“Buy what you don’t have yet, or what you really want, which can be mixed with what you already own. Buy only because something excites you, not just for the simple act of shopping.” ― Karl Lagerfeld
Inspired by Janssen over at Everyday Reading, I thought I’d run through a few things that I spent money on last year that sparked a lot of joy. Budgeting continues to be a big thing in the Small Dog residence this year and posts on this theme will continue to flow as I continue to think about consumption and responsible consumerism, as well as debt management. All of which I’m sure you guys find riveting.
That’s right, ducklings, come for the political angst, stay for the sensible money talk!
So, while I’m in the midst of a three month-long personal spending freeze to kick off the new year, here are the best things I bought in 2017.
We took an apartment at the upper end of our budget when we moved into this place, negotiating a better rent rate in exchange for furnishing it ourselves rather than asking our landlord to do so. This has had tradeoffs. We live in the nicest place of our married life but have had to curtail spending elsewhere as a result; we have an amazing home, but are taking literal years in putting it together and saving up for big buys one at a time. But both of us were in agreement when we saw this pair of vintages chairs show up at one of our favorite antique stores that we wanted them. They were our only big budget item for our house this year but they’ve leant our place charm, personality, color, and a much needed place for people to actually sit. I love them.
It had been years since I bought a party dress that didn’t come in the LBD variety, but this past holiday season I had enough events to go to (with a broad range of dress codes) that an update to the wardrobe was justifiable. This dress was in my December favorites post, but deserves another shout out because I have definitely gotten my money’s worth out of this thing.
Lea Stein Brooch
I picked this up on our long weekend trip to Paris with the glorious Caitlin and her lovely husband Jose. I fell in love with Lea Stein designs years ago and stumbled across an amazing shop in the Rue Jacob that sells vintage costume purely by accident. This was the only purchase that came home from Paris this year and it’s a wonderful bit of treasure.
Without fail, the best thing we spent money to me this past year was a week in Greece just the two of us. I’m very bad at relaxing, and this trip was a much needed reset. Even though we were crazy and flew into and out of Athens in less than 24 hours, we had a wonderful day in the city and an amazing six further days on Santorini with hiking, sailing, and an awful lot of food. It was amazing and has really helped me remember to prioritize time off better than I have before.
“I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” ― James Baldwin
Kittens, what a week. This could be written about any week for the past calendar year and a half but once again, it was a doozy and I’m not even going to attempt a recap. Who would have thought we’d get Oprah trending and yet more vulgarities from our vulgarian in chief? As I put the finishing touches on this post I glimpsed something from the Washington Post about an adult film star and Trump hush money? Whatever, I’m not clicking.
God, this man is humiliating. NPR had to send out a briefing memo to its news team today instructing them on the proper usage of the word “shithole” throughout the day. What a world.
Many women wore black gowns for the Golden Globes as a statement of solidarity, protest, and attention direction this year. And to anyone who naysays fashion as frivolous, I say it has always been used as social and political statement, especially by women. As Tom and Lorenzo point out, far more articulately than I could, fashion and style choices are some of the most potent weapons some of these women can use in an industry that traffics in their images. I loved that several women also brought activists as guests. More of this in 2018, please.
Bad feminist confession, I adore the film The Women and love but have always questioned the technicolor fashion montage that appears halfway through it. Well, color me educated (see what I did there?).
David Frum cautions that the real threat to our democracy is not in, “…corrosion, not crisis. In a crisis, of course we’ll all be heroes—or so we assure ourselves. But in the muddy complexity of the slow misappropriation of the state for self-interested purposes, occasions for heroism do not present themselves.”
In Mormon news, the president of the LDS church passed away last week, and this write up from Harvard Divinity School is an excellent explanation as to why his ministry was important to the faith, what happens next in the organization, and what happened during his stewardship of the church.
Senator Feinstein released transcripts of the interview of the man whose research firm was behind the infamous Steele Dossier, it’s a long read but political junkies should read it. Here’s ongoing NPR analysis for the pressed-for-time.
This take on the whole Fire and Fury situation and what the book reveals (he argues, whatever errors or faults in contains) by Ezra Klein of Vox *feels* fundamentally correct to me. It’s also weirdly sad, or it would be were not the stakes so damn high.
I like this list of things to declutter from your life in 2018.
