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! ๐Ÿ™‚ 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!

~Lauren

Life Hacks: Tips on productivity, minimalism, and saving money

Now that I am a senior in college, it has made me think about life after college ten times more than in the past. Some of the scary realizations I have been experiencing are just how much stuff I have that I don’t wear or use anymore that would have to be moved to a new apartment, I will be more independent with my finances, and that it is completely up to me to get done the little things that no one wants to do. This led me to ultimately getting rid of half my closet and things I haven’t touched in years, finding new apps and ways to save my money, and ways to keep me productive. The small things add up to be huge, and these are the little things I have found that have started to make a dent in my old habits.


Ibotta

While this word probably looks foreign, I reckon you familiarize yourself with this app that will save you hundreds of dollars a year (I am not exaggerating). This app is similar to Target’s “Cartwheel”, but it works at every grocery store, many retail stores, online shopping sites, and most importantly, Chipotle. I know a lot of apps can make you feel skeptical as to if they actually work, and I definitely was, but getting my first $40 back made all skepticism go away. Unlike Cartwheel that will only give you a dinky 5 cents back on an item, Ibotta has given me $1 off of each of my greek yogurts that cost $1.25 each, up to 15%-20% off some items, and even gives me 20 cents back for scanning any receipt aka basically get money back just for making the effort to make it to the store. Ibotta has offers on things I use every week unlike Cartwheel which is great at providing offers for items that aren’t the most practical. I mean I don’t know about you, but things like condensed milk, rabbit food, and prenatal vitamins aren’t on my weekly shopping list. For those who don’t like to connect a credit card to an app to get cash back, Ibotta offers cash back in the form of a gift card to any place you choose. It also is simple to use! Select the store you are shopping at, scroll through and add the offers, and then take a picture of the receipt at the end of your grocery haul or shopping trip. You know you should get it when even your mom is impressed by it.

Prolong that produce

I hate buying fresh produce, or anything that goes bad quickly with my own money. It physically hurts when I find the apples I got are now mushy, my lettuce let me down, and my blueberries are no longer blue but rather white from mold. It literally is throwing money down the drain. Because of this, I have found the tips and tricks to make my produce less like anxiety inducing time bombs. Berries such as blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries, should NOT be all washed at once! Doing this makes them go bad at a faster rate than they already do. I’m not saying don’t wash your fruit, please do, but wash the amount you are going to eat right then and there. Maybe this is the universe’s form of portion control. Second, if you are not someone who can eat a loaf of bread in a couple days (I should say won’t rather than can because bread is irresistible), store it in the fridge, and it will last you up to at most a month! 2 for 1 deal at the store? No need to miss out on saving some green just because your bread doesn’t have preservatives to last a lifetime; put that other loaf in the freezer and it won’t go green like the money you saved on it. Next, avocados. There is a very small window as to when they are actually good to eat, but how do you tell if they are ready when grocery shopping? On the bottom of avocados, there usually is a small stump of a stem left. Peel that off and look in the hole left behind. If it is a dark green, it is ready, if it is light green, it’s too soon, and if it’s black, say your goodbyes. Lastly, keep your bananas yellow by wrapping tin foil around the top of the bunch. Does it work? Yes. Why? I have no clue.

One in, one out

This rule can apply for many things; clothes, shoes, nail polish, accessories, or anything you have too many of already, but keep getting more. The rule, is that whatever you get, one you already have must go. This rule helps me a lot because being someone who loves getting new clothes, but already has too many because I haven’t grown since middle school, it keeps me from needing to invest in another closet. Whatever your obsession may be; using this rule helps you to make the decision if you really need that new thing/want to get rid of one you already have to make room. It helps to clean out your inventory of things you don’t use that much anymore, because it actually makes you think about how much it means to you and if they “spark joy” (I sound like Marie Kondo). For those of you that for some odd reason feel bad for whatever you are parting with (my mom used to tell me inanimate objects would start to cry if I wanted to get rid of them- scarred me for years), this rule may be tough!

Hanger reset

This is also for those who have too many clothes, only wear about a third of them, but keep the rest because you tell yourself you will wear it this year. We all have said it, but that is a LIE. At the beginning of the year (or now), turn all your hangers backwards on the rack. Every time you wear something in the closet, hang it back up the traditional way, showing that it was worn. At the end of the year, get rid of all the clothes with the hangers still reversed the other direction. That way, you have no excuse to say that it will be worn, because you had 365 days to wear it. While this may seem like a ton of work up front, it will save you the work of digging for that one shirt you need to get real fast, but can’t find because you can’t slide your clothes on the rack from having too many.

One of everything

This is more of a minimalist mindset, and may not apply to all things, but it can apply to most and probably is relatable. Ever look in your closet and realize you have 5 white shirts? Four different sets of plates when you only use one? 15 random water bottles? The scenarios go on and on, but I bet that you can think of something in your head right now that you have tons of, yet only use one or two of that thing. In my room right now; I have one plate, one cup, one water bottle, one spoon, one fork, and one bowl of each size. While I understand this is not realistic for those who have houses, families, roommates, and have company over; this can still work in those situations. Do you really need to have 15 place settings of fine China that you use once every five years when in reality, you could use your regular place settings since the only thing people care about is the food that’s on it? In today’s times, as much as I hate to say it, we are turning to more modern times where owning fine dining sets isn’t as common. I can’t speak for everyone, but I am someone who gets stressed out if I have more of something than I need, and it just sits there taking up space that I could use for other things. If it doesn’t serve multiple purposes, or won’t get used- get rid of it!

Poshmark

So what do you do with the mountain of clothes you have now cleared out of your closet, and all the extra stuff you are going to get rid of? Yes, you could just bring it to Goodwill, but some of the stuff you are parting with may be too valuable to you to just give away for free. Poshmark has absolutely changed the game when it comes to buying and selling my clothes and other belongings. What is it? Poshmark is a website (or app) that allows you to sell and buy gently used things- and not just clothes! A lot of the things you find on there are never worn, but the tags are off, because those people are in your same situation where you got it, but it just sat there in your closet without being worn. I have sold so many things- tops, shoes, purses, etc- and have probably made over $150 so far. In addition, this is where probably 3/4 of my wardrobe is from. Brand new Athleta leggings for $20 that are usually $98, brand new jeans, Nikes, workout clothes, you name it. Again, it may seem sketchy, but the reason this works is because these people are desperate to get rid of things, and the cheaper it is listed for, the faster it goes. Once an item of yours sells, Poshmark emails you a prepaid shipping label that you slap on an envelope or box and you are good to go. You can route your earnings to your bank account, or put it in your Poshmark account to put towards anything you buy on there. I haven’t paid full price for anything from Lululemon in years, and it’s so much easier to online shop nowadays anyways!

Two minute rule

Have you ever experienced a time where you sit down on the couch after completing various tasks, but then something else pops into your head and you just say you will do it later? While the task may not be super important, this is more about training yourself to not procrastinate. The two minute rule is: if it takes two minutes or less to complete, just do it now. I rely heavily on this rule when it comes to doing anything related to laundry, and my future self thanks myself later for when I truly don’t feel like trying to fold my fitted sheet. So if you are reading this right now; go print out that document, get that load of laundry, vacuum that rug, fill out that survey, write that email, ask that guy/girl out on a date, and go to the bathroom during that commercial break (we all try to hold it in till the end of the show, don’t deny it). Practicing not procrastinating the little things will help you learn to not procrastinate the big things!

Reminder app

IPhones come with a lot of apps already installed that are barely touched. The Reminder app should not be one of these. If you have never heard of this, or have not used it, I suggest you start. A lot of us program things into our calendars and call it a day. But what about those little things that you need to remember to do, but aren’t important enough to put on a calendar, and because they don’t seem important enough, you forget about them completely? This is what this app is made for. Past things I have set a reminder for are to grab something from my drawer before I left for class, where I hid my mom’s birthday gift in my room a month in advance because I would probably forget after that month went by, to water my succulent named Wyatt every Tuesday, take a pill, get more yogurt, and to remind myself to remind my mom that I needed something from the store. Sound silly? It’s really not because we all have those things we try to remember everyday, and then wake up at 1 AM remembering that we forgot to do it which then adds to the already never ending to do list that our brain can’t remember. Yes you could make a to-do list, but does your paper to-do list notify you to do it? I’d guess no. This app has saved me multiple times, even today. I put a reminder that I had a meeting today, and set it to alert me 10 minutes before. As I was writing this post, I got the notification about the meeting, and it gave me just enough time to do the awkward backpack run all the way to my meeting. This app will save your brain space, as you can set a reminder and totally forget about the fact that you need to get your laundry from the wash in 57 minutes! FYI this is not my reminder list, I’m not that strange.

Bullet Journal

This may not be everyone’s thing, but I started using a bullet journal this year, and it has made my life so much easier and organized. A bullet journal basically is a journal where you keep everything. Before this, I had lists on my phone, lists on my laptop, lists in my room, post it notes everywhere, a spend log, book of bible verses, and three calendars in separate places. I now have compiled it all into one spot, and it made my life so much less stressful because having so many lists everywhere makes it look like you have more to do than you actually do. In my journal, I have a monthly calendar, weekly calendar, habit trackers, spend log, list of all my passwords, list of recipes to try, date ideas because I am cliche like that, Bible verses, to do list, prayer requests, and I already have my Christmas wish list going. Some other ideas I have seen people do are mood trackers, meal plans, fitness trackers, or just pages to doodle and relieve stress.These aren’t great for only keeping your schedule in check, but also your mental and physical health. If this isn’t for you, then you can go back to living a life of lists everywhere you turn.

These hacks may or may not make sense for you, or even help you at all, but I’m positive I’m not the only one who endures daily struggles of having/wanting too many things, is scared of bananas going brown, has a hard time remembering to water my plant (hopefully I won’t have to set a reminder to feed my kids in the future), needs motivation to do something that takes 15 seconds to do, wants to save money, and desires to simplify life a bit more.

