On My Nightstand: Eats of Eden*

Alternating Current cover art, amazon.com

Tabitha Blakenbiller and I might be long-distance, separated by geography and years, sisters.

I read her essay and recipe collection, Eats of Eden, over the last week and marveled at our similar experiences. I first talked to Tabitha a year or two ago when I emailed her about contributing to her blog. My husband had suggested I look her up, given our shared sadness that Walmart bought Modcloth, beloved Modcloth, purveyor of funky vintage-style clothes and accessories. Little did I know that Tabitha and I shared much more than just Modcloth misery. Over the last winter break, stricken with a brutal cold and laryngitis, I watched an entire season of the Great British Baking Show–as did Tabitha, afflicted with strep a year or two prior. We both love going out to eat as much as eating in, and we share a teenage devotion to the Titanic–movie, history, finer details, though as you’ll read, she took that obsession to its furthest extent she could as a 13 year old kid. 19 year old me just went to a local museum.

More significant than our shared particulars is Blakenbiller’s ability to tap into bigger themes that will resonate with many readers, particularly women.

When I began reading the book, I had just started calorie counting–again–to lose ten pounds I’ve lost and regained a number of times before. Blakenbiller’s own experience has been with Weight Watchers, and she masterfully discuss the internal battles that often ensue with the lose weight/gain weight cycle. For example, the dilemma of wanting to be smaller (often, just to stay in clothes one already has) while also feeling like a hypocrite to one’s own feminism by not being content with one’s body. The sense that as an adult, one’s entitled to enjoy whatever food and drink one might–and then feeling guilty that one . has done so. I usually follow that kind of thing up with ridiculously detailed food intake logs and rigid insistence on MyFitnessPal’s numbers. Tabitha gets that, has been there, and writes eloquently about those experiences.

The thread that runs throughout many of the essays is of a collapsed friendship, and trying to figure out how to process that friendship through writing.

Many of us have been down that road. While Tabitha’s particular approach of exploring that friendship in story, essay, and novel forms–none of which, initially, succeed as she wants them to–is distinct, the mess of feelings involved, which she explores so beautifully, is a shared one. Replaying the collapse over and over in one’s head. Figuring out what one did wrong–or, as in my own case, knowing I didn’t and thus trying to find alternate explanations–can often be all-consuming, as Tabitha well shows. Her conclusion at the end of the collection–which I’m not going to share, obvs–shows depth and growth from the very young woman she describes in the text to a mature, self-aware adult. We should all be so lucky.

And then there are the recipes.

At one point Tabitha discusses the shitty first apartment she shared with her husband, and the crappy kitchen it contained. The first apartment my husband and I rented was equally awful, down to the mold on the windows and the lack of kitchen space. I’d learned to cook from my mom, since childhood, but cooking on my own was a different beast. One night I tried to get fancy and make chicken piccatta, utterly unaware that one needs to drain the capers before adding them. I made a disgusting, briny mess. As Tabitha often reflects, it’s through these kitchen wrecks that we grow, and we ultimately hold even our failures as dear memories, down the road. She shares with us, the readers, some of those memories and the vastly improved recipes that followed.

Once I stop counting every damn thing I put in my mouth, I’m going to cook my way through them. I think she’d share a sisterly eye rolling at that sentence.

Eats of Eden is published by Alternating Current Press. You can buy the book from them or the other usual suspects.

*As always, this post contains Amazon affiliate links. Purchase this book from them, and I get some money to put towards hosting fees. Thanks!


We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.
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Score yourself a TF sticker!

When I first started Tenacious Feminist, I wanted to sell stickers and use the proceeds to fund my hosting services and then donate the remainder to Planned Parenthood. Alas, I only sold a few. I think I put the proverbial cart before the horse–trying to sell merch, even for a good cause, before I had much going on on the site or even a Twitter following.

In honor of TF’s coming first anniversary at the end of April, I’d love to get stickers out wide and far. They’re outdoor-grade, though I’ve learned the pink fades in about a year (the one on my car gets a lot of sun) and about 3″ tall. If you’d like one, either email me at admin@tenaciousfeminist.com, DM me on Twitter or send me a convo on Facebook with your name and address and I’ll pop one in the mail. First dozen or so get a precious Wonder Woman stamp on their envelope, too.

It’s my way of thanking all of you for reading in the last 11 months. I appreciate each and every reader, each commenter, each convo we have on twitter or facebook. Show the world your tenacity!

