slubs in the city

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


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on abusing the concept of entitlement.

Regarding the business of being an American:

Recently, I read an opinion piece called 10 Things Most Americans Don’t Know About America”. I was caught by the title – I thought that the article would uncover some little-known, fascinating facts about our nation, of which I’m sure there are many. In this case my instincts were off. The author of the piece, Mark Manson, is an American reflecting on his home country through the lens of a world traveler, and he uses his platform to address the knowledge gaps he perceives in Americans’ own self-awareness of their place in the world. A quick scan of the article’s comment section reveals that, although Manson tries to stress his own personal biases, his beliefs are highly polarizing.

The list itself is worth the read, but in essence, Manson is driving home an oft-repeated message: Americans think too much of themselves and of their situation.

In summary: we don’t really impress anyone, mostly because other people don’t think about us on even an occasional basis when they’re making daily decisions. We’re ignorant about the rest of the world. We can’t express gratitude or affection because we’ve been socialized against it. Our quality of life isn’t actually that stellar, especially because the rest of the world isn’t actually a slum. We’re paranoid because we fear losing status and attention, which are two of our main life goals. We are an unhealthy population and, moreover, we’re unhappy because we overvalue the ease of comfort.

Manson uses the following video to polish his assertions with a Hollywood sheen:

In the video, Jeff Daniels’s character waxes poetic on all of the things that used to make America great but (according to the character) no longer typify our society, asserting that “the first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one.” Manson echoes this piece of wisdom, claiming, “There are things I love about my country. I don’t hate the US and I still return to it a few times a year. But I think the greatest flaw of American culture is our blind self-absorption.”

 While I have many thoughts about the video (most of them negative) and about Manson’s statements (some positive and some negative), my largest reaction to the entire piece was: this isn’t anything that, as an American, I haven’t already heard.

Are we Americans self-absorbed? You could argue the point either way. But I do not believe that we are unflinchingly blind.

To say that we, as Americans, think that our nation is greater than it is would be to put words in our mouths. That is the problem with leveraging generalizations to make a point, however useful or applicable those generalizations may be. We are a people who have a personal awareness of our own, personal situations, and that awareness manifests itself on a more global scale depending on the individual – just as it does for Finns, or Ghanaians, or Turks, or Peruvians. Education is essential to expanding our awareness beyond our front porch, and as a global community, I believe that it is our responsibility to think critically about how our actions affect others. But the beauty and the difficulty of education is that it can be an emotion-driven experience, and we must be careful about how we label the problems we’re attempting to get others to recognize.

I do not believe self-deprecation will induce most Americans to gladly hop onboard the CHANGE AMERICA NOW train. I also don’t believe that shouting at us to wake up forwards the dialogue for the many Americans who would see our generation succeed in a society that we understand as being flawed. What we need now is a way to redirect the conversation towards unburdened progress, a progress that learns from and respects our history but is not strictly beholden to or punished for it. We must recognize that we are a citizenry that has been endowed with a rich set of values which have differentiated and aided us in the past, a values system that has continued to shape our present – but that we are also a citizenry that must actively work to transform our values for the future. This process of metamorphosis is not helped by those who would criticize us; rather, it is nurtured by those who would share with us an alternative path, recognizing that our way of doing things might naturally be different.

I am proud to be an American, regardless of the faults that others perceive to be inherent in that classification. I will be even more proud as our society rises to the occasion and greets the critique of others, not with defensiveness, but with a willingness to learn and the confidence to grow.

con amor,

shan

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taylor swift ain’t got nothin’ on this love story.

If I approached my love life like popular culture suggests a woman my age typically does, I’d realize that it’s probably time for me to dump my boyfriend and try out a few drunk, crazy, liberating one-night stands. I’m 24 and I live in a big city (although Minneapolis holds nary a candle to NYC), so I guess that means I should really relate to the romantic trials and tribulations of the characters in Girls on a very deep and intimate level.

Except that I don’t relate to those characters, any more than I can relate to Lena Dunham, the media-proclaimed “voice of [my] generation”. Ms. Dunham is an incredibly talented artist who has managed to capture the story of a particular youth subculture in an effective and entertaining way, and who has fortunately made a living from doing so. But Ms. Dunham’s story isn’t my story.

okay, so i guess i can relate to these girls in one way — i’ve totally taken a fake laugh group photo before. awkward. [image credit: here.]

