Relationships

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.

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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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How to Start a Book Club

What is your favorite book?

My all-time favorite is Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera, but it’s hard to pick a favorite from the hundreds I’ve read over the years.

I think just about everyone loves a good book, either on paper, an ebook, or an audio book. They take us away to stories of romance, adventure, history, and fantasy. Or, if you are a literature major like I was, you slogged through tomes about existential crises or boring philosophical treatises.

But any way you slice it, books are fabulous, and nothing beats the satisfaction of sharing good stories with others. One of my readers requested that I write about how to start a book club, and I don’t have to look any further than my sister Liz.

Liz is a dedicated, fabulous teacher who loves all things Jane Austen. One of her best friends, Cheryl, read The Jane Austen Book Club and got an idea to do something similar. So she convinced her sister, sister-in-law, Liz, friend Jamie, friend Erin, and Erin’s friend Tiffany to start a book club. It revolves around all things Austen.

Cheryl is the driving force behind the book club. She selects the seven titles to read each year. Every September, all the girls meet to set the dates, decide who will host which meeting, and Cheryl lets them know the book titles.

The meetings all follow the same format:

  • Each member hosts the club once a year. They are in charge of snacks—which of course include tea or lemonade, finger sandwiches, and desserts. They food is something similar to what Austen would have eaten, but of course they can put a 21st-century twist on the food.
  • The host is also responsible for discussion questions. Liz either finds them online, or she takes notes as she reads her book and makes up the questions that way. They debate major themes, plot points, and if they liked the book or not.
  • Then there is a craft or project that relates to the first two decades of the nineteenth century. The book club has made quill pens, teacup bookmarks, needlepoints, or silhouettes that were very popular back then. They have also learned how to play card games popular during the Georgian era.

Jane Austen only wrote six books, I can hear some of you thinking. So what do they read every year?

  • During the first year, the book club read the original Austen novels.
  • Year two, the girls read books all written from male characters’ perspectives.
  • Years three and four were fan-fiction novels, some of them bestsellers (such as The Jane Austen Book Club.)
  • In the fifth year, they revisited the original novels.
  • The club is in its sixth year, and they are reading spin-offs of the original novels.

I asked Liz if she ever gets tired of reading the same type of books, but she doesn’t. She loves the social time, hanging out with friends she doesn’t see often, and she has enjoyed almost all the books she has read.

Now while Liz’s book group is exclusively dedicated to Jane Austen, you can get creative. Maybe you are a fan of Harry Potter, Twilight, or The Hunger Games. Maybe you read novels set in Paris or Italy. Or you focus on a certain period of history.

Maybe you want to read books with a purpose. You get together with co-workers or other entrepreneurs to read business or self-development books. There are no limits to topics.

I hope this gives you an idea of how to start a book club and structure meetings. You don’t have to have a large group, and you don’t even have to meet every month. But you do have to have a love for books and want to share that with others!

What topics interest you if you could star a book club? 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!

How Wearing Masks Is Stopping You from Living a Full Life

Anyone who knows me, knows I am a Phantom of the Opera super-nerd. One of my favorite lines comes from the beginning of Act II:

Masquerade…

Paper faces on parade

Masquerade…

Hide your face

So the world

Will never find you…

Think about those lyrics, and I’m not talking about fancy-dress balls. I mean masks you wear to protect yourself and your true identity. How many different masks do you wear every day? Are you shyer, more complacent, more self-conscious, more cautious, than you want to be?

Today I want to talk about the different masks we wear as women, and why we need to take them off in order to live our very best life. Because if we go through life too cautiously, our lives will be very empty and unfulfilled.

Are you holding yourself back from deepening relationships?

There is probably someone in your life that you want to see more of. Maybe there is a coworker you want to invite out to lunch. Or the cute neighbor you see every day who you want to ask out for coffee. But for whatever reason, you can’t bring yourself to say what is really on your mind or take that first step. You hide behind the mask of shyness, of keeping the status quo.

What are you accomplishing by not letting more people into your life? What can be gained by pining for someone from afar, thinking about what might have been, and not enriching your social circle? Take off the mask, be brave for 20 seconds, and ask that person out to lunch or for coffee. The WORST thing that can happen is that you get a “no.” And is that really the end of the world?

Is there a problem you know how to solve?

You’re in a meeting, people are trying to solve a problem, and you might have a solution, but you don’t want to look stupid. Or you may feel passionate about a cause, but don’t know how to get involved or you don’t want to offend anyone. The mask of self-assurance prevents you from helping people – not getting involved is easy. And safe.

