Posts filed under 'life 101'

How to Enjoy Obligatory Family Time

Lots of us–I’d hope to say even most of us–love our families. But that does not mean that we want to spend a day riding mini-rides at Legoland or following Mom around Monticello. So if your parents are insisting on some family time when all you want to do is go to the mall with your friends, I am happy to say that I have a few tips for how to (hopefully) enjoy fulfilling the family-time requirements of the summer.

(Okay, and actually, I am secretly a big fan of Monticello… 🙂 )

Plan It Yourself

Want to give your parents a shock and knock out some family-bonding at the same time? I’d suggest planning a family excursion yourself. It will get you some good credit with your parents, and, best of all, it means you can choose something you actually want to do.

Split Up

The best family outings have a little something for everyone–it means everyone can split off in different directions when you start to get on each other’s nerves. This is especially important for families where interests are very different, or there is a huge age range between the kids.

I suggest keeping it simple. Make a trip to the park or the beach. Pack some snacks or lunch for a picnic, and make it clear beforehand that its supposed to be a relaxing time. Mom can read the book she got at the library, your little brothers can build a sandcastle or play frisbee, your sister can feed birds, and you and Dad can go for a run. Its all about being flexible while being together.

Get it Together

If your parents don’t buy in to the separate-but-together idea, or if you secretly kind of want to have some real quality bonding time, try doing something new together. Getting family members of all ages together for something completely new can be fun (and sometimes hilarious, depending on what you attempt–can you imagine your Dad joining you for a hip hop class?).

Try taking a class together, even if it is just a one-day class. Artistic classes like dance or pottery can be good individual activities to do together, or something like a cooking lesson can be good to get everyone working as a team.

Attitude Adjustment

Just like in most other areas of life, your attitude is the real secret to enjoying your family. So if you’re feeling bummed out by your siblings (or parents) try to adjust your point of view.

First, shift your perspective. If you have the kind of family that wants to spend time together, that is something to be grateful for. Not everyone can claim that. It means that your parents and sibs value you, your presence, and your place in the family. So that’s pretty cool.

Second, make the decision to have fun. That really makes a huge difference. Decide that you’re going to try to make everyone else enjoy themselves, too. So if you’re waiting in a long line or trapped in the car, play games with your bored brother. If you’re visiting the same museum for the fouth time, learn something new, or compete with your sister to see who knows the museum guide’s speech better.

In a few months you’ll be back at school, so make the most of this time while you have it–you might actually miss it when you head back.

Photo: Family’s Happy Day by Marcos Santos

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1 comment May 27th, 2009

You Can Do It!: The 25/25 List

I love making lists. They keep me organized, on task, and in the moment. I also love making goals. In fact, I love it so much that I make a point of setting a big fat list of goals twice a year–once at New Years and once at my birthday.

The thing is, life is short. College goes by fast. And if you don’t know what you want to do, there’s no way you can get it done. So combining two of my favorite things into a list of goals is the natural next step to make sure time doesn’t get away from me. Plus, it’s fun.

The “25 Things” List

One of the best things I ever did for myself was the creation of a list I wrote my freshman year of college called “Things to To Do Before I Turn 25” (as 25 nears, though, I admit that I’ve let the number slip up to 30!). I knew there were some things I wanted to get done in my life, but for one reason or another, I hadn’t done them–so I decided to write them down and cross them off as I finished them.

Write Your List!

When you think of the things you most want to do, what comes to mind? Write these things down, and give yourself a deadline to achieve them. They can be big or small, easy or hard. For example, here are a few items from my list (which ended up having more than 25 things on it!):

2. Stand in falling snow
5. Do a self portrait
13. Speak French to someone who learned it in France
15. See New York
26. Drive a really expensive car
32. Crochet a scarf
35. Get married
37. Write a book

So basically, your list can be anything you want to do; from riding a horse to building a house, write down your real goals!

If you’re having trouble getting started, try borrowing other people’s goals. One of my friends wrote a blog entry about how she wanted to read the same number of books as she was years old every year, and I loved that idea so much that I added it to one of my yearly goal sets.

Make it Happen

Once you’ve written down your list, post it somewhere you’ll see it often. The whole “out of sight, out of mind” works both ways–if you see your list often, it will stay on your mind.

