Valuable Lessons I Learned from Growing Up in the Church

I grew up in a Catholic family.

From first grade until eighth grade (age 6-13), I was required to attend a Catholic night school every Monday night during the school year. Naturally, this made me hate God.

It wasn’t just Catholic school necessarily, it was the feel of Catholicism. It felt void of any emotion. I remember my teacher in third grade, Mrs. McNeal, told us that animals didn’t have souls and wouldn’t go to heaven. I think I decided that I didn’t believe in God then.

During my confirmation at age 13—which is when you “graduate” and decide to follow Christ for yourself, and also don’t have to attend that horrid night school anymore—I stood up and while the other kids were reciting their commitment to Christ, I inwardly vowed that I was an atheist.

I told my mom, who cried and asked what she did wrong.

Fortunately for her, I found my way back to Christ through a Methodist church not long after that and for the next decade, I considered myself to be a born-again Christian.

After graduating college, my mind was opened to appreciate a more universal definition of Christ than the more constricted one I had committed to as a Christian, and today, I don’t identify as any type of follower, although I do consider myself to be a spiritual person.

But, admittedly, I did learn a lot from growing up as a Catholic and then as a born-again Christian in the Methodist church. Here’s what I learned.

Helping People vs. Genuinely Supporting People

During my time being a born-again Christian, I learned about the difference between helping people and genuinely supporting people. I learned genuine compassion and acts of kindness.

This is difference between patting someone on the back and telling them “I’m sorry” when a loved one passes and instead calling them to ask how they’re doing or showing up at their home with a cooked meal for their family, or including them in your thoughts and prayers and sending positive, healing energy their way.

I’m grateful that I learned this in the church because it helped me to recognize and understand people who truly need help—because, hey, don’t we all?

We All Are Connected

There was a huge feeling of community in the Methodist church I went to. I was there several times a week with my cousin and felt connected to everyone there.

These people helped shape me. I felt like they truly saw me and nourished my spirit. They showed me that I mattered. Coming from Catholicism where I felt like everyone was dead inside, I saw a brighter side of religion that was rich with color.

Today, I recognize that the Catholics I knew weren’t dead inside. The stale energy I felt emanating from them and from the church wasn’t necessarily their fault—they were people too, just not the people who were meant to nourish my spirit and help me grow. And that was ok.

And, to be fair, I have known some Catholics who have been some of the most genuine people I have met. But the people at my Methodist church and the people I knew as a born-again Christian really helped my spirit fly, and for that I am grateful.

I’m also grateful to have experienced and enjoyed a sense of community that was severely lacking in my life before that. Today, I enjoy a different sense of community and spirit, but I’m grateful to all of these people for being part of my journey.

Appreciating Something Bigger Than Myself 

I felt like I never appreciated God as a Catholic. Through coming to Christ on my own terms, I saw a world of color that helped me to appreciate something bigger than myself.

Today, I see this more as Presence than I do Christ, although I more or less consider them to be the same thing. I am in awe of the world, and even though my life as an empath isn’t easy, I love being able to appreciate my smallness—as well as my wholeness—in the world to behold the wonder of life.

Appreciating something bigger than myself helps my problems feel smaller and helps myself feel more whole in this moment and more connected with all life-forms—which is something I feel like everyone can appreciate. 

Knowing What to Do at Funerals 

Although I’m not part of a church community anymore, it’s hard to forget how to conduct yourself in a Catholic church. This has provided me with ease when it comes to conducting myself at funerals that also happen to be Catholic masses, which helps to ease my social anxiety about being in such situations.

Whether it’s a Catholic mass or another type of service, I feel pretty solid in knowing when to kneel, knowing what genuflecting is and when to do it, knowing what to do when the priest says, “Let us offer each other the sign of peace”, and knowing that those goddamned pieces of bread at communion have gluten in them.

Thank you, Catholic school…

Who I Truly Am

Ultimately, my journey growing up in a Catholic family and my post-Catholic life as a born-again Christian spurred my journey to enlightenment and away from “Christ” in the conventional sense, but towards a Christ in the universal sense.

I’m not claiming to be enlightened in any sense of the word and I’m not claiming that my definition of Christ or God will be the same as yours. And please save your comments about my personal experiences and preferences when it comes to spirituality—I don’t comment on yours.

I’m grateful to have learned these lessons from growing up in two different churches in my young life and to appreciate the world in a way I wasn’t able to before. Thank you!

