A New Resolution

During the summer, when I had too much free time on my hands, it seemed simple enough to keep up a weekly blog. However, I severely underestimated the amount of time it would take to do so when I returned to my full-time teaching job, took on additional hours in the writing lab, and maintained everyday life activities such as cleaning, hanging out with friends and family, and, you know, sleeping like a normal human being.

Yet even though I already struggled with keeping up my blogging, I decided to take on National Novel Writing Month like a super reasonable person.

And let me tell you: if I seriously thought I was going to get 50,000 words when I spend so much time doing other things, I’m more of a fool than I ever thought myself to be.

I failed. I failed big time.

However, the experience was not without its good returns.

I now have a little under 10,000 words on the books, many further ideas to develop the novel under construction, and a healthy understanding of my own shortcomings.

I have always known that I am a terrible procrastinator, but November brought me to the realization (one that I have been coming to accept for a while, actually) that I spend WAY too much time on Facebook.

The first thing I do when I wake up is reach for my phone to get on Facebook.

Throughout my day, I find myself opening up Safari to log in and check my notifications.

I scroll through my newsfeed, sometimes for literally hours, reading both funny and horrible things.

And not only does this habit of mine take away from writing time or really any other more productive activity, it affects my mood and my thoughts.

There is SO MUCH negativity; it’s only in the last year with this election season that I have really come to understand this.

People I have always seen as good and nice have revealed the ugliest side of themselves. They bash others for not thinking the way they do. They regularly purge their friends list, as if a relationship with another human being is something to be ended with just the click of a button.

I understand that sometimes on Facebook, we are friends with mere acquaintances, so it seems easy enough to unfriend them, but there had to be a reason you accepted that person in the first place. And perhaps, though you disagree with them, you can find value in those differences. I know the people I have learned from the most are those who hold vastly different beliefs than I do.

But yes, I spend hours watching all of this play out on a little screen in front of me. I refresh my newsfeed time and time again.  I get drawn into the dreaded comments section on posts, and I am horrified and fascinated by the ugliness inside people’s hearts.

Then I start to feel that ugliness take root in my own heart, too. I start to think negatively of other people and other situations.

No amount of funny or cute cat videos, delightfully sarcastic memes, or even helpful book recommendations or writing posts can cancel out the negative effect those other posts have on me.

So that has led me to the decision that I need to stay off Facebook.

I have to be realistic, though, because I DO keep up with friends and family on Facebook who live far away, and I do have my author page and blog to consider.

I compromised between my realization and my reality: For the month of December at the very least, I will only get on Facebook once a day, toward the end of the day, to keep up with my friends and family and to post on my author page on Fridays about my blog posts.

Because now that I won’t be spending so much time glued to my phone on Facebook, I will be spending more time writing, both my novel and those blog entries.

Because even though I technically failed NaNoWriMo this year, I also won. I won back my passion for the PURSUIT of my writing. I won back my desire for the presence of happy, positive, and uplifting things.

I know I have said this before, but thank you so much for your patience with me these last few months. It is my hope that you continue on this writing journey with  me, even when I lag behind like I have, though I hope not to do that too often!

Stay tuned for my post next week, in which I will discuss my current novel and things I have read, watched, and listened to the last month and a half to inspire that novel and my writing in general.

Happy December, everyone!

Much love,

R

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STOP.

I have been (mostly) silent about my thoughts concerning the election results from Tuesday.

In the simplest terms, it did not go how I wanted nor how I expected it to, and those ARE two entirely different scenarios in my mind.

However, Donald Trump was voted in as President-Elect of the United States, and by some recent accounts, he even won the popular vote.

I do not like Donald Trump, nor did I want him as my president, but the fact remains that come January 20, 2017, he will be, and I will respect that.

I will pray for him and respect him as the leader of my country, because to do otherwise destroys the foundation of electoral process. His acceptance speech gives me hope that he will be more open and inclusive than the words he ran for the White House on lead me to believe he would be.

And that’s the thing here.

This country has gone insane in the last few days. I’m not naïve. These issues have been heating up for over a year now, but Tuesday made it boil over.

People are protesting and rioting, destroying other people’s property, and disrupting traffic in cities.

A young woman claimed she was robbed of her wallet and her hijab, only for it to turn out to be a falsehood that would only add more strife for the Muslim community.

