Parenting Through Slow Suicide:  Adolescent Anorexia

Parenting Through Slow Suicide: Adolescent Anorexia

{This is a different kind of post for my blog. It’s personal. And vulnerable. And 1000% related to how moms juggle life and business.
It’s also full of a new passion to bring awareness to a secretive topic. At the end, I share my thoughts on how we maintain our businesses when we are facing such crises in our homes. Skip to the end if you need to know that part ASAP. I’m grateful I do run my own business. Otherwise, I would have been fired from my corporate job because of all the time I’ve needed to care for my family over the past couple of years.}

The past few months we’ve been waking up everyday to slay a dragon. It’s name is Anorexia Nervosa.

That dragon analogy I learned from another parent in the eating disorder clinic where we’ve been spending 20-25 hours per week since early December.

Shocker right? My daughter doesn’t “look” like she has anorexia. (and if someone utters those words we understand it’s simply coming from a lack of education and awareness.) Forget all your preconceived notions form photos of Angelina Jolie in the grocery checkout line.

Also, please don’t say things like “She just needs to eat.” or “Can’t you make her eat?”

After keeping this sneaky and secretive disorder to ourselves for the past 3 months, my daughter is finally at a stage of her treatment that it’s ok to share. In fact, sharing with everyone now is easier than figuring out to whom we’ve already explained the complex eating schedule, lack of participation in sports and missing school days.

It’s timely too since this is officially Eating Disorder Awareness week.

So first of all, some education. Here’s an official website full of info: https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/information/anorexia

You want the short shocking version? It could have killed her.

Her body was in the process of shutting down. Anorexia is slow suicide. We were clueless. And it has a lengthy, regimented recovery protocol that Maya may need to follow for the rest of her life.

Here’s my short official version:

  • Anorexia is a brain disorder.
  • It is not something a person chooses.
  • It has genetic and personality ties primarily which are pushed by environmental triggers (everyone wants to know “why” and that’s the best answer)
  • It’s defined simply as any restriction of food of any kind and / or excessive exercising
  • It does not define the person. We still have our Maya but sometimes it’s the eating disorder talking to us instead of her.
  • It’s a disorder of the brain that is curable, especially when treated aggressively in adolescents

Here’s what our life has looked like the past few months:

  • Structured meal plans, 6 times a day, from a licensed dietitian
  • Me making and serving ALL of her food because any contact with food prep / grocery shopping even, is an unhealthy trigger for the noisy thoughts in her brain
  • Monitoring all meals and food intake, because eating disorders are so sneaky and will try to convince her to hide, discard and lie about what food she has / has not eaten
  • Encouraging her to eat food that literally does not taste good to her (the disorder changes the taste buds)
  • Teaching her digestive system to accept food again (think of painful your muscles are when you haven’t used them in awhile and start to exercise again. Same thing but her stomach muscles instead.)
  • Enforcing “supplements” and other consequences (bedrest) when food is not consumed completely and in the timeframe required
  • Endless appointments at the Children’s Hospital Eating Disorder clinic since December 6th. (partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, psychiatrists, medical doctors, therapists, dietitians.)
  • Inability for her to sleep through the night.
  • Making sure she isn’t secretly exercising at night.
  • Reminding Maya over and over that it’s the eating disorder telling her lies about her body, her weight, her talents and gifts in this world.
  • Navigating broken friendships, careless words from people who don’t understand and figuring out who will be the “safe” people in our life we can trust during this sensitive time.

How did we get here?

(Everyone wants to know why.  So do we but truly, we may never know.  Fact is we are here, may be forever, and so we take this trial and look for the blessings in it.)

All summer we admired and praised Maya for her work ethic and discipline around her work outs and healthy eating as she reached for her goal of making the high school soccer team.

(Looking back, you know we questioned how we missed this and if we were part of the problem.)

At points, I felt she wasn’t eating enough, and her brother noticed as well, and we tried to educate her on proper calorie intake for the amount of exercise output. She appeared to be complying. And she took an extreme interest in shopping for and making her own food. She also became very interested in very work out techniques, strength training and fitness equipment. Her dad beamed for having a girl who wanted to be strong. Awesome right? Nope. A sure sign of an eating disorder I now understand.

