Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Let's talk for a minute about Peter MacKay

Recently, a news story broke that Peter MacKay's office sent a Mother's and Father's Day email to the Department of Justice employees.  Both emails separately are actually pretty nice.  Together though, they've released a firestorm of criticism.  In the mother's day email, it talks about all the work mothers have to do before and after work (which, in at least my case, is all true).  In the Father's Day email, he talks about the responsibility father's have on shaping the minds of the future generations (which, I think is also very true).  You can read the full transcript of both here.

Listen, if you want to find a feminist, you don't need to look any further.  There is nothing that hurts me more than knowing that my daughter will grow up in a world that still doesn't value her as much as her brother.

But nothing in either of those letters is false, and actually I don't think either are offensive either (except for the fact that they are true).

Let's start by getting some facts straight about these letters.

1) The chances that Peter MacKay wrote these or even saw these letter is slim to none.  He's not sitting behind his desk trying to come up with material and thinking about the most malicious thing he can possibly say.

2) I highly doubt these letters were written to be compared.

Here's the thing: getting upset over the fact that he wrote one thing in one letter and one in the other, is kind of like me complementing my children each individually - calling my daughter nice, and my son smart, and then my daughter complaining that I shouldn't have called my son smart because 'I'm smart too!'.  I'm still complementing you, even if I'm not listing all your strengths.

And here's the other thing.  It's true.  Every morning I do change diapers, make lunches, think about supper, pile the kids in the car, etc.  Dave does these things too.  And every day Dave has an important role of shaping our children's minds and futures.  I do this too.

And although there are lots of men who change diapers and make lunches and think about supper, the reality is that gender roles in the household are still not equal.  I don't say this to diminish what men do, and I don't say it to diminish women's roles.  But gender equality has to start at home.

Being pregnant with my third has taught me this too.  Although I want full equality for women, it's unlikely to happen anytime soon.  I'm still the one who has to tell my boss I'm pregnant before I release it publicly.  I'm still the one who hears how 'having babies really puts a strain on companies'. I'm still the one who feels bad for being on maternity leave, but also gets criticized by my peers if I go off maternity leave too early (because I'm missing out on important year with my kids).  Dave doesn't have to do these things.  And although parental leave is an option for men, women still, for the most part, take it.  That year off?  That does detrimental things for careers too.  Let me clarify, I value and appreciate the maternity leave we get in Canada.  But gender roles in everyday life still aren't equal.

And the emails that Peter MacKay's office sent?  They weren't offensive.  They were different, but they were true.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Dear churches (a plea for better Facebook pages)

Dear churches,

I spend a good portion of my time on Facebook.  Partially for my job and (embarrassingly) I waste too much personal time on it.

But some of the time I spend on Facebook, I spend perusing your church Facebook page.  That's right.  I'm a church creeper.

I like to Facebook church creep for a couple of reasons:

  • Many of the things we do as a church, I steal borrow from what other churches are doing.  Some of you have awesome ideas - so I like to find those and see if they can work in our context.
  • I want to know what your church is like.  
  • I'm just generally nosy.
But often, I am disappointed by your church Facebook page.  Listen: I am no expert.  90% of what I've learned I've learned from trial & error.  But I'm going to put my advice out there for you anyway.

Here's why I am disappointed.  I look at your Facebook page and have no idea what your church is like.  Sure you post some sermon slides, your logo might be there, and even a picture or two of your building.  If I look hard enough, I might find a picture of your church organist, or the woman who serves coffee.  Which really, is sweet.  But as a 20-something who is (probably selfishly) looking for flash and excitement, you haven't yet convinced me that I should visit your church.