An elderly man was pulled from his car and brutally beaten, possibly for a traffic altercation, but according to the woman filming it, for being a Trump supporter.

I have seen so many of my Facebook friends call others names or insult the intelligence of people who voted for the other candidate (whoever the other candidate for that particular person would be). I’ve seen people BRAG about deleting people from their friend list.

People are writing racial slurs and threats on public monuments and property.

There are many calling for the ASSASSINATION of another human being.

A woman, a supposed mother (and I use that term in the loosest sense possible) filmed herself kicking her young son out of the house for “voting” for Donald Trump in a mock classroom election.

That last incident was MY boiling point, and I couldn’t stay silent any longer.

As I watched that child sob and cry for his mom to take him back, my heart broke into pieces, my eyes burned with tears, and my rage at that woman left me shaking.

What have we come to, that someone who should be loving and protecting her child, discussing issues with him rather than threatening him, would emotionally and psychologically abuse her child OVER A FREAKING ELECTION?

I understand that people are scared. I can’t imagine what it must be to belong to the Muslim community, the LGBTQ community, the Hispanic community, or any other oppressed or minority group aside from that of being a woman.

My heart hurts at your fear and anger and own hurt, but remember this:

Two wrongs do not make a right.

As cliché as that sounds, it is so incredibly true.

What if, instead of meeting hatred and fear with MORE hatred and fear, we met it with kindness and love and consideration and compassion?

We are so eager to affirm our own points of view that we won’t listen to other people’s points of view.

“You’re disagreeing with me, so you’re WRONG, and STUPID, and RACIST, etc., etc.”

We don’t have to agree with each other to be kind to each other.

Wednesday, as I was leaving work, a homeless man cussed me out for being white, among other things.

I could have snapped back at him.

I didn’t.

Instead, I told him to have a good day, and in a seeming effort to out-kind me, he replied angrily, “NO, YOU have a BLESSED day.”

A few words of kindness turned his angry curses to angry blessings. I’ll take the angry blessings any day.

That’s my point: we may still be angry when we choose to return anger with kindness, but that kindness changes the conversation, even just a little bit.

All those friends I see bashing other people for their choice of candidates? I could block those people or delete them from my friend list, but if I leave them there, they can see the positive things I choose to post.

Y’all, I’m not perfect. I share things that aren’t always positive, but most of the time, I do try to share things that show the bright side of life. If I remove someone from my friend list, and (assuming they had not blocked my posts in the first place), they no longer see those happy things, that’s one less reason for them to smile.

If I can make JUST ONE PERSON smile with my posts, I will consider that I have made a difference in the world. I will have been the change I want to see in the world.

How can I be that change if I shut down the relationship, though?

I KNOW these are tense times. I know Trump has said some crappy things and that there are people who believe those same crappy things, but there are also people who voted for him that are just fed up with the system, and he’s saying things that will possibly change that system.

Don’t paint an entire group of voters (a majority of the voting population, it seems) with the same brush.

The same can be said for those who voted for Clinton or Johnson or Stein. Don’t group those people in a “stupid, wrong” category just because they disagree with you.

We’re all in the same boat together, so we need to come together and make a difference in our communities.

Instead of spewing hate and shutting down friendships, reach out with love and compassion. Open conversations. Hug your neighbor. LOVE your neighbor.

Treat others the way you want to be treated.

That’s all I’ve got to say. Thanks for reading. I’m glad to be back.

Please, please, please. If this post has inspired you to do nothing else, at least consider where you may be spreading hate, and instead choose to spread love.

Be kind.

It’s really not that hard.

(Okay, I lied. I had a couple more things to say.)

I’m done now, though.

Much love, my friends,

R

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Peace and Love and Happiness and Joy and Joyness…

 

Listen

In my classes, I give daily writing prompts, which we usually spend about 15 minutes on. Because I am not only trying to teach essay writing but also the critical thinking skills necessary to do so, I occasionally allow the discussion time to run longer than planned.

Sometimes, the students get so passionate about the subjects covered that the whole period flies by before we know it (though this could be due to strategic planning on their parts to avoid classwork).

This past week, the topic at hand was pulled from a New York Times list of topics for essay writing: Does technology make us more alone? In classes with students from generations new and old, opinions varied and were at times surprising.

Two young men, both no older than twenty, carried the discussion in one class for a while. One was passionately in agreement with the idea that technology isolates us, and the other just as passionately against.