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Hope Hicks: Babysitter to the Chief

Today we’re going to talk about Hope Hicks. She’s yet another outgoing part of the rapidly-imploding presidential administration, announcing her resignation a few days ago after being interviewed by a congressional committee. While Hicks was, arguably, in a very powerful position (especially at her very young age), the administration turned her into a mother-figure to the president, doing emotional labor on his behalf rather than letting her do her actual job. This, I think, is yet another window into the creepiness, the backwardsness, of this administration.

Who is Hope Hicks?

Hope Hicks was born and raised in Greenwich, Connecticut, child of a man who served as VP of communications at the NFL. That’s her ticket, right there, to instant high-powered connections. After a stint as a teen model, she worked for a NY communications group she met at the Superbowl. She met the Trump family through that link, as Ivanka was one of that group’s clients. Inside a couple of years she was working for the Trump organization, and then she became part of the campaign team. She was 26 and had no political experience. Inside the next year or so she became the official White House Communications Director.

And now she’s leaving

After confessing that she told “white lies” on behalf of el presidente, Ms. Hicks is on her way out. The Washington Post included this charming bit in a piece on March 3:


In contrast, Wikipedia* describes the  White House Communications Director’s job as helping support and communicate a president’s agenda and serving as a chief speechwriter.

These two things–the WaPo description and the one from Wikipedia–do not go together.

Women do the emotional lifting

There’s been a lot of talk in the last year or so about the concept of emotional labor: in a nutshell, even when housework, in one example, is evenly divided between a heterosexual couple, it’s usually the woman who is the manager, making sure the paper towels get put on the shopping list and the laundry gets started. She is often the one to tell her partner what needs doing, and he does it. It’s a lot of work that often goes unnoticed by members of the household. To some degree, women accept doing emotional labor accepted–the argument is that we’re raised to do that stuff, automatically.

Another element of emotional labor is sustaining other people by tending to their feelings, without expecting reciprocity. Assumptions about women’s nurturing instincts are deeply embedded in those expectations. Included, too, is the assumption that women prefer to be caregivers, whereas men are bad at it.

It looks to me like that pattern is repeated here in the current administration. Hicks’s position is allegedly one of serious power and authority, when described in its official capacity. Hicks’s actual position as lived appears to be one of neither, truly, as her job seemed to be that of babysitter to the chief.  ‘Tending to his moods and whims’ is not communications work, it’s coddling. And it’s exactly the kind of coddling our society–and him in particular–expects women to do. And while she might have been paid, and likely well, she was paid to be the communications director–not the babysitter.

Masculinity, power, exploitation

Given the makeup of his administration, even as it rapidly changes, this phenomenon isn’t all that shocking. Few women hold any positions of equity with the men in there, and people of color barely exist. What the president wants is a clique of sycophants, and the job of women in that circle is to make sure he’s happy. Wikipedia* suggests most of her job was taking tweet dictation and screening him from unpleasant encounters. A beautiful woman, she was both a set piece–an object for a man who has told all of us many, many times about his delight in objectifying women–and his source of comfort. She kept him managed and fed his needs, as well as his ego. This is creepy as hell as well as patriarchal in nature.

In this administration, all actual power goes to men, who are expected to exploit it for personal gain (the EPA leader, Scott Pruitt, is a great example of this phenomenon). Exploitation of people and resources is a key indicator of virility for el presidente and his ilk, as the press recently has discovered. Women, on the other hand, receive largely symbolic power. Their chief job is to protect the baby president at all costs, whether it’s from questions, the television, or what have you.

Without Hicks, the WaPo surmises, the president is likely to become increasingly unstable. Without a mommy, he’s going to throw tantrums whenever TV reporting is unfavorable or he faces disagreement. So buckle up, friends.


*I don’t love Wikipedia, as its easy editability also makes it ripe for inaccuracy.  It’s a useful primer on a variety of topics, tho, and when it’s done well, contains lots of sourcing.

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Lunch Prepping

Hello, friends! Despite my 2018 pledge to blog weekly, I’ve gone a few weeks here in total silence. Not for a lack of blogging topics, for certain–what with the near-daily White House scandals that each, individually, would have badly wounded prior administrations, the defense of abuse against women in all forms (sexual, physical, emotional) coming from most corners, and yet another op-ed telling Hillary Clinton, who has gone away, to go away,–my goodness, there’s been a wealth of possible posts. I wish it were boring, truly I do, but damn near everything has the volatility of our current stock market. What fun! (it’s not fun). I find it so exhausting that posting about any of it right now just isn’t in the cards for me.  So let’s talk about lunch prepping instead.

