Important question: What do you keep stocked in your pantry?

I didn’t have much experience cooking when I got married. We were straight out of college, so I can’t blame myself too much. Actually, the plan was for Jonathan to be the main one who cooked for us. You can probably guess what came of that–lots of fast food and me gaining 10 pounds our first year of marriage.

I’ve done better since then, and a large part of that has to do with keeping a stocked pantry. One thing that I eventually learned was that it was easier to keep certain things always on hand than to have to run to the store every single time I needed flour, chicken broth, oregano or onions. This is now one of the biggest pieces of advice that I give to newlyweds/recent graduates/those just starting to cook: If you always keep the basics on hand, it’s not that hard to throw something together when you have limited time/energy to prepare dinner.

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Pantry envy right here…

So what do you keep on hand in your pantry? For me, it’s generally the following:

  • Baking supplies (flour, sugar, baking soda/powder, cornmeal, brown sugar, etc.)
  • A variety of spices
  • Vinegar
  • Peanut butter
  • Canned beans (black, kidney, and Great Northern)
  • Green chilies
  • Diced tomatoes, Rotel tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste
  • Cream of chicken/mushroom/celery soup
  • Pasta and pasta sauce
  • Chicken and beef broth/bouillon cubes
  • Onions
  • Potatoes

You can tell what kind of a cook someone is by what they keep in their pantry. I like to make lots of different kinds of chili/tortilla soup/taco soup, thus the diced tomatoes. I typically cook in the crockpot about once a week, which tends to use creamed soups. You can tell that I’m not totally hung up on using fresh ingredients–though I do try to–because sometimes you just have to do what is easiest.

I’m interested to hear: What do you keep stocked in your pantry?

I Support Public Education (And So Should You)

I’ve written quite a bit about being a former public school teacher. You might think that because I left teaching I have a problem with public schools. In fact, the opposite is true. I love public schools. I think they are the foundation for a democratic and equitable society. I support them, and you should too. More on that in a minute.

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First of all, a story. Growing up, I attended both private Christian and public schools, though I ended up graduating from a private Christian school. Here’s a brief summary of the state of the school options in my hometown (circa 2002-2006): expensive college-prep private, mediocre Christian private, and public schools containing mostly minority students.

When I say the private Christian schools were mediocre, I mean lacking options, like AP/IB classes, electives, even honors classes in most subjects–things the public schools had in abundance. Case in point: At the time that I graduated from my private Christian high school, there was ONE AP class offered–AP Calculus–that wasn’t doable for me. I entered college with no college credit, when other students had full years.

My parents were paying thousands of dollars a year for fewer options than I could have gotten at the local public school, for free. It boggles the mind.

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So why am I writing about this? Am I still bitter, ten years later, about not getting to take a few AP classes? Of course not. I’m writing about this because it matters, a great deal. The way people feel about public schools affects education policy at the state and federal levels–how much funding schools get, how public school teachers are evaluated, how (and how much) students are tested, etc. In the end, that affects all of us.

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Why are public schools worth supporting?

  • Public schools are legally required to provide all necessary academic services that children need, for free.

Did you know that public schools are required by the government to provide all services that children with various needs require to have equitable educational access? This includes services like ESL, classes for the intellectually gifted, a variety of special education classes, hearing and vision specialists, and speech, physical and occupational therapy, to name a few. One of my previous schools even purchased expensive cochlear implant hearing aids for all of its hearing-impaired students with district money. Do you think private schools offer all of these services? You would be very hard-pressed to find one.

  • Public schools are held to common state and federal standards.

All public schools are held to the same state and federal standards under which they are judged. Teachers are required to be highly qualified and evaluated for effectiveness at regularly-scheduled intervals. Money in the budget has to be accounted for. Curriculum is based on the Common Core standards. Private schools aren’t required to meet any of these standards. (In my nine years in private school, I don’t remember a single instance of a teacher being evaluated by an administrator while I was in class.)

  • Public schools expose children to those who are different.

It is a fact that many private Christian schools in the South opened during the 1960s and 70s as a way for parents to keep their white children separated from the black students in newly-desegregated public schools (see here, and here–the latter article is about my hometown). Most private schools remain overwhelmingly white. For example, there were maybe 5-7 black students in my entire high school of approximately 200.

As the average evangelical church is fairly segregated, your average white Christian child at a private school could conceivably go through his or her life and not interact with a person of color until adulthood. Personally, the first time I can remember talking to a black person was when I switched from private to public school in the 7th grade. What message are we sending to kids when they are constantly surrounded by those who look and act just like them? How do we expect them to feel and to act when they do encounter diversity?

Public school provides middle-class white children with the opportunity to interact and become friends with kids of different races, ethnicities, cultures and socioeconomic classes. This interaction (a) fosters empathy, (b) prepares children for the increasingly diverse United States that we live in, and (c) teaches children that they are not the center of the universe.

  • Public schools have the potential to be the great equalizer.

