FND and Me: Functional Neurological Disorder Awareness Day 2021

In honor of Functional Neurological Disorder (FND) Awareness Day approaching quickly on April 13, http://fndhope.org encourages those who live with this disorder to share their experience in preparation for this day! While this is my fourth year sharing my story, this year, I am sharing what it is like for me to live with FND- NOW. So much has happened the last few years, meaning, theories I’ve said in past posts aren’t correct anymore. The cause, and ways I manage it have all changed.

A recap for those who are new: FND is a problem with the nervous system that causes the brain to send incorrect signals to the body. My brain’s “hardware” is structured correctly, but the “software” and the way it communicates with my body is incorrect. FND impacts quality of life similarly to Parkinson’s, Tourette’s, Epilepsy, and stroke- but FND patients often run into the problem of doctors believing symptoms are made up or psychological due to no signs of abnormal brain waves. While I’ve had FND for 12 years now, I was misdiagnosed for 8.5 of those years with a movement disorder on the Tourette’s Syndrome spectrum and was told I would grow out of it. It was very clear after 8 years that was not the case, and it’s been a frustrating journey of trying to find the correct diagnosis which finally landed on FND through process of elimination. Currently, there is still no cure for FND itself because it is a complicated cocktail of neurological, biological, physiological, and psychological factors.

FND symptoms are unique to each person, but for me, it causes violent non-epileptic seizures (spells as I say) on the left side of my body. Spells happen primarily when I sleep happening in cycles through the night, but will happen during the day if I’m sick, sit too long, don’t exercise everyday, look at a screen too long, eat dairy, or am stressed/tired. They present as being in a sudden, uncomfortably stiff/frozen position with unnatural postures, then are followed by rhythmic and rigid jerks, and cycle through this until I distract myself or do physical activity to get it to stop. They started out mild; only in my left arm, but over the years it spread to my leg and neck, and have become more powerful than my own voluntary strength. It’s always been hard and embarrassing for me to explain to others why I have to do things the way I do (most don’t believe I must work out everyday or can’t sit too long until they see the aftermath if I disobey FND), but hopefully this gives more insight into why I have to do things a little differently than most. With that, here’s the latest update on me and FND- and check out my exciting announcement at the end that will be taking place April 13!

Cause: In the lyme-light

I’m so happy to have Lyme Disease. While it sounds like an odd thing to say, I can finally be part of the 30% of those that know the origin of their FND. This is a huge win after thinking I’d be in the 70% of those who go their lives without ever finding out why this happened since I’ve been in a game of hot potato of doctors the last 12 years…me being the potato. I previously shared I went to an alpaca farm in June for a wedding only to become extremely sick with Covid symptoms, but tests were negative. What was not known to me at the time was that I’ve actually had Lyme since I was 6, and something on the farm made it wake up after 16 years to create a horrible month of existence. Lyme was the missing piece of the puzzle all these years that has rid me of feeling like the muse for the song “Wonder” by Natalie Merchant.

2004- easy, breezy, covergirl
  • Mysterious hives/swollen joints at age 6 with no found cause => Given steroids that cleared all up => Steroids caused immune system to stop fighting off undiscovered Lyme in initial stages => Lyme became dormantly active
2008- First FND spell
  • 4 years with untreated Lyme => Bacteria reached nervous system => First FND spell at age 10 => Misdiagnosed for 8 years to follow
2017- 5 day sleep study at Mayo Clinic- officially diagnosed with FND
  • No treatment worked from any doctor/Mayo clinic => Spells worsened over the course of 12 years
2020- Post alpaca farm
  • Went to alpaca farm => Red spot appeared on arm => All tests indicated no illness after being sick for a month => Lyme antibodies test as a last resort => Results showed 2 strains of Lyme all these years => Series of events match up with FND milestones and Lyme effects explain FND symptoms:
    • FND gets worse when sick because immune systems can’t multitask well, and mine has been trying to constantly fight Lyme for 16 years. When another sickness gets added on top it becomes too much for my nervous system.
    • Sunburn, sleep deprivation, hormones, dairy, etc. create more stress on my Lyme infested nervous system, causing worsened spells.
    • Not exercising daily creates a build up of toxins from no detoxification through sweating so spells worsen from stress on nervous system. Also my main method of stress relief. Any and all stress on body/mind = bad for nervous system!

