FND FAQ: Commonly asked questions about Functional Neurological Disorder

In honor of Functional Neurological Disorder Awareness Day 2020, I’m sharing the most frequently asked questions I get about FND, as well as the questions I received through a recent Instagram forum. I share my story to raise awareness for a condition that has been studied incorrectly until recently, seen as “not real” for years, and to help find a cure since it is as debilitating as stroke, Epilepsy, and Parkinson’s. Last year I shared what it is like to live with FND, and the year before I shared my story of how it all came to be. You can check out both of those at the bottom of this post!

Can you explain it in a “FND for dummies” kind of way?

It’s like Siri or Alexa: there is nothing wrong with your phone, but Siri never fails to interpret what you say incorrectly and send the wrong message which results in an undesired outcome like when you ask her to call Mom and you end up with facts about Guam. There is nothing structurally wrong with my brain, but the way it sends messages is incorrect. I’ll try not to go all psych nerd on you, but it comes down to my brain waves and basal ganglia (movement part of the brain, not a fancy cooking spice). Over the past 11 years my brain taught itself to fire more high activity brain waves (high-beta), but not enough calming brain waves (alpha). To sum it up: when my body experiences something out of the norm such as sickness or stress, it copes by sending waves that sound more like sororities than medical terms. My brain is all gas, and barely any brakes. Over the years my brain learned to use exercise as a mechanism to balance out my lack of calming waves. Exercise would be like the emergency brake in my all gas no brakes situation; it is a temporary fix but the problem will keep coming back. When I don’t exercise every day or I go to sleep at night, I have no way of compromising the high activity waves because sleeping and doing pushups all night isn’t an option.

When did your symptoms develop?

I’ve always been one to enjoy a good foreshadow. My symptoms didn’t appear until 5th grade…technically. One day I was perfectly fine, but the next day I went to school and FND decided to show up out of no where like a MN blizzard in the middle of April. I said “technically” because I recall having the same sensation in my arm years before that I can sense before I have a spell now. My arm would occasionally fly up on its own while I was watching cartoons in the morning, and we chalked it up to sleeping on it wrong. Even though I was young, I knew deep down that something wasn’t normal about it – and just like I have a hard time explaining what it feels like now, little Lauren didn’t have any better luck at it back then.

What caused it?

Hate to break it to you, but your guess is as good as mine. For 30% of FND patients it stems from emotional or physical trauma, but the rest of us have no clue why it came to be, and usually never find out. Needless to say, it’s hard to cure something when you don’t know what needs to be fixed, or even if you do find out what needs to be fixed, there may not be a way to fix it! Theories over the years include trauma from breaking my arm by being blasted out of a trampoline, which required two pins being put in, having them taken out while I was awake, and one pin getting stuck in my bone in the process (sorry to the queasy folks out there). I don’t know if I’m repressing some dark trauma of some sort; but as far as I’m concerned, my childhood was awesome. It was filled with sports, smiles, dolls, and the neighborhood crew I played with everyday. The only trauma I can think of is being dragged to my brother’s cold baseball tournaments (kidding…kind of). Another theory from my doctor is years of gymnastics trained my brain to become muscle dependent, so when I’m not using my muscles, it releases those pent up high activity waves. I know I always say I like to stay busy, but this is not what I meant!

What does it feel like? Does it hurt?

Explaining what it feels like compares to explaining what sound a dog makes without saying “woof” or making the noise… seriously, try it. No one will understand what I feel unless they have a spell themselves- just like you don’t know what woof sounds like until you say “woof.” It’s hard to fathom what it’s like to tell your body to stop moving but it won’t listen, and I liken it to trying to tell a toddler to stop running, and they do the exact opposite of that. It begins with a sensation in my shoulder that makes my arm feel lightweight and warm, it is my warning sign that tells me it’s about to start. Since I was diagnosed, my left arm permanently feels different from my right, almost like my left arm has a constant current running through it. I have about a minute between the sensation and my spell to get to a place where I can let it happen, or try to prevent it. If I can’t hold it off, it starts by contracting which feels like flexing a straight arm and leg, but with magnified intensity and can’t be bent at all no matter how hard someone tries to. I’m stuck like this for about 10 seconds-similar to the feeling of a charlie horse and not knowing when it will release. It then releases and violently shakes at a steady tempo, and then it will stop. The cycle continues until I try to do something to interrupt the cycle.

Does it hurt? No. But when it causes me to kick things it does! If I am sitting and there is a table right in front of me, I will indeed kick it with full force when my limbs contract. My spells themselves don’t hurt on any “regular” day, but when I am having a flare up due to one of the triggers, my spells become more violent which is a lot harder on my body as it strains my muscles.

What goes through your head when it happens?

What I tell myself during a spell depends on the situation. I was first diagnosed with a movement disorder on the Tourette’s Syndrome spectrum (this would be the incorrect diagnoses for the next 8 years), and I went to therapy for the “kid’s version” of CBT which didn’t last long because I was painfully shy. The one thing that stuck with me all these years, along with the crippling fear of having to share my feelings, was to tell myself: brain, it’s ok. It doesn’t make it stop, but it helps me to grasp onto that one phrase when I have a spell. When they happen at their usual time at night my inner dialogue is usually oh come on just let me sleep! But if I am in public? It’s a natural panic: What if someone sees me? I need to get out of here. I’m humiliated. I need help, but that attracts attention. Why are people staring at me? I’m stuck here. I can’t move. Why me, God? What do people think of me right now? Don’t start crying. I wish I could live like everyone else can. I’m alone, no one understands me. Brain you’re ok, brain you’re ok… Being in public when it happens is one of my greatest fears.

How were you a gymnast with a movement disorder?

I get asked this question a lot, but never really stopped to think about the irony of doing a sport that requires precise and specific movements all while having a disorder that is the exact opposite of that. I grew up doing gymnastics, but I also grew up with a movement disorder. I never saw FND as something that prevented me from doing what I loved, both were reality to me and went hand in hand. The gym was my safe haven; it was the place where I pounded out my stressors on floor, could sprint down the vault runway to release any anger, swing around the bars and feel lighter than the worries that weighed on my brain. I turned negative energy into pure power. Gymnastics was what kept my disorder at bay, and truth be told, I think the reason my disorder worsened when I stopped was because I no longer had my stress outlet that I had for 15 years.

What makes a spell stop?

Over the years it has changed, but the one method that never fails is movement. When I was little, I could just squeeze my left arm and it would stop, so I now have a reflexive habit of grabbing my arm when it happens even though it doesn’t do a thing anymore except prevent it from flailing out in front of me (you can see in the picture, old habits die hard). Simply standing up used to stop it, but now I can’t stand up on my own when it happens. Currently, I have to get up and do push ups, walk, or handstands. The challenge with this is if I try to stand up too quickly, my brain gets startled, and it makes another round of spells instantly start. I have to be careful when I try to move, or have someone help me because I’ll tip over if I don’t time it right. My spells are stronger than I am, and continue to get stronger as I get older. People have told me to try yoga, positive self talk, meditate, and other holistic methods; and while I’m sure those work for some people, all I need to do is drop and give myself 20 and I’m good as new. What can I say, I am a simple gal.

Why do you seem so…normal?

I get asked this more than you’d think. FND is acting normal, but not looking normal, at the same time. Maybe that’s my new party trick. I seem normal, because my brain IS normal. When I tell people I have non epileptic seizures they ask if I start to foam at the mouth, or go unconscious. FND is anticlimactic in the sense that it sounds scary, but in reality, nothing changes except that my left side is now moving on its own. I remain fully conscious, can still make fun of your bad haircut, have a full discussion about The Bachelor, crack stupid jokes, read incredibly dense psych articles, and use my whole right side to do things my left side temporarily can’t do. One time I was asked “how are you able to understand things in your AP and CIS classes with special needs?” My answer to them was “just like you do” and made sure I was out of sight before the waterworks flowed out of frustration that people don’t get it at all. Growing up, I participated in sports, held leadership positions, and did everything a normal teen would do. Most people didn’t know I had FND until I released my story two years ago. I spread awareness so no one else’s abilities get doubted like mine have just because they confuse cognitive disorder with neurological disorder.

What is the most embarrassing moment it has caused?

While there have been several embarrassing moments such as falling into a wall at the movie theater, getting called mentally handicapped by a student in the middle of class in front of everyone, or handstands in the locker bay and getting caught by a teacher who didn’t believe my situation and sent me back to class; my mind goes directly to competing my first gymnastics meet as a new Level 6 in Wisconsin. I had a lot to prove that day since I was new to that team, and of course, my FND decided to start about two minutes before I had to get up on a four inch wide beam and perform flips that required full control of my left side. My teammates had never seen what a FND spell looks like, so when they heard I was moved to the end of the line up and looked over at me needing help to stand up from my coach, they couldn’t take my eyes off me which made it that much harder to stop. Luckily by this age I knew what could get a spell to stop. I started to crank out push ups and handstands like no other, and within seconds, I was perfectly fine, got up on that beam, and stuck my routine like nothing ever happened. No one said anything about that instance ever again.

What is the scariest moment it has caused?

There is no doubt the one time I had a flare up while driving, or the nights I spent in the hospital when it first started were terrifying, but the one that comes to mind is the one I mentioned in my FND story two years ago; the night of the Gustavus vs. Oshkosh gymnastics meet. During a flare up, any slight startle will send me into a spell such as a loud noise, someone touching me, a bump in the car, or something unexpected happening. That day, I was watching bar warm ups and a girl’s foot slipped off, making a spell start. This time, push ups didn’t make it stop. It lasted for hours, and kept getting stronger with every cycle of sensation, contract, shake, rest. The whole ride from Wisconsin to the hospital in Minnesota, my spells were throwing me into the side of the car, and that was also the moment when it spread from just my leg and arm, to my neck. I can sense what a spell’s intensity will be which makes the anticipation the scariest part. While my parents were with me the whole time, there was no way they could make it stop or comfort me, and I felt completely alone and helpless.

Has it limited you in any way?

