20 Questions with Jeff and Lauren: 1 year of stories and tips from a Covid Couple

To commemorate 365 days with each other, I’m featuring the one and only Jeff Pfeffer (peff-er)…that’s probably the most sought after question out of this whole thing! These questions stem mainly from struggles I’ve heard from talking with peers. While I fully realize my parents with 30+ years of marriage or couples with more trips around the sun are a bit more qualified to give relationship advice; what they don’t have experience in is meeting someone during a global pandemic and making it work better than the idea that Covid momentarily didn’t touch you once you took your mask off to sip your Starbucks inside (my parents dating 700 miles away from each other gives me a run for my money). Reaching the one year mark in general is no easy task itself! The blockers we face nowadays like feeling the need to work 24/7 (which results in using work terms like “blockers” in everyday vocab), the pressure to go back to school, or adjusting to adult life makes it even harder. This post is meant to convey that dating doesn’t have to be put on pause for Covid or busy times. While our last year might not have been “typical,” it had no negative impact on our relationship. In fact, we have so many “firsts” to still experience together that Covid prevented which makes it that more exciting. With that, let’s dive right in to the good stuff. Disclaimer: These questions were recorded in live time and his short answer to my long answer ratio is quite the norm for us!


1. How did you meet? Do you wish it was in a different way?

Jeff: We met on Bumble, and it doesn’t matter to me anymore.

Lauren: Between his one profile picture not showing his face real well, the fact it was a typical “bro fish pic,” and the lack of info in his bio; it typically wouldn’t have passed my psychoanalysis, but I credit God to taking over my finger to swipe right. I’ll always remember the first week we started talking; he was in North Dakota for work and I was so sure he’d ghost me after being gone for 8 hours every day, but he’d always surface after the work day the whole week and that created an odd form of trust right away.

As far as our medium of meeting…did we make up a “how we met” story at first? Yes. Did we forget the initial story and tell a different version every time? Also yes. At this point, it’s easier and a lot more anticlimactic than I thought it would be to say it was through Bumble. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to say we reached for the same dumbbell at the gym and touched sweaty hands, met through mutual friends (we kind of did since he grew up in Windom with one of my friends at Gustavus), or had an instant connection meeting “organically.” But we aren’t produce…organic, get it?….and he lifts dumbbells heavier than 20 lbs. Now, I’m just grateful we met, and don’t care how it happened, because I can’t think of any other scenario where our lives would’ve crossed. I didn’t go to Mankato bars in college, I’d never come across him at work since underwater bridge inspections and IT consulting probably results in electrocution, restaurants were take out only for a long time, and I had never heard of Windom in my life.


On a side note, I want to touch on the stigma that can surround dating apps because this was a concern I heard from a lot of my peers. I know people feel hesitant to use them for many reasons whether that be faith related, family expectations, or feelings of defeat. I initially felt guilty for using one because it made me feel like I didn’t trust that God would lead me to my person, and because there is no “thou shalt swipe right on a man of good character”- Psalm 12:34 anywhere in the Bible. But now? I view it as God being the one to put Jeff and I in the right place and time in order to show up on each other’s screens. If he didn’t turn down a job offer back home to take the one in St. Paul instead, and if I wasn’t sent home from Gustavus from the pandemic, we wouldn’t have happened! Lastly, dating apps are not a “last resort.” They are no different than how we use other apps to advance other parts of our lives. You could go deposit a check at the bank, fill a prescription at the pharmacy, or order your McNuggets at the restaurant, but it’s so much easier to do all that online. You could go to a bar or singles event in person, but it’s easier to do in an app, especially during a pandemic. See where I’m going with this? Just like these apps are a tool to keep you moving towards God’s plan, dating apps are a way to make the world a bit smaller, and are just another way to navigate you towards His plan for you, not away from it.

2. What did you do on your first date? How did it go?

Jeff: We went for a walk around the park by her place. She was a lot shorter than I thought, and she was quiet. After the walk we sat on her apartment balcony and I had to lead the whole conversation which is why I started talking about concrete.  I didn’t mind that she didn’t talk my ear off, though. I liked that she seemed similar to me and had good qualities, and we shared views about family and God which is why I wanted a second date…plus she was hot.

Lauren: He says I was quiet, but I thought it was the other way around. I spent a solid few minutes pretending to gaze out at the Minneapolis skyline trying to figure out what to say before we sat down and stared at each other some more. When he started talking about the difference between concrete and cement as a conversation topic, I just thought who is this dude. But when we started talking about our values and background, that’s when feelings of doubt and that he was a weird concrete fanatic went away. I am one to look for “signs” and I took the fact that he had been to Kentucky before, and both our moms keep out a candy dish of jelly beans at Easter, as well as the fact we even got to that random point of conversation, as a sign. We had too many little quirks in common for me to pass up. It’s always been the little things that count for me as you all probably know by now!

3. What qualities did you see in each other that made them stand out? 

Jeff: She was genuinely nice and had ambitious plans. We shared a lot of the same interests and she’d drop anything for me. 

Lauren: My initial psychoanalysis was way off; I thought he was going to be a loud and obnoxious jock type; but I like that he proved that wrong. He was sweet and a good listener, and everything just lined up regarding opinions on the most random topics. He was patient, and not stuck in his ways about anything. His ambition with his career and his goals were attractive to me, but one of the most important ones for me was that he didn’t just say he had a faith life, but we talked about it and how it was for us growing up for our families. Lastly… I mean look at the guy, he’s a smoke show!

4. What is your favorite memory with each other? 

Jeff: Either my cousin Carissa’s wedding this past summer, going to Wisconsin Dells with my friends, or going to the lake with my family. Really just being with her and my family and friends at the same time.

Lauren: One of my favorites thus far was his cousin’s wedding in Iowa, like he said. It wasn’t just a wedding for me, it was also being fully immersed in Pfeffers for a whole weekend and genuinely getting to know them. We stayed in a hotel with themed rooms and the one we shared with his brother was a needlepoint theme that had creepy dolls all over the place- the one in the bathroom freaked me out the most when the glass would steam up and that little face would be grinning at me through the fog. At the reception I pulled out my party trick of doing a handstand on the dance floor in a dress with another bridesmaid that was a former gymnast, too…no undergarments were revealed, that’s part of the trick. The Conga Line, dollar dance with the groom who I had never met until that moment, slow dancing with both of his brothers at one point, as well as the three way slow dance with Jeff and his aunt really broke the ice fast. I feel very much comfortable around all family members since then- (highly recommend to those looking to get closer to your partner’s family to do the Electric Slide together).

5. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve argued about?

Jeff: We haven’t had any arguements, but it bugs me that after she is done using the bathroom she leaves the toilet paper roll too long so it is hanging in the trash can. We also spend a lot of time choosing a restaurant because I never care where we go, and then she says she doesn’t care but she actually does. 

Lauren: We poke fun at each other a majority of the time, and for the record, I now roll the TP back up! I can’t say that we’ve ever had a real argument, whatever the definition of that is. Do we disagree on things sometimes? Of course, I think if we didn’t it means one of us is a bit whipped. The only ridiculous thing I can think of is if I feel bad about something FND related or something I said, and he says it’s ok, but I refuse that answer and keep coaxing him to tell me if it’s not ok, when he truly meant it was the first time around. I just hate making him feel bad so I have to check 10 times to cover my bases! It’s healthy to have occasional disagreements because there will be decisions to make in the future, if not now, and it’s good to learn to talk through them. We are good at explaining where our thoughts are coming from and listening to each other, and we’ve been honest and forgiving with each other from the beginning so we will say what is on our minds, or call each other out if the other said something that we didn’t like. I think that’s an important thing to have in a relationship so the other can learn what upsets the other. Being passive and the silent treatment only is effective in elementary school.

6. What are some ways you’ve compromised for each other? 

Jeff: I haven’t had to give up anything which is the great thing about her. She encourages me to still spend time with my friends and family.

Lauren: I’ve compromised in the best way possible. Before him, I was rigid about breaking my routine out of fear my FND would flare up, and turned down a lot of fun things because of this. I’ve compromised being comfortable to let go of old negative habits in order to do “normal” things like weekends at the lake or driving heavy machinery like any average person would do when going home with someone, of course. These are all things that I should have been doing for years (maybe not the Bobcat, I wasn’t too great at that), but I never met someone who made me want to challenge my internal battles I struggled with all through college. Even though I still get nervous about my health in some situations, he meets me at the pace I feel comfortable going, and makes sure I am doing okay, even if that means he has to change his plans (this is where I have seen him make compromises even if he says they aren’t one). Other than that, we are a team and we support each other with whatever is the best decision for us.

7. What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve done in front of each other?

Jeff: The first time I brought her to the lake to meet my parents, extended family, and brothers and his friends; I passed out for a 5 hour nap after fun lake festivities and no one could wake me up from my nap. This led to leaving Lauren alone with all these people she barely knew, and my parents, but she did great and everyone loved her even with me not there! 

Lauren: Now that I’ve gotten past the embarrassment of using the bathroom at his place (ladies, don’t deny this), wiping out on a pool noodle on the dock in front of his whole family, and being horrified from him witnessing my eyes roll back in my head during a Lyme seizure (gotta look cute even when unconscious, right?), nothing is embarrassing to me anymore. But if I had to choose one, the first time he brought me to the lake to meet his family, I was on Doxycycline for the beginning of my Lyme treatment. If you’ve read my past blogs, you know I have a problem of thinking I am immune to scientifically proven phenomenons. In this case, it was the “sun sensitivity” warning on the pill bottle. While his parents thankfully saw what I normally looked like for a few hours the night before, the rest of the weekend I had sun poisoning which turned my face into a swollen and red mess along with swollen hands and feet. The aloe bottle became my new boyfriend by the end of the weekend. There needs to be a point where nothing is embarrassing in front of your partner, because there will be moments where your dignity may be close to stripped and no one else can help you like they can.