8 Mostly Nonsensical Benefits of Taking Cold Showers

I first experienced the benefits of taking cold showers after I went for a run. I was sweaty and it felt liberating. It helped me cool down, refresh, and get out of there quickly.

Then, as I read more about the supposed benefits of taking cold showers, I began taking them more and more often. This likely had something to do with the fact that it’s, you know, mostly summer now.

Also, my fiancé and I went to elope in Costa Rica and there was no hot water there, so we got used to the cold showers (but man, that Costa Rica thing is another story).

So here are 8 mostly nonsensical benefits of taking cold showers. You won’t find any research here—just facts based on my personal experience. Boom!

1. Save on Your Energy Bill

First, let me be clear that when I say “cold” showers, I mean lukewarm water. It can be mostly cold with just a touch of warmth. I’m not talking about walking into an ice bucket because that would just be brutal.

One time years ago, my brother dared me that I couldn’t take a cold shower without screaming. Of course, I took him up on the dare. He then proceeded to wait outside the door while I stepped into the shower. I let out a little yelp which he unfortunately heard and I think I owed him $5.

Anyway, regardless, reducing your use of hot water and saving on your energy bill is one of the best benefits of taking cold showers. You could save over $150 a year just by turning that knob a little more to the colder side. You can also wash your laundry in cold water to save even more!

2. Don’t Fog Up the Mirror

I hate it when the mirror fogs up. I like seeing myself after I’ve just taken a shower. I look fresh and new and when I have a fresh buzz, it feels amazing.

So I’m pretty dismayed when the mirror is fogged up after a really hot shower.

When you take cold showers, this problem does not exist. You can get out of the shower and be like, “Hey, cutie.” Because you totally do that. Like Jack Black in Orange County.

3. Have Great Skin

I have always struggled with my skin. It’s always been dry and scarred easily. I’ve finally started taking some essential fatty acids, so it’s getting better. Turns out, the heat was not helping it and greatly contributed to my already dry skin.

When you stop taking hot showers, your skin remains much more supple and less flaky and dry. Which is what it’s all about. The benefits of taking cold showers include having some Beyonce-like skin. It helps protect your skin and keep it healthy!

4. Reduce Dandruff (Because Hell Yeah!)

Dandruff is a real problem and it sucks.

After finding out my dandruff was likely being caused by a form of dermatitis that runs in the family (thanks, Dad’s side), I found this excellent shampoo recipe that has worked better than anything I’ve ever tried (it’s towards the end of the post btw).

The benefits of taking cold showers absolutely extend to your hair. The cold water helps reduce dandruff and keeps you flake free for an extended period of time. The best!

5. Feel Like a Badass

Whenever I go for a run and come home, have a glass of cold water, and take a cold shower, I feel totally boss afterward. I feel like I could do anything and it would be fine. Plus, the benefits of taking cold showers may even include boosting your mood, according to research (ok, I lied just a little when I said there wouldn’t be any research here).

Cold showers make you feel like a total badass. You’re doing something many people wouldn’t do and fuck yeah, you just exercised. So you feel awesome and get out of the shower feeling like a million bucks.

Write this down: benefits of taking cold showers=feeling boss.

6. Adjust to Room Temperature Easier

Since I hate being cold, whenever I would get out of the nice warm shower, I’d instantly be freezing and start shivering. Ian hates it when I shiver. I know he feels bad and I look pathetic—I really can’t help it.

When I take a cold shower, I get out of the shower and I’m like, “Man, it feels warm out here.” I adjust much easier to the outside temperature and am able to better regulate my body temperature. It feels kinda like jumping in a pool, but without the chlorine!

7. Appreciate Warmth with the Benefits of Taking Cold Showers

If I thought I appreciated the heat before, I was sadly mistaken. I appreciate the warmth now. Everything feels amazing after a cold shower—Ian’s warm hands, a soft blanket, my organic cotton socks and boxers. YES. This is why I exist. To enjoy these small things that bring me so much comfort with the benefits of taking cold showers.

8. Less Shower Time

When the shower is colder, you get the fuck out of there in minutes. You are not in there for ten minutes, fifteen minutes, twenty minutes, a goddamn half hour. You get out of there as soon as you are done whatever it is you need to do. Less water used, less energy used, more boss time.

The benefits of taking cold showers have both irrevocably refreshed me and also cut down on the time I’ve spent in the shower. From more supple skin to an easier time adjusting to the outside world, I plan to continue taking cold showers as often as I’m able. I will NOT give up my hot baths though. Sorry!

What I Wish I Knew about Oral Piercings Before I Got Them

I have some experience with oral piercings.

