Category Archives: Young Women

Guest blog: Get out of your comfort zone

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Our guest blogger this week is one of my favorite authors, Michele Wolfe. She has recently written a book in the new adult genre called The Three Graces: “College juniors Jessie, Isabel and Sara are linked in an unlikely friendship by visits to hidden places only they can see. Together, on a trip to Hearst Castle in California, an earth-shaking encounter with a stunning stature in the gardens binds them to the spirits of the Three Graces; Brilliance, Joy and Bloom.” There’s lots of life lessons for these young women as they learn about the true meaning of friendship and make some fascinating discoveries along the way. Here are Michele’s thoughts on getting out of your comfort zone:

I live in a 1922 bungalow-style house on one of the many hills of my Echo Park neighborhood in LA. The other day I wasthumbnail washing my car with a bucket of soap and water in front of my house. A petite woman in her 80s, with the help of a cane, began hobbling up my hill. She stopped once, probably to catch her breath, and had almost passed me by when I made some comment about the steep climb. She stopped and looked at me, and I stopped my washing and took a good look at her, too. Her clothes were frayed and worn, her eyes filmy, her face wrinkled, and her teeth almost all missing.

We chatted for a few minutes. She used to live in the neighborhood she said, but had to move downtown. I knew it certainly wasn’t to a fancy loft or apartment. Probably skid row housing, if that. She asked for a dollar for the bus ride back. I ran into the house, but my wallet was empty of cash, not even a dollar. I raided my teenage son’s coin jar and managed to scrape together five dollars. When I handed over the coins, she pressed her hand to mine in gratitude. Then she hugged me. She was overcome.

That moment took me back to a time in my life when the touch of a hand or hug from a grateful homeless person was a daily gift. I lived and worked almost two years in shelters in Denver and LA. Both experiences opened my eyes and changed my life.

For the better. Was I overwhelmed, out of my depths, scared witless at times during those two years? You bet.

Being blonde and blue-eyed and having grown up in a middle-class suburb had kept me safe and secure in a nice little bubble. So living in a shelter, cutting vegetables for big vats of soup, handing out bandages and alcohol wipes to the poor of skid row, showed me real suffering and injustice; a reality I hadn’t truly understood before.

I learned compassion. A way of being we often harden our hearts against as we make it through our busy, tumultuous lives. Especially when we are trying to finish college or start a career. We get caught up.

I also learned to value time in the present moment. Whether it’s ten minutes, an hour or an afternoon, opportunity awaits. Reaching outside ourselves, outside our comfort zone, to connect with someone in need, is human dignity and respect made visible.

And you don’t have to have loads of money, like Oprah or Angelina Jolie to do it. Just coins from a jar. Just a moment of your time. Just a step outside. Look around. It won’t take long to find a person or a place in need. In need of you.

To read more from Michele, or to purchase her new book, visit:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Three-Graces-Michele-Wolfe-ebook/dp/B00KTOTRJM

authormichelewolfe.com

44. Make sure you know what your red flags are and when someone you meet is waving them.

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So, I was on a date last night and there was some interesting conversation. Somehow, the topic of “red flags” came up. I don’t redflagthink that when I was in my 20s that I was looking out for those as much as I should have. Or if I noticed any, I completely ignored them because by the time I did notice them, it was too late. I was already in ADD – another dating disaster. I got to thinking about what my red flags are today as now I’m now more aware of them because my friends will constantly point out, “Red flag!” when I mention the behaviors of some of the people I’ve dated/been dating. My date and I did a little brainstorming last night and here are the red flags he hopes he doesn’t find with someone he just starts to date (there are just five – but I thought they were all pretty good so I’ll share them):

  1. Smoking
  2. Past addictions
  3. Issues with exes
  4. Unemployed
  5. Mentally unbalanced

This got me to thinking about my list. What are the red flags that make me want to run (besides 1-5 above)? So here are a few more that I’d like to throw in:

  1. Does not live in their own place
  2. Late
  3. Cheap
  4. Current addictions
  5. Poor/nonexistent relationships with family and friends

I’m sure there’s a few more on your list (and mine). But this is a good start for some basics. It can be difficult to ignore the red flags when you meet someone you’re really into. But as I’ve learned, if they’re there to begin with, they’ll be there when you end it. And it’s a lot more painful at that point than just going out on a few dates.

