On the First Day of Chanukah…

I’m not Jewish. I celebrate Christmas every December. I believe with my whole heart that Jesus is Lord. But ever since I was young, I was taught the games, songs, and traditions of the “Other Winter Holiday”.

No, not Kwanzaa.

Regardless of religion, Chanukah is a memorial to miracles and blessings. For many years now, I’ve taken these eight days to look for miracles and blessings in the small stuff. For example, Chanukah started last night, when I was in a meeting at the Magdalene Home. It was a miracle that I could get the schedule from one of my other jobs changed so I could finally be a part of this amazing staff. There we were blessed with delicious food, an ornament exchange, and a few other gifts. When I went to my other job (where I was also blessed with some gifts: a candy cane and a turkey!), I drove through the downtown area where I could see beautiful light displays. I haven’t really been able to see many lights since I typically go to work in the afternoon before they turn on and come home in the middle of the night long after they’ve been turned off. But as I drove past them, full of warm fuzzies, I realized that I had finally gotten into the Christmas spirit. A Christmas miracle- at the start of Chanukah!

A couple years ago, I bought a five dollar menorah on Amazon. I looked in several different stores to get candles to go with it, but I couldn’t find any. (I’ve even looked in several different WalMarts with no such luck! Which brings me to another point- why did they rename all the things in what used to be the Christmas section as “holiday decorations” when the only holiday they’re for is Christmas? But I digress…) So that year, I just used some way-too-small birthday candles that burned out after a couple of minutes and had to be replaced every single night. The next year, I didn’t light my menorah since Chanukah started on Thanksgiving and thus I spent most of those eight nights as a guest in a coworker’s family’s home. But of course that year, I found menorah candles in just about every store (except for WalMart, of course).

This year, my WalMart endeavor once again proved unsuccessful, so I forgot about it until just yesterday when I realized that Chanukah was beginning. I decided to stop at Walgreens after I got off of work. Even if they didn’t have menorah candles, they’d certainly have some sort of candles I could use in a pinch! So when I got off of work at midnight, I drove right past the awful WalMart and turned into the parking lot of the other store that begins with Wal. And there I saw it: a big lit-up sign that read “Open ‘Til Midnight”. And of course, it was just a few minutes past! But then, I remembered something I saw on Pinterest:

These illuminating crayons. | 27 Everyday Objects That Went Beyond The Call Of Duty

This wasn’t an emergency, but it would have to do. So when I got home, I filled my menorah with crayons. (From the same exact kind of box as is shown in the Pin, mind you.) It was actually a miracle itself that the crayons fit perfectly in the candle holders. Then after finding something to light the shamash with, I set a lit match up against the prominent crayon…

And this is all that happened:

Pretty exciting? NOT!

So although my menorah looks colorful, it’s not going to actually have flames unless I find some candles today. But I’ll continue to look for all the little miracles and blessings in each day anyway.

Travel Journal Tuesday: Peru, August 4th, 2009

Giving the first of 5,000 shoulder rides in during this week. I never did learn this girls name.

After we landed for the night, we waited forEVER in the immigration line. Then it was on to grabbing luggage, customs, and finding Gary and Estabon so we could take the bus to Loma Linda. There were some really cool lighted buildings, like a Vegas-style “Hello Hollywood”, a bank tower that had lights shooting across it, and a cadaver art exhibit. Most people fell asleep, but I stayed awake, listening to Dale and Gary talk about Peru stuff and watching the slum buildings go by outside. When we got to the hotel, I was put in room 20 with Nicole, Callie, and Patty. We even had a TV! We also got other luxuries like a closet, extra soap, and a toilet seat. We pretty much went to bed.

Around 8:30, I woke up and took a shower. After getting ready, Nicole and I went exploring. We went up the hill trail and over to the water tower. Soon, it was breakfast time. Bun buns and eggs- with ham- and papaya juice. We then had time off, so a bunch of us went to the store for Inca Kola, and walked to the suburbs, which was very interesting to see real Peruvian homes up close. We came back just in time to go to the orphanage… finally!

