Friday, January 30, 2015

Milestone

I'm missing this girl's wedding this weekend.
Tomorrow will begin our sixth month here in Nicaragua -- essentially marking the halfway point between our arrival and our pending departure. I have thought about staying longer and continuing to see the success of an increasing bank account, but my rebelangel wants 6th grade in her home country. She hasn't yet seen how re-entry can sometimes be just as hard as being away, or how nothing, no matter what you do, will ever be the same. So that's the next step, after all this.

For me, this six-month milestone has me looking back at how things have changed so rapidly. A friend of a friend -- a Nica -- came over last night and remarked at how much better my Spanish had gotten since the last time he visited. The fruit sellers and obituary hawkers who come by with their megaphones no longer sound like clown gibberish. I can (pretty much) sleep through two roosters having a crowing duel of epic proportions every morning, and i have gotten damn good at making piña coladas and watermelon licuados.

I've also gotten more focused in my work, and am in a bit of a hyper-creative mode where new money-making and writing schemes pop up daily.

In ways big and small, this journey has already been epic... so i look forward to seeing how the next six months unfold...

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One of the money-makers i've recently turned to is Fiverr -- where you can buy and sell nearly anything for five bucks. It doesn't sound like much, but it adds up, especially when you're adding extras or when you get loyal clients who want you to continue doing more stuff at higher pay. Me, i've started doing customer success stories -- basically long-format ads about how great your business is.

Meanwhile, Charles is one of my fellow Fiverr peeps who's found a lot of success doing online surveys -- and now he's teaching people how to have success with surveys as one of his gigs. Check him out!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Star of the Show

This kid is always the star of my show,
no matter where we go
but now she's the star of the school play too!

It must be all those years of letting her make goofy videos like this one
and reading to her every night...


video

(And of course, going to a very small school doesn't hurt either -- but i'm not going to bring that one up.) I'm just going to let the rebelangel revel in her victory. Way to go!
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International friends -- here's a great app for helping your kids learn their ABCs -- whether English is their first language (and their first alphabet) or not! Check out the ABC for Kids app here.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

About Home and the Costs of Living in Nicaragua

Besides this wild and crazy cultural experience we are having, there is another reason we're spending the year in Nicaragua: It is impossible to save money back home. And if i ever want to actually realize the dream of owning my own home, i have to actually put some money in the bank.
Our middle-class neighborhood street -- before they tore it up...





Granted, if you want to live a life like you were accustomed to back in the States, Nicaragua is more expensive than you might imagine. Electricity for a house with a pool and a hot water pump runs about what it would back home -- and probably moreso because we're not paying to heat the house. (BTW If you're looking for a cool way to heat your winter's morning coffee, check out this new technology -- the Nanoheat coffee warmer)

The Internet bill in Nicaragua is about the same, or a little more. Paying the pool cleaner is cheap, and water is a little less. Rent, of course, is far cheaper, but then there's private school, higher bank fees, storage fees for my stuff back home, and the desire to travel and see more of this gorgeous land of lakes and volcanoes. Even on the chicken bus, it costs something to get two people to and fro -- and even though restaurants cost about half of what they cost in the States, i am always footing the bill for two.

But still, miraculously, thankfully, i do have a bank balance that is steadily increasing. I have a few debts here and there, but there's a plan to pay those off too, while still adding to that savings account. I'd love to say it will be enough for a down payment on a house, but it might not, so like many people of my generation, i am beginning to rethink the traditional home ownership model. The thought occurred to me that perhaps i could build my own tiny house and own it free and clear with the money i've saved. Or perhaps put it all into a piece of land that i can build on later. These, with their promises of low to no mortgages, seem like the things i need to do if i want to continue to live a life that includes freedom and travel and also a low cost of living. I love Portland, but it's gotten so expensive to live there; even in the past couple years it's skyrocketed. It fills me with dread to think i've been priced out of my pretty city.

But since i am not always married to traditional patterns -- and i hope i'm teaching the rebelangel something about that too -- i've started looking at tiny cabin plans, looking where land is cheap, and am beginning to form an idea of what i want the place to look like. The thought of buying a piece of land in Nicaragua did occur to me, but i don't think i'm ready for that. I think our travels will always come to an end and we will eternally be pushed toward HOME -- which for us is still the U.S...

