Doug Jones Won – What Did I Learn?

Last night, in a remarkable turn of events that even many of my friends couldn’t have predicted (I’m looking at you, Dana Pace), Doug Jones, a Democrat, won the special election for the vacant US Senate seat here in Alabama over former Alabama Supreme Court Judge Roy Moore.

I spent a hefty part of the evening (after getting my boys to bed) on Twitter and Facebook, enjoying the moment and reading all the reactions in real time was really a delight. It felt like I had won something, and to be honest, in a way I did. We all did, even if you didn’t vote for Doug Jones.

We managed to put Country over Party in this election, but having slept on the results, I think there are some other things we learned in this election that are going to be crucial going forward if we are going to turn things around in this country.

Black Lives (And Their Issues and Concern) Really Matter

In an amazing show of solidarity, black voters overwhelmingly picked Doug Jones in this election. Overall, the black vote (which accounts for roughly 30% of the population of Alabama) voted for Jones at a 96% rate, whereas white voters overwhelming voted for Moore (nearly 3 out of every 4 white votes went to Roy Moore).

Many pundits and commentators in both traditional and social media circles pointed to Jones’ lack of attention that the candidate paid to issues around race. Jones was always quick to point out his role in the prosecution of the KKK members who bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church, but beyond that, his message was fairly weak to black voters.

Regardless of that fact, black voters turned out in droves to support Jones and probably got him elected. Beyond what I feel is the obvious fact that black lives (and their issues) matter, I think it’s clear that the Democratic base needs to strengthen their message and stance on issues that impact black Americans because by and large, the way to win back control of Congress will go through minorities and women.

White People – We Need To Talk

It happened in 2016 with Trump and it happened again in 2017 with Roy Moore – overwhelmingly, white voters have voted for the Republican candidate on the ticket, despite the veracity of the allegations surrounding the candidate.

I’m not one of those white people. I’m proud to say that I voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and I voted for Doug Jones in 2017. And I know a ton of white people who did the same thing I did. But I know there are also a lot of my fellow Alabamians who I know voted for Trump and likely either voted for Moore, wrote in someone’s name, or didn’t vote at all.

The simple fact is I feel like many Republican voters are acting like they are brainwashed into thinking that no matter what, you simply cannot vote for a Democrat. They are convinced that a vote for a Democrat is going to kill babies, take more of your money, and make you bake cakes for gay couples.

Regardless of how true or not those statements are, the divisiveness of our current political process is only working to hinder our progress as a society. In my humble opinion, I believe some Republicans voted for Doug Jones this time around and more need to find a way to put their faith in candidates because of the issues, and their character, instead of whether or not the man (or woman) has an “R” or “D” next to their name on the ballot.

The Republicans Across The Country Just Heaved A Big Ol’ Sigh of Relief

Republicans took to Twitter and tweets poured in last night and continued through today and the message seems to be “Hey Roy – you lost…move on buddy”. But the vibe I’m getting from most of these tweets is more a collective sigh of relief than actually wanting Roy Moore to move on and concede the election.

Despite how voter turnout came down in this election yesterday, I believe a lot of Republicans are silently glad that Moore didn’t win. A Moore victory yesterday would’ve been hung around the neck of every single GOP candidate in the 2018 midterms and it likely would’ve given Democrats even more momentum. As the tweets suggest, it seems as if many Republicans are eager to move past this and start re-establishing their message. The problem with that is the standard bearer you’ve chosen is still Donald Trump, and you can bet these sexual misconduct allegations around him aren’t going away anytime soon.

So if you value decency over corruption, if you value progress over backwards thinking, if you want us to move forward and not go back in time, then you should hold your head up high today and know that Alabama (of all places) sent the US and the world a message loud and clear last night.

And Roy, if you’re reading this…you’ve got to go, but Sassy can stay.

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Welcome (156 Days)

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This is the front door of my apartment. This is my new home. I’ve lived here now for 156 days. And this is my new welcome mat.

One of the biggest challenges I’ve had in my divorce is learning what it means to be vulnerable and what support looks like. Are there layers to vulnerability? Are there different types of support?