Have a great week, friends! Put that in your Reminder app ๐Ÿ™‚

~Lauren

Senior Year: The year of “The Lasts”

I am a week away from going back up on “The Hill” for the year, but this year is a bit different than the last three, as this will be the last time I’m entering another school year at good old GAC. Everyone talks about senior year being the year of doing everything they love for the last time; their last sports season, last big concert, last St. Patty’s day weekend…but what about the lasts that we can’t wait to do for the last time? Just like at every school, once you step foot off campus, there are probably some things that you won’t do again because it is exclusive to college life, more specifically for me, Gustavus life. Here are some of “the lasts” that I will, and will not miss, after my senior year!


7 Lasts I WILL miss:

Friends a walk away

This one is a pretty obvious one, and definitely something taken for granted. I will miss the fact that my friends won’t be down the hall or a couple feet away at all times. Sometimes I forget that all students at Gustavus aren’t from MN, and don’t in fact live at Gustavus all the time because they have lives elsewhere just like I do. 90% of the friends I have made are from out of state, or a year above/below me, so I like to joke that I wish I was better at choosing friends that weren’t going to leave me once school is done. It will feel weird not being able to say “I can’t wait to do this next year”, because there is no next year! Being surrounded by peers 24/7 has become such a norm for me to the point where I don’t remember what it was like before that, so that will take some getting used to. I can’t even imagine what it will be like waking up next year without my roommates, my Little not working out with me in Lund at 6 AM, not waving every five seconds to friends I see around campus, the lack of Sunday night sorority meetings, or my friends being states away (shoutout to my Big, Perry, in West Virginia, Gustavus ain’t the same without you and the year hasn’t even started yet).

Class commute

I find it funny how during the year, we complain so much about walking outside to class on a D3 campus where it is .25 of a mile from one side of campus to the other. While it does seem terrible on those gusty days that we jokingly say gives us the “Gustavus Gusties” nickname (although I am starting to think it isn’t a joke), my perspective has changed since I’ve dabbled in adulthood this summer. Compared to my hour drive to my internship this summer due to 494 traffic that I am pretty sure I could have walked home faster than sitting bumper to bumper, it makes that one minute walk from campus center to the psychology building seem like luxury. We have it so easy at Gustavus; not having to drive to campus everyday, not having to spend money on gas, not having to walk miles, getting to walk campus on a beautiful day, passing by friends, and not wasting an hour of precious time in traffic listening to overplayed songs on the radio. I don’t know where my future workplace will be, but I don’t think the commute will beat what I have on The Hill.

Freebies

I don’t think there has been one day at Gustavus that I haven’t gotten something or been to something free (or “free” shall I say). Gustavus is great at hosting events for students during the week and on weekends whether that be Hunter Hayes in concert, midnight bingo, movies, Midnight Express buffets for finals, sorority events, great speakers, dances, panels, talent shows, drag shows, sporting events, etc. Furthermore, at these events there is always free frost your own cookies, Dunkin Donuts, Dominos, Chipotle, ..you get it, college kids love free food. There was even a time where there were free pot brownies sitting in the middle of campus center for anyone to take (brownies in a flower pot, let’s make that clear). It is such a common thing at Gustavus to just show up and have everything planned for you. I know it will be an adjustment for me having to find my own ways to entertain myself wherever I am living, but at the same time, pay for it! Yeah, I could go to the store and buy a sugar cookie and some frosting, but I am 100% sure it won’t be as good as free tastes.

St. Peter

When it comes to saying I will miss the tiny town of St. Peter, I am such a hypocrite. I can’t even count how many times I have been itching to get back to Eagan where the nearest Target, Chipotle, and Chick Fil A are all within five minutes of me. But at the same time, there are just some things in St. Peter that you can’t get, or see, anywhere else. 3rd Street Tavern is one of my favorite places to go with friends and family, which is why we already made a reservation a for graduation (early is on time am I right?). Thinking about the fact that I can’t easily go after school is done because it is an hour away actually makes me sad. There is also no other place like Patty’s, where trivia nights and professors grading at the bar are the norm. Gusties all know that. St. Peter is home to many other things that I can’t see anywhere else such as the curb lady, the house with green carpet as grass, Nicollet Cafe, all the shops in town, the jeep parked on the street with the weird face tire cover, and all the townies that we have come to recognize over the years. Something about St. Peter is special, and I definitely will miss turning onto College Ave (but not off, that intersection is impossible) for the last time as a student.

College schedule

Transitioning from a high school schedule to a college schedule was an absolute breeze, and felt too good to be true. Now that I’ve thought about it, the high school schedule and “adulting” work schedule are quite similar. The college schedule truly was too good to be true. The hardest part of my internship this summer was squeezing in a 5 AM workout beforehand, sitting in traffic, working from 8:30 to 5:00, sitting in an hour of traffic on the way home, having to remember to feed myself when I just want to take a nap, and then going to bed and doing it all over again the next day. To those who are out of school and are reading this thinking how spoiled I sound, I am! This entire school year I am taking two classes, and with years under my belt of having several hours of time in between classes to do whatever, it is a hard adjustment to switch back to high school life. Don’t get me wrong, I am fully capable of adjusting to a schedule outside of college, but I definitely will miss the flexibility, and having more than 30 minutes to eat my pb and j brought from home just like I used to in high school. History repeats itself!

Gustavus Life

I will miss Gustavus for the reason that I chose the school in the first place; the homey feel on campus, sunrises, sunsets, having all doors be held for me at all times, flowers lining the hill during the spring, the arb, and the beautiful campus that made me realize what love at first sight feels like. The first day I saw Gustavus was a gross rainy day in 7th grade, but I instantly fell in love with it. There is nothing like a nice sunny day at Gustavus while enjoying sitting out in the courtyard patio with coffee, and good company. Even on the most stressful days, the environment there always finds a way to calm my mind and just enjoy where I am at in the moment. Gustavus is like a little bubble, a little utopia up on the hill where nothing really goes wrong (or at least it seems like it because I never know what is going on in the world until I come off the hill). I’ll miss being in the bubble, as life off the hill doesn’t typically involve hammocks every ten feet, chalk drawings on the sidewalks, and guys out playing spikeball or sand volleyball every night. I don’t really remember what life off the hill was like, but what I do know is that there is a reason that I still get chills every time I drive onto campus from a weekend at home and get that feeling I felt when I stepped onto campus in 7th grade.

Staff of Gustavus

Leaving Gustavus also means leaving our beloved Becky Bergman, and all the faculty and staff that we have come to know so well. It will be so weird not walking into the caf and hearing Vicki yell across the room that the chicken is “Lauren proof” for the day, as well as all the caf staff that brighten my day by complimenting my healthy food choices, fascination with my reusable glass containers, and telling me I look great after a sweaty workout. As much as I despise how much they charge me for my carrots and chicken (@Deb), Gustavus wouldn’t be the same without them and the many times they ask if I’m hiding anything else under my lettuce. I will miss my daily morning chats with Brenda Haugen while I get my usual short cold brew as she has come to know. I will miss my psychology professors that fuel my love for psychology and make me psychoanalyze anything that breathes. I will miss Kathi Tunheim’s energy as she can brighten anyone’s day just by walking in the room, usually late ๐Ÿ™‚ She is the best mentor, boss, and professor I have ever known. I will miss watching Mark Krueger, Jeff Owen, and his basketball crew tearing up the court every Tuesdays and Thursdays at noon. And yes, I will miss the custodian that I accidentally flashed sophomore year (maybe he will miss me too). They say you make so many meaningful connections and friends at college; but they never set an age limit on that statement. The Gustavus staff are what have made me love it there so much, Charlie Pott’s tweets being a small sliver of that, and I have made some real meaningful friendships that I hope to keep. To all those reading this who have no clue who these people are, I wish you could meet them.

7 Lasts I will NOT miss:

Freeze and fall phenomenon

With the whole campus being up on a hill, you’d think that there would be no problem with pooling water, and icy sidewalks. Think again. Only Gustavus students known how treacherous it is trying to walk from Complex and Uhler to the campus center. If you can make it that whole stretch without slipping, or wiping out, consider that your biggest accomplishment of the day- despite just acing a giant exam. This past year was absolutely ridiculous with the bipolar weather not making up its mind if it wanted to get warm. It was a constant cycle of melting, freezing, and falling. I remember one day this past year that I had a terribly tough exam, and just wanted to go back to my room and relax. I got to the stretch of sidewalk of pure ice, took one step, absolutely ate it, and the waterworks flowed just like the water did when that ice I slipped on melted a day later. For the record, it was a Terrible Tuesday. If you ever drive up to campus during the winter and see students all walking like penguins, that is why.

Dorm survival

I don’t think there is anything I am more ready to get away from than the dorms. For those who don’t know, Gustavus students are required to live on campus all four years. Each place I lived served their purpose, but some days, saying that is questionable. I understand that dorms aren’t meant to be luxury, but after three years in them, I have definitely learned what I need in a future home. I’ve had some honorable mentions over the years. In complex, the washers and dryers never failed to fail when I have needed them the most. The heat went out in my freshman dorm room, yet I didn’t know it until winter was over. No AC on 90 degree days led to sweating my makeup off at the same rate I was putting it on. Clogged drains in the bathroom and kitchen my junior year, leaving me to take a bath and a shower at the same time. A bonehead spraying the fire extinguisher all over the hall to make it look like the first snow of the year as I stepped out of my room. Let’s not forget the fact that I lived in an office (a nice office, but you can only live in a cube for so long). Tiptoeing around bodily fluids because someone JUST missed the porcelain throne. The fire alarm being pulled four times in one night. Lastly, the faulty shower rod..you know the story by this point. I can’t wait to live in a place of my own where I will not be flashing custodians, freezing to death at night, living in a geometry term, evacuating on the daily, avoiding upchuck, or having to choose if I want to wash the dishes or brush my teeth because the drains are too clogged to do both.

