Inspiration, mental health, parenting

Family Road Trip Reflections (part 2)

We have been quite off the grid over the last week. As we come back toward civilization and regain cell-service, one word jumps out at me: gratitude.

I won’t lie, pit-toilets aren’t my favorite thing. Trying to stay upbeat and positive for my kids isn’t always easy when I am trying to convince them that pit toilets are “better for the earth”, “totally clean”, “a cool way to camp”, etc. We had two consecutive nights at a primitive site, then two consecutive nights at a less-than clean roadside campground, then two nights a site with great amenities but no electric…

…and I am now able to be so incredibly grateful for a charged phone, a flushing toilet, showers, and food options (pb&j for lunch everyday gets somewhat old 😆). I desperately hope that my girls are able to touch base with that same gratitude.

My eyes are also grateful for the rich vistas and amazing sights that I have been able to see (especially in contrast to the highway in front of me for the last 4 hours as we travel to our next stop).

My heart is grateful that the US has a National Parks system that protects land and educates the public on the needs for conservation.

I am grateful that my mom was able to come on this trip (yes, she is roughing it and tent-camping right alongside us)!

I am grateful that my husband and I share the same values…we prioritize experiences over items, hidden gems over tourist traps, and believe it is a crucial lesson to pass on to our daughters.

Please enjoy these amazing views from Theodore Roosevelt National Park (our favorite from this trip!) :

Wind Cave National Park:

The Badlands National Park:

Custer State Park/Black Hills, South Dakota

I realize that it may seem harder to be grateful when you aren’t on vacation…however, it is a skill that you can practice and get in touch with amid your daily life. You may find it easier to practice gratitude of big things, but I urge you to also practice gratitude of the little things!

Little things I am grateful for right now: it isn’t raining, I am listening to a great audiobook, I have downtime to write this blog, having fresh water, new stickers for my laptop (of the National Parks), and minivan DVD players to keep my kids entertained.

What are you grateful for?

Inspiration, Journaling, mental health, parenting

Family Road Trip Reflections (Part One)

We set out on a minivan road trip on Friday with a 12 day goal of touring Michigan, Minnesota, and the Dakotas (and connecting states) in an effort to explore nature and 5 National Parks: Indiana Dunes, Voyageurs, Theodore Roosevelt, Wind Cave and the Badlands. We also plan to see numerous other national landmarks, forests and Lakeshores (Sleeping Bear Dunes, Mt. Rushmore, Painted Rock, etc).

At we stop every 1-2 hours to keep everyone happy. I’ve never understood the benefit of forcing human bodies to stay in their seats long enough to be miserable. At our stops we encourage all sorts of movement and on long drive days, we find longer hikes along our route for our sanity.

Hike break at Indiana Dunes National Park
Dipping our toes into Lake Michigan
Lake Michigan
Lake Superior

I am eager to be showing my girls how to make the most out of the little things. For example: yesterday was a “rain out” but we still saw 4 waterfalls, toured a sleepy little towns dock and 4th of July celebration during a lull in the rain (the girls loved watching the firefighters have a water fight with their hoses but couldn’t understand the kids willingly getting wet because it was chilly) and we snuggled into our tent for a movie (thankful for a charged IPad and downloaded movies) while grown ups played a dice game in small vestibule as it rained! We also tries a local upper Michigan delicacy: pastys (like a pot pie/calzone creation).

Painted Rock National Lakeshore
Waterfall in Upper Peninsula, Michigan

Our last campsite was the most rugged (no running water – pit toilets a) but it was RIGHT on Lake Superior which was worth it! We are all ready for a shower tonight though 🙂

Our 5 star accommodations: three adults and three kids!
Lake Superior

Today we leave Michigan and head to Voyageurs National Park and are hoping to see the Northern Lights!

red gray and yellow abstract painting
DBT, Inspiration, mental health, parenting

Sick and Tired?

