The New Year's Meme

1. What did you do in 2009 that you’d never done before?
Bought a house. (Technically, our house in Washington, Dave already owned when we met. So this was our first house purchase together.) Flew to the UK.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I try not to make New Year’s Resolutions as a rule.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Yes! My cousin Cat had baby Austin.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
My aunt – technically she’s my dad’s first cousin, but she was like an aunt to me. I wouldn’t say we were super-close, but she was a very sweet lady, an all-around good person, and she’ll be greatly missed.

5. What countries did you visit?
England & Scotland.

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?
Financial stability.

7. What dates from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
January 20th – Obama was inaugurated, and we got our first snow day since we moved to North Carolina. That was a great day.
January 27th – my baby girl turned 2 years old.
April 7th – the world lost Maddie Spohr.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I decided to start a freelance writing business, and I actually made a little bit of money doing so.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Not losing weight. I tried a few different diets and seemed to go off the rails with each one. Going to be working on that again in 2010.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Nothing major. A few bad colds. We’ve been lucky this year.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
This house. My Canon Rebel XSi DSLR camera.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
There are seriously no less than 20 names that immediately popped into my head when I read this question. So I’ll just say: you. All of you. And yes, you too.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Sigh. I can think of a couple of people in my real life that I could list here, but I don’t really want to name names.
So how about I remove my personal life from the equation and say Glenn Beck. Does that work?

14. Where did most of your money go?
This house.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
BlogHer! And Type-A Mom Conference! And getting to meet so! many! awesome! people! whose work I’ve read and adored for ages. And of course I was really excited to watch my baby girl grow up this year, and also about buying a house.

16. What song will always remind you of 2009?
Um, this song. (Can’t stand the guy, but I like the song. Can’t help it.) And oddly, “Do Re Mi” from the Sound of Music, because of this video.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? About the same, I think.
b) thinner or fatter? Fatter. Sigh. Working on that.
c) richer or poorer? Poorer (see: house purchase).

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Writing. Working out. Being a more actively engaged mother/wife. The usual.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Worrying. Moping. Goofing off. Eating junk food.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
At my mother-in-law’s house in Carlisle, England. It was lovely.

21. Did you fall in love in 2009?
With a house, yes.

22. What was your favorite TV program?
LOST. Big Love. Project Runway. Um… trying to think if I watch anything else. The Daily Show?

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
I try not to waste my energy on hating people. There are people I cared about who I no longer care about, we could put it that way. But overall, I’m ending the year with far more friends than I started with, so I think we can call that a win.

24. What was the best book you read?
I haven’t finished it yet, I’m in the last few chapters, but I’m going to say “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
I don’t think I really discovered anything this year. I’ve developed a little bit of an obsession with both Keane and Muse. Neither of those are exactly “new,” though.

26. What did you want and get by year’s end?
A home.

27. What did you want and not get by year’s end?
Well, I’m not pregnant yet, but I’m also not entirely sure that I want to be. (I keep wavering on that one, it kind of depends on the day of the week.) Hmm. You know what would’ve been nice that I didn’t get? If this house had a hidden secret passageway that was filled with unmarked $100 bills. That would be awesome. Sigh. Oh well.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?
Since I rarely get to see any movies that aren’t animated, I’ll go for the best of that bunch and say “Up.”

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 33. It was pretty low-key. My brother & his then-girlfriend drove over from Charlotte for the weekend. And Dave bought me a Wii, which was awesome.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Huh. Oddly, I can’t really think of anything.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009?
Jeans and sneakers. Lazy suburban mom chic.

32. What kept you sane?
My family. And Diet Coke.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
George Clooney, always. Josh Holloway on “Lost.”

34. What political issue stirred you the most?
Probably healthcare reform.

35. Who did you miss?
It’s odd, I found myself missing my grandmother a few times this year, even though she passed away in 1996. There were several occasions that I found myself thinking of her, wishing she was there. She was such a baby nut, I know she would’ve adored Catie. I’m sad that they’ll never get a chance to meet.

I also miss a lot of my friends back in Seattle. I miss Patsy, our previous baby-sitter.

