slubs in the city

Slub (adj): Maverick; unorthodox; independent in behavior or thought.

dear post-graduate: welcome to the real world.

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Today I am officially 61.25% of the way through my year-long fellowship with Thrivent. In honor of this totally arbitrary event I’ve decided to list the top 6 things that I’ve learned during these past 226 days.

1.  Never go to the grocery store at 8:30 at night with the intention of cooking an elaborate meal for 2.This is especially important if you don’t know how to cook in the first place. Nora and I once had fantasies of making King Ranch Chicken when all the other slubs were gone for the night, and after ambling through the grocery store and googling “How do I cook chicken” we finally ate our meal at 10:30. By that time neither of us was really hungry. Extremely late dinners must be the secret to staying European skinny. Meanwhile, the slubs’ secret is laziness.

it seemed like such a good idea at 8:30…

2.  Do not recycle milk or egg cartons. If you do the City of Minneapolis will get mad at you, leave you a snooty note and refuse to take your recyclables for at least a week. Then everything will pile up and your neighbors will find out just how much you like wine and refried beans.

the city of minneapolis would like to point out that “milk cartons” and “egg cartons” are nowhere on this list.

3.  Spend money on the things you value, and scrimp on the things that aren’t important.

  • Things that I value: meals with friends, date nights, and high-quality jeans.
  • Things the slubs value: good wine, supplies and decorations for themed house parties, an assortment of quality cheeses, bridal magazines, celebratory outings, Netflix, expensive mousetraps.

4.  Speaking of mice, don’t use those crappy spring-loaded traps to catch rodent visitors. I encountered a mouse scrambling off our countertop on my birthday, and our attempt to catch her turned into a completely epic disaster. We used an old-fashioned trap, like the one they have in the Tom and Jerry cartoon, and soon enough the mouse was caught – by the foot. It then tried to escape for its life through a crack between our counter and the wall and got irreversibly stuck, and we couldn’t do anything about it for the next two days. It was gruesome. We have since bought a large and expensive trap, complete with a portico and a dial to tell you if the mouse has been caught. Before poor Michelle Bachman the mouse went to mousey heaven she must have told all her rodent friends to stay the hell away from the animal-haters at the slub house, because we haven’t seen any critters since.

avoid.

5.  If you are sad, happy, angry, stressed, loopy, cranky, bored, napping, cooking, doing your makeup, or cleaning, you should be watching one of the following slub-recommended shows:

  • 30 Rock
  • Arrested Development
  • Downton Abbey
  • The Bachelor
  • New Girl
  • Dance Moms

    YES.

MORE YES.

6.  Driving in Minneapolis requires you to be a hypocrite. You will harshly criticize everyone else’s parking job but will leave your own car parked crooked to the curb and call it a day. You’ll shout profanities at everyone that speeds past you in traffic but will cut people off to make it home faster. You will judge people who blow through red lights but have had your own fair share of close calls. You will fear the possibility of other drivers scraping against your stationary car on the street but will show no mercy when you’re squeezing past moving cars in Uptown. You’ll swear you’re a good driver but in reality become more aggressive every time you’re forced to take 94.

What a thrilling 61.25% of the year it has been. Just yesterday I threw my puffy jacket into the dryer with three tennis balls to keep it from looking like a Michelin Man costume when it was dry – I had no idea that was even possible. The slubs are learning new things every day! Just imagine what excitement the remaining 38.75% of the year will bring…

con amor,

shan

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what it means to be America

This past Monday, in commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, the slubs paid homage to our academic foundations. First, we sat down to watch Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, given in the formidable shadow of the Lincoln Memorial to a crowd of over 200,000 marchers on August 28th, 1963.

If you have never heard a recording of Dr. King giving this speech himself, it’s entirely worth the 17 minutes to experience. He was a true wordsmith, a master orator, and the way he draws listeners in to the hypothetical and idealistic world of his dreams is an art form. The imagery used in this speech is legendary. His words powerfully unfurl themselves in waves over the crowd and they react in turn, as you will too.

Notice how Dr. King repeats key phrases at the beginning of the sentences of select paragraphs in his speech. He does this to over-emphasize his point, in effect stirring up the audience and clearly driving his message home. The slubs would like to point out that this rhetorical technique is known as anaphora.

