Beth's New Normal


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A Letter to My Younger Self

8A0BEB2F-95A1-49E2-8BAD-5A26960D6EF1Recently I was catching up with another mom while we were waiting on our kiddos about life and chatting about things we were living through with each of our families. I mentioned that someone at work had said they wished they were in their 20’s again. I shared that I had absolutely no desire to be 20 again! We laughed about how we had much different perspectives as middle age rock stars than we did in our 20’s and it really got my mind thinking about what I would tell 20-year-old me. I thought I’d jot some of that down, because it seemed really relevant to where I am now and the prices I’ve paid for inexperience.

Dear 20-Year-Old Me,
Hey beautiful! This is your moment. Seize it, study hard, listen well. Take that extra drive to see your grandparents. They won’t be here long, and you’ll spend the rest of your days hearing them in your head. Grasp every ounce of knowledge before it slips away. Watch black and white movies and eat the green vegetables and take the extra earring out of your ear when you visit. Just let them wash over you and be attentive.

Those girls that you eat pizza with, cry over guys, and drive over an hour for a cup of coffee with are your people. Twenty years from now your heart will still leap when they text and you would still walk through water to be at their side. Let the little things go. Love anyway. Forgive each other immaturities. For real, I know how this turns out, they are your ride or dies.

Wash your face, and take care of your skin. Listen when someone says drink more water and stop celebrating your extra five dollars with a run through the drive thru. It’s really not worth it, trust me!

Dance like nobody is watching. Do yourself a favor. Try out for the play, sing with the group, spend 20 more minutes on piano lessons because you will wish you had when the busyness of life sucks your creativity dry. Wear the quirky outfit and smile when they stare. Enjoy who you are, because it is beautiful and you will battle to keep from being stifled until you explode.

Don’t worry about what your peers think. Do not steer your ship based on the preconceived notions of others. Gain wisdom from what you observe and listen to the experiences of your elders. Do not allow yourself to give up anything as simple as a pair of earrings or as imperative as chasing your dreams based on what others decide makes you fit in. While we are talking about fitting in, please stop. There is nothing to gain from being a total conformist other than the dull gray safety of a predefined normal established by people you will soon enough realize don’t really care.

Listen to your heart, use your mind, and pray without ceasing. Study what is going on around you and see how you can make it better. Love without abandon, my sweet. You are going to get hurt and you will be scared but you will get strong and you will find the most amazing people if your eyes are closed and your heart is open. Stop judging people by the color of their skin, the size of their bank account, or their level of acceptance with others. Love as Christ did with genuine passion, honesty and integrity.

Take a walk before you respond. You are going to get some great advice but here is sneak peak. Write it down, leave it 24 hours. If you are still upset then respond. Most of the time you’ll forget to even look. Be honest with yourself about what is your perspective and what is truth. They differ sometimes and you are not good at distinguishing fact from your heart when you’re emotional. Most of the time, you just need to let it go.

Someday your little sister will be your best friend and hold your whole heart. I promise, it’s true. She is wearing you out right now but someday you’ll long to talk to her more. Love her where she is. Your time is coming. You guys will cherish each other’s children and one another soon enough.

Most of all spend more time in prayer and don’t let blood drive your choices. Choose your path based on the belief and faith you hold dear. Forgive yourself a little, grace is for everyone. Whatever you do stop chasing normal. It’s overrated!

Love you forever,

Middle Aged You


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My Why: Gym Edition

weights-1948837_960_720For the last year, I’ve been back working hard in the gym.  A few years ago, I was dedicated and the changes in my physical appearance greatly steered that dedication.  Unfortunately, I allowed life to get in the way.  I’ve continually worked on eliminating some of my bad habits and adding new ones.  During a recent professional development, our group was challenged to gather our “whys” for what we do.  I applied that to work and moved on, not considering that this was also a helpful practice for my general life choices.  I’ve compiled a list of why going back to the gym has improved my life having absolutely nothing to do with appearance.

I can breathe! I used to dread having meetings that required going up sets of stairs.  Especially if I was walking with someone.  I couldn’t carry on a conversation and I was huffing and puffing when I reached the top.  I often felt embarrassed and ashamed as I could hear myself breathing and struggling to communicate until my body recovered.  Staying dedicated to even a couple workouts per week fixed this problem.

After a year I’ve learned to like me much better.  I can be amazing.  Let’s be clear, I’m no better than anyone, but I’m better than I used to be.  I’m more confident and I feel stronger and more assertive in determining the best path for me.  I’m less self-conscious about the moves and steps I take and it’s liberating. I’m more willing to wear what I want and not hide behind black draping fabric.

