Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Catching Dreams

For as long as I can remember, my biggest dream in life has been to "have" my own orphanage. I've wanted to work in an orphanage, or work with orphanages, ever since I was a child. I've always had a small plan in the back of my head that at a vaguely defined point in the future I would move to another country, and start my own orphanage.

Over time I've come to realize it takes a lot more than that dream to do these things. My entire (doomed) foray into the Peace Corps was about me wanting to go to a country where I'd get to work with orphanages. (And then they screwed that one up on me big time. But whatever.) I worked with orphans in Haiti in 2010. I visited an orphanage in Romania in 2001. I spent a month working at an orphanage/shelter in Cambodia in 2011.

(And I've memorized every line in the movie, "Annie."  - The good version with Carol Burnett. The rest are all frauds.)
But my professional career has never lent itself well to following this dream. The harder I tried to get into a field or industry that would allow me to work with underprivileged children overseas, the further I seemed to get from that field. Last year I even took a class in non-profit marketing so I could hopefully get a job in non-profit work. Instead I landed in a job writing about the stock market. This is what I mean about the farthest opposite ends of industry!
But my situation and fate have changed again.
And this time things are coming together nicely to allow me to follow my dreams and passions and move abroad. This won't be just some simple short-term volunteer gig. Things are coming together beautifully to allow me to take a job in a country with a lot orphanages.
In the past few days and weeks relationships have dissolved and opportunities have arisen, that make me feel liberated.
It's funny how I feel like I have to explain my decision to others. I'm not doing it to justify my choices. This is who I am and what I have always wanted to do. My daydreams never looked like a husband and 3 kids in the suburbs. My daydreams always included orphanages, foster kids, and traveling the world with my laptop. I've never been a 9-5 worker, living in a condo, commuting to the city type. My heart wants to be in a developing country, where I can't drink water from the faucet, and I can barely speak the language. It's just who I am. I want to be serving others, not living for a paycheck.
But first I have to survive the next several months. I expect it will all fly by fast while I plan the singles conference, and make these plans to move abroad.
Bring it on, World! Let's do it!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Moving on up!

Recently it feels like every day and week is capped by a list of accomplishments (and failures). This week it was writing new articles for the Fool, packing up my apartment, moving, and surviving my first truly bad "back experience." But that's just the not so fun stuff.
There have been plenty of fun things too. I joined a few friends at the DC version of Comic Con, known as Awesome Con. I had a lot of fun, and think that this new, fledgling competitive con will only get better with time and experience. I've been to the movies, out to dinner, and spent some great time with friends and family lately.
But mostly I've been writing. I'm enjoying working on a few new writing projects. My brain never stops thinking about my new characters and stories. When I'm writing, I'm thinking I should be working on other things. And when I'm working on other things all I want to do is write.
It's a fun problem to have.
Hopefully I'll finish one of these projects and have something to show for all of it soon.
Meanwhile, there are lots of crazy developments afoot. Big, huge ones. The kind that requires visas and plane tickets. (And I'm not just talking about my trip to Serbia.) I've made up my mind to follow one of my biggest dreams, and the opportunity to make it happen has just sort of materialized in front of me. I couldn't be happier. It's still a bit soon to share much more than that, but really I'm very excited about it.
The chance to live abroad, making a living wage, serve in an orphanage, and write books?
I will take it!
Bring it on!
In fact, things are so fun and wonderful, that I can't get this song out of my head. It's not quite a happy dance, but it's almost there.

It has been a while since I've blatantly pushed my books on you. I think it's time to remind you I wrote some books and you should buy them!

"This Just In!" and "You Heard It Here First" are both available on Amazon for just $2.99

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? 

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