Everyone has secrets. There’s a website (and a series of books) called postsecret.com. Post Secret accepts submissions from anyone and they usually look something like this:
“I moved to L.A. to be with your brother, not you.”
Or, “I had sex with your sister two days before our wedding. (P.S.-And your mom the day after that.)”
One of the great things about this Post Secret series is that you will almost always feel like your secrets are not that big of a deal.
Another great thing about Post Secret is, if you’re a writer, you can say you’ve been published there and there’s no way to dispute that. (Not that I would do that, I’m just saying that you could.)
So here’s my secret. I’m working on a new website called www.howtobeself-employed.com. Here’s another secret, I’m not self-employed yet. But I would like to be by the time that I’m 40, which is why I’m starting the site now.
Basically this site is targeted toward three types of people who I want to work with:
1. The first group I want to work with are people who want to start their own business, but don’t know where to begin.
2. The second group is people who have a business idea, but don’t know where to start.
3. The third group I want to work with are Solo-entrepreneurs who have a business up and running, but they just need a little help growing it.
So although I’m going to use www.douglasthomaswallace.com as my personal blog, most of my time will be spent at www.howtobeself-employed.com. If you want to start a business, please check out my new site. If not, then I’ll see you here.
And if you want to share any of your dirty little secrets, feel free to put them in the comment box. I have to approve them first, but if they’re good, I will.
My family owns a farm sixty miles outside of St. Louis, MO. Members of my family have lived on the same piece of property since 1813—almost fifty years before the civil war.
One day I invited a friend out to my family’s farm to shoot skeet. We loaded up his SUV with our 12 gauge shot guns, ammo and clay birds and took the hour drive from St. Louis out to the country. When we got to the farm, I told him to pull into an empty gravel driveway. My aunt and uncle’s trailer used to sit at the end of the driveway, but they tore it down when they built their new house on a different part of the property. All that was left now was an overgrown open-field.
We got out and unloaded the SUV. I set up the clay bird thrower pointing toward the field. I then pulled the spring back and tested it out once to see where the clay bird would launch. When I was satisfied that we wouldn’t be shooting at any family member’s house, I then looked at my buddy and said, “You ready?”
He looked at me and said, “What? We just start? Doesn’t someone have to come and give us permission first?”
I was dumbfounded for a second, then said, “Who the hell’s going to come give us permission? We just start.”
I was on the phone with a lady the other day and she reminded me of this story. She was a, “Career Path Counselor,” and she said, “If you want to do something, just start it. You don’t need anyone’s permission.”
I would say this is true with almost everything you can possibility do in the world, unless you are required to have a license…i.e. doctor, lawyer, therapist, etc. But there are even creative ways around that…i.e. “homeopathic healers, paralegals, coaches.”
I’m not saying to do anything illegal. I’m saying, no one’s going to tell you how and when to start. There’s a good chance that you already know what it is you want to do, and you probably already have the skills to get started. So if you are waiting for someone to give you permission, well here I am, now get started.
I wasn’t feeling abundant or creative for several months, up until a couple of weeks ago. I was stuck in a major rut. I was seriously stressed out about money, mainly because I had a renter who was two months behind in her rent and I had no idea where I was going to come up with the money to pay the bank.
To add to these money worries, my wife has been out of work and on unemployment for several months now. Our credit cards were maxed-out and $60,000 worth of my student loans just came due.
I was paralyzed by fear. I didn’t know how to deal with the situation. I spent many nights with very little sleep. My mind wouldn’t turn-off and I was constantly thinking about how we didn’t have any money and how was I going to take care of my family? I can honestly say that suicide crossed my mind a couple of times and if I didn’t have a wife and a little girl to take care of, I might have followed through with it.
It’s amazing how someone can enter your life at the right time and can change your perspective on life in one thirty-minute conversation. For me, that person’s name is Shell Mendelson.
Shell Mendelson is a career counselor who is an expert on “Career ADD.” I’ve been at the same job for nine years this month, but I’ve wanted to change careers at least once a month for as long as I can remember. I love my job, but I want to do something bigger, something more creative.
Besides being a career counselor, Shell created a franchise called KidzArt. KidzArt is in 27 states and 14 countries. Many years ago, Shell realized that art and creativity was being taken out of the school system. So she partnered with a friend who was an artist and they created this franchise to teach kids to be more creative.
