Keep a price log to save money on groceries

Groceries

Most of us would like to save money on groceries while not compromising our health. If it were just about maximizing calories it would be easy. One $0.69 box of generic store-bought macaroni and cheese contains almost a full day’s calories once prepared (for some of us with a slow metabolism, it actually is an entire day’s worth of calories!). However, for those of us who wish to avoid scurvy and other nutrition based disorders, it’s not quite as straight forward as maximizing the calorie to dollar ratio.

One thing that has helped me to cut down on my grocery bill is to keep a food price log. My food price log is a small notebook where I keep track of prices for food at different grocery stores in my area. With this book I can tell when something is a really good deal and stock up on it. It has also helped me to become aware of the cyclical nature of the sales in my area so I knew how long it will be before my store will have it on sale again.

Surprisingly, many of my friends look at me like I have three heads when I mention what I do. Kind of like I am trying to re-catalog the library of congress or something. It turns out that a lot of people get the wrong idea when you mention logging grocery costs and picture you scurrying the isles of grocery store after grocery store, hunchbacked and carefully cataloging the prices of every item. Perhaps some people with A LOT of spare time on their hand do it that way, but that’s NOT what I do.

Here are the steps to creating a price log like mine:

1. Get a bunch of paper and put it in a 3 ring binder or clamp it together with a binder clip. However you want to do this is fine so long as you can re-arrange the pages to suit your needs.

2. Create a section header for each of the major groups you shop, on separate pages. Use some sort of tab so you can easily flip to that section. to help you get started, my headers are: Fruit & vegetables, Meat, Eggs & Dairy, Grains, Nuts & Beans, Spices & Condiments, and Household (for non-edibles that I sometimes get at the grocery store). these are my categories but you can do works for you.

3. Within each section a food type gets a page (so Peaches get a page in the Fruits & vegetables section). However, don’t spend time creating pages for each food item you can think of, that comes a bit later.

4. Gather your weekly sales flyers for the local markets.

5. Go through each flier and circle all the products that you would normally buy but ignore the price for now.

6. Now, start creating a page for each new item. Give each page 4 columns for Item, unit price, store, and date. So for example, I have a page called Grapes, one entry looks like this:

Red Seedless Grapes, $0.99/lb, Super Saving Shopper, 10/12/13

7. Repeat with each new food item that you marked in the flier, this saves time and space from writing information on a product you are unlikely to buy.

8. Once you have gone through one flier, do the same with the next flier. If you come across a food type you have already created a page for, write a new row for it if the second store has a lower price. So if Super Saving Shopper had grapes for 99 cents a pound and I look at the next flier and see that save-a-bunch-of-dough has grapes for $1.50 a pound, I wouldn’t bother to add a new row.

9. Take the binder shopping with you a few times and mark prices that are lower or new items you purchase but didn’t see in a sales flier. Also continue to log new prices/items from the sales fliers. Rearrange the binder and add more pages as necessary.

I started to identify the best price for my most frequently purchased items after about a month of keeping the log and after 3 months I found myself rarely entering new prices/items (turns out I pretty much buy the same staples from month to mont). By keeping track of the sale dates I started to see patterns in when items go on sale and how long I should plan to stock up for. After 6 months, my food log rarely changes so I’ve transferred it into a smaller bound notebook with a few blank pages in between sections for any new products.

I wish I had tracked how much keeping a price log has reduced my grocery budget, but I’ve made a lot of changes to my shopping behavior to try to save money (some successful and some not) so changes wouldn’t really reflect any one activity. I’d estimate though that I’ve seen a 25% decrease in my grocery budget by focusing on buying the sale items and stocking up when food is at a low.

5 Ways Perfectionism Costs Money

money

For a long time I was not frugal. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t extravagant either. I didn’t go out buying Gucci or Tiffany or any other “eee” for that matter. However, I was spending more than I earned, not saving, and was slowly building up credit card debt. I figured out after a minor “oh crap” moment that I needed to change the way I was living my life. But deciding to change and actually doing it are two different things. You hear a lot about the tendency to want to “keep up with the Joneses” but that wasn’t the main reason I overspent. I have struggled with anxiety since childhood and have come to realize how this struggle has damaged my wallet over the years. The thing about anxiety is that everyone has anxious thoughts; it’s just a matter of  degree and response, do you recognize any of these thoughts?

