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Summer is almost a myth now

Hate to break it to you. One of the more disappointing parts about not being in school anymore and being a working adult is that summer break doesn’t really exist. My roommate casually mentioned a while ago that we’ve become weekend warriors, and I’m realizing how right she was.

This will be my first summer without a summer break since I was basically a toddler, and it’s odd. Though technically it wasn’t a “summer break” right after graduating, it was full of trips and plans before I hunkered down to job hunt, so in many ways felt like one. I don’t totally know if this summer will start to feel like it’s dragging on, or if it will feel fun and full of adventure regardless.

The bad news, of course, is no automatic vacations, no large stretches of time with fewer responsibilities (fewer because for a lot of people jobs and internships are still a thing). No one date to look forward to, after which life will at least temporarily seem easier.

But there’s good news, too. The good news is that — at the risk of being terribly clichéd — summer is a state of mind. And mine is about to start. Warm weather, more time outside, an effort to make more plans with friends. I’ve got a bunch of concerts lined up as well as a few day trips I want to make. Family will be visited and barbecues will be had. People will be willing to stay up later because the sun lingers in the evening.

The last few days I’ve been able to feel summer starting to seep in, and didn’t realize how much I’d missed it. The nice part is that living in a new area means I’ll hopefully be enjoying milder temperatures than most of my previous summers, and I’m a little closer to the ocean than where I grew up.

Even when you’re still busy with work or school, what makes summer enjoyable for you? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

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Big, scary steps

I am not the kind of person who likes to take initiative. At all. (If you listen close, you can hear my best friends laughing from hundreds and thousands of miles away.) I have to work up the courage to join conversations I was literally invited to. I once wrote myself notes just to ask my boss about taking a day off. Significant moments in my life literally would not have happened if I’d been left to initiate.

But I do like to plan. Pretty much whatever I can get my hands on. Which means when I set big life goals, part of me wants to panic and avoid everything about it forever, and the other part of me wants to plan every possible detail so I can be prepared for whatever happens. Neither of those is realistic. But life keeps coming, so at some point we all have to face the big, scary steps head-on.

I don’t know what big step or goal or change you might be facing, but most of us have one. Maybe you’re looking at the next step after graduation, maybe you’re eyeing a change at work. Maybe you’re moving or taking the next step forward in a relationship. Maybe you’re committing to taking better care of your health, or are planning a big trip. I know emerging adults who are in all of those situations, and as much as they can be exciting they’re also often intimidating. One of the most important things they have in common, though, is that such changes — or at least being successful through them — rarely fall in your lap.

Grad school and jobs have to be applied for, promotions have to be asked for and negotiated. New places have to be rented (since hardly any of us will be buying for some time), and relationships have to be nurtured. Healthy habits have to be stuck to, and even the best trips take a fair amount of planning.

I know it can be easier to hang back in the land of the undecided. I’ve been that person. Sometimes it seems completely overwhelming to take big steps and make big changes. But here’s the good news: Big steps start with little steps. Send in one application, take small risks at work. Have a difficult conversation, set small goals for your health plan. Everybody’s gotta start somewhere, and we’re still in the starting stages of adulthood. It’s completely okay to tackle life’s big tasks a little bit at a time. But you’ve got to take initiative. It’s something that I’m still not great at, but am steadily working on. And I’m excited to see what opportunities it opens up, for all of us.

Any advice for facing big life moments? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

(Photo is a free stock photo because oops I already used my one cool staircase photo.)

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In defense of ‘like’

So like, what do you think of the way young adults talk? To be fair, I’ve heard every argument under the sun. I’ve heard that kids these days just don’t care about their words, that young people are the impetus of change in a living language, that it’s just a fad, and that Millennials are ruining English. I think all except the latter are true.

If you’re an emerging adult or young person, bear with me. I’m not here to bash or to tell you what you already know. If you’re past the young adult age, don’t tune out. I really do want to dive into the complexity here, and I’m not interested in picking sides. Because I think when it comes down to it, that’s the main issue that usually arises whenever the topic of “the way young people talk” comes up. And sometimes being an adult means bringing up issues that get under our skin.