Yes it has. Over the years, I’ve found random triggers that flare it up. The first is I can’t travel much. It’s not the act of traveling; I’m perfectly fine on a plane, car, boat, horse and carriage, scooter, wagon, *insert any and all forms of transportation here.* It’s rather the fact I am sleeping anywhere but home that flares it up. In 7th grade I was at a sleepover and in the morning a girl approached me saying that I scared her because I wouldn’t stop shaking in the night and I looked like I was in an exorcism. Safe to say that stuck with me and I haven’t had a traditional sleepover since then.

Second, I can’t sit for too long. It’s made me think about my career path differently because if I have a job sitting at a desk all day, it will, and has, flared up. My summer internships were not only a career learning experience, but also a test run to see what my FND can handle. Binge watching Netflix is not an option for me, maybe this is FND telling me to get off my butt and be productive.

Third, it has limited relationships and opportunities. I have lost friends because they were scared of it and saw me as different once they found out, bosses didn’t handle things or treat me as they should have, and I’ve had guys end things because they “wanted someone normal and didn’t want to deal with it.” I’m one to find silver linings in situations, so in this situation, my brain doubles as a weed whacker.

Fourth, I have to exercise everyday. People say “that’s great!” but it sure didn’t feel great when I had no time in my schedule except at 4:30 AM to drag myself to the gym before my internship, was injured, or was sick. FND doesn’t care what state I am in, all it knows is that if it doesn’t get at least 1.5 hours of cardio a day, it freaks out like my dog does seeing the vacuum.

Fifth, eating dairy flares it up. All I have to say is if refraining from dairy were my day job, I would be fired ten times over already. I have to choose my battles when it comes to dairy, and a DQ run will never lose.

What are some of the weirdest theories you have tried to find a cure?

  1. Anti-seizure medication: I was misdiagnosed with focal seizures for a couple months at the beginning, and I respect anyone who has to take this everyday because it sucks all energy and life out of you.
  2. “Seratonin Smoothies”: These did absolutely nothing except burn me out on whey protein smoothies to this day.
  3. 3 AM Snack: Protein does not fix all things contrary to popular opinion. During flare up weeks my mom would come deliver me banana and peanut butter in the middle of the night.
  4. Sleeping with a sponge: For some FND patients, rubbing something scratchy distracts the brain and makes their spell stop. All I’m going to say is that the sponge that hung from my bedpost for years should have just stuck to cleaning the dishes.
  5. Parkinson’s medication: I understand the theory behind this one, but common sense says don’t take a drug unless you have the condition because it probably won’t work and may lead you to hallucinating a little bit 🙂
  6. Anti-anxiety medication: FND has incorrectly thought to be like Conversion Disorder aka psychological, and since I am a perfectionist, the doctor thought it would help. Plot twist: it led to an actual seizure.
  7. Not eating past 8 PM: I decided to be my own experiment participant. This one actually worked, but my p value wasn’t big enough to prove my data to be significant. Ya I’m a psych nerd, and I’m proud.
  8. No gluten, dairy, soy, or egg: This healed my gut problems that caused brain inflammation, but lemme tell ya this was harder than anything I’ve ever done. 110% do not recommend.
  9. Cuddling ice: Ice distracts the brain, so one night I decided to sleep with an ice cup. I don’t know about you but I prefer my teddy bear.
  10. Brain physical therapy: This included having my friends move my limbs for me, performing “BBQ rolls”, staring at dots, and a lot more things that look very weird to do in public.
  11. Supplements galore: At one point, I was taking 32 pills in the morning, 15 at lunch, and 32 at night. These supplements were for brain and gut health, and I bought out all the pill boxes at Walgreens to try to manage this situation. Turns out, the stress of having to literally meal prep pill boxes every week increased my cortisol levels!

What does Neurofeedback Therapy do, and has it helped?

It is basically potty training my brainwaves to send the right waves at the right time and getting positive feedback for doing so. This therapy came out in the past year to help those with ADHD, ADD, and Epilepsy, so might as well be a guinea pig for FND. The headband has sensors and electrodes that directly target the area of the brain that needs help. It then connects to an app called MyndLift which takes me through 20 minute sessions a day that consist of games ex: (correct brain waves=runner speeds up, incorrect brain waves=runner slows down), movies (correct= screen brightens, incorrect= screen dims), and music (correct=music louder, incorrect=music softer). They need to get a better music selection because I am very tired of Bach and Indian flute music.

Has it helped… yes?.. While the app results and my doctor tell me that my stats are improving and my brain is learning to send the correct brain waves, I have yet to feel any improvement. I started out only being able to send correct waves for 5 seconds in a row, and now I am at 194 consecutive seconds. It was explained to me that everything is stirred up for a while and once the dust settles that’s when results are felt. It will be like the great reveal in Fixer Upper, as my brain is getting up and fixed.

What is the best thing about having it?

I am glad someone asked me this because it hasn’t been all bad. It’s been a blessing in disguise that has made me who I am as I share time and time again. First, it’s shown me who I can trust and who my support system is. Second, it has made my faith stronger because- quite literally- God only knows how to help me through this so I gotta trust Him. Third, I can’t complain about having my own room in college and not going through the stress of room draw (especially since my number was terrible every single year). Lastly, it keeps my body and brain healthy in the sense where I do have to exercise everyday, eat right, and since alcohol and a brain that hates any bodily changes probably don’t mix well, I haven’t had a drink unless church wine counts. Has it been hard being the minority in college? Yeah, but it’s also been cool seeing people respect my decision. Not to mention it’s a tad bit entertaining when I tell them alcohol could lead to non epileptic seizures in which their eyes bug out and they say “yeah girl you should just stick with water!” I don’t think my body is missing lukewarm pitcher beer anyways.

Why are you so public about it when you can easily hide it and avoid the stigma?

I kept my FND to myself for eight years. I wish I didn’t because that’s eight more years I could have been helping others find their faith, and strength. Hiding it made me feel like I was supposed to be ashamed of this part of me I couldn’t control, and I finally got to the point where I’d rather be open about it than keep quiet to preserve a reputation. I share my story because it allows me to help others by relating to them in ways they didn’t think I could. I can connect with those who have experienced bullying, discrimination, other illnesses, and adversity. It’s been rewarding opening others’ eyes to believe that yes, life has dragged you through a time that’s as bad as a middle school hallway sprayed with too much Axe body spray, but each step makes you stronger. This year, someone I’ve never met approached me in the cafeteria after I shared my FND story about blessings in disguise on campus, and said it inspired them to find blessings in disguise to give them hope to keep going. FND helps me help others grow a relationship with Christ. Multiple people have asked me how I still believe in a God that has given this disorder to me. I answer that I fully believe God gave me this disorder to be a light so He can work through me to help others start to believe in themselves, and overcome their own battles. They usually don’t have a counterargument to that and later ask me to show them how to see life through my lens. Sharing my story has led to some of the most fulfilling work I have done. 2 Corinthians 1:4 says God gives us challenges and comforts us so we are able to comfort others. This is exactly what I have chosen to do with my challenge, and it makes my life a lot more purposeful than it would be if I kept to myself.

What’s the first thing you would do if you were cured?

I actually never thought about this before! I vaguely recall what pre FND life was like. I think the first thing I would do is go do everything that would flare it up (traveling, sitting too long, going off my sleep schedule, eating dairy, not exercising, sunburn) all at once. This poses me with several hypothetical options:

  • Travel to Italy (post Coronavirus of course) in which I would indulge in all the dairy filled gelato, and the cheesiest Italian pizza that I have ever had.
  • Sit for a very very long time on a plane to Australia and go get a nice sunburn on a beach just because I can.
  • Take a road trip with my friends and stay up late every single night.
  • Have my first ever “rest day” by choice (it’s been YEARS). Learn how to enjoy exercise again and not see it as a chore.
  • Go find someone who has strep throat and catch it from them to truly prove that my FND is gone (strep is the worst thing I can get with this disorder).

While these options all sound so amazing (maybe not the last one), I don’t think I would know what to do with myself – kind of like a too good to be true type of thing -but I would work to knock down the years of barriers it has built and go back to pre FND Lauren. She was fearless, happy all the time, open minded, always moving and full of energy. She was never scared to say yes to anything, loved to travel, and she lived in the moment. That is my ultimate goal, and FND has been my road block all these years even though I’ve tried my hardest to go around it. While I want to be the bright eyed witty character I used to be, and she’s starting to come back more these days, the one thing I can leave in the past about pre FND Lauren is the bangs!

Thank you to those who have supported me these last three years, but also to those who have stuck with me the other eight years! Each year this day comes around, there’s been more research and more findings. That is my light at the end of the tunnel. This day is not only to bring awareness for a disorder, but it’s also an opportunity for me to be grateful for those who have educated themselves in order to support me, celebrate how far I have come, and remind myself why it is so important to stay positive and be thankful for each day. Any lingering questions? Don’t hesitate to send me a message or check out http://fndhope.org ! Below are the links to my last two posts!

https://lifeoflauren.online/2019/04/07/life-with-fnd/ (Life with FND)

https://lcasey47.wixsite.com/lifeoflauren/single-post/2018/03/29/My-FND-Story?fbclid=IwAR31fw8Sdkt-fhdgxynbqAggdyWxYAmCNAcMuYeIu0QcQNrry7sFdsnATJ4 (My FND Story)

Thanks for reading and becoming more #FNDaware,


COVID-19 Realizations

I don’t think I need to inform you that our world’s have been tipped upside down and shaken a couple times like trying get the last bit of ketchup out of the bottle. Target has no TP, stocks are plummeting, social distancing has become a hashtag, the health club is closed, and restaurants that have served us for years have closed their doors. Nothing about this is normal, but as terrible as this all may be, many of you know I like to find blessings in disguise. In this case, being stuck inside has been one. While I am still trying to find the hidden blessing in having to end my senior year of college at home, online, and am missing out on all the big things spring of senior year brings, I know someday I will have my answer. This post is to highlight everything I have realized since I’ve been stuck in the Casey quarters, as well as to voice my thoughts on the matter that I am sure many of my fellow seniors share.