I am sick and tired of being sick and tired. I am fed up with feeling exhausted and having a pity party because:

  • I don’t have time
  • I can’t find a sitter
  • I have kids with me
  • I have a to-do list
  • I have chronic pain
  • I have a full-time job

The reality is that I have to make the time, I have to accommodate having kids with me, accepting that not all things need to get done at the same time, off and on nagging pain will always be a part of my life, work will be there and work can wait. I have to create the opportunities that I’ve been wanting to have fall in my lap.

This has all come to a head this week as my gym’s kids club keeps shutting down for staffing issues. I fell into a bit of a woe is me pit because as a working mom, it isn’t fair. I have an amazing husband who tells me to go to the gym anyway and he’ll watch the kids, but as I already take time away from my kids and husband during the work week, I feel too guilty taking more time for the gym. So, I must take my own advice (see Overcoming Obstacles as A Working Parent) and make it happen. After my pity party cleared out, I was able to see clearly that I do have options available to me:

  1. My office complex has a very mediocre gym, on-site. Let’s face it, I’m not a body builder and this will be sufficient!
  2. It’s spring and I can resume walking around the block, bicycling, and playing outdoors with my kids for more physical activity.
  3. Instead of paying $90 as a copay to every doctor I see, I can spend $90 on supplements one per month to optimize how my body is working.
  4. I can eat healthier…that one doesn’t cost anything.
  5. I can resume daily journaling to improve my clarity and mental health.
  6. I can resume reading to improve my self-image.

I could keep adding to my list, but the reality is: I have choices. I can take control of this ship and steer it in the direction I’d like to go and you can too! Find an accountability buddy (I have different friends and co-workers that I write with, read with (book discussions after we read books on our own), apps that prompt healthy habits, etc…and before long, I know that the habits will be self-reinforcing because the payoff will be worth the effort.

hands people friends communication
Inspiration, mental health, parenting

Three Ways You Can Show Meaningful Love to Your Person/People

  1. Explore and communicate in their love language

The love languages are a couple’s therapist most basic tool; however, that being said, I am a big fan! The five love languages are ways that people can express love and ways that people receive love (quality time, words of affirmation, touch, gifts, acts of service). Oftentimes we see that couples and parent/child dyads are misaligned. This isn’t a bad thing but it does take effort to understand and address. If you want your person (spouse, partner, child, friend) to feel loved, you MUST learn to communicate in THEIR love language, not your own. The inverse is also true, if you aren’t feeling loved, it is probably because they are communicating in a love language that doesn’t register with you as much. This can be fixed relatively quickly, there is hope!

A great example is that for me, my love language is NOT touch. I am not a hugger or a touchy feely person; however, one of my daughters is touch person, she NEEEEEEEEDS touch to feel loved. This means that I have to work hard to remember to be (what feels to me like) extra touchy with her: snuggles, back rubs, lotioning, hand-holding, etc. so that she feels my love. Another of my daughters prefers quality time. This means that for her, it’s more important that I sit down and play with her, read with her, take walks with her, etc. Learning to communicate in the right love language will save you so much time and effort in the long run!

I’d challenge you to take the love languages quiz (this can be found via a Google search or on the 5 Love Languages app) and let your people know the results. Then you can ask them to take the quiz and share their results with you.

  1. Play board games

It doesn’t matter who you are trying to connect with, board games are connecting. Playing board games require you to sit down with someone, giving them your full attention and share with them your true personality. You can choose to engage in a game that either brings the two of you together toward a common goal (a cooperative game) or pits you against one another (competitive game) – either way, you will find yourself feeling calmer, happier, and closer to the person (and calmer, happier and closer to yourself!

I always chuckle at the eye rolls that I get from people when I suggest board games because it seems that universally, people think they’re “lame” AND universally, when people actually play games, they have FUN! Board games may be “old school”, but they stand the test of time. Whether your loved one is 2 years old or 100 years old, there are board games out there…a small amount of research will unveil a hidden nerd-centric world that you didn’t even know existed. Check it out!