I told Shell that for years, I wanted to live a life helping others figure out what they want to do with their lives and pursue their passions. It’s funny looking at it now, I was completely stuck in a dark place, not doing what I wanted to do, but I wanted to help others get out of the same kind of place I was in—the blind leading the blind.
One of the first things Shell told me was, “I’m a bit spiritual, is this going to scare you off?”
I went into my story of how I was raised Christian, then went to Chitzen-Itza in Mexico for my honeymoon to see the Mayan pyramids and had a religious epiphany.
The Mayan people were religious zealots and never even heard of Christ. They built these awesome pyramids that are considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World. These pyramids align perfectly with the equinox so that the sun’s shadow runs down these huge structures to snakes heads at the bottom of the pyramids. They did this with no modern tools.
The Mayans also played a game that lasted for days. Experts can never be sure, but they believe that the players had to throw a goat’s head through a hoop that is thirty feet in the air, then the winners were sacrificed to their gods. I thought, No wonder it took several days to play the game.
After spending the day at the pyramids and thinking about these religious zealots, I realized that the Mayans were all gone and what happened to the World? Nothing. It’s still here.
This made me realize that if the Mayans were wrong about their gods, I was probably wrong about mine.
Then I told Shell how I went through the all the stages of grief when I lost my God, and how at the beginning, I was very angry and felt that I was lied to, not on purpose, but still, I felt like I had lost something that was a major part of my life and it shook me to the core…“So no, I’m not really spiritual anymore.”
Shell said, “Well can you agree on this? Our thoughts create our reality.”
I’ve met enough crazy people working in jails for the last 11 years to know that I agree with that statement.
Then she said, “Ok, if you can agree to that, then I can work with you.”
She then said, “Right now you are focused on your lack of money, and if that’s all you focus on, that’s all you’re ever going to have. I don’t want to be part of your money problem.” (Her services aren’t free, but this call was.) “But if you want something bad enough, you will figure it out,” she said.
Within one day of talking to Shell, everything changed. Here is an excerpt of the email I sent to Shell two days after our conversation.
I just wanted to share this with you. I have had a huge weight on my shoulders from my debt and was wondering how I’m going to get out of it. After talking to you the other day, I had a couple of breakthroughs.
The first was understanding what you said about, “Our thoughts create our reality.” I’ve been so stuck lately focusing on this debt and the situation seemed hopeless. After you said that statement, I realized I didn’t have to stay in that place.
Yesterday, I called the credit card company and got the pay-off balances. Then I called my friend Ricky who’s been asking me if I want to do a re-fi on my house and save $110 a month. He came over and basically told me that besides saving $110.00 a month, I also won’t have to pay two months of mortgage payments and I should get my escrow back. It won’t be right away, but it should be around $3000.00 in total that I’m saving and getting back. (Once the papers were signed, we found out we were actually getting back $5000.00.)
I know that my credit cards are a lot more than that, but I do feel like a dam burst as far as, “being financially blocked,” goes…if that makes sense. I told my wife that I think it was from me talking to you.
She said something to the effect of, “I don’t know how you figured that, you talked to Ricky about this a few weeks ago.”
I told her, “But I didn’t take any action. I was so stuck in my mind that I couldn’t even get around to talking to him. And I didn’t really want to know how much we owe. Now I have a starting point of what we need to do to get out of it.”
So I called my wife’s dad, he came over and talked, and he decided that he’s going to loan us the money to pay off the cards. We still have to pay him back. But at least it’s not at 10% and 20% interest.
Anyway, that’s a long story just to say thank you; but thank you.
On a different note…It’s funny, when I was telling my wife about how I want to get coached from you, she was like, “How are we going to afford that?”
I said, “I don’t know, work overtime maybe? Who knows? Maybe it will appear out of thin air! We just got a bunch of money freed-up from the house deal, that was like a miracle to me.”
She said, “Oh, now you believe in miracles again?”
And I said, “I don’t know about miracles, but I’m leaving myself open for the possibility.”
Shell wrote me back and said, “This is my gift for today. I believe that every day, provides us with gifts. It is incredible how you were able to make this shift so quickly. As a result of shifting that money thought, you experienced the results almost immediately. Imagine if you applied this same process to every aspect of your life. No stopping you!!! The difference you experienced was inspired action v. going through the motions action – it came from a place of possibility and of being aligned with who you truly are.”