I frequently browse the New York Times’ column Modern Love, a series of articles submitted by big- and small-time authors alike that aims to holistically reflect on the meaning of love as it is understood in our day and age. The submitted articles are sometimes uplifting, sometimes painful; they are all candid, and for the most part do not boast to reveal anything more than a subjective experience with one of humanity’s most basic and primal emotions.

Yesterday, while perusing Modern Love, I stumbled across an article written by a man who, four or so years ago, was a senior in college. His submission, titled “Let’s Not Get to Know Each Other Better”, is well written, witty, and in many ways a fairly accurate glimpse into what it means to be a 20something navigating the social scene with other 20somethings. Musing on his colorful dating history, Mr. Walkowski asserts, “For my generation, friendship often morphs into a sexual encounter and then reverts to friendship the next day. And it’s easy as long as you don’t put yourself on the line or try too hard. Don’t have a prospect? Check Facebook. Afraid to call? Text.”

And therein lies the problem: I am part of your generation, Mr. Walkowski, but your love story is not my love story.

My brief and arguably vanilla history of amour includes a handful of dates, a couple of fantasy courtships that existed and played out entirely in my head (I’m looking at you Joseph Gordon-Levitt), one short summer fling, and one very long relationship. I didn’t have my first kiss until I was 18, and in the six years since that relatively embarrassing but forever memorable occurrence, I have only kissed one other person. If hookup culture is actually a thing, I wouldn’t know – in fact, I’m still not exactly sure what all the term “hookup” implies.

jgl

zooey deschanel may have passed you up, but i never will, JGL. just so you know. [image credit: here.]

Regardless of my own lack of experience, I don’t believe that my peers’ ability to love casually, freely and openly can be easily classified as either a bad or a good thing. It just is. We have a myriad of ways to find someone to date, and relatively few social taboos that regulate how we go about dating that/those person(s)  in a manner that fulfills our needs. We all have so very much love to give, in a variety of shapes and flavors and colors and forms, and it would be tragic if that love were confined exclusively and selectively to one other individual for the duration of our short and unique lives. It is not my place to judge the way you love, just as it is not your place to judge the way I go about achieving the same dream.

Still, my love story can’t be tracked according to Taylor Swift’s biggest hits.

it’s okay t-swift. you just do your thing. [image credit: here.]

Neither, however, can it be defined solely by the man who has shaped my notion of love for the past eight years.

I know that there are couples among us who were high school sweethearts, who have only ever dated each other, who got married when they were barely into their twenties even though people told them they were “too young” and are still together and in love. There are people who instinctively know, upon first meeting someone, that they will marry that person – even if they don’t know much else. Some teenagers meet their one big love as a freshman in college and are done forevermore with the entire dating game. I’m aware that this kind of ell-encompassing romantic attachment exists because I’ve read about it, over and over, in its countless iterations and manifestations. I’ve also been fortunate enough to witness the beginnings of big life love in at least one of my very dear friends, and it has been inspiring and comforting for me to watch her grow as a woman in such an environment of commitment alongside her partner in crime.

It’s quite possible that I met The One when I was a socially awkward 15-year-old and sat near him in AP English. Tomorrow he could choose to put a ring on it or to break my heart and move on, and that uncertainty keeps me on my toes more often that I would currently like it to. But in the end I know that my love story can’t be explained by an episode of Sex in the City any more than it can be summed up by a Nicholas Sparks novel.

And to me, that’s the very point of modern love.

If we all love differently, then no one relationship is “right” – which means that, for all the movies and poems and articles and novels and artwork and songs and plays composed about love, none of us really has any idea what we’re doing. We need shows like Girls and the Modern Love column to help us process our own feelings and emotions related to love, because our desire to create and maintain affectionate relationships – in their dizzying variety of forms – is what compels us, in part, to move forward with our lives. But we can’t assume that we’ve learned everything there is to learn about love simply by viewing another’s experience, nor can we pretend that our own knowledge on love can even come close to fully conceptualizing the idea.

My love cannot be contained within a sociological oversimplification of the way my generation functions. Neither can yours.

Isn’t that an amazingly freeing idea?

Sometimes I think about all that I could experience if I played the field, dated around, met new and exciting people to share my life with. Sometimes I get jealous of my friends who are engaged or married, and wonder if there’s something wrong with my own relationship. But when I’m feeling restless, it’s helpful for me to remember: wrong or right, my love story is my own.

