Blog Posts

Torturous kidneys, empty hospital rooms, and love

My kidneys don’t like me.

And I can’t say that I’m their biggest fan, either.

Last Thursday, I found myself in the ER yet again for another kidney stone. It was a bad one—at one point, I was crawling on the floor of the waiting room like an infant, then on my knees and keeled over while moaning and writhing loudly, and finally in the fetal position trying not to cry. Yes, we’re in a global pandemic, and I was on the floor of a public place. Judge me all you want. If you’ve never felt the pain that a kidney stone causes, then you can’t understand my behavior. I will apologize zero amount of times.

Not my best day ever

When I finally got to a room and had some morphine and other drugs I don’t recall pumping through my veins, I looked around the very empty and quiet space, and for a brief moment, I felt sad. (I definitely don’t remember all of my thoughts or things I said that day once I was drugged up, but I distinctly remember this.) It wasn’t the first time that I had been in a hospital room all by myself because of my kidneys, but something felt different.

I didn’t call anyone. I eventually texted my sister, and apparently I later posted an Instagram story, but part of me didn’t want to reach out to anyone. I didn’t want to ask for help. I didn’t want anyone to feel obligated to offer to be there with me. I didn’t want to feel like I was a burden for anyone. (Plus, with the whole COVID thing, I knew that a hospital is probably the last place anyone would want to be.)

While I know that those thoughts are toxic and that I have enough genuine people in my life who would have been there in a heartbeat for me, it’s simply how I felt in that moment. I didn’t let myself sit in that pity party for long, though, because even if it did hurt my heart a little, one of my life creeds took over.

You are valued. You are loved. And you matter.

I may not have a boyfriend or husband or a date for any Saturday night ever, and I may have met guys who have deceived me and told me lies, but that doesn’t mean that my life is like a lonely hospital room. No one person is going to meet all of our needs, anyway.

And even though I know those things—and I don’t want to be a complainer—it’s not always easy being single. I’m a strong independent woman, and I get really pumped up when I hear Beyoncé, Kelly, and Michelle preaching the lyrics in “Survivor,” but I completely understand what Selena Gomez means when she reminds us that “The Heart Wants What It Wants.” (I’m aware that I talk about being single a lot, but I was once in a writing class in which the teacher told me to write what I know—and I know a heck of a lot about being single, so I write about it.)

I realize that life is going to be difficult sometimes, and our plans don’t always pan out the way we would prefer that they would. Duh. That solo hospital excursion likely isn’t the last one I’ll have. It’s OK—Destiny’s Child, remember? But I don’t want people to think the same things I thought that day. Your people care about you, and they would be upset if you didn’t reach out to them while you were lying in a hospital bed all by yourself. They love you.

Even when your kidneys don’t.

Don’t ask why—just love people

I think we go through much of our lives with too many questions and not enough answers to satisfy us—especially when the question why is involved.

And now that’s our reality more than ever.

When I was a freshman in high school, I broke my right hand while playing basketball with some guys at the local YMCA. Basketball season was just about to start, and I had been busting my tail for months trying to get ready for it, so that was a pretty big disappointment for my teenage heart. On top of that, I’m right-handed.

I’ve always wanted to be ambidextrous, so I figured it would be a good thing for me to get lots of practice using my left hand for everything (the cast turned my right hand into a claw or paw of sorts, so it was essentially useless to me). I never realized how much I used both hands in so many normally easy tasks until I couldn’t use both of them, and those tasks became much more challenging.

Have you ever tried putting a fitted sheet on your bed while using only your non-dominant hand? Don’t. I remember getting extremely frustrated while trying to make that thing stay in place in each corner and feeling my body temperature actually rise in irritation when I couldn’t do it. My mom came in my room and offered to help, but I wouldn’t let her. Eventually I got it on there, but it took longer than it should have and required way too much effort.

Trying to dry my hair was also a joke. So was geometry. We had a test that required us to draw 3D shapes—something I could barely do with my dominate hand. I’ll never forget what my teacher said to me when I went up to her desk in the middle of the test to tell her that I was struggling with drawing shapes that looked anything like they were supposed to: “Life’s tough sometimes, huh? You’re just going to have to deal with it.”

And she was right. I may not have appreciated her words (or her tone) in the moment, but I went back to my desk and decided that I was still going to ace that test and show her that I could, indeed, deal with the tough things. I still think about that moment sometimes when I face difficult situations in life, so regardless of whether or not her words of inspiration would cause her to receive phone calls from upset parents if she said them to students in this day and age, they’ve had a lasting impact on me.