When I updated my blog with a post in July of this year, I was in a pretty dark place. I think it came across as mostly hopeful (and I think that was probably not entirely inaccurate) but in truth, I was struggling to find myself in this post-divorce, newly-single-and-definitely-very-awkward-and-not-ready-to-mingle phase of life. I was attempting to discern in real time what being vulnerable about my divorce was like, and what support I could expect to receive as a result.

But I was also looking to write, because writing to me has always been cathartic. It has been in years past a salve to my heart, and I was hoping it would be again. I knew it would ruffle some feathers. I knew it might even make some people angry with me (again).

This place, this apartment, this home…really hasn’t felt a lot like home to me for these 156 days. There are all kinds of little things that annoy me about this place. The shower in my bathroom has tiles that are loose in the bottom. There’s a crack in the threshold panel going from the living room to the kitchen. It’s small…oh so small compared to the house I lived in with my family for 13+ years.

But in a lot of ways, I’ve been able to find comfort here. It hasn’t been easy.

Those that know me know that I’ve found someone and it’s been the most pleasant surprise I could ever have hoped for. April is constantly a blessing to me and I am thankful for her beyond measure. But this post isn’t strictly about her, so I don’t want to get too much off topic here.

As I walked through Walmart with April this weekend, and I saw all the Christmas stuff in the aisles, things we were looking through to determine what all I would want to buy to decorate my apartment with for Christmas, I realized that I hadn’t ever bought a welcome mat.

A welcome mat is really a small thing, and many people don’t bother to put one out. But after talking with April, I decide to wander over to the Home Living section of Walmart and see what they have. I decided on this one. I like it.

April and I are having some friends over for a Christmas party next month. To this very apartment. To this home. I can’t wait to invite these people in, welcome them, and make them feel at home. I’m encouraged that after 156 days, I finally have a welcome mat.

Divorce – All The Things They Don’t Tell You (At Least They Didn’t Tell Me)

TL:DR – As of Spring 2017, I am a single man. My wife of 16+ years decided that we were no longer moving in the same direction as husband and wife, and told me she wanted a divorce. She wanted to raise the kids with me but didn’t want to be married to me anymore.

So that’s it. There’s a LOT more to this story, as you can probably guess, but for now, let’s just leave it at that.

I’ve been struggling a lot lately with what it means to be newly single in 2017. I’ll be honest with you; my marriage wasn’t great in probably the last 18-24 months of it. I’m sure my ex-wife would attest to the same being true for her. Oh sure, on the outside, things were okay. We still did things as a family, we came together when my ex-wife’s mother had health issues and ultimately passed away in November 2016, but at home, things were just…not right.

So here I am, wondering what my focus should be. I have my boys, C and E. C just turned 8 and E is 4. They are awesome, and rambunctious and curious, and so super smart. So I know my time every other week is going to be devoted to them and their schedules and routines. But when I don’t have them, which is for 7 days at a time, I find myself with a lot of idle time.

I have a lot of options, but my gut reaction is to go and find some companionship, because you know, that’s what I’ve had for the last 24+ years! I don’t know what it’s like to be alone.

So the first thing they didn’t tell me when I got divorced is that I’m going to have a LOT of free time and I better find a good use for it or you know…idle hands make for, something not good, I don’t remember the old saying.

I found myself dipping my toe back into some bad habits, nothing too run-off-the-cliff crazy but certainly in the vein of what some would consider “bad decision making”. I had friends warn me that I needed to take it easy, not go crazy hitting the bars and what-not, and to my credit, I really haven’t done that at all. To be fair, my bank balance has more to do with that than anything.

But I truly found myself looking for love in all the wrong places…well, not ALL the wrong places, but you get my meaning. God, it is so hard to be alone! Especially when you haven’t been alone for as long as I wasn’t…I mean, I had been with my ex-wife longer than I was alive before I met her!