Gustavus Wi-Fi

Gustavus wi-fi cannot be depended on at all. Every time it goes out, it of course is at a time where I NEED to get on the internet, literally no other time. The wi-fi connection is as weak as diluted iced coffee, me trying to bench anything more than ten lb plates, one ply toilet paper, the feeling you get after climbing to the 3rd floor of any academic building, the taste of La Croix, my math skills, and my willpower when it comes to a fresh bag of kettle corn. WEAK.

Papers, tests,GPA, and letter grades

I understand that in the working world, this doesn’t totally go away, but instead is more paralleled to performance reviews, projects, and presentations. What I will not miss about this, is having to become a hermit in the library trying to cram for finals, endless flashcards, APA citations, peer reviewing, the anticipation of waiting for a test grade, seeing the result of that test grade (econ and I had a love hate relationship), and researching “scholarly sources.” Heck, I can’t wait to not hear the words scholarly source for a long time. I admit, I will kind of miss “biking my way to an A” as those of you who see that tradition on my snap story every time I prepare for a test (stationary bike and flashcards the night before a test- it has never failed me!) .Something I look forward to regarding life after college, is that I won’t be told how successful I am by a GPA or a letter grade. It is amazing how much I have let a number on a transcript, or letters, dictate my mood! I actually look forward to being evaluated in the workforce because I can focus on bettering myself for my job, the team I’m on, and myself, rather than the main motive being to get a GPA higher in order to look more impressive to help me reach the next step in life. I’m excited to see myself grow and be evaluated based on experience, not numbers on paper.

Freezing my booty off

All those D1 schoolers out there, don’t start scoffing at me yet for having to walk .25 miles in the cold. Unlike state schools, Gustavus prides themselves in NEVER canceling class no matter how unbearably freezing it gets, or the fact that the snow is as tall as I am (yeah, I’m short, but 5 ft is still a lot of snow). It is not uncommon to see students snowshoeing to class, wearing multiple pairs of pants, or bundling up to the point where we are no longer recognizable. Yes, we do have tunnels. No, we are not allowed to use them. There have been some days where the weather conditions are so ridiculous that there is nothing else to do but laugh, and bond over the fact that we are still chugging along while Mankato, and St. Peter schools already canceled for the day. Walking across campus in those conditions can be compared to making a trek across the Arctic while dramatic violin music plays, or at least that’s what I picture in my head as I try to make it to class. One morning, I woke up to a campus text saying that classes were starting two hours later due to two feet of snow the night before, and that brought happy tears to my eyes because it is just that rare to have any sort of schedule change. If you are a future Gustavus student, I highly recommend investing in some good snow boots, heavy coat, maybe some cross country skis, snowmobile, or snowshoes, flares in case you get stuck in a snow pile walking from Arbor View and need rescuing, hand warmers, and anything else you would need to survive multiple days outdoors in the middle of winter.

Room draw and registration

Registration and room draw at Gustavus is basically the same thing as Black Friday. It involves nervously awaiting students, game plans, backup plans, lots of screaming, races to get a room or class, lashing out at one another, crying, cheering, and a big sigh of relief once it is all over. There really is nothing better I can compare it to, especially as underclassmen. It is a very normal thing to see students with their laptops out in the middle of important meetings or speakers because that’s when their registration time is, and it is just that crucial to not miss your window. Not many people say that they are glad they have medical accommodations and require a different living situation, but my movement disorder has blessed me with the ability to not go through room draw any years at Gustavus because I need my own room. That may sound like a terrible thing to say, but that is just how stressful room draw is and the whole lottery process. Life after college means no more registering for classes, which means my computer will not have to experience me screaming at it from barely getting into Yoga at 12:30. Registration and room draw show people’s true colors.

Being away from my family

The last thing I without a doubt will not miss at all, is being an hour away from my family. While it is only a whopping 60 minutes away, it definitely could be a lot worse, sometimes it feels like they are an eternity away in the times I need them. I find it ironic how being away from my family-literally, has brought me closer to them-figuratively. They know me the best, and there is no shame in needing your family no matter how old you get. My mom will send me text updates about how they are meeting up with my brother for dinner in cities, and I can’t help but feel pangs of jealousy like I used to growing up when Christopher got to do something but I didn’t. It also is painful to receive snapchats of my dog at home, when all I want to do is reach into the phone and grab her. My family is everything to me, and it is hard wanting to be with my Gustavus family, and my real family, at the same time. Leaving The Hill means I will get to do all those things with my family that I love doing so much while at home such as dinners out, lake walks, weekend movies, hockey games, late night grocery runs, and just being able to drop in when I want. I can’t wait for them to be a short drive away rather than a phone call away at best.

I’m not one to get very emotional about “partings” but due to the fact that I got a little teary writing about driving off the hill for the LAST TIME is not a good sign for my stoic reputation. In all honesty, I will miss everything about Gustavus, even the bad things, because they are “just Gustavus things.” Sure, maybe my dryer in the future will fail on me, but the fact that it isn’t at Gustavus makes it 10 times worse. Slipping on ice won’t be as forgiving, I won’t have yoga at 12:30 scheduled into my calendar, freezing my butt off won’t include any Gustie bonding, and I will miss my Gustavus family just as much as I miss my own when I am away. Sitting here at Starbucks, a week before my senior year writing this, feels so weird because I have no clue what this year holds…and I can’t wait to find out. Thinking about all the changes this year is hard to even comprehend at this moment, but it will become more real as the year goes on. This year entails graduating, getting a job, moving out (maybe), and saying more goodbyes to people and things than I ever have had to. This moment right now is the calm before the storm that I can’t wait to chase.

Happy last week of summer (or first week of classes for some). Don’t take any experience for granted!

~Lauren

21 Things I Wish I Knew Before 21

About a week ago, my mom asked me what I wanted to do for my 21st birthday. When I responded with “not much, it is just another birthday and work day for me,” she seemed somewhat sad/disappointed and replied saying that 21 is different than other years because it is when someone truly becomes an adult. I agreed to disagree with her until I sat on this thought for a while, because in my mind, 21 is the age people can legally get hammered, but that’s about it. After a while, I realized 21 is the threshold into the next stages of life; not having to leave a restaurant on a date because the only open spots are at the bar (that was awkward), graduating college, moving out, getting a job, getting married etc, and because of that, I thought I would share the 21 things, big and small, that I wish I knew that would have made these pre 21 stages of life a bit easier.


Spend money on practical things

College turned me into a minimalist. I like when things are usable, and I don’t have too many of the same thing because why would I need ten plates at college when I have just one that works like a charm? Before college, I didn’t really think about spending money on things that I could continue to use in the future; expensive practice leotards, CDs that I haven’t touched in YEARS, clothes in style that are now out of style, and my personal favorite: my high school themed black and blue custom Nikes with “East” on one tongue and “View” on the other. Granted, these things served their purpose in the moment, as Spotify didn’t exist back in the CD era, my Nikes looked great with my warm ups, and I needed leotards to practice. Now that I am almost a good four years out of high school, no longer train, and don’t listen to JB on CD, I can’t help but cringe when I walk by the Nikes sitting on a shelf in the garage, see the dust on my CD box, and look at my old leotards staring at me in the bottom of my drawer. The hundreds of dollars in things I don’t use anymore could have been invested into something better. Looking back, I would have limited the amount of leotards I got because I only wore my four favorite ones anyways (I had over 30 at the end of my career), would have not gotten the idea in my head that Kidz Bop was fire, and stopped to consider if I was actually going to use things in the future. Yes, I could wear the Nikes still, and as much as I like Eastview, I don’t think anyone has THAT much school pride for their high school.

Don’t try to fit in

Yeah this sounds cliche, but back in high school, I wish I internalized this. I obeyed the social hierarchy, which led me wanting to look my best every day, and try to figure out what the “populars” had that I didn’t. We all remember the “Miss Me” jeans with the white thread and glam on the butt? Got those. Vera Bradley lunch box and lanyard? You bet I had to get that. Everything Lululemon? Always. And if that weren’t enough, you HAD to be tan for prom, so yes, I did drive to Wisconsin once a week to go to the tanning bed since I wasn’t 18 yet and allowed to sit in a human toaster in MN. Nowadays I like to steer away from looking exactly like the other girls who all wear denim skirts, crop tops, and Birks on campus. It is exhausting trying to be someone you are not, or feel like you have to impress everyone everyday. Looking back on it, I would tell myself to just be me, because people like me even without sparkly butt jeans.

Don’t settle

I used to settle for “good enough” regarding relationships with guys, roles at jobs, friends, and gymnastics. In these times, if I had a little bit more faith and confidence in myself, I could have had more and done more. It is so important to speak up, but I never did because I thought it wouldn’t change anything, so I talked myself into being ok with settling with where I was at. This often happened at gymnastics when my coaches didn’t have as much faith in me than I did, friendships were one-sided, guys didn’t understand the true meaning of courting a girl, or bosses that didn’t see my potential. It isn’t the fact that I could have been a few levels higher in gymnastics, or been on a fewer dates with dudes that were not my type that I wish I could change, but it really is more about knowing my worth and abilities. Not settling for less than what you deserve shows that you know what you can do, and what you are worth. Now that I have learned to speak up and not settle, I have met the guy that checks all my boxes, am out of toxic environments and friendships, speak up for when my grade is 92.97% and want an A, act on my ambitions, and don’t put up with anything unfair.