I currently only have pictures with my dog. Thanks, COVID.

We’re likely all going through some challenges right now, and they don’t necessarily look the same for everyone. Some people are struggling with job losses or too much time with family or too much time in solitude or frustrations of having to work virtually or fears of having to show up to work each day or losing loved ones or battling racism and injustices or actually contracting the coronavirus or anxieties about the unknowns of the future or a number of so many other things that have absolutely zilch to do with the pandemic. I get it. It’s rough out there right now.

I don’t mean this to sound insensitive by any means, but my geometry teacher was right—we simply have to deal with the tough stuff that life throws our way. It’s definitely not easy. There are way too many uncertainties, and it feels like we receive new or contradicting information almost daily. As a teacher, I hated the way that the school year had to end in May, and I didn’t think that things would still be this bad when it was time for us to start up again in the fall. Yet here we are, just a few weeks away from what is supposed to be the first day of school, and it seems like we’re only hearing that conditions are getting worse by the moment.

It’s easy to sit back and ask why. Why is all of this happening? Why isn’t it going away? Why can’t life be normal again? For the love, WHY?

But we don’t have the answers right now—and we may never.

It’s almost like we’re all trying to put fitted sheets on our beds while using only one hand or draw 3D geometric figures with a hand that can barely hold a pencil correctly. It’s frustrating and sometimes leaves us feeling hopeless and defeated. I truly believe that we’ll get it done, though.

I don’t have all of the answers for the things going on in our world right now. Actually, I really don’t have many answers for many things at all. What I do have is hope. What I do have is trust. What I do have is belief. Most importantly, what I do have—and what we all have—is love.

The other day, I was thinking about how far I’ve come. I don’t say that statement to be boastful, but I used to be a pansy when I was younger, so I consider where I am today a pretty big achievement. By pansy, I mean that I could barely utter a coherent sentence to a guy if I had a crush on him. I wrote about many of these situations in my book, Anything Matches If You Wear It with Confidence, so if you’ve read it, you know that they were all pretty ridiculous. I mean, I hid in a science classroom to avoid saying hi to a guy in the hallway, I couldn’t make eye contact with my crush in detention, I basically ran away when a guy told me that we should talk about “the big elephant in the room” when he found out that I had feelings for him, and the list goes on for longer than I would like to admit.

What I’ve learned, though, is that it’s often much better to be do the things that you’re afraid to do. It’s OK to be afraid, but it’s also OK to be brave in the face of your fears. There are a number of things to be afraid of out there, but there are also a number of times to be brave in those moments when you face them.

We’re all going through our own things, whether there’s a pandemic going on or not. We all have different timelines and responses and reactions and emotions and processes and strengths and weaknesses and personalities and dynamics and so many other things about us that make us who we are. We don’t know everyone’s mind and heart, so it’s probably a good idea that we should have a little grace with each other. It’s the right thing; it’s the brave thing.

When in doubt about what to do or say, just love people—it’s the only answer that makes sense anymore.

It’s only halftime of 2020

When Barbara Walters was played on repeat saying “this is 2020” when the clock struck midnight to the new year, I’m not sure that anyone actually knew that this is what 2020 would be.

Needless to say, it’s been a weird year so far.

When our school got out for spring break, I didn’t think it would be the last time I would see my students for the year. I realize that’s an obvious statement and true for pretty much ever teacher everywhere. But still.

At the beginning of the break, COVID-19 had started to make more headlines in the U.S., and I began to wonder if my trip to D.C. was going to be canceled. Two other teachers and I were supposed to take 13 or so students there for a competition, and it suddenly didn’t sound like the greatest idea. I didn’t know much about the coronavirus yet, but I didn’t think going to a popular place for a large gathering was wise, based on what little I knew.

But on the morning of Wednesday, March 11—the same day the NBA decided to suspend its season—we found ourselves on a plane bound for D.C.

FaceTime became the new way to see my fam.

There was a strange feeling in the air as we were walking through the city to get to our hotel and then go to some museums. I can’t explain it well, but everything just felt different. Not too long after we landed, though, the organization hosting the contest notified us that the decision was made to cancel the whole thing. I would have preferred that decision had been made a few days prior, but there was nothing we could do about it at that point, other than figure out when and how we were going to get home.

