Job (and Feel Good Story) of the Day: Firefighter

Yes, this place is on fire.Let’s enjoy a happy story, shall we? The daughter of a firefighter who died in action on 9/11 has now graduated herself and is ready to join the ranks.

Josephine Smith, 34, of Mastic, is one of four women in this year’s FDNY class of 280, and the first-ever daughter of a firefighter killed in the World Trade Center attacks to join the FDNY. Speaking at the ceremony, Smith said she felt “proud, happy, excited… sad that my father couldn’t be here.” Kevin Smith, 53, lost his life when the north tower fell.

Josephine was 21 at the time, and she first heard it on the radio — but her desire to be a firefighter like her father started years before. She recalled “going to work with my dad, playing on fire trucks, even telling my dad how I was going to work with him one day.”

Her mother, Angelina Clay, now remarried, said she never doubted. “I bought her a bottle of champagne before she even started the academy because I knew she’d make it,” she said.

SNIFF. In many cases, it’s a good thing we didn’t end up what we wanted to be when we were kids, but look, she did! She fulfilled her childhood dreams. Now she gets to save people from burning buildings and cats from trees, and delight small children everywhere by waving to them from bright red noisy trucks. Hopefully the girls whose brains are being warped by those turns-out-they’re-awful “Computer Programmer Barbie” books will put those down and read this instead.


House Hunters International, Billfold Edition: East London, Vol 1

House Hunters International Buenos Aires

Normally I’d never have started dating someone who lived that far away. Of course, people deal with long distance relationships all the time; dating someone who lives on the other side of London isn’t necessarily a big deal. But when I discovered this guy lived a solid hour and a half away from me, still in London but at the far end of an unusually fidgety train connection, I won’t lie: I was thissss close to calling the whole thing off before it even started. I mean, back then I was the kind of person who would regularly go weeks without leaving East London, the gritty, fun area that’d been my home for seven years and and the only place I really wanted to be.

What happened instead was that this guy and I got along so amazingly that instead of the 90 minute trek breaking us, we got married after knowing each other only four months. Yes, that’s nuts and you shouldn’t do it, and yes, it was a brilliant idea. There was only one thing that was less than ideal. Because I rented while my new husband owned his flat, it made sense for us to live there at first. So I did something I never thought I’d do: I moved to the far reaches of slick, dull West London.l

Fast forward to today, a year and some later, and we are preparing to put this right: we are buying a place in East London.  READ MORE


Eating Thanksgiving Dinner in a Restaurant is Cheating Y/N

People spend ludicrous amounts of money on Thanksgiving. If you’re hosting, there’s food and drink shopping to be done; if you’re guest-ing, usually there’s traveling. It is nearly impossible to come away from this holiday not feeling lighter in the pockets — although, if you’ve done it right, you should feel commensurately lighter in the heart, I guess. That’s something.

One way to circumvent some of the stress as well as, maybe, some of the traditional costs of Thanksgiving is to have the centerpiece dinner in a restaurant. When I grew up, though, that was unthinkable. The electricity went out once while my family was preparing and it only took one phone call for us to relocate the entire meal-in-progress, caravan-style, from our dark kitchen to a friend’s house, where we continued cooking furiously as if nothing had happened. Even that year, my mother would never have accepted “give up and go out” as an option.

For other people, paying strangers to prepare their Thanksgiving food is no different than enjoying any prepared meal. But it feels different to me. It’s kind of maybe cheating? READ MORE


How People Who Are Also in Musicals Do Work

mean girls jingle bell rockTonight, I’m going to be performing in Molly Lewis’s musical Thanksgiving Vs. Christmas, which, for the purposes of my freelancing job(s), means that I will be spending a lot of time away from my desk for the next two days.

I did the math, and it’s probably going to be from 2 p.m. Pacific Time this afternoon until 8 a.m. Pacific Time Friday morning, minus maybe an hour or two on Thursday morning?

I started preparing for this on Monday, November 10.

Step 1 was staggering my deadlines so that as many as possible pushed into next week.

Step 2 was banking as many pieces as possible ahead of time, including our Thursday discussion of North and South. Sometimes, the game of blogging is writing the word “today” when you really mean “Thursday.”

So, even though you’ll see my name around these parts, and even though I’m absolutely going to log in to the North and South discussion tomorrow, I’m also going to be secretly “sort of away from work” for 42 hours. FORTY-TWO ENTIRE HOURS. I don’t think I’ve taken 42 hours away from my desk during the workweek since February.

If you are a Seattle Billfold reader, and you come see the show, come say hi afterwards! We’ll be doing the standard grips-and-grins line.


