Category Archives: Single in the CIA

It All Began With One Book….

Once I realized the past 8+ years of my work history was a bit of a black hole, I decided to write a book. I had no idea where it would take me, but since I had been a fairly decent writer back in my school days, I decided I would take on the challenge. It proved to be pretty hard to get back into any sort of creative or descriptive writing – I was used to writing cables in the CIA – which is a very robotic style of writing. I spent about a year and a half writing Single in the CIA, through my first pregnancy and into my first child’s newborn stage. I would write on my slow, tiny notebook, balanced on the arm of the rocking chair, while I rocked my newborn son to sleep.

The book was meant to be a fun read, but it also touches on some of the waste, fraud and abuse that was (and I’m sure still is) entrenched in the huge government bureaucracy that is the Central Intelligence Agency. It was truly a swamp! When I worked there, I had no idea how corrupt the government could be – I only knew how vicious the women, in particular, who worked there could be!

I’d like to think my writing has improved a lot since this very first book. It has opened up so many doors for me – from TV interviews to contributor, editor and content writer jobs. It’s even scheduled to become a television series at some point in the future.

Many people ask me about writing books. My advice to anyone who thinks they have a book in them – just write – and keep writing! Nothing is ever perfect – but you have to get started and once you finish – put it out there into the world, imperfections and all!

Life After The Agency

What does a former CIA officer do once she’s no longer a CIA officer and has a family of her own? She writes multiple CIA-inspired books, invents a baby product, goes crazy with a music album (followed by releasing singles), builds an app and writes children’s picture books, of course!


BurpMitt® products consist of super-absorbent, organic cotton products for baby and home. Mommy’s Gone Mad! is a comical music album for small children and parents of small children. The children’s album led to working on some more adult music singles. Cooking in the CIA is an app with recipes learned from years of entertaining and world travel.

If you would like to purchase a BurpMitt® product, you can find them on Amazon.

Cooking in the CIA is available on the App Store.

Mommy’s Gone Mad! (as well as the other singles) is/are on Spotify, Deezer, Tidal, Google Play Music, Amazon Music, YouTube Music, Napster and more!

As always, thank you for helping me support my family by purchasing any of my products!

Happy Independence Day!

As we celebrate our Independence Day here in the US, I think about the freedoms that are very dear to me.  My freedom of speech is something I take very seriously as a writer and author.  It is also a way for me to make money to help support my family.  

I have friends and contacts on social media from all walks of life, from all over the globe – likely one of the most diverse groups of people anyone has ever seen.  Most people I know from all of the locations I have traveled and lived have been supportive and open-minded and simply great.  If they have not been openly supportive, or do not agree with views expressed in my articles, books or posts, I wouldn’t really know it, as they themselves know enough to just scroll on by.  You see, we all used to be able to have different opinions and views yet still be friends – we could still be civil even in disagreement.  Sadly, more and more these days, this is not the case.

For those of you who have been supportive of me and my family – thank you.  Keep being you and never give up on what you believe in.  Share your opinions freely, but realize you are on social media, where most have the attention span of 250 characters and cowardice and narcissism rule. 

For those of you who have attacked me – be it by arguing incessantly with my friends and family via comments, blocking or unfriending me personally, or whatever – I have this message for you:  I’ve watched some of you change from seemingly happy-go-lucky fun-loving people to angry, outraged trolls.  You spout your self-righteous virtue signaling and I see right through it.  I have always respected all of your opinions, even if I thought they were misguided and misinformed.  I just scrolled on by.  But you don’t want to give me the same consideration.  Get over yourselves and stop with all the outrage.  You are clearly miserable in your life, and you look it too!  Get off of Facebook and make a positive change in your life.  

I get at least 3-4 messages a week from various contacts who are convinced my posts, articles or books are all about them.  It would be funny if it weren’t so sad.  If you think every post, article or book is about you, then you might be a narcissist.

