Category: money saving challenges

Looking Back at 2021: I’m a bookworm. Now to plan for 2022 and beyond

While looking ahead to a ‘blank slate’ of 2022, I realized that I should also reflect on 2021 and the ups, down, hills, valleys, and everything in between. The post will probably seem a little bit ‘rambling’—but that is due to just writing what I’m thinking and not really organizing my thoughts beforehand.

We were still in the grip of the SARS-CoV2 pandemic during 2021. While there have been several vaccines approved (the Pfizer one received full approval from the FDA and CDC towards the end of the year), there is unfortunately still a good portion of the population that is refusing to get vaccinated.

Come early March, we will be entering year three of the pandemic—hopefully we’ll be seeing the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ by summer????

I’ve still been isolating at home (only leaving the house maybe a couple of times a week—one to get the paper on the weekends, then an occasional walk either at Boomer Lake with my camera or through the neighborhood with Chaos) for the most part this past year. Like everyone else, I would like for things to return to a ‘new normal’—but I also understand that it will take awhile for the ‘new normal’ to emerge and everyone to get on the same page.

I’m not planning on doing any type of travel this year (thanks omicron variant and anti-vaxxers), but hopefully maybe able to do a small trip sometime between 2023 and 2024.

Since the number of cases is still skyrocketing due to the omicron variant—I plan of trying to get my booster shot sometime within the next two weeks.

The only huge crisis we had this past year was with Rolex—when we took her to get an allergy shot, she developed the rare side effect of hemolytic anemia. So, the past few months have been a roller coaster as we try to help her overcome the anemia. So, far she’s had two blood transfusions and is on numerous medications—we’ll hopefully see if she can be weaned off of two of them entirely next month (I’m assuming one of the meds will be lowered again this month).

Chaos doesn’t care of strangers (which is both good and bad), so when I do have to take him into the vet—he has to be given meds to mellow him out. I’m hoping to possibly start taking him for longer walks (to where we might encounter other people) this coming spring.

In terms of my career—I think I’ve figured it ‘out’ (at least a little). I’m going to go in the direction of remote/contract/online science/medical communications/education with the end goal of creating my own freelance business (melding copywriting [medical/science communication/education, health/wellness, and personal/professional development] with blogging [hobbies, travels, and personal/professional development]). Therefore, the blog/website will be getting update throughout the year as I work my way in that direction.

I managed to land a ‘volunteer’ medical content writing position with a company in Canada during the summer—so I’m getting my ‘feet’ wet in the regards of summarizing scientific papers and other topics for the general public. In addition, I put in my application for a couple of freelance writing position and then a medical writers position—didn’t get any of them, but I was proud of the fact I went ahead and applied for each of them, being a total ‘newbie’ in the online medical writing world.

I’ve joined another accountability group—which is good, but since I’ve really ‘narrowed’ down what I want to do (remote/online writing and/or data analysis), I’m having problems finding the job postings. I’ll be working on those assignments, and giving updates throughout the next few months (which will include ‘linking the blog/website’ to my LinkedIn account).

Those were some of the highlights for the year, so how did 2021 go in general?

In terms of steps—I had a rough goal of at least 1,825,000 steps (breaking down to basically 5,000 steps per day). I managed to get 1,979,594 steps for the year, with the following monthly breakdown:

January:          159,685

February:        146,418

March:             197,430

April:              187,411

May:               187,855

June:               149,009

July:                140,686

August:           154,591

September:      157,114

October:          160,753

November:      168,476

December:       170,166

The months with the lowest number of steps happened to be during the summer, when it was a little too warm (or humid or both) to be outside walking either on my own or with my dog.

While I’d set the goal of completing nine workout programs throughout 2021—I managed to complete three, and then spent the rest of the year concentrating on more ‘intentional movements’ than fitness programs.

I also had set the goal of reading a minimum of 80 books (30 non-fiction and 50 fiction), and the actual total number of books that I read last year was a minimum of 127 books (12 non-fiction and at least 105 fiction). These included new and rereads (all of which were within the fiction category).

I met the goal of at least fifty fiction books (actually doubled it), and almost met half the goal of non-fiction books (thirty).

The non-fiction books I read during 2021 included:

  1. Secrets of Six-Figure Women: Surprising strategies to up your earnings and change your life by Barbara Stanny
  2. Badass Habits: Cultivate the awareness, boundaries, and daily upgrades you need to make them stick by Jen Sincero
  3. Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski
  4. The Joy of Missing Out: Live more by doing less by Tonya Dalton
  5. The Renaissance Soul: How to make your passions your life–A creative and practical guide by Margaret Lobensteine
  6. The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking
  7. Permission to Screw Up: How I Learned to Lead by Doing (almost) Everything Wrong by Kristen Hadeed
  8. The Financial Diet by Chelsea Fagan
  9. 25 Ways to work from Home by Jen Ruiz
  10. Write to Speak by Mike Acker
  11. I want to do all the things: finding balance as a polymath, multipotentialite, and renaissance soul by Arcadia Page
  12. The More of Less: Finding the life you want under everything you own by Joshua Becker

In terms of fiction books read during 2021 (new and re-reads), I managed to read (a minimum) of 105 fiction books, and they included:

  • Loved You Once (The Baker’s Creek Billionaire Brothers #1) by Claudia Burgoa
  • A Moment Like You (The Baker’s Creek Billionaire Brothers #2) by Claudia Burgoa
  • Defying Our Forever (The Baker’s Creek Billionaire Brothers #3) by Claudia Burgoa
  • Call You Mine (The Baker’s Creek Billionaire Brothers #4) by Claudia Burgoa
  • Blackout After Dark (Gansett Island #22) by Marie Force
  • Catalina (The Alders #10) by Avery Gale
  • I re-read the first nine books in the Alders series by Avery Gale
  • The Shadowdance Club (7 book series) by Avery Gale
  • Masters of the PrairieWind Club (11 book series–as of Feb 2021) by Avery Gale
  • Billionaire Unexpected–Jax (The Billionaire’s Obsessions #16) by J.S. Scott
  • Loving Arms (Slick Rock #30) by Becca Van
  • Reckless (Slick Rock #31) by Becca Van
  • Exception to the Rule (Beautifully Imperfect #7) by Becca Van
  • My One Night (On My Own #1) by Carrie Ann Ryan
  • State of Affairs (First Family #1) by Marie Force
  • Re-read the entire Fatal series (16 books) prior to State of Affairs coming out
  • Tempted by Love: Jack “Jock” Steele (The Steeles at Silver Island #1) by Melissa Foster
  • My True Love: Jules Steele (The Steeles at Silver Island #2) by Melissa Foster
  • Love Under Two Warriors (Lusty, Texas #42) by Cara Covington
  • Ride Out the Storm (SSI #6.5) by Monette Michaels
  • Wild and Loving (Slick Rock #32) by Becca Van
  • Royal Line (Tatter Royals #1) by Carrie Ann Ryan and Nana Malone
  • My Rebound (On My Own #2) by Carrie Ann Ryan
  • How Much I Love (Miami Nights #3) by Marie Force
  • As We Are (The Baker’s Creek Billionaire Brothers #5) by Claudia Burgoa
  • A Scent of Magick (McKendrick Warlocks #3) by Rhyannon Byrd
  • Come Together (Butler VT #7) by Marie Force
  • Inked Obsession (Montgomery Ink: Fort Collins #2) by Carrie Ann Ryan
  • The Green Mountain Series (7 books) by Marie Force
  • First six books in the Butler VT series by Marie Force
  • Vortex: A FBI Thriller by Catherine Coulter
  • Wiretaps and Whiskers (The Faerie Files #1) by Emigh Cannaday
  • Catnip and Curses (The Faerie Files #2) by Emigh Cannaday
  • My Next Play (On My Own #3) by Carrie Ann Ryan
  • Breaking Badger (The Honey Badger Chronicles #4) by Shelly Laurenston
  • Yours to Keep (The Baker’s Creek Billionaire Brothers #6) by Claudia Burgoa
  • Inked Kingdom by Carrie Ann Ryan
  • Inked Devotion (Montgomery Ink: Fort Collins #3) by Carrie Ann Ryan
  • Temptation after Dark (Gansett Island #23)
  • Finally You (Luna Harbor #1) by Claudia Burgoa
  • Enemy Heir (Tatter Royals #2) by Carrie Ann Ryan and Nana Malone
  • Mated in Darkness (Talon Pack #10) by Carrie Ann Ryan
  • Love Under Two Explorers (Lusty, Texas #43) by Cara Covington
  • My Bad Decisions (On My Own #4) by Carrie Ann Ryan
  • The Morgan Brothers (5 books) by Avery Gale
  • State of Grace (First Family #2) by Marie Force
  • Snow Dragon (Dragon Knights #16) by Bianca D’Arc
  • Gatekeeper (Dragon Knights #17) by Bianca D’Arc
  • Falling for Fallon (Masters of the Prairie Wind Club #12) by Avery Gale
  • Billionaire Unnoticed–Cooper (Billionaires Obsessions #17) by J.S. Scott