8. What is your dream date idea? 

Jeff: Vacation to Mexico and lay on the beach, drink some margaritas, swim in the pool, go zip lining if Lauren is heavy enough, and go parasailing. 

Lauren: I have always dreamt of taking him to Danville, Kentucky, so luckily, we just booked a trip in October. I am so excited to show him around, eat Burke’s Bakery donuts together, go on runs (or walks, let’s be truthful) around Centre College-my top school if it weren’t so far, meet my KY cousins, and show him all the spots that have meant so much to me since I was a kid. But to be more “in the present” I do love me a good coffee date in the morning, followed by a Twin’s game as long as it doesn’t resemble the cold rainy games I got dragged to watching Christopher, and ending the night with Sebastian Joe’s ice cream even though dairy is a no no.

9. What do you think the key to a happy relationship is? 

Jeff: Love.

I paused for further explanation but did not get one until further prompting.

J: You just need to be with someone that makes you a better person. 

Lauren: I’d say accepting each other for who they are, and don’t try to make them something they aren’t as cheesy and obvious as that sounds. A lot of people compare their relationships to others’, and that can end in disappointment if that other person doesn’t do certain things they see, or what you expect. Happiness comes from enjoying each other and what they can teach you.; I know that some of Jeff’s habits have rubbed off on me and have made me a better version of myself. Second, be transparent! Tell and show each other everything without fear, and learn to lean on that person. Be able to show all emotions to each other, even the ugly crying while sitting in a heap on the floor of your closet when you’re stressed out (oh, that’s just me?) I also think that having that constant want/need to be with each other shouldn’t feel like an effort. Even after a year I wish I could spend every single day with Jeff and it feels weird if I don’t because we were with each other so much during lockdown!

10. What’s your favorite physical feature about each other? 

Jeff: Her smile or her eyes.

Lauren: Definitely the little grin he has on his face when I’m doing something weird….those biceps are nice to look at too, though!

11. What’s a tip you’d give to someone trying to find a relationship or start one? 

Jeff: Be honest right away. One of the first things we asked each other about when we started talking on Bumble was what we were looking for in a relationship and where we were at in life. 

Lauren: I think what helped me the most was noticing how I changed (or lack of) when I was with him. I was able to act the same around Jeff as I do my family, and was able to be myself every time I was with him (after the first date). Having different personalities in different situations shows you feel the need to hide something from others and it probably isn’t right. Be honest with yourself, and if it feels like you’re trying too hard to make yourself or your family believe it’s right for you, then it definitely isn’t. I’d also say that expecting awkwardness the first time you meet them isn’t a bad thing, and I did in fact straight up tell Jeff that I’m less awkward on second dates in a joking but not really joking kind of way. I have no issues saying blunt things like that but I feel like addressing the elephants in the room releases some pressure! When in doubt, humor is the way out.

12. How can others approach disclosing information whether it be a health condition or a flaw they’re worried about? 

We found the “Share Chair” on a lake walk….seemed fitting

Jeff: When Lauren told me about her FND, my first thoughts were that it can’t be too bad because I haven’t noticed anything different about her. Even now I still don’t see it as bad, I just feel bad for her and do whatever I can to help.

Lauren: I told him everything the first night we started talking and I sent my blogs about FND to him because some people haven’t been ok with it so might as well not waste any time. I don’t share it with hopes they will be okay with it. I share it confidently with the expectation that they can see past it and it won’t define me. When it comes to dating, I’ve always seen my FND as a weed-whacker instead of a flaw: if they’re not ok with it, then they aren’t for me. It can be helpful in that sense, and it builds a source of trust when disclosing something personal (psychologically proven)! One of my spells happened the second or third time we saw each other and I was glad that I told him right away because in that moment it not only made it easier on him to see, but also me because I didn’t have to pull a “oh by the way I forgot to mention, I’ve been having non epileptic seizures for 12 years, but I swear I’m fine” convo as I keel over onto the floor. I think this should go for all things that people are worried about disclosing. It’s better for building a relationship to let them know literally right away, and it’s better to build a first impression of someone knowing the whole picture. It shows you are honest and confident in yourself, and plus, finding someone who accepts all of you after knowing you for a few hours is a good start!

13. Who initiated the first kiss?

Jeff: Me

Lauren: Jeff. It made up for the conversation about concrete.

14. Do you get along with each other’s families?

Jeff: Yes, we are all pretty easy to get along with. Her dad and I talk trash about Maverick hockey vs Gopher hockey. It also felt good that I impressed her step-grandpa, Dan, with my croquet skills at a family birthday party. I met a lot of extended family there and enjoyed playing a pretty competitive croquet game and corn hole with them.

Lauren: Yes! His family is so fun to be around and absorbed me into the bunch right away. I enjoy teaching his younger cousins gymnastics at the lake, joining their family zoom calls, and the late night bonfire chats. It’s hard to imagine what it would be like without knowing them now and I am happy that Jeff has such a close and genuine family that I always look forward to seeing. Both sides of his grandparents share a lot of the same qualities as all my grandparents. His Grandpa Peewee reminds me a lot of my Grandad who is no longer here anymore, and it is a nice feeling to be surrounded by that again. I know that Grandad would’ve loved talking basketball with Jeff and I wish he could meet him when he meets the rest of my family in Kentucky.

15. Do you know some of each other’s “favorites?”

Birthday

Jeff: July 24th? June 23rd? No, July 23rd. 

Lauren: His is September 30th. He thought I was 23 until he got our Christmas card this year and it said I was 22. I will forever hold that against him. 

Color 

Jeff: Pink? Oh no, it’s maroon, duh. 

Lauren: His is blue 

Shoe size

Jeff: I don’t know, 4.5? 

Lauren: Are you serious? That’s not even a women’s size. Yours is 11.5.

Holiday

Jeff: Christmas? Easter? What are other holidays?

Lauren: Nope, 4th of July, what’s yours? Christmas?

Jeff: I like them all

Medications

Lauren: He takes a daily gummy vitamin. He won’t know all mine, good luck to you sir!

Jeff: Lauren takes everything, I just take a gummy vitamin because they taste good.

Animal

Jeff: A llama. Intense stares as there are alpacas all over my apartment. Alpaca!

Lauren: A dog?

Jeff: I don’t know.

Day of the week

Jeff: Thursday

Lauren: Saturday?

Jeff: It depends on the week.

Lauren: Wow, that’s real helpful.

Biggest fear

Jeff: Picking where to eat?

Lauren: No, this should be easy!

Jeff: Me breaking up with you?

Lauren: No!…I say it all the time!

Jeff: Fish

Lauren: Yes, and I don’t even know if I know yours, it’s not heights or small places…something deep like disappointing others or something.

Jeff: Bees and wasps

Lauren: Oh I was way off, whoops.

16. Do you have any inside jokes or nicknames? 

  1. I started calling Jeff “Bridge Boy” the week we started talking because of what Jeff does for work. He is a civil engineer and does bridge inspections. It has stuck ever since.
  2. Jeff’s terrible memory and the fact that I am his calendar/ tells me things to remind him to do or remember.
  3. Counting the number of pregnant ladies walking around the lake since there seem to be a lot whenever we are there. We have no clue how or why this started.
  4. Whenever we are driving together it always rains.
  5. Our teddy bears are BFFs. Jeff’s was a halloween prop for him when he was Mark Wahlberg from “Ted.”
  6. We have a building that’s “ours.” On our first date we sat and tried to guess what color the lights on a building in uptown would turn next (better than not knowing what to talk about). Since then it’s just become a thing for us.

17. What is your favorite thing that you do for each other?

Jeff: She folds my clothes.

I waited once again for him to say I write him letters, or that I sent him a potato with my face on it in the mail while he was at dive school, but that did not come up.

Lauren: He entered my life during literally one of my weirdest years health-wise, and treats me like a queen (always) but especially on days I’m not so peachy. I probably will start laughing during the “in sickness and in health” part of the vows because at this point that feels like it’s an understatement. On a more lighthearted side; he sends me Tik Toks he knows I’ll like, and has shown me that chivalry is not even close to dead. He still does all the things he did when we first started dating like holding my hand every time we go on a drive, walks me to my car, the goodnight/goodmorning texts, and shares his fries with me when I say I don’t want any but it’s a total lie (fellas, this is your cheat sheet). You know, all the Nicholas Sparks type things. Lastly, growing up in church, I’d always look at the couples sitting together in the pew and I hoped I would someday have a guy with his arm around me/holding my hand listening to the sermon together and I can finally say it has come full circle!

18. What are some everyday things you enjoy doing together? 

Jeff: Napping, lake walks, and going out to eat. What more could a guy want?

Lauren: This is kind of an interesting question because with Covid, the everyday things like going to the grocery together were our dates and how we spent all our time together. For some odd reason, one of the “dates” I remember most vividly was when I went to Target with him for the first time to get strawberry cream cheese and bagels. Just Covid things am I right? But I enjoy going to the gym- I always make a point to go over and stand by him or give him knucks so I can let all the other girls staring at him doing his muscle ups know that he’s mine! But I also enjoy trying new places to eat once we actually decide on a place, going to church together, lake walks, watching a show together or hanging out after work together.