We took public transportation, which was definitely a learning experience! It’s one thing to cram on a bus with the team, but another to cram on a bus with people you don’t know! We had to walk a few blocks from the dropoff to get to the orphanage, but once we got there, it was great. The orientation included the kids singing songs in Spanish and Quechua, dancing, and asking us to join for some jumping song, Every Move I Make, and Happy All the Time. Introductions were made, lunch was served (rice, meat, fries, and Pecan cake- and the beverage selection included Inca Kola), and then we just hung out. I talked with the older girls after lunch, but after that, I spent most of my time playing with a little girl. After getting tired of playing volleyball, I went off to talk with a girl on the play set (speaking of which, a play set, volleyball court, and new building were built on the school side since we left). I still don’t know her name, but she had a blast chasing me, throwing pebbles at me, having me chase her, and riding on my shoulders. She barely spoke, just laughed. In the midst of this, I also hung out with the 2-year-old twins (which is a rare thing to take in kids younger than 3, because of diaper costs and stuff. The twins must have had a really devastating situation), as well as some of the older girls and Melany. Melany didn’t forget how I gave her shoulder rides from last time, because as soon as she was on my shoulders, she covered my eyes. Aw, good times. Soon, we left for hotel. Before dinner, I was insane enough to go with Nicole for another hiking trip- to the padded room and the far side of the hotel. That got us ready for dinner, starting with my favorite soup, which made it hard to eat the rice, fries, chicken chops, and caramel crepes, along with my favorite warm drink. Then came ad-libbing Spanish Disney, devos, and finally winding down for the night. Good night!

Highlight of the Day: While hiking this morning, Nicole encouraged me to take a shortcut downhill. I followed her but I slid down… hard. Dale was in frong of his room when I walked by, with my hand bleeding in two places. Apparently, it took awhile to get ointment and band-aids because the medical stuff hadn’t been gotten into yet (they weren’t anticipating an accident so soon). Krista had to take me in her room, clean my wounds, cut off my skin, and so forth. Dale made fun of me all day.

#ThrowbackThursday: Trading Winter for Warm Weather

I’m not a huge fan of this season. If it wasn’t for Christmas, I don’t think I would be able to survive between the months of November and March. In Oregon, it rains too much to do anything fun outside. In other places I’ve lived, it’s ice spaced out by muddy thaws. Although I’ve had some fun adventures in the winter months, I always prefer warmer weather for my travels. Lately I’ve been dreaming of warm places, like Hawaii, Mexico, and Southern California. Then I recalled the last time I was in Southern California, back in June 2011…

Just sit right back and I’ll tell my tale, my tale of a fateful trip…

Okay, we did take a boat tour, and although it wasn’t three hours, we did see one of the locations where Gilligan’s Island was filmed!

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Most of that trip consisted of going around the harbor by Newport Beach and looking at the super-expensive homes of the rich and famous. We only saw one location that was inhabited by the non-uber-wealthy, and it was a buoy full of sea lions:Newport Beach 11 011 Newport Beach 11 013

But most places looked like the picture below. We didn’t stay in a place nearly as fancy, but we were fortunate to spend nearly two weeks in a beautiful home in Newport Beach that my aunt and uncle live in. They were in Sweden for my cousin’s wedding, so we got to house-sit for them!

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I had realized that it had been a long time since we had gone to Disneyland. The last time we went as a family, California Adventure hadn’t even been built yet! I thought it would be neat to go and see everything we had missed over the years, so I secretly began making plans to pay for my entire family to go to Disneyland. When I looked up the admission prices, I realized that I couldn’t even afford to take just me and my sister! I began looking at other options. Then I remembered Knott’s Berry Farm, which I barely recalled since I only went there as a toddler. My mom ended up not going, but I got to take my dad and sister into this amusement park all for the cost it would have been for just one of us to go to Disneyland!

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Of course, because we were staying at Newport Beach, we spent a lot of time at the beach. We rented a surfboard one day, and after my sister got a little bit of practice with it, I went out for my very first surf session. But no sooner did I get out in the ocean did a lifeguard call everyone out of the water due to too harsh of waves!

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But there were plenty of boogie boards at the house we were staying at, so I went boogie boarding just about every day.Newport Beach 11 092

We did quite a few other things, too. One day we visited my grandparents, and another day I participated in the International Surf Day’s beach cleanup. We did a lot of shopping and fairly healthy eating, and we did some sand sculpting…

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And another thing we did pretty much every day was ride beach cruisers. Newport Beach has a great bike trail that goes along the shoreline. Sometimes we would just ride to the nearest beach, and other times we would go further to different shops. Some days it was hard to ride because we were going quite a few miles in the direction opposite of the wind, so we definitely kept in shape!

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Because we kept in such great shape, treats at the Balboa Pier were not only guilt-free, but they were mandatory! Newport Beach 11 149

4 Ways to Survive a Desk Job When You Want to See the World

It’s only a seasonal job, I have to constantly remind myself. It will only last a few more weeks!

