Grandma love: “Is that a new blouse?”

My friend Claire recently c0-launched a lady-focused page called Scotch and The Fox. The endeavor is lovely one, showing that women can write (and live) in a powerful, feisty, sweet, opinionated and ambitious way (I’m doing a little guest posting there).

Claire started this week off with a post on the development of her personal style, and as I wrote a short piece on my own style journey, I couldn’t help but think about my grandma.

Même passed away a little more than two years ago.  My clothing choices were always far too wild for the woman, so I wouldn’t say I developed my style after her. The woman also hated shopping. So why do I think of her when the topic of style comes up? It isn’t because  her clothes spoke to her conservative, Catholic core. It is more so in the fact that I will always think of her when I put on a new sweater or slip into a new dress.

Let me explain.

When my uncle spoke at her funeral, he recalled Même’s tendency to lead conversations with statements like, “Is that a new blouse?” no matter how tattered your shirt was. Even on days mom went over “wearing rags” to clean my grandparent’s house, Même would ask if she had a new outfit on.

It wasn’t that my grandma was blind or so far behind the times that she couldn’t tell old from new. No, Même opened with this line the way most Minnesotans open conversations with talk of the weather. She usually didn’t follow with an outright complement of your attire, either. Just the opposite, she often gave a slight reprimand for your obvious shopping addiction (if the shirt happened to be new). But, her intentions were always good. I believe she often found it difficult to connect with people. She wasn’t a huge conversationalist. Asking about someones wardrobe was her way of showing interest in that person’s life. These openings were honest and loving in the way that her need to feed you snacks an hour after dinner was.

You can head over to Claire’s site for a look into my style journey. It’s been a long one, and I’m sure it isn’t over yet. But, no matter what I’m wearing, whenever someone asks me if it’s new, I get a little misty-eyed.


Deciding what’s worth my time

This is not a post about taxes.

But, I have to do my taxes this year. At 24, this will be my first year of filing without help from my dad and while I feel totally capable, I’m still a little nervous. I’m going to itemize and figure out all of these W2s and forms and numbers and… Basically it is just going to take a little time.

When I was explaining all of this to a friend he said it wasn’t “worth his time” to itemize or do his taxes himself. Having someone else do your taxes is pretty normal – and the smart thing if you don’t know what you are doing. But the way he phrased it made me wonder how we decide what is and isn’t worth our time in other aspects of our lives.

Currently I’m entry level, which is short for my time honestly isn’t worth a whole lot. If something will save me a few bucks (like buying the rice you have to boil for 10 minutes instead of the kind you can microwave), I’ll probably do it.

I grew up with parents that worked hard for what they had. There was no such thing as quitting when times got tough. Sick? The cows won’t feed themselves. Tired? Too bad, your clients aren’t going to wait around for you. But giving their all didn’t stop at work. My mom never hesitated to ask if it was “worth her time” to volunteer and clean the local church or help serve meals after funerals. My dad never wondered if it was worth his time to remove tree branches from an impassable local dirt road after a big storm.

I’ve spent time mopping floors and making fries for minimum wage and (more recently) carefully editing words that may never be published. Why? Because I’ve decided it’s worth my time. Because I was taught that there is no job beneath me. If it’s legal, ethical, placed in my sight and needs to be done, it’s my job to do it.

But what about all of the selfless work? The work I have watched my parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents doing all of my life. I’m sort of, well, failing at this. I’ve managed to fall off this bandwagon. I don’t volunteer to babysit kids during PTA meetings. I don’t offer to sit down with high school juniors to edit college entrance essays. I don’t cut and plate cakes at local fundraisers. I tell myself I’m too busy, but what I’m really saying is that it isn’t worth my time. And how sad is that?

You’ve probably benefited from people doing things that weren’t necessarily “worth their time.” At least I hope you have. I know I have. And I know it’s time for me to give back so that another generation knows what it’s like to be worth someone else’s time.

The Morning News: What’s bugging me

Although I have a resolution of “less screen time,” I’ve recently decided to watch the news when I eat breakfast in the morning. The chatter helps me wake up and I can get a quick scan of the weather and the day’s top stories. I want to be more on top of what is happening in the world, something that used to happen naturally as a Communication Journalism major in college.

But, I’m starting to think maybe a newspaper subscription would be a better time investment. You see, I’m beginning to know more about things I really don’t want to know more about and less about what I like to call “globally important.” Here are some examples:

1. Justin Bieber’s latest escapades: There is a time and place for the Biebs on TV, and that’s on E. Honestly, I now know more about his latest then I want to know about anyone (hope this kid figures it out before he or someone else gets hurt).

2. The Polar Vortex: Or whatever they’ve dubbed the latest freeze. I know it’s cold. I live in Minnesota for crying out loud. I know this may be big news to people in Florida, but give more meat to the story and less fluff. Tell me how many people are being affected. Give me more hard facts and statistics and less fancy names.

