Real Good, Real Life, Real Results with Wellness Coach: Koren Barwis

Ramblings of the Middle-Aged

Smile lines, age spots, and all

Smile lines, age spots, and all

I turn 43 on Sunday, which in itself isn’t so bad — I’m in a pretty good place physically, emotionally, professionally, and spiritually. But I recently realized that unless I move to Japan, Spain or Andorra (note – I’d need to google exactly where Andorra is in order to move there) whose women have a slightly higher life expectancy than the U.S.’s 81 years, I have passed the statistical midpoint of my life. I am middle-aged.

Hell, at this point, I’ll be lucky if I make it to 81. Cancer, the likely instrument of my demise, took my mom at 66, one grandpa at 72, and one at a tragic 51. Not loving those odds. Thankfully, both of my grandmothers lived past 90, with my Grandma Emily still going strong at 96 (probably reading this post on her iPad).

Thankfully, I often forget my age and am only thrust back into forty-something reality by my daughter. She thinks of the songs of my youth as “oldies.” The movies I grew up with and beg her to watch like The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink are to her like Gone with Wind and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner were to me.

Also, knowing that younger folks might see me as old cuts a bit. I recently downloaded an app, surely designed by a millennial, and it gave me the following age options in the profile section: 12-18, 19-25, 25-34, 35-39, and 40 and over. Seriously? A) whoever designed that profile setup is a douchebag and B) are you telling me that everyone over 40 is homogeneous? Admittedly, when I watched The Intern, I related to Robert Deniro’s retired sexagenarian way more than sassy, young Anne Hathaway.

And it isn’t just younger folks who are conspiring to make me feel old; my darling, usually very complimentary, slightly older (52) husband told me I looked “SO old” when I fell asleep last night. Believe he used “a-ged,” with a stress on that second syllable. Granted, I do have smile lines, fine lines, and the dreaded “elevens.” And zits — yes, in an especially annoying twist of hormonal injustice, along with those wrinkles, I still get pimples. Not fair hormones, not fair.

While I’m on physical injustices, why didn’t anyone tell me that with age my gums would recede leaving huge gaps for chunks of chicken and broccoli to hide in? I would have brushed more gently and not waited until my thirties to floss religiously.

The good news is, aside from the aforementioned gum negligence and some (okay too many) tanning bed visits of my youth, I don’t regret much. Even my first marriage resulted in goodness — my daughter.

The main thing I regret is wasted time: time spent hating my body, zoning out in front of the TV, surfing social media, second-guessing my gut instincts, being afraid. Time that now, at midlife, feels very finite. And that is the ultimate upside of being middle-aged — knowing that although the first half is over, there is still a very precious half left, so make the most of it.

Reflections on 2015


I love January; not only is it my birthday month, but it is a time of reflection and renewal. Every January, I create a vision board with my themes for the year and the goals I hope to accomplish over the next 12 months. My 2015 goals fell into four main buckets: Wellness, Relationships, Work, and Personal Development. Some came fairly easily…some I’m still working on. Here is where I netted out with each one:


Do a handstand and extend headstand (without the wall)

Check on both! You can read more about me overcoming my inversion fear here.

Two related goals for 2016 — do a freestanding handstand and tripod headstand from straddle. 


Do 1 pull-up

Oh, the bane of my existence! I’ve been working on my pull-up for years. I think I have a vision board from 2011 with a photo of a pull-up on it.

I know this sounds like an excuse and all the haters out there will send me names of women just like me who can crank out pull-ups, but I am just not anatomically built for pull-ups. I have a weak grip/forearms, long arms, and muscular legs. Bob does call me t-rex for a reason. And no, I cannot climb that G.D. rope either.

I’d been working with my kickass trainer Kevin Fox from LifeTime Loudoun when something he made me do last week made it all click. Finally, on 12/31, I got my chin over the bar. It wasn’t pretty and I’m not completely satisfied, but technically, we’ll call this one a win.

