10 Everyday Things To Be Thankful For

With Thanksgiving upon us, although Target and the rest of the world seems to have forgotten about it completely, it is that time of the year again for me to make my annual “what I am thankful for” post. For those of you that have been reading my blog for a few years now, you know that I like to avoid the cliche posts about being thankful for my friends and family and whatever else is probably listed in a greeting card to be thankful for. I’ve unintentionally made this post an annual “thing” now to highlight some of the most mundane everyday things, yet I am quite thankful for them and they deserve a day to be appreciated! My intention for this post is to not only bring you cheap entertainment, but to help you see that there are so many things to be thankful for that bring people joy and appreciation! So with that, here are 10 things I am thankful for this year:

1. Curtains

Go ahead and laugh, but I am seriously thankful for curtains! Being a first time homeowner, I didn’t realize how much appreciation I had for them until the previous owners left them behind for us and we didn’t need to get them ourselves. I also realized that they aren’t just for decoration. Growing up, the curtains in my parent’s house were more for looks and I didn’t really view them in the whole “privacy” way. As you can imagine, this has come as an adjustment now that the curtains in my own house are there for privacy. The master bedroom has a very large and beautiful window that overlooks the whole back yard, as well as backs up to the neighbors’ houses behind me. I am very confident, in fact about 95% confident, that I have flashed my birthday suit more than a few times to the neighbors behind us and very well may have to the main road that is right outside my neighborhood since the view into the bedroom is a clear shot at night when the lights are on post shower…(I really need to get into the habit of closing the curtains). In my defense, I work hard at the gym, they could see worse things through the window, right? Just take a moment and thank all the curtains in your life, and all the nudity or other embarrassing things they’ve covered up for you!

2. Hair Dryers

To all my ladies and fellas with long hair, you know why I’m thankful for this. A hair dryer is one of those things that fits the “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone” mantra. This brings me back specifically to when I was studying abroad in France, and my hairdryer caught on fire leaving me with wet hair the rest of the trip. I say the “caught on fire” part casually because catching hair dryers on fire is a common occurrence for me, with the most tragic loss being the Hello Kitty hairdryer. Hair dryers are more than just a small appliance, people. They are important! Imagine what people would do if you showed up to work with soaking wet hair. Or what if you didn’t dry your hair on your wedding day? Try going outside in the middle of a Minnesota winter with wet hair. Not only is wet hair annoying, but for some odd reason, wet hair is just not an acceptable societal norm, and hair dryers are the solution to that…or sticking your head out the car window on the way to work, but I digress. Not to mention, hair dryers prevent your dog from looking like a little creature for longer than they should (Gracie Casey will always be cute no matter what state her hair is in). But please, for me, give your hair dryer a little more love today, especially as you are using it to get ready to stuff your face at Thanksgiving dinner.

3. Lyme Disease

I am thankful to have Lyme Disease, yes, I did type that correctly. I know I talk about my health a lot, and how it can be a challenge to be plagued with this plague, but Lyme has brought so many blessings in disguise (something I also talk about a lot). Being sick may seem like a weird thing to be thankful for, but I am thankful to say that I have Lyme because that means I don’t instead have the incurable condition called Functional Neurological Disorder, aka, the condition I’ve written several blog posts about. Turns out, I never did have FND, and I wouldn’t have found that out if it weren’t for Lyme waking up after 16 years of hibernation due to an alpaca farm visit. Have you ever been rock climbing and the only rock you can grab onto is one of those tiny ones that is super hard to grasp, yet it will work if you can just get the right grip? That is what Lyme feels like right now- it feels like there is not a lot of hope to hold on to at the moment, but there’s a tiny bit still there, and if I can figure out exactly what will help me, I’ll get to where I’ve been trying to reach for 14 years now. This is a lot better than FND where there was no rock to grasp onto at all, and I was stuck where I was. I’m also thankful for Lyme because it has taught me to slow down, and be more open about my feelings (which I hate doing but it forces me to). It’s revealed to me who is here for me- my family, my amazing friends (if y’all actually read this, text me a cartwheel emoji), and my fiance who has already gotten the in sickness and in health exclusive trial subscription. That was my “I’m thankful for my friends and family” part of the blog, had to put it in there somewhere. Lastly, Lyme created a passion for helping others keep their eyes fixed forward and to stay positive when facing their own struggles, and learning to fully own their story rather than hide it. I do this mainly through championing the wellness and disability employee resource group at my company that I gave name to as “Well & Able.” Don’t get me wrong, Lyme has been absolutely terrible, but I fully believe I have it for a purpose, and someday I will be thankful that it allowed me to write a lengthy memoir about my odd life story entailing how alpacas, oxygen chambers, controlling games with my brain waves, Keto diet, ceiling harnesses, lots of cardio and tangerine smelling scalp glue all led to where I am now. I’m currently waiting for the end of my story, but once I get it, you better watch the best sellers list because I will be on there. Mark my words, people!

4. Glasses and Contacts

No more deep health stuff I promise. It amazes me how I’ve woken up every day the past decade and go “put my eyeballs in” as I say, and I don’t even consider going a day without contacts or glasses. I truly don’t know how I ever lived without them-not even exaggerating. I got glasses in 3rd grade after I realized that not being able to see anything on the board at school was not normal. And then, I finally gave in and got contacts when I learned that it was probably unsafe that I couldn’t really see the balance beam as I was flipping on it. I am thankful that I have my glasses and contacts to allow me to drive, see other people’s faces, and order my Starbs drinks because I can’t read the menu in the drive thru without eye help even though I order the same thing every time and don’t need to read it. The panic I feel when I lose a contact in public is unmatched. It is probably worse than the feeling of realizing the single person bathroom you’re in at a restaurant is out of toilet paper. If I lose a contact, it means I immediately need to go home wherever I am. It sounds dramatic, but that is just how much I rely on a little flimsy clear thing and allow it to dictate my life. While I could tell more contact horror stories, I think you get the idea that being able to see clearly is something I am super thankful for, and I don’t recognize what allows me to do that enough!

5. Spotify

I remember there was a point in my life where I refused to get Spotify, and it probably didn’t help that the first exposure I had to it was the non-ad free version. It was like the Android versus Apple war, and I was a die hard ITunes gal. The amount of money I spent on songs, and hours I spent sitting getting them, will be time and money that I will never get back. Now, my ITunes account is as outdated as the senior picture playlist cover art I set for my “Lauren’s Tunes” playlist. My ITunes is a sad graveyard of Jason Derulo, Katy Perry, and the OG Luke Bryan songs that no one listens to anymore. I really am thankful for the fact that I can find a new song, and play it over again 15 times in a row, until I find a new song or artist to obsess over and play it over and over again. I also appreciate that Spotify allows me to see what my friends are listening to, or more specifically my brother, so I can make fun of the song he is listening to from when we were in middle school. I don’t go a day without music, and I don’t think I could go a day without music, or concerts, so shoutout to Spotify for making my showers full on performances.

6. Hugs

Whoever invented the concept of hugs is both a genius, but also borderline creepy if you think about it. Those who know me, know that I am not really a hugger. I don’t know why, and you’d think that I’d grow to be a hugger after the number of awkward half side hugs with a family member or standing there smiling at each other since I don’t tend to initiate goodbye hugs. Despite all that, I haven’t fully achieved hugger status, I am working on it, I promise. Remember how I mentioned above that Lyme has forced me to share my emotions more? Well, this has led to more hugs because apparently sharing with others that I feel like a sloth that day prompts for a warm embrace. For that, I am thankful because hugs are pretty great and actually help! There have been days where I am in such a bad mood, have no idea why, and none of my normal “feel better” tactics work. Then, I get home and get a giant hug from Zach and boom! All better. Hugs really do fix more than you’d think. I could go all psychology nerd on you here but something about the smell of my man (or my mom, nothing beats your mom’s perfume) combined with that warm embrace leads to lots of neurotransmitters released! Miss someone? Hug. Bad day at work? Hug. Burned your toast? Hug. Monday night football took priority over the Bachelor’s regularly scheduled time? Hug. Fell down the stairs? Hug. Sometimes it truly is that simple and all you need is a hug, folks.

7. Humor and Sarcasm

Not everyone is thankful for this, it really depends on if you’re the giver or receiver, but I am very thankful that these things are a “thing” for several reasons. First, as mentioned, I’m not good at negative emotions. Humor allows me and all y’all that also do this too, to cope with emotions, awkward situations where you don’t know what to say, or news you didn’t want. It came in handy as a gymnast when we weren’t allowed to complain, cry, show too much excitement #stayhumble, or show disappointment (Freud would say this is why emotions aren’t my favorite thing now, which he probably is not wrong about that one thing, the rest of what he said you can take with a grain of salt). Second, sarcasm and humor keep my mind sharp! Studies actually show that those who are sarcastic and can roast you on the spot are more intelligent. It keeps the brain thinking constantly. Sarcasm and humor are also around half of all my blog posts, and without it, I might as well be writing about how to patch drywall, except I don’t think you want me giving you that advice. I appreciate that everyone’s sense of humor is unique to them, and mine just happens to be corny like giving everyone I know a piece of clothing with my face on it slowly overtime. My personal favorite is the Larry the cucumber hiding war that has been ongoing for the last 5+ years with my dad, in which we take turns hiding a plush Larry the cucumber from Veggie Tales in the most inconvenient places (Larry has gone with my dad in his briefcase to important meetings at work, his hockey games with him – real manly pulling out a Larry in the locker room-, appeared in the shower instead of his shampoo bottle, etc. If you need some more humor in your life, consider hiding fake vegetables around the house with a loved one.

