Body, Soul, and Mind: a sacred trio or the recipe for a perfect storm.

Body, soul, and mind: a sacred trio or the recipe for a perfect storm. Some reflections on self care and mindfulness, also known as my journey to less stress, better health, and some gosh darn peace.

To preface, over the course of ten or so years, I’ve spent more time than I’d like to admit wrestling with stress, nightmares, and worry.  Worry led to bad dreams, bad dreams led to lack of sleep, lack of sleep led to more stress, which ultimately had a significant negative impacted on my health.  It’s been a ten year journey working on self care and stress management, however, over the last three years, I’ve come across some beneficial and tangible ways to manage stress, relax, take care of myself, and enjoy life as a busy twenty-something.  Enjoy.

Ultimately, body, soul, and mind are all connected; when one suffers, so do the others.

Body 

When our bodies aren’t functioning well, all other areas of our lives end up suffering too. 

Sleep and Rest – Between working a few jobs, being a full-time student, and attempting to maintain some sort of social life, sleep was always the first thing to go when trying to trim down my schedule.  During my first few years of college, it was not uncommon for me to be running on there hours of sleep and four cups of coffee.  This worked for a time, but after a while, I noticed my grades dropping, my attitude slacking, and an overall uncomfortable feeling with my body and health.  Since making time to sleep and rest, I’ve found more time in my schedule to be productive.  Not only do I have more energy, but I’m also typically in a better mood.  My digestion, skin, and motivation have all drastically improved.  Turns out, if my body was exhausted, I was exhausted in every other category.

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Exercise / yoga – I never would have consider myself athletic.  Growing up, sports were not part of my routine or in my priorities–I was much more interested in band or quizzing.  It wasn’t until this past year that I decided to give “hitting the gym” and yoga a go.  The first month was not pleasant–sore and sweaty, I couldn’t imagine how people actually enjoyed working out or bending into strange positions.  However, after the initial misery of burning muscles and fatigue, I noticed an increase in energy, sound sleep, and a significant decrease in my stress level (which is unheard of, to put it nicely; see years 2011-16 for reference).  I figured I’d give it another few weeks to see if exercising was worth the time and energy investment. Simply put, the gym and my yoga mat have become part of my regular routine, and I dig it, completely.  Taking time to work up a sweat or to focus on my breathing has given more than I expected: energy, sleep, a bit more flexibility, and a spring in my step.  Finally starting to understand the hullabaloo surrounding moving the body and getting the heart rate going.

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Balanced diet – In a previous post, I shared some reflections on being Pescaterian, as well as some of my joys and struggles along the way.  These days, I’m more on the side of plain ol’ vanilla vegetarian.  The goal became finding the right foods to eat (enough protein, iron, fiber, calcium, and vitamins–the things that makes my body move and work properly), and learning the difference between living to eat and eating to live.  Once I got past the initial fatigued phase of having an out of balance meal plan, I started adding types of food which made me feel better.  Finding balance was the key.  There are still days when I can feel my iron tilting toward the low end, or I notice that I need a protein kick, but overall, the switch away from meats and toward more variety and balance has proved to be fantastic. The bottom line is we are what we eat: if we eat balanced, we’ll be balanced.

Soul

An empty soul is like coffee with no caffeine.  Finding ways to recharge my soul (although it sounds hippy-dippy) has become crucial to my attitude and drive for enjoying life.  Living life is inevitable, but enjoying it is a developed skill.  

Hobbies – It wasn’t until a bit over a year ago that I realized most of my hobbies had taken back seat to other life events.  Sometimes sacrifices are worth it, but in this case, I wish I hadn’t sacrificed the time previously reserved for hobbies.  Thankfully, I’ve been able to rediscover some of my old hobbies as well as explore a few new ones.  Hobbies have become positive outlets to blow off steam as well as recharge.  Who knew hobbies could be so critical to self care?  Reading, Zentangle, writing, music, exploring, cooking-shenanigans–all of these have become productive ways to fill my soul, or simply pour energy and enthusiasm back into my body.  Engaging in hobbies have become more about making the time versus trying to find the time.

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Travel – Traveling has become more than an outlet and rather an avenue to soul search: time to take a backseat to my lifestyle and observe how others live and do life elsewhere.  This was very evident while in Europe over the summer; something about being completely outside my typical comfort zone and emerged in someone else’s was very restorative.  The soul refreshing part of travel is really having the opportunity to step away from the normal and every day routine, which in turn, adds value and perspective.  From personal space and reverence, to history and social norms, there is something unique about traveling–the potential to cause paradigm shift is incredible.  Not to mention, there are some pretty gosh darn breath taking and life giving places on this gorgeous planet we call home.  Hills to climb and rivers to jump in, places to explore and shenanigans to be had.

14352613_2125217694369559_5405926456171386146_o.jpgReading – There is one thing in common with all of the people I look up to: they read regularly.  Somewhere down the line I decided these people had qualities I admired, so I figured I best start reading if I ever wanted to be like them.  Although back in the day I very much disliked reading, I’ve grown to quite enjoy it.  Reading has been a positive and tangible way to relax and fill curiosity.  This first summer post graduation, I took a break from most of the academic texts I’d been reading and switched to more artistic and creative literature.  Not only was that season fulfilling and intriguing, it was also the boost of creativity and colors-outside-the-lines that I needed.  After the summer months, I switched back into psychology, history, and sociology texts–these have been beneficial in evaluating my career path and passions.  All in all, reading is a magnificent way to listen for a change.  Taking time to read someone else’s thoughts, perspective, or expression can be both edifying and encouraging.  Ask me what I’m reading, I dare you.

