Tuesday, August 14, 2012

In about a week, Greg and I will have been married for one year, so I'm pretty much the authority on all things marriage.

The other day, I read a viewpoint in the Daily Universe called "Marriage Matters" (you can read it here). The premise of the article is that marriage is not easy and it takes hard work and even happy couples have hard times. I'm not sure why, but these types of articles and statements really bother me. I feel like they're always written or said by people who are trying to be like "See, I'm not some silly little girl who thinks marriage is all fun and easy! I'm going to prove it to you by telling you all about how hard marriage is." It's like when you ask someone how they enjoy being married and they respond with, "It's hard," because they don't want to seem cliche. Who knows, maybe some of these people legitimately struggle with marriage, but I feel like the "It's hard" response is just as cliche as the "It's wonderful" response.

Here's the thing: everything in life is hard. Being in high school and living at home is hard. Being single is hard. Dating is hard. Break-ups are hard. School is hard. Exercising is hard. Life is hard. When people ask me, "How's ballet?" I don't say "It's good, but it's really hard." Or, "How's being alive?" "Well, it's really hard, but it's good too." So I don't understand why people feel the need to emphasize that marriage is hard. What isn't? Do people really expect pure bliss upon getting married? I guess if you expect marriage to be easier than anything else you've experienced in life, you're in for a rude awakening and will probably focus on how hard marriage is. But I feel like any normal person with reasonable expectations who marries someone they are compatible with and who is equally committed to their relationship will far prefer marriage over being single.

Yes, I realize I'm naive and inexperienced in the world of marriage, but I've honestly had people tell me they think the first year of marriage is the hardest. How is that even possible when most of the stress of a marriage doesn't even begin to accumulate until later in life? Some people have told me how hard it was to adjust to being married. I'm definitely not some incredibly laid back, easy going person who just adapts to new surroundings like it's nothing, nor am I the easiest person to live with or get along with, yet Greg and I had no issues adjusting to marriage.

There are things that I miss about being single, and I acknowledge that there are certain aspects of my life and certain decisions that are now much more difficult because I'm married. But let's be real. I love someone for everything he is, and he loves me. I can be completely insane around him, I can fart on him in front of him, I don't have to think twice about doing anything. I can tell him anything and he gets me. I couldn't care less about all the douche-y, cocky people who don't like me, because the only person whose opinion I care about is Greg. We have our own apartment and don't have to worry about roommates we don't like. I get to walk around the house in my undies. Our future is ours. We get to decide what our family will be like.

Sure, marriage isn't total joy, smiles, and bliss 24/7/365. But the first word I would use to describe it is definitely not "hard."

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Incentives and Unintended Consequences

By: Greg

One of the most important and talked about matters in economics is the power of incentives, or, how a particular rule or policy changes the behavior of individuals or society as a whole. Though not a parent myself, I am sure that parents are constantly thinking about how particular parenting behaviors will create incentives for good or bad behavior. One example is how your child’s behavior might change if every time they have a temper tantrum they get what they want, as opposed to if they don’t get what they are screaming for. Incentives are everywhere and play an especially large role in deciding if a particular policy is good for society or bad.

In many cases creating legislation that seems like a great idea has really bad unintended consequences. Learning to anticipate those unintended consequences is, in my mind, extremely important. I have an example below and will surely return to this topic in future posts so I wanted to introduce what I mean by incentives and unintended consequences.

Forgiving Debt
In his book “The Elusive Quest for Growth,” William Easterly examines various efforts to help the world’s poorest countries grow out of extreme poverty. One of the efforts he explains is the “Jubilee 2000” campaign heavily supported by U2 rock start Bono as well as the Pope and the Dalai Lama. Jubilee 2000 called for meaningful debt reduction (totaling billions of dollars) for 20 poor countries. The intentions of this aid campaign were obviously very good. Many poor countries are heavily indebted and just paying the interest on their loans is extremely cumbersome. To aid these poor countries, wealthy individuals stepped in and helped them pay down their debts. This movement seems and feels right, but it had some negative consequences.

The astonishing result of this multi-billion dollar debt reduction program is that a large proportion of these countries who received aid were even more indebted shortly after receiving the money. The shocked Bono, Pope, and the Dalai Lama stated that this was a result of “irresponsible governments” which is definitely true. Easterly explained the following in his book:

The Jubilee 2000 debt campaigners treat debt as a natural disaster that just happened to strike poor countries. The truth may be less charitable. It may be that countries that borrowed heavily did so because they were willing to mortgage the welfare of future generations to finance this generation’s (mainly the government clientele’s) standard of living.

