Archive for January, 2015

Twenty-something questions on roommates, vacations and dessert

Why is hogging practically the entire fridge the best part of your roommate being on vacation? Why is not having to close the bathroom door while peeing the other best part? When will be my next vacation? Where will I go?

Will I ever be able to get enough sleep? Or adventure? Or ice cream? Will the gelato trend die out soon? Why don’t more Dairy Queens stay open year-round?

Where was your first job? Where might be your next?

Why do bug bites itch? Why does the same spider seem to show up in my room every time I least expect it?

Why would anyone ever record a box fan for nine hours and post it to YouTube? What might I find if I impulse clicked videos on YouTube? Why have I never felt the need to try that?

Does my smartphone think I’m dumb? What would Siri do? Or what would Jesus do? What would your mom do? When did you last see your mom? Your grandparents? Your siblings? Your feet? (just kidding)

What would you change if life gave you one do-over? Why is saying “I’d change nothing” taking the easy way out? And why does the easy way often seem like the best way?


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The one bad habit we can’t live without

I could get slightly more sleep; I could have a little more time to read; I could make it to work a few minutes earlier, or have a little longer to cook an actual recipe or gain a bit more time to read about the Bulls or trends in social equality or national news … if only I could stop putzing.

Putzing might just be my second-worst bad habit, behind only oversleeping in how much it annoys me and how powerless I am to overcome it.

Putzing is so seemingly harmless, but it’s such a time-suck.

It’s the time I spend spacing out while kind of looking at my closet, losing visual focus until the colors of my clothes blend into each other and thinking about which old things I should get rid of, instead of quickly choosing what to wear to work tomorrow. Putzing is the time I spend haphazardly deleting a couple of old emails here and there after reading and responding to my new messages, instead of efficiently signing off and moving on with life.

Putzing isn’t in the thesaurus, but opening the thesaurus to look for it, and then getting sidetracked and reading about synonyms to “put-on” or “puzzlement,” or “pustule,” – now that’s another example right there.

Putzing around, frogging around, messing around, hanging around, puttering, tinkering – the meaning is the same: “To move or act aimlessly or idly. To work at random.”

I tell myself it’s OK to putz a bit when I’m at my apartment. Slowing down, looking again at the same pictures in my room, reorganizing one little thing in the kitchen – it’s no big deal to waste a small amount of time at home because I constantly have to be so efficient at work.

Time is deadline approaching or time is money or time is ticking off the clock and we’re not getting paid for any more of it, so it’s to our benefit to “use time wisely,” as they say on elementary school report cards, when we’re at work. But that takes effort and effort gets tiring. So putzing at home is the result.

Are you guilty of putzing, too? Do you catch yourself opening the fridge and staring into it, wondering if you should have a snack or what you should pack for lunch tomorrow? Do you find yourself closing the fridge only to return 10 minutes later and stare into it again? Do you sometimes simply sit and stare into space, or watch bad TV when you know there are better things to do or click on those dumb sensationalized weather warnings for somewhere halfway across the country? Do you wish you could stop?

I sure do, and I sometimes try. But bad habits nag powerfully, and they exist for a reason. Deep down, we need whatever our annoying habitual actions help us obtain. In this case, we need mental rest. Luckily, I know my closet and my fridge and the photos on my wall will be there for me the next time I need to pause, unwind and take a break from being productive.

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The secret to life on a budget: Embracing cheapskatery

A swirly blue dress that’s actually my mom’s. A pair of blue and green beaded earrings made by my aunt. A blue necklace I’ve had since fifth grade designed as a replica of “The Heart of the Ocean” necklace from the movie “Titanic.” Silver Steve Madden heels from high school prom.

Something old, something borrowed and something blue.

Something old, something borrowed and something blue.

The outfit I wore to my cousin’s wedding a few months ago was a smorgasbord of styles, ages and fashion eras, but I made it work. The combination almost had everything it would need to live up to the bridal rhyme of “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” All it lacked was something new.

But I was OK with this. It was my decision. I could have gone shopping and bought a new dress to don as I watched my cousin say “I do” to his longtime girlfriend. It’s doubtful I would have chosen new jewelry or splurged on yet another pair of shoes, as I tend to take care of my footwear and keep my kicks for quite a while. (Others would say I simply have a lot of shoes, but I say there’s more to it than that.) If I had gone shopping, at least the dress would have been my own, instead of one on loan from Mom’s Closet.

The reason I didn’t is twofold. Money is first and foremost. I have the money I could spend on a new dress, but sometimes it doesn’t feel like purchases like that make the cut. Outside of money, I didn’t pick a new outfit because there’s a part of me that enjoys being a little bit of a cheapskate.

