Ask the Grumpies: How much should one give to charity?

Jess asks:

How do you decide how much to give to charity? I’m not religious so I’ve only heard of the 10% tithe recently and it seems like so much! At the same time, I know a “could” afford to donate 10% while still saving 15% as recommended, so is it wrong not to do so? I am very young (25) and the idea of compound interest has been hammered into me, plus I am reasonably confident I will be taking a pay cut in about a year to switch industries (into one that is better for the world) and move cities, so it feels safer to save a lot while I can.
Right now I’m donating about 2% through automatic monthly donations and so far in 2020 have donated about 2% in one-off donations. I expect to donate more this year given the many extenuating circumstances. Any advice is welcome!

There’s no hard and fast rule about how much you should give to charity.  In fact, in an ideal country, you wouldn’t have to give *anything* to charity because the government would be collecting taxes to take care of needs.  But, we don’t live in an ideal country and really, no country has figured everything out.

There are a couple of things to keep in mind though.

1.  Take care of yourself first.  Keep saving 15% for retirement!  Also make sure that your emergency fund is full, that you’ve got plenty of insurance, and that you have a plan to save for big goals like cars or houses (or job changes) etc.

2.  Just like the tax system, it doesn’t make sense for everybody to donate the same percentage to charity.  Richer people should be donating more to charity and lower income people should be donating less.  We explain why marginal tax rates make sense here, complete with a diagram that we stole with attribution from someone else.  But the main idea is that for people who have lower income, 10% is a huge cut in their ability to meet their needs and wants and is a drastic decrease in their utility (aka happiness).  For a billionaire, 10% leaves them with 90% of their billions, which is still more than any reasonable person should want.  They only get a small decrease in their utility.  Because that 100th yacht just isn’t that exciting.  (And honestly, we’d be better off if evil billionaires would stop getting their jollies by buying politicians and screwing with civil society.)

So… there is no right answer.  Only you can decide.  But as you make more, you should up your % donated, not just the dollar amount.  As you make less, you should cut it.

On top of that, some people have charitable giving plans where they figure out how much and where they will be donating in advance.  Other people (like us) tend to be soft touches and tend to donate based on whatever makes the hurting hurt less, and donate at any point in time based on our finances when we’re asked or read a sad news article or etc.  The former is probably a better way for the charities and a better way to live life, but the latter is how a lot of people do it, which is why we get so much junk mail and so many emotional appeals.

We just did our taxes, and gave about 1.5% of our income to actual 501c3 organizations, but we gave a TON more to political organizations which are not tax deductible.  Does that count as charity?  I tend to think so because I have a strong belief that government should be providing public goods and not, you know, separating children from their families and putting them into concentration camps.  $ to Stacey Abrams will have saved a lot more lives than money to pretty much any charity I can think of this past year.  Not to say that donating to 501c3 charities isn’t important, but political action and political donations are not wasted efforts or wasted money if your end goal is to make the world a better place.  They’re just not tax deductible.

Grumpy Nation, how do YOU decide how much to give to charity?  Has this varied over your income/life?

Ask the grumpies: How do you organize your books?

Steph asks:

If you haven’t tackled this somewhere – How do you organize your books? How do you feel about the rainbow bookshelves trend that is still going on? (Or the “spines inward/pages outward” trend – maybe this is a deliberately controversial question ;) )

We have a somewhat strong disagreement on this topic in that #1 has taken all the pretty hard cover books out of the bedroom bookcases and put them into the living room and #2 thinks this is heresy.


two of the bedroom bookcases, mostly humorous SPEC fic in alphabetical order by author or editor's last name

two of the bedroom bookcases, mostly humorous SPEC fic in alphabetical order by author or editor’s last name

Otherwise:  #1 has all read paperback fiction books put together in alphabetical order in her bedroom bookcases.  To-be-read books are sideways in a pile double-stacked in no particular order across two shelves.  Our joint comic books have their own shelf in our bedroom.  DH doesn’t tend to keep fiction books (he doesn’t reread much), so the ones that we do have are scattered in with my books or DC1’s books, though they used to have their own shelf. Non-fiction books are loosely organized by subject in the living room shelves.  Cookbooks are shelved mostly by size (because of the different sizes of books and shelves… this bothers me a little, but there are only 3 shelves) just outside the kitchen.