I over post pictures on our church Facebook page.  We try to take and post photos every week.  Yes, it is overkill.  But it has some benefits:
  • Tagging! If you are in a picture on our church's Facebook page, and I am FB friends with you, I'm probably going to tag you in it.  Yes, you may hate that picture of you - but I do it because when I tag you in a photo, that means that that photo instantly shows up in more people's newsfeeds.  Tagged photos also get better engagement which boosts how many people Facebook shows my posts too - it's a win-win for the church!
  • It makes you feel like you missed out.  We all know those people, the ones who come to church every second or third week (maybe wrongly, some of us even wish we were those people).  Well, when I post a picture of something fun the kids are doing, or some awesome activity we did upstairs, the hope is that for one second, maybe someone who missed this past week thinks 'Dang, I should have been there'.  And that's crucial.
  • You know what you are getting into.  Maybe you are really outgoing.  I'm not.  I don't like going to new places by myself, and I especially don't like going there if I don't know what to expect.  Sure, you write cute paragraphs on your church website that tell me I'm going to find a group of welcoming people - but I bet Westboro Baptist probably has that on their website too (never mind -I looked, they don't)   And also - how old are the people going to be there?  Will I find people my age?  Are there cool things my kids will be doing or will they be bored?  How busy is it?  Are there 5 people there or 100?  Sure, you say I don't need to wear a suit - but will everyone else be wearing one?  These are all questions that run through my mind before I visit a church.  Every one of them can be answered by some real pictures.
But, don't let them just be any pictures!  Later this week, I'll talk about some tips of capturing some appealing shots of your church!

What do you think?  Does your church have a Facebook page?  If you were going to visit a church would you check their Facebook page first?  Are you a church Facebook page creeper too?

Friday, March 28, 2014

Interest-free Student Loans

I've resurrected my blog! 

I got fired up about a segment I heard on our local CBC drive home program, Shift.  They were talking about how Nova Scotia has eliminated interest on provincial student loans.  Then, they played clips of what students in New Brunswick thought of the new program and whether these students thought NB should adopt a similar policy.  Well, here are my thoughts on the matter.

I think we've obviously done a great disservice to our young adults by not teaching them basic financial principles - we've created an entitled generation.  One girl interviewed on the program said that the government shouldn't charge more money when students are just asking to 'borrow' money from the government for their education.  Charging interest is the basis of our whole economy.  The government has to charge interest to make the loaning sustainable. If there was no interest, our savings accounts would never grow above inflation (if that) - which we would hate.  

I think we often forget too that student loans aren't the only option to be able to afford University - the government has great incentives for contributing to RESP's, students can work during the summer and throughout the school year to finance their education, and of course there are a plethora of grants or scholarships.  I'm not saying it is easy to finance post-secondary education without debt (or even possible for everyone) - but we tend to teach that it is impossible for anyone to get a post-secondary education without debt - which just isn't the case.  

We forget too that University isn't the only post-grade school option.  A University education doesn't guarantee you a job.  Nor does it, for the most part, train you to do a job.  Mostly, University teaches critical thinking - which can be important for jobs, and can be requirements for jobs, but a University education alone (without a plethora of other skills & experience) won't get you any job. 

And let's be honest, in my University days, I saw many people use their student loans to fund many things other than education - alcohol, gaming systems, and flat screen tv's to name a few.  We kid ourselves if we think that all this money that is loaned in student loans is going solely to educational expenses.

We need to stop feeling entitled to a University education.  We need to stop teaching this generation that starting life with debt is 'the smart move'.  And honestly, I wish we would stop using our tax payer dollars to make debt as accessible as possible - because with, or without interest, a huge debt load is an awful way to start your life.

**Edit: I want to note that I am only averse to student loans because I think they become a real burden on the person who has borrowed the money.  I don't think stopping student loans is the answer, because I believe education is important.  I do think, though, that we need to start teaching people at a younger age how challenging it is to live with debt, how to save money for education (or other goals), and we need to brainstorm ways to provide multiple alternatives to getting into debt.  So that instead of debt being a first resort, it becomes a last resort.

*Note: the opinions above are all my own.  I definitely don't know everything, I'm only 25.  I'm not mad at anyone who has student loans - and I don't think the people who have student loans are to blame.  I think we've done (as a society) a really crappy job of teaching other options.  And I think in the future, that needs to change.  So people don't start life as slaves to their debt.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

When I miss University

Somedays, I miss University.

