Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The power of thought.

I headed down to Laura Flores a few days ago to help my friend Lydia. She is an occupational therapist from England and has been a missionary in Santo Domingo for almost a year now. She gives free therapy to the children at the school we work in, and also gives some private home sessions to a few kids around the neighbourhood and in Laura Flores.
I went out to help her give a session to a beautiful little girl called Natalie. Natalie lives in Laura Flores with her mother and 3 older sisters. She has cerebral palsy. Natalie is unable to walk and spends her days lying down on a mat in the middle of the hut built out of stone slabs that her family of 5 women call their home. She can't stand up; she can't sit- she can only roll over from her back to her tummy on the stone floor. Day in and day out she watches her 3 older sisters run around with the other kids on the block through the arch cut out of the wall that they refer to as their front door.
Lydia had me help her out in the session with Natalie. I was to put preassure on Natalie's hips while Lydia would gradually extend her legs outwards and inwards to exercise the rigid muscles in her frail little legs. I couldn't hold back the tears; the scene was heart-breaking. Her tiny body seemed so fragile; all I could think of was how much we must've been hurting her, without her even being able to let us know if we were due to her inability to speak. However, Lydia assured me that if sweet Natalie were in any pain we would see it in her face, so that made me feel a little better about the fact that us- two foreign looking strangers in this little girls eyes- were prodding around with her limbs.

That afternoon really made me have appreciation for what Lydia does. I mean, I admired her already, but to see her in action, and to experience a taste of what she has to go through everyday to help the people here in Santo Domingo that she wants to reach out to just makes me so thankful that the world has people like her. Every soul makes a difference.

This week has been up and down, emotionally. Acutally, thinking back on my time here so far, it has been very emotional, period. I find myself crying A LOT- not necesarrily because I'm sad, but because God does some crazy shit sometimes. Most of the time it's a mixed feeling between wanting to cry a freaking river and wet myself laughing at the same time. I end up doing both which proves quite problematic for the people around me ("Is she crying?" No, I think she's laughing...oh, who knows.."). The people that I have met, and some of the things that I have experienced so far show just how gracious God can be, even to the people that are struggling in life.. It's so amazing that people that have so little can live out of so much faith and can continue to turn to God without cursing the lives that they have been handed. If only the people that had so much could do the same. Argh, it's so frustrating being the one who knows the contrast. The contrast between 'rich' and 'poor', I mean. Even though you are aware that you are here helping people and making a (tiny) difference (hopefully), sometimes the feeling can be even worse knowing that 1, you cannot help all of them, 2, you can only help them for a short amount of time, which in the bigger scheme of things doesn't enable them to make much progress, and 3, virtually every single person you know could be helping a person less fortunate then themselves but most of them choose not to.

Everyday in this life there is something to cry about; something for your heart to break over. Some days are really tough. But, hey, that's easy for me to say- I get to get on a plane in a few months and leave it all. My position is the easy one. That's what's the hardest to face- the fact that the people that I am meeting have no choice...and I do. I was blessed with the choice to be here or not- they weren't. Years from now when I have a family of my own to look after, chances are that we will have a roof over our heads and beds to sleep in at night. I will live in a place with 4 walls and a front door, and I'll have something to eat for breakfast when I wake up in the morning. Then, maybe as I'm reading the newspaper over my coffee (cos I'll be old enough to do that then) I will stumble across an article about people dying of hunger, or people living in really poor conditions...and I'll think about places like Laura Flores. I'll think about all the children I'm meeting and how by that time they will either have 10 children of their own, or be in jail, or would have already died because of mal-nutrition or some diease that could have been cured with simple an antbiotic that would have been unattainable to them.

Even when your called to help, sometimes you cannot help feeling helpless.

On the other hand though, some days are great- like today. I got to go and hang out with my beloved OrphAids kids- oh my goodness, I just love them so much I want to put them all on a plane and adopt them and be on the news: 'CRAZY 20 YEAR OLD ADOPTS 15 ECUADORIAN CHILDREN IMPULSIVELY WITHOUT THINKING ABOUT THE CONSEQUENCES'. They are just SO amazing, I wish that all of you could meet them.
Things are also going really well with the school kids- Geovany and I are making a (mini) traffic light in class. We were both so excited today that we got our two lights working- we assembled everything from scratch. Geovany was happy that he was able to accomplish something 'hands-on'. On the other hand, I was over-joyed to be able to excerise my electrical skills without the presence of a bloke. I am one step closer to being an electrician.

