Category Archives: Think

What Financial Health Means to Me #FinHealthMatters

A lot of times when we write about money, we pretend that our income will look like this:

While we may hope our money looks like this over our lifetime, that isn't reality.

But just as the aging process doesn’t always go the way we want it to, studies show that for most American families, income doesn’t go up in a straight line at a 40 degree angle. For many of us, our income journeys will look more like this:

The reality of money is that it doesn't come in at a consistent clip. Build resilience.

It’s not a convenient truth. But it’s a reality the vast majority of us face. You can’t always count on a raise. You can’t always count on a lateral move that pays more. Heck, if the Recession taught us anything, it’s that you can’t always count on having a job or a home six months down the line.

But there are some things you can do to straighten your line out a little bit. You might not have a steady, increasing source of income, but there are financial habits you can build that will help you not throw up in your mouth as you ride the ups and downs of a lifetime of income fluctuation.

Build Resilience Through Savings

I’ve been through some pretty crazy ups and downs in my financial life. I’ve been unemployed. I’ve lived in poverty. I’ve had great jobs that I loved, and even a great job that paid well.

But nothing is static. It’s true in life, and it’s true for your money.

To build resilience during those times of trial, you need to sock money away while things are good. Avoid lifestyle creep, and instead invest in your emergency fund and retirement accounts.

I know this is a good idea because I once had to live for five months without work after an involuntary cross-country move. Fortunately, I had built up a five-figure emergency fund by living frugally while I had a (comparatively but not really) fat paycheck.

Being unemployed didn’t feel good, but it felt a heck of a lot better than it could have because I knew I could pay my bills while I looked for work.

Maintain a Side Hustle

A few years ago, there was a regional shortage of work in my unionized field. Because I didn’t yet have crow’s feet, I was on the bottom of the employment register, and lost nearly all my income as the primary breadwinner for my family.

Luckily, I had this side hustle going on called blogging. I used all that extra time I had gained from not working my 9-5 to build up my business to the point where it could sustain my family, and even exceeded the max income I could have earned in the career I classically trained for.

I was blogging for a few years before I was at a point where all this was possible. Because I was able to work in my off hours to build up a side source of income, I was able to avoid financial stress and jump as cleanly as possible into a new form of employment.

Keep a side hustle going, even if your income flow is making you happy right now. You never know when you’re going to need it.

Love how she parses out how to deal with financial reality through resiliency.

Humble Yourself

When I had my oldest child, things were not going well financially. Neither my husband nor I had a degree, and our income was extremely stunted.

To this point, we hadn’t asked for help. There were literally times where we chose between the electricity bill and food. Between sporadic stints of employer-sponsored insurance, we didn’t get to go to the doctor. We didn’t get to go to the dentist. We lived on this suspended hope that everything would be okay–someday.

When I found out I was expecting, I checked my pride real quick. I realized that I was responsible for another life, and that I couldn’t do this on my own. I needed consistent health insurance. I needed food. I needed help.

So I got it. Applying for benefits was one of the most humbling things I’ve ever done, and in retrospect, I can’t believe it took me so long to do it. Those programs helped me get on my feet and facilitated our upward mobility so much faster. Because of that help, I now pull in a decent income, paying it back both through those taxes everyone complains about and charitable giving.

But I couldn’t have gotten to “good” without asking for help to get out of the “bad.”

Get humble. Get what you need to make things better. Don’t sit in squalor because of imposed cultural shame.

Remember: It will get better.

You know how earlier we said that nothing was static?

It seemed like a bummer because I was telling you the good times don’t last.

Well, guess what? It works the other way, too.

When things are bad, they don’t stay bad forever. Things will eventually get better, especially if you’re working hard towards your goals. It might take a while, but you can fend off (situational) depression by knowing that no matter how low things seem right now, there’s a high point around the corner. Start taking action today to reach it.

Frugal Time Travel: Make Genealogy Come to Life

This is so cool. Inspired me to plan a frugal trip to help make my own genealogy come to life.