So one week, I decided to start the process of “putting myself out there”. I downloaded Tinder, and began swiping right…and a lot left. Within a day, I had begun about 10 different “Hi, how are you? Where you from? What do you do?” conversations before I realized one thing, which is the second thing they don’t tell you…

I have the stamina for a great many things in this life, but I don’t believe I’ve got the stamina to have that many first conversations. Having to repeat the same things over and over and over again, it’s exhausting. I just want someone to get me, and think I’m awesome, and want to spend time with me, and wow, I really need to get laid I think.

So Tinder wasn’t for me…it seemed very “in the moment”, and I needed a bit more control over the situation. I started up a profile on match.com, and began the process there. I was able to connect with people there, but the conversations were more like emails being passed back and forth, way more my speed…and it seemed to go okay. I met this really nice girl and we went out on a couple dates.

I don’t know if that’s going to go anywhere, it’s still in the very early stages so I’m hopeful. But I’ve also come to realize that I really cannot put all my eggs on one basket, and most of those eggs probably need to stay in my basket for now.

I’m overweight…I could stand to lose maybe 50 pounds to be really feeling better about myself. Certainly 30 would get me going in the right direction. I’m eating horribly for the most part, a lot of quick meals and microwave things because cooking used to be something I loved doing for my family, and well, I don’t really have that same family anymore. I know, I know, I need to stay with it because you can really control your calorie intake more when you cook healthy.

And that’s the third thing they didn’t tell me…the things about your old life will seem stupid and not worth doing when you get divorced. There’s a stigma associated with cooking for me now…I’m not doing it in my kitchen, I don’t have all the things I had to cook with nor do I have as much time now that I’m working full time. It just doesn’t hold the same allure it did for me when I was married. Maybe that will change one day…

This adjustment isn’t going well for me, but I’m determined to make this work. I’m rededicating myself to eating right and reducing the calories I take in every day, which means I’m done with drinking on the regular. I’ve got a beach trip next week that I’m taking by myself, and I’m sure I will drink on that trip, then there’s a music festival in Birmingham I’m going to my birthday weekend next weekend that I’m sure I’ll drink at, but after that, I’m taking a break.

Alcohol is just empty calories and I’m going to stick to 1500-1700 a day!

Anyway, this was a long rambling read, so if you got this far, thank you. And if you came this far, maybe you’ll go a little further. You remember the name of the town in Mexico don’t you? Oh wait, wrong movie.

Do me a favor. Pray for me. And if you’re not the praying type, send good vibes my way, or drop me a line on Twitter or Facebook. Let me know that you’re thinking of me and my boys and that you’re hoping that things work out right. If you’ve been through this thing called divorce, hit me up with something that helped you get through the lonely nights (keep in mind, I’m swearing off regularly drinking on August 6th).

Most of all, love yourself, you’re the only one of you there is. And you’re worth it.

 

Making the Case for Hillary Clinton

Last night, the citizens of the United States were treated to the first of three televised presidential debates. I watched the coverage via CNN (on my Sling TV via Amazon Fire TV) and watched as my Twitter feed lit up with comments and evaluations of the candidates.

Most folks who follow politics are pretty quick to say that Hillary won the debate, although people like Chuck Todd want to say she was “over prepared”.

There could not be a more ridiculous comment than that, but then there’s what Brit Hume said about Hillary.

 

So there’s a lot to take away from the debates, but that’s not what this post is about. Speaking personally, I want to make the case to you why you should vote for Hillary Clinton in November.

5-pieces-of-evidence-that-hillary-clinton-won-the-big-presidential-debate

First, let’s get some facts straight. There are two major party candidates running in this election, and then there’s a third party candidate running who has almost zero chance of winning. I say “almost” because clearly anything is possible, but the likelihood of Gary Johnson making the kind of waves he would need to make in order to actually be a viable candidate in November are slim to none. Besides, in recent days, Johnson has taken to the air to discuss colonizing space as a way to help our country, and famously had no response when asked how, as President, he would handle Aleppo and the Syrian refugee crisis.

Considering the fact that he has raised only just over $7 million dollars in campaign donations (compared to over $500 million raised by Clinton and the “self-funded” Donald Trump raising around $168 million), Johnson has really no chance at winning. Many pundits have even suggested that voting for Gary Johnson is a waste of a vote. That’s not what I’m here to debate either.

