Currently living/working: We returned to our cabin in Alaska 1/6, and it feels so good to be home!! Work is slow right now, so we are doing more scheming/pitching/planning to fill in gaps (AKA, the non-paying, soul-sucking part of our freelance life), as well as focusing on adult life chores. Thankfully, we did have a bunch of paychecks owed from previous work that showed up this month to tide us over, but I am still worried about living as a starving artist through the rest of winter… One fun work thing we have this coming month: Justin & I are giving a virtual presentation about New Zealand to Warren County Library on 2/8. We’ve done a few online presentations about New Zealand for libraries in New Jersey because of my book, and really enjoy those gigs. I just don’t understand why it’s always libraries in NJ???
Current mood: I’m trying to be gentle with myself. You probably have heard this before: 70% of running any freelance business is “the hustle,” and a meager 30% is “the work.” My January has been full of pitching and putting myself out there, which is all way outside my comfort zone. I had a very full 2021 thanks to successful pitching, but my 2022 freelance workload remains to be seen. And for some reason, I’ve been comparing myself lately to other writers and authors. I know, I know, it’s the wrong pattern of insecurity and envy to fall into, but I keep violating my own rules! I am working on setting boundaries, giving grace, accepting failures, appreciating the wins and not looking in the other lane! Justin has been a very good cheerleader, reminds me of my goals/achievements, and assures me it will all work out. Thank goodness for his yin to my yang.
Current confession: For those who think our self-employed life looks idyllic—namely, our 16-year-old niece would thinks all we do is travel and have fun—here is a reminder we have to work really hard to maintain financial stability. This quirky life follows a model like no other, and is constantly shape shifting. The dreams are always free, but the hustle is sold separately. I stole this line from a cousin, so thanks Kelly, but it is absolutely true for us.
Currently not excited about: I did the due diligence of crunching numbers and opting for a health insurance plan through the Alaska marketplace (which has all of 3 choices). We’ve been on the same health plan since 2018, but we’ve been paying the Cobra price for it for far too long. No wonder it shares a name with the 7th deadliest snake. Anyway, our Alaska marketplace plan is full of new coinsurance, new copays, new deductibles, new out-of-pocket maximums, new prior authorizations, new everything. I’m just not sure which activity I like the least in life: navigating a health plan, car shopping, dentist visits or doing taxes.
Current guilty pleasure: We are finally checking off a long-overdue life duty: getting a will. Not really a “guilty pleasure,” but feels like an indulgence for what it costs to do it. Child-less couples out there … please tune in and give us advice about how you’ve written your will!
Currently proud of: Clearly, my 2022 adulting game has been strong. Between new health insurance, scheduling doctors/dental appointments and a will, life is so exciting lately. But in all seriousness, perhaps my biggest accomplishment this month: I acquired an Alaska Business License and officially listed our yurt for rent on Airbnb!!!!
Currently thankful for: The sun is still maintaining its low angle and staying sullen in the sky, barely making it above the mountains before setting once again. BUT, it’s back!!! Seeing the actual flaming ball of sun shine through the trees on our street and into our window is such an amazing feeling. My body literally unfurls like a plant!
Currently worried about: Jury Duty … again! I got a letter at the end of 2021 saying that I need to call in for jury duty every week from Jan. 1 until April 30. I was called for duty this summer, so how can my number be up again???? Are there that few people in this state??? Justin, meanwhile, has not been called for duty in AK. I haven’t been needed so far, but I still have 13 more weeks of weekly check-ins.
Currently amazed by: Justin took a food sensitivity test by Everlywell that he got as a Christmas gift, and the results verified the fact that he should stay away from dairy & gluten, but apparently he is sensitive to pineapples & peppers???
Currently regretting: The Alaska cold exacerbates homeowner woes, to say the least, especially when it comes to plumbing. I don’t think I know anyone who hasn’t experienced some sort of issue this winter thanks to the massive snow and steady below-0 temps we’re enjoying. Our makeshift plumbing (which I fully need to explain someday) is equal parts blessing and curse. Justin is really stepping up his plumbing game this winter, and sometimes we question why we complicated our life with plumbing anyway??
Currently reading: I read 4 books this month!!! I think that’s definitely a record for me. To be fair, they were all on the shorter side, and there were a lot of airplane rides in the beginning of the month that allotted reading time.
I rarely read fiction, but if I do, I trend toward historical fiction. My sister-in-law gave me West With Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge, and I really enjoyed it. This is one of those events in history you would never know about … it’s the story about the first 2 giraffes to be placed in a West Coast zoo in the 1930s, and their journey across the United States. Though the travel stories are fictional, the author does a great job of depicting the era and the coming of age for the main character. The writing was sublime, and now I want to see a giraffe in person.
I read Food Saved Me: My Journey of Finding Health and Hope Through the Power of Food. Danielle Walker is the queen of grain-, gluten- and dairy-free recipes. When Justin had his Crohn’s flare up in 2016, I was convinced there was something we could do in our diet to help ease his symptoms, despite no recommendations from the doctors. Our friend gifted us a few recipes from Danielle’s cookbooks (she’s up to 4 now!), and they opened our world to alternatives to dairy and gluten! Danielle’s memoir, which just came out in the fall of 2021, is an amazing and inspiring story. When she was diagnosed with colitis at 22, she figured out what in her diet could help her disease symptoms, and without any professional chef training, she came up with 100s of recipes that she shared through her blog and 4 cookbooks. It’s a reminder that food does help, and even though you have to make sacrifices, there are delicious dishes still out there. Modern medicine has a lot of power against autoimmune diseases, but diet changes are nearly as important, in my opinion.
I read Ice Bound: A Doctor’s Incredible Battle for Survival at the South Pole. For those who don’t know, Dr. Jerri Nielsen is the female physician who “winterovered” in Antarctica in 1999, but was extracted early because she developed breast cancer. The first half of the book was about her time working on the ice, while the second half focused on her cancer. Both were extremely informative and I really liked the whole book, although I didn’t love the writing style, which could have been tightened up in my opinion. We’ve always thought we wanted to work in Antartica for a season (and even applied once), but I really don’t think that will ever happen, which is probably fine by me after reading this reality check. Justin is actually reading this book now (he hardly reads anymore).
Lastly, I read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me because my King’s College alumni group chose it for their book club, and sometimes I tune in for that meeting. I can’t say I loved the style of writing … it’s sort of a stream of consciousness processing of what it’s like to grow up black, written from father to teenage son. The powerful messaging gave me pause. It is always an important reminder to realize all the privileges I have enjoyed through my life.
Currently watching on Netflix/Hulu/HBO Max/Starz: We finished Season 5 of Outlander (on Starz), and Season 6 is coming out in March. I’m excited to wrap it up, even though I really liked this whole series, it has taken us a year to get through it and I want to move onto something else. Ozark also came out with Season 4 on Netflix (partially), so we jumped right back onto that series. We really prefer watching shows that are completely done, so we don’t have to jump around and try to remember what happened months ago. But for some reason, we always get roped in easily to these popular, ongoing shows.