But you have the power to make a difference. It takes 20 seconds of courage to volunteer an idea. A little more courage to find a group to connect with about the cause you care so much about. Take off the mask of keeping up appearances. Allow yourself to be vulnerable for the sake of others. 

Are you preventing yourself from living your best life?

Maybe your job has golden handcuffs – the pay and benefits are good, but the work is unsatisfying. Or you want to explore changing careers or starting a business. Or you have always wanted to live in one part of the country (or world) and never had the courage to move. Or maybe you want to try a different church, but never had the guts to try. The mask of comfort keeps you from making radical changes in your life.

This is probably the hardest mask to take off because as single women, we have a very real need to feel secure. We are the sole breadwinners, after all. But think to a time in your life – there had to be at least one time – when you made a drastic change, and it was for the better.

Getting that new job. Making that move. Dumping that lousy boyfriend.

How much better was your life after that? How did you summon up the courage to do it?

You owe it to yourself to take off the mask of complacency and make a plan. You have had it in you before, and you can do it again.

I know it is hard to take off the masks and step outside the status quo. But what would be possible if you were your best, authentic self? What would be possible if you stopped hiding your face and the world actually found you?

What was one time you had to step outside your comfort zone to improve your life, or someone close to you? Comment below!

Why You Should Care About Politics

“God damn it! We just got through the ugliest election in this country’s history! I never, ever want to hear about politics again!”

As of this writing (late October), the elections are, sadly, not over with yet. Nearly everyone I know is weary of this election, and I know more than one person who swears they will never vote again.

Never. Vote. Again.

Um, no. Not voting is not an option.

I used to work in an election office, so I’ve heard a lot of arguments why people don’t care about politics. If you hate politics or ignore them altogether, read below. I want you tell you why your lack of interest in what’s going on around you could hurt you in the end.

Excuse #1: My vote doesn’t matter.

I’m so tired of hearing this. First of all, if you knew the history of how different groups in our country had to struggle to get the vote, you might think a little differently. American women only got the vote in 1920, and that was after a lot of hard work. My grandmothers were born without any voting rights, and they only could when they turned 21, not 18.

And if you think your vote doesn’t matter, you are so wrong. More than a few local elections are decided by a single vote. In national elections, sometimes the presidential vote is decided by only a few hundred people. 2000, anybody? So your vote does matter. And if you sit at home on Election Day, you officially surrender your right to ever complain about politics ever again. And you’re dismissing the sacrifices of your great-grandmothers and all the other women in your family who worked to ensure you get the vote.

Excuse #2: There’s nothing on the ballot that affects me.

Not true, either. Many ballots have tax initiatives on them for levies, school bonds, sales taxes, etc., that hit you in the wallet. You could wind up paying more or less taxes. Your vote can affect how children in your city are educated, or which building projects get funded. In my state this year, we are voting on whether or not to abolish the death penalty. My vote is literally a vote of life and death.

I always supported Obamacare, but I never thought I would be on the receiving end of it. Welp, I am on it right now and I make sure my vote ensures politicians who support it stay in Washington. I want my voice heard, because what is on the ballot indeed affects my daily life.

Excuse #3: All politicians suck. Why should I even bother?

I actually don’t disagree with this argument. A lot of politicians do kind of suck because they are in perpetual campaign mode. They lose their empathy and connection with the very constituents who voted them into office.

That is why I think term limits are a good thing. And in the meantime, I am voting straight across the board to bring in new blood. I am weary of the establishment, so it’s time to shake it up. And even if the same old clowns get elected, at least I can hold my head high knowing I did my best to make a change.

Excuse #4: I don’t have time.

LAME. It take seconds to fill out an absentee request form. Vote at home in your jammies, then mail the puppy back in.

You don’t have to vote for every issue on the ballot, but you are doing yourself a huge favor to stay informed. Read editorials in your local paper. Visit the websites of the major parties in your state. Watch a debate or two. Ask questions of a friend or coworker who is well informed. Again, you don’t have to know everything, but educate yourself!

I hope I’ve refuted at least one argument on why you don’t care about politics. You aren’t only helping yourself, but you’re making a meaningful contribution to your community. It takes little time to educate yourself, and you are honoring the work of everyone who fights to ensure you have access to a ballot at every election.

YES OR NO: Did you vote last month? Why?

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