8. Indoor Exercise Equipment

I am not thankful for this due to the fact that it keeps me in shape and because I have to workout everyday because of my Lyme. I am thankful for indoor exercise equipment because I live in Minnesota, hate running, therefore, hate running in the cold. While I am fully aware that running outdoors is not the only way to workout when there’s no equipment around, I am just way too lazy to do anything other than press start on a machine and go for an hour! I remember how thankful for indoor machines every time I’d rather fall down the stairs than go up them on the stair master. This is also one of those luxuries in life that you don’t know how appreciative of it you should be. When Covid hit and gyms were closed, this cut off my access to any and all weights except for the pink 1 lb paperweight dumbbells in the basement. I started deadlifting laundry baskets of clothes, doing block pushes with boxes full of textbooks, and squatting backpacks of cans. As joyful as it was to actually use my math book again (and it probably served me better as a weight than how I did use it) I would much rather pick up a dumbbell. Being able to hop on my spin bike at home is a luxury that I truly am thankful for every single day because what else am I supposed to do on my lunch break?

9. Breweries

This fall, my brother in law (or my brother’s fiance’s brother- if anyone knows if there is a term for that, please let me know because we have been searching for this term for months) set up a brewery tour every Tuesday with a group of folks that I did not know at all prior to this. The Brew Crew as I call it, has been such a blessing during this season of being 20 something and trying to find a core friend group again. These are now people that I can see being in my life long term, and if it were not for meeting up at a brewery and drinking a beer, I would not be where I am today (tried to make something not deep sound deep there, how did I do?) Along the way, I’ve discovered that I genuinely enjoy trying new sours/ciders and am not just a Truly gal. It’s been kind of cool to see how breweries have evolved in the last few years because it’s so much more than the beer. Breweries are such a good spot to meet new people, catch up after a long day with old friends, or go on a first date with your future spouse like I did!

10. Google Calendar

My Google Calendar is my life. I mean this more literally than figuratively since it actually has all my life events on it. You know how when you’re bored and you’ll go scroll through Facebook or Insta? Well I go scroll through my Google Calendar because I find that fun especially when I can color code all my different events. It may be the type A in me, but it is a source of hope and excitement because I get to look ahead to all the exciting things that are to come such as counting the days to Christmas, dinner with a friend, when my new washer and dryer are being delivered, or anything wedding related. But also, it makes my life so much easier in regards to scheduling my weekly treatment sessions and many many many doctors appointments, my friend’s birthdays, in law’s birthdays, Brew Crew nights, work trainings, or literally anything because it is all in one spot. Imagine if we still had to carry around planners! I was obsessed with my planner back in high school before Google Calendar was a thing, but I cannot imagine having to carry around a book and pen like they did in the olden days. Now that Zach and I are engaged, we now have shared google calendars which really is how you know you’re ready for marriage.

Well there you have it, folks. Another year of weirdly relatable things to be thankful for! Every morning, I like to sit and have my morning coffee while brainstorming three things I am thankful for and writing them down. The only rule is I can’t repeat anything I’ve said previously. Because of this, it’s opened my mind and heart to appreciate the little things more and realize just how lucky I am to live the life I’m living even on the days where I sit on the bathroom floor and have “Bad Day” by Daniel Powter on repeat. I challenge you to start this practice (not the bathroom part, the writing what you’re thankful for part), or at least come up with three things after reading this, but I must say; shovels, laundry detergent, and scrunchies are already taken today, sorry.

Happy Turkey Day! May your turkeys be fully cooked, your stuffing not too soggy, and your cranberries look exactly like the can they came out of.


Everything My Future Husband is Not

It has been a while since I have written an entire blog post about someone, heck, it has been a while since I have written a blog post in general. So naturally, I must create something in honor of Zach turning 27! A lot of you have not even met Zach yet, and I personally think everyone on this planet should know about this incredible man I get to call mine and why he is so stellar. He basically is 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 in person form. So with that, here is everything that Mr. Zachery (emphasis on E-R-Y) Haugen is not. And before you judge me for thinking I’m about to spew off a list of terrible things about my man like his habit of picking his fingers that drives me insane, y’all know I like to put a twist on things. Sometimes looking at what you aren’t highlights all that you are. I could tell you everything that Zach is, but let’s be honest, that would be boring, really sappy, and no one would click on that kind of tag line (all about that clickbait). I’ll try to keep this post Tostitos mild salsa level sappy, instead of extra hot all while not embarrassing Zach in the process (probably will be embarrassing me more here because I’m great at that). If you need proof of that last sentence, ask us about what I did on our first date.

He is not from Eagan

Definitely not Eagan

While we both live in the more inner part of the cities right now, we both are from the suburbs. When I say we are from the suburbs, that means two completely different things since Eagan is as flat as a pancake compared to the wintery hills of death called Duluth with a lake that makes every lake in Eagan look like a puddle. Zach is the true Minnesotan out of the two of us since he grew up in one of the places that makes Minnesota worth coming to, and doesn’t scream every time he jumps from rock to rock at Gooseberry Falls. It is really nice knowing that I am marrying into a family where visiting my in laws is going to feel like a mini vacation every time we go up to visit them! When we first started dating, Zach took me on a “hometown tour” that consisted of the North Shore and all the other spots that you probably have seen in proposals, engagement pictures, and tourist highlights. You bet I returned the favor and took him on the greatest Eagan/Apple Valley hometown tour. It showcased the most popular Raising Canes, the first Super Target to exist, and of course, TAGS gymnastics, my second home. I even got him an Eagan Minnesota sweatshirt since he got me a Duluth Pack one because Eagan is JUST as great as Duluth, obviously.

He is never selfish

I’m just going to say that Zach is a lot nicer than I am (or this could just be a psychological phenomenon called Imposter Syndrome- but I digress). Between seeing him interact with his three younger siblings, his family, friends, my family, and of course myself; it is not hard at all to see his genuine care for others. He is so quick to put others first that it amazes me how he hasn’t blown his top. I can think of dozens of times when he would, and has, sacrificed what he probably wanted to do or was doing to make me, or someone else happy followed by an “it’s all good!” or, “I don’t care!” and actually seems like he is all good and doesn’t care. I’ve never had a man willingly turn the TV off during the middle of a big game to go to dinner with my parents, the gym with me, a gymnastics meet, the list goes on…. He does so much for others and expects nothing in return. I could write a whole other blog about the countless number of times he has dropped what he was doing/came to help me when my FND and Lyme were giving me troubles, when others would think it’s crazy to come to my rescue at 4 AM, or see it and run the other direction. Can’t forget the spoiled New Years when he stayed back from a family event because a chicken patty gone wrong gave me food poisoning…or the time he drove me to the ER in the middle of no where, Minnesota for a kidney infection on the way to another Duluth family event…Maybe I should create a blog post about all the crazy stories I’ve put this man through. He will tell you that I’m a trooper but I think he deserves the gold star.

He is not self-conceited or lazy

In other words, Zach is so humble and hard-working. I say this about every aspect of life; work, relationships, self care, etc. He somehow juggles it all even on days he’s running on fumes. Remember how I mentioned Imposter Syndrome earlier? (Feelings like you are not as good as how others perceive you to be- fun fact: 70% of the population feels this phenomenon). As an unlicensed psychologist with no power to make an official diagnosis, I am diagnosing Zach with this. A Process Optimization Consultant with a psychology degree and obsession with psych in my back pocket counts for something, right? He doesn’t give himself enough credit for all he has done, can do, and does do. His passion for what he does shines through even when he can’t see it, and I have no problem reminding him every day that I am so proud of him, and how he motivates those around him, too. He’s got more willpower than anyone I have ever seen. The amount of thought and care he puts into making me feel special is unmatched; from planning out our engagement down to the little things of going out of his way by bringing me my favorite drink of choice just because. He never will brag about what he has accomplished even when sometimes I think he should…except for how he is the best soccer player out of all the Haugens. I’ve heard that a few times 🙂

He is not quick to anger

Being with a Casey, specifically a Lauren Casey, can be quite a rollercoaster at times. You never know what weird twists and turns are going to hit you. I’d like to say I’m more like the kiddy joy ride roller coaster at the county fair, but honestly, I am more like The Corkscrew at Valleyfair. Like most people, my moods can go up and down due to the fact that dealing with stress isn’t my forte. I swear Zach is half cucumber because he’s as cool as one. I have never seen him get angry at anything, not even Minnesota sports. Most impressively, he did not get any kind of upset during the house buying process when I was a whole new monster even I had never witnessed of myself. For homeowners, you know how stressful this can be, I was justified. That’s something I appreciate about him so much because when I have been stirred up about my day at work, my health, or finding a house with a large master vanity – he is my constant that takes me back down to baseline and calms my stress.