  1. Go for walks and hold hands (if appropriate)

My husband and I enjoy going for walks around the block after our children go to bed (don’t worry, with the technology in our world – house and bedroom cameras, smart locks, etc. – they’re safe when we take a .5 mile walk in a square around our home). This time is often the most connected we are all day because we hold hands, walk without screens, and discuss our days. We process our fears and hopes and find the time to be a safe space to be vulnerable. The movement is a bonus because it allows us to let go of our anxieties and use movement to release our daily frustrations. We often come up with our best ideas on these walks!

Kids and friends also enjoy walking with their people. One of my daughter’s favorite rewards, is being able to take a walk around the above mentioned block with me before school. We also hold hands and see the same benefits that I’ve already mentioned. Friendships would benefit from the same practice! Walking with neighbors, friends, or co-workers can bring you closer together (although the hand-holding is likely not going to be as relevant)! You can get to know so much about people just by spending committed time with them, without the distractions of screens and the pings of your phone.

If you’ve been feeling lonely, I would challenge you to follow these tips for one week and see how you feel. Journal about how you feel before the challenge and then again each day of the challenge. Are you feeling more connected? Less lonely? Do you find yourself feeling more loved and important to your people? What surprises you about the experience? What were the challenges to implement the practices?

Inspiration, parenting

You CAN Ask For Time

Why do we feel pressured to give answers right away? As I toured a new school for my daughter today (and following two meetings with two different schools the prior week), it struck me how much pressure I felt to give them their desired answers, during the interactions. In reflecting on the experiences, I wanted to share my realizations.

During the phone call last week, they asked me when my daughter would be starting the school and I was taken aback. That’s presumptuous…why did they feel that they had a right to assume she would be attending? I had to brake the silence somehow, but worried about coming off as too rude or giving them false hope. I took a deep breath and told them that I wasn’t sure if she would be attending, I’d like time to process the call with my husband and then tour the school prior to making a decision. I asked for two days after the tour to decide.

I’d like to be sure it’s a good fit and make sure we don’t see any red flags” I stated.

What sorts of red flags?” they snapped back quickly…

I’m not sure, I wouldn’t know until I saw them. It’s important to us to see the space and get a feel for it” I replied, annoyed and beginning to feel defensive.

It is interesting to me, as a therapist who coaches others to be assertive, that I find myself in these sorts of conversations without realizing that I should have seen it coming. The reality is, we cannot predict when we will be thrown a curve ball (that’s what makes them so effective)! The one thing that helps me, without fail, is that I know my rights.

  • I have the right to ask for time to make a decision, very few things in life need immediate response
  • I have the right to ask for what I want and need
  • I have the right to my own emotions
  • I have the right to be treated with respect
  • I have the right to respectfully disagree with others
  • I have the right to be dissatisfied
  • I have the right to expect honesty from others
  • I have the right to have my opinions heard, in full

Remembering and holding others accountable for the rights listed above does not make you pushy, bad, rude, or “extra” (as long as you maintain respect in your communication). The message we often receive from others, when asserting our needs, is that we are “too much”. We get the message that we should “make ourselves small” in order to keep other people comfortable. If we all stay silent to keep other people comfortable, we will be going backwards in history.

Speak up and speak out, stand up for your needs and rights; however, do it with respect. Maintain your integrity. Remember that you go to bed with yourself every night and I want you to be able to sleep in peace, knowing you kept your composure! I’ll be transparent, while this is how I am feeling today – last week there were tears and frustration levels were high (which is not the time to blog). We had four meetings (some on Zoom, some on the phone) in the two weeks leading up to today’s tour. I was overwhelmed with information and felt alone in making big decisions for my child.

What worked for me is that I held my ground. I didn’t give them their answer after the phone and zoom calls and I held them to the tour. It worked! Today on the tour they were SO much more respectful of my desire to wait and hear all factors and options, prior to making a choice! In the tour, they said “if you choose to send your child to our school….” instead of making the assumption that I would. I felt so much more respected and the pressure was eliminated! I hope this empowers you to slow down and remember your rights in hard discussions. Whether it’s with your boss, spouse, friend, co-worker, child, provider, etc., you have the right to ask for time and respect!

