Fear Vs. Love and the Gods’ Will

One of the things that our minister says almost every service is that every choice we make and every emotion we feel is either rooted in fear or love.

Fear is the root of negativity and negative emotions.  Love is the root of positivity and positive emotions.

One of the things we saw during and at the end of service every week is “There is only one power and one presence in my life and in the universe, the all loving goodness of God (or Spirit or Gods or whatever you wish to call it).”  We will often times start prayer and meditation time with “Dear Mother, Father God” because we understand that if there is only one power out there (and that is all loving), then we recognize that we can call it whatever we like and it won’t matter.

One of the things I’ve been working on with the kids at the church, whether they’re elementary, middle, or high school level is how we can better understand what Spirit is, how we can connect to that divine energy, and how our will and the will of Spirit can work together to create a more positive and abundant life for us and our planet.

The endgame for most (if not all people) is to live a happy and joyful life.  The details as to what will make that person happy and joyful will change, but at the end of the day, everyone wants to be happy and filled with joy.

This is the will of Spirit.

Let me say that a different way: Spirit (God/Gods/Divine Energy/etc) wants us to lead a happy, joyous life fill with positivity and abundance.  This may look different for each person, but Spirit wants us be prosperous.

Joy and Happiness are like an island in the middle of a vast ocean of Spirit’s Will.  We are swimmers in that vast ocean, and the current is always pushing us towards that island.  We can either choose to swim with that current or against that current.  When we choose to swim against the current, we experience hardship after hardship.  Negative emotions and situations flood our surroundings as Spirit tells us over and over again, “No, not this way… Turn around.”  When we choose to swim with that current, we aren’t without bumps or “bad days” because the current is always moving and we aren’t the only thing in the ocean, but we experience an easier journey.  A journey of less hardship and filled with more happiness and joy that we could ever imagine.

So the question is this: do you act fully out of love or do you have other motives?

If the answer is that you don’t act fully out of love, then here’s a pretty easy response: don’t act.

Acting can mean any number of things: a physical action, something you verbally say, a comment or a post on Facebook or other social media.  If it’s not out of love, then don’t do it.

Now, I’m not saying that I’m perfect at this.  There are times when I fail at not saying anything or not posting anything on social media that is negative or said out of a less than loving place, but the point is that I am working towards improvement in this area.

I’m also paying less and less attention to the local and national news stations.  Most of the time now, someone will say to me, “Hey, did you hear about X, Y, and Z?”  And I respond with, “No, I haven’t actually.  What’s that about?” Big name news stations (such as CNN, Fox, Huffington Post, Washington Post, etc) aren’t in the business of selling the truth.  They’re in the business of selling themselves.  The more viewers and more hits they get, the more they can charge for advertising and the more money they will make.  The want to sell stories, not the truth.

And fear is easy.  Fear is controlling.  Fear will suck you in and wrap you up in a shroud of negativity and not let you go.  Fear spreads faster than fire in the middle of a drought.

News companies love selling fear.  They love telling you about this terrorist attack or this explosion or this death or this threat…  And they don’t really care whether or not the people they talk about have been proven guilty or what the families of those affected have to say.

How many times have you seen a story about a traffic wreck where someone died but the names have been released and neither have any of the details?  What’s the point of that story?  And there’s always comments about “so and so must have been speeding/texting/drunk/doing something they shouldn’t have been doing” when we have no idea about anything having to do with the actual cause of the wreck.  Why is this story posted?  Fear.

It’s not to inform us about traffic.  It’s not so we’ll pray for the affect families (because 9 times out of 10, we never find out who they are).  It’s to make us feel afraid of going out on the streets with all these other “maniac” drivers out there.

How many times have you seen a story about so and so being arrested for “suspected child abuse”?  Suddenly there’s a blood bath about child abusers need to be “taken out back and shot” or “this is why I would never send my child to X place” or “so and so is a monster!”  This person hasn’t been proven guilty.  We don’t have any details behind the story.  What ends up happening?

We destroy the privacy of others.  We create such a bad situation for them that if they end up not being guilty they can’t ever find a job because of the negative press.  We start to fear letting our kids go out an play on the playground or taking them to school and leaving them there because someone could kidnap/assault/kill them.  Fear. Fear. Fear.

Why do you think we’ve seen a “rise” in mass shootings? Or that it seems like they just keep getting worse and worse?  Why is it that we never really heard of ISIS and now it’s like they’re putting poison in our cereal boxes? (Side note: they aren’t, I’m being dramatic.)

Because people are getting crazier?  Because we suddenly have things like twitter where we can get news and information as it happens?

No.  It’s because mainstream news media will put added focus on it and give people who commit these crimes some X amount of fame.

We’re surrounded and drowning in a world full of fear and confusion.  We are constantly being bombarded with negativity in our media, so the time to be aware of this and make a point to change our own thinking and actions has never been greater.

Don’t respond hatefully or negatively to the news, the people around you, your job, your family, your home, etc.  Give these stories, these people, these situations love or passive acceptance.  Do not feed the flames of negativity and fear.  If you don’t feed the fire, it will eventually go out and be replaced with a life full of love and positivity.

Prosperity

Prosperity, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is the state of being successful, usually by making a lot of money.  The key word here is usually.  One of the biggest problems in relationships these days is money.  Money causes fights, breaks up would otherwise be loving couples, and causes a lot of stress.

I’ve struggled with money over the last five years.  I misplaced a lot of trust in a lot of different people, and it has caused me to lose a lot of time working and reworking my finances to figure out how I can make the debt go away as soon as possible, and then it seems as though I do one thing, and suddenly there is a something that happens that costs a lot of money (like my car breaking down, or our ferret getting cancer, or Erin needing another oral surgery).

We’ve come to realize that this is all just a part of life.  There will always be unforeseen expenses that will catch you off guard, and you just do what you can and keep moving forward.  When it gets to be around “big pay day,” which is the two pay weeks every month where Erin and I both get pay checks, it use to be that would literally stress myself into a complete and total meltdown.  I could cry myself to sleep.  I would wonder how I was going to put food on the table (because Erin had her own bills, and while she contributes as much as she can, the majority of the groceries are, right now, my responsibility.  This will more than likely change once she’s out of graduate school and making more money than I do.)

Growing up, I never wanted for anything.  My parents made/make good money, and they made sure that my first priority was always my education.  They took care of everything else so that all I had to do was focus on school.  They didn’t want me to have to get a job because they didn’t want anything that might get in the way of my educational success.  They paid for car, insurance, cell phone, college and graduate school tuition, rent while in college, and gas money, extra expensives, and gave me an allowance to go out and have fun with on occasion.  If I ever needed extra money, they would always help me out (within reason).

When I decided to get off my parents’ cell phone plan and car insurance plan and buy the car from them, my dad asked me multiple times if I was absolutely sure this was what I wanted to do.  I said yes.  It was time.

And I made a lot of mistakes before then, like I said.  I take responsibility for the debt I find myself in.  I’m a lot more financially conscious now than I was when I was still on my parents’ payroll.