That’s one explanation. But let’s also take a look at the role incentives played. Jubilee 2000 wasn’t the first movement made to forgive poor countries’ debts. This practice has actually taken place since 1967, according to Easterly, including a huge amount of money donated in the 1987 G-7 All World Tour. Since many of these poor countries are used to having their debt erased, what is their logical conclusion? Rack up as much debt as possible! Despite the campaign’s best efforts and intentions, its real effect was poor.

Debt forgiveness is seen in other areas as well, and those policies ring up as “stupid” to me for the same reasons as Jubilee 2000. One example that is being pushed for right now is student debt forgiveness.  Don’t forget to think about the incentives.

Friday, August 10, 2012

I struggle with knowing what to blog about. I don't wear cute clothes or do my hair any special way, so I can't blog about that. Not that those are the most terrible interesting blogs to read anyways. I don't want to blog about controversial topics, even though that's probably what I think about the most. I don't want to blog about boring everyday events, except the big stuff that I feel like family will care about. I'm not a very eloquent writer who can write beautiful pieces about feelings, personal growth, etc. I'm not good at remembering the funny things that happen in life... and my sense of humor is kind of weird! So please forgive me as I attempt to figure out what to write about.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

It wasn't until the 1950s and '60s that African Americans began receiving equal treatment in the United States. Fifty to sixtyish years ago. Before that, discrimination was part of their everyday life. Schools were segregated, black people were treated like slaves or  "help," people assumed they were filthy and disease-ridden. There was a real mindset that black people and white people were inherently different, that black people were inferior. It was easy for people to discriminate - they believed being black meant something bad.  Christians were taught that black people were cursed by God. It was their religious obligation to distance themselves from them.

It's so easy for us to look back on that time and not be able to believe how anyone can look at another human and think they were inferior based on their race. But we don't know what it was like to grow up in that time, to be raised thinking that the color of your skin meant something. My friend Jessica has a new bishop from South Africa. When she asked him what it was like to live during apartheid, he was frank with her and said, "You don't realize something is wrong when you're in the middle of it." I'm sure the people who discriminated against black people felt that they were right in doing so. They didn't see anything wrong with speaking out in favor of this effort to keep black people from being seen as equals.

What about women's rights? To this day, there are people who think women don't belong in the workplace, people who think women are inferior to men, and people who think that women deserve less in life. I mean, hello, women weren't even allowed to vote in the United States until the 20th century. Women were taught that their husband was the leader of their family and their boss and that their needs didn't matter. Once again, people have been victims of the perceptions they grew up with.

It's amazing how easy it is for us as humans to discriminate against other humans. We think we're right because that is what we are taught by our family, friends, community, and church. We think we are right to feel the way that we do, that we have permission to discriminate. I'm sure we all have good reasons for feeling like people who are different from us are somehow inferior or don't deserve the same things we do.

I just can't help but think about how often we've been wrong.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

These Days

Did you know Greg and I just moved? Yep, our contract ended at our duplex and we had to move. We wanted to move nearby so we would be with the same people for church and so the move would be easy.

We really lucked out. Let me tell you about our new place, which is right across the street from our old place. It's an apartment in a complex of eight apartments. The living room and kitchen are a lot smaller. We don't have a basement for storage and we will have to use a laundromat for laundry, but there is a laundromat attached to the complex that is really cheap. There are 2 bedrooms, so we are using the second one for storage. The bedroom is a much better size than our old one - you can actually walk around the bed without touching the walls or falling in the closet - and the closet is wonderful. Our old place used little window units for AC - here, we have central air. The toilet and shower are separate from the bathroom sinks. Yes, sinks, there are two of them, so I won't be in Greg's way when I brush my teeth for twice as long as him (I'm a little obsessive with oral hygiene). The sinks are in a vanity, so we actually have counter tops to put stuff on. We get Comcast cable included in our rent, which we definitely didn't get at the old place. And, drum roll please........ we are spending at least $100 less per month!! $450/month plus internet, gas/water, and electricity. What up.

Our old place was a lot prettier and brighter. What I'll miss most about the duplex is probably the washer and dryer in the basement and the bigger fridge. But, I seriously love it here more than I expected. I actually love that the living room is smaller because it is easier to keep clean. I like not having to go to the basement to get to our storage. And can I just say how much I am enjoying being able to watch the Olympics?!

Pictures of the new place:
 Kitchen, with the lovely green stove.
 Living room, which is right next to the kitchen. Look at those bare walls!
Bathroom sinks
 Messy bedroom
Other angle

 Glorious closet space

The floor plan is kind of hard to describe... basically you walk in the front door and the kitchen is on your right and the living room is on your left. So the front of the apartment is the living room, kitchen. The back of the apartment is the two bedrooms, side by side. The middle of the apartment is a hall with the bathroom and a closet for the water heather.

We love it. We love each other. Life is good.