Redefining Best

I see you all, out there doing your best, yet still feeling like you’re falling short; giving what you have to give and then, in hindsight, feeling inadequate.

When will we be able to acknowledge and feel comfortable knowing that our efforts are enough?

Only when we give ourselves permission to. Only when we stop looking outside ourselves for what defines best. Only when we unlearn how to qualify what best means.

We must stop trying to measure best. We must stop comparing bests. We are judging what we believe to be others’ bests against our own, and – not to mention – we’re trying to cover too many areas with our bests, which leads to mediocre everything.

Best is relative. The variables of best are endless. Best does not stand up to comparison, competition, judgement or critique.

Best is not linear; yesterday’s best could outdo today’s, and yet, that doesn’t mean that today’s effort wasn’t you showing up in the best way you could.

Best is a snapshot; intangible, liquid, fleeting.

Our best is what we have to give in any given moment. It changes, day to day, hour to hour. Our best can look weak or strong, calm or chaotic, but that does not change that it is what we have to give.

Best cannot be measured; it is a moment in time where we use the tools at our disposal, our knowledge as it stands in that moment, and there is no ruler that can quantify the results.

Our best is never perfect, and it may not be equivalent to success. It does not have any less value than what our best looked like yesterday, or what it may look like tomorrow.

Giving what we have to give is always enough. Our best is always enough.

Say it again. Say it over. And over.

Our best is always enough.

Why are we consistently beating ourselves up for giving everything we have to give? Berating ourselves for our best not being “as good” as someone else’s?

Do your best. Learn, grow, practice, train. Then, do your best. Don’t berate or belittle it, or hold it up for comparison. Recognize it, and own it. One day, our best might look like movement, and another it might look like sitting still. It may be reaching out to connect, or insulating ourselves to refuel. It is constantly shifting.

Achieving best is a cycle that we repeat until the end of time, and it is entirely internal and personal.

Best is a practice, not a destination.

Packing vs. Baggage

I’m a zealous over-packer. I like to have options. I like to be prepared for any number of situations, events, or misfortunes. My over-packing will, nine times out of ten, result in carrying back four or five outfits I never had the opportunity to wear when the trip concludes.

At least I got to work out my biceps, carrying all that weight around?

I like to comfort my overactive imagination (OK, let’s call a spade a spade, anxiety) with options, to feel prepared, ready for anything that may arise and anywhere travels may take me. They usually take me exactly where it is predicted I will be going, and a narrowed selection of attire would suit the occasions just fine, just as my husband tries to impart upon me as I struggle to zip the zipper.

This week, as more discussions and plans are happening around lifting stay-at-home orders and reopening businesses to the public, I’m trying to work out what I want to carry with me as I step outside the bubble I have been occupying.

How can we best prepare ourselves for what will greet us on the other side of this pandemic?

We will not be going back to the life we once knew. Normal is – and always has been – relative; we will not be able to rely on previous experiences. We must prepare ourselves, so that we do not plunge back into the abyss, the cycle of anxiety, anger and grief we have already walked.

Acceptance is going to be at the heart of moving forward.

How can we rethink, reframe normal? How can we begin to become accepting of the environment we will soon find ourselves in? A rush to “reopen” will not be a return to what was. This will hit us every time we venture out, to visit businesses, partake in previous activities. Our instinct will be to react against new rules, regulations and stipulations. If we don’t prepare ourselves, our emotions will be ripped open again, and we will rail against the new and wax poetic on what was.

I’m not sure how to build myself a cushion for those emotions just yet, but what I can work on is strengthening past behaviors I needed to change.

I am working through recognizing not just what I want to pack up and take with me from this pause, but also what I don’t want to continue to carry.

I will have to let go of some old habits, stories, mindsets if I want to emerge from this pause any better than I went into it, and create space for acceptance of the new.

When you are evaluating what you can pack up and take into this new season of life, not from when life was normal, but from what you have learned during this pause, think about what baggage you can unload that you no longer should be carrying.

For me, a few things that occupy that baggage list are:

Being less honest than I want to be and justifying it with the platitude of being nice. One can still be honest, and kind.

Doubting myself.

Feeling guilty when my values and choices don’t align with someone else’s.