My workout friends are the most amazing tribe of comedians and therapists ever.  Hands down.  No discussion needed.  Once you allowed your overweight, middle-aged self to do a jumping jack in some tank tops and yoga capris in front of someone, well it’s relatively intimate and you’re practically married.  It’s a fact.  So honestly these people become your people and you learn to laugh at yourself with them.  You learn to share each other’s struggles and celebrate on another’s victories.

The more I involve my body in physical activity the more productive I feel.  I get more done at work, and around the house.  My joints no longer ache for no reason.  I have more energy to keep up with my sons’ active schedules and to enjoy activities on my downtime rather than living to get that extra moment to sit on the couch.

Most importantly I’m just a better person.  Truthfully, I find I’m less overwhelmed, less petty, more forgiving and less stressed simply because I’m happier.  These tiny victories have little to do with the scale or the size I wear and everything to do with where I am in my journey.  An ever-changing new normal.


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A Little Snowy Perspective

img_20180116_125806485_hdr-2.jpgAt this point I’ll be honest there’s a tad of cabin fever creeping into my heart. There’s a winter wonderland outside my office window and I have loved watching my sons frolic about with their canine friends.  However, I haven’t left the house in three days.  Typing that sounds outrageous like that should be some sort of big deal and the reality is it truly shouldn’t be.  However schedules and life are crazy and three days to just be working from home has been a bit heavenly.

I’ve gotten up each morning and started the day with coffee or hot tea at my desk and it’s been truly wonderful to just catch up a bit in fleece pajama pants and a sweatshirt for a few days.  The opportunity to tackle a few projects that are always on the list and often ignored has been pretty glorious.  No makeup and allowing a daily shower to be enough beautification has been refreshing.

However, likely the greatest eye opener has been the ability to just enjoy my kids.  We’ve done chores, cleaned, and organized for hours without a fight.  There were moments I typed away at my desk while one was coloring and the other was building with legos.  All of us in silence, in the same room, yet independent.  Seems silly but there was a comfort to having us home and not worry about schedules and getting everyone where they needed to be.  There was time for homemade gluten-free pizza, and almond flour brownies from scratch and it wasn’t a sacrifice to take those few extra moments to savor them.  I wasn’t anxious watching the newest silly YouTube video they found online because I’m not in a rush.  There’s time to make snow cream and the casual ease of humming to music while still being productive.

As we age I’d like to think we are a little more open to what we can learn from our past.  I’ve learned this week to stop and let all five senses engage more often.  To take a few moments to embrace and be more intentional everyday.  Could I possibly be more blessed with any revelation?  I pray wherever you are that you get snowed in soon.  I hope you appreciate some low maintenance days to just breathe it all in.  May your snowy days be safe and full of rejuvenation, so your new normal is a bit more gratitude filled.

 


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My Word to Carry into 2018

Over the last week I’ve been truly reflecting on 2017 and preparing my heart for what really matters in 2018.  It’s no surprise that a resounding cry for balance and self-discipline continue to come to play in every aspect of this.  Over the last year I’ve established some great habits.  By the weekend I will have read a bit of the Bible each day, getting through it in a year’s time.  I’ve also increased my time at the gym, and my water intake.  My sleep habits are still lacking and my eating habits are quite frankly a roller coaster.  Great three days, awful four.  Great five days, and then awful two.  I truly lack self discipline here.
balance 2018
There are people and relationships that changed in 2017, nothing dramatic, just different.  My heart grew this year and my goals and dreams have heightened again.   I’ve purged my home and my heart of some junk both spiritual and physical and as I look forward to a new year I can just as easily feel triumphant as I can feel defeated.  We weathered some amazing things as a family.  We learned how to manage more than I could imagine possible in our schedules and still have place for some fun.  At the same time I struggle with things left undone.  Disappointments I’ve caused others, although unintentional, still heartbreaking.  Here creeps that balance thing again.  Which leads to me to my theme word of 2018, it’s a repeat of an oldie but goodie.  Balance is where my focus must lie as we approach the upcoming trip around the globe.  I have to learn to love, accept, and like me right where I am.  I have to learn to do what I can to the best of my ability, and to prioritize.  Allowing the details to distract from the big picture will only slow my path.
I love to journal and I’m sort of a data junkie! So for January I’ve created a journal to track the habits that matter most to me everyday. From as simple as taking time to truly focus on morning and evening skincare to as involved as purging something daily all month.  So far so good. There’s something gratifying about checking things off a list for me.  Baby steps, right? That’s part of seeking some balance for me is not going over board and burning myself out with some super crazy idea of what I can accomplish by being out of balance and hyperfocused in a singular area.
May your 2018 find you freeing yourself of conventional ideals and wrapping your head around your own balance!


