Month: July 2014

Showing Off Your Fake Culinary Skills – Burgers

Apparently I love cooking. I’m not that good at it–I still don’t fully understand the temperature of the pan, what flavors blend well together, or even how to consistently avoid eggshells when I crack an egg. I’ve made my fair share of straight to the trash (after attempting to swallow a few bites) dinners. But when I do succeed, there is something extremely satisfying in it. Sure, mac n’ cheese is easy and fast to make, but I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished anything when I’m done (except, perhaps, affirming the truth that one box is, in fact, one serving). Putting together a meal for yourself, or friends, from scratch, is often the best way to feel like an adult on a terrible day. You may have binge watched seven episodes of Teen Wolf, but at least you made yourself dinner, champ.

While not particularly impressive, burgers are a great summer self-serve. As a vegetarian, I tend to stick with portobello mushrooms as the meat, but there are a ton of great vegetarian burger recipes out there–most which freeze well. And many of the recipe requirements can be substituted to your taste/kitchen. Every time I make the quinoa burgers, I tend to forget about buying carrots/zucchini at the store, so I just made it without them.

After you’ve wowed yourself with your homemade burger patties (here are some suggestions for my carnivore friends), the real fun comes in the toppings. Expand your horizons–move past American cheese, ketchup and mustard. You’re a grown up–act like it!

The stranger the combinations, the the higher the stakes. After grilling a portobello mushroom, I decided a savory-sweet concept would suffice. I didn’t have any pineapple (which I thought would go well with barbecue sauce), so I sauteed some nectarines I had in the fridge. Weird, right? Except it worked. After cooking off some of the tartness, the nectarines worked great with some sharp cheddar cheese and barbecue sauce. Served with some grilled asparagus, I instagrammed that dinner like crazy. #ProudParent. And everybody needed to know.

A little extra work for dinner, usually no longer than a half hour in most cases, is a great way to feel in control of your life. It’s cheaper, and usually much healthier. Try it tonight. And show off to all of your friends. You’re a #proudparent of your new meal anyway. Why not add a Lo-Fi filter?

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Monthly Playlist: Indeed We Can

Guys, August begins on Friday. How did it get to be August? Where did July go? More importantly, where did summer go?

Rather than bemoaning the impending temperature drop, let’s celebrate the dog days in style. Roll down the windows, turn up the music–here’s your August playlist.

(Props to AT for half of this list.)

1. Higher (Extended) – Just Blaze and Baauer

2. HyperParadise (Flume Remix) – Hermitude

3. Stone in My Heart – Graffiti6

4. Bad Karma – Ida Maria

5. Water Fountain – tUnE-yArDs

6. Dress – Sylvan Esso

7. Gun – CHVRCHES

8. I Can Talk – Two Door Cinema Club

9. White Lies – Max Frost

10. Artifice – SOHN

11. In Conflict – Owen Pallett

12. Dreamy Bruises – Sylvan Esso

13. Recover – CHVRCHES

14. Turn It Off – Phantogram

Also available on Spotify: https://play.spotify.com/user/emcole89/playlist/1O5gUDUWuGDwr1frxBytU7

August here we come!

Your Next Binge Watch: Supernatural

I watch a lot of TV. I mean, a lot. I used to find shame in finishing a season of an American television drama in under a week, but now… it’s just part of who I am. Stop ending episodes on cliffhangers if you want me to have a normal life (I’m looking at you True Blood). If only it were the 90s again and television wasn’t as great as it is now.

There are a lot of good TV shows out there. Let me help you sort out the madness. Let me tell you about the wonders of Supernatural.

Supernatural follows the lives of two “hunter” brothers, Sam and Dean Winchester, as they eradicate the world of ghosts, poltergeists, demons, witches–anything supernatural is game in this show (and let me reinforce–ANYTHING). After the mysterious disappearance of their father (also a hunter–FAMILY BUSINESS), the boys team up after years of estrangement to find him.

Like any good character-driven show (ahem, Buffy), the first season of Supernatural is campy and can quickly turn you off. If you’ve ever tried to get a friend to watch the reboot of Doctor Who, you’ve most certainly uttered the phrase “just get through the first season, I PROMISE it gets better.” (No hate to Christopher Eccleston–I love the first series, but I could only appreciate it after having watched the whole show.) I will now say those words to you: just get through the first season of Supernatural. It really does get better.

Initially, I think the show expected to be something else. The premise sets up a like a TV version of a horror movie–dark, filtered, tight shots, creepy sound effects, tense music. It goes for scare tactics, attempting to push the plot forward with action, rather than character growth.