A while back, as the sexual assault conversation was ramping up, a list made headlines. Created by an anonymous founder it was called the “Shitty Media Men” list and documented anonymous woman-to-woman heads up about potential bosses or work situations they might want to avoid. It broke into wider consciousness when it was discovered and shared on reddit. The thinkpieces, attacks, and defenses flowed. This past week on Twitter reports surfaced that the magazine Harper’s intended to publish a piece that revealed or “doxxed” the identity of the original creator. Feminist Twitter flew into a frenzy with writers pulling their pieces from the magazine and calls to protect the identity of this woman since backlashes against women have been so historically vicious and awful (see: Gamergate). But then…the creator of the list unveiled herself instead in The Cut. I have no idea what the backlash is going to be but I choose to read something into this decision and attribute it to the moment where women are collectively deciding that past terror cannot dictate future action.
All I can say is that I’m thrilled Mr. Trump cancelled his visit to London, as I was fully intending to protest and now I don’t need to request time off for that. I’m also endlessly bemused at how he lacks even the most basic grasp of history and facts (in this case regarding the plans and timeline of the new US embassy). I didn’t expect much from him, but does no one on his staff brief him on anything? At least one ambassador has resigned and several more have been summoned to their various host governments to explain the inexplicable.
“When good Americans die, they go to Paris.” ― Oscar Wilde
So, we went to Paris for a few days, and didn’t miss any news at all.
Just kidding! Because it’s 2017 and the pace of the spacetime continuum is on warp speed!
The UK had a general election that did not quite go according to the Prime Minister’s plan, and Mr. Comey testified before Congress on the investigations into Russian interference in the US election–sounding for all the world like a victim of sexual assault or pressure from the way the president behaved to the way people are trying to make the subsequent decisions of all involved Mr. Comey’s own fault. It’s been shocking. The US president continued to tweet up a storm (which, let’s be clear, is precisely what kicked off this whole mess with Mr. Comey in the first instance), leading to his own teammates delivering the weakest defense possible to explain away his actions: “He’s just new this this.” No shit, Mr. Speaker. That’s always been the problem, and in no way absolves him of the responsibility of catching the hell up with professional expectations.
At time of writing, the White House has canceled an anticipated state visit to the UK. Trust me, President Trump would go down like a lead balloon at the moment, following his outbursts in response to the London attacks. Current reports are that he doesn’t want to have to deal with prospective protests or negative coverage, the poor dear. Though let’s be clear, the UK government is far from having its ducks in a row at the moment! Nevertheless, it astonishes me how he continues to casually do damage to some of the most enduring relationships in Western democracy, and I continue to be dismayed by the failure of his own (supposedly constitutionally mad) party to check him. The fact that the most likely outcome of the Comey hearing is, at this moment, nothing at all is deeply disheartening.
But a break from that, ducklings! I’m feeling marvelously refreshed after our short holiday–posts coming as soon as I clean the house, do masses of laundry, shop for food, go the gym, try to meditate, and generally try to get our lives back into some semblance of working order. Stand by. Not sure for how long. Meanwhile, I’ve put together a delightful batch of links to make you feel prepped to take on the coming week, regardless of whether or not you are currently stuffed to the brim of delicious French food.
I loved–LOVED–the Amazons of Wonder Woman, both the fictional characters and the casting. Different sizes, shapes and colors. Some were teachers, some were fighters, some were senators, some were thin, some were highly muscled, and every last one of them was a badass. Where the hell do I enlist for the Claire Underwood battalion? The outpouring of love and appreciation from other women for this film has been a source of internet joy for me from the get go, but
“Friendship … is born at the moment when one man says to another “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .” ― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
15 years ago I met a girl in an airport bathroom (a story that I wish I could say was more scandalous than this auspicious beginning implies). We were on our way to a week long political youth conference in DC and New York, along the lines of model U.N. but I maintain cooler, that turned out to be a great time and we stayed in touch afterwards. A decade and a half later, we are still in touch and make time to see each other whenever our travels take us into one another’s orbit. She’s come to London a couple of times in the last three years, including this past weekend, when she arranged a fab dinner party to introduce Jeff and I to two other couples as well as the guy she’s dating. No surprise, we loved them all.
It got me thinking about friendships, specifically friendship in adulthood.
Growing up military brat, there was always a fluid nature to many friendships. Depending on where I lived I was surrounded with and went to school with other brats and, given the nature of the work, it was likely that one of our parents would be shipped across the country or the world in less than two years from the time we met. As a result, I and many brats I know tend to be able to make friends very quickly. We are more likely and able to progress through the phases of friendship quickly–we need to! The emotional intimacy and sustaining fun of friendship is a requirement of life, but we didn’t always have time to spend years and years cultivating relationships. We tended to single out the people we would get along with quickly, join forces quickly, and stay bonded until divided by circumstance.