Lunch meat and eggs are nothing to be afraid of

This one is more on the lighthearted side, but when I was younger there were certain foods I would not eat out of irrational fear. I did not eat eggs until my freshman year of college (new year, new me stage) because my brother once told me eggs were dead baby chicks, so I went 18 years of my life without due to being gullible. I also did not touch lunch meat (literally and figuratively), which is why I brought pb&j every day for lunch from 7th grade to senior year. Little Lauren was perfectly content rotating between chicken fingers, mac and cheese, or pizza off the kids menu every time we went out to dinner. When I graduated from the kids menu, I would find the closest thing to those three things. I wish I knew earlier that there was a better world outside of pizza, and that grilled chicken or turkey wasn’t any more alive than chicken tenders like I thought it to be. I wouldn’t eat hot dogs at baseball games because the hot dog scared me, wouldn’t eat the meat that hung over the sides of my burger/didn’t have cheese on it, or a turkey sandwich without piling chips on it so I couldn’t taste the turkey. Now that I think about it, I was pretty much vegetarian without trying to be due to the fact that I was scared to eat meat where I could see it without breading on it or wasn’t totally out of sight…I thank the Lord I got over that phase, and it truly ended in college, because everything I didn’t eat back then is now pretty much all I eat.

Haste makes waste

I’m one to solve problems as quickly and effectively as possible. Over the years, I’ve had occurrences of trying to get something done fast, not doing it as well as I could have, and it backfired which led to more work than I would have had to do if I just took my time initially. Long story short, don’t rush! This phrase applies to so many things. We’ve all been there; switching lanes to get around a slow car, but in the end they pass you as they smirk at you in the rearview, trying to rush a homework assignment but end up doing it wrong and having to start over, trying to rush a relationship and it ends up crashing and burning, or in my case, trying to take the short cut at Minnehaha Creek and ending up taking an unexpected dip and having wet jorts for the rest of the day. Quantity over quality most of the time is not a good thing, and if I knew this years back, I would have stayed patient and actually saved the time that I thought I was going to save by doing it hastily.

Learn to cook

I wish I knew that what I have pinned on Pinterest in my “Eats” board isn’t just for looks like it has been since middle school. Growing up, I never had time to learn because I was training 20 hours a week. When I did have time to learn, my family was always at baseball tournaments, which led to many dinners anywhere other than home. Being at Gustavus, the trend has continued, as students are most of the time on a meal plan all four years. Don’t get me wrong, I have tried to learn over the years, but the only thing I’ve learned is that I can’t be trusted around sharp or hot objects. I am completely calm about graduating this next year and starting a new job and routine- but what terrifies me is that I will actually have to trust that what I made myself is not going to get me sick. Stay tuned for a future blog post about my first meal that I tried to make and ended up having to call the fire department..seriously, mark my words.

I am not immune to caffeine

I’ve always been one to believe that robust phenomenons don’t apply to me; caffeine leading to feeling more awake is one of them. I have never been a coffee drinker, I actually hate the taste of it (probably because I only get black since adding anything to make it taste better makes me feel weak). I never got it before college because I didn’t think caffeine had any effect on me, so what’s the point. I now realize that caffeine addiction is real because I still hate the taste of coffee, yet I find myself getting my cold brew every single morning despite the fact that it makes me gag. Starting college, I made a vow to myself that I would not turn into a coffee dependent college student, and that vow remained unbroken until this summer when I discovered one day without coffee at my internship led to wondering how I got to work alive since I didn’t remember driving there, and falling asleep at my desk on my break (and I’m not talking dozing off in the chair, I am talking full on head down on the keyboard). As much as I wish I could have warned myself, there is no going back a this point.

What a balanced diet actually means

Throughout my gymnastics years, coaches would send mixed signals regarding diet. I would hear “balanced diet,” from some, and “no carbs” from others. In younger years, anything diet related went in one ear and out the other as it should for any kid, plus my parents were in charge of meals. What I ate as a kid wasn’t a problem for me because I was so active, could eat anything I wanted, and didn’t need to consider carbs, proteins, and fats. If I could do it over again, I would have learned the importance of balancing macros because I didn’t notice the impact it had on my body. My senior year of high school I was plagued with injury and couldn’t train. Because I was so used to eating whatever I wanted (ALL the pasta, chicken tenders, and DQ), I didn’t accommodate for the fact that I wasn’t training 20 hours a week, or at all, and ended up unwinding all the effort I put in to get in shape for season. Just like I didn’t believe caffeine affected me, I didn’t believe that calories or too many chicken tenders affected me either. On the flip side, transitioning to college, I learned eating too little of one of the macros leads to feeling low energy, and is just as bad as eating too many of one. If I could have it my way, instead of trying to teach my elementary and middle school self the importance of the food pyramid and portion plate (you all remember this, don’t deny it), I would teach my high school and college self when it could be absorbed and comprehended more. In my opinion, it makes more sense at this age, as we have more independence, hence the freshmen 15. Now that I have learned the hard way what balance is, I definitely wish I didn’t reach extremes on both sides and put my health through some rough waters to finally get it right and be at optimal health.

I am more than “Lauren the gymnast”

I lived and breathed gymnastics for 16 years. At school I was known as “Lauren the gymnast,” was asked to do handstands down the hallways, backhandsprings at recess, and recognized in the school news for my performance at the meet the night before. Teachers would ask me how meets went, how the team was looking, or what skills I was working on. My friends knew I never had time to hang out due to my practice schedule, but would come to cheer me on at meets so they could see me, and I was constantly thinking about practice or visualizing my routines when I wasn’t crying over AP Calculus. For all of my school years, that was my identity, so the day I retired and I no longer could call myself a gymnast, I was absolutely lost. 3rd-12th grade I believed my biggest strength was gymnastics, and I never gave my time and effort to anything else other than school. If I could go back, I would tell myself to recognize the other great things I did, and not hold on so tight to the fact that I was a gymnast. Back then, I was also a great writer, coach, friend, and student, but I didn’t highlight those strengths or use them to define myself. How I was doing as a gymnast dictated my mood 97% of the time. Now that I am in college, and am three years retired, I no longer define myself as “Lauren the gymnast,” and it is such a relief because I now realize my life is so much more than leotards, scores, and chalk.

Prepare for interviews

This one also falls in the category of me not believing it applied to me just like caffeine and chicken tenders. I thought I was invincible and didn’t need to prepare for interviews at all. As much as I dig the confidence I had as a sophomore in college trying to interview for internships, boy was I wrong. I have always been one to panic when put on the spot, so the fact that I thought I could answer behavioral questions right then and there was a bold move. Now that I have experienced more challenges and have more “go to” stories to tell for interviews, it has become easier. But even then, I still didn’t truly prepare for interviews, or know how to effectively communicate my experiences, until I learned how to in my HR class this past year. Doing my research on the company, and STAR (situation, task, action, result) have been lifesavers, and make interviews so much easier, perhaps a bit fun too! I don’t know why I never did prepare, because it would have made me much less stressed while interviewing.

Do what scares you

I never really was one to branch out or try something due to my tunnel vision on college gymnastics, and being reserved in general. My whole life growing up was a routine, and I rarely strayed from it. I had many things I wanted to try back in high school, even my freshman year of college, but was too scared to try. I am so glad I got over that. If I didn’t, I would have a huge gap in my life where gymnastics once was. I wouldn’t have this blog, wouldn’t see my face on the front page of the Gustavian Weekly for the articles I’ve written, wouldn’t know how much I’ve helped others get healthy by creating my fitness account on Instagram, wouldn’t have internships or studied abroad, wouldn’t have performed flips in the Nutcracker ballet in front of thousands of people, ride a mechanical bull at the county fair, I’d still have bangs (good move), wouldn’t have eaten scrambled eggs, wouldn’t have shared my FND story with all my friends and family to create more awareness, and wouldn’t have gone on a date with the guy that I now can’t imagine going a day without talking to. Whatever it is that scares you right now, it may just lead to something life changing.

Focus on strengths, not weaknesses

It’s a common mistake to believe that in order to succeed, we must fix our weaknesses. Think about it, if you were given two tasks to choose from; one you were good at, and one you were bad at, why would you choose the one you were bad at? Senior year I was taking AP calculus, and knew I was going to major in psychology. Math is a weakness for me, and every night I would come home near tears. My parents then said “psychology doesn’t use calculus, why don’t you drop the class and do something else that will help you in the future?” That is exactly what I did, and not putting energy into a weakness of mine was the best decision. Putting energy into a weakness is like trying to fill a bucket with a small hole in it, it may fill up some, but ultimately it’s just going to keep draining and needing more to keep it half full. Another example is when I decided to give up competing all-around because every time I vaulted I would wreck myself, so I devoted more time to the events I was good at, and progressed more than I would have if I stayed in the all-around. Once I got to college and spent my time doing what I was good at- psychology – life became more enjoyable. I also found that I was great at HR and spent more time in that. I know my strengths, and my weaknesses, and being able to choose my classes, internships, and hopefully a future job that plays to my strengths is something I am looking forward to because I know I will do a good job.

Don’t put your faith life on the back burner

Before college, I only thought about my faith life when I needed it, and when it was convenient as bad as that sounds. I prayed when I had a problem or wanted something, and that’s about it. I wish I focused more on my faith life and devoted myself earlier because I can’t go a day without it now, and it makes me more grateful and appreciate the good things in my day. I look forward to my daily devotional, time for prayer and reflection, and just knowing that I am a part of something greater. I dealt with some hard times in high school, and I wish I could go tell myself to depend on the Lord for comfort and guidance instead of trying to deal with everything on my own. I love being in my Christian organizations and bible study on campus, they are highlights of my week, and such a positive influence. Life seems so much less-heavy ever since I have been more dependent and devoted to my faith. Philippians 4:13, baby, could’ve used that for many terrible Tuesdays back in the day.

You are not going to marry your middle school crush

Sometimes I wonder if I had a different brain back in middle school because my thoughts then do not resemble any of the logic I use now. I can still remember the day I was walking back from lunch, and passed who I believed to be my soul mate. To 7th grade Lauren, I thought it was love as first sight, it seemed like time stopped when I saw him. I would plan my routes from class just so I could pass by him in the hallway. The day he texted me and dropped a ๐Ÿ™‚ at the end of the text, you would have thought I had just won the lottery. While we did go to freshman year homecoming and senior year prom together, there is no end to the middle school one-sided love story, except the friend zone. I wish I could go back and tell myself to just chill. Seriously, do you know anyone who married their middle school crush?

