good habits

third trimester

Finding My Stride In The Third Trimester Of Life

Umm…what the heck does she mean by “my third trimester“? 🤔

This: I intend to live into my 90s (or die trying 😜) so I’m simply dividing my life story into thirds. And last month, I officially stepped into my final third when I turned 60! 🎂 🔥 🚿🚒 

(Humor me ▶️ )

WooHoo….Didja dance with me?? 💃🏻

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OK, now I have to say, this new perspective on my remaining years  feels quite ingenious. Recently, I’d been fretting about how to Have Purpose, Keep Learning, and Remain Productive. I shared those concerns here, if you missed it. And all because I was still stuck in high-gear-career mode.

30+ year habits take time to shift! 🙄

Yet ironically, once I hit publish with that post, I felt my angst begin to dissolve! To be clear, I still had no epiphany as to exactly what I would do in my last trimester.

However, once I no longer viewed “retirement” as the great divide…the beginning of the end… an inevitable descent into old age and irrelevancy…I was able to exhale. To relax. To anticipate genuine glimmers of great possibilities ahead! 🌟

In other words, it was time to treat this third life chapter as an exciting, vibrant transition rather than a sad, downhill decline! 🤯 

Got your mug refilled? ☕️ Read on for how I’m defining life’s phases as I shift into the culmination of a life well-lived (’cause it’s not over yet!) 🌱☀️

1st Trimester: Finding Our Footing

Who am I
anastasiya gepp | pexels

Our first 30 years are really about figuring out who we are and how we fit into the world.

There is no singularly perfect timeline for this. Some may readily identify where they want to go and their path appears smooth and uninterrupted. (emphasis on “appears”—no one is without doubt and angst!)

Others take the “scenic route” which has detours and delays and even occasional dead-ends. Yet who’s to say this isn’t the best path for them?

In either case, we are developing self-awareness and seeking what lights us up, as we find a place in this world. It’s a trimester of tremendous growth, hope, and discovery.

And with focused intention, we can continue to hone who we are in the next two trimesters, as well!

2nd Trimester: Manifesting Dreams 'n' Goals

busyness
sarah chai | pexels

Next, our second trimester (ages 30-60) is about creating and building the life we want. 

Like most, I juggled family and work duties. Yet homemaking was not my first goal. In fact, I recall deliberately passing on typing class in high school as I was determined to be more than a secretary (OK, a wee bit short-sighted, per my permanently wonky keyboard skills! 😜) 

I had eagerly responded to the societal call in the 80s: “Go be anything you want to be—you can!”. My career path was made possible by the many, many tenacious women before me who demanded the power and right to choose a path outside the home. I found it thrilling. 

Yet that phrase, “work-life balance”? The reality was incredibly exhausting, since something always has to give. 🙇🏻‍♀️

3rd Trimester: Releasing Our Inner Child

third trimester
image by anderson guerra from pexels

This is the final trimester which brings us full circle!

Once again we’re back to figuring out who we are and how we fit into the world.

However, all the angst we felt in our 1st trimester with worrying what others think? Who cares! Time to let that go and pursue what we want. It’s our life!

And still basing our value on what we do for a living, how high we climbed the corporate ladder, how much stuff we amassed, and how much we earned? Time to let all of this go, as well! 

We are uniquely and intrinsically worthy just as we are! 🌟

It’s not an overnight process to release longstanding beliefs or ideas about what gives us purpose and validation.

We are essentially finding our footing again. But when we are patient with ourselves and the retirement process, we can start savoring the joy to be uncovered.

Now our inner child can relish the freedom of choosing how to write the script for our third trimester. 

It’s almost dizzying to consider all the possibilities before us! So yes, it will take time as we explore and try out new routines and activities.

Which is why starting with the basic pleasure of Simply Being is ever-so important.

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Bonus: Don’t miss the humorous yet wise retirement revelations from Dr. Riley Moynes ▶️ I tracked with everything he said (except for the cinnamon buns 🥧 ’cause I’m a keto eater!).

The Wrap

third trimester

Achieving the 60-year milestone does not have to mean the beginning of the end.

To the contrary, this can signal the start of a very fruitful, satisfying period of our lives. It’s all a matter of perspective.

When I reflect on the last year, I recognize that I grappled with tunnel vision when it came to defining myself. I was also hard on myself with needing to figure things out Right Now

This can happen to anyone, especially when performance in the corporate world is constantly measured and subjected to someone else’s deadlines.

And even though I knew I’m in charge of my pace and direction from hereon, I still had difficulty with releasing old stories and writing a new one. I didn’t want to be judged by others. Yet I was judging myself all along! Not fun.

But now? I’m ready! 🙌🏼

I’m choosing to make it a positively soul-satisfying adventure that only I design and direct as much as possible—how about you?

What do you think?

  • Are you also between life stories?
  • How is the transition with writing a new one going for you?
  • What’s your biggest challenge?
  • What are some of your own “a-ha!” realizations?

Feel free to drop me a line at: maryv@shiftyourstories.com 📬

...and thanks for stopping by! 🤗

new season

Clearing Space For A New Season

The last quarter of the year can be an ideal time to make room in your closet for something different. Unless you live where the weather rarely changes, a new season usually heralds clearing space to accommodate changing temperatures.

Yet regardless of your particular climate, periodically clearing space in your wardrobe for what truly supports your lifestyle—especially as it evolves—will serve you well.

Now I’m not suggesting a full-on, pull-everything-out-and-dump-on-your-bed activity. Even I feel exhausted with the thought of that! 😜

However, consider taking 5-10 minutes daily to pull out anything that is an obvious “let-it-go” item, i.e., stained, torn, ill-fitting, or simply never-worn clothing. You know the ones! Bag ’em up and let ’em go!

Starting with these small, steady tweaks will reap big benefits. After all, it’s too easy to stash and store far more than what is actually needed or used. And who remembers to exercise the one-in-one-out rule every time, when there’s room for one more? (not me! 😬)

In fact, as we buy new things, the stuff we rarely wear gets pushed to the back. It can be difficult to see what’s in there. Ever come across something hidden and say, “Oh, wow, I forgot I had this!” And then struggle to let it go? (also me! 🙄) 

Then, when it gets difficult and you’re slowing down with letting go decisions, pivot to choosing what you want to keep. Lastly, figure out what you will add in for your new season. 