The next day, we were back on a plane, almost exactly 24 hours after we had arrived. As you already know, life got really weird after that. The word “unprecedented” has been used a countless amount of times in the news, and “normal” isn’t even a thing anymore. There immediately seemed to be quite the mix of feelings and emotions from everyone—confusion, fear, anxiety, skepticism, frustration, anger, sorrow, loneliness, disappointment, distrust, hope. I could keep going, but it’s a really long list.

There are quite a few unknowns about the pandemic, and I think it would be pretty tough to be a leader or scientist or medical professional during all of this. It’s turned life upside down in many ways, and it seems that none of us actually knows what’s going on.

On top of that, a lot of the injustices and racism in our nation have been exposed more lately, and people are standing up for the rights they deserve. It’s heartbreaking that there’s still so much hatred and racism in a country that’s supposed to have freedom for everyone and that people are so often treated differently—and even die, in some cases—because of the color of their skin.

It’s not a time to ignore reality or pretend that things are better than they actually are. It’s not a time to overlook truth and put on blinders. It’s not a time to sit back in silence and watch as Black men and women continue to be treated unfairly and subjected to racist thoughts, words, and actions. It’s not a time for our history to continue to be our present.

It’s time for change.

I’ve seen a lot of posts on social media lately talking about how awful this year has been thus far. It’s hard to argue with them. It’s been pretty bad. But I love sports, so I’m going to look at what we’ve gone through up until now as a bad first half. What we need now is a comeback and a kick-a$* second half. It’s going to take much more than an inspirational locker room halftime speech, though.

We’re going to need more love and more heart than we’ve ever seen.

Let’s not write 2020 off just yet and start wishing for 2021 to get here sooner. When the Dallas Mavs won the NBA championship in 2011, they overcame multiple second-half deficits throughout their playoff run. Jason Terry said “if there’s time on that clock, there’s still time for us.”

There’s still time on that 2020 clock, people—there’s still time for us.

And even though I hate bringing this up because I really don’t like the New England Patriots, let’s not forget Super Bowl LI. The Patriots were down 28-3 in the second half and then scored 25 unanswered points against the Atlanta Falcons to send the game into overtime before winning the whole thing. Annoying. But respectable.

It’s our turn to be those pesky comeback kids.

There were a lot more teachers and administrators in this pic, but we were all socially distanced.

I don’t think it will be easy by any means. We’ve got a lot of work to do, and it’s certainly going to require a great deal of dedication and persistence. There are some things that we cannot control, but we can control the ways we react and respond to the situations we face. And then there are things we absolutely can control, including the ways we treat people and the ways we love people and the ways we show support and respect for one another. It’s honestly not that difficult to be kind. I promise.

We’re almost halfway through 2020, so let’s go ahead and start that comeback now. The second half likely won’t be perfect, but not much ever is. We can at least try, though. We can fight for justice. We can fight for love. We can stand up for human rights. We can wear masks in public to protect ourselves and those around us. We can learn more about history and truth that weren’t necessarily taught to us. We can change our minds and hearts. We can believe. We can hope. We can trust.

There’s still time on that 2020 clock, people—there’s still time for us.

A Letter of Concern

Dear Donald (not sure if you go by Don),

I don’t know you personally, and even though I don’t agree with much of what you say and do, I’m not making an effort to judge you in any way. This letter has nothing to do with political stances of any sort, either. But you’re the nation’s leader right now, so I simply have some things that I would like to say, and I doubt that we will have a sit-down conversation anytime soon.

I understand that you’re in a rather difficult position in our current state. The world—particularly the United States—is quite a mess right now, and it seems like situations keep getting worse. I can’t imagine how tough it is to be a leader at the moment, but I’m guessing that you and many other individuals at their respective helms are experiencing significant amounts of stress and anxiety.

However, I don’t believe that a global pandemic is our biggest problem.

I’m a high school teacher, and I teach students of all races, ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds, family histories, and whatever other diversity classifications you want to list. I love each and every single one of them with my whole heart. I’m not saying that because I have to—I don’t have to. I’m saying it because it’s true.

Sometimes my kids act up in class or play on their phones while I’m trying to teach or watch YouTube videos when they’re supposed to be completing their assignments or do a number of other things that they’re not supposed to be doing. Sometimes they say things that don’t make me smile. But on those days and in those moments, I remind myself that I don’t know every single thing those students are going through. Even though I get to know them as best I can, and they learn to trust and confide in me, they don’t always tell me every single struggle they face. As a leader for them, though, it’s important for me to respond with grace and love.

Because each and every single student in that room matters.

America is much bigger than my classroom, and there are certainly many more people in it. Regardless of differences and similarities, every single person in this world matters.