I got my tongue pierced ten days before my nineteenth birthday with a tall, biracial man I was deeply in love with. I just didn’t know it at the time.

Of course, it hurt. To my surprise, it didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would. I held his hand as the needle went through, and when the barbell was securely fastened inside, the sharp pains that came whenever I moved my tongue were unexpected.

We went back to his house late that night and ate peanut butter on bread. I couldn’t believe the pain! Then again why would anyone in their right mind try to eat peanut butter hours after they got their tongue pierced?

Did I mention he was a whimsical, childish, ADHD-afflicted unicorn? Or something like that.

I had my tongue pierced for about five years before taking it out due to a dental problem. You’ll hear about that in a minute.

About a month before my twenty-third birthday, I went to Ocean City with a friend of mine. She wanted to get her tongue pierced but was really scared. Long story short, we had a little bit too much to drink with her sister. Then we went on the boardwalk to get piercings.

I’d always wanted my lip pierced but never gotten it done. That fall would be my senior year of college at Penn State and I knew I’d have to get a “real job” after that (we see how that turned out, right?) and probably wouldn’t be able to get my lip pierced. It was now or never!

So I forgot about my internship in Baltimore for all of twenty minutes while I got a needle shoved through my lip. I was surprised how much that one hurt.

I still have my lip pierced.

So what do I wish I knew about oral piercings before I got them? What I know now about oral piercings may surprise you.

Oral Piercings Will Cause Problems with Your Teeth

Okay, yeah, I definitely heard this one but didn’t believe it. These were the notions about oral piercings of adults who didn’t want me to be the badass that I really was.

I took my tongue ring out because, after years of having it, my tooth sensitivity was getting worse. I later realized that the barbell had been rubbing along the inner edge of my bottom teeth, slowly wearing the enamel away and creating some not-so-fun tooth sensitivity.

Although things were pretty safe with my tongue ring in, I also occasionally knocked it against my teeth (this happened maybe about five times in all the years I had it in). I’m honestly not sure if I chipped any of my teeth but it’s definitely possible.

In regards to my lip piercing, it slowly rubbed on my lower right canine. I now have gum recession on that tooth. You can’t see it from the outside but there’s a significant amount of gum tissue missing compared to the other side.

When I noticed this, I freaked out a little and took my lip ring out after having it for over four years. So yeah—oral piercings can and will cause gum recession and tooth sensitivity, both signs of gum disease!

The Hole Will Not Go Away

When I took my lip ring out, the hole didn’t heal up. I had that sucker out for about eight months and the hole was still there, very visible from the outside of my face.

I assumed that the hole would heal up given time. But then I started Googling.

Turns out, when they pierce your lip, they core away a tiny piece of your skin that—you guessed it—won’t grow back. So while there’s not an actual “hole” there per se, it looks just like a hole and it’s definitely noticeable.

Hmm… did not think about that one before I got my lip pierced.

So then I found myself months before my wedding with a hole in my lip that I found out could only be corrected with plastic surgery, which would ultimately leave scars. Either way, I was stuck with this oral piercing whether or not the stud was in.

The only logical thing to do was to buy a pack of piercing needles on Amazon and re-pierce that thing. (Side note: I do not recommend doing this although my experience went fine.)

So now my lip stud is back in and I’ll probably be stuck with it forever unless I want a hole in my face. Fortunately, the hole from your tongue ring will heal up rather quickly, but there will always be a scar there too. Oral piercings cause scars and sometimes permanent holes!

Professional People Cared Far Less about Oral Piercings Than I Thought

Unless you’re going into the military, it’s unlikely that what kind of job you get will determine whether or not you can have an oral piercing.

My super cool neighbor saw my tongue ring not long after I got it and said, “You’ll want to take that out when you go for a job interview.”

I got hired at my internship in Baltimore, my amazing job at a homeless shelter in DC, and yes, I made my own freelance writing job all with piercings in my face.

Of course, if you’re going for a high-level job, you might want to think about that before getting oral piercings. For me, I love piercings and couldn’t imagine being at a job that wouldn’t let me have them. Back when I was in college I didn’t know that. I thought I’d have to sacrifice my soul to be anything worthwhile to the world.

So the bottom line is: if you want that oral piercing, get it. No one who actually cares about you will judge you. 

I adored my oral piercings. Although I’m unlikely to get my tongue pierced again, I’ll probably have this lip stud in for a long time. I loved my oral piercings much more than I thought I would. I’m sad that they caused problems with my teeth and wish that I took that consideration a little more seriously before I went under the needle. I also wish I knew that when I committed to the lip piercing, that I’d be committing to it for life. Like a tattoo!

