meet the frugalwoods

a woman at my book club recommended this memoir of a young woman struggles for financial independence: meet the frugalwoods. I enjoyed it. Good quick read with a healthy balance of philosophizing, admitting privilege, ideas to save money and told chronologically, as a story.

The author graduates college, nearly starves, but eventually has a decent career in non-profit fundraising that she absolutely hates. she and her husband have always been very thrifty people, but they had some slumps into materialism that they recognize as "not fulfilling". they eventually realize that what they really want is to quit their jobs and live in the woods, just hiking and gardening every day. they have high incomes, spend a few years on a strict "buy nothing" diet that includes things like cutting each other's hair, dumpster diving for baby gear, offering to clean up the yoga studio in exchange for free classes, or quitting the gym altogether to just bike to work. but they still buy wine. cool with me.

along the way they learn some things that I agree with - buying stuff doesn't make you happy. it is fun to try and score free/cheap used items when you need them. limited selection means you relax more, accept and be grateful for what life brings you. they spend more time together working on projects and grow closer in their marriage.

rather than any complicated budget ratio system, they just try to spend as little as humanly possible on everything, track how much they spend and where and try to cut it all out, even shrinking food expenses to the minimum.

Every financial book you read is like a buffet, I figure. take what you like, leave behind what you don't. the things I don't like:

1: I'm pretty sure this double income, no-kid couple were earning a cubic shit ton of money. they were eventually storing away over 70% of their income in savings, right after having bought a $400,000 house in Cambridge. I can't throw too many rocks because I myself am "above average", but if you quadrupled my mortgage and took 70% of my income I would be NEGATIVE, not frugal. I find it much more interesting to read financial stories of "here's how we survived" than "here's how we could have been overrich assholes but opted out, praise us!"

As the great philosopher Tevye says in Fiddler on the Roof... money is the world's curse? may the Lord smite me with it! And may I never recover!

2: she figures out by the age of 23 that she hates her career and her degree was a mistake. she studied creative writing and political science with no obvious plan about what to ever do with those. she becomes a non-profit fundraiser, and hates it... but drags herself through it for ten years or something just to haul in money. besides being concerned for her poor coworkers, I couldn't help but wonder... isn't it easier to just find a job you like? I'm not going to say my career hasn't had some depressing points or less than satisfying times, but lots of days I go in feeling really excited about what I'm going to learn and who I'm going to talk to. I can't think of doing anything else 40 hours a week.

now she is a blogger and her husband does some kind of telecommuting thinktank gig, but that means we don't have a story about how to do money, we have a story about how to become a professional blogger. which is interesting. but different.

I just think it's weird to look at a young person and say hey, if you don't like your job it's cool. just tough it out and save money and look forward to quitting. there's a lot that can go wrong with that plan. I like career advice books better. figure out what you love, what you're good at, and how it can feed the needs of the world, and work hard, and have a good life whether you retire or not.

anyway I won't hold all this against them, the bestselling book deserves to be a bestseller and I like how the story is told. nothing is a one-size-fits-all solution. they add a healthy amount of disclaimers... admitting privilege, admitting their plan isn't for everyone, but here it is, maybe it will help.

parenting advice

One nice thing about having my own lj is that I can say whatever I darn well please about parenting, because according to the rules of most parenting groups I'm in you are ONLY allowed to support, not judge or give advice. I cringe so much.

example post: "my 3yo seems very behind, he can't read yet, I bought him all the harry potter books and he's barely through the first 200 pages. what flashcards can I buy to drill more complex sightwords into his tiny brain, especially when he's tired after a long day at prep school?"

according to the rules of supporting mommy communities, I am only allowed to recommend flashcard brands. not ask 1,000,000 other questions I have. I definitely cannot question the diagnosis of this struggling preschooler.

example post: "just need to vent. I've asked my family members to 'like and share' my daughter's facebook page for her youtube toy opening videos, and they are really dragging their feet on it. what's worse, some of them got her christmas toys that were not in sealed blind bags so we couldn't use them on the channel, and we clearly asked for shopkins EIGHTH edition not SEVENTH, IS IT SO HARD PEOPLE?"

again... since it started with a prompt to vent, I'm only allowed to say "I feel ya sister!" or nothing at all. so I have to say nothing. it's hard for me. if someone says they're venting you are not to give advice, that's the rule in like three communities I stumbled upon. because we are "cool". but omg.

last example post: "my stupid husband brought the baby down for her 1st birthday party NOT WEARING HER OFFICIAL 1ST BIRTHDAY PARTY ONESIE, I am doing so much work for this perfect occasion, I got the invites out for the 60 people, rented the ponies, and now he can't even get the clothes right? why even have a first birthday, UGH!"