I knew something more serious was going on around late October when Maya confessed to me her obsessive thoughts about food and calorie counting. She was scared. She didn’t like that she couldn’t stop these thoughts.

Naively I thought we could fix this by reading a couple of books, praying and getting into a counselor.

By the time we finally found the clinic at Children’s Hospital and had our assessment on December 6th, here’s what was going on with Maya physically:

Her body was shutting down. She had been restricting herself to 500-800 calories a day since June. She was constantly cold because her blood was focused around her core organs. Her heart rate was only 50. She’d been light headed and passed out a couple of times. Her digestive system was not working (I’ll spare the details but how would you feel with only 3 bathroom events in over a month?). Her female cycle had stopped. Her hair was falling out. One by one her body systems were shutting down. And she had been playing soccer in this condition as recently as a couple weeks prior. She was severely malnourished and her brain was affected as well because it simply couldn’t function.

We could have lost her to heart failure. Or suicide. That’s how serious this disorder can be.

Now here we are, 3 months later and part way through the battle and ready to share. This article is therapeutic for me, and approved by Maya. Because, for me as the mom, how did we miss this? How many other parents are missing this? (I *need* to reach you all!)  How did her coaches miss this? (multiple athletes from our school system are receiving treatment at the same clinic.  I don’t blame.  I just *need* coaches to know.)

I’m good and angry at it now. There are not enough tools. It was barely mentioned in her freshman health class this past fall. And her AP Psych teacher told me she is going to add some resources I shared to her curriculum. None of the parent meetings for all the expensive travel sports we play have EVER mentioned this is a risk and something to watch for in people who are intensely focused on athletics.

The therapists at the clinic are desperate to get the word out to pediatrician offices – who are so quick to treat for food allergies (encouraging the fear of food, deeming it the enemy). Or to simply medicate for depression and miss this completely.

I am convicted to get this information into a nutrition program for all middle and high school coaches to share with athletes and parents.

If there’s one thing you all need to take away from this, it’s how we talk about food.

All food is good food.
(in the right moderation)

We need to stop labeling food as “clean” or “dirty” or “toxic”. Yes yes I know things have changed and I’ve done this before. But it’s being taken to an extreme that manifests in full on eating disorders.

Food is her medicine. A healthy well-rounded meal plan that includes milk (gasp! dairy?) and oreos (gasp! gluten and processed sugar?) and even fries and coke. Because that’s a normalized life…..in the right moderation.

To all my fellow moms who are obsessing over your bodies with instagram selfies and diet shakes, I’m still using duct tape so I don’t unfairly snap on you. I don’t have the right words yet except to know that what WE are doing in the name of “self-care” and “healthy lifestyles” can get so far off track.

Learning to control our urges in any direction (too much or too little) is imperative. (For those of you ready to argue with me about the all food is good food fact, please read more about Orthorexia (https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/other/orthorexia) and reflect on your own habits a bit. I say this because I’ve been there myself and I care about you. We all hate that idealistic B word – balance. Yet there’s wisdom in it.

Every body is beautiful. All food is good food in the right moderation. Restriction is only a short term fix. (Note that on the flip side of anorexia are other eating disorders resulting in obesity that are equally damaging to the body. That’s not what I’m here to share, nor am I versed in it but if that’s you, please check out more resources here. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org)

{Short note to my clients who work in the fitness space, my experience is going to produce some breakthrough thinking for your marketing. We HAVE to look at things differently to get better results. You will get attention when sharing these counter-culture messages and your business will grow.}

So what does treatment and recovery look like?

At our intake visit, I pushed back sobs as the doctors told us they were debating sending her straight to the hospitalization program. For a few reasons, they decided to let us start in Intensive Outpatient treatment. They handed me the schedule and I cried again. These treatments require a lot of hands on from the parents. Because when you treat this aggressively in the adolescent years, you can change those neuropathways in the brain and basically beat the disorder into submission with structure.

So we immediately began. On her 15th birthday. With 8 hours of appointments, orientation and treatment.

Phase 1 is simply getting the body re-nourished again. Food is the medicine. It took us about 10 weeks to get there. Until then, there was little reasoning with that malnourished brain being led by eating disorder lies. We were living with an incredibly moody, unhappy teenager (don’t we all? but this was so different. so extreme. so scary in ways I can’t even put into visible words yet. scary in the worst ways you can imagine as a parent.)

