Category: growth

I Could Have Read All Night

Of all the things I appreciate about Paris, one was my time in the metro. Wherever I went, I usually had either a book or my Kindle with me, and would whip that thing out as soon as I took a seat. When it was too crowded and I had to stand, I would still try to read. This is something you can’t do in a car. Sure, you could listen to audio-books, but how are you going to bookmark or take notes? Here in L.A., I have to be content with reading at home, instead of multitasking like that. But I have motivation! A giant pile of books to read or re-read in order to continue on towards my goal of a more minimalistic lifestyle. Sometimes I get on myself about how long this is taking (and not just with the books, but the 4 bins of stuff I want to get rid of, too), but I guess the process is different for everyone. And every journey begins with a single step, as they say!

If you don't own apple crates, you should.
If you don’t own apple crates, you should.

 

Last year, however, I discovered Goodwill bookstores. And I left with armfuls of books. Three of which, however, have made it onto my “books I tell everyone they should read” list. But I really can’t go back in there again. At least until I’ve read the books I have. I have a lot of books to read… I’m trying to get rid of everything I don’t need, and books are heavy, replaceable items so I’m hoping to shorten that stack considerably.

Anyway, I figured some of you might find yourself on planes, trains, or other forms of public transportation, in need of some mind-stimulation, so I wanted to share what I enjoyed reading in 2014.

 

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

One of those books I should read once a year as a refresher, as it really has the power (well, you have the power, it just helps you find it) to bring positive change to your life. I first heard of it in an acting class way back in 2005, and always meant to read it. Just didn’t until now. A close friend read it last year and got so annoyingly preachy about it that I decided to read it and get it over with, finally. I liked it. And I’ve kept myself from getting preachy about it. Basically, Eckhart Tolle points out that to find peace you can’t live in the past or the future, but right now. If you think about it, most of our thoughts are about things that have happened, or things that we want (or don’t want) to happen. We are rarely present, focused on this very moment. And if we can be present, we can appreciate what we have, right now. He doesn’t use this example, but I keep thinking… what if I woke up today and knew nothing about my past? I only knew what I have right now, and I didn’t know what my future plans were.  What if I could just walk through my life, without carrying the fears and pain from my past? Oh, just go read it, it’s a best-seller. 🙂

 

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

Another one I should read regularly. I put the four agreements in my email signature as a daily reminder (it’s a good place for them, since it can be easy to just snap off an email to someone you’re irritated at). The four agreements are:

Be impeccable with your word.
Don’t take anything personally.
Don’t make assumptions.
Always do your best.

And of course he expands upon them in the book. I think keeping these things in mind really helps with relationships of any kind, and helps to create more peace in your mind. When you realize that everyone else is living in their own heads, has their own problems, and isn’t (usually) out to purposely hurt you, you can focus on what you can control – yourself and your reactions.

 

Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch

This is a book I’d heard about for a while, but growing up in a pretty traditional Christian setting, thought it was probably blasphemous or something. But for $2.99 I figured I’d give it a go. Then I went on to read the next 2 books in the series. I have to admit it’s been a while since I read these and now I’m blanking on specifics, but I thought it was an interesting read, and brought up some questions and answers for me. Like, why do we feel that God spoke to people thousands of years ago, but not today? But then why do some people say they talk to God, or hear God talking to them… but if they were to write it down, or write a book, we would think they were crazy…. It’s like “true” Christians think God is dead. Eh.

Now onto some books I didn’t get at Goodwill.

 

The Writings of Florence Scovel Shinn

OK, this one is embarrassing. Not because of what it is, but because of how long I’ve had it before starting to read it. And the person who gave it to me will be reading this blog. 😀

bookmarks
Photo taken before I finished reading it. I’m done now.

 

I’m finding it interesting because I rarely read books that combine Christianity and the Bible, with the concept of creating your own reality. And this was written a century ago! I’m about to type up a document of all my favourite “affirmations” and examples so I don’t have to bring the book with me to France. But there are so many! With everything I’ve been learning about God, and about the world, miracles and science, I love to see how they actually complement each other when you know what you’re looking for. I think the problem with modern prayer is that we don’t truly believe that we have what we’re asking for. It’s like wishing for blue sky during a storm… you have it. It’s above the storm clouds. It never went away. Believe it’s there. I definitely need to put my faith into practice, and this book is a good motivator.

 

The Findhorn Garden by The Findhorn Community 

This may seem like an odd one. But if you believe in angels, then why not believe in other spirits, too? I’m sure there are all kinds. The Findhorn Garden was a garden started several decades ago in Scotland, in a very inhospitable, sandy spot. But the plants grew to enormous sizes, because the founders would communicate with the spirits of the plants to learn how to make them flourish. Even if you don’t get into that aspect of it, it might make you take a second glance at the world around you. Now when I pass gardeners just hacking away at plants, I almost want to yell at them to stop. When I see how we tear up and cement over nature, leaving struggling little weeds in the depleted dirt, I wonder how we got so far, so unconnected to the earth. I can’t even keep a tiny potted plant alive. So yes, this is a recommended read if you want to feel like more of a connection with nature is possible. I know I, for one, am going to spend some time this summer meditating in the forest with the fairies. 🙂

 

So those are my book suggestions of 2014. I know this post is late. I’ve been lazy about it. I have a lot of books to read right now. 😀

 

So what were your favourite books of 2014?

