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Why I Like Living In A Swing State

I live in Virginia, one of the nations newest swing states. If you have never lived in a swing state before, that means my mailbox gets hit with two to three political mailings a day and most evenings my phone rings with concerned volunteers making sure I’m up-to-date on when the debates will be aired, where I can vote and they are ready to answer any questions about their candidate that I might have. I’m also way behind on the latest commercial products on the market because most of the TV ads in my area have been purchased by PACs or Super PACs or candidates themselves.

In addition to living in a swing state, I live in one of the Northern Virginia swing counties. This means that in addition to the mailings and the phone calls, the candidates themselves have made several visits to locations near me, providing ample opportunity for me to go see both candidates speak in person.

For many of my Northern Virginia neighbors, election season becomes quite a nuisance. They avoid the phone calls and complain about the added traffic when a candidate is in town. These added disturbances seem to be too much for them. They count the days until the election is over.

Personally, I take a different approach. I’m glad I live in a swing state. I feel like my vote matters. When my vote is counted it could be among the tie-breaking votes that decides which candidate the state’s electoral votes will go to. Many analysts would say that neither candidate can win without Virginia’s 13 electoral votes.

I don’t mind the extra phone calls or the junk mail in my mailbox. I could do without the rude political Facebook posts, but unfortunately I think that spreads further than just to people living in the swing states. I think both candidates bring some good ideas to the table. I think both candidates have some baggage they carry with them as well. Neither party has it all figured out. Both parties have supported policies that have hurt people and both parties have supported policies that have helped people. If you believe differently, my guess is you’ve stopped seeking out unbiased sources and have settled with a news source that holds that same beliefs and values as your own.

There are a lot of issues on the table this elections season.  There are issues of defense spending, economic health, human rights, and health care. Every one of those issues is important. I don’t envy the President tasked with improving any one of those issues let alone all of them. Some issues hold more weight than others for different individuals. That explains why the polling numbers are so close. Some people are choosing one candidate because of his position on healthcare while others will choose their candidate based on his position on foreign policy. As voting Americans it is our responsibility to inform ourselves as much as we can about the issues (in an unbiased way, I might add) and make a decision based on the information we have and the values we hold.

As we enter this final stretch of the election season, I hope that we can be respectful of our friends and neighbors as they make the choices that they are free to make. I hope that we can have civilized conversations with those who believe differently than us. I hope that we can model for our children how to respect elected officials, even those we did not vote for. I hope that if your candidate of choice does not win, you will continue to look for ways to support your values and causes.

So hang in there disheartened swing state friends, only seven more days. After that the mailings will stop, the phone will stop ringing and candidates won’t be making stump speeches at your child’s elementary school. But consider this: consider how lucky you are to live in an area where your voice can be heard so strongly. Your vote will be counted. Your vote will matter.


Throwback Thursday: I Can’t Sing

Last week’s Throwback Thursday was a little bit of a downer. I’m happy to report that this week’s post is a little more positive. While 2002 Susan probably thinks she’s on the road to recovery, I think it’s probably just the lack of sleep that is putting 2002 Susan in this weird mood. No need for a lot of back story on this one, so here it is:

[Comments by 2012 Susan]

November 5, 2002 11:20 AM

This morning, I was driving back from Cornell listening to music and singing along to a song and suddenly I stopped focussing on the song and started listening to my voice singing along. And I realized that I am a horrible singer, I mean I was nowhere near on pitch, but still there I was just singing along.

And then I started to laugh. Because it was suddenly the funniest thing in the world [sounds like exhaustion, right?] And then I was laughing so hard that tears were coming from my eyes. At this point I have parked my car and was walking to the apartment, laughing so hard. Luckily I didn’t see anyone during this walk, because I must have looked so funny.

I don’t know why it was suddenly so funny to me. I have always known that I can’t sing. Today it was just the funniest thing listening to my voice next to the singer’s voice.

