Posts Tagged apartment search

Family, growing up and group texts

Group texts have been taking over my phone. I haven’t gone on a bachelorette party or been in charge of some other occasion that requires planning and coordinating best done by mass-text. I’ve just reached the point when all of my siblings no longer live at home. And that equals group messages galore.

It seemed to happen suddenly. I’ve been living in apartments with various roommates for three years, and my sister moved out nearly a year ago. But the group texts really hit when my brother moved out early last month. And they have been glorious.

There’s a new tree in our parkway after the previous one bit the dust to the Emerald Ash Borer, my mom decides to text my brother, my sister and me. Complete with a picture! I’m glad she did. The yard looked kind of sad with an empty hole where our struggling tree used to be, and it was neat to see the little baby stick planted in its place. Aww, home, I thought.

Which day would you prefer to come over for Father’s Day, my mom group texts us a few days later. Planning. A classic function of the group-text. My brother responds almost immediately with one word. “Sunday.” I reply a few minutes later also expressing a preference for Sunday. My sister, an emergency room nurse, never replies – at least not on the same message string where we all could see it.

And it’ll happen sometime soon: My dad will group-text the entire family about some weather warning or another. He’ll tell us what he heard on the radio or saw on the Weather Channel, and he’ll remind us of seven precautions that are smart but maybe a little farfetched. He’ll tell us to be safe and end the message simply with “Love,” written on a separate line than the rest of the words. Why say, “Love Dad,” I figure he thinks, when the phone already displays that the message came from “Dad” and takes care of it for him. Instead of being alarming, as some weather alerts can be, these Dad reminders are a comfort. Lets us know he’s there thinking and caring about us. As always.

But these days, everything comes by group text. The lighthearted, homey details like the tree. The planning of minor family get-togethers like the Father’s Day gathering, which did end up on a Sunday, after all. The weather warnings. None of us live at home, yet there are plenty of things our parents still want to tell or ask all of us. At once. With technology, the group-text is the clear way to go.

I never realized I’d see so many group texts or enjoy them so much. But it all makes sense. And when your phone is inundated with family communications via group text because your siblings all have launched lives away from home, you know you’ve officially reached adulthood. How to celebrate? Pull out the old phone and type up a note to mom, dad, bro and sis. Make their phones buzz in unison. You know they’d love to hear from you.


, , ,

Leave a comment

Twenty-something questions for an early spring day

Will social media be a part of the entire rest of our lives? How will we make sure we’re not the generation who forgot how to interact in person?

What are they going to call 90s and 2000s music when it’s the equivalent of “oldies”? Wouldn’t work be better if we could all listen to our own music? Are the remnants of instrumental skills from elementary school still helping us be smarter? Will the whole stand-up desk fad really catch on at the office? Or will we all be sitting on medicine balls someday soon?

Why does where to live involve so many other decisions? Who to live with? House or townhouse or condo or apartment? In which town?

I wonder: which sport has the most fair-weather fans? And which team? Is football better in the rain … or snow?

Why is a “free” beer with a haircut one of the most exciting things ever?

Why does my next vacation seem so far away? Can there ever be any better vacation destination than Hawaii? Where’s the best place you’ve ever been on vacation? The worst?

Why does cleaning have to be a never-ending battle? What if you were offered a trip to Never-Never Land? What would the world have gotten excited about if there was no “Harry Potter”? Or “Star Wars”?

Does it get harder to learn history as time goes on? Anyone else have a high school history teacher who introduced himself by saying he was “high on life?”

Doesn’t thinking about “retirement” in your twenties feel like thinking about dinner at breakfast?

What surprises will life throw at us next? And what will we do to be ready?

, , , , ,

Leave a comment

A holiday trip down wifi memory lane

What do Abraham Linksys, Father Fingers, TOMADACHI and 301 bottles of beer on the wall have in common?

You could fire up your computer, sign into the Internet and look it up, but it’s not the actual Googling that will give you a clue. It’s the signing online part.

These are just a few of the wifi networks I’ve seen or signed into in the eight-year lifespan of my trusty Dell laptop.

Looking through lists of old wifi networks is a fun way to travel down memory lane. You get to read clever, quirky names that remind you of places you used to frequent, and you can do it all without even having to know the password.