There’s a sign I made that I glued to the wall of my classroom that says something I remind my students of as often as possible: You are valued. You are loved. And you matter. While I want them to learn the material I teach them for the actual class, if they walk away knowing nothing else, I want them to know those truths that are declared on that sign.

And I want them to believe that about all people and treat others in the same way.

There’s a lot of hate in this world, and it leads to corruption and lies and murder and mistreatment of people and injustices and too many other horrible things to name. I don’t understand it. It seems like it takes a lot more effort to be hateful than it does to love people.

I can’t think of a single person who needs hate—but I can think of about 7-something billion people who need love. We’re all dealing with our own junk, and we all need love. Leading with love doesn’t make a person weak. If anything, it makes him or her brave.

Every school day, the pledge of allegiance is recited over our intercom. I know that you are already familiar with this pledge, but I’d like to stress the last part of it: “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

“Indivisible” means not able to be separated. Are we truly living as a united nation with no divisibility? It doesn’t feel like we are. Is there actually “liberty and justice for all”? I think we have plenty of evidence that there is not. Why are we having our students recite something that we can’t even live out as a nation?

It’s time for people to stop hating other people. What good does it do to cause people pain and anger and to harm and kill others who have families and loved ones who are left to grieve? People matter. Our actions matter. The ways we treat one another matter. The decisions you make and the words you say as a leader of this nation matter. Isn’t it time to start encouraging others to love one another and to model that for them?

The last thing I want to remind you of, Don, is what I remind my students of as often as possible: You are valued. You are loved. And you matter.

When a change of plans reminds you that you’re enough

Life is weird and unexpected and crazy and difficult and wonderful and confusing and chaotic and interesting all at once.

And it’s beautiful—so, so incredibly beautiful.

I own a planner, but sometimes I don’t know why I even bother with it. Sure, it helps to remind me of appointments and plans I have, but it also gets filled with too many tasks that shouldn’t necessarily be added to my already-almost-overflowing plate. I often feel like those unaccomplished things on my list are staring back at me, mocking me with words that make me feel like I’ve failed. Like I’m not doing enough. Like I’m not giving enough of myself. Like I’m not trying hard enough. Like I’m not succeeding enough. Like I’m, simply put, just plain not enough.

And even though I know those thoughts are all lies, every once in a while, I let myself believe them.

This isn’t my author bio photo, but it almost was.

I wrote a book (which I can’t wait to share with you VERY soon), and it’s filled with constant reminders that you are enough—that you are valued, and you are loved, and you matter. And all of these things are true about myself, too. So why do I let these feelings of running a never-ending race in which I’m doomed to cross the finish line in dead last get to me so much?

I blame it on being human and having emotions.

I sat across from my dear friend and mentor Cristy earlier this week and poured my heart out with these feelings to her. I tend to bottle my emotions, so they all come out at once when I least expect them to, and the tiniest thing generally sets them off. She sat there with me and listened and spoke truth into me and reminded me of my value and in Whom I find that value. She encouraged me to take time later that day to rest—to do nothing and to be OK with that.

As a teacher, I’m a fan of spring break, because we truly do need rest more than we realize. I took some time that afternoon to lie in the sun by the pool and bask in its warmth. I turned on sounds of ocean waves to take me back to my days in California when I would sit on my favorite lifeguard tower or the sand and stare out at the ocean (I miss you with my whole heart, SoCal) and did something I hadn’t let myself do in far too long: I relaxed and did nothing. It felt so nice.

Almost 80 degrees and freezing

After a while, I decided to dip my toes in the water, and my reaction would have made you think that I was attempting the polar plunge in sub-freezing temperatures. It felt crazy cold! For some reason, though, I wanted more of that. I’ve been trying to increase my running mileage and speed lately, so my legs have been taking a beating. Even though I hate ice baths with everything in my being, I thought it might be good for me to suffer through one. I stared at the water, letting it challenge me to a dare. I went and sat on the side of the pool and dangled my legs into the coldness, the water only coming up to about the middle of my calves.

I don’t like the cold. At all. I don’t think that it’s a good idea for people to experience it, but some insist on being fans of things like snow and skiing and using the air conditioner. I don’t get it. As I looked down at that water, though, I knew that I was going in it soon. I didn’t want to, but I needed to—for reasons beyond a simple ice bath. Before I could talk myself out of it, I slid into the water until my legs were completely submerged. And even though I acted like I was a passenger on the Titanic who suddenly found herself in the middle of the icy Atlantic Ocean with no door that was clearly big enough for two people to float on, I survived.