Here’s a more detailed list of red flags from Psychology Today, aptly titled: “Thirteen Dating Red Flags for Women:”http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/millennial-media/201312/13-dating-red-flags-women

Word to the wise: Dating is hard. But being in a bad relationship – even harder. Take some time to think about what your red flags are and know how to recognize them when you see them.

What are some of your red flags and how has knowing them helped you to become more successful in your dating life? Note: If I’m lucky enough to get a book deal, your comments may be published anonymously in the upcoming book, “Wise Before 25, 50 Things Young Women Need to Know.”

43. If you can count your true friends on one hand, then you can also count your many blessings.

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They say it’s hard to know who your real friends are. And they’re not kidding. Whether you’re single or married, the love and1973463_HiRes.jpg_friends friendship of close female friends is not a luxury – but a necessity for survival. Like air or water. It’s good to know early on the difference between an acquaintance and a true friend. It’s taken me a long time to learn and appreciate what those differences are. For example, a true friend:

  • Applauds your successes
  • Tells you the truth (even when you don’t want to hear it)
  • Encourages you to be your best
  • Holds your hand and hugs you when you cry like a baby at practically every song at a Diana Krall concert, especially this one, “Just Like a Butterfly That’s Caught in the Rain:” http://http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9xn42tQkKzw
  • Eats carbohydrates with you, although they appear to have been banned by the entire female race
  • Makes you feel like you hold a special place in their heart
  • Shows up – even when they may not feel like it
  • Tolerates your quirks and your cooking
  • Supports you in ways no one else can

These are just a few of the things that come to mind when I think of the women I’m fortunate enough to count on my left hand. In a recent Huffington Post article, Lena Dunham’s character in “Girls,” Hannah Horvath wrote, “A friendship between college girls is grander and more dramatic than any romance.” The article further stated, “We’d argue that this sentiment holds far beyond the confines of university. The women in your life are there for all the serious stuff, like health scares and accompanying you to the funerals of loved ones, as well as the moments that make you laugh until you can’t breathe. You can tell them the deepest secrets about yourself and your family, and count on them to pick up the phone at any hour.” To read more, check out http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/06/10-reasons-nothing-like-female-best-friends_n_3874647.html and see how their list compares to mine. So here’s a special shout out to my friends! (And you know who you are). May we continue to be there for each other through life’s triumphs and tragedies. You might want to give a shout out to yours, too. Word to the wise: Know who your friends are and keep them close. It’s not easy making friends and as we get older, it can be even harder. Cherish the ones you have and foster and grow those friendships that you think have potential. What’s special about your BFFs? Note: If I’m lucky enough to get a book deal, your comments may be published anonymously in the upcoming book, “Wise Before 25, 50 Things Young Women Need to Know.”  

42. Spending time with your parents now is a gift you may not have later.

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I understand when you’re in your 20s this may be easier said then done. For many of us, our natural instincts arethumbnail to pull away from our parents and push toward independence. But there needs to be a balance. Some people never resolve parental issues and their parents die and that’s that. Only they’re left with all the things they didn’t say. And then there are those who lose their parents when they’re all too young. I had a friend who was only 24 when she lost her mother to cancer. She grieves this loss every day. Fortunately, both of my parents are still alive, and we are close. But it wasn’t easy to get here. Living nearby helps – although some would argue it’s better to be far away. Whatever your situation or age, it’s important to get to know your parents and help them get to know you. While they can be your biggest judges and critics, they can also be your hugest supporters. Because they’ve been around longer, they also typically know more than you do about most things (even though they may make you want to scream sometimes). But don’t just take my word for it, here’s an excerpt from The Learning Network (http://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/01/how-close-are-you-to-your-parents/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0) in the New York Times: “Our research shows that the closer bonds between young adults and their parents should be celebrated, and do not necessarily compromise the independence of the next generation. Twenty-five years ago, young people sought advice and help from naïve peers. Today’s young adults may be savvier than their predecessors; they receive advice and help from middle-aged adults with greater life experience and material resources to offer.” And now I’m going to contradict everything I just said. On the other hand, every one has a time in their lives where they bond strongly with their parents and also a time when they don’t. For better or worse, this has been my experience. But it doesn’t have to be yours. Can you think of ways you can spend more time with your parents today?

