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RULE #7: Never give up; you will find beauty in the end of your struggles!

butterflyAs I was reading a fellow blogger InkBlots and IceBergs’ Story of Struggle, it reminded me of another story.

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My daughter, Megan, loved butterflies. Our neighbor, Alice, would plant flowers because Megan, at a young age, would stand out in the flower garden for hours catching butterflies and then letting them go. It was super sweet to watch a curly-headed, blonde girl with rosy cheeks delight in catching these brightly, colored winged butterflies as they flitted around pink and yellow marigolds. Megan would hold them for a while, studying the unique life, talk to them sweetly, and then let them fly off only to catch another one as it flits by.

Then one day, Megan was out with my husband, Sam, at Cottonmill (a nearby park and nature reserve) where the park attendant gave her a caterpillar. The park ranger put it lovingly in a jar with holes poked at the top and plenty of leaves and twigs. She told Megan that the caterpillar would shortly build a cocoon and then turn into a beautiful butterfly.

Megan-and-her-butterflyThey excitedly brought the jar home and sat it on a credenza in the living room anticipating the day the ugly caterpillar would turn into a beautiful butterfly. Well sure enough, just like the lady said, the caterpillar built a cocoon within a day. At first, it looked awesome and we anxiously anticipated the butterfly any moment.

We waited and waited and waited and waited. The leaves died and dried up into an ugly brown, the cocoon morphed from brilliant green into an ugly brown. Everything within the jar turns dark and bleak and it seemed like the butterfly was never going to emerge. I walked by that jar daily in the middle of the living room wondering if it ever would turn in to a butterfly.

After a month and a half, I was frustrated at looking at the ugly jar of what I thought was dead  ̶ and did I say right in the middle of my living room! I got to the point where I just couldn’t take it anymore. So, I said to Sam, “You know maybe that jar should ‘disappear’ tonight. We can throw it out and no one will be the wiser.” Of course, I wanted him to do the dirty deed. Of course, he didn’t.

So, I was seriously thinking about it, when low and behold the cocoon hatched and out came the most beautiful black, yellow and blue butterfly. We were all super excited to see it. I couldn’t believe my eyes and luck. Thank goodness I didn’t throw it out. My family got to witness the most amazing miracle of life of a beautiful butterfly emerging from what truly looked dead. It was an excellent lesson for us all – especially me.

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So, I’m here to say things may seem ugly brown, dried up and even dead. At times, it is so hard not to give up on people, life and even yourself when times feel like they are at their bleakest and there is no hope of resolution, morning to come or a way to break out of the unhealthy lifestyle, bad relationship, or ugliness in your life. Take heart, hang in there, and keep faith in your friend, but most importantly in yourself. These things may take time. But one day, you will be that beautiful butterfly that breaks free from that ugly, dead-looking cocoon. Trust me, it may take time and a big heaping spoonful of patience, but it will happen. One day you’re going to fly, and you will be so glad you had the patience to hang in there and wait.

I am so glad I waited and didn’t do something drastic like throw away a beautiful butterfly. My family sure appreciated that, too.

P.S. After giving it some sugar water, we decided it was best to let it go free. Sometimes that can be the answer as well and it’s best to just let it go.

butterfly-and-changes

Rule #6: Take that step, even if it’s a tiptoe.

step

I love working at a college. I love the excitement of young and old minds learning, achieving and expanding. And, if it ever gets boring, just wait, in 4-5-6-okay maybe even 7 or 3.5 (I don’t understand those overachieving students) new blood will come along to pump excitement and new ideas back into these brick and cinder walls. There is such a diversity of thought running amuck at the university it is scary and refreshing at the same time. I LOVE IT! Sometimes though, what I don’t understand is university-speak.

Take pedagogy. Try saying that fast – 5 times. I can’t even say it slow, once. What does it mean? I can tell you want it doesn’t, and that’s “pet the doggy.” Just say “education, teaching or even learning.” How about Creative Non-Fiction in a Digital Environment? Yes, I should have known  ̶  it means blogging. I didn’t think that class through when I signed up for it. I thought to myself, “YES, I would love to read creative non-fiction and discuss it. After all, I’m all about reading, okay, probably more collecting books.” Not the same. So, I find myself in blogging class trying to patch it all together and sound halfway sane.

