Friday, May 29, 2015

How to carve a new purpose for your life.

Many people desire to live a more fulfilling and meaningful life, and you may be one of them.  Sometimes, we feel stuck and do not know how to add whatever it is that we need.  We may not even be able to put a finger on what it is that we need or want to do next.  We just know that it has to be something different than the every day mundane routine.

I felt like this as a young adult.  I was going to community college, attending church, working at a fabric store, and living at home.  Something was missing, and it was not something I could identify.  I prayed for an answer, and it came to me eventually.  I may not have all the answers for everyone, but I do believe I have a series of steps that might work for some people who need a new goal in life.

The first is to sit down and get out a piece of paper.  Write down things you are passionate about.  They can be things like cooking, art, animals, personal finance, human rights, upholstering furniture, or plants.  It can be anything.  Anything!  Narrow the list down to the single most important thing to you, and make this topic your focus.

Go shopping to a bargain bookstore such as Half Price Books or browse the used sections of Amazon for books on this topic.  Buy 10-12 books on the topic of your choice and make time every day to read a chapter or two.  Go to YouTube and search for fun educational videos on your topic.  Google things in the books and videos that strike your attention.  Make a binder to store print outs on your topic.

Figure out how to possibly do volunteer work in the area of your topic.  If you chose animals, volunteer at a local animal shelter or the zoo, for example.  Most places who take volunteers only ask for a 2-3 hour a week commitment.  By doing volunteer work that is meaningful to you, you also meet people interested in the same things as you and build connections.  It may even lead to a job in the field of your topic.

Look at the local community college or Leisure Learning to see if there are classes on your topic.  If any works with your schedule, take it.  Even if you are in school for something else, a class in your topic can count as an elective.  If you are taking college classes that require a paper to be written or a speech to be given and the topic is up to you, choose the topic of your interest to research for this assignment.

Finally, search the job openings for possible jobs having to do with your topic.  Don't just look at job searching websites, look at websites for organizations and companies of interest under their career section for job openings.  It's said that if you find a job you love, you will never work a day in your life.  If you pursue interests with passion, learning will come easy.  Good luck.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Snowballing- a way to pay off debts

When people are serious about becoming debt free, one tactic many use is snowballing. Snowballing simply means to list all of your debts, list the amounts of each debt, and only tackle one at a time.  Choose the debt with the highest interest rate first.  Once an emergency fund is established, pay all extra money into the principle of the first highest interest rate debt until it is paid off.  Only pay the minimum required payment on the remaining debts.  Once the first debt is paid off, focus on the next highest interest rate debt in the same way. 
Another way to snowball is to choose the debt with the smallest balance first, regardless of the interest rate.  Doing it in the order of smallest to largest balance will be quicker in crossing debts off the list and may be a bigger psychological boost to you.  Once all small debts are paid off, choose to pay off the larger ones in the order of highest to lowest interest rate as previously described. 
I have been snowballing myself.  I started with the debt that had the lowest balance and paid it off immediately.  I then paid off four small balance credit cards and then started tackling the credit card with the higher balance.  I have officially cut that one in half since I started paying it down. 
Because I am doing this, my credit score has improved greatly.  My next goal after I pay off the credit card I am working on now will be to beef up my emergency savings a little more. 
When I become debt free, including student loans, my next goal will be to save up enough money to pay cash for a brand new car.  At that time, my daughter and I will go on a huge road trip. 

Volunteering as a Child Advocate

Today I want to talk about one of the best experiences of my life: volunteering as a court appointed child advocate with the CASA program.  When I first heard about the opportunities with the CASA program, I was 19 years old.  The age requirement to volunteer was 21.  I firmly decided I wanted to do this, and I spent the next two years reading books such as The Best Interest of the Child and I Speak for This Child.  Even though thorough training was given to be a CASA volunteer, I felt extra prepared having self-educated on the subject before I applied at the organization to be a volunteer. 