Feeling badly when I say no to something I didn’t really want to commit time to, and feeling that it’s necessary to provide an explanation.

Doing things simply because others do them, or expect or believe I should be doing them.

Perpetuating stories that I was given, or accepted, and believe as truths that aren’t my storyline.

All of these things that I do, I typically do so under the guise of being kind or accommodating, and really I am simply undermining myself time and time again. These learned behaviors that have plagued and followed me through my journey are not beneficial to me, no matter how they mask themselves. Right now, I can cultivate, strengthen and reinforce my trust and confidence in myself. It’s misdirected to believe that others give you this; it’s only something you can gift yourself.

Pick and choose what you carry into this new season. We have the choice to leave most of what weighed us down before behind.

What are you packing, and what are you leaving behind in baggage claim?

Self Valuation

We rely so much on the outside world. We place so much value on others’ opinions, feelings, reactions. We rarely have the opportunity to slow down and recognize how much of who we think we are is wrapped up in external sources: our jobs, other people, things, social media, the places we go. Over the past few days I have begun to grapple with this. It’s not something I haven’t thought of before, but it is certainly something I lose sight of in the pace of ordinary life.

How much of our own self value do we give up, every single day?

As someone who is, under normal circumstances, typically crushed by the “busy” and functioning in survival mode, I can see how it propelled me. I was comfortable there; despite my discomfort, it was a discomfort I knew. I found a twisted sense of solace in it; it was, in its own way, an anesthetizing agent much like food or alcohol can be, and highly addictive. I gave my time, my thoughts, my energy up to so many things, undervaluing myself every time I did so.

The current pace of life is of course much, much different, and I’m left with choices which I have struggled with; I am not accustomed to being the rudder of my own vessel. Busy gave me structure, and my family’s schedules gave me direction. Over the course of my path in writing, I have touched upon how I recognized that allowing each of them their moment to shine wasn’t negative in and of itself, however consistently deferring to them wasn’t necessarily the best thing for me.

I’m working on embracing this freedom, however temporary it may be, and structuring each day by how I want it to flow. This is a practice, and I’m getting better at it, little by little. On the days I am successful, I am taking the time to ask myself what would work best, how I want to feel at the end of the day and listing out what that might mean; what music is playing, what foods am I preparing, what one or two things would make me feel satisfied to have accomplished, are there ways to add something that would spark a bit of joy. I am also learning (or, constantly relearning) how to let the little things go. I am working on my relationships with my daughters, and cultivating better conversations. None of these things would have been previously nor would be impossible in the future to incorporate into the normal pace of life; I just lost sense of them. I am hoping that, with practice, they become a bit more of a ritual I can prioritize.

Because, if I do not value myself, no one else is going to do it for me.

I am also noticing that I have more confidence each day I am successful in knowing what works for me, in listening, understanding, knowing and acting upon what I need.

There are numerous avenues in which to seek, find, read, and hear the things we should or shouldn’t be doing, who is doing it better, who did it first, what we should be feeling, how we should be working through those feelings. So much noise. Now is one of the only times we might be able to choose to turn it off.

The truth is, we all process things differently, and no one knows what you could benefit from more than you. Tune into you. What do you need? What is your body, mind, soul or heart craving that you can accommodate in this current space? Oh, and one tip: don’t wait until 4pm to figure this out. If I haven’t worked these things out when I’m in the best mindset, you’ll find me rummaging in my pantry at 4pm for my third snack and pouring myself a drink shortly thereafter.

Do you know what makes you tick, what makes you happy, how you can soothe yourself, and what works to hold off or even in place of your vices? What could you lean into right now, that you can build on when life resumes? I’m not necessarily asking myself what I want to return to from when life was normal, but what I want to take with me from this pause. If you are having a hard time connecting with what that means for you, you could start here, with an old blog post I wrote when I was just discovering that I didn’t have any idea what that meant for myself.

I am beginning to realize that this is a time to redevelop my sense of self.

I almost squandered it, with TV, social media, booze and giving myself permission to write this time off. But I’m far more important, deserving, worthy and valuable than that.

And so, my friend, are you.

I recognize this is a privilege that I have, and not all are so lucky. However, I don’t feel I need to concede my feelings for the challenges that I am not facing. I can empathize without crippling my own self worth and growth; this isn’t a message for everyone. More often than not I find I write exactly what it is I – and others, it would seem – am needing to hear.


