Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Hunting the Most Dangerous Game

Unless you're one of the lucky few who find no problems talking yourself up, lying a little, and being super charming around strangers...job hunting sucks. I should know, I've been doing it for years! To be a successful job-hunter, you have to know how to apply. While I might not be the authority on interviews, I can churn out resumes and cover letters like nobody's business. Here I have given you a few templates and listed the better advice I've received from the internet, from my former career adviser, and from friends who have landed kick-ass jobs.

Part 1: The Resume
If you've ever written a resume before, you probably know the standard format. While some companies might enjoy a bit of artistic expression in the resume, the most important aspect is that anyone can quickly and easily find the most important details.


Your Full Name
Mailing Address  -   Email Address  -  Phone Number

Name of School                                                                           Dates of Attendance/Date degree earned
            Degree earned                                                                                                   Location of school

Name of School                                                                           Dates of Attendance/Date degree earned
            Degree earned                                                                                                   Location of school

Name of Company                                                                                                               Dates worked
Title of position                                                                                                                        City, State
              Action word and explanation. 

Name of Company                                                                                                               Dates worked
Title of position                                                                                                                        City, State
              Action word and explanation.

Name of Company                                                                                                               Dates worked
Title of position                                                                                                                        City, State
              Action word and explanation.

Name of Company                                                                                                               Dates worked
Title of position                                                                                                                        City, State
              Action word and explanation.

Skills and Awards
Here you will include other languages you speak and/or read, technical proficiencies (Microsoft Office package, HTML coding, etc.), artistic pursuits (have you played piano for 10 years? this may not help you get the job, but it will prove that you are dedicated and maybe will make you stick out in the employer's mind). Also include any awards you have received professionally, including scholarships or stipends in college.

Here you will list any non-professional accomplishments. Have you served on a committee? Were you a DJ at your college radio station? Have you studied abroad or had summer training? Have you performed a professional skill in the private sector? This is where you want to mention those things.


Quick Tips: 
Do make your resume attractive and clean, surround most important aspects with white space.
Don't make your resume more than 2 pages (1 page front and back if you are sending a physical copy.)
Do write more for your most recent job than your first job - you want to imply that you have been given more responsibility with each job you take.
Don't type paragraphs to explain work duties, instead use quick sentences that start with action words.
Do allow time (30 minutes to an hour) for formatting and printing.

Part 2: The Cover Letter
Below is a basic form for you to copy and paste and fill in the blanks. This is just to get you started, read the tips below the letter for more on content!
Your name
City, State  Zip

Company name
City, State  Zip

Date you will send the letter (Day, Month, Year)
Dear Mr/Mrs. Name or To Whom it May Concern:

Thank you for taking the time to review my application for [complete title of position]. My experience in [----] and my education in [----] make me an ideal candidate for this position.

More about why you're perfect for this job.

I look forward to hearing from you / I am excited for this opportunity.

Thank you,
Your full name
email address
phone number


Quick Tips: 
  Do write a separate letter for every application.
  Don't copy and paste the job posting, but do use similar action words to explain what distinguishes you from other candidates.
  Do be concise.
  Don't just re-write your resume.
  Do use SHORT anecdotes or metaphors (2-3 sentences) to explain all pertinent aspects of your personality/work ethic/experience.
  Do name drop - if you know someone in the company, were referred to this position by a friend, or have worked at the company in any capacity before, now is the time to mention it!

Part 3: References
Requesting and providing references can be one of the trickier aspects of the application process. Most companies require three professional references. They may ask for a letter from the reference, or simply for their contact information. If a letter is required, be sure to notify your reference about one month in advance.

Quick Tips:
Do chose someone who likes you and can attest to certain aspects of your work ethic and ability. This does not have to be a supervisor, but it could be a teacher or co-worker. If you are applying for a supervisory position, try to get a reference from someone who has worked for you.
Don't give out personal emails or phone numbers, instead use professional contact information.
Do let your references know they may be contacted. Most often, a potential employer will not contact your references until after they schedule an interview, so you might want to wait until you are sure you are a candidate for the job.
Do give details of the job you are applying to and what aspects of your work you would like them to highlight. They are probably very busy, so you want to make it as easy as possible for them to talk you up.
Do send thank you cards/emails to anyone who provided you with a good reference.

Got questions? I've got answers!

Monday, January 2, 2012

a woman's work is never done

Because I am still baffled by the number of people who are totally clueless when it comes to handwashing dishes, I decided to do a more detailed description. Some of this stuff seems totally basic to my thinking, but I have realized (having male roommates) that I take a LOT of cleaning know-how for granted.

