All posts by LHunter

On the NFL Disrespecting the American Flag

Guys, the insanity on social media about the NFL players and the American flag is getting out of hand. Just look at this guy.

 

This man is not alone. Check out what happened when I tried to find this clip on YouTube.

burning football gear

Even though this man and I do not see eye to eye on this issue, I was inspired by this man’s patriotic display. At least I was until I caught on to what actually set him off.

“Instead of being a game of sport, it ended up turning into a way to state your political views… I came to watch football…but what I end up seeing and rubbed in my face, not only the players on the team, the overpaid players on the team, but the announcers in the booth. They continue to rub these protests in face of the American people.”

I’m not here to argue that this man does not hold the American flag and the brave soldiers, who have died defending it, in high regards. He obviously does. However, I wonder if the catalyst for his display is actually his patriotism or if it is his intolerance. If NFL football players were kneeling during the anthem or otherwise “disrespecting the flag,” for a different reason, I am confident that he would not be burning his Redskins gear because the NFL routinely violates the U.S. flag code and he is just now starting the fire.

Take a look at the google image results for “american flag at football game.”

flags and football

How many of these pictures features flag displays that are in violation of the flag code? 12, not including the baseball field. How many do not? 4. 

Displaying the flag in a way that is “flat” or not “aloft and free” (source here) doesn’t seem inherently disrespectful, especially if it is done with care to keep the flag clean, but that is not where the NFL stops “disrespecting the flag.” Look at this.

flags on uniforms

The U.S. flag code says

(d) The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free. Bunting of blue, white, and red, always arranged with the blue above, the white in the middle, and the red below, should be used for covering a speaker’s desk, draping the front of the platform, and for decoration in general.
(e) The flag should never be fastened, displayed, used, or stored in such a manner as to permit it to be easily torn, soiled, or damaged in any way.
(i) The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard. Advertising signs should not be fastened to a staff or halyard from which the flag is flown.

(j) No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations. The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing. Therefore, the lapel flag pin being a replica, should be worn on the left lapel near the heart.

How is carrying the flag contrary to the U.S. code, attempting to utilize it for profit, or wearing it in a way that is guaranteed to make it “torn, soiled, or damaged” more respectful than kneeling, a stance that indicates humility,  during the national anthem? I don’t believe it is.

I want to make it clear, that this isn’t just about conservative intolerance; that pendulum swings both ways (example here). If, after considering this, you still feel inclined to set fire to your gear, boycott games, or  otherwise peacefully counter-protest, that is your right. You are just as free as I am to use whatever influence we have to create the best America possible, but we need to be willing to consider where those who disagree with us are coming from and be painfully honest with ourselves in regards to our own intolerance, or we will loose that precious right.

 

A Guide to Finding Housing

Hi friends! I’m still here!!

Remember several months ago where I wrote this whole thing about not letting fear control my life anymore? Well since then, my DH got accepted to a grad school program on the other end of the country, and now I may be eating those words. Fortunately, a few months before the acceptance letter came, we were notified that our landlords intended to put our home up for sale, so I had a few months to practice “house hunting” on much smaller scale before I ended up finding our new “home” across the country.

The first thing I did, was I checked the university’s housing site to scope out “on campus” and “off campus” housing options that were being offered by the school. On campus housing can be a convenient, economical option for single students, and some campuses offer family housing that allow spouses and/or children of their students to live there. On campus housing was not a good fit for us, but looking also helped me gauge about how much to expect to pay for rent in the area we moved to.

Since most of the off campus housing options in the same town were pricier than what I wanted to pay, I researched some of the nearby areas to see if we could get a better deal. Google maps helped us determine that we were staying within a reasonable commuting distance to the school, and we were able to find a “crime map” to give us some peace of mind about the safety of the neighborhoods we were looking at.