The next step, of course, is to stop putting things off. When you get the opportunity to do one of the things on your list, take it! I can’t tell you how good it feels to cross something off–and so I’ve actually managed to finish 22 of my 38 things!

photo by kakiw40

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6 comments March 10th, 2009

5 Life Lessons for College, Courtesy of Ferris Beuller

It’s easy to pass off Ferris Beuller (famed for his Day Off) as the ultimate slacker, but with this opinion I must beg to differ. In fact, I personally feel that most of us have a lot to learn from dear Ferris. Allow me to enumerate the many life lessons exemplified by his very awesome ideals.

Do Your Research.

Ferris was no dummy. When he decided to take on a big project (his day off, of course), he planned. He prepared. He researched. He chose the day, selected his accomplices, and even worked up a very believable illness (complete with clammy hands). And because of his preparation, his very excellent schemes were (mostly) successful. And that, my friends, is why you should study up before you write your midterm papers.

Take Risks.

Sure, Ferris planned carefully, but he also knew when to take a risk or two. (Like visiting Wrigley Field where he ended up on national TV, or dancing on that float at a parade near his dad’s office.) I’m not going to recommend you borrow a Ferrari without asking, but I do advocate taking risks that would improve your life–like trying out a daunting class, finally asking your crush out, or studying abroad in a foreign country. Ferris would do it.

Be Cultured.

A wise teacher once said, “The point of an education is to get the joke.” And oh, that is true. (Example: I can’t tell you HOW many jokes I catch on the Simpsons that I would have missed without paying attention in English class.)

I believe Ferris would agree. He did not skip school simply to take in a movie. Oh no! He visited real, meaningful venues like the Art Institute of Chicago and the Chicago Board of Trade. He experienced lasting parts of our culture. So be like Ferris, and next time you’re trying to think of a way to spend a Thursday afternoon, hit a museum instead of a Starbucks. So you, too, may “get the joke.”


Networking will get you far, both in and out of school. Ferris was so tapped in to his high school’s web of students that no sooner did he show up “sick” than the whole school knew–they were doing a “Save Ferris” fundraiser by the end of his day off. So if you want to open up potential job opportunities early on, get to know your peers, your professors, and others in your industry.

Occasionally, Take a Day Off.

Work hard in school, at work, and at your relationships, but every now and then you need to give yourself a break. Take a Saturday to just enjoy the fresh air, see the sights, do something you’ve always wanted to do.

And if you haven’t yet seen Ferris Beuller’s Day Off, I would highly recommend it–it is so choice.

Until next time,

photo: kidney bean by nisey

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7 comments January 29th, 2009

Keeping Yourself Safe (because Moms and Grandmas Want You To)

Every now and then my mom will call to check up on me–she wants to make sure I’m not walking around alone in the dark or otherwise putting myself in some kind of danger. As unnecessary as it may be (I’ve lived on my own for a few years now), it is a good reminder to keep myself out of potentially threatening situations.

So in tribute to worried moms everywhere, I thought I’d write up a little list of tips for keeping yourself safe when you’re out and about. These are all about preventing bad situations.

The Basics

  • The Buddy System. Yep, all these years later the tried-and-true field trip rule of having a “buddy” is still a good idea. You don’t have to hold hands and walk in line formation anymore, but it is a good idea to have a friend with you when you’re going out at night.
  • Checking In. When you’re at home, you have parents and siblings to worry about you if you don’t get home at a normal time, but away at school you have to ask people to worry. So if you’re going out–especially alone–let your roommate know when you’ll be back and ask him/her to text & check in if you’re not back by then. It’s a good “just in case” practice (AND your roommate won’t care if you text back that you’re going to stay out for a few more hours like your parents might!).
  • Plan Ahead. As much as possible, plan to be in populated, well-lit areas.

Safety Alone & at Night

I took a self defense class with my mom before I went away to school, and in addition to teaching me some handy moves to pull in a dire situation, the instructor also told a few tips about staying safe if you are out alone, especially at night. So here are your night/alone safety tips, courtesy of my instructor:

  • Stay OFF Your Cell Phone. Talking on the phone is distracting and can leave you unaware of your surroundings.
  • No Ponytails. Ponytails are easy for attackers to grab, and they often target people with ponytails for this reason. (Who’d have thought your hair made a difference?)
  • Walk Tall. Stand tall and walk confidently–this is supposed to deter potential attackers who usually go for someone who looks timid and less likely to fight back.
  • Prepare BEFORE You Get to Your Car. Have your keys out and ready before you get to your car, and be sure to check beneath the car and in the back seat before you get in. Lock the doors as soon as possible.