Inspiration, mental health, parenting

Nature is My Happy Place

I personally love to hike. I hike alone (with no head phones) …just me and nature. I also try to instill a love of hiking to my girls; taking short and fun hikes with them a few times a month! Hiking has always provided me with a sense of peace and for some reason a greater ability to solve problems. It’s a pastime that my mom encouraged from a very young age. I don’t remember a vacation that didn’t contain walking explorations, be it mountains, caves or beach. I always joke that when I am stressed out, I need to get out into the woods and according to recent research, I was onto something!

A research study from Stanford found a clear and measurable connection between hiking and reduced depression. One of the best parts of this study is that it found that walking in a nature setting vs an urban setting resulted in BRAIN changes that are in line with decreased depression, anxiety, rumination, and improved memory. They are finding that 50% of human population lives in urban settings (which is set to rise) along with that statistic, there has been a continued rise in anxiety and depressive disorders!


We also know that in the last 20 years, there has been an increased amount of people playing videogames. This includes kids as young as toddlers and the video games are getting more and more realistic, fast paced, and violent! Now add in the fact that most school districts are now forcing the students to do much of their work on laptops or tablets, as young as kindergarten. We have a generation of kids who spend ALL DAY looking at screens. In 2005, Richard Louv wrote a book called Last Child In The Woods in which he coined the term Nature Deficit Disorder. He proposes that children are spending less and less time in nature, causing more and more behavioral problems.


I agree, not only for kids though…adults too…


I think what we NEED to do is clear. Think about it.

Better yet…go outside and try it!

Inspiration, Journaling, mental health, parenting

How Do You Do It ALL???

I’m sitting here on my back patio listening to my 2 year old cry because I am not pushing her on the swing, my 6 year old is asking 5 questions per minute that I’m half-heartedly trying to answer, and my 8 year old was forced against her will to being her Barbie’s outside to play. I am home with my kids while my husband got to have his early morning photography time – something we try to build in once or twice per week. I am trying to work on this blog and grow my business (Your Mental Restoration).

I don’t do it all. I won’t do it all. I cannot possibly do everything and I accept that! I CAN choose where my attention goes. I CAN give myself permission to feel accomplished when I tackle something mindfully. In this moment, I am empowering my children to learn to play self-sufficiently (against their will), I am empowering myself to carve out time for my interests and values and I am empowering my husband to grow his photography business by practicing his skills. I could choose to look at the scenario through a fatalistic lens: I’m failing as a mom because my kids want my attention and I am not giving it. I am failing as a housekeeper because the chores are not being attended to. I am failing as a writer because I have distractions. I fundamentally reject the fatalistic lens. I believe it comes from comparison (ahem Instagram feed) and the belief that other moms, other wives, other writers, etc. are somehow achieving their goals without any barriers. I reject that notion because I talk openly with others and that allows me to know their truth: it isn’t true! Instead of letting shame take over and convince you that you struggle more than anyone else does, I invite you to talk with your friends, peers, and families about the realities of their lives. I think you will find validation and comfort in the fact that they are also having to choose what to prioritize and what to ignore. They have to choose not to beat themselves up for their perceived failures.

Everyone struggles to juggle the identities, roles and tasks in their lives.

How many basketballs do you think you could hold?

I’d venture to say that at any given time, I could probably hold three…but not well. I think of the various life “shoulds”, to-do list tasks, expectations and roles as metaphorical basketballs. I cannot hold them all at once. If I try to hold too many at once, I end up dropping them and making a fool of myself! I CAN decide which ones I choose to pick up and carry, I CAN decide what I am going to prioritize and where I am going to put my attention. This morning, I’m carrying my “writer ball”, “mom ball” and “self-care ball”. I can switch between making the three of them my top priority (when I get stuck on writing, I play with my kids!) None of them are getting my full attention; however, because I am willing to accept the limitations of time, I absolve myself of any guilt related to the state of my house, my inbox, my friendships, etc. I’ll pick up those balls later…

So how do I do it all? I don’t! I do what I can, when I can. I allow myself the freedom to NOT have intense levels of guilt and shame over the things I do not do, while allowing myself to feel pride and satisfaction in the tasks that I DO accomplish.