Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Single issue voting in the upcoming election

Unless you've been living under a rock/ignored every media outlet, the ELECTION 2016 is apparently the most exciting thing going on right now. Personally, I find it terribly boring and exhausting at this point. I mean, we still have months to go. So, I'm really not paying too much attention until September-ish. (And of now, none of the candidates look ultra-promising, don't you agree?) But all the hoopla has made me think about how I might vote....or, *gasp* whether to vote or spoil my ballot. 

Growing up, voting didn't seem like a super big deal in our family, mostly because for the last, oh, 15 years or so, my parents have voted via absentee ballot which is neither exciting nor of great note to small children (or teenagers). I just never really noticed if they voted, or didn't vote, or who they voted for. Part of this is because we lived in Canada - they still do - and voting is slightly different.

For example, all you have to do to vote is take this little card they mail to your house to a voting station and hand it over. Voila! You get to vote. My father finds this absurd and hilarious. My parents are renovating their house right now, and while it's under construction, they're living elsewhere. AKA they have two addresses. And so last voting season, he was mailed two voting cards, both with his name on them. He seriously considered trying to vote twice at two different voting stations and see if anyone would catch him (he did not actually try this). Compare this to the US with our somewhat more complicated and legislated voting procedures. Can states require an ID? If so, what kind? What if someone can't afford an ID? If you don't require one, how do you make sure people don't vote twice? What about voting locations? Or voting by mail? (It goes on. We spent weeks on this in one of my law school classes.) 

Another substantial difference is that in Canada, you vote for the party, not the person. I guess you sort of vote for the party here too, but some candidates are not actually a true Republican or Democrat (and I think the best ones are mostly moderate if anything). Anyways. In Canada, you actually vote "Conservative" or "Liberal" or "Green Party" or whatever and hope your MP (Member of Parliament) isn't a total wingnut. 

Once I was able to partake in the joys of voting (in both countries!), I did see how important voting was and that it has been important to my parents. I mean, have you ever jumped through all the hoops to vote absentee in a presidential election aka when your vote is teeny-tiny? They do - they obviously care. And thankfully, some of that enthusiasm for fulfilling your civic duty has trickled down to me! 

I really do love voting. Mostly, because I think it's so important AND I am grateful that I have the chance to vote when so many people in the world do not have this opportunity. I don't care if my vote isn't the deciding factor in anything. Voting is super powerful! But why I mostly care about voting is a blend of both my American and Canadian upbringing. And that is: the issues & the laws.

My interest in political candidates and their personal lives is almost non-existent. Same with political parties themselves; don't care, not registered as anything. But I DO care, a great deal, about what Politician A or Political Party B thinks about important issues. Specifically, one issue..... Alas! I am a single-issue voter. Or, perhaps a better description would be that if Politician A has a difference stance than me on my issue, I absolutely will not vote for them. However, if multiple politicians/parties have the same same stance as me, then I'll consider them more carefully. My issue is the great gatekeeper for me. 

Part of me, the JD-holding, rational part, thinks this is crap. That I am too narrowly-focused on one thing and many other issues are also very important. But another part thinks that I am absolutely right and entitled to vote as I please and if this issue is really this important to me (it is), then I should stay true to myself and not waver. 

So here's the tricky part for me now.... At this point in Election 2016, it seems like the two most likely candidates disagree with me about my issue. And if those people are my choices, I'm torn as to what to do. Do I just say "Oh well" and affirmatively vote for someone I whole-heartedly disagree with on a moral level? OR do I spoil my ballot? Not vote? All of these can be political actions and I intend to do something. What would you do? Are you a single-issue voter? (And if you feel like sharing, what's your issue?)

Update: at lunch, Lewis suggested I write in my dad. Or himself. Not a bad option ;)

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The myth of control

completely unrelated photo! taken sunday on our valentine's hike :)

Hello...can you hear me?? I sure haven't heard me in a while. Apologies for the extended blogging hiatus. The only explanation: life! And I don't mean "life" as in, "Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry I haven't gotten back to you yet, it's been so crazy recently and I just completely forgot blah blah blah." Nor do I mean, "Shit has hit the fan and I've been avoiding everything." Instead, it was more like, "X happened to be immediately followed by Y which required Z and then D, E, and F." Hence no time for blogging.

But I'm bummed that I haven't written anything in so long, mostly because I really do enjoy blasting my thoughts into the interwebs. And because I was actually looking forward to updating this little record on a regular basis and then being able to longingly look back on the fun and glorious times we're having, the adventures and restaurants and new friends! Sad to say that very few of those things have happened recently and instead, ALL of the things that have happened have just been draining, exhausting, requiring enormous energy and patience and love. (Welcome to Lent! God is laughing at me for expecting anything different.)

