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?

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Ask the readers: How do I get more patience (at work)?

#1 asks:

How do I become more patient?  I can think of good reasons to be more patient (e.g., “this is just their policy for their business, it’s not personal against you, you know.” and “this isn’t that big of a deal, you can let it go” and “fuming doesn’t help anything and being calm might get better results” and even “bless their hearts, they can’t help being stupid, poor things”) but NONE OF THEM WORK.

I am all out of patience for [BS] and I’d like to buy some more, please.  How?

#2:  I don’t think you should do illicit drugs.  And you’ve tried CBT, so probably not that.  And having kids is probably also a non-starter.  Have you considered distracting yourself with novels?

#1:  It’s kind of hard to do when my boss is in the same office with me

#2:  I guess you have to distract yourself with other work then.

 

Ask the grumpies: How does not wanting to retire early affect your savings decisions?

Leigh asks:

How [does] having careers, not jobs and not wanting to retire early, while still having healthy retirement savings all ties in together. How does that affect how much you put into retirement accounts vs other accounts each year, etc.?

TBH it really doesn’t. But I do think it accounts for some of the calm we wouldn’t be feeling if we weren’t in good financial shape right now.

Back tracking a bit though…

As Leigh notes, we’re working because we want to, not necessarily because we have to.  We do like our high incomes, but a lot of why we work is because we’re trying to make the world a better place and in my case partly because of ambition.  We have no plans on retiring ever, though we may change our minds in the future.  Early retirement is definitely not in our plans.

Right now we’re maxing out all of our hassle-free retirement savings.  So I’m putting away my mandatory match, my 403(b), my 457, and DH’s 401(k) (now with Fidelity and a much better deal!  Asking for change works sometimes!).  We are on an “over-saving” track for retirement at this point given our lack of desire to retire early and my relative job security (though who knows what will happen in 30-50 years!).

The main reason we’re putting this much away is to take advantage of the tax advantage and to make it more likely that schools will give our kids financial aid.  We (as of this moment in our current situation) have plenty of money leftover to spend.  But there’s not much to buy around here and we don’t really have the time or energy to go looking for things to buy.  This is the first year that we’re starting to accumulate additional money after the targeted retirement/529/mortgage/sabbatical saving is done since before we bought a house.  If the US were stable, we’d be putting it in lump 10K sums into the stock market (with a 25K donor advised fund that we may still do), but instead we did one lump and now it’s accumulating in savings waiting to see what happens with DH’s job and the political climate.

(As we’ve expressed probably ad nauseum to our regular readers– we have more than enough to live on in our current low cost of living area, but not enough to safely buy a house in Paradise, even assuming we move to Paradise for a high paying job for DH.  But there’s always the chance we’ll want to move to Paradise with only one job and will be very happy that we “over-saved” even if we can’t afford to buy a house when we get there.)

I guess if we wanted to retire early we’d spend less.  I would probably have to actually sit down and figure out what numbers we could retire at assuming different draw down rates and stock market returns etc.  Depending on how early we wanted to retire, I’d have to figure out how to ladder accounts to draw down from (probably the easiest way is just to use the 457).  And I’d probably be freaking out about money more because it would matter for our “freedom” date.  But instead I’m expecting another 30-50 years of work so it’s easier to roll with uncertainty.  There aren’t money worries on top of everything else.

If we get more tax-advantaged space to save for retirement (because of changes to tax laws), I guess we’ll use it, but at some point we’d have to think hard about when to stop maxing it out.

So right now we’re just going with the max defaults because where else are we going to put the money?

Grumpy nation:  Do you have a career or a job?  Are you aiming for early retirement, not retiring at all, or something in between?  How does that decision impact your retirement savings decisions?

What is culture for?

I am extremely cultured.  I know history and philosophy and I’ve read most of the classics (and can fake many of the ones I haven’t read).  I enjoy opera and theater (but not ballet or symphony, though my sister loves ballet) and old movies and classical music.  I can swim and play the piano and embroider and cook (though I was never able to get over my complete lack of artistic talent when it comes to drawing or painting or my complete boredom with ballet lessons).  #2 and I can trade Gilbert and Sullivan or PG Wodehouse jokes with ease.  I know which silverware to use at a fancy restaurant (pro-tip:  start with the outermost) and how to pretend I know what I’m talking about with wine.  Sadly I only speak two languages (English and Spanish), but I know enough French and Italian to get around as a tourist or to get most literary references without Google translate (ditto Latin).