He is not a gymnast

Trust me, I checked. He’s got a lot to learn still, while on the converse, I still have a lot to learn about his sport: soccer! I have enjoyed entering his world lately as I’ve now attended more than 1 Loons game which makes me an official soccer fan now, right? Unlike watching my brother’s endless baseball games (sorry Christopher, I’ll never let those go), I actually enjoy going with Zach to watch his brother and sister’s soccer games. Before I met Zach, soccer was the sport I knew the least about since I decided to quit in kindergarten when I was traumatized after seeing my teammate get kicked in the knee and start hysterically crying while running off the field. Now, I watch it almost as much as I watch gymnastics! When we first met and I told him I was a gymnast, he immediately asked me if I could do a front handspring over a soccer ball like the pros do- needless to say, the gymnast meets soccer moment has made me come out of retirement just to master this so I can finally not be lying from saying yes that day.

He is never not smiling

Maybe it’s due to the fact that his dad is a dentist and his teeth are impeccable, but really, he’s just a happy dude! My mirror neurons thank him for this, as I’ve been told my default face is a resting “you know what” face….I swear I’m not mad that’s just my face! It’s really hard to not be happy around him, and anyone’s mood is instantly lifted just by his presence. He is my Serotonin.

He does not dress like a high school guy

Y’all know exactly what I mean, and if you don’t, it’s the athletic shorts/sweatpants everyday look. Dressing up back then was a guy wearing…wait for it…jeans! This may seem like an insignificant little detail, but I really appreciate that I don’t have to tell him what to wear like I am his mom. If anything, the only reason we will ask each other what we are wearing is so we can match each other’s “vibe” we are going for that night. I don’t know about you, but that is definitely #goals. Zach worked at American Eagle all throughout college, including summer internships, which is how he found his retail niche! I have to thank American Eagle for sticking him with the Aerie side of things for a while- he’s the only guy I have met that knows what cheeky underwear is. You bet we bonded over the fact we both wore American Eagle all through high school, and still do since we both basically never grew again. But the one thing I don’t mind from high school? Backwards hats. Ladies, you know what I mean.

He is not boring

What is the adjective used to say someone is the opposite of adventurous and outgoing? I landed on boring. I can credit Zach for getting me to inch out of my comfort zone a little bit more than I used to. For that, I am so grateful, otherwise I would not have learned that my true love is not actually him, but is street tacos. His adventurous side and excitement to try new restaurants/date night ideas, has now turned me into a better Minnesotan to the point where it’s not as obvious anymore that I grew up in the suburbiest suburb ( see below the step by step instructions and diagrams written by my dad on how to start a fire because he knew I didn’t know how…one of Zach’s favorite documents he’s ever witnessed). Those who know me well know that I can have a hard time relaxing or going with the flow, well, I can now successfully say that I know how to do that now. Life with Zach is always going to be a fun adventure, and I’m only experiencing the tip of the iceberg with a lifetime of iceberg left to go.

He is not unhelpful

Is that a word? Because is doesn’t sound like one. I can’t think of a better person to go to for help (other than my dad whenever I have car issues). Zach and I are very much a team in every aspect or project we are working on, and when we are not, it’s more because I am the one leaning on him for help. He knows how to help me in ways that I didn’t even know I needed, like leaving motivational sticky notes in random places when I am not looking and discovering them on a hard day is just one example. He will drop me off at places because he knows I am scared of any place that may require any percent chance of parallel parking. He even went into my apartment one day when I was at an overnight work conference because I suddenly remembered I forgot to take a load out of the washer and didn’t want them sitting there for days (he even remembered which delicates needed to be hung up, that is husband material). The number of times someone has asked me if Zach is as hands off on wedding planning as their fiancé was, is unreal! We both have been equally active in picking out all the furniture for the new house, flatware for the registry, and really everything but my wedding dress, of course. People look at me like I just told them I am moving to Fiji when I tell them HE picked out the wedding colors, not me.

It’s amazing how easy it is to write about what you love, and love is an understatement when it comes to Zach (sorry, this probably surpassed the mild salsa level sappy zone). I can only wish that everyone has someone in their life that they can call their best friend, biggest supporter, and other half. While I know not everyone may not want to read about a complete stranger, at one point, Zach was a complete stranger to me, too, and I have learned so much from him that I think everyone can learn a thing or two here. To conclude, happy birthday, Zachery! I can’t wait to celebrate YOU this weekend 🙂

Happy July, folks!


A Day with FND: What a day in the life is like for me

In preparation of Functional Neurological Disorder (FND) Awareness Day April 13, http://fndhope.org asks those who live with this disorder to share their stories to create awareness for a condition that very little know about- including the best doctors. While I have had FND for 13 years now, this is my fifth year sharing my story, and I will always be a voice for others with FND that choose to keep it hidden out of fear. When I tell others for the first time that I have a disorder that causes non-epileptic seizures, their minds tend to jump to the conclusion that living with it is unbearable, and I am limited. While some days definitely feel like their conclusions aren’t that far off, a majority of the days aren’t like that, and sometimes I forget that I have the issue of losing control of half my body. An average day with FND (for me at least), is a lot more anti-climactic than you’d think. Of course, I have had 13 years to adjust to the way I manage things, and some habits I do seem completely normal to me now that may seem odd to those without FND. But even then, I can still physically and mentally do everything that everyone else can, it is my reasoning and motives for why I do what I do that makes my average day different than yours. Some people don’t understand that I get to the same destination as them, but use a different route to get there.

Countless numbers of people over the years have politely tried to ask me about living with FND. I can always feel their desire to grill me with even more questions, but hesitate like they’re asking me about how my last OBGYN appointment went. I’ve realized that it can be just as hard for people to ask me about it, as it is for me to bring it up or ask for compromises. To this day, I still struggle voicing how I need to do things a little differently because it is the most vulnerable part of me. I’d honestly have an easier time strolling downtown in my underwear than talking about it because of all the ended relationships, discrimination, and adversity it has caused me in the process of trying to explain it, what an attempt to treat it looks like, or people seeing it. Not talking about it, and no one asking me intentional questions has left a huge gap in understanding; something I have always strived to have from others. The purpose of this post is to finally answer: what is a day like with FND? And in doing this, I hope to create more awareness, comfort, and understanding, so I wouldn’t prefer strutting my stuff in my skivvies over talking about what I need in order to thrive! (Stay tuned for an announcement at the end)!

Hair and glue aren’t a great combo

Before I dive in, let me rewind a bit for those who are new or need a quick refresher of my story. FND is a problem with the nervous system that causes my brain to send incorrect signals to my body. To put it in IT consultant terms: the hardware of my brain is A-Okay, but it’s a software issue. FND presents itself differently from person to person, but for me, it causes non-epileptic (no abnormal or damaging brain activity) seizures on only the left side of my body, and primarily when I sleep at night. BUT, “spells,” as I call them; will happen during the day if I get sick, am overly stressed, don’t exercise everyday, sit too long, travel, or eat too much dairy (no biggie, right?). While it is a non-epileptic seizure, I remain fully conscious 95% of the time (the other 5% is new and hopefully not here to stay). It’s hard for people to wrap their heads around the fact that nothing about me changes during a spell. My witty sarcasm remains fully intact, I can still hold full on conversations about the Bachelor, do all my work, and I am not the “R” word as I have been called before.

It all started by contracting a weird rash when I was 6 and not knowing it was Lyme Disease. The Lyme seeped into my nervous system 4 years after the initial Lyme exposure, and my first spell occurred when I was in fifth grade. It wasn’t until 16 years later I would find out I have had Lyme all this time…whoops. Before discovering Lyme, we were never able to find answers as to where FND stemmed, but then, I went to a wedding that got moved to an Alpaca Farm because of Covid, and the Lyme “woke up” after something must have bit me on the farm which caused a red circle to appear on my arm, and I got very sick for a month (of course this all happened my first week of work EVER). That is when my current functional medicine doctor proposed the theory of having Lyme all these years, and was correct, which in turn finally gave me the answer of where FND started. There is no known cause as to why the nervous system and brain stopped communicating correctly when triggered by the Lyme, and because of that, there is currently no cure for FND. I can vividly remember what my first spell was like, including how I didn’t know how to tell my teacher I lost control of my arm, so I just didn’t say anything at all. I remember every detail from that day down to what I had for breakfast, what I was wearing, eating my Spongebob edition cheez-its after school, & telling the paramedics that I didn’t want to ride on the stretcher because it’s embarrassing so I walked to the ambulance at the doctors office. I remember all this because that is the day I had to start living differently than all my friends and family. It is confusing for those to understand that my Lyme is being treated, but that doesn’t mean FND follows suit, and I don’t know if or when it will ever go away- but I always have hope that it could. So with that, let’s look at at a typical, average week day for me with FND, shall we?