Now, if you’re reading this… maybe you just find my life interesting or maybe you don’t like me and enjoy reading about my struggle with money or maybe you’re financially struggling two and looking for some sort of hope.  I found an article about a man who paid off $20,000+ in student debt in a year, and when I read the article, I realized one really important factor: He made $120,000 a year.

Well, of course he could pay it off in a year… that still leaves him with a lot of money.  That’s not at all a shocker to me!

I make $42,000 a year (before taxes), and Erin makes around $30,000 a year before taxes.  That gives us around $73,000 a year in combined income before taxes.  If we didn’t have the debt that we have, we would be insanely comfortable, but we don’t.  Instead, we do a lot of money saving through bulk purchases at a wholesaler and we buy veggies at a vegetable stand by our church.  We only shop the outside of the grocery store, so we make a lot of our own things and freeze them.

I’m completely open about my financial situation.  Not because I’m trying to garnish some sort of attention for myself, but because I want others who may be in a similar situation or not either get out of it or avoid getting into it all together.

With that said, we spend $1,959.43 every month in debt payments alone.  This does NOT include our power bill, water bill, netflix account, car insurance, cell phone, hulu account, internet bill, HOA fee, gym fees, and gas bill.  That number does not include putting food on our table or in our animals’ bowls.  That doesn’t include gas in our two cars.  It doesn’t include any emergency expenses.  It doesn’t include the amount we try to put into savings each month.  It doesn’t include things I can’t remember right now but know I am forgetting.

I spent a lot of time despairing over money.  My parents offered to help me pay the debt off, but this isn’t their problem.  I couldn’t ask them to do that after everything else they’ve done (like paying for our wedding and our honeymoon as gifts to us).  Now, you may think that I did a really stupid thing by telling them no, but that’s my choice and that’s that.Photo Aug 11, 10 58 31 PM

I will get out of this debt.

And you may be wondering what that debt looks like…  It’s $180,765.49.  This includes Erin’s braces payment, the best buy credit card, the Kay Jewelers credit card, Erin’s Discover card, my three visa credit cards, Erin’s two school loans, Erin’s car loan, and the mortgage (which is honestly most of the money in that number).

We do not plan on paying off all of the debt before we sell our home and move.  We probably won’t pay off the student loans and car before we sell our home and move.  So the real question is, what is the “real” debt number (the amount that we are really desperately trying to pay off as quickly as possible)?

$22,195.42

The above number is Erin’s braces and our credit cards.

Okay, this is great and all…. but what are you doing to make that number go down?

After our honeymoon, we came back and got settled into the routines of married life.  We looked at our bills.  We had a couple of unexpected expenses when we got back from our two week long vacation: an increase in one of our credit card bills due to spending during the honeymoon, a $250 house sitter payment, a higher-than-normal power bill, and finally, we have next to no food in the fridge, so our grocery bill was increased.

Needless to say, the rest of July and the first of August were spent playing catch-up.

Rule #1: Protect Your Credit Score

My credit score is 658.  It’s considered “fair.”  I won’t be able to borrow at a goodCapture interest rate, but I will generally not be refused a line of credit.  I started using a website called CreditKarma.Com about two days ago.  They are a TrustE sight, completely free, and will give you your credit score, for free, without actually affecting your credit score.

The biggest thing affecting my score is the fact that the amount of credit I have is being utilized (meaning that my credit cards have high balances). However, all of them are in good standing.

When you look at the Credit Karma website, which is really fascinating, and I suggest you make an account and check it out if you don’t have one already, it will tell you what is affecting your score.  There are three major things that carry a lot of weight: the amount of credit being utilized, payment history and derogatory marks (such as things going to collections and bankruptcies and other things along those lines).

This is the easiest way to protect your credit score: don’t miss any payments on any type of bill.  I’ve heard, “Oh, well, medical bills don’t affect your credit score.”  They do if they aren’t paid.  They can and will be sent to collections, and it will go against your score.  Even if you pay them off, they will sit there negatively for seven years.  If you don’t pay them off, they will continue to reappear on your credit report every seven years as it gets sent by the medical professionals from one collections company to the next.

So what can you do if you have medical bills like that?  Talk to the doctor’s office or hospital and try to work out a payment plan before the bill goes to collections.  Most times, they will be willing to work with you (unless you give them a reason not to).  If they don’t work with you and it goes to collections, at least you tried.  It still doesn’t mean you should not pay the bill.  Continue to pay what you can until it is paid off and then contact the collections agency and ask for them to remove the negative mark from your report or mark it as paid in full.  It will look better than it not being paid at all.

And something is better than nothing.  Even if you’re only paying $5 a month on it… at least that number is going down.

Rule #2: Set Aside and Snowball

Prior to getting married, Erin was paying her bills and I was paying mine.  She made money and I made money, and she paid her bills, and I paid my bills, but now we’re married, and it’s not just her and me… it’s us.

When that happened, we decided to work on this together as a team (but if you aren’t able to do that, you can still do the following by yourself).  We created a joint checking account.  All of our paycheck money is funneled into that account minus the minimum amount required to be directly deposited into our individual accounts.  The joint account is used to pay all of the bills in the family, regardless of what that bill is.  This includes the money that we use for gas and groceries.

Between Erin and I, we have two savings accounts and three checking accounts.  This weekend, we are going to look into transferring her savings into my savings account, adding her as an authorized user on my savings and then linking her individual checking account to my savings for her keep the change and overdraft protections.  This would give us a single savings account to focus on so that we can work on building up our savings while paying down our debt.

We’ve decided to set aside $100 a month into the savings account for emergency purposes.  Now, maybe you can do more than $100 or maybe you can’t do $100 and need to do less.  The idea is that you are taking some amount of money that you can live without, no matter how great or small, and setting it aside into a savings account that you only use in the event of an emergency.  If you don’t have a bank account, this can be a jar or a box or something… and it can even just be your lose change.  The idea is that you are just doing something greater than nothing.

The next thing that we did was open an Excel spreadsheet and write down every single bill that we had that was considered a debt (things like the power bill, which fluctuate on a month by month basis, don’t count).  After that, we ordered all the bills from the smallest bill to the largest bill, wrote down the minimum payment and how much we were paying on it.

Then came the hard part: we decided to focus completely on the smallest bill first, which was Erin’s braces.  To do that, we dropped all of our other bills down to their minimum payment and all the extra money we were paying towards other bills (which in our case came out to $120) went towards her braces payment.

I hate paying the minimum balance on a debt payment, so this part has been exceptionally difficult for me, but because of it, we will have Erin’s braces paid off in the next ten days.

Finally, the cool part.  Dave Ramsey, who I’m not a huge fan of for his heteronormative beliefs and anti-homosexuality actions, calls it “snowballing.”  I call it logical.

The money you are paying towards your debt is money you don’t really miss already because you’re paying it out.  So after you get the smallest bill paid off, the money going towards that gets added to the minimum balance on the next bill, accelerating that pay off.  Then it all gets added to the next one and then the next one and the next one until all the debt is gone, however long that takes.

For us, this means that after this month, our next debt will be paid off in October (only because Erin’s car taxes are due and some of our extra money in September has to go towards that instead).  Unless, of course, we get some divine intervention and end up with an extra chunk of change, which I honestly wouldn’t be surprised about.