Our Life is Frittered Away By Detail

How difficult it is to be simple
Or Irving Stone.

We come into the world with nothing, basically. No clothes, toys, bills, we’re even given a break on being forced to file our tax returns for several years. We don’t worry about rent or food (under normal circumstances, I mean).

Then we gradually begin to accumulate. We accumulate toys, and papers, emails and apps, responsibilities, bills, contracts, receipts, debt…

We’re like beautiful, shining stones rolling down snowy hills, turning into snowballs, getting heavier and heavier with snow and grass and dirt until we’re weighted down and can’t even remember what we really are anymore. So many things attach themselves to us and demand our attention, and we do it thinking we’re being productive and responsible.

For me, it’s gotten to be too much. With my wanderlust, I’ve found I have too many things weighing me down. Too many pairs of shoes, too many papers. Too many obligations. My interests are many and my focus is scattered between them, but even the things I have passion for don’t get as much of my attention as I would like to give them, because of the other things I’ve tied myself to. If I were to add up the hours I spend on taking care of things I’ve gotten myself into…!!!

 

“Reduce the complexity of life by eliminating the needless wants of life, and the labors of life reduce themselves.”

~ Edwin Way Teale

 

So this year I have been trying to step up my efforts at simplifying my life. Oh, I won’t stop traveling and doing what I love, but I will be able to enjoy it more once I’ve stripped away the grass and dirt and snow that I’ve accumulated. It’s been a slow process and I’m anxious to make major progress with it, but the main areas I’m tackling are these:

1. Email. See that number there on my phone? Yeah. I have way too many unread email, and too much email in general in my inbox. This comes from all the varied interests I’ve pursued, the newsletters and blogs I subscribed to but then never could keep up with. This area of life, the cluttered inbox, may be more psychologically overwhelming since I don’t need to read the emails and they don’t do harm by being in there (other than using up space), but that’s enough for me to try to organize my inbox. I feel it would help me focus more and waste less time if I really decide what’s important to get updates on.

My Cluttered Life
My Cluttered Life

Action: Every day I browse my new emails for something that I can unsubscribe to. I unsubscribe and go through all the old emails from that sender. I save a few useful ones and am finally making use of the archive tab. But I’m slowly chipping away at the pile of emails and the landslide I receive on a daily basis. That number was actually around 35k a few weeks ago.

 

2. Apps. See above. I don’t even use most of the apps on my phone. I read about them and downloaded them to try since they were free. There are apps for everything! And I find that awesome and very tempting. I even have an app to learn sign language. Which I haven’t opened yet. Apps are so amazingly useful, but I need to limit it to what I will actually use. Too much clutter. Taking up too much space (though not as much as my photo album, which I use as kind of a notepad, snapping pictures of pages in magazines and books, and taking screenshots of things online). I use my phone every day, so I feel it would be best to keep it simple and reflective of the growing simplicity of the rest of my life.

Action: Almost every day, when I have time to explore the apps, I will pop one open and try it out. Right now I’m going through the ones that are there to help me learn French. I discard the ones I don’t think I will be using, and keep the ones that I do find myself using more regularly. I downloaded several free texting apps, since different friends have used different ones, but after going through my French apps I’m going to focus on the social ones and decide which ones I think are the best and delete the rest.

 

3. Clothing. I love clothing, and as someone who occasionally does some modeling and survives with background work when I’m in L.A., a large selection comes in very handy. You could probably say I’m addicted to shopping at Crossroads Trading Company as well. I love getting “new” clothes, and this place is like crack for me. Unfortunately, storing clothing is a pain, especially while traveling. Packing and unpacking, and storing and even this process of elimination has been taking up way too much of my time. I need to really rip through this and be done with it. It’s just not very easy for me. Come on, look at that dress!

 

green dress
Wanna buy my dress?

Action: First I’m going through and selling or donating everything I know I haven’t worn lately and probably will never wear again. I’ve also decided to put together sort of a collection of pictures representing the clothing and styles that I would like my wardrobe to be composed of. I will edit down my closet to be just what I like to wear all the time, with pieces that can be easily mixed and matched. Of course, this depends on what kind of money I have, to create this wardrobe. :-/ I want more skirts and dresses with nice little waistlines. And less jeans. I have too many jeans. Want some jeans? I’ll trade you. This process is moving slowly along. Selling clothing isn’t as easy in France. Garage sale and ebay time once I get back to L.A. I made over $1000 last year selling clothes on ebay. Not too bad.

 

4. My mobile home. I loved living there. But I haven’t for ages, so I keep renting it out… and not at a profit. It’s not my home anymore and it’s become a burden to me with the constant threat of repairs, finding new tenants, home insurance, property tax (even though I don’t own the property….)… I need it out of my life so that I don’t have a mobile home hanging over my head everywhere I go.

