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!

blue skies
DBT, Inspiration, mental health

Meditation Saves Lives



This is my all time favorite representation of the power of meditation. I encourage you to watch the video and reflect on what it could mean for you. When he gets overwhelmed with the multiplying flies (his thoughts, which only multiply when you refuse to let them be) and places his hands over his ears, I am moved to goosebumps. It helps me see that I am not the only one who gets overwhelmed with racing thoughts and I am not the only one that has an INCREASE in racing thoughts when I first sit down to clear my mind.
If you can embrace the thoughts for what they are, blips on the radar and not feed into them, you will find that they settle on their own.

A few great FREE resources for new meditators:

https://www.mindfulleader.org/meditate-together
Insight timer app
YouTube guided meditations

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, mental health

Self-Worth – What Is It and How to Increase It

Worth is the value of something placed on it by society or yourself. Worth is subjective and is up for discussion which is why some people have a difficult time believing a compliment.

I am sure you can think of an item you own (or owned in the past, even as a child) that you placed more worth on than society would have, it came from within. For me, I have had a treasured rock collection, special tattered quilts, and I currently still have a Fozzie Bear Muppet Baby figurine that is precious to me from my childhood. I place high worth on them, and I am aware that other people may not find them to be worth anything at all.

Improving your self-worth must come from within. You will need to determine that you are worthy of your own time, attention, and resources and until you do that, it is likely that others will ignore your requests and will see you as a push-over. People with low self-worth often make jokes at their own expense and are not likely to speak up for their preferences. If others laugh along at the jokes or do not pick up on minor preferences that are casually mentioned, the person uses their confirmation bias to determine that it is proof of their low worth. I mentioned earlier in the book that I would use your love for your children to manipulate you: this chapter is one place I will do that. If you want your children to have healthy self-worth, you must lead by example.

Self-esteem and self-worth can be thought of as synonymous. Self-esteem cannot be bought; it must be earned. That means that unless you set a goal and struggle to reach it (be that at work, with parenting, in a hobby, financially, etc.), you will not feel good about yourself.

Ideas for Raising your Self-Worth:

  • Treat your body as a sacred place.

This means that you recognize the mind-body connection and treat your physical body accordingly. You understand that chronic stress and anger take a dramatic toll on your physical and emotional well-being. You can reverse that toll by taking the steps that you know lead to healthier life.

  • Stop smoking and/or vaping.
    • Exercise regularly.
    • Drink water as a primary beverage.
    • Go for walks.
    • Stretch.
    • Eat fruits and vegetables every day.
    • Limit fast food and junk food.
    • Visit the dentist twice per year and the primary care doctor yearly.

To prioritize any of the mentioned suggestions here for healthier living forces you to engage in an action that only someone who thinks their life is worthy would do. You might have to “fake it” initially, but I know that over time you will develop a sense of pride over the healthy choices you are making. In time, that pride will increase your self-worth!

  • Values-based living.

Values-based living is a concept that I introduced in chapter one. If you have time, go back, and re-read that section and see if you have taken any strides toward values-based living in the time it has taken you to read the last 4 chapters. If you have not taken any actions that are aligned with your previously identified values, that is ok! That might be a sign to pick a different value to start with, to recommit to your prior plan, or to evaluate what got in your way and problem solve it.

Living according to your values raises your self-worth because it is not always a convenient thing to do, and yet you are taking actions that tell yourself and the world, that you are worth it. You are worth your own time, attention, and resources.

  • Journal and meditate.

Self-reflection is not something a person does if they think they are worthless. They do not believe their thoughts, time or attention are worthy of evaluation or recording on paper. They believe they are disposable and that others see them as disposable. I hope that you do not believes those things about yourself.

Journaling can help us to see patterns in our thinking and your behaviors. When we find problematic patterns, we can journal to explore solutions and problem solving. In doing so, you give yourself the message that your problems are worth solving, your moods are worth improving and your relationships are worth saving. There is more information on journaling in chapter seven.

Meditation achieves a similar result without the writing. When you meditate in any fashion (such as clearing the mind, listening to a meditation recording, focusing on a mantra or affirmation, praying, etc.) you will generally find a sense of peace and clarity that seems to magically improve your abilities to cope, and problem solve. You would not take time for such an activity if you did not believe you deserved such an experience. I believe that meditating and journaling on a regular basis will improve your self-worth because they are actions that tell yourself that you are worth your own time and energy!

  • Celebrate your wins (somewhat unapologetically).

People who have low self-esteem feel ashamed and embarrassed by their accomplishments. They are likely to think that they do not deserve celebration and/or their success was a fluke. If you fall into this category, you will need to practice acknowledging that you worked hard and that your success was earned, and you will need to accept compliments and/or praise from others with a “thank you” and not a self-deprecating remark. Your success is just as well earned as anyone else’s. You made the choices in life that yielded the results you have; when it pans out in your favor, accept the congratulations from others and pat yourself on the back!