But don’t get me started on those 🙂

6 Lessons I’ve Learned from Dealing with a Crazy Landlord Lady

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Being an adult is hard. Don’t get me wrong, I for sure like being an adult better than being a kid. Just because I’m an adult doesn’t mean I can’t still dress up for Halloween and wear mad glitter, right? Right.

When my fiance and I moved in together officially for the first time in North Carolina, I thought it would be more of a dream than a nightmare. My fiance and I are amazing together–that’s not the nightmare.

Having a crazy landlord lady is.

Here are six lessons I learned from dealing with that crazy landlord lady!

 

1. You Cannot Reason with Crazy People

There is no logic in the mind of a crazy person!

They will not see your point!

You cannot “get through” to them!

Sending an email asking why all the things outlined in your lease haven’t been taken care of does not make them understand that they are responsible for these items.

This crazy landlord lady honestly did not think she had to uphold her end of the lease. It frustrated me to no end—but it seemed that she truly did not see reason. “Oh, the grass is two feet tall? I’ve neglected to empty your trash for two months? Well, obviously you are an awful person. How dare you remind me of my duties. There is no reason for this!”

 

2. Be the Bigger Person

Because, well… they have the upper hand. You’re living in their house. They are giving you a place to live in exchange for money. If things go wrong and there’s bad blood between you and the crazy landlord lady, she can and will attempt to evict you, for no other reason than she can.

So just because a cow shows up right outside your door at 8 a.m. (yeah, it’s legit)p1100337

you have to be the bigger person. Just do what you’re supposed to do and don’t stoop to their level and act like a five-year-old. Which leads me to my next point.

 

3. Being Mature Is REALLY Hard When You’re Dealing with a Grandma That Acts Like a Five-Year-Old

Sometimes, being a mature adult is really hard. It just is. I don’t WANNA go to the bank today. I don’t FEEL like working. How am I doing today? YOUR FACE!

Being mature is way harder when you’re dealing with an adult who’s more than 30 years older than you and yet she still acts like a five-year-old. This crazy landlord lady was a grandma, for God’s sake! And she still acted like:

  • Everyone was out to get her
  • She was entitled to everything
  • She said things without thinking or reasoning
  • She could talk to other people like they were dirt and get away with it
  • Repeatedly said, “There is no reason for this” when there obviously was a reason
  • Oh, and she didn’t have any responsibilities except to smoke weed

(If you ever want a reason to not smoke marijuana, talk to this crazy landlord lady for five minutes. It’s not so cool when you’re 60, your brain is fried, and you’re on parole for growing pot, people!)

I learned that being mature is more about you than it is about the face you present to the world. At the end of the day, I was doing what made me a better person. I certainly didn’t want to be mature or professional in the moment (felt more like screaming, YOU’RE INSANE, BITCH!), but later, I was always happy that I had acted my age.

This crazy landlord lady made it extremely difficult for me to be the nice, mature person that I am. She tested me within an inch of every one of my limits. But because of her, I’m able to say that I’m a wiser and more mature person today.

 

4. Being Mean Never Got Anybody Anywhere

Ok, so maybe it did, but my point is that being nice is always better than being mean.

This crazy landlord lady was downright mean. She cursed at me. She sent me nasty emails. She gossiped about me to the other tenants. She threatened to evict me and my fiance. She threatened to sue us. She even stopped paying the electric bill and the only reason it didn’t get turned off is because the other tenants (bless their souls) told us that she had stopped paying it and didn’t even tell us. She was going to let the power go out on us and didn’t even notify us.

(For the record, my fiance and I were able to pay the bill literally hours before it was to get shut off. Which is entirely ridiculous because our utilities were included in the rent, which we were currently up on.)

This crazy landlord lady has some serious karma coming her way. We never got her to reimburse us the money for the electric bill. The other tenants were nice enough to help us pay the bill. It amazed me that people our age that we didn’t even know would be nicer and more responsible than this crazy ass landlord lady. Thier kindness touched me and I’m so thankful that they were there for us. I have hope that there are more people like that in the world.

I learned that being mean would not get me what I wanted. It would not make me a better person. It wouldn’t even give me the satisfaction of telling that crazy landlord lady off. It would only lower me and make me a poor human being.

 

5. You Really Can Kill People with Kindness

Listen, this bat-shit crazy landlord lady would send me these ridiculous emails. Most of the time, I was able to reply professionally and not respond to her meanness. One time, however, she got on my last nerve and I composed an equally nasty email back to her. I had had ENOUGH.

