On knowing what’s out there: loosely connected thoughts from vacation with the relatives

Over the holidays, DH’s newly retired parents kept talking about how truly blessed they are.  None of their kids are in jail.  All are gainfully employed.  They themselves have more money than they ever dreamed and will actually be able to increase their quality of life in retirement (or rather, FIL now has both time and money for all those hunting trips he’s been wanting to do), at least while the stock market is booming.  (A couple of weeks ago, FIL called up to ask DH to ask me whether or not it was ok to have 90% stocks/10% bonds…)

DH’s relative that we’ve talked about before is not doing so well.  He’s got arthritis, which makes being a construction worker difficult.  His oldest two both had children as teenagers (the oldest is living at home with her toddler, the second moved West with her two kids to live with the biological mother who abandoned her as a baby).  His wife is recovering from brain cancer.  His third attempted suicide via electricity socket recently and is depressed because he’s too blind to legally drive.  His fourth has gotten in with a bad crowd and started stealing from family and was recently on suicide watch at a hospital.  We didn’t hear much about the fifth this time around except that she was driving the oldest’s car when it got totaled by an uninsured driver (which means the relative is now chauffeuring everybody around).  Also one of his two much younger brothers (his brothers are the same age as his oldest daughters) has been jailed for possession of stolen materials.

Focusing a bit on that third kid– he graduated from high school last year and the plan was to take the year off working (he’s washing dishes at a restaurant) and then spend the next year at community college.  Community college is about an hour away, so he would have to be driven.  He’s really depressed that he will never be able to drive and it’s not clear that he’s actually going to do community college next year, or ever.  He’s smart and has the grades and GPA to go to the flagship school or one of the closer regionals.  The flagship’s admission deadline has come and gone and the closer regionals have passed their priority deadlines but still have rolling admissions.  Over break, he and DH talked about careers and DH tried to convince him to just fill out one of the two page regional applications for either of the closest schools (while DH was there to pay the $40 admission fee), but no luck.

And the thing is, this kid has never been anywhere with public transportation (or even taxis!).  He has no idea what it’s like to be someplace where you can take yourself where you need to go without having to depend on the kindness of someone else to drive you.  It would be best for him to skip community college and to just go straight to a 4 year college with an extensive bus system and counselors.   He should be eligible for plenty of need-based financial aid and what’s left we can pay.  But… he doesn’t know that’s best.  He doesn’t know what is best and his parents don’t have 4-year college degrees (his mom never finished high school) and his dad has been on his own since 16, so they’re letting him do what he wants since he’s officially an adult.

Growing up I knew I wanted to be upper-middle-class because I knew people whose parents were upper-middle-class and I had an aunt and uncle who were judges, and I thought, I want that.  I want to not have to worry about money and to have the temperature always set to something comfortable.  DH never had those thoughts, but his parents were doing pretty well compared to everyone else in his family, and at boarding school he learned a lot about what all was out there.  And his mother had a wide variety of experiences growing up and she told me this most recent trip that she always thought it important to make sure her kids saw places outside the small town, so they went to camps (or in DH’s case, boarding school) and visited relatives (from her side of the family) up north and so on.  She also took them to get professional career testing before college and told them not going was not an option (for DH she also controlled where he was allowed to apply), just as her father had told her that not going to college was not an option.

Going back to DH’s family’s place at Christmas does tend to make one feel #blessed because it reminds us how well we’re doing and how well DH’s immediate family is doing.  It also forces the comparison of how hard it is for so much of America to get ahead outside of our highly educated McMansion-owning bubble.  DH’s relative is plenty smart, but his life diverged dramatically from DH’s at 16 when he got married and left home and had two kids.  But there were also a lot of factors that led up to that point and after– his parents also had two kids by age 18.  Our kids’ lives will diverge even more dramatically.  His kids are not our kids, and we don’t know how to help, or if we even can help.   So, we will continue to feel #blessed and to keep things in perspective while doing what we can to make it easier for poor kids more generally to get ahead.  We have our oxygen masks on, but there are still a lot of people out there who need assistance with theirs, and even more who don’t have access to oxygen masks at all.