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People – Being a fairly excitable extravert, spending time with people has become crucial to my soul being healthy, or feeling alive at all.  I like people, conversation, interaction–the whole shindig.  However, that being said, spending time with people has both pro’s and con’s.  This is another instance where balance is key.  Spending time with people has become less about quantity and more about quality–not how often, but rather with whom.  Interacting with people is simply part of life, but there are times when it’s more on the draining side.  In the pursuit of energizing my soul, spending time with people has become more about surrounding myself with the right kinds of people: ones who encourage, challenge, and who have a healthy exchange of me investing in them and them investing in me.  I make a point to regularly see people who challenge me and lead balanced lives.  Sometimes this happens on a weekly basis with friends nearby, and sometimes it’s a little bit less often, on a monthly basis seeing my kindred spirits far away.  All in all, people are important, particularly for me (somersaulting ENFP over here), to feel alive, connected, and growing.

Mind

If our body is the vessel, and our soul is the energy, our mind is the…well the mind: the driving force and reason behind it all.  However, if our mind is exhausted, our bodies will quickly follow and our soul will deteriorate.  Mind you that you take care of your mind. 

Quiet – There is something to be said about solitude, silence, and unplugging or detaching for a time.  During my final semester of undergraduate studies, I lived alone in a one bedroom apartment.  There were both frustrations and blessings in this arrangement.  Often times I craved company and movement in my living room, but other times, there was something soothing and serene about the silence.  Silence and quiet can be both audible and in interaction, however, there are more ways to simply practice quietness.  Perhaps my three favorite ways to practice quiet are: listening, unplugging, and not speaking for a time.  Listening is, easily, one of the most underrated practices in American culture; there’s always an opinion to be shared, or statement to make, but so often, we forget to exercise the exact thing we crave–having someone simply listen.  By taking a moment to listen and be quiet, it opens opportunity for us to both rest and recharge.  Unplugging has similar benefits. This was most noticeable while in Europe; with wifi and cell service being sketchy, at best, I found significant peace not having a regular chime in my pocket.  From time to time, I’ll silence my phone or leave my laptop at home.  It has become more about creating quiet space, rather than trying to find it.  Last, simple silence.  My mom would go on these strange ‘silent retreats’ when I was younger.  Initially I thought it was a waste of time, “who in their right mind would go spend a weekend in silence?”  Little did I know, there is something absolutely refreshing about getting in touch with your thoughts from time to time.  When our ears take a break, we can be much more in tune with what’s going on inside our mind.

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Mental Health, Healthy Coping Skills, Positive Outlets – This is a big one, and frankly, I don’t think I’d do it justice in a paragraph or two, so I’ll keep it brief.  As I’ve said before: body, soul, and mind are all connected; when one suffers, the others do as well.  Taking care of our mind, emotions, and thoughts are key to peace, overall health, and happiness.

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Learning – Someone once asked me if I thought we would die because we stopped learning, or we would stop learning because we die.  I struggled to pick an answer, because frankly, it could be both.  Learning is crucial to survival, but also significant to enjoying life.  Roommates over the years have casually said, “You learn something new every day.”  I couldn’t agree more.  Finding ways to learn new things, or explore other ideas seems to be one of the most productive ways to grow as an individual.  On the flip side, learning can also cause distress.  Perhaps learning about the reality of social justice or the state of our environment can cause stress.  However, some stress is good; it springs us toward productivity and pursuing passion.  That pursuit is key to finding peace and purpose.

16809319_2244166279141366_937153450_n.jpgDisclaimer: I’m a work in progress–but it’s been a blast along the way.  I don’t have it perfect, but I suppose the journey can be just as beneficial as the destination.  Peace, stress-management, and health are key to enjoying life.  Here’s to the future and the joys and sorrows we’ve learned from in the past.

 

 

 

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Pesca–what? A year’s reflection on Pescaterianism

Year after year, I’ve made new year’s resolution, with usually no success in their actual completion.  However 2016 started off a bit differently.  Since late high school, I had entertained the thought of making a diet switch to vegetarian.  However, my deep love for chicken-tenders and shrimp spaghetti had always held me back.

During my senior year in college, with a significant amount of stress on my shoulders, my health took a turn.  After months of being sick on a regular basis, and a trip to the emergency room for dehydration, I figured that something had to change—I couldn’t maintain an upset stomach and throwing up most days.

With a considerable amount of thought and several conversations with my vegan, vegetarian, and pescaterian friends, I decided that 2016 would be the start of my pescaterian journey.  If you’re unfamiliar with the term ‘pescaterian’, it refers to a vegetarian-type died which also includes fish and other seafood.

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Here are five things I’ve learned through becoming pescaterian over the past year:

Take it slow.  Initially before taking the dive into the whole pescaterian shindig, I doubted how people could simply go from a typical diet to vegetarian, or anything like it, cold turkey.  Thankfully, an old co-worker of mine helped explain a reasonable way to transition.  I didn’t make a switch in one day; I started by weaning certain types of meats out one by one.  For example, I started with pork: I went for a few weeks eliminating pork from my diet (you’d be amazed how many things have bacon in them…), followed by a few weeks without beef, followed by chicken, turkey, and the rest of our land-dwelling animals.  Slowly waiting into pescaterianism made all the difference—I avoided shocking my body by going slowly.

Stay in tune with your body. One of the trickier parts of changing my diet was learning how to balance what I was taking out, and compensating for the vitamins and minerals my body still needed.  This wasn’t much of an issue until I had transitioned all meat other than seafood out.  I started noticing my eyes, skin, and lips were more pale than usual, I was winded easily, weaker than usual, and quite fatigued.  Eventually, after an attempt to give blood, I found out my iron was too low and probably the reason for constantly feeling fatigued.  Turns out, if our bodies get most of our iron from meat, and we don’t eat meat, we’ve got to find another way to get iron.  Spinach and lentils have become my go to—and on occasion, an iron or multi-vitamin supplement.  Learning to stay in tune with my body became key to actually enjoying the diet switch.  By simply throwing a handful of lentils into my soup or mixing in frozen spinach with my pasta sauce, I was finally able to stop feeling so yucky (and also was able to donate blood for the first time—sorry to everyone who saw me puke).