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Since i've been checking out building options, i've been talking with the folks at OC Stay Dry Roofing, offering cool options for roofing and solar power. Since i'm trying to save as much as possible on the place i hope to build, i'll be checking out the solar options for sure!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Enterprise in the Campo

El Puro on his horse
This weekend we hopped on the chicken bus yet again and headed for the beach. It's always a hit -- even if all we do is plop down in chairs, read books, body surf and hang out. This weekend though, we got the chance to spend our time with a group of people from South Dakota, who were renting the home of a Minnesotan, who everyone in San Juan calls "El Puro." Puro means cigar, and you'll often find him on the porch of his beachfront home smoking one.

That's not all he does with his time, however. Sunday morning we all loaded into Puro's two trucks and headed out to his 1,500 acre farm, where this enterprising gentleman farmer is reforesting the place with mahogany, coffee, cacao and citrus. Before he arrived, the hills of the property were dry and dusty and deforested from years of making charcoal and stripping the land for timber.

Since there wasn't enough room in the cabs for all of us, i got the pleasure of riding in the back, standing and holding onto the roll bar while the world went by. It may have seemed inconvenient, but i got the best view.

Doña Maura cooking chicken
We didn't just see the budding forest -- and its vistas of the ocean and even Costa Rican mountains off in the distance -- from the road; when we got to Puro's 100-year old farmhouse, the campesinos who live there had saddled up 10 of the horses for us to ride, while the women brewed fresh coffee and cooked chicken on the spit in the kitchen.

Don Manuel and his coffee-drying tray, which slides under the house
Don Manuel is the head man at the house, and on top of his duties caring for the land, he's also the local curandero -- the medicine man who knows the medicinal properties of the land in addition to its other practical uses. In the kitchen, Maura grinds corn and coffee that comes right off the land, making us fresh tortillas for our lunch. Delicious.

It's hard to take a good photo on horseback.
It is lovely to see an expat who's not just languishing through his retirement, but is doing something to benefit everyone by planting forests and generally being an enterprising fellow.

Puro's Nica girlfriend, meanwhile, teaches sex education as well as agriculture to the local kids on the weekends, on top of her regular job teaching to college students. She does what she can, but when i asked her about the girls -- about the rebelangel's age -- who lived at the farm and whether they went to school, she told me they didn't. The 15-year-old who lives there had just had a baby, she told me, and i got to peek in at the baby's angelic face while he was sleeping in the back room. There is progress and birth, but there is still a long way to go to offer girls the education and opportunities they are afforded in other places.

So this visit was not only fun, but encouraging and uplifting and at the same time a peek into the realities of rural life in Nicaragua.

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And speaking of enterprising and uplifting -- check out Nerium's direct sales opportunity -- offering enterprising moms a way to make money right from home! Complete every field to get more info about starting your own home-based business.

Also check out Brain Abundance -- a company with tips and products for brain health, as well as the opportunity to spread the word and work with them! I know i could use the help... 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Remember the Good Stuff

Travel, whether it's short or fast or even lasts a year, is all about making memories.

When things get challenging, i must remember:

15 uniformed schoolkids sitting in the same giant hammock, giggling as they smile for the camera.


The same schoolkids getting up and dancing to a salsa tune, partner style, right in the street as if they'd never been shy a day in their life and salsa was something everyone knows.

And glorious sunsets. 


Horseback rides through mahogany, coffee and cacao forests on sometimes-ornery caballos. 

The lazy days of life in the campo, far from the chatter of the city... 



These are the memories i am stacking up, for when the other days around here get too tough -- or when the whole thing is over and we're back to our "normal" lives.

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After being here for so long though, i am beginning to thing our lives are never going to be the same kind of normal. For one, we may be beginning a life where we are much more nomadic all the time. To live that life, we'll have to go back though and rearrange, regroup, and repack. We may need to rethink the things we've brought along, and to make ourselves more portable by investing in stuff like this Highview case for your iPad -- which lets you hang it to watch a movie or tap out words for your blog. =)

We may also have to reinvest in better smartphones that actually work with the local networks -- and where you can take advantage of mobile programs like Greg's online fitness program that works with your smartphone, no matter where you live. And we'll have to look for ways to be even more self-sufficient. I love what Garry's doing -- raising his own quail for fun, profit and sustainability. And of course, self sufficiency!


Friday, January 23, 2015

More on Catcalling

Don't get me wrong -- i love waking up to sweet breezes and the rustle of coco palms. I even love cleaning out the tiny mango flowers that grace my pool, because it means mangoes are soon to come. 

But of all the things i love and despise about living in Nicaragua, perhaps what i despise most is leaving my house -- or just having the door open -- and having some man make a dirty comment about my appearance, or how he loves me, or how boo-dee-full i am, or sometimes even things that are a lot dirtier. On occasion it makes me look forward to the time when i will be back to being just another American, worrying and wondering where i'm going to live and whether to rent or buy, or to get cable or not...or all those mundane decisions i had wanted to leave behind for a time...