My dear husband has been intently watching what he eats lately and I’ve being doing a half-assed job, myself. In the interest of both our macronutrient numbers (proteins, carbs, fats) and our wallets, we agreed that we’d start prepping lunches rather than buying lunch meat, half of which often gets tossed. On Sunday, I’d get six servings of something together, and we’d eat them during the week.

Lunch prepping: steak cobb salads
These were glorious.

Once we decided to commit to this approach, I bought some meal boxes, small food containers, and condiment boxes.* Everything had to be dishwasher and microwave safe, and I wanted at least a half a dozen of everything, and same-sized containers made fitting everything into our undersized fridge easier.

Most of my ideas I’ve pulled from Pinterest after lots of browsing. Week 1, I made us some chicken burrito bowls with a tomato/guac side. These were good, but had too much rice–which I’d overcooked–for me. Week 2, I made a curry chickpea stir fry with brown rice. Week 3, as I posted to Twitter, was steak cobb salads. They had feta on the side and a balsamic vinaigrette and were loosely based on this Damned Delicious recipe.

Here’s what is involved in lunch prepping, in the event you want to give it a whirl:
  • Planning: you need to pick a recipe you’ll willingly eat for several days. Three days is our limit.
  • Shopping: you need to then go get whatever you’ll need to make that recipe. I can testify to how irritating it is to find you’re missing something mid-prep.
  • Time: Lunch prepping on Sunday is far more time-consuming than I anticipated. Set aside a least a couple of hours.
  • Measuring: once everything is made, you need to divide more or less evenly. I’m garbage at doing that by eye, so my kitchen scale is my friend.
  • Passing out on the couch afterward. The more you do it, the more organized you’ll be, but it’s still an endeavor.

Last week, I made chicken avocado wraps based roughly on this recipe. These weren’t so labor intensive, but not unexpectedly, they were soggy by the time we finished eating them.  I filled the mid-sized boxes with carrot sticks to go with.

One problem we’ve had is that after eating our three servings of our prepped lunches, we’re left lunchless. This has had an opposite effect on our spending than anticipated, particularly because we’ve been eating dinner leftovers for later dinners rather than keeping them for lunches: we’ve ended up eating lunch out, sometimes more than once a week. Dammit.

This week I sought to remedy that problem by prepping two different lunches for five total servings each of us, for a whopping 10 servings altogether. I was in the kitchen for 2.5 hours.

Meal one is a repeat of the burrito bowls.

Here is my process:

I started by figuring out how much chicken I’d need for each recipe, measuring what I’d bought this morning at the store, and then putting five chicken breasts in brining water. I used this recipe for baked chicken as it has never failed me, and brining is the first step. While those soaked, I started knock-off Chipotle lime and cilantro rice (this recipe, but with jasmine rice and less water). As it simmered, I seasoned three chicken breasts with the leftover taco seasoning from last week, two with salt and pepper, and popped them all in the oven. Then I made knock-off Chipotle black beans, added my cilantro and lime to the rice, and got the chicken out of the oven. I portioned the rice then beans, and then chopped my taco-seasoned chicken. That I distributed next. Boxes closed, labeled (I get less rice this time–stupid carbs stupid counting) and put in the fridge.

Then I cleaned up, mixed up a healthier buffalo sauce, shredded the two chicken breasts, and mixed them together. I then put four servings into our mid-sized containers and popped them into the fridge. Next, I finished filling the dishwasher, started it, washed up a bit, and began making my lazy guac by chopping two avocados and mixing them with leftover lime juice and cilantro from rice prep. I chopped two tomatoes and then distributed all of it into the condiment containers. Lastly, I pulled apart and washed a romaine heart, chopped it, dried it in my spinner, divvied it up between four containers; I washed a bunch of grape tomatoes and added them. When we want a sandwich for lunch, all we need to do is grab one of each containers and dump them in a tortilla. Fingers crossed we get through a whole week without takeout lunches.


By this point I am exhausted and ready for take-out dinner.

In terms of costs, here’s about what this week runs:

Chicken, about $15. About 2.5 pounds of organic, free-range bird from Trader Joe’s.