Speaking of puke… You might puke.  Come to find out, our bodies are actually pretty sensitive to what we eat.  Sometimes cutting one thing out will bring to light sensitivities we’ve got.  After not having had meat for a few months, I tried what I thought was vegetarian soup, and later, after throwing up, found that the soup was made with chicken stock.  Moral of the story: I had to learn to be patient with my body, stay hydrated, and ask questions.  It takes time to adapt to any change. 

Ask more questions.  This is two-fold.  Initially, I had no idea what to expect from the diet switch or how to compensate for what I was lacking—asking for advice from friends already down this path saved me quite a bit of hassle.  Second, asking what ingredients were in dishes prevented me from tossing my cookies on a number of occasions.  However, on occasion, I’ll forget to ask, and later come to realize that the taco salad bowl was fried in bacon grease…it happens once in a while. 

How I feel. The old saying, “You are what you eat” still rings true.  Sometime in college, a professor told me how long it takes the human body to digest a stake—I was surprised.  She went on to explain how by changing her diet, she had started sleeping better and having more natural energy.  After a few months of being land-animal meat-free, I started noticing a few positive changes: I had more energy, was less sluggish, slept better, and my digestive system was much more content.  It’s still something I’m working to fine tune, but overall, the switch has left me feeling pretty swell.

Overall, I’ve learned the importance of staying in tune with my body, how I’m feeling, and my energy levels.  More things are connected than I first thought.  This process has taught me, truly, anything is possible for a year (and I might just hang on to this one for a while longer).  Becoming mindful can manifest itself in a variety of ways, even if it’s just learning to order something without bacon. 

Here’s to more animals, less sluggishness, and feeling good. 

Disclaimer: the diet switch wasn’t motivated by an overwhelming and excessive love for animals.  I mean they’re cool, I love the critters on God’s green earth, but the change was mostly for selfish reasons. 

College Graduates Don’t Wear Sparkle Eyeshadow

Disclaimer — Sparkle eyeshadow is a glorious thing, and praise be to anyone who can rock it (aka Beyonce).  Recently I was reminded that I am not someone who can do that.

Just a story, enjoy.

I was not prepared for how drastically life would change after graduating, the biggest change being greater distance between friends who previously lived just a building over. After feeling a little desperate for friend-type interaction after not seeing any of my college friends over the summer, I called up Danielle, the friend I have to thank for reminding me to eat and brush my hair over senior year, when I was everything but sane and put together.  Danielle only lived about forty-five minutes away from where I’ve been living–and after not seeing any of the friends I saw on a daily basis only months before, knowing I’d get to see her made the drive a breeze.  After a squealing-middle-school-girl-esq reunion-hug, we headed to a little sushi shop in downtown Howell for our favorite meal.  After non-stop chatter about our summers, travel, boys we had been ‘talking to’-ish, and all the typical, oh gosh, we’re graduated! We have full time jobs and/or year long internships, soon to be, far away!   We decided to grab coffee and browse the isles of Target (because obviously, recent college graduates with ministry type degrees have bins and bins of money for the sole purpose of shopping and sushi dates).  While digging through the clearance buckets, looking for that one things we didn’t know that we needed until just then, I came across ninety-nine cent, previously four dollar, sparkle gold eyeshadow–the exact kind of pizazz which I hoped would reflect my personality!  Glitter!  “Danielle!  Look at what I found: Sparkly gold eyeshadow!”  *now imagine, in your most practical, yet mother-type disgusted voice* “Hannah.  You’re a college graduate.  College graduates don’t wear sparkle eyeshadow!”

And that, my friends, is the story of the time I learned not only are college graduates supposed to dress their part (much to my chagrin), but that gold sparkly eyeshadow would not suit me well.  Still very much trying to figure out what being a college graduate is supposed to look like and be, but I’m getting there.  In the meantime, I’ll stick with the recommended eyeshadow shades for my pasty white skin tone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

25 Rules, Habits, and Things I’ve Learned from Dates

Over the past several years I’ve gone on plenty of dates, many were just first dates, some were second dates, and some turned into relationships–and right now, I’m just hanging out, enjoying my own company.  Either way, I’ve compiled a list of rules, habits, and things I’ve learned from both good and bad dates.  By no means were all of my dates terrible, but by no means were they all wonderful.  That being said, I am not a dating expert, I’ve accidentally insulted my date so many times while meaning to complement them–not an expert.  If anything, I’ve learned that the more boundaries, rules, and habits I have in place when heading into a date, the better the date goes.  

So without further ado, my somewhat comprehensive list of personal rules for dating (they all pretty much have a story to go along with them) all from trial and lots of errors–take from it as you wish.