I’m pretty sure that there are probably another 20-30 books that I re-read during the year, but didn’t keep track of–what can I say, I’m a book worm and I would rather spend my evenings reading than watching TV.

While I had decided on doing a ‘no spend days/no spend weeks/limited spending month’, the only month that I really succeed at it was January. I ‘slipped’ and spent more money throughout the year than I really should have. I’ve pledge to restart the challenge this year, and to do better than I did last year (not aiming for perfection—but aiming for progress).

While the goal for 2021 was to finish at least twenty e-courses, I managed to finish nine throughout the year. I’d found that if I managed to watch several in a month, I ‘took’ the next month (or two) ‘off’ (probably unintentionally—letting ‘Pam’ win an unspoken argument). The courses that I ‘watched’ and ‘completed’ included:

On Skillshare:

  1. Powerful storytelling today: strategies for crafting great content
  2. 3 ways often overlooked to get traffic to your blog
  3. Finding your inner creative
  4. Personal Branding: Your Copywriting Secret Sauce
  5. Create a simple digital marketing plan
  6. Crappy Copy: 8 digital copywriting mistakes you should avoid

Two Cheeky Scientist Association Advance Programs:

  1. Clinical Research Coalition
  2. Intellectual Property Pack

Then on Udemy:

  1. Understanding and developing Emotional Intelliegence

The goal for 2022 will be to at least double (if not triple) the number of e-courses that I watch/finish.

One big accomplishment I that managed to get done during 2021 was the creation and updating of my comfort/stretch/risk/die diagrams. The first one that I did in February/March was an ‘assignment’ from a coach, when it became obvious (to her) that I was struggling with figuring out what I wanted to do with my life.

Since that first one—I’ve modified it four times, adding in a ‘bounce zone’ between the comfort and the stretch zone, and have watched the comfort and stretch zones (along with the bounce zone) grow, and the risk zone shrink.

I also created a personal/professional board game as well to help me ‘figure’ things out—and I’ve discovered the ‘biggest’ drawback on the game is that everything is ‘open-ended’ (such as review immunology or review cell biology).

I managed to teach myself basic cross-stitching this past year, and even finished three abstract design pieces. I started to do a more ‘nature’ based piece, and will probably try to turn it ‘abstract’ as I didn’t like how the cacti were turning out. I managed to spend quite a bit of time over the year up at Boomer Lake with my camera (one thing I still need to do is curate and delete all the really dark and/or blurry pictures I’ve taken over the past few decades).

Overall, 2021 was an okay year—not great (I mean there is still the pandemic), but also not a totally horrible year either. I’ve made progress in terms of personal and professional development (while some may see the past two years as ‘unemployed’—I view them as investing in myself)—maybe not as much as I’d originally liked, but still managed to do quite a bit. I’ve decided the career direction I’d like to pursue (remote/contract/online science/medical communications/writing and possibly data analysis), with the long-term goal of creating my own freelance business.

Therefore, heading into 2022, I’ve decided that:

I’ll have an overall BINGO card for the year (similar to what I tried to do for 2021), in addition to having BINGO cards for non-fiction books, e-courses, and intentional movement.

If I read a non-fiction book or complete/watch an e-course that isn’t on either of the current BINGO cards—I’ll write them down to put on an additional BINGO card.

The goal is to have at least a single BINGO on each of the cards (Bonus to have a totally checked BINGO card), and to have at least one BINGO on the overall yearly BINGO card as well.

I will transition into a remote/contract/online science/medical communications position. To help achieve that goal—I’m aiming at writing and publishing at least six scientific blog posts/articles by the end of the year. Each will be a minimum of 1000 words and will probably cover different topics I find of interest (or sub-topics within a specific ‘niche’).

In addition, I’m planning on writing at least two small literature reviews (being somewhere between 1000 and 1500 words), on one or two science topics, in addition to the larger project I’ve had bouncing around in my head for the past year.

I will also finish updating/modifying the blog/website to showcase the addition of science/medical writing in addition to my pieces on personal/professional development, hobbies, and travels.

Overall, I plan on 2022 being the year of ‘change’ and ‘growth’—growing as a science communicator, changing/transitioning into a ‘new’ position, and also finding my online ‘tribe’.

How was your 2021, and what do you have planned for 2022?

No Comments Booksbullet journalcareerCraftsfinancesfitnessHealthLifestyle Challengesmoney saving challengesno spend challengesPersonal DevelopmentPhotographyprofessional developmentReflectionsspiritualitytravelUpdatesYear in Review

E-books and e-games are the splurges of the month

So it is that time again—for a check-in on my yearlong limited spending challenge.

We’re now down to the last thirty days of 2021. I’m still working on hitting the stride that I did in January (which was the best month for the entire challenge so far this year).

My limited spending challenge is just that—I’m trying to limit my spending by dividing things into two groups (or categories): needed items and splurges.

So I did really well that first month, and then started slipping each month a little more. The ‘rebound’ I’d planned for the second half of the year, has been a so-so rebound. I’ve still splurged on things, and hopefully will be getting better at not ‘splurging’ as we head into 2022.

So how did November go in terms of the purchases/splurges?

In terms of physical items bought:

I only placed one ‘essential’ order towards the end of the month that included dog treats, face cleanser, body wash, and some other dog related items.

I totally splurged in terms of the number of e-books bought during November:

  1. The Cowboy SEAL’s secret baby (The Cowboy SEALs #1) by Janalyn Knight
  2. Ignite by Melanie Harlow
  3. The Fine Print (Dreamland Billionaires #1) by Lauren Asher
  4. Elemental Energy: Crystal and Gemstone Rituals for a Beautiful Life by Kristin Petrovich
  5. Crystal Muse: Everyday Rituals to Tune in to the Real You by Heather Askinosie & Timmi Jandro
  6. Contacting Your Spiritual Guide by Sylvia Browne
  7. Oona Goodlight Magic & Murder Mysteries (books 1-5) by Alexes Razevich
  8. Books 1 & 2 of the Rachel Emery Series by Deanna Lynn Sletten
  9. Kit Davenport: The Complete Series by Tate James
  10. Shadow Guild: Wolf Queen (books 1-5) by Linsey Hall
  11. Hayden Family (books 1-4) by Jennifer Millikin
  12. The Viper: A Broken Ridge Novel by Amanda McKinney
  13. Books 4 & 5 of the Tangled Crown series by Ann Denton
  14. Demon Valley Pack (Pretty Little Monster #1) by Avery Stone
  15. Whiskey Moon by Winter Renshaw
  16. The Mountain Mastery series by Avery Gale
  17. The Wolf Pack by Avery Gale
  18. Books 2 & 3 of the Knights of the Boardroom by Avery Gale
  19. Forbidden Honor (Dragon Royals #1) by May Dawson

And I continued to splurge on the silly game: Farmville 2: Country Escape

I think that I was splurging on e-books knowing that we’re headed into winter, and that means more time spent indoors. While I have numerous things that can keep me busy (working on my cross-stitching, working through e-courses, or just reading any of the other books I’ve bought this year)—I splurged on the books, just to have the ‘safety net’ of ‘new books’ to choose from.