I needed that victory.

I only lasted about seven minutes, but I did it. To me, that moment felt bigger than being able to highlight items off of my to-do list. While I was in there, I read from a book that sweet Cristy had given me earlier that morning, and there was a truth in there that I needed to be reminded of in this season fo my life: He will never put me where He cannot sustain me.

Saw Jules at the airport

On Wednesday, I went with two other teachers and 13 kids to D.C. for a film competition. I felt like I was running on fumes, but I knew that I needed to be there. It was only a few hours after we arrived that the organization in charge of the contest notified everyone that it had made the decision to cancel it entirely. After communication with our district, it was decided that we would all come home as soon as we could get a flight back. We ended up being in D.C. for barely 24 hours, and it felt like one of the longest days that the earth ever rotated around the sun. All of us were tired and confused and frustrated that the organization waited until everyone had arrived to make that decision, but one thought kept resonating in my mind and heart.

He will never put me where He cannot sustain me.

Good thing she isn’t actually driving yet.

Life won’t go as we planned all of the time—probably even most of the time. But I know that that’s a good thing. If everything panned out the way I wanted it to, I’d be much more of a mess than I am most days. The reality of my life can’t always match what’s written in my planner, and I feel like I’m in a continual pattern of learning to embrace that. I want the days when I end up jumping into cold water. I want the days when trips have plot twists, but you end up making some hilarious memories on an unexpected journey. I want the days when my heart feels emotions that it didn’t predict it would feel. I want the days when I can sit in the sun with no concept of a schedule. I want the days when I remember what it was like to be a carefree kid again and have zero worries in the entire world. I want the days when the storms blow in, and I am stuck on my sofa with nothing to do but nap.

And I forever and always want the days when God reminds me of his immeasurable love and grace and sufficiency in ways I never imagined.

Remind yourself that you're enough

I hope that you don’t have to question whether or not you’re enough in any area of your life. And I hope that, if for some reason you do, you are immediately reminded of just how much you are valued. None of our days will be perfect, and that’s OK. Sometimes it’s best to embrace the mess for what it is and replace your frustrations and anxieties with joy and gratitude in the small victories.

Because those seemingly small victories are often much more significant than you realize.

Because we want to be pursued

There’s something about being pursued that sets our hearts on fire.

And not being pursued seems to wash away that flame far too quickly.

My sweet niece Olivia loves to be chased. When we go play at the park, she’ll suddenly say “come and get me, Nat” before taking off running as fast as she can. She’ll constantly look back to make sure that I’m following her, and then she’ll reach a point where she simply stops running, starts giggling, and waits for me to come pick her up and say “I got you!”

At 3 years old, she’s proving what most of us want in life: to be pursued.

I’m a huge proponent of women’s equality, and I don’t believe in traditional dating standards in which men must always be the ones to ask women out and court them. I think that it’s a two-way street: Women should be expressing their interests in the men they fancy, and men should be doing the same for the women who catch their eyes. After all, women aren’t the only ones who want to feel like they’re wanted. If you don’t believe me, check out Bumble, the dating app in which girls have to make the first moves. There are plenty of men on that app who want to feel wanted.

There are a multitude of ways to pursue people, and it doesn’t occur exclusively in romantic relationships. The way we interact with our friends and family members are forms of pursuit—how often are we calling and texting to check in and see how they’re doing, and how often are we spending time with them to grow those relationships and show the people in our lives that we care?

Abused by nothing but the concrete

You can also pursue strangers, even if you may never see them again. It’s OK to show people that they are valued, regardless of whether or not you know them. A couple of weeks ago, I had a horrible fall while I was running, and the left side of my face took a beating from the concrete. I had a black eye, and my cheekbone was super bloody and swollen the first day and still puffy and bruised up for most of the week. It still isn’t fully healed, but it definitely looks better now. When I was out in public the day after it happened, though, I could feel people awkwardly staring but trying not to stare, and I knew why: I looked like I was in an abusive relationship.

While that’s not the case, there was a part of me that wanted someone to check on me just to make sure that I was OK—that I wasn’t letting someone take advantage of me. (As a side note, if anyone ever tried to lay a hand on me, I would kick his a$*.) Sure, that would be a pretty uncomfortable conversation to have with someone you don’t know, but you could go about it in a less intrusive way and simply ask how the person is doing or say something heartfelt rather than staring and then looking away and then staring again but avoiding eye contact at all costs.

Sometimes it’s better to do something awkward than to do nothing at all.