  1. Buy your own meal/drinks on the first date.  If things go well, and there’s a second date, sure, they can buy, or you can split–whatever floats your boat.  But on first dates, I always buy my own, because after all, I’m quite capable of financially supporting my dating adventures, don’t necessarily need anything from the other person, and I don’t feel bad for ordering the seafood whatever and a glass of wine that came out to more than twenty bucks.  There’s a long story about how this rule came to be, but dates have gone so much better post establishing the, “No, I’ve got my own food this time.  Thanks though!  Maybe you can buy next time” thing.  
  2. You aren’t ever obligated.  The only obligation you have is to be a decent human being, but that doesn’t mean being a push over or a door mat.  Being decent doesn’t mean you have to laugh at all their jokes, or always say “yes”.  You’re not obligated to kiss them on the first date (I mean, unless you want to).  You’re not obligated to go home with them.  You’re not obligated to have another drink.  You’re not obligated to stay longer than you’d like.  Heck, you’re not obligated to see them again if you don’t want to!  You’re not obligated to call or text them back–you do you, be comfortable!
  3. “No” is a word, use it when you’d like to.  You’re a better date all around if you’ve got boundaries in place (I mean, on the flip side, wouldn’t you want your date to say what they mean, mean what they say, be honest, and totally comfortable and game for whatever you’re doing?).  This doesn’t mean you need to fit some sort of mold to be “the perfect date” but it means you’re comfortable with what you’re comfortable with, and all else can peace out because you said “no”.  You do you, don’t apologize.  If you’re not feeling it, say “no”.  If you don’t want to, say “no”.  There are few things worse than being kissed or kissing someone when you really don’t want to or just aren’t into it.  “No” is rad, use it.
  4. Know your limit when it comes to alcohol.  My personal rule is only two drinks on the first date.  It kind of sucks if you’re trying to be charming and you’re too buzzed to do that.  You laugh too loud, you’re obnoxious, you talk about your ex…you get emotional…things usually just go downhill after two  (or if you’re someone who gets hiccups daily anyway, alcohol just increases the likelihood of getting hiccups on your date–which turns out is actually pretty embarrassing).  Stay alert and attentive, be sharp, because you are.  (Ask me about the worst date I’ve ever had…he had too much to drink and officially holds the record for the worst date of all time–and it’s a comical story)  This is also very applicable to caffeine…another story, another time.
  5. Wear something comfortable and functional.  There isn’t much worse than constantly worrying about whether you’re gong to flash your date.  All this being said, I’ve made it my habit to wear pants, flats (have you ever seen me wear heals–it’s an unfortunate sight anyways, and I’m sure you’d rather not spend your first date in the ER because your date twisted her ankle in those killer heals that she can’t walk in anyways), and some sort of basic top on all my first dates.  Besides, if there’s a second date, I want them to be prepared, because I wear flats, flannels, and a messy bun on the daily–it’s the real me.  Functional can be cute.
  6. Don’t be afraid to order something messy or challenging to eat.  Maybe this is more of a scare tactic.  Thus far, I haven’t met anyone who looks cute when they eat–not convinced that it’s possible.  I figure, if they can tolerate the sight of me eating spaghetti or a burrito, then we’ll get along quite well.  By all means, don’t be a slob, but if you stress about what you look like when you eat, you’re going to miss a lot of the date–you do you, and order something you like, even if it’s a Mexican jumble of goodness inside a tortilla–which will fall all over the place.
  7. Never be afraid to leave if you’re feeling uncomfortable.  There have been a few dates where I got up and didn’t come back (paid my bill at the front before I left of course, because don’t be a jerk) because things were starting to feel uncomfortable.  Trust your gut…you’re the only one looking out for you on these sorts of things.
  8. Ask them questions, but also expect to have questions asked about yourself.  There are few things worse than sitting with someone for an hour plus and only hearing about them (ask me about the second worst date I’ve been on).  On the flip side, aren’t you trying to get to know each other anyway?  Ask questions, and listen.
  9. Tell someone where you’re going, when, and with who.  There have been a couple times I was really glad I did this.  Nothing is more helpful than having your friend call in the middle of a date to rescue you.  “Hey (best friend), how are you?  Oh my goodness, are you okay?!  Okay, okay, stay calm, I’ll be there soon! *hangs up* Hey, sorry, but (friend) is actually dying and needs me like right now, but it was nice to meet you!” *heads to friends house for wine and ice cream*  Sure, maybe that’s the classic date-escape technique, but you’ll never know when it’ll come in handy.
  10. Stay off your phone, unless you’re giving the this-isn’t-going-well vibe to your date.  Frankly, being on your phone constantly is rude, annoying, and gives the impression that Siri is your one true love.  Sure, keep it near by, but focus on your date–isn’t that what you’d want your date to do?
  11. Go on a cheep first date.  Nothing says this-is-the-real-me than a classic Subway, Panera, or Taco Bell date–or pizza in the park (#Ideal).  Olive Garden and *place you can’t pronounce* all in due time, but spending $60 on your date, only to have them talk about how much they are in love with your mutual friend actually sucks.
  12. Be yourself.  This should be a no-brainer, but sometimes we forget.  Wouldn’t you rather your date be authentically themselves?  Should you be too?  I’d rather admit that I’m a big MBTI nerd up front so I don’t freak them out when they eventually see my bookshelf and realize that I’m actually a closeted super-nerd.
  13. Don’t settle.  Maybe this is the reason I’m still single (or maybe I’m just super annoying on dates, I don’t know, time will tell), but it has saved me a lot of trouble in the long run.  Now this doesn’t mean you should create a list of 157 qualities and features your perfect date has to have, but be selective with who you date.  After a few less than stelar dates and people, I started being a bit picky about who I went out with–saved me heartache, time, and money.  That being said, don’t pity date–remember, you’re not obligated.
  14. Do have fun.  Dinner and drinks can be fun, but so can bowling.  If a date doesn’t sound fun or comfortable, you don’t have to.  Either way, enjoy yourself, and laugh if you’re feeling it.  Why be serious the whole time, have fun, be you!  If the real you is quirky and a super nerd, be quirky and a super nerd!
  15. Don’t drag the date on.  A six hour date is kind of long, let’s be honest…you can always hang out again.  Just don’t drag it on and on.  Eventually you’re going to have to pee, need to go home, or get back to responsibilities.  If things are going well, sure, go for a walk, or hang out a bit longer, but don’t be ridiculous.
  16. Don’t pressure and be respectful.  If you would’t want your date to do it, then don’t do it.  Be polite, if your date isn’t comfortable, respect them!  #NoDuh. Remember the bit about you perhaps not wanting to kiss on the first date (unless you want to), remember that they might have feelings like that.  Be classy.
  17. Be confident.  If you’re self conscious the whole time, you’ll probably not enjoy the date quite as much as you could if you just let it go and be you.  My five C’s I try to live and date by are as follows: Confident, comfortable, classy, calm, and competent.
  18. Three date rule.  By all means, you do you.  I’ve got a three date rule for anything more than a quick peck and holding hands.  If they’d like to snuggle up and watch a movie, I usually ask to wait until after date three.  Being comfortable and having boundaries make you a better date anyway.  Besides, I don’t really want to do more than I’m comfortable with.
  19. Use religion and politics cautiously.  This is a personal favorite.  Depending on my mood, I’ll either wait to bring this up, or drop it on the first date to get rid of the awkwardness (after creating it, that is).  Find out about your date’s views, beliefs, and what makes them tick–you’ll want to know eventually, just use good timing.
  20. Be open to try new things.  Perhaps some of the best dates I’ve been on involved trying something new: new food, new music, new activities.  Sure, I needed to be comfortable to actually enjoy it, but it could make for fun memories.
  21. Don’t talk about your past relationships, on the first date.  That’s pretty straight forward, but get to know the person you’re out with before divulging your entire dating history–all in due time.
  22. Go to the bathroom when you need to.  Probably one of the worst dates I’ve had was when I ignored that I had to pee for the entire two hours of our date.  Made for a very quick goodbye and a terrible ride home.  Excuse yourself to the bathroom when you need to.  Everybody has to pee eventually, it’s just a think you might as well embrace.
  23. Vent/treat the date as a therapy session.  There’s a time for talking about what’s got you down, but if the first date is spent spilling your guts, there’s a solid chance there won’t be a second one.  Like I said, all in due time.
  24. Don’t constantly apologize.  Sure, if you break something or are rude, definitely apologize, but don’t apologize for being yourself or be one of those people who apologizes for everything–you’re solid, it’s okay.  You are you, and that’s pretty rad.
  25. Don’t Fall Asleep on the first date.  Yeah, I definitely left.  Just stay away, or reschedule to when you’re rested.  Nothing says, I’m bored and you’re not interesting like falling asleep on a date.