There are a few personal development books (as I’m still working on figuring out my own spirituality path), but most are just fun reads that sounded interesting.

Splurging on the game has been due to it being a ‘escapism’ measure. When I don’t want to deal with things—I play the game and lose track of time. So, there you have it—I’m still an impulsive book buyer, and I’m spending way too many coins on the silly game.

As we go into December, there will probably be two or three ‘essential’ orders from amazon (mainly Christmas presents), and me keeping an eye on the game spending. While I haven’t had the same stride since January—I will be continuing the challenge going into 2022 and beyond. Also, I’m going to ‘restart’ the spreadsheet tracking for spending as well going forward.

Curious to know: What are some of your favorite tracking methods for spending money?

No Comments financesLifestyle Challengesmoney saving challengesno spend challengesReflections

Acknowledging the slips in progress is progress: November in Review

There are now only thirty days left in 2021 (after today). The summer seemed to have flown by, and fall is seemingly racing into winter. While I would like to say that November was better than October—it was in some ways, and worse in others.

One ‘holiday’ down (though other than the fact that we had a turkey and various sides for dinners—we treated Thanksgiving like a ‘normal’ long weekend), and one more to go (for us, that will be Christmas), but Happy Holidays for everyone who celebrates a holiday over the next month or more.

I really don’t care for the holidays (especially Thanksgiving), so I just try to treat each day like a ‘disrupted’ day (realizing that I may not get everything done that I wanted to, since more people may be around).

I haven’t decided when I’m going to head off to get my booster (I wear a mask when I go into stores and even when I walk around Boomer Lake), but it will be done at some point this winter.

I’m still staying away from the media as much as possible this fall/winter—mainly because I’m trying to control my stress/anxiety levels and focus on figuring out what to start writing about to showcase as part of a portfolio for freelance/remote/contract work. In terms of the total number of cases of the virus in the US, when I published ‘October in Review’, I noted that the US was a little over 46.8 million cases for the SARS-CoV2 virus, and now we’re at a little over 49.4 million cases (so we had just a little over 2.8 million cases last month; the numbers are still going up, and that could be due to the newest variant (omicron) that has been found to be various countries around the world—and it may or may not be able to get around the vaccines). So please—get vaccinated, get your kids vaccinated, and when you’re able to get the booster shot. (End rant)

So, the only age group that currently isn’t eligible for the vaccine is kids under the age of five (and the clinical trials are starting for that group soon—I think, they’re trying to enroll kids in the first phase currently).

I didn’t get much done in terms of ‘reorganization’ of the blog/website this past month. I also didn’t get that much written either. While I’d like to blame it on ‘writers block’—the truth is that I let the imposter syndrome/inner critic derail me, in part due to the change in time (I hate when we have to reset the clocks), and the fact that it is suppose to be getting cooler (meaning less days outside)—but we’ve been having nice weather, so I’ve been outside soaking up the sun.

But before jumping into December, I need to look back at the goals I set for November and see how I did with each of them.

The goals for November included:

  1. 130-150,000 steps
  2. Restart Morning Meltdown 100
  3. Work through the LinkedIn Mastery Ring program from the Cheeky Scientist Association; plus continue working on the wriing assignments for the MWO (and finish the sixth module)
  4. Read at least one non-fiction book
  5. Read two to four fiction books (have small book reviews written and published on the blog and other sites)
  6. No spend days/no spend/weeks/limited spending month
  7. Time outdoors, meditation/sitting quietly, and daily gratitude journal entries
  8. Craft time (finish the fourth cross-stitch project)
  9. Continue working on updating the blog/website
  10. Work through at least one other personal/professional development course

So how did I do with each of them?

  1. In terms of hitting somewhere between 130-150,000 steps, I managed to get 168,476 steps during the month. I managed a weekly walk (usually on the weekend) up at Boomer Lake, plus took Chaos for a couple of walks through the neighborhood.
  2. I’ve started my second round of Morning Meltdown 100, and probably should finish it around March 8 of next year.
  3. I’ve only managed to work through the first module of the LinkedIn Mastery Ring program. I just didn’t feel like sitting aroudn and doing any computer work this past month.
  4. There wasn’t much reading this month either.
  5. I did manage to read two fiction books (though I’m not sure if I got small book reviews written or not):
    • Enemy Heir (Tatter Royals #2) by Carrie Ann Ryan & Nana Malone
    • Mated in Darkness (Talon Pack #10) by Carrie Ann Ryan
  6. I will be covering my spending in the next installment of my limited spending check-in, but can say that November was not a good month in terms of limited spending.
  7. I managed to spend quite a bit of time outdoors this month, and found time to sit quietly as well. In terms of meditation at the end fo the day and writing in the journal–not so much.
  8. I’m still working on finishing the fourth cross-stitch project, and realized that I’m happier when doing abstract/no real design projects. The fourth one was suppose to be a nature inspired project (I was aiming for trying to do different cacti and making it semi-desert like), but while there may be two ‘cacti’ on it, the rest will be abstract in order to finish it.
  9. As I mentioned in my introduction, I didn’t spend much time on the computer or updating/revising the blog this past month. I unintentionally allowed my inner critic/imposter syndrome to derail my ‘schedule for the month’.
  10. Nope, again—I allowed my inner critic/imposter syndrome to derail me this past month in terms of really doing anything on the computer.

When we enter the month of November, it means shorter days (damn you time change), and usually cooler weather. We have been having cooler weather, but also stretch of ‘nice’ days when I feel like sitting outside more than I feel like being on the computer. Also, this past month I just didn’t feel like really doing anything—in part due to the time/weather change, but also because I unintentionally allowed my inner critic/imposter syndrome to derail me.

I have an assessment test early in December with a medical communications company, and if it goes well—a zoom interview possibly after the beginning of the New Year, and I’m thinking of putting in my application for another medical writing position as well. While I am slowly working towards creating a freelance writing business, I’m also willing to start out working remotely for a company as well (besides getting my foot in the door, a steady paycheck, I’d also be building relationships with possible future customers).

I’m now ‘developing’ my interior decorator, as I’m in the process of creating an ‘all-in-one’ room (since I live at home with my parents, and I usually tend to stay back in my bedroom for most of the day)—my room will have the ‘work’ area, the ‘craft’ area, the workout area, the meditation area, and the ‘sleep’ area.

Some will probably flow into each other and the workout area will be ‘picked’ up daily (need to find the best spot for the dumb bells), but by doing this—I’ll be more attuned to living in a small space that isn’t cluttered (this is also an exercise in minimalism as well).

So, while I didn’t meet many goals (basically only the step goal and one of the reading goals), I wasn’t ‘stagnant’—I was moving in the proper direction, just through some very ‘stagnant, negative-energy filled thoughts’. December is here, and in addition to ending the year on a ‘strong’ note—it also means planning out for 2022 and beyond, so that I can transition into a medical writing position, and then within a few years have a full time freelance writing business up and going.