And of course, I miss all of the fantastic ladies that I had a chance to spend time with at BlogHer and Type-A Mom. I wish I lived closer to them so I could see them all the time.

36. Who was the best new person you met?
I cannot possibly pick one.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009.
The same rules you use for online dating also apply to Twitter and blogs: don’t invite people from the Internet to your house. Meet them in public first to decide if they’re crazy. THEN, you can decide whether or not you want to invite them over to spend the night.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
“There is no home like the one you’ve got,
Cuz that home belongs to you.”
— Jenny Lewis, “Barking at the Moon”

Yes, that song is from “Bolt.” I’m sorry. It’s all I’ve got.

on gun control

I saw this article on our local news yesterday, and it made me sick to my stomach. In case you don’t feel like clicking a link, here’s the story.

A 2-year-old Sanford boy was killed late Wednesday morning in what authorities have labeled an accidental shooting.

Details were not immediately clear, but Sanford police Capt. David Smith said the child or another child in the home at 522 Cannon Circle got hold of a gun and that it was fired. The boy was shot in the head.

“It’s obvious someone left an unsecured weapon,” Smith said. “We don’t know if the toddler shot himself or if one of the other children in the house was playing with the gun.”

Two other children, ages 3 and 4, as well as the boy’s mother, Melanie Tyson, were at the residence at the time. His father, Joey Tyson, was at work. Police did not release the name of the child.

Emergency workers responded to the report at 11:13 a.m., and the child was taken to Central Carolina Regional Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Smith did not speculate as to whether the boy’s parents will face any charges.

“I don’t want to be premature and talking about charges until we finish our investigation,” he said.

This? This is not ok. And this is why, yes, I absolutely believe that we need tighter gun control laws in this country.

In the interest of full disclosure, let me say this: I admit that I have a somewhat irrational fear of guns. I’ve never touched a gun in my life, and never want to. When my school decided to take one semester of 7th grade Phys. Ed. and offer “Hunter’s Education” class instead, I had my mom write me a note saying that it was against my beliefs. They let me take study hall for that period. I hate guns, I wish they didn’t exist.

I think that if you want to own a gun for hunting, fine. It’s not my personal hobby, but whatever. If you want a handgun for “personal protection,” I think that’s ridiculous, but I also realize that it’s easy for me to say that from my very safe, upper-middle class neighborhood. I think the idea of anyone owning an automatic rifle is absolutely obscene, and that no one needs an AK-47 outside of a military context.

That said, in spite of all my personal wacky liberal views on guns, I’m not stupid. There’s never going to be any real anti-gun legislation that gets passed in this country. For Christ’s sake, people show up with loaded assault rifles at town hall meetings when the topic is health care of all things. Try to imagine the reaction if Obama wanted to talk about passing restrictions on gun ownership. Armageddon? Probably close.

But look, there has to be some middle ground here to put an end to these types of horrible accidents. Like oh, I don’t know, maybe requiring gun owners to take a basic gun safety course? Or passing a law that if you have a gun and there are children in the house, you also have to buy a lock like this for it?

And I know that all of you conservatives are all about “personal responsibility!” and “I don’t want the government passing laws that restrict my freedom!” or whatever the hell your argument is. (Although, ironically, when the issue comes to either abortion rights or gay marriage, y’all want to slap a whole bunch of laws all over that shit. Which makes no sense to me at all, but that’s neither here nor there.) But is this really all that different than being required to pass a test before you can get a driver’s license, or laws that require car seats to keep your kids safe? I don’t see anyone at the DMV with a protest sign, claiming that their personal freedom is being infringed upon.

I’m not unsympathetic to the family in this tragedy. Obviously I have no idea what it’s like to lose a child – there are other people out there who know that type of pain, and I’m truly thankful that I don’t. I don’t think they’re bad people, I’m sure they had a gun because they wanted to keep their family safe. But to not only have lost a child, but to also know that you’re the one who brought home the weapon that killed your child? I don’t know how you go on with your life after that. There has to be something that can be done to prevent these types of tragedies from occurring. There just has to be.