Today I’m sharing 3 questions I ask myself as I decide what deserves space in my closet.  

Got your pumpkin spice latte in hand? ☕️  Let’s go!

clearing space
image by pavel danilyuk from pexels

#1: How Do I Spend My Time?

This is my opening question before I even set foot in my closet. Why? Because a supportive wardrobe is one reflecting how I actually spend my time. Once I exited the corporate world, I needed to flip the clothing ratio from less formal to more laidback.

And let me tell you, it’s HOT 😳 from May through September in my part of the world! Yes, I knew this when I relocated to Phoenix, but it didn’t fully register when my weekdays called for business attire inside an air conditioned office. (Still, hardly anyone wears hose here because of that relentless heat 🔥)

Travels near and far have amped up and socializing continues. So I still have clothing for different situations…dressy, casual, warm and cool temps.  However, the quantities of each category have changed because how I spend my time has shifted.

Acknowledging what clothing makes sense now is essential for knowing what to keep and what to buy—in all the right quantities!

clearing space
image by anastasia shuraeva from pexels

#2: What Styles And Colors Do I Favor?

Here’s a novel way to sort through your closet: start by segregating what you love and reach for the most.

When it comes to clearing out your closet, everyone agrees there’s stuff that oughta go. But the second thing that crosses our minds? The weight and work of executing those choices! 😣 After all, there is a reason for why each and every thing is in your wardrobe right now. Still, the reasons are not equally important or valid. So sift through mindfully.

Yet when purging stuff gets hard, stop and switch to easy! Now focus on your Keepers. A rolling rack is ideal for hanging all your faithful clothing companions. (It also comes in handy when preparing for an upcoming event or  trip ✈️ ) Now you can clearly see what you wear the most. Go with your first instincts and don’t overthink things.

Then step back and look for the common thread with your besties. My guess is that these are the items that feel the most comfortable, they’re the ones most suited to the majority of your activities, and the color or cut truly looks the best for your body type and taste.

There’s nothing wrong with sticking to a particular color palette, fabric, or style! When you’re drawn to certain items that you love and they love you back, why deviate? No one is going to think you’re wearing the same thing over and over. On the contrary, their impression will be that you always look good—really!

What you’re doing here is identifying a personal capsule wardrobe that will never let you down. 

shop smarter
image by andrea piacquadio from pexels

#3: What should I buy in a new season?

Lastly, think about what you’ve struggled to release while clearing space. I’m specifically referring to the “second stringers”, or items that are in perfectly good condition yet you’ve rarely worn them. Why is that? 🤔

These are often the items that were touted as the current It style. They  looked fab on the lanky model. They were the latest new hue. All the stores stocked a variation of them. And once we peeked at them online, ads followed us everywhere, urging us to buy them.

So why did they not get out closet much? Well for me, they didn’t end up flattering my body type, they weren’t my go-to power colors, or I just didn’t have enough occasions (or the right events) to wear them! 🤯

This is a huge revelation, for a few important reasons:

Firstly, I have since learned to pay attention to what looks good on shorter models or celebrities with a more athletic build like me. What drapes elegantly on a 6-foot willowy model does not necessarily flatter for me. 

Secondly, everything I admire is not practical for me to acquire. I adore sheath dresses, silk blouses, and high heels. But the opportunities to wear them are far and few between. I have a discreet number of these in my closet and I’ve drawn the line at buying more. Only window shopping allowed! 😍 (bonus: my bank account says thank you!)

And thirdly, I want to break the twitch with buying new things solely because I’m told what to wear each season. Who want to see themselves coming and going because we’re all wearing a variation of the same thing? Why must last season’s It items stop looking good simply because the fashion gurus say something different is better?

For me, a true sense of style develops when someone is aware of what best suits their taste and lifestyle and they happily and unashamedly stick with that.

clearing space

The Wrap On Clearing Space

Our lifestyle and taste changes over time so why not ensure our wardrobe reflects where we’re at now?

Wouldn’t it be fantastic to know that everything in your closet fits, flatters, and feels good? (the 3 “F’s” = my guiding mantra 🌟)

It would be like possessing a magic portal to a place filled with items we love and love us back, in all the right quantities. Our entire clothing collection would actually get a spin out on the town.

Well, perfection is not  possible so relax. But we can elevate what’s in there when we are willing to regularly evaluate the contents. Make the smart decisions about what makes sense to keep, to release, and–going forward–what we should buy less of (I know, that last one is critical—sigh! 👠👠)

No one has infinite storage space and even those with super-sized closets benefit from culling out what no longer matters. Why cling to non-performers, amiright? 🤗

If you enjoyed this post, I think you’ll find value in this one, which goes even deeper with clearing space for a new you!

And do check out these stellar Tedx Talks:

🎧 You Can Be A Minimalist. Yes, You!

🎧  Change Your Closet, Change Your Life!

🎧 The Link Between Personal Style & Identity

—And thanks for stopping by!

ranting

Social Ranting: Which Side Of The Fence Are You On?

#CoffeeBreakStory: Is Every Thought Worth Ranting About To The World?

I drastically cut back on my social media consumption during my summer hiatus, which I explained over here.  Now I’m cautiously dipping a toe back in. With a refreshed perspective, today’s story spotlights social ranting.  

To be clear, I’m not ranting about it—really! Instead, I’m pondering the value of over-sharing hot buttons while under-offering solutions. And since I’m not a rambler (a definite hot button for me), top off your coffee and let’s get right into it, shall we? 🏃‍♀️

🎉 P.S. Don’t miss the new section at the end of this story! ⤵️ September is the debut of “3 Fun or Fascinating Things”  I recently discovered—Enjoy! 🎉

ranting
image by karolina grabowska from pexels

One of my personal issues with social media is the plethora of “I think it, I’ll say it” or “I feel this way, so I’m going to lay it on you” posts.