Thankfully, in casting Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki, the writers opened themselves up to follow Sam and Dean rather than some Big Bad.

In season two they get smart–they let the boys run the show, or at least, they let their characters run the show. By season four, they’ve completely taken the plot into their own hands–decisions feel real, plot follows character movements, directly related to the growth of Sam and Dean. Their relationship is the one thing that keeps this show running. Even nine seasons later, they still feel like real people.

Supernatural also finds its groove in the tension. Unlike some long-running shows (Gossip Girl, HIMYM, even Lost), Supernatural maintains character and plot tension enough that I don’t feel like I’m being led into false emotional traps. They’ll let sexual tension, familial tension, even overall plot tensions cool for three or four episode arcs before they pick them up again. The writers know how to drive the plot forward, without dragging the characters along behind. They know how to hold your attention so acutely that you’re screaming at the television, and then the next episode they’ll pick up something else entirely to let you cool off.

Finally, perhaps the best part of Supernatural is the fandom. (A quick google image search for “Supernatural Fandom” will give you a good idea.) Good fandoms grow from good shows, and Supernatural fans owe a lot to the cast. Padalecki and Ackles (and now Misha Collins) have signed on through season 10–and Padalecki talks all the way to season 19. They love their characters as much as we do. The writers have broken the fourth wall enough that nobody takes themselves seriously anymore (season 6, episode 15 had me in stitches), and, at this point, Supernatural is smart enough to know when to be ridiculous and when to be serious. It shines when it doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Like any TV show, there are pitfalls to Supernatural. But that’s why it’s a great binge watch. Season 6 and 7 are considered some of the worst in the show, but a lot of shining episodes keep you going. If you were watching it live (on a weekly basis), you may have bailed in the middle. If you hit one or two bad episodes in a binge, just keep plowing through–you’ll start laughing again soon.

Supernatural is smart and charming. Strong characters lead the show, and secondary characters flourish in frequent return cameos. By the end of your binge you may not exactly ship Destiel, but I promise, if you’re anything like me, you’ll refer to the Winchesters as “my babies” any time they’re in danger. The show makes you love it.

Just give it a chance.

Supernatural seasons 1-8 are available on Netflix instant streaming.

Betterment: City Driving – Intersections

Let me begin with a confession: I have a lot of road rage. It isn’t my proudest trait, but if you make a mistake on the road, fear not, I’m screaming at you from the comfort of my driver seat. If I make a mistake, I feel guilty about it for weeks (I STILL feel terrible about my mistake from last week–driving straight through a turn only lane and almost crashing into a van). I scream about driving a lot because I’m constantly worried, constantly in fear that someone else’s stupidity (or my own) is going to cause a pile-up. I am trying my hardest to concentrate 100% on the road–you should too.

I say this because my friend once commented on my road rage with a simple statement: “you must think you’re the best driver on the road.”

I am not the best driver. And whenever I think about defending my “GET OUT OF THE LEFT LANE, IDIOT,” I think of the statistic that says 93% of drivers believe they are better than average. Am I part of this terrible statistic? Probably. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to try to impart some driving wisdom on you.

We’re first going to talk about city driving, specifically intersections. It’s a hot mess most of the time, and I’ve done my fair share of wrong turns. But some stuff needs to be restated.

When making a left hand turn at a green light, you are allowed to drive into the center of the intersection, even if there is oncoming traffic. The purpose of this is simple–by being in the middle of the intersection you guarantee that you will get through the intersection when the light turns yellow and then red, and move traffic along. You are also making room for the cars behind you to go around you–again guaranteeing the flow of traffic.

If you are behind a car turning left, you do not have to wait until they have cleared the intersection to move through–you are allowed to go around them. If you hesitate, it’s possible that the cars behind you will assume you too are turning left, and pass you on the right. ALWAYS CHECK YOUR PASSENGER SIDE MIRROR AND BLIND SPOT BEFORE PASSING ON THE RIGHT. Especially if you are driving in a city any number of things can crop up while you wait at an intersection–cyclists, other drivers, pedestrians.