The goals for December shall include:

  1. 130-155,000 steps
  2. Continuing with my second round of Morning Meltdown 100
  3. Setting up my ‘master’ plan for 2022 to 2025
  4. Read at least one non-fiction book
  5. Read two to four fiction books (and have small book reviews written and published on the blog and other sites)
  6. No spend days/no spend weeks/limited spending months
  7. Time outdoors, meditation/sitting quietly, and daily gratitude journal entries
  8. Craft time (finish the fourth cross-stitch project)
  9. Continue working on updating the blog/website
  10. Work through at least one module of a personal/professional development course

The goals are similar to past months, mainly because I felt like I’ve slid a little during November, and by keeping the same goals—I could possibly achieve them.

Since I’ve realized that I let my inner critic/imposter syndrome win a large fight (one I wasn’t even aware of)—I’ve realized that I need to check in with myself when I find myself doing things that aren’t edging towards goals but instead running away from them.

Some people say that you should name your inner critic/imposter syndrome and when you feel like they’re sneaking up and pulling in the wrong direction, you call them out and ‘have a chat’. I’ve been leaning towards naming mine Pam (as it isn’t someone I talk with or know, I wouldn’t feel bad about having a hard ‘heart-to-heart’ with her when needed).

In order to make progress towards the remote science/medical writing position and starting a freelance business, I need to be able to stick to my goals. Those goals are going to ‘scare Pam’ for a while, but as long as I can talk her into continuing moving forward we should be okay.

Have you named your inner critic/imposter syndrome?

No Comments careerCraftsfinancesfitnessHealthLifestyle Challengesmoney saving challengesMonth in Reviewno spend challengesPersonal Developmentprofessional developmentReflectionsspiritualityUpdates

Spending Check-In #10: Books, and the odd game

So I’m a few days late in posting my latest check-in on my limited spending challenge. This is basically due to having not gotten the WiFi issues solved until late Monday. I was then a day behind on all postings, and decided to move this one to later in the week so I could post my review of last month’s new moon goals & this month’s new moon goals on the ‘correct’ days.

We’re now down to the last two months of 2021. I’m still working on hitting the stride that I did in January (which was the best month for the entire challenge so far this year).

My limited spending challenge is just that—I’m trying to limit my spending by dividing things into two groups (or categories): needed items and splurges.

So I did really well that first month, and then started slipping each month a little more. The ‘rebound’ I’d planned for the second half of the year, has been a so-so rebound. I’ve still splurged on things, and hopefully will be getting better at not ‘splurging’ as we head into 2022.

So how did October go in terms of the purchases/splurges?

In terms of physical items bought:

There were two ‘essential’ orders from Amazon that included: dog treats, a couple of notebooks, a large water bottle, decaf tea, and various supplements.

In terms of books, there were mainly a small handful of e-books bought:

  1. The rest of the Talon Pack by Carrie Ann Ryan (books 2-9)
  2. Maybe We Will (Silver Harbor #1) by Melissa Foster
  3. Maybe We Should (Silver Harbor #2) by Melissa Foster
  4. Klutz: Phoenix Down (But Did You Die? #1) by Sedona Ashe
  5. Klutz: Phoenix Heat (But Did You Die? #2) by Sedona Ashe

And I’ve been splurging on a silly game: Farmville 2: Country Escape (so this will also showing up on my November check-in).

The biggest spending area was towards the end of the month with the free purchase of the game—but spent some money ‘setting’ it up. I’ll be more stringent going forward on not spending money on the game (as that was a problem with a couple of other games I’d bought for the kindle—the games themselves are free, but the coins or whatever to level up at times can cost).

Going into to November and December, I’m aiming at only one or two major orders from Amazon (possibly three come December, only because it is the holiday season). I’m also hoping to possibly ‘tighten’ the requirements for the two different categories come the beginning of the year, when I start up my second round of limited spending.

In addition I’m going to set up a spreadsheet that I’ll enter any and all purchases into—as a way to ‘physically’ see how I’m carelessly spending money. Though I already know the two main areas: e-books (as I’ve already purchased another handful this month), and the one game (Farmville 2: Country Escape).

What are some of your favorite tracking methods for spending money?

No Comments bullet journalfinancesmoney saving challengesno spend challengesReflections

Scorpio New Moon Goals: half personal development, half professional development

So the moon is going to be transitioning through it’s new phase tonight, and moving through the Scorpio constellation. There are only 57 days left in 2021—where did the time go? Looking back at what I wrote last year—the pandemic was just starting to ‘pick’ up and the world had over 54 million cases, the US was topping 11 million, and there were over 1.3 million dead; basically a year later and the world has almost 248.5 million cases, the US is almost at 47 million cases, and there are over 5 million dead worldwide. Hopefully we can get the vaccine to countries that really need it, parents will vaccinate their kids, and maybe we’ll start to see the end of the pandemic sometime in 2022 or 2023.

So as the moon moves through Scorpio, there are several things that one can do during this time (according to “Moonology: working with the magic of lunar cycles” by Yasmin Boland), and they are:

  1. Get Sexy
  2. Invest Wisely
  3. Make inner peace
  4. B-r-e-a-t-h-e
  5. Drop grudges

This moon is also moving through my first house or my image zone (how one presents themselves to the world). While Aries is the start of the zodiac calendar—when the moon (either full or new) passes through your first house, it can also seem as the start of a “new year” (we can have a “new start” twice a year if necessary).

So what are some of the things that one can do during this time?

  1. Surprise friends with the ‘new you’
  2. Throw out all your old make-up and start again
  3. Get married or meet someone new
  4. Good time to move
  5. Splurge on something in a vibrant color
  6. Have a facial
  7. Get your sight checked

I feel like I’m still being guided to focus on myself and am getting the gentle reminder that I’m worth whatever work I put into crafting my own future. The path is still slightly ‘murky’—but it is there, I just have to be willing to walk the path even if I can’t see that much of it. As I’d stated last year—if I do nothing, others would be deciding my future for me.

I’m still crossing a few things off the above lists:

  1. Throwing out make-up; Since I’m setting up a freelance business and working from home, I’m currently not wearing makeup (and truthfully I’ve never really been a fan of wearing makeup)
  2. Getting married or meeting someone new; I’m not in a relationship currently nor am I currently looking to for a relationship
  3. Moving–I still need an idea of where to move and the finances to afford it
  4. Getting a facial–I can scrub my face at home and I have one or two different facial masks I can try for free
  5. Getting my sight checked is currently crossed off due to the fact we’re still basically in the middle of a pandemic

While there may be people who are getting tired of seeing me state that I’m still going to be self-isolating (even after getting my vaccine and booster shots)–I’m doing it really until enough of the vaccine has been distributed worldwide that the daily number of new cases is under 100K (and currently the number has been running between 350-480K a day). Once the numbers drop and stay low–then I may start thinking of actually interacting more with the outside world.

For my short list of goals for the Scorpio new moon, they will include:

  1. Continuing to work on healing my relationship with food and movement. This will include restarting my second round of morning meltdown 100, finding in-season fruits that I enjoy eating, and figuring out what in-season veggies I’m willing to eat this fall/winter.
  2. Continue with my evening meditation/sitting quietly for at least five minutes
  3. Start working through the complete personal finance course on Udemy
  4. Continue working through the Write Your Way to Freedom copywriting course

Hopefully our Wi-Fi issues have almost been resolved, and that means I can try to dedicate more time to online learning/networking/work. I’m looking at the last two months of 2021, and reminding myself that I need to aim for ‘progress over perfection’, and that it will be slow going writing the next chapter of my life.

Have a blessed Scorpio New Moon period, and remember also to aim for progress and not perfection.

No Comments AstrologycareerfinancesfitnessHealthmoney saving challengesNew Moon Goalsno spend challengesPersonal Developmentprofessional developmentReflections

Review of the start of the fourth quarter.

There are now only sixty days left in 2021. The summer seemed to have flown by, and fall is seemingly racing into winter. October became a whirlwind of issues—spotty Wi-Fi (a decade old+ router and modem are going to be getting replaced hopefully sometime early November), vet appointments, and just general craziness.

