Tag Archive | tips

Air Crates For Birds: Specifications

Many of you know I am relocating to the United Kingdom so I can do the work of historian-researcher better and offer you the best information possible in the Legendary Women of World History and Legendary Women of World History Dramas. This means flying international with my two precious cockatiels whom I absolutely ADORE.

Arwen-4 2017 17 February

Arwen is ready to fly!

But getting a bird from the USA to UK is an annoying challenge — and it has nothing to do with UK immigration law nor with the USDA’s rules for taking a bird out of the USA.  Rather, the annoyance of this process comes from the circular information you receive when trying to answer that straight forward question:  what kind of cargo crate do I need and how do I get one that will be accepted at both JFK (the main airport birds fly to Europe from) and LHR?

The last several months I’ve been driven crazy in circles.  I consult one website which directs me to another page and another and another and not ONE BIT is about flying WITH BIRDS. Even the pages that say they are giving you information about flying with birds inevitably re-direct you back to something that only applies to cats and dogs. (Example pg 1 to pg 2. Note how general this gets (at best) for animals other than dogs/cats).  Messaging on social media doesn’t help either, nor does email or even phone calls.  No one seems to know anything and what they do know is to refer you back to the same pages you’ve read several times before that only talk about cats and dogs. It’s the customer service runaround that drives everyone crazy when planning a big trip.

Finally today I heard from IAG Cargo which handles air cargo for British Airways and is ultimately the company that off-loads animals from BA planes and brings them to Heathrow’s animal terminal for customs clearances.  What they gave me was a pdf of the following three pages from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) which sets all the standards for all crates for all animals traveling internationally.

IATA container info pg 1IATA container info pg 2IATA container info pg 3

Does that look overwhelmingly complicate to you?  It sure does to me.  Which brings us to what it all really means:

When travelling with birds a custom crate needs to be made that meets IATA rules for your bird species. While you can do this yourself, the best way to make sure the crate conforms to that maze of rules is to buy one from a professional.

The first company I priced was Pet Relocation, a big company based in Austin, Texas.  However a better deal is to be had by shopping around. West coast based O’Brien Animal Transportation Services offers custom crates for birds and help with pet moves (avian, canine, feline) with personalized and personable customer service that far surpasses what I’ve experienced with Pet Relocation. A sweet lady at O’Brien referred me to Sally at Newark/New York City based Airborne Animals which offers exceptional customer service for pet moves beginning on the East Coast.  What I love about Airborne Animals: they are very upfront about what goes into moving costs actually TELLING YOU what the average fees are for each part of their service.  That’s something the competition DOESN’T do and why I’ll be flying with Airborne Animals’ help.

 

Repost: 3 Tips to Help You Spend Your Book Marketing Money Better

Earlier this week I received this wonderful article called “3 Tips to Help You Spend Your Book Marketing Money Better” in my email from Book Marketing Tools.  Great advice, especially for indie authors just starting to get into the business.  To these three tips I want to add one more of my own:  invest in multiple language editions of your books crafted by quality translators.

 

Here is “3 Tips to Help You Spend Your Book Marketing Money Better” in full as presented in the newsletter I received.

Episode 108 of The Author Hangout Podcast featured this amazing advice from bestselling author Ernie Lindsey: Don’t be afraid to spend money early on on good covers, excellent editors, excellent proofreaders. Don’t be afraid to spend money on looking professional. If you don’t have it to spend early on, save it. Save up until you can. Four years ago, we didn’t know that it was going to get to this point. We didn’t know how professional the indie author community was going to get. So make it a top quality product before you even get it out the door.

Ernie is absolutely right — today’s indie authors need to keep up with an industry that’s producing books that are becoming increasingly indistinguishable from the big-time publishers’ output.
But you’re an indie author, which means that you probably need to make a limited marketing budget stretch as far as possible.
So where should you spend your money to make the biggest impact?
Here are three great tips!
Catherine de Valois

Original cover for “Catherine de Valois” (English edition). The cover is good because it’s genre appropriate and features a lady contemporary to Princess Catherine and wearing the same style of gown she wore.

Aristocratic_Lady_15th_b1899sd

The small addition of a subtitle to the original cover makes it stand out more and provides more information to potential readers, moving it from simply good to GREAT.

