11 Benefits of Finding Purpose at Work

Dishwasher. Teacher. Secretary. Interpreter. Grantwriter. Food service worker.

I’ve had a lot of jobs—more than even mentioned above—but I think it’s fair to say I’ve learned a few things about the workplace. It can be a blessing in your life to have a job that you love, and it can be hell on earth if it makes you miserable.

I’m thinking more about my current job, where I work as an office specialist. I enjoy the work, my coworkers are lovely people, and I find real meaning in my work. I also think about the previous job I had until 2016—an office position I’d held for four years. By the end, I knew my work wasn’t contributing anything toward the organization and the environment had become toxic.

Being unhappy at work is no way to live your life. I’ve realized how much more healthy I am mentally and how much more I love my work. I see the purpose and meaning in what I do, and I have noticed some fabulous benefits I never would have expected:

  1. The day goes by faster. When I have so many different things going on, I am definitely not staring at the clock. Yes, I get hungry by noon and am ready to leave at closing, but hours can pass where I don’t look at my watch.
  2. You open yourself up to new possibilities. I’ve learned new skills in my current job that I tried to learn elsewhere and failed. It’s amazing what intrinsic motivation—the desire to do my work better—can do.
  3. No “case of the Mondays.” Yes, it is hard to get caffeinated on Mondays, but I actually enjoy going to work. I don’t dread Sunday nights like I used to.
  4. You foster deeper relationships with coworkers, clients, vendors, etc. While I’ve learned (the hard way) not to over-share with coworkers, I feel like I’ve gotten to know the people I work with a lot better this time around. I love interacting with them, talking to them about their day, the projects they are working on, and what is going on in their lives.
  5. Your suggestions carry more weight. I tried to suggest so many different things at my last job—offering to start a blog, social media post ideas, or ways to streamline tasks. But I was shot down every single time. How does that give me motivation to do my job any better? People actually listen to what I have to say in my current job. They may say “no,” but at least I am heard and I feel like my ideas are considered.
  6. You enhance your company’s mission. Depending on the culture of where you work, your company’s mission or mission statement can be very important. Our mission is that we put the fun in fun It’s hard not to have fun when you work with purpose.
  7. You derive a greater sense of accomplishment. My job is not sexy. I answer phones, do paperwork, file, take minutes at meetings, and greet customers. But I see my work as important, so I feel like I actually make a difference every day.
  8. You might be given more responsibility. The woman who held my job before I did really checked out at the end. It is a source of pride that I have been given extra tasks my predecessor would never have been asked to do.
  9. An increase in contentment spills over into other areas of your life. Because I see my work as meaningful, I’ve noticed I am more content with regards to my family and friends. There are still areas of my life I need to work on, but I am much more content and grateful than I ever was in my last position.
  10. You are less likely to invite bullies, gossip, and workplace toxicity into your life. No workplace is perfect. But because I work with a purpose, I tune out the negativity, bullies, and gossip much more easily. Because the last place I was in was so toxic, I was at the mercy of my work bullies.
  11. You become the happy, fulfilled woman that you are meant to be. Look, we’ve only got so many years in the workplace. We deserve to enjoy what we do, work with nice people, and get paid a good wage. If any of those are missing from your life, what can you do to change that?

The difference between my current job and previous one is night and day. I can’t begin to tell you how much my life has improved now that I find meaning in my work—however mundane the task. I am much happier and ready to tackle any challenge the workday brings.

You deserve that, too.

What did you learn from the most difficult work environment you’ve ever had? Comment below!

An OK Cupid Review by a Plus-Size Woman

Let’s give this another whirl.

After being out of the online dating scene for the better part of a year, I decided to give it yet another try.

This time, I decided to go with OK Cupid. It’s a site that’s been around for quite a long time (since 2004), and a good friend of mine found his current boyfriend on there. What do I have to lose? I downloaded the app and am now ready to give you the low-down.