How to Properly and Efficiently Handwash Dishes

  • Dish drainer
  • 2 tubs that fit in your sink
  • Soap and sponge
  • Scrub brush (optional)
  • Hot water
  • Plastic gloves

Step 1:
Before you start fooling with gross dishes, make sure your clean dishes are put away, the dish rack should be empty and clean. (Rinsing your tray about once a week will prevent moldy build up - keeping it clean is much easier than cleaning it!)
Step One

Step 2:
Rinse out the dirty dishes. I have a scrub brush that I use to get caked-on food off of dishes and pots. (I also use it to clean out the sink at the end of dishwashing.) Getting all the gross bits off of your dishes before you start washing them will conserve water and make the whole thing a lot easier.
Step Two
Step 3:
Arrange the dishes on a counter or table in a way that makes sense to you. I gather all my silverwear into a plastic cup and arrange cups and mugs closest to the sink, dishes behind them, and pots and pans behind that. This is the order in which I usually wash things.
Step Three: Dirty dish found art
Step Three: Silverwear tower

Step 4:
Prep two wash tubs. These cost anywhere from $1 - $7, but as long as you don't bang them around too much the cheap ones hold up just fine. On the dirty dish side, fill the tub halfway with scalding hot water. On the clean dish side, fill halfway with lukewarm water. Those yellow plastic gloves are worth their weight in gold at this point. Not only do they make touching gross caked-on food bits kind of fun, they allow you to use super hot water without damaging your hands. 
Step Four: left = hot, right = cold

Step 5:
Start washing! My routine starts with glasswear because spots and stains show up best on glass. For this same reason, I put glasses on the far side of the drying rack, so that stray splashes won't leave spots as they dry. Then I wash mugs (to balance the rack...mine tends to tip over into the sink if I'm not careful!), then bowls, plates, silverwear, and pots/pans. 
Step Five: First layer of drying, everything is resting on
something else, plastic cups are used as barriers between
 glass and porcelain items.
Step 5.1:
I used to hate washing silverwear, but since I started tub-washing my dishes it's kind of fun. I dump the whole cup into the hot water, and (starting with steak knives for obvious reasons,) quickly scrub each one and plop them in the rinse water. 
Step Five-point-one: Silverwear dumping
Step 6:
Finish up with the dirtiest items - usually pots and pans. These can rest on top of the other dishes, again using plastic as barriers when possible and necessary. Notice in the picture below that I never put wine glasses in the dish drainer unless it will be virtually empty. I can't tell you how many stems I have broken from carelessly sticking those in the drainer (usually when trying to empty it), so now I just stick them off to the side to let them dry, usually on a clean towel or rag. 
Step Six: Two layers of dishes here, be careful unloading!

Step 7: 
Clean up after you clean. Seems annoying, but cleaning up after yourself will make your supplies last longer, not to mention it will be less daunting to do the dishes next time they pile up. THE MOST IMPORTANT thing to do when doing dishes is to keep your sponge clean and dry. Remember that episode of Family Guy where Stewie meets the cast of Star Trek? "A dry sponge is a happy sponge." It is absolutely true. Never leave your sponge sitting in a tub of water. Squeeze it out and put it off to the side somewhere that it can air out.
Step Seven: "A dry sponge is a happy sponge."

When you rinse out your tubs, first dump the nasty water, then empty your drain catcher or run the disposal. Then dump our your rinse water and clean up the sink. Be sure to rinse off all food bits and soapiness from the bottom of the tubs and set them aside somewhere they can dry.

Step Seven: Waste Water Services
That's it! This whole process takes me about 30-45 minutes to do a whole rack-full of dishes. They aren't as painful as you might think, and its kind of meditative in a weird way. So do some damn dishes already!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

great expectations

Your parents expect you to finish school. Your teachers expect you to do your homework. Your friends expect you to stick up for them or maybe just to answer their texts. Your girlfriend expects you to hold her hand in the hall or your boyfriend expects you to let him sneak a kiss in the movies. So before you get too overwhelmed by all the things you have to do and all the expectations people have of you to do them, take a minute to evaluate what it means to have expectations.

The Good
Some expectations are good. They motivate us to do our best work, even if we don't really want to. Think of your favorite teacher ever. The respect you have for them makes you want to work harder in that class. The most typical example of good expectations are from your parents. They want you to succeed in all that you do - school, sports, arts, and social life (even if they don't always seem to concentrate on that last one). Expectations can inspire you and encourage relationships, but there isn't really a set list of good expectations. They are always changing with context and even the best expectations can change in a blink. Just be sure to behave in the same way that you expect of others. Otherwise, you're just a jerk. It's one of the oldest rules of humanity, you know, do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Good motivators get you out of bed in the morning, like coffee or your dog. On most days, they will slip by unnoticed; you'll get out of bed and start a routine. There are days, though, when these motivators seem like impossible tasks. If you ever feel that way, there is a good chance you're feeling depressed.

Depression is not always the clinical study those prescription drug commercials make it out to be. Depression is a natural part of life: some days are just worse than others, sometimes we are sad for seemingly no reason. Being able to notice the ways you respond to expectations can be a guide to navigating tumultuous emotions.

