17 ways to live happily…Have an emergency fund

Have an emergency fund of at least something.

How many years have I been saving up a three or six month contingency fund? Roughly ten. Have I ever come close to having even three month’s salary saved? Once. Then I moved across the country and was unemployed for awhile and that cushion disappeared. But the reason I haven’t been able to maintain my savings goal is because I kept running into emergencies. Did the fact that I didn’t have all three months salary matter at that point? Nope. It still helped me that there was money there. I’m hoping that, at this point in my life things have settled down enough that I can get that three to six months cushion in the bank over the next few years.

Books read in August

I’m writing this in November, so memories of August are a bit hazy. I’ve pieced together the following from my notes. I remember not reading much in August, which is strange because I had two weeks off. I think I had a backlog of magazines to catch up with. So three books isn’t fabulous, but any book read is a happy thing.

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union. Michael Chabon
I love how Chabon creates entire alternate universes. His settings really come alive. What struck me as I was reading this book, is how much the story line mirrored all of the Patrick Kenzie/Angine Gennaro novels by Dennis LeHane. And I’m not just saying that because I was obsessed with them this summer. Summary: Rouge central figure disregards establishment practices and sets out on his own to get to the bottom of things and find The Truth. Central figure is also hopelessly in love with female character and is a better man with her then without her. The difference between this book and the LeHane series (aside from plot line details) is the setting–Boston vs. Alternative Universe Jewish Alaska–and the fact that knowing a bit of Yiddish probably helps with the Chabon book.

Song Yet Sung. James McBride
Follows the lives of residents of the Maryland shore during the time of slavery. Will our main characters make it to freedom? I’ll let you find out for yourself. My favorite part was McBrides’ description of “the code”, the network of messages slaves passed along through laundry, the blacksmith and others. It was fascinating.
(This review is very Reading Rainbow-eqsue)

Prayers for Rain. Dennis LeHane
And I finish the series for the second time this summer.

Started but didn’t finish
Firefly Lane. Kristin Hannah
This books suffers from what I call the “Mork and Mindy Syndrome.” This syndrome, named by me, came about in fifth grade when I was reading a novel and the main characters discussed watching Mork and Mindy the night before. The 1985 me was confused as to how they could be watching that show at night as it was not currently on the prime-time schedule. The 1985 me eventually figured out that when the book was written, Mork and Mindy was at the height of its fame and it would make sense for the characters to discuss it. The end result was by mentioning one detail that would become dated with time, the author pulled me out of the universal setting where I related best to the characters and instead set the book, for no good reason, in the late 1970s when I was very young. I see this happen a lot in novels set in the present day. In my view, the good ones manage to describe the activities of the characters so the book could be happening over a large period of time. The bad ones mention a fleeting pop-culture reference (i.e. The Aniston Haircut) that ties the story unnecessarily to a particular year.

With that explained, I can say that I lost several hours of my life on this book and I regret that I can’t go back and choose not to read it. The very long story, about two friends, one who becomes a famous TV journalist and the other who becomes a housewife, spans several decades and the author seems to think the best way to show the passage of time is to mention both sweeping events and hair and makeup styles. Also, when I quit 3/4 of the way through I could tell exactly where the plot was going. Usually I will read to the end to see if I am right, but the Mork and Mindy effect was so large in the book I couldn’t stand it any longer.

On Good Land: The Autobiography of an Urban Farm. Michael Ableman
I read most of this book which was a great illustration of suburbia encroaching on rural land. It has lovely pictures.

Attack of the Theater People. Mark Acito
This book picks up with the same characters we met in How I Paid for College. Alas, it had been too long and the writing was so full of life–Acito practically vibrates with energy when you see him in person–it was a bit much for my slothful vacation self. I put it aside for now.

Didn’t even start.
There wasn’t a thing I brought home this month that I didn’t at least begin.

Letters written in August

It is the dog days of the resolution. During my two weeks off I finished writing notes and sending pictures to all the people who went on the trip to Hungary, then I put my pen down. What letters that were written were to the pen pals I’ve made through LEX and to Sara. I returned from my trip with about eight Sara letters to respond to and during the trip she wrote me a very long one. It is a fabulous letter, filled with multiple fonts and clip art. Future Historians will love that one.

1 August–YRUU
2 August–YRUU
3 August–YRUU
4 August–YRUU
5 August–YRUU
6 August–YRUU
7 August–YRUU
8 August–YRUU
9 August–YRUU
10 August–YRUU
11 August–No one
12 August–No one
13 August–No one
14 August–No one
15 August–No one
16 August–No one
17 August–Jan
18 August–LEX Diane (movies)
19 August–LEX Diane (food)
20 August–Sara
**Letter Back–Jenna, YRUU parent
21 August–BroMAunts
22 August–No one
23 August–No one
24 August–No one
25 August–Postcard Sara
**Letter Back LEX Dorothy (2)
26 August–Deborah
27 August–LEX Gerry
28 August–LEX Don
29 August–Sara
30 August–Sara
31 August–No one

17 ways to live happily…Ride a bike.