Back in my day, we didn’t have the internet. We didn’t have access to a world of information at our fingertips. If we wanted to learn more about a topic, we had to get familiar with the Dewey decimal system. If we wanted to learn a new language, we had to hire a tutor or take a course in school.

If we wanted to look over historical records, documents weren’t scanned into a database which we could access through our handheld computers. We had to either hit up LDS microfiche, or head to the actual historical site to view the tangible documents.

So that’s what we did. I grew up the millennial child of a baby boomer history major who had a deep interest in genealogy. Instead of weekend trips to nearby amusement parks or campsites, we’d take trips to cemeteries and historical societies.

My sibling and I would play in the kids’ room at the library while my mom flipped through baptismal records from the Catholic church. At one point, we got so bored at a cemetery where we couldn’t find our ancestors that we started digging up a sparkly rock for our collection. It turned out to be a headstone that had been grown over by grass. The headstone of one of our ancestors.

I’ve since learned that overgrown headstones, while devastating when discovered by descendants, aren’t uncommon. There’s a Civil War-era section of the Allegheny Cemetery that is constantly growing over, no matter how many times my husband and I go back to literally uncover his own ancestors.

The Boy in Athens

We recently took a nice, long trip to Florida. Parts of it were frugal, while others were decidedly not. I’ll get more into that aspect of it over the next week or so.

We drove, which meant we would be passing through Georgia. It’s not a state we visit often—even if we’re only talking rest stop bathrooms.

I was reminded of a story of a family member. He was a Spanish American War soldier mustered in Athens. The night before they were supposed to deploy, everyone got nice and drunk. Unsurprisingly, a fight broke out. My great-great-times-however-many-greats uncle jumped in to break it up.

There was another soldier who used a different strategy to meet the same end. His way of breaking up the cacophony was to shoot into the crowd. I’m pretty sure he was drunk, too. It’s the only explanation I can come up with for his logic.

The bullet ended up hitting my uncle. He died within 24 hours.

He was 19 years old.

The shooter was more than remorseful. The incident followed him the rest of his life. As far as I can tell, there was no hatred expressed or grudges held.

But a 19-year-old boy still died unnecessarily, before even seeing the war he had volunteered to help fight.

Hold on While I Get Woo-Woo

A lot of times, when we research our family tree, we think only of our direct ancestors. My mother was more inclusive than that, and I think that’s a beautiful thing. While he still lived on in family lore, she uncovered details about his life and death that otherwise would have gone unnoticed.

If someone has no kids, there are no direct descendants. The likelihood of their life being remembered erodes with time.

I’m not a religious person. But I do believe that some part of our soul actively lives on as long as we are remembered. As long as our stories are not forgotten. The stories that lie dormant don’t hold dead souls, necessarily—without each and every human story, our planet would not look the way it does today.

A 19-year-old boy got shot, and a butterfly fluttered its wings.

But when we do remember, we pay honor to the people who came before us. We affirm that their lives are worth not forgetting. Whether they procreated or not.

Carrying on a Genealogical Tradition

Athens was at my attention, but I had no idea where it was. Because I now have access to one of those fancy, handheld computers, I pulled up Google instead of a physical map. It was right in the middle of the state, and altering our route to stay there the night over Charlotte would only prolong our trip by one hour.

I still wasn’t sure. There was only a plaque by City Hall to commemorate the collective force that spent time in Athens. The historical society was closed the two days we’d be there. And I’d have to switch hotels.

It nagged at me, though. So I did a little more digging. The camp where my uncle died was now a massive intersection. Well, massive in an incredibly suburban way.

Intersection in Athens, Georgia

I pulled up the intersection’s street view, and lo and behold, there was a hotel at one of its four corners. I called them up, unsure if they’d be more affordable than what I’d already booked. They were literally the exact same price. It was meant to be.

On our way home, we stopped in Athens. The hotel was insanely beautiful for a chain of its price range. There was a Zaxby’s across the street—which used to be my guilty pleasure when I lived in the South. There were Pokestops everywhere for the kids. The situation was ideal.