There is not one thing that my Lyme Disease does not explain about my FND. I spent years praying for answers, and never would’ve thought my answers would be through a quest to puzzle a path back to my childhood! God works in mysterious ways…if it were not for COVID, the wedding would not have been moved, which means I probably never would have discovered my Lyme either. Thank God and alpacas!

Treatment: Kill everything except people

Now that I know my cause of FND, I can treat the Lyme. Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean FND will be flushed out of my nervous system, too. 16 years is a Grand Canyon amount of time for neural pathways to deepen, and Lyme caused my body to pass an internal stress threshold that triggered my FND (epigenetics jazz). Its like trying to get crumpled up paper back to its orginal state; Lyme treatment will hopefully improve my FND symptoms, but it won’t be back to my pre FND life.

Treatment looks a lot different than past attempts; I’m no longer using a techy headband listening to indian flute music for Neurofeedback therapy to train my brain waves. I’m not making old guys at Walgreens look at me weird for buying out all the pill boxes to sort my 84 supplement pills I took a day. I have not had to wear any patriotic looking electrode swim caps to map my brain. My dad isn’t delivering anti seizure medication during basketball and gymnastics practices that made me a shell of myself. I’m not on Parkinson’s medication that caused hallucinations anymore, have not had lasers shot into my head lately, and haven’t slept with sandpaper for a while. I haven’t been to the Mayo clinic in a while to give 14+ tubes of blood for testing. There’s been no peanut butter and banana brought to my bedside at 3 AM since protein apparently fixes all things, and I have not been hooked up to an epilepsy ceiling belt to go to the bathroom in the recent past.

Now, I’m on a holistic treatment called “Cowden Protocol” that was made for those with chronic Lyme. A lot are skeptical about supplemental treatment, me included, but the science has been done and targets parts that antibiotics don’t. The selected supplements are proven to flush all bacteria/spirochetes out in full which lands them a spot on the KEEP (kill everything except people) list as Dr. Cowden calls it. This has been around for 37 years and is effective for those who can actually bare to do it….let me explain:

The protocol consists of taking 14 liquid and capsule supplements four times a day for 9-12+ months. For each dose, an app on my phone tells me the mixture needed and how many drops of each. Here’s the kicker: in order for the program to work; I must take doses 30 minutes before I eat, exercise daily to detoxify tissues, cut out sugar, and the hardest one? Drink 3 Liters of water daily by taking 3-4 oz sips every 30 minutes all day long. While this doesn’t seem like a hard task; I plan out my days around drinking water and “nature’s call” so I don’t repeat my race car driver experience of finding a gas station while running errands, or seriously considering popping a squat in Jeff’s parent’s backyard when their plumbing was down for a few hours. The phone app sends “water pouring” sound reminders every 30 minutes, and can make things weird when it comes across my speaker on work calls (it sounds like I’m using the bathroom-found that out the hard way). Is it working? Yes. How do I know? By weird effects happening indicating the Lyme is leaving me such as random full body hives, brain fog, and swollen joints. My life is never a dull moment I can assure you.

