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

My Word for 2016 – Part 1


prioritizationWriting this post in April tells you how the beginning of 2016 went for me. Typically, I’d post this in January, or February at the latest, but life has been crazy since Christmas. Jumping from obligation to obligation, I’m just now coming up for air. The chaos made my word for the year — prioritization — even more important.

Prioritization. Not the sexiest word or the most lofty. And on the surface, it seems rather practical and uninspired, but this word has tentacles that reach into my life’s every nook and cranny.

At the beginning of each new year, I set goals and pick one word that represents what I want to accomplish in the coming 365 days. The word is like the year’s theme. Last year, my word was “soar” because I wanted to step outside my comfort zone, take more chances and conquer some fears. Check, check, and check. (Read about 2015 here.)

My goals typically focused around a few key areas — career, happiness, but mostly and sadly my weight. Weigh X  and you’ll have achieved greatness! The X has shifted up 5, down 10, maintain…depending on some random expectation I had in my head. When I finally realized in the last few years that acceptance trumps the X, my weight stabilized. Crazy how that worked out.

So now what? I have room to explore other goals. Holy sh*t, what I could have accomplished all these years if I had been so focused on weight. Well, where to start? As I pondered that question, I came across this story about a jar, golf balls, and sand. It’s taken a few forms and some credit it to Steven Covey. The moral is you have to make room for the big things, aka golf balls, first and then fill in with the little things like sand. If you start with the little things, there isn’t enough room for the big things. My golf balls: family, wellness, writing, and work.


Self-explanatory. I truly like spending time with my family (and a few very good friends who are like family). They make me laugh and are my people. Yes, my hubby can get a little needy (Pisces), so I always try to make sure I have plenty of time set aside for him. If forced to make a choice, family comes first.


Working out and eating well are super important to me. Now that I’ve found my happy place physically and mentally, I don’t want to lose it. On weekdays, I get up at 4:45 A.M. so I have time to get my workout in and walk my pups before getting Ruby off to school. That is my time and it keeps me sane. To get up that early, I have to get to bed around 9ish and yes, some of my friends call me Grandma. The main sacrifice is watching TV, but with my lovely DVR, I can catch up on Game of Thrones or Younger while I workout in the morning — two birds, one stone!

Sadly, my social life sometimes has to take a back seat to wellness. Too many parties, happy hours, and dinners out overtax my willpower. So I prioritize the things I want to attend and skip those I don’t. Many times I’ll attend an event but won’t eat or drink, which throws some hosts (or fellow guests) into a tizzy — something about others abstaining makes people feel icky about themselves. Peer pressure is real yo.


Writing makes me happy and nourishes my soul, but it takes time, focus, and mental energy. When I’m slammed with other obligations or at work, my writing drops off (note, very few posts in Jan/Feb/Mar when I was super busy).


I’m lucky to have a career that pays well, is social, fulfilling, and relatively flexible. Work pays for everything else, so it falls high in the prioritization spectrum.

As I plan out the rest of the year and really, the future,  these are the four areas where I will focus. Next up, thinking about how I manage the resources — time, money, and breaths.

Letter to My Teenager

IMG_6859Dear Ruby,

You are now thirteen. A teenager. A little, well, an almost-taller-than-your-rather-tall mother woman.

Can we slow down this train a little bit? ABBA’s “Slipping Through My Fingers” plays in my head as I stand on my tippy toes to brush your hair. There is a saying by one of my favorite authors, Gretchen Rubin — “the days are long, but the years are short.” You probably won’t get it now, but someday when you’re a mother, you will. See, the day-to-day can be grueling: changing diapers, forcing your wiggling arms into down jackets, picking up toys (endlessly). Those days seemed long. But the years, the bigger picture of time, those whiz by. It seems like just yesterday when the nurse laid you on my chest for the first time, but it has been thirteen incredibly rewarding years.

I remember my 13th birthday. I felt so awkward. And fat. And dorky. You are not awkward, fat, or dorky. You are this incredible creature with amazingly thick sable hair that I can’t believe I birthed.