Next, after the body is functioning from a nourished state again within an expected body weight range, you move into a phase where you fight those thoughts. And it’s a long one and requires still the constant vigilance with meals and eating. I’m anticipating another 6 – 12 months of this vigilance assuming we don’t have a relapse. (Yes, I’ve adjusted my 2018 business activities significantly and unapologetically and truthfully, guilt free. Nothing is more important right now.)

There is absolutely ZERO exercise of any kind allowed during treatment.

Some kids sneak in exercise in their rooms at night. For some time periods of treatment, you literally need to be with them 24/7.

We are not yet back to a point to reintroduce any exercise. In fact, even extra walking for example at the mall or an event, requires additional caloric intake…..or to be pushed in a wheel chair to not expend that energy….necessary especially when your metabolic system is trying to reset in crazy ways.

School becomes a secondary priority and for 5 weeks, she did not attend at all. (Praises to her awesome teachers for assisting thru all of this.)

There are new medicines, new ways to talk about food and eating, and a new bond with my daughter that is a beautiful blessing in the face of this challenge.

But why?

Still that question.  I understand.  I’m wielding it from family members over and over.  Many of you have thoughts in your own minds about this. Likely uneducated judgments. I used to be there too.

For a minute, I did blame myself for not seeing it and potentially encouraging bad food behaviors – calling a shake breakfast and a protein bar lunch. Working to eliminate the “toxins” from our food and eat more “clean”. These CAN be contributors with people at risk for an eating disorder.

Ultimately, it is “just” another mental illness, which some people are more genetically and / or environmentally predisposed to. 50-80% of the risk for anorexia and bulimia is genetic. (Trace, S. E., Baker, J. H., Peñas-Lledó, E., & Bulik, C. M. (2013). The genetics of eating disorders. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 9, 589-620.)

We crave to know more of the why naturally so we can get to that root cause and eliminate it right?

Here’s one more shocking (I’ve used that word 3 times in this blog and I’ve maybe never used it before in anything I’ve written) fact for you:

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.

(mink, F. E., van Hoeken, D., & Hoek, H. W. (2012). Epidemiology of eating disorders: Incidence, prevalence and mortality rates. Current Psychiatry Reports,14(4), 406-414.)

It’s aggressive. And so sneaky.

Did you know there are actually instagram accounts and forums where people with eating disorders will help each other with ways to HIDE anorexia?

(I won’t even share the names but if you suspect your child is struggling, message me and I’ll give you some ideas of what to look for in their instagram account.)

What parents should look for…. (I’ll share a few interesting unhealthy eating behaviors)

  • Dresses in layers to hide weight loss or stay warm
  • Is preoccupied with weight, food, calories, fat grams, and dieting
  • Refuses to eat certain foods, progressing to restrictions against whole categories of food (e.g., no carbohydrates, etc.)
  • Excessive use of napkins
  • Micro-chopping of food
  • Focus on eating only “clean” (right? some of you are going to lose your mind when you read this!)
  • Refusing sweets
  • Reasons to skip meals
  • Skipping breakfast
    • (innocent…we all do it but do you know if they’re eating lunch? Maya was only eating a reasonable dinner with us on many days…and only on days we actually ate dinner as a family which is approximately twice a week.)
  • stomach aches
    • (you know my first thought? oh you must have a gluten or dairy allergy. what should we cut out? Wrong. So freaking wrong. Don’t get me started.)
  • Maintains an excessive, rigid exercise regimen – despite weather, fatigue, illness, or injury
  • Withdraws from usual friends and activities and becomes more isolated, withdrawn, and secretive
  • Seems concerned about eating in public
  • Has limited social spontaneity
  • Fainting
  • Feeling cold
  • Hair loss
  • Depression, self-harm and high anxiety.

The full list of symptoms is here: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/anorexia/warning-signs-symptoms

That list may scare you. Perhaps it even triggers some warning signs for your own unhealthy relationship with food? I saw it too late. In hindsight, she was doing so many of these things and we chalked them up to “normal” teen behavior.

Here’s what I’ve learned after 12 weeks and counting of being at the eating disorder clinic on average 4 – 5 days a week.