On the flip side, when a friendship was broken up by a government directed move, it was often the case that it simply came to a successful end and didn’t continue. There has been an uptick in thinking and writing in recent years about “friendship breakups” but I’ve not really experienced this phenomenon in a negative way. Most of the friendships I’ve had that ended came to a natural and organic close as a chapter in life (shorter than most civilians due to the nature of our parents work) ended. I grew up partially before the internet and finished university before mobile phones became the pocket sized universes of information they are now, so this undoubtedly contributed to friendships winding down too. In an age of Whatsapp I imagine things are different now; they certainly are for my siblings–my 11 years younger than me sister seems to be operating in a totally different world than I did. I dread to think of the disconnect if Jeff and I have kids!
I don’t want to suggest that I grew up with a “disposable” attitude towards people, because that’s not accurate. But I am used to the idea that not all relationships are supposed to be or need to be permanent. Sometimes you need certain people at certain times (and vice versa), the need ends, and you both move on positively.
In adulthood, however, without the crucible of adolescence, school, sports teams, or other social tools made to get people together into groups, I don’t find as many opportunities to forge new friendships. I’ve stumbled into a few incredibly rewarding ones through blogging (hi, Caitlin!), work, and travel, but it’s a rarer thing now. It takes more work and effort than it did in a Department of Defense high school scene, and of course these days I have a partner, a full time job, errands to run. So do they! Adulthood is busy, and it can be hard to find the time to grown and nurture new friendships. On the plus side there are now more tools than ever to stay in touch with the people I already have in my life–it’s a rare week that doesn’t include a transatlantic call of some type. In my childhood, that would have been an expensive and complicated thing, these days it’s the touch of a button.
Alternatively, I have a handful of friends that I made years ago that were and remain the vital relationships of my life. My two best friends I made in middle school and, scattered as we are, I plan on them being in my Girl Squad until the day I die. One has asked me to be the executor of her will, she’s also been slated as godmother to any hypothetical children since before Jeff and I got married–before you ask, he’s 100% onboard. He refers to X. as his sister-in-law because he knows she is family to me and has been since I was 12 years old. Katarina is my other squad captain. We are the guardians of one another’s secrets, mutual cheerleaders, and constructive critics. We’ve been reading each others’ writing for the better part of two decades and one of the proudest friend moments of my life was being asked to be a first reader of the manuscript that landed her an agent. I am a ridiculously fortunate woman.
But I still appreciate the opportunity to meet new people and check in with pals who may only flit in and out of my city once every few years. We may not talk every day or even every month, but we bonded for a reason and can find a lot of joy in circling back to one another.
“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
I’m a self-described news junkie who has followed several platforms and branches of the news media closely for my entire adult life. And as a current American expat, a former military brat with both current active duty and retired military family members, a staunch feminist, and someone who works in a field intimately influenced by the finance industry (to say nothing of international policy in dozens of countries on multiple continents)…there’s a lot to follow! I consume a lot of news and these days, as is well documented, a lot of it makes my angry, nervous, and downright pissed. As Solange put it, there’s “a lot to be mad about.”
That being said, one of the things that I’m really concerned about in the current American and British political moments is outrage fatigue. I’ve mentioned this in some comment conversations before, so I know I’m not alone in this worry. Anger is amazing fuel, it’s carried me through more than one challenge in my life. But I don’t believe it’s a perpetually sustaining source of power; it burns out. And it can occasional burn people out as well, when the burden of rising to every piece of bad news with rage simply becomes emotionally unsustainable and politically un-organize-able. I’m genuinely concerned that there are vested interests in the US who are betting that if they keep up a constant stream of conflict and splashy actions, people like me will eventually burn out–i.e., cease the opposition, allowing those vested interests to get away with much worse.
On the flip side, I also don’t believe that outraged reaction as a policy position is terribly effective–at least not in a permanent way, though I think it can be marvelously effective in the short term on the part of the citizenry! It may surprise some readers, but I am not in favor of single minded obstructionist strategies on the part of the left right now. By which I mean that if the president proposed policy broadly aligned with liberal principles, I’d expect leaders to support it (the trouble is that at the moment, the president has yet to put forward a policy I support, but I remain theoretically open to the notion). I railed against obstructionist behavior when conservative stoned walled President Obama, it would be hypocritical of me to support such behavior now. Being consistently against something is not the same thing as having a proactive platform of your own, something that I believe played out to Democratic disadvantage in the recent election. Anger fuels revolutions, but it’s usually taken cooler heads to turn revolt into civic progress rather than a short dive into tyranny or chaos. It’s not enough to emote in response to government actions we find immoral or unlawful, you have to mobilize. That takes organization, articulation of proactive positions and not just reactive ones, effort, and long term commitment…all of which can be difficult to sustain if you are operating from a place of near or actual burnout.