Luckily, my fiance saw the email before I sent it, and stopped me. “Jenn, this will not do us any good. Where will we be if you send this email?”

Um…homeless?

He helped me compose a much nicer and professional email, even thanking the crazy landlord lady for letting us stay and figure our stuff out despite the fact that she was basically kicking us out.

And you know what? That crazy landlord lady responded very nicely. This happened every time she sent a ridiculous email that was mean—I responded nicely and professionally and she would come back and appear all normal.

(NOTHING in the world will convince me that that woman did not have a drug problem and a mental illness and serious, serious problems.)

But, I learned that being nice really does change people’s attitudes. Not every time, but most of the time. It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give people—your kindness. No matter how awful the situation is.

 

6. Let It Go

What happened to me and my fiance at that rental was awful. I know I make it sound like it was just the trash and the lawn—but the truth is that these were some of the most harrowing months of my life. From the way we were treated to almost having no power to nearly being homeless, it was all around a terrible experience.

But, this is just my side of the story.

Here’s a brief list of awful things that happened while we were there:

  • We found 4 snakes in the house (different snakes at different times)
  • A centipede fell on me from the ceiling (while I was sitting on the toilet)
  • All our food had to be kept in the fridge because of mice and ants that were there when we got there
  • Some man came to change the locks (we found out the house was in the process of being foreclosed not long after we moved in)
  • My fiance cut one of his knuckles off with a slicer (it’s since healed into a bad-ass scar, thank God)
  • Our trash piled up for two whole months
  • Our lawn wasn’t cut for two months
  • There was mold growing just about everywhere
  • We both got poison ivy
  • My fiance’s job SUCKED
  • I couldn’t go to the bathroom in the bathroom at numerous points because there were centipedes in there (I HATE centipedes)
  • I got the flu
  • My rabbits were not doing well
  • I gained 10 pounds
  • And at the end of it, we basically got kicked out, were not given our security deposit back, and lost a shitload of money

But you know what? Holding on to all these things just poisons me. We’ve since tried to forget about all the horrible things that happened to us there. Because holding on to these things will only make us into nasty, mean, crazy people. Just like the crazy landlord lady.

On the bright side, there were a few positive things about being there. Remember, there is always good in every situation. Count your blessings!

 

1. The Dog Seemed Pretty Happy

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I don’t think she cares where she is as long as she’s with Ian. A foreclosed horse farm? Hells yeah!

 

2. We had a pretty cool garden that crazy landlord lady started for us

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Look at all that swiss chard and lemon balm!

 

3. The view was nice

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Not awesome, but nice, ya know?

 

4. We had fun in Asheville before we left

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We didn’t do too much fun stuff while we were down there because everything was so awful. But, after we decided to come back to Maryland, we ate at our favorite restaurants, went to Carowinds in Charlotte, and here we are having Turkish coffee in Asheville.

I grew up a lot during this time. We all are always learning, no matter how old we are. Do I hate crazy landlord lady? Yeah, a little. But I hope she’s still learning too. And if she wants a reference—hells yeah 😉 !

 

Why to Avoid Social Media–Like the Plague

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Those of you who know me know that I have many answers for the question of why to avoid social media like the plague.

I detest social media. I detest everything about it. I have never had a Facebook page, I’ve never had a Twitter. I had a college class at Penn State that required Tweeting or whatever you call it once a week. I told the professor I wasn’t doing that and did a special assignment instead. I did have a LinkedIn profile my senior year at Penn State but I deleted it after it didn’t help me find a job. Why to avoid social media begins here.

It’s not that I’m deathly afraid of other people. It’s that I really don’t like them or the things they have to say and I refuse to have my life revolve around crap like that. Why to avoid social media starts with the fact that It does nothing to benefit me personally. For those of you considering why to avoid social media, I bet it would make your life a lot better.

Reasons why:

 

I Value Privacy

Why to avoid social media? I don’t want everyone, even my close family and friends, to know what I’m doing, where I’ve been, what piece of content I’ve recently written, etc. I really value my privacy and just want to keep to myself.

I also don’t really care to see what others are doing. Their definition of privacy and my definition of privacy is not the same thing. I’d like to keep my definition of privacy over here, thank you very much.

 

I Hate Seeing My Ex and His Stupid New Haircut

Sometimes when I’m with friends, we decide to creep on our old high school classmates to see what they’re up to (lame, I know. But who doesn’t do that?) because my friends have Facebook and I don’t.