Us parents are in this battle together. I’m grateful for the bonds we have inside the clinic that are confidential, raw, vulnerable and exhibiting parenting strength we never knew we could muster.

Good things can go bad in kids who are prone to eating disorder. For example, training hard out of determination to make the high school soccer team. Then, being around a bunch of calorie-counting upperclassmen that have a stronger influence than they realize with their words.

Or starting a work out program with a team mate to gain muscle. The team mate does great. But your child’s obsessive thoughts become an eating disorder monster from following the identical routine.

The Eating Disorder convinces these kids they are not skinny enough (and if you ask them what their goal weight is, they irrationally don’t have one because they feel they will never be skinny enough).

Eating disorders thrive in smart, high-achieving, perfectionistic students and athletes.

There is no stereotype of course but runners, soccer players, dancers, gymnasts, etc, have surrounded us in this program. Straight A students, some of them already committed to collegiate sports.

It takes a good thing – a desire to achieve and perform well – and twists it into completely irrational thinking.

If you have 10 minutes, this TED talk is the best description of what an eating disorder biologically does to the brain.

 

Support for coaches…..

I want to help you. A few of Maya’s coaches don’t even know this yet. They don’t know they coached her through complete seasons where she was barely eating.

I’m working on some resources and a plan to circulate them through our school district at a minimum.

How has this changed my view on our diet-obsessed culture?

Mostly I’ve bit my tongue and kept my hands away from the keyboard. The nicest way I can say this is that we’ve got some serious issues and I’ve been right there in that race with you all (bullet proof coffee, paleo diets, the vegan green smoothie phase, Shakeology and yes an advocare regimen of countless pills.) In case you wondered, now is 1000% not the time to come at me with why your pink drink or other magic potion is “different”.

I believe we’ve all been fed a pile of lies. And this post is not big enough to dig into that.

Where do we go from here?

A few requests straight from the heart of the one fighting this battle head on, my daughter.

  • Don’t give me “pity eyes”. I’ve got a curable sickness and want your support.
  • Don’t talk about food and dieting around me. (And please clean up your own eating habits.)

And requests from this mama who’s weary but stronger now as a result:

  • Catch this when they are young. Before they are on their own in college and beyond. (It’s considered “curable” in adolescents.)
  • Reach out to me if you need support. Please don’t hesitate. Support groups seem few and far between even in a large city like we live.
  • Reconsider your own views around food, dieting, exercise and what it means to be “healthy”. We are setting examples for those around us.

Now, for those of you who normally hang around here looking for online business advice, entrepreneurial wisdom or to start or grow your own work from home business….. you need to hear this.

To support my daughter, I had to cut my work back to 15-20 hours per week. What does that even look like and do to a business?

The message out there is hustle.  Find the time.  Your business grows as much as you put into it.  (I don’t subscribe to all those philosophies anyhow.  It’s always been a family first thing for me.)

How do you navigate your business when facing a family crisis like this?

A few reflections (because we are still in the trenches)

 1. A whole new level of Flexible

Virtual professional / freelance work is rather flexible.  You can flex not just work times but also flex the type of work and clients you take on and don’t take on. I intentionally did not take on certain types of projects and clients in this season.

2. Pick good clients

From the start pick good clients.  Most of my clients are other parents.  Most of them are Christian believers and we pray for each other’s businesses and families.   So when crisis comes, we adapt and adjust with grace and understanding.  (Since we are coming out of the darkest valley, I do now have 2 client spaces open for March & April)

3. Do only the essentials (you’ll figure that out quickly)

Drop the “shoulds”.  Stop following other people online who don’t have children (and stop comparing yourself to them!)   This is a big chant of mine anyhow that’s become so apparent in this season.

4. God will provide.

Plant seeds throughout your years of business. They will bring a harvest when you most need it.

5. Follow a financial system (I like Profit First).

Have a game plan where you have back up savings in the event you are unable to work for a season.

6. Drop the guilt and be with your family in need.

It could be easy to mega-stress load and try to keep up with everything.  But what your family needs most is the BEST you.  Calm, confident, caring and on top of it.

7.  Don’t stop self-care.

The #1 cause of relapse for eating disorders? Parent burn out. We are simply exhausted from the treatment protocol and begin to cut corners. The eating disorder sneaks back in wherever it can.