Action: Get out of it. I’ve been aggressively seeking solutions to this one, but no matter which potential answer I find, it’s one that I can’t afford. I have an owner-financed loan so I pay my mortgage to the previous owner. It’s lost a lot of value since I bought it though. The two options I seem to have right now are either to sign it back over to him, or to convince him to sell it to one of the people who is interested in buying it. Either way, I will most likely be faced with a massive tax bill to repay the First Time Home Buyer’s Credit (if I knew that this was how it worked, I wouldn’t have taken it…) next year, and on my income I don’t know how I would pay it. I would also have to give the current tenant their deposit back, which basically makes up all I have in the bank. If I were to sign it back over to him, he would demand more repairs be made, which I (duh) also don’t have money for, but if it was sold, I think it would be “as is,” which would eliminate that cost from the equation. I proposed trading it back to him for my initial down payment, but he refused that and just wants it back along with all the repairs I’ve already made($3000+), a massive new shed ($2000+), plus more unspecified repairs. Which seems unfair to me, because then it’s basically like I gave him $12k in 2008, then rented from him for 6 years and paid all the costs of upkeep, taxes, and insurance for him. What a great situation for a landlord. No thank you. No deal. The best (but still not financially ideal for me) solution for everyone at this time seems to be a short-sale, but apparently he used his retirement money to buy this mobile home (why, don’t ask me. Mobile homes have a shelf life, rent rises every year… real property or precious metals would have been my pick) and although he would certainly get enough to buy real property somewhere (like Spain!) with what he would salvage from the mobile home, it seems he would prefer to keep it in a 40+ year old vehicle on land he doesn’t own. I would still lose money, but at least wouldn’t have to pay for further repairs, and if he was generous enough perhaps he could agree to a few thousand from the sale to cover costs of things I did repair and replace (though I doubt it).  He’s made quite a lot in interest over the past 6 years so I don’t know what he’s stuck on…  We’re all a little stuck. But I keep trying. Because I want out.

 

5. Time management. This one is the hardest one of all for me. I like to travel, so I don’t have a regular job that dictates what free time I have and makes sure I have a steady income. My income is very irregular and when I’m in L.A. I have several jobs that make up my income. But no set days or hours for anything. So it’s been very difficult to say “here are the things I want to spend time on, and I will do it for this long each day at this time each day.” It’s near impossible, really. I’m daily trying to figure out how to earn more income, so that I can relax and focus more on the things I really want to do (which may or may not bring an income). Today for example, I feel that I have not done anything very productive. I read a lot of interesting things, replied to some email, dyed my hair, made lunch, and here I am writing the first blog post in months. After this I intend to do some writing on a little book I want to put out on Amazon. I’m really trying to do something that makes me feel like I’m creating and living my purpose. But this still means I have to spend time today working on the website that pays the bills, and piecing together other ways I can earn money for the other debt in my life (and to make it easier to get out of that mobile home!). Oh all the things I want to do. I want to focus on improving my photography, practice piano, learn how to use this music program on my computer, finish the short movie about my dog (which is unfortunately stuck on the broken hard drive, unless I want to start all over again with the editing), write songs, write a script, practice energy healing… shoot. So much to do.

“The waste of life occasioned by trying to do too many things at once is appalling.” ~ Orison Marden

Action. This is the big one that I don’t have an answer for. I sit with my notebook day after day making lists, trying to narrow down what I really love, what I should focus on, a plan of action, a goal…. and I haven’t solved it yet. I feel that I have so many “little things” that get in the way and need dealt with before I can get to what matters. I suppose, in general, my action for this one is to clear away as many of the unnecessary elements to my life so that I have the space to focus more on the big things. Finishing with the email purge, the app purge, getting my belongings down to the basics… once those are complete I won’t have to be tackling them every day. It just feels never-ending.

 

Freedom

 

I definitely have held onto some commitments that perhaps were good for me at one time, but are not good for me now. And some commitments we never even really agreed to, but were just thrust into (like citizenship!). I want to strip away as much as I can, to get to the point where I can carefully choose the things I am committed to. Just dump out the clutter drawer of life so I can see the bottom and decide what goes back in and what doesn’t.

Quotation-Albert-Einstein-simple-simplicity-Meetville-Quotes-216754

 

So now it’s time to move on with my day and figure out what else I can do to progress with the things I love, simplify a little more, and figure out that whole income problem. I’ve spent way too much time in this limbo. I really anticipate getting out and looking around and being able to say, “I feel free!”

 

“Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.”

~ Frederic Chopin

“As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.”

~ Henry David Thoreau

 

For more quotes about simplicity and life, there’s a really good list here! Pick your favourites for motivation. 🙂

Are you doing anything to make or keep your life simple? Have any tips for me?

I Can’t Afford It

When you hear a friend saying they wish they could do something but can’t afford to, do you jump right into “well, just cut out things like a daily coffee, because $5 a day at 30 cups a month is $150 a month right there!” or something like that?

Whenever I read an article about how to stretch your money, how to save money… they always have ridiculous tips like that.

What if you never buy coffee?

What if you have the cheapest, most restrictive plan for your phone (granted, it’s a smart phone but I’m not giving that up) that you could find, and make calls from Skype to save money?

What if you only go see a movie once a month and only go to a matinee so you’re not paying full price?

How do you juggle paying for the necessities with actually enjoying your life and following your dreams? Life is so short, who wants to waste it working 3 jobs?

Yes, I know that everything we spend money on is a choice. I may decide it’s more important to me to keep flexibility so that I can travel (cheaply…) rather than spend the money going out with friends. I may decide it’s worth it to me to pay $25 for a game that I can play with friends (Cards Against Humanity!) than to have more food in the fridge. They are choices. But just because it’s a choice, doesn’t make it an easy one.

I don’t go to the salon more than 2 or 3 times a year and always look for a cheap one. I don’t get my nails done, I don’t shop for clothing retail – and haven’t shopped at all in months. In fact I’ve sold about half of the clothing in my closet this year.