Advertisements

A sad update on the relatives

The babies were set to be delivered at 37 weeks, to be induced if necessary.  The smaller twin had had several scares and had forced at least one extended hospital stay.

Just before 35 weeks, she went into labor.  They rushed to the nearest big hospital, and then to the big city hospital two hours away.  The smaller twin had died.  They stopped the labor and recommended she try to keep the babies gestating a little longer.  A few days later she went into labor again and 18 hours later they were born.  The larger twin was 5lb 4oz and other than standard preemie stuff (not wanting to be touched, lungs not fully developed) was doing fine at birth.  They held a funeral service at the hospital and another back home for the smaller twin.

The other baby is now off the ventilator and feeding tube and is cuddly and should be coming home soon.

An emotional update on the relatives: Also, a love note to having money

So, long-time followers of the blog may remember that one of the things we’ve committed to doing is paying college costs for DH’s relatives (5 kids, though technically we’ve only committed to the two oldest) in the hopes that they’ll be able to break out of the cycle of poverty that happens when you have several generations of rural teen pregnancy.

Unfortunately, the matriarch of this family branch is about to be a great-grandmother at the age of 56.  Our connecting relative is to be a grandfather at the age of 38.  The great-grandmother is, in fact, expecting three bouncing baby grandchildren this fall and the grandfather two.  His second oldest is having twins.  (An 18 year old step-cousin is having a singleton.)

This is a real shame, because the second is smart and has a solid GPA and solid ACTs.  She could easily have started a regional state school in the fall with money and would have gotten into the flagship had she applied (though probably not much financial aid there based on her scores).  She’d decided instead to commute with her sister to the community college for a year and then transfer– at that point, with college credit from high school she’d be a junior psychology major.

Instead, she recently found out that she’s heavily pregnant with twins and due in October.  We don’t know if she suspected earlier but was in denial or if she’s been lying– she had a surgery 3 weeks ago on her face that she should not have had if pregnant.

It’s too late for even considering an abortion and she doesn’t want to give the babies up for adoption (she did not think of it as an option).

They’re high risk in many ways– she is 17, she hasn’t been getting prenatal care (wasn’t even on vitamins), lives in a house with a smoker, she and her sister were both premature, twins… twins are an expensive proposition even when the circumstances are perfect.  Chances are these kids could have special needs, though we will hope they don’t.

One thing she has going for her that her parents didn’t was that even though she’s not marrying a boyfriend (hopefully they will work out paternity, hopefully the guy will pay support), her parents aren’t kicking her out of the house.  Her biological parents had to set up shop on their own when they were 16.  Unfortunately the previous matriarch who provided free child care passed away last year, and the current matriarch is still working.

There’s a supportive environment, possibly the more-so because the situation is so common.  The relative tells us that his other three kids and the extended family (on the step-mom who raised them’s side) have baby fever in anticipation.  They’ve been hitting up garage sales for baby things.

The oldest is still doing fine.  Her first year at community college went well and she’s proud she passed (with a B) her super-difficult science class even though most of the class dropped.  She’s still working her part-time nursing home job and the proceeds from that go towards her car so she can commute to school.  At 19, she’s broken the family not-getting-pregnant record.

The grandfather-to-be has no money.  The (step-)grandmother-to-be is finally working again, but as a waitress, so no time but not a huge income either.  The bio-grandmother-to-be has no money and owes years of back child-support.  The great-grandparents-to-be are also in huge amounts of debt– the husband is on disability, they own a farm (that they bought on credit from a scam artist… long story there) that costs them tons of money each year, the kids they decided to have in their mid-30s (instead of say, not kicking their 16 year old kid and his pregnant wife out of the house) are still living at home and not contributing to the family household.  There’s really nothing.  Nothing but family with no money and perpetual hands sticking out.  It’s terrifying.