When I turned 21 in 1999, I lived in Phoenix, Arizona.  I immediately signed up to be a CASA volunteer in the state of Arizona where I was given the case of a two year old girl.  The little girl was born exposed to cocaine and was developmentally delayed.  She lived with foster parents on a ranch with several animals and several brothers and sisters.  I loved her foster home and wished her foster parents would adopt me!  They did want to adopt her, but her biological parents had gotten clean and turned their lives around.  It was, and still is, federal law to allow biological parents to work services to get their children back after having them removed by CPS.  The little girl's foster parents were devastated and worked very hard to keep her. 

As a child advocate for her, my first responsibility was to interview everyone involved in her life.  I made appointments to sit down with her caseworker, foster parents, biological parents, therapists, attorney and pediatrician.  I got a good picture of her life as a whole.  I visited her twice a month: once in her foster home and once while visiting her biological parents. 

One key thing I noted was that while with her foster parents, she would not walk.  As far as they were concerned, she had not started walking yet.  When she was with her biological parents, however, she was a lightening bolt and walked everywhere!  Her foster parents were frustrated when they heard the biological parents state that she was walking.  They thought the biological parents were clueless to her development.  When I mentioned in a round table meeting that I had seen her walking at her biological parents' home, the foster parents started to look down on me as if I was not taking their side. 

My most awesome responsibility as a child advocate was to testify in court what I felt was in the best interest of the child.  According to my book studies the past two years, it would have been in her best interest to be adopted by her foster parents.  She had been with them since birth.  To her, they were mommy and daddy and a strong attachment was formed.  CPS, however, had arranged so many visits with her biological parents to transition her back to them, that she had formed an attachment to them as well.  Not only had they gotten clean, but they had gotten jobs and a new home.  They were ready to have her back and even wanted more children.  The real life best interest of the child was a lot more complicated than the outline in the books. 

In the end, she did go back to her biological parents.  I moved shortly thereafter to Houston, TX where I eventually became a volunteer with the local Houston chapter of Child Advocates.  Right after I moved, my parents forwarded me a letter that was sent to their house from the coordinator of the Phoenix office.  It was a copy of a letter from the child's attorney describing what an amazing job I did being objective and working hard to ensure that this little one's best interests were served.  I still have that letter and often think about the first child I served, who must now be 18.  The letter from the attorney is an artifact of inspiration whenever I doubt myself, and the experience serves as a learning tool far more valuable than any books. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

I got lucky!

This morning when my car broke down due to high water, I took it to my ex husband's mechanic shop.  My ex's boss said I had a 50/50 chance of getting the car back fixed.  I was upset.  I don't want to buy a new car right now!  I went home and called my ex to see how it was.  He said that it was 99% better and completely drivable.  Not only that, but he figured out a code that was causing the check engine light to come on.  The car runs amazing now.  Whatever he did, it really fixed it into a new car.  Even more lucky is that his boss didn't charge me anything, because there were no parts needing to be replaced.  I think he was trying to sell me the car he had for sale and felt bad for being negative.  Today started out really bad, and it ended up with a happy ending.  I just need to go through the car wash, because the car is loaded with dust. 

Emergency in Houston

Apparently, it's all over the news this morning that we are having severe flooding here in Texas.  I was oblivious to it this morning when I tried to leave for work.  In fact, I slept so soundly last night that I didn't even hear it raining.  On the news, they are saying that we have more flooding now than when we had hurricane Ike.  Three people lost their lives this morning due to the floods.

Before 5 am, I was about to get on the freeway and did not notice how much water was on the road.  My car did not submerge, but it did stall right when I made it out of the wet area.  My car is in the shop now being looked at.  The good news is that the motor is fine.

I tried calling tow trucks, and no tow trucks were available.  I even called the cops and they said nothing could be done until the water receded.  I left it there with blinkers.  I walked home and kept calling.  I got ahold of one company that literally said she would tell me whether or not a truck was available only if I gave her my credit card information for authorization.  I hung up.  Then I got a tow truck guy that quoted me $1,000.  He was price gauging.  It was terrible.  Finally, I walked back over to check on the car and there was a tow truck ready to take it.  I ran and flagged him down.  He was super nice and charged me a reasonable $85 to tow it to the shop.  I told him about the scam and the price gauger and he got on the radio and broadcasted it.