Rule #3: Separate Your Needs from Your Wants

Erin and I have three separate checking accounts.  We have our join account and our individual or personal accounts.  The joint account is the needs account.  Out of this account comes all of the money for our bills, our debt, our groceries, our gas, and any other expenses which enable us to live our lives.  Our personal accounts are for things that we want.  If we want to buy lunch out, we have to have the money in our personal accounts.  If we want to go out wherever (movie, Dave and Busters, etc), we have to have the money in our personal accounts.  If we want to buy a present or gifts for someone, we have to have the money in our personal accounts.

Where does that money come from, you ask?  It is set aside from the joint account in our personal accounts.  We transfer the money either in or out so that we have a balance of $100 added to our personal accounts every month.  Now, $100 may not seem like a lot for a month, but don’t forget: this is our fun money.  This isn’t money for things that we need.  It is money for things that we want.

If we decide to spend or not spend that money, we will get another $100 the next month.  We can save it up for Christmas (where we’ll probably give ourselves a little bit more of an allowance), or we can spend it or whatever.  When my needs are being met, there isn’t much that I want for… I’m fairly content to hang out with my wife at home and watch Netflix or go on a hike somewhere for free.  We’re both fairly simple people.

It will also make us conserve more money and hopefully help us get a little bit more into our savings by the end of it.  We’re saving up for a down payment on a new home, even though that’s a few years down the road.

Rule #4: Have Faith

Regardless of whether or not you believe in a higher power, you can have faith.  Having faith is believing that something will happen, even if you don’t really have any proof that it will.  If you believe in a higher power, know this: That higher power is an all-loving and all-knowing entity that flows through all things.  That power wants what is good and best for you, and being financially secure is a part of that.  If you make choices that will help get you to that goal, then that higher power will see you through to the end of it.

If you don’t believe in a higher power, then know that the choices you are making now will have a wonderful and positive impact on your life in the future.  Never forget it!

Erin and I are religious and spiritual people.  We believe in a higher power that is all loving and that wants what is best for us in our lives.  We believe that the thoughts of our financial security and freedom were divinely inspired and placed in our brains by that higher power, which means they are divinely inspired and must come true.  Our motto from day one is “We will get through (insert whatever situation here) together.”  We will constantly remind each other that the Gods are on our side and will provide for us as long as we have faith.

And I’m not lying when I tell you this: We get random checks in the mail for small amounts of money.  We have gotten a lot of blessings in the form of cash as well.  For example: we had a registry through Bed, Bath, & Beyond that we posted online and all over everywhere.  Many people bought us gifts off that registry, or gave us gift cards, but an oddly high number of people simply gave us cash for our wedding.

We put every penny of it (minus the small amount that we took with us on the honeymoon) towards the debt.

At one point, I offhandedly opened a letter from Lenscrafters.  Usually, I would throw letters like this away, but we opened it for whatever reason, and inside was a check for a refund from an appointment I had two years ago.  We put that towards the debt as well.

Erin got a letter in the mail one day that randomly had a dollar bill in it with the promise to send her five more dollars if she filled out a short survey about her television or entertainment habits.  She filled it out, not thinking much about it but doing a “what the hell, let’s see what happens” and they sent her back $5.  Now, we get surveys in the mail asking us to track our TV habits for a week and they’ll pay us $35.  Since we don’t watch much TV because all we have is Netflix and Hulu, then it’s really easy, and we’re making quick and easy cash that we either put towards bills or we save for our “Next Generation Unity” meet up where we get together with all the other people at church our age and go play games at a local bar.

 

And that’s that.  Those are the four rules we’re following to get out of debt as quickly as possible.  We are trying exceptionally hard pay the credit cards off in the next two years so that we can hop back on the baby making train (or adoption train, whichever we end up doing).  It will all depend on my fertility, which, as always, is a fun game (not).

Honeymoon Part 4: Grand Turk and Orlando

Whelp, we’ve reached the end of the honeymoon updates.  Number four is the final one… Then it’ll be back to your unregularly scheduled updates!

Unfortunately for us, we had to get back on the ship at 2pm in San Juan.  We decided to spend the rest of that day ordering room service, reading, drinking, and chilling out.  I took a long nap after lunch and woke up in time to get ready and go to a late dinner.  Thus began the three day adventure of eat, drink, and be lazy.

IMG_1882We didn’t have an excursion for Grand Turk either.  Mainly because they seemed rather boring from what we saw and were extremely expensive at the same time.  I’m super glad we didn’t though.  Everyone on the ship kept saying how Grand Turk was a beach day.  When we were in St. Martin, one of the women who works in the spa told us there was nothing in Grand Turk except a very long stretch of beach and that theme was pretty well played out every day after that.

Since it was a beach day and we had the entire day there, we decided not to really rush to get off the ship, so by the time we got up and out of bed, we’d been docked at port for awhile.  When I looked out, I saw a lot of people on a perfect white sand beach in chairs and these little clam shell looking cover tents.

“We should get one of those.”  I said.

We got a late breakfast and managed to get off the ship around 10:30.  The first thing I noticed when we were off the ship?  The water was the clearest and bluest I’d ever seen.  You could easily see 20 feet straight down through it.  And there were lots of tropical fish swimming around.  It was going to be a good day. IMG_1885

We get down to the beach only to find out that they don’t take credit cards at the rental booth and the closest ATM or store that does cash back is well into town.  However, the ship had an ATM, so Erin ran back to the ship and I found us a couple of chairs.

When she got back, we rented one of the tent things, which was actually called a clam shell, and set up shop.  We pulled what I am now calling the H**** Myrtle Beach Maneuver  where I filled a water bottle partially with rum and partially with coke, buried it in my bag and walked out.

IMG_1893We had some really good luck in that our stewardess messed up our cabin with another cabin and delivered two large water bottles to our room.  We left them there for a couple of days to see if she’d take them back, but she didn’t… So we drank them and then started using them for alcohol instead.  Save money, drink happy.

We then took our goggles out into the water and started “snorkeling” without the snorkel…  I really wish I had an underwater camera and could have gotten pictures of what we saw because it was absolutely amazing: schools of fish swimming past you, patches of coral all around you, clear water as far as you can see.

We decided we wanted to explore a little bit more of the beach so we went to the other side of the pier, which was less crowded.  One of the guys walking back from that side told us the snorkeling was a lot better on the other side because it was less crowded and the coral was a lot more abundant.  We snorkeled around for a long time, seeing all kinds of fish and crabs…

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Took this just now… sun in my eyes… biggest shell ever.

…And that’s when I saw it…

The single biggest conch shell I have EVER SEEN.  It was literally THE SIZE OF MY FACE and in PERFECT condition aside from being covered in plants.  I dove down and picked it up off the bottom of the ocean floor to better examine it.

“What is that?”  Erin asked me as I swam up to the beach with it in tow.

“The single biggest conch shell I’ve ever seen.  I thought the ones like this were all fake.  I didn’t know they actually got this big.”