I won’t be bullied or silenced.  Don’t ever try to tell me what I can or cannot say on my own personal page, blog or whatever it might be.  I am a writer, I stand for free speech and expression.  I’m not sure when cowing to tyrants became the norm, but I won’t be participating in that activity.

A word of caution: be careful of using Facebook as your way to stay in touch with people.  I have written articles about this subject.  The dangers of thinking you understand where someone is coming from based on a quick Facebook post are numerous.  Comments made at the click of the button can be easily misconstrued, by a largely ignorant herd-mentality crowd.  Just because you shriek louder does not mean you are right. 

And to those dearly departed UNfriends: over the past few years their tolerance for perceived opinions that differ from their own has waned and apparently have warranted swift unfriending! Here’s to you – Happy Independence Day!  Your bitterness and hate only leads me to more and more success.

E-Learning Resources

I’ve been trying to think of ways I could help someone during this time…. Then it dawned on me that I have taken dozens, if not hundreds, of classes online over the years.  I’ve compiled a list of resources for online learning – from resources for teachers and parents to use with homeschooling, to adult-themed subjects – from great sources. 

Futurelearn.com – This is a great place to find free classes on just about anything you can imagine.  They offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop.  They have hundreds of partners from around the world. These include many of the best UK and international universities, as well as institutions with a huge archive of cultural and educational material, such as the British Council, the British Library, the British Museum, and the National Film and Television School. They also work with a range of internationally renowned organizations – from professional bodies such as the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), to businesses like the BBC and Marks & Spencer, to the UK Government.  I have taken everything from a class on Infant CPR given by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to World War 1: A History in 100 Stories, to one I’m currently taking on Rome.  

Edx.org – Free college classes. I have taken everything from Harvard classes titled China’s Political and Intellectual Foundations and Buddhism and Its Scriptures to a class on The Spain of Don Quixote given by the University of Madrid, to the Medieval Icelandic Sagas given by the University of Iceland. They have just about anything you can imagine from some of the best schools in the world.

Udemy.com – They have a wide range of classes in subjects ranging from game development to mobile apps to IT certification, to marketing and business. They have Python, ethical hacking, you name it.  These have a small price usually, but I see lots of sales going at all times.  

*** Update: Udemy.com now has a free resource center. FREE classes!

Environmental education materials – bringing ecology to the classroom.
https://education.mongabay.com/

NASA/Kennedy Space Center – Initially it was announced by some media outlets that they would be having Facebook Live events, but it appears they have been canceled for now.  You can still access their online learning links though.

https://www.kennedyspacecenter.com/camps-and-education/educator-resources

World Wildlife Fund- biodiversity toolkit :

https://www.worldwildlife.org/teaching-resources/toolkits/biodiversity-toolkit?utm_campaign=wild-classroom&utm_medium=email&utm_source=enews-wc&utm_content=200322-edu

World Wildlife Fund – coloring pages:

https://support.worldwildlife.org/site/SPageServer/;jsessionid=00000000.app257b?pagename=coloringgallery&utm_campaign=wild-classroom&utm_medium=email&utm_source=enews-wc&utm_content=200322-edu&NONCE_TOKEN=CDCA283F6791649566D32A5464031E1D

World Wildlife Fund – elephant toolkit:

https://www.worldwildlife.org/teaching-resources/toolkits/elephant-toolkit?utm_campaign=wild-classroom&utm_medium=email&utm_source=enews-wc&utm_content=200322-edu

World Wildlife Fund – dolphin toolkit:

https://www.worldwildlife.org/teaching-resources/toolkits/dolphin-toolkit?utm_campaign=wild-classroom&utm_medium=email&utm_source=enews-wc&utm_content=200322-edu

World Wildlife Fund – polar bear toolkit:

https://www.worldwildlife.org/teaching-resources/toolkits/polar-bear-toolkit?utm_campaign=wild-classroom&utm_medium=email&utm_source=enews-wc&utm_content=200322-edu

World Wildlife Fund – sea turtle toolkit:

https://www.worldwildlife.org/teaching-resources/toolkits/sea-turtle-toolkit?utm_campaign=wild-classroom&utm_medium=email&utm_source=enews-wc&utm_content=200322-edu