I miss having female roommates whose room I could run into to talk about the latest news from facebook.  I miss four day weekends and sleeping in.  I miss late night Big Stop runs.  I miss being able to make plans on the fly.  I miss going out with friends. I miss having the freedom to do as I please.  I miss writing papers and tests.  I miss being able to judge how well I am doing by the grade that graced those papers and tests.  I miss eating my meals with friends.  I miss talking to Dave about things other than how many poopy diapers were changed that day, or which baby was the crankiest.  I miss seeing Dave more than at breakfast and as I fall asleep at night.

 And today, when I miss University life, I recognize that one day I'll miss today.  I need to work on my patience and relishing the good moments - the times when I find Ella sitting in the corner singing quietly, or when Ella brings James his 'munny' when he is crying, or when she pushes him in the swing and he laughs, or when he tells me stories while sucking his thumb.  I'll miss Ella giving me kisses through the rungs of her crib, and I'll miss the way James smiles at me when I look at him.  I'll miss James' chubby legs in his Jolly Jumper, and how Ella always wants to help me cook.  I'll miss the way Ella says 'munny' (bunny), and 'box' (blocks), and 'Jay' (James), and 'duckie', and 'doggie', and 'birdie', and nana, and papa, and mama, and dada, and the way she woofs like a dog, and how she makes the best elephant noises.

I don't get to go out anymore.  I can't make plans on the fly.  I don't have great girlfriends who I can call up in a pinch, or whose bed I can go jump on when I am down.  My conversations with my husband revolve mostly around our children.   I change more poopy diapers in a day than most people wish to in their whole lives.  I spend most days at home or at work, and spend almost every night at home.  If I want to do anything, I have to schedule it far in advance.

But I am blessed.  I am blessed to have a little curly-haired blonde girl who loves life, and a little chubby boy who is incredibly happy.  Sometimes during the day, I need to remind myself of this, but if I'm being honest - at night, when they are sleeping - I miss them like crazy.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

A letter to my (almost) four month old little man


My heart aches with love for you.  Before you were born, I wasn't sure I'd have enough space in my heart for it to overflow with love for both you and your sister, but I do - it does.

But James, I often feel like I am failing you.  And that scares me.  You are a wonderful little boy - you sleep through the night, you are content, you do well in the car, and you give the biggest, brightest smiles.  But I take advantage of those - I have been able to continue helping out at the church, I have been running in the mornings, and taking classes at the local gym many evenings which means less time with you.

I don't have the same amount of time, attention, and patience to give you as I did your sister.  When I do get time with you, she often pulls me away from you so I can save her from being 'ducckk' with her head trapped between spindles on a chair, or after having climbed into your exercauser.
I go back to work next week.  On one hand, I am excited - I enjoy working, I love my job, and this is what I want.  I know it'll only be a couple of days a week for now, but as much as I am excited, I am scared.  I am scared that I will miss your childhood and I'll regret it later.  Being out of the house makes me a better mom when I am at home, especially with your sister who keeps me go-go-going all the time, but it still tears me apart inside to think of you spending days without me.

Going back to work also means that you and I won't have one day a week for just the two of us anymore.  I'll miss those.

If I am being honest, James, there are two things I am terrified of for you:

1)  That you won't end up understanding, grappling, and grasping the love that God has for you.  He loves you infinitely more than I do which (if I am being honest) is incredibly challenging for me to understand.  I hope you fully comprehend that love some day, and that you spend your life searching and working for His Glory (whether that be as a doctor, engineer, salesman, artist, pastor, or career of your choice).

2)  Selfishly, I am also terrified you won't love me.  I want you to love me and I hope you will be able to forgive my mistakes and misgivings.  I hope you will feel I am an honest friend who wants what is best for you.  Always.

You will not understand my love for you until you have a child of your own, but I hope you will at least always know that I do love you, I support you, and I will stand behind and beside you, no matter what.

I love your handsome smile.
I love the way you flinch when your sister comes to give you a hug.
I love your giggles when you get excited.
I love your little kicking legs.
I love how chubby your arms and legs are, and how round that belly and your cheeks (both sets!) are.
I love your joy-filled personality.
I love watching you in the bathtub since you love it so much.
and I even love those smelly little toots.

I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, as long as I'm living, my handsome little James you'll be.
Your mama

Saturday, February 2, 2013

A letter to my 1 year old

My dearest Ella,

This past month, you turned one year old and it is so hard for me to believe that a year has passed so quickly.  I love you more today than I did the day you were born.