Better yet?  It wasn’t alive.  Something had eaten it and it was just an empty shell.  Erin took it back to our tent and stuck it back under our chair.  We were going to attempt to smuggle it back onto the boat.

On the way back, Erin found a whole sand dollar.  I examined it for a long time to make sure it was dead, and when I finally convinced myself that it was, I stuck it in my bathing suit pocket.  We then swam, snorkeled, and walked down the coast line until we got all the way to the end of the island (which isn’t as impressive as it sounds).  It was conch city.  We found four or five that we really liked and lugged them all back to the tent.

The entire time, we made plans to come back here some day and spend a week… or just move entirely.  It was, by far, our favorite place out of the four ports we went to.

IMG_1884We shoved the shells into the bottom of our bag, wrapped towels gently around them, put stuff in my purse, and headed back to the ship.  They scanned our bag and sent us on our way.  We got quite a few shells off that island and no one said anything to us.  Later, we we told my mom about it, she was surprised that they let us do that.

That night, we put all the shells out on our balcony because they stank like crazy.  I couldn’t wait to get them home and get them in some bleach!

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Last Day… so sad.

Something else happened during that day… Erin and I both lost our sea sickness patches.

My dad is a doctor, and he hooked us up with some sea sickness patches that you put behind your ear.  I wasn’t really worried about it for myself, but Erin gets motion sickness easily, so we wanted to make sure that she had them for herself.  I wore them too because it is better to be safe rather than sorry.  I figured we’d be okay since we only had a day left…

 

Photo Jul 11, 8 46 09 PM…But I was wrong.  Erin spent most of the last day on the ship sleeping off the nausea medicine we had in case we ran out of patches, which we did.  I did a lot of reading and then wandered about the ship some, checked out a couple of places, got a drink, relaxed and read some more, went back to the room, took a nap.

It was our last night in the dining room, and even though neither one of us were very hungry, we went and had dinner anyway.  We wrote our head waitress a thank you note, gave her an extra tip, and got a picture with her.  We’d been requesting to sit in her section all week, and by the end of the week, she knew our dining habits pretty well.  We always enjoyed going to dinner knowing that we’d have her to entertain us and make the extra long experience that much more enjoyable.

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Last day… so sad.

They gave us two options to get off the ship: early or late.  If you chose early, you had to take all your stuff with you when you left.  If you chose late, you left your bags outside your room the night before and they would come and pick them up. We chose early because even though the cruise was over, we still had three days left of our honeymoon, and the debarkation day was very packed.

We got up early, ate early, finished packing our last bits of stuff and then lugged all of our stuff out of room to the fifth floor to wait for our floor (the tenth floor) to be called.

IMG_1895At breakfast, we saw a water spout… the second one we’d seen in the last 48 hours.

It didn’t take very long, and we were completely off the ship by 10am.  I left Erin on the sidewalk with our stuff to go and grab the car.  The parking fee for those eight days? $120!  It was FIFTEEN DOLLARS A DAY FOR PARKING.  We spent almost as much on the parking as we did in spending money for the whole cruise.

We got the car loaded up and started heading towards Melborne, Florida.  As everyone is pretty aware at this point, IMG_9864Erin has been doing an online graduate school program through the Florida Institute of Technology.  It’s a pretty rigorous program, but she’s enjoying it and learning everything she can about her chosen field.

In planning out our travelling, I noticed that we would be driving through where her school was.

“You should contact the Dean.  He always said he enjoyed meeting students that are in the online program since he rarely ever gets to.”

She e-mailed him and he sent her back a confirmation and an address.  We got to his house, which is one of the single largest houses that I’ve seen that doesn’t have some sort of tour attached to it.  I’m pretty sure that my parents house could have fit inside it twice, and if you know my family, that’s saying something.

He had three garages…  Not a three-car garage… three different garages that would each house at least three cars.  He was in the process of building on an addition, and his house was on a preserve, so 70% of the land he owned had to be undeveloped… and boy oh boy… if his house was the 30%, this man owned more land than I can imagine.

He showed us around in his addition.  We walked into a large room that looked like your average biology lab, but without any of the equipment.

“This must be where he keeps all his research,” I whispered to Erin.

“Is this your lab?” Erin asked him.

“My lab?”  He looked out into the room.  “It does look like one, doesn’t it?  Oh no… This is my music room.  Each of these drawers is filled with CDs and over here… in these cabinets… are my vinyls.”

If they could, my eyes would have popped out of my head.  I’ve seen music stores with less music.  I wanted to take pictures, but I didn’t want to seem nosy or awkward, so I didn’t.  His collection, though, is easily worth MILLIONS of dollars.  Easy.  The music room has closed circuit monitoring and every door is key coded and armed.  Attached the the music room is a home theater that when completed, will seat 20.  It is completely sound proofed with a 162 inch screen and four speakers that are between 8 and 9 feet tall.  The seats are all going to be leather and they’ll all recline.

He took us and his three student assistants who were helping him move out to lunch at a seafood place on the river.  The students drove separately, but since we didn’t really know the area very well, he drove us… in his lexus…  He paid for everyone’s meals as well.

We chatted and enjoyed our time, thanked him for meeting with us when we got back, and he invited us to come and stay with him if we were ever in the area again.  When we got back into the car, I sighed heavily, took one last look at the house and said, jokingly, to Erin,

“You’ve got some catching up to do.”

She laughed, “Right?  I mean, if this is ABA, then we need to move to Florida and start hanging out around here more.”

“Or you could just because BFFs and start what he does up in South Carolina or some other state and make a fortune up there…”

We drove the rest of the way to Orlando and listened to Harry Potter on CD.  As we got closer, I decided to figure out the plan for the day.

I texted Kelly, our friend with whom we were staying.

“Hey, we have an ETA of 4 or so… When will your flight be in?”

“Shit, my flight has been delayed… I won’t land until 10:30pm.  You can stay with me, but it’ll be late and my house is a wreck.”

“We don’t really care about the house, we just want to see you and get mexican food and hang out.  We can find something to do until you get in.”

I frowned at my phone before looking at Erin.  “She’s delayed.”

“By how much?”

“She won’t land until 10:30.  What should we do?”

IMG_9877“It’s Orlando… Downtown Disney?”

So we went to Downtown Disney, got ice cream, walked through the lego store, took way too many selfies, ducked out of a storm, got a turkey leg, and made plans to go see a movie while we waited.  Then my phone goes off.

“My flight was delayed again.”

“How bad?”

“I won’t be landing until 12:30am, and it’s going to take me an hour’s drive to get home from the airport.”

“It’s okay, we’ll find a place to hang out or something.”

“I have a spare key with my girlfriend.  I’m going to call her at work and let her know you’re going tIMG_9898o come and get it from her.  Is that okay?”

“That’s better than okay.”

So we finished our turkey leg, got the key, and went to Kelly’s.  We decided to “take a nap” before going out to our late movie… but when it came time to get up to go to our movie, we were so tired that we both just went to bed instead.  We had an early morning the next day anyway.

Discovery Cove and our dolphin experience was the next day.  We got up early because check in started at 7:15am.  Unfortunately, we didn’t make it there at exactly 7:15am and ended up in the back of this really long line.  A woman came down and asked how many people were in our party.