Goal for 2016 — climb the rope and get 3-5 good pull-ups.

Note, this was the first year in forever that losing weight was not a goal. That in itself is a win.


Meditate 5 minutes daily

Total fail. Well, maybe not total. I’ll give myself 10% credit since every morning I do roughly 15 minutes of stretching/foam rolling to tranquil music and then walk the dogs out in nature. I still want to work a formal meditation practice into my routine, but my mornings are just jammed. Maybe I can incorporate it into my workday.


Never accept less than I really want and deserve

Parent with love

These weren’t really goals, more like reminders. I’ve kept both front of mind and do my best to live by them.



Get Promoted to Director

No joy on this one either, but there are some complexities since AOL was recently purchased by Verizon. Part of setting this goal was simply putting it out there in the universe and asking for what I wanted — as a female in the corporate world, I sometimes struggle with assertiveness as it relates to title and salary. Also, I felt like I should put a work/career goal on the board, but truly, I’m happy and satisfied with what I do and the people I work with.

Be More Social at Work

Check! Since my boss’s boss knew about this goal, anytime I wanted to bail on work functions, he would mention it and I’d have to go.


Personal Development

Write Daily/Join Writing Group/Book Outline

I’ll lump all my writing goals together and will count them as a win.

I write most days in some form and just started daily journaling. Admittedly, my journaling started on 12/26, but this is the first time I’ve actually kept it up for more than a few days. I decided that I’d keep the journal next to my bed and each night just jot down a few thoughts from the day. Those blurbs range from something I’m thankful for to something I want to remember to something that made me laugh.

I have a VERY rough outline for my wellness book, Cake is Not a Tuesday Food. Lots of work to do there. I need to find a set time to write and make it a priority.

I joined a writing group at UUCS and look forward to it every month. Our small group has diverse interests, backgrounds, and strengths. The group gives me accountability and inspiration knowing I have to write something at least once a month. I also realized how much I enjoy editing and critiquing other people’s work.

A bonus writing accomplishment was that I wrote and performed my first slam poem in the UUCS Jazz Poetry Slam. I took third, but more importantly, I got out there and did it.

Writing Goals for 2016 — Find a set time to write. It would have to be between the end of my workday and before bed, but that is precious family time. I’m open to suggestions if someone has a brilliant solution…but mornings are out. I already get up at 4:35 to workout, walk the dogs, get myself ready and get Ruby to school. Also, I want to get better at slam poetry and perform a few more times.


Save for a Beach House

Not much movement here.

Goal for 2016 — This will be the year we truly get our finances in order. I want to plan out our home improvement projects, vacations, and long-term retirement.


Be a gun sense volunteer

Half-check…although I could have done more. I joined Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and attended my first meeting. I will get more involved in 2016, including more writing to support the organization and attending this Vigil & Advocacy Day in Richmond on January 18.


Travel to a new continent

African Ellie

Spending time with ellies in Africa

Knocked this one out of the park! I went to Africa in August on Yoga Safari 2015 (read more about that here and here). Coincidentally, on my vision board I had highlighted countries I wanted to visit and I had randomly highlighted Zimbabwe, having no clue I would be going there in August.



Do one daring thing

Who would have known how this little sentence would push me to try so many new things this year? When presented with something I would normally chicken out of, I would envision those words and just do it.

Bob and I went to Puerto Rico and my boss recommended a sunset kayak ecotour. Some might not think this was very daring, but it was completely outside my (and Bob’s) comfort zone. Keeping this guidepost in mind, we signed up. The experience was beautiful and scary.

My daughter wanted to go to a ropes course this Spring. Not a fan of heights, I wasn’t thrilled, but I sucked up my courage and went through the purple (aka beginner) course. We even tried another park the following weekend. And as luck would have it, my boss decided to do a team building event at a similar park a few months later. I was very thankful to have had that practice and the associated confidence. I went on a huge (okay, it was big to me) zip line and even encouraged a few of my frightened colleagues.