Occasionally i just cannot keep my mouth shut and i erupt with "no hablas como un cerdo!!" -- don't talk like a pig! -- and the culprit whirls around laughing, walking away unaffected by my outburst.

It's a part of the culture here, and one that many Latina women accept, but given the option to have it or not, i guess they would opt for not.

I've written about it before, and Pink Pangea published my account of tween catcalling today.

Here in Nicaragua, people have a history of revolt and of standing up for the most egregious of human mistreatment. The Sandinista revolution was a triumph that toppled a brutal dictatorship -- albeit one that was followed by many new foibles -- but it was one that taught the people here that there is power in their words and power in banding together. Perhaps catcalling and the mistreatment of women is not high on the list when hunger and low pay are still so pervasive, but when i can't get my door closed fast enough before a group of teen boys walks by to hiss at both me and my daughter, it makes me wish to see even more activism among the women, the young, and all the people who still struggle in this beautiful country.

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I love what the young people at Bananatee are doing -- using art to spread their message about diabetes research and to create activist messages. Maybe if i wore a t-shirt that said "Don't catcall me" it would help? Or maybe i could drive around with one of these funny mom car decals, advertising my objection to catcalling? Hmmm...


Thursday, January 22, 2015

More Construction in the Street

Before Christmas a gang of workers tore up the street in front of our house in order to put in a sewer line. It was a sign of progress and one that meant we'd soon do away with the rivulets of dirty grey water that line the edges of the streets here -- but it also meant there was dust everywhere, loud trucks outside all day long, and construction workers gawking at us every time we walked out our door.
The well of serenity at Casa Bambu...

A few days before the holiday, the workers finally finished the line and put the dirt back from where it had come, but they didn't replace the paving stones they'd removed. One day the paving stones were piled up on the curbs near all the neighbors' houses; the next they were gone. That was probably a good thing, because each night i'd hear people piling a few into a wheelbarrow and hauling them away -- probably to pave the private patios in the largely-unpaved parts of the barrio just south of here. Technically, "barrio" means neighborhood, but from what i've seen, it really means "less-than-desirable neighborhood."

I thought it was weird that they'd finish their work and not repave the street -- until a few days ago when the workers came back and started tearing up the street a second time. Apparently they'd just taken a three-four week break for the holidays and were now back, churning dust into the kitchens and living rooms, whistling at tanned expatriates, shouting and driving trucks and generally bringing chaos back to our relatively peaceful middle class barrio. Sigh. 

Living here is such a lesson in extremes... learning to handle, deal, cope... basically, learning all the verbs for managing constant chaos. One minute i am proud of my ability to give directions to someone in Spanish on the telephone (phone calls seemed impossible a few months ago), the next i am feeling sick of it all, and wallowing in the left-out feeling of being away from home. I even start missing the stuff that meant more work for me -- like the rebelangel's school book competitions, garden cleanups and fundraisers, (like this cookie dough fundraiser from Cherrydale Farms -- YUM) that gobbled up so many weekends.

Here, there are times when all i can do is lay face-up in my pool (yeah, poor me) and let the water block out the sounds that are so intense i feel i might explode. If i wasn't so used to the heat, which means i even tend to get chilly at night, i would have had to do a nighttime float two nights ago, when the teens who live two doors down rented a pro sound system for a birthday party and bumped bachata and reggaeton throughout the entire barrio until 10:30 at night on a Tuesday. It could have been worse -- they could have blasted evangelical tunes ALL NIGHT like what happened during an evangelical gathering on the lakeshore a month or so ago, which kept up the entire city... but in any case it was damn annoying.

Every day i get a little more acclimated -- so much so that even in the daytime i can wear long pants (like these harem pants by One Tribe Apparel) instead of short-shorts that get me too much attention -- but on those same days, i feel like i'll ever be a stranger here, and never learn to adapt. I need my peace, and the construction workers and roosters don't oblige.

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Once again, that beautiful pool saves my sanity, and also helps me get the exercise i need to further stay sane. When you want to work out and stay hydrated -- something that can be tricky in this sticky heat -- check out the hydration, energy and recovery products from E-hydrate.



Monday, January 19, 2015

Nothing to Do

I've mentioned a time or two on here about how i start to feel guilty about not providing my daughter enough to do as we live here in Nicaragua. There are not too many community activities for kids here, so she ends up languishing in her room with her iPod. But this book, "The Videogame Revolution," about the brain benefits of video games, is pretty interesting. I may be vindicated!