I have been existing in a pattern of behaviors and emotions.

I have been stuck, on pause, waiting for a return of normalcy.

And doing what felt good in the moment was fine.

Then, the announcement came that there are a minimum of at least five more weeks of life as we currently know it in my state and I knew I couldn’t continue doing what I was doing for much longer, let alone weeks.

I was stuck in the same pattern of resolving to do better than last week on Sunday, doing alright Monday, slightly less alright Tuesday, drinking away my feelings while drowning them further in Netflix by Wednesday night, and then just writing the whole week off. It was like clockwork.

Wednesdays, for some reason, seem to be the days where life, that I think I can tuck it into a nice little bow, unravels at warp speed.

I knew I needed to find some way to moor this untethered raft. Rules don’t apply. Logic doesn’t apply. Default operating systems and coping strategies don’t apply.

And so, I sat with the following question: “What do I want to feel like, and what can I do that is within my control to help me feel that way?”

What are the anchors in your well-being? For me, they are:

Drinking water. Two glasses when I get up, two more before lunch, two in the afternoon and two between dinner and bed. That was the routine that worked for me when I was at my most successfully hydrated self, so I fell back on that dusty habit.

Eating better. Focusing on foods that fuel me and fill me up versus foods that just feel good to eat in a moment where I become overwhelmed or stressed or just plain sad. I wasn’t eating well enough at lunch, which was leading to some serious pantry diving around 4pm, when the day starts to weigh heaviest.

Movement. 30 minutes or more every day, and recognizing that I could just take a walk and meet that goal, I didn’t need to burn 500 calories to feel satisfied with my effort.

Managing a very stripped down version of a to do list. I am a list person; if you’re not, this one likely isn’t going to ring any bells for you, but this was a game-changer for me. Typically, I chart out my week and list off all of the things that need to happen each day. Now, I’m building a list of one or two things in the morning that will make me feel accomplished if I can cross them off by the end of the day, and not looking forward any more than that. On some days that might be the laundry, it might be the dishes, it might be simply making my bed.

Finding things that I could do for myself that bring me joy. I repotted my indoor plants. I applied lotion (seriously, made me feel not just human, but pampered even). I made frothed milk for my coffee. I connected with my friends. I looked for ways that I could brighten others’ days in fun, creative ways. Not all of these things every day, just one or two as the flow of the day allowed.

And finally, the most grounding thing that I could think of was to return to my nighttime routine. I was never good at the morning routine. It never clicked for me. But a nighttime routine? That is where the magic is for me. I get ready for bed with my youngest, put my phone away, dim the lights, practice my daily gratitude and then read. Simple, yet effective. It sets the foundation for me for the next day like nothing else.

These things all make me feel nourished, and more human. They add energy and purpose to my days. They make me feel accomplished and satisfied. And they compound; typically, when I’ve made the effort to move and drink water, I’m not inclined to pour myself a glass of wine or veg out on the couch, I’m more inclined to get to bed at a reasonable hour and wake up and do it all over again the next day.

I put a post out on social, asking for a suggestions on what others were doing that made them feel like they were handling life in its current iteration. Folks offered back things like loosely structured schedules, movement goals, time outside, manageable checklists, doing one single thing a day that makes you feel good, showering, putting on real clothes and getting ready for the day as normal, shunning the pressures of “productivity”, trying something new, leaving consistency at the door, and not overthinking this season that we are in.

I share all of these bits and pieces with you so that, if you’re feeling stuck in this cycle like I am, you can take what you want and leave the rest.

Find the anchors that can slow the drift if you find yourself too far from shore.


The Right Recipe

I’ve been cooking a lot lately. I bet you have too. Not that I didn’t cook before life as we knew it imploded, but it certainly wasn’t to the tune of three square meals a day, seven days a week, and a generous dishing of snacks in between.

Keeping it somewhat variable has been a challenge; provided that I can find a recipe that I am not so intimidated by, and given that I can then subsequently find the ingredients for said recipe, it’s been a little dicey (lame culinary pun intended). I am not my grandmother’s granddaughter; that woman could always throw a little of this and a little of that together and make magic happen.