In another class, a young man was staunchly against the idea, while an older lady was hugely for it.

“My brother now has 291 friends on Facebook!”

“But are they really his friends?”

Their ideas and points were well thought and intelligently delivered. I could tell that no matter what side they defended, they felt strongly about it.

In the process of discussing this, though, they seemed to be catching on to and displaying the thing I wanted them to learn most: respect.

Respect for each other and respect for the fact that we all have different opinions.

Yes, I occasionally had to step in and soothe some heightened emotions, but for the most part, they listened to each other.

Some even nodded along as people from the other side made valid points.

As an educator, I couldn’t have been prouder of my students or more pleased that they were absorbing the lesson, whether consciously or not.

As a human being, I secretly shed a few tears of joy (later, in the privacy of my own home—shhh, don’t tell anyone!) at the evidence that there is hope for this world, hope for humanity to get along.

We can disagree but still find common ground.

In today’s political atmosphere in America, if you say you are pro-Trump or pro-Clinton, you may get sneers of disdain.

I’ll admit I’m sometimes guilty in both cases.

What we all need to remember, and what my students demonstrated so beautifully, is that just because a person has views opposite of your own ideas does not mean everything that person believes is wrong or that all of his or her actions are deplorable.

A person can believe in abortion or the death penalty or marriage between homosexuals and still be a good person.

A person can oppose all of the above and still be a good person.

Intelligent, rational human beings hold views and beliefs on both ends of the spectrum and remain intelligent and rational.

Believing in something (or not believing in something) does not mean you are stupid or hateful or bigoted or racist.

It just means that *gasp* you have a different opinion than other people.

I can believe abortion is wrong and that the death penalty is just (or the opposite) and still be a moral and educated person.

Bob can be a Bible-thumping, American-flag-waving, gun-toting, Republican and still have logically sound arguments on which to base his beliefs.

Joe can be a tree-hugging, flag-burning, peace-sign-throwing, Democrat and—you guessed it—still have logically sound arguments on which to base his beliefs.

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Obviously “Dang Hippie” and “Dang Racist” are not logical arguments, but this is the type of thinking we are led to when we allow stereotypes and closed-mindedness to cloud our reason. (And this is also meant to be a humorous little cartoon to break up a serious topic. How meta.) 

I was on the debate team for several years, and it was one of the best things I ever chose to participate in. Something debate taught me was to look at both sides of an issue and come up with arguments for and against each side.

This left me with an open mind, a bigger heart for the world, and an even bigger faith in that whole “love your neighbor” thing—your gay neighbor, your Muslim neighbor, your KKK neighbor (though that is admittedly difficult), and so on.

Here’s the thing: the more we accept others and love on each other rather than hurl verbal grenades at each other, the better place this world is.

I choose to defuse hate with love.

The more I practice this in my own life, the closer to the God I serve I grow (because I fully believe Jesus died on the cross for my gay neighbor, my Muslim neighbor, my KKK neighbor, etc.).

With the anniversary of 9/11 just past and the extremely heated and polarized election season upon us, we can all stand to learn just what my students have been showing me: we CAN agree with each other on some points, even if we don’t agree on whole issues.

The only way we are going to recognize where we agree, though, is to listen.

Just listen.

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My stereotypical, peace-sign throwing self. I tried to avoid the duck lips. 

Much love, my friends. ❤

R

That elephant in the room…

It can no longer be pushed aside or otherwise ignored.

This post has been several weeks coming.

It has taken a lot of thought; much typing and deleting, typing and deleting, and repeat; and many emotions.

It started off as a reaction to Baton Rouge, to St. Paul. Then Dallas happened. Nice happened. Baton Rouge happened again.

All around the world, people are being killed, being murdered, for ridiculous “reasons.”

Amidst it all, the American election season continues on.

So many times in the last couple of weeks, I’ve wanted to call it quits on social media all together.

Facebook.

Twitter.

This blog.

All of it.

Last time I wrote, I shared with you all about my battles with perseverance, and I told you—I promised you all that I would not quit, so here I am, taking those baby steps, even though the world around me just makes me want to curl in a ball under my covers and never step foot into the outside or digital worlds again.

I have never been one to jump into the fray of social media debates, nor one to criticize or chastise the government, etc., etc., at least not outside of conversation with family or friends. We’ve talked about this before—I don’t do well with politics, religion, or any other uncomfortable subject. I usually avoid talking or posting about these things at all costs.