Word to the wise: If you think your parents are going to be around forever, think again. Make the most of the relationship you have or improve the one you don’t. You’ll be amazed at how much better life gets when you do.

What’s your relationship with your parents like? How can you improve it? Note: If I’m lucky enough to get a book deal, your comments may be published anonymously in the upcoming book, “Wise Before 25, 50 Things Young Women Need to Know.”

41. Have a monthly game night with the girls.

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This idea comes from my stepmom, another very wise woman. She has a friend who started this tradition in her2026939_HiRes 20s and decades later, these ladies still get together to play cards. If you’re not into cards, it can be bunko, a book club, wine-tasting night or anything that you and your friends enjoy. It’s also nice to take turns hosting. That way each of you spends time at the other’s places. The main thing is, that you stay connected. I wish I had a group like this when I was in my 20s because I miss a lot of the friends I had back then. And maybe if we had done this, we’d be like my stepmom’s friend, still in touch and building on years of memories and friendship. Fortunately, I have a great group of women in my life now and we have been getting together for happy hour from time to time. Since some of us recently moved, we thought it would be fun to have happy hours at our houses, where the host provides the munchies and the guests bring the beverages. While not a traditional game night, it will get us all together in a more relaxed and intimate setting. As time goes on, we may even play some games. Here are a few fun ideas: http://www.brit.co/game-night-ideas/. I just might have to get “Anomia:” ‘Take advantage of all the random information floating around in your head with this game that requires you to face off with other players and race to give a correct answer to the question on your opponent’s card’.” After a few glasses of wine, all of us may have a lot less random information in our heads and hopefully a few good laughs. Make it a point to get together with the girls in your life. It’s good to know they’re there for you and you for them.

Word to the wise: Keep your friends close. Establishing a routine with your friends now can give you comfort and stability for years to come.

Got some ideas for game nights or how to get them going? Note: If I’m lucky enough to get a book deal, your comments may be published anonymously in the upcoming book, “Wise Before 25, 50 Things Young Women Need to Know.”

38. When you let your guard down, be prepared that someone is going to stomp through your gates.

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In my teens and 20s, I was a notorious guard let-downer. At work, in love, and with every new person I met. I was dreamstime_s_28505506often told that I wore my heart on my sleeve. While being open to all experiences was at many times enriching and joyful, it was also hurtful and disappointing when someone stomped on my heart or betrayed my trust. When you’re young, it could be argued that this is a right of passage. And eventually, you’ll learn to keep your guard up more. Or maybe always, depending on how many times you’ve been through the ringer by the time you hit 30. Some people have developed strategies Sun Tzu would commend to protect themselves. Although even he might argue that the walls we make to keep other people out often wind up keeping us locked inside. But the thing is, as I much as try not to, try so hard not to be that girl who lets her guard down, I still do. Because when it gets right down to it, would I rather be the person with the fortress around my heart or the one who lets her guard down from time to time to discover new friendships, deeper intimacy, the possibility of true of love and, of course, a world of hurt. Yin and yang, as it were. I will say that if you’ve just been stomped on, it does help to keep plenty of Haagen-Dazs in the house. But going for a walk or reading a book can work just as well. So can a conversation with a good friend – even though you know they’ll tell you that that’s what you get for wearing your heart on your sleeve.