On the same note, it is highly unsafe to go around a left turning car before the light has turned green. (For example, if you approach a red light and notice the driver in front of you has their left blinker on, you should not wait on their right. Not only are you preventing other drivers from turning right on red, you are putting yourself and the other driver in a dangerous position should they change their mind before the light turns green. Wait behind them until the light has turned, and then go around them.) This is one of my bigger pet peeves, since on more than one occasion I have had to make way for a driver waiting on my right at a red light. If a line has formed at a green light and doesn’t appear to be moving, it is safest to assume that everyone is going straight and the intersection is just too busy to get through. Unless you see left blinkers, do not assume the line is turning left. Wait until you are closer to the intersection (at MOST two or three cars away, with a view of the road past the intersection), and then pass the cars turning left. It may take you an extra red-light rotation to get through, but you’ll ultimately be safer.

One final note on intersections–it is illegal in most states to enter an intersection if you cannot clear it by the time the light changes. That means that if the next light is backed all the way up to your intersection, you have to wait at the green light until there is enough room for your entire car to clear the intersection. If when the light changes to red you are blocking traffic in the other direction you are in violation of traffic laws and can be ticketed. You are preventing oncoming traffic from flowing, and are all around just a selfish tool.

Obviously there are exceptions to all of these rules. First and foremost, your priority should be safety. I also want to note that laws differ from state-to-state. I learned to drive in New York state, and currently live in downtown Minneapolis, MN. I make no claim to know the laws of North Dakota, Oklahoma, Nevada, etc. Always check local laws if you are uncertain. If you believe I am misinformed in any way I welcome comments and dialogue.

Good luck driving! Hopefully you won’t look in your rearview mirror and see me screaming at you any time soon.

Lessons Learned from The Kardashian App

Last week, I had an out-of-body experience. It had to be an out-of-body experience, because in-body, I would have never done it. On Friday, I downloaded the Kim Kardashian Hollywood game.

I suppose it was bound to happen. I’ve only been unemployed for a week, but I’ve hit the crazy threshold early. Talking to myself and my cats? Check. Not showering for days on end? Check. Laying on the floor and staring at the ceiling for great lengths of time? Check. Excitedly yelling “GET OUT OF MY FACE, WILLOW, YOU CONNIVING COW–YOU’RE NOT EVEN FAMOUS” in my living room at 2 AM? Check.

I’m not proud of the fact that I downloaded it. I’m even less proud of the fact that I still haven’t deleted it. That I will ignore it for an hour, waiting for my energy to charge, think about hitting the little X next to the app bubble, and then open the app and check my feed. It has pulled me in. I am at the mercy of Kim Kardashian.

This whole process has taught me a few things about myself. Maybe they aren’t great revelations, but I am trying to find meaning in the chaos of being a D-List celebrity, so GIVE ME SOME CREDIT.

1) I will go out of my way to get free things.

One of the worst parts of the game are these stupid silver stars with K’s on them. If I wanted to cheat I could fork over $100 (in real money) to get 1,250 of them. You use anywhere from 5 to 15 (60 if you want to buy the beach house in Miami) of these bad boys at a time, so if I were rich it would still be a terrible investment. Fortunately for the money conscious there are a few ways to earn stars without handing over your paycheck. You watch ads. Since downloading the app I have watched close to 50 ads to get free stars. (I HAVE to charm Dirk Diamonds so they he’ll want to go on another date with me!) I know more about men’s health than I’ve ever known in the past, but I’ve got STARS–I’VE GOT STARS AND I’M ON MY WAY TO A-LIST!

2) When provoked, I will turn catty.

It’s the Kardashian app, so I didn’t expect to get far by being squeaky clean. When a blonde socialite insulted my outfit and called me a “nobody” (EXCUSE ME, I’M FRIENDS WITH KIM KARDASHIAN), I had two options–charm or combat. I chose combat. I have since gotten my publicist in on the deal, and we’ve released rumors that this socialite is addicted to plastic surgery. (Cue maniacal laugh.)  Take that, Willow!

3) I treat fake money the same way I treat real money.

You want me to pay $200 for a hoodie? For a pink hoodie that I could get a Target for $20? Please. Fashion’s not THAT important. But I WILL spend $200 on a nice new dress. Divide by wear. How many photo shoots can I go to in this before some photographer notices?

New shoes for $500? Ha. Ha. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

4) If I’m not playing, it’s only because I can’t.

What do mean I’m tired? I don’t feel tired. I could do another three hour photo shoot. Come on! I want more energy! I want to play!! I want to go on dates and get to C-list and apologize to Michelle Murphy because I was a terrible girlfriend. But I’ve watched thirty ads for a Viking raid game, and I can charm the pants off you! I want to do things! Can I watch another ad? Will that give me more energy???

5) If I’m not careful, in-game achievements can feel like real life achievements.