I'm still all for soccer and basketball and theater and all the other stuff my kiddo likes to do outside this compound, but at least i know not all is lost when she's holed up in her room...

The Bling

In the beginning, plastic shoes every day.
When you are surrounded by Nicaraguan women who tend to dress up in heels to visit the playplace at the local fast food chicken joint, you start to think your life might need a little more bling. So you buy yourself sandals with fake jewels on them, and you do the same for your kiddo. You are sure to put on earrings when you go to the grocery store, and you shake your head in wonder at the backpackers who walk around Granada with no shoes on at all. With this place far from the beach and the fact that Nicas tend to have a LOT more self-respect than that, it's odd and gross... and you find yourself becoming a little more Nica every day.

It's not like i'm going to completely change who i am or what i consider to be my personal style, but knowing that many people who showed up in heels to Tip Top Chicken had said heels stashed under their tiny beds in their wooden houses in the barrio tends to make you question your own sense of self-respect and grooming -- especially when you live in a comparatively palatial household and have "help" do your laundry. I can't say i'm going to be wearing loads of bling or going so far as to sport heels at Tip Top (they're dangerous to wear on cobbled streets), but it's always interesting to see how you start to identify more with the local scene than to the travelers of your own age who come and go...

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In case you're in the market for some bling, Melvin has some nice pieces in his online store! Kobi Kamhaji also has some amazing diamond pieces worth checking out... and in case you need a way to finance it all, check out Algorates.com.  Peace and bling!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Tropical Creatures in the Kitchen

Delight in the gorgeous moth and the droppings she leaves on the wall...
In the tropics, it is mere moments in the absence of humans before the creatures take their place.

Wash your dishes right after dinner, wipe the counters and throw away the ends of carrots, the shells of eggs and the skins of onions, but even when you think you've put things away, the creatures will find the remains. (If you're wondering why i don't compost, let's just say that housekeepers here can be so thorough that they sweep the actual dirt in the garden, thus wiping away your efforts to toss egg shells and onion skins around the banana trees that so love mulch.)

Ants will devour the tiniest piece of chicken you left discarded on the floor, forming that writhing black ant-circle that shows you weren't very careful cleaning up.

As soon as you leave the room, the stray cats who think they live in your house will topple over your garbage can, poking around for scraps and spreading out the offal of your day, so you're reminded of it all again. In the corners where you stash said can, spiders lurk.

Off-green lizards make squeaking sounds as they aim toward their bug-prey on the walls.

In short, you are never alone as you manage to make your first lasagna in Nicaragua, even with funny-tasting cheese and meat you don't think you'll ever quite like. The creatures wait as you finish up making what is so far your greatest triumph on a Nicaraguan cookstove -- the simple, always-good chicken noodle soup. With chicken so abundant and carrots one of the only veggies to be found without fail, chicken noodle soup is always ready to be made.

Other veggies, not so much. Broccoli comes and goes, zucchini is occasional, kale is non-
existent and beets can be found -- though they're often soft and sad.

It is possible to feed your child healthy food through abundant fruits, eggs and chicken -- if you can somehow manage to avoid the excess of carbs that Nicaraguans like so much. When our housekeeper was still cooking for us, it was not uncommon to have a double-carb meal; rice with noodles, rice with bread, and not a vegetable in sight... That, in addition to my exhaustion at having to explain what i wanted with my bad Spanish and having to shop more regularly than i wanted, caused me to nix having someone else cook for us.

But every day i learn to ferret out what i can, to find recipes i can actually cook and that my kiddo will actually like. The past two nights, with soup and lasagna, i've actually even gotten a "thank you" at the end of the meal. Miracle! Now if only the creatures would say please and thank you and clean up after themselves in a similar way...

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For tips on getting your kids to eat healthier, check out this ebook, offering a free download through January 17!

And o, how i'd love to have quality cookware like this titanium set, instead of the crazy hodgepodge of Teflon stuff we cook on here in Nica!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Learning to Succeed

Back and forth between seeing progress and wondering if it's enough. 

Last week i had a guest poster write for Raising a Revolutionary about how to take an idea and make it into a business. Yesterday i wrote a post for Career Addict about how to be a successful freelancer when you're also a single parent. I also wrote another one about thriving as a wandering online worker living in Central America.