#1 — Cover Design
“Dont’ judge a book by its cover” is great advice for everyday life, but it’s terrible advice when it comes to your books!
People are going to judge your book by its cover, no matter how much effort you’ve put into writing your masterpiece, so we recommend spending any extra money you have on professional, market- and genre-appropriate cover design.
This is really important, especially when you consider the way people browse books online these days!
For more info, check out episode 73 of The Author Hangout with guest Jim Palmer, who shared some great thoughts about how you should prioritize cover design, how much you should spend and who you should hire (not Fiverr!!!)
#2 — Hire an Editor
Maybe you’ve been using your spouse, significant other, close friend or family member to give your books a look before you publish. Or perhaps you’ve been relying on feedback from your writer’s group to polish your prose.
There’s nothing wrong with these methods of getting additional sets of eyes on your work, but we recommend that you hire a professional editor to give your book a thorough scrubbing!
Professional editors can be costly — don’t be surprised to get quotes for more than $1,000 — but an experienced, reputable editor can mean the difference between a bestseller and an also ran.
One of the best ways to locate an editor is to check the credits and thank-yous of books that you’ve enjoyed to see who your favorite writers turn to for editing. Don’t be afraid to reach out!
For more detailed advice on finding an editor, read this article from our friend Jane Friedman.
#3 — Supercharge Your Website
Your website is one of the cornerstones of your author platform, and it’s one of the foremost representations of your brand on the internet. So if it doesn’t look good and help you build your fan base, it can actually hurt your business.
Spend as much money as you afford to make it look great and ensure that it provides users with a satisfying experience. If possible, hire an experienced SEO writer to create copy that drives traffic to your site.
And don’t forget to make your site mobile friendly!
-Shawn & R.J. from Book Marketing Tools

Review: TravelPro Maxlite 4 tote & spinner

If you follow this blog you know I move around a lot and I travel as often as I can to visit historical sites and sample delicious food I don’t get to eat regularly.  I travel by primarily by train and plane for most trips over 10 miles from home and use public transit for shorter distant trips.  I also use my luggage for shopping via public transit, a trick I learned after canned foods spilled out of my shopping wagon while crossing a busy Brooklyn street several years ago.  So I need something lightweight, durable, and flexible, bags that can handle grocery trips to Walmart as easily as a cross country or international flight as easily as a move to a new home.

American tourister carry on bag

Gifted to me when I was 18, this soft-sided carry on bag has been with me on every flight I’ve ever taken. It readily fits under the seat in front of me on even the smallest plane.

After twenty six years of use and abuse with all of the above I have FINALLY retired my American Tourister shoulder bag carry on I’ve used for every move, every flight, every Amtrak trip I’ve ever taken.  Indeed, it’s still a great bag — if you don’t need something with wheels on it.  That’s why it will still be used for moving, for packing day one items, but for regular travel it’s been retired.

Why the sudden change?  Simple!  I found something better than my shoulder bag and much better than the Skyway brand bags I’ve used for nearly 20 years, bags which rarely come off the baggage claim carousel without some sort of damage.

When shopping for luggage this summer (partially to take advantage of summer sales) I fully expected to buy another American Tourister, a Samsonite, or other major brand bag.  Fortunately for me I consulted Consumer Reports first and discovered that in 2016 the big name brands have performed much worse than lesser known brands in their tests. So it was time to expand my search and find something affordable that also scored well with Consumer Reports.

That is how I discovered the TravelPro brand, a $$ priced brand that is durable, flexible, and easy to use. Among their many collections, the MaxLite 4 bags caught my eye for being reasonably priced and having the features I want most in both carry on and checked bags. An added plus:  it comes in blue, black, and a very eye catching and fashionable purple.

maxlite 4 tote frontmaxlite 4 tote open

After looking at nearly 100 different bags marked “under seat” on ebags.com I decided upon the MaxLite 4 tote which (minus the wheels) is 15.5″ x 13″ x 8.5″.  Ebags sells it for $85 which is also the price on Amazon.com.  But ebags is deceptive:  they claim the MSRP for the bag is $200 — making you think you are getting a sale price and an incredible deal when in fact every competing website offering this bag sells it in the $82-$89 range.