Life is funny sometimes [Here we go, Deep Thoughts with Susan time]. There are times when nothing seems to be going your way but then you find yourself in a car singing by yourself and cracking up. The thing that makes a difference is not what’s going on around you, it’s how you view the world. If you look for the bad things, you’ll find them. But if you look for the good things, you’ll find those.

Everyone needs a few sad days and what I have learned through all of this is that you can’t hold it all in. Because when the day comes to let it all out, it hurts a lot more than if you let it out over time.

So I can choose to be upset about things or I can focus on the positives. I can be happy for myself. I can have fun with being me. I don’t have to be sad that I don’t have that person who loves me just as much as I love him. I have so many things to be thankful for. I am going to Japan in April! Who does that? [Not me, actually. Turns out that trip gets cancelled and I don't end up going to Japan at that time. Good thing 2002 Susan doesn't have that piece of information, it would probably send her back into a tailspin.] I have the best friends in the world. I have two great caring parents. Honestly, things are good.

So yeah I am going to eat lunch now, because I haven’t eaten a full meal in three days, and I am a little hungry.

Texting Grandma

A few months ago, my grandma got a smart phone. Actually I’m not entirely sure what type of phone she got. But I do know that she can text and receive pictures with it. She got this phone so that her kids and grandkids could send her pictures. Sending her pictures is my new favorite thing to do. Several times a week, I try to capture everyday moments of my kids’ lives and send them the pictures to my Grandma.

My grandma is also active on Facebook. Not in the posting pictures of kittens dressed up as people kind of way, she logs on and is able to look through her news feed to see how her children and grandchildren are doing in the world. I know this because she comments on my posts. There is no Facebook notification I enjoy reading more than ones informing me that my grandma has posted on my wall.

My grandma is awesome. I’ve always thought this but it’s just been in recent years that I’ve realized how truly awesome she is. My grandma raised 4 kids. As a child, this seemed like no big deal to me. Now as a mom of three, I see her for the saint that she is. I cannot get enough of her stories about raising kids. I marvel at how she managed to cook dinner (and even dessert!) each night with four kids around to interrupt her. She reminds me that her kids were born over a period of 11 years, unlike the two years it too me to have my three.

I love to listen as she tells me about life with only one car and having to wait until my grandpa came home from work to go grocery shopping. I ask her which child gave her the most attitude, which one was the easiest and which two played the best together. We swap stories about first steps, first words and potty training. She tells me about the time my dad choked on a lollipop and the time my uncle fell off his bike and a neighbor carried him home. She remembers it all.

When I can’t think of any more questions about her raising kids, I ask her about her childhood. She grew up on a small South Dakota farm which is far from the suburban childhood I experienced. I listen as she tells me about her parents and siblings. She tells me about life on a farm and living with her sister after graduating high school. She tells me how she met my grandfather and what it was like moving out of South Dakota for the first time when he was transfered to the east coast. Every story she tells I find fascinating.

I’m sure my grandmother has faults, but I’m not aware of any. She makes incredible chocolate chip cookies, she remembers every one of her kids’ and grandkids’ birthdays and she has something nice to say about every person she meets.I ask her how it felt when the last child finally moved out on his own. She reminds me that my uncle was barely out of high school before she began babysitting my brother during the day while my parents worked. Almost immediately after my family moved, my cousin was born and began babysitting her. Perhaps that’s why my grandma is so close to her family. She’s had a hand in raising each and every one of us for at least some portion of our life, even if only for a few weeks.

I feel blessed to still have my grandmother. After every conversation with her, I feel enriched. Nourished. Fed. Talking to her will do that to you. I don’t get to see her that much, once a year if I’m lucky. That’s why I love her new phone so much. There is something comforting knowing that Grandma is only a text message away.

Throwback Thursday: All Cried Out

It’s Thursday which means that once again it’s Throwback Thursday (New to Throwback Thursdays? Catch up here). As promised last week, I skipped over the post where I only wrote the lyrics to All Cried Out by Allure. If you would like to preserve the authenticity of this series, you can take a moment to read those lyrics here. Last week’s post focussed on the closure I felt after finding out that my ex-boyfriend had a new girlfriend. Today’s post is a bit of a backslide from that positive attitude. Sorry for the emotional roller coaster folks; just think how my roommates felt. Am I right, ladies?