You don’t know what you have until it is gone

As deep as this may sound, that’s not where I am going with this. First, toilet paper. I never would guess this is where peoples’ minds would go in a crisis, and while it seems like there are more important products to focus on, think about the last time you went and reached for TP but it wasn’t there – your stomach dropped and you panicked, don’t deny it. Second, food items. The phrase “where’s the beef?” has turned into an actual question. America also seemed to throw the low carb Keto diet out the window. Bread and cereal are disappearing, and this is the first time my family has gotten white bread in years instead of our fancy flax fiber bread (maybe with less fiber we won’t need as much TP). Whether people believe cereal will keep them alive, or if they’ve just rediscovered their Lucky Charms addiction because they were out of Raisin Bran and had to make up for all the years they missed out on it by buying out the store? I don’t know. Third, the gym. I have found that making my own workouts or the thought of going for a run is so daunting when I’m used to hopping on an elliptical everyday while watching Netflix. Third, independence. While I love my family and can easily go hide in my room all day, there really is no true independence when forced to be in the same place for days at a time, and honestly I feel bad for my parents having to deal with me when I’m in a mood! I love the company and not being alone through this, but I am starting to get flashbacks to my middle school/high school days and slowly am forgetting I am a 21 year old senior in college! Lastly, college. The thought that I can’t go back and do over the events and celebrations I am missing makes my heart break.

I am a homebody…to an extent

This situation is so ironic because I was always one to come home from Gustavus on the weekends because I missed the comfort of my room, and a shower bigger than a MRI machine tube. Now, I can’t wait for the day I can go inside a building other than my house. Heck, even going inside the DMV sounds fun at this point. I am getting tired of the bubblegum pink walls in my room the more I’m encased in them, and it is never something I have felt before! I love my home, but when you are forced to stay in it, everything looks different.

Wants vs. needs

Maslow’s heirarchy of needs has never been so true; because I don’t see getting my hair done, going to yoga class, needing new clothes, buying a certain brand of bread, or going to the movies anywhere on that pyramid. During this time, I have been rocking sweatpants and no makeup every day – because mascara won’t keep me any more alive than I already am (although it makes me look more alive am I right ladies?). I have eaten leftovers multiple times this week (12 lbs of ground turkey for a now canceled sorority event coming in clutch) -because where I eat doesn’t matter as much as what I eat. I have let my roots grow out, revealing that I am not a true bright blonde anymore- because my hair color won’t kill me. My days have become so simple, and I actually enjoy it. Relying on what I truly need vs want has left more time for important things such as family and self growth. At the end of the day, your acrylic fingernail job won’t get you very far if you are feeling alone and need a hug from family to get you through all this.

Take things one day at a time

For someone who likes to be in control of everything in my life, more specifically the future, this has been a test for me. Hearing that I had to finish school online which includes writing my senior capstone research paper, my stress levels hit the roof (they’d go higher but I’m stuck inside). My dad always told me to take things one day at a time, and that’s all I can do right now so I don’t freak myself out thinking about how I’m going to figure out how to present my final research to my class online, how much strength I’m losing without the gym (soup cans can only take you so far), or if I need to keep planning things that were supposed to happen in May. Honestly, I don’t even know what day it is today because everyday is so different that I can’t keep track! It’s amazing how much more calm I feel when I am not trying to figure out answers to questions that only God knows.

True community

I never thought I’d see so many people coming together to help each other, and it is heartwarming and screams Mark 12:31! It’s also been refreshing hearing officials on the news come together to fight this rather than fight each other. All the small businesses offering free delivery, curbside service, and the community rallying to support them has been eye opening. Strangers offering resources and time to those who need it most is incredible. There certainly are no shortage of babysitters, food donations, positive hashtags, and time for one another. It makes me wonder what more we could do if we all had more time in our lives. I have enjoyed seeing more people out walking in my neighborhood, the hanging of Christmas lights to unify neighborhoods and knowing a big snowstorm probably won’t accompany them as usual, and knowing that we all share the same struggle right now. Psychology shows that tough times make humans feel a closer bond, and I can definitely see that happening!

How great technology is

This is not a humble plug due to the fact that I’m going to be an IT consultant soon…or is it. I can’t even imagine what life would be like during this time if technology were not a thing. I wouldn’t finish class, attend a church service, wouldn’t get to Facetime my best friend in quarantine, make and watch Tik Toks to pass time (maybe that’s why it’s called Tik Tok), snapchat ugly pictures to people in order to make them feel better, record my at home work outs to post for my fit fam, write this blog, or call my grandparents to see if they are ok and continue to answer the same questions about my love life. If we had none of this, we would have to do something insane like actually read a book or even worse, have nothing to do for more than five minutes at a time.

I’m extremely grateful

Seeing how everything has unfolded, it has made me so grateful for where I am in life right now. I am grateful to have accepted a job offer last fall, and I can’t even imagine what my peers are going through right now trying to get hired during a hiring freeze. I am grateful for the resources I have. Food on the table, a bubblegum pink room to sleep in, a car to act as a safe haven bubble when I need to get away, and plenty of toilet paper as well as other paper products I could possibly wipe with (I bet those XL dinner napkins work great) are available to me and a for sure thing during this unsure time. Lastly, I am grateful for my health, and that I started my new treatment when I did. It has given me the privilege to feel less anxious than those who may have other conditions, and know that my brain can handle this situation a lot better than it would have a couple months ago. As weird as it sounds, I am grateful to have FND rather than asthma like my brother. This time of trouble has shown me just how many people aren’t sure if their kid will get lunch that day, or even a meal a day. Not everyone can zoom off to the store or get away when they want to. Not everyone has a family they love being around, and not everyone can even be with their family during this time.

Nature is neat

Due to the fact my gym is closed, it means I had to swap out the treadmill with the “outdoor walk” scene, for the actual outdoors. The past weeks I have gone on very long walks and runs through town, and even though I take the same route each time, I still have yet to be bored. Spring is one of my favorite times; it reminds me that all the cold and ugliness of winter is literally melting away as the sun shines longer and brighter each day. I’ve felt closer to God this week out on my walks, because something about being out in nature brings more clarity to me. I can only hope that God will let the cold and ugliness of this pandemic melt away and bring more warmth to the world soon. The one thing that’s not so neat about nature? Getting chased by a goose down the road during a run, 100% would not recommend this experience!

A new level of productivity

Upon arriving back home, I realized I had two weeks of break, and nothing to do. I have never wished away a spring break until now. At first doing nothing sounded great; Netflix, sleeping in, and absolutely no sense of responsibility except to make sure I feed myself. That becomes very boring after about a day, and usually I don’t use the word boring in my vocabulary. This week the most fun parts of my day were researching my senior capstone for three hours, cleaning out and organizing 20 years of stuff in the basement, photoshooting all 40 of my Webkinz to post on Facebook Marketplace, and counting in my head all the change I have accumulated from when I was little consisting in $39 in quarters, $20 in dimes, $16 in nickels, and $14.62 in pennies…yes I did in fact willingly spend my time counting 1,462 pennies. Everyday chores such as laundry, clearing out the dishwasher, and vacuuming are now fun for me. What else are you supposed to do so much time on your hands?

New definition for exercise

When I found out Lifetime closed down, I immediately had two thoughts: 1. The irony of a health club closing to keep people healthy and 2. How am I supposed to get my exercise without the gym? I have a weird belief that exercise doesn’t work as well if it isn’t in the gym, but logically that isn’t true, and this experienced has forced me to challenge that belief and heal my weird relationship with exercise. Muscles don’t know the difference between a dumbbell and a soup can, or running on the treadmill versus running outside! I’ve gotten creative with my workouts including using therapeutic corn bags for weights, using a cardboard box full of textbooks for sled pushes, squatting my portable gymnastics bar with bags full of piano books hanging off the ends, coming up with weird new exercises because squats get boring after a while, dancing for cardio and realizing I go a lot harder while dancing to Shake it Off by T Swift than I do on #SprintSaturdays, and seeing what random items I can deadlift. Lastly, walking is so underrated; try walking at a 4 mph pace for 4 miles straight..not like a walk in the park at all!

Little things mean a lot

This experience has made me appreciate the little things in life a lot more. It is normal for me to go spend my afternoon in Starbucks blogging away with my cold brew, and meeting up with my family later at our favorite restaurant spots. Church and brunch every Sunday is a tradition I never thought would be interrupted, especially since I’ve never seen church “close” for anything. The lack of normalcy led me to sitting in the Starbucks parking lot, cold brew in hand, trying to feel that normalcy again, and it felt so nice! Changing up dinner has also been a little thing that makes a huge difference (can’t have taco meat every night, gross), and having my favorite restaurant in take out form has been a luxury! Being able to stream my church service is a small source of courage even though it’s not the same, and cooking up brunch at home led to my brother joining us at the table which hasn’t been a scene in the Casey house since he moved out- something I forgot I enjoyed so much. I always say it is the little things that count; even if that’s sitting in a parking lot jamming out, watching your pastor make a joke even though no one laughs because no one is there, driving through your favorite place to eat, getting outside for a walk around the block, an outing to Target, or talking to a friend over Facetime; they make a huge difference.

I’m ready to adult

When I was back at school, I was apprehensive about graduating because I wasn’t sure how well I would do on my own. I can’t cook nor did I have a kitchen at school, trying to understand anything finance related is a lost cause, and I wasn’t sure I was ready to break off from my parents quite yet. Being home, I have caught senioritis and have realized that I can do all the things I was nervous about, and I actually want to! Like I mentioned, I love my parents, but it is so weird coming back from school where I am used to being independent, then switching to having my mom do my laundry for me again. It feels like a step backwards, and I am at the point where I am ready to move forward and take matters in my own hands, even if that means making some mistakes at first. Although I must say, I am still scared to cook for myself out of sincere concern for my own health.

Being alone doesn’t have to be a bad thing

With all this time on my hands, I have renewed my love for writing, reading for fun, and psychology. None of it feels like a chore, or forced relaxation anymore. It’s amazing how having time to spend improves mindset and perspective. All my life I have been an introvert, and I feel like this experience has been the ultimate test of that. I enjoy being alone, except for when I am alone with negative feelings in which I am a pro for avoiding by staying busy. This ordeal has taught me to actually feel out my sadness from not seeing my friends, stress from uncertainty, and anger from seeing my senior year gone like the TP supply. I’ve learned so much about myself by having that time to figure myself out and become at peace with the wrong kind of March madness.