8. These seasons bring insights that can be game changers for your business

One bright light through all of this is since my client load is smaller, I’ve been able to really pour into my How She Quits Community and launch a new membership community.

B-School launch happened throughout this time period and I intentionally set a small amount of marketing I’d do for that (some emails and posts, no ads, no lives, etc.)  And still, the right people were there and ready for it.

Having this break in “normal” work has given me perspective on what I truly enjoy the most in my business.  I am certain I wouldn’t have had that perspective if I had stayed in my normal flow of client work (even though I sincerely enjoy all of my clients!)   This is good news for my clients too because I come to them refreshed and renewed with these insights on our projects.

9. If I was still in corporate, this would be the second time I was fired in a year.

Last year we found out my dad had a cancerous brain tumor and we lost him in 10 weeks.   I spent so much time with him and mom – which is the only way I wanted it to be.  6 months later I’m in eating disorder h-e-double-hockey-sticks.

If I was still in corporate, the stress would have been unbearable. And quitting would have meant instant zero salary.  Instead, I cut back, delegated my team, had lesser revenue but let’s be realistic….I worked 15-20 hours a week max and maintained a 6 figure revenue business (plus a 6 figure non-profit).

Can I encourage you to have a plan B outside of the day job?

If you are new here, I teach that freelance work is the fastest path out of a day job

But don’t drop that dream of building a longer, slower growth online business (blog, author, speaking, online training, coaching, etc).   You can be up and running with your freelance work in 60-90 days.   That leaves flexibility to keep building your passion business on the side.

More info at “start here” and “HowSheQuits.com” or if you’re ready, join us in the Collective.


Now, set all that business talk aside for a moment.  Because you’re talking to a normal, regular, real mom who’d do anything to help her daughter through a battle like this.

For those who are walking this path, I’m praying for you.

 

 

 

4 Piece Framework for Busy Moms to Build a Simple Online Business

4 Piece Framework for Busy Moms to Build a Simple Online Business

Simple-Online-Business-Busy-Moms-Episode-8

Welcome to The How She Quits Show – Episode 8

This week we’re going to take a bird’s eye view of your business and talk about the 4 cornerstones you need to have in place in order to enjoy a SIMPLE Online Business that is successful, even as a busy mom.

You might be expecting to talk about streamlining your social media posts, optimizing you blog or how to start a podcast. It’s true these things can be helpful tools to use, but I’m talking about real mom life things. You need to go deeper, and I’m encouraging you to consider aspects that will impact your work/life balance in a really meaningful way.  When this 4 piece framework is in alignment you can achieve the holy grain of running a SIMPLE Online Business that works for you and your family life.


4 Piece Framework to Build a Simple Online Business

First most important question: Will my business strategy work? Am I clear on my model, what I’m selling and how I’m selling it?

#1 What Do You Know – You’ve got to be clear on this or you’re going to hesitate in your work.

#2 What Do You Do – What does your day to day really look like? How is that serving you?

Getting solid on these first points are a great start but where you’re at with the next two can mean sabotage or success for your online business.

#3 What Do You Believe – Your thoughts impact your actions.

#4 What’s Going On in Life Around You – Reality Check.


 

Now that we have some perspective, let’s dial in. Check out the video for more examples for how to apply these steps to your online business. Then get practical with these tips on how you can gain clarity and tighten up this framework to keep your business simple and sustainable.

#1 What Do You Know 

  • Get clear on your expertise and the skills you have. What do you do well?
  • Make a list and plan for the things you don’t know but want to learn.
  • Compare yourself ONLY enough to to be sure your expectations are accurate.

#2 What Do You Do

#3 What Do You Believe

  • Get alone with your thoughts. Journal, meditate, pray, LISTEN.
  • LET GO of something that’s causing you struggle in this space.

#4 What’s Going On in Life Around You

 


So much of the advise out there right now oversimplifies or leaves out the additional responsibilities we have to consider as busy moms. This framework is high level, if you’re off in one of these areas this episode may only serve to bring more awareness to that which needs attention.

The How She Quits Collective is a community build with real life working moms in mind. It’s the place to talk with other moms that desire run an online business that is simple and sustainable. It’s a place to feel supported and well advised in your endeavors. We would love for you to join us!

