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Showing posts from August, 2020

$Monday: We Can Rise Above Death Cult Capitalism

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Mmm, doesn't the smell of a bonfire make you feel punkin' spicy? Growing up, I internalized the United States cultural values of hard work as its own reward, high scores, and monetizing everything. From the age of 13, I scrounged for paltry wages (childcare, tutoring, arts and crafts sales, retail and food service and office temp jobs) while earning high grades at expensive private schools. I learned to feel guilty about "wasting" time relaxing without multi-tasking or enjoying a hobby with no intention of turning it into a hustle. I didn't have enough time to eat or sleep properly, and it made me sick and tired all the time. I was curious and drawn to new experiences, but I always felt ashamed of spending any time or resources pursuing an interest that offered no clear path to a paycheck or an award that would reflect a flattering glow upon my forebears. I had a healthy rebellious streak, but I learned to justify my transgressions with proofs of respectability a…

TBT: Day Tripping for Safer Recreation

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My husband and I have been accustomed to swapping some of our traditional vacations for staycations and short day trips since the Great Recession, back when finances were the only big concern with travel. Now that there's a pandemic, the added stresses of masking, sanitizing, social distancing, and avoiding public restrooms have shrunk our comfort zone even further. This year, the longest we've driven to a swimming destination is 30 minutes so that we don't have to share vehicles or restrooms with anyone. We choose a less busy time, pack our own water and snacks, find a secluded spot, and don't stay too long.Relaxing at breezy, open waterfronts has been one of the safest and most pleasurable ways to get away from the daily grind during this pandemic, and it's no wonder many of us have been drawn to the cleansing serenity of a sandy beach. This year, sadly, I have to bring up water safety on top of Covid safety. Great Lakes currents are deadly, and they've alrea…

$Monday: Home on the Battery Range

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It's the last week of summer vacation in Michigan before the children plug in their Chromebooks for remote school. I'm ready to say goodbye to this heartbreaking season split between isolation and crowd madness--no, I don't mean the protests for racial justice, which we enthusiastically support--I mean, the raging road trips that Midwesterners have binged on in a tragic attempt to escape the reality of our temporary but difficult pandemic circumstance. While many of our friends and extended family have spent their summers and their stimulus checks partying "Up North" this summer--and two of my husband's loved ones died doing it--my little household and a small but strong cohort of our friends and family have committed to keep on staying home, staying safe, and taking smaller risks out of consideration for others in our communities. Not only did we opt out of all travel this summer, including road trips, we emptied our savings to reinvest in the future by upgr…

TBT: Complete Streets

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More than a decade after the greater Lansing area began projects to build, improve, expand, and connect pathways for pedestrians and cyclists, my family has been enjoying the opportunities to go for scenic bike rides and to commute by walk or bike to school, work, parks, and stores. The new site of my workplace, a non-creedal church that serves a diverse community, was chosen partly because the new network of pathways (in addition to the old network of public transportation) connects to it. When I wrote the post below, the Great Recession had shut down local General Motors plants and left big areas around my neighborhood looking like post-apocalyptic wasteland. Where some people saw devastation, my husband and I saw opportunity for something better. As of 2020, some of the "GM Wasteland" is still a mess. Some of it has gone back to work manufacturing automobiles. Some of it has been filled in with arrays of solar panels to generate clean energy for the Lansing area. And arou…

$Monday: The Value of a Ten-Minute Walk and the Worthiness of You

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Gyms are not necessary for fitness, nor is exercise an all-or-nothing game in which you're either a bodybuilder or a hardcore couch potato. The truth is that a better quality of life exists in between those extremes, and it doesn't cost anything. It doesn't require electronic tracking devices or professional trainers, and it doesn't look like washboard abs and bulging biceps--those have more to do with vanity than health or even functional strength. Building a little bit more movement into your day doesn't have to suck up time, either--in fact, it can give you more time by increasing productivity and simplifying your schedule. The real barriers to taking that first step are usually in the mind. The first thing you must do is to convince yourself that you are worth that ten-minute investment.
When it comes to exercising, doing the absolute, bare minimum has a bigger impact than many people realize. Simply getting up and moving around occasionally during a long day of…

TBT: The Harmonious Homes of Dr. Merle Kindred

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Near the beginning of this millennium, I enjoyed the privilege of meeting Dr. Merle Kindred, a woman of the world who has dedicated her long, beautiful life to building a cozy future for all the people and other living beings that inhabit our planet.Although Merle no longer owns a house in the Keweenaw, she has left a legacy of wonderful human habitats for others there and in many other locations around the globe. She continues to educate and inspire developers and home builders with the warm care, wisdom, and complex technical knowledge she has gathered over many decades of thoughtful work, building not just structures but relationships and sustainable ways of life.Below is the post I wrote when I was a young, traveling activist in the 2000s. Merle offered me and my supervisor hospitality on a journey to organize rural Michigan for health care reform, and she also gifted us with a tour of her showpiece Northern Michigan home as well as a photographic tour of her house in Kerala, Indi…

$Monday: The Race to Keep a Roof Over Our Heads

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The American Dream in 2020 is to not be homeless. This summer, up to 40 million of us are on the verge of losing our homes due to an inability to make rent or mortgage payments. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are already homeless, which is too many on a perfect day. During the pandemic, it has become suddenly impossible to safely house the usual, insufficient number of people in existing shelters while homelessness has become a much bigger public health crisis than it was before.
Most people who struggle to stay in their homes find somewhere else to go and don't experience true homelessness, at least not for long, but forcing people to bounce around among inadequate living situations has serious health and economic consequences. Putting down roots in a safe and healthy habitat is one of the most important determinants of future success.
This is always true, but during quarantines, personal space and privacy aren't luxuries so much as basic necessities. So do whatever you can…

TBT: Buddhist Meditations

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Zen meditations! Inspirational quotes! Sick burns! Buddhism offers them all. As many American college students do, I enjoyed studying and practicing Buddhist rituals in college. As a recovering Catholic from a weirdly fundamentalist, Germanic-ish family tradition, I found the "bells and smells" of Buddhist temples familiar in a comforting way and the anti-dogmatic edge of Zen exhilarating in a refreshing way. I learned that extreme prayer and self-control are not owned by Christians, nor is smug superiority. What valuable lessons for a young person to learn.

So valuable, in fact, that in our late 30s, my husband and I are still paying the bills for our private college educations.


Can you put a price on ancient wisdom?

Is that a koan?

In my earliest adulthood, I took solace in the meditations below. Please enjoy them here on the Magic Nutshell, free of charge.

Buddhist Meditations
The Buddha sought a middle path between asceticism and materialism. All over the world, people are ha…

$Monday: Can You Breathe?

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You can't earn or save money if you can't even breathe. One reason why "it's expensive to be poor" is that people who live in lower-income neighborhoods don't get enough clean air to breathe. I've demonstrated that "You can't afford a poor diet," and it's even more obvious that you can't give up oxygen to save money. Poor air quality destroys productivity, and the terrible costs of air pollution are mainly borne by the individuals who suffer health conditions, disability, cognitive impairment, and premature death due to their lack of access to clean air.

On top of air pollution hazards, the accelerating Covid-19 pandemic is threatening Americans' ability to breathe. Meanwhile, cries of "I can't breathe" draw our attention to escalating police brutality and our federal government militarizing Brownshirt-resembling forces against its own citizens who are protesting peacefully and within their rights according to the l…