As background, I’m a word nerd. My actual job revolves around knowing the ins and outs of proper English, and how to improve people’s words. But being good at my job also means knowing the right times to break the rules. I have worked under various style guides, conceded to rules I didn’t agree with, and fought to get policy changed when old rules became irrelevant or incorrect. I have a lifelong devotion to the Oxford comma, but don’t really care if you end a sentence with a preposition. Why? Because what matters most to me — and what I believe should be the guiding rule anytime we consider our words — is what will make our message most clear, most poignant, and most effective.

It should also be noted that when I speak, my language differs a lot from when I write. If you noticed, I haven’t used the word “like” since the first sentence. If we were having a casual conversation, that wouldn’t be the case. Here comes the controversy — I don’t believe that using the word “like,” especially when speaking, is a bad thing. Of course, there’s a limit to this. I remember listening to a speech in which the speaker said “like” more than 30 times in about 5 minutes. It was overkill, and distracted from their message. But “like” serves a few purposes that naysayers too often ignore.

  1. Simile – If you’re not cool with similes, it might be time to re-evaluate. It was like a breath of fresh air and other comparisons. And since “as” doesn’t always sound right, “like” works well.
  2. Affection – I like tacos. Cool, me too! I personally think English could use a better range of terms for positive affection, but “like” is a good place to start.
  3. Paraphrasing ­– He was like, “Are you kidding me?” Y’all, it’s the perfect shorthand to indicate the message of what someone said without being on the hook for a direct quote, as “said” can imply. And before I hear any objections, older crowds do the exact same thing with “was all.”
  4. Placeholder – This is the one that can get people in trouble for overuse, especially when public speaking. Here’s the rule of thumb: If you’re the only one who has the floor, then scale it back. If it’s a conversation and other people might jump in, it’s a useful way to indicate that you aren’t done speaking while you gather your thoughts.

See, none of those uses of “like” is wrong, just culturally and situationally relevant (or irrelevant). Same thing with “ain’t” and “bro” and “same” and so many of the other linguistic novelties that have skyrocketed in popularity with young generations. While they can be overused — and some are just fads that disappear over time — some of them are harmless colloquialisms or convey nuance that wasn’t previously coded into other words.

Now I’ll be super honest: There are some popular words and phrases that I can’t stand, and therefore refuse to incorporate into my vocabulary. I can’t stand the word “bae” because I find it both annoyingly overused and disagree with its origin as “before anything else.” But I don’t think it’s ruining English. A language can only be ruined by those who are too lazy to convey their message thoughtfully, and by those who insist on stagnating it in outdated tradition to the point of it losing meaning.

And of course, it doesn’t stop at words and phrases. The way that language is changing extends into capitalization, punctuation, emoticons and emojis, casual hyperbole, fatalistic humor, memes, and even type stylization (like bolding, italics, etc.). Honestly all my thoughts on these linguistic trends and trajectories could probably fill a book. But the point, in the end, is that intelligence is not to be measured by how often someone says “like” in a conversation, or whether they have to look slang up on Urban Dictionary. If our language is intentional, thoughtful, honest, and conscious of its impact, then it’s doing its job. Regardless of any dangling participles.

How do you think younger generations are changing language? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

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Get out the vote

Congratulations! You’re an adult. Part of being an adult means taking part in shaping your government, which in most places starts with voting. Please note, I do not just mean picking any old bubble to fill in to say that you voted, and I do not mean only voting during major elections like presidential ones. Being a responsible voter means making sure you’re registered, researching issues and candidates, and voting.

There are a lot of responsibilities that come with being an adult. It can be easy for this one to slip through the cracks, but when that happens we give up our voice in a system that — though far from perfect — is perhaps our best opportunity to change our world and create our future.*

So today I’ve got some solutions to common roadblocks that keep people from voting, because those shouldn’t get in your way.**

The Basics

If you want a refresher on how the voting system works in the U.S., the official U.K. Parliament YouTube channel has the best quick summary video I’ve found (weird, but it works).

There are votes for federal, state, county, and city/town positions and measures. The nice thing is they’re all in one spot on your ballot, but you may need to go to different spots to research them.