After narrowing down areas that we would be willing to live in, I utilized online rental search websites, such as Zillow, Trulia, Forrent, and Craigslist to locate specific listings in the nearby areas that we would be willing to live in. I used the information from these sites to make a list of properties we would be willing to consider and made notes about our individual favorites.

In order to narrow down our list, I called every property on that list to gauge availability for the time we would be arriving. Any listing with invalid phone numbers, property managers that were difficult to get a hold of or took a long time to get back to me, or no known availability around our desired move in date (within 30 days of the date) was taken off the list. This step narrowed down my list to three properties.

At this point, I would normally want to see the properties myself, but since I was too far away, I utilized connections (aka my awesome brother in law and his sweet wife) in the area to come see the three properties on my behalf. If I was without connections, I would have had to wait until DH’s trip to pick out an apartment, since having someone I trust see the properties in person further ensured that our neighborhood was safe, the apartment was up to par, and that I wasn’t victim to any kind of real estate scam.

Based off the feed back I got after the properties were viewed, we were able to pick a favorite and apply for the property. The application process took a few days and required income verification, references, and contacts to current/previous landlords.

Our new apartment is a lot smaller and more basic than the home we left behind, but I am so grateful for the peace of mind I felt after signing our lease, knowing that we at least had secured a place to live and that we were free to handle the more stressful parts of relocating, like packing all of our stuff and job hunting. Do you have any tips for finding housing that I missed? I’d love to read about it in the comments below!

How a Rescue Animal Rescued Me

Have you seen that graphic on social media somewhere that claims that for only $60, you can add your pet to a registry of “emotional support animals” and then it would be illegal for a landlord to refuse to let you keep the pet or charge any kind of “pet” fee? Well, it turns out that most of that is garbage, but before I break that down for you, I need to introduce you to someone.

Meet Sir Nigel, my emotional support animal.

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Sir Nigel relaxing on the couch a few weeks ago

We suspect that he had a family before us (he had a collar, already knew what the litter box was, etc.) but was dumped onto the street as a kitten. He was so malnourished when we took him in, that his vet assumed he was a month younger than he was.

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Sir Nigel as a kitten the night he was rescued (along with DH making goofy faces)

 

In the time it took for us to realize that his original owners were not coming back for him, we had fallen deeply in love.

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Snuggling with DH’s feet

While I still struggle with symptoms of depression, I noticed a few weeks into Nigel living with us, that I hadn’t had a suicidal thought since before his rescue. In the 10 months we’ve had him, the number of severe depressive episodes I have dropped from as many as 4-5 times a week, to less than 5 times since he’s lived with us. Not only did we save his life, but in a lot of ways, he has saved mine.

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I’m not even sure what he’s trying to accomplish in this picture. It makes me laugh every time I see it though

So if this registry for emotional support animals is nonsense, how come I have one? While no formal registry for emotional support animals exists, legislation regarding fair housing opportunities for disabled persons, include the right to animals in circumstances that a qualified health professional “prescribes” them. This legislation was not intended to be a loophole to force landlords to accept pets on their properties, but rather allows for individuals who have a legitimate medical need for an animal to be able to keep one.

If you suffer from any chronic illness (especially mental illnesses) that you feel could be mitigated with an emotional support animal, you can talk to your doctor or mental health professional (which you should have if you have a chronic condition. Some websites will hook you up with a professional, for a fee, for the purpose of getting a note; be wary of scams though) to see if an ESA would be a good option for you, and get the “prescription” directly from them. However, you should keep in mind that your chronic condition could prevent you from being able to properly take care of your animal, ensure that your ESA does not destroy your home or pose a threat to others (all of those things being legal reasons for your landlord to evict you and/or your ESA), or you may better manage your condition through other means.

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Saturday morning selfies 

Have any other questions about ESA’s? Want to hear about other ways I manage my depression? Please let me know in the comments below!

