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Second Spring Breakdown

It's the second spring of the pandemic, and it's... not all better. Time to break down how bad it is and how good it can be if we can get through this year’s spring fever. Case rates of Covid-19 are far higher this March than they were last March when the big lockdowns happened, and the infection rate is roaring upward because people are losing their minds faster than they are getting vaccinated. Italy is going into its second Easter lockdown, and the United States has made a clear collective decision that the mindless consumption of novelty products and services matters more than human life. As a nation, despite the refreshing progress and signs of hope coming from the new White House, we're done pretending to care about each other. We still haven't agreed that childcare and elementary schools are more important than bars or that real children's childhoods are more important than adults' rights to party like Florida Man. Our culture of overwork and gross consum

NaNoWriMo: How It Started vs. How It's Going (Not Today, Santa!)

Happy Thanksgiving 2020! Scroll down to the bottom for a turkey bone broth recipe, or keep reading for a dramatic story of despair and redemption. Choose your own adventure! Allora. Those of us with survival instincts are locked down in our own homes this holiday season with no guests, and some intrepid aspiring novelists have taken advantage of this fall's pandemic isolation to try for a NaNoWriMo win. To all you crazy kids who have already certified your 50,000 words so that you can relax on this day of joyful gluttony, congratulations, winners! I am not one of you. Not this year, anyway. When I wrote the blog post below (originally entitled "Final NaNoWriMo Weekend Squeeze,") life was extremely different. I was a wildly busy, messily eager, child-free young adult who didn't let a little thing like a holiday slow me down in my race to become a WINNER WINNER TURKEY DINNER.  So what did I win, exactly? To put it simply, I received a near-delusional shot of confidence

Pocket of Joy: Close Grandparents

One of the best decisions I ever made in my life was to settle close to my parents before having a child. I even convinced my parents to move right into my neighborhood after they retired, a ten-minute walk from my backyard, and everyone in my family has benefited from the arrangement . Grandparents and grandchildren are great for each other's physical, mental, and emotional health. And the support grandparents can provide in helping to care for and raise a child benefits the child's parents. Over the past year, I think we all realized just how important it is for parents to have reliable and safe childcare, and unfortunately our nation has some work to do to provide for the needs of working class families. Those of us fortunate enough to have parents who are willing and able to help us care for our children are blessed indeed. Close relationships between grandparents and grandchildren create well-being and resilience in every generation of the family. It is wonderful to have

Vaccination Celebrations

I... have... IMMUNITEH? Last week, I received my first Pfizer shot! The development of my freedom powers has begun. I feel like a butterfly getting ready to bust out and unfold its wrinkled, soggy wings! Today is my parents' Peak Immunity Day, two weeks after their final shot. That means that now my household gets to "bubble" with theirs. We have been waiting patiently and taking care all year because my husband works two high-risk essential jobs out in public, and my mother is one of the main caregivers for my elderly grandmother. But now, today, my daughter is finally free to spend as much time as she likes inside of her grandparents' house, without masks and with hugs! We can have combined family dinners! And ping-pong tournaments in the basement! In one week, my husband reaches his own Peak Immunity, which will be a big relief. I'll have mine by the middle of May, and although our daughter won't have access to vaccines until maybe next year, there is hope

When Life Gives You Key Limes: Pandemic Key Lime Pie Recipe

Unlock a priceless skilled trade! Honestly, I did not mean to learn a new skill in 2020, but fortunately, my new skill is unmarketable. The last thing I wanted to do is learn a new grind. Fortunately, the new trick I learned has proven a great way to unwind : making the perfect Midwestern pandemic-style Key lime pie! I already love to bake, and my favorite baked goods are those you could never buy in a store because nobody would pay for the time and fine ingredients they require. Like my husband's loaf of all-day, no-knead bread with $8 worth of cheese inside. Maybe that would fly in Italy, but not here. Americans are like, "OoH tHat'S sO expEnsIvE!" and then they go and spend $8 on one mixed drink that tastes like mouthwash and melted popsicles. Now, I know that there are some fancy Florida crackers who would mock my family’s poor taste because we make our pies the old-timey way, with canned milk instead of fresh cream. But I think our recipe is the perfect balance o