Theoretically, public schools have the potential to be true meritocracies, where all children enter on a level playing field and have the ability to succeed or fail based on their own merits and hard work. We know in reality that this is rarely the case. Even though no one is paying for an eduction at a public school, middle class parents are still able to provide extra benefits to help their children succeed, such as outside help and support, a knowledge of how the system works, etc. But the dream is there. Done right, public schools have the potential to be truly equitable in a way that private schools can never be.

 

So what is the point of this post? What’s a concerned parent to do? I’m not saying that public schools are the right choice for everyone in every setting. If I lived somewhere with a very low-quality school system Jonathan and I would perhaps choose private, too.

This is my point: Truly weigh all of your school options before automatically selecting a private school for your child. Make sure the private school really is a better choice, and has the services and options that the public schools do. Do your research. If your child won’t experience racial diversity at school, intentionally include it in your lives in other ways. Consider the fact that if more middle-class parents chose public schools, the school system would likely be better for everyone. Most importantly, don’t assume public schools are bad just because they contain a lot of black and brown children.

Why I Would Rather Be 28 than 18

Jonathan and I will have been together for 10 years this November. 10 years! That is over a third of my life. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how I have changed over the last 10 years, and I think I’ve changed quite a bit, in mainly good ways. Holly Love at 28 is a different person than Holly Gushee was at 18.

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Check out these babies! I was 19 here, but close enough.

People talk a lot about “the best years of your life,” as in, “enjoy college, those are the best years of your life.” I find statements like this problematic. If certain years really are the best of your life, what about the rest of your life? Is it just all downhill from there?

I like to take a different approach. Common sense says to me that there are good and not-so-good parts of each different life stage, and that we should appreciate the best parts of the stage that we are in. And I’ve realized the best parts of my current stage are pretty awesome. Adulting has some good things about it, amirite? Here’s what I’m enjoying about being an “older” young adult:

  1. I’m not afraid to ask for what I need.

If I want something–at home, at work, etc.–I’ve learned that it’s okay to say so. It’s fine to say at work that I have too much going on and that I can’t take on another project. It’s fine to tell Jonathan that for my mental and physical health I want to make going to yoga a priority, and that we should be able to spare the money for me to do it. If I need something, I’ve learned to verbalize it and to advocate for it. It sounds so simple, but this isn’t something that I did much as a “younger” young adult, and this is something I’ve also noticed in the younger people that I work with. It’s so much more effective to directly say what you need than to hint around it, keep it to yourself and then get upset when you don’t get it.

2. I appreciate my body more for what it can do than for how it looks.

Having a child has fundamentally changed the way I feel about my body, for the better. Carrying, giving birth to and nurturing Jonah with my own body has helped me appreciate my body for the amazing things that it can do, and has helped me to cut myself a little slack for my body’s imperfections. Case in point: I am currently trying to lose about 8-10 pounds. Four years ago, I would have been pretty obsessed about this and upset that I was having a hard time fitting into my size 4 jeans. Now, it’s something that I’m working on, but it’s nowhere near my main concern.

3. I know the true value of money and material blessings.

Nothing will teach you the true value of money than going through a time in your life where you don’t have much of it. I had a very blessed childhood and young adulthood. This past year money was kind of tight for Jonathan and me, and it’s increased my feelings of thankfulness for what we have.

4. Some of my ideals have died. 

I planned to be a teacher forever. I wanted to change the world. But I’ve learned that my family and my mental health are more important. I don’t have to be involved in direct service to make a difference in the world.

5. I’ve learned that not everyone is just like me.

This is a big one. The first step to empathy is realizing that many, many people have a difference experience of life than you do. Since being out in the world, I have been exposed to many different kinds of people, and I’ve realized 1) my privilege and 2) that not everyone experiences life in exactly the same way as an upper middle-class Southern Christian white girl. Once you really get a glimpse of what life is like for others, it is much easier to love, and much harder to judge. (Many politicians need to learn this! *cough* *Donald Trump* *cough*)

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Present-day Holly, Jonathan and Jonah

What have you learned as you have gotten older? How has growing older changed you for the better?

Story of a Voter: On Being an Evangelical Who Doesn’t Vote Republican

According to the Pew Research Center, I shouldn’t vote the way that I do. Statistics from a large study conducted last year confirm what seems like common knowledge–white, evangelical Protestants like me overwhelmingly vote Republican.

The stats:

  • White Evangelical Protestants (all ages):
    • 68% Republican/22% Democratic
  • White Evangelical Protestant Millenials (under 34):
    • 70% Republican/19% Democratic

As you may have gathered, I don’t vote Republican, and barring some drastic change to the modern Republican party, I don’t see myself doing so for the foreseeable future. This puts me in the significant minority for the combined factors of my race, religion and age. So what? Here’s the thing that makes me a little bit interesting: I am not a registered Democrat. I’m an independent who once voted for the GOP.