I’m actually not okay

I thought I was ready to be done with school, but having it end with no closure or warning isn’t what I meant. As I mentioned, I stuff my feelings like my uncle stuffs himself at Thanksgiving. I avoid letting others know I am feeling anything other than great, but this has felt like trying to hold a beach ball under water, so yeah, I did have a meltdown one night at dinner like I did during my terrible twos. Usually when I say I am fine, I truly am fine, but this time the cliche “when a girl says she’s fine she’s not” applies to me. Saying so long to Gustavus on my own terms, my class that I loved going to each week, being able to say bye to my friends who live across the country, my final Honors Day Ceremony, my last formal for sorority, my last term as Psi Chi honor society co-president and receiving my cords, senior week, spring recruitment, potentially commencement… all vanished in the same second. It feels like accidentally letting go of a balloon and watching it fly away, slowly with each confirmed case of COVID-19, my chance of getting my senior year back is farther out of reach and I’m just sitting here watching it go away. It really hit me as I was peeling the pictures off my wall in my dorm, tears rolling down my face in disbelief, and disassembling the place I called home. Many of you know my last three years of college have not been the most enjoyable due to all the adversity I faced, and I was looking forward to the memorable events and ceremonies that would make every hardship I dragged myself through worth it to say that I finally made it to the other side. To be able to say this semester was adversity free. This spring has always been my light at the end of the tunnel, and it hurts knowing that end of the tunnel closed up as I won’t be ending it the way I envisioned it to be as a freshman. I have no other way to put all of this into words except that this situation absolutely positively sucks and feels like a gaping hole is inside me that hasn’t been patched up.

But it is ok to feel this way

Living in the middle of history, while it will always be memorable, these aren’t the memories I wanted to have. I don’t like to feel like I am complaining, which is why I kept these feelings to myself in the first place. I’ve got great things ahead of me; a job and a new apartment, so why should I stay stuck on the death of a few events and recognitions while people are dying? As my parents helped me realize, I am allowed to be angry and sad, but I didn’t expect to feel grief and extreme loss like this. While I know I need to move on eventually, it is ok for me to be jealous of everyone who had their senior year go as planned. While I know Gustavus will do their best to give the seniors the ceremony they deserve, it feels a lot to me like trying to make a crumpled piece of paper back to its original state-it will never be or feel the same. Some of my worst Terrible Tuesdays happened at Gustavus, those who have been following me for a while have heard about the shower curtain situation many times. I can’t help but feel a weird sense of comfort that all of this news hit me on a Tuesday, confirming that my theory of Terrible Tuesday is real, and I now can dump all the blame on the fact that it was a Tuesday rather than someone or something. I know God has a plan for everything and a silver lining will come out of this such as my senior class coming together like never before, but man, what a twisted way to do that. Years from now I’ll look back on this and see how it strengthened me and taught me so many things that I needed to learn before I started the new chapter in my life. Hopefully someday I will look back and laugh at how upset I am that I won’t get one more caf dinner.

It can be hard to find light and be the light in such a serious time, but once we are on the other side of this, nothing will be the same, and I truly believe we will be better than we were. Sometimes it takes something drastic to have a reality check – I know I’ve personally had one and I feel like a new person despite the confusion I am still feeling. I challenge you to find loopholes or new hobbies this week: Facetime a friend over dinner, have a “quarantini” with your girl gang over Zoom, go have a nice lake walk date 6 feet apart (maybe this is the Lord’s universal way of saying save room for Jesus on dates), have lunch at your favorite spot in the parking lot, start a new book, make up a fun workout with the can of beans you know you’ll never actually eat, journal your experience to you have it years from now, get chased by a goose like I did if you’re up for that challenge, or sit and just feel everything you’ve denied. God knows what he is doing, He knows all the answers that we don’t have, and He will guide us down this unknown path. Philippians 4:13, y’all!

Stay inside, and stay sane!


Networking Works – 10 tips to land an internship or job

Spring usually signifies the start of the search to find an internship for the summer or job upon graduation. It is an extremely stressful process in which most have little control over, and while we can’t control what employers decide, what we can control is how we interact, and making connections to stand out. I was blessed to have been offered a job this November at a company I love simply through networking, and when I was least expecting it. I initially expected to land something in the spring through applying on Indeed or LinkedIn, but I was fortunate to have an internship this fall that tasked me with networking with 15 people at 15 different companies. The value of networking is so high, which is why I want to share the 10 tips I learned through networking this fall to hopefully ease some stress and make the process more enjoyable!

1. Don’t be afraid of it

Talking to strangers or to someone on the phone in this generation may as well be compared to a giant tarantula on your head- terrifying. I can still remember the day my boss sat me down in her office and said she was going to change my internship from the typical office clerical tasks, to networking. At first I was confused, because my definition of networking at that time was connecting on LinkedIn and ending it there. When she slid across the table a sheet with 50+ names I didn’t know, my stomach took a nose dive and I just thought I have to go drive to somewhere I don’t know and talk with someone I don’t know? Sending my first email felt exactly like when I texted my crush in 7th grade that I liked him -fear of rejection. I have noticed in myself and others that we are afraid to reach out to mentors and professionals because we think we are “less than,” and aren’t worth their time. I soon found out that business professionals love to talk to bright eyed college students about what they do because they are passionate about it, or simply because it breaks up their day a little bit. After my third or fourth networking interview, I was actually excited to go to a new company and meet someone to hear about their experiences and advice. If it weren’t for networking, I would not have found out that some companies let you bring your dog to work, have a fully stocked fridge of Bubbly, or a complete bar of every cereal with milk. Overall, networking is nothing to be afraid of, but driving downtown during rush hour? That’s a different story.

2. Use all mediums

Don’t be like the naive Lauren that thought networking was only done on LinkedIn. But don’t also be naive in thinking networking is done only in person. Networking can be done through any medium, heck, even Bumble has a networking feature! Do phone networking interviews, use the internet, creep on people’s bios on Instagram to find out where they work then slide into their DM’s (don’t judge me), talk in person at job fairs, go to a professor’s office who knows people and get their contact information, email someone, text them if it is allowed (I texted the VP of HR at Target, she didn’t reply back), facetime them, snapchat a friend who had an internship at a company you like. You get the idea; there are NO RULES for networking, just keep in mind professionalism and who you are talking to aka don’t use Quick Add on Snapchat and snap a VP at a company if someone gave you their phone number.

3. Use LinkedIn filters

I have been happy to help out a couple friends with their great internship search over the years, and every single time I use the phrase “LinkedIn filters” they look at me like I just told them I’m moving to Guam aka very confused. LinkedIn is meant to make your life easier, and without the filters, trying to find someone that works at Life Time Fitness Corporate, was a psychology major, in the field of HR, and graduated a certain year is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. These filters let you do that exactly, and that is how I found all my connections. I thought I was one of the only people who was a psychology major going into business, specifically HR, but to my surprise I found a Gustavus grad who was a psych major going into HR and also worked as a stylist at Maurice’s during high school just like I did. LinkedIn makes the world pretty small if you want it to be! The alumni network at Gustavus has been crucial to my search, and is actually how I landed my job at Boom Lab. D3 school alumni networks are pretty close knit, and while I don’t know how it is at bigger schools, I’m going to infer that a fellow gopher would be willing to help another gopher because #skiumah – it runs deep.

4. Ask meaningful questions

While this one sounds like a very obvious tip, starting out, I asked questions that were quick and easy so I could get out of there and back to my introvert lifestyle. After a couple interviews, I realized my questions weren’t helping me figure out what I was interested in at all. So with that, take time to sit down and think about what you truly want to know. No question is a bad question which is why I started asking them what the worst part of their job was, what their biggest regret was, and most importantly, advice that they wish they knew when they were in college. These were the questions that helped me the most rather than “what is the mission of your company?” which in reality they didn’t actually know off the top of their heads and I could have looked it up on the Internet. The questions you should be asking are the ones that you can’t look up, the worries you have about the future and the potential field. Once it becomes a conversation rather than an interview, that’s when it becomes valuable.

5. Give them a business card

The day my parents told me I should get business cards freshman year, I thought they were insane. Why would I need a business card if I didn’t work anywhere? Once I began to give them out, I soon realized that a lot of college students must have had that same thought as me because every employer, or professional I gave one to said that I was the only student they’ve received one from and that they were impressed (insert smirk of pride here). Sure, your card may have the same exact information on it as the resume they are currently holding, but it isn’t the information on the card that is valuable to them, it is the fact that you have a card. That shows professionalism, a trait that employers look for in college students. It shows that you are one step ahead and are looking for opportunities to put yourself out there. That business card sitting on their desk while they are paging through all their interview notes may just be the reason you stand out as the best candidate for the position. If all else fails, use the leftover business cards for those contests at restaurants such as Culvers where you can drop in a business card to win free Butterburgers for a month.

6. Go the extra mile

When I say go the extra mile, I mean this literally. When I set up these networking interviews (yes I did meet with my dad and brother – never overlook the value of family members!), I was driving twice a week from Gustavus to the cities just to make it more convenient for who I was meeting with, and because I wanted to see the company. Employers appreciate the gesture that you are willing to come their way, and it shows that you are truly interested. There were a couple meetings I had where they offered to meet me somewhere in the middle at a coffee shop, but I told them I would rather come to their place so I could see what their culture was like. Not only does that give them a good impression that you are willing to put in the work, but it also helps you because you get to see what kind of company culture you like. It was so cool going around to the different cultures and seeing these people in their element. Yeah, I may have had to drive downtown several times and pay $36 for parking all while getting lost in the skyways – but if it weren’t for that, I wouldn’t have learned that I love the culture of Boom Lab the best and can see myself there, and I wouldn’t have gotten the job. Go the extra mile, even if it is all the way in the boonies…and give them a business card at the end 🙂

7. Follow up with them

This is not the kind of follow up where someone hasn’t replied back to you in several days so you “follow up” with them which us more of a polite way to say spam or give them a nudge. Have you ever had someone ask you for help with something and wonder how it all turned out in the end? This goes for networking too, especially if it’s alumni from your college. I have stayed in contact with my mentor at Gustavus and have updated her with where her advice has taken me in my career. I can’t confirm that she enjoys that I do that; but based on the fact that she emails me back with exclamation points, smiley faces, and “thanks for the update” I’m going to assume it was appreciated. After I completed my networking report, I sent it to a few of the people I interviewed because they were truly interested in what I was doing. It isn’t quite common for a college student to spend a semester traveling around the cities meeting with VPs of companies or going to two fortune 500 companies in the same week. In addition, giving the people you met with updates on where you end up just keeps the connection alive, and they may remember you for future opportunities. It’s part of the full life cycle of networking, and acknowledges them for their help in your journey to success.