Basic features:

  • Iphone and Android app, also desktop version available
  • Tinder-like feature of swiping right and left
  • There is an exhaustive questionnaire to help determine personality traits (more/less playful, more/less political, more/less adventurous, more/less outgoing, etc.) and it gives you a compatibility percentage with matches
  • You can only message people who like you back
  • As of December 2017, you have to enter your real name and not a pseudonym
  • Price = $20/1 month, $45/3 months, $60/6 months, $70/12 months

What I did: I created an account and wrote some things in the following sections:

  • Self-summary
  • What I’m doing with my life
  • I’m really good at
  • The first thing people notice about me
  • Favorite books/movies/TV/food
  • Six things I can’t live without
  • I spend a lot of time thinking about
  • On a typical Friday night I am
  • The most private thing I am willing to admit
  • You should message me if…

I then started answering questions multiple-choice or true/false questions about my personality, outlook on life, religious/political beliefs, dating experiences, etc. I uploaded four photos from my phone and bada-boom bada-bing, I was ready to roll.

Pros:

  • The app is super easy to use. Just like Tinder, you swipe right if you want a match, left if you don’t.
  • I don’t know what their algorithms are, but it is interesting to see what percentage compatible I am with potential matches. A lot of the matches OK Cupid gave me were well above 60%. Many were 80% and higher.
  • The personality test is genuinely interesting. I even learned a few things about myself, like I am less adventurous than I thought I was, but more playful than I give myself credit for.

Cons:

  • There seems to be a limited number of matches.
  • You can’t message guys unless they like your profile, which is difficult to deal with. I like to take the initiative sometimes!
  • Some of the personality questions I found to be really intrusive. And if you don’t hit the “mark private” box, potential matches can see all your answers.
  • I complain about this all the time, but there were guys who had profile pictures with their exes, kids, of their pet or car, bathroom selfies, or a group shot where I couldn’t tell who was the guy in the profile. Why do people do that???

Overall impression: If I am honest, I still think Match.com is still the best overall value, but OK Cupid comes in second place. The app isn’t bad at all. The interface was super intuitive and simple. I never met anyone on a date for the two months I was on it, but I found the guys I chatted with to be nice. So why not take out a three-month trial and see what it has to offer? If nothing else, the personality test is well worth the price of admission. And if you are a quiz junkie like I am, have fun with it!

Interested in OK Cupid? Do you want a website to tell you who they think you are compatible with? Comment below!

Meditating in Nature

Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads. –Henry David Thoreau 

Let me be the first to say that I have not read Thoreau. (Hey, I was a French major!) Nor am I completely at ease being alone in nature.

But Thoreau took two years out of his life living in this itty bitty cabin to write his seminal work, Walden, reflecting on simple living in natural surroundings.

I mean, check this out. He built this cottage with his own two hands.

While I am not advocating building your own tiny house on a pond, I love the idea of reconnecting with nature. Even as single women, we need to recharge our batteries, take some time for personal reflection, and remember what a beautiful place this planet really is.

The following are all things I have done to get in tune with nature. They can be done in as little as fifteen minutes, and don’t require you to be a deep transcendentalist or overly spiritual person to do.

  1. Take a walk or bike ride without your phone. While I don’t advocate walking in the dark without a means of calling in an emergency, take a walk or bike ride without listening to music or podcasts. Focus on the sounds, smells, and sights of your walk. Are there trees, flowers, or bird sounds you have never noticed before? It doesn’t even have to be a long walk. Fifteen or twenty minutes is plenty of time to observe and reflect.
  2. Find a park and sit down with your journal. Just like walking without your headphones, take five minutes to write down what you notice at the park. Dandelion seeds drifting past you. Kids playing on the playground. Squirrels chasing each other. Shapes you see in the clouds. Just write down everything you see, hear, smell, and feel. It doesn’t have to make any sense at all. Just allow yourself to be present in the moment.
  3. Watch a sunrise or sunset. I saw my first entire sunset after spending the night in a Pawnee earth lodge. We got up before dawn and listening to the pulsing drum and Pawnee chant, we watched the sun slowly make its way over the eastern horizon. My heart pounded in time with the drum, and the actual sunrise tool my breath away. And though I had to wipe the sleep away from my eyes, the colors were more vivid than I ever could have dreamed.
  4. Go to a park, public garden, nature preserve, or similar place to take pictures or record the sounds. This is fun to do. I love taking pictures of bright flowers, plants I’ve never seen before, or prairie vistas. I also enjoy recording birdcalls, especially the western meadowlark. I then throw these up on Facebook or Instagram to document the trip. It helps me see the word through new eyes, reminds me that there is more to life than staring at a computer screen, and makes me grateful I live in such a beautiful part of the country.