Since the motor is not damaged, they may just have to replace spark plugs.  There is an Accord at the shop that is for sale at a good price, but it is standard and I need to learn to drive standard.  I'm thinking though that my car can be fixed and that it's not that serious.  It's been a highly upsetting morning.  I know it could have been worse.  There are images all over TV of cars completely submerged.  And don't forget the three people that passed away this morning.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Annalise's fascination with Helen Keller

Annalise learned about Helen Keller in school, and is very amazed by her.  I got her a book on Helen's life and printed her a sheet of the alphabet in sign language.  We practiced signing things into each other's hands.  Her interest also led me to discover this video on youtube.  I never knew there was a video of Helen Keller talking.  Her speech was pretty good!  Annalise asked me if I knew that Helen wrote 12 books.  I said I did.  Isn't that amazing? I said.  She responded by asking me when I was going to write my book.  In other words, I don't have an excuse.

Monday, May 18, 2015

A couple last thoughts on Buddha

Before I hang up my fleeting interest in Buddha, let me just say a few last things about it.  Buddha was fed up with the religion of his day (the ancient Vedic religion of India), and he decided to sit under a tree and not move until he had all of his answers.  What a good idea that is!  Most of us would get our answers that way, I believe.  Unfortunately, most of us also have lives.  "Sorry, Boss, I can't come in for a while, because I am going to sit under a tree and meditate until I have reached an enlightened state." 


The monk I listened to also kind of poo pooed on the Law of Attraction.  I believe in the Law of Attraction very much.  The monk gave a very healthy opposite of it.  In the law of attraction, you meditate on achieving great things.  You aim high and fill your mind with images of success in its many forms.  The idea being that you will attract what you put out into the universe with your thoughts.  I believe it works less woo-woo.  It's kind of like when you find out you are pregnant and suddenly, there are so many pregnant women around.  There aren't more of them.  They were always there, you are just noticing them more because it's on your mind.  Therefore, fill your mind with images of success, and they'll stand out at you. 
The Buddhist monk said that this creates depression, because we will become disappointed if/when these super high expectations don't happen.  He didn't say it as if success was wrong and sinful.  He said it by saying we should just be content with what already is in the now.  Don't visualize things you want, because you will suffer if they don't come into fruition.  If you are practicing law of attraction, and you visualize $50,000, then you will become disappointed in $20,000 when if you were just happy with what was before, it would be an extra $20,000. 

At least that's how I interpret it. 

A New Week Starts

Yesterday, which was Sunday, I literally laid in bed all day and listened to a Buddhist monk on YouTube.  YouTube was suggesting his videos to me, because I had watched the life story of Buddha.  I had never learned anything about Buddhism before until now, so it was a learning experience.  Their advice can be very helpful for depression, and my depression has been coming back lately.  Listening to him all day really helped me to look at negative experiences from my past in a completely different light.  It feels nice to have a different perspective on my past.  It's helpful to focus on the multitude of positive things from my past, which vastly outweigh the negative.  The thing about Buddhist teachings is that they encourage you to only focus on the present moment (meditation), which I was successful at, but it backfired.  I was able to make a sort of peace with my past, but realized that the present really sucks. 
My daughter came home from her dad's in the evening, and she cried to me that she had a really bad day.  I was completely devastated.  We laid in my bed and we talked a lot.  She eventually changed the subject to the series of kids' books called Judy B. Jones.  Annalise has read almost all of the Judy B. Jones books and was telling me about them.  I started telling her about when I was little and read The Babysitter's Club.  I reminisced out loud to when they came out with a babysitter's club movie, and told her maybe they would come out with a Judy B. Jones movie someday.  Her eyes lit up. 
I have a lot to be grateful for, but I am so, so depressed again.  I'm taking my celexa regularly, but lately it feels like I'm not taking it.  I'm going to the doctor about this on Wednesday. 
I also seem to be reminiscing back to a time when I was a young idealist who seemed to have all the answers.  I don't have those answers anymore.  I used to be extremely motivated, and now that has mostly been lost.  I try to persuade myself into motivation, and it's too stressful, so I focus on only trying to make it through the day. 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Sadness in the World