Browsing through wifi names, you can find puns like these, often playing on the word “wifi” itself (note, these are courtesy of Facebook posts from friends still in college): WI believe I can FI; Bill Wi the Science Fi; Pretty fly for a WIFI; hide yo kids hide yo wifi.

A quick review of my wifi networks list shows where I’ve been. There’s my home network and a whole bunch of non-creative ones from college: UIUCnet and uipublicwifi on campus; Illini Media at the Daily Illini newsroom; starcrest at the Laundromat where I washed my clothes most of junior and senior year; Volo @ County Market 1 at the grocery store two blocks from my place that had a nice coffee shop; and Urbana Free Library, the aptly named network at the downtown Urbana book hub, a great place with a calm, studious vibe that puts most city library branches and suburban libraries to shame.

A few wifi networks on my list prove I was in Pittsburgh, like CLP-SQ Hill Library (I guess I like libraries. Makes sense, as a words person). As for Crazy Mocha, 61c, and BIGGBY WIFI, well, those are all coffee shops. I do have a weakness for coffee shops.

I’ve even got a few from a vacation to California: Pacific View Inn 4 and PEETS, representing a cheap but perfectly passable motel and another coffee shop.

As great as it’s been to reminisce through my wifi networks list, I’ve got to go. The network at my apartment – named ATTMUNCS and some random numbers, which is not as cool as my old apartment wifi network called black sox bill for some reason completely unknown to me – needs a break. Until next time, my twenty-something friends, enjoy the Internet and the treat of clever wifi names.

, , , ,

Leave a comment

You’ve officially reached adulthood when … you buy your own couch

Owning your own couch is a milestone moment on the path to adulthood, not so much for the couch itself, or the place to sit, lounge or nap that it provides.

A couch is a benchmark because of all it represents.  Think of what it takes to own a couch:


Time to shop around at fancy places like Walter E. Smithe or Penny Mustard, well-known names like La-Z-Boy, shops around the corner, those cheapo discount places, IKEA and even the all-American favorite – department stores.

A plan for decorations and interior design (or at least a few ideas about color schemes, and how to avoid ending up with a brand-new couch that clashes too much with your other second-hand and scavenged furniture).

Money. More specifically a credit card, which isn’t easy to get these days.

A place of your own. You know, somewhere to put said couch. Somewhere that lacks a couch already purchased or inherited by your parents or roommate.

A steady residence. Couches, along with being flat-out expensive, are heavy, and therefore expensive and difficult to move.

A TV, record player or some interesting art. Why own a couch if there’s nothing to look at or listen to while sitting on it?

Beyond all that, owning a couch somehow seems to represent that final switch from the indescribable, post-college, no-man’s-land years into true adulthood. It’s a staple in turning a dwelling into a true, welcoming home where you can entertain friends and even host family – instead of a place to crash suitable only for your own use with the occasional appearance of your boyfriend/girlfriend/partner and/or friends who have been warned of the place’s possible lack of comforts.

Owning a couch is a bit of a frontier for twenty-somethings. It requires commitment and responsibility. Couch-ownership is not something that should be entered into lightly, as it represents a step toward even scarier ownership feats, like homeownership.

But when you’re ready, and you finally buy that first couch, you’ll know what you are and it’ll be official. Welcome to adulthood.


, , , , ,

Leave a comment

City dreams and suburban realities: A farewell to Chicago

Growing up in the suburbs, going to the city was always a big deal.

It was a twice-a-year occasion at best – once in the summer to go to the beach or the Taste of Chicago, and once in the winter for something holiday-related or a Bulls game.

The city was so close, yet so far, so I often would dream of someday living there.

I’d gaze out the window as my Dad would merge from the Edens to the Kennedy and traffic would inevitably slow, looking down long streets of three-flats and rowhouses, dreaming of going on rambling runs to explore these neat-looking neighborhoods that actually had something my Mom would call character, something sorely missing from the sameness of our mid-1980s subdivision.

With how little I saw of the city growing up, each small step in my ability to explore it on my own seemed monumental.

Taking the Metra downtown with a friend, I’d draw myself a detailed walking map from Ogilvie to wherever I was going, adding a handmade grid of downtown streets in case we got off-track.

Taking the Metra alone required an even more carefully drawn map and a handwritten list of train times to make sure I’d get home OK, not to mention a note to self to pack change for the meters at the suburban station’s parking lot.

