th-1Recently a reader named Laura H. e-mailed to ask if I could re-run “Surviving (and thriving) on $12,000 a year,” an article I wrote for MSN Money back in January 2007.

When I wrote that I was 49 years old, back in college and coming off a two-year-long divorce. At the time the assignment seemed like a one-off freelance gig. I had no way of knowing that it would ultimately lead to a career as a personal finance blogger; at that point I didn’t even know what blogs were.

People still mention that $12k piece. Some ask me where they can find the piece. Unfortunately, MSN Money changed platforms and the work I did there between 2007 and 2013 can no longer be accessed.

Fortunately, I keep copies of everything I write.

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thAlaska is full of kick-ass women, and I was privileged to meet a bunch of them during my 17 years of working for the Anchorage Daily News. That’s because I wrote for the features section, which meant getting sent out to interview women who’d either suffered great losses or done something intriguing. Sometimes both.

I learned something from all of them, and was fortunate enough to get to know some of them better. When I met Dana Stabenow she was at the tail-end of a carefully chosen yet potentially disastrous decision: to quit her lucrative job, get a master’s degree in creative writing and become an author.

She went broke in the attempt, but that’s not the end of her story.

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thLady Liberty is back. Or, rather, some dude wearing a Statue of Liberty costume is back, and standing outside a local tax-prep place. Instead of lifting a lamp beside the golden door, he’s waving a get-your-taxes-done-here sign at the passing traffic.

I’ve seen at least two dudes dressed this way lately, greenish robes bulging over winter wear and spiky crowns sitting uneasily atop messy mops. The facial hair is a bit jarring, since the real Lady Liberty is clean-shaven.

Being willing to don a silly costume and stand outdoors in the cold tells me something about these guys: They want to work.

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thRegular readers already know about my daughter’s blog, I Pick Up Pennies. They probably also know about her 19th year, when she nearly died from a rare neurological disease.

Since then Abby has gone through a lot of physical and psychological torment. She spent a couple of years on disability due to a lack of jobs that meshed with the residual effects of Guillain-Barre syndrome. (The fact that she found not her “dream” job but the World’s Best Boss is miraculous.) Post-traumatic stress disorder and a mental health issue that’s finally been diagnosed as Bipolar II have made it hard to get through some days.

Her husband lost his job shortly before the wedding, and his own health issues have worsened to the point where he is now on disability. The two of them bought a house before they were really ready (i.e., before they had a big enough down payment) in order to take in his bankrupt parents.

A careless driver hit them and totaled the car that was supposed to have lasted them another four or five years. Home, car and other issues have continued to pop up (almost $17,000 in 2014 alone). In the past few years she has endured five miscarriages and is considering whether or not to try again.

So how’s she handling all this? With an astonishing perspective, if her current blog post is any indication.

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thRecently someone contacted Stacy Johnson of Money Talks News to ask for articles on non-costly ways to give back to the community. That assignment wound up in my lap, resulting in “You don’t need to be rich to lend a helping hand: 42 free or cheap ways to give.”

Researching it was fairly simple, because I do a lot of this stuff myself and also take inspiration from readers’ examples. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that giving is the perfect antidote to the midwinter blahs.

Here’s why.

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