(I unabashedly stole this from a fantastic blog, Hyperbole and a Half):

The Bad
Ever heard of the boy who cried wolf? Of course you have. This big cry baby would cry all the time. At first, his friends were worried, but they soon realized he was faking and every time he'd come crying to them they expected him to be faking it. This is what you might call a bad expectation. Have you failed every math test? Guess what your teacher expects for the next one. When you talk to a girl you like, do you tease her? Guess what all the girls expect from you. Have you been grumpy for a week? Your friends are probably steering clear of you.
Bad expectations come from bad habits. If you notice your friends, family, or teachers expecting you to do something that you think is beneath you then take a minute to look at your habits. Have you been slacking in your responsibilities? Sometimes we don't realize we've backslid - even our parents and closest friends might not be able to pinpoint it - until we examine the expectations people have of us.

The Ugly
If your friends all jumped off a bridge, would you?
Well...that depends. Is it every friend in the world I've ever had? And how big is this bridge? Maybe if all my friends jumped, the pile would be so high it would be more of a hop for me.
My mom would drive me crazy when she asked that question, so I would drive her crazy with a pseudo-philosophical response. It illustrates ugly expectations, though. When you're a teenager, your friends are your main focus. You are going into society alone for the first time and trying to figure out what you like and don't like, just experiencing as much as you possibly can after years of being coddled. How do you know drugs are bad if you've never tried them? Why should I listen to my instinct for some things (stranger danger) but not others (exploding sexual frustrations)? It can be difficult to have any expectations of yourself at all because you have never encountered some of these things before, so you try to match your frame of reference with your peers. Things get confused when everyone is comparing themselves to everyone else, and an unrealistic ideal becomes your main priority.
Confused? Let me give an example.
Every post-pubescent human alive is obsessed with sex in some way or another. We pretend like we aren't in polite society, but we are. And why shouldn't we be, it is the very basis for our existence! Adults tell children all sorts of stories using crazy metaphors to try to explain it without being explicit, so it's no wonder that by the time you hit puberty you are just dying to find out what it's all about. Adults expect kids to know nothing about sex and to not have sexual feelings. This is totally unrealistic and counterproductive.
The other extreme is almost worse! Our opinions about sex are formed on rumors and suspicions, awkward encounters and (most of all) pop culture. Sexy singers and steamy movies form our idea of an ideal. It isn't until much later that we realize this is totally unattainable.
Parents and teachers expect us to never have sex. Our friends expect us to be sexperts. There is hardly any room for a middle ground between these two conflicting beliefs, and is one example of the many ugly expectations we face as we grow up.

What are some expectations people have of you? What expectations do you have of others? How have these helped or hindered your relationships?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

decisions, decisions

When I was 16, the most important thing about graduating high school was that I would move out of my parents' house. It was assumed I would go to college, and I did. It was assumed I would live in the dorms, and I did. It wasn't until after these decisions were made that I realized I even had options, so today I want to talk about the many different options you have for living arrangements outside of your parents' house.

Your options will depend on what you plan to do. If you're going to college, dorms have typically been the first choice, but aren't always best and usually cost more. If you're going to work, you'll need to save a pretty hefty chunk of change before you can move out on your own. It may be that your housing is already set up for you and you don't even have to worry about it, but it's always good to explore your options.

If you go to college, you will be expected to do a number of things on your own for the first time. Living in a dorm can help cut down on your responsibility and saves you from having to buy furniture and fixtures. It usually comes with some kind of meal plan, which is helpful when you're cramming for mid-terms and have zero free time to do things like buy food, shower, and sleep. It's a great way to meet new people, sure, but  sharing a bathroom doesn't always bring out the best in people.
You might have extra rules like a curfew or no unaccompanied members of the opposite sex.

Your home is your castle, make it easy to do what you love. This comes pretty naturally - if you like to be outside, you'll look for a place with a yard, if you like to cook, you'll search for a nice kitchen. Don't fall prey to the extras, the "amenities," like a pool or a workout room. Unless you're already swimming and working out enough to warrant these things, it will just end up being a huge expense.
Speaking of expenses...apartments will often include utilities (water, electricity, and gas) in the monthly rent. This is abbreviated ABP for all bills paid. This can be extremely helpful - your bill never changes - but first find out how much they charge. When I lived alone, my electricity bill was usually around $75 (though it tips $100 in the summer), gas would be around $40, and water generally around $30 (although last month it was $70...still trying to figure that one out!). If they are charging much more than this, move on.
If you're in a bigger city, you'll probably be able to get free apartment locating. This is a great service, especially if you don't know the town. They drive you around to all sorts of different spots, and they don't get paid until you pick one. This is a much better option than CraigsList.

In all the housing I've had, duplexes are my favorite. You have a yard and a front door, neighbors are friendlier, you have a bit of privacy, and you can really make it a home. The downside? They are twice as expensive as apartments. You pretty much have to get a roommate and that is never an easy task.