Perfectionist thought #1: Everything must match.

If I broke a dish and I couldn’t find a match I would buy an entirely new set. Even if it was something no one was going to see it but me – I had to get a new one. I’ve never really gotten over this thought pattern but I have found a better way to prevent it from costing me excess money. I buy standard items – plain white plates, for example because it is easy to find a single replacement. I also mix and match patterns (table linens, dishes, sheet sets, etc.) using a single color to unite. Since I have deliberately decided not to use a matching set it stops me from feeling anxious that one item is out-of-place.

Perfectionist thought #2: If it’s damaged it must be replaced.

A tiny chip on a plate, a small dent in the outer case of a crock-pot, whatever… My brain would find some reason why the item should be replaced. What if the dent affected temperature control? What if the crack harbored bacteria? This tendency is called “catastrophic thinking” where your brain automatically takes you thoughts to the worst possible outcome no matter how unlikely. I’ve gotten over this mainly by reminding myself that damaged does not equate to broken (mind you, if there was any indication that the dent affected my crock-pot’s function this wouldn’t apply, my rational mind knew that it was just a minor cosmetic dent, it was my irrational mind that was causing a fuss).

Perfectionist thought #3: You can buy a solution to any imperfection.

For me this manifested in a multitude of storage containers, but I have known people to do it with clothes, cookware, etc. It’s the idea that whatever is stressing you can be remedied and prevented by buying the proper item. My annoyance was a virulent dislike of clutter. I grew up in a very cluttered house that quite literally (due to my severe dust allergies) made me sick. I can’t stand piles of anything – even piles inside closets (e.g. a stack of dish towels once sent me out to buy a set of stacking bins). In my head, and thanks in part to wonderful marketing by various homemaking magazines, I felt like I could solve this problem by buying more containers. My perfectionism led me to believe that the mess must be prevented but the truth was that the activities of daily living are always going to generate some small mess. Buying more storage containers  actually caused more problems because it was just more clutter.

Perfectionist thought #4: I have to provide everything for everyone or they will not be happy.

If I was going to have a guest, I would buy a bunch of stuff that I didn’t usually eat or drink just to make sure I  had exactly what they would want. I don’t drink soda but I would buy several types in case a guest did. I have  been known to buy 5 bags of chips to make sure I had one kind that a guest would want, even when only 2  people were coming over. What I finally realized is that no one does that for me and I never really expected  them to. I made do with whatever they had and it never occurred to me to be dissatisfied. As usual I was  holding myself to a standard that no one else would hold me to.

Perfectionist thought #5: If the above rules are violated they must be rectified NOW!

This was driven by two destructive emotions – being uncomfortable with imperfection and a need for instant gratification. I got a rush from buying something new and a release of anxiety because I was doing something to “fix” the “problem”. It’s this drive that did the most damage to my wallet and the one I still struggle with the most. By needing to fix the situation “now” it prevented me from a) taking time to re-evaluate other ways to deal with it, b) searching out sales, and c) using secondhand sources to save money (thrift stores/craigslist). There was no quick fix for this. I learned to live with my discomfort, to “sit” with my emotions and to force myself to realize that I wanted perfection but I didn’t need it. The world didn’t end when my table linens didn’t match.

25 Ways to Reduce Allergy Attacks [Long Post]

Man with Allergies

I suffer from respiratory allergies. For the last 15 to 20 years, I’ve been using environmental adaptation to help reduce my allergy attacks and I thought I would share some of the techniques that have helped me. I’m allergic to just about everything so I use almost of these methods, but control techniques vary based on the allergy. Furthermore, how well each suggestion will work depends on the individual’s allergic response and their own commitment to the process. It’s rare that one intervention alone makes a big difference in allergy symptoms, but implementing several of these techniques can make a big difference. Here, I focus on suggestions for reducing allergen exposure that do not restrict an individual’s activities. One of the most common recommendations for people with seasonal allergies is to stay indoors, with the windows closed, and the air conditioner running. To me this is counterproductive, the point is to live your life fully not avoid activities for fear of allergies.