As you can see, this is a very simple, flexible carry on.  It has a front pocket for your travel documents and an open interior space with a mesh pocket on the lid.  Unique to this bag are the velcro fastened side gussets which enable you to access the bag contents without opening it all the way (and having your belongings spill out onto the floor). The bag rolls very smoothly and the handle is the perfect length for easy navigation around an airport or on a train. Best of all:  it holds a LOT of stuff while still fitting neatly under the front seat on most air craft.

travelpro maxlite 4 29 spinnerI love this bag so much I just had to get a matching checked bag. I chose the 29″ spinner (which technically is slightly oversized because the wheels are not part of the listed 29″ x 20.25″ x 12″ dimensions; with the wheels it’s 30 7/8″ x 20.25″ x 13″) and I am so glad I did.  I am also very glad that I bought mine on Amazon.com where it sells for $153 compared to ebags $167.  As with the tote, Ebags deceives you into thinking their higher price is a great deal by claiming the MSRP is $360.

The interior on this bag is very basic and therefore very flexible with two straps for securing your belongings, a small mesh pocket, and a full size lid pocket.  Unlike most bags I’ve owned, the lid pocket zips around three sides, allowing you to lay flat choice clothing items.  The exterior has a single, full size lid pocket.  The handle is short — it’s designed to be used on all four wheels instead of tilted and rolling on two wheels.  The handle makes navigating airports easy, but it is about four inches too short for stacking the matching tote onto it which is really my only criticism of it.

After taking a test run to Walmart I must say I am extremely happy with my spinner, so happy that I would very much like to get the 26″ bag to complete the set.

No matter how you travel or where you are going to, you cannot go wrong with the TravelPro MaxLite 4 series.  I hope you will check out the entire collection because this is a very durable, easy to use, and flexible collection, especially for someone like me who prefers to organize with my packing cubes instead of a bag forcing me to organize a certain way.  It is hands down the best bags I’ve ever owned.  Just be certain to shop around for the best price because deals are to be had if you do.

 

I love Ebags Packing Cubes

I move around a lot.  I also enjoy travelling (as long as my birds are well looked after).  I’m an old-school historian who prefers to physically be where history happened before I write about it.  This means I’ve packed a lot and have learned what works really well.

ebags packing cubesBar none, the best tool for moving or traveling are Ebags brand packing cubes available (no surprise) exclusively from ebags.com.  These cubes have been out for a while — I bought my first packing cubes circa 2002.  Though the buying options have expanded and there are some new sizes available today that were not available when I first purchased them, the quality has remained consistent and they’ve handled the abuse I’ve put them through over several moves since really well.

The classic packing cube (there are now ultralights which have slightly different features) come in slim, small, medium, and large sizes.  These can be purchased as a single four piece set (see left) or in sets of three of the same size.  There’s also a new slim set of slim cubes in three different widths (14″, 10″, and 6.5″). Since my wardrobe is primarily skirts and dresses, I do not find the slim set all that useful.  Most of what I wear fits into the medium and large bag sizes with the slim and small sizes working best for socks, underwear (bras fit very nicely in the standard 14″ wide slim cubes), and accessories. Since they come in several colours, you really can colour code for each family member, making it easy to organize and locate every thing for every one.

ebags shoe boxFor those situations where I’m actually packing shoes, there’s a nice shoe bag that holds a lot!  Depending on how you pack and the type of footwear, you can actually often put two pairs in the same bag and keep everything else nice and clean.

These essentials (standard slim, small, medium, and large cubes, plus the shoe bag) are the core of the product line and bags I’ve had for nearly ten years.  The classics are the best!

But there is a new member to this classic line that does really get me excited as a traveller: the pack it flat toiletry kit.  It’s the essential I didn’t know I needed.  After all, I’ve been very successful in keeping my toiletries in the slim cubes.

This toiletry kit is not bulky.  I use a designer brand toiletry kit for my cosmetics at home.  You know the type:  it’s basically a slightly elongated cube that is as high as it is wide and a little longer on one side.  I never take it with me on trips because it is so difficult to cram into my checked bag — and why would I when I have my slim cubes for the purpose?  This new toiletry kit lets me save my slim cubes for other things.  It’s very organized with a plastic lined left compartment and a slim compartment on the right.  In the middle is an expandable compartment perfect for putting my non liquid cosmetics and of course the main centre compartment that has two zippered compartments and plenty of storage for almost anything you can think of (see photo above). There’s a hook in the top for hanging on a towel bar which I don’t use; I prefer to lay everything flat.

