DIY darnedest

Apparently I decided this week was a good time to DYI like, everything. I made rice krispie treat pumpkins, crepes (recipe coming later!), finished crocheting one scarf and started another, made Oreo spiders, and handmade my Halloween costume. I’m not generally the kind of person who gets excited about Pinterest and tries to DIY everything, but I enjoy hands-on projects and they’re often a good way for me to manage stress. So today I’m gonna show you how I made my Halloween costume!

Obviously this isn’t the same sort of life lesson or adulting advice often blog posts usually are, but I am trying to remind myself that being an adult is about having fun and being responsible.

No need to worry, I promise this won’t turn into a DIY blog, but it’s fun to actually do something for the holiday for once since most years I’m pretty low-effort about it. And sometimes, adulting is about being excited over just finishing a project. I knew I wanted to be Rey from Star Wars, but the costumes I found to buy were a) not super cheap and b) kind of lame. So I decided to make mine.

Materials:

  • 1 cream t-shirt, 2 dark brown t-shirts
  • small burlap pouch
  • 2 men’s belts
  • tan tablecloth
  • closet rod (found in my garage)
  • tan cargo pants (I already owned these)
  • black combat boots (I already owned these)
  • pieces of my brother’s lightsaber, borrowed with permission

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DIY supplies:

  • sewing machine, brown and tan thread
  • grey spray paint
  • silver duct tape
  • superglue
  • good scissors
  • safety pins

What I did:

  1. Bought the t-shirts and burlap pouch on clearance at a craft store, and the belts and tablecloth at Goodwill. The total cost was about $20, which is all I paid for the costume.
  2. Cut strips out of one of the brown shirts to tie the belts together on one side, and to cover the visible buckle so it didn’t stand out as much, both by wrapping the fabric tightly and tucking the loose end in.
  3. Cut a large rectangle of brown t-shirt fabric slightly wider and 2.5x as long as the burlap pouch, and sewed it together before putting the pouch inside.
  4. Cut another small strip of brown t-shirt and cut a hole in the back of the pouch to fasten it to the lower belt (the other side of it fastened with the loop the burlap pouch already had, and the pouch itself covered the buckle).
  5. Cut the sleeves of the cream t-shirt into basically cap sleeves, and cut a long, thin triangle out of the neckline to create a small slit.
  6. Cut the sleeve off one of the brown t-shirts and wrapped it around my wrist twice to make the cuff. (Note: The only thing I have sewed to this point is the pouch — everything else is cutting and wrapping because hems are a pain and for knit fabric you can get away without them.)IMG_4706
  7. The next big endeavor was making the long cross-body wrap Rey wears. I cut three 12-inch wide, 6-foot long sections out of the tablecloth, sewed them into one long piece, and then ironed and hemmed the whole thing. (I later hand-sewed small ruches into the portions that sit on my shoulders to better reflect what Rey’s actual outfit looks like. If I was doing this over again and had more money, I would have bought several yards of a gauzier material to save myself the hassle of hemming and get a more authentic look.)
  8. The arm wraps were 4.5-inch wide, 6-foot long sections of the tablecloth, also ironed and hemmed.
  9. Originally I hadn’t planned on making her staff, but my stepdad found an old closet hanging rod in the garage that was the perfect height, so I spray-painted it grey before adding pieces of my brother’s lightsaber on with duct tape (super high tech, I know). I then cut the leftover sleeves from the cream shirt into long strips and wrapped them around the staff for the hand grips, and superglued the ends.
  10. The strap for the staff was made from six long strips cut from the second brown t-shirt. I glued two together at a time to make three even longer strips, braided it all, and tied it around the staff.IMG_4719
  11. My hair is curly, so I straightened it before putting it into Rey’s three buns — being sure to leave a few wisps out like she does.
  12. When actually putting the costume on, I used safety pins to fasten the long cross-body wrap to my shirt on both of my shoulders, as well as at the top and bottom of each arm wrap. And voilà!