I know for a fact that I’m susceptible to outrage fatigue. And I also know that I plan on being more political involved and engaged than I have been heretofore. Meaning that I’m going to need a thicker skin, a longer battery life, and several recharging stations along the way. To that end, I’m more committed than ever to emotional self care practices and keeping my emotional energy well tended and focused. I’m still learning, but if like me you’ve stared responding to “BREAKING NEWS” signs with cringes and expletives, here are a few things that I’ve found that keep me even keeled when I want to panic or smash things.
Top Tips Thus Far From Someone Still Figuring it Out:
Don’t pick fights for the sake of fighting. Plenty of people are doing that already. If you feel so inclined to join the fray, have at it, but know that you’re expending emotional energy that may be better served elsewhere and that you may need later. Personally, at the moment I’ve given up trying to change a lot of people’s minds through arguing. Where I can find respectful conversations, I engage. Where I find flame wars, I avoid.
Don’t be afraid to enjoy frivolous things that bring your pleasure–and don’t let anyone shame you for it. Yes, there’s a lot of bad stuff happening all over the globe at the moment. That doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to enjoy and share small things that make you happy. I remember a criticism leveled at me waaaaaay back in the earlier days of my blogging where someone informed me that I couldn’t be a “real” feminist because I mostly wrote humor posts at the time. A couple of years later, I was called a “stupid/shallow” woman for talking about my love of fashion and beauty. At the time, these (fairly minor) critiques caused me a lot of self-doubt…which was precisely their intent. Today my response is a bellowing, “Nonsense!” As if it’s impossible to have a sense of humor, and like lipstick, and have thoughts about the wage gap, parental leave, and social constructs all at the same time. Everyday pleasures are important and people interested in shaming you do not have your best interests at heart.
Avoid toxicity. Sometimes we need to engage in hard conversations and go to tough places, usually because there is a reward to earn or a morally good fight to be undertaken. Sometimes, there is no discernible good in exposing yourself to certain platforms or people–sometimes being in those places can cause you damage. In those cases, do not give those people or platforms your time, attention, or money.
Maintain your internal bullshit barometer. We live in a consumer media world largely based on provocation and reaction, it takes effort to maintain a critical eye and perspective. Do not get worked up over, much less share information without vetting it first. If and when you find your control over your own perspective shifting to all-to-easily agree with the last article you read or pundit you listened to, it’s time for a break.
Actively seek out things that make you feel happy. Legal and innocuous, I stress! Whether that’s time with your partner or friends, reading a book, exercise, stand up comedy, podcasts, puppy videos…no matter. It’s ridiculously easy to feel like the world is a terrible place and the only logical course of action is to ball up in a corner by ourselves somewhere. Just remember, that’s the argument that got us into our current political predicament! Go find things that spark joy and make them a part of your daily routine.
Unplug from time to time. Barring nuclear disaster (which, depending on your point of view at the moment may in fact be a credible threat), there will be more bad news coming down the pike shortly and, if you are committed to your cause, you will be required to act in some way in response. Allocate your attention accordingly.
Conserve your energy where you can. Not every tweet, pronouncement, or even action is a Defcon 1 level threat. In fact, some of the news right is laugh out loud ridiculous. Find the humor where possible, and allocate your energy where it’s needed.
What about you? What emotional habits have you had to cultivate in the 21st century news and political climate? What works for you and what doesn’t?
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” – Constitution of the United States of America
Two posts in one day, you lucky darlings. But the news of the Executive Order issued by President Trump banning access to the country from several (Islamic) countries has broken and rather consumed our day here at SDS headquarters. He’s not calling it a #MuslimBan (though General Flynn’s son is, for what that’s worth)…but it’s a ban on Muslims. You know how we can tell? Because President Trump also directed that priority for immigration should be given to people from the Middle East…who are Christian. But let’s set that aside for a moment.
I’m not going to speculate on how much ammunition this will give to terrorist groups, some of whom have already apparently used the EO in recruiting efforts. Or how this might affect my brother and countless others currently serving in the armed forces.
I’m not going to touch the fact that this EO, steeped in racial tensions and fearmongering, was issued on Holocaust Memorial day.
Instead, I want to talk about some personal background, some legal realities, and the question of motive.