Do your future self a favor

I have always been one that likes to see instant results from what I put my effort into, so when my brother and dad told me to make a LinkedIn and a resume in 9th grade, I thought they were nuts. At that time, I had no desire to get an internship, didn’t see why networking was important, and didn’t think of how it could potentially help me down the road. If I could go back to myself and say “I promise you, this is not a waste of time, don’t half-_____ it” I would have appreciated that, because I like knowing what I’m doing will make things easier eventually. Being that future self now, I am so thankful I started the process years ago when the only thing I could put on my resume was the “most dedicated” award for gymnastics. Other examples have been investing my money in stock, doing more of my homework now instead of putting it off for a time I know I will not have the time to do it, or doing little things that I know will help my future self whether that be minutes, months, or years away. As much as I don’t want to do it in the moment, it does help, and I wish my past self would have done more to help me now!

Everything happens for a reason

I heard this so many times growing up, but I never believed it. I had heard of God’s plan, and that everything works out in the end, but I only liked to look at the good things that happened, and didn’t see bad things as a part of a bigger plan. High school wasn’t easy for me, but if I had not experienced some of the things I did back then, I wouldn’t be where I am now, wouldn’t have met some of my best friends, or had the opportunities I’ve had. FND is my biggest example of this, yeah it has dragged me through the mud, but I wouldn’t be as active and driven without it. This really is a hindsight thing, and it is cool to see how things have worked out looking back. When something bad happens now, I keep this in mind and know something better is ahead. I wish I could go back and tell myself to not get down over the middle school heartbreak, the terrible Tuesday, the missed internship, or failed plans, because God has something so much greater ahead!

Keep Mom and Dad close

I had my terrible teen years where I wanted to get out of the house and go to college. If I would have told myself that I would become really close with the ‘rents once going to college, I would not have believed it. If I could, I would go back a whack some sense into my younger self for all the times I was just not pleasant to be around, or where I thought I was right and they were the enemy, but really, they knew what was best. I would tell myself to appreciate all they do, and actually spend time with them! I cherish my times coming home from college and being able to go to dinners, movies, and just talk with them. Looking back, I see those years as years wasted that could have been so much better.

Don’t wish time away

This is one of my biggest regrets. I spent high school wishing I could go to college. And I’ve spent college wishing I could just be done because I’ve faced so much adversity. It is easy to spend time wishing something bad away, but in the process, that time does truly fly by. Being an incoming college senior, I can’t help but wish I could be a kid again having slumber parties and spending time with all my friends, or be in high school again because my friends were so close, and I actually loved high school as much as I believed I didn’t sometimes. Even now, I wish I could go back and repeat my last three years at Gustavus because I spent so much time focusing on what was going wrong, and I didn’t take advantage of the college experience as much as I should have. It is the worst feeling knowing you could have done something better, but have no way of changing it. I’m glad I know this now, because I am going to try to make up for the three years of college that I wished away all in my last year at Gustavus! Never will I ever wish more time away as much as I look forward to what is ahead.

Change your flight on beam

This one is directed at my 8th grade self only, and would have saved me three months in a back brace if I decided to do what scared me instead of take the easy way out. Flight on beam is the tumbling series performed during the routine. I was too scared to do back walkover back handspring, so I did back walkover-back walkover. If I would have known that doing too many back bends would have given me a stress fracture, I would have stopped right then and there. Because I was a wimp back then, I now deal with lingering back pain like I am already 90 years old.

No experience is a waste of time

Just like everything happens for a reason seems to be a hindsight type deal, so does this one. I have had some experiences and been with people that make some situations seem unbearable in the moment, and ultimately feel like a waste of time. As cliche as it sounds, you do learn from every experience, both good and bad. Back then I never saw a tough time as learning what not to do, or what I don’t like, I just thought I was unlucky and life was tough. Every hardcore social-loafing project group I have been stuck with has shown me what kind of people I want/don’t want to work with. Every summer job or internship that didn’t quite enjoy has gotten me one step closer to finding my dream job, one terrible date showed me what kind of guy not to date, and one broken arm taught me not to go on a trampoline with eight people. If anything, it is the failed and miserable experiences that I’ve learned the most from, and in return won’t waste any time doing more of what I don’t like. I wish I knew back then that all the bad times were endured for a good reason.

You are your own person

I can’t remember a time growing up when I wasn’t wanting to make others happy, and would strive to be perfect by doing what I thought was expected of me. Over the years I have created expectations/ rules in my head that I thought would make my family or friends happy; including what career path to take, what kind of guy I could date, unofficial rules that my family grew up doing, what I was allowed to do on the weekends etc. This often led to me being more reserved, scared to try new things, afraid to do what was “out of character”, and ultimately not happy. It only took me 21 years to figure out that what I do, and who I am, is enough, and perfectly ok! I don’t need to follow exactly in my brother’s footsteps to make my family happy, because my successes are just as great even though they are different. Just because I choose not to drink, even on my 21st, doesn’t make me lame or naive. Just because I am a psychology major rather than into some form of business like the rest of my family doesn’t make me any less valuable. Just because I don’t eat dessert after dinner doesn’t make me rude. While none of these “rules” were ever said, that is what my mind thought through observation growing up. It is definitely a relief knowing I can make my own decisions, as a 21 year old should be able to, and know that I have no unrealistic expectations or guidelines I have to follow.

I don’t know what my life would be like now if I knew some of these tidbits earlier. Maybe I would be the same, or maybe I would be in a completely different spot. It’s interesting to think about how every action I have taken has, or maybe hasn’t, gotten me to where I am now. Every year on my birthday, I wake up expecting to feel completely different. And every single year is so anti climactic; I get out of bed, still short, still blonde, still bad at math…but this year, I actually do feel different. I may have woken up one year older today , still short, still blonde, still bad at math, but I am so much wiser, happier, and feel like I am in complete control of the years that are ahead of me.

Cheers to 21 years! ^^^^(Wine tasting in France doesn’t make wine taste any better)

~Lauren

10 Things Moms Should Get Awarded for

In honor of Mother’s Day this year, I am dedicating this post to all the moms that do so much for their families, tasks both big and small, and often times are under appreciated, or go unnoticed. My mom has done, still does, and probably will do so much for me. Between driving to Gustavus because I forgot a folder at home, making meals for me after late night practices, being the glue of the family, and always having answers to the “how do I do this?” questions; it amazes me how she does it all without complaining. Moms get stuck with the dirty work most of the time, one honorable mention for me was leaving her to deal with the neighbor’s mailbox after my hit and run (sorry, Mom). I fall victim to not giving my mom enough recognition for what she does, and as much as I’d like to blame it on change blindness (psychological phenomenon where one cannot detect changes between familiar images or settings), I simply just have gotten used to the fact that she does so much for me to the point I never notice just how much that is. With that, here are 10 things moms do that they should get more recognition for.

1. Best “Momager”

This one starts the day we are born, and just gets worse as we get older. A family’s schedule can be absolutely insane, yet moms find a way to organize it all, be there for everything, and rarely mix anything up. In my household growing up, my brother and I played pretty much every sport. Between six days a week a gymnastics practice, weekend basketball tournaments, Tuesday night meets, Friday night baseball games, track meets, softball practices, hockey tournaments, out of town championships…you get it, busy, my mom still managed to somehow be at all of our events. Sometimes I wonder if she had a stand in twin that I didn’t know about. The sporting events were only a small percentage of all my mom, and many other moms, have to schedule. There also are the doctors appointments, yearly dentist appointments that was like pulling teeth trying to get us to (pun intended), orthodontist appointments, eye doctor appointments, and of course the bonehead moves we did that ended in a trip to the ER with broken bones. Momagers are flexible, yet organized at the same time, especially with all the play dates we insisted having while growing up. I truly don’t know how my mom did it all, and still fit her own schedule, as well as my dad’s schedule, inside of mine and my brother’s schedules. Even to this day my mom schedules my appointments because she knows I wouldn’t otherwise. Think back on all you did as a kid, yet you didn’t have to think about planning any of it, it just happened. Even with all the chaos, my mom always makes sure there’s time for a family selfie to document every moment, consistency is key!

2. Five Star Chaeuffer

In addition to being a Momager, we all had to get to our scheduled activities somehow. Because my Razor scooter could only take me so far, this left it up to Mom to get me where I needed to be, which 90% of the time was to TAGS gymnastics. I never thought about it back then, but making a 15 minute drive every single day at 4:15, then having to remember to get me at 8:30, would be really annoying! That time really adds up. Not to mention, when I had morning practice, technically my mom did too, leaving her to never be able to sleep in on a Saturday. In addition to all the driving that Moms do, they also have to put up with a lot in the car. I haven’t always been the most fun person to drive around. I remember my early days of having the AUX cord and my playlist consisted of Justin Bieber, Hannah Montana, and other songs I would rather not admit I listened to. Even with a terrible playlist, my mom never asked me to change it, yet every time I let her listen to her 80s station, I would make a big fuss about it and complain the whole way. Moms have to endure the sibling fights in the backseat that happened every once in a while, random batch of stomach flu on the way back from Kentucky, as well as all the “are we there yets?”, “you’re making me car sicks,” and complaints about their driving when all they’re trying to do is get you where you want to go. Feel guilty yet? I know I do.