Admittedly, I’m also telling you what I think and how I feel, every time I write, too! 🤓

However, my style is not skipping the critical subsequent step of sharing what it can mean to you—the value proposition.

In other words, I seek to provide some sort of useful takeaway: a laugh, an epiphany, a lesson, or a new perspective. ✨ 

We all have our share of negative experiences or difficult days. The struggle is real for everyone—no exceptions. So why add to that burden without offering some sort of relief when you want to talk about yours?

ranting

Three examples of ranting that make me sigh

#1: The Stranger who did them wrong

Nothing makes me wince quicker than reading a FB post which opens with, “To the person who…” and then the author proceeds to share details of an unsatisfactory experience with an unknown or unnamed person.

The transgression? It varies. But it’s typically a minor irritant, in the scheme of things. There’s never a shortage of driving examples. Perhaps someone cut them off in traffic. Maybe someone didn’t park within the lines at the store parking lot.

Does the writer really think the stranger is going to (a) read the diatribe, and (b) immediately change their ways? Or is the author simply ranting publicly … ISO a place to dump ruffled feelings or to receive validation for perceived indignations?

What are we supposed to do with this negativity? 💣

Or how about this:

#2: Whining about societal pressure to do things one way

Who doesn’t chafe against all the “shoulds” that social lays on us? What to wear, what to eat, where to go, how to be, how to do anything and everything!

It’s difficult enough figuring ourselves out. We also deal with round-the-clock bullhorns feeding us answers we didn’t ask for, which don’t necessarily align with our preferences.

But how tiresome are the unleashed posts about how the author doesn’t want to be told what to do … they are who they are and they refuse to bend. The language gets salty with “Fuck you, algorithm!” or “The Hell with you, society…I’m not ready for kids now!”

And that’s the extent of the story: leave me alone! 😡

So maybe the author is drawing a public line in the sand. I am a fervent “line draw-er” myself with being told what to do (just ask my husband, hehe).

Nevertheless, what’s the benefit for the reader? Where are the suggestions for how to do things our own way and be good with that? Or the chuckle about how to circumnavigate pressure to conform? Crickets! 😶

And lastly:

#3: A political stance about a complicated topic

I’ve yet to see how using social for ranting personal political beliefs has ever ended well. Either the author gets a bunch of head nodders, which means they didn’t change anyone’s mind, or they attract folks from the other side of the issue and it all dissolves into chaos. What was accomplished?

Even worse, I’ve seen writers dive in with “This is how I see it and I’m not interested in debating”. They may turn off comments or delete them if they aren’t in synch. Lovely, eh? 🙄

Sure, we all have freedom of speech. Rant away! But why serve up political beliefs you want others to embrace without giving them a chance to respond with their diverse views? Why not try listening?

If one doesn’t like society saying what we should do, then why do you get to rant to the rest of us  about “how it should be”?

Bottom line, is social truly the best platform for a thoughtful, considerate political discussion? In today’s increasingly polarized society, it appears to only have us dig our heels in deeper. And it also seems to sever more personal ties which is sad. 😢

ranting

Three Alternatives To Social Ranting

Firstly, when emotions are high, consider using a personal journal to process those feelings.

Maybe you weren’t a sensitive young girl who once upon a time wrote in her little diary about how rejected she felt when Johnny didn’t ask her out. Then she locked it with that little key, hid it under the mattress, and she carried on anyway. 💃🏻

But hey, same principle! Whether old school pen and paper or online digital journaling (like 750 Words which I adore and faithfully use), spew forth those negative or squirrely thoughts in private. 📕 

It’s a relief just to say them and get them out of your head, right? This allows your irrational impulses to join the party and be acknowledged.

Then, process the situation unemotionally. Think of all the times you spoke before thinking, and in hindsight, you had second thoughts or more useful conclusions. Too late now, eh? This is the power of the pause. 😎 

Secondly, figure out why you want to share your situation or outlook.

What action or perspective do you want your readers to take? Feeling compelled to vent is normal. It relieves frustration and that’s what friends are for—sometimes.

It just goes to another level when we broadcast it into the ether, going above and beyond our closest friends. How many people need to hear you gripe and moan so you can feel whole again? 🤔

How would you feel about developing a reputation for finding fault, complaining, or mounting a soapbox? Your dearest friends may not see you this way (unless it’s true 🙄) but what about those that you rarely if never meet up with? That could happen and who needs evidence of your misery in the world?

Thirdly, what value are you imparting to those receiving your words?

A vent can be turned into a useful post (look at what I’m doing here!💡)

For example, if you want to change someone’s mind, then there’s likely a lesson learned or a new way of dealing with a problem that you can provide.

Or maybe it’s about lightening up with the issue, and so you share a few laughs and jibes. You choose what your objective will be.

Ultimately, not taking every little thing too seriously is an invaluable life skill, don’t you think? 🤗

clearing space

The Wrap on Ranting

If you want to change someone’s mind or gain their support, don’t just broadcast your opinion.Tell them why your view matters to them, as well. Consider how your words will make others feel. 

In fact, sometimes saying less like I shared over here is an even wiser choice. Just sayin’ 😉

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What do you think:

  • Do you enjoy reading rants?
  • Do you regularly share them?

I’d genuinely like to hear your thoughts … and thanks for stopping by! 😀

New! 3 Fun or Fascinating Things

✅ If you’re a Foodie, you’ll enjoy the real back story of French Laundry. Savor this heartwarming short feature 🎬 of Sally Schmitt, one of California’s first female chefs who built and then sold this famous restaurant to Thomas Keller.

In Her Own Words 👩‍🍳❤️

✅ I’m FB following Fritz, the new baby hippo, at Cincinnati Zoo! Then I came across this throwback video of his older sister, Fiona, savoring an iconic summer treat.

Nom, nom, nom! 🍉

Calling all my long-haired friends! 💁🏻‍♀️ The inventor of the Scrunchie™ has died. Learn more about how Rommy Hunt Revson went from nightclub singer to millionaire businesswoman 💰

The Rise of a Boss Lady 😎

next

The Next Step Is … Actually, I’m Not Quite Sure–You?