After we had spent some time discussing the legacy of Dr. King’s dream and the relevancy it holds for America today, we moved on to watch President Obama’s 2008 election victory speech. This speech, as well, is rich with imagery. Particularly powerful is President Obama’s story of Ann Nixon Cooper, a 106 year-old American whose lifetime has witnessed the most drastic events of the 20th century. His speech is a true lesson in election-time patriotism.

As a Political Science major I recognize the craftsmanship in both of these pieces. Dr. King and President Obama take full advantage of our uniquely American brand of civil religion, infusing time-honored messages of American patriotism with (Christian) religious undertones to create a political-spiritual cocktail of words. (To conceptualize American civil religion, examine the text of nearly any speech given by George Bush directly following September 11th – he portrays America as a city on a hill, a super-unique nation where the word “democracy” evokes the same type of spiritual reverence as “righteousness”.) Each section of these two speeches acts as a subconscious cue for the audience to respond appropriately. Based on the textual meaning of a phrase or the tone of the orator’s voice, each listener knows what he or she is supposed to feel – elation, approval, hope, victory, perseverance, thoughtfulness, joy. Dr. King and President Obama guide their audiences through a range of emotional reactions, and by the end of their speeches we’ve all experienced the intangible influence of their words.

As citizens, though, my roommates and I can appreciate the social value of Dr. King’s and President Obama’s message. Each speaks of a nation of freedom and responsibility, where all inhabitants have a right and an obligation to change their worlds to achieve a holistically “better” standard. They extol the virtues of the individual, but they are careful to remind us that our strength as a nation lies in our collective ability to believe in the potential of America. Can Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech still resonate as powerfully today as it did 50 years ago? Perhaps not in the same sense as it did during the Civil Rights Movement, but the idea that we can and must achieve the social vision outlined in the Declaration of Independence is the undercurrent which directs nearly every conversation in our public government arenas. History will look on these two speeches as snapshots of our citizenry’s particular and endearing brand of social capital.

We have so many blessings as Americans, not the least of which is the right to access our own governmental institutions (though this right is not currently extended to every individual living on our soil). Dr. King and President Obama reminded Kat, Anna, Nora and I of this on Monday, and for that we are grateful.

“…Young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled…we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red and blue states; we are and always will be the United States of America.” – President Barack Obama, 2008

con amor,

shan


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the bewitching, enchanting, wizarding world of harry potter

As Shannon just mentioned in a recent post, the slubs are adults. Or at least attempting to put on the personas of adults. We are adult-ish. We pay bills, do laundry, clean, have our own place, have jobs, go to happy hour with colleagues, etc. And most days we are successful.

But this weekend I did something entirely childish. I was house-sitting/puppy-sitting for my parents when I became ill. Now really this means that I had a really stuffy nose, sore throat, and was a bit more tired than usual. This justified extreme laziness and napping, ignoring all cleaning and laundry that needed to get done. Proof positive that I am not ready to be an adult.

It also justified something else. Something so cliche and juvenile, that I am almost ashamed to admit it…if it weren’t so awesome. I delved deep into the world of Harry Potter, beginning with a screening Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows-Part Two. When this was altogether unsatisfying (I always expect it to portray HP much more book-accurately than it ever does), I began reading.

Now, when I read HP, I commit. Wherever I start in the series, I have to end with the last book published (now the final book). Thus, I have to carefully choose where to begin in the series based on the time I have to devote to the reading. This weekend I chose book 5, by far my least favorite of the books (for obvious reasons) and began a wonderful visit the the wizarding world of Harry Potter.

What about these books seems to help me feel better when I am sick, or moody, or going through transitions? This summer, amid the move to the house in Minneapolis and the release of the last movie, I re-read the entire series (and the last two books, twice). I don’t think I could have felt like my childhood was ending more than this summer. I had just graduated college, just moved into a house that wasn’t my parents for the first time, and was beginning my new job the next month. The Harry Potter series was officially coming to a close. A series that had been with me since elementary school. I read it though a move to Nebraska and a move to Pennsylvania. The seventh book came out the summer after my senior year of high school.

