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Showing posts from September, 2020

$Monday: Vote and Volunteer for Health and Wealth

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The mere act of voting and the mere act of volunteering can lead to better health and increased wealth for you down the road, no matter what you're voting and volunteering for--as long as they are causes you feel good about supporting. You can read about the science behind these benefits in Time. It makes sense to me because taking those little actions leads you to learn more about issues and build confidence in your abilities to contribute to something larger than yourself. You can draw pride and inner peace just from knowing that you have done your part. Whatever the outcome may be, you know you showed up and did the right thing. When results don't turn out in your favor, you can choose to learn from the experience and shore up your skills at overcoming disappointments. Nobody ever grew strong from getting everything they ever wanted. America, it is time to adult. When you become a parent, caregiver, or mentor to a child, the acts of voting and volunteering become doubly mean…

TBT: Pumpkin Underpants and the Free Range Vegetables

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Long ago, back when the trees were smaller and I didn't have a child, I started a rather ambitious vegetable garden without knowing what I was getting into, and it was great fun. I turned out to be a pretty deadbeat gardener because I kept on starting other ambitious projects at the same time, like epic novels and labor-intensive dinners, but I did learn some things--like how much fun it is to ride my bike to the farm market and buy a pumpkin someone else grew when I feel like making Moroccan-spice pumpkin soup, and also that I can get away with being an even lazier gardener by throwing away a decorative gooseneck gourd in my compost pile and looking out the window the next fall to discover that a huge vine full of its descendants has propagated itself all over my apple wood stick stack.

Below is a post I wrote during the Great Recession, when I was exploring the idea of growing as much food as possible on my own suburban homestead. I learned that I don't get enough sun anywhe…

$Monday: Bog Witch Style on a Budget

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Autumn in a pandemic is the perfect time to tap into your inner bog witch with wild hair, cozy clothes, forest rituals, creepy cats, fire, books of spells, and Dark Cottagecore home decor mood boards on Pinterest. You don't have to live in a literal swamp. The word "bog" comes from a Gaelic term for "soft," and it sounds nearly identical to Slavic words for gods or divinity with Proto-Slavic roots that refer to earthly fortune.Bog witches burrow into the true goodness of life nestled beneath all the hustle and polish and show of making a living. They focus on soft wealth and spiritual power. The vibe is slow, earthy, comfy, moody, sneakily seductive, maybe sticky, wise rather than smart, preferring old things to new, charming rather than impressive. It's about harmonizing with the natural environment, blending, melting, enveloping, and sinking into earthy, downward energy. Bog witchery vibes with hygge,friluftsliv, and the indigenous earth wisdom of whereve…

TBT: Song of the Apartment

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Leading up to the Great Recession, from 2006 - 2008, my husband and I lived in a cheap downtown Lansing apartment. While we don't miss the apartment itself, we do have some fond memories of our time there. Yet looking back from where I sit now (a cheap house in an affordable, diverse, beautiful, and comfortable suburb), I realize that living in a low-income apartment can be a much more healthy, safe, and dignified experience in a community that cares more about its poorest residents. By "cares" I'm not talking about feelings so much as actions and physical realities. I mean municipal-level design, planning, and implementation of social services that raise the tide and lift all the boats. In a more humanely run community, people of humble means don't have to choose between laughing or crying at all the drama in their own lives and their neighbors' lives created by untreated mental health and substance abuse struggles and lack of access to basic needs.
There is …

$Monday: The Value of Living Close to Your Care Network

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Right in the nick of time, before Covid lockdowns, my family shared our best-ever Thanksgiving, Christmas, and 9th birthday party, all at my parents' new house down the road from my house. Looking back at that time feels like a dream now. We had hoped that my parents' new house would become the perfect venue for big, happy family celebrations, and it did. Those memories are going to be priceless in getting us through a very different kind of holiday season this year.
My parents and my immediate family are holding the line and not visiting with any other households indoors, and my parents' proximity to my house has made it easy for us to visit with them frequently, in each other's backyards. They come up with fun things for us to do together from a safe physical distance, like watch my daughter play in the sprinkler or an inflatable pool, or put up a badminton net.It has been good for our mental health and family relationships to have that access to safe ways of socializ…

TBT: Men Belong in the Kitchen

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Before my daughter came along, my husband and I had a variety of roommates, including a cook who taught my husband the seductive culinary arts! I wrote the post below in the 2000s, when I was gardening, working two jobs, and participating in National Novel Writing Month. Today, my family still benefits from my husband's crash course in kitchen witchery. On his last day off, he made pizza dough and pie crust dough from scratch while our daughter remote-schooled and I remote-worked. When we ladies of the house finished our work, we joined him in the kitchen and put together some delicious calzones for dinner and an apple pie for dessert. It makes me feel so warm and content to cook with my loves, and to be honest, it makes me feel more attracted to my husband too! It's only human nature.If I may boast a little more, my husband also does almost all of the grocery shopping since the start of the pandemic. And he's great at it.
Not every wife can feel such affection toward her …

$Monday: Remote Work and Class in a Working Class Household

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In a chaotic year, a tidy little home workspace is everything, and I do mean everything. It's work, school, shopping, socializing, news consumption, cooking class, physical training, and entertainment. It's the hub of daily life in a pandemic. While I look forward to the day when we're not tethered to our home computers, I know that realistically, we're in this for another year at least. This is how my own working class / lower middle class family is making the best of it and savoring the silver linings wherever we can find them.
There are as many ways to set up home offices and school desks as there are families and individual circumstances, and it can take time to figure out a setup that works for you. While there are unique challenges for everyone, except for maybe the disgustingly rich, I've found that there are also some benefits of working and learning from home that we, as a society, may want to not only extend into the future, past the pandemic, but also ext…

TBT: How Do I Love Thee, Manual Mower?

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A dozen years after we found it in the shed of the house we bought, our love for this push mower is going strong. Though I will admit that every so often we can't keep up our entire property with this thing, and we do occasionally use a gas-powered lawnmower, our trusty "Flintstones grass cutter" still gets plenty of use as a simultaneous lawn care tool and workout machine. The next lawnmower we buy will definitely be an electric one, but nothing can replace the satisfaction of getting the job done with the power of the human body.Long ago, in the time of the Great Recession, I wrote the following sonnet as an ode to this simple joy.How Do I Love Thee, Manual Mower?

How do I love thee, manual mower? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
Of my suburban lawn, when reeling out of sight
For the ends of Mowing with quiet Grace.
I love thee to the level of every day's
Most emission-free trim, by sun and moonlight.
I love thee freely, especia…