Be Awesome: Stay on the Path

Be Awesome: Stay on the Path

You can’t get where you’re going if you don’t stay on the path. Life may try to lead you astray or take unexpected turns. Don’t worry, it’ll be awesome.

Today is my mom’s birthday. She would have been 59 this year. I often wish she was here to cheer me on in my quest to become a professional food blogger. Bloggers always talk about when they were starting out and the only person reading their blog was their mom. Mine passed away four years before this blog was started, but I think she would have liked it.

While I would desperately love to have her back, I literally would not be where I am today if she hadn’t died from a brain tumor. It was the bit of money I got from her life insurance that allowed me to move to Taiwan. It was that money that allowed me to meet the my husband. I can draw a direct line from her passing to where I am sitting right now. I know none of this would have happened otherwise.

The paths of our lives are so winding, so complicated, so unpredictable. There’s simply no way to know the long term consequences of our actions from day to day.

I’ve taken a lot of twists and turns in my life. I’ve made plans that have gone so horribly off the rails, I almost lost track of who I was. I eventually managed to build something stable, though. A nice normal life that lots of people would envy. So, to have a new career goal at my age seems foolish most days. Why can’t I just be content with my 9 to 5 government job with good benefits? Why do I want to change my whole life?

I don’t know the answer, but when I close my eyes and envision my path forward, I see myself owning my own business. I see myself working from home creating recipes and sharing them with the world. Maybe I see myself baking treats for people, and I see the joy that brings them. I see myself having the freedom to travel with the people I love. I see myself helping others find the courage to choose their own path and stay on it.

In reality, this path is still unclear. I have no idea how I’m going to achieve all this. But there was a point in my life where I never could have imagined I would be where I am now. Keep working, keep learning, keep trying. That’s all there is.

There’s no way to know if what I’m doing right now will actually lead me to where I want to be. So much has happened to me that I couldn’t have planned or predicted. I do actually have a crystal ball, but I haven’t figured out how to get it to show my future yet. All I can do is stay on the path and believe that what I want will come to me somehow.

Be Awesome: Keep Working | How to Be Awesome on $20 a Day

Be Awesome: Keep Working

There’s only one thing you can do to reach your goals, and that’s to keep working toward them. And don’t forget to be awesome.

Be Awesome: Keep Working | How to Be Awesome on $20 a Day

If there’s one thing I’m really good at, it’s quitting. I’ve lost track of the of how many times I almost quit writing this silly little food blog. I’d put in a bunch of time and energy for a few weeks, then life would get stressful, and it was an easy thing to eliminate. “Nobody reads it anyway, so what’s the point,” I’d tell myself. I’d throw a little pity party in my mind and justify not putting in the effort.

I completely erased the possibility of making blogging a job. I sucked, so what was the point? No, I wouldn’t even let myself think about it. I should just learn to be satisfied with what I have. It’s not a terrible life. So what if I wasn’t completely in love with my job? Most people aren’t. I’m just being selfish wanting something that I will clearly never be able to achieve. Just quit.

But for some reason, I always came back. Sometimes I’d disappear for weeks, but I’d always find my way back somehow. Why? Why couldn’t I just make a clean break and walk away?

I think it’s because I still really wanted it. I still had a spark of belief that I could do what other people had done and support myself with a food blog. Look, I don’t need six figures. I just want to have some control over my life. I want to have my success measured by my own work, and not by the whims of a teenager. Mostly, I just really want to bake cookies in my yoga pants instead of going to the office.

But when I feel overwhelmed and discouraged, quitting is so easy. So tempting. Nobody else is depending on me. I can just walk away, and it won’t matter. It won’t matter to anyone but me. I’ll know that I failed at yet another thing. I gave up because I’m a loser.

One of the things I’ve been doing the past few months is really putting a lot of intentional effort into changing the way I talk to myself. I was extremely hard on myself, and maybe you are, too. How many times a day do we allow the voice in our head to criticize and belittle us? Probably too many to count. You would never, for a minute, considering talking that way to a friend, but when it’s just you alone in your head, you suddenly turn into a complete monster.

Despite all these good intentions, there are have been times in the past few weeks where, yet again, that voice in my head has told me to quit. I’m wasting my time. It will never work. I’m awful, and I should just give up now. Take a nap or watch a movie instead. I suck. Get used to it.

But this time, I’m not listening.

I’m trying to change a lot about myself and the way I approach my blog right now. I’m never going to turn it into a business if I just keep quitting. The only way to get ahead is to keep moving forward. Maybe it’s true that I’m just not good enough. That’s one version of the story I could tell myself. Or maybe I just need to work harder, get better, become so good they can’t ignore me.

