writing

Writers Wednesdays – Redoing My Daily Schedule

It’s my first Writers’ Wednesday since my mini-hiatus, and the first order of business is getting back to the original summer writing plan. It’s been a lovely-ish break, now it’s time for me to get back to my goals.

As you may recall from my “New Cycle” post, I had four different challenges to address, as related to my writing:

Now that I’ve finally finished my Cornell classes, I can better assess how much free time I have in my daily schedule. And, as it turns out, I don’t have much free time at all! After finishing my classes, I suddenly got a surge in tutoring students (I also teach English as a second language) and I took on roughly 5 more teaching hours per week. This may not sound like a lot of additional work, but for someone that already had a minimal amount of free time, five hours is the difference between finishing a book in a few weeks or a few months.

So I had to take a closer look at my weekend free time. Now, I usually sleep in late on Saturdays and Sundays, but if I want to finish writing at least one more book before the end of summer, I’ll have to sacrifice a little bit of snooze time to reach my goal. This wouldn’t ordinarily be a huge issue, but as someone with fibromyalgia (and a persistent case of chronic fatigue), it’s hard to sleep less on the weekend and still feel functional. I’m going to try sacrificing 30 minutes on both Saturday and Sunday, at least for the next few weeks, just to see how it goes. If I find that I still need the rest, then I’ll figure out something else. In the meantime, I can’t worry too much about it: I just have to experiment with different routines until I find something that works.

In the weeks to come, I’ll experiment with my 30 minute blocks of time, and tell you all how that works for me. Wish me luck!

This weekend, I’ll try

life curation · relaxation

The Latest Garden Blooms

I haven’t posted any new garden pictures this year, due to my hectic schedule (no time to plant as many flowers as I intended) and the intense heat that we had. Sadly, my peony blooms have all fallen off, and my roses are budding more slowly. But this is the natural evolution of things, no? Spring comes, the blooms arrive, the blooms fall, and then the summer blooms take over. It’s a lovely natural process that I can appreciate. Here are some of the pictures that I took right before we got the rain that gave us some relief (LOL!) and a few from the days right after the rain. Enjoy!

The first rose of the season
My azaleas showed off this year! So gorgeous.
I love my peonies. They never stay long enough.
This is the first year that my dogwood bloomed!
A closeup of my dogwood blooms.
A new crepe myrtle that my father gifted me for Mother’s Day: I haven’t transplanted it to my garden yet.

life curation

Classes are DONE!

Hey y’all: happy Monday! I’m back and I’m now a proud graduate of Cornell University’s Women in Entrepreneurship program.

I’m happy to have the program completed, and now I can focus on the many things that I’ve left unattended over the past couple of months, like my reading list, my overall 2021 goals, and a few other things I had on the docket (LOL!) I’m kind of playing catchup right now, so I may be a little slow with the posts. Bear with me: I’m getting back into the routine.

I’m looking forward to reconnecting with you all! Have a great day, and I’ll chat with you all tomorrow.

writing

Writers Wednesdays: Finding The Best Beta Readers

Happy Writers Wednesday! Today’s post will be short, because there isn’t a lot to say about this topic.

Good beta readers (who are willing to read your book before you publish it) are invaluable, but also hard to find. Everyone will accept a free book, but few are willing to give substantive feedback on what they read. So, for that reason, it’s challenging to have a good, reliable group of beta readers.

However, finding willing readers is the first step to getting a group of good beta readers. And that part is pretty easy. I always start with family and friends. Then, I start scouring my social media. I look for people that follow certain hashtags, and see if I can connect with them. After engaging in a few conversations, I can offer them my unpublished work, and see if they’re willing to read it.

As I get a group of devoted beta readers, I’ll keep you all posted on how things are going. I look forward to telling you all more about in the future!

reading list

Book Review: The Magic Path of Intuition

I have another book review for you all, and this time, it’s a FREE audiobook that I found on YouTube!

The book I’m reviewing today is The Magic Path of Intuition by Florence Scovel Shinn. I’ve been familiar with Florence for several years, and I initially read The Game of Life and How to Play It about seven years ago. However, I recently decided that the best way for me to reach my 100 books in 2021 goal is to supplement my normal reading routine with audiobooks (I first mentioned this approach in a recent post). That way, I can listen to the text (auditory methods are my favorite mode of learning) while I do repetitive tasks, like folding clothes, sweeping, and all manner of general tidying.

In my recent post, I named a couple of Florence Scovel Shinn’s books that I read during the month of March. I wanted to finish reading all of her work before the end of April, and I’m excited to announce that I’ve met my goal! So, in this post, I’m reviewing one of the books that really impressed me.

