A Modern Scrapbook

There is not a day that goes by that I am not involved with Pinterest in some fashion.   I tend to browse for at least 30 minutes a day and even on days off, my friends send me pins they think I’ll like or I’ll be doing a project for Pintertesting. In the course of a year, it has become a major part of my online life, my entertainment and it’s influence is all over my house.  It all started with my Craftiness board…and has exploded into 29 more boards (3 of them are secret boards).  I have boards for crafts, food, fashion, exercise, funny stuff, stuff that restores my faith in humanity and obviously many more. I have a secret wedding board because having one that’s visible is just asking for bad juju.

In the beginning, all my boards were just like everyone else’s.  Then I made boards for specific rooms in my house and what I’d like to do to them ;).  Which then turned into me making a board for Alex’s birthday.  I needed to keep track of all the things I wanted to do for his party in one place. I created a board for an event. Not for food or make up or things to do with Mod Podge. Now I can look back on that board and remember how hilarious Shot Roulette was or how much fun everyone thought the “Roof Pizza” was.  I don’t need that board anymore and I could delete it. What fun would that be, though?  Now I have what is basically a digital scrapbook reminding me how much fun we had with the added bonus that there are no pictures of me in it.

Alex Board

I’ve recently created boards for my upcoming trip to New Orleans for my sister’s birthday and one for my brother and sister-in-law’s kind of second wedding.  They are group boards so my sister and sister-in-law, respectively, can pin into them.  These aren’t just so that we can plan, but we’ll also be able to look back on these boards and remember the fun we had not only at these events, but also the fun we had putting them together.  In these cases, we can remember our sisterly bonding.

Scrapbook Boards

If I post about these things later, I can also pin those to the boards and share them with the people who follow.  I’m not the best about printing out photos or making those cool shutterfly yearbooks all the cool bloggers make (maybe when I’m married), but having these boards is a way for me to look back on all the fun I’ve had.  I don’t know if this was ever an intention of the people who developed Pinterest, but it certainly a fringe benefit that I’ll enjoy for years to come (perhaps it will help with Pinterest’s longevity if more people start doing this).

My Pinterest account is slowly becoming a giant collaborative scrapbook and I am really digging it. Has anyone else been doing this? Please tell me having 30 boards is normal.

Living in Sin: A Young Couple’s Guide

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I’m going to put it out there. I live with my boyfriend, as my mother puts it, “In sin.”  Of course she is joking and isn’t upset by it at all, but it got me thinking.  Young couples moving in together before marriage is pretty new.  My mom’s generation didn’t do it nearly as much as we do, and then it wasn’t quite so accepted.  Between my mother’s jokes and the bevy of other couples who have asked me my opinion on them moving in together, I thought maybe I have some wisdom to share about this particular experience. Let me explain how this all happened first, and we’ll get to the wisdom after.

Alex, for many reasons, needed a place to live.  This was not some run-of-the-mill, “I’m sick of living with my parents,” needed a place to live.  This was a for reals “my house is not safe” needed a place to live. Of course I wanted to help him and my mother knew all the details so she offered to let him crash on our couch in December 2010.  He came into our home with only one basket of clothes and a few dvds and there he stayed for the next sixish months.  In May or June 2011, he and a few friends moved into a house together that his dad owned. It wasn’t an option before because it had been occupied by a tenant.  When July came and the lease on my house was up, I clandestinely moved a lot of my stuff to his house.  My mom said our new house was open and that I could start bringing my things there.  I think I answered with something like, “I’m going to keep my stuff at Alex’s.”  She got what I meant and in the hustle and bustle of moving didn’t really have time to freak out. We are quickly approaching our 3rd year of living together and I’d like to share a few things.

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My answer 90% of the time when I’m asked by a couple if they should move in together is NO. It’s not because I think it’s something no one should do or I don’t love Alex or that I hate living with him.  It’s because living together is a major adjustment that many people my age are not familiar with. It’s kind of the same concept as not living in a dorm with your friends in college.  It can really mess with a relationship sometimes and ain’t nobody got time for that.  These are a few real life situations that have been brought to me along with the “Do you think we should move in together” question.

1.  Your on-again off-again boyfriend finally wants to commit!

Run, girl, run!  If you can’t make it a month without a faux break-up, things aren’t going to change now. You used to have your space to cool off and remember how “in love” you are. Now there is no escape.  What will you do when one of you has a hissy fit and wants to break up again?  Now all your things are in the house mixed together. You’ve spent money on the place that you can’t get back.  I personally don’t understand the idea of breaking up and getting back together, but to each his own.  However, the whole concept of living together is permanence.  Having a tumultuous Soap Opera Romance just doesn’t work.

2.  But..but…we NEVER fight!

You will now.  Are you prepared?  A huge part of living together is compromise.  It’s a lot bigger than disagreeing on which comforter to buy.  One of you will want to hang with friends and the other one will get pissed off.  You’ll ask the other to do the dishes…8 days in a row and they still won’t be done.  Every little thing can become a big problem.  Conflict resolution is a big lesson in living together.  If you’ve never had to fix an issue before, make sure your communication is Olympic level good.