But it was also the place where that 19-year-old boy had died trying to do the right thing. He didn’t sit by and wait for someone else to step up. He saw something awry and acted. And at this busy intersection, he lost his life.

We took some time to remember him. To imagine what the place would have looked like when he was stationed there. To pay honor to his memory.

And it didn’t cost a cent more to do it.

Revealing Your Family’s Stories

It’s one thing to read a name off a census record. It’s a totally different experience to go and visit your own family’s historical sites.

But in order to find out where they are, you have to do a little research first. Today you don’t have to flip through physical papers trying to read old cursive from an era when spelling wasn’t standardized. #RealLifeGenealogyProblems

Instead, you can do a quick search of pre-indexed records on your phone.

My favorite database to do this is Ancestry. Their records are extensive and well worth the membership price, but if you want to give it a whirl before you commit, get a free 14-day trial.

I do have other branches of my family where stories are extremely difficult to uncover. War, multiple emigrations and unfortunate accidents have destroyed records and separated us from our history. But we did take the AncestryDNA test, which showed us a ton of surprising data about where our family came from.

In cases where you can’t get records, this is a nice way to be able to plan a trip to the places your family once lived. While you’re there, you might even be able to uncover more about their stories.

Right now through Father’s Day, AncestryDNA is 20% off.

Have you ever traveled to pay respects to your family or learn more about their history? Would love to hear your stories in the comments!

6 Autistic Women Who Are Changing the World

In honor of Autism Acceptance Month, Femme Frugality is running a series of Monday articles focusing on the triumphs and challenges those diagnosed with autism face as related to their finances and careers. Today’s post is the second in the series.

These women aren't successful in spite of their autism--they're successful because of it. 6 Autisitc Women Who Are Changing the World.

 

Neurodiversity is a beautiful thing. When we think differently from each other, we each have the opportunity to do good in our own unique way.

Today we’ll look at six autistic women who are forging their own paths. They’re creating meaningful art. They’re creating jobs. They’re creating a better world.

Dani Bowman

At just eleven years old, Dani Bowman established an animation company called DaniMation Entertainment. Today that company is not only going strong, but also employs others on the spectrum. By recognizing and utilizing the talent in her own community, she has assembled a team that’s produced award-winning animated shorts for five consecutive years.

On top of building a successful company and tapping into the immense talent pool within the autistic community, Bowman works to develop that talent pool further by running summer camps focused on animation and empowerment.

Morénike Giwa Onaiwu

Morénike Giwa Onaiwu has a long history of working in advocacy and empowerment movements. She started her career in the nonprofit sector, and has since served in a various volunteer capacities, including positions within the Division of AIDS at NIH.

Within the autism community, she serves as the Autism and Race Committee Chair for the Autism Women’s Network. As a black woman, her voice is much needed as an advocate who can speak personally to the bias-centric hurdles autistic women of color face on a daily basis.

Jen Saunders

In 2011, Jen Saunders started an extremely successful magazine called Wild Sister. Birthed out of a trying time in Saunders’ life, the aim of the publication is to empower women to pursue their dreams rather than become victims of their circumstance.

In 2015, she received a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome. These late diagnoses are becoming more and more common for adult women as we understand and identify autism not as a institutional disease, but as a sign of neurodiversity.

Women are socialized differently than men in our culture, leading some to argue that the symptoms of autism are not as visible with them. This difference in socialization and cultural expectations either creates the illusion of or is compounded by the assumed fact that the occurrence of autism is lower in females than it is in males.

As we’ve gotten better at identifying autism in women, more are being diagnosed later in life. Saunders used her diagnosis as an opportunity to reach out to women with a similar life experience and founded the Autistic Women’s Collective–a global social network for women on the spectrum and parents of daughters on the spectrum.

Kim Miller

Many of the women on this list are on a point of the spectrum where their communication isn’t necessarily limited by their autism. But just because verbal expression is not your preferred modality doesn’t mean you can’t contribute to the world in meaningful ways.

