Voting Matters. And Here’s Why.

In light of election day, I want to talk about voting.

I’m going to preface this post with an encounter I had two years ago on election day.  I was in the elevators at my office, when an older man asked if I had voted.  I replied that, yes, I had indeed voted that day.  He then went on to state that he bet that this was my first election that I had voted in.

I didn’t know what to say.  I have voted almost every year since I turned 18.  Not just during midterm elections or presidential elections.  I vote every.single.year.  And it struck me at this moment that not only was I an aberration among my own generation, but I was an oddity among older, “responsible” voters.

So I am a weirdo.  So what, you might be thinking.  Why does it matter?  And why did this realization shock me?  It is here that I think I will let my little brother take over and tell you why voting every year matters.  Below is his personal statement (and personal experience) on voting:

I refreshed the Board of Election’s website for the third time in as many minutes to find, with a strange mix of excitement and anxiety, that the first returns were now published. Polls had closed twenty minutes prior, enough time to walk from the polling place at the Student Union to the planned victory party off campus. As I found the opening numbers, my bad feelings became justified, and the victory party started 100 votes down.

It was a tough campaign from the beginning. I was seeking a seat on the Party’s Central Committee, the governing body of the party. Usually uncontested, the March primary saw an “insurgency” attempt,  a coup attempt for control of the Party in the city. Mirroring the national, Bernie v. Hillary storyline of fighting the establishment, the mayoral election saw the anointed City Council President face the County Sheriff for the seat vacated by the previous longtime Mayor. Although both were from the same party, the Party endorsed the City Council President. In response, the Sheriff’s team covertly enacted a plan to declare candidates right before the deadlines to get on the ballot for Central Committee seats across the county. Many times these seats have no candidates declare, forcing the Party to appoint office holders after the primary. Thus, if all worked according to plan, winning these seats would be an uncontested way to snatch power away from the establishment at City Hall. Per usual in politics, however, things did not go according to plan. City Hall caught wind, and almost every race for Central Committee, an office many voters had never heard of, became a battleground for County Politics.

The Sheriff convinced me to seek the seat representing the areas in and around the university’s campus. Shortly after I declared, another student declared his candidacy and was subsequently endorsed by the Party. 

In down ticket races, especially in primaries, fighting the sample ballot is tough and turnout is expected to be low. 

We had yard signs; we dropped campaign literature every weekend; we had huge fundraisers at the off campus bars. I knew every vote was going to count. 

During a ‘souls to the polls’ bus event for early voters from the Student Union, student workers attempted to kick me off campus property, as they claimed I had no right to canvas on campus without being a registered student organization. My dad, ever my advocate, filed suit against the University on First Amendment grounds, arguing the University Regulations were unconstitutional. The University refused to budge on the policies, but granted me an informal guarantee to free conduct on campus, within reason, for the rest of my time as a student.

On Election Day, we were out at the polling place bright and early until polls closed, trying to talk to every voter on their way in to vote. My opponent was there as well, and we demonstrated the often-overlooked beauty of the American political system, where he said his positions and I mine, and we let the people make their own decisions. What was painfully obvious during those 13 hours was voter turnout. As the morning turned to night, I knew there just hadn’t been enough voters to overcome the sample ballot my opponent was handing out, the same that had been mailed to every democratic home and handed out to every early voter.

I started around 100 votes down and was never able to recover. With every refresh, a new precinct would be reported, and there were simply not enough votes. There were 705 ballots cast, 340 of which did not vote in my race. Out of a campus of over 60,000, with almost 10,000 registered voters, only 1,000 showed up to vote. When my victory party, now consisting of three friends and my father, called it for the night, I had lost by 23 votes, 193-170. Although I had heard it before, my dad’s recitation of the famous Theodore Roosevelt quote struck a particular chord that evening:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

As President Kennedy suggests in my tattered copy of Profiles in Courage, past acts of political courage did not originate “because they ‘loved the public better than themselves,” but rather “because they did love themselves—because each one’s need to maintain his own respect for himself was more important to him than his popularity with others—because his desire to win or maintain a reputation for integrity and courage was stronger than his desire to maintain his office—because his conscience, his personal standard of ethics, his integrity or morality…was stronger than the pressures of public disapproval.”