For the record, I think I’ll stick with my current catch. He’s pretty fantastic. Unless you’re reading this, Joseph Gordon-Levitt…in which case, we should talk.

con amor,

shan


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hey you. stand up and vote.

This morning, a friend of mine posted the following status update on Facebook:

“While waiting in line to vote, the father in front of me was explaining to his precocious 6-yr-old why only adults were allowed to vote and why it’s important. He said voting is our most important act as a citizen. It is a privilege and is one of the most freeing things we can do in the US. Wise father.”

Both the father in her story and my friend are completely right. Participating in our democratic process is a privilege, one that many Americans are correctly taking advantage of today.

VOTE TODAY. [image credit: here.]

Here are some interesting statistics about the 2010 election, for your pleasure*:

  • In 2010, 41.8% of the voting-age population reported having voted in the election. Interestingly, 59.8% reported having registered to vote.
  • More women than men reported having voted in the 2010 election – 42.7% to 40.9%.
  • 69-year-olds were the most likely of any other age to vote in the 2010 election; a full 63.1% of them reported having cast a ballot on Election Day.
  • More New Englanders reported having voted in 2010 (48.2%) than any other geographic region in the country.
  • 58.4% of Maine’s citizens reported having voted in the 2010 election, the highest turnout of any other state that year. Only 31.4% of Texans reported making it to the polls, representing the lowest turnout rate of any state that year.

During the 2008 election – with the presidency contested between Barack Obama and John McCain – voter trends reflected a more responsive citizenry.

  • 58.2% of Americans reported voting in the 2008 election.
  • Same news on the gender front, though: 55.7% of males reported having voted, while 60.4% of women participated in Election Day.
  • The age group that was most likely to vote during the 2008 election? 77-year-olds (at 72.8%). If a 77-year-old can get to their polling place, you can too. No excuses.
  • During this election cycle, more citizens from the West North Central region (65.9%) reported having voted than any other geographical region. Exactly which states comprise the West North Central region, you ask? I have no idea.
  • More Minnesotans (70.8%) reported turning out on Election Day in 2008 than any other state. Take that Maine. Meanwhile, in Hawaii, only 46.8% of the population reported having voted, presumably because they were enjoying lounging around in the warm tropical breezes that Minnesotans could only bitterly dream of in November.

We tend to think of our right to vote as a hallmark of the American experience, but representative democracy hasn’t always been egalitarian in our country’s voting history. In 1776, John Adams – a signer of the Declaration of Independence and 2nd President of the United States – held the following beliefs about popular enfranchisement:

“…It is dangerous to open so fruitful a source of controversy and altercation as would be opened by attempting to alter the qualifications of voters; there will be no end to it. New claims will arise; women will demand the vote; lads from 12 to 21 will think their right not enough attended to; and every man who has not a farthing, will demand an equal voice with any other, in all acts of state. It tends to confound and destroy all distinctions, and prostrate all ranks to one common level.”

Strong words, Adams.

Despite our 2nd President’s warning, in the century following the Civil War, a variety of Amendments were passed which allowed for the broader enfranchisement of a significant portion of American society.

  • In 1870, the 15th Amendment guaranteed to black men 21 years or older the right to vote.
  • In 1920, the 19th Amendment granted women’s suffrage.
  • The 23rd Amendment allowed for citizens living in the District of Columbia to vote in presidential elections as of 1961.
  • The 24th Amendment, ratified in 1964, prohibited the use of poll taxes and allowed all voting-age citizens the right to a free vote.
  • In 1971, the 26th Amendment expanded the right to vote to citizens aged 18 or older.

It has taken us a long, long time to establish the right to vote as it is currently appreciated in America. As a citizen of this country, it is your duty, your freedom and your responsibility to participate in the electoral process. The polls are still open – please make sure that you cast your vote today!

If you’re still uncertain where your polling place is located, visit this link for important Election Day information: http://www.vote411.org/.

con amor,

shan

*Voting trend data for the 2010 and 2008 elections can be found at the United States Census Bureau’s Voting and Registration website.


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slub of the week: Random Image Searchers

I really like to know about pretty much everything that goes on in the world.