You don’t have to be a granola girl or a philosopher like Thoreau to take some time to reconnect with nature. Take one of these four simple steps and create your own memories. Love where you are, love where you live, and remember that there is such peace and joy to be found in nature.

What is the best way for you to connect with nature? Comment below!

 

(Photo credit: Creative Commons – Namlhots)

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Two Easy & Delicious Winter Soups

Baby it’s cold outside.

As I sit down to write this, it’s 15 degrees below zero outside. That’s damn cold.

I will be the first to admit I am one of those weirdos who actually loves cold weather (though I could do without the snow and ice). One of the fun things about winter is the comfort food to warm you up.

If you’re like me and love soup this time of year, I have two super easy recipes that are going to knock your socks off. They’re cheap to make, delicious, require few ingredients, and are actually quite filling.

Just kidding…SOUP FOR YOU!!! Treat yourself to easy, homemade meals that you don’t have to share with anyone else. Both soups keep well so you can eat them over a couple days. Pair with bread and salad, and you’ve got a full meal!

So grab those ladles ready and let’s go.

French Carrot Soup

This first recipe is one I’ve never seen written. My best French friend’s eighty-year-old mother taught me how to make this, and I’ve been hooked on it for about fifteen years.

It’s a thick, hearty soup, and it’s perfect to make when you have veggies in the fridge or pantry that are past their prime. You can tweak the recipe and put in leeks, squash, or parsnips. Don’t want to make so much soup? The amounts don’t matter. All you are doing is boiling veggies, then puréeing them!

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds baby carrots
  • 1 potato
  • 1 onion
  • 1 zucchini
  • Seasoning to taste—I prefer red pepper flakes and Italian seasoning

Instructions

  1. Peel and chop all the vegetables except for baby carrots.
  2. Put all ingredients in a large pot filled ¾ with water. Cover pot and bring to a boil.
  3. Remove from heat when vegetables are thoroughly cooked and easily speared with a fork or knife—about 45 minutes.
  4. Removing vegetables from water, put in blender and purée. Use about two cups of the boiled water to thin out the soup.
  5. Serve when hot. I added a dollop of sour cream here. You could also use crackers, croutons, bacon bits, or sunflower seeds.

Serves 8.

Tiny Pasta Soup

One of my all-time favorite cookbooks is Joanna Farrow’s Cooking with Just Four Ingredients. I don’t have the patience for tons of ingredients, so I appreciate how simple the recipes are and come out delicious.

This soup is lighter than the previous recipe, but I made a full meal of it with ciabatta bread and a salad. The itty bitty pasta is super cute and while I used stellette (stars), you can use orzo, farfalline (little butterflies [bowties]), or anything else tiny that strikes your fancy. Hell, you can even use alphabet pasta!

Ingredients

  • 5 cups of beef stock (I recommend low sodium as mine was waaaaay too salty)
  • ¾ cup dried pasta
  • 2 pieces of jarred, roasted red bell pepper
  • Shaved Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Bring beef stock to boil in a large pan. Add seasoning to taste (I used red pepper flakes), then drop in the pasta. Stir well.
  2. Reduce heat so that the soup simmers and cook for seven or eight minutes until the pasta is al dente.
  3. While soup is simmering, drain the red pepper slices and dice them finely. Place them at the bottom of the soup plates.
  4. Serve soup immediately with the Parmesan cheese to taste.

Serves 4.

I hope these two recipes have inspired you to get in the kitchen and play around a little bit. They are absolutely perfect for this time of year, inexpensive, healthy, and keep easy as leftovers. Wow your friends with what a great cook you are, or enjoy it all to yourself!

What is your all-time favorite soup? Comment bel

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Don’t Buy the BMI Myth

“I’m not overweight, I’m under-tall.” –Garfield

While that line was meant to evoke a smile in the 1980s, I don’t find it funny. At all.