3. Best Doctor Without a Doctorate

My mom is the best caretaker I know. I will not go into detail about all the nasty and weird things I’ve left her to help me with, but we all have had those moments where it is left to mom to get us through the day. Moms magically know all the remedies to make us better (2 Sudafed + caffeine=headaches gone), and my mom is no exception. Every time I have been sick, my mom has always been there for me to the point where I don’t have to do anything on my own but breathe. Even in college this remains true. Don’t deny it, when we are sick, we all turn into helpless humans and feel like our only calling in life at the moment is the couch. Moms are the ones who know what medicines to use, how to use them, and will make us use them because they know what is best for us even when it seems ridiculous to do. This is what led to my mom chasing me around a table with a syringe of Augmentin when I was little. (I didn’t like the taste, do you blame me for fleeing?) But what about when moms get sick? We don’t even notice; because they keep driving us around, doing laundry, and helping us, instead of helping themselves. There is no one to tell moms when to take their Sudafed, get them chicken noodle soup, or chase them around the house to take their Robitussin. Just like a doctor has to be selfless, our moms seem to be no different. Next time your mom makes you a big bowl of chicken and stars, or runs to Target to get you cough drops, take a moment to realize that she really didn’t have to.

4. Best Volunteer

I may not be able to speak for everyone, but my mom has done so much work for others just because she wants to. If I had the chance to do all the tasks she has taken on, I would turn them all down as bad as that sounds. Moms seem to be attracted to volunteering, but that’s because they are JUST that good at helping others, not complaining, and love their kids enough to do things I’d rather take a Razor scooter to the ankle for than do. I remember the year when my mom decided to be the head coordinator of concessions for a basketball tournament. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a mini van filled with so many soda bottles before, and I don’t think I ever will again. That was the one moment where food objects took priority over me getting a seat in the car. I don’t even remember whose car I ended up riding around to each venue in, but all I know is that I had giant bags of M&Ms to comfort me from stranger danger. My mom has also taken on other big roles such as being on the board for the gymnastics booster club for many years, coordinating elementary school carnivals, helping with many class holiday parties, organizing fundraisers and contacting restaurants/setting up promotions for Eastview Baseball, and many other things that I can’t remember because they all run together as much as my mom ran around getting stuff done. Most of our childhood experiences that we loved so much wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the mom community.

5. Terrible Two and Terrible Teen Survivor

I would be very surprised if you are telling yourself that you were the perfect child growing up. I never hear the end of the time when I was two, and threw a tantrum at the mall by crawling under a table display while kicking and screaming just because. I also can’t forget the time I crawled under the table at the doctors office because I didn’t want a shot, and wouldn’t come out. There have been many more little Lauren honorable mentions that include drawing on things I shouldn’t, having a fit in the middle of Wendy’s, stealing my brother’s toys, and being stubborn in many situations. Even though the terrible twos were bad, that can be attributed to being young, whereas terrible teens is just downright difficult. While child psychology argues that there is developmental evidence for why teens act the way they do, we call this the “exploratory phase” in the psych world, there is no reason why teens have to talk back to a simple question, act like their mom is the enemy, or do the opposite of what they are told. I hate to admit it, but I had my moments, and I can’t believe how patient my mom was with me. If I were in her shoes, I would not have put up with any of that. Teens are a hard age to deal with because they still need their mom, but they don’t know it, or don’t want to admit it. So for you moms with teens, give it time and they will come back crawling to you asking for help and forgiveness for the sassy attitude like I did. Moms are more than moms, they are survivors.

6. Best Cook

We all say that our moms are the best cooks in the world, and even though we all say it (which makes for a lot of best cooks in the world), I don’t doubt any of you are wrong because moms know us best. Anything made by mom is better than anything you could buy except Chipotle. Growing up, I was super picky, and I wish I wasn’t because I missed out on a lot of good stuff. I also spent a lot of time whining about what my mom made for dinner, rather than thanking her for taking the time to make sure I don’t starve. She would make steaks or fancy chicken for dinner and I would be insistent on Wendy’s chicken nuggets. I remember sitting at the dinner table most nights, my mom would cut up my pork chop or chicken for me (you can see above in the picture, I’m not exaggerating), and I wouldn’t eat it. I always went for the bread (that’s why I’m smiling above) and mashed potatoes, really enforcing that carb loading diet back then as you can see. Instead of my mom getting mad for neglecting protein, she would say all I had to do was eat those four bites, and then she would be happy. My mom has made so many meals over the years, yet I never took into account just how much time it took her, and I never thanked her for making the meal during prayer (had to sing the Johnny Appleseed song every time). I’m sure I’m not the only one who has started to stuff their face, or pick apart a meal our moms made without being grateful. I didn’t turn my nose up at every single meal though; I loved (and still love) my mom’s chicken pot pie, chicken tetrazzini, spaghetti pie, and KY BBQ pork chops (yes, I did like those four bites she made me eat I just didn’t admit it). I’m so glad that growing up has made me become more aware that food doesn’t just magically appear on the table on its own.

7. Best Teacher

Moms are great teachers. My mom was the one who taught me to do a lot of things some being how to ride a bike, play basketball, and drive. She is the person that has instilled the “I can do all things” attitude in me. I can remember these teaching moments with my mom like they were yesterday. In basketball, I dribble with my left and shoot with my right just like my mom, and I never let the fact that I was a midget in the basketball world get to me because she didn’t let it get to her. When it came to riding a bike, my mom told me to ride to her, (I hate when people tell me what to do), so I challenged that and rode right past her ignoring what she said. But still, I wouldn’t have been able to do that if it weren’t for the many times she picked me up after I crashed and told me what to fix. If it weren’t for that “I’ll show you” moment of riding right past her, I probably wouldn’t have been as confident when learning to drive. I think a majority of us had to take some type of driver’s ed during high school. You were lucky if you were paired with someone you knew; my brother and I weren’t that lucky. Those long, conversationless, driving sessions with Jim were not my favorite. So when my mom finally took me out to drive her fancy car, it made me realize I wouldn’t want anyone other than my mom to teach me how to drive. Learning to drive in the middle of a Minnesota January is not ideal at all, yet with every sheet of black ice I hit, sharp turn, slam of the breaks, and 5 MPH traffic jam I was causing, she stayed calm throughout it all. My mom is good at making me less stressed in situations, and learning parallel parking was one of the most stressful moments for me which is why I have vowed to never parallel park since I passed my drivers test (vow has not been broken). I can’t say I would have been that calm if we switched places, as I wouldn’t want to put my life, or my nice car’s life, in the hands of a 15 year old in the middle of winter who barely could reach the pedals and see over the steering wheel. Moms will literally risk their lives for us.

8. Best Stylist

Again, I can’t speak for everyone, but I think for most of us, our moms were the ones who used to dress us. She was good at making me look good, even during my phase where I lost all my teeth except for my one front tooth (we call it the snaggletooth era). My mom and I had the same routine every morning up until third grade. She would come in my room and wake me up, open the blinds, open my closet, and then ask me what I wanted to wear. “I don’t know” was always my answer, and my indecisiveness has persisted even to this day which is why I still can’t figure out what to wear and ask my mom to help, as well as my brother still asking for her two sense. She would then pair one of my tops with a pair of jeans, and put it with a matching scrunchie. This is where my obsession with matching my colors started, because that’s what I grew up observing. My brother and I always put on what she paired without questioning it because we have always trusted that she won’t let us leave the house looking like fools. This was proven when I started to dress myself and paired a striped shirt with plaid shorts. My mom was also the one who convinced me to grow my bangs out in 4th grade (thank you), and taught me how to put my hair in a pony tail and braids. Lastly, my mom has been my secret weapon for picking out homecoming and prom dresses. I always go in with one image in my head, ignoring her suggestions saying its ugly, end up agreeing to try it on “just for looks”, and EVERY TIME, her pick is the one I choose. That is why my senior year prom I went in thinking pink sweetheart and came out with a backless black little number that she found. Needless to say, she’s coming with me to find my wedding dress.

9. Best Advice-Giver

They say that Mom is always right, and as much as we hate to admit that statement is true when we are trying to prove a point, it never fails. But in cases where we truly want to know what to do, or what to say, Mom is the place to go. When it comes to my mom and I, I never ask for advice because I’m not the type who does that typically. I hate asking for help. Instead, she knows that when I start to talk about something either in the car, or while we are ellipticalling next to each other, that is me asking for advice. I am not one to willingly talk about problems, unless it is in either of those two places. I think a lot of us believe that moms will never understand some situations we are in, but I have come to find that my mom has been in the same, and even more situations than I have been in (that’s the moment I realized my mom was way more cool at my age than I am). I’ve come to my mom for advice about many things; what classes sound good to take, planning my future path, what road to take to get somewhere, fashion advice, relationship advice, sorority advice, health advice, cooking advice, laundry…you see where I’m going with this. Whether it is something as simple as what shirt goes in what laundry load, or something big like “how do I know if he is the one?” Mom knows best, and her words have never failed me.

10. Best Hype Woman

No one makes you feel good about yourself quite like a mom does. I don’t know about your moms, but moms and Facebook go together like PB and J. My self-esteem probably would not be at the level it’s at if my mom didn’t get a Facebook. Between her postings about my life updates and successes, and her like-minded friends that never fail to add a comment, I feel like I am a celebrity. Going off the “mom is always right” idea, it is in these situations where we say we look terrible in a photo, but Mom denies it, that we embrace the concept rather than hate it in every other situation. My mom knows me in and out, which is why she is such a good cheerleader whether that be tanking my beam routine, taking a terrible school picture, getting a bad test grade..the list goes on. She knows what can build me back up again after I’ve had a day that knocked me down. I remember the days back in middle school or high school where I would be having the worst day ever, and of course when she picked me up later that day she would have a chocolate shake with a cherry on top waiting for me, as if she magically knew that I was having a Terrible Tuesday. That always cheered me up! Nowadays being an hour away, my mom has found other ways to hype me up such as midday texts with excessive emojis just to check in, snapchats, and care packages full of my favorite things. Moms know us to the core, which is why I can always depend on mine to make me feel like I didn’t just get hit by a pile of bricks, and to persist day in and day out.