19. Do you consider each other to be your best friend? 

Lauren: Definitely. I don’t wear matching outfits with just anyone!

Jeff: Yes.

L: Even more than the boys?

J: Best friend but different.

20. When did you know that you loved each other?

Jeff: When she met and got along with my family and they liked her.

Lauren: When he took me to the lake to meet his family. Seeing him in his element and that he was just as funny and genuine, or even more so, with his family is when I knew. Sitting there with him at the bonfire and seeing how loved and respected he was by his family made me realize that I felt that, too and was a part of the Jeffrey fan club. My mom always told me growing up that “you’ll know” when you find that person and I thought that was ridiculous and I was immune to that (along with sun sensitivity, caffeine withdrawal, and calorie surpluses)… but it actually is real unlike the “sugar bugs” that would eat away my teeth if I didn’t brush everyday that she told me were real, too.


I hope you all enjoyed this different kind of post, it was fun answering these questions together because it isn’t something we typically talk about on the daily. I am so thankful for the last year together during the weirdest year for me, but also in general. While this post does not do him justice and I could write a whole other post on how great Jeff is, I hope this allows you to see a glimpse into why I keep writing sappy paragraphs about him in my other posts 🙂 For those who are hoping to find a relationship this year, keep an open mind, but also know what you’re looking for! Those may seem like opposites, but giving something or someone a chance; whether that be a dating app, speed dating event, blind date, or giving someone another shot may be the key to what you want. It may require going out of your comfort zone and a few awkward moments to find what you’re looking for, and that is nothing to be afraid of. I am so blessed to have spent this last year with Jeff, and I can’t wait for many more years of memories, lake weekends, and rolling the toilet paper back up! 🙂

~Lauren

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!

~Lauren

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!

~Lauren

Christmas: Then and Now

Let me set the tone right off the bat here: this post has absolutely nothing to do with Covid because I would like to keep Christmas untouched by it on this blog even though in reality, Covid has invaded Christmas’ personal space entirely. Instead, this post has everything to do with holiday norms and traditions when we were youngins versus the adult versions now because I have come to learn over the years that it slowly drifts away from what it used to be without even realizing it. This isn’t to say it is totally a bad thing…it’s just different. Most of you can probably relate to some of these things I’m about to share, but if not, think about your then versus now. I hope this brings you some laughter and a solid five minutes without thinking about the disease that shall not be named.


Making Christmas Cookies

Then:

Back in the good old days of Barbies and cartwheels; my mom, Christopher, and I dedicated one night to turn the kitchen into a mess of dough, flour, and sprinkles. My mom would make the dough, while my brother and I suited up in our aprons with our mini rolling pins and cookie cutters at the counter ready to fill the special Christmas cookie jar with cookies from our family’s secret sugar cookie recipe. While Christopher was pretty tidy and good at his job, I on the other hand, got flour everywhere it shouldn’t be, ate probably way too much dough, made blue trees, yellow mistletoes, and angels that were too thin and burned alive in the oven. I loved the quality time with my mom and my brother and was so proud of my ugly looking cookies. I protected them so no one else could eat them but me. The best part about it back then, was that my definition of making cookies was doing nothing except the decorating.

Now:

I wasn’t even sure if I was going to make cookies this year because I realized the ingredients, sprinkles, and cookie cutters still lived at my parent’s house and I would actually have to make the dough myself rather than have it magically appear before me like it used to. I convinced myself to follow through with my mission and made it happen by roping Jeff into helping me, and going grocery shopping at Casa de Casey for the ingredients-where everything is free. While pulling the cookies out of the oven definitely was a lot more anti climactic and less magical than it used to be, it was still a lot of fun sharing one of my favorite childhood experiences with Jeff, and proving to myself that I can make something edible. As much as I hate to say it, the dazzle of this experience has dimmed since I’ve gotten older, and I now make my Christmas trees green rather than blue which is the true indicator that I have reached adulthood.

Christmas Eve

Then:

As a kid I loved Christmas Eve, and honestly, probably more than Christmas. The anticipation of all that was to come was one of the best feelings. I was giddy knowing Santa was coming that night, imagining waking up to all the amazing gifts I would get, seeing half eaten carrots as proof that Rudolph was actually in my house, and knowing we were leaving for Kentucky to see all my family- it made me too excited to sleep. Because of that, I would make myself stay up super late (11 was midnight to me back then), and I would try to catch Santa in the act by sneaking around the house without my parents seeing me, which I never found out if they knew I did that or not. The naivety of it all back then made being a kid so much fun. My biggest concerns were if I would get all the gymnastics equipment or sparkly new leotards that I wanted. Somewhere along the way, the grinch must have bitten me or something because that giddy feeling of anticipation slowly started to fade.

Now:

Now that I am officially an adult, I gotta say, I am a little confused on how everything is supposed to play out. There is no Santa rulebook that declares what age or stage of life you should stop correcting your kids that Santa got it and not the parents when they call it out. It definitely will have a different feel this year since Christmas Break isn’t a thing in the work world, and I won’t be with the Sparrow side of the family because of it. I feel everything from my childhood is starting to become permanently a memory rather than a reality as deep and sad as that sounds. I mean, I definitely could lay out the carrots at my apartment, but I am pretty sure they won’t eat themselves now that I know Rudolph never did make it into my house. I could stay up late trying to watch for Santa out my window, but the only thing I would find is the sunrise the next morning and no Santa. I could lay my shoes out by the front door for Saint Nick to fill up but I’d still have a chocolate-less empty shoe, but rather, a full reminder to work out. You get it, at some point, special days that we had as kids become regular days as an adult, and for that, I whole heartedly wish I could zap myself into Little Lauren again who was excited over half eaten carrots. But hey, at least I still have the Disney Princess tree to blast me to the past.

The Christmas List:

Then

Oh the joy of the Toys R Us , GK, and Target catalogs. I would spend so much time flipping through the pages with a pen and circling everything I wanted as well as putting a bunch of stars around what I REALLY wanted. My list back then was filled with anything and everything from American Girl, gadgets I’d see in commercials between my episodes of “Spongebob,” or crafts which ended up on the shelf (and still are there). It later turned into gymnastics equipment to fulfill my dream of a home gym, and ITunes gift cards for the days I used to spend hours downloading songs to my brand new Ipod nano. Clothes were no where to be found on my list unless they had “gymnast” on it. I hated getting clothes back then, specifically “church clothes” that I had to pose with every time I opened them, or anything fancy that was farthest away from a leotard. I didn’t care how expensive or ridiculous my asks were, even the 9 ft tall uneven bar set that I figured we’d just put it in the basement with an 8 ft tall ceiling and call it good.

Now:

Now that I am paying for my rent, groceries, car, gas, and all the other things I wish I didn’t have to pay for; my list has changed. If it was socially acceptable to put my grocery list, a few months of car payments, or a month of rent on my Christmas List, I would, and I am not kidding. I’d be overjoyed if I unwrapped a brand new bottle of laundry detergent and toilet paper, or pulled out of my stocking a giant roll of trash bags or shampoo, because that stuff is expensive! I’ve reached the age where clothes are the most exciting thing on my list, followed by kitchen cookware, bed sheets, replacements for things that broke, and car mats. Since starting my job and living on my own, I have learned that every dollar truly counts, and I now see holidays as chances to get what I want rather than need because my salary goes to all the things I need rather than want…except at Target. I miss the days where I was too embarrassed to unwrap a bra, fancy underwear, or pull razors out of my stocking in front of my family and they’d all go “ohhhhh Lauren what’s that for?” as my face turned the color of Rudolph’s nose.

Christmas Dinner

Then:

One of my favorite things about Christmas was all the good food I got to scoop onto my plate that my Gram made and ultimately did not eat because my eyes were bigger than my stomach. Back then; I didn’t know what food allergies were or that I had them, calories were not in my vocabulary, and Instagram was not a thing which meant diet culture was not all up in my face 24/7. Christmas dinner at Gram’s is quite a sight to see for all those who aren’t accustomed to it – it is like Thanksgiving on steroids. This was the one time a year I got to eat all my favorite southern dishes such as broccoli casserole, Gram’s homemade mac and cheese, sweet potato casserole, banana croquettes, “cranberry fluff”, pineapple pretzel salad, her fluffy mashed potatoes with a pool of butter, cornbread dressing, and of course there was turkey and country ham but I didn’t like those because they weren’t carbs. If you thought that was a lot, dessert was so overwhelming and I never knew where to start! Rum cake, chess pie, Japanese fruit pie, carrot cake, peanut butter fudge, Gram’s christmas cookies, chocolate cherries, white chocolate pretzels, five versions of cookies and donuts from the famous Burkes Bakery, and boiled custard all made an appearance. I miss the days where I ate everything I wanted, and as much as I wanted, with no worries at all about how I’d feel, both physically and emotionally the next day. I also miss the days of getting my own gingerbread man to bite the head off of.