**Note from me: I realize that this is sort of a controversial topic. Debate and polite disagreement is fine. Any comments with abusive language – or just general douchebagginess – will be deleted.

milk money

With the economy being the way it is – or rather, the way the media is portraying it every time I turn on the news – I’ve been thinking about ways to scrimp and save here and there. We’re pretty good about not spending money on frivolous things. We usually rent movies rather than go to the theater, we very rarely eat out, Dave and I haven’t bought clothes for ourselves in ages, etc. The main monthly expense that might have some wiggle room is food. I honestly couldn’t tell you how much we spend on groceries a month. It seems like I’m at the supermarket every few days, so I’d have to gather all of my receipts and add them up, because I really have no clue. But I know it’s a lot.

So, I’m trying to figure out ways that we can save money on our monthly grocery bill. There are a few things that I won’t compromise on:
* Milk – I have to drink the lactose-free milk, which is expensive. And for Catie’s milk, I will only buy her the organic stuff with no hormones or antibiotics. Call me crazy, but I’d like to do everything I can to prevent her from hitting puberty at 9 years old, or having an increased risk of breast cancer (or any other type of cancer).
* Cheese. I buy the store-brand generic stuff, and it’s still pricey. But you know, I like cheese, and I’m not switching to Velveeta just because it’s cheaper.
* A few other things that I’m very brand-specific about: Diet Coke, my specific type of whole-wheat bread, Pampers for Catie, etc. There’s not very many things that I feel that strongly about, but for those few things, I’m stubborn and have absolutely no wiggle room.

As for the things I’m already doing to save money:
* That stuff I just mentioned that I’m brand-specific about? I wait for it to go on sale and then I stock up and buy tons of it, so I think that helps.
* Buying the cheaper/store brand versions of everything else.
* Choosing canned/frozen fruits and veggies instead of fresh. I’m sure it probably loses a bit of its nutritional value in the process, but it does save quite a bit of money.
* Cheap lunches. Dave works from home, and Catie & I are here too, so I usually have to come up with something for all of us to eat for lunch every day. Lately, soup has been very popular in our house. (I have the weirdest toddler in the world, she loves both split pea and vegetable beef soup. I KNOW!) Two cans of Campbell’s soup for 88 cents? Why yes, thank you. I think we can budget that.

Stuff I still need to work on:
* Coupons. I should clip coupons. I know I should. The problem is, every time I’ve done it, I’ve forgotten that the coupons were in my purse when I was checking out. So I need some sort of system that will prevent me from having a total brain fart when I go to pay for my stuff. If any of you have suggestions, let me have them.
* Making a list. I think this would keep me from wandering the store trying to remember all the things I needed, which usually leads me to picking up a few things that we really don’t need.
* For the fruits and veggies that I do buy fresh, I need to try to restrict myself to buying things that are local and in season. Kind of hard to do when your child is demanding grapes, and you can’t buy canned grapes (can you? I’ve never seen them, other than in fruit cocktail), and she isn’t going to wait until grape season rolls around.
* Choosing cheaper meats. It’s not like I’m buying us filet mignon every day or anything like that; we eat chicken more than anything else, really. But for example, when we want seafood, I could maybe make a tuna casserole instead of grilled salmon, and it would be an awful lot cheaper.

Is there anything I’m forgetting? Are you doing anything special to try to save money these days?

the ways in which yesterday did not suck

1. SNOW DAY!!!

family shot (thanks to the neighbors)

We had so much fun with the snow, Catie absolutely loved it. I thought she’d decide that it was too cold after a few minutes and want to go back inside, but no way. She really is a January girl, she had an absolute blast and cried when we dragged her inside after 45 minutes because Dave and I had had enough.