Here’s one, “peer reviewed.” It doesn’t mean to have your friends look at it to make sure you’re not crazy. It means you get published and other people with degrees comment or use it in their research. Pretty exciting stuff. Who is the head of the department? Is it the dean, the chair or the director? I still can’t tell you which is higher magna cum laude or summa cum laude – but I know it’s not a type of wrestling. It means you are pretty darn smart. There is another laude in there, but oh laude, if I can remember what it is. That’s college humor. Finally, have you heard of a “rhetorical tetrahedron”? You may think it’s like the Bermuda triangle where words go to die. But it’s not. It’s where words go to live.

It is a perfect example of that thing where each workplace has its own language. Trust me. I’ve worked in several different workplaces, so I know. Where when you are a newbie; you don’t quite understand what everyone is saying? But you play along anyway to make it look like you know. Again, fake it until you make it. Each workplace has its own lingo. It’s part of what they call “workplace culture.” Words like “synergy,” “SWOT goals” (Google it) or “nonverbal” are all perfect examples. “Nonverbals” was a fun one that I used to torment Sam. “You’re verbals are saying yes, but you’re nonverbals are saying no don’t buy that purse. I’ll stick with your verbals on this one.”

The list of workplace words could go on and on. I’m sure if I asked you, you could come up with some unique words that when you started work, you had no idea what everyone was talking about but after a year or so, you got the hang of it and were even speaking it yourself. No matter what the work speak, each workplace has its own. The trick is to figure it out without looking silly or dumb in the process.

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tryTrying something new can be frightening and comes with scary things. Like words that I’m not sure what the heck they mean. Sometimes that frightening stuff can even keep us from trying something new. Like, would I have taken creative non-fiction in a digital environment if I knew it stood for blogging? Maybe or maybe not. But, I’m glad I didn’t know and yet, I’m glad I took the class and even passed.  Don’t let scary stuff keep you from trying new things. Embrace them and your ability to learn. Face your fears head on and take that class, start a second degree, paint that picture, remodel that kitchen, climb that mountain, and accomplish your goals. In the end, you’ll be glad that you did.

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This summer, I signed up for Digital Rhetoric. The study of memes – am I right? I guess you’ll just have to stay tuned to find out. Wish me luck!

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Now it’s your turn. What are some words or catchphrases often spoken at your workplace that originally you had no idea what they meant, but now you find yourself saying them like a pro? Don’t be shy. Share them in a comment!

backbone

Rule #5: If you don’t walk forward, you’ll always be in the same spot.

Subhead: Mr. Gray Meets Erma Bombeck

Planted-in-faithWith trembling fingers and a fluttering heartbeat, I slowly fumble with each button of my blouse. Breathing in light shallow breaths, I can’t believe how nervous I am. I completely unbutton and let my blouse fall to the ground. It is unbelievable to me how scary this truly is. Will people laugh when I want them to? Will they make fun of me when I don’t? Will they think I’m silly and full of myself? Cringing, I unhook my bra and give the elasticity some rest. I have never done anything like this before and I can’t believe how nervous I am. My heart is fluttering right out of my chest as I unzip my pants and let them pool around my ankles. I shakenly step out of them and walk slowly down the street feeling the cold bricks on my bare toes as I walk naked in downtown Kearney.

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Okay, so I have never walked naked down the streets of Kearney or anywhere other than the comfort of my home, but that is how I felt when I published my blog. I was scared, worried and embarrassed even. What if people didn’t like it? What if they thought it was stupid? What if they sent messages about me behind my back or to my face  ̶  or  ̶  said I was *GASP*, “Cocky, full of myself and stupid!” What if no one read it? Why should I care? I don’t know, but I do.

Putting myself out there was scary to the point where my fingers were literally shaking and my heart was fluttering right out of my chest. I felt as if I had just done or was about to do a 60-minute cardio class. (The feeling is about the same either way.) Scared to the point where I felt like I was walking bare naked down the streets of Kearney for all to see. I have walked into a room one time in my pajamas wondering why my son was up at the computer still only to find his friends with him while I was standing there braless in my pajamas, so I sort of know how it feels. Do you ever have those dreams where you show up to work or school and you totally forget your pants? That’s exactly how it feels. I hate those dreams.