Now:

Everything I have listed above has not changed. The Christmas dinner table still is full from edge to edge with all my favorites, but now, my body has decided to reject dairy which eliminates all my favorites except the country ham and turkey which I never touched back then. That right there is karma. On top of that, it’s hard to ignore all the social media posts about new years resolution weight loss, calories in your Christmas dinner meal, making healthier versions of everything, and all the other hooey that Instagram and Facebook nail into our minds. It causes us to look at things subjectively rather than objectively- one meal will not make you gain 10 lbs like we all think, people! Yeah, it’s important to watch how much you eat in a meal, but more for the reason of not upchucking while opening gifts after dinner, not because calories are the devil. It’s been a battle the past couple years learning to enjoy the moment and not stress over food due to calorie counting and my dairy dilemma, but I have gotten used to my new “now” and have found other ways to enjoy myself like wearing questionable sweaters. I definitely will miss even the sight of the Christmas table spread this year since I will be stuck in MN, but I know my mom will snapchat me some broccoli casserole- same thing, right?…

Christopher and Lauren’s Button Factory

Then:

For those of you who have not seen or received buttons over the years, they are a grid pretzel with a melted Hershey Hug topped with a holiday M&M. They really should come with a warning label because they are highly addictive. Back in the day, my parents would take one night a year to get Christopher and I all set up to make buttons so they could escape and go on a Christmas shopping sprint since we kept them too busy on weekends with all day gymnastics meets, basketball tournaments, and math help for those dang word problems about marbles or oranges that made me cry. Christopher and I would make these for hours on hours straight, and never got tired of it. He was head chef, aka, was in charge of handling all things in the oven, and I was his sidekick. We cranked up the Christmas tunes and the hours flew by as I unwrapped hundreds of hershey hugs while standing on my step stool so I could reach the counter. I have always looked up to my brother, and I loved this time with him because I thought he was so cool for knowing how to use the oven. We would give our finished products to all our extended family, friends, and of course, fill our Christmas treat bowl with them so I could eat them before dinner when my mom wasn’t looking.

Now:

The button factory unfortunately lost a partner once we got to the age where we were old enough to be without a babysitter or needed to stay entertained while there was no parental supervision. Instead, I have kept the tradition running all by myself and still have loyal consumers. I gave them to all my friends, and sorority sisters in college, as well as professors and staff at Gustavus because the way to a person’s heart is always chocolate. This year, I made them in my apartment for my family, friends, and Jeff to get him addicted, too. It was nice to have a sliver of normalcy even though everything around me is different, including the fact that this was the first year I made them anywhere other than my childhood home, and burned myself on a different oven than the one I’m used to burning myself on once I got to the age where I could reach it without a step stool. While I still enjoy making them every year, and still probably will for as long as my fingers are able to unwrap that finicky foil, I miss the days where my brother was right there beside me yelling at me to not go near the oven.

Gift Giving

Then:

I think it is pretty obvious that as an elementary school kid, I did not have an income except for the cash I’d get in my holiday cards or the penny I’d find in the Target parking lot. With that, my definition of gift giving was picking out something my mom bought to put my name on and say I got it for them. Half the time, I didn’t even know what I was giving people and was just as surprised as they were when they opened it. Christmas was about receiving and not giving….the closest I ever got to giving a gift was wrapping (badly) to help out. As much as I don’t like admitting it, I bypassed the true meaning of Christmas, and as they say on “The Bachelor”: I was in it for all the wrong reasons- being getting as many presents as possible.

Now:

There’s this thing in psychology called buyers remorse: buying something and once the act is done, instantly regretting it. I experience this every time I get anything for myself, but never when I get something for others. This is not a good thing for my bank account, and I have realized that this year more than ever now that I pay for my own things to help me survive. Even knowing that I was on a budget and didn’t have to go all out for my family, I still chose to buy the perfect gifts rather than make sure I had enough money for groceries this month (whoops). It’s hard to refrain from buying more or nicer things for the people in my life who have already given me so much. I’m now at the point where I would rather give than receive anything at all (unless it’s my groceries, you can buy me toothpaste any time you’d like) because watching the look on my friend’s and family’s face as they receive the gift they didn’t know they needed or wanted is enough satisfaction for me, such as, much needed fashion upgrades, or pjs with my face all over them. Eventually, the goal is that my whole family and friends will be hit with Lauren face socks.

MinneSNOWta

Then:

This isn’t exactly Christmas related, but society has seemed to pair Christmas with snowmen and snowflakes. When I was little, I was a snow bunny. I was out there for hours sledding and launching myself off homemade sketchy and totally unsafe ramps with the neighborhood crew, making elaborate connecting igloo forts, and fancy snow KY wildcats and MN gophers. I’d bring my snowpants to school everyday because our elementary school had a giant hill that we could sled down at recess or body slide down the one part of pure ice. I didn’t care how frostbitten I got (except for the one time my mom found a scream crying Lauren at the back door in the dark because I could’t get my glove back on and my hand was traumatized). As nerdy as it may be, shoveling snow was one of my favorite things to do, and after I got done with our driveway with my mini shovel, I would go do the neighbors’ just for the heck of it. Maybe the key to getting kids to do chores is to make all things miniature, because it would not have been as fun for me if I had to use something other than a “Lauren sized” shovel. By the end of 4+ hours outside; my hair would have icicles on it, my snowpants would be soaked, and every part of my body would be frozen, but it was all worth the hot chocolate with mini marshmallows (See? Mini is better!).

Now:

I now have turned into one of those people that takes in the first snowfall from the comfort of the great indoors; warm cup of coffee in hand, the fireplace going (I don’t have one so I pretend my candle makes up for it), and all the other cozy vibe things that millennials do. I can safely say I have outgrown my purple overall snowpants, and my answer to Frozen’s “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” is a big no. It makes no sense as to why I love Minnesota and don’t want to move anywhere else because I hate being cold. The last time I went sledding was at Gustavus my freshman year on a cafeteria tray down the hill of Old Main. I must admit, I liked the rush I got from trying to dodge the concrete benches on the way down, and it was the same rush I got when I was trying to dodge trees when I was little. While I can definitely live without skiing, tubing and sledding- the one thing that I will sacrifice my warmth for is ice skating, and hopefully Lake Harriet and Centennial freeze over soon!

The Drive

 Then:

This one has always been a love hate relationship. Every year we have made the 13-15 hour (the hours got shorter because we got better at getting our bladders on the same schedule as we got older) trek down south, which is always an adventure in itself. Over the years, we have gotten stuck overnight on the interstate, found out what “homeless week” was for colleges leading to all hotels being booked all the way to MN, I got into the wrong van at the rest stop, have gotten stuck in Chicago traffic, caught stomach flu mid trip, and put Gracie in a beach bag with a bunch of other stuffed animals to sneak her into hotels. The part I enjoyed about the drive years ago was getting to do all the things I never got to do which was text my friends and current crush all day long on my new flip phone, watch movies on my portable DVD player, and pick out my favorite snacks at our favorite gas stations (Yes, we did have our staple gas stations. No, they were not Casey’s). What I disliked about it back then was being stuck with my family for a day – sorry, guys, your talk radio and adult conversations annoyed me – and the fact that I couldn’t do cartwheels whenever I wanted because I was strapped to a seat for longer than my legs wanted to be.

Now:

Everything has seemed to flip. I now love being stuck with my family for a day because that rarely ever happens anymore, and it’s like one giant catch up session that usually leads to a vent sesh, love life gossip, life advice, or reminiscing on the good old days. I love getting to sit there with my butt glued to the seat and do absolutely nothing until my legs go numb rather than feel the need to go do something because nowadays, my body and brain never get to rest as I am on the go all the time. It’s the perfect excuse to have 0 responsibilities (especially since I have never been asked to drive since I got my license 6 years ago…should I be offended?) It actually makes me sad that I won’t be able to go with the rest of my family this year because I like the quality time with them and the FOMO (fear of missing out) is real. On the bright side: Gracie will finally get a seat to put her doggie car seat in this year rather than putting her dog bed in the middle of the seats on a cardboard box!

Christmas with the Caseys

Then:

With half my family in the north, and half in the south, we alternate years for where we will be on Christmas Eve. But before we head on down to Kentucky, we always have a Casey get together. Being the youngest cousin, it always took me a solid hour to “warm up” and get the nerve to go interact with the older cousins, or honestly anyone, without my brother or mom being there to hide behind them. Once I finally did come out of my shell, I’d show them all my new gymnastics tricks (in full Christmas attire, not sure how I made that work). Casey celebrations were my favorite to go to because they never failed to make me laugh, especially during the Yankee Swap. For those who don’t know what a Yankee Swap is; there is a gift bank and each person takes turns trying to roll dice to get doubles. Once you get doubles, you can either pick a gift from the bank, or steal someone else’s. One of the perks from being the youngest, was that no one wanted to steal from me since there seemed to be an unwritten rule that it was illegal to steal from “cute little Lauren.” During this madness, you best believe there was full on family roasting going on, bartering, sarcastic comments, and weird gifts that began to appear in Yankee Swaps years to follow such as the magic head scratcher. While I did not say much during the entire night, I did occasionally like to drop my one liners that made the whole room burst out laughing.

Now:

Thankfully I’ve gotten past the stage of being too shy to say hi to anyone without my mom’s help. Since the days of tumbling in my Christmas dress; more Caseys have been added to the family, all cousins are out of college, and significant others have joined the madness making for an even more eventful Yankee Swap that still lives on. I now get my own stupidly practical gifts to contribute to the pile instead of piggy backing off my parents and ending up with our gift because I liked it for myself. Other than that, things haven’t really changed and when it comes to Caseys, and I’m not sure if it ever will which is comforting in a weird way. Dylan and Sam still sarcastically show their appreciation for the hand soaps they got but don’t want, Uncle Chip still tries to persuade everyone to take the fuzzy socks, and the unwritten rule of “don’t steal from little Lauren” is still alive. I’m excited to bring Jeff to his first Casey yankee swap because the 80th birthday party that included unnecessarily competitive croquet was just a warm up.