Work that Works For Busy Moms

Welcome to The How She Quits Show – Episode 7

Not all of you are here to quit your day job. You’ve chosen to be a stay at home mom for multiple reasons that make sense for your family. But you want to quit stretching that single income so far! You want flexible work that accommodates a family routine.

We’re going to show you the simple steps to go from Homeschool or stay at home mom, to having some extra income in just a few hours a week.


In Episode 7

I’m visiting with Claire Crum, a Homeschool mom running a successful Virtual Assistant business all while maintaining the flexibility her family routine requires. My interview with her covered many great questions and topics those looking to enter into the Virtual Professional industry want to know, and because I know you are all busy moms (and efficiency is my love language) we’ve got time-stamps for you to jump to your burning questions.


1:40 More about Claire

4:36 How fast can I train up to become a Virtual Professional?

6:46 How much Virtual Assistant work is out there?

7:15 How to pick work that flexes around your family

10:04 How to create contracts that match the hours you want to work because this marketplace is “the wild wild west”

11:15 What kind of people hire VA’s? What kind of projects does Claire work on?

17:18 My Virtual Professional Competency Matrix and building your portfolio

21:47 Example Virtual Work Opportunities – Sign up to receive these curated lists each week at virtualworkfinder.com

25:33 REAL TALK about how much money you can make as a Virtual Assistant

31:10 Why serving well means more and better work –> How to make referrals work for you

31:53 Claire’s Verified Virtual Portfolio and how she fast tracked her learning to fill it out in just a few weeks.

36:55 How to get a FREE Virtual Professional Website + 1 year of hosting – Yes FREE, Learn More

39:10 Why the new How She Quits Collective, community of women, is the difference maker for your Virtual Assistant business

41:12 How fast can you get your first client?

44:03 Claire’s valuable closing thoughts


 

Ready for all the details to start your own mom-life friendly VA business?

Access our free webinar and resources here.

For stay at home moms, homeschool moms or any mom wanting to know how to start a VA business.

Finding Your Tribe

Success stories like Claire’s are encouraging to hear. Finding work that works for every mom by providing them with a profitable income earned within a flexible schedule and accommodates the needs of their family is a dream that I want all moms to see realized.

The How She Quits Collective was born because of my strong desire to support and mentor women on the path to finding and growing flexible work that works. I invite you to learn more about this special community of women by visiting HowSheQuitsCollective.com.

You Are NOT Behind!  Restart Your Year Now

You Are NOT Behind! Restart Your Year Now

Welcome to The How She Quits Show – Episode 6

How are you feeling about your progress toward your goals so far this year?
Has self doubt started to creep in?

We’re not going there…You Are NOT Behind.

January was a wash for me too, but….I still see progress in my business. And I’m trusting this pace and learning that we can still grow when we focus on the right things.

In Episode 6 

Where the doubt monsters and motivation thieves come from. The Optimism Bias, “Over Goal-ing”, and my Just 3 Method

Take a realistic look at the time you have available to work your business and determine what key steps are needed for progress with the Reset Exercise.

How to stay motivated and focused with systems to keep you on track and a community that brings you value.


 

I can’t emphasize enough, the benefit of having a network of peers that challenge you to learn new ways to think and perform, offer accountability for your goals and support you through challenges. The key is to find “your tribe” so that you’re not caught up in the comparison trap or spending too much time filtering to find value.

This month I’m introducing The How She Quits Collective, an online community for “regular girls” to do amazing things.

I invite you to learn more about this special community of women by visiting the link below.

When 45 Feels Like Forever 21

When 45 Feels Like Forever 21

If you are reading this and can’t believe this girl writing to you is going to be 45, join the club. Most days, I feel like I’m still the anxious 21, 22, 23 year old that jet-setted cross country in my brand new corporate job, super eager but lacking much experience. Here’s a clue…..that feeling of “am I good enough?” is one we will wrestle with every day of our life. At 45 I’m finally convinced of that and it’s mostly what keeps me jumping in the ring and facing fears every day.

For all of you 20 and 30 somethings out there, let me start by saying the 40s are legitimately the new 20s (with a slower recovery from late nights).

As I turn 45 this weekend, I’m teetering on that sharp edge of dreading the turn towards 50 and embracing the wisdom and freedom that comes with no longer caring what everyone thinks. My weak and vulnerable brain could fall either way depending on how well I’ve paid attention to my self-care, exercise, and diet to keep me in a positive place.