3. Sochi Security: Now, this one is big on my list. I’ve had to dig pretty deep to get into the why behind the what of the Olympics this year. I realize that the security threat is real and believe this topic is important. But I’m tired of anchors simply providing the basics. Maybe I’m not watching enough news, but I’d like more facts and details, less opinion.

I realize this isn’t a new trend. We’ve been seeing more soft news and less hard for years. And I realize that in order to keep the attention of the general population, there has to be a little fun and fluff. But I think it’s sad that my morning news provides more details about Bieber’s latest arrest than the security of the Olympics, or the state of Syria.

What do you think? Am I just watching the wrong networks?


Oh Christmas Tree: It’s time to recycle

It’s no secret that I’m an advocate for fresh-cut Christmas trees. When I was about 12, my parents decided to save money by investing in an artificial tree. I was furious. No lovely evergreen smell. No dark wood peeking out. In protest, I refused to put my ornaments up. And when Christmas came the next year and the artificial tree was unpacked, I stood my ground again.

This isn’t a complete success story from my youth. I eventually had to give up and participate in decorating the artificial tree. My parents didn’t have anything against fresh-cut trees, so we did have a few during my late teens, and boy, Christmas was so much better. I’m not exaggerating here! I just love fresh-cut trees for Christmas (If you prefer artificial and need to keep future costs down, by all means go ahead and look for the most environmentally friendly and keep it forever). I even promised myself to never purchase a “fake tree” as an adult (unless my future children somehow developed major allergies, as this is the only true excuse). So, why, you may be asking, is she discussing Christmas trees mid-January?

I got a lot of flak this year for purchasing a live Christmas tree. It seemed like everyone and their mother insisted on asking me if it was against my lease (it wasn’t, but always check your lease and city regulations) and telling me what a fire hazard a live tree is. Wasn’t I concerned it’d start a fire? How could I bring that into my home? They even played on my environmental side: Wasn’t cutting down a tree each year bad for the environment?

So here I am going to answer these questions while presenting a few facts to go with my opinion:

Artificial and real trees are fire hazards

Neither tree is going to suddenly combust. In fact, Christmas tree fires are caused by external source on any tree, fake or real: frayed wires, overcrowded outlets, overloaded electric circuits, candles, etc. While dry trees can be a hazard, their general indoor span is 4 weeks, so it is easy to keep them watered and then to remove them from your home before their needles start to fall off. So if you want to be on that bandwagon, please refrain from getting a tree. Or lighting a candle. Or making toast (I’ve seen 3 toasters start on fire, no trees). Otherwise be sure to use LED lights and check for frayed cords, in general avoid extension cords and never leave your tree lit when you’re going to bed or leaving the house.

If you put up any kind of Christmas tree, be sure to check out the National Fire Protection Association’s safety guidelines.

Fresh-cut trees are more environmentally friendly

Do you know what your artificial trees are most likely made of? Plastic, non-biodegradable materials. Artificial trees are also likely to have been imported from other countries (think Made in China), adding to their environmental footprint. To their credit, manufacturers are now making more and more “green” trees. But that tree will someday end up in a landfill. So if you must, buy smart and plan on keeping the tree for a long, long time.

On the other hand, fresh-cut trees have not only absorbed CO2 during its lifetime, they can also be recycled and used to create playground material, walkways and even used for beachfront erosion prevention. Trees are also grown on sustainable farms. One factor you do need to worry about is pesticide use. Look for local, green tree farms to ensure the most earth-friendly Christmas tree.

Over the weekend I recycled my tree for free, I might add (even used a bio-degradable bag to remove it, leaving my apartment needle-free). Have you recycled yours?

Recycling Jerri the tree with my boyfriend

For more information, check out this great article from USA Today.

Return to the mat: A yoga tale

Honest truth: I’ve fallen in love with yoga. My return to the mat started with a Groupon and it was love at first sun-salutation.

Lately, I’m starting to panic. My unlimited month is almost over. My chaturanga dandasana is starting to look graceful and I’ve almost got crow pose down. My tension headaches are less frequent. Some of the other yogis greet me by name. Guys, my green yoga mat perfectly matches my reusable water bottle! I can’t stop now. But my budget is tight (have you looked at the price of car insurance lately?) and I can’t imagine spending $120+ just on yoga a month. That’s like 35 gallons of gas…depending on which station I stop at.

In the middle of my panic last night (about halfway home from an amazing yoga class), I decided to consider my options:

Suck it up and fork out the cash Great option, right? I just have to cut out Caribou completely. Say no to Chipotle. Stop wearing mascara. I really don’t need a new sweater dress anyway…

Start an at-home practice All I need is motivation and a mat! I know the flow; I own my practice. I can stop myself from being distracted by my comfy, pillow top mattress…

Beg a friend SO I happen to know someone who has gone through yoga teacher training. We can be best yoga buds and bond in mountain pose. Our schedules will never conflict…

It’s time to weigh my options. At least I have time. Maybe the answer will come to me in shavasana. … I don’t want this to be another yoga hiatus. I mean, I have to use the new yoga pants I just bought somehow.