As a child, I heard countless times “If you don’t vote, you can’t complain about the way the country is going,” as my parents spoke to the television when a talking head was espousing some negative view or to a family member who hadn’t taken the time to fulfill their democratic duty. Being an avid complainer in my youth (and, let’s be honest, to this day), my parents’ voting tagline was a sound argument to me. If you want to complain about the problems, you have to first do your part. You have to be a part of the solution, and that solution is speaking up and voting.

As I look at the country right now, I wish more people took an active part in our democracy, rather than just griping about the problems. Taking an active part is easy, too! My husband, Brandon, and I had lots of time on our hands while hunkering down during the recent storm. After watching lots of Jack Bauer fighting bad guys and playing the game of Life (I finally won!), we decided to pull out the sample ballots our county had sent us. Thankfully, we had power and were able to go to www.vote411.org to read up on the candidates and questions. We sat on the couch together, read through the ballot (and our Maryland voter’s guide) race by race and question by question, discussed our different points of view, and then marked our individual sample ballots with our preferences.

It was actually fun and interesting to find out about the candidates and to learn both sides of each ballot question. My time at the polls this Tuesday will be a breeze.

Funny thing is: now that I feel entitled to complain, I just don’t want to.