So what do you say when you have to or want to spend money on something (like a used camera lens, or your dog’s dental care) but don’t have the means? What do you say when friends invite you out but when you add up the cost of gas, food, and a drink, it’s more than you make in a day? How do you continuously say “I can’t afford it, I can’t afford it” without getting depressed about it and sounding like a complainer?

Don't despair. There's no money in it, but I can sell my purse to pay for your dental bill.
Don’t despair. There’s no money in it, but I can sell my purse to pay for your dental bill.

For several years after I moved to L.A., I struggled with money. I moved in with a boyfriend when I could no longer pay my $400/month rent. I was only saved by a $9000 inheritance by a relative, which I stretched to the max after paying my credit card debt and buying a new computer. Because my other one was a 10 year old PC that had just died.

And then came Adsense to save me, and for several years after that, I lived in peace. I could afford a nice place to live. Piano lessons, acting classes, dance classes, elocution classes… I could invest in myself and my career, at last. And I did. And I went out with friends, and I bought Groupons to do fun things, I loaded the fridge with food, which sometimes went bad before I could eat it.

I decided professionally, that I wanted to try France, since although I was putting all this investment into myself, I was not getting work in L.A. So it was time to make the most of life, learn French, and see if the grass was any greener over there.

And then Adsense began to say a long and drawn out good-bye.

I started relying on my savings in addition to the monthly income that was not enough to pay the bills, which were now in Euros.

And eventually that ran out as I struggled to continue to pursue my goals, and I found myself back in L.A., basically broke, doing background work again. I thought it would just supplement my waning income while I tried to prop it up again, until it took one final gasp, and pretty much died. Oh, I still get a little from it, but it’s not going to pay rent. Perhaps with the continuing CPR it may be revived, but not to it’s old glory days.

So I’m left with dreams and goals and the distraction of trying to pay the bills instead of focusing on my real contribution to the world.

I proudly scrimped and saved a few thousand dollars by working and selling off many belongings… only to sit at the accountant and be told that out of that $13,000 I earned… the IRS wanted $1800 of it. I crumbled. I already had taken out a personal loan to combat the crazy interest charges on my maxed out credit card. I was already eating one meal and a smoothie every day. Except the days I worked. I’d been struggling (and still struggle!) to give up the new addiction to organic dark chocolate peanut butter cups, which I could easily spend $50 a month on.

I’ve grown weary of telling friends I can’t afford to join them, tired of not being able to invite people out, depressed because I can’t afford to go dancing, or take classes, or just fund my little documentary by myself, which would only take a few hundred dollars more. I feel frustrated when I think I can treat myself to something (which also doubles as another potential way to earn money, such as a used camera lens, or a better microphone for my camera) and then something “more important” comes up to divert the funds. I feel guilty for telling my friend with the herbal hospital in India, year after year, that I want to come and maybe this year I can make it… but I can’t. I’ve grown tired of the panic and stress that arises when I’m faced with having to spend money I don’t have (on tires, on the vet, the doctor…), and the way I burst out with “I don’t know what else to sell! I don’t know how I can cut back any further on food, I don’t know how I can afford this….” and probably seeming pretty pathetic to whomever I’m talking to.

Websites tell me instead of saying “I can’t afford it,” that perhaps I could say “that’s too expensive and not a necessity.” But how many more things can I say that to? The doctor? The vet? And who wants to live with just the necessities? That’s great for a short period of time, but… months without going out for an unnecessary dinner or drink or show? Other websites assume that you don’t WANT to do the things you’re invited to do. Like it’s easy to say no because “I have a goal I’m saving for.” It’s not easy.

But it’s not just that. It’s not just learning what your priorities are when it comes to spending (which is a good thing). It’s the stress it creates and the time it steals. When the first thought in my mind, all day long, is “how can I earn enough money to be able to meet my goals?” and it never ends… it leaves me little time to unwind and actually work on those goals. To sit and play guitar for a few hours. To read books, to improve my singing or acting, my Photoshop or photography skills. Because I feel the need to spend that time trying to earn money to keep fed and pay off my debt. I feel as if I’m wasting precious time in my life. At 32, I don’t want my main focus to just be paying rent and eating. I want to be using my skills, enjoying my time with friends, giving back because I have enough for me and for others. The struggle has taken away too much of my life.

I realize I’m not the only one. And while it can feel like everyone else can afford the things I can’t, I know it’s not true. I know other people are struggling. And I wish I could help. I wish I was in a position to…

But perhaps this struggle has led me to a position to help. I have a glimmer of hope at the moment. A few months ago, I knew that I would have to save up, and try to revive the website, if I wanted to get back to Paris, and travel more, and be able to focus on my goals and go out with friends, as well. So I started looking online for other ways I could earn money. I’d looked before, when I was doing well, because I wanted to help my friends to live the same wonderfully free lifestyle that I was blessed with. But I never found a way. I tried to help them do the same thing I was, but it wasn’t for everyone, and even I had help. A lot of it! And after the IRS stole most of my savings, I knew it was my only chance. To find something else I could get started with. Otherwise, I would be looking into a future of deep uncertainty. A few months ago, I found something. A location independent potential income, that started working for me. Not right away. Not before the taxes were due. At that point I thought I may still be doomed. But last month, hope started to bloom. I made some money. I found a light at the end of the tunnel.

