How are you dealing with price hikes?

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In the past few weeks, I’ve been so busy I was practically brain dead at the end of the day. I hope everyone is doing well and keeping sane.

These days, walking into a supermarket or receiving a utility bill is somewhat of a shock for me. I just find it hard to adjust to how steeply the prices are climbing.

Forbes advises us to combat inflation by increasing our income. For many people, that’s not an option. They’re locked into minimum wage, dead end jobs with not many prospects. They can’t negotiate a raise because they’ll get the boot before they get one extra dollar from their employer.

As a freelancer, I have slightly more flexibility. I negotiated a little rate uptick. I took on a little more work. I made a full time wage working part time for several months now (except for the holidays), which was absolutely thrilling. But financial insecurity is real, and there’s only so much you can hustle.

For most people, living through this inflation involves spending less. Yeah, not a major catalyst for economic growth; our leaders want us to spend to keep the wheels moving. But what we need to do is keep out of debt.

I know how to scrimp. I know all about mending clothes, stretching leftovers, repurposing school supplies, and accepting hand-me-downs. I know that it won’t kill you to occasionally go without a shower in winter if the day was cloudy and the solar water heater didn’t provide enough hot water for the whole family.

But I also know you can’t line dry and coupon-clip your way out of a full blown financial crisis. It sometimes takes more than that. For some people, it will be moving in with family, giving up their car, or telling their children they’ll need to fund their own higher education.

And, again, I remind myself it’s not just about cash. Surviving hard times is easier with chickens in the backyard, vegetables in the garden, wild growing trees full of bounty, a supportive community, and barterable skills.

As usual, I don’t have answers. But I know this: we’re some tough nuts. This inflation isn’t going to crack us. We will keep getting more educated, more resourceful, more resilient, and more generous towards those in need. And I believe we’re going to win.

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Whimsical mandala crochet top

Latest creation

If you are an improvising crocheter like me, you may easily figure out how to construct this simple crochet top, based on two circles in the front and back and attached with triangular panels on the sides. I had something a little different in mind when I started making it, but overall I’m pleased with the result – perfect to wear over a tight-fitting black or white tee.

This is the second top I’ve made with Camilla Cotton Magic by Ice Yarns, and it won’t be the last. I just love this yarn – 100% mercerized cotton with the tiniest bit of shine. It doesn’t tend to split, glides so nicely on the hook but still gives a good grip, and comes in a range of gorgeous variegated colorways. I used the colorway Blue Shades.

A close-up of the central motif

This is fingering weight yarn, my favorite – delicate enough for a lacy top but not too thin to work with comfortably.

Now on to the next project!

Summing up a Sabbatical year

At the end of the Sabbatical year, my plants are looking rather sad and forlorn. During the Sabbatical, a Biblical concept unique to Israel, Orthodox Jews must observe a range of rules, but in a nutshell it comes to this: not planting and doing just the bare minimum to keep existing plants alive.

It’s a bummer for hobbyists gardeners and backyard homesteaders, but much beyond that for people who rely on growing crops to make a living. Some resort to ritual “selling” of the field to a non-Jewish person; others abandon their crops altogether and spend a year doing something different from agriculture, or go into hydroponics.

Similarly, when buying vegetables, one has to check that they come either from a “sold” area or from regions that don’t count as part of Biblical Israel – which includes some regions of the modern State of Israel, like Eilat and parts of the Arava.

I wish I could say I can’t wait to get to planting again after Rosh HaShana, but the truth is, I’ve gotten a bit of used to neglecting my plants. There’s just too much to do – and sometimes I wish I could enjoy lush greenery and succulent tomatoes without doing any of the work 😉 I guess I’ll get back into the swing eventually.

Either way, I’m wishing everyone a most happy Jewish new year and look forward to seeing what it brings.

Should you work for peanuts?

Hi Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Let me just preface this post by saying that not getting fair pay for your work sucks. It really does. It’s rotten and unjust to work your backside off for less than minimum wage, which is why many freelancers follow the advice that says, “hold off until you can get a worthy compensation for your time”.

I had nobody to tell me this when I started my first regular freelance gig, at probably less than $10 an hour. The terms were exploitative, but at that point I had been out of the workforce for about a decade, and my confidence was in the pits. I was ready to grasp at just about anything.

So I found myself editing Chinese serial fiction, trying to slap atrocious translations into shape. I wasn’t making much money, but it was my own money… And it made a huge difference to my self-esteem.

Apart from making that little bit of money, two things happened. One, I gained experience. I was no longer a person with nothing on my resume. I could now truthfully say that I had one year of experience as a fiction editor.

Second, I kept getting praised for my work. I got into the editing team’s top tier. I was assigned the responsibility of training newbies and rating translators. I got involved in new and interesting projects. I got a couple of bonuses. My team leader kept telling me that I was a responsible, professional, and capable team member during her monthly calls.

Eighteen months later, I moved on to better-paying opportunities, but I will always be grateful to the first place that took a chance on me and helped me progress from nothing to something – probably the hardest step for every freelancer.

So, for me, working for peanuts eventually paid off. If I kept waiting and waiting for an opportunity that was “worth my time”, I might still have been stuck.

I’ll just give one caveat. If you do start with low-paying work, try not to let it hog all your time. For many months on my first job, I was like a hamster on a wheel, too busy running to look right or left or to notice I’m going nowhere. So do reserve the time to look for better options and polish your skills.

Summertime crochet mess

Wanna know what it looks like when you have so many crochet projects you want to follow up with, but your bright and lovely summer just gets too busy?

Pillow cover in the Alpine stitch
Scrap yarn headbands waiting for ends to be tucked in
Parts of a top in an original design I devoutly hope is going to work.