For over a century now, physicians have used weight and height to determine what constitutes obesity. The Body Mass Index (BMI) is used by many health care professionals, and it is a load of garbage.

I want to talk about why you shouldn’t buy into the BMI myth and what you can do about it.

First, let’s back up to look at BMI and the math behind it:

BMI = kg/height (in meters)2

To keep it simple, let’s say you weight 220, or 100 kg and are 5’7”, or 1.7 meters.

100/(1.7 x 1.7) = BMI of 36.6

So in this scenario, the 220-pound woman who is 5’7” is obese.

Without telling you my weight or height, I am technically “morbidly obese.” Actually, according to the BMI chart, I would have to be 7’4” to be considered “normal” given my current weight. And this system to determine obesity is a load of crap. Why?

It belongs in a museum. It was invented over 150 years ago. What we now know as BMI was first proposed by a Belgian mathematician named Lambert-Adolphe-Jacques Quetelet. He was one of the first people to link math to explain social statistics like crime rate, suicide rate, and, you guessed it…weight.

So Quetelet came up with the mathematical formula for BMI in 1842. While it was really not a bad place to start, there’s a huge problem with it…It doesn’t take into account people live in the third dimension.

Human beings aren’t one easy math equation. We aren’t two-dimensional beings like a painting. We have curves, rolls, appendages, and we occupy space. So BMI doesn’t take into account such things as bone density or stature, which does explain the difference of BMI numbers on people who weigh the same.

BMI doesn’t distinguish between fat and muscle. So if we go back and look at the 220-pound woman who is 5’7”, there’s a big difference if she as an elite heavyweight judoka with a higher percentage of muscle than a woman who is less athletic and has a higher body fat percentage. In either case, the muscular judoka is obese the same as the less athletic woman.

How is that fair? It’s not, and that is why you need to stop worrying about BMI.

Instead of using BMI, there are other options for determining obesity such as:

  • Waist-to-hip ratio
  • Waist-to-height ratio
  • Surface-based body shape index (which takes into account the entire body’s surface)

While it does take more work to measure muscle or fat mass than a simple math formula, I would rather subject myself to calipers than ever use BMI again.

So what do I do about it?

I talk to my doctors. My general practitioner and gynecologist know I’m fat. I know I’m fat. They know I know I’m fat. I never get on the scale when I visit the doctor because I weigh myself every week. (Seriously—refuse to get weighed at the doctor’s office.)

But I talk to both of them about my weight loss, how I can treat my PCOS symptoms (the main cause of my obesity), and they keep an eye on my blood work to ensure I am healthy. The next time I visit them, though, we are going to discuss better alternatives to measuring my health than BMI, because I am done with it.

I know I can do chores, walk, do yoga, run short distances, and enjoy what life has to offer. I’m not letting numbers on a 100-year-old chart tell me if I am healthy or not. There is a better way, and until you owe it to yourself to talk to your doctor about the BMI lie.

The next time you see a headline about Americans being obese, I encourage you to tune it out. BMI is an extremely antiquated, short-sighted way of measuring health. There are other ways to measure health, and you need to talk to your doctor about better alternatives.

Don’t let BMI trick you into thinking you are overweight/obese/morbidly obese. You are beautiful just as you are, and you are certainly more special than numbers on a chart.

Do you buy into the logic of BMI? Why or why not? Comment below!

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I’m Fat and I Went Horseback Riding

Did you go through a phase in your childhood where you were obsessed with horses?

Think Tina Belcher.

*Raises hand.* Guilty as charged.

I read every horse book I could get my hands on. I learned how to draw them and plastered my room with horse posters and stickers. I played with My Little Ponies until the glitter wore off and their manes became frayed I even earned my Horseback Riding badge in Girl Scouts at summer camp. Trail rides at state parks were highlights of family vacations.

But then life got in the way. I gained weight, stopped traveling to state parks, and lost my love of horses.

Till my fortieth birthday, that is.

I was recently reintroduced to riding by a friend of mine. I want to share my experience and encourage you to think about horseback riding if you are looking for a new form of exercise. It’s sunshine, fresh air, and a helluva workout. And, horseys.