If we didn’t have our own babies to consider, we’d do more.  As it is, we reminded the grandfather-to-be that we’d still be paying those college costs, so he doesn’t have to come up with $650 in tuition for the oldest or $200 in books.  Or $1000 for the second if they can make her going to school work.  (I think he’s not used to family members keeping promises, so he’s never thought of our offers as more than one-time deals.)

What this really makes us think about is how glad we are that we didn’t have children in our teens.  That we waited until we were out of school and had jobs that paid a good salary and a house and precautionary savings and an emergency fund.  We can handle emergencies.  We can send our kids to private school.  If, God forbid, one of our children becomes a parent in high school, we’ll be able to help without sacrificing our other child(ren).  We’d even be able to pay for daycare for twins if we needed to.  It will never be a question of who gets to go to school, or do we get to keep Netflix, etc.  Our children have a lot more second chances.

I love being upper-middle-class.  I wish everybody had the opportunities that we can give our children.  I wish it were easier to break out of cycles of poverty.  I wish we could do more, but we never know what to do, and there are things we could do that might make things worse.  And sacrifices we don’t want to make, not with us living on one salary and having a baby of our own.

Any suggestions for a 17 year old about to have twins?  Or a 38 year old dad who doesn’t understand why his kids are making the same mistakes he made, even though he’s tried his best to keep them from repeating the cycle?

Update on personal sagas: DH’s relatives, DC’s school

DH’s Relatives

It turns out that if you are truly poor and have a zillion brothers and sisters (give or take), the Pell grant covers 100% of community college, including books.  So… so far we’re not paying for any of the relatives’ schooling.  Although they screwed up with the books and forgot to order them, despite multiple calls to the people.   Because the books are being bought via the grant, the school orders them for the students instead of the student being reimbursed… and they never actually checked to see that they were ordered when DH’s relative called, so the eldest daughter doesn’t have them.  She is borrowing from a friend until they come in.

She got a nursing home job (yay!) and spent the summer working and saved up to buy a clunker.  She will be working p/t to pay for her gas.

Already she says she likes community college classes a lot more than high school classes.  I hope she does well.  Right now she wants to transfer to a 4 year school (to major in architecture, but I’m hoping she’ll change her mind as there are very few job opportunities for architecture majors and it’s really hard to get into the architecture programs at the state 4-year schools).

DC1’s School

Right now they have 1 student fewer than what they need with normal fundraising and minimal services (down 20 students from last year).  The hope is to make up for it with extra fundraising.

The new head of school is professional and refreshingly not crazy.

Even better than that, the ineffective board president has been replaced by an extremely competent woman who is new to the board.  She’s getting things done.  She communicates professionally.  She’s a pleasure to deal with.  This was a new and unexpected pleasure.  We foresee a positive trajectory for the school if these two women remain in charge of things.

There are 10 kids in DC1’s 2nd grade class, down from the 15 that were in the first grade class (including DC and hir best friend who were technically in K, but spent half the day in first).  10 is still a good number for a private school class and doesn’t require an additional aide, although DC says they have a student teacher helping out.  The syllabus for the year that was sent home is intriguing.  They’ll be starting junior great books and doing book reports and science reports and all sorts of exciting and fun stuff.

DC’s formal dress shirt for formal days still hasn’t come, so DH picked up a too-big used one that will do for hir while we wait.

So that’s our excitement.  I sure hope it is a good year!

And one more

Remember my cousin who didn’t have the Catholic wedding?  They’re expecting twins.  :)

Update on the relatives

Scalzi once said that “Being poor is having to live with choices you didn’t know you made when you were 14 years old.”

The oldest of our young relatives is graduating from high school this year.  She was excited about applying to colleges, but unfortunately she made some bad choices when she was 14, and again at 15.  Things like getting low grades in PE and driver’s ed and other classes that one shouldn’t do poorly in.  That combined with crippling math phobia caused by a bad algebra experience that killed her math and science grades after she otherwise got her act together has put her in the bottom half of her class.  That means no four-year college for her.