Tips for Finding a Roommate:
1. Never live with your best friend. Trust me, you're similarities will drive each other crazy.
2. It's good to live with someone who has known you for a few years. Even if you're just acquaintances or old classmates, this is better than a total stranger.
3. Living with a member of the opposite sex is actually a lot easier than parents may make it seem. (Just choose someone you aren't attracted to.)
4. Craigslist is a terrible plan 99% of the time. If you DO decide to go this route, be extremely picky. Pickier than you've ever been. You will see the worst side of humanity while meeting these candidates. Prepare yourself.

If you're moving to a college town, you may be able to convince your parents to buy a house there. Seem outrageous? Hear me out... If they buy a house, you can live there, paying rent every month of course. Having this tie will help them feel more connected to you. And when you mail them the rent, you can send it in a little greeting card or with a note about something that happened to you recently. Trust me, moms LOVE this. After you graduate or move out, you can help find new tenants and your parents can go on making money off this investment for as long as the school is open.
Before you talk to your parents about it, research prices for housing in the area. Just do a Google search for real estate in that city, collect information about a few houses near campus, and prepare the numbers before you go to your parents. (Don't show them anything above $200,000).

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

cleanliness vs. godliness

I promise I won't go all Mary Poppins on you, but I do want to talk about cleaning. It is so simple, it can save you from depression and disease not to mention roaches and rats. I know you think you hate it, but if you do it right, it is quick, easy to keep up, and rarely gross. Just like with anything you do, you have to make it your own. When I clean, I put on comfy clothes, make a pot of coffee, open every door and window if it's nice out, and jam Girl Talk's album Feed the Animals. Not only is it a free album, it's like a medley of every song you've ever loved or hated that changes every 20 seconds or so. This ADD rock is perfect for cleaning day.

1 sponge
1 scrub brush (about 3-5 inches long)
1 bucket or basin that fits in your sink
soap (just one 16oz bottle of Dr. Bronner's classic all-in-one soaps will last you a year. i like the tea tree oil.)
1 can Comet and a toilet brush
1 gallon white vinegar
1 box baking soda
1 spray bottle (you will fill this with your most essential cleaning tool - half vinegar, half water)
1 gallon of bleach (*only essential if you wear a lot of white or have porcelain sinks or tubs.)
1 mop
1 broom

This list of thirteen things - probably costing somewhere around $25 - includes everything you need to clean everything in your house. No, you don't need seven different kinds of soap or a washing machine or Swiffer Wet Jet. You just need a little time (one afternoon a week!) and maybe some elbow grease.

1. Invest in a solid dish rack with cup-holder prongs on the sides. This will save you from a world of cracked plates and chipped glasses. And make sure you get the tray to go underneath it! They aren't always packaged together at the store.
2. Get a sponge. Some people prefer the ones with the plastic handle so they don't have to actually touch the sponge, but they don't work as well and easily break. I prefer the yellow ones that fit in your palm. (If you don't want to touch dishwater, get some yellow rubber gloves for about $2.) Make sure you wring out your sponge with soapy water after each use to keep it clean and dry.
3. If you cook a lot, you'll probably need a metal scouring sponge (a.k.a. S.O.S. pads). These are great for getting old food off of pots and pans, but don't use them on non-stick pans or glass because it will scratch. Don't let them sit in water or they'll rust.
4. I know I said you can use one soap for everything, but I do like to splurge on dish soap. One $3 bottle can last 3-4 months. Maybe because it is what my mother always used, but I like Dawn. Go for the bare bones, don't be fooled by the pretty colors or claims that it will make your hands softer! Advertising is the art of making you think you can't live without something totally useless. Don't forget this is as true as it is in at the make up counter as it is in the cleaning supplies aisle.
5. Get a rhythm. I find the "classic blues" channel on Pandora is pretty great for late-night dishwashing. To me, it's a kind of meditation. It's a chance for me to escape when my roommates are around because, believe me, everyone will leave you alone when you're cleaning. (And if they don't, start asking them to help and they will!)
6. Soaking dishes is, except for in some rare cases, making yourself believe you are being productive when you aren't. I prefer rinsing to soaking. When I make a pot of Mac n Cheese, I empty the pot into a tupperwear, let the pot cool while I eat, and rinse it when I'm done. This accomplishes the same thing as soaking without having a sink full of nasty dishwater and without risking rusting any of your dishes or utensils.
7. And speaking of nasty dishwater, don't forget to clean out the sink when you're done. It's a good habit to get into to clean the places where you clean - sinks, tubs, basins, brushes, and rags should all be cleaned regularly and rinsed each time you use them. If you leave food in the drain catcher, this is like an invitation for every roach within half a mile to come feast in your drain. Just take five seconds to toss it in your closed-lid kitchen trash and avoid inestimable grossed-outness. 

1. Top to bottom. If you remember nothing else remember to clean top to bottom. For some reason people always want to start with sweeping the floor, but counters, stoves, and tables should be cleaned first.
2. For set in stains (cooked onto your stovetop burners, for example) cover with a layer of baking soda. Then spray it with your half vinegar, half water concoction and watch it sizzle like a science project! Depending on how set in the stain is, you may need to leave it for up to 3 minutes before you wipe it off with a rag. Since you're cleaning top to bottom, go ahead and toss any chunks onto the floor to sweep up later.