1. Wash all laundry and bedding in hot water. Hot water temperature kills dust mites and mold spores and removes pet dander. [Allergy: Dust Mites, Mold, Pet dander]

2. Don’t dry your laundry on an outdoor line. Sunlight may be a great disinfectant, but the pollen that blows in the wind becomes trapped in the fabric. [Allergy: Weed, Tree, and Grass Pollen]

3. Don’t dry your laundry on indoor lines. Drying your laundry indoors allows household dust and dust mites to re-settle on your clothing and can increase the humidity and promote mold growth.1 [Allergy: Dust, Dust Mites, Mold, and Pet dander]

4. Wash fabric curtains in hot water weekly. Curtains are one of the best reservoirs for dust mites because the sit undisturbed for long periods of time and it is easy to forget to wash them. [Allergy: Dust, Dust Mites, Pet Dander]

5. Choose different window coverings. Chose blinds that can be wiped down, micro-fabrics that resist dust and stand up to many washings, or make your own curtains out of suitable materials. My loving mother made faux-leather curtains for me, the material is available at any fabric store, comes in a variety of colors (white, black, ox-blood, tan, brown, etc.), and is easily wiped down with a damp cloth. The best part is they also make great blackout curtains for the bedroom. [Allergy: Dust, Dust Mites, Pet Dander]

6. Get a de-humidifier and keep the humidity under 40%. Most people know that mold needs moisture to grow, but dust mites also need humidity to thrive. Keeping humidity levels low has been show to significantly reduce household allergen levels.2 [Allergy: Dust Mites, Mold]

7. Make sure exhaust fans (and dryer vents) are vented outside the house and use them. Using properly vented exhaust fans while cooking and showering reduce the humidity in the house. [Allergy: Dust Mites, Mold]

8. Keep indoor temperatures under 70 degrees. Dust mites proliferate in high humidity and high temperature. [Allergy: Dust Mites]

9. Use an allergen-specific air filter for the furnace/air conditioning unit and change the fan settings to continuous run instead of “auto” (which only runs the fan when the furnace/air conditioner is running). To determine the efficiency of the filter, check the “MERV” rating, higher scores mean better filtration. A comprehensive article on furnace filters can be found at Allergy Be Gone. Be sure to change the filter monthly. [Allergy: All]

10. Vacuum daily with a bagged vacuum that has a HEPA filter. The key to this approach being successful is daily use. Be careful replacing the bad (bagless vacuums are not recommended because they tend to spread particulate matter back into the air). Also, if you are like me and are very allergic, use a dust mask when vacuuming or have your partner do it when you are out of the house. Even the best vacuums stir up particulates. [Allergy: Dust, Dust Mites, Pet Dander]

11. Don’t keep houseplants. Soil acts as a great medium for mold spore proliferation and the moisture in the soil can increase household humidity when there are a lot of plants. [Allergy: Mold]

12. Don’t keep aquariums. It was very hard for me to give up my aquarium, but I ended up having to do it for my health. Aquariums greatly increase household humidity levels and are completely counterproductive to running a dehumidifier. [Allergy: Mold, Dust Mites]

13. Choose unupholstered furniture, leather, or microfiber. When choosing furniture like kitchen and dining room chairs, choose unupholstered chairs or chairs with removable cushions that can be washed or. Upholstered furniture is a key place where dust mites live and breed, because it’s difficult if not impossible to clean all of the crevices and deep into the cushions. For areas where comfort is important (living room couches, etc.) choose leather or faux leather when possible, or microfiber is necessary. Microfiber is stitched particularly tightly to help prevent dust mites from readily crossing the barrier into fill, but is not dust proof. [Allergy: Dust, Dust Mites, Pet Dander]

14. Avoid carpet. (particularly wall-to-wall with padding and high pile) harbors dust and dust mites and vacuums are not able to get through to the padding. Whenever possible, choose throw rugs that can be washed or taken outside and beaten out in place of wall-to-wall carpeting. If possible, go with hardwood, tile, or any of the new non-absorbent floor covering options on the market. When we shopped for our new house hardwood flooring was a priority, but one room was an addition that had carpet over pressed-wood. We couldn’t afford to replace the floor with wood so we took up the carpeting and put down faux-wood vinyl tiling. It was on sale at 99¢ per square food and looks pretty realistic (my stepfather only noticed it wasn’t real because the joints were not quite the same as with modern wood floors). It’s not our permanent solution but it will hold us over while we save for a real wood floor. [Allergy: Dust, Dust Mites, Pet Dander] Carpeting