As we enter a new age in politics, marred with people taking the easy route instead of the right one, and with election victories seemingly more important than victories for the American people, political courage, and those willing to show it, must make a comeback. My hope is others will join me, and step into the arena.

 

 

 

 

Fall Favorites

Fall is my ultimate favorite season.  Partly due to the crisp weather, but also because of all the fun fall activities. These are some of my favorite things to do in fall.

 

Wine Your Way Out

Something I look forward to every year is meandering through a corn maze, searching for wine.  One of my favorite corn mazes is put on by McPeek’s.  At the start of their corn maze, they provide you with snacks and a map.  It is your job to track down the wine stations within the maze.

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Columbus Marathon

My favorite race to do during the fall is the Columbus Marathon.  The race raises money for Nationwide Children’s Hospital, located in Columbus, Ohio.  Each mile is dedicated to a different child at the Hospital, and they and their families cheer you on as you pass their stations.  In fact, the number of supporters that come out to encourage you to keep going is impressive.  It is one of the things that sets this race apart from others around the country.  It is also a Boston qualifier, if you are interested in being that badass.

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Football

Growing up in the mid-west, football is a easy fall favorite.  I grew up in a family where my grandma was medically induced to give birth to my mom so as not to miss a football Saturday when OSU was playing, and Bryan and I specifically picked our wedding weekend two years in advance so that we would not be married on a OSU game day.  So needless to say, we love football.

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Another fall tradition we love is building a haunted gingerbread house.  We do our best aesthetically, but I can’t say that we always succeed.  We usually get our kits from Williams and Sonoma.

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Another festive activity we try to do each fall is paint nite.  Paint Nite is hosted by an artist, usually in a bar or restaurant, and the artist teaches you how to paint whatever image he or she has chosen for the evening.  They have events going on all year round, but during the holidays, they tend to be themed, which is always more fun.  Neither Bryan or I are very artistic, but very little talent is required to participate.

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Lincoln in the Bardo

“Everything was real; inconceivably real, infinitely dear. These and all things started as nothing, latent within a vast energy-broth, but then we named them, and loved them, and, in this way, brought them forth. And now we must lose them.”

In honor of the Man Booker Prize winner being announced yesterday, and also because I am seriously lagging on my reading list so I can’t write about the winner since I haven’t read it yet, I decided to write about last year’s winner.

Last year, George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo took the grand prize as the Man Booker Book of the Year.  Although it’s been sitting on my shelf since it won last October, I just managed to finish it yesterday – right on time to order the 2018 winner, Anna Burn’s The Milkman.  I am glad that I was so late in reading Lincoln in the Bardo, however, because October was the perfect month to read it:  the novel takes place over the length of one long, solitary night in a graveyard.

Solitary because the novel’s focus is on a single living character, Abraham Lincoln, and his lonely midnight sojourn to his young son’s grave.  Lincoln’s internal dialogue bombards the reader with tangible, raw waves of emotions.  Emotions that are vivid and familiar because they are emotions that we all have suffered: loss, grief, hopelessness, anger, regret…

Amplifying the palpable sense of loss is Saunders’ brilliant juxtaposition of Lincoln’s solitary grieving with a cacophony of voices: both historical and fictional, but all long dead.  Like us, these bodiless voices have experienced the emotions manifesting in Lincoln, and like us, they can act only as mere bystanders to his grief.  Both we and the voices are confined by time and space to the memory of our own losses and grief.

As the story matures, however, the reader – and the voices – come to realize that despite our seemingly individualized experiences, everyone must come to terms with death and accept that those who we love will eventually die.  And it is through this collective realization – and the realization that it is the love that makes life worth it, even with the eventual loss – that the voices in our book are able to find release and move on.

 

Who Runs The World?

With the marathon that Bryan and I are running coming up, I’ve been thinking a lot about running.  And being almost always on the go, I know what it’s like trying to find a nice place to run when you’re not at home.  So I thought I’d share some of our favorite places to run in the different cities that we frequent.