What they all have in common: they're all centered around doing this thing i do a little better -- and while some of the advice was doled out by me, i can certainly use a helping hand in that department from time to time. I worry about getting my taxes right (living in two countries -- what's that going to look like?), having enough to get back and forth between countries with two tickets to buy each time, and a dog in tow, whether the house we live in will be available to us or whether we'll have to submit to moving somewhere else -- maybe without a pool (boo hoo!) and whether i'm doing enough to network and leverage the experiences we're having into something that makes me an even more successful freelancer.

So any of you out there who are doing it -- got any tips or tricks i should be employing?


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Kay-Cee's site, BizzyOne, offers some insights and additional tips on success in a new business venture. You have to create a login to access the site, but i need all the help i can get!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Things We Like to Do

Now that school is back in session and we're not forced to be around one another 24-7, the rebelangel and i can go back to enjoying one another's company a little more.

Craft day at Nectar restaurant? She's totally IN.
Last night we sat in bed together, poring over clothes she wanted to order online -- perhaps the closest thing we get to getting to go shopping together. At her age, she is, of course, in love with new clothes and shopping, and since our cousins are coming to visit in not too long, we had the bright idea to order stuff and have it shipped there and brought to us. Brilliant, the rebelangel says! Ugh, i say, since it means we're back to stretching our budget to pay for stuff we don't need.

I thought we were free of that! But i did enjoy having my kiddo by my side instead of holed up in her room on her own.

Last night for the first night in a long time, the rebelangel also slept in my bed, which she used to do all the time, but rarely ever does anymore. We used to have a nightly reading tradition too, which meant we'd both get sleepy and end up sleeping in my bed or hers a lot more often. With mid-level chapter books for her reading level hard to find here, we've sorta fallen off that wagon.

So there are some traditions we should have tried harder to keep, like reading, while others that should have stayed gone, like spending too much money on clothes this sprouting tween will quickly grow out of.

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Of course, there's always e-books -- and if you're too tired to read to your kids yourself, check out the Tales with Gigi app, a mobile storytelling app that narrates the books for you! Click on this special link made just for Raising a Revolutionary and you'll get free access to the app.

And for the adult readers among us, international borders don't have to stop you from getting good reads. Check out The Elements by Ricky Goodall. Choose the $31 reward on his Kickstarter campaign and you can get the book shipped anywhere in the world!

There are also always free ebooks galore online -- this site for Kindle ebooks has one i'm ready to read -- "365 Days of Mindfulness." Need that as a reminder to enjoy this totally wild, often tough and also amazing journey the rebelangel and i are on!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Long-Term Travel in Nicaragua: What You Might Forget to Bring

Earlier this week I guest posted over at Travel Insurance Plus about single travel with kids and things you shouldn't forget to bring. Read that post to get ideas about diversions, travel insurance and the like -- but like most writers, i often think of other things i should have included in the post, days after the fact.

When you're moving to Nicaragua, or you're planning an extended stay here, there are some more specific things you might need -- or just miss -- that are not easy to get. This list is far from extensive, but here are some things I wish someone had told me to bring:
Sunset San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

- Shoes to fit feet women's size 8 or larger (big feet are rare here)  -- including a nice pair of sandals for "fancy" time and a quality pair of flip flops. No, that doesn't include the ones on sale at the supermarket!

- Aluminum-free deodorant and any other natural or organic soaps, lotions, shampoos or beauty products to which you're attached. For a year stay, three containers of deodorant would have probably sufficed, but i ended up getting a friend to bring me more when i only packed one.

- Supplements. Possible to get, but not high-quality. 

- Sheets with a good thread count, if you're into that thing. You can get them here, in Managua, but be prepared to balk at the sticker price. There are also many, many thrift stores, so you may get lucky.

- Spices for ethnic dishes like Indian or Asian food.

- Extra cords, cables, batteries and accessories for your electronics. Any electronics at all that you think might break soon and need to be replaced.

- Static free dust cleaners for your electronics -- and one of those air spray cans would be great too, to cut the dust.

- Quality kids clothes. Once again, possible to get, but at a high sticker price unless you can find something good used.

- Card games, jump ropes, shin guards, soccer cleats and any other sporting gear your kid might need. 


Those are just a few of the things i can think of right now -- and i'm sure the rebelangel would add to the list... but that should give you some ideas about what to expect.

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If you're pressed for time for shopping before you go, there's always the option of ordering kids clothes online. A Well Run Life offers kids clothes and cute hats and things online -- and a portion of the proceeds go to charity!





Thursday, January 8, 2015

A Chill Day

For the first time in a long time i woke up and no sun was streaming through my windows. Normally i have to stay on the right side of my bed after about 5 am, lest the hot sun hit me in the face as it rises. But today, the skies were grey -- kind of like the entire winter in the Northwest.

