Are you better off now than you were 4 years ago?

In a word…. yes.

Fair warning: I am an opinionated Democrat (though I don’t often blog about it.) I’ve even stepped back the Facebook and Twittering on the election. Today’s post isn’t about changing minds or winning votes (many of you have probably early voted already)… it’s about acknowledging the answer to the question that the campaigns love to ask. To the extent that the President has impact over any of the below (which, I guess, indirectly he does), it’s relevant.

In the past 4 years, a lot has gone on in our life. House, kid, two higher ed degrees in our household, new jobs for both me and Scott… We’re a middle class family, two working parents and we live comfortably. I’m not writing this post to brag or say that since we’ve had a good 4 years, everyone else has. We’re believers in personal responsibility and the majority of the success we’ve had is because of our sacrifice, education & hard work. The government did not write my husband’s dissertation or compel us to have a child. But I do think it’s only fair to acknowledge the programs that have assisted us to get where we are; constantly criticizing the government is easy, thanking it is less popular.

My husband graduated with his PhD in 2009, with some of it financed through loans. We couldn’t consolidate them through any banks, so we turned to the US Department of Education. Instead of a crippling payment, it’s half that, and at a fixed 2.0%(ish) interest rate.

We bought a house in March of 2009. We were first-time homebuyers and received an $8,000 credit. It certainly made buying a home (in a crumby market) more attractive, enticed us to spend it on our home once we got in it. We were also the beneficiaries of a low federal interest rate, which made us owe less over the life of our loan.

Despite a bad economy and high unemployment rates, I got a job. That probably has little to do with the government, but still.

We refinanced our home under Freddie Mac program (since our house appraised low and our ownership % wasn’t high enough for most other programs. Not our fault.) Refinancing at an even lower rate saved us around 100,000 US dollars. Yes, you read that right.

I know our situation isn’t necessarily representative of the country, and that we’ve had some negative impacts as well. Our healthcare premiums have gone up, for instance.

I’m not giving Obama and the government full credit for all of the huge things we’ve done in 4 years. BUT, they were there, they deserve a shout out at least. All of the above incentives and programs, we would have done those things with or without them, but it’d have been harder without them. It seems sort of out there, but those things *actually helped* and did what they were intended to do.

So, thank you.

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#NaBloPoMo

So… I’m doing it. I am a little intimidated, you know, since I’m a serial blog quitter. I don’t wanna be. Sometimes I get annoyed with it- I’m not cool enough to own a domain or have a cool header, and I don’t have the tech skills or patience to pursue those things. I have a few post ideas, but shy away from oversharing or being negative or whatever… I dunno. I think it means I haven’t found my voice and purpose for blogging yet.

I love writing. I’m a journaler, I’m writing a book for Pete’s sake. My book is nothing like this though, it’s stuffy and researchy (and I’m *so over* it at the moment, truth be told.) I want the outlet to let me be me. I love looking back on old posts from when Margo was at a different stage or read about details on stuff I just plain forgot. Blogging has a place in my life… and I think the NaBloPoMo challenge – to write daily for the month of November – will get me in the habit.

I hope I’m not too annoying during the next month. I’m already challenging my boundaries – yesterday’s post was way more raw than I typically go. I’ve decided if I get through this month & still love it and feel fulfilled, I might get myself a cool new look as a reward!

Totally making these for this weekend! 🙂 Yum yum yum!

The McBlog

These babies are solid gold … sooooo good! They’re really not that hard to make… possibly my fave brownies ever…

S’more Brownies
from Kraft.com

10 whole HONEY MAID Honey Grahams, broken crosswise in half (20 squares), divided
3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) butter or margarine
4 squares BAKER’S Unsweetened Baking Chocolate
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup flour
2-1/2 cups JET-PUFFED Miniature Marshmallows
1 cup BAKER’S Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chunks (I used chocolate chips for this instead bc I didn’t have the chunks. 🙂 )

Directions:
PREHEAT oven to 350°F. Line 13×9-inch baking pan with foil, with ends of foil extending beyond sides of pan; grease foil. Place 15 of the graham squares in bottom of pan, overlapping slightly. Break remaining 5 graham squares into large pieces; set aside.

PLACE butter and chocolate in large microwavable bowl. Microwave on HIGH 2 minutes or until butter is melted. Stir…

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*flops down on the couch* And I’m Spent.