I used to think that I had all this culture because my parents were sharing what they enjoyed, and culture was something to make it easier for me to entertain myself.  (And part of this is true– my father is a European immigrant who grew up in a fancy US coastal city, so his love of operetta patter songs is as real as his love for Jacques Brel or the Beatles.)

But a couple years ago I was rereading Penrod, by Booth Tarkington (free on Kindle).  In addition to being shocked by the casual racism and animal cruelty that I did not remember from my initial childhood reading (from my mother’s childhood hard copies), I was struck by a passage.  Penrod, who is established as having been from a middle- to lower-middle- class family, takes ballroom dancing and etiquette lessons.  A public school kid, this is the only time he rubs shoulders with the private school children of the town elite.  His mother wants to social climb.  His parents, I realized, are trying to help him advance.

Recent readers of the blog may also be aware of my current turn to regency romances.  In regencies (and in steampunk), women have “accomplishments”– somewhat useless entertainment skills such as embroidery or harp or watercolors that are class markers.  Wealthy tradespeople could send their daughters to finishing school so as to marry up into the aristocracy without embarrassing their impoverished future sons-in-law.

One of my mother’s refrains has always been, “to make you a more cultured person.”  And “to give you opportunities I didn’t have.”

I suspect that many of these skills and much of this knowledge that was poured into me may have been for the same reason we were pushed into math and science.  To improve our lot in life with the next generation.

But… Penrod was written in the 1910s.  By the time he was an adult, the parlor manners he resisted being taught along with the formal dancing would be archaic.  In Regency novels, the landed aristocracy of the early 19th century would be replaced with the age of industry and business would supplant tenant farming.  Eventually, stenography would be a more important skill for young ladies than the harp.

I always thought, growing up, that once I got to college I would meet people who were passionate about opera and history and so on.  (Note, this is one of the reasons that #2 and I hit it off right away in high school.)  But even though I went to a top small liberal arts college, that was not the case.  I would even occasionally have to explain literary references to professors in college and graduate school.  I did spread my various loves to my friends (especially those with cars!) and in return picked up passions for anime and Asian food.  High school also provided me with nerd culture in abundance adding, for example, the entire Monty Python library to my repertoire.

As an upper-middle class citizen approaching middle-age, I haven’t found my elitist skills to be particularly useful.  They still provide me joy, but to be honest, they are not shared by many people.  I don’t have much outlet for them away from the city.  When I am in a city partaking, I’m surrounded by professionally coiffed white hair.  These elite class markers are markers of a previous generation.

Times change.  Social class markers vary.  The approaching-middle-age elite who we rub shoulders with today are also first generation wealthy and formerly from the midwest.  They are not from East coast old money.  And so, my esoteric knowledge that my mother worked so hard to provide me with, those classics I was forced to read to “be a more cultured person,” were not as useful as the love of math and ambition that she also fostered.  In fact, I’m a bit out of place with them– elitist in many eyes.

But fortunately, even when it is lonely, cultural knowledge still provides personal entertainment.  It still makes jokes more funny and deepens appreciation of even modern media (since people in the film industry who direct and design are remarkably cultured themselves).  So maybe that itself is enough in this ever-changing world.

Was I more confident 5 years ago?

Man, so I’ve been scraping the 2010 and 2011 drafts for posts (it is insane how many unfinished posts we have), and I’ve been noticing how much more I dunno, prescriptive a lot of these posts are.

Like… how to do cognitive restructuring.  On the importance of moxy.   That post (It takes a village) from the other week about getting out and being with adults was actually written in 2011.  I even have one that ironically talks about our students getting cognitive dissonance when we tell them they have to think in shades of grey.

It’s ironic, because I think as I age, some things get greyer.  Like, meta-grey.  I mean, sometimes things really are black and white and not shades of grey at all.  Sometimes people go farther in life if they ignore ambiguity, even if things are grey.  Who am I to say what is right or wrong.  There’s even a post in here somewhere (vintage 2012 or 2013) talking about how people like to be told what to do, they like to be lead.  And… I dunno, do they?