2. We got a new president. I don’t even know where to start in trying to describe how happy this makes me. As moving as Obama’s inauguration speech was, my absolute favorite image of the entire day was the photograph of Barack and Michelle Obama waving to George and Laura Bush’s helicopter as they left Washington, DC. Forever. ::happy sigh::

3. I beat Dave at Scrabble for the first time ever. He and I play each other on Facebook sometimes, because we’re nerds like that, and he usually obliterates me. It’s not that his vocabulary is that much better than mine; I think we’re pretty evenly matched in that department. But he’s got this whole strategy with triple-word and -letter scores, and he usually completely kicks my butt. Yesterday I beat him by 6 points, and I may never stop bragging about that. (Like I said, we’re nerds.)

4. Catie took her nap on time, which allowed me to do my “30-Day Shred” workout. This was the second day in a row, and it hurts like a mother-of-pearl (my new substitute swear word for little toddler ears that repeat everything). But I also feel really good, because I know that this means I’m doing something right.

The ways in which today also should not suck:
1. The season premiere of “Lost” comes on tonight. Oh, Sawyer, how I have missed your muscular, shirtless self.

2. The snow is just melty/icy enough that we ought to be able to make a real snowman. Yesterday it was too powdery, it wouldn’t stick together.

3. Day 3 of the “30-Day Shred.” My legs are killing me, but I sort of can’t wait. Weird, I know.

proud of us

I can’t stop misting up today. I rewatched Obama’s acceptance speech online and it made me start crying all over again. I am so, so happy. I love that this is the first presidential election since Cate was born, and that as she grows up, she will never know a world in which an African-American can’t be President.

Since I was talking about contrasts yesterday, I noticed another one: I think it’s interesting that when I look at the status updates of my Facebook friends, they’re pretty evenly split. Most of my current friends, people who I’ve met and become friends with as an adult, were elated about Obama’s win. But I’ve also reconnected with a lot of people from elementary and high school on Facebook, people who for the most part still live in Mississippi, and who are generally extremely conservative. From them, I see them say that they’re disappointed, afraid, worried, “praying for our government,” “just sick about it,” etc. It’s strange to see the reactions in such stark opposites.

So just in case any of them read this blog, or to anyone else who’s worried for our future, let me just say: RELAX. I think regardless of who won, the next four years are going to be pretty rough. We have two wars going on, an economic crisis, an environment that’s steadily getting shot to crap, and a whole host of other problems. So it’d be a tough road no matter who the president happens to be. But I truly believe that you doubters will find that Obama will have a broad administration that incorporates the interests of both parties, unlike the Bush administration that has consistently catered to the Republican base, while essentially ignoring everyone else.

Now, I realize that the Republican base is going to be upset because they aren’t going to be pandered to anymore. And yeah, that sucks for them. But politics is a cycle. The pendulum swings one way, and it has to swing back the other way. That’s democracy, that’s fairness, and it’s one of many things that makes this country great.

So really, people who are freaking out about Obama taking away your guns or mandating gay marriage or whatever? Seriously, chill. It’s not going to happen. He’s going to have way bigger fish to fry once he gets in office. The people who are freaking out about socialism and taxes? Look, your taxes will only increase if you make more than $250K a year. And if you do make that much money, consider yourself blessed and quit bitching about having to go back to Clinton-era tax rates (which is all that’s going to happen; Obama wants to roll back the Bush tax cuts for the super-wealthy, not raise them to historic new levels).

Personally, my family makes a pretty good living, but like 95% of Americans, we’re under that $250K line, so we’ll actually get THREE TIMES the tax break that we would’ve gotten under McCain’s proposed tax plan. You won’t hear any complaints about that from me.

And if any conservatives are reading this and are still upset? Well, now you know exactly how I felt in 2004.

Catie hearts Obama
Cate loves both blue and red. Left and right. Democrats and Republicans. And most especially, she loves the Nabisco Corporation for their Saltines. Mmm.

oh, wow

I literally can’t stop misting up right now. I am so happy that Obama won, I just have no words for how incredible this is. I saw Jesse Jackson on TV crying a few minutes ago, and I just lost it. To try to wrap my head around what a huge moment in history this is… well, words are failing me right now.

The numbers still aren’t in for North Carolina. I know that it clearly doesn’t matter in light of the landslide that Obama’s got so far. But I have to say that I do feel like I have a vested interest in the NC election, and yeah, I’m going to take it just a little bit personally if this state doesn’t go blue. Conversely, I’ll be taking all the credit if he does win NC. Because you know, it’s all about me. (Ha!)