*If you hate the smell of vinegar, you can add some lemon juice into your half and half mix. The acidity in the citrus helps balance that acrid vinegar smell.

My least favorite chore growing up was dusting. I rarely do it now, but when I start sneezing and sniffing I know it's time to dust.
1. Two or three times a year, clean the ceiling fan; wipe down each blade using a wet paper towel that you can shake out onto the floor as necessary.
2. Wipe down anything you have on top of bookshelves or end tables, pick it up and swipe underneath it onto the floor with a moist rag. Make sure there is no sitting water left on any wood after you have dusted it.) I wipe down my furniture once every two months or so, although I should probably do it more.
3. Vinegar is good to clean wood because it dries quickly and will not hurt the integrity of wood in old homes, but it does not shine. A wood cleaner (like Murphy's Oil Soap) is fine to use on treated wood floors and furniture, smells better, and is still really cheap. I clean my wood floors with Murphy's about once every four months.


I sweep/vacuum the major traffic areas in my house 3 times a week. I have pets, so 3 times might be steep. You might only have to do it once a week, but you should get used to sweeping your entire house fairly often - especially by entrances.

My least favorite chore as an adult is mopping. I hate it and avoid it at all costs. That is why I prefer to spot clean. Honestly, I only mop the entire floor once every two or three months, the bathroom maybe once every six weeks. Do not get the classic rope mop. Those are gross. Get one that you can squeeze out with a handle.
1. Fill your basin halfway with hot water and soap. Take off your shoes because it's more fun that way!
2. Scrub the floors, starting with any problem spots.
3. Wring the mop out in the sink drain.
4. When you are done scrubbing the floors, wring the mop out several times in some fresh cold water.
5. Because I have roommates, I like to put a bunch of fans pointed at a freshly mopped floor. This not only helps it dry faster but lets the other people in the house know that I just mopped.

It always sucks to clean the bathroom. If you haven't thought about picking up some yellow gloves yet, this might be the time.
1. Cleaning a toilet is disgusting, but you should do it about once every two weeks. That might seem excessive but, believe me, the next time you're unexpectedly sick and have your head stuck down the toilet, you'll be glad you kept it clean.
2. Using your vinegar/water combination and some paper towels (I splurge on the disposable stuff when cleaning something that grosses me out this much) wipe down the seat, lid, and the outside of the bowl. 2. There are tons of toilet bowl cleaners out there, but all you really need is a toilet brush and some Comet. Sprinkle the Comet around the rim of the bowl.
3. Scrub it with the brush, making sure to get up in that crevasse you can't see and scrubbing all around and down into the drain.
4. Flush the toilet to rinse the brush.

Though the sink is pretty straight-forward, the tub can be a real beast to clean. It is much easier to try to keep it clean than to clean it. Some might call this a half-assed attempt, I call it efficient! For example, if dirt has settled around the drain in the tub as it often does in my house, when I shower I will scrub it a bit with my foot so it will loosen up and go down the drain. While I'm showering, I try to hose down anywhere that looks kind of gross. I have even kept a rag in there for that purpose. After I shower, I always close the shower curtain. If you leave a wet curtain open it will much more easily grow mold.
About twice a year (which is shamefully infrequent) or if I want to take a bath, I will bleach and scrub the tub.

Yes, you should clean your phone pretty regularly. Computer keyboard and TV screens, too. The best way to clean these is with rubbing alcohol or straight vinegar. These products dry quickly, which is vital to electronics. Do not use papertowels because it will leave behind a residue, instead use cotton balls, a soft rag or old t-shirt and, if necessary, a Q-Tip. You'll be surprised the gunk that comes out of the crevasses of your cell phone. I clean my phone about once a month, and I do a quick sweep with a cotton ball over my laptop twice a month. You should do a deep cleaning of your computer once every 6 months or so if you use it every day.

Cleaning your car is so easy, takes about 30 minutes, and is totally free. Living next to a construction site in the middle of the worst drought in history, I clean the outside of my car pretty regularly.
1. Grab your bucket or basin, a garden hose, and your Bronner's soap.
2. Rinse your car and fill up the bucket with about a gallon of water and tablespoon of soap.
3. With your rag or with a large sponge, (I like the Shammys I got at the Dollar Store for a buck - one to wash and one to dry)
4. Start by cleaning the windows so that you do not end up rubbing around dirt from the rest of the car onto the windows. Then rub down each side going top to bottom. Do this as quickly and thoroughly as possible.
5. Rinse the car (top to bottom).
6. Dry off with another shammy, again starting with windows and mirrors.