Late-at-NightTrying something new is scary. We often fear the worst. What are people going to say? What will they do? How will they react? When in actuality people were amazing. People are amazing! They were generously kind, supportive and forgiving (of my typos or weird ideas). I’ve heard nothing but care, love and compassion from friends and strangers alike. People are uplifting and wonderful. Life is remarkable, and I’m so glad I took this step even through the fear and sleepless nights. And let me tell you, there have been many sleepless nights thinking about this blog. Actually complete strangers have often surprised me more than my close friends with their amazing love and support; however, that doesn’t mean I haven’t felt the love and backing of friends and family as well.

So here is where I tell you if you have a dream, go for it. Trust me, it will be scary. You may think you’re not ready or good enough. There will be nights you will lay awake thinking about it, worrying about it, and even stewing over it. You will have many moments of doubt where you think you’re not good enough, where you worry about what others will think. (Why do we do that to ourselves? Oh yeah, read my post about the Imposter Syndrome to see why. How easily I forget my affliction. I must have it bad.) Where you literally feel like you are walking naked for all to see and worse yet, all to judge. But people will amaze you, and you will amaze yourself. You will be surprised or happy to find them supportive, encouraging and kind. However, we just learned in class, that there are those who may be mean. Can you believe it? Sadly, it can happen. Don’t let them discourage you. Look to friends and family for support. (FYI – pugs are also amazing supporters. Otis loves everything I do. LOL.) So, go for your dreams!

And be there when your friends, acquaintances, or someone you don’t even know goes for theirs. Let’s make a pact to start lifting each other up instead of being so judgy. (Okay, I can totally be guilty of this, and so maybe that is why I was so worried.) Just think of what a better place this would be if we all felt the support I have in the last couple of weeks. It would truly be an amazing place where we all felt safe to step out of our comfort zones, rip off our metaphorical clothes or what’s holding us back and go for our dreams. That is unless your dream IS to walk naked down the streets of Kearney; because you would be super cold, catch pneumonia, and you might even get arrested. So, while I promise to be supportive, it would be super awkward for you and me both and I don’t know if I could go for that.

Take-that-step

Rule #4: The most important things in Life: Friends, Coffee and Sleep.

Sloth-and-SleepSubhead: Midnight always knows all my secrets – now you do, too.

SLEEP. It is something we all need. And yet, rarely do any of us get a really good night’s sleep. Well, I don’t anyway, and I’m thinking/hoping I’m not alone. Just Google sleep and you’ll come up with any number of things to do to get an adequate night’s sleep. I have tried envisioning myself lying on the beach with waves lightly lapping at my feet … and then usually, I have to pee.

One thing that works from time to time is going through the alphabet and making up sentences with things that are related to sleep. Like the car-ride alphabet game, we used to play as kids. Here’s an example, “A – A very soft comfy bed. B – a very soft comfy Bed. C – a very soft Comfy bed.” (Okay, so I’m not too inventive and creative at this point, I’m just trying to get a decent night’s sleep.) Some nights, this works like a charm and I’m sawing logs before I get to K. However, if I get to K, I know I’m sunk and either need to start all over again or try something else. Experts (obviously, those who can get to sleep) say a nightly bedtime routine is a must for sleeping.

Here is my husband’s routine:

Let the dog out, make sure the dog gets in, drop clothing on the floor by the bed down to tidy whities, head hits the pillow and he’s asleep. Sometimes, he doesn’t even turn off the light. How the heck does he do that? It is infuriating! Okay, he might also brush his teeth and take a blood pressure pill, but I think his whole routine lasts approximately five minutes if that. At this point, he wants to pray with me, but he doesn’t realize how much prep I have to do before I go to bed, and quite frankly, he’ll be sawing logs in under a minute. Usually, I can do a countdown … “5, 4, 3, 2, 1 … and he’s out.” I know because I hear him snoring. It is typically around 10:30 p.m., and it is extremely annoying and perplexing to me.