I try really hard to keep the kids’ fiction chapter books in alphabetical order by author’s last name in their bookcases, but that doesn’t always happen.  Kids non-fiction chapter books have their own bookshelf in the hallway (they used to be on separate shelves in their room bookcases, but then we got DC2 a full size bookcase and moved hir smaller case to the hallway), which started out organized by subject but is now a total mess.  Spanish books are the bottom shelf of DC2’s bookcase.  They also keep all their comic books there which started out organized alphabetically by last author, but are not even shelved nicely anymore.  I just give up.   Books that DC2 has really outgrown are currently taking the bottom shelves of 3 bookcases in the living room not really organized at all.  I should note that I have mild undiagnosed OCD and having organized bookcases give me pleasure while disorganized bookcases give me a little buzz of unhappiness.  But I just cannot keep up with the kids being agents of destruction so I have found it healthier for me to just not try to keep up and mentally separate their messed up sections from all books.  I tell myself I’m never trying to find their specific non-fiction or comic or picture books so the lack of organization shouldn’t be a problem for me.

Most of my new books are kindle (because they’re cheaper and more portable… in normal times much of my reading gets done on airplanes) and they’re organized by read/unread and then date last read.  There’s also a separate thing for children’s books that have been read.


Three of #2's bookcases, creatively organized

Three of #2’s bookcases, creatively organized

I have fiction and non-fiction in my bedroom, with various piles of books stacked haphazardly in the living room, kitchen, etc. (And cookbooks in our kitchen.) I have a couple “emergency” books in a cabinet in the bathroom. They just ended up there.

I do not put my books in alphabetical order.  They are in an order.  For example, there is one case that is all my best-loved and most-personal books.  Authors who coauthor books have the coauthored book in between the other two authors.  I mix fiction and non-fiction together.

I hate electronic books and have been gradually replacing my cheap kindle books with paperbacks as they come available/get affordable/are gifted from my amazon list.

We’re mostly against sorting books by color (#1 moreso than #2).  We’re definitely against shelving them spine inward (though #1’s DC2 seems to favor this.  It drives #1 CRAZY.)  #2 wants to SEE people’s books out of curiosity.  #1 wants to be able to FIND books.  Why organize them at all if you’re not going to be able to use the index?


Billy the bookcase

Where the books are

Our fantasy library

Couchblogging and rearranging the library

Karen, co-opted

One of my friends brought to my attention a conversation around the term, “Karen,” in econ twitter.

For those of you who haven’t been paying attention, Karen is the slang term for a privileged entitled white woman who uses her privilege and authority to harm a minority person.  Karens are often seen in videos calling the police on an innocent black person or family, and have the catch phrase, “let me talk to the manager.”

But one important aspect of Karening in its original slang definition is that they are using their privilege for evil.  They’re punching down.  They’re using unjustified anger at minorities simply being in their space to harass and hurt people.

Unfortunately, the term Karen has been co-opted by white men and the occasional metaphorical Karen to mean any strong white woman who is not afraid to speak her mind or, mind-bogglingly, any white woman who follows rules.  So a friend was called a Karen for very briefly blocking traffic in an alley to close a gate that needed to be closed.  White women politely asking other white people to put on their masks have been called Karens.  White women protesting racist and misogynistic men on twitter have been termed Karens by those same white men.

The term is no longer just shorthand for “privileged entitled jerk who uses authority to punch down” when white men and women use it.  It has become a tool of oppression used by more privileged people to keep women down.  Not because of people correctly using it in its originally intended purpose, but by others perverting the meaning to reinforce patriarchal structures of oppression.  Instead of being a term used by the rebellion to free, it’s being used by the evil empire to oppress.

So after some discussion in which my friend said she did not like the term Karen and I noted that I liked its original use (though we both feel sorry for non-Karens named Karen), we came to an agreement.

First, we decided that white men are not allowed to use the term Karen.  When white men use it, no matter how they use it, it is punching down.  Next we discussed white women’s use and decided that it’s either punching down or sideways and there’s not much lost by white women no longer using the term.  They can say entitled privileged jerk, or what have you.  So we agreed that if white people stop using the term “Karen” then its powerful short-hand use can be preserved by the people who truly understand the definition and who need it most.  (I reserve the right to use the term “Karen” when the woman in question is actually named Karen because puns.)

Language evolves, and if enough people use a sexist version of the term Karen, the term itself will do harm.  (And c’mon, white men are even worse– can’t we stop protecting them from their terrible actions too?)