Honey, Sweetie, Chief, Boss: How We Talk to Strangers

Guardians of the Flame emerge from Poke's Tavern to start St. Joseph's NightYesterday, a woman I know complained on Twitter that a lady who worked at a grocery store had addressed her as “honey” and “sweetie,” and these things made her, my friend, really uncomfortable. In the tweet, she cc:ed the grocery chain, which replied, asking her to DM with more info. As my girlfriend sensibly pointed out, I should have minded my own goddamn business, but the idea of an employee getting in trouble for that – being a woman and calling another woman “honey” or “sweetie” – struck me as unjust, so I tried gently to suggest to my friend that maybe she was off base.

She countered that this particular instance felt weird, and I couldn’t know because I wasn’t there, and, well, she was right about that so I dropped the issue. But it got me to thinking about the language we use to address strangers and the effect it has when we are serving them, when they are serving us, and when we are acting as commercial equals.

English is a grand, complex language, and the words we use to address strangers situate us in terms of class, race, and affinity. They start to define the kind of relationship we want to have with another person.

In my Brooklyn upbringing, I learned that while it was acceptable for men to address other men as “sir,” the formality of the word created a distance. It said, “you are from one class of people and I am from another.” “Chief” and “boss,” on the other hand, seemed to say, “I am serving you right now, but maybe tomorrow, you will be serving me.” Thus, when I buy a cup of coffee from a guy, he hands it to me and says, “Here you go, Chief,” and I say, “Thanks, boss,” and we have established an equal footing.



What Marriage (And Remarriage) Has To Do With Money

968full-kramer-vs.-kramer-screenshotPew has presented us with some really interesting new data about marriage, remarriage, and money. For instance, thanks to increased life expectancy and, one could argue, irrepressible optimism, more people are re-marrying than ever.

All told, four in 10 new marriages in the U.S. last year involved at least one partner who had been previously married, Pew said. Eight percent of newly married adults had been married three times or more. The findings highlight a long-standing trend toward remarriage, driven by climbing divorce levels as well as increased life expectancy—which gives Americans more time to form and dissolve unions over their lives.

Only 70% of U.S. adults have ever gotten married, compared with 85% in 1960, and yet divorced or widowed Americans are roughly as likely to remarry now as they were 50 years ago (57% of them had in 2013, compared with 56% in 1960).

Whether Americans remarry or not matters because marriage is correlated with financial well-being. Some 7% of remarried adults live in poverty, compared with 19% of divorced adults. The median annual personal income of remarried adults is about $30,000, $5,000 higher than for divorced adults.

That more men than women are remarrying suggests at least some of these divorced or widowed men are marrying women who have never been married—and who are probably younger. … Education, income and race matter too. About 9% of newlyweds with just a high-school diploma have been married at least 3 times. Newlyweds with a bachelor’s degree or more?  Only 5%.

Basically getting married again is correlated with staying afloat, money-wise. It’s also correlated with being a (wealthy) dude.  READ MORE


American Workers Want to Know When Their Workday Ends

cat at laptopHere’s a question for you.

When will you stop working today?

You might know when you’re going to leave your workplace, and you might know the exact time or it might be “well, I’ll leave around 5 or 6 depending on what comes up this afternoon.”

But when will you send your last work email? Right after dinner? Right before bed? You probably don’t know, or if you do know it’s in the context of “well, I always check my email right before turning off the lights.”

(I always check my email right before turning off the lights.)

And what about two weeks from now? Have your work shifts been assigned? Do you know if your office is going to have a crunch day and ask everyone to stay late? If you wanted to meet someone for dinner at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, December 3, could you say with confidence that you can make that dinner?



Are You What You Wanted To Be When You Grew Up?

me basicallyThank you to Melissa Dahl at the Science of Us for reminding me that when I was little my plan was to be a ballerina when I grew up. LOL. I can only assume this was because I didn’t know the word “blogger” yet.

If you are also an adult who actually didn’t turn out to be a veterinarian/astronaut/marine biologist the way you dreamed about when were a kid, well join the club. Most people — 94% according to a longitudinal study published in the journal Social Forces — do not end up in the job they wanted when they were eight years old.

Most of the adults didn’t wind up doing the jobs they’d dreamed about as children, but the researchers found that the kids who’d aspired to gender-typical careers — boys who wanted to be mechanics and girls who wanted to be nurses, for example — were more likely to be doing those jobs as an adult, no doubt because there were fewer barriers to overcome.

Huh. Maybe also the gender-typical jobs are more attainable / needed by society, which is why they are in the Richard Scarry books. We’re always going to need nurses and teachers and policemen. I mean, until the Singularity of course.