For the purposes of this talk, let’s assume that there are really only two people that can conceivably win the Presidency come November 8th. Those two people are Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton. Now, let’s talk about who should be President out of those two people.

But wait, Matt, that’s my point, you say. Neither one of them should be President.

Yeah, I know. Picking between these two makes you and a lot of other people frustrated at our political process. Many have shouted from the rooftops about it. How is it possible that these are the two best candidates for the job?! How can this be what America is reduced to, a lifetime politician who has made her share of mistakes, and perhaps even broken the law, and a self-described “successful businessman” who has filed for bankruptcy more than 4 times, been sued over 3500 times, and refuses to let us see his taxes until his “audit” is complete, something financial experts around the world say he doesn’t have to do.

But, Matt! But, Matt! Hillary Clinton had a private email server on which she illegally sent classified information and that’s breaking the law! Lock her up!

Okay, sure. You can believe that. But FBI Director James Comey (a noted Republican), when hauled in front of a Republican-led House of Representatives committee to testify on these emails, said he did not believe there was sufficient evidence to warrant an investigation into Secretary Clinton’s use of a private email server.

Many news outlets have reported and continue to report that she did break the law but at the end of the day, you can only evaluate this situation on what is, not what should be. And the director of the FBI has stated that there isn’t sufficient cause for an indictment or warrant for arrest.

So, again, for the purposes of this discussion, let’s just say that Hillary won’t be charged with a crime.

So you’ve got two candidates. One of them WILL be President of the United States.

You have to pick one, and here’s why.

You may not like to hear this, but if you don’t think Hillary Clinton should be President, then you really have to believe even more that Donald Trump CAN’T be President.

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Donald Trump cannot be President. He has repeatedly refused to give details on his positions and plans, and he is in no way ready to lead anything, much less this country. He’s built his companies on the backs of individuals who have consistently sued him for various civil offenses. He has shown an utter lack of civility and then whined when shown even the smallest amount of it back to him. He lies like it’s a regular habit. He even lied last night at the debate when, about an hour after he said not paying taxes made him “smart”, he denied ever saying it.

He wasn’t prepared for last night’s debate at all, and he came across as smug and immature compared to how Hillary was calm and level-headed and approached issues with real plans, not pie-in-the-sky “I’m so great and I have the best words” rhetoric.

As John Oliver states on his show this week, if you are alarmed by Hillary Clinton’s scandals, then fine, but you should be even more outraged at Donald Trump’s.

I don’t have the time nor the inclination to get into the ramification of a Trump presidency, but sufficed to say, if he won, he would set not only the country back but the GOP back many years, and we can’t be sure that he wouldn’t do something drastic to our reputation in the world community.

Some small research would also turn up many articles pointing out why voting for Hillary is clearly the only choice we have. You may not be persuaded by any of those, and that’s fine. But at the end of the day, we simply cannot have Donald Trump be President. And while you are entitled to use Hillary Clinton’s scandals as a reason not to vote for her, I urge you to reconsider, because while it may not be the best, she’s the best we’ve got.

What I’m Doing These Days

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It’s been a hot minute since I posted something to the blog, and well, the time has come. As of September 2015, I began working from home as a freelancer. I’ve done a good many things in my 11 months, from inbound call center support, outbound calling, data mining, research, social media profile creation, social media management, email marketing, customer support and more.

I’ve learned that with the right tools and techniques, you can find a ton of legitimate work-from-home opportunities and I’m living proof of that.

I would love to share what I’ve learned from this past year with you, so if you’re interested in knowing more about how I am doing what I’m doing, reach out and let me know. You can email me at mattplanet (at) gmail dot com.

What I Know, 2016 Edition

I know that you’re never prepared for hard times.

I know the reality is always worse than what you think, even if you think it’s as bad as it can get.

I know that we are loved by God who gave us choice.

I know we can use that power to choose happiness.

I know we can use that power to choose sadness.

I know we can use that power to choose despair.

I know we can use that power to feel shame.

I know that you can’t know your whole story until you live it.

I know love is an action.

I know love is a choice.

I know forgiveness is a choice.

I know forgiveness is hard.