8. Contact list

Keep a list of everyone you have met with, their contact information, and company they are at. You never know when you may need to contact them, contact someone at a certain company, or ask them for a contact. A lot of people forget that whoever you know, you basically now know who they know (let that sink in). A well known phrase is “it’s not about what you know, but who you know.” A great example of this, is that I knew my boss here on campus, and she seems to know everyone, which is why I now have her list of 100+ contacts that she shared with for these networking interviews. Knowing a guy who knows a guy is your key to finding an “in.” My personal list was not long at all before I started this process, but even if it is one person on your list from a business card you received, your list is a lot longer than you think due to all the people that one person knows. Based off this concept, I know an executive for the MN Twins, Cargill, Health Partners, the VP of HR at the Minneapolis Heart Institute and many more places that could be a huge connection to have down the road. Technically, since you all know me, you know them too 🙂 Favors and references in the business world are everything.

9. Get personal

As creepy as it may sound, it makes the experience so much more comfortable, but it also makes them remember you. I remember the day I was going to meet with the VP of HR at the Minneapolis Heart Institute, I was nervous as heck because I was just an aspiring HR student, whereas she was taking part of her busy day as an executive for me, and I wanted to make it worth her time. This meeting ended up being one of my favorites because we connected over the fact that her daughter was also a gymnast who had to retire from a back injury just like me, and she used to work at the company my dad did. It’s the little things and stories that people remember about you, not your GPA. Being able to talk about things other than work is important because it makes it more of a conversation rather than an interview trying to get some type of benefit out of it. In some of my meetings we talked about their recent wedding, their dogs, what they enjoyed about college, and even their favorite cereal (this was at Post, I’m not that random). Getting personal makes you stand out because I bet you that there are 100 something candidates with the same experiences in college and GPA as you, but what probably isn’t the same, is being able to connect with them through something only you have in common with them.

10. Write a thank you

Writing HANDWRITTEN thank you notes is advised for after internship and job interviews, so it may seem silly to write one just for a networking meeting, but it isn’t. The person you met with didn’t have to agree to take time out of their day, they didn’t have to reply to your email, they didn’t have to buy your coffee, and they didn’t have to answer your questions they probably get asked all the time. Not only is it common courtesy, but it also is just one of those things that people never do which in return will make them remember you. The content of the note is equally as important. Remember one thing from your conversation that you found helpful and tell them that you thought it was helpful, and then mention something personal. For example: one meeting I had, she ordered a pumpkin spice drink for the first time and said she hoped it wasn’t too sweet. At the end of my note I did a little P.S. and wrote that I hoped her drink wasn’t too sweet. Yeah, that may be cheesy, but it shows that you paid attention to the little details and you cared enough to remember something about them. That goes a long way, and so does sending a thank you note in the first place that YOU wrote, not the keys on the keyboard. Even if you have the worst handwriting in the world and they can’t read it at all, they will still appreciate it, because you took your time to acknowledge the time they took.

I never knew the value of networking until I did it, I don’t want to sound like an infomercial here, but networking changed my life. What I was doing before (sitting behind my computer screen applying for so many jobs) would be the black and white part of the infomercial with the big red x over it. Boom Lab didn’t have any applications out, didn’t recruit at my college, and had no advertisements on Indeed; so when I say I would not have gotten this job without networking, that is the total truth. It is a lot more fun getting out there and seeing where you could be instead of sitting behind a screen, and seriously, college students don’t just “go network.” That being said, GO NETWORK.

I’d love to know if any of these worked for you! Inbox is always open 🙂


Unwritten Rules of the Gym

We all know that the beginning of the new year brings the resolution to join a gym or dust off the membership card, and for those who are familiar with a gym setting, it may seem like no big deal. In reality, stepping foot into a gym the first time may as well feel like stepping into a foreign country where no one speaks your language. I’ve had some people tell me they are afraid to go to the gym because they don’t know what to do and what not to do, and that is a valid fear. This post is for those wanting to learn the ropes, but also for regular gym goers because it is all too relatable. While some of these may seem like common sense, and maybe a bit lighthearted, the gym is definitely a different world filled with all ages, and stages!

One space rule

Just like there is an unwritten rule for regarding bathroom stalls and not using the one right next to someone unless it is absolutely necessary, the same goes for cardio machines. One must not go on the treadmill or elliptical right next to someone else if there are other ones open. I can guarantee you that if there are a billion other treadmills open in the gym, and you pick the one next to the guy wearing a Turkey Trot shirt, he will be a little bit upset. Why is this a “thing?” I have no clue, but for me, I know I don’t want the person next to me hearing my rapid breathing that sounds like I have never exercised in my life. I also don’t want them leaning over and watching “Say Yes to the Dress” with me while I walk (true story). All in all, remember the one space rule.

Wipe it down

I gotta say, sometimes people watching is more entertaining than watching my shows because you literally see and hear everything! The stair master is a great perch for this because it sits higher than everything else so you can scan the room quite nicely. It’s amazing what people do during cardio sessions: dancercise, fix their hair, pick their ears and nose, tweeze their eyebrows, eat a jar of peanut butter (not kidding), and do their nails (I found a fingernail on my machine this week). There’s also those that replicate my Elmo sprinkler I had as a kid as a constant stream of sweat flings everywhere. In addition, people will talk about anything and everything; including a detailed description of their batch of stomach flu they had the night before. Think about it, hundreds of people who have been who knows where touching who knows what all come back to that one machine that you use, and they might not wipe it down after they pick their nose, cough all over it, or change a poopy diaper…just let that sink in. If you’re too lazy to wipe down your machine, you better not be too lazy to make a trip to the doctor.

No texting and lifting

I firmly believe that since there is a no texting and driving rule, there should be a no texting and using weight machines rule. But instead it should be a no texting, Instagram scrolling, snapchatting, tweeting, pinning, Tik Tok, shopping, VSCO, or calling Jimmy Johns rule ( I have seen and heard them all). Every time I go to use a machine in my circuit, there has not been one time where the machine is actually in use, but rather, someone sitting on their phone and taking snap stories that they are “getting gains” as the machine doesn’t move at all. Usually this is on the leg extension machine because it is the perfect comfy leaned back chair to sit in and take selfies in front of the mirror. Now, I completely understand using your phone to change the song because doing leg extensions to any country love song just doesn’t do it for me, but in every other case you have two options; go take your Instagram stalking somewhere else, or put that phone away and do the work!

Keep bodily noises and dropping weights to a minimum

If you ever walk into a Planet Fitness, they have something called the “Lunk Alarm” which is specifically for those who grunt, or drop their weights. This would not exist if it weren’t a problem. I have been in the gym when people sound like they are dying, giving birth, just ran a marathon, and even singing along out loud the song on their headphones. While there is nothing wrong with that, sometimes you gotta do whatever you gotta do to make it through a workout, I can’t deny that it makes people around that certain person feel extremely uncomfortable and irritable. I’m guilty for wanting to throw my phone at the person who cleared his throat very loudly every 30 seconds, or ellipticalled like a maniac making it sound like he was going to break off the machine and fly away. Additionally, dropping your ten pound weights after five bicep curls is absolutely uncalled for and scares the daylights out of anyone not expecting it. I can’t help but recall the time a guy dropped a giant barbell which made it feel like there was an earthquake in the gym. Finishing a set does not require a “mic drop” finish at end. Don’t be a lunk!

Get off the squeaky machine

This relates to my previous point about making people irritable. There are many times where I have been on a machine next to someone and it sounds like a dying animal, yet they aren’t phased at all by the high pitch screetch every stride. I understand that the new Air Pods cancel out all outside noise, but if you have the whole cardio section turning around to stare at you, chances are it isn’t because they’re noticing that new workout top you have on or that you have been doing more squats lately because your booty is popping. Please, for everyone’s ears and sanity, go use the identical machine right next to you that doesn’t sound like a seagull.

Don’t mind the mirror selfies

This rule is for both the picture taker, and the observer. Honestly, this “rule” isn’t weird at all. I think mirror pictures are great for those tracking progress over a couple months or feeling really confident in their skin that day, so let those people have their moments without making them feel embarrassed! Yes, I have been caught taking post workout mirror pictures for my fitness Instagram page, and yes, it was very awkward when someone noticed what I was doing, which is why it is best to pretend you saw absolutely nothing just like you would when someone trips in public or accidentally drops their towel while changing in the locker room. I’ve witnessed a guy taking mirror pics for a good five minute (he wasn’t on a weight machine so it’s ok) and everyone just walked on by him like he wasn’t checking out how big his biceps were. It’s also not uncommon to see people filming themselves, me included. As weird as it looks, I always appreciate when people don’t notice that I’m filming some burpee variations because it ultimately benefits others! Don’t knock it now, because I bet you that you will take a gym picture at LEAST once in your future.

Do not correct someone’s form unless they ask

There is a distinct difference between the cardio and weight section. People like to talk to each other while casually ellipticalling, or catch up with friends in the cardio zone. When it comes to weights, everyone is in the zone by watching form, counting reps, trying not to drop a very heavy object on their head, and probably listening to hardcore rap or metal (unless you listen to the occasional Jo Bros and Hannah Montanta like me). The last thing someone wants is to be told they are doing something wrong, especially when they are holding a heavy object in their hand that could take your head off. The gym is a place where people can build muscle, and confidence, and when a stranger comments that your butt isn’t back far enough on your deadlift, that totally contradicts that and makes them feel intimidated. I’ve had people ask me in HIIT classes what they can do to better their form, and of course I tell them, but only if they want me to. When it comes to the weight section, leave it to Personal Trainers to correct form because their clients are truly seeking the advice and don’t want to be corrected about their bicep curls from someone with toothpick arms!