It was (is) hard to want and need to spend money on things and not be able to, and not know when I would be able to. But now my goal is to work hard this month and have this parachute to catch me as I take a leap away from L.A. once more and leave my major source of income (background work). One more month of saying “I can’t.” I am determined that it be the last month. I am determined that when I get back to France, I will not have to say “I can’t”, I will have the freedom to spend on my creative pursuits. I will have the money for classes when I return to L.A.

I am determined to get to Paris and go out for a glass of wine on a warm summer night, without a worry in my mind about whether or not I can afford it.

So if you’ve been in this position, how do you deal with not being able to afford more than the basics? How do you manage the stress and budget your time between survival actions and pursuing your dreams?

Is Traveling Worth It?

Is traveling worth it?

Worth what? Worth the environmental impact you’re having by getting on that plane, of course!

I got into a debate recently with a Facebook friend, which inspired me to do a bit of researching and soul-searching. He had given up air travel because of the contribution to climate change, while I on the other hand, have no intention to give up flying.

First I’m going to hit you with a little bit of research.

 

The contribution of civil aircraft-in-flight to global CO2 emissions has been estimated at around 2%.
In attempting to aggregate and quantify the total climate impact of aircraft emissions the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has estimated that aviation’s total climate impact is some 2-4 times that of its direct CO2 emissions alone (excluding the potential impact of cirrus cloud enhancement).

The IPCC has estimated that aviation is responsible for around 3.5% of anthropogenic climate change, a figure which includes both CO2 and non-CO2 induced effects.

That’s our first quote from Wikipedia on the environmental impact of aviation. It just leaves me wondering what makes up the other approximately 97%?

Modern jet aircraft are significantly more fuel efficient (and thus emit less CO2 in particular) than 30 years ago.[26] Moreover, manufacturers have forecast and are committed to achieving reductions in both CO2 and NOx emissions with each new generation of design of aircraft and engine.

Some scientists and companies such as GE Aviation and Virgin Fuels are researching biofuel technology for use in jet aircraft.[33] Some aircraft engines, like the Wilksch WAM120 can (being a 2-stroke Diesel engine) run on straight vegetable oil. Also, a number of Lycoming engines run well on ethanol.

I understand that planes are a long term investment, and the one you’re flying on now was probably made 20 years ago. So even if they make progress… it may be a while before we see changes. In the meantime…

 

The emissions from taxiing and take-off of aircraft help make airports some of the largest sources of these pollutants and major public health hazards. For example, Los Angeles Airport is the largest source of NOx, a key cause of the region’s copious smog, in California and the third largest source of carbon monoxide. 4 Logan Airport in Boston, MA produces twice as much benzene as the next largest source in Massachusetts. 5 Scientists have found that even small increases in taxi time at airports in Southern California contribute to significant increases in asthma, respiratory ailments, and heart disease in surrounding communities. 6 Scientists also believe that particulate matter emissions from airplanes, along with ships and trains, contribute to 1,800 early deaths per year in the United Kingdom alone. 7 These health impacts also translate into large economic costs for society.

According to flyingclean.com. Yay, L.A….

And according to a research paper (which I did not read, only someone else’s response to it, and the summary below), planes are the worst form of transportation, unless we’re thinking more long term, then take a look in your garage.

Emissions of short-lived species contribute significantly to the climate impact of transportation. The magnitude of the effects varies over time for each transport mode. This paper compares first the absolute climate impacts of current passenger and freight transportation. Second, the impacts are normalized with the transport work performed and modes are compared. Calculations are performed for the integrated radiative forcing and mean temperature change, for different time horizons and various measures of transport work. An unambiguous ranking of the specific climate impact can be established for freight transportation, with shipping and rail having lowest and light trucks and air transport having highest specific impact for all cases calculated. Passenger travel with rail, coach or two- and three-wheelers has on average the lowest specific climate impact also on short time horizons. Air travel has the highest specific impact on short-term warming, while on long-term warming car travel has an equal or higher impact per passenger-kilometer.

If you have an electric car, maybe you’re excused. If you’re one of the people mentioned in The Guardian’s article here, you’re not excused, and you should stop causing more environmental havoc than a dozen people combined. Thanks.

So… that’s just a sampling of the horrors of aviation…. but what would the world be like if we didn’t fly? First, I have to admit that I see travel very differently than the majority of people. I don’t stay in hotels or resorts (not that I don’t like them), I don’t treat my travel as “vacation,” I don’t do many “touristy” things, and I don’t go only to associate with whomever my travel buddy is and never see the “real” _______. You know from my “about me” section that what I want to do as I travel is connect with creative people around the world to work with, and volunteer time to help the community in some way. It doesn’t always work out, and I try not to beat myself up over it, but I do try. When I travel somewhere, it’s to get to know another way of life, and to get out of my bubble. OK, so is that worth killing the earth? I don’t know. As George Monbiot says in a snippet from his book:

…the people who are most concerned about the inhabitants of other countries are often those who have travelled widely. Much of the global justice movement consists of people – like me – whose politics were forged by their experiences abroad.

Would I really know the extent of the petty crime rings in Paris or Barcelona without having lived there? Would it personally affect me to a point where I would want to do something about it? Would the lack of proper sanitation in parts of Ghana be on my mind had I not spent time there? Would the cheerful dispositions of people with much less than me also be on my mind, urging me towards a life of minimalism (good for me and good for the planet as well)? Would I understand things going on in other parts of the world without really being there and interacting with people? Does it matter if I understand?

