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#5SmartReads - January 16, 2023
Hitha on debt, inflation, and Dr. King’s legacy
To paraphrase Carmen, it’s insufficient to post a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. and leave it at that. Why did you pick that quote? What about it speaks to you?
I’m still reflecting on the quote I posted last year and what it means to me, and wanted to share it here:
If posting something isn’t your thing, I do invite you to listen to one (and hopefully all) of these podcast episodes about Dr. King and the work his legacy continues to inspire.
I find it abhorrent that the history of the civil rights movement is being denigrated as something inappropriate to teach and politicized under the guise of critical race theory (an advanced concept that’s only taught in law school and other higher education programs). So if the schools won’t teach our history properly (and let’s be honest, most never have), it’s on us to do so.
And these podcasts are a great place to start.
Pooja debunks the profitable, unregulated self-care and wellness industry and offers a solid plan on how to really take care of yourself on all fronts (many of her recommendations are what I’ve implemented this month). And I’m able to incorporate her recommendations because I’m able to afford childcare (our caregiver, school, activities) and can therefore take care of myself.
Kathryn Jezer-Morton makes the case of why affordable childcare (she focuses on the phase before kindergarten in particular) is wellness, with data to back it up. But I find her closing words the most profound:
“Wellness practices can be very rewarding, and sharing them can provide a sense of moral purpose — you can help improve people’s lives for real. Wellness teaches us that empowerment and self-confidence are the keys to human flourishing, and those lessons are really hard to let go of. But the project of affordable child care is ultimately not about the self at all; it’s about the collective. At some point, a narrative about taking care of ourselves has to evolve into a narrative about taking care of one another. I can’t wait to see it.”
There’s been a fair amount of reporting about the debt ceiling and how Congress will address raising it, but how many of us actually know what the debt ceiling is?
Most of us understand it’s the maximum the US government can borrow by issuing bonds. But what happens if we hit the limit?
Congress has managed to raise or suspend the debt ceiling to avoid defaulting on our debt, but I’m not sure if that’s going to happen with this Congress.
Before we opine on our current debt ceiling debate, take the time to read this clear explainer of the debt ceiling - why it was created, and how it’s been managed in the 106 years it’s been a part of our fiscal governance.
Let’s just make this a fiscal policy issue of #5SmartReads, and talk about inflation since everyone else is.
Here’s why inflation has stabilized and started to decrease in the recent weeks:
Energy prices fell by almost 5% in December (with gas prices dropping by nearly 10%). Energy prices were a driving factor for inflation last year, so it tracks that lower energy costs = a drop in inflation.
Food prices are beginning to stabilize - while the prices are increasing, we’re back at early 2021 price increase levels (versus the peak 1.5% increase back in June). Fruit, vegetable, and dairy & dairy product prices dropped from November from December, driving this stabilization.
Core inflation is also stabilizing, and their modest increase of 0.3% (from November to December 2022) was driven mostly by shelter prices, and especially rent. Given that rent is a lagging indicator (factored when leases expire, so our data is usually a year behind) and we’re seeing the rate for new leases beginning to come down, it bodes well for renters and the conomy.
Time will tell, of course, as there are other factors that contribute to the economy that aren’t analyzed in this piece. But I hope this is a sign of brighter economic days ahead.
What a Hobby Feels Like (Culture Study via Pocket)
“To me, that’s what I think a real hobby feels like. Not something you feel like you’re choosing, or scheduling — not a hassle, or something you resent or feel bad about when you don’t do it.”
I’m both incredibly protective and noncommittal about my hobbies and random obsessions. I can go months without picking up a needlepoint canvas or a ball of wool and crochet hook. These days, I prefer a good night’s sleep over watching a primetime Eagles game, or skip plenty of Grand Prix races because I sleep through my alarm.
Reading is perhaps the only hobby I’m ruthlessly consistent with, and that’s because it’s a huge part of my mental health and I do everything better because I start and end my days with reading - but if all I can manage is a page, it’s totally fine.(Anne Helen Petersen's phenomenal newsletter) unpacks the subject of hobbies in this very smart piece, including just how hard it is to start one as an adult, and to resist the temptation to turn it into a side hustle or to simply carve out the time for it and not feeling like you’re shortchanging time with your family, friends, or doing the things you think you should be doing.
If re-establishing or starting a new hobby is something you feel aligned with, I’d like to share some of my advice that’s helped me cultivate my practice:
Think about what you loved doing as a kid. Did you spend hours coloring or crafting, or playing outside until the lights came on, or got lost in a new book? I’ve found that kid Hitha had it right on a lot of topics, and restarting needlepoint and yarn crafts (which my aunt taught me when I was young), jigsaw puzzles (something I do with Rho), and reading (my lifelong passion) makes me feel the most me.
Start small with your hobbies. If you want to read more, please message me and I would love to help you find a book that will bring YOU joy. Want to jump on the coloring trend? Google a “stress coloring sheet for adults” (this is one of my most used search terms), print one out, and color it with the pens or materials you already have.
Just like you’re starting small with the activity in question, start small with the time you prioritize for it. I recommend tracking your time for a week (I track my time on my Google Calendar, documenting what I’ve done every few hours or so) and examining the blocks you wrote “putzing” in. Could you replace a few minutes here and there to the hobby instead of scrolling on social media? My hobbies have become my breaks during a work day - I craft when breaking from a creative task, I read when breaking from a research task.
If the hobby you try out doesn’t light you up or bring you joy, ditch it and try something else.