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Unexpected Treasure Hunts

IMG_1714This holiday season I had most everything wrapped early.  It was neat and tidy under the trees.  However despite this gleeful task being completed while burning the early morning oil several days I still felt so very anxious and unsettled.  Daily I tackled a to-do list that wasn’t much shorter when I finished than when I began because the tasks only grew in details.  Daily I resolved to take care of me and not get overwhelmed.  However life happened and next thing I knew it was December 15 and I was singing “Happy Birthday” to my eleven-year-old.

So here’s some clarity that I’ve only discovered this week.  Our family has truly tried to continue working on balance.  We are much better.  Yet today as I discovered that I again dropped the ball on a mundane task that required little brain power I found myself beating myself up.  Losing sight on the delightful and quiet Christmas we had enjoyed.  Losing my hold on the fact that we were together without drama.  Dropping the ball on the fact that I am human despite my best efforts and sometimes I just need to breathe.

So back to the clarity part.  My life, my brain, my car, my make-up drawer, my closet, my jewelry box, my pantry, and my laundry room are too cluttered.  I have made a huge Goodwill run, donated four bags of clothes to a local charity, stressed my husband to the max with trash bags of stuff and purged tons.  Truth is I’m nowhere close to done!  The other reality is this isn’t my first rodeo.  I have decluttered my life more times than I can count of the nonsense yet I still can’t seem to get a strong handle on keeping it that way!  Tonight I got rid of free t-shirts I never took out of the package.  HONESTLY!  I found four Christmas presents I pre-bought and stuffed away only to forget them.
Most importantly I’ve laughed and cried a little as I’ve located sweet notes from my boys, unique jewelry my dad purchased for me and I love I just forgot about! I’ve found books I started and never finished and to-do lists of tasks never completed.  I found the key chain my husband bought for me on my sweet sixteen and the locket he purchased the year after that for Christmas.  I’ve tossed out-of-date jeans that were to big and a few that were to small.  Right now as I type I’m feeling a bit calmer and significantly more content in my own skin.  The why of that resolution is pretty obvious, I’ve cleared a physical path and the emotional path is falling right in behind it.  So I will not buy another craft project until I complete ten of the ones I’ve started!  I will not but another pair of pants until I’m down another size. I am 100% sure I do not need another pair of black shoes, or a purse, of any kind.  My scarf obsession must soon cease and my contentment in my space must increase.
My little treasure hunt has given me a new wardrobe of shoes, jewelry, and sweaters.  It’s also helped me refocus on my priorities.  I’ve made some new lists but they are bucket lists.  My tasks are still important I have to focus better in 2018 on making the most of my time at work, the gym, study, and most importantly in my home.  In the meantime, I also need to quit beating myself up and turn the steering wheel a little more toward the center.  The only thing normal about life is that it’s quickly and frequently new.


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Self Creating Chaos

autumn-974882_960_720“Moooommmmmmmmmmm!!!!!!!!!!” Are my children the only children that make a three letter word fourteen syllables? Do they alone find a way to bellow from the other room? Is there a reason that their super power is to walk past their father to stand at the bathroom door and ask me for something? Could I just get from the car to the backdoor once without answering three questions? The answers are pretty simple and the truth is harsh but realistic. No mine aren’t the only ones, they partner my existence with the answers to questions and needs, I made them this way and taught them to act this way.  Yes, they bypass their father, and yes to an extent that is totally my fault. From the moment they took their first breath I dictated what they ate, what they wore, what they
played with. I gave them things to read and music to listen to. When someone else intervened I often quickly cut them off laying claim on “my children.” God gave them to me, it was my job to raise them.

Bless their poor dad, my husband. When he tried to plan or address any of the above I often corrected his choices with what I thought was best. When I left him home alone I came home and frequently criticized what he had done in my absence. So let’s be honest. I cannot be really shocked when by default at this point they bypass the assumed momma drama and just stalk me to fix things. One of the things that the women in my generation need to accept is that we created our chaos. We decided we could have it all. We decided to both fry the bacon and bring it home, and we dared anyone to interrupt us. We shuffled everyone around us into our color coded day planners and insisted that we could do it all. On a regular basis we have predictable meltdowns as the families we are raising stand gawking about and then we snap at them for holding their hands up waiting for instruction.

Lately I’ve been very convicted about how I’ve created my own chaotic nonsense. Not to say that others haven’t added to it, they have. However, it’s sheer nonsense to play the blame game until we own our own choices. We cannot have it all. It’s true, our bodies were not intended to juggle a twelve hour workday and a twenty four hour nurturing home life. We cannot be the friends we intend to be while staying perfectly manicured and keeping picture perfect homes. Occasionally we have to embrace the coffee stains for quick stops in carpool lines and muddy floor mats from cross country practice. Every once in awhile we need to smile as the bellowing lingers from the other room because it means we are needed. Daily we need to be grateful for the friends, family, teachers, and spouses that help us get it all done, even if they do not do it our way.