Beans we already had. Goya, probably 80 cents or $1 if it wasn’t on sale.

Tomatoes I bought last week. Vine ripened, from a nearby state, $3/lb. About 2/3 or so of a pound, so $2.

Rice: already in the pantry. Maybe a dime’s worth or so–it’s $2/bag for a couple of pounds.

Cilantro: $1.79–barely used it, but I probably won’t use it much later and it’ll get tossed.

Lime: 39 cents

Yogurt (for buffalo sauce): already on hand–maybe 50 cents?

Red hot sauce: $1.89, but we only used about half. 90 cents.

Tortillas: probably $2, since I had an Ibotta rebate

Romaine: prorated, probably $1

Grape tomatoes: huge, organic boxes were on sale for $3. I probably used 2/3 of it, so $2.

Avocados: $2 for two small.

Total: about $28 for ten meals. This should keep a few bucks in our pockets and our waists that much trimmer (she says, thinking about donuts).

*These are affiliate links.
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My Face Wants Me to Make Weird Choices (plz send help)

Maybe I just need a glitter facial.

Skin changes throughout life, and while I’d hoped that my smooth and supple post-teenage acne stage would last forever, it hasn’t. I’ve got a skin issue I can’t seem to remedy or find easily online so I started looking at getting a facial. This impulse runs pretty much contradictory to my fairly public stance (twitter-public, anyway) on beauty regimens. I love makeup and now that I’m older I use really nice moisturizers and the like, but I try not to be vain and try not to spend serious money regularly on vanity-related things. But my face is making me crazy.

(Related: Have you seen Dumpster Dog’s post on the cost of women’s beauty regimens? And that most women get a full waxing of their nethers routinely? That blew my mind. Too much pain and so many dollars.)

Now part of my reason for not spending lots of dough on my face is frugality (or, frankly, cheapness), but the other reason is that I don’t think women should worry so much about meeting particular beauty standards. Who cares? And then, of course, I feel like a hypocrite for caring.

Or perhaps it’s time for a citrus soak. A bit too Ophelia for me.

In case you’re wondering, I’ve got all these teeeny tiny white bits on my lower face. They look kind of like dry skin but I think my dry skin only exacerbates what they are (I’ve been using an oil cleanser, cold cream to remove makeup, and an argan oil cream to moisturize, plus drinking lots of water–I can’t do much more there. I tried a serum, made no difference). They kind of look like sebaceous filaments, only they’re not greasy or, as those usually are, in an oily area. Sometimes I can scrub some of them off, but usually even a pore strip won’t peel them away.
I’ve got one of these terrifying-looking comedone kits and still, nada. Pulling them out with tweezers gives me the best results, and that’s not saying much. The worst part about them is that my makeup goes on fine but by midday looks all dried out, primarily around my mouth.

They’re driving me NUTS, and I realize how dumb that is, since I can’t even snap a decent photo of them. I also feel like I’m abandoning my feminist cred by being as focused on my face as I am.

Are citrus soaks just a thing when you search stock photos for “facial”?

I’ve tried lots of moisturizers, moisturizing regimens, I’ve consulted with the fine people at Kiehl’s (my face is too sensitive for their stuff, alas) and at Sephora (tho at Sephora everyone is so young this felt like a lost battle at the start). I feel like I’m being silly, fretting over this, and it’s exactly the advice I’d give others–it’s minor, don’t worry about it. And surely don’t spend more hard-earned money trying to figure this out. No guarantee a facial will solve it and a quick googling has revealed how appallingly expensive those are.


Help a sister out.

What would you do?

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It’s Not Always About You, White Dudes (You’re Just Not Used to That)

So last week some friends and I–women I dub my “feminist fight club” as we argue with people on social media for fun–had a convo about one member’s brother. Said brother is conservative and a frequent sparring partner. In a conversation about something regarding the fight against racist and sexist discrimination, he said, “the fact of the matter is that the middle class white men vote in large numbers and would be on your side if only the message was tailored differently.” This week, kittens, we’re going to tear that quote apart. It’s resonant as it reflects an unwillingness on the part of many people to understand our current historical moment.

TL/DR: It’s not about you, assholes, but you need to listen.