Unfortunately, my ex and I began dating in middle school (and then proceeded to date again after that, and then one more time in adulthood before I finally realized what a dodo he was) so he falls into this category.

He has this hideous new haircut and a wife with my name, so it’s weird. I hate seeing him. I don’t want to see him. Why to avoid social media offers me the benefit of avoiding seeing him.

 

I Value My Time

I have things to do. These including writing, taking care of animals, drinking tea, etc. I value my time and I like to use my time to do things that I deem worthy, like taking out the trash or gardening, you know?

I’d much rather be composting than seeing what you’re doing or having you try to contact me in some meaningless way. I get more stuff done because I spend less time on dumb stuff like people who aren’t really in my life.

 

If You Can’t Call Me, I Don’t Want to Talk to You

I like my old-fashioned flip phone, and I like that it can make and receive phone calls. If you can’t call, I’m not really interested in talking to you. It’s as simple as that.

If you want to try and get in touch with me through social media, this means that you’re more interested in snooping on my life and comparing it to your own rather than speaking to me and asking me how I’m doing. Why to avoid social media? To avoid people who don’t really care and need you to make themselves feel better.

 

I Don’t Care if You “Like” Me

As a writer, I recognize the potential value in having social media for sharing my work and getting traffic to my site as well as to the sites of my clients.

This is indeed a huge thing that many clients are looking for—a large social media following. I don’t have one. I’m honest about it. I don’t care if you like me or follow me or re-tweet me or whatever.

You’ll have to find another writer if this is something you’re interested in because I’m not interested. Why to avoid social media? Avoid people who want to like you and want you to like them.

 

Why to avoid social media is a healthy question that many people should be considering. Just because I hate social media doesn’t mean that you have to hate it. It does, however, mean that I’ll be avoiding it. You can save time, not see your exes, stop comparing your life to other peoples’, and gain privacy.

Get off that social media site and start living!

Update to this post: I was recently compelled to make a Facebook account due to that goddamn Facebook comments plugin. People were commenting on my articles and I had no way to respond to them. If you ask me to my face though I will vehemently deny that I have one. Its sole use is to reply to comments.

What Do You Do When You Bomb Your First Post-College Interview?

You pick up a hitchhiker!

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Yeah, that’s what I did. Fresh out of Penn State. Bombed that first interview. Picked up a hitchhiker.

It was May 2014, and I had literally left Penn State two days ago to drive down to my parents’ house in Maryland, spend the night, then drive to Black Mountain, North Carolina the next day. My interview was in Winston-Salem the day after that.

I totally bombed that interview. Granted, it could have been worse, but I walked out of that marketing agency thinking “Frick! That did not go well.” I remembered my friend’s advice: she said I would know whether or not it went well. It did not go well. This I knew.

It was swelteringly hot. I was sweating in my business clothes even with my shaved head. I began driving back to Black Mountain—not quite a hop, skip, and a jump at two hours away. On my way back, I felt so confused. I wanted to be a writer, that was a writer’s job. I felt I could do well at that agency. What went so wrong?

I felt pretty disoriented and was pondering my meaning in life after knowing I had truly blown what could have been a great job for me. I had just spent two years in the freezing mountains of central Pennsylvania, worked my butt off to get this degree, all for what? To sit there looking stupid in front of a guy older than my dad while he looked half-heartedly through my portfolio?

Anyway. So I’m driving and I pass a car broken down on the side of the road. It doesn’t really register until a few miles later, I see a dude walking with a tire. I’m going way too fast to stop. Like I’d even consider stopping. Picking up hitchhikers was dangerous, and he wasn’t hitchhiking, anyway; he was carrying a tire.

Then again, I’d always been the type of person that likes to do things the opposite way.

I need gas. A few more miles after that, actually it may have been even ten or fifteen minutes after that, I stop at some gas station in the middle of nowhere near some lake in North Carolina. As I pump my diesel, I notice the guy with the tire filling it up at the air station. Wait, what? No way this guy got here before me. He was walking, for God’s sake.

I finish pumping my diesel and get in my dad’s Jetta (jeez, I didn’t even have my own car) and begin to exit the gas station. As I do, I see the guy with the tire walking back out of the gas station and he’s about to cross the street towards the exit to the highway. I guess whoever brought him here wasn’t taking him back.

Then again, I wasn’t headed back that way either.

I hit my brakes and roll down the window as I come up alongside him. “Hey, you want a ride?”

“What?” He says.

