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$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

TBT: How Do I Love Thee, Manual Mower?

A dozen years after we found it in the shed of the house we bought, our love for this push mower is going strong. Though I will admit that every so often we can't keep up our entire property with this thing, and we do occasionally use a gas-powered lawnmower, our trusty "Flintstones grass cutter" still gets plenty of use as a simultaneous lawn care tool and workout machine. The next lawnmower we buy will definitely be an electric one, but nothing can replace the satisfaction of getting the job done with the power of the human body. Long ago, in the time of the Great Recession, I wrote the following sonnet as an ode to this simple joy. How Do I Love Thee, Manual Mower? How do I love thee, manual mower? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height Of my suburban lawn, when reeling out of sight For the ends of Mowing with quiet Grace.   I love thee to the level of every day's Most emission-free trim, by sun and moonlight. I love thee free

$Monday: We Can Rise Above Death Cult Capitalism

Mmm, doesn't the smell of a bonfire make you feel punkin' spicy? Growing up, I internalized the United States cultural values of hard work as its own reward, high scores, and monetizing everything. From the age of 13, I scrounged for paltry wages (childcare, tutoring, arts and crafts sales, retail and food service and office temp jobs) while earning high grades at expensive private schools. I learned to feel guilty about "wasting" time relaxing without multi-tasking or enjoying a hobby with no intention of turning it into a hustle . I didn't have enough time to eat or sleep properly, and it made me sick and tired all the time. I was curious and drawn to new experiences, but I always felt ashamed of spending any time or resources pursuing an interest that offered no clear path to a paycheck or an award that would reflect a flattering glow upon my forebears. I had a healthy rebellious streak, but I learned to justify my transgressions with proofs of respectability a

TBT: Day Tripping for Safer Recreation

My husband and I have been accustomed to swapping some of our traditional vacations for staycations and short day trips since the Great Recession, back when finances were the only big concern with travel. Now that there's a pandemic, the added stresses of masking, sanitizing, social distancing, and avoiding public restrooms have shrunk our comfort zone even further. This year, the longest we've driven to a swimming destination is 30 minutes so that we don't have to share vehicles or restrooms with anyone. We choose a less busy time, pack our own water and snacks, find a secluded spot, and don't stay too long. Relaxing at breezy, open waterfronts has been one of the safest and most pleasurable ways to get away from the daily grind during this pandemic, and it's no wonder many of us have been drawn to the cleansing serenity of a sandy beach. This year, sadly, I have to bring up water safety on top of Covid safety. Great Lakes currents are deadly, and they've alre

$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

TBT: Complete Streets

More than a decade after the greater Lansing area began projects to build, improve, expand, and connect pathways for pedestrians and cyclists, my family has been enjoying the opportunities to go for scenic bike rides and to commute by walk or bike to school, work, parks, and stores. The new site of my workplace, a non-creedal church that serves a diverse community, was chosen partly because the new network of pathways (in addition to the old network of public transportation) connects to it.  When I wrote the post below, the Great Recession had shut down local General Motors plants and left big areas around my neighborhood looking like post-apocalyptic wasteland. Where some people saw devastation, my husband and I saw opportunity for something better. As of 2020, some of the "GM Wasteland" is still a mess. Some of it has gone back to work manufacturing automobiles. Some of it has been filled in with arrays of solar panels to generate clean energy for the Lansing area. And aro