15. If you can’t avoid carpeting, try applying a 3% solution of tannic acid. Tannic acid has been shown to destroy the dust mite allergens and may destroy cat dander as well. Check for color safeness before applying to carpeting that may stain. Spray lightly over dry carpeting, wait for 3 hours until carpet is dry and then vacuum the carpeting. This solution is only temporary and will need to be reapplied approximately every 90 days.3 [Allergy: Dust Mite and Pet Dander]

16. Use dampened, microfiber cloths for wiping down surfaces and do it frequently. The combination of moisture and microfiber helps catch dust and particulates instead of just knocking them into the air. Use flat cloths as opposed to dusters (usually have a handle and are styled like feather dusters even though they may not be made of feathers) because dusters tend to knock more particulates into the air. [Allergy: Dust, Dust Mites, Pet Dander]

17. Dry steam clean carpeting, upholstery, and mattresses every 1 to 2 months. Using a dry-steam cleaner (or hiring professional steam cleaning) on carpeting, upholstered furniture, and bedding (mattress) can significantly reduce dust mite levels.4 [Allergy: Dust Mites]

18. Use of specially designed allergen barrier pillow and mattress covers can significantly reduce respiratory allergies but do work best as part of a holistic approach.* Don’t be misled by terminology, hypoallergenic is not the same as allergy-proof barriers. Hypoallergenic usually indicates that the materials the product is made with are less likely to provoke an allergic reaction, not that it will prevent allergens from getting into the product. Choose covers with a small pore size, preferably less than 3 microns for pet dander and mold (these are the smallest particulates, dust mites average 10 microns).5  [Allergy: Dust, Dust Mites, Pet Dander, Mold]

19. Purchase bedding that is easily washable and wash it weekly in hot water. People spend a lot of time in bed and dust mites feed off of exfoliated skin cells so bedding is a great place for dust mites to hide. Wash bedding frequently to keep levels under control. [Allergy: Dust, Dust Mites, Pet Dander, Mold]

20. Reduce clothing sitting uncovered in closets and hampers. Fabric of any kind is a good home for dust, dust mites, animal dander, and pollen brought in from outdoors. If you have closets full of unworn clothes, go through and donate/sell them. Pack out-of-season clothes in plastic containers to keep particulates and dust mites out. Promptly put away clean clothing in dressers and closets (and close the closet door) to help prevent airborne particles from settling in them. Don’t let dirty or damp laundry pile up. [Allergy: Dust, Dust Mites, Pet Dander, Mold]

21. When mowing the yard during peak pollen seasons, wear a face mask (or hire the neighborhood kid) and be sure to close the house windows. [Allergy: Grass, Tree, and Weed Pollen]

22. If you suspect a cockroach infestation, call in a professional. People who are allergic to dust and dust mites are almost always allergic to cockroaches and this can be particularly severe in people with Asthma. Cockroaches are like icebergs, you might only see a third of them, so don’t wait for the infestation to become bad – call in a professional – Then follow prescriptive advice for preventing/deterring re-infestation.2 [Allergy: Cockroach]

23. De-clutter and clean regularly. Get rid of excess fabric items (extra bed pillows, stuffed animals), nick-knacks, and other items that collect dust and dander. Reducing clutter will allow you to wipe down surfaces in the house with a damp cloth faster and more regularly. It also improves the efficiency of air filters and techniques like vacuuming by eliminating crevasses that dust and dander can accumulate in. [Allergy: Dust, Dust Mite, Pet Dander, Mold, Cockroach] 

24. Groom pets frequently out-of-doors or take them to the groomers regularly. If you do grooming yourself, consider wearing a face mask and be sure to shower and launder clothing when finished. There are products available to help reduce pet dander, including hand wipes and special shampoos. I do not have personal experience with these products, moreover studies suggest that shampooing pets may help reduce allergens but need to be done frequently (1x a week) which may cause skin irritation and health problems for the pet. The pet wipes may be of help and are less likely to cause problems due to over bathing but I have not yet found published results testing these products. [Allergy: Pet Dander]

25. Consider using HEPA air purifiers. I leave this one for last because the evidence is not clear-cut and there are significant draw backs. There is some suggestion that they do work in reducing pet dander when used in uncarpeted rooms but the evidence for reducing dust and dust mites is weak at best.2 I have 2 large free-standing HEPA filters in my house, one in the bedroom and one in the laundry room where the dog crates are. They were expensive, have continuous maintenance costs (electricity, new filters), only work in the rooms they are in, and are loud. I mainly use them by the bed, and to keep pet dander from blowing from the crate area into the rest of the house. On the whole, I wouldn’t recommend them unless you are out of other options. [Allergy: Pet Dander]

 

Data was obtained through personal communication with my Allergist, as well as the following sources.