Kim Miller is a living example of that. She was non-verbal as a child, but was able to express herself through art. She would draw pictures to communicate her wants and needs to her family, and her comprehension to teachers at school.

Today she uses art as a powerful form of self-expression. She, and many others on the spectrum, are visual learners. This lends itself to pictorial processing rather than thinking in a string of sentential lexemes.

Her art, which has been featured in many different publications, portrays a full and rich interpretation of the world. She’s earning through her talents, and at the same time making the world a more beautiful and understanding place.

Currently, you can purchase works which have not had their copyright purchased by outside publishers through the Kimpressions online storefront.

Amy Gravino

In the US, we have a lot of supports for children with autism. But when it comes time to transition to adulthood, many states don’t have the proper systems in place to continue this support.

One place where this evidences itself is in the college experience. Not only do the intense and new social situations tend to be more difficult to navigate when you have autism, but the workload combined with an inclination towards completing tasks immediately rather than pacing make the entire experience extremely anxiety-inducing for those on the spectrum.

In an effort to up student retention rates in the autistic community, Amy Gravino started A.S.C.O.T. Coaching, LLC. On the spectrum herself, she is uniquely qualified to guide and support students through the transition to college life with concrete skills and true empathy.

Temple Grandin

Most readers will be familiar with Temple Grandin. Her name is known for her work in autism advocacy, and for good reason. But prior to this effort, she revolutionized slaughterhouses.

Her keen attention to detail, heightened sensory sensitivities and empathic compassion towards animals enabled her to design systems that kept cattle calmer as they were literally being led to the slaughter, and gave them kinder deaths.

Not only have her designs made our systems more humane, but they’ve also saved a ton of money in a massive industry.

Autism Empowers

All of these women are changing the world, and they’re doing it as career women and entrepreneurs.

At this point, it’s easy and common to feel stirred to a point of inspirational pity.

Let’s not do the common thing. You’ll note that every single one of these women isn’t successful in spite of her autism. They’re each successful because of it.

That’s what Autism Acceptance Month is about. It’s not about wiping out neurodiversity by finding a cure in order to eradicate the challenges of autism. Those challenges, which are real and sometimes large, do need to be addressed. But to cure autism itself would also remove many of these important contributions to society.

Rather, this month is about celebrating those differences, and recognizing that we, as a society, are better because they exist.

Muslim Women Who Make America Great

Astronauts, miracle-worker cardiologists, autism advocates and more. There really are a ton of Muslim women who make America great.

As human beings, we too often rely on stereotypes. More often than not, these stereotypes are inaccurate and inspire nasty –isms, like racism, sexism or xenophobia.

As Americans, we have a history as a melting pot. We are a land of democracy where ideas are allowed to flourish, and where new ideas, in turn, help us flourish.

At points in our history, though, we haven’t been the most welcoming melting pot. We’ve allowed those –isms to dominate and have failed to acknowledge the contributions that all make to our society regardless of where they’re from, what they look like or which god they do (or don’t) believe in.

Unfortunately, we may be living one of those times. Diversity, which has strengthened us during periods in which we were not busy fighting it, seems to be on the defensive rather than being encouraged. At certain junctures, it’s under all-out attack.

In honor of Women’s History Month, I wanted to take a minute to highlight some women who are making America great by making meaningful contributions to our society. Some were born and raised here. Some immigrated. They also happen to practice Islam, and without them, our sciences, art and culture would not be where they are today.

Hina Chaudhry's work in genetic therapy could stimulate cardiac cell regeneration.

Hina Chaudhry

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States today. Hina Chaudhry, MD is working to address it in innovative ways.

In general, there are two instances when the heart needs to regenerate cells in order to repair itself: after the onset of heart disease or after a heart attack. The problem is that the human heart regenerates extremely slowly.

Chaudhry has identified a gene which could potentially help it do so at a much faster rate. Injecting this gene into the hearts of several mammals, including mice, rats and pigs, has proven wildly successful in trials. It induces cell mitosis, which is the essential part of regeneration.

