Day Trips for the Single Girl

Picture this: You’re a single girl. You are going bonkers because you want to leave town, but have neither the time to take off work, nor the funds to go very far.

Wow, that sounds familiar.

I want to highlight two recent road trips I took, and each was done within three hours. With just the littlest bit of planning and a great travel companion, you can take a memorable day trip without the time or financial commitment of a regular vacation.

TRIP #1: DODGE, NEBRASKA, POPULATION 612

OK, so this trip was actually four or five months ago. But my BFF Angie suggested going to a new restaurant, simply called “Eat”, to sample their 100% locally source menu.

I’m a foodie. It didn’t take much convincing.

This is Angie. You wish your bestie was as awesome as she is.

Cranking the tunes, we drove off into the prairie sunset. We remarked on all the pretty farms, enjoying the way the light played off the snow.

About halfway to our stop, Angie cried, “Look!”

She popped a U-turn right on the highway and made a beeline to Czechland Lake Recreation Area. Though the sun was almost down, the light danced on the water. The new moon hung in a silvery crest in the east as geese made their way to the half-frozen lake in their perfect V-formation. There was no limit to the horizon as the twilight colors crept onto the plains.

Angie and I posed for some goofball pictures and selfies. Neither one of us is a lake person per se, but we had fun doing what two best friends do in a beautiful sunset with their cameras.

Back on the road.

When we arrived in the bustling metropolis of Dodge, Nebraska, it was, well…a typical Nebraska town. One police officer, one bar, one tiny grocery store, two Catholic churches, two funeral homes (side-by-side on Main Street, oddly enough).

And Eat.

Eclectically decorated and great service. Angie and I fell in love with it instantly.

Lightly tempura-fried green beans, onion rings and (blech!) mushroom.

Pasta with beef tips from 50 miles away. With local carrots and broccolini.

Homemade German chocolate cake and coffee ice cream.

The pictures speak for themselves. Angie and I wined and dined our way to Eat, and it was with happy tummies we drove home in the dark, sated from our gastronomic voyage.

TRIP #1: ELMWOOD, NEBRASKA, POPULATION 634

This trip was planned by my mommy.

That’s Joann.

Mom wanted to go to this tiny town about 30 minutes away from where we lived so we could visit the home of one of her favorite authors, Bess Streeter Aldrich.

I’m more of a diehard Laura Ingalls Wilder fan myself, but mom loves the turn-of-the-(last) century, homespun tales of love, family, and sometimes heartache.

Three churches, one convenience store, and one teeny library only open 17 hours a week make up the village. But with its charming downtown district, manicured lawns, and well-maintained parks make this a great stop.

Built right at the beginning of the last century, the house we visited is only open a few hours a week. But it has period furniture and some of the author’s possessions. The house looks quite similar to when Aldrich last lived there in 1946.

As a writer, I loved Aldrich’s desk. It had a flat writing surface, but there was a wheel on the side you turned, and the desktop flipped over to reveal a typewriter underneath! I loved how clever it was, and it was a beautiful piece of furniture.

My mom was over the moon to see the beloved home of her favorite writer, and I was happy to be her companion on this little road trip!

Both of these little excursions may not seem like a big deal, but I got to visit two places I normally would not have visited. One of them was with my bestie, and the other was with my madre. I ate spectacular food and got a wonderful dose of Nebraska history, both of which always inspire me.

So grab a friend, an aunt, a sister, a niece, or whoever is laying around. Find a cool destination about an hour from where you are and just go!

What was the last day trip you took? Comment below!

 

How to Rock a Phone Interview

I like job interviews over the phone.

There, I said it.

I know some people liken it to jury duty or getting a tooth extracted, but I actually like doing job interviews over the phone because it is something I am genuinely good at.

With the exception of two phone interviews, I have aced ten out of the dozen I have ever done, and landed me face-to-face interviews. With the exception of Garmin and that other company. You know who you are.

It can be hard being a singleton and not having someone to bounce feedback off of, but the reality is companies are relying increasingly on phone interviews to get a feel for job applicants and weeding out the weirdos. And with 250 résumés for every corporate job out there, phone interviews are a crucial step in the job-hunting process.

