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TBT: Absurdist Theme Parties

2020 has been a disruptive year that has forced us to think of new and creative ways to have fun and celebrate holidays and milestones with others. I am stoked about the distribution of coronavirus vaccines that will, I hope, set us free to mingle in real shared spaces again, but I've also enjoyed witnessing the shakeup of assumptions about how we have to share traditions and joys and sorrows with our friends and loved ones. I hope we don't ever forget how we were able to adapt to adversity and even turn our "prisons" into "playgrounds." During the last national crisis, the Great Recession, my friends and I came up with lots of creative and whimsical ways to recreate simply because we couldn't afford private jets and bottle service. Or even going out to eat every weekend. One way we had big fun on a smol budget was to throw absurdist theme parties. You don't have to be fancy if you can be funny. The aughts contained a lot of silly variations on 1980

TBT: Queering Poverty, Part II

Continued from " Queering Poverty, Part I ," written in the 2000s when I was in my 20s and most of my income went to paying interest on student loans and I lived in a gross, dangerous slum and also had some really good times that are fun to look back on. Having a bit of fun within a generally frugal life isn't just mental health survival self-care, it's also an investment in future joy. Happy memories can serve as a delightful escape to get through tough or boring times like, say, a dumpster fire of a pandemic. And now, in December 2020, we finally have access not just to our past memories of partying but to some tentative future plans! As we await the imminent distribution of coronavirus vaccines, we can finally dare to dream about the rockin' good times we'll have out in public sometime within the next year! Soon, we can stop dressing up "just for ourselves" or just to take a photo at home to post on the internet--which was always an enjoyable prel

TBT: Queering Poverty, Part I

"If you can't hide it, decorate it!" This quote and album title by entertainer Ruth Crews applies to a lot of things, and in the post below from my slum-living years, I demonstrate that poverty can be one of those things. Sometimes it is a relief to make light of a terrible situation you're trapped in by taking a little holiday from your reality. You can get there with substances, but it's much better to avoid any kind of escapism that might trick you into a long-term commitment. At the risk of sounding like a DARE educator, you can "use" nothing but playful creativity and whatever leisure time you can scrape together to find a formal event you can crash or create and play adult dress-up. You can do this in a pandemic, too, by having a kiki with only the people who live with you (bonus points if your roommates are all cats) or on a video chat (bonus points if you can use ridiculous filters on your face).  For inspiration, consider investing in the new bo

$Monday: The Life-Preserving Magic of Hunkering Down

Here I am trying to show off the new silver streak in my hair that matches all my cozy gray loungewear. There's no banishing the gray this year--the hair, the clouds gathering outside, the moods of quarantine, the mental fog--so we might as well embrace it with as much warmth and compassion as we can. In a dreadful and lonely time, my anxiety tells me I need to get out and do more, to do people favors, to keep someone company, to reach out, to find a change of scene, to earn more money in case of financial disaster, but my rational mind knows that the most helpful thing I can do for my family and community during a pandemic is to hunker down.  Settle in, simmer down, think small and simple and safe. Make smart, long-term investments of time, attention, energy, and resources for the next year. This is not the season to hustle and produce more, it’s time to wait patiently and conserve. The best most of us can do right now is damage control. A pandemic is no time for big risks or gamb

TBT: Thrift Shopping

During a recession, sales of secondhand clothing go boom ! I wrote the post below during the last recession, way back when I went thrift shopping at brick-and-mortar resale shops, for fun, every new season. Ha! This new recession is different for a couple of reasons. One is that fashion is kind of irrelevant while those of us with functioning survival instincts are all staying at home. Shoes? Handbags? Why? The only accessories that matter at all are things you can see on a Zoom call, like earrings, and pandemic face masks that are fun enough to distract from the horrors of why we must wear them every time we leave home now. The second major difference is the rise of options for buying secondhand fashions online. Personally, I'm not in the market for new clothes at this time. I've fully embraced bog witch style , which is pretty much freegan meets Professor Trelawney for drinks, but if you must purchase new fashion items at this time, I recommend virtually pawing through second

$Monday: Grant Her Your Clearness of Sight

If you have a daughter, you may recognize this excerpt from Neil Gaiman's picture book Blueberry Girl .  Ladies of grace and ladies of favor and ladies of merciful night, This is a prayer for a blueberry girl. Grant her your clearness of sight. Words can be worrisome, people complex, motives and manners unclear, Grant her the wisdom to choose her path right, free from unkindness and fear.  This week, I took my daughter to the optometrist for her annual new pair of glasses. Unfortunately, she has inherited my severe myopia. Fortunately, she has access to comprehensive vision care , which has a huge return on investment (ROI) across the lifespan, allowing her to succeed academically. (America, maybe soon we can finally achieve comprehensive health, vision, and dental care for all children!) While I never would have chosen for my daughter to inherit my nearsightedness, there are always unique experiences available to those who perceive the world differently. My daughter receives the a

TBT: Day to Night Fashion with Office Supplies

Remember nine months or a dozen years ago or whatever, when we used to go to work at the office building and then go to parties afterward? I wrote the post below in a different time, when transitioning quickly from office to party attire was a concern. Now it's 2020, and "day to night fashion" means changing out of the pajamas / athleisure that can pass as real clothes on a Zoom video and slipping into our regular sleeping pajamas. By the way, that neon-dyed jute fiber and seed necklace I'm wearing in the pictures below is the one a man ran across the street to ask me about in last Monday's post about worthwhile travel . This is all painfully nostalgic. Day to Night Fashion with Office Supplies Yesterday, I worked until 6:30, and a friend's birthday party started at 6:00. I wanted to dress up a little for my friend's 30th, but I didn't want to spend a lot of time getting changed at work before rushing over there. So I brought a piece of sari silk that

$Monday: Pandemic Holiday Shopping

It's pandemic holiday shopping season! Yeah, already. I'm not usually an early holiday shopper, but this year I don't trust that supply chains, markets, and shipping systems will stay reliable over the next few months. We have a president who is fighting the United States Postal Service, and Santa Claus has multiple co-morbidities for Covid-19. I am not taking any chances with timing or with my finances. As a mom, my first priority is taking care of my child. Almost all of her gifts this year will be practical things that she needs to get through a winter of isolation at home--like clothes, books, and cozy blankets. My husband and I have agreed to buy a few books as family gifts, and that's about it. All three of us have birthdays that cluster with the holiday season as well--November, December, and January. We will shift the focus from wrapped gifts to experiences such as cookie baking and meal prep, fall color hiking, playing games by the fireplace, tree decorating, s

$Monday: Forget Adulting, Try Hermit Crabbing!

Adulting is for squares. You can live your life according to a generic set of milestones if you want to, but if you don't, contorting yourself into someone else's goals and values isn't a sign of maturity, it's avoidance of doing what real grownups do: take responsibility for personal decisions. Being an actual adult is great once you achieve the inner freedom to own what you want to do with yourself. Instead of "adulting" by some middle-to-upper-class,cis/het, straight, white millennial model, especially if you are not all of those things, try "hermit crabbing"--choosing what fits you at each stage of life rather than trying to cram yourself into the shape of someone else's ideal carapace--and changing it as soon as it stops working for you. It's easy to derive your self-worth from your current circumstances, but it is possible to reverse that flow and, to some extent, manifest a higher net worth by working on your feelings of self worth .

$Monday: Bog Witch Style on a Budget

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 whe

TBT: Song of the Apartment

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