Use a towel

I relate personally to this one because as I have stated in my previous posts, I become a sweaty tomato when I get my heart rate up, and drip like an icecream cone on a hot day. It is so gross getting on a machine where someone’s sweat puddles remain from their literal sweat session. I can’t go a workout without a towel because if I did, I would have streaks of my so called “waterproof” mascara running down my cheeks. There have been a handful of times I have gotten on a stairmaster with someone else’s sweat all over the handles. As much as I tell myself it is probably their water bottle that dripped, I know deep down that just isn’t the case. Just like you would wipe up a spill on your counter, please please please wipe up the spills coming from your forehead and everywhere else.

Keep chatting and PDA away from high traffic areas

One of the things I enjoy most about the gym is the sense of community, and befriending people you probably never would have without it. That being said, it is so easy to find your friends and start venting about life right in front of the squat racks, by the wipe dispenser, or at the entrance of the locker room. This isn’t a huge problem, but there are some people that seem to be on a mission, and losing two seconds in a workout due to having to go an alternate way can really get their muscle tanks in a twist. If anything, this gives you and your friends an excuse to go down to the Life Cafe or out to lunch to catch up without a frustrated sweaty person in sight. PDA may seem like a strange place for the gym, but there are so many couples there working out that it happens more than you think. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is goals when couples spot each other, or hit a new personal record and share a quick smooch, but when you are making out right in front of the water fountain, that’s when PDA becomes a problem. Lastly, I have been stuck behind a couple that held hands walking from machine to machine and it is very hard to get around a literal bond like that!

Sharing is caring

Just like our parents taught us to share our toys and put them back after we were done, weights are the adult version of toys. Imagine this: you have one hour to get a workout in and planned it the night before. When you go to the weight rack, ready to crush this weight session, you only see one 20 pound weight when you need two. You compromise and go for the 22.5 pounders or 17.5 pounders instead, but notice there is only one of each. You then look over at the person on the bench next to you and they have a weight rainbow, one of everything, hoarding all the weights when only using the tiny pink ones. You wait patiently for them to put the 20 pound weight back with its match, but instead, they just get up and walk away, leaving the weights scattered all over the floor like a toddler with Legos. If you pull that move, people will remember you as “that guy” for the rest of your days. Channel your inner child and put your weights back after using the sets you need because tripping over weights is almost as painful as stepping on a Lego.

Keep sips short

Staying hydrated during a workout is super important for muscle repair and keeping energy up, but hydration does not require a leisurely happy hour at the water fountain, or large gulps like you’ve been stuck in the desert for years. A common theme throughout this post is time – people like to get in and out of the gym, and they don’t like to wait for anything. I’ve personally experienced what it feels like when you’re holding up the line. One time I was filling up my water bottle, and a couple of intimidating guys with giant muscles were waiting behind me. This may not seem like a huge deal, but when the water is streaming out at the speed of molasses and my water bottle is only 1/4 full, it gets really uncomfortable as you feel their stares on your back. It’s an equivalent feeling to when you are trying to put your change back in your wallet after checking out and the person behind you is waiting for you to get out of the way- pressure is on! I now make sure my water bottle is full before I go to the gym so I don’t delay anyone’s #gainz.

Respect marked territory

It is crazy how territorial people can get in the gym, and even I am. People know which elliptical is “mine” (under the air vent) and they won’t go on it if I show up. In return I know which one is “theirs.” In group exercise classes, placing a mat on the ground is basically the same thing as making a reservation at a restaurant. The same goes for the weight section. If there is a towel, free weights, or a phone on a bench, it is taken, so don’t move it. There could be no one in the gym but if there is something on that bench, it is taken, no questions asked. Communication in the gym is so different because everyone walks around with their earbuds in – which leaves it all to body language and non verbals. I have been working out before and someone will come up to me and just point at a bench with their eyebrows raised which I’ve learned translates to “is this bench taken?” Learn the language of the gym and your life will become so much easier. If you move someone’s stuff on a bench, they won’t tell you it’s theirs, instead they will most likely stare you down in the mirror while you carry on with your workout as if they have just been evicted. Stay in your lane, stay in your territory, and you will be golden.

You are what you wear

People will remember you based on what you show up in, which is why I will forever be the “matching bun girl” because I wear my gymnast bun and scrunchie that matches my outfit every single day. This is proven by the fact that someone at the gym saw me at a restaurant and approached me saying “you’re the bun girl!” That being said, wear what you want to be remembered as. I have to admit that I can’t help but laugh when I see some questionable choices worn to the gym. I am thoroughly impressed by the people who work out in jeans or khakis, those things have no flex at all, so props to you. Some honorable mentions are the groutfits, cowboy boots, moon bounce shoes, a puffer vest with no shirt on under it, galaxy cat leggings guy, all green guy, wind suit guy, shirtless hairy guy, guy with giant quads but tiny shorts, the Lululemon wearing grandma (you go girl), the short shorts guy, knee high socks lady, and the “Sloth Running Club” shirt guy. When it comes to gym fashion, it’s all over the place.

Know where to look in the locker room

I don’t know if this is the same in the guy’s locker room, but it is very strong in the ladies locker room. There are people that are very confident in their skin and have no problem walking around butt naked (which I still can’t get used to not going to lie), but on the other hand there are some people just starting their fitness journey and may not even feel comfortable changing. Because of this, it is important to be conscious of one another and respect their privacy even though there is none at all. Maybe someone looks fantastic and you are admiring their abs, but they can’t read your mind, so they may think you’re staring at them for a different reason. I still remember my first time walking into the Lifetime locker room as a 12 year old and immediately looking at an older woman who was sporting her birthday suit. As terrible as it sounds, I didn’t know what to do because I had never seen that, or granny panties, before. I was just frozen staring at her until she realized I was either mesmerized or scarred. I can imagine this was very similar to the feeling the custodian had my sophomore year when I flashed him (for those of you that have been loyal readers, you know I had to drop that in here somewhere). I think we can agree that we wouldn’t want strangers looking at what God gave us no matter how many squats or chest presses you’ve been doing, so save the awkwardness and mind your business! Lastly, when holding a conversation with someone stripping down at the same time, keep steady eye contact and do not look down 🙂

Build others up

I love the gym for several reasons, but the biggest one is that it is a great place to learn. I have not always been into fitness – I was used to bars, chalk, springboards, and beams for 16 years of my life. I never went into a weight room until college. The day I retired from gymnastics and entered the actual gym, I was completely intimidated. It took me about three years after I joined the gym to feel comfortable in the weight section. I used to avoid anything I didn’t know how to do because I was afraid of looking like an idiot, but the reason I am so confident in what I do now is because I had the ability to push the pull machine without any judgement or finger pointing. Mistakes were accepted and not shunned. I will go ahead and say that you do see some pretty interesting things in the gym (there are Instagram accounts dedicated to people doing weird things on weight machines), but what you will notice is that no one is making them feel inferior. We learn through watching others, and that is how I eventually learned that the push machine was in fact a pull machine. If you feel lost in the gym, chances are, no one actually notices because everyone is doing their own thing. Don’t take three years to go try something new like I did, because there is no shame in doing it wrong the first time!

As intimidating as the gym may seem, if you break it down, it’s a place to pick up things and put them down again, pull things, push things, run in place for a while, climb some stairs, etc. Everyone can do that, which means you aren’t out of place at all! It’s funny to see what unwritten rules are made in different environments, and as weird as they may sound at face value, you soon come to realize that you start to do them too! Next time you hit the gym, look for these unwritten rules, because they definitely are there!

Happy 2020, everyone! I hope those resolutions aren’t putting the “dead” in deadlift 😉


2019 in review: What I have been up to

A great word to explain my 2019 is unexpected. Recently, I have seen a lot of my friends do “life updates” on Facebook, and while I could easily just say I got 20 new sisters, got lost in Minneapolis, cooked 12 pounds of taco meat in my room, ate baby food, and achieved my biggest goal of 2019; that would make no sense or begin to explain the year I have had. At the beginning of this year, I set expectations for myself to make this year memorable, and while it has been memorable, it didn’t happen from the reasons I thought it would. Read on to hear about my crazy 2019!

January: Temporary “college drop out”

I can’t say a lot happened this month, which is a good thing when it comes to J-term. Since I finished both of my J-term credits, I took a whole month to myself at home. Because of this, everyone at the gym was starting to wonder if I dropped out of college, and sometimes, it felt like it! When I wasn’t at the gym, I was at Starbucks with my regular nitro cold brew. I used this time to write, read my daily devotional, and do everything not related to school which was a nice change of pace. January was the month that I became a “regular” to the point where they had my order ready before I even got to the counter, even though they spelled my name wrong 75% of the time. As much as it was nice to have a break, I was ready to get back into the swing of things again by the time February rolled around.

February: Tried to be a triangle

During my gymnastics years, I was anti yoga because I thought it was “too boring” since I am used to everything being fast paced. It wasn’t until spring of my junior year that I needed a reason to use my new yoga mat, so I decided to take a class for credit. I was excited because it was a chance to humbly show off my flexibility, and every class was a competition between the instructor and I to see who could bend in half the easiest. I was soon knocked off my pedestal because while gymnastics helped me become Gumby, it prohibited me from doing some poses due to my lingering back pain while everyone else was fully capable of turning into a triangle or warrior 3. I am glad I tried it because there is so much more to yoga than the physical aspect of it. I greatly benefited from the mindfulness aspect, and taking time to slow down, which I never do! My favorite pose I found to be Shavasana, aka, lie on the ground for ten minutes.

March: The suit up search

If the stress of classes weren’t enough, my March also included the stress of finding a summer internship. You know you are getting older when you replace scrolling through Instagram and Twitter stalking former classmates and attractive fellas, for stalking companies and recruiters on LinkedIn and Indeed. The pattern of applying, waiting, suiting up for interviews, and then doing it all over again consumed a ton of my time until I finally landed one at Lifetouch-Shutterfly as a HR Coordinator. I can still remember the day I accepted the position, and yes, I did shed tears of joy as I walked back to my car while it was pouring rain. Internship searching is not fun!

April: Baby food and empowering women

Ate baby food in class! I took a psychology class called Sensation and Perception which is all about learning the senses, and how they are connected to the brain/other senses. This led me to doing some tasks you wouldn’t expect in a college class including spinning in an office chair then standing on one leg to test my vestibular system, putting on fancy goggles to flip my vision upside down then try to catch a tennis ball, eating a piece of Miracle Fruit and being able to drink lemon juice like water (look this up it is wild), and my personal favorite: eating baby food dyed army green and trying to guess what flavor it was while wearing a nose plug. This class taught me so many valuable tidbits about the senses, but one of the biggest takeaways was that I really like pureed pears and carrots.