First off, I have to mention the place where Bryan and I started running together: Miami University.  It was here that we progressed from hungover college couch potatoes to semi-proficient joggers.

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Another favorite running spot is Swan Creek Park, Toledo, Ohio.  The park has several different routes, mostly through forest.  And it has enough space for a long run that doesn’t consists of redundant laps.  However, there is a god-awful hill, so be forewarned.

In contrast, a course that we really enjoy, but is not ideal for long runs, is Lane road park in Upper Arlington.  The loop around the park is a little over a mile, making it ideal for short training runs, but trying to do a long run here requires a mind over matter head space.

Next, we love running along the river in Rochester, New York.  There is a great trail that runs from downtown Rochester to the University.  Most of it is under trees – providing a good amount of sun cover, but it can get stuffy and a little overbearing when it is humid outside.

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Moving south to Washington D.C., the best place to run is down by the monuments.  If you try to run around the mall, you will end up spending more time trying to bypass a group of students or a massive tour group.  Running near the Potomac gives you a great view, while avoiding the major crowds.

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However, another route that I love that is slightly outside the main part of the city is in the Northwest Van Ness area.  I usually start at the famous bookstore – Politics and Prose – and run down Connecticut Ave NW to (and if it’s not too busy) through the National Zoo (the Zoo is free).  You can get a good six miles down and back via this route.

Another great route is in West Glacier National Park, Montana. But be sure to bring Bear Spray.  Or if you forget – like we did – blast daft punk on your cell (they’ve been trained to stay away from human voices).

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If you’re traveling abroad, one of my favorite parks is Regent’s Park in London.  Its beautiful and avoids most tourists, giving you a great run without too many interruptions.

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Psycle London is also a great option for getting your workout in while overseas.

Finally, my last favorite place to run is known as the “Ladies Walk.” This path runs along side the River Ness in Inverness, Scotland, and it is quite a sight and very peaceful to boot.

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Without a Sense of an Ending

The lie of regret and of life gone off the rails.  What rails.  The life is the rails.  It is its own rails and it goes where it goes.  It cuts its own path.  My path took me here.

Okay – I will admit it.  I have been a mess the past month with way too much to do, so I utterly failed my goal of trying to read all of the books that were long-listed for the Man Booker Prize before the Short List came out, i.e. before today.

In my younger years – meaning up until now, but I am actively trying to change – I beat myself up about not reaching the goals that I set for myself.  But I’ve started (and before those of you who know me as a crazy type A person write me off, I said started) to realize, that I am human, and it is okay to fail at your goals sometimes.  In fact, goals should be aspirational so that in reaching for them, you accomplish more than what you otherwise would have had done.

What I mean to say, after all that rambling self-reflection, I have decided that instead of thinking that I failed by having a million other things to do that got in the way of my reading list, I’ve decided to be grateful for what I did accomplish – reading two great pieces of literature that I would not have otherwise gotten to had I not tried to read the entire Long List.

AND, I did manage to read one that made the Short List, Rachel Kushner’s The Mars Room.  The Mars Room follows a young woman as she makes her way through the criminal justice system, and chronicles her attempt to come to terms with serving two life sentences.  The book was thought-provoking, especially with regards to the American justice system and the so-called “American Dream.”  The story itself, however, was not my cup of tea.

Admittedly, The Mars Room is not the type of book that I would have gone for myself – which is one reason I like reading books that have been nominated for prizes; it gets me out of my comfort zone – but as it is not my favorite type of novel, you do need to take my thoughts on it with a grain of salt.

In the novel, you come face-to-face with the vulgarities of life; strippers, drug dealers, murderers are all featured in the novel. And Words are not minced. Instead, the book breaks through our quixotic illusions of what we think the world is and should be and shows us the realities of a life that has become far too familiar to too many.  The result leaves the reader in a space where he or she must learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.  Facing reality is usually an uncomfortable business.

