“Give Me Liberty” or at least plastic bags.

Last night I experienced first hand what the American colonists must have felt back in the 1760s. The Stamp Act, it has much been said, wasn’t so much a pain because of the amount of money. It was a pain because it was big government getting in your face. So what exactly in today’s world is so comparable?

Montgomery County Maryland and the Bag Tax.

Sure, 5 cents on every paper or plastic bag from every grocery, retail, or dining establishment might not make a big hole in your pocket. But it stings. Especially when you take into account all the other absurdities of this county government. Let me tell you what happened to me last night:

First, I went to the library to renew my books.

Librarian:  “Sorry, you can’t renew, you have to give other people a chance to read.”

Me: I just stare, thinking Who else wants to read this book on Medieval England that hasn’t been checked out since 2008? Isn’t that what waiting lists and holds are for?

Librarian: “You can come back tomorrow to get them off the shelf.”

Me: I work full-time and have a life. “Really? You can’t just renew them today?”

Librarian: “Nope. New Montgomery County rule. Read the sign.”

So I begrudgingly took my book marks out of the books and went to my car. Next stop, grocery store to get a bottle of Texas Pete hot sauce. I go to check out, and the lines are around the block. Every person at self check-out is taking way longer than usual, because there were no bags to be found. In their place were signs, “New Montgomery County law, bags now cost 5 cents, please bring your own bag,” or some other insensitive, bureaucratic BS. After waiting for the guy in front of me to finally bum a bag off someone to carry his 15 little items, I bought my Texas Pete and put it in my purse, feeling oddly like a shoplifter even though I just paid.

As I walked to my car, I looked up and saw the Montgomery County seal on the liquor store. I don’t know if anyone out there knows this, but in Montgomery County, you cannot buy liquor from anyone but the government. When you do go to the county liquor store, they scan your driver’s license.  With all that data collection, how long before they start rationing?

I miss Howard County. I miss the nice people who don’t honk at you, I miss the clean roadways without beggars, I miss the free plastic bags, I miss the free-market alcohol. Mostly, I miss the lack of obtrusive government interference in my everyday life. I don’t mind paying taxes for roads, schools, or even well-run temporary welfare programs, but I DO mind it when the government tries to tell me how to live. I’m getting out of this county as soon as I can.

If MoCo is trying to force me to get reusable grocery bags and carry them everywhere I go, I’ll get one with the “Don’t Tread on Me” snake. Where’s Patrick Henry when you need him?

Note: Montgomery County still has not informed retail and grocery stores where to send the money from the bag tax. This whole thing is ridiculous.

New Year, New Life

For my birthday this year, James and I went to Colonial Williamsburg over New Year’s.  We had a wonderful time! One of the best parts of this trip was strolling down Duke of Gloucester Street on Sunday morning, January 1. It was warm, maybe 60 degrees, and there was not a cloud in sight. The whole place was gleaming in sunlight. It was so quiet and peaceful. I’ll never forget it.

One of the interesting points of our relationship is that James is a morning person, and I wish I was. I always  have a lot of energy after 6pm, and end up staying up way longer than I should and sleeping late. Whenever I do get up and experience a calm morning, I love it. One of the things I’m looking forward to in our marriage is having some help with going to sleep on time and waking up early.

I’m really looking forward to this new year (providing the Mayan’s are wrong, of course). I feel like I have a new chance now to start a whole new life. I want to write more, weigh less, and create more reasons to smile. We’re already making plans to go to Philadelphia, Williamsburg, and hopefully some beautiful warm place for our honeymoon (if God answers our prayers and lets us get married this year).

2012 started with a peaceful morning in a beautiful place. I hope this warm feeling continues throughout the year.

Why do we make New Year’s resolutions?

Everyone likes a chance to start over, but maybe we put too much pressure on January 1. Perhaps the reason we never keep our New Year’s resolutions past February is that a whole year is just too daunting. We always tell people to take life one day at a time. Maybe we need to take our resolutions one month at a time. Maybe every 30 days we need a New Month’s resolution.

Here’s an idea: Write down your big goal, or your New Year’s resolution. Then, write down what you are going to do this January in order to work for that goal. When January 31 comes around, make some notes on what you can do in February.

This year, instead of being one of those people who crowds the gym in January, maybe I’ll take some time to think about small steps I can take to accomplish my goals. For example, it’s not too hard to keep up exercise for one month. Maybe I’ll say, “This month of January, I am going to work out 3 times a week, write 4 hours a week, and spend at least 30 minutes reading that book I’ve renewed from the library 6 times already.”

Personally, I have several things I want to do this year. I’d like to publish some articles, get started on a book, find a  job that fits my interests, get a wedding date that’s not too far in the future, brush up on my Italian and maybe start learning French, lose the 15 pounds I gained last year, spend more time at the park, make more dates with friends, and save as much money as possible. Funny how the last one makes all the rest more difficult. I’m sure I’ll find a way to make it all happen, but I have to take this one month at a time.

Christmas and the promise of a new life

Another Christmas Eve is here, and all I can think about it how different it’s going to be this year. I’m in a new place in life: James and I are engaged, he’s finally done with college, and I was fortunate enough to have a steady job all year. Sure there were plenty of problems this year, but all of that is ok for now, because James and I have each other and the promise of a new life together starting sometime soon.

This year, for the first time in 5-6 years, I’m not cooking. I was really bummed at first, since I love cooking our major Italian feast we do every year. Today, though, I’m glad I don’t have to worry about 15 eggs worth of fresh pasta and can just go to James’s parents’ house and relax this evening.

Why is it that life is nothing but one change after another, yet humans still can’t get used to it? Something about the holidays always highlights this feeling. People always long for those golden years, whenever they were, when Christmas was perfect and the same every year. Christmas is way different for me this year, but it’s going to be ok. Despite everything else, one wonderful change is that we’re engaged. Even though we don’t have a date, we’re getting married soon. I think at Christmas, like every other time of year, we just have to have faith that everything is going to work out for the best. Maybe that is what Christmas means anyways. The day Jesus was born was not the day that he saved us, but it WAS the day that we receive the promise of hope, that God has a plan, and that all things will work out for good in the end.

Merry Christmas!

Engagement Stress = Blessing in Disguise?

Like most girls, I love the movie Bride Wars with Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway. One of the major themes of the movie is how engagement stress can either drive couples apart or bring them closer together.

James and I have had our share of engagement stress. Thankfully, we’ve been able to recognize that with every road-block comes a chance to work together. We’ve never put it in those words, but it’s true. Every issue that has popped up in our path has made us turn to each other for help. Everything that’s happened to us has been another chance to hold hands and walk forward.

Recently I was telling a priest some of the struggles we’ve gone through, and he pointed out that perhaps it truly is a blessing in disguise. People that have fantasy engagements do not always get the chance to prepare for what marriage really involves: sharing and sacrifice. I pray every day for a happy marriage. Maybe this is God’s way of answering my prayers. If we learn what to expect now, we will have an easier time adjusting later. Maybe if we can be happy together in bad times, we can be happy in good times.

I know I’m very young and often naïve, but I have a good feeling about this.