Taking the CTA with friends who knew the city better, I made the mistake of not paying attention. So when it came time to take it on my own, I nervously consulted my list of how many stops I’d stay on the train and how many blocks I’d walk after getting off. Transferring worried me, as did the possibility of choosing the correct line at the right stop, but boarding a train in the wrong direction. Thankfully, I never made that mistake, but one time, where the “El” is actually a subway, I stepped up to ground level and walked three wrong directions before trial and error pointed me the way I actually was trying to go.

And now I’ve lived here for two years.

And now I’m ready to move out, back to the suburbs, although not exactly back to where I came from.

I’ve learned two main things from my experiment with urban living.

I’m sure the first one’s not true for everyone, but it is for me: You can take the girl out of the suburbs, but you can’t take the suburbs out of the girl.

Basically, living in the city – and seeing the pros and cons of it in a real way, not in an idealized view from twice-yearly visits – has made me realize I’m a suburban person. The suburbs, and their nice mix of proximity to something bigger and convenience of sprawling parking lots and two-way streets, are not only where I’m from – they’re where I belong.

In the city, I can barely run two blocks without crossing some busy street and inevitably hitting a red light. I have to circle the same three or four streets every day for parking, avoid tall curbs, stop short of bumping parked motorcycles, and read every street sign I see – since the one I fail to spot will be the one telling me I’m about to owe $50 in a street sweeping ticket or risk getting towed.

In the city, there are too many good restaurants to count, too many fun neighborhoods to visit and too many new bars to try – but in my life, there is too little time to fit it all in. I’m constantly … guess where? … in the suburbs, working or seeing friends and family. And there’s another problem: I wanted city living to be like College Take 2, but I lack that close group of friends or the time to find a new one. Most of my college and high school friends have scattered across the country and I admire them for chasing their dreams in faraway places. But they left me, supposedly doing the twenty-something thing in the city, with few friends to join in my exploration.

I belong in the suburbs.

Despite that strange realization from two years here in the city, I don’t regret my time in Ukrainian Village. And that’s the second thing I’ve learned.

Childhood dreams might not play out the way you expected them to, but they’re still worth pursuing.

Living in the city was always a bit of a dream of mine, something that seemed like it’d be awesome to do if I ever had the chance, yet not something that would make me completely unhappy if I never was able to try. So when I had enough money to move out and realized rent would be cheaper and finding a roommate would be easier in the city than out in the ‘burbs, I knew the time was right. The opportunity was there, believe it or not, so chasing this childhood desire was worth a try.

The city part of my twenty-something journey is ending soon, and honestly, it’s about time. I can no longer stand the commute and I’m excited to gain more time in my life by spending a whole lot less of it in the car.

But those rambling runs down city streets I used to dream of? I’ve done dozens of them. And those bars and restaurants that looked too cool not to try? I’ve planned carefully, carving out time when faraway friends have visited, and I’ve tried a solid handful of them, too.

I’ve lived in the city. I’ve gotten mail with my name on it addressed to somewhere in “Chicago.” I’ve satisfied my curiosity. And now it’s time to make myself a new home.

Best of luck as you continue your twenty-something journey in the city, the suburbs, or wherever in the world you may be.

I've lived the Chicago live; seen the skyline, ran the streets and tried the food. Now it's time to return to the 'burbs -- where I belong.

I’ve lived the Chicago life; seen the skyline, ran the streets and tried the food. Now it’s time to return to the ‘burbs — where I belong.

, , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Life lessons from … some crazy runners

I was carrying an empty moving box from my brand-new Chicago apartment back to my parents’ car, when what did I see? Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a guy, actually two, or was it three? squatting down to draw arrows of chalk on the sidewalk just feet away from me. It was a sign.

“Oh my gosh, Hashers!” I said, excitement escaping my lips before I had time to stop it.

“Are you?” one of them replied, in a bit of a sing-songy tone, lengthening out the second syllable so it sounded like he said “Are yoooou?” with the emphasis on the “ooo.”

It was a tone I’d heard before. Out on trail. And even though it combined two totally common words used hundreds of thousands of times in everyday English speech, I knew “Are yoooou?” as part of a secret language – the specific mode of speaking of a crazy group of runners that likes cheap beer as much as a long run on a sunny spring day.

