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$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

$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

How Diverse Friendships Elevate Our Family Dinners

And not just because we learn new recipes. Our friendly relations with immigrants and second-generation Americans from all over the world, from casual encounters to long friendships, have benefited each member of my family and our shared dinners together by nourishing us with knowledge, inspiration, and fresh ideas about food, health, cooking, responsibility, gratitude, sensory adventure, and the sacredness of shared mealtimes. And what happens around our kitchen table, in turn, nourishes our daughter in ways that go far beyond literal nutritional benefits. My husband and I both grew up with, and benefited from, diverse friendships in ways that are deeply personal and difficult to measure--in other words, priceless. So, unlike the vast majority of educated, white-privileged parents, when we said that we valued diversity in our own family's neighborhood and school system, we meant it. We didn't just want to live near racial and cultural diversity, with "colorful" peop

A Good, Clean Spring Break

Happy Easter Monday! Today, vaccine eligibility in Michigan extends to all adults!! Those vaccines cannot be rolled out quickly enough here in Michigan, currently the #1 state to catch coronavirus. Michigan's infections have blown up over the past month, reaching the height of last fall's surge with no sign of turning a corner yet. Many people are so mentally done with the pandemic that they are living in complete denial by now, traveling for fun and getting faced in restaurants and bars and socializing sloppily with pretty much anyone, while our state and local governments live in fear of violent uprisings against any new public health measures, so vaccines are our only hope. My parents and my husband will soon receive their second shots, and I hope to get an appointment for my first shot soon. However, our preteen daughter won't have a vaccine available to her age group (which is leading this current surge) until next year. So while we are celebrating, we're being goo

$Monday: A Room of Her Own (Pandemic Tween Bedroom Makeover)

Before the pandemic struck, my family had planned to use every last bit of our spare time and cash in 2020 on badly needed updates to our deteriorating kitchen and main bathroom. We were going to start the work in the spring or summer, when we could have windows open for ventilation (just for the dust and fumes! ha!), and then the pandemic came along and shifted our priorities. We spent part of our stimulus check on an electric log splitter, a new fridge and dishwasher to replace our breaking-down old ones, and one professional plumbing fix. We postponed all cosmetic and non-emergency kitchen and bath work, made ourselves a temporary pantry in a torn-out hole in our kitchen, and invested the rest of our renovation funds (and my year's worth of vacation time) into a bedroom makeover for our nine-year-old daughter. The pandemic made it less important (because we aren't having guests inside the house) and more dangerous (because of the likely need to bring in professionals) to co

Good Lighting Is Happiness

If you have good thoughts, they will shine out of your face like sunbeams, and you will always look lovely. – Roald Dahl In the photo above, Gretchen MurderMittens also demonstrates that if you have murderous thoughts, they will slice out of your face like claws, and you will always look fierce, even while loafing in the soft glow of fairy lights within a pastel child's bedroom. Mood affects our perception of light--we appear to glow from within when we are happy, and the world looks brighter to us when we are energized--and mood and physical lighting both affect beauty, and beauty and lighting affect our moods . All these factors swirl together synergistically. We feel better when we are surrounded by beauty and when we feel beautiful ourselves, and we and our surroundings look more beautiful in good lighting. I kept all of this in mind when I helped my preteen daughter choose a new paint color for her bedroom last year: Oleander by Sherwin-Williams with a matte finish. It's

$Monday: Home on the Battery Range

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 up

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

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