I could say so many more things about my mom that are unique to us, such as that we get told we look the same about three times a week. I am sure that you all can say the same about you and your moms having your own “things”, too. When writing this, I was thinking about the fact that a majority moms do all of these things without being asked, and while these are just common things moms do, each mom does them differently which makes each relationship different. I know that without my mom, my days would have been a lot less bright without a few kind Facebook comments, my prom pictures would have been a lot different, I would still be on a carb loading diet, I would still be pondering if my 7th grade boyfriend was the one, I wouldn’t have passed my drivers test, would not have been the gymnast I was, and I wouldn’t be the woman I am today. I would be lucky to be half the woman my mom is. It’s the little things moms do without being asked that make them so special, so on this day, and from now on, recognize those little things, and maybe start returning the favor.

To all you moms out there, I hope your Mother’s Day kicks butt like my mom does!

~Lauren

Life with FND

In honor of Functional Neurological Disorder Awareness week, https://fndhope.org/ has asked those who live with this disorder to share their experience, and what their life is like with FND. Last year, I shared my FND story and how it all came to be, you can check that post out through the link at the bottom of this blog post.

This year, I am going to share what it is like to live with FND. Just to recap, FND is a problem with the functioning of the nervous system, causing the brain to send incorrect signals to the body. FND is as debilitating as other movement disorder conditions, such as Parkinsonโ€™s, stroke, and Epilepsy. For me, it happens in cycles throughout the night, and presents itself as non-epileptic seizures on the left side of my body. They will occur during the day if I am stressed, sick, eat gluten/dairy, have not exercised for the day, or have any added physical stress to my body (sunburn, digestion issues, sore muscles, hormone fluctuations). I have had this condition for ten years, but was misdiagnosed for eight of them.

I want to share my story to spread awareness because this can apply to people with FND, but also those with other conditions that are afraid or embarrassed to speak out. While I can work out, go to class, and live my life just like everyone else can; having FND adds other dimensions to my life that others don’t have to worry about. This post is not meant to focus on what FND has taken from me, because there are just as many positive aspects FND has contributed to my life as there are negative.

1. FND moves me

Having a condition that moves my limbs for me is just plain annoying! It makes everyday things hard to do, but the biggest one for me: sleeping. There’s no way to describe the helpless feeling I have when it keeps me frozen in a certain twisted position during the night, or in public, not knowing when it’s going to let me go. I refer to it as an “it” because even though it’s my body doing this to me, it feels like something else moving me. Spells are not a feeling I can replicate voluntarily, it is like a whole other force. When people ask me to show them what it looks like, it’s like trying to make a horse into a unicorn, it may look somewhat close, but it isn’t a real representation. The best way I can explain it is to imagine flexing a straight arm and leg, but multiply that muscle tension by about ten. Then, twist your arm and leg into unnatural positions, add some shock feelings in your brain, and hold it still like that until it releases from the death grip just to jerk your arm until it feels like it has ripped your rotator cuff. I’ve learned that most can’t fathom losing control of half their body, and this is because they think I’m moving my own limbs when I have a spell in front of them, or tell me to โ€œjust stop doing that.โ€ As frustrating as it is for people to think I am doing this to myself, I can’t expect them to understand because our bodies were made to work in harmony. Many ask if spells scare me, and my answer is only during a “flare up.” My flare ups happen when I am sick, overly tired, don’t work out, or have any added physical stress. I have gotten used to the feeling of the everyday mild spells during the night, they have become my norm. But when I have a flare up; any sudden movement, bump in the car, loud noise, flashing light, poke, or startle will set it off, prohibiting me from being able to walk on my own, and will pull me to the ground no matter what time of day it is or where I am. It is terrifying times like these that have made my birthday cake wish every year since fifth grade to be a cure for FND.

2. FND makes me responsible

My FND keeps me on a consistent schedule of exercising, eating right, scheduling appointments, managing stress (trying to), and getting to bed at a decent time. Because of this, it has made me more responsible, makes me more efficient, spend time wisely, and makes me consider my actions a lot more. I’ve learned to gauge what I do in order to not exhaust myself, and that some situations aren’t good for me, or anyone for that matter, to be in. Is staying up an hour later to watch Shark Tank worth having a worse night? I know I will thank myself if I just go to bed (but I don’t, I haven’t fully grown up in that sense). Is procrastinating this homework in order to catch up on sleep from deciding to watch Shark Tank the night before going to reduce my stress levels? That one is always a toss up. Will skipping this workout since I was up all night with spells benefit me? Skipping makes it worse, so I don’t miss a day no matter how tired. Is this cookie full of gluten and dairy that takes me ten seconds to eat worth hours of spells tonight? Sadly, no. Is going to girl’s night out and staying up late worth a flare up? Absolutely! Gotta have a little fun. I have gotten good at choosing which battles are worth fighting, and because of this, I sometimes forget I’m not actually 25-30 since I weigh out the costs versus benefits more than the average 20 year old. College shenanigans like drinking or other unhealthy bonehead moves aren’t worth the effects that follow, which is why I don’t, won’t, and haven’t (I may act 21+, but I’m still 20, duh), participated. I’m glad that I am responsible in that sense, because walking up The Hill coming back from a sub par house party in the middle of winter at midnight without a coat because girls are “too cool” to carry them is not my ideal night. Wise beyond my years, and no record of hangovers, has never felt better, and for that, I thank FND.

3. FND is a leash

Because I have to consider the reaction that comes from every action, I have to turn down activities or events that I want to be a part of, but know will harm me more than help me. I’d love to go on a two AM Perkins pancake run with my sorority sisters, or a midnight movie showing, but I know it will screw up my sleep schedule and make me miserable the next couple days. There have been morning study sessions or breakfasts that I missed because of morning neurologist appointments, or have to get my workout in so I don’t flare up during the day. (Working out at night is not as effective as morning workouts). There are days when my energy is so low from being up the night before with my spells, that I simply can’t go out with friends that night, or do anything at all because pushing myself to do more than I should will make the vicious cycle worse. It is a vicious cycle of having a disorder that makes me tired, but is caused by being tired. FND is a leash in the sense where I can only venture out so far and explore a limited amount before having to stop. It gets frustrating having to consider every decision I make, or invitation I get, when all my friends can just say yes or no in that moment without thinking about how it could affect them in the following days. FND is also a leash in the way that it instilled a fear in me that if I do something outside of my routine, something bad will happen to me-like a shock collar. The fear keeps me from being able to venture out past my routine that more serves as a boundary. I have been trying to make the leash longer (like one of those retractable ones) by allowing myself to do more fun college things with friends, but it definitely takes patience trying to break something I have practiced for ten years. Lastly, I’ve been hooked up to many wires…can’t go very far when you are hooked up am I right?

4. FND reveals my support system

I am grateful for FND because it shows me who I can depend on. Psychology shows that we have negative implicit biases no matter how hard we try not to, that’s why there is stigma against abnormal in the first place. I have found it interesting how “normal” I am treated everyday because my FND can’t be seen, but once I have a spell in front of those same people, they treat me differently. I don’t want those people as my friends, so FND is a blessing in disguise because it reveals people’s true colors. Growing up, I have been called inappropriate names, mocked, excluded, pointed at, and even have been singled out during a college psych class for being “mentally handicapped” during a unit on people with psychopathic mental disorders that ended up in jail. As much as those comments and actions hurt in the moment, it wasn’t due to the cruelty of it, but more the frustration that they didn’t understand my brain is structured perfectly normal, just like theirs, and FND doesn’t change the way I think or act at all. I’ve come to realize that people don’t necessarily dislike those who are “different,” but rather, are scared of what is uncommon, and attacking them is easier to do than trying to learn what is actually going on. You know when you’re in a public bathroom and someone knocks to see if someone is in there? Yet every time, you are frozen and don’t ever know what to say without making it more awkward? This is how people react when they find out I have a disorder; hesitant, embarrassed, and temporary lack vocabulary. I’ve found that people feel more comfortable when I am comfortable with my disorder. It’s like when someone hurts themself, and you’re allowed to laugh once they laugh, because that means everything is ok. While my FND may look like I’m not ok, I truly am perfectly ok, and perfectly myself. It’s a very anti-climactic disorder because people envision non- epileptic seizures to change my personality and current state, but the only thing that changes is the fact that my left side is now moving on its own. Most don’t know it’s happening until I point it out because I’ve made times where it’s pulling me to the ground look like I’m picking up something I dropped, or “casually” leaning against a wall when it isn’t allowing me to stand on my own. My best friends to this day are the ones that have stuck with me through it all, didn’t exclude me from their games at recess (5th graders can be nasty), and are comfortable around me when having spells. It has also shown me how much I can depend on my parents from the effort put in trying to learn more. Having my support system is so beneficial because it is great to know that they see me as the same person I was before I was diagnosed with FND, aka the same.

5. FND keeps me paranoid

It’s frustrating having a disorder that doesn’t let me relax, both literally and figuratively. In the literal sense, when I sit or lie down too long, and no muscles are engaged on my left side, my brain thinks it has lost that half, which causes the random firings to make sure they are still there. The brain is often times compared to a computer, and this goes to show that even the smartest “computer” in the world can have glitches (just like smart phones aren’t all that smart, I’m looking at you, Siri). In the figurative sense, FND never leaves the back of my mind no matter how hard I try. People tell me to “just forget about it,” but that is like telling you to stop thinking about an assignment you have due. FND is like a never ending assignment without a due date. Since I was diagnosed, I remain paranoid that it will happen at times I don’t want it to. I can be out with friends, family, or on vacation, but can’t fully enjoy it like I should because there’s the thought my FND could show up to the party as the funky uncle that no one invited. I’m not saying it keeps me from having a good time and consumes my thoughts 24/7, but it would be nice to have a movie night with the girls, not having a single thought about sitting too long, or the possibility that I may have a spell. The biggest one for me, is that I never feel like I can fully relax at night because my spells happen once I fall asleep (this includes naps). Most people look forward to going to bed at night, but I dread it because I never know what the night has in store for me. I actually enjoy when my alarm goes off in the morning because that means I can finally be done sleeping, and can go work out to make it all stop. I can’t wait for the day I can wake up in the morning feeling like I didn’t just do a full workout on half of my body, paint a canvas at a sorority event without planning an escape route if I have a spell during it, or go to bed without being scared.