We think she has two choices in terms of schooling– she can do an academic associates degree and transfer to a 4 year state school to finish out in a major of her interest or maybe some new love.  Or she could do a 2-3 year practical degree in something like nursing or drafting.  She’s not sure what she wants to do yet.  We think that’s ok– she can change her mind after a semester or a year or even two.  What’s important is that she get started.

Unfortunately the local community college is at least an hour away.  This distance presents a problem because she doesn’t have a car, and even if she did have a car, the family has no way of paying for insurance and gas.  Community college is more difficult than a 4 year school would be in that respect because there’s bus service in college towns.  Yes, a 4 year college would cost more, but those would be long-term expenses rolled into loans and grants.  These are short-term credit constraints.

She’d love to get a job to pay for transportation, but nobody is hiring.  Her mother cannot get a minimum wage job in their town.  McDonald’s had 500 applications the last time it was hiring.  When a factory town does massive lay-offs, high school students are pretty low on the jobs totem pole.

Of course, since nobody is hiring, she can’t just go straight to work after graduation either.  She needs education in order to get a job because the only jobs available require education.  And if she has education she might be able to get a job that makes enough money she could get her own place– maybe even in a different town.

So community college it must be.  There should be carpools that she can join at least until she gets a job that covers transportation.  (And maybe the job market is better in the community college town.)  We’ll pay for her tuition and books, and she should be eligible for fairly large Pell grants compared to the cost of community college.  We’re hoping not to pay for transportation costs, but we will for a short time if it is truly necessary in order to get her to school.

Having always lived in a college town, it’s really hard wrapping my head around just how necessary transportation is if you don’t have public transport, and how difficult it can be logistically to even get to the “local” community college.  Even if the buses to my neighborhood only ran once an hour I could still get to the university or community college without a car.  And it’s crazy how small an amount of money can keep someone from having any options.  (Not a trivial amount, and not small compared to what their family has to spare, but small compared to the value of a degree.)

We’re hoping that being poor won’t mean that she’s stuck with choices she made at 14 if she has well-off relatives.

Do you know anybody stuck where nobody’s hiring?  What do people do if they can’t afford to get to school but they can’t get a job without school?

Tales from the relatives: Why you need a college degree

A common pf blog (and news article) meme is the admonition not to go into huge debt for a college degree.. is it worth it?  Obviously it makes no sense to come out from a BA with 6 figure debt.  But there’s some amount of debt that it’s worthwhile to take on for the better earnings power.  Liz Pulliam Weston suggests one year’s expected salary in your major field from your school and that seems to be a good heuristic to me (YMMV).

The folks for whom this should be the biggest concern are those from low income families– they don’t have as much of that family safety net to fall back on.  But, so long as the parents are willing to fill out a FAFSA, the students in question should be able to get financial grants conditional on being accepted to school.  School may not be as expensive as anticipated, and indeed, there’s an excellent study that’s been done by a handful of famous economists working with H&R Block that finds that helping parents fill out the FAFSA when they put in their tax returns dramatically increases college participation.

For all the discussion of a how a university degree isn’t worth it, the sordid world of jobs that don’t require more than high school degrees is beyond belief, especially since union power is declining, and companies are even getting around unions by using unprotected contract labor.

My partner’s large extended family mostly lives in a small town and has a wide range among educational and income spectrums.  We hear a lot about what can happen in jobs for the less educated.  The kinds of jobs that many of us took in high school but some people need as adults.  Here’s some snippets from the family that convince me how much nicer life is with a college degree:

Had worked at the video store for 3 years, manager decided to replace her with one of his friends.  No notice given, no two weeks pay, just, tomorrow you’re gone.

Fired the first week on the job because the daughter of the manager wasn’t working, she told the daughter to work, and the daughter told her mom some sort of lie, and the mom believed her daughter.

Worked as a waitress, a competitor tried to hire her, she said no.  Then the competitor bought the bar where she had been working at and laid her off.