I’ve found a lot of me but there’s also still a lot to be discovered. As I’m “on my way to 50″, I’m also married to an even closer to a 50-year-old man. Honestly, with zero disrespect to my stud-muffin firefighter husband, I just don’t feel like I’m old enough to be married to someone who’s almost 50. 45 pushes me out of the “middle age” feel and into the “heading towards empty nester” season…..which is a mere 6.5 years away.

I hope this processing is as therapeutic for you as it is for me. The annual birthday blog always jumps out of nowhere in my brain and surprises me.

What is it about birthdays that makes me so introspective? Doesn’t matter. Here we go again.

Let me try to make this worth your while. Because serving women through my creative efforts is my opus in life. I spent a lot of time figuring that out in my early 40s and it couldn’t be more on point. No matter what I’m doing, I’ll be happy if I’m creating and serving, and especially serving women.

For those who aren’t to the 40’s yet, I encourage you to set a 42-year-old goal. That was an age that always stood out to me as “if you are doing this by 42, you’ve made it.” Whatever the heck ‘made it’ means to you.

My 42-year-old age milestone came from watching a new CEO take that title in my corporate world at age 42. It was my first realization that he seemed so young (to me in my 30’s) and that it IS possible for big accomplishments in the next few years. 

From a young age, like 15 or 16, I always had this vision that somehow I would be a CEO of a non-profit. It fully embodied my business brain and my heart’s desire to serve. I just wanted to DO GOOD in the world and wanted to build and lead something that would do so….instead of using my talents to simply line the pockets of another wealthy shareholder.

Honestly, I can’t tell you that I wrote that down, visualized it every day and made it happen. (Like all those 3 steps to your dream career blog posts tell you) It all sort of fell into place and when I started blogging at FirefighterWife.com in 2012, this was NOT where I expected to end up. I thought that blog would help me expand my web development business. Which it did, but what a wild ride now as 24-7 COMMITMENT, a national non-profit reaching millions coast-to-coast each month is changing lives. It’s the HARDEST, most important work I’ve ever done (next to marriage and parenting).

So here comes the “old lady wisdom” from this girl on the downhill slide to 50.

If you are in your 20s: LEARN. Get out there and get experiences. Work under a mentor who cares and helps develop your skills. And don’t let go of those dreams that you have no clue how you’re going to make happen. If you find yourself in a place that feels further away from those dreams and sucks your soul, get out and run fast. There’s so much more flexibility to pivot in your 20s before mortgages and babies.

If you are in your 30s: know that these are the WORKHORSE years as my husband and I call them. You are likely in high maintenance parenting zone and these are the core work years for putting away bank for retirement at the same time. Stay FOCUSED. Take time to play. Watch the seeds you are planting turn into a harvest. That blink of an eye thing with kids goes so fast (says the mom of a senior who was just a 3 lb preemie last week.)

If you are in your 40s: well, let’s not give up together ok? My face may not be the clear, smooth, shiny face that lights up facebook lives, but we can hide that video view (or make it tiny in the corner with a special diva light filter) and still drop mega wisdom on a screen share video ok? I’m only right here with you but I have a feeling that we’ve only just begun.

This year I lost my father who was 70 years and 8 days old when he passed after an aggressive 10 week battle with brain cancer that first took his mental clarity before it took his life. And when I think of all the amazing stuff my father accomplished between age 45 and 70, I realize we still have 2 maybe 3 or 4 full cycles of amazing work ahead of us!

If you are in your 50s or 60s or more and reading this, can I ask you to step alongside me and others like me as mentors and friends?

Judging from my 45 years here on this earth, there seems to be a great gap, especially in female mentorship.

In fact, when I was in my 43rd year (right after that spectacular 42nd year), I experienced a deep valley of grief and loneliness feeling like I was running this business and life race solo. Where were the women who had gone before me? I thought I had found a couple in my space only to be burned and used up. People I trusted as friends and confidantes who in the end, only wanted a piece of the pie and some of the glory. Which I’m happy to share because I’m really not about the glory….. but there’s this thing about givers and takers in friendship and I had started attracting a TON of takers.

It hurt badly.