Actually, what God is truly laughing at are my plans. Oh, my plans!! In my elusive last post, I hinted at a potential job (!!!) and I decided there's no reason not to share what that thing is. Want to guess?

Is it:
a) Not in any way related to being a lawyer
b) Low-paying
c) Part-time and/or temporary
d) Something I've always wanted to do

If you selected the fictitious (e) all of the above, then you're correct!! I have applied to be a substitute teacher :)

Now, being a sub (or as the Denver Public School System puts it, "Guest Teacher") is not the dream, BUT teaching is (perhaps more on this in a later post). I have an interview on Thursday and am VERY much hoping it goes well!! My 250 character blurb about "Why I want to guest teach" was something like, "Thinking of making a career change [in my head: hahahahaha! what career] and have always been attracted to teaching. Would love to get some classroom experience." Also, money. AND maybe even of more worth to me, something to do every day besides chores. Please send all the good thoughts my way that it goes well!!

However, even these barely-laid plans were foiled by life two weeks ago... I had planned to finish my application and be on my merry way by now. I had also planned to have had several networking handshake meetings, a haircut, a date with Lewis, and a whole week of meals planned (for once!!) Lots of stuff. I mean, stuff that I really wanted to do on my schedule.

But then a friend got sick and asked me to come help them out for a little bit. I love this person so dearly. They are practically family to me. I couldn't bear to think of them trying to get better on their own when they had asked for help, and I wanted to do everything I could to help them heal. Or at the very least, take their life burdens off of their shoulders for a little while. Practically speaking, I have unlimited vacation time right now, a husband who can cook for himself, and air miles. The flight was practically free! There were a million reasons to go and very, very few not to go. So I went.

We spent 6 days together and I know it did a world of good for us both. While I was there, we ended up talking a few times about the myth of control. How we aren't actually, really in control of anything but like to pretend that we are. How despite our best plans, sometimes things don't work out that way and it's okay. How sometimes it can take just a Small Event (or sometimes a Big Event) to show us how very little control we have over our lives, our health, our families and children, our career.

Sure, we can (and should!) do all we can to live good lives, to be healthy, to plan for our futures. Lewis and I are not going to stop budgeting for example. But having that small interruption into my plans was an excellent reminder to me to be flexible, to allow room for grace and the Holy Spirit to ask things of me and for me to abandon my plans to instead say "YES" to something more important. My Lenten Fiat.

In fact, our entire time here in Denver so far has really revealed how little trust I have in God's plan for me, or my fear of what His plan looks like, or perhaps my impatience with the timeline. I expected to have a job by now: no job. I expected to be a lawyer: maybe not going to be a lawyer right now. I expected us to have a circle of friends and community by now: not yet. I expected, at the very least, to be able to structure my days and weeks as I liked. And two weeks ago, God said, "No." It was clear to me that He said, "Go help this friend who you love. Abandon your plans and myth of control, even just for two weeks."

And like I said, it did us both a world of good. I am so, so very happy that I went and was able to help. Not because the trip was easy or fun or even fulfilling for either of us. On the contrary, it was hard and demanding. It required true love and a lot of sacrifice. But I am so grateful that I was the one who was asked to help, that my friend trusted me and our friendship enough to ask. I kept telling my friend what an honor it was to help and to be there - and it was.

Slowly, slowly I am learning that my plans are always tentative. And that changing those plans (or throwing them out and starting over!) is what the rest of my life will probably look like. I'm very curious to see how substitute teaching goes and how that fits into things right now. Or whether I'll actually ever practice law. Or whether Denver will be the place we eventually settle in. It's sort of exciting to see what God has planned! :)

brilliance above by Demetri Martin, "This Is a Book"

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Around here lately...

Last night, I woke up at 3:30am and could not, for the life of me, fall back asleep. The blankets were all wrong and too loose (I like them tight across my whole body and the heavier the better), I was hot, it's suddenly like a desert here in Denver and I could practically feel my cuticles shrinking. And of course, once I was awake, I couldn't stop thinking about the millions of things I want to do or need to do, including writing a little update! I was obsessing over the total lack of pictures we took this weekend and how decidedly boring this update will be because I'll be breaking the cardinal rule of blogging (no pictures!!).

OH WELL. Although perhaps to compensate I'll include whatever most recent photos I have. You're welcome. Here's a very exciting picture I sent to Corey during one of our marathon texting sessions. We're in our usual evening poses - Lewis playing a video game, me doing something on my computer with a cup of decaf Constant Comment. BOTH on the couch, in pajamas.
On Friday night, Lewis came home exhausted from the week. Apparently, it was a series of: things break, Lewis fixes it, someone needs Lewis's help, something else breaks, etc. While he really does love his job, he's an introvert and was just wiped out from talking so much. I, on the other hand, am incredibly jealous that he gets to talk all day. I think we'd both happily switch with each other. (He's sitting next to me and heartily affirms the sentiment.)