Just one more thing for those of you praying out there- please pray for my friend Diego. He is struggling with life at the moment, and has started asking some sweet questions about 'life as a Believer'. Please pray for his spiritual journey.
Also, please pray for my dreams. I'm having a really strange re-occuring dream that I'm singing to young girls in a rehab centre...it's strange. Please pray for God to give me clarity if He is trying to show me something.

For the rest of you, just one request- please take as little as 2 minutes out of your morning or evening to think about the people that I'm mentioning in my blogs once in a while. Maybe just a thought- even from all the way across the world, in a land that they don't even know exists, and from people that they can't even imagine are living- is what they need to put a smile on their faces. The power of the mind is bigger than we can imagine- God might use your little thought to brighten their day, even without them necesarrily knowing it.

In love and peace,

Thursday, November 25, 2010

My unfathomable question.

I've grown quite a bond with two beautiful brothers that go to the school that I've been working with. Their names are Miguel and Geovany. They both have severe learning difficulties- Miguel can barely read at the age of 14, and Geovany still gets confused between 'yellow' and 'orange'. He's 12. The boys come from a very poor family- their parents day-job is selling freshly squeezed orange juice at the park for 30cents a cup. Imagine if on a rainy day they only sell 4 cups a day? That's $1.20 income to feed themselves and 4 children- Miguel, Geovany, their older sister and their younger brother. Obviously getting a proper primary education is not high on the list of priorities when you're struggling to feed a family of 6. However, not long ago they were a family of 7. Miguel and Geovany had another older sister who was 18. She was murdered here in Santo Domingo a few months back. She left to go out with her mates one night and never came back. Her body was found a couple of weeks later.
Imagine if something like this were to happen to an Aussie family? I mean, I'm sure that it has. I'm also sure that whichever family member was lost, there was a memorial service of some kind. Councelling would have been provided for the rest of the family, and parents and siblings would have been granted time off work/school to grieve for their loss. Not here in Santo Domingo. Things like this happen quite frequently apparently. Most of the time there is no good-bye service, there is no tomb-stone and there are no endless arrays of flowers and funeral songs. The sun goes down and comes back up the morning, as if nothing has happened. There is no leave from work- it's back to selling juice in the park the next day. No time to process; no time to reflect; no time to grieve. Life must continue as normal to provide for the rest of the family. Life must go on.

Hearing about stuff like this provokes me to pose the unfathomable question: If God is so wonderful and loving, why do people suffer?

Ah well, here it is. I'm sure you knew it was coming...

The first and foremost thing to remember is that I cannot provide you with a straight answer to this question because I simply do not know- '..then I saw all the work of God, that man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. However much man may toil in seeking, he will not find it out. Even though a wise man claims to know, he cannot find it out...' (Ecclesiastes 8:17)
God's ways are so super-duper-ridiculously and frustratingly higher than anything that we can comprehend. We cannot understand what He does and why He does it. We can question His ways all we like- we can battle with Him to give us a reason, an explanation for why things happen- but it's no use. No Christian, nor scientist, nor happy hippie living in the hills of Spain can give an accurate answer.

The Bible tells us that is that suffering is the result of human sin. The world is not as it was intended to be. We were the ones to screw it up- no one is innocent, therefore every single person on the planet is vulnerable to suffering- 'for ALL have sinned and ALL fall short of the glory of God.' (Romans 3:23).
Also, God may be letting evil run it's course to prove that by not abiding by His word, or doing things contrary to His will is harmful to us?
Well, though these answers provide a response that's accurate in relation to scripture, they don't really comfort us emotionally, do they? I mean, can we find comfort in the fact that Miguel and Geovany's sister was brutally killed because the Bible says that we are all worthy of suffering? Not at all. However, maybe you will find some comfort in something that God taught me though my own personal experience:

My life is wonderful, it really is. However, it has taken me a lot to get to where I am now. I've had to live through a lot for a 20-year-old- including the death of a parent. Looking back on the last 6 years, God has taught me how much positive can come from an experience so negative. Not just taught me, He has SHOWN ME through certain events that have happened in my life since the death of my father. I can SEE IT with my EYES. Once you are able to see positive effects come out of a painful event in your past it's harder to resent it. Not that I'm trying to say that 'I'm glad my dad is dead'-that's not it at all. What I'm trying to say is that I can see how God used such a dark phase of my adolensence to bring about so many positive things that are happening today. Before I knew God, it was as if all the events in my life were just tiny dots randomly spread about on a huge piece of paper, starting from the biggest spot that is my dad's death. When I became a Believer, God handed me a black marker and helped me connect them all into a wonderful pattern that leads me to where I am now. Lesson learned: God used the BAD in my life to bring GOOD.

How easy would it be for ME to be angry at God? How easy would it be for me to say- 'Screw you God,- you left me dad-less.'? How easy would it be for me to dwell on the negative? We have become so accustomed to looking at the bad that we usually don't see the good. It's like that old saying- 'When one door closes, another door opens. We are usually too fixed upon the closing door that we cease to see the one that has opened for us.'......We are so accustomed to complain. We think that everything is crap, and we continuously pose the same questions- 'If God loves everyone, why do people get raped? If God loves everyone why do innocent little children get hurt? If God loves ME, then why did this happen?'

No one knows. But give Him a chance to show you why once in a while.

You may be thinking- "Okay, so maybe God uses good to do bad, I can get that. But why doesn't He just stop all the suffering in the world so that we can all get by like happy little teapots? It's not fair!" You want God to change all the bad shit in the world? Are you willing to change yourself first? Are you a wonderul, all-loving, always-righteous person? Are you FAIR to everyone that you meet, in your actions and in your mind? No? Me either.
"What causes quarrels and fights amongst you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.." (James 4:1)
All because we don't get things our way we think badly of one another, scream profanities at one another, place hands on one another, turn evil against one another. Evil is evil whether it is thought of or physically carried out. So, If God were to put a STOP to ALL evil, wouldn't that mean that He would be controlling our thoughts? And by controlling our thoughts, wouldn't that take away our freedom of will?

God gives and gives and gives, we take take take, and then we question why when something doesn't go our way. God probably never intended to have to use our suffering to show His grace, but because of the mega-ways that we have-excuse the French- completely fucked things up in the world, He does. Wouldn't it have been easy for Him to just say 'Nah man, screw this, what a pack of dick-heads those humans are, I'm getting out of here..'?  Further, most of the time we are too self-absorbed to believe that there's a slight chance that we actually might be accountable for what happens. My dad smoked more than a packet a day of Marlboro reds since he was 19. When he was 45 he had a heart-attack. No offence (to me, I guess) but only one word comes to mind when I do that math... OBVIOUSLY.

No matter how much you love God, you are going to suffer. Take it from me- I read the Bible everyday and think about God more than I think about anything else, but my life isn't perfect. People see/hear about me going here, and going there; doing this and doing that- I get that's it's difficult to buy that being me isn't just one big party. Don't get me wrong, I am so fortunate to have been blessed with the opportunities to have been the places I have been and to be doing the things that I'm doing- but it's not always easy. Everyday is a challenge. Though my healing process has rapidly increased since finding God, I still struggle as I grieve the loss of my father. Most days are good, but some days are really bad. Some mornings I have to curl up in a ball on the floor of the bathroom and cry for 10minutes to take the edge off and release some emotion. As I grow older, and as I grow closer to God, these days aren't so frequent. But yeah, God and I have fights about it. I scream a little and tell Him that He's an asshole. But you know what? I get through it. I get through it because He WANTS me to get through it-
"No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." (1 Corinthians 10:13)
Did God give me more than I could handle and then just piss off? Nope. Is there anything that He has handed YOU in your life that you have not lived through? Well no doofus, otherwise you would not be reading this. I'm sure that you have hurt, and I'm sure that you have struggled, and I'm sure that you think that life is a big bull-shit joke most of the time. Guess what? Me too. But God hasn't given me anything that I have not lived through yet, and even in everything that has occured, He has been there to guide me and lead me on the path of healing; lead me to the 'way of escape', because...GOD IS FAITHFUL.