[Comments by 2012 Susan]

November 3, 2002 7:40 PM

So wow. What a day. I haven’t cried like I did today in a long time. But I think it was a good thing. I was tired of being the strong one. Holding it all in. I honestly think that my mind had done such a good job of convincing myself of all the good things about the break up, that for this whole time whenever I felt like crying I would say, “don’t cry, you did the right thing.”

But what I never dealt with was the devastation of losing my best friend [okay 2002 Susan, you dated the guy for ten months, five of which he was studying abroad in Italy. Best friend? Really? Are we perhaps being a little dramatic?] He was the person I could go to with anything and he would be there for me. Initially I had hoped that after we broke up I would still have that with him. But I don’t. I lost him entirely. It hurts. So this weekend I finally gave in and cried. He’s with someone new and, honestly, I am really happy for him [I think we can all agree that's probably stretching the truth a bit.] And I hope she’s everything for him that I couldn’t be [Fun fact: she is. I know this because he later marries this girl.] But I still miss him as my friend.

I must have cried for over three hours straight today. I knew I had to cry to make things okay. I had to get all the hurt from him out of my system before I could move on. Getting over a person is so weird. You still have all those good memories and the person still has so many good characteristics, but you know that it’s just not right.

My biggest step right now is to be able to watch girly movies and see other couples without getting depressed. Because it has gotten to the point where I just can’t do it. I can’t listen to love songs without relating every song to him.

Most of all, I realized today that I am not ready to love again [Is that not the most cliché line ever?]. At least not right now. I had been trying to fill the void all this time with someone else, but I still haven’t gotten over losing him yet. I don’t have room for another person right now.

Wow. That felt good. I needed that vent.

Throwback Thursday: Closure

It’s that time of week again, Throwback Thursday! The drama has become intense folks. In case you missed last week, let me fill you in. After pretending to be over my ex for the first two months of my junior year, I ran into him at a Halloween party with his new girlfriend. This sent me into an unexpected spiral of emotions. Which brings us to this week. Not quite sure what happened during the 24 hours between the last post and this week’s post, but apparently it was enough to get me closure. (Spoiler alert: a mere 10 hours later I post a blog entry with just the lyrics to the song All Cried Out by Allure. I can assure you I will skip that entry next week and move on to the next post.) So I’m not sure where this post is coming from, but I hope you enjoy it.

[Comments by 2012 Susan]

November 2, 2002 2:16 AM

Closure is a funny thing isn’t it? I mean it’s totally a real concept.

Tonight I gained closure [the next five posts would imply otherwise]. I didn’t even really know that I needed it until I got it, but I definitely felt it once it set in, and it was a great feeling [though apparently a fleeing feeling].

Until tonight I was frustrated with the way things were, and it seemed to me that things still weren’t settled. But they totally are. The situation now is how it’s always going to be. If something different was meant to be it totally would have happened. [I sound so healthy and mature right? Who would believe that this same girl is 10 hours away from posting sappy song lyrics to her blog?]

People have exes. That’s just a fact of life. And you run into exes, and sometimes they can talk and be cool, and sometimes they can’t. It sucks if they can’t, but what is important to remember is that if one person is with someone, it’s not the other person’s place to try and be his friend. [In defense of my ex, he was a super nice guy and I'm pretty sure the only reason we didn't talk at the party was that I was too mad at him for bringing his new girlfriend to go near him.] Take a step back and be mature. I don’t want to be the ex that the new girl is worried about [clearly I was not lacking confidence this night. As if my very presence in a room would be reason enough for my ex to reconsider his new relationship]. So I won’t put myself in that position anymore. If that is how it has to be, then fine. Okay so I am going to bed.