The conversation had gone like this: the brother argued that liberal messages were “exclusionary” in nature and thus, by default, made white men reluctant to take part regardless of whether they agreed with the message (say, that people face racial discrimination) or not. He felt liberals (for sport?) “railed against the white man” and ruined their own missions because such white men wouldn’t get on board…because they evidently feel discriminated against.

Implicitly, the brother’s argument is that messages should be tailored to white men, even if they’re not about white men, and that if they aren’t, white men will (deliberately?) resist, even if those messages make sense. So when we talk about racism or sexism, then, we need to make it about white men; or, at the very least, we can’t suggest white men are somehow keeping this racist/sexist system in place.

Essentially, he doesn’t want us to think about how privilege works and that if we do–and if we challenge what privilege does–we have to do so without threatening those in privileged places.

I have a newsflash for him, as my dad would say: insisting or expecting messages about racism and sexism be tailored to what white men want to read and hear is part of the problem. He’s grown up, as we all have here, in a culture where the overwhelming majority of messages are tailored to white men. Conversations that suggest otherwise–see films about women or by women, or about and by African Americans–are nearly always pitched as niche, because conversations about white people and particularly white men dominate.

Perhaps you’ve seen conversations online about the Golden Globes?

In one corner, we have those who are angry and frustrated to see women snubbed for the eight millionth time in the major category of best director. And in the other, we have those (cough, white men, cough) who insist that the selections are about TALENT, duh, and women just haven’t shown enough. They’re also saying that women are only 7% of film directors because of that reason–certainly not because of systemic sexism and an old boys club that limits women’s access to directorships.

Exhibit A.

That unwillingness to grasp the message and to make it about them–here, “white men are the best directors” is implied as normative fact–echoes what the brother above was saying. A corollary is that men’s stories are normative and women’s are “chick flicks” or “chick lit” (books have the same problem as film in terms of perception and coverage, like in the NYT’s book reviews). Another corollary shifts the lens from sex to race and finds the same thing.

And I’m just a voice among many, many people who have made this argument particularly in the last couple of years: we’re asking men like the brother above to listen to our points and our stories, and they then make it about them. We argue it’s always been about them, let’s hear it be about us, and they flap their wings like startled chickens:

“How could such a thing be? We mustn’t tolerate it! How confusing for us!”

And you’ll forgive me for being glib there, but here’s the thing: maybe these messages, white men, aren’t ABOUT you or FOR you, but you need to hear them so that you consider how you operate in the world. We need to work for a world in which white and male are not the default, normative assumption about quality in anything–stories, acting, directing, teaching, leading the nation, you name it. You need to believe us that that world will be better, because white male mediocrity isn’t inherently the best.

And to that end, white dudes STFU about Oprah.
Exhibit B.

Just stop. Her speech wasn’t for you. Whether or not she runs for office is her business at this point, and putting the focus there minimizes the incredible words she spoke at the Golden Globes. It was for women. It was for people of color. White men need to hear it, but they don’t need to offer running fucking commentary. PARTICULARLY, we don’t need the comparisons of what she has that Hillary Clinton didn’t: stop pitting women against each other. If mediocre white men by the hundreds can all be part of leadership and power, then guess what? More than one woman can, too. And those women are two of the best.

{here’s a link to a transcript of Oprah’s speech, which inexplicably has a photo of Meryl Streep at the top and no photo of Oprah…wtf… }


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2017: A Financial Reckoning

As 2017 mercifully ends and 2018 dawns, I’ve busted out the TF budget spreadsheet I’ve used all year for a final reckoning. In short, here’s what I learned from tracking nearly every purchase all year.

  • As I anticipated, we eat out a lot. We get takeout, eat in restaurants, and I occasionally grab cocktails with friends. I’d allocated $400/mo for eating out but we ended the year nearly $300 in the red in that category. This isn’t the end of the world, but it’s worth noting. It’s also worth noting that this category’s use is mostly my doing: the other night, for example, I texted the Mister to please get Chinese food on the way home. I have a cold and didn’t want to cook. I’m the one who usually petitions to get out of the house, and I’m the one who rarely says no to a request for pizza. So, uh, yeah. This would be the easiest category to cut back in, if we choose to.
  • However, we don’t spend that much on other stuff, like entertainment. Our “stuff” category–budgeted at $5k–came in enough under budget that it covers the overrun in dining out and some of other categories. “Stuff” includes movie tickets, hair cuts, parking in town, Sephora visits, and things like tissues and laundry detergent.
  • The gym is one of our great expenses but usually it’s worth the investment. We’re both gym rats when the stars align; problem for me was that this last term, the stars barely got together. Considering how much we spend there (we have more than a basic membership), we need to use it regularly. I have no qualms about spending our money on the gym, so long as it’s used well.
  • We don’t spend much on clothes. I budgeted $2000 for both of us for the year (I had no idea what we spent in general, so it seemed a figure with which to start) and we well under half of that, including a dreaded bra replacement purchase. Those things are godawfully expensive.
  • We budgeted $5200 for groceries and came in under budget. This might be a mixed blessing, though, since it’s likely hinging on high dining spending.
  • We over-budgeted for heating oil and house expenses, though the latter included an unanticipated purchase of new dressers (ours were from my husband’s childhood and busted). Money left in those categories went to the next one…