GWIL Conference! April was the 9th annual Gustavus Women in Leadership Conference titled “Empowerment.” This is a conference where distinguished alumni, successful business women, and Gustavus alumni come back for a day of networking and listening to awesome speakers/ breakout sessions to develop ourselves as business professionals. I had the opportunity to be a liaison for Dr. Rebecca Hawthorne, which led me to being a part of the behind the scenes part of the conference. It was so awesome to meet former Gusties that have built successful lives for themselves, and make connections that ended up helping me this fall. There is no feeling to describe the vibe that day, but being surrounded by so much wisdom and professionalism was exciting and made me grateful to be a part of such a great organization. It was a huge confidence boost seeing women in roles such as supreme court judge, MN Twins executive, and CEOs of well-known companies. Maybe, just maybe, I will come back to speak at the conference someday as a big time executive!

May: Death by chocolate, picnic potlucking, and Psi Chi

Sorority sweet tooth! My sorority has a running joke that we can’t have an event without snacks, so we like to say our second philanthropy behind Sigmas Serve Children, is Sigmas Serve Snacks. During this month, we hosted our annual campus favorite “Death By Chocolate” event which has anything and everything chocolate you can think of. My no-bake cookies made an appearance which was a huge deal (hence why they are in the picture) because my sisters know how terrible I am at making and baking. While the looks of them may have scared people off, they did not taste like the mini cow patties they resembled. My dairy free diet and white sweatshirt didn’t stand a chance at this event. Later in May, we “savored” our last moments with our graduating seniors by having a sorority picnic potluck right in the middle of campus. Sigmas are great at potlucks, and this one didn’t disappoint! Who knew one could have an entire pasta dinner in the middle of the mall?

Psi Chi! As an executive board member of the Psychology Honor Society, I had the pleasure on inducting new members into the society, including some sisters! I also invited my doctor to come speak to campus about the gut-brain connection. It was a weird sense of pride knowing that my doctor was speaking on the topic of all my terrible gut issues which leads to my FND. It is moments like these where my FND can benefit me in the academic world, but that is about it. I have loved being on the executive board and getting to plan events that prove even more my love for psychology.

June: Touching lives at Lifetouch and the Gustavus conversion

I started my internship at Lifetouch in June, and had no clue what I was in for at all. We had the task of recruiting 3000 photographers by the fall, as well as completing a project to present to the Senior VPs at the end of the summer. I met some pretty great people that I enjoyed being with this summer, but I also learned what I like and don’t like about a company. Not to mention, it gave me a great excuse to go shopping for a whole new business casual wardrobe! My co-workers started to see how many days in a row I could go wearing a new outfit before re-wearing something (3 weeks). It is amazing how much you can learn within a short time; including how to make job requisitions, Boolean search, how effective puns are during recruiting emails, people in Hawaii are really pleasant to talk to on conference calls, what not to do in HR, work life balance, the importance of coffee, and 494 traffic is terrible at any time of the day.

Gustavus conversion: This had to be the only time I have ever really wanted to go to a Twins game, and took initiative to get the family to go. It was Gustavus night at Target Field, and I had the honor of turning a Minnesota Gopher, Kentucky Wildcat, and most importantly, a St. Olaf Ole into a Gustie for the night. In all honesty, I just went for the hat.

July: 21 and old guys in skinny jeans

I celebrated turning 21 with my family at Maynard’s on lake Minnetonka. The waiter looked genuinely confused as my Dad and brother ordered a beer to celebrate, while I ordered a water wearing a giant 21 badge on my shirt. I am ok with being possibly the most lame 21 year old because now I can at least sit in the bar, even though I still get asked if I want a kids menu. 21 wasn’t a milestone for me because it’s the age I can legally drink a delicacy that tastes like cough medicine, but more because 21 is a threshold to bigger life changes such as graduating, getting a job, etc. My big celebration was going to the Backstreet Boys concert, because nothing says 21 like being surrounded by middle aged women while singing along to songs by old guys wearing skinny jeans accompanied by too many hip thrusts. My guilt pleasure is “I Want it That Way,” and for my 21st, that’s the way I wanted it.

August: Freshmen Orientation

My internship ended in late July, which gave me a whole month to spend time with my family until I had to move back in early for freshman orientation…again. I was selected to be a part of the Peer Mentor Academic Leader Teacher (MALT) pilot program which consisted of teaching 17 freshmen students once a week about tips to navigate college, resources to use, goal setting, how to register, and just be a student mentor to them. I moved back early to meet my 17 pupils, and be trained in on how to teach my own class. Despite all the training I had on how to teach advising curriculum, I soon learned that they liked my embarrassing college moment stories more than learning about SMART goals. I am so happy I got this opportunity because I have become friends with my students and have been so happy to see how much they’ve grown since I first met them. It feels great to use my knowledge and leadership skills to help them out, and see that it has actually impacted them. I never thought I would be moving back for freshmen orientation as a senior, but I am so glad I did, because I got to experience all the great memories I loved as a freshmen all over again- but this time my dorm had AC!

September: 20 new sisters, GAC PAC, and public Proclaiming

Recruitment and Bid Day! Recruitment season is my favorite season, and I am so happy to have recruited 20 new sisters that I have grown to love so well! As someone interested in HR, I like to see what recruitment strategies work the best, and I learned that the snacks in the room were a big hit. #SigmasServeSnacks became a trending theme for the week for the potential new members. It’s also a great time for us because we goof around and be ourselves, but at the same time naturally attract those who have the same energy as us. I loved meeting all potential new members and helping them find their sorority home. A highlight was dancing the Git Up with all my sisters as all the potential new members either joined in, or looked at us like we were insane. Recruitment season ended with a sweaty Bid Day as we marched around all of campus to deliver 20 bids which entailed 20+ girls crowding around the door and chanting loudly in pledge’s faces while handing them a giant daisy and bid! Nothing says sisterhood like too many stairs and Sigma chants.

Homecoming! The year of the lasts started with my last homecoming. My freshmen year section (The GAC PAC) had a reunion and took the same picture we took freshmen and sophomore year to make things come full circle. It was fun spending time with my sisters, friends, and seeing all my friends that graduated the year before! Crazy to think that’s going to be me next year.

Shared my faith journey: I finally had the courage from to share my faith story at our student led worship called Proclaim. I spoke on “Blessings in Disguise” which touched on how my FND, and all the obstacles I encountered my first three years were actually blessings by making me into the resilient leader I am now. I had wanted to speak since freshman year, and finally felt called to share my story with others that ended up touching people in ways I never thought it would. While I am perfectly fine flipping on a four inch beam in front of hundreds of people, public speaking is one of my biggest fears that I conquered this month!

October: Getting lost resulted in getting a job

This fall, I was the HR intern to the VP of Mission, Strategy, and Innovation on campus, and it was an experience of a lifetime – literally – as this experience landed me a full time job after graduation. My internship started out in the HR office doing various clerical work tasks, and projects. It ended with me traveling around the cities networking with business professionals ranging from recently graduated, to VPs. It also ranged from people I had never met before, to my dad and brother! I went to 15 different places and interviewed 15 people. It was so cool seeing the way these companies functioned and what perks they had to set them apart from others. Some honorable mentions were being able to bring your dog to work, a cereal + milk bar in the lobby (this was at Post, anywhere else it would be odd), and a full size basketball court at Cantel. Talk about real life internship experience, I would never have learned and seen that much sitting at a desk all day.

I learned a lot through this project, but one of the most important things I learned is that I am terrible at navigating cities and skyways. I managed to park in the wrong ramp, and get lost in the skyways every single time in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Abbott Northwestern Hospital . The first time I went to Boom Lab-Three Bridge in Minneapolis, I ended up at Sculpt Fitness from going to the wrong elevator tower before finding my way to the office. Business professional isn’t quite the right attire to work out in which led to some stares. Troubleshooting while acting like I know what I am doing has become a skill of mine, as well as walking five blocks in heels from thinking I parked in the right $36 ramp. This project took me to places such as Ecolab, Minneapolis Heart Institute, Optum, Lifetime Fitness, UHC, Quality Bicycle Products, Cantel Medical, Post Consumer Brands, and my final destination after graduation: Boom Lab! I am so grateful for the times I got locked out of the parking ramp twice, walked the wrong direction in the skyway for 10 minutes, almost got ran over by a car in St. Paul, and took the wrong elevator; because without them, I would be job searching right now and would not have fulfilled my goal to land a job by the end of 2019!

November: HIIT, taco meat, getting low, and giving thanks

HIIT instructor: This fall I was asked to lead a High Intensity Interval Training exercise class on campus which I never in a million years would have thought I would be an instructor. I have had so much fun making my peers complain, swear, pant, sweat, and drop and give me 20 like they never had before! My current reviews are “sore for a week”, “my face was red for an hour after”, and “I don’t think I can do this again.”

Taco Tuesday Potluck: As Sisterhood chair of my sorority, I thought it would be fun to have a Taco Tuesday night. I volunteered to be in charge of the taco meat, which in reality, left my mom in charge of it as she cooked 12 pounds of it then drove it to campus in a crock pot. It was quite the success, as all 12 pounds were gone. Like I said before, Sigmas can eat!

Formal: November was sorority formal season! It was fun getting dressed up and having a handsome date to dance the night away with along with my sisters all around me. You bet I did the splits in the middle of the dance circle for “Get Low!”

Thanksgiving: This Thanksgiving was quite a milestone for me, as I finally made it to the adult table! My dairy free lifestyle went out the window for the night as there was a pumpkin shaped appetizer cheese ball, and artichoke dip that were bigger than my willpower. And pie without whipped cream? That’s a crime, and I didn’t want to break the laws of Thanksgiving. We shared so many stories, laughs, and weird conversations such as the business model of Cheez-its, what it would be like to hit a cow with your car, double stretch jeans, airplane food, and how to perform a hip replacement. Casey holidays are ones I will never forget!