From Redhawks to Eagles. My friendship with sweet Kimbo is forever.

The thing about being pursued is that it makes you feel cared for—truly cared for—by someone in your life. I think that many of our friendships that don’t last end up fading away not because of anything that happens but because of what doesn’t happen.

We stop pursuing each other.

I think back to a number of high school and college friendships that fizzled out that way. That’s a part of life, and there’s nothing wrong with not keeping in touch with every single individual who has ever been a friend or someone significant to you at some point. But the reason is generally because you and that other person stop making an effort to call, text, or get together.

FOREVER FRIENDS at a Dashboard Confessional concert ON A SCHOOL NIGHT

Then there are the relationships that you want to preserve or grow, and it hurts much more when you feel like you’re the only one pursuing the other. When I was living in California, even though I tried to make sure that all of my Texas friendships were maintained, that didn’t happen, and it hurt my heart. Even after moving back, those relationships aren’t what they used to be, and I try not to think about it too often, because it’s become clear that there isn’t necessarily a reciprocated desire with each individual to keep those friendships alive.

And, of course, there are the relationships that you want to become much more than friendships, and it wrings and wrecks your heart when they don’t. I feel like I’ve spent most of my life chasing guys who don’t want to chase me back. It’s like playing a one-sided game of tag, but you’re never the one running with that contagiously joyous but anxious feeling coursing through your veins. Instead, it’s a feeling of hope deferred that causes you to believe things about yourself and about your life that aren’t true. I’m done with those feelings, though. My value isn’t found there.

I encourage you to pursue your people. We don’t know how much time we have on this earth, and I know that I’d rather continue to check in with people than to wake up one day and not even have the option of doing so with someone who truly mattered to me. Whether it’s our friends, family members, or strangers, we don’t always know what’s going on with the people in our lives, and they might be battling things we can’t even imagine. A simple call or text—even the smallest act of pursuit—could be a spark that brightens a person’s week or helps someone make it through one more day.

What else do you need at a bachelorette party?

Life may not be a giant game of tag, but many of us are like Olivia, looking back over our shoulders to see if we’re being pursued in the ways we hope. Sometimes I get so caught up in all of the people I’m not seeing that I overlook the only One I need to see.

But Jesus never stops pursuing me.

No matter how bleak things look or how alone you feel, know that He will never leave you and will never give up on you. He’s the ultimate pursuer. If some of your friendships fade, or the guy who stole your heart isn’t running after you to give you his, or the people at the grocery store don’t ask you about your face, it’s OK. He still cares more than we could ever imagine—and that makes you pretty darn special.

After all, it’s more than kind of a big deal to be pursued by the King.

When your heart needs a holiday from the holidays

The holiday season is filled with plenty of busyness, gifting, joyful music, and emotions.

And those emotions can often feel like more than our hearts can handle.

When you’re single and ask strangers at a park to take a picture of you for your Christmas card

I’ve been single for exactly every holiday that has ever existed, so I know a thing or two about getting through the month of December without a Clark to my Ellen. There’s just something about the Christmas season that helps to remind a single gal that she’s single—maybe it’s the endless songs mentioning mistletoe or the carriage rides with couples and families cuddled up under blankets together or the matching family pajamas on GIANT display at Target or the endless commercials with people in love giving each other Lexuses with big bows on them or the Hallmark movies with perfect endings or the chill in the air that feels colder when you’re alone or the—I could keep going, but I don’t want to.

I know that I’m not the only person who breathes who is single right now, so this isn’t a pity party, but I’ve come up with a short list of ways to get past the holiday blues that might creep up on you when you’re trying to be all holly and jolly and whatnot.

Take that carriage ride on your own, and enjoy every second of it — I actually had full intentions of doing this one year, but when I found out the price of how much it costs, that plan was shot. So, if you’re a cheapo like I am, you can do what I did and, instead, just drive super slowly in your own car with the windows down so that you can get a similar feel. Plus, you can blast your heat at the same time so that you’re really not that cold. And cruising in your car by yourself is super unromantic, so you won’t feel like you’re missing out like you would if you were in a carriage ride alone. (But the solo carriage ride thing is still cool, too.)

Watch Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York Unlike the Hallmark movies, there’s exactly zero romance involved in these classics. Plus, not only are they hilarious, but they are also about a young boy who kicks a$* on his own, so maybe they’ll provide you a little inspiration and encouragement at the same time.

Buy a Bath & Body Works Wallflower to make your home smell like Christmas cookies You can also buy a candle, but I find that the Wallflowers are easier and last longer. Plus, they’re cheaper. Either way, the intoxicating scent is pretty much guaranteed to bring you a little extra peace.