Lyme begone

Exercise: Cardio isn’t as hardio

As mentioned, Cowden Program requires working up a sweat everyday, but even then, those who have followed me on my journey know my FND will flare up if I don’t work out everyday. This is one of the weird quirks that I’ve wished would go away so I wouldn’t have to worry about exercising on vacations, days where I don’t have time to, or am sick. Unfortunately, the fact that exercise keeps my FND from happening has not changed…. but, it has improved! Now, I can exercise at night if that’s when my schedule allows, rather than needing to in the morning since in the past I would flare up if I didn’t work out every morning. Additionally, in the past I would need at least 1.5-2 hours of cardio to keep my FND at bay. Now, I am down to 1 hour of cardio to keep it at bay. Exercise is obviously a great habit to have, but having to be dependent on it like I have for years sucks the joy out of it. Now, I am starting to enjoy it more, as I can spend more time doing exercise activities I actually like versus strictly running or elliptical for an insane amount of time.

Diet: Goodbye rabbit girl

I wrote in a past post that my nickname in college became “rabbit girl” by the cafeteria ladies after having to go gluten, dairy, soy, sugar, and egg free. My plate would be piled high with “rabbit food” since the only thing I could eat in the cafeteria (my apartment didn’t have a kitchen) was the salad bar. Everything is cooked in soy or egg these days! This was enforced back then to heal a Candida gut infection (not to brag, but my doc said I had the worst gut they had ever seen), another result of Lyme not allowing my immune system to fight infection…which in return worsened my FND because the gut and brain are so connected by the blood-brain barrier.

Now, I am down to dairy free and minimal gluten. Cowden also calls for a temporary limited sugar and simple carbohydrate intake because spirochetes like to feed off cookies as much as I do. I most likely never will be able to fully indulge in dairy like I used to as a mac n cheese, cheesy pizza, grilled cheese, ice cream loving kid since dairy is inflammatory to the brain..but I have found some stellar dairy free alternatives now that veganism is becoming a trend!

Sleep: dreams aren’t very sweet

Overnight sleep study to try to capture why it happens while I sleep.

Sleep has been and remains as my biggest hurdle since my spells have always occurred at night. But since Lyme treatment started, the bacteria coming out of me causes my spells to become a lot more severe because my body doesn’t like change, even if it’s good change. I’ve started having unconscious spells during the night- which in turn makes me scared to sleep because I can feel the seizure coming but can’t stop it- different from the warm sensation I usually get before a FND spell. I become numb and cold on my left side before extreme pressure builds in my head, my vision blacks out, ears ring, and I feel like I’m spinning/falling before my hearing shuts off and everything suddenly stops (I don’t know if feeling unconsciousness is a thing but I know for a few seconds that I’m unconscious). The first few times this happened, I thought I dreamt it because I couldn’t remember any of it and woke up perfectly fine a few hours later. Ignorance really is bliss sometimes, especially once Jeff informed me of what happens while I’m unconscious. Most people look forward to go to sleep, but for the last few months, I do everything I can to prevent myself from sleeping out of fear that I will black out and I won’t become conscious again while alone in my apartment. This is the first time in my life I have become unconscious from my FND, and the first time I’ve felt truly terrified of what this disorder can do.

Stress and sleep deprivation are so bad for FND and Lyme, but I am ironically in a nasty cycle of not getting sleep, and stressing over being scared to sleep which releases large amounts of Cortisol that makes my nervous system even more stressed. Recently, my doc put me on a real life chill pill (Melatonin) to balance out my cortisol levels so my body can stop thinking it’s in a civil war with itself. Thankfully it has given me some relief and I am joyfully back to dreaming about my teeth being pulled out and dancing green beans!

Work: Making invisible visible

A big fear upon graduating was how my FND would react to sitting at a desk all day since my nervous system has made clear at previous internships it doesn’t like desk jobs. As much as I wish I could actually say I’ve been to my office since my final interview, working from home has been great for me! I’m able to get up for a quick elliptical session or crank out some push ups in between meetings if I feel a spell coming. I’ve never discounted myself or my abilities as an employee because of my FND, and I proved that to be true this year, as I received my first promotion, and I now am in a new role! I am rolling off my project at Allianz and will be working in the back office at ThreeBridge as a Boom Lab consultant on HR related projects that I have been working on outside of my current project. I couldn’t be more excited that my passion project has now become my work day!