If you want more government and voting info, PBS has a whole series of crash course videos that break down different topics.

Registering

Do you know if you’re registered to vote? (It’s okay if you don’t, I had to double check that I was.) If you’re not sure, click here to find out. Note that registration deadlines are coming up — if you live in California like me, the registration deadline is tomorrow!

Oops, turns out you’re not registered. Where do you go to do that? There’s a spot on most state and county websites for it, but this page on the federal government’s website can direct you to most of them.

Okay, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to show up in-person. Y’all I am a permanent vote-by-mail voter. You can also request a one-time absentee ballot. Just make sure to check the dates that it needs to be requested and postmarked (aka mailed) by so your vote is sure to count. Here’s a quick guide on the rules in different states.

Researching

I’m registered, but don’t know any of these candidates or issues. Cool! Me neither! I was going over my ballot recently and don’t know anything about a lot of these things I get to vote for. That’s where the research starts.

  • You can find your state’s voter information guide online (here is the one for California)
  • You can search by candidate or issue (clicking through a few links on Google can do wonders)
  • This only works for measures, but if you read through most of the detail on a measure or proposition, there’s actually a lot of information — and sometimes it’s buried
  • You can look at party websites for perspectives. I honestly won’t vote on an issue before reading what Democrats and Republicans think about it. I don’t ever let party determine my vote, but the reasons each side provides can illuminate more about the topic
  • If possible, see if anywhere says who’s funding it. This is a huge deal, and particular corporate or organizational endorsements can be a big clue as to what’s really driving a candidate or measure
  • Ask around. I often talk measures or candidates over with my parents and a couple close friends to get another perspective. Absolutely no one can tell you how to vote, but sometimes they have valuable insight

I’ve done my research, and I don’t like any of the candidates for this position. Sorry, bro. Unfortunately, sometimes that happens. You can choose to not vote on a particular measure or position (even if you do vote on the others), or you can pick the lesser of two evils. There’s also usually a write-in candidate option, but Donald Duck hasn’t won any elections yet.

Actually voting

Make sure you know the deadline! For California, it’s June 5 this year. Find out when your ballot is due here.

Okay cool, but like where do I show up? Click here to find your closest polling place, and make sure to check the hours!

Know your rights. This is so important! Here are the most pressing need-to-knows:

  • If you’re in line when the polling place closes, they still have to let you vote
  • You may need to show ID, but every state is different. Click here to find out what’s required.
  • As long as you’re 18 by election day, you can vote
  • You can be homeless and still meet the residency requirements to vote
  • If you have any sort of disability or language barrier, you can choose someone to assist you in the voting booth (as long as that person is not your employer, an agent of your employer, or an officer or agent of your union)
  • You can ask folks at the polling place to help you as well
  • You can fill out a sample ballot ahead of time and bring that in with you to make things easier (or any other piece of paper). If you were registered to vote a month or more ahead of your election, you should be automatically mailed one. If you weren’t, you can usually request one from your local county website
  • You do not have to tell anyone how you voted, nor is anyone allowed to demand you vote a particular way. Period.

I’m really proud and honored to live somewhere where I — as a mixed-race, non-land owning, unmarried woman — am able to vote. We have an imperfect, sometimes frustrating system, but voting is one of the most important ways we can take part in improving it. A lot of our ancestors and fellow citizens paid with their voices, minds, bodies, and lives to make sure we could. Let’s honor that by voting, and by voting responsibly. The future’s counting on us.

Did I miss anything? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and let’s go get out the vote!

 

*A lot of this is U.S.-centric, so I apologize if you live in a different country and this doesn’t prove as helpful. But to the best of my understanding many similar principles apply and comparable resources exist, so a little digging should provide the info you might need.

**I’ve tried to make this as nonpartisan as possible, but some of the links provided may seem to lean either conservative or liberal. I do not post them as a party, candidate, or measure endorsement, but only because they had the most thorough information I could find. Always look at both sides, and think with both your head and your heart.