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*By the way, it’s not common practice for me to talk about my political views. I have always believed in the old adage that it’s rude to talk about politics in mixed company (including virtually), and I think most of the people who post a lot about politics online are looking for a fight and/or attention. I’ve also worried ever since college that other Christians would think badly of me for my views (see more below). But I’m not 20 years old anymore, and I can’t be scared out of sharing my opinion because someone else may not agree.*

So consider this a coming-out party of sorts. What changed with me? Here’s the story.

I voted for the first time in the 2008 presidential primary in Tennessee, when I was 20 years old and a sophomore in college. This is before I really followed politics closely, but I checked out all of the candidates and chose someone who I thought had integrity and who had similar moral values to mine. I voted for Mike Huckabee.

During this election season, I was in college at a small, conservative, Southern Baptist university. It was a given in this environment that if you were a good person and Christian, you would of course vote Republican, and I think this is partly why I did the first time.

As that year progressed and the nominees for both parties were chosen, I started to really investigate what both candidates believed. I found things that I agreed with on both sides, but I became increasingly troubled by the Republican party’s platform. Did I really agree that taxes should be lowered for millionaires? Did I agree that it should be easier for all Americans to access and own guns? Did I agree that the government had little to no responsibility to provide for the poor? No, no and no.

And I found Barack Obama very inspiring. His positive message of hope and change spoke to me, and I believed that he would really change things for the better. I also wanted a chance to help elect the first black president. Still, John McCain is a fairly moderate Republican, and if Sarah Palin hadn’t been his nominee for VP, I just might have voted for him. But if there’s one thing I absolutely cannot stand, it’s anti-intellectualism, which to me she epitomizes.

So I voted for Obama in the general election. I felt so excited and empowered to vote my conscience, at least until my friend/roommate/sorority sister told me that she was mad at me, and that I should keep this information to myself unless I wanted everyone else to judge me, too. She also mentioned that almost everyone she knew would react badly to a black man being president, so there was no way Obama could win and I had thrown away my vote. True story: I came back to our apartment that day with a water bottle with an “Obama ’08” sticker that had been handed to me at the polls. I put it in our shared fridge. Later I found the Obama sticker ripped off of it and in several pieces in the trash can. Nice, right?

I’ve voted Democratic ever since. I don’t agree with all parts of their platform, but it most closely mirrors my values at this point. Each election year, I truly give all candidates a chance, and I could conceivably vote for a moderate Republican (a rare beast these days). But the post-Obama Republican party has so far had nothing to offer me. I find the elitist, xenophobic, racist, obstructionist strains of the GOP that have emerged over the past eight years morally repugnant, and totally incompatible with my faith in Jesus and my understanding of his teachings.

As a moderate, young, white, educated, evangelical Protestant in a battleground state, I see myself as something of a test case for what is wrong with the modern Republican party, and why their electorate is shrinking every year. Republicans want people like me to vote for them. Unless the party undergoes a dramatic change, that will continue to happen less and less.

 

7 reasons 2016 will be better than 2015

Thank the Lord 2015 is over. For realz, I have never been so happy to see New Year’s Eve. 2015 was very, very tough for Jonathan and me. A new baby and unemployment simultaneously will do that to you.

BUT! 2015 is over! Hooray! Here are 7 reasons I have decided that 2016, and since it’s about to be my birthday, my 28th year, will be better, in the arenas of marriage, work, family and my personal life.

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  1. I will do my part to argue productively. 

Hubs and I got into some bad patterns this past year that we’re working hard to break. We fought more than ever before, and not usually productively. We pushed and pulled and raged and drove each other crazy. But we got through it and now I think we’re on the other side.

2.  I will choose joy.

Joy is my word of the year. In 2016 I’ll do my best to look for the good in all situations, and respond from a place of joy rather than worry, anger or bitterness.

    3.   I will advocate for myself and my ideas.

One thing I love about my new job is that I’m getting the opportunity to lead for the first time. When I was teaching I always felt that I knew less and was less experienced than everyone around me, so I stayed pretty quiet and didn’t speak out much. I was a leader in my classroom but not with other adults. In my new position, I get to be the expert, and I’ve gained a lot of confidence. In 2016 I will continue to believe in my own ideas.

Along the lines of advocating for myself, I also need to make more money in 2016. Money isn’t everything, but it is something.

   4.  When I am with Jonah, I will be 100% present.

I will be the master of my phone rather than the other way around.

   5.  My family will be in church every Sunday and community group most weeks.

When things get difficult, church activities can be one of the first things to go. Barring sickness or being out of town, we’ll be there every week.

   6.  I will make/keep my home a beautiful, functional, restful place.

I’ve realized that I feel amazingly better when I can come home and like what I see around me.

 7.  I will read more. I will write more.

The Grapes of Wrath, among other books. I’m on a Steinbeck kick!

I’m really looking forward to this year. What are your goals/resolutions for 2016?