We’re also heading into the holiday season, which means for most people—even more craziness. Luckily, we’re fairly low-key for the holidays (mainly Thanksgiving and Christmas). Everyone may get a single present at Christmas, and turkey day is treated like almost any other day (with the exception of snacks being laid out).

Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine was approved for boosters—so at some point, I’ll be heading to a pharmacy (or possibly waiting for another city-wide clinic) to get my booster (and possibly flu vaccine). Though, I’ll still be self-isolating through the winter and early spring.

I’m still staying away from the media as much as possible this fall/winter—mainly because I’m trying to control my stress/anxiety levels and focus on figuring out what to start writing about to showcase as part of a portfolio for freelance/remote/contract work. In terms of the total number of cases of the virus in the US, when I published ‘September in Review’, I noted that the US was a little over 44.3 million cases for the SARS-CoV2 virus, and now we’re at a little over 46.8 million cases (so we had just a little over 2.5 million cases last month; the numbers are slowly starting—that could be due in part to companies starting to mandate vaccines for workers. The Pfizer vaccine was approved for kids five to eleven, so hopefully things are going to start leveling out, and we’ll be at less than 50,000 cases per month).

So, the only age group that currently isn’t eligible for the vaccine is kids under the age of five (and I’m not sure if that clinical study is going on or not). But everyone else is eligible for the shot—so please, if you want things to be somewhat ‘normal’, get the damn shot (and booster), and if you have kids over the age of five—get them vaccinated. (End rant)

Since I was having Wi-Fi issues throughout last month, I’m still working on finishing up the ‘reorganization’ of the pages/tabs for the website. In terms of the ‘photography’ section—it currently all resides under ‘birding photography’, with all ‘non-bird’ photography launching off of the ‘everything else photography’ page at the bottom of the ‘bird photography’ section.

For the other three ‘areas’ (science/medical education and communication; personal/professional development, and health and wellness), I’m going to be putting examples of ‘large’ and ‘small’ projects in the sections, but also then doing blog series—but haven’t decided on the frequency for each area. This will also be still interspersed with the other topics (crafts, photography, travel, book reviews, and so forth) that I’ve been doing for the past couple of years.

But before jumping into November (and lets not forget that if you’re in the US—this coming weekend, set the clocks back an hour), I need to look back at the goals I set for October and see how I did with each of them.

The goals for October included:

  1. 130-155,000 steps
  2. Starting my second round of Morning Meltdown 100
  3. Working on the writing/editing assignments for the MWO and finishing the sixth module
  4. Reading one to two non-fiction books
  5. Reading two to five fiction books (and having small book reviews written and published on the blog and other sites)
  6. No spend days/no spend weeks/limited spending month
  7. Time outdoors, meditation/sitting quietly, and daily gratitude journal entries
  8. Craft time (finish the third cross-stitch project; possibly start a fourth or maybe make some jewelry)
  9. Work on updating the blog/website
  10. Work through at least one personal/professional development course

So how did I do with each of them?

  1. 130-155,000 steps; I managed to meet and slightly surpass the step goal. I managed to get 160,753 steps for the month. There were two walks at Boomer Lake, and a couple of walks through the neighborhood with Chaos.
  2. Start my second round of morning meltdown 100—I started the program, but until we get the Wi-Fi issue taken care of, I’m probably putting the program on ‘hold’ and restarting it once we have reliable Wi-Fi (as there is nothing worse than a constantly buffering workout).
  3. Work on the writing/editing assignments for the MWO and finish the sixth module; While I’m slowly working on the assignments, I didn’t finish the sixth module yet, because of said Wi-Fi issues.
  4. Reading one-to-two non-fiction books; While I’ve been reading, I haven’t finished any non-fiction books
  5. Reading two-to-five fiction books; I managed to read the following during the month of October:
    • Inked Kingdom by Carrie Ann Ryan (book review published on the blog and various other sites)
    • Inked Devotion (Montgomery Ink: Fort Collins #3) by Carrie Ann Ryan (book review published on the blog and other various sites)
    • Temptation after Dark (Gansett Island #24) by Marie Force (book review hopefully coming within the next week to the blog and various other sites)
  6. No spend days/no spend weeks/limited spending month–I did okay, and the spending will once again be broken down in my next installment of my limited spending challenge check-in
  7. Time outdoors, meditation/sitting quietly, and daily gratitude journal entries; There was time spent outdoors, though as the temperatures slowly start easing down into the winter range (highs only in the 30s-50s), I probably won’t be out for long extended periods of time. I’ve been doing well with at least sitting quietly for a few minutes every night, and the daily gratitude journal entries.
  8. Craft time (finish the third cross-stitch project; possibly start a fourth or maybe make some jewelry); I finished my third cross-stitch project early in the month and have started a fourth. The fourth one isn’t finished yet, because instead of going with a totally abstract design—I’m trying a slightly abstract but nature based design (hopefully finish it up during November).
  9. Work on updating the blog/website; So this is something that was slightly ‘stagnant’ during October. The main reason—our Wi-Fi has been problematic (putting it nicely), and I’ve been staying off the computer more often than not. I have a rough outline for a science topic (‘troubleshooting tips for molecular cloning’) drafted, and I’m slowly deciding on how to break it down into a blog series, though the larger full-length piece will be linked to the science/medical education/communication section when it is finished.For the other two areas (personal/professional development and health/wellness) I’m still thinking on what the one or two subtopics that I want to start with are going to be.
  10. Work through at least one personal/professional development course. I watched the short skill share course: Crappy Copy: 8 digital copywriting mistakes you should avoid

While I put in my ‘application’ for another freelance writing position with the one company that I’m doing ‘volunteer’ writing for—I wasn’t selected (possibly due to my pricing). I think that they had a price and if you overshoot it, you’re taken out of the running (there doesn’t seem to be any type of negotiation for cost).

I’ve created a rough draft of an outline for one writing project I’ve been thinking of trying to tackle (troubleshooting tips for molecular cloning), and now need to figure out the timeline for posting (I’m thinking that each section may be at least one-to-two blog posts). I’m then going to work on the timelines/outlines for the other personal ‘writing’ projects that I have bouncing around in my head.

While I’d hoped that October was going to be a little more smooth sailing than September, and it was on one front (the one dog is at least ‘stable’ in terms of her anemia), it became hectic due to sporadic Wi-Fi issues. Therefore, I didn’t focus nearly as much as I should have on the professional front.

So, as we head into the last two months of 2021 and then into 2022, I hope that people will get their kids their SARS-CoV2 vaccine (and get it themselves if need be), if they’ve gotten their vaccine—when it’s their turn, go and get their booster shot. We’re heading into the second year of this pandemic—and my hope is that by the end of 2022, it may just be ‘epidemic’ (sporadically at that) in various countries in 2023 and beyond.

So my goals for November will include:

  1. 130-150,000 steps
  2. Restart Morning Meltdown 100 (hopefully a new modem/router will help with the ‘buffering’ issues)
  3. Work through the LinkedIn Mastery Ring program from the Cheeky Scientist Association; plus continue working on the writing assignments for the MWO (and finish the sixth module)
  4. Read at least one non-fiction book
  5. Read two to four fiction books (have small book reviews written and published on the blog and other sites)
  6. No spend days/no spend weeks/limited spending month
  7. Time outdoors, meditation/sitting quietly, and daily gratitude journal entries
  8. Craft time (finish the fourth cross-stitch project)
  9. Continue working on updating the blog/website (hopefully start at least one blog series and/or have a medium size piece linked to one [if not all three] main areas)
  10. Work through at least one other personal/professional development course

With cooler weather approaching, there will be more time spent indoors. Which means more time for crafts, reading (though this usually has never been a problem even with warmer weather), and dedicating time to both on-line learning and work. I shouldn’t have been surprised to discover that the age of our modem and router have been part of our problem (we tend to use things until they ‘die’) and both the router and modem are at least fourteen years old. Shock of all shocks—was learning that technically people replace them every two-to-five years.