I want to offer so much relationship advice but again. I just head over to livejournal, and write this post.

you're doing awesome, parents! all of you! suuuuuure!

party leftovers

Still having great parties at the house a few times a year, they just change with age.

No leftover cheese plate or steak hummus.

bought vodka, forgot or just weren't feeling like making cosmopolitans.

Things that were left at my house:
- nine unopened beers
- two loaves of nice bread
- a travel coffee mug
- somebody's coat
- two extra children, under the age of 10

I'm really excited about the bread!

nowdays we can't have a party without getting a "can so-and-so spend the niiiiiight?!" too bad josie is the worst at sleepovers, quickly forgets that it was basically her idea and gets sick of people and wants to be alone. shrug. yeah kid, you can't ghost out on a party that is going to last until the next morning.


As a thank-you gift for a fundraising campaign I got a very nice 30oz yeti tumbler. It's ginormous. I can hydrate an army. It keeps ice frozen for a week. If a fluid oz weighs and oz, think about it, this is hauling two pounds of water around.

I am a fan of small vintage coffee mugs. I have never understood why things get bigger and bigger. There's a scene at Breakfast at Tiffany's where she goes out to get drunk and she's drinking the tiniest cocktail you've ever seen. That's how people got drunk back then. Life was more moderate. I am a large person, but I like my small closet of clothes, small plates for dinner, small coffee mugs and wine glasses. I only buy ice cream at the store so I can serve myself, because the ice cream places like Marble Slab charge something like $11 for their smallest cone and it's 64 cubic inches of ice cream. I drive a four cylinder hatchback. My wallet only holds 4-5 cards.

Back to giant yeti. It has a model... I think it's the rambler? titan? range rover? It's actually come in handy at my office for making tea. I use it as a teapot. I'll always admit a single teabag can make lots of tea. So I use the breakroom coffee maker to make hot water, pour half the pot into my yeti, then I've got hot tea for the whole afternoon, I just keep refilling my little mug over and over again.

I used to have an actual teapot but that's weird at the office. Ever since dolores umbridge tortured harry potter in her perfectly pink doily cat plate room, teapots are OUT.

A yeti is socially acceptable. It doesn't pour as well, but it's better insulated. And it commands respect. Nobody at work will give me any crap with my 30oz yeti mammoth. It says, "I'm rustic and tough and serious about hydration!"

how to export spotify playlist to text

I wanted to blog about my cool new spotify playlist but couldn't figure out how to export the song titles as a text file. Apparently this is not a feature spotify has. There are some other apps that do it but I do not like other apps.

But then I figured out a way.

1) Open playlist in the web player in chrome
2) Hit ctrl+p like you want to print the page
3) Destination - save as PDF
4) Under "More Settings" change the scaling to smaller if it doesn't show all your songs - for my 30 song list I got down to 40%

Now there is text that you can select/copy/paste. You don't even have to save the PDF, you can copy straight out of the preview window. It's not always clean with perfect line breaks but it's faster to clean up a bit than retype it all, right?


poor olive got sent home from another hard day in the first grade for sounding wheezy and terrible. She's had trouble before when she got sick, stuff just seems to settle in her lungs more than it should. It was two years ago maybe when she and I spent a night alternating between the porch and the bathroom with the shower running when her cough got scary, it was terrible. but she's normally fine.

So I'm not sure what's changed, but the doctor said it was asthma symptoms, and she should use an inhaler twice a day for a while and avoid playing outside for a few days. That's too bad, the fall afternoons are nice lately. That's how I see it, anyway. Olive wasn't too bothered, she'd watch TV all day if we'd let her, so an excuse to rest on the couch is probably great.

She sounds better. It was Friday when she was sent home, and Saturday morning she woke up definitely sounding wheezy, like her lungs were too small. She's been writing tiny stories in a notebook and read them to me enthusiastically, she didn't have the breath she usually does and I noticed it and it sounded painful but she didn't seem to care.

What's weird is I didn't think a kid could just GET asthma? How was she fine last week, but not fine now, and is she sick or not? Is this something she'll shake off after a weekend of treatments and rest, and if that's the case that's not really asthma is it?

