center at Oxford.
Thinking about basic, essential needs, and how there are so many people in this world who do not have access to them, anchors me back down. When I start to get frustrated about the little things that are not going right in my life, I read the PC volunteer stories and remember just how much more I have than others.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

I've been trying to think of a cute, pithy, amusing way of blogging today. Let's see how badly I fail.
Some days are just easier than others to be light-hearted and amusing. I've had nothing light-hearted, cute, or pithy on my mind this week. 

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Peace Corps Application Status Update

Things are still plugging along over here. I'm still trying to get all of my medical work done for my PC application. I was warned this is the most time consuming part, and they didn't lie. Oh how I wish all it took was one phone call to a doctor's office, and a quick physical. But oh no! That is so not how this works. Especially not in my case.
Allow me to elaborate!
A few months ago I filled out a 200 question form about my health background. It asked everything you could possibly imagine about your medical history. Even if you think you are the picture of perfect health they would have found something on you in this form.
Then in my in-person interview, they asked a lot of the questions all over again and documented it again. And now, anything I may have said yes to on that form I have to get checked out. Have you ever had pink eye? Sore joints? Headaches? Liver problems? Brain tumors? A freckle on your left big toe?
The basic version of this is I have to get a full physical, blood work, x-rays, dental check, eye exam, and lady exam. The long version of this is that I have to get appointments with a dentist, optometrist, ophthalmologist, lady doctor, general practitioner, and get copies of any vaccine I have ever had. (And trust me, I got a LOT before going to Haiti.) And chances are the GP is going to request I see a neurologist to comment on my vertigo. And if ANY tiny thing pops up in all of this, I have to get treated, cured, and re-visited.
But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Obviously, perfect health is important before joining the PC. But here's the good and bad part. I don't have health insurance. (I haven't been to a doctor in years.) So I have opted to take advantage of the PC offer to use the Veteran's Administration hospitals and doctors. So far my experience has gone like this-
Look up nearest hospital. It is 3 miles away. Call them.
They reject me because "they are too busy to handle PC applicants." I have to call some other VA hospital.
I call the Richmond VA, approximately 3 hours away.
1st call- get stuck on hold for an hour with registration, finally give up and enter my phone number in their queue system, to be called back when they reach me in line.
3 days later realize they never called me back, and call again.
Get through immediately to an operator who has no clue what to do with me. Get bounced and bounced till I find right person. She knows everything. She says she will set up my appointments, and for me to call back in 3 days when the doctors are back in their offices.
3 days later I call back. I lost her personal extension, and get stuck in the registration queue again. On hold for 20 minutes I give up, enter a call back number and wait.
1 hour later I call again, get an operator, and explain my situation. 10 minutes later I'm finally connected. I have the right woman, but she has forgotten to set up my appointments. She transfers me to her supervisor. Supervisor tells me they will set everything up, and for me to call back tomorrow. She takes my email address.
Few hours later the other lady emails me to say they need all of this information on me before they can set anything up. She sets up a time for me to call her to set up my appointments.
I call and give her the info. She tells me to call back in 2 days to find out when my appointments will be.
They had mentioned a few times how the "lady clinic" (their word, not mine) is currently closed and hard to get into. So I suggested that since I live several hours away and that I have to get a TB skin test, which will require me to drive back to Richmond just for them to look at my arm and say all is well, that maybe half of my appointments could be on that second day. That way I could have 2 possible days of getting into the clinic, and not have to start my appointments at the crack of dawn, after having driven 4 hours.
I swear to you they nearly nominated me for a Noble Prize for such thinking. Apparently this was some pretty genius, out of the box stuff for them.
So my appointment to find out when my appointment is is tomorrow afternoon. Wish me luck. We are now a mere 3 weeks into this process, and I still don't actually have an appointment set up!
In the meantime, since the PC strongly recommends volunteers not wear contact lenses, and instead to wear glasses, I am trying to slowly move myself over into glasses again. I haven't worn glasses full time... ever?