World Wildlife Fund – monarch teaching toolkit:

https://www.worldwildlife.org/teaching-resources/toolkits/monarch-toolkit?utm_campaign=wild-classroom&utm_medium=email&utm_source=enews-wc&utm_content=200322-edu

Free education resources from the Nordic countries: Here you have 40+ remote learning solutions from Estonia, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and Sweden that you are welcome to use. For kids, preschool as well as K – 12, great resources to include ones for other languages, from all over the world.  Don’t let the 99math throw you off – there are resources from ALPA Kids – a mobile application where children can learn colors, numbers, the alphabet by playing with examples of their own culture and local nature, to the Future Astronauts Program – a 12-week program with activities connected to life skills of astronauts. Consists of inspirational Space material and easy-to-introduce activities to support STEM learning. Teachers have curated NASA materials that are relevant and interesting for young children, to Finland Math and it’s digital exercise platform Eduten Playground – an excellent resource for remote teaching and learning. It’s the most popular math learning tool among Finnish teachers, and one reason is that it is very easy to assign exercises for the students, and set and track goals, to resources specifically for teachers’ management of students – I could go on and on this one has so many different resources – all the way through higher education. 

https://education-nation.99math.com/

Pat Flynn – Smart Passive Income: Online business toolkit. Mr. Flynn is a master of passive income.  He offers all sorts of training, lots of it free, on how to successfully work from home, how to create passive income streams that really make money, and more. Ever wondered how to set up and make money with affiliate links? This guy is a master at it.

https://www.smartpassiveincome.com/online-business-toolkit/

Graduate School USA (used to be Grad School USDA): Long ago, I took classes on HTML through Grad School USDA.  Now, it looks like it is more geared toward the federal workforce, specifically management and human resources.  And it looks like they cost a bit to take. But still might be a valuable resource for someone.

https://www.graduateschool.edu/content/online

Tonya Leigh of French Kiss Life: Ms. Leigh runs a lifestyle brand and global movement called French Kiss Life.  She teaches people how to manage their own minds and bring joie de vivre into their daily lives. She does blog posts, podcasts and YouTube videos. 

My Life Suckers: A comical YouTube channel and blog run by a mom who used to be a Senior Editor for Nickelodeon’s parenting website for 6 years where she wrote about snot and ear infections.  They have put together a great blog post full of resources. Resources ranging from Khan Academy: Excellent free tutorials for all ages in math, science, computing, humanities and more. They have courses from preschool math all the way to AP Calculus to Hike Find Draw: A hiker takes you along with him as he photographs what he finds. He then chooses a photograph and teaches his audience how to sketch what he has found on his hike, there are so many different options. 

Giving Thanks – Let’s Celebrate!

As we get closer to the 5th year since my first book, Single in the CIA was published, I thought I would take a few minutes to say a BIG Thank You to all of you for your support and to celebrate some of the accomplishments from these past 5 years. I couldn’t have done it without all of you.

So, let’s take a look!

Since 2015, I have 7 published works: Single in the CIA, Mission: Stand Down, the Mingling in the CIA series – which consists of Observations of an Underdog, Annie, Annie Goes Overseas, and Bloud. I also have a children’s picture book, Mommy Thinks She’s a Monster.

Since becoming a published author, I have been invited to contribute to three different news outlets:

I write a series called Underground California for OpsLens. At the time of writing this I have 12 pieces with them. Here is one of my favorites: California Darkness.

Brainhackers.com focuses on brain health. Here is my favorite piece for them: The Secret to Happiness.

And then there is American Greatness. I was honored, and quite intimidated, to be accepted as a contributor for them – as they have some incredible writers. I currently have one piece for them: American Parent.