Christmas in the South

Then:

As long as I can remember, I have always had a green Christmas. Being in Danville, Kentucky for Christmas was always a non-negotiable no matter what was going on during the year, how much homework I had, if I was sick (one year the stomach flu led to upchucking on the curb at a McDonalds in the rain), or if I had a gymnastics meet coming up and missed a chunk of practices. This was the one time a year where schedules always lined up for everyone since the kiddos of the family were all on break. It was one of my favorite times of the year because I got to see all my family that I rarely see, sit on Grandad’s lap in his favorite chair while he read the paper, scooter or run around the Centre College campus, help Gram make “Big Breakfast” (by help I mean supervise), eat the best donuts in the world from Burke’s Bakery, play home run derby in the yard with my dad an brother only to lose the ball over the fence because the neighbors had a scary dog, wear my new matching “something” with my cousin Fielden, and drive the electric red toy jeep around the cul de sac with a cousin riding shot gun. This is how it went every single year until the whole getting older thing happened.

Now:

I told myself back then that I probably wouldn’t have to worry about things changing until I was “old and 20 something.” Well, that time that I never thought would come, has came, and my seven year old self would now consider me an old lady. This year, I won’t be going to Kentucky because I have this new addition to my life called a job, and unfortunately life insurance does not have a Christmas Break. But even then; things have, and are, still changing around me and will continue to as Grandad has been gone for several years now, family has moved, and my “little cousin” as I’d always say is in college which makes me feel like the old lady my seven year old self believes I am. I also now have someone to kiss at New Years instead of Gracie! This adds to the mix having more than my family to gladly share the holidays with which changes the who, what, and where to celebrate every year. As time goes on, work will probably continue to get even busier, and schedules aligning like they did when we were kids will become even less common. I’ve accepted that it just comes with adulthood as our lives become less intertwined.


Psychology says: we are less stressed, and we succeed, when we anticipate change rather than trying to keep everything the same. This has held true this year more than ever because of you know what, but also the fact that a lot of us are just experiencing normal life changes! As a kid, there was no way I could anticipate the fact I’d start to date some dude from a town I’d never heard of in my life in the middle of a pandemic, or that I would be an IT consultant rather than a sport psychologist and D1 college gymnastics coach like I thought I would be. I find it so weird how things can change right before our eyes and we don’t even realize it until hindsight. My dad told me a few years ago that circumstances would change once jobs and significant others entered the picture, and that it is OK that things will change, and still is OK that not everything works out like it used to. Hearing that has made the transition from childhood to adulthood a lot easier and less stressful with less feelings of guilt. The one thing I am still trying to cope with? The ugly after effects of believing that my dairy issues have magically gone away for a day and fully participating in a dairy loaded Christmas dinner despite the fact that I know that’s probably not the case!

Happy Christmas, y’all, and I sincerely wish everyone in the entire world a happy NEW year! May 2021 bring you more time with friends, family, maskless trips to public places, ample toilet paper supply, less Terrible Tuesdays, fulfilled resolutions, happy hours with coworkers, and whatever the heck normal is supposed to be now!

~Lauren

10 Things to be Thankful for in the Season of Covid

Thanksgiving is a week away all while we are going in reverse with gyms and restaurants closing causing a potential threat to our sanity…what a weird time to try to be thankful, right? Covid makes it feel like Thanksgiving has suddenly disappeared from the calendar, and plans shifting somehow translates to eliminating the historical holiday that has happened since 1621. While plans for some families may not have changed, this is the first time in 22 years that I haven’t celebrated with extended family after coloring the turkey in the paper while watching the Macy’s parade. Even though my traditional family Thanksgiving was canceled (the email chain subject line was titled “Thanksgiving? Not this year.”), that doesn’t mean that all parts have to be demolished; just the part where I get grilled about my love life, job, future plans, avoid the rutabaga, and get stuck at the kids table on the porch. The part that I am keeping and sharing with you all, is probably the most important part, and the part that you probably lose sight of during the year because our brains like to focus on the negatives. With that, here are just 10 of many, perhaps random, things I am thankful for this year: Covid edition.

The official documentation

My job 

I will just go ahead and get the obvious, and least Thanksgiving-ish one, out of the way: I am grateful for making my own money! But, this isn’t the reason why my job is on this list. I am extremely thankful to have been offered a job from Boom Lab in October 2019, because I can’t help but feel the big man above was looking out for me back then, knowing that Covid was going to strike in the prime time of the college grad job search. Because of this, I have been granted the ability to live the life a 20-something should be living; first apartment, first car, working for an innovative company that I love, meeting new people and going to “adulty” happy hours, visiting new places I probably should have seen years ago (I’m not the best Minnesotan), sitting out on my balcony watching the lights of Minneapolis light up the night, date nights, making doctors appointments without my mom doing it for me, getting to enjoy my new sense of freedom, and learning that taxes make me sad.

I feel for those who have been impacted by Covid that may still be searching for a job, and are not at the point in their life they thought they would be at by now. It’s unfair the clock can’t be reversed after all this is done so those who feel they’ve been robbed can go back and experience life how they should be during their early 20s. Everyone deserves to feel, on time, the pride of their first paycheck only to have it replaced by the pain of their first rent payment.

Alpacas

Out of everything I am grateful for this year, this is close to number one. It may seem strange, but this summer, this alpaca changed my life. This is not comparable to when people say their pet has changed their life, I truly mean that a random alpaca in South Dakota actually changed and improved my quality of life till the day I die. It’s a long story, and a bit of a life update, but let me explain (although it would be pretty funny if I just left you hanging here).

If you have been following my blog for a while, you read about my FND story, and the theories and treatments I have tried for 12 years, but everything that worked for others and “should have” worked for me, never did. You also read my “Summer Summary” post and how I had a grand old time with an alpaca at my best friend’s wedding in South Dakota, as well as getting very sick in July but having no clue what it was.

After the wedding, a weird red circle appeared on my arm, but I chalked it up to no big deal along with my mom who received this lovely Snapchat. A few weeks after, I got very sick and was tested for everything you can think of….except Lyme Disease. Once I showed my FND doctor the weird spot on my arm and shared my 2 weeks of symptoms that truly resembled Covid, she proposed a new theory that I have maybe had Lyme for years. The only incident we could think of that could confirm this theory was a rash I got in 2004 with no known cause. Doctors gave me steroids to get rid of the rash back then, but they also got rid of my immune system’s strength to fight the Lyme. She explained the alpaca must have reinfected me which woke up the Lyme that had already been in my body for 16 years and seeped into my nervous system in the mean time. Hint: FND is a problem with the functioning of the nervous system.

For those who have Lyme that is untreated, stage 3 often presents as neurological symptoms that can turn chronic if not treated within a 6 ish month window. I got a very specific tick borne illness test, and found that I did in fact have Lyme since I was 6, which finally explained the rash I had back then that led to this tub toy photoshoot (the rest of the pictures are PG-13, sorry). The body is incredible at fighting off diseases, but when it’s had something for 16 years, it kind of loses motivation to keep trying at full effort once it realizes it’s not improving…kind of like me and golf.

In addition, the immune system and nervous system are terrible at multi-tasking: notice how you can only get one sickness at a time in most cases. My body is like texting and driving- you can’t do both without sending typos and wrong messages, but once you do one thing at a time, things work a lot better, and I’m not accidentally sending to Jeff “I’m almost a tree” instead of “I’m almost there.” This phenomenon is why my FND gets worse whenever I experience sickness or more stress- because my nervous system gets overloaded and sends wrong messages to my brain! Finally, the ultimate puzzle I’ve been trying to put together for 12 years makes a visible, clear, picture. To sum it up: I’m thankful that an alpaca reinfected me so the Lyme I’ve had all these years was finally found, and I may have found the origin to my FND!

All 5 feet of me functions

When paging through my “Gratefulness Journal” that I jot in every morning, this is one of the items that shows up the most because I often stop and remind myself just how much my body does and puts up with. Instead, most focus on trying to change it and what it can’t do anymore. I put my body through 16 years of flinging through the air and smashing into beams, body slamming mats, short landings on ankles, snapped toes, bending in half, holding on for life as I swung 360 degrees around bars 9 feet off the ground, and all this came to a halt once the permanent nerve damage set in…the graceful sport I call gymnastics. I did this all while my body managed to function somewhat normally despite 16 years of undetected Lyme disease and a movement disorder. It’s been hoisted in the air and picked up many times because apparently being small means that’s acceptable to others. Can’t forget the number of weeks I trained on wood floors to be a tumbling Russian Dancer in a professional ballet (long story). Lastly, it put up with years of malnourishment due to dealing with stressors the wrong way, and the unrealistic expectations on social media that humans should be pencils with abs.

This year more than ever, I have appreciated all my body DOES for me, rather than what it looks like, or that it is functionally dysfunctional at times. Now, I remind myself that I am thankful to have two feet that allow me to dance terribly with Jeff (and his aunt). My arms have allowed me to do my handstands all these years to knock every beefy bodybuilder off their high horse at the gym. I have two hands to bake brownies confirmed as “nasty” by my family. I possess a booty that can sit for hours at a time watching mind numbing shows on Netflix. My two legs helped me escape the goose that chased me down the road on a run. I have a stomach that can digest my favorite foods, but, most importantly, my body as a whole keeps me alive!