The following are my tried-and-true tips for rocking job interviews to get you past that first hurdle and closer to your dream job:

  • Research commonly asked questions. Write the answers down. That’s the best part of the interview—you can write everything down! Research 10 common phone interview questions. Write your best answers out. How are they going to know you are reading from a script?
  • Do all the research you can about the company. If you don’t Google the hell out of the company you are applying to, why bother interviewing with them at all?
  • If possible, do all the research you can about the interviewer. I have managed to find most of my interviewers on LinkedIn and Facebook. And I manage to drop in things I know they are passionate about into the conversation. *cue evil laughter*
  • Read the job description carefully. Link all your strengths to what the job entails. What job are you applying for? Make sure you know exactly how to present yourself as the candidate for the job. Leave them wanting more.
  • Practice with a friend or family member. Tape yourself if you have to. Where are you stumbling or “uh”ing? Get those glitches ironed out.
  • Go to a quiet place for your phone interview. I have been in my car. In a bathroom. My bedroom. Whatever fits the bill.
  • Be five or ten minutes early for the interview. If nothing else, use that time to calm yourself, envision success, and inject confidence into your performance. Even if you’re really not feeling it.
  • Take deep breaths.
  • I know how cheesy it sounds, but the enthusiasm you put in your voice can only play in your favor.
  • Have a list of questions ready at the end of the interview. There are tons of blogs and websites with good questions. Asking about corporate culture, why the interviewer likes their job, and/or a question along the lines of, “Are there any doubts you have about my applying for this position?” have stimulated good conversation.
  • Make sure you are very clear about the timeline for the next steps in the hiring process. If the HR person gives you a clear timeline, that is usually a pretty damn good sign.
  • Send a thank-you letter as soon as the interview is over. I don’t care if it is 2017. Write a damn card thanking the HR person for their time. It works—believe me.

I know phone interviews can be unpleasant experiences, especially for shy people like me. But an hour prepping will make you feel a whole lot more confident. You will outshine others who are interviewing for the same position, and you will increase your odds of landing a face-to-face interview. It works for me, and please believe me when I say it will work for you!

What is the most painful part of a phone interview for you? Comment below!

101 Things I Learned While Unemployed

It has been a year now since I lost my job. Looking back, it was an awful time, but I grew as a person. I grew a lot.

To commemorate that year, here is a list of 101 things I learned in my six weeks of unemployment. Wherever you are in your career, I hope you can carry something away from the following:

1. A good night’s sleep will help you tackle any challenge.
2. Alcohol will not help you feel better. Believe me.
3. All human resource departments run on their own schedule.
4. Applying for jobs you are not remotely qualified for just to satisfy unemployment requirements becomes second nature.
5. Aunts who take you on interior decorating trips to get you out of the house are the definition of empathy.
6. Being debt-free will make it much easier to maintain finances.
7. Being unemployed is humiliating. But it is temporary.
8. Brothers taking you out for movies to cheer you up are the best brothers.
9. Count your blessings every day. Each one brings you something to be grateful for.
10. Craigslist is useless for job searches.
11. Dads give solid advice.
12. Daily exercise gets the endorphins going.
13. Do not turn down free lunches or coffee from friends cheering you up.
14. Do not wear pajamas at home. Even if it’s just shorts and a t-shirt, wear clean street clothes.
15. Do something that cheers you up before and after every job interview.
16. Doing a weekly or monthly budget will help you know exactly where your finances are at.
17. Doing mock interviews with a friend or family member is a surprising confidence-booster.
18. Don’t be afraid to reach out when you are feeling sad or anxious.
19. Don’t get sloppy/lazy on the weekends. Keep a weekend routine.
20. Don’t read articles about job prospects or unemployment statistics. They almost never pertain to your situation and will only scare you.
21. Don’t take the first job offer that comes along if it’s not right for you.
22. Don’t watch anything remotely sad or depressing.
23. Educate yourself about all your rights and benefits being unemployed. That is part of your job now.
24. Even if it seems impossible, a regular bedtime establishes a routine and will keep you rested.
25. Everyone has job-seeking advice. Use selective hearing.
26. Feeling despair is normal. You can control how you react to it.
27. Funny animal videos on YouTube are instant pick-me-ups.
28. Get out of the house. Every day.
29. Getting out of the house to coffee shops maintains sanity.
30. Getting up at the same time every day helps stave off depression.
31. Going to church helps pass the time and establishes a routine.
32. Going to your parents’ house five nights a week is comforting.
33. Have the interview suit ready to go at a minute’s notice.
34. Having a professional write you a resume is a smart investment.
35. Having an emergency fund will infinitely reduce your stress as you do your job search.
36. Hiring a professional to write a cover letter is a wise investment.
37. I don’t care where you are on the political spectrum. Obamacare is a godsend.
38. If you like to shop, know your triggers so you can avoid them.
39. If you suffer from anxiety and depression, keep on top of your meds and get enough sleep.
40. Indeed.com will become your new favorite website.
41. Inform yourself about low-cost or free medical care.
42. It doesn’t hurt to see if you qualify for food stamps or Medicaid.
43. It is essential to have an emergency fund in case you lose your job.
44. It is important to celebrate every small victory, like a phone interview or scheduling an interview.
45. It takes at least two weeks to start to see the first round of job-search results.
46. Keep a list of all the hoops you have to jump through to get unemployment.
47. Keeping a daily routine is essential for a feeling of normalcy.
48. Keeping a gratitude journal puts things in perspective and reminds you little things matter.
49. Keeping your house clean will give you a feeling of control.
50. Laughing one minute then crying the next because you feel like a worthless person becomes the new normal.
51. LinkedIn is actually a helpful website.
52. Looking for jobs is now your full-time job.
53. Losing 15 pounds in 2 weeks is entirely possible (though not advised).
54. Love on yourself. However you cheer yourself up, do it.
55. Maintaining good nutrition will keep your health and spirits up.
56. Moms are amazing listeners and cheerleaders.
57. Negative people have no place in your life right now.
58. Netflix becomes a primary source of entertainment.
59. Never, ever badmouth your former employer. Ever.
60. One day for a pity party, then you have to get into battle mode.
61. Only eating once a day is cheap, but not recommended.
62. Pets do not make good handkerchiefs.
63. Positive podcasts are great ways to stay motivated.
64. Purring cats are therapeutic.
65. Reach out online if you are feeling depressed. There are people out there who want to help you.
66. Read all the letters you get from your state’s Department of Labor.
67. Read anything positive and uplifting you can get your hands on.
68. Reducing social media consumption is not a bad idea.
69. Remember everything that went wrong in your last job. This is a new beginning.
70. Remember who is kind to you. Those are your best, truest friends.
71. Set a stopping point every day. Stick with it.
72. Shower every day. You owe it to yourself to keep your routine.
73. Sisters feeding you and watching reality TV to keep you company make you grateful for family and Bravo.
   74. Slashing your spending to the bone helps reduce budget anxiety.
75. Start the job search at a set time every day.
76. Stay hydrated. Water is important to help you feel your best.
77. Surrounding yourself with positive people is critical.
78. Take a break from job-searching during the day. It is exhausting.
79. Taking the weekends off from job searches will keep you fresh for Monday.
80. Tapping your professional network is the best way to get into the hidden job market.
81. The Food Network and HGTV are TV comfort food.
82. The library is a great place to get out of the house and job search.
83. The tedium of waiting for HR to call back is maddening. Do not give into temptation to call obsessively.
84. There are way too many “silver lining”-type clichés that people will use on you.
85. There is a difference between feeling humble and feeling desperate.
86. There is lots of good advice online for phone interviews.
87. There is nothing wrong with taking a day to have a pity party right after you lose your job.
88. Tune out every single negative thought. Repeat the positive till it becomes second nature.
89. Uncles are amazing men whose kindness can never be repaid.
90. Unemployment is ridiculously hard to get.
91. Virtual friends you have never met who take time to Skype with you are true friends.
92. Volunteering will take your mind off your situation.
93. When you call your Department of Labor, don’t forget to be patient. You will be on hold. A lot.
94. While Netflix is great, avoid binge-watching season of anything. It leads to feelings of guilt.
95. Work friends are fleeting.
96. Working side jobs to generate income is better than no income.
97. You are just a number to Department of Labor employees.
98. You are stronger than you know.
99. You truly find out who your real friends are when you lose your job.
100. YOU WILL NOT BE UNEMPLOYED FOREVER. THIS IS TEMPORARY.
101. Your pets will not understand why you are home so much now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Super Easy Summer Pasta Salads

The dog days of summer are here.

It is too hot to walk. Too hot to move. Too hot to cook.

Well, maybe there’s a little time to cook.