Once closed, this kit lays VERY FLAT. It’s designed to cram into that tiny space we all struggle to find and it works really well.  I don’t have a trip coming yet that I know of and yet just a few hours after receiving my toiletry kit in the mail I feel compelled to fill it up and get it ready for the next trip — grab and go with only a few small additions needed — like medicines where it’s important to pay attention to use by dates.  I am really surprised how much it will hold.  I haven’t figured out the best place for my toothbrush yet — maybe you have some ideas for me?  If you do, just comment below!

As much as I love these for travel, I really love them for moving.  The cubes are DURABLE and you can put so much more than clothing in them though I don’t suggest abusing them; they are still made of fabric and their are limits to what they can do. But for organizing the small “day one” essentials (I pack these in my luggage sets so I can find them among all the boxes) they are fantastic. Cutlery, can openers, and basic utensils fit in the slim cubes with ease so you can find them immediately. Slim cubes are also great for tea cups and most coffee mugs. Layer a couple plates between clothing items in the medium and large cubes.  And of course pack these breakables with small clothing items and kitchen linens.  The same skills that make you a world class traveller make you a world class re-locator.

Where ever you are travelling to this year, I hope ebags packing cubes are part of your travel organization strategy.  Bon voyage!

 

 

 

Going Global: A Look at Translation Options for Independent Authors

One of the best pieces of advice I ever received as an author was to publish as many books in as many places as possible and to sell on as many websites as possible.  The writing profession is a numbers game.  To win it (meaning making a living as a writer) you need to be where the customers are and sell what they want to read.  You cannot achieve it with a single kindle book sold exclusively on Amazon.  It won’t happen — or perhaps it could but your chances of winning the lottery or becoming president of the United States are greater if you lay only the one literary egg and sell it from a single basket.

One efficient way of maximising your exposure is to publish in multiple languages, opening your books for sale in more markets with more readers.  As popular as English is with Americans, the reality is that globally there are far more readers outside of the United States, readers who prefer to read in their native languages — not English.

For independent authors, there are three primary methods of reaching this global audience in the form of translated editions 1) contract with a traditional publisher offering translation services, 2) Utilize a royalty share-based translation platform, and 3) hire an independent and professionally certified translator.

I personally use all three.  Here are the pros and cons of each.

Traditional Publisher

My Chinese language editions are published with Fiberead, a Beijing-based fusion  publisher slash translation service using royalty share to pay the translation team.  It works similar to many self-publishing platforms.  You fill out a form about your book, provide Fiberead with both the current and blank versions of your cover art, and upload it to their system.  A team of translators is recruited and eventually your book is published in Chinese.

Pros:  Getting a contract is relatively painless.  It’s a straight forward process setting up your title with them. Publishes to Amazon China, iBooks, and several Asia market retailers unknown to most Americans. No upfront costs to the authors. All the technical details of the publishing process is handled by the publisher; once submitted the author does not touch her book again. Cover art is done by in-house designers from the blank cover provided by the author.

Cons:  Once your title is set up, you have little to no control over the book.  Author has no input on the translators chosen or quality of the translation.  Contract empowers Fiberead with broad editorial powers, including over book content (they can re-write your book if they wish to). Royalty share rate is (currently) 30% for the author — forever.  Fiberead forbids translators from providing authors with copies of the final work.  Authors cannot control or even suggest the sale price.  So for example Boudicca, Britain’s Queen of the Iceni sells for just 1 RMB. Converted to USD the sale price on Amazon China is about 12 cents.  At 30% of 12 cents, the per copy payment to me is 3.6 cents USD.  It takes 55 copies sold to equal the royalty paid on just 1 copy of the book in English on Amazon.com.  Once a book sells, Fiberead does not release any funds to the author until the author earns $50 USD.  As you can see from the above figure, that takes a long time.  Fiberead does not promote your book either — that’s your responsibility.  And if you want a copy to quote from, you must buy it yourself.

Royalty Share Translation Program – Babelcube

Boudicca German webThe second option for independent authors is to use a royalty share translation platform such as Babelcube which is what I use.  Very similar in format to Amazon’s ACX audiobook publishing platform, authors fill out a form with book details and the book copy for consideration by translators in several languages including Spanish, French, Italian, German, Japanese, and Portuguese.  Not every language is offered, notably Chinese, but authors are able to upload books published in any language so long as the book is sold on Amazon. Once the book is completed and approved, authors initiate the publication process on both digital (primary) and paperback options.

royalty

Babelcube’s incremental payment scale.