Coffee mugs

I always say it: it’s the little things, and this is just one of those little things that brings me joy every morning. I started off as a firm believer that I only needed one mug due to being an aspiring minimalist, but once my brother gave me my second one, I started to realize I had an emotional attachment with it because every time I used it or looked at it, I would think of him. This is the case for all the future mugs to follow. Whenever Jeff is gone on a work trip, or it’s a Terrible Tuesday, I use the mug he gave me and it’s like he is there with me, cheering me on (the mug says “Hot Stuff” on it, that may not be accurate in the morning). Choosing a mug for the day brings me a lot more joy than it probably should, but sometimes, being able to use the ugly mug I made in 6th grade art class with an awkward handle is just the kind of energy I need for the day. Not everyone may personify mugs to be like having coffee with the person that gave it to them, but every mug I have comes from someone special both near and far ranging from West Virginia to Colorado to good ol’ St. Peter, MN. Every mug has a story or deeper meaning behind it, but most importantly, they hold my coffee for me.

Frozen dinners

I told myself that once I moved into my apartment that I would become an avid cook. This lasted for about a week before I discovered the frozen “meals for one” aisle at the grocery. There are a lot more brands other than Hot Pockets now, and they offer quick, healthy meals for one. After work, the last thing I want to do is coat slimy raw chicken breasts or squeeze ground turkey chubs out into a skillet and try to forget that image in my mind as I am eating it. Not to mention, these homemade meals last for days, and I don’t know about you, but eating a giant pot of chili for a week straight is not my cup of tea. I have become a gourmet microwaver of meals that probably look and taste better than anything I could ever make, or if I tried to make, something or someone would end up burnt to a crisp. While I say my prayers of thanks before my meals, I pray extra thanks that the most challenging part of making my meal was getting the box open!

My support squad

If you ask people what they are thankful for on Thanksgiving, most of the time “family” is their cliche response. Well, I too, am cliche. I am thankful my family has gotten me through a lot of just downright unnatural and new things this year like having a graduation ceremony with my mailbox, starting my new job yet never have been to my office or have met my coworkers, quarantining alone in my apartment for nothing for 2 weeks because my Lyme disguised itself as Covid, turning 22, moving out, Terrible Tuesdays occurrences, etc…but not only my family gets credit for this. My friends, both old and new, and my little fur ball have been a huge part of making my 2020 manageable.

I already wrote a giant sappy paragraph about my boyfriend Jeff in my Summer Summary, and don’t worry I won’t do anything near that again for your sake, but even since then, I have become so much more thankful for him. He has introduced me to new people; being his amazing family that makes me want to spend more time with them whenever I’m with them, and my new friend, Megan, who is also a blonde psychology major that loves fitness and basically is the same person as me down to the smallest details…honestly creepy how similar we are sometimes. I often forget that college isn’t the only way to make lifelong friends.

Ok, so I said I wouldn’t write a giant paragraph about Jeff…never said anything about two! In all seriousness, I’m so thankful that he continues to blow me away with all he does and his ability to support me. He’s been here for me whether that be watching movies with me on days I haven’t felt too peachy, but also has been there for the celebrations, achievements, and everything in between. He’s seen both the good sides of me, but also the bad like witnessing an actual seizure due to Lyme meds which included going unconscious and my eyes rolling back in my head (definitely “Hot Stuff” like my mug says). I wouldn’t mention all these details if it weren’t for the fact that I’ve never had someone other than my parents be my rock like this during my weird FND quirks, that for some, I myself am experiencing for the first time. He’s my biggest hype man, and my best friend all in one which is the best combo because I know he somehow makes every situation better by a big hug, sending me unexpected stupid snapchats to make me laugh, wearing matching sweatshirts with me, or sarcastically roasting me into a better state of mind.

The nut milk movement

For those of you that have not picked up on it yet, I unfortunately live a dairy free life. This has led to a few sad Thanksgivings of bringing my own green beans because the green bean casserole has that dang can of cream of mushroom, surpassing pie, or having a mashed potato-less plate because they were pre buttered. Now, veganism has started to spread like Covid- even to McDonalds with their new “McPlant”, what a name – and things like almond milk, oat milk, cashew cheese, almond oil butters, and other things that I didn’t know nuts could be made into are actually getting space in grocery stores.

A lot more companies are reducing the discrimination against those whose digestive systems can’t “do the dairy,” and have worked to make non-dairy products actually taste good because they realize just how many people are dairy free, and will buy products that taste like the things we had to give up! So with that, I am thankful that Country Crock made a dairy free butter that doesn’t taste like wax. I am thankful that Nada Moo made an ice cream that doesn’t taste like a mix of chalk and rubber cement. I am thankful that Almond Breeze now has some friends on the shelf and isn’t the lone almond milk. I’m thankful that Sweet Loren’s has a great name and has allowed me to bake cookies again and eat half the dough before it even reaches the oven, instead of buying prepackaged hockey pucks. And lastly, I am thankful for Kraft Mac and Cheese for still continuing to use cheese that isn’t actually cheese.

TV dinner trays 

I never thought I would be so thankful for foldable TV dinner trays, but they have been such a God send this summer since I have had to work from home in my apartment. When living in an apartment, there is not exactly a lot of room for a desk, or a reason to get one for if I ever get to go back to the office. These babies have allowed me to transport my work station to my balcony, to my living room, to my bedroom, heck, I could even set up in the bathroom if I wanted to (already got a “chair” in there). I went about a month without a desk, and put the “lap” in laptop, but that got old real fast. I use these more than any desk I’ve ever owned because after a long day of work, it turns into my kitchen table since that doesn’t fit into my apartment either. Best $3 ever spent at Savers.

Technology

Imagine Covid without technology. There would be no zoom meetings where your coworker forgets to turn on mute and is yelling at their dog but the presenter thinks they’re yelling at them (true story), no virtual school, no Netflix to pass the time, no texting your friends that you can’t see right now, no listening to music while working out, no stalking your crush on Instagram, no talking to your grandma’s nostrils on Facetime because she can’t see you all tiny in the corner, and I wouldn’t typing about your grandmas nostrils on this blog right now. Life would be so much worse without our tech during all of this. Watching paint dry might be the highlight of our day, or we would actually have to read a real, non electronic, book! I am thankful for the little rectangle I carry around more than I ever have been in my life nowadays, even the little flip phone I had in 7th grade that I only wanted because it was pink.

Covid

Dare I say this out loud; I am thankful for Covid. I am not thankful for the terrible disease itself, but more, the indirect effects it has had on me. Covid has opened my eyes to see that there is so much more to life than what I used to think was important, and as we go into lockdown again, this will all become relevant again.

First, I am thankful that Covid literally forced me to heal my several year battle with an unhealthy relationship with food and exercise from college and college gymnastics, by shutting down gyms and taking away my ability to spend hours working out like I used at practice or the gym. It also took away the ability to be super picky about meals since going to restaurants or the grocery wasn’t very convenient during lockdown, and turning my nose up at something seemed ungrateful and silly during a pandemic. I started to be more open to and grateful for the food that I did have, was less concerned about the numbers, and remembered how much I enjoyed things I swore off eating for years like any and all forms of dessert. Any exercise I did during the day such as old piano lesson book bag back squats (say that 5 times fast), or a walk, was enough, and I didn’t have to feel dead at the end of every workout in order to feel like it was successful.

The reason I am so thankful for Covid in this sense, is because it has allowed me to enjoy life and live again! It freed me from the grip of my all or nothing mentality and has allowed me to enjoy going on dates with Jeff, family ice cream outings to Seb Joes, breweries with friends, and give my body what it needs through my Lyme fiasco – all of this would have caused me extreme stress before. I started to enjoy working out again and now do it to stay healthy, bring out the strong gymnast in me again, and relieve stress rather than feel like a slave to it and have it be my source of stress. This pandemic has shown me that there’s a lot more to life than trying to be a certain way or trying to have control over all things and try to do things perfectly all the time… with that being said, live a little and eat the dang cookie!

I am thankful that Covid also forces me to work from home. It has been a blessing in disguise because if my ongoing Lyme fiesta happened any other year, I don’t think I would be able to get to the office much. There were some days this summer, and recently, where I could not get out of bed, and was so sick from the effects of Lyme exiting my body (fun fact, it is called Herxing), but because I had to work from home, that was totally acceptable. I fully believe there is no way I could have worked and recovered like I have been able to while working at home, and for that, I am so thankful. Lastly, the week I had sun poisoning would have been so embarrassing if I had to go into work with a swollen tomato face, eye sockets, and balloon hands making me look unrecognizable. Thank goodness I could turn my camera off!

Finally, it has also made me value time with family and experiences so much more. Before all this I definitely took it for granted, I mean, I could have flown to KY any time I wanted but I didn’t. I could have gone over to my grandmas and breathed on all her belongings for no reason, but I didn’t. I could have done a lot more sorority squats with my sisters, but didn’t. I could have had a giant group hug and sung Kumbaya at the last family Christmas, but we didn’t…new tradition?? And I never would have thought that having to stand across the yard from my Kindergarten teacher on my college graduation day would be such a bummer, but it was. Any time is now quality time with my family, and every experience is valued no matter how old I get or where I’m at, even if that means finally getting to have a college commencement 4 years later to recreate a “peace out Covid” rendition.


If Covid has taught you anything, it is to make the most of all situations, to get creative, and to forget about the petty problems you thought were a huge deal before all this mess. To bring this full circle, I think Covid has forced us to focus on the real meaning of Thanksgiving more than ever before because there is no rushing off to sit in the parking lot of a Walmart for Black Friday this year. It has forced us to focus on what we have, and quality time with loved ones rather than complain how garlicky the mashed taters are. I always like to find blessings in disguise, and maybe this is some twisted way to find those blessings in your life. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone, eat your pie and be happy!