Here lately though, I’ve found myself engaging with people more and more on subjects that make me uncomfortable, because I can’t stay silent about the things I see.

I have seen people, good people, call each other names, disrespect each other over personal opinions and beliefs, dismiss each other over the same, and even brag about it to others.

“Oh, it’s time for my annual unfriend/unfollow check.”

“I had to unfollow that person, because they offended me.”

“Can you believe these *insert racial/cultural slur/slight here*?”

I have seen people call for the deaths of others. As I get older, the thought of someone taking someone else’s life, no matter what that person has done, makes me more and more uncomfortable. Murderers, rapists…I can understand, and if someone hurt someone in my family, I honestly don’t know how I’d react, but there’s that quiet voice that still whispers, “Does this make us any better?”

But for people to say, “kill all cops!” or “kill all the white people!”? “Kill all the black people!”?

It’s just not okay.

I could go on and on about the things I’ve heard, seen, and read in the last few weeks, but I bet any of you reading this can call half a dozen instances of your own to mind. You get the picture and the point.

I want to impress upon you all a few takeaways I’ve learned over the last few weeks.

  1. You do not have to agree with someone to respect them as a human being.

Your friend is voting for Hillary Clinton? Donald Trump? Gary Johnson? Well okay, that’s your friend’s opinion and right. Do you stop being friends with that person? I should hope not.

An acquaintance shares something on Facebook or other social media you find offensive, and you unfriend or unfollow them. Is that okay? Well, sure, if that’s what you want to do, but don’t blast about it over your social media. What’s the point?

  1. Racism is alive and kicking in the United States (the whole US, not just the South), and there are people out there in power who use their power to promote their racism.

This does not just apply to white racism against black. It can go the other way as well. It can even be black racism against black. It happens everywhere and in every race. It’s not right, and it’s our job to stomp it out as best we can, but don’t pretend it’s not there.

We have to talk about it. We have to find ways to eliminate it as much as possible.

Will it be awkward and uncomfortable? Yes, but we CAN do it.

  1. The majority of any particular group (race, profession, religion, etc.) is generally made up of good people who mean absolutely no harm to anyone else. It only takes one or a few to give the entire group a bad reputation, and we have to stop letting this happen.

If there is a public leader who promotes divisiveness and hatred, we must hold that public leader accountable. If it’s a politician, don’t vote them back in. If it’s a police officer, call for their reprimand or resignation. If it’s a neighbor, sit down and have a chat.

The only way evil, hatred, prejudice, and darkness in general will win is if we let them, if we turn a blind eye.

Instead of unfriending that person on Facebook, have a conversation with them. Perhaps you’ll change his mind, but even if you don’t, you’ll have broadened his perspective just a little, and that’s worth something.

Instead of ignoring racism (or any other –ism), let’s talk about it. Let’s start meeting each other with love and respect and understanding.

Instead of letting the bad guys win and get the attention, instead of letting them paint those like them with a similar brush, let’s call out and shine a light on the good, because I promise the good act far more often than the bad. We just don’t hear about those instances as much.

Gandhi once wrote, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.” This is often paraphrased, quite nicely, as “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Remember that God told us to love our neighbors. He didn’t qualify that statement, so that means ALL of your neighbors, no matter their individual differences.

So, let’s meet each other where we are, as we are, with all of our foibles and flaws, and let’s spread love, kindness, respect, understanding, and hope.

Much love,

R

“Jesus loves the little children,

all the children of the world,

red and yellow, black and white,

they are precious in His sight,

Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

Oh Atlanta, Both Sweet and Serious

Hello, dear readers!

This past week, I had the opportunity to make a trip to Atlanta with my mom on business.

(We were delivering a harp and picking up two others. Those things are heavy, if you’ve ever wondered.)

As previously discussed, I LOVE road trips and traveling in general, and I was feeling a little nostalgic, as right around this time last year, I made a life-changing trip to Scotland and northern England. This trip to Atlanta was the perfect pick-me-up to relieve my back-from-heaven-on-earth-blues.

I had grand plans for reading and being productive in the car and at the hotel at night, but those plans didn’t really pan out. I did read a little more of Diana Gabaldon’s Dragonfly in Amber, which is excellent so far, but other than that, my plans went out the window as soon as we got in the car, as plans tend to do on road trips.