$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

$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

Every Millennial Is Now an Adult Without -Ing

Millennials are no longer the new kids on the block! (Not to be confused with the boy band NKOTB, who are members of Gen X.) Millennials are all adults now, adults as a noun, no matter what we are doing or how well we have mastered life skills. As a matter of fact, we are roughly 25 - 40 years old, not girls and boys, not yet old olds. After years of riding the "adulting" struggle bus, we have arrived! We are the newest adults in the room, and we are winging it just like every other adult before us. We may whine more. We may cling to our childish fandoms longer. Nevertheless, the time for using "adult" as a verb has ended. We are adults, for better or worse. So has the time also come for us to let go of the laugh-cry emoji, side parts, skinny jeans, and the color millennial pink? Short answer: No! We're the grownups and we do what we want. It's a tough spot because from now on, the harder we try to appear young, the older we look. But it's also a swee

Pockets of Joy

As we enter the second year of the pandemic, we should all agree on two things (besides the science of hygiene and vaccination, obviously): that this situation is truly awful, and that it has never been more important to cultivate little pockets of joy in our lives anywhere we can. The light at the end of the tunnel is dim and seems to keep moving, sometimes closer, sometimes farther away. Even the rollout of vaccines is being undermined by new virus variants that are riding the waves of spring fever to whip Michigan up into the country's hottest of hot spots for rising infections. Herd immunity feels like a pipe dream around here, especially because almost half the population still says they will refuse to get a vaccine. And children won't have a vaccine this year at all, so families with children won't be able to socialize safely with other families (without masks and social distancing) before the end of this year at least. My daughter already knows that she'll probab

Smashing the Ticky-Tacky

The demolition has begun! After more than a decade of living with an outdated and dysfunctional kitchen, we are slapping the tackiness out of this place and creating our own functional, beautiful, and family-and-friends-friendly space. My husband and I are thrifty, practical people--and because of that, we put off updates to our home until we got through the messy, silly, frantically busy, and expensive years of early parenthood and entertaining groups of rowdy children. But now our daughter is graduating from elementary school, my parents are newly retired and eager to help, and pandemic legislation put our student loans on hold, so IT IS TIME!  Until a couple of weeks ago, our late kitchen featured: a partially broken, scuffed-up, shabby, and weirdly tiny sink; a rusty, falling-apart vent hood; a poorly installed, ugly tile backsplash; broken cabinets with peeling doors; three lights and several outlets that don't work, due to horrifyingly wrong electrical wiring; countertops mad

Endo Belly Dance

Later this summer, I have an ultrasound scheduled to begin the process of maybe, finally, diagnosing the endometriosis that I believe I have. Sometimes I feel like my belly is busted. At different times in my life, I've had different abdominal issues at varying degrees of severity. They started in my teens and changed with different stages of biological development, different dietary habits, different exercise routines, and different levels of stress. They were relieved by pregnancy but made childbirth tough. They returned a couple years after I gave birth and have evolved over the past decade. And now that I'm in my late 30s, I have collected some strategies under my belt (yeah that's a mom joke, ha ha) for managing my belly issues in between medical interventions. The most fun and consistently effective practice I've tried is belly dance. I first tried out belly dance in college, when an older friend taught a brief workshop. I only learned a few basic hip movements, b

Diversity, Get In My Belly!

Diversity is good! That’s common sense, right? Human physical and cultural diversity is good for developing kids' social skills and self-esteem, good for the workplace, and important in media representation. Diversification is desirable in financial investment portfolios and income streams. Diverse perspectives are good for education, arts, and entertainment. Diverse experiences in life are cool. Expanding the diversity of one's own life skills is useful. Natural diversity of flora and fauna is good for healthy ecosystems.  Inside the human body, diversity is good for the microbiome of our guts.  Diversity!  It's great in the world, in the wild, and inside of our own minds and bodies. So why do so many people think that exclusionary food diets are beneficial? And who am I to judge them? Hello, I'm a lifelong slim person who has never had a chronic condition related to body weight or an eating disorder. I don't think that there is anything magical or genetically frea