In less than 5 years I have gone from:

  •  0 to 2,849 followers on Twitter
  •  0 to 1,544 connections on Linked In
  •  0 to 15K monthly viewers on Pinterest
  • 0 to 213 likes on Facebook
  • 0 to 17 subscribers and 1,943 views on YouTube

Since the publication of my first book, I have had 2 TV appearances – Politics & Profits with Rick Amato and The Drew Berquist Show. I have also had 2 interviews with Hollywood casting directors, as well as discussions with the people at As Seen on TV.

I have invented my very own physical product and had it manufactured. It is now available on Amazon.

I have learned how to build an app, and I created one. Cooking in the CIA is available on the App Store.

What People Are Saying About My Writing:

You give of yourself in your writing. You touch hearts. It’s a rare gift Shelly.
— David Kamioner, Writer, Contributor and Author of Prisoner of the Chattering Class

No holds barred, precisely the commentary I’ve heard from others in similar situations. Thank you for who you are and being a role model for others to include our 14 year old daughter. Much appreciated.
— Anonymous Reader

I will say it took courage to do what you did. Sort of like charging a machine gun nest. After the first step it’s too late to back out.
— Frank Boccia, Author of The Crouching Beast

Thank you so much for being brave enough to show the world this view. You have done society a service with your pen!
— Anonymous Reader

And, last but not least, Single in the CIA is being adapted for TV! That’s right – you may be seeing the book that began it all on your television screens!

As you can see, I have LOTS going on, and more to come. Who knows what the next 5 years has in store, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to be big. I have fun coming up with new ideas and bringing my creations to life!

Again, I thank you all for the support. I hope everyone has a very happy holiday season. Here’s to FUN and laughter!

Cheers!
Shelly

Catty Ladies…

While most of the men I encountered in the Agency were a particularly narcissistic and womanizing bunch, the women of the Agency definitely took the cake when it came to viciousness and backstabbing. It was as if destroying your fellow female colleagues was a requirement for success as a woman in the Agency. This was rarely accomplished in public view; it was most often a behind-the-scenes demolition of another woman’s reputation.

#CommissionsEarned

Important Meetings…

And so it happens, in every workplace – endless time-wasting meetings, gossip and trash-talking. But at the CIA we were supposed to be above all of that – we were the “cream of the crop”….

….they were discussing the staffing of our office, going over each employee and what their position was. Barry said that when my name was mentioned and Barry described me as “the blonde”, one of the women in the meeting then spent quite a bit of time arguing that I was not a blonde, I was a brunette. The woman making these claims was someone I had met once or twice in passing. According to Barry she was adamant that I was not a blonde, I dyed my hair, and she spent at least ten minutes arguing with him about it. Barry thought the story was funny; I was just appalled. Besides the fact that I have always had blond hair, why was this an acceptable topic of discussion in a front office meeting? I could not understand how the color of my hair was relevant to any staffing meeting in the CIA.

#CommissionsEarned

An Endless Procession of Douchebags…

It seems like not much has changed at the CIA ….

You could say that my twenties and early thirties were an endless procession of douche bags, and most of the men I encountered during my Agency career were no exception. That was acceptable to me, I never considered myself a victim, I was merely along for the ride….. However, I was not prepared nor particularly suited for the reality of the workplace dynamics, in which I spent much of my days dodging perverts and battling unseen enemies lurking behind cubicle walls….

From my book, Single in the CIA.

Never Forget.

I will never forget seeing the burning on the horizon as I drove down the road. The Pentagon had just been hit. The plane had flown right over the road as I was driving. I had just returned to the Washington DC area, where I lived, from visiting New York City and seeing the Twin Towers in person. I was currently working on a HIDTA money laundering task force with local police, DEA, and IRS agents. I was severely underemployed in the position, but I had dreams of working for the CIA one day and, as is my nature, would not stop trying.

The people in the DC area were mostly a miserable, angry bunch. But after the attacks, I noticed an extreme change. People were suddenly being much kinder to each other. People were letting other people in front of them in the gridlock traffic that makes up the Washington DC area. People were courteous, helpful and respectful.