That’s why I love that WordPress has an entire section devoted to detailed and minute site statistics. I check that baby every day. And let me tell you, I have learned some very interesting things about the people who stumble across slubsinthecity.

For instance, based on the image searches that lead you to click on a photo from our blog, I have learned that you all really like miniature pigs. Our top two most-visited posts were written by the amazingly talented Kathryn, a fellow slub, and both extol the numerous virtues of the miniature pig. (Check out those posts here and here.)

You also really like Tex Mex. I completely understand.

So it is you, Random Image Searchers, who have been honored with the Slub of the Week award. Congratulations! Even though you don’t like to use capitalization, punctuation, proper grammar or correct spelling when you type in your image searches, you have provided me with countless minutes of entertainment and for that I am thankful. Please accept a hearty pat on the back and a light dose of highly constructive criticism from me as your reward.

In order to highlight your more prolific life choices, I have decided to list my top 10 favorite search terms that have guided you through the rabbit hole to slubsinthecity. They are listed in no particular order (although the more I think about it, #6 is quickly becoming a personal favorite). Thank you for your incidental patronage.

[The number of people who have typed a particular term into any given search engine and have somehow landed on this blog is placed in parenthesis next to the term itself.]

1. smack the slubby (1)

I don’t know what this means, nor do I ever want to learn what it means.

2. what is slub cotton why is it everywhere (1)

According to dictionary.com, slub cotton is a loosely twisted roll of fiber prepared for spinning. Additionally, a “slub” refers to a slight irregularity in yarn produced either accidentally or purposely by knotting or twisting, or by including uneven lengths of fiber in spinning. In slubsinthecity terms, slub cotton may also describe a slubs’ clothing choice (examples of slub cotton are stretchy pants, sweatpants, sweatshirts, and flannel shirts).

And it’s not everywhere – you’re just being overdramatic.

3. cute miniature baby piglets that are real with the name bella in the back round.of the pig (2)

This is the most incredibly detailed search slubsinthecity has yet to see. It also sort of hurts my eyes. I can only assume that the same individual used it twice; otherwise, it is truly freakish that two separate people typed this exact term into a search engine and somehow both stumbled upon this blog.

4. pig in red rain boots not blurry (2)

I’m incredibly sorry that you’re both having such a hard time finding a high-resolution picture of a pig in red rain boots. I sympathize with how frustrating it can be to locate the image that you want in the vast ocean that represents internet photography, and I sincerely hope whichever picture you finally discovered was much more satisfactory than previous blurry photos of pigs in red rain boots. Find peace my friends.

5. tiny racing pigs with coats (2)

The three most important questions here are: can tiny pigs actually race against each other, or are their tiny legs incapable of such competition? Also, would racing in a coat prove too cumbersome and impede your chances of winning the tiny pig race? And finally, did you mean to suggest that we are all simply tiny racing pigs with coats in this grand illusion called life, or were you two really just hoping to find an image of swine scurrying around in unnecessary clothing?

6. moroccan tagine exploded (2)

I really hope that your Moroccan tagine didn’t actually explode. That would be heartbreaking.

7. mex-tex food (2)

…so close. Please improve your comprehension of fine cuisine and come back later.

8. minicher pigs (3); also minicher pig (6)

It makes me sad to know that 9 people in this world misspell the word “miniature”. I apologize, but you are no longer allowed to visit this blog.

9. sexy piglet (4); also mini pig sexy (4)

No guys. Just no.

10. bacon pig in rain boots (5)

What does a bacon pig in rain boots look like? My assumption is that once a pig becomes bacon, it no longer has feet and thus has no need for boots.

UPDATE: I typed “bacon pig in rain boots” into google. This is the first image that popped up:

oh em gee. pig in boots. [image credit: here.]

That is not yet bacon. That is a picture of what is still very much a pig wearing absolutely adorable green rain boots.

Nevertheless, congratulations again, Random Image Searchers, on being named the Slub of the Week. You guys are weird.

con amor,

shan


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i can see mt. everest from my kitchen.

 

 

The concept of the learning curve applies to nearly every situation which involves progressing from ignorance to enlightenment. Sometimes the learning curve presents itself as a relatively gentle slope; surprisingly, you find that you are able to adapt quickly to new ideas and can easily catch on to recurring patterns. In these rare moments, you may experience the fleeting and exhilarating sensation that you are in fact a latent genius and quite likely one of the smartest human beings alive.

this is what winning feels like. [image credit: here.]

this is what winning feels like. [image credit: here.]