Inspiration, Journaling, mental health

Achieving Goals More Consistently

I absolutely love goal setting. Historically, I was really good at setting goals, being very passionate about them for a week(ish) and then forgetting about them. This blog is to help you make changes in HOW you set goals, so that you might make more progress in achieving them. In the last two years, I have developed a love of bullet journaling because it is a creative and visual way for me to set, track and evaluate my progress toward goals. The visual and doodle-encouraging nature of bullet journaling is more successful in holding my interest.

Another thing I have found helpful is to recognize and accept that DAILY goal tracking is not my goal; of course I will forget and have days where I don’t achieve my goals! In the past, I had an all-or-nothing approach and would give up if I lost my “streak”. Now I set a goal of hitting the goal xx number of times per month, and honor my body’s needs for off days!

I am old-school and prefer a paper and pencil approach; there is something about putting ink on paper that I find cathartic and pleasing. My journal is set up with monthly pages in the beginning of the journal to check in on at the start of each month. Those pages include: travel tracker, books read, budget tracker, loved-one birthday list, debt reduction tracker, and yearly goals. Following those pages, my journal follows the year in a monthly format. At the start of each month I pick a few habits to focus on for that month and create a habit tracker, a page to record gratitudes, a goal list, a to-do list, and any other relevant pages for that month. Below you can see some of my 2022 templates for growth.

I will add habits to focus on in the center of the circles and will shade in the days that I achieve the goal.
To track daily gratitude’s, I do not number them, I generally haphazardly write and doodle them as not to pressure myself to hit “every day”
I love to read, this is where I track any books I complete – audiobooks, tangible books, books for my job, etc.
This page is in the yearly section because these are goals that are consistent every month. I have left space to add goals that pop-up through the year.
We LOVE to travel, we try to at least take a mini adventure trip each month, such as a hike in a neighboring town each month.

If you are not an artsy person and want something printable, consider printing this free habit tracker! I love, love, love that this includes a reward that you identify for yourself each month!

one black chess piece separated from red pawn chess pieces
Inspiration, mental health

Mindfulness and The End of The World

I tend to teach my clients a LOT about mindfulness.  Mindfulness is about being fully present, in what is happening TODAY, without judging it/clinging to it/trying to make it go away.  Mindfulness is choosing to pay attention in life, to fire your auto-pilot and really experience your interactions with the world, compassionately.  We, as a culture, tend to be very roped into seeking the “next best thing”.  Think about it…we want the next smartphone before we even figure out how to work the one we have, there are dating apps that make small talk and polite conversation irrelevant and take you straight to the bedroom, there is a drive-thru for darn near everything you could want! We live on fast forward.  It doesn’t work and it is causing a decline in life satisfaction and relationship satisfaction, all the while creating an increase in depression, divorce and suicide rates.

Riddle me this: if life is SO GREAT living this way…why are we so obsessed with the post-apocalyptic worlds that we think would be generated after the fall of our modern civilization (that’s probably not where you thought this post was going is it?)? They all have something in common: NO technology and a rebuilding of the “takes a village” mentality.  Ironically two of the tenants of our current society that we try to convince ourselves make us “superior”.

The Walking Dead, The Hunger Games, Divergent, 2012, Lost, Jericho, The Book of Eli, World World Z…the list is really quite expansive.  And yet, we continue to live IN our phones and in isolation from one another.  I do wonder if one purpose of these shows, aside from entertainment, is to warn us/show us what COULD happen if we do not change our ways…and yet…

Take a moment to read this age-old fable:

The Fox and the Goat

A Fox one day fell into a deep well and could find no means of escape. A Goat, overcome with thirst, came to the same well, and seeing the Fox, inquired if the water was good. Concealing his sad plight under a merry guise, the Fox indulged in a lavish praise of the water, saying it was excellent beyond measure, and encouraging him to descend. The Goat, mindful only of his thirst, thoughtlessly jumped down, but just as he drank, the Fox informed him of the difficulty they were both in and suggested a scheme for their common escape. “If,” said he, “you will place your forefeet upon the wall and bend your head, I will run up your back and escape, and will help you out afterwards.” The Goat readily assented and the Fox leaped upon his back. Steadying himself with the Goat’s horns, he safely reached the mouth of the well and made off as fast as he could. When the Goat upbraided him for breaking his promise, he turned around and cried out, “You foolish old fellow! If you had as many brains in your head as you have hairs in your beard, you would never have gone down before you had inspected the way up, nor have exposed yourself to dangers from which you had no means of escape.”

Look before you leap.

(Aesop’s Fables)

Perhaps it is time to look before we leap. 

Look at the data trends before you buy our 4 year old an IPAD, look at divorce statistics before you sleep with someone on the first date, look at these movies as  more than just random entertainment…see them as a warning as what could happen if we don’t change! 