If you’re thinking about having a child in January, may I advise… um, not? I don’t want this to come off as regretting the birth of my kid, because I’m obviously not doing that, but if there’s any way you can make your child’s birthday NOT be 3 weeks after Christmas, I advise doing that. Because, daaay-um. I’m a tired momma. We had a great Christmas, a great 2nd birthday and a fantastic (but delayed due to family-shared stomach bug…fun times) birthday party. The delayed birthday party made the party better (because I had time to, you know, get food and streamers) but it also added another week to the hecticness of Christmas/birthday season. And now? I’m spent.

Not that I’m not ALWAYS spent. I find it very telling that my last blog posting was about how -yay- I started a new job and it’s all good! It still is all good (great, even) but the whole “spare time to spend on the blog thing”… that’s pretty much gone. I have been busy pretty much from day one with work, which I find to be a blessing. Nothing more annoying than sitting twiddling your thumbs. And after doing the dinner/bath/stories/clean up thing, the last thing I really feel like doing in the evenings is trying to come up with clever prose.

Being a working mom is much more my speed than being a stay at home mom was. I’m happier and my moods are more even keeled. Of course there are days where the stress of doing both things is too much. Like during the aforementioned family-shared stomach bug. Staying home from work for four days wasn’t my idea of a fun time, but it had to be done. And I’m lucky to have a workplace that allows me to do that without judgement or use of personal vacation days… overall, I feel more centered and I feel I’m able to give my child more when we are together than I gave her over the whole days at home. I’m declaring to the world: I like being a working mom. Words I never thought I’d say.

But, you say, you just said you’re “spent.” What’s up with that? I’m spent, but it’s in a good way. I feel like all the parts of my brain are being utilized. I feel like I’m actually remembering more and being a better person, better utilizing my free time that has somehow gone from very little to even less. I’m secretly hoping that a small part of the exhaustion I’m feeling is due to the Christmas/Birthday onslaught of toys/decoration/obligation/joy etc. February shall be boring.

Back to basics

I flirted for a month or two with running a marathon this fall. I did all of this flirting while sitting in the A/C, you should know. Stepping into the 1000% humidity of NC made the reality of a fall marathon slightly less exciting. Then I started flirting with a half. Again, I’m not ready to be held to a schedule just yet (see: humidity). I also looked up a few races that’d require minimal travel and for all of them, the schedule was the issue. So, I guess it’s not in the cards for this year to do a big, impressive, boundary-pushing race. Ok, that’s cool. So, why not go back from where I came? The 5K.

Ah, how adorable! This is me in 2007. I feel like I’m just screaming “It’s my first 5k, should I wear a jacket, you guys? I mean it’s 70 degrees, will I be cold?” I shouldn’t make fun of ’07 me, I still am kinda like that about jackets.

So, I’ve decided if I can’t go farther, let’s go faster! My personal record is 27:20. I’m pretty happy with that, except that this time is on the books from 2007. (sidenote, how is that FOUR years ago?) It was the Jingle Bell Run when I met some of my closest friends that I now run with all the time – Kathleen, Jackie & Amy 🙂 *sniff sniff* Memories. (Also, not sure where I have that pic saved. Sigh)

ANNNNYWay. My point happens to be that I can go faster than this time. I actually repeated 27:20 in 3.1 miles during the week before last fall’s half marathon. And I was pushing a stroller. Of course if you google me you’ll find loads of 28 & 29 times, this particular urban legend is only for me and my Garmin. But that little victory is in the back of my mind when I say: I can break my PR.

But alas, I’m far from my “week before a half marathon” shape, so I have some work to do. I think I’m going to shoot for the Autism 5K  on 10/8. I also want to do the Monster Dash at the end of Oct, pretty much just to dress up my kid and let her run. I worry that she’s too young and I’m going to be the running version of a stage mom, but I do think she’ll like it. She loves when I let her out of her stroller at the end of runs and she can blow off some steam. So cute, she says “Ready Set Go”… well, she’ll usually say either Ready or Set… you know how toddlers can be.

I’ve been working for the past 2 weeks to try to run 3-4 times each week. Even only hitting 3 runs last week with no weekend run (ahem IRENE), I still felt really good. Today’s run wasn’t my best, but I did it and it was “a workout”. That’s how I’ve been approaching my pace (er, consoling myself). I say “Oh well, I’m getting a workout.” That’s all I need, and if I run for a few weeks, my pace will come back down. I hope to incorporate some speed work & intervals and longer runs on the weekends. Here’s hoping!