And yes, curvy women can ride horses.

It was a beautiful fall day—one you see on Instagram or in a movie—when my friend Lorri took me where she boards her horse, MJ.

Lorri called her sweet bay mare from her pen where she was chowing down on hay. Giving MJ a few pets, I remembered how soft horses’ lips and noses were—velvety smooth. Lorri slipped a bitless bridle on, attached a lead, and MJ came walking out of the pen.

We walked out to the open field where MJ turned into a horse lawnmower, eating up all the grass in sight.

Lorri had me hold MJ’s lead, advising me to stay to her left and in her line of vision. I was nervous about being in control of a 1,200-pound animal, but MJ was more intent on food than me.

After she saddled MJ up, Lorri took her horse to a nearby ring, mounted her, and did some warm-ups. I watched her command MJ to turn right, left, and back up. They went from a simple walk to a trot. MJ took the commands really well.

Lorri hopped off the horse, and it was my turn.

I was worried my weight would hurt the horse, but Lorri assured me I wasn’t too big to ride a horse. I got on the mounting block, put my left foot firmly in the stirrup and swung my right leg over MJ. I teetered in the saddle a little bit, but I was on a horse for the first time in twenty years.

I directed MJ to walk clockwise around the perimeter of the ring, and I tensed up immediately. My body wasn’t used to this, and my head swirled with thoughts of what could happen if horsey decided to rear, bolt, or jump over the fence.

Relax, I told myself. You are on a large animal. She’s a gentle mare, and you’re not helping by freaking out.

Forcing myself to breathe, I loosened up my legs and let MJ do the work. Under Lorri’s direction, I had MJ go clockwise, counterclockwise, and even back up! I was really on a horse again!

After fifteen exhilarating minutes, I was ready to get off. I asked Lorri to get me the block.

“No block,” she answered. “Stand up in the stirrups, swing your right leg over, and slide down using your stomach.”

I hadn’t bargained on that. I was terrified, but we were on soft dirt and it really wasn’t that far from the ground. I stood up in the stirrups, swung my leg over, and shimmied off, using my fluffy tummy as leverage.

My legs felt like noodles as I wobbled over to the fence. Lorri got the tack off MJ, and she let me brush MJ down while she fed her mare treats from a bucket.

Lorri explained to me the different ways to get involved with horseback riding if that was something I was truly interested in:

  • Take riding classes. If you Google stables near you, you can find places that offer hourly classes. You learn the basics of horse care, how to put on tack, and how to ride.
  • Rent a horse. For a monthly fee, I could rent a horse without the obligation of owning it or paying for board. Lorri even found me a suitable gentle mare, but I currently have no interest in riding as a hobby.
  • Purchase a horse. There are many horses to be found at sales and auctions. Only do this if you have the time and expertise. Most good horses run in the four figures, and if you don’t know what you’re doing, you and the horse will not have fun. Horses are bigger and more complicated than owning a cat or dog—a commitment not to be taken lightly.

But the benefits of riding are undeniable:

  • Burn 200 calories/hour
  • Wonderful workout for your core muscles
  • Muscle toning, especially for abs and legs
  • Improve balance and posture
  • Wonderful way to interact with animals and nature

If you’ve never considered riding as a form of exercise, please give it some serious thought—especially if you think you’re too large to ride. Horses can carry up to 20-25% of their body weight. So don’t be afraid to get on the phone, talk to stables, and ask their honest opinion.

I am grateful for the experience Lorri and MJ gave me for my birthday. It was a workout I won’t forget any time soon!

What sport have you always wanted to try but been afraid to? Comment below!

Cut the New Year’s Resolution Crap: Why They Don’t Work and What I Do Instead

“I’m going to lose weight.” 

“I’m going to pay off my credit cards.”

“I’m going to get a boyfriend.”

“I’m going to get a better job.”

Have you ever made these New Year’s resolutions, or something similar?