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Recipes: Crock Pot chicken & veggies

Hey folks! I’ve got another recipe for you today and this one is exciting because it’s the first thing I made in my brand new crock pot! I had been wanting to get one since I moved, but storage is a bit of an issue in our kitchen. Luckily, we got a little more storage, so I finally made the oh-so-adult purchase and bought one! I got it (a 6-qt. that also has a temperature probe) on sale for about $35, but you can find a ton of good option under $50, and the awesome thing is they do the cooking for you.

I had some chicken in the freezer that I needed to use, and wanted to spruce it up (and fill the crock) with veggies and potatoes, so I looked up a recipe online and then proceeded to mostly ignore it. The nice thing about a crock pot is you can pretty much wing it with a little bit of cooking know-how and still be safe. Though I expected the recipe to be good, it turned out excellent, so I wanted to share it with y’all!

Ingredients:

  • 3 chicken breasts, thawed (you can also use thighs or more meat, but I wouldn’t advise much less than this, which seemed to be about 1.5 lbs.)
  • about 1.5 lbs. red russet potatoes
  • about 1 lb. whole carrots
  • 1 white onion
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • about 3/4 cup grapefruit juice (I just squeezed 1 big, very ripe grapefruit)
  • 6 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1-2 tbsp. minced ginger
  • salt & pepper

I know that looks like a lot of ingredients. I promise this is still a beginner-level recipe (and tastes at least like an intermediate level). img_5905.jpg

Instructions:

  1. Prep veggies — I don’t usually count potatoes as a veggie, but today they can be. Wash everything, cube the potatoes (I cut them into eighths since red russets are small), cut the carrots into big chunks, and the onions into slightly smaller pieces. Think about 2-inch pieces for potatoes and carrots, and about 1-inch pieces for the onions. (Pro tip: Leave your chicken in the fridge until the last minute so it stays cold and doesn’t get funky.)
  2. I actually sprayed my crock pot with olive oil before I put anything in to hopefully make cleaning easier. I don’t know if that made the difference, but cleaning was definitely easy. Then, put the potatoes in, and add a little salt and pepper.
  3. Set the other veggies aside, and work on the sauce. Stir the soy sauce, honey, grapefruit juice, crushed garlic, and ginger in a bowl until the honey doesn’t give much resistance.
  4. Add the chicken on top of the potatoes, and pour about 3/4 of the sauce over it. You can also add more salt and pepper if you want.img_5907-e1526488110444.jpg
  5. Dump the mixed carrots and onions on top, then pour the rest of the sauce, and add salt and pepper.
  6. Set the crock pot on low for 5 hours. Walk away and let it do its magic. (Pro tip: If you want some greens, add them in about the last 10 minutes of cooking — I used broccoli.)IMG_5908.JPG
  7. When the time goes off, ta da!!!* Enjoy your meal (and serve with rolls if you want)!

Cost about $12, makes about 4 servings

Next time I make the recipe I might want to marinate the chicken, as it seemed like the veggies soaked up the flavor better. But that is pretty much all I would change, and of course, you can switch up the meat or other ingredients as you like.

Most of this recipe is just prep, which is mostly cutting veggies. Easy peasy. So next time you need a few days worth of meals (I ate it for about 3 days), or have guests coming over that you want to impress, or are busy and won’t have time to cook in the evening, you have a solution! (Sorry for all the exclamation points, I’m just really excited.)

What is your favorite thing to make in a crock pot? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

*Sorry I don’t have a picture of when it all finished in the crock pot, I honestly just forgot to take one. It should smell good and have a lot more liquid in it, and as long as the chicken is cooked through it’s safe to eat.

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Moms are actually the best

Happy Mother’s Day! If you are a mom, I hope your day makes you feel as appreciated and special as you are. If you have a mom (or mom figure!), I hope you let her know how much you care about her.

I’m lucky enough to have two moms. Unfortunately I don’t get to be with either of them in person today, but beyond the usual call and gift, I wanted to say on here how grateful I am for them.