I promise you, this clock is not correct
  1. Wake up! Most people have to use alarm clocks to get up for the day, but in an oddly helpful way, my FND is a built in alarm clock that wakes me up at 6 everyday for work, or whenever I know I need to get up the next morning. If I tell myself that I need to get up at 8 the next morning, my subconscious must remember that and my FND will wake me up with a mild spell at that time. I have absolutely no clue how it works, but as a neuro and psych geek, it is fascinating. I also have different “types” of spells. Each kind is like my body communicating what I need in morse code as weird as that sounds. My “wake up” spells usually are short and mild, while my spells while I sleep are violent. My “during the day” spells feel different than the “at night” spells. I can tell when it’s an “I haven’t worked out today” spell versus a “I am sick” spell. Like I said, oddly helpful.
I like my coffee like I like my hair- blonde blend

2. Daily dose! The next key component of my morning is making sure I take my daily dose of…….coffee (did you think I was going to say medication? For the record, there is no FND medication). Just like almost everyone else on this planet, I start my morning with coffee, not some voodoo method or practice like I have had some people tell me that’s what they thought I did with my mornings to manage FND. But also, FND will flare up if I get too tired during the day, so coffee helps me in that aspect. Two birds with one stone! Coffee is the beginning of my morning routine that I love to wake up to.

Grateful for coffee has made an appearance way too many times in here

3. Me time! Next, I find “my spot” on the couch and have my me time which consists of reading a daily devotional, journaling in my gratitude and goals journal but ultimately ending up on Instagram in the process, and having my daily greek yogurt even though I am supposed to be dairy free (this is one love that I refuse to abandon). This time in the morning is very important to me not only because it is a form of stress relief for me which is important to keep my FND in check, but also, it grounds me and gives my brain consistency and routine. Starting off my day with a constant makes me feel safe and relaxed- two very important things when it comes to the nervous system to prevent “fight or flight” mode which my body is stuck in most of the time. A lot of the things I do for FND, I would do even if I didn’t have this disorder because quite frankly, I think everyone needs some solitude everyday for their own health!

4. Work! Next, I start my day job as an IT Project Management Consultant! Currently, I am a HR generalist consultant for HomeServices of America Corporate, and I love the work I do, and my team! Having a team that is accepting and understanding is obviously something we all strive for, but for me, it means more than they even know. When it comes to work, this is the aspect of daily life where having FND can create more obstacles than someone without it. Staring at a screen too long, and sitting too long, are both things that can trigger a spell (good thing I work in IT, huh?). Because of this, I have to be very conscious of how long I have been sitting, and use my lunch breaks to get my movement in at the office. I have a favorite walk route through the skyways that is a mile long round trip to Cardigan Donuts just to look in the window and soak up the glorious smell before I go back to my cube. I have had spells at work before simply because I got too caught up in my inbox and didn’t realize I had been sitting too long for FND’s liking.

This is something a majority of people don’t have to worry or think about, which can make it hard for me sometimes when others don’t view life/work through my lens. My FND does not affect my performance because nothing about the way I think or process information is touched by FND. Unfortunately, I have dealt with coworkers and bosses that thought otherwise once finding out about it or seeing it. The thing with invisible conditions, is that I don’t necessarily need accommodations at work, I just need understanding that there are periods of time where it may be worse and I need to stick to a schedule that works for me to manage it. This is where the new normal of working from home has been such a blessing. I can get up in between meetings and go on my elliptical, do handstands, and other things that would be very strange to do at the office when I feel a spell coming on. When it comes to PTO and sick days, life without working from home would put me in a pickle. FND will flare up with even the common cold, so life would be so much harder if I had to choose between having spells at the office every day for a week or so, or using a ton of sick days. Luckily, I don’t have to make that choice since Covid struck the work world.

5. Gym! After work, I hit the gym similarly to how I used to have school, then a 4 hour gymnastics practice every day. Exercise has always been in my life, so having this routine since 3rd grade really carved a pattern into my brain and nervous system. Exercise is my outlet for pretty much every emotion. Going to the gym isn’t an “out of the ordinary” thing. Like I said, my life physically looks a lot like everyone else’s…but it is the motive and reason for why I do things that makes my average day different. Everyone exercises for different reasons; stress relief, enjoyment, strength training, weight management,…but I bet you, the one reason they don’t exercise is to prevent losing control of half their body. Again, I exercise for all the reasons above, but having FND tacks on more figurative weight to my workouts, and if I skip a workout, I suffer more than having pangs of guilt that I didn’t run on the hamster wheel for a half hour. If I don’t get my workout in, spells will happen during the day rather than just at night. This means that I have to strategically plan out my days as to when I will get a workout in at some point, even if I am out of town or sick, otherwise I have to accept the fact that I am probably going to flare up in places I probably would prefer not to (flashback to the mall in Kentucky outside of the Cheesecake Factory). While exercise is a great routine to have, having it be a contingency to prevent something from happening, and having to do it for a certain amount of time in order to prevent said something (I have to get in at least 1 hour of cardio to prevent spells), can be very annoying at times…especially on days I am sick or literally can’t!

6. Shower! There is no difference in how or why I take a shower when it comes to FND, I just thought I’d let you all know that I do in fact shower everyday after a workout like a “normal person.” If you don’t relate to me on this one, you might be the “not normal” one here.

7. Dinner! I love to go out to dinner with friends, family, and have Fry-day Friday date nights with Zach, and to be honest, FND doesn’t slow me down here at all for the most part. Sharing a meal with someone is something that brings me joy and peace, even when I have my nights alone in my apartment and whip up some gourmet frozen entrees from Trader Joe’s. That being said, I still need to be cautious of the foods I am eating, and make sure I nourish my body properly and get enough protein and calories. The nervous system and brain are sensitive to certain inflammatory foods such as dairy, gluten, sugar, alcohol, and anything fried…or basically anything fun. The connection between the gut and the brain is so strong, and that has been a big struggle for me the last few years with healing my gut health in order to help my brain. I used to try to follow this “FND diet” so strictly, but soon realized that trying to live life without my favorite oatmeal raisin cookies (don’t judge me) or greek yogurt was causing more issues mentally and emotionally and not worth it. Even though I don’t quite follow it like I should still, that doesn’t mean I don’t follow it at all. I just have to choose my battles. Dairy is the #1 killer for me and I try to avoid it as much as I can (especially on days I can’t workout, am sick, or on vacation) without making everyone else’s lives harder for trying to accommodate for me. As I mentioned before, I struggle to voice what I need sometimes so I don’t feel like I am high maintenance because I hate the feeling of others needing to accommodate for me, especially when I get the “what kind of symptoms do you get when you eat that?” question and have to tell them I lose control of half my body when I go to sleep that night more than usual if I eat a piece of cheese. For the record, I usually just get an “oh” followed by nervously awkward laughter after that.

8. “Relax!”

Gracie Casey here is one of my best cuddle buds

Life with FND for me is not as hard as you’d think- my daytime is pretty standard and no one even knew I had FND until I told my story 5 years ago because it’t not that hard for me to hide. But as the clock starts to get closer to bed time, that is when it starts to get tough for me, yet it can’t be seen, only voiced. Most people use the time in between dinner and bed to relax and take a load off, but for me, it is the complete opposite in a mental and emotional sense. As I mentioned in the beginning, my spells are nocturnal and come alive at night while I sleep. At night, they are violent rather than mild. As stoic as I like to try to be, I am fully admitting that I am scared to go to bed most nights especially now that my spells have passed the unconscious threshold a few times and I live alone. Other than fish (long story), sleeping is one of my biggest fears because I never know what each night is going to bring me. People tell me “stay positive” or “don’t expect that it will happen.” The thing is, I never have really had a glass half empty type of mindset with FND even though I am more of a realist. I don’t go to bed with the expectation that it’s going to happen, and I like to give my brain the benefit of the doubt even after the now literally thousands of times it has proven me wrong. It’s so hard to enjoy watching a movie or reading a book when all I can feel is fear bubbling up inside me that I don’t know what the night holds, or if I am going to go unconscious tonight. While no one really knows what my spells look like since they do primarily happen while I sleep, I am glad no one knows; not only because it is still embarrassing whenever I do have one in front of someone after all these years, but also because that would mean y’all would have to be cozied up in bed next to me which would be downright weird!