It depends on the person, I suppose. I could experience something now that I may not be able to act on for another decade, but at that point I could make a big difference in the lives of others. I don’t know, I can’t predict the future. I can only explore, and learn, and grow, and give back. And for me, the airplane is an indispensable tool. I’ve gone on several Habitat for Humanity trips, but you don’t have to be working full time to be giving back and getting involved, and you also don’t have to expect immediate results from every journey. If you’re becoming a better human being through your travels, that’s a really good thing in and of itself. Because the world is made up of billions of us. And many of us are unconscious, selfish, ignorant people. And traveling can change that about a person.

As Matt says at theculturist.com:

If you haven’t experienced a culture personally, it’s easy to write off an entire country as “impoverished” or “politically unstable,” when each place has its own complex history and social structure. Seeing areas’ hardships, customs, and attitudes can inspire you to give back in a variety of ways.

You don’t have to make your vacation an all-out service trip to gain insight and contribute to improving the local economy. Sometimes, just immersing yourself in the culture and staying open to new experiences is enough to achieve a larger benefit.

…. If you open your eyes and see how things are different outside your home country, you have a better understanding of how the world works, as well as what projects or social causes you might support.

 

I couldn’t say it better myself. So I’m going to stop talking now. lol. Almost.

There are some alternative modes of transportation, depending on where you’re going… cars and trains, and sometimes boats… but not all are practical for those of us who may not have a car or the money to rent on, or don’t have a week to make a train trip to get somewhere, and then a week to get back. Some places are very difficult to get to without a plane. Everyone’s journey is different and requires different considerations. Personally, I love making friends around the world, and I enjoy seeing them more than once in my life. I love to experience different places. As a child I would dream about different lives I could live. I knew I would have to choose one, but I couldn’t. Of course, you always have to choose, and I’m living the life I chose. But I always wonder about the other ones. So the best I can do is sample them. And eventually, find the place I want to settle in, while keeping my worldwide community within reach, and using what I learned along the way to make a difference in whatever way I can. Travel (thanks to airplanes) has helped me grow as a person and start really connecting with the world. I’m not saying nothing should be done about the problem caused by so many airplanes in the air these days, but I think a more important issue is being able to connect people around the globe so that the whole world is our community, not just the tiny patch of grass we were born on.

What are your thoughts on air travel?

(Mark Twain wanted to have the first response)

Mark Twain Says

Happy New Year!

OK, sorry for being gone for so long. Sometimes I’m bad at this blogging thing. I just haven’t had much I want to say lately. I haven’t been traveling, I’ve just been here in Los Angeles trying to get a little work and sell a lot of my things. It’s been slow, but I’ve made a couple hundred dollars from the things I’ve sold so far, and I’m really looking forward to just cutting down on things I can do without. I’ve been decluttering my life (that’s a link to Zenhabits.com’s blog post on decluttering, not my own post) for what seems like a long time now, but I haven’t made it easier on myself by being bi-continental. It’s amazing how even though I’ve slowed down with buying things I won’t use regularly, how much there is to go through. I mean, really, it seems like the bulk of it is paper. Books, notebooks, and crap the IRS makes you save. I really want to get rid of all that stuff. I’ve digitized the notes from some notebooks (except the super full ones) and then tossed them. I’ve shredded masses of credit card bills (I figure if I need them again I can get them online. Maybe not without some difficulty but ugggg I hate all these things in my filing cabinet). The key for me seems to be just to keep combing through, keep letting go, and try not to add more to it.

I’ve been trying to declutter my mind as well. After years of hearing about this book, I finally read The Power of Now, which I’ll probably have to re-read every so often to stay focused. It’s not as if the concept is completely new to me, but my thoughts and fears can easily overwhelm me and working on a practice of staying in “the now” seems pretty beneficial. I’ve been really monitoring my thoughts and feelings more, though I haven’t been under a huge stress test lately to see how I deal with it. Not that I want one… lol. I also read (or rather listened to the audio book on YouTube, but then I found the book at Goodwill) The Four Agreements, which really compliment The Power of Now. Highly recommended, both of them.

What else, what else… well, before I read The Power of Now, I was quite a mess in January. The renters in my mobile home had given their one month notice in the middle of December, leaving me to find someone new over Christmas. I found someone new, but couldn’t raise the rent enough to really truly cover all my expenses (there were some surprise raises in the rent this past year), but nobody was interested in it at a higher price. Then to top it off, I had to hire a cleaning lady to help ready the place ($), a handyman to fix some plumbing issues ($$) and then the electricity had problems ($$$) and the heat went out ($$$$). All in all, I could have flown to the Caribbean on what I spent. I found myself one afternoon dragging things out of the backyard and the shed, trying to get an old TV down to the dumpster, freaking out on someone via text because I couldn’t take the stress anymore, and watching teardrops splash on that stupid TV set after dropping it on my toes. I was already bruised and scratched and dirty and really fed up. Just when I thought I was starting to pull things together, I was left with barely anything in my bank account. All while hoping I’d just get enough background work to help put money back in savings, pay down my credit card, and get a plane ticket back to France. That hasn’t happened yet. And I haven’t worked in 2 weeks. Oh, I still work online, and it’s still squeaking by, but not enough to cover everything. I bet the IRS is going to want anything I’m able to set aside by April, too. I hate them. I’ve been looking into other online jobs, and got a very part time gig as a ticket scalper (which makes me feel a bit guilty, but I need some income, even if it’s deferred and morally questionable…). You know how your car likes to eat up savings every time you have some? So does a mobile home. Ah, my car also wants some now, but I just pay 50¢ every week to put it off….