If you need to bring a salad to a summer barbecue or are just looking to change up your summer cooking repertoire, I found two super-duper easy pasta salad recipes. These can be eaten as a side dish or because they both have veggies and protein, they make a great meal if paired with a green salad.

As many of your know, I am a fan of simple recipes with as few ingredients as possible. The first recipe has just four ingredients, and the second has seven (not counting salt and pepper). Get ready to wow whoever eats these!

Caprese Pasta Salad

I found this on a beautiful blog called The Recipe Critic. Alyssa Rivers is a Utah-based food blogger. Just looking at her Pinterest-worthy recipes is enough to make you want to lick your screen. Check out her take on a classic Caprese salad (fresh mozzarella, basil, and fresh tomatoes).

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 oz. pasta (I used cellentani)
  • 1 cup (8 oz.) small fresh mozzarella balls
  • 2 cups (10.5 oz.) grape tomatoes, halved
  • 3 tablespoons pesto
  • Salt and pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Cook and drain your pasta according to package directions. Drain with cold water and set aside.
  2. In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine pasta, basil pesto, grape tomatoes, and mozzarella balls. Toss together until it is coated in the basil pesto.

Serves 4-6 people.

I wolfed this down in two sittings. It is easy-peasy to do. Although Rivers gives a recipe for homemade pesto in the original recipe, I am lazy and used store-bought pesto. I can use it again for sandwiches, pasta, meat, etc.

20-Minute BLT Pasta Salad

Baker by Nature is another mind-blowing food blog. Ashley Manila cranks out decadent photography and damn easy recipes. Look at this BLT salad you can nosh on all year round! (Note: The original recipe is HUUUUUGE so I halved it here.)

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 ounces bow tie pasta
  • 1/2 cup zesty Italian salad dressing
  • 1/4 cup ranch salad dressing
  • 1/2 pound thick cut bacon, fried until crispy then cut into strips (I used salad bacon bits to save time, but they didn’t work well after they soaked in the dressing. Real is best here.)
  • 1 large ripe tomato, diced
  • 5 leaves of crispy romaine lettuce, washed, dried, and chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 1/4 cup red onion, diced
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes.
  2. Drain pasta and rinse under cold water until cool.
  3. While the water is coming to a boil, heat a skillet over medium heat; add bacon strips, and cook until crispy, about 4 minutes on each side. Transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate.
  4. Place cooled pasta in a large serving bowl; set aside.
  5. In a small bowl combine zesty Italian dressing and ranch, mix well. Add dressing to pasta and toss well to coat pasta.
  6. Add bacon, tomato, and onion to the pasta bowl, mix well to combine, and season with salt and pepper as desired. Serve at once, or chill until needed.
  7. Add romaine right before serving, or else it will get soggy and gross.

Serves 8-10.

There were no leftovers when I made this for my family. Like I said, real bacon is best because my real bacon bits didn’t hold up in the soggy dressing. But I like it even better than BLT sandwiches. There, I said it.

Both of these recipes are super easy and guaranteed to wow you or your guests. I loved them, and you will too!

What is your favorite summer salad? Comment below!

I Did Parks & Rec Fitness for One Week

I don’t think I have ever mentioned this on the blog, but I work for my city’s Parks & Rec department.

Cue the L’il Sebastian and Jean-Ralpio Saperstein jokes. Yeah, yeah. I’ve heard ‘em all.

With summer in full swing, Parks & Rec has a huge selection of activities not available any other time of year: swimming, softball, canoeing, special hikes, and other free classes. Being thrifty by nature, I gave myself a challenge to see if I could do at least four days of free fitness classes using only what Parks & Rec offered.

Challenge accepted.

Tuesday—Canoeing

I was at our city’s Fourth of July celebration to serve dinner to our employees working overtime. But before it was dinnertime, I went out to the lake (site of the fireworks show) where the Rec people had kids’ games and other demonstrations. One of them was canoeing. The Rec staff asked if I wanted to hop into a canoe.

“I haven’t been canoeing since the nineties,” I admitted.

That excuse wasn’t good enough. They slapped a life jacket on me and chucked me into a canoe.

If you’ve ever been in a canoe, you know the first couple minutes are a little hairy because you swear you are going to tip over, and that was my experience. As soon as I managed to feel even-keeled, though, I started drifting further away from shore. My quick demo would turn into a three-hour tour if I didn’t do something! Thankfully the water was not deep. I shoved my paddle into the water like a gondolier and made my way back to the bank.