Hurt his hand off working hours.  Didn’t have insurance.  Got fired because he couldn’t work.  Went bankrupt because medical bills + no income.

Can’t get a job at the Dollar Store or Walmart because when you don’t have education, they check your credit, and your credit isn’t great.  (Not all folks have poor credit, but for jobs requiring more education, they are less likely to run a credit check on you.)

Contrast this with the kinds of jobs my college and higher degree educated friends have– they always get at least 2 weeks notice, they almost always get some kind of severance package.  If they’re let go they’re generally laid off; it’s more difficult to get flat-out fired.  There’s generally a lot of notice about what’s happening, and sometimes they get furloughs instead of lay-offs.  We tend to complain about not getting raises, not about being fired with no notice for no good reason.  The cost of our benefits keeps going up, but we have benefits!  If we get hurt we’re insured.

When you’re in one of these marginal labor markets, there’s less job security, there’s less fairness.  Even when you’re protected by law, the company is more likely to ignore the law, because what can you do?  Especially when it’s a your word vs. someone else’s word situation.  Education makes you more powerful, it allows you entree into labor markets where this kind of treatment is less prevalent.

Do you know anybody in the low-wage job market?

My Catholic relatives aren’t really Catholic: A rant.

That’s not to say they’re my only Catholic relatives– we were all brought up Catholic (who wasn’t!).  Some of us converted to religions that better express our beliefs about social equity (such as Episcopalian), some are Christmas and Easter Catholics, some are even more lapsed and secular.

One of my uncles married a not very nice woman (I say she is not very nice because she was a bitch to me at my grandmother’s funeral because I dare be a working mother) and had a passel of children.  The not very nice woman did not work.  IIRC, my uncle is/was a forest ranger or something like that.  Growing up I remember seeing videos of the family opening their Christmas presents (they would send the video to my grandma and she would show it) and being absolutely astonished at all the fancy electronics they could afford and we couldn’t, not even including the video camera they were using to shoot the footage!

Turns out, spending a lot of money doesn’t actually mean that you *have* the money to spend.

But this isn’t a story about relatives making foolish choices with their money.  This is a story about hypocrisy and me being judgmental, judging the judgers.

These folks have drunk the Fox News koolaid.  They quote “Rush.”  (Not the band– people who listen to Rush Limbaugh on the radio are apparently on a first name basis with him.)  They complain about how the lamestream media is out to get Sarah Palin and death panels are going to destroy the nation’s elderly.  (No matter how many times my other poor uncle, the one who took care of my late Grandmother unfailingly for over a decade after my parents could no longer lift her, tried to explain how helpful it would have been to know what *she* wanted before she descended into Alzheimer’s.)

They complain about all the poor people who don’t work and expect government handouts.  Government shouldn’t give out health care.  Government shouldn’t feed kids.  Government shouldn’t aid the poor.  Government shouldn’t help people get educated.  The poor should help themselves.  Apparently they don’t realize that the Catholic church has some pretty important tenets that have nothing to do with Gay marriage or the status of women.

My liberal elitist relatives, including my own parents, the ones who saved instead of buying those boom boxes and video game systems (back when such things were pricy), are sending their myriad children to college.  That’s 2 high-powered careerist aunts (one with children, one without) and my own working parents.  Giving charity to this family of supposed Catholics who thinks nobody should be allowed charity.  Having the money to do it because the women worked and the families saved.  We take care of our own, even if we disagree with their parents.

The one kid we’re not sending to college (yet, anyway) is a son who is serving our country in Afghanistan.  He has fallen in love, with an American Christian even. They’re getting married.  In a church.  But she’s not Catholic, so it isn’t a Catholic church.  So my uncle and his wife are refusing to attend.  They’re not even paying for the reception and they think they should have final say in the type of church.  They’re refusing to attend the wedding ceremony of an American soldier serving overseas in a dangerous country, their own son, because he is not getting married in a Catholic church. They’re also not allowing his siblings to attend.