What do mean I don’t have a job? I just did three photo shoots and a meet and greet at Kardash! I have been working my butt off all day–where is my paycheck?

I’m single? Please, I’ve been dating Dirk for like three days now (which is like three years in Hollywood time), I am SO NOT single.

I bought an apartment last week! I am SO TOTALLY SUCCESSFUL.

Unemployment and Kim Kardashian’s Hollywood do not go hand-in-hand. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to delete it.

The Worst of Me

For the last few weeks I’ve been attempting to write a novel. If you’ve met me, you know I’m pretty much always trying to write a novel, but I’ve recently buckled down on a series I’ve been working on since the 10th grade. When you quit your job you tend to find lots of things to fill your time (WHEN will Chandler and Monica FINALLY get together??), and plowing through this book is one of the ways I’ve decided to fill the dead air.

I found myself a group of Alpha readers, people I trust to not only motivate me, but to treat me like a princess along the way. I haven’t met a writer without an ego, and while mine is occasionally highly inflated it’s easily punctured. If you’ve found a sentence that could be better, don’t worry, I have too, and I’ve berated myself over it again and again and again. If you think a post could be a little stronger, I’ve considered scraping the entire blog, wiping my hard drive, selling my laptop, and accepting my fate in data entry for the rest of my life.

This part of me, the highly volatile part that begs me to eat cookies at midnight and screams that “AT LEAST STEPHANIE MEYER IS PUBLISHED,” is one of the hardest things to combat every time I sit down to write. She’s the reason that instead of opening the document, I open a new tab and look up Creative Writing MFA programs, because just a little more training and we’ll be ready. She reads the first few lines and groans at the lack of imagery, the weak characters, the tropes, the half-finished thoughts. Last night, after seeing far too many stupid, stupid parts, she managed to convince me that the entire project was a bust–that as a white, 25-year-old from the ‘burbs I couldn’t write for anything, couldn’t dream of successfully pulling off a mixed-race main character, would be laughed out of any agents office. She scoffed as I pushed through a sentence, finding every characterization a mistake, worse a stereotype. Not only was I terrible writer, but apparently I was racist too.

It’s hard not to listen to her. She’d pretty damn loud some days, and other days she really does have a point. She will always have something to say, and sometimes she really will be right to say them. But listening to her, letting her win, is the easy way out.

She is the lazy, worst parts of me. In her ideal world I’d write half of an entirely white-cast Harry Potter fanfiction and then go out for ice cream. She likes writing, sure, but she wants it to be easy. She looks at the mountain and wonders where the road around it is.

This entire endeavor is terrifying. I am confident I will make mistakes, and somedays, with that knowledge bumping around in my head, every sentence is difficult. You will fail, better quit now.

Ignore her. Stand up from your desk and stomp on her.

And when your roommate knocks to ask if everything is ok, sit back down and power through. Don’t let the worst of you win. She’s an old hag who’s never published anything anyway.

Do(n’t) Buy: Swiffer Wet Jet

So, apparently I’m a clean freak.

Kind of.

Ok, yeah, there are dishes in the sink and I should probably pick up the clothes on my floor I tried on a veto-ed for that date-ish thing from a last week, but when I clean, I really clean. Maybe it was working in food service, “detail cleaning” working its way into my initials as my new middle name. Maybe I just really don’t like germs. Whatever the case, I found myself standing in the aisle at Target, trying to decide if I should purchase a Swiffer Wet Jet. How clean do my floors need to be? I asked. Do people even clean their floors?

It seemed too good to be true–just push the button, run the mop-like thing over the floor and voila! Clean floors! No more cat litter dust on the hardwood! No more tomato sauce stains on the kitchen floor! Salt by the entryway from winter boots? Voila! No more!

At $20 for the starter kit it didn’t seem like the worst investment I’ve ever made (that trophy goes to the pink Converse heels I bought in 9th grade). You’ve seen the commercials, bubbly Italian women talk about cleaning on their hands and knees, brush the Wet Jet over their floors, find dirt they didn’t get ON THEIR HANDS AND KNEES. Revolutionary! This product would make the cast of Les Mis weep for just how world changing it is. Think of all of the clean floors we’ll have!

I brought the Wet Jet home, my roommate gushing about a friend who fantasizing about Wet Jetting while out at the bar for happy hour. “That’s how great it is!” she says, “when I told her you were thinking about buying one, she just talked about how badly she wanted to go home and use hers.”

Man, talk about overselling.