It's one of those days that makes you want to do absolutely nothing except wear a snuggie (OK i really don't have one) and curl up on the couch watching old Downton Abbey episodes, maybe smoking a fat one. Yes, since the people in my great state of Oregon have recently legalized "that weed," there's now no legal harm in doing so.

But alas, here i don't think the rain is going to last. If it does though, everyone will use it as an excuse to not go to work, to skip school, or to generally hide at home. Even though Nicaragua has a rainy season that's months long, no one has quite figured out how to deal with it yet. But alas, i live on a paved street and not on a sinking mudhole of an avenue in the barrio.

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No one tends to think that weed is an addiction -- but it can be for some. Luckily for me, there's really no temptation in that department here in this country, but for those of you who do have that option, check out this How to Stop Smoking Weed program to get a handle on that prolonged habit.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Guest Post: Starting a Business on a Shoestring

My buddy Kurt over at Shoestring 101 has a lot to say about earning money and not working for anyone else. Global nomad that i am, it's right up my alley! Here's what he has to say. 

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 When it comes to self-sufficiency, entrepreneurship is vital.

Steering one's own financial destiny seems daunting at first. That is, until you approach it the same as learning a foreign language or raising a child... or everything else in life you've wanted to do "right."

You do it one Step at a time.

Start a Business Without Partners or Loans

When thinking of entrepreneurship, you might imagine mortgaging your future, getting a huge loan, and gambling the money on success of a little storefront.

You might envision working long hours for the privilege of being in business for yourself, often paying workers before yourself and having a terrible take home. The leftovers. Add one or more partners, enter a whole other slew of other difficulties..! Sharing the rewards equally, but not the workload... power struggles... the "blame game." But it doesn't have to be that way.

It's possible to take your business idea and move it as far as you would like, completely under your guidance. It's as easy as following these Steps:

Shoestring101: Step Your Way to Financial Freedom

Step ONE : Get Off Your Ass.

Whew. Okay, I said it. It's time to make a decision. Time to you-know- what or get off the pot. Once you begin moving, even if you are moving in the wrong direction, it's easier to steer! Make up your mind once and for all to do that idea.

And do it.

Step TWO: Find Out the W's.

That is, Who Wants What, Where they may be found, and hoW to communicate with them.
You only need two things in business for yourself:
  1. Access to a thing of value
  2. A way to communicate with people that value that thing.
...that's it!

Don't get hung up (at first) on how much you're earning. Focus instead on making connections. I did a little copywriting job for a fella on Fiverr. Made $4. Later he put me in touch with a friend that needed his whole site revamped. SCORE! Piles of cash from a contact that I got paid to make.

Step THREE: Learn to Create Value.

Say I give you $100 . You're so pleased and flattered by my gift that you give me $100. We have both given and both received, but NO VALUE has been created.

OTOH, say I have more coffee beans than I can grind and you have more chocolate than you can safely consume (is that really a thing? ;-) ) If I give you a pound of coffee and you give me a pound of chocolate, value has been created for both of us. All profit is based on making something of value to others, that costs you less to deliver than it costs you to make. Remember that value is created first in the the mind. Learn to write and speak persuasively about the value your product or service provides the end user.

Understanding this is the key to success. Learn to Create Value and you might as well be printing money. Just doing the first three Steps, we have a real live business in place.

Next we want to document everything that took us from no dollars to some dollars and lather, rinse, repeat... and make improvements along the way.

I've started over a dozen businesses in my lifetime, and look to start more. But NONE of them performed in the five-figure per month zone until I learned and took the next two Steps.

Step FOUR: Measure Everything You Do.

This is where the famed 80/20 rule comes into play. 80% of your result s are driven by 20% of your activities. Going to Fiverr again for an example: one of my five "gigs" produces more orders than the other four combined. Guess what I put most of my effort into promoting? 8-)

As your fledgling business grows you will find what is effective and w hat is not simply by measuring each activity. You'll weed out the products that don't sell, you'll stop doing the procedures that don't increase your bottom line.

Can you imagine if you simply STOPPED doing the 80% of things that are ineffective? Your schedule would be 1/5 of what it is now, and your income would barely be affected.
Then your schedule would be freed up to do MORE of the things that DO pay well. Multiplying your income by 2X, 3X, even 10X is not unreasonable.

Measure Everything You Do to get your product or service from raw materials to delivered with confidence, and don't forget to analyze what you've measured. Then make tweaks to accomplish more with less effort.