3.  We’re 19, that makes us adults.

Yeah, ok. Sure it does.  Because you can rent cars and drink and run for office.  Oh wait, no you can’t.  Call your ride and go home to your parents.  You don’t have the income or maturity to handle managing a home and a life with another person.  That’s the long and short of it.  I’m not trying to be mean, but it’s the truth.  Alex moved in when I was 21 and we had separate living spaces and we lived with my parents.  They handled all the hard stuff so it made the transition less insane.

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It’s ok to want to make a home with the person you love.  I did it and it makes me incredibly happy.  That doesn’t mean it’s been easy from the start, though.  Up until he moved in, we really did never fight.  Ever.  It was a shock to me when our first fight happened.  Adjusting to the idea that it won’t be all sunshine and rainbows is tough.  You love this person and you don’t want to think that they are anything short of perfect, but that’s not going to help either of you in the long run.  Here are few things I’ve learned over the course of the last two years.

Understand That You Might Be the Bad Guy Sometimes.

It is imperative that you learn to apologize.  There is going to come a time when you do something that really hurts your significant other.  Big strong men have feelings too, and guys, your “bad bitch” girlfriend isn’t made of stone.   I have always had this, “I’m always right” complex and swallowing my pride isn’t something that comes easily to me.  So when I occasionally say something a little too brash and I hurt Alex I have to apologize.

Cliche, but True: Communication is Key

What I sometimes assume is common sense can be hard for Alex to understand, and vice versa.  I have had to explain that RedZone is not as important as our life.  He tries to explain that RedZone is the meaning of life.  All jokes aside, you have to talk about your feelings.  If it feels awkward, you aren’t doing it enough.  No one is a mind reader and he isn’t going to guess exactly what you want from him every second of the day.  I can’t tell you how many disagreements we could have avoided if we had just been honest about how we felt upfront.

Basically, communication saves you from a lot of drama and strife.

Conflict Resolution and Problem Solving

Figuring out a way to fix the disagreement you are having and keeping it from happening again is a pretty difficult thing to do.  However, it is imperative to making your everyday life happier. Here is a real life example that I’m sure Alex doesn’t care that I’m telling you.   I would ask him to help with the housework a lot. He would say something along the lines of, “I’ll try.”  Then nothing would get done.  I would come home from a long day at work (he would have left for work just before) and I would see that not only did he not do any housework, but he left his lunch dishes in the living room. So I would lose my mind over a sink of dishes. This is not healthy or fair. I thought about the 4 areas of having a home and a life with someone and decided we should each be the captain of two of the areas. I handle Money and Cooking and he captains Cleaning and Handiness. I’ve created a written budget for each of us and he tackles various cleaning chores while he is home. I make dinner and he does the dishes.

So look into what reoccurring disputes you have with your partner, sit down and figure out a compromise. Neither of you should feel like you are getting the short end of the stick. Neither of you should feel the need to get angry. Communicate.

You are a Team

Consider yourselves the Two Amigos.   The major life decisions you make now affect the other person too.  Even some minor ones.  You can’t just repaint the whole house red on a whim without discussing it with them first.  You can’t just come home with a puppy.  No more lone-wolfing.  Eventually the line between things you should check in about and things you can make the call on will make itself clear.  I can make any decorating call I want, but I still enjoy when he has some input.  He knows he can have as big a TV as he wants or look for whatever jobs he wants.  I still talked it over with him when I found out I could adopt Frank, my dream dog.  The old adage, “It’s better to ask forgiveness than to ask permission,” does not apply here.  You’ll figure out your team dynamic eventually, but until then talk it out.

Have Fun

Nothing is worse for a relationship than forgetting to have fun.  You love this person!  Go on dates.  Do the things that each of you love, together.   Laugh, eat, drink, see friends, or do whatever it is the two of you like to do together.  Nothing renews my love for Alex more than when he makes me laugh.  The various tasks and responsibilities of having a home can bog people down sometimes so make sure to make room in your life for fun.

Living with a significant other is wonderful for so many reasons, but it’s also hard work.  It’s a big decision and definitely not one to rush into.  We are lucky that everything worked out for us this way and I can’t say that it would work for everyone.   Look before you leap, understand that no one is a mind reader, discuss problems like adults, work together and keep it light.  You will learn so much about each other and learn even more about your relationship. I don’t want this post to read like I’m saying no one should move in together.  Nothing is perfect, but living together is so rewarding.  Hopefully these few tidbits of my experience put you ahead of the game.

Do you agree? Disagree?  Any other tips you would tell those who are considering moving in together?

P.S. If you made it to the end of this post, congratulations!  What doozy. Go reward yourself with a latte or something.

Shifted

On September 11, 2001 I was a 6th grader in a Catholic school in Northern Illinois.