Your Next #CoffeeBreakStory!

While you might think writers are generally writing for others, I think there are many times we are actually writing for ourselves. Unless it’s an appliance manual or some other dry instructional pamphlet … though someone’s gotta write those (just not me!)

But when we write from the heart, we write what we feel compelled to share. We write what flows from our souls and top-of-mind. And while our content may resonate, reassure or uplift someone else, most times, it’s often what we ourselves need to hear! That’s what makes writing so personal.

Yet sometimes, the impetus fades. Enthusiasm wanes. Clarity blurs. A pause is needed as we wonder, Now what?
… … …

Which is the prompt for today’s #CoffeeBreakStory. I find myself at this very crossroads again. It’s a mashup of discomfort, revelation and relief! Yet with a very definite overlay of “okay, fine–but what’s next?”

Don’t get me wrong: No one is coming to tell me what to do! I firmly believe our next move is entirely up to us. I’m just not quite sure what that is for me. I feel like the last couple years have been an exercise in figuring out what it isn’t going to be! Which is extremely valuable intel, no?

But after several occasions of thinking I found it … or I was found … Nope, not quite yet!

So for now, I’m on pause with writing on Medium, the platform I talked about in the kickoff to #CoffeeBreakStories over here. 

Although I’ve been known to slip out of social events when I’m not feeling the vibe, it felt properly adult to announce to my Medium followers that I’m taking a hiatus. 

Got your beverage of choice refilled? Here’s the story I shared there:

next
image by Bogdan R. Anton from Pexels

A Personal Journey Continues...

next
image by Dmitriy Ganin from Pexels

The Wrap On The Next Chapter

When things feel like a grind, it’s a good sign that it’s time to slow down and even pause for a bit. 

Whoever gets a map with a direct route from Point A, The Dream, to Point B, The Achievement? Anybody? 👎 Didn’t think so!

What brings us joy and fulfillment can and will evolve over time. Don’t be afraid to shift when your intuition nudges you to check out a different path.

I’m feeling that way with Medium (and perhaps with social media in general!) So a couple of upcoming trips will be the perfect time to figure things out. 