The modem and router have been replaced (now just need to get the phone problem fixed), so I should hopefully be able to be doing more computer work without losing my temper. I’ve also realized that once I move, I will be needing to get a desktop computer—so I’ll have a ‘hub’ for the WiFi (though I didn’t do that in Boston—but I forgot what I’d done out there for this issue).

It is also becoming the season of sipping hot chocolate in front of the fire place, starting a new knitting project (though that will require the purchase of yarn), and slowly counting down the days until it both warms back up and stays light longer.

Which season do you prefer—spring, summer, fall, or winter?

No Comments BookscareerCraftsfinancesfitnessHealthLifestyle Challengesmoney saving challengesMonth in Reviewno spend challengesPersonal DevelopmentPhotographyprofessional developmentReflectionsspirituality

Time management plus planning, and more planning: Aries Full Moon Goals

So the moon will be entering its eleventh full moon cycle for the year tonight (or possibly tomorrow night or even last night—depending on where you are in the world). This means there are only eleven days left in October, and then only sixty-one days (two months) left in 2021. Considering how ‘bouncy’ this year has been—I’m leering to see what 2022 is going to be bringing.

So the moon will be moving through the Aries constellation—which means that astrologically we’re ‘starting a new year’ since Aries is the start of the Zodiac calendar. It is the time to reassess, redesign, toss, and make new goals if one is inclined.

So what are some of the questions we can reflect on during this time?

            Have I been hotheaded, selfish, or argumentative this month?

            Have I been going too fast or been impulsive this month?

            Have I been brash, blunt, or too competitive?

            Have I ignored other people’s finer sensibilities?

            Have I had enough fun?

So, if I numbered the above questions one to five, my answers would be as followed:

  1. I don’t think that I’ve been hotheaded, selfish, or argumentative this month. We’re still dealing with the pandemic—which means that for the most part, the only people I’m around on a continuous basis is family. I try to stay out of any and all ‘arguments’ on-line pertaining to anything related to science, politics, or just general life. The main reason is to protect my health (specifically my mental health).
  2. I don’t think I’ve been going to fast or being overly impulsive this month. While I have decided to go in the direction of freelance/remote/contract writing—I’m doing it at a slower pace, only to ensure that I don’t work myself to the point of almost having another mental breakdown.
  3. One thing I’ve realized over the past few months—there really is no need to be overly competitive with other people. You can be overly competitive with yourself (a nice way of pushing yourself to reach for the goals)—but there is enough success to go around for everyone. Since I’ve been self-isolating for the past eighteen months, I’ve been trying not to be as brash and blunt with people (unless we’re talking about how vaccines are good and they can help get us out of the pandemic—then yes, I will be as brash and blunt as needed).
  4. Again, I don’t think I’ve been ignoring people’s finer sensibilities—I actually think that it would be nice if people would start expressing a little empathy towards each other. There has been one thing that people keep saying is essential for moving forward with any career these days and that is emotional intelligence. One aspect of emotional intelligence is empathy—being able to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. That is something I think a good portion of the world needs to work on—developing (or expressing) empathy. I understand that the past eighteen plus months has been difficult for everyone—but if people sat at home like they were told last summer, we wouldn’t have as many deaths from the virus, and we’d be a lot closer to being done with the pandemic. Now, we’re just trying to stay one step ahead of the damn virus.
  5. I looked back at what I wrote for the Aries full moon last year (which occurred at the beginning of October)—the US only had a little over 7.4 million cases (now, we’re at just under 46 million—that means we’ve had basically 38.5 million more cases of the virus over the past year). We’ve surpassed the death total from the Spanish flu pandemic. Therefore, I’m still working on ways of adding ‘enjoyment’ into my day-to-day routine.

Looking back at what I wrote last year—while I stated that I’m ‘happier observing than participating’—that doesn’t really mean ‘wallflower’—it could also mean that I’d do well in consulting positions (where one needs to ‘observe’ to figure out the problem and brainstorm potential solutions). I’m still working on networking more—I’ve been ‘slow’ only because I’m trying to also be ‘focused’ and network in directions that I think I’d be interested in pursuing at some point in the future.

Aries is moves through my sixth house (or my daily work and health zone). This house is where we can sit and reflect on who we are (both in terms of professional/work and personal/health) and decide to work on those aspects that we don’t like.

Last year I had made the ‘commitment’ to push play daily on streaming workouts. This year—I’ve made the commitment to intentional movement. That is where I move around at least five minutes a day, and acknowledge the fact that housework can also be considered a ‘workout’. I’m slowly readjusting my relationship with not only food but movement as well. I’d also decided I’d renew my Beachbody-on-demand subscription at least one more year, and do some of those programs—but mixed in with other intentional movements. Therefore, I’m not going to beat myself up if I ‘miss’ a Beachbody workout—usually those days will either be recovery, or I’d decided to be outside doing some yard work or going for a walk.

This time last year, I stated that I didn’t feel like I was close to where I wanted to be in terms of my reboot break and transitioning into industry. I stated that part of the problem was the pandemic—but the larger part (and it was the part I was ignoring) was I still ignoring the fact I was burned out on everything.

I’m slowing coming to terms with the burn out, and figuring out ways of dealing with various warning signs of burnout—that way once I start really moving forward in terms of freelance/remote/contract writing/consulting/data analysis, I’ll be able to acknowledge and work through the warning signs instead of blindly ignoring them and almost hitting that ‘brick wall’.

While I know most people mean well with advice and everything—I’m also going to be trying to stay in my lane and only seek advice when I really need it. I have an good idea of what I need to be doing in terms of heading in the ‘freelance/remote/contract’ direction, and now it is a matter of realistically dividing those larger goals into more manageable goals—and not throw everything on the plate.

Last year I had the goals of continuous personal/professional development, reviewing/editing/reassembling my 150+ goal list, and writing/posting ‘notes’ to myself as a remind of when I felt I could check email/social media.

This year, my goals for the Aries full moon will include:

Better time management, by doing the following:

  1. Making use of the Self-Control App again. This is a time management app that allows you to block access to certain websites for a specific amount of time. I have it block me from social media (Facebook & Instagram) and the news.
  2. Put my phone on airplane mode for a set amount of time (particularly when I’m trying to do computer work [research/writing or working through an e-course), so that I can’t randomly check social media. Also have it set across the room.
  3. Have the kindle off and charging (again across the room). This way I won’t be tempted to read or play games.

Personal/professional development is a never-ending journey. Therefore, I will specify that I will work through the rest of the 30-day hand copy challenge from the write your way to freedom course, and hopefully also watch at least two-to-three other videos in at least one other personal/professional development course that I’ve bought over the years.

Finally, try to draft the ‘master plan’ that includes reworking the blog/website (for the remote/freelance/contract writing), hobbies, personal/professional development, and life in general.

The main ‘note’ that I will be posting on my laptop will be: ‘Progress over Perfection”

I’ve more or less stopped reading the last chapter of my life, so I’m slowly working on writing the next one (possibly with the bad habit of trying to ‘edit’ as I write).

What small steps are you going to take towards a personal/professional goal during this full moon period?

No Comments AstrologycareerFull Moon GoalsHealthLifestyle Challengesmoney saving challengesPersonal DevelopmentPhotographyprofessional developmentReflections

The three niches for starting my freelance career

As I work on navigating the realm of the online world and freelancing/remote/contract writing—I’ve realized one thing: the suggestion of choosing a single niche for writing, makes me feel like I’m back in college, where one is urged to declare a major by the end of your freshman year.

Truthfully, when I first think of the word ‘niche’—I think of the scientific definition of the word—where every plant and animal within a specific ecosystem has a functional and even defined role.