Watch a Dallas Cowboys game — You’ll be so upset with how they play that you’ll forget all about being single during the holidays.

Remind yourself that being single means that you have one less gift to purchase — Hey, you might as well focus on a financial advantage of this situation.

Take a few minutes to watch this video in its entirety — You’re welcome.

Do all of the things you love to do, and spend time with your people — This is the most important one. You don’t have to be part of a pair to be part of a family. It might be tougher than you prefer, but you don’t have to let your lack of something take away from your joy of what you already have.

My sister always reminds me that I’m welcome. Always and forever. Forever and always.

The holiday season can be a heart-wrenching time for some people for a variety of reasons, regardless of their relationship statuses. Hug your people a little extra—you don’t always know what’s going on in their hearts, and they may need those hugs more than you’ll ever know.

If you’re feeling more single than ever this year, know that YOU CAN DO HARD THINGS. You may not feel loved and adored by anyone trying to meet you under the mistletoe, but you are loved and adored by the One who is the reason we celebrate the Christmas holiday in the first place.

And that’s sure as heck a reason to be joyous in a potentially tough time of the year.

Because love is permanent

Some things claim to be permanent but actually aren’t—yes, even those trusted Sharpies can fail us.

But leave it to a Disney character to remind us of the one thing that will never falter.

A little more than a week ago, the radiator in my car decided to die, and there was a moment I thought I might actually die when smoke started coming out of the front of my car, and I was certain it was about to explode with me in it. The one good thing that came out of this was that I got to drive a BMW SUV for a while for the price of an economy car rental. I definitely like when things work out like that. I’m not really a fancy person, but you give me heated seats and all of these ridiculous and superfluous features (but especially the heated seats), and I’m hooked. I offered my RAV4 to the rental place to trade straight up, but no deal.

Sure, take our chairs.

Later that evening, my friend Cali and I went to dinner and then decided to drive out to a fun bar/restaurant about 20 or 30 minutes away. I mean, we got to ride in heated seats the whole time and cruise in a car that neither of us can afford (#teachersalary), so why not? We sat down at a table for four, and it wasn’t long before a woman came our way and asked if she could take one of our extra chairs. A short time later, a man came over and asked the same thing for the other extra chair. We hadn’t been there that long—how did they know we didn’t have people coming to join us?

When you’re single, whether they intend to do so or not, people have a way of reminding you that you aren’t actually saving a chair for anyone.

Like probably many people, I love the holiday season. The smells are wonderful, and there’s this unseen but completely felt transition that takes place in society—people are generally more thankful, more giving, more thoughtful, and more available than during other times in the year. Maybe that’s why there’s that song “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Go figure.

At the same time, though, it can also be a rather difficult time for some individuals. In a way, it’s a constant reminder for people who are single or alone. I love Target with my whole heart, but the GIANT DISPLAY of family matching pajamas is kind of a slap in the face when you have no one to match with you.

Two hip 30-somethings who love Disney movies

My sister and I went to see Frozen 2 the other night (highly recommend), and once again, that Olaf charmed his way even deeper into my heart. He has such a remarkably beautiful outlook on life. I won’t give away too much of the movie, but the sweet little snowman says something that has a way of ingraining itself in your mind and heart because it’s so genuine and so true: “Hey, Anna—I just thought of one thing that’s permanent: love.”

Olaf gets it.

The pumpkin spice latte and peppermint mochas will fade as the seasons change. The decorations will be taken down. The snow will melt (except for Olaf, obviously). The generosity, sadly, might become less generous. The family togetherness might lessen. The radio stations will go back to playing their standard tunes. The airlines will see a slight decline in mass travel for a while. The overall magical feeling that the holiday season brings will dwindle. So many more things will fade, but love will not.

Because love is permanent.

Angels

I know that I’ve never actually been in a relationship, but I do know what love is and what love does. I also know that it’s not reserved solely for romance. It’s not meant for one day or one month or one season or one year or one whatever—it’s forever and always.

When I look at my family, the truth of permanent love makes much more sense to me. We’re imperfect people who have been through quite a bit together, but we’ve never once thought about giving up on each other. When you truly love people, you don’t turn your back on them. You fight their fights with them, you let them cry their tears to you, you celebrate their victories with them, and you help them up and remind them of who they are when they feel like they simply can’t keep going. That’s what love does.

Because love is permanent.