    Good thing she’s cute.
  • The great budget breaker, as most of you know, was the cat category. Good god. I didn’t budget in January anticipating a lot of things that happened: we tried to adopt a cat, and that was a bust–the adoption fee was never refunded (it was about $200, unheard of for an adult cat!) and the vet fees were a couple of hundred for the results of that cat’s attack on our resident cat. Then, the cat that had been injured unexpectedly died a few months later–cremation fees were over $200. Then, because I am an idiot, I convinced my husband we should adopt kittens. Two. Which are expensive–their adoption fees are high, their initial costs (think baby vaccinations) are high. And, as it turned out, both of our kittens were quite sick at adoption, and then diagnosed with chronic illness. So! We adopted special-needs kittens who are damn lucky to have us and super cute when not hellions but which have also led to a $3000 overage in that budget category, and that’s not including adoption fees–those count as charitable donations and can be written off on our taxes (which meant we exceeded our giving budget as well). I’ve moved all the under-budget amounts over to cover a bunch, but we end up $1900 in the hole there. Talk about a reckoning. I’m hoping that that category will be much quieter next year.

We are remarkably blessed that we could cover those overages and still have money to save in our emergency fund, replenishing a dent made over the summer. Further, we were able to pay off the end of my husband’s student loans, making us student-loan-free for the first time since my grad school deferments. We only have the mortgage and my car we’re paying off now. Assuming things continue as they are, we’ll likely be able to add more to my retirement account this coming year as well as take care of things like replacing our worn-out mattress and my beat-up, sometimes malfunctioning phone, and consider replacing my husband’s car–it’ll be 10 next year–in the nearer future.

Tracking spending for a year was eye-opening, if a pain in the ass, and because I’m one of those people who likes to do things religiously I’ll probably stick with it this year, too. If you, like me, have no idea where your money is going, it’s a great exercise that allows you to truly see where your expenses are, and what you’re spending in addition.

Happy new year, dear readers.

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Last week I was royally pissed when I saw someone tweet about their latest blog post in which they compare themselves, as an indebted person, to being enslaved.


I didn’t click on it because I title like that–and a subtitle that doubled down on the idea–is designed to garner clicks, and I’m not going to grant my precious clicks to some inane bullshit.

But here’s the deal. Debt can suck. It can drain what funds you have. It can restrict your mobility. Hamper your goals.


American slavery began as a transatlantic nightmare in which humans were corralled, then shoved on ships so tightly packed that in some cases, captains anticipated a 20% loss. Yep. The trip took about 6 weeks, six weeks of being chained to other humans, lying in your own filth, sometimes with corpses.

THEN those humans who survived were inspected like cattle and sold to the highest bidder so that they might work until they died of exhaustion–old age unlikely–doing backbreaking labor, usually in sugar or rice or tobacco.

One’s status was determined matrilineally–FUCKING CONVENIENT, GIVEN THE PATRIARCHY–which meant that rapacious owners could assault the women they owned regularly and then ENSLAVE THEIR OWN CHILDREN.

Those children became fodder for the internal slave trade, which was the same system, minus the transatlantic ship and now featuring boats from places like Virginia down the Mississippi, to places like Louisiana. And now they farmed King Cotton more than other crops.

Families were broken at the will of enslavers.  Runaways were beaten for daring to leave the system. If you look at runaway slave advertisements–readily available online–you can begin to see a pattern of injury descriptions that are concurrent with “hobbling” injuries–injuries to prevent further running away. Slave patrols–made of poor whites who wanted a piece of the system they could not buy themselves–beat even those slaves legally on the roads, nevermind runaways.