Meanwhile, I’ll still be here weekly— I hope you’ll join me, too! 😊

~~~~~

Oh, and when you have six extra minutes (a two-cup coffee break) , do listen 🎧  to this Ted Talk brilliantly delivered by (gulp) a 16-year old! Hey, I’m willing to consider wisdom from some surprising resources. Halle shares some very compelling reminders about life journeys. 

Time

Time: Too Much, Too Little, Too Late?

It's Coffee Break Story Time!

I’m simply stunned with how this year is rolling by—you, too? It got me thinking about how time is the ultimate shape-shifter. It crawls when we are bored, unhappy, or impatient for the future. It clips along when we are busy or happy. And it literally flies by the older we get.

I’m at the age where I really want to make the most of what time I have ahead of me. It starts with being honest about how I spend my time. Only then, can I make clear choices with fewer regrets afterwards.

Got a little time? Grab your coffee and dig into this weekend’s one-minute #coffeebreakstory!

Time
Image by Victoria Borodinova from Pexels

Where Does The Time Go?

Nothing f*cks you harder than time. —Ser Davos, Game of Thrones

Who doesn’t bemoan the passage of time?

 Never enough! More, please!

Time is a precious commodity easily frittered away, cavalierly ignored, or taken for granted. We put things off for another day … but does that day ever arrive? Or does regret show up instead?

Yet what if it’s not time that’s the thief of our days?

Maybe it’s what we give the privilege of our attention to that determines the satisfaction with our allotted time…

Each moment of every day is an opportunity to choose how we use our time. So it follows that we should also recognize what takes us off course. 

My personal distractors are texts, my dogs, and “sometimes” a sale on shoes. (Know thyself, eh 😉 

What steals your attention? I’m listening…

The Wrap On Time

Is time on your side? Uncover more when you reassess and redirect where your energy goes.

For a deeper dive on time management, check out Laura Vanderkam’s brilliant 12-minute TED Talk. 

New to my Coffee Break Stories? Here’s another! 

time management
image by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels
present moments

Drink In The Respite and Renewal of Ordinary Present Moments

Take five for a new coffee break story!

The present moments feel satisfyingly full when I appreciate what a gift they truly are!

I’m referring to the mundane tasks, ordinary moments, and non-events that are legitimate parts of my day. Those commonplace aspects are invaluable counterparts that let the occasional extraordinary moments and thrilling activities shine. And they also give relief to my active squirrel brain, ha!

Young children and older adults seem to readily grasp the beauty of average present moments. The former are yet unburdened with the business and busyness of life. And the latter are wise to fewer days stretching ahead than behind; they no longer take any time for granted. 

Today’s 2-minute Coffee Break Story celebrates our present moments! If you’re new to these tiny tales, they’re short form reads, 5-minutes or less. You’ll find links to prior #coffeebreakstories below.

For now, refill your cup, sit back, relax, and enjoy!

present moments
Image by Artem Beliaikin

Present Moments Matter

Present Moments
Mary V's Happy Place

Coffee Story Wrap On Present Moments

We are served selected slices of other people’s stories all day long. It’s easy to get caught up in 24-7 cajoling to constantly be in motion with something exciting, admirable, or new. Sometimes, it makes our own ordinary days feel lacking. I don’t buy into that (any more), nor should you! 

Slow down. Breathe. Step mindfully into your day.

Focus on your commonplace present moments and you’ll start to treasure just how invaluable they are.

+++     +++     +++

Make room for this soulful contemplation of the ordinary by the extraordinary Eckhart Tolle. His calm delivery lowers my blood pressure!

Head here to catch up with the kickoff of Coffee Break Stories. 

And thanks for stopping by!

personal health

Better Personal Health Journeys with Carolyn’s Community

Feeling our best matters, especially as we enter our 50s and beyond. Who doesn’t want to continue living a vital life? Which is why managing our personal health is super essential.

Yet how long was your last convo with your primary physician? If it was over 30 minutes, you’re lucky—the average PCP exam in the USA is less than 20 minutes!

Did you leave with a new diagnosis or health alert, armed only with general instructions? Or a new Rx (or two) for managing your medical status quo? Again, you’re not alone! Were you satisfied? Fully informed?

This is not intended as a condemnation of the medical community. Medicine has morphed into big business. Doctors and nurses are equally frustrated with the charting and coding activities that monopolize and divert from patient time. And the growing emphasis on monetizing a fractured health care system has led to abbreviated appointments and a lack of adequate patient education. 

So now enter my friend, Carolyn: She and thousands of other certified health coaches are filling the growing gap between the medical community and the patients they serve.

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ALERT:  Carolyn and I are not doctors or mental healthcare professionals of any kind. All medical statements by either Carolyn or myself in this post are for informational and entertainment purposes only. It is not intended to be professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care providers.

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Midlife Stories

Carolyn is the fourth in my monthly Midlife Stories series, which introduces Everyday Women Over 50 pursuing a life chapter that brings fulfillment and joy.

These are unfiltered accounts of women living life on their own terms. They’re doing what they are curious or passionate about— not what social media or anyone else tells them they should be doing! Isn’t that what we all want to achieve?

I have links below to the prior posts for this series if you’re just joining us now. But meanwhile, sit back and hear all about my friend, Carolyn, a savvy health coach and emerging personal health community builder!

How Personal Health Issues Led To Health Coaching

Carolyn’s mom actually played a pivotal role in her quest for nutritional well being. Growing up, there was no hint of processed food in the house. While Carolyn laughingly labels her mom as “a health nut ahead of her time”, there was good reason: a history of heart attacks for the 50-year old males  on her dad’s side!

While she looked longingly at the Ding Dong cakes or other sugary treats in her classmates’ lunch boxes, she had to make do with a small bag of raisins (yeah, that got tossed!). Then Carolyn broke free of the restricted food environment when she attended summer camp. She was in (temporary) nirvana, filling up on Wonder bread and margarine.

But when her folks showed up for Parents Day, they had to bring her new clothes, one size larger—whoops! Yet that didn’t alter her subsequent resolve to follow a more relaxed eating regimen once she left the nest.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

More Personal Health Issues Cropping Up

Fast forward to life in the Boston suburbs with her husband and growing family. After an initial career in marketing and advertising, Carolyn chose to be a stay-at-home Mom. The complexity of juggling the busy schedules of four active young girls in combination with an outside career was too daunting, especially since her husband traveled abroad extensively for his own career. However, she nails what being a SAHM really means: 

“Unpaid, equally stressed and busy, in order to spend more time with my own kids!”

In other words, she wore many hats for many years, volunteering on numerous school committees and community boards, plus chauffeuring to  and organizing various extracurricular activities and field trips. It was during this time that Carolyn developed IBS symptoms, which she is convinced were stress-induced. Lifestyle and diet are also classic major contributors.

And then her children started to exhibit allergies and ADHD. In fact, nationally, there were more and more reports about the rise of allergies, asthma and a new diagnosis of autism.

The more she read, the more she became convinced that she had gone overboard with allowing junk and processed food in her pantry. Mom was right! (side note: Carolyn’s dad is now in his 80s—more proof about the impact of good nutrition.) So yes, it was time for a change!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Searching for Personal Health Resources