Until that day, I had been a child.  My biggest worry was who would hang out with me during recess or if I had cool shoes. That morning, I knew very quickly that something out of the ordinary was happening. My principal, who I never saw in the halls, was walking from class to class with a small note in her hand. She walked into our classroom, handed the note to our teacher mid-lecture, said something under her breathe and left. I saw such a range of emotions on my teacher’s face during the few seconds she read the note. I knew something was wrong. My teacher didn’t let anything slip though. She kept on with her lesson like nothing was wrong.

During my next class, our principle got on the PA and directed us all to the small chapel on the lower floor. We got in line and walked quietly, all wondering why we were going to the chapel. This wasn’t our usual Mass day, and that we did in the church.  When all the classes were situated in the chapel, my principal stood in the aisle and told us something horrible had happened in New York City.  She said she didn’t know the details, but many people had been killed or injured and that we needed to pray for them. We had a small prayer service.  I couldn’t stop thinking about what had happened. What could be going on outside that was so bad they interrupted school?  My 11 year old brain couldn’t fathom something like terrorists or suicide bombers or killing for your religion.

Throughout the day, some parents picked up their children.  That was when I started to get really worried. Whatever was going on was so bad that they had to pull kids from school.  When school ended, I got on the bus to go to my babysitter’s house and she had the news on.  I sat glued to the TV soaking in every detail. What they thought had been an accident was really something someone did intentionally. I couldn’t understand. The people who took over the planes knew they would die too, didn’t they? Why would they do something like this? I didn’t understand how strongly people could hate.  I had seen the video of the towers going down repeatedly by the time my mom called and told my babysitter not to let me see the news.

My world grew so much that day.  My whole life had been school and my immediate family. Now I had a much more global view.  I was overwhelmed by the idea that someone could have so much hate that they were capable of doing something like this, but I was also amazed by our reactions. I’m sure there were pundits pointing fingers, but at almost 12 years old all I saw were neighbors helping other neighbors hang flags and exchanging hugs and shoulders to cry on.

Even then, I didn’t really understand what the attacks meant. They have certainly shaped a lot of my beliefs and perspectives since.  It’s hard for me not to get teary when I think about that day and it hits me harder every year. The memory is there everyday, but something as significant as an anniversary really brings up the details. As terrible as it makes the world seem, it also proved how wonderful and compassionate humans can be.  I try to think about that when the memory seems too painful.  My heart is completely broken for everyone in New York and Washington D.C. that day and for everyone who lost a loved one.

Am I Becoming Tom Haverford?

I have this conversations with Alex twice a week. When we were picking our living room color I painted a bunch of swatches everywhere and took mental notes of how they looked at different times a day and asked every person that walked into my house what they thought. I asked Alex. “Um, the dark one?” was his reply. I think I’m the one with the problem, though…

Because I don’t like the color anymore.

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Right in Front of Me

It was never my intention for the blog to be about politics or to try to convince you to believe what I believe. It’s about living a better life, but my life has been pretty great already. There are a thousand things I take for granted everyday. One of my lifelong favorite activities is to read. Books made up a huge portion of my childhood.  I used to get in trouble for READING. Not drugs, vandalism or violence. Reading. That’s how much I love it. I was recently chatting with a coworker about our shared love of reading and she threw a little tidbit at me that shocked me.

There are more than 150 schools in Chicago that do not have libraries.

I honestly did not believe her so I called up my bfff who happens to be a teacher in Chicago. Her reply? “Yeah I work in one.”  I was floored. Ok ok, I grew up in a northern suburb and I went to a private school that had a library and a librarian and a computer lab that had functioning computers. I guess I just assumed that the kids that lived an hour south of me had the same stuff. My school was not rich. The families in my community were not Rockefellers, but we had what we needed. My brothers went to a public high school with a 99% graduation rate.  So I was stunned.

I told my coworker about my teacher friend and she bought her books for the classroom! She did such a thoughtful, wonderful act with such attention to detail.  My friend teaches a class of 6th grade students in an extended day program.  Her class consists of one student who reads at a sophomore level, 6 in special ed, 3 who understand but don’t speak English and the rest read at a 2, 3 or 4 grade level.  So my coworker bought an enormous range of books for the enormous difference in reading levels in the class. She is truly a sweet woman.

I rounded up some books from my siblings that they’ve grown out of and a few from other families, but nothing compares to what my coworker did for a teacher and students she doesn’t even know. CPS accepts donations of a range of items, but we decided to give the books to my friend to keep in her class and use as she pleases during her classes. It’s nice to know where a donation is going and to know that it’ll be used. Some schools in Chicago have libraries but no librarians.  This means that library time and the support a librarian can offer to both teachers and students is missing.

In Chicago, though, it’s no surprise that these schools are lacking in staff and funding.  I could also go on and on about how education is the solution to almost all our problems (mental health awareness, infant mortality rate, violence, corrupt government), but I know I would bore you. I could also be reminding you of the disparate conditions of the city I grew up loving.  It overwhelms me and makes me feel like there is nothing little old me can do.  These are not my point. I guess what I want you to walk away from this post with is that there is one woman who saw a need and out of the goodness in her heart, filled it.  Her donated set of Roald Dahl books might make a difference in an eleven year old’s life (like they changed mine). That’s something to be joyous about.