December: Final fall semester, and Casey Christmas Festivities

Fall semester complete! It is weird to think I finished my last fall semester. The end of the semester called for a snowy photoshoot with my sorority sisters to document that we made it, and to say goodbye to my sisters in my pledge class graduating this December. I finished my minor in strategic communication, and my internship, leaving me with my one 300 level psychology class left to take in the spring. My only final for my communications class was making a board game related to a topic in class, so yes, my last final in college was sitting on the floor playing board games while listening to Christmas music. If anyone is interested in playing the Net Neutrality version of Chutes and Ladders just let me know, it’s quite a thrill.

Casey Clan Christmas: For my family, Christmas really happens all month between the shopping trips, putting up the fake tree, making cookies, Christopher’s Christmas party that I happily crash as the “little sister,” and Casey Christmas with the famous yankee swap where the magic head scratcher has been getting re-gifted for years. But it doesn’t end there, we just pack it up and take it 13 hours in a car to Danville, Kentucky in order to celebrate with the other side of the family that we see once a year, and keep those traditions rolling (read more in my Holiday Traditions post). It is a great way to end the year, minus the 13 hour drive back home as the snow gradually piles back up again, the outside temp declines, and the passive aggressiveness of Minnesota nice increases.

This year truly was unpredictable in the sense that I imagined it going a lot differently than where it took me. While there are a few tidbits I left out, such as accidentally wearing my running shorts inside out around campus with the built in underwear on the outside for hours, adopting two more Littles in sorority, a first date coincidentally on Hymns and Beer night (only in St. Peter lemme tell ya), my best friend Anna getting engaged, mapping my brain with a patriotic looking swim cap device, and passing a kidney stone (like I said, didn’t go how I thought); everything came together to make 2019 memorable that’s for sure. I can only hope that 2020 is full of moments that are nothing but great; where I put my clothes on correctly, finally find an answer to fix FND, live the day Anna and I have talked about since we were kids, dates without hymns, and refrain from passing more stones through my kidneys! 2020 is the year of family, cherishing my time with friends, and finding my new path.

Happy new year! I hope your new years resolutions last longer than one week!


Thanksgiving Meal: Ranked

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and while Christmas is overshadowing it right now (the Starbucks I am at is playing Christmas music and serving snowman cookies), the Thanksgiving meal will always overpower the Christmas feast. Every family’s Thanksgiving meal may look different in some ways, but there are a few staple dishes that everyone has in common. Because of this, I am going to rank the Thanksgiving dishes from least favorite, to most favorite, and see how many people agree with me, or find some things relatable!

10: Rutabaga

Remember how I said every family’s meals are different in some way? Well for my family, I’ve got an uncle that is known for bringing rutabaga every year, which no one touches except for him. While this may be a “don’t knock it until you try it” kind of deal, it has become a Thanksgiving tradition in itself to not leave any room on my plate for it. For those of you who don’t know what a rutabaga is (I don’t either honestly) the dictionary says it is “a large, round, yellow-fleshed root that is eaten as a vegetable.” Appetizing right? If I have to look up the definition of what something is at a meal, and the definition tells me how to eat it, I think it is safe to say it is not making it onto my plate, or my mouth, sorry Uncle Chip!

9: Turkey

I am sorry to anyone I offend here, but turkey doesn’t have me jumping out of my seat quite like some other things do. To those who read my “21 Things I Wish I Knew Before 21” post, I had an irrational fear of meat that wasn’t chicken for the longest time, and it still truly hasn’t gone away. Growing up, my mom would always tell me I had to get at least two tiny pieces of turkey on my plate at Thanksgiving, but when she wasn’t looking I hid it under my giant pile of mashed taters, or gave it to the dog. The only reason that this beats rutabaga is turkey is a great (and probably only) source of protein at this meal! It may be called Turkey Day, but really, why turkey when that isn’t the best part of the meal? I guess “Pi Day” is already taken and mashed potato day just doesn’t have a good ring to it.

8: Cranberry Sauce

It baffles me as to why this is called a sauce because at every Thanksgiving I have attended, it is can shaped, and the farthest thing from a sauce. While I do enjoy cranberries, Craisins are a love of mine, I just don’t believe that a slice of cranberry sauce goes well with anything on the plate. For the record, slice and sauce shouldn’t be in the same sentence. I’m not one to really mix foods together, so eating straight cranberry is a bit much for me. While this may not rank the highest on my list, I will say, there is something aesthetically pleasing about how that can shaped blob has the perfect indents of the can in it.

7: Bread

At any other meal other than Thanksgiving, the bread would probably rank higher for everyone, but at Thanksgiving, bread is just “eh” because it isn’t as exciting as all the other dishes we only get at this time of the year. It has always depended on the year for me where it falls on my rank, as well as how old I was. As a little munchkin who was super picky, my Thanksgiving meal was pretty much mashed potatoes, and too many dinner rolls with loads of butter. As I’ve gotten older and I am less of a carb loader, the dinner rolls have declined. At my Gram’s house in Kentucky, she always has awesome flaky dinner rolls from my favorite bakery called Burke’s in Danville, KY, that I can never pass up. If you need a reason to go to Kentucky, this is the reason because the donuts are – unpopular but true opinion – better than Krispy Kreme. In recent Thanksgivings, I have totally foregone the interesting cranberry walnut bread or straight white bread, because those just don’t tickle my fancy like a Burke’s roll does. Not all bread is created equally at Thanksgiving.

6: Stuffing/dressing

Growing up, getting stuffing on my plate was just as hard as getting turkey on my plate for one reason-nothing related to the taste. I remember asking my mom what stuffing was, and she replied that it pretty much croutons. So the first time I got stuffing on my plate, I expected it to be the consistency of the croutons that I loved so much (carb loader diet remember?). It was at that moment when I took a bite of those soggy croutons, that I deemed stuffing as “icky.” In my mind, soggy croutons were a crime. Of course as I have gotten older, I do like the taste, but the idea of soggy croutons will forever be engraved in my mind which is why it is ranked lower than most people would put it. But dressing? Different story. Dressing is the “southern version” of stuffing, and does not resemble the shape of a bread cube – at least my Gram’s doesn’t which makes it better than stuffing in my mind. Just like hotdish and casserole aren’t really different, neither is stuffing and dressing. My Gram makes the best stuffing, and it blows away all northerner’s soggy croutons, that is a promise.

5: Mashed Potatoes

If I were writing this post when I was around the ages of 6-10, mashed potatoes would be at the very top of my list, as well as filling up half my plate. As I have grown up, and I now eat foods outside of the carb/starch food group, the rankings have changed a bit. There is nothing bad I can say about mashed potatoes with a big slab of butter on them, but they just don’t compare to what’s ahead. Just like bread is kind of average at Thanksgiving, so are the mashed potatoes in my mind, especially for someone who likes to prevent my green beans, turkey, and stuffing from becoming one with my taters.

4: Salad

Call me a freak, but I like to see some green on my plate at any meal. In addition, having a few pieces of lettuce on my plate allows for me to say it is a healthy meal of course! 🙂 Not every year has had the leafy greens, but when it is there, I seem to be one of the few people loading up my plate with it while others are replacing their room for salad with more slices of sauce or rutabaga. As much as I understand that Thanksgiving is a time to enjoy food and known to be a time to “pig out,” I still like to try to make it a balanced meal where my pants still fit me the next day.

3: Pie

Yes, this is number three, simply because the following two can satisfy me in ways that pie never will. While I do enjoy me a nice slice of pumpkin and apple pie, it has lost its charm over the years. The first theory is that sugar was a lot more attractive to me when I was younger, and it gave me a great excuse to load up on whipped cream. My second theory is that I stuffed myself in years past, but still forced myself to eat the pie, which led to some operant conditioning that pie makes me feel sick (had to slip some psychology in here somewhere). Now, if cherry pie were at Thanksgiving? That would be a different story.

2: Green Bean Casserole

When it comes to this, I have either seen that people hate it, or love it- no in between. I think this is the only dish that we Minnesotans admit is a casserole, because green bean hotdish just sounds wrong. I have always been a big fan of green beans ever since I was little, and when put in a casserole, as well as being relatively healthy, it is inevitable for it to shoot to the top of my rankings. Unfortunately, I have had to make a sacrifice to not eat this since being dairy free and I have to choose my battles, but even looking at it is enough for me to rank it second. There is no way to mess up a green bean casserole, which makes it another great staple for Thanksgiving. Lastly, it is mentioned in a country song by Justin Moore called “The Ones that Didn’t Make it Home.” I don’t see anything like stuffing or turkey being mentioned by a famous country star, that’s gotta count for something.

1: Sweet Potato Souffle

If I could transport a scoop of it through your screen I would because it would explain everything better than my words can. If this helps explain how good it is; we have to bring two pans of it every year because just one isn’t enough. This was another one of those dishes that I was scared to eat for years because 1. there were a few pecans sprinkled on the top, and I didn’t like pecans, therefore, it contaminated the whole thing and 2. it was orange, and not mashed potato colored. Now, it is one of my favorites because my mom’s family recipe is so good. I probably could eat the whole thing, and I am sure the rest of my family could agree, but I refrain because Thanksgiving is about sharing. Not everyone is a yam fan, but I yam (insert laugh here). The reason it is so good is because the top is a layer of baked pecans, butter and brown sugar, and the perfect crispy combination with sweet potatoes. It honestly tastes like dessert, and is better than the pie which is a bold statement in most people’s eyes. I was missing out all those years of my mom forcing me to have one single bite where actually I did like it, but didn’t want to give her the satisfaction of being right, so I never had more than that. I may be dairy free, and these have butter in them, but they are worth the pain which says a lot.

Thanksgiving is all about what we are thankful for, and I have so many things I am thankful for such as my amazing family, opportunities I have been given this year, prayers answered, lessons learned, and food on the table (yes, this includes the rutabaga even though I still have yet to touch it). I am starting to see the importance of Thanksgiving; as our family tradition is changing due to cousins getting married and moving away, life changes, getting older, and grandparents not living as close. Coming together as family now means so much more especially since me and my cousins aren’t the ages where we all live with our parents, and persuade me and my brother to wrestle on the floor (I won). Despite all these changes and transitions, the one thing that won’t change, is the soggy croutons.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving, I hope your pants have an elastic waistband!