Moms are supportive and patient, but also tell us when it’s time to get our crap together. Moms are people we can joke around with, but know better than to cross. Moms are often our first and strongest role models. My moms taught me life basics like using a spoon, potty-training, etc., and adulting basics like using tools, cleaning, and finances. One mom taught me to love reading, the other how to create and craft — both taught me to love learning. My moms taught me how to cook and bake, and in that regard I also have to thank my grandmothers — and my friends’ moms and grandmothers — for teaching me and sharing secrets in the kitchen. My moms taught me how to process my emotions, and that someone can have vulnerabilities and still be strong.

And beyond that, they taught me what kind of a person I wanted to be: someone who is smart and kind, knows when to speak and when to listen, who is always willing to learn and ready to teach, who to call when I needed something (them), who is compassionate and always considers the perspective of others.

I know not everyone’s mom has always been the kind of presence in their life that they needed. I know not everyone knows their mom, and that not everyone’s mom is around anymore. But I also know that chances are when you hear the word “mom,” there are people who come to mind that aren’t your mother, but who do love you and stand by you and mentor you. Sometimes mom is a symbolic word, so hopefully in addition to appreciating our moms today we can also share some of the best qualities they instilled in us.

What makes you grateful for your mom? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy Mother’s Day!

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Dial tones and mobile phones

I don’t know about you, but I hate talking on the phone. I wish I was exaggerating. It’s something that at best is a lower-quality conversation than I prefer, and at worst is almost paralyzingly stressful.

Alas, as an adult they are not something that can be avoided. Emerging adulthood means we now get to call to set up various appointments on our own, to make reservations or interact with customer service, to handle professional matters, and often to stay in touch with family.

I’m better about phone calls than I used to be. For a long time, I would avoid calling anytime I could and pretty much only called my grandmama just because — for anyone else, it had better be urgent.

Now, I call (okay, sometimes text) my grandparents on most holidays and sometimes just because we haven’t talked in a little bit, call my mom fairly frequently (I often have random adulting questions), set up all my own appointments and such, have weekly conference calls for work, and call my boyfriend when video chats aren’t an option.

Though they’re still far from my favorite method of communication, I’ve found a few things that have made them less daunting:

  • Put a frame on it. Different mediums of communication have different levels of richness — basically how many layers you’re communicating on at a given time. An email is probably the least rich method, because all you get are words on a screen. In-person is the richest, because you get voice, words, tone, facial expressions and other nonverbals, etc. Phone calls allow for voice, words, and tone but not being face-to-face means tone can be easily misinterpreted.
  • Can you hear me now? The answer is probably sort of. Cell phones are amazing inventions but they aren’t flawless even at full bars. Which means what you’re saying or hearing is often distorted or breaks up, making natural and comfortable conversation more difficult.
  • Know what you’re saying. I am capable of being quite charming, but that skill mostly relies on being in-person. Therefore, I rehearse any phone call that’s more than just a “how’s it going?” conversation ahead of time, usually several times. Props if you’re not the kind of person that needs to do this, but if you’re not this is a super helpful trick. You can always make some notes on talking points or things your need to remember to say/ask as well, and it will help keep you from feeling flustered or sounding awkward.
  • Leave a message. Fun fact, if you don’t leave a voicemail said person will be way less likely to call you back (sometimes exceptions for family and friends). So leave a voicemail — and be sure to mention your name and phone number, and repeat both before you hang up.
  • If someone left you a voicemail, listen to it before you call back. This way, you actually know what they were calling about and they don’t have to repeat themselves. Win-win.
  • Use that weird nice voice your parents use. You don’t have to do the “mmmbye” thing we remember grownups doing from our collective childhood, but do use your extra sweet, polite voice to make up for the fact you don’t get to be so charming in person.
  • Eyes up. I have a horrible tendency to get distracted with other things while I’m on the phone, which results in me not listening or being as involved in the conversation as I ought to be. To help, I often have something I can do mindlessly with my hands or feet (like crocheting or going for a walk) to prevent my mind from wandering so much.

Phone calls don’t have to be awful, even if they can be intimidating. And they are, unfortunately, sometimes necessary, so it’s best to get good at them earlier rather than later.

What helps you with phone calls you don’t want to make? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

(Photo is a free stock photo because turns out I can’t take a picture of my phone with my phone.)