9. Sleeping!

Day 1 of a 5 day sleep study at the Mayo Clinic

Sleeping is truly a chore for me. I do not enjoy it most days because it feels more like a half body workout than floating on cloud 9. Oddly enough, spells only happen to me when I sleep at night. If I take a nap, I am untouched. Sleeping is the biggest difference when it comes to living with FND (for me), and I guess it does affect me in a physical sense here because I legitimately am not good at sleeping which just makes it a nasty cycle of being tired, which makes it worse. It is so hard to explain to others what happens to me during the night, and for them to fathom that I lose control of half my body every 30-60 minutes all night long, and then am perfectly fine when I wake up like nothing even happened and go about my day with no one knowing. I can, and always have, been able to sense when a spell is about to happen. A spell itself starts out as my whole left side becoming stiff (imagine flexing all muscles x10), and twisting into uncomfortable positions, staying stuck like that for a few seconds, then my body releases and it turns into violent jerking until it stops for a brief moment before it starts that cycle all over again. No matter what I tell my brain and body to do, it will not listen. People always ask me if spells hurt. No, I don’t feel pain, but rather, extreme strain (but it does hurt when it makes me involuntarily kick tables or fall into counters). The anticipation and fear of knowing what I am about to endure is the worst part. While this sounds not very delightful, I’m actually fortunate that my FND occurs at night and only on half my body (no doctor has ever seen it present like mine does). Most folks with FND have this happen to them during the day, and full body, to the point where it can’t be hidden and truly does disrupt their lives. FND has taught me to find silver linings in everything…and that I can nap pretty much anywhere.

Well, there you have it. While I have had some extremes happen over the last 13 years, again, that isn’t a typical day for me. My FND thrives when I stick with my routine which makes sense because anything that is outside of my routine makes my nervous system more nervous…but I am working on training my nervous system to chill out if I don’t keep routine so I can live a little more. If anything, FND ironically keeps me healthy! It makes sure I get enough sleep, eat well, limit alcohol, have a solid morning routine, take time to move during the work day, not have too much screen time, and exercise- isn’t this what we all should be doing? If everyone did this, I probably wouldn’t be making this post (except for the sleeping is hard part). The reason my favorite verse is “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”- Philippians 4:13 is because I truly believe that I can do all things despite what I have gone through, currently go through, and have the potential to go through. Looking back, I can’t help but be proud of the fact that while I could have been defeated by FND like a lot of FND patients choose to be, instead, I decided to continue to reach my goal of being a college gymnast, was an all honors student, never did or have included it as part of my identity, created my blog to promote awareness as well as continue my passion for writing, and used it to fuel my love for psychology. I basically declared my college major ever since my initial spell in 5th grade (my reasoning was I thought I could graduate, find a cure for myself, write an autobiography about it, then end up on Ellen DeGeneres). While FND may control me physically, I will never let it control my ability reach my goals, succeed in what I set out to do, or diminish my hope. FND has been a blessing in disguise for a lot of reasons – it’s the reason I discovered my Lyme Disease after 16 years – and I will continue to see it as a blessing in disguise, and a tool that God gave me to inspire, teach, create change, and lift up others until the day it goes away.

As I say every year, thank you to everyone who has supported me all these years. You all are one of the blessings in disguise that FND has brought me. Lastly, I am excited to announce that I have worked with the state of MN to get the Minneapolis Lowry Avenue Bridge lit up for the second year in a row on April 13!


New Year’s Goals: Forget resolutions and reframe your thinking

Let me start off right away pointing out that I am posting this at the end of January rather than the “new year, new me” time frame. But here we are again, a new year, with new aspirations and declarations that tend to only last a solid two weeks. I’ve been there; I’ve made the promises to myself that I would get back my club gymnast body even though I no longer need to be in shape to fling myself over objects that don’t care if I kill myself in the process. I’ve told myself I’d floss every single day, and read a non psychology related book every morning (trying to read books that normal people read for fun). Well, it never happened, and I don’t like resolutions. You see, the reason I don’t like resolutions isn’t because I don’t think I can accomplish weaving a piece of string through my teeth, it is because resolutions, from a psychological standpoint, ironically aren’t very healthy or attainable for a large percentage of people.

I like to make goals for myself, not resolutions. While psychology does show that a new sense of motivation is created by fresh starts and our brains are better at comprehending things in chunks… there is no science backing up that these said chunks have to start on the first of a month, first day of a new year, or a Monday! This is why I don’t like the giant starting line on January 1st, because what happens if you’ve got all your resolutions ready to go, but you get a 24 hour stomach virus on New Years Eve and spend the night on the toilet? (true story, sorry Ryan Seacrest, I created my own fireworks out of both ends this year). If I followed a resolutions mentality, I would have already failed the minute the clock hit 2022. Psychology shows that resolutions can lead to failure due to the fact that it sets us up for an all-or-nothing mindset. We put so much pressure on January 1st by swearing off to never eat a potato chip again, but then once we give in day later, we throw in the towel and give up because we lose faith in ourselves.

The benefit of setting goals is they can be made on a random Tuesday at 3:07 PM and can be started over 17 times a day.; it’s on your time and your terms. Our brains don’t like being told “no,” and that is what a resolution does. In fact, our brains like to act like toddlers and do the exact opposite of what it is told not to do. Even though I’ve been fully aware of this psychological phenomenon in years past and swore off “unhealthy food,” that lasted until dinner that night because the forbidden fruit causes even more temptation (if you need further proof go look up a little story called Adam and Eve). This is why this year, I am focusing on goal setting, not changing my habits overnight. While there are big differences between a resolution and a goal, there is one pretty big similarity, and the reason why the line between resolutions and goals is so fine lately when really, it should be a thick line. As social media has grown and comparison culture is a legit thing, goals have become a lot more about getting something, or getting rid of something, rather than achieving something, and I’d like to help y’all reframe your resolutions and goals.

The reason resolutions and “modern day goals,” shall I call them, exist are because we are dissatisfied with parts of our lives, or we want something to happen. As I was thinking about content for this post in the shower (this is typically where all my ideas originate, as well as during my dreams, or any other random times instead of when I intentionally sit down to write), I thought about my goals for this year and the fact they weren’t all quantitative like my past resolutions were. Instead, they are qualitative, and I felt a lot more peace and hope when thinking about them. I realized that my goals actually get to the root of what I want, not just a fix that I thought would get me to where I want (ex: lose 10 pounds to feel good about my body again). I promise this will apply to you in some way, and I want to help you see what you should STOP doing when it comes to goal setting.

My goals this year are meant to create that thick line between goals and resolutions again. They are more than something I want to just get, it is something I want to achieve, and live out daily. I’m going to preface by saying that my goals go against all the SMART goal (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely) setting we did in middle school/high school/college. My goals are broad as heck, can’t be measured with numbers, and time frame? No, that’s a recipe for failure! And you know what? That’s ok, because goals have no rules (unless you’re at a hockey or soccer game). If having smart goals works better for you to hold you accountable, then go for it! But for me and my perfectionistic, type A, all or nothing mentality; giving myself a number to hit, and then falling one number short = failure in my mind rather than seeing all that I did do along the way. So with that, here’s my 5 main goals for this year, and maybe they will spark some for you, too.

There’s no way you didn’t do this in middle school

Stop trying to lose 10 pounds

For someone reading this thinking they’ll finally learn how to lose the last 10 pounds, don’t exit out of this yet. Remember how I said that we often make goals that are quick fixes to get to the root of what we actually want? How about we just make what we truly want our goal? For me (and probably you, too), this is being happy with how my body looks. Don’t get me wrong, I loved being a gymnast, but being judged on how “my lines” looked in a leotard, and making sure my body was in prime shape for half my life didn’t go without causing extreme attention to how my body looks daily. Since I’ve retired, I’ve spent time recovering from disordered eating, body image issues, and have believed that I’d finally be happy once I lost 10 pounds…but I never thought to make my goal to work on accepting my body right now; what it does right now, how beautiful it still is right now, and the fact that I can whoop someone’s butt in a handstand contest right now. My goal is to learn to love my body in the present. The reason losing 10 pounds is STILL on everyone’s “to do” list, is for two reasons. 1. We assign a time to it, and so much pressure to do it that we go to unsustainable extremes so it becomes this nasty cycle of giving up then starting over. 2. Giving ourselves a goal that is more like a task we can check off is a lot easier than facing internal feelings we have to battle. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t like talking about emotions, or letting people know that I feel anything but confident at all times. But here I am announcing to the internet that I avoid icky feelings like a pro, and have bad negative self talk when it may seem that I am A-okay 95% of the time. How bout we skip the quick fix and make our goal to do the real work and acceptance? How will I know when I’ve achieved this goal? When quality of life is better, and I feel joy in situations that currently cause me stress such as looking at a picture with my boyfriend or my family and despising what I look like. Seriously, is your goal to see a certain number on the scale? Or is it so feel a certain way about yourself? *mic drop*

Stop trying to read for fun

I did indeed, get this from Pinterest

Before you start to think this is a blog about promoting bad habits, the theme I’m going for here is that we make goals that are basically a cry for help for something else that we truly want. In this case, reading for fun is code for I WANT TO LEARN TO RELAX! So I’m making my goal to learn to relax. Serious question here: do you even know how to relax? Cause I don’t think I actually do. I used to think relaxing was sitting on the couch and being able to scroll through Instagram until I realized I started to feel stressed about seeing other people’s amazing Lyme-less lives or started to feel my anxiety bubbling up as I see the 13 unread email notifications from work on a Saturday (I think those 13 people need to learn to chill more than I do). So then I switched my beliefs and thought relaxing meant having the time to read for fun since that seems like something chill people do. That became my resolution until I realized my mind was taxed and didn’t want to read 12 point font at 11 PM after a full day of school (and no, it is not because psychology books are my idea of reading for fun, this also applied to Nicholas Sparks books, too). Relaxing these days is so much harder than I thought. It requires not picking up my phone and scrolling through Facebook while trying to watch Netflix…emphasis on trying to watch Netflix. Watching a show with undivided attention and actually enjoying it requires effort for a lot of people nowadays! For me, my goal is to be able to pay attention to an activity I enjoy doing with no thoughts about work the next day, the fact I still have Lyme spirochetes using my nervous system as a playground, and that I haven’t been to the gym yet today. For the record, I feel that tranquility and calmness I’m aiming for when I am blogging away at my favorite Starbucks listening to my #soft playlist on Spotify. Relaxing does not always equal laying on the couch reading a book with a candle lit, coffee in hand, while the snow is lightly falling like Pinterest and Instagram has coaxed us into thinking that’s what it is (especially in Florida or Kentucky, that would just be odd). It is whatever makes you feel like you can finally exhale for once, and at least for me, brings me closer to God and can feel His presence.