These days, we have gotten so far away from that. We are back to being angry and hostile. Jumping to conclusions about people we don’t even know. Not listening to one another. Making personal attacks simply because we think we know where a person stands on an issue, mostly based on a social media post. We have family interactions through social media, which is sometimes fake and phony and easily misinterpreted.

I will never forget September 11th and neither will my children.

I Was Once an Internet Troll!

I recently posted a series of flashback excerpts from my first book, Single in the CIA.  I’d like to think my writing has improved dramatically since writing that book. I now have seven published books under my belt (four are part of a short story series).  As I’ve written each one, I feel my writing has become more creative. My writing now has evolved from the robotic style of CIA cable writing (also, for much of the time I was writing Single in the CIA I had a newborn sleeping on my lap).  As much as I sometimes want to cringe when I read segments of Single in the CIA, I wouldn’t change the voice or what I said. I wanted it to be a sort of purging of memories, without much – if any – commentary about the events I described. I think I succeeded in my wish.

Four years later I have been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to write for OpsLens Media Group.  It’s a very different type of writing, but it has definitely helped me to improve further. 

As this is my first experience as a news contributor, writing for OpsLens has been quite an eye-opener.  I write a series called Underground California in which I highlight issues in the state and try to give a voice to those who do not have one.  I try to paint a picture with my writing – to use my creativity to share experiences I’ve had and images I’ve seen.  

The staff of contributors at OpsLens is comprised of former intelligence, law enforcement and military.   They each offer print and video commentary through the lens of someone who has been there, done that. I truly have friends from all walks of life and I can say that most people who come from those lines of work tend to have fairly conservative views; “Conservative” meaning free-thinking, experience-based opinions.  These people don’t get their news from memes on Facebook!  

I’ve noticed something lately, and it seems to be getting worse.  People seem to be offended and outraged by everything! I’ve seen it in just about every aspect of my life.  These days I have been deleted, unfriended, blocked, unfollowed, called nasty names, trolled, misunderstood and just plain treated badly.  And it’s not just on social media (I use the pop-in-pop-out strategy on social media as it is a necessary evil for me as a small businessperson).  I have had family members, blood and otherwise, treat me with disrespect and misplaced anger.  I have had old friends distance themselves from me and even call me a farm animal (huh?). It used to be we could discuss differing views and opinions and accept each other as independently thinking individuals.  Now, most people can’t even bother to be civil.

A few weeks ago I made a positive, supportive comment on a fellow contributor’s article.  Weeks later (did I mention I pop in and pop out?) I noticed he had responded, and not in a pleasant manner.  It appeared that he was so mad at the world that he twisted my complimentary words into something to be mocked. He recently apologized for jumping to conclusions, but the lesson is still there.

And the list goes on.  On another social media channel I was called a “bleached blonde hag”, “Russian bot” and told I was a “lonely and desperate” old lady by various trolls.  The name-calling is rampant. On yet another channel I was contacted out of the blue after one of my articles was posted that happened to mention our president.  The person decided that because I had mentioned my country’s president in a non-negative way (this reader is from another country) that he could not be connected with me on social media any more.  Mind you, I don’t personally know these people, I just want them to buy my books and products. Just like everyone else, I am trying to make a living.  

Oh – before I receive emails from well-meaning family members trying to give advice on how to handle these things – please, just realize I have an online persona and I do not take these things seriously.  Most of my writing is done in a joking tone, playing to the fact that most people put me in the “dumb blonde” category.   

Really who cares what I think?  Who cares what anyone thinks? Does it really matter?  It’s not all about you. Most people are only thinking about themselves and the worries they have from day to day.

Now, this is not to say that I am immune to getting sucked in to the social media rubbish – I am human.  I remember back in 1995 when my best friend and I used to fire up that dial-up service, listening anxiously while a noise akin to a robot being strangled filled our ears.  We would get into those chat rooms titled “hot-tub” and stir up some shit! But it was more along the lines of “I have big melons” and people knew how to laugh back then. It was fun, it was harmless.  

I suppose you could say I was a troll.  But a happy-go-lucky troll… With big melons.