I’m not into the imprecise types of recipes that hold a vague sense of direction like “dash” or “sprinkle”. No, I much prefer to be given the specific, to the quarter of a teaspoon, step-by-step directions.


I’m like this in a lot of ways; I like to know the expectations, the rules, the “how-to” of it all.

I’m apparently much more confident in others’ ability to know the correct answer than in my own.

It occurred to me yesterday, as I was scrolling through Pinterest to find a specific recipe, that I feel as though someone has handed me an ambiguous, nebulous recipe for life. A “dash” of home-schooling with a “sprinkle” of parenting, a “good amount” of working from home and a “pinch” of house-wifery.

On the one hand, I want someone to lay out for me what exactly it is I should be doing, and when I should be doing it. Tell me the schedule for meal times and bedtimes. Tell me how many hours my kids should be working on school work, and not on their screens. When should we work in activities, exercise, family games, arts and crafts. When to focus on the parenting of my kids and when I might be able to make time for myself or my marriage. Give me the formula for that mix that equals success.

But I can no more take that recipe – even if there was one – and create the best stay-at-home, homeschooling, work-from-home mother than I can cook in a three-star Michelin restaurant just by virtue of someone handing me the instructions for the dish. What is working for other people right now would likely not work for me.

Along this journey that I have been on in self-development and personal growth I have stumbled more times trying to follow someone else’s recipe to the letter than I have succeeded. I have tried to emulate other people’s strategies, to the time, to the day, to the activity, and it has never worked quite how they made it appear for me. For awhile I kept searching, though.

Because someone’s gotta have their shit figured out a bit better than me, right? There has to be an adult out there who can point me in the right direction.

Maybe not.

This new world order has shown me that there is a ton of room for improving upon my need and propensity to know the rules and expectations, to understand where the boundary lines fall, and to not question why and even if they should exist in the first place.

We’ve all been given an invitation to undo our own certainties, and release our need for the assurances of others.

Perhaps this might just be the way to find our own best recipe; starting over from scratch, with the ingredients we have, as much or as little as we want to add, and creating something new and wonderful from the basic ingredients. Just like learning the basics of how to perfect a recipe, however, we’ll need time and a fair amount of failure to get a palatable first pass, not to mention to perfect the process. How we can best support our families, our spouses, our friends, ourselves; how we can build our parenting, our marriages, our friendships, our habits in new and better ways.

Good luck in your own kitchens, readers, and remember to throw in a generous amount of grace with each stir of your spoon.


Last week was…weird? Discombobulated? I struggle to find a word that succinctly wraps it all up nice and neatly in an orderly, grammatical way.

I didn’t know how to respond to everything that was happening, and happening so quickly. So many shifts. I was conflicted, caught somewhere between acting like everything was normal, because on some level things felt normal, and at the same time knowing everything was far from normal. I didn’t know what to do or not do, and my actions mimicked the confusion. Some days I stayed in pajamas. Other days I got dressed. I didn’t monitor anyone’s screen time for hours on end, or I was micro-focused on it, there was no in between. I put off going to the grocery store (and as a serial meal planner, this might have felt the most unhinged). Underlying all of that was knowing that my girls felt similarly, had less of an ability to hang on to their own emotions, and I had to show them some modicum of normality amidst a complete lack of it.

I vacillated between wanting to drink all the bottles of wine because I felt stressed and overwhelmed, a dear old coping mechanism of mine, and sticking religiously with my hydration plan that I have cultivated which I know makes me feel nourished and clear-headed. I have Pinterested school schedules, and I have not given a damn about what my kids were doing in terms of routine. I have thought about going for a walk and then scrolled Facebook for the better part of two hours. I have been zen, and I have utterly and completely lost my shit over the smallest of things. I have subscribed to virtual yoga classes and not done a single one. I have stuck to my somewhat normal workout routine thanks to my local gym community, albeit virtually, only to turn around and eat half a bag of chips I discovered hiding in the back of our pantry. I have cleaned out all of the kitchen cabinets in a Marie Kondo effort, and I have napped.

And you know what? Every single one of those things were OK.

I gave myself a pass last week. There was so much coming at me that if I took it all in I knew I would hit system overload. This sudden and abrupt shift of all the time in the world felt like a gift and a curse; I simultaneously wanted to take advantage of it and do all the things but also internally railed against the need to be productive.