Other luxuries in adulthood include washing machines and dryers. You could lug your dirty clothes and sheets and underwear over to the laundromat for all the world to see, or you could learn how to hand-wash your laundry. (Ladies, the sooner you learn to hand wash, the better off you'll be when you start buying sexy lingerie!) You probably think I'm crazy. A year ago, I would have been right there with you, but it is so easy, it makes your clothes look and smell cleaner, and it's kind of fun. Now, I'm not totally nuts, I do take my towels and jeans to the laundromat, but my favorite clothes I wash by hand.

the set up:
2 buckets, basins, large bowls, whatever you have on hand. One goes in the sink, the other nearby.
liquid laundry detergent or Dr. B's soap, bleach if necessary, vinegar and baking soda.

the cleaning:
Divide your laundry into small loads. I start with delicates (ladies, you should NEVER put a bra in the dryer), then do whites, tank tops, nice shirts, and t-shirts.
Drop your first load in the basin and begin to fill it with water. Move the clothes around in the water until they are soaked. Pull the up and submerge them over and over to get the initial dirt out. For dirtier loads, you will want to change the water before you add the soap.
After you've added soap (about a tablespoon for one basin-full) and moved the clothes around in it a bit, jostle the stains and smells out of your clothes with a small soft brush or washboard. Treat each item individually. If something has no stains, you can simply lift and submerge several times then set it aside.
(For pit stains, put a layer of baking soda on the stain, set aside out of the water, and spray with the vinegar and water mixture. Let it sit for at least five minutes before scrubbing the area with a sponge or brush.)

the rinsing:
This is a vital step in the laundry process; if clothes are not properly rinsed of the soap, it can degrade the material and make it stiff and uncomfortable. To ensure you get all of the soap out of your clothes, add about 1/4 cup of vinegar to the final rinse cycle.
When an item is clean and rinsed, twist it and wring it out as best as you can. You may even want to lay your clothes out on a towel, fold it, roll it up, and step on it. This method is great for getting out excess water and allows the clothes to dry much faster.

the drying:
If you can dry your clothes on a line outside, that is your best option. They dry best in the day but will also dry at night. If you do not have access to clothesline, you may want to buy a laundry rack. Keep this, if possible, in the bathtub or on top of a towel to catch the water that drips from your clothes.

What have I missed? What else do you hate cleaning? How much do you spend on cleaning products that are supposed to make your life easier? I hope these cheap tips will help you maintain a level of cleanliness that can keep your brain uncluttered and your wallet packed. For more helpful info, see my absolutely favorite website: www.realsimple.com.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

stranger danger

"don't talk to strangers." we've heard this adage our whole lives along with stories of needles in the halloween candy and just saying "no." unfortunately, your mom can't do your job interview for you and eventually you'll have to deal with the grocery store clerk or the homeless man asking for spare change. in almost every situation you encounter, you'll have to say more than "no" or "yes." here are some examples and advice on how to talk to strangers.

the passer-by.
the most important thing to do in ANY conversation is to make eye contact and, when appropriate, smile. this is basic human connection. when and where you should connect changes with culture and personality. having grown up in the deep south, i think it is rude when i pass people in the park and they don't make eye contact. but when i lived in new york city, it would have been impossible to make eye contact with everyone i passed so we all just kept our eyes on the sidewalk. never before had i felt so lonely, and never before had i been so surrounded by people.
by the way, if you see someone you think is cute, a great way to get their attention is to look them in the eye and smile. 

the service industry.
consistently over-worked and under-paid, service industry employees are often disgruntled but hardworking. when talking to them, let them know you appreciate the work they do. this can be as simple as saying thank you and leaving a decent tip. (after my year of waitressing, i never tip less than 20% and often tip close to 50% when i am satisfied with the service.) be sure to give them the benefit of the doubt if they are grumps. if they make a mistake, correct them kindly and allow them to fix it before getting angry or demanding to speak to their manager. you will often get more out of being nice than you will by causing a scene.

the repair guy. 
this includes all your basic services - plumbing, electricity, sewage, cable, deliveries and so on. basically any situation where professional work is being done in your home. it can be off-putting and sometimes unexpected.
if they need to come inside your house, make sure the area they need to access is clear of clutter. put animals outside or in another part of the house in case of allergies or phobias. when they arrive, direct them to the area and be prepared to describe any problems. give them space to work but don't disappear entirely. when they are finished, allow them to explain what they have done and if any future service is needed. (you may want to have a pen and paper handy for this conversation.) 
if they are outside your house, go out to greet them and make sure the area they need to access is clear of clutter and pets. again, allow them to work alone. i always offer a glass of water (because i live in texas where you can get dehydrated on a rainy day) but they rarely accept. when they are finished, meet them at the door and listen to any explanations they may have.

the secretary.
if you're talking to a clerk or secretary, it is almost always going to be in a professional setting where certain things are expected of you. first, dress in business attire (something i'll detail more when i discuss interviews) and use your inside (courteous and even-toned) voice. there is a certain script people follow that starts with your basic greeting and something like, "how may i help you?" you should then state your name and purpose for being there. use names if you can and if you have an appointment, say so. smile, say thank you, and do as directed. do NOT use your cell phone unless it is silent and you are alone (or, of course, in emergencies). 