Here is my bedtime routine:

I check my alarm to see if it is set correctly and the music is at the precise volume so as not to shoot me out of bed before my three snooze increments, but yet, loud enough to wake me past a light snooze. I floss and brush my teeth – this is super important as I was reprimanded by a dentist once for not flossing. I make sure all of the lights are off and no intruders are in the house. I turn on the fan. (Yes, even in the dead of winter. I’m addicted. It drowns out those little creeks that could potentially be intruders in the middle of the night or rats crawling in the walls or electrical sparks that could start fires and burn the house down. Well … you get the picture.)  I wash my face, I apply toner, lotion and something that is supposed to keep it from getting redder, pimplier or wrinkler … okay, it’s a freaking miracle cream … alright. (Although I haven’t witnessed any miracles; on my face that is.) I get a mirror and check every pore on my face. I pluck the little dark hairs that have sprouted up on my face. Seriously, I could be the bearded lady for the Ringling Brothers if I didn’t. Where do those things come from? They were not there yesterday! Overnight, several could just sprout up like dandelions. It’s disgusting.  I then take my vitamins. These are to keep me young, keep my knees from hurting, keep my bones from breaking, keep cold sores away, keep me pooping with regularity (that is super important), keep my back from cracking when I try to bend it and keep me breathing through the night because my nose likes to clog up at a moment’s notice. Then I have to check Facebook because you never know who could have posted within that time and what fabulous adventures people have been on for the last 15 minutes that I checked it. (Okay, I am probably addicted, but that is for another post.)  I check Snapchat to look in on my UNO daughter, Hannah, because she could post and let me in on a glimpse of her life and what she is doing for a split second. I get out of my clothes and into my pajamas. I put my dirty clothes in the laundry basket (Sam’s is probably on the floor by his side of the bed.)

decafI turn off all the lights but turn on my bed-stand light because I don’t want anyone grabbing my legs in the dark on the way to bed. That would scare the bejesus out of me and this routine would have to start all over for me to calm down. I pee not once, not twice, but possibly three times because nothing is more annoying than your head hitting the pillow after all of this preparation and you have to pee. I slightly open the curtains, so if I have to pee when the lights are off, I will be able to locate the toilet. I check outside for Sasquatch or a mountain lion because both have been spotted in the neighborhood. If I see one, I’m waking Sam up. I pet Otis one more time because he is so darn cute and moans when you pet him, and that’s just too ridiculously sweet. I prepare my covers because you never know when you will be too hot or too cold, and you could be both in a matter of seconds for the duration of the night. It is at this time, I’m either totally ready for bed, or Megan calls from KU – and I have to answer it. We talk, and the series will start all over again except the vitamins because that would just be wrong. It is at this point that I fly into bed, because it’s dark, and if I jolt my husband awake, he will stop snoring and be back snoozing within seconds again anyway. Cold feet on a warm body work well for this also especially if you forgot to put an extra blanket on the bed. I’m sure glad he puts up with me.  By this time, I’m lucky if I’m in bed before midnight.  Oh well, that’s what coffee is for.

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If you are like me, and I think there are MANY of us out there who suffer from lack of sleep — whether, it is insomnia, a crazy bedtime routine like mine, worrying about stuff that needs to occur (Experts say create lists, but it doesn’t stop me from worrying, it just keeps me up later writing lists.) — as I stare out across the dark expanse of rolling houses and see a light on or two, I take some brief comfort in knowing I’m not alone and a mom is up feeding her baby, a dad is rocking a sick kid to sleep, a police officer is keeping us safe, or a student/teacher is finishing up the last page of his/her essay or test. We may all be bleary-eyed and dragging the next day, but we are not alone, and for some odd reason, I take a small amount of comfort in that.

Yawn-and-coffee

RULE #3: You did it! Believe it! Celebrate it!

Believe-in-yourself

There comes a point in your life when your kids might actually know a little something more than you do. (Just a pinch.)

For example, the other day, the stars aligned, and Megan (my college music therapist daughter) and I actually talked on the phone. No cryptic text messages where we had to guess what the other person was actually thinking. We could converse. It was truly amazing! It is truly amazing when that happens before midnight.

Anyway, I was telling my daughter, Megan, about my blogging class and explaining how excited I was that I earned a good grade on my first blog post. Megan congratulated me and was truly happy for me. It was at that point; that a thought suddenly hit me, and I downplayed my own efforts saying, “Yes, but what if the teacher gives everyone a good grade so they feel comfortable actually blogging online?”

Megan responded with, “Stop right there, mom; you have ‘Imposter Syndrome!’ ”

I thought, “I have what? When was I afflicted with that?”