My new role stemmed from being selected to serve on the recruitment enablement committee as part of a new Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion task force for my company. I am acting as a voice for those with invisible illnesses in the work force (and a psychology nerd) by sharing my own experience/psychology ideas in order to create an environment that feels safe, and ends stigma for those who have conditions like mine, or other circumstances that have an unconscious bias tacked to them. Great talent can be missed simply because working conditions aren’t flexible for those with invisible illnesses, recruiters are overlooking places or categories of people, or the culture doesn’t feel comfortable! It feels amazing seeing my ideas implemented, and being in a role I am so passionate about; such as educating recruiters on their own biases, and making invisible illnesses a focus along with the other categories such as gender, ethnicity, veteran status, and race. I can confidently say that work doesn’t feel like a job, but rather a vocation.

Living situation: My own homie in my homey home

I moved this month! And I have new roommates: me, myself, and I! All throughout college, I had living situations that weren’t the right fit for me or my health (throwback to living in an office cube junior year). A big part of my FND staying stirred has been not being able to fully relax in my own space and feel “at home.” I always felt like I was walking on eggshells to make sure I made my roommates happy, or hide my FND. Post graduation, I moved to a two bedroom apartment tower with a roomie, and while all was well for a while, I still felt like I was in a dorm/hotel, and didn’t feel I had my own space to relax mentally and just “be.”

I now am in a one bedroom 30 seconds down the street that is perfect for me! There’s this thing that says people adopt dogs that “look” like them, well, I adopted an apartment that looks like me. It is tucked away with a nature trails backing up to it, and feels like a home rather than a place to live. I enjoy being on my own schedule, having my own space to decorate, and not riding an elevator up to the 6th floor anymore!

Relationships: Law of attraction

Psychology says that you attract what you focus on and the energy you give off. Once I graduated from college, I committed to focusing on being positive, healthy, and finding fresh relationships. Upon doing this, it quickly revealed to me which individuals in college were with me for the long haul. My friendships have improved so much since getting out of college and starting fresh has been so good for me. After instances of being called the “R word” in class in front of everyone, being used for my skills, a curiosity case, or being treated wrongly by those who don’t understand; it’s been a breath of fresh air finding new friends through my church small group I joined, and meeting new friends through Jeff that support me and understand (this may be partly because some are psych nerds, too). Not to beat a dead horse, but finally finding a guy that is patient and doesn’t see my FND as making me weaker, a burden, or too much to deal with – but actually a stronger person, still makes me wake up feeling so grateful every day. I now don’t feel ashamed for sharing about FND with others because I surround myself with the right folks and energy.

Mental health: Blame game

I always said I was fine having a causeless and cureless condition because there were much worse things in the world…but that wasn’t all true. Denial and convincing myself that I was fine was easier than facing the fact that I was missing out on things that I loved doing growing up; traveling, last minute day trips, or sleepovers are a few to name. Every time I had an embarrassing spell in public, and the stares that followed- I told myself that it didn’t bother me…but it did. I’ve always been an independent person; and having to ask for help for easy things has been something I am still trying to learn how to do without feeling weak or down on myself. I remember one time in particular I needed help walking, and I felt so ashamed and stripped of my dignity because it’s just not normal seeing a dad help his 18 year old walk through a mall on vacation.

Having a chronic condition that impacts the simple things in life that others can easily do can really take a hit on the psychie, especially when others can’t relate and get frustrated even if I try to explain why things like staying overnight somewhere is difficult for me. I’ve learned it’s hard for others to put themselves in my shoes because we are made to be in control of our bodies, not have parts of out bodies be in control of us based on certain decisions made. While my parents have seen my deepest struggles, and know the condition in and out, they still won’t ever know how it feels and the hesitation that comes with every decision I make, and that can be super hard sometimes not having anyone that I know be able to relate to me in that sense! I still struggle with feeling bad and like a burden at times because those who are with me may have to compromise to help me manage my condition, but often times still don’t understand why I need things a certain way because explaining FND to someone feels like I’m speaking spanish to someone who only knows swahili. Stuffing all my emotions over the years trying to look/feel “normal” led to even more mental health problems and manifested in other ways such as OCD/perfectionistic tendencies, and disordered eating, to feel in control since I didn’t have control over my own limbs.