We went in for a follow up and the doctor said to continue treatments for now... I wasn't there, I would have pushed back. treatments for what? forever?

no more forums

I took the forum section off Obviously not a casual decision, they've been in their state since the early 2000s, with thousands of members and posts, but the forum had really run its course. Nothing lasts forever. Like a prized sweater or wedding gift you eventually send back to the DAV, or your relative's favorite dishes that you estate sale because no one in the family wants them, everything helps you in a moment when it helps you. Once the moment is gone, the thing doesn't have to hold the same meaning. It's okay.

on a concrete level, a forum takes bandwidth and server space. some search bot is always trying to crawl every little corner for information, slurping bandwidth as it goes.

phpbb spam controls are awful. it's a very common platform, and a million spambots are trying to get in, the registration page is always the busiest. I had to turn off registration a year or two ago and just tell people to email me if they wanted a new account. I know that's awful, but every patch I put in eventually became useless, and spambots would make dozens of new accounts a day. We had questions and administrators approving accounts. It was just terrible.

laws always get more complicated. they are made with good intentions, but they are made. privacy laws, the cookie warnings, data protection. heck, it started in 2002 with COPPA. The laws are made by lawyers. I do not have lawyers. I am a small, independent web designer. So it makes me nervous. It's easier to just back out. Back away from anything that people sign into or give information.

Some parts of the site are still used and still helpful. The pregnancy/due date statistics, the mnemonic generator, the skirt pattern calculator. they are more grown up.

I will remember the forums as a source of great joy for a long time. I don't know why people flocked into it or how we attracted so many teens! there were thoughtful, brilliant members who shifted the culture in the right direction, who battled trolls like dragons! we were the top feminist forum on google for a while, that attracted all kinds, and not good kinds, but we had great rules for dealing with them. we were tolerant, but only to mess with them for fun, when they weren't fun we banned them. meanwhile the teenagers who came for useless quizzes would see all this go down and maybe, just maybe, absorb a little.

maybe we, as a forum, came to a consensus, and we were done. the internet changed and everyone moved around and it wasn't the same. but it was always there and any changes we made to people are always there. so with that thought, I said okay, thank you everyone for coming! and closed the doors.

communications training

I've been in training this week, two days of Crucial Conversations. It's a book, it's a company, it's a class. I think I read half or more of the book years ago, but the training helped too, especially the videos and examples in the class, and talking through examples.

I have coworkers who are setting very good examples for me right now, they are patient and good at reading people. I can speak calmly when I know what to say. I have to list out my talking points in a file, what to say in hard conversations.

a few of my bad habits I'd like to improve on:

1) I assume bad intent too often. Someone makes a choice I disagree with, I write them off as nuts. When I brainstorm with colleagues I sometimes realize the person is just misinformed, or made their decision without having all the information I do. They think of creative scenarios that make me realize the person might have been doing what I'd do in that situation.

2) I offer to step in and take the ball too much. It was a great skill at once time, but it's not so great around everyone, when you're wanting someone to be more independent or you're trying to delegate, resist resist resist. But it's a habit.

3) I interrupt people. Among my best friends this is always a norm, but it can get in the way.

the fine art of slowing down and taking a deep breath helps in call cases. leave some whitespace for the other person to talk, and for me to use my imagination. I am pretty good. We can all get better.

sleeping in the cold

We went on a camping trip for two nights and figured it would be "good sleeping weather" cold... fall snuck up on us though. It was in the 40s. I about froze. I was not prepared, we just had blankets and sweats, not the thermal layers and wool socks. So I slept horribly, waking up again and again all night and every time, I swear, I had to pee, which meant really getting my courage up and going outside the tent.

at some point marc was freezing too. he was sleeping on a cot. I hate cots, they constrict me, but he joined me on the ground and we tried to snuggle up for warmth. you'd think that after 12 years of marriage we'd be great at this. nope.

then olive woke up crying and cold in the kids' tent and marc went and brought her to me. I snuggled her and she passed back out and I did too. that was the best sleep I had, and neither of us woke up until the sun was up. maybe because her sleeping bag was on top of us - it was nice and warm - maybe because she was warm but small enough not to have to navigate around too much.

I would have thought I didn't sleep at all, but every time I woke up I'd been dreaming. so I knew I must have been asleep because I was just at the mall or something. I don't usually wake up having remembered a dream, but that night there must have been a dozen. they were all terribly boring. that's the trend. maybe that's how I dream now, at 39 years old.

truly boring.

I was going shopping with three people I didn't know, and we weren't sure who would drive. So I said I would drive.

I was invited to a coworker's party, and wasn't sure what to wear, then realized I was already wearing the shirt I liked underneath my sweater. his house was decorated extremely typically, in beige with dark wood furniture. he had a nice home office. I told the people at the party a funny scene from an episode of Frasier I'd just watched.

I should be happy I don't have nightmares anymore, even though it's October and I've been reading scary books lately. But I was mostly just disappointed I can't have flying dreams like I read about.

Back to reality at the camping trip: daytime temperatures got up to the 70s, we went on beautiful hikes on trails through the woods both days, the girls had a blast. we brought the dog and the ferret. If I'd just been better dressed for the cold, I'd be great. Next time.