It’s Just Like Riding A Bike

When riding a bike, it’s important to be able to do three things: balance, steer and pedal. Balance is important because if you lean too far in either direction, you will fall. When you are not balanced, you begin to feel the pull of gravity and you will quickly fall to the ground. But when you are balanced that pull disappears and you can easily remain upright. Steering is important because when you do not steer you are bound to ride off the road. You cannot get on a bike and hope that it knows where to take you. If that is your plan, you will soon find that your bike would like to take you to a nearby bush. But when you learn to steer you can avoid tough terrain like grass and gravel and dodge obstacles like sticks and rocks that are along your route. Finally pedaling is important because you will never move on your bike if you do not pedal. You can start on top of a hill and hope that momentum will carry you a while, but eventually the hill will subside and you will find yourself on flat ground, or worse, pedaling uphill.

When you are a parent teaching a child how to ride a bike, you must teach your child how to do all three of these things at once. The tricky part about teaching your children these things is that in order to really learn how to balance, steer and pedal, you must allow them to feel unbalanced, to drift off course and to slow down. You can hold their seat behind them, keeping them balanced, but they will never learn how to self-correct their balance if you are always there to hold them steady. You can hold on to the handle bars and guide them along the sidewalk, but they will never learn to guide themselves if you make all the adjustments for them. Finally, you can run behind them and push them, but if they do not learn to pedal for themselves, they will stop shortly after you let go.

As parents, we must learn to let go. We must do our very best to teach them while we are holding on to them, but eventually, if we really want them to learn, we must let go. We must give them a chance to do the things we have taught them. We must allow them to lean too far to the right and begin to fall. Hopefully, they will feel themselves falling and slightly adjust their weight to the left. Maybe they won’t and maybe they will put their right foot down on the ground and catch themselves. Or maybe they will realize too late that they are leaning and the only thing left for them to do is fall. As parents we will watch this and it will be painful. And in that moment, the moment when our child is lying on the ground, with his bike on top of him, we can only hope for one thing. We can only hope that he will get up, wipe off the dirt, get on his bike and try again.

We must trust them to steer on their own. They must take control of the handlebars and guide themselves. We hope that they will choose the paved sidewalk because we know that path will be the easiest for them. When they find themselves headed toward the grass, or worse a bush or a tree, we pray that they will steer the other way. We hope they will remember our words of guidance; to look straight ahead and keep the tire pointed in the direction they want to go. But for some children, it will take a few times of trying to ride through the grass before they realize you were right–that staying on the sidewalk is a better way to go. As parents, our hope is that our children will spend most of their time on the paved path rather than getting stuck in the bushes along the way.

Finally, we must allow them to pedal. We can only run alongside them for so long. We usually teach them how to ride on a flat stretch of land. It’s along these paths that they learn the thrill of pedaling; when excitement and energy are flowing freely in their legs and they can ride for miles. But eventually we must bring them to a hill. We must teach them that there will be times on their bike when the hill before them is great. When it will take every drop of energy in their body to keep going. They will want to give up and stop. They will want us to push them or carry their bikes for them until they reach the top. But we must teach them to pedal. Because if they never learn to pedal up the steep hills, they will never know the great feeling of accomplishment when they reach the top of a hill and look down. They will never be able to look behind them and say: “I did that. It was hard and I thought I wouldn’t be able to do it, but I did it anyway.”

Teaching a child how to balance, steer and pedal is hard work. There are times when your patience will run out. Your child will steer into the grass for the tenth time in ten minutes and you will wonder if she is even listening to you. There are times when your energy will be gone. You will have run behind the bike, holding his seat for an hour and he still cannot keep his balance. You will want to quit. You will want to tag out and let someone else teach for awhile. You will wonder what you are doing wrong. You might even doubt that you will ever succeed.

But then the moment will come. The moment you’ve been working toward for weeks. You will let go for the last time and your child will ride away in front of you. You might stop and catch your breath, but your eyes will not look away. You will watch to see if your child remembers everything you told him. You will see him shift his balance as he starts to lean, you will see him steer away from the grass and you will watch him pedal.