“Two.”

IMG_9903“Step this way, please.”

Not having children pays off again.  We got bumped to the front of the line because our party size was small.  We got checked in, got our vests and other equipment, got our locker, and got our breakfast.  They served you breakfast and lunch there, and it was soooo yummy.  Breakfast sandwiches, fruit, french toast, pancakes, you name it… they had it for breakfast just about.  After we ate, we found a spot with an umbrella next to the reef and talked talked about our plans for the day.

Once 8am hit, we were able to get in the water… and holy cow… The water was FREEZING.  I had a time trying to get mine to not leak, but once I did, we snorkeled for a long time before heading over to our dolphin experience, which was one of the first ones of the day.

Apparently, at Discovery Cove, if the dolphins don’t want to work that day, they don’t have to, and a whole group decided to take Monday off, so the others were working double time to make up for it.  Our group was delayed by an hour, so the manager comped us a DVD of the dolphin experience for free.  Definitely worth the extra wait time.IMG_9914

We got a dolphin named Dexter who had just moved up the ranks enough to start breeding, so he was super flirty with the girl dolphins around and kept trying to show off for the girl dolphin next to us.  We got to feed him, pet him and then swim with him.  The whole experience lasted about 30 minutes, but it felt like it went by so much faster than that.

Afterwards, we went to the lazy river and got out at the aviary to feed the birds.  It was a lot larger than I remember it being, but the whole place had been expanded since we first visited, so I wasn’t really surprised.  We wanted to go before lunch because we didn’t want the birds to be full by the time we got to them later if we waited.  I’m glad we didn’t wait because they were everywhere.  At one point, I had one land on my head.

We got lunch, went and saw the otters and monkeys, and then Erin took a nap while I went back to the reef.  After about 30 minutes, two of the educators that worked there took a shark out of the small “wading pool” and gathered a bunch of people around for an impromptu lesson about baby sharks.  They needed to film them playing with this shark in a small group, so we all got to benefit from it.  Erin woke up and walked over just in time for everyone to touch the shark, so that was an awesome experience.

After they put the shark back, they started to feed the rays.  I have no idea how they tell them apart.

“This is my dream job.” I said.

“What is?”

“Working here… directly with the animals… in a teaching capacity… Where I could do tours or small groups and then go home a night and be done.  And get to spend all my time working with exotics… It’s just amazing.  I wonder what it takes to get a job in a place like this.”

“Only one way to find out,” Erin said plainly.

We spent the rest of the day just enjoying the reef, drinking the included alcohol, and sneaking snacks back to our locker for our drive home the next day.

We got dinner (Mexican food) with Kelly and a couple of her friends that night, woke up when we woke up the next morning, and made the trek back home.  It was such an amazing experience.  We’re already making plans for our next vacation to take place in the Keys in Florida or some other place, but school might be a problem… because…

WE’RE BOTH IN GRADUATE SCHOOL!

I got my acceptance letter while I was in the middle of writing this blog!  I start this month!  So excited!

The First Day Upon The Year

Yesterday started The Days Upon the Year, or the Days outside of time.  It’s the five days preceding the Kemetic New Year, which Erin and I made a point of really celebrating this year.  It’s a time when Osiris, Horus the Elder, Set, Isis, and Nephthys are born. It’s a time where Ra, the Sun God, has no control over the happenings of the planet, so a lot of things can happen.

I’ve been feeling the energy building over the last few weeks, and last night, we set up our shrine to the five and lit the candle before Osiris, said a blessing and a prayer, lit some incense and then spent some time in quiet reflectiveness and colored.  We listened to some relaxing music and just enjoyed our time in peace.

Things have been in a constant state of shift here, which I guess is to be expected with the spiritual new year upon us.  The only constant in this world is change, right?  That’s what my minister always says.

When we got back from our honeymoon (which has one more blog update, and we just got our photos back so I can finish it hopefully this week), we immediately got all of our name change stuff done.  We went to the DMV and the SSA office and had zero problems getting everything changed like we needed to.  We’ve printed out the forms to update our passports, gotten our work names updated (I have a new e-mail address with school!), and then opened up a joint bank account.

We re-examined our debt.  Rather than trying to tackle it separately, we’ve decided to tackle it together.  We took every last penny of debt we had (including Erin’s school loans, car payment, and the mortgage) and put them all into a spread sheet before organizing them from smallest to largest.  We looked at how much we were paying on each compared to the minimum balance and then reduced all except the smallest to the minimum payment.  The extra money is all going towards the smallest bill, which happens to be Erin’s braces.

After that is paid of, which will be the end of August, we will move on to the second largest bill, which is the Best Buy credit card.  That should be paid off in September.

At this rate, we’ll have all of the credit card debt paid off by the end of next year, which is a huge deal for us.  This means that we’ll be able to start seriously getting into family planning at the end of next year at the latest.  I could start resurrecting my fertility blog once that gets closer because I don’t want to really get into all the fertility stuff here.

We have an interesting chain of events occur here, as well.  Erin and I have a friend, my best friend actually, who will be moving into our spare room in the next couple of months.  It’ll put her closer to her job and give us a little bit of extra income via her rent payment (which is ridiculously low), which we will be putting entirely towards the debt.  We don’t need her to move in with us to stay afloat, but she needs a place and we’d like to be out of debt sooner rather than later, so we both get helped out in this case.

At this point, Erin won’t be going to Germany, which I’m both happy and sad about.  Happy because I won’t be without her for a month to two months, but sad because she was looking forward to traveling outside of the country.  Now, I’m working on plans to go back to Germany (probably not this summer, but maybe next summer or the summer of 2017).  We want to go to Europe before we have children.  Erin has never been, and I want to take her there.  I want to show her the world, literally, and I plan on doing the best I can.

We’ve been looking into our next summer vacation, and we’ve found a couple of places in the Florida Keys that we’re interested in maybe going to for a week and then hitting up Harry Potter World on the way back in Orlando…

The only problem with these plans?  Graduate school.

Erin will be right in the thick of her second year classes, and if I get accepted into Clemson, I will be in my third semester of graduate classes as well.  It could be that we’re too busy to really go on anything fancy next year, but we’re looking into it just the same.

Speaking of Clemson, I got all my paperwork into the University, so now I’m just waiting to hear back from them.  Their summer term ends in August, and the fall one one starts in August, so I expect to hear from them in the next week or two before getting thrown head first back into the educational learning sphere.  I’m really excited, honestly.  This will provide me with my second masters, the ability to teach at the University level if I ever wanted to, and a really nice bump in pay.  By this time next year, I’ll have enough hours to bump into the next pay level, and that will be amazing.

It’s really the only pay grade that worth it in the educational system.  The only one above the Masters +30 is the doctorate level pay, and the amount of money you make there isn’t worth the extra effort it takes to get the doctorate.  If I ever decided to get a doctorate, I’d leave the classroom and go work in policy or university settings so that I could help the next generation of teachers become better teachers.