My Legacy of Fear

Since graduating from college, I’ve been cycling between feeling grateful for how awesome my life is and feeling overwhelmed with fear that I’ll suddenly wake up, 20+ years will have flown by, and I will be still be in the same small town doing the exact same thing that I am doing now.

I recognize that I am doing better than several of my peers. I have a good job that provides us with health insurance and helps us pay for the beautiful little house we rent, and I am married to one of the best men ever. He is also meaningfully employed in a position that could launch his career in a variety of different directions. So, why the fear?

The majority of my most life shaping decisions were motivated by fear. I graduated early from high school because taking a few extra classes was less scary being the new kid my senior year of high school. I settled on my college major because it was the only one of the options I was considering at the time that was available at the small university I attended and that was less scary than risking throwing all of my hard work away by transferring to another school to do something else. I went into banking because that was the only job option I could find that paid enough that I could work it while waiting tables and almost make enough to support DH through the end of his bachelors program, and then I accepted a “promotion” to another branch with a considerable commute and stayed in that position despite being so miserable because “having a better attitude” or willing myself to be happy there seemed less scary than trying to find a different job that may not be any better than where I already was. I don’t want my legacy to be a legacy of fear, nor do I want to wake up in 40 years and realize that I failed to live the life I wanted because I was too afraid. So, what can I do to combat the fear?

Napoleon Hill once said that “strength and growth come only through effort and struggle.” meaning that if I want to become more than I currently am, I need to be willing to be uncomfortable. Most things worth doing have an element of discomfort to them, weather it’s hand cramps from crocheting, muscle aches from working out, or a cut in pay to accept a new job that’s otherwise more satisfying. Obviously maintaining a healthy risk and pain intolerance is important, but I need to start inviting opportunities to learn new skills or do new things even if they make me uncomfortable.

I need to challenge any thought of not being good enough. Most of my negative self-talk boils down to being afraid that I am somehow am not good enough. I don’t know when that started, but I have been paralyzed by my own feelings of inadequacy for years. Knowing for sure that I will never be good enough to accomplish something I want to do will keep me from trying to do that thing, which guarantees that I will actually never be good enough to accomplish that thing in the first place. Embracing failure is an important part challenging these thoughts. Want to know how many very successful people failed at something on their way to success? All of them. Are setbacks or failures  indications that those people were never good enough? Absolutely not. Why then would failure be an indication that I was never good enough? It isn’t. If I’ve failed at something, I’ve just learned how not to do it, which is part of the process to become good enough to actually do the thing.

I need to ask for connections. One of my favorite things I learned in college was that we are not turtles. (Well, yeah, we aren’t turtles. That should be pretty obvious well before college, dummy. Keep reading). Turtles go through their whole lives almost completely alone, but the communities and social connections they lack are an essential part of the human survival mechanism. If we are going to live meaningfully to thrive than we need each other. I was recently moved by this TEDx talk about getting the perfect job without sending in a single resume. Spoiler alert: She landed that perfect job because she overcame her discomfort and asked for professional connections. Networking is pretty important professionally, but this also applies outside of work as well.

I know that inviting opportunities for growth, embracing failure , and asking for connections are much easier said than done, but these can be broken down into more manageable smaller steps like trying out more difficult crochet patterns and food recipes, being more open about my shortcomings on this blog, or inviting someone new over for dinner.

Did this post resonate with you? Maybe you have some other ideas for overcoming your own legacy of fear. I would love to hear about it in the comments below!

Holiday Treat Challenge: Valentine’s day edition

I love chocolate covered strawberries! I was going to pick some up for Valentine’s day until I saw the price tag.

$5.99 for 4 chocolate covered strawberries. That’s almost $1.50 per strawberry! Needless to say, I left with a pound of strawberries and some chocolate chips instead. You might be thinking that the supplies to make the chocolate covered strawberries would be more expensive since I had to buy a whole pound of strawberries. Well, I paid…

$2.99 for the pound of strawberries, which had around 20 strawberries. (Where I live strawberries can be as cheap as $1.99 per pound if they are in season and not marked up for the Valentine’s day.)