I choose to keep working. To keep learning, to keep growing, to keep trying, right here in front of your eyes. And I sincerely hope that if there’s something you’ve been turning away from because it was easier not to try, that you give it one more go. Put your whole soul into it this time, and just see what happens. And then when it seems like it’s not going to work, just try a little harder this time.

Trust me. There are enough people in this world who want to tell us that we suck. We don’t need to do it to ourselves. So let me tell you right now that you are brilliant. You deserve to have your dreams come true. Whatever you do, don’t quit. Don’t let that negative voice boss you around. Get up in the morning, take a shower, put on your favorite shirt, remind yourself that you are awesome, and go out there and kick some ass, friends. It’s gonna be the best year yet. We’ll get there together.

Awesome at 40 | How to Be Awesome on $20 a Day

Awesome at 40

It’s my 41st birthday, friends. I’ve been in my 40’s for a whole year now. Have I gained any wisdom? I don’t know, but I’ve certainly learned a few things. Turns out, being 40 is actually pretty awesome.

Awesome at 40 | How to Be Awesome on $20 a Day

For most of my 39th year, I fretted about turning 40. My mom died when she was only 48, so it felt entirely possible that the end of my life could be approaching. Having a 4 at the start of your age seemed so much older than a 3. People still accomplish things in their 30s. People in their 40s are supposed to be settled, stable, normal.

I didn’t really feel like any of those things. My job, while decent, was a dead end. I felt broke all the time. I worried that being 40 would change things. Turns out, like most things I worried about, it was no big deal.

On being 40

Considering the fact that when I was 30 I completely blew up my life, I guess I actually was pretty settled and stable at 40. I’m married to a man who absolutely treasures me. He’s someone I definitely wouldn’t want to live without. I have confidence in my relationship, and I know how special that is.

I know myself better than I ever have before. I’ve set boundaries around my life and my energy that serve me and allow me to sleep at night. And while I have yet to completely break the habit of stressing about money, I actually feel like we’ll be okay financially. That’s a big deal.

And now that I feel all stable and settled, I can finally start thinking about what makes me feel most fulfilled. I’ve developed a spiritual practice that was completely absent for most of my 30s. I’ve realized it’s actually fine to focus on myself. And guess what. I’m much happier.

Old Lady Advice

Most of my friends are much younger than me, and I find myself constantly giving them lots of unsolicited “old lady” advice. Here are a few things I wish I had known when I was younger.

  • It’s okay to say no, even at work. Protect your energy. Energy is everything.
  • If you’re not getting paid, don’t work late. Your energy and expertise have value, and you should be compensated for them.
  • Just go to dance class. You can probably still keep up with those college kids, and even if you can’t, who cares.
  • It will always feel awesome when someone says you look 27.
  • Wear sunscreen every damn day.
  • Getting carded at the bar eventually just becomes annoying.
  • If you want to change something in your life, just do it. You don’t need anyone’s permission.
  • With a few exceptions, you’re never too old to start something new.
  • Going to bed early with a stack of books is actually what all the cool kids are doing.
  • Napping is the new black.
  • Find the thing that makes you feel connected to the Universe. If that thing happens to be witchcraft, even cooler.
  • Consider an item’s value and cost, not just its price. Buy things you love that will last.
  • Don’t waste your time on people who don’t respect you. Be polite, but don’t be a pushover.
  • Always keep ice cream in your freezer.
  • Most of the things you are worrying about right now are no big deal. Let it go.
  • You’re going to make mistakes. Apologize, and most importantly, forgive yourself.
  • You don’t need to do anything to be enough. You are already enough.

Beyond 40

I’ve enjoyed being 40, and I’m excited to see what I can accomplish in the next 10 years. I know who I am and what I want, and I’m less and less hungry for approval with every passing year. Yeah, I have some wrinkles, and I can’t move as quickly as I used to. It’s worth it to know that I am worthy of love. It may have taken me longer than some other people to get where I’ve gotten in life, but what I’ve learned at 40 is that it takes as long as it takes.

It’s a kinder, gentler world at 40. I’m loving it, despite the previous fretting. Aging is a privilege denied to many. I plan to do my best to enjoy every day. I hope you do, too.

Be Awesome: Feel It All

Be Awesome: Feel It All

Be Awesome: Feel It All

I started this blog as a way to force myself to be positive and find the things in my life that are awesome and beautiful. I knew I needed to search for the light even when we were being crushed by financial pressures, when I was doubting my purpose because I wasn’t being challenged at work, or even those phases where depression’s crushing grip felt like it could never be undone.

I’ve always been an oversharer, so much so that I set up a website so that anyone on this glorious blue dot in space could read my words and share my stupid, pointless, insignificant feelings if they wanted.