Happily, Carolyn was able to get her IBS symptoms under control. Thanks to her newfound passion for eating right, she had already done extensive research on ways to mitigate IBS symptoms on her own.

Next, she consulted with a well-known physician, who concurred with her conclusion. He handed her a stack of prescriptions and a $5.00 refill coupon. 

 Yet rather than immediately relying on drugs, Carolyn wanted to start with incorporating some small yet powerful everyday dietary and meditation habits first.

But when she shared her desire with the doctor to postpone the drug regimen, his immediate response was, “If you don’t take these, then we’re not working together!” 

Time to get a second opinion— and so she did! Fortunately, the next physician was amenable to a “wait and see” stance. Carolyn was prepared to take the prescriptions if her lifestyle changes were insufficient. As it turns out, her IBS side effects were effectively wrangled, woohoo!

This experience was evidence of a belief that Carolyn fully embraces: we can exert a certain amount of control over our own personal health by mindfully tweaking our lifestyle choices. 

“Genetics loads the gun; environment pulls the trigger” —Francis Collins, M.D., Director of NIH

And so yes, because of this experience…a lack of medical resources (time, attention and information) for her as an individual patient…she shifted into a new life chapter. Health Coach Carolyn was born!

body acceptance

Carolyn's Coaching Philosophy

Once she earned her first Health Coach certification in 2010, Carolyn was on her way to creating her own unique method for helping others with their personal health journeys.

She attended numerous lectures and logged in hours (and hours) of research. Her Masters in Psychology combined with additional intensive courses on functional medicine has resulted in a very positive, client-centric approach.

As she puts it,

“I don’t tell people what to do. I listen. I look for their strengths in order to learn how those can be applied to their health concerns. I’m by their side, encouraging them with making small steps.”

In other words, she has no preconceived remedy or path for new clients. For Carolyn, it starts with being a companion. And that’s what she does in personalized, one-on-one sessions. Some of her clients are referred from a local physician, who readily acknowledges the gap she fills.

Then, as a way to spread the word about the unique role that health coaches play, she launched a podcast in 2020. Carolyn was completely new to the whole podcasting platform, but she dug in anyway!

Wellness While Walking Podcast

Each episode focuses on sharing 30 minutes of encouragement and education while her listeners are exercising (walking). What a brilliant concept! And she has the perfectly modulated voice to deliver a quality listening experience (my unbiased opinion, hehe!) She also includes a variety of guests.

Shameless plug: Be sure to check out episode 94, Swedish Death Clearing With Mary V.

While her daughters mostly thought of her as “Mom”, they did take notice of her coaching commitment. Carolyn overheard one them saying to a friend, “You can try new things, even if they are hard at first. My mom started a podcast at 57!”

Her topics cover a broad array, from organizing your home (lowers stress), mindset, and meal prep, to breaking the twitch with alcohol, productivity, and purpose.

When you think about a lifestyle approach for better personal health, there are all kinds of things we can do to feel and be better. And it all starts with taking small steps.

personal health steps

Her Vision For A Personal Health Community

Like the rest of us, the recent pandemic stay-home period was a wake up call for Carolyn, the Health Coach. When “meh” was sarcastically voted the word of the year in 2021, it epitomized our spirit, languishing in separation from others. With that, she knew creating a community for helping improve personal health was an essential undertaking.

So this is exactly her latest wellness endeavor, which is currently a work-in-process. I don’t want to give away too many details ahead of the launch but it will be another ingenious mashup of online group meet-ups and one-on-one coaching sessions. 

Designed with a lifestyle-driven concept, her community will welcome all age groups because issue like getting rid of household toxins, reducing inflammation, or getting better quality sleep are universal topics.

Carolyn is convinced that  strength and support can and should be found in community. The rampant fragmentation we are all witnessing in the world today makes her wince.

In her own way, as a compassionate health coach, Carolyn strives to bring people together for better wellness. I, for one, have faith in her…and I think when you meet her, you will, too!

midlife stories

The Wrap on Personal Health with Carolyn

Together, we are better!

This truly summarizes Carolyn health coaching philosophy. And little steps go a long way for improving our personal health and well being. 

As a self-described “card-carrying realistic optimist”, who better to have by your side, cheering you on!

And you’ll never be alone, when you’re part of Carolyn’s Community. As she envisions it, 

“I will be the maestro of this orchestra. Each member has their own instrument to play. Together, we will create beautiful music!”

In her “spare” time, Carolyn loves word games, dance class, funny talking IG dogs, and time with her family.

Where to find Carolyn?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 
Where to meet the other Women Over 50 featured in this series:

♥ Got thoughts about what you read here? Drop a line below … And thanks for stopping by!

(Note: images of Carolyn and her IG posts were created by her & stylized by this author)

listen

Listen: Be Known As A Great Conversationalist By Saying Less

“The best way to understand people is to listen to them.”—Ralph Nichols

Shaking his head, David grimaced as they cruised past a pan handler at the traffic light near the end of the highway exit ramp. “What is with these people? Why doesn’t he just get a job? Everyone is hiring these days!”

Nina glanced over as she tensely replied, “I always give a few dollars. How do you know what their situation is?”

“I know our tax dollars fund lots of agencies who can help, Nina!” David retorted. “How do I know this guy isn’t just scamming us?”

“I really don’t like when you assume the worst about people!” With each word, Nina’s voice got higher and tighter. “Would it hurt us to give a little? We never really know their situation, do we?”

David rolls his eyes and wonders how Nina can be so naive.

Nina sighs and questions how David can be so unsympathetic.

Impasse alert!

I’m not gonna say who’s wrong … but what if our process is?

Have you ever had a conversation like this that just goes South? I know I’ve had more than I care to remember!

We don’t see each other’s point of view because we are deeply entrenched in our own. Even a compromise can feel dissatisfying for both. There’s a whole lot of eye rolling and sighing going on everywhere, don’t you think?

And other times, you’re not even focused on the same issue. There’s back and forth sparring as you each insist on what the “real” point is. You know, the old “it’s not me, it’s YOU that doesn’t get it” clash.

It’s so distressing because we all want to be heard and understood.

Yet we actually can converse peaceably, even when we don’t agree … because 

“It’s not about being right. It’s about getting it right.” — Elizabeth Spelke

3 Listening Tips

  1. Start with recognizing an impasse is forming

Certain things trigger each of us. And then we automatically revert to a defensive position. We don’t budge. We are consumed with the feelings that descend and the words we reflexively utter reflect this unexamined state of mind.

So when someone insists they are right … when their body braces and their voice rises … when they adamantly repeat their take on things— these are clues!

Stern body language and high emotion make for a toxic combination.

Time to back off.

Equally important: pay attention when these clues describe us!

Unless we’re in a dire situation requiring action, is it really worth escalating as we go round and round? Is anyone really listening to the other? Does anyone really relish that? What does that accomplish?

   2. Next, gather more context