Ride a bike.

Why do people in the US love their cars? Because they give them freedom. Not having a car means getting the freedom of keeping your money, but giving up the freedom of just jumping in the car and going somewhere. The bike gives some of that freedom back. Bikes are cheap, they get you some exercise while moving you from place to place and you can maintain them for less than $100.00 a year. Plus, they are fun to ride. Reclaim that kid feeling and get on a bike.

17 ways to live happily…Drive a junker

If you must own a car, drive a reliable junker.

I grew up in Boise, Idaho and if I still lived there I probably would own a car. Due to its bare-bones public transportation system I don’t think I could live a full life based on the bus schedule. If I did live in Boise, and did own a car, my hope is that I would be driving a reliable junker. The importance of a reliable junker (or even nice used car) cannot be overstated. They run well, they don’t cost very much, and because you aim to drive them until they die, you don’t have to get wrapped up in the pristine paint job. They don’t automatically lose value when you drive them off the lot as new cars do and once you already own an older car there is no pressure on you to keep up with the Jones’ by replacing your current new car with an even newer car.

The radio station I listen to has an ad that actually says, “Don’t listen to your parents about buying a car and driving it until it dies. Today, you need a new car every couple of years.” If you believe this statement, STOP. It is not true Actually, you never need a new car. With a reliable junker, you never have to worry about fender benders, exorbitant car payments, or your car getting stolen.


This summer was the first time I heard the term “staycation.” I loved it because it perfectly describes what I do for most of my vacations: stay home. Sure, I went to Hungary this summer and last summer Matt and I had an actual week vacation in Eastern Oregon, but mostly I’m at home working on projects during my time off.

However, now all the local tourism people are trying to take the term and morph it to one that means “vacationing in the state you live in.” That’s not what it means. If they are successful and this becomes the definition of staycation, I may never get another vacation again.

17 ways to live happily…Don’t own a car.

If at all possible, don’t own a car.

Since college, I’ve always lived in towns with good public transportation. If I ever have to move I will do my best only to move to a town with public transportation. Cars are the great sucking drain on your salary: you buy one with a lot of your money then put a lot more of your money into it in the form of gas and insurance and repairs. Do what you can to avoid buying a car so you can avoid the car owning you.

Three sentence movie reviews–Summer Movie Throwdown.

That’s right folks. All the movies I’ve seen this summer up until now. That’s 36 sentences all in one post.

Viewed in Okland, Romania with 13 youth, projected on a wall with very quiet sound. It was hard to hear, but still good. This makes viewing number three.

Be Kind Rewind
I expected a very different movie than what I saw. It was much sweeter than I thought it would be and pretty funny. Overall, a tiny bit formulaic, which surprised me, given the director.

Devil Wears Prada
I love a good truly awful (personality-wise) female lead, especially when balanced by a good female lead with a moral quandary. Excellent acting by all involved with a taut storyline. But overall, I mostly loved looking at the clothing.

Two of the youth recommended this movie to me and I soon found out why: It’s a nerd fantasy movie. I’ve been waiting for them to make a movie of this “true story” since I heard about the book on NPR. The only thing that disappointed was a major change from the true story to the movie world–other than that, good acting, good story line, just a good movie in general.

Just My Luck
An absolutely asinine movie with a stupid plot, insipid acting and annoying scene after annoying scene. Why did I watch it? When you haven’t had more than 3 hours sleep in more than a day and you are trapped in a plane, many movies that you wouldn’t watch on terra firma will do.

The Dark Knight.
A huge disappointment as I really was looking forward to it. The acting, special effects, etc were all fabulous. I just hated, hated, HATED the plot.

Incredible Hulk
After the disaster of Hulk there was really only one way to go. And I thought Edward Norton was an interesting Bruce Banner. It almost erased the stench of The Dark Knight.

27 Dresses
I wanted to like this movie, but I didn’t. Four months later I can’t remember why, which is a review right there. I do think Judy Greer needs to be in every movie I see though; she is awesome!

Mom hadn’t seen it, so here it was for the fourth time. Not movies survive to the second viewing, much less the fourth. I hope Michael Cera doesn’t get overexposed.

Stranger Than Fiction
When I first saw this movie I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did. A very clever story with good actors bringing their a-game. This is why I love the movies.

Pineapple Express
Not as funny as I wanted it to be, but I was happy to see the actor who played “Bust-Ass” in “All the Real Girls.” And I like James Franco and Seth Rogan. So very silly movie that I mostly enjoyed.

Iron Man
Still good. Still Robert Downey Jr. Still didn’t like Terrance Howard.