6. FND makes me strong

FND has made me strong in every way possible; solid in my values, mentally strong, spiritually strong and even physically strong as my left side is stronger than my right from years of spells. I have always told myself that while FND controls me physically, I don’t let it control me in any other way. I don’t ever want to be defined by my disorder or let it consume me. In order to do this, I have had to stay strong in some tough situations like scary procedures, terrible medications, being pulled underwater during a spell, long nights, and frustrating moments when it would have been easier to let them break me. I’m fully aware that I am not living the life of a typical college kid; as I explained in last year’s post, FND has caused me to have to live without a roommate, be on some wonky medications, depend on my parents more than the average 20 year old, and drive back and forth many times for doctors appointments. It has been hard to stay positive at times, but I have gained strength by giving my fears and hardships to God, and that is what motivates me to keep going. I look back at all I have gone through since fifth grade, and realize that all the times I felt I was struggling to stay above water, I actually was doggy paddling like a pro. I couldn’t have done it if I didn’t become stronger in all areas, and used God as my crutch. Many of you know that Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” is THE verse I live by. I internalized these words, and have seen how they have applied to my life by overcoming obstacles with the strength I have gained. FND has taught me how to dig deep for courage when I need it, and that I can do so much more than I ever thought I could.

7. FND is not relatable

FND is not well known, which makes it hard to explain to people in a way they will grasp it. Explaining what I feel is like trying to think of a word or name, and it is on the tip of your tongue, but you just can’t pinpoint it. I can explain it in the best way I can, and people understand the concept, but there is no way for them to experience or know what FND feels like. I wish there were some type of simulator so people could feel it like I do. It is frustrating having something out of the ordinary because I want to be able to talk about it with others when it is giving me a hard time, especially my parents. While they know me better than anyone else, FND will always be the one thing they truly don’t understand about me no matter how hard they try. Humans are great at bonding over tough times. We’ve all been there; getting stuck in a downpour halfway across campus, washing the dishes and touching a soggy piece of bread in the sink, stubbing your toe, the whole class bombing a test and joking about it together because it wasn’t just you, and my personal favorite; seeing my sorority sisters complain together over how sore they are from a sisterhood”Lauren workout.” It helps to talk about experiences we have all shared at some point, and eases stress knowing you aren’t alone. But with FND, it is hard to do because while people try to relate to me by saying their arm twitched randomly one time at night, or flop their arm around “pretending” to be like me, it just isn’t the same, and actually makes me very upset inside. In addition, FND looks different for those who have it. I am a part of an international FND group, and through this, people share their experiences, tips, and give/get support. While it’s nice to be in this group, I still haven’t encountered someone else who also has FND on only one side of their body, and only while sleeping. Tactics that help ease my symptoms don’t help others, and tactics others have found to help, don’t help me. Even those with FND can’t entirely relate to each other, and because of that, it feels like I am stranded on my own little FND island. It would be nice to have some visitors every once in a while.

8. FND gets me involved

So many people in the U.S. suffer from FND and they don’t even know it. Being someone who has had this since I was ten, but not knowing I had it until I was 18, I don’t want others to endure what I have if they don’t have to. While I made it my mission to stay strong, and stay myself through my journey, not all those with FND have been able to. In the FND group, I see countless negative posts about how down and hopeless they are feeling. These posts hurt to read, and while I personally understand how it is easier to adopt a negative mindset because FND does truly impact quality of life, I want to be proof for those people that it doesn’t have to be like that. You become what you believe, and I am LMC, not FND. While FND is not psychological, it definitely helps to maintain a positive headspace, and is a lot healthier. I have tested many theories like cutting gluten, dairy, soy, and egg out of my diet, not eating past a certain time, sleeping with sandpaper, rubbing ice on myself, brain exercises called BBQ rolls (not as yummy as they sound), sleeping sitting up, medication made for Parkinson’s, taking so many supplements to the point where I bought out all the pill boxes at Walgreens, weighted blankets, consuming “seratonin smoothies”, bananas and peanut butter at three AM, anti seizure meds, lasers, and some things that have come close to stripping my dignity away. But even then, all of that is worth just one improvement. I enjoy sharing my findings with the FND community because anything that helps take away a symptom is worth a shot! Knowing that I may have helped to ease someone’s spells is what motivates me to keep going through these weird treatments. My spells are mild compared to others who have it full-body and are wheelchair bound. I spread awareness for those people who have it worse than me because I’m grateful to live an active life and be able to be a voice. I’m passionate about spreading FND awareness because I believe that there can be a cure, it just hasn’t been studied much before. Ever since I have started to share my story, I feel like I can be myself, because I know that the more people know about FND, the less I have to hide it. Everyone deserves to feel comfortable with themselves, and this is why I spread awareness for those who struggle with anything “out of the ordinary.”

9. FND is daunting

Anyone that knows me, knows I’m future-oriented. I plan out my days, weeks, months, and even have a rough outline for my next ten years on Pinterest. FND doesn’t fit into any of my plans, and can’t be scheduled into my Google Calendar, because it has no forecast telling me that Tuesday will be partly cloudy with a chance of midday FND. There are days where I feel great, and don’t think about my disorder at all. But then there are the days where it occurs to me that there is no cure, and I’m stuck like this for who knows how long. It’s so easy to get down on those days, and let daunting thoughts enter my mind. What if I’m stuck in my rigid routine for the rest of my life; not being able to travel much, always being paranoid, having to work out every morning, not sleeping, etc? What if it affects my future in the workplace? I can’t just skip work if I am having a flare up like I can with college classes. And the biggest one for me, what if it spreads to the rest of my body? My FND started in my arm, but as time went on, it spread to my leg, and then my neck. Having it spread to my right side, or begin to happen during the day, would make me have to learn how to live my life in a new way all over again. As dramatic as that sounds, it is something I have to consider because everything about FND is unexplored territory; there is no way to predict what it will be like in the future because there is no way to study it yet. While I have been able to adapt to life changes so far, changes continue to increase their magnitude as I am getting older. For a disorder that hates when things change, this could be a problem! Trying to imagine what my next year, even month, will be like is like trying to see the other end of the ocean- impossible. As much as I like to plan, I get ahead of myself, which is why I try to adopt the “one day at a time” idea. For now, I just tell myself I’ll deal with it when I get there, and believe in God’s plan for me.

10. FND makes me confident

Having FND has, and continues, to teach me to be comfortable with who I am. It helps me to see myself how God sees me; fearfully and wonderfully made. Having a condition that forces me to be in touch with myself, and has been an actual problem in my life, has revealed that there are bigger problems than getting beat in a round of middle school Lightning, my position in the social hierarchy of high school, or getting turned down from one internship. I wish I knew back then that I should have been putting my effort into accepting myself instead of dwelling on negatives because my last couple years could have been a lot happier if I did. If I had not learned to laugh at some of the ridiculous adventures this disorder has taken me on, I wouldn’t be who I am to this day. I would be insecure, embarrassed, and live in a protective shell. I mean really, it is kind of funny to think back on the times I keeled over out of a chair, cartwheeled down hallways, had to be hooked up to a ceiling belt in order to use the bathroom in the epilepsy unit as protocol, made my parents leave a movie to help me walk during a spell later finding out they were glad to leave because it was terrible, scared my dog away, or got a spell to stop 30 seconds before I had to have full control of my limbs in order to compete flips on a four inch beam in front of hundreds of people. While it is still hard to feel comfortable with the disorder happening in the moment (seeing a dad help his 20 year old daughter walk without falling leads to stares), it has made me comfortable with all other aspects in my life. I feel no need to fit in or follow other’s leads. I am so solid in my values, who I am, and what I do, that I am unshakeable, and I love it. I am perfectly fine being a sweaty tomato at the gym, going to class without makeup, having toilet paper stuck to my shoe, violating social norms for class, and dancing down the aisles of Target with my sisters when none of them would dare to, because all of that doesn’t even compare to the embarrassment I’ve felt from my FND in the past. I will admit, I used to be concerned with how others thought of me because I thought of FND as extra “baggage,” so I thought I had to be perfect in every other way to compensate for my disorder in order to be accepted. I have now learned there is no need to do that because there is nothing wrong with following a routine, being solid in my beliefs, my faith, or doing things differently than others. Being confident in myself has made me confident in my abilities, the future I’m making for myself, and truly embraces the “I can do all things” mantra I live by. There is no better feeling than knowing who you are, what you are passionate about, and putting your whole heart and effort into it with no distractions or doubts that you will be shaken.

FND has taught me so many things about a wide range of topics like neuroscience, psychology, gastrointestinal functions, nutrition, movement, relaxation, how annoying soy is,…but the biggest thing, is that even the most terrible things can have silver linings. It has taught me to find the good in every situation, even if it took me ten years to find this one. The other day I was asked in class what one thing I would change about myself, and my FND didn’t come to mind. While there are some parts of my life I would go back and change, like flashing the custodian due to a faulty shower rod, I wouldn’t go back and change the fact that I was diagnosed with FND, because it made me into the woman that I have wanted to be since I was a little girl; strong, grateful, confident, successful, and a leader.

Thank you to all my friends and family who made it through another novel of my story, and continue to be my biggest cheerleaders-it doesn’t go unappreciated. I hope this post has helped to make you all more #FNDAware. Feel free to ask any lingering questions, or check out last year’s blog post below!

~Lauren

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