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Dear Haiti - I miss you

Dear Haiti,

You've been on my mind all day. Including some pretty intense flashbacks that made me want to sit down and cry. The first trigger was getting an email this morning saying that our operation in Haiti has closed up shop. They have determined that it is too dangerous and unsafe to continue building a much needed hospital for you. Knowing how very badly you needed a new, up to date, functioning hospital this just breaks my heart. As my fellow volunteer Claire said, "I wasn't ready for that closure." I've been waiting almost a year for "closure" with you. And I was so badly hoping it would be a hospital. I'm sorry we failed you Haiti. I wish we could do so much more.

The second trigger was a funny one. A happy one in many respects. I was helping my cousin renovate her basement, and I had to fill a hole with concrete. Just hearing the word concrete makes me think "2 parts sand, 1 part gravel, 1 part water." And then, "who can I make carry the heavy parts for me?" Mixing concrete and Haiti will forever be intertwined in my mind.
Sitting on the floor of my cousin's house, working manual labor for the first time in a very long time, it just all reminded me of Haiti. How much I miss you. How hard the work was, how hard we worked, and yet we never seemed to finish. There was just so much to do. On one hand, I never want to have to work that hard ever again. And yet, on the other hand, it is all I want to do. All I want to do is work until I am exhausted and can barely move, if it means making a life changing difference for someone else.
Photo taken by Justin Lyon at
There are still nights where I allow myself to sit in the dark and relive an entire memory. Sometimes it is holding a patient's hand in a hospital. Sometimes it is watching the children play soccer in the field while we built the outdoor kitchen at the orphanage. Last night I dreamed about sitting on that scary a** school bus with "Chu" driving, and bouncing up and down those roads. There was a hardware store we passed a dozen times in Croix de Bouquets, but we never went in it. (I don't think it was ever open.) I can still remember the vivid colors, the paintings outside, and the beautiful tropical flowers hanging from the pots. It was one of the few beautiful and intact buildings I saw. I vividly dreamed about that crazy building. I still remember the total fear I felt when Brad passed out on me. (It's been a year, can I admit it was Brad now?) I remember feeling the little earthquake that last night we slept on the roof at the orphanage. Holy Hannah that scared the crap out of me. I remember so many details vividly that it still hurts sometimes.

And yet, there are huge details I've forgotten. I look at my pictures and I forget the names of the men in them. I thought I'd never forget them. I've forgotten big things, and yet can remember tiny details about others. The Super Bowl- that I remember clearly. Especially that overwhelming feeling of pride and love I felt for the soldiers standing around me as the Star Spangled Banner was played on the "tv." I cried like a baby, and wanted to hug each of those men. Not many Americans will ever know what it feels like first-hand to be protected up close and personal by our own military.

In this picture, I'm actually in the back of an Army transport, taking the picture. The US Army was moving the mob back so that we could get out of our truck and get inside the hospital. 
Oh Haiti. I want to do so much more for you. I wish I had a job just so I could send you more money. I send you what I can, as often as I can. If I could find a program that would send me back down there, I'd be there in a heart beat. Get well, Haiti. Get better. We're here for you and want to help.


Saturday, January 01, 2011

High - Lows

Let's have a little fun with the highs and lows of the past week-

Best of the best- it isn't 2010 anymore. That sucker is long gone, never to return. 
Most surreal moment- a flaming gay man with a lisp dressed as a Johnny Cash cowboy, tapping me on the shoulder in the mall and saying, "This shampoo would be great for your hair. It's colored. I know, I'm a professional." While I was shopping for wallets.
Funniest moment- Holding my cooked, whole lobster, I opened the bathroom door that I knew my little sister was standing behind. I slowly inched the lobster up next to her. She turned, she saw it face to face, and she screamed. A lot. Priceless. 
Most cathartic- writing a 7pp character statement about my vile ex-boss. Getting to legally and officially put everything in writing about all of her horrible acts felt really good. Knowing she may finally have to pay for her crimes, felt even better. 

Low moment- my dog is sick again. This will be our 5th trip to the vet in two months. 

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