Last month, I began a job at a Harry and David Call Center. I knew going in that I wouldn’t exactly like the job, but my other three jobs combined don’t make as much as my one job at Harry and David does, so I certainly needed a more steady job, even if it was only for a couple months. The two weeks of training were actually kind of fun. It was more like an adventure, because it was the opportunity to explore the company: explore the physical location that is one of the prides of my hometown, and also explore the internal matters of how this business runs, in an effort to be able to transfer some of what I learned into my own business. But after training ended, I was stuck in the call center.

Eight hours a day of nothing but sitting in a chair, reading a script into a headset, and typing whatever I hear.

Clearly not me. I would lose all my incentive pay if I tried to take a picture of myself in the uber-secure call center, so this is what you get.
Clearly not me. I would lose all my incentive pay if I tried to take a picture of myself in the uber-secure call center, so this is what you get.

This is not the ideal job for any traveler-at-heart. And some days, I don’t know if I’ll be able to make it until my layoff date. But here are a few things that I keep in mind about this job, and they’re things you too can ponder when you find yourself in a job you weren’t meant for:

I won’t be working this job forever! If you don’t count freelance writing (which I’ve worked on for six years), I’ve never kept a job much longer than two years, and some of those jobs I actually enjoyed. And I know that this particular job is even more short-term. I don’t know my exact layoff date yet, but it won’t be later than January. Near the end of my life, when I look back on this job, it will take only a few seconds to reflect on its entirety (even though now it seems like each shift is forever)! Instead, I’ll more clearly remember all the amazing adventures I took before and after this brief period of work.

It’s money in the bank. Life isn’t about money, but I will admit that it’s the biggest motivator for me working this job. My hourly wage is pretty decent, and I earn bonus incentive money too. Of course, right now a good percentage of my earnings are going towards Christmas. (Although I will say I won’t have nearly as big of a budget for Christmas this year as I have had in the past, thanks to the fact that I don’t have to fly anywhere this year!) But most of my leftover money is being stocked up in my savings account, ready to be used for all my 2015 travel plans!

There are other perks too. Every job has perks other than a paycheck. I’ve had jobs that provide food and jobs that provide employee discount. This job happens to provide both. I can typically score some fresh fruit (usually pears, of course!) during my breaks, and in training we were even required to sample a variety of treats! I get a 45% discount in Harry and David stores and 30% off on shipped orders, plus there are discount to other stores and services as well as a discount on mailing services. Harry and David even started a charity where their employees can go to a building twice a month and fill a grocery bag with “imperfect” food and other goods. Best off all, if I work until my layoff date, all of these services are available to me until next November! Because I’ve saved money on things like food, gifts, and even an oil change due this job, it means that more of my paycheck is going toward travel.

I challenge myself to learn new things every day. And if possible, I try to learn something that will still apply to my life after this job is in the past. Sometimes it means reading health articles during my break time. Sometimes I try to think about why a particular sales tactic I used was effective or ineffective. And sometimes it’s just an appreciation for things, like how much small business owners have to do to compete with established big names like this one, or how so many of the overnight shift people seem to be so happy while I dread the fact that I don’t get home until after midnight. Learning through experience is one of the main things that fuels my travels. With a little effort, this can be brought into the workplace,too!

I Guess I’m a “Talented and Energetic Visionary” Now

With my work with G4C Magazine, I have done quite a few interviews over the course of time with authors, actresses, and activists. And of course I’ve been interviewed too… you know, for jobs like everyone else does! But I recently had my first “real” interview. This one wasn’t for a job, it was to be published on Sisters United in Verse!

"Sisters United In Verse, Women, Christian, Girl, Online Fellowship"

I never heard of this ministry before, but they contacted me when they found out about Girlz 4 Christ. I think they did a wonderful job asking good questions that made me think! They even designed the image above, which I really like! That picture was from three years ago, when I was obsessed with pineapples, chopped off my hair for EMT training, and decided it was a wild enough style that I should dye it red, too! So maybe that wasn’t the best picture of me, but of course the part I really like is the cover collage that surrounds it.

The interviewer used words I never would have used to describe myself. Talented and energetic visionary? Really? I sure hope I can live up to that! One word that wasn’t used to describe me was an adventurist. Although this interview didn’t cover any of my travel experience, it did show more of my personal, internal journey. Read the whole interview here!