I am the queen of the martyrs and the whiners. Royalty among those striving to be perfect until I strike mental collapse. I forget important things because I’ve stuff to much in my brain. I miss important moments because I got too caught up in the little things. Although those around me have their own wrongs, I have lived in a state of why me at times that lines my pockets with regret instead of gratitude. Sometimes I just need to breathe. One of the most successful women I’ve ever met once said to a large group something has stuck with me forever, “We need to stop caring how the dishwasher was loaded and just be grateful we aren’t the ones that loaded it.” That has stuck with me for quite a long time.

Listen, I do not have all the answers. Just yesterday I melted down on a child for messing up my nicely folded laundry basket and freaked out over leaves tracked in at the backdoor. However, what I do know is this. Until I learn to breathe I’m going to keep feeling like I can’t. Until I learn to be grateful for the little things, the big breakthroughs will continue to elude me. Until I embrace my own normal and quit searching for the idealized perfection I’ve created in my mind I’ll remain stagnant and dissatisfied. May I become grateful for the bellows and disorganized mess because someday I shall grieve its absence. May I accept my own reality for its beauty and may I stop seeking normal.


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The Witch in the Mirror

home-2318457_960_720There are seventy five days left in this year at the moment I am writing this. Seventy five days to stay focused on the routines that I pray continue to bring me better health. Truth is that I see amazing progress, but slow progress. I can run upstairs, button jeans I couldn’t before, not get winded dragging my laptop and work bag to the car, and I am not completely exhausted by 3pm every day. Changes less visible to other but obvious to me is that my skin feels better and is less dry, my gut health is tremendously improved, and I feel more confident in my own skin. Let’s be real in ten months I’ve really only lost twenty pounds but I have gained the world in many ways.

My gym friends are my people. We are a dozen different sizes and abilities but we have seen each other at our most vulnerable. Even if you never see someone other than those three sweaty hours a week they are yours forever. No, seriously, it’s a crazy bond you can’t explain. They’ve seen you ugly, sweaty, whiny, and spent yet can still look you in the eye. They’ve seen you conquer challenges that to be honest were more mental than physical and cheered you on with encouragement and the right amount of sarcasm. They notice the little things like that you can push that sled faster, or that the bar has gone from fifty pounds to eighty pounds. They’ve laughed with you when you tripped over your own feet. They have been there when your family thought you were nuts and when well-intentioned people say things like, “you’re working really hard I just expected to see more change.”

I stand here with seventy five days left to accomplish sticking to routines. I didn’t set New Year’s resolutions because I always fail and I’m consistently left feeling abandoned by myself. However, as I look at what remains I’ve got to be honest I feel just as abandoned. For the last week I’ve told myself that four days a week of meeting those routine goals is better than nothing and that is totally true. I’ve tried to convince myself to remember there are weeks I was seven out of seven. However, what keeps allowing myself to breath in my own condemnation is what has allowed me to stay off course at times. When I take a moment to completely be honest with myself I am my worst enemy. I am the only thing that stands between me and what I long for. I can blame clients, kids, and caring for others. I can truthfully point fingers at mean people, and a work regimen that is in constant metamorphosis.

However, the reality is my only arch enemy is me. I’d never ask a client to put off what they need to take my call, but I’ll stop mid-stretch to answer their call and never return to what I started. My heart would never dream of telling my family that I’m just not feeding them today, however, I’ll go all day without a bite and then feed like a ravenous wolf on nonsense that was processed from the bowels of hell. Beth is Beth’s worst enemy. Now listen, I’m a realist in many ways despite my reputation for Pollyanna optimism. Those closest to me in my immediate family think I can’t see the forest for the trees and I always see the best in folks. Truth is I try to. However, at the end of the day I know people gonna talk and start stuff no matter how hard I try. I know that I have screwed up and there are people that will ride that hate train straight outta this life and that is on them not me. I can ignore those people most days, not every day but most.

The one thing I cannot fight, the one nemesis for which I have no cure is the person in the mirror. That witch wears me out! She tells me daily every mistake I’ve ever made. She’s in my ear at the gym every morning I enter asking what I am thinking even trying. She steers my car to every drive thru when I am tired. She plants seeds of discord and doubt at every turn about the people who I know love me, and she whispers at every turn, “JUST GIVE UP.” Learning to lay her down and ignore her kills me. Learning to love her enough to refute her discord exhausts my soul. However, I’m 100% sure that I am not alone and that she haunts most of us. She will not win because I am certain that she can be loved into success and today I choose to not give up on her. May my new normal embrace her, may my new normal cherish her, and may your new normal join me.