Who do you think should use the word Karen?  What should white people say instead?

What is the right level of spending when you’ve met your goals and still have some leftover?

Putting away $36K into DC1’s 529 account (and lowering our emergency fund to less than half of what we need in there before I stop getting paid for the summer) has had the intended effect of making me feel artificially less wealthy.  I’m no longer mentally thinking about things to buy (ex. expensive electronics) other than things we’d be buying anyway on a smaller income (ex.  summer camps that aren’t Interlochen or Concordia).  I’m still doing just-got-paid and making-me-feel-better charitable contributions, but they’re (combined) more in the hundreds/month than the low thousands unlike my first paycheck of the year donating.

I don’t think this money move has got us donating less, but I do suspect it’s got me spending less because I’m back to the default of “if we don’t need it, don’t buy it” rather than an underlying “looking for places to send money to”.  When I see an amount in my savings account that I can’t really comprehend and I don’t know where to put it… it makes sense that when all else fails I might want to spend it.  To be honest– I feel a lot less guilty when I see a reasonable amount in savings that I can understand.  Or when I do have excess money in cash, it is earmarked for something like an upcoming sabbatical.

Sidenote:  If you’re in the 24% tax bracket and ever want to feel artificially low income, just read the case studies in Bogleheads.  So many people with inherited wealth spitting out enormous dividends or salaries above $500K/year.  Even though that’s such a tiny proportion of the population.  If you’re in the 24% tax bracket, you’re still pretty high income.

But what is the right thing to do?  For other people, I war between “If you are meeting your financial needs/goals, do what you will with the excess” and “Nobody needs that much excess.”  I’m fine with Ariana Grande’s panegyric on spending, but not ok with people buying politicians.  And I feel sick (and like getting out pitchforks) when I see the price tags of some of the things that rich people buy and don’t even use.  There’s also the environmental waste of disposable purchases.  And yet, it isn’t my money, so “an it hurts no one, do what you will.”  And yet, I am so strongly in favor of inheritance taxes and higher marginal tax rates.

And maybe what other people should do isn’t as important as what keeps me feeling safe and not squicky.  We probably should replace broken appliances before they start giving me rashes, but there’s something to be said for repairing instead of replacing.  I don’t want stuff we don’t need.  But I don’t regret the iPad Pro purchase which has been great for editing and reviewing other people’s papers, or even the Remarkable purchase though I’ve ended up not really using it.  And I love our Honda Insight with the second level trim.  When I want it, should I got it?  Or should I exercise some self-control and put off the purchase until it’s something we really want?

The best way to curb these spending impulses is to just not have money burning a hole in my bank account.  But should we do that and continue to stockpile money for a rainy day even though we don’t think we want to retire early (still, it would be nice to retire anywhere in the country we want to, not just our current LCOL location).  There’s also the very real fact that the owner of the company where DH works is going to die one of these years (he’s in his 80s) and while we almost spend less than my take-home pay, it would be nice to not have to make any sacrifices while DH decides what to do next.  But this has become much less of a concern since my last raise– we no longer need to have, for example, a full salary’s worth of dividends spitting out each year to cover the gap.  I’m high income on my own even if we’re in a lower tax bracket without DH’s income– we move back to upper-middle-class, which isn’t really a hardship if we don’t get used to higher levels of spending.

When we’re not artificially cash-poor, these are questions we have:

  • Will we keep our ancient fridge until it completely dies?
  • When should we replace our functional computers with faster versions?
  • Should we send our kids to expensive national camps that require plane trips when there’s less-acclaimed versions we can drive to (probably not)?  What if there aren’t substitutes we can drive to (maybe?)?
  • Should we try to pay someone to take care of anything?  But what?
  • Should we eat out more?  Try a meal service?  Eat at the fancy restaurants in town when they’re not paid by my department?  Even though they’re not as good as the fancy restaurants in the city but cost about the same?
  • Should we take more real vacations that aren’t connected to conferences?  But what about the time costs?

And the big one:  Should I hide money from myself?  Or should I be fine with the additional spending that comes with having cash on hand?

If you don’t need to exercise self-control, should you?  When your needs and strongest wants are being met, how do you decide what to spend on?  How do you decide how much to spend on your wants?  How do you prioritize your wants?  What happens to your spending when you get a big income shock?  Do you hide money from yourself?