As for my teaching job, it’s starting back up week after next, but I’m going to be going to the school the next few days to work on getting my classroom set up.  I have a floater coming into my room during one of my planning periods, so I will have to keep myself really organized this year…

… This should be interesting.

Erin’s probably going to start laughing after reading that line.  My version of organized is… well… not very organized to the general eye of the beholder… and with someone else coming into my room on a daily basis, I’m going to have to keep it clean.

Stop laughing, Erin.  It’s what I have Beta Club students for (to clean my room for volunteer hours).

Aside from that, my last week at my summer job is next week.  I will be going back to the first Saturday of the month to keep me on the schedule.  I’ll still be able to open up during breaks and such if I want to, but if graduate school gets to be too much, I may have to let the job go next summer, which will be a little sad since I’ve been working there for almost a year now.

We’ve been working on not being lazy at home.  We’ve gotten a lot of our wedding photos hung up around the house and we’re working on getting our ancestor shrine up on the walls (we have the frames, now we need to get the pictures printed in black and white).  There is just stuff everywhere right now.  We’re cleaning out the spare closet, organizing wedding gifts, getting stuff put away (slowly), and just working on getting the house back into order.

Like I was saying earlier, this time of the year is a time for great changes and a time when the Evil One (Apep), whose name we don’t speak aloud, can try to come out into the world and cause a lot of problems.  There’s been a lot of chaos that we’re working on getting back into order with all the stuff we have going on, and today we had an interesting experience…

When we got home from the store, the house was really dark.  It wasn’t like a darkness that was normal either.  It was a darkness that felt like it was pressing in on us.  I didn’t mention anything at first until I started rubbing on my anxiety.  When I told Erin about it, she said that she felt the same way.

I said, “What if it’s the evil one?  The uncreated one??”

We turned on a lot of the lights to banish him and then it felt a lot better in the house.

Holy Cow, it’s nearly 2AM… I need to go to bed.

Honeymoon Part 3: St. Kitts and Puerto Rico

IMG_1630On day three, we woke up already docked in the port.  Erin and I got up an had a large breakfast, as usual, and then got our stuff from the room before heading downstairs.  This was our bus tour and private beach day.  When we got off the ship, there was a lot of people around holding signs to tell us where we needed to go.  It wasn’t time for our excursion yet, so we decided to wander around the city for a little bit and see what there was to see.

We made it a point NOT to carry cash around with us because we knew people would be trying to get money from us at every turn.  The day before, we’d been stopped at every turn by people wanting us to rent chairs or umbrellas or buy jewelry or anything else they were selling.  We used the “we don’t have any cash on us” as an excuse to get away quickly from people who were heckling us.

When we walked into the square at St. Kitts, there were groups of people around.  One of them approached us and IMG_1638plopped a monkey in Erin’s arms.  We told him no, and that we didn’t have any money, but he just told me to take some pictures and then switched the monkey to my arms and told Erin to take some pictures.  We told him again that we didn’t have any money.  He looked shocked, pointed us at an ATM at the casino, and then told us it was $20 total.

Excuse me? What?

IMG_1642“Unfortunately,” the casino wasn’t open.  We went around to a back path, and walked up along side the main area completely avoiding the guy, and then cut back onto the main street again.  We went out to the main road where we learned three really interesting things: very little was in English first, all the cars were on the opposite side of the road, and the steering wheels were all on the opposite sides as well.  I took as many pictures as I could that I could get to be clear.

We went hat shopping and I bought a bag.  I tried on almost every single hat at the store until I found one that fit my head.  I have the hardest time finding hats that fit me because my hair is so thick and my family has a “big head” IMG_1658problem, so they almost never fit.   BUT I found one and it was super floppy, and those were my two requirements: super floppy and fits.

When our time came to meet for the bus to go on our tour, we cut around to the back again to avoid monkey-man and then made a break for it to the gate.

We’re standing in a line after confirming we were in the right place.  Then, this native guy, who is black with these pretty kick ass dreads comes up to us as the group and directs us to his bus, which is actually his van and he’s joking around with the other bus drivers, and there are people all around like, “Hey, welcome onboard the blah blah blah wagon” in their super thick accents.

I lean over to Erin and say, “Do you feel like we’re in the middle of a Sense 8 episode?”

IMG_1662Her eyes got all wide, “Oh my gosh! Yes!  I was just about to say that!”

We got a really awesome tour of the surrounding area.  They drove us all the way up to the top of a mountain, stopped the bus, let us get out and take pictures, and then we went down the other side to a private beach where we spent the rest of the day snorkling and gathering shells and trying to even out our sunburns.

When it was time to go, we got back on the bus and headed back to the ship.  We got something to eat, avoided the entrance again, and then headed back to the ship about an hour or so before it took off.IMG_1701

The next day was Puerto Rico.  We didn’t get an excursion because my dad had told us about these forts that were walking distance from the pier.  We got up early, had breakfast, and left the ship for San Juan.  From the dock, I could see a fort, so we started walking towards it.  Everything…. Literally, everything…. was in Spanish.  It was amazing.

“It’s funny.” I said.

“What is?” Erin asked.

“That we had to go all the way to Puerto Rico to feel like we’re in a completely different country…”

IMG_1745“And it’s part of the United States?” She finished.

I laughed, “yes, exactly.”

We went up to the fort and found out that it didn’t open until nine, so we walked across to another fort, and by the time we got there, it was open.  We paid and walked around, read a lot about the Spanish-American War, took a lot of pictures.  There was a cat that was super friendly that we wanted to take home with us, but didn’t think that we could hide her in the ship… or in my bag… or anywhere, really.  She was young.IMG_1766

After the fort, we walked down through a neighborhood onto the main shopping district.  We stopped at a church and then I decided that I wanted a Jesus statue.  We went through a few stores and I couldn’t find what I was looking for, so we went up to the other fort.

IMG_1831They’re almost identical, and we didn’t have a lot of time, so we didn’t go through every part of it in detail.  The worst part of the cruise was that they gave us the least amount of time in the place where we had the most to do.  On our way to the gate, we started talking about our plans to come back and explore the area more.  We’d love to spend a week or more there and explore San Juan more and then go outside the city some and explore everywhere.

We got back on the ship and decided to get room service as the ship pulled out.  We showered, sat around in our bathrobes, ate food, drank, took pictures from our balcony, watched movies, and just spent time together.  We got dinner late, went to a movie, got pizza afterwards, and then went to bed.

 

The New Year is Upon Us

And boy oh boy does it feel AMAZING!

Wep Ronpet and Zep Tepi are approaching soon.  For this area, Zep Tepi is on August 6th, which means that Wep Ronpet begins on August 1st.  Zep Tepi is the Kemetic New Year and Wep Ronpet are the five calendar days that come before it that are the five days that aren’t actually part of the year.  They’re set apart from the rest of the year as the birthdays of Wesir, Heru-wer, Set, Aset, Nebt-het.

I can always feel the energy building as these days get closer and closer.  The desire to clean and organize and center…. So much happens as new creation begins to take place while other creations are coming to an end.

This year, Erin and I are going to celebrate each day with gifts and a big dinner on Zep Tepi.  We’re going to cultivate some family traditions.