Well, I’m hear to tell you, to quote the 1990s-era weight loss program, STOP THE INSANITY. Resolutions made on January 1st don’t work and you can’t stick to them. But stay with me—not all is lost.

https://media.giphy.com/media/30eCvINj6A3QY/giphy.gif

According to Forbes, there are alarming statistics about New Year’s resolutions:

  • 40% of Americans make resolutions for the New Year
  • Of the ones who do, 25% of those quit after the first week
  • More than half quit after six months
  • Only 8% realize their New Year’s goal

Now, I am all for improving myself. I mean, think about it…do you want to be stuck in the same rut your entire life? I doubt it.

But the resolutions I listed above simply don’t work. They are too vague, lack a solid plan of attack, and aren’t easy to keep without guardrails in place. And as single women, it’s harder for us to find accountability partners if we don’t have a spouse or SO who sees us every day.

That is why I abandoned the notion of New Year’s in 2016 and decided to do a word of the year—one word that encapsulates my intentions and my mood for the upcoming year.

In 2016, my word was unbreakable. That came in handy when I lost my job and I had to keep my self-esteem high while looking for a new one. And I started this blog, which has become one of the biggest blessings in my life.

My 2017 word was joy, as I needed comfort facing the grim political shadow that cast itself on my country. Though I have fallen down on that one, especially during the second half of the year, I can look back and see where I went wrong and what I need for 2018.

Tenacity is my word for the upcoming year.

I have been lazy in several aspects of my life, mostly when it comes to my health, finances, and writing. So taking this overarching theme of tenacity, I plan to do the following:

  • Faithfully track my steps and eating habits at least five days a week on my Weight Watchers app
  • Attend at least one yoga class a week
  • Put $500 in the bank every month as I start to save for an emergency fund
  • Get my money invested with a financial planner
  • Write at least 100 pages of the new book I am planning, How to Dress Like a Skinny French Woman When You Are Neither Skinny Nor French (working title)

These are actionable, concrete, simple steps to take. In several cases, I have already set the gears in motion: I downloaded and played with the WW app, I have already interviewed several financial planners, and I have an outline for my book already written.

Notice that none of my goals have a specific outcome, except for the 100-page draft of my book. They are merely steps I know I can do to create positive momentum in the areas of my life I know I need work.

Here is the other important thing: There is a hefty amount of self-love involved in these goals. For example, if I go way over my WW points, I refuse to beat myself up over it. Food is not the enemy. I am not the enemy. And because I didn’t reach one goal does not mean I am a failure. I simply slipped up once.

So I will get back on the saddle and love myself anyway.

We hear so many negative voices in society: Why aren’t you married? You would look so much better if you were a size 12 instead of a 24! I can’t believe you have a bachelors degree and you get paid that little!

Ladies, the real estate in your head is far too precious to allow it to be taken up by the crap others throw at you. You are a beautiful, wonderful miracle. And you don’t deserve those ugly voices in your head.

So if you don’t want to do a New Year’s resolution, that is completely understandable! Or even if you do, don’t make it a big, lofty goal.

Instead, think of a word for this year you want to become. Remind yourself of it. Make it your screensaver. Get it tattooed, if you are so inclined. Personally, I get a small silver stack ring made from an Etsy vendor with the word on the side. That helps remind me what I am about this year, and where I have come from in previous years.

I wish you all the joy and light possible in 2018. I am truly thankful for each and every one of you, because you are the reason I do this every day. I have some fun articles and interviews planned for the upcoming year, but if there is anything you want to see covered here, please reach out to me @plusonewoman on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Or here below in the comments!

Why You Need to Know Your Family Tree

Doesn’t family drive you bonkers this time of year?

Family feuds, bad blood, and pointless vendettas pop up like flames crackling at the fireplace.

You love your family on one level, yet you are ready to strangle them with your bare hands. But do you really know your family story? Does the thought of delving deep into your family history seem like the last thing you want to do?

Hang on there.

In this holiday season, I want you to stop and think about your family history and the importance of knowing your family. The reasons for exploring your roots can have consequences not only for your health, but in family tales for generations to come.