I've been doing a lot of introspection lately.  With introspection comes private journaling where I jog memories from the past that I forgot I had.  I realize that I have been working with children for a very long time in many capacities and that I have witnessed more pain and sorrow than I care to admit.  It has taken a huge toll on my emotional body.  However, I do know that I have found myself, and will continue to find myself, through the service of others.  
I want to share some videos I have watched recently.  First there is this one.  It's part two of a documentary on suicide.  Skip to the image of the young woman from 1:01-1:05.  Last night, I simply could not get her face out of my mind.  I kept replaying and pausing it and just staring at her face.  She looks like she's in unimaginable pain.  Then, there was the suicide experiment.  I like the part where the cab driver talks the man down from the bridge and he says he's ready to start again in life.  In life, we have to be willing to start again and again and again.  I think it's ok to give in to the pain for a little while sometimes, just as long as you make it and you pick yourself up to start over again sometime soon.  
Then there's this documentary on the life of Buddha.  I'm not about to become Buddhist or anything, but I liked the documentary.  The things that I get sad about and the things that I despair about are things that tie me to every other human being that's ever lived.  It's universal.  
Another thing that happened recently was that I remembered an old memory from when I worked at the children's museum.  A girl who worked there had a medical condition and had to be on a very strict diet.  We all supported her by having a cooking contest for the things that she could have.  I teared up thinking of how supportive we all were.  Someday, I hope to be in an environment like that again.  
Then one of my old supervisors from the museum posted an old video of a staff meeting in the auditorium.  The people in that video were my support system when my daughter was born and when I went through my divorce.  We are all still friends, on facebook only.  But it's not the same as when I was in that positive environment of all those friends.  

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

More Great News!

I got an email from Chicken Soup for the Soul stating that my story made it to the "final round" of selection.  I have a feeling it's going to get chosen!  If selected, I get $200 and 10 Chicken Soup books.  Here's to a career in writing!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Pokemon Cupcakes!

I found a nice cake lady who will do these Pokémon cupcakes for Annalise's 8th birthday!  I'm not getting the cake.  I ordered 24 of these cupcakes for her class to have on the last day of school to celebrate her birthday.  I am so excited, because Pokémon is Annalise's favorite.  We are going to get a more basic cake for her family party.  Annalise's school does not let the kids pass out invites, so this is a nice way to celebrate with all of her friends. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Writing World

Growing up, I was always conditioned to believe that there is no money to be made in writing.  For this reason, I never bothered to.  All writing I did was for fun, and dreams of getting published were distant. 
Now, at almost 37 years old, I am discovering that what I was conditioned to believe about writing careers is not true.  I am earning money writing, and I am getting more opportunity to do so by responses that I've made.  It's earth-shattering for me- in a good way, of course.  I just can't believe I spent so many years not doing this.  Why do people say that you can't earn money doing this or any other creative endeavor? 
The freelance writing field does confuse me a bit, but that's only because I am so new at it.  If I take my time with it, it will become more familiar to me.  I really wish that I had at least taken some kind of formal class in creative writing, or at least in the basics of the different genres of writing. 
If anything, this makes me think twice before telling my daughter she can't do something. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015


Today I want to talk about two daycares I have worked at in the past.  The experiences were very different from each other.
In the first one, I had the kids from 12-23 months old.  This is not only a very easy age, but there were only five of them max at a time.  One of them only came on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so I only had four babies the other days.  I always had peaceful music playing in the background, and the babies were all very good.  They were all also very hardcore nappers.  I did a lot of art projects with them.  Some of the art, they did, and most of it, I did.
This daycare, however, was struggling financially due to low enrollment.  Eventually, they shut their doors.  The director had told me that the enrollment needed to at least double for them to meet all of their expenses.
The second daycare I worked at was right across the street from where I live.  This was nice, because I walked there.  Nothing else was nice about it, though!  I had a combined class of 2 year olds and 3 year olds.  This is not only a harder age than 1, but I had a total of 15 of them.  About half were 2 and half were 3.  The toys never got rotated, so they were sick and tired of the them to the point that it was hard to engage them with toys at all.  One of the kids was autistic, and he was a "wanderer".  If I didn't keep one hand on him at all times, or at least keep him within an arm's reach, he'd bolt out the door.  3 or 4 of them had behavioral problems, one in particular had worse behaviors.  The one with the worst behavioral problems was actually one of my favorites.  I remember trying to bargain with her.  (I know, bad idea).  "Do you want to color?"  "No".  Do you want to read a story?"  "No".  Exhausted, I then said, "Do you want to come to my house?"  She perked up and said "Yeah!"At that daycare, snack was the same thing every day, and the kids were bored with that as well.  My director was not very good and didn't care too much about making it a safe and nurturing place for the kids.  Oh yeah and about 10 of these kids liked to climb.  How I wished I could take them to a rock climbing gym with a big cushy mat and just get it out of their system.
I could have probably gone to McDonald's and worked for the same pay, but I cared too much to do that.  I wanted to make a difference.  I was blinded by rose colored gasses and was an idealist.  To this day, I still have dreams that I am back in that classroom, frantically trying to count heads and seeing my little wanderer bolt and wake up in a cold sweat, looking around my room for all the kids that aren't there.  It would be safe to say I have some PTSD from that job.

