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Showing posts with the label knowledge

TBT: How to Get Your Own Personal Bailout

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'

$Monday: Minimize Necessities, Maximize Luxuries

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

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

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 gol

$Monday: Death During Pandemic

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 mo

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

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

TBT: The Freedom in Tribal Connection

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

$Monday: How to Get the Most Out of Your Groceries

Many of us have, by now, stocked up on enough groceries to last us two or three weeks. If you're like me, you chose to save money and maximize health by purchasing mostly whole ingredients rather than heat-and-eat processed foods. Now, to make those groceries last as long as possible, the key is to minimize waste by controlling portions and consuming things in a logical order. If you're not used to cooking and eating this way, it will take some adjustment to accept that you can't just eat whatever you feel like, whenever you feel like it. This is a great opportunity to learn old-school home economics and develop an appreciation for down-home cooking. If you commit to these habits, you will eventually get used to it and start to find real pleasure in the process, and these kitchen witchery skills will keep you healthier and wealthier long after the pandemic has ended . Yesterday, I had a hard decision to make. Our batch of Scharffen Berger chocolate chunk cookies dwin

TBT: The Home Atelier

You may have heard about intrepid patriots and loving volunteers sewing face masks and donating them to hospitals during this time of shortage. This is a lovely phenomenon, although homemade masks do not provide the same level of protection as N95 respirators and other gear that some doomsday hoarder jerks have taken out of circulation, surely causing the deaths of untold numbers of medical professionals. (If this is you, my impulse is to tell you to burn in hell. But that wouldn't help either; instead, there is still time to repent and donate your hoard of N95 masks to your nearest hospital and then sit in your room for at least three weeks sewing your own cloth masks for yourself, in your own favorite colors and patterns.) Long, long ago, when I wrote about sewing at home, I planned to get a nice sewing machine and learn how to use it. And I did acquire a nice sewing machine, and my friend Lisa did give me lessons on how to use it. My first garment was a maternity dress. And t

$Monday: How to Make Do Without Hoarding

As more of us stare down the possibility of weeks in quarantine, it's easy to understand why some people are panic shopping. There's not much else to do when most activity and gathering places are shuttered. And many people are terrified--if not of the coronavirus itself, then of the disruptions to daily life and supply chains. But hoarding is disastrous to society; crowding ourselves into grocery stores is a serious health hazard; and there's no stockpile of stuff big enough to last through a doomsday scenario in which--oh, dare I say it--coffee beans become unavailable for the long term. (Not that I believe that will happen, but...) What are we to do? We can take a lesson from our grandparents who lived through the Great Depression and start learning how to do without some of the things people didn't always have. Some of the things we consider "essential" are things which we can, honestly, live without. Here is a list of items that some people are hoardi

$Monday: Develop a Taste for "Il dolce far niente"

By now you should have heard the cute stories and the dire warnings coming out of Italy, which is about two weeks ahead of us in the pandemic timeline. In Bergamo, there is now nothing left to do but try to enjoy " il dolce far niente ," translated as " the sweetness of doing nothing ." Unfortunately, Italian culture also has some of the same individualistic, I-do-what-I-want attitudes that the United States has, and that is why Italians are currently dying in their homes and in hospital corridors and parking lots because one of the best-funded health care systems in the world has collapsed. Within this catastrophe, which may not be prevented from happening here in the United States before Easter due to St. Patrick's Day idiocy and wannabe cowboys, there is opportunity. One of those opportunities is learning to let go of bad spending habits and bad health habits immediately. When I lived in Rome about 15 years ago, there was a saying I heard often in bo