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I ended up being most proud of the staff, and was stoked that my hair (mostly) behaved for the buns. It was fairly comfortable, and the only part that didn’t want to stay put were the arm wraps, which I re-wrapped a couple of times throughout the evening. Of course this could have been made more authentic to the film, but for the money and effort (I think it ended up being about 8 hours) I was willing to put in, I was really happy with the result.

Of course, thanks to my family for the help in putting it together, my best friend for helping me with hair and pictures, and my Grandma Peggy for teaching me most of my sewing skills. What is your favorite DIY project you’ve done? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy Halloween!

 

Homesick at home

I was babysitting a few nights back, and after dinner the kids wanted to go for a walk. As we were walking through the neighborhood, I glanced toward one of the houses and saw a group of people inside, gathered around a table and laughing. And a realization hit me like a final punch.

It isn’t exactly a secret that I’ve felt really off my game lately. I’ve been frustrated, unmotivated, tired, and deeply bothered by something I could never fully articulate. I knew more or less where the feelings were coming from — living in a sometimes purgatory-esque phase of working but not where I want, responsible but not independent, both too far and too close. But I was still struggling to explain how I felt. Until I saw those people in the window, and realized I’m homesick.

Now that sounds like an awful thing to say when I’m living at home, but let me explain. Home has always been a difficult word for me. By the time I turned 17, I had lived in 17 different houses. My parents are divorced, so I spent basically the first 16 years of my life constantly switching back and forth between them. So for me, home isn’t really a place; it’s a feeling.

I have found that feeling in nature and towns and loved ones and communities and yes, sometimes in houses (and yes, the picture above is of the sunrise outside my actual house). I am incredibly grateful for all of the people and things that have helped create feelings of home, even now. Still, this phase is temporary. Plus I’ve got this habit of my heart running faster than the calendar, and it’s a hell of a discrepancy these days.

I wish I could tell you that I’m the only one going through this because a) it sucks, and b) it would be easier to tell myself to get over it. But frankly, it ain’t just me. One of the hallmark traits of emerging adulthood is a feeling of being profoundly in-between. In-between adolescence and established adulthood. In-between dependence and full self-sufficiency. In-between where you were and where you want to be.

For a lot of Millennials, the dream isn’t a McMansion and an expensive car — often, it’s an apartment with bills paid and good food in the fridge, maybe a dog and some plants. We aren’t after ostentatious; we’re after our own version of home, even if humble.

If you’re already got that, I hope you’re content. If, like me, you’re feeling homesick for a place you haven’t arrived at yet, hang in there. Let the hope drive you forward, and keep an eye out for the beautiful moments on the way. If you’re up for it, buy a plant. Either way, know that there are a hundred ways to feel at home, but the common thread is always a deep caring.

Share where you feel most at home in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. As always, thanks for reading and good luck adulting.

Traveling on an actual budget

As promised, here is the post I mentioned about traveling! The last three weekends I have taken trips of some sort, and it occurred to me that traveling is probably one of the most desired and difficult things for emerging adults to pull off. Especially when looking at the Instagram accounts of other people our age and wondering where the heck they got the money (and/or time off) to hit up such insane destinations.

Here’s the disclaimer: None of my trips were holy crap levels of cool, and I wouldn’t have been able to afford them all on my own. But each is still a good look at managing to travel without draining one’s bank account.

Weekend 1: The Day Trip

Length of trip: 6-8 hours

Total spent: ~$50*

My brother and I went to some local farms about an hour away from my house that offer craft fairs, apple picking, and other fall-related activities. Main costs were activities (who doesn’t want to make a candle and pick organic tomatoes?), gas, and then some food.

Weekend 2: The Big Trip

Length of trip: 4.5 days

Total spent: $111.38*

After almost 3 months apart, I got to fly to Maryland to visit my boyfriend for a few days. Overall, the trip cost much more than the number listed here, but the flights out were a gift and my boyfriend paid for way more than his fair share, so that brought the number down. Most of this cost is food and Lyft rides around parts of Washington, D.C., where we spent that Saturday.