OK, so I might have gotten a little sidetracked. But I promise not to start anything new until I finish these!

P.S.: I’m using Camilla Cotton Magic for the top and Chenille Baby Light for the pillow cover, both by Ice Yarns.

Should she ask her husband’s permission to buy a new dress? Part 2

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In my last post, I responded to a question I saw in a Shabbat leaflet. It dealt with a woman whose husband opposed her buying a new dress for her sister’s wedding. I raised my concerns over the potential red flags of such a situation – namely, financial helplessness and covert abuse – and one reader suggested that I might respond to the woman by writing to the newsletter.

Well, I did it. I wrote to the editor, and today I received a response, along with a copy of this week’s leaflet, in which my comment (abridged for reasons of space) and their answer appeared. I’m copying and pasting their answer here.

“Thank you for your comments!
Financial abuse is not only extremely harmful, but can be used as a tool to trap a victim in an abusive relationship. As with emotional abuse, financial abuse is generally not about a specific situation. In most relationships, there are periods of financial stress wherein the couple must reduce their spending
or make other decisions and adjustments.

However, with financial abuse, the abuser usually wants to control, manipulate, trap and dominate the other person. Some examples involve controlling the victim’s acquisition and use of money and assets, preventing the victim from working, putting the victim into large debt and/or ruining their credit, creating legal issues for the victim, controlling all the spending, refusing to work, withholding basic needs and hiding assets. Even if they are only using one of these tactics, their behavior may still be financially abuse.

While there may be indications of possible abuse in the woman’s question, it might also be simply a tight financial period. A good idea, as you mention, would be for the woman to know the finances. Her husband not agreeing would be a red flag. However, assuming he agrees, she should also participate in financial decisions, hopefully lessening her resentment.


Shalom Bayit (for my non-Jewish readers: this refers to marital relationships, literally “peace in the home”) counseling is delicate. The goal is to bring the couple closer while also being attuned to the individual needs and vulnerabilities of husband and wife. Before introducing a label such as emotional, verbal or financial abuse, it is important to gather as much information as possible.

Targeted questions, involving the subjects mentioned above, will enable both the counselor and the counselee to understand whether it is abuse or not.
If a person feels their situation might be abusive, they should speak with a professional who can help them assess their situation and move forward with a healthy, successful and normal life.”

***

I have just a few words to say in conclusion. First, I appreciate the editor’s attention to my concerns, and I am thankful they chose to give space to the subject of financial abuse, often subtle and not enough recognized in Orthodox Jewish circles. I also agree that it is impossible to find out, just on the basis of what we know, whether the writer of the original question is going through financial abuse or just a period of financial strain and faulty communication.

However, there is one thing I just wanted to note: “If a person feels their situation might be abusive” may be hard to pinpoint. Many people live in a financially abusive situation for years without being aware of it. They might feel it’s normal, or it may happen so gradually that they look back one day and realize they have given up all their financial freedom and capability.

I guess what I’m trying to say is just that I hope people will gain more awareness of financial abuse. A couple of years ago, a few Israeli Knesset members tried to pass a law that would protect victims of domestic financial abuse. I am sorry to say that Orthodox and right-wing PMs were the ones who stopped this law from passing. They ridiculed the suggestion of giving more legal protection to financial abuse victims and claimed this law “interferes in family dynamics.” I found a brilliant article that discusses it here.

Also, for whoever is curious, the leaflet that prompted me to write these last two posts is Living Jewish.

Should she ask her husband’s permission to buy a new dress?

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A question that appeared in one of the Shabbat leaflets I read: “My sister is getting married. I want a new dress for the weddin, but my husband says we can’t afford it. He manages all our finances so I kind of don’t know if it’s true. What should I do?”

The answer (in many more words) was approximately, “Try to explain to him how important this is to you, but if he still says no, submit to his opinion.”

Oh boy. So much to unpack here. I see at least two big problems with the situation above.

I don’t know the financial situation of this family and I don’t know what type of dress she wants to buy. If it’s a super expensive designer dress, then maybe “can’t afford it” is a thing. But if she just wants something new to wear, she can find cute dresses at about $50.

And if she has to ask permission to spend $50, then, Houston, we have a problem.

Whether she works and earns money or not, if she and her husband are on a footing of a daddy and his teenage girl who’s begging for some spending money, it’s not a real marriage partnership. When two adults are married and manage a household together, neither of them should beg and plead to buy a dress or a pair of shoes.

Does this husband, I wonder, consult his wife when he buys a new toolbox or a gadget for his car? Somehow my guess is that he doesn’t. So that’s the first problem.

The second, and perhaps more serious one, is that she has no idea what goes on with their finances. She doesn’t know how much money they have or how much is too much to spend.

Maybe she entered this arrangement willingly because she doesn’t like to handle money, finds bills and taxes tedious, etc. Entirely understandable. But this, again, puts her in a childlike position, depending on Daddy’s discretion.

The other possibility is even more sinister. This woman may have been manipulated and gaslit to such a degree that she no longer trusts her judgment regarding whether their budget can support a new dress.

Either way, I think the advice she got was stupid and dangerous. It confirms her situation of dependence, and it ignores the very real possibility of something bad going on.

If I could speak to this woman, here’s what I would say: it’s totally normal to have role division. It’s normal for one spouse to do the lion’s share of bills and bank account statements. But since you are an adult, you should still have at least some idea of your finances and how much money you have in the bank. Otherwise, you are making yourself extremely vulnerable in an event that, say, the husband gets sick and can no longer handle the finances.

Second, if you can’t spend $50 at your discretion, raise a giant alarm, because something here isn’t right.

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