I went in for the casting director meet-and-greet day at Central Casting this morning, since I wasn’t booked for work, which I’ll probably do more often while I’m here, since it does get your name circulated around the office, which may lead to more work. Cross your fingers. The room was crammed full today (nobody else getting work, either?) so there was really no meet-and-greet, just a Q&A. Now I know who casts the background for Mad Men.

And since I wasn’t working, and have gotten a bit tired of going through papers and preparing for tax time, I took the whole afternoon to work on songwriting. And I wrote a song and a half! I would really like to do this more often. Once I get into the groove I can just keep going for a while. I may be able to work on them again tomorrow after I scalp some tickets early in the day. I love being absorbed in creating…. I never want to stop. I don’t want to go to sleep right now. But I have to wake up at 5AM so I should go to bed or I may hit snooze too many times. I just enjoy writing songs, and then I get excited at the thought of performing them. I’m still a ways away from that though. I need to find the perfect match to play piano for me so I’m not alone on stage fudging things up on the guitar or something. But my songs are getting better, and I think if I really take all these days off I have (pfffffff) and focus on writing, I could have a nice handful to work with, and really do it this year. Maybe my musical couchsurfing tour could be a reality in 2014…. 🙂

Oh yeah! I almost forgot. Duh. I started my indiegogo.com campaign for the short documentary film I’m making for the 168 Hour Film Festival this year. Please check it out, and donate or share the campaign. 🙂

What Would Jesus Do… Now? (working title)

So that’s it for now, though I promise I’ll try to be better about blogging again. I’ll find something to talk about. 😉

I’m Alive!

Sorry for the radio silence. That’s the term, right?

I’m alive. And I really do want to get back to talking about Ghana, but this month has also been quite an experience and I feel I should write about it as it’s happening…. There are a lot of things I can’t say, or rather just choose not to say… I made a decision to not be public about my relationships and I’m trying to stick to that. I think it’s a good decision, because sometimes we can get quite upset at someone and it’s probably not a good idea to vent it to the whole world. 🙂

So let’s seeeeee. Last week, I went to my friend’s place, and stayed there for several days. It was really enjoyable. We stayed up late and talked about everything and anything, from relationships to movies. We watched movies, too. He gave me his couch-bed and slept on a thin roll-out mattress on the floor for the whole week. Awwwww. I did offer to switch with him if he needed a break from it. Luckily, he got a break on Sunday, when I went to check out guests at the Vacant Apartment. This week I started painting the walls of the V.A. It always looks like an easy, quick job, but somehow it does take time. You plaster some holes, wait for that to dry, sand it, put tape around the things you don’t want to paint, then you paint with the brush, then with the roller…. then you let it dry while you watch an episode of Drop Dead Diva, or The Daily Show…. then you apply the second coat. Voilà! One wall down. How many to go? How about that one back in the corner near the washer, that one looks ugly. Yes, so I’ll just move these things off the – dammit, nooooo! Detergent on the floor. Must pull out cabinets and the washer, and try to mop it up…. washer is attached to wall by hose…. that’s not happening….

On to the next wall. Well, the next day. I’m doing a wall a day. Why, you ask? Because I have a life. A life that involves taking the metro to my storage place every morning to tote back more potential items to either come with me, get mailed to me, or stay behind. I’m sorting. And I have until the 24th to empty that thing. I figure I have 6 more trips to make if I’m doing it on my own. Potentially less if I can get a friend with a car. Which I may have for this weekend, or may have had….

This weekend is the Paris Burlesque Festival. A friend and I have volunteered, and I’m very excited about it. Nervous too, since I rarely volunteer for this sort of thing. I get nervous having such responsibility. Oh, and potentially having to converse in and understand French. But I want to meet people in the burlesque world, and see some shows (which otherwise are not free)! And have an excuse to wear a corset. I’m still unsure of my costume.

I almost had a plan to ease my storage woes this weekend, as well. Someone from out of town, with a car, would stay over on Saturday and help me with the trip on Sunday. All my things need to be out of storage by the 24th, and it’s been a pain going back and forth and figuring out what has to come with me and what has to stay. My new storage is another friend’s cave. That’s like an underground storage area.

And then things start to change. I’m told I may have to finish up the walls tomorrow and figure out how to shove everything I could possibly need access to before the 27th into a small closet in the hallway so that a guest can check in. Can I stop here and say, yes, I know this friend seems a little selfish right now, and if you knew the extent of the relationship, you would just say, “what an @sshole,” as others have. It has not been an easy year for me. Every year in France seems to get more difficult. Like running on a hamster wheel that won’t stop. And that’s why I’m getting off for a moment, and taking a breather in L.A. I need to examine this wheel and figure out a survival strategy now that I know what I’m in for. But at the moment, things have gone what I would call, “wrong,” and I’m temporarily without a home of my own. And does anyone see the irony of the homeless girl managing an apartment rental? Yeah…

It’s been an interesting time for me. I am observing which friends reach out and offer help, and which ones could, but don’t. Which friends are always there when I need help (even when I tell them “you’ve done so much for me already, I don’t want to ask you for help again!”) and which ones say (well not out loud) “OK, I’ve given enough, I don’t care if you have to sleep on the street with your dog.”