“You want a ride? Back to your car?”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah,” I say. “Hop in.”

We throw the tire in the trunk and he climbs in shotgun. He introduces himself. Justin? Jake? Josh? I think it’s Jake. I don’t remember. He has a thick accent, says he’s from Marion, North Carolina. Works nights as a security guard. Has a three-year-old daughter. He’s only a couple years older than me.

We talk. I tell him I live in Maryland, but just came down from Pennsylvania, where I just graduated college and wanted to be a writer. He says he’s never heard of anyone who wants to be a writer. I tell him I bombed the interview so it doesn’t matter. He says he’s into drawing. We compare cities near our hometowns—Baltimore for me, Asheville for him. He says they sound similar. I tell him I want to move here.

His car is much farther back than I thought. Or does it feel farther because I’m driving a complete stranger to his car in the middle of nowhere?

He’s a nice guy. He’s calm. He’s sweating from the heat. Not worried that his tire was flat. When we pass his car, we get off on an exit and then head the opposite way on the highway. I feel uncomfortable in my business clothes. Just what did I think I was doing, dressing up and kissing ass for that interview?

When we get to his car, I see that his daughter is in the backseat. There’s at least one other person waiting there by the car. He climbs out and retrieves the tire. He thanks me. I don’t remember if we shake hands. We tell each other good luck. I drive away, a little baffled. At the interview. At Jake/Josh. At my life. What was I doing here?

I get back to Black Mountain and my boyfriend comes home. He asks how my day went. What he’s really asking is how the interview went. I say, “I picked up a hitchhiker.” And somehow, that went way better (and was more meaningful) than my interview.

Life is never what you think it is or what you want it to be. It always just is. I learned that if I wanted to be a writer, I had to be a writer. And so here I am. Jake, wherever you are, I hope you’re still drawing! And thank you.

5 Things You Don’t Know About Me

1. I Really Love Cars

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Sorry to whosever BMW this was in Munich! I just really wanted to be on this car. German cars are my favorite (I own a VW), but really I love any European car. I saw so many gorgeous ones when I was over there!

 

2. I used to play bass in a band

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I also sang and wrote songs. Fun stuff. I still play bass, bongos, and piano, but not as much as I did.

 

3. My favorite person is my brother Chuckie

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He’s the coolest person I know, even without all the crazy things he does.

 

4. I work Weekends at a women’s homeless shelter in DC

Can’t put a picture here out of privacy for my clients, but I really love working here! The people—both clients and staff—are amazing.

I’ve never been in an environment where I received so much love and support from people I work with. It’s been a life-changing experience.

 

5. I was a nanny for seven years

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Me and two of my old kids at a costume shop in Annapolis. Being a nanny was really hard, but also extremely fun.

 

Raw Vegan Diet–Why Is It so Controversial?

A few years ago, I tried to do the raw vegan diet, minus the vegan.

I wasn’t a vegan, but I was gluten-free and had read about how amazing raw foods are for you. I was also still recovering from my misdiagnosed autoimmune disease and wanted to do good things for my body with the raw vegan diet.

You’ve likely heard that cooking destroys many of the nutrients in food. This is partially true, depending on the food and the cooking temperature.

For many people, cooking seems like the only way to eat vegetables without being on the raw vegan diet. (Some vegetables are better than no vegetables, though!)

Here’s why eating raw isn’t necessarily great for everybody and why it’s so controversial.

Some Foods Are Better Cooked

I started eating raw with the hopes that one day I would be able to eat 100% raw, perhaps even on a raw vegan diet—way more difficult than it sounds.

It didn’t go very well, as I wasn’t very prepared to just eat raw foods. I was also lacking resources and recipes needed to keep me going in the raw food world.

Some foods were easier cooked—like potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, mushrooms, and carrots. Turns out, foods like tomatoes and carrots are better cooked because heat increases the amount of nutrients in the food, such as beta-carotene in carrots.

The raw vegan diet and its foods can be amazing for you. Eating the raw vegan diet can mean more energy, better health, and a clearer mind. When you stop eating so much cooked and processed food, your body rejoices.

However, the fact remains that cooking is certainly ok sometimes. In fact, people would argue that cooking should be done at least 50% of the time in your diet. It all depends on your body and what your unique constitution needs.

Consider Your Diet As a Whole

There are so many things to consider when looking at your diet. Your body is unique—you will not thrive on the same diet as the person next to you.

This is why you should consider the following things before considering the raw vegan diet.

Have I been tested for food allergies and vitamin deficiencies?