However, that is not to say I did not have fun or did not do exciting or productive things. In fact, I was able to take lots of pictures (that I then went crazy with filters on) to share with you all. Hope you enjoy!

(Seriously, filters abound in this post. Forgive me ahead of time.)

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Once the harp was delivered and the other two were acquired, the very first thing I did was go to a bookstore.

After combing through internet searches for the best bookstores in the Atlanta area (and those closest to the area of Atlanta my mom and I were in), I settled on Atlanta Vintage Books, a seemingly small shop in the northern part of Atlanta.

Once inside, I quickly realized the outside was not an indication on what lay within.

Walking through the door, I was immediately met with the scent of air freshener and cats. For some this might be off-putting, but I fervently believe cats and books go together like peanut butter and jelly or eggs and toast or tea and scones…

In any event, you grow used to the smell and quickly move to other important matters: the books.

Rows and rows of books. Some piled on carts. Some behind glass. Some rare. Some simply used.

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I told my mom I would only spend 10 or so minutes browsing, but at least 30 minutes later, I was still in there.

The thing I love most about used bookstores is that they give you a sense of the area in which they are located and of the people who donated, traded, or sold their books to the store.

My favorite place in AVB was The History Room (pictured in the background above). The books here were divided into your typical categories: WWI, WWII, American, Civil War, European, etc. There was a wonderful section on the Medieval period from which I had to tear myself away.

I made my way through the rest of the sections (Fiction and Literature, Philosophy, Religion, etc.) fairly easily, but I did spend some time downstairs—yes, there are two floors!—where I discovered the source of the smell in the form of two adorable black cats, both of with whom I  attempted to make friends and only one of whom I was able to do so.

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Upon checking out with the one (only ONE!) book I decided to purchase, I discovered my two new acquaintances had other friends.

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I cannot tell you all how much I enjoyed my brief (ish) visit to Atlanta Vintage Books, but let me sum it up for you in one picture:

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Another aspect of this trip I really enjoyed was spending time with my mom. She is my inspiration and my hero, so any time spent with her is a joy. On this trip, we were able to do something she’s wanted to do for a while, which is to visit an old courthouse to find out more about our family history.

Upon arrival at the Old Campbell County Courthouse, we discovered they were closed for construction, but my mom being the brave and bold lady she is decided to knock on the door, as there were cars outside.

The members of the Old Campbell County Historical Society, who are behind the preservation of this abandoned courthouse, were very friendly and helpful. They let us in, took down the information my mom had on the relative she is trying to locate, and promised to see what they could find. They provided helpful information, and they made my mom happy, so they’re good people in my book.

One of the members even showed my mom a creek that may or may not have been named after relations of my mother’s paternal family. How cool is that!

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All in all, the stop at the old court house was fun and informative, and it also showed me a valuable lesson in action: it never hurts to put yourself out there and ask. You never know what results you might get!

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Our next stop, one I was eagerly looking forward to, was at Sprayberry’s Barbecue in Newnan, GA, which was just up the road a ways and totally worth it.

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This family-owned, family-run business has been open for 90 years, and it was my grandfather’s favorite place to eat. From the old truck sitting out front to the red tables and rickety chairs inside, this place has a lot of character and old school charm. The staff are all friendly , and the food is delicious.

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Y’all, the last time I ate at this place was back in 2002 when I was in town attending a family member’s funeral, and I could still remember how good it was, 14 years later. On this trip, I wasn’t disappointed.

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The baked beans have a hint of honey and brown sugar, and while I’m not usually a fan of sweet pickles, their pickles added to their potato salad make for an excellent combination. The chopped beef is smoky and tender, and their Brunswick stew (which my mom ordered) is packed with flavor.

If you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend you check this place out. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

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The last part of our afternoon adventures was spent cemetery hopping to look for the graves of family members.

We went to three different cemeteries, and save for one, we were able to find what we were looking for in all.

I found a bit more, though.

As morbid as cemeteries can be, they are beautiful places, and the older ones (such as those we went to) have so much history. You could spend hours just walking around and reading the different headstones.

Each one provokes a little curiosity…what was this person like? How did he or she die? In what way did they live? What were the times they lived in like?

I was particularly interested in the memorial at Oak Hill Cemetery, also in Newnan, that honored soldiers from the Civil War, World War I, and even the Revolutionary War.

There are some who would gladly see these memorials removed because of what the majority of these men fought for, and, to be honest, I don’t blame them.