I’m not perfect. There have been times where I couldn’t respond to a request for help. But I’ve taken in cats, I’ve nursed a cat with cancer, I’ve picked up and dropped off friends at the airport (one time in the middle of the night, too), I’ve loaned money (and sometimes it doesn’t get paid back…. thanks, guys), I’ve loaned my car, I’ve taken in friends who had no place to go, I even shared a tiny studio with a friend for months and slept on a mattress on the floor. I want to help. I love it when I can be there for someone when they need it. I actually am enjoying painting the walls here, because it’s something that I can give.

But to know that the place was vacant for the entire 6 weeks I was gone, because I was the only person he thought he could trust in all of Paris to manage it…. and now that I’m back with this major issue of homelessness he desperately needs to rent it, and I have to be the one to do it…. Over the summer I dealt with a water heater that wouldn’t heat, a washer/dryer that wouldn’t dry (and I was up all night for an 8AM check-in trying to do laundry. Then vacuuming, which woke the downstairs neighbour. And she let me know of her displeasure.), a clogged kitchen sink, a wobbly faucet, hair in the shower drain, stained sheets, ripped sheets, putting up curtain rods for curtains I still can’t figure out…. need I continue? But when I am in serious need of help and a place to stay, and this place is not being lived in… I need to prepare it for someone else who’s got the money to go live wherever they want. I’m seriously reconsidering my relationship with this person.

So on Friday I may have to shove everything into a closet and pack my backpack… forget about more musical contests because my guitar will be locked inside an apartment… and now figure out what I’m going to do about my dog while me and my friend (who has been helping to watch her when I can’t) both are volunteering at the festival. Oh yeah, and I can no longer host the friend who was going to save the day with his car on Sunday. So there goes that, and I have no idea how I’m going to get these things over to the new storage place.

OK, on a more positive note… I listened to the audio book version of The Four Agreements, which I highly recommend. I will probably listen to it again soon. I need to drill it into my head.

I also listened to an interview with the author of Conversations With God (which I haven’t read yet but would now like to). I took a few notes, one of which was to

“Be the source of God’s presence in the life of another.”

Other notes were:

Be grateful for every condition and circumstance in life.

Ask myself how I would be able to express who I am (in the form of being kind, caring, loving, forgiving…) without conditions in which to become that.

To say,”Thank you God, for this one more chance to announce and declare, to express and to fulfill, to become and to demonstrate, who I really am.”

Good stuff, especially when going through trials. But that first note makes me think, a lot. He said when we look at what it is we think we lack, and then instead of trying to find it, seek to give it to others…. it will find us. It’s a little tricky when what you lack is a place for you and your dog to sleep, but maybe I can come up with something else.

One time I stopped and gave money to an older woman who was in the metro station with her cart of belongings. She told me to wait a moment, and then pulled out a pack of gum, which she handed to me. I thought it was so sweet, so special that this woman who had almost nothing would find something to give to me. She didn’t have to. I wasn’t expecting anything in return. But she gave. I kept that pack of gum. In fact, maybe I’ll even bring it back to L.A. with me….

Oh yes, I mentioned musical contests…. so if you wouldn’t mind…

CLICK HERE

and check me out….

 

 

Self-Worth

photo

 

 

When I moved to L.A. I had about $500, a CapitalOne credit card, and an old (1978 Dodge Aspen station wagon) car I’d paid about $150 for in PA. I started doing background work, earning (after taxes) maybe $35 a day. $50 on a good day. You know, I have it written down in a journal, packed away in storage. I suddenly felt wonderful about myself. I had more money than I’d ever had before. I was having fun, I was working, I was on set. I was on my way up. And after a few months, I could afford to get an apartment with a friend. It was only $750 a month for the two-bedroom in Winnetka. We lived simply, but not stress-free. At one point I was overdrawn in my bank account, and I determined never to let that happen again. And other than one time several years later when the IRS froze my account and sucked it dry (thanks guys. I love how my government really cares about how I’m going to survive with no money in my bank account. Oh, and US banks – really? Charging me a fee? And how do you think I’m going to pay that. You’re my bank. It should be clear to you how much money I have), I’ve kept to that goal. OK, except this week again, when it wasn’t my fault (thanks hacker, I love how you really care how your fellow human beings are going to survive without any money in their bank account. But thank you French banks, for not charging a fee).

But wait, there’s more!

Alone on a Stage

Before moving to France, I was prompted by Groupon to face a fear of mine – Improv. Acting without a script?! Ack! I can’t do it. But with classes being offered right around the corner for a discount, how could I resist? So I took the class, and am probably better for it. I’d even do it again!

But this year the offer popped up again, and instead of taking improv (it would have been the same “intro to improv”, not the next level) I chose stand up comedy. I’d been told I should try it, although I realize there’s a difference between being clever for a moment and being clever for 5 minutes. Well I’d figure out how to start doing it right. Both improv and stand up couldn’t do anything bad for my goals as an actress. Learning to think on my feet, be comfortable on stage, write comedy, deal with an audience, calm nerves…. it goes on and on.

So I completed 6 weeks of stand up comedy class at M.i.’s Westside Comedy Theater in Santa Monica, and ended it on February 28 with a showcase alongside 12 of my classmates.

But wait, there’s more!