On my trip to Africa, we went canoeing on the Zambezi with crocodiles and hippos. Talk about daring…especially when a hippo surfaced right under the canoe behind us.

And don’t forget the aforementioned Jazz Poetry Slam.


My word for the year was SOAR. I’ve never really liked birds, so not exactly sure why I picked a word so closely associated to them, but I do envy their ability to fly. I often dream of flying and think SOAR represented spreading my wings and stepping outside my comfort zone, while remaining peaceful and calm. Not quite sure I soared in 2015, but I did develop an affinity for birds. On my trip to Africa, the brown eagle owl was one of my favorite animal sitings.

All in all, I achieved most of what I set out to accomplish. Creating a vision board helped; posting a photo of it on Facebook definitely helped — no escaping that accountability, if even just in my own mind. I’m now working on 2016 and will share that in a few weeks once I’ve pulled it all together. One teaser…my word for 2016 is PRIORITIZATION.

Tree Do-Over

We put up our Christmas tree last night, a tradition I cherish and my husband dreads. He keeps campaigning for an artificial tree — less mess, less hassle — but I love the smell and imperfections of a real one. So we went to the same nursery that we go to every year, found a great tree, loaded it up, and got it home. Then the fun (and cursing) really started — trying to get the tree straight in the stand.

We have a heavy-duty, top-of-the-line stand that has three long legs and three big bolts. I do the tightening while my hubby holds the tree. After several attempts, we finally got it pretty close to straight.

Next, I strung the lights, white and red, the latter a nod to my mom’s tree. Then the girls and I started with the ornaments, hanging our favorites first. We have a wide variety of special mementos collected over the years in the Henderson (my Mom), Barwis (Bob’s family) and my households. With resident dogs and a cat, as well as visiting toddlers, we all know better than to put any fragile ornaments near the bottom. The girls bored quickly, so I put on the finishing touches — baubles, balls, and ribbons. Lastly, Ruby had her annual honor of placing our Santa tree-topper. Voila, perfection.

Just as I drifted off to sleep, I heard a loud crash. Bob confirmed my fears that the tree had toppled over and no, it wasn’t the animals’ fault; they were all accounted for.

I jumped out of bed in my sleepshirt and ran barefoot into the sunroom. What a sad sight — our beautiful tree face down with water pooling everywhere (because of course I had just filled the base). Ornaments were scattered, some shattered. One particularly sad casualty was a porcelain goose with dangling webbed feet that belonged to my mom; its body in pieces. Thankfully none of my stepkids’ ornaments from their early childhood with their mom were ruined in the fall.

After a few long moments and deep sighs, we propped the tree back up, securing the base extra tightly. It was a little askew, but it was upright. Ruby feared it would fall again, so she removed all her favorite ornaments. I sopped up the water and went to bed with a heavy heart.

Original -- Broken Goose -- The Do-Over

The Original — The Broken Goose — The Do-Over

My Mom always said things look better in the morning light and the tree was no exception. When I got up the next day, it didn’t look quite as disordered as it had last night. I turned on the lights and they all still worked. Albeit askew, the tree looked beautiful in a disheveled, imperfect way.

And it dawned on me – this was a metaphor for my life.

There was a time when I thought I had the perfect life – every bauble in place, every ribbon draped impeccably. But then my life fell on its face and there was breakage and displacement. In time, I picked my life back up, propped it up (sturdier this time), and started over. It was never the same, actually it was better.

I was half-tempted to leave the tree as it stood that morning, a wonderful symbol of imperfection, renewal, and tenacity, but the Pinterest mom in me just couldn’t do it. I put the ornaments back on, adjusted the ribbons, even added a few extra bows. Now it is a stunning reminder that sometimes life topples your tree. Just prop it back up, clean up the mess, and start again.

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Twitter: korenbarwis