TBT: Dandelions for Wine, Salads, Bees, and Beauty

Spring is coming! Soon the snow will melt for good, buds will emerge, birds will nest, and dandelions will decorate green lawns with bright yellow polka dots. Long ago, when I wrote the post below, I branded myself the "Recessionista Genie" and lauded the joys and benefits of an organic dandelion crop. Since then, the trend (at least in my kind of suburbia) has continued away from Hank Hill lawns and toward colorful, maximalist, slightly wild urban landscapes that support pollinators and healthier ecosystems. We are still all about the dandelion life. Dandelions for Wine, Salads, Bees, and Beauty I don't mean to brag or anything... but I have had a bumper crop of dandelions already this year. As all children under the age of five know, dandelions are pretty flowers. They are sunshiny yellow and signal the beginning of warm weather. Since the 1950s, the era of the suburban "postage stamp" Astro-turfy lawn, we have been taught to see dandelions and ot

$Monday: A Taste of My Own Medicine

Today I'm heading in to a clinic for a follow-up blood test to find out how anemic I am! I already know I have low hemoglobin, and today I get my ferritin checked. This has happened to me many times over the past couple of decades due to a menstrual condition that causes me to lose an abnormal amount of blood. A couple of times, I've been so anemic that I've been dizzy, extremely weak, prone to fainting, and experiencing hair loss. This time, nothing so dramatic happened, but I started to notice a little bit of fatigue, headache, mental fogginess, moodiness, and brittle nails, so I went in and took a blood test and--what do you know, it's time to go back on iron supplements. And put red meat back into my diet. My periods are not as bad as they were before I had my daughter, so I thought I could live on a mostly vegetarian diet. Other than the low hemoglobin, my blood is healthy; my diet rich in vegetable sources of iron (and sometimes cooked in cast iron!) and V

TBT: "Common People," Shatner Version

The year 2004 was all about William Shatner's cover of Britpop band Pulp's '90s hit "Common People." It's weird, it's confusing, it was made into a ballet performance, and we still don't understand why it's so good. It was all Ben Folds' idea; he produced the song and had Joe Jackson belt out the chorus and a youth choir finish off the dramatic crescendo behind the crunchy indie rock guitar. It's a rich old man sarcastically singing (or Shatnering, I guess?) the anthem of a poor young man whose frustration and bitterness and shame were apparently triggered by the presence of a beautiful, rich young woman who allegedly dared to express an interest, Marie-Antoinette-like, in the lives of the "common people." Original songwriter Jarvis Cocker struggled as a musician for a long time before "Common People" rocketed him out of the gutter and into a life of wealth and fame. At first, he seemed to describe the song's

TBT: Choose Health

Remember the swine flu? Now we're talking about coronavirus . There will never be a time in our lives when there aren't any disease outbreaks, or when we don't have to care about pollution in our air, water, and food. We're all stuck here together on Cruiseship Earth arguing about things like whether to vaccinate or "choose life." Ultimately, none of our personal choices will matter if we all get taken out by plague or poisoning. So we need to choose health, together, collectively, for each other and for each other's babies, or else none of our individual choices will ever be worth a plastic bag in a whale's belly. Here's what I wrote back in The Time of Swine Flu: Choose Health Cultivate health from the inside out and the outside in! Everybody's talking about the swine flu, so I figure this is a good time to bring up the health situation for us un-wealthy folks. Part of the reason this flu has become such a problem is that people did

$Monday: Own Your Moneymaker

Ladies, gentlemen, humans of every gender and sexuality or none whatsoever, take care of your reproductive health. Nobody has a right to your sexual or reproductive choices but you, and knowing that all the way through your guts and juices and bones is essential to financial wellness. Reproductive autonomy is economic power. How many children to have and when to have them can be the most financially significant decisions of a person's entire life. This is obvious. But so is sexual autonomy, aside from reproduction. In any culture that controls human sexuality through shame, people (especially the disabled, children, and women, but all people) are at risk of being manipulated--sexually harassed, exploited, traumatized, or threatened--using the lever of public shaming over one's body and/or sexuality. These manipulations cost people jobs, productivity, creativity, confidence, social power, and physical health. Kidnapping and rape survivor Elizabeth Smart is a great resource