I served dinner with hella sore arms, but proud I could navigate a canoe alone after 20+ years.

OK, so technically it wasn’t a class. But I got more exercise in those fifteen minutes than I do many days of the week!

Wednesday—Yoga

I have talked before about how much I love yoga, so this one was a no-brainer. I had to negotiate a longer lunch since this was in the middle of the day (12:00-12:45). I quickly changed into yoga clothes at lunch, sped the 10 minutes to the park where the class was, and rolled my mat open.

I was pleasantly surprised. There were only four other participants, so I got a lot of one-on-one instruction from a local yoga instructor. Though all of us were intermediate yogis, the teacher truly taught the class for any level. She suggested pose modifications to make things easier or more advanced. What I appreciated most was that she helped me make modifications for my bad back on the concrete surface below my mat. She was a true pro!

Thursday—Water Fitness

This was after work at a local pool. I was hesitant to break out my new Lane Bryant suit, but I paid a lot for it and dammit I was going to use it!

There were about thirty people there, almost all women. And they were all shapes and sizes, so why should I feel self-conscious about my size? It was basically a water aerobics class without using any props—just body weight for resistance. The teacher did a great job of teaching to those without much experience and suggesting ways to make it harder if we wanted to push ourselves.

I took a semester of water aerobics in grad school and it is a phenomenal workout. I used all my muscles, got my heart rate up, and best of all, my perpetually sore back didn’t hurt. If I’m honest, that was the best workout I had all week!

Saturday—Yoga

This was similar to Wednesday’s experience, but there were a dozen people in this class instead of five. I still got great, individual instruction. I also got to roll next door to one of my favorite cafés for breakfast! 

Sunday—Water Fitness

This was a similar routine to what I encountered Thursday, but the pool was absolutely packed. There had to be at least sixty people in the pool. It was a little more harrowing to find my own spot and harder to hear the instructor, but I still had a ton of fun. Though I couldn’t see well with water smacking my glasses, the age range appeared to be college kids to people well in their seventies.

It was the same instructor from Thursday, and I am amazed how she managed to keep sixty people corralled in one pool, motivating everyone, offering suggestions to modify the workout, and keeping us all laughing. She was worth her weight in gold!

All in all, I had a great week doing my Parks & Rec workout. If you are looking for something to do, why not see what your local Parks & Rec has to offer? You never know who you will meet, and it’s all low-cost or free!

What was the last fitness class you took? Comment below!

Six Reasons Why You Should Take a Retreat

Playing around on Google recently, I was stunned by the number of different retreats out there.

Religious ones. For writers. Yoga. Silent. Team-building. Corporate. Leadership. Health/wellness.

And they come in different types: guided, self-paced, structured, unstructured, silent, social, teams, couples, prayer…the list goes on.

I can already hear you saying: Are you seriously trying to convince me to go on a retreat? I’m already single. I get plenty of alone time!

You may get alone time, but how do you fill it? TV? Internet? Errands? Going out?

Those are all good things in themselves, but the word “retreat” comes from the Latin retrahere which literally means “to pull back.” How does it sound to take a week or weekend and just concentrate on you and what you want to do? However you want to do a retreat, I think it’s a powerful, transformative experience. Here are six reasons a retreat why a retreat may be just what you need:

  1. Shut out the outside world. One of the most obvious reasons to go is to take time away from work, family, friends, daily stress, and just be. This is strictly you It is not greedy or selfish to take a few days away from everyone and concentrate on yourself. Because if you don’t take care of yourself, your work, relationships, and other aspects of your life will suffer.
  2. Develop deeper connections. Whether it’s connecting with a higher power in a religious setting, making new friends at a writing retreat, or rekindling your inner fire at a yoga retreat, these are all very important. Be it another person, God, or your very self, foraging these connections are at the very heart of what it means to be human.
  3. Gain perspective on your problems. I am one of those people who have difficulty seeing the forest through the trees. Petty problems can bog me down that I forget the big picture. But taking time alone to think about life reminds me that running errands isn’t such a big deal. Or that I could be more patient in traffic. Or nicer to everyone I meet. The little problems just don’t seem to matter when you step back and really examine it.
  4. Declutter your mind. Just as you get to put life into focus, you can also shake the cobwebs out of your brain. Ditch thoughts of that toxic coworker. Don’t beat yourself up that you forgot a friend’s birthday. Stop worrying about the number on the scale. It just doesn’t matter on retreat. Take a long, silent walk or luxuriate in a hot bath. Journal. Do what you need to do to quiet your mind, forget your shortcomings, and just move on.
  5. Rediscover what peace is. It is in that decluttering that you can remember what it is like to be at peace with the world. As cheesy as it sounds, I think retreats make the sunset and sunrise more beautiful. Food tastes better. Life seems happier. I feel calmer and more confident. When was the last time you were able to say you felt peaceful? I mean really, truly peaceful? That is the power of retreats.
  6. Cultivate or perfect a skill. Whether you try journaling for the first time, perfect a yoga stance, read a book on a topic you’ve always wanted to explore, or learn to cook a new dish, you are adding to your skills set. You are taking time to (re)learn what makes you happy, and that added depth will stay with you, even after the retreat is over.