Slavery is a horrible, ugly thing. To subjugate people and think less of them simply for the color of their skin is beyond deplorable. I know I would rather be judged by my character and my actions than by the simple fact that I am Caucasian.

Though our country fought to end slavery and the African American people and their allies fought to end discrimination and won both, racism still lingers on, and it will never truly go away, human nature being what it is.

These memorials, these monuments, the Confederate flag—all are painful reminders for all of us of a dark time in US history, reminders of what we as humans have been capable of, reminders of what some of us have been subjected to. I do not and cannot deny that.

However, we cannot whitewash history. Taking down historical monuments does not erase what happened. We must study history in all its brutal detail. We must confront it. We must learn from it. We MUST NOT forget it.

Being able to go to this cemetery and see those rows of graves, those representations of lives wasted, reminds me to never forget. That monument marker and those white stones serve as motivation to never stand for something like that, to never allow something like that to happen again.

Kindness. Respect. Love. Those are the things I will stand for and live by.

Cold white grave markers and “Confederate Dead” monument markers are the things that remind me WHY.

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Much love,

R

State of the Book Review (and a mini-rant):

Hey all!

I’ve been casually following the news on Britain’s EU Referendum. I’m an American, of course, so it’s not like I had a say, but anything that affects one of our major allies is bound to affect the US in some way. Both sides, the Remainers and the Leavers, had some pretty convincing arguments. I have seen Brit friends (and friends of friends) who were passionately against it and friends just the opposite. If I were a Brit, I think I’d have been pretty torn on the issue.

However, the United Kingdom voted, and they will be leaving the European Union, for better or worse.

One thing that caught my eye in the news today, though, was an article from NPR about how Google searches in the UK for “what is the EU?” spiked after the vote.

Yes, you read that correctly. After. The. Vote.

People. 

The takeaway from this is to do your research before you cast your vote for anything this massively important.

Speaking of which. My dear, fellow Americans. This coming November, if you don’t know anything about the candidate you vote for except whether they are Republican or Democrat or what-have-you if you’re going third party, please–PLEASE–do not vote.

There is plenty of time left, y’all. Do your research. Ask yourself: why am I voting for this person? Do I truly believe this candidate is the best for the future of our country? If you can’t think of three-five good reasons off the top of your head that you are considering a certain candidate, maybe you should reconsider.

Your vote is your vote, of course, but please, for the love of all that is holy, make it an informed vote.

*mini-rant over*

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Moving on to, in my opinion, more exciting things, I’d like to share with y’all about a book I finished reading recently.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I absolutely love to read—anything I can get my hands on. Some things are harder for me to read than others, though.

I briefly mentioned that I had enjoyed Dave Ramsey’s Complete Guide to Money in my previous post, but I wanted to give you all a little more insight into why I read the book and into what it is about.

Here’s the thing: I’m in my late twenties, and I’ve never really learned a lot about money or cared to, really. They just don’t teach these things in school, and until the last couple of years, I never had to worry about it too much, I’m ashamed to admit, because of the generosity of my parents. But as I got older and less comfortable letting my parents take care of me, I began to worry about it more. I made attempts to read things on it here and there, but frankly, I found the subject intimidating and rather boring.

I was in Sam’s Club not too long ago, and I came across this Complete Guide to Money. Just from reading the back cover, I got the sense that this man was someone I could in some small way relate to. I had set a goal for myself to start taking this money thing seriously, so I picked the book up, bought it, took it home, and let it sit for a week or two.

I know.

Finally, though, I started reading, and I found to my surprise that I could understand what Mr. Ramsey was writing. Unlike books I’d read (or attempted to read) in the past, he gave simple, easy to follow steps to follow to achieve what he calls financial peace.

The steps involve putting $1000 in a beginner emergency fund, paying off all debt using the snowball method, putting 3-6 months of expenses aside for a full emergency fund, investing, creating a college fund for kids, paying off the mortgage, building wealth, and giving. Essentially, though, these steps fall into four categories.

  1. Debt is dumb, so get rid of it.

All of it. Mr. Ramsey does not believe in or support credit cards, loans, or borrowing of any kind. He advocates paying off debts as quickly as possible and saving/paying cash for anything you want to buy in the future.