 At other times, the learning curve is as steep and as cruel as Mt. Everest. Many a brave and talented hero has perished attempting to conquer this zenith of natural creation. When tackling certain life circumstances you may find yourself incapable of grasping even the simplest of concepts or completing the most basic of tasks. This frustrating reality is a telling sign that you are, in fact, catapulting ass-first down the wrong side of the learning curve.The kitchen is my Mt. Everest.

I wish I found more peace in the art of cooking, but I don’t. This doesn’t mean that I’m necessarily the worst cook on the planet. I have been known to make a delicious meal or two, and if I ever find myself living alone I probably won’t starve to death. But cooking, and by extension baking and grilling, does not come naturally to me. I’d rather clean the bathroom than prepare a meal for a party. In fact, I pretty frequently elect this arrangement when the slubs have friends over.

Still, every now and then I contract temporary amnesia and decide I will cook dinner for everyone and furthermore I will have a damn enjoyable time doing it.

A few days ago I strapped on my hardhat to whip up a batch of shrimp risotto. Please take a moment to marvel over this delightful photo I took of the leftovers at work today:

yum yum

Interesting, you may now be thinking to yourself. That actually looks pretty good. I don’t understand why she thinks she’s a moron in the kitchen. Before you make me blush a deeper shade of attractive pink, I must in all good conscience inform you of my learning curve downfall with this particular recipe: I forgot to de-tail the shrimp before they were thrown into the risotto. At first I didn’t think this would be too much of a problem, until I accidentally swallowed a bit of shell and gave myself a minor stomach ache. I’m sure that there is a technique to de-tailing shrimp covered in arborio rice and parmesan with grace, but as of yet it is beyond my grasp.

Dan’s Ultimate Shrimp Risotto

This recipe was submitted by Dan Eiref to cooks.com. See the original here. Also, I doubled the recipe for leftovers but prepared it in halves to make two pots of this dish: one with shrimp for the meat-eaters, and one with extra veggies for the vegetarian housemates.

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups chicken broth (low salt if possible). NOTE: I used vegetable broth instead, in part because that made the recipe vegetarian-friendly and in part because I’ve found that chicken broth makes risotto too salty. But that’s just me.
  • ¾ cup dry white wine (might I suggest a chardonnay?)
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1 bay leaf (I didn’t use this and I don’t think the world ended)
  • 1 teaspoon tarragon (optional)
  • ¾ pound uncooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (AND DE-TAILED)
  • ½ cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 ½ cups arborio (risotto) rice
  • 1 cup spring vegetables such as asparagus tips, peas, corn, or broccoli
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • ¼ cup cream
  • ½ cup grated parmesan

Instructions:

Warm broth and ¼ cup wine in the microwave.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add half the garlic and crushed red pepper and sauté for 30 seconds, and then add shrimp, if you’re using the little buggers. Sauté until shrimp begin to turn pink, about 2 minutes. Add remaining ½ cup wine. Simmer until shrimp are just cooked through, about 2 minutes. Do not overcook shrimp or they become tough. Drain shrimp, reserving cooking liquid.

Melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter in heavy large saucepan or skillet over medium heat. Pause to wonder whose idea it was to make butter so delicious but so bad for you. Add onion and remaining garlic; sauté until onion is pale golden, about 4 minutes. Add rice and stir to coat, about 2 minutes. Add ½ cup broth mixture. Simmer until liquid is absorbed, stirring often. Continue adding broth mixture ½ cup at a time, stirring often and simmering until liquid is absorbed before adding more, about 20 minutes total. Don’t “drown” risotto.

Add vegetables and cream.

Cook until rice is just tender and creamy, about 5 minutes longer. Add a final shot of white wine, or a liberal splash if you subscribe to the slub style of cooking. Stir in reserved shrimp cooking liquid. If you made the uneducated mistake of buying shrimp that weren’t de-tailed for you, make sure to do that now.  Add shrimp. Add parmesan. Remove from heat.

Stir in 2 tablespoons parsley into risotto, and season with salt and pepper.

This portion size would serve 2 ½ slubs, but probably 4 normal people with room for dessert.

con amor,

shan

[Additional photo credit: Shannon’s fabulous instagram talent.]

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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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