 I went on my first retreat—with nuns—when I was 16. I haven’t been on one in a few years, but these are all things I’ve experienced firsthand. And yes, even us single ladies deserve some alone time!

What type of retreat appeals to you? Comment below!

Things You Should Never Say to Yourself Living with Chronic Pain

When I was seventeen and working the crappiest food-service job of my life, I had an accident. I fell and somehow my tailbone slipped out of place. It didn’t bother me for fifteen years until one day, out of the blue, it flared up. And I have been living with chronic pain ever since.

Chronic pain is something that lasts for more than three months. It can be intermittent or get progressively worse. Mine is permanent; I have good and bad days. As someone living with chronic pain and depression, it is so easy to feel sorry for myself and allow despair to win. It’s also easy to be depressed knowing this is a reality of aging.

I may not be able to control my pain, but I sure as hell can control how I react to it. Below are four things you should never say to yourself if you live in chronic pain. These are all based on personal experience, and it is my sincere hope that if you also live with chromic or even just occasional pain, it will give you hope that you can control your thoughts and improve your outlook.

“No one knows how I feel.” This is absolutely false. One hundred million Americans live with some form of chronic pain, according to the Institute of Medicine, in a report commissioned by Congress. That means that about out of every three Americans knows exactly how you feel, so you are definitely not alone.

One day not too long ago I was having a pity party. I put it out on Facebook that I was having back pain and it never seemed I would ever get better. It was then I found out friends of mine also had crippling back pain to the point of getting surgery, lived with constant migraines, or had even been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

I’m not saying that to scare you. I am saying that to let you know you are less alone than you think. A lot of people who care about you understand the frustration, and they are there to link arms with you.

“I’ll never be able to do ‘X’ again.” As someone who loves to jog, this is probably the hardest thing to face. I couldn’t take my beloved early morning jogs without paying for it in agonizing pain for days after.

So I had to adjust. I looked at exercise options I could do instead of running: biking, swimming, walking, and yoga. Since I don’t like to bike or swim much, I started walking (slowly, and only for 15-20 minutes) and going to yoga class. It gives me a sense of accomplishment I am doing some exercise instead of none, and the yoga is helping strengthen my back.

My goal is to be strong enough to run again, but I literally have to walk before I can run. I have to adjust to where I am now, and I refuse to allow myself to feel sad about it.

“There is no hope/treatment for my pain.” I saw my general practitioner to discuss the pain. All she gave me were meds I can’t even take because of my anti-depressants.

I saw a chiropractor whose treatment actually made me feel even worse and who wouldn’t give me strengthening exercises to do at home, even though I repeatedly asked him.

So now I am taking matters into my own hands. I am going to a clinic specializing in back pain to see if cortisone injections or something similar will help with the pain. I am also open to acupuncture or going to physical therapy. All this is to say I am getting second and third opinions. I am not accepting substandard care and will continue to look for ways to treat pain.

“I can’t.” Just like my inability to jog, I found myself saying “I can’t” to a lot of different little situations: taking the stairs at work, bending down to pick stuff off the floor, getting on my hands and knees to scrub my bathroom, etc. My thought is, My back hurts, so why bother?

That’s not the case. I do have good days. So I need to ban the I can’t mentality and trade it for Let me see how I feel right now. If I’m having a good day, I need to take advantage and climb those stairs. Maybe I’m having a bad day, but I can get on my hands and knees to scrub if I am careful.