Take a Self Defense Class!

I loved taking a self defense class (they taught me how to flip a full grown man onto his back to protect myself!) and it only took a few hours on a Saturday morning. You can often find one at local community centers or on campus.

photo: Downtown by stephmck99

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2 comments January 26th, 2009

You Can Do It!: Setting Goals You Can Achieve

I know it’s only been a few weeks since New Years, but who else has already broken their resolutions?

What is it that makes goal setting so exciting, and goal-achieving so…well… so seemingly un-doable? I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, and comparing the goals I am keeping with the ones I’m not. The differences are pretty simple, and they make a huge difference in keeping up that I CAN DO IT!!! attitude we all start out with.

Here are my personal secrets to success when it comes to setting–and reaching–my goals.

Write it Down.

Have you heard this before? It’s the same concept as “out of sight, out of mind” but reversed–if you write something down and see it every day, it sticks with you. It runs around in your head, it bothers you, sometimes even seems to mock you. And eventually all the pestering from those little thoughts makes you do something about it. So write it down. Easy.

Break it Down.

Sure, it would be great if you could just write down your goal to BECOME A MILLIONAIRE BY THIRTY and just leave it at that, but does that feel doable when you look at it that way?

Not really.

So break down your goals into smaller, more specific, more achievable goals. One of my focuses this year is to be healthier, but I don’t just expect that to happen. So I made mini-goals, like so:

    • Only eat one dessert per day (sad, but this is hard for me)
    • Eat healthy snacks instead of junk food
    • Walk more (like walking to class instead of taking the shuttle)

Be Realistic.

As part of my getting-healthier thing, I would want to work out every day at the gym. Except that I HATE going to the gym, it costs money, I don’t have time every day, and a lot of times I don’t have access to a car to get there. So that goal is ridiculous for me, totally unrealistic.

Instead, I’m going to make every effort to make my body work harder to do every day things. I’m going to go up and down stairs more often, skip the elevator and escalator, and do exercises at home on a regular schedule.

Be Consistent.

Make your rules for yourself, and stick to them. It is hard to do, but even harder to get back on the bandwagon once you’ve slipped.

Be Forgiving.

Of yourself that is. Yes, you want to be consistent. You want to stick with it. But don’t beat yourself up if you slip up! That will only discourage you. Give yourself a Get Out of Jail Free card, get over the guilt, and get back to working toward that goal!

photo: Focus by CraigP

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1 comment January 19th, 2009

The College Student’s Guide to Going Home for the Holidays

Packing up to head home for winter break? This trip might be a little different than spending a weekend there–so here’s your guide to making it through the holidays!

Prepare Your Parents
Your parents are probably still used to you as their high school student, so the transition to the more independent you that you’ve made over the past couple months may be a little shock to their systems. (I remember my dad asking if he needed to wake me up in the morning–I asked him how he thought I’d made it to class everyday if I needed a wakeup call!)

Make a point of discussing with your parents what they expect. Will your curfew be reinstated (and can you get it moved later)? Do they have family time scheduled that you should pencil into your plans? Is Mom going to be okay with you bringing home all your laundry?

Call, chat, text, or email, but just make sure you all know what to expect to make this visit fun & comfortable for everyone.

Schedule Your Fun
These precious weeks off will pass quickly, so be sure you plan out a few days to fit in those things you really want to do at home (don’t get sucked into using up your whole break on extra sleep and back-to-back sessions of Guitar Hero!)

So schedule a lunch meeting with your friends from high school, make time to play soccer with your little brother, and choose a day to get those last minute gifts bought and wrapped!

Make Some Cash

A few years away from home have probably opened your eyes to the expenses of independence, so take advantage of this homework-free time and earn some money! Check out this article I wrote about how to make money over winter break and my boss’s 5 ways to earn cash for college over at our sister site, the Pay for College Blog.

Re-stock for Next Semester
You know how you forgot your Foo Fighters CD, ate all of your Easy Mac, and just realized how badly you need that coat in the back of your closet at home? Well now is the time to re-stock for your next stint of school! Gather everything you need (and ask mom for help with that Easy Mac dilemma–they have a huge case at Costco!) and get packed up to go back well-prepared.

Happy Holidays–enjoy the time off!

photo: Suitcases by bb_matt

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Add comment December 16th, 2008

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