As for me, as I grew up a bit my career plans got more realistic: high school teacher, screenwriter, POET. Did anyone want to be a project manager when they grew up? Middle manager? Direct marketer? I wonder what kids grow up wanting to be these days, aside from famous.


The Cost of Being a Salmon Swimming Upstream

U-Haul It, U-Park It

U-Haul It, U-Park It

After eleven years in New York City, I moved back to my native northern Virginia suburbs a few weeks ago. I’ve been planning this move for most of 2014, and thinking seriously about it since my younger nephew was born in 2013 and I realized I would only be That Lady Who Brings Us Books Every Six Months to him and his older brother unless I made some changes. Since I can do most of my work anywhere with a reliable Internet connection, in mid-October I packed up my entire adult life and shlepped it south on I-95. This is what that cost me.

Moving van rental: $335.43. When I started seriously planning the move, I got a couple of quotes from all-inclusive moving services of what it would cost to pack up my one-bedroom Brooklyn apartment and move my stuff to Alexandria, Virginia. The quotes ranged from about $2,000 to almost $4,000, so rather than spend a couple months’ rent on a moving service, I decided to rent a truck and hire movers. And then I begged my dad to come help me drive the truck. Included in the price was two days’ use of the truck and 280 miles. I paid $48 for U-Haul’s Safemove insurance, and $20 to rent two dozen furniture pads.

Movers: $149.95 to pack the truck in Brooklyn, $153.95 to unload it in Virginia, $80 in tips. When I booked my truck with U-Haul, I used the company’s Moving Help service to hire my movers on both ends. My parents and youngest brother drove up from Virginia a few days before my move to help with the packing, and also so my stepmother and brother could drive down in the car with my TV, my houseplants, and other delicate stuff.

My movers, both two-man teams, were more than worth the money on both ends. I decided to hire movers because my new apartment is on the third floor in a building without an elevator, and also because I own a lot of books. Twenty boxes of ’em. My sixty-year-old dad tends to think he still has the physical capability of a twenty-seven-year-old, and when I moved he was about six weeks removed from surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome, which he gave himself by lifting weights. I didn’t want him hurting himself again. Instead my very capable movers did all the hauling and no one got hurt.  READ MORE


How Cosplayers Do Money

Torrey Stenmark as Captain America.

Torrey Stenmark as Captain America. Won Best in Class Master, Norwescon 2014.

“I spent $585 on my Captain America dress,” Torrey Stenmark told me, “not including the shield.”

Every year, Torrey makes two or three big costumes, as well as one or two less-intensive costumes, to wear to conventions. She likes to show off her biggest pieces at WorldCon, Norwescon, and Emerald City Comic Con.

“This past calendar year, I had the USO Captain America, Ms. Marvel, and Pepper Potts—but Pepper was super low-impact, because it was mostly workout clothes.”

I’ve admired Torrey’s work for years; this year, at Geek Girl Con, she had a Ms. Frizzle costume as well as a crossplay Raleigh Beckett costume from Pacific Rim. (The term “crossplay” refers to cosplaying a character of the opposite gender as if the character were your gender, like Torrey’s Captain America “Steph Rogers” costume.)

When I cosplay—and yes, I have cosplayed—I tend to choose characters whose outfits are easily thrifted; you can do a decent enough River Tam costume with an oversized red sweater and a pink skirt, if you’re not too concerned about copying all of the details. Torrey, on the other hand, is among the cosplayers for whom the details are everything, and she’s willing to pay for them.



How Money Moves Between Generations (Not The Way You Expect)

Joy-Luck-Club mothers and daughtersHelp! cries a writer in Dame Magazine. I’ve Become My Mother’s Sugar Mama!

My mother has always had a tenuous grasp of money, and its meaning; when her father died in 1967, leaving her a small amount of cash and a handful of now-priceless tenement buildings all over Williamsburg, Brooklyn, she bought five fur coats in less than a year. Furious at my stepfather for some minor infraction nearly 30 years later, she met me at Tiffany one rainy Saturday afternoon ostensibly to have a sterling-silver pill case repaired, but in fact to order the expensive engraved social stationary that she suddenly could not possibly exist without, paying the $1,500 bill with his credit card. Coming out of one of her doctors’ offices on the Upper East Side, she stopped at a stand selling $100 knock-offs of $2,000 purses and bought two—one for me; one for her—fake Goyard totebags from a Liberian who was eager to show her how good his copies were.

Oh dear. Somehow I feel like this mother-daughter story is not going to have a happy ending.