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Showing posts from June, 2020

$Monday: Most Affordable Transportation

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I would love to live in a community with high-speed electric trains to cover distances too long to walk. Until we get there, I'll keep on using two of the lowest-cost vehicles to own, maintain, and operate...

1. The bicycle!



Get a proper bicycle at a proper bike shop, and it will transport you around town for many, many years. You can also quit worrying about when it will be safe to go to the gym again, and you'll turn into a total Lady Legasus if you ride often. Still, a bike is not the best vehicle in stormy weather, so we also drive...

2. The Nissan LEAF!

A cute little electric car is a lovely pod of comfort for zipping to work or to the grocery store, and it costs less to maintain and operate than any other affordable automobile. We've loved our sky blue 2011 model, and we'll be upgrading to a slightly newer one this summer (with heated seats!) to reduce range anxiety on across-town trips.

Remember, sometimes vehicles high on nostalgia and low on sticker price can…

TBT: DIY Auto Repairs

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Our philosophy has not changed much since I wrote the post below. After the car we worked on in that post finally rusted to pieces (literally, like in a cartoon or something, because Michigan), we drove a used Nissan Altima (fun but terribly expensive and difficult to repair, even with our DIY ingenuity and locating auto mechanics that we trust) and then made the awesome leap to a fully electric Nissan Leaf. It is such a relief to drive a car without an engine--no gas! no oil! no tune-ups! no Check Engine light surprises! Just the occasional windshield wipers/fluid/air filter replacement. Even the brakes are designed so well that we've never needed them serviced.

Now that the car has reached almost a decade of use, it's getting a little more costly to maintain (though still way less than any other vehicle we've ever driven). We finally had to get the factory tires replaced recently, and the computer that controls the door windows going up and down just died, so we can'…

$Monday: Farewell, Dreams of Flight

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When I was young, even after 9/11 made it a little more scary and a lot less convenient, I loved the thrill of air travel. Nothing compares to being lifted into the sky and jetted across the United States or to another country, another continent even, in just a few hours. And nothing in life can fully substitute for the mind-altering trip of immersing oneself in an unfamiliar culture for days, weeks, or months. Once I started traveling, I thought I'd never stop--I had become a traveler!--but financial constraints and parenthood put international travel goals on pause after my honeymoon. Now that the world has had to reckon with pandemic and climate change like never before, I've accepted that my dreams of continuing to explore the world as a traveler are indefinitely grounded.

For moral as well as practical reasons, my husband and I decided--even before the pandemic struck--that we would no longer make any long-distance journeys until:

1) it was for a critically important rea…

TBT: Our Policing Problems, Finally Changing in 2020

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I don't have an old post to share for today's #ThrowBackThursday because I've kept this blog focused on personal and creative topics while I've engaged with larger political and social issues through my day job for the past 14 years. But let me tell you, after a couple of decades (if I include college and later high school after I made the jump from private to public school) of actively exploring and seeking effective responses to social injustices, it's amazing to see mainstream America finally, suddenly, collectively get on board with the mission of making life better for all of us--centering, finally, those who have been most exploited by our systems of power.

As I write this, there are still folks standing confused on the sidelines. It doesn't make you a bad person to not know certain facts or understand dynamic systems like United States policing (provided you haven't avoided facing those issues on purpose), but it does make you a better person to lea…

$Monday: The Value of Wall Color

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Home is where the heart is (and the office and the break room and the spa and the outdoor-distancing social gathering spot and the gym and basically our whole lives now). This year, the home color palette has become more important and more personal than ever. How is yours feeling after this cabin-fevered spring?

Wall colors affect the inhabitants of a room in complex ways. Each person may have a different response to each color, so get in touch with how different colors make you and your living companions feel, and consider repainting as a relatively affordable and easy way to improve your everyday quality of life--your mood, productivity, sleep quality, alertness during waking hours, and behavior. Consider different values (on a light/dark scale) of your favorite hues and how different finishes respond in your particular environment.

Assuming you're not preparing your house for sale or making your living as an Instagrammer who earns revenue via painting your own home's walls …

TBT: Full House

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Remember when co-housing, roommates, and multi-generational family homes were good ideas? Those living arrangements still have their advantages, but during a pandemic, it is much safer for individuals, romantic partners, and caregiver/dependent units to have their own spaces, amenities, and entrances. I miss the days when that wasn't so.


I hope that one day soon, this pandemic will end, and the Great Recession-era post below will once again be relevant... at least for some people, at some times in their lives. I'm sure it is still relevant on well-governed, geographically isolated island nations such as New Zealand and Iceland. Oh, to be in one of those nations at this time!

I sure do miss hanging out with my friends and having overnight guests, but in this very particular moment, I am grateful to live in a single-family home with only my husband and daughter and to enjoy the ability to stay put in it most of the time. I sure did not see an out-of-control pandemic coming when…

$Monday: Investing in Your Habitat

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This post is not about house-flipping, slum-lording, or monetizing a rental property. It's about investing in your habitat, your very own sanctuary where you, as a person, and your personal finances can thrive and grow. Access to safe and stable housing, independent of income or wealth, is an essential rung on the ladder to economic security. Where you live is as important as, if not more important than, how much money you make. Your home and its location determines your:

everyday level of safety from violence and natural disasterseveryday safety from indoor hazards such as electrical fires and structural damage ability to preserve health with adequate indoor/outdoor spaces for exercise, hygiene, restful sleep, food preparation, air quality, and clean tap waterproximity to your lifeline of family and friendsconnection with local arts and culture access to nutritionaccess to educationexposure to healing and stress-relieving elements of nature access to safe and reliable methods of …

TBT: Virtual Personal Trainers

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Outside the homes of those fortunate enough to dwell in safety, terrible threats are raging: authoritarian violence, injustice, contagious disease. In this moment, finding an online personal trainer may seem vain or frivolous, but in truth, home fitness has never been more relevant. The value of self-care cannot be underestimated, especially for those most vulnerable to illness and toxic stress. For anyone with access to the internet and a space to exercise, a virtual class can be a powerful tool for an individual to maintain physical and mental strength to stay in the fight for justice.

The pandemic has already created a boom in virtual training sessions. Personal trainers and dance and fitness instructors across the nation have pivoted to offering virtual lessons. If you can afford it, paying a professional for interactive virtual services is the best way to stay fit online. You'll support the career of someone who might otherwise be out of a job, and your teacher can offer you …

$Monday: Pitching Books in a Pandemic

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#PitMad is coming up on June 4, and I am going to try it out even though all of this sounds a bit like hurling books into a natural disaster. (And even though I've never bothered to learn how to use Twitter properly. Why not learn a new thing in quarantine?) I hope that my tweets will at least attract some hints about which of my completed novels I should focus on querying this year.

It does seem like an inauspicious time to put a novel out there, but I'm doing it anyway, because unlike lobbing an actual paperback into a tornado, this exercise costs nothing but the time I put into it. My books will still be there afterward, fully intact on my digital shelf. They were written in the Before Times about medieval times, so I don't believe that they will somehow become less relevant after this pandemic ends.


I never set out to write to a trend. I wrote the kind of books I wanted to read, which were incredibly fun and rewarding to create. I love researching a long-forgotten or p…