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2021 PLANS!

I am so grateful to have made it through 2020 with my life and my health, and I am so excited to fill in my good old-fashioned paper 2021 planner! It's great that my work and my daughter's schooling and our family holiday gatherings were all able to go virtual during the pandemic. And as much as I appreciate that, I am looking forward to getting back into the real world. I know that the pandemic's course is still uncertain and that I need to pencil everything in for now, but I am starting to let myself dream about everything I'll do after I get my vaccine: have dinner with extended family and friends, take walks and go shopping without anxiety about personal space and masks, get a haircut, go in to work, and gather with people in real, shared space for holidays and birthdays and other celebrations.  Like weddings! Oh, the weddings that will begin to flood our calendars starting in--I'll hazard a guess--late 2021! Can you imagine? If you've had to put off your we

TBT: How It Started vs. How It's Going... 2010s Resolutions

In hindsight, the year 2020 feels like a weird false start to me. The year that marks the beginning of a new decade isn't supposed to be so... end-timey. I've settled down into that long wait for this decade to truly begin, I hope after the pandemic fades out over the course of 2021. Forget about dramatic resolutions, I just want to make tentative plans again! One of the gifts of 2020 has been a gigantic time-out, a chance to reset priorities, and a lot of time to reflect upon the way things used to be in the Before Times and how much of that we'd like to leave in the Before Times. I like the idea of picking out only the best lessons and traveling light into a very new New Year--bringing forward more wisdom and skill, less stuff and baggage. Today's post is a look back at my weighty 2010 New Year's Resolutions (below, in text that is not italicized) with notes on how those went and how those lessons learned have affected my visions for the 2020s (in italics).   It&#

The Last $Monday: Dumpster Dived FIRE

The cursed year 2020 is finally ending! Let us warm our cold, tired bodies beside this dumpster fire and, before it goes out, dive in to salvage the embers that will spark new joys in 2021. For example, this is the last $Monday post I am going to write for " Money Money 2020 ," but it won't be the last time I write about money at all. I am simply going to change my focus to clarify that money is a means, not an end--and that personal finance isn't the only means to achieve our ends. During the 2010s, many of us were briefly interested in the FIRE movement (Financial Independence, Retire Early) and ultimately discarded it as neither practical nor joyful for most people, because it only works if you can score yourself a six-figure income as a young adult (unrealistic for most Americans) and if your big life goals can wait until you're middle-aged (in other words, if you're willing to risk running out of time before running out of money ).  There are components

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

$Monday: All Heroes Wear Masks

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. And less than one ounce of vaccine can end the threat of Covid-19! It has taken the hard work of so many masked heroes to get us here--the doctors, the nurses, the scientists, the grocery workers, the bicycle and auto mechanics, the childcare providers, the pilots, the truck drivers, the security guards, the janitors and cleaners, the construction workers and handy people, the food distribution volunteers, the social workers, and too many others to name--but a lot of us are still here at the end of 2020, and we owe our present and future health to our network of mostly undervalued essential workers, volunteers, and unpaid laborers. Thanks to all of them, the end of the pandemic is finally within our reach! My husband has been working as "Santa's elf" (UPS air loader/unloader) for over 15 years, but this is the first time he's been on the front page of national news for it! It isn't the first time he's worked an

$Monday: Dreaming of a Wise Christmas

It's a tough holiday season for the half of Americans whose finances have taken a hit in 2020, especially families with children. And yet, we can make it a profoundly meaningful holiday. The pandemic is a tragedy of what you might call Biblical proportions. Paradoxically, that presents a unique opportunity for us to get serious about the reasons for the season. Think of all the Christmas and winter-holiday stories you know, from ancient times to the New Testament to classic cartoons and holiday films . Can you think of any that don't involve the overcoming of a terrible hardship? How many involve poverty and deprivation, like the Biblical Christmas story itself? This is the year of all years to shift our focus from greed and gluttony to love and hope and faith... from flashy vanity to quiet sparkles in the dark . If you have children, you are most likely experiencing some kind of financial hardship this year. Let go of the idea that you must buy your children a pile of toys. Ch

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

TBT: The Magic of Essential Oils

Oh essential oils, beloved friend of loopy-goopy women of my own demographic marketing cohort, along with magic crystals, mystic doulas, organic pesticides, multi-level-marketed leggings, anything labeled as "herbal supplements," and alternatives to vaccination. The essential oil craze is something that has a basis in scientifically verifiable reality but has been endowed with magical, holy, pseudo-scientific properties for marketing purposes. I bought into it wholeheartedly before I learned that not all that crunches is harmless. All too often, legitimate fears based in reality (of toxic chemicals, unnecessary medical interventions, pharmaceutical side effects, etc.) are stoked to induce women like me to jump from the frying pan and into the fire of an "alternative" that may be at least as harmful as what it is supposedly protecting me and my family from. I still use certain essential oils for cleaning and other purposes, and I think everything I've stated in t

$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