Step FIVE: Now Write Everything Down

Ready for an even bigger slice of freedom, plus a side of financial independence? Since you've been Measuring Everything You Do, you've identified every process that it takes for your small business venture to function. Say you put an old exercise bike on Craigslist and get $50 for it. That's a business transaction. But if you document all the steps that it takes to acquire a used bike... get it fixed up... list it with the most effective headline... in short, make a SYSTEM for the movement of bikes and money... that' s an actual business. Step THREE was where we learned to Create Value for others.

But Step FIVE is where we create value for ourselves. Because you can take your documented list of where to get things of value, and where to find folks that value those things, and the exact things to do to make that happen best... and hand that list OFF to an assistant or third party.

Making your per-hour income go through the ROOF because you are now GUIDING the process rather than personally doing every step. You can jump in, take the reins, make adjustments as necessary... .. or let 'er run on autopilot for as long as you like. Churning out dollahs whilst you sip Mai Tais on long trips with your loved ones.

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Thanks for joining Kurt and me for this romp through the Shoestring Steps. Tell me what ya think about this post on self-sufficiency and freedom through entrepreneurship. Want more? Let us know in the comments! 

And speaking of starting your own business from home, if you're in need of the graphic design services that come with starting an online business, check out Freelantz Designs out of Orange County, offering a monthly payment plan for single parents who need a little extra help paying for the expenses related to starting a killer business! 





We Live Together -- But We Need to be Apart

Today, friends, was the glorious, long-heralded day that so many parents look forward to: the day the kids go back to school after the holiday break. It's such a universal day of joy that it's even immortalized in that popular Christmas song "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas":

And mom and dad can hardly wait for school to start again...

You're singing it now, right?

There's no doubt that my rebelangel is the light of my life and my favorite person. But sometimes there's such a thing as too much time spent with even your favorite person. When you've elected to move abroad with said person,  to forge a new life, find new things to do and to generally turn your world topsy-turvy, it means even that grand relationship you've created with your favorite person is going to be challenged. Unfortunately for us, Nicaragua also offers much less in the way of things to do for the kiddos when school is out.

So usually, school is that buffer that gives me a chance to take a break and to go sip bright fuschia smoothies at the cafe down the street, without the guilt of leaving my kiddo home unsupervised and in front of a screen. Today i get to delight in knowing she's back to actually having to speak Spanish to her classmates, instead of sitting home watching English-only shows on Netflix. Today, of course, also means i'm resigned to getting a full day of work in again.

Living the expat life with your child is a wonderful experience they'll never forget -- but i think that the downsides of boredom, too much togetherness and puberty on the horizon were kind of overlooked in lieu of packing our crap, buying tickets and finding the best place to live. So let me tell you, folks, that parenting a tween is naturally hard, but parenting one in a foreign country with just each other for company means you're going to count down the days, minutes, and seconds when school comes back in session.

Hurray for school!

And mom and mom can hardly wait for school to start again....

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And because parenting teens and tweens is a challenge no matter where you live, there are always books that can at least give you a few tools for coping. Bill Corbett's book "The Expert's Guide to Teenagers" combines the advice of numerous other books and experts to give you somewhere to start on this challenging journey.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Otra Vez: How to Learn Spanish Slowly

There's something to be said for having a little humility, even when you're in the middle of a stupid situation and you're feeling like bursting. Like say, when the manager of the house you live in neglected to pay the water bill for the four months before you started paying the bills, and now you have no water -- and two guests. Nice.
Granada, Nicaragua at dusk

Today i waited in a long line at the bank -- the only air conditioned place you can wait in line to pay bills -- only to be told i would have to go to the actual water office, since the thing was disconnected. By that time i was seriously wishing for a happy pill.

So i went to the regular office, which is currently a broken-down shell, obviously being remodeled, where the requisite dozen or so construction workers lolled outside, doing nothing. They were happy to tell me where to find the other office though, and when i got there i waited in yet another line, and finally got to talk to the woman who could ease all my woes. For a price that's quadruple the normal water bill amount, of course. It was during that conversation that it hit me: I was actually paying bills, negotiating appointments, figuring out problems -- all in Spanish. I am not perfect in this language yet, but dang, that's progress.

Nicaraguans tend to speak really fast and everything they do is loud, but they are dang friendly and total jokesters and will be really fun and cool with you in any situation, so long as you show a little levity. If you don't, they'll be quite formal and let you go on your merry formal way -- but if you say something as simple as "Otra vez -- mi Español es MAAALLO," -- something, in English, similar to 'say it again, my Spanish is BAD, girl!' -- they will chuckle, slow down, and call you amor as they explain the situation one more time.