Adopt an attitude of curiosity. Are we sure we grasp what the other person is saying? Where is it coming from? What has been their experience? What additional intel would help us better understand their position?

Ask them to tell us more. “That’s interesting. Why do you think/feel/say that?”

Then—let’s stop talking. Start listening.

An open mind is comfortable with inviting a different perspective into a conversation.

   3. Now, end with smile

This is the moment to let it go! If we didn’t come to an agreement, that’s fine. If there were mutual questions that enabled both of us to expound on our positions, ponder that.

Our final words? “Thanks for sharing.” or “I never thought/felt about it that way.”

And now? (brace yourself)

Let them have the last word (I know, I know, argh!). But consider this: it’s actually a power move on our part.

A well-time pause can speak volumes

Wow, what just happened here?

By paying attention to emotional and physical cues, we step back timely and focus on how they see things. When others are wrapped up in their own point of view, they are not poised to entertain ours—yet. Now politely give them the platform to provide their rationale thoughts (or irrational feelings). Whether we agree or not, let’s thank them for sharing. Let’s indicate they’ve given us something to ponder. And then? Let’s ponder it! That’s how we learn!

And now, imagine if David and Nina had followed this suggested 3-step process. Perhaps their conversation could have ended like this instead:

David winked at Nina and marveled at what a wonderful listener she was!

Nina smiled lovingly at David and thought, “What an idiot he is!” NO, scratch that! She thought, “David always shares ideas that I hadn’t considered before!”

Hey, I’m just being realistic that we may still agree to disagree! But why fan the flame of division? 

Sometimes things are better left unsaid, no?

After all, being more gentle with each other recognizes that

“We’re all rough drafts of the people we’re still becoming” —Bob Goff

listen

The Wrap on How to Listen

As Dr. Joyce Brothers says, “Listening, not imitation, may be the sincerest form of flattery.”

Who doesn’t feel the world can be an incredibly noisy place? Particularly when it comes to social media, everyone is seeking attention. Hardly anyone seems to be listening … to be available to others. Maybe this is one of the reasons we find social media to be so exhausting.

And divisiveness only gets deeper when no one takes the time to listen to the other side. Yes, it can feel painful to hear a view that may be radically different from our own. But when we pay full attention, we can discern non-verbal clues about what seems to be important to someone else. It may very well be a shared value. But we won’t know unless we truly listen.

Multitasking is often the culprit when we aren’t fully present. Circle back here for a reminder to look up from your screen!

Or listen here for a powerful Tedx talk on listening!

What do you think? I'm listening!

Intentional Living

Intentional Living 2022: Teeny Tiny Actions To Shift Closer To My Big Goals

A new month in a new year signals a return to intentional living— you know, picking up those goals you jotted down last year that didn’t quite stick!

And if you’re like me, New Year’s resolutions can sometimes feel heavy. I mean, we’ve been doing this for a number of years by now. And we’re still at it with some of them! 

But who doesn’t feel there’s always room for improvement in one or more major areas of their life? So we start in January (or December, for the truly organized), dreaming about how things could be (or dare I say, should be, which is even more daunting).

But how many of those ambitious line items continue to be worked as the year unfolds?

Well, after years of pledging to be perfect (and shocker: falling far short), I’ve recognized a flaw with the inordinate emphasis on big.

So instead, I’m choosing an intentional living approach: executing on little actions that can bring my larger goals within reach. And along the way, I’ll be relishing this focus that makes each ordinary day meaningful.

Think about it this way: There are many ways to get from where I am to where I want to be. Some of those ways are direct paths, or habits to do more of. Others are detours, or habits to do less of.

I’m going to focus on incorporating the little habits in my daily life that will keep me on track and offloading the ones that derail my journey!

……………………………………………………………

Today, I’m sharing a few examples of “more and less” little habits that will comprise my 2022 Year of Intentional Living. Because working the small steps feels more sustainable than fixating on the big ones. Feel free to claim any that resonate for you!

shift with mary v

What I'll Do More Of This Year

The last few months of 2021 had me on a bit of a pause. (Over here if you missed the last post). It was a time where I was sorting out my own living intentions by shifting inward. And by doing so, I observed success with occasional tiny habits that lifted me up and felt empowering. Clearly, it was time to do more of those things!

This is still a work in progress, so I reserve the right to tweak as I go along.

But so far, I’ve drafted a short list of little actions for major categories (work, relationships, mental/physical/spiritual health). They are tiny habits which can yield big benefits when done daily.

Such as:

  • morning journal (brain dump) to release swirling thoughts and to center myself
  • physical activity to get my endorphins flowing
  • mantras to turn around worry (“I’m right on schedule”), hesitation (“do it anyway”) or negativity (“think this, not that”). The last two are courtesy of the brilliant Mel Robbins! 

Being sensitive is both a blessing and a curse for me. It’s challenging how easily my mood can turn on a dime, just by what someone says or does. It’s a reflex.

But what if at the moment when that happens, I train myself to pause? Use one of my mantras? The bottom line is, my reactions are simply old habits that can be adjusted…one day at a time.

And the good news is, each of these micro actions take less than 20 minutes and some are barely 10 seconds! With practice, they become second nature.

The more I do them, the better I feel.

And the better I feel, the better my day goes … boom!

What I'll Do Less Of This Year

On the flip side, I’m restricting what brings me down, feels like a slog, or gets me stuck. Identifying and limiting what I must allow less of …even if the world (or sometimes myself) keeps nudging me to do them.

Who knows better than I what makes sense for my own well being? Each of us is wonderfully unique. It follows that  “one-size-fits-all” / “do what everyone else does” approaches are not always best.

So what’s on my “doing less of” list? 

  • endless audible notifications
  • all-day work marathons
  • backseat driving

There’s a lot to parse here! Let me just say that incessant interruptions really derail my focus and my mood. I’ve long prided myself with my multi-tasking skills—but at what price?

Deep thinking or being fully present in a conversation means something’s gotta give with the electronic pings. The same with stealing time every few minutes to glance at my phone or to scroll a little.

And life balance is essential. My corporate days are over. While writing brings me fulfillment, it’s a blessing that my personal life does not need to constantly come second. Time to break that twitch!

So along the lines of the Pomodoro Technique, I’m not entirely giving up getting several things done….I’m just going to ensure I go deep enough with my main objectives before I reward myself with a little social catch-up!

Lastly, yeah: backseat driving refers to my instinct to control things and direct people. It’s such an ingrained habit that I find it quite humbling to realize how often I do this. Whether I’m right or not, it’s not always appreciated (yikes!). Nor is it always effective. (Time to refer above for the proper mantra!).

Some habits may likely be something I’ll need to work on forever, never quite mastering. But always refining. Like that backseat driving.

intentional living

The Wrap On Intentional Living By Way of Little Habits

Intentional Living allows us to live our best lives.

When we pause to pay attention to what our souls yearn for, we can discover our deeply personal big goals. Then we can create little habits that move us in that direction—one tiny step at a time!

This approach feels so incredibly liberating, powerful, yet doable! Which sounds like a recipe for a sustainable approach to achieving what matters most to us.