"There are times when you choose to believe in something that would normally be considered irrational. It doesn't mean that it acutally IS irrational, but it surely is not rational."

If you are currently grieveing or suffering, I am sorry, and I hope that you can share in the hope that I was able to share in, even after what I have lost in my life. I know how it feels to hate God, I really really do. I can't tell you why bad things happen, but I can tell you through personal experience, that something bigger and better will come out of whatever negative process you are enduring. You may not see it right away- it took God 5 years to show me how He'd worked things out. It may take ages for you to put pieces together. He might not even show you while you're in this life- maybe He'll show you when we're up 'there'- 'chillin' with Jesus.' I still question many things that happen- like what happened to Miguel and Geovany's sister. It's hard for me to see what good can come out of that situation for that family. But believing in God is not based on anything 'rational', it's based on having faith- 'Faith is the assurance of things HOPED for; the conviction of things unseen' (Hebrews 11:1)- and I have FAITH. Faith that everything that happens 'happens for a reason'. With every mollecule that makes up my insides and outsides, I believe that God is going to bring sunshine after every storm. How can one expect to see the grace and glory of God if he doesn't fully believe that it's there? How can people expect to have their prayers answered when they don't have faith in the power of God in the first place?

That's my unfathomable question, really.

"He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall their be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." Revalation 21:4

Peace and Love,

Friday, November 19, 2010

'All the women who independent...throw your hands up at me.'

So, the other day I was walking down the street and a random grabbed my butt. Yup. Right in the middle of the main strip of Santo Domingo. I was just chilling with my ipod and some dirty middle-aged man snuck up behind me, groped my ass and kept on walking. I was so shocked that I couldn't think of anything else to do except laugh, (wouldn't be like me not to laugh at the most inappropriate of  moments, would it?) until I felt a massive wave of rage boiling up inside of me. I just wanted to chase the idiot down the street and grab his ass back to see how violated he felt. What an idiot.

After this ridiculous event, I decided that I should probably get a new walk. You know, something a little more intimidating and a little less 'inoccent-little-white-girl'. Hence, I have started walking around with my shoulders slightly tensed back and my fists clenched a little. At least judging by the way I walk, people might think that I'm one of those tough butch chicks.. Little will anyone know that I cannot throw a punch to save my life, and even if I were forced to in order to defend myself, I would probably apologise immediately afterwards...

Now, those of you who know me well know that there isn't much that I am afraid of. However, I have a confession to make- living her in Ecuador makes me a little weary of my safety ('Hallelujiah- she admits that there is danger in the world!'). Coming from someone who used to take the dog for walks at 1am around the streets of Rome, it takes a lot for me to be scared of walking around alone. However, I have been told here- 'DO NOT walk alone after 6pm.'- hence, I have said good-bye to long relaxing walks at night and hello to banging my head against one of the the four walls of my bedroom after dinnertime.

I say all this to say that the re-occuring theme for me this week has been the issue on equality for women. I have come to learn that sadly women do not have many rights and tend to be fairly objectified here in Ecuador. Yes, some of them will dress a little promiscuously, which probably doesn't help the situation, however, that is no free ticket for men to harass them daily. I mean, a girl walking around Melbourne in a short skirt might get a whistle or two, however here she will get winks from 95% of men that pass her, as well as foul comments and possible groping. If I of all the women walking around can encounter such an incident, imagine the hell the pretty girls must go through? It's proving to be quite challenging for me- it's very very frustrating to be stared at and commented on so frequently. Some days it gets to the point where I don't even want to leave the house because I don't know if I'll be able to control my anger. I've stopped brushing my hair and putting on make-up in attempt to stop the wolf-whistling, but it's not really of much use. Even if I were wearing a garbage bag some dirty man would still have something to say about it. Ah well, it's all a part of the experience and it's just another challenge that God has set before me. Sometimes we have no choice but to endure the things that He throws at us- '...we rejoice in our sufferings knowing that suffering produces endurance...' (Romans 5:3).