That is just reprehensible.  I am ashamed to be related to these people.  If they were some small sect evangelical I might understand better (disagree with, but understand why it is consistent with their religious beliefs), but they are giving Catholics a bad name.

The wonderful thing about the Catholic church is its reminder that we are supposed to do Good Works.  What we believe is not as important as what we Do (though both are important).  They couldn’t have been listening to my Grandma’s wonderful funeral sermon, because that’s pretty much what the priest officiating reminded us, illustrating that reminder with the wonderful things my late grandmother did throughout her life (come to think of it, this uncle did spend the entire time complaining about the funeral– the rest of us thought it was bang-up).  Story after story in the New Testament reminds us how we are supposed to help those less fortunate than ourselves.  More than one story tells us how we’re supposed to act with grace and forgiveness, especially with relations, when they do something of which we disapprove.  And the Catholic church does not twist these messages– they go full out.  We accept prodigal sons, we forgive prostitutes, we love, we guide, we help.

All of my liberal elite relatives will be going to this wedding.  My aunt will be acting in place of mother of the groom.  We’re going to show this young couple that they do have support, and our family was brought up in love and respect and kindness, just like we’re showing them the value of charity as we help them reach their own goals.

We will help the children of this family get educated because their parents did not save.  We will be there when the depressed daughter who is possibly a drug addict is ready for help (her parents “don’t know,” though she could not be more obvious– my medical professional aunt is keeping a watchful eye).  And we will definitely be there for one of the most important days of this young man’s life.

And if eventually the grown children renounce their parents’ ways and see that there’s another way?  Well, that’s kind of what true Catholicism is all about.  Not the renouncing so much, but the going to where the love is.  Putting good deeds into action.  Helping others as you have been helped yourself.  Giving back to the less fortunate.  (And maybe making a few converts in the process to carry on God’s Good Works.)  It’s a shame that this couple is turning their backs on that.

Would you judge these relatives harshly for refusing to go to their son’s wedding?  Did you think the Catholic church was all bad?

(#2 has a somewhat different view of Catholicism, but I agree with much of what #1 says, so let’s leave it there.  Also, Jesuits have good wine at parties and Jesuits in Space are totally awesome.  #1 is not denying that there are bad things about Catholicism… but charity is kind of one of their big things.  BTW, these relatives hate the Jesuits and think Notre Dame is too liberal [it’s actually very conservative] because Obama spoke there.  I think maybe that’s just an excuse because they didn’t want to tell their daughter they couldn’t afford ND even if she got in, but whatever.)