the interviewer.
this is a big one. i'll have an entire entry soon all about resumes and interviews, but for now lets just run through the basics. eye contact is HUGE here. try to hold eye contact for as long as possible. put all cell phones on silent and put your nervous tics aside (fidgeting, shaking, blinking, scratching, and chewing) and be as stoic as possible. if you are interviewing at a restaurant, never speak with your mouth full! in fact, a good rule to follow is to take fewer, smaller bites than the interviewer. never take a bite that is bigger than what you can wash down in a few seconds if you are suddenly asked to respond.
you can look up a zillion standard interview questions on google to prepare your answers to questions like "what is your biggest failure" or "why should we hire you," but keep in mind some key words to fit into your answers. when reading the job posting, what words did they use? put these into your answers subtly but as much as possible, like subliminal messages that say "i've got everything you want." 

the doctor.
though they are here to help, it can often be a little scary to talk to doctors on your own. they will ask you extremely personal information so that they may better determine your health. questions about sex, diet, and addictions. these can be extremely difficult to talk about because they are so often connected with emotions. remember that doctors, just like therapists, have patient-doctor confidentiality (meaning they can't go blabbing to anyone about your situation, not even your parents) and they have an obligation to help you when you are feeling bad. there is no reason to lie to them. 
for years i would twist truths to my doctor because i was worried about what she would think about me (or worse, what she would say to me). but after a few failed attempts at therapy, i began to open up more to my medical doctor. i began to explain the physical aspects of my emotions - the ulcers and panic attacks and consistent exhaustion - and she almost always has a non-medical answer or resource for me. it helped me keep in mind that what i put into my body will directly influence my mood (for example, mcdonald's = depression). some people call this "natural healing," but it just seems like good sense to me. 

the police.
those blue and red lights can strike fear into your very core, no matter the situation. the police are often on one very obvious side of an argument - either they are there to help you or to lay down the law. 
if they are there to help you, remain calm. these men should be experts in dealing with emotional situations, but in my experience they will not listen to you if you are upset. be as descriptive and objective as possible. do not say, "he was a maniac!" instead, state the specific and articulable facts (legal words that you can throw around to let the cops know you mean business) like "he was driving at least 60 miles an hour and turned left at a red light while swigging from a bottle of vodka."
if they are there to ticket you, be courteous and honest. if you know why you are in trouble, do not try to lie your way out of it. don't immediately start to blame someone else. they have very little patience for that. instead, tell them the facts as you see them. if there was an outside force causing you to break the law (for example if you were speeding because every car around you is speeding and it is unsafe to go slower), take responsibility for your own actions while explaining the situation - do not place the blame unless you can back up your innocence with facts! 
if they want to search you, your car, or your home, maintain your rights! cops must have a warrant to search any locked area of your car (such as the trunk or glove compartment) or your home. they can, however, pull out a K9 unit, search your person and the cab of your car without warning or reason. however, if you calmly ask them to state the specific and articulable facts before they search you, and they cannot name any, then you not only have a valid argument for recourse but you have let them know that you are familiar with the law, or at least a lawyer. (cops and lawyers rarely get along.) they will definitely think twice before randomly searching you.

the authority.
"i'm going to have to ask you to leave." have you ever heard that line? as a librarian, i've had to say it many times to people who were there to sleep or fight or bathe (yes, bathe) instead of using our public services. sometimes employees are forced to use their authority over a customer, whether it be to kick them out or give them perks. when dealing with an authoritative stranger, it is best to remember the tips from the service industry: be polite, acknowledge the work they do (and that they are in fact on the job while you are not), and state any argument you have in a calm and clear voice. if you pitch a fit and raise your voice, not only will you annoy the other customers, you will not be taken seriously by the employees. it is perfectly fine to be upset, but you must still request to be heard, state your argument with relative facts, and accept that you may not always get what you want. that's the way it crumbles, cookie.

the beggars and crazies.
some say that you should avoid eye contact with the homeless and beggars. i think that this is rude and inhumane. there are always exceptions, but for the most part i feel like even if i can't offer a quarter, i can at least smile at them. (a pretty girl's smile is worth more than 25 cents anyway, right?) begging is extremely cultural and most of your reaction will come on instinct. in some instances, you will come across someone violent and crazy and you should avoid them if possible but be kindly dismissive of them (say, "sorry, i don't have any change, but good luck," without breaking stride), but be careful to not confuse dirty for crazy. everyone is subject to bad luck and hard times, so don't assume that every beggar you meet is a lazy drug addict. treat them with the basic respect every human deserves.

the picker-upper.
if it hasn't happened yet, just wait. one day a random stranger will ask you for your number, or for a date, or to have a drink. maybe you talk for a minute, or maybe you realize right away that you are not interested in this person for whatever reason. you could try the jenna marbles approach, or the many other tricks to get out of conversations (the sudden cell phone call, the "oh, will you look at the time" ruse, or the "i have to go pick up my boyfriend from his skin head meeting" line), but there are some more respectable methods. often, these pick-ups are a result of unabashed lust, and they might not have much interest in conversation. if this is the case, then bombard them with your strong opinions on any subject that comes up. be honest, be passionate, use this as a venting session and save some money on therapy! or you may want to cut them off immediately, in which case just be straightforward and tell them that you are not interested. try to be honest without being brutal. (i wish there was a script to follow for that conversation!) remember in the wonderful words of andrew jackson jihad, "people are people regardless of anything." 