Empress Wu Spanish webPros: royalty share works on an incremental scale based on royalties earned, no upfront costs to the author, creative control over the final published work, ability to edit pricing and other details by re-publishing after the initial publication, some control over who translates the work. Authors are able to leave reviews for each translation.

 

Cons: authors need the technical ability to custom format their own work and correct certain errors that can come up in the publishing process. Not all the translators are professionally certified nor in possession of appropriate technical skills. Not all desired languages are available.  Some languages offer very few translator choices.

 

Independent Translator

Boudicca Welsh webThe third and final option is, in most respects, the most traditional. Translators are available globally and discoverable online through search engines, social media, or in the case of my work with Gwenlli Haf of Cyfieithu Amnis Translation, through a personal recommendation from a mutual professional acquaintance.  Translation fees are typically word count based, a format familiar to authors who hire professional editors.  A down payment is typically required at the time both parties sign the contract.  At project completion translators then invoice the author for the balance due.  Only upon payment in full is the work released to the author for self publication.

Pros: translators are typically professionally certified with some level of guarantee built into the contract. Authors and translators are able to negotiate precise terms for the project so the details (such as publishing rights) are clear before the work begins. Upfront payment to translator; the author keeps all royalties upon payment of the invoice unless other terms are specified in the contract.  Creative control across the entire process.

Cons:  word counts in different languages are not uniform, making it easy for the author to underestimate the final word count for the translation.  Translators and authors are typically residents of different countries and using different currencies with exchange rates and currency exchange fees varying widely.

Analysis/Summary

Independent authors benefit greatly from expanding into larger, more global marketplaces by offering their books in multiple languages.  In my personal experience with all three options, hiring a translator offered me the most flexibility and creative control which I, like many independent authors, tend to value. The professionally certified skills of independent translators offers security and confidence in the quality of work offered.  However as with any upfront professional service such as editors and illustrators, this option requires considerable pre-publication investment.  Of the royalty share options, the translation publication platform offers a balanced approach.  Though great care must be taken in choosing the translator, the author is able to avoid upfront costs while maintaining creative control.  The royalty share split is typically fair to both author and translator.

One important lesson learned from all of this:  traditional publishing contracts offer less and less value to independent authors.  Therefore 21st century authors seeking to prosper in the new publishing market increasingly thrive by handling as much of the publishing process as possible rather than defer to traditional publishers whose contracts increasingly work against the author’s interest, costing authors more while offering less value.

 

British Holiday: Counting Down to Take-Off

After two months of planning the time is very near.  I’m leaving North America for the first time and yes, I’m so excited my skin is breaking out!

Over these two months I’ve read countless blogs, countless travel sites, visited United.com more times than I want to know, and created a decent sized pinterest board relating to travel.  I’ve shopped.  I’ve packed.  I’ve re-packed.  I’ve rechecked the location of my passport weekly — just

My initials in nail polish makes my checked bag stand out.

My initials in nail polish makes my checked bag stand out.

in case I’ve misplaced it.  And through it all I’ve learned a few things worth considering.

  1. Follow your own travel habits.  Every other blog or pinterest pin talks about traveling internationally with just a carry on.  Guess what?  That’s not me.  I’ve flown for twenty years checking a regular bag and using my carry on for just what I need at the airport and on the plane.  In all this time I’ve never lost a bag.  And since I put my initials in nail polish all over this bag, I’m pretty sure that no one else has a bag looking like mine.
  2. Packing cubes equal more space.  I’ve found I couldn’t put everything into packing cubes, but they’ve done wonders for my organization, especially the narrow 4x8x2″ ones which now I wish I had more of.  Everything is categorical thanks to the cubes.  I even have one just for toiletries, allowing me to keep those together.
  3. If you are checking your bag, don’t stuff the carry on with clothing.  Influenced by those websites I became convinced I needed a big packing cube in my carry on.  There’s
    Gifted to me when I was 18, this soft-sided carry on  bag has been with me on every flight I've ever taken.  It readily fits under the seat in front of me on even the smallest plane.