So, one of the things that stands out to me is Florence’s consistent use of anecdotal examples to make her point. However, what is really special about this is that the examples she uses are both dated (she did write these books more than 80 years ago) and yet, completely timeless. It’s easy to envision ourselves as one of the characters in her stories, even if the story that she’s relaying isn’t at all possible in today’s world.

She impresses upon the reader the importance of following intuition in order to reveal, to ourselves, the best path for us to take. She indicates that listening to our intuition is part of communicating directly with God (or our highest, wisest self, if you prefer to describe it that way). After making a particular request, or setting an intention, it’s important to follow whatever inspired action comes next. Sometimes, that action may seem nonsensical, but, in my experience, the more nonsensical the action, the more likely it is that the action is truly inspired and will be crucial to whatever request you’ve made.

I enjoyed listening to this book which. on YouTube, is less than two hours long. I highly recommend it for all of my “woo-woo” friends that want to hear original law of attraction (LOA) teachings!

That’s it for today. I’ll talk to you all tomorrow!

career · life curation

Minor Disappointments and Setups for Greatness

Happy Monday, friends! I hope you all are enjoying a great day wherever you are, and I hope your weekend was fantastic!

Recently, I applied for a part-time position with an online tutoring company. I liked that the position was flexible (that is crucial, given my current schedule) and I figured that it would help me transition into more freelance work. After completing the second round of the interview process, I was informed that I did not get the position. As you can imagine, I was disappointed. I thought I was the perfect candidate, and I felt like I should have made it to the “short list”. However, the company felt otherwise, and they advised me that they would like to keep my application on file, in case they expand and have more openings.

This experience reminded me of something that my mother told me years ago. She said, “If it’s meant for you, nothing and no one will be able to get in the way of you having it”. This little disappointment was just a clear sign that this position was not meant for me. And, upon further consideration, I realized that I actually didn’t want the position.

Yes, you read that right: I didn’t even want that job, if I’m being perfectly honest. I intended that I earn money in a more passive way this year, and this job was quite the opposite of “passive”. It would require a certain number of hours every week, and I wouldn’t be able to delegate these tasks to someone else. Also, this job would involve me occupying a role that doesn’t enhance my future career prospects. In fact, it’s a bit regressive, in a way: I would have to downplay my knowledge and participate in some mind-numbing tasks in that role.

Yes, the role would have brought in more income, but it goes against the intentions that I set. Any action that goes against your intentions is bound to become uncomfortable and unsustainable at some point. Also, perhaps it’s because I’m older, or maybe because I’ve had enough disappointments that turned out to be blessings in disguise, I’m not taking this rejection personally. I’m not right for the job, but that is no reflection on my value as a person. I’ve experienced disappointment as well as incredible successes, and I have seen enough to know that everything works out in my favor in the end.

So, I’m taking this minor disappointment and counting it as a setup for future success. I believe that this position was denied to me because it is not right for me and what I’m creating for my future. It doesn’t fit in my grand scheme, and that’s okay. Additionally, by not clamoring to find some other position to validate my worth as an employee, I’m leaving space for the opportunities that are worthy of my time and attention.

Those are my Monday musings. I’ll have another Writer’s Wednesday post in a couple of days, as well as some other chat during this week. Talk to you all tomorrow!

health

Fibro Fridays – All About Fatigue

It’s Fibro Friday, kids! I hope that you’ve had a great week, and a wonderful weekend ahead of you.

Today, I’m going to be discussing the one symptom that is my absolute favorite. And, by absolute favorite, I actually mean my most despised symptom. Fatigue has been the most bothersome symptom of them all during my fibro journey. Well, to be fair, pain is pretty high on my list, too. But overall, even when my pain is minimal, fatigue has been a constant companion.

This symptom has been one of the hardest to manage since being exhausted makes it difficult to do many of the things I enjoy. Before fibro became a part of my life, I regularly took long walks around my favorite city in the world – Washington DC – and I could easily work out in the gym and feel invigorated once I was finished. But in the months leading up to my diagnosis, I found it harder to do all of the things that I enjoyed without feeling completely drained.

The biggest clue that my fatigue was something beyond normal exhaustion was when I went on a cruise in 2018. I slept 10-12 hours every night, and I would sleep longer if my family didn’t wake me up. I literally spent more time in the bed than I did exploring the ship (this is completely unlike me: I usually love exploring!) It didn’t matter if I drank 3-4 cups of coffee each day while onboard: I’d still be exhausted at the end of the day, even if it was a day when I didn’t do much.