Stop trying to floss 7 days a week

This resolution of mine never did get off the ground, even when it involved using dino flossers as extra motivation. Well, that’s because I didn’t actually want to floss 7 days a week…sorry Dr. Mittelsteadt and Zach’s dad. What I wanted all these years, was to take better care of myself and my health, and this somehow translated into thinking that flossing made me feel like I had my life together. So my goal here, is to take better care of my overall health by setting in place a night routine. My morning routine I’ve got down solid, but when it comes to night time, I unfortunately have procrastinating going to bed down solid, too due to a psychological concept called “revenge bedtime procrastination” that a lot of people experience because we feel like sleep robs us of leisure time after having a full schedule all day. (The fact that my FND happens primarily at night time and I have a slight fear of sleeping definitely doesn’t help either). This is why I want to get a routine going, because my brain thrives with set routines, and getting more consistency at night might be the sleeping pill I’ve needed all these years to let my body know that the natural human need to sleep is not a living nightmare and is actually enjoyable. I’d love to get to bed at the same time every night (perhaps after I brush my teeth AND floss), say my prayers, jot a few lines in my 5 year journal, read a little bit, and go to sleep knowing that I’m doing everything in my power to better my overall health. What about you? Do you have a good nightly routine? Or are there some areas you could improve?

Stop trying to have a weekly date night

This started out as a really good goal in my mind until I realized that having to actively, with effort, carve out time during my week for a few hours to spend quality time with the person I love sounds really sad. What is keeping me so occupied that I have to literally plan out a day I’m going to wear jeans instead of sweatpants, and plan to put on makeup for an hour or two? I realized that the reason for this is because I am always in a hurry, and because of this, am exhausted by the end of the day. So with that, my goal is to eliminate the need to hurry in my life so I am not always exhausted, and sweatpants won’t look more attractive than my handsome man of mine after a long day of work! This realization came to light from a book my church is doing a sermon series on called The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer. I highly recommend that everyone on this planet reads this book, especially those who don’t come to a full stop at stop signs, always choose the shortest line at the grocery store, or look at your phone during any lull in your life (that’s all of us, my point exactly). I have realized through reading this book, that I make myself exhausted every single day just by being in a hurry in all aspects of my life for no reason at all. For example; replying to emails right away rather than allowing my mind to rest and give it at least 5-10 minutes, working over my lunch break, driving over the speed limit, multitasking all day long, and heck, I even try to use the bathroom as fast as I can, and for what? Because of this, it takes away from the things that should be rewarding after a long day (I’m not talking about going to the bathroom here anymore), and makes me a version of myself that I don’t particularly enjoy. I want to have the energy to do date nights every night if I wanted to, rather than just one day a week, and start to balance out my jeans to sweatpants ratio.

Stop trying to find a cure

As much as I’d love to finally rid myself of Lyme Disease and Functional Neurological Disorder, the last few years have revealed to me that all the focus and effort I’ve put in to ridding myself of all of my problems, is taking away from other parts of my life that I used to enjoy regularly. So with that, my goal is to give more of my attention to what brings me joy in order to bring back “pre-FND Lauren.” Of course, I will never give up hope that I will someday be set free of it, but at some point, I need to draw the line where managing how many pills I take at night doesn’t become my life and I can just be me minus FND. Psychology has actually shown that the more attention given to an issue, the worse it can get because it stays in the mind, and subconscious. Over the years, I’ve noticed that as I’ve given more attention to treating FND, it’s actually gotten worse which leads to more attention given to it. Now, it has turned into what feels like I’m the project manager on an all consuming, 24/7 project that I don’t want to be on anymore. I’ve been grateful for the treatment and time my parents have contributed, especially since it led to discovering Lyme after all these years, but sometimes I just want to go cold turkey for treating FND, and live my life like I used to before I started any treatments. Before I started treatments in college, my condition was much less severe and not always on my mind which left room for thoughts about time with friends, vacations, games, cooking new foods, flying lawn mower videos, and everyday things that I actually do enjoy, rather than fear now. It was much easier to enjoy myself in the moment because there was never the lingering thought that I’d have a spell because of what I was doing. Thankfully since I met Zach, pre-FND Lauren has started to come back more these days, she’s a lot more bubbly and less stoic. But there is still that fear and hesitation that I’ve been conditioned to have if I make the wrong move, don’t take my medication on time or correctly, sit too long, use too much energy, or get too tired. I don’t want to live my life in fear anymore, I want to just live it like the fearless kid I used to be, and my own mind is what is stopping me! Do you have something you give too much negative attention to? Put your mind elsewhere, you have control of it!

My goals aren’t really a to do list like a lot of people seem to create when goal setting, and because of that, it will take time! But as they say, all good things take time. I hope these 5 goals made you think about the areas of your life that you could change to better your health, bring you back to the person you want to be if you’ve strayed from that, help you eliminate the hurry in your life, make you stop at stop signs, and learn how to appreciate the lulls in life. I’d love to hear some of your goals for this year, and if flossing 7 days a week is something you’ve achieved already, teach me your ways, please.

Happy January!


What Are You Actually Thankful For?

Happy Thanksgiving week! I am changing this post up a bit, and rather than making a list of 5-10 things I am thankful for this year, I’m straying from my list format completely (it kind of hurts my type A tendencies a tad). I want to challenge you to put in the thinking with me. I know, you’re probably thinking well Lauren, that’s easy; I am thankful for my friends and family, my job, my smoking hot significant other, my house…etc. While that is probably a true statement for most (it is for me as well), those responses have become such a default that I feel it’s equivalent to saying “good” to the “how are you?” question. You all know how much I preach that it’s the little things in life that bring me joy- and I mean that quite literally. How about we deep dive to find what little things in your life make more than an impact than you know?…and feel free to change your “how are you?” answer while you’re at it to something more honest and interesting like “I’m actually doing pretty great today” or “I feel like I’ve watched the Sarah McLachlan Humane Society commercial one too many times aka not great.” But I digress…

Have you ever just sat and thought about what you’re thankful for? I mean that literally, just park it in the middle of your living room to think about what brings you more joy than it probably should for the average person. Psychology shows that taking the time out of your day to think of 3-5 things you’re thankful for leads to better mental health and life satisfaction- this is a component of Positive Psychology. I am not one to pass up a good psychology experiment, so I picked up this habit and now use my mornings accompanied with my coffee to actually stop, sit, and think before I start my 7-4 grind. This allows our minds to recognize that life ain’t so bad even when you’ve got a million things to do at work, you despise the thought of leg day later, or you back into a concrete pole in your parking garage (true story). Again as I always say, the little things can mean a lot more than you realize.

How I start my mornings!

I think some people believe that being thankful for something has to mean it is this life-changing phenomenon, person, place, or something they are told they should be thankful for in their lives. While it’s definitely something to be thankful for if you met the peanut butter to your jelly, found out via alpaca the cause of your mysterious disease, or went on a memorable trip (try to guess which one of these is about me); being thankful for something doesn’t need to be big. Heck, most of what I jot down in my journal every morning sounds like I have nothing exciting going on in my life ever…but once you start to view those insignificant little things in life as a big deal, your perspective quickly changes. Then, the days where you feel like everything is going down the toilet…you’ll at least be thankful you have a toilet to flush things down (this is so true though, can you imagine how hard life would be without those things?)

Keeping things too broad won’t have the same positive psychological effect as getting into the little things- and companies know that, and use that against you. A good example of this is the body positivity movement. This preaches that in order to improve negative body image and accept what we look like right now, we must be thankful for our bodies no matter if we don’t feel great. While this all has good intentions, it doesn’t get into the WHY, which leaves people stranded still thinking they aren’t worthy because it’s more of a statement that tries to get you to convince yourself that you believe it, and to buy products to help you do so. On days that I don’t feel great about myself, I don’t write in my journal that I am thankful for my body; I write that I am thankful that I have muscular legs that allow me to jump up and reach high shelves because I am really short. I write that I am thankful for my eyeballs that allow me to watch the bachelorette every week. I write that I am thankful for my stomach that endured all the body slams as a gymnast (proof below). I write that I am thankful for my arms that allow me to show up every cocky body builder in the gym with a simple handstand. You get it- be specific about how it affects you, not just that something exists, because seeing that something serves a purpose to let you live the life you want is what leads to life satisfaction- not the concept itself.