Megan repeated, “Imposter Syndrome. You know like when you accomplish something good, and you question your abilities. You feel like an imposter. But you’re not.” Apparently, I have been suffering from this affliction for quite some time, but I just didn’t realize it. Until now, when Megan put a name to it, and I finally realized it. I do suffer from Imposter Syndrome. Sometimes. (Okay often.)

You-have-OvercomeImposter Syndrome – yes, it is a new buzzword for anyone (not just me, thank goodness) who feels like a phony, a fake, like they shouldn’t be accomplishing all they are. Hundreds of thousands of people are walking around with this illness. I’ve felt it before I go into a conference, during meetings, when I accomplish a huge project and even complete it on time. I’ve felt it often. Who has given me that mentality? How did it happen? Who can it happen to next?

It is not just women who suffer from this affliction; it can also be men and even brilliant Internet Technology (IT) people like my son, Zach. Megan said she was talking to Zach  ̶  I was privately ecstatic that they converse without my forcing them.  ̶  and he said he was at a conference where they were talking in-depth about “Imposter Syndrome” in the IT Field. Apparently, even intelligent, smart IT people (I say that because my son is in that category and not just because I gave birth to him.) suffer from Imposter Syndrome where you accomplish something; but you don’t attribute it to your own success.

Zach recalls two types from his training, “This is you, mom. One in which you need to over-prepare. (Like writing 35 pages for an 8-page master’s assignment? Yes, I have actually done that.) So when you succeed, you don’t attribute it to what you know already. Instead, you attribute your success to your over-preparation, not your own personal achievement.” Self-admittedly, I do that; but I verbally pointed out his sister, Megan, is like that as well. (Lucky her … to get that from me.) Zach goes on to say, “So, the flipside to the Imposter Syndrome is when you think you can’t do it, and you put it off, put it off, and put it off  … until you do it last minute really hurriedly. So when you succeed that way, you think ‘well, it was just luck and not by any of my own doing.’ ” I admit to that one as well in which my son, Zach, and possibly his sister, Hannah, gets from me. (My poor kids!! See I’m doing it again. They are lucky to have me.)

Forbes magazine estimates that around 70 percent of people experience Imposter Syndrome. Seventy percent! This reminds me of a phrase I have used quite often “Fake it until you make it!” The challenge is, what is “it”? Will I be happy when I accomplish my Masters? Do I celebrate the fact that my kids have turned out to be pretty darn swell adults? Why am I not celebrating that I have been successfully working in graphic design for over 30 years? While I have lost 40 pounds, I’m still not happy because it’s not 80 pounds! Why not?

Why can’t I take a moment to celebrate my accomplishments? Pat myself on the back? Look around and appreciate all that I have accomplished? I’ve raised three kids (without strangling anyone) who are hard workers, nice people, and good members of society. I’ve always worked successfully in my field (without strangling anyone) even though it has changed tremendously with the growth of computers and the internet. I’ve taught efficiently on the side for around 10 years (without strangling anyone). I’ve been married for more than 25 years (again, without strangling anyone), and for the most part, I am happy. Casey in my blogging class says, “Sometimes, we all just stress out way too much and don’t enjoy life successfully because we have to be perfect at everything and if we are not, we bring ourselves down to self-loathing and other insecurities.”

While the Imposter Syndrome could sometimes motivate me to do more and be more – there are moments when it could possibly kill me for trying to do just that. At some point, I need to be happy with “it!” ̶  no matter what “it” is. While there are times you will still need to fake it  ̶  trust me, I do every day  ̶  we need to take the time to listen to our feelings and fears, validate them, and then take note of our accomplishments  ̶  even if that accomplishment is simply getting out of bed for the day. And then, stand up for ourselves – even if that means silencing our harshest critics: ourselves. Look yourself in the mirror and say, “Girl … or guy, you’re crushing it!” C’mon do it. Then fist bump yourself. In other words, take one moment to list, celebrate and acknowledge your accomplishments.

Now, go call your college kids. Who knows  ̶  what you might learn.

kILLING-IT

RULE #2: You are going to want to give up. DON’T!