I’ve been experimenting with a few things and, even though I still can’t get a good handle on my fatigue, I’ve noticed a few things that really work for me.

For starters, taking ashwaganda and melatonin supplements help me get a deeper sleep, which makes me feel more refreshed the following day. It won’t eliminate the fatigue, but it will certainly help me with getting through the first half of the day without needing a nap. And that’s the other thing: I nap, almost religiously. If my body needs it, I carve out a little time to get a quick snooze. Unfortunately, I will occasionally oversleep. But it’s better than trying to push through the fatigue, since being so tired can literally make me achy. Another thing I do is avoid heavy meals unless I know that I’ll be able to go to sleep not long after. I am pretty catatonic whenever I eat really rich or heavy foods for dinner, so I reserve those meals for days when I know I don’t have to be up late.

The true key to managing fatigue is having excellent sleep hygiene, which is wonderful in theory but not always easy to implement. However, I’ve been attempting to make small changes that I hope will lead to major changes in my energy levels. I’ve started by creating a bit of a nighttime routine and trying my best to avoid doing anything at night that will make it harder for me to go to sleep.

Do you have any tips for dealing with fatigue? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments!

business · career · life curation

Women and Money: Problems and Solutions

Some of you may not realize this, but April is National Financial Literacy Month. As a woman, I’m fascinated by how finances factor into the lives of women. I feel that most women “know” about money, but there’s a disconnect between knowledge and application. As a financial professional (enrolled agent), I understand many of the pitfalls that women experience as regards wealth-building and debt reduction. What I intend to do with this post is offer solutions and workarounds for the most common issues that exist when it comes to women and money.

  • In most fields, women tend to earn less that their male counterparts doing the same work.

Yes, the gender pay gap is real. It doesn’t apply 100% of the time (for example, women that work in food preparation services and fast food tend to earn more than males in the same job). For most women, changing their gender just to earn more money isn’t a reasonable solution. Most women aren’t clear about how they can minimize or eliminate the pay gap that they are experiencing.

Women would do well to try to eliminate the pay gap that they experience personally. This can be done by learning what the current wage expectations are in a particular field, then comparing this to the woman’s experience, education, and location. After that, it’s a good idea to research the ways to negotiate for a pay raise, and practice the negotiation conversation with a trusted friend, mentor or advisor. If the gap is too large to be successfully negotiated, then it’s worthwhile to research and apply to different employers. Additionally, gaining additional skills can give women an advantage, making it easier to command higher wages (this can be done easily through free online education providers like ALISON, Coursera, Saylor and CPA Academy)

  • Women save money more but invest less than men.

Saving money is great, but the interest rates for savings accounts (of all sorts) is too low to keep up with the rate of inflation. As long as the money sits in savings, it’s missing an opportunity to work harder and generate a higher return. To that point, women are also less inclined to invest than men. Many women have been conditioned to see investing as “too risky”, and thus they prefer safer ways to store money (such as savings accounts).

The solution for this is to focus on investments that feel safer, and building your confidence until you are comfortable enough to take bigger risks. A good way to start investing is to purchase just one inexpensive stock, and start regularly reading about that stock’s performance. Then, invest in more stocks, adding a little more money to invest at each time. Websites like Acorns, Earnin and even Cash App are making it easier than ever to invest small amounts and to observe how the investments are performing.

  • Women have more student loan debt overall.

Education is necessary to earn a solid living, but it’s hard to move forward in life post-college when you have significant student loan debt. Due to the pandemic, many loan companies have opted to provide forbearance to loan recipients, so these recipients don’t have to pay on the student loans while trying to adjust to possible income and lifestyle changes.

There are two approaches that I recommend for studnet debt. If possible, avoid student debt by taking equivalency tests so that certain credits can be awarded without having to pay costly tuition (I wrote a book all about this, titled Degree Hacking: How to Save Money and Get College Credits in Record Time). However, if the loan debt has already been incurred, then I recommend that women research whether their employers offer student loan repayment. If not, seek an employer that does offer this benefit. Also, if the student loan rates are higher than, say, the cost of a line of credit or a home equity loan, then opt for one of these, and use that money to pay off the student loan. Yes, that does mean trading in one debt for another, but at least utilize these other funding sources can save money in the long run.

  • Women are more likely to live in poverty during their old age.

This is heartbreaking but true. Living to advanced age should automatically mean comfortable golden years, but this is not always how it works out. The best defense against lives of poverty is cultivating authentic friendships and support groups before reaching advanced age. It’s invariably more difficult to create relations when these are “needed”, so it’s best to start creating these connections before health declined occur.