    Gifted to me when I was 18, this soft-sided carry on bag has been with me on every flight I’ve ever taken. It readily fits under the seat in front of me on even the smallest plane.

    two problems to this.  One:  space.  In a soft side carry on, just one packing cube will take up half of the space, space I need for my netbook, my snacks, my medicine, and other things I really will use in flight. Two:  weight.  Soft sided carry ons are shoulder bags — no wheels.  Burdening yourself down as you board and leave planes and navigate the airport is not only no fun, but makes that walking more difficult.  I use a white cane to walk.  Believe me, that cane is useless if I’m encumbered; I just don’t have the range of motion with my arms that I need.  When I stopped following the fancy travel blog advice and repacked all but a pair of flat shoes and whatever socks/underwear I could stuff into my shoes back to the checked bag I found, to my delight, that my carry on now weighs HALF of what it did before.

  4. Drawstring purses for electronics chargers.  Years ago I picked up a couple cute silk drawstring purses — the kind that is nice for when you are out on the town and only need your id, some cash, credit cards, and your payment cards for public transit.  As it happens, those are PERFECT for my cell phone chargers (one phone for US, one for UK) and my netbook power cable, keeping everything neat and compressed and recognizable in my carry on.
  5. Limit computer accessories.  Unless you are giving a business presentation at your destination, you really DON’T need more than your power cable for your computer.  Leave home your nice case and slip the computer directly into your carry on.  After all, TSA makes you remove the computer from its case to scan it.  Why add to your weight and space with more than you need?
  6. Keep a folder for all your paperwork.  Creating a folder for the document part of my bag makes it easy to find my itinerary, photocopy of my passport id page, and other important papers.  Keep everything together.
  7. Photocopy all cards and identification and email to friends/family. Anything can happen when you travel.  Making scan copies of your passport id page, official government identification, and front/back of every payment card you are bringing with you makes replacing those documents easier in case of an emergency.  Once scanned, print out a copy of your passport identification page and a page with your home address and your destination address and put that in a visible place inside your bag. Email yourself and trusted friends/family copies of your documents and financial documents.
  8. Don’t over think the trip.  People will give you great advice.  They will give you poor advice.  They will unnerve you with horror stories meant to help you.  At the end of the day though you need to follow your own instincts.  The more relaxed you are, the better you can solve problems should any come up.  Think but don’t over think your trip.  Plan but don’t over plan.  Stay grounded and have a good time.

Travel is an adventure.  Embrace it and enjoy what comes your way!

UK Holiday: UK rules for personal foodstuffs less strict than USA rules

The count down is on for my flight and the excitement is building.  I am making my food shopping list, checking it twice, and going to find out who is naughty and nice! (Couldn’t help the pun).

jerky

You can’t bring the beef jerky into the UK nor bring UK origin beef jerky into the USA. The trail mix is fine going into the UK, but must be declared at customs returning to the USA.

Time to really look at government websites and see what is and is not allowed.  Fortunately my post from yesterday seems to be spot-on with regards to what you can bring into the United Kingdom from outside of Europe.  As specified on gov.uk, the main restrictions relate to meat and dairy.  If you go through the page, HM government is very detailed and very explicit on the matter — which is good because no one wants problems at customs.  You can consume meat and dairy to your heart’s content on your flight from USA to UK — at long as you throw away the leftovers before you land.

The USA is apparently much more strict about food coming home from another country.  Looking at the US Customs and Border Protection site and their FAQ for travelers you cannot bring ANY fresh food of any type into the United States.  Anything you do bring with you (aka you didn’t throw away before you disembark from your plane into the USA) must be declared OR YOU FACE a $10,000 FINE.

$10,000 for not saying “I have some crackers in my bag.”

apricots

These apricots are allowed into the UK without any issues. But if I don’t eat them while on holiday and try to bring them back into the USA, I must declare them at customs — or face a $10,000 fine!

Absolutely NO fresh food is allowed into the USA at all.  According to the FAQ, most dried fruits and nuts ARE allowed — as long as you declare them.  Likewise, as long as you tell them, it’s not an issue if you save your pretzels from your flight to eat while you are waiting to change planes.

But it is a bit telling.  I really never expected the flight back to the USA to be more risky than the flight to the United Kingdom.

Well, maybe this is just the universe’s way of telling me something I already know about myself — and where I am happiest!