Now to remember to have that humility, not to take everything so seriously, and to revel in the sweet, sweet trickle of a clean shower....

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In case you do need to find your own happy pills -- doctor prescribed of course -- here's a website that offers discounts on pharmacies and health products.

And the next time you lose your phone, check out You Found My Phone's new QR code generator, which you can slap on the back and get that baby back -- Otra Vez!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Things I Don't Miss

Rain and dark rooms and grey mist that seeps in your bones and makes you not want to get out of bed, ever.

Feeling like i don't have enough or that i have to keep up with my Jones friends. Love you guys, but most of you have more than i do and it's annoying to feel like i'll never catch up.

Rain.

Raincoats.

Rain boots.

Dealing with the constant drama and annoyance of the other parent. No matter how hard i try to forgive, to ignore, or to cast off my disdain, there's always some bullshit to deal with.

Rain.

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So there's really not that much to not miss -- except the weather, which i can't change. And maybe this no BS t-shirt would help me with that one other everlasting problem....

Friday, January 2, 2015

Things I Miss

In Nicaragua we have an abundance of sun and there are always yummy smoothies to make, with bananas and papayas galore. Baby mangoes, still green, are beginning to fall from our big mango tree and plop into the pool, where i fish them out and make a delicious green mango salad. We have fruits and sun and Latin dancing, but alas, there are other things i am starting to miss.

With school out for three weeks and the rebelangel bored as hell, sitting in her room half the day, i am missing having an abundance of kids' activities at my disposal. There are no arcades or community centers or kids' workshops set up for this languid time of year, and her boredom is starting to drive us both nuts. So i miss living in a place where kids are not expected to languish or take care of their siblings as an occupation.

I miss living in a house that is enclosed, and where dust doesn't settle on everything. Yes to housekeepers, no to the need for housekeepers every day.

I miss this face so much i have to put it out of my mind...
I miss living somewhere where there's not an ant crawling on me somewhere at all times.

I miss organic food. Kale. Chard. Sweet potatoes. Milk that doesn't take like chemicals. Good cheese that's not orange.

I miss farmer's markets every Sunday, where the sales tactics are not pushy and there are free samples and friends to run into around every corner. 

I miss IPA.

I miss my sofa -- even if it is vintage and white vinyl, which gets dirty quickly. The bamboo "sofa" in our "living room" is not comfortable to sit on, let alone read or while away an afternoon.

I miss my stuff -- stuff like my box of costumes, easy to pull out when you find out last-minute that that New Year's party you're going to is a costume party. My bicycle that fits me just right and isn't equipped with cheap Nica tires that wobble and burst every couple weeks. My nice wine glasses. My washable napkins, my mixing bowls... and all the stuff i'm too cheap to buy here because i'll just have to turn right around and get rid of it later.

It's the new year and i am still loving living here and escaping winter, but with the passing days it becomes clear that you can't have it both ways. You have to either live somewhere and commit to living there and not be afraid to bring along all the stuff you have left in the world, or you have to go back and live where you think you belong -- and where you've left said worldly possessions.

I am not going anywhere just yet, but dang, will a big hunk of aged white cheddar go good with an IPA when i return...

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If we were back home, we could stave off the winter break boredom by taking advantage of offers like this offer from Xtreme SoCal, a package of fun things to do like snowboarding, surfing, SUP, dirt biking and so much more for kiddos and adults -- and it even gives single parents a two for one deal!

I'd also curl up, all comfy on a real sofa, under a cute throw blanket like this one from Home Soft Things...

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Getting through to Tweens

No matter what part of the world you live in, there's one thing that seems to be true: Parenting adolescents is a BIG change from parenting children. They're sullen one moment, happy the next. Massaging your shoulders one second, yelling at you with their next breath. I know in some cultures it's less pronounced -- especially in cultures where kids are not compelled by the media to grow up before their time.

But here on this side of the planet, i have to use any tactics i can to deal with these behaviors. With the advent of constant connectivity, it only gets more challenging, because now they're so busy keeping their noses in their screens they think they don't have to do anything else.

So i was pretty happy with myself for finding this way of controlling some of my daughter's less-than-ideal tantrums: Video them. And then threaten to share them on Instagram or Facebook or wherever else her remote, all-too-connected friends congregate. It worked once, and i'm hoping it works again, because as a single parent i am constantly wishing someone else was around to witness this rude, obnoxious tween behavior that always seems to be directed only at me!

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I love this approach that Marcus Parker is taking, using rap music to motivate teens and encourage positive communication among them and their and parents. Check out his site, Motivational Rap University, to see what's he's doing.