Some slubs dressed up as Sirius, Hedwig, and Fawkes before the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One premier

slubs at the movie…sirius, hedwig, and the hogwarts express

The last movie, like I mentioned, after senior year of college. To commemorate, Shannon, Anna, and I had a wonderful Harry Potter evening before the midnight premiere. The dining room was decorated with floating candles, the door to our apartment had the platform 9 3/4 sign, acceptance letters to Hogwarts hung from the door, there was an herbology and potions section in our dining room, and we finished our meal with pumpkin pasties. Slubs love Harry Potter.

you can still see the harry potter candles in our dining room

But why do I love Harry Potter? Why do I continue to return to it, year after year?

Maybe I love HP so much because it has to do with anticipation. Waiting for the next book to come out. The anticipation that consumed 13 or 14 years of my life (if we include movie releases). Anticipation that was consumed with reading online spoilers (and possibly fanfiction…) with friends as we awaited the next book. The anticipation of standing in line 15 minutes before midnight. The anticipation to finish the new book as soon as I could to get to the end…to await the next installment. The anticipation to see what would happen to the wizarding world and all the friends I had made over the years with the characters in J.K. Rowling’s books.

Maybe I love it for its themes of friendship, good, and hope. Strikingly simple. I wanted friendships like Harry, Ron, and Hermione had. I love that good ultimately, if predictably, triumphs over evil. I like that the series is not only about hope for a better world, but action that makes that better world a reality. I like that the book is full of wholesome morals, about how rules are sometimes meant to be broken, and that love is the ultimate truth.

But in the end I find this all too philosophical. I like HP for one simple reason. It reminds me of my childhood imagination, or more accurately, it allows me to imagine like a child again. Too often we are caught up in our realities and planning for the futures. We are surrounded with data and facts; stress and worry. We forget to imagine, to think creatively. Sometimes, we just need to escape for a moment, imagine a different world where people meet their soulmates at the age of 11, decide on their careers at the age of 16, and defeat their ultimate enemies at 17. Where, with a flick of a wand, you can travel wherever you want, make objects fly across the room, and turn beetles into buttons.

We need that escape, if only for a moment, if only in our imaginations. Like Dumbledore says at the end of the seventh book, “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows  723).

So whenever I need to feel like a child again, when I want to feel the pure joy of imagining, I read Harry Potter. And I am transported. Out of my new adult world, out of worries and cares, bills and laundry. Out of a world of anxiety and stress. And into the wonderful, enchanting, bewitching world of Harry Potter.

Wishing you all the magic in the world,

Kat


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a+d+u+l+t = ?

Fun fact: I’ve developed a socially painful white girl swagger.

I’ve always loved Minneapolis, although to be truthful I’ve just always loved big cities. Having been born and raised on the outskirts of two major metropolitan areas, I’ve come to associate suburbia with my stereotypically American dream to settle down and start a family. Minneapolis, meanwhile, represents the beginning of my untethered young adulthood – big, noisy, sexy, skyscrapers and happy hour and high heels clicking down the skyway. Granted all types of people (most of whom live in suburbia, like my dad) work and play in Minneapolis, so my vision of the city may be selectively blind. Still, when the sun sets and I venture out into the electric city glow after work, my white girl swagger comes out in full force. I really can’t control it. Living and working in Minneapolis straight up makes me feel like a cool adult.

…aaaaaand this is why.

This past weekend, the slubs gathered together at Kat’s house to commune with good friends and appreciate our mutual slubiness. In between bites of strawberries dripping with chocolate fondue we clucked like hens about work and school. In a natural progression the conversation slipped into questions about the future, and we asked each other: what’s your plan for next year?

Inherent in that question is the assumption that everyone would have already mapped out their lives for the next few years. We’re all adults here – that’s what adults do. The white girl swagger is proof.

Out to coffee with my mother and a few good friends last night, the question came up again. It’s entertaining and cathartic to hash out the details of past events, and if you’ve got a flare for storytelling, the past is your jam. But the future: that’s what everyone is really interested in. There’s a reason Americans are chronically more stressed than our European neighbors. We have a constant, persistent need to know what’s next, and we push ourselves and each other to figure out the answer.