Let’s me be honest and clear here: I don’t 100% support/agree with/fully understand EVERYTHING Mr. Ramsey says about debt, but it is a novel concept in today’s society to eschew all debt, and it is a practice worth considering.

  1. Life happens, so prepare for it.

Mr. Ramsey cites a pre-2008 Gallup poll that revealed that a little over 30% of Americans could not cover an emergency of more than $5000 without financial help of some sort, i.e., a loan (9). I didn’t know that before, but it doesn’t surprise me. This book also came out in 2011, so I imagine it has only gotten worse. What does he suggest we do about this? Build our emergency funds and pay off our existing debts. After that, don’t accrue any others!

  1. Investing is smart, so do it.

Once you’ve paid off your debts and gotten those emergency funds, well, funded, Mr. Ramsey advises that you should invest. He does not generally recommend CDs, single stocks, bonds, or rental real estate (unless you can pay cash for it). His advice is to invest 15% of household income into Roth IRAs and pretax retirement plans (8).

I don’t necessarily agree with everything Mr. Ramsey has to say about investing, and you might not either, but I think we can all agree that it’s a very wise idea to invest something in some way or another to help prepare yourself for retirement.

  1. We all have had need of a little charity, so give it.

One of the things I like a lot about what Mr. Ramsey has written is that he strongly urges his readers to give back. We all get in tight spots where we could use a little help, so when we’re successful, it makes a lot of sense to give to causes and charities we support that help others in tight spots. If you are a church-going person, he also advocates for tithing as part of your giving. No matter how you choose to spread your money around, though, it’s always a good idea to do so in the first place, so, as Mr. Ramsey says, don’t neglect this important step in attaining financial peace.

There is a ton of other helpful information in Complete Guide to Money, including an explanation of different types of insurance and which ones you should have and also a chapter on the importance of bargaining and how to go about it.

There’s a detailed table of contents, so you can go right to the sections you are most interested in, but it’s also worth it to read this book cover to cover. There’s a short notes section in the back, and there is also an appendix with all of his suggested financial management forms.

Two other valuable resources the book led me to are Dave Ramsey’s website and his EveryDollar website/app that helps you create and manage a budget. This was a huge help for me, as I’d never created an actual budget before I downloaded his app.

Financial literacy is a must in today’s economy. Choosing your financial plan, though, is a personal issue. There are some things you may agree with in Mr. Ramsey’s book and some you may not. Complete Guide to Money is not the be-all-end-all of financial knowledge, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction–the right direction being to come up with  a plan of action for managing your money.

Mr. Ramsey writes, “Personal finance is only 20 percent head knowledge. The other 80 percent—the bulk of the issue—is behavior” (6). This is so true! Thankfully, I’ve got a better handle on the knowledge part after reading Complete Guide to Money, and you can too. Now, I just have to keep working on that behavior part!

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I plan for book reviews to become a regular thing on here, so if you liked it, please let me know in the comments below. If there’s anything I can change, mention that as well! As always, if you want to see more, follow my blog, like my Facebook page, and share these posts on your social media platforms!

I appreciate every bit of support you all give me!

Until next time,

R

 

 

Is it warm in here, or is it just me…?

Hello, dear readers!

It has been a minute since I last posted, and a lot has happened in the interim!

The beach trip was fun. I had a wonderful time hanging out with my family. We lounged on the beach and by the pool. I ventured into the ocean and quickly returned to the safety of dry land. Several of us ladies went shopping one afternoon, and I went crabbing one night with my cousins, during which I found an absolutely PERFECT sand dollar and promptly broke it. Guys, I know it seems silly, but I was devastated! I have never found a whole one before, and I don’t know if I will again. If there is a next time, though, I WILL take a picture at least.

In general, we had a great time. We talked, we laughed, and we ate a lot of good food. I’m already looking forward to the next time we get together!

I didn’t get as much reading done as I would have liked, but I have finished the Dave Ramsey book I mentioned in my last post, and I highly recommend it. If you do nothing else, invest yourself in his first three steps. If you’re ever in an emergency money situation, you’ll thank me for suggesting those steps and yourself for following them!

Once I arrived home from the beach, I didn’t do much else besides work around the house, read, and write. Mostly boring, I know.

I had ideas for what I wanted to post about next, but after the events of this week, those other things didn’t seem quite appropriate. I knew I wanted to say SOMETHING about what has happened, but I didn’t know what, and I didn’t want to touch the issue. There are a few things I do not talk about (and diligently try to avoid posting about on Facebook, though I’ve been falling down on that one here lately).