$2.29 for a bag of mini chocolate chips; I only ended up using around half of the bag. This totals…

$5.28 for 20ish chocolate covered strawberries or around $0.27 per strawberry with half a bag of mini chocolate chips left! I paid less for 20 homemade chocolate covered strawberry than 4 store bought ones would have cost. Considering, that melting the chocolate and dipping the strawberries took less than half an hour, I’d say this was well worth the effort.

What is your favorite Valentine’s day treat? Wondering how much you could save by making it yourself? Let me know in the comments below!!

The Media is the ENEMY

**disclaimer: Most of the sources cited in this post were made for entertainment, not educational, purposes.

Several months ago, a friend messaged me inquiring about my opinion about the presidential candidates. Considering, that we shared similar conservative beliefs in high school, he was, understandably, surprised when my response was much kinder to Clinton than it was to Trump. A few days later, we were messaging while watching the debate; the candidates were asked about the 2nd amendment and gun control.

I interpreted Clinton’s response to mean “I support regulating guns because I find the recent incidents of gun violence to be unacceptable and I want Americans to feel safe.”

Based on my friend’s response, he probably interpreted the exact same words as “I don’t respect the rights of Americans to own guns.”

That the two of us came to completely different conclusions from the exact same things should be surprising, but this happens all of the time because of bias (a good explanation of what bias is and how the different kinds of bias influence how we interpret information can be found here ). My friend and I respectfully agreed to disagree, but since tensions are currently much greater between our current president and several media outlets, we need to figure out how to sort the truth out from the mess.

First, we need to recognize that “unbiased” news does not exist. Bias plays a huge roll in the process news outlets use to determine what to cover and what to cut. Truth can instead be found in the “mutually verifiable” or what can be objectively confirmed by multiple people. This is why studies and experiments are often performed multiple times to verify results. Take for example the famous study that linked autism with vaccines. After the study was made available to the public, several other studies took place that failed to replicate the results, ultimately resulting in discrediting the original study. I recently saw a video from NowThis in which Trump says  that he doesn’t want Muslims in America. The original footage from when he allegedly said that is available online, and what he actually said is that he doesn’t want “radical Islamic terrorists” who “enslave women and kill gays” in our country (this example was discovered by someone else in the first 1:30 of this video). We can argue for hours what Trump actually meant by those words or weather or not he believes that all or most Muslims are terrorists, but the actual words that came out of his mouth were that he does not want “radical Islamic terrorists” here.

Before we accept any piece of news as truth, we must first ask what organization is presenting this news? I can safely assume that Brietbart will report different news than NPR because their target audiences, agendas, general opinions of the people in charge, and their sources all differ, and before you assume anything you’ve seen online is true, you must be aware of all of those things and how that will influence how the information is presented.

We must also watch out for news that is overly sensationalist or obviously cherry picked. No one should be surprised  to find out that news organizations often run pieces that are sensationalized because that is how they keep our attention, so they can continue to make money. News outlets may also cherry pick examples or cut footage in a way that more heavily support their agendas. The aforementioned NowThis story is a good example of both of these behaviors.

While we need to have a healthy skepticism of what we see in the news, we should be careful to not assume that all news, especially the news that doesn’t conform to our beliefs, is “fake” or that we should look only to Trump and his supporters for the truth about what is actually happening in our country (several examples of Trump disagreeing with the mutually verifiable can be found here, here and here).  We need respectable news outlets to keep the powerful honest and everyone informed, but because there is no way to ensure what we see is true, we also have the responsibility to keep our minds open and verify our news before we like and share it.

DIY Christmas 2016

Christmas is finally over! I am so ready for life to go back to normal.

Except I probably will go ahead and start on next year’s gifts to see if somehow that will make next year less stressful. Need some gift ideas yourself? Here are seven tried DIY presents.