Word to the wise: It’s good to stand watch, but sometimes you have to listen to your heart. While it may not always be right, at least you know you have one.

What do you think about letting your guard down? Note: If I’m lucky enough to get a book deal, your comments may be published anonymously in the upcoming book, “Wise Before 25, 50 Things Young Women Need to Know.”

 

37. It’s true money can’t buy you love, but $100 or less can buy you happiness.

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This thought came to me as I recently left Urban Outfitters with an item that I knew would give me immeasurabledreamstime_s_2512924 pleasure – a portable record player. When I saw it in the window, it called to me with its bright orange case and light tan handle. Plus, it played albums and 45s. But, I didn’t know how much it cost. All I could think was, please, don’t let it be more than $100. I nervously waited in line, hoping this precious possession would soon be mine. When I got to the register I knew one way or another, it was now or never. I asked the clerk, “How much?” She gave me the answer I was looking for: “$99.” I practically skipped out of the store. When I got home, I grabbed some 45s and was delighted to hear a sound I hadn’t heard in years – the needle scratching against the vinyl. And that’s when I started to think about happiness and how little money it takes to truly make one’s self or others happy. Another recent example is New Year’s Eve. I remember in my 20s we’d go out and blow way more than $100 for what usually turned out be an evening that was worth way less. New Year’s Day was even better because there was the requisite hangover, worn like a badge of honor. This year, I stayed home, broke out a bottle of champagne and had a new neighbor over for some frozen appetizers. Cost: about $30. And we had a great time, sipping and nibbling while watching the ball go down in NYC at 9 p.m. And then there’s one thing I’ve been wanting for years and finally went to amazon.com to buy – a chess set. Cost: $29. Happiness quotient when I receive it: Priceless. Wait, that’s the MasterCard commercial. So take a moment and think about how you can make yourself or someone you love happy. Big expensive stuff is great, if you can afford it, but what do you really need?

Word to the wise: Bling isn’t always the thing. Achieving happiness is. Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but $30 in your pocket could be everyone’s. Spend wisely and you’ll never have to worry about buyer’s remorse.

Can you think of anything you bought or did for $100 that made you happy? Note: If I’m lucky enough to get a book deal, your comments may be published anonymously in the upcoming book, “Wise Before 25, 50 Things Young Women Need to Know.”

35. Be a good guest.

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Surprisingly, from my own personal experience, this is harder than it sounds. Probably because it means different things to????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? different people. And some people just don’t think about it at all. C’mon. You know whom I’m talking about. Like the guests that come to your barbecue where you provide everything: food, drinks, appetizers, etc. and just ask them if they can bring dessert. When they come, they’re late and say they need to leave early because they have another party to attend. When said guests leave, they ask you if they can take what’s left of the dessert they brought (which consists of one box of ice cream sandwiches). And you know they’re taking it to the other party. This is what I call class. Another example on a smaller scale is when a friend is kind enough to invite you over for dinner. I wouldn’t dream of showing up empty handed (unless I was mauled by a bear). And fortunately, most people I know don’t. A bottle of wine goes a long way toward being a good guest. And so does a bottle of anything you know your host drinks. Of course, being a good houseguest has its own set of rules and there’s a reason I don’t have too many of them. Here’s a nice list of what you can do to make your stay more pleasurable for your host and for you: http://www.cozi.com/live-simply/10-rules-being-good-house-guest.

Word to the wise: Getting invited is nice. Being invited again is even nicer. Make sure you’re the person someone wants to have back. It’s not that hard to do and your social life will soar.

Ever had a bad guest? Ever been one? Note: If I’m lucky enough to get a book deal, your comments may be published anonymously in the upcoming book, “Wise Before 25, 50 Things Young Women Need to Know.”