And that’s all for now.  Enjoy, take what you will, leave what you will, and happy dating.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

15 Ways to Recover From a Lousy Date

As a follow up to my 25 Rules, Habits, and Things I’ve Learned from Dates post, here are my 15 Ways to Recover From a Lousy Date. Enjoy.

  1. Have yourself a glass of wine.  Alcohol never actually solves problems, but once in a while, it helps you process them.  *disclaimer: does not advocate for drinking problems away, but does advocate for a glass here and there to celebrate Jesus’ first miracle*
  2. Talk to a close friend.  Sometimes all you need is an available ear to vent to, talk you down from the frustration, and kick your rear back out there.  
  3. Have yourself one more glass of wine.  See point one, repeat once.  Sometimes you just need one more.  Helps with the overall venting and eventually sleeping off the frustration.
  4. Pet something cuddly.  Regardless of how awful, miserable, dry, terrible the date went, your dog (or cate…or whatever, maybe you have ducks!  If you have ducks, let’s talk, okay?) will still love you (if you give them treats and belly rubs).  After the most recent lousy date I went on, I snuggled up with a cat, despite being mildly allergic to it, and snuggled it until I felt better–very helpful.
  5. Boost your confidence.  Break out the liquid eyeliner or the fun hair goop stuff.  Buy some new underwear or a new outfit–boost that confidence back up.  Material possessions don’t fix problems, but sometimes they’ll help put a pep back in your step (Target has a great deal on underwear).  No one has to know that you just bought new rockin underpants, but sometimes that’s just enough to bring any recently defeated confidence back up to where it was.  Maybe underwear isn’t your thing, maybe it’s shoes, maybe it’s wallets, find what works for you–and freshen up that confidence.  
  6. Break out the angsty break-up/everything-sucks playlist.  If you’ve known me for more than a week, you’ve probably caught a glimpse of my Spotify playlist titles–one for every mood and every occasion.  After enough poor dates, frustrating days, and a really awful break up, I’ve assembled a playlist that helps get me through those droopy days.  Find yours, scream along to Since U Been Gone (covered by A Day To Remember) in the car, and brood along to your jams (just not for too long).  Get the feelings out, so you can settle down again.
  7. Channel the grump energy into something positive.  This is a bit different for everyone, but a common habit for me is to reorganize my desk and closet when I’m grouchy from a lousy date.  For you it might be working out or power washing your drive way–either way, find what works for you, and utilize that energy–you’ll probably feel productive afterward anyway.
  8. Rest up.  Being a bit on the easily-drained side of life, I’ll often feel emotionally exhausted after a date, be it good or bad.  My typical routine is a bubble bath (and a glass of wine), a book or journal, and a nap (or a Tylenol PM and going to bed early).  Lack of sleep plus any negative emotions can just become a cluster of awful–take care of yourself.  Featured image is my typical go to recharge.
  9. Take time to process.  If I’ve found one thing to be very true, it’s that jumping right back into the dating scene without processing a lousy date is not the best idea.  Find a good way for you to process.  Being an external processor, I usually call up a friend, word vomit at them, then go home and write my thoughts down.  It helps me reflect on what I’m looking for and helps put feelings in perspective.
  10. Don’t loose hope.  You’re a catch–but you’ve got to believe it.  This doesn’t mean be a pompous jerk, but don’t forget that you’ve got a lovely set of skills, interests, and a gloriously unique personality.  Don’t let one date get you down.
  11. Get a massage, pedicure, haircut–take care of yourself. Simple enough. Pamper yourself.  Investing in yourself is healthy–be healthy.
  12. Get creative.  Find another positive outlet.  Try something new, paint, sketch, write, create, cook, build–do something to get those positive brain chemicals moving again.
  13. Hangout with someone you haven’t hung out with in a while–hit up a sibling, parent, old friend, someone.  Be around solid people.  Don’t hide for too long–maybe you don’t hide at all, but get some positive human interaction back into your week.
  14. Netflix it out.  Have one more glass of wine and settle down with Parks and Rec, some Office, or New Girl–whatever floats your boat.  Have some you-time, and laugh a bit (and talk to the characters because that ultimately helps with everything).  Supplemental tip: google dogs underwater, turtles in hats, and cats in coffee mugs–also helpful.
  15. If you need help, Get help.  Unfortunately, sometimes bad dates were indeed very bad, physically, emotionally and psychologically bad.  Statistics change often, but last time I checked, one in three women are raped and one in two are sexually assaulted.  Similarly, for me, one in five are assaulted and one in ten are raped.  If you’ve been hurt, get help, and know you’re not alone.

