Currently living/working: The grind of our multiple income streams continued in December with intense deadlines and edits back and forth for both Backpacker and The Voice (the trade magazine for SNEWS). These quieted down and wrapped up right before Christmas, and we were determined to recharge our batteries for a solid reset, which included 2 weeks of barely checking e-mails and less laptop time. Now we are ready (mostly) to jump into 2021 content projects and deadlines, including a few new things on the horizon!
Currently amazed by: Did I mention we are still in Alaska?? I know we are not alone in this new non-travel trend that is plaguing everyone, but this is the LONGEST we’ve been in ONE place since we went “nomadic” in 2011. I mean, there are other places we lived and worked for months (New Mexico for example), but we always took extended breaks away during those periods. We’ve been here at our cabin since Dec. 26. Now we did take a few trips in Jan/Feb for work (Denver and San Francisco for both of us, and Justin to Dover DE for a press trip). So I suppose Feb will mark a full-year when we haven’t left the state, but 10 months is still a record for us!
Current mood: I wrote all about the waning light in my last post and how it impacted my motivation level. I think I’m crawling to the other side of that “mood,” plus gaining light each day helps!
Currently proud of: Reader feedback for Between Each Step is coming in hot! It has been so freakin fun to hear from people. I LOVE getting texts citing parts of the book that resonate or stick with people. “Streaky bacon is the best!!!!” Or, “Merry Christmas and try not to pee your pants this year.”
Current confession: The hammer (Justin) would say I’ve been quite lax in marketing my book these past few weeks. Like I said, I needed a mental break from all work (yes, the book is still “work!”). I also feel like there could be a lot of good old-fashioned word of mouth marketing now that people have read the book. I mean, maybe you suggest it as a book club pick? I guess at the very least I should put out a public call to say, if you are texting me to say you love the book, don’t forget to write a quick Amazon or Goodreads review (I even included the direct links to those pages for reviews). Reviews boost the book’s ratings, so easy marketing! But truly, I do hope to tick a few more marketing ideas off my list in the next few weeks.
Currently thankful for: Goes really without saying, but healthcare workers! My nana was in the hospital, and now is in a rehab facility and of course no one can visit. She has dementia and doesn’t understand why people aren’t visiting. The nurses and case workers have been helpful about connecting her on the phone and FaceTime with loved ones. Between healthcare workers and teachers, all of these folks are going above and beyond!
Currently worried about: Still trying to figure out when it will be a good idea for at least Justin to get down to Denver for doctor follow-up appointments plus see his family and me to see my family (I know, it’s everyone’s same mantra not having seen family in a year). We’ve canceled and rebooked the trip twice now!
Currently excited about: Justin joined the 21st century! If you are reading my book, you’ll know that Justin has not had his own cell phone since 2014. We ditched his flip phone and number when we left for New Zealand, and I’ve been his secretary ever since then. When we’ve worked for Leave No Trace, we had a work phone, which ultimately became Justin’s. When we had to give up that up, Justin admitted he was ready for his very own smartphone! If he hasn’t reached out to you with his number, apparently you haven’t been invited to his secret club. Just text me and I’ll gladly give you his number!
Currently not excited about: Rising bills! On the phone note, nothing is simple anymore. We were trying to figure out if we should buy Internet at the cabin, or just upgrade my very antiquated and grandfathered phone plan of 5GB. We decided to upgrade to the unlimited family phone plan, which of course doubled our bill. And remember last month when we bought a truck? And we started paying for our health insurance when our LNT contract ended? Why does it always feel like bills pile up when we are in a lull for work? (Reminder, while we did A LOT of freelance work in November, those payments won’t come until Feb/March/April).
Currently regretting: I had all these grand plans for our “2-week staycation,” which including doing a puzzle. It has NOT happened yet! On the other hand, we finally got our own “Exploding Kittens” game. Our friends Brice & Erin introduced us to the game back in 2019. It took 11 games for Justin to win against them. But with the frequency we’ve been playing since Christmas, we are mastering it.
Current guilty pleasure: There is one fancy farm-to-table restaurant called 229 about 30 minutes from us that opens for takeout occasionally. We’ve been indulging in its delicious meals thanks to Christmas treats from my mom, Justin’s mom, Justin’s aunt and my aunt!
Currently watching on Netflix: Hulu was having a sale around Thanksgiving, $1.99 per month, so we added that to our repertoire of movie and TV shows. Our minds are blown with all the options!
Currently reading: Amazingly, I only took a month to finish the 414 pages of Bottle of Lies: The Inside Story of the Generic Drug Boom by Katherine Eban. It was scary good. Not only was the reporting robust and well written, it gives pause to the practice of choosing generics over brand-name drugs. Because of it, you get a little soapbox rant for anyone who has ever questioned big pharma … but feel free to just stop reading here!
Once upon a time, I did a lot of medical writing, mostly reporting on news, but also turning those 20-page drug research articles into a few paragraphs of the most important information for busy doctors to read quickly. I’m not going to lie. It obviously made me a more informed patient (and caregiver), but also a bit of a skeptic. Drugs are complicated! Bodies are complicated! This equals problems. Drugs are a necessary evil, in my opinion. Justin & I struggled when it came time to putting him on a lifelong biologic medicine to keep his Crohn’s at bay. So far so good. But I won’t be surprised when and if it fails, or his body reacts badly to it.
Anyway, the generic drug boom happened during the height of my medical writing career. I always thought, “well, FDA is doing its job, and these generic drugs are perfect low-cost alternatives.” But this book points out quite the opposite. The FDA didn’t always have jurisdiction to properly inspect foreign facilities. Many generic drugs were coming onto the market and not performing adequately compared with the brand-name version, mainly because they were falsely tested and not up to the par as the paper trail showed. The times the FDA inspected overseas manufacturing facilities, they found serious problems, like too much or not enough of the active ingredient, use of lower-quality ingredients, expired materials, cancer-causing toxins, impurities, tiny shards of glass in the the pills, crushed insects, cracked and discolored rubber gloves for technicians, manipulated records, unreported test results … the list sadly goes on. Even the drug companies themselves wouldn’t let their own family members take generics made overseas. These problems stretched from the early 2000s through 2017.
I guess I just hope improvements have been made!! And I still try to scrutinize and read all that I can when making medical decisions. Our health insurer wants Justin to switch to a biosimilar maintenance therapy in 2021, and I am nervously doing research, working with his doctors and fighting against insurance. I say don’t fix what’s not broken, but that’s the environment of our health care system.