Weekend 3: The Road Trip

Length of trip: 3 days

Total spent: $125.42

As mentioned in last week’s post, I took a trip to my old college for the first time since graduating. The drive was about 7 hours each way, and I stayed for 2 nights at my friend’s apartment. Most activities were free, so food and gas were the only real costs. On the way back I picked up another friend headed the same direction, which helped cut gas costs.

*I’m omitting the cost of any presents I bought because while it did impact my spending, it wasn’t necessary to the cost of the trip and technically comes out of my gifts budget.

Here is my advice, condensed as much as possible:

  • Driving is often cheaper than flying, and then you still have transportation when you get there. As a rule of thumb, if you’re going alone and can do the drive in one day, consider driving. If you’re going with two or more people and can do the drive in three days or less, consider driving.
  • If you are flying, search around for airline prices. There are tons of discount airlines, but even the bigger names have fare sales and such, which can be great if your dates are flexible.
  • Find a couch to crash on. I am constantly updating a list of people I know in various cities, states, and countries so that if/when I end up there, I can pretty please ask to crash on their couch. Do offer to buy them a bottle of wine or take them out to eat as a thank you, but it’s way cheaper than a hotel.
  • Don’t eat all your meals out. The big trip I talked about above was an exception, but usually I try to limit traveling to one meal out per day. For the day trip, we packed a lunch and only bought a snack, and for the road trip I spent a whopping $47.43 on 3 days of food (which included drinks). Pack snacks or small meals, and don’t be afraid to go to a grocery store or market instead of a restaurant.

It’s also worth noting that each of the trips above could have been done more cost effectively, but also that I wouldn’t have been able to afford either of the latter two without other people being generous. After three consecutive weekends of travel, I’m also cutting back on spending for a while. I’m definitely not the expert on inexpensive travel, but being able to travel is important to me, so it’s something I’m going to keep working on.

What are the best tips you’ve learned for traveling on a budget? (Also I’m not asking facetiously, I really would love to hear them.) Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and I hope you go somewhere cool this week!

More than useless

I was going to put up a cool post on travel today (don’t worry, it’s coming later), but honestly I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Why? Because I’ve felt like a genuinely crappy adult this week.

Monday morning I found a spider in my sock and, being really afraid of spiders, totally freaked. A rock hit my windshield on the way back from work and cracked it, so that had to get replaced. I was looking through job openings and found an entry level position that I would be a pretty good fit for — except they want a minimum 10 years experience. A friend invited me to her wedding and I don’t know if I’ll be able to go. And frankly, getting out of bed has been difficult.

My life isn’t that bad. It isn’t even bad. I have no need to substantially fear for my safety or basic needs, I have a job and people who care about me. Of course there are silver linings. But that doesn’t make the clouds suddenly not grey.

I really, really wish I had a good response to this. In 5 days or 5 months or 5 years I might. But right now I just know that tomorrow is worth it, and that (as much as saying it makes me uncomfortable) I’m worth it. For the record, so are you.

When you feel overwhelmed or like you keep screwing up, or just completely and thoroughly meh, here is my list of things that help:

  • Drink water
  • Have a snack
  • Journal/pray
  • Take a shower
  • Write my way out
  • Tactile hobbies (coloring, cleaning, crocheting, etc.)
  • Tell someone I feel down — this gets it out of my head and out where I can understand it better
  • Go outside (walking is especially helpful)
  • Read a familiar book
  • Listen to music (I have playlists for this, but I highly recommend “More Than Useless” by Relient K)
  • Ask someone to sit close or for a hug
  • Watch a small bit of TV
  • Cook or bake something

Sometimes being an adult — or even being a human — sucks. If you’re stuck in a slump, try making your own list and using it to help make crappy days better. If it’s more than a slump and you’ve been feeling not yourself for several weeks or longer, consider talking to a mental health professional. A very significant thank you to my dear friend Kami for the list this is based on, and for reminding me to adjust it to what works best for me.