 

This is not a comprehensive list, but it’s a start, or at least my most recent helpful bits and tips.  Taking care of you is important.  Be the best you by taking care of you the best way you know how.

 

 

 

Naps and Snacks: DC, Day 1

Our day started before dawn–as half past four came around, twenty-nine of us students and leaders ascemed, excited to depart. 


After wedging our small hill of luggage and supplies into four vehicles, we prayed, took a photo, and piled into our caravan. 


Most of our students slept for a large part of our journey, waking only occasional for a rest stop or doughnut hole. 


After a long day in the vans, fewer than expected rest stops, a rather picturesque drive, and too many jelly beans, all 22 students and 7 chaperones have arrive in DC!  Other than a little bit of travel fatigue, the team is energized and excited for what the week has to hold.


The students are thrilled about our dorm style housing–a step up from basement floors! They’ve found space to hammock, play frisbee, and fellowship. The staff has welcomed us and we will be working alongside them each day. Our TE staff are: Kelly, the director, Steven, Caleb, and Jessica. 


We are sleepy but excited for what the week has to hold! We are in two work groups, but will have all other activities together as a big group. One group is going to Age in Place tomorrow, and the other to Clagget farms. 


Please keep our team, the Team Effort staff, and the other group here with us (also from MI) in your prayers. 


(We’re playing a game here, not actually praying, but please do pray for us) 

We miss you guys and are thankful for all of your love and support. Until next time, blessings friends.

Rich and Stupid, Fat and Naive — Reflections on Walking Away

In order to finish up our cross cultural studies class, we needed to turn in a reflection paper–trying to fit a month’s worth of thoughts into an eight to ten page paper–oy.  Enjoy some thoughts.  I’m so glad to be back in the states, but I’ve learned a lot…travel bug has got me though.

“Don’t forget us” Anna said, as she handed me a little red, quilted bag with a green bow.  As the tears started brimming, barley held back by my lashes, I nodded, hugged her, and walked away.  Walking away was probably the hardest part about the time I spent in Greece—walking away from the Syrian Refugees, from the Benjamin organization, from the economic crisis, from internal struggles, from the Meteora monasteries, and ultimately, walking away and leaving Greece.  After three weeks, I’m walking away, realizing two things: first, America is a Rich and Stupid, Fat and Naive country in comparison to most of the world, and second, despite all which is going on in Greece, their country is Poor and Learned, yet still Thin and Joyful. 

My reason for picking the metaphor of walking away is this: when walking away, there’s a choice to be made: what will you do with everything you’ve walked through and alongside?  Where will you stand?  And where will you go? 

What Will You Do—What Have You Learned?

Although Greece is considered to have a Parliamentary Republic government, where various branches of government oversee specific aspect of the country and report back to the head, it is still loosely connected with the communist government.  Initially this was surprising—communism is supposed to be a bad thing, right?  After mulling this over for a while, I approached a few locals we had the opportunity to interact with, regarding why they were okay with having a communistic government.  “Leadership” I was told time and again; considering Greece’s history both in military and economy, there has been a been a lack of firm leadership and direction.  With a communistic approach to government, the title and role of leader is clearly defined and executed—there’s no question who is in charge and calling the shots. 

Religion has a different feel in Europe—many people are culturally religious, meaning, if a country has a religious affiliation, then by default, a citizen will take the title of a particular religion as part of their identity.  Being one of the Biblical Land, Greece’s religious history is rich, packed deeply with stories, landmarks, and artifacts reflecting the importance of tradition which have been held for centuries.  There is a strong following of Greek Orthodoxy, a little less personal, and more traditional, faith practice; this surprised me, considering the overwhelming gathering of biblical sites within Greece.  The combination of history and sites made the New Testament come to life for me—walking through the ruins of Phillipi, climbing up Mars Hill, seeing the Temple of Aphrodite, how could the scriptures not come alive?  All this being said, there is still a significant group of Evangelical Christians peppered throughout Greece.  Up until recently, the Evangelicals were not exactly recognized by the state; they were considered a sort of taboo people group, especially coming from a very traditional history of cultural religion.  In recent years, however, the government has moved to recognize them, which has made it a bit easier for the Christians to live out their faith in their communities. 

For most of our time in Greece, we traveled with a man named Costas, an Evangelical Christian working as a tour guide.  Near the end of our trip, Costas shared his story with us, explaining how his faith had been a point of conflict within his Orthodox community and even more so in his family.  In such a religious country, I was surprised to see how much undercurrent religious persecution went on.

One of the more striking elements experienced during our time visiting Greece was seeing how the economic crisis has impacted the country and people.  From the moment we bored our plane from Germany to Greece, the decline in economy was evident.  Giving dozens of examples of where it was clear to see how the crisis was impacting the economy would be easy, however, I will focus on only a few: the ruins, pick pockets, and locals. 

Much of the time we were in Greece was spent wandering through archeological sites, learning about what went on at each place.  However, despite the historical significance of each location, there was so much left undone and still covered.  After making a comment to one of my professors about wanting to come back in ten years to see how much progress had been made on the excavation, he mentioned that not much will likely change in ten years, because of the insufficient funds available to continue the excavation process—I was surprised by this, it’s a biblical site, important to history, to the culture, and to Christians worldwide, why wasn’t this a priority to the country? 