The next action I took was figuring out how to deal with my student loans. I called the representative for Salle Mae and told him I couldn’t afford to pay what I owed.
He asked me, “What can you afford right now?”
I said, “About $100.00 a month.”
He said, “No problem.” He typed a few things into his computer and said, “Ok, I’ve got you down for $96.00 a month. We will add what you owe to the backside of the loan and you’re good to go.”
Just with a telephone call and a few key strokes, my anxiety about my student loans were gone.
The next action I took was getting my renter out of my house, but that’s a story I’ll save for another post. For now I just want to say, if there’s something in your life that is worrying you, know that worrying about it is not going to solve the problem. You need to face the problem and then take action to solve it. Hopefully sharing this story with you will help inspire you to do that.
I have been on hiatus from writing on my blog because I have been working with an editor on my memoir about my trip to India. But yesterday I was sitting in a tiny diner having lunch with my with wife and I saw a little black framed sign sitting on our table that said, “Did you know that the can opener was invented 48 years after the invention of the can?”
Me and my wife sat there and pondered, how did they get the cans opened if they didn’t have a can opener? Answer, they used a hammer and chisel.
This got me thinking about all the other useless facts that we take for granted during our daily lives. Here are a few for you to ponder:
1. Do you know how many different animal shapes there are in the Animal Crackers cookie zoo?
2. Have you ever thought about robbing a bank? The average take is lower than you think. On average, 20 banks are robbed a day, with an average of $2500.00 taken.
3. Do you know why paper napkins were invented?
People used to use tablecloths to wipe their hands and faces after they were done eating. John Dickinson used paper napkins at his company’s party in 1887, but the Scott brand didn’t start manufacturing napkins until 1931. Paper napkins didn’t become popular until the 1950’s in the United States.
If you want to find out more strange facts, click here.
This will be the last time I write about The Biggest Loser. (At least for a few months.)
Last night was The Biggest Loser Season finale. I’m always amazed at how much weight can be lost when someone puts their mind to it.
In the past, I wrote how Conda was acting like a snotty little bitch. Last night she recognized that herself—not in those words, but still, she acknowledged that she had changed.
I actually noticed Conda’s change a few weeks ago. I’m sure it is hard to have to go through that process in front of millions of people and I’d like to take this time to say that I’m actually proud of Conda for her transformation—both physically, mentally and personality-wise.
Jeremy, Conda’s brother, was the overall Biggest Loser. He lost 199 lbs. and ended up weighing 190 lbs. It’s awesome to watch someone who weighed 389 lbs. seven months ago lose 51% of his body weight and now weigh 25 lbs. less than me. And I would be lying if I didn’t say I was a little jealous.
As mind-blowing as Jeremy’s loss was, Mike Messina’s weight-loss was just as amazing. He was eliminated in week 2 and came back to the finale weighing 160 lbs. less than when he started. This just goes to show you can do it at home.
I have struggled with my weight most of my life. I’ve never been grossly-obese, but I’ve always weighed 40-75 lbs. more than I’d like to. Two years ago I decided to take up running. I have run several half-marathons, participated in a couple of triathlons and even ran a full-marathon. I’ve lost 35 lbs. and have managed to keep it off for over a year-and-a-half. But I still would like to lose 40 more pounds.
The Biggest Loser has been my once a week coach. It’s helped me stay on track. Although I weigh exactly the same as when the season started, I can at least say I haven’t gained any weight.
Another thing the show has done for me is, it has shown me you can’t keep on doing the same exercises over and over and not expect to get bored. The trainers on the show mix up the routines so the contestants have fun.
I have always been interested in martial arts. I promised myself that after I ran this last half-marathon two weeks ago, I would look into getting back into martial arts. I researched a styles and dojos around my area. I knew I needed to find a school that had convenient times that worked for my schedule. I found a school that had a mix of styles that I have tried in the past and liked. I called them and the teacher invited me to come take a look at their school. So I’m going tonight to check it out.
So what have you been doing to stay healthy? Is it fun for you or are you just going through the motions? If so, I’d like this to be your wake-up call. Find something that you’re interested in, even if it’s not health related.