  1. Biology. I think this is probably the most obvious one, but knowing your family’s health history is critical. Does heart disease run more in your family? Or cancer? Learning what factors you can control can help ensure a longer and happier life.
  2. Learn the family lore. My great-great-uncle played professional baseball in the 1910s. How badass is that? My great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother was hung as a witch in Salem in 1692. Not badass, but pretty astonishing. And my great-great grandmother actually gave birth to my great-grandfather crossing the Atlantic. That is the epitome of badass—having a baby while emigrating to another country. You’ll never know what cool relatives you have until you dig into your family history and learn about the black sheep or the renegade in your family.
  3. See your ancestors as more than strangers black-and-white photos. Here is a photo of my maternal grandfather, probably taken in the late 1930s:

 

What a badass! I can’t even begin to tell you what a sweet, gentle, refined gentleman he was. But here he is in a motherloving black leather jacket and awesome sunglasses. Something is about to go down. Do I know why he dressed like this? Not a clue. I only knew his story from the last 22 years of his life. What I wouldn’t give to know the first 64…

  1. Appreciate your family while they are still here. This goes a lot without saying. But I absorb my parents’ stories like a sponge. Even if I only have a vague idea of which Cousin Stach my father is talking about, that makes me love Dad and his stories all the more. You can’t make this up. You come from an awesome family, and you have so much to learn from the older generation in your family. You just need the wisdom to open up your ears.
  2. Take pride in something bigger than yourself. My family history is a rich tapestry that goes as far west as Ireland and as far east as Poland. I am proud that the blood of farmers, butchers, preachers, clerks, accountants, and bus drivers runs in my veins. There is nothing to connect poor Polish farm stock to genteel English landowners but my parents marrying and having kids. I have dozens of stories about people who I am descended from, and I cherish every anecdote.
  3. Make a connection with places you’ve never visited. I’ve been to Ireland, England, and Germany. I felt an almost instinctual connection with those places I can’t explain. Is it because that is where my family is from? Yeah, probably! I’ve never been to Poland. Or Massachusetts. Or Ellis Island. Yet the ghosts of my ancestors touch all these places, and a part of me does, too.
  4. Add to the narrative. As a writer, blogger, and activist, I have a career no one in my family has ever had. I am very proud to add to my family history, even though I don’t have any children of my own. I may not be a witch or a badass to cross an ocean while nine months pregnant, but I am proud of my contributions to the Kontor clan. My personal story is woven in with that of my ancestors, and I love the fact I have been able to make my own contribution.

Even though the holidays can sorely test anyone’s patience with your family, take a few minutes to think about different family stories that have been passed down to you. How does that make you a stronger person? How does it make you prouder? How do your ancestors remind you of the struggles they have overcome, and how it parallels with your life right now?

What is the most important accomplishment you know about from your family tree? Comment below!

This One Quality Will Make You a Better Volunteer

Got some spare time?

Want to make a difference in the world?

Why don’t you consider volunteering?

That sounds nice, but I don’t have any special talents. I can’t speak a foreign language to translate for refugees. I’m not around kids much, so I don’t know how to work with them. I’m allergic to animals, so how can I work at the humane society?

As single women, we often lack someone we can bounce ideas off of. So if you’ve been thinking about volunteering somewhere but not sure you’d be a good fit, I’m here to share the one quality you need in order to be a successful volunteer.

Passion.

That’s right. You need to be so enthusiastic about the cause you volunteer for that all the mental roadblocks you put up for yourself will simply disappear.

There are so many things I am interested in. How can I narrow it down to just one or two things?

Here are some things to consider while deciding where the best place to volunteer is:

  • Find what would make you get up out of bed at 7:30 on a Saturday morning. This “weekend wake-up” test is a big one for me. I looooove sleeping in on the weekends. And frankly, there is little that I will get up early for on a Saturday morning. But if you are so passionate about the cause you are helping that you are willing to sacrifice a little sleep, I think that’s a great indicator you have found a something you love.

 

  • See how you can match up your talents to the group you want to volunteer with. Do you want to work with refugees, but can’t speak a foreign language? See what kind of work you can do—lobbying, marketing, getting welcome baskets ready for new families, or helping the organization with social media. Do you want to help kids, but don’t spend much time with them? Build your confidence by doing something in a group such as Junior Achievement or work with a robotics club—that way, you’re not the only adult in the room. Love animals, but are super allergic? Organize pet food drives, offer to help with mailings, or work on the fundraising side.