But now, finally having something to blame and having real, tangible explanations for everything that has happened to me feels so dang good and is a weight lifted off me! All the memorable spells I’ve had over the years I can blame on Lyme, rather than having no explanation as to why things happened and just having to stuff it then move on. It’s a lot easier for me to explain to others that what happens to me comes from Lyme Disease, rather than FND, because Lyme is more familiar to others. I can take more risks now because I know what will trigger Lyme, rather than not participating at all from not knowing what would or would not affect FND. Because of this, I have been able to make up for what I lost in college; having my first alcoholic beverage with my friends, eating birthday cake, celebrating good news, traveling more, and blaming Lyme for any flare ups from doing all the things I haven’t been able to do. While we learn to try not to blame others/things for our actions, I am putting full blame on Lyme Disease and that minuscule tick that made the mistake of biting me 16 years ago.

Awareness: Lighting up FND

If you would’ve told me years ago that I would be the reason the state of Minnesota is lighting up the Minneapolis Lowry Ave Bridge for FND, I would’ve looked at you like you had 5 eyeballs. My awareness initiatives started off so small years ago.

Sharing my story for the first time with the world (aka Facebook) four years ago was one of the most liberating things I have ever done. That year, I teamed up with the FND Hope organization for a fundraiser in which my sorority and a few friends and family contributed to. The positive feedback and interest I received back fueled the fire for me to keep sharing my story to educate the world about one of the most unknown conditions out there – even Mayo isn’t up to speed on it yet. To this day, I have a hard time speaking about my story (writing allows me to hide behind my screen here), but I felt called to speak at a college org campus event about my FND story and how it has grown my faith. That talk led to others approaching me with their struggles and allowing me to show them how to navigate their journeys with grace and strength like I have mine. This made me want to share even more so I could continue to help others who have experienced a chronic illness, adversity, diversity, and discrimination like I have. I started sharing my treatment experiences on social media and frequently work with FND Hope to promote FND awareness and support others who have not found correct treatment yet by sharing my theories tried. Finally, as mentioned, my efforts led to getting the state of Minnesota to light up the Minneapolis Lowry Avenue Bridge orange and blue on April 13th for FND awareness day as part of a global initiative to light up landmarks around the world.

I could easily hide my condition and avoid the stigma that comes with it, but I did that for 8 years, and that was 8 years I could have been showing others that while this condition has taken a lot from me, it has also been the origin of so many good things and some of the most fulfilling work I’ve done. I know that I’m small compared to the rest of the world, but seeing what I can make happen, and how far the FND initiative has come, gives me real hope for the future of me and FND. Thank you to everyone who has supported me over the years; the kind words, hospital visits, cards, compliments that I look great with electrodes glued to my head, patience, help, understanding, and endless encouragement to finally get me where I am today!

Join me in recognizing FND Awareness Day in less than a month now on April 13- and this year, it is a happy one, indeed!


Simple Date Ideas

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day arriving, this post is centered around relationships; and meant to generate some non-boring, no pressure, easy, date nights for you and your sweetie, or even friends if you are rocking the single life! Covid has forced us to get creative and enjoy the small things since the typical dates like going to a movie, or meeting up for a drink haven’t been a consistent option. Dating in general, let alone Valentine’s Day, can be a stressful. The pressure to be in a relationship if you’re not, wanting to keep your relationship interesting, where to go on the first few dates or even the stress of wanting to find the perfect box of chocolates (mine would be all of the coconut filled ones…unpopular opinion, I know) for your significant other is real! Just like the Bachelor thrives off creating dreamy dates that aren’t realistic in real life at all, sometimes we (girls) like to think of super romantic Pinterest-esque dates, and they create so much pressure that it’s just awkward. These date ideas are casual ways to spend time together, but in reality, may be more enjoyable and stress free than a dreamy date because they eliminate all the little stressors we amplify in our heads such as who pays, what to wear, or deciding what movie to watch…we all know the awkward back and forth that follows, so why not just get rid of it?