I opened the dang thing, the tiny TINY starter kit bottle (which would only last three rooms) taking me forever to put in. I scrounged through our apartment looking for 4 AA batteries to feed the thing. I put on the Wet Jet pad, putting aside my initial hang ups. It was $20, how well did I expect it to be made?

I followed the rules, sweeping my entire apartment before using the mop. I started over by the litter box–big mistake. Rather than actually cleaning up the bits of litter dust, it just pushed them around in some cleaner. I changed the pad after one room, hoping that it might help.

Nope.

Maybe my floors are disinfected clean. I have no idea, because I am forever distracted by the streaks. So many streaks on my hardwood–it looks like a poorly cleaned preschool window. Did someone lick it clean? Because my floors look like a giant licked them clean.

I would not recommend the Swiffer Wet Jet. Just… sweep, like a normal person. I guess.

Do people even clean their floors more than once a year? Because I still have no idea. I do, and my (now broken) Wet Jet really only leaves a nice film of giant saliva on my hardwood. Does that count as clean? Somebody ask the bubbly Italian ladies.

Embarrassing Episodes: Ice Cream

When I was a kid I used to pretend I was in music videos a lot. I’d throw on some ratty headphone, stare longingly out the window during an exceptionally long car ride, and mouth the lyrics dramatically while the imaginary camera panned the length of the minivan. Think Enrique Iglesias “Hero” video, minus the excessive amounts of monopoly money. I’m fairly certain we all did this—pretended to be cooler than we really were. Kids of the MTV era tend to see everything as an opportunity for a music video, and we are always the stars.

 I don’t much make mental music videos any more (she said, lying through her teeth), but that feeling still occasionally crops up when I throw on headphones and go for a walk. A particularly sad song will begin its painful melody, and the fake tears will bloom in my eyes, and I’ll be looking off wistfully, just past imaginary camera B, while imaginary camera A takes an establishing shot of me walking down the lonely block, preferably with the after effect of rain. I am the coolest person in a five-block radius, and everybody knows it.

 I was having one of these moments recently while walking around the lake by my apartment. I tend to forget how busy Saturdays can be in downtown, so to up the cool factor I decided to get myself some ice cream around the half-way point—mint chocolate chip, waffle cone, flyest girl to leave the line.

I pushed the headphones back into my ears, pressed play, and began the walk around the lake again, perhaps even adopting the beat of the song as my new walking rhythm. About ten seconds later, several factors occurred to me. 1) The weather, while gorgeous, was in the high 80s. 2) High 80s melt ice cream almost immediately. 3) I hadn’t grabbed enough napkins. 4) I was now covered in mint chocolate chip ice cream. 5) Ice cream does not disappear like water when it dries. 6) Ice cream is not only incredibly sticky, but it stains.

I accepted my fate, switching to an audiobook, and abandoning all hope of looking as cool as a music video.

Betterment: Customer Service

Early on in my career in customer service I learned to ignore the hot shots that got a kick out of picking on me. Whether it was that I “made you late for work” because you stopped in a coffee shop and it took a little longer than you would have liked, or that I put too many pumps of syrup in your latte and you couldn’t drink it, I promise you, I’ve heard of all of the ways I am a terrible day ruiner. You want three inches of caramel sauce at the bottom because you just need it, fourteen smoothies in less than ten minutes because the traffic was intense, for me to understand when you say four packets of sugar you actually meant seven.

Here’s something I will fully admit to—I have made numerous mistakes. I’m not perfect, and if you complain, chances are I will go out of my way to fix it. I will own up to my mistakes, because I recognize that you have paid for a certain experience, and I have not lived up to that. I’m sorry. I totally messed up. Please. Let me buy you a drink.

But here’s the thing I don’t think many people think about—the key to good customer service is multitasking. My priority is you, sure, but I’m also thinking about the people behind you, the speed at which your drink is being made, the fact that one of the coffees is low and I need to brew it, that the chocolate syrup is going to expire soon, that the oven is beeping with a sandwich for Carl and drawer one needs ones and fives. But I look at you, and I grin as big as I can (because fake it ‘till you make it), and I ask you if I can start something for you. And you give me your complicated order, and I repeat it back to you while the coffee timer beeps and the man at the hand-off plain is insistently holding up the empty carafe of creamer and I begin scribbling your order on the wrong size cup. “I said LARGE,” you say with perhaps more disdain than you probably needed. “Of course, I’m sorry.” I fix my mistake as you roll your eyes at your coworker, who is now ignoring me, and I look at her, hoping she too will start to order. “Ma’am,” I nudge, as peacefully as I can, “ma’am, can I get something for you?” You sneer because I’m being brusque, but there is a line out the door, and while I do think it is fascinating that your husband is re-doing your basement, I really need to know what you’d like to order because I have to get that muffin out of the oven and give the bathroom key to the gentlemen in the coffee stained t-shirt, and grind the beans for the next batch of dark roast. I am trying my very best to give you my full attention—you really are my priority, I promise, but my mind does not start and end with your order. I am not a robot whose only task is to take your order.