What have you found most helpful in getting through difficult stretches? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and remember that you’re probably better at this whole adulting thing than you feel.

Old stomping grounds

This weekend, I visited my college for the first time since graduating. Granted, it had only been 5-or-so months, but going back to somewhere you used to belong is a textbook example of strange. I didn’t know how much would have changed or if everything would be basically the same as it had been when I left.

The first thing I was forced to grapple with was realizing I wouldn’t be able to do it all in a short visit. There was no possible way to see everyone, eat at all the old places, take in all the old views, relive all the old times. On the one hand, that kind of sucks. But I’m pretty sure there’s a lesson in that somewhere, and learning to be content with doing less than everything is definitely something I need to practice.

Of course it was fantastic to be able to see so many friends and a few past professors — and it didn’t hurt to be close to the beach again (yes, I lived by the beach for 4 years). A few things had changed, but overall I was surprised that it almost felt like I never left. Almost.

Where I hadn’t expected to notice change was, frankly, in myself. I graduated less than 6 months ago, and my life hasn’t undergone any more big transitions, so it was odd to feel like somehow I had changed more than the place I left. But I have changed. I’ve become more sure of myself and less sure of where I’m at, somehow even more independent and determined. I haven’t necessarily become less anxious or forward-thinking, but I am more aware of how those qualities affect any given day.

Nostalgia was still a factor, and it will always be difficult to drive away from a place that means so much, with no idea when I’ll be back. But it also hammered home what I was pretty sure of when I graduated — I was ready to move on. It made the 4 years I spent there feel simultaneously near and small, and it made me wonder what I might be feeling similarly about in another 4 years. To quote my very favorite ‘80s movie, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Going back to a place that was home for 4 years reassured me that I didn’t miss out on life as it passed me by, but was also a big reminder that it does move fast and it doesn’t stop for anyone. I was talking with a good friend recently about major milestones in life, and emerging adulthood is a period when some really big ones can happen in quick succession. Each will be one to look back on, but more importantly a new place to move forward from.

What transition has felt the most significant in your life so far? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. As always, thank you for reading, and good luck adulting!

P.S. For all the amazingly kind people who brought up this blog over the weekend, you’re the best and I’m honored to hear your feedback. Thanks y’all.

Weak is a four-letter word

Not-so-fun fact: I have asthma. Technically it’s a condition where the air passageways in your lungs inflame and keep you from being able to take in enough oxygen.

But if you haven’t had the chance to talk to someone with asthma about what it actually feels like, the best metaphor I’ve found (and the only way I’m able to clearly communicate the severity) is like an animal sitting on your chest. There’s a weight there, big or small, shrinking the space needed to breathe and making anything else more difficult. Sometimes it’s just a fat guinea pig, and it isn’t fun but it’s manageable. Sometimes it’s a gigantic dog that weighs more than I can lift.

This is not a new thing I’ve been dealing with. I’ve struggled with asthma for as long as I can remember, and it was quite a bit worse when I was really little. (Even then I was lucky in that I never had to go to the hospital or be put on much consistent medication because of it.) A lot of people at least mostly grow out of it, but it rarely goes away entirely. When I was younger it was often allergy-induced, but since late elementary school it’s been mostly exercise-induced.

I was running late yesterday and near-sprinted to make it on time, but after maybe 200 yards had to slow down and power walk the rest of the way because my asthma made the biggest resurgence it has in years. When I got where I was going I used my inhaler, but proceeded to cough for the next 3 hours while waiting for my breathing to feel fully normal again — which, unfortunately, took another 8 or so hours.

Now I’m not bringing this up for any sort of pity party, but rather because it highlights another, deeper issue that we all face in different forms: feeling weak.

I hate that I have asthma. I hate that my lungs don’t work properly and that any cardio-heavy activities are a risk. I hate not having enough oxygen to fuel my muscles on a run, and that more than a couple points of full effort when I play tennis means an immediate drop in my performance because, well, I can’t breathe.