And in that moment you will realize that it was all worth it.

Throwback Thursday: 3 AM Friends

It’s time for Throwback Thursday again! For those of you who have stuck with me through the absurd posts, this is where the drama begins. As I’ve mentioned before, the fall semester of my junior year was all about getting over my boyfriend whom I had broken up with earlier that summer. For the first few months of the semester I was happily going about my life dating guys, looking for that special someone. And then Halloween night happened. My friend and I went to a costume party hosted by a friend of my friend’s boyfriend. It’s important to note that my friend’s boyfriend’s housemate was my ex-boyfriend. Any logical person would have considered that a friend of my ex-boyfriend’s housemate might also be a friend of my ex-boyfriend. But no, I was too busy making sure my Pajama Barbie costume (really just an excuse to wear pajama pants to a party) looked good to put two and two together that my ex-boyfriend might be at this party. Even further from my mind was the fact that he would be bringing his new girlfriend with him. So imagine my surprise when I walked into this party and immediately saw my ex-boyfriend with his new girlfriend sitting on his lap (as if there wasn’t any room next to him on the couch!). Anyway, you can imagine how the rest of my night went. Unfortunately, I was my friend’s ride home so I couldn’t just leave. I spent the next two hours trying to avoid the living room at all costs. Later that night, when I got home, I wrote this post.

November 1, 2002 12:37 AM

Everyone always talks about independence and how it’s this great thing. Like “Wow, she’s such an independent person. She can do it all on her own. That’s great.” So in a way, society has taught us that it is good to be independent.

Guys have always been taught they should be able to handle anything that comes their way. To ask for help is a sign of weakness.

Girls in our generation are young enough that we have never been taught to rely on someone else. We are independent women who can make it on our own. We don’t need another person to help us through. I think the concept of idolizing independence is crap. People are not better off alone.

We have a natural tendency to want another person in our life to share our thoughts with. When something goes wrong, we want to call up someone to talk with and make it better.

I am not good with sharing my feelings. Anyone who knows me knows that I will hold things in until the last possible second before I tell someone how I feel. My reasoning is that it’s my problem and I can deal with it myself. To cry about something means I can’t handle it. If I can’t handle it, I am weak. The fact of the matter is, I am afraid that if I actually open up to a person, if I tell someone what I am really thinking, the person will react in a way that will make me feel as if I shouldn’t have those feelings.

But there are certain people I can open up to. And when I do, I feel so much better. And until I talk to one of those people about it, there is no way I can get over it.

It takes a special kind of person to be that person. There are only a few people that I would consider calling at 3 AM on the verge of tears. I know that when they pick up the phone, no matter how tired and groggy, they will immediately snap to it when they hear my whimpering voice.

I don’t make a habit of calling people at 3 AM but it’s good to know what they are there. And whether it’s 3 AM or 10 PM, they are what you need when you need it. I wouldn’t give up those friends to be independent any day. I can’t imagine not having someone to go to when life sucks.

I had a crappy night. I am not going to lie. And yeah, I am still working some of it out. But I have my 3 AMers who I can count on bring me through.

Happy One Year Anniversary To Me!

Something happened a few weeks ago that I completely missed. In the craziness of getting my kids and family back into our school routine, I neglected to notice that my blog turned one! I can’t believe it’s already been a year. In honor of that milestone (and, to be honest, I’m stuck trying finish two different posts) I am posting one of my favorite first posts. Enjoy!

[Originally posted on 9/16/2011]
Yesterday my four-year-old asked to play with play-doh. We’ve had play-doh in the house for about two years and have played with it about five times. Mainly because I find it the most stressful activity in the world. Actually, I’m sure things like finger painting, or even regular painting with paint brushes are more stressful. But I’ve convinced my children that those crafts are only allowed at preschool. I wish I had included play-doh in that group. But I didn’t. And last Christmas, we got the mega pack of play-doh and accessories.

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