As American youth, our transition from childhood into adulthood isn’t necessarily marked by a standard ritual event. If I were required to hunt a fearsome beast to prove my maturity, the best I could capture in suburbia would be a bunny or a squirrel. Even graduating from college or getting your first job isn’t a universal indicator for every American teenager that he or she is now an adult. Let’s take off our rose-tinted glasses: not everyone has access to higher education. Many children spend their sacred younger years working to support their families.

Still, at a certain time, society at large has begun to assume that my generation is now part of the adult masses. And we perpetuate the idea: I can tell anyone I meet that I work for a financial company in downtown Minneapolis and pass as mature.

But what really makes us adults? Is it the coffee we drink? The people in our network? The neighborhood we live in? The furniture we bought at Ikea? The bills we pay? When we get married, buy a car or a house, have a baby, does that mean we’re officially adults? Perhaps it’s the salary we make, or the type of employment we have, or the degrees we hang on our wall. Maybe it’s in the answer to the all-imposing future question: I have a plan, I’ve worked it out. Stand aside – I’m on my way.

What makes us adults? Try typing the question into Google. You’ll return a mess of jumbled information and very few answers. This is the best thing I’ve found, for all my brief internet searching:

 “Another belief of mine: that everyone else my age is an adult, whereas I am merely in disguise.” – Margaret Atwood

If you’re an adult, please share with the slubs and our readers how you got there. For all my white girl swagger, I think I may still be trying to figure it out.

con amor,

shan


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slub of the week: Minnesota

For those of you who live in the lovely state of Minnesota, I’m sure you’ve noticed something strange lately: the weather. (Don’t live in Minnesota? Recap: it is unseasonably warm. Read: mid-30s, very little snow).

Now for those of you who don’t know, we Minnesotans love to talk about the weather. For other places in the country weather is an awkward small-talk conversation, in Minnesota weather is good conversation. When it is bad, i.e -40 degree windchills or 123 degree heat indexes, or when it is good, mid-70s and sunny, we have to talk about it. Because it is probably an anomaly (not really).

But, I’m sorry, Minnesota, I’m calling you out. You are being downright slubby. Too lazy to snow. Too lazy to dip into negative temperatures. Minnesota, you have put your stretchy pants on and curled up on the couch watching 30 Rock re-runs. And I applaud you.

Whereas in other Januaries I have had to cover every piece of skin and blow-dry my hair so it won’t freeze on the walk to my car, today I left the house with wet hair and wearing a fleece. It is January 4th. And I felt fantastic.

In honor of Minnesota’s slubbiness, here are some wonderful slubby winter weather facts (kudos yet again to wikipedia):

1. International Falls, MN average ANNUAL temperature is 37.4 degrees Fahrenheit. Coldest in the nation. The ten coldest counties in the nation? Also all located in Minnesota.

2. Lowest temperature recorded: -65 degrees in Embarrass, MN in 1996.

3. Earliest recorded snow: August 31, 1949 in Duluth.

4. Latest recorded snow: June 4, 1935. Yes, that’s right, MN has had snow every month but July, our warmest month. Yes. I know. Mind. Boggling.

5. A New York journalist vising St. Paul described Minnesota, “Another Siberia, unfit for human habitation.” The quote spurred the beginning of the St. Paul Winter Carnival.

St. Paul Winter Carnival snow sculptures

Here’s to you Minnesota! You’ve worked hard the past few years providing us with more snow than we could ever want and the coldest weather in the nation. So this year, please be slubby all you want. Don’t snow. Stay in the mid-30s. My boots and winter coat need a break. Grab yourself some chocolate-hazelnut-raspberry baked goods, a netflix account, yoga pants, and a comfy arm chair. Settle down and store up all those great slubby feelings so you can give us a beautiful spring. Minnesota, I love you. I love your slubbiness.

Kat (my office may be freezing, but Minneapolis is a balmy 36 degrees!)


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let’s talk greenbacks.

Two summers ago I read a book by Barbara Stanny called “Prince Charming Isn’t Coming: How Women Get Smart about Their Money”.

