Ask me (almost) anything.

th-2My recent “Tell me about yourself” post produced some very interesting responses. One of the commenters, Michelle, asked whether I’d answered the questions myself.

I guess I could do that. But another thought crossed my mind: Since I got to ask you guys questions, maybe it’s your turn to ask me some.

How does that sound? Here’s how I propose to do this:


Anyone who has a question – personal, professional, profound, whatever – is hereby invited to ask away in the comments section. I’ll pick out a handful to answer in an upcoming post.

Who knows: If the questions are good enough, maybe I could do more than one post.


Here’s what I think

However, questions that feel too personal won’t get addressed. Gotta preserve some semblance of privacy even as I spill all sorts of stuff onto the site.

And while I won’t answer the first question I asked you guys (how’d you find this site and why do you read it?) because it doesn’t make sense to do so, I’ll reply to the other four.

You are given one of those $625,000 MacArthur Genius Grants. How do you use the money?

I don’t know if it would be enough, but here’s what I’d like to do: Buy a small apartment building (25 units or so) and rent only to women emerging from family shelters with their kids. Rent would be $1 per month but every tenant would be responsible for helping keep the common areas clean.

Each would get counseling on education and/or a job search. Once a month I’d have an evening program featuring an expert on things like cooking, child development, budgeting and the home-buying process; free child care would be available a very nice door prize would be given away to encourage the women to attend.

Women could stay for up to four years. If they saved money and created plans to buy a home or accomplish some other major life goal they’d get a cash bonus toward that dream.

I’d call the place “Geneva House,” after my mother.

Which store-brand/generic foods, if any, do you refuse to eat?

I’ll eat almost any of them once, to see if I like them. It’s been my experience that store-brand mayonnaise is pretty dismal.

If you were offered an all-expenses-paid trip anywhere in the world, where would you go?

To the United Kingdom so that I could visit Ireland and go back through London (only more slowly).

What is the scariest thing you ever did, and how did you get through it?

More than one candidate for this one! Becoming an unwed mom at age 20; applying for a full-time newspaper job (even though I had good clips, I had no degree and felt un-hireable); helping my daughter through her near-fatal bout of Guillain-Barre syndrome); finally leaving my baaad marriage; going back to school in my late 40s; agreeing to become a full-time blogger for MSN Money when I didn’t know what a blog was (and when I was also back in school full-time); and taking a chance on midlife love.

How I got through these things could be called luck, Divine Providence, insanely hard work or sheer stubbornness. Or perhaps it was a combination of all four.

Those are my answers. Now I’m looking forward to your questions.

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  1. Tina in NJ

    No question, but a comment. Your “Geneva House” sounds similar to a program here in Jersey, FISH Hospitality. The clients are mostly families without a home, either headed by men and women or women. Most adults have jobs, cars, etc. The program provides help finding jobs and apartments. Support. The families stay in area houses of worship for a week at a time, rotating through a network to spread out the workload. Each location hosts the guests for about 4-5 weeks throughout the year.

  2. Kandace

    What is the thing you would like to do most, but can’t either because of finances, health, proximity, time, or just plain ol’ fear?

  3. How did you cope with the illness of your child? That to me is the biggest challenge you faced.

  4. Sarah V

    In your attempts to be frugal and eat what you have in the house, what is the worst meal you ever prepared?

  5. Cathy in NJ

    Tell me about one of those days in your life when you said to yourself, “Damn, I earned my pay today!”.

  6. The UK! I just bought my tickets for going back next summer for our 10th anniversary! I can’t even imagine going through such a harrowing health situation with one of my children. When it’s you, it’s bad enough, but when it’s your children, you feel so helpless!

  7. To your readers, your move to Alaska to be with DF seemed sudden. How long did you know each other? Were you just friends and then decided to move in together? Had you dated each other in the past? Were you dating long distance while you lived in Seattle?

    Now that your income is reduced, how do you deal with family members who need or request your financial assistance?

  8. Catseye

    I was disappointed that you never went into detail about your trip to the U.K. Would you tell us more about where you went and what you did, please?

  9. Jacqui B.

    If you have two hours to yourself, with all your chores done, what would you choose to do for those two hours?

  10. Melissa F

    If you could sit and chat with one person of a celebrity status, who would it be?

  11. lostAnnfound

    If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be & why that location?

    And LOVE your idea for the Geneva House!

  12. Caroline Kipps

    It’s a gray day, you haven’t slept well, and you are out of coffee. All excuses for a morning you just don’t feel motivated–to write, run errands, talk, whatever. What gets you going?

  13. What’s the hardest part about being self-employed? The most rewarding?

  14. Is frugality a better way to live? How does it improve your life, in terms of quality, health, opportunities, as well as financial status now and in the future? Or is frugality a way of making the best of less than optimum circumstances? If you could forgo frugality, would you?

  15. What was your last big splurge (non-essential) and did you feel guilty for spending the money?

  16. teinegurl

    How you do you discipline yourself to start and emergency fund and not spend it? How do you replenish it once that emergency hits?

  17. I would like to hear you speak about your family of origin and how money was handled as you were growing up.
    What were the good things you were able to take away as you went into adulthood, what were some of the thoughts/behaviours you wished you had lost years ago?

  18. What is your favorite ice cream?
    What do you love most about living in Alaska?
    What doe you like least about living in Alaska?
    You seem to have a great relationship with Abby-how do you nurture that connection long distance?

  19. What dead person would you most like to meet?
    What fictional character would you most like to meet?
    I’m back – did you miss me?

  20. This is a fun idea!
    Two questions that might be interesting:

    What is your all-time favourite novel, and why?

    What do you think would be the most priceless thing most people who don’t “get” frugality could take away from it if they were suddenly able to understand it?

    P.S. I’m another Nancy than the one just above this reply!

  21. Carolina Cooper

    Since you are a writer, what comes to mind are questions to do with writing—but not advice on writing. For THAT you should be paid!(1) Who are your favorite non-fiction writers, past and present? My list would include Cleveland Amory, William Zinsser & Andy Rooney on the non-fiction side, all of whom have gone on to their reward.(2)Who are your favorite fiction writers, living or dead? I never get tired of reading & re-reading Hemingway & Fitzgerald. (3)When did you first realize you had a gift for writing? And YES you do have a gift!

  22. Tiffany

    With your divorce and going back to school, how did you deal with internal conflict due to all of the changes and having to find a new “normal” for yourself?

  23. I echo Tiffany’s questions about how you went through all you did to create a new normal. My divorce was finalized this spring and I feel like I’m emerging from five years of bedlam to begin working on my new normal. What helped? Was there any one thing or strategy that stood out on your journey?

    On the lighter side what’s your favorite book and/or movie?

    This is fun! And inquiring minds DO want to know!!

  24. Have there ever been times in your life where it seemed that despite your best efforts, it wasn’t going to be enough? When, despite every frugal hack and budget cut, you weren’t going to pull through? How did you get through it, and what advice would you give to someone going through a similar experience?

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