If you read this blog regularly, you may have noticed things have been slow and times have been hard. I found myself feeling compelled to apologize for simply being alive and having feelings. I’ve been trying to stay in control and act “normal.” I saw beautiful things happening in the world around me, I knew that the light existed, but it wasn’t penetrating. I wanted to stop feeling so no one would see or be stained by my misery.

This space is where I get to tell you how stupid that is. Why does our culture find feelings so obscene? You should be allowed to feel exactly whatever it is that you need to feel. There’s nothing wrong or stupid or selfish about any of it. It’s who you are, and who you are is beautiful and truly, truly awesome.

If you want to dance and sing in the street, do it. If you need to go home and punch your pillow or kick the shit out of the dummy at the gym, do it. And most especially if you just can’t handle it anymore, ask for help. How you’re feeling is very real, and it matters. You matter. I promise.

Negativity is poison and must be purged. Do not keep that crap in for the sake of others. Find a way to release it. Maybe you can’t tell your boss or your neighbor to suck it. That’s probably not prudent, but tell a friend. Don’t worry that you’re bothering them or bringing them down or any of those other excuses we make up to be nice. Just be you.

Possibly one of the best things about this beautiful terrible world we all share is that happiness, joy, and love are contagious. If you’re having an amazing moment, don’t hide that either. So what if people stare. You go right on being just as awesome as you possibly can be. Come and find me so I can give you a high five.

The urge to apologize for this emotional rant is strong, my friends, but I’m not going to do it. I’m going to allow myself to feel. Loudly and publicly. I’m going to let go of what hurts and seek joy. It might be a little easier if we do it together. Are you with me? Let’s be awesome!

To Surinder Singh or not to Surinder Singh…

How to get a UK Spouse Visa without a lawyer

. . . that is the question!

Renee is still stuck in the hospital so Geoff is here to keep you company again. I’m constantly researching the convoluted ways of moving to different countries. Call it a, “hobby” if you will! I figured that as I’m doing the hard work, I should impart some of my wisdom to you, the lucky readers. Immigration lawyers are expensive and generally not-needed. Some countries are relatively easy, others keep you wrapped up in red tape. Hopefully we’ll be able to save you some of your hard-earned money in the time-honored “Awesome On $20” way. Let’s look at UK immigration first of all.

Our first option is the official UK Government route for coming home with a non-EU spouse.

To qualify for a spouse visa the UK citizen needs to meet the following specifications:

Needs a confirmed job offer for a job in the UK, earning £18,600 or more per year, starting no more than 3 months after your application.

Needs to have been earning the foreign equivalent of £18,600 per year for either 6 months (if you have worked for the same employer for the last six months and are still employed with them at the time of application) or 12 months (averaged out over the last 12 months for multiple jobs).

If you have children that you are also bringing with you, the amount is increased by £3,800 for the first child and then an extra £2,400 per child.

Note: If you have £62,500 or more in savings (and have had that in your account for at least 6 months) then none of this applies to you. You are automatically awarded a visa. Congratulations.

The tricky part is actually getting a job without having a face to face interview. I did manage to get my first job in the US while I was still living in Taiwan, via Skype, but not sure how common this is. If you can afford to fly home for interviews, great, but if you are like the rest of us, this probably isn’t an option. Of course there’s a whole load of paperwork and “evidence” that you need to collect to show that you earn a certain amount. Click HERE to get detailed info straight from the horse’s arse mouth. This visa costs £885.

Renee in London
Tourist-mode back on our last visit

The second option is called the “Surinder Singh” route. So called after a famous court case. Basically, this is a back-door option that circumvents the UK Government’s visa restrictions. If the UK citizen goes to live and work in another EU country, their non-EU spouse can go with them and also work. Once you can prove that the UK citizen’s ‘centre of life’ has moved to the other EU country, you are free to apply for an EEA Family Permit. This permit is as good as a visa and allows you to live and work in the UK indefinitely! The guideline for time spent in the other EU country is 3 months minimum.

When applying for the EEA Family Permit, you’ll need:

Proof of address for the UK citizen in the other EU country (rental agreement or perhaps bank statements).

Proof of ‘integration’ (anything that shows the UK citizen became involved with the local community. Maybe a letter from a club or society).

Proof that the UK citizen was working (wage slips, contracts, tax returns etc).

The best thing about the Surinder Singh route is that there’s no cost for an EEA Family Permit! How’s that for being Awesome on $20?

Other European citizens can move to the UK straight away and work with no hassle! A Polish person could bring an Indian spouse into the UK easier than a Brit bringing in an American! Crazy!

Stay tuned for more free immigration advice. Next time we will look at getting your American Green Card!

Hopefully Renee will be back on her feet and making delicious treats for you fine folks in no time at all. Here’s to a quick recovery!

Even British horses are cool...
Even British horses are cool…

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