After allowing myself that time to wallow, however, I knew that I needed to be a bit more intentional. On Sunday, my typical weekly planning day, I told myself I would stick to the basics that I have been working on building, before life spiraled into the plot for a sci-fi novel. Focusing on what made me feel best – gratitude, sleep, movement, water intake and limiting alcohol, auditing my consumption of media and reading materials, as well as sticking with my nightly routine – and discarding those that just weren’t sticking, such as waking at 5am and journaling every day. I have no time or tolerance at this juncture for working hard at things that I don’t thrive in doing. Also, building unsustainable habits that work through a pandemic but not into the days that will be reminiscent of business-as-normal probably isn’t the best laid plan.

There’s plenty that I want to drink about, there are more than enough things that could keep me up at night, and I am definitely not going to make the homeschool teacher all-star team.

And there are definitely times, like yesterday after a trip to the grocery store where people in an otherwise genuinely friendly community hesitated to look each other in the eye much less say hello from a safe distance, where I pause to feel the emotions that I can’t deny are there, swirling all about.

This is not a time for rockstars. It took us years to groom our at-work skills. This is a time to lower the bar, do what you can to make yourself feel good, feel your emotions, and for the love of god, connect with your social networks. Those things will help you through the five thousandth “Mommmm”, the incomprehensible math work and the sheer chaos that will likely ensue from being sheltered-in-place with those you love so, so dearly (and yes, I am trying not to be sarcastic here).

This is not a time to pick up heavy things just for the sake of lifting.

There has been this increasing pressure to be productive with all of our time. To be “busy”. I think this might be the time for us all to take a pause on productivity and perhaps just connect with those things that make us feel good – not temporarily good, but nourished, cared-for and genuinely good.

My boss once gave me a card, after a particularly rough day I had, and the front simply said, “Exhale”. I still have it. It reminds me to take deep breaths.

On a regular day, I need that reminder often. Now, I need that tattooed on my forehead. Or perhaps my hand because, let’s face it, I’m not really taking the time to pause in the mirror.

This is temporary. And it’s uncomfortable. It’s challenging and hard and lonely and beautiful and peaceful. It’s so many things, and all the things all at once. Let’s just focus on getting through it as best as we can. Cry when you need to, smile when you can, and take some deep breaths.


Slicing Toast

toast, bread,

Most of us cut toast without thinking about it. Whether it’s in twos or fours, squares or triangles, we each have a set way that we slice toast, an automatic response to a task built in our neural pathways, created the first time we observed someone cutting toast and strengthened each time we prepared our own.

Why do we slice toast this way?

What if we actively tried slicing our toast another way?

So much of what we do is simply performing rote tasks, and we don’t take the time to stop and question them.

Isn’t it worth thinking about why we do the things we do, and if they are the most efficient, productive use of our time and energy? Do the things that we do out of habit even align with our own personal beliefs, our goals, our end game?

The start to my days used to consist of hitting snooze. More than once. Coming home and starting dinner preparations included an automatic pop of a wine bottle or beer tab, because I “deserved” it after getting through the day and “needed” it to get through the evening. Putting the last kid to bed led straight to sitting on the couch, clicking power on the TV remote, and consuming mindless content for hours. And then, that routine simply automated cyclically, day after day, with no real intention.

It became routine simply by not trying to do something different.

Put that way, it seems a little silly, doesn’t it?

Start with slicing toast. Apply this introspection across every one of your seemingly mindless, habitual tasks. But, a piece of advice: start one by one, or you’ll get overwhelmed quickly. Work through one habit for a period of time and then start on another.

A trick that has worked and continues to work for me is to keep track of the days that I am successful at not following through with an old habit or creating a new habit. I do this for three months; each month I try to improve on the percentage of success over the last. I prefer to see this progress visually, so I print out a simple tracker made in Excel and fill in successful boxes in black and unsuccessful boxes in red each day. The act of referring to this sheet daily keeps me mindful.

By the end of the three months, I usually have a good success rate, and a habit formed. Then, I will start a new tracking sheet for the next three months, and add another habit, while still tracking the last until it is a three-month streak of success. That is when something that I want to do, or hope to do, or something that I wish to stop, moves from intention to habit to simply something that I do – or don’t do – almost without thinking about it.