So how do we deep dive to find the little things? Think about your routines throughout the day and what brings you joy. When I think about what brings me joy, I immediately think of coffee post rolling out of bed. The act of picking out my favorite mug, and the fact that it forces me to go slow for once in my life (going fast results in a scorched mouth), is a constant every morning that I look forward to. I’m thankful that I have this pause in my day no matter how hectic the day will be shortly after. What little things bring you joy? Maybe it’s a favorite outfit, goodnight texts, everything but the bagel seasoning, your favorite candle on a chilly morning, the dollar aisle at Target, a good hair day, warm showers, the Vikings aren’t as terrible as usual, a favorite playlist, sweatpants, when your man wears a backwards hat (ladies, you know), a new book, a free weeknight…the everyday things right in front of you that would put a damper on things if they weren’t there!

Next, what makes your life easier? I mean this in the most literal way possible. There’s no rules for what you feel thankful for- all needs are different for everyone at all times! This week, I have been extremely thankful for my bike shorts. Yes, my unattractive padded booty bike shorts. I could easily answer this question with something like: I am thankful for my friends, and the support they give me during a tough week…but that does absolutely nothing if what I need this week is rear end support so a bike seat doesn’t end up in a place I don’t want it to be (I mean I guess friends could help you out with that, but I don’t need to be THAT close with my gal pals).

I find it interesting that a lot of the time, when I ask people what they are thankful for, it isn’t something tangible or visible, it is something like “I am alive today” or “my family’s love.” Not that those aren’t valid answers, but come on people do you actually wake up every morning and the first thing you do is sit up in bed and think about how alive you are or how much your family loves you? No, you go get coffee, hop in the shower, or hit the snooze button etc. People never mention physical things in their lives they’re glad they have, probably because it feels silly, or totally forget about the mundane. So what in your life are you thankful for that makes life easier for you? Perhaps it’s online shopping, your husband’s love for driving you everywhere, your girlfriend’s weird interest in folding laundry, dating apps, dairy free butter (hallelujah), wireless earbuds, wrinkle free dress shirts, working from home, elevators,….you get what I mean. Being thankful is recognizing those little things that ultimately make you feel less strained, more relaxed, relieved, less like you want to cry in the shower, and saves you from climbing 27 flights of stairs to your office!

Now, think about what you dread. We have all heard the “change your thinking from I HAVE to, to I GET to” phrase, right? Practicing being thankful for the things you think you hate, but deep down appreciate because they benefit you greatly, is a prime way to make every day less like Terrible Tuesdays. For me, this is the Sunday Scaries and the daunting feeling of the work week ahead. I get so anxious thinking about all the future emails in my inbox, and how tired I am going to be by Friday…but I am thankful for the Sunday Scaries because that means I have a job to pay my rent, a purpose and a calling, and I have coworkers that appreciate me. What about you? Common things I know we all dread are going to the gym…but some people can’t! We dread going to work…but some out there wish to have a job or the job you have. Some despise grocery shopping, cleaning the house, shopping for a new outfit for a special occasion…you fill in the blank. There’s always a way to put a positive spin on the things we love to hate, we just don’t do it enough.

Well, that’s it folks. No giant list of paragraphs this time around (maybe you’re thankful for that). I truly, TRULY, challenge you to start a daily list of 3-5 of those little things you’re thankful for. I have enjoyed going back through my journal to see what simple pleasures did it for me depending on the stage of life I was in, and picking those simple pleasures back up if I forgot about them along the way. One honorable mention I wrote down during a stressful time in college was “I’m thankful for chairs that are short enough that my feet touch the ground so my calves don’t swell up during finals.” I’d love to hear some of the things that bring you joy, make your life easier, and what things you can learn to love on days you really don’t want to. What do you have to lose other than less stress in your life and less negativity?

Before I go…Here are 5 top things I am grateful for this year (did you really think I could resist my list?)

  1. Free parking at work solely for the purpose that parallel parking downtown Minneapolis makes me want to cry.
  2. Breweries- a lot of great beginnings started at these this year, and I am on a quest for the best sour.
  3. Trader Joe’s because if you know, you know.
  4. Taco salads. That’s it, that’s the sentence.
  5. My step stool because I am short if you did not already notice that yourself.

Go eat all your favorite things this week, and be thankful for your fork!


Modern Technology: What I wish could be reversed

A conversation I had this week inspired this post, and got me thinking about how technology has morphed the way we live today. Writing this as an IT consultant may seem a bit ironic since new technology and software is my job security, but the psychology nerd in me sees something different. As technology continues to become more capable than anything I could ever imagine, it’s also getting us farther away from the authentic and wholesome moments we probably all have experienced in the past. Technology is meant to make our lives easier, and it does in a physical sense, I mean who would go back to a typewriter? But from my perspective, it’s starting to go a bit too far and is making the unseen parts of our lives harder such as mental health, motivation, and emotional intelligence. Technology does a lot of things for us now; taking the full experience and effort out of what we used to do without the aid of a device. Call me old fashioned, but here’s 10 things I wish I could reverse back to how they were!

1. Capturing video footage

It is so easy nowadays to whip out your phone and Snapchat your dad running around the house cheering because your mom approved of the birthday gift he gave her…I did this just the other day if you couldn’t tell already this was a true story. The fact that we can Snapchat, Instagram story, Tik Tok, or simply just use smartphone video any time we want has made moments that used to be so special…kinda just a norm. We are able to video so much now, that we are just living through a lens rather than being present a majority of the time- videoing concerts and putting a whole song on your snap story is a great example of this, or taking videos of your dinner spread. I miss the giant chunky camcorder because the fact that it was a beast made it less attractive to bring it around everywhere, meaning, we were all present and not experiencing every single moment through a lens. Did your parents ever video what you were eating for dinner at a restaurant with an actual camera? How weird would that be? Yet now, it’s perfectly normal to make your McDonalds chicken nuggets be as famous as you used to be in your home videos.

Recently I dusted off (literally) the box of Casey camcorder home video footage. The fact that I had to dig them up, and go through the whole process of loading them into the DVD and actually watch the DVD rather than skip over parts made it more authentic. I came across one of my first gymnastics classes as a 4 year old, the age I coach now, and while all the skills (even the goodbye song) have stayed the same all these years, the one thing that’s changed is the parents Snapchatting their kids through the windows and staring at their phones editing the videos for half the class. Through watching my home videos, I’ve realized the best moments to look back on are the ones not edited out, such as my brother trying to jump in the kiddy pool and wiping out completely. Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with documenting kids growing up on Instagram highlights or using social media to easily access memorable moments because that is just our world now, but it feels nice to rewind back to the past in more ways than one sometimes, and see all the unfiltered, unedited, raw footage.

2. Elevators

There are just some things that really don’t need to be changed. Touch screen toasters, refrigerators, coffee makers…but the one that baffles me the most is touch screen elevators. I work in the SPS Tower on the 27th floor, and the first day I showed up to my new client, the elevator stumped the IT consultant. Answer this, would you ever imagine an elevator to not have buttons on the inside? Exactly. There’s NOTHING in there except the prayers and hope that I will not get stuck. So how does it work? There is a touch screen in the elevator lobby with every floor listed. I touch the 27th floor, and it will tell me which elevator to proceed to; I, H, K, L, O, or J -apparently A, B, C, D, E, F were taken that day. I have learned the hard way that these fancy tech ones don’t detect someone is in the doors if you try to hold the elevator for someone. I have been an elevator door Lauren sandwich several times already because those things don’t have any mercy for not walking fast enough. I decided to test out one day what would happen after I arrived at my floor and didn’t get out. The doors closed and I did not move. This led to me being stuck in the elevator for 10 minutes until someone queued it up again. This definitely is not more effective than the old way in my opinion, but it might be a great exposure therapy method.

3. Cell Phones

This is probably a very unpopular opinion, but I hate smart phones. While they give us access to so much online, they take away from everything else going on outside of the tiny little screen. Having a flip phone was one of the best things ever because all I did was text, take low quality pictures, and feel really cool when my “Dynamite” by Taio Cruz ring tone went off. I liked the fact that people weren’t glued to their phones all the time. I remember getting my first smart phone, and my interests suddenly shifted. I no longer went outside much in my free time, didn’t touch board games anymore, stopped reading books because Temple Run was life, never went anywhere without it, and all my attention was now on that little screen when I was with my friends or family. Having a smartphone definitely affected my mood a lot more, too, and created more stress in my life than there needed to be. The fact that I had to wait to get a flip phone until 7th grade I now see as a great move in hindsight. It gave me the childhood that kids should have, and protected me from a lot of crappy things in the world.

