Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Guest Blog: Graduating into Fred Mertz's Pants

The new year is upon us and the world of Welcome to Adulthood 2009 just wouldn't be complete without a guest blog visit from Lukus Williams. When I first read Luke's piece I literally laughed out loud in my super quiet office. (Hopefully my colleagues didn't catch on that I was spending a little down time reading and chuckling about Luke's metaphor for adulthood -- a pair of extremely high waisted dress slacks.) Luke's piece is as funny and entertaining as it is insightful. I could brag about how talented of a writer he is, his impressive list of writing gigs, his graphic design-cred (photo credit below goes to him also), and all that good stuff, but I will let his piece speak for itself.

I am thrilled and honored to have Luke as a guest blogger (yes, his comments are the ones that usually generate lots of great discussion, and we are happy to finally hear more of him) and I hope you will "LOL" just as much as I did when reading his work. As always, let's show him some love in the comments!

Graduating into Fred Mertz’s Pants

By Lukus Williams

It was long, it was messy, but I did it. I’ve graduated from college (well, as soon as ‘State gets back from vacation and mails out diplomas). Now I may have been living on my own, holding various jobs, and being more or less self-sufficient for some time now… but I’ve always been in school. From Little Bo Peep Daycare in Lansing, Michigan to San Diego State University.

By all measures, I’d say this blog entry will be as close as I get to a proper debut onto the adulthood scene. So, let it be official: I’m of good breeding, marriageable-age, and now eligible for a career with retirement benefits. Hello world!

But before I tackle Aldous Huxley’s future with my journalism degree in hand, I’m allowing myself a bit of regression. A last hurrah. A chance to relish my final, guaranteed vacation: the likes of which only students and teachers are allowed.
I’m home for the holidays. Cue Christmas music and G-rated hi-jinks.

I get to be fourteen instead of twenty-four (or maybe sixteen since I’m driving) at my parents’, and that means having fun, and being waited on. Not that I’m lazy here, but having dinner made and laundry washed (if put into the clothes hamper!) sure makes me feel like I’m being pampered. Living on my own might be a blast, but my roomies never pick-up after me.

It hasn’t been too difficult, this letting go and enjoying a break. However, there are a few anxieties about my near-future tiptoeing around the edge of my thoughts. You might think I’d be biting my fingernails at the prospect of finding employment in this economy. Luckily I didn’t major in artistic philosophy, so I’m not too concerned with my serious, full-time (and grown-up!) job search, as I’ve got a modest-sized bag of experience along with mad skillz and many prospects.

My true fear is in regards to the real, concrete changes that I see on the horizon. Want to know the biggest one of all? The giant antagonist in my adulthood future? Clothes.

That’s right, clothes. Suits, ties, slacks, sweater-vests (shudder), loafers, blazers, and suspenders… I cower in fear and disgust at the thought of wearing such a costume everyday. Because up until now, that outfit was just a costume, something I put on for a meeting here or and interview there. I readily grasp the importance of professional dress and its impact on personal impressions, I’ve simply had little need or desire to appear professional more than a couple hours out of every week, but now I’m faced with the prospect of looking like that Monday through Friday. It’s horrifying. I don’t even like pants to begin with, and I make attempts to wear shorts whenever possible!

I’m resigned to the fact that I’ll need to wear my hair short and boring so as to not offend my potential 30-something bosses that began to bald in their 20s. But the suits. Ugh. I just can’t wrap my mind around it. The inner-child who’s been in the pilot’s seat for the last twenty-four years will surely be kicking and screaming all the way to the Men’s Warehouse.

I’ve heard many pro-suit arguments, from the whole “look the part” set all the way to “women dig it,” but what I’m really looking for now are coping mechanisms. Is the paycheck motivation enough, or will I need to bring an SDSU shirt and some boardshorts with me to work so I can change the moment the clock strikes 5? Someone have a list of the top ultra casual businesses in San Diego hiring writers/editors/graphic designers/manual laborers? Does David Tennant’s Dr. Who “geek-chic” count as professional attire? Do slacks always have to look like Fred Mertz’s pants? What are the things that you attach from the bottom of your shirt to your socks to make the shirt stay in place called, and do people actually wear them? Why must dress-shirt manufacturers assume that my arms are impossibly long simply because I’m over six feet tall?