I wouldn't do it again, but looking back, I'm glad I had the experience.  "If you had to do it over" is a really tough question when it comes to my daycare jobs.  Yes and No.  Yes, I treasure the time and the things I learned, but No, I wouldn't do it *again*.  It's a confusing mindset to be in.

Learning to Allow

Several kids in my apartment complex almost always play outside, and most of the time, they ask if Annalise can play as well.  I took after my mother in this area of a high level of over-protectiveness.  Probably because I worked with CPS, I fear that someone will call CPS on me for allowing her to play outside (it happens).  I also worry about abductions, injuries, and the other kids being a bad influence on her.  The easy thing to do would be for me to not let her play with the neighborhood kids, but my mom never let me, and I feel like I missed out.  I can't just not let her play.  Worries aside, it's a part of life that she needs.  I have found that sitting on my balcony helps.  When I sit on my balcony, I can see over a large area of the apartment complex.  Annalise knows not to leave that view area.  She also tends to give up and come inside on her own without my coaxing when certain kids get very rowdy.  Once, she came inside, and literally five minutes later, the kids broke the window in the laundry room.  I'm glad it wasn't her.  

Monday, May 4, 2015

Positive Psychology

I first learned about Positive Psychology when I was in college and took Methods in Research.  I was a psych major, and my methods teacher gave it as an example of a new branch of psychology that was just getting off of the ground in research.  My ears perked up right away.  That might be something I could get a masters in, I thought to myself, if I didn't want to get an MSW. 
Nowdays, I'm not that keen on getting an MSW, or any Masters at all.  I long more to become an autodidactic learner and live my life to the fullest.  However, there are graduate certificate programs that are online out there if I ever decide to go further with it.  Most have classes in life and career coaching, which is a business I want to start.  Being positive and fulfilling potential has become very important to me.  I feel like there has been a very negative past for me, and overcoming it is paramount.  Striving for more and more is essential, even if you have to discard some things along the way that aren't working out.  It's one of the reasons I want to become a career coach, because I feel like people have limiting ideas sometimes about what they can and can't do.  Sometimes, I hear that when listening to people talk about their goals. 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Warning Video

For my nurse aide class, I have to take a two part test in the beginning of June to become certified.  One part is a written, multiple choice exam, and the other part is a hands on skills test.  There are several skills, but the examiner will pick five random ones for us to perform.  I recently discovered that YouTube has video demonstrations about these hands-on skills, which we may or may not have time to practice in class.  I've been watching them and becoming more of a visual learner.  The comments in these videos are encouraging.  They'll say "Thanks for these videos, I passed my state exam because of them" and so on.  Some of these skills are things like How to Give a Bedbath and How to clean a Catheter.  However, in the sidebar, I couldn't help noticing this video.  She hilariously warns about what a tough job it is.  I agree with her.  "You ain't lived until you cleaned someone's ass" she says half funny/have warningly.  Part of me watched this and said oh no, what am I getting myself into?  But I reminded myself that I have a laundry list of past jobs working with children, and I know what it's like to deal with bodily fluids.  I'm not totally new at it.  We'll just have to see what kinds of things God has next for me.