You started daycare a couple of months ago (in November).  At first I went before your nap time to feed you - it was the highlight of my day going to see you there - but now you don't need me in the day anymore so I don't see you from 9 in the morning until 5 in the afternoon.  I think it is harder on me to leave you than on you to leave me, but I am incredibly happy that you have fun there and are able to play with others your age.

For a while there, the doctors were a little concerned about your weight.  I guess this will happen when you are below the 5th percentile.  Everyone we talk to, though, says you can pack away food like the best of them (I have a theory that it goes in one end and comes right back out the other), and your daddy and I think you are just a beautiful, petite little girl. 

Your laugh is contagious.  You still don't break it out often (mostly only when you are overtired - you get this from me), but when you do it fills the room with joy.  I love making you laugh.

You haven't walked on your own yet, which is a real surprise to us.  You've been walking with help for many months now and I was sure you would walk by your birthday, if not Christmas.  Your legs are strong, and your balance is good - you walk and push anything that you can, but walking on your own seems to terrify you.  I don't mind helping you along - as I want you to stay little for as long as possible - but I pray that in the long run, when you are older, you will not be paralyzed by your fears (as I am frequently guilty of) but can reach new heights trusting in your own gifts and abilities and in the promises Christ has given us that He will always be with us and watch over us.

You are very talkative, in a language we don't understand.  You say very few real words (your new favourite is dada), but are incredibly good at getting your messages across (especially when you are hungry, "MMMmmmmmMMM").  Selfishly, I cannot wait for you to say 'mama' though!

I am already terrified of the day you don't want me around, or the first time you tell me you hate me - I think it will break my heart.  I also know, though, that you will never understand how much I love you until you have your own children.  My fears melt away when you give me kisses or give me a hug and pat my back, or rest your head on my shoulder - I wish I could capture those moments and keep them forever.

Sometimes I wonder why God thought your daddy and I were worthy of you.  You are the most beautiful, life-injecting little person I know.  You have your own wonderful personality that shines through all the time.

I pray every day that you grow up to know and love Jesus and all He has done for you and for us.  I pray that you know that He can be your source of strength and guidance.  And I pray that your daddy and I can be good, godly examples for you to follow.

And now we are expecting your little baby brother or sister.  Although I know you have no idea what is going on, I love it when you rub my belly, hug it, kiss it, or give it zerberts (your favourite thing to do).  You always look confused when I point to my belly and talk about the 'baby', and then we look at pictures of babies and I tell you that they are babies too.  I can't wait to watch you be a big sister, showing your younger sibling how to take all of the things out of mama's cupboards, or sharing your toys with him or her.  Your heart is so full of love and joy and I can't wait to double that in the household.

I love you more than you will ever know, my dear little 1 year old Ella.  I can't wait to continue to watch you grow and learn.


Your Mama

Friday, August 3, 2012

Why I love Dave Ramsey

I am a self-proclaimed Dave Ramsey nut.  Some of you may know this from the post I wrote last year which touched on the subject, and some of you may know it because you know me, and I talk about it a lot.  Some think that Dave and I are completely off of our rockers in terms of our finances, and some think we are too concerned with money, so I wanted to write about my reasons for loving Dave Ramsey, and his babystep plan.

1) Dave Ramsey saved my marriage.  
I tell this to a lot of people but I can't say for sure that my marriage would have crumbled without finding and reading Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover.  I can say though that now we have one less thing to argue about, which is a blessing (because as I am sure most married couples know, there are lots of other things to argue about, and any one that can be crossed off the list is a blessing!).  This isn't to say we never argue about money, but the frequency that it happens has gone down dramatically.

2) I can sleep at night.
While I was in University, I used to lay awake at night, thinking about how I didn't know how I would pay my credit card bill.  Limited income, and seemingly unlimited bills can do that to you.  I can honestly say that since paying off our debt, there have been many nights I haven't gotten a good sleep, but none of them have been because I was worried about if we would have the money to pay tomorrow for our yesterday.