In chapter one of her book Ms. Stanny recalls how, on her twenty-first birthday, her parents revealed to her the trust fund established in her name. “‘You’re a very rich girl, Barbara,’” her father explains at the breakfast table. Stanny goes on to recount: “‘ You’ll never have to worry,’ I remember my dad saying that morning. It was the only advice my parents ever gave me about money. ‘Don’t worry.’”

At 21, my experience with financial management was a bit different than Stanny’s. Shockingly enough I wasn’t handed a trust fund document the morning of my twenty-first (although I did climb Mt. Sinai that morning, arguably as cool as any other birthday celebration). Far from neglecting to give me money advice, my parents have tried to instill within me the type of financial wisdom that I’m sure many children my age have received from their own parents. My mother taught me how to use and balance a check book. My father periodically discussed the fate of his stocks and the nature of his retirement account. I was given an allowance as a child and encouraged to handle it wisely. I was gently required to get a job when I was 16 and from then on began to pay for more and more of my expenses, like clothing, entertainment and gas.

When I was a senior at St. Olaf, my father instructed me to personally handle taking out a few student loans to pay for that year of college. I was in and out of the Financial Aid Office so often for a span of two weeks that the advisors began to remember my name and could recall my specific case without the prompting of their notes. It was an incredibly frustrating process, but I learned more about student loans in those two weeks than I had ever learned before. And then, after graduating, my parents informed me that I would thereafter be more or less financially independent.

I am a blessed child. My mom and dad have given me every comfort I could have asked for, and more – very, very few children in this world are nearly as lucky as I have been. Still, like Ms. Stanny (and probably like many of you), I’m finding that it’s a struggle to own my financial stability.

Money is a taboo topic, and yet it makes the world go ‘round. There seems to be a direct correlation between wealth and prosperity, between poverty and difficulty. Like Kat mentioned in a previous post, poverty isn’t simply a lack of financial capital; poverty is very much also a lack of opportunity. To evade poverty, to provide for ourselves and our families, to do and experience the things we enjoy, we find employment in part to reap the monetary rewards. And yet, as a society, we are notoriously stupid with our financial lives.

My experience with Thrivent has opened my eyes to this reality. Part of the beauty of our organization is our commitment to the concept of education. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to tell people that you can provide a learning experience for them based on financial wisdom and best practices; often, we require scare tactics to get us to listen. The facts detailing the ways Americans spend their money provide no shortage of shocks to the system. For example, did you know that…

  • …77% of the workforce surveyed by CareerBuilder in 2010 was living paycheck to paycheck?
  • …according to a 2010 Harris report, 34% of Americans are completely without retirement savings – even though we spend, on average, 20 years in retirement?
  • …in October of 2011, Americans owed $2,457.5 billion total in outstanding consumer credit?

So if our money situation is so universally bad, why do we as a people tend to ignore our financial wellbeing?

Part of my job at Thrivent is to promote a financial literacy program on college campuses. We instruct our student leaders to educate their peers on being wise with their finances now, especially because they’re young and have a lifetime to cultivate the right money habits and make decisions that will secure their financial future. It sounds boring, but it’s vitally important. I know the wisdom of my own advice – I’ve taken major steps, like creating a checking account separate from my parents’, maxing out my 401k match, and establishing an automatic payment for my monthly rent. But I still don’t have my own credit card. I don’t save nearly as much as I could each month for major expenses that will be coming fast down the pipeline: graduate school, a mortgage, a family. I’m lucky if I balance my checkbook bi-monthly. I don’t know what my account balance is half the time – I just know it’s above zero. I’m pretty much a walking hypocrite.

Very few people like to deal with their finances. Like so many things in our life we assume that, if we don’t pay attention to it, perhaps our financial problems will just go away. We spend money that we don’t have in order to obtain the standard of living we think we deserve.

So, is there a solution to our ignorance? I’d like to think so. But the point of this post isn’t to provide you with the answers—it’s to kick-start your own search.

Here are some resources I’ve used to help me begin my own journey to financial wisdom. Who knows – they might prove useful to you too…

smartypig! so cute. so financially wise.

con amor,

shan