This adulthood thing, it’s going to be like my stint as a four-year-old ring barer all over again, isn’t it?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Guest Blog: Mastering the Art of Laundry and Other Lessons on "Growing Up"

Today I am so excited and proud to present Emily Lieber as our guest blogger. Emily is really a phenomenal writer (she is also a writer-by-profession) and I have been hinting to her for the past few months how honored I would be to have her as a guest blogger. Well, Merry Christmas to me, because this morning, in my inbox was this little jewel of a piece. It is so spot on our theme of adulthood, and so insightful, funny, and poignant, especially during this holiday season when many of us will be going back to our parents house for celebrations. I hope you will enjoy this one as much as I did. The best part is, Emily promises it as part of a series, so we will have more to come from this talented lady.

Enjoy it! Show her some comment love! What kinds of social norms exist when you go back home? Do you still live by the "house rules"? How has your relationship with your parents changed/grown/evolved (pick any, or others, that apply) since adulthood? We will all be expecting riveting stories in the comments after the holidays are over (because we know we will all have lots to share after 4 days of family bonding.) I look forward to our discussion! And, of course, may your yuletide days be merry and bright!

So, ::drumroll:: without further ado:

Part I: Mastering the Art of Laundry and Other Lessons on "Growing Up"

By Emily Lieber

My husband and I are in the process of buying and renovating our first home. With escrow, permitting delays, cracked slab fixes, and other hidden problems, the process has taken more than twice as long as we thought it would. In the meantime, the house we were renting sold and escrow closed. We would have been searching for a month-to-month rental had it not been for my generous parents, who have opened their home to us and our two dogs until our new house is move-in ready.

We moved out of our old house and into my parents home, the one I grew up in, in one, long day. It has been good thing for all of us that my parents have a granny flat of sorts, complete with a restroom, bedroom, and living area separated by a door from the main house. We do have privacy and space so that we are not underfoot, but we still must venture into my parents’ space for meals, shows recorded on the DVR, and laundry. We spend most of the evenings eating dinner and sitting by the fire in the main house, so there is plenty of time to discuss healthcare reform, watch shows like the Sing-Off, and play board games.

There have been primarily positive things about our temporary living arrangement. For example, I no longer have to worry about making dinner. My mom works part-time and is a great cook, so she is fairly content handling that area. My mom has also taken over the daily task of walking our dogs at lunch, something I used to run home from work to do every day, making my life fairly harried and rushed. More importantly, I think my husband and I get along pretty well with my parents. We enjoy spending time with them and get to do a lot of that right now.

But this is real life, and with the good comes the “less-than-pleasant” things that come with sharing living spaces (in my life that has included parents and siblings, roommates, and my spouse, and all have come with very different, but still “less-than-pleasant” things). In my current living situation, the main issue that has arisen is the laundry situation. My mom has a knack for cleaning, sanitizing, and organizing, and laundry is one of her favorite things to do. Seriously. Not favorite cleaning task to do, favorite thing to do. I, on the other hand, absolutely despise doing laundry. When I had the luxury of my own washer and dryer, I would stuff them as full as I possibly could to get the as much laundry washed and dried as quickly as possible. I don’t like the process of moving wet things from the washer to the dryer, the process of folding piles of clothes and towels, or the process of hanging damp clothes to dry on hangers. Somehow, I have still managed to do this task weekly for the 9 years I have lived on my own since I left for college at age 18.