Maybe you’ve wanted to learn a new language. Maybe you’ve wanted to learn how to play an instrument. Maybe you’re just stuck in a rut and don’t know how to get out of it. Whatever your folly is, take this week to follow it.
You owe it to yourself to make your life interesting. No one else will do it for you. And remember, you’re responsible for your own happiness. You don’t have to continue to feel like the world’s biggest loser.
I went and listened to John Brandi speak last night. He said, “Capturing a brief moment in time is a haiku writer’s goal.” Although the poem below isn’t a haiku, Brandi’s words inspired me to write this poem this morning.
On my way
to work this morning
I saw a
red Dodge truck
swerve into the
The window half-way
the driver’s head emerged
as he puked
out the window.
Straight of the presses of Lindenwood Univeristy:
Poet John Brandi will appear at 7:30 p.m. today, Wednesday, April 18, at Lindenwood University’s Cultural Center to present on traditional and modern haiku and their relationship with art and music. The evening, which is free and open to the public, will include a performance of some of his own poems with saxophonist Raven Wolf.
Brandi, based in New Mexico, began writing, travelling and painting at an early age and worked with Andean farmers for the Peace Corps, after which he made contact with Beat Generation poet Gary Snyder and, in the 1970s, travelled with Japanese poet Nanao Sakaki and compiled That Back Road In, one of his many poetry and prose collections that reflect his travels.
Haiku, the short three line poem with origins in 17th century Japan, has spread in popularity to become a worldwide phenomenon . Brandi is one of many contemporary poets with it prominent in their repertoire. He has published several collections of his own haiku, and edited an anthology of modern haiku by an assortment of contemporary poets. He has given talks on haiku and led workshops on it around the nation, in Canada, and in India.
Brandi’s presentation will include a slide talk on haiga, the tradition of haiku and painting, that will include some of his own painted poems. He will perform some of his own haiku accompanied by Raven Wolf, one of St. Louis’s top saxophone players in a performance modeled on Beat writer Jack Kerouac’s collaboration with Zoot Simms and Al Cohn.
As a poet, Brandi said he owes much to the West Coast Beat tradition, but he also cites as influences poets as diverse as Federico Garcia Lorca, Pablo Neruda, and Matsuo Basho.
I was lucky enough to have read Mr. Brandi’s poems while working on my MFA in writing at Lindenwood. He made me realize that contemporary poetry didn’t have to be about flowers, love or any of that other crap. I normally don’t go to poetry readings, but I definitely will be there tonight.
This is four separate examples of Brandi’s haiku.
a short winter
even so, two new holes
in this belt
so many boards missing
the shed stands easily
in the wind
what to write
about the girl checking
her make-up in a puddle?
doing the wrong thing
Are you sick and tired of getting bitched at by your boss? Do you need a couple of weeks off? The next time your boss starts giving you a hard time, start weaving in the characteristics of an animal of your choice into your conversation.
So when the boss says, “Hey, think you can work late tonight?”
Start talking like a cat would if he could speak English and say, “That’d be perrrrrrfect. Just what I always waaannntttted.” (Make sure you roll your tongue to get the full purring effect.)
Or you can start squawking like a parrot and say, “Poly wants a WHAT?! BRAHHH!! Poly wants a WHAT?! BRAHHH!!”
This is about the time that he will sense you’re a little insane, but he won’t know what to do. So he’ll probably start to get angry and say something like, “Hey, snap out of it! What the hell’s the matter with you?”
This is when you stand up, put your hands up to your head and make a pair of horns with your fingers. Then start breathing real hard and start stamping like a bull. Then tell him, “You got to the count of three to get the hell out of my office or I’m going to impale your ass!” “1, 2,…2 ½ …3!” Then start running at him.
If he’s halfway sane he’ll start running away. If he doesn’t, change tactics on him, when you get to his side, start panting like a dog. Get down on all fours, wiggle over to him and start sniffing his ass. After that, wrap your arms and legs around him and start humping his leg.
I guarantee that this tactic will almost get you fired. But like any great tactic you have to be willing to carry this through all the way to be effective. Remember this is a war. It’s you against your boss. And if you want to get you a couple of weeks off for rest and relaxation, you have to be willing to bring your A-game. Remember this war cry, “Come strong or don’t come at all.”