So on Friday, he walked in the door and surprise! I hadn't meal planned anything. Several reasons: sheer and utter laziness and boredom meal planning (it saves so much money and actual time during the week but I hate doing it...) AND it would have required another trip to the grocery store. Given that it was the end of the month, we were really trying to spend as little as possible to put as much as possible into savings. SO we did what all thrifty, responsible, hardworking adults would do and promptly decided to go out to dinner.
It was AMAZING. Then we went home at fell asleep at 9:30pm. Also amazing.

Even if I had taken pictures on Saturday, they would have been so boring. But let me regale you anyways with an update! Lazed around in the morning. Facetime'd with my parents. Went for a run in the sunshine (ALWAYS sunny in Denver! But in classic Colorado fashion, a blizzard appeared a mere 6 hours later). Went to Mass and then made hamburgers and baked potato wedges for dinner. I can't remember what we did Saturday night. I think nothing.

And to wrap up the exciting weekend (it was actually purposely not exciting - we/Lewis needed some downtime), we went to the zoo!! The Denver Zoo has "free days" throughout the year and this Sunday was one of them. It was freezing (again - blizzard) but lots of animals were still out and about and we had the best time.
I stared into these eyeballs. So cute! So deadly.
 Gerald the giraffe.
A wild pack of family dogs.

All in all, a wonderful weekend. We had some great news (more on that later) and got lots of rest and delicious food in. No updates on the friends situation - perhaps a small update on the job situation though! Still wading through layers of bureaucracy, so if it all works out, I'll definitely do an update. We'll see. Happy Tuesday! (Can you believe Lent starts next week??? What are you giving up/adding? We need ideas.)

Monday, February 1, 2016

How We Budget - Tip 1

In the exciting follow-up to "important money talks before marriage," I thought I'd get more specific and explain how we actually discuss, compromise, and budget. Of course, everyone's situation is different and so what works for us might not work for you! But here's what we've found to be sound for us...

How We Budget Tip 1: Have a Budget 

So deceptively simple and so, so impossibly hard. Unless you're making enough money to pay all your bills and save a ton, you need a budget. I learned this the hard way, aka failing constantly. I overspent every semester and called The Bank of Dad to bail me out. (I'm surprised I didn't get this in  return.) Part of this was because I was living off loans (and if you've done this, you've basically got to be eating oatmeal 3x a day to survive). But probably the bigger part, and it hurts my pride to admit this, is that I was irresponsible. I just had no concept of a budget and I certainly didn't want to stick to one.

But cue one income for two people and we needed a budget. The basic premise we follow is this: we allocate every cent into some category (line item) and do our level best to stay within that allocation. It probably goes without saying, but we budget out all of our bills first and then allocate to other categories once the essentials are satisfied. When (not if) you overspend in a category, record it properly. Then, next month, when you're making your budget again, notice your actual spending habits in comparison with your budget and adjust accordingly.

For example, we used to budget $100 a month for a date night (bonus tip: Lewis started budgeting for this before we were married and it's been excellent for relationship happiness!). However, we noticed we were actually spending more like $125-$150 depending on the restaurant (and how many drinks we ordered). So, we've up-ed that category to $125 to more accurately reflect our spending. Conversely, we were budgeting $150 for gas every month. But, we rarely spent that much on gas, especially with gas so cheap right now, so now we only budget $100 for gas. It follows then that if we know we'll be spending a lot more in a certain category that month (ex. "gifts" in December or "travel" in July), we try our best and budget accordingly.

Hence, an annoying and important thing we've learned has been that you have to make a new budget every month. Around the last or second to last day of the month, Lewis and I:

1. Eat dinner - SO important. Doing this on an empty stomach almost guarantees an argument.
2. Arm ourselves with drinks and more snacks if necessary.
3. Grab our calendar to see what's coming up next month.
4. Sit side-by-side at one computer. You're on the same team! We want to do it together.
5. Go through every line item and discuss each one. Some are easy, like rent, which never changes (and our fixed bills are carried over so we just check it over to make sure nothing's changed.) Others require longer discussions and compromises and checking our priorities.

But the whole thing takes us no more than an hour. We don't agonize over making it perfect. If in doubt, we over-budget and cut a non-essential.

We use It's free and super easy. AND there's an app for the iPhone (alas, not for Android, so Lewis doesn't have it) that syncs everything so you can budget on the go. How fun! Ha! [insert crying emoji] But actually, staying on top of the budget is so important....which is why it's what I'll be talking about next time!