The amazing thing that I’m noticing this year is the closing and opening of different events that are happening in my life.

First, last year I was was super baby crazed.  I wanted a kid more than anything else in the world and was getting seriously jealous of people who had kids and were getting pregnant so easily.  Now, I feel those emotions slipping out of me.  I’m no longer jealous.  I’m enjoying where I am now and living in this moment here with my wife.

Secondly, there’s so many things that are growing in my life.  We’re paying down our debt and have a solid plan to make it happen within two years, the elementary program at church is getting stronger every week, the high school program at the church is setting up a Wednesday evening group that they want me to help plan and get going, we’re working on a middle school program and strengthening the nursery program, but that’s not the most exciting thing…

I spoke to the minister today after service and not only did he agree… but he’s excited and wants me to organize….

A PAGAN SPIRIT CIRCLE WITHIN THE CHURCH!  Holy cow!  I’m so excited and blessed to have this opportunity to bring more Paganism into Unity and have the support and love there to make it happen.  There is truly no other church in the area that is this loving and accepting.

The new year is coming and so many GOOD things are happening!

Equilibrium

One of my “blogger girls,” aka the girls I follow in the TTC community, just recently had her baby. I looked at her smiling face and her squishy newborn. I scrolled through and saw all the baby pictures from everyone that had been posted and I felt…

…Happy. 

I felt happy for her and her wife. I felt happy for their families and their friends…

…and I felt happy for myself, that it wasn’t me. 

Usually I get this feeing that I’m happy but in a jealous sort of way, but not this time. I was genuinely happy for her with not a single ounce of jealousy in my body. 

Why?

Because I am so so so glad that Erin and I don’t have kids right now. We have each other, and that’s all I want right now. We want to go and do so many things… We want to go to Europe (if Erin goes to Germany with her client for a month or two, I may see about going and visiting her while she’s over there).  

She’s in graduate school for another years and when I get my acceptance to Graduate school in a couple weeks (because I have little doubt about my acceptance), then I will be going for my second masters and that’s another two years. 

We don’t plan on waiting two years, but Erin being out of school is ideal. We don’t want to have to worry about finding child care or baby friendly things to do right now. I’m feeling selfish with my time with Erin. 

I want to spend all the time I can with her, and a baby would change that. It wouldn’t be bad, just different, and I’m not wanting different right now. Not yet. 

I haven’t felt this at peace with my childlessness in a long time. My infertility isn’t weighing down on me. My urge to procreate isn’t bubbling over into massive bouts of negative emotions. 

I’m so glad Erin and I chose to wait after our first attempt didn’t work so that we could focus on our wedding and having the time of our lives on our honeymoon, which I promise I will write more about soon. Things have just been so busy here recently that I haven’t had the time. 

I don’t know how this peace came over me, but it has and I’m going to hold on to it for as long as I can!

Quickie Before Bed

I haven’t forgotten about my honeymoon updates.  I promise more pictures are coming soon!  We were vacationing for 14 days, so there’s a lot more to tell.

The last few days have been really crazy and busy.  Erin got a raise at work.  She also found out that one of her clients is moving to GERMANY and that she may be going over there for some amount of time to train the new therapists.  She may also end up going over there once a month for maintenance purposes, but it’s all up in the air right now.  The bottom line is that she’s going to get her passport updated with her new name so that she can go to Germany if she ends up needing to.

We went to the bank today and talked to a financial guy about setting up a new JOINT checking account and getting our names changed there so that we could get our names changed at our jobs…. including our direct deposit stuff.

He told us about new thing they are doing called the Better Balance Credit, where there’s 0% interest the first year and if you make more than the minimum payment, the bank will give you $120 extra a year.  We’re hoping that Erin gets approved with a high enough amount that she will be able to do a cash advance on the card and we’ll pay off mine and then payoff the big payment a lot faster without any interest for a year.  Even if she doesn’t get the amount we need, zero interest for a year is less than what I’m paying on my debt now, so it will help.

I’m so happy that she’s willing to do so much to make sure that we’re both taken care of.  If she gets approved for the full amount, this could me a lot of open doors to us a lot sooner than we’d expected… because we could get the debt paid off faster and then use that line of credit to start fertility treatments and BUY SPERM!  Because the bank we are looking at using now is higher priced, but they have better reviews.

This is huge stuff for us!  So I’m super excited!

But more tomorrow (hopefully).  Night!

Unity and the Confederate Flag

Erin and I attend the local Unity church.  We use to go to the UU in town because they have a Pagan group associated with them, but we almost never heard the minister give a message, and the messages we were hearing weren’t spiritual to us, they were humanist (and we’re not very humanist).  We wanted the Gods’ energy in our lives, and we weren’t getting it there.  Then we found out we can go to the Pagan meetings without being a member of the church, so we stopped going.

I’m a member of the Earth Spirit group at the UU church, just not the UU church itself, but we haven’t been to any of the meetings, mainly because I can’t ever seem to figure out when they are and then I don’t know what the topics are, so we just haven’t really gone.  We’ve been meaning to, though, and we probably will at some point.  We attend the Pagan Pride event every year that’s held at that church though, and we enjoy it.

But we absolutely love Unity, and Unity accepts us as not only a lesbian couple, but also as a Pagan one.  We aren’t the only pagans in attendance, and I’m in the possible early stages of starting a pagan spiritual group within in the church itself.  We’re also looking at possibly starting one or two services a year to specifically celebrate pagan holidays…  There’s lots of exciting things happening.

Before Erin moved down here, we attended Jubilee in Asheville and the UU here, but we felt more connected at Jubilee.  Unity is definitely the closest thing in the area to Jubilee, and it’s even more earth/spiritual based than Jubilee was because Jubilee read from the Bible every week.  Unity doesn’t do that, so we are even more at home.  It’s the perfect place, and I get everyone I can to go.  We’re growing, and it’s wonderful.

I’m in charge of the Youth Education there and the kids learn stuff about the Bible, but starting next month, they’re going to start learning other traditions too, which I am really looking forward to.  It’s an extremely strong program that I’m very proud to say I was a part of.

Anyway, I’m saying all of this because while we were on the cruise, something wonderful happened: Nikki Haley ordered the removal of the Confederate Flag from the state house grounds and have it sent to a museum, which is where a piece of history belongs anyway.  Erin and I were lucky enough to watch it from our cabin because we happened to have television at the time, so we got to watch it live.

The entire time, I was whooping and clapping and cheering from the couch.  Finally, Nikki Haley did something I didn’t disagree with and South Carolina isn’t fully being shit on for its choices.  The response on my Facebook feed about the entire thing has been really one sided on my side of the issue.  I guess this means one of two things: I’m not friends with any racist idiot assholes OR they’re just being smart for once and not saying anything.