~Lauren

15 Simple Ways to Make Life Easier

Here is a question for you: how many fixable things are you “putting up with” on the daily that could be easily taken away? There are tiny sources of stress everywhere that seem so small and we endure them everyday, but even the tiniest source of stress like that one picture on the wall that never seems to hang straight is valid. A lot of our stressors and anxieties as we get older come from losing sight to how simple some things in life should be. I know personally I increase my stress by going about things all wrong and not believing that some things truly are THAT simple! While all of these tips may not apply to you- think creatively to see how they could, or pick and choose the ones you want to try to make your life less like one big terrible Tuesday.


1. Write your own rules and boundaries

Usually when hearing the importance of creating boundaries, it has nothing to do with creating boundaries with yourself. This is a simple way to make your life a lot easier on your mental and physical health. We are great at setting rules for others, and rules being set for us, but the concept of writing a rule for yourself and actually following it is a foreign concept to most. Additionally, a lot of people forget that rules include what you will do instead of all the things you won’t do. I created a rule for myself that I won’t log onto my work computer after I have shut the lid at 5 that day. Instead, I will use that time for myself to do something I enjoy (not that staring at a computer screen for 8 hours straight isn’t exhilarating enough.) Before this rule I’d find myself scrolling through my work emails while watching a movie before bed, which in turn ramped up my stress all over again when I should have been winding down for the day. Here’s a few more examples:

  • I will not do housework while dinner is in the oven- but instead- give myself that time for self-care.
  • I will watch one episode of a show on Netflix without any distractions- no phone or scrolling through Insta.
  • I will do a workout while the clothes are in the wash and will not waste an hour of my day with my butt glued to the couch more.
  • If it takes less than 2 minutes to do something, I will do it instead of procrastinate (another one I live by).
  • I will pack my gym bag the night before and put it in my car.
  • While my kid is napping I will take that time to relax, too.
  • I will use this one hour before *insert least favorite college class* to take a mental break instead of do more homework.
  • I will invest $100 of the leftover money from my paycheck into a Roth IRA account every month instead of blow it all in the Target dollar isle (it is a black hole in there, folks).

Declaring something to be a rule takes away the indecision from choosing what you should do and what you want to do. Our brains are wired to make it harder for us to follow rules we make for ourselves because evolutionarily, following rules set by others increases our chance of them liking us more and therefore they will not kill us (the brain is still very primal as you can see). So, make the decision once, and practice living by it. Having a hard time thinking of one? Look at how you are spending your time, energy, and money- what boundaries do you want to put in place in order to increase better habits and health? Find areas of your life where you feel those pangs of guilt and indecision, and choose what you could change to rid yourself of that unnecessary stressor. Remember, personal rules aren’t selfish!

2. Simplify Mealtime

Meal time should be enjoyable; a time to rest and digest, but our inability to simplify this process does the exact opposite of that as the innocent “what do you want to eat?” conversation turns into an actual argument for more people than it should. Psychology says that having too many choices can actually lead to a lot of distress, and humans thrive when they are given up to three choices. If mealtime is a source of stress for you or your family, this one is important because it is a waste of brainpower and time (it takes my family 15 minutes before my dad makes the executive decision since my mom and I will say we don’t care yet turn down everything he picks). A few ways to simplify could be looking into one of those meal kit subscriptions, meal plan every Sunday and write it on one of those Pinterest-esque chalkboards, or meal delivery services. Can’t decide what you want? Write meals on popsicle sticks and pull a random one, make meals according to what will go bad first in the fridge (no wasted money either!), or designate a theme for each day of the week. The key here, is to let something else decide for you so you don’t have to put your brain power towards deciding something not important. Who knows, maybe that energy you’ll save from trying to decide pancakes or waffles will be used to find the cure for covid!

3. Practice “Pause”

This is one super easy tip to do…but not so easy tip to remember to do. There are countless times in life where we should take a “pause,” but don’t, because society is so used to instant gratification. Taking these pauses saves potential time, money, and energy. I have learned to “press pause” before I make a purchase, decide what to eat, say yes to an invite, etc. In a world of online shopping, social media, and everything at the reach of our fingers, it is so easy to be impulsive which could lead to instant regret. The few seconds I take before I do something has saved me from wasting my money on something stupid, using too much of my energy and going out with friends when I should’ve stayed home, and living with little pangs of regret that add up to eat at you after a while! These pauses lead to a more intentional lifestyle and creates a habit of making a quick pros and cons list in your head. It teaches you to focus on values and priorities, and if what you are about to do aligns with your goals and intentions.

Another kind of pause is to literally take a break. This may sound weird, but I LOVE to sit in my car after I have parked. I could sit there for hours. It feels like I am in a bubble where the rest of the world can’t touch me for a few moments and the silence is loudest in there. Another great pause place is the bathroom, I mean honestly, it is one of the few places where someone can’t try to hurry you up without making a very awkward situation. There is nothing wrong with sitting there for a few more moments, washing your hands longer (you should be with covid anyways), touching up your makeup, or using it as a safe haven like I did when I was little because it was the only room that had a lock on it when my brother liked to chase after me. A bathroom is the epitome of self care ( I will let your mind take you where it wants with that), why not add a mental/emotional break to the list of all the things a bathroom can accomplish? Taking these short pauses allows you to feel more in control of your life rather than your life controlling you.

4. Go to Bed Early (at least) Once a Week

I don’t know if you know this, but life is better when you aren’t tired. It is amazing what happens when you are well rested: remembering driving to work rather than your zombie auto pilot self somehow making it there, not having eyelids that weigh 100 lbs while sitting at your desk after lunch, being able to have a solid workout, actually enjoying time with your significant other because you are mentally there, and being productive! Not only does sleep help you this way, but it also improves physiological processes in your body. Your hunger hormones level out which lead to not consuming all and any carbs in sight because your brain is looking for an energy source to keep you going (sugar and carbs are the quickest way for your brain to get energy, hence, cravings when you’re tired). Your cortisol levels start to balance because being rested is less of a stress on your brain and body. Your mood heightens because you have the energy to do let it. Not only is an earlier bed time good for you, but also everyone around you that has to put up with you everyday! On whatever day you designate this to be- make it happen and make it a priority. If making dinner or cleaning up prevents you from that early bedtime, allow yourself to leave it until the next day or order takeout. This can be a hard task for those with night shifts, kids, etc…just try your best!

5. Audit Yourself

The key to making your life easier is to see if your financial records conform to the law.

Just kidding, sorry to any accountants out there. This goes along with something we psychology nerds call “pain points.” The first step is being able to pay attention to the parts of your everyday life that cause stress, or friction. These can be pet peeves, things you ruminating on, or irritabilities. Insignificant little nuggets that don’t seem like they should stress you out are just as important as the big things, because eventually if you ignore the little things enough, you will blow your top. Examples of these little things, for me, are my car keys are never in the same spot, always having to find my phone charger, and having to climb on the counters to get a plate everyday. Even ridiculous stressors need to be taken into account, and for me those would be stressing over showing favoritism to certain coffee mugs rather than using them all equally, and paranoia about my greek yogurt going past its expiration date before I can eat it even though it is perfectly fine a week or two after (can you tell I am a bit OCD yet?). Next, think about the easiest possible way to get rid of these problems. For me, I hung a command hook for my keys, have multiple chargers around my apartment, got a step stool, created a weekly rotational mug system, and I buy and eat my yogurts in order of expiration date. It is literally that easy and I feel so relieved not having those naggy stupid things on my brain anymore! What little obstacles bug the heck out of you that you actually could do something about instead of living with it? Audit yourself for that feeling of friction in your mind/body, and physical feelings of stress…after you find all your pain points, remember to regularly audit for more because little things that piss you off never go away.

6. Everything Needs a Home

While sometimes it seems easier to just throw your keys on the counter, hang up your shirt in a random part of your closet, or put all your notes in one giant folder; it will not be easier for you when you have 30 seconds to find that one piece of paper within 100000000 other white papers in your folder. Think about it, what if you were trying to drive to a friend’s house and instead of them giving you their exact address they gave you the general area of their house instead? Sure, you’d probably find them if you knocked on every door along the way, but it would save you so much time and energy not doing that. The same goes for your pile of clothes sitting in the corner of your room or a random chair right now (yeah, I am looking at you). Any energy you spend is energy spent (no duh), but this obvious statement is so true! Ripping your closet apart, thinking real hard about where something was last time you saw it, stressing over losing your phone even though you’re holding it, spending 10 minutes looking for lost nail clippers when in reality you put them in a different spot than usual (me yesterday), and walking in circles looking for an earring is all energy that could have been put towards something a lot more important. So please, for me, go put that nasty cup that has been sitting on your desk for way too long where it belongs.

7. Repeat as Much as Possible

How much variety do we actually need in our lives? For some odd reason, I think we overshoot the need for variety from day to day. Who ever said we had to eat different meals everyday? Who said we can’t wear the same exact thing two days in a row even if we like it? Why do we need to constantly find new recipes, workouts, outfits, products, etc? The feeling of needing to avoid doing the same thing everyday causes more difficulty than needed. Instead of actively looking for ways to make things that already work for you different, spend your time an energy looking for what things in your life you can continue to repeat.