I don’t like admitting that I have limitations, that certain things are more difficult for me than they are for most other people. It’s pretty likely that there’s something in each of our lives that makes us feel like this, whether it’s a physical impairment, mental health struggles, work-related difficulties, or something else entirely.

Demons come in all colors and contexts, but the common thread is making us feel weak or incapable. It’s true that we can’t do everything. We do have limits. But just because how you do something is limited doesn’t mean you aren’t capable of reaching your goal.

Start small. “Baby steps” is a clichéd phrase, but building up your confidence and ability makes a huge difference. A lot of obstacles will feel conquerable if you face them little by little. For my asthma, that means small amounts of consistent exercise.

It’s okay to take a break. Sometimes it’s too much, and you will need room to regroup. Giving yourself grace is healthy, not lame.

Use the tools you have. That might be a friend to talk to or a website for resources — or in my case, my dang inhaler.

I don’t know if you’re feeling exhausted, scared, or psyched about what life looks like right now, but I hope you know that obstacles and limitations aren’t weaknesses. They’re opportunities to grow stronger, even if it takes a while. What tools do you find most helpful when things are in your way? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and go kick this week’s butt!

Ask for what you want

I wanted to talk about this topic for the specific reason that I suck at it. In principle, I totally agree that we ought to just ask for what we want, with a balance of consideration and straightforwardness. In theory, I totally know how to do that. In reality, I am not a particularly forward person, avoid initiating conversations when possible, and am loathe to inconvenience anyone. But to succeed in the big wide world of adulting, learning to ask is a crucial skill.

A little while back I was babysitting for a family, and at the end of the night the parents wrote me a check. I was doing that weird polite-but-risky thing where I didn’t look at it while I was standing in front of them, until they asked me if that was the right amount. I looked at it (and had thankfully already done the math of what I should have been paid), and they accidentally underpaid me. I cautiously let them know, and they apologized and fixed the issue. Fortunately they had been proactive for me, but it made me realize how poor I am at ensuring I get what I’m after in some situations.

More recently, I asked for both this last Friday and next Friday off to accommodate some personal plans. Other than occasionally asking to leave a half-hour early to make another commitment on time, I don’t like asking for time off. For starters, I don’t like voluntarily lowering my paycheck, but I also feel bad leaving the people I work for hanging. So asking for time off was weird, and I admittedly hedged the request a bit with “if it’s alright with you” and similar phrases, but my employer was totally cool with it.

Obviously, not all situations work out so well or are even so straightforward. For a job that I was working at in college, I realized a few months in that I wanted a higher compensation than I was getting for the amount of work I was doing. So I came up with a range for how much more I wanted, brought it up with my bosses, and we sorted it out.

I realize that was three success stories in a row, and am very aware they don’t always work out like that. There have been several times when I’ve asked for something and the person I was asking didn’t give me an answer at all, or flat told me no. It’s awful when that happens, and can mean that it might be time to examine the situation you’re in and see if something larger needs to change.

It’s also important to clarify that not all things need to be asked: If you are being made to feel uncomfortable or unsafe, you have the right to remove yourself from that situation. Your mental, physical, and emotional health are important, and no one gets to make your decisions for you.

But of course some things — especially work-related, such as payment negotiations and time off — need to be asked for. I promise that the more you practice the easier it will get. And the better we all get at it, the less difficult it will be when new generations are going through the same process.

As silly as it sounds, the most important thing I’ve learned when it comes to asking for what I want (besides the asking itself) is to prepared by knowing exactly what I want ahead of time. Not every instance has to play out like a negotiation, but you should know what your ideal is and the least you’re willing to accept before you ask, so you’ll be less likely to end up with a result you’re unhappy with.

I hope that was helpful, and I’d love to hear what helps you ask for what you want. Let me know in a comment below, and be sure to follow on Twitter @ohgrowup and Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!