I thought they were friends but there were qualifications around that friendship and manipulative efforts. I vowed to not let that experience cause me to hide my core values of transparency, openness and giving towards others, but to simply be more aware of the motives of others as I enter into business relationship with them.  And the internet can disguise a whole lot of stuff.  Someone who “appears” to have it all together and is “coaching” women, but has a houseful of disgruntled teenagers running away and doing drugs, maybe isn’t the person to take parenting advice from.  I’ve realized some people are so blinded by their own hurts and emotional baggage, they can’t see your situation with enough objectiveness to speak truth into your life.   They are speaking through their own -isms.   Be careful who you are taking advice from is the short way to say that.   (and as one who mentors women, I find myself being so cautious that the words I speak are not slanted by my limited views in places where I have my own -isms.)

So back to the 50s and 60s, from what I see now, women older than me who appears to possibly be a mentor, are struggling too. Their marriages are hard too. Their teenage and grown children are facing challenges too. Their business isn’t always running optimally. And the pressure feels a little stronger as the “workhorse” days are shorter on our bodies.

What’s sitting on my brain now at age 45 and heading into my 50s?

This phrase is on a post it on my bathroom sink that I scribbled while listening to a podcast one morning (#neverstoplearning)

“How will I make the next level of contribution?”

How will I give back and serve into these spaces in my heart? As a mom to my teens? As a wife to an almost 50-year-old man who could retire from the job of his dreams in as few as 6 years? To my Firefighter wives. Mom’s in corporate. Exhausted entrepreneurs who just want me to fix all that internet ninja magic for them.

May this 45th birthday milestone inspire you to think about your next level of contribution no matter what season or decade you are facing now.

And if your jaw dropped hearing that I’m 45, thank you.  It feels surreal to me each year as I age.   I still feel like I’m in my 20s and wonder if I’m really “old enough to adult like a 45 year old”.   

I want to feel Forever 21 and young at heart, even as the beautiful streaks of silver, my mom and grandma share are starting to grow at a faster rate. I predict, maybe insist, that silver will be the new purple by the time I’m 52.

And for those who want to “be like Lori when they grow up” which entirely cracks me up everytime I hear it, these are all my best free resources to change the world virtually from your home office.

But a word of caution, you may end up CEO of a national movement and wonder who gave you the keys to this important mission?   (Praise God who is always good.)

From Corporate To Work-From-Home Social Media Manager and Marketer

From Corporate To Work-From-Home Social Media Manager and Marketer

Looking at your baby can bring a rush of emotion.

Love. Warmth. Protection.. and for a lot of us? The desire to never want to leave them with someone else. To never HAVE to put them in daycare.

For Stacey Nachajaski, it was the same way. Today, I chatted with her about what catapulted her career into the virtual workspace and it is pretty simple. She is a mom that wanted to be with her family.

I am so excited to share this story with you today because the simple parts stop right there. 

For most of us, the road to freedom – working for ourselves – is NEVER easy. Stacey and I discuss her success, and just how rocky that path can take to get there. From going with your gut (investing in a $1,000 program without telling her husband!) to deciding to start an in home daycare until she brought on more virtual clients, Stacey HUSTLED. She did the working mom thing that you ALL know so well.

Sit down, pour yourself a coffee, tea, glass of wine, and enjoy – this one is great! 

Our Favorite Moments in the Video:

“The person who is running the business that you want to run is who should be your mentor” – Lori

“That (investing in a high dollar course) was the launchpad for me. It is what got me out of corporate.”  Stacey

“Your mentors change as you business does. You can have several – they can have different specialties.” Stacey

“You can shift your future in so many ways – make the math add up whatever way possible – ie. Watch kids int eh afternoon and do services work in the AM.” Lori

“Do not try to start 1-1 client services and consultant work at the same time – it is too much for your bandwidth – but you can do it soon!” Lori

“If you have 7 ideas, pick one. Pick one you can work on during the weekends or nights.” Stacey

“Your goal is to just find that first client. There are going to times that are working from 9pm-midnight.” Stacey

“The working mom hustle is really, really tough. This is something that can only happen for a few months before real burnout happens.” Lori

Show Links:

How She Quits Course – 6 Weeks to Clients 

Stacey’s Facebook Group: The Content Groove