1. Restaurant check list

Yes, going out to dinner is a very typical date, but everyone’s gotta eat! Something that Jeff and I have enjoyed doing since we started dating was making a physical list of all the restaurants we’ve never been to, and slowly visiting each one. Having a list eliminates the “I don’t care” conversation that we all hate to have. We just pick a place from the list and go! We’ve had some great experiences with this-one being dining on the “pawtio” at The Block in St. Louis Park, where dogs are allowed to dine-aka-their owners can order them a meal to eat in a bowl and eat alongside their humans. While I could gaze at Jeff all day, the wiener dog eating a bowl of chicken and wild rice had most of my attention that night. Places like these, where they have a unique quirk or additional things to do, can be a great date spot for first dates, or new couples. In this case having some pet therapy helps to relieve the awkwardness of trying to eat in a not embarrassing way all while thinking of something to talk about besides how nice the weather is. If it is not a first date, the payment part can be uncomfortable, even for couples that have been dating a while! I know that I feel guilty every time Jeff pays for me still because it gets expensive for the guy to pay every time. We now play credit card roulette and let the waiter/ress choose the credit card, or just alternate who pays. We’ve visited some great spots with good food and fun atmospheres which is why this is one of my favorite things to do!

2. Make a family recipe together

Food seems to be a common theme in dates- but that is perfectly ok! It is something everyone in the entire world has in common. Cooking or baking together is a stress free date that promotes communication, helping each other out, and it is fun to enjoy the end product together afterwards. I loved sharing a family recipe with Jeff because it added much more meaning to the date than making boxed Kraft mac n cheese (unless you and your date met by reaching for the same unicorn shaped noodles special edition kraft in aisle 6). Whatever you make does not have to be anything fancy or extravagant, and honestly it is probably better that way so you don’t end up bickering about how well done the steaks should be. Jeff and I made and decorated my Gram’s sugar cookies together, and it was probably one of my favorite dates so far because it was different than anything we had done. We had a great time roasting each other about how badly we decorated a cookie, throwing flour at each other, and straying from using the cookie cutters to try to create shapes of our own. Whoever said that guys don’t belong in the kitchen was mistaken!

3. Target date challenge

Have I actually done this yet? No. Did I see this on Tik Tok and instantly want to do it? Yes. I don’t know anyone who does not like roaming the Target aisles up and down, and this date is a great combination of seeing how well you know your SO/friend, competitiveness, and resourcefulness. The challenge is to create a list of things to get for the other person in a given time (ex: find something red, find their favorite snack, find something to help them relax, etc…) and you are only allotted a fixed amount to spend – usually $10-$20, but the smaller your budget is, the more interesting and weird things get! You then have the given amount of time to frantically rummage around Target to find all the items on the list. Once this is done, take it all home and take turns going through the list and presenting what you got the other person. If they get you a bunch of things that you actually like, it is a win win because it shows they know you, AND you get to keep it all!

4. Activity or place swap

When I think of this one, I think of my parents. My Dad introduced my mom (from Kentucky) to Minnesota and all that comes with it, as well as her first REAL winter coat, while they were dating. In return, my mom shared her love for Kentucky & UK basketball and dribbled circles around my hockey dude of a Dad who couldn’t shoot a basketball to save his life. While sharing some interests is important, I would find it incredibly creepy if the person I’m dating’s favorite sport was gymnastics, they loved the color maroon, had a blog, was a cardio junkie, loved traveling to Danville, KY, couldn’t stand golf, had a word find addiction, and a majority of their favorite TV shows were about dramatic girls fighting about being there for the wrong reasons (if you know, you know). Where’s the fun in being exactly the same? Part of the fun of dating is getting to show the other person something or somewhere you’re passionate about with hopes you can share that together, and also getting to branch out only to get knocked off any high horse you were on (my mom described my dad’s basketball skills as “shooting bricks”).