Further into our stay, we were warned to watch our wallets and cell phones—pick pocketing has become almost common place in Greece.  With the lack of available jobs, businesses shutting down, and an influx of people migrating into Greece, petty crime has increased, mostly in thieving.  I was struck particularly by one event while in Athens, seeing a woman get caught pick pocketing.  From my journal, “After the rose ordeal was over, we went back to munching on our lunch when all of a sudden the owner of the resturant began yelling and roughly grabbed this woman.  He was furious and the woman looked terrified.  He dragged her over to a group of people and was shaking her a bit.  All of a sudden he started hitting the woman.  Being a bit more sensitive than I’d like to be to that sort of thing, I got angry and began yelling at the man—I was worried that he was going to hurt the woman.  After smacking her several times, he shoved her away.  It didn’t hit me until after the exchange, but she, a very well dressed woman, was actually a pick pocket, and he had caught her trying to steal from some of his customers.  He explained that she was an immigrant to Greece and was preying on tourists in Athens.  I felt pretty torn—in our culture, men don’t hit women, it’s frowned upon (and vice versa, women shouldn’t hit men. just be nice friends), but he was also trying to protect us.  Who was at fault or wrong?  He intended good for us, but still smacked her around quite a bit.  The whole ordeal made me think about what is acceptable within culture—back home, the police would have been called, but here, the police are so relaxed, a lot of people take matters into their own hands.  I ended up feeling thankful that the owner had an eye out for us, but still wasn’t sure how I would have handled the situation had it been me who caught her.”  Previously, I would have assumed that maybe poorly dressed people or homeless children would be the ones steeling, not well dressed women—the whole encounter reflected something I hadn’t expected to see, especially in people who didn’t look the part: people do what they have to do to get by.  After the encounter, I walked away from Athens with a different feeling about myself; although I’m a recent college graduate, still mostly broke, but I have a job, I see myself as maybe struggling here and there to keep my gas tank full, but to the rest of the world, I’m a wealthy white woman.    

The final example which stuck out to me, more than the rest, regarding Greece’s economy was meeting some of the local young adults.  Between the single women in their early and mid twenties who were being helped by the Benjamin organization, Dimitri, a twenty-six year old, at the Evangelical church, and a nineteen year old boy who introduced himself to me on Patmos, most, if not all, of them struggled to find work or hold down a job.  Between the long hours, the shortage of jobs, and the suffering economy, paying bills was a challenge.  Each of the individuals I met were competent, educated,  and skilled, yet it was still very challenging for them to find work.  This surprised me; back home, it has never been a challenge for me to find work, even before I had a degree or any experience.  Vali, the boy who introduced himself to me on Patmos, explained that he was originally from Albania, but had come to Patmos to find work—although the island was beautiful and he had found some work, he really disliked bing in Greece, and wished to return home.  My younger sister is nineteen—I can’t imagine her traveling to a different country for work.  Overall, the economy in Greece was most memorable—it’s a domino effect, impacting everything in its wake. 

Stemming directly from the economic struggle in Greece, it was easy to see how family life has been impacted.  Being a collectivistic culture, the welcoming environment, generosity, and acceptance were evident, making my time there rather pleasant and comfortable, however, the quality of typical family life has gone down in the past several years.  Children moving out of the country looking for work, parents having to work more years before retiring, and nearly every other business closing, the quality of family life just isn’t the same as it used to be.  This was made more clear by observing the Benjamin organization—after hearing the stories from several single moms, recently widowed, it was a bit too real seeing how much the crisis had impacted families in Greece.  I met one woman, her name escapes me, but I do remember she was twenty-five, had wavy, shoulder length hair, and very tan skin.  Anna, the woman I mentioned earlier, told me that her husband was working a construction job, had a heart attack, and died on the job last year, leaving his wife and daughter alone.  The was now working in the fields, trying to make enough money to support both her daughter and herself.  It was amazing how much suffering these people were living through. 

The final element we learned about in Greece was Education, yet another area the crisis had impacted.  Being a nation which provides free education primary through university, funds for education were a priority, however, things like paying soldiers who were required to enlist in the army was not.  Most of the people we met in Greece had gone through university level education, having at least one bachelors degree, but still struggled to find work.  Even though education is free from primary (elementary) through secondary (high school) years, there are extensive tests which students must pass in order to go on to university.  If a student does not pass the exams, they can enroll in private schools, which do cost money, to study and prepare to retake the exams.  Education seemed to be fairly well rounded, covering all basic subjects, but stressing learning another language.  It was almost uncomfortable coming into Greece, as a foreigner, only speaking English, and still having the locals cater to my ignorance.  Initially I felt like a fairly well educated woman, but once arriving there, and being in the minority, I was humbled, realizing that there’s a lot more I really don’t know. 

Where Will You Stand?—The Shift in Beliefs.

Rich and stupid, fat and naive—I’m coming back to the States feeling differently about America and the world than I did previously.  After nearly a month oversees, my perspectives have changed significantly, more so than I thought they would.  I’m coming back both disappointed yet thankful. 

Rich.  As stated earlier, recently coming out of college, oftentimes I feel like a broke graduate, just starting to bring in pay checks, paying off any debt, and trying to figure out what my next step is—but sometimes I still feel pretty poor.  This was probably too much of an inward view.  Coming back from Greece, I’m feeling like a wealthy white woman, with way more money and possessions than I need.  I’m still trying to figure out where the money for my next tank of gas is going to come from, but I know I don’t have to worry about where I’m living or where my next meal will come from.

Stupid.  Something about being the minority for once had me feeling uncomfortable.  As much as I try to blend in, having blonde hair, blue eyes, and skin which just tempts the sun to burn it, made it nearly impossible to blend in.  Regularly in Greece, I had locals coming up and asking me where I was from and why I was visiting Greece.  Often times, they’d guess I was from the Netherlands or Germany, but once they found out I was from America, something about the tone of the conversation would switch.  In every conversation, I always felt catered to—not speaking any other language but English made me feel a little less educated than I thought.  Locals were constantly catering to us, speaking English, calling sports by their American names, and giving us American examples to help us understand Greece better.  Being in that position, and relying on the locals to cater to me, made me feel kind of foolish and humbled—there’s still so much I need to learn.

Fat.  Maybe fat is a bad way to word it, perhaps comfortable could be a better word choice.  There’s a sort of comfortability which I’ve developed living where I do; I’ve got a secure job, an education in my back pocket, money in the bank, freedom to practice my religion, family nearby, a culture I’m very okay with, and a not-too-wretched government (maybe exclude the election candidates though)—I’m comfortable where I’m at, there’s not really a need for me to change what I’m doing or where I’m at because I’m okay being status quo, but is that actually a good thing?  I’m not so sure now.  While in Greece, I was surprised to see how much the Greeks adapt to Americans and American culture, are attentive to what’s going on in our country, and are striving to learn more; it made me feel inadequate and lazy. 