Crochet Minecraft Creeper Hat: I have a harder time shopping for boys than I do for girls, however most of the boys I know are really into Minecraft right now. This project was relatively pretty simple and the results are really cute!  Directions here

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Crochet Pikachu Hat: Pokemon Go was a huge deal this year, and while I never got on the bandwagon, DH and a lot of his buddies were. The given pattern only comes in a children’s size, but can be reasonably altered to fit an adult by following the beanie pattern for the Minecraft hat. Directions here

pikachu hat

My Little Pony Hat (Fluttershy): I’m friends with a brony, and finding a pattern for a My Little Pony hat that wasn’t child sized was difficult, so I ended up taking pieces of different patterns. I used the same beanie pattern for the Creeper hat, took the ears from here, and the eyes and hair from these YouTube tutorials. This was the most time consuming of all the hats I made, but the end result was so cute and this could so easily become any of the ponies, just by changing up the colors.

Fluttershy hat

Mermaid Tail Blanket: My housemate is really into mermaids and is almost always freezing. Needless to say, she was ecstatic. This project wasn’t very difficult, easy to customize, but was very time consuming, and not one that I would recommend for a first time crocheter. Directions here 

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Bath bombs: Since I am still relatively new at my job, I was pretty unsure of what my coworkers would like, and I wanted their presents to be quick and easy to make. Bath bombs are all the rage right now and are surprisingly inexpensive to make as well. If you don’t have the molds, you can use an ice cube tray to make mini bombs. Directions here.

Sugar scrubs: Sugar is surprisingly much better for your skin than it is for your insides. Sugar scrubs make fantastic DIY gifts because they are so easy to make and generally use ingredients you already have at home. I start with 2 parts sugar to one part oil (olive, coconut, and avocado oil work really well for this; I’d stay away from canola or vegetable oils though), adjust until desired consistency is reached, add essential oils or vanilla for scent, and then you are done!

Cat toys: My cat is so spoiled, and is currently in that crazy energetic and destructive, not quite a cat but not a kitten anymore. He has favorite toys that we rotate through, and I found some fun tutorials for diy toys to give him some extra variety.

Have any favorite DIY presents I didn’t include on this list? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

 

How to Use a Savings Account to Make Christmas Less Stressful

Can I let you in on a secret?

I’m not a big Christmas person. I stopped feeling the “Christmas magic” several years ago, and since we don’t often get to spend it with family, Christmas is generally pretty low key at my house.

This year, we are going through more of the motions than we generally would since my cousin-in-law is living with us and most of our friends are also staying in town; that’s causing me a lot of stress. I’ve already spent way more money on Christmas presents than I should have, but every time I think I’m almost done, I remember someone else. I am so petrified that I will forget someone, or not be able to finish making the presents I have left that I’m not doing well at almost everything else.

The chaos and stress of the holiday season is often more complicated than just the extra financial burden, but wouldn’t it feel more manageable if the financial part was taken care of? The more organized already know what to buy and for whom, and can purchase things, wrap and store them throughout the year, but even if that’s not you, you can still do something very little throughout the year to help you be more financially prepared for the holiday season, and that starts with a trip to your bank.

Sometime very shortly after the end of December paycheck, go to your bank and open a savings account that is set up to have a set amount automatically transferred (you not having to do it every month will help be sure it happens and at most banks will keep this account free) to it from your checking account on the day or day after you get your money to the bank once a month. Treat this like you would any other bill that you would pay, and do what you need to do in order to leave the money alone during the year. By December, you could have a few hundred extra dollars to spend.

Let’s say you typically cut it pretty close by the end of the month, but you think you can spare $25.00 a month for your holiday funds. $25.00 per month or 12 times a year will leave you with $300.00 by December.

Have any other ideas for making the holidays less stressful? I would love to hear them in the comments below.