The term has also expanded into the ‘human’ day-to-day realm, and can be defined as a ‘comfortable or suitable position in life or employment’ or as ‘ a specialized segment of the market for a particular kind of product or service.

Can one have more than one niche, and can they be ‘different from each other’, and melded into a broader category?

Well, I’m going to find out—because I’ve realized over the past few weeks of trying to narrow things down to one or even two niches—it felt like being back in college. I declared a major—but always felt like I had to choose one direction over the other (I like/enjoy both the typical sciences and the social sciences, but never could figure out how to combine them into one major or double-major).

When it comes to picking a niche, people always suggest some variation of the following questions:

What could you talk about all day?

What do people ask you about?

What would you love to learn about?

What is a unique subject you know about?

And finally–is it more important to write about what you enjoy or being in a profitable niche?

In theory, answering these questions is suppose to help you narrow down a list of niches that you could focus on. If I numbered the above questions one-to-five, my answers would be:

  1. I could talk about crafts, books, bird watching, photography, science, nature, various random facts, and numerous other things all day long. I would say that these areas could fall into a couple of categories: personal development/hobbies (crafts, books, bird watching, and photography), education/communications (science/nature) and health/wellness (science). This is also just a very short ‘curated’ list of things I could probably talk about all day.
  2. While it has been awhile since I’ve actually talked face-to-face with someone outside of family (thanks pandemic). I would have to say that I’ve been asked about fitness/health/nutrition, job searching post-graduate school, science, and other things. These subjects could also be divided into professional development (jobs after grad school), education/communication (science) and health/wellness (fitness/nutrition/health).
  3. Learning is my top strength according to both the Clifton Strength Assessment and the VIA Character Assessment tests. While I took an ‘on-and-off’ break from learning after grad school, I’m slowly embracing that inner quality again. Things I’d enjoy learning more about include: intuitive eating, personal finances (especially investments and saving for retirement), stress/anxiety management, time/project management, minimalism, and improving my mental and spiritual health (along with my physical health). These are only a few of the topics I’d enjoy learning more about and can fall under the umbrella of health/wellness (intuitive eating, stress/anxiety management and improving mental/spiritual/physical health), and personal/professional development (personal finances, time/project management, and minimalism).
  4. Unique subjects that I know quite a bit about all fall under education/communications–specifically science education/communication. Those topics include molecular cloning, small RNA biology, recombinant protein expression and purification, cell biology, molecular biology, and many other little nuances within the molecular and cellular world.
  5. I would say that one could probably do both (enjoy what they’re writing on and earn living doing it), and it can be done wither by being within one niche that you really like and can talk about all day, or enjoying two niches, but one is a little more profitable than the other. I’m starting with the second path–more than one niche, for several reasons that I’ll explain below.

Answering the questions, have allowed me to ‘narrow’ it to three niches: personal/professional development, health/wellness, and education/communication (starting with science, but possibly expanding to other ‘subject areas’).

Should I focus on just one? Possibly—but I realized early on when I first started this blog/website, I need to bounce around between topics or I get bored and quit doing things. I’d always wondered why I would start to get bored after awhile in lab (undergrad, grad, and postdoc)—and finally figured it out—if I’m not learning something new, or challenging myself with a new hobby/topic, I get bored and only put in the minimal effort required for the job.

Having three niches that are somewhat intertwined (at least in my mind), will allow me to challenge myself in terms of research needed on the topics, and enough variation that I shouldn’t get bored while working. The niches are also diverse enough, that there are numerous ‘sub-niches’ within each as well.

If I look to just science education/communication—I can name at least eight broad ‘subject areas’ (cell biology, molecular biology, biochemistry, botany, microbiology, zoology, entomology, and soil science) that I’d be willing to ‘dive’ into researching. Then within cell/molecular biology and biochemistry I could probably name numerous other ‘sub-topics’ such as the cell cycle, the central dogma of biology, metabolism, genomes, proteomes, transcriptomes, metabolomics, pre/post-transcriptional and translational control, apoptosis, and prokaryotic versus eukaryotic cells.

Therefore, I’m going to go with a ‘triple-niche’ approach (at least for the bigger articles/posts) and focus on those areas: personal/professional development, science education/communication, and health/wellness. I will still be doing photography (it has its own tab), plus travel posts (most will be throw-back posts until I feel like its safe enough to travel).

The posts may cycle through the different niches, or I may focus on one for a particular month and then tie it to the next niche as I transition to writing on a different topic—but the tag line for the blog/site sums up my current state of mind and focus: ‘a little bit of this, a little bit of that’.

So question: In terms of those three areas (personal/professional development, health/wellness, and science education/communication)—which would you like me to write on first (and bonus if you have a topic idea)?

No Comments careerCraftsfinancesfitnessHealthmoney saving challengesno spend challengesPersonal DevelopmentPhotographyprofessional developmentReflectionsspiritualityUpdates

Nine Months Down, Three to Go: Limited Spending Challenge Check-in

So it is that time again—for a check-in on my yearlong limited spending challenge.

We’re now three-fourths of the way through 2021, and I’ve realized that while I haven’t quite hit the stride I did when I started the challenge (January was the best month to date for this challenge), September wasn’t that bad of a month in terms of managing my splurges.

My limited spending challenge is just that—I’m trying to limit my spending by dividing things into two groups (or categories): needed items and splurges.

So I did really well that first month, and then started slipping each month a little more. I planned to ‘rebound’ and start honoring the challenge again in June, did fairly well for the month, did okay during July (though there will always be some type of splurge), and did okay during August (if we ignore the book splurges), and did fairly well during September.

So how did September go in terms of the purchases/splurges?

In terms of physical items bought:

There was one ‘essential’ order from Amazon that included: dog treats, some hard candy (butterscotch), a couple of notebooks, some beads and more cloth for doing cross-stitching.

In terms of books, there were mainly a small handful of e-books bought (along with one physical book at the beginning of the month):

E-books:

  1. Don’t Look Now by Mary Burton
  2. The Tiger King: Master of the Cats, Part One by Trinity Blacio
  3. Defender (Doms of Mountain Bend #3) by BJ Wane
  4. The Nine Waves of Creation: Quantum Physics, Holographic Evolution and the Destiny of Humanity by Carl Johan Calleman
  5. The Morgan Brother series (five books) by Avery Gale

The one ‘physical’ book was Doing Cultural Geography edited by Pamela Shurmer-Smith

I also bought a course bundle (multi-passionate must haves bundle of 2021), which included a handful of courses related to multi-projects.

So when I compare September to the last few months (or actually any month other than January)—I’ve done really well in limiting the spending. The goal for the last few months is only to have maybe one or two ‘essential’ orders from Amazon (possibly up to three come November and December) for these last three months.

I will probably continue this challenge well into 2022 as a means of trying to get the credit card debt down (there are only two credit card bills that are ‘high’), but also as a means of not getting ahead of myself or distracting myself from my goals.

No Comments financesmoney saving challengesno spend challengesPersonal DevelopmentPersonal Development ChallengesReflections

Down to the last quarter of 2021: where did the time go?

We’re heading into the last quarter of the year—there are only 92 days left in 2021. Somehow, the summer sped by and it seems like the fall is going to swirl into winter before we know it. Truthfully, there really hasn’t been much change for the pandemic—various numbers are bouncing around (namely the number of people getting their vaccines, and booster shots for the Pfizer vaccine [if you’re in one of the three categories] started this week). Hopefully J&J will be announcing when their booster shots are available and will be for everyone (not just a small percentage of the population). But, no matter what—I’ll still be self-isolating for the most part through the fall, winter, and into spring—at least until the numbers are on a steady decline (and I’m not talking about the vaccination rate).