The bar is always moving higher on our big goals. But then again, so should we—don’t you think?

………………………………………………………….

For another take on why it’s hard to accomplish big goals, check out this post over here. (spoiler alert: perfectionism is a notorious non-starter!)

Did you uncover a useful idea here? Have some little habits of your own you’re incorporating this year? 

Share your takeaway in the comments below—I welcome your thoughts!

…And thanks for stopping by!

Other Posts You May Enjoy

declutter your house

5 Easy Ways To Declutter Your House Now & Still Enjoy The Holidays

Believe it or not, you can add “declutter your house” to your December to-do list and not feel overwhelmed!

Are you thinking, “Surely you jest…I’ve got a ton of things to do before family and friends descend upon me!” 

Well, stay with me: I’m thinking of areas where you can weed out excess stuff and still be ready to toast the holidays with your loved ones!

I know…it’s traditional to begin a new habit on January 1st. It’s a logical starting point for those who make New Year’s resolutions. December is often a final hurrah for eating the cookies, sipping the eggnog or laying on the couch for a Netflix binge. 

Then, when the holidays are behind us, our attention is not pulled in quite so many directions. We can focus on where we want to head next.

But if you incorporate making some small uncluttering decisions while you’re preparing to celebrate, wouldn’t it be awesome to make headway now?

After all, you’re already handling many of your possessions as you prepare your home for the holiday get togethers. 

Where to start decluttering your house can start in those very spaces you’re cleaning and clearing as you prep for your guests.

Read on about five places where you can declutter your house before the end of the year!

declutter your house
laura james | pexels

1. Declutter Your Holiday Decor

Holiday decorating both inside and outside the home is part of many a family tradition. 

When I was growing up, we amassed and displayed a fair number of Christmas ornaments, Santa Claus collectibles and outdoor lights. Some of them were even passed along to us adult children as our parents scaled back. 

If you also regularly transform your home at this time of year, how about setting out fewer items? You, too, could let your grown kids pick and choose their favorites.

Or consider donating some so others who are less financially stable can also create a festive atmosphere in their homes, too. As you’re hauling out and unwrapping your decorations, review which ones are your favorites to keep and which ones can now be shared.

Crating extra space between your favorites will also feature them front and center. Everything you look at will make your heart swell.

And then think about how streamlined next year’s holiday decorating will be when you have less to set up and then store again!

tips to declutter your house
anna tis | pexels

2. Declutter Your Everyday Decor

We generally need to swap out our knickknacks when we display holiday trinkets and decor. 

Instead of simply boxing up all your things temporarily, think about sorting and releasing some of your customary items now. It’s an ideal time to clear out what no longer thrills you, especially if you’re planning to make a move into a smaller space next year. 

Oftentimes, we don’t see clearly what is in our home because we are so familiar with our things. Once it’s time to move it or pack it, only then do we start to look at our stuff with a critical eye.

As you handle each item, is it something that you truly love? Do you use it now? Is it in working condition? Might it be something to pass on to somebody else? 

 Not sure? Then defer the decision for now but at least give the process a chance.

Don’t agonize over the decisions—if your gut instinct is to let it go, do it and move on!

declutter your linen closet
elisabeth smithard | pexels

3. Declutter Your Linen Closet

Who doesn’t set out their nicest kitchen and bathroom towels at this time of year? 

They may or may not be in holiday hues but we display the ones that are in the best condition. While you’re doing this, take some time to straighten out the linen closet or shelves.

We often have many more everyday towels, washcloths and bed sheets than we truly need. Our tastes change as our decor changes. And eventually, all towels become faded, frayed or even stained.

If you do laundry on a weekly basis, why not just keep two or three sets for those in the household and perhaps another set or two for overnight guests? All the rest would be welcome donations at any charitable organization. Animal shelters in particular would appreciate your slightly frayed hand-me-downs!

Enjoy the sight of a tidy linen closet with matching pristine towels in the shades you prefer now! 

declutter the kitchen
andrea piacquadio

4. Declutter A Kitchen Cabinet (Or Two)

For all the bakers and chefs out there, the holidays are a prime time to churn out seasonal savories and goodies.

Baking cookies with my mom is one of my favorite Christmas memories! We had sweet treats by the dozen stored in the unheated breezeway between our house and garage. Someone always had an excuse to go to the garage as a pretext to sneak a few cookies!

These days, my cookie baking marathon is no more. I’ve saved a couple of the treasured cookbooks. And I whip up a couple choice treats. However, I’ve let go of the cookie press, the tin cutouts…even my kitchen-aid (gasp!) but I have other appliances that I reach for now.

Truth is, it’s just my husband and I now and we don’t need all the sugary temptation around us. Oh, I’m not averse to making a few goodies. But the extras go home with my adult son! 

If you, too, are cooking differently, why not weed out cookware and recipe books that are no longer used? Someone else likely wants a new tradition of making Belgian waffles on Christmas Day. 

Me? I’m content with an easy overnight pop-in-the-oven breakfast casserole.  You? Perhaps you’d rather make reservations….go for it!

Declutter your kitchen gadgets in a nod to how you cook now!  

decluttering conversation
askar abayev | pexels

5. The "Declutter Your House" Convo With Family

Our families gather from near and far when the holidays arrive!

Most would agree that seeing our loved ones gathered in real life is the highlight of the season. Sure, there can be some mini-dramas here and there…all part of the deal!

It’s not often that everyone convenes, due to hectic schedules and scattered home bases. So while you’re all together, initiate the conversation about what things of yours they have always admired. 

Parents often assume their kids have the same regard for family heirlooms or mementos but it’s not true. Tastes vary and so does the capacity to incorporate large furniture or collectibles into a new household.

Here’s a short of what they likely don’t want: Top 10 Objects Kids Don’t Want!

Or check out this iconic article from The New York Times: Aging Parents With Lots of Stuff & Children Who Don’t Want It.

Instead of making assumptions about who wants what, just ask! It will help your distribution process when you start paring down in earnest. 

And if more than one of your kids wants dibs on an item, now’s the time to know. 

There are a few ways to resolve this, whether drawing straws, or making concessions on one item in return for another. It doesn’t have to be finalized now. But it’s good intel for future reference.

Above all, don’t take it personally when they feel differently about your stuff.

We each have the right to decide what enters our own homes. And no one welcomes guilt at the door, don’t you agree?

The rap with Mary V

The Wrap: How To Declutter Your House In December

  • Prune your things as you go about your holiday prep routine. You can toss, donate or gift several things in as little as 15 minutes!
  • Initiate a conversation with your adult children to learn what they would like to incorporate into their own homes. You may be surprised with the answers!
  • Your small but powerful head start to declutter your house now can reinforce your New Year’s momentum!
  • Above all, enjoy the one-on-one time with your loved ones!

Your Turn!

  • Do you normally go all out with the holiday decor?

  • Is holiday baking your thing?

  • Do you prefer hosting or making the party rounds?

  • What tradition are you ready to pass on to your kids?

Share your thoughts below …and thanks for stopping by!

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