I do think part of it is I’ve spent the year surrounded by everyone being at least as smart and accomplished as I am and most people even more so.  All my coauthored projects finished in the fall.  I haven’t started anything new, no new collaborations etc.  I’m sort of a silo surrounded by amazing people that I don’t often ask for help.  And it has kind of eroded my confidence a bit.  I do like it better being a little fish in a big pond because for whatever reason, I feel a bit uncomfortable as a big fish in a small pond.  But man, have I got imposter syndrome.  Maybe if I were getting more done, making more progress on my projects I’d feel more confident, but right now I’ve got a bit of “will I ever amount to anything” thing going on.  Plus my big projects aren’t working and there’s too many of them and I’m having trouble finding direction.  And I’m going back to teaching and service and things that make it hard to be productive very soon.  If I can’t get things done while on leave, how will I get them done when I’m working full-time?

If I regain my confidence, will it be a false confidence, and will I realize it is so?  Does it matter when moxy is so important?

So, I dunno, a bit of melancholy to add to the lack of certainty.

Or…. maybe those drafts have been sitting there since 2011 for a reason and I’m just overthinking.

Also… I can see that several of these posts were reactions to obnoxious parenting or personal finance blogs that I no longer read and may no longer even exist.  It’s a bit easier to argue the opposite when someone is saying something ridiculous.

So… maybe this whole trying to compare posts from 5 years ago to now is just another lesson that no, it isn’t always about my internal omphaloskepsis; sometimes there’s an external factor.  Usually it’s something else.  Which is kind of comforting, really.

Has your certainty or confidence changed in the last five years?  Have you noticed any other changes?

I really do have an addictive personality: 1 week of coffee = 3 days of pain

I’ve talked about my addictive personality before in terms of why I don’t play video games and how it’s difficult for me to get off fora (until I’m kicked off or quit cold turkey).

I almost never drink coffee.  Usually this is because when I get a migraine, coffee + aspirin + sleep is the only way to make it go away, so I want to keep my tolerance low.  But occasionally after a bad night I’ll partake in some decaf or when things are really bad, a full cup of regular.  I almost never do this more than 2 days in a row.  And never after 11am if I want to get any sleep at night.

Recently I had some bad deadline times.  So I drank coffee for a full 7 days, starting with a cup of decaf and ending with 2 cups of regular by the time the week was over.  I started craving it and could feel it making my life better.

Then I turned in the thing and crashed hard.  The next day I had a major headache and had a cup of decaf to try to wean down.  It helped a little but not enough.  When the weekend came, I stopped drinking coffee and ended up in bed with a pounding headache.  I kept wanting coffee so badly.  A little sip of DH’s salted caramel mocha made angels sing in my head, but wasn’t enough to truly make things right.

I still want coffee.

Most people can drink caffeine for 7 days straight (some of them decaf or only half a cup!) and then go cold-turkey with maybe only a little bit of tiredness as an effect.  I can’t.

Most people take longer to become truly addicted to something.  Apparently not me.

I had Valium once prior to a surgery.  If it were available OTC, I would eventually never leave my bed.  I still want Valium.

So, this is why I don’t do drugs.  Because it doesn’t take me long to crave them and to crash when I don’t get them.  And it’s scary not being in control of my body.  Also, I don’t like withdrawal symptoms.

Do you have problems with addiction?  Do you ever wean yourself off caffeine?  How does that go?

Differences between your online persona and your IRL persona?

The blogosphere (including us) has recently been discussing how blogs are only a specific persona that the blogger shows (or curates, depending on your beliefs about the nature of truth and perception and personality).

That got us thinking about how we differ IRL vs. our blog personas.  We thought we’d share some of the differences.

I am a lot nicer IRL.  A LOT.  My snark only comes out with anonymity.  I may think things IRL but I don’t say things unless I can say something nice.  #2, however: I think I might actually be nicer on this blog than IRL.

I’m also more introverted IRL.  I’ve done meetups with groups of forum people and they are surprised that I’m quiet at the dinner table even though I’m super chatty online.  (This same thing isn’t true with people I know well IRL or when I’m at a conference on topics I’m an expert on– I’m perfectly chatty with subject matter I feel comfortable with.)  #2 is super-introverted all the time and prefers online communication.  Or books.

I’m less annoyed about giving an impromptu lecture on my subject matter of expertise IRL than online.  Online it often feels like someone should be paying me to argue with them.  (I know it may seem like this isn’t possible, but I promise, I lecture a LOT IRL.)

What don’t I share with you?  Mostly boring stuff.  I only online share things if I find them interesting and/or funny.  I also try not to share things that would hurt other people if our blog and real identities became front page news.

I’m often not as witty because online you only get the good stuff, not the stuff that failed at being funny or brilliant (at least IMO).

Who is the real us?  Well, what is reality anyway?

How do your IRL and online personas differ?  Who is the real you?