Naive.  Perhaps one of the most shameful parts of the trip was being so unaware of what’s been going on outside my homeland.  I knew there was a refugee crisis somewhere oversees, and the government was raising a stink about it somewhere near Washington, but I didn’t realize how close to home it actually was, or that the women and children suffering were not too much older or younger than I.    Walking into the country feeling like I would be helping or making a difference was a bad idea—sure, maybe I have funds to share, or a couple hours to play with the Syrian children, but there wasn’t much of a difference that I was making, rather, it was the local church in Greece who was making the difference. 

All this to be said, I’m feeling more unprepared walking away from Greece—unprepared for what the world has going on, and unprepared for what my next step is, because there is so much to be done. 

Where Will You Go—So What?

Here’s where things can get sticky—I’ve been home for about a week, and it feels nearly impossible to begin processing what’s happened over the past month.  It’s overwhelming to think about how much I’ve experienced.  I could see how this could cause people to do one of two things: change because of what they’ve walked through or put it away and not deal with it because of how overwhelming it would be.  In some ways, it seems like my view of the world has been turned upside down, but in other ways, I feel like my perspective has widened.  Fitting a month’s worth of thoughts into one paper feels nearly impossible, but there are some important lessons I’ve learned which I’ll take with me as I move forward.

Be thankful.  Lord only knows how ungrateful I’ve been, but maybe being in Greece was part of the humbling process.  Meeting women my age in such different places in life than me was startling—how easily it would be to loose the security I have now.  Coming home, I was thankful to have a job, to have a family in the same country, and a culture which I was familiar with.  What ever happened to focusing on thankfulness—the glass being half full type of thing?

The idea of going into a collectivistic culture initially was exciting, putting our phones down, and talking with one another, living life with one another, was a great idea, at first.  It made me realize how important relationships are: relationships should come before the clock, not the other way around.  But parts of the collectivistic style intimidated me too; I had to be present, vulnerable even, people were in my bubble and personal space, and that was normal.  I like people as much as the next extrovert, but I don’t like people in my personal space without an invitation first—don’t touch me unless we’re friends, and even then, I don’t like people crowding me or bumping into me.  Maybe there’s something to the whole, putting your phone down and putting your hand on the should of the person next to you that I underestimated.  As scary as it was the first week, I came to find the closeness and unity very healing.  I stopped flinching when someone patted me on the back, I started hugging people more, and looking forward to being crowded together in small spaces—mostly, it’s a start.  Having someone sit close to me stopped making my heart panic, and instead I learned to value to intimacy of friendship—it breaks down barriers, you know?

Despite my distaste for anything before eight in the morning, one of my professors last semester said something that I’ll never forget, “Make as much as you can, save as much as you can, and give as much as you can.”  I don’t really remember anything else from any of his classes except for that statement and the example of generosity he set—frankly, I didn’t really like this professors, but his example challenged me in some crucial ways.  Walking away from Greece, and starting to realize that I am actually very well off, it feels like I need to start being more mindful of how I can be generous, with both my finances and time.  Perhaps the most convicting example of this was while interacting with the Benjamin organization.  For about twenty euros a month, the organization can help feed and clothe children of in single-parent families; twenty euros translates to about twenty-five US dollars—I can spend twenty-five on lunch for myself easily.  But what would my life look like if I invested that twenty-five dollars into the life and wellbeing of a child in Greece?  Time will tell, but I think I’d like to be a financial foster parent connected with the Benjamin organization. 

On a similar note, having three weeks away from my traditional classes, family, and work, I was able to reflect on the things that make me feel alive.  For a while, I’ve been entertaining ideas of how my youth ministry interests might develop and evolve.  I took time to explore some options—maybe one day I’ll work in an organization like Benjamin, or pursue being a house mom for run aways or struggling teens—time will tell, it’s in God’s hands.

Something which struck me funny was the idea of doing things for the novelty of it all.  It’s very easy to be home and say things like, “oh yeah, we spent some time in a Syrian Refugee camp while in Greece, no big deal,” but when does novelty intersect with need and necessity?  I found myself very relentless to return to the camp, and actually stayed home, partially for rest and recuperation, and partially because my heart wasn’t ready for that challenge.  I don’t want to do things for the novelty of it all, things like sponsoring children so I get more Jesus-Brownie points—I want my intentions and motives to be pure.  This caused me to think about the sort of things I lead my students through in youth group; am I fostering a mindset of novelty or of service from a pure heart?

A tangible challenge I was faced with while observing the culture was regarding learning, education, and awareness.  As said above, I felt unprepared and inadequate walking into and away from Greece—there’s so much I don’t know, and so much I turn a blind-eye to.  Between being a recent graduate, having the term life long learner drilled into my head for the past three years, and being in a very aware culture, I’m challenged to find more ways to learn and stay aware. 

Finally, one of the favorite lessons I learned while being in Greece was the importance of sitting in coffee shops.  As many of the locals do, sitting in coffee shops is simply a part of the culture.  You meet for coffee, talk among friends, slow down, and do life together—or, you sit alone, reflect, and enjoy the solitude.  Since being home, I’ve felt a bit incomplete without visiting a coffee shop every few days.  Taking time to interact with strangers, and enjoy the quiet community of a cafe has become more important to me than I thought—the coffee just isn’t the same though, Greece wins this one.  Taking time to slow down and be with people seems to be the bottom line.  It would be much easier to pop a k-cup into my Keurig, curl up on the couch and read a book, but driving ten minutes to the local coffee hot spot means I’ll have to talk to strangers, overhear laughter, and meet new people—why is this scary, and should it be?

To conclude, I’m happy to be back home.  I missed America and the culture I’m familiar with, however, the amount of change and growth which occurred over those three weeks in Greece were well worth the bit of internal discomfort.  It was a call to step outside of my comfort zone from time to time, to put my feet in the water, and to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.