The victory here is I am re-programming my thoughts to align with how I feel. I am cognizant of the bad days and don’t overdo it. On the good days, I do more, but I don’t go nuts. It’s about being in tune with your body and refusing to allow the negativity to win.

***

Don’t allow yourself to become a hostage to your pain. You do have to adjust your life to live with it, but that is a sign of strength, not weakness. You control how you live with your pain – it doesn’t control you!

Is there something I missed in this list? Comment below!

How to Find a Church by Yourself

There are some things in life that once you find them, you hold on to them and don’t let go: a great hairdresser, an honest mechanic, or a doctor who really listens to you.

Another staple of many peoples’ lives is a good church. But if you are single and unsure of how to find one, how do you even know where to begin? I want to give you some practical tips on how to find a church that suits you and will support you on your spiritual walk.

One thing to consider is what denomination of services you would like to attend. Some people prefer to go to the church of the religion they were raised in, which is fine. However, if that doesn’t meet your spiritual needs, consider taking this quiz to see where your leanings are. This BeliefNet quiz is for entertainment purposes, but it can give you insight if you prefer a more liberal, conservative, or middle-of-the-road church. For example, I scored highest as a Liberal Quaker, ranking far above the Catholic faith I was raised in.

However, being a Quaker isn’t terribly practical in my city of 300,000 people. They meet in a private residence once a week, and I’m not comfortable sticking out like a sore thumb for their meetings.

Another way to find a church is to ask your like-minded friends, relatives, or co-workers if they can recommend any churches. Ask them why they would recommend it, and if they think you would enjoy it. I think you will find their answers to be very telling. Ask if you can go to a service with them – there’s nothing like going to church with someone who can make introductions!

When I visit a new church, I have a list of what is most important to me:

  • Was I welcomed? I like a warm greeting. I don’t want to be a nameless face in the pew.
  • Music – Personally, I like more contemporary music.
  • Sermon – What was the central message of the sermon? Was it hellfire and brimstone, or did it teach an inspirational, gentle, and hopeful lesson?
  • Congregation– Is there diversity in the congregation? Is it all families or all older folks? Do you see unattached adults? If there is a good age spread, I take that as a good sign that the church reaches out to everyone.
  • Ministries – Many of these are highlighted in the church bulletin, which I highly recommend reading. Does the church offer anything of interest to you, like singles’ ministry, bible study, classes, or volunteer opportunities? Opportunities to get you involved will make you feel quickly at home.
  • Service time – I’m squirming after 45 minutes. If it goes past an hour, they’ve lost me.
  • Miscellaneous – Is there anything else that stands out about the church? Things I’ve noticed are coffee before or after services for fellowship, wonky parking lots, use of multimedia in the church, and the general overall church vibe. 

Of course selecting the right church for you is an intensely personal process, and you will unfortunately go to a few churches that just don’t resonate with you. But if you are brave enough to explore churches, keep in mind what is important to you in a church family, and visit the “maybe” churches more than once, I think you are well on your way to finding a worship community that’s just right for you.

If you attend church, how did you find the place you currently attend? Comment below!

The Power of My Family in My Life

It’s Father’s Day.

Cue up the dad jokes!

Why did the Clydesdale give the pony a glass of water? Because he was a little horse!

HAHAHA!!!

Now that I got that out of the way, family is foremost on my mind today, so I want to share with you some of the most powerful moments I have shared with my family—my parents, two sisters, and two brothers—where they have let me know everything is all right and, when the chips are down, they are the rock I stand on.

That time I totaled a car and Mom let me sleep in bed with her. When I was 18, I got into a car accident (my fault) that totaled the other driver’s car. My father was out of town and I was freaking out how mad he would be. My mom told me, over, and over, things would be OK. Being an anxious person, I couldn’t get it into my head. So Mom did something I hadn’t done in years—she let me sleep in her bed, let me cry out my fears, and somehow managed to assure me things would work out. And they did.

That time I was hospitalized in France and my parents were right there. I was 23 and got appendicitis in Paris. My appendix ruptured and I got a blood infection. By the grace of God my parents were already there on a scheduled vacation. Well, their vacay was cut short as they spent the next 10 days with me as I struggled to get my health back. Even though they don’t speak French and didn’t really know what was going on, I never would’ve made it out of their with their comfort and care.