I strongly encourage everyone to get tested because it reveals so much about your body and your health. Getting tested can help you determine if you’re intolerant to any foods or if you’re deficient in any vitamins before you attempt the raw vegan diet.

Do I have a history of chronic illness or other health problems?

Your body may not be ready for a mostly raw vegan diet. Sometimes it’s easier for the body to absorb nutrients from cooked food, especially if you’re body has just experienced a shock. Consider what your health is like today as well as your history of health.

When was the last time I saw a doctor?

If you feel fine every day, chances are you’re not going to the doc. I get it. But it’s important to consider the last time you saw one. Consider seeing one (or at least an herbalist) to ensure all is well with you before doing the raw vegan diet.

What does my daily diet look like?

The more processed and cooked foods you eat, the more of a shock the raw vegan diet will be to your body. You need to start small. Make one meal every day raw to start, or begin even smaller by munching on raw carrots or having a banana for a snack!

How do I feel every day?

Some people don’t realize how great they can feel on the raw vegan diet. You may think you feel “good”, but then another galaxy opens up to you after you begin eating healthy.Take it from someone who was sick for years—you have no idea how great you can feel with the right foods! (This is also why it’s important to get tested–the right foods won’t necessarily be the same for everyone.)

Take it from someone who was sick for years—you have no idea how great you can feel with the right foods! (This is also why it’s important to get tested–the right foods won’t necessarily be the same for everyone.)

How do I feel after eating certain foods?

Keeping a food journal can be fun and extremely informational.Did you take a nap after you ate McDonald’s (you seriously ate McDonald’s???)?

Did you take a nap after you ate McDonald’s (you seriously ate McDonald’s???)?

Did you get a burst of energy after eating some cookies, but then crashed thirty minutes later? Recognizing how you feel after eating certain foods will help you see a pattern, one that can change when you begin eating healthier.

(P.S–McDonald’s french fries are not vegan, vegetarian, or even gluten-free. They contain beef flavoring which contains beef juice and wheat.)

After considering all these things, let’s look at the claim that you can be deficient in nutrients when attempting the raw vegan diet.

There IS a Potential Lack of Nutrients

Doing the raw vegan diet means that most of your diet consists of fruits and vegetables. This means you have the potential to be deficient in B vitamins, especially B12. These vitamins cannot be obtained from vegetables.

You also run the risk of lacking in other nutrients such as selenium, iron, zinc, and omega-3s, which are extremely important for brain and skin health.

You can increase your intake of selenium through brazil nuts (which is also excellent for drawing mercury out of the body), iron through dark leafy greens, and zinc from seeds such as pumpkin. Nuts and seeds can help provide you with omega-3, as can certain oils.

Part of why the raw vegan diet is controversial is because you are setting yourself up for some nutrient deficiencies—be prepared for them!

Ensuring that you’re educated about yourself and your body before attempting a raw vegan diet is so important. However, there is a way you can achieve the best diet for you based on your health.

Get The Best of Everything In Your Diet

Incorporating raw and cooked foods into your diet is arguably the most beneficial way to get all the nutrients you need. If you’re committed to going vegan, be sure you know what supplements you need to stay healthy.

Let’s get real, people. Your ancestors did not pull their cavemen looking selves into a drive-thru at Chik-Fil-A. They just didn’t.

They ate wild roots, vegetables, and herbs. All of these things were likely raw. What the consumer market will tell you is food today is actually not food at all. Therefore, it’s not good for our bodies and it’s making us all sick. I experienced this firsthand. And you will, too.

Doing the raw vegan diet is not about being a hippie or becoming one with the earth (although those can be side effects of it), but about acknowledging where we came from as people.

This also means recognizing what foods our bodies will function optimally on. Lots of fiber, plenty of greens, healthy fats, and fresh fruit can also ensure we get the proper nutrition.

I would really encourage anyone who is considering eating a raw vegan diet more often to:

a) get tested

b) educate yourself

c) have resources

This is a commitment to health, but you need to know what you’re doing. Part of the reason why the raw vegan diet is so controversial is because people don’t know what they’re doing when they’re doing it.

Also, if you’re not eating organic or local, that’s a problem. Growing your own food can be a great way to start going raw vegan and appreciate the earth.

So the verdict is in—the raw vegan diet is not optimal for everyone. Consider your body. Get tested for food intolerances. Appreciate those who thrive on raw veganism. Make conscious choices when you purchase food. You can make a difference through your diet. Remember that food is not a one-size-fits-all equation.

RAW!