  1. Hickman (2012) Indoor line-drying: Good for your wallet but bad for your health? Mother Nature Network, obtained on Feb. 18, 2013, from: http://www.mnn.com/your-home/at-home/blogs/indoor-line-drying-good-for-your-wallet-but-bad-for-your-health
  2. Krieger et al. (2010) Housing Interventions and Control of Asthma-Related Indoor Biologic Agents: A Review of the Evidence. Journal of Public Health Management & Practice, 16(5): S11–S20. Available at: http://journals.lww.com/jphmp/Fulltext/2010/09001/Housing_Interventions_and_Control_of.4.pdf
  3. Munir et al. (1993) Vacuum cleaning decreases the levels of mite allergens in house dust. Pediatric Allergy and Immunology, 4(3):136–143.
  4. Vojta et al. (2001) Effects of physical interventions on house dust mite allergen levels in carpet, bed, and upholstery dust in low-income, urban homes. Environmental Health Perspectives, 109(8): 815–819. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1240409/
  5. Walshaw & Evans (1986).  Allergen avoidance in house dust mite sensitive adult asthma. The Quarterly Journal of Medicine, 58(226):199-215.

Life with Allergies

I’m having a rough day today, I’m all congested and having occasional bouts of sneezing. Days like today, I feel exhausted and have trouble concentrating on my work.

No, I’m not getting sick, I suffer from airborne allergies. You name it and I’m probably at least mildly allergic to it. Dust mites, grass, weed pollen, tree pollen, mold, and even cats and dogs (of which I have 2 – each!). Needless to say, I know all about the miseries of allergies. I’ve missed work because I was sneezing so hard I would have been a dangerous driver. I’ve lost days to antihistamine induced sleep. I’ve struggled through days of swollen eyes and a runny nose. I feel like I am always congested. I have spent hours sneezing, non-stop, about once a minute, so violently that my chest ached and I’d pulled muscles in my back.

You might wonder, having suffered through all of this, why I have cats and dogs. It’s a fair question. I’ve left out a few details that are vital to understanding that story. First, you have to understand that I have lived with animals my entire life. We got a dog when I was four years old and I have had lived with a fur-bearing companion ever since. Also, my allergies have not always been as bad as they are now. Think of allergies like a bucket, you may be a little bit allergic to something but as long as there isn’t a whole lot of it in the environment you won’t have a reaction. However, if you are a little bit allergic to a lot of things and they are all around you, then your bucket may runneth over…and let the sneezing begin. I’m severely allergic to dust mites (two types), oak pollen, and Ragweed. I’m moderately allergic to cats, dust (yes you can be allergic to dust separately from dust mites), cockroaches (yuck!), and mildly allergic to everything else. Needless to say, as I adopted my furred friends I was reacting to so many other things I couldn’t tell the difference.

Thankfully, I recently moved to North Carolina and met a primary care physician that referred me to a specialist. Maybe it helped that central NC is a terrible area for allergies and so the physicians are more attentive. Maybe it was that even the prescription medications were failing (I’m on 3 different meds) and I was missing work on a semi-regular basis. Whatever it was, after more than 3 decades of suffering I finally got to see an Allergist.

In one visit, I learned so much. When you have lived with some things for so long, you don’t know that they are not normal. If you don’t know they are not normal, you don’t think to complain. I didn’t know I should have been able to breathe through my nose without feeling light-headed. I didn’t know having phlegm constantly sitting on your vocal cords wasn’t normal. I didn’t understand what post-nasal drip was because I didn’t know what it was like not to have it. I live with these milder symptoms all the time, even on medication and I still have break through “attacks” (sneezing, watery eyes, runny nose) several times a year.