I don’t need to get down about Target not making holiday PJs specifically for singles or about people taking chairs from my table when they make their own assumptions. I’ve got my people. Sure, I may hope for a permanent love with my own Ryan Reynolds-esque guy, but I’m going to let myself sit in the joy of knowing that a quirky little snowman has reminded me of something that I need to not only continue to remind myself every day but also continue to remind those around me by the way I live.

Apparently I needed more momentum.

The goals we attain won’t last forever. Our looks and talents will fade. The struggles we face will eventually end. Money and awards and trophies won’t carry over into eternity. And so many other things we feel and endure and earn are fleeting. But love? That stuff’s permanent.

Just ask the snowman who is made of nothing but love and survives all of the elements.

When you go for it

I love when football teams go for two-point conversions.

Sure, you could get the easy extra point, but why not get two the hard way, instead?

I went to Chicago over the weekend, where it was much colder than what I define as freezing in Texas—and the locals tried to tell me that it was a good thing I came when it had warmed up. The high was 35, people. Where’s the warm in that?

Chicago is cool but so very cold. At least I got to see sweet Elle!

When I went running Saturday morning, it was 30 degrees with some wet streets from the melted snow. Unfortunately, that meant that I had to pay a lot more attention to each step I took, because there were random patches of ice all over the place. I had come prepared with my ski mittens and warm clothes, so the run actually ended up being pretty nice.

As I was making my way back to my hotel, I ran past two bundled-up men walking to a bus stop, and one of them offered me a bit of encouragement: “Go for it, girl!” I really appreciate when people cheer each other on, whether it’s in sports or simply life in general, so I’m very grateful for that man.

And he reminded me how I want to continue to live.

I probably wouldn’t make a great head football coach. There’s a lot of strategy in the game that I would likely want to throw out the window when it came to fourth-down situations. I would want to go for it as often as possible, putting complete trust in my players to get the job done. (Although, according to this article, it looks like some coaches are embracing my beliefs.)

I’m not exactly sure why, but I’m fascinated by public transportation. Like, I freaking love it. I became a user of the “L” train (which I’ve wanted to ride ever since I saw this classic Oscar-worthy movie) while I was in Chicago, and I’m going to be perfectly honest with you: I felt pretty darn cool riding that thing. I felt so city. I can’t wait to go to New York City one day and spend some time on the subway.

I had downloaded an app that tracks the “L” and tells you when one of the trains will arrive at whatever station you specify. I was on my way to the station near my hotel and getting closer, but Google Maps said that I was six minutes away, while the train app was telling me that the next train would arrive in four minutes. No bueno. I had somewhere I needed to be and didn’t want to be late, but I felt a little defeated. But then I thought of the man I saw on my run.

Go for it, girl.

I heart Lake Michigan.

I started running, which was challenging in all of my layers and the boots I was wearing at the time. As you know, boots are made for walking, not running. I darted to a ticket kiosk as soon as I got to the station and quickly punched all of 14 thousand necessary buttons to charge my card. I grabbed the ticket and dashed through the gates toward the escalator, which just happened to be broken—OF COURSE IT WAS. I hustled up the stagnate metal steps, and just as I made it to the top, the trains doors were closing (it had arrived a minute early).

It was time for my movie moment.

I yelled “NOOOOOO, WAIT!!!!” as I ran toward the train, and I guess the driver must have seen me and felt a little gracious, because the doors suddenly opened as I made somewhat of a dramatic entrance and found an open seat. It was a nice moment that made me smile.

There are plenty of risks in life and too many setbacks and obstacles to count to go along with them, but there are often greater reasons to go after what you know in your heart you’re meant to go after.

It might be 4th and inches or 4th and long—sometimes you simple need to go for it. Submit the application. Send the text. Register for the race. Go talk to that cutie across the room. Book the trip. Sign up for the class. Address the issue. Audition for the production. Go on the date. Sing out loud. Say what’s on your heart. Dance. Ask the question. Tell your fears “no,” and do the thing you know you’re meant to do.

Go for it.

Trying to be a good role model for these angels

I spent far too many years being hesitant and thinking that I wasn’t good enough or pretty enough or whatever enough to take big risks. I can say with complete certainty that life is much more enjoyable when you’re confident enough to know that, even if things don’t pan out the way you hoped they would, at least you were brave enough to try.

Don’t let fear hold you back from anything. Look it straight in the face, and say “not today, not any day.” Then go for it, my friend. You’ll likely be glad you did.

And you just might find that you’re much more capable of doing the hard things than you ever imagined.