Next week I will be starting to work once a week with people that live in a really poor community here in Santo Domingo. It's called Laura Flores. I'm going to rock up with my guitar in the hope of delivering a little happiness and hope to it's residents- music does a good job of that. In doing a mini-investigation on the place, I learned that most of the women that live there can have up to 15 children. How crazy is that? They barely have enough money to survive, but they keep popping them out! I imagine that majority of these cases arise from the fact that they have irresponisble husbands who just want to get their freak on and are too lazy (or poor) to be responsible about it. Solution? My first guess was an operation to stop them from getting pregnant. Well- nope, sorry, think again because I have absolutely ludicrous news for you- according to the law, women need an authorisation signature from their husbands to get a tubal ligation at a public hospital. Of course, none of their husbands will agree to such a thing because they simply just don't care, and further, none of them can afford private health care to get it done privately and without having to 'ask for permission'. There goes that idea. How ridiculous. Things like this really make me thankful to be born into the society that repects women and stands for women's rights. They also make me frustrated that I cannot squeeze all the females in the world who haven't been as lucky into a big boat and take them to a place where they can come to know their worth. (Note to self: teach the women at Laura Flores an acoustic rendition of 'Independent Women.')

So these have been my thoughts this week homies. Overall, life is going great here in Santo Domingo. I am rapidly growing attached to the kids from OrphAids, who I visit once a week to play games with. They are so beautiful- I am already dreading leaving them. There is something about being around those children that gives me so much life. Either that, or it's the fact that I get to run around acting like a 10year-old and have a valid excuse....

Love and miss you all,
Love Crissi

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The best things in life are 'free'.

I just finished reading an amazing book about a stripper who came to know Jesus and became a Christian. This is what she writes about the beginning of her spiritual journey-

'And God..If there really was a God, surely He was sitting high and mighty on His throne picking out all the good people; the ones worth loving, and thrusting disaster upon the bad ones like me. I would never make the cut..'

Somewhere between all the stoned hippies and alcoholic homeless men that I have made friends with since being a Believer lies this very same opinion. In fact, just a couple of weeks ago I made friends with an Irish Aethiest on a bus ride because he asked me 'how big his pupils were' and he pretty much said the same thing:
Irishman- 'If God is real, why would He be good to me anyway? I drink and smoke and take drugs and party with topless women...He definatley doesn't like me..'
Me- 'What are you talking about, this the cool part bro- He loves you DESPITE all those things.'
Irishman- 'Well, maybe so, but what do I have to do to earn this love?'
Me- 'Nothing. It's free. He loves you for free.'
Irishman- 'Pft, yeah right, what's the catch?'

In service last Sunday, the Pastor talked about how God is divded into three components- the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. God shows us His love in these three ways. Firstly, He demonstrates the ways in which He loves us by the way that our parents love us- the role of a parent is to comfort and forgive no matter how many times they are wronged or disrespected by their children. Once we become parents, He demonstrates the ways He loves us through the way we love our children- irrevocably and unconditionally. Lastly, He demonstrates His love through the Spirit by bringing two people together- like when we fall in love.

The thing that people find it so hard to believe in all of this is that there is no 'catch' in the way God loves us. He just does. However, people think that you have to work for it. They think that God only loves the 'good' people. They think that the first step to getting to know God is scrapping all the junk and bad-habits from your life so that He will 'like you more'. How do I know? Because I used to be one of them.
This was me about a year ago-
'Mehh, maybe I can accept that there is a God. But I mean, I'm not willing to trade in the ciggies and the vodka-raspberry's for a bible and church on a Sunday or anything.... I might as well just wait until I'm old and I have nothing better to do than sit around in a nursing home and pray.....'
I figured that first I would have to stop doing 'bad things' in order to show God that I was capable of being a 'good' person so that He would 'like' me.  Funny thing is that for the first 10months of being a Believer I was still walking around with my Marlboro's AND a bible in my hand-bag. Guess what? I still got to know God.

I ask myself- did I have to work for my parent's love? Did my Mum ever tell me that I had to complete a certain check-list in order to be worthy of her grace and forgiveness? Further- Mothers help me out here- is there anything that your child could do that would encourage you to love him/her less? And even further- when I think back on the times that I have been in love (or at least close to it) in my life so far, is there anything that those guys could have done at the time that would have stopped me from wanting to move mountains for them?