RBOC

  • One of DC2’s extracurricular activities got bought by a creepy 20-something mega-Christian.  We didn’t find out until one of their events in which the new owner started by talking about how Jesus was more important than [extracurricular activity] and how they incorporate Jesus in every class and then we were asked to pray.  We asked DC2 and zie confirmed that zie had been asked to pray in class.  The place’s website has also been modernized since we signed DC2 up and talks about Jesus on a little text thing that comes and goes.  I was already pretty pissed off at this place because of the unannounced mommy participation day.  And it was fairly obvious from the older kids’ that this studio really isn’t focused on [extra-curricular activity] at all– I have been to so many of these events in my life and this one was easily the worst.  As soon as we got back home from said event we withdrew DC2 and looked for a studio that focuses on [extracurricular activity].  I really hate stealth proselytizing.  (I am also not a fan of [extracurricular activity] but DC2 is, so what can you do?)
  • The kids’ piano teacher also starts recitals with some musings about Christian religion, particularly the Christmas recital, but for some reason that doesn’t bother us as much.  It could be that since she was DC1’s music teacher when zie was at a religious school we were forewarned, but we think it’s more that she makes it clear that she’s talking about her personal faith and she doesn’t make everybody pray.  (The quote on the program this time was Isiah, “The people who walk in darkness shall see a great light,” and she talked about how every morning there is a sunrise and it seems like we’re living in dark times, but there will be light again, and the Christmas season reminds us of that… which I dunno, seems pretty accurate and not something that the person in the previous bullet is even aware of.) It is a Christmas recital, but non-Christians also play non-Christmas music (both of the holiday and non-holiday varieties).  So it seems more inclusive.
  • Some academic self-proclaimed feminists sound really transphobic on their twitter accounts these days.  I strongly suspect that this “problem” they talk about of people forcing kids to change their gender is not really a thing, but acting like it is probably does actual harm.  I don’t see how the existence of trans women who are attracted to women hurts other lesbians in any way. (And definitely not in any way that wouldn’t disappear if the patriarchy were dismantled!) These “feminists” seem to think that being trans is an act or a lie or something that people are tricking other people into doing. I will admit that I do not “get” gender identity at all– with respect to me, I only see gender as a way that the rest of the world categorizes and interacts with me, not the way I see myself (except as is reflected by the rest of the world). It is really easy for me to take the path of least resistance. Sure I’d rather be a guy just because the patriarchy means that guys have it easier, but being a trans guy, and being a trans guy who is attracted to my husband, that seems really hard. But I also understand that many people do have strong gender identities, and that gender identity doesn’t always match up with the sex they were assigned at birth and those people don’t need people like [insert “feminist” tweeter here] telling them that they’re being duped by society and hurting other LGB people… as if someone can be convinced by society to become trans in this culture. Really? Trans people are real people who are fully dimensional and have life stories and opinions and thoughts and histories and feelings just like everybody else. Excluding them, telling them they’re wrong… that is not what feminism should be about. That’s a pretty piss-poor feminism.
  • Speaking of the above bullet– I think it is easier to imagine people complexly (to paraphrase John Green) if you know a lot of different people and read/watch a lot of media in which people tell their stories and fictional people are drawn complexly.  Deirdre McCloskey was the first trans person that I ever really listened to on the topic (there were some trans folks at my high school, but they weren’t really in my social circle, though they may have been in #2’s)– I’d spent two semesters reading and loving her work published under the Donald name (economic history) and had heard stories about how horribly she’d been treated by her family from other professors whose own advisors had been involved in the march to get her out of the mental institution her relatives had committed her to (in IL you only needed 2 people to commit you!).  Then she gave a talk about being a woman in economics, “notes from a novice” and answered any and all questions we had (my question was, “should we cite your pre-transition work as Donald or Deirdre?”– she said Deirdre and that she hoped to get it all changed).  Deirdre McCloskey is a trans lesbian and a truly wonderful person.  Well loved and known to be a fantastic mentor.  She’s not harming anybody.  I also love the contrast of Claire in Questionable Content compared to Carla on Dumbing of Age.  (Claire is neurotic and wonderful and so much with the terrible puns, while Carla is kind of a jerk, but a jerk who generally does the right thing.  Completely different people.)  The trans students I’ve had in class have been, to my knowledge, trans men or trans gender neutral.  I don’t know much about their lives other than the standard student stuff because they’re also just people trying to learn statistics and economics like everybody else.  But they’re the reason I’ve spent so much time on the phone with legislative aides pleading and arguing about various bathroom bills over the past several years.  Bathroom bills are a genuine threat to people’s lives.  Not this fake garbage that creates some kind of LGBTQ hierarchy.  That’s BS.
  • Ok, maybe I do know a little bit more about my students than their statistics knowledge:  I recently learned a valuable lesson from one: never impulse buy flying squirrels on a road trip in an overcrowded car, even if they’re for sale at an open market you stop at.  One of my colleagues and I agree that they should sell the story to National Lampoon as a Christmas family road trip.
  • You can create new regency romance titles by switching out “Squirrel” with “Earl” in Squirrel Girl volume titles.  “Earl, You Really Got Me Now”
  • … thank you, Mint, I guess, for sending me an email the other week telling me I’d lost $30K in the previous week’s stock market crash.  I’m not sure how to feel about that.  Good, I guess?  I mean, that’s a lot of money.  (I didn’t check to see if that was actually accurate– sometimes Mint double counts one or more of my retirement accounts.)
  • I’m seeing a lot of New Years posts with people talking about how they’re going to ignore the news in 2019.  I hope that you all don’t do that– I know I’ve been feeling a lot of political fatigue especially since the last election, but we can’t give up now.  I don’t have time right now to do a super long pep-talk, but we have to keep pushing forward with activism.  We have to keep fighting.  Children’s lives are at stake… the environment, women’s rights, minority rights… so many things.  Rest and relax, but don’t stop moving forward.