On my father’s side, his mother was the daughter of immigrants from Slovakia. They were Roman Catholic at a time when Catholics and immigrants from southern and eastern Europe were viewed as suspect and fundamentally Un-American. My grandmother married a WASP from New York and bore three children, one of whom is my father who served most of my life in the US Air Force. One of my brothers has followed him into service.
On my mother’s side, I am descended from religious converts who came from Scotland and elsewhere to the deserts of the American West to join in a small and somewhat persecuted religious movement–Mormonism. This movement had an extermination order issued against them as a group at one point and were eventually driven out of what then constituted the boundaries of the country. My mother descends from this religious minority, now considered one of the most conservative and patriotic subsections of the country. My dad later converted to this faith and this heritage. I’ve left the former, but carry the latter with me always.
That’s my immigrant and religious minority legacy. Why do I repeat this? Because I’m not special. Most Americans have some kind of story like this in their background, this intertwining of minority and immigrant stories goes right back to our founding myths and has been our day-to-day lived reality for the better part of three centuries. Cracking down on immigrants, especially when you are using religion as part of your reasoning is fundamentally counter intuitive to our national history and story.
Years later, I’m now an immigrant in a Western nation at this very moment. I followed all the laws to legally enter this country and work here, and I have the paperwork to prove it. That is how international immigration and laws work. I’m lucky. I’m white, educated, English speaking, but I’m still an immigrant. My life is here and it is dependent on the goodwill of two governments. If I boarded a plane in the US and arrived in London only to be detained at the border because the Prime Minister had decided that in defiance of laws and regulations in two countries, my right to entry (again, documented in two countries) was suddenly invalidated, I have no idea where I’d be. Catatonic in a corner perhaps. Propublica estimates that up to half a million people are potentially in this situation now. The Washington Post is reporting that the language of the recent executive order that has brought this mess about also applies to people with dual nationalities…aka…citizens of the US. Huffinton Post reports ditto for Green Card holders. Representatives of the government under which I currently live are also reporting that they could not access the US under this EO, which doesn’t make me overly optimistic for continued operational goodwill across borders.
Why do I bring all this up? Because, like me, we are talking about people who have already passed multitudes of tests and requirements to gain access to the country.
There a lot of genuinely necessary conversation and work to do to create a safe, viable immigration network in the 21st century world. But do you know what really is pissing me off? It’s that the basis for this EO is due to fears and anxieties concerning illegal immigration and religious backgrounds. People who have the paperwork to get into this country have, in many cases, already passed a vetting process far more grueling than anyone currently being considered for a position in Mr. Trump’s cabinet! And freedom of worship was one of the first things the Founding Fathers enshrined.
And so, people who voted for this–including some of you who told me that these kinds of actions or bans would never come to fruition: do not tell me that the problem is illegal immigration, and then turn around and start detaining or denying entry first to those who already legally live and work in the US, including citizens. Do not tell me you consider the constitution sacrosanct but then impose a religious litmus test on entry in violation of the Bill of Rights. Do not cite the 9/11 attacks or recent lone wolf actors as a basis for this ban and then apply it to countries who citizens didn’t participate in those atrocities.
You’re either delusional about your motives, or you’re lying.
“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.” ― Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
In case you missed it, the Womens March on Washington (and sister marches around the world, including the one I participated in in London) might have made some records. The coverage is still coming in and it’s amazing to see — more amazing to have participated in. You can see some my images here, but this is a story worth following and watching. To say nothing of joining in. Welcome to the Grab Back.
Oh yeah, and the US has a new president who doesn’t seem to be “pivoting” from his campaign persona in any way. Shock, surprise. I watched his inauguration because I’m a citizen and think it’s important to support the process of free government. The new First Lady looked absolutely lovely, and I thought it was gracious and correct for Secretary Clinton to show up in spite of how awful I expect it felt. The speech was Orwellian, but bang on from the tone of his campaign. The next day I laced up my shoes and hit the streets to make it clear that he was not elected with a mandate and I will be supporting the issues that I care about with my time, my money, and my voice. Because again, I think it’s important to support the process of free government. This is how it works.
Here are your links, kittens. Tell me what you got up to this weekend.
I found this piece at Politico a very timely read. It opines that President Trump’s hostility towards the press may be a blessing in disguise. If the traditional lines of communication between the administration and the media are clipped, the press can and should (this writer argues) fan out to the myriad unofficial lines instead and take up the opportunity to do more and more extensive investigative reporting.
STOP. I swear every time I read an article like this, my heart breaks a little. I know there are more important immediate issues, such as the civilian lives in the crosshairs right now, but this hateful and deliberate dismantling of human history is also hideous