'For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing, it is the Gift of God.' Ephesians 2:8

During my spiritual journey I asked myself the very same questions. I discovered bad news and good news: Bad news is that it doesnt matter what you do, bad shit is still going to happen to you. Being a Believer is not a free ticket out of suffering- otherwise everyone would be one, wouldn't they? Bad stuff still happens to the nannas praying in the nursing homes and even to the people that dedicate their lives to the church and to the preaching of God's word. Bad shit even happens to the pope, and some people rekon that he is the most holy man on Earth. It's inevitable, it's un-fixable, it's life. Even as a Believer, I accept that there will be moments of struggle in life, and that I will still have to power through pain to get to the good stuff. I am no different to anybody else.  The important part for me is just turning to God; trusting that He will work it out, and that He is going to use certain experiences- no matter how negative- to teach me something for the future.
Good news is that even if you spend every weekend popping pills and partying, or smoke weed for a living - 'God shows no partiality' and He WANTS to have a relationship with you. He thought you were awesome even before you were created- He liked you after every time you effed something up when you were a kid, He still likes you after everytime you eff something up now, and He will continue to like you after everytime you will eff something up in the future.The first step isn't picking up the pieces of your somewhat scattered life and storing them away in a box called 'the past' before picking up a bible and seeing what's in it. The first step is letting God into your life to show you who He is and what He does, and most of all, accepting that He already loves you...no strings attached.

After all- the best things in life are 'free'.
That's all folks,


Friday, November 5, 2010

Simple. Easy. Done.

Well guys, I know I promised to write when I was able to properly re-construct sentences again, however that is yet to happen. This week has left me speechless. After all the hippie action things just kept getting more and more overwhelming. I will give this a go anyway...

I am currently in a city called Santo Domingo. I will be staying here for the next couple of months. I'll be working with the local Baptist Church here- mainly teaching music to kiddies, but also helping out with some English lessons. Once a week I will head out to a really poor community with my guitar to play some worship music to the homies out there, and one afternoon a week I will be playing games with kids that belong to an organisation called OrphAids- for orphans with AIDS, if the name doesnt give it away already. I think that these last two activites will be the biggest struggle emotionally, however I am confident that with constant prayer and the correct mind-set, I will be able to handle it.

This last week has been an absolute roller-coaster. I went from visiting these beautiful orphan kids one day, to hanging out in a giant tree-house and walking through a jungle the next. Crazy, crazy, crazy life. The thing that has been the most overwhelming for me is the fact that the churches I'll be working with have really stressed their need for someone to teach/work with music within the church. Such a 'coinsidence' that the thing I love doing the most, and the last thing that I thought I would be doing, is the thing that I find people begging me to do (funny that..hey?) This is the biggest re-inforcer for me that I have come to the right place, and that I will be able to contribute something during the next couple of months.

It's things like this that really make me believe in the power of God. The day I walked into that travel agent in Highpoint I had no idea what I was doing. I literally closed my eyes, pointed out a date on the calendar and asked for a ticket to anywhere in Ecuador. At the time I could not explain why God had put the thought in my head, and remember expressing my confusion as to why I was not ABSOLUTLEY crapping my pants about going with no plan. I couldn't verbalise it, it was a force bigger than me. It just felt right. Now, look at what has happened- I am doing everything I want to do- serve God by working with music and helping people. What are the chances? There are none. Bottom line is it's God's doing. What a freaking legend.

In saying all of this, I read this verse a few days ago...

Trust the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. - Proverbs 3:5

...and I realised that I know nothing. Honestly. Zip. Zero. Nada. Nothing. I have NO IDEA what is going to happen...ever. The future is completely and utterly out of my control. There is no point sitting back and thinking 'this is going to happen', or ' then this will happen', cos guess what- chances are it won't. Chances are that God's plan is way better than mine anyway, and I'm an idiot for thinking otherwise. DO NOT LEAN ON YOUR OWN UNDERSTANDING. That sums it up. I know NAH-THING, He knows everything, so just go with it, and He'll fugure it out. Simple. Easy. Done.

That's all I have for now, sorry peeps. Will be able to write better once I have ceased walking around with my mouth hanging wide open.

Love you all,
Love Crissi

Note to self: 'Live in a tree-house' has definately been added to your list. Maybe sometime after 'learn how to ride a motor-bike' and 'get from Italy to Australia without flying..'?