Now, elementary school kids are getting better iPhones than I am and the number of iPhones is starting to sound a lot like Kidz Bop- you don’t know if they will ever end. I miss the days where we weren’t checking our phones every minute for notifications, Facebook and email could only be checked on the computer, and finding the perfect emoji wasn’t a thing. The only options were colon + parentheses faces or a semi colon parentheses if you were flirting with your middle school crush. Emojis are a part of our vocabulary now, and middle schoolers won’t every understand the gravity of finally getting an old school smiley back from the cutie in homeroom signifying they liked you back.

4. Alarms

Call me an old lady, but I miss the days of digital alarm clocks that sat on nightstands, and having to physically get up to find which button would turn it off otherwise it would just keep going. The heart attack that my clock gave me every morning was way more effective than my iPhone alarm that I only hear half the time. By the time I finally got up for school to turn the darn thing off, I’d be awake enough that snooze would be pointless, whereas that is not the case anymore since it is so much easier to justify sleeping 10 more minutes five times when the snooze button is right in front of your face, or the “twinkle” sound isn’t as jolting. The alarm clock also eliminated the habit of sitting on my phone in the morning for a solid 5-10 minutes. When your alarm is on your phone; it only makes sense to go check every social media platform, email account, Target cartwheel discounts of the week, stalk your second cousin on Facebook, look through your whole camera roll, and order your mom’s birthday gift after turning your alarm off, right? For something that is supposed to make our lives easier and productive, making the phone alarm a norm certainly did not achieve that.

5. Social Media

I am a total hypocrite when it comes to this one since I use it daily, but I wish all social media beyond Facebook were never invented- specifically Instagram and Tik Tok. Everyone is so caught up with trying to make it look like they’re living their best lives that it has detrimental effects on mental and physical health. I wrote my senior capstone on how social media directly affects mental health, specifically body dysmorphia and eating disorders in both men and women, and that self compassion and positive psychology are a key to eliminating that. This is a legit finding, not just a correlation. The issue is that social media instills in us automatic negative thoughts (ANTs), and that’s the opposite of self compassion. There is so much comparison that it creates unrealistic expectations, and negative affirmations that our brains recite to us daily. I can even attest and confess to this. I remember having no body image issues or concerns about my life before I got Instagram, but once I did, I started to feel insecure about my looks, thought others didn’t like me if I didn’t get enough likes, and felt bad about not having perfect Pinterest moments. Not to mention, it wastes so much time, yet we all know it and still do it! Even the content that people are posting nowadays has changed. In 9th grade I was posting gymnastics pictures or pictures with my family. Now, I see 9th graders posting questionable selfies, and stories I wouldn’t dare post even as a 23 year old. The impact social media has on people’s decision making skills and emotions is astounding, and I only foresee it to get worse as Instagram will cause more disordered eating due to diet culture, hidden snap stories will promote lying/sneaking around, and Tik Tok will probably lead to even more cringey dancing in public.

6. Watches

I used to wear a watch everyday as a kid because that is how I would check the time…hence what it was made for. Now, Apple Watches are actually making the word “watch” literal- as in – watching our watches for move rings, calorie goals, weather updates, texting, and almost everything but the time. I do believe they are amazing little creations and can be helpful for a lot of things, but they also can be harmful to mental health and productivity. This past month my Apple Watch broke for a solid week, and I felt a lot of anxiety the first few days because I didn’t know how many calories I burned, what my heart rate was, how many steps I took at work, and a whole lot of other anxiety inducing things. It made me stop and think I lived 20 years without one, why is it so hard to go back to not relying on having this information and just going about my day again? Watches were not made to create anxiety except to tell you that you’re about to be late for work again. After the first few days passed without my Apple Watch, my mental health actually improved. I no longer was as concerned about closing my move ring, didn’t think about what I was able to eat during the day based on how many calories my watch told me I burned, I was a lot more present at work and with friends, and I didn’t walk into the clear wall at work again due to scrolling through watch notifications. Let’s go back to glancing at our watch rather than walking into walls shall we?

7. “Ok Google”

My family will full on be able to tell you how much this one bugs me. I am so annoyed by any and all Google Homes, Google Minis, Google lightbulbs, and any other Google device that is not the search engine (no hard feelings against the OG Google). My whole family has converted to talking to Google to do easy things like turn on lights, turn on music, etc…when it actually takes more time for Google to do it since it malfunctions or doesn’t understand half the time. What was so difficult about standing up and walking over to turn on a lamp? To this day, I still refuse to use the 4+ Googles in my parents house and will go out of my way to manually turn on the lights because I can. Yes, it is cool that technology can automate things like that for us, especially for those who may have a disability, that’s where I see technology being beneficial and it should be implemented. But for things that just make things easier simply because we may be lazy or the task takes 5 seconds longer…I can’t justify that quite yet.

8. Watching a movie

When it comes to movies, they’ve kind of lost their pizazz since they’re so easily accessible, and don’t have a “return by” date on them. One of my favorite things to do growing up was Friday night movie runs to Blockbuster. My brother and I would roam the aisles looking for the perfect movie to watch, and argue over which one to get since apparently princesses weren’t doing it for him. When we got home, we’d have a routine of being the “movie hosts” by setting up all the comfy chairs with blankets and pillows, taking popcorn orders, aka, my brother writing on a piece of paper what kind of seasoning wanted, drink options, and crushed or cubed ice then making our parents check the box and return their selections to me (I was the waitress, he was the chef). We would get so excited over this and when the movie started, we were glued to the TV. When Red Box came out, we thought that was the latest and greatest technology that would make Blockbuster go out of business. Still, we loved picking out movies at McDonalds for our Kentucky road trips to watch in the car, and being able to return them to any Red Box across the nation was groundbreaking. Something about getting to pick out a movie that could physically be held was so special. Now, I can’t tell you how many times I have flipped through Netflix, picked a movie, and barely even watched it because I don’t have the urgency to pay attention. There’s nothing ritualistic or special about hitting play on Netflix, knowing you can watch it every single day if you wanted to.

9. Cooking Gadgets

Most people would jump at the offer if someone willingly said they wanted to get you and Instant Pot or Air Fryer, but not me. My family has tried to hard to get me to cave into jumping on the kitchen gadget bandwagon because apparently it cooks lentils and mashed cauliflower like a charm, but I refuse to get on that wagon, because I don’t think I’ve touched a lentil in my life and my pre made frozen mash tastes delightful heated up in the microwave. Plus, I have a perfectly good stove, oven, microwave, and toaster in my apartment! Sure, maybe it can cook my chicken 12 minutes faster than it would in the oven, but honestly, I am not in a rush, and all the different cooking mediums are starting to stress me out! Psychology says that when you are presented with too many choices, it actually causes more stress. In my case, the fact that I would have so many options to cook a potato would make me want to give up and run to the frozen aisle at Trader Joe’s. The thought of all the dozens of cookbooks made for each device, all for different diets, makes me want to pull my hair out. I like to keep things simple, and am a bit of a minimalist if you couldn’t tell. The day everyone stops saying “Insta Pot” instead of Instant Pot will be the day I cave, which will probably be nowhere in the near future.

10. Music Medium

When I think back to how I used to listen to music, man has it changed. I never would’ve imagined that Spotify would have become so big after I spent years buying songs off iTunes that I heard on the radio. Even though the radio is still around, I rarely ever listen to it anymore because I kind of forget it is there. While I have the freedom to listen to anything any time I want on Spotify, I have to say, I get sick of my same old playlists all the time, and even when I do hit shuffle, I find myself skipping songs until I find one that I want to listen to. I definitely get tired of Spotify by the end of my work day. With the radio, I never knew what I would get next, was forced to listen to a whole song, enjoyed the talk shows, and honestly, I miss hearing the Shane Co ad every once in a while (494 and Hopkins crossroad…you finish the rest). The debut of a brand new song on the radio was a lot more exciting and hyped up than new songs on streaming methods. Would I want to get rid of Spotify at this point? No, I don’t know if I could do that now that I am instantly gratified by Thomas Rhett whenever I want, but I miss the presence of the radio a lot more now than I used to…except when the severe weather warnings would cut into the middle of the song causing me to run out of the shower mid shampoo due to fear that I would get sucked into a tornado at that instant.

Dealing with change can be hard, and I have found through my job that this is true for all ages. Even I (as you can see) have a hard time adopting changes when I am attached to how I’m used to doing things, and don’t see the need for making my chicken a little bit crispier in an air fryer. There is a whole career dedicated to helping people adjust to change in the business world; but there’s nothing out there to help us adjust to change outside the business realm such as social media platforms, streaming services, making a cake in anything other than an oven, your watch telling you when to breathe, using elevators without buttons, or turning lightbulbs off with our voices. Part of getting others to adopt change is showing why it is beneficial and how it will improve the current process…and I just can’t see that yet myself. I do believe that what technology can do now is amazing, I will not debate against that, but it makes me sad to think that future generations will never get to experience things the way I have growing up, and the simplicity of life before turning a TV on required 5 remotes. If I had one wish, I would make society go back to seeing technology as a luxury rather than a necessity. Would you?