For what it’s worth…

pretty girl

That volunteer work that I did? I did for that little girl right there. Because I want the best for her future, and I truly believe that Barack Obama will work to improve the lives of all of us, and our children in particular.

Ok, it’s almost midnight, I’m about to fall over from exhaustion, and I have to get to bed. I’m just… yeah. Overwhelmed. Verklempt. Filled with pride for my fellow Americans. And just so, so happy.

Pleasant dreams, everybody.

a study in contrasts

One of the great things about NaBloPoMo is that there isn’t enough time to leave an entry at the top of the page waiting for more snarky comments. So! Moving on!

Today is Election Day, and since I voted over a week ago, this morning I headed off to my local Obama campaign office to volunteer. Originally they told me that I was going to be making calls, but when I arrived, they said that they needed more people to do neighborhood canvassing, which is what I did on Saturday. I had worn comfortable shoes and felt up for it, so sure, why not? Whatever way I can help out is fine with me. I joined up with a team – an older man who said he had bad knees but was willing to drive, and another much older lady (around 80-ish), who said she was volunteering so she wouldn’t be sitting at home staring at the TV and worrying all day. Boy, could I ever relate to that. (Seriously, CNN is on as I type. Cate is napping so I’m enjoying my break from Noggin.)

The difference in my experience between Saturday and today was absolutely astounding. I don’t even know exactly how to describe this, but it was truly profound.

Saturday: It was a beautiful sunny day, and the neighborhood that I was assigned to was predominantly white and upper-class (some Asian and Indian mixed in, but for the most part it was Caucasian Central). We were smack in the middle of suburbia; an upscale mall was nearby, a Whole Foods, several well-manicured green spaces, local parks, etc. It was posh, to say the least. The houses were close enough together that usually the driver would park and the other three volunteers in the car would fan out and go to a nearby house. No one ever had to walk far from the car to the assigned house and back. The people we met were generally polite, but some of them were a little icy and very rarely seemed enthusiastic about our presence.

Today: The weather was cold, gray, and rainy. The area we were assigned to was very rural; most of the roads were gravel, not paved. Instead of McMansions in suburbia, I was knocking on the doors of run-down, delapidated mobile homes, most of which had chickens and turkeys running around loose in their front yards. Think of every stereotype you know about poor, rural, Southern life, then multiply it times ten. I’d seen places like this from the highway before, but I’d never been in it. I’d never walked up those muddy driveways, shooing the hens out of my way as I went, and knocked on the doors. I was almost attacked by a watchdog who clearly believed that all unknown visitors had bad intentions. The residents we met were almost 100% African-American.

The people I met today were generally friendlier than the ones I met on Saturday. Perhaps being in such a remote area, they haven’t been targeted by as many political campaigns this year; maybe it was Election Day Fever, who knows. People seemed excited, even if they were just informing me that they’d participated in early voting. However, many people seemed taken aback to see me – a 30-something, suburban-mom-looking, white woman – as the representative from the Obama campaign that was there to speak with them. Lois, the older lady I was working with, got even more shocked reactions than I did. But then, why would you expect a frail little old lady to come out advocating for the more progressive candidate? The surprised reactions made total sense to us. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt quite so insanely overprivileged and blessed in my entire life.

It just struck me how very different these two worlds are, how very different these people are, how very different their issues and concerns must be, and yet the two groups have both come to Barack Obama as the candidate that best represents them. I love that I had the opportunity to see the diversity firsthand.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to stay awake until they get the election results announced tonight, but I’m going to try. I have a feeling that if I decide to crash early, I’ll be needing a Tylenol PM to settle myself down and turn my brain off so that I can sleep.

SIDE NOTE: I shouldn’t have to add this on my blog entries, but apparently it’s necessary. You’re totally allowed to disagree with my viewpoints, but respect for others is requested – nay, demanded. Nasty, hateful comments will be deleted. Thank you.