Three Surprising Uses For Your Credit Card

Credit cards have a bad reputation, and for understandable reasons. Being enabled to spend money you don’t have is risky, and using one effectively requires self control. However, the benefits of taking on a credit card outweigh the risk. Safeguarding oneself against emergency, quick financing for small purchases, and establishing credit to prepare for a larger purchase are the most commonly known uses for a credit card, but here are three lesser known ways to utilize your credit card.

1.Most credit cards are now offering cash back rewards to encourage using them. This means that if you use your credit card instead of a debit card for your usual purchases (groceries, gas, etc.), stay within your usually monthly budget, and pay it off every month, so you don’t owe interest, then you can earn free money! Most of these cards offer only 1% (though I have seen promotional cash back rates as high as 5%), so you won’t earn enough to do anything drastic, but every little bit could make a pretty big difference on meeting your other financial goals!

2. Do you have any kind of expenditures that you need to track separately from your regular spending? This could apply to anything from expenses from a vacation, to entrepreneurial expenses that needs to be kept separate for tax purposes. Opening a second checking account for these purchases could cost you in fees, but utilizing a separate credit card, as long as it is paid off each month, is a much cheaper and convenient way to keep your purchases sorted.

3. Your debit card is generally safe to use, and your financial institution is fighting to keep it that way. However, merchant errors (single purchase posting to your bank account multiple times or a purchase not being reversed etc.) are much more common than you would think and debit card fraud still does happen. Your financial institution has a transaction dispute process in place for when this happens, but your money could still be held up for a few days in the meantime. Credit cards may be just as susceptible, but in the worst case scenario that this happens to you, it’s much less stressful if your checking account is not tied up, especially if you don’t have enough in savings to meet your upcoming obligations in the mean time.

Obviously, you should know yourself well enough to know how you will handle the temptation to overspend and have a plan to minimize your risk before signing up for one, but avoiding the credit card all together, could actually be detrimental to your financial well-being. Have any extra uses for your credit card? I’d love to hear them in the comments below!

 

Two Bogus Reasons You Think Your Teller Shouldn’t Be Asking For Your ID

Around nine times out of ten, if I am being verbally assaulted by a client, it is because I had the audacity to ask the client to provide a picture ID during a check cashing transaction. While I can understand feeling defensive if you think I am falsely accusing you of something , or being annoyed that you have to go back to your car or make another trip, I am blown away by how many of you seem to want any ol’ person with one of your checks to have access to your money. The two reasons most frequently cited for not wanting to present ID are…

  • You maintain large balances in your accounts. Despite all of the warm fuzzy things your financial institution tells you, so you’ll keep your money there, having over a certain dollar amount in any account does not guarantee instant recognition and/or special treatment. There is no “Most Important Clients” or “How to Tell Who is Wealthy and Who Isn’t” course included in new teller training. If anything, your financial institution should be extra diligent in protecting your assets instead of slacking off with identification requirements. Yelling any variation of”DO YOU SEE MY BALANCES!?!” ” HOW DARE YOU ID ME WHEN I HAVE MONEY IN THE BANK!!” or “I’LL BE IN TOUCH WITH MY PREMIER BANKER!” at me won’t help me realize that I shouldn’t have asked you to properly identify yourself, but it will make you look ridiculous, and may result in a dishonest onlooker targeting you in the future.
  • You have had a relationship with your financial institution for a long time. I don’t have to input your ID if I can match your face to your name before you make it to my window, but  when is the last time you memorized between 50-100 faces and names after a single, minute long, interaction with each one? I still haven’t. Tellers and bankers are required to do everything they can to know their clients. but building that relationship takes time. Especially if you are aware of new hires to the bank, you should always plan on needing your ID regardless of the length of your banking relationship.

I am not accusing you of anything, suggesting something is wrong with your transaction, or trying to keep your money away from  you; I just want to know for sure that I am giving your money to you. So, please just take a deep breath and hand me your ID.