In fact, just as the reader is finding him or herself less guarded, opening up to the “family like” network that the characters have created for themselves, google and its vast knowledge of the world upends the unspoken agreement between the author and the reader that the main characters in this story are the protagonists – the wrongly incarcerated who are at the complete – and unfair – mercy of the criminal justice system.  Google tells the story of their crimes.  And some of their crimes are heinous.

It was this moment that I realized why this book had been long listed (and subsequently short listed).  It is Rachel Kushner’s ability to create a story full of multi-dimensional characters that are neither good nor bad, but fully human that sets her apart. Her novel is an ode to reality.  A reality that desperately needs to be acknowledged and has for so long gone unnoticed.

I will say, however, that if you do like your novels to end all wrapped up in a tight bow, you will definitely feel unsatisfied at the end of this book.  It leaves you, to borrow a phrase from Julian Barnes, but one that is especially apt here,  without the “sense of an ending.”

For those who run – and those who don’t but like reading about cool gadgets

My new running shoes JUST arrived today, and I realized just how much I rely on all my running accessories to get me through my workouts.  So I thought I’d share my favorites.

These products are necessary.  Whether you are not a runner, and one mile or less is all you are up for (well maybe not “up for,” but willing to put your body through), or a practiced marathoner, I highly recommend looking into these or similar items.

Body Glide is necessary if you are a long-distance runner – male or female.  Just rub it on anywhere that tends to chafe and you are good to go – chafe free. (But really – this has saved my skin)

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I am in love with this little guy.  A couple years ago, I messed up my right hip by running on orthotics that had been molded to my teenaged feet.  Big mistake.  Anyways, it really messed with my gait, and I had to re-learn how to run, which was a disaster.

Fast forward a couple of years, and now because of my failure to understand that I was no longer a teenager with teenage feet, my side hip gets super tight. But this ball is a miracle worker at releasing those spots – such as my side hip – that are hard to get at using a traditional foam roller.  It might be the best purchase I’ve ever made.

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Bryan bought me this watch for my birthday these year, and I love it.  I used to use map my run on my phone, but I had noticed that that app wasn’t always accurate.  Garmin has a built in GPS, monitors your sleep and heart rate, and receives calls/texts.  I also just found a new feature where you can monitor when you need to buy new shoes – which is usually about every 300-400 miles.

I have the vívoactive 3 version.

Also, as a side note, I have never found earbuds that work better than the ones that come with your apple products.  All the other pairs I have tried fall out of my ears.

  • Cliff Bars

Favorite pre-run snack.  These give you enough sugar to get a long run in, but without being too heavy so that you’d rather blerch and take a nap. (If you haven’t heard of the blerch, and you like to run and/or eat, click here.  I promise you, it’ll be worth it.)

  • Thorlo Pads

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These are my favorite running socks ever.  The heel and the toe are padded to ward off blisters, but the body of the socks are still breathable.  Like I said in a previous post, Bryan actively tries to steal these from me every time he visits.

Anyways, these are my favorite running accoutrements.  I hope you enjoyed. And if you have gotten this far and haven’t clicked on the blerch link, you are missing out.

Project Life – The Easy Way To Document Your Life.

So you took all those amazing photos on your trip.  Now what?

Previous me would just leave them on my phone and maybe look at them once or twice over the next couple of weeks… but then never think or look at them again.  But that was previous me; I have since found an answer to all your photograph woes.  Project Life.

One of my girlfriends introduced me to this quick, easy, and simple way to get all your photos into a format that you will actually look at from time to time.  The company that produces the supplies is called Project Life.

First, you order a binder:

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Since I was printing pictures from Scotland, I chose a travel themed binder.

Once you get your binder, you need to get pages.  I usually start by ordering a multi-pack because I never know which types of pages I will want.

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Next – and the part that makes this so easy – you order card inserts.  And the inserts have different themes such as travel, graduation, football, baseball, first day of school, holidays, etc.

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I obviously chose the travel pack.

You will also need to print out and/or order your pictures.  If you have iPhotos, its super easy to order.  You just select your photos, create a “project,” and then choose the sizes you want and click order.  They usually come within a week.

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And finally, you just insert your cards and pictures in any way you want – and you are finished – with a beautiful, well put together photo book to boot.

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