In Virginia for a long time if you “killed a slave in the course of correction“–beat them to death–the colony reimbursed you.

Modern slavery is only so different–secretive, where it was publicly acceptable before. Often overtly sexual in nature. Some undocumented immigrants also live in virtual slavery as housekeeping staff to those who exploit their status in order to keep hold of them indefinitely.


Out of respect for those who were enslaved and those who are, just stop it.

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Finance Friday: Yes, I Have a Side Gig (or, Additional Revenue Stream)

We’ve talked about having a side gig before on this blog–particularly the problems in how we discuss them and the implications therein. Today I’m going to tell you about mine. It’s truly a side project, secondary to my main job, something I do primarily on weekends and during the summer. It’s turned into a nice little revenue stream, largely because it has next to no overhead. And I can do it because I had the time to develop it and because my primary job enables me not to worry about making ends meet.

I am a genealogical consultant.

Chief for me when I considered embarking on a side project was doing something that was enjoyable, made use of my skills, and made me some worthwhile money.

I had been prowling Mr. Money Mustache for weeks and I saw lots of posts about sites like Task Rabbit. If I needed the income to pay my bills, Task Rabbit might have been ok, but I did not want to be tethered to someone’s needs for unpredictable, low cash. I didn’t want to end up exploited or abused, as can happen with task jobs (there’s an episode of the Simpsons where Bart does tons of work for an old lady and gets a measly quarter). I didn’t want to put myself in odd situations. As a woman in 2017, that concern is often forefront in my mind.

As for my skills, my main job is in the humanities–long the butt of jokes about uselessness in the employment world. I spent some serious time thinking about what I like to do, particularly during the summers when my regular contract is up. I’m a skilled historian with a good handle not just on the American past but the sources that help us decipher it. Some summers ago, I mapped our family tree back to the 1680s–I was hooked. So I set myself up as a summertime genealogical consultant. I’m not certified as such, but I do have a Ph.D. in history. I frame what I do as both fact-digging and narrative-telling: people love stories, and I hate facts without context. I’m really good at this kind of work.

Humanities critics can suck it.

I looked into what professional genealogists charge, and numbers ranged as high as $80 an hour. That seemed more than my market could potentially bear, I figured, especially since I lack the appropriate credentialing. So I charge half of that, and people pay it. It never fails to amaze me that people barely blink that I’m charging $40 an hour, or $375 for a ten-hour chunk. They hand over their Ancestry credentials (so far all of my clients have an account) and I dig in. Rates are higher if I have to use my own account, which is currently dormant. I may increase them to $50 for new clients this spring, after I do more research.

I’ve had three clients so far. People call me in for a range of reasons. Some have family mysteries they want help with. I’ve teased out a family’s complicated moving patterns and offered interpretations grounded in general US history for them. I’ve helped decipher nineteenth-century language choices. I’ve located a rabbi who was ministering in Brooklyn–a lost link in a family chain–on behalf of another. Most recently, I worked with a client whose family stretched back to Puritan settlement in Massachusetts. Family branches fought on both sides of the Civil War, and one side was deeply entrenched in propagating slavery.

I pull no punches and hide no truths. If your past is dark, that’s what I’m going to tell you.

I love this gig.

I love it so much I’m doing some consulting–albeit rarely–during the academic year. People are often surprisingly vulnerable during the searching process; they’re sharing intimate parts of their family histories, their pain.  It’s an honor to bear witness to them and to help people process their pasts.

Plus, they like to brag: my current client delights in telling her friends she’s meeting with her own personal genealogist. I only hope they book me, too.

My goal is to turn this little enterprise into something that yields at least $10k/year. I’ve made over $2k this year and I haven’t put much into marketing it. My goal was $1k, so I’m doing a smashing job. The three jobs I’ve had came through a single FB post on a local page: a woman who saw it told her friend who hired me, and she told two friends who hired me. Three of those setups a year would put me over the moon and close to goal. One of my current clients will join me for a presentation at the local library next spring that I hope will yield more clients.

Shameless plug:

If you’d like to work with me on tracing your family heritage, let me know! I’ll send you the link to my personal site and credentials once you check out as a non-bot non-threatening actually interested human. While there are some things–like sorting your family photos–I cannot do online, I can search and communicate with you easily by phone and by email. I can’t promise all the results you might want, but I’m a tenacious digger with a keen sense of seeing where clues lead. Want your own history detective? Hire me.