34. If you’re lonely, read.

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Whether you’re married or single, or somewhere in between, we all have moments when we’re not okay with being alone. I do my best to avoid this feeling, which is the lament of writers, musicians and the human race – loneliness. What I find is that when I read, the feeling seems to go away. Because I’m with someone. The person writing the book and I have formed this connection. They’re speaking to me. Although I do hate that feeling at the end of a good book. I always think I’ll never find another one that’s as good. But you know what? I always do. And once again, I’m on another trip, whether it’s to suburbia in the 1950s with “Revolutionary Road” – http://www.amazon.com/Revolutionary-Road-Richard-Yates/dp/0375708448) or Kansas City, Missouri in “Dark Places” – http://www.amazon.com/Dark-Places-Novel-Gillian-Flynn/dp/0307341577), I’m in my bed or on my couch but I’m really somewhere else. I wish I could take complete credit for this discovery, but I really owe a great debt to Barbara Feldon, Agent 99 on the TV show, “Get Smart.” She wrote this fantastic book, “Living Alone and Loving It – A Guide to Relishing the Solo Life” http://www.amazon.com/Living-Alone-Loving-Barbara-Feldon/dp/0743235177/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1378577415&sr=1-1&keywords=living+alone+and+loving+it. In it, she talks about her love of reading and how it’s one of the joys of being single. She stays up all night reading a book she can’t put down. Which reminds me, I have some reading to catch up on.

Word to the wise: Instead of sending a text you may regret, pick up a good book. It’s amazing how much comfort it can bring you. Getting lost in someone else’s journey can make your own that much better.

Do you like reading? What are some of your favorite page-turners? Note: If I’m lucky enough to get a book deal, your comments may be published anonymously in the upcoming book, “Wise Before 25, 50 Things Young Women Need to Know.”

32. Go to expensive, beautiful places and do beautiful, inexpensive things.

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I don’t know about you, but I’ve always had champagne taste on a beer budget. This has presented me with many ????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????dilemmas in my life, not the least of which was my credit card debt situation when I was in my 20s. Most of that $13,000 debt could have been attributed to me going out to nice restaurants and paying for all my friends who couldn’t afford them. Um, neither could I. But here’s a fabulous trick I’ve learned over the years – go to a really expensive, beautiful place and have a glass of champagne (or an old fashioned or a rum and coke, whatever). You might be out $20 but the experience will stay with you for a long time. Some of my favorite places to practice this principle:

The Montage (where a room is $795 a night), Laguna Beach

$10 for a glass of champagne and an ocean view to die for.

Walk their gorgeous grounds and sit on a bench overlooking the ocean. (Free.)

http://www.montagelagunabeach.com/?gclid=CI-Bjqnu47YCFUOe4AodpCQAcw

Mastro’s Steak House, throughout the U.S. (where a steak dinner a la carte will cost you about $40)

Sit in the bar and order their house chardonnay for $9 and split the enormous portion of their gorgonzola mac ‘n’ cheese for $11 and munch on their insanely fabulous FREE bread.

http://www.mastrosrestaurants.com

Take a walk along the beautiful cliffs and beaches of Corona Del Mar, California. (Free)

Then have breakfast at Café Panini where you can have a Mediterranean omelet that comes with Greek salad and bread for about $11. And don’t forget the champagne! Or better yet, pack a picnic and sit on the bluffs after your walk.

http://www.mypaninicafe.com

I know these are all in my backyard (and a beautiful one it is!) but can you think of places where you live that you don’t go to because you think you can’t afford them? You should actively seek these special places. Because even if you don’t have a lot to spend, for an hour or two, you’ll feel positively rich.

Word to the wise: The appetizers can be just as satisfying as the meal. Even more so if you’re at a five-star hotel with an ocean view. Or whatever it is that makes your backyard special. Life’s too short not to enjoy it.

What are some of your favorite places and do you know how to maximize your experience without doing major damage to your wallet? Please share. Note: If I’m lucky enough to get a book deal, your comments may be published anonymously in the upcoming book, “Wise Before 25, 50 Things Young Women Need to Know.”