Monday, September 26, 2011

sixteen to twenty-six

in these ten years, you will take control of your life (whether you want to or not) and form it into something you never would have guessed. maybe you think this is "becoming an adult" and it will all just fall into your lap when the time comes, but i hate to say it just isn't that easy. it happens slowly, imperceptibly, and the next thing you know you're saddled with debt and a job and serious relationships and family drama and everyone expects you to handle it!

these years are, by no means, a definite block of time. some people start much younger, many may never really feel like they have achieved adulthood. (others don't think about it at all!) for me, these past ten years have been eye-opening and mind-numbing and i have gotten through most of it through sheer luck.

but lets get to the burning questions : why am i writing this and why should you read it? 

there were too many times in my life when i have thought "ohh! if only someone had TOLD me!" this happened to be with school, with relationships, with friends, moving, and jobs. it happened to me about two weeks ago and it'll happen again sometime soon. now that i am a once and future youth librarian, i see tons of kids from ages 12 to 30 who have the same problems, or maybe they're just totally oblivious! since my advice is not always solicited, i thought this could be a non-judgmental and easily-accessible place to categorize some questions, research some answers, and share what we've found. 

as always, you should take EVERYTHING on the internet with a big old grain of salt. sea salt if you can swing it. no one has all the answers, and the only reason i consider myself an expert on the last ten years is because i am currently living within my means, happy, and (most notably) alive. this blog is meant as a conversation. 

my mom (who always worries that i will blame her but i most often credit her as my best inspiration) told me i should write a book on teen etiquette. not so much about dinner forks and thank you notes as applying to college, finding roommates, cooking and cleaning, and so on. the more i thought about it, the more i realized i couldn't find all the questions alone. i need you to tell me i'm wrong, or to tell me my perspective is too far away. i want you to be able to read what i have to say, then immediately tell me what you think. i need you, not some book editor twice my age. (unless you are a 52 year old book editor, in which case i would love some feedback!)

i have constructed a little quiz to get us started. everyone loves an internet quiz, right? i hope that these questions make you think a little more about yourself instead of just spouting off opinions like so many quizzes are. give me adjectives, no names!

1. i am : 
2. my best friend is : 
3. if i could change one thing about my family it would be : 
4. i spend most of my time :
5. when i am with people, i feel :
6. when i am alone, i feel : 
7. my favorite place to be is : 
8. i can't wait until : 
9. when i go on a date, i expect : 
10. my favorite outfit is : 
11. when people ask what i do, i say : 
12. when people ask what i want to do, i say :
13. to me, money is : 
14. my celebrity crush is : 
15. my biggest pet peeve is : 

and since i have asked you to fill it out, i figured i better do it too...
1. i am : a daydreamer and fingernail-biter.
2. my best friend is : the best hugger in the world.
3. if i could change one thing about my family it would be : our secretiveness.
4. i spend most of my time : reading. books, signs, facebook, texts...i'm reading all the time!
5. when i am with people, i feel : ok, usually, but the more people there are the more likely i am to have a panic attack. and those are not pretty or fun. 
6. when i am alone, i feel : peaceful and retrospective. or sometimes just bored.
7. my favorite place to be is : kisatchie bayou. it's my happy place - in the middle of a bayou in the middle of a forest in the middle of nowheresville, louisiana. 
8. i can't wait until : i get a salary instead of a wage.
9. when i go on a date, i expect : very little these days, sadly. i hardly even expect the guy to call it a date.
10. my favorite outfit is : my joan cleaver dress and my red heels. it's impossible to be sad in that outfit. 
11. when people ask what i do, i say : i work at the library-owned bookstore, and then proceed on a tangent about how amazing my job is. sometimes i'll mention my all-girl garage rock band in which i play cello. 
12. when people ask what i want to do, i say : i want to be a youth librarian. i did it for a few years as an intern, thinking it would just be a job to get me through school and then i'd never work with kids again. but one day, out of the blue, i fell in love with the job and decided i never wanted to work with adults again.
13. to me money is : a tool to be used. so it's kind of silly to me when people stock pile thousands and millions of dollars with no intent to use it. you wouldn't save a bunch of hammers and never buy any nails, right?
14. my celebrity crush is : adam scott. he's hardly a celebrity but he's currently on the show parks and rec. not only am i a sucker for those big brown puppy dog eyes, i love that he always plays a sensitive and understated character. i constantly root for the underdog. he's like my generation's john cusack. (who, incidentally, is my other celebrity crush.) 
15. my biggest pet peeve is : an audible ring tone. i'd rather listen to fingernails scraping a chalkboard.