That time my siblings helped me furnish an apartment after I left the convent. After I left the convent, I lived in a tiny one-bedroom apartment near where I worked. I had used furniture I managed to cobble together from different places, but I needed sheets, pots, pans, cleaning supplies, etc. That’s where my sibs came in. They pooled their resources to buy me a card to cheer me up and a Target gift card so I could buy the basic necessities. They didn’t have to do that, but it was certainly the most thoughtful gesture. I still have the card and it makes me smile every time I read it.

That time I had a nervous breakdown and had to be institutionalized. Long story short, I was living in another state and I had myself committed to a mental hospital for suicidal ideation. My parents dropped everything to come take care of my cat, get me out of the hospital, and stayed with me until I was well enough to look after myself. That was a very dark time in my life, and it was only my family looking out for me that got me through that very scary time.

That time I lost my job and practically moved in with my folks. I lost my job last summer, and my family saved me from being home alone, freaking out about the future. My sisters invited me over to watch TV to take my mind off things. My brothers took me to movies to cheer me up. I went over to dinner at my parents’ place five days a week. During all that time, they let me laugh, cry, share my frustrations, and were the first to celebrate with me when I got the job. They helped me more than they will ever know, nor will they ever know the depth of my gratitude.

So today, stop and think about your family—biological, adopted, friends, pets, or anyone else close to your heart. Remember how they helped you in the rough spots. And cherish the time you spend with them.

How has your family impacted your life for the better? Comment below!

Why You Need to Maintain Long-Distance Friendships

I am in the process of losing my best friend from elementary school.

Just writing that is a punch to the gut.

I’ve known this woman since 1985. Though we haven’t lived in the same town in fifteen years, we have seen each other through high school, college, job changes, moves, countless boyfriends, a husband (her), a kid (her again), a nasty divorce (still her), and medical problems. But we always maintained a strong friendship and have been there for one another.

That is, until her divorce was finalized. Then she vanished.

I know where she is, but between her work, her kid, and her new boyfriend, maintaining contact with me has been put at the bottom of her list.

The way bottom of the list, somewhere next to scheduling a root canal and doing her taxes.

I might sound like a whiner when I say it’s not fair. But it isn’t. I listened to her cry on the phone, vent, yell about her ex, and I invested my time to be there for her while she was in the process of getting a divorce. But when she found a new sweetie and the divorce was finally over, she ghosted on me. I call or text to see how she’s doing, I never hear from her. No Facebook, no Skype. Nothing.

I finally told her how I felt completely left out and that our friendship is dying. I don’t know what the next chapter of our friendship is—or even if there will be one—but I do know why it is critical to maintain relationships with your friends, even if they live in other states or countries.

Life is too short to dump someone you’ve been friends with for years. Unless the relationship is toxic/abusive or the “friend” is an emotional drain, why would you not cultivate your long-distance friendships? What good does it do to cut people you love out of your life?

Few people understand you like your best friend. Yeah, your significant other and/or family know a lot about you. A lot. But if you’re like me, your best friend knows the darkest side of you, and still loves and accepts you for who you are. That I something that is so rare and special, you owe it to yourself to maintain the friendship bonds.

You can’t pick your family, but you can pick your friends. There is something so unique about friendship. Of the 7 billion people on the planet, you picked this special someone to walk arm in arm with in this thing called life. Your close friends who live far away may not physically be there, but they are the special people who choose to love you and will do whatever it takes to be there for you.

A little communication goes a long way. It really doesn’t take much to tell someone you’re thinking of them. A Facebook message, a text, a phone call, even a card. Don’t be like my friend—invest five minutes of time into someone you haven’t talked to in months. You will reap rewards that pay off in years to come.

Friends come in handy when you travel. One of the greatest pleasures in life is traveling to visit friends in different cities. Not only can you score a free place to stay, but they will show you all the local great local sites not mentioned in the tour guides.

Life happens. This is the biggest thing. When the chips are down and you need a shoulder to cry on, a sympathetic ear, or you just need the comfort of knowing someone cares, that’s where friends play the biggest part. Think about the last time a friend offered support or helped you solve a problem.

Seriously, where would we be without friends?

Take some time to think if there is a friend you have been neglecting. What can you do today to let them know you are thinking of them? Pick up the phone and call or message them. I promise you won’t regret it!

Who is your best friend in the world, and why do you love them? Comment below!

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