I decided to stay away from the media as much as possible this past month (as it really doesn’t do much for me—other than ramp up both my anxiety and stress levels). In terms of the total number of cases of the virus in the US, when I published ‘August in Review’, I noted that the US was a little over 40.1 million cases for the SARS-CoV2 virus, and now we’re at a little over 44.3 million cases (so it was an increase of a little over 4.2 million cases last month—again all due to the delta variant, poor social distancing [especially in schools] and fewer people getting vaccinated).

So, while there are ‘breakthrough’ cases (people catching the virus after getting at least one vaccine shot), majority of the cases are still unvaccinated individuals. Hopefully within the next few months, the Pfizer shot will get emergency approval for younger kids age five to eleven (which will hopefully help cut down on the spread of the virus through schools). All I’ll say is this again: I really wish things would go virtual for another semester or two, and if everyone wants schools opened—get the damn shot. (End rant)

As one may have noticed—I’m slowly working on ‘reorganizing’ pages/tabs on the blog. I’ve combined the birding tab with the photography tab (more organizational pages will be coming for the ‘main tab’), and I’m renaming/rewriting other tabs. I decided that I’m going to be a multi-niche blog/website and focus my writing on three main areas: science/medical education and communication, personal/professional development, and health and wellness. Though I will also be doing crafts, photography, and travel as ‘enjoyment hobbies’—so those will still pop in every so often, as well as book reviews.

Before looking ahead to October and the start of the last quarter of the year, I should look at the goals I set for September and see how I did with each of them.

The goals for September included:

  1. 130-150,000 steps; I’m hoping to get at least one walk in at Boomer Lake this month
  2. Start my own fitness routine (weight lifting, shadow boxing, and possibly yoga)
  3. Start working through the User Experience Squad program, work on the writing assignments for MWO, and finish the sixt module of the MWO
  4. Read one to two non-fiction books
  5. Read two to four fiction books (have small book reviews written and published on the blog and other sites)
  6. No spend days/no spend weeks/limited spending month
  7. Time outdoors, mediation/sitting quietly, and daily gratitude journal entries
  8. Craft time (start a new cross-stitch project)
  9. Work through at least one other personal/professional development course

So how did I do with each of them?

130-150,000 steps: I managed to meet and slightly surpass my step goal. I managed to get 157,114 steps during the month of September. I managed to get two walks in at Boomer Lake, took Chaos for two short walks through the neighborhood, and wandered around enough during the day to get my steps.

Start my own fitness routine: This didn’t happen. Mainly due to the fact the month was thrown into partial chaos by the fact that we had to take Rolex (one of our younger dogs) into the vet several times due to her developing hemolytic anemia (all from a damn allergy shot), and this threw me for a loop. I also decided to renew my Beachbody-on-demand for a year, and will hopefully be starting up with morning meltdown 100 again in October.

Start the User Experience Squad program and finish up the MWO program: Well this didn’t happen either. In part due to the issues with the one dog, and therefore I spent more time working on crafts (which seems to help me control my anxiety) then I did workingon any professional development courses.

Read one to two non-fiction books: While I’ve been reading books–I haven’t finished any of them yet.

Read two to four fiction books: So, I managed to publish book reviews for My Next Play (On My Own #3) by Carrie Ann Ryan and Catnip & Curses (The Faerie Files #2) by Emigh Cannaday on the blog earlier in the month (these were two books I’d finished reading towards the end of August).

I’ve also read (but haven’t finished the reviews):

Breaking Badger (The Honey Badger Chronicles #4) by Shelly Laurenston

Yours to Keep (The Baker’s Creek Billionaire Brothers #6) by Claudia Burgoa

No spend days/no spend weeks/limited spending month: I’ve done better this month in terms of honoring the challenge, and will give a breakdown on it in the next installment of my limited spending challenge check-in.

Time outdoors, meditation/sitting quietly, and daily gratitude journal entries:

I’ve been spending more time outdoors, as the season is changing (technically we are in autumn now) and I want to be outside while I can. I probably should have my journal, or laptop with me and that way I can also work outside (instead of feeling slightly bad that I’m just sitting and enjoying the weather).

I’ve been really good at my evening meditation/sitting quietly as that has become critical to being able to fall to sleep at night. I think it’s a combination of the ambiance of the room (I have candles lit) and realizing the days over and what has been done is done, and what hasn’t been accomplished can wait until the next day (or week).

I’ve been keeping up with the daily gratitude entries as well—though sometimes they’re something as simple as I’m glad I don’t live in an apartment and having to walk the dog in the rain.

Craft time (start a new cross-stitch project):

I managed to finish my second cross-stitch project and have started (and am also finished with) a third cross-stitch project. I’ve found that cross-stitching is actually relaxing and seems to help me manage my anxiety and stress. Once I’m done with the third (and possibly before starting my fourth), I may try and see if I can cross-stitch with small beads or possibly take a break from cross-stitching and create some jewelry.

My second completed cross-stitch project

Work through at least one other personal/professional development course:

I started working through a little more of the write your way to freedom course, and am currently in the second module (picking a niche or niches and working on a ten to thirty day challenge). As the temperatures get cooler, and the days shorter—I will probably be spending a little more time indoors and working though various courses.

So I’d say I was probably about fifty/fifty on meeting the goals this month. Some of the goals that I didn’t hit—were computer heavy, and those were ‘missed’ because I found the weather to be nice, and spent most of it outdoors. Others that were ‘missed’ were due to scheduling and the month just having curveballs thrown constantly. But—fifty percent is better than nothing.

As I head into the last quarter of the year, I’ve realized that I need to have a slightly more focused agenda—especially in regards to trying to set up my freelance/remote/contract business. I’m going to try to accomplish this by starting my to-be-accomplished lists again, in addition to having a ‘due’ date next to the item (which may or may not correspond to the current week).

The goals for October are probably going to be similar to the ones for the past few months—but trying to be a little more focused (at least in terms of the personal/professional development goals).

Therefore the goals for October will include:

  1. 130-155,000 steps; hopefully there will be one or two walks at Boomer Lake, and a couple of walks through the neighborhood with Chaos
  2. Start my second round of Morning Meltdown 100
  3. Work on the editing/writing assignments for the MWO & finish the 6th module. Start the Business Development Federation program
  4. Read one to two non-fiction books
  5. Read two to five fiction books (have small book reviews written and published on the blog and other sites)
  6. No spend days/no spend weeks/limited spending month
  7. Craft time (finish the third cross-stitch project; possibly start a fourth or maybe make some jewelry)
  8. Work on updating the blog/website (finish rewriting different landing pages; aim for at least one 1500-3000 word article for each area: personal/professional development, science/medical education/communication and health/wellness [pick one or two subtopics within each to write on])
  9. Work through at least a part of another personal/professional development course (not listed above)

I also put in my ‘application’ for another freelance writing position (with the same group, but for a different project), as I wasn’t selected for the first freelance position.

I’m thinking that in terms of the ‘writing’ assignments that I’m giving myself, I’m going to create a chart/diagram that goes from things I’m totally interested in, willing to learn about, to things that I’m only semi-interested in but still willing to write about to areas that I can write about but not really interested in. I think that having a ‘scale’ on which to rate things will probably help me create content easier, but also help me find my ‘ideal’ clients/customers/businesses that I would like to partner/work with as I move forward.

Hopefully October will be a little more smooth sailing then September was (having to deal with hemolytic anemia in dogs isn’t fun), and I will be able to focus on establishing myself as a freelance/contract/remote writer instead of worrying if we’re going to be losing our dog or not.

As we move forward into the last quarter of the year and then into 2022, I hope that those that are still holding ‘out’ on getting the vaccine for whatever reason—will get it. The Pfizer shot has been granted full approval by the FDA, and any side effects are usually mild to moderate, and then for everyone to get their children vaccinated. That is truthfully the only way we’re going to see the tail end of this damn pandemic (along with masks and social distancing when needed).

So question time: what is your favorite part of fall?

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