Being asked for money

Although we have given money to family before, we’ve never been asked for money before.  There have been little things like school and other charity fundraisers and political candidates, but not requests for spending money.

Usually instead what happens is relatives will have had a tragic event and set up a gofundme or they’ll get married or buy a house or have a baby or we’ll hear through the family grapevine about some need and we’ll send a gift-card or a check or buy something off a registry.  We have also offered to pay full college expenses for the kids of one of DH’s relatives, though there’s not been much take-up of that.

Recently we got asked for a short-term (two week) loan from a low income relative, $200-$300 in exchange for a post-dated check to be cashed after the next paycheck (usually this relative is able to get an advance on the next paycheck, but the person able to do that was out that week).  There’s a long list of reasons why this relative isn’t quite making pay-check to pay-check ends meet, and they don’t have credit cards or the ability to borrow more from their house and I think it’ll be a few years before they can declare bankruptcy again.  There’s a lot of problems with previous mismanagement (and there’s still a heavy smoker in the family… but cigarettes are less expensive than Nicorette), but the big thing is really that there just isn’t enough income or opportunity.  When there’s overtime or side-jobs, they make it paycheck to paycheck, but when there isn’t they just run up perpetually short.  They’re reminiscent of delagar’s series on poor and middle-class in the US, but on the low end– the line between poor and lower-middle-class.  Usually they lean on other family members who are also low income (and get leaned upon by the same local extended family), but those sources, too, must be tapped out.

Obviously we’re not going to be dealing with loans to family, so this would be a gift.

We are of the minority in the US who can easily come up with $500 (or $400, or even $1000, depending on the study that you look at) on short notice.  So even with our extremely expensive summer (and even with me not getting paid over the summer), this is not a hardship for us.  We’ve certainly made enough mistakes this summer that cost over $500.

But it’s uncomfortable.  It’s uncomfortable because we remember times in the past when $100 was not a hardship, but still a sacrifice for us and sending $100 to buy groceries ended up becoming a game system for them instead (and DH wanted a game system but we didn’t feel like we could afford it yet… we were still saving up for a w/d).  It’s uncomfortable because this is a large extended family– one request from one person is not a big deal, but if word gets out…  It’s uncomfortable because $200-$300 isn’t going to really make any difference in the long run.  There’s still going to be that gap in income and expenditures and that gap is not going to shrink.

It’s uncomfortable because of what it means for the future.

Sometimes giving money makes things worse because it enables people to get into even bigger holes by taking risks they shouldn’t be taking (to take a previous real example, replacing an old car that ran just fine with an expensive new car that then got repossessed when they hit bad times).  And, of course, that makes us uncomfortable because it puts us in the position of feeling squicky about “worthiness”– who are we to judge, and yet… we don’t want to make things worse.

So we (mostly DH) made peace with all of this and said no problem, but that a check was unlikely to get there in time, what did they need the money for, gas and groceries or what?  And because it was gas and groceries for the week we sent a Walmart giftcard for $249 (since $250 triggers additional fraud protections) which was cancelled by Walmart’s fraud service team in the middle of the night anyway because I guess they caught on to the $250 minus $1 trick.  So we had to call up and get it reprocessed, which it is still (as of this writing) in the process of doing, but presumably it will be done before a check could have reached them.  So, if you are attempting to send a walmart card to a needy family in a short amount of time, maybe stick with denominations in the $100 or less range.  (If the money was needed for something else, we were going to see if hir bank took Zelle, or if we could pay a bill directly.)  We also sent a check for $50 in the off chance it can get deposited before the outstanding checks zie’s written overdraw the account.

Then the next question is whether to allow the relative to send a check that we then tear up or if we say not to bother sending a check.  DH is in favor of complete honesty, but I’m torn between 1. thinking how zie wouldn’t have a -$25 balance in checking right now if zie thought zie had $299 less in there and 2. knowing that a lot of people really hate it when checks haven’t been cashed because it screws with checkbook balancing and 3. knowledge that the belief that the check will eventually be cashed won’t last very long and might screw with mental accounting in the wrong direction later.  We will no doubt go with the honesty option, but perhaps not until after the check has been sent.

Do you get requests from family for loans or gifts?  How do you deal with them?

Should December babies (whose families celebrate Christmas) feel cheated?

(this draft is from 2011!)