In addition, doing an activity that you know one of you already likes doing eases the pressure of the “what do you want to do today?” followed by the classic “I dunno” or “I don’t care” conversation tennis. When Jeff and I started dating, it started off pretty small. I took him to Lake Harriet for dinner outside at the bandshell, and on the converse I watched Sunday football with him, aka fell asleep…it’s the thought that counts. As time has gone on, he’s brought me to his hometown, Windom, to spend time with his family and show me where he grew up. Knowing that it was meaningful to him and was a part of him made the experience so much more special than if we decided to go to a random place for the weekend. I can’t wait to take him to Kentucky someday, or to a gymnastics meet with me so he can witness that side of me, too. The activity swap is no big task- maybe it is going to your favorite hole in the wall ice cream shop, going to a Twin’s game together, or watching your favorite movie. Opposites do attract in most of these cases!

5. Ice skating

As cliche and Minnesotan as this sounds, it is such a good date idea for several reasons. First, it does not require spending hard earned money on mediocre food with Covid plexiglass to create a “romantic” ambiance with your date. Second, it is completely different than your typical date such as watching a movie or staring at each other eating food. Third and most importantly, embarrassing yourself together is great bonding. Let’s be honest- there is a solid 50% chance that one of you has not skated, is not good at it, or will eat the ice at some point in the day (I did). There is nothing more humbling than watching someone who says they are a pro, or a manly man, get on ice skates only to flail around until they splay face down across the ice. At that point, there is nothing to do but laugh, especially if you both are terrible skaters and look like you’re shuffling around stripped of your athleticism. Psychology shows that hazing creates a bonding feeling due to shared embarrassment and experience, and while ice skating is not anywhere near hazing, it may feel like it and create the same shared bonding experience if you are absolutely terrible or take a tumble in front of the person you want to impress. But in the chance you both are great skaters, it makes for a cute date 🙂

6. Tour your own town

I have come to realize how terrible of a Minnesotan I am. I have never been to the sculpture garden, boundary waters, popular lakes, or well-known breweries. I barely go downtown, uptown, or really to any town other than where I live. It wasn’t until this year that Jeff and I ventured to the Stone Arch Bridge to make it my first time, and it was one of my favorite memories of 2020 because it turned out to be just as great as it looked on Instagram. Sometimes I simply forget that places exist and that I can go see what I’ve always wanted to see whenever I want, I just don’t! This is why it makes for a great date idea to go do and see the things you probably should have seen, but seem “touristy” to do as a native. Become a tourist for the day, and go to that coffee shop everyone posts about on Instagram, that one wall with the mural everyone poses with, that iconic sculpture 10 minutes away from you, or that popular brunch spot. Everyone’s got a list of places they’re wondering about or have never seen, but forget about them when free time arises- make your list and go!

7. Start a show together

As I always say, it is the little things that do it for me. As a kid, I remember trying to take my shower in between commercials so I wouldn’t miss any of the new episode of “American Idol,” and hearing my brother yell “IT’S BACK ON!” when I failed to complete my mission to my pjs. Even now, I get way too excited for The Bachelor to roll around every Monday, and new episodes of This Is Us on Tuesdays; but I can’t be the only one that plans their weeknight around an hour in front of the TV. Jeff and I have made “Bachelor Monday” a thing- and it is something I look forward to because: 1. I like the trashy-ish show, but mostly: 2. It is a guaranteed and planned two hours with Jeff. It is something we have in common now and can chat about, but also time to catch up with each other. While TV dates may not seem the most romantic, starting a new Netflix show together, or planning a date night around a show in live time (yes, that is still a thing!) is just as much of a date as a dinner date. It is something constant to look forward to and anticipate every week. If anything, it may be more enjoyable after a long day than the typical image of a date because it doesn’t require reservations, fancy food, parting with your paycheck, or wearing jeans!