This is a marathon, not a sprint.

And it’s not about slicing toast.


Disparate Paths

Our journeys are never the same.

There may be similarities; for instance, we’re all carrying extra weight. We all have some things to shed. A portion of your weight might look familiar to me; we may meet at a juncture and connect over the shared burden.

But, I do not know what came before that point for you, and vice versa. You may be in the very beginning, the middle or nearing the end of this particular climb.

We may continue on the same path together for a while, or we may choose alternate routes. We could also travel along the same path, but at different paces.

I might not see your path; you might not choose to travel mine. If you did, you might see something along that very same course that I didn’t.

We often make the mistake of following someone else’s path to get a similar result.

Take what you want, and leave the rest. Some things are just not necessary tools for your journey.



Intentional internal change is not like a lightning bolt or an explosion.

External change, the kind that can alter our lives in an instant, can happen like that, loud and fast. However, when we are trying to create change within ourselves, it is rarely sudden, and is more like a long, slow build. It never really reaches any sort of peak; more accurately, it becomes.

I wanted to type “it simply becomes” there, but it is anything but simple.

Internal change comes from consistency. It comes from developing a pattern of listening to, nourishing and respecting ourselves, our minds and our bodies. It comes from seeking out, encouraging, feeding and creating the right kind of energy, from being aware of our consumption at every level. It comes from changing our inner dialogue; unlearning the patterns created from our past and external influences, and learning how to hold an internal conversation that builds ourselves up rather than allowing the inner critic to step in and tear us down.

Consistency is not an overnight action. It is methodical and practiced. It is based in habits. It usually includes a few starts and stops. It requires patience, perhaps most especially with ourselves, because the little ways in which we stretch ourselves can feel really big and uncomfortable.

change, neon, light, sign, quote, word, consistency, habit

And then, something happens.

It happens quietly. You work towards a thing slowly. You practice. You fumble and start again. However, after some time, you suddenly realize you’re not just working towards that thing, you are a person who does that thing. It may still require effort, but rather than negotiating with yourself, weighing your options, or much internal debate, you now just do the thing.

You can know what you want to change, but without a foundation of what might seem like trivial details, changes made with little to no support can be quick-lived and unsustainable.

If you are looking for true change, identify and work on those small things you can commit to consistently; when building a new default by design, there will be trial and error. If you fail, simply start again. There are times where difficulty and challenge can be an indication that perhaps that particular practice or habit simply wasn’t meant for you. But, if you feel a pull in that direction, it may just mean you need to give yourself a bit of grace and try again.

Small changes really do lead to the big ones; how you do the little things is how you will do the big things.


The Battlefield

My middle child, now eleven, screamed for the first four months of her life. Unless she was in a swing. That swing saved my life, and probably several lives of those in my general proximity during those months. But at night, when she would scream through those dark, dark hours, not once did I believe that I was earning any sort of badge that would hold any weight or merit.

I did not wear my sleep deprivation as a symbol of honor, nor did I believe I had achieved anything worthy of any value when I was through that particular season.

There is nothing particularly honorable or boastful about the lack of something so vital.

This, however, is what we are fed as the ideal. We must give up everything for our children: sleep, hygiene, time, energy, goals, dreams, careers. There is this prevalent, prevailing ideal that a “good” mother is one who can walk through the hard seasons like she is earning trophies and still come out perfectly coiffed and sane, with no vestige of personal aspirations outside of those she has for her children.

Stop the madness.

Our struggles and our challenges in our darkest moments are not merit-worthy.

This is how we set ourselves and every other woman up for failure, aspiring to obtain or assigning badges to imaginary sashes or vests like we’re still Girl Scouts.

We’re all in the trenches, and rather than sashes, we need shields because some of these seasons that we walk through leave wounds that aren’t pretty. No badge will ever speak as loudly or as truthfully as the scars – especially the invisible ones – left behind.

After you have walked through a hard season, however, do not forget to drop your shield. Once you’ve taken the time to nurse your wounds, share the story of your scars.

“Tell the story of the mountain you climbed. Your words could become a page in someone else’s survival guide.” – Morgan Harper Nichols

shield, wall, wounds, scars, war, badge, honor, motherhood, seasons, armor

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