December and January babies have to share their birthdays with the holiday season.  That means that it’s easy to combine their birthday presents with their Christmas presents, suggesting that overall they might get less stuff.*  And people with holiday birthdays have said they were not happy about getting one large gift in place of two smaller ones.  (As parents, we’d be happy with that!  Our kids get So Much Stuff.)

Getting less stuff isn’t a problem when there’s only one kid because one kid doesn’t know what the counterfactual would be, but when there are two kids, they might worry about fairness.**  My mom, with her early January birthday and 6 younger siblings feels very strongly that she didn’t get her due growing up.  My MIL, similarly, wants to be scrupulously fair to each grandchild.

What the grandmas do is they have a specific dollar amount they spend on each kid for Christmas and for birthdays.  They send separately wrapped packages, making sure that the birthday gift is not in Christmas wrapping.  This seems to be the best option that we’ve come up with.

Another popular solution is to celebrate a half birthday, though with the half birthday falling in the summer, that doesn’t help with other kids not coming to a birthday party.  Back in preschool when there were people around during school holidays we had more kids show up for a belated birthday party in early January than for our other child’s summer birthday.  So I’m not really sure that a half-birthday is a great solution, though I suppose one could just pick a time in April or May.

But these solutions focus on fairness as some kind of dollar amount.  Stuff.  The focus shouldn’t be on who gets the most stuff as presents.  Presents are optional and not an entitlement.  They shouldn’t be the focus.  Insert your favorite complaint against rampant consumerism here.

But the true concern comes when the difference in stuff given is taken as a signal for something else.  Stuff shouldn’t be a proxy for love.  It’s easy to take it as a proxy, but it doesn’t have to be that way.  That’s probably why there’s so much focus on which wrapping paper is used on the presents– not because it actually matters but because it is a proxy for whether or not the kid’s birthday is special.  That link doesn’t have to be there either.

What is really important?  A kid with a December or early January birthday needs to feel that their birthday is just as special as a kid whose birthday doesn’t correspond with the holidays.  Both of our kids get to pick their own birthday cake (this year DC1 wants a cookie cake) that we make, and they generally get a birthday celebration with my in-laws (DC1 over Christmas break either on hir birthday or the night before, DC2 whenever we do our summer visit) and my sister (some weekend in the city) in addition to their home celebration.  It’s a lot of us showing that we think they’re special, even if they don’t get actual parties anymore.  Even if we only give them small gifts.

What are your experiences with holiday birthdays?


*There’s also a possibility with holiday sales that they’ll get more stuff, or if they’re the extended family over their birthday they’ll get stuff from people they wouldn’t otherwise get stuff from, but more likely it’ll be less.

**Though given that most of the first kid’s stuff gets passed down to the second kid eventually, what does fairness even mean?

I don’t even know what to title this post: more bus stop drama

Remember this post about the lady who blocks the bus with her SUV every school morning during dropoff?

This year her youngest daughter is the only other person assigned to our bus stop.  Everyone else is now in middle school.

On the first day of school, she informed DH that she was moving the bus stop so that it would be the de jure bus stop listed online rather than the de facto bus stop that the neighborhood kids had been using for years.  Since the one listed online is directly across the street from our house, we did not complain.  The bus first stopped at the old stop and then moved forward to the new stop.  The new stop is 3 houses away from her house rather than the 5 houses before.  (Yes, it is ~80 degrees in the morning.  Yes, there are sidewalks, though she would have to cross the street from her house to use them.  Yes, I have seen her and her two daughters walk longer distances from the school parking lot to the school front door and I’ve seen the daughters run around the playground without any apparent ailments so I don’t *think* there’s a disability, but disabilities can be invisible, so maybe there’s a reason for her to drive instead of walk.  They all look like they’re in great shape, and they have a ton of equipment in their backyard but you still never know.)

Importantly, with the new stop, she can just drive straight to get there.  There is no need to turn on the busy street.  There is no need to park where the bus is supposed to pick up kids.  And indeed, on Monday she just pulled through and stopped on that corner.  I thought, how lovely, this solves the problem of her being a thoughtless person.  I don’t have to seethe silently this year whenever DH is out of town.

On Tuesday she got to the stop early and decided that she wanted to make her U-Turn *before* the bus got there rather than after (note:  there are actually several ways to get turned around on this street without doing a U-Turn or 3 point turn at all because it’s a cul-de-sac with a side-loop and also there’s nobody living in the house where the bus stop is right now, so she could even park in the driveway there), so she U-Turned and then had to cross the street with her daughters on foot.