8. Work out together

When I think of workout dates, I liken it to the adult version of the playground dates I’d have in elementary school where we’d do monkey bars together. Working out together does not mean running 10 miles or squatting side by side- unless that’s what you’re into! Most of the time, I’m not even working out with Jeff, we are just there doing our own workouts at the same time. Being someone that actually likes to go to the gym with my significant other; it’s nice to have that extra social facilitation since I will always try to impress my man as long as I live and his presence makes me run a solid 2 mph faster. I enjoy the time together between sets, the sly knucks exchange in passing, or trying out new machines/showing each other tricks we can do (like I used to do on the playground). If working out still isn’t your thing- try a class together! Try a yoga class, HIIT class, or Zumba- and if they don’t know what Zumba is, don’t tell them until you get there and watch the look on their face when they realize what their hips will be doing. On the flip side, if one of you is into lifting, learn/teach how to do the basics. Creating or maintaining healthy habits together as a couple is so important and makes it a lot more fun when you have someone there to do it with you! Workouts are one of those “everyday” things, and being able to do those everyday things together shows just how compatible you are or how you work as a team. But my favorite part? Being perched on the stair stepper while watching Jeff doing bench presses followed by a wink from across the gym all while other girls are checking out his biceps- he’s mine, ladies.

9. Be seasonally cliche

As the seasons change, so do the cliche date ideas. I’m talking about your Pinterest -looking apple orchard, pumpkin patch, hot cocoa drinking, christmas cookie making, beach day, 4th of July fireworks watching, picture taking kind of dates. I find it funny how everyone thinks they’re never going to do those types of dates but ultimately want to…me included. In my opinion, they’re like sitting ducks; dates basically already planned for you, you just have to go do them! For the very few cliche dates I have done, I have enjoyed them a lot! There is nothing wrong with hopping on the bandwagon of all the things we see on Instagram. There’s a reason we see so many cliche dates…it’s because people enjoy doing them! Take advantage of the path paved before you and go wear your flannels together by an apple tree, drive through the Christmas lights, visit the seasonal ice maze, eat your corn at the State Fair, sit on the beach with your drinks, and soak in all the unoriginality.

10. Coffee walk

Just like we all share the commonality of food; walking is another commonality most have, as well as the love or withdrawal symptoms sans coffee. Taking two everyday things, and putting them together, makes for an easy and casual date. I think sometimes when trying to think of date ideas, we totally overlook the simple things that we can do. I like this idea for first dates because a walk allows for conversation to happen without any pressure to always say something- there’s dogs to look at, lakes to gaze at, or someone tripping over a branch on a run (true story). Being able to just be with someone in silence and enjoy the surroundings and company is important, too. For couples that have been dating a while, this date is still is relevant because it is undivided attention to just catch up and talk about things you probably don’t have the time to talk about. The great thing about walking, is that you can do it anywhere (obvious statement but sometimes I forget that I can drive places just to go for a walk). Pick a location to take a stroll through, pick up some coffee along the way, and enjoy each other’s company…but don’t pick a long route, we all know what coffee does to us.

This definitely was not one of my most insightful posts, but that was kind of the point! My favorite dates to go on are the simple, casual, stress free, everyday things we do in life because that IS life. When you are with the right person, all of those things become so much better and even things like going to the grocery store for bagels become fun (or maybe it’s just me and my little things again). As time in relationships go on and the honeymoon phase supposedly wears off, people forget to date each other as weird as that sounds, and I think it’s because we have this idea that all dates need to be fancy. Once you change your perspective to seeing everyday simple things as dates too, or simplifying stressful processes, then it is impossible to stop dating each other! Happy Valentine’s Day and happy dating!