Even when I am in my familiar family-and-friends-comfort-zone, I avoid these topics, because everyone has an opinion, and no one seems to agree exactly on any one issue or another. When these topics come up, my heart races, my limbs twitch with nervous energy, and my face (and ears and arms and neck and chest…) starts to turn bright, bright red.

(Side note: Any of my wonderful friends and family will gladly wax poetic about my ability to resemble a tomato. It has become something of a joke, really. Ha ha ha.)

Regardless, I’m sure you know which topics I refer to. In case you’re not like me who runs away at the mention of these topics, so you can’t imagine not wanting to talk about them, here they are: politics and religion.

Unsurprisingly enough, this post will, in some small way, explore both, because as much as I’d love to avoid the issues, something has to be said.

*Cue heart racing and body flushing*

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You would have to be living under a rock to have not heard about the domestic terrorist attack in Orlando this past Sunday. In a world of instant access to all the latest news, trends, memes, videos, and more, that would have to be the case.

In the event that you haven’t–in which case, I want you to stop reading this and go turn on the news right now…okay, finish reading this, and then make watching the news a daily habit–an evil man walked into a nightclub with an assault rifle and opened fire on the innocent inhabitants who were just there to have fun in a safe environment.

The mind boggles.

I cannot imagine hating a group of people for their lifestyle and personal choices so much that I would go on a killing spree against them. It is unfathomable, and there is absolutely no excuse.

“But the Bible says…”

No.

“But the Koran says…”

No.

“But the <enter holy book of choice here> says…”

NO.

I do not care what your religious book(s) read (or what you read into your religious book[s]). That is no excuse to take a gun and shoot down defenseless and innocent people.

Those of you who know me know I am a Christian. You know what I believe. You know my stances on certain issues or another.

(If you don’t, feel free to ask me. Let’s get coffee [tea for me!] and talk about it. I’ll turn red, and my voice will tremble, and my legs and hands may shake uncontrollably, but we’ll talk about it.)

This is not the time for me to go into detail about those beliefs, though. You don’t have to be a Christian to know that what happened in that club last Sunday was wrong. It was horrible. It was devastating.

As human beings, the thought of losing loved ones to violence like that should move you to tears.

No one should have to live in fear of their fellow human beings for their sexual orientation or for any other self-identifying factor.

I am a heterosexual woman, but I don’t have to be a member of the LGBT community for my heart to go out to those involved. I do have friends and family, all of whom I love and care for, who identify in one or other of those categories, though, and that could have been them. They could have been there that night. My heart clenches at the thought.

And then my thoughts turn to the other community involved—the Muslim community. Some of my closest friends are Muslim, and they are some of the best people I know. I love them dearly. Just a few weeks ago, we spent the evening attempting to put up lights for their holiday, Ramadan. I can’t help but smile as I think of the laughter as we realized we had messed up on the first try, the stares and double-takes as neighbors drove by wondering what the heck we were doing, and the joy on my friends’ kids’ faces as the lights were finally lit.

The shooter at the night club was Muslim. He called 911 and proclaimed his actions in support of ISIS. Immediately, the bigots came out, bad-mouthing the entire Muslim community for one man’s actions, one small group’s actions.

Those actions were and are horrible, but just as the Westboro Baptist Church’s actions do not paint an accurate picture of all Christians, this man’s actions and ISIS’ actions do not paint the whole group of Muslims as terrorists.

The thought that my dear friends and others like them could be ostracized or attacked due to that man’s actions…I don’t have the words to describe the mess of emotions that thought provokes.

To the LGBT community: I am so sorry this happened to you, and I know that even if you weren’t there, it did happen to you, for you felt it in your heart and bones just as if you were. I love you all, and I am praying for peace and comfort , healing and assurance, for all of you and for your families and friends that worry about your safety.

To the Muslim community: I am so sorry you must deal with others treating you with suspicion and disdain due to some yoyo’s actions. How you choose to worship and believe does not make you terrorists. I love you all, and I pray for comfort and assurance for you all as well, that you will know you have support from many.

In times like these, my best advice to every single one of you, no matter your race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, or anything else, is to treat others as you would like to be treated.  If you give bitterness and hatred, you breed more bitterness and hatred. If you spread love and kindness…well, you know the rest.

Until next time,

R