Since I’ve started going to Unity, I’ve begun working on only focusing on the positive and letting go of all the negative around me.  Unity keeps itself out of politics for the most part, which I appreciate (because the UU can get overly political from time to time and it zaps all of my spiritual energy away when it does), but the church fully preaches that all life is part of the divine energy.  It teaches that there are certain spiritual laws or Truths, but that everything else is debatable and changeable and that they shouldn’t try to force their specific religious thought patterns on each other, and this is what I kept thinking about the government when that flag was coming down: South Carolina’s government as become slightly more neutral.  They’re not longer publicly supporting something that represents such a bad part of history.  They aren’t preventing others from flying the flag, but as a neutral government, they are no longer openly taking sides on the issue.

The Confederate Flag in South Carolina has an interesting history.  The Stars and Bars is actually a Confederate battle flag for the state of Virginia.  It has little to NOTHING to do with South Carolina in the first place, and it didn’t start flying on State House grounds until 1961.  Originally it was put up to commemorate the Civil War, but there was never a date to bring it back down, so it just kept flying ever since then… but something else was going on in 1961 too: South Carolina was being forced to integrate their schools, something South Carolina wasn’t really happy about.  It may just be a coincidence that the flag went up then and never came back down, but it’s a pretty interesting one….

On top of that, the flag has been used by the KKK as a symbol of white power, which is really racist.  Flying the confederate flag in the South is the equivalent of flying a Nazi flag in Germany… It represents a bad part of history, and it needs to go into a museum where it belongs.  You don’t see many Germans running around with Nazi flags, do you?  No.  Because they know better than to be that outwardly racist.

The Confederacy was formed because South Carolina started to get upset that non-slaveholding states were granting their escaped slaves freedom, which then denied them of their property.  They were worried that the federal government was going to continue to make antislavery laws that would cause them to lose their slaves and this ticked them off so they left.  Yes, it was about the states having the right to govern themselves, but it was because of slavery that the issue even came up.

If you don’t believe me, read the “this is why we’re leaving” article from South Carolina written in 1860 here.  Here’s a couple of highlights from it though if you’re curious:

  • “they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery”
  • “They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.”
  • “A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that “Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free,” and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction.
    This sectional combination for the submersion of the Constitution, has been aided in some of the States by elevating to citizenship, persons who, by the supreme law of the land, are incapable of becoming citizens; and their votes have been used to inaugurate a new policy, hostile to the South, and destructive of its beliefs and safety.
    On the 4th day of March next, this party will take possession of the Government. It has announced that the South shall be excluded from the common territory, that the judicial tribunals shall be made sectional, and that a war must be waged against slavery until it shall cease throughout the United States.
    The guaranties of the Constitution will then no longer exist; the equal rights of the States will be lost. The slaveholding States will no longer have the power of self-government, or self-protection, and the Federal Government will have become their enemy.”

There is zero… absolute zero… support that this so call “Confederate Flag” is a symbol of Southern Heritage and not racism or hate or slavery when the whole reason it exists in the first place is because the federal government said “Slavery bad” and the Southern States said, “Fuck you, we’ll leave so we can keep our slaves.”

It’s hate not heritage and I am SO glad it has come down!

Honeymoon Part 2: Two Days at Sea, St. Martin

On the way into the ship, they take your picture in front of a back drop of the ship.  The photographer said, “Can you and your sister come over here and I’ll get your picture?”

I half laughed, and the photographer caught it, “Is everything okay?”

I said, laughing, “She’s my wife.”  He apologized profusely, asked if we were honeymooning, congratulated us, took our picture, congratulated us again, and we walked up the ramp.

When we got on the ship, our room wasn’t ready for about an hour and a half to two hours, so we decided to go get lunch, which was included in the price.  They told us the food was on “Deck 9, Lido, Mid,” so we checked the map they gave us, found an elevator, and carried our carry on bags up to the lunch room.  They recommended we bring a carry on in case our bags didn’t get up to our room until later that evening, since you check them in and they deliver them to the rooms.

We had the option to spend extra money to get our bags up to our room before everyone else, but line karma example 1 and 2: when IMG_9728we got done with lunch, it was close enough to go to our room, so we went down to see if it was ready, and we dropped our bags off… when we went leave, Erin’s bag was waiting for us at the door when we opened.  We drug it back in and then went to go get a drink.  I was a little surprised that we didn’t have my bag yet, but I didn’t care.  When we went to go get a drink, the bar was closing down to get everyone to go to the safety briefing.  On the way to our muster station, we saw my bag outside the room, so we threw it it in there.

After the briefing, we were in the first group to leave, so we decided to go unpack.  The room right next to us was complaining because they’d paid the extra money… and their bags weren’t all in their room yet.  I felt really good about not spending that money.

We finally managed to get a drink and got to watch the ship pull completely out.  We walked around and got an idea of were everything was.  By this time, it was pushing dinner time.  We had picked the “your time dining” option so that we could chose if we wanted to go to dinner early or later, and we will do that in the future when we go on our next cruise.  We got dressed up, went do dinner, and then we we got back to our room the bed had been turned down and we got a print out of the next day’s activities… and Carnival makes these towel animals each night and leaves them on the bed, so it was always fun coming back and checking to see what was next.

IMG_9736That night, we went to a movie out by the pool, got a free glass of champagne at the adult night club, and then went to the LGBT meet up.  We didn’t really meet anyone, but we enjoyed the drinks.  Afterwards, we went back to the room and cleaned up our rum drink glasses from earlier in the day.  We’d ordered some alcohol to be placed in our room prior to the cruise starting and we brought on two bottles of champagne, so we cleaned up the classes from the bar (which we could carry anywhere on the ship), filled them with our own alcohol (which we weren’t technically supposed to do), and then left our room with our own alcohol.  It helped us save money.

We were also awarded some on board credit, which was nice.

The next day, we went to a Harry Potter Trivia event, a Thriller dance lesson, and then a digital scavenger hunt.  We teamed up with a guy who was named Ray, they gave us this list of 20 items an three or four bonus items.  We set off across the ship, snapping photos, laughing IMG_9800-0and running.  When we got back, we found out that we’d only missed two photos, one of which was a picture of a lifeboat that didn’t exist.  When she tallied up the results, she told us that not only did we win, but we had a score that was higher than any score that she’d ever seen, so not only were we getting trophies, she sent us a bottle of champagne to our room as well!

We then went to dinner and to a piano bar where you called out a song and the performer would play it on the piano and play it.

The next day, we had an excursion set up in St. Martin.  Of all the four ports, St. Martin was our least favorite.  There were two main streets in Phillipsburg, and one of them was all food.  The second was all jewelry, and we weren’t shopping for high end jewelry.  I have zero desire to buy a set of earrings for $60 or a $2,000 ring for the hell of it.  The people were so unbelievably pushy, too.  We were both worried by the end of it that we weren’t going to enjoy the other days if they were all like this.

Don’t get us wrong… St. Martin was beautiful.  We swam in the crystal clear ocean and bought some authentic local food, and just really enjoyed ourselves, but we were exhausted from all the awkward “no, thank yous” we kept having to tell everyone.  When we were leaving, we decided that we wanted to make shirts that said, “No, we don’t want jewelry.”  We had money, but this cruise was a $2,000 wedding present from my parents, so we didn’t have thousands of dollars to spend.

I got a little burned that day, and after all the running around town from the scavenger hunt we did, we both slept really well that night.

 

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