Dare to be different.  Dare NOT to download every popular app.  Dare NOT to give into every urge you have for instant gratification.  Dare NOT to pay hundreds of dollars for the “cool” shoes/boots.  Dare NOT to pay $5 for the logo on your coffee mug when you could put that money away for a rainy day.  Dare to have an opinion that is DIFFERENT than the masses…afterall, isn’t that what Catniss did? And she became a hero…

top view photo of rocky shore
Inspiration, mental health

Too Much or Too Little?

I’m getting SO MUCH DONE! or We’ve done NOTHING…just laying round binge-watching Netflix all day.  I am hearing two extremes from people when they get overwhelmed, which side do you generally fall on?

Do you try to “keep up with the Jones’s, Pinterest Moms, Type-A friends in your social media feed? Are you stressing out about accomplishing everything that’s been on your to-do list? Are you trying to take advantage of all the Facebook Live free classes that people keep discussing? Be careful…you WILL hit a wall (and it’s a brick wall).

Do you find that being quarantined in 2020 was an excuse to stay in your pajamas, eat all the snacks and watch endless hours of streamed TV? Did you skip showers and avoid anything that resembled a routine? Be careful, if that is your fall back, you can fall into the pit (and it’s a muddy, mucky pit).

One day, if I am famous for saying anything…it will be for saying “there is no right answer; there is a more effective answer for you to reach your goals”.  This is a situation in which I’d give the same advice…there isn’t a RIGHT way to struggle…I’ve had doses of both scenarios describe. When you are having a difficult time, I think the trick is to ask yourself every few hours (or perhaps each morning or evening), what it is that you’d like to accomplish? What would you like to be able to say you did for the previous 8 hours or the next 8 hours.  If you have been working hard, it’s PERFECTLY acceptable to choose to take the day off and do nothing for a while. If you’ve just come to the surface after binge-watching 3 seasons of something, it’s a good idea to switch gears and organize your sock drawer and alphabetize your DVD collection!  A problem seems to occur after several days in one mode or the other without any sign of coming back to baseline.

It’s crucial that you’re kind to yourself and develop the ability to self-validate and self-encourage. Some examples of that include saying to yourself:

  • I am tired from _________ and that makes sense, today I’ll take it easy
  • I have enjoyed a few days of relaxation and now I am ready to tackle one thing off of my list
  • I am worthy of a break
  • My ideas are worth working toward

Take some time right now, close your eyes, and evaluate which side of the spectrum you’ve been on the last few days…and what is a step you can take toward the other side?  I propose an ultimate goal of learning to live in the balance (not balanced…as that doesn’t exist…but living in the middle range of the teeter totter, more so than at the extremes.)

Inspiration, mental health

What if?

I’m sure you’ve heard of affirmations and positive self-talk by now. I am sure you know that on some level, they are useful tools to build your self-worth and self-esteem; however, I am also sure that there are times in which the statements are too much of a stretch for you. If the gap between your current mentality and the positive affirmation is too wide, you are likely to give up and avoid practicing. So, what’s the answer???

The answer is “what if”.

What if you believed them. What if you added “what if” to the beginning of the affirmation as a bridge to cross the wide gap? Take a look at the affirmations below and I’ll show you below how to implement the “what if” strategy!

You may struggle to believe “I have the power to control my thoughts”, especially if you struggle with anxiety and rumination. If it feels like Susie Sunshine is harassing you in reading that first affirmation, try reading git like this:

“What if I have the power to control my thoughts?” …does that feel any more realistic? I feel like it can make a huge difference in the choices you make because if there is a chance that you DO have power and control over your thoughts, you might be less likely to give into your next impulsive urge!

Let’s look at the last one on the pink page for a second example: “I am worthy of good things”. If you are struggling with that idea, try stating internally “what if I am worthy of good things?” and let your day unfold from there!

What do you think…are you more likely to use affirmations if you could add “what if” as the bridge?

anonymous young lady paddling boat in lake during trip in mountains
DBT, Inspiration, mental health

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

I cannot express enough, the power and efficacy of progressive muscle relaxation. By and large, it is one of the best treatments for stress and anxiety.  For my clients struggling with chronic anxiety, difficulty falling asleep, and the stress of a chaotic lifestyle, I routinely recommend this type of meditation.  I encourage you to utilize this video as a way to sink into a calm mental place and enjoy the peace it brings.

If you tend to be an anxious person, progressive muscle relaxation is a simple and easy tool that can take your baseline from an 8/10 to a 5/10 which will improve focus, improve sleep, decrease racing thoughts, release muscle tension…all for free!

Modern technology is quite a blessing in this regard. Gone are the days when you would have to purchase relaxation CD’s…using YouTube, it’s quite simple to find a guided meditation that works for you and your style.  Consider searching terms such as “progressive muscle relaxation”, “paced breathing”, loving kindness, and/or relaxation meditation.