I like you. I like spending time with you. Your easy-going spirit is a gift. You’ve always been so easy. Sleeping through the night from the very beginning. Your first few days of life, the nurse actually made me wake you up because you had slept so long. Rarely an outburst; I could count the number of Target temper tantrums or mall meltdowns you had on one hand.

I’ve never felt so vulnerable and helpless as I have with you. When I was pregnant with you, I read a saying, “having a child is like having a little piece of your heart walking around outside your body.” Couldn’t be more true.

Before you were born, as hormones coursed through my veins, nausea raged, and I could only stomach Taco Bell chicken soft tacos with extra sour cream, I constantly feared losing you. After years of trying, I just couldn’t believe how lucky I was; I wanted you so badly.  At your birth, the umbilical cord was looped around your neck. Every time I had a contraction, your heart rate would dip and I’d panic. The first night in the hospital, you choked on phlegm and I choked like a statue, unable to help you as the nurse sprung into action. Every time I bathed you, I worried you’d drown. On my watch, you fell down the stairs and I felt guilty for days. Even with my hypervigilance, you almost got hit by a cab in Baltimore. And now, I’m expected to just let you walk around by yourself surrounded by cars, mean people, and random threats. I have to let you go, hope that I’ve taught you well and that the angels watch over you.

As part of my heart, we are permanently connected. On our trip to Disneyworld, we were in lockstep, in tune with each other; we both tired at the same time, ready to leave, not needing to tough out the line to ride the teacups.

We’re alike in so many ways. Discipline and math prowess. Your “generous” Henderson nose. Strong quads, delicate lean upper body. Inability to do pushups. Steady demeanor. Car sickness. Not crazy about roller coasters. I love when you do things like I do, borrow my clothes, want to be like me. Makes me think I’m doing something right. I like that you want to be around me.

Seeing my self-perceived flaws, things I hated about myself when I was your age, now embodied in you makes them all make sense. I realize now that genetics were at play creating my big nose and quads, which don’t seem so big on you. And those damn pushups that I couldn’t do in elementary school? It wasn’t because I was weak…it was because I have long limbs and was bigger than most of the other girls. Seeing all this now through the lens of you, makes them acceptable…beyond acceptable actually, badges of honor.

Self-control courses through your veins. What teen gets themselves up, flosses, does their homework? And all without nagging. You aren’t perfect – your room could use some love and you do like to leave trash and dishes around – but I like that you aren’t perfect. Perfection is overrated.

While I revel in our similarities, I marvel at our differences: your dark raven hair, chestnut eyes. You’re different than me and better. You have stronger drive and are more fearless. You push me to step outside my comfort zone because I want to be my best me for you. You are my ultimate inspiration. The Adventure Park, zip lining, Poetry Slam? You inspired them all.

We put you through the stability ringer with two houses, shuttling back and forth. Yet you’ve always just gone with the flow and accepted our 21st-century family. You embrace your step-family like blood, telling things to Bob that I don’t even know.

I want to spare you pain and share all I’ve learned. I want you to be better than me. Knock it out of the park on your Annie solo, keep playing soccer even when it gets boring, nail pushups even though none of the gym teachers adequately know how to teach a girl who isn’t pencil thin how to do them. While you’re kicking ass with optimism and focus, I still have a few tidbits of advice for you:

Lead with your heart

Don’t let the jerks and meanies, and there will be plenty of both, get to you. Lead with love, lead with your heart, and lead with kindness. Respond to haters with a smile. They really hate that.

Disconnect daily

It is so easy to be entertained by your devices. Turn them off and find a quite place at least once a day.

Read and write more

The more you read, the better you’ll write. The better you’ll write, the better you’ll do in school and in work.

Find movement you enjoy

We are built to move. Find movement you enjoy and do it daily. Movement will improve your mood and creates momentum. Don’t let your momentum stagnate on the couch.

Don’t put anything on the internet that you wouldn’t want me to see or that you don’t want to live online FOREVER.

It’s okay to like the bad boy, just don’t marry him.

Try not to use the word hate.

Always, always, always remember that I love you, wholly and completely. Even when I’m mad. Even when you’ve messed up. I have your back and will always love you with all my heart.

Love, Mom

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.

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Twitter: korenbarwis