Despite my many years of experience in this area, I failed to realize when I put in my first load in at my parents’ house that my process was quite deficient. I stuffed a couple of blankets in the load (and maybe some towels) and went out to run a quick errand. When I returned, my mom and a little girl she watches from time to time were waiting triumphantly to tell me how my too-full load had caused the washing machine to jiggle out of its place all the way across the laundry room floor (or so they say). The washing machine had already been returned to its rightful place, and my load had been pulled out, divided into thirds, and restarted by the time I had returned with plans to transfer it all to the dryer. I really do think that part of the issue is that my mom has super high-tech machines that require more delicate handling. I will admit that another part is that I definitely push the limits of how much can fit in one load. I accepted their joking at my expense and promised to run smaller loads in the future.

I tried to continue doing laundry as the weeks progressed, but I soon realized that it was best for all of us if I simply dumped our dirty clothes, the doggie beds, our towels, bedding, and blankets onto the laundry room floor for my mother to sort, wash, dry, hang, and fold as she sees fit. I simply am not capable of doing laundry to the standard that my mom does it. I wash blacks and navy blues with light blues and reds. I throw all whites, regardless of fabric type, into the wash at once and douse the whole load with bleach. I throw in tennis shoes to dry on air dry instead of using the special drying rack. I pretty much always use the normal cycle, failing to use the special options like “sanitize,” “wrinkle care,” and “delicate.” Based on all of this, you might think my husband and I look like ragamuffins. Maybe we do, but if you ask me, our clothes always come out clean and seem to last as long as ordinary clothes should. Yet, I am confident that my mom still has a mental checklist of things that I do “wrong” in the laundry room.

Sometimes when you grow up and move out you think you have accomplished something. You think, okay, I’ve learned to do my own laundry, make my own meals, and plan my own day-to-day activities. Well, if your head is getting a little bit big regarding the accomplishments you have achieved in adulthood by living on your own, you might want to spend a weekend at my parent’s house. My mom will reeducate you on what temperature to cook things at and how long to microwave them, how to properly wash dishes, when you should bake cookies (not at 9:30 p.m.) and for how long, and when you should go on runs (not after dark). You will quickly learn two things: (1) what you thought you knew about the domestic realm is not enough; and (2) while you toyed with a false sense of independence for a time, you likely need to be retrained in the art of running your own life.

(Photo by Anne Taintor)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

We Cook: Emily's Gingersnap Bars

So, one of the perks of being an adult has to be the ability to operate an oven by ourselves. That means, come holiday time, we get to bake cookies! I am instituting a new category at Welcome to Adulthood with a recipes section. (Since, after all, this blog is in the business of sharing all the secrets to adulthood. Baking and cooking secrets count just like any other...) Send me your favorite recipes! Whether they be easy recipes to make for your family, fun recipes for a dinner party, or even your favorite cocktail recipe.

Our first recipe comes to me from Emily. She made these gingersnap bars last year, and I have not been able to get them off my mind ever since! I didn't even know I liked gingersnaps! These bars are so soft, and chewy and cinnomony/clovey/sugary they make my mouth water even thinking of them. (Some people think gingersnaps are spicy - I am not sure if they usually are, but these bars are not spicy at all. They are sweet and delicious.) In fact, I am going to make them tomorrow so I can take a batch to Arizona this weekend when we go visit my boyfriend's family.

Seriously, you WANT to make these. ASAP. They are super easy too. A 10 minute bake time! You will be the envy of all of your ugly Christmas sweater parties this season.

Emily's Gingersnap Bars

¾ C butter (melted)
2 C flour
1 C + 2 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. cloves (ground. I accidentally bought clove sticks the first time I tried to make this. Oops.)
½ tsp. ginger
½ tsp. salt
¼ C molasses
1 egg

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Melt butter in medium saucepan and set aside. Add molasses to butter and let cool. In mixing bowl, stir together all dry ingredients. Add a couple scoops of the dry mixture to the butter and molasses and mix in. Add the egg and stir in well. Continue adding the dry mixture until it is all blended.

Lightly grease a 10x15 jelly roll pan with butter. Put the dough in the pan, press it flat using your hands with a little butter on them until it is evenly spread. Sprinkle 2 Tbsp. sugar over the top and place in oven for 10 minutes. Don’t over bake! Let cool on rack for 5 minutes. Cut into bars or use cookie cutters to cut shapes.

