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Showing posts from April, 2020

TBT: Milk it! Is Dairy Good or Bad?

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Since I wrote the post below in the 2000s, the conversation has shifted more toward whether we should be drinking dairy at all, and if not, which vegan alternative is best. More scientific data about the nutritional values and risks of dairy has come out since the 2000s. We know now that pasteurization doesn't have a huge effect on nutritional value (despite what the foil-helmeted raw milk militia may have told you!) and that skim milk is actually an inferior nutritional choice for most people, especially for kids, that increases the risk of obesity.

So is dairy good or bad for you? That depends on you. Humans digest and respond to dairy in a variety of ways based on genetics and other factors. It's great that we have choices at the grocery store, because there is no best kind of milk for everyone. If your health involves complicated problems, it may be worth consulting a nutritionist. But for most of us, all we need to do is pick out the milk we like the best, which doesn'…

$Monday: To Give or to Keep Your Stimulus Check?

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My heart has been warmed by all the stories of generosity that have followed the federal stimulus payments. The news tends to follow reports of people behaving badly--angrily, selfishly, dangerously--but the reality is that the vast majority of people are responding to this global pandemic with heightened compassion and a wish to help. People are reaching out in every way they can, from sewing masks and volunteering for food banks to passing along their stimulus checks. This is beautiful and gives me hope for the future. And it also gives me pause. Is this kind of personal generosity always in the best interest of the community?


We all know that warm feeling of being able to make a contribution. My family is on a very humble budget, but last year, I received a raise at work, and my daughter's school received a federal grant for all children to have two free meals each school day. Little changes make a big difference to a tiny budget, so I found myself able to give a four-figure gi…

TBT: How to Get Your Own Personal Bailout

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Since the Great Recession, I've learned how to take charge of my personal finances. My money life was kind of a dumpster fire after quitting grad school, and now my household is in great financial shape--even though our income remains very modest. I've learned to do a lot with a little, and I've learned to be proactive and find myself the best interest rates and discounts for long-term savings.

Now, in the time of corona, there are suddenly a variety of resources rolling out to help regular people and small business owners to weather the pandemic. If you haven't received your stimulus check yet because you don't file taxes, you can probably speed up the process by entering your bank account information on the IRS website here. Each American citizen (who is not someone else's dependent for tax purposes) is eligible for $1200 plus $500 for each dependent minor child, unless you are rich, in which case you might get less or nothing, but that's okay, you're…

$Monday: Minimize Necessities, Maximize Luxuries

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Minimize waste, maximize taste. Cancel your bills, indulge in your thrills. Lower your maintenance but raise your standards. Live a little like Grandpa John.

During this global crisis, when danger comes not just from the virus itself but from the boredom of the bourgeois who are already threatening to riot over their right to golf and jet-ski (organized by far-right domestic terrorists who are trying to use this crisis to scapegoat Asians, Black communities, and women to build support for the Trump 2020 campaign), I think of my late father-in-law, a.k.a. Grandpa John, and I wonder which of his witty, choice words he would use to comment upon all of this. Grandpa John survived plague, famine, exile, the Holocaust, child slavery, poverty and its related violence in Hamtramck, domestic violence, street violence (more than a dozen stab wounds with a rusty steak knife, for example), several strokes, and a car accident resulting in a traumatic brain injury that left him sometimes unable to …

TBT: Elitist Salad (Be a Carer, Not a Karen)

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The politics of home gardens change as abruptly as the weather in a Michigan spring, don't they? I wrote the "Elitist Salad" post below during the reign of Michelle Obama, when opponents of Democratic women went ballistic over Mrs. Obama tryin'a tell people to eat der vegibles. Remember the screaming? The First Lady was compared to Marie Antoinette, and Hitler, and Satan, and the childhood trauma of your mom making you eat broccoli. Salad greens were labeled "elitist." Setting aside the obvious fact that Michelle Obama forced no one to eat a single vegetable, I found the outrage over elitism hilarious, as the granddaughter and great-granddaughter and probably thousandth-great-granddaughter of subsistence farmers, who... let's just say, were not elites.

Now that we are in America's next recession, the outrage against a Democratic woman who is trying to keep people healthy is coming from... Karens? Karens who cannot bear to live without access to golf…

$Monday: Death During Pandemic

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There's no way around it, only through it: Grief won't wait until the pandemic is over, but traditional funerals must. So what do we do if a loved one dies before the pandemic ends?

In some ways, our options are limited right now. For some mourners, the restriction on choices will lift some of the burden of complicated decision-making that sometimes follows a death. It's also a silver lining, for economically stressed survivors, that the expenses of elaborate funerals are also on hold while they are not allowed, and no individual family member can be blamed for not putting on a big event. At the same time, being unable to gather in person to share hugs, memories, and tears and to perform the rituals that normally give us comfort is an emotional hardship for most people.

Plans of all kinds are disrupted, canceled, or put on hold right now. Moving plans, career plans, vacation plans, birth plans, death plans--none are ever completely reliable, and now it is true more than e…

TBT: There's No Accounting for Grief

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The world is in mourning, for those we have lost and those we might lose. Anticipatory grief has already seeped under the skin of many who have not yet lost a dear one to this pandemic. Because we  will. We all will. We are losing our grandparents, our parents, our lovers, our friends. We are losing our leaders, our inspirations, our muses. We are losing our heroes and our shining lights.

And to add shame to trauma, we are not spared from grieving for the least among us, those who never deserved our love in the first place.

There is no accounting for grief.

Grief is not a choice, moral or otherwise. It is a specter that comes for you, sticky as a shadow, and stays as long as it will. It is not fair or rational or sensible. It cannot be made to follow orderly stages. It is a wild thing, terrible and beautiful.

We grieve for those we have no right to mourn, for those we've never even met, for bad men and disappointing women, for stage personas, for fictional characters. We grieve fo…

$Monday: Springtime for Self-Care in the Fall of Capitalism

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Business as usual is canceled. The whole world is coming together to focus on one priority: flattening the curve. Most of us are coming to the realization that our one job now, while we stay at home waiting for our $1200 payments and $600-a-week unemployment bumps to roll in, is to pull up our big girl sweatpants and take good care of ourselves so our medical workers and critical service providers don't have to do unnecessary work. For most of us, our job now is not about making money or productivity but about reducing consumption and personal need. Beloveds, it's backwards day.

Some people are wondering, how do we do our part when we can't go shopping for designer yoga pants to wear at the gym and get facials and magic crystals and... ?

One silver lining of this crisis is that it's forcing us to take a hard look at what's truly important and true and what's capitalist phony baloney. Money and health are not always exchangeable. Self-care is not consumerism, co…

TBT: The Freedom in Tribal Connection

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Way back in the day, I dropped out of grad school. I was doing well academically but not, let's say, spiritually. I asked several people in my chosen field what we could do about catastrophic injustices in the systems we were becoming experts in, and I received the same answer several times: "Uh, you could call your senator."

I was smart enough to know I didn't need a master's degree to do that, so I quit school and began my career working for social justice-seeking nonprofits. For six years, I worked for a statewide activist organization that sent me on some long trips to reach out and connect with people across county and state borders to work toward common goals. One summer, my boss and I took a road trip from the "palm" area of Michigan's lower "mitten" all the way up to the tippy-top of the beautiful Keweenaw Peninsula. We went into mostly rural areas and met with local church leaders and people of faith in humanity, and we gathered s…