A history of loving money: Our family crest

One of my cousins has been doing a bunch of genealogy work with the help of our relatives still in Europe.  Turns out my family has a crest!  This is from the 17th century when an ancestor was the local official overseeing a town building and decided to leave his mark:

The circles in the lower right are coins, which is not surprising given how important money is to this side of my family (we are all terribly crass about it!).  The cross-like things on the upper-right are supposedly lilies, and I guess they technically are similar to fleur de lis.  This is the side of the family that has won and lost fortunes in Europe (and various non-American colonies, where it is likely they did horrific things in the name of trade), as opposed to the stunningly middle-class American side (it’s unlikely that that side had fortunes prior to leaving for the new world either, though side branches that I’m not descended from have done well for themselves– I am very distant cousins with some rich old US families).  My mother’s family does not have family crests (indeed, my mom’s last name is one of those that got created upon an ancestor coming to the US).  My DH’s last name does, but only in the way that really common UK names that are also places do.  If you go back 4 generations down my maternal line (possibly not coincidentally, the line related to those rich distant cousins), we’ve got one of those as well according to places on the internet that sell such things.

Do you have a family crest?  What’s on it?  What would you put on a family crest?  I’d like to swap out that woodland creature for a book…

My family and WWII

Nazis suck.

My father was a child in one of the countries the Nazis trampled.  He doesn’t talk about it.  He still has an odd fascination with fire that shows itself with birthday cake candles.  And he’s 5’2″ because although he never went hungry, he didn’t get a lot of nutrition either.  His mother and siblings moved to the US after the war.

I found out recently that although my bonmama was Catholic (along with most of my family on both sides), her father was Jewish.  Her husband (I’m not clear if this would be my grandfather or my step-grandfather) moved to Argentina with his mistress after the war (taking all the money, and triggering Bonmama and her children’s migration), and it is thought that he was a Nazi sympathizer.  Funny what one learns when Nazis are in the news again.

My mother’s mother joined the war effort as a nurse.  At her (Catholic, military) funeral, this time period featured prominently as the most important time in her life.  She rose up the ranks in the air force to become a Captain.  When she taught me how to knit, she gifted me with the knitting needles she’d used to while away the time flying towards a battlefield.  On the way back, the needles would be put away while they tended the wounded.

She met my grandfather during the war.  He wasn’t an enlisted man.  I’m not sure why not– whether it was preference or a medical condition.  He was a counselor for the American Red Cross.  While my grandmother treated the physical consequences of war, he treated the mental and emotional consequences.

My maternal grandparents’ commitment to public service filtered down to most of their children (I guess technically my horrible Trump-loving uncle is a forest ranger).  My uncles are veterans, one aunt is a federal judge, the other is a nurse practitioner who ran a hospital system.  My mom, the professor, was elected to our local school board for several terms.

We can’t let Nazi values of hatred and fascism take hold in the US.  We need to honor the ideals of this country that fought against evil in the second WW.  It is true that our own history is full of horrors like slavery and internment and xenophobia.  But we can’t let those forces win.  We must keep fighting.  Concentration camps didn’t start killing people overnight.  Germany didn’t start out evil.  We cannot tolerate injustice.  Keep calling your representatives.  Keep protesting.  Keep recruiting people to vote and donating and encouraging campaigns.  It’s a long slog to freedom.  But the alternative is something our grandparents lived.  They fought with their lives.  We should fight with our time and money and words so that we don’t have to get to that point.

What did your family do in WWII?  How was your family changed by it?