Once a person is retirement age, it can be very challenging to make new friends. But websites that encourage meeting up (like Meetup), neighborhood town hall meetings, special interest groups and charities are a great way to connect with like minds and meet new friends. After creating these connections, it offers a little bit of a buffer against hard time. People are more likely to support their friends during hard time, but the key is to create mutual benefit. No one wants to feel “used”, so it’s crucial to create a relationship where both parties feel appreciated and enjoy one another’s company.

  • On the whole, women are less financially literate than men.

I recommend that all women take time to read books on finance, as well as take advantage of free webinars and workshops offered by financial institutions (such as banks, credit unions, and government and other oversight agencies, such as FINRA). Below, I provide a few links to books and articles that I find to be wonderful for learning about money.

Important Facts About Women and Money

Women & Money: 10 Facts We Should All Know

Money and Women: Myths and Facts

60+ Stats About Women and Money

Commercial Bank Regulation

MyCreditUnion Financial Literacy Resources

National Credit Union Association Financial Literacy Resources

My finance and tax-related blog (new posts starting in May 2021)

Smart Women Finish Rich by David Bach

I hope you all find these tips helpful, and if you need clarity on anything else, let me know in the comments!

writing

Writers Wednesdays: The “New Idea” Trap

Welcome back for this week’s installment of Writers Wednesday! In my last Writers Wednesday post, I mentioned that there were a few things that I knew would be challenging going forward into this new cycle. I want to identify the challenges ahead of time, so that I can prepare myself. To leap into a new cycle without figuring out the potential traps would be quite possibly the worst way to start things this go around.

The first challenge I identified was the trap of chasing new writing ideas. This is, no doubt, the BIGGEST trap for me. Whenever I have to start the editing and publishing processes, I can think of a dozen other book ideas, and, in my eagerness, I’ll start writing something new. Unfortunately, when I start writing a new work, I almost never get back to the tasks that need my attention: y’know, the ones that result in published books.

The end result? A lot of half-finished books, and very little to show for my efforts. The thing is, all that really counts when you’re a writer is when your finished work is in your readers’ hands. A bunch of partially-written manuscripts can’t instruct, inspire and influence the people that you want to impact. So, getting constantly lured in by “new” book ideas is almost always a convenient distraction from the hard work of editing and publishing.

For this next writing cycle, I will not be writing any new works. However, I hate the thought of getting a great idea and possibly “losing” the idea. For this reason, I will be implementing an “index card” system. I recall reading about this first in Write It Down, Make It Happen by Dr. Henriette Anne Klauser (I discussed the book a little in this post). Instead of spending a lot of time writing all of the ideas that flood to my mind, I’ll just jot down the idea on an index card, then put the card aside until I’m free to flesh out the idea more. This allows me to catch the idea while it’s fresh, but it eliminates the temptation that comes from typing the idea into a document file (which usually lures me into writing a chapter or two, instead of just typing my ideas briefly, and moving along).

Do you have any ideas for avoiding the “new idea” trap? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

*This post contains affiliate links.

food · health

Implementing the Barone Diet

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned the books that I read in the month of March. In that post, I mentioned that I read two books written by Anne Barone: Chic and Slim and Chic and Slim Encore. Naturally, the title reveals a little bit about the content: the book gives different ways to achieve slimness. But other than that, you may not be sure exactly what the books discuss.

In short, the books explain how the French lifestyle – from food to fashion to relationships – contribute to the ability to remain slim. After a particularly stressful year (most of us have been under tremendous stress this year), I noticed I’d put on a little more weight than I cared to have. So I pulled out Barone’s book and started to remind myself of the techniques I used to slim down a few years ago.

You see, back in 2015, I wanted to slim down, but I wasn’t sure how I could do it without feeling hungry or unsatisfied. I initially got a copy of Chic and Slim Encore for free on Amazon (there was a Kindle special) and, after reading it, I decided to purchase the original “Chic and Slim” ebook. So I started eating like the French and, wouldn’t you know it, I lost weight.

One of the best things about the French method of maintaining a slender physique is that it does not require deprivation. While on this eating and lifestyle plan, I am able to enjoy 4- and 5-course meals. I don’t have to exercise strenuously, and self-care is a priority. This eating plan allows me to lose weight without starving myself or sweating my life away in the gym. It’s perfect for me, because it allows my dining experiences to feel more elegant (and we all know how much I love elegant living!), as well as more intentional. My meals can’t be rushed, so I have a chance to really pace myself and avoid overeating.

So, if you’re interested in this particular diet, check out Anne Barone’s books. You won’t be disappointed!