Subtitle: I didn’t lose weight to sell you something!

fierce

“I’m going to die! I’m going to throw-up! I’m literally going to throw-up in front of everyone, and then die!” Or so I think. The music is pumping as loud and as sharp as the pain in my feet. My thoughts swing wildly from “I can’t do this” to “I’m doing this … I’m doing this. Did you see me do this?” I’m straining a smile at my friends as sweat is dripping down my forehead, into my eyes, and running down my back. I’m trying not to pee my pants or think about how much time we have left. My friend, Angie, is on the throes of death with me, smiles back through gritted teeth to say “This sucks!” as the rock-hard instructor, Emily, is yelling, “Stay with me, team! Get those knees up! You can do it!” and the music is pumping ironically to Axwell and Ingrosso’s, “I love you … Even though I don’t like you right now.” While I’m thinking about what I’d like to do with my knees and it ain’t kick ‘em higher.

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Exercise

On January 17, 2017, I started Weight Watchers, something I’ve done maybe six, seven, eight times before. A friend was joining at the beginning of the year when they were having a sale.

Something needed to be done. I flew out to Vegas with my mom a half a month prior and needed an extension in the seat belt. An extension!!! It was mortifying. Although I asked discreetly, I could feel everyone’s eyes on me as I asked, especially the three larger men squeezing into the seats behind me – who consequently didn’t need extensions!

As if that weren’t motivation enough, I’d lost my dad three months prior, following his health’s steady decline. My sister-in-law, who is less than a year older than I am, was going through treatment for Image result for Leiomyosarcoma (LMS) (a fancy way to say “really bad cancer”). Both of these motivated me to be physically active. I tell myself, “They’re not physically able to work out. I AM physically able to, and yet I don’t.” It’s kept me motivated to get into shape. Sadly, both have passed on now, and I miss them terribly.

When I first began working out at Just for Ladies, an all-women’s fitness center, a little over two years ago, I had to keep telling myself things like, “I can do anything for a minute, fifteen minutes, an hour.” And, “No matter how bad I look or how poorly I’m performing, I’m still lapping everyone on the couch.” I still say both of these to myself from time to time, (self-talk is pretty important to an over-thinker) but overall, the classes are getting easier, and I always feel better WHEN I’M DONE – and while I’m often skeptical, I always survive!

Exercising has also helped me deal with ENS (A.K.A. “Empty-Nest Syndrome” which Wikipedia says “It is not a clinical condition.” I beg to differ, Wikipedia!  I think I would be depressed with the empty house if I went home right away, so I go work out instead. By hitting the gym before going home, I de-stress from work while overcoming the loneliness of not having kids running around the house 24/7.

Even though I feel and look better from exercising, I don’t always want to do it. Luckily, I am blessed with friends who drag me along to work out, friends who drag me along to Weight Watchers meetings, and friends and co-workers who challenge me with FitBit “Workweek Hustles.”

Not only do they drag me along, but my friends are there to celebrate successes with me, and commiserate when things don’t go as planned – and consequently, I buy and EAT a whole sleeve of Thin Mints.

Moreover, I DEFINITELY could not do all this without the support of my husband, Sam, who actually eats ground, brown turkey in recipes (instead of hamburger) without grumbling (too much), makes me fish on the evening before weigh-in (It is super important to eat on point the night before weigh-in.), and puts up with me when I’m “hangry” (that is hungry and angry – which happens often). He truly has been an amazing partner in this journey.

And that’s what it is: a journey. Right now, I’m somewhere in the middle of mine.

Weight-loss-journeyOne of my first goals was to lose 50 pounds by the age of 50. I turned 50 in October. While I’ve *only* lost 40 pounds, I tell myself that I still have several months to go before I’m not 50. (Am I right? It still counts!)

Along the way, I’ve learned that we all need friends to help us in our health journeys, and we all need to strive toward our own definition of what a healthy lifestyle is. Your journey could be more like hiking a mountain range, with ups and downs, or it could be like climbing straight up a hill. The main thing is to keep going, keep working at being healthy, and keep doing it for yourself.

Here’s where I’d like to challenge you to set some healthy goals. I know many of you are way healthier than I am (trust me, I see you at the gym every day.), and I am often inspired by your willingness to run marathons, eat healthy, and work out over your lunch hours. I would like to challenge those of you who have never taken a workout class to do so. Trust me, it’s okay if you can’t do everything … just move. Where I go, it’s a nonjudgmental environment. If you feel judged where you go, go somewhere else. Try something different. Focus on adding more produce and protein to your diet. Drink more water. Figure out one (or two, or three!) things you could do to be healthier, whatever “healthier” means for you. But don’t do it for me; do it for yourself.