Whose secret language it is doesn’t really matter. Lingos and jargons and slang are all magical, no matter if it’s a group of physicists, police officers, preschool teachers or garbage collectors doing the speaking.

A secret language is music to my ears, and I’d say all twenty-somethings need one.

Not the type of secret language we used to create as kids, where, thanks to a popular book, “Frindle” meant “pen;” where “chickenliver” was a jinx for a basketball opponent about to shoot a free throw; where some silly code word got everyone into the treehouse except your little sister; or where Pig Latin was all you could hear in the hallways during passing periods at school.

In our twenties, we don’t need a secret language like that, but we do need some way of speaking, within groups we value, that proves we belong, that lets us feel the group’s acceptance.

These secret languages can be simple, as the crazy runners’ is.

The words don’t have to be invented, foreign or nonsense. The “secret” can be in how the words are said, when or where they’re said, and who they’re said to. We’re adults now, and our brains can handle the distinction.

A “secret language” consisting of completely normal words said only in a certain context can still produce the same result that treehouse passwords did in our youth – a comforting feeling of in-group knowledge gained from speaking in code and being able to comprehend it.

My answer to the “Are yoooou?” coded question asked by the crazy runner nicknamed something about tacos, or the Most Interesting Man in the World, was a straightforward one, and seemingly not at all in a secret language.

“Yes,” I said, meaning, yes, I’ve Hasher a few times, I run, I drink beer, and I understand the language. “But not today. I’m moving.”

It was a perfect moment, one that proved the apartment I’d chosen after several rejections and an exhaustive Craigslist search was the right spot for me – somewhere I’d feel valued and accepted and like I belong. I would have figured that out eventually, but the hashers’ secret language immediately made it clear.

And that’s what secret languages do. Once we learn to speak and understand them, they help us know, almost effortlessly, right where we belong.

, , , ,

Leave a comment

An open letter to … Friends across the country

Dear faraway friends,

First of all, we miss you.

We probably don’t tell you this. We’re busy in our own lives, and in some cases, we’d feel embarrassed to admit it. But we miss you all the same.

We miss the fun and lighthearted times we shared in high school – the dirty-joke-a-thons on bus rides to marching band competitions; the surreptitious sneaking of a song with the F-word into the soccer game warm-up tape; the wandering, white-knuckle drives down the local “haunted” road. We really do miss all that.

We especially miss the crazy times in college – the midnight snowball raids at the wrong guy’s window; the first stumbling experiences with frat parties, apartment parties and the dumps of campus bars that let 19-year-olds in; and the thrill of witnessing big football and basketball victories together in a throng of jumping, screaming students just itching for a reason to drink in celebration. Hard not to miss times like these.

We won’t lie here, in this snail-mail style letter to you at your new home states away. We won’t tell you we miss the stress of three finals in two days; that one time when all four of us were locked out of our apartment at the same time; or the insane number of jerks we all managed to meet junior year.

But when we go through new tough times – work deadlines that creep up out of nowhere; the stress of absolutely having to find a new place to live by the end of our current lease; and the pressure of big decisions about careers and relationships – that’s when we miss you the most.

We miss the times when you were there to help us through the mind-numbing amount of work staring us in the face, or the intricate complexity of the most pressing decisions weighing on our minds. We miss those long talks in the hallway when one roommate was asleep, and especially, we miss the warm-fuzzy feelings of friendship, motivation and comfort you gave us simply by your presence.

We miss all that and more – we miss you.

We know this isn’t going to change. You live in Nashville or Denver or Duluth or Detroit or Columbus or a Navy base somewhere between Los Angeles and San Diego, and we live, well, here.

Our lives are continuing to take us in different directions. We knew they would. We have goals and dreams and that magic ability to chase them no matter the twists and turns.

We’re not asking you to come home, at least not simply for our sake. We’re not asking for anything, really.

We already get the occasional text, Facebook post, email or phone call, and we love that. We love the updates about your adventures, and we love hearing your smiling self “speaking” through your word choice, text abbreviations and placement of smiley faces. It’s as close to the real you as we can get, without planning a vacation to the west coast, the mountains, the south or Minne-SO-ta.

So before we get all emotional here, it’s time to bring this letter to a close the same way we opened it.

Dear faraway friends, we love you, as only true friends can, and we miss you — no matter the distance.

, , , , , ,