I’m a firm believer that everyone should work in customer service at some point in their lives. It teaches you so much about working behind the counter, and how people see you. Now every person serving me could be me—I tip more, I have more patience, I speak up when something is wrong, I carry on more conversations with the people waiting on me. Sure, there are a lot of duds in this gig—there will be people who lean on counters, who ignore you, who text while on the job—but those people don’t reflect the entire workforce, just like the slacker in your office isn’t what your boss thinks of you. And yelling at them and snapping your fingers? Is that going to make you feel better at the end of the day?

We all believe no one else could do our job as well as we can if we find pride in it. I’m sure I couldn’t handle the accounts of thirteen international furniture clients without a decent amount of training. So can you afford me the same courtesy? If I handed you an apron and put you on the bar in the morning rush, I expect you’d be a puddle on the floor by 8:30AM. Your job isn’t easy. But neither is mine.

I won’t let it ruin my day if you berate me for making your drink with the wrong milk. I will wash you off with the vanilla syrup and coffee grinds when I clock out.

But have some grace, will you?

Betterment: Text Messaging

I am notoriously terrible at replying to everything–text messages, emails, letters, Facebook messages, voicemails, etc. Chances are if you tried to get ahold of me before, it took me a good while to return the favor. This is not a proud thing for me to admit. Because I can feel the karma just glaring daggers at me as I scream about someone not texting me back. But I’m trying to get better. Here’s a few things we can all do to be better friends.

1) Turn on Read Receipts. I know, this is a terrifying endeavor. What if you read a text, and you can’t reply, so the person thinks you’re just ignoring them? News flash, without read receipts, THEY STILL THINK THE SAME THING. If you don’t have time to reply to the text, don’t open it. The little red dot on your messaging app will still be there to bother you in an hour. If you’re in a romantic situation, and you want time to think about you’re reply, stop dating someone with an iPhone. Or, you know, turn off Read Receipts for a few hours. There will always be extenuating circumstances to all of your social media decisions, but Read Receipts have made me a better texter. Unless you count the time my sister thought I had been kidnapped because I didn’t open her text for 24-hours. There’s definitely a trade-off.

2) Reply immediately. I’ve learned this a lot with Read Receipts, but replying immediately after I open something leaves me less stressed later. Have an email that just needs a quick two sentence reply? Don’t “wait until you’re at a keyboard” or “do it later” just do it now. If it is going to take you longer than 30 seconds, set up a reminder for yourself later that day. If it’s important, make it a priority. You’ll be much less stressed later, I promise.

3) Ignore your phone while you’re driving. This one, honestly, shouldn’t even be something I need to discuss. Not only are you putting yourself in danger when you check Facebook on the highway, but you’re also putting other people around you in danger. We all know this, and yet still we do it. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve opened a text at a red light, only to forget about it until five hours later. It’s dumb and extremely dangerous. Just. Don’t. Do it.

4) Be upfront. If you can’t give someone your full attention (in any setting) let them know. If your girlfriend Facebook messages you to rant about her boyfriend, and you’re just about to head out the door for a date, don’t reply at the dinner table. Tell her your situation, reschedule the chat, and put your phone away. Don’t try to juggle too many things at once, I can tell you, from the other side, you’re not pulling it off at well as you think you are. Your “uh, huh, yeah, totally”s just feel insulting.

5) If you’ve mastered the little things and still struggle with the big stuff (bills, letters, employment emails), set up reminders. Almost every phone is equipped with reminders to nudge you in the right direction. The creepiest (albeit, possibly the most helpful) of these is the “when I get home” reminder. If you know you will only do work when undistracted at home, set up a few notifications that will go off right when you walk in the door. And then do them. Immediately.

There you have it! Five tips to make you less awful. I abide by most of these, and I can probably still come up with a hefty list of people who have been left behind. Don’t overdo yourself. Studies suggest that you can really only maintain 150 relationships at a time. Cut yourself some slack.