On Wednesday she decided that was a terrible idea and instead of pulling through, made a right on the busy street, made a U-Turn in the middle of the busy street, and parked right where the bus is supposed to stop.  Then, because she had come early, she came out with her daughters and I think wanted to chat.  But instead I asked, politely (honest!), “Isn’t that kind of dangerous?” and she asked what?  and I said, “blocking where the bus pulls up?”.  And she said that the bus driver didn’t mind in the afternoon when she does it at pick-up.  She had asked him at pick up.  She could ask him now.  How is it dangerous anyway?  And I said that the bus had to stop in the middle of the street and the kids had to walk into the street to get on it, and it seemed dangerous to the kids and to the cars.  [Yes, I know cars are supposed to stop both ways for school buses, but while the ones behind usually do, the ones going the other direction often don’t.  And although this street isn’t that busy at 6:50 am, there are still cars whipping around the corner of my house which is a bit of a blind curve in the road.] And she repeated she could ask the bus driver.  And I repeated it was dangerous.  And she asked if I wanted her to move now, and I gave a micronod.  And she moved her car to the corner of the cul-de-sac (after making a U-turn so she would be pointed in the direction home) and crossed the street.

And the bus came and I told DC2 to stand back on the sidewalk.  And her kids remained balanced precariously on the curb so the bus couldn’t really pull up that closely without endangering them if they fell.  The bus came, I left, she talked to the bus driver, but I did not overhear their conversation.

The next morning I thought to myself, omg, I sure do not want to see her again, but DH is on a business trip and I have to be home to take care of Little Kitty (it would turn out to be her last week with us) and lock the door behind DC1 before heading into a long day of work.  I am an adult, I told myself, this was not that big an altercation.  I can do this.  So I went to the bus stop with DC2.

And the SUV didn’t come.  The bus got there on time at 6:59 and her SUV turned right on the main street at 7:01 after the bus had left and I was almost to my house.  Ok, I thought, either she had trouble getting everybody ready this morning, or she misjudged how much time it would take to avoid me, not expecting the bus to get there on time since it hadn’t the first three days of school.

Then on Friday she didn’t show up either.

And here’s the funny part.

When DC2 got home, zie told me the daughter was *already on the bus* when DC2 got on.  That means this woman is driving to another bus stop to avoid me!  All because I suggested she park someplace that was safer and *actually less effort* for her to wait.  I hadn’t said anything before because it was more effort for her to pull into one of the side-streets last year, but in this case it seemed like there were easier alternatives (if there’s a disability, then parking on the side-street part of the corner is the same walking distance and less driving!).  I didn’t even tell her it was less effort, I just used the questioning tone women use when they’re being polite to suggest that blocking a school bus could potentially be dangerous, explained why when asked, repeated that I thought it was dangerous, and then thanked her for moving her vehicle.  None of the kids had even seemed to notice the conversation and DC2 was confused about why the daughter had moved bus stops, which is how we found out.

The big question I have (well, actually I have two, but I will never know the answer to the question of whether or not she blocks the bus at the stop she drives to because I am an adult and I have better things to do with my time) is whether or not she will return to the bus stop when she realizes it’s DH standing there with DC2 (and will she block the bus?– DH tells me he has no intention of fighting this fight.).

Do you twirl your spaghetti?

And if you do, do you use a spoon to assist with the twirls?

What are your thoughts on cutting spaghetti noodles?  Pro/Con/Ambivalent?

#1:  I twirl but don’t use a spoon. A very small part of me cringes at the thought of cutting spaghetti noodles, but the bulk of me thinks it makes total sense.  This is somewhere around the level of split infinitives for me, maybe some other grammar thing that I don’t do in formal writing myself but don’t mind when others do it.  (I’m pretty sure I occasionally split infinitives in formal writing.)

#2:  Yes twirl, no on the spoon, I think cutting it is wrong but my dad does it (and I continually give him [excrement] for it)

Who is selfish?

Warning:  cattiness below.

So I was waiting at the bus stop with DC1 because you have to be I forget how old to wait without a parent.  This is usually DH’s job, but he was out of town on a business trip.

While we were waiting for the bus, a truck with a kid pulled up and parked at the corner across from the bus stop.

Then a mini-van/suv thing came and parked right where one would expect the bus to you know, pull up.