And trust me; it is easier if you take some friends along for the ride.

Don't-give-up

Rule #1: Life as Empty-Nesters Can Be a BEACH!

No-kids-at-homeWhen I envisioned what life would be like as an empty-nester, I imagined long walks on the beach, hand in hand. (I know … I live in Nebraska and we don’t have beaches, but you get the picture.) Lazy afternoons at the coffee shop playing games and passing little knowing nods and smiles. Laughing, enjoying my husband’s company and not worrying about a thing … except how we were going to pay for three kids in college at the same time.

What I did not envision is me at my computer at 3:30 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon, greasy hair from not showering for two days. Ice packs on my back from a hard Saturday morning PiYO class (that’s Pilates and yoga, combined – as if one alone wasn’t hard enough!). Still wearing my pajamas and stained bathrobe. Yelling at my husband that he passive-aggressively, on purpose didn’t buy onions for a recipe he was trying to throw together for a Super Bowl party with a soup competition.

Why did I do this to myself? What was I thinking when I signed up for classes? Why did I think that at 49, I could possibly go back to school? The last time I was in school, the internet hadn’t even been invented yet. I had to ask my college students how to use the internet to write a paper! (Let me tell you, it is sooo much easier than typing it one painstaking page at a time on a typewriter, but it is still hard.) I keep telling myself, “If it were easy, everyone would be in school.” And, they aren’t; so that proves that it isn’t, right?

I go through these mini panic attacks every time I have more than a two-page paper to write. And yet, I still trudge on. I’m now halfway through; that’s a total of 15 credit hours. This may not seem like much, but it was a heck of a lotta blood, sweat, and literal tears … lots of tears.

Why, when we were at the cusp of what could have been some amazingly relaxed years that only parents dream about, did I decide to go back?

Maybe it’s because keeping my mind occupied means I don’t constantly wonder what my daughters are doing, who they are talking to, or what new friends and adventures they are partaking in this week, without me knowing. Maybe it’s because, after 15 years of working at a University, I decided to jump on the education bandwagon and just get that Masters I’ve been dreaming about for years. Maybe it’s because I need a piece of paper as validation that I’m good enough and smart enough (and people like me). Maybe it’s because I’m bat-shit crazy and just can’t take having breathing room – or what other people like to call “relaxation” – in my life. I don’t know. But I did it. I am doing it. I went for it! I am focusing on the dream of furthering my education and it is exciting, engaging, thrilling, horrifying, and terrifying, all at once. Some days I feel so proud of myself I could burst; other days I burst out crying from being overwhelmed with just trying to type a simple paragraph.

Why am I telling you all of this? How does this even matter?

Because the reason I was yelling at my husband had nothing to do with onions. Okay, I may have been just a little upset, but the real reason I was yelling at my husband is because I felt overwhelmed, depleted, and stressed out: I had been working on homework for two days solid, I was sore from Saturday morning PiYo, I had papers to grade for a class I was teaching on the side of my 40+ hour job, my butt was starting to mold to the chair to where eventually I would have to get a crowbar to pry it off, I was tired of looking at hundreds of tiny little seeds on the floor that fell off my houseplant and that would be there until they sprouted in the spring, I had bills to pay (which is always so much fun), we had to get ready for a Super Bowl party, AND MY HUSBAND DIDN’T BUY THE DAMN ONIONS!!!

I was a stressed-out mess.

This was not how I envisioned empty-nesting at all.

Albert Einstein said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as if everything is.” Heck, it’s a miracle I get out of bed some days. It’s a miracle my husband and I are still married. I believe in miracles. I believe that with hard work, a forgiving and loving husband, and possibly a sprinkle of self-confidence, a cup of panic, and two buckets more of tears – someday I will complete my Masters. I can’t wait. No, seriously, I don’t know if I can wait! It will be thrilling, exciting, and I will know I did it on my own, with the help of a few hundred close friends, colleagues, and family members.

If I can do it, you can, too. Going back to college may not be what trips your trigger or gets you excited to be alive, but I’m challenging you to find something that does. Take that leap of faith, believe in miracles, and do it. I am so looking forward to the day I get to don a cap and gown and celebrate this amazing accomplishment because after that, I’m taking one afternoon to sit in the coffee shop with my husband, take a long walk on the beach, … or at least, take a nap.

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