Sabeeha Rehman has built social infrastructure for her community, whether it be religious or in support of those with autism.

Sabeeha Rehman

Rehman has contributed to her NYC community in numerous ways. She, along with her friends, initiated a community for Muslims on Staten Island which eventually led to the building of a mosque. It served to remove the isolation some Muslims felt in a geographical area where there was previously no official community based around the cultural norms of their religion.

She hasn’t only served the Muslim community; she’s served her community at large. When her grandson was diagnosed with autism, she quit her career as a hospital administrator to support other families going through the same thing. She established the first chapter of the National Autism Association in the area. Today it serves all five boroughs of NYC. The organization is volunteer-driven, and helps individuals with autism reach their full potential through empowerment and education.

Aishah Shahida Simmons makes films and writes to combat sexual abuse.

Aishah Shahida Simmons

Simmons is an award-winning artist who operates in the realms of words and filmography. Her honors include awards from the San Diego Women’s Film Festival and the India International Women’s Film Festival. She has served as a professor at a litany of universities, written books and edited numerous publications.

The thing that makes Simmons’ contributions great isn’t simply the quality of her work; it’s the subject matter she tackles with her talents. Her primary focus is ending both heterosexual and LGBTQ+ sexual violence when it is perpetrated against anyone—children or adults.

Her biggest claim to fame is NO! The Rape Documentary, which continues to be used as an authoritative piece of educational material even in its tenth year. Currently, she is working on #LoveWITHAccountability—an initiative that empowers Black survivors of child sexual abuse to share their stories and ideas on how to eliminate the same abuse they’ve experienced.
The Sublime Quran

Laleh Bakhtiar

Christian-American culture unconsciously accepts that there are many versions of the Bible. That book has been translated into and out of so many languages so many times that it’s inevitable that there are going to be variants. On top of that, languages have homonyms and heteronyms, leading to further variation in interpretation.

The Catholic Bible, the King James Version, the NIV.

Because this concept is so engrained and generally accepted without contemplation, the culture doesn’t always ponder the fact that there may be more than one version of other religious texts.

But it should.

Because there are.

Laleh Bakhtiar was the first American woman to translate the Quran, and her translation noted some poignantly different interpretations. Most notably, she interpreted the passage that commonly is quoted as allowing a husband to beat his wife as a punishment to instead say he should go away, cool off and then come back to address the situation.

Her interpretation, called The Sublime Quran, has been used to fight domestic violence cases in court and has also been adopted by the Prince of Jordan.

Anousheh Ansari--first female private space explorer

Anousheh Ansari

Anousheh Ansari is an engineer, a serial entrepreneur and a private researcher who just happened to do her work in outer space.

In 2006, Ansari became the first female private space explorer, and the first person of Iranian descent to ever leave orbit. Since then, she’s started a tech business and become an inspirational speaker encouraging people to follow their dreams.

Her family also originated the first XPRIZE, which gave $10 million dollars to a team of engineers who could design and build a reliable and reusable spacecraft—that was privately financed.

The team that won was not only successful, but got their technology licensed. The company that was born from the competition is today known as Virgin Galactic—a major competitor in commercial space travel.

Muslim Women Make America Great

It doesn’t matter where your family came from or what you believe in; you can make positive change in this world. When we look at others, we need to remember that they, too, have this same capacity, and, in many instances, are exercising it.

To forget this important truth would be to deny ourselves innovations, social support systems and positive cultural changes.

The next time you see someone who looks different than you, believes differently than you or has a different life perspective, remember that they, too, make America great.

Women Who Made Alberta Great

Learn about these four, strong women that made Alberta great.

I recently had the opportunity to visit our neighbors to the north. The ones in Calgary, specifically. I had an absolutely fantastic time. You know a city’s stolen your heart when the temperature hovers around zero degrees Fahrenheit during your stay and you still come home saying you loved it.

One place I loved in particular was the Glenbow Museum. I had a lot of personal epiphanies as I wandered exhibits displaying Asian, African, and Indigenous cultures. But the one I want to share with you today is that of the women of Alberta.