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Well, If it isn’t another white man with a gun

By now you’d have to live under a rock to have missed this week’s edition of “there’s a mass shooting, but let’s not talk about it.” Once again, a young white man obtained military-style weapons and took his rage out on innocent people. And while we’ve all offered Hopes and Prayers (trademark pending) and wrung our hands over the State of the World, I’d say it’s safe we stop here and wait until next week to start the cycle again. If I sound cynical, it’s because I am. As a nation we refuse to discuss the actual factors these things have in common and so we insist there’s nothing we can do. Tho there is.

Probably by now you’ve seen that the shooter this week had a domestic violence record. We know that many if not most of the men who propagate these kinds of massacres have some history of hitting their partners, who are overwhelmingly women. We know that men who hit women often do so out of rage, out of a sense of ownership, and because violence is a means of demonstrating power. Similar things could be said of why people shoot up innocents–it’s about anger, power. We know that there’s a whole culture in the US of men who feel entitled to women’s time, attention, and genitals, and who fly into a rage when they feel they’re not getting their due (see MRA douchebags). Similarly, these men seem to feel entitled to shoot up others in their anger. We have what’s called a correlation here–men who perpetuate massacres often hit their wives and girlfriends. This is not to say that domestic violence alone isn’t a problem that needs eradication on its own merits–it absolutely does–but that there’s also a predictor here that our society is ignoring.

So let’s contemplate that situation. Why isn’t anyone at the policy-making level looking at this?

My argument is that if you don’t generally see women as autonomous individuals–human beings–you don’t see hitting them as a problem. If you see women as a caste subordinate to men, you might see them as hittable when they step out of place. You probably run the whole list of “well, she must have done something to deserve this” excuses through your head before you ponder what’s wrong with the male who did the hitting. As a nation, that’s where we’ve been headed more overtly lately. Take, for example, the Violence Against Women Act, which our current Department of Justice hates. As a senator, Jeff Sessions said the bill wasn’t “sound” and so voted against it. Recently, an undocumented teenager was held hostage by the Justice Department, which wouldn’t let her get an abortion until weeks later, she and the ACLU won a lawsuit against them. Our own VP calls his wife “mother,” and our president has public recordings of his brags about assaulting women. A Wisconsin lawmaker recently gave a speech in which he alleged abortion hurt the economy, as it eliminates potential members of the labor force–women, in such a scenario, are just breeders. These are just a few example at the highest levels–you can peruse any number of websites to see much more run-of-the-mill discussion of women as object, breeder, housekeeper, and not autonomous humans.

A consequence of not seeing women as autonomous humans (literally, culturally, or otherwise) is that domestic violence against women is not taken seriously. Sure, we’ve got lip service, but look at how stuff plays out. The NFL has plenty of players who have records–no one cares. Women who fear deportation don’t report, because they are especially non-people–women AND of color AND undocumented. Dual-arrest laws, in which both members of a fight are apprehended, were well-intentioned efforts to defuse fights between partners and sort out what happened have led to declines in reporting by victims who don’t want an arrest record. NPR here talks about a woman who had several restraining orders against her ex, but still would be arrested if she called for help.

So if, as a nation, we have a track record of seeing women as non-persons and if we don’t take domestic violence as seriously as we might and we combine that with white supremacy, well, here we are.

Because whiteness is a key piece here. Overwhelmingly, the men murdering civilians in theaters, in churches, at concerts, are white. And we have a system that functions to hold white men in place at the top–we have a patriarchal, white supremacist system. So when you and I say, “DAMMIT if we’re not going to talk about gun bans, can we talk about banning men who engage in domestic violence from having access to them?” we get a firm “tut tut” and no desire to engage from our dear congresspeople. Overwhelmingly. And the reason for that is that if they begin to look at this shit–REALLY look at it–they’re going to note that white men who don’t see women as humans, who feel entitled to women, are carrying it out, and then for many congressmen, they’ll see themselves. Perched atop the patriarchal white supremacist pinnacle, investigating the commonalities among those men and deciding to hold them responsible implicates those men and implicates themselves.

So until we’re rid of those men in the echelons of government, beholden not just to the gun lobby but to a vision of themselves in which they are entitled as white men to all the spoils, we won’t see an end to the carnage.

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