The point is not to let a lack of formal skills stop you from meeting people you truly want to help. Nonprofits are always thrilled to have volunteers. And if you tell them how you can help, they will be happy to find something that works with your skills set.

  • Trust the training the organization has to offer. When I started volunteering for a women’s homeless shelter, I had no clue how to be on a nonprofit board or use social media to leverage donations. But I learned as I went, and I got the training I needed from others who had done those activities. As I said, nonprofits love having volunteers, and they will make sure you have the training you need to volunteer successfully.

It can be scary to put yourself out there to give time and money to causes you care about. And there are tons of worthy nonprofits to work with. But if you are truly passionate about what you do, everything else will fall into place.

What was the last cause you were so passionate about that you volunteered for it? Comment below!

40 Thoughts on Turning 40

Forty.

The big FOUR-OH.

Over the hill.

As you can guess, I very recently hit a milestone birthday. The day itself was really nice—my coworkers taped “over the hill” caution tape around my desk and Photoshopped me in pictures from Poldark and Outlander (two great series with hunky male leads). I also had a lovely dinner with my family.

Of course turning a year older, especially one that ends in a zero, has made me a little more introspective. I took stock on where I’ve been the first half of my life and have come up with a list of forty truths I have personally experienced and that become truer with every passing day.

I could make each separate one a blog post, but I’m not going to bore you to death with that or a running commentary on each. So, in no particular order:

  1. Don’t apologize for your curiosity.
  2. You have more control than you think.
  3. There is nothing to compare to the strength you drawn on from your family and friends.
  4. Don’t waste your free time doing things you don’t absolutely love.
  5. Travel is one of the best ways to gain perspective.
  6. Living debt-free is the only way to live.
  7. Trust your intuition—you’ve spent years cultivating it.
  8. Pets are little balls of sunshine wrapped in fur/feathers/scales.
  9. Pick your battles to win the war.
  10. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you live with a mental illness.
  11. Don’t let an opportunity pass by to tell someone you love them.
  12. Start on your dream today. Right now. Do it now.
  13. Filling your brain with positivity will fill your thoughts with positivity.
  14. It’s OK to keep your private life private.
  15. Journaling is tedious in the moment, but it will vividly remind you of a period of your life that seems long forgotten.
  16. There is so much freedom in owning less stuff.
  17. Take time every day to focus on what you’re grateful for.
  18. Don’t allow your past mistakes to dictate your present reality.
  19. You are not obligated to follow your family’s religion.
  20. Your opinions can—and probably will—change.
  21. Don’t feed the trolls.
  22. “I could/should have…” is one of the most dangerous phrases.
  23. Keep your promises.
  24. It’s OK not to know what the next step is.
  25. Doing a job just for the paycheck is no way to work.
  26. I’ve never once regretted getting rid of my TV.
  27. A walk outside is perfect for shaking loose the cobwebs.
  28. Nothing is more powerful than standing up for the voiceless.
  29. The journey from the heart to the head is the longest one of all.
  30. There’s nothing wrong with taking yourself out to dinner or a movie.
  31. You really learn who true friends are when you go through a crisis—job loss, illness, etc.
  32. While there are plenty of jerks on the planet, most people are truly kind and decent.
  33. If someone is mean to you through no fault of your own, that is completely their problem. It has nothing to do with you.
  34. No matter how badly someone has treated you, dwelling on how much you hate them will never help. Learn to let go and don’t let them control your lives.
  35. Having a rainy day emergency fund will help you sleep easier at night.
  36. No matter what your spiritual belief, take time every day to connect with a higher power.
  37. Take advantage of being stuck in your car—there is so much to be learned from podcasts or audio books.
  38. Always look for ways to improve yourself. You will never waste your time doing that.
  39. I used to love to gossip, but the older I get, the more pointless it has become.
  40. Laughter is really, truly the best medicine.

Whether you are twenty or sixty, I hope some of my observations strike a chord with you. We are all on this journey together, and my hope is that you will love, learn, and grow along with me every single day. Thank you for letting me share my thoughts—each one of you has helped me grow along the way, and I am grateful for you!

Which of these most resonates with you right now? Comment below!

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