That meant that when the bus finally came, it had to stop in the middle of the street and the kids all had to walk into the middle of the street to load the bus.  The truck discharged one little girl with her dad.  The van discharged two with their mom.  (The two little girls and their mom, incidentally, live maybe two houses farther than we do from the bus stop, so maybe 5 houses away from the bus stop total.  I don’t know where the truck people live, but the bus does stop every block and a half to two blocks and our cul de sacs aren’t very long, so it can’t be that far.)

Let’s see if I can make a picture of the bus stop area using nothing but keyboard characters.

I feel like this is totally selfish.  That bus really should be able to pull safely up to the curb, which would be easier to do if the truck weren’t there and and is impossible with the van there.  (When the van isn’t there, the bus does pull up.)  The van had to make a U-turn to park where the bus is supposed to go and could have very easily parked across the street (on the side that didn’t make it into my picture), though if they’d done that, it would have only been like 4 house lengths away from their house instead of five.  The truck could have parked back a little further to make it easier for the bus to pull up.

But then, maybe I’m the totally selfish one.  I make my DC2  walk three house lengths to wait for the bus out in the cold.  I mean, sometimes it gets down into the 40s(!), and sometimes the wait is as long as 7 min (if the bus is late).  Maybe if I weren’t so selfish, I’d be keeping hir nice and warm in a heated vehicle while we waited for the bus instead of making hir suffer.

I should note that there’s one other family that takes the bus from this stop– their parents are immigrants and connected to the university somehow.  Their kids walk– I don’t know how far, but it’s longer than 5 houses.  (The dad used to walk with them, but the youngest had a birthday and is now old enough to wait by hirself, so they do.  Both kids are super nice to DC2.)

So that’s my catty parenting rant.  I guess if it really bothered the bus driver, the bus system would send out a reminder not to block the bus stop while waiting for it.  It’s a good thing waiting for the bus is usually DH’s job.  (Which is at least partly selfishness on my part, even though it makes more sense logistically and from a who needs to interact with adults standpoint.)

Activism: Should you go broad or deep?

A lot of the taking care of yourself while fighting for America recommendations out there say to go deep on one or two issues.  Not because the other issues aren’t important, they are.  But because you’ll get burned out if you try to focus on too much stuff.  Better to pick an issue, join a specific-interest group, and do things for that issue.

We at grumpy rumblings have been recommending a different approach.  We’ve been telling people that if you have 15 min a week, to sign up for one of the weekly mailing lists going around (see our activism tab) and just do what it says on that list for that week (if you agree with the items, etc.)  We argue that doing this is a way to compartmentalize all the craziness and use your limited time and attention to make your voice heard.  Someone else has done all the research, made decisions about what to focus on most immediately, and needs you to provide the power of your voice and beliefs.  If you’ve got more time, you can subscribe to more lists or follow one of the twitter accounts that provides daily actions.

We don’t think that going deep is wrong either.  We think both are needed.  We need the people willing to go to meetings and do the initial research.  We need people willing to aggregate across those different groups and figure out what is most timely.  We need people to do the finger work to make calls across a wide variety of issues.  And we need those people to not burn out.

So do whichever works best for you and whichever fits with your life and personality best.

I can’t focus on just one issue– there are too many.  But I also get overwhelmed just looking at CNN.  So… I’m letting @Wandsci, @ActionsUSA, and others do that reading and aggregating and figuring out who to call for me.  And then I mostly do what I’m told.  (I’ve also been doing weekly proofreading for one of the groups in my state and I’ve been keeping and adding to a list of progressive groups in our county which I then give to groups so they can connect with each other, and I’ve been helping people figure how to do the activism they want to do.  So I guess you could say I’ve been going deep on networking.  Even though I’m a total introvert.).

DH is currently drilling down on a project to protect immigrants because that’s what the local democratic party has decided to focus on and DH was willing to figure out who to talk to to get the the information they need to set up their own program in conjunction with an immigrant group.  He’s also making weekly phone calls.

So no, I don’t think you have to go deep to avoid burnout unless that’s what you want to do.  You probably can’t dive deep into every issue, but you can dive deep into one or two, or you can be an intermittent voice for a broad array of issues.  Not burning out is important, but you don’t have to focus on only one thing to avoid it, you just can’t focus on everything.

How do you avoid burnout?  Do you prefer broad or deep (or a little of both)?  Do you think one is inherently better than the other, or does it depend on the person?