  • Have some staple basics in your wardrobe and find ways to tweak them a bit rather than buy all new things, or, embrace wearing the same things from week to week. It is not a crime!
  • Have the same meal theme on each night week to week (taco Tuesdays, breakfast for dinner Wednesdays, etc..)
  • Use canned responses to reply to FAQs over email at work
  • Find a workout circuit you love and feel free to use it everyday
  • Eat the same breakfast everyday

All in all, look for areas of your life where you are trying to solve problems that don’t need to be solved. This will save you so much time and energy, and will preserve the joy of actually looking for a new recipe, outfit etc. rather than feeling the need to.

8. Declutter

This seems pretty obvious, but when you own less stuff, that means there’s less of it to clean up and care for. And when there’s less stuff to clean and take care for, there’s more time in your day to do things that are more fun than scrubbing sauce off your 15 dinner plates even though you live by yourself. Decluttering is one of my favorite things to do because it often leads to more money! I am a big fan of selling my hardly used clothes and items on Poshmark or Facebook marketplace. Minimalism is all about making your life more simple by making everything around you more simple. As they say, less is more: more time, more energy, more space, more money, and more appreciation for what you already have.

9. “Why am I doing this?”

Get in the habit of asking yourself “why am I doing this?” because it leads to better decision making, and can call you out on your stupidity in a nanosecond. If you have no explanation to why you are doing something, it is a great indicator that you need to reconsider whatever the heck you are doing. In most cases, good ideas have answers: if an accountant asks “why am I interviewing for this auditing job?” – so I can be responsible for earning my own income , and because I like the job and can picture myself sitting at this desk auditing financial reports to conform to the law for the rest of my life while wearing a boring beige suit and eating a boring cheese sandwich everyday. That seems like a pretty well and thought out reason to spend time and energy on it. But if I ask myself “why am I interviewing for this auditing job?” I would reply with “I need money.” This would then be a terrible use of my time, energy, and I’d probably only last an hour with that mindset. I could have used that time to do something with purpose. The reason we need this self check is because habits or goals can start out beneficial, but as time goes on, those habits or everyday things turn into a “I should be doing this” type deal rather than a “get to” mindset. A common example we see is “why am I working out?” To get skinny and then I’ll finally be happy” – terrible reasoning because it is for all the wrong reasons and is not enjoyable! Correct answer: to better my overall health to live the life I want. To sum it up, this wakes up the PURPOSE of actions and decisions. If there is none, just do yourself a favor and stop.

10. Create a Flow in Your Schedule

You probably already do some of this because it is common sense. For example, the gas station is right next to my gym, and while my tank is not quite empty, by the time it will be I will have to go out of my way to fill up, so I go ahead and fill up on my way out. This whole idea is hitting two birds with one stone. Save yourself time by picking up your groceries at the store next door to your kid’s soccer practice while waiting for them to get done. Stop in and see a friend on your way home from your parent’s house. Pick up dinner on the way home from work. This one is pretty self explanatory but it will save you both time, energy, and gas money.

It is also important to align your to do list with your energy levels. There is no use in putting something in your schedule to do if you wake up with only enough energy to walk to the coffee maker. I have a whole to do list on my wall, but I don’t go in order because sometimes it makes no sense to. If I feel more productive, I will choose the items on my list that require more physical or brain power. For me, I am most productive in the morning- it’s not uncommon for me to get back from the gym and clean the entire apartment, change my sheets, do all loads of laundry, do a few handstands, and then write a whole blog post in half an hour. If you checked back in with me around 3 PM, the only thing I could manage on the to do list would be to sort laundry- and I do this while watching TV to ease the pain. No one ever said there was a correct way to get things done, so do them when you’re literally able to.

11. Create Morning and Evening Routines

Life gets so much easier with routine. For all you night owls/early birds out there, mornings/nights can be hard without a routine. I like to think that my morning and nightly routine allows me to be like a Tesla- on autopilot but still going places without crashing and little effort. My morning routine of wake up, coffee, journal, and read allows my brain to wake up a bit before I put it to work for a solid 8 hours. Similarly at night after my brain is fried, my nightly routine of dinner, shower, netflix, fall asleep watching netflix while trying not to fall asleep watching netflix allows my brain to shut off. The best routines are the ones that you look forward to and don’t require a lot from you.

12. Transform Difficult Tasks

This whole post thus far has promoted getting out of hard things that you don’t want to do. Well, I am here to tell you that life doesn’t work like that. You will still be faced with situations where you have to do the dang thing and there is no way around it. While there is no way to change the task, there can be ways to reframe. Example A: traffic. There is no way, even for a Tesla, to hit a button in your car and make you fly over all the cars on 494. But, there is a way to make the time “fly” by. Find a good podcast, create a flow in your schedule to call your grandma since that is on your to do list, or play some good tunes! Example B: work emails will not reply by themselves; so go sit outside if it is nice out, get your favorite snack or drink, or even bribe yourself with something to get the job done. Each of us have a “thing” we hate doing, but think about what can make it more bearable and less terrible. If all else fails, the “fake it till you make it” phrase is an actual thing in psychology so might as well try to trick yourself into thinking scrubbing the toilet is the most fun you’ve had all week.

13. Set daily goals

Every morning, I grab my journal and ask myself “what goals do I want to accomplish today to have a good day?” These goals are not anything huge like “cure the common cold” or “find a million bucks in my parking garage,” but more like “start my new blog post,” “feel good about my workout,” or “eat three meals today. “Yeah, this may seem like some fluffy psychologist type exercise, but psychology does say if you write something down, you are more likely to do it, so I’ll take fluffy psych method over lost productivity any day.

But for real, this question is so important for several reasons. 1. it helps to find the priorities in your day instead of trying to get everything done, not finishing everything, then beating yourself up for not getting through all 127 items on the to do list. This allows you to knock out what will make the biggest difference for you right now.

2. It reminds you to think about your wellbeing. I’ve always been a go go go kind of gal, so setting a goal to take care of myself rather than add another to do list item goal seemed like a waste of my time until I realized I could get a lot more out of my days when I felt like I wasn’t dead! I now make sure to have at least one health related goal for the day because I have not been so great at that realm in the past. It’s hard to believe that writing “don’t forget lunch” on a piece of paper can magically change your habits- but it does, it’s accountability. After all is said and done, it feels great to look back and see all the cumulative goals you have achieved over time, even if they’re just loads of laundry or go to the store.

14. Simplify “Money Stuff”

“Money stuff” is what I say when I am referring to anything related to economics and finance (this is why the accounting job makes no sense for me). It goes in one ear and out the other- my brain can’t hold onto much of what it all means. That being said, dumbing down the process of managing my money has made my life much less stressful and has saved me brain power rather than expending it on comprehending investing in international stocks. Here’s a few ways to refrain from pulling your hair out:

  • Make a budget– I use the app “Mint” since I am no expert in budgeting, but something I am pretty darn good at is making a plan and following it. It’s important to be realistic, this means, admitting to yourself that you have a spend happy problem. Once you have adjusted to your budget and have seen your cash flow, this allows for you to either give yourself some more slack in some areas, or, learn that you need to tone down the shopping on Amazon. Mint makes categories for your spending and recommends a budget for each one depending on your income each month. The visual of a pie chart diagram helps tremendously for seeing where your money goes each month, and bar graphs for how much you have left in each category, and gives you warnings for when you’re spending a bit too much at Target. The truth can hurt sometimes.
  • Automate– A lot of subscriptions and monthly payments allow for an automated monthly transaction- this comes in handy when you have a billion monthly payments, but struggle to remember them all which can lead to late fees! Set that automated payment up and forget about it.
  • Use your money– there’s so much talk about saving every penny and growing your bank all the time, but there is nothing wrong with using your money to make your life easier, and putting an ease on your mental health. Hire a babysitter, hire a cleaner, nanny, therapist, massage session, or whatever else you need!

15. Be at Peace with Pace

My last and overarching point of this post is to be at peace with slow progress. All of this will be pointless if you think you’ll wake up tomorrow stress free because you took one action to sit in your car 10 seconds longer than usual. Wanting and wishing for things to change instantly, and seeing no change, can cause so much distress for some people- but once you expect that the process will take time, it is less daunting. This is a lesson that has been hard for me to learn- I like to see instant results, and my expectations for some things are 100% unrealistic yet are realistic in my mind. They always say to “enjoy the journey” and as cheesy as it sounds it is true. I spent so many years laser focused from getting from point A to B that the years in between seems like a negative hazy blur. It is important to remember that you can only do so much in a given day, and we have limits. Give yourself the gift of going slower to enjoy all that comes with it rather than beating yourself up for the one thing you didn’t do. In my experience, trying to speed a process up only stressed me out more and backfired rather than if I allowed myself to go at a slower pace. It also led to more stress and unhappiness. Fast is not always better, and truly ask yourself what you’re trying to rush for. Allow yourself to let your life be more stress free because every day shouldn’t be a chore.


I get it, sometimes things like these can be so easy that we just forget to even do them or that they are there. That’s why we aren’t all living stress free lives with no worries all the time. It can be so easy to overlook the simple act of getting a hook for your constantly misplaced keys, stop for groceries after the gym, use your money to help you relax, take time to pause after parking, reaching for your journal rather than your phone upon waking up, making easy rules for yourself, going to bed just an hour earlier, giving yourself permission to make the choice without guilt, and asking yourself why the heck you are doing what you are doing. These are all mindful tips to take in a world where there seems to be none. I hope you choose to pick one to practice, I mean, what do you have to lose other than stress, fatigue, and more stress?

Have a great day, keep it simple!

~Lauren