The hard part is that now, after waiting so long, I have to wait for another 3-5 years for the immunotherapy (a.k.a. allergy shots) to take effect. I wish I had gone long ago. I wish that the primary care doctors I had visited for my allergies in the past had recognized how much suffering allergies cause. I wish they would recognize that just because I didn’t walk into their offices in hysterics about my symptoms that it didn’t mean things weren’t severe. I wish my parents, having seen the sneezing fits and allergy attacks as I grew up had taken me to the doctor instead of just joking about how “Cee must be cleaning her room again.”

I think back about all the years that I have suffered from allergies, from when they first got bad starting in High School up until this past year. I think about the costs (daily medication, carpet removal and alternate flooring, giant air purifiers, special furnace filters, etc). But most of all, I think about the times I ended up taking an antihistamine and going to bed or the times I hung on having an attack but having to work through a drug-induced sneeze-filled haze. I have at least 8 significant attacks per year (at least 1 a month from Feb. through Sept.), each attack robs me of anywhere from 8 to 12 hours sometimes longer. That’s between 48 and 96 hours per year or between 36 and 72 days of my life lost to the symptoms of allergies and antihistamines. And in thinking about that, I hope for this…parents, if your child is displaying allergy symptoms – take them to a doctor. Doctors, if your patients complain of allergies ask them more about possible symptoms. They may have suffered so long that they don’t know something is not normal. And for those of us who don’t like to complain…perhaps, at least where the doctors are concerned…we should complain a little louder.

Spaghetti Squash with Garlic Walnut Sauce

SSGW

Every month my good friend, Lady K, hosts a themed dinner party.  She chooses one ingredient and all the guests bring a dish with that ingredient in it. This past month’s ingredient was nuts. I use this party as an excuse to try things I have never made before and over the past two years I have learned a lot. This month, as part of my attempts to reduce my meat consumption, I made a vegetarian dish that turned out wonderfully. It’s gluten free (although check the ingredients list as some nuts may contain traces of wheat) and vegan. It is so easy and delicious it will be making a regular appearance at our house from now on. Obviously I can’t sit here and tell you how great dinner was, leaving you salivating at the thought, without also sharing the recipe so here you go:

  • 1 Spaghetti Squash
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 6-10 cloves of garlic
  • 2/3 cups walnuts, chopped into large crumbles
  • Salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the Spaghetti Squash in half lengthwise and gently scoop out the seeds. If you are so inclined you can rinse and dry the seeds and save them in a cool, dry place for growing in the garden. Place the squash cut-side down on an aluminum foil covered or lightly greased baking sheet. Bake for 40 minutes.

While the squash is baking, measure out the other ingredients and chop the walnuts. After the squash is done remove it from the oven and set it aside to cool. While the squash is cooling, heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is good and hot, add the garlic and saute for about 30 seconds. The garlic should be golden brown. Add the walnuts and cook, stirring continuously for 2 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat. In a large bowl, take a fork and gently scrape out the long strands of spaghetti squash from the skin. Mix in the garlic walnut sauce and salt to taste. Enjoy!

This sauce recipe is one I found in the fantastic book Passionate Vegetarian by Crescent Dragonwagon, which I highly recommend as a wonderful resource for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike.

As Good a Time as Any

January… an optimistic time of beginnings, changes, and new goals. As good a time as any to start a blog I suppose. But, why start a blog?

  • To serve as a snapshot of my life? Yes.
  • To meet new friends with similar interests? Undoubtedly.
  • To share my wisdom? I doubt it, I don’t think 34 qualifies as wizened, but certainly to share my ever-evolving perspective.
  • To straighten out my own thoughts and listen to the opinions of others? Sometimes.
  • To create something? Yes.

I think the biggest reasons, however, are 1) to hold myself publicly accountable to certain goals and 2) to develop my own voice. There are many things I want to do with this crazy life of mine. I want to learn to be more self-sufficient, I want to transition to a better diet, I want to become physically fit, I want to become financially fit, I want to create a role-playing world that my players feel a part of, I want to build and strengthen the bonds of my chosen family, and I want to keep learning and contributing to this world.

Most of all though, I want to write and I want to write with my own voice. You see, I went to graduate school and learned to write…peer-reviewed journal articles. I’m good at it. The first article I wrote was accepted and published by the first journal I submitted to, on the first try, this doesn’t happen often. The problem is that throughout graduate school and now in my career, my own voice has been confined in the structure of scientific convention and yearns for release. It has been muted for so long I’m not certain I can hear it any longer, but this blog may help me to be a better listener and speak a little louder.