I know forgiveness is constant.

I know that grief hurts.

I know that losing a friend is one of the most regrettable things that you can go through.

I know you cannot control what is outside of your circle.

I know there is no secret formula to each day, beyond knowing you are loved, you are chosen, you are cherished.

I know my gratitude knows no bounds.

I know I am blessed beyond measure.

I know I will strive to live every day in that blessing and choose happiness and actively love every single person God puts in my life.

I know you probably didn’t make it this far but I hope you did.

I hope you did.

Happy 2016, friends.

A Little Bit of “Ok” in a “Not Ok” World

(Author’s note: The following are my journal entries during my mission trip to Tijuana, Mexico in June 2015. They are in chronological order although I’m not entirely sure on the exact days/times. Also, last names have been removed due to privacy issues…)

First entry

Wow God!

What a day today has been! I am amazed at how full my heart is already from the traveling day we had today.

I wish I could be with my family tonight. I hope they are okay. I hope Everett calmed down and got some rest.

Reading this verse on this page (of my journal) brings me peace. (Author’s note: The verse is “Being with You will fill me with joy.” Psalm 16:11) I love how confident and hopeful it is.

Ezra 8:21: The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake Him.

Let me not forsake you, God, this week!

Second Entry

It’s 5:45 a.m.

Not okay, Rooster. Not. Okay.

Today is Day One of building. Yesterday was spent traveling from Orange to our campsite and it wasn’t without it’s own things.

For one, I had my first In-N-Out burger. For the record, I had a Double-Double Animal Style. It was good but not the best thing I’ve ever had. Scott H. was surprised.

Then Greg S.’s truck broke down at the (US/Mexican) border and me and like 10 other guys pushed it across the border with the Mexican border guard watching (and laughing at us).

All-in-all, I slept good except I had to pee a lot. The snoring didn’t really bother me thanks to the white noise machine.

Let’s do this!

Third entry

(Author’s note: The verse at the top of this page in the journal is Psalm 28:7 which is “The Lord is my strength and shield, I trust him and He helps me.”)

Great verse, God!

Today was concrete day. Maybe the hardest I have physically worked in my life. We have an amazing group, led by Pastor Scott, Kelly, myself, Val S., Michelle B., and a ton of great youth that are on our team.

We killed it today. We got our slab poured for the foundation, and got both roof panels and two walls built. It was an amazing day and I am even more thankful to be here.

The poverty that I am witnessing is so heartbreaking. Kids and more kids make me miss Collin and Everett so much! I hope they are having a good day and night.

Tonight is Peyton S.’s baptism. I am so excited to be here for this thing in her life. She is such an amazing young lady.

Fourth Entry

About six hours of sleep.

That’s about what I’ve gotten the last 3 nights. In truth, that’s probably what I get at home, but for some reason, it seems shorter here.

Rooster was back but he didn’t get me at the crack of dawn, so that helped. I feel like medically induced sleep may be necessary.

Snoring is one of God’s creations I plan on asking God about when I get to Heaven along with gnats and mosquitoes.

Today is wall/roof day. All the hammering.

Fifth entry

Hammer and nails.

But no broken thumbs. So that’s a good thing. Today, we put up the walls, and most of the roof. We strung wire that will be used to put a type of bubble wrap insulation. All in all, a great day. I’m tired again and somewhat anxious about how sleep time is going to go tonight.

Last night, Scott went out (of the tent) and back in and woke me up and I couldn’t fall back asleep right away. The snoring was bad but it’s just two more nights.

I am becoming acutely aware of how ridiculously blessed I truly am. And how for granted I take it practically all the time.

Tomorrow we finish the roof, put the wire and wrap on the house and hopefully do both coats of stucco.

Then we’ll be all but finished.

I am filled with both happiness and sadness at the thought.

There is a kid here who is six years old who reminds me of Collin so much it hurts. This is the longest I’ve ever gone without talking to them. The pain of missing them is so real. I hope and pray that Disneyland was amazing today and they were well behaved for Christy.

I want to rededicate my life to earning her love that she so freely gives me and the boys.

Thank you God for opening my eyes.