3) I am not counting my change to try to make rent.
At the end of every day, Dave and I take all of our change and split it into two jars - pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters go in our change jar; and loonies and toonies go in our savings jar.  Our savings jar isn't to be touched, and once we get enough loonies or toonies to roll, we roll it, exchange it for cash,  and put it in our savings acccount at the bank.  But the change jar can be used for a coffee here, or muffin there, or something small we may want or need.  The change jar doesn't frequently get used though, because it is too hard to rummage through it to find the change you need.  So, once that jar gets full, I take it and roll it all, and take that cash and put that in our savings account too.

A couple of weeks ago, the change jar was full, and so I went through this process, which had reminded me of the time about two years ago (a month or two after our wedding) that we couldn't make rent.  At that time, I had jars and jars of change (mostly pennies), that I had been saving for years (I had started saving my change in high school).  I wasn't wise enough to have an emergency fund, so these jars were my storehouse (that I had planned on keeping forever).  We had to dump all of those jars out, roll all of the change, just so we could pay rent that month.

I am so glad that now I can count my change to pad our savings, instead of counting my pennies and praying there is enough so that I can keep a roof over my head.

4) When a rainy day comes, we will be ready.

We have a well-funded emergency fund.  Although I am a constant worrier, and still concern myself with tomorrow (Matthew 6:34, Amy!), I am less worried as I know we have a good padding between us and any financial mishaps.

5) Dave Ramsey's steps are simple and easy to follow.

I am not saying that the process will be simple or easy to follow through on.  I cannot tell you how much I am dying to go on a vacation to New Hampshire, and saving the money for our trip is probably going to take forever, and I don't think I will be able to go until I am 75 years old, and I would rather use the money we have in the bank right now to go.  But I can't, because it is not wise, and we have more important savings goals to be focusing on now.

Dave Ramsey's Baby Steps though, are simple and easy to follow.  And for those of us who like being able to follow steps, the plan is marvelous.
  1. Have 1000$ in the bank as an emergency fund.
  2. Pay off all debt, starting with the smallest, and working through to the largest.
  3. Build an emergency fund of 3-6 months worth of expenses.
  4. Put 15% of your income towards retirement.
  5. Save for your children's education.
  6. Pay off the house.
  7. Build wealth and give.
6) Dave Ramsey's plan has an emphasis on giving.

Dave and I are able to give now more generously and with a more willing heart than we have ever been able to give before.

7) Financial stewardship is Biblically mandated.

There are a lot of things in the Bible that we Christians don't like to talk about, and we especially don't like to hold ourselves to the biblical standard in these things.  My top three on this list are Money, Sex, and Gluttony.  I am going to avoid those last two for now, and just give a little biblical background on Money (which, by the way, is mentioned in the Bible over 800 times)*.
God believes building up storehouses is wise.  The famous story of Joseph is a great indication of this - God enabled Egypt to have food to last through a drought by saving up while times were good.  Proverbs 21:20 is also a great example of building up storehouses.

The Bible discourages debt. Proverbs 22:7

The Bible encourages saving. Proverbs 13:22, Luke 14.28, and Proverbs 31:16

Jesus, in Luke 16:11, even says "And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven?".

Now, don't get me wrong - I also know that Jesus says "you cannot serve both God and money"(Matthew 6:24), but I do not believe that serving God means spending all my money, but that saving, budgeting, and giving are all wise choices that God looks favourably upon.  However, if he calls me to leave everything behind and follow him, I need to be ready (Luke 18:18-30).

So yes, we might be crazy, but I would rather be crazy than normal in this case.  And I know Dave Ramsey's plan may not be for everyone, but it worked phenomenally for Dave and I, and I encourage anyone with any concerns about money to pick up his book, The Total Money Makeover, attend a Financial Peace University class, or at least visit his website.  When we first had the opportunity to take a FPU class, we didn't, because we didn't think we had $100 to spend on it, but had we taken the plunge and spent the money on it then, I am sure we would have more money in the bank now.

"The poor are always ruled over by the rich, so don't borrow and put yourself under their power"
-Proverbs 22:7 MSG
Join me next week when I update you on how we are doing following the baby steps, and how I have amended our budgeting and jar system over the past year!

*Statistic found here.