Enjoy! Send us comments with your reviews!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

My Life in Minutes

This weekend I watched one of my oldest friends (Nicole, see post below) get married. She is the first of our little group of childhood friends to get married, and I can't tell you how joyous a moment it was for me to be able to be standing next to her on her wedding day. I don't want to talk too much about the day, because I am really hoping to get Nicole back to Welcome to Adulthood for another guest blog to tell you all about it.

What I do want to talk about today is living. On the flight home from the wedding, I had an interesting experience that gave me about five minutes to reassess my life. Our plane tried to land in San Diego in the middle of a foggy, windy, rainy storm. I have flown many times in my life and I have never felt the kind of extreme turbulence I experienced on this flight. The lady in the seat next to me, who I had lent my magazine to a few minutes earlier, was clutching my arm and praying -- which did not help me to be calm on the brink of utter panic. My boyfriend was with me also. He, of course, ever stoic and valiant, says he "was not scared at all." But, I could tell by the yelps that most of the other people on the plane sounded pretty scared.

So here I am: falling in an airplane, with a strange lady clutching my arm. I am on the verge of a panic attack. I start thinking of all the worst-case scenarios and conclude that if we had to make a water landing, I would die right away because, not only am I a very poor swimmer, but I had consumed nothing but coffee that day and thus I would perish from dehydration. As I thought this, my mouth became more and more dry, my head began to pound, panic crept into me, gripping my breath and my stomach, and it was all I could do to not throw-up. Suddenly, a track from the ever-evolving Soundtrack of Mara turned on in my head and it calmed me. My plane crash music was Counting Crows, Anna Begins.

I spent the remainder of the flight with my eyes closed./My friend assures me, it's all or nothing. I am not worried. I am not overly concerned/I was silently bargaining with the mysterious fates that if we didn't crash I would vow to live every moment as my last./My friend implores me, "For one time only, make an exception." I am not worried./ In this five minute landing I thought about many things: Nicole's beautiful wedding, my life in San Diego, my family and cats ("Can I turn my phone on in turbulence to call my mom in the face of death even though 'FAA prohibits the use of personal electronic devices'!?"), and, oddly enough, my blog[*].

[*]This is the sign I am a hardcore blogger -- when faced with uncertain death, I wish I could have just blogged one more time...

When the plane landed, everyone cheered and embraced, but I found myself just numb./Wrap her up in a package of lies. Send her off to a coconut island./ Here I was, squished in the middle seat, and I had just assessed my life in 5 minutes./I am not worried. I am not overly concerned with the status of my emotions./ What conclusions had I come to? Certainly a re-commitment to living every moment as my last, but I also made other realizations that really did stir me, startle me, change me./"Oh" she says, "You're changing." We're always changing./ My life in minutes was a lot less clear-cut than it had seemed 5 minutes earlier./And I'm sure there's something in a shade of grey, or something in between, and I can always change my name if that's what you mean./

I walked off the plane, dizzy and nauseous and thirsty for analysis. In our search for the ever-elusive adulthood, complex intellectual assessment has to be both a benefit and a curse for adults. Sometimes, when you turn your mind on, you really can't turn it off very easily...

Your life in minutes -- assess it: What would you do differently? What would change in you? Would there be anything in shade of grey if life might end in five minutes, and then, miraculously didn't end? What would be playing in your mind soundtrack? You know, prior to this incident, I could have never predicted that Anna Begins would be my plane crash music. I would have rather had something like Bittersweet Symphony by the Verve, or Don't Stop Believing by Journey, or maybe Electric Pink by the Promise Ring, or Just Watch the Fireworks by Jimmy Eat World. But, you can't request a song when the mind soundtrack turns itself on, you just have to go with it and make it meaningful.

/She's talking in her sleep. It's keeping me awake. And Anna begins to toss and turn. And every word is nonsense but I understand and, oh lord, I'm not ready for this sort of thing./