I redeem my credit card points for Starbucks and Panera cards because I know I’m going to eat there and the cheapskate in me wants to feel like the food is free. When I stop in and spend my giftcards, I stash small stacks of napkins in my bag to replenish my pile at home. No need to buy more at Wal-Mart when they’re free with a decaf or a cinnamon crunch bagel.

My roommate and I try to conserve power, and when she unplugs one of our living room lamps instead of flipping the switch to turn it off, I leave it unplugged until I need it again. I occasionally reuse Ziploc bags (saw my Grandma do that once, so it must be OK). I buy groceries at Aldi because it’s cheap and awesome and I budget carefully to make sure I’m not spending stupidly.

I couldn’t spell “frugal” in the fourth-grade spelling bee (I guessed “frugel”), but now, as my dad likes to say, I can spell the word and live the life.

So if low-price groceries and restaurant-snagged napkins and electric use management are my new norm, why not keep it going with borrowed evening wear, 9-year-old shoes and handmade jewelry?

The best part? The wedding wouldn’t have been more fun any other way.

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A twenty-something lack of faith — What’s up with that?

“What’s up with old people?” a longtime friend recently asked.

She had begun to notice the special events at the synagogue where she works draw nothing but crowds of old people, and she figured the observation was worth a mention.

At church, I recently heard one answer: Old people read keep up with their faith traditions because they’re studying for their “final exam.” They know their end could be near, and they’re readying themselves for judgment day.

The deacon who gave that answer was quoting comedian George Carlin and was kidding, but the premise is true enough to run with, at least for now.

Especially because I don’t believe “what’s up with old people” is the real question. It’s “what’s up with young people?” More specifically, what’s up with our lack of faith?

I have no stats to back this up, but when I look around the suburban church I go to, I see few others who look relatively my age. The ones who are there usually have small children, so I wonder, would they be there on their own if not for the kids? The others who appear to be in their twenties seem to be involved in some way – they sing in the choir, read scripture passages during Mass or attend young adult gatherings. And that’s great. Outside of my faith tradition, I can count among my close friends two Christian couples who highly value their faith and two Jewish gals and their boyfriends who also consider their faith traditions very important.

But I’m going back to my unscientific observation that there are so few of us twenty-somethings who practice our faith. And it’s past time I asked “what’s up with that?”

In a world where we’re bombarded with messages telling us we’re not good enough the way we are; our generation is lazy and entitled; possessions are the way to happiness; constant online “connections” are a way of life and we’re all soon to be doomed by global warming, why aren’t we turning to faith?

In a world where decades of civil rights reform have failed to fully eradicate racism or end gender discrimination or wipe out prejudice against anyone outside the hetero-norm, why aren’t we turning to traditions that teach us to love and value one another as we do ourselves, to treat others as we would like to be treated and to expect nothing less in return?

Basically, the stresses of our individual and collective lives give us every reason to find comfort, strength, endurance and encouragement in a meaningful connection with a higher power, be it through our own spirituality or under the auspices of an established faith tradition.

So why aren’t we doing it?

Are we too cool for faith? If so, grow up – this isn’t seventh grade, it’s the career-world, twenty-something life and no one is too cool (or not cool enough) for anything.

Are we bored by the old way of doing things, the slow songs and sad hymns and monotonous prayers and long sermons? Google the faith tradition you were brought up in and add the word “contemporary.” Plenty of congregations and groups are trying to spice up everything from the lighting and decorations to the time of day services are offered to the lyrics and melodies of traditional hymns to keep young people like us in the fray. If you think faith is too “old-fashioned,” think again and look harder. There’s a fit for you – somewhere you’ll feel comfortable and able to reflect on the challenges of your life and how to be a better person. If you want to find it, you will.

Are we stuck in the rules and details and commandments and sins and ceremonies of our religion, whether we remember what they all mean or not? Did we stop caring about our faith when we realized it may be impractical or unhealthy not to use birth control, or when religious leaders were punished for molesting children or when we realized we broke some rule seen as sacred by the founders of our faith … 2,000-plus years ago?

Please. It’s 2014, and we’re striving to be better real people – not saints. So don’t get hung up on that stuff. It isn’t what matters. Don’t trust me, trust your gut. You’re a smart, accomplished human being who can make your own decisions and come to your own conclusions. So apply that self-determination to the premises and promises of your religious or spiritual tradition. Take what makes sense to you and leave the rest. Question if you want, but don’t let your questioning drive you further from the truth, use it only to get closer.

Because this world can be messed up. It can be contradictory and nonstop, unfair and sad, confusing and overwhelming and flat-out too much.

But when we turn to faith, we can find a way to handle it. What’s up with that? I invite you to say a prayer, give it a try, and see for yourself.

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