So when you get called into the office, there’s a good chance that the boss will be there with the human resource manger, a lawyer and definitely security. They’ll advise you that your services are no longer needed and then they’ll ask security to escort you out of the building. That’s when you’ll have to act quickly.
The script is: “But wait! Why am I being fired? I’m the one who was sexually harassed here! I even played along with it, and now I’m being fired? If anything he’s the one should be fired.”
“What?! What do you mean?” the attorney will ask.
“Well Mr. Johnson asked me to stay late. I heard he’s been asking others to stay late too because he likes them to act out animal sex acts in his office. I was just taking the inevitable ‘bull by the horns’, so to speak. I figured if I’m going to have to act out animal sex acts with my boss in order to save my job, I was going to start first and at least save what little pride I had left. You know? Like a coping technique? I felt at odds with it at first, but I figured if I had to be some other man’s bitch, I was going to at least get the first crack in.”
(By the way, it helps to have plotted with a few co-workers before you get called into the office to help corroborate this story, but this only works if everyone hates the boss too.
If not just say, “I can’t name my sources” when pressed on the issue.)
“WHAT?! He’s FUCKING NUTS!” your boss will protest undoubtedly.
That’s when you hold both hands up in front of your face—top lip lifted to show your upper teeth; fingers pointed outward and say, “Nuts, like a squirrel Mr. Johnson? I heard that’s his way of talking dirty to people,” you say turning to the human resource manager.
“Ok. That’ll be enough of that,” their lawyer will say. Then he’ll ask, “How about you take a couple of weeks off until we can get this figured out, huh? The both of you.”
Ahhhhh…Check and mate. Works everytime.
I used to steal cigarettes butts
from my step-dad’s ashtray
when I was thirteen and sneak down
to the green mossy sewer
that ran around the soccer fields
by our house for a quick drag.
Twenty years later,
after trying to quit cold-turkey,
then smoking only when I drank,
but never being able to abandon my fix,
I was on a couch getting hypnotized.
You’re relaxed, getting sleepy,
Let me take you back
to your first time.
Outside Grandma’s white kitchen door
where two sleeping dogs were left to lie,
green-painted concrete stairs
led down to a moldy basement
with a leaky air conditioner
underneath an enclosed porch.
We sat on a warped pool table,
faded-blue felt ripped years ago,
with dirty clothes piled on top,
out came a red pack of Marlboros
and a silver Zippo.
Gas wafted as flint sparkled,
fire danced to the air’s tune,
then the cigarette’s heart began to beat
in the dark and lit up the room,
the lighter snapped shut as
the mushroom-cloud exploded in my face.
Want to try?
What if we get caught?
Don’t worry, I always come here.
Grabbing the brown speckled filter
with nimble fingers
and holding it pencil-like,
I placed it to my lips
taking a tiny puff,
followed by a roaring cough.
Now you can’t tell on me
or I’ll tell on you.
I’m not going to tell.
Entranced, I expected to see me and
my step-dad’s cigarettes butts,
stolen at age thirteen, sneaking down
to the green mossy sewer
that ran around the soccer fields
by our house for a quick drag.
Instead I saw a seven year-old boy,
sitting in a moldy basement,
by a leaky air-conditioner,
on a warped pool table,
taking his first drag with
his sixteen year-old Aunt.
Well, it’s Wednesday and my mailbox is full for the third week in a row.
No, it’s not stuffed with Viagra ads, or the Nigerian Prince telling me I’ve won $10,000,000. It’s the day after The Biggest Loser.
What does that mean?
Three weeks ago I wrote a post called, “Conda is a Bitch,” and now every Wednesday dozens of people must Google, “Conda is bitch,” and the posts start rolling in.
It’s really cool to know that more people are reading my work than ever before. But it’s not because of something I wrote. It’s because I picked a great title for a post.
One morning after a show that Conda was particularly nasty in, I Googled, “Conda is a bitch,” and nothing popped up. So I wrote a quick article about her and people like her destroying a team. The next day, and now after every Biggest Loser show, people started flooding in.
So now I need to start figuring out what else can I write about that people want to read? Or maybe that would be the tail wagging the dog. Either way, this has been a weird experience.
Thank you for reading, regardless if it was for me, or for Conda.