In almost every section of the museum I visited, there was mention of a prominent woman who made her mark on Alberta’s history. Since the country isn’t that old–they’re just turning 150 this year–we don’t have to go very far back to see the influence these women have wielded.

Charlotte Small

Charlotte Small is one of the women who made Alberta great.

Charlotte Small was a Native woman that married Canada’s great surveyor, David Thompson. If you’re American, think Lewis and Clarke only much better traveled.

Her father was Scottish, but returned to Europe when she was five, leaving Charlotte, her siblings, and their Cree mother behind. This type of abandonment was what all the cool fur traders were doing at the time.

She married at age 13, which was not uncommon in those days, but it was uncommon that when Thompson went back east to Quebec years and years and five children later, he took Charlotte with him.

Too often women are defined by the men they marry, but in this case, it may well be that Thompson was defined by his relationship with Small.

David himself relayed that without Charlotte’s influence and cultural mediation the trading business that supported his passion project of surveying wouldn’t have gotten very far. Without her survival skills in the unexplored wilderness, he would have been lost.

Mary Schaffer Warren

Mary Schaffer Warren, AKA Mountain Woman, was one of the women that made Alberta great.

Mary Schaffer Warren was actually an American Quaker from Philly, but she’d soon call Canada home. She was everything women of the time were supposed to be–polite, well-mannered, and, unfortunately, fragile to the point of poor health. So when she first saw the Albertan Rockies, she was in awe, but wasn’t in a hurry to climb them.

As time went on, that changed. She ended up bucking tradition, traveling the Rockies further and wider than any white woman ever had before. She:

  • contributed artwork and photography to botanical books.
  • served as Alberta’s unofficial tourism ambassador.
  • surveyed and named landmarks even though it was illegal for women to do so at the time.
  • successfully lobbied for Maligne Lake to be included in Jasper National Park.

She settled in Banff, which is still a town inside yet another national park.

Mary Dover

Mary Dover was one of the women who made Alberta great.

Mary Dover for sure grew up with privilege. Her maternal grandfather helped found Calgary and her dad helped found the Calgary Stampede–which is a big deal to this day.

But what she did with her privilege was way different than what Paris Hilton or any Kardashian have decided to do with theirs. She could possibly be described as a media darling in the context of her time, but over her lifetime she proved that you could be simultaneously elegant and hardcore.

An example that they used at Glenbow was that she won beauty pageants, but she also served as a stunt rider in films.

Mary Dover proved that you could be simultaneously elegant and hardcore.

When WWII broke out, the Canadian Women’s Army Corps had some bad PR going on. Everyone thought the women who joined up were no more than camp followers–essentially the groupies of the war world.

Dover signed on and changed all that. She went across the country correcting those misconceptions and recruiting women to join her. She served overseas in England, and when she came home from the war, she served as an elected official in local government on top of doing a heck of a lot of volunteer work.

Mother Mary Greene

Mother Mary Greene founded Calgary's first school and was one of the women that made Alberta great.

It’s the late 1800s. Your boss asks you if you’d be interested in leaving your home in Ireland to set up schools in the still wild west of Canada.

Do you go?

Mother Mary Greene did. She helped establish one other Albertan school before setting up Calgary’s first. She also organized Calgary’s first Roman Catholic school district which is still in operation today. In 2017, it’s the largest of its kind in the entire province.

We need to remember that as she was doing all this, she was operating in a man’s world. She had to handle relationships and hold her own at the same time with government officials, politicians and even officials of her own church in order to do what needed to be done.

Eventually she ended up in Australia, helping a nun senior to her as she aged.

All pretty intense. I’m giving this one to the fact that she spent her early informative years growing up during the potato famine. Much like the Depression forged young